Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Past Woes, Present Treatments

My apologies for the time it has taken to write a post. This week has been extremely busy with one medical appointment after another. As a means of processing what I have recently experienced, I’ve decided to write about the experience.

I’ve begun to move beyond the most immediate hurt. For a time, I was momentarily fixated upon a very specific part of my life. That was to be expected. Colloquially, I call those times “the abuse”. Now we confront more sublime memories, each part of the trauma of day-to-day living. These are death by a thousand cuts, the little hurts that pile atop each other.

My early days existed in a state of unyielding isolation. Others made overtures of friendship, but I was too fearful to enter their company. I was a loner, the bookish kid in the corner. I read the way some of my peers chewed gum, constantly and conspicuously. As is often true with children in bad circumstances, I was able to escape my unhappiness by embracing the fantasy that existed in between the pages. My intellect took shape in solitude; my emotional intelligence lagged behind.

Human contact terrified me. This was never truer than when dropped off at school, or on days the family attended church. We arrived as a more or less intact unit every Sunday morning roughly around 9. Each of my siblings and I were dispersed to different Sunday School classrooms. I would stay in a dark, fusty smelling room comprised of whitewashed cinder block walls long enough to escape the eyes of my parents, and then run away.

Fortunately, the church had a graveyard adjacent to it. Ducking down, my knees resting on the immaculately mowed grass, I hid. Crouching down behind to a gravestone, I was hidden from sight. No one could find me there, or so I believed. My hiding place became common knowledge with time, and my parents eventually arrived to energetically and exasperatedly send me on my way once again. Eventually, I found I could tolerate a full hour’s worth of bible stories, warm juice, and other kids my age.

Stories like those come to mind now. Those fears are the ones we attack now. They do not surrender easily. As I follow the fingers of my therapist, tracking, seeking to push my eyes from side to side, they melt away to nothing. These miniature agonies are the most persistent, the kind inclined to reassert themselves between sessions. I try not to be frustrated, but frustration is often the most tenacious feeling of them all. It has attached itself to old wounds in all sorts of ways.

My therapist is a tiny, grandmotherly woman with a pronounced German accent. I believe she has a bit of a speech impediment, but I wonder if the discrepancy I detect is a result of her being foreign-born. Otherwise, I can’t help but notice how much she resembles the sex therapist Dr. Ruth, both in cultural identity and in stature, though she’s a bit less boisterous. Every week we spend ninety minutes reprogramming my brain. That fact might be more distressing if I wasn’t so dissatisfied with its current configuration.

EMDR is designed to activate the brain by focusing on strongly negative feelings. In addition to the eye motion segment, I am asked to frequently rate the severity and intensity of both negative self-talk and positive self-talk. It’s very easy for me to find flaws with myself. A brain accustomed for most of a lifetime to entertain constant insecurity takes a while to be won over to optimism.

The goal is to eventually feel better about myself internally, without as much need for external gratification. Each of us may require some validation by others to make us self-confidence personified. Neither therapy, nor medication has ever been successful at resolving this problem. At times, I admit I almost have a perverse need to cling to these self-defeating thoughts. Chronic pain can produce symptoms of masochism. Convincing myself of my own inherent value will be the greatest challenge.

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