Full disclosure: I have been in counseling for about the last six months to address my Complex-PTSD. More information about my struggle with Complex-PTSD can be found here —–> Moving from Surviving to Healing
My counseling has been focused on trauma therapy. We began with building my skills up so that I would not be so overwhelmed during therapy. I learned I had really strong adaptive skills for surviving, but not for actually living my life. My counseling is a combination of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
I have been having a difficult time with dissociation during therapy. So much so, that my counselor went to a week long training to learn how she could better support me and others like me. My counselor has learned that she has to tread very carefully when trying to help me process the various layers of trauma that I have experienced throughout my life. Accessing one layer has caused a cascading affect that overwhelms my mind causing me to dissociate. My mind is basically going into seize mode to defend itself. This can be very disorienting and not at all a fun experience.
With the help of my counselor, we have realized my trauma started at a young age and continued on into adulthood. My counselor told me that we need to help the child heal who was traumatized. She is still there, but we need to refer to her in third-person. The idea is that a person will less likely fall into a pattern of blaming themselves for what happened to them as a child if we refer to that child in third-person.
According to my counselor, the young girl that was hurt long ago is still in me hiding and kind of running the show in a way. She might be silent, but she is affecting my adult life. She hid away to protect herself, but was never given the opportunity to heal.
During my last EMDR session, I was tasked to imagine the girl. Not judge her, or analyze her, or force her to do anything. Just be there. I was then task to imagine her in a safe place. The image that came to mind was her sitting in the grass, under a tree, while holding her cat. This is where the girl went to hide and she has stayed there all these years. The girl did not want to talk, but she found comfort with someone being there.
Dissociation hit me as my counselor was talking me through our EMDR session. All the images whooshed away to grayness leaving me feeling dizzy and disoriented. Fortunately, my counselor was able to get me grounded again. As an alternative to what we had been working on, she suggested that I write a narrative in third-person about the girl. I was to focus on only one trauma that the girl had experienced.
My traumas are all twisted up together in many layers, so focusing on only one trauma is difficult for me, but I decided to try to write a narrative anyway. Below is the result of my first attempt of writing a narrative about myself as a child in third-person. I could have continued writing more, but my goal was to try to stay concise. Keep in mind, I was not diagnosed autistic until I was 36 years old, yet all the signs were there.
There once was a young girl who hid in her room. Her room was the only place that felt like hers. She was allowed to decorate her room how she wanted. No one yelled at her while she was in her room. She was left alone.
Life became harder when she left her room. She had to be careful how she talked. Her father would tease and make fun of how she spoke. Her mother would ignore her or dismiss the girl unless she wanted something from the girl. Yelling happened a lot. Her father would yell at everyone in the house and her mother would chastise her for not being how her mother wanted her to be. The girl could not understand why this happened.
When the girl stayed in her room, she was left alone. She did not like being alone. She would ask her parents how to make friends. She was told to talk to people, but was never guided on how to do that. People seemed uncomfortable when she would talk. She was told she was quiet, shy, and stuck-up simply because she didn’t talk much. The girl didn’t understand why people thought of her in these ways. She had trouble pronouncing words. She found her mind went blank around people, there were no words, and she didn’t know how to ask for help.
When she tried to ask for help, she was told to figure it out herself or that she was being silly. She was told again that all she needed to do was talk to people. How do you talk to people when there are no words?
She was told to be more like her little sister who had friends. The girl couldn’t understand how to be like her little sister. How could she be like someone else? What was wrong with her?
She was told to loosen up and not try to control everything. This only confused the girl more. How was she controlling everything? How does one “loosen up”? This didn’t make any sense to the girl.
There was so much confusion being around people. The girl always felt there was something wrong with her. No one seemed to notice how much she struggled. No one seemed to notice how lonely she was. No one seemed to notice how hard she tried. Nothing seemed to ever be good enough to those who shared a life with the girl, and yet the expectations kept climbing. The pressure to be someone other than herself grew and grew.
So, the girl would retreat to her room to be amongst her things and snuggle with her cat. She felt comfort amongst her belongings. She was left alone when she was in her room. She could listen to her music in peace while talking to her stuffed animals. She would practice pronouncing words on her own in private where she would not feel embarrassed.
Unfortunately, this peace would not last. The girl’s mother began to chastise her about her toys. Her mother seemed so angry. What was wrong with keeping the toys? The toys were taken care of and didn’t leave the girl’s room. The toys were special to her. The girl didn’t understand why her mother shamed her for having toys, toys that she had been encouraged to get not that long ago. Her sister wasn’t being shamed. Her sister was always allowed to keep her toys. The girl was protective of her belongings. She knew that her father would throw away anything that went into the garage. Her father didn’t like having things in the house either. He preferred bare walls, a television that only he controlled, and a chair that was only his.
The house that the girl lived in didn’t feel like hers. The house was an uncomfortable place to be in. When being inside the house became too much, she would go outside in the yard or down the street into the woods. When outside, she would find a special tree to be near, to touch, and even hug. She liked the feeling of the bark. She liked the smell of trees. She liked the intricate patterns in the trunks and leaves of the trees. She liked to watch the insects, birds, and squirrels that lived in the trees. The girl liked being around trees. Trees didn’t yell at her. Trees didn’t chastise her. The girl found that she could talk to the trees without having to speak. Trees were safe. Trees understood and helped her feel better. Trees told her it was going to be okay.
So, the girl wrapped herself up inside herself and went through the motions of the life she found herself in. She was expected to do what she was told and was taught to not make others upset. If people were upset, she had to find ways to make them feel better, but no one seemed to take much notice when she retreated.
Her mother would take it personally and ignore her. Her father would only interact with her on rare occasions. She was expected to come out of her room when requested and not to question. She was expected to be a good girl and do as she was told. Rules were rules and she could not disappoint. To disappoint meant more yelling and more chastising. The girl learned her needs did not matter, what she wanted did not matter. She wasn’t allowed to show much emotion, because it made others in her life uncomfortable.
The trees knew what she needed, though. The trees let her cry and let her scream. She would run and dance amongst the trees, playing in the leaves and making dolls, bracelets, and crowns with the pine needles.
Returning home meant more silence, more demands, and more loneliness. She wanted to hide when she was at home. Her cat was her only companion. When at home, she felt something wasn’t right with her. She felt tense and on guard all the time. She wasn’t like how the others wanted her to be.
She wanted wings so she could fly above everything and everyone. She wanted to soar above the trees, like Hawk Girl. She wanted the power to run incredibly fast, like Flash Gordon. She loved the feeling of the wind on her face as she rode her bike fast down hills. The sensation made the girl feel like she was free.
And that was what she really wanted, to feel free. Feeling the wind on her face made sense to the girl. Feeling the texture of the bark on trees made sense to the girl. Feeling the softness of a cat’s fur made sense to the girl. Moving fast made sense to the girl. Loosing herself in her music made sense to the girl. Caring for her toys made sense to the girl.
What the other people in her life were saying to her and wanting her to do did not make sense. The expectations being placed on the girl did not make sense to her. She felt so alone and suffocated in the house she lived in, but outside amongst the trees where she could run, bike, hike, dance, move, and be loud is where the girl got a glimmer of what feeling free was like. To the girl, freedom meant having the space and permission to feel like herself.
Unfortunately, much of that was eventually taken away from her. As the years went past, the girl’s mother seemed to become even more controlling and her father even more distant. The girl did not know that there had been a box being built around her to contain her. The girl did not know that the other people in her life were uncomfortable with her spirit and felt that her spirit needed to be controlled. She was still being expected to be someone else.
The silence inside the girl grew as she wrapped herself even more into herself. She was in pain and wanted to find protection from the containment her life had become. The young girl stopped talking. She retreated deep within herself. She just wanted to be left in peace sitting under her tree with her cat staring at the blue sky, feeling the green grass under her feet and the warm breeze on her face, and listening to the birds flying overhead.
And this is where she has remained to this day.
(Images do not belong to me.)