TV Therapy

At the first of this month, I had the flu — a vicious, stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks-for-a-week-flu. After making its way through the school system in our area last month, this flu found its way into the workplace. Several people passed it around where KR works which meant that he inevitably brought it home to me. I’m still coping with that lingering exhaustion and annoying cough, but I finally feel human again.

Since I wasn’t up for anything else, I began binge-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Although it seems familiar, I don’t remember ever having watched it when it was on TV, probably because it started during a time period when I didn’t even own a TV, let alone watch TV.

First, let me say, I love this show! Great cast — the chemistry between all of the characters flows so well from the very first episode that I can see why it stayed on-air for 7 seasons, simply fantastic acting by everyone involved in its production. As is so often the case when I find a TV show I actually like, I can’t get enough. The theme song is perpetually stuck in my ever-obsessing brain, trying to work out the nuanced chord shifts so I can learn to play it on the piano.

Last night, I got to Season 2: Episode 21, “Lorelai’s Graduation Day.” The last 5 minutes of that episode was an incredibly emotional exchange between the daughter, Rory, and her mother, Lorelai, after Rory missed Lorelai’s college graduation ceremony as a result of impulsively skipping school to visit Jess in New York. Alexis Bledel’s (Rory) convincing performance was so emotional for me, in fact, that it triggered a flashback and moved me to tears.

Bizarre how something so seemingly random and unrelated like a TV show can trigger emotion in this way and cause memories to flood back into awareness.

It triggered how felt in April ’98 — all the emotions of guilt and shame and disappointment in myself for hurting and disappointing my husband and family as a result of my own inexplicably impulsive behavior for which I still, to this day, struggle to find a rational explanation. That emotional pain is still so fresh and raw as the day it happened. It triggered the memories of trying to explain to other people what happened when I, myself, didn’t understand. It triggered the self-deprecating memories of how I admonished myself for being so irresponsible.

Despite the unexpected trigger in last night’s episode and everything it brought up for me, I made the connection quickly — in that moment. I was able to identify a triggering moment, able to recognize I was having a flashback, in the moment it was happening. For the past 19 years, a triggered moment meant a varying amount of dissociated awareness, an inability to remain present. Depending on what the trigger was, it was only later — after hours or days or weeks or sometimes, even months later — that I could connect something triggered me and left me reeling in overwhelmed emotion or completely numb.

Last night, I remained present. I recognized I was having a flashback. I identified the trigger immediately. And I self-soothed by allowing myself to cry and “feel” the emotion while reminding myself, “This is just an echo of your past. You already survived it. Everything is okay.”

This was a first.

For me, this is huge.

Change Is Inevitable

Today was my last visit with my case manager, whom I liked very much, enjoyed talking with. During the last few minutes of our visit today, she told me she has accepted a job offer elsewhere; so she will no longer be my case manager. I was a bit floored, shocked by the news. It’s so sudden. I hate sudden changes. Who am I kidding? I hate “change” period. I think most people do; but for me, I desperately need consistency and predictability. Change sends everything into chaos — inner and outer worlds.

A change in case management means having to get to know yet another case manager, the third in as many years — not even 3 years. What if I can’t make myself talk to the new one? What if we don’t “click?” Trust doesn’t come easy for me. How am I supposed to trust another case manager? Just keep the conversation light and trivial, polite yet impersonal.

 

“Don’t express doubt in treatment or you’ll find yourself without treatment or emotional support at all.”

I’m beginning to believe that the idea of “emotional support” is nothing but a myth. Maybe it doesn’t really exist at all. I’ve searched for it my whole life, yet nothing fills that void of neglect or heals emotional pain. My parents chose to ignore emotion. Maybe that is the only way to cope with it.

 

Belief

I’m attempting to write out my “core beliefs and values” which I have to say is far more difficult than I thought it would be. From a psychological point of view, beliefs are a determining factor in our thoughts, emotions, behavior, and actions. Religious and spiritual beliefs and practices aside for a moment — the beliefs we hold about ourselves, society, politics, religion, spirituality, the natural world, morality, and every other facet of life determine how we interact with each of these things. I think that religious and spiritual beliefs are a completely separate entity because they deal with intangible, often mystical experiences that, at the core, provide an individual with the basis for forming beliefs about everything else. However, our beliefs about religion and spirituality influence our interaction with even religion and spirituality. Does my view make sense?

Let me try to give an example in order to make this a little clearer. I can only use my own life as an example because it’s what I’m most familiar with. This is only one example. I’m sure I could come up with several. And just because I’m using this as an example doesn’t mean that I still adhere to the patriarchal views of my Christian upbringing; but those beliefs did influence me greatly for the majority of my life. Note that I’m not certain my reasoning here is sound. Like I’ve said before, logic and reasoning are NOT a strength I possess. Feel free to explain any logical fallacies that I might be missing here.


Example: I grew up in a Christian household, specifically a Pentecostal home. My religion taught me to have certain views about a “woman’s role” in society because God said it was so, e.g. women — like children — are to be seen, not heard (especially in the ministry); women are the property of their parents first, husbands later; a woman’s place is in the home, taking care of her children and husband; women are basically evil because of Eve’s original sin; etc. There’s a long list of the “woe’s of women” in the Pentecostal mindset, and the Bible, for that matter. These beliefs influenced my beliefs about me, as a person, because I am a woman, e.g. I’m bad; I’m worthless; I must submit, obey; etc. My beliefs about Christianity and myself influenced my thoughts, emotions, behavior, and actions in regard to every other aspect of life. Specific to this example, I believed my place in society was to marry and raise children. My beliefs that I was already bad and worthless caused me to unconsciously rebel as a young adult, acting out my badness and worthlessness. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I rebelled as I feel I should have when oppression limits an individual’s self-worth, happiness, and understanding of life; but I had no understanding, or comprehension, of why I was doing any of the things I did.


It’s not so easy to discard indoctrination. Often, I find myself fluctuating between past beliefs and present beliefs, which are much harder to define and often result in cognitive dissonance as I feel conflicted in what I should believe. I’ve never sat down and written out, defined, exactly what I “believe,” at least, not in a manner such as what I’m attempting to do. The main reason for this is simply that my beliefs constantly change, as I believe they should. My beliefs evolve as I do.

I try to never hold onto a belief so rigidly that I lose sight of love, compassion, and understanding of the natural Universe and all it entails, including humanity.

Because my beliefs have changed so drastically over the years, I can only write down my beliefs at any given moment, this moment. Ask me tomorrow or a year from now and it’s quite possible that at least a few of my beliefs would have grown into something completely different. In fact, it would be easier to write out what I do NOT believe than what I do.

Growing up I believed solely in what I was taught at church and Sunday school which was based on the Bible (with an emphasis on certain scriptures over others) and the Pentecostal mindset. I didn’t always agree with my pastor or Sunday school teachers; but for the most part, I took their word on most things. I attended a total of 4 different churches throughout my childhood and teens. If you wish to read more about my early Christian upbringing, feel free to head on over to My Story – Part 1 (Childhood Background) and My Story – Part 2 (Off to College & Getting Married Too Young) for a section where I discuss questioning my religious upbringing.

I think even as a child I questioned the religion within which I was raised; but my fears of hell and displeasing my mother prevented me from vocalizing my doubts to anyone other than God, usually in prayers to relieve my doubtful mind. By my teens, I often felt that Christianity distanced itself from God, making It unattainable. (I will NOT attribute a gender to something I consider gender-less, IF It exists at all — I am agnostic to the knowledge of a God, have been for several years; and I am an atheist to the belief in any God that man has created thus far, including the Christian God.) Rather, as I grew older, I had a nagging sense that God is within each of us, a collective consciousness of all that is, no one thing greater than another.

The problem with religion is that it tries to “manipulate” a person’s emotions into changing that person’s beliefs. I recently read that “psychology is experimental philosophy.” I tend to agree. Religion, like psychology, is a lot like this, experimental philosophy. I doubt that either emotions or belief will ever be quantifiable from a scientific perspective as each are subjective, but both have the potential to either do great good or cause great suffering. I think it’s also important to note that 99.9% of the time, most of our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs influence our lives with little to no conscious awareness of them. This is why so often people react to situations with such strong emotion that it feels like we have no control over our emotions. And often, I would agree. Without that conscious awareness, we don’t. We have no control over our emotions unless we are consciously aware of what is going on inside our minds.

This is an incredibly difficult task to accomplish. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

I’m certain that I will write more on “belief” at a later date because it’s a topic that fascinates me, like religion and psychology. Perhaps, it will become a series of posts as I work out exactly what I believe, as I challenge beliefs that no longer serve me well. I still may be no closer to defining exactly what my beliefs are; but I find myself questioning more often than not what I want those beliefs to be.

When Words Aren’t Enough

MAD

 

I couldn’t get out what’s on my mind through words. This isn’t my usual style, but I had to do something to get it OUT of my head…. I have no words to express this last week.

Update: See Another Storm’s On Its Way for somewhat of an explanation of this post.

I See The Moon, And The Moon Sees Me

I’ve become so good at hiding my emotions from other people that I also hide them from myself. Then, when I completely break down, I wonder what am I feeling and why? Granted, this has always been a problem for me, but today… mercy. I’m sitting here crying my eyes out with this heaviness in my chest, a panic attack trying very hard to take control. Today… I feel helpless. I feel insecure. I feel ashamed. And I feel frustrated.

There’s a lot going on – some very real problems, some probably imagined. One of the very real problems is that we’re having transportation issues. We both own older, ’90’s model vehicles. KR’s truck began giving him problems a few weeks ago. The transmission needs replaced. This is a highly costly repair, not to mention KR is having a problem finding a replacement transmission; so he’s been driving my car back and forth to work. Yesterday, I had a therapy appointment. I had a few different options for getting there. In the end, we decided that I would ride with KR and his coworker (more about him in a moment) to work so that I could take the car from there to do some much-needed household shopping – pet supplies, groceries, and nonfood items – as well as get to my appointment.

After dropping them off at work (about a half hour’s drive from where we live), I had close to an hour and a half before my appointment. I decided to take the scenic route because I had the time. Tennessee has some of the most beautiful countryside views I have ever seen – rolling hills, wide open spaces, and curvy roads that simply make driving here fun. Now, for some reason, there are two highways in this area that I constantly get confused. I have no sense of direction; and like I told my therapist yesterday, “I would get lost in a bucket.” Getting lost has always been a game for me, ever since I began driving at the age of 17. Get lost; find my way back. I’ve often taken the opportunity to drive just for the pleasure of driving and exploring. However, I actually had someplace to be; so I ended up backtracking in order to get myself to my appointment on time. Luckily, I made it there with 15 minutes to spare.

After my appointment, I decided to go for a walk at a local park since I haven’t had the opportunity to get any exercise outside lately. After that, I did all the shopping and went back home to unload everything. Finally, I quickly ran through a few of my daily chores and relaxed for about an hour before having to go back out to pick up KR and his coworker. On our way back home, my car’s battery light came on. Great. Other than the serpentine belt, I’ve had no problems with this car. KR spent the morning replacing the alternator. He ended up driving his truck to pick up the alternator for my car at Auto Zone ($153 later); and his transmission seized up. He left his truck parked somewhere, and took a taxi home. And he was late for work.

I feel guilty because I feel responsible for this chain of events due to my little driving excursion. KR expressed his stress over this added financial burden before leaving for work.

And, of course, the coworker who rides with KR to work was also late for work today. He depends on KR to get him there. I’m not really sure how this arrangement came about, but he’s been riding with KR for a few months since he has no transportation of his own. As far as I know, he doesn’t even give KR gas money. Until yesterday, I had no idea just how far KR was driving to pick up and drop off this coworker from where he lives. I think he should, at the very least, be giving KR gas money for the extra miles per month that he’s driving. Even if it’s only an extra 4 miles as KR says, that adds up. Gas is expensive. Personally, I think this coworker is taking advantage of KR’s  kindness. And I don’t like it.

I also don’t particularly like this coworker due to other impositions he has placed on KR, including added stress. Yesterday was only the second time I have been around this coworker. After our first encounter in which I will admit that I was extremely irate over what he was asking KR to do, the coworker told KR that I was scary. That particular morning, he must have called our house a half-dozen times, waking us up. He then shows up on our doorstep asking KR to pee in a cup for him because this coworker couldn’t pass a drug test to get hired on as a permanent employee. Damn right I was pissed; and I feel completely justified in my anger! I don’t want people like that in my life. Period.

However… there’s one reason for my dislike of this coworker that is completely irrational… hence, an imagined problem that causes me to second-guess all of my other reasons for disliking him. He’s a very large, black man who reminds me of my second rapist. I sincerely apologize if this sounds racist or prejudiced because I know in my rational mind that I shouldn’t associate a race of people to a past victimization; but this coworker’s mannerisms, attitude, behavior, and overall physical appearance is so similar to the man who raped me that I can’t get it out of my head! Last night… as I sat waiting in the parking lot of where KR works… in my car… in the dark… waiting for KR to finish working, I was so thankful that this coworker did not immediately get into the car with me when he came out first. He waited outside the car until KR came out… what felt like an eternity later. So, yeah, there’s that… and the odor of sweat (?) that lingered in the car. KR drove home; and I sat in the backseat, staring at the moon most of the way home.

There’s comfort in those craters.

Home and Calmer

I sincerely feel that my time spent at the crisis stabilization unit in my area was time well spent. It was the much-needed break from my relationship with KR and our home-life that I feel was necessary to clear my head and think a little more clearly. I was admitted on Friday (2-28-14) and came home Wednesday (3-5-14). Thankfully, they did not pressure me into medication, which was my greatest concern prior to reaching out for help. Everyone there, the staff and patients alike, were so supportive and encouraging. Most of the groups were somewhat helpful (something I’ve never said about group therapy before); but most of all, I just found it comforting to be around caring people, most going through similar problems with depression and anxiety. Being there didn’t exactly change any of the situations that I am currently facing. It simply gave me the pause from life in order to reassess how I am coping and think about what changes I actually need to make in my life.

I have to admit, however, that I’m neither closer to deciding what these changes should be nor figuring out how to go about them.

Looking back over my hospitalization timeline yesterday (this one made #10), I noticed a strange coincidence. Back in 2002, when KR and I dated the first time, I had another hospitalization (hospitalization #5) from, oddly enough, February 28, 2002 through March 14, 2002. Maybe, the admission date is nothing more than a mere coincidence; but I see a lot of similarities in our situation now as what we were experiencing at that time – like the financial stress, constant arguing and fighting, and the differences in sex-drive and sexual expectations. I was also going through a severe bout of depression back then due to all of these stressors in addition to a few others. I find this coincidence odd because it truly feels like history is repeating itself. In a lot of ways, our relationship has faced this déjà vu over and over again; and yes, it does feel completely insane.

This coincidence led me to spending today researching “triggers” and how to identify emotional triggers in myself. Emotions are an incredibly fuzzy area for me. I struggle to recognize, identify, and label them. Even expressing an emotion feels unsafe to a certain extent because I so often find them completely overwhelming. I’m one of those people who can be moved to tears by something as simple as a TV commercial or a piece of music. And it doesn’t matter, I cry if I’m happy, sad, angry, frustrated, or whatever else. To me, this is particularly confusing.

Then, there are the times when I feel completely shut down – numb. I rarely recognize when this is happening thereby making it extremely difficult to pinpoint what triggered the shut down of emotions. Sometimes, this void of emotion results in a lack of presence of mind. Nothing feels real as the present moment seems to evaporate into a muddled mess of vagueness and ambiguity. While I recognize this as a form of dissociation (as explained to me by my first therapist in 1994), it can be very frustrating, not only for me, but also for anyone I interact with (particularly KR).

In researching emotional triggers, I did run across one article that I found particularly helpful that I wanted to share, Find Your Emotional Triggers on this list. If anyone else knows of good resources for identifying triggers, please, don’t hesitate to share. I welcome the input.