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Strange Star

Thread starter #1
I have decided to start this "trauma diary." I'm not sure why. My gut is telling me that it might be helpful.

Finally, I found an article that goes a long way toward explaining what is happening to me. This morning, I searched the forum on "repressed memories" and spent a lot of time reading what others have written. I found this article on an old thread. I can't remember now who posted it, but I am sending him/her my gratitude.

Symptoms of Trauma and Traumatic Memory Retrieval in Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Maimo and Laidlaw in the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation.

I don't have a "narrative" of trauma, but I do have one of physical pain. I am going to start with that because it is what brought me to where I am right now and, according to the article above, is probably the crux of my problems.

I know I had trauma in my childhood (I never would have called it that until recently) from adoption and growing up as the only child of an alcoholic, depressed, and personality-disordered father, and a hyper-anxious personality disordered mother. I thought I had resolved a lot of my issues in relation to this. I went through some bad times that I remember starting at around 11-12 and finally "ending" in my late 30s. Maybe I will write about some of those later in this diary.

Then, at 48 years old, I developed chronic and severe pain in my right hip. It developed very slowly. Something tells me that the trigger for it was when I fell down my back stairs and sprained my ankle. Maybe I'll write in more detail about that later too. About 6 months after that fall (I did not go to a doctor), I noticed that my knee hurt intermittently when I was doing stairs. Then that symptom went away and the pain in my hip started. Just intermittently over a few months.

In June of 2012, the pain was not really too bad. I had just purchased a new bicycle and had a plan to begin training to ride in a 150-mile bike-a-thon thing to raise money for a good cause. I figured it would help me get into better physical shape, and having a goal to help others would motivate me. I did a 20 mile ride (easy, relatively slow, on flat surface) in late June 2012. I have not ridden since. By the end of July, the pain was pervading all aspects of my life. I could walk, but it was excruciating. I kept thinking it would go away. I stretched, took advil, used heat, used ice--every trick in the book. Nothing worked. I had seen my physician who said I had sciatica.

Finally, I called my husband during a break in an all-day seminar I was teaching, and I told him how much pain I was in. He called a chiropractor I used to see for my neck. He is very good and very highly regarded, and I trusted that he could help me. He agreed to an emergency appointment that evening.

When I was on the table, he pulled on my right leg, and I cursed--It startled the hell out of me and was excruciating for just a second, then I was flooded with relief. He told me that my hip had somehow rotated forward and gotten stuck in that position. His tug on my leg and moved it back into position. I walked out of the office with no pain at all, suppressing the urge to throw my arms around him in ecstatic gratitude. I thought everything was resolved. I went home and had a celebratory dinner with my family.

The pain was back the next day. I saw the chiropractor five more times, then he told me that something else must be going on as the treatments weren't working. He sent me to a physiatrist for hip x-rays. The x-rays were unremarkable except that they showed a bone spur in my pelvic joint. The physiatrist told me that many people with this are asymptomatic. He said I could and should resume normal activities (he didn't have any recommendations on how to deal with the pain) and suggested I might do physical therapy.

After a disastrous stint with one PT I found a really good one. I did get stronger and regain some flexibility, and a little symptom reduction, but the pain never went away. After several months with the PT, he recommended that I get an MRI. I went to a highly regarded spinal specialist who ordered the MRI. There were lots of findings on it (some of which I knew about...scoliosis, spondylolesthesis; and some of which I did not). Most of them were categorized as "mild to moderate." The specialist said I could choose between continuing physical therapy or considering injections into my sacral joints. I recoiled at the latter, and my own physician cautioned against this invasive procedure. I continued for another round of PT. Then the PT dismissed me because he had given me all the exercises and said I should continue on my own.

I did this for a few months, but the pain kept getting worse, and it was causing me tremendous anxiety. I started researching chronic pain. So, next I went vegan for 3 months. I felt healthier but it did nothing for the pain. Then I went vegan AND gluten-free (that was a pain in the a.). Pain continued to worsen. Finally, in early September 2013, I made an appointment with a man who does bodywork and who many people I know refer to as a healer. I liked him very much--gentle, kind, knowledgeable, experienced, etc. and willing to experiment and have some fun. On the second appointment, he took me outside to have "walking lessons" during which he taught me some visualization techniques and we did some postural stuff, etc. He said for the next appointment, we'd work with another therapist there who does yoga therapy/restorative yoga.

In between, I had to fly out to a 4-day conference. I came back a total wreck. Completely exhausted, in constant pain when standing or walking, not sleeping because pain would awaken me, angry and frustrated at my body for not responding to my attempts to heal, and devastated because I couldn't do what I wanted to do. I realized that this total exhaustion has been coming on for years.

To make a long story short, over the next few weeks, these therapists recommended that I consider making an appointment with a trauma therapist. I could not fathom this. It seemed so far-fetched that my pain could be psychosomatic. But I was desperate to get pain-free, and I had actually been considering the idea of entering therapy to discuss some other issues in my life, so I picked a therapist out of a directory because in the picture, he had kind eyes and a nice smile. I was very, very lucky.

At the same time, and in an attempt to cover all possible bases, I also went to see a yogi/aryuvedic practitioner/pranic healer at the recommendation of the yoga therapist. This woman had been her teacher and she thought very highly of her healing abilities and that she might be able to help me. I filled out a very long and detailed questionnaire about my history and at the end of our first session, one of her comments was, "My, you have certainly had your share of trauma in your life." I think that was the first time that I realized I must have a very narrow definition of "trauma." I didn't (and still don't really) consider myself to be traumatized. So I began a quest to learn everything I could about it. The yogi also suggested that I begin mindfulness meditation, which I did.

I think I need to stop the history here. This is getting way too long. I will return to it. But, in a sort of "scenes-from-our-next-show" moment, I will document that several things began to happen during October and November. The critical one was my first session with cranial-sacral therapy during which I had a wildly bizarre experience. Shortly after that, while meditating, I began to have involuntary body movements of increasing intensity.

My pain is still intense, still disabling in how it limits my life, but it began to move away from it's tightly focused spot deep inside my right hip. It fanned out more. It moved between right and left and sometimes both hips. It started to move down into my thighs in December and now goes down through my calves sometimes. I have new pains. For six weeks I had excruciating neck pain when I lay down. Now I have pins and needles all down my right arm. I have a pain under my left ribcage that comes and goes, sometimes for moments, sometimes for days. The back of my neck itches. My right index finger itches constantly. Last night, my left hand started to itch. The body movements are getting more intrusive and intense and varied as well. To my torquing spine my body has added shaking, leg jolts, shoulder jolts, facial contortions, shaking my head back and forth, sticking out my tongue, covering my mouth with my hand or fist, covering my eyes with my hands, feeling some energy pushing back at me.

I am having trouble focusing. I am getting lost driving to places I know perfectly well how to get to. I can't sleep much unless I take a pill. I feel nauseous much of the time. I have lost 20 pounds. I am cold all the time, tense, anxious. I feel a sense of dread and impending doom. I am torturing myself emotionally. I'm fighting the urge to run away somewhere and curl up in a dark place where nobody can find me. I am starting to get fragments of images, sensations, that make no sense to me. All this while working full-time, finishing a book, taking care of my family and my aging mother, and maintaining a variety of social obligations. I'm highly functional on the outside.

Based on the article, and on a lot of things others' on this forum have said, I think I must have suffered some abuse of which I am completely unaware in my conscious mind. I don't know what it is, when it happened, who did it, but my body seems to know something.
 
Thread starter #4
I hope you don't mind me asking if you have a diagnosis yet?
Good question, actually. The only time I have talked with my therapist about a "diagnosis" was when I was thinking about asking for a leave of absence from work. I asked, "What should I tell my boss is wrong with me?" and my therapist said, "I think you have PTSD." That was no big surprise to me because I had read so much about it that I already knew. I don't know if he has submitted any other diagnosis to my insurance company. I haven't asked about dissociation directly...I've just read a lot.

He is extremely cautious about suggesting anything at all to me...other than continuing to tell me that I should slow down in my life and take care of myself. Over the past few sessions, though, in response to some specific doubts and questions I've raised, he has made some comments that make me think he is aware that lots will come out (e.g., "we are just starting out here," "we will get to connecting with the physical pain at some point," "there will be plenty of time to explore the traumas in your life, both the big T ones and the little t ones," "We're working on unblending some of the parts of yourself," etc.. I don't know if I have DID or not. I know I have issues with dissociating--always have since I can remember. Live in fantasy world, screwed up sense of time, memory problems, alienated, depersonalization, some derealization, "voices" (not like real ones) in my head that are often at war with one another, etc. But I've always been aware of all of it on some level. I just thought this was how everyone was. Until I started reading about trauma and dissociation. And now I'm certain that something in me split off so profoundly that I have no memory.

So, yeah, in response to your comment, "I felt like I was textbook," --me too. I guess we are really adaptive people whose personalities responded by protecting us from being overwhelmed.

I've been in therapy with him since October, and we have not addressed any specific memories of trauma at all. We've been working mostly on increasing my body awareness and connecting any emotion/feelings to it. I think this is probably because I am so emotionally numbed/depersonalized to the memories I do have, and completely amnesic regarding any connection to all this physical pain. What's happening now is a lot like the article--I am having massive increases in physical symptoms. And fear, fear, fear.

I think he is trying to get me to a place where I feel safe with myself (good luck). He has been working with me to help me imagine containers for my fear energy, and for some of my other overpowering energies (I can't even call them emotions...those seem too simple). Some of this visualization is starting to work, but it takes an enormous intensity of focus and energy. He has asked me a few times if there is a place I can imagine where I feel safe. There isn't. I told him I don't even know what "safe" feels like. I had the sad realization that I don't think I have ever felt safe. I can sort of imagine myself into quasi-safety, but I'm always aware that it isn't real. It's that dual consciousness thing (or tri- or quadri- ...or?). Sometimes I think I'd be better off with completely split consciousnesses that are unaware of each other. But then, I guess I'd have even more work to do in therapy.

What is it like for you?
 
Thread starter #5
So, I'm getting obsessive about this site. Something is driving me to think about all this stuff all the time. It is some energy in me that wants me to figure it all out, and somehow writing here and in my paper journals is a way of processing things.

I've been thinking back to what may have triggered all this pain stuff, and what keeps coming up is the time I fell on the stairs and sprained my ankle. I have turned this over in my mind so many times, and I can't make much connection, so maybe writing about it will help.

In the fall or winter of 2012 (I can't remember, actually), I was walking down our narrow little back stairs in the dark. We live in a house that is 240 years old, and the back stairway which I always use to go to the kitchen is very narrow and has no railing. But I'm used to it. In fact, I've always been very good at moving around in the dark. Somehow, I always seem to sense where I should be in space. Which is really odd, given how disconnected I feel from my body. (There's a paradox to explore in another entry). Perhaps it comes from having been so active and physical as a child, or that I practiced the skill a lot because I thought for some reason it was important to be able to get around without light. So, walking in the dark on the stairs is nothing unusual. Except for that night.

I remember the physical feeling distinctly. I thought I was stepping onto the next stair, then suddenly my foot didn't connect with anything solid. Time slowed way down, and I felt myself falling. I wasn't frightened, really, just surprised. I landed on my right ankle first, then my right hip. The ankle was really painful, and I felt nauseous briefly, but I knew instinctively it wasn't broken (I've badly broken a couple of bones in the past decade, and this was a different feeling). I lay there on the floor wondering if anyone in my family had heard anything. Kids were on the third floor, singing different songs in their bedrooms at high volume (They do that. Both are singers. It is painful to listen to them simultaneously, but what is a parent to do? Yell, "Kids, stop singing! Go watch TV"??). My husband was watching a movie on the second floor. It was loud. Nobody knew I had fallen.

I began to get up. I'm sure I could have managed. Could have hobbled to a chair, or crawled up the stairs. But something in me gave in, and I lay down on the floor again. I played out a scenario in my mind--I would call loudly for help, my husband would come running down and comfort and help me, give first aid, etc. I'd see the doctor, get an x-ray, wrap the ankle, etc. I knew we had some crutches left over from my son's leg injury. So, there was a plan in my mind. So I yelled out for my husband. No response. I yelled louder and louder. No response. I waited for a pause in the kids' singing and yelled for them. No response. Suddenly I felt very alone and vulnerable.

Eventually, after enough yelling, my husband did hear me. He was pretty panicked when he saw me on the floor until I told him I was okay and just needed a hand up. He was very apologetic that he hadn't heard me. Very sympathetic. Got me up to the bed, brought ice, etc. The rest of the physical stuff is just boring. It was a relatively minor sprain, really. Swollen, black and blue, but I could move it. I used crutches for a few days, then started walking on it. It eventually got better and only bothered me occasionally.

I think, though, that what happened is that I lost a sense of trust in my body. Other injuries I've had have been genuine accidents (I tripped over a shoe one time and shattered my elbow (which makes for its own little horror story), I slipped on a hill at an historic reenacting event and did about every bad thing one could do to a finger (which also makes for its own little horror story mixed with humor), and I've been injured in sports etc. But this was different somehow. This fall triggered something in me which is why I did not get up and take care of myself and soldier on (as I had done to extremes when I broke my elbow and destroyed my finger).

And then, when I was yelling for help and nobody heard me, it triggered something else. A sense of deep aloneness and abandonment. Even though my husband came (and it was probably only about 10 minutes later), it didn't change the feelings.

Somehow, I think this is all related to what happened afterward, that I described in my first post. It was the beginning of my unraveling. And I still don't understand it. But writing this is making me start to connect the dots. I will need to reflect on this some more.
 
E
#6
You ask what is it like for you? Everything is so unbearably painful at the moment that I can't talk about it. I am fighting to keep a lid on it in order to function but all I'm doing is spending each day working full-time to manage my symptoms. My heart's clenched and I've often got palpitations and I think I'm in a permanent panic attack. I feel very weak and am just needing to keep myself quiet and safe. I cannot do all the frenetic researching you seem to need to do. From the beginning I was warned not to intellectualise it and to get out of my head, and I don't actually want to know too much about the theory so that I can be completely authentic and real with my body. I suppose I'm just trying to be. If I do try and read anything except the shortest things I can't take it in and I numb out. And talking about it just puts me in a panic or brings on a flashback. Just a bit too fragile really. I guess I'm having to approach it differently to you just now.
 
Thread starter #7
I get that. Researching is, in a paradoxical way, is calming for me. Wards off the panic. Somehow i think that if I know enough, I can "keep the lid on it" as you say. It's not working vey well. I way over-intellectualise and I think the advice you got to avoid it is good. I am incapable of heeding that advice. I had actually sworn off reading anything else because I've become compulsive about it and every source seemed to say the same thing. But then the past couple of days with these fragments of memories I don't trust made me search the forum for "repressed memory" and I was off and running with the article someone posted. I'm a bit frantic. The only thing that seems to ward off the overwhelmedness is hyper-focus...on work, writing. Too much. I'm told by my therapist I need to rest but when I do I get overwhelmed.
 
E
#8
I'm so sorry it is so hard for you, too. Finding acceptance and just letting the process happen is so difficult when we have so many balls to keep up in the air concurrently. I feel that desperation, too. Because I am my sole breadwinner and I can't concentrate due to what's going on with my body, I find it almost impossible to think and write. I guess that is for me the locus of my frantic feelings. I can't afford to be ill and have to make sure I keep the roof over my head, all bills paid and also pay for therapy. As I'm a freelancer, there is no back-up in any way. This fear keeps grinding me to a halt and making me frantic, too. Finding and restoring balance seems so hard, doesn't it - well, actually impossible at the moment.
 
Thread starter #9
I understand the pressure only too well. And the concentration issues due to what's going on with your body. I shared with my therapist the other day that what terrifies me most in the PRESENT moment is that not only have I lost complete control over my body, but I can't seem to control my mind as much either. I have this nightmare vision of myself spiralling into chaos.

I am fighting so hard against that feared spiral, it is interfering with my healing I think. I have this sneaking suspicion that I just need to "let go" of everything and, as they say, "let the chips fall where they may." Stop being responsible. Stop trying to meet everyone's needs. I try to imagine what would happen if I did that...what I am so afraid of...but I can't even go there without getting panicked. Perhaps that is something I will explore in this trauma diary.

If I had the money, I would go away somewhere for a couple of weeks--somewhere therapeutic (and WARM...I am so very tired of being cold)--where I could just STOP being responsible for everything except myself. Where I could rest my body and my mind. Where I could feel safe with people around who understand what I'm going through. Even just for a little while. I found this place in Arizona called the STAR Foundation that runs 10 day therapeutic retreats, including one for PTSD. I have been fantasizing about going there. It costs thousands of dollars, though, and I cannot even afford to keep going to the bodyworker I've been seeing since the fall. I am very sad about that.
 
Thread starter #10
I was going to try to keep this diary in a sort of chronological form. Like narrative, from beginning of this crisis until what I hope will someday be the end. I am, however, struggling with narrative. Not mini-narrative, like narrative of the moment, but overall narrative. My brain feels like it will explode it goes in so many different directions simultaneously.

Narrative is sequential, but trauma is simultaneous. At least it has been all my life. Maybe once I've processed some of this stuff in therapy, I'll get to the sequential part. At least that's what the research articles say is one of the later stages of trauma treatment.

So I'm giving up on sequence, at least for now. I had a very dissatisfying therapy appointment today. I think it was because we weren't doing the "work," but rather talking about three overlapping triggering moments I had this weekend that were foremost in my mind. I'm the one that drove this, perhaps because I was afraid to return the real work. So I explained the three miserable events, and he listened and offered sage counsel, as counselors are wont to do.

It was interesting, actually, that I felt the difference between "talk therapy" and the somatically-based trauma therapy work we usually do. The former is easy for me...I just talk talk talk while somebody listens and validates and sympathizes. It isn't terribly hard work. It does nothing to address the core problems. The other--the real work--is just miserable. I get in touch with scary ugly feelings and inner voices, and face my exiled parts of myself from which I've dissociated. I become, instantaneously, a jolting, shaking, basket case. Then I leave and go home and cook dinner, answer phone calls, fold laundry, and try to act like none of this is going on. But there's something about it that gets to core stuff.

It's like the difference between putting a bandage on a splinter so it doesn't irritate (at least until it gets infected), and tolerating the time and pain of digging the splinter out with a needle and tweezers.

I have a lot of splinters in my soul.

I want, and need, to write about something that is going on with my therapy work (the digging out of splinters type). I'm nervous about describing it because it sounds so nutty, but I would like anyone here to offer feedback on it, or on their related experiences (if any). Whew. Okay. I'll tell the "story" in the next post.
 
Thread starter #11
I'm doing a type of therapy called Internal Family Systems (IFS). It is a highly recommended tx for trauma and dissociation, and a variety of other issues. The principle of it is that each of us has a core/deep self that is always there, always fully intact, inviolable, peaceful, attuned, etc. When we have PTSD, what happens is that our access to our core self gets blocked by parts (these are all kinds of things...core beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, physical things, etc.). Sometimes we perceive one or more of these parts as BEING our core self (e.g., in my case, I have lived most of my adult life assuming that the cognitive/analytical part of myself was my core self.) In IFS-speak, this is called "blending." The goal is to "unblend" these parts so that each can be experienced individually and their relations to one another understood. This, on a theoreticl level, is the "work" of this therapy. The underlying assumption is that all of one's parts are well-intentioned, trying to protect the self, but that sometimes they are working in ways that aren't helpful. So, what one does is imagine each of these parts, and "talk" to them, trying to get to know them, developing "containers" for them so they don't overwhelm, and trying to figure out what role they're playing in the system.

A week or so ago, as I sat in the therapist's office, shaking and jolting and squirming (this is very weird for me...I must trust him quite a bit because usually when these energies overtake me, I try to go somewhere by myself). And also in a lot of pain in my sacrum, hips, thighs, and legs (this is nothing unusual and, as I said in the first post, symptoms that landed me in the therapist's office in the first place. So, he asks me to identify all these energies and associate them with feelings in my body. This is part of what we've been doing for a while, and I'm starting to figure them out.

The sacral pressure and pain is FEAR. The shaking is another kind of FEAR. The jolting, mostly backward or twisting, may be (I'm not sure yet) an ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE what I call "THE TORNADO," my mother's darker side that somehow embedded itself into my psyche as an extremely toxic inner critic. I don't know about some of the other physical stuff yet. So, the therapist guides me through some helpful strategies to try to get these parts to give me a little space. It took a while, but it actually worked. The pressure and pain reduced, and the shaking and jolting settled down. Amazing. I'm trying to do some of this on my own now.

Next, he guided me to "get to know the fear." I had to "ask" it what it was afraid of. It was afraid of the tornado. So we worked on that too. Then, all of a sudden, I felt like I was a very young child. It must have shown because the therapist asked me about it. He told me that "she" was blending with me completely at that moment and we would work to have her give me some space. Unfortunately at that moment, we ran out of time and I left the appointment feeling wildly unstable and vulnerable. I spoke with him on the phone the next day for a while, then we made an additional appointment. At the next appointment he helped me access that particular child part of me again, and helped me unblend her from my self through lots of visualization and grounding. It worked pretty well. I was instructed to spend "time" with her, keep her safe from the other energies (I'm struggling with that still), find a safe space for her, and see what she'd like to do and show me and tell me about.

It all seems rather like an imaginative game, but it is really powerful in a visceral way. I managed to create a space for her and provide her with what she really wanted--crayons and coloring books. I threw in a blank sketch-pad too. As if all of this isn't weird enough...here's the weirdest part. I was reflecting on her--"spending time with her" as the therapist said. She immediately opened the sketch pad and practically shoved it in my face wanting to show me what she had drawn. I actually saw this in my mind's eye--like a vision if you will. When she held up the sketch book, I got only a nano-glimpse of it before I completely recoiled in fear and panic. Shut it right down. Didn't want to look. I can't believe how riled up this got me.

And the saga continues. It's like I have a relationship with this young part of myself who doesn't even seem like part of myself but somebody else's child that I'm caring for (how's that for dissociation?). So later, I go back to spend time with her. I can't find her in the safe space where I left her. I know she's angry and terrified and feeling abandoned. So I have to repair the relationship. I manage it...building up the safe space like a fortress that will shut the fear parts and the tornado part outside. It's all working, but as I look at this child, this young version of me, I get very sad. She is so small and vulnerable. She has big wide eyes that are far too serious for a 3 year old. She doesn't smile or laugh. She just stares at me longingly and begs me not to leave her alone.

I don't know what's in the picture. My sense is that it is violent and horrifying. I now feel an obligation to this young part of myself, and my therapist seems to think it is essential that I spend more time with her and care for her until such time that I can look at her picture without being overwhelmed by it. Who knows what it is--maybe a picture of a repressed experience of abuse, maybe nothing. If I didn't have all this physical energy stuff that is making me look like I'm epileptic or have Tourettes, I would think I was making all this up. I'm not. I seem to be a classic example of someone who has dissociative amnesia.

And here I thought, when I entered therapy, I'd be talking about my narcissistic, depressed, alcoholic father, my narcissistic, anxiety-riddled mother who also has undiagnosed but severe ADHD, their abusive, co-dependent relationship with each other, their emotional neglect and sometimes abuse of me, my adoption, etc. As if that wasn't enough. God knows what other child parts of myself are going to appear as I continue this therapy (I already had two others that we had to "contain" because they were making me REALLY unstable with their self-destructive behaviors).

Okay, that's enough for tonight.
 
#12
@Hope4Now, thank you for sharing all of this. I found it really helpful to read and relate to my own experience. I posted a thread yesterday about my own child part. I feel like she is outside of me, in a container, but I want to blend with her rather than keep her from blending with me. It seems like that is the only way for me to feel her emotions.

I wonder if you would be willing to say any more? You describe this child part as almost like someone else's child. That is my experience as well. When she is "unblended" can you feel what she feels, or does she describe her feelings to you? The work of IFS therapy seems to be to unblend, but it seems to me that there is some value in blending too.

Apologies if I have misunderstood. This is all very new to me and I seem to be going through a particularly confused phase!

EDITED TO ADD: I see you have just posted on my thread. Perhaps ignore this post now?
 
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