April 13, 2018

complex ptsd

(Warning:  Bucket of psychobabble quicksand ahead.  Enter at your own risk.)

Therapist Not-Gumby-But-Some-Other-Flexible-Thing-As-Yet-Unspecified stumbled upon something that resonates.  There is this relatively new concept called complex PTSD.  It's the equivalent of carpal tunnel syndrome vs. an anvil falling on your arm and snapping it off at the elbow.  Childhood trauma, it posits, can result from lower-grade abuse (including verbal) and neglect (just enough to cross a threshold into not-enough) that happens chronically, as opposed to an acute traumatic event.

But you weren't abused or neglected, I protest.  So many kids have had it way worse.  Locked in closets and shit.  How dare you consider yourself to be among them?

But I was also a "sensitive child", so it wouldn't have taken nearly as much to inflict the lacerations on my psyche.  That is not anyone's fault.  It isn't whining or self-pity.  It just is.  And was.

I know the sources of neglect, many of them from the late-1970s parenting style.  "Don't pick her up when she cries, it will spoil her."  That sort of thing.  And my sitter, where I had to shut up and refrain from asking for anything whatsoever - affection, comfort from scary things, food, a diaper change - because she found it annoying and weighed in excess of 500 pounds and did not want to get out of her chair.

Here is the bit from Pete Walker that grabs me:

When anxious perfectionist efforting [sic], however, fails over and over to render the parents safe and loving, the inner critic becomes increasingly hypervigilant and hostile in its striving to ferret out the shortcomings that seemingly alienate the parents ... the child’s nascent ego finds no room to develop and her identity virtually becomes the superego. 

This is the first legitimate thing I've been presented with that might point to the source of the self-injury.  It's really survival instinct.  No matter what I do, you're not meeting my very basic needs to survive, so I have to be perfect, and if I'm not, if I do something to threaten perfection and risk your disapproval and the withholding of what I desperately need, I'm hostile to myself, all superego and no ego, and the anger turns back on me, furious and fierce.

Fierce.  I wasn't allowed to be angry then.  I am now.  And it rides a boomerang and comes right back at me.  Black eye.  Blood.  Fingernails.

It explains why when an obsession-object gets put in the place of that caregiver by Lille, having shown some sign of promise that they are a fountain-head of need-meeting (even though they're not, but I've always likened it to a pedestal), the appetite for their unceasing attention, the need to possess them and draw from them, is so voracious.  And all of that goes on at the same time that I'm successfully adulting, maintaining healthy relationships and parenting and being the grown-up I've become.  Is it any wonder that I'm mired in mental chaos when all of this is clashing and vying for mental real estate?  Is it any wonder that Lille's pitiable interference is capable of fucking up some of the adulting?

Unfortunately, the therapeutic approach for resolving all of this meshugas involves a barrage of positive self-talk, months and years of it, and I would rather drink warm yak milk from a used Home Depot bucket than consider engaging in that mantric bullshit.

There simply has to be another weapon to disarm the superego.  Maybe I have to build one.  And it turns out I'm surrounded by some amazing, loving, creative people who might be able to help me draw up the schematics.  They've got pencils tucked behind their ears.  They're as crazy as I am because they think I'm worth the effort.  (Yo, Pete, "efforting" is not a word, man.)  I'm tired of self-injuring, not the least reason being how it affects those crazy people who love me.

The side of the Home Depot bucket says, "Let's Do This."

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