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Posts Tagged ‘trauma’

My heart aches, bleeds with grief for the senseless loss of life and innocence. I’ve been reeling all day, torn between wanting to avoid the horror of the news and wanting to be prepared to discuss it with my own children. And then there’s that magnetic draw to become engulfed in the news, to try to glean some sense from the madness… because it is all about madness, right? That’s where I get mad.

First they trot out the reporters with half-confirmed fact-like information, then come the psychologists to talk about the crazy. If the massacre happens abroad it’s a terrorist, but if it happens here in the US it must be a crazy person. There must be some diagnosis to explain this horrific crime. Except when there isn’t. Or when the mental illness is a result of trauma, abuse, bullying or just lousy parenting. Or when a human being perfectly capable of making choices makes some terrible, terrible choices.

Choice. Ay, there’s the rub. Mentally ill people make safe choices every day. Victims of child abuse choose not to abuse their own children. Children exposed to domestic violence grow up to choose not to abuse their own spouse.

It burns my ass when the media wants to paint the picture of a killer as someone who is mentally ill, because whether that person is or is not mentally ill should not paint the mentally ill as killers.

The vast majority of mass murderers in the USA are young, white men of privilege, yet the vast majority of young, white men of privilege live a lifetime without killing anyone.

Sigh. My heart aches. Sad times.

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So today, I started EMDR.  My therapist asked me to think about a time that I felt stuck – something I struggle with – so I decided on how I fight with myself to get in the shower.  She asked me to explain the situation – I’m sitting at my desk in my bathrobe, staring out the window with my arms across my chest.  I smell bad and I know I need to bathe but I just can’t seem to get up and do it.  I go through this day after day – it has been a struggle as long as I can remember.  She asks me how I feel when I’m sitting there, and I say sad and embarrassed.  She says which one is the bigger emotion, sad or embarrassed?  I say sad.  She says tell me how you are feeling at that moment – using an “I” statement.  I say “I don’t matter.”

I hold a little paddle in each of my hands, they vibrate alternately.  She asks me to close my eyes and think about the image we just talked about and just let my mind go where it wants to.  I feel awkward.  I’m worried I’m not going to do it right.  After a few moments, she stops the pulses and asks me what I’m thinking about.  I tell her I’m thinking about messing it up – I don’t want to do it wrong.  She says that is normal, to try to relax and continue.  I’m still worried, but suddenly I think of myself back in my ’81 VW Dasher, driving as fast as I possibly can.  It is dark and my speedometer doesn’t work.  I don’t care.  I drive as fast as I can.  Because I don’t matter.  Then I’m thinking about being a little girl, with my mother washing my head in the tub.  She asks me to think more about that.  I see the tub full of blood.  I was scared.  I wanted to pull away, but my mom was mad because I got blood everywhere…

This is what happened that day:

I was around 7 or 8 years old.  The phone rang in my Mommy’s office.  I answered it with my big girl voice and asked the caller to please hold on a moment.  I raced down two flights of stairs to the basement to call to my mom who was outside in the backyard talking with someone.  As I approached the door which stood open about 10 inches off the floor, I tripped and flew headlong into the bottom corner of the door.  It hurt so much.  The blood felt hot as it ran in rivulets down my forehead and over my ear.  My mother came inside and grabbed me under the arm and hauled me toward the stairs.  I think I heard the woman she was talking to say “It’s okay, Terri, calm down.”  My mother didn’t want me to get blood on the floor.  She was angry that I got blood on the stairs.  She told me to hold my head, but it hurt and I was scared.  My shoulder hurt where she pulled me up the stairs.  I wasn’t supposed to run.  I had asthma.  Running made me wheeze, but we were running up the stairs.  Past the kitchen, past her office, up three flights to the bathroom and I dripped blood on the stairs the whole way.  She was so mad at me.  I was so clumsy.  She pushed me down on the floor next to the tub and grabbed the shower head, turning on the water.  She shoved my head over the side of the tub and put the spray on my head.  The tub filled with blood.  I tried to pull back, to get my face away, but she yelled that I was getting more water and blood on the floor.  I was scared.  The tub was full of blood and she was holding my head and the water ran in my eyes.  I don’t remember anything that happened after that, but I knew it was my fault.

I know I got stitches.  I remember trying to see the ugly bald spot and crooked scar in the mirror.

We continued with the EMDR.  I thought about my room.  The curtains were pink gingham, but I wanted Barbie.  I had a trundle bed, but I wanted a bunk bed.  I had a blue upholstered rocker by the window.  I never sat in it, because I didn’t like it – it was the one my mother wanted because it went with the curtains.  I used to stand and look out the window and make up stories about the people who walked by.  I thought about the doors – we had an iron gate on the front door, it was like the bars of a jail cell.  You needed a key to unlock it from the inside and it was always hard to turn.  I remember sitting on the steps crying because I came home from school and I couldn’t get in.

I bought my son Spongebob curtains even though I don’t like Spongebob.  I don’t want to be like her.  I haven’t hung them yet – I worry that means that I’m like her.  I started to get worried that it was going to get scary, so we stopped.  My therapist asked me what I thought about the experience – if I made any connections between what I thought about and what my original target was.  I didn’t really think so at first.  She reminded me that what I was stuck on was bathing…  Doh!  Right!  The tub was full of blood.  No wonder I avoid the tub…  It seemed like everything I remembered reflected back to how it was all the way she wanted it – her curtains, her chair, a gate like a jail that I couldn’t open by myself… what I wanted didn’t ever matter.  I didn’t matter.

This was quite a revelation.  I felt proud for the work I had done.  I worried that I wasn’t feeling anything – like I should be sad or angry or upset.  My therapist said it was normal.  She wants me to check in this weekend, just to see how I’m doing.

That is the blog post I planned to write on the ride home.  Then I got home and checked the mail.  It was my birthday present from my mother.  I told her I needed money and how bad things were.  She sent me a gift card for groceries.  While I am broker than broke, I have an embarrassment of food stamps – if I could afford to drive to the grocery store, we’d be eating like kings.  Food is not lacking.  I couldn’t attempt to explain here how far back this goes or how deeply it hurts that she still needs to control everything – that she doesn’t think I can be trusted with cash as if I were a drug addict or something.  I mean, I might actually spend it on the oil change my truck hasn’t had in 20,000 miles, *gasp*, or get the cat fixed, or get the dog shots, or get my son shoes to replace the ones he’s walking out of or get toilet paper… oh, well, I can get the toilet paper with the gift card… phew!  I imagine this sounds terribly ungrateful, but I guess nothing is simple when there is a history like ours.

I’ve had it.  I can’t spend another holiday dreading some excruciating phone call.  I can’t keep trying to maintain a relationship with her for the sake of the children.  They only see her once or twice a year and that is always an ordeal of catering to her schedule and needs.  I can’t justify it.  She causes me too much pain.  She has hurt me too much and I can’t stand it any more – so I emailed her and cut her off.  I told her off about her controlling behavior and misguided gifts and said I don’t want to have any contact with her.  Ever.  I told her she may think I’m crazy, but I think it is the sanest thing I’ve done in a long time.

It has been a big day.  I think we might just have ramen noodles for supper…

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