My counselor wasn’t available yesterday so we moved my appointment to today. Last night, I felt like canceling. I panicked and once again, felt that the money being spent on counseling might possibly be a waste and the freedom from the pain of my past and bad flashbacks might never happen. I couldn’t cancel at 11pm last night so I decided to give it another shot.

The session today was the most significant meeting I’ve ever had with any counselor. Ever.

She began talking about wanting to try a new exercise with me, “Breathing, Integrating and Grounding.” She mentioned that those suffering from PTSD usually have detachment issues. Detachment is a defense mechanism to protect the victim from further abuse. What she described was nothing short of a waterfall of enlightenment.

Just the fact that she brought this term (detachment) up, clued me into so much of who I am. I have a problem with being apathetic toward people, my children included. Jase and I have often said that I would be a horrible counselor because my advice would be to “get over it.” I have a hard time keeping close friends because I have a hard time letting others in below the surface and/or I don’t feel like keeping friends and wearing their pain. However, more often than not, I severely ache for hurting people. In one respect, I deal too objectively with people and in the other, I’m too empathetic. Both seem to be on overdrive. I have no gauge in figuring out when I’m opening myself up too much or not enough. As I type this all out now, I wonder if my empathy turns on when I feel safe and the detachment/defense mechanism turns on when I feel threatened. I can’t even describe the elation I feel with finally thinking we’ve hit the nail on the head with the core negative issue that drives me. This detachment issue is what allows me to not be dragged down by people and the problems they need to share with me. However, it’s also the issue that prevents me from letting Jase (and others) close to me at times. This detachment is what closes me off from some people and situations. If I feel threatened, I shut down. My brain goes somewhere safe, while my body “takes” on whatever I feel is a threat. It’s the reason why I shut off from society and hole myself up in my house. Obviously, in most cases, becoming detached has hurt me and has hurt relationships I’ve been in. However, in cases where friends and family or teenagers I’m mentoring or have mentored have vented/complained/freaked out OR when a family member/friend/acquaintance has hugged me, or touched any part of my body and I felt threatened, this mental state has served me well. Better to detach rather than punch them out. 🙂

The detachment really comes on strong when I have flashbacks. The flashbacks are triggered by different things, either when I’m alone and there’s no understandable reason to have them or when Jase and I are intimate, whether it’s sexual or not. During the session today, I realized that when I start having flashbacks while around Jase, I shut down.  Now that I have a word for it, I know that I detach from Jase but it’s not complete. I start feeling like a victim and my brain tries to escape and detach while a physical connection is made but I fight back on that further because I feel like I’m being taken advantage of and being used. Since Jase and I have been together, almost 12 years, I’ve reacted the same way when I have flashbacks or feel threatened. I’m quiet. As was every single time I was violated while growing up, I recreate the same atmosphere. It’s quiet, dark and I shut down. My counselor gave me the most beautiful homework ever. When these flashbacks happen with Jase, I have to communicate with him. I know it sounds like common sense but it hasn’t been. I completely recreate my violation atmosphere and then am despondent. So, I have to tell him that I’m having a flashback and then have him tell me: “Open your eyes and mirror my hand in yours” then while being gentle AND strong (so important for both to coexist) he needs to bring me back to reality by asking, “What’s your name? What’s the date today?” Then tell me, “You’re safe.” I couldn’t stop crying when my counselor told me this because, instantly, I knew it would be the most beneficial advice I’ve ever had when dealing with my PTSD. For the first time since being violated I will start creating a new pattern when in despair or in fear.

I recognize when my detachment is well-used but I also now know when I’m using it incorrectly. Now that the problem is visualized, the correction can be made.