Have you ever been triggered so badly that the feelings overwhelmed and broke through internal barriers?
That happened about 2 weeks ago.
I lay down to sleep one night and flashed back to 1998. The flashback lasted for hours. It covered many years between 1998 and 2012.
And each memory was of a fight – a physical fight between my younger self and one or more other people. Then I started to remember names and places. And suddenly even living on the other side of the country didn’t feel safe. I felt scared and out of control.
The experiences got distorted by feelings and body pain. What feelings? What pain?
The feelings: anger, shame, fear, confusion, grief
The pain: head, face, neck, abdomen, low back, hips
I felt so angry for days. It built and built inside me. Nothing I tried, nothing my alters tried, none of the typical and atypical strategies helped. So I followed the plan my counselor and I put together in session. I called the hotline first. Then texted her with updates. She called me; we talked.
The goal: focus on feelings first; then process the memories & thoughts.
One week ago:
The memories came back as dreams and nightmares. I probably annoyed my neighbors by talking in my sleep and yelling/screaming/thumping the walls – explains why I avoid them right now. It’s why I prefer not to have close neighbors, but that’s impossible in this apartment.
I started to realize the anger combined with body pain (treatments have been working to address chronic sinus, digestion, etc. issues) opened up a gate for the memories to get through. The physical pain got worse and kind of triggering. I kept getting confused about past and present.
But I also had to go out and take care of errands. It helped that people I’m friendly with were on the route.
The feelings: numb, hurt, sad, shame, confusion, then numb again
The body pain: moved from head to back to abdomen to private areas to back again
The goal: get through one more week while counselor is away
My counselor is back; we had our session on Saturday. Easter was Sunday. The numbness wore off, and I realized that the back pain was masking something else. My body was experiencing mild versions of panic attack symptoms. The nausea was back. And I lost my appetite between Thursday and Sunday.
The feelings: relief, happiness, empowered, anger, shame, grief
The body pain: sinuses, eyes, ears, scalp, back of the head, neck.
The goal: minimize the face pain, cope with the body memories around my legs/hips/abdomen, accept and embrace the inner monster that is not a monster.
What is the empowering part?
My inner monster is not a monster.
She is the part of me trained in martial arts and other forms of hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting, etc.
He is the part of me who learned acrobatics and submissions in order to take down grown people high or drunk or better armed and much stronger with an adolescent girl’s body.
They are the plant parts who processed the drugs and alcohol so fast through a child’s and adolescent’s body that she got sick instead of addicted.
They are my alter personalities – the parts of me who kept the secrets; learned how to read people; taught themselves to lie; pretended to be a fly on the wall; created vaults for the secret life experiences to hide in; protected classmates, cousins, and others close in age from being sucked in; and used physical force to protect the self from monsters and bullies.
Before these memories came back, I thought I was an out-of-control monster who physically hurt others for no reason. I thought my temper and rage took over and were unjustified. And I backed away from everyone – to the point of avoiding all physical contact with living beings – so ensure my safety and the safety of everyone around me.
Now, I know that I’m not a monster. That those fragmented nightmare/dream stories of me fighting gang members, women, men, teen bullies, my sibling, my parents, and so many others were real. That all of those seeming impossible take downs, submissions, and movie-like fight scenes in my head really did happen. We did that with our body up until the year before moving.
And then those parts of me faded back inside to safety bringing the memories with them and leaving me feeling out of control again.
Now, I hope these parts will continue to share those memories and realize they are accepted, respected, cherished members of our system. They belong in the present with the rest of us. They deserve to heal and make choices with us and feel proud of their accomplishments too. Most important, I hope they stop feeling ashamed of the things they said and did to protect and help everyone survive.
With their permission, I will be sharing more about self-defense, martial arts, and fighting for protection as healthy forms of exercise, self-esteem building, etc.
Thanks for reading