Finding the key

I had a visit with my counselor to try brainspotting as an attempt to heal from the trauma I’ve experienced in my life.

I wanted to tell you about it before I forgot. It was a strange, almost mystical experience. My counselor asked me to bring in an item that would remind me of something tragic. I talked about the experience and then she had me follow a pointer with my eyes until I felt the strongest amount of emotion. I also had to focus on a part of my body that I felt that emotion in. I picked my stomach, because when doesn’t it hurt?

I was asked to visualize the negative emotions leaving my body. I thought of my grandma, that she was with me although she has been gone over 10 years now. I imagined blue birds taking the negative emotions from the top of my head from my straw like hair. Later I imagined that all of the negative emotions and pain that I experienced were worms that spilled out of my mind to feed the birds.

There was a great outpouring that the birds carried away, then later balloons came to assist the birds. I told my counselor that it felt weird. I was very skeptical and thought it was rather stupid at first. I am a very logical person, structured and rigid. There is no room in my mind for fantasy, make believe, imagination, playfulness, and magic. My world is not sparkly, it is black and white. My counselor said that is how I dealt with the trauma in my life.

After the appointment, I felt a sense of peacefulness that I can’t remember experiencing before. I did feel some brief intense anxiety that the birds flew in and took away. I slept for threes nights in a row without insomnia or nightmares. I even slept through a storm. I can’t remember how long it has been that I slept for three nights in a row without insomnia or nightmares. It was amazing.

But then it went away. The sadness settled back into my mind. Every time the balloons wanted to carry it away, the birds popped the balloons with their sharp beaks. Then the insomnia and nightmares came back.

There were two other times after that when I felt like the birds were taking out the worms and decay, on my first run after the 50k and when I was getting a massage.

Now, several weeks later, I am on lock down. The rational and logical part of my brain took back control. It is all rules and structure. There aren’t any feelings, good nor bad. I am back home where I feel safe.

But now I know there is another world of childlike wonder locked away somewhere in my mind. There is hope that one day I will once again be able to find the key to peace and serenity.

 

 

Brainspotting

I’ve realized a few new things about myself over the past couple days. The things I once thought were normal, or at least normal to me, I am questioning. I think I just got used to some things that are just not right.

There isn’t a day that goes past that I don’t think about the childhood trauma I’ve experienced. I wish I could just get over it or at best think about these things every other day. As a result, I’ve struggled with lifelong anxiety and depression.

But that isn’t all. I constantly experience exhaustion and fatigue. My doctor wanted me to go in for a sleep study when I was in my 20’s. I did and was told that I never went into deep sleep.

I started reading the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. I would highly recommend the book if you have experienced or are interested in trauma in general. One of the chapters talks about EMDR. EMDR is a therapeutic process in which someone focuses on a pointer moving back and forth while thinking of traumatic experiences. It somewhat mimics REM sleep which PTSD sufferers apparently don’t get a lot of. It is supposed to be very effective in healing trauma.

When I was a little girl, my autistic brother was physically violent with me on a daily basis for years. Sometimes while I was trying to sleep at night, he would come in my room and threaten me with violence. As a child, I slept with my door open. You see, I was afraid of the monsters in my closet and the ghosts under my bed that would attack me when my door was closed. I thought like a child. I feared illogical demons instead of credible threats to my safety.

The stress hormones pumped through my veins with a steady beat day and night. My body learned to never relax. I had to be alert for danger at all times. Deep sleep wasn’t safe.

I started paying attention to my sleep patterns lately. They’ve been the same as long as I can remember. I don’t have problems falling asleep, but I can’t seem to stay asleep. I usually awake between 2 and 4 and stay awake for an hour or two. I try not to think because then I might as well get up because I won’t be able to fall back asleep. Sometimes I get up and walk around.

Usually once or twice a week, I have bad dreams. It seems when I am just about ready to go into REM sleep, my body awakens me. Even though the danger is gone, my body is still on high alert.

I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a nightmare when I had a dream. When things are really bad, I experience insomnia and intense nightmares together on the same night. These are the nights that I wake up sobbing, can’t go back to sleep, and if I do I have nightmares again. Thankfully it doesn’t happen all that often.

I am exhausted, but can’t relax. My anemia is making things worse. I lack energy and can’t seem to think straight.

My counselor is trained in brainspotting, which is an offshoot of EMDR. Next session I am going to give it a try and see how it works. Maybe I’ll finally be able to get some sleep. Even though a pattern of insomnia and nightmares is normal to me, I don’t think that it is normal. Maybe there is nothing I can do about it, but I’m going to try.

Can you fix me?

I have been having a debate with myself forever over what is coincidence and what is meant to be. Do things happen for a reason or is there no rhyme or reason?

When we bought our house almost a year ago, we had some problems with the dryer. It was taking forever for the clothes to dry. I really didn’t notice it after awhile. But then other things started to break. The fan went out in our refrigerator. The dishwasher started to leak. I needed to get someone out to the house to fix these problems. While the guy was here, he might as well check the dryer.

I started to time how long it took to dry clothes. Three hours for a big load! I knew it was long but I didn’t realize it was that long. Maybe I just needed a new dryer?

The guy came out and pulled tons of lint out of the machine. It was backed up into the vent inside of the house. Big time fire hazard that I wasn’t even thinking about fixing until other things started to break.

Why did I ignore the biggest problem that needed fixing?

I think that I ignored it because it was still working, however dangerously and inefficiently. It only became a problem for me when something else wasn’t working at all.

This past week I went to see the counselor alone for the first time. I never would have set up an appointment by myself for myself. My husband insisted on talking to someone when we were having problems with our son. Now our son is doing so much better and here I am going to the counselor talking about myself.

I asked the counselor if she could fix me. She said that she could not, but I can. How come I ignored this for so long? I want to fix everyone else, but don’t want to work on the broken parts of myself.

I think the way I’ve been living my life has been working, although at times not very well.

The counselor asked me what are three things I wanted to keep the same about myself:

  1. My grit/determination
  2. Honesty
  3. Continue seeking self-reflection/growth

Then she asked me what are three things I want to change:

  1. Worry less/relax more
  2. Healing
  3. Be at peace

When discussing these goals, I realized that I was afraid. Part of me wants to stay the way I am. The demons I know aren’t as scary as the unknown. My anxiety and inability to relax has given me great determination as a runner. My depression and quest for full healing and making peace with the past is what I attribute to my honest self-reflection as a writer.

If I am able to change the things that I perceive to be negative in my life, will I still be able to keep the positive outcomes that was ignited by my pain?

Will I still have grit if I have nothing to run from? Will I still be able to write if I was totally happy with my life? Would it be worth giving up some of my grit in order to be at peace or relax more?

Would I even be me anymore? It was very confusing.

Some of the negative things in my life I turned into blessings. If I get rid of the bad, would I purge the good that came out of it as well?

Do I have to give up the good things I have to get the good things I want?

I guess the big question I can ask myself is why I didn’t do anything about the major problems until something else wasn’t working?

Why didn’t I start writing my book until I lost my job?

Why didn’t I ask for help until my house was almost on fire?

I was so upset when I lost my job, when my son was acting up, and when several appliances stopped working. But I now believe that God used these things for my own good to spur me into action that I needed to take. Maybe I am wrong, but I can’t believe that any of these things have been a coincidence.

 

 

 

Luke’s visit, part 8

Over the past year, both Mark and Luke quit drinking. I was a little worried about Mark a couple summers back. One morning he started drinking at the cabin before most of the family woke up. Luke was always a drinker. He knew everything there was to know about beer. Luke was also the comedian. He’s not funny anymore. It’s strange that I felt some sadness at the loss of his role. He always made us laugh which made going through hard times easier.

Luke was upset that our parents did not seem to want to hear what he had to say to them. He told them that he needed to talk to them for him. It wasn’t about him being emotionally supportive for them anymore. He needed this for him to heal. He quit being the comedian not all that long ago. But making us laugh made us feel better, not him.

Luke stripped himself of all coping mechanisms and dove right into the truth. He is relying on God to get him through this. Me, I like to dip my feet in the water and keep my coping mechanisms nearby. Maybe I’m okay with the lies I tell myself until I am ready to face the truth. What is wrong with that?

Mark played the part of the invisible middle child. He had an important role too. He was the one who advocated for my dad when my mom packed up the car with her stuff and was ready to leave. He kept the family together.

I played the part of the caregiver/counselor. I was always the ultra responsible first born. This has been my role since I can remember. I think it is going to be hard for me once my kids all leave home. I cared for my autistic brother Matt since I was a little kid. I still was his caregiver after my children were born up until he started acting violent towards them. Then I had my own family to care for.

Luke asked my husband how I cope. Paul told him that running helps me cope and it does. I don’t drink to cope. I could never let anything control me. But is that really true? I like to work and keep busy at all times. Perhaps that controls me since I can’t ever seem to relax. But how can working be a bad thing? What if my coping mechanisms aren’t unhealthy? Who can I hurt by having a clean house, etc?

I like to write about my experiences. But on the days when I write about the most difficult times, I feel very depressed. Paul said that although writing seems good for me, maybe I need a counselor. But I stubbornly resist the notion of anyone helping me with anything. I don’t want help. I don’t think I need it right now. I want to work through this on my own.

I will be okay. I am healing. But it is not always a beautiful process.

Personality strengths

A couple of months back, my daughter Angel was reading a book about personality strengths. I hinted that the book would make a wonderful Christmas gift idea for you know who. I was happy when I saw the CliftonStrengths book wrapped up under the tree for me.

My daughter has some amazing strengths…Woo, Communication, and Positivity to name a few of her top strengths..Compared to her, my top strengths probably make me seem like I am serial killer material.

I took the test online. It asked questions like..Do you focus more on your strengths or your weaknesses? Do you calm or excite people? Hmmm, interesting. It took a lot of thought, but you weren’t given a lot of time to answer the questions.

Here are my top 5 strengths:

  1. Restorative
  2. Achiever
  3. Deliberative
  4. Analytical
  5. Intellection

Restorative is the desire to take things apart, find the problems, and fix them. Problem solving…I am a fixer. I love giving advice. It drives my family insane. I am not a big listener. If someone comes up to me with a problem, I immediately start to work on solving it for them. Sometimes I help people, sometimes I annoy them.

I am very deliberative. It usually takes a long time to make a decision. I look at everything from all angles and can see forward into the if and then of the decision making process. I am very analytical in recognizing when patterns change or are off in any way. I can see all of the minute little details.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a counselor. It was big on my heart to fix broken people. I learned over time that I couldn’t fix people. The problems with people were glaring to me. I felt critical…if only you would change your path…if only you would stop hurting yourself. I just wanted to fix all of the broken people and take away their problems. It is probably a good thing that I didn’t end up being a counselor.

I am a big time achiever. I have to feel like I accomplished something every single day. I am not calm. I cannot relax. I cannot sleep in. I can’t take a day off to do nothing. I want to be a calm person. I fantasize about living a carefree life. But the drum of the taskmaster beats steadily in my head and I live with it. I get shit done. I am happy that way.

I am an intellectual. This strength for me also includes a lot of time spent in introspection. I think, think, think all of the time. The gears in my head always keep grinding.

I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. People don’t flock to me like I am the next best thing to whatever their best thing is. I am okay with that. I don’t need to be liked or even to feel popular for my well being. I don’t give a hoot about what people think of me. I would rather have deep conversations than talk to you about superficial fluff any day.

Let’s be honest…I am happy to be me.