Had my session with T the other day. Both nights since, I’ve laid in bed thinking of blog posts, but come morning they’ve dissipated like the morning fog. I know I wanted to write about the gift T gave me, so I figure I’ll start with that and probably morph into something else. Ain’t that always the way?
I told T about my double dose of anxiety (attacks) from last week. She agreed that it was good to see it from both angles, both as something to continue to work through and as a triumph because I was able to hold off the attacks with the tools I’ve learned. But she was sympathetic to the feeling of it being a step backward, and to the frustration of it happening at all. We talked about the tools I used, and she decided to offer me a new one.
She asked me to think of a safe, happy place–real or imagined–and then asked me to describe it in detail. All senses: smell, touch, hearing, visual, taste. And when I was done, she had me draw it. Then she brought over a baggie filled with stones…of all shapes and sizes, all smooth. She asked me to pick one out that would fit nicely in the palm of my hand. I picked out out that was black, because I always lean toward black rocks, but it had some patches of what looked like white snow. It had an odd shape to it, so it seemed to snug into the cradle of my palm when I made a fist. Once I had picked out my gift, T told me to look at the picture I’d drawn while holding the rock tightly in my fist. She asked me questions about the safe place, again asking me to use all my senses. She said we were “imprinting” the safe place into the rock. So if there’s a time where I need to find someplace safe, I could hold the rock and the safe place should come back more quickly. As it turns out, we tested that almost immediately.
After we did that stuff with the rock, I asked if we had enough time to talk about the trauma work we had discussed during the last session. She said we could get started, and she gave me a clipboard with a piece of paper on it. She drew a horizontal line with a point at the beginning and a point at the end. She asked me to fill in times where I felt traumatized, and mark them as how traumatic they were from 0 to -10, and anything positive that came out of the trauma from 0 to +10. I’m not really good with on-the-spot things like this that require me to remember my past. I did the best I could, filling things in along the way. But a lot of what I wrote seemed to be about things happening to other people that affected me. And later I realized I had left out my first panic attack–which was HUGE in my life–and the time when Hub had an issue with his heart and ended up in the emergency room where his pulse was up over 250bpm and they had to pharmaceutically stop his heart. Twice. While I watched. (I filled those two things in the next day when I realized I’d left them out.)
So when T asked me about my list, I stared at it and tears came to my eyes. I told her how much death there’d been in my life, crammed into a short period of time (relatively speaking). She asked how I was feeling, and I said I was sad, and that I felt overwhelmed with loss. She told me that was grief, not trauma, but asked me to use my rock to find my safe place, to help pull me out of the grief for the time being. She helped me along by asking me questions about my safe place, requiring me to answer descriptively. When I felt some relief–although I’m not confident it was the rock or it was her drawing me out–she took the clipboard for herself. And then she proceeded to diagram out a trauma she had gone through as an example of what she wanted me to do before our next appointment.
It was clear from her diagram that she’d done this multiple times, and she assured me that I would not be so matter-of-fact about my diagram. She said she’d dealt with her trauma, so it was easy for her to go over it again with me. On the other hand, I was somewhat horrified to hear what she’d been through. And as she went on, I realized I wasn’t sure if I could break down any of my “traumas” this way. Because many of them were longer-term incidents, while hers was not. And really, I’d thought we were going to discuss my pain as a trauma, but I couldn’t box that into a diagram like she had.
Anyway, she said for me not to do my diagram any more than 24 hours before our next appointment. So I’m trying not to think about what I’m going to do. I know I could use my first panic attack, because I could really break that down. I could probably also break down my ER visit from last December…but she did encourage me to pick one of the lesser traumas to start with. So I’m not sure what I’m going to do.
Meanwhile, the last couple of nights I tried to use my rock to settle myself back into sleep when I woke up in the middle of the night (her suggestion, since I am falling asleep most of the time, but waking often and having trouble getting back to sleep), but I don’t feel like it’s helping. Maybe my imprint didn’t really take, or maybe I’m feeling too skeptical about it. I don’t know yet.