Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Bridge Over Troubled Water
John Bradshaw saved my sanity. Though I've never net the man, his series of lectures on PBS put so much of my traumatic childhood in perspective. I valued his insights so much that I wanted to go to his center for treatment.
There was no way I could afford the thousand dollar a day inpatient experience, but I did find a person to talk to who had training in the same therapeutic philosophy.
Hindsight tells me I needed a male therapy guy first. I needed to see a good person with a masculine viewpoint so I could deal with living with a very violent female guardian and my mother.
Though men did scare me a little, I liked them better than women. He wasn't an ex at the time, I asked my ex to go into the therapy room with me. It helped calm my fear that the therapy guy would mistreat me.
My husband Phil proved to be a good asset to my experience. He had insight of my daily life that the therapy guy couldn't know, plus he had a creative side that surprised even me.
This DID lead to my counselor referring to my ex and I as one person. He called it enmeshment. Though I don't think it was the whole truth, I could see it had some notes of reality.
In order to resolve a lot of emotional pain, my therapy guy suggested I draw what I felt. I made a lot of progress and through these drawings found bits of myself and gained a lot of insight on who I was and who I could become.
When I found a way to draw an image of the guardian who abused me the most, so much of the fear and pain she caused moved from inside my head to the drawing. I felt much freer. So calm, in fact that I could move on to a female therapy person.
My new counselor, Kristen, helped me understand the adult world. This might sound strange, considering I was in my late 20's when I went to her.
The truth of my rough childhood was no one taught me how to be "grown up." I mean I rejected violence and drinking so I just didn't know how to be calm and go about making friends or having a normal job.
My ex and I split up a few months after I started seeing Kristen. I got a job and started rebuilding my adult life. I didn't know how to handle when my boss treated me disrespectfully. Kristen taught me that it was okay to go cry in the bathroom and how to communicate better.
I still use her phrases of, "When you... I feel.. I would prefer..." whenever I feel stress talking with someone.
While I was working with my therapy gal, I attended Survivors of Incest Anonymous meetings too. I'm so lucky and grateful for the ladies of that group. I learned so much and got a really good handle on the flashback memories I occasionally experienced.
I learned that we would never forget, but in time could remember with far less pain. They taught me that personal history has only part to do with who we really are.
I moved too far away to keep going to therapy and Survivors meetings. Though I felt sad about this, I did feel I had a pretty good handle on my life.
I did have other therapy like experiences in my new area, though none of them rose to quality of the Bradshaw trained people.
I had tried counseling before, too. One lady I found from her column in the newspaper. I felt a little abused by the way she acted. I had an angry reaction thinking about the man who molested me. I told her I wanted to squish him like the bug that he was. She shamed me, telling me that I was wrong for having that though.
I left and never went back. I don't suggest anyone ever DO anything to people who harmed them. The consequences are too high a price to pay, but I see no problem expressing the feelings that come up. No matter what those feelings are. After all, that's the main point of therapy. It's a wonderful chance to talk about and resolve the past.
My last "therapy" session really made a big difference on my emotional state. After I ran from my doctors office, I felt deep shame at being "that crazy person." I called to find out if the medicaid plan I had would let me talk to someone about the incident.
The very nice woman listened with compassion and understanding. She assured me that my reaction made sense in context of my lifetime of experiences. She let me know that I had every right to be in charge of my own health and that it was okay to change doctors.
For those of us who grew up getting all kinds of mixed messages, it's sometimes maddening to have to do MORE work to recover. I know I am angry that I I have to pay twice. Once while I was an innocent child and once as an adult with flashbacks and uncertainty.
None of it is a guaranty to put us on a road to sanity. From my observation, no substance kept the pain at bay either. So I kept looking for answers. I'm grateful I found good and decent help.
Thank you, Scott, Kristen and Megan. I feel you saved my life, I know you saved my sanity.