All panic and no disco

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All panic and no disco
« on: September 24, 2018, 02:02:10 AM »

Just assume that there are trigger warnings in every post in this journal.

I'm having an argument with myself about whether to even do this.

I was being badly triggered at work (new job) and I became cognisant that my own body language and internal experience (armouring, hypervigilance, IC, perfectionism) was creating this awkward tension in the air between me and my new colleagues, but it also seems like I was the only one noticing that.

They haven't indicated anything but acceptance of me.

To define it further: they are relaxed, open and comfortable in their bodies. They are unrehearsed, authentic, uncensored and free. I, by comparison, well. I haven't relaxed since '83 (utero, if even then. Two attempts were made on my life during gestation and the pregnancy wasn't what you'd call peaceful, so I was probably a pretty wigged out foetus)

And that, there, is why to do this - this being the journal. Not the foetus observation, that's old news. But the definition of what led me to therapy. What it was that I noticed so starkly. In the act of writing I've clarified something already. I had a fake persona of a bubbly, exuberant personality. My new colleagues were the real deal. It became unbearable. I wanted the kinds of attachments they have, and the internal attachment to their own selves that they have. That inner security.

So there I was, autonomic robotised person moving around like the Tin Man, eyes dilated like saucers no doubt, amongst all these joyous, happy-go-lucky, rambunctious personalities. Something about it all was strong enough to push me into the dreaded THERAPY. I quit smoking too so I was missing old protection.

The therapist is free through the university I go to so I called her to make an appointment. Very easy compared to most attempts to access help locally.  I knew she was very experienced and had a good reputation. Downside: monthly sessions only. Could be a dangerous amount of time if I leave badly triggered. Upside: monthly sessions. A fair stretch of time between an experience of someone actually seeing me clearly.

I went in saying: I don't have a self. I need a self. She enquired about background. I said the sentence: two alcoholic parents and that was it. She knew within two minutes.

She drew a picture of a face, profile perspective, on her whiteboard and she drew the neck, brain, amygdala. She drew, for me, how CPTSD develops and what it does to the body. She pointed out that I might feel my body is relaxed or in its normal state, but to her it was visibly ready to fight or run.
She asked me to note where I was sitting. I looked down at myself. I still didn't get what she was indicating, so she explained. I was sitting with my body directed at the door, poised to escape. I remember laughing in a stilted, surprised, awkward way. She said that unconsciously I had scanned the room and found the best place to sit with an escape route, and that it had all happened in a split second below my deliberate awareness. I had no idea I had done that, but she was spot on. She said my pupils were dilated and that I was barely breathing. And yet, she pointed out, I was 'presenting' to the untrained eye as a person who was very functional, together, very calm, objective and analytical.
I checked in with my body and she was right: I was barely breathing, now that she mentioned it. My muscles were pumped full of yippy beans. I was very tense. That is a slightly heightened version of my 'normal' so I had not noticed.

It was mind blowing.

I've read Bessel, Tian, Pete. I knew this stuff intellectually. Sitting with a professional pointing it out kindly, giving me the science, giving me the compassion, was life changing. It personalised it and located it in me. It got me in touch with what it is, within me and my body.

She went in to great detail about CPTSD's neurobiological effects on the whole body. I listened, pretending I was hearing it for the first time, because in a way I was. A lot of my equilibrium has been conditional on hiding and appearing normal, so this whole process was agitating the flight/fight/freeze/fawn response even more than usual. This means I've captured a lot of that session photographically because I'd gone into that zone, but a lot of it was also me in a dissociated, dazed, incredulous state lol. Very, very dangerous to allow a person to see you. But I tolerated it because it was also amazing.

She led me through a breathing exercise and the weirdest thing happened. My physical VISION changed when I opened my eyes after it. Everything was brighter and I had better peripheral vision. Again, I hadn't noticed that I'd had literal tunnel vision earlier in the session.

So her idea is that it's a bad idea to even begin examining or attempting to process any memories while my body's so hot-wired. First thing is to calm the body, like Bessel says, so I feel I may be in good hands.

She acknowledged that deep breathing, being present in the body and yoga would be very uncomfortable for me. Yes.

I can feel the front section of my head being flooded with this force trying to make it stop, making it blank. Making it forget. And a strong urge to delete this. I wonder what all that is. I'm trying a thing where I just write it and acknowledge it. I'm having an argument about whether to do this. My brain is swiping itself out into numbness and stillness. Just acknowledge it and keep going. There is dizziness. Now an internal suggestion to go to sleep. Now a feeling to run.

The thing with the session is I went in thinking I don't have a self. She said I have a very well defined self, but I do have CPTSD. Her explanation helped me make the distinction, for the first time in my life, that the physical and psychological symptoms are not the same thing as 'me'. This is the opposite of disowning it but it's understanding what it is. It gave me a lot of hope and clarity.

She explained to me, without asking if these are things I experience, why I don't eat, why I can't sleep, even things like why I can be prone to nasal congestion. All those things are to do with the constant flooding of cortisol. Digestion, for example, just isn't a thing. Your body isn't going to suggest you sit down for a meal if it's under the impression that someone is coming to kill you any moment.

She said my response was normal and unavoidable. Normal to be like this for any human. How true and reasonable and comforting. This session took so much of my self-judgment and self-rejection down a notch.
It also kinda got me in touch with the long term physical effects. This would have to shorten a life span. All the chemical components and stress on the organs.

I was supposed to practice:
deep belly breathing
looking up at a point between my eyes to stop thoughts
alternate nostril breathing

She asked if I have fun. I said no. I barely understand the concept. She asked what I do to relax. I said I flop on the couch in front of TV and zone out (dissociate?) She said that is GOOD. To stop thinking, stop reacting. She said my triggers would be everywhere (they are). Her giving me permission to be distracted was huge for me, a game changer. I used to think I had to let myself swing all over the place and that distraction was copping out, an act for the weak. But distraction can calm the body which is my first step.

It's really cool that she knew all this without me having to explain. She knew it from her long experience, knowledge, astute observation. She did all the heavy lifting in the session, then she said I had achieved a lot. But all I had done was listen and realise and connect.

Maybe this is an Emperor's New Clothes thing and I think I'm not obviously hyper vigilant but really I am, ha!

She said showing up was brave. At the time I thought that was ridiculous but now that I have strong urges never to go back, I see what she means.  I do have strong temptation to abandon it.  It is a part of myself who has very successfully helped me by keeping a lid on all of this, and keeping denial up, and just protecting me from it - that part suggests avoiding the next appointment. I appreciate this part of me, I do. I may be ready to do this now though. I wasn't before and I'm grateful that the denial and avoidance kept me OK.

I'm the most functional I've ever been. I'm working and studying and the house is clean and things are relatively organised. I haven't been triggered into a dissociated freeze response that lasts weeks, for a long time. I don't want to risk that. The therapist calls the amygdala "Pandora's Box" and that's what it feels like.

My hope here is that this journal can be an anchor point for me so that I can continue the sessions and have a safe space to explore. I don't have an external human I can talk to about my true experience.

The second session was supposed to happen a week or so ago, but we had scheduled it at 12:30 (I am always in class at that time) and my mind thought the appointment was 2 (straight after class).
  • we agreed to 2pm on the day, and she accidentally typed it in as 12:30
    the same part of me who scans rooms for exit strategies, wants to protect me from this volatile journey, and sabotaged the next appointment by agreeing to a time it knew it couldn't make, then cementing 2pm in the brain so I wouldn't check

The second one may be far fetched but I don't know. The truth is I lose a lot of time. The truth is I do a lot of things and forget I have done them. The truth is, I was only vaguely aware that my body might be quite tense. The truth is, anything is possible right now.

So I guess that about wraps up the first entry but I might come back and write a couple more things.

In the session when she asked if I ever have fun or relax and I said no, she asked if there are any things I remember enjoying or that could be fun. It ended up with me agreeing to put on a song I like and letting loose, dancing to it, letting my body do whatever. I haven't done that one. The other one was writing, as long as it didn't become a chore.

If I don't do this journal, I have zero self expression. All I ever do is practical and achieving: work, study, home admin. If I do, I might get lost in the huge amount of grief and pain inside.

I'm grateful that this board exists and grateful to you all who keep it alive and safe and ready for the likes of me to have a soft space to land. It's brutal being alone. Thank you.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2018, 02:11:19 AM by fullofsoundandfury »

Re: All panic and no disco
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2018, 02:42:27 AM »
OMG I'm sorry that was so long.

So the things.

What were they?

My mother - FCK. I've been NC for a few years and it was the best choice ever. She keeps trying to hoover me back in. She sent this text message last Friday:

Hi darling, thinking of you, with love Mum X it's nearly Friday! with all these emojis like it matters in her world what day it is. She lives under a heavy blanket of her addiction and madness, and it's incapacitated her.

What kind of insanity drives her to expect me to text back and carry on like nothing's ever happened? She's so selfish and SO BPD/narcissistic. I am not a human to her, I am an object there to validate her. Bizarre.

My little sister is on the home stretch of living with her, a month or so before she's independent and finished school at 18. I moved out at 15, thus the late university attendence. The same day that woman texted me, my little sister made arrangements to store her belongings at a friend's house instead of our mother's house, while sister goes overseas next year. The TANTRUM that ensued. The emotionally cruel, distorted thinking, self-absorbed, ridiculous tantrum that spoke volumes about how she views her children. She does not want any of us to leave her, succeed, develop, be independent, exist other than to revolve around her destruction and just continue to cop the chaos and abuse and distress she creates. It's despicable and the polar opposite of maternal impulses that want offspring to be strong, independent, self determined, capable and happy. I am a parent so I am not speaking about concepts I don't know.

Every time she tries to initiate contact she forces me to be mean, to be cold, to be energetically violent, all over again. She knows I don't want to be that and she is exploiting the good will inherent in people, manipulating it. She thinks if she keeps making me do it there will be a time when I'm worn down and can't, and that is her entry point. She has lived her whole life manipulating that aspect of other humans and she doesn't even have it herself which is spooky and clinical on her part. She dosn't want an entry point because she knows, likes or values ME. She wants an entry point because she is a vampire and I am a pawn in her cardboard life. Without my presence she is missing a part that exists to satiate her sense of self.

I could block her number. I will. That only just occurred to me. Easy solution. She will go on a drinking bender again soon, so a good time is now.

Today I went to the bus stop and a man who was cleaning the area up said to me "You're XXX'd daughter, aren't you?"
"Yes," I said, instantly in my automated fake bubbly friendly persona.
 The man said he has known her since they were kids, he saw her the other day and she's looking really well, she's a good person, none of us are perfect, how boring would it be if we were all perfect.
"Yes" I laughed, walking away.

I've had a lot of conversations like these about my parents lately.

Part of my new job involves meeting many professionals involved in a particular line of work, all throughout my region. This is a region my parents grew up in, and it's populated by small country towns, so everyone knows everyone and remembers everyone. The people I'm meeting are in my parents' age bracket and they recognise my last name and want to know who I belong to. They knew my parents as youngsters and all through their lives.

So it becomes awkward. The people want to be polite and discuss my family in glowing terms. My father is a common one lately. They will reminisce about him and I want to say: "Actually, he is an incredibly violent man with a major drinking problem. He's been incarcerated multiple times and currently lives in a bar. I do not speak to him because he's extremely unwell."

But it's impolite.

Sometimes I do say it. Sometimes the people have this whitewashed vision of my parents, and it's a wilful ignorance on their part, because both my parents have been very publically shamed, both have been to prison, both have acted outrageously and criminally and violently in public, both have been doing it for over 30 years, and everyone knows who they truly are. But there is this Australian apologist attitude towards that behaviour and those people, a deliberate looking away when children and others are being abused, and that is why it is so entrenched and hidden in our society. Australia is actually completely immoral despite its national mythology.
I am complicit when I go along with it, and I don't want to be. So I am, for the most part, risking the expectation that I won't reveal anything ugly, risking the social cohesion, and being honest. No, actually, they are not great. How are they? I don't know, I haven't spoken to either of them for a long time.

But if there's one thing I've learned, it takes a lot to fell me, and I always eventually rise in some capacity, even if it takes years. So I have that freedom. Freedom in the wake of total degradation.

These events make it feel like it will never end. I should save money and leave this town. But it's my original battle ground and I want to change it for others living what I lived. 

I hope this is coherent. Feels good to vent.



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Re: All panic and no disco
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2018, 11:52:23 AM »
Hi! I just wanted to thank you for writing, in particular your first entry. Every job I've ever had has felt this way to me. For years I thought it was normal...

Your therapist sounds great. I would love to have access to someone who can pinpoint body language like that. I'm a tense ball of nerves all of the time.

Best wishes.