Stuck in the past

**Potential triggers for CSA**

I just need to type out what happened in the most recent session. I can’t concentrate with this all floating around in my head.

A few days ago, I woke up and felt depressed. It’s like it came in and crept up on me in the middle of the night. I have been in a funk since then. This was not helped by the fact that I had to cancel my original session time, which was yesterday, because something came up that I had to take care of. Having to wait an extra day is fine, but the thing that bothered me is that I was worried T was angry with me for cancelling – a worry that popped up based on how she sounded on the phone. Later that day, I ended up “partway” in a flashback, because anger is so triggering to me. I have been somewhat dissociative and spacey since then. As I explained to T, my car, being closed in and secure, felt like the safest place this week. The rest of the world is just too open.

I am unsure what triggered me in the session, but I sort of ended up in another flashback, although half of me still knew where I was. It started out just with the feelings of dread and fear coming up, followed by broken images. At the time, whenever I would talk, I was surprised that my voice sounded grown up. T was trying to help me get out of it and eventually did a sort of role-play with her “taking my father away.” She even left the room to do this, but by the time she came back, I was a ball of tears.

I said I was confused by the tears, which she inquired about. I explained that they didn’t feel like tears of relief. Rather, it reminded me of the tears I would shed after he would leave. T slowly let out her breath at this and said, “So we didn’t prevent it, he still ended up abusing you in a way?” I said that was extreme, but she asked if that’s how it felt, and I said it was. And it was. She said that she wanted her office to be a safe place for me and hated that today it wasn’t.

She also brought up what I shared with her last week, the secret I talked about in my last post, and asked if perhaps that was part of the reason why I kept getting pulled into the past. I was filled with even more self-hate at the thought that what she was saying was true, but I was still very dissociated and could only get out a few broken words. She told me to think about it, although she said that she didn’t think it caused what happened today (I’m not sure I believe her, although I have no reason not to).

Another thing that triggered me today, that normally doesn’t, is that my view of the door from where I normally sit is at the exact same angle of my childhood bedroom door, which I would stare at with dread when I’d hear my father come up the stairs as they creaked under his weight. So when I get pulled into the past when I’m in T’s office, I constantly look at the door, waiting for that moment. Today, at her suggestion, T and I moved to see if that helped, although I was still acutely aware of the door not matter where I sat. So she suggested I go open it and see that it just leads into the hallway and not my old house. I felt stupid, because I was “there” enough to know, rationally, that it would still just be her office, but when I opened the door and walked out, I felt something shift inside – a small moment of surprise – that it really was just her office.

We had to wrap up soon after that as the hour was almost up, and her other client had just walked through the door (T made sure I knew who it was when we heard the other door open). She offered to walk me out to my car, which was sweet of her. I probably looked extra wobbly between being very dissociated, shaking a bit, and the giant brace I have on my knee, which I’m still limping on. I said no, though. Mostly because it takes me a day and a half to get down the stairs.

It’s a few hours after the session now, and I’m fighting off the spaciness pretty unsuccessfully at this point. But I realized a cycle that I have when it comes to my self-hate. As I explained to T today, I always have to have a reason to hate myself. And this secret that I told her ensures that. It’s the safeguard. And just when I’d possibly understood and accepted why I have this horrible, secret wish, I had to find a new way to be punished, which was perhaps part of the reason the flashback held onto me for so long. I don’t know what triggered it, but it’s almost as if my unconscious then hung onto it for dear life.

I don’t know how to let go of the self-hate. I have no idea. All I want to right now, though, is curl into a ball and cry. I’m tired of being in pain.


11 thoughts on “Stuck in the past

  1. Kashley big hugs to you
    My advice is cry and grieve. The abused little girl who hates herself and is full of shame and badness needs to be heard. The self hatred is what destroys our inner peace and self esteem. It does sound like the self hatred gets so intense you end up dissociating.

    My T told me something this week that might help you. When a caregiver abuses a child, they fill the child with their own hatred, viciousness, rage, shame and evil. As a child we have no choice but to turn those horrific feelings on ourself. But it is not us that is vile and destructive it’s the caregiver.

    You have recently realised you love your T. And even though your dad abused you, you (I’m guessing) loved him very much. Having experienced abuse at the hands of a caregiver can mean that there are times our T seems to be an abuser or there is fear they will become one.

    Hang in there. Xx

    1. Thank you. Big hugs to you as well. I’m still overwhelmed by yesterday, and somehow I’ve managed to feel guilty for having the flashback and making her office unsafe when she wants it to be safe. Everything you said resonates with me, especially about fearing T is or will become an abuser. I am always afraid of that, although I wish I wasn’t.

  2. its normal and ok to fear your T will become an abuser when you’ve been abused by a caregiver. I used to worry all my shame, disgust, filth etc would contaminate my T and kill them or ruin the relationship. I wonder if that resonates for feeling guilty about flashbacks in her office.

    The healing comes from going back over and over again, talking through all the shame, guilt, pain and horror, and having it accepted and understood with your T maintaining appropriate boundaries.

    1. ((GreenEyes)) Yes, it does resonate. Because I feel like now I have let all of my filth contaminate her and her office. And that’s why I feel guilty. I hadn’t realized that until now.. It hurts to talk through it because I know it won’t last, but at the same time I know that she’s still here and the work (I don’t like calling it that) isn’t done. You’re awesome..thank you so much. xx

  3. Have you tried visualizing a safe place in your mind? A place you feel comfortable in or felt safe in at some point in the past. It can help. If this place in your mind remains there as somewhere you can run–literally imagine running to as fast as you can–whenever you being to dissociate or have flashbacks. Silly, but it helped me gain control over the process of remembering enough to make the memories healing for me instead of merely upsetting.

    Take care. I’m sorry you’re having such a rough time of it right now.

    1. Thanks, Ashana. Yes, that’s something my T and I have tried to use many times, but for some reason I find it very hard to hold onto a safe place. I will still try to keep that in mind, though. Thank you! xx

      1. It is hard to hold onto the idea of a safe place when very few places have ever been safe for you. I found I needed to put a safe person in that space before it felt safe for a long time. Who that person was changed over time as I felt safer with different people.

        It may be necessary to spend more time in that place outside of dealing with the trauma in order to build up its sense of safety for you. You can also try placing someone in that space you feel more comfortable sharing the trauma with than your T and talk to that person.

        It is actually supposed to be the imagined act of running to safety that helps.

        Anyway, take care. Good luck on your journey.

  4. Kashley, I have a question… Are there times when your T’s office feels like a safe place? When I started to pay attention to when I felt safe and then take the time to sit there and immerse myself in that sense of safety, I started to find it easier to “locate” feeling safe both in and out of session. It started out very small, but even having a small corner of me believe that I might be safe was better than all of me believing that I couldn’t ever be safe.

    As a variation on that, can you take in just a bit that your T cares for you and values so much about you. As you said, she is learning awful things about what you experienced and how those experiences still harm you now, but she is NOT turning away from you in disgust. Instead she admires the courage that you show. In my mind, one of the jobs of a T is to reflect back to you who you really show yourself to be, because the abuse makes it pretty much impossible to see the real you, all by yourself. Often, it is so difficult to really take in how someone else is really demonstrating how they feel about/perceive you as opposed to how you fear that they feel about you. But when I have done this with someone who is solidly grounded, compassionate, and honest, I was slowly able to start to see myself with more compassion and start to let go of that protective self hatred that acts as armor against the rest of the world.

    Sorry that this is so long. I hope that it makes sense…

    1. Thank you for commenting – makes a lot of sense, all of it. I think there have been times when I’ve felt safe in her office, although I don’t know that I’ve ever taken the time to specifically sit in a moment and let that feeling of safety wash over me. I will make a mental note to do that the next time I recognize that I feel safe.

      It’s just so hard to think of myself as being courageous. Other people are courageous – other survivors, first responders, the like – but not me. But in the most recent session, for the first time ever, I was able to release just a tiny, tiny, minute piece of self-hate and shame. So I can see what you mean about that process. And a big part of that is learning/deciding to trust my T’s perception of me.

      Thanks again. 🙂 xx

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