“I want you to remember what I told you in our very first session. You are doing recovery in the most difficult way possible.”
I’ve heard that several times in the last 2 years but today it very much clicks what that really means. “You would have been a good candidate for inpatient. Think about it–you’re working on trauma in therapy every day but then you go home to eat AND take care of kids, the house, etc. If you were inpatient, you would go from [therapy] straight to [meal support]…” It’s so hard, I say, tears coming. I wished in that moment I could stay there, or return to my therapist’s office–that either house was residential treatment, and I could just lay down in safety for as long as the rest of trauma recovery took.
Moments earlier my body went into fight or flight. I was trying to tell myself to stay but I really thought I was going to bolt out the door. A rush of panic spread throughout every part of my body. Saying “I’m in ‘flight’” out loud helped. I couldn’t say the rest out loud–my thoughts felt too intense, as if anyone heard them, they would immediately stop loving me. I’d had therapy earlier in the day and things came up for me as the day went on, and I think at first my body was like, oh thank goodness, you’ve brought me to a place where we can keep working on this [trauma]. But I panicked. I hadn’t said this piece–an extension of the morning–out loud before. It seemed like too much, even, inappropriate. I began to feel irrationally unsafe.
My dietitian is calm, peaceful, nonjudgmental, and most importantly; safe. I have come to learn when I feel overly anxious with her, it’s the eating disorder running the show. I hadn’t seen her in 3 weeks and that was long enough to start making up stories about how things must have changed. I hadn’t seen her recently enough to make it easy, in the middle of fight or flight, to recall that she is a safe person. That the room is safe. That she would do whatever I need to do to feel safety and that I can tell her anything.
I truly, temporarily, couldn’t find the real story.
She gave me a bunch of grounding options when I vocalized I thought I needed to go home, and the only one that seemed manageable was moving from the couch to the ground, so I did that. My body making contact with the ground instantly helps take my anxiety or panic down a notch or two. Every time.
Sometimes I get so worried about others feelings or potential triggers or boundaries, I forget that being inside an established, safe, caring relationship probably means it’s ok to share what’s going on. Even if it’s unpleasant.
If someone I loved shared trauma with me, I would only have love, care, and compassion to give back.
My body is (unfortunately, sometimes) great at telling me when I need to get something out. I’ve learned I cannot move on in healthy, productive ways until I get it out. I have a team that’s safe to do that with. I wasn’t able to share what I needed to in my dietitian’s office right then, but I was able to pull over on my way home, reach out for support, cry uncontrollably, eventually verbalize what was really going on in my head (to my therapist), and come full circle to relief, self-compassion and outside of the crisis bubble I felt I was in.
My body just needs to tell a story. And I’m going to let it.