Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jeff is missed

I started a Facebook page for my brother. The idea very simply came from two of my deceased Facebook friends who still have pages- a co-worker who committed suicide in 2008, and a woman I know from business school who died from Cystic Fibrosis last year. My brother died before Facebook, and before social networking and a lot of things for that matter. He never used an iPod or iPhone, or even a cell phone. He died before multi player online video games, Google, Wikipedia, Barack Obama (at least before we knew about him), Lost, the Simpsons Movie, digital cameras, GPS, blogging. I mean, I'm sure some of these things were in the works, but there is all this technology that is such a normal part of life now that he never even experienced. Not to mention all the things in my life that I'm not able to share with him- my job, playing hockey, my friends, my boyfriend, zombies, blogging, rats. I feel a tinge of sadness whenever something happens that I want to tell him about. I got a garbage goal and a sweet assist on Sunday. I'm playing in a hockey tournament in Phoenix this weekend. My boyfriend is awesome. My rats are silly. Obviously the Facebook page I set up for him is not the same as it being HIS page that he set up, but if other people can have a Facebook maintained in their honor that people can use to keep connected to their memory, I don't see why he can't have one. Even though he never knew what Facebook was.

I have been thinking of him even more than usual because in the EMDR therapy (and my regular therapy since those two therapists are talking to each other and have started reinforcing each other) we've been dealing with the events that lead to me being removed from the family and losing my day-to-day connection with him. I felt guilty about that, even though obviously it was not my fault that CPS put me in foster care. I felt that I abandoned him, and that somehow my presence in the family could have kept him from going down the path that lead to his suicide. Now that I am getting in touch with my feelings about the violence in our family, I am also remembering how concerned I was for him and how I thought at the time I was doing right by him by getting out of the family and being independent, as an example and also so that he could come stay with me if he needed to. In fact, now I feel like I did do the right thing, and the fact that it didn't prevent his death doesn't make it any less right. It is almost more uncomfortable to feel that I was powerless to save him than to feel guilty though. I hate the feeling that I was a victim in all that happened. But I was, and he was. That feels really sad.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

you'll be alone, like a ghost, I'll be gone

The EMDR this morning was different, went deeper. I felt the terror, felt the emptiness. I looked into my mom's face, and she looked away. I felt small and weak. I wanted to throw things at her, make her pay attention, make her feel the pain, if only the physical pain I was in. I realized how alone I was. I had nothing to protect me. I was panicked, searching for a way to survive this. I could feel how torn up my throat was from screaming and crying. My arm was aching. I could feel every blow on my face, my cheekbone and jaw throbbing, my teeth in my lip. I felt my mind slipping away, but the physical pain, like a cord wrapped around my throat, dragging me back, screaming in head to find a way to make this stop. Do anything, my arms so tired from pulling away, shaking. Shaking everywhere, I can't tell if it's coming from inside me or out. Screaming that I can't tell if it's in my head or coming out of me. I have to survive this. I can't die.

It was on the edge of unbearable. My therapist told me to stand up then, and push against her. I put my palms against hers and pushed until my arms shook and I was gasping for breath. The tension went out of my arms then, but I wanted to scream. I still want to scream and scream and scream.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Hellfire Club

I've started physical therapy on my shoulder and EMDR therapy. Both are forcing me to deal with the feelings I have from the beating that caused the injury and resulted in my short stint in foster care. There is a lot of physical pain in my shoulder. When my physical therapist works on it, I feel angry. She thinks it is because the pain makes me think of how it got that way, and that makes me angry. My regular therapist thinks the physical therapy is releasing anger stored in my body, sort of like I am detoxifying from it. Either way, it feels really uncomfortable at the time, but I feel a release, like I am a little bit lighter, afterward.

My physical therapist's explanation for what happened to my body is that, when my dad held me up by my arm and swung me into the wall with it, it stretched out the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around my shoulder socket. The fibers in muscles naturally overlap, and stretching them apart weakens the muscles and lessens their effectiveness. She said there is actually too much flexibility in my shoulder socket and the muscles are too weak to control and support movement in the joint. This causes nerve pinching and pain down my arm, into my elbow and sometimes my fingers. To compensate for the lack of muscle support around my shoulder joint, the muscles in my shoulder blade tense up to try to control the movement. That is why there are always muscle knots in my right shoulder blade, and I feel a lot of tension there. There is less flexibility in my shoulder blade from the tensing, and too much in shoulder socket because of the weakness in the muscles.

I can feel my face screwing up with disgust as I write that. It is one of the many feelings I have about what happened to me. I feel revolted by my parents sometimes for the way they acted towards me. This morning, I had a session with my EMDR therapist. She had me describe what happened in the beating, and then kept having me return to the scene again and again, while wearing the device she uses for the therapy. It is a set of headphones that plays a tone, and plastic nodes that I hold in my hands. The nodes vibrate and buzz in the palm of my hands. The tone and the vibrations happen together on one side, then the other, back and forth. The idea is that when you are in trauma the parts of the brain the process information literally shut down so all your focus can be on surviving the situation. Anything not essential for survival in that moment just stops. PTSD is when you get stuck in the trauma, so you are not able to process what happened and move on from it. The stimulation of the tone and the buzzing, while recalling the traumatic experience, activates the parts of the brain that can process the event. The idea is that it goes from being a flashback, with a re-living of the terror and physical sensations of the trauma, to a memory that no longer has that kind of hold over you.

Each time I revisited the event, I saw and felt something different. I felt small and weak, shocked with the sudden and violent realization that my dad's threats to kill me weren't just threats. I was totally soft and vulnerable; my body pummeled like a rag dog, no control over my limp body. My body felt like a mist that would dissipate, fall apart until I was nothing but sadness. Then I was stiff and immobile, struggling to keep my feet on the ground, feeling every blow to my face reverberating in my body, falling backwards, paralyzed. The confused feelings swirled around my face, around my body, until the white mist coming off me became a tornado wind, blowing my parents away from me as I floated in cold white blankness. Then I looked at a mirror on the wall, and saw the bruises on my face turn into purple and black clouds, then lightning shot out of the thick blackness and knocked down the walls of my room. I saw my brother standing on the other side of the wall, small and defenseless, but calmly waiting for my storm of protection to surround him. Then I was back in the hard gaze of my father, only his face was a wood mask, one of those scary large masks, and my mom's face was a blank, emotionless mask, and I was surrounded by impassive, inhuman things, painted and ghoulish, and the white mist swirled around my head and shoulders again, only this time I was solid and whole within the dancing fog.

My EMDR therapist told me I would be processing this all day. I guess I'm still processing, because I don't know what to think about it. I feel calm, mostly. Like I'm at the eye of the storm for now.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Follow Me

There's an episode of Seinfeld where George is acting particularly out-there, and Jerry says something along the lines of- a regular psychiatrist isn't enough for you. You need a TEAM of psychiatrists working on you around the clock. I feel a little like that now. I have my regular doctor, my physical therapist, my regular therapist, and now I have a psychiatrist and an EMDR therapist. EMDR is a therapeutic treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That therapist was recommended by my regular therapist, and my doctor recommended the psychiatrist, who also wrote me the prescription for physical therapy on my shoulder that was injured by my dad 21 years ago. Most of these doctors and therapist are talking to each other about me too, so I really do feel like I have a team of professionals working on my trauma recovery. I mean, I really do.

Last Friday, I saw the psychiatrist. We talked for a while, and she wanted me to start taking an antidepressant. I wasn't really thrilled with the idea- I was prescribed all sorts of things before I was diagnosed with PTSD and didn't find them to be particularly helpful. Mostly they made me feel sluggish and throw-up a lot. Plus, it just seems so unpredictable. What if it makes me act different? What if I don't feel like myself? What if I start feeling like I don't know who I am anymore? If I'm using a drug to feel okay, how am I really okay? She responded that antidepressants, besides therapy, are the first line against PTSD. Again, this seems a little strange to me because antidepressants are theoretically supposed to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain, and PTSD is not really a chemical imbalance. Plus, PTSD is, in theory, something you can recover from by processing the trauma, and an antidepressant does not process anything. But, I had already decided I would give this a try, so, I thought, I'll give it a try. She gave me a prescription for cymbalta, which is one of those drugs with a fancy name and commercials. (I guess with a dog?) It is also too new to have a generic, so I found out it was irritatingly expensive when I filled the prescription that night.

On Saturday, I talked to the EMDR therapist on the phone. She was in favor of the antidepressant. She said you couldn't do the EMDR work effectively if you weren't emotionally stable, so it would help me deal effectively with her therapy. So, question answered. I also saw my regular therapist yesterday, who had a productive discussion with the psychiatrist and was also happy about the drug. I told her I was worried that my mood would be artificial, and that would actually interfere with me processing my true emotions coming up from my childhood. She didn't think that would be the case, although she is concerned about anti-anxiety medication for a similar reason- that if people just pop a pill whenever they feel anxious, they won't learn to deal with the underlying reason for the anxiety. She is more comfortable with the antidepressant because you take it every day. We then talked about when I have struggled with serious depression. Right now, I don't think I am depressed, but I am anxious, and the drug is supposed to help with that as well. I have read that a lot of people with PTSD take antidepressants, but I don't totally understand why when PTSD is an anxiety disorder and not depression. Well, that's not entirely true. Most people with PTSD struggle with depression; it's just that the disorder is not technically depression. I don't feel like anyone is just throwing random drugs at me without a good reason, though. I guess it helped to talk to my therapist, who I have been working with for a while and I trust her.

My boyfriend had a pithy response when I declared that I was good at managing things myself, and I had something inside me that had gotten me though everything I'd been through and I felt uncomfortable handing the controls over to this team of doctors and therapists. He said, maybe that part of you that helped you survive led you to these people so they could help you. Hmmm. Well played.