Sunday, January 31, 2016

Where Magic AND Comfort Happen

Hello, friends!  I am so ecstatically happy.  I have a new tool in my toolbox!  Another arrow in my quiver!  And (for all you souls who read my recent Soufflé post) I have discovered an ingredient of a risen soufflé!  (Or have I discovered the oven temperature?)

This all began last Wednesday in my trauma counselor's office.  That's when this dear woman asked for a favor.  And she asked me so considerately I couldn't help but notice - she cares about me.  The favor she has asked is that I refrain from posting 'fly on the wall' stories of our sessions.  Confidentiality rules and all.  Now confidentiality rules technically apply to counselors and not to clients.  But she offered compelling reasons for me to maintain confidentiality.  Well.  I care about her, too.  From now on I will let you in on the gist of my sessions.  My prior 'session' posts, together with their comments, have been immeasurably beneficial, and I will keep them intact.

Have comments from readers ever lead to an "Ah-HA!" for you?  Your comments do so for me.  Since last Wednesday, I have recalled your comments, plus her comments, my Friendship Counselor's, my friend's, and other's.  I mixed them with liberal doses of self-reflection and self-appraisal. 

Voila!   What all these sources have in common is  ~<~<~<~<  drumroll~>~>~>~>
 consideration for people's feelings. 

Good Lord.  If you yourself grew up in the land of courtesy you were one lucky pig-tailed princess.  This gal did not.  My mother was unable to give a damn about anyone's feelings.  Oh...  Wait a minute.  Yes she did give a damn about someone's feelings.  Her own!  Beyond that - clueless, reckless, and steamed.    Now such inconsideration is chilling to baby princes and princesses.  Chilling to potential friends.  This inconsiderate woman did not have a single friend.

Maybe I have now entered the Courtesy Zone?

Through this door I now discover

1.  I have feelings.  They are invaluable.
2.  You have feelings.  They are invaluable.
3.  Some people are not considerate of their own feelings, let alone others'.  Easy to spot these folk by how you feel in their presence.
4.  If you care about someone, you are especially considerate of their feelings.
5.  If you care about yourself, you are especially considerate of your own feelings.
6.  I have a new filter for friendship -  how considerate is someone toward my feelings when I share?
7.  People have been filtering me for friendship all along, by how considerate I am.

Now this next discovery applies just to me.

8.  My mother's "I don't give a damn about your feelings!" is a quality I unwittingly transpose on potential female friends.  And "I don't give a damn about your feelings!" is quality in my own outlook.

My next breadcrumb...maybe an ingredient?

9.  People don't naturally  'NOT give a damn about feelings' , unless we ourselves are so traumatized that we can't or dare not feel our own feelings, much less yours.  That makes us the bulls in your china shops.
10.  When people cannot feel their own intrinsic worth, this pain is so intolerable that we will do a lot to cover it up. 

Well, I am so moved by this fresh discovery I could cry.  Tell me, please, what is it like in your courtesy zone?

Monday, January 25, 2016


I finished my assigned reading for my trauma counselor during this weekend's blizzard. The book was "Waking the Tiger", Peter Levine's book about healing trauma.  Now I've cracked open a new book, "Healing Developmental Trauma" by L. Heller and A Lapierre. 

From the first book I learn that we're reptiles until 6 months, mammals until 5 years and homo sapiens thereafter.  O.K.... I lie.  But biologically we have all three of these in our bodies.  Maybe a little angel, too?

From the second book I pick up the term 'Environmental failure'.  I love this term!  Is it the no-fault term?  'Environmental failure' refers here, not to the polluted water in Flint, Michigan, but to anybody or anything which specifically fails children.

Both books share the same view of reptilian survival instincts, mammalian feelings, and homo sapiens cognition, all wrapped up in one delicious biped.

Now, with enough environmental failures, reptiles or mammals or homo sapiens would not grow up, but let's suppose they do grow up to nibble or hunt or write.  All three species react the same way during an environmental failure.  Fight, flight, or freeze.  After the danger, differences are stark.  Assuming one makes it through said crisis, reptiles and mammals will shake it off, then return to grazing or slithering or pouncing as if nothing had happened.  Some lucky homo sapiens children are helped to 'shake it off', and they return to play as if nothing had happened.   I think this works if the environmental failure is within an 'environmental of health'.  I can't say for sure.  Anyway, some homo sapiens children endure 'environmental failure' with no 'afterwards' until they reach adulthood.  They have a LOT of shaking off to do. 

In any case, being homo sapiens, we use our brains to attach explanations and meanings to environmental failures.  Unless helped to do otherwise, homo sapiens children will turn environmental failure into their very OWN failure.  Some grown up children are very very very good at covering this up.  You'd never suspect.

Oh. You have no failure to cover up.  This is why I'm in counseling and you are not.

Today in counseling, this reptilian,  mammalian, and homo sapiens brain of mine realizes "Goodness. No human being tries to be obnoxious."  

Don't stop loving this human being because they are obnoxious! 

(O.K. I jumped off the diving board with that last comment.)  What do you think? 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Underneath What People See...Or Want To See

Recovery work is not all I do, so these photos show my progress reorganizing my basement. This will be my woman cave! Not all is yet finished, as you can see.

This morning began Week Three of my trauma Counseling.

I went in agitated.

> I'm discombobulated!  Yesterday my sister wrote me a letter that was really out of character.  Except that it's truly IN character - her deepest, truest character.  I'm so confused.  It's like she's not acting like herself!  Remember how I reported she left me high and dry in some guy's room, to sleep with him, when I was 16?  .

"Z" Ah, yes.  She's the professor.

> My sister read my recent posts here, and wrote me. 

"Z"  How did you feel when you saw she had written?

> Well, when I saw it's subject line "Wonderful Work to healing"  I was relieved that it wasn't about her.  Then I read the letter.  I am so discombobulated! Can I read it to you?

"Z"  Please.

"Dear [Gowitheflo]

I have just opened your blog. Wow!!
Dear sister, you are a very courageous woman.
It is a brave thing to let your heart and soul be so exposed
and we can see the results of your healing with each entry.
You are allowing us to be witness to the grandeur of your soul
and the opening of your heart. It is a privilege.

It cut me to the core to read about my heartlessness
and caused me to own it in a way I had not completely.
To hear it through your eyes was powerful.
I know I have apologized before but that seems so lame.
What a disconnected, wounded and bleeding person I was.
I am truly sorry I was who I was,
and was not who you needed, putting you in such danger.
I was not there for myself, nor you, nor anyone else.
I am very proud and happy for you Flo,
knowing how difficult and painful this healing path can be.
Know that my prayers are with you each step you take.
My heart is open for you and I know mine can open wider and wider.
I am so grateful to you, I too continue to grow and open."

"Z"  This is a very compassionate letter.  I was expecting something else...

> This does not compute! She wasn't this respectful to me - ever!.....
"Z" So you are on guard.

>"I'm always on guard.  Loving actions like this really throw me off. 
> When I woke this morning, I told myself I don't need her approval.  Except I realized clearly that the exact opposite is true - seeking approval from others is my entire orientation!  When I get love, like in Hawaii, and this, with my sister, I feel disoriented.  I only feel grounded, and feel my legs under me when I'm getting approval. And getting approval is so rare!
"Z"  Hmmm, I've heard "People Pleasing" described a number of ways, and this is a good description.   So, it's like someone unexpectedly comes up behind you and kicks your knees, collapsing you?  You're re-enacting the mother trauma with your sister.  Let's do some  work. O.K.?   Close your eyes. Would you invite all your inner children in? All ages of them?

> Yes.  Ages baby through 17 are here, plus me.  We're in a circle.  Our hands are at our sides.  Now our hands reach out and clasp.  I start to cry - then feel blank [I've entered that collapsed state].

"Z"  [She brings me back to my feelings]  How do you feel in your body?  What is adult Flo doing?

>  My body feels stiff.   My lower back hurts. That's unusual... I'm looking at my circle of my child selves and I don't know what to do with them.

"Z"  Just 'be' with them.  I know you feel compassion toward others.  Can you feel compassion toward your inner children?

> I feel stiff.  Unfeeling....  >>sigh<<  Well...In the absence of feeling I can at least be a role model to them.   Teach them.  Provide structure for them.

"Z" Who does this remind you off?

> My mother....I am being like my mother. (EGad.  All these years I thought I was nothing like my mother. )
"Z"  ....You need someone outside yourself to [re]mother you...  Would it be O.K. if I was that person?

> Yes. (O.K....This ought to be interesting.)

Are you like your mother?
and is this a good thing?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Recovery Week Two

Several times this week I've had an urge to write.  Several times this week I've felt too vulnerable to do so.

This week, I've had two sessions with my Trauma Counselor, "Z'.   Z is helping me access my compassion for myself.  But instead of compassion I feel embarrassment.  What the heck.  Feel the embarrassment and tell my story anyway.  My inner critic says revealing my flaws is nuts.   "Have you no shame?" 

The first session in Week Two: "Z" showed me a YouTube video where a baby in her high chair is interacting with an emotionally engaged Mom.  The video was created to demonstrate the effect of... Well, you'll hear. What I was about to see triggered me.

In it, the baby smiles.  Mommy smiles. Baby points.  Mom looks where baby's pointing.  Baby giggles.  Mom giggles back.  And so on.

Then the Mom turns her head away from the baby for 5 seconds.  When she turns again toward her baby,  her face is flat, completely devoid of caring expression. I start feeling uncomfortable, watching this.  The baby tries every trick in her book to get Mommy to react. She smiles.  Worked before...Nope.  She points...Nope.  She giggles... Nope.  As Mommy continues not 'feeling it' for her baby, the baby grows increasingly frantic.

I was feeling frantic.  I wanted to cry. 

The baby starts contorting her body.  The baby starts freezing.  Just before baby feels so traumatized that she 'falls apart', the Mommy returns to being her demonstrative self.  All is well.  She and her baby go back to giggles, pointing, and love, love, love.

I, on the other hand, still feel rattled.  I want to cry.  I start to cry.  I only get so far.  Thus began my session.

Non-attachment between a mother and child has profound consequences.  If the mother just doesn't feel it for her baby, and doesn't attach emotionally, her baby suffers.   It's in a baby's nature to attach.  Yet...with no safety and care from Mommy, the baby can't feel her feelings safely.   Unless rescued by another caregiver who bonds with the baby demonstratively and consistently, this baby will develop an Avoidant Attachment style.  She or he will feel safer and more cared for avoiding people. You can tell who these people are - kind of oblivious?  Distancing?  You must know some.  Without connecting well enough to a safe, caring and demonstrative mother, a baby's ability to love is truncated, if not cauterized.

So, from babyhood on, I avoided socializing because I felt so frantic and anxious around people. One friend at a time was all I could handle.  But at age 29, I recognized my problem and reached out for help.   That's when recovery from my Avoidant Attachment style began.  I'd like to tell you how I woke up.

I was 29.  Apartments were scarce in NYC and I needed one.  I conned the sweetest, dearest college buddy into offering me his apartment by way of his bed. 

I wanted to love him.  I introduced him to my parents.  I  could fake love only so long, before I admitted to him I didn't love him.  I felt no compunction continuing to live with him after we broke up. I wanted his apartment.  Let him move out!

At this point, I realized I hadn't  much heart.  I didn't like myself much.  So, I prayed to God.  I mean, really, consistently, persistently prayed.  I was all in.  "I want to learn how to love" I told God.  "Please, please teach me."  Every day I asked the void inside my heart.  I needed to experience something, or was I really stone cold?   During one particularly long, intense, "I'm all in" prayer, it happened.  A Being appeared inside me.  He smiled upon me.  I felt safe.  It was the first time in my life I felt I had meaning to someone.  This Being loved me!  We had our secret relationship.  He's my best bud. Wow!  Soon after I bonded with God, I met my husband. 

Now that I look back, it took an act of God to connect with my future husband.  He was a dear.  Very demonstrative.  Now THAT felt alien.  I kept praying as we dated.  "Teach me how to live love."  We dated about four months, were incredibly compatible, yet I still kept another lover on the side.  I had one handsome lover and one affectionate lover I could have deep conversations with.  The affectionate lover drove me down to Williamsburg, Virginia, to celebrate my 30th birthday.  Weeks later he and I took a ferry from New London, Connecticut to Block Island for a romantic weekend.  Block Island's a very charming, tiny island off the eastern tip of Long Island, NY.

The island was dreamy, but he and I - eh.  "You're wonderful, but I just don't feel it for you."   "I don't feel passionate for you, either."  What was there to do but admit we liked each other a lot, and leave it at that.  We agreed to be friends only.

As our weekend drew to a close, a storm approached.  Last ferry out would be noontime on Sunday.  We could wait out the storm and return Monday, but No, he wasn't going to miss a day of work.

A two hour ferry ride turned into a five hour ride.  One half hour in the storm hit. 15 - 20 foot seas tossed the boat.  No controlling the waves.  Ferry personnel herded passengers into the safest room on the boat, securing the windows and doors.  Waves crashed through the windows.  The doors flung open.  Seawater everywhere.  We got the doors closed.  Clinging to our benches, seawater drenching us, people began wailing and screaming.  The vomiting began.  Now the sea water mixed with vomit and splashed us.  Then, from beside me, came a strong steady voice, singing.

Someone's singing Lord, kumbaya
Someone's singing Lord, kumbaya
Someone's singing Lord, kumbaya
Oh Lord, kumbayah
I joined in.

Then other people joined in.

When that song was finished he started singing

99 Bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer...

I joined in.  Then others.   The songs just kept coming.  He and I sang together more than 4 hours.  Neither of us vomited.  We were the only two who kept our breakfast down.

When we finally put our feet on solid ground,  this man beside me put his arms around me.  My arms went round him.  We felt passion.  We bonded.  That day, he and I believed that were three people in our relationship.  Him, me, and God.  Though death claimed my husband some 23 years later, I still draw strength from his love. 

Looking back, knowing what I know now,  I believe this event altered my brain.  After this ride on the ferry, I knew I would find comfort when I reached for him.  I counted on him and he on me.

Now.... back to my session with "Z".

Z:  " A child will prefer to cast herself as the 'bad' child to 'good' parents, rather than face that she has 'bad' parents."

> "Oh, I knew as a five year old that my parents were nuts.  I just couldn't get anybody in my family to believe me or help me." 

Z: "You have a very smart five-year-old."

>"Yeah.  She is smart.  I caved later to feeling less, maybe by the time I was eight or nine.  My five-year-old self is happy to be here with you. "

So "Z" asks me to enter into my feeling state as a five-year old.  I do. I re-enter the fear I identified with in the video.  As my fear becomes too overwhelming, she backs me off to safety.  I notice the pillow I'm hugging in my lap.  I ground myself in the room, in my adult body.  When I feel reassured,  she asks me to re-enter the feeling of having no meaning to the one person I needed to have meaning with - my Mom.  I only go to the edge of frantic fear and not into the frantic trauma.  Then she backs me out, restoring my sense of safety within the room. We do this, in-out, several times.  I finally allow myself to cry. Then, miraculously, something inside shifts.  My nervous system shifts.  I feel calmer. 

Afterwards, I trust that she cares about me because she is investing herself in me.

More to be revealed -

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Recovery Journal: Learning To Cook

I had no idea when I made my New Year's Resolution to learn to cook, that the ingredients I'd be working with would be impulses, behaviors, trauma, re-enactment, and my intention to love. 

I had no idea that I am to learn this way: the TWO 'soufflés' way.  Before me:  One a perfectly formed soufflé, delicious to behold, smell, feel and know.  This is me when I'm confident and whole, mostly around men.  The second, the yellow collapsed spongy thingy you see above?  That's me when my assertiveness collapses, mostly around women.

To learn to cook, I'd be given no ingredients or recipe.  I would, however, have the aid of an expert cook and chemist, for one hour three times a week.  The catch is, they give me no concrete instruction - just general information about the nature of cooking raw ingredients, and what contributes to what.  They answer my questions with  "What makes sense to you respective of your experience?"

Always, in front of me, would sit the well-realized soufflé and the collapsed one.  Well, that's not actually true.  I get their pictures to look at, because I must deconstruct both in my lab to learn what went wrong.  I must tease apart what mysterious ingredients were added in what order, with what timing at what cold or hot temperature, within what containers, using what implements, cooked at what temperature, in what environment, for how long.  I must try from scratch to bake the soufflé on the left.

This is the best description of how recovery feels, today. I am set to task.

Two days ago, I wrote a woman friend and asked if I could reach out to her by phone, every day.  I explained my reason - recovery.  To this end I asked her if I could call, and briefly reveal how I'm feeling and why.  Also ask how she's feeling and why.  Now normal people know this is a building block to intimacy.  But, in my collapsed soufflé world, my social compulsion is this:  Encourage the other person to talk.  Do not ask for emotional support and instead fawn all over her.  In fact, pretend I'm the Rock of Gibraltar.

That's the flashback loop I get caught in.  Always ends up with a collapsed soufflé. Growing up, my task was to be my Mom's Rock of Gibraltar and rose-colored mirror, no matter what revolting crap she was dishing out to me.  Well.  No more repeating the same thing, expecting different results!

So.  Maybe I will make a beautiful soufflé this way:  Not letting myself isolate.  Not letting myself put on my 'social face'.  Not sharing my laundry list of my 'doings', but instead revealing how I'm feeling - the good, bad and ugly.

My friend said she'd be honored to hear from me each day.  Wow.  Honored....!!!  She's not the type to take over the conversation and let me fawn over her. 

My first phone call was yesterday.  Ha!  I'm cooking a soufflé.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Now Everybody Knows!

I am finding my legs again.  And here I've had only three sessions with my trauma counselor!

After you guys responded so lovingly when I told you about my 'almost rape' when I was 16, I felt emboldened to tell my two girlfriends about it. ( It's weird to call a 68 and a 78 year old 'girl' friends.  )  We meet monthly over lunch.

M:  "How was everybody's holiday? [Goitheflo]! You have a secret!  I can tell!   Do tell!  Did you find romance over New Year's eve?!"

> "Hardly.  You don't want to know.  It's not 'happy' news.  So let's not... (Besides, Mary gets first dibs.  Her husband died two months ago)

"Do tell!!!" they both chimed in.

So I began my tale, everything I've told you these last two or three posts. 

"You poor dear!  So when did this guy stop what he was doing and roll off you?"

>" When he learned I was 16 years old."

"Well, then! THAT'S why he stopped.  You were underage and he could have been arrested!"

(The idea honestly hadn't occurred to me)

>"Well, he was a gentleman after that point, thank God."

"He wasn't being a gentleman.  He was saving his own ass!!!"

(Good Lord, why did I wait so long to tell anyone about this?)

Lunch lasted three hours, and Mary did share.  Because honestly, what she's going through is HARD...

So this morning, at my third appointment with "Z", my trauma counselor, I decided to tell this same tale.  You know, as part of explaining myself to her.

>"My sister clearly didn't act to protect me that weekend, but this Vietnam Vet did."


>"By stopping when he learned how young I was.  Thank goodness!  Men have largely been the ones to protect me.  Women...well, my Mom.... Well, anyway, this episode had a beginning, middle and end, so it really wasn't as unbearable as the abandonment I experienced when I was too young to understand that life had beginnings, middles, and endings."

"You set a pretty low bar for 'protection'."

>"I do?"

"Let me explain.  I have clients who tell me about all sorts of abuse from their husbands.  You'd be surprised how many of them end by saying "But he never hit me."   That's what I mean when I say you set the bar for protection pretty low."

>"Well.... first do no harm..."

"See?  That's setting the bar pretty low."

Then somehow I got talking about the family cat when I was a kid.  This sweet mama cat was my sole comforter when I needed it.

>"She'd tuck herself close to me, after I was sent to my room for crying, and lick me."

"Pets are amazing, how they can sense our need."

I told "Z" about the two cats I adopted immediately following my husband's death.  ( Each sadiversary thereafter, I'd call my oldest sister and ask her to talk me out of adopting another one.  She would succeed.)

>"One was a tabby, super friendly, all over me, purring.  The other, a tuxedo cat, was terrified, clearly traumatized.  He wouldn't let me near him.  I wanted the tabby, and the folks at the shelter said the two needed to be adopted together.  They believed that the traumatized kitty couldn't survive without his 'older brother', the only comforter he'd known." 

I explained to "Z" how I took them both in.  Tux, the tuxedo cat, was terrified.  My heart went out to him, and I gave him special attention.  I would sit on the floor 5 or 6 feet away - the closest I could get without him bolting.  I'd gently sing "I love you".  Always the same three notes.   The three notes that NBC used on air.  It took a year, gently singing this to him, patiently sitting for sometimes half  an hour, only as close as he could tolerate, before he let me touch him.  And before I would touch him, I would gently say "May I?"

Ten years on, I still sing "I love you" to him when I feel he needs it. Which is several times a day.  I still ask "May I?" before I stroke him.  But now he actually seeks to be near me.  Not on my lap, but tucked into one corner of the couch as I watch TV, or on the bed a couple feet from me.  Two years ago, after my tabby cat died, Tux came out from his big brother's shadow.  Tux this year, began to purr.

"So nice..." Z said.  "You are caring and protective toward him.  Respectful, too, asking his permission.  This is how a good mother is with her kids.  You have it in you to re-parent yourself like you did Tux." she smiled. "So next Wednesday, we actually begin the work of SE and after that, EMDR." 

(Oh, goody!) 

Ahh.  Already I feel different.  Already, I am finding my legs.  And we haven't even begun the trauma protocol!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Baby, It's Cold Inside

Outside, too.  8 degrees, or -5 real feel.

Do you ever have an experience where you're thinking about "How do I write about this?" "How do I talk about this?" so much so, that you're not fully experiencing the experience?

That's what's been going on with me.  Rather than overthink, I am giving myself the permission to write badly.  To go  on and on well past 500 words.  To not care about how many times I use the word "I", or how disordered my introduction, theme, and closing are, or how confusing I sound, or especially how stupid I sound.  Spellcheck, I'm depending on you!

It may be hell for you to read and make sense of, but if I polish my experience for public consumption I might dissociate from the experience itself.

Since a dear reader asked how I got my DPTSD diagnosis, I realized it was a not a diagnosis as much as a slow dawning.  The dawning was supported by my Friendship Counselor (who is really a trained therapist).  But, just to be official, I asked my Trauma therapist what my diagnosis was. 

"Attachment Disorder, and I haven't decided yet whether you have PTSD on top of that."  ON TOP of that???

But, prior to giving that answer, she said 

"Why do you want to know?"

"I want the validation (of an expert).   I need to understand this 'issue' is about what happened to me, and not about me." 

With the gentlest of voices she said "This is about what happened to you, and not about you."

So, I've been absorbing this deeper, core diagnosis.  Believe me, I did not invite or deserve my attachment disorder.  I do not wallow in it.  It is not my moral failing that I do not fix it myself. 

My name is not on the problem
My name is on the solution

That's where my power lies.  That's the power I'm using.

So what the heck is Attachment Disorder?  I'll quote an 'expert' that describes my experience but first, in my own words...

Attachment Disorder:  It feels cold inside me, and when I open my heart, very little trickles in and through me to warm my insides. (But I open my heart as much as I can anyway.)   I desperately need cuddles to awaken my feelings.  However.  My insides don't warm up from the usual source of cuddles - kids, and girlfriends, and family.  My insides DO warm up with cuddles from two sources: cats and loving mates.  (At least I have the cat part.)  I've tried priming the pump, 'acting as if' I felt safe and relaxed around women.  It's like I can only get so far...I adore certain women, yet I am not able to feel safe enough to relax around them.  Instead, I feel myself ensnared in a 'fear loop'.  Alcohol or pills do soften my anxiety, but I don't like to do either.  I don't want to anesthetize my fear loop; I want to heal it. 

Here's AD explained by an expert:  Dr. Diane Stoler.    I'm quoting from a book review she wrote about Sebern Fisher's 'Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brain'.  I haven't tried Neurofeedback.  Who knows.  I may before this is all over.  In this quote she's referring to  a couple of leaders in the trauma awareness and healing field, a pretty new field that really revved up with all the returning vets.  Italics are mine.

"Through Dr. van der Kolk’s research in both post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and reactive attachment disorder (RAD), it became clear that the absent mother and attachment trauma have as much affect as assault from sexual, physical and emotional abuse in child development. 

"In 2005, Dr. van der Kolk proposed a new diagnosis of developmental trauma disorder (DTD).  Since that time, the understanding and research on neglect has come to the forefront with the realization that this factor can have as much impact or even more than other forms of assault.  Sebern Fisher explains, in neglect, the absence of the mother heightens the child’s fear state, because she is not there, either physically or emotionally, to prevent, address or repair this state of fear.  The soothing and nurturing behaviors provided by a mother instill a sense of trust and safety within child.  Winnicott termed it the “holding environment”.  Without this soothing environment, the fear reaction continues and the neural connections grow stronger and even more reactive, resulting in a “fear-driven” brain.

"A perfect example of someone who comforts and soothes is the character Aibileen in the novel “The Help”, when she comforts the little girl, telling her, “you is kind, you is smart, you is important.”  In neglect, this type of soothing and comforting is totally absent, and as mentioned above, leaves a child living a in chronic state of fear."

Last Christmas was the first time I got that kind of soothing from a sister, not the sister I'm talking about below.  (That sister has since healed, and wouldn't dream of doing what she did to me when I was 16.)

I grew up in a household where the nurturing and protective instinct was - absent when I needed it most.  I'll give you an example: At age 16, the weekend of Woodstock, my mother sent me to visit a sister she had disowned after this sister bravely stood up to her.   My mother sent me to spy.  When I arrived in Hartford, CT, my 21 year old sister and her boyfriend wanted drugs.  So, they stuffed me in the back of their MG, and drove 6 hours to Provincetown, MA to buy some. 

Provincetown, though, was deserted because everybody was at Woodstock.  So, back down the Cape  we drove, to Amherst, MA, where a Vietnam Vet friend of her boyfriend was.  He had some dope.  We arrived, smoked some (my first experience).  Then my sister and her boyfriend went to sleep in another room. 

Uh...Where was I to sleep?  It slowly dawned on me,  and I felt my body turn cold.  My 16 year old virgin self was to sleep in the bed with the Vietnam Vet.  Perhaps my body was 'payment' for the drugs or their lodging.   

That's the lack - of caring and protection - I'm talking about.  It just - wasn't - there.  When I got home and reported on my sister, I just grunted that she was 'fine'.  Would she or anyone else in my family have been safe to tell?  No.  I just bore the trauma.

I want to add, that together with my parent's horrendous lack of nurturing and protection, was the absolute devotion to education.  I am profoundly grateful that my mother gave me the gift she could give  - the freedom to pursue whatever avenue intrigued me.  Thank you, Mom.  It has saved my life.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Smartphone Angst and Other Gifts

I've been waking up lighthearted recently.  How many days has it been?  Three?  Five?  I'll get to the reason at the end of this post.

My smartphone angst began Thanksgiving weekend.  That's when I walked into a Microsoft Store and bought THE phone that I've been waiting ten years for - a windows cell phone that will integrate seamlessly into my Windows universe.  I loved my old dumb phone, though.  I had the perfect excuse to avoid texting and sharing.  So it took me a month to look inside the box.   I told myself my dilly dallying was perfectly reasonable.  Before I could proceed, I required the perfect circumstances for the integration of hardware and support. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Perfection in the smartphone universe is not going to exist for some time.  So three days ago I stepped into the only carrier store that supports this beautiful handset - AT&T.  Were they happy to see me!  Good news all round!  No signal at home?  I can get a microcell mini tower to boost my nearly non-existent signal - free!  Want a cheaper plan?  I could add myself to a family AT&T plan and pay only $25 a month!  Unlocked Microsoft phone?  I just needed to update this unlocked Windows phone before putting in AT&T's Sim Card.  Then I must appear with family member in tow to authorize my inclusion on their family plan.  Woohoo!  I had two family members to choose from, and both offered to include me.  My brother got the nod, because he was first.

On New Year's eve, I didn't have a social commitment, so I drove that afternoon one hour to the Microsoft Store - where I got help entering my info on new phone before going to the AT&T store where my brother lives. I then drove two hours and we walked into the AT&T Store before it closed early.  I got added to his Family Plan.  I got a brand new Sim card and kept my old number.  Then the test. Oh.  My new screen protector didn't have a hole for the microphone, so my callee didn't hear me.  Easy fix..  Then the test - can I access all my programs, my e-mail and all? Uh, oh.  Black screen.  Over and over. 

Lesson:  Do NOT enter your account information into the phone before putting the Sim card in.  Because if you do, your essential information will reside deep in the bowels of the phone's hardware, hidden beneath the Sim card.  Ingoing and outgoing information will be blocked, bound and gagged. All you're left with is a very pretty, very dumb phone.

Anyway, New Year's eve turned out to be fun.   Four of us played Uno, and for the first time, I got to 500 before anybody else did.

New Year's day my mission was clear. Drive two hours to the Microsoft Store.  Then sit two and a half hours, reading my homework assignment on my Kindle, while three tech assistants fiddled with and fixed my smartphone.  Required the Hard Reset.    What's the Hard Reset?   That's where they strip the operating system from the phone and rebuild its OS from scratch.  Then they install all the updates and test the phone.  Ha!  I left with a working phone and a new battery charging cable, free of charge.  I'd left my original cable plugged in at my brother's.

After that, home, one hour's drive more.  On the way I used this smarter phone to order my favorite pizza.  Hoodoo Man - with mozzarella, beets, goat cheese, arugula, red onions and balsamic reduction drizzled over all. 

But, sure enough, this super smartphone could not detect a cell signal at home.  Well.  One little bar.  Out one window.  If I pressed it against the glass.

Story almost over. This morning I called AT&T and ordered a microcell tower.  It was close to free,  if $75 is close.  When it arrives in three days, I will set it up.  And then maybe, maybe, maybe I will be able to use my phone like everyone else does.

End of phone story.  Thanks for hanging in.  This phone story, however, makes the perfect introduction to the real point of my post.  Consider this smartphone story a metaphor for my life.  What we have here is not only a smartphone, but a woman imperfectly realized, because her pretty Sim card has covered up foundational information, rendering her OS - operating system - quite hobbled, unable to heal and demonstrate its full functionality.  And this woman - me - is undertaking by virtue of a long laborious hard reset, to rebuild her foundation from scratch.  Thereafter, putting her Sim card in, will reveal a universe she can experience.  Got that?  Don't worry.  It makes sense to me. LOL

I have been waking up lighthearted these last few days because I have been diagnosed with what tormented me my entire life.  This resurfaced big time after I lost my hubby, my primary  emotional support. I've learned it's not that unusual for that trauma to awaken other unhealed traumas.

This is my diagnosis: DPTSD.  Developmental Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but DPTSD rolls off the tongue better.  We're all familiar with PTSD.  A lot of folks have it.  Maybe some we know.  PTSD, of course, is trauma that gets locked in the psyche and the body.  It gets locked in, because there was no avoiding the devastating event (makes it a trauma) and the devastating event doesn't receive enough of the healing balm of love.  So the trauma deepens, wound upon wound. 

I loved Widow blogs because we women talked about our trauma. However, as time went on, I watched women recover from the trauma, while I did not.   Heck.  I didn't even cry for five years.  I know we all grieve differently, but this is extreme.  I knew I was locked up emotionally but I didn't realize I was having emotional flashbacks until this past October in Hawaii.  When I was in a group of the most loving women and they were touching my body, I felt this cold, primal terror.  My skin was crawling.  I felt like an animal tied down, ready to be sacrificed.  I wrote about it here. It sure does link to the way I felt everyday growing up - abandoned, terrified.  Until I could no longer tolerate the daily terror and grief and I shut down.  I was 11 or 12.  I've had very very few women friends.  I have such a hard time letting down my guard.

So, with this DPTSD diagnosis, I discover I'm not crazy, just a trifle disordered or messy in my functioning under particular circumstances.  Now that I'm diagnosed, my path is clear.  Last Tuesday, I had my first session with a trauma specialist, a woman. Yeah, she triggered me.  My body tried so hard to be small, to disappear into the corner of the couch.  But of course I was there and wanted to be, so what did I do?  I resorted to my next survival trick: staying physically present in my body but emotionally and cognitively outside it.  Certainly you have done the floating above oneself thingee?  

I hope you join me for my healing journey.  If all goes well, and even when it doesn't, this blog will be my online recovery diary

happy  2016 !