Plateau

Today in session, I was telling my therapist that I feel like I’m at some sort of therapeutic plateau. I have come so far in terms of stability. I am in a good place – my life is overall quite wonderful. Of course there’s a lot I still struggle with, but that is entirely internal at this point. I have eliminated all sources of truly toxic or harmful external stresses. There is no one left in my life who can, or would, hurt me.

So, naturally, I feel a compulsion to continue to hurt myself.

During last night’s session, I nearly had a flashback. I think the only thing that stopped it was that I felt it coming on and mentioned that fact to my therapist. She told me that she knew it would annoy me, but that she was going to do what she needed to do in order to keep me “in the room” with her. For us, that means she asks a lot of grounding questions and makes a lot of grounding statements.

Why is this annoying? Because it feels like an abandonment. Not necessarily from me, but from the parts that are stuck in trauma time. I want to pull away from the memories and sensations, but unfortunately that means that I leave those traumatized parts stranded in their present-day torture.

Which sucks. But I just can’t do it. I can’t go there.

When I was in the intensive trauma treatment program last Fall, they emphatically reinforced the idea that trauma work does NOT need to include graphic or even sanitized retelling of traumas. I believe that’s true, and so does my therapist.

But what we’re trying to figure out is how to not abandon those traumatized parts. My therapist says she neither wants me to be completely in, nor completely out, of the memories. She wondered aloud if there was a way for me to get closer to the parts and to the memories while keeping (at least) one foot planted firmly in present day.

Maybe. But do I want to do that? I just don’t know.

If I think about all of the creative mechanisms my mind and body enacted in order to survive, I imagine it was all for good reason. My personality would not have kept itself divided in separate boxes if it wasn’t dangerous for that information to be filed together.

So perhaps we should keep it that way?

Even when I have short bursts of access to an authentic acknowledgement of my reality, I immediately push it away and replace it with self-hatred. My self-hatred serves as a way to sort of contain the wild and frightening emotions that spring up around my trauma. So we talked today about this idea of containers within containers.

The eating disorder contains my self hatred. My self hatred contains the emotions surrounding my trauma. And ultimately what I fear the most is that if I truly had access to what are completely incompatible realities about my past, I would be annihilated.

My therapist pointed out that fear of annihilation is very likely what caused the dissociation to begin with. That’s what happens when small children are living in incongruent and terrifying realities.

Fair enough.

But I just wonder if this is as far as I will go? Can I be any “healthier”? Or is this a plateau? Maybe this is as much parts work as I can do without destabilizing myself and starting to trend in the downward direction.

She acknowledged my feelings of being “stuck” but said she’s convinced that even if it is a plateau, she believes it is simply a rest break before we carry on with the work. She said it’s like the stereotypical story of when a kitten gets stuck in a tree…They don’t just hop on down safely simply because the firemen are there to help them. They don’t know the firemen are safe yet. They have to be coaxed down, sometimes taking breaks on a sturdy branch before building up the energy and confidence to take the next leap of faith. She wants me to be able to trust her and trust our process enough to take that leap.

I said, “I’m sure in your kitten-in-tree analogy, the kitty makes it safely to the ground and all is well. In my analogy, the kitty takes the leap and crashes to the ground, breaking it’s spine.”

She frowned and just looked at me for a moment. Then she made a little basket with her hands and said, “Oh no…we’re gonna catch that kitten. That kitty is safe here.”

I hope so.

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14 thoughts on “Plateau

  1. manyofus1980 says:

    our therapist firmly believes that we do not need to get overwhelmed by traumatic memories, she does a lot of grounding with us during our sessions, and if we start to dissociate space out she has us do things like talk about a lighter topic, walk around the room and feel things, etc. can you communicate with parts, asking them not to flood you? my therapist asks parts not to flood me too. XX

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      I don’t really have that kind of access to parts in terms of asking for support in these moments, but it’s something my therapist and I would like to work on.

      Like

  2. La Quemada says:

    I know from experience that detailed processing of past trauma is re-traumatizing (an earlier therapist led me through some of that). What E. will do instead is have me approach the wounded child immediately *after* the trauma, and that is much more helpful. I can hold her, comfort her, tell her she is safe now. I can tell her that what happened was terribly wrong, but that she is neither terrible nor wrong. I can express my indignation and outrage on her behalf. I can tell her she has every right to feel angry. I can… well, you get the picture. At first I really struggled with this, but now I think it’s a very wise approach. Because after all, I can’t undo the fact that the trauma occurred, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time revisiting it. It’s ultimately the AFTERMATH of the trauma I want to work with–the self-loathing, the difficulty with trust, and all the other problems that have their roots in incest and violation.

    E. tells me that the subconscious (and hence the parts) has no sense of time. So when things get intense, it’s okay to say I need to stop now, but I will come back later. The parts can wait, as long as they trust that I will come back and continue to provide for their emotional needs. All I have to do is keep showing up. To keep it under control, she’ll even have me set a timer and stop when the timer goes off. For me this has significantly reduced (though not fully eliminated) flooding.

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  3. SassaFrassTheFeisty says:

    I like how your therapist sees the plateu as a rest break. Kind of like in an exercise routine, you plateu and then need to change the routine just enough to get back on track. Nothing drastic, could be as simple as the pattern of your exercises.
    Take the break and (as hard as this is for you, I know) flow with the break and see where it leads you in positive terms.
    As for the kitty, I saw one stuck on an old power pole,about 30 feet up. A man in a cherry picker sent up to get the cat, only to watch the cat jump off
    the pole land and run like hell into the bushes. Cats a very impressive creatures indeed.

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  4. Rachel says:

    You really have come so far in terms of stability, and you’ve been with your therapist for almost a year and a half! That is a long time to be with the same therapist. It makes logical sense to me that you would hit a plateau, a rest, before the next phase. Especially with your school winding down, you are in all sorts of transitions in your life. I imagine all factors are contributing to this place of pause. Rest is part of effort and progress.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. alicewithptsd says:

    Feeling stuck is hard. Really hard. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I spent all summer last summer in this weird plateau-stuck-rest place, and it was hard in some ways. I think the hardest thing was I felt very fearful that Bea would become upset and some with me because I wasn’t doing anything. But it turned out she was fine with me taking a rest, and still seeing her to maintain a connection and build more trust. I not sure, but that rest time may have been what made it possible for us to get through the ruptures that have happened this year— because I had that time to really feel a positive connection to her.

    I really love how your therapist said you guys are going to catch that kitty. It just seems such a perfect thing to say. And I believe you can catch that kitty. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Sometimes I think I do need a rest but without actually breaking from the therapy itself. And maybe that is part of what’s happening as a way to take care of myself. Thanks xx

      Like

  6. dianetharp70 says:

    I’m not on here much lately. (Mini mental breakdown, pretty much ignoring life outside my head) I need to tell you though, HUGS, you’re a brave soul & I agree with your therapist & Sass ~> you’re one strong Chicka! !! ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  7. e.Nice says:

    I agree with what everyone else has said. A plateu doesn’t feel good, but is often necessary. You can take a breather and work on the trust and support with your therapist for the next climb. I think you guys will find a balance in working through the past and stabilizing the present.

    Liked by 1 person

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