I am awakening in an ocean of feeling lately. Last night I started to become aware of how deep this time of year becomes for me on an emotional level. It corresponds with a lot of anniversaries of trauma in my life. The period from Mid September to Early February has a time line of very intense traumas I suffered over a 6 year period from the ages of 17 – 23. More traumas followed as repeats of those earlier ones, I now see, having lived through the cycle in a more conscious way over the past 15 years or so.
I am going to list my traumas here for me to solidify them and get a perspective on what I feel is rising up at present.
- Mid September on the Saturday just before my father’s birthday on 13th of that month I had a serious motor vehicle crash. My car crossed the road after I blacked out and crashed into a telephone pole. I awoke shortly after trapped in the car, I had been flung forward onto the dash (only had the seatbelt on loosely, this was 1979 and we didn’t have retractable seat belts yet) my lung punctured, the engine had come through the front of the car and cut open my legs, my left thigh bone was shattered and my left ulnar bone. I had hit my teeth and broken the front ones off and my tongue was torn down the middle. I had lacerations all over my face. It took them well over an hour to get me out. I couldn’t breathe very well. I was in hospital for 101 days.
- In mid February of the following year, 1980 my sister had a cerebral bleed. Our family don’t remember the date but my other sister who was heavily pregnant went into early labour as a result of the trauma and shock and her son was born on the 23rd February. My sister was in coma for 6 or so weeks. My parents went every day. I started to drink a lot at home in secret from the wine cask on the top of the fridge.
- In 1982 my sister who struggled with emotional issues and physical disabilities as response of her stroke was sent back to us in Australia after being taken to New Zealand with her husband. He sent her back on a one way ticket and disappeared. My sister tried to take her life.
- Several years later two terminations of pregnancy occurred for me on the first around the anniversary of Jude’s illness and the second around the anniversary of my car crash.
- A few years later in November 1985 my father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. After an operation he came home on Christmas Eve only to be returned to the hospital in the early hours of Christmas morning. Ar0und the site of the surgery the contents of his insides ruptured and leeched toxins into his system. He died while they were trying to perform an emergency tracheoctomy to help him breathe. They had put him into deep sedation and he never came out. I didn’t see him the night before as my partner and I were due to be travelling overseas (plans we made before Dad got ill) and I had had shots for India. I never got to say goodbye to my Dad and I never saw his body. The funeral was a blur. A month later my mother urged me to go overseas after my boyfriend called me to say he didn’t want to travel with me any more or love me either and had met someone else.
- On the anniversary of my father’s death in 1986 I was in Switzerland living with an alcoholic lady who friends and I had met while travelling in Greece. My friends went back to England to get jobs leaving me there. I had found a job with an English company in Lausanne. Left alone I was drinking and drugging a lot, I was not aware how many deep feelings I was swallowing down and numbing. On a particularly drunken night, I fell pregnant to a friend of my friend and had my third termination of pregnancy.
This covers the first 7 years of my trauma history. It is a hell of a lot of trauma for a young woman to have coped with. When I landed in recovery for alcohol addiction 7 years after 1986 in 1993 I blamed myself for everything, most especially my dysfunctional way of coping. But there really was no place for me to go but to the bottle, as I see it now. I really was so deeply, deeply ashamed and yet I knew I had to be honest and not bury or lie about any of the past. At that point I only knew I had problem with drinking and I could not stop. I was told I had a problem with living by the people in the rooms. What I did not find help in the rooms to explore was how and why I turned to alcohol in the first place and how absent emotionally those around me were due both to the traumas but also as a result of the life style they were pursuing of materialism, not caring for their feelings, body and health, how in that situation I didn’t really learn how to love and take care of myself on any level, physically, emotionally or spiritually.
It is now some years later and I have been through so many attempts at different therapies as well as working a recovery programme. I was counting up last night how many attempts at finding a good therapist I have had since coming back to my home town just under 5 years ago. There have been 6 psychotherapists and two body therapists. On reflection a sponsor in the rooms of the fellowship may have helped me some what but the few that I did turn to at times really didn’t have the full capacity to really support and help me, as my current therapist now seems to. And at a critical time one abandoned me just as my marriage was ending and that re-evoked the old dynamic with my Mum which really needed to be worked out in a professional therapy.
In writing this I do not think it has totally been the therapists fault that I have had so many ins and outs and some of the therapies failed. I do think some of it is also down to me in that the fear of depending on anyone has been huge. At times I have raged as a defence and in my own case there is so much anger held at an unconscious level towards both my parents for leaving me so alone and most particularly towards my mother for pushing me away at critical times when I really needed her that that rage really required I find a therapist who could contain, hold and mirror it for me in such a way that I could get to the deep pain and grief held underneath the anger. I feel I have made huge progress with that over the past 9 months.
I am grateful now, that my own therapist is on a month’s break, and I am heading into this fraught time of year that I am aware of all the resonances, imprints and triggers. At the moment I still have another 2 weeks to go before my therapist returns and I am freaking out a bit as my symptoms of trauma really impact me very deeply on a bodily level and they have been particularly acute in the past week.
I am aware after yesterday’s bad experience with an unsuitable yoga class that what I have really been looking for is a place of quiet support, holding and containment, a safe, quiet, gentle, receptive place where the grief of this time of year can rise up and flow out while my therapist is away. I think that is why I was so emotional after yesterday’s class that was purely physically oriented and not suitable for someone with complex PTSD or the needs I had yesterday.
While writing this and in response to recent blogs of others sharing their own experiences and fears in therapy and healing I am becoming much more aware how deep and difficult this work is and how alone so many people are who are going through it. The blogging community on WordPress for me has been such an invaluable support at all times but most especially when my therapist is away. I cannot talk to my family about any of this pain.
The other night my mother was telling me how she just wants to run away for Christmas on a cruise. While I understand what is driving this, she wants my sister and I to come on the cruise with her and I am not all that sure that would be a good thing at a vulnerable time of year when I know how emotional and sad I get. My experience on other Christmases has been that I am best if I can have a quiet and simple time at home with my dog Jasper and have lots of time just to be gentle with myself and feel my feelings, but often I end up alone without anyone much to share the deeper feelings with.
This year my therapist will be well and truly back from her break away and we will be able to hold through the time with greater consciousness. I am sure that in year or so I will be in a better state of mind to have a trip away at Christmas, its just this year I don’t want to run away and I am not at all sure how safe it will be to be with family at this time. I know Mum mentioning the cruise has stirred up major feelings for me. Its so hard being in a family that has such a hard time acknowledging and feeling feelings. I start to feel like and alien or I hold all the feelings for them and get scapegoated or sidelined. Its happened far too many times for me to trust them again. Until my therapist gets back in 2 weeks I haven’t really got anyone else to talk to about this. I need to get it out of my system.
I hope there is a time when my past trauma does not dominate my life so much, but lately as I allow myself to grieve and to laugh, I am aware of what a huge burden I have carried and of the very many real losses that have come as a result of being a person who carried much unintegrated trauma. In a dream last night after an Al Anon meeting in which I was sharing about self compassion and self witnessing a man and I went into a deep sea pool. We were to stay under water as long as possible, at one point I started to panic but then an inner voice urged me to trust that I was safe, that I did have enough breath and that just in time I would be able to resurface and breathe again. In the dream after all of this he said to me, “you know Phil (my last partner) left you because he couldn’t stand to witness your depression” , part of me had forgotten. Apparently in the dream their had been a trial and all of this had come out at the trial. As I left the man behind there was a sense that the chance for new relationship was possible ended but then there was just a glimmer of hope that in time a new relationship could be established.
I feel the man in the dream isn’t really an outer man at all. He is my inner masculine. He is the one that knows what is must be and that the way through suffering is to bear with it. We have to take it on board. To run way to deny is really to deny our soul, to split off from our deep feelings, to shame ourselves for them, to judge them well as I see it that’s comes out of a toxin inner narcissism which is just another from of self abandonment, one which our collective culture in many ways encourages and condones, but one which will not bring us to a greater maturity and birth as souls, which I feel is what is being demanded of us personally and collectively at this time of major transition and change.