I've beginning to really struggle with incorporating my emotions into my life, and I need some help.
So the past couple of weeks have been challenging after a really good stretch. I've noticed a pretty big spike in my anxiety levels after things had seemed pretty stable for a while now. For the most part I'm dealing with it as best I can, trying hard not to withdraw from the world and stay connected to friends, but it's getting harder.
I know that there are a lot of guys who have virtual video playbacks of their abuse. I'm not one of them. When they think about or are reminded of their abuse they can get frozen almost literally reliving the experience by watching it in their minds. This has never happened to me, as I've always been somewhat detached from my abuse. I have some memories of what happened, but I've never really felt that same kind of horror, rage, fear, etc. when I think about what was done to me.
What became clear to me this week was that, contrary to what I had always assumed, I DO in fact suffer flashbacks -- emotional flashbacks. Instead of having the virtual video memory of what happened come back to me, I relive the emotions that I felt while being abused (and, to be perfectly honest, a lot of the emotions that I must have dissociated from as a child growing up in a chaotic and miserable situation).
The experience that most drove this all home for me this week was a nightmare I had earlier this week. I woke up from my dreams in a state of total fear that I couldn't break through. Even though I was in bed with my girlfriend, in a totally safe place, and with someone I absolutely trust and love, I could not shake myself free of the terror I was feeling. My whole body was frozen in fear and I was aware of being cognizant of both my real present surroundings and also of the emotional state I was in that was in no way an appropriate response to my surroundings.
It was very hard not to completely give into the panic and start shutting down, but I tried very hard to keep checking myself and reminding myself that the feelings I was experiencing, though painful and uncomfortable, were in some way different than what I was actually living through at that moment(i.e. lying in bed with my girlfriend having her hold me and tell me she loves me). I called in sick to work (as I was in absolutely no shape to do anything productive) and made an appointment to see my T.
In my session I realized that the nightmare was a form of processing and opening myself up to the emotions that I should have felt in the past, but that I had managed somehow to bury and avoid feeling. In other words a flashback. In order to survive the circumstances I faced as a child, I literally shut myself off from experiencing my emotions (don't ask me how I did it, the training came at a very early age). I've spent the majority of my life in a totally cerebral manner, thinking and processing almost everything, never allowing myself to "let go" and "be myself". But, in reality I've also spent most of that time fighting through flashbacks of fear and pain that I continued to bury and plough through, thinking that I was just being stupid, silly, or too sensitive.
The fact that the nightmare had such a strong hold on me upon waking up means that I'm getting closer and closer to incorporating my feelings and my emotions back into my life. In the past few months, I've finally begun to be able to accept myself in a way that I never dreamed possible. I have been able to simply "be" and live in the moment without preprocessing and hyper-analyzing ever choice I make. More importantly, I've begun to be able to distance myself from the mundane everyday problems that come up in life (like missing a subway train for instance), and NOT take responsibility for everything that happens.
While on the one hand I'm exicted about this, on the other, I'm really struggling with the dawning realization that there's a lot of anxiety and pain and fear and bad crap buried inside of me that's coming up to the surface. The more and more I authentically experience the present moment without those hyper-analytical denfenses, the more I get in touch with real emotions. The more I get in touch with my real emotions, the more I open the door to this storehouse of pain that I never felt in the past.
I'm beginning to feel completely run down. As I'm writing this, my head is beginning to throb. Earlier today my girlfriend and I made love, and although it was good in the moment, I've watched as a mounting tide of panic and fear has slowly begun flooding into me. I know that this fear has nothing to do with what I'm experiencing right now, but the feelings from the past are flooding into me and I'm feeling those feelings right now.
All right, so after this whole long story here are my questions:
1. Does anyone else relate to this? Do you have/Did You have this experience?
2. How can I get through these times without stifling my emotions, but also without losing touch with the present moment and getting lose in some vortex of past emotions?
3. When does it stop? I mean, when will this stop being such a challenge?
4. Does anyone have any advice for how to discuss this with my girlfriend? She is amazingly loving and accepting of me. And she knows everything about my past already. I do share with her most of this stuff, but I find myself getting tounge tied and confused when trying to tell her about it.
I'm not scared of what's going on. I understand it better than I ever have before. I know that I'm going to make it through this phase into a stronger, better place. It just sucks right now. Really, really sucks.
"I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self...."
Healing D.H. Lawrence