An Intermediate Resume

*Sigh*. I really have to do the heavy lifting by myself. All by myself. Again. But that’s the way the world works, I understand that. OK then. In wrapping things up, let’s take a hopefully final look back once more:

I am sensing that a long period of introspection, analyzing, in part emotional regression as a guidline and emotional GPS of sorts, and in general a time of investigation is coming to a close. I get the feeling that I have looked at all the outcomes of my past very thoroughly and my feeling also is that I have identified every single aspect that led to said outcomes. This moment feels very similar to a situation some 28 years ago, when I underwent four months of inpatient treatment – to no avail and without one single finding, in other words: A complete waste of time. And afterwards I simply “flipped a switch” and took my life into my own hands, by ways of what concepts like radical forgiveness and complete accountability seem to refer to. But the part then I was never all that happy with was that it seemed to include staying in denial over some things that had taken place, no matter from what angle you looked at them. It felt like I wasn’t giving myself due attention for the being I was to begin with. And in doing so, I later found that I was actually perpetuating the betrayal that had taken place very early.

This time, however, is distinctly different: First of all, I learned to trust myself in being able to depend on myself as my own caretaker of sorts, and in doing so depend on my own intuition and analytic mind as opposed to handing control over to the experts, who have let me down time and again in the process. And second, I felt compelled to do better than simply “put the past behind me” by going into and staying in denial about said past or the very crucial aspects of that past. I felt that I owed it to myself to sit down and really look at all the things that were and still are painful and hard to deal with.

As I had no other blueprint to follow, I started by ordering books whose title and abstract sounded as if they might have some bearing on my situation or shed some light as to its underlying causes. As I’m always interested in solutions to problems rather than dwelling on reasons for them, I started with the more therapeutic of self-help books and gradually went to those sounding more analytical. Amongst other sources, initially the most help I found with were David Servan-Schreiber’s New Medicine of EmotionsSusan Forward’s Toxic Parents […], John Bradshaw’s Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, Elain Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person Workbook, and most importantly and most conclusive Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child (Revised Edition). In particular reading Miller’s book left me without a doubt that I come from a dysfunctional family, at least where the emotional basics are concerned, and that everything Miller describes in her book applied to my history to a T. On top of the emotional distress of abuse and partial neglect – i.e. there was severe verbal, emotional, some mild physical abuse, the most devastating of outcomes coming from a fiendishly “clever” combination of all three to really drive the message “You’re no good to me at all” thoroughly home – I have suffered severe traumatization in the earliest weeks and months of my life, like painful and intrusive medical explorations like e.g. two spinal taps, intrusive treatment like artificial alimentation, exposure to physically torturous care like being fed formula when in fact I turned out to be dairy intolerant – the list goes on. All of this happened in a situation of abandonment and an almost quarantine-like situation (no physical contact with bio family at the time and visits to the closed section were only allowed once a week). What is more, there were further detrimental experiences not too much later, like e.g. I was left in my grandparents’ care for about 2 weeks and at an age, when I already and consciously remember the experience as one that left me wondering, why “they” – as in caretakers – seemed so set on getting rid of me, whenever an opportunity came up. And then then there were plain retraumatizing events, like e.g. a throat surgery at age 4, when I was taken to the hospital, had to spend the night by myself again while being in limbo over what surgery on the next morning might exactly imply for me and how I might feel afterwards, knowing that I’d wake up alone. In particular this experience will probably fit the bill of a specific repeating traumatization by all accounts and as far as I was able to find information on, as it sported all the qualities of the early hospitalization: Abandonment in an unfamiliar, potentially “dangerous”, unfriendly environment with only few facilitating qualities, like e.g. how the nurses related to me and such. In particular the moment right before undergoing anesthesia I will never forget and I have a very clear, specific memory of the nurses’ attempts of putting the sedating mask over my face (this was at a time when IV anesthesia wasn’t around yet and masks with gauze tinged in chloroform were put on the nose and face). I had a full blown panic attack and started to fight them, which in turn had them push me down into the operating chair very hard, with three nurses trying to restrain me, while one forced the mask on my face. “They’re going to kill me, that’s that.” This distinct thought was on my mind. And then I passed out. When I woke up,  I felt intruded upon, violated, betrayed, shattered – and utterly helpless again. Not to mention post-surgical pain, which was almost secondary or tertiary when compared to the emotional injury. In remembering this moment now, I think this was the first time that I had a distinct feeling of betrayal towards my caretakers. Of having gotten betrayed and given up upon by those who should have been there for me and protected me from harm. In this very moment and when writing these lines, I think I realize for the first time that this might have been the exact moment when the already frail bond of attachment broke. I guess, I silently disenfranchised them from being any good as guardians, as the guardians of my emotional being. The now happening, instantaneous physical “marker” that knocks all the wind out of my system as I type these very words seems to physically confirm this finding beyond any trace of a doubt [on a side note: The concept of physical memory isn’t acknowledged in the scientific community at large and at this point according to the referenced source. I would like to make a case in favor of such a concept, though, including latest findings in epigenetics and in particular a study conducted at Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, which proves lasting modifications to DNA reading in victims of childhood abuse, where abuse includes neglect, e.g. ]. I’ve been meaning to find the very point of when things started to go sideways in my personal history and alas, this is it! You could also paraphrase this less dramatically by saying that when looking at these early experiences through the lens of my adult self, I’d have to say this was too much for me to take and process and it all happened too early and at a time when I hadn’t acquired sufficient coping skills just yet and when my emotional rearing should have seen nurturing and reaffirming actions in order to build those very coping skills.

In addition to an already bumpy path of emotional rearing, I don’t remember any help in processing these early and later traumatic events in any way I can remember. Maybe this is where partial emotional amnesia or rather repressed memory as described in relevant medical literature is located (however, the earliest of trauma happened before my brain had evolved to the point of being able to store conscious memories; see study and thesis on body memory above). But the bottomline is this: The already frail bond with my supposed caretakers seems to have broken at this very moment. Because when I get down to it, I don’t feel emotional attachment with them. Obligation maybe, a perceived obligation to surrender to formalistic behaviours as how a child is supposed to treat their caretakers. But I don’t feel any sound emotional bond. Never have. And from recent experiences, I must conclude that any attempts of rebuilding it or building something new have failed. It takes two to tango. And that tango ain’t happening. There’s no more point in fooling myself here and in that particular regard.

So most of what came afterwards felt like getting bullied on a more or less ongoing basis. You might say, this is a biased, one-sided account of things. Fair enough. But for one and when considering a healthy emotional development, the personal subjective experience is all that matters at a particular time and as any expert in psychologic development will readily confirm, and second I put some checks and balances in place for myself. From doing so, some current experience with the parties involved prove it to me and anyone taking an interest that I haven’t made those things up or that I was overreacting to them. Having some very sensitive boundaries crossed from early on was a part of my rearing and that’s where the dysfunction – not to mention abuse – is located.

I think I’ll spare myself and inclined readers going into any further personal details at this point. Let’s just say that with the help of the above mentioned books and in employing my “emotional GPS” as I keep calling it as well as some compassionate fellow travellers here and there and a lot of reading online into a host of available material, I think I’m safe to say that I have undergone a serious, meticulous investigation into all the causative experiences that I was exposed to. That list is a fairly comprehensive one. I also think, I’m safe to say that anyone with only a part of what I went through would have had lasting issues from them. My bag is well laden with not only one thing that went wrong, but in retrospect and in wrapping things up, I think it’s closer to saying that everything that could have gone wrong actually did, only sparing me from directly life threatening experiences later on – I wouldn’t be able to rule that out for above mentioned first weeks and months as there are no hospital records left to check as to whether or not there might have been life-threatening complications at some point. Again, telling from my “physical memory”, i.e. how my body still responds to physical proximity in general, regardless of whether or not I am familiar 0r even intimate with the person, telling from this response I have to conclude that something grave happened at some point. I guess, I will never know.

So – where does that leave me? Well, for one, I’ll follow up on an appointment with a trauma treatment center in my vicinity. I have never received a reliable diagnosis to this day. Medical terms of varying disorders were thrown at me in abundance, but I never got the feeling that those who have been assessing me so far really got the big picture of what I’ve described above, let alone set it in perspective with particular regard to all the symptoms and possible co-morbidities coming from all that, some of whom have proven to be pretty resistant to whatever treatment I have or haven’t received so far. In other words: Noone but myself has ever gone to the trouble of taking thorough stock of exactly what happened. So this needed to happen first and I’m hoping that this appointment in about 6 weeks from now will give me some confirmation of my own findings along with an outline and ideally a roadmap of what to do next. However, when thinking about this “taking inventory” process and particularly when thinking about potential treatment, I get this eerie sense of having exhausted all currently existing and available options already. In other words: I can’t help but get the feeling that I have afforded myself all diagnosis and any effective treatment there was in the world. And that I am most likely to have to continue to do so. In simpler words: I am afraid I will have to accept that I’m damaged to a lesser or bigger degree in very vital areas of one’s emotional health. And that I have already found all available ways of compensating for this damage. This in itsself wouldn’t be so bad, after all. It would be something to be proud of, right? But what gets me time and again is this infinite abyss of feeling lonely with all that. I know for a fact that I’m not, at least after having found Kimberly’s blog and her surprisingly similar approach to identifying the emotional injuries suffered and – more importantly – finding effective ways of treating herself. I am aware that other people have undergone horrible things in their lives. I’m aware that suffering seems to be a so far inevitable part of our earthly journey. OK. But this profound sense of detachment from everything, everyone – even myself at times – is a really bad show stopper and has proven to keep me from tapping into my full potential in just about any area of life. Even if I forgive myself for maybe not living up to the possibly available expression of whatever talents I might have – and that’s by far the easier part -, the roadblock to a greater sense of peace is that whenever I come out of this self-imposed seclusion and socialize with people, I find it hard to share their feelings with just about anything.  To be more precise: This is beyond disagreeing on particular positions with regard to shared aspects of all our lives, like e.g. politics, culture at large, societal issues etc. No, it’s not just that. For there is a real difference between them and me – contrary to what scientific assessments often refer to: Not only do I feel distinctly different from most people, I actually am different seeing as I come from a history many won’t be able to relate to and as that history has – so far – left me in a place, where certain basic experiences still feel way too scary and dangerous to ever let them near me any more.

But I have tried. I have been in romantic relationships and they all failed, one after another including my marriage. And b.t.w., for a very simple reason as I have come to understand: I am ill-equipped in the realm of all things emotional that go beyond skin deep, beyond social code and etiquette. I can’t meet a significant other’s emotional demands as my own were never met to begin with. In other words: I have nothing to offer in that area. Nada. Blank slate, whiped out stock. On the contrary: I am needy in that area myself. And let’s just say that having relationships with women compensating their own particular deficiencies by employing a helper syndrome are … a bad idea to put it mildly. Nothing I’d need to reexperience, that much has become obvious.

A similar thing – relationships ended unilaterally – often happened in the career context. I truly am an emotionally disabled person in regard to the basic emotions and how to express or deal with them in a healthy way. So this is where I stand: I must acknowledge and accept the damage first instead of just staying in denial over it as I did some 28 years ago. I will then need to allow myself some grieving over those parts of self that I lost early on as suggested by Alice Miller. I think, I’ve already gone about some of that work in recent years, maybe all of it, I’m not sure. I have also begun to set boundaries. Then I sabotaged some of that progress and I now am in the process of reestablishing said boundaries. In regard to bio family it’s becoming more and more evident to me that this will ultimately result in complete separation sooner or later as the very building blocks of a healthy attachment were taken out very early and not exactly put back in place later on. Kimberly says “Sociopaths are different. They can never be healed.” I had to be reminded of that. And painfully so, of course. But ok. I have enough on my plate to save whatever can be saved of myself. Let them do their work and if they resist or fail, it’s not my fault or problem. Not any more so. What’s bugging me of course – and I’m afraid this will be another thing I’ll never really succeed in overcoming – is that I don’t seem worth it for them to step out of their – sick – comfort zone. For once, they could and should have done something for me and me alone. But no. I guess, 48 years of waiting and fighting for this to happen can pass as being long enough a time of trying, right? I thought so, too. So that’s another “must do”: To let go of the idea that they’ll ever meet me half way. Even this I’ve tried – with the help of a therapist who said to work based on Miller’s concepts. Jeez. I should take his ass to court over how terribly he let me down. Maybe I will.

Which brings me back to the introductory exclamation. *Sigh*. It’s on me for the most part. Again. Thanks for nothing, God! 😉 (For now. Finding gratitude will be the equivalent of my “graduation” in – or from – life.) My next steps will be in assessing the “onboard equipment” I’ve been provided with in order to promote and further my healing process. And then to evaluate which of those I might specifically use in what specific area of injury. Looks and feels like a full time job to me 😉 But a rewarding one, as Kimberly often stated.

P.S. Another important step will be to assess the support structure of compassionate or understanding friends and other close human beings that is in place. I tend to overlook this when focussing so hard on my internal resources in an attempt to become self-sufficient in the best meaning of the word.


Trust, Loneliness and PTSD « Stoning Demons

Kimberly describes really well what it is like to live with chronic and complex PTSD and how the experiences from which it originates have instilled a pattern of pathological distrust. I couldn’t agree more or add anything substantial to what she describes so accurately: Trust, Loneliness and PTSD « Stoning Demons.