Day 192: Particularly Painful and Healing
Whew. It is so late that it is now yesterday I am writing about. I spent time with my sister this evening. It was good. We went through play lists and introduced music to one another. We have always shared a great passion for music and enjoy exchanging new discoveries.
This evening I went out to dinner with AF after a particularly long work day. We have several projects with increasing pressure demands and deadlines looming. We spent the whole day together, which was much needed by me because I'll be out of town the next three days. I'm going to miss her.
At work today AF treated my neck and shoulders. And the most amazing thing happened. I experienced no triggers! We were in a public space and I wouldn't have even allowed the treatment if I felt at risk of being triggered. I felt comfortable and free of anxiety about being touched, being vulnerable. After crying yesterday in addition to the treatment at her house on Tuesday, I felt safe. The treatment was effective and felt really good. It cleared my headache and stopped the pain that was snaking its way into my left wrist. That woman really can work miracles!
I brought with me tonight a picture of myself at 8 years old. It is a photo that haunts me. It is close in time to the first r*. I believe within 9 months afterward. In the picture I am smiling with a child's button nose, a face full of freckles, and dimples in each cheek. I wanted to scan the photo and load it up for a posting here, but after conversation with AF tonight I decided not to post it. I also wanted to show the photo to AF to introduce her to Little Intrepid, the one she's been holding and soothing. I had the photo with me when we were together this morning but I couldn't bring myself to show it to her. Instead I brought it to my office and left it there. While we were working in her office I mentioned it. My office is in a separate building a distance away. I wasn't able to show the photo to her. She did say, however, she wanted to see it. I agreed to show it to her later. So, I brought it with us to dinner.
When I showed it to her I told her I wanted to introduce the two of them. She was wonderful in her response. She said she wanted to hug her. I thought, "You have. Many times." I put the photo away and we enjoyed the rest of our dinner. We laughed and laughed, teasing one another and generally just enjoying each other's company. She has a delightful sense of humor and playfulness that paints a smile on my heart when I'm with her. Because of the treatment she gave me earlier I was feeling at ease and didn't have much of a reaction to showing her my photo. If I had shown it to her first thing today it probably would have triggered my grief. But, after dinner, after having my neck worked on, it was a little sad but not intensely painful.
After dinner she wanted to stop at a clothing store to look for a particular shirt she likes. I followed along sort of awkwardly waiting, trying not to be too conspicuous. I always feel conspicuous in a clothing store. I don't belong there. She asked me how often I shop for myself. "Very rarely," I said. She accepted that answer. I didn't want her to cut her own shopping short because of me being uncomfortable. I kept trying to think of things to say or do to make myself fit in better. She talked to me more as she looked around. I couldn't really focus. I guess I dissociated because I don't remember now what we talked about while in the store.
We left the store. As we drove along the parking lot I talked about having to purchase my own clothes after about 12 years old. I had a paper route and baby sat to earn the money. We started to pull out of the parking lot, but she changed her mind at the last moment. She pulled into a spot, needing to do something, I can't remember what. Then she turned to me and said something along the lines of, "Talk to me. What's going on." I knew I was feeling anxious and triggered because of how I felt in the clothing store. I knew it was because of the years of abuse. I had a very, very hard time forming sentences to express what was inside me. But I knew exactly what it was. It was shame. I kept looking at the sky through my dark sunglasses. She asked me a number of questions. I tried to explain. "I just never learned. I couldn't. He. I learned how to act like other people, to mimic their emotional expressions, how to behave in social settings. But, I couldn't learn this. I just. I never. My mom never taught me. I didn't understand other kids. I didn't have a chance. I never learned . . . my . . . gender . . . role."
Tears were forming and sobs were fighting for release. She said to me, "Take off your glasses. I can't see your eyes." I did, but I kept looking at the sky. She asked me to look her in the eyes. This always pulls me out of dissociation. My T, of course, told me looking off in the distance is a dissociation strategy. AF knows that as well. She pulls me back by asking me to look her in the eyes. It's hard for me. But, eventually I'm able to do it, even if only for a few seconds at a time. She told me it's OK that I haven't learned this. She offered to be my big sister and teach me.
With those words a sob broke the surface and I tried to push it back in. I grabbed my head trying desperately to control the grief. She touched my arm and tears surged forcefully out. I cried, "I can't understand why you would want to do that for me." She pulled me into her arms and I cried on her shoulder, clinging tightly, desperately to her. I felt like I was splitting apart. The tears were more intense than yesterday. I can't believe I cried like that three times in one week! Oh, but how I needed those tears and the comforting that came with them. I coughed out the tears for a good while. At least, it seemed like a good while to me. It was agonizing. I told her I am frightened about this topic.
She said comforting words and reassured me. She again expressed her understanding and love for me, stroking the back of my head. I told her I thought I was permanently broken. She vehemently disagreed. She pointed out all of the healing I have achieved so far. She also told me she wouldn't be friends with me if I was permanently broken. She reminded me of what has happened just this week alone. She said I am healing and it takes time.
I realized this particular splinter was deeper, bigger, and in a more tender area. But, as she did yesterday, she gently helped me extract it. I don't think we extracted the whole thing. The shame I feel on this issue runs deep. After the tears ran out we sat and talked. She asked why this one was more painful. I said, "I think it's because there are many layers. It relates to my mom's neglect, the abuse of kids at school, my step-father, and many other things that happened." Finally, I was calm and we were able to head out. It was very late.
She said she was sorry she triggered me. I responded as I have before that it really wasn't her. I was triggered because of my past. There is a long list of things that serve as triggers for me. We are bound to encounter them. And, because I am safe with her, they are going to surface. I need to be able to allow that to happen. She agreed. But, she said she doesn't want to cause me pain. I said she isn't causing the pain, she's helping me deal with it. I am able to release it because of her. Then I thanked her for pulling on that thread tonight by asking me what was going on. I said it helps me a great deal when she does that. It tells me she has time and is in a space herself to contend with my grief.
I told her this creates safety for me. She establishes the boundary by letting me know she can be with me. At first she felt bad. She said she's not sure how far to go, if she should reach out to me like that. I said, "Please do. If you have time and energy, if you are inclined to ask, please do. It tells me you're available. It gives me permission. Right now I am in need of letting the grief out just about all the time. Obviously I can't do that. I need to wait for the right moments. You asking me tells me it's a good moment for you. And, it helps me open up to the emotions inside me."
I am completely spent now. I need to go to bed and sleep in as long as possible tomorrow. Thankfully, I am absolutely sure I will sleep well. I have been able to release a lot of pain. I feel relieved. I feel safe. And I feel loved.