Posts Tagged ‘Nancy McWilliams’

Can’t Figure It Out

October 25, 2016

Because there is nothing to figure out.

I know I have written about this before.

I just struck me hard today when I was doing some reading for school.

Yeah.

I know.

Take a break.

However.

I really wanted to get caught up on the reading that I didn’t have fully done from this past weekend; I have a couple of whopper big papers due the next round of classes and I want to have the reading done and organized in my head.

I got up early today.

Earlier than the last three days, four days, I’m a little lost as far as what day it is, they are all bleeding together.

All I know is that Friday will be an amazing thing to get to.

Next Saturday will be my first day off in two weeks.

Two weeks.

My employers asked me if I had a good weekend.

Sure.

I went to school for 29 hours after working a full week of work and then turned around to do a nine-hour shift today.

And it was a short shift.

It usually goes 9.5 hours on Mondays.

I had a great weekend!

Bwahahahaha.

No.

Really.

It was actually a lot of work, but it was so good to see some of the people in my cohort, I just have made some extraordinary friends there.

I have, I have.

And though I didn’t want to be at work, Mondays are my longest day, they are also, in some ways my most relaxed.

I only have one charge.

Her parents are gone the entire day.

And.

She naps.

Heavenly baby naps.

So I actually did do homework.

I wasn’t going to bring my Psychopathology books with me.

I really wasn’t.

I was going to give myself some down time.

But then I thought, you’ll be pissed when you get a fat baby nap and you don’t have some homework to kick through, it’ll feel like wasted time.

You know me.

I hate wasting time.

I need to learn how to though, I do know that.

Anyway.

I had a sweet, lovely morning with her, we danced, we read books, we went for a walk around the block on her little push tricycle.

It was adorable.

Then I put her down for naps, had lunch, made some tea and got into the reading.

I kicked through two chapters of Psychoanalytic Case Formulation.

Don’t be jealous.

Hella sexy read.

Then.

I started reading my Psychodynamic Psychiatry in Clinical Practice book.

I know.

I know you want to read them.

It’s ok.

You can borrow them when I’m done.

Heh.

I was struck as I sat on the couch fiddling around with my hair how I have changed so much and grown so much and then I was thinking about a condition that we were studying in class over the weekend.

Trichotillomania.

Huh.

Obsessive hair pulling.

Some people can’t stop pulling out their eyebrows or eyelashes.

Some can’t stop pulling out their hair.

I used to be a hair twirler.

I did not know that until my mom told me, years ago, that when I was little I would obsessively twist my hair until I gave myself bald spots.

I just about burst into tears.

I still do it on occasion.

And it’s a self-soothing response to stress.

It’s also extraordinarily indicative of trauma in the client’s history.

All the things I used to do to deal with the pain of being me.

Pulling out my hair.

Stopped that.

I don’t actually remember when I stopped, but I did.

I also know that during a very stressful point in my sobriety and recovery I was working with someone who pointed out to me that I was twirling my hair and he hadn’t seen me do that before and wondered out loud what that was about.

I didn’t know at the time, but I found it comforting and I will do it once in a while now.

I have noticed that I do it when I am reading for class.

I also notice a few other habits that I didn’t use to correlate to anything at all.

Like.

Oh.

Fuck, this is embarrassing, but whatever.

In the interest of science, er, I mean, my blog.

I used to exhibit pretty bad excoriation.

Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder.

I know.

REALLY SEXY.

I’ll stop soon.

I promise.

Maybe.

It has faded, but it was a slow fade.

I started with my mom doing it to me, she’d pick at my acne when I started going through adolescence, then I picked it up, I am surprised I don’t have acne scars.

I used to have pretty bad acne too.

Still get it on the odd day, but it’s pretty much gone, worked its way out of my system by the time I had two years of sobriety.

I had a horrible habit around it.

I would pick at my fingers too, bite my nails, peel off the cuticle around my nails, oh so many hang nails.

Also.

Yes.

A trauma survivor response.

So much fucking trauma.

And that’s when the reading hit home.

And made my chest tight and also, shit, fuck, motherfucker, holy mother of god, I finally figured it out.

Well.

Hahaha.

I figured out why I am always trying to figure it out.

I have had an inkling of it.

But it all just fell into my lap.

I was reading about trauma, shocker, I am going to be reading a lot about trauma and I need to remind myself that I also get to do a lot of sweet self-care for myself and although I recognize my resilience and it is extraordinary, there are still ways for me to be gentle.

I mean I have had some big time information come into my life regarding my family and family of origin in the last few weeks.

I have seen it ripple out into the world in odd and interesting ways.

Some sweet, some strange, some uncomfortable.

All sorts of information and wilding things falling out of the wood work.

Amazing.

Then.

As I sat reading, twirling my hair, scratching at the back of my neck, why is it so itchy?

I had a huge aha moment.

Oh my god.

The reading is re-traumatizing me.

Great.

Which is to be expected.

It’s just stirring stuff up from the bottom of the pot.

It’s all good though, I realized what was happening because I had read about the ways in which trauma can manifest itself psychodynamically.

Oh.

And all the other ways I have coped in the past popped into my head and that I have stopped doing them.

I stopped!

Do you have any clue how amazing that is?

I do.

I put down cocaine, alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, all forms of processed flour.

I no longer have stage four cystic acne, I don’t pull my hair out, and I don’t pick at my cuticles, I stopped biting my nails years ago and I have to say it is a small and beautiful gift to myself that I go and get them done.

I am proud of my nails.

My hair.

And of course, I have moments, trembling with the need to change and soothe and self-sabotage when I want to cut it all the fuck off.

I know that I won’t.

But it pops up.

All the things that pop up.

The last one, the one that I have been saving, since I figure I lost most of my readership a while back as this is not a sexy, sexy blog, is that “figuring it out” is a psychodynamic symptom of a child that has suffered severe trauma or sexual abuse.

Check.

Not to be tongue in cheek, but to move this along, I realized that I kept having this recurring pattern, all my life I have been trying to figure it out.

Breaking my own heart trying to figure it out, even when I was told again and again, “figure it out is not a slogan,” or good luck with that, or that there was no “figuring it out” to drop that.

That I have been standing banging my head on a wall for years and years trying to figure it out.

Because if I can figure out what is wrong with me, I can fix me.

I can fix what ever it is in me that didn’t know how to stop what was happening to me, that if I figure it out the same thing won’t happen to me again, I won’t get hurt, I have figured out what is wrong with me, why I destroyed so much and then I can get on with the getting on of life and be ok and like.

I don’t know, have a boyfriend or something.

Except.

That I didn’t do anything wrong.

I don’t have to fix something that I didn’t break.

It wasn’t broken because of me.

How can a four-year old be accountable to that?

Childlike, I blamed myself for my grandmother’s divorce, my mothers separation and subsequent divorce from my father, that I was the reason I was being abused.

I was the whistleblower.

But.

It was still my fault.

I brought the house of cards tumbling down.

Like all abused children I believed that there was something wrong with me, and in this believing I persevered with a hope, that if I could figure it out I could change it and the abuse would stop.

A four-year old cannot be held to that.

A four-year old doesn’t know how to cross the street without holding an adults hand.

“Come on baby, we’re running away from home, momma’s mean,” I said to my two-year old sister, taking her by the hand and walking out the door.

We walked around the block.

I had been told to never cross the street without holding an adults hand.

That’s how my mom found me, walking around in circles.

That is how I found me.

In this circular pattern of thinking for so fucking long.

I can’t fix me.

I was never broken.

I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, I can’t change it.

I can just accept it.

Which is not approval, by the way.

It was just what happened.

I can, however, be of service and take it in stride and let it go.

I can let my heart fill up with love.

I can say it stops here.

And something new grows forward.

Something amazing.

Me.

More and more fully myself.

I am so excited.

Seriously.

I know this seems implausible.

But I am relieved.

It finally landed.

I finally got it.

I can stop trying to figure it out.

The relief.

Well.

The relief is huge.

And I am blessed.

Graced.

Grateful.

And loved.

So very.

Very.

Loved.

 

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From Garbage Bags

October 24, 2015

To graduate school.

I was sitting in my Therapeutic Communications class and something was said about the video we had just watched, a really intense video of Nancy McWilliams demonstrating psychoanalysis with a woman who was trying to negotiate a domestic abuse situation.

It was a surreal story.

It was just an hour of therapy and so much ground got covered and the therapist was amazing, directing subtly, strengthening the client, reflecting back to her, empathizing with the client.

I got a lot out of it.

A LOT.

I also got annoyed with a fellow in my cohort who kept asking questions.

Pushing questions that, as I saw it, were serving the person asking them but then, the professor used the questions to illustrate some key points in the reading we had to do for class and also to help teach the class some really salient information about being a therapist.

We, as a class, were then invited to see how our own need for resolution may be at odds with the clients.

I remember flaring up inside when the questions were being asked and feeling that there was this well of antipathy inside me.

I got annoyed.

Then I realized that I was annoyed because if I had been that woman, if I had been that client, and the solution was to get me to see a solution immediately, I wouldn’t have been able to get there, in fact, I would have said, fuck you, fuck the therapy, and I will deal with this on my own.

In effect.

What I did do.

On my own.

With a lot of help from some close friends, I got out of an abusive relationship.

It was not physically abusive until the end.

He hit me when I broke up with him.

I ran out into the street.

In the middle of January with no socks on, a pair of jeans underneath a flannel nightgown.

Now.

For those of you that know me, this is highly unusual.

Even in the dead of winter.

Even in Wisconsin.

Even in January with below freezing temperatures.

I always, since I was about 17 and the step father moved out of the house, I always, slept in the nude.

That night.

I wore a nightgown.

Intuition.

Premonition.

I don’t know.

I can’t say.

But I did.

And when I ran shivering, scared, uncertain where to go and which direction to take.

I knew I couldn’t go running down East Johnson Street, he would find me too fast.

I ran to the Sentry Shopping Centre that was on East Washington.

I ducked along the cement walls and found my way to a pay telephone, remember those?

I called 911.

I got a response and they said they would be sending a car out to me.

That was when I heard my ex-boyfriends car.

In all actuality, our car, it was just as much mine as his, we had both bought it, an older Jetta.

I could hear it turning and I hoped it was heading toward East Johnson.

But.

It wasn’t.

And I got frantic with the operator on the phone and tried to cram myself down into that very small phone booth and make myself invisible in my flannel nightgown with corn flowers on white cotton, with a ruffled that was piped with blue ribbon, with cuffs that reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie.  I watched the car, the little blue Jetta grinding up the street, hoping against hope that he could not see me flattened against the wall of the phone booth.

I believe.

Looking back.

That was the last time I ever wore a flannel night-gown.

It’s been thirteen years since that night.

Almost fourteen.

Will be fourteen in January.

That’s when I left him.

The operator on the 911 call held me together until the police arrived to take me to a friend’s house.

I will never forget the way the lights looked wicking past the back seat window, the calls coming in over the radio, the destination never seeming further away as the sodium street lights glowed sullen in the snow, the hush of the streets, the lack of traffic, the drive around the lake on John Nolan Drive.

Then my friend’s house.

I refused to talk to the police.

I did not give up the ex-boyfriend.

I was too co-dependent.

I did not want him to get in trouble.

He got in trouble anyway, it just took a little longer.

I suppose I could have navigated it differently, but I didn’t know the difference and I didn’t know how to do it.

I do now.

But I look back at that girl, that young woman with such love and compassion, what I went through to get from there to here.

And.

How long I told myself that it was normal, that it was something that happened, that I could somehow normalize the trauma of fleeing my own home in my nightgown in January in Wisconsin.

I was isolated.

My friend, my best friend and her husband were in town visiting and they noticed it.

Another friend and her partner were in town.

They all had tried to get me to see the light at some point.

My ex-boyfriend pretty much blamed them for the timing of the break up.

He was probably right, but I did not understand how much until later.

My best friend navigated me going into work the next day to tell them I had an emergency and was leaving town for the weekend.

The plan was to get my stuff and take me up North to Hudson where I could chill out and figure out what I had to do next.

I was in shock.

My ex saw us leave my place of employment, he had been driving around Madison all night looking for me and who knows how many times he was circling the block where I worked.

He whipped into the parking lot and flew out of his car, our car.

He tried to get to me.

He tried to talk to me.

My friends were all in shock.

Then.

He spit on me.

Full on in the face.

Suddenly the guys stepped forward and corralled him.

My friends got me into the back of their car.

We pulled out burning rubber.

Two seconds later my ex got in his car and pursued.

My friend’s husband lost him after a few intersections.

We flew to my house.

I unlocked the door and having no idea what to do, I grabbed a large black garbage bag and threw random clothes into it.

I ran around my house.

My sweet little home that I had lived in, nested in, hosted Christmas dinners and Thanksgivings in, had made our home, was now an unfamiliar territory or terror and fear and I just had to get out of it.

My ex didn’t get back to the house before I left.

I was that fast.

I huddled in the back seat of my friend’s Saturn and numbly watched the landscape go by.

I remember passing a refinery and thinking how spooky and eery and utterly beautiful it was in the night with the flashing lights and the mists shimmering into the black void of sky.

I reflected on this in class.

All the memories that came up.

Then the tears.

The joy of knowing, that despite myself, for it would be another long year and a half before there was closure and ultimately, really not until I moved to San Francisco in 2002 did I get finality on the relationship (he stalked me for a year and a half and I got a restraining order that he violated once then he got to go jail and do work release through the Huber program the city had in place for inmates with work release options, two full years of restraining order and yet I saw him twice more before things were all said and done.  Ah alcoholism, how I love thee, not), I had made it out.

I made it out.

I had tears of utter gratitude and awe on my cheeks at how far I have come.

From being a woman fleeing her own home with a garbage bag full of random grabbed things.

To a fully self-supporting, radically self-reliant, strong, resilient, loving, kind, compassionate, tender-hearted woman.

From garbage to graduate school.

A small transformation.

A flowering woman in bloom.

A wide open heart.

Vulnerable and strong.

“We both were tempered by fire,” my friend told me, leaning into me in sweet confidence, “but the heat of your fire was hotter than mine, and I want you to know I acknowledge that.”

Tempered.

Strong.

Flexible.

And full of empathy and compassion.

For the client on the video screen who couldn’t get out.

And.

For myself.

The woman who did.

My life continues to unfold.

And amaze.

I am graced.

I.

Really.

Truly.

Am.


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