Emotional Development

This morning, instead of having time to blog, I am finishing up two agendas because I might be up on group to read them today.  Here they are:

  1. How Am I Responding To My Feelings The Way They Were Responded To?
  2. What beliefs do I have that prevent my feelings from being expressed?



I respond to emotions with:

  • Restricting (both emotional expression and food)
  • Historically, emotional eating
  • Invalidating my feelings
  • Distraction
  • Ignoring source of feelings
  • Completely deny having feelings
  • Isolating when I am crying

The main way I re-enact how my feelings were responded to as a child, is by ignoring their existence.  My parents didn’t acknowledge my feelings.  It was like I was in an emotional vacuum.  The times that my mother did respond to my feelings, it was totally mis-attuned and she would tell me that I was either tired or hungry.  And so she would tell me to eat something.

This food-response to feelings certainly was part of what created my emotional eating habits.  If I was upset, then food would make it better.  I was basically trained on that.  Right now, I do not emotionally eat.  Just the same way I emotionally restrict, I also restrict-food.  Only, restricting food is better because not only do I get to shut down emotions, but I get to lose weight too.  It is a win-win situation.

My mother’s response to feelings also served to completely invalidate what I was feeling and never actually look at why I was having intense feelings.  This left me at a loss to manage those feelings on my own.  Eventually, I learned that my feelings are not valid and that it didn’t matter what I felt or how badly I was hurting, feelings were not important.  The source of my pain was inconsequential.  It didn’t matter why I was hurting, it just mattered that my feelings needed to be stopped.

I continue this pattern even now.  I will avoid and distract from feelings and refuse to look at what is causing them.  It just seems easier than dealing with the pain.  And if I don’t want the feelings then why bother to figure out why I am feeling them.  If I am really pushed and really upset, I will regress to, “I don’t have feelings.”  I just shut down completely.  I don’t do it too often anymore, but it is a fall-back response when I am emotionally flooded and/or in too much emotional pain (I mean severe, intense emotional pain.)

I also deal with emotions by withdrawing physically (especially to cry).  When I was young, my parents would lock me in my bedroom when I was having intense emotions.  I used to rage and rage while in my room and then just melt into a crying mess of defeat and worthlessness.  As an adult, I repeat the pattern of the physical isolation when I need to cry.  As a matter of fact, I retreat to my bedroom, close the door and shut down.  As an adult, I don’t rage.  But I certainly crash into feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness.


I also have come to have the belief that my emotions are too much for people, too big for people to deal with.  If my parents weren’t able to support me emotionally and had to lock me in my room when I was emotional, then my emotions were so big that they needed to be contained.  I could barely make sense of what I was feeling and how to manage the feelings (I was only a preschooler and didn’t have good modeling from my parents) so the fact that I had to be shut away when I felt emotions taught me that emotions must be shut away.

When I did approach my parents with intense emotions, my dad was unresponsive.  He was always emotionally unresponsive and unavailable and when he did demonstrate emotions, it was to rage.  He would rage against us kids, he would rage against nothing in particular.  He never would rage at my mother.  With my mother, my father just expressed a cold seething, but with me and my sister it was a terrifying rage and being hit with his belt.

My mother was too self-absorbed to pay attention to my emotions.  Anything else was more important than me and what I was feeling, be it her job, the soap operas she was addicted to or my sister.  If she did notice my feelings she always invalidated and dismissed them.  I never remember her letting me crawl on her lap to cry or to talk about what I was feeling. And if I ever did try to talk to her, there was correction and shaming on her part that was I was feeling wasn’t right.  But really, I was left to my own devices and as a self-sufficient kind of child, there was no real “need” for my parents to be involved in my emotional affairs.

Really, the messages I got were that emotions are bad, especially Sad and Angry.  Emotions would get me punished.  Emotions were too much for anyone, including myself, to handle and that what I was feeling wasn’t really what I was feeling.  As a young child, there was no way to make sense of any of this and thus began the development of some of my core beliefs.

As an adult, I still am emotionally withdrawn.  I feel very vulnerable and expect rejection when I try to share emotions with people, so I don’t.  And if people ask how to support me with my feelings, I often have no idea what to say.  I am afraid to feel sad and I am afraid to feel angry and I am sure if I express those emotions at/with people, it will push them away and I will be all alone again to try to manage what I am feeling with no idea of how to do it.


I’m not gonna lie.  I am super depressed.  It hits me most in the mornings and evening when I have no distractions.  I am weary and dead-inside.  I struggle to get out of bed and function.  I can’t make simple decisions, like what to wear.  I am overwhelmed.  The evenings are barely better.  I feel hollow and empty and try to convince myself that brushing my teeth is a good idea.  I put on my pajamas and crawl into bed…My mind slowly drifts across the day (not in an obsessive/anxiety sort of way) and I wish I was dead and intrusive thoughts break into my quietness and then I fall asleep.

Daytime is better.  We are so busy here and there is really no way to be disengaged.  I do the work I need to do, I smile at my peers and the support staff, I deflect my sadness with humor.  I am not faking it too well though.  When I am distracted from the busy-ness, my affect changes.  I know this, because I have had a few people approach me in such moments and ask if I am okay.  Mostly, I say that I am just tired.  To some, I have said I am depressed.  Feeling depressed is run-of-the-mill here, so it is an honest answer, but sort of meaningless.  I have not told anyone how depressed I am.  Or that I am struggling to maintain function and to not cry all the time.  (Although, crying is run-of-the-mill as well…so it wouldn’t look any different than any other day.)

I even can tell you why I am depressed.  Last week, Kyla had my write a trauma narrative from when I was 4.  It has stirred up lots of stuff.  She had me read her the narrative and I omitted stuff from it when I read it, which I told her.  She gave me the assignment of highlighting the omitted stuff before the next session.  And I didn’t do it.  She reassigned it.  I didn’t do it. She reassigned it on Monday.  And I did it. And I added to the narrative and I hunted down something I had written and given to the AT in May.  And I hate all of it.  So, the depression has settled around me, like a tarry blanket.  I feel broken and sad and like I am being swallowed into a dark hole.  It’s no wonder that I am tired all the time, I am working hard to maintain my day affect.

So, here I am.  Depressed.

The depression makes me not want to eat.  Supposedly, I am going to be moved to Level 2 today, giving me more autonomy with my meals. I have been waiting for this “promotion,” but right now, I feel like the timing is poor and I will struggle to do what I need to do with my meals.  I have already thought of 101 ways to get around eating what I am supposed to when I am moved to Level 2.  I am frustrated that I think this way, frustrated that I might use the autonomy to work the system.  Disappointed that I can’t shake the ED thinking.

I just don’t know.  I have therapy at 11 this morning.  I am supposed to read the damn narrative again.  But I won’t.  I feel stubborn about it.  Or scared…I guess really, I feel scared and so I want to put up every wall  I can to not have to read it.  However, I may get around it because there are a few things that I actually do need to discuss with Kyla that are not the narrative, but that are becoming pressing issues.  Mind you, she can spot distraction behavior a mile away, so I don’t know what I will be able to get away with, but I do have some other things to talk about that are totally legit.





Therapy Monday and Yesterday


Therapy Monday

Thursday was a hard therapy day.  We worked on those feeling cards that I had mentioned before…I draw a feeling and then on the back of the card, I write the name of the feeling and then what I know about it.  Sometimes, I can’t label the feeling…but that is okay.

And Thursday, he finally even did something that makes sense with the cards.  Later in the session he was asking me what I was feeling…and he held up a card and said, “Are you feeling this?” and then with another card and another…This is something I can handle!  I can’t necessarily name my feeling…but when he shows me my picture…I can see which one I am feeling.  (Or as the case may be on Thursday, I picked two feelings.)

But…I digress.  So I did a Fear card.  I drew a brick, because fear blocks me…keeps me from doing so much, is sort of the brick wall I hit in many ways. And I shaded black around it.   On the back, I wrote about it…I don’t remember all that I wrote, I know I wrote that Fear is my guiding principle….I just don’t remember the others things.

Then the AT asked what was under the fear…Or what the fear was blocking…something to that effect.  And he asked or said that it was Hurt. And maybe he even asked me to draw Hurt? (Sorry, my memory about this part is a bit sketchy.) And I went into total lock-down.  Total. Lockdown.  As in…I packed up my feelings, packed up the oil pastels, packed up the art mode and retreated to “my” chair.  Except, my feelings were not packed up…I was a wreck.  We can’t talk about Hurt. I can’t talk about Hurt. And I can not feel it.  Oh…and as usual…the AT wouldn’t let me dissociate. He seems to have the impression I need to stay in the room and be present.  So, I was miserable and emotionally imploding (again) and completely shut down.  It was soo hard!

Anyway…after a hard session like that, I never really know what to expect at the following session.  I guess I will find out in a couple hours.


Yesterday turned out to be an okay day.  I was tired, even after all that sleep and I ended up cutting things off of my over-extended “to do” list.  I did get together with my friend in the afternoon…Which was actually the most important thing on my list…so I am glad I did.

And mood-wise…I held it together…This morning…not so much.  I at least still feel functional…but I just want to curl up and cry.  But today is another long day because I work after Art Therapy….curling up and withdrawing from the world is not an option.  So, I will suck it up and put on my game face and compartmentalize like crazy.




At least I compartmentalize well…That’s what got me through work yesterday.

Still not sleeping very well…I stayed up later than usual last night so that I would be exhausted when I went to bed.  I woke up just after 3 and then sort of dozed and rested until I got up at 4. I am so tired I am numb.

I have to pull out my best compartmentalization today. Ages ago, I volunteered today to help the dog rescue from which we got our dog. I am obligated to spend pretty much all day at a “Meet and Greet” event where I will have to be social and pleasant and outgoing.  I am sooo not in the frame of mind to do this event!  But dh and ds are going and we are taking at least one of the two dogs…So with that support and my fabulous compartmentalizing skills…I ought to make it through.

The exhaustion however is another story.  It’s going to be a long day.

Me, The Child-Me, The Art Therapist & The Teddy Bear


Me, The Child-Me, The Art Therapist & The Teddy Bear

Have I ever mentioned that the Art Therapist challenges me?  Oh yeah…I guess have a couple of times.


I took in my wind mobile and as I was getting it put together to show the Art Therapist I said to him, “I broke my own rule.”  And explained that the mobile had representations of me as a child…The child-me which I banned after the girl/balloon drawing day.  The Art Therapist said something to the effect of, “Yeah…we need to talk about that.” But didn’t pursue it at the moment, I assume because I was showing him the mobile.

Once assembled, I explained the mobile to the AT and the meaning of the pictures, how each one captures a piece of my life in relation to my experience of the wind.…And then my recall of what we were discussing gets a bit hazy, but I was feeling upset and my eyes strayed across the room and settled on the stuffed animals on top of the shelf.  And the Art Therapist noticed.  And he commented on it.  And then, he did the unthinkable! He got up, went across the room and got Joey, the Teddy bear, and turned towards me with full intent of giving me Joey.  I didn’t know what to do….The last thing I wanted was for the AT to hand me that Teddy bear.  Only, I didn’t say no.  I could have said no…I should have said no.  But I didn’t.

And so, the AT brought Joey over to me. I refused to make eye contact with the AT or acknowledge what he was doing.  And the Art Therapist placed Joey on my stomach (I was kind of slouched in the chair). And I ignored it.  Except that I could see Joey in my peripheral vision…and I could see his soft purple fur.  But I refused to look at him (or the AT) instead I focused on two knots of wood on a panel across the room.

And I was imploding.  But I refused to feel it…to let it out.  But that stupid bear was right there and so tempting.  And the Art Therapist was saying in his best super-soothing voice, “It’s okay.”  And all I could do was shake my head. NO!!!!! It is not okay.  I cannot do this. And I just wanted to sob.  But I couldn’t.

So, I sat there, not looking at the AT. Not looking at the Teddy bear. And not crying.

And after a while the AT asked for Joey back.  And I grabbed Joey by his arm and without looking at the AT, thrust my hand in his direction and passed off Joey.  Only….I didn’t want to.  As much as I didn’t want to hold that bear and cuddle him….I didn’t want to give him up either…maybe I did want to snuggle him, just a little bit.  But I couldn’t let myself.  I just couldn’t give myself that comfort.  Or that vulnerability.  And I could NOT let the child-me touch that bear.  No. No. No.  You can’t give a banned child-me a purple Teddy bear.  It is against the rules.

It was awful.  I have never felt so torn between two parts.  And I don’t know what to do with that child-me part….So, I just have opted to shut her out.  It seems easier that way.  Or I feel more in control that way.  Or something…

The funny thing is that the when I was leaving (And let me tell you, I pretty nearly ran out of there!) the AT told me I had done good work.  Which I totally don’t get.  So, shutting him out, ignoring the Teddy bear and not crying is good work? Seems to me that it might smack of a therapy fail.

I think that was the hardest session I have had so far with the Art Therapist.

Mask of Normalcy


Mask of Normalcy

Yesterday was a bad day.  Today is not shaping up much better….

Yesterday, I came the closest to cutting that I have been in a very long time….I just needed to turn off the pain.  And I decided that I don’t care anymore.  I am not sure what the point to trying to get better is if it never works.

I also was full of suicidal ideation yesterday….Dark thoughts, dark ideas….Losing focus of the point of living.  I mean, what is the point if I am constantly in pain?  I don’t want to live like this for the rest of my life.  Sometimes, suicide just seems like the most humane thing to do.

But then, I know it is not the right thing to do for my family. And if I can just keep my shit together so that I look okay on the outside, then it doesn’t matter what I feel like on the inside.  So, I will paste on my mask of normalcy and keep going…just dying inside slowly.

Except, yesterday, I wasn’t doing so well at faking it and dh noticed.  He misread my vibes and thought I was mad at him….And he tried to talk to me.  And I couldn’t talk about it and tell him that it was bad day.  Actually, I couldn’t even look him in the eye because I was afraid I would just burst into tears.  And I sat there berating myself for not reaching out and asking for help….And for having my stupid hang-up about crying.

I guess it doesn’t matter anyway.  Like I said, I will put on that mask of normalcy and hope that I do a better job today of keeping what is inside in.  I have to funnel all my energy into faking it….I’d better not waste any with feelings.

A Great Way to Start the Week and Friends


A Great Way to Start the Week

I don’t even know what to say about yesterday.  Therapy was hard.  Really hard.  By the time I left, I was half sure that I was going to vomit.  I guess, if I internalize all that feeling and all the tears, my body has to manifest it somehow.  I did not actually vomit…but I spent the car ride to work half-present and half-dissociating.  The present part of me was trying to command the floating away part of me to not float away….but the floaty part was so disconnected and tempting with it’s numbness…I did pull myself together (for the most part anyway) and compartmentalize the hell out of myself so I could function at work.  I think I mostly pulled it off…though by the end of the day, when I picked up dh from work, my compartmentalizing must have been melting.  He took one look at me and knew therapy had been hard and that I had been trying not to cry.


I feel myself withdrawing from my friends right now.  I feel too raw and jumbled and dark inside…I just want to fold in on myself and shrink away.  I feel like I have nothing to say, and what I do say is tainted by my feeling flat and so I feel false.  Withdrawing makes me feel more alienated and alone and unhappy.  I wish I could find better balance and trust myself more. I wish I felt okay to be me with my friends even when the me is not perfect.

Not Doing So Great and Work


Not Doing So Great

Yesterday was not a good day for me mood-wise. My mood was pretty low in the morning and I was struggling with some negative thoughts.  After a little while, I just went back to bed as that is pretty much a guaranteed way to turn off the feeling bad.  But, I didn’t sleep very long.  Mostly, I just ended up immersing myself in Facebook and reading blogs and watching a couple of movies with dh all day.  It took the edge off, but the negative thinking was still there.  The problem is, given the severity of the negative thought pattern (thinking about cutting) I would have thought what triggered it would have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t.  Unless it was part of processing the ACE study.  I am not sure.

Unfortunately, this is the second time within a week that my self-harm thoughts have been triggered.  It is frustrating to me because, my mood doesn’t feel super bad right now, but clearly I’m off of my baseline because my baseline doesn’t include frequent thoughts of self-harm.  I guess I will bring it up with the Art Therapist today.  I feel a little bit awkward about it because I forgot to tell him about the previous episode (which lasted from Monday night through most of Tuesday) during our session on Thursday…and I wasn’t trying to intentionally withhold information, but by Thursday, I was not feeling self-harmish anymore, so it didn’t come up.

And yes, I see the AT twice a week now.  I had asked about increasing frequency because I was having a hard time keeping it together between appointments and really was in a lot of emotional pain that was leading me to darker thoughts.  I felt like increasing frequency would give me a grounding point without having to wait 7 days.  Seven days can be a looooong time when I’m crawling out of my skin with pain.   The AT had to give it some thought, but in the end decided 2x/week made sense from his perspective too.  We are supposed to be doing a session of work and then the next session is for grounding, but we are also being flexible as to what feels right for the moment.


I have to go directly from AT to work…which will be another quick (super quick!) transition where I will have to pack all my feelings away and be ready to walk through the work door “happy” and ready to go.  It feels like it might be a tough task.  Really, I don’t want to go to work at all today.  I don’t feel like taking care of other people today.  But…I will go. I will suck it up and I will do my job and fake it until I break! Luckily, I am an exceptional faker (there’s that compartmentalizing again) so, it will be okay.   And really the clients deserve my best so I will push past my reluctance and give them what they need.  Then I will come home and crash!