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excavating layers

July 4, 2014

I found a woman somatic psychotherapist within a 3-hour drive, in a different direction than either the DC suburbs or Frederick — Annapolis. My drive to her office is exactly as far as to the Writers Center in Bethesda, but there’s no DC Beltway involved, and parking is plentiful (amongst shade trees, in spots).

The physical exercises that she’s been having me do don’t involve me working at relaxing. Instead, I notice places in my body where I feel tension, constriction, or pain. I breathe into them.

I don’t try to make the pain go away. I don’t ignore it. I don’t worry about it.

I just notice it. And breathe.

Sometimes it relaxes “on its own”. It’s very odd.

There are also exercises where I visualize unusual paths the air I’m taking in might be traversing within my body. As I do that, parts of my body often shake. Sometimes my whole body. Per Peter Levine, I know that’s part of releasing tension, so I just . . . let it go.


Toward the end of our last session, I was telling her about an incident from my childhood. She interjected to point out that I was sighing a lot; did I know I was doing that? Some part of my brain had noticed my voice had gone higher, and I was breathing faster, but not quite hyperventilating. Yet.

She said I clearly hadn’t worked through this thing.

I told her that . . . all my previous therapy was dealing with what I called “acute” traumas. Not necessarily things that just happened, but things were horribly interfering with my daily life right then. I spent all my time getting stuff like that sorted.

We never got around to . . . the “smaller” traumas. And there are a lot. Peter Levine writes about medical types of trauma — injuries; children being immobilized to receive anesthesia for surgery; that sort of thing. I didn’t have surgery as a kid, but when I was 7, I did have a fall off my bike that tore a ligament in my wrist, so that I had to wear a brace on my arm for weeks. I couldn’t remember if I was given pain relievers, or if the doctors recommended against that, but the upshot was that I was in agonizing pain for weeks. (Pain meds usually/often don’t work on me.) The therapist said I might have felt better if my mother had comforted me. I laughed. No, she didn’t. She did get annoyed at my crying. I remember being yelled at. I remember disconsolately hanging around the (outside) basement stairwell, unable to think of anywhere to go or anything to do. Just moping.

When I was about 11, I picked up a stick that was part of a wasp nest. They came boiling out, and I was stung multiple times before I even realized what was happening. My sister was with me; she figured it out sooner, so she only got stung a few times. She also ran faster for home. When we got there, screaming and crying, my mother was very annoyed. She and my father had been wallpapering the bathroom, and it wasn’t going well. She screamed at us (instead of him). Told us how selfish and inconsiderate we were for “bothering” her, when she was clearly Very Busy. She put us in the bathtub, with, I think, Epsom salts, and that was supposed to keep us sorted. In the tub, we were able to take stock: my sister had been stung 3 or 4 times. I had been stung 26 times. I was deathly afraid of all bees, wasps, and hornets for years afterward because I worried I had developed an allergy to stings. People in my family of origin thought my fear was amusing.

Then there’s the dentist. I have lots and lots of bad experiences with dentists. I don’t think I have the spoons to go through those today.

{I just remembered something much earlier in my life than dentist appointments. I’ll have to mention that to my therapist.}


The more I recall of specific instances all throughout my life, the more I’m kind of amazed that I’m still walking and talking and reasonably sane. That I can still function at all. Instead of feeling like a defective failure because of all that I have not accomplished, just still being alive seems practically a miracle.


I don’t ever want to talk to my parents again.

Even if they apologized to me. Which they wouldn’t. I’m sure they don’t think they did anything that merits apology. Well, as far as I could determine, they seem to have a policy of never apologizing for anything, no matter how egregious. They are always right; the other person is always wrong. That’s just how the world works.

Never ever ever.


Something’s been bothering me about Thing X, but I can’t figure out where the problem is. Or, there are lots of gravel size problems, but nothing boulder sized. I generally only act upon boulder sized problems. Does a bunch of gravel add up to being a boulder? By volume, it might.

I suddenly have an image of myself at that basement stairwell at age 7, just moping. I notice that my chest feels tight, and my vision is narrowing, in a way it wasn’t, earlier.

Thing X isn’t working.

Pretty words are nice to hear, but meaningful actions are much better. There’s been some of the former — just enough to get me on the hook — and a positive dearth of the latter ever since.

Oh, fuck.

When Hope and Being Sensible go to war inside me, Hope generally wins. Despite everything. Because wouldn’t it be grand if someone I was related to actually cared about me? Isn’t that what I’ve always wanted?

Hope is not my friend here.

Cue the shame spiral: I’ve been duped again.

There is no there there.

I thought I’d outgrown this. That I’d worked through enough of my stuff that I didn’t have to walk down this path, yet again.

I can’t remember which trauma researcher it was that said (something like) — “the abandonment you fear (and keep trying to prevent) already happened”.

Not just generally. Yes my mother emotionally abandoned me over and over. But this person . . . emotionally abandoned me at least twice, one time of which endangered my life. We don’t talk about it. I wouldn’t know how to bring it up, even if I wanted to. What would be the point?

This is gonna be really shitty, isn’t it? No wonder I wasn’t paying any attention to gravel . . . that’s laced with radioactive uranium.

It’s a boulder, camouflaged. Fuck.

This person has been telling me, not just with their actions but also with precious words, what my place in the family is. It has not improved.

No one cares what I think or feel. Or do or say. No one is ever curious about me. But everyone is full of advice . . . that in no way resembles anything I could use. I think that is not an accident. After all, if I could use their advice effectively, I might manage to scramble out of the pit. And then one of them would have to take my place. Nobody wants that.

I don’t even want that. I want what I’ve wanted all along . . . there to be no pit. But of course that’s crazy talk. If we don’t have an oubliette, with a pathetic prisoner trapped inside, who else can we feel superior to?

Who else keeps chasing after us? Who else seeks us out? Who else craves our approval?

I’m freezing cold. I have goosebumps. But my gut feels hot. And I’m sweating in that stinky way.


Is this the Sunk Costs Fallacy? (That I’m usually so good about not falling into . . . as long as my family of origin is in no way implicated.)

I’ve invested years of my life in these (mostly failed) relationships with people (I don’t even like or respect). Every once in a while . . . someone throws me a crumb. And I think/feel, “that means there’s an entire cake somewhere! Maybe this time I’ll be invited to have a whole slice!”

Misplaced Hope gets me imagining a delicious cake, but I bet the crumbs are from something else entirely; something I probably wouldn’t even want to eat.


The more I investigate my past, and certainly the more I write about it, . . . the better it’s going to be for me if I don’t feel still joined up with my relatives. Still obligated to “be fair” to them, in a way no one ever felt obligated to do for me.

It’s vindicating when you’ve found someone you trust, and you start telling them truthful stories about your actual lived experience, and they gasp, their eyes widen. Sometimes they say, “that’s child abuse!” Wearily I can respond, “I know”, and continue on. It’s vindicating, but it’s not comforting.

I haven’t wanted to let go. I haven’t been able to let go.

It’s time to let go.

It’s time to drop my defenses, and confront the truth. My body knows. My body has always known.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2014 21:26

    A wise blogger recently remarked that healing is not a straight line but a spiral.

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