Opening Yourself up Within Therapy – Dealing with the Intensity of Reliving

Art By Charlotte Farhan

Art By Charlotte Farhan

Waking up from the intensity of nightmares and night-terrors, feels a though you have been battered black and blue emotionally and physically. The hell of thinking within your unconscious dream state that you are trapped in this dystopian creation of your own afflicted mind, causes you to wake screaming, as if you were grappling through time and space to re enter this realm of existence.

Then you wake; the truth hits you like a tyrannical fist, you try to unpick the mess of your insensible and sensible self which is tangled like forgotten jewelry left in a drawer. You lay there trying to regain some control over your faculties, you are still and lifeless – almost catatonic. The world as we know it has not been brought into focus yet, it is still a distant memory.

Hours go by and you’re still unable to move, your mind is working so hard at the puzzle that is your trauma. At this point what is real and not – is completely interlinked; woven together like a tapestry of war.

Finally you feel able to move, the world has invited you in and you feel, you can find your way there. You stick to muscle memory tasks, such as getting dressed, making a tea and sitting at your desk.

Unfortunately, your mind does not always recognise your consciousness in reality and “the real world”, so it flickers from flashbacks to memories of nightmares, interchanging as if someone had a remote control to your brain and was flicking through the channels of your life.

Art By Charlotte Farhan

Art By Charlotte Farhan

This has been my life for as long as I can remember; however it has grown darker again and is still growing with ferocity. Since becoming older and now in my 30’s, the space in my mind seems to be at capacity, which means when one cupboard or box is opened in my mind – things are now having to be squeezed tighter or rearranged, which in turn causes mess and a lack of new space for new experiences, emotions and eventually memories. Leaving me stuck in a hoarders prison – internally locked in. It is not that I wish to keep these memories or thoughts it is just they need to be processed, labeled and filed away.

Which is difficult when they are buried under years of self preservation.

Reliving trauma in therapy is my only solution, other than self destruction – which is ever so appealing. The temptation of setting fire to the mess that is my internal world seems enticing, a cathartic “fuck you” to the pain. Nevertheless my intentions are to stay in this mind until my husband dies ( which will hopefully be both of us in old age) as the thought of being without him is even more devastating than anything I have ever thought possible. This life is short as I have seen many times over, I promised myself I would spend this time understanding these illnesses which plague me day in and day out, as well as helping others who walk this tightrope of madness and sadness.

Art By Charlotte Farhan

Art By Charlotte Farhan

We will never forget what was done to us – you see. These abusers, predators and enablers, they caused so much of this. With their torture, subjectification, voyeurism, rape, incest, emotional battery and manipulation. Which begs me to ask, what do they carry with them after the fact? The best you can hope for is guilt; but this is not enough, this is not representative of what we suffer, the victims! They want pity, and sympathy for their affliction, which plays into further domination.

Reliving is a daily task, it does not end when I leave the therapy room, it does not silence the sounds of purgatory. It is in fact something those of us who have complex post traumatic stress disorder have been doing everyday and everynight since we were young.

My mind has been replaying reels of trauma – with added horror, as if my psyche wished to add special effects to my already terrifying past. Despite this, upon committing to reliving in a long term therapeutic setting and being at capacity – in my minds storage capabilities, the intensity rises further causing me to experience psychosis and physical pain.

The therapy I am having is a combination of psychodynamic, humanistic, psychoanalyticACT and CBT, this is known as integrative therapy as it uses elements from many therapies; integrative therapists take the view that there is no single approach that can treat each client in all situations. Each person needs to be considered as a whole and counselling techniques must be tailored to their individual needs and personal circumstances. 

This process is long and will be a continued managed activity of will power and a determination to use this experience as a way to contribute to the world. The idea is to turn myself, the victim into a survivor and then a thriver. These will never be whole states of mind, and knowing there will be bad days and good days and even relapses, but using the trauma to thrive even for 10 minutes is something worth committing to.

“It’s often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying, “Stay there. Don’t move.”
Jeffrey Eugenides

Art By Charlotte Farhan

Art By Charlotte Farhan

Recovery is not a time period set out, it is a continued process until death. When I say I am in recovery, do not be confused and think “that’s good she will be recovered soon” this is not how it works. Recovery is about a continued focus and is an exhausting task to undertake daily, which means there will be days I can not do it or days when triggering events or stressful life experiences put the mind back into those frightful moments which we tried so hard to keep organised and tidy.

Let me ask you?

How do you recover from being sexually abused as a child?

How do you recover from sexual violence, rape, assault, stalking and being beaten as a teenager?

How do you recover from having two parents (who are severely mentally ill themselves) one abused you, abandoned you and does not love you at all, to the other who didn’t love you at birth and couldn’t attach to you and who emotionally abused you, kept leaving you with different people and whose constant fragility due to their illness consumed your life?

You don’t recover…

You hopefully survive and then spend your life recovering.

So this is me and where I am, I know I am not alone, I know you are suffering too out there, I know it is hard and you’re ready to quit! But I want you to know that you are not alone and that you need to take this slowly and realistically. Do not allow pressure from others and society; which make you conform. They do not have to live your life, you know the truth.

Living is hard.

But reliving is harder.

Art By Charlotte Farhan

Art By Charlotte Farhan

 

For a bit of history on the practices of therapy in regards to PTSD AND C-PTSD, please read on…

 

Since the re-emergence of recognition of severe trauma on human development and psychopathology in adults in the 1970s, Chu and Bowman observed there had been three generations of trauma treatment theory. The first generation of research and response began in the early 1980s and emphasized abreaction of traumatic experience in treatment. Abreaction originated from psychoanalytic traditions and describes the processes of acting out and expressing unconscious conflicts that, in itself, brings relief.

The second generation, from the late 1980s to early 1990s, developed clearer ideas of the effects of different types of trauma, for example, single incident, adult onset events such as car accidents compared with chronic, interpersonal trauma such as childhood abuse. PTSD described ongoing pathology including the former types of abuse, while complex PTSD described the latter. The global effects of complex trauma across the range of intrapsychic, relational, cognitive, and behavioral functions became a focus. This resulted in recognition of the benefits of employing a number of schools of therapy, and the elaboration of a three-stage model of therapy. This focused first on client safety and stabilization using techniques primarily from CBT, then on processing trauma memories where psychodynamic therapies were utilized, and finally on reconnecting with the wider social environment.9

The third generation, from the mid-1990s to 2000, witnessed the attack of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) on therapies focusing on childhood sexual abuse (CSA). The first response was to polarize views, but then it motivated research that refined assessments of trauma pathology including the effects of trauma on memory, and the etiology of adult trauma symptoms, and generally supported the effectiveness of therapy. The focus of therapy changed from uncovering more instances of trauma, to building a more coherent self-narrative.

If you have any comments or questions please fill in this form and I shall endeavour to get back to you as soon as I am able:

 

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2 thoughts on “Opening Yourself up Within Therapy – Dealing with the Intensity of Reliving

  1. A well-written article on CPTSD, the impact of trauma, and explanation of ‘recovery’.

    I related so well when you spoke about “Nevertheless my intentions are to stay in this mind until my husband dies ( which will hopefully be both of us in old age) as the thought of being without him is even more devastating than anything I have ever thought possible.” I have had this fear for so many years, the feeling of abandonment, as my hubby been my rock and the only one who has shown the kind of love, empathy and reassurance that should have been showered upon me as a child.

    Thanks for posting this, I wish you well on your journey and healing.

    Deb xx

  2. Reblogged this on living in stigma and commented:
    A well-written article on CPTSD, the impact of trauma, and explanation of ‘recovery’.

    I related so well when you spoke about “Nevertheless my intentions are to stay in this mind until my husband dies ( which will hopefully be both of us in old age) as the thought of being without him is even more devastating than anything I have ever thought possible.” I have had this fear for so many years, the feeling of abandonment, as my hubby been my rock and the only one who has shown the kind of love, empathy and reassurance that should have been showered upon me as a child.

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