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 -


  1. You are amazingly strong. I am so thankful I had a normal, loving life. I don't think I would be brave enough to face all of this, absorb it, understand it and move forward.

    This is scary stuff, my friend.

    1. You would too be brave enough :-)

      You got me thinking when you asked me - Why the difference in how I feel around men and women? I wanted to uncover and reveal why. Now I am learning - how to bake a wonderful soufflé around women. LOL Thank you AW.

  2. Very interesting story but not one I can identify with on any level...well, maybe one. I think when we are first on the dating scene it's common to want to love someone who obviously loves us yet we don't 'feel it' inside. Otherwise, the well loved child in me wishes no one ever had/has to grow up not being nurtured at an early age. Sending cyber hugs to the child in you.

    1. Cyber hugs back, Jean. Do you know my kneejerk impulse was to run and hide when you wrote "Sending cyber hugs to the child in you."?
      Now I understand better why I have this strange compulsion...

      Re most recent boyfriend, two years ago, was someone I really wanted to love, because he obviously loved me. But I never moved into his house and pushed him out of it. Aaah, that's progress...

    2. Yup, that is progress. Love is often one-sided before it either turns into two-sided or it breaks up because the one not in love runs. Breaking up when you know it's not going to work is the kindest thing to do.

      Okay, I won't be sending anymore cyber hugs. LOL But just to clarify I wasn't sending one to YOU. I was sending it to the child inside of you. You are no longer that child even though you sometimes let her experiences mess up your present day life.

  3. Well said. But...wait a minute! I'd love a chance to get used to giving and receiving cyber hugs. To the adult OR the child in us :-)

  4. Oh my! I can identify, even if it was my father instead of my mother. I have only recently found out that the reason my Dad was "flat" with me is because he was very jealous of the time I took away from his wife--my mother. Now I see why I was an only child most of my life--he wouldn't have been able to share Mother with two kids--he barely could with just one. That doesn't help that his denial of me ruined my relationships with men most of my adult life, but it explains why he was like that. I guess that helps a bit? Your sharing of this remind me of the 3 posts I did after the first of the year. Revealing all my stupidity of the last 50+ years. That's why I say I can't trust myself to ever be involved with a man again. It was perfect with Fred and I am just going to leave it that way. :-) That little hurt girl that's still inside us. Sorry--I won't send a hug. I would have to know you really well and a long time before I'd give you a hug.

  5. I'm going to go back and look at your 3 posts you wrote after the first of the year. I feel angry for your situation - you were 'just' the collateral damage of your father's jealousy. It had nothing to do with you! Being jealous, he didn't feel the joy of having you. He didn't bond with you in a caring and protective way. So how would you know men ARE caring and protective - just no the first and closest man in your life?

    In order to erase the Mommy or Daddy template and insert a new one, we have to have a mighty powerful experience that overwrites it. I'm sure my harrowing ferry ride overwrote the template my Dad created in me, because he was the "Oh.. Come ON" guy, never taking me seriously. Never bothering to protect his kids. They'd wander off when put in his care; he wouldn't notice. My husband, on the other hand, was fiercely caring and protective.

    I know you care, Judy, or else you wouldn't have written here!
    In absence of your hug, though, the dearest hug will be my own. :-)

  6. Oh, my gosh, I can't believe I'm in the presence of two non-huggers. I'd hug a tree. LOL