On grief and rage

I’ve been quiet because I’ve been struggling. The pharmacists at Tara messed up my meds and I didn’t have enough of my one anti-depressant over the weekend and Monday and spent the next three days recovering from the withdrawals. I’m still feeling rough just recovering from the recovering. I’m also struggling with the fact that a mixture of what’s been happening in therapy and weaning off my other anti-depressant means that I’m feeling a lot of feelings. Mostly anger and sadness. Mostly to do with what I went through as a child and the resultant loss of 20 years to the chronic depression and social anxiety associated with CPTSD.

When I say loss I mean the fact that I couldn’t hold down a job, the resultant financial lack, couldn’t have a healthy relationship, couldn’t be in the moment and enjoy life because of the constant state of being in fight or flight, couldn’t make memories because I was dissociated, and basically how I couldn’t create a life for myself because I didn’t want to be alive. I missed out on life and life experiences because I was struggling to survive. When people my age talk about their teenage years and twenties I cannot relate because I spent those formative years in and out of psych hospitals. I don’t have stories like they do. I don’t have what they have to show for living life.

All because people made the choice to sexually abuse me and my mother’s own depression and struggle with my abusive and alcoholic father caused her to neglect me. And that’s very, very enraging and very, very sad. And I’m starting to feel those feelings with a depth I’ve never experienced. Because I’ve never been able to feel those feelings or fully acknowledge what happened to me because I haven’t been safe enough to.

I know that feeling these things is a huge step in my healing and I know that once I’m able to appropriately express my anger (not internalise it) and able to cry I’ll start to feel better. But I’m terrified. It’s not just that fear of a dam bursting. Not just the fear that I will be drowned. But also a fear of anger, because how do I be angry without worrying about upsetting others, and a fear of crying. The fear of crying is complex. As with anger I fear that I won’t be able to contain it. That it will be too big for me. But with crying it’s also the fear of how people respond to it.

I was brought up in a “I’ll give you something to cry about” household. Not exactly an environment where it was safe to cry. Not a space where crying was met with nurturance. My therapist says that with my mother’s depression and struggles with my father it’s unlikely that she tolerated me crying very well. So I worry that my crying would distress my loved ones. Make them feel helpless. Uncomfortable. Distressed. I also fear that if they’re not distressed or uncomfortable and we both acknowledge that in the face of such rage and grief it’s ok to feel helpless, that them holding me will not be enough. That nurturance will not be enough. That I’ll still have to delve through the depths of my grief and anger alone. And that is, of course, true. With all the support in the world we are still alone in our heads.

I need to trust that others’ nurturing will be enough while I learn, increasingly faster, how to nurture myself in healthy ways. This trust will come from a place of trusting that I deserve the nurturance and from a place where I can fully absorb that nurturance without the “once you let someone in they’ll abandon you” voice being too loud.

This is so, so difficult, no, tortuous, and it’s so, so terrifying. But more than ever before I’m ready to start dealing with my grief and anger because, despite the inner child voice of doubt, fear and lack of safety, I am strong enough to handle this and I have amazing support systems in Noah, my therapist, my chosen family and my friends. So I can soothe little Gabe and tell them that everything’s going to be ok. I’ve got their back. I know you do too. And that means the world to me.

Multipotentialism

The older I get, the more I accept and embrace the fact that I’m not just more than competent at one thing. I’ve known this for the longest time, but my internalised capitalism led me to believe that I need to have a career and that anything else is just a hobby. What bullshit! If you ask me what my 10-year plan is it’s to be an artist, a tattoo artist, a proofreader and designer, and some modality of therapist (probably psychoanalysis).

Noah taught me a new word today: multipotentialite. Wikipedia defines it as – “an educational and psychological term referring to the ability and preference of a person, particularly one of strong intellectual or artistic curiosity, to excel in two or more different fields.”

The idea of being a “Jack of all trades and master of none” is a self-limiting falsehood, and, again, a capitalist idea. I’m a master of many; a being in the world that allows me to live out my complexity.

The more I embrace my multipotentiality the more doors are opened (or as a friend said, flung open) for me. But I’ve opened these doors for myself because I continue to work hard at all my passions. Embrace your passions and your talents, my friends. Fuck capitalism.

Decreasing my psych meds #onwardsandupwards

I spoke to my psychiatrist today about weaning off of my one anti-depressant and the atypical anti-psychotic. He and my therapist agree that because I have the support structure of therapy, Noah and my friends that it’s a good idea as they and I don’t want me to be on medication forever. Besides my libido being affected by the Cipramil (Citalopram), I don’t know who I am without meds as I’ve been on them for 24 years. So I don’t know what other negative effects my meds have on me, especially when it comes to being in touch with my emotions.

I’m scared shitless of That Dark Place, but have not had a major depressive episode or breakdown for more than two years now and for the first time in my life I feel ready to rely on the strength to self regulate I’ve been building up over the last two decades of hard fucking work, DBT and therapy. I never thought I’d be able to come off my meds and am SO fucking proud of myself!

Onwards and upwards!

CPTSD, flashbacks & putting myself first

I had another CPTSD-related flashback on Saturday, just as I was reaching some sort of equilibrium after the last one about 6 weeks ago. The bitch about CPTSD flashbacks (stored as body and emotion memories) is that most of them are not a flashback of a traumatic event you were conscious of, but a traumatic event that you were not aware of because you were a child and that child’s mind was not ready to add that memory to your memory bank. It’s like the protective lining between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind tears and something slips through. Something so hideous that you had to block it from yourself in order to survive. So it’s been really difficult and has affected me physically (my breathing is shallower and I get dizzy often) as well as emotionally.

But the most shocking part has been my lack of ability to take care of myself, as opposed to the last time. Last time I knew what I needed and did that or asked for it from Noah. This time I immediately dissociated (not being in your body; feelings of unreality; manifests as, amongst other symptoms, not being able to see properly, feeling dizzy, feels as though you’ve got a helmet on or cottonwool in your head). This is a good thing, in and of itself, as it’s the psyche’s way of protecting itself from an experience that threatens to unravel you, shake your very self and being to its foundations. But the dissociation also manifested in me becoming super aware of how my reaction to the flashback affects Noah. There’s nothing wrong with that but the timing was inappropriate.

Instead of caring for myself and looking after myself after a traumatising flashback, I put Noah first. Instead of nurturing myself I actively harmed myself by feeling guilt for something I have no reason to be guilty about, because flashbacks are out of my control, as was the abuse. I’ve put other people first my whole life. Now that I’m actively healing and things get more difficult for a long while, I need to become better at putting my healing first.

Suspension of Disbelief #lettersfromselvespas(t)sed #mothersday

This was written 20ish years ago. Still holds true for me.

You could, I suppose, attribute the murders to the fact that I stopped believing in fairy-tales. The slack-jawed, gaping-eyed sense of wonderment and awe at the prince and the princess and the pea and the apple and the witch were replaced by a more sophisticated lexicon of adulthood consisting out of the vocabulary of disillusionment, the words of negation, the morphemes of cynicism and the phonemes of pain.

Suspension of disbelief. It is a prerequisite of awe and wonderment. And belief, and identity, and sanity. When you are willing to believe anything, the book that you clutch is solid, its book-smell pungent; the quarter-page bible-like illustrations outlining the prince and the princess and the pea and the witch have been grounded and solidified by the way in which you have lovingly crayoned in the colours of their hair and their clothes and their swords and their frogs; the territory and terrain of each story is concretely contained by its beginning and its end and the prince always gets the princess who feels the pea and survives the apple and escapes the witch.

Awe and wonderment, and belief, and identity, and sanity: the fairy-tale is the microcosmic blue-print for life. You clutch at the solid, pungent, outlined princes and princesses and peas and apples and witches with their hair and their clothes and their swords and their frogs and you mark your territory and your terrain and you cling to beginnings and endings and you get and you feel and you survive and you escape. You believe, you identify, you are sane. The suspension of disbelief.

“Suspension” – a holding back of something that already exists, is already there on the fringes of your consciousness, your belief. Belief does not exist without disbelief. The child-like bliss of awe and wonderment is based on a suspending of a knowing that what you believe is true, is not true. You believe, you identify, you are sane.

At first, when the disparity between the world of the prince and the princess and the pea and the apple and the witch and the world in which you live becomes more and more obvious, you murmur the wordless words that you were taught before you were able to learn. And you no longer feel the solidity of the book that you clutch, the book-smell fades and instead of rendering in colour the quarter-page bible-like illustrations, you become the prince and the princess and the pea and the witch and you are rendered colourful, solid, outlined. You become part of the terrain of the story, sturdily contained by the beginning and the end.

The fairy-tale is true because you live it, you believe it, and you believe it because you do not want to disbelieve the world outside of these pages with their book-smell, the story you are with a beginning and an end. You do not want to disbelieve the tale that you are told, the tale you live in the outside world. You cannot disbelieve it.

So you murmur the wordless words more and more and you are rendered colourful, solid, outlined in this world where there are beginnings and endings and you clutch at the solid, pungent, outlined princes and princesses and peas and apples and witches with their hair and their clothes and their swords and their frogs and you mark your territory and your terrain and you cling to beginnings and endings and you get and you feel and you survive and you escape.

It’s not the same as the time before the wordless words had to be murmured. You don’t believe as much as before, but you live it, you don’t identify as much as before because the outside self, the self that clutches the solid book with its book-smell has become a medium, an empty vessel for her fairy-tale selves, and you are not sane, but you are safe.

On sharing in public #endthestigma

04:19am. I woke up angry and can’t go back to sleep. I don’t get angry. It’s an emotion, like sadness, that I avoid. But I’m angry now.

One of the things I’m angry about is this: why don’t we share more of our struggles on here? Why are the only people I know who consistently share their struggles people who have mental health issues? Why do I sometimes see them, including myself, as oversharing? Where does this internalised stigma and message come from that sharing is oversharing? That it’s weak? That “what will people think” message. If all of us struggle, why are we not speaking out about it more and normalising that struggle? Why is there so much fucking shame?

I’m not saying that we need to share a blow-by-blow account of all of our struggles, but what about normalising struggling so that people with mental health issues don’t become the people bearing the burden of our collective struggles; the scapegoat with all the villagers’ problems tied to its back and herded over a cliff.

Struggling in silence is struggling alone. Sharing our struggles with a partner/close friend/therapist still normalises the idea that our struggles are somehow a dirty secret to be kept close to our hearts. “Airing our dirty laundry” – a phrase that’s so contradictory; it’s meant to shame us into keeping out hearts close to our chests instead of on our sleeves. But some things cannot be washed and need to be aired.

Living is struggling. Struggling is such a huge part of being human. It’s not a disease. End the stigma.

When an abuser is a loved one

Oof… Really struggling with this one at the moment since the flashback 5 weeks ago and I find that I am stuck. Stuck in a place of not wanting to believe that what I remember happened. I realise I’m doing that to protect me, but also him.

He is a close family member whom I love very much. Do I honour my truth and stand up for myself and take a break from the relationship? Maybe forever? Or do I question myself, stuck, literally frozen in the feelings that it can’t possibly be true and that I must be wrong; that it couldn’t have been that bad and continue to have a relationship with him? My therapist reminds me that there is a third option: speaking to him about it. But I cannot do that because his certain denial of it threatens to unmake me.

There are no easy answers when there’s a loved one involved; a person who is two people – the one who loves you and the one who shattered your childhood; the one I love and the one I fear. And because of that love I feel like I am betraying him. I need to remember that he betrayed me as a sacred child and betrayed a sacred relationship.

Healing is scary

Things that people in therapy or on a mental health healing journey don’t speak about #1352: getting better is a scary thought and depression can be a comforting space.

Many therapists have asked me what a healing (I don’t use the word ‘healed’ because it’s a lifelong process) Gabriel looks like. I can envision this only in an intellectual way and mostly by comparing myself to other healing people. But a Gabriel that is emotionally and psychologically better scares me. Because I’ve lived in sickness for so long. It’s like when I think about a Gabe without psych meds (a real possibility given that my illness has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with trauma). I have NO idea what that would be like as I’ve been on psych meds for 22ish years. It’s like asking me what my life is like without trauma. As someone with Developmental Trauma I have no idea. I don’t know who I am without trauma and its ripples.
No wonder I become terrified when I start showing signs of healing; signs of knowing who I am and loving that being. It’s an unfamiliar place and as horrific as depression is, at least that’s known. I know what depression and unwellness looks like. I know how I’ll react. I know what to do with it.

This is made more intense by the fact that healing is fucking hard work and so many deeply uncomfortable and self threatening hurts and traumas need to be worked through.

Another thing that exacerbates this is that for a lot of early childhood trauma survivors, especially those with Developmental Trauma (abusive and/or neglectful parents), receiving help from other family members, friends and mental health professionals is often the most care and attention we’ve ever gotten. In terms of this my fear of getting better is that I will lose this care and love. The fear is about becoming invisible again. As much as I want to heal, it’s scary.

To those of you struggling with this, I see you. I try to remind myself that accessing care will be easier, not more difficult, as I’ll allow care and love into my life because my sense of self worth will increase, just as it has so far. And as it has increased so has my ability to allow love and care in. I also focus on the fact that because healing is a slow process, I’ll continue to get to know myself as each brick from my defensive wall is removed and replaced with something healthier.

Psychological healing & Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

I’ve just realised that the reason I’ve made so much paychological progress in the last 21 months is because I’m no longer struggling with Levels 1-4 in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I have struggled on and off, mostly off, for 24 years in terms of physiological, safety, love and belonging and esteem. I now have an abundance of those and have therefore been able to work intensively on my mental health. Being able to go to therapy is a privilege in the world as it currently is. Being able to go 3-5 times a week for free is a privilege that I have thanks to having been an inpatient at Tara. Being able to spend so much of my time working on myself is a privilege. And I’m fucking grateful for that because being able to work on yourself or get yourself the help you need is literally a matter of life and death.

To those of you struggling with basic needs while trying to work on yourself, I see you. Stop beating yourself up for not “getting better fast enough.” Acknowledge your struggle to just survive and try to be ok with where you are for now.

A truce in the war with my body?

In the same way that I’m slowly starting to befriend my defense mechanisms in acknowledgement of how well they’ve protected me and continue to protect me, there are inklings of me coming to terms with the one aspect of my body hatred that has plagued me the most – my weight. I need to acknowledge that the weight gain is not just a reflection of bad eating choices, psych meds that make it difficult to lose weight and a lifetime of an eating disorder. It’s a reflection of little Gabe who needed protection and the only way they knew how to protect themselves was to become so repulsive (HUGE internalised fatphobia issues) that no one would touch them again.

I need to acknowledge that although defense mechanisms cause a lot of damage to relating to myself and others, these defense mechanisms were all that little Gabe had as a toddler. I need to understand that they’ve kept me safe all this time. I need to understand that they still want to keep me safe, which is why I’ve gained 10kgs since being in intensive therapy for the past 20 months. I need to stop hating little Gabe for leaving me with these coping and defense mechanisms and thank little Gabe for protecting me. I also need to promise that I’ll protect them. That I don’t need them to protect me anymore. Then I can slowly, very gently, let go of things like dissociation and disconnection from my body. My body can then reflect the healing and increasingly healthier me instead of it reflecting the wounded me.

These are only inklings right now and I need to do a LOT of work before I can do things like maybe having to embrace my fatness as a part of beautiful me. But there’s a definite shift in the way I feel about myself. I think the flashback has created a seismic crack in the belief that it was my fault. I remember saying to Noah the night of the flashback that I had a strong sense that I wouldn’t become suicidal because it’s the abuser’s issue, not mine anymore. I’ve suffered enough. I know I’ll need to remind myself of this often until it sinks in, but it’s a HUGE start.