Slow is fast, my therapist reminds me.
Slow is fast in treating disassociation.
And honestly, by extension, I realize that slow is fast with recovering from depression, anxiety, C-PTSD.
It seems a common theme among us survivors in groups: I wish I could just have surgery and get it cut out and get on with my life.
I still wish that, even though I can’t. All of the therapy sessions, all the time adjusting medications, all of the journaling and the tracking dreams and moods and trying to figure out triggers–it puts such a crimp on life. I post about it sometimes on my personal FB page.
You know what makes me cranky sometimes? All those posts that claim that it’s people’s choices that get them where they are. That people can CHOOSE to be happy. You know those posts? Usually posted by my more conservative friends, oddly–there’s a distinct trend there. The posts that people can choose to be rich or sick or whatever, just pull yourself up by your fuckin’ bootstraps, man.
Hogwash and bullshit. If I could chose to be happy, I totally would. The problem is that, well, that’s how I got here in the first place.
Pretending to be happy meant disassociating from from reality so I could just forget all of what Dad just did and said and be a big happy family full of smiles so nobody outside will know that something was wrong.
That’s not to say that we cried all the time in the house, too–if we did, he’d give us something to cry about (the irony is that he often was the reason in the first place.)
So I got good at repressing my feelings. Bottling it up. Keeping the cap on tight under pressure. It would explode occasionally. Maybe boil over, but usually it was an explosion. Then after a few days of misery–I’d completely forget what was so upsetting. It was just…gone. My brain locked it away. I even got fairly decent at disassociating and detaching when he’d rage at us, except he’d start requiring responses from us to make sure we were fully engaged to be traumatized.
“I don’t know, Dad,” even when we full well knew, but couldn’t say so because then it’d bring rage on more family members or on us if we actually told him the truth as to why we lied or sneaked around. Like going to the playground and taking early baths even when he forbade us from going to the playground, and the baths were so we didn’t smell that bad (or else play in the backyard so to mask the playground smell.) Things like that.
When I got older I even got some Visine “gets the red out” so I could put it in my eyes and on my reddened pimples to try to look “happy” faster. (Problem is, my eyes get puffy with prolonged crying, but if I have time, cool paper towels or washcloths did the trick.) That way I could go to work without having people ask me too many questions. Or school.
The key was to lock it away. It’s genius, actually, how our brain does this. Have only parts of you experience the rage and the abuse, and then the other parts can take over and be functional once it’s over.
It makes for a strange deja vu feeling sometimes. “…I’ve been here before, I’ve been in this room and walked this floor…” Sometimes it fades quickly. Sometimes just one thing gets tripped and then I feel anxious and unsafe and have no idea why. Sometimes I remember another memory and another memory and another memory, but stay separated from the memories, because it’s too much to bear if I did actually allow myself to feel.
Sometimes it’s a feeling like, wait a minute–where am I? On the bus home I saw the Chicago skyline appear after we emerged from under the McCormick Place tunnel and it seemed like it was the first time I’ve ever seen those buildings, and wait a minute, why am I riding a bus? This feels so weird.
Or I’ll be picking up my daughter from daycare and I’ll be like, wait a minute? I’m a parent? I feel like a teenager, there’s no way I could be a parent.
It’s very disorienting. And it’s associated with disassociation–and I had no idea. It’s not complete disassociation. It’s like…hmm. You know how Lego heads can be detached? Put that on different bodies. The head remembers most things, but the body remembers other things. There’s the teenager self, who feels depressed and self-hating. There’s the child, who feels confused and small and fearful.
There’s the self that withstands terrible news, blocking the brain from processing any of it, so that way it can get filed away in the body instead of the brain–otherwise then I start crying uncontrollably and become unable to work or do school.
There’s the part that grieves.
I can even be a little bit of multiple parts–swap out the Lego legs. Or the hair. The head stays the same, though. Always. I’m not completely different people. Just…a little bit separated into parts.
Now bring in a little Photoshop. Another analogy.
Layers. These are all separate layers. They need to be merged into one coherent file, but for some reason, each of the files are corrupted and it takes a shitload of work to try to integrate them. They can overlay a little bit here and there. It’s kind of blurry, though. Sometimes when you try to merge or bring up another layer, the program freaks and shuts down and you have to wait for it to reboot.
You have to work on the files slowly. Very slowly. Because freaking out and rebooting takes time. It messes up the other programs running on the computer.
Except people can’t just have their hard drives replaced and operating systems upgraded. You can’t repair corruption (read: trauma) by pushing a button.
And if you move too fast–you can spin out of control and go bonkers, or you can shut down. Neither of which is conducive to being a productive worker, a wife, a mom.
And apparently slow is fast. Meaning, the slower you go, the better the integration process goes.
But I’m impatient–let’s get this fixed and over with. Please? Just take me to the Genius Bar or schedule a surgery to remove that part or fix this other part and a short intensive recovery and then I can be 100% finally. When I get the disassociative feeling or a little nagging feeling or memory aaallllmost surfaces but then hides, I want to dive after it, bring it up, air it out, and file it away. Faster. More. Clean up as much as I can as fast as I can.
But then I start feeling like I need to hurt myself to distract myself or to bring myself back to “reality” because it’s too much. And then I’m off kilter for days with the bends or with a defrag file running or a slow rebooting.
Right now, even though I feel depressed, it’s a stable depressed! Hallelujah!
Yes. A cold and broken Hallelujah. But it’s still a Hallelujah of sorts.
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