I had that odd thought this morning on the bus as I was going to my therapy appointment at the ungodly hour of 7:30am. I blinked when I heard myself say it. What was with the future tense, the idea that it's going to happen? I didn't know and I guess I still don't know. It's not really the purpose of this post either-- I just thought it was a compelling start.
I did pretty well this week. Some rough moments at the beginning of the week after D* left, but I got through the week, finished my problem set, did my lab, and even did pretty well on a midterm exam. There weren't any bad dreams or triggers. Last night, when I got on the bus to return home after the exam, there was a guy on the bus who looked exactly like Him. I stumbled a little, both mentally and physically, but surprised myself by calmly moving to a seat where I couldn't see him and then promptly zoning out instead of having a crazy anxiety attack.
This morning at the therapy session I talked about how unnerved I was that I wasn't falling apart. Usually the week leading up to the anniversary is bad. This year it's even worse because March 25th actually falls on a Friday, which makes it seem all the more real, more striking. But I didn't become a total failing, flailing mess this week, and somehow that felt... wrong. I brainstormed with my therapist and came up with two noticed thoughts:
1) An oldie but a goodie: "Someone who has truly been through an awful event will always feel triggered, so if I don't feel bad when I ought to, that means the Event really wasn't that bad in the first place and I've been lying to myself and everyone (for attention? for pity? who knows)."
I've had that belief for years, and it's definitely been hindering my healing process because it actively keeps me from letting myself heal.
2) "The fact that I don't feel bad right now means that it's all just waiting to drop a catastrophic bomb on my head later."
This is the worry-thought, the one that tries to be helpful and protective but really doesn't do me much good.
I was on the border of calm/numb this morning during therapy, possibly partially due to being tired as well from not enough sleep (no bad dreams or insomnia, just bad time management choices). I talked about the above thoughts with my therapist but I think I was a bit dissociated; nothing really got through to me. The only thing that stuck a little was an analogy I made, where I mentioned the study that showed that when people complain, trying to problem-solve usually doesn't help. However, acknowledging and agreeing that the subject of their complaint is bad/frustrating/etc. actually appeases them instead. I don't remember why I brought that up, but something kind of clicked and led to the idea that maybe I should try to sit and non-judgmentally acknowledge those Noticed Thoughts up there for a while, because clearly problem solving hasn't worked-- I've been working on those thoughts for quite a while-- but maybe thinking about why they're there instead of determinedly trying to obliterate them could help.
What my therapist and I came up with was that maybe it might be a mutated version of a few different adaptive behaviors/thoughts. People often understand themselves or see things about themselves through others' eyes. When I first started having severe depression, I went to friends and needed to see that they saw what I felt, to receive that external validation. Another beneficial behavior is surrounding yourself with and seeking out people who are helpful, understanding, supportive. Both those things make sense and seem okay, but they have combined and mutated into a belief that I have to convince others that something bad really did happen to me or it wasn't actually that bad to begin with, and that I have to do that forever.
I asked her if this was normal behavior for someone healing, and she said it's normal not to trust the signs of healing, because feeling okay is such a foreign feeling after you've been hurt for so long. That makes sense to me, but I feel like it's not the whole picture. I feel like I almost got to some kind of epiphany about what was going on during the session, but didn't quite reach it.
I actually started writing this post because I took an afternoon nap and woke up after a horrific dream feeling tense and scared and dissociated. I got a little sidetracked with talking about this morning's therapy because I thought I should present the whole picture of today, but really this post was going to be about how I feel now. It's gotten a little better since I started writing this post, but I was so tense that my muscles all over my body hurt. When I was thrown out of my dream into sudden wakefulness, the world seemed different, distant. My body wanted to tense up and curl up and stay still and small and watchful. I was taking tiny little breaths and moving as little as possible, out of fear or wariness for some unknown. I tried reading a book of comforting words to survivors; while the words were nice, nothing really reached me. I tried calling D* but couldn't get through. I tried to cry but I couldn't. I felt frozen, unable to get out of bed, but I knew I needed to do something. So I got myself here, to the computer, with the hopes that writing might help. I'm not as tense anymore, but I still feel dissociated. It's better, I guess. D* is coming down to be with me tonight, and I have a long list of things I have to do before he gets here.
Oh, one other thing from therapy that might be worth mentioning. In previous years, I have tried to stay up till at least 2 or 3am, in an attempt to somehow acknowledge the gravity of what happened when it happened, to sit and feel and be with those feelings and accept. However, tomorrow morning I have lab at 9am, so I have to go to bed early and I can't do that this year. The analogy popped into my head that it was a little like being a kid who had to go to bed early and miss New Year's. It feels weird, skipping over such an important time. It makes me uncomfortable. It's like a bad version of going to sleep before Daylight Savings Time takes effect and suddenly having things be different in the morning without an explanation I was there to see; like something happening in the middle of the night and I wasn't there to acknowledge and accept and understand it. I don't know, I just don't like the fact that I can't truly commemorate, for lack of a better word, the Event properly. It feels like tonight won't be the same, won't be complete somehow. I don't know how this will affect the rest of my weekend, but in a moment of either sanity or insanity, I went ahead and scheduled visits with potential roommates for Saturday afternoon and Sunday, trying to treat this like a normal weekend, I guess. We'll see how it goes...?
Okay. I have to get myself to at least do some basic things like clean up the room and change the sheets and do laundry. I have to write up the pre-lab for tomorrow, but that takes more concentration so it can wait. *takes a deep breath* Onwards and forwards.