Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The pain, the 'baby' and me

So, how do I connect with this 'pre-speech baby' part of me that's behind the pain? The therapist and I talked about using touch, but what else?

Well, I'm finding that just stroking my own skin can be quite soothing, on the hand and wrist. The palm of my hand and the inside of my wrist (i.e. just below the pam) is particularly sensitive, and hence effective.

I also have a small teddy bear that my best friend gave me last year when she came to visit; it has very soft fur, and I find gently rubbing that around my face, especially the cheeks and lips, is comforting. Because of the softness of the fur, the teddy is more comforting than just my hand, so that tends to be the next step up in soothing that 'baby'. And I talk to 'her'; I find that constantly reassuring her that she's safe, is effective - 'You're OK, I've got you', that kind of thing. The kind of thing that no-one ever told me in my whole childhood.

The soothing and comforting is really the easy part, though - it's the anger that's the hardest to address. I spent quite a lot of time yesterday thinking about how a small baby might express anger. I wanted to kick and thrash and flail about like a toddler having a tantrum; I think it would work, but it would be just too painful, so that's no good. I could try screaming, but it doesn't feel like that would be very effective. It's always worked fairly well for venting my adult anger (or rather, the anger I feel that I now realise is actually rooted in the feelings of that tiny child), but it doesn't feel right for this.

I tried scratching at things, but that didn't help. I thought about 'stabbing' at something with my finger, but that didn't feel right either.I tried making 'baby screaming' noises - the sort of 'mewling' scream that babies do - it felt better than the last two, but not right. The only other thing I could think of that I did as a baby, was suck my thumb. That didn't seem likely, because you do it to comfort yourself, but I tried it anyway. And it worked! Bizarrely, agressively sucking my thumb seemed to serve to vent the anger, though I don't really understand why.

But all day yesterday, when the pain spiked and I sensed anger behind it, I sucked at my thumb, and each time it worked - it reduced the density of the pain, till it stopped all together. In fact, having been stuck in bed all afternoon in agony, with none of the medication working, as soon as I hit on the thumb sucking, I was able to get up. I followed the thumb sucking with soothing touch, when the anger had eased, and it actually left me feeling quite sleepy and relaxed. And not in pain.

Of course all of this is only any good when I'm at home on my own. It takes enormous concentration and a lot of time; it's no good when there are other people around, or when I'm having to concentrate on other things (e.g. walking!).

The reason I was stuck in bed at all was that I'd tried going into town for a couple of things; I knew when I did it that the pain was likely to flare badly, but I didn't want to be a prisoner to the pain, so I decided to do it anyway. I had to queue for about 10 minutes in the first shop, and nearly ended up collapsing on the floor. There followed over an hour stuck in a nearby coffee shop, waiting for the pills to go down enough to move. None of the mental stuff was of any use in these circumstances; I couldn't concentrate enough with people around, unable to lie down or even sit really comfortably. So it's only any good at home, for now at least.

Today, I tried going out to Tesco to get the rest of the stuff I couldn't get yesterday. Once again, it felt like things were going to flare up, but I had to go. As expected, it was a bad trip; I got everything and made it home, but it was a close call, and I was then stuck for several hours. What was behind the pain this time was different though.

Yesterday, it had been anger - an enormous, inexpressible, mute anger. Today there was just sadness and loneliness. The depth of the sadness shocked me though - it was just this unfathomable, bottomless sadness.It felt like it went on forever. Interestingly, the 'me' that was feeling this sadness was slightly older; there was language now - not big or complex, but words nontheless. And the really heart-wrenchingly sad thing was that this 'me' - slightly older, but still unmistakeably a baby - has given up on being held or comforted or loved. That was what struck me the most - the sense of defeat. That there was no point hoping for someone to come, because they never would. And she actually doesn't believe that it's real - that there's suddenly someone there who does care.

Every time I tried to 'comfort' this version of myself, I broke down. That awful sadness just hurt so so much, I couldn't bear it. I couldn't bear it - as an adult; how was a baby supposed to deal with it? I spent most of the morning in a cycle of the pain spiking, looking 'behind' it and finding this sadness, being overwhelmed by it and crying my heart out, then calming down for a bit, then the whole thing starting all over again. I couldn't stay with those feeings for very long, because they were just too enormous and too painful. So painful, in fact that later on, after the Tesco trip, when the pain started spiking again and I tried to look 'behind' it and see what was going on, there was nothing. It was blank, completely blank and empty, like everything had shut down.

Initially I thought it was that the 'baby' had shut down, because it was all so painful, but then I wondered if actually it was 'me'. If the adult me just couldn't bear to feel that sadness any more, because it hurt too much, and so I was stopping myself even feeling it.

That sort of thing has happened before, in therapy-type situations. I'll be dealing with incredibly intense feelings and then my mind clearly decides it's all just too much, and it switches everything off. It's quite scary, because you go from being awash with emotions, to feeling competely numb. This is different, because I'm feeling normal emotions just fine, but that well-spring of emotions behind the pain is blank. I'm going to have to talk to the therapist about what it means, and what I should do next.

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