When a dog dies

My heart felt so very sad last night for a good blogger friend whose dog passed on Saturday… this is the second friend to have lost a dog in the past month or so, and it always reminds me to value and express my love to and for my own best friend Jasper so much the more.. So we got out early today for a long walk through the park and to the oval, because I had my car booked in for service today but due to talking to my friend for a long time last night I was too tired to make that trek which involves a lot of walking and waiting at a nearby shopping center for my car… I Just felt I would rather be out in nature with Jasper today and so I put the service off for another two weeks.. I even then managed an extra hour’s sleep, to me that feels like good self care.

We just got back a moment ago and to be honest I cried a lot driving home, my favorite time in life is on the way back from a good walk, Jasper sits down on the floor on the passenger side of my care and gazes up at me smiling and looking into my eyes so intensely.. at times it freaks me out but today it just made my heart swell up with love for him.

Earlier I was doing a meditation sitting under the big old trees with the magpies close by, to be in nature to sit or have bare feet on the grass is good for inflammation, I also believe it helps me in my chronic PTSD muscle spasm situation as does the walking.. But in the meditation I thought of how both friends told that towards the end of their lives their dogs went outside, one dug a hole in the dirt to get close to it and the other sat outside at night looking longingly at the snow.. What came to me in meditation from the angels is how close to the spiritual realm dogs live (possibly cats too, but I have no knowledge much of that as my Mum hated cats due to having been scratched when young) and that they have a lot of concern for us humans living so far apart from nature.. This just came to me.. I do not know how true it is but I always think of these two things about the word GOD Dog is God spelt backwards and in AA we often refer to our Higher Power or God as the Great Out Doors..

Outdoors is where we feel the vastness of nature and of the forces that shape it and us and out pets and animals as well.. As Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn always used to remind us we are all part of a vast interconnected tapestry of life and each thing we do affects all things in some way.. some call it the Butterfly effect and there is another term coined by a scientist Rupert Sheldrake called morphic resonance… Sadly I do not know much about Quantam Physics and black holes but it must be so interesting to know about these mysteries.. Conversing with my friend last night he spoke of how so many people fear the dark and demonize the villian in their woundedness, but without the Villian there could be no hero. Sadly our culture veers more and more to the masculine conquest side where power was equated to POWER OVER NATURE AND THE FEMININE.. but these words from the Chinese Taoist text resonate. He who knows the masculine but keeps to the feminine becomes a channel for the world. Action and passivity are two sides of one coin and we need both to experience wholeness, Hatred and love, again too sides of one coin. Fear and faith, mercy and judgement, inner and outer, dark and light both polarities of which there are a million more reflecting the different sides of one coin.

Those dearly beloved animal buddies Dakota and Beau have now entered the spirit realms.. and I pray that my dear friends feel their love shine on even as they miss their best friends. And for me a reminder of what death brings to them is to keep treasuring the precious moments of presence I have with my own pet, for I truly believe they are given to us as a gift and the loyalty, unconditional love and healing we can gain from them is truly for so many of us a gift without measure most especially for those of us living with PTSD and Complex PTSD.

Fragmenting

Lately when I have therapy it feels like I am fragmenting, I get overwhelmed with visions and memories of my older sister around the anniversary of her embolism and then those memories are interspersed with words she said to me.. How she told me there would be a healing to all of this in years to come.. Magical thinking? I remember the painful aftermath of the bleed in the following 5 yeas leading to my father death and how the rippling effects in arresting my early adult development then decimated my marriage. In later years I recall how tough it was sometimes visiting or taking her on outings and needed to push the increasing expanse of her medicated, increasingly disabled and damaged body along in the wheelchair.

Several times the chair fell forward either on the path from her home to the cafe opposite or at the movies. One time we got tipped half way upside down in the elevator going to the movies and I was in such a panic but managed to right it all alone somehow. Often I would meet the maxi taxi on the opposite side of the street then wheel her over to the cinema.

One time she wailed and screamed so much in a movie – A Royal Affair that I wheeled her out so as not to ruin the screening for the other viewers (feeling so so conflicted about it) and this was the movie about a woman whose children were taken from her. When my brother in law returned my sister to Mum and Dad in 1984 like a used up package he lied to the younger ones and led them to believe she had abandoned them. To be honest in recent years her third son has told me of psychotic incidents involving my sister and they were not pretty. My sister could be a demon due to her own trauma and he ensuing medication and other long term affects of brain damage.

Today in therapy I wept and wept while my whole body went into an explosive spiral we had to go about 5 minutes over time which never happens, I had my denture in and out and there were both tears and spasms, lately the emotional constriction we lived within has been revealing itself. There was a tightness to Mum and my second sister a kind of disconnected drivenness that made relaxing impossible. Even now I sometimes fear the price of relaxing or resting may be death. And woebegone if I was happy or full of life or needing something that was most often met with punishment, shut down, isolation or ridicule.

Anyway after therapy today I was so disoriented emotionally I left the car in the shopping centre parking lot with the keys in the ignition after running around madly thinking I’d lost them. What a dunce I felt when the security guy helping me went back to the car with me and we found them. I got myself in such a state crying “there’s no one to help me” and yet they were trying. But today in editing this back I see its the fucking critic on my case am I at fault for valiantly battling on while risking to come alive again even with five missing upper teeth.. This is not on shaming myself.

All of this makes me feel I should be stopping therapy, that it’s making me lose my grounding in the now. This is the way my mind goes endlessly over analysing until a massive groundswell of feeling floods the banks of conscious awareness and yet today editing it back I consider what major work this re-membering and trying to gather together the scattered pieces not only of a remotely intellectualized ‘narrative’ but what that really means and how enormous it is on a bodily as well as energetic level. At one point in therapy after a huge outburst of tears my eyes were blurry and then I was with the angels in my body then telling me that my vision was being cleared and then looking at my therapist thinking DO YOU EVEN HAVE A BLOODY CLUE OF HOW TOUGH THIS IS?

What a relief to get home to Jasper to feel the cool breeze flowing close by, to unpack all my groceries and clean out the fridge, to then rest in the simplicity and the emptying of a gentle trouble free moment not hijacked by past traumatic memory. I need to breathe lately….drowning in past stuff just feels wrong somehow and yet I lived all of these experiences and like it or not my older sister’s soul journey will forever remain intertwined with mine BECAUSE I DEEPLY LOVED HER. This is the cost of loving to feel pain, this is the truth of being an embodied person not trapped in a head trip.

Also I feel things. By my nature I am a sensitive and an empath not a shut down person, I feel the heights and depths and breadths. As tough as it feels at times, as seemingly vast and impossible to contain would I really want to be someone else?

#Never the less there is a time to blow this stuff off when it cripples or fragments me or stops me from embracing the pregnant possibly of a new and clear present moment, but neither can I negate what it is nor how enormously lonely carrying the full weight of it has been at times.

Bound

You bound me up inside the straight jacket

Of your own emotional neglect

And insecurities

So tightly that I could no longer

Feel my own lifeblood and breath

Moving through me

And if the spirit of us

All that is most pure, live and real

Resides inside the power of air

That we can ingest

Then in that way you locked me up

Within an airless tower

So far from human life intelligence

Understanding, empathy and love

So now as I walk trying to take back my power

Is it any wonder I cry

Mum I was there for you

By your side every time you were suffering

Holding the hands of you and my sisters

Crying for what was done to all of us

And yet you chose to give that power away

To your oldest son

Who was never there

Always ran

Always had to deny

True passion, depth and feeling

Is it any wonder I wised to die

A short time ago

When it became clear

He would cut me down and try to deny me

Anyway he could

Human warmth

Understanding love and connection

But he is not that strong

For even as his fear locks he and his family up

In a prison

Slowly and painfully I feel the stolen air

Returning to my lungs

With this flood of returning feeling

So powerful it will not longer be denied

This is why we suicide

Or throw our souls on a funeral pire

Just as these old age women

Venerated the cutting masculine force

That severed them from feeling

While weeping all alone in silence

What can we do to make an uprising?

Mothers you were left

Empty and vacant

Even incapable of understanding

The deep wounds your returning husbands bore

Under a heavy cloak of restriction and silence

And so the damage got enacted on us

You tried to cut me to shape

To fit your ideal of what

A ‘nice’ girl could be

But I was not born to the a domesticated servant

I am a woman

With the heart of a lion

And I will not longer consent to this silence

To this hopelessness

To this grief

Even as I and my spiritual siblings weep

Over what is being done to us

In this darkest age

Of growing inner despair

And emotional blindness

A powerful tide is rising

A wild fire is burning

That will not be refused

But this the returning power of

Light and feeling

Passion and fire

Must be used skillfully

To cut our bleeding heart

Of enslaved humanity

Free

An anchor in the storm

Listening to music often sparks thoughts or memories or associations, this song is one I first heard a few months back, I believe it was featured in a movie. When I listen to it and the desire the singer expresses to have a guide in the storm it makes sense, for if we are left at the mercy of big inner storms, floods of feeling or shock trauma re-actions from PTSD it can be harder on our own..

I remember after my second accident which occurred late in June in 2005 how the hospital connected me with a lovely woman around my own age named Marlene, by a weird case of synchronicity Marlene was Dutch and even from my Dad’s home town. After coming to see me in the hospital after the crash I remember the day she supported me to do my grocery shopping.. Just this simple task was so overwhelming for me, I was in Cambridge lodging with a family, I had no car and I would get flooded all of the time, experiencing nausea, and profound dissociation/dislocation feelings, even getting out of bed was a major achievement.. Those days are behind me but I still get the morning post eating head rushes and I just had one after walking Jasper to the oval and kicking the ball around.. It wasn’t long after lunch but my entire system and chakras were flooded, maybe some of the cold and fresh air played a part.

Marlene and I ended up becoming good friends I still found it hard to draw as close to her as I would have liked, when I went to Glastonbury shortly after the accident due to the family finding my trauma ‘too distressing a reminder’ I think she hoped I would eventually return to Cambridge and we may live together but she did not tell me this until I had booked a return fare home that Christmas, one of the last things we did was attend a beautiful church service with classical music.. Marlene really represented a strong part of my European soul I wish I could have lived then but the pull of family was strong. due to my older sister still being in a need of a lot of support and my Mum as well.

It is easier for me to tolerate being on my own now and I can hold all of these memories close as I am mindful to remember things evolved as they needed to at the time for my soul journey.. I had to come home and go through worse things in order to grow.

To be honest over the past few years in my home town I have managed to build some genuine connections with people related to my family, some relationships have changed and since my sister has been struggling in some way this has brought me closer to some of her friends that her depression often tries to cut her off from… I actually had two calls from people yesterday wanting to know how best to handle the way she is treating them.. I know for myself depression can sometimes lie, it tells us people are not safe who may be (especially if we have anxious attachment) and if we have the huge fear of vulnerability and of feeling unmasked (which my sister seems to have even more of than me) it gets doubly hard.

Sometimes too friends do not know how to be present with someone in the depths and silence of freeze, profound introversion or withdrawal.. The person may actually be comforted by you being there even if they cannot express it if you do not invade them and can simply show them via touch or acceptance a sense of allowing them to be where they are. This is something my family could not give to me when I hit the wall in 2004 and sadly something my sister seemed to get a bit better at after Mum died, for me, if not for herself.

Places of holding and anchoring are important.. Its an interesting thing I was saying in therapy to Kat yesterday that when I visited my sister in that small room close to the nurses station close to dusk on Sunday sitting quietly with her for some time it seemed to me like a womb. She didn’t have the light on at first and she was sitting fully dressed on the bed.. the words that came to me then were ‘unborn; as if she was existing in some kind of womb. I also got the impression when she turned the small upturned light on and looked at the fixtures of the bedside table that we were in some kind of ship cabin..

The night sea journey is a profound symbolic metaphor for a journey of transformation or dissolution and reforming such as my sister seems to be going through at present.. This experience appeared in one of my pre sobriety dreams and has always seemed very significant to me in terms of the journey my soul was set to embark upon then

As I write this I can call to mind the dream I had a long while back of both my sister and I walking the length of Mollymook Beach close to the house my father built shortly before he died and coming upon a beached whale, in the dream my sister looked at me with those pleading eyes of infinite sadness and longing she sometimes turns on me lately and said the words “the whales are such sad creatures.” Jonah travelled in the belly of the whale on his transformative journey, I also think a beached whale may associate to buried feelings of the ancestral history emerging from a deeply submerged collective oceanic state..

These associations and symbols ring true to my soul, they give a sense of meaning to what seems to be transpiring in my sister’s life right now and in my own over the past 19 years of my mid life journey. I need to remember too that sometimes a lot is going on inside the depths of a person when they undergo reversions or deep repressions of feeling (depression). Jung believed we can and do experience many of this kinds of dives inwards, in order to move forward and incorporate hidden parts of our self or shadow.. He underwent many himself.

Much depends on how much meaning we can give to them and if we permit ourselves to ‘mine’ then and open us up, co-operating with egoic dissolution, rather than have them medicated or numbed by the medical model.. who knows what processes the soul is undergoing in its mysterious inner landscape over such long periods.. Depression could be a huge part of the dying out of old forms of the false self in order that a process of individuation and soul reclaiming or re-anchoring or more complete embodiment of split off parts of us can take place within the ego. In other words it often represents our Self with a capital S knocking on the door and throwing a lot up in the air that we thought we were or knew before.

Keeping moving and reminding myself “I am safe!”

We just got back from a later walk, at times its a push to get moving but when I do I am grateful. I was sharing with a friend with Complex PTSD earlier about how it was to be crushed and trapped in that car, with so much cut and bleeding and my lungs filling up with fluid from the rib puncture. He went through other forms of overpowering and immobilization, and it occurs to me that Peter Levine, trauma specialist and founder of somatic experiencing says that kids pinned down in any way or immobilized as result of traumatic procedures or abuse suffer more.. There is no way to run away in such cases and they get flooded and feel trapped.. Peter helps them later to complete the necessary running movement because he learned from animals those that are allowed to move and discharge through shaking or trembling to throw off trauma fare better than those who cannot and the legacy of anger left in a child may be too ‘hot’ for a parent to handle so they may block or punish a child for it not understanding and so doom them to a host of later problems.

My friend told me today that he was sent to an institution and sent into a bubble room, I didn’t like to ask too much about that but I know his fighting off the entrapment and burst of rage were healthy, even if he got in trouble for them. That said later in life engaging in some fear fight flight reactions can get us in more trouble.

I felt better for my walk this afternoon, even discussing all of this with a good friend stirs me up. We were saying how many dud therapists we have encountered in our time and how useless we know the medication pathway is for many.. This not a popular thing and each to their own in trauma, I can only share what works for me and I never used meds, have seen the toxic results on two sister of prescriptions for many things including lithium, though another friend claims it helped her.. But that is not the purpose of this post.. It is to say how movement is so important but also releasing and discharging with someone who understands and is safe, as with ignorant or unsafe others we may be traumatised again..

That said it is a belief of mine that our body organically knows what it needs to heal and what works, as Levine notes when we over-ride those instinctive movements we lose our way. A large part of dissociation can be about being scared of memories or symptoms that are in reality not dangerous any more, that is why more and more lately when mine come up I just remind myself I am safe and being held in love.. To think the other way arks up anxiety and reactivity… it speeds me up instead of slowing me down and often my body needs me to connect to it, rather than split off as so many of us have no other alternative but to when faced with certain triggers or re-enactments of trauma.

Surfacing

Here under the weight of air

You feel the pressure of the past

Holding your heart tight

Within the embrace of silence

Surrounding your vision

Obscuring the surface of your prism

Here within the refracted place of grace

You search your soul

For every lasting trace of innocence

How to come up for air

Release the burden of longing and despair

While life on the other side of suffering

Beckons to you

Glimpses of sunlight fall

Refracted beneath the surface

Of the wave

As you feel the oceans roar

Giving you a sense of what you lost

And what you were living for

And now that the wave breaks

And you surrender to the swell

Have you finally learned the lessons

Of living well

No longer surrendering to the fear

Of losing your breath

Finding the way to surface

From the tumultuous depths

Of your surrendered self

Why anxiety and logic don’t mix : relationships and insecure attachment

Reading the book I recommended yesterday Anxious in Love is putting into perspective for me why things can hurt and go so wrong for us who suffer PTSD, Complex PTSD or anxious and insecure attachment in relationships.  As the authors point out in Part 2 :  Connecting With the One You Love different parts of the brain are operating for us and our partners who don’t see what all the fuss is about when we respond with anxiety to certain events or triggers.  I am being taken back with every word to my last relationship where I would get an hour long lecture on how wrong I had things to be responding in the way I did with little empathy shown.

In anxiety our forebrain (or rational brain) is emotionally hijacked by the lower brains (hind brain and mid brain) where centres such as the amygdala lie.  Being responded to with logic as most of us know is tantamount to having a red flag waved in front of the face of a raging bull!!!!  But we also need to understand our partner may be coping with the situation in the best way they know how while lacking a more complete understanding of how rationality has flown out the proverbial window.

In this situation what is called for is developing the ability to intentionally respond rather then becoming reactive.  The solution is for each partner to understand and have an attitude of curiosity about what is happening for the other.  It’s something an old therapist of mine would bring up a lot about by ex saying “its just sad he cannot have an attitude of curiosity about what is occurring for you”.  To be told you are bad or wrong for responding as you do is just terrible and I think its a key to so called Borderline Personality Disorder sufferer’s struggle.  Perceived abandonment when triggered can send us into a cascade or spiral that takes is into the darkest place for days and if we are left alone in it too long for some the feelings (what therapist Pete Walker calls the abandonment melange) can lead to suicide, addiction and other self destructive mechanisms of coping.

What Carolyn Daitch and Lissah Lorberbaum, authors of Anxious in Love offer instead is a way of each partner entering the other’s reality for a time to validate it, both the non anxious partner and the one who suffers anxiety.   As sufferers of insecure attachment we can learn to understand our partner’s reactions and can learn to voice our needs in relationship in a less angry, attacking or accusative way.  Often non sufferers who operate from the higher brain just do not understand the severity or intensity of our responses to triggers.

Lack of emotional flexibility is one of the hardest legacies of anxiety reactions in relationship, it shuts down emotional attunement between partners and makes an open dialogue impossible.  Being able to set a time out when we know we are being triggered and our brain is going into hijack mode is useful, and hopefully our partner will accept it if we let them know what is going on with us.  The alternative is they respond with emotional distance/withdrawal themselves, judgement and anger (being triggered themselves), misunderstanding or protest which can be very difficult.  The more we can talk through these reactions and responses in our relationships the better change we have of resolving conflict and growing empathy and attunement.    The more we can step into their shoes and understand what is happening the more we can make an “appeal to reason” while explaining what underlies our reaction.

Some partners may be even triggered by us saying what has triggered us, though. They may respond by telling us “that’s all in the past” but in that case they need to work to understand how emotional hijacking works and show empathy in any case.  A person who is not willing to do this for those of us with insecure or anxious attachment may not, in the long run, be the best partner for us.

More detailed techniques for reconnecting are given in the book in later chapters of Part Two but today I thought I would just share what I have learned from the book so far for those not in the position to purchase a copy at this point in time.  The book is building on my knowledge of many years of trying to deal with anxious attachment and its destructive effect on some of my relationships.

Because the experience of attunement with a significant other is powerful, ruptures in attuned connection bring about a sense of absence, loss, and even distress.  Yet those ruptures in attunement are inevitable in all relationships, no matter how solid.  There are times when you just fall out of sync with one another.  It’s important, therefore, that you both have the ability to repair ruptures when they occur.   Just as quickly as you fall out of sync, with some flexibility you can repair the disconnect and engage one another in attunement again.

Anxious In Love, p. 98

The dark place of abandonment

Being made to believe we are not okay as we are and certainly not deserving of someone’s love and relationship does affect us so very deeply.  I am revisiting the work of abandonment therapist Susan Anderson lately.  I was lucky to be guided towards her book From Abandonment to Healing just over 13 years ago when my marriage ended and I found myself in a very dark place.

This was not the first time as abandonment has been a pretty much constant theme for me starting with my older much loved sister leaving home when I was only 3 to marry and start her own family and live overseas.  My Mum wasn’t emotionally available to me at all, she worked all the time and when she was home we had to duck and weave around her compulsive cleaning, there was never a place to rest and my Dad also vacated through his own addictions (minor ones) when he was around he wasn’t really there.  Later in life after I nearly lost my life at the tender age of 17 in a motor vehicle smash up he was hard line forcing me to go to secretarial college in the painful aftermath of my older sister’s breakdown and cerebral bleed.  Later I saw her abandoned too at her most vulnerable time and was back at home when she tried to take her life in 1982 when I was only 20 years old.

Dad ended up dying when I was only 23 and that was followed by my then partner (who I had two terminations of pregancy to), ringing me at 4 am in the morning just a few days after my father died to tell me not to bother joining him overseas as he didn’t love me any more and had found someone else.  Do you believe that later when our paths crossed in Greece I slept with him only to come home one night and find him in bed with someone else only to be accused of being ‘mad’ when I reacted to it poorly?  Luckily at that time I was with other friends in Greece and the owner of our B and B deplored my ex’s behaviour.  Never the less I internalised the abandonment seeing it as due to a flaw in me.

I won’t go into the pain of three more similar ‘leavings’ of exs over a period of 18 more years, often on the back of being told there was something wrong with me.  What that ‘something’ I now know was terror and fear pure and simple and Susan Andersons’ newer book which I just bought Taming The Outer Child : Overcoming Self Sabotage and Healing from Abandonment explains how very real changes in our neurochemistry involving the amygdala leave us with an over active fear, flight and fight response which is automatically triggered in any new relationship or prospective interaction  (and not only with new potential partners, from my experience).  This reactive pattern she gives the name Outer Child and it can sabotage and lay to waste new connections but not only that leaves us with cumulative Post Traumatic Stress as a result of our abandonment trauma or ‘schemas’.

Anderson.jpg

As I sat with my sister yesterday after she tried on the clothes I bought for her and saw how much of her self love had been decimated I thought it is criminal what people are telling her, I know her fixation on clothes and looking good are symptoms of her abandonment but its not only that, the roulette wheel of psychiatrists and medications has left her depleted, she went down the exercise route but withouth any psycho dynamic therapy and no emotional recovery buddies.  She is not able to express and read as I am and that works against her.   I know new clothes will not fix that deeper wound to her self esteem but I think it doesn’t hurt to be there to try as it’s getting so much colder here and she has no warm jumpers and when people tell her ‘its all in her head as she has lots of clothes’, that to my mind is pretty invalidating and harsh.

I seem to have gone a little off track here but what I am trying to address in this post is how our abandonment at another’s hands can leave us questioning our own use, meaning, value, beauty and goodness and how healing involves not internalising those feelings from someone else.  In her earlier book Anderson uses the acronym S.W.I.R.L. to describe the process of working through a recent abandonment which may trigger far earlier ones.  (Shattering, Withdrawal, Internalisation, Rage, Lifting).

The true abandonment as adults is then self abandonment which occurs as we internalise false beliefs about our value and worth and fail to understand or validate reactions to abandonment and its deeper triggers. For sure we may not be perfect and have wounds and scars and reaction patterns we need to understand and work with : the process Anderson outlines in the second book, but we are not worthless because we have been abandoned or gone through loss and all our feelings and reactions make complete sense once we understand their roots and work to understand our own history and self sabotaging behaviours.

From this position we should be showing compassion to those who have suffered emotional abandonment not be taking out a big stick to hit them over the head with.   For healing involves compassion, wisdom and tenderness both to others and to our inner child that bleed from very real wounds in earlier life.

I took the risk

My brother called this morning.  My sister’s anxiety is so bad that they are putting her in hospital and he wanted to come over to discuss it with me in half an hour.  Her psychiatrist just ‘retired’ leaving her with no one, she then got another referral and has to wait 4 months to see anyone.  I was so angry to hear this.  My sister never opens up to me but maybe I should have asked what the situation is but since my sister chooses to do no therapy I find its a bit of a no go zone discussing psychiatrists.  My sister has been struggling and I think I have failed her by not noticing how hard it was for her lately and concentrating on how I am struggling and not getting enough from her.  I feel some guilt over it.  I think I may have been self centred.  That said I have never found it easy to trust her as she has hurt me before I know she must be missing Mum a great deal and feeling guilt over the stress she caused by trying to take her own life while living with Mum back in 2013.

I then opened up to my brother about things from the past that happened after Dad died and before, he let me cry but then said to me “you need to find a way to put these things behind you because that all happened years agon and is in the past” which shows I was not wrong in being wary of opening up to him.   He did hold my hand as I cried and told me to ‘let it out’ but then his comment felt like being shut down again.  I tried to tell him how trauma such as I have had with things of metal going deep inside by body is just not a ‘head’ thing that can conciously be let go but affects neurobiology, but he quickly said he had to go when it got too intense for him.  Most PTSD survivors will be familiar with this kind of reaction.  Maybe he was just protecting himself.

I have to remember that my brother’s relationship with his own body is not good and he never was one to be able to relate and open up emotionally, my sister also never opens up and I told my brother I see this as a large part of anxiety because of the inner shame and constant inner critical voices that I know my sister does endure because she has shared about them with me.

I called my nephew to share my hurt over what my brother did, I wasn’t angry but I noticed I was shaking after he left and feeling so anxious my heart was beating wildly with the real life energy coming up seeking a container with him and the container broke aparts and it all flooded back on me.  I was also conscious of that body anxiety coming up as I discussed it all with my nephew until tears fell again and I expressed my vulnerablity to him.  He said I am not responsible for my sister, that her sons need to step up but I know the older son is not good with feelings either.

Anyway I did take the risk of opening up with my brother.  I learned why I so often don’t trust opening up and fear I will be dropped or negated.  I know what he said is not fully true wounds we go through do leave scars and much depends upon how we tend them, we don’t need to fixate on them, just respect that they are there and hurt more when soothing empathy is not shown and physical and emotional trauma does leave lasting effect no matter what those who do not suffer from it say to us.

Our total health rests on who we surround ourselves with and how well they receive us, until we can hold the charge for us in relationshp and after they left and recognise what went down in exchanges.  Today some things were confirmed but I have still been crying for my sis I wish she had real help that helped her to deal with her feelings and anxiety.  I hope she gets it in the hospital, but I am scared as I don’t trust they really know the full story or what they are doing.

A safe calm space

As a trauma survivor also raised in a high anxiety home its important for me to find and relax into safe calm spaces where and when I can find them.  I find there is a moment of decision in which I must take the opportunity just to ‘be’, to let myself and my awareness keep a focus on sounds and then quietly on my breath.  At times my body chemicals over-ride this, particularly at the time of my two major physical traumas at others like today on my walk with Jasper this didnt happen.  We had a lovely moment sitting under the shedding acorn trees in the child’s play part where I was just in the peace of the present moment.

It’s unseasonally hot here today, but under the tree it was cool and while sitting there and enjoying the surrounds I also focused on closing my eyes and hearing the layering of sounds around us which included birds singing, a dog barking, the low hum of traffic as well as the soft sound and feel of the breeze.  I was aware of my body but for a miraculous moment there was no pain in my body and I was able to breathe a full breath which seems impossible when a trauma cascade hits me as it can up to two or three times a day.  It was so beautiful just to revel in the pleasant sounds and sensations around me, to be aware of the absence of thought apart from the soothing one. “this feels lovely” and to feel myself let go and expand in to it.

This experience of peace had come just after reading and replying to some comments on my last post about trauma, addressing where we put our focus, the experience of being in and out of it and sharing some of what I understand from trauma specialist, Peter Levine’s work on trauma about pendulation in working with traumatic events.

It also came after a period of doubt about my current therapy which is extremely affirming but at times brings up very very painful sensation when I have to re share traumatic events or experiences and reactions from the past or the past week.  For a while a while ago I was seeing a body harmony therapist who was very quick to pull me out of my thoughts about sensations especially when they were in triggering parts of my body that have undergone trauma.  Due to the numerous physical traumas there are not a lot of parts of my body that trauma has not touched but Robyn during our sessions would try to keep me entering then leaving and then shifting the focus on to something pleasant  in the room or by getting me to look into her eyes when I was in overwhelm or flashback which is what Peter Levine encourages his own clients to do.  And often an outpouring of grief would occur at these times which she would mirror and affirm.

This work is not easy because trauma can be so very magnetic and as I understand it there is also something called the trauma vortex, which I experience in my spine as a kind of spinning sensation and it can spin at times clockwise and at other times counter clockwise, hard to explain here but I sense this spin at different times of the day and when awakening at night which is accompanied by the sensation of cells in my body being fluid or silted or inundated with fluid.  (In my original near death trauma my lungs were punctured by a broken rip and the fluid poured in through the pierced pleura.) At times it is so hard to get my attention pulled away from this magentic focus which is also telling me something deeper not always accessible in words.

Today I also had the awareness of how my own reactivity contributed to the second trauma which was a bike accident triggered after doing a cranio sacral session on the original crash around the first anniversary of my husband leaving me.   I would not have had that second accident if I was not on the run from family and I would not have had it if I had not retriggered the trauma of the earlier crash in that session.  The most important insight I came away from that session with was seeing my accident from outside and how it had traumatised my father at the time who was not, like my Mum called to the scene of the crash and I think had to see me cut out of the car after a long period of being trapped.

Writing all of this today is actually retriggering me too.  My family heard about my second crash but no one bothered to come over to be with me and so I was pretty much alone and then in trouble with the family I boarded with for making their lives harder by having had it.  And so I took myself away on retreat to Glastonbury to an ashram and was not able to really get all the help and support I needed despite the fact I had made a good friend from my Dad’s home town in Holland when I was in the UK and ready to come out of hospital.   I ran from her too as I felt my trauma was really not understandable and if I think about it I also feared abandonment, so I ran back to family.  That is a hell of a lot of running.  And yet I did the best I could at the time.

All of this is behind me now, but the thought lives on when I think of connecting with my sister over Easter on the fourth anniversary of our older sister’s death.   Should I really be blaming her for a lack of empathy shown after  my ex husband left and she accused me of being a selfish little girl?  What of the fact she has undergone her own trauma since and is kinder now? What of the times she did try to help me but was not really sure how to?  How much contact to have and how come I still feel so responsible for her and long so much to connect?  Yet even as I read this back, of course I long for this sister’s love but she never treated me as kindly as my older sister did. And even that relationship had toxic elements.

I know this is a lot of questions and I dont know all the answers.  I imagine readers getting impatient with me.  But then I think of a comment from a follower last night which said to try and see the situation from outside myself and to consider how I would treat this person (me) who had been through so much?  Wouldnt I just advise her to take care of herself first, no matter how ‘selfish’ that makes me seem and keep limited contact?

What I am understanding today though is, how much that is good is really around me at the moment when I take those steps to find that safe calm space in the day in the present moment away from past trauma triggers and residues.  Trauma lies in my past, not my present and yet at times it seems to dominate my present.  I get those mixed up thoughts of love for my sister and mother while seeing things they did that also hurt me.   I think of how my sister is now very alone and isolated in her own life but I am aware too of the fact that she too is responsible for herself and maybe she finds her own quiet calm space better being on her own, than around me.  And I know a lot of the time being around my sister quiet frankly triggers me and makes me feel more anxious as memories of that horrible time at the coast where she asked my mother to choose her favourite person to be with out of her and me ended with Mum saying she would rather be with my sister who was happy not sad. Part of me feels betrayed but part of me understands, but then I was always left alone in my grief anyway just as I was left alone as a child and the end of my marriage in 2004 just opened up all of those other losses starting with my father’s death in 1985.  Those losses too are all in the past and yet they have marked me.  They have, at times, led to faulty beliefs that I didn’t deserve any better or somehow caused it all.  In the calm quiet space I can just observe these thoughts come and go.

Today I am grateful for that lovely moment I had earlier in the day.  I am grateful for the lovely lunch of quiche and home made salad I just ate while writing this, I am glad for my therapist Kat and I am glad for the ability to be able to write about all of this and to be heard, read, reached out to by others and understood.  That’s a hell of a lot to be grateful for and heading into easter, although it will always be tinged with the trauma of losing my older sister in 2014 after 34 years of witnessing her also go through trauma and abandonment I am aware that out of the crucifixion of all of our most painful experiences does come a time of entombment and then resurrection.  We go into the fire in trauma, part of us get burned up as we walk across ‘the burning ground’ but we also emerge in time, transformed in some way, deepened in some way, enriched in some way and also made more full of compassion in some way.   It’s a painful territory but one that also makes us aware of blessings as well as the depth of love which is always present in grief and in our longing and which we should pray never to fully forsake due to the pain and agony of trauma.