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wanted love, got reality

He loves me... He loves me not...

He loves me… He loves me not…

So, the Universe brings me a single male who is also a member of ACA and CoDA and whom I met at a Non-Violent Communication workshop; but the kicker is, he has four kids, is currently losing his house and in the throws of divorce.

After we have known each other for a few weeks, engaged in a fairly intense dialogue with each other over FB, attended several meetings, and spent a couple of evenings together over dinner, camp fire, beach and the like, he communicates that he feels attracted to me, doesn’t want a relationship any time soon, like for a few years at least, does not want to lead me on, but does want to experience physical intimacy that is not romantic or sexual (“nothing that would be considered by either of us to be exclusive”).

As he communicates this to me, I feel the beginnings of a very specific and very familiar pain — the pain of a man abandoning me, the pain that throbs through my chest, out my limbs and through my fingers and toes. The pain of abandonment by a male is the only pain that feels this way. The only thing that seems to comfort it in the height of its intensity is things like lying in an empty bathtub for an hour. This is the only situation that expresses the hard, impoverished, isolation I feel.

The next day, the Universe brought me two members of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, who are also members of CoDA with me. I asked for their support and sharings regarding SLA, and the three of us went out for coffee together. We identified that there was definitely an aspect of “taboo” that had been engaged here, by his statement that he feels an attraction but does not want a relationship, but does want to continue spending time together. We identified that it feels like a bottle of liquor to an alcoholic. I want a hit. I’m not just talking about sex here; actually it has little to do with sex at all. What it has to do with is the situation of intimacy that is not allowed, or has to be kept secret. The drama. I want a hit of the drama of secret intimacy. (I deem the kind of intimacy he is wanting as secret because this would not look good at all from the outside from the perspective of most people. Most would see any close relationship between us as unhealthy and inappropriate.)

I wondered allowed how to not have to cut him out of my life all together, but keep myself emotionally safe at the same time. I wondered allowed if it actually is possible for a man and a woman to experience intimacy without sex or romance, and spoke a desire to believe that it really is. The response was that yes, it is possible; but not by a Love Addict at the beginning of her recovery, who has already been triggered by this person. Damn.

There’s already a sense of shame that I am feeling all this, while he is feeling lighter and carefree and relieved to have spoken what he is wanting and not wanting. There is a feeling that something is wrong with me, and that it if I spoke about how I am feeling with him, I would be rejected and abandoned. A perception that my feelings here prove how defective I am.

Yesterday, I was too tired to go on a recovery hike with him and a group of recovery people in the morning, as we had done last weekend, and as I would love to continue, with or without him. By the afternoon, I felt left out and desperately bored and lonely. I decided to see how it felt to go on a hike with him, seeing as how he was willing and open to this.

So, the hike was boring. We were tame with each other. I felt a little shut down, keeping my 12 year old at bay, in line, appropriate, safe. So I was not fully present. I was holding back. He also seemed frustrated and bored. So that’s how it would be. Wow. Sucks pretty good.

I got home feeling glad to have gotten out, gotten some exercise, had some human interaction; but I also felt still very empty. I was relieved the day was almost over, extremely tired, and for the first time in several years, I went to bed before nine pm. Before I went to sleep though, my 12-year old needed to be heard. I needed to acknowledge that I was sad and grieving. I am so bummed that I can’t have this person. I can’t have romance in my life right now. I can’t enjoy feeling attracted to someone and flirting with them. All this is true in addition to the fact that my addict is wanting to escape into an intense emotional experience that is chaotic, just to get a hit of sex instead of intimacy, ’cause that’s all I deserve (addict says).

Before I slept, I felt some peace by typing to this person:

“Thanks for the outing today — I’m very grateful for the element of fun and nature it brought me. I really needed it. And, whether I am in the throws of resisting addiction, or just another human heart seeking love; I would also like to acknowledge that I find myself feeling a little sad. Even though I knew it wasn’t realistic, and almost without the rest-of-me’s knowing or permission, my little girl had started to get excited about the experience of romance in my life. I’m a little embarrassed, a little ashamed, a little glad that I responded positively to the prospect; but there is grieving going on in me. Maybe it is mostly old grief, but however old it is, it is present in me; and I want to be honest about it. I don’t need much except acknowledgement here. I just need to share this with you. I am sad, and figuring out how to be open and vulnerable with you without feeling romantic. thanks for witnessing. Hope it’s okay to share this way. I didn’t ask first. It’s hard for me to share this.”

This morning, he writes (writing and reading are not very easy for him):

“Thank you too, for the outing and this message. That I imagine took courage I receive it happily as a gift. Writing is not so easy for me so going to keep it short.wink
Thanks. Much caring, (name)”

And, this morning, I have written:

“I may have to disengage a little bit. I don’t think I”m able to offer the physical intimacy you are looking for at this point and certainly not one on one. I became triggered when I interpreted the word ‘unavailable’ from you last week on the phone, at which point I began regressing to being 12 again. The sadness, rejection, abandonment, shame, as well as intensified and immature desire, all started flowing.
i have no resentments or anger towards you. I don’t think you could have done anything differently, nor would it have altered what is happening for me now.   … have a wonderful Sunday.    … I will still be glad to see you in our various recovery group capacities and will continue to take it one day at a time. (Name)”

What leads me to sharing all this with you this morning is the sadness I feel. The long-standing, most enduring sadness and longing.  I wish I could stop feeling it. I wish I could turn it off. It is an excessive reaction to the present that is the result of a suppressed reaction to the past. Damn that.

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one’s positivity is another’s trauma

I’ve had several opportunities lately to affirm, identify and stand up for what is right for me in the face of what I perceive as being the popular culture’s view of health and well-being, and in some cases, ignorance, and a lack of respect or compassion. I’m learning to give it to myself where others fall short, and to give extra to others wherever I am able.

I’ve noticed that I aspire to the affections of one particular person in my professional sphere, to a degree that is a little bit unhealthy. I want her to be a certain way so that I can see her in a certain way. I see so much potential for us to be kindred spirits, and yet, we’ve now known each other for over a year, and our connection still has yet to be authentic. But the other day, I think I discovered a big part of why this is the case.

Y has built a life around spirituality and cultural practices, and she runs her business on principles of communication and community engagement that I admire. It’s interesting to notice people returning to spirituality via very different routes — some through trauma and loss and some through a sincere and heartfelt desire to create peace and healing in the world. In Y, I see the later. At times, we speak each other’s heart, but at times, I perceive her as naive and superficial; I perceive that she has not come to this place from having been to the breaking point and back and I feel that this keeps us separate. We were carpooling to a class a couple of days ago, and talking about changing habits and recurring dynamics in our lives. In her experience, she has been able to change these dynamics by making a conscious decision to change them. Always put her things back in their place so that she is not scrambling around looking for them and arriving late to her engagements; make a point of remembering names of musicians and actors and people in general by realizing the importance of doing so.

We were talking about the pattern of perpetual chaos — last-minute plans, changes, missing or losing things, etc. She spoke about it in her husband. I said I relate to him, and that this pattern seems compulsive and deeply rooted; that in order to change it, I have to discover what the root of it is. She responded with a metaphor of the ocean floor affecting surface wave patterns — that we can change the ocean floor by changing the wave patterns, with small acts of change in our daily lives. In the moment, I responded that it was a two-way communication. It wasn’t until retrospect that I realized this is really a very big issue for me, and that her analogy brings up a lot of shame in me. Why am I toiling away trying to get to the roots when I could just change the surface patterns and have the same affect? Am I stupid? And if I have tried for half my life to change the surface patterns by simply disciplining myself to make small changes in my life, and if I have failed, then I must be a total loser — stupid, lazy, … you get the picture.

Seabed

Seabed (Photo credit: s__i)

There seems to be such a predominant notion these days that we can change ourselves from the top down. that we can choose how we feel. we create our own reality (surface waves). no matter the past or the balance of chemicals in our brain. I know this is meant to be empowering and encouraging. I speak here for someone who has experienced traumatic invalidation from her earliest years, and I know that I am not just speaking for myself here when I say that each ripple in the ocean floor — each invalidating experience, — especially those that have been shaped and hardened by years and years of denial and repression, needs to finally be fully seen and understood before it will dissolve. An invalidation is like a piece of me that has been lost, banished, shamed into exile. Changing the surface waves without seeing, acknowledging and reclaiming those lost parts of me is like re-banishing them, re-traumatizing them, digging the knife in deeper, rejecting myself all over again. To me, it is a violent act of dysfunction and destruction. The very essence of the dis-ease I must cure in myself, and the damage I must repair. These notions of top-down transformation, even though they may come with the best of intentions, are like a carcinogen to me.

_________________________________________________

At an afternoon of food and games with 3 other women, a woman I had just met discovered I am an only child and exclaimed at how totally normal and ‘ok’ I seemed (not like other only children she’d met). I immediately felt pressured to keep up the reputation, and almost instantaneously stopped being genuine. I was like an icon on a computer desktop that suddenly became greyed and un-clickable. No one noticed because 2 of the others then began digesting all their friends and family dramas. Someone’s husband had an anger outburst, and his wife had told one of the women at the table this day that “he can’t help it.” The woman telling the story rolled her eyes, and the other one joined her. Then the other one launched into a vent about one of her friends — how she had deeply wanted to come and play with us, but that she would probably be too sensitive. That she was one of those annoying people who would let things fester, and then bring them up several days or even weeks later. Do you think I said, “Wow, that sounds like me!”? No, I did not. I continued to laugh at appropriate times and make little jokes and chime ins for a while, but the two just continued on their catch-up vent session. I’m proud of myself that I eventually got up and went out side, not needing to explain myself or make judgements. I wasn’t even very aware of what was really happening at the time; all I remember feeling was bored, out of place, and then reminding myself that I was not obligated to stay in this situation, and liberating myself away from it.

What I like about this group of women is that they are incredibly free-spirited and liberated from the mainstream. I am shocked that the 2 gossipers are such good friends of the hostess, who I have known to be so open-minded and non-judgemental (while being extremely intelligent, sensitive and creative). I had been excited to meet her friends and begin a weekend ritual of scrabble and the likes. Now? I guess I am grieving that my little fantasy of this group isn’t true. Either I be willing to challenge them and learn whether or not they are receptive, or my quest for a sense of family continues. At this point, I cannot know them well enough to know whether it is even worth my while to find out more. So, that’s where I sit in this moment.

__________________________________________________

If all these women, and Y from the story above, had been dressed in leathers shooting up with heroin, it would have been more obvious that they are not my crowd, but the Universe does not always speak so black and white. There’s that damn subtlety again. The Universe speaks through the way I feel in my heart and body in response to any given situation or idea. I am exercising the muscle to listen and respond to these communications, as disappointing as it may be to let go of what I want a situation or person to be. Maybe I am being trained to listen on a deeper level.


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authentic living

 

'You are Your Path' by Michael Leunig (enhanced by Underground)

'You are Your Path' by Michael Leunig (enhanced by Underground)

It has been a time of relative balance, which is, of course, always precarious. I don’t think I have changed so much as how I have reacted to what I have learned about myself–how I have started to live my life accordingly.

The things I would say that are different now, from before my diagnosis are:

1) I can’t do as much as I used to do. I need more time and space to process thoughts and experiences.

2) I am easily and severely exhausted, requiring extended periods of home time — reading, cooking, cleaning, walking, watching tv, playing games, crocheting, writing and napping.

3) Little tiny stressors or worries can build up in me and cause a crisis — this is still hard to recognize before it hits.

4) I get stressed and overwhelmed easily if there are too many things on my brain to do; I can carry much fewer things on my list than I used to.

5) I need regular, meaningful human contact, via coda, or a growing list of like-minded friends or I will start to feel isolated and forget that it’s ever felt different.

6) I need to write and pray daily to maintain a humble stance — that I can be my best when I accept my eccentricities. Lose the ego that wants to be a star, impress or be anything extraordinary. I am a sensitive person whose well-being is delicate. I need extra care (which I can give to myself).

7) I still struggle with self care and regularity. I don’t do the grocery shopping, which means I have energy to self-care and have some remote resemblance of a social life. I cook infrequently and still rely a lot on my family to make sure I eat semi-regularly.

8) I rely on sleeping pills to sleep, often and especially if there is anything in particular to anticipate the next day. I find it difficult to relax enough to sleep, let go of the external stimuli of books, tv or Internet and retreat into the sleeping state.

9) when things are relatively stable, I feel confused or unsure of reality. My sense of self is blurred, and this causes some anxiety and/or depression.

quote by John Wesley


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dialectic gems (or pebbles)

nina_warminger_onthefence

'On the Fence' by Nina Warminger

random ping pong

identity like a light bulb

that swings

between

the hero and the fool
the gracious queen and the awkwardly misfortuned beggar
infinite connection and indefinite isolation
hip, chic, sophistocated and hippy go lucky
girl, woman and mental patient next door
unique, special, beautiful soul and
strange, ugly, terminally missing the boat.

sources of social anxiety
confusion, shame
for feeling like a fraud
but what else can i be

i can only truly roam
with others who travel
these fence posts
rarely traversing on either side for long
seeking refuge on the borders
outskirts, inbetweens and etherworlds

we are both, all and sundry or none

we are in between

suspended slightly off the ground in motion


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visceral emotion

'my cup runneth over' by Leah Day

'my cup runneth over' by Leah Day

Sensation of anxiety as a physical symptom — tension in my shoulders, upwards pressure on my collar bone. Stuck in a permanent inhale. Fear of rejection and abandonment. Shame over rejecting someone else. Horror of being judged, misunderstood.


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trusting perception + trauma is trauma

unknown artist

unknown artist

For many years, I have lived with a massive confusion in me over how to view my past, and therefore, who I am in the present. whether I am over-dramatizing or minimizing the dysfunction I grew up with, and the adverse events that have happened in my life. I believe this indecision is at the heart of my confusion around identity, personality, status, and whether or not I can trust my own perceptions.

A person I had been dating for a couple of weeks told me last night that they had suffered through “way worse” experiences than me. In the context of our conversation around living together, which felt absolutely ridiculous for me to consider at this point, I took this to mean that he was telling me I should be able to get over my past to be able to live with him. I felt my blood beginning to boil, and in that moment of sudden, acute and brilliant clarity, exited the vehicle immediately, and walked away.

I am, growing more than I have in many years, feeling more joy, spontaneity, laughter and playfulness. I realized last night that this person had been telling me very subtly and indirectly, whenever I expressed needing to move slowly in relationship, that I am putting my own walls up, somehow limiting myself, not being as much as I can be. It is amazing how loving and caring a totally dysfunctional person can appear, seeming spiritual and evolved and enlightened and self-sufficient, meanwhile failing to follow through with any plans or intentions or promises; getting lost, injuring himself, and depending on others for many things. What I realized was that my involvement with this person was like going around in circles. In one moment, he would proclaim that he never got angry, in the next, he would say how angry he was; one moment, he would say he wasn’t dependent on anyone, in the next, he would proclaim that he needed to get his license so he could be more independent. ! And on, and on, and on. It was another opportunity for me to practice reading between the lines and listening to what my inner gut was telling me, even if it was the exact opposite of all the words I had been longing to hear, or of all the things I felt were really going on, deep in my gut. Words can lie, actions cannot.

And that is the link to the source of the confusion epicenter in me and my original trauma of invalidation. That people and situations are not what they seem, or appear to be. The experience of perceiving something that no one else is perceiving, such as abuse, emotions, or relationship dynamics. Because I was a child at the time of the original trauma, instead of judging everyone else as being blind, I developed a chronic confusion, a chronic state of doubt towards my ability to perceive reality. My caregivers and eventually the entire community surrounding me simply denied my truth by inaction – a lack of response to an unhealthy situation–and I became the crazy one. It was this experience that caused the loss of stability in my sense of inner self. And here I was, experiencing it again. Another chance to trust and act on my own perceptions, despite the appearance or the insistence of others that they are wrong.

There is nothing in my past that fits the American Psychological Association’s description of trauma (“… an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster”). I wasn’t raped or bombed, starved, bullied or beaten, and my parents weren’t alcoholics or drug addicts. So why do I exhibit symptoms of a survivor? What can I possibly have to complain about, when so many others have had it seemingly so much worse than me? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just get my shit together?

My therapist at VIHA recently presented me with a definition of trauma echoing the one I found on the free online dictionary: “An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis. An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.”

“…leading to neurosis.” According to Dr. George Boeree, effects of neurosis can involve:

“…anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc., behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc., cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. Interpersonally, neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, and socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc.”

Wikipedia defines trauma as:

“… a single experience, or an enduring or repeating event or events, that completely overwhelm the individual’s ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved with that experience. …

“There is frequently a violation of the person’s familiar ideas about the world and of their human rights, putting the person in a state of extreme confusion and insecurity. This is also seen when people or institutions, depended on for survival, violate or betray or disillusion the person in some unforeseen way.”

Helpguide.org defines trauma as “[a] severely disturbing experience that leads to lasting psychological or emotional impairment,’ and lists the following events as “[c]ommonly overlooked causes of psychological trauma”:

  • Falls or sports injuries
  • Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life)
  • The sudden death of someone close
  • A car accident
  • The breakup of a significant relationship
  • A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
  • The discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition

The HelpGuide website states that “[t]rauma can also stem from ongoing, relentless stress …” and goes on to say:

“Not all potentially traumatic events lead to lasting emotional and psychological damage. Some people rebound quickly from even the most tragic and shocking experiences. Others are devastated by experiences that, on the surface, appear to be less upsetting. People are more likely to be traumatized by a stressful experience if they’re already under a heavy stress load or have recently suffered a series of losses.”

Silvano Arieti’s Interpretation of Schizophrenia, originally published in 1955, also sheds some interesting light on the definition of trauma:

layered vogue covers

layered vogue covers

“… conditions of obvious external danger, as in the case of wars, disasters, or other adversities … do not produce the type of anxiety that hurts the inner self and do not themselves favor schizophrenia. Even extreme poverty, physical illness, or personal tragedies do not necessarily lead to schizophrenia unless they have psychological ramifications that hurt the sense of self. Even homes broken by death, divorce or desertion may be less destructive than homes where both parents are alive, live together, and always undermine the child’s conception of himself.”

The fact is, that saying others have suffered more than me and that I am not justified to need healing has simply not served me well in my life. In fact, it has eaten me from the inside out like a termite. How many years and how much energy did I waste trying to pretend to be “normal” and “okay” because there was no obvious reason for me to not be okay? There was no reason to not be okay, so I must be okay, and if I’m not okay, then I am horribly defective and I should rot in hell.

That was the prison I lived in. That is the prison I am letting myself out of by adopting a more inclusive understanding of what trauma is.

'light in her eyes' by Lucy Lumis

'light in her eyes' by Lucy Lumis

A very many of the symptoms of trauma are the same as those of Borderline Personality Disorder, which is said to stem from a combination of external events and personal character traits–specifically, intensity of emotions and emotional sensitivity. In other words, an event may not be experienced as traumatic by one individual, but extremely traumatic by another person who possesses the emotional intensity and sensitivity.

I am starting to understand that I have traits of a survivor because trauma is a subjective experience.  The events in my life are subtle in comparison to others, but my emotional responses are not. I am an emotionally intense and sensitive person who has experienced several of the definitions of trauma cited here in this article. Whether my official diagnosis is trauma or Borderline Personality Disorder, my sense of inner self has been damaged from very early on by the false faces of denial – the disparity between what is spoken and what I feel. Subsequent traumas have deepened the wound and created new ones with prolonged periods of extreme stress, depression and pressure. My life in the last 2 years covers pretty much every category under the DSM-IV’s Axis IV, which is used for, “…reporting psychosocial and environmental stressors that may affect the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of mental disorders”:

  • Problems with primary support group
  • Problems related to the social environment
  • Educational problems
  • Occupational problems
  • Housing problems
  • Economic problems
  • Problems with access to health care services
  • Problems related to interaction with the legal system/crime
  • Other psychosocial and environmental problems

When I exited the vehicle last night, I validated myself in my perceptions and in my recovery. I chose not to remain in the confusion and chaos of that relating. I honored my needs as a survivor, for compassion, clarity, honesty and understanding as a matter of life or death. I deemed the absence of these things as being unsafe. I cannot expect myself to toughen up and bear it. The costs outweigh the benefits.

Whether there is diagnosis or not, I believe that everyone has traumas – places in which we struggle to trust and act on our perceptions because of a lack of clarity or resolution about past events. It is how much they affect our ability to live well that pushes us onto the path of healing. Everyone’s tipping point is different, but suffering is suffering; dysfunction is dysfunction, and trauma is trauma.


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‘i must be perfect to be accepted’ by alshepmcr

this photo was posted on flickr with an article about narcism that I found surprisingly illuminating. it caught my attention, as i was looking for images to represent perfectionism.

strange, i can tell that i would feel more embarrassed to say that i have narcisistic personality disorder than i do with bpd, and i have no idea why. i have to admit feeling a little bit naked publishing this because i relate to it so much. but what else is a blog for than to bare the soul for the sake of information, compassion and perspective?

so, word for word, here is the article ‘i must be perfect to be accepted’ by alshepmcr:

Pathological narcissism occurs in a spectrum of severity. In its more extreme forms, it is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). NPD is considered to result from a person’s belief that they are flawed in a way that makes them fundamentally unacceptable to others. This belief is held below the person’s conscious awareness; such a person would typically deny thinking such a thing, if questioned. In order to protect themselves against the intolerably painful rejection and isolation that (they imagine) would follow if others recognized their supposedly defective nature, such people make strong attempts to control others’ view of them and behavior towards them.

Pathological narcissism can develop from an impairment in the quality of the person’s relationship with their primary caregivers, usually their parents, in that the parents were unable to form a healthy and empathic attachment to them. This results in the child’s conception of himself/herself as unimportant and unconnected to others. The child typically comes to believe they have some personality defect that makes them unvalued and unwanted.

Narcissistic personality disorder is isolating, disenfranchising, painful, and formidable for those living with it and often those who are in a relationship with them. Distinctions need to be made among those who have NPD because not each and every person with NPD is the same. Even with similar core issues, the way in which one’s individual narcissism manifests itself in his or her relationships varies.

To the extent that people are pathologically narcissistic, they can be controlling, blaming, self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ views, unaware of others’ needs and of the effects of their behavior on others, and insistent that others see them as they wish to be seen.

People who are overly narcissistic commonly feel rejected, humiliated and threatened when criticised. To protect themselves from these dangers, they often react with disdain, rage, and/or defiance to any slight criticism, real or imagined. To avoid such situations, some narcissistic people withdraw socially and may feign modesty or humility. In cases where the narcissistic personality-disordered individual feels a lack of admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation, he/she may also manifest wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply).

Although individuals with NPD are often ambitious and capable, the inability to tolerate setbacks, disagreements or criticism, along with lack of empathy, make it difficult for such individuals to work cooperatively with others or to maintain long-term professional achievements. With narcissistic personality disorder, the individual’s self-perceived fantastic grandiosity, often coupled with a hypomanic mood, is typically not commensurate with his or her real accomplishments.

The exploitativeness, sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, disregard for others, and constant need for attention inherent in NPD adversely affect interpersonal relationships.