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. http://www.drdiane.com/book-review-neurofeedback-in-the-treatment-of-development-trauma/    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.


  1. I'm so sorry your first sexual "encounter" was not something you or any girl deserved. You're right, you should have been protected from being in that situation and maybe even from yourself.(How many young girls flirt with older guys or smoke pot, not really understanding what it could lead up to?) You parents should have known your sister well enough not to trust her to look after you and you were too young to protect yourself. Unfortunately, a high percent of women can name a few sexual experiences where they were taken advantaged of, raped or abused. Sounds like you're working through a lot of important stuff and I hope it leads you to a place of peace. Oprah has a saying, 'Turn your wounds into wisdom.'

    I can understand and agree with your diagnosis of RAD but I'm concerned with you labeling your dizzy spells on PTSD without first ruling out all the physical things that can cause dizziness. I've seen a lot of PTSD episodes in a guy I dated for over a year so maybe I'm overly sensitive about the label being used lightly without a thorough work up first. My mom was also dizzy a lot before they discovered heart problems. Whatever the case, I love your stream of consciousness style of writing.

    1. Hi Jean,
      You like my stream of consciousness writing? Oh, good!

      I understand where you got the idea I had dizzy spells, but, I assure you, I have experienced no dizzy spells. I believe you got that idea from reading lightHEADed in my last post where I had written lightHEARTed. I feel much more lighthearted these days, because I am offloading shame that doesn't belong to me.

      I love that saying: Turn your wounds into wisdom! As it turned out in my story above, the man soon realized I was underage, and STOPPED HIMSELF. I was one darn lucky girl, but I felt betrayed by my sister.

    2. Oh, my gosh, you're right! I did read that as lightHEADED not lighthearted. Read is fundamental and I failed. LOL

  2. Oh. My. Gosh. Yeh, you have had a LOT to bear. Unbelievable. Kids are ENTITLED to a childhood. Thanks for digging yourself out of this. PLEASE continue rambling. I'm not a literature student and just enjoy your blog. The good, the bad and whatever else you find!

    1. Oh! Thank you, AW. Alright. Ramble I will. I love what you wrote here "Kids are ENTITLED to a childhood." Maybe we get a childhood at any age? Let's play!

    2. I'm not a big believer in "entitlements" but honestly? Kids really do deserve a happy childhood. Not so much things, but feelings of being loved and great memories forever. Yes. Let's play!!!

  3. BOY--do I ever understand this--only it was my father, Which is more traumatic to a little girl? That her Daddy, the first man in her life, barely tolerates her? Or that her mother is neglectful and/or critical of her? One results in not trusting men and the other in not trusting women, I guess? As I have recently said, No matter our age--that hurt, lost little girl still lives in our souls.

  4. It's an amazing gift when people come into our lives, who recognize the hurt, lost little girl in our souls and know she didn't cause her hurt. Instead they see our soul's beauty and remind us of it until we can see it ourselves? Fred was that man in your life, yes?

    You got me thinking, with your question of which is more traumatic. I believe each parent can severely undermine a child's selfhood, in different ways. My thoughts, and take this with a gender grain of salt...aren't Moms and supplemental 'Moms' key to a baby's development in the first 24 months, when the baby needs all the cooing and cuddling and safe intimate haven Mom provides? And then fathers gain importance once the child's frontal cortex - or reasoning brain - begins developing, ages 5 - 24? I would say a father teaches his children how to find safety outside family's safe haven as the child's world inevitably expands.

    If this is the case, I myself had 'good enough' fathering.
    Praise God that parenting doesn't have to be flawless, just good enough!