Posted by: Marie | August 27, 2010

(388) My neatly packaged story

Post #388
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, March 7, 2010]

In preparation for the upcoming interviews with prospective therapists, I put together a handout to give to the therapists either before or during the interview . . .

Summary of my story:

I had a nice, well-paying job in a growing industry. I had a nice home and a nice life. Things were good.

I met a guy (November 1998) and we got married within 8½ months (July 1999). We separated after ten weeks and filed for divorce shortly thereafter. Through that process, I became aware of my willingness to tolerate emotional abuse and physical intimidation in order to be “loved” by a man.

The Light of Angkor Wat by Martin Chen

Then came the terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center (September 2001). My industry crashed – I lost my job (April 2002), had a very difficult time finding work of any kind and spiraled down into financial ruin. It was nearly two years (January 2004) before I was able to find even a minimum-wage job – but I found one and was very thankful for it. With that little bit of income, I started getting back on my feet, a tiny step at a time.

As I started feeling hopeful again (Fall of 2007), I noticed I had learned some significant life lessons during my time of desperation. Surely this newfound wisdom would serve me well the rest of my life . . .

I started making plans for how I would become “successful” again. I tried to follow my plans, but found myself unable to stick with them – instead, I’d often curl up in a ball under my bedcovers. I wondered, “Why can’t I just get out of bed and do what I need to do?” To find the answer, I hired a psychotherapist named Mark (February 2008).

In digging through my psyche, Mark and I discovered all kinds of stuff I didn’t know about myself. The most shocking aspect of the therapy was I started having flashbacks to sexual abuse – the shock being that, prior to working with Mark, I had no reason to think I had such a history. I kept thinking, “But, I know this is not true!!!!! Right . . . ???”

But the memories kept coming – a true Pandora’s box. And, I discovered I had many of the symptoms one would expect to see in someone with a history of abuse – physical, emotional and sexual. Well, knock me over with a feather!

In the middle of all this remembering, my housemates bought a piano, on a whim, at a garage sale (June 2008). I had shied away from music for 20 years – maybe because of its association with the guy I believed molested me, maybe because music affects me profoundly on an emotional level and I have been working so hard most of my life to be numb and I couldn’t afford to allow myself to feel that much emotion. After this piano serendipitously showed up in my life, I began remembering how to play the piano and began reconnecting with music.

My therapist, Mark, was very helpful as I started dealing with my newly recovered memories – until he tried to pressure me into embracing the Christian faith. We went around and around about this. He wouldn’t back off. So, I quit therapy (October 2008).

I really struggled to make sense of this new way of thinking of myself. I felt compelled to tell my story – so I could get “it all” off my chest – so others going through similar events could know they weren’t alone – and, so therapists who are hung up on forcing religion upon their clients might learn why that doesn’t work. So, I launched my blog in which I publish the contents of my therapy and personal journals. (January 2009).

I noticed I wasn’t doing such a great job of dealing with stuff. So, I hired a new therapist, Dr. Barb (February 2009).

Therapy with her was a disaster, to say the least. We never did get on the same page about the best way for me to proceed. I wanted a safe space in which to process traumatic memories and she wanted me to “quit giving it energy and choose to leave it behind”. I’m rather opinionated and combative, and she is rather set in her ways, so we actively butted heads the entire time. I quickly ended my therapy with her (April 2009).

I am currently doing a self-directed therapy process, which involves working through a number of self-help books and journaling incessantly. I am continuing to post my journal entries on my blog – the feedback I get from other survivors and mental health professionals helps to fill the gaps in my process.

I have been doing much better – I am waking up a bit happier and my depressions are fewer, shorter and shallower. I am starting to socialize and do fun stuff again. I’m actually starting to get excited about what is happening here and now.

Music has continued to play a significant role in my healing. And, I have started teaching piano lessons – many of my students have special needs – I love working with them all! The teaching breathes life into my soul.

I’m not using destructive behaviors to numb out as much – I would say I’ve reduced my use of those behaviors to 5-10% of the level I was using them two years ago. The good news is the reduction has come easily – not through white-knuckling it, but because I’m not feeling the need to be numb as much.

The flip side of not being as numb is I am starting to remember stuff . . . emotions and bodily sensations. Because the remembering was becoming overwhelming, I decided to go back to Mark (therapist #1). I have always felt very safe with him physically, so I figured he could help me process the memories from the physical trauma despite the conflict we have had over the religion boundary.

So, I have had several sessions with him over the last couple of months (January, February and early March 2010). There have been some good parts to the experience but there have also been several emotional and psychological boundary violations on his part. I can’t get him to understand what I need in order to feel safe enough to let down my guard with him – or maybe he understands but is not willing to put the effort into meeting my needs.

While I still feel physically safe with Mark, I don’t feel heard, understood or emotionally safe with him. It has become clear to me his counterproductive behaviors are compromising our ability to be effective together. So, I recently informed him I am not continuing with him and I am in the process of wrapping things up with him.

So, now, I am looking for a new therapist – and, I’m being very careful in my choosing this time. There are two areas with which I would like a therapist to help me: 1) Processing the memories (especially body memories) so I can go through my day with far less triggering, and 2) Learning how to set and enforce boundaries and how to handle conflict in emotionally intimate relationships so I can have healthy, deep connections with people.

I ache to connect deeply with people. However, whenever I am in an emotionally intimate relationship, I feel I am in constant danger of being squashed and annihilated as a person, at the soul level. So, I maintain a defensive position almost all the time – and my psychological skin is so tender that my feelings are being hurt all the time by the other party’s every little behavior.

I’m sure it is exhausting to be in relationship with me. I know it is exhausting and painful for me . . . I am finding isolation to be far less painful – but not desirable.

And that is where I am at right now.


  1. I get the needing to connect. It’s a very important part of therapy. I hope you find someone who is a perfect fit for you and I wish you well until then.

    • Hey, Ivory –

      You’re back! It’s good to hear from you!

      I think that need to connect is a very basic human need . . . so important!

      – Marie

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