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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5839
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Kate: I don't know why it makes me feel better having read

Customer Question

I don't know why it makes me feel better having read that email, but it does. It doesn't make me feel good that she went through that, but it makes me feel normal and that this is worth it. I also appreciated her being honest about how long and hard it was for her. She had many of the same misconceptions about things as I did at the outset of therapy (e.g. that once I told the story fully, I would be better), and also some of the same thoughts about dealing with it so much later. She said that she discovered that a lot of things, which she just thought “this is who I am and how I am,” were actually coping mechanisms she built up from what happened and how it was (not) dealt with. That seems so familiar. :) I just .... I feel ... kind of validated?
One of your statements in your last answer caught my attention – you said something about accepting that I could have died is challenging - especially since it was so long ago. I really do think that comes into play. Because I KNOW I lived, and it has been so long that I don’t really accurately remember how bad the pain was, or how I felt (physically) or the fear. I can look back and know that I was scared and I was in pain and I remember my reactions to the pain, etc. But I can’t remember what the pain actually felt like or how scared I was. The fear part I think I can remember more accurately because my nightmares are so scary — but even in my nightmares, I don’t feel the pain as bad as I think it was at the time. That’s part of the issue I have had with the self blame, too, I think. I can’t exactly remember the pain, so I can’t accurately assess my decisions which were based on avoiding more of it. And although I get the fear in the nightmares, I don’t think it’s probably the same. So I can’t accurately assess the situation back then from my memory. Does that make sense??
But I am not willing to repeat that pain right now just to make a point to myself, and I don’t think that would be “therapeutic” anyway. And in any event, even if I did (which is really out of the question), it would be me in control, and I wouldn’t be so scared.
I think if I can accurately remember the fear and the pain, it might help in both issues - (1) accepting that I could have died; and (2) understanding more why I did what I did. But how can I get that back? Is it even possible?
And if it is not possible, then how do I accurately and reliably assess these things and know the truth (as to whether I could have died and whether I was justified in what I did to avoid pain)? I need to convince myself it is true before I can “face” it, because if I try to face it, I think - well, it may be a distant possibility, but unlikely, and so I can’t accept it as a real threat. You know? How do I get around this?? I must be at least part way towards dealing with this, because we’ve been talking about it and I have been thinking about it, and I “thought” about it when I was in my nightmare last night. But I’m stuck.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Feeling validated is important when you suffer something no one else can really understand. People need that sense that they are not alone, especially when it comes to something as bad as a trauma. It makes us see the "truth" to what we feel.

It makes perfect sense that it would be hard for you to get in touch with those feelings since it has been a long time. But added to that is the natural repression of the pain of your experience. Anytime someone suffers a trauma, they may be so upset that a selective amnesia occurs. It is the mind's way of protecting you from the full force of the attack. So your mind could have "opted out" of remembering certain details, even the pain you felt. Or your mind could have altered it to make it easier to cope with it.

It will not help you to completely face the pain of your experience in order to deal with the fact that you could have died. Understanding it intellectually and letting the feelings in is enough. You don't have to look at every detail of what happened to you and try to re experience the pain you felt. That would only serve to traumatize you. That is why I mentioned that just the fact that you are willing to accept that you could have died is a lot.

Try not to look at this too deeply. By intellectualizing the process, you distance yourself from it. There is no way to properly an assess any level of pain and fear unless you could actually go back, and we both don't think that is a good idea on any level. It may help you to see this on a totally emotional level. If you feel you have a hard time accepting it yourself, try looking at it from different perspectives. How would it seem to you if you heard someone tell you that it happened to them? What do others around you say about it? If it was your child or sister or friend that this happened to, how would you feel? Questions like that can help you keep that distance but also let you get in touch with your feelings about it.

TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Okay. I'll try looking at it that way.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.
Sounds good. We can still work on it as we go along and see how it works for you.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Hi Shay,

I just wanted to check in to see how you are doing. Is everything ok? How was your appointment with Linda?

If I don't hear from you in the next few days, I hope you have a nice Memorial Day holiday. And don't work too hard!


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hey Kate. I'm fine. Just been really busy (but very productive thanks to the adderall). Not thrilled about my appointment with Linda or my sleep dr appointment. I want to fill you in, but am in the middle of a massive project cleaning out the garage. We have a large garage and are going through every little thing (still in my purging mode). So will fill you in when I get a chance.
Thank you for checking in with me! :)
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Hi Shay! Long time, no talk to. I've missed our talks.

I'm glad to hear the new medication is helping you. That's good news.

Sounds like things didn't go so well with Linda or the sleep doctor. Maybe you could fill me in when you get time.

Enjoy your purge! I wish I had your motivation :)

Talk to you soon,