[Private journal entry written on Friday, October 5, 2012 about a conversation with my therapist – continued from previous post]
Edward: Tell me more about that sense of fragility . . .
Me: (With a wry laugh) Well, I started my therapy session without you . . .
Edward: (With a gentle laugh) Oh, really . . . ??
Me: Yeah . . . it started about three- or four-o’clock this morning . . . and I even had trouble holding it together while waiting for you downstairs . . . I’m afraid I’m a bit of a mess . . .
(As I struggled to control the arrival of new tears, I told him about my efforts to build my tolerance of the heavy feelings and about this morning’s flood of body memories. At some point in my monologue, I noticed that Edward was sitting on the front edge of his chair, leaning forward towards me. I was comforted by him being just that little bit closer to me.)
Me: I don’t really know where this is coming from . . . I don’t know if it has to do with the sexual abuse or from my dad . . . I can’t pull up any specific memories associated with the feelings in my body.
Edward: It sounds to me that you are stuck in a loop . . . that you haven’t been able to move through the memory to bring it to completion. Is that a possibility?
Me: Yeah, that does sound accurate.
Edward: Would you like to see if we can move you through the memory so you can experience a sense of completion – at least to some extent – around it?
Me: Yes, I would.
Edward: I’d like to start by asking you some questions about what you are experiencing – would that be okay?
Me: Sure . . .
Edward: Can you tell me . . . are there any words that go with those feelings?
(When I thought about using words to express what I was feeling, I was hit with a sense of paralysis. I froze up. It’s all I could do to shake my head and whisper, “No”)
Edward: Okay . . . let’s try something . . .
Where in your body are you feeling the terror?
Me: I feel it in my chest and neck . . . like in my lungs and throat . . .
Edward: Can you put your hand where you feel it . . . ?? (Demonstrating with his own body)
(I nodded my head and placed my hand around my neck, almost like I was choking, but a little bit lower.)
Edward: Is it in your throat?
Me: No, it is lower . . . like around my collarbone.
Edward: Okay . . . if you feel comfortable doing so, I’d like for you to close your eyes . . . and keep your hand on that spot . . . would that be okay?
Me: Yes. (I closed my eyes.)
Edward: Good . . . you’re being so brave . . . I’m here with you, you are safe . . . I’m right here with you, protecting you . . . you’re doing well . . .
Can you tell me more about the body memories . . . can you describe them to me?
Me: I’m feeling waves of terror . . . I get a burst of adrenaline, my heart starts racing . . . I feel like I can’t get enough air . . .
Edward: With your breathing . . . does it feel like your choking or that your airway is closed off?
I closed my eyes and tried to listen to my body . . . to gather the information I needed in order to answer his question . . . but, I couldn’t find the answer. I felt anger rise up. I buried my face in my hand as a couple of sobs escaped.
I heard Edward moving around in his chair – I didn’t open my eyes, but it sounded like he was leaning forward in his chair, as he had been before. I was glad. I needed him close.
Me: (After a few moments) I’m feeling anger towards you . . . I don’t have a good reason to feel that, but that’s what I’m feeling . . .
Edward: Tell me more about that . . . what are you wanting to say to me? It is okay if the words don’t fit the situation . . . they don’t have to.
Me: I want to tell you that I don’t have the answers . . . I want you to stop pushing me to have all the answers . . .
Edward: Does it feel like I’m pushing you to have the answers?
Me: Logically, I know you aren’t . . . but I feel threatened by your questions . . . but, that’s just old stuff coming up for me . . . I’m okay . . . let’s keep going . . .
Edward: Okay . . . but you don’t have to . . . we can stop at any time.
Me: Thank you . . . I do know that . . .
So, to answer your question . . . I don’t feel like I’m choking . . . I can get air in and out . . . it’s more like the air is thick . . . I can’t get enough oxygen . . . I can get enough air but the air doesn’t have enough oxygen so I have breath heavily in order to get enough oxygen.
(After some more reflection) Um . . . do you know what it feels like when you’ve been under a blanket for a while . . . the carbon dioxide builds up and the oxygen starts running low . . . how you have to take in more air in order to get enough oxygen . . . ??
Edward: Sure . . .
Me: That’s what it feels like . . . like there’s not enough oxygen in the air.
Edward: Okay . . . I understand.
Can you tell me about the position of your body? Are you lying down, are you sitting up or standing up?
Me: (After a reflective pause) Um . . . I’m not lying down . . . I’m sitting up . . . with my legs under me . . .
Edward: Like you are sitting now or more like in a position of prayer?
Me: More like I’m praying . . . but sitting on my heels.
Edward: Would it be beneficial for you to move into that position?
Me: I’m not able to because of my weight.
Edward: Because it would hurt your knees?
Me: Yes . . . and my legs would go to sleep. But, I can stay like I am . . . my current position is close enough to the memory that I can make it work.
Edward: Okay . . .
(I took a breath, shut my eyes and again turned my focus onto the feelings in my body . . . )
Me: I think I’m under a blanket, actually . . . I’m hiding . . . like maybe I’m under my bedcovers . . . or hiding among the clothes in my closet . . . no, wait . . . it’s more like I’m kneeling on the floor at the foot-end of my bed . . . with the covers pulled off the bed and over me . . .
Edward: What is the state of your body . . . ?? Is it limp? Tense? Are you numb? Are you stationary or in motion?
Me: Um . . . I’m tense . . . hiding . . . waiting . . . I’m by myself and I’m waiting for something to happen . . . something bad . . .
I’m by myself and I’m waiting for someone to show up . . .
I’m not sure who I’m waiting for . . . I’m guessing my dad . . . and that would make sense, since I’m in my bedroom . . .
Edward: Are you frozen? Or hyper-alert? Or maybe dissociated from your body?
Me: I’m not dissociating . . . but I am hyper-alert . . . frozen . . . too terrified to move . . . all I can do is wait . . . frozen . . . paralyzed . . .
I’m trying to be as quiet as possible . . . I’m trying to hear what’s happening in the main part of the house . . . so maybe they will forget about me and nothing bad will happen . . . I’m trying to determine my dad’s mood . . . if I hear him ask where I’m at, then I know it’s going to be bad.
I have to be quiet . . . I have to not make any noise when I breath . . . even though my heart is racing and I’m breathing heavily . . . that’s why I can get enough oxygen . . . it’s because I can’t allow myself to make noise when I breath so I can’t breath as deeply as I need to . . . that’s what the suffocating feeling is about . . .
Edward: How awful to not be able to allow yourself to breath . . . to not even allow yourself to meet such a basic life-sustaining need . . . ouch!
[Continued in the next post . . . ]