Anchorlessness, Flashbacks & Change

It’s been nearly a month since my last entry. A few pretty difficult weeks have gone by. Went through a phase of feeling completely anchorless – like there was nothing but nothing holding me down, in terms of who I am and where I come from. And that’s a lot to deal with. That feeling of not knowing anything about my heritage.

I’ve spent the best part of my life trying to desperately tell myself that it really doesn’t matter, that I’m not interested in who my parents are. And, in some ways, I still hold true to that; this journey into Who Am I isn’t really about knowing who my parents were. What it is about, however, is which parts of them are recognisable in me? What qualities, good and bad, did I get from them? Or even those people who came before them. What has been passed down through the generations? Things that most other people have the luxury of knowing.

Another crucial aspect of this search for who I am is, of course, that just as the ups and sometimes very severe downs of my childhood has shaped the person I am today, so, too, have the choices my parents made. No matter which angle you look at it, the bottom line is that – as hard as it may have been – my mother did decide to give me up. Yes, there may very well have been reasons – good reasons – for this decisions; I’m  fairly sure that no mother would easily give their child up.

But that doesn’t change that simple fact; that that decisionwas made.

And it’s had a huge effect on me.

Having struggled with these questions, and the feelings they stir, spending a lot of time talking about it in session, I think I got to a point where I couldn’t quite handle it any more. This constant drumming of I have no idea where I come from, it got too much. And I think I needed to distance myself from it.

The issue didn’t come up naturally in therapy; it was introduced. And although I know that this is absolutely something I need to be dealing with, need to work through, I think it was a little too much a little too soon. I don’t think I was ready to work all the way through it just yet. I know that, with time, I will eventually make my way through all of these huge and existentially fundamental questions. But, for now, I think I just needed a break.

Unfortunately a break from one thing doesn’t necessarily mean that everything goes back to being nice and neat. There is always a bit of an emotional hang-over.

Also, in the last two weeks I’ve started having flashbacks again. It hasn’t gone into a full-blown, all-consuming and seemingly endless period of flashbacks, but I have had a few evenings where there has been quite a lot of them, and it makes things difficult, because – apart from the flashbacks in themselves being pretty horrendous – it makes it very hard to commit to things. And so these last two weeks I’ve had to miss out on things that I’d really wanted to do, because having a flashback in public isn’t really ideal.

I do believe that these flashbacks happen for a reason; maybe as a sign that I’m psychologically more ready to look at what actually happened when I was a child. I mean, as far as the abuse goes, I haven’t really got any repressed memories; I remember pretty much all of it – but the flashbacks brings them to life in a way that memories don’t. Firstly you have absolutely no control over when a flashback will happen, and therefore you also have no way of shielding yourself from the impact of the experience. It’s like – for a moment – existing in complete simultaneous reality. [To see a drawing I made last year trying to illustrate what that’s like, check out my entry What Words Can’t Express – A Visual Explanation of Flashbacks].

I have been able to talk about the flashbacks in detail with A., and I think that’s a really big step. Some of the incidents that have come up as flashbacks have been some of the most difficult memories of the abuse. Some of them I have talked about before in therapy. But, as I was explaining to A. the other day, even though I’ve talked about a specific incident before, each time feels like the first time, because in between each time I’ve become more able to stay connected emotionally with the memory. The first times I talked about it; in the police interview and in court it was easy; I was completely and utterly emotionally detached from it, and therefore I could retell things in graphic detail without skipping a beat. The first time I talked about it in therapy I was still switching off emotionally to a degree, and although it wasn’t by any means easy to talk about it, I could do it, because the emotional impact was limited.

This time around I feel that I have been able to stay much more connected. It’s a pretty big deal for me, seeing as my chief defence mechanism has always been the ability to switch off all feelings at will. I still fall into that trap every now and then, but I do work hard at noticing when I’m doing it, and trying to find my way back to that emotional place, because, painful as it is –that’s where change happens.

Anyway, good people of the blog-reading world, I’d best stop there. Time for evening prayers and settling down time.

Be good to your Selfs.

xx

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Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow – Looking Back Is Looking Forward

Having one of them days again. You know. The kind when you struggle to get out of bed, despite the sun shining outside of your window – or possibly because the sun is shining outside the window. I dunno. Or, actually, I do know. I just think my reason for getting like this is a bit lame..

It’s his birthday today. Consequently the day I least want to celebrate or even remember. Only I do. Remember it, I mean. Not celebrate. It seems impossible for me to just forget it. Every year it reminds me of his existence, the effect he’s had on my life and even, for better or worse, the person that I am.

On the more positive side it’s my sister’s birthday on Tuesday. Something I do want to celebrate. For all the difficulties in my life, I am blessed to have the two best sisters the universe has ever seen. They do get me through an awful lot of things, just by being who they are, and by allowing me to share in their lives. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Tomorrow is two years to the day since I was first admitted to the women’s crisis centre. I think back and realise how much my life has changed since then. It’s almost unrecognisable. Back then I was one of those people who poured all of me, all my energy, into my job and I was struggling with the idea that I wasn’t able to work. In all honesty, I still struggle with that, because, I like working, I like feeling like I’m of some use to the world around me. But, I can also see that I needed that time off. That it’s been useful and necessary. Had I not taken that time, I doubt it I would still be here now.

As I’ve mentioned before I do some unpaid work these days. Not much, but enough to feel like it makes a difference. And recently I’ve actually upped the hours, which I think is a step in the right direction. I may not feel quite ready to go back to full-time paid employment, but I do enjoy having a sense of purpose in what little work I do do. Also, I am toying with the idea of studying. More than toying, really – but we’ll see if anything comes of it.

I have three long-term goals that I’m working towards. Life-time goals, more accurately, and I feel pretty sure that I will find a way to make them happen. I just don’t know how soon or in what order.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter. The point is that I have those goals. I think it’s important to have goals, a sense of journey, of going somewhere. Sure enough, life throws you curve-balls, and sometimes you simply can’t catch them; you have to settle for dodging them. But all the same, having a goal does help with all that.

I was at synagogue yesterday morning, and I was sitting – as I always do – with a person who is a long-standing member of the congregation. And I was thinking to myself: How blessed am I?

Two years ago I was at a place where I saw no meaning at all in sticking around. I just wanted to pack up, close the shop,catch the bus. And yet, here I was, two years later, in a place I’d never thought I’d find myself, with people I would never have met, feeling completely and utterly filled with gratitude. Thinking that I wouldn’t want to miss this for anything.

And this is what I try to keep in mind today, struggling as I am with difficult thoughts and feelings – that, if I don’t find a way to make it through today, that means I won’t be here tomorrow.

And if I’m not here tomorrow, who’s to say I won’t be missing out on a day like yesterday?

xx

Heather Nova’s live version of Gloomy Sunday