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The other day my therapist asked me if I was afraid of the changes I seem to be heading for.  For one thing, she wanted to know if the prospect I’m facing next, the possible bringing together of two parts of me that were almost severed from one another after the neighbor woman abused me, was scary at all. 

I told her that I was afraid, for I believe the incident of sexual abuse (See “The Day I Stopped Dancing,” February, 2012) when I was age four did more damage than any of the other specific incidents of abuse during my childhood.  Of course, it may be argued that the chronic neglect that allowed the abuse to happen in the first place was more damaging, but the neglect took place over more than a decade of time and was less obvious to me than the sexual abuse.  I had grown used to the neglect. Therefore, I’d say the sexual abuse, being a specific incident that occurred when I was a small child and was trying to find an ally, somebody who would help me, was, in its suddenness and its quality of being totally unexpected, the more devastating. That psychic sucker punch destroyed any trust I had in adults—or in anyone, for that matter—and turned my days into fear-filled abysses of time to be spent in dark closets and under my bed when I was at home and caused me to worry and disappear into uncontrolled daydreams when I went to school.

So why should I be afraid of healing that wound, the gaping sore that has forced me to adapt to that which is so unworthy of adaptation?  First, the wound has needed healing now for about 69 years.  For all that time, I have lived with the damage and have adapted myself to an inner psychic situation that should not be there.  No child should have to go through life with such a deep psychic open sore, one that affects his or her perceptions of the world and her place in it for 69 years.  And yet I have lived with the wound for all this time and built a lot of my inner life around and over it—somewhat like the body builds a scab over a skinned knee. 

Is there health under that psychic scab? Will I come out of this process better or worse for all my hard work?  Will my efforts be worth it?  Will I have to start from scratch and re-adapt to my life?  Will I live long enough to enjoy the fruits of my labors? Having adapted all these decades, wouldn’t it just be easier and less upsetting to continue adapting to the wound rather than to heal the wound even partially and have to change the way I perceive myself and the world in which I exist?  I can’t answer all these questions because I’m not there yet.  I lack the information needed to answer the questions adequately. However, I have experienced enough change already to know that for the most part, I can handle it. 

This next round, though, will be tougher, for the healing I’ve experienced so far has been, it seems, closer to the surface.  Or, at least, the wounds may not have been so deep, so profound.  So what next?  How am I going to handle this one?  With help—that’s one thing I know.  With help.  This is where I am really going to need my therapist as a guide.  She has seen others through this process, and I’m going to have to trust that she can do the same for me. I’m going to have to trust—that’s the heavy part. Can I?  I don’t know and won’t know until the time comes.

Thus, to answer the question “Quo Vadis?”, I have to say that I’m not going anywhere but where I have been going for the past two years.  I must trust that I can handle whatever the process reveals to me, and I must trust that my therapist is a competent guide and will support me. I’ve worked hard for these past two years, and I deserve the rewards of my hard work.  I will trust that my psyche can handle the changes that come with healing, and I will keep on truckin,’ as we used to say in the 1960s. The fear, what about the fear?  Well, fear isn’t anything new to me.  I’ll face the uncertainties and the fears and get past them.  And I’ll keep writing.  That will help. . . Namaste.  Peace.

 

 

 

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 There comes a moment in therapy, if a person stays with the process long enough and works hard enough, when that person can finally see the bottom of the pit, that place from which so many of one’s beliefs and feelings about one’s self have originated.  This is the place where I am in therapy right now.  It’s not a place where I want to be, but it’s where I am, and I know innately that my task is to make the most of this moment and this place.  For the work I do now will, I feel, be the foundation upon which I shape new and enlightened beliefs and feelings about myself.  That’s what I visualize the result of my efforts will be. Peering into the pit, then, is not only important, but it is essential to the future I want to build for myself.   

Again, I think of little Inger and what happened to her when she trod on the loaf (See post of March 10th: “The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf: Why Is It Important to Me?”).  And there she was, suddenly at the bottom of the pit, dwelling amongst the snakes, toads, spiders and all the other monstrous creatures of her Hell.  Well, the difference right now between my situation and that of Inger’s is that I’m not actually IN the pit—I’m looking into it, but I’m not condemned to live in it the rest of my life.  Of that I am certain.  Inger did not have that certainty.  As far as she knew, she was in her pit until the end of time, and she had no choice in the matter.  Of our two situations, mine and Inger’s, I much prefer my own situation because I know that through my own efforts and with the support of my therapist, I can liberate myself.  That thought gives me hope, a hope that Inger did not have.   

So, now that I can see what lies at the bottom of the pit, what am I going to do with the information?  Well, I’ll no doubt spend a period of time recovering from what I have seen, from the horrors. For one thing, what I have seen at the bottom of the pit makes me angry!  How could grown adults have done what they did to me, a helpless infant and later a helpless child?  Their job was to help me be all I could be, to help me fulfill the God-given promise that dwelled within me at my birth!  Instead, they looked at me as a mirror in which they saw their own twisted images of themselves, and they tried to shape me to be like they were.  What they succeeded in doing was to shape my perceptions of myself, but they did not succeed in shaping me to BE what they were.  There is a difference, and I know that now.  My job is to erase the traces of their efforts, their twistedness, and to fill the mirror with my own image, a reflection of my own truth.   

After I have recovered sufficiently from the experience of peering into the bottom of the pit and understand the implications of my discovery, I will find a place to store the information, to quarantine it, where it will do no harm and will then begin the process of knowing and accepting reality, at least reality as I know reality.  Then I suppose I will be able to start the process of substituting reality for unreality—new beliefs for old beliefs.  Upon doing that, I will be starting to actually reshape myself.  Not that I haven’t already been working on that task for years.  With the new understanding I have, however, I should be able to work more efficiently at the task.  I hope the task doesn’t take longer than I have life to live, but if it does, at least I’ll die experiencing the process of my task.  It would be worse to die without experiencing that process, for in the process alone lie some of the rewards that go along with a new, untwisted and more realistic concept of self.   

The steps I’ve outlined above sound nice and neat and clearly sequential, I know, but I also know that as I move from one step to the next, the beginning and ending of each step will not necessarily be well marked.  That’s the way of this process.  It’s messy! Steps in the therapy process are not usually well defined, at least not for me.  Maybe for some people they are, but not for me.  Why is that?  For one thing, like other people, probably, I process on various levels.  While an issue may be taken care of on one level, that same issue may still be in process on another level and another level and another level . . .   In my experience, I’ll think I’ve dealt with something and brought the matter to closure only to discover later that the same issue in a slightly different form needs to be worked on in another context or on another level.  How many levels are there??   

I’ve been asking that question for a long time and still can’t answer it.  Wish I could.  That information might help anyone who is thinking about beginning the process.  It’s always nice to know the ins and outs of a task and how long it will take before one begins, but with therapy, that information is simply not available.  A person must, as I did, just begin and hope someday to see the end.  In my case, I hope to finish while I’m living so I can enjoy the result for a while before my life is over.   

On the other hand, as I said, I would much rather die in the process after having started it than not start it at all.  Of course, for me right now, that’s not a consideration because I am already in the process.  For you, though, it might be a consideration.  I do not regret having started the process, and I do not regret embarking on this stage of the process at age seventy-three.  Maybe those words will help you if you are trying to decide whether therapy is worth your time and effort.  I know it is, but that’s just what I know.  However, I pray that you may know it, too. 

 Peace and Blessings . . .  

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m Out of Here!” 

Have you ever been tempted to say this when you have thought about all the hard work and money you put into therapy?  I have.  And I have actually quit therapy many times for one reason or the other, sometimes because my therapist and I were a bad match and I just didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.  At other times, I’ve quit because I’ve had to relocate.  Twice I’ve quit because my therapist has been abusive toward me.  One therapist slapped me because I wouldn’t stop crying, and another therapist wanted me to help her heal.  So, yes, I have thought more than a few times, “I’m out of here.”  

Doing work to heal Complex PTSD is not easy for therapist or client.  For one thing, it’s not possible, really, for a therapist to do what an orthopedic surgeon can do to nail down the cause for a problem.  An orthopedic surgeon can take x-rays or do other imaging tests to see for herself or himself what the inside of a knee looks like and then make an accurate diagnosis that will lead to a “cure.”  For the most part, science has not reached that point where issues of the mind are concerned.  It’s up to the client to thrash around in his or her psyche and present the information the therapist needs in order to help the client heal.  Where an orthopedic surgeon can make a diagnosis in one or two visits and then take measures to cure the problem, this is not usually the case with mental health issues, and this is especially not the case with Complex PTSD.   

The therapist I have been seeing for almost three years specializes in helping people who have been dealing with the fallout from traumas incurred over many years.  She has worked so hard to understand me and to understand what my inner life must be like so that she can know how to help me.  I appreciate her efforts in this more than she can know.  Since most of my life people have made little or no effort to understand how I experience life, the fact that she cares enough to try helps motivate me to try.  And because she is so dedicated to helping me, I have helped myself.   

For me, my therapist’s dedication is essential to my healing.  For the most part, I have done the work of healing myself.  To a large extent, for instance, I have successfully toned down the magnitude of my symptoms—the flashbacks, space-outs, numbing, and the other manifestations of trauma damage that have plagued me daily.  I did this as I worked on my own with Ego State Therapy.  If my therapist had not expressed her faith in me and my ability to heal myself, I would not have been motivated to do the work.  That’s a fact.  Without the feedback and the support from my therapist, I would long ago have said, “I’m out of here!”  And if I had done that, I would still be struggling with intense PTSD symptoms every day. 

There is nothing like success to keep a person motivated.  Each tiny bit of success I have experienced in therapy has led to the next tiny bit of success, and those bits have added up over the years to a big improvement in the quality of my life.  When I entered therapy three years ago, my goal was to heal from my trauma damage and to improve the quality of my life so that I could enjoy these final years.  I’ve since revised my goal so that it is more realistic.  Now I simply want to tone down my symptoms, heal as I can heal, and experience more peace in these last years.  This revision is realistic.  I no longer expect to be completely healed, but I expect to be engaged in the process of healing for the rest of my life.  If I am engaged in the healing process, I can’t lose!   

Even now, though, I am sometimes tempted to say, “I’m out of here!”  Therapy is just plain old hard work!  And sometimes, when I don’t feel that my efforts are getting me anywhere, I am tempted to quit.  But I don’t.  I just keep slogging along, and then eventually I have an insight that leads to a healing moment, and I’m back on track. 

If you are in a therapy situation in which you are making progress, the longer you stay with it, the more progress you make.  Your reward will be a more enjoyable rest-of-your-life!  So cherish the healing process and stick with it—one healing moment at a time.  Namaste.  Blessings.  Jean

(All quoted material in this post, unless otherwise indicated, is found in Andersen’s tale titled “The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf.”  http://www.hcandersen-homepage.dk/eng-the-girl-who-loaf.htm)Image

Last Friday, I posted an article to this site that may have puzzled anyone who reads this blog.  After all, what connection does a fairy tale about a little girl who stepped on a loaf of bread have in common with healing Complex PTSD?  Good question!  Here is my response: 

About two weeks ago, in a moment of focused and intense insight,  I suddenly beheld in the front of my mind the complete span of my abuse and victimization during the first forty-two years of my life, and like Inger, I found myself plunging deep into a hole, a horrible dark space filled with all the monsters and dread creatures that make up any child’s—or adult’s—nightmares.   

Yes, it all came together.  I suddenly connected all the dots.  I could understand how abuse event number one when I was a very young child set me up for abuse event number two—and so on.  Until two weeks ago, I had possessed all the information, but it was fragmented and floating around in my mind.  Suddenly, as if I were taking a photograph, all the bits lined up in sequence and clicked into place, and I saw the pattern of my victimization during the entire first forty-two years of my life. I could also more than understand why I have Complex PTSD and why I am still working, at age 73, to find my way out of the hole.  I can see, too, that the process will take a while.   

But at least now I can identify the place where I landed in my plunge.  And, as in Inger’s particular Hell, mine, too, seems to be a “never-ending antechamber.” As Andersen states, “and this is how Inger came into Hell. People don’t always go there by the direct path, but they can get there by roundabout routes if they have a tendency in that direction.”  Anyone, probably, who has been victimized as a child and who had nobody to listen to her or him and to intervene on their behalf, has “a tendency in that direction.”  In my attempt at age four to find relief by telling an adult what had happened in my own home, I was further victimized by the “listening adult.” A “roundabout route,” indeed.  I learned my lesson that day: Never tell. 

At this point, however, I feel the need to differentiate between my story as a victim of child abuse and Inger’s story.  Little Inger is a proud, cruel, haughty, spoiled child who has no concern for others and who cares only about herself.  She commits an act of atrocious selfishness and pays the price.  She does the deed and suffers for her act—apparently a straightforward example, according to Andersen, of what happens, or should happen, to a person who does not care to lead a socially “good” and “moral” life.  Inger is, however, redeemed when she becomes contrite, acknowledges the flaws in her behavior, and is sorry.  She serves her time, and then she is released from her punishment, free to soar to Heaven in the form of a beautiful white bird. 

Unlike Inger, I—as are all victims of child abuse—was innocent.  I had done nothing to warrant my punishment, my Hell.  I plunged into my Hell when I was placed by others on the loaf called victimization, and only recently have I recognized my surroundings. And now I’m trying to find my way out of that seemingly “never-ending antechamber.”  It’s not fair!  That thought galls and infuriates me whenever I let it.  But I don’t spend much time letting it.  I know I have a choice:  I can remain forever angry and bitter, like gall, or I can continue to—as a friend so aptly and colorfully puts it—“put on my big girl panties” and continue the journey in hopes of finding the end of the antechamber.   

Sometimes I think I can see the light, the end of the antechamber, but often I’m forced to have faith that there is an end and that the end is where I want to be.  When I reach that end, will I be a beautiful white bird?  Will I fly into the sun?  I don’t know.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, another Nordic author whose lifetime overlapped that of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), saw his main character in Faust as “der immer strebende,” the forever striving one.  So long as Faust continued to seek the meaning of his life, he would be saved from damnation and eternal Hell.   

I see this process in which I am so engaged, this process of finding the end of the “never-ending antechamber,” my path to release from a punishment I have never deserved.  But I also recognize the necessity of seeing myself as Goethe saw his Faust, “der immer strebende.”  “Always striving” and “finding the end of the antechamber” go together.  But what if all my striving and all my seeking lead to nowhere, a blank brick wall?  What then?  That’s the risk I take.  It’s the risk those of us in therapy for C-PTSD all take.  So why continue to strive?   

My answer: Focus on the joys of the striving, the process, and the possible beauty of the outcome.  Will we become soaring, graceful white birds like Inger and fly into the sun?  Will our souls be borne, as Faust’s soul, to Heaven, whatever our concept of Heaven is?  We aren’t there yet, so we don’t know with any certainty. Maybe somebody who has “arrived” will write to me and let me know the answer. But we can choose to continue striving or we can choose to give up and sink into the quagmire of despair for the rest of our lives.  My choice is to continue striving.  I fervently hope that is your choice, too.

 

Part I

 

I was an early reader, and one of my favorite stories was titled “The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf” by Hans Christian Andersen. Now, this is not one of Andersen’s more popular tales, and most people I’ve known have never read it—or heard of it, in fact.   

I read this story over and over from the time I was five or six until I outgrew fairy tales, for I was captivated by its theme of redemption: Little Inger, a spoiled, self-centered, and selfish little girl one day is persuaded by the kind lady who employs her to take her old parents a freshly-baked round loaf of bread.  Unfortunately, on the way she encounters a muddy spot and uses the loaf as a stepping stone to prevent dirtying her pretty little shoes. As soon as she treads on that loaf, she and it descend into a pit filled with monstrous creatures of all kinds, the sort of creatures that inhabit the hells of children’s nightmares, including my own.  As time passes, she turns into a stony shell of herself, a statue of the sort that to the casual beholder contains no life at all and certainly has no heart. But does she remain in this horrid pit forever? No, and thus the beauty of contrition, redemption, and hope enter into the story.   

Little Inger, despite her stony shell, can still hear life above ground, and one day she hears a small child who, upon hearing her story, weeps and pleads for her return and does not mention Inger’s misdeeds.  As Andersen says, hearing that child “made her [Inger] feel quite odd.” Decades pass, and again Inger hears the small child, now an old woman on her deathbed. The woman prays for Inger, saying, “O Lord, may I not, like Inger, have trodden on Thy blessed gifts without thinking? And may I not also have nourished pride in my heart?” The old woman’s words of contrition and also the knowledge that the old woman, now an angel in Heaven, is praying for Inger and asking for mercy for her cause Inger to become contrite and ask for mercy for herself.  

Thus, the process of redemption begins.  Ultimately, Inger returns to earth in the form of a drab, gray little bird.  As a bird, she cares for the other birds, making sure that she gathers crumbs and grain for all the others and never taking more than a few bits for herself.  When Inger has collected and distributed as many grains of wheat and crumbs as the original loaf upon which she trod, Inger is transformed into a graceful and beautiful white bird that soars and disappears into the bright sunshine.  As Andersen says, “They said it flew right into the sun.” 

Yes, this is an old fashioned story, and I can imagine that it does not appeal to many children now in this day of video games and entertainment devices.  But when I was a child, I read this story over and over and remembered it, and Andersen’s message of hope gave me hope. After all, if Inger, as selfish and proud and awful as she was, could redeem herself and turn into a beautiful white bird and soar to Heaven, then there was hope for me, shame-filled and guilt-ridden child that I was.  

Just recently I had an insight into my own life that strikes me as having some amazing similarities to the tale of Little Inger.  I shall write about this next and post it this weekend.  You, as I do, may gain some hope from the story of Little Inger.  If you wish to read the entire story as written by Hans Christian Andersen, here is a link to click on:  http://www.hcandersen-homepage.dk/eng-the-girl-who-loaf.htm

 

 

 

 

 

Over the past few days, and after doing a lot of reflecting on the subject commonly called “multiple personality,” I have realized that any reader who happens to have, as I do, the same condition, might have felt attacked or hurt by the opening paragraph of the article I posted yesterday–“Me, A Multiple? I Don’t Believe It!”.  In that paragraph I state my feelings about being “multiple,” and my feelings are not positive! 

However, if one reads the entire article, it’s possible to trace my process of acceptance.  By the end of the article, I have finally come to understand and accept that multiplicity of personality to one degree or another can be a natural and normal result of long-term abuse in childhood and/or in adulthood.  I also state that without acceptance of the term or diagnosis, I could not make effective progress in my therapy because success in my therapy hinges partly on my bringing those ego states (personalities) that resulted from long-term trauma into better communication with each other.  In fact, the work I have done so far with ego states has already paid off in improving the quality of my everyday life, as I have mentioned in previous posts.

When I analyze my reluctance to accept that I am a “multiple,” I conclude that merely considering that  I might be a “multiple” scared the hell out of me!  Why?  Because all my life I’ve felt like a freak, so why would I want to accept a title that would add to my sense of freakiness?  Why would anyone want to accept such a title?  Nobody would!  And yet some of us have been placed by our abusers in a position where we have been saddled by the condition that underlies the term.  We can’t help that.  What we can do, however, is use the concept of multiplicity to help ourselves heal. 

So, to anyone reading my previous post who may be feeling hurt or insulted by my negative attitude toward being told I was a “multiple,” I apologize if my feelings on the topic have caused you grief or pain.  That was not my intent, please be assured.  However, I hope you read my entire article and understand now that I am accepting this title and for the past few years have been using the concept of isolated ego states as an instrument of my healing.  I sincerely wish that you, too, are experiencing healing and hope as you go through therapy.  If you, as I am, are a “multiple,” be assured that you can use your multiplicity as a tool for repairing the damages of abuse.  Peace.  Namaste.  Love . . .        Jean