Triggered or Freefall continued.


I am on a two-week break from BN (Almost done, I see him Friday). Our last session was spent discussing my recovering the existential free fall memory and was very helpful. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what came up and what it was like for me. It was a calm session, but a very intimate one as we discussed my feelings. I also managed more eye contact then I’ve probably done in the last five years put together. 🙂 Amazing what you see when you look. BN and I both recognized what a landmark this was and how hard we worked to get there. We also spent some time discussing my pattern (often unconscious, BN is pointing this out to help me become conscious of it) of being worried about my behavior and how he feels about it. He sees it as an attempt on my part to mold myself to the other person’s expectations so I will not be abandoned. We have been working on me accepting that I cannot control another person and what they do or if they choose to stay or leave me. Awful realization knowing you cannot control that which you are desperate to control. My safety lies in knowing I can survive whatever happens, but more importantly can trust someone to stay even when I’m being myself and not focusing only on their needs. We had a good laugh near the end of the session when I confessed, a bit embarrassed that I was afraid I was making too much eye contact. 🙂 BN was quick to point out what I was doing.

So we left on a very connected note. In fact, BN told me he was only going away for a short time but that he was trying to take turns on who missed appointments. I have been aware for a long time that BN has to kind of pick and choose who misses appointments and who gets them when his schedule is shortened by time off, but I’ve come to trust his instincts over the years. He uses some kind of complicated rotation plan, based on a number of factors, I think. The last several months I have noticed that no matter how often he was going away, he has still been managing to fit me in weekly (which is our normal frequency) and have been very grateful. The work has been very difficult and draining and making more than a week would be a strain, so I think BN has had me on the “no rotate” list. So when he told me he wouldn’t be able to give me an appointment next week, I told him I was about due and the timing was good as I was doing a lot of processing but was feeling very connected.

The thing was, though (you saw this coming didn’t you? Of course, you did, I have intelligent and perceptive readers!) I found myself really missing him and feeling very sad. As I struggled with the feelings (I mean, who in their right mind just accepts their feelings?!?) I realized that there were still a lot of feelings floating around from the memory I just integrated. So there was the fear of just disappearing, of not being reflected and of being discarded. And BN wasn’t just skipping an appointment, he was skipping an appointment to go visit his grandchildren and spend time with his family. As an adult I am genuinely happy that he’s going to do that. The grandchildren live a long way away and he does not get to see them all that often. I just want to be clear that from an adult standpoint, I don’t think BN is doing anything wrong. Actually, he’s doing something good by taking care of himself and his family. But little AG was not so happy. When we go as deep as we needed to go to access that memory, the connection is so strong and on such an intimate level, that I feel like BN is “mine.” But you can’t live in the deep. And when we come back to shore, BN returns to everyone else to whom he belongs. Again, as an adult, I get that he is “mine” for the 50 minutes of our sessions (can’t complain, mind you, it’s rare to have someone else so focused on your needs as an adult), and that he has a life outside his job to which he needs to attend. As a matter of fact, ignoring that life is exactly what would make him unable to attend to me. But emotionally? I was little, remembering those feelings of being left behind and discarded. It felt scary to have him be away.

The feelings persisted enough that I emailed him very early Tuesday morning (well very late Monday night, it was 1 AM because I was having trouble sleeping). I expressed my sadness and yearning, recognized that it was really feelings from the past, and asked him to respond and remind me of the present. His response came the following evening and just reinforced why I love the man so much. He told me that the sadness and yearning was the sign of a connection; a connection that existed even when we were separated. He ended by telling me he would see me at our next appointment. It was exactly what I needed to hear (and made me feel heard). And I could see my progress in being able to NOT hear “Now go away until our next session” and instead heard  “We’ll see each other soon and we know when that is, it’s a commitment.” That calmed little AG and restored my sense of being safe and secure.

I volunteer on a Crisis Hot Line and twice a year we have Advanced Training. It’s a 2 1/2 hour session and usually they cover a topic of interest, as well as provide any updates or information the volunteers need to know. They’re usually pretty interesting and provide a great opportunity to see other volunteers and talk. I enjoy them. Advanced Training was last Thursday night. That Tuesday, during my volunteer shift, I had my annual assessment, which had gone well, then had a good shift. I had also recorded some example calls to be used in training, which had gone really well and proved to be a lot of fun (especially the examples of what NOT to do.) So I went to Advanced Training pretty relaxed and looking forward to it. In retrospect, a bit of a mistake. 🙂 I was blindsided by what happened, especially as I very rarely get triggered any more by my volunteer work.

The agency was involved in a new initiative to reach out to mothers with pre- or postpartum depression. Ads are being run in the Syracuse area, urging pregnant or postpartum women struggling with depression to call our Crisis line for help. So part of the presentation was a discussion of how a mother’s depression can affect a child’s development. This was a little tough as I have had to come to grips with how my issues affected my kids the last few years, but I was doing ok. Then they got to the video. The video showed the “still face” experiment with a doctor narrating. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the “still face” scenario starts with a mother having a normal, attuned interaction with her baby. She is seated facing the baby and responds to what the baby is doing and the child is visibly enjoying herself. Then the mother turns away, but when she turns back towards the baby, she hold very still, with no facial expression and does not respond to anything the baby does: bids for attention, attempts to engage in their normal activities, or even signs of distress. The unresponsive part lasts maybe two minutes tops. Two minutes that felt like about 10 years. The doctor was detailing each thing the baby did. It only took a few seconds for the child to notice the lack of response. She tried to get her mother to play, then she pointed, an action which earlier caused her mother to look at what she was pointing at. When those things did not work, the baby started reaching towards her mother, only to be ignored. The the baby started emitting distress, first in the form of crying and as it intensified, in arching her whole body.

Not only was the doctor explaining all the negative effects on the baby, other people in the room were reacting to the video. Most of the volunteers are women and many of the women in the room were mothers. People were literally exclaiming out loud how terrible this was. By then I was triggered so badly by watching the baby get no response and no reflection, that I started to fall completely apart. I really wanted to flee the room, but the thought of everyone looking at me in the moment was terrible (just a bit of shame there). But I also wasn’t feeling like I could control the crying. All I could think about was that these people were so horrified watching a child experience this as an aberration in her mother’s behavior, for a very short amount of time. And the horror of what I had experienced broke over me. I had this happen, again and again, while trying to deal with acts of abuse. I am fairly certain my disconnects when on for longer than two minutes. And ironically, some anger at everyone’s reactions of how horrible this was; I wanted to scream at them that they had no idea. There were a few moments when I felt like I belonged to an alien species, my experience setting me apart and beyond understanding.

So I sat there, surreptitiously wiping away the tears and chewing through my lower lip. At one point, the woman doing the presentation was standing right behind me, so I had leaned my face on my hand, so that my face was as covered as possible. I then looked up at the screen, where a picture of the depressed mothers were, and realized I was exactly mirroring the position of one of the mother’s in the ad. “Oh good” I thought, “at least I’m getting it right.” The absurdity helped a bit. No one was really noticing, except the head of the program who is also a friend, and knows my history. As things moved on to other topics I was able to regain my composure and by the end of the meeting was feeling calm enough to return to being my usual wise-cracking self.

The meeting ended and I popped into the ladies’ room. I was kind of, sort of, trying not to talk to anyone on my way out. But when I came out of the bathroom, the head of the program was in the kitchen and saw me. She is truly a lovely, kind, compassionate woman but I knew that she had just gone through a very ugly week and I didn’t want to give her one more thing to deal with. And obviously, with that much shame floating around, anything I might need felt like WAY TOO MUCH. But she asked me if I was ok. I started to answer her and it came flooding back and I just started crying in the middle of the kitchen. She has that wonderful ability to wait for you, while radiating acceptance. I finally managed to tell her that I had just recovered a memory of not being reflected by my father after the abuse and that watching the video has badly triggered me. She just opened her arms and held me for a minute. I calmed down a bit, and told her thank you and headed out to my car.

I made it to the driver’s seat and closed the door and started to melt down. I was struggling to handle the emotions and stay present. The terror started to spike again but in the middle of it, I remembered something BN has told me several times lately. That what I am dreading so badly has already happened. I actually said out loud “It already happened, it’s in the past. You’re safe now.” The ride home was spent trying to calm down. At some point during the ride, I realized that I was really struggling to handle my feelings and I needed to call BN. My cell phone has been acting up a bit lately, so I wanted to get home first and use the house phone. I walked through the door and picked up the phone and left a message with BN’s service. He had assured me that he would be available except when he was flying. I was waiting to hear back when my daughter came downstairs. I told her I had gotten really triggered at the training and was waiting on a call back from BN. About 15 minutes later, the phone rang but with a strange ID. When I picked up it was the answering service, telling me that BN’s backup therapist, let’s call him BB, wanted to know if it was ok if he called back at 9:30. I just kind of stuttered “Oh, BN isn’t available?” and she said no, that BB was covering. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just said yes. My daughter wanted to run out and get some food, so I asked if we could just wait for the call. So we waited. And waited. By 10:15, still no call. By then, I was actually fairly calm (you can only maintain that agitated a state for so long). Now, I hate making an emergency call, especially after hours, and not being available when the therapist calls back. So I called the answering service again. This time I left a message that BB did not need to call.

Any time you leave a message, they ask for a number and this time I left my cell phone. My daughter and I headed out to pick up some food we had ordered and of course, on the way, my cell phone rings. It was BB. He called to just check and make sure I hadn’t fallen through the cracks and he apologized for not calling back. I told him that I really was feeling better and we talked for a few minutes. I gave him a brief description and told him about recognizing it was in the past. He was very encouraging about my moving through it and coming out the other side, which has been a HUGE theme for me in therapy lately. BN keeps explaining that I never had the experience of having these feelings come up and then being present when they moved through me and faded back down. I always left when they got too terrifying, but that reinforced that I couldn’t survive them, so I had worked really hard to avoid any situation which would bring them up. That it was so important that I had managed to stay and tolerate the feelings without dissociating, so that I had the experience of surviving them and knowing these feelings wouldn’t destroy me. BB did a great job of affirming that. So while I didn’t get to talk to BN, I was glad to have talked to BB, who is a good guy and radiates that same calm peace as BN. (BB and BN are close friends and have known each other since undergrad days. I once told BN after talking with BB on the phone that they were twins sons of different mothers. BN really liked that one.) I knew there were feelings I would need to talk through with BN (which are starting to push on me as Friday approaches; it’s why I am trying to finish this post, I think I need to speak about this) but I felt like I could make it through the break.

I went to work the next day and accidentally left my cell phone in my car. I ended up working a little late that night, trying to finish up a video tutorial so I got to my car around 6:30 PM. When I picked up my phone, to my complete shock, I saw BN’s name on a text. When I opened it up, it said that he had just seen my call and wanted me to know I was heard. Which was awesome. BN doesn’t initiate contact except for schedule changes and since I had talked to BB, I just assumed I wouldn’t hear from him. But he knows me, and knew I would be dealing with fears of not being seen or heard and having one of us disappear. His care in this situation meant so much to me. But best of all, it cemented the fact that I am in the present and things are different now. I have someone who is focused on my needs, is paying attention, is attuned and provides a clear reflection. A treasure whose worth is beyond measuring.

END NOTE: I have really been struggling to focus on getting this written, as if every time I start to talk about it, my brain slides right off it. But at the same time there has been this urgency around needing to talk and needing to be seen. It’s been quite the tug of war. Friday’s session may prove to be more interesting than I expected. 🙂

  1. May 6, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    That still face video is awful. My T showed a small part of that to me once and she stopped it because she could see how uncomfortable I was. I felt like I knew exactly how that baby felt. Ugh. I could totally see how that triggered you, especially so close in time after your breakthrough.

    I’m glad you had a friend there to help you with it, and that BN texted you. That’s so sweet. 🙂

    Like

    • May 7, 2015 at 11:33 pm

      Judy,
      “I felt like I knew exactly how that baby felt.” That was exactly it! As the baby got more and more upset and more agitated, it was like “yeah, that’s what it felt like.” Came back a bit too strongly. I found out later that the head of the volunteer program (my friend) really disagreed with showing the video as she was worried about people being triggered. And I thought it was really sweet too. 🙂 BN really has been extra careful lately (or I am more able to see it, hard to tell. 🙂 ) Thanks for sharing your experience with the video. xx AG

      Like

  2. Moto
    May 6, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    I really understand when you stay “my brain slides right off!” Matter of fact I am probably going to steal that phrase! 😁 you should be so proud of yourself for handling the trigger so well. As a mother of two little ones I hate that video you are talking about. I always want to punch the screen and scream that it is not ok. I struggle so hard with my girls. How do I give them something I never had? Or something I still don’t understand myself.

    Last night I took my oldest phone to search through it. I was so triggered by some things I saw. Thankfully I was able to reach out to a friend and she helped me realize it was fear. I was terrified finding out what my daughter knows now and that I could no longer protect her. It came out in anger though at my daughter. She was in tears and I felt like the worst mother in the world. Thankfully after speaking to my friend I apologized tonight and I actually explained to her that I feared what she knew. We spoke a long time on it tonight and it brought us so much closer.

    I said all that to say it just takes that connection! We all need a connection to someone and you have an amazing connection to BN. I am glad your wait is almost over! You did amazing on the break. You know when we reach out and have that connection it can heal so much. Even after speaking with my friend last night I had so many friends reaching out to me today and helping me and talking about when they went through the same thing. (I really do have amazing friends).

    I love what you said to yourself in the car that it was in the past and you are safe. I repeat that I am safe anytime I recognize a panic attack coming on. like last night! Though that time it didn’t completely bring me out of my triggered state it helps! Thank you for posting this and I am glad you were able to! Now hang on until Friday and don’t wait to long to post how it went!! 😃

    Like

    • May 7, 2015 at 11:40 pm

      Moto,
      Feel; free to steal it, I get most of my best material by shamelessly stealing from BN. 🙂 I know how difficult those passages with our kids can be, but you handled it beautifully. You dealt with your own shame using your supports and then went back to your daughter. That’s how relationships are supposed to work. A rupture happens, we hurt someone we love, but we can go back and repair it and talk it through. Which strengthens the relationship. I am so glad that you were able to talk this through with your daughter.

      And no argument about the power of connection. 🙂 I see it all the time in my work on the crisis line and I experience it so powerfully with BN. He has a very deep understanding of how important the bond between us is and treats that with such respect. It’s how I’ve been able to heal. I’m glad that you have that in your life with your amazing friends. 🙂

      Promise I’ll update as soon as I can. 🙂 (It’s been a really busy week and the weekend isn’t looking much better), xx AG

      Like

  3. GA
    May 6, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Powerful thoughts and sharing – thank you. I saw the still face video at a therapist workshop and people were visibly moving out of such discomfort (even if they had seen it before). I’m glad you could reach out to BN. I like the phrase, “It’s okay to feel safe when you are safe.” It is good for keeping you in the present with distressing (past) thoughts/feelings.

    Like

    • May 7, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      GA,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. It really helps to hear from other people who have seen the video. In some sense there is no need to pathologize my reaction, everyone gets uncomfortable watching the video, because everyone at some point has experienced that lack of attunement and break in relationship. It is a testament to how powerful relationship is and how we need it, that everyone is upset by watching it happen. And I like “It’s okay to feel safe when you are safe.” It’s a way of putting it that re-frames it. I have focused on knowing I’m safe, but this goes further into allowing myself to feel the safety. Thank you. ~ AG

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  4. Starz
    May 7, 2015 at 12:54 am

    Hi AG 🙂 I have been enjoying your website immensely. The first night I found it I spent two hours reading posts and when I stood up my legs were jello! But in a good way- your writing about sessions with BN help convey a very real sense of being held. I am very glad that you have someone so safe to share such extraordinarily difficult past experiences with.

    I am currently trying to find a therapist, and it has not been smooth sailing. In fact, it has been a rather frustrating experience. Referrals from my doctor have not panned out, EAP therapy has been way too short term to get into deeper material, and support from family and friends has been in short supply (their very busy schedules and lack of attention definitely remind me of my childhood). I am blessed though in that I was able to connect with a man who does life coaching, and he has offered to meet regularly with me free of charge while I search for a therapist. He is very calm and understanding, and that is really helping me to not feel invisible. What you said about mirroring really hits home for me- I have been triggered when I feel the distance between my boyfriend and I when we are physically intimate, and I have been having recurring nightmares that involve my father. Anxiety and patterns of my behaviour are starting to make way more sense to me when I consider the possibility of past abuse, but I am very worried that I may scare away my kind listener with the depth and weight of my problems. (A concern that you seem to share sometimes in regards to BN). It is so difficult to express my needs and trust that I won’t be abandoned! But I am attempting to take that risk anyway. Sigh

    I wanted to ask about the crisis line you volunteer for- when you receive calls do you talk to the people right away? Because I called a number the other day and they said if I gave my phone number to them they would have a counsellor call me back. It was not an emergency for me, I just needed information, which was fine, but it really upset me that a crisis line would operate like that. Is is the norm for such helplines? I did not speak to anyone that night as I was not going to be available for a call back.

    Also, do you think I need to be worried about not being accepted into some abuse therapy programs because at this point all I have to go on is nightmares? I know it is common not to be able to remember details, but I am worried I will be turned away from the help I need because of my lack of substantial proof/details.

    Thanks again for your website! You should be very proud of it- you are a very eloquent writer 🙂 I agree that you should have a book. I would read it when I don’t have wifi!

    Like

    • May 8, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Starz,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I am very flattered that you got jello legs reading my blog. 🙂 I’m sorry for your difficulties in finding a therapist. And I know it’s complicated by not being sure just what it is you’re dealing with. As for being accepted into an abuse therapy program, I’m afraid I’m not much use. I’m not really familiar with it as all of my therapy has been done through private therapists (I’m in the US and they have been covered by my medical insurance) BUT I can’t imagine that you would be turned away for not being sure. I’m glad you have the coach in the meantime to help support you but totally understand your worries about being too much. Do you think it might help to directly address your fears with him? Ask him if exploring possible trauma is too much? I think it would be helpful up front to either receive reassurance or know what the limitations are so you do not feel betrayed or abandoned later.

      For the Crisis line I volunteer for, the person who answers the phone is a trained volunteer who will talk with the caller about whatever their concern is. There is a chance that when someone calls, all of the volunteers are tied up, in which case, they get routed to an answering machine and asked to call back in a certain amount of time. We do not take telephone numbers as part of how we operate is to provide complete confidentiality. I am not really familiar with how other lines operate so I can’t say if that’s the norm or not. I’m not sure what upset you about it? Was it leaving identifying information? if so, finding another line which doesn’t do so might be more comfortable. If it’s the thought of having to wait to talk later, my concern would be that if you cannot manage your own feelings while waiting for a call back, then the call should really be to emergency services rather than a crisis line. Our purpose, at least on the line I volunteer with, is to provide a safe, non-judgemental place to talk to help someone move through a crisis. If things were so acute that having to wait a period of time to talk was too much, then a crisis line might not be the appropriate place to go for help.

      I wish you the best both in finding a new therapist and your healing. Thanks again for the kind words, I’m very glad you’re finding my blog helpful ~ AG

      Like

      • May 8, 2015 at 11:18 pm

        I used to volunteer for a domestic violence crisis line and because we are in a small town and the volume of calls is low, only one volunteer at a time was on duty, from her home. This also was in the days before cell phones were so common. Because of that, the procedure was to call into the crisis line number, leave your number with the answering service and expect a call back within a few minutes. Then the person on call would be paged with the number to call. Or maybe we were paged to call the crisis line to get info. This was 15 or more years ago, so I’m not sure anymore.

        Just to give you another model of how it could work. I’m not sure what they do now, though.

        Like

        • Starz
          August 10, 2015 at 8:20 pm

          Dear AG and Cat’s Meow,

          Thanks so much for your replies! I am very sorry for the delay in my response, but it has been challenging for me to do so based on some of the sad/upsetting experiences I’ve had. Although I merely called the crisis line to find out more about the counselling services they offer, I found it distressing that the crisis lines in my city seem more focused on finding out identifying information than on helping callers through a difficult time. And why I feel this way is not just because of my experience with a cold, rather silent /uninformative woman on the phone, but because I have known two people who have had extreme difficulty getting help. One, my ex-boyfriend who committed suicide, and two, a young girl who needed help from children’s aid to remove her from an ongoing abusive situation with her father, yet they ignored our testimony. I believe that for people calling a suicide or rape crisis line it IS an emergency, but for numerous reasons they might not want to call police or paramedics. I am sure that both of you are very sympathetic listeners, but it saddens me that although I live in a major city there are so few people available or capable of helping. That is something I would like to help with myself, but I do know that my first responsibility should be to my own mental and emotional health. Unfortunately, my kind listener is moving away, so I must continue to seek out a therapist. Thanks again though for your responses. I hope that you are both well and enjoying the summer (assuming it is summer where you live…)

          Like

  5. Liz
    May 7, 2015 at 1:02 am

    The Still Face video. I saw it about 1,5 years ago (completely by chance and unprepared, as I was editing a book and just wanted to check if the link given in the book still worked).
    I’m still trying to cope with the after effects of it. The whole of my youth, captured in two minutes. Take care, (((BN)))

    Like

    • May 8, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      (((Liz))) I totally understand, BN and I spent most of my session talking about it today. At one point I commented that I have read about the still face experiment, but seeing it was in a whole other league. It’s such a struggle to describe those pre-verbal feelings but seeing that baby was to see those feelings in a visceral way. The shock of recognition was pretty painful. “The whole of my youth, captured in two minutes.” What a succinct, apt way to describe it. Sorry you understand it.

      And no problem about the BN in place of AG. Might be a Freudian slip. 😉 But if anyone gets to hug him, I’m first in line. LOL xx AG

      Like

  6. Liz
    May 7, 2015 at 1:02 am

    Geezzzm ofcourse I mean, take care (((((AG)))))

    Like

  7. May 7, 2015 at 1:31 am

    I completely relate to and empathize with the trigger over the week w/out an appt. It’s so tough when emotion doesn’t match with adult intellect. I think you handled it with a lot of grace, and it is so touching to hear BN reached out. Because he knows you that well :).

    Like

    • May 8, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Rachel,
      Thanks for your understanding and support. And yeah, it really is confusing when your intellect get its but your emotions are running in the opposite direction. For the longest time, i kept trying to find a way around actually feeling the emotions. Bad plan, didn’t work. But it’s hard work dealing with the feelings. xx AG

      Liked by 1 person

  8. michelle
    May 7, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    I appreciate and benefit from these stories. I was triggered at the 5 year old checkup for my daughter, as the pediatrician asked about nighttime diapers – I said yes she does still wear them at night – she said no worries, it can be common until age 11 for some children, and after that there are medications that help so children are not affected socially or emotionally. I started to have tears but held them back till later. I had enuresis until age 17. And in addition to similar of the video, the daily consequences for this were just horrible. I don’t know if it was the era or what (I’m 44 now) but bedwetting was seen as behavior problem and controllable. If I only knew about that medication or teenage protectors or someone took me to the dr. So my therapist has me review the memories with a protector setting things straight with those people (my husband, or an angel I have, or my adult self). I think it helps. It all is just sad to go back. So you think that is a good strategy – in addition to reminding myself it is all in the past? Thanks for all that all of you do. They say the healing journey is not a plan for the faint at heart – or how that saying really goes.
    Also I think I am biased, in that I only seek men for nurturing, only a man could ever be my ‘mom’. I guess because all the memories are with a female mom.

    Like

    • May 8, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Michelle,
      I’m sorry for what you went through. How terrible to be told something is your fault, which was actually a medical condition. Be proud of yourself that you are providing so much better for your daughter. I like the idea of returning with a protector, as I think its an effective way to access that you are no longer powerless. I do think that, especially with long term trauma, it is important to go back. These are split off, unintegrated parts of our experience that need to be recognized and owned and made part of us. If not, we are driven unconsciously in so many ways by these unprocessed feelings. We spend a lifetime avoiding situations that might possibly trigger these overwhelming feelings out of fear of being destroyed by them, until our life is hemmed in on all sides and we cannot live fully. But it is really sad to go back. Healing can be really painful, because if these memories and situations hadn’t been so painful, there would have not been any need to split them off in the first place. In my case, I have felt the pain has been worth it to do this work, but I don’t believe that is necessarily true for everyone. To me it’s a very personal decision, how far to go, and I’m not about to judge anyone for any decisions in this arena, It’s our life, we should be able to decide.

      As for gender, again it’s a personal choice. My first therapist was a woman and I think, needed to be. Since my dad was my abuser, a man would have been too scary initially. But working with BN has been really valuable because there have been issues that have come up because he is a man. Learning not to avoid or be scared of half of the human race does kind of open up your choices. 🙂 But trust yourself to know what you need. I also believe that issues come up regardless of gender, as I have also dealt with some of my mom issues with BN and he has taken on her role in my transference feelings. ~ AG

      Like

  9. May 7, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Oh, wow, AG, my brain doesn’t seem to be doing a good job of finding words to respond to your post. I think that all that I can say is that I, too, am in a stage of desperately needing to feel seen and heard, particularly around the trauma stuff. In fact, you sound far ahead of me at the moment. We had moved my Friday session to today because I was having so much trouble keeping some material contained. About 20 minutes before the end of the session, MB said that we should start to transition, because I was so deeply in a part. I just started to cry and say that I didn’t want to leave. I’ve thought it before, but never actually said it, or I’ve said it in a mostly joking manner. But this was out of pure need to not be alone with what I am trying to deal with. MB offered to meet me for my regular session, as well and all I could do was to nod my head as I doubled over and sobbed from my gut in relief. This hurts so much.

    Like

    • May 8, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      Cat,
      Totally understand, I often feel that way after I read one of your posts which resonate very powerfully for me. I want to assure you that I don’t believe I am far ahead of you at all. I have experienced such a resurgence of needing BN and leaving sessions has been difficult in a way they haven’t been for a long time. I actually teared up a few times. But I also have been daring to just say it out loud. It’s amazing to me how saying it and having BN hear it and acknowledge how hard the boundary is, truly helps. I am so glad that you are allowing MB in. You do need to not be alone, it’s what you needed back then and didn’t have. I’m sorry it’s so painful, but truly, from where I am sitting Cat, i am in awe of your courage and strength in how you face this work. (((Cat))) Thank you for walking alongside of me. xx AG

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ann
    May 7, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    AG, You do such a great job describing the difference between your adult, cognitive mind and your traumatized emotional needs. I have lived a long time ignoring the split. I have been plugging away about 4 years with my T and only recently am starting to emotionally trust him. He still has to tell me that it is okay to contact him or e-mail him during the week. If it is not too personal, does you T include meds with his work? I was having a crisis and so I had my meds readjusted and that was a big mistake!!!! The side effects were terrible so I am titrating off.
    My T is good about letting medication decisions be a team effort and there is some trial and error. I was wondering if you ever included meds in your treatments? Of course this is a very personal issue so please do not feel you need to respond! I think right now I am trying to figure out how much “suffering” is too much and what is tolerable! I know this sounds confusing which probable reflects my struggle now! Thanks for sharing your experiences and being so gentle with your readers! Xoxo Ann

    Like

  11. May 8, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Ann,
    Funny you should say that, because I really think that it’s only in the last three months that i have really been acknowledging the emotional needs and becoming willing to express them. I have finally been able to (most of the time, or maybe some of the time 🙂 ) take down my filter and just say how I’m feeling. And I can only do that because i trust BN to understand that I do know the difference between my feelings and reality. And I think it took me about six years to be comfortable about calling and emailing and BN still tells me I can call. Last thing he said at today’s session (he’s going to miss a couple mornings next week, so I’m looking at 10 days until my next session).

    BN definitely pays attention to meds, and I always discuss with him any changes in medication. I am one of the lucky few people though who found an anti-depressant which worked for me and has little to no side effects. But BN was really helpful when i was first dealing with the bad disc in my neck, my GP put me on a drug which had really bad side effects for me, as in rendering me close to non-functional. While we were in session, BN literally looked the drug up on his Iphone, saw what neuro-receptors it was affecting and figured out how it was probably affecting me. I called my doctor and got off it. I was experiencing no discernible benefit from taking the drug and the side-effects were terrible. And oddly enough Ann we discussed drugs today. 🙂 My GP (he’s a fairly new one that I am very happy with) is working with me to tackle my weight and he recommended a new diet drug that was recently approved by the FDA. He has a close friend from medical school who is a weight loss doctor and he attended a lecture she gave on the new drug, so he’s been trying it out with interested patients. It turned out that the drug is a combination of the anti-depressent Welbutrin and an anti-addiction drug whose name escapes me right now (starts with an “N”) so I am going through a complicated process of titrating up the dosage of the new drug while reducing the Welbutrin This is the first week and the drug contains 90 mg of Welbutrin. The top dosage for Welbutrin is 450 mg, so we just added the Contrave on top of the Welbutrin so my dose is up to 390 mg right now. When I’m done and only taking Contrave it will be a dose of 360 mg. Right now the new higher dosage has me a bit wired (I’ve given up coffee for a bit) and I wanted BN to know about it. He asked me a number of questions and took notes.

    But I think i understand that struggle of what is tolerable. The drug for my neck? I was having a worse and worse time functioning and finally ended up suicidal, which freaked me out. I seriously thought I was going crazy. When BN looked up the drug, he explained to me that the drug interfered with my cognitive abilities the same way drinking would and that i rely heavily on my intellect to regulate my emotions. So he thought my feeling suicidal was because things were pushing up pretty hard. We even talked about how this doesn’t happen if I have a few drinks and BN thought it was because I was expecting it and knew it was temporary. I was also finding it really difficult to work also because my thinking was fuzzy. Him explaining what was happening was a HUGE relief and also helped me decide to stop taking it. I do not think he would have commented if I wasn’t so agitated and distressed, but I was trying to sort through what was my stuff and what was drug-induced. The best thing to do is to be as open as possible. You’ve worked long enough with your T that he probably has a good “baseline” on you and can notice any changes. I’m really sorry things are so difficult right now. The worst part about this class of drugs is that even if they’re effective for you, they tend to have bad side effects getting on them and off them. And at a time when resources are already short. But Ann, I’ve known enough trauma victims and have gotten to know you well enough to know that if you err in any direction it’s going to be in the suffering too much direction. We never think we’re doing enough or trying hard enough. Be gentle with yourself. xx AG

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  12. Helen
    May 9, 2015 at 2:13 am

    AG- just reading about that video has triggered me. I can’t work out what I am feeling but my anxiety has heightened and I physically recoiled as I read it. I suspect that I too am seeing myself in the thought of that ignored child. When triggered, when you’re able, do you use BNs words to self soothe (so here- remembering that he said that it is in the past). I am very good at hiding/ burying emotions- is soothing self different do you think?
    Urgh, I feel yuck- guess I know what I’m talking to my therapist about this week.

    Like

    • May 9, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      Helen,
      I definitely understand, at my session on Friday, I talked to BN about having read about the experiment, but seeing it had so much more impact. He was very normalizing about why this was difficult. I think anyone who has experienced a consistent lack of attunement would have a difficult time with it. Actually, people with a secure attachment become uncomfortable with it. There is something very primal and very powerful about those connections.

      I often use BN’s words to self-soothe. Often I can remember discussing the feelings in session and how BN helped me see that the feelings weren’t a good reflection of reality (my shame often falls under this category). So I acknowledge the feelings but then remind myself of the truth. But beyond that, because BN is my attachment figure, just remembering him can help calm me down.

      And I do think there is a difference between self-soothing and hiding/burying your feelings (I am a champion at the later!). When we hide or bury our feelings, we shove them away and don’t acknowledge them, we ‘re working really hard to deny them. Self-soothing is the process where we acknowledge what we’re feeling, but we respond to it by putting some distance between ourselves and our feelings and strive to find comfort in the face of the feelings. I worked a really long time on allowing the feelings in and am still a work in progress with the self-soothing. Hence the phone call to BN. 🙂 ~ AG

      Liked by 1 person

  13. drgeraldstein
    May 9, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Your progress is remarkable. Only a minority of patients ever get to the point of leading the therapy: knowing what they want and taking over direction of the treatment. You’re something, AG!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 14, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      Dr. Stein,
      Thank you! I so value that you see this in me (gives me hope that BN does. 🙂 ) xx AG

      Like

  14. Ann
    May 9, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Thank you so much for your response! Meds are more of an art than a science! I was put on Welbutrin about ten years ago and after three days I was a bundle of nerves!! Yet other people experience tremendous relief on it. Good luck with your new medication combination and I am hopeful you have zero side effects. I am impressed that your BN is well versed in meds. It is helpful to have an extra set of eyes when you mix medication. One day I want to know how you handle all your emotion issues, work a job, do volunteer work and maintain a marriage. Some days I am glad to get out of bed and get dressed!
    Happy Mother’s Day!!!!!😘😘😘😘 xoxo Ann

    Like

    • May 14, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Hi Ann,
      Welbutrin has been a very helpful stable drug for me for a long time. As a matter of fact, i hesitated a bit to go on this medication because I hated to mess with it. (BTW, I got really agitated on it initially for a week or so, but for me it settled out).

      As for how I do it? The first part is that the healing I have done with BN has allowed me to integrate and process a lot of experiences and has freed up energy and made it possible to step and and risk things which I would not have been willing to do previously because the inevitable bumps, and screwups don’t feel quite so threatening anymore. The second part is that trust me, it looks a LOT messier close up then it does from the distance of reading my blog. 😀 I hope you had a Happy Mother’s Day! xx AG

      Like

  15. Pop
    May 10, 2015 at 5:47 am

    I skim read a lot of that 😉
    I would not be able to watch the video. Well done you for making it through that.
    The pain of not being understood, heard or seen is crushing. I am slowly beginning to be able to hold onto the sense that my T sees me. The vulnerable, scared child inside. But it is hard to hold on to something that sometimes seems too good to be true. It’s like being offered to stand under their umbrella in a hail storm.

    Like

    • May 14, 2015 at 5:19 pm

      Pop,
      Didn’t have much choice about watching it. 🙂 And honestly, as you have seen, it pushed me to my limits. So I understand not wanting to watch it. And skimming this post. 🙂
      What you are saying about slowly being able to trust but then the feeling that what you have is to good to be true resonates very strongly with me. BN and I have often discussed my fear of good things disappearing or turning out to be lies, because time and again I moved towards my father in the hope of a loving parent, thinking this time it would be different, only to have it end once again in abuse and ignoring my needs. Makes you a little mistrustful of anything good. I am slowly working through it. xx AG

      Like

  16. Willow
    May 12, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    AG, I will be reading this post over several sittings, but got abt this far: ..” I expressed my sadness and yearning, recognized that it was really ….”

    I ( think) I admire for being able to use that word…yearning, because some words sound like they are so close to sexual (for me), yet that word captures that feeling quite well….

    I really loved your t’s response…

    Like

    • May 14, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      Willow,
      It is only recently that I have been daring to be so open with my feelings with BN and to stop filtering them. Yearning makes me uncomfortable also but the truth is it’s how I feel when he’s away. I think that was part of what was so powerful about his response. Not only did he back away from that being the feeling, but he re-framed it as being an indicator of something positive, our connection. Pretty amazing stuff. It’s really good to hear from you, thanks for commenting. xx AG

      Like

  17. marleym6
    May 13, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    . We also spent some time discussing my pattern (often unconscious, BN is pointing this out to help me become conscious of it) of being worried about my behavior and how he feels about it. He sees it as an attempt on my part to mold myself to the other person’s expectations so I will not be abandoned.”

    Hmm… I find that most interesting, as I feel I I’ve done that with Sweet T.
    Thanks for the point of examination as I slowly unravel the whole therapy experience.
    HB

    Like

    • marleym6
      May 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      … I volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, and that video is a part of our 12 week program for the clients. I too (the little me) struggled desperately with it. Every time I have a new client, I must watch it. Maybe it is a form of exposure therapy, but now after viewing it at least a dozen times, I can do the deeper work without falling apart. It’s embarrassing falling apart in front of a client.
      As always AG, I learned from your insights. Thank you.

      Like

      • May 14, 2015 at 5:23 pm

        Marley,
        Good to hear from you! I’m glad that the post helped you gain some insight. You have an enormous amount of respect from me for being able to view that over and over. I never want to see it again. I am very impressed that you have been able to work through that. xx AG

        Liked by 1 person

  18. marleym6
    May 13, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Sorry to keep posting, but reading your experience has triggered me terribly. I do know why, but that isn’t helping. Obviously more work needs to be done, here.
    Since I have not worked w/ sweet T in over 2 years, and our ending (break up) was tumultuous, my solace, my refuge and my strength has been and is, God.
    (An aside, T came in to the place I work, yesterday… And stopped to chat, before swimming. Had not seen him here in about a year)
    Back to God… After closing your thread, I began my daily reading. These words were among the message in Psalm 27…
    You have always been my helper.
    Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
    O God of my salvation!
    10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
    the Lord will hold me close.

    Rejection/abandonment is overwhelming me, but here I found strength.
    Thanks for listening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 14, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Marley,
      I have to believe that seeing your ex-T had to be triggering on a number of levels, especially since the ending was not peaceful and left a lot that was unresolved. i love Psalm 27 and am very glad that you can find strength and refuge in God. But may i say something very gently? Along with our faith, i think that we need help to deal with things that have deep roots in our past and childhood. The Bible also says that “where two or three are gathered, there am I with them.” I think that being with another person who is attuned and focused and listening creates a sacred space into which God’s presence can flow and do the actual healing. I am certain that God is the source of my healing but believe just as strongly that BN was the vessel that God choose to deliver that healing to me. Would you consider trying to find another therapist to work with? it just sounds like there is still a lot of pain to be dealt with and while white-knuckling it can work for a long time, it tends to fail as a long term plan. (((( )))) xx AG

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Pop
    May 14, 2015 at 7:45 am

    This video (which I’ve not seen but totally get the gist of, unfortunately) – I believe it’s fundamental to understanding everything we know about basic human needs and why some of us end up in therapy. Why some of us watch (or read about) that video and are triggered by a primitive fear. I’ve felt that fear on and off from a very young age. I wasn’t abused in the classic sense but emotionally, I did not exist. The importance of being understood, seen, validated is so crucial and without that we might as well not exist. Because that is how it feels. Similar to AG, I have had experiences recently of remembering the true horror of how that felt. Yes, you survive it. But the even better part about it is, if you find a good, devoted therapist, it will no longer be a truth and remembering how awful it felt and comparing it to the reflection of your feelings, your true self, given to you by your T, you can see it as something that happened in the past. Your poor, misunderstood inner child can finally see light. It’s like being pulled up from underground.
    This is where I’m at in all of this. It sometimes seems too good to be true. To feel sunlight on skin that’s never even been outside. The amount of love and gratitude I feel towards my T, the connection, the warmth and understanding is hopefully something I will carry with me forever. The needy, angry, demanding, normal child inside no longer feels like an alien, a monster, a freak of human nature – I have the right to walk alongside the rest of the population, I have a right to exist, be seen.
    To all of you who are triggered by the video, my heart goes out to you. It is not anything anyone should have to feel but it happens. A lot. Go in to that session room and talk. And talk some more. And cry. And cry some more. Say everything that comes into your head. No matter how silly or irrational or wrong it feels. Go through the pain. The pain of not having what you want from your T. Instead, get what you need. Get seen. Listen to your children. Hear what they say. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t always get it right, it doesn’t mean they’ll struggle like you have. You just keep trying to keep them talking to you. They are the future, give them the skills your parent didn’t have. Let them be seen.
    I’ve been through hell but my T (whose face I never see during session) has anything but a still face, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Pretty much ditto what AG has said.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michelle
      May 14, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Pop – So well put, thank you.
      When you say re: your T (whose face I never see during session) – what does that mean? I have a hard time going to appt’s – often want to reschedule and/or cancel. I think my issue is I get socially exhausted at work, definitely an introvert – and the thought of having an appt where I have to be social and talk etc is overwhelming. I seek alone time, no talking, no one looking at me etc. I wonder if I should pursue email therapy, if there is such a thing – I can write till ever. But with somatic experiencing I assume that is not possible. I have benefitted so much but those are days when I wasn’t socially exhausted. Those are far and in between (however that phrase goes).

      Like

      • Pop
        May 14, 2015 at 12:43 pm

        I lie on the couch, T sits behind. And by a still face, I guess I mean metaphorically because being seen is about being heard – if that makes sense?
        I know what you mean about writing. But I think it’s in the moment communication that heals. But I find its a good way to get some things out and make sense of it all. And if you have trouble saying anything you can write it down and take it in? I’ve been contemplating that recently, have never done it before but there are some things I’m struggling to say.

        Like

    • May 14, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Pop,
      What you said may have strongly echoed what I said, but it was powerfully and eloquently put and in a way which I am sure resonates more strongly for some people that what i wrote. Thank you for sharing it as I think it will be very encouraging and give hope to other people that they can also heal. xx AG

      Like

      • Pop
        May 15, 2015 at 6:25 am

        Thanks AG, I felt a bit bad for rambling on your blog! I was writing from a place of great pain and just let it all out. It is so strange to hold in one hand the horror of being invisible and in the other hand hold something quite the opposite. At the moment I’m really struggling with believing it’s not too good to be true. I feel like I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t deserve this wonderful thing being offered.

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