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Posts Tagged ‘emotions after child abuse’

I have my therapy appointment later today, so I thought I would blog about how I am doing before I go. I am sure that therapy will point me in a different direction, so I want to capture my progress so far.

My “homework” from last week was (1) not to react to my emotions but, instead, observe them with compassionate awareness; and (2) not justify or explain myself to others. I have done a better job with #1 than I have with #2. As for #2, I have made progress in noticing when I am explaining myself but have not been very effective so far in stopping myself beforehand. However, I have done a very good job with #1.

I gave myself a third homework assignment to help with #1 that my T did not suggest but did support – ceasing all mood-altering drinks and pills for now. I have not drunk any wine or other alcoholic beverage, taken any Xanax, or even taken any sleep aids in over a week. Before I continue, let me assure you that I have no addiction issues other than food (binge eating). I use alcohol and Xanax to numb the difficult emotions, but there is no physical or compulsive element to this. Food has been a harder demon to slay because I do struggle with compulsive overeating, but I have been making progress in this area as well.

So I went a week without using any external means to numb myself or help me sleep. You know what? It was a much better week than I have had in a long time. That isn’t to say that I did not feel any difficult emotions – I did. The differences were that (1) I did not fuel them; and (2) I did not numb the “good” emotions, like joy. By not fueling the hard emotions while, at the same time, enabling myself to experience the “good” emotions, I achieved an emotional balance that I have not experienced in a long time.

I found that I have an internal “anxiety geyser” that shoots out anxiety several times a day with no apparent trigger. I could be doing something throughout my day, not thinking about anything in particular, and become flooded with anxiety. In the past, I would immediately try to analyze it, which would fuel the anxiety, snowball, and drive me to food, wine, or Xanax to detach from it. Instead, I would simply notice the anxiety without attaching to it, and it would pass.

Giving up sleep aids (which does include wine and Xanax but also melatonin and herbal sleep aids) was harder because I struggle so badly with insomnia. My sleep patterns actually improved this week. I had three nights lying in my bed at 3:00 a.m. looking at the ceiling. Instead of taking a Xanax to fall back to sleep, I popped in a DVD with a comedy I had seen before and listened to it until I fell back to sleep.

I don’t know where I am going next in therapy, but I am very pleased with the results so far!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Do Sexually Abused Children Enjoy Orgasms from Rape or Sexual Abuse?, a reader posted the following comment:

Just so afraid to let go because last time I did I ended up very suicidal and admitted inpatient. I don’t have the skills to “control” those parts. Not quite sure how to get those skills though if I can’t safely work with them. I am losing time and can feel myself fighting the “darker” parts. I have wonderful therapist, but I just can’t let myself feel. So unsure of what to do. ~ DIDdenial

Allowing myself to feel the pain in those “darker” places was one of the hardest things I did when trying to heal. I survived my childhood by being in control. I kept each memory and emotion under lock and key, rarely feeling anything other than anxiety and depression. My therapist and the healing resources I read all advised me to give those feelings a voice, which scared the h@#$ out of me. The deeper I had repressed an emotion, the scarier the idea was.

I was especially afraid of giving my anger a voice because I had buried my anger so deeply inside of myself. I feared that I would lose all control and become a raving lunatic who could no longer control her rage. Better to keep my anger safely stuffed down inside than risk not being able to control it.

What I learned through experience is that you only make the emotions stronger when you fight them. When you invite them out, they lose their power. As hard as it is to believe before you have given your “darker places” a voice, the path of fighting them is much, much harder.

Emotions were made to be expressed. As abused children, we were not permitted to express our emotions, so we had to find a way to lock them up inside. Emotions that have not been expressed outwardly turn inward. In my case, I had a lot of repressed anger which turned on me in the form of anxiety and depression. The day I started expressing my anger is the same day that I experienced a dramatic decrease in my day-to-day anxiety level. I still wrestle with anxiety, but it is nothing compared to the level I used to manage every minute of every day.

Whether you hold your emotions compartmentalized into alter parts or have them safely stuffed down inside in another way, trying to “control” your emotions only makes you miserable. Emotions were meant to be expressed, and giving them a voice is one of the keys to healing from child abuse. Don’t be afraid of them. Instead, invite them out one by one. There are many ways to do this, from expressive art to writing about them to visualizing letting them do whatever they have dreamed of doing since they were triggered by the abuse. Different tools work for different child abuse survivors. What matters is that you stop pushing your emotions away and give them a voice. When you silence your emotions, you silence yourself because your emotions are a part of you.

An analogy that really helped me was this: Imagine that you are a fire hose and that your emotions are the high-pressure water coursing through the hose. No matter how powerful the water becomes, you are not the water – you are the hose. You are not going to lose yourself in the water – you are simply the vessel holding the water.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. I have been focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

Today, I would like to discuss the following quote:

Emotions are the color of the soul—they are spectacular and incredible. When you don’t feel, the world becomes dull and colorless. Just think how The Great Sadness reduced the range of color in your life down to monotones and flat grays and blacks … [Emotions] just are. They are neither bad nor good; they just exist … Most emotions are responses to perception—what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too…The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. ~ The Shack pp. 198-199

I spent most of my life running from my emotions. I repressed the emotion of anger so far down that I truly did not believe that I even knew how to experience that emotion. I lived my life in shades of gray. I mostly felt nothing. It was a dark, cold existence.

After I entered into therapy and started healing from child abuse, I felt emotions in spades, and I was not one bit happy about it. One day, I felt such incredibly deep grief that I questioned whether it was even possible to survive it. When I told my therapist about this, he was pleased. He said that I was finally feeling, which meant that I was healing. I was no longer living my life numb.

I was very angry about this. I could not believe that my options were either numbness or feeling such deep pain that death seemed preferable. However, my therapist was correct that my painful emotions would pass, and they did. After they passed, I was finally able to feel positive emotions – things I had not felt in my entire lifetime. I could feel joy and peace in a way that I never dreamed possible.

The key to managing your emotions is remembering that they are transient. No emotion lasts forever. Whether you are feeling very good or very bad, that emotion is going to pass. Learn how to savor the “good” emotions when you have them, and try not to feed into the “bad” emotions – just let them pass through you. If you will allow yourself to “be” with the bad emotions without giving energy to them, they will pass much more quickly.

Although I know the truth of these statements, I continue to wrestle with following my own advice. I recently went through a period of feeling so low that I did not know if I could make it through. Whenever I experience very deep emotions, particularly despair, I have trouble remembering that emotions are transient. It takes a lot of seemingly blind faith to hold on for better days.

As painful as the bad emotions are, I would not trade away the good ones. Unfortunately, you cannot just shut off the “bad” emotions. They come with the good ones. The emotions really are worth experiencing, and they definitely color your world.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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