Monday was a bit of a strange session. I could feel there was a need for something before I got there, yet I couldn’t tap into what that “something” was.
Sienna asked me to get my (dissociation) cards out and asked if I’d brought anything else? I gave her my art journal which I’d drawn in.
After we spent a couple of minutes on the most recent drawings, Sienna asked if she could look back at the older pages. I nodded. I said to her “ You’ve already seen all those!”
She said she knows that but sometimes it’s good to look back at them. I don’t know why but it felt quite uncomfortable even though she’s seen them before.
I started flicking through the dissociation cards as a way of distracting from the embarrassment I felt.
I couldn’t really get a sense of which parts were about. I picked a lot of cards that I felt applied to how I was feeling and they ranged from happy and content, to scared and hypervigilant.
I knew that adult me felt happy and content and relaxed and secure, but there were other parts feeling other things. Yet I couldn’t easily pick out what they were communicating, only what they were feeling.
I hate those days when you know there’s parts of you in need of something and feeling awful, like they have all this pent up emotion, yet you can’t express it, because you can’t really tease apart the big bundle of emotions and there’s not really any thoughts popping up to help explain what’s going on. It leaves me feeling frustrated and trapped with bad feelings but no way of discharging them.
At first, I didn’t know how to sort out the cards I’d chosen. I didn’t really know who to attribute all those different emotions to. So I started with what I knew…. The adult was feeling positive, I knew I was channelling her. She was there on top. She was the most present.
If I had to demonstrate how strong or present each part was it would go something like this;
Sienna closed the art journal and paid attention to me putting out the cards. She asked questions about the cards I chose and it really helped me explain further what was going on for me.
Sienna asked if being able to separate it all out like that helped me to ground. It hadn’t, not this time. When we used them before it really did help but this time, I still felt agitated and hypervigilant. I felt really disappointed that it hadn’t helped as much as it did last time we used them.
Sienna said when she looked at all the cards, she felt like she wanted to put the adult in the middle and strings connecting them all so that the dissociated parts could get a sense of the adult who is strengthening all the time.
I got a weird feeling, a kind of sinking feeling, I suppose. It felt like she wasn’t getting me. Yet I don’t know what I wanted her to get…. There was nothing wrong, my adult self was the most present, yet there was a dragging sense of need. A dull, muted tumble of emotions rumbling away but far enough away that I couldn’t externalise what I wanted or needed.
And she’s been talking a lot lately about how strong my adult is, and how well I’m doing and it really feels like she’s missing a big part of what’s going on for me.
Yes, my adult part that showed up during the rupture is awesome. Yes, I have made great strides and my adult self is strengthening. I cope really well during the rupture and since. And I am not taking away from my successes or hard work, but the fact remains that I didn’t suddenly- after much of last year being really triggered and pretty devastated- become well and grow a healthy adult.
This sudden “wellness” is a dissociative process, a defence against huge stress and terror. This adult turned up to save me. This adult turned up to allow me to cope with terrifying circumstances. This is just one more split in a defence against trauma. And it might seem on the outside like a positive thing…. But how much trauma did I have to go through for my system to split even more and send an adult saviour to help me?
I feel like this traumatic splitting hasn’t been seen. Or doesn’t want to be seen. I feel like Sienna would rather not know or admit to the full damage done by what happened last year.
So, when she talks about the adult like it’s such a positive thing, a healthy transformation… it really hurts. It’s like we both are glossing over what happened. Like the appearance of this adult means everything is okay. Whereas inside, I think a lot of my parts are holding the weight of this new “healthy adult part”. And it’s really tiring and the responsibility is immense and heavy. It’s almost like they’re juggling balls and can’t let them drop yet.
I know I need to tell her this. Because it’s me who imposed a “ no talk” rule about the rupture. Maybe Sienna’s view in all of this is different from what I perceive.
I sat looking at all the cards in front of me. I felt annoyed with them. I hated them, I wanted to throw them across the room. I’m not sure why.
Sienna asked “ What goes on for you when you look at the cards all laid out like that?”
I took a breath. Shrugged.
Then said “ Just confusion. There’s a lot there.”
Agitation kept rising. Sienna spoke about how I should have learned resilience within the family, like most children do. And that’s perhaps what’s missing for me. I wasn’t taught it.
Sienna asked “ What did a safe adult look like to you?”
I said immediately “ One that stays far back from me.” Anger rising.
Sienna said “ Yeah! You said that quick, so you knew that right away. So actually you didn’t trust any adults. No one felt particularly safe. I’m not surprised you felt that.”
We got a bit off topic for a while. But returned to look at the cards.
As we related the cards to my own childhood, I felt the anger and annoyance yet still didn’t know why.
I heard a younger part say “ Mess them up!!!” and felt an impulse to destroy the cards laid out. I burst out laughing and told Sienna what I’d just heard.
I said to Sienna “ I feel angry with them.”
Sienna said, somewhat surprised “ Do you? Do you know why?”
I thought about it. I still didn’t know why.
Sienna asked “ Angry with them (the parts) or just the whole thing?”
I didn’t know, all I could feel was this deep anger forming and it was making me feel agitated.
I said “ I don’t know just angry with them (the cards), bored of it all, angry that the cards are there. I don’t know, just angry!”
Sienna spoke about how it was a healthy response to the loss of childhood and loss of a lot of things.
Tears sprung up. Angry tears. Angry angry angry…. I suddenly felt overwhelmed with it and I sprung up and got on the floor and began tidying up the cards, I couldn’t look at them a second longer. I hated them.
I can tell now that I switched. But I didn’t feel it at the time.
But I remember feeling disorientated and just bloody angry!! I sat up and said “ Is it time to leave yet?”
I never ask that! Never.
Sienna shook her head. “ You can sit back up there (on the sofa) and do some breathing with me before you go. And see if you can ground yourself before you leave.”
I raised my voice half-joking “ I’m ANGRY!!!!”
Sienna said in a tone of talking to a toddler, “ I know!”
I flung myself huffily on the sofa, sighing deeply. I literally didn’t know what to do with this anger that was flooding me.
Sienna said “ What do you do with that? What do you usually do with anger at home, do you just sit with it and let it pass through?”
I took a breath, and just shrugged.
I felt myself dissociate deeper. I felt a dump in my brain that feels like a deep breath, a deep state of relaxation or a hit of morphine or something. It’s not entirely unpleasant but it’s a bit of a dreamlike state and makes me feel weak and slightly off-kilter, like being on a boat or something.
Sienna said “ If you were to tell somebody why you’re angry, what would you say?”
I replied “ Fuck sake” that’s what I would say.”
Sienna replied “ yeah. Absolutely.”
Sienna said quietly “ I often feel angry when working with you.” She added quickly “ – NOT at you. At the situation and the impact it’s all had on your life. It’s not fair. Buy my God you’ve got a survivor streak in you!”
It always confuses me when she says that. I didn’t have any other option it wasn’t a choice to survive, it’s just what humans do.
I made an exasperated sound as I tried to discharge the agitation from my body. Struggling to contain it.
Sienna said “ I know. Where do you feel that in your body?”
I said quietly “ I don’t know.”
I was so gone by that point. I was doing what I always did with anger. I dissociated and sat still and lost time.
Sienna reminded me to breathe.
Sienna commented that I’d become flushed. I nodded, I could feel my cheeks were hot.
She tried grounding me. Getting me to notice the room etc. But nothing was working, even though I was doing what she was asking of me.
She asked how I was and I said in a tiny whisper “ Okay.”
A minute went past and I said in a child’s voice “ Is it time to stop?”
Sienna said “ mmhm. Where are you? Are you back? I don’t think you are. You’re pulling your fingers… who’s that?”
I looked down, surprised. I hadn’t noticed.
I said “ I don’t know.”
Sienna moved over and reached out for my hands to stop me from hurting them. “ You need to tell her she’s okay, cos she is. She’s safe. The adult is here.”
The child said tearfully “ I’m really angry.”
Sienna reassured her that angry is okay. It’s an okay emotion to have.
As I came back to the room a bit more I said “ I HATE those cards.”
Sienna laughed. They’re going to have different reactions at different times.
I couldn’t believe the session was finished. It felt like 15 minutes had passed. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a session pass so instantly. So, it makes me wonder if other parts took over? Time just didn’t seem in sequence or something.
It took me quite a while to come around afterwards. And I felt exhausted and emotional.
And I worried how I’d feel the rest of the week given that I barely remembered my session and certainly didn’t feel like I’d been there.
I’ve done okay-ish. But there’s definitely been moments of struggle which I’ll write about later.