Caught Off Guard

Sal: Make sure you get enough sleep and drink lots of water. The emotional implications of this may catch you off guard.

Me, in my head: ‘ya, ya, I’ve been through a lot. This is nothing. I feel great!’

Sal warned me, I just didn’t expect the amount of emotion that was coming my way. I had to work later than I wanted to last night, until well after midnight. I then had trouble falling asleep. As I kept drifting off, I was dreaming of that girl from the barren wasteland. At one point it was me and her, sitting on this stone in a secluded area, with a couple toddler mes and a baby me playing outside on the grass. 

And my teenage self looked at me and says “they needed some fresh air”

And I say “thank you for giving it to them.” 

And that’s it. 

I woke up this morning after not enough sleep so full of emotion that was close to the surface. My husband is still angry with me from the behaviour I exhibited just over a week ago, and has not felt like touching. I get this, and I don’t think he is doing anything wrong. If I didn’t feel like being touched I wouldn’t want him forcing it on me. But this morning I asked him for a kiss goodbye, or some sort of contact at all and he said ‘no, I’m not ready yet’ and I deteriorated into this mess.

And by mess I mean emotions everywhere. Sobbing on the floor of the bedroom, in the fetal position, unable to form coherent sentences. It was this sense of being denied comfort, it was this life or death feeling of not being heard. It was WAY out of proportion for what had happened but Sal had unearthed that longing and sense of loss and my husband managed to tap it right on the head with his “no” to contact this morning. 

I could not convince myself to go to work. Dave, my boss and good friend, ended up convincing me I would feel better in the office and I shouldn’t be alone, so I took an Ativan (the first time I’ve ever used one during the day) and got through my work day.

Now I’m at home making quinoa and salmon, alone while my husband is at our sports game (that I captain, but I just could not go tonight – plus I can’t play). 

I’m finally taking some time and taking some breaths. I still feel like those emotions are much closer to the surface than before seeing Sal and I definitely better understand the need for space between sessions of cranio. 

I will listen more closely next time. 

I’m also curious if this will last until I see A on Thursday. I am hopeful it does, honestly. I’ve come in contact with some very real and very raw emotions around longing and loss, about self sabotaging, and about my preoccupation with receiving male comfort, as if it could fill that need gap. I also have this desire to just be held. 

It’s going to be an interesting week. 

My Cranio Experience

I come in, we sit down. Sal has their laptop out, and we’re talking about my current experience, emotional and physical. Anywhere I feel stuck or not whole. I speak about my desire to self sabatoge, feeling undeserving of this peace, and this sense of intellectually understanding my story but somatically not being in touch with it at all. 

Sal outlines what a session might look like, where hands may go, and asks if I’m okay with all of the possible combinations. I say yes. They also mention to me that it should feel pleasant and relaxing the majority of the time, not painful emotionally or physically, that emotions will come up, and pass by, but that if I feel discomfort or anxiety staying for long periods of time or I start to get stuck and spiral into my story that I should let them know. 

We talk about a resource, a grounding image or something that feels comforting. I settle on having a glass of wine in the bath, and ask if that’s okay. Sal says yes and asks where I feel that, when I think about that wine, and the bath, and tells me to remember that if I ever find myself drifting away mentally. 

Then I get on to the massage table. Clothes on, and under a sheet. It’s too hot for the blanket. Sal starts at my feet, eventually my right side, then my head for a period of time, always moving back down to my feet. The hour passes so quickly, that when we are done, I can hardly believe it. It’s a few minutes early, but Sal tells me my body felt ‘done’, and I agree. I had felt a lot during that session, and found myself being drawn towards agitation when Sal stopped.

I tell Sal that I felt a whole longing to be known and a simultaneous encouraging from parts of me to let Sal in, that Sal is safe. I also felt, very briefly but really painfully, this acute sense of absolute loss. And then I would resource. Its hard to explain, this flowing of “let Sal know you” and this longing to be known for real, this sense that who I am out in the office and even at home isn’t congruent anymore with who I feel I am. I also came acrosd the brief but extraordinarily painful sense of loss a few times, once when Sal first placed their hands on me, and again when my head was both cradled in one of Sal’s hands, and the other was gently on my forehead.  

I came face to face with that teenager from the barren wasteland, encouraging her to join me, but also being led through the caverns. It was a very intense visual experience. I shared all of it with Sal afterwards, and was so grateful they treated it gently. It isn’t easy opening up like that. 

When it’s over, even though I’ve spent time being uncomfortable, I almost want it to continue, I feel like I’m in touch with a part of myself I haven’t been able to communicate with.  It’s like my body went as far as it could go, feeling, and then retreated, like I had been riding the crest of a wave.

Sal asks me if I’m driving. I’m not. It’s a good thing. We laugh. Sal sits with me until I’m ready to get up, and then makes sure I’m alright. I hear from them their perception of me and my body and experience and considering Sal doesn’t know my history, it’s right on point. They express potential for another session, and I agree. There were parts of me that were very anti the experience but also yearning to be explored, and there will be time and space for them. I’m going to make space for all of them. 

It smells like rain, now, I can feel the breeze on my bare shoulders and someone is watering their lawn which in this heat is creating a perfect scent. I’ve walked two blocks to the bus, as Sal suggested. 

I have this desire to nourish myself that I haven’t in a while, with good food and a hot bath and maybe some journalling. I have some work to do as well, but I know now for next time (which, by the way, is the 11th) to be very gentle with myself post cranio. 

Overall it has done what I hoped. It has allowed me brief access into parts of me I can’t always see. It has allowed those parts of me a way to try, tentatively, emerging. It has allowed me to speak to the deepest parts of myself.

It’s exactly what I need.

Moving

Recently, my husband and I have been toying with the idea of moving to Australia.

There are many reasons why – his health, our marriage, space, adventure, the tech industry there would pay me double what I’m making here because they need my skill set.

All I can keep thinking is, is it running away?

Is it running away from my family?

And the two things that I think of that may really stop me.. leaving A, would be a pre requisite. And bugs. I don’t like bugs. 

But… adventure.

I built a support system here, who says I can’t build one in Australia too? 

It wouldn’t be imminent. But we want it to happen. So, these are things I’m thinking about.

Straighten That F*cking Crown

This morning, I called my Mom.

I know, I know, I’m a sucker for punishment. 

But I had such a good session with A yesterday, back to feeling supported (hence the gratitude post). And this morning a female entrepreneur group I am a part of really rallied around the fact that some of our Moms kind of suck, and I learned a lot from it (more on that tomorrow).

We were talking, and she asked what I had coming up, and I was like ‘well, it’s my birthday next week’ and she was like “really? Oh, I forgot about that.” 

I waited to feel angry, or anything really. This the woman who didn’t speak to me for a year when I forgot Mother’s Day. 

But there was just acceptance. This is the way it is. And her and my Dad are going to Europe soon and they have a funeral to go to (these are all the reasons why she couldn’t remember the day she birthed me).

Sometimes it’s easier to see her through the lens of someone who never had a chance to grow up. 

So I hung up the phone, straightened my crown, and got to work. 

Gratitude

I know that I am supposed to try to rely on letters less, I do. I swear I heard you. I mostly hear you, it just takes time for the messages to sink in. 

This is different though. This is a letter of gratitude.

Gratitude for the fact that you will (and do) repeat yourself, regardless of how many times you’ve said it before. 

Gratitude for the relationship we have built, the space that we have created and the light you hold as we explore all the dark and windy and twisted passages that make up my deepest secrets, darkest tunnels, and biggest fears.

It’s gratitude for the patience you exhibit when I’m sure sometimes all you want to do is speak.

It’s gratitude for the challenges you issue me when you know I know better or you want me to look at things differently or try something new.

It’s gratitude for the fact that even though you’ll ask twice, and encourage me to challenge my own assumptions, you respect the word no. 

It’s gratitude for the strength you have to let me experience whatever it is I’m experiencing, without intervention or interruption. 

It’s gratitude for the space you hold for me when you’re tired, or dealing with your own shit, or having a day, or you’re cranky or sick, and it’s extra gratitude for when it’s those days AND I’m being a shit. You have never not showed up for me. Not once have you not showed up. 

It’s gratitude for those corrective experiences.

It’s gratitude for the fact that I don’t believe you will purposely suddenly abandon me anymore. You’ve crossed the line to ‘people I’m afraid will die’, no longer in the category of ‘people I’m afraid will leave.’

It’s gratitude for all the parts of your own experience you’ve shared with me. It’s gratitude for those moments when I am vulnerable and you are vulnerable in return. 

It’s gratitude for the fact that at some point you decided to switch careers and help people do the work you have been doing and continue to do for yourself. Even if I’m the only person you have helped (and I highly doubt that), that decision had a ripple effect. Never underestimate the importance of that choice.

It’s gratitude for you weathering my indecision and threats to quit, or actual quitting. My silence, my anger, my emotions. 

It’s gratitude for the fact you try to get me to name my experiences first, but that you’ll take the lead and say the hard things sometimes so I don’t have to.

It’s gratitude for not just listening and watching, but hearing and seeing me. 

It’s gratitude for the compassion you model – offering it not only to me, but to yourself, and to my family as well. 

It’s gratitude that I have trouble expressing, and it’s gratitude for the fact that immediately after I’m done reading this I’ll dodge every conversation about us, and you’ll still be there to patiently redirect.

It’s gratitude for the fact that in this room, my emotions come first but they also don’t trump yours. That you don’t let the importance of a back and forth, cooperative discussion be dismissed. That I am not unaware of how I impact you. 

Gratitude that you model it’s okay to cry, and it’s normal to feel the whole range of emotions as a human being.

It’s gratitude for the fact that you bring all of yourself to be with me in this room every single time we meet, and that’s such a gift. 

It’s gratitude that you expect nothing in return.

And it’s gratitude that when I called that day, I found someone who can walk all the lines that need walking as a therapist, but still admit to her mistakes and model that above all, we’re all human. 

And it’s gratitude for the fact that you’re also teaching me life can be beautiful, and it’s in these raw and open moments of connection that magic can happen. 

It’s gratitude for voluntarily weathering the storm with me, over and over. 

This letter is about my gratitude for you. 

Thank you. For everything. 

Shutting Those Emotions Down

There’s a point in yesterday’s session with A when I start to cry. Big, round, tears. It’s hot in her office and they’re hotter. And I turn my head to the right, so that I am not looking at her, and within thirty seconds, I’m composed.

Did you just stop yourself from crying?” She asks, somewhat incredulously, as I look back at her with no tears, and no visual signal of anything being wrong.

I nod. I did. It happens almost automatically. 

“That’s incredibly impressive. I’ve never seen someone who can shut down such big emotions like that before. I know you do, but not that big. I imagine it usually happens faster, I don’t always get to see.”

I don’t say anything. I haven’t been saying much all session, really. 

Can you tell me what you do? Tell me about the experience inside you. I want to understand.”

I didn’t really give her a big answer then, mumbled something about patterns, but this is exactly what happens, if it’s slow enough to catch. 

This is what I visualize.

First, the pit in my chest where the feelings live, I imagine a big bottomless bag like the kind my Mom used to get Scrabble tiles out of. It has drawstrings and is velvet on the outside. And I put all the emotions back into the bag. Shove them there. Sometimes forcefully, sometimes not.

And I draw the drawstrings as tight as they will go. And then, I put the bag in a box. The type of box varies, and I’m sure they have meaning. Sometimes I wrap chain around the box. And all of this happens usually when I’ve closed my eyes and can visualize against a black background.

I usually open my eyes and then keep visualizing the box being buried in a big hole, the kind cartoon characters dig when they’re looking for China. And then I fill that hole with concrete, and erect New York City on top of the hole. It’s always New York City, and normally the box is beneath the empire state building. 

Once everything is safely buried I switch tactics again to whatever pattern around me I find most soothing. Counting ceiling tiles, listening to a clock tick, counting to 300 by 3’s in my head, visualizing a perfect stack of dominos falling over. A chess board, it’s perfect patterns of red and black. Those are my go tos, anyways. It really depends on where I am, who I’m with, etc. 

And then I’m able to swallow the tears and the emotion and look back at someone and be completely composed. This takes me less than a minute, even with the most intense emotions. If I don’t feel it’s safe to display what I’m feeling, down go the emotions and up goes the city. 

Unless I’m drinking, which is when the process breaks and I end up sobbing in front of my boss at a dinner party while drunk (yup, it’s happened. Actually, how he handled that is why he’s now one of my closest friends. You’d think that would be a lesson in letting people in).

This is my biggest block. And it’s hard because it’s automatic. Sometimes it happens without me noticing. And so, my question is, how can I interrupt that and create a sense of safety around it while still honouring my need to protect myself and not pushing too hard? How do I interrupt the process and let myself feel? 

I know that once that city is up nobody is getting at that emotion for a while. I also know that if I get space to look away and close my eyes, it’s a lot harder to bring things back about. I also know it’s about safety. At one point, it was only about being safe. And after a while, its replaced my ability to feel difficult emotions. 

I’ve told A for weeks I need to cry. This is why I can’t. 

And I think I’m about to ask for her help in interrupting this process at the right times, in moving forward.

Craniosacral Therapy – What It Is & Why I’m Trying It

Before I get into what craniosacral therapy is, and why I’m trying it, I want to give you a brief update. I’ve found a family therapist, we’ll call her Elle. She isn’t available for a month, so I’m seeing her June 29. This is fine by me, as I really need to think about how I want to proceed, and also let my husband and Mom know I won’t be involved in this situation anymore unless there is a neutral third party. I just can’t be. So they have to be willing to show up and work with me on this, or I’m not going to hear about it from either of them. I’m not their counselor. This is why I went to find another one. She has years of experience working with families, and has evening and weekend appointments. And, most importantly, can remain way more neutral than I think A would be able to (because I think, first and foremost, A would behave like my therapist, and not our therapist). I’ve never been a fan of having multiple therapists at a time, but in this situation, where hopefully my Mom, husband, and I can have a session together, I think its beneficial as long as I keep my lines drawn. I simply do not need my attachment issues with A getting involved in this situation. That’s messy enough.

Alright, craniosacral therapy. I’m really excited to try it but also very aware that it may bring up shit I don’t want to deal with. So that’s a definite consideration about all this here.

What is it? It’s a form of bodywork, or an alternative therapy, that uses gentle touch to manipulate the joints of the sacrum (pelvis bone) and cranium – hence the name cranial-sacral. A practitioner may also apply light touches to a patient’s spine, and pelvis. It came about from an osteopath and largely comes from the practice of cranial osteopathy.

Essentially, its a bit woo-woo when you get into it (even Sal called it woo-woo, so I feel comfortable doing it myself). The idea is that palpating certain areas of the body and maintaining deep connection with the client can help detect the (asserted – no scientific proof as of yet) small, rhythmic movements of the cranial bones in response to cerebrospinal fluid pressure – and that selective pressures may be used to manipulate the cerebrospinal fluid to assist in the release of tension/stress. The goal is to release stress in those areas that alleviates stress and pain – tension that sometimes we have been holding our whole lives.

Biodynamic craniosacral involves less manipulation than the other version of craniosacral therapy – which is good – when it comes to my head/neck/spine/fluids/whatever I don’t want anyone willy nilly twisting things around anywhere.

What I really like about it is that it involves touch, which has recently been a thing in my therapy (and the more I think about it maybe a thing I don’t want in that relationship). It also involves the creation of a contained and held space for stress to be released. Establishing comfort is a crucial tenant of craniosacral therapy, and ensures that what unfolds in a session is about a client and not occurring in reaction to a feeling of lack of safety.

The therapist quietly and gently holds parts of the body, listening for subtle rhythms and tracking changes within the system – listening to the body’s expression of what it needs. People I’ve talked to about their experiences have relaxed so deeply they fall asleep, entered a quiet meditation state, felt as though they are dreaming while awake, experienced memories and insights, felt like they were floating, and I’ve had two or three people say they felt like this massive energy had been released from within them – letting go of old patterns, and it resulted in them feeling incredibly emotional. One broke down crying in every single session after not being able to cry for years. The whole idea is that it’s body-led – shutting down the mind (ha! As if that’s possible), and letting everything release that needs releasing, while (literally) being held.

And while there isn’t much scientific evidence that I can find to pursue this, there isn’t any that says I shouldn’t, either. I think as with anything else it comes down to connection – if working with Sal can allow that hiding, young, inner part of me to express something its holding on to and improve my quality of life – I’m down.

I’ll let you know how it goes!