On Vulnerability

a cure for what ails you, abuse, anxiety, memories, ptsd, therapy, three hopeful thoughts

There are so many words in the English language relating to innocence and vulnerability, and most of them can bring me way down if I’m not careful. They provoke some ancient anxiety that I’ve come to realize, with the help of my excellent therapist, are linked to what she calls my “wounded younger self.” (I was incredibly skeptical of inner child work at first, but it is incredibly effective and incredibly healing.)

“Little” is an adjective that, when paired with certain words that also remind me of innocence, usually messes me up emotionally. That’s the word that got under my skin tonight.

I’ve been feeling kind of “off” the last few days. I recently blocked my mother completely on my phone–including the second number I thought she’d deleted until she used it to contact me after I blocked the first number–and was treated to some really unsettling dreams on Monday and Tuesday night.

Monday’s main feature involved me skipping my grandmother’s birthday party because my mother was going to be there and I knew she’d be drunk. Tuesday’s late-night horror show involved a healthy helping of guilt because I was hiding from her (in a Target, of all places) while she wailed and lamented that she “couldn’t believe [I] didn’t want to talk to her.”

Naturally, this put me in a pretty weird headspace today. Wednesdays are my big clinical days and I do group as well as individual client work. As such, I generally store my feelings away to deal with later and do a pretty good job of not thinking about them at all during the day because I’m 100% focused on my clients. (Side note: I adore them, and I’m bummed that I’m leaving my practicum site in a few weeks!)

On the drive home from class this evening, though, those neglected feelings reared their ugly collective heads and roared.

The anxiety and guilt were so powerful that I considered just going to bed early and sleeping it off.

Instead, I took a shower.

I focused hard on those thoughts and attempted to get a good, cathartic cry in. Nothing happened.

I turned the focus to that wounded younger self I mentioned and took the opportunity to literally hug myself while I waited for the conditioner to work its magic on my decidedly unruly hair. I decided to speak aloud because I’m home alone most days during the week and hey, I knew the cat wouldn’t judge me. (Audibly, anyway.)

I told my younger self that it’s okay. I told her I love her and that I’m sorry she felt like no one could keep her safe. I told her that I’m going to do it. This changed into me speaking to whatever hypothetical future child I’ll end up having. I promised that child to take the best care of it I can and to make sure it never feels afraid or lonely.

And I cried. Instead of stifling it or trying to be tough, I gave myself over to it completely–ugly, wracking sobs. After a while, those sobs turned into relieved laughter that I’m sure sounded like I’d finally gone completely ’round the bend.

I think there’s something to be said for having a good cry.

On Monday, I spoke to my clients in group about the concept of “ghosts”–they had all shared some intense and profound stories about their deepest wounds, their secret shames, their most painful memories. I told them that while they can haunt you, they can’t physically hurt you. You can start to let go of them.

I led them in one of my new favorite exercises, which is “HA!” breathing. Basically, you take a deep breath and push that breath out while making a “HA!” sound. I opened the group with the exercise and invited them to imagine themselves yelling at someone or letting frustration out. I demonstrated (because I am not afraid to look silly anymore), and they loved it. After the big, intense sharing session, I led them in the exercise again, this time instructing them to imagine the “HA!” on the exhale as them blowing out part of their ghosts.

I’m glad it was a hit, and I encourage you all to try it, readers. Howling into the void or, as I called it, “therapeutic yelling,” is incredibly cathartic.



2 thoughts on “On Vulnerability

  1. My therapist says I don’t have DID…but I have disconnected from my emotional self. Most of the time I am numb but times when these sensations and jumbled mess of confusing emotions surface…along with conflicting judgements about them. It gets so bad that I just want them to stop….sometimes I self harm to shut them up…
    Any thoughts on how to deal with this?

    1. I’m not a therapist (yet) and am not your therapist (I think!), so I can’t really give clinical advice. However, I’d recommend doing some quick Google Fu on grounding exercises. 5-4-3-2-1 is one of my favorites–it always brings me back when the dissociation spikes, or whenever I need a quick thought-stopper.

      Essentially, you look around and name (either aloud or in your head) five things you can see. Then, close your eyes.

      – Name four things you can touch or feel–the weight of your body against your chair, your hair tickling your skin, etc.
      – Name three things you can hear
      – Name two things you can smell OR two smells you like
      – Name either one thing you love about yourself or one thing you can do to be good to yourself that day.

      Here’s a post I made about a breathing exercise: https://thethunderandtheroar.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/an-audio-post-4-7-8-breathing-exercise/

      Self-harm is, unfortunately, very common with dissociative disorders. Trying out other sensations can be helpful as an alternative. Holding an ice cube (though not long enough to hurt yourself) can provide the same type of release; snapping a rubber band lightly against your skin also works. I used to use a rubber band back in the day when I was rapid-cycling and dealing with a constant barrage of thoughts and feelings that, as you described, were so overwhelming that I would do anything for a release.

      Definitely keep working with your therapist on this! It can be a long road, but he/she should be able to recommend some other things that can provide some relief.

      Please remember to take care of yourself, dear reader! I’m here if you need a listening ear.

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