Laying the Foundation

*Trigger Warning*

Yesterday was an interesting session with the therapist. Very intense, yet…not. I talked about very intense things, but I have this way of doing so in such a detached manner that it’s as though I’m speaking about someone else. I suppose that’s probably because in many ways, I am.

I have no memories of abuse that are truly my own. My memory starts right in the aftermath of the last time this body experienced any sexual violence. I’m pretty sure I came into fruition at that time as the new “host” solely for the purpose to somehow get us through that tremendously difficult time. My very first responsibility was to procure an abortion from a pregnancy that resulted from incest. It was certainly traumatic, but not in the same way and not for the same reasons as many other parts.

I have about six years of autobiographical memory – mostly intact, but with some blank spaces where I likely lost time due to switching. Everything before that time is in pieces and the memories vary in how I understand them. Some are like images or movies. So I can recall a memory from my life the same way I can recall the memory of seeing a photograph or watching a movie. I can recap the movie and tell you what I saw, but I was not actually IN the film itself. Other times I just “know” something happened. It’s like there’s a place in my brain where other parts drop off memories for me to have. Then I get those memories either through flashbacks, nightmares, sensations, or sometimes it just pops into my brain as I’m talking about my past.

It’s really strange because there are times, especially in therapy or with my wife, that I’ll be talking about something and realize it needs a back story. I’ll go to explain that I don’t have access to the back story and then bam! all of a sudden I have it. It’s like someone filled in the blanks for me in an instant. But I’m sure I didn’t know those details when I began talking. It’s bizarre, but also kinda useful.

Anyway, so I started talking about my new nephew and all the emotions around that. Which prompted me to mention my cousin’s death. I thought I’d already told her, but the therapist asked me what happened, so obviously I didn’t. Since that memory is from the last six years, I was able to relay the story to her. But then she started asking questions to connect some things, especially about my biological family. I’ve been able to piece together enough memory to give a fairly solid idea of what it was like to grow up, but it never feels like my own childhood and adolescence. And I’m missing a LOT of information from about 10-15 years old. Why? I have no clue. Not sure I even want to know.

I didn’t get into details. I’m too scared to get into details. Partly because I don’t want to trigger myself. But also because I don’t want her to become overwhelmed the way Zooey did. I told one short story that was not graphic, but certainly would be upsetting for any person to hear. Yet I prefaced it by saying, “I’m going to add something to give you a better sense of what I’m talking about, but don’t worry it’s not graphic or anything.” Obviously I felt the need to qualify my statement before I allowed myself to say it. She responded in a way that kinda told me it would be fine even if it was graphic, but I just can’t be in that space with someone again. Not yet.

Up until yesterday, she knew very few details about the nature of my abuse. In one of my first sessions, she asked me if I could sum up my trauma in one word. I said “Of course: incest.” And that was that.

I don’t know why, but I thought she knew more. However, as I was talking yesterday, I realized that she only knew of one abuser. So throughout the rest of the session, I managed to tell her that I was sexually abused by both of my biological parents, my biological grandfather, and raped by my neighbor. Which means she is now aware of 4 of the 15 people who have perpetrated some form of sexual violence against one (or more) parts of this system. A good start.

I didn’t go into details about any one thing. I mostly talked about the overall dynamic of my biological family. My mother is an absolute narcissist who hates herself and thus treated me as an extension of herself to attain vicarious validation and procure sympathy. My father is a passive wallflower who used me to fill his need for both affection and to feel powerful in an emasculating marriage. They are both incredibly resentful towards each other and I landed right in the middle of their toxicity. My biological siblings are in serious (and impressive) denial about what my parents have done and remain very enmeshed in their lives. In the same way that I split in order to get through all of that hell, I think they just blocked it out. I suppose we all did what we needed to do in order to survive.

It was hard to talk about even this very basic, superficial stuff. It all has a direct link to worst of it. But I’m glad I got it out. I think that by telling select anecdotal stories from my “memory box” of childhood and adolescent experiences, I was able to paint a pretty good picture of my life and what it was like to grow up in that house. I would eventually love for the traumatized parts to come out in session and tell their stories themselves, but I don’t want to even attempt that for a while. For me, it needs to be a very safe, controlled environment in which I am allowed to hear. So I don’t want full switches where I lose time – I want to hear the memories co-consciously. That way I can talk about it with the therapist, too. And I can get a stronger sense of the story of my own life. Our life.

By the end, I was absolutely beat. I felt so exhausted and spacey. The system was expectedly rattled and the sheer volume of headnoise I was getting made it difficult to keep talking. This therapist holds session for 55 minutes. Zooey’s were 45. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a lot until you’re talking about really awful shit. But I like the 55 minute sessions because I feel like I often need those extra ten minutes to “warm up”.

It was a difficult, but productive session. She listened attentively and I could tell she was being very mindful of the questions she asked. At one point she was unclear as to what, exactly, I was suggesting. She asked a question and I wasn’t sure how to answer it without being too graphic. I think she sensed my hesitancy because she told me that I could answer however I wanted, but she was “trying not to be intrusive” with her questioning. I thought that was lovely.

So, I mean, we’re making progress. I’m slowly moving away from Zooey-processing territory and I’ve started laying the foundation (again) with which to do the rest of the therapeutic work. It feels okay, though. I can tell how much I learned from the experiences I had with Zooey. I have a much better sense of pacing and the importance of checking-in with myself and with the therapist throughout the sessions. I’m very grateful that this woman is actually willing to communicate with me and talk about how she’s experiencing the moment.

Still….it’s terrifying. For so many reasons.

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15 thoughts on “Laying the Foundation

  1. Boost Connection says:

    You have been through some serious, Grade A, steaming pile of BULLSHITTTTTT in this life through no fault of your own. You deserved so much better and it makes me Hulk!rage that you had to endure this at the hands of anyone, but especially at the hands of people who were supposed to care for you as a child. Despite all that, you are a truly amazing and beautiful soul.

    I like the therapist so far. As you lay the foundation for a new therapeutic relationship with her, be gentle with yourself and take all the time you need. Real trust is earned repeatedly through actions, not granted out of convenience or through false words that sound like truth. Dissociation helped you survive, but now that the proverbial DID cat is out of the bag I do hope you as a system have the chance to process some of what you have been through together in a safe and contained way. Everything in its time though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Zoe says:

    I get the feeling that perhaps you were giving her a glimpse of what you want to address and tackle in therapy as a sort of way to “warn her” and see if she recoiled. Kind of like a test? I don’t know. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. One thing I have to say is: I am so glad you are taking your time. You don’t have to rush into all of this, especially since you’re still mending from having exposed yourself with Zooey. Still, you managed to tell her enough details for her to understand just how graphic / troubling the content of your past can be. I think that if, after today, she chose to go forward, then she is making a conscious decision that she can handle whatever gets uncovered.

    And if she fails — my hand is ready for violence. After this “prologue” / “summary” she better understand that her decision to stay with you through this journey isn’t one she should retract later. You don’t need that crap, plus: you deserve to have someone help you through all of this.

    Hidden trauma is a bitch. I have those too. There are years of my life that I have no memory of. But, I have the symptoms and sign of abuse so I know that something happened to me. I just can’t remember it. My psych ARNP asked me if I thought I wanted to know and a part of me needs to know (so I can recover) while the other part of me is thankful that I don’t. I’m very conflicted on this matter.

    The fact that you’re even going to therapy to unravel all of this is incredibly brave of you. I know that perhaps others can argue you’re doing it as part of treatment, but it still takes tremendous amount of bravery to be willing to face all of that. What happened to you is… Just reading through it made me so mad.

    You are making SO MUCH progress. You are so strong. You have no idea how much I admire you. All of you. I am cheering you on forever. Most importantly, I’m so utterly thankful I found you. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andi says:

      Take Two:

      Yes, I definitely think I was trying to put feelers out and see how she responded to what I had to say. Even though she knows I endured trauma severe enough to cause dissociative splitting, she doesn’t know what that means, exactly. By beginning to reveal the extent of it, I don’t know….I think I’m almost setting the stage for her to bow out if she’s changed her mind, you know? I’m definitely intrigued to see how the next session will go.

      I think we’ll both be violent if she pulls a Zooey on me. Since I literally entered into this treatment with her mere days after being rejected by a therapist in the middle of intense trauma treatment, I will 100% lose my shit if that happens again. I think I might bring this up, actually, and be like: “Listen, you can bail whenever. But please do it ethically and responsibly!”

      I’m sorry that you also have hidden traumas. It is truly awful. Sometimes I wish I could go back to not remembering anything. But other times I look back at all of the progress I’ve been able to make since uncovering my trauma and I’m so thankful for that work.

      I think I’m acting brave, but I don’t feel it. I feel scared and pathetic. But that’s another issue. However, I truly appreciate you saying that – I’m going to take it and internalize it as much as possible.

      Admiration. Wow. That’s…all the feels right there, Zoe. I started this blog mostly to keep from killing myself or going genuinely insane. The idea of being someone worthy of admiration is so far beyond what I ever imagined. That is the greatest honor. I shall hold my head a little higher 🙂

      I’m glad we found each other ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Anxious Mom says:

    I can’t understand what you’ve been through, but the fact that you have the courage to let down the foundation to relive some of these horrors again, after the traumatic Zooey experience, speaks volumes about what you’re made of.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. strangelings says:

    I haven’t written about it in my blog yet, but my last therapist experience was traumatic, and it was after my therapist of 10 years retired. IT’s really, really hard to “start” over after this kind of crap- and I had more of a foundation of things then you. Keep writing- it encourages me to see what you have to say and to think about sharing more myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I’m very sorry to hear that. Yes, it’s definitely hard to start over, especially if it was a difficult or traumatic ending with a previous therapist. I hope you do share more xo

      Like

  5. Cat says:

    I love to hear these foundations being set, things sound almost perfect.. she needs a star chart

    I have been thinking a lot about our memory, in particular, how we recall traumatic experiences. I’ll try write something about my own experiences this week. When you start reading about it online, it starts to get a little confusing. Someone I follow (a Therapist of some sort) wrote a post about memories, which I found intriguing. Let me know and I’ll give you the link.

    I experience memories in that movie style fashion you were explaining and sharing them is usually very detached. We all remember visually. If I asked you to remember a time in childhood, you would remember as a visual image. When I try to think of 9 to 11yrs old, there is just blackness. Like you, I’m not sure I want to know and I am not even sure it would help anyone. The post I read yesterday, said it is more about dealing with the feelings the memory or black out invokes.

    Your idea of allowing things to come out co-consciously sounds a good idea and maybe more constructive and meaningful. Always great posts, Andi, dear!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yes, I would love that link – sounds very interesting! How weird but cool that we have similar memory styles and a similar gap in time. If you try the co-conscious sharing, I’d love to know how that goes for you. Thanks xo

      Like

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