Understanding abandonment depression : insights from James Masterson

Abandonment depression appears as a subject in a few of my posts.  I made a leap forward in my own recovery when I first began to become aware of the term just over a year ago following reading Pete Walker’s book on Complex PTSD where he deals with the subject in depth.  Abandonment depression is different to basic depression which can be a feeling of depletion or lowered energy following a loss of massive change of some kind in a person’s life.  When dealing with this kind of depression easy solutions of distraction for a time or a taking of pain relief to help when people find them selves in the critical stages will help.  In the case of abandonment depression we are dealing with something that will not be helped by these kind of solutions since it involves a core wound that must be understood, felt, mined and addressed through psychological work.

Here is how James Masterton describes the abandonment depression :

In the throes of the abandonment depression, a person will feel that a part of his very self is lost or cut off from the supplies necessary to sustain life.  Many patients describe this in graphic physical terms, such as losing an arm or leg, being deprived of oxygen, or being drained of blood.  As one patient put it : “I felt as though my legs would not work so I couldn’t possibly leave the house, and when I went to fix lunch I just knew that I wouldn’t be able to swallow.  And if I did I would probably throw it back up.”

At the darkest level of this depression, a person can despair of ever recovering her real self, and thoughts of suicide are not uncommon.  When one is brought low enough repeatedly, or for an extended period of time, it becomes increasingly harder to imagine oneself happy again or able to push through life with the strength and confidence with which the reasonably healthy go about their daily living. At this point a person can teeter on the brink  of despair, give up and consider taking her own life. If the separations they experience in their external lives are painful enough to reinforce the feelings of fear of abandonment, some will commit suicide.

(this is well beyond an acute episode of the ‘blahs’)… The roots of depression push farther into the past than seems apparent.  In time, true sources, eating away inside, make themselves known.  But initially they are well defended by the false self.

It is the nature of the false self to save us from knowing the truth about our real selves, from penetrating the deeper causes of our unhappiness, from seeing ourselves as we really are – vulnerable, afraid, terrified, and unable to let our real selves emerge.  Nevertheless, when the defences are down and the real self is thrown into situations calling for strong self assertion, situations that trigger the repressed memories of earlier separation anxieties and feelings of abandonment by the mother, the serious nature of the depression is glimpsed and felt.  At this point it is not uncommon for the patient to panic and slide down to the very bottom from which he convinces himself he will never recover.

(Panic hides fear of the rage underneath depression).  Depression and rage ride in tandem.  As depression intensifies, and comes to the surface of awareness, so does anger.  At first (the real reasons cannot be pinpointed)…rage is diffuse and projected onto outside sources (anger at life or the world or just angry in general…..Anger of the abandonment depression is far more intense and complex).  Anger that is part of the abandonment depression. has more damaging consequences.  Its intensity can cause bodily shaking, feelings of helplessness, feeling like a baby (age regression) and it comes from painful childhood experiences that may not be easily recalled because they are so solidly defended against.

Eventually in therapy real causes of the anger begin to become apparent but the anger is still defended against by being projected onto targets that are often stand ins or proxies….this occurs because feeling anger is associated with fear of rejection as well as fear of intimacy since in childhood being close came with difficulties and rejections.

Rage and fear (the) lead to panic.. Panic feeds on the fear that we cannot express our anger over abandonment.  It can be a claustrophobic strangling of energies, a tightening up of options : either we express our anger and risk losing the love of others or we deny the anger in order to remain in the helpless state of dependency and hold onto others.  As the panic grows, patients report that it feels like facing death or actually being killed.  Often this anxiety will be channelled into psychosomatic disorders such as asthma and peptic ulcers, each being a perfect metaphor for the underlying fear… A person with a peptic ulcer is often hungering for emotional supplies that were lost in childhood or that were never sufficient to nourish the real self.  As an adult, she is unable to find sources to supply the needed emotional support or to get through life without it.

The person living with (such a) death threat, or what is perceived as a death threat, hanging over his head necessarily leads a fearful life, in which every move to express hiself, to allow his rea self to emerge, is accompanied by the need to look over his shoulder in fear and panic… panic can escalate as the patient slowly becomes aware of the depression and anger that have been bottled up over the years.  The false self has blocked any expression of these feelings for so long that when they do manage to surface, even in the slightest way, the resulting panic can be paralysing and terrifying.  Fear of letting these feelings out into the open, even in therapy can mushroom into panic proportions.

Guilt is the fifth column behind.. the patient’s frontline of defences.  (This is not normal reasonable guilt but rather)… fed by the guilt we internalise in early childhood from the disapproval expressed by the mother for self actualisation or individuation……Not being able to face up to the internalised guilt about that (healthy) part of themselves, these individuals will suppress making any moves in forbidden direction and resort to old familiar clinging behaviour that they remember made them safe and good years ago.

(Clinging and guilt lead to…) helplessness.  Failure to activate the impaired real self (and) to deal with painful feelings.. which in the abandonment depression is abiding and total…. staying in unhealthy jobs and relationships, fearing moving on from old unhealthy patterns, even denying that we desire to.

James A Masterson, Fear of Abandonment, The Search for the Real Self

The anger against, fear of and panic due to devaluation of our true self internalised by the false self in the course of growing up lives on inside of us and must be faced on the path of healing.   Facing such internalised voices, feelings and fears means we must also confront the inner critic who has become hostile to the real self ever breaking free and asserting its real needs which bring with them the deep seated fear of abandonment by others that had its roots in the past.  Mastering our fear of abandonment and the abandonment depression is the price we pay to discontinue the inner self abandonment we face when we begin to become more conscious and aware of the real roots and aspects of the abandonment depression.

In the absence of love

I just reread one of my poems Girl Behind Glass about how when we seek for love outside from caregivers who will mirror and help us to access our true self and find nothing but emptiness or are ignored how we then have no choice but to turn back within often in sheer desperation.

As I was reading the poem it also occurred to me that in the absence of this real honest to goodness present love we actually use the solution of denial and lying to ourselves about what we did not receive, saying that we really did or if we didn’t it was probably our own fault or else there is something wrong with our perception.  This terrible denial solution leads us to turn against our inner world and to suffer from a profound inner schism.

I have just remembered while writing this the double bind theory of schizophrenia proposed by Gregory Bateson some years ago.  In this theory the child accurately perceives that a parent feels a certain way but when they offer that perception to the parent, the parent denies it which leaves the child questioning his or her own perception.  Its like looking in a distorted mirror and being returned a distorted reflection.  I tried to write a post about this a few years ago on WordPress called the Inverted Mirror.  I was never sure how well expressed my struggle to explain this confusing dilemma of perceptual distortion was though, an ongoing inner conundrum for me with my own self doubt formed by years and years of never being fully validated or learning how to self validate well.

I am thinking a lot about this today because I am seeing how much I also engage in a form of denial or just push aside perceptions and insights I can have into people.  My therapist notices it all of the time.  No sooner do I cut to the heart of something when an inner voice comes into to offer the opposite point of view or point out how ‘here I go again mixing things up”.  It truly is awful.

In the past it had been extremely difficult for me to be consistently able to stand by my own point of view and examining this dilemma I think it comes out of having to make choices to spend time with those who are not real or nurturing or wholey loving and honest due to there just being no one much like that around when I was growing up and even later in life.   It is becoming clearer and clearer to me how deeply alone I was growing up and well into late adolescence and early adulthood when multiple traumas hit.

The deep sense of aloneness and emotional hunger forced me to look in all the wrong places for connection as I grew and then turn increasingly to addiction to numb my true feelings about it.  Even well into sobriety trusting my inner feelings, being able to connect to them, feel, name and honour them without fear or shame has been a huge challenge for me.

It could be a breakthrough at the moment to finally be seeing all of this.  It hurts though to finally have to face the depth of emptiness I have felt rather than run or blame myself for it as I have done while on some level also feeling liberating.   I guess from here on in in my journey of recovery it’s all about taking on board the truth that from now on in if I really want to recover I need to be my own best friend instead of giving myself away or putting my own thoughts, needs, feelings and perceptions down.  I see how I can devalue myself because I don’t feel the same as a lot of other people out there who operate on a more superficial level.  Trying to fit into their world only hurts me as it fails to nourish me at the same time.

One of the symptoms of childhood emotional neglect due to therapist Jonice Webb is poor awareness and understanding of our emotions as well as a tendency to feel much guilt and shame as well as feeling that there is something deeply wrong with us for being ourselves or feeling what we do.  Lack of consistent and honest mirroring in childhood of emotions left as with a deep void inside which we cannot know because our ego (or conscious centre of self) was not able to form well and relate to its inner contents completely or in a healthy nurturing way.  This leave us with two other symptoms : feelings of emptiness as well as suicidal thoughts and feelings at times.

If we lack a reference point to connect to the true self our true self grieves deeply within us and longs for a pain to be known which we sadly see as some sign of our deepest flaw and inadequacy, rather than something we are powerless over when unconscious of it as well as a result of things done or not done to us or for us in childhood.

How we escape from this dilemma is first of all becoming aware of the fact that we suffer in the ways that we do.  The tendency to blame ourselves and feel shame for things that were far beyond our control doesn’t allow us to fully heal until we can embrace and know the underlying causes.  We long and ache and suffer while blaming and shaming ourselves for so doing, until one day enlightenment dawns often after an exceedingly long and drawn out battle.  And on the journey the void within needs both a witness and a container to help us make sense of it.

Facing the abandonment depression alone (our deepest core psychological emptiness or abyss) is challenging in the extreme and is accompanied by what therapist James Masterton has called the Six Horsemen of the Psychic Apocalypse and we need all the help we can on the path of dealing with these : depression, panic, rage, guilt, helplessness (hopelessness) and emptiness.  Its no easy journey to live with the consequences of being unheld, unloved and unmirrored in childhood and the last thing I am seeing we need to do on such a journey is blame ourselves for something over which we were at an earlier time completely powerless over.  If we continue to do so we will just never break free and find our true inner locus of power and perception.

Some times it just doesn’t work out

Its so hard when a relationship ends.  If you didn’t choose it and the one leaving sited all kinds of reasons why it couldn’t work and they name your part in it, just remember that is just one side of the story.  Relationships ask a lot of us.  I believe the difficult ones can often be about dark or wounded places in us that may not have had a chance to see the light of day.  Some relationships are ones in which we attract someone who carries some of our shadow, that hidden dark side of ourselves that we may have learned to be ashamed of or have a difficult time living.  I have been in several relationships where I carried the wounded feminine or shadow of the guy I was dating.  Of course when it ended they ended up blaming me, even though I did my best.  There were parts of themselves they did not want to face and like it or not people go into relationships with all kinds of agendas that can be hidden underneath the so call desire for love.  Just because you contributed some issues that were problematic doesn’t mean the entire relationship ending was all your fault or that it was all the other person’s fault.

When we have a relationship with a narcissist, someone who doesn’t want to own vulnerability or face parts of themselves its likely at the ending we will be blamed in some way.  We may even side with the person blaming us at the end and end up feeling entirely worthless.

I am not meaning here to imply that I or you did not contribute faults or flaws in relationship, but in a healthy relationship where both partners want to do the work of being emotionally available and open to each other it should be possible to work things through.   Being able to say you are sorry when you made a mistake, not coming over all bullet proof and defensive when wounds or early injuries are triggered, these are some of the things that can challenge and be challenging but that you work through and try to work with in a healthy relationships.  There needs to be a willingness from both sides to see the other person’s side and things from their point of view.

Then there times that we meed the right person at the wrong time or the relationship in which we find out that sadly, in the end we wanted different things.  Or then there is the relationship where someone for some reason falls out of love, projections are withdraw and placed onto someone else.

When this happens naturally we grieve.  If we have a lot of earlier losses they may be triggered and we may need help with our grief work.  Relationships fail for all kinds of reasons but just remember it isn’t always your fault, even when there are lessons to learn.  Maturity helps us to let go with grace and just say, sorry this time it just didn’t work out and I let you go with love.  If you are being blamed, attacked or shamed or dumped with all the responsibility, just remember that may say more about the other person’s lack of maturity and self awareness.

 

Anger with my therapist leads to deeper reflection

I found myself feeling a lot of anger towards my therapist, Kat yesterday.  The intensity of what my body goes through on any day and any night as a result of having recently had this tooth removed on the back of a traumatic head injury at occurred after a time I so needed family support and was once again denied it at the end of my marriage bites me hugely.  I feel like I have giant incisor like wounds from that bite lodged in my psychic flesh and over the past few nights of the eclipse I have been bang awake between 3 and 5 with all these powerful sensations coursing through my body as my mind has struggled to make sense of the tangled up jigsaw pieces of the past 17 years of struggle to find and make sense of my true feelings and find a centre of self in the messy conglomerate of energies within and without which like wild currents and eddies swirl this way and that, at times setting up huge surge like storms of ‘meness’ and then at other taking me down with the powerful centrifugal undertow of black inky sludge drowning me completely and making it hard to draw a free breath!!!

I am angry that Kat didn’t seem to even remember the piece of writing I actually read to her last Thursday, I had to read it all over again and I was feeling so tired,  she is my fucking therapist why can’t she remember, why doesn’t she take the time to read my blog before I go to a session so she can help me a bit, for fucks sake its only one hour and reading three or four blogs to catch up is exhausting because often when I write the feelings are there simmering away under the surface and only emerge when I read them in session which now that I write it just goes to show if she did read it then that wouldn’t happen so why am I getting so mad?  I still am because I have to work so fucking hard at times and there is so much to get through in session.

I do know why I am angry though.  This is old anger.  I have had fuck all help in my life in the way that really mattered.  I didn’t need money thrown at me, I needed a parent who got me, and was there emotionally not one who consistently abandoned me and then told me I was a late developer when I shared I got into sobriety.  Yeah Mum it was all my fault that I drank in a situation in which so many painful feelings were going down that I didn’t know how to deal with in the absence of support, after a major traumatic injury at 17 that I never got any help to deal with later only to be followed six months later by even less care available due to my sister’s aneurysm occuring with all the complications that followed all at a time I was trying to develop and mature.  Fuck That!!!

Yet even as I write this and consider my last post about the poor fit between a mother and child that leaves the child, lost, confused, split off from her body and feelings and lacking self containment and integrity of being I realise that I must accept my mother went through the same with her mother and so just passed down the wound. The anger is understandable that I feel but it wont help me unless I use it to drive a deeper understanding and also to set boundaries so that I don’t open up and share intimate emotional stuff she is likely to dismiss, deny or be confused about herself.

So its probably not really even my therapist I am really angry with but with the entire sad history of a child who came to not be able to understand, express, or even tolerate her own feelings and then became an addict, only to get sober and be told it was the result of ‘character defects’ which just reinforces the scapegoats idea fixee of being the ‘bad’, ‘wrong’ or damaged one, inherently flawed in some way.

I don’t actually remember in the rooms of AA being given any help to understand my own feelings.  I do remember sitting there in meetings and crying my eyes out as other’s shared from such a damaged split off place, full of self blame and self denigration.  It broke my heart in two.  And then in Al Anon meetings I got the askance looks from those trying to whip alcoholic loved ones into shape with their own self righteousness not getting for a moment the suffering or deeper dilemma the person concerned was going through.   I remember not being hugged after a meeting or reached out to after I shared from a deep well of pain.

I know it probably wasn’t their job but I do feel that once our buried feelings begin to open up in sobriety we need some form of encouragement and affirmation from others to assist us and yet even that hope or demand has hidden deep in the centre of it a hope or demand that is loaded with the sadness and longing of deep needs of long ago for the parent’s unconditional love, understanding, mirroring and acceptance of feelings; needs we never got to fully understand or contain.

In the end, as I was discussing with Kat yesterday, perhaps no one now can give us enough to make up for what we lost or never received in the first place.  Such an empty void or space in the place where we most needed to be met, filled up, affirmed, received  must be acknowledged, deeply understood and grieved.  And then we must meet the challenge of finding ways to fill our lives with the good energy of connection and love, learning how to understand, feel and tolerate all our feelings.   Being or becoming the good loving mother and father to ourselves so that ultimately we don’t end up re-enacting our emptiness, wound or anger on others or keep ourselves lost and trapped inside the deep dark desolate place of that emptiness.

I do wonder now, though, if we end up alone with no life partner and disconnected from so many friends due to the wounds we have carried driving so many away from us in misunderstanding how sweet can life be?  Can we really fill ourselves up from the life font or spring of spirit that was meant to flow within and through us and can that be enough?

Its obvious to me now that the hyper sensitivity that so many of us feel who were not met or received in the needed ways, grew larger in the absence of such love and care.  The burden of our so called ‘over sensitivity’  needs to be understood and we need to make sure that we don’t blame ourselves while at the same time learning to take responsibility for the wound we carry in terms of taking care of ourselves, learning to be open, vulnerable and honest to ask for what we need rather than demand it or get shitty when it doesn’t just come automatically.

We also need an awareness of the real failures of others which came from the limits of their own capacity to be fully embodied themselves, a wound that seems to plague so many in a technologically driven modern society that has grown increasingly removed from the natural and soulful elements in vibrant earthly life.   To begin to feel that love means that we open ourselves body and soul to the soft caress of the sun on skin, to the luxuriant feeling of sea water on flesh, to the sheer love that shines in our dog’s eyes as he runs to great us, to the joy of feeling our free spirit express its bounty through dance, movement and song.

It surely means we open up again to try to find the love and containment we missed from a loving mother’s arms in places and spaces where it does exist.  And it also means that we as ones who have been damaged and know the cause and consequences of such disconnection and damage make a stand in a world where sensitivity and depth is so often not championed.  For the pain our souls have suffered has perhaps highlighted for us how essential such an earthly connection to life, feeling and nature is and to the deeper realisation that the wound to the mother that leads to severing from body and deep feeling is one we end up enacting on the earth and ourselves over and over again if we don’t fully face, feel and speak for the painful and agonising consequences of its loss or absence.

Why and how we disconnect from feelings and the body

I came across the following quotes from Sylvia Bretton Perrera’s book The Scapegoat Complex, which I wrote down a while ago today.  They really struck home :

The capacity to endure discomfort seems to be related to the early experience of touch, being held intimately, and with respect, both in attentive regard and in protecting and containing arms…. (this holding) gives a child a sense of a whole (versus a ‘split’ off) body… (it gives) self integrity and identity….provides a safe vessel.

Disruption in a sense of continuous identity (strong sense of self)… leads to….deep uncertainty and is the result of :

  1. An incapable parent who cannot mediate overpowering emotion and frustration.
  2. A poor psychological ‘fit’ (between mother and child)….

this leads to a sense of exile…. problems with bonding and feeling securely held.  Then, as a result, psychological pain can be associated with (undeserved) guilt, feeling wholely bad which leads to splitting, denial of self and feelings, distortions of body image, loss of feeling in one’s body (dissociation), difficulties assimilating food or eating… body armouring and rigidity.

The (person suffering from the scapegoat complex) has built a wall to ward off the pains of toxic shadow material (note : it is only ‘toxic’ because it has not been allowed integration) so therefore keeps a distance between inner feelings and the self, between the self and others, keeping up a shield (or defence) to protect the self and othe’s from the ‘bad’ self.

The ego (conscious awareness of the personality) become inflated with the affects and feelings it has learned to avoid.  This leads to profound suffering.

All hurts are felt with an exquisite sensitivity because they touch old, raw wounds…. (leading to) … victim identification… surrogate suffering (taking on the pain others don’t want to feel or own)… The result is… a need to get rid of feelings and an inability to tolerate painful ones… raw affect brings helpless panic and leads to addiction in an attempt to avoid the suffering.

Only when sufferers can begin to sacrifice the demand for perfect mirroring from the therapist and her family, as (they) begin to sacrifice demands for restitution of a lost paradise state, and to accept the true burden that was (their) life can (they) truly begin to break free and recover.

The realisation then slowly dawns that those who could not mirror her or understand her feelings also suffered in a different way.

Developing the ability to suffer and survive our true feelings enables the scapegoated individual to see there was nothing wrong with her or the feelings at all, the problem came from their rejection and from the exile from our own body and feelings that occurred so many years ago.

Please note that the above is not a verbatim quote from that book but has been modified in order to present it in what I hope is a coherent form here.

The Undertow : reflections on the Inner Critic and the Inner Child

Many thanks to a fellow blogger for inspiring the title of this post.  I just reblogged the post in which Laina Eartharcher addressed two powerful forces of our inner world : the inner child and the inner critic.   I could also rename those two ‘The Joy Maker’ and ‘The Doom Merchant’.

As in inner force and compatriot of the force of the Undertow the Inner Critic’s game is to get us swirling into a negative downward spiral.  In some books on spirituality and emotional recovery the Inner Critic is referred to as the negative ego.  It works against acceptance, mercy, gratitude and enlightenment as well as against connection.  The negative critic only sees what is bad or hard, it keeps its focus on what you or others did wrong, how bone crushing that was, how unforgiveable and horrific. That’s not to say what happened to you wasn’t absolutely awful and negative but the truth is are you going to live with the negative power of it going over and over and over in your mind day after day after day convincing you that life will never be safe or joyous again.

On the other side of our mind scape is the joyous, innocent, soul infused Inner Child.  Full of radiance and life this inner child sees hope, she sees the mystery, he feels the pain and suffering and looks upon them with eyes of innocence.  He or she naturally or instinctively reaches out a hand to hold yours when you are in pain. He or she does not recoil in fear.  He or she is the quiet still inward voice that can dissolve the critic’s ceaseless shaming and admonishments.  Loving soulful inner child just says “I am so sorry you are in pain.  I am here.  You are not alone. What you went through really hurt.  Lets just be calm and still for a time and open our heart to what needs to be heard or felt.”  She then says “Don’t you think it would help to touch base with beauty, mystery and awe somewhere say music, nature, poetry, a hot bowl of chicken soul, a frolic in a meadow with your dog.”  He or she restores us to naked simplicity.

Often all of this is what the wounded hurting inner child in us most needs to hear, see or do never moreso than when he or she has just been besieged, attacked or assailed by the pain mongering of the Inner Critic pulling her down deep inside the soul sucking vortex of the painful undertow.

The undertow is not always to be resisted though.  Smetimes we need to be taken down.   There can be a healing power in an undertow that is calling us to descend to the bedrock or bottom of oceanic consciousness that as yet contains unfelt pain or need or longing or grief which is waiting patiently and silently there for us to recognise it and ride its upward surge as it carries us on a powerful wave of soulful love towards a distant shore or recognition, embodiment of suffering, soul awakening and peace.

Insights that hurt us may be contained here, but never the less their healing power and intention may be love.   It may be the necessity of our recognition of ways in which we stumbled, failed, fell short or missed he mark (the real meaning of the word mistake), ways in which our own unacknowledged pain, hurt, shame, anger, need for retribution or fear kept is locked up and imprisoned, barricaded from love and its winged accomplice miracle consciousness.

We may need to be pulled down into and by that undertow for a time.  But I do not believe we should allow ourselves to be held hostage too long by that other negative force the Doom laden Inner Critic who in showing no mercy or deeper insight into the tangled byways of living and journeying towards consciousness keeps our level of awareness frozen, pinned, fixed or sucked downwards in a yawning, empty, hungry soul emptying place.

Such a critic is actually a cadaveur of the soul’s birthing genesis, laying to waste our blossoming as soul conscious individuals and savaging our emerging inner child who may as yet have no legs to stand on, but must crawl or be rocked and cradled for a long time before he or she begins to walk and sing and dance again.

Along this pathway of becoming and emerging we must instead learn how to shrink or shut the door on that voice of doom and unrequited pain and shame and turn instead towards the open radiant loving face of our inner child, pregnant and rich with as yet untapped possibility.  We must not allow the critic to savage his or her innocence but recognise instead through her instinctual reactions to what maimed or hurt us powerful ways of resisting and saying ‘No!  This is me and I am innocent.  I am not wrong or bad but good and strong and most of all I deserve to live! And I will. I will find my voice.”  Our Inner Child must never be killed off or buried by the Critic because he or she is the deepest, profoundest, wisest, realest, most connected and uncorrupted force in our soul.

A survivor of war

I awoke this morning in such a shell shocked state but with a kind of quiet calm around me, on a clear, bright, crisp morning of sunshine.   I had a fitful night again.  Since my dental surgery I have not slept well.  The violent mid night sleep awakenings have returned again fraught with explosive feelings inside my body and memories of painful events flowing down like a river of burning coals.  And then the thoughts of my mother and all she has endured over the years of various mental disturbance and anguish in my family commencing with my older sister cerebral bleed and going on from there were running over my mind.

Seeing her in the state she was in yesterday filled me with anguish and the deepest most profound sadness.  I wanted to pick her up and take her to a place where there would be human angels to care for her and shower her with love.   Its all I want for her really.  But one central recent event particularly was haunting me.  A few years ago after my remaining sister’s third or fourth hospitalisation for catatonic depression following her sad abuse at the hands of her family where she was forceably committed to a psychiatric institution in another city while on what was a so called ‘manic’ spree my Mum had a fall down some stairs.

At the time she was trying to carry a packed suitcase of things down four flights of stairs in my sister’s apartment block to take to the hospital.  My sister had come out of the last psychiatric stay and fallen two times due to the medication she was given lowering her blood pressure.  She just collapsed and hit her head open and had to be taken to hospital again.   My mother phoned me that morning and I think she needed my help, but I didn’t want to give it.  At that point I was exhausted by the hospitalisations of my sister and her attempted suicide in 2013 and the outfall of that.  The only way I really felt ‘safe’ was by keeping my distance.   And I did not know my Mum would attempt to do such a silly thing, as she never mentioned the need to pack a suitcase.  Never the less I still feel shame and guilt which I know rationally on some level is not deserved and I need to share what goes on inside my mind as at night it has such a dark power over me.

That day around the time my Mum must have fallen or been preparing the case I was at the park with Jasper and my entire body and brain was flooded with pressure.  It was so bad I left Jasper in the confined part of the dog park and raced off into an open field a little way away.   I was only gone about 20 minutes and when I came back an angelic young man with long hair was with Jasper.  As he came towards me I put my head in my hands and just cried with the pain and overwhelm.  He was so kind and just sat with me and we talked about my struggle and my family.  It must have been around that time that my Mum fell and was lying at the bottom of the staircase 20 minutes away.  She ended up fracturing her pelvis and that injury amongst others had dogged her for 3 years.  From memory it happened in 2014 though so much has happened that I cant fully remember now.

When I bought the autobiography of Eva Schloss a few weeks ago, the woman who survived Auschwitz with her mother I shared some of it on line here.  I thought about my own connection to the survivor story and of my own hidden Jewish heritage.  (My great great grandmother renounced her Jewish ancestry and faith when she married by great great grandfather in the 1860s) and wondered why that story had such resonance and power for me.  Eva never spoke about her time in Auschwitz until the 1980s when she was asked to open a memorial to her dead step sister Anne Frank.  She remained silent for over 40 years and only then did the tears begin to fall.  I always think when we read something or are drawn to it there is a reason.  We are seeking understanding or a resonance with another’s experience or haunting.   Was I also a survivor of war.  Can we equate Nazisim with narcissism, the two are similar.

There is perhaps no way to say what I have been through is as extreme as Auschwitz but the degree of trauma in my family over the past 30 years and the painful aftermath of emotional distancing and dissociation in my family to survive has deep so deeply painful for me as the youngest.  John Bradshaw in drawing attention to birth order theory says that in the dysfunctional or traumatised family the fourth or youngest child carries the thwarted unification needs of the family.  They want to bring healing to the suffering and attention to the wounds and emotional togetherness.  They are also often an outsider or witness.  The second child is often the scapegoat and acts out the unconscious suffering of the family and is then shunned or considered a failure.  In my older sister’s case it wasn’t that she was shunned, just excluded by a chain of events that saw her marry early and leave the family before it was fully forming its place in the world, when she came back and tried to find a place in it, that was when she came badly unstuck.  By the time I came along there was precious little attention left for a young girl who was so very much younger in age than any of her siblings in a family subsumed by survival and an upwardly mobile materialist improvement project.

My own trauma of a major near death experience at the age of 17 and the loss of my teeth has all been retriggered with the latest dental work and I need to be mindful of that.   In two days time it is the 13th anniversary of the day my husband finally packed his bags and left me all alone at the coast unable to take any steps forward to get emotional help but mired by then in over 30 years of pain. So its no wonder suicidal feelings were around strongly on Sunday and have been dogging me a lot over the past week.

At this point its early morning here as I said.  I was brought to tears by the love shown by valued followers on my last post Rocking you may never truly know how much it means just to read some kind words or to see a little heart symbol in the comments section of my post on awakening at this point in time.   I was full of such sadness and ghosting feelings of guilt over my Mum’s fall.  But I also know that what happened with my family was in so many ways far bigger than any young child in a family could fully deal with or heal.

Sad consequences of things in my family have affected me deeply.  As the youngest swept up in such wild, swirling and traumatic seas over many years I have done well to survive the war with my sanity and mental state as in tact as it is.  There has been an ocean of tears, longing and pain to navigate, an ocean of love.  Throughout it all I have managed to keep my heart as open as I possibly could.  So many times I opened it to those who were invested in me shutting it back down, those who told me to ‘put it all behind me’ or ‘get the hell as far away from it as you can’, but I know if I ran I would only take the trauma with me.  Staying here or fronting up to the past has been much harder in so many ways but I do believe it has been necessary.

I do see myself not as the saviour in all of it, which would be a kind of hubris really but more as the teller of the tale who sitting a bit far off on the sidelines is able in some strange way to give a voice to all of it.  I also know that as much as my family and its trauma and suffering has shaped me it does not need to define me as long as I bring consciousness to it, as well as to the mixed up tangled ball of thread of painful feelings which when unravelled and not shown necessary empathy and mercy could destroy me, if I let them.  In time once the telling of the tale is done I will be able to take distance but as the sober one I will always carry the ache.  I just need more emotionally than my empty well or vortex of family can truly provide.

In the end I am a survivor and hope in time to be a thriver.  I am also a witness and perhaps in some way a war reporter too, but not one who maintains only objective distance, rather one who in sinking to and at times almost being drowned in the depths of unconscious feelings that are not personal but deeply collective emerges in time with a dark pearl within which are contained all the composites of feelings and traumas gone before.  I will not be told that pearl is a stone that needs to be discarded, painful and traumatic as it has been.  This life is the one that life has given me, not chosen and I am still in the painful process of disentangling myself and finding a way to live outside of multiple traumas that could so easily have buried me.  But I am also seeing I deserve so much more, and have so much more to give.  Its just at 55 I still have not found my path.  My blog is really my only pathway to the outside at this point.  And at this point maybe I just need to accept that and be open to the possibility of change, scary as that is.