I was able to get in to see a counselor at the college yesterday afternoon, and I have another appointment next Wednesday.
I was kind of an emotional mess for 2 or 3 days after my ptsd episode/dissociation on saturday. Like, a lot of crying spells, extreme anxiety, shaking, no appetite, limbs going numb, interrupted sleep. I really contemplated calling into work one day, but I went ahead and showed up so my hands and my mind would stay busy. Sunday especially, I was vacillating back and forth between total numbness/being completely checked out/flatlined and then feeling totally overwhelmed by grief. The counselor reassured me that everything I am feeling is normal.
I am doing my best to accept that this is all just another layer to processing my rape from 5 years ago and the repeated loss/abandonment I got subjected to from age 2-25. First, my dad when I was 2 (heroin) my aunt when I was 9 (AIDS. That was when little kid Natface died, too. She was my surrogate mother and everything changed when she left. I had to grow up immediately.) my uncle when I was 15 (suicide) and my grandmother at 18 (cancer). Then, I tried to connect with my dad’s family and they were all abusive and unhealthy too. One aunt on that side is borderline, the other one is violently alcoholic and verbally abusive. I had to cut them out when I was 25 after 5 years of trying to foster a family relationship with them, even though they’d done nothing for me in the 20 years leading up.
Unsurprisingly, I got into some shitty relationships from age 16-on where I got treated like subhuman garbage but I kept sticking around and trying to bend myself into an image they would like so they wouldn’t leave. Like, even the tiniest outside chance that I’d get a small sliver of affection or “love” would keep me hooked in. There were creepy older guys that I wish my mother would have fucking beaten away with a broom instead of being so clueless or disinterested about why her 16 year old had a 21 year old sniffing around her door. There was a guy who fucked one of my best friends behind my back for months. Then, the date rapist, who I’d known for much of my life, we went to elementary school together. Things got better when I got into therapy and started identifying my patterns. After I got stronger I did a lot of internet dating and while I met some creeps, I did also meet some nice people, which was good for restoring my faith in men to some degree, but no one I really connected with in a major way. Definitely no one I was really emotionally honest or intimate with. I just don’t think I was ready. It was more for like, exposure therapy purposes, almost.
I suppressed feelings about the assault and my losses for a long, long time. It was confusing to me that I had a dissociative episode now, because I’ve had happy, enjoyable, consensual sex a number of times in the past 2 years that I’ve been dating again. I chalk it up to the fact that I am doing hard emotional work right now and a lot of pain has been coming up, but the difference is I’m making space for it and feeling it instead of numbing out or suppressing it, or refusing to acknowledge it. Also, emotional intimacy has been terrifying to me. I want it more than anything but getting there is scary shit. Starting to feel tendrils of it sent my whole system into full on, fight or flight, ABORT MISSION IMMEDIATELY mode because my only other real experiences of getting close to someone have involved intense loss, pain, and betrayal.
The counselor was also good about redirecting me back towards what I can do to be kind to myself and process my feelings without seeking a ton of outside validation from my boyfriend or others. She gave me a “distress tolerance” worksheet with a list of possible triggers and resulting emotions, a commitment form for me to fill out and sign. In the commitment form I basically promise myself to drop my self defeating behavior that I usually turn towards for soothing (numbing out, avoiding, approval seeking) and do something different, i.e. look for comfort within myself and stay present with my emotions instead. I know it’s okay to feel bad, but it’s almost like I would feel bad and worried and key myself up so hard into this incredibly anxious place where I was telling myself that abandonment was imminent so I’d better just cut and run now to save/protect myself. (fight or flight response in action, folks.) Also, my body, I know, has been pumping a shit ton of cortisol and adrenaline, so the blowback from all of that is not great for emotional regulation.
The truth is, I have no way of knowing where this relationship is headed or if he’s the right guy for me forever. It’s still really early on, and he’s got his own stuff he is trying to work through too, and I can’t do that for him. I can’t control what he does or doesn’t do. I can’t predict the future and I wouldn’t want to. Do I want things to work out? Yes, of course. He’s caring, gentle, smart, handsome, he is one of my dearest friends, his mom is wonderful and loves me. But whether or not this is my forever love, I have to do this work now. If not to help build intimacy and trust with him, than to prepare myself for my future partner beyond this, and also so I can get some much deserved peace and relief.
I feel good today. I actually slept well last night. I got up, made breakfast, went to the gym, now I’m filling out some of the worksheets the counselor gave me. I have Mount Laundry to tackle, but I may let that wait a little and just relax today.
P.S. I appreciate everyone’s comments but please no “dump him/he’s wrong for you” remarks right now. I get that this seems like a lot of fear to be having early on, but given my history, it’s not surprising, and I’m just now at a place where I can see that and accept it. I’m trying to do something different and NOT cut and run right now, which is what I usually do.