The Core of Trauma

This last week has been really tough.  On Tuesday I had the hardest, most painful therapy session that I’ve ever experienced.  Before I drove down I wrote:

Damn!  I’m starting to feel scared.  Part of it may be that there’s still so much practical stuff I haven’t dealt with.  I worry that I will get in trouble.
O gosh I’m almost blind and my heart hurts.  I wish I could trust that God/Universe/Divine Process cares about my welfare.  Well, what’s the worst that could happen?  Before I made the call to the hairdresser to change my appointment, I suddenly saw that it wasn’t a big deal.  I think the infant’s terror must be triggered, the fear that I might anger someone.

Driving down I continued to feel the triggered terror.  Just like what Belleruth Naparstek says: “At the time of the actual event, it’s defining nature is an instantaneous and automatic takeover of intense feelings of helplessness, terror, and loss of control, and the perception of impending annihilation by overwhelming force.”  p30

The next day I wrote:

The session with Erica was very hard and very painful.  I didn’t write about it afterward, I haven’t even wanted to think about it for fear I would get sucked back there.  I was right in the center of abandonment.  I felt unbelievably lost, totally disconnected from any kind of warmth or meaning.  At one point Erica started talking to me as though she were an alcoholic mother, explaining that she left me on Wednesday nights to go to a meeting…  She told me it wasn’t my fault, and not about me.  By that time I had started to cry and hide my face.  I can’t imagine my mother EVER apologizing, or acknowledging she was an alcoholic…  Erica went on to say “Remember when we made cookies last week?” and somehow I thought that was reality and started groping after the memory.  Erica stopped her role play and talked about when someone was anorexic, she had to be given food in very small quantities.  In the same way I could only take in small amounts of nourishing love.  She asked where she was and I said behind a glass wall.  I saw a sphere of glass around me and the Wicked Witch looking at Dorothy in her glass ball, and how scared I was of that scene in the movie.  I can feel, as I write this, how easy it would be to get sucked back into that place.

I have to stop trying to write about it.  It’s too scary.

When I got home I was so tired I just lay down on my bed with Mocha.  I think I actually slept a little.

All of Wednesday morning I held onto the present fiercely so I wouldn’t fall into that state.  I put my arms around the terrified baby.  I tell her what happened was real, but it won’t happen again.  Mother is dead, and I am here and committed to being here for you.  You survived and I’m here and I love you just the way you are.  Being present for you is the most important thing in my life right now.

Yesterday, when I reminded me that I had survived, I had a very odd feeling.  It might have been surprise and getting that it was true, I had survived, but I’m not sure.  The feeling of suddenly really getting it that you have survived a traumatic event is something that shows up frequently in stories from Somatic Experiencing.

After lunch I went to Carrie for a haircut.  Went to Co-op & Rite Aid after, came straight home.  I think doing ordinary things brought me back into the present.

I realize that I haven’t really felt depressed since that experience with Erica.  I have felt scared and lost and confused.  I also see how it’s a big deal to have been wounded like that.  It was almost intolerable feeling it in Erica’s office, of course at the beginning of my life it would have been overwhelming and traumatizing.  The life-stopping quality of it resulted in me holding on tightly to anything that would keep me from being dragged back there.  That makes it much easier to forgive myself for “not being able to do anything,” and more important for me to take care of myself.

A friend asked me if I had ever felt that way before.  At first I thought I hadn’t, but then I remembered my journal from the years in Portland, some of which is in a recent post.  When I’ve tried to go back and read these old journals, I have that same sense that something is pulling me into a state I don’t want to be in, and I stop.  I see by how intolerable it is to feel those feelings why the traumatic process cuts them off.

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