Monthly Archives: August 2015

Revenge of the Emotions!

It seems that sometimes when I am in a very stressful or emotionally overwhelming situation my mind likes to go on vacation. It totally checks out, teleporting from my skull-cavity to somewhere a few feet above my body where it takes a nap, or dances, or sometimes swims with dolphins. The resulting husk (me) can no longer effectively communicate, but I also can no longer feel the distressing emotions that situation x-y-z would normally bring on.

I’m pretty sure the clinical term for moments like this is “disassociation”. I leave the situation, my consciousness goes away to avoid undue stress or traumatic factors. What is left behind can be on autopilot and at other times a still, blank meat puppet.

When this happened last weekend, I [operating as a detached husk] found the result almost a little funny. Things I would generally consider horrible were no longer an issue. While friends and family members were writhing in agony, my mind was dancing the cha-cha. Frankly, I was a bit glad because I knew going into the specific situation that it would be difficult… and having checked my senses of despair or concern at the door felt, well, nice.

I realize how that might sound, but imagine you’ve found a jack in the box and you know without a doubt that causing that clown to come out of the box will be disturbing, yet you feel compelled (and even obligated) to do it. You wind the little lever, hear the delicate chimes playing “pop goes the weasel”, but nothing pops out.

No clown, no demon, no carnage.

My life is full of these boxes that I am constantly opening, constantly being wrecked by outrageous emotional turmoil over a simple plastic clown, or a ceramic chipped demon. I admit, when nothing emerged (or maybe it did and I couldn’t see it) I felt a profound, perhaps even spiritual sense of relief.

That relief began to grow into feelings of hope that I might have somehow stumbled onto the secret management technique for mood swings and reactivity that would inevitably save me. Hope that maybe I have finally become desensitized enough to some of these clowns and demons to live comfortably with the acceptance of their existence but without judgement or the need for them to change. I pat myself on the back, good job, I thought. Maybe I am evolving.

My brain came home slowly. It might have come through the door into my void skull on Monday but by Tuesday it still hadn’t settled in. It was still unpacking the damp bathing suits and stolen hotel mini shampoo from the vacation, and by Wednesday with the suitcase put away and the laundry done it sat down in it’s chair and went to work plugging in all of the electrodes back into itself to reconnect to the husk.

Sure enough, as my brain reconnected every moment of the few days prior began to replay in my mind but the unconcerned and relatively emotionally blank tracks fixed to the images began to change. Every humorous moment became a punch to the gut. Every jack-in-the-box that hadn’t opened now erupted with laughing clowns, doubled over and demons waggling their fingers, satisfied that my sense of relief and self-satisfaction were a sham.

As I saw the true nature of things and the way these emotionally binding moments have been for many years sprung at me all at once, I felt ashamed for thinking I had somehow skated past them. For thinking I had evolved. For thinking I had won.

When the emotional flood hit me, it took my breath away. The best I could do was to sit and wait and cry until it was over, and even then -even today my guts and ego and emotions feel bruised.

The Ongoing Journey for the “Right Fit” in Therapy

After the events of last week my goal this week was clear.

Switch therapists.

I have been seeing the current one for just under a year and while we’ve had several communication issues I’ve tried hard to come back at the next appointment, try to talk things out, and move on.

She is a nice woman and she is very easy to talk to when she is receptive. Unfortunately sometimes she just… isn’t? Her availability has not been stellar, so when I actually have a chance to see her it has been a real bummer when she isn’t listening.

Despite the obvious issues I told myself that (realistically) some of the feelings I was having about her not listening to me could be an emotional reaction, out of line, and that maybe I wasn’t communicating properly on my end. However after several of these situations I found myself sitting in front of her last week talking about this very subject. She seemed to listen, she had a sad emotional reaction in her face, and I was prepared to move past it. Again.

But then… she asked if looking up [a specific topic] as homework might help me. I replied I felt more comfortable saving the topic for later down the road because I didn’t want to be confused after getting different information from difference sources (once I get into the DBT group). In seconds she said,

“ok,” pulled out a sticky note, wrote a few words down, and gave it to me. “That way you will remember to look this up when you get home.”

For a second I honestly thought she might be screwing with me… hadn’t I just said no? Hadn’t I just said that I was terribly afraid she wasn’t listening to me?

I took the note and left.

When I told this story to my new psychiatrist later last week she implored me to call the director of the program to switch to someone else. It can be so hard to know when to cut ties with a therapist, and I have a hard time not giving someone having a hard time with their job another chance to do better. After all, it is what I would want if I needed another chance… the difference is that this pattern I fall into is no longer therapeutic for me. Sure, it might be therapeutic for my therapist that I be forgiving when something comes up, but when does that gesture dissolve the positives I might be getting out of therapy in the first place? I need to be working to resolve issues in therapy, not causing new ones.

At any rate, this is the first time I have made a big move to switch therapists. Normally they’ve just quit or left before I had a chance, so I feel proud of myself for addressing this before it went too far. I’ve already spoken to the program director and have already been assigned someone new, I just have to wait for them to call to set up our first appointment now.

I feel a little conflicted about not reaching this point with my therapist in person (I generally do enjoy her as a human being), but every time I tried to suggest we split in the last year she would reel me back in. Again with the not-listening. At any rate, I think I’ve devised a method to help me potentially predict big upcoming episodes with more accuracy (more on that in my next post) and it seems pretty clear that I am heading into one of those large depressive states I can find myself in. Finding a support system that is… well, supportive before the ball drops will be crucial, so any guilt I am feeling is largely overshadowed by a sense of self-preservation.