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.

2 comments:

Bubba Brainiac said...

With the faces of your parents being as wood, I think that tells you what you need to know. Wood is hard and trees are immovable (unless you cut them down). Your brother standing at a distance. Wanting to stop your dad but feeling powerless to do so as he was much smaller at the time.
With my sister's drug addiction I felt small and unhelpful even though I'm 13 years older than her. I wanted to help but felt powerless and unlike you, she was abusing herself, rather than being abused by an outside force. I no longer speak to my mother as she was the primary abuser in my life (not the only one). Why do you continue to speak to yours? Consider that you may be keeping yourself from fully healing because of constantly reopening that wound every time you speak with her? If she hasn't tried to make amends by now (like mine) she will never do so. We aren't our parents. We can be different. I decided a long time ago that I wouldn't be like my parents and I have succeeded. But I don't put up with her crap either. She's lived her life, I want to live mine.

Kristina said...

good question. maybe I'm still struggling to come to some resolution? I'm keeping an open mind for now.