Posted by: Marie | January 30, 2009

(9) I need a large personal space

Post #9
[Journal entry written to my therapist on Saturday, March 15, 2008 – Part 1 of 2]

Hi, Mark –

For the Chamber dinner this week, I decided to dress up a bit.  I had not put on make-up (other than foundation) nor had I curled my hair in probably 18-20 months.  I had trouble remembering how!  At the dinner, I felt like a junior high girl wearing high heels for the first time – very much out of my element, unsure of how to behave, giddy with unfamiliar femininity – of course, I do have faint memories of being feminine, so it was not totally unfamiliar.  After the dinner, I got home and slipped back into my comfort zone.  The feeling of being a floating head with no body returned and I felt profound sorrow for the loss, over the years, of my femininity – it was interesting to observe how I reacted/felt – it was a bittersweet evening for me.

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I would like to formally modify my stance on touch between us.  I find your hugs to be healing and I would like to continue receiving them.  However, I think there will be times when I am being triggered and your touch would cause distress.  Therefore, I would like to be the one who instigates any touching that occurs between us – to touch you only when I feel “safe”.  I would like for you to stand still and let me move into your space, and not visa versa.  (And, it goes without saying . . . of course you have veto authority!)  Again, I will not do anything I wouldn’t do if your wife were in the room with us.  Is this all okay with you?

I have something else to share pertaining to the “touch” issue . . . it appears to me, based upon outward evidence, that you do not consider handshakes to be a form of “touching”.  I noticed this when we saw each other the first time after I established the “no touch” boundary – you walked in the door and immediately extended your hand.  Now, please know . . . I fully comprehend that your intentions were loving and healing, and I value that warm, welcoming aspect of your personality.

However, during the times that I am being triggered and am in a fragile frame of reference, even a handshake could be threatening to me – it has more to do with my needing a large personal space during those times – if a man is some distance away, I can better read his body language and would have time to physically react if he moves towards me.

Fortunately, when you extended your hand in welcome that day, I was in a solid frame of reference and felt safe (obviously, since I transitioned the handshake into a hug).  Please rest assured that it was a positive experience for me – no harm done – I’m just highlighting an observation.

The other aspect of this is that I have not yet developed the “no, thank you” skill – when someone moves into my space for the purpose of touching (handshake, hug, kiss, grope, etc.), I am very slow to identify my level of comfort and willingness to participate.  In the times I don’t feel comfortable, it usually takes me until several minutes/hours/days later to figure out that I wasn’t comfortable and didn’t want to participate.  (Example: I needed several days to process my response to “the hug” from you.)  This means that I feel obligated to participate (and to appear willing) every time I am invited, regardless of my feelings.

In light of all this, I am requesting that you allow me to instigate any touch – including handshakes.  This will help develop my ability to identify when I am comfortable and when I am not.  It will also help develop my ability to identify, ask for and receive what I desire – right now, I’m not sure I know how to instigate healthy, affectionate touch.

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I am appreciating my current journey that began when I was triggered by “the hug”
from you . . . I am going exactly where I wanted to go, and that hug opened the doors for me to go there – I’m just really glad you are walking next to me during this journey.

“The hug” from you triggered memories related to a 1995 incident with my boss, Jesse.  Since then, I have been reliving scenes and emotions from that incident pretty much non-stop.  I was expecting the memories to become less intense and less frequent as the days pass, but that is not happening.  My only break from the memories is when I’m very busy/focused (i.e.; teaching) or when I’m sleeping (when I can shut down the memories long enough to get to sleep).  As soon as I pause long enough to take a breath, they come back.

Sometimes I can remain analytical and emotionally ambivalent – that is when I think I’m moving through the memories and can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Other times I am so emotional that it feels I am nearing crisis mode – which is not good when I’m at work or trying to drive.

Because I am all over the place emotionally, I haven’t been able to process this and get it organized in my head.  I think I get it organized and documented, but then I am in a totally different place the next day and the previous day’s writing makes no sense to me.  Other days, I can’t find anything in my brain coherent enough to put into words.

I really need our session this week to focus on this incident – I really need your help – the thought of this emotional intensity continuing for another week is overwhelming.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Responses

  1. wow…intense…and unfortunately I totally get it…good for you for being able to articulate your needs…I didn’t figure out how to do that until mid-life–of course, I do not know how old you are.

    you write beautifully.

    • And thanks for the compliment . . . and I’m 41 yrs old . . . LOL

  2. have you looked at my about page? I should really be on the educational/info written by laypersons??

    I’ll be spending a bit of time here to get a better sense of you.

    • Hi, Gianna –

      I’m not sure if you meant to be humorous in your comments, but you got a chuckle out of me . . . . so, would it work for you if I put you under two categories? Thanks for checking out my site . . . later!

      – Marie

  3. oh…and I am a social worker…though I no longer work as one..and have absolutely no regard for mental health professionals anymore so I forget about my history…

  4. no…I didn’t intend on being humorous but thoroughly enjoy the fact I made you chuckle!!

    and I suppose I may have had a bit of dark humor in me as I told you my history!

    I’m 44 so you’re not that far behind me!!

    I’ll get you on my blogroll as well!

  5. Good work on establishing boundaries.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate


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