Earlier this week, my therapist had me fill out this rating scale to see how my PTSD symptoms were. When I first started seeing her, I fell in the “moderate to severe” range. For the past year and a half, I’ve been stuck in the “mild to moderate” range. This is good, but the fact that I’ve pretty much stayed in that range and not dropped any is not so great. When I filled out the questionnaire on Tuesday, my score put me in the “none to mild” range. This is fantastic.
I can tell that my PTSD symptoms are getting better. I feel like this summer, I have worked through a lot of difficult things surrounding my trauma stuff. I also believe that incorporating Thai Massage has made a huge impact on my ability to process through trauma memories and move on. There are clearly still a few things I need to work on, but I am putting in the time, effort, and money, so that I can get to the other side. It’s a process.
While I feel more calm and serene on a regular basis, more so than I’ve ever felt before, there is some anxiety that comes with doing well. First, I always worry about what will happen when I quit doing well. What will happen if the trauma stuff gets bad again; if I start having an excessive number of flashbacks or nightmares, or if I become seriously suicidal again like I was in March? Those are fears that feel so real for me.
The second part that comes with doing well is what now? For my entire life I have lived in fear. I have lived with nightmares, flashbacks, shaking, self-injury, numbing… pain. I have had therapy. I have had a pile to work through…. things to “fix.” My life has been consumed by trauma work for the last two years. And now it’s done (or the bulk of it is). I have changed so much in two years. And I love it: I love what I have learned; I love what I have experienced; I love the growth that I have made. However, as I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, I feel like I am lost.
In Alice in Wonderland, the caterpillar asks, “Who are you?” Alice replies by saying that she hardly knows… she has changed so many times.
That is me. Today. Right now. I do not know who I am. As I get closer to the other side of my trauma work, I am realizing that I have lost a very big part of myself in the process. And while I am so unbelievable grateful to no longer feel the way that I felt two years ago, I cannot help but feel a little bit of grief. That part of who I was is gone. And I no longer know who I am supposed to be. I feel overwhelmed with grief right now as I write this; an immense sadness as I watch that girl slip away, vanishing into nothing. That part of me, the part that curled in, kept her head down, did not make eye contact, and isolated herself, that part was safe. Protected. The “new me” does not have that. I interact with the world, I make connections and experience life, savoring each moment. It sounds wonderful, and most of the time it is. But it is also scary. It is scary to be vulnerable. To smile at someone and wonder why they didn’t smile back at you. It is scary to be open. When you aren’t shutting out the world, you have to be in it. What if I don’t want to be in the world? What if I can’t be all of the things that I am supposed to be? What if I can’t even figure out who or what I am supposed to be?
The other part that I am struggling with right now with this change is my relationship with my therapist. It has changed so much in two years. It has gone from me hating her, to me desperately clinging to her, to me resenting her, then back to clinging to her, and then now… I don’t need her, but I want to still need her. I can’t explain the fucked-upness of how my brain works around relationships. This is probably why I got the borderline personality disorder label. As a child, teen, and even adult, I have been mostly alone in my struggles. With the exception of a few middle-aged “yay Jesus” women who literally saved my life when I was in high school, and my hometown therapist, I have gone through horrific things all on my own. Going through my trauma work with my therapist was probably the most supported I have ever felt in my life… especially in the beginning. I knew that no matter how scary things got as I recounted my trauma memories with her, she would support me in any way she could. I knew that if I went home and things got scary in my head, I could reach out to her and she would be there for me, often responding from a place of compassion. While I don’t not have that now, it is different. Our relationship is different. I don’t need that level of support from her. And actually, a lot of the time I don’t even want that kind of support because I get really proud of myself when I can handle things on my own. However, I think that in addition to grieving the loss of who I used to be, I am grieving the loss of that support that I needed. I don’t have it now. And I probably never will again. Things are different. Things are different because I’m different.
There is a part of me that is embracing this new found independence and freedom. I am excited about my future, my new friends, yoga, and the growth I have made in two years. I am relieved to be carrying around a much smaller “pile of stuff” than I was two years ago. I don’t feel weighed down. I don’t feel trapped. However, I don’t really know who I am or who I want to be. Today, I am feeling all of the grief that comes from losing a part of your identity.