Thinking about my sister : some reflections

It’s quiet painful at times not seeing my sister who is still in psychiatric care, but it would be just as challenging possibly seeing her.. I recall how when, in her darkest moments, she would cling to me like I was a life raft with a silent pleading to help her, to stop the pain but no matter how often I told the doctors or my nephews that something other than drugs was needed nobody seemed to be able to hear me. And that Christmas at the coast where they were laughing so callously at Robbie Williams newly sober and struggling with his weight, I got so triggered I stormed out only to later return collapsing crying as my brother in law looked on in some kind of regret.

It was not easy being the only sober one, but far better than being medicated. Even though I still struggle so much with feeling safe in my body and endure those cascades trying to manage alone at least I am not in care and yet it sometimes seems I cannot rest. It is an independent, free life, never the less, I can cook and clean and get out walking and engage in life if I choose, in a way my sister no longer can..

When I talk to our Mum’s closest friend who was there and tried to be there for my sister, but not possibly in the way she needed we both feel sad for the wasted life.. My sister had that brief spurt of being able to function from October 2019 to July 2020, she sold the place she was forced into by family after other hospitalisations and collapses and moved into Mum’s unit but that did not work well for her.. She was still so enmeshed and there must have been so many emotions she was finding it hard to deal with and then the issue of one son who tried to help but so often seemed to cause her a lot more problems…

My way was to run on or away independently. As the youngest I went off alone anyway after Dad died.. I had no one but a lot of brief affairs, often with wounded men.. the exception being a lovely man called Tony Cooper born on the same day as me I met in Greece the following summer who saw I was drinking too much and wanted to help me. In time I got involved with someone else from the land of my ancestors migration, New Zealand, Simon. We did grow close but between my alcoholic melt downs due to buried grief and his difficulty understanding and commitment issues I was then dumped again. It seems I just never knew how to make sensible choices around men, possibly because I had not yet begun to deal with Dad’s emotional distance and early death or yet began to arrest my addiction to drugs and alcohol..

There are things you can only learn about yourself by living through and making so many mistakes if you have attachment trauma.. I am often the one rejecting dependency and then getting involved on the unhealthy end.. I truly do not know either what it is to be supported or let others take their own burdens on.. I step in too impulsively and then it all derails.. Its such an enormous juggling act. And something else about co-dependency occurred to me during my last therapy session with Katina where I was crying and crying over feeling so defective and broken that so often I find it hard to own what is beautiful, good, true and ‘right’ in me.. According to Melanie Beattie that, apparently, is a very strong sign of having had emotional abandonment and neglect shown towards one’s true self. Taking my own needs and longings seriously instead of dissing them is taking me a lot of time.

Any way in my blog all I can show to the world is this mixed up self of mine. I know I have no answers… Having the chiropractic done has not made things better I ended up wetting and shitting myself in bed last night.. I was swallowing pineapple and brazil nuts and magnesium and tumeric with cardamon with lemon juice and ginger about 12 pm after waking from a brief sleep in which I could not get up to wee fast enough. Later I lost some of my bowel but had on some pads and it was not too bad..It is so hard trying to manage all of this trauma that relates back the gut brain link and so many emotional and ancestral issues around my head injury.

God knows the body is a mysterious thing.. I had a very powerful dream before waking at 7.30 am. I was back on a very long strip of deserted beach and it seemed to be a metaphor for how it was to be in that last relationship when I ended up all alone at the coast house after the second head injury derailed my attempt to move back overseas.. My ex husband was telling me to go home and I had no support at all. I went to an ashram in the end and then a B and B for a while but it all got a bit much.. I did make some lovely spiritual friends then some of whom I still keep in touch with.. and I did things my free spirit loved like dancing and chanting and being in nature at the beautiful Challis Wells gardens in Glastonbury where I had so many visions of Christ.. I also used to love going to the small Magdalene Church there where people would leave prayers and wishes scattered over a simple altar.. it was there my ex husband told me in October 2005 he had met someone else and so I went home ending up in complete isolation at the house Dad built 7 years before he died

It was there in March 2007 that I met Phil and he made me feel I was too much of everything he did not like and wounded in my capacity to support his dreams. But what of my own? Why were my feelings always such a nuisance?.. It hurt a lot he hurt me so much and I tried I kept trying each time he told me something was wrong I tried not to be that but in the end who can erase themselves for love. its a strange thing but in the dream last night around the deserted dunes so like the ones in the isolated surfing spots he used to take us both during the years 2007 to 2010 I thought I had lost the keys to my car but when I checked my jacket pocket they were in the one on the right side (masculine/action side).. That may be an indicator of what Kat said to me about my growth in therapy that the toxic inner critic/saboteur is not derailing me as much as Phil was the outward manifestation of that negating critical force in my life from 2007 to early 2011 when we finally broke up.

Scott often says to me that the person who does not love you as you are and wants to change you into someone else will leave you as soon as they find that person.. But the problem was not that Phil did not love me as I was, it was that I DID NOT LOVE MYSELF ENOUGH TO SAY A BIG FAT NO TO ABUSE.

I listened yesterday to a newly published talk by Eckhart Tolle on not nourishing grievances with ex partners.. I can truly say I now know why I was treated that way by someone who refused therapy but told me I needed it. In the end maybe it was better for him to blame me.. and I am sure, at times, I was not immune to blaming him either.. it was not meant to last and it was fated to be as the astrological signifactors of our meeting time showed in both our charts.. On this life journey by some kind of weird happenstance we seem to be drawn to just those souls we need to work out our issues. And there is comfort in that.

I feel better for writing this… I did manage to get up and out and then back… I had a very simple breakfast and early lunch and experienced a lot of storming and writing and panic and crying but its only a week until Mercury goes direct and anxiety does build towards the stationing periods both forward and back. 6 of June is the date I met Jonathan in 1993, it is the date of my great great grandmother’s birthday and it only took 6 months out of meeting Jonathan for me to get sober on 6 December 1993.

Tough as my life is and as much as I feel for a sister who never took the 12 step pathway I guess I also know the distance I began to take from September last year in endlessly visiting the hospital only to walk away crying each time has been necessary.. Before that I was running around doing so much for her to help that never seemed to address the deeper wounds only she could work though and who is to say she is not doing that in her own Piscean way.. This Mercury retrograde began squaring both my sister Sue’s and my father’s Mars at 5 degrees of Sagittarius as it co-joined her Sun Venus conjunction in Pisces and my Mum’s Mars in Pisces also at 4 degrees. My sister keep so much inside of her like my father.. who had the triple conjunction of Sun Saturn and Mercury in the deeply internalized gut sign of Virgo.. his cancer appeared there and it took him very suddenly in 1985. My sister has battled breast cancer twice.

All I can do is pray and send her love.. much as we struggle with those of our own blood who so deeply hurt us at times we also love them just because they are flesh of our flesh. As multi-generational trauma therapist Mark Wolynn notes : to turn our backs on that flow of love never led me anywhere good. In the end I am no longer a little child while still having a very deep part of me that is the inner child of both past and present.. The pain over the longing to be seen is something, that in the end only I, as an emotionally awakening adult can learn ways to effectively manage and come to terms with.

We had nowhere to go with the pain and the wounds ran deep

Reading Marian Keyes latest novel Again, Rachel is quite triggering for me.. For those who do not know Irish writer, Marian struggled with addiction and got sober around a similar time to me, I came across the book at Target but did not buy it then and got home to hear her interviewed on our Radio National book program about 4 Mondays ago following therapy. T

The lead character Rachel must be based loosely on Marian’s own life and family and in it Rachel is an addiction counseller working in a facility with a smaller amount of sobriety to Marian.. In the piece I just read a client begins to tap into and unload some of her abandonment trauma in group therapy and in the novel Rachel has to shut that down to continue the deeper feeling work one to one.. It moved me a lot as it had to do with a young pregnancy and abuse and abandonment. This same thing happened to me (with the exception my Dad was not abusive but emotionally disengaged) but when Mum found out I was sleeping with that boyfriend I fell pregnant too at the age of 21 a month or so before, she would not talk to me for days so when I found out I was having his baby I could not go to her, she screamed and yelled at me that day and told me she was ashamed of me.

I fell pregnant twice to him and he abandoned me miles from home with the first pregnancy only I did not know I was pregnant at the time, but Dad was very upset he and Mum had to wire me money for a train ticket home as this guy, Jim drove off leaving me with nothing at all. When we got back together Dad must have been really worried as he ended up getting sick the next year having already gone through all of the trauma of me and my older sister nearly dying in 1979 and 1980. Interesting this is all coming up as the Full Moon at 23 degrees in Libra opposing the Sun in Aries had set off my father’s painful Venus in Libra opposite Chiron in Aries square to Pluto in Cancer (Dad was born in 1920.) I just read the following about Chiron in Aries and both Mum and Dad had it and it has to do with wounds of feeling worthless.

If you have Chiron in Aries, it means the core of your pain comes from a feeling of worthlessness. Very often you carry the pressure of being the best you can be.

(People with this placement :

They tend to avoid talking about their pain at all costs, which is why it is quite hard to tap into the healing gifts of Chiron in Aries.

Source : TF20S

Reading this makes me realize that for addicts, just as Gabor Mate says there is no tough love, the abandonments we go through are real and our younger life of trauma often may remain hidden, out acting out behavior becomes problematic for others who end up labelling us as crazy.. but then as Alain de Botton points out, who does not suffer from some kind of wounding or craziness in the emotionally ignorant world.

For me I never got into treatment, I did it all alone apart from attending AA for over 8 years almost daily at first and then three or so times a week, before Jonathan and I went overseas and I started one to one therapy.

I am glad now that my pain and tears are not as great.. I have unpacked a lot of it over the past 23 years since then, but at times I can still get the spins, lately its about someone pulling me in to try and help him and his daughter who is sick.. I cannot afford it and he chose to be away from her after her mother died but I cannot help but think its all magnetic attraction, after all I was sent away so many times and after Dad died I had no one to speak to of anything, it got acted out in drinking and often lashing out with boyfriends which they could never understand and so left me.

Even in sobriety marriage was difficult trying to feel my feelings, which were not seen as acceptable. I have a post to share after this one prompted by Cherie White about how bullies shut down, shame, smear and gaslight targets but in an alexythymic culture its the ones who are sensitive and feel that so often get disparaged.

All I know today is that the abandonment i lived through in my life was intense.. I have not made it up.. I saw the heavy cost in my family too of two sisters being medicated rather than addressing feelings.. Yes, its sad at Easter to have no contact with anyone but in a way it feels safer and better. At least on my own I am free to be a mess and to feel if I need to, but today there have been no tears only a lot of anxiety dancing. Still I am alive even as it draws closer the anniversary of losing Judith my sixteen year older sister. The tears have gone now, what just lives on is the unadulterated recognition of how hard it was for all of us girls to be feeling, vulnerable woman in a deeply feminine wounded world.

Seeing a magical world

As children we were just open to wonder but sadly so much can happen in those early formative years to shut this down and if we had a depressed or anxious parent that would in some way be communicated to us.

As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us in his book Fear many of our parents knew famines, wars and other kinds of trauma, struggles to survive, loss of parents and siblings and just a host of challenges all of which leave their imprints lodged within our DNA.

Gabor Mate a Canadian oncologist from Hungary who has worked a lot with addicts to stop the demonization of their survival responses shares in some of his talks about how, as a baby, he picked up with all the other babies the distress happening at that time in his world, a world on the brink of war. We absorb all of this as young ones but never give it a second thought.. If someone is diagnosed as BPD or bi polar how many psychiatrists do a family history, checking for the incident of addiction or other losses and treating from there before reaching for the meds? In one of the facilities where my sister was doing time over many months one of the psyche nurses was just as disordered as the patients in terms of early childhood trauma (I knew her from Al Anon but was supposed to keep that ‘a secret’) and it interests me that this nurse was not liked by my sister but really they had so much in common. How sad.

John Bradshaw was one of the first men in recovery to start addressing the impact of childhood, child rearing and toxic shame as well as shame bound emotions in those in recovery.. His many excellent books such as Healing The Shame That Binds You, Homecoming, and Creating Love address what happens to us at every stage of development and how our magical soul filled child is shut down in all kinds of ways.

Now when I get out in the mornings with Jasper, it is so lovely to connect to other adults not as shut down as both of my parents were.. My parents did not have much of a sense of fun when we grew up, I have shared in numerous posts before about the ‘runnning on empty’ syndrome in my family (link below to the work of Jonice Webb on this condition), it was all about work, work, work but in this way I am also beginning to understand the maybe my Dad felt alone living with Mum as she chose to work 9 to 5.30 four days a week, 9 to 9 on Fridays and 9 to 12 on Saturdays.. Maybe on some level Dad enjoyed this. He could get into the garden or play his music without Mum running around in a perfectionistic spin whipping things into a frenzy with her OCD panics all a legacy of being a neglected adult grandchild of an alcoholic.

My Mum’s best friend told me on Wednesday that Mum never visited Dad at the office and when she started showing up there after Dad died my sister in law got the shits she was so ‘needy’ making a comment about how now she needed to learn to stand on her own two feet.. This from a woman whose own mother died when she was only young and learned never to face the pain, but hate all of our family for who we were. I do understand why on some level, when she met my brother in around 1967 at the restaurant and came to live with us Mum was insulted that she kept herself separate from us reading up the back under the tree. I was too young to remember a lot of this and already traumatized by my beloved older sister marrying and then when Mum read her diaries and confronted her about an abortion she ended up making an enemy for life.

What a mixed up family of emotional turmoil deeply buried and submerged I was buried into.

My sister in law was nice to me when young though, she gave me a lot of books and later in life told me to get as far away from my Mum as I could after Jonathan left, the problem being Mum needed support and so did my older sister who by that stage was so damaged from her aneurysm and marriage detonating 3 years later when she tried to take her life.

Today I know all of that pain seeped into me as a child just as it did for Gabor Mate as a baby and that I NO LONGER NEED TO CARRY SADNESS THAT IS NOT MINE.. That said I need to give a voice in my poetry as it says something about the hidden legacy of my ancestors that I give voice to through Neptunian forms such as poetry.

Today I can be around people, slowly risk vulnerability and opening myself and gain joy from that. Earlier Jasper and I ran into a lovely couple in the park we go to whose little dog Harry jumped around and chased him as we conversed.. How super nice to be connected and to have my heart open.

Today I can see a magical universe and I am grateful.. I do not think I ‘chose’ this family, I think it’s just evolution really, this idea of us choosing things, it does not tie in with a lot of epigenetic research.. We are woven from fate and then have the choice to become more conscious but to do that we often have to find the way to negotiate what is hidden in the shadows.

On the brink of the Moon growing larger in reflected light from the Sun (at the moment it is sitting at about 4 degrees of Libra) as it moves towards fullness I can reflect (Moon opposing Sun) on my relationships (Venus and Libra) and how difficult it was for me to emerge as a separate individual (Mars and Sun, Aries and Leo) within them.. And slowly through my therapy, poetry and ancestral unwinding I am. For that I am so so so so so grateful as well as for my sobriety which happened when my planet of wounding and healing Chiron in Pisces as well as first house Pluto in the opposing sign of Virgo was transited.. Despite later injuries that occurred as I repeated the old family pattern of going back and forward to the land of my ancestors and despite any pain and anger I may feel around my family’s distance and disengagement emotionally on some level I can accept it.. The issue of Mum’s ashes did trigger me this week but then our family just choose to disconnect and its not conscious in them at all

And after all, there was a time I too, struggled to open up and so many times I needed a hug but was only told to go away.. So very far away, or else just took myself away due to feeling so very rejected misattunted to or never empathized with at all.. In the end my family are probably just not capable of that, it is up to me as an adult to embrace the inner child and also make sense of what may have happened to my ancestors to make their own beings filled with so much anxiety.. After all it was such a battle for them coming out of a past where so much was lost and where in they were fighting just as hard as they possibly could to survive.

Your eyes as black as coals

I enter the room because the door is closed, you are lying on your side with the covers around you, your face is wan and gray, there is a terrible deep emptiness inside your eyes within which I sense a pleading energy that cannot say its name.. Everything in me seizes but I know I must bear this darkness once again.. It is so familiar to me, the inertia, the paralysis, the dead feelings fallen into a deep ocean, falling falling falling into the most complete void of resounding emptiness… I ask you if this living death is what you wish for the rest of your life, but then later I think of these words from Al Anon, we become irritable and unreasonable by TRYING TO FORCE SOLUTIONS.. as I remember the first step.. powerless over the effects of alcoholism and over the lives and choices of others..

I leave the bunch of blood red lillies close to your bed while we talk but the power of the darkness in your eyes is so frightening to me, magnetising in its power and I know to preserve my own self I cannot look you in the eyes, right now, later there will be a time for this.

We talk of Mum, I share the photo I posted earlier of her taken on (what I seem to remember) may have been her 91st birthday.. This brings you alive a little bit.. All I can do is ask a lot of questions and try my best to summon some response from you, but the darkness of that big pool of ‘muck’ swirling is so familiar to me and it seems to have you paralysed while you focus all of its intensity on me.. There will be times I cry but then I get combative.. You agree with me the drugs are not working.. .I talk of fighting and of the sword we need to use to cut ourselves free from what is not part of our truth, not good for us. But you remind me, this sword is something you cannot access. So should I be fighting for you? I am so confused. Am I letting you down? But when I get all charged up you tell me I am just being me but this lively me is the one that you did not like, that you wanted to be different, that you rejected, that you led me to believe is a ‘nuisance’, ‘too much’, ‘bad’ not good and compliant like you But this lively me is me and its hungry for life, for love for so much more than this.. It Is sick of living in death and decay..

I bear with the tension and banked up intensity for as long as I can.. I manage to get the nurses to locate a vase and I prepare the lillies, shedding the lower leaves and cutting the stems then carrying them into the room, one sign of life.. But now I sense it is time for me to go. One and a half hours with the reptile that lives inside your eyes is becoming so much.. its a pool of dark inertia..and I am famished. This is not an alive life IT IS NOT WHERE I WANT TO LIVE. AND YOU TOLD ME TODAY YOU CHOSE THIS RATHER THAN LIFE. SO I HAVE TO ACCEPT IT.. I HAVE TO ‘HAND IT OVER’ AND ACCEPT IT.

The intrinsic connection between grief and love

It seems to me our deepest impulse in terms of the need to be loved underlies so much of our grief.. not only over loving and losing but over never finding that love in the form we needed it when young… We all long to be seen and known, when this doesn’t happen there is a grief that sits under the surface of consciousness and may not be ‘known’ by us for some time.. This ‘hole in the soul’ runs deep and since we first seek that in our family of origin its here where the wounds happen and they need to be addressed in later life if we want to eventually come fully to life in order to live and love as our true selves.

I was thinking a moment ago of the four solutions we resort to that Mark Wolynn talks of when we seek to connect with a parent or source of love in childhood.. one is that we find that source in them and do connect, the second is the parent fails to provide and so we cut off that longing and flow and subvert it.. in another we seek it from a sibling.. this is what I did with my Mum and Dad being unavailable.. it was my older sister who saw me, but she left and then got sick and so that was a double grief for me. Over time I learned to turn within or to substances and in time I lost access to my true feelings over it, it has been these feelings I have had to work with in active sobriety.

I just went and sat down by the lake and finished off a wonderful novel I have been reading but at the end of it my thoughts turned to my sister.. Earlier I read Oscar Cainers daily horoscope for Aquarius that said in an uncertain world its hard to know what to believe or where to turn but that there are five qualities that can sustain us.. : Kindness, Friendship, Generosity, Compassion and Love.. I thought of the nasty inaccurate things my living sister said to me in the year after Jonathan left and how her brutality coming out of emotional ignorance drove me over to the UK where the unprocessed anger and hurt over it lead to a massive head injury.. maybe something about this time that is now erased for her due to all the meds and shock treatment is perculating down inside.. She tried to erase me from the coast house earlier in the year by packing up all of my books and boxes and storing them in the shed.. To her it was probably done out of a desire to help me as I said it was hard to go down there alone to the place I ended up forsaken and abandoned after my husband left. I was so hurt by that back in February but I sucked it up on our trip there.. I just called the removalists and they came to pack it all up. I didn’t have an angry outburst I just cried and cried and cried. I seem to do a lot of crying around my sister when I don’t have anxiety spin outs around her.

Despite all of this I feel for my sister.. lying in bed with the blankets pulled up all around her unable to communicate with visitors… I don’t know what it is going to take to bring her back from the dark side this time.. and despite this I do feel love… but its a confused kind of love.

In the movie 28 Days Sandra Bullock makes friends with her sister who appears to be the more high functioning sibling in the traumatised family.. she recognises that her sister was once a child too in the family system and sought her own role which involved looking down on the ’embarrasing’ active addict who is expressing so much of the family pain…In a similar way my mother always forgave her mother for hitting her as she knew that as an abandoned war widow with no government assistance left to support a young daughter all alone so far from family that her Mum was frustrated.. it was something her best friend’s daughter and I discussed the other day… that generation had to suck it up… and they had to bury so much… trauma and stress just get carried or passed on as epigenetic research by Bruce Lipton and Dr Yehuda demonstrates..

I am a bit off the track writing this right now. It is a processing post… I just thought on the way home of how much, as a young child I longed for my sister’s love but how our family was so geared around externals it was hard to find that… in the end it is something I have had to find for myself as an adult with the help of therapy and my higher power. That said I still grieve for those who left me and could not love me where I was at and this included my ex husband.. He gave me a great gift when he emailed me back in May when he said “I really understand your need for therapy now.” He actively tried to block it along with my Mum but in the end I trusted my path into the dark…

Through it along the way I found the love for myself and even for my wounded family.. how could they give me something they never had, or a sense that I am perfect as I am even with all of my idiosyncrasies? I now see I can only gain that in any authentic way from within and even after years of being almost crippled by a virulent inner critic who was almost demonic at times.. Slowly over time and through much agony I am coming to a deeper understanding of the inner forces that drove me towards addiction and self hatred…I also understand more deeply and have more compassion for the forces that drove that poor inner child of my Mum who had to struggle so hard to be seen and find her own path..

At 14 years of age Mum actively defied a mother who wanted her only to be a domestic servant and found a profession.. She fought to be seen in the fashion industry by top designers.. she was bloody trojan, she just had to be.. I am glad in so many ways for the gifts of strength she bequeathed me as well as the deep deep insecurity… in the end it was for me to make sense of it all and carve my own self out of that inheritance.. today I feel myself becoming stronger while at times more profoundly aware of inner vulnerabilities, fears, weak spots and insecurities…

I am also learning how intimately and intricately longing, grief and love are interconnected along with rage… in the end each of us must work to understand the emotions that drive us as we grapple to find which emotions to express and which are in need of alchemy, each of us has to find ways to contain our wounds and find the healing solution in bearing witness to them for long enough that self love and insight as well as self compassion can arise. Armed with these tools we are less likely to judge others and we become more able to define boundaries as well as see where the impulses to merge or belong create complex challenges for us.

So many tears

I did not think I could contain all the tears that burst out of me today in therapy, its been such a rocky few days, the body pain has been searing since Tuesday and I did not think I could stay on earth with it.. it was truly horrendous. This pain comes up when doubt eclipses love as more longing and togetherness is thwarted, and it contains all the losses I had to keep at bay..

Today in therapy I was back in the hospital ward after the crash in September 1979 and remembering all the nights Mum and Dad came up with meals for me and a small bottle of wine… they didn’t know any other way but to give me that ‘medicine’ for the pain, and I cried over that. Today I felt the love they struggled to show .. but MY GOD thr pain I was in… it had no words at all and today as the dam inside of me burst with all the pain of the pent up smash and emotions I felt I was exploding as I felt the pressure all around my chest crushing me.

Earlier I had been sharing with Kat my therapist about my post on the astrology of the Queen and in particular about her Saturn in Scorpio that became both the Sun and the Moon in her two son’s charts and Kat shared how in the second season of The Crown you see her becoming more and more boxed in with the repression of the formalism of her role and the pressures of ‘duty’ as well as the pressing down of emotion.

I remembered today too, how my sister came to wash my hair after a few weeks as prior to that time, my head was too smashed around. In fact, at our school reunion last year, someone said the moment they saw me in hospital they had to leave the room and throw up. After the crash I wasn’t given a mirror for some weeks.. my sister had to come behind the back of the bed and use a bucket of water to wash my hair.. these acts of kindness I remember now and they break my heart open.

Not sure why all this is emerging right now but it may have to do with twelfth house transits of Sun and Mercury, the sun is due to shift from water to fire soon and that always feels intense for me as that initial 15 degrees of Leo fire are ‘trapped’ in the 12th house. Until these two energies move over the ascendant I can feel like I am being crushed or pressed down, especially as they oppose my Mars Saturn Moon, and lots of images of past things have been flooding through me over the past day or so…

In therapy the grief was also over watching the movie Nights in Rodanthe again yesterday, the scenes in which the lead character waits for her loved one to come home to her from South America only to find he has died broke me apart, and then the scene in which his son hands her a box full of letters and other personal effects of his Dad summoned up memories.. Also at the end of the movie in the midst of her grief on the beach she looks up to see about 5 wild horses running towards her and it was then i remembered that at about this time 14 years ago how my husband handed me a little blue metal box at the airport as he was leaving me with 200 dollars and said to me ‘this is for a horse ride on the beach.’ I know with that simple gesture how much he wanted me to be free but all of my unresolved unfelt grief lay before me then at I hit 10 years of active sobriety.. such a journey of heartbreak into the dark I had to begin from 2004 onwards so dark it almost crushes my heart entirely. It may seem to some strange to say I can still be grieving his loss all this time later, but today again, as that anniversary draws near I feel the both the love and the longing I had for him to say he would stay by my side, n abandon me, and hold my hand while I went through it, but then he had his own grief he had not yet dealt with, so I must forgive, I do forgive.

It is right that I grieve. It is right that I still feel sadness not only for my lost opportunity to live a life in freedom with him overseas but in recognition for the ancestral loss of the father I carried for four subsequent generations… this work I am doing is not only personal, it is collective too. I heard a lovely thing about crying in the movie Little Italy this week in which the grandmother says to her grand daughter Nikki that tears wash the soul clean.. I would never want to deny anyone tears. I also know there is a time to be happy but how would we know happiness without tears and sorrow (the loss of which they speak?) How would we know joy without knowing such agonising depths of pain? So why deny others their legitimate feelings and grief, maybe because so many in our culture fear it.

Tonight I still feel raw, I have a splitting head but its the result of carrying all the pent up emotions that I had to release in therapy today. Just when i think the deep dive is over I hit another wave of remembrance which seems fitting with Mercury passing over the degrees of my Mum’s Pluto in Cancer. Mine has been a life wracked with illness, accidents, addiction, repression, loss and suffering and I am still shedding all of this… I do not dictate this process, God does…. I just have to submit to the cleansing as it happens, allowing the healing waves of emotions to wash over me and bathe me, summoning up all the buried flotsam and jetsum, until they are done with me.

The problem of self calming : some reflections on activation and calming

Recently my sister and I were discussing our childhood. Her words were this when talking about my mother : “she was like a tornado”.. to be honest it was hard to relax around my Mum.. I got my foot burned on one caravanning holiday when she left a bucket of boiling water underneath the table I was drawing on while cleaning the floor and I stepped into it and got 3rd degree burns.. now another more attentive child, perhaps not so ‘lost’ in her own world or passion of the moment may have seen it and averted disaster.

I learned in time to try to use substances to calm me down or take the edge off.. my parents used alcohol for this purpose at the end of each working day and we were encouraged to do the same.. for me it ended in addiction and I am happy I got to put alcohol, drugs and cigarettes down in 1993 but I still find looking for comfort in food just comes naturally…

I had a discussion with a friend over the past week in which she said that being told to ‘be calm’ or ‘calm down’ is a sure trigger for becoming less calm….it might be like telling a person with really bad insect bites not to scratch without some other kind of soothing being offered such as balm for the soreness. Balm for the uncalm might be words like “I am sorry its so uncomfortable right now” or “that must have been very distressing” validation, empathy causes the increase of oxytocin and the reduction of cortisol.

I don’t know what would have calmed my mother during one of her frenzies or OCD rampages…its taking me years to know I don’t have to clear up and wash all the dishes immediately I stop eating or cooking.. one of my ways of being seen was to run around after Mum cleaning up after she got home from her job at her dress shop every day around 6 pm. Later in my recovery I had a dream in which the dream young me was all wired up through the shoulder with a wire coat hanger.. What a powerful metaphor for how entwined I was body, mind and psyche with family energy patterns of looking good and over drive…

Calming for me now comes with writing in which I tap into and release the stored vibrational charge of feeling; in writing poetry, in listening to music, it comes in nature (as I share ad infinitum here); with my dog; with calm loving friends who are emotionally present and honest with true open hearts..

Triggers for me are : criticism, the disapproving stare (flared nostrils and hard dark stare often proceeded one of my Mum’s rages.) I can forgive my Mum in a way now as I know she never got lovingly contained or mirrored and she carried so much from the maternal generational legacy of buried built up stress and repressed emotions…that was impossible to contain. I can forgive my Dad for not knowing how to cope with it, and so checking out… and I can understand the deep roots of my anxious avoidant attachment style which at other times can be disordered..

Calm is only coming slowly but it is coming… I am still activated but only by the old triggers and stepping down from them is becoming quicker and easier as learn where my wound and necessary boundaries and self soothing strategies lay.

Longing to be seen in unavailable families : some current insighs

I sometimes wonder if you even stop longing for the wrong people to see you.. Growing up in a narcissistically oriented family its a lot like you don’t exist as a real person.. your soul gets negated or killed off so often, but in such a silent and difficult way, as to make you end up doubting your own reality..

When I started studying naturopathic theory in 1991 I came across the double bind theory of schizophrenia developed by Gregory Bateson. In this theory when a child goes to a parent with their emotional perception the parent denies the truth and doesn’t explain their own behaviour (since, I guess, they aren’t even conscious of it themselves.) This sends a younger child a little crazy and begins to fill their head with second guessing and self doubt, they begin to question “were things really as I perceived them to be? Mum seemed angry but she says she isn’t and that if only I left her alone or did not do or say that, she would be okay.” the child may have to develop an inner dialogue to survive, but it is a confusing and unrestful inner dialogue.. One also begins to question everything.

I have done a few posts on the protector – persecutor archetype which lives deep inside the psyche of those of us with childhood wounding, trauma or neglect…Elaine Aron the founder of the concept of the Highly Sensitive Person addresses this archetype and inner force a great deal in one of her books : “The Undervalued Self.”

If we had to protect ourselves from a wounding parent or compensate for an unavailable one in childhood we may also transfer this dynamic onto new relationships.. we get easily triggered and may see things in others from the past, we also have a lot of work to do so that we don’t continue to attract the exact same invalidation, nor internalise it.

We also have to learn to trust our true feelings and perceptions. Not being seen is very crazy making and it can fill you with profound feelings of helplessness and frustration.. Also having your boundaries over run or being placed in a position where its nearly impossible to delineate and express them is even harder.. Its only lately I am seeing how much I have struggled with boundaries, most especially around family members in later life when their behaviour has been hurtful, invalidating and confusing.

Up til now I have kept an open mind with family knowing that we all came out of a lot of emotional neglect but the wash up over my mother’s inheritance and my brother’s assumption of complete paternal control has been triggering me over the past 24 hours.. He is not willing to release even a portion of what Mum left to us and its making me really distressed and upset my equilibrium entirely over that time…So often with my brother I experience that narcissistic individual’s impenetrable wall…. they cant see you, don’t want to see you, have already decided you are less than and only worthy of their contempt or to be erased psychologically or ignored.. they can erase you so easily even when you are in the same room.. my brother has done it to me so many times now and I could not hide from my fury and rage over it last night..where the fuck does he get off controlling my sister’s and my life in this way? I need to vent about it here as I don’t have therapy until Monday.. When I got the news last night a family friend who has worked in the past for he and my father made it plain she agrees he is not being fair.. I think if my sister and I were both men he would not be treating us in this way…

There is nothing at times that triggers me than not being seen or having boundaries over ridden.. It was hard enough in my family as the youngest by a long way having things pushed on me I didn’t like.. I got in trouble with alcohol too as Dad made us drink at a young age thinking that would help us to be responsible drinkers, the problem he didn’t model how to have healthy emotions and boundaries either and so that made alcohol a hiding place not a stress release especially with low confidence and inverted narcissism.

Today I was tempted to turn everything back on myself again… but then I realised what I was doing, taking the blame for something not my fault.. I have managed to stay sober for over 26 years now so that has to be saying something, but my boundaries have not been good.. I got dragged along in things due to lack of insight and protection, I denied and sucked up things I should have said no to, sometimes due to ignorance, at others just I longed to be or to stay connected at all costs, even to those who did not treat me well…..Today some more of my denial broke down as I saw how I can press the emotional truth down and how painful it was to be treated in a state of emotional melt down as if my feelings made no sense. Its been one hell of a painful and damaging conundrum… and I really had to hold and validate my inner child today.. I had two nights of trying to be there again only to not be related too though there are some small signs of progress…

Today I feel in a strange place, the sun is shining but it still feels like the dark old world of the past is lapping around my ankles like a pitch black ocean… I don’t want to go under again and in some way I can feel my feet on the sand.. but I need to continue to be mindful and not blow off my own instincts, gut feelings and true perceptions.. nor tone down my fight response just because I fear being misunderstood or sidelined.

Critical symptoms of Childhood Emotional Neglect

Benign neglect is still neglect, it is something therapist Jonice Webb addresses in depth in her book Running on Empty. Many of us could say that we came from loving homes or homes that to all appearances seemed okay or functional from an objective external point of reference and yet something was still missing at the core of such families, a critical sense of warmth, emotional resonance, parental presence, availability and connection which can be hard to articulate. Feelings of emptiness haunt the soul who suffered CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect) and the pervasive if unspoken feeling ‘there is something wrong with me’ may dog many of us well into adulthood, it is one of the critical symptoms of CEN. It is not based on any objective truth though, the truth was we never got adequate care and then internalised the belief it was somehow our fault. Our responsibility in the present rests in recognising levels of wounding and trying to find ways to get valid needs met we did not feel allowed to have at the time, rather than internalising self blame.

I shared a lot from Jonice’s book a while back, you will find links to these posts below when I manage to find them back. It took me until I read her book to really get a true handle on what haunted me many years in sobriety when I felt I should be doing a lot better than I was, never the less I was still attracted to dysfunctional emotionally absent relationships and I suffered profoundly mixed feelings of sadness, anger, pain and confusion, I also see now I struggled with critical issues of boundaries and self care.

CEN sufferers often blame themselves when things go wrong or for our suffering and we often don’t know how to take care of ourselves across many levels. For example the child who is left alone a lot may look to comfort from substances like food or drink, seeking the missing love that would come from an emotionally present, warm, available, engaged parent.

I was triggered to break down in tears when watching a programme about latch key children about a month ago. The film showed a little boy going to a fridge to take out some food with a lonely and forlorn look on his face. As I think about this now after just having met up with a close family friend to my mother, an image of her as a child comes to mind. I love the Louise Hay evening meditation in which she asks us to visualise in our mind’s eye both our parents as small children, taking them with love into our hearts. I think of my Mum sitting all alone on the back step after school with no mother at home looking longingly at the neighbourhood kids playing with siblings and longing for a brother and/or sister. I think too of how when she had kids were born too far apart in age to really be able to play like this, something my siblings and I sometimes talk of.

It came up in conversation with my friend earlier how my sister wished not to have a bar of me when I was about 8 to 14. I remember clearly getting my period while Mum and Dad were on a trip away and I had never been told what period was, I went to my sister crying with bloody underpants and got fobbed off in some way. I remember the mix of shame and aloneness and confusion I felt. I don’t remember how it was addressed when Mum and Dad got back home.

Another symptom of CEN is that we feel we must be independent. We learned early on that it was not possible to reach out, open up or rely on anyone. We learn to keep our cards close to our chest, we feel we should manage things that others naturally need help with, the list can go on. I see how this manifests now in the life of my other sister and I see how self contained my brother stays remaining perpetually self focused on work work work and not engaging emotionally AT ANY TIME. The exception was at my older sister’s funeral when he broke down giving the eulogy. He rarely went to visit her in the care home where she lived in the later years with Complex PTSD and acquired brain injury (incorrectly diagnosed bi polar disorder, I feel). His wife told my mother years ago she never wanted her daughter anywhere near my older sister who flipped out and tried to take her life after her husband abandoned her. Guess what? My niece ended up in the psyche ward AT THE EXACT AGE MY OLDER SISTER HAD HER CEREBRAL BLEED AND RESULTING PSYCHOSIS.

I think while writing this of my own struggle with addiction, about how silent I used to believe I must be, how I must try never to be ‘too much trouble’ and sadly remember it was because of this my mother eventually had the final fall that ended her life, she drove herself all alone to a doctors appointment then went to do shopping when she was struggling with walking and chronic back pain because she ‘didn’t want to bother me or my sister!’

I just broke down with our family friend. She told me I am a cry baby but this is the real pain and struggle of my entire family with CEN that I am realising now after almost 26 years of active sobriety. My so called defects of character could read like a skit from British comic act Monty Python : fear, surprise, a ruthless efficiency and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope (just joshing!!!) But the perfectionism (ruthless efficiency) as well as ruthless self sufficiency defects could be primary ones. That said there are times we need to take the bull by the horns and do it ourselves if we want to truly recover and own our power, but never the less being forced at times to cope on all alone, put on a good front and ask nothing of anyone IS NOT GOOD FOR US. And often it may also come from never having felt truly safe, validated or ‘got’. As a default the sense that if we are to get attention or be considered ‘good enough’ we must always be there for others and never demand too much also sets in making us codependent in an attempt to win the missing love.

Well I am glad I could shed the tears anyway. I know the cure to what ails my sister is not an easy one and I honestly never believed it lay in medication nor in some of the so called ‘strategies’ they are trying to arm her with for about the 8th similar hospitalisation. My sister’s heart is lonely and she may feel there is definitely ‘something wrong with her’, a person who tried all her life to be there for others and not expect or ask too much. But my heart knows the true pain lies deeper and cannot ever be fully addressed by band aids or medications.

Many CEN sufferers do end up ending their lives, like Robin Williams they may have had to put on funny or happy mask but never the less what they were forced to face deep in the lonely privacy of their own hearts and souls may in the end being far far too difficult to come to grips with or digest, inner disparaging voices of self blame also dog many CEN survivors marking us in many places with deeply inarticulate wound which may seem impossible to fully make sense of or bear.

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/who-are-we-really-the-lost-feeling-self-and-its-role-in-suicidal-ideation/

https://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/signs-you-may-have-been-emotionally-neglected/

Have you ever? : reflections on the scapegoat and buried emotional trauma

Have you ever been scapegoated by family members? Have you ever had the finger pointed at you telling you you are the problem? There is a saying I heard in the 12 step rooms many years back… “when you point the finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back the other way towards you” (yes folks try it right now and you will see it is true.)

Many many years ago led by his unconscious and dream images psychiatrist Carl Jung had a dream that showed a psychic inner structure that he came to call the shadow. This shadow he came to believe contained all the characteristics of us we are not on friendly terms with or that our family or culture was no on friendly terms with (ie. there is both a personal and collective shadow).

Some people have a lot of darker emotions hidden in the shadow, fear, sadness, rage or anger and some others of us have a lot of gold in the shadow and we may have been the ones others in family or culture tried to project darker things upon. There is also a concept in family therapy that talks of the concept of the ‘identified patient’. This is the family member who develops an addiction or breaks down in some way or has to have treatment. This is the family member that struggles in the family to be the whole of themselves and express truths or secrets others would prefer remain hidden (eg. emotional or sexual abuse). This is the family member that may be more likely to be led on the individuation pathway, a path of trying to uncover and rediscover the entirety of the soul in them that got loss or buried.

I am mentioning this today as lately I am seeing this process play out in my older sister’s (now deceased) family. And it is interesting that this is happening very close to the anniversary of her death. As I see it in the alcoholic or traumatised family there is a lot of pain but rather than every member carry their portion of the pain, each struggles in their own way and often they will target someone else in the family and tag or dump them with things. They may even exile the person just as in mythology the scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness with the so called ‘sins’ (or wounds) of the collective heaped upon its back.

Alcoholics are most usually likely to be the ‘family scapegoat’. They may struggle with emotions that were not permitted a place in the family and come to think of it in a feeling wounded culture there are feelings such as anger and sadness which are harder to express and which people are more rigidly defended against. These emotions are often not allowed expression and so they get dumped into a kind of collective psychic waste bin that is then passed on from generation to generation. Pain then accumulates and one person gives expression to it most overtly.

People who struggle with shadow projection may find it hard to ‘get their lives together’ in a culture that venerates this. That is not to say that there are no healthy ways to get our lives on track but mostly they should involve us being able to be real and struggle, to fall down sometimes, to make mistakes, to need help and support and just possibly not do as well on financially or externally on some level as others. Does that necessarily mean such people are actually failures? Does this actually mean such people are not worthy of help? Does this actually mean that such people have less value?

Today in therapy Kat and I were discussing how and why this process of scapegoating and shame dumping in family has been affecting me so bodily over the past few days. I got to therapy today in a lot of physically based emotional pain. I pretty much started crying as soon as I got in the car and the cascade of trauma flashbacks then began taking me back to a trauma (which come to think of it now took place around this same time of year in 1990) when I had to spend hours in casualty after driving myself with severe abdominal pain in the middle of the night. Turned out I was pregnant at the time and that the sac containing the tiny embryo had ruptured. I ended up having to have a termination of pregnancy (my fourth) and it coincided with having to leave the group house I was living in and with my them boyfriend lying to his family and pretending I had had an operation for kidney stones.

After the termination he broke things off with me and I got drunk and ended up at his parent’s place crying and yelling, of course they thought I was demented and out of control and they never found out the truth as he broke things off with me again fairly rapidly (after a brief reunion) and in the aftermath the next 2 years saw some of the lowest points of my addiction spanning the years to December 1993 when I finally got sober.

Well today in the car I was back here in St Vincent’s casualty lying alone for hours and hours as they ran tests. I think too this trauma was triggered over the weekend because calls were not returned by family, Scott was AWOL and my nephew then rang telling me I needed not to give help to my other nephew who is struggling financially in the aftermath of his relationship ending. Being left all alone and waiting and missing a therapy appointment which was delayed due to Easter Monday meant that issue of having to wait all alone was retriggered for me and then the shadow projection onto my lovely nephew triggered how I was treated over the next year by a so called ‘friend’ who kept confronting me about my addiction which was nothing less than self medication in the face of ongoing trauma spanning the years 1979 to 1992.

The truth is addicts often say their addiction saved their life. We use the self medication until it no longer keeps working for us. Recovery then involves a huge and long drawn our journey of unpeeling or unravelling down to the true causes of which addiction was only obscuring or a symptom of.

For me the original trauma is about attachment traumas, wounds and emotional neglect vacancies or ‘black holes”. I now know this without a doubt. After years and years of blaming myself (as most emotional neglect survivors do) today in therapy I finally wept for my true self who so often gets beaten up by a self compassion lacking inner critic who is echoed by the outer critic lately being turned on my nephew. Only another addict in recovery may fully understand that fact unless the person had been trained in empathic attunement. Attachment traumas and wounds so often become gravitational force fields for others, in the well known process of so called ‘repetition compulsion’ what we fail to call up to consciousness will repeat until it is addressed or felt and this must happen IN THE BODY. THE CELLS CONTAIN EVERYTHING.. THE MIND CAN BE USED TO MAKE SENSE OF IT WHEN ATTUNED TO THE BODY. JUDGEMENTS WILL NOT SHOW US THE UNDERLYING PSYCHIC REALITY WHICH MUST BE FACED IN TIME AND DEEPLY FELT IN ORDER TO BE RELEASED AND MADE SENSE OF (BROUGHT OUT OF DISSOCIATION INTO ASSOCIATION OR RE-MEMBERING!)

Scapegoating the sufferer is cruel. It is lacking in both insight and empathy. It concentrates on the ugliness of the symptoms while NOT FULLY SEEING OR UNDERSTANDING THE FEELINGS OF PAIN DISTRESS AND UNWORTHINESS WHICH UNDERLIE IT. Scapegoating serves no other purpose but to bolster up the defended ego and keep in place the ignorance of the Scapegoatees. In traumatised and addicted families or families with multi-generational trauma everyone struggles, but the one who struggles a little more with hidden emotions needs support and encouragement. They need to be brought back out of the cold place of exile and embraced in their full humanity but sadly this will be almost impossible unless the Scapegoatees also face what they are blocking, projecting or defending against or finding it hard to open up to or face. Blaming and targeting others in such a way never really ends well and it blocks connected healing and embracing of the actual trauma that sorely needs recognition.