. . . I am healing.
This is what my therapist tells me.
But I know I am losing my grip. Or as someone recently told me - the wheels have come off and I am careening all over the place.
Years ago I went through therapy and learned how to cope with flashbacks. Mostly I experienced emotional (feeling overwhelming sadness or fear) and visual flashbacks (seeing parts of the attack in rapid screen shots). These lasted anywhere from seconds to hours, and were very disruptive and disorienting. But I learned the tricks of getting myself back to the present - visualizing a safe place, counting out and naming the things I can see, hear, touch, wrapping myself in a blanket, etc. - and eventually I was able to manage it and get through my days in a reasonably sane fashion and sustain a career and create a family and a very happy life.
But then Martha and I fell apart. And then I had issues with my church. Or more accurately, the pastor had issues with me. And that seemed to create all sorts of cracks in my already jerry-rigged foundation. Sadness returned. The flashbacks became more frequent. And it started to negatively impact the quality of my carefully structured life. So back to therapy I went.
This time to try exposure therapy, because okay, I have buried the pain for far too long. The theory involves the person recounting traumatic memories until they lose their sting. This can be done by saying them aloud repeatedly, writing, reading over and over until they are no longer distressing. And so for the last few months this is what I’ve been doing. Pulling out long buried memories, going over the torturous details.
Trusting my therapist, onward I went. I choked out the memories of the torment my lover went through. And the flashbacks became more vivid and longer and debilitating. And still I continued, opening doors I still think should remain forever closed, trying to speak about the physical pain and the humiliation done to me. And the memories are flooding back. Things I do not want to remember. Why would anyone want to remember this?
And now, this week, physical flashbacks. I sat in her office Monday answering her questions, and suddenly had so much pain I doubled over. Body memories she called them. And she was very good in getting me back to the here and now, but do I really want this happening at random moments?
I started this process feeling 90% normal with occasional cracks that needed repair. I now feel totally wrecked and don’t see how this is getting better. My therapist assures me this is quite normal and I will break through it, but I do not want to spend this much time in the past.
I can now talk about some great memories with Daphne which was a goal. But the good memories are always shadowed with the horror in a much greater detail than before. I now know why the smell of a laundromat is a trigger for me, but I now also have the memories of why. It was easy to avoid laundromats, not so easy to relive broken bones and lost teeth. And why am I doing this to myself?
I fear that this therapy has taken too great a toll on my life. Tomorrow is my and Martha’s anniversary, but she is sleeping on the couch since all my tossing and turning has been keeping her up. I am missing a wedding this weekend because I don’t feel confident going anywhere in public. (Martha is not pleased) My daughter is avoiding me. I am trying to stay in a routine but often leave work after an hour or two, totally spent. I want my life back. I need my life back. I am afraid I will never feel normal again.
I feel like I am going crazy.
My therapist says that I am healing.
But I fear that the cure is far worse than the disease.