I’m attempting to come back out and play, but its a bit harder (and more complicated) than I thought it would be. Of course, when isn’t it? 🙂
First, I want to say thank you so much to everyone who left such supportive comments. Your care and interest was the difference between me just bolting and coming back. I’ll be responding to comments over the next few days.
I am feeling much more rested and not nearly as fragile, but am struggling with just a boatload of shame. I continue to be affected by a number of events, including being cut off from my mother, and the online mess (although both of those are mild at this point) and other family stuff (about which I am being vague to protect other people’s privacy). But I have also been working in therapy on looking at my eating/body issues, which have tripped off a lot of realizations about beliefs about myself and my worth. I worked long and hard over the last years to understand that I am worthwhile and always have been. Ok, honestly its been decades, but do we have to track that right now? Part of my shame is feeling like I am the approaching the record for being the longest in therapy ever client. That voice in my head keeps asking, seriously, you’re STILL having trouble expressing your feelings after all this work? Isn’t it time to just admit you’re hopeless and give up? But as I have started to look more closely at my body issues (“sneaking brief glances then diving under a blanket” would be a more accurate description than “looking more closely”) I have realized that all of my work about my worth has been based on the assumption that my body is not part of me. (Yes, being a highly intelligent woman does not protect me from an advanced capacity for denial. :D) I hate having a body so I somehow managed to actually ignore that I did. So trying to become aware of my body, evokes an enormous amount of shame. BN has been encouraging me to try to become more aware of my body, especially when doing things I enjoy and its like he’s speaking a foreign language. The concept of enjoying or paying attention to my body, of seeing it as anything other than a grotesque hindrance has really never occurred to me. So essentially, I have realized that there are parts of me, the non-physical parts, that I have learned to value and understand that while I am human and not perfect, I am worthwhile and deserve love and care. But I have split my body away from that. So here I am faced with deep beliefs about my worthlessness if I acknowledge my body. Which circles me back around to how long can this take me? What do you mean I still have a large integration task left?
But wait, it gets worse. Paying attention and recognizing the sense of shame that drives me out of my body so consistently, has evoked old pains and even worse old needs. The old beliefs have followed swiftly in their wake. I have found myself reverting to old behaviors in therapy. Throughout my work with BN, a few things have haunted me. My CONSTANT fear that I am too much, too needy and will wear out my welcome. With BN, with everyone. To express my true feelings, especially the “negative” ones such as hurt, grief, sadness, anger, and neediness, will overwhelm anyone with whom I am in relationship and lead to my abandonment. So these feelings are to be shoved away, contained, held in and repressed. BN and I have done so much work with me learning its ok to have my feelings and express them. I have made a lot of progress. But right now it feels like all of it has disappeared. BN has spent most of our last four sessions repeating some variation of “its ok, AG, let it go, stop trying to hold it in.” I have spent the last four sessions convinced that he is sitting across from me frustrated, bored and ready to flee. He is working so hard to let me know that is not true and overcome the tidal roar of the voice of my shame.
At one recent session, he actually said to me in a quiet gentle voice, that I did not need to hide in his office, that I was safe. Judging by my reaction, that got through. I didn’t realize that I still had such a deep belief in my need to hide. He has been alternating tough as nails questions, pushing me relentlessly, with an unwavering reassurance that I can come and do this as long as I need to. One of the deepest lessons I had to learn in therapy was about the nature of safety; I have talked about it in a number of posts. I had spent my life looking for a safety that consisted of finding a person who would never hurt me, and never fail me, who would love me so well I would erase having not been loved well enough. I believed that if I was truly safe, I would never feel bad again. I had to learn how unrealistic that was. That true safety lay in recognizing that while life would always bring pain and difficulty at times, I was strong enough to face it, that I could find love to sustain me and would find my way through to good things again. Going deeper this time, led me to an interesting belief below that one. What I had formulated was that I could know I was ok, that when bad things happened I could face it and then I would be ok again. Anyone see the hole in the middle? What I believed was “I am ok, I get upset/hurt/angry and am not ok, I will stop feeling those things and be ok again. ” The problem is in the middle. When I am dealing with difficult emotions, especially those that would lead me to reach out to another human being for help, I believe I am not ok. So I MUST stop those feelings so that I am ok again and can re-enter my relationships. As I put it to BN, I have to learn to believe I am ok when I am not ok. Not an easy task. Especially as I didn’t realize I had another belief that needed digging out. At one point, I was saying how much I hated feeling this way and BN hit me between the eyes (figuratively, not literally. I am one that threatens to throw things. 🙂 ) He told me that I needed to stop hating that part of myself, that I deserved care and acceptance even when I felt that way or was at my most human. Remember that integration task I mentioned earlier?
I had been laying out the whole sorry mess to BN, part of which was the realization that I was feeling so threatened that I was having a hard time looking at my own behavior because to admit anything wrong was equivalent to wholesale condemnation of myself as a person. BN once again took me through understanding that it doesn’t have to be threatening to accept our own humanity. You can recognize that you did something wrong, acknowledge it and move on. It wasn’t the whole of who you were nor did it define you. It’s ok to be wrong sometimes. Later in the session when we were discussing my belief that I wasn’t ok when I was having these intense feelings of pain or neediness, I realized how deep the shame really ran. And then I realized how deeply scared I really was. I told BN that I knew we had faced and worked through some really difficult material together. And that despite my threatening to quit at times and being scared, I had always had a sense of being able to work it through. I told him that I was truly scared that I am just not strong enough to face down this shame, that I will falter and lose my courage and at that point, I fell apart and was sobbing. And then BN proved both how brilliant a therapist he is and just how well he knows me. I heard him say, quite calmly, “we talked earlier about how its ok to be wrong, which is really good. Cause you’re wrong.” He told me later he risked it because he knew me well enough (he also told me that I it was pretty funny how totally stunned I looked. :)) I sat there, running through what he said again, thinking “did I hear him right?” and then it hit. I started laughing and then couldn’t stop. I finally managed to look at him and say “that was really funny!” It was such a gift to connect me to my sense of humor in that moment. I also think it got through in a way few things would have in that moment. I am very grateful that I have him.
But all that said, I am fighting an ongoing battle with feeling like … just too much. I am struggling to find self-compassion that does not feel like selfishness. It is painful to expose this, because no matter how people react it is painful. Either my worst fears will be confirmed or people will be kind and reassuring (as you have all been) and that is just proof that I am an attention seeking, self-centered mess. What’s worse, I am aware of the distortions in my thinking but the feelings are still there. But BN keeps telling me that the way through shame is to speak, so I am speaking. I am grateful that this community provides the kind of safety that allows me to speak.
I should probably also mention that I am behind on my meds. There was a mixup with our medical credit card and my online pharmacy was late shipping my drugs. I kept thinking they’d be here so I didn’t pursue interim meds and its been two days now which I am sure is affecting me. They should be here tomorrow which should help. Wow, I feel like I am just rambling all over the landscape. I am not sure there is much point to this aside from stepping out into the light and trying to be present. Ta Da! Anyone have a blanket handy? 🙂
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