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pocono

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This is my second time posting on this forum. I recently went through a crisis in my two year therapy -- a difficult rift had developed between me and my therapist, whom I had grown to trust and rely on. My therapist was kind/wise/mature enough to get a professional consultation for himself to try to determine what was going wrong and to find better strategies. What his action did for me was:

1. reassure me he really is committed to my care
2. reassure me that while he is human enough to make mistakes (which I already knew....), he is also strong enough to try to continue to learn and grow himself
3 made me feel like I had some worth, since he was willing to put himself through some real trouble and introspection on my behalf. (This was maybe the most profound result of going through this crisis together.)

Ironically, I don't think the consulation has solved the core dilemna of our therapy.....just shored us both up to face it with more mutual understanding, trust and resolve.

The core dilemna of our therapy is this: How do I talk about traumatic memories without the talking itself becoming a recreation of the original trauma.

When I talk about the things that happened to me and that I did, it is like I am there again. The feelings are so strong -- the fear, the grief, the shame. And then, suddenly, I have to go -- my kind and compassionate therapist is making me leave his office, and I'm raw, vulnerable, open, angry and scared.

We only attempt to talk specifically about the memories every so often because it is so difficult and stressful. After a session where I am telling a new story, I often go through a cycle of flashbacks, anxiety and then deep depression. It can feel like a 2-3 week death spiral; my family and work suffers tremendously, not to mention my self-esteem and optimism.

We have both considered the possibility that it might be better for me not to talk about these memories. We've also both concluded and agreed that, alas, it is necessary.

My therapist received some suggestions for some simple behavioural techniques to try to end sessions like that in a better place-- try to get me to sit up straight and comfortably on the couch -- I often end up leaning over on my side, kind of twisted and away from him crying. Deep breathing. Listening to the sounds outside the office -- traffic, construction, birds, whatever.

We will try these suggestions, as we have tried other things in the past -- doing the harder work earlier in the sesssion, me trying to look at him and reconnect before I go ( I can't tell the stories and maintain eye contact with him.)

Still, I know the telling and remembering will continue to be hard for me and a central challenge of the therapy. I'm looking for both support and guidance.

Are there things that have worked for other people going through this? Is there anything I can read to help reassure and guide me? I have reread Judith Herman's book Trauma and Recovery 4 or 5 times since I started therapy. I like the way she puts trauma in an historical and political context. Her chapter on a healing relationship helped me to understand the kind of therapy I am in. The rest of what I've read has been only somewhat helpful -- general books on therapy (especially Irv Yalom's books) have also helped me understand the process to a point......books on dealing with ptsd or sexual abuse are, frankly, not so helpful in so far as i feel like on an intellectual level I understand most of what they explain already.

I so much appreciated the thoughtfull responces to my last post. To be honest I've been skeptical about on-line support stuff, but people's thoughful responces were helpful to me during the past two weeks. Thanks for that.
 

Halo

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Hi Pocono.

I am glad that you have returned and decided to post again. Getting feedback from others on here has really helped me in getting a different persepective on things and I hope that it does the same for you. Many of us on here have/are going through the same things and have found different ways of dealing with our own obstacles and I am sure will be more than willing to share them. I know that the part of your post that stood out for me personally was this:

My therapist received some suggestions for some simple behavioural techniques to try to end sessions like that in a better place-- try to get me to sit up straight and comfortably on the couch -- I often end up leaning over on my side, kind of twisted and away from him crying. Deep breathing. Listening to the sounds outside the office -- traffic, construction, birds, whatever.

We will try these suggestions, as we have tried other things in the past -- doing the harder work earlier in the sesssion, me trying to look at him and reconnect before I go ( I can't tell the stories and maintain eye contact with him.)

I think that the suggestions that your therapist received were good ones. I know for me, I had to ask my psych to stop the session about 5-10 minutes early so that I could re-group, gather my thoughts, come back to the here and now and verbalize what I felt, what I had learned and what I am to work on (homework) for the upcoming week. Before I spoke up about needing to re-group I found that I was leaving his office in a state of confusion and not really in the here and now and wasn't really processing what my "homework" was suppose to be about. Also, I found there were times that I was misunderstanding things that he said and I would internalize it and interrpret the meaning the wrong way. By stopping the session early I have the opportunity to review what I might have heard and clarify any misunderstandings so I don't leave confused. Just this slight modification in our session has helped a lot. I don't feel like I am being thrown back out into the "real world" confused and in a state of panic and shock.

I can also relate to not being able to maintain eye contact. I have had trouble with this for years. If I am not feeling the pain inside or talking about painful issues then I have no trouble with eye contract. However on the other hand, if I am feeling so much on the inside and talking about things that are extremely painful then I tend to look at the floor and am not able to look at my psych at all. The psych that I have now has no issue with me not looking at him while other psychs I have had did have trouble and would try to force me to look at them which made things worse.

I am not trying to take over or hijack your thread with my own experiences but I am trying to let you know that you are not alone and that I have/do go through many of the same feelings and experiences that you describe. I have learned after many many years in therapy what works for me and what doesn't and only recently with the help of a great psych who I trust and am able to be open and honest with am I able to tell him what I find that works. I still can't verbalize it and therefore writing these things out to him is the best way for me.

You said that you will be trying these suggestions and I truly hope that they work for you. I can understand that reasoning behind the suggestions of sitting up straight in the chair, maintaining eye contact etc. because hopefully then you will become refocused on the here and now and realize that those memories are just that, memories and they are in the past and cannot hurt you. Whatever/whoever hurt you in the past cannot come back and hurt you again. Those are in the past where they belong and you are safe now. I know it is frightening and the feelings seem so real but you are a strong courageous person to be able to work on them and move past them. It does take time and a lot of effort but I do believe that one day it will happen that you will move past them.

Take care
:hug:
 

ThatLady

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For me, it was helpful to realize that I, today, am not the person being discussed. In other words, the person involved in the hurtful things is a part of my past. That person is not the person I am today. Realizing that helped me to be able to focus on healing the me that exists today. Granted, it takes some time and work to get to the point where you realize you really aren't that person anymore - that you've changed profoundly. Yet, once you can really accept that, it does get easier.

We learn, we change, we grow. As we do so, we step away from the past and into the present, moving ever toward the future. While we may have to discuss and process hurtful things from our pasts, we cannot relive them - not really, because we can't go back. If you can see it in that light, you'll be able to realize that you're not talking about you, you're talking about someone that was, but is not anymore.

I do hope that makes sense. It helped me so very much.
 

pocono

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Nancy -- thank you for your reply. I didn't feel like you had "hijacked" my thread with your own experience. To the contrary, it was helpful to hear from someone else about her own experience. I have never actually spoken to anyone who has gone through the kind of things I have gone through, so hearing from you is a new and helpful experience.

It sounds like we end our therapy sessions in somewhat similiar ways. I can't make eye contact while dealing with the memories, I think, primarily out of the intense feeling of shame that I experience. But when I leave without having overcome that feeling, at least enough to make eye contact, even briefly, I leave with the shame as my primary "take away". Depending on how hard the session is, sometimes we will stop even with 15 minutes left because it can take me that long to get my courage up to look at him.

I also always have questions at the end of the session, which typically relate to things my therapist has said that I want/need to understand better. Often, I am looking for explicit reassurance and support -- you'll know from my first post that this can be a source of tension between us.

In terms of recognizing that those that hurt me can't hurt me again....I think I understand that. I actually get afraid of my therapist -- not those from my past. I get afraid of being so vulnerable with an older man, like I'm setting myself up for him to abuse, scorn, or reject me (all experiences I had as a child). My rational brain knows he won't do this, but when I 'm in the memories and then trying to get back to the here and now, I get terrified.

Thanks again for your reply.

ThatLady -- I will respond to your reply as well soon. Something you wrote triggered an insight on my part.....however, I want to let it settle some before I try to describe the insight in writing.

FYI -- It is a beautiful fall day in New England -- no snow yet as seems to be true for those of you to my north.
 

Halo

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Pocono,

I am glad that you didn't think that I was hijacking your thread and that you realized that there are other people out there (me) that have and do experience the same things in therapy. It is hard and painful to deal with the issues that arise during therapy but I truly believe that the hard work will pay off in the end when we are able to look back and remember where we have been and where we are now (of course this is something that I am being told by other members on the forum and I am holding onto :))
 
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pocono, i can relate to the feeling of being vulnerable, and setting yourself up for rejection or abuse. therapy is about opening up and talking about very private things. i think it's probably something we all experience, it's scary to open up to someone else and talk about our fears and emotions. it's like you're giving away your power, because you have to let down all your guards to access the feelings and to talk about them. i've been afraid of rejection myself, so that's slowed me down in opening up, but i think i am getting over that somewhat. i think you are very courageous to be doing this work, as difficult and painful as it is.

i was just wondering about the questions you have at the end of your sessions. are these questions that don't come to mind until then? would it be of any help to ask them in response right away to something he says?
 
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pocono, i can relate to the feeling of being vulnerable, and setting yourself up for rejection or abuse. therapy is about opening up and talking about very private things. i think it's probably something we all experience, it's scary to open up to someone else and talk about our fears and emotions. it's like you're giving away your power, because you have to let down all your guards to access the feelings and to talk about them. i've been afraid of rejection myself, so that's slowed me down in opening up, but i think i am getting over that somewhat. i think you are very courageous to be doing this work, as difficult and painful as it is.

I agree with this. I can relate to the feelings too and not being able to look at the therapist when I'm trying to talk about something very painful. And all the terrifying feelings and being vulnerable.

One thing that I do when I'm at home and "back in the memories" and fighting harming myself is to hold something that is familiar to me. I have a smooth flat stone that I like to hold. I guess it sounds silly, but it seems to help somehow.

Anyway, I really feel for you in this hard, painful journey and wish you the best. :)
 

Halo

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Janet I don't think that holding something familar like the stone that you describe is silly at all. I for one have a favourite teddy bear that I hold onto and it sometimes works for me to just hug it with the intent that as long as I hold onto it, I will be kept safe and will not self-harm. I use to be ashamed of this but then I realized that whatever works for me to keep me safe is useful and wise and not silly at all.
 

ThatLady

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I like the idea of having something simple, like a stone, or a teddy, to give one a sense of being grounded. There's something warm and friendly about that thought. :)
 

foghlaim

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whatever works for me to keep me safe is useful and wise and not silly at all.
well said Nancy..
i have often climbed into bed and just hugged a pillow so tightly!! just to keep from doing S.I. and it works..sometimes.

:)
 

pocono

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i was just wondering about the questions you have at the end of your sessions. are these questions that don't come to mind until then? would it be of any help to ask them in response right away to something he says?

Basballcap -- that is an interesting question. I have tried to work on responding in the moment to my therapist, rather than "saving things up" for a later time. I can, and should do this more.

I appreciate other folks suggestions as well. I have my own kinds of "grounding" objects. I have a birthstone ring with my three childrens' birthstones that I always wear and I look at and twist around my finger when I need to connect with feelings of love and worth. I also have some things of my grandmother's. She died three years ago -- her death was part of what opened up the memory gates. I loved her so, so much. And I have missed her enormously. Hanging her gold cross or one of her scarfs around my neck reminds me of her love and example, and that gives me courage.
 

ThatLady

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You grandmother is still with you, pocono. She lives in her teachings, and the love you hold in your heart for what she gave you. Those who touch our lives never truly die. They just become internal beacons for what we admire and strive to become. :)
 

Halo

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Pocono,

I can also relate to the passing of your grandmother as I also lost my grandmother approximately 4 years ago and it was at that point that I felt that whole world fell apart. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me to deal with the grief of her passing but I also have momentos to remind me of her and that is always with me especially in my times of need.

Take care
:hug:
 

texasgirl

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Pocono:

I absolutely know what you are talking about and you said it so articulately - what I have been wanting to say but didn't know how! In any case, my new therapist (my old therapist couldn't deal with the level of trauma in my past and rightly referred me to a more experienced therapist) has me doing biofeedback for the last 10 mins of my therapy session. So far, it really does help to "reground" me and to alleviate some of the pain and anxiety prior to "hitting the streets" to go home.

I too go through depression and flashbacks for days/weeks afterwards, but we have both decided that it is necessary to healing.

The very best of luck to you in this really difficult process.
 

pocono

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I appreciate everyone's thoughts and supports in responding to my post. Thank you.

For me, it was helpful to realize that I, today, am not the person being discussed. In other words, the person involved in the hurtful things is a part of my past. That person is not the person I am today. Realizing that helped me to be able to focus on healing the me that exists today. Granted, it takes some time and work to get to the point where you realize you really aren't that person anymore - that you've changed profoundly. Yet, once you can really accept that, it does get easier.

We learn, we change, we grow. As we do so, we step away from the past and into the present, moving ever toward the future. While we may have to discuss and process hurtful things from our pasts, we cannot relive them - not really, because we can't go back. If you can see it in that light, you'll be able to realize that you're not talking about you, you're talking about someone that was, but is not anymore.

I do hope that makes sense. It helped me so very much.

I wanted to try to share the insight that came to me the morning after reading this reply, ThatLady.

I have been struggling with two sets of voices in my head -- one set very negative, one more positive. I have felt like I am two different people really -- the person who the negative voices defines and a kind of counter person I've tried to build on more positive voices. A good friend and my therapist have tried to reflect back that I am not two people, of course, but one and that the positive voices are more accurate....the negative voices are some kind of "erroneous thinking". I haven't been able to buy this or get my head around it at all. I feel like I am that person who was hurt and who hurt herself.

For whatever reason the very simple concept that I have changed, grow, evolved...into a different person than the one I was when I was younger just never penetrated before. I like that idea. It feels maybe like I am almost ready to move toward that kind of a paradigm, rather than holding onto the negative voices as still defining me. I hesitate a bit to say I'm ready (or to even write about this). It feels a bit like announcing you are pregnant at only 6 weeks when you still might have a miscarriage......

I'm not sure if what I wrote even made sense......but here goes....I'm going to push the "submit reply" button!
 

ThatLady

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I know, for me, the realization of the simple truth that I am a different person today than I was even yesterday was a very helpful one, pocono. Learning and growing changes us. If you can embrace that concept, I believe it will help you, just as it helped me. :hug:
 
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pocono, i am glad thatlady's view has struck a chord with you. this is a good thing. i think the more you think about it, the more you'll agree with it. things are starting to click in your head, and it's great when this starts to happen. as time goes by it will make more and more sense, until you no longer have no doubts about this concept. it will start to happen with other things you learn as well. :)
 

pocono

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I shared with my therapist the insight I had off of ThatLady's post. I asked him what happens if I can't hold onto the insight. He said: "now there are two of us holding on to it, so if you forget.....I will remind you."

It was scary to say out loud the insight -- even though it is such a simple thing to realize that I am a different person than I was 20 years ago -- I have changed, learned and grown. Still, that insight has such large ramifications -- really.
 

ThatLady

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Actually, pocono, there are more than just two of you holding onto that insight you've achieved. All of us here are holding onto it with you, as well. :grouphug:
 

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