The Tormenting Trauma of My Body Memories

sad-along-crying-on-couch

TRIGGER WARNING

 

My body starts to tense up as I toss and turn in a semi-dreamlike state which is drawing me into a darkness that I have no control to fight off and instantly I am back there again.

The faces, with their every small detail and expression; the voices so clear I am convinced they are beside me, taunting yet again. The sweaty, stale scent of the room with the bed placed under the window and the walls covered with hockey posters and shelves with trophies and various awards. There are clothes strewn across the blue carpeted floor as one would expect of a teenage boys room. An old acoustic guitar rests against the wall at the foot of the bed and the natural wood markings of its body keep my eyes focused. I imagine walking over to pick it up, strum a few chords to see if it has been kept in tune.

The bedroom light went off and the door closed tight, leaving only a glow from the hallway under the door just enough to prevent total darkness. My eyes were so heavy and as the seconds passed, I was losing focus and I found even the shadows blurry. My body tingled in a strange way, almost like the “pins and needles” one experiences when their foot “falls asleep” and although I still had some feeling, I felt so heavy, as if my body was actually sinking into the bed, and one by one, each limb became almost impossible to move. I try desperately to speak, to utter any noise at all yet no sound came out, my mouth unable to open enough to even form a word. My mind is foggy but in an innate state of terror and the thoughts of what I believed to be impending race at the speed of sound.

Fight or flight is kicking in rapidly and my heart feels as if it beat any faster it would explode. I find it hard to get a deep breath as my breathing has become somewhat labored. The adrenaline is surging through my body, I can feel my core temperature rise and I am willing myself to move…to budge just an inch, to be able to lift a hand or kick a foot in defense, or make even the slightest noise that maybe someone would here, but instead I lay in a semi-conscious state of paralysis.

Time stood still. Every minute seemed like an hour of eternal hell. I could hear them the whole time as they talked about who would go first and were they sure “he” had put enough in my drink. They high fived and tagged in and out as one would see in a tag team wrestling match. My mind is screaming stop, screaming for help until it just shuts down completely, in a state of inexplicable numbness. I cannot fight, nor can I flight, I can only focus my mind on one thing, which happened to be that old acoustic guitar. My body although immobile is still sensing the pain of the vile acts that are being committed, while my mind drifts away to a place where the sun shines brightly, the sounds of the ocean float in the background and it is just me and that guitar creating our own melody.

The rest of the events do not need to be detailed, but as with everything, this too eventually ends. My blurry eyes scan the room for a clock, as I have no idea if I have been there for ten minutes or hours, when I catch the red glow of the digital clock on the dresser to barely make out that it was precisely midnight. My right side seems to be able to move a bit, but certainly not enough to even roll myself off the bed. My head is foggy and pounding and my eyes yet to come to a clear focus. The struggle to move exhausts me and I find my eyes closing and my mind uncontrollably drifting away.

I can’t recall the exact time but it is just before 5a.m. when I wake, feeling groggy, disoriented, nauseous and sore. I stumble around in the dark, my hands grazing across the wall blindly feeling for a light switch in an attempt to find my bearings. The brightness of the light blinds me and I feel a surge of blood rush to my pounding head, as I scan the floor for my pants. The pain is excruciating as I pull them on and I notice my shirt is torn, so I grab a sweatshirt I see lying on the floor and cover myself up. The blood is a slow trickle and I estimate that I can make it home before it soaks through. The house is dark and quiet and the smell of booze and vomit wafts through my nose as I make my way down the stairs and towards the door where I notice people sleeping on couches, chairs and the floor tiptoe across the hardwood floor hoping that a creak will not wake anyone.

To this day, I am not sure how I got home, or when. I do remember lying in bed pretending to have the flu for the next few days and taking at least 50 showers but still being unable to get rid of the feeling of being dirty. It is on the fifth day when I realize I need to seek medical attention as nothing seems to be healing as I had expected. Through the onslaught of questions by the medical staff, followed by the police I remained silent… “I’m sorry, I don’t remember what happened”, “I’m sorry, I am not sure where I was or who I was with”.  The grilling finally ends, and I am released and free to go home, where I would spend the next month digging a hole in my brain deep enough to bury this memory for life. Over the years I would have random flashbacks of this event which I would then convince myself was mixed confusion with the abuse I suffered as a child. For so long the memories flashed in and out like a rerun of a bad TV show but they carried with them no emotional attachment.

Fast forward to the present, and after multiple rounds of therapy, I finally found someone who would introduce me to the concept of body memories. The mind has a remarkable way of self-protection from traumatic memories, but we tend to forget that the body itself has its own sense of memory. I noticed this not long ago when these memories began to surface again through my dreams. Now, not only would I have the lingering effects of the flashback but my body felt stuck in a place between fight and flight; muscles uncontrollably tense, anxiety and heartbeat racing, phantom pains and a sickening feeling in my chest and stomach. My mind may realize I am presently safe and not in harm’s way but my body is stuck back in the moment of trauma. A temporary distraction for the mind may be possible but that provides no reprise for the body. The relaxation techniques, the mindfulness and self-care have yet to stop the body memories, which for me can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.

I am trying to cope with them the best I know how, but often that just means riding out the wave knowing that sometime soon it will lose its force and flow back out with the tides.

 

 

 

The Jar That Protects My Heart

heart-in-a-jar

 

 

I like to keep my heart in a jar; one of those big glass ones with a lid on the top that is punctured with a few holes. Perhaps similar to one you may have used to hold a captured grasshopper or firefly as a child. You were careful to make sure there was enough air going in the jar to sustain this living creature, but made sure the holes were not big enough to allow for an escape. Keeping my heart in that metaphorical jar provides the same type of sustenance, only emotionally instead of physically.

Childhood sexual abuse instantly taints your view of love. Chances are you were not grabbed off the street and assaulted by a stranger. In fact, most of our abusers are family, friends or someone we looked up to and respected. They were people who conditioned you over time to believe you were loved, or claimed to love and care about you. They are the people we are told we can trust and those who are supposed to keep us safe, and as children, we wouldn’t even question that there could be an ulterior motive. We did not realize that this love and affection comes with immeasurable consequences that will weave their way into every aspect of our future life. What we did learn however, is that with love and affection, comes trauma, broken trust and pain.

Survivors are riddled with a profusion of emotions that run the gamut from A to Z. Some are so deeply ingrained in our minds they have gone from emotions to behaviors. The guilt, the shame, the sense of worthlessness, just to name a few, changes your views on both yourself and others. We often feel that we cannot understand ourselves, and find it hard to express and cope with the overwhelming feelings we are experiencing. I am not sure there is a survivor out there that didn’t wish they did not feel the way they do, or wish to wake up one day having forgotten everything and being able to start anew. You would do anything to be that imaginary person without a painful past, or to be able to turn time back and prevent the abuse in the first place.

For me, this is when my jar also got a lock and key. My heart had grown misshapen with every trauma, and since they continued to happen, extra security was required. It was a constant test, an ongoing battle to let just enough of my heart out to be able to function and not enough to be hurt. I am one of those people who needs to be loved, but really does not know how. Accepting love does not come naturally, as it innately comes with a sense of fear and pain. For me, it is a process of testing; putting a bit out there and just as quickly reeling it back in; being able to give a little while still remaining self-protective.

 

Self-blame casts a dark shadow. Consciously or subconsciously there is a piece of you that blames yourself for what happened and even though you understand rationally that is not the case, it carries with it the burden of not feeling deserving of being loved. Personally, I have found it an extremely rare occasion where I have found someone I feel could actually love me for who I am and would accept me with all my emotional baggage and painful past.

With all the people in the world, why would someone choose me? Why would someone actually volunteer to walk the difficult path with me, when there are millions of paved roads to choose from.

That being said, having a guarded heart not only prevents some of the pain, but it also inhibits the opportunity for something good. You may find that there are those rare, precious people who come into your life and seem to pick the lock without you even knowing. They encourage you to loosen the lid a bit at a time, until it is off, and captivity or freedom now becomes the option. It is now up to you to decide if the benefits outweigh the risk. Is being hurt worth the possibility of being loved? As with everything in life you will never know until you try. So I say, take the risk. Allow yourself to truly enjoy the feeling of being loved and loving someone, because whether you believe it or not, you are worthy and deserving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Persistent Darkness of My Suicidal Thoughts

 

 

 writing-girl-2

 

The thoughts never truly end. They stick with me like my shadow, but appear not only when I step into the light. They carry a weight that pulls me back two steps for every one I move forward, hindering the progress I work so hard to achieve. They are like a nagging voice trapped in the back of my mind, calling me towards the darkness. An irrational voice that spends its time trying to negate every positive thought I have worked to achieve. Thoughts as strong as the tide nipping at my ankles, trying to pull me back out to the unknown depths of a vast sea. I have survived this battle three times physically, and mentally in the thousands, and although my last physical suicide attempt was years ago, the emotional battle is a daily ongoing.

Not too long ago, I was told I had chronic suicidal ideations, which I did not know was even a thing to have. Apparently because these thoughts began when I was so young, and have been so constant for so many years, they have become more of an innate nature than a learned behavior. My first attempt when I was eight years old certainly was not the first time I had thought about dying. It was, however, the beginning of me understanding the results that would come from my actions. It was when I realized that whatever this death thing really meant, it held one guarantee; I would be free of pain. 

I am not sure the quantity of pills I swallowed that day. I do know that the entire incident was written off as a simple accident; a case of a child not listening, misbehaving, and testing the limits. In those days it would not have even been a fleeting thought that there could be any intention behind my actions. I was taken off to therapy to have a professional tell me it was not possible that I was suicidal. What possibly could I have gone through in eight short years that would prompt such an act of desperation? I was told I was confused, just feeling sad, and that it must have been a mistake. I certainly did not understand what death was. I was invalidated, judged, misunderstood and brushed aside.

As the years continued, dying became a regular part of my perception of life. The thoughts were increasingly darker and lasted longer and I had devised hundreds of plans in my head…the where, the when and the how. I had no remorse for the people I may hurt as none of them had protected me when I had needed it most, and perhaps they were the root cause of this unbearable pain I lived with hour after hour, day after day. My second attempt was significantly more serious and resulted in a hospitalization in which my stomach was pumped and my cuts stitched up. I was berated, chastised and again, invalidated by my parents and a team of health professionals. It wasn’t me wanting to end my life, it was a teenage act of rebellion; it was a selfish cry for attention that should not go unpunished. I was released three days later. There was no follow up appointment and no trips to therapists or social workers. The incident was a closed topic and was not spoken of again.

I gave up on the actions over my teenage years, but the thoughts and plans continued. I knew I would   be unable to proceed until after my Mom had died, and the preoccupation with her battle with cancer had been the one thing that had kept me alive. The number of times I prayed to switch places with her was countless. In my mind, she could live and I could get the peace I was so desperately seeking. Watching the slow process of a loved one dying just reinforced the thoughts that lived in the darkness of my mind; suicide was the quickest and only way out.

My mom’s death destroyed my world and the thoughts of dying became increasingly welcome. The only person that loved me was gone, and I no longer had to live, or hold on to this overwhelming pain that was consuming my life. I could finally feel peaceful, free and safe. To this day, I am not sure what kept me going over the following years. I awoke to the sadness of having woken up and went to sleep praying not to wake. The thoughts were rampant and instinctual. If something bad happened, it was manageable only because if worse came to worse I could always just end my life. Suicide became the instant solution to anything and everything that caused me pain, and although I knew that one day I would lose my fight, I carried that as a sense of comfort.

I had one more attempt which was meticulously planned and carried out, and to this day I cannot understand why I am still here. It simply should not have been possible for me to survive and I have spent so much time analyzing why I did, but as I have come to learn over the years, I guess it simply was not my time. Perhaps my life had an underlying purpose which I had yet to discover.

Fast forward to present day, and I find myself still searching for that reason, that explanation as to why I lived. I would like to say I have no more thoughts, and no more plans, but that simply is not the case. I am not sure if I will ever experience a day when they don’t at least drift across my mind. The actions may be under control for now, but they can sneak up on me with the velocity and ferociousness of a tornado and I will always have to remain aware and alert to keep them at bay. I will always be searching for something to provide the same sense of relief and comfort as those thoughts do, but as long as I am searching, it means I am fighting, which means I have yet to give up.

 

 

 

I

 

 

 

 

 

The Fear of My Emotional Oversensitivity

 

emotionally sensitive

 

Borderline personality disorder and relationships are like oil and vinegar; without constant attention to stirring they separate. The rollercoaster of emotions we live on takes us from extreme highs to abysmal lows, with little warning and varying frequencies. We don’t seem to have much of a middle point or grey area when it comes to reacting emotively, and our emotions are so substantial they keep the rational mind at bay. Despite the necessity and desire, it is not easy for us to make or keep relationships whether they are friendships or something more and in most cases we understand the challenges you face trying to maintain relations with us; how could we not? We live them every day.

I was never a loud, boisterous child. I have been insecure since I can first remember and tended to stay on the reserved and quiet side. I wouldn’t say I was the initiator of friendships but I certainly had no lack of them in childhood, and because of playing soccer and being on a team, I had friends through my teenage and college years. During your mid-twenties to early thirties peoples tend to come and go as their lives take different directions and as you age, you tend to be more selective of those who you call friends or start relationships with.

Although I was not properly diagnosed until somewhat recently, the tendencies of my BPD were lurking beneath the surface my entire life and became exacerbated in my thirties. It was then when I first started to notice the intense fear of abandonment and the lengths that I would go to in my relationships to avoid it. I would try so hard, albeit unsuccessfully to mold myself to both meet the needs of and please the people around me, walking delicately on eggshells as to avoid any misstep that may result in them leaving. The mere thought of being deserted would bring me to the brink of a panic attack and incite every negative thought of self-worth that had ever passed through or taken up residence in my mind.

Due to this incessant fear of being left we are consumed by this range of extreme emotions that is often expressed in what may seem like random outbursts, despite our want to contain them. The smallest thing that may be an indication of abandonment we take with the utmost of severity. Something as simple as not having a text answered or not being included in something can send us on an emotional rollercoaster in such a brief period of time. We may go from being fully loving and supportive to emotionally withdrawn in moments due to the scenarios we are creating in our heads, regardless if  there is truth to them or not. In our minds we truly believe that this is the beginning of the end; that whatever action or thing which is upsetting us is actually the first step towards you making a separation, or distancing yourself from us.

The ability to set healthy boundaries in relationships is remarkably difficult with a mind that is set in a world of black and white. We are either in a relationship or out and there is very little grey area in between. In a relationship I am passionately loyal and loving, but tend to love too quickly and with a friendship it becomes a case of becoming attached too swiftly. Although easing into things and taking it slow may be what we truly desire, our illness is simply not fond of that premise. Our illness tells us if it is good jump in and when there is a danger or fear of abandonment, close down or jump out as a method of self-protection, and regardless of how hard we try, this emotional fluctuation has become an innate reaction to a long, deep seeded fear.

Contrary to popular belief, people with BPD are not manipulative or attention seeking and our behaviors are in no way meant to hurt anyone, especially our loved ones, and doing so unintentionally fills us with much pain. In most cases we love and care too much, we just don’t have the proper tools to either cope with our emotions or effectively express them. Our illness directs us towards the negative coping mechanisms that have become both comfortable and reliable. Our seemingly unprovoked rants and outbursts to the slightest things are our instant reactions to a perceived danger, whether it’s abandonment or hurt, and despite our contempt for our own behavior, it often takes years to unlearn.

There are days when I still hate feeling like I am a walking open wound, but I am gradually learning to accept this oversensitivity. I thought it was a character flaw to be emotionally raw, but am learning to realize that if you take that away, you remove the very essence of my being. You would take the part of me that is empathetic, creative, loyal and loving. You would strip me of my deep appreciation for the little things in life and the awareness and compassion for the pain of others that has become second nature to me, and although I will continue to work on emotional regulation, I will no longer change the foundation of my very being for anyone.