What a strange experience. I’m not even sure I can write about it accurately. I thought my brain had stopped working. I was afraid it had to do with getting old. Erica reframed it as a stage in spiritual growth, Buddhist detachment. When I was able to get so many practical things done last Thursday, I thought I was better. But then I started again having difficulty doing practical things. Looking back, I can see that I was actually afraid to go out in the car and do a small shopping. At the time it felt like extreme reluctance, or maybe just exhaustion. Then I realized that when my brain feels blunt and jammed, that’s the same as the state I call “blind terror,” except that there was no feeling of terror. It’s a state I often feel when I’m packing to go somewhere. The last time I remember feeling it was when I went to California for the Francis Weller workshop. I was actually so scared I thought seriously about cancelling. Then I realized how important it was to me to do it. Once I got on the road, the terror disappeared. Of course, there were lots of other times when the terror wasn’t connected to anything. And in fact, I don’t know why packing to go on a trip should trigger terror. I’m afraid I’ll forget something important. Oh! I see it! I don’t trust the world to supply my needs, so I have to make sure that I take everything with me.
What was the knowledge that came with the blankness? That I was absolutely alone, that the world was not to be trusted, it obeyed no laws of nature, it would shift the ground under me without warning. When Erica suggested “suffocation,” and “hall of mirrors,” that was exactly right. Suffocation is to be deprived of the most basic need for life, hall of mirrors is not being able to trust your own experience.
When I saw that the blankness of mind was blind terror without the terror, I started to experience the terror. Hall of mirrors. It was bad enough that I decided to take some Buspar. But I didn’t trust my decision so I dowsed. But the dowsing was inconclusive. Then I asked if I should take half a tablet, 5 mg. Dowsing confirmed, so I took it. Then I was able to relax a little, but when I checked with my body, the fear appeared. Unable to trust my own judgement, to trust my own experience. This reminds me of the idea that I want to be depressed. But I don’t want to be depressed. But my wanting to not be depressed doesn’t change anything. So I must really want to be depressed. I’m making it happen, but I don’t have any control over it. This is a horrible belief to be caught in. Momentarily feeling relaxed, but then checking the feeling and having it immediately change to terror is the same kind of Catch-22. I can’t trust my feelings, can’t trust my experience.
Fortunately, I went down to hang out with Dulany. I felt safe with her. I was able to tell her that I was terrified, and she ordered me to get a wrap from her bed, and curl up on the couch with my book. If I started to pay attention to what she was doing, she ordered me back to my book. I did start to feel better. It had as much to do with her caring and her desire to help as with what she told me to do. I realize, as I think about it, that she contained me, put me in a safe place and made me stay there.
I wasn’t until I got to grief group the next day, and one woman with a terrible history of childhood abuse talked about her “parts,” that I realized I was caught in a younger Jenny, in the frozen terror of infant Jenny, possibly the youngest one of all. That helped me see that the state I was in was not something real in the present, but something real that happened in the past. I was totally caught in that infant state with no access to adult Jenny. I said something to the woman afterward, that I was caught in the past. She suggested I talk to the part, which made me angry because she hadn’t understood that adult Jenny wasn’t present.
Writing this, I see that to be able to connect with that deepest Jenny, her terrible isolation and lack of trust, I had to be here at Kendal, to be supported in basic ways like having meals always available. I had to be here long enough to begin to trust on a deep level that I was cared for. I also needed to be in a relationship with someone where there was mutual need of each other’s support and mutual trust of each other’s honesty.
Realizing that I can trust that caring and kindness are available to me throws a blinding light on the gaslighting nature of mother’s treatment of me. Hall of mirrors indeed, except that all the mirrors reflect her, not me. No wonder I keep erasing all my experiences of appreciation from others. I can’t trust them, and I can’t trust my own perceptions.