Yesterday, I felt less sane than I have in a long time.
What I find difficult is that I don’t know why my thoughts and feelings are there. I don’t know what in the present is bringing it on exactly–although I have general ideas–or what happened in the past that it is connected to. It makes it hard to really know what to do or how to approach it, and it’s disconcerting to have my brain just not make sense.
My idea about it is that distortions arise as a result of dysregulated feelings. Emotions affect our thoughts. When our emotions are intense, our thoughts become extreme and based on less actual evidence. When the emotions are calmer, the thoughts become more reality-based.
I don’t think the majority of problems that show up in complex trauma are intrusions from the past. I think the larger problem is dysregulation–which I think shows up as an issue for three different reasons.
The first is that the children are abused by parents who lack regulation skills. They have little to teach. So the child does not learn the emotion-management and coping skills that adult life requires.
The second is that traumatic experiences are by their nature emotionally intense and confusing. They are all the more confusing because you are alone in them–no one is on your side. Which also means no one is in there with you making sense of the experience alongside you and working with you on the best way to manage it. We make sense of things together, even in emergencies when we are acting quickly, without discussion. We know how others understand the experience by looking at how they behave.
During childhood trauma, your parents’ way of making sense of things does not make any sense. The child is distressed and needs help from the parent, and the parent responds to the child’s distress by acting as thought the child is herself the threat. But the child is small and helpless. The response to the child makes no sense.
The third is that because the adults in the family lack regulation and coping skills, denial and avoidance become go-to strategies. There are quite a number of reasons this might happen, but one of them is that you can be quite helpless and still use them. Even infants can look away from distressing stimuli. This means that distressing topics are frequently not thought about, discussed or even known. If a child vocalizes her distress, the parent directly or indirectly reminds the child not to think about it, not to talk about it and not to know about it so that the family will not be overwhelmed by distress and cease to be able to function at all.
If something can’t be known, it can’t really be responded to either, and the emotions of it don’t get regulated.
And when the stimulus is too intense and too difficult to avoid, things just spin out.
I am trying to keep things from spinning out, and it’s not really going swimmingly. I spent a lot of time yesterday in an emotional place of not feeling wanted, of really feeling–why do I need to be here? If I am not wanted, why can’t I just leave?
And it wasn’t clear to me why I was thinking about that or why the feelings of not being wanted were surfacing so intensely. Certainly, my friend does not want me here now and, of course, that hurts. But it feels less connected to that and more connected to reaching out to a therapist and more connected to getting things together for Country X and for looking for another job.
I do have this idea that my brain is telling me other experiences that have been like this, but my lexicon for talking about the past is mostly behaviours and images, because they haven’t been articulated before, and the things in the past that they are connected to need to be understood also.
I began to think I feel like I need to hide. I was rejected and I feel embarrassed about it, and what I have been doing is sort of hiding, and this seems to connect to other experiences of hiding.
In the past, what I think I have done is told myself, “This is a distortion. You aren’t unwanted and you don’t need to hide.” In other words, don’t think about this. Don’t know about it. Be a good girl, and keep up the avoidance.
I have gone downtown a few times for various things–I had library books to return, and there was one other day I thought it might just help to have a change of scene and walk around. I have stopped in at the cathedral there both times. I don’t know what I really believe these days, in terms of religion, but I do know faith has some degree of meaning for me.
I was thinking about this last night, about feeling unwanted so painfully and yet still feeling forced to go though life with this unbearable pain, along with the hiding and church, and I thought, “This has to do with memory.”
The feeling of being unwanted is reminding me of something specific that happened that I wasn’t able to make sense of at the time, and I probably need to make sense of it now in order to be able to get on with things.
I think this was about someone else feeling unwanted and committing suicide. I had remembered this before, and it’s one those things when later, after the memory surface, I wasn’t entirely sure it was real or what parts of it might have been me trying to fill in the gaps of a story too much.
There was someone named Maksyma. I think we may have called her Ksymcia. She was very soft and kind and gentle–she had just a quiet, gentle spirit. I remember she smelled like cookies. I suppose that means she smelled like spices to me: ginger and nutmeg and cinnamon. And I think she died.
She was Catholic, and it seems to me that’s the reason I have been drawn to going to a Catholic church. I have been reminded of her lately, and I am searching for her. These are searching behaviours, to go to things that would remind me of her more.
I think she was about 13 years old when she died. I am not sure how old I was. I think I found her hanging in her hotel room–apparent suicide.
I think this, in fact, is the memory most deeply connected to not being able to find someone, and the primary reason I panic when I don’t know where C is or I am not able to get in contact with her. It’s connected to a memory of literally running through a cheap hotel, trying to find someone, but I have not in the past known who I was looking for or whether I found them.
Well, I think I did find someone. I found Ksymcia and she was dead.
It’s possible this is connected to the feeling of hiding for me, because I may have hid after finding her. I may have been so frightened at seeing her dead body, that I hid in the closet. I hid in the closet witnessing a murder in one of those rooms, and I may have enacted the same behaviour in response to a similar experience of death.
Or I may be mixing things up.
How do I say this? Ksymcia felt such deep pain and fear and humiliation that she did not stay on this earth, and she died.