Post by walkingthroughtreacl on Mar 14, 2014 8:19:43 GMT
It's coming up to three years since I left and as usual, this is a particularly difficult time. However, this year I have decided to do something positive by beginning counselling. I am dreading it because I know I'm going to have to talk about the abuse and I just don't know how I'm going to cope with re-living it.
I wondered if anyone here has had counselling, whether it helped them and how they coped with having to talk about it all?
Yes...I have the time of year when he held me hostage in the house for hours until I could sneak out and run away to get help coming up right now too in a few days. I did feel a bit more sad than and couldnt quite understand why- but it makes more sense to me now - like every year- when I realize March will always be that. The month I will remember it at least once that I had to fear for my life for a few hours.
I did start therapy a few months after I left my abusive Ex and my insurance luckily paid for 8 months straight. Once a week. In the end we agreed on once every two weeks since I felt less and less need to go. It helped so so much....but it is important to know you have a right to change therapists should your first pick not work out. I for example was asked if I would accept a male counselor and said NO...it didnt feel right. I was then assigned to a very experienced PTSD specialist, a wonderful woman with whom I have clicked right away and we started to work intensively from day one.
I took everything she asked me to read, do etc. very seriously and it was her who introduced me to Imagery Therapy by the Psychologist Belleruth Naparstek (The woman who wrote "Invisible Heroes")
I would usually write a long email to her after each session as writing comes to me naturally and that helped too. So in my eyes therapy really is a living "organism", not a set of rules that apply to each patient. I am sure there are guidelines and certain techniques that are being used for everyone but a good counselor tailors her/his approach to your personality, lifestyle and wishes. I for example had huge trouble sleeping. So she recorded the sleeping imagery and another trauma imagery from the book Invisible Heroes and gave it to me as an MP3. I was SO thrilled about it! And use it even now still every now and then if I cannot sleep or feel guilt or shame overwhelms me...not necessarily about my Ex but about other things in life.
I have to say after my therapy was done, I was really able to let go more. It stays with you always I think- but in a "good" way. I am proud I can approach people now more analytically. Just because someone smiles at me and says something doesnt mean I believe it - I used to be so much more naive. ...
And of course when I am in doubt I run my concerns by experienced people here in the forum. Steve and the others have continued to give me expert advice and that has helped me to continue what I have learned in counseling.
One thing you asked was a very good question -- how to talk about it all.... The thing is I wanted to talk about it badly with someone who wasnt a friend or family member. Nobody but one of my girlfriends- whose Ex was terribly abusive- understood. The first sessions I cried. And cried. I barely sat down in my chair and started to apologize and grab the tissue box. (they always got lots of those so go gettem!!! they are there to be used )
The one time I remember things got very difficult was when she walked me through the final night- my Ex had held me hostage. He smashed my laptop, pushed me, punched holes in the walls. Called me every name possible. And while I described how I sat in the corner of the bedroom, all in fetal position and protecting my body as good as I could, I suddenly felt my heart beating very fast, I started sweating and couldnt breathe. I almost asked my therapist if I could sit on the floor because I felt I couldnt sit up anymore it felt like it.... I did not tell her then but kept on talking and remembered to take deep breaths.
I did write her later about it and she said it is totally fine to sit on the floor if I felt like it would be saver...
Your body will remember - and it may come out when you least expect it. But keep in mind you are in a safe room. With a person who feels safe. YOU are in control of your life that very second and it makes every difference. My therapist managed to guide me through this all- my Ex, the abuse, my Trauma, and gently show me I have more to explore in my immediate family. Since then I have started to cut out more people - and the healing continues. I especially had a very difficult relationship with my mother who is very controlling and narcissistic. In therapy I understood it is ok to feel someone doesnt treat you right and it is ok to say NO. I used to be the sweet girl who never wanted to be not-liked. But those days are over.
Now I am also able to talk to anyone about the abuse and most of the times I dont even feel anything anymore. It is like the police officer who picked me up that night said--"it will all be one bad memory one day. I promise you that."
So yes, I can recommend it with all of my heart. Be brave and take that step into the counseling office. I felt weird at first because it was on the campus of my graduate school at that time and I was also a lecturer at the same Uni...so I could have run into students or coworkers- but ultimately decided it was worth it. After all....nobody will ask you why you are there BUT the therapist in a closed room. And chances are everyone else feels just as weird waiting there - browsing through magazines.
I often wondered why the others were there. Rape? Anxiety? Or maybe career advice. My default plan was that if anyone I knew came in and would ask me what I was doing there- I would have said: Oh well it is time to make the 5 year career plan and I hear the counselors here are very good at writing that one with you
A lil white lie is more than appropriate in those situations in my opinion.
The first thing they made me do was fill out a questionnaire- with questions where I had to rank my feelings etc. from 1-5 I think...like : Have you ever thought about killing yourself, have you harmed yourself, do you often feel like this or that etc....it will then go back to be handed to your therapist.
Then you wait a bit more and in my practice the head psychiatrist had an initial meeting with me. I think they do that to see if I would need serious meds like anti depressants etc. and if there were underlying medical issues not connected to the abuse. Since I never took any meds and just wanted to do cognitive therapy and have someone to talk to- I was then asked if Id prefer a woman (which I did) and the next day or so I had my first appointment with my wonderful therapist.
They did tell me I can change therapists if it felt wrong with her- but it clicked right away and I felt safe and comfortable talking about even sexual stuff - she even prepared me to go get my HIV test (I was scared he gave me a disease since I am sure he cheated) and offered to come with me when the results were back. The reason she did was that the clinic for sexual diseases was in the same building, just one short elevator trip down. I ended up getting the results from my tests via mail though and luckily everything was negative and ok. Puh. But I guess that was one thing I pushed away for ages....I didnt dare to ask myself if he did that to me too.
The last day was a bit sad but therapists are also good at helping you to move on on your own...and we left a few slots free in case I felt the need to come back but i really didnt. Now- a few years later- I am planning to return to therapy but to explore my childhood. I wasnt ready for that until now. And I am in desperate need to explore my parents and especially mother. And I am excited what I will learn and how I will let go and forgive myself for dealing with all this and suffering so long from feeling guilt and shame.
Post by walkingthroughtreacl on Mar 14, 2014 19:33:15 GMT
Hello again Janine - good to hear from you and thank you so much for your detailed reply.
I'm so glad that you recommend counselling. This is the first time that I have felt the ability to talk in any detail about the abuse, although I know that it's going to be incredibly difficult. But I feel that I need to get past what my ex did to me with some professional help and not just me trying to battle it on my own.
It is impossible to talk to friends or family about it, and when I did at the beginning people used to end up in tears at what I was saying with me having to comfort them, so I quickly realised that I would have to go it alone. Up to a point I can cope by not thinking about it , but when there is a trigger, which can come completely out of the blue and take me unawares, then the tears and anxiety start and I feel as though I've made no progress at all.
As you say, what happened will always be there, but I need it to have much less potency than it does now.
Finding a counsellor hasn't been easy because most offer help for so many different problems rather than specifically DV. However, I've e mailed a few and have chosen one with whom I've got my first appointment on Monday, but I realise how important it is that we get with each other. She is offering me the first session free for that very purpose.
I'm also expecting it to get worse before it gets better, but it will be very good to know that I can finally talk to someone and say what I want to say without having to think first whether what I say is going to upset anyone, and also for that person to be non-judgemental.
Thanks again Janine, and so good to know how helpful counselling has been to you.
Iam glad you got a spot with a counselor so soon! I am sure youll make a good decision about if you can work well with her.
And she will ensure that YOU feel empowered. My counselor never forced me to talk about things I wasnt ready for. It really is more a..."guided self talk" in my eyes. I came and said what my goals were (to heal and deal with PTSD symptoms) and we started from there.
Let us know how it went if you would like to! I definitely understand that talking to friends and family didnt help much....i felt the same.
Post by walkingthroughtreacl on Mar 18, 2014 23:15:07 GMT
I had my first appointment yesterday with my counsellor. I felt we got on well and and I am now going to start having regular sessions with her.
Although last evening was more about her telling me about her background, and asking me what I hoped to achieve from our sessions, we also touched on what I needed to talk about.
I feel a huge relief in the fact that I can actually talk to someone who will not only listen, bit also begin to make sense of what went on in my life for so long. The thought that I can finally begin to offload what my ex did to me is therapeutic in itself. However, I am aware that this is going to be a long and difficult journey, and resurrecting the memories is going to be incredibly hard.
In the end, though, I hope that the control that is still going on in my life by the legacy that I am left with, will gradually go,
That does sound like a good experience, Im happy for you! it is painful to go back and scratch those wounds open....but it is also a wonderful way to heal. You will explore what you have and want to in a very safe environment. Your therapist will know when to gently nudge you to explore what is needed.
I felt at all times safe and good about my therapy and felt lighter and better walking out of that practice. You will let go of a lot of things and love yourself more and more through this process.
Post by walkingthroughtreacl on Mar 26, 2014 15:03:24 GMT
I had my first proper counselling session on Monday and it was really weird because I didn't cry, apart from just before the end of the session. I sat and talked about the abuse and how it had manifested itself, and it was rather as though I was talking about a third party.
The only time I broke down was when I was talking about how, during a video I did for the police as evidence, the detective asked me how life was different for me having left the abuse. I said that one difference was that I could dress how I liked, as when I was still with my ex, I dressed down totally in order to try to keep under the radar. And as I was saying about it, I looked down at my toes and said that I had painted them for the first time in years. And when was retelling this to my counsellor I broke down. And yet I had told her about the most horrendous catalogue of abuse that I has suffered at the hands of my husband and I didn't cry once.
Is it normal to be so detached? Maybe it's because I've had to distance myself from the abuse in order to survive, and it's now going to take time to allow myself to feel its effects again.
It is VERY normal to detach. Your mind is smart. It wont let too many emotions in right now or all at once. Your therapist knows this too and probably already has a good idea on how to gently approach your trauma.
My first session I did cry but it compared not at ALL to how I cried and relived my trauma a few months later when I finally let my body and soul and mind all really feel my pain, anger, disappointment, shame....and I also believe it takes time to let the "story" that may have been told before become more than just that. It is not just memories, there is a great deal of pain hidden in your body waiting to be gently and slowly released so it can heal. I compared my progress to a big splinter hidden somewhere under my skin. I functioned well in the view of the public but once we got my attention to that splinter I had pushed aside for "later to deal with" it got painful in a GOOD way. I WANTED to heal and confront my feelings. And so do you.
Give yourself a LOT of credit for the work you are doing. It will be a wonderful experience. I NEVER expected myself after my first month to feel as strong as I did when we relived one extremely terrible night my Ex put me through. I cannot express the RELIEF I felt after that....
Post by walkingthroughtreacl on Mar 27, 2014 14:50:00 GMT
Thank you Janine. It is very comforting to know that my reaction is normal, and I can understand the reasoning behind it.
I've had to pretend to all and sundry for the last three years that I am fine, when of course I am anything but. However, I suppose I have got so used to putting on an act for strangers that it is very hard to be any different. And as you say, I've also had to have a detachment from the abuse in order to get through each day and survive.
I'm glad to hear that counselling was so effective, and cathartic, for you. It's going to be incredibly hard to relive it, but I know that it is the right thing to do In order to free myself from it for good. At the moment, it's as though my ex still has a hold and control over me.