I have just had a major breakthrough, while on a night shift. The previous breakthrough I had, a week ago, was after a night shift. I had possibly the biggest breakthrough of my life after a run of night shifts over Christmas, and the first breakthrough I ever had was when I’d been up all night. I’ve written about some of them before on here and it seems to follow a theme: always at night. So weird. I’ve been meaning to post last week’s since I had it, but didn’t get round to it. Now I can add two! Both are those huuuuuuge, life changing, seismic experiences that I have only ever had while in therapy. I also might post the Christmas one at some point because that seemed to really shift something major. The one tonight was prompted, I think, by having an unusually quiet night in which I hadn’t brought a book and therefore was reading over years worth of notes I had made about therapy, purely in order to stay awake, and saw just how far I have come (although in other ways, I’m still going round and round in circles!) and how the ‘process’ has worked. Really fascinating.
So many thoughts.
I find it so difficult to accept that there is a part of me that actively wants to humiliate and torture. Because there is, and I do, and it’s primarily 99.9% towards myself, and it hasn’t been acted out on anyone else for a long time…but it exists. The trouble I am having is with its existence. I just had dream after dream after dream, or more accurately nightmare, and the themes were all the same. Dark, can’t escape the bad. But I just woke up with that sense that I need to write, because I need to process, because I feel like I understand, like I am starting to understand, and it will probably be one of those things where I go back and forth on it until it really sticks, and denial will reign supreme once again despite the ‘breakthrough’. Because that is the pattern. But for now there is just the overwhelming sense, the need, to acknowledge that that is there because that is what was done to me, and it doesn’t matter that I wasn’t held down and physically tortured. I was held down and tortured emotionally by being constantly humiliated for having needs and being denied access to them, and there is a part of me that wants to fight that statement but there is a part of me that is stronger, and that is the part that is writing this and that is saying, NO, it was not ok. I know that there wouldn’t be this part of me if I hadn’t been shown it, if I hadn’t felt it, and it is such a strong part of me that I know it wasn’t a one off, or something that happened sporadically. It was sporadic to a certain extent, but it was a constant undercurrent. It was a constant threat. I know it was because I can feel it now, I can see it even in the times when it wasn’t directly to me, like when my dad held E [stepmum] down, sat on her so that she physically couldn’t move and was forcing these raw mushrooms into her mouth, and laughing, sneering at her choking on them, and I remember it being so shocking but also strangely not, and feeling like if I explained it to anyone they wouldn’t understand. But I understood because even though I wasn’t held down and force fed I knew to my core what that felt like because I had it with my parents, with their needs, and there was no room for mine. I was force fed their needs until there was no room for mine. And I continue the cycle on myself, sometimes without realising but always without really knowing how to stop it. No wonder it has taken me YEARS in therapy to deal with my needs (recognise they exist, that they are there, recognise what they are, accept what they are, accept that they are important, etc etc etc. Still dealing with the idea that I don’t have to deal with someone else’s first, because I feel like I literally – and this is not hyperbole – don’t know how).
And this is where it just keeps coming and coming, and of course I don’t know how to stop it because I had nobody to stop it. I am a shit mum to myself because I had a shit mum, god love her but she was shit because as Nick said the other day when I got so badly triggered, “you had a cold, distant mum who didn’t protect you”. There are reasons for that and I don’t have to forgive them but I think that I need to, and I want to. I am so damaged, I know I am, not in a self-pitying way, or in a punitive way, but just in an acknowledging way. Sometimes it feels like denial when I am told that there is nothing wrong with me, because there is, and I’m not talking now about my self, or my core being or whatever you want to call it, but just the whole of me, the parts that should be healthy and functioning and not trying to constantly kill or sabotage me, because that ISN’T normal and I think recognition of that for me is actually a key to me being able to heal. To just be able to recognise that it wasn’t ok or normal but that actually even though I am not normal I also am in a way, because that is what you do, that is how you grow, you grow up to internalise what is around you, what you see, what is done to you, and fine, there might not have been rape or beatings or whatever but there is a whole lot of fucked up that I have just sucked in. Years and years, generations and generations of unmet needs and the denial of them. And I wasn’t protected, I should have been but I wasn’t, and so that is why I feel SO damaged, because if I had had all that but with some protection it might have been ok, but it wasn’t because essentially what I had is the fucked up bit from one parent paired up with the fucked up bit from another, both ensuring that their needs came before mine. I MIGHT have been ok if my dad hadn’t been the way he was, but I did still have a distant mother, one who I couldn’t connect to because she is so shut down that I can’t connect to the bit that I need to connect to – I know I have acknowledged that before. It wasn’t all bad and I know she loves me and was loving towards me but I was left without knowing how to really connect to it and feel it and I know that’s true because I can’t connect to myself and it is an ongoing battle. There was no security guard standing at the entrance to turn away what shouldn’t have come in. I had no security guard. I had no security. And so even without the dad I feel like I would have been fucked up because I didn’t know how to put myself first. And then maybe I would have still be damaged by my dad if I had had a secure attachment to my mum, but there were still the endless, constantly changing mind games and the feeling crazy and all the ways in which I was just chucked onto a heap. That is how I feel and again, part of me is really fighting that and I can feel that familiar narrative, it is constant, a simple repetition of, it wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t that bad, and it is SO HARD to acknowledge that it was. That if it hadn’t been then there wouldn’t even BE nightmares about consistent invasion despite trying to protect myself, about home not being safe, about people that I love changing into something else that will harm me, about not being able to escape, about having to constantly think on my feet about the best way to avoid being killed. To not be murdered. To be able to hold onto my self. Because it was something that I wasn’t allowed to do, and I wasn’t allowed it from either parent.
I can even feel it in simple things. Like now, when I am feeling ill and woozy, hot with the lump in my throat, the “proper ill” as I feel it. And Nick had just left the bedroom after trying to wake me up, so I called down after him but there was no response, and the feeling that accompanies that is immense, and yet again, I know that that isn’t normal, that feeling of, oh my god he can’t hear me he can’t hear me and I am all alone, I am alone and nobody can hear me and nobody will come. And now it is different, I can get up and go to him, and recognise that I am not alone, but only now I am starting to acknowledge that there were times when I couldn’t and THAT IS WHY, damn it! Why has it taken so long to sink in? That is why I have these intense, I want to say emotional flashbacks, because they are not based in reality but they literally wash over everything in reality at that point, dousing it with cold, icy past. That feeling of being alone and that nobody will come is so overwhelming and intense and when I think about why I feel so sad. For me. For her, the little girl who was never rescued from it. No wonder it hurts so much and is triggered so intensely by people not being there, by people leaving, in whatever sense. I needed to be rescued from it and I wasn’t and that is pretty much the entire theme of my life and why I struggle so, so much because how can I rescue myself if I was never shown how to? And that is why I get frozen and can’t call out for help and feel as though I can’t get what I need because I am stuck in a place where I couldn’t do that.
And then we come on to being so frustrated with myself that I JUST DON’T KNOW HOW, and that buys into the feelings again that I am a failure, that I am worthless, that I can’t even look after myself. That I am stupid. And with this unexpected uber-clarity outfit on I can see again how EXACTLY that relates to my parents. Because I was supposed to take care of their needs (unconsciously, I think, although in the case of my dad perhaps not?) and I couldn’t do that, either, and I was berated for that either subtly or not so subtly, with threats of violence, with literal threats of death, with threats of abandonment, with actual abandonment, with the closing of doors and the shutting out my needs and being shown so clearly that I am too much, that I am not enough, that nothing is mine. The key is in the threat, isn’t it, it wasn’t like I had been a typical teenager and acted out and had my phone taken away for a bit, these were threats of, like, hierarchy of needs level. You will lose your home. You won’t be able to eat (and this did actually get acted out in my teenage years, when I couldn’t ‘save’ my dad and I lived in a house of mushrooms in the bathroom, of mouldy/no food in the fridge, of the threats of rent not being able to be paid). You will lose my love, you will lose your life, you will lose the lives of those around you, you will lose your independence, you will lose your privacy (never had any, hence fantasy/music I guess), you will lose sleep (what a big one…), you will lose you will lose you will lose, that was the running theme. I will always lose and I had to fight not to lose, not realising that I had already lost, or rather that I didn’t already have. You can’t lose security if you never really had it, you can’t lose acceptance if you never really had it, you can’t lose autonomy if you never really had it. And I fought so hard, all the time, not to ‘lose’ all this. So sad. And now I am fighting so hard to get them, to have them in myself, to feel it in myself instead of being someone who is terrified all the time because they are not there and I don’t know how to get them. I have spent my entire life (and still do!) trying to get them from other people, and I need to get them from myself, and that is where the war is, because I have dad-style Judgement of Doom and feel so, SO useless and worthless for not being able to just do it, to magically know how to do something I was never taught. Let alone having to deal with the fact, that, oh yeah! I’ve also missed out on having it taught in the way that it should have been, so there is constant loss to bash up against, when I can feel it, when I am not pushing it away because even without the pain aspect there is the part of me that is so insistent, in denial, no no no I can’t have missed it, which then turns into, I am bad I’m sorry I’m bad I’m bad I can be better I can be better I promise, like my ability to get it is based on my worth and that if I could just make it better, if I could be better then it would all float down from the skies and cover me in soft, sparkly, rainbow-coloured petals and then everything will be alright and I will magically have what I need(ed). And that’s the grief cycle right there, isn’t it, at least the model I am most familiar with, the denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance. The denial is obvious but the bargaining is in the trying to make it better because if I could just do it, attain whatever level I feel like I need to attain then it would all be fine. That is what I spent my entire childhood doing and what has spilled over into adulthood and continues to steer me, unconsciously, a lot of the time. Anger and depression again obvious, and acceptance is more readily available to me now as I work through things, but is still difficult to achieve when there is so much denial. And there is, and there will continue to be, and I need to be ok with it because it is there and it is there for a reason and that doesn’t make me bad either but it is so difficult to believe that the bad in me won’t push people away when it feels like that is what was always shown to me, that was always the message I got and I don’t know how to stop that from being overwhelming and REAL even though I am starting to know fundamentally that it is not. But again, maybe that is something that I can’t control and of course that is a massive trigger in itself, that I can’t control things. I can’t control some of the times when I get triggered, I can’t control whether people will love me or not, I can’t control when new ways of trying to control pop up unbeknownst to me, I can’t even control myself, the parts that I am not connected to, I can just work with them and try to understand them and that is something that is hard to understand, because again I am suddenly hit with that cold, hard feeling of, that is what parents do, isn’t it, and I never had it. And yet that comes with it an amazing realisation that I will be an ok parent because I am already learning how to be an ok parent by learning how to parent myself, and that is something that my parents never had or did.
[An aside: this breakthrough was directly to do with the fact that the week before I’d got massively, massively triggered by watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a programme about a girl who was kidnapped and held in a bunker for 15 years, then comes out and has to navigate the world with PTSD and not really knowing how to fit in with ‘normal’ people. To the point where I was cringing because she reminded me so much of me in so many ways – Nick kept going, “That is so you!” And I went all self-hating and didn’t get why I was triggered by it…but. Yeah.]
12/4/15 (today’s – much shorter!)
Just had another realisation, as you do when you’re sitting in a chair all night, while someone else sleeps… Of course I want [my therapist] to look after me, to care for me. Why wouldn’t I? I never got looked after in the way I needed. I never felt properly cared for. I never got the whole “attention on me” need met until therapy, I never ever had to not give anything back until then so of course it was like a magnet back to frozen child and hope and ‘I can be saved’.
But more importantly, that it’s not wrong for me to feel that. That I’m not wrong. That it doesn’t make me bad, or sick, or depraved, as I remember writing once and have felt so many times. Wrong to want. Wrong to need. Bad bad bad. It is OK. It is OK to feel it, to want it, even if I will never get it. Just because I will never get it doesn’t make me bad for still wanting it. I think that this is the first time I have ever, ever know this (in a felt sense). I feel immensely sad and wish I wasn’t at work so I could cry…but I also feel freer and like something has shifted in me, and lifted. I am not bad for wanting. It is normal to want. Especially when you wanted and never got and then tried to pretend that you never did because the pain of not getting is too much for you to bear. Poor, sweet little me. I’m sorry. You are OK and you always have been.
Seriously. Therapy is the shit. It’s still so hard, but progress, my god. Progress. I am immensely proud of myself and overwhelmed with gratitude to my therapist for guiding me here.