Thursday, March 18, 2010

love and trauma

So last post...I started talking about my first really serious relationship. It wasn't my first relationship. I'll probably write about them all eventually...but here's a quick summary:

I had a "boyfriend" / playmate when I was in grade 2, and although that hardly counts as a "relationship", we did call each other boyfriend and girlfriend, we did kiss (on the cheek), we spent Valentine's day together and we gave each other small gifts. I am actually very grateful that I had this relationship before I was molested. It gave me a reference point to compare with my later relationships. At age 7, I was comfortable holding hands and kissing on the cheek; at age 13, I was not. Obviously something had changed.

I had a boyfriend when I was 13, that lasted about 2 months. We met on vacation in the summer and lived in different cities; after the summer, we drifted apart. I didn't mind drifting apart; I hadn't really been comfortable with him and was just starting to realize that I had some issues to work through around relationships.

I met a boy with beautiful eyes over a staring contest when I was 15. We dated for about 6 months, but he was too intense and wanted to kiss me too soon and basically scared me away.

I dated a friend of a friend for about 5 months when I was 16. I felt more comfortable with him. I was able to tell him about being molested when I was younger, and he understood that he needed to be careful and go slow with me. Although I did feel like running at the beginning of that relationship, I was able to kiss him eventually, and able to actually enjoy it. I was just starting to wonder whether I wanted to take the big step of saying "I love you" when he stopped returning my phone calls. Apparently he had found a new girl and didn't feel it was necessary to inform me. It hurt at the time, but I don't regret the relationship and now we're friends.

Up to this point, I had a childhood sweetheart and three relationships where I struggled with my feeling of wanting to run away.

And then I started my first serious relationship about a month before I turned 18. I think this was the first time I was really "ready" for a relationship.

There was a lot of good and a lot of bad in that relationship. It healed some parts of me and wounded others. I left him 5 years ago, almost to the day. I don't know why the memories feel so fresh this year. I think it might be because I'm starting to realize how much of my past I've dissociated and fragmented, and I'm trying to resolve the painful memories instead of just burying them, and I never actually resolved the bad parts of that relationship. In fact, the point where I went numb and couldn't feel anything anymore in the relationship was probably when PTSD set in. And so I never dealt with those memories.

My team does know about it, but not the whole story, not yet. There's just so much of it to tell, and there are other things I'm trying to work through at the same time. I'm talking to my main doctor (Dr. Z) on Friday, and looking forward to sorting some of this out. I'm pretty sure I'll cry...but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I always feel better after I cry in therapy.

Interesting tidbit from last week's therapy session: I told Dr. Z about my new doctor (Dr. F), and how she told me that I have symptoms of PTSD and that had taken me by surprise. Dr. Z asked what surprised me about it, and I told her I hadn't really considered my life as being traumatic. She asked how I would define a traumatic event. I didn't have a hard answer for that, but when I thought of 'trauma', I thought of something more violent and sudden, like a car crash where someone dies or surviving a tornado or something. So she pulled out her copy of "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" and read the definition they use for a "traumatic event":

a traumatic event is a situation where both of the following occurred:
  • The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event where there was the threat of or actual death or serious injury. The event may also have involved a threat to the person's physical well-being or the physical well-being of another person.
  • The person responded to the event with strong feelings of fear, helplessness or horror.
Going by that definition, she said I had at least 3 sources of childhood traumatic events, and probably even more than that, and some of those sources are still active.

I hadn't thought about my life in those terms before, but everything she said made sense, and I'm starting to recognize some of the things I do now that are rooted in those past experiences. Friday's session should be...interesting...


  1. Its beautiful to see how you are realizing things about pieces of your past.
    Maybe not beautiful in the way a new dress is beautiful, more of a little girl taking her first steps in the sunlight beautiful.
    A growth sort of beautiful.
    Its inspiring dear :)

    Love, Andy

  2. I think you're doing excellent, brave, important work - putting your past together. You're very commited to sorting through all of your memories and the fragmented parts of your life. It'll be way worth it. Keep going, J. You're doing so well!