Sunday, December 1, 2013

Somatic Experiencing® - How full is my bucket of 'trauma'?

Therapist (T) removed me from the waiting area at our clinic, which was quite noisy and rather busy. He had observed that I was in a 'frozen' state and invited me into his clinic room a few minutes earlier so I could come down as he had noticed my traumatized state. It gave me a few minutes to calm down and regroup. T asked me how my week had been. I talked about a small OD I had taken earlier in the week. I explained how I had gone into the 'red' state of overload and overwhelm we had discussed in the previous session. I explained some of the triggers that had lead to this state, including work - I had ended up leaving abruptly at 3pm. A phone call later on had aroused anger, especially as the person had made unhelpful judgemental comments about my mental health state at that time. I explained how I had almost hung-up the phone. I had tried the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) but had left it too late in the date to obtain any help. I decided to use ice - a pack of frozen peas put in my tummy in order to 'shock' me back into the now. The phone rang again and it was the same person who had upset me before. They tried to smooth over the previous conversation, but it was too late from my point of view. A short while later, I felt I couldn't be bothered to stay up any later in the day (it was 7.30pm) and I impulsively reached for a few tablets - reasons why - wanting to zone out, again, wishing I didn't have to wake up again. I knew that my behaviour was maladaptive, but I was too much in the 'red' and other skillful behaviour -e.g stroking cat, watching TV, dancing, had all failed.

T asked me to say how I was feeling. I explained that, minus my back which was in a serious state of pain and spasm owing to a strained facet joint and all the inflammation that included that I was able to feel the carpet, my sitz bones etc. T observed that I was relived the conversation that had upset me on the phone that my fists were clenched. He asked me what I might have wanted more ideally in the phone conversation. I reiterated to T what I had discussed in therapy earlier in the week that I wanted to be listened to and helped. We conducted a zen like conversation where T pretended to be the person who had upset me and showed empathy and listening skills. T asked me to look at what I could see in the room, what I could hear, what I could feel with my left hand, right foot etc, what I could smell. As these feelings were considered my body calmed down and I started to breathe having previously been crying when T said, (as in the role of caller) that T loved me, that made me cry more. We carried on putting me back into the present moment. I explained how smoking gave me a few minutes to enjoy being in the present moment as I observed sensually what I was seeing when I was in the garden at home.  T (for better or worse) encouraged me to to this for the time being.

I then started to talk about a brief visit to my sister, where although it had been nice to see my new niece and my nephew that my sister needed much listening to and then was asking me questions and I had blanked out and dissociated. I had realized I had the red again and that it was like pouring more water into an already overflowing bucket, that at the moment my bucket was fulled to the brim and in the red. I explained how the best I could get my bucket was to a deep amber state (next state down from red), which therefore gave me a small range of time to function before overload set in. I said that after red would come a deep yellow, a pale yellow followed by green and then blue - a sky/lapis lazuli blue that was at the bottom and would be an ideal state of functioning where there were very gentle waves, rather than huge ranges of waves and that I was calm, in the moment, that I had my short-term memory, that there was a huge hard-drive of more space, that I could easily do my writing work, that there was balance and harmony in my world, that I was relaxed and calm and measured. That life was a pleasure. Visualising that state, which is where we are aiming for was part of my homework, as well as making gentle contact with all parts of my body, varying touch and intensity depending on what my body felt same to manage. It was a surprise to both of us when I started crying after merely palpating my left heel. The right side remains much calmer and happier with touch. I agreed to use candle light in the bath to calm me down, to be listening to music more and to palpate/use lotion on all of my body, not just my shins as additional homework for the week.

It was a good session and left me lots of time on the bus to reflect upon my 'blue bucket' of Zen!

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