Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*

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Armadillo

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #30 on: May 02, 2021, 06:15:49 PM »
*TW*

**I'm going to put an extra trigger warning in here. Nothing bad happens in this post but the description of what I had to do in therapy to start managing my fear of people committing suicide might be upsetting. It is for me! Ugh. I still can't believe I did this. I don't think I recommend it, even though it worked. Honestly it seems more like retraumatizing psychological self-harm than therapy. I was putting on a tough "I got this" act and not being open with my therapist at the time about my symptoms.**

Part 9. Exposure is brutal

So I started therapy just as my son was ending therapy. I'm guessing I'm not alone in this but the first few sessions we spent some time building some grounding skills and they were so far from grounding for me! Yikes.

Taking deep breaths and feeling your body? Hah. Yeah. Right. Bye! My dissociation whips me out of that danger zone by the time I'm at my neck.

Loving-kindness meditation? Imagine someone you love and say the meditation picturing them in your mind? Ok, first, I learned from this exercise that people can actually picture people they love in their minds. Whoa! Thought that was a figure of speech. I can't even imagine an apple. Second...the meditation included the phrase "may you be safe from harm, inside and out." I just couldn't handle that one. Picturing my kids and saying that? The "may you be" took all my control away...like no! I CAN keep you safe. There's no "may you be" safe in my brain.

Circle of protectors? Imagine people you love surrounding you supporting you? All I can think is this person I love and am thinking about as part of my support circle might die and I go into a panic attack.

Yeah....even though my therapy was supposed to be about setting boundaries with mom, my fear of people I love dying or committing suicide was everywhere, even in the exercises that were supposed to calm me.

So, we ended up "working" on that. And by necessity. I completely lost it anytime my son was remotely upset about anything. I compeltely lost it if I heard a sound in his room late at night. On my walk to work every morning and on my way home..lost it. Thinking about taking a spring break to visit national parks like we usually do.  Lost it. Lost it. Lost it.

So, I asked for help dealing with this fear. Y'all it was brutal brutal work.

First, my T asked me to write down on a piece of paper "my family is going to commit suicide." He asked me..."can you do that?" And handed me some paper and a pen. I didn't think I could but I surprised myself and said...I'll try. I took the pen and paper and started writing. My T asked "can you write it?" And I said "yeah" and started writing. Then I really surprised myself by describing why I could write it.

At the time I had no idea what dissociation was or that I dissociate regularly and have since I was a kid. I kind of narrated what I was experiencing as it happened. I said "I can write it, because I'm writing it over here, on the right side of my body" and then I used my hand to visually split myself into halves and motioned to the right of my body where I had the pad of paper and was writing "my family will kill themselves." Then, I motioned my hand to the left side and said "but I am over here" and motioned far to the left. Then I realized um, that's a weird thing to say. And feel. But "I" was super calm because the writing part of me was separated from "real me."

Eventually we moved onto imaginal exposure and flooding where I would imagine people I love killing themselves, which my T would narrate with horrifying detail, over and over with the goal of getting my anxiety to a 10 on a 10 point scale. But I would always dissociate around an anxiety level of 5 and would then get super calm or start laughing. But we did it over and over, every horrible scenario of my son killing himself, graphically narrated by my T.

Even with the dissociation it was awful. But I needed to get over this fear because it was debilitating and I could not parent a preteen if I was terrified of him ever being upset. So I kept at it for months. Having to imagine it when I walked to work over freeway overpasses...there goes my son jumping onto the freeway...graphic details of his mangled body. Seeing dead deer on the side of the road during this time would send me into panic attacks reminding me of these exposure scenarios.

Waiting at the subway to go to and from work... he's jumping onto the tracks and I'm watching but can't stop it. Over and over and over and over. March through June.

In between this *, my therapist would also reassure me over and over again. My son was fine. He was not going to kill himself. Educating me about suicide and choice and what we can and can't control. Finally we were going on vacation, me and the kids to a national park. Jumping off a cliff at a national park was my son's plan a year previous.

My therapist convinced me that to really prove to myself he was ok, to get rid of this fear, I would have to let him go up to the edge. To look over. To see that he wouldn't jump. That would be my ultimate exposure.

I trusted my therapist. I trusted my son. Yes I was terrified. Beyond belief. But I did it. Over and over. I took him to multiple scenic overlooks. Parked the car under the guise of wanting a photo. Bribed my son and daughter with candy to get out of the car and pose near the edge. Over and over and over. He seemed nervous about being near the edge. He did not know what I was doing, that I was proving to myself he wouldn't jump. Finally I had done it enough that my brain could relax. He was not going to kill himself.

I felt victorious. I felt at peace. I could relax. And then the next day, driving away from the national park, the enormity of what I had done hit me. How could I be so stupid? So trusting? He could have jumped. Why would I trust this therapist? He could be a total quack.

I was driving back from the national park and was going to stop at my sister's house for a visit. I started panicking. They have guns. He could kill himself there. I was on the I-5 in Oregon, a 5 lane freeway. At the moment I was panicking about the guns I passed an enormous mangled buck that had been hit. It flashed me back to those imaginal exposure sessions, imaging his body mangled on the freeway. Holy crap I was so freaked out on this massively busy freeway.

And so it went...a couple steps forward in defeating this fear and then a couple steps backward. The fear got less intense. I'd still have nightmares, still get scared when I'd hear a chair move across the floor in his room, or if he was late getting home from school, or upset about something. But it gradually became less intense, more manageable. I could function again. My son was ok. It's ok.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2021, 11:59:58 PM by Armadillo »

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notalone

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #31 on: May 02, 2021, 11:09:19 PM »
Wow, Armadillo. That sounds awful. I couldn't even read the suicide scenarios, I had to skim over those. For you to dive into that in detail--yikes. 

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sanmagic7

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #32 on: May 03, 2021, 12:58:15 PM »
armadillo, the fears you describe are so potent, so heavy.  to have to live with them, well, i can't even imagine it.  i couldn't read your entire post, but i did see the bit about 'testing' your S and D, and my heart went out to you.  i'm very glad you were relieved by that experience, but i also get how drudging it up in therapy could be brutal.  i've had some of that feeling myself.  stirring it all up again can be like reliving it but with full clarity about what it all means, what's going on inside you, how that feels, etc. 

i give you so much credit for your courage in tackling this.  honestly, it's amazing what we go thru simply to try to get thru a day.  sending love and a hug filled with strength for all you're going thru.  keep taking care of you, ok? :hug:

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Armadillo

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #33 on: May 03, 2021, 11:39:36 PM »
Thank for for the support, and understanding of how difficult the fear has been to manage. I truly appreciate it especially knowing it isn't easy to read or scan. This is the first time I am writing it down or even telling the story in one piece. It's just been new triggers sneaking up and knocking me over repeatedly and dealing with it or not the best I can, getting back on my feet, breathing a sigh of relief then getting knocked over again. But each new trigger gives me a chance to practice and build my resilience and diminish the fears. And I think I am in a much better place to help others deal with suicide now too.

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Armadillo

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #34 on: May 03, 2021, 11:59:25 PM »
**TW - domestic violence and suicide**

Part 10. I should have seen this coming

I started to get a handle on this fear. I felt pretty confident my son was ok. I mean the fear never compeltely left but it was definitely manageable. I still had nightmares but not too bad. I still got scared, but it was short-lived. I could talk back to those fears and calm down pretty well.

The universe decided to keep testing me, just to make sure I was really healed I guess?

So...another back track. I never knew my father. He left when my mom was pregnant with me. My sister lived with him and my mom for 4 years. My mom wouldn't talk about him but I heard the label abusive drunk thrown around, knew his name, and had one very blurry photo of him and my mom. As a kid I'd ask my mom about him wanting to know especially his ethnic background, like just wanting to know more about who I am, you know? I'd ask if we could track him down for child support and to help pay for college but she'd get angry and tell me it wouldn't matter anyway he's probably dead or in jail. Then she'd shake a bunch of pills out of her purse.

Well, a couple Christmas' ago...now in my 40s...my mom decided to get me a genetic test kit for Christmas. I told her thank you, it really was thoughtful, but that there wasn't much a test kit could tell me and it would mean more to me if she would tell me about him herself. Shockingly she agreed. He was an abusive alcoholic and drug addict. He abused her. When she was pregnant with me she tried to call the police and he pulled a knife cut the phone line, and threatened to kill her. She shoved my sis out the door then eventually got out herself. He fled stealing everything he could (the money, the car my mom used to get to work, the photos). Never saw him again but he would call and threaten her. 

I told her I had tried to track him down in my 30s. She looked surprised and asked if I had found him. I told her he had died a long time ago, I found a death
record. She wanted to see the proof herself. So I tracked down the death certificate to give her a copy.

Y'all can probably see where this is going. Somehow I did not. I went to get the death certificate from the mail and was surprised to see: heart dysrythmia as the cause of death. I was like wow! That's so...normal...then I kept reading and saw it was due to intentional ingestion of potassium...suicide. I ordered the autopsy report too and learned a lot about him. I also learned he had first tried to die by intentional overdose of opioid meds but it didn't work. He took a bunch of potassium heart medicine to finish.

What this meant to me was...well..crud...my kids now have genetic suicide risk on 3 out of 4 sides. One grandparent with ideation and self harm and two with completion. That old familiar feeling was back...I can never ever let my guard down. Suicide is everywhere I turn. So, another couple steps backward in healing after all that progress. And also a lot of shame of what I come from. But that's another story and I'll keep that separate from this trigger filled journal.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2021, 01:01:35 PM by Armadillo »

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sanmagic7

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #35 on: May 04, 2021, 09:28:10 PM »
hey, armadillo,

i can relate to a lot of your story - suicide, self-harm, mental illness, addictions all run thru my mother's side of my family, then thru me to my two daughters.  both of them have suffered within themselves because of my family genetics.  unfortunately, i didn't realize the extent of how this has gotten passed down thru the years.  because of their knowledge, neither of my daughters are choosing to have children of their own.  i'm actually very glad for that - i'd hate to see another generation deal with so much pain.

as a side note, i'd like to say to you that the shame you feel is not yours.  you didn't choose your family members, and couldn't possible know how this dynamic works until you began discovering your own issues.  i think, if your kids are armored in knowledge, they will make wise choices, and if they decide to have children, they'll be prepared, informed, and know what to look for and how to manage whatever comes up.  my thoughts alone, and please ignore anything you don't agree with.

i, too, have the layers upon layers of triggering going on, tackling them a little at a time, as much as i can when i'm able.  i appreciate your courage and insight.

thanks for being here and sharing so much.  sending love and a hug filled with determination as you continue forward.  we're in this together. :hug:

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Armadillo

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #36 on: May 05, 2021, 02:48:47 AM »
 :hug:

Thanks San. I'm sorry you've been through the same personally and with your babies.  Thank you for reading and supporting despite the personal pain.

Thank you for your wise words about shame and I should clarify that it has less to do with shame about my parents mental illnesses and addictions and more like I guess I'm not good enough for my current life...like imposter syndrome at work, my community, my marriage, and as a mom. It runs deep.

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Armadillo

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #37 on: May 05, 2021, 02:03:21 PM »
I've noticed I stopped feeling any emotions at all as I've written the past several entries. It's really embarrassing if I open up in real life to tell a friend some of what happened with my son. The second i say just the tiniest non dramatized truth... "yeah, a couple years ago, S, was talking about suicide" tears spring to their eyes and they look rightfully horrified. Showing more emotion than I ever managed. I'll then downplay it, laugh, say it's ok! He's fine! Laughing still I'll say it was scary though because of an extensive family history.  Hahaha but everything is ok! And then change the subject.

Yet everytime my T asks me to stop and tell him what's happening in my body...I report...my eyes are stinging like they want to cry but I'm not sad.

Occasionally tears will gather in my eyes, not enough for a tear drop but enough to feel damp,  but I don't feel sad. But once about 2 months ago I had the actual feeling of feeling sad. I was driving my son and daughter. My son was hunched up in the seat with a migraine and normally I might feel intellectually sad that he is suffering but this time I actually felt the sensation of sadness throughout my body, and then cried a little while feeling that sadness. It was such a trip to realize "oh when people say they feel sad, this is what they mean?"

Do you ever have those moments when you realize how different your experience of life is from "normal?"

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sanmagic7

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #38 on: May 05, 2021, 06:38:16 PM »
absolutely.  in my case, i've come to discover i've been suffering from a condition called alexithymia.  basically, neural networks between emotional side and verbal/conscious side of the brain have not been connected.  i've spent most of my life confused because i didn't know what was going on w/ others, and didn't feel basic emotions like love, joy, pleasure, happy, fear and anger.  i could intellectualize as well, but had no real connection to what the feeling/emotion actually felt like.

as i've continued working on all this, and have been in a healthy relationship w/ my d (also eliminating most friends), i'm beginning to feel emotions more often.  altho i know it's making more human, to feel them at this stage seems like getting hit by a bus.  just yesterday i asked my t how people have lived with all these emotions all their lives!  they're so devastating to me now that i can't imagine an entire lifetime of consciously knowing them.

it's getting better, even when it feels like it's getting worse.  keep moving, armadillo.  you've been making such huge steps here.  maybe too huge too often, and you're getting overwhelmed.  be careful of that, ok?  love and hugs :hug:

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Armadillo

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #39 on: May 05, 2021, 10:32:17 PM »
Thanks San. I'm actually ok with the fears part now. I've had a lot if things come up in the past year that proves to me, I am ok. I can handle these things as they come up. Now I am trying to get to the emotions part and yes it is exactly like that...I learned somehow to sever communication between those (and many other) parts of my brain and now don't know how to reconnect things. But I'm ready to try. But you're probably right that I'm being too aggressive here in trying to make it happen. I focus too much on trying to fix myself (feeling weak for not being magically better by now, like you mentioned in your own journal) and not on being kind and gentle.

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sanmagic7

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #40 on: May 08, 2021, 07:14:39 PM »
sending you a hug filled with kindness and gentleness toward yourself, if that helps. :hug:

i think the reconnection comes gradually, (it has for me) as we continue recovering and rediscovering ourselves  (or discovering our true selves maybe for the first time).  being connected to this forum and disconnecting from toxic people has allowed my mind to see a different, more positive, helpful, and accepting perspective which includes myself and people around me.  being accepted has been the main thing, i think.  it's allowed some of those past wounds to heal, and has released  some of the fear i've had of being authentic.  i hope you find a similar experience as you continue forward.

i so appreciate you, even in the short time you've been here.  love is flying out to you - i hope you can accept it.  but, please let me know if it's not comfortable, ok?   :yes:

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Armadillo

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #41 on: May 14, 2021, 12:24:35 AM »
Thank you Sanmagic. You have a gift for having the right words.  :hug:

--------

Sometimes the universe is interesting. In early April I reached out to an old friend I hadn't hung out with since I moved 4 years ago...even though I only moved 20 min away. We ended up hanging out (outside) and she shared some struggles she was going through and I shared what we had gone through with my son. She just called and is going through something similar....a little less serious...and really needed to hear from someone who's been through this. She was very cautious not wanting to upset me and I could tell her honestly that I am OK and that one of the silver linings of having gone through this so many times with so many people and working on it in therapy so intensely is that I am now in a good place to help others dealing with it. Actually now that I scan a couple past entries..this is the friend I referenced when I told her and she cried a little but I just laughed it off saying it was fine! That's bothered me for the past month...that others can show appropriate emotion but I can't.  Yet. One day....

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sanmagic7

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #42 on: May 14, 2021, 05:47:47 PM »
one day - i believe in that.  you continue to move forward, and i know that takes courage and determination.  plus, you've been helping others on this forum since you got here.  that's a big deal, too. 

sending love and a hug filled with progress :hug:

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Armadillo

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #43 on: May 17, 2021, 02:17:33 PM »
I went running with this friend yesterday to give her support for all shes going through. She was very worried about triggering me with talking about it. It's just so very
strange. 3 years ago I never ever dreamed this was a fear I could get through and never even thought to try. That wasnt my goal in starting therapy. I would ALWAYS be terrified of people I love killing themselves. They was just fact.

But yesterday I could look my friend in the eye and tell her truthfully I was 100% ok and so very happy I have been through this so many times and worked so hard in therapy that I could now support others going through similar things instead of being triggered and not being able to truly support others because I was so terrified myself.

I also disclosed to her how I felt when she was able to cry as I told her about my son a couple months ago even though I am unable to cry about it. That was on my therapy homework list so yay!

I also haven't finished telling my story here and need to get back to finishing it. I'm just giving myself a long pause to avoid roboting it.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2021, 02:20:36 PM by Armadillo »

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sanmagic7

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Re: Armadillo's Journal *TW: suicide, self-harm*
« Reply #44 on: May 17, 2021, 04:18:07 PM »
well done, armadillo, on such remarkable progress.  keep it up!   :thumbup:

sending love and a hug filled with continuity :hug: