At the beginning of last week, I could feel myself wobbling, and pretty soon felt the inevitable splat-against-wall crash point. I like to think that when I am thrown at a metaphorical wall, I make a metaphorical pretty shape too, and leave a work of art in my metaphorical imprint. Maybe I shape like a swan, or ballerina, so even the splat is graceful, in a weird splatty kind of way.
Sorry, I’m in a weird mood. I hope that the opening paragraph provided facepalms and exasperated giggles all round, nonetheless.
So I crashed at the beginning of last week, pretty spectacularly on all counts. Physiologically I was even affected, feeling dizzy and nauseous pretty much constantly, with a stabbing headache. Then fibro kicked in, of course. Moodwise, I rollercoasted from severely low to slightly dazed to giggly, and then back again. The lowness was extreme and frightening, at times pretty overwhelming. It catapulted from grief, to guilt, to despair and hurt at what I’d gone through…and then anger. This last mood is a fairly new experience for me. As a rule I bottle all of the anger. I associate anger with abusers, and I’m scared if I’m angry then I’m bad. But the anger is starting to break through. I get angry, and then fall back into guilt again, then back to grief. Cry my eyes out for a few hours, then remain in a dazed almost, but not quite, with-it state.
I decided to take the rest of the week off from uni stuff and spent most of it at home. I wanted to hide in bed, but rationally I knew this would be a disaster…I’d just sink further and further back into a spiral of depression. So I forced myself to do things. Creating mosaics proved to be especially good for my head, although smashing things with a hammer or playing with superglue, with tears streaming down my face, also turned out to be a little risky. I still have all of my fingers and they are still not glued together, but there were a couple of near misses!
I also did some drawing. I have so many hideous memories in my head and some of them I cannot find the words for. So I drew them. For some, I drew my mood. For others, I drew the factual element of the memory.
At times I felt so disconnected from the real world, that doing the simplest task was impossible. I simply forgot how to use a door handle, on one occasion. Or which foot my shoes go on. On another occasion, I stared at the bread in my hand and tried to remember how one ‘cooks’ it. The strange metal box on the counter (the toaster) stirred some recognition but I didn’t make the connection until hours later, after I’d given up trying to remember and had simply just eaten the bread – untoasted. I forgot several people’s names, even of those I’ve known for years. And there were many occasions of walking into a room and forgetting why/what I had planned to do, just seconds before. I locked myself out of the house (crucially, I had a cup of tea in my hand). Even after being locked out, I forgot which key is the house key. Sometimes, I’d start to talk, then forget what I was meant to be saying. Basically my mind was so pre-occupied with memories and the emotions, that basic concentration, cognition and memory had fallen out of the window. This wasn’t a permanent feature, and mostly occurred in my dazed periods, but still… it was unnerving. Vitally, I never forgot how to make a cup of tea.
On Thursday, I had a therapy session. Normally, if I’m in a bad place, I don’t tell her straightaway. I still feel nervous of admitting that I’m struggling. I convince myself everyone is judging me, hating me, thinking I deserve it. She’ll ask how I am, seeing from my face the real story, and I’ll say ‘fine.’ After a while I admit there’s a problem.
This session, however, I didn’t have the energy to pretend I’m okay. She asked how I was, and my response was to start crying. I hadn’t made eye contact. I said nothing for a moment, just letting myself cry, then said ‘I’ve crashed.’ As though I needed to point that out.
She offered me some tissues, and asked me what I meant by ‘crashed.’ I said I’d hit a wall, that everything was painful and overwhelming and I felt lost. She asked if anything had triggered it. I said I wasn’t sure. Physio hadn’t helped massively, and may well have been the final straw, but I’d been wobbly before that. I think it’s just the time of year.
I said there were some memories hurting me, really really hurting me. That I felt guilty for having survived. I miss the children. I miss my babies. I want my daughter. I want the children back. Why did I survive? I don’t want these memories. I don’t fucking want these memories. I don’t want my life to be real. I hate my life. God the memories are horrific. They’re so horrific…
This all came out in a tearful babble, followed by an incoherent string of sentences trying to describe some memories. I could see down the barrel of a gun. I said this. I said its like a kick to the stomach knowing this was a relatively normal sight for me as a child. That I wake up in the night terrified because I had a nightmare where I think I’m going to be shot. How they played games…giving us numbers…pulling numbers from a hat…if you’re number is pulled, you get given a ‘choice.’ Be shot, or be raped by the gun?
Sometimes I wonder what would have actually happened, had I chosen the first option. Would they have actually done it?
But what kind of sick ‘choice’ was that? The trauma from that ‘choice’ hit me as I described it to her, and I started hyperventilating. I cried harder. ‘I’m bad. I’m so bad.’ She asked me why. ‘Because they made me do bad things.’ I sobbed, doubled over. She gently replied, ‘they inflicted the worst form of psychological torture on all of you, actually. You’re not bad for being used as a tool and hurt so much. You were just a child…’
I felt one of my younger alters stirring. The last few sessions, she has come close to coming out, but never quite finding the courage too. This session, however, she did. I went inside, and out came one of my 4 year old little alters.
This is quite a breakthrough, because it displays a huge level of trust…
Apparently, this little came out and wiped our face, because she wasn’t upset and in need of crying. The tears stopped almost instantly. She shyly said hello to our therapist, who smiled back. Our therapist normally sits away from us, with a small coffee table in between, and with me nearest the door. Somehow, throughout the time the Little was out, this distance was bridged. Our therapist sat next to the Little, resting her hand gently and reassuringly on her shoulder, and talking kindly to her. The Little wanted to draw, so our therapist let her. She drew all the memories I couldn’t find the words to say. I saw these drawings when I came back, and was back in tears almost instantly. It’s not that the images shocked me – how could they, they’re permanently in my head? It’s seeing such horrific memories and images drawn out by a 4 year old, who’d also written her name as neatly as she could, though she’s still learning to write. At a glance, it looked like any child’s drawing…stickmen, slightly jagged lines, a bit messy etc. But the images are harrowing. On paper was the innocence, shattered. Right there, on the paper, was the innocence I had lost. It tore through me, and I felt a tremendous level of grief just for myself catch in my chest, and I sobbed again.
The Little apparently said to the therapist about drawing a ‘pretty picture’ – to her these images were so normal, it didn’t strike her that to anyone in the real world, the picture wasn’t pretty. She kept calling herself a ‘naughty girl’ so ‘bad things happen.’ Apparently the therapist repeated, gently but firmly, that it was not her fault…that she was not a bad girl…that nobody deserves to go through these things. The Little said ‘it scared me being locked in a cage.’
It was scary being locked in a cage, she’s right. It was terrifying 😥 and also dehumanising.
When I came back, the therapist stayed next to me. She asked if it was okay for her to rest her hand on my shoulder. This closeness, this bridging of trust, felt like a massive breakthrough. I didn’t hold back my tears like I normally do. I sat and cried, letting her sit next to me, and comfort me silently, as I stared at the heartbreaking child’s drawing in front of me. I cried and cried, and she said some words of comfort, and just let me cry.
Once I’d calmed a bit, we discussed the term ‘crashed.’ She said crying and allowing myself to feel the grief and process what happened is actually very healing – yes healing is painful, but it is nonetheless healing…positive. The word ‘crash’ makes it sound massively damaging, and wrong. It makes it sound like feeling and grieving is wrong. Sometimes collapsing is okay. Sometimes sobbing because the reality of what I’ve gone through is horrific, is okay. Healing is good. Crying is healing. It’s okay to take some time off now and again to just grieve about what has happened.
I listened to her, and I believed her. I felt physically awful from crying so much, and so much heartache from everything, but I also felt somehow better for the session, for letting go and letting the emotions and memories come out.
In so many ways the session was a breakthrough. I didn’t hold back on my emotions. One of my alters felt brave enough to trust our therapist, and show/talk to her about memories. We both felt safe enough and trusted her enough to let her sit by us, and comfort us, and reassure us. We both believed her. I’m scared of healing, a bit, because of how painful it is. But I felt a little less scared by her calmness and assurance that it was *okay* to be grieving and hurting.
It’s only right.
Even if it hurts so much.