Thursday, October 7, 2010

I am not crazy . . .

. . . 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.


  1. You're doing it because you know in your heart it's what you need to do to win.

  2. I've been praying for you this morning...

    I believe it was Winston Churchill who said "When you are going through hell, keep going." At this point, the way out is through--but I dearly wish it didn't have to be so hard for you.

    Part of my family troubles that I mentioned on my blog have to do with watching my 9-year-old daughter struggle so hard to adjust to major changes in her life. It is not in the same league as what you are dealing with, but seeing her so anguished--and being unable to do anything about it--has me quoting that Churchill line to myself every day. Her therapist tells me the same thing that yours is telling you--it WILL get better, but it will hurt before it does....

    I have read enough about your therapist to feel like she's good and knows what she is doing--but I also worry about you. At the risk of being a buttinsky, are you physically safe?

    I'll continue praying--for the Holy Spirit to wrap you in Her wings and bring you peace, comfort, and strength.


  3. I can only respond to trust your own instincts but there must be several approaches to working with post traumatic stress disorders. Of course your therapist would say you are healing because it is in their interest to say so. We are strongly committed to our approaches - those of us in the consultation/behavior modification fields.

  4. I wish I saw this before I wrote the email. I wish more that I knew Monday was so difficult for you (difficult being a ridiculous word here).

    "I don’t feel confident going anywhere in public." I wrote a post yesterday that I never published and I wrote this almost verbatim. I understand this feeling. It is like someone sliced you open and put your insides on the outside and you can't hide it no matter what you do. It's debilitating.

    I believe completely that you are doing the right thing in continuing. You are stripping off layers and opening boxes you kept tightly closed in your mind for so long. Somewhere in there a beautiful story is hidden. "I can now talk about some great memories with Daphne which was a goal." You are working on not following that sentence with a "but." You are doing a great job, please don't be so hard on yourself.


  5. This process reminds me of chemotherapy - first they kill everything and bring you to death's door and then they build you back up.

    Always praying for strength and peace for you.

    Happy anniversary to you and Martha!


  6. Your posts literally make me gasp for air when I read them.


  7. You are not crazy. You are healing. The healing sounds absolutely harrowing. I am so sorry that you have to relive this so viscerally.

    The thing is, 8dp, I don't think you can go any direction but through at this point. If you stopped the therapy, you would be left in this place, where you so don't want to be. The door is open and all of the memories that were locked in are spilling out the open door. I can't see how you could put them back at this point.

    Deep within you, within all of us, is a core of iron. You must draw upon that strength, if even just to hold on. And, you must trust and believe that it will get better.

    I'm wrapping you in a warm, soft, handmade quilt of love, acceptance, compassion, joy, sorrow, and strength.


  8. Doxy - perhaps I don't really understand your question. As I think anyone who has experienced violence will say, I don't really feel safe anywhere, but I am safe at home.

    e- I absolutely agree with you. I know I need to go through, I just want to do it quickly. Being this out of control is very foreign and frightening to me.

  9. My thoughts are all yours right now.

    You will make it through. I was going to add "to the other side," but somehow I'm not convinced there are "sides," just life, moving forward in the one direction time allows. So keep living. You have my (our) full, unconditional support.

  10. hugs to you lady. Body memories are horrible, awful things - it took me years to recognize what they were and then to learn how to keep them at bay. Just a few years ago I was having them on a daily, hourly basis, but so far, this year, I can count how many I've had on one hand.

    It DOES get better. There is hope.

    There is always hope.

    Much love and light to you, there is light in this tunnel, there are people you don't even know thinking about you, wishing the best for you, sending prayers thousands of miles.

    I wish you safety and peace in the coming days, weeks, years.

    It's like giving birth, you know, you'll never get through it until you go through it. Remember there's that moment where you think it's all too much and you'd rather just be pregnant forever - fine, let the little sucker stay in there and leach the life out of me for however long I have left - I know I felt that way during birth and that was the worst feeling. And with my second, I knew then that the tide was turning, that it wouldn't get any worse, it would only get better from there and very soon, I would have pushed through and gotten to the other side.

    And so it is with this, keep on trudging and let those walking with you support you as much as they are willing.

  11. 8th day--I just remember a terrible time in my life when the noise in my head was so loud I just wanted to stop it...

    I didn't, and I'm very glad now.

    Take care of yourself, my dear Invisible Friend. As Kalisis Rising says, there are lots of people rooting for you.


  12. I am so sorry you are going through this pain right now. I have heard from others who have healed from traumatic experiences that they had to really go through the worse to heal. It doesn't make sense to me, but I hope the end is near so you can have your life back. I'm praying for you to have strength and courage to get through these trying times.

  13. oh, I am praying for you....