1 Comment

Trigger #2millionfourtytwo.four

Your leg’s not missing; you just need to think more positively.


Of course your leg is missing; everyone’s leg is missing, so buck up and suck it up, also like everyone else.

“I’m broken Dale” — that’s not a cry for pitty and love; it’s one of confusion.

It’s like having had a missing limb, and people continually telling you that it wasn’t missing. To a degree that created permanent confusion.

I’m constantly wanting to prove to you how broken I am, so that I can change my confusion around whether or not it is real. So you can say, “Yes! I see that!” Oh, what glorious words to me.

It’s soothing when circumstance brings the brokenness to show without my control, and in a way that is undeniable to others, in a way that confirms the missing limb, without any doubt or questioning.

There was a moment in our last session. I was telling you about the two ways I presented myself at the party, and when I spoke about the presentation of a successful career woman, you were saying that it’s not confusion, because I know that that presentation is not true – that I am not a successful career woman. You said that, looked at me, and added, “Right?”

I actually felt an enormous amount of relief when you said that. I was relieved that you weren’t saying “Yes you are; you will recover to being that. You will eventually be success that way. You are too talented not to eventually find your way back there. Don’t start selling yourself short in the world. Don’t underestimate yourself.”

I felt that you were admitting that aiming to be that may not be realistic with my injuries in this moment, but that I may get there in a much more unique and authentic way.

When I make the wound real, I can find the healthy loving response; if it’s not real, I can’t respond, and then that part of me is abandoned again. That part of me has had a lifetime of abandonment.

Leave a comment

visceral healing in therapy


Two private therapy sessions ago, I sat on a beach by the ocean with my therapist and told him about a visceral memory from my abuse by the teacher.

The memory is one that I hadn’t had before, of a specific moment. It came to me while writing a ptsd inventory sheet in my ACA program. It is the moment the teacher first kissed me, after a long, full-body hug, and eye-to-eye contact, noses brushing. I was 10 years old, staying over at his house to get away from my parents, who had been arguing.

It’s the moment when my adrenaline system first became overwhelmed. My heart began racing immediately; I went into my room and began fantasizing, sexually for the first time. It was the start of my first crush — an obsessive infatuation that would see me waiting by the phone every day for his call, fantasizing wildly about sex on the beach with him, completely disregarding and abandoning my friends at school. My fantasies would involve him rescuing me in various ways, and then making love to me.

In the session, I sat in the sand and wriggled my toes in it, my legs stretched out in front of me. My therapist embodied the healthy, caring adult response to the scene I recalled. As it was a new memory, I had never spoken it aloud, or received this healthy, caring adult response. It felt like I regressed into my young girl self, which ended up lasting for several days. This was a re-do: An acting out of what should have happened so many years ago. I saw how different my life would be if I had been able to tell a caring adult about what had happened. If appropriate disciplinary action had happened at the school towards this teacher, if we had both received therapy out of even just this moment, not to mention all the inappropriate and damaging moments that happened in the coming year afterwards.

The feeling that lingered, from regressing into my young girl state, in the presence of a healthy and caring older man, was a feeling I described at the following session a couple of days ago as “tenderness”.  We talked a lot about what this word means for me, in this context; and this post is a result of that conversation.

At the session, we got to the description of ’emotional intimacy and attunement’, and he began conjuring any memories I had of being touched, swathed, cooed and coddled as a baby and young child. “Being touched with the awareness on the part of the parental figure of how their touch was feeling for me.” These memories do not flow freely in me. Simply imagining myself being touched in this way, as perhaps during a diaper changing, are actually totally repulsive to me. My physical response is to want to writhe and coil up into a ball, shuddering inside my torso.

I cannot recall the experience of being touched by my Father. There are no memories of ordinary moments of touching, such as diaper changing or dressing, bathing, cuddling, etc. with my Father. With my Mother, I remember brash and bold movements, not so much sensitive to how her touch was felt by me — not tender.

I recalled showering with my Father, even up until age 9, but even then, there was no touching; by the time I was showering with him, I was old enough to get in and out of the shower by myself. I also recalled being in a hot tub with both my parents, at around age 12, completely naked, while eating pizza, at a hotel. He had me find a living example of a healthy loving adult, and imagine him or her wrapping me up in a towel, protecting me, and removing me from the situation.

At the end of the session, I had to voice the inner critic that was blasting me with shame and denial — “you are being ridiculous. This is ridiculous. You are making a big deal out of nothing. You are such a flake and a drama queen. You just want attention. Shame on you. He is bored and only humouring you with all these explorations, but sooner or later, he is going to abandon you, and you will be alone again. It’s time you stop belly aching and get over it. Others have had it a whole lot worse than you; you don’t deserve these sessions. You shouldn’t be here. He is laughing at you. You’re not bad enough or sick enough to deserve this.”

When I got home, I cleaned house mindlessly, in a bit of a trance state, as is the norm after these sessions. That night, I sat out on my balcony by the river and wrote. What emerged was an awareness of the part of me that is still not being seen or validated, and would rather die than continue without. A couple of different names have come to mind for this part: My Psychiatric Self, or The Watcher. I don’t know why yet, but this part of me is a He.

I wrote a list of all the things I have been missing and pulling out of lately. It is quite an extensive list — one thing after another. All the people I have had to let down in the last few weeks. I realized that this Psychiatric Self is being honoured in all these cancellations in a way he has been longing most of my life. That I am not emotionally / psychologically well enough to attend … is an accomplishment and an immense relief to him, in the fact that it is being witnessed. I am acknowledging his experience, letting it be seen and seeking the healthy response; and this is something that has never been done in my life.

Letting positive things show around certain others — including my therapist — BETRAYS him; yet, around others — particularly and especially work-related / professional contacts — the positives are all on display. It comes back to my experience of being split, containing two different selves that are in opposition to each other, incongruent. And I am feeling that dynamic very strongly in my present. My gifts and talents are coming out and being seen, but also being undercut by my Psychiatric Self wanting and needing to be seen, acknowledged and responded to in a healthy way.

There is a player in me, and so really there is always one act or the other at play, while the other feels betrayed. It is compulsive and completely out of my control at this point. It is insidious and slippery like an addiction. It creates a constant underlying pain, anxiety and fear of abandonment.

The Watcher is the one in between, experiencing this incongruence and contradictory experiences. The Watcher sees how much pain, instability, isolation and failure this opposition creates in all areas of my life. He says that if he has to continue to witness and experience this, he cannot bear it, and he would rather die. Someone needs to understand and reflect this reality in me. I need to know how to present myself. I can’t bear to continue living this extreme identity crisis. The habitat of the Watcher is so dark that I cannot go fully into feeling it all at once right now.

Finally, I also came back to the definition of tenderness we had been working on. I realized that it is more than just emotional intimacy and attunement. It’s not just intimacy, it’s love. Love, innocence, fondness, affection and caring from a healthy, male, adult figure. These are the things I felt on the beach with my therapist; these are the things I remember also feeling when I was with the teacher. A list of phrases this energy would speak came to me:

I’ll look after you. I’ll always love you and be there for you, no matter what happens.

I’ve got your back.

I think you’re a wonderful person.

I will defend, protect and empower you, and I will never ever leave your side.

I care for you and your well-being deeply, and I will be a guardian and protector of it.

It’s okay. I’ve got you. Let me hold you. It’s okay. I’m here for you. I’m here for you.

I’m not sure how this all relates or doesn’t relate. I’m not sure where it’s all going, but I will speak it out, write it out. Follow it to find the gems that can heal me.

1 Comment

Two quotes on relationships from The Work of Byron Katie:

When you own your share in something that your partner did to you, it’s the sweetest thing in the world. You just feel humility, without the slightest urge to defend yourself. It leaves you completely vulnerable. This is the kind of vulnerability you want to lick off the pavement, it’s so delicious.

It has been a life’s work to make our partner wrong. Then when we enter inquiry, we lose. It’s a tremendous shock. And it turns out to be grace. Winning is losing. Losing is winning. It all turns around.


right attention to the one you love


“If you do not give right attention to the one you love, it is a kind of killing. When you are in the car together, if you are lost in your thoughts, assuming you already know everything about [them], [they] will slowly die.”        THICH NHAT HANH, O Magazine, Feb. 2007


This is the story of my marriage, as told by yours truly at a weekend retreat of Codependents Anonymous. The theme of the retreat was The Big R: Relationship with Higher Power, Self, Others. The title of my topic meeting was ‘Growing is Forever: Avoiding the Slow Death’.

I had thought that I would ‘wing it,’ instead of planning or writing anything in advance; but when I arrived at the retreat, I found myself writing out our story, in a way I had never done before. I wrote all afternoon, and was up late that night continuing to write. I handed out a sheet with the quote above, a collage of wedding photos I had done up after our wedding, and on the other side of the sheet, our last email dialogue this year. Then I shared my story:


When the planning committee decided on the theme of Relationships for this retreat, my heart sank a little. I was not interested in a relationship, and I felt like I’d been there, done that. The next response in me said, “What’s the point?” How could there be a point if a relationship like me and my Ex’s ended so sadly? Our relationship never had the obsessive, addictive quality that so many other romantic relationships in my life have had. He wasn’t exciting like a shot of heroin — a bottle of liquor, a project to feed the work addiction, etc. etc. etc.

When I met Ex, I thought I was done with all that. Our love felt calm and deep and genuine, born out of vulnerability and a sense of going against the grain, being ourselves, authentically, at all costs.

We said our vows in a grave yard, on our 3rd date. We promised to let it be a choice to be with each other — a choice renewed at the beginning of each day. We promised not to leave the relationship without a thorough and common understanding of why our relationship was ending. In essence, we promised to let each other go with love.

We moved in together a month later. Our decision to get married came as a surprise to my Mother and close friends. My parents had not married, and I had never been the marrying type.

Still to this day, I don’t regret loving someone genuinely so fully as to want to gather our families for 3 days and celebrate it. I believe those moments have value not for how long they last, but for even getting to them at all. I am forever grateful.

For various reasons, the time we were together before it all went South were some of the happiest years of my adult life so far.

The first breakdown in communication came after my best friend had split up with her husband and stopped speaking to our mutual friend. The break up of my self-identified family was deeply distressing to me. In a state of irrational panic and desperation, I responded by taking a trip across the country to visit the friend who had left.

The breakdown in communication was that Ex did not understand the depth of my emotion around this trip, and neither of us recognized this lack. I returned from my travels to a house of the greatest chaos I had ever seen. There were dirty dishes, clothing, random objects, slips of paper, and garbage covering every surface of the house and most of the floors.

The second breakdown in communication was that Ex told me the house had gotten this way because he’d been really busy with work. And I’d believed him. The truth I later learned was that he had had a relapse into a video game addiction, and had played the game solidly at the expense of all else for much of the time I had been away.

From there, it was a slow decline of intimacy. We had become estranged from ourselves and each other, without knowing it.

When we bought a house, it seemed to be another turning point in our relationship. Ex became deeply unhappy as a lawyer with his own practice, which he began to neglect, while communicating less and less with me. He couldn’t admit even to himself that he was unhappy, because he saw no way out. He became a chronic pot smoker. I became a chronic workaholic.

All we did together was smoke weed and watch movies. The state of our house declined — things were left unfinished and undone, and our self-care also declined. Our fights and our distance from each other escalated.

Two power trips were present:

  1. I wanted emotional intimacy before sex; he wanted sex before emotional intimacy. Neither of us got either.
  2. I wanted him to tell me how he was feeling and what he needed; he wanted me to “have a heart” and read between the lines, anticipate and empathize with his feelings and needs. Not need them spoken all the time. Neither of us got our needs met.

The disparity between our public image and our home life widened with my (our?) sense of shame.

Our car broke down.

Our deck had no railings for most of our time there.

Our tub was rust coloured from the minerals in our water.

Our entire property was repeatedly covered in 6 feet of snow and we had no snow blower.

Our dog ran away to live with the neighbours 6 blocks away.

Our fights continued to escalate. There were screaming matches, objects thrown, doors slamming in the middle of the night, many lonely nights in heartbreaking despair, confusion, hopelessness and isolation.

I began riding in the back seat of the car in the mornings into town. Then I began staying on friends’ couches. In and out, in and out. Each time, it would feel as if he would break open, and I would finally be able to SEE him, so I would move back in.

The moving out and back in dynamic went on for 2 years. Each leaving felt more final than the last; each return more earnest and hopeful, but with the voice of doom in my head that I was ignoring growing louder.

Many people told me when I got married that the relationship would ebb and flow. That there would be times we would not love each other, but that the return to love would grow deeper each time.

I waited and waited. And waited, to fall in love again. I gave my all, bent over backwards and turned my life upside down for two years to survive the mean time, and STAY IN.

It took me those 2 years to know without a single doubt in my mind that we had reached an end, not an ebb. By then, I had already grieved. The day of clarity came, and I ended it with peacefulness.

When I read the Tich Nhat Hanh quote that I have shared with you, I thought of all the hours I spent in the car with Ex, when we shared a car and drove 20 minutes into town and back every day. I remembered the first time we ever drove in a car together. I saw how our car rides had gone from awkward shyness, through great connection and joy, to a peaceful, contented silence, to a bored and restless silence, and arrived finally in the bone chilling silence, filled with anger, resentment and clenched teeth.

In retrospect, I wonder what would have become of us if, in those 1st 2 breakdowns in communication, we had tried harder to truly understand each other and be understood. Now, I understand how important that is. How one place of disconnect leads to another, and the whole thing dies a painful, agonizing, slow and gruesome death.

This is a great gift to take with me into my next relationship. We can never know all there is to know about another because we are always — in each and every moment — changing. Connection, patience and curiosity must never be lost. I am grateful. I grieve, honour and give thanks to this part of my life by sharing it with all of you.

Here is what became the theme song for our wedding:

Leave a comment

heart like an insect wing

I started volunteering at a resource centre for people with disabilities this week — seeing how it feels to be somewhere at a specific time, 3 hrs a day, 2 days a week. It’s been a joy to contribute in an atmosphere where I don’t have to be traditional or normal. It’s okay to be imperfect, or need support.

I feel like I’m living with everything in the air these days, but in a new way — everything in the air and pointed godwards, with curiosity, a tentative smile on my lips. being in the world is feeling different. saying this is extremely vulnerable. i dare to smell the breeze, let the wind blow through my hair, be willing to accept its falling down again. my heart is like an insect wing.


isolation: more to healthy life than diet, exercise

I’ve really been staring my life-long battle with isolation in the face lately, so articles like this are comforting, found while researching services for people with disabilities, now that I am one (I’m hinting here at the fact that I have now officially been granted status as a person with disabilities).

I’m happy about it most days, and some days of course, and as most of you already know, I feel like a fraud. For now, it feels good. I cannot possibly work anywhere near full time, and I am not capable of living on my own. The status recognizes that I am not the same as most and that I need special care in some areas; and that feels really validating. As my sponsor put it last week, noting that this is a fairly evolved way of seeing it, the Universe is sending me a cheque every month. The volunteer work that this enables me to do, and the creative person it enables me to be is the investment of the Universe.

Well, it is brief today. I’m investigating a new place to live, in a self-contained suite on a property with 50 other diverse, creative and open-minded people. It is $650 / month + utilities, so I am not even sure if it is viable for me. It’s great that I can make up to $800/month in addition to my regular assistance cheque, but how much can I rely on myself to bring in? Am I ready for any of that survival pressure? Many questions at this time. Surviving the August lull in classes and workshops one day at a time. Discovering the importance of keeping things moving by little small changes every day; my tendency to get stuck in unknowingness and indecision, and what I need to do to stay out of it. Kind of scattered; a little bit of this, a little bit of that … blessings on the day, all.

Editorial: More to healthy life than diet, exercise.

1 Comment

step four introduction

I have been working on Step Four since November.

My one-sentence description of Step Four is:

A list of all the things that keep me from feeling good in the world, the core beliefs that have created them, the responses that have fortified those core beliefs, and the effect they have had on my connection with others, myself and the Universe.

CoDA’s workbook has a series of questions for each step that I worked through, which took me the majority of the time between November and now. Some of the questions evoked immense confusion and illuminated some of the deepest pain in me.

Having worked through those, a few at each meeting with my Sponsor, I then began a collection of photos, letters and journal writings that served as tangible examples of my core beliefs in action. I called this collection, “How I Betrayed Myself.” It also includes examples of aspects of me and my life that give me a sense of pride and well-being, as this is an important part of Step Four. The word ‘inventory’ implies and includes accomplishments and positive aspects, as much as the challenges we face.

I have shared this collection with my Sponsor. It has left me in a place of honoring the last year of my life before I broke — the inner voice that I was not able to respond to. Everything that brought me to that point — the responses and core beliefs I developed in childhood and how they played themselves out in my adult life. I am grieving the abandonment I created for my authentic self by not listening to her. I betrayed myself and fortified the experience of abandonment for her.

At my last meeting with my sponsor, I managed to regress myself to the feeling I had before I finally drove to the liquor store and share it with my sponsor. I grieved that I was too ashamed to ask for help. Too ashamed that I felt that way again, after everything I’d tried. I had failed again, and it felt like I’d exhausted all my friends and places to go. That has to be one of the worst feelings in the world. The difference for me now, is that now, I would know how to reach out for help by phoning the crisis line or a recovery friend, or taking myself to the hospital.

As the last part of my step 4, I’m going to post some writings from the pages of the notebook that I wrote everything I needed to write down in, during the last 6 months before my suicide attempt. Interspersed with to-do lists, and leadership notes and brainstorms on community leadership projects are random and in-congruent pages about the end of my marriage, and how my heart was really feeling — the voice I didn’t honour. So I am going to honour it here, and share it with you, in a series of posts.

The pages of this notebook are a tangible example of the sense of disparity between the two sides of me (see identity confusion / unstable sense of self). I’m wanting to validate for myself the degree and extremity of this disparity by this blogging process.

spring 2011 — texted to my husband at the time, and the representative of the leadership award. no one could tell me to walk away. no one could tell me i needed help. that has to change.

Here is a snapshot of what I looked like last year, in the last month before i put an end to it all … If anyone you know starts to look like this on any kind of regular basis, please remember me, and recognize the face of someone who may need your help. This is not a person who needs to keep thinking positively, keep faking it ’till they make it, or keep doing anything they are doing.

Thank you for reading, to all you deep and rich human beings out there. Luv Underground.