Friday, 9 March 2012

What I'm up against

The therapist was very good today. She helped me to better understand my reaction to the show last night, as well as decoding my current obsession with certain songs, and why music in general is so important at the moment. Oh, and she helped me to crystallise exactly what it is that's going on in my head, and why.

One of the songs I can't stop listening to is Jar of Hearts, by Christina Perri. Whilst some say the song is just about a relationship breakup, I think there's much more to it than that; to me, it's about a woman who has escaped an abusive relationship, her ex has found her and she's telling him that she's found her strength and self esteem, and she'll never let him hurt her - physically or emotionally - again.

The therapist commented  that I have suffered a number of abusive relationships (my mum, my dad, my ex-boyfriend, my ex-best mate at uni), but that the worst one at the moment is with the pain. She said the pain is acting like an abuser, dominating my life, trying to control me, trying to keep me down, cutting me off from outside influences and support. (NB when reading this, keep in mind my 13th Feb post about the pain being a separate, parasitic entity.)

If I was in an abusive relationship, I would leave - I've done it before. I left my parents and later outed and rejected my father. I left my ex-boyfriend, I ended the friendship with that particular 'best' mate. But with the abuser being internal, I don't have the option of leaving; I have to find a way to make it leave. And that feels much harder.

People like me, who were abused as children, often wind up in abusive relationships later in life. It's because that's the only template for 'love' you had during your vital formative years. In order to feel 'normal', you're compelled to be in the same type of relationship, with the same dynamics at play. That's why I ended up with R for 11 years, letting him bully and emotionally abuse me, and why I developed certain friendships like that one at uni. The therapist believes the pain is serving the same function; it's giving me all the feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, inability to cope etc, that an abuser would.

The other thing some abuse victims do, is become abusers themselves. It's frighteningly common. They repeat the pattern they experienced as children on others - because it felt 'normal' to them, or because they're trying to the blank out the powerlessness they felt then. I've never done that and I never would. To anyone else, at least. But apparently I'm doing it to myself, through the pain.

The difference lies in the conscious/subconscious divide. Abusing someone else requires conscious action, and there's nothing that could ever make me do that. You can consciously abuse yourself through addictive behaviour - drink, drugs, etc, but I've never had a problem with any of that, despite being on such strong medication for so long. You can abuse yourself subconsciously, though, through somatic illness; like chronic pain. And that's what she says is happening. I am being 'abused' by chronic pain which I have subconsciously 'created'.

The therapist believes that of all the reasons we've unearthed for 'creating' the pain, the most important, most telling, most destructive, and most influential one, is self-punishment. I've 'created' the pain because I believe I am a terrible person who needs to be punished. I think this, because my mother taught me every day through her rejection and refusal/inability to love me, that I am simply unloveable. This was reinforced by the boyfriend who used to taunt me with the phrase 'I love you', then go on to clarify that he meant the wood, Yew, and think the pain and upset it caused me was hysterically funny. My father told me every day that I was too stupid and too worthless to be loved. Then he punished me for that fact by sexually violating me, physically striking and emotionally traumatising me. And she just sat there and let him. Subsequent rape by someone I thought was my friend, and by that same boyfriend, plus his years of 'stealth bullying', all cemented the belief that this was precisely what I deserved.

The effect of all this on my psyche was catastrophic. By withholding her affection and attention, my mother made me desperate for love, and convinced me that I would never get it. My father made me certain that the lack of love and the inability to get it, were both fundamentally my fault. Then he taught me to punish myself for those failings - by attacking both my body and my mind - whilst she gave him the space and the opportunity to do it. As a child craving her mother's love and attention, I created fantasies about being loved and cared for. The only difference I could discern at that time between me and my sister was her disability, and so I became convinced that that was why my mother loved my sister and not me. I believed that to get love, you had to be ill. And so, years later, unbeknownst to me, my subconscious created something that would get me the love and attention I needed, and at the same time punish me for being so fundamentally unloveable. All those terrible lessons came together into the chronic pain that has destroyed my life. 

The pain is firmly entrenched now. It had 36 years to develop and it's been here, controlling everything, for five more; it doesn't want to leave, and every time I make progress towards ousting it, it fights back (again, see that 13th Feb post). That's what happened last night.

I defied the pain by going to the gig. All day, it was trying to stop me going - that's why it was flaring up so badly, why I had to take so many more pills, why I needed the sling when I haven't used it for weeks. It's also why I was feeling so scared about going out on my own, and why, all week, I'd been suffering feelings of foreboding and impending doom. I felt like I'd done something terribly, teerribly wrong, and that punishment was just around the corner. The therapist says that the 'impending doom' is the voice of the pain-as-abuser, keeping me down, convincing me it's all my fault. My recent certainty that my judgement is inherently flawed - why else would I have picked such a lousy boyfriend, such a terrible best mate in uni etc - is the same thing. I've internalized all of those negative childhood voices and their messages, and I'm continuing to beat myself with them.

So the feeling last night that going to the gig had been a huge mistake was just another manifestation of that. I have to find ways to shut off the negative voices and turn up the positive ones: my Nan, my friends, my baby sister - the people who love me and are there for me. I also have to concentrate on my achievements - however minor they might seem - and on rewarding myself for them.

So the fact that I took the decision to book tickets for last night, even though it was supposed to be something to do 'post-pain', is reason to celebrate. So is the way I successfully got the message across to the booking office of what I would need, so that they provided it; that I refused to let the fear stop me going out - or the hideous traffic jam on the way; that I thought ahead and took a cushion with me, to make an unbearable chair bearable (I'd never even have made it through the first half otherwise!); that I was able to enjoy the show and laughed non-stop for two hours; that I had half-time-ice-cream, just like everyone else, even though it meant accosting the seller when she was all cleared up and finished. (The therapist also repeated that she thinks the lactose-intolerance is a subconscious rejection of my mother, by my body treating milk products - inherently 'maternal' - as poison. I didn't really go for the theory last time, but the 'poison' analogy clinched it for me.)

I didn't let the pain win. But then it fought back later that night. It was basically saying, 'you can't have a good time like that without paying a price'. And it's a high one - feeling I got it wrong, feeling I've cheated by trying to rush the process, feeling it's my own fault it backfired, feeling I'm just getting what I deserve, feeling that going back to the status quo a year ago would be a bad thing.

But the reality is that yesterday, I went to the theatre for the first time since the accident. I beat the fear and the pain and the self-doubt and I did what I wanted to do. Getting back to that staus quo would allow me to get back to work and would be a stepping stone to full recovery - that has to be a good thing.

I have to keep on doing things like this, I have to keep on recognising the positives, rewarding myself for my achievements - like all the work I've done over the past few days on finding new speakers so I can continue to use and enjoy music. I have to grind and grind at that negative voice that's punishing me, until the pain just gives up and fucks off.

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