Friday, January 19, 2007

Recovery: Emotionally Thawing Out.

One of the real tragedies resulting from major child abuse is your total inability to relate to life around you. Oh, sure, you are alive, you "appear" to be living, but inside you can't be reached by anyone. You are locked in a prison of terror.

One of the true shocks of therapy was learning that for most people, there was a difference between an event viewed on TV, or at a movie and actually living an event. For me, TV was more real than my "real" life. (another one of those: "oops" moments, where I again scrambled to try and "construct" reality).

So, as I continue in this fascinating, but at times, very strange new world of mental health, I'm discovering my emotions in real time. I'm experiencing the emotional reactions of other people and animals in real time also. It is most interesting and totally new to me.

All of this growth springs from my ever decreasing fear level. I cannot emphasize too strongly how much my fear kept me locked in an emotional deep freeze. It used to be, I'd go to an event, feel nothing while actually at the event and only "experience" it as a memory. A memory, when it was safe to feel, later, when I was alone. This is severe isolation which can be difficult to explain to people.

While at an event, I'd attempt to "act" correctly. Since I was alone most of the time, I learned most of my social skills from TV. If you give me a gift, I'd "act" happy. If you were punishing me, I'd attempt to "act" like I cared enough not to act up again. I just would look for something I'd seen, or read somewhere to "show" the expected reaction. But, my emotional core was not there at all. Only when safely alone, would I be able to process what had happened.

However, I feel very deeply about people who are close to me and have a way of touching your emotions. I care deeply and can express it in written communication. People would give me feedback like: "This is the kind of card that is very emotional and makes me uncomfortable." To which I'd draw a complete blank. I had no idea what my friends were talking about. To me, it was all like a big math equation. I do behavior A and (according to TV), you'll react with emotion X. You express emotion Y to me and I'm expected (according to a novel), to react with emotion Z in response. I always felt like I wasn't quite all there. I totally related to the Simon and Garfunkel song, Fak'in It. Hell, that WAS how I managed my world. It was all a gigantic theory, I felt like i was working without a net..

But of late, sweet Marie has managed to get past my old defenses and actually touch my emotions. Sometimes when I'm giving her a scalp massage I can truly feel her reaction. I sense emotions as physical things. If you could see them, it would be like little puffs of energy coming off of the person reacting. This little cloud of reaction drifts towards me, I feel it and it goes away. I first noticed this with Hannah, the dog.

I was giving her a tummy rub and I suddenly became aware of a swarm of reaction coming from the dog to me. It was like a swarm of little puffs of feeling coming from the dog to me. She was very happy. It made me joyful to interact like that. It was all new to me. I also wondered if I was having some kind of altered state due to a possible medication problem. I do not always feel emotions, but I believe when they are particularly strong, is when I tend to sense they are there.

The next time I experienced the emotional reaction was from sweet Maria. She had fallen into a light sleep as I massaged her scalp. I was happy to be there and I again noticed emotions. Same general reaction, but she felt different from the emotions of Hannah, the dog. Bigger bits of feeling in each Little emotional puff. It was really quite pleasant to experience this.

But, I hadn't noticed any changes on my side of the emotional equation. Then Maria and I began sharing more Girlie Days with lunch. It has been established that I absolutely adore garlic buttered, french bread. So, Maria has taken to buying me one or two loaves of this bread, when I come to dog sit. It really stirred something way down deep inside me. But, I'm not afraid of Maria, so I wasn't afraid to accept her demonstration of affection.

Then came Christmas. Maria, my dear, you really got to me. Now I know what it is like to feel emotionally vulnerable and uncomfortable. I had so much joy, I almost cried. Since I'm saving money for both a new computer and a Boston vacation, I assumed my "Christmas" present of $100 would automatically go into my savings account.

I have no problem with this arrangement. Maria, however, explicitly stated that she wanted me to have at least part of that money to do something as a gift from her. She guessed I'd want to go to the Marriott for dinner. Tears welled up in my eyes. I have truly come to terms with giving up some of my normal "fun" activities now, for the money I have to save for later. I was completely moved by her love. It would be a real treat to go to the Marriott for a real dinner - about $50. Something I'd figured I'd not do again until mid October.

The last time I dog sat for Maria, I discovered a loaf of my beloved french bread in the Refrigerator, which she'd just put there for me to find. Again, I was moved to tears. It is wonderful to be able to react to life in real time, instead of "experiencing" it via a memory, later.

Now, that I'm getting weepy over things loved ones say and do, I understand that expression of discomfort. I'd feel really silly getting all drippy in front of Maria. But, I get the sense, it is meaningful to her. I love to watch others do "joy", so why should I be surprised if people like me doing "joy" with them also?

I did indeed go to the Marriott for dinner. It was a much richer experience then when I'm spending my own money for the adventure. I kept remembering how Maria insisted I DO something for Christmas. It was almost like I was having love for dinner.

It was a beautiful, totally new, encounter with a part of life I'm just becoming aware of. I am so grateful to finally be learning not to be afraid all the time. This is all so new to me. I want to continue documenting recovery as I'm discovering it. Guys, it is really worth the struggle to find mental health. Took me almost twenty years from when I first made a commitment to getting well in therapy to my experiences today. But, this emotions stuff is really nurturing. It is almost like another level of physical touch. Good bye emotional isolation and hello mental health!

1 comment:

MacPhilly said...

You go CyberGal, keep up the great work!