I'm not normal. If you've been here awhile, that will come as no shock to you. For various reasons (some of which I had no control over and some of which are due to my own choices when I was younger), I have spent the majority of my life walking a fine line between not wanting to be numb, but not wanting to feel TOO much. Feelings hurt. At least I think they do. I DO know that I generally don't like them because they feel yucky and sit like a weight on my chest and make my skin feel too tight. "Bad" feelings make me PHYSICALLY uncomfortable. My head can't focus and things feel wrong. My clothes will feel wrong, my hair will hurt, my head starts to hurt, my mind races, and I will do just about whatever I can to make it go away.
Last summer when UW left, I went into a tailspin. All of those new feelings were too much for me. Instead of running from them like I always have, I decided to finally address them and try to deal with them with the help of a professional. Look at me trying to act like a responsible adult.
Working with her has been interesting to say the least. She has teared up more than I have (my cold dead heart doesn't allow me to cry very often...either that or my pride doesn't), has told me she's never had a patient as blatantly honest as I am (which is one of the miracles of being in recovery), and at one point asked me if I have ever suffered a HEAD INJURY (not really, but that was funny as hell when she asked).
Here are a few things I have learned:
1. I don't know what to CALL the feelings I'm having. One day I was crying (let's keep that our little secret) and told her I couldn't figure out why. Her brilliant revelation was, "Well you were SAD." What? Oh yeah, S A D. Hmmm...ok, I'll go with that. Yes, I am THAT bad at feelings. It took a professional to tell me that crying is a sign of being sad. Seriously, I'm a 39 year old woman with the emotional skills of a child. It's a little ridiculous.
2. Trauma victims have faulty "switches" in our brains that cause us to process incoming information incorrectly. Where many people would rate "love" and "happiness" on the top of their lists for what they want/need, I rate "safety". Living in survival mode means you're always on the lookout for the next unsafe thing to come your way so you better be armed and ready. In fact, you probably should spend countless hours of your day trying to anticipate ALL of the possible scenarios you could encounter during the rest of the day/week/month/etc. and then take action to try and prevent all of those things that may or may not (most likely WON'T) happen in order to be feel safe every second of every day. Yeah...that's a bit exhausting.
3. My mind and body are rarely in the same place at the same time. Therefore, my heart and my head rarely agree and are usually at odds with each other.
4. When you are disconnected from life, it takes something pretty intense to register and etch itself in your memory. Therefore, every day stuff doesn't get recorded and you become QUITE aware that even though you can remember every disgusting detail of your sordid past, you will now spend your days wondering why you can't remember things. This will become especially troublesome when you were raised in an "If you don't remember it, you must be lying" or "No one else remembers it like that, you must be lying" environment.
5. I either feel very little (feels like I'm watching a movie about life, not really experiencing it) or WAY TOO MUCH (flashbacks where I relive the event with all the sounds/smells/sights/touches).
6. My constant disconnect will hurt people even when I desperately don't want it to. I will be called a bad friend, a selfish lover, a mean mom, etc. It will hurt people when I make comments about my lack of feelings or when I question my feelings for them.
7. If I say I love you, I really DO mean it to the best of what my understanding is of that word. It means I am loyal to you and don't want to see you come to any harm. It means I will crack jokes to make you smile when you are sad. If I'm in love with you, I will twist myself into knots trying to be the best partner I can be. I will forgive just about anything as long as we can communicate honestly about it. It means that I will make space for you in my life, but will need reminders of your presence so I don't get disconnected and forget to reconnect. When I get disconnected, it's not that I don't care about you, it's that I'm trying to juggle so many things at once that my focus shifts to deal with whatever is capturing most of my attention at the time.
8. Adding Borderline Personality Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to a trauma victim will exacerbate all of the above issues.
You know what else I've learned? I've learned that no matter HOW bad things have gotten, my track record for getting through them is 100%. Yes, I am hurting right now and my life was recently upended again, but I'll put my money on my track record. This too shall pass and you can bet your ass I'll get through it.