Know Thyself

Several patterns play themselves out in my life.

Each one is a link to some aspect of my childhood that either is either a scar
or is a source of salvation.

If insanity is repeating the same mistake with the hope of a different outcome, than I have been completely insane since childhood.

One of these insane patterns is that of seeking out and hooking up with narcissistic women.

There are other patterns based on the community in which I was raised: the racism, the antisemitism, the homophobia and the static class system as it existed for people at the very bottom.

These patterns of repetition became especially pronounced when I stopped working and entered therapy.

Psychotherapy means dredging up memories that I want buried under a mountain of distraction and denial.

I often go to therapy in a state of emotional distress, walking through panic attacks and other flight or fight reactions.

The literature I’ve read regarding the treatment of trauma and dissociation states Psychotherapy as essential for successfully resolving a complex trauma disorders.

Cognitive approaches teach people to manage distress but they won’t resolve Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

***

Based on a 1922 photograph of Freud in the Public Domain

The patients’ job during intensive psychotherapy is to ask why.

Why do I seek out women who are devoid of the capacity for love?

Why do I veer from an extreme identification with the middle class to an extreme identification with the poor?

Why do I force myself to fail economically just as I get closest to winning?

Accepting the option to ‘know thyself’ means living in a perpetual state of brutal self-questioning.

Why do I sometimes behave as if I hate myself?

I first grappled with the problem of internalized stigma during the early days of the AIDS epidemic when I wondered if the epidemic was God’s judgment.

None of the intellectual and political constructions that served me as gay activist in the 1970’s could defeat the internalized homophobia that AIDS unleashed.

I watched men die from grief, self-hatred and fear.

I was nearly one of them.

This was when I realized the true function of any ‘ism’ is to convince the target to self destruct.

This was why any novel written about gays before Stonewall usually ended with the suicide or the impoverished death of the main character.

AIDS was the greatest tragic ending, fraught with the dissonant myth of a loving, yet angry and vengeful God.


Internalized homophobia was the least of my problems.

AIDS was trauma on trauma.

I did not know that I had a dissociative disorder.

I did not know that I was living in the worst possible place at the worst possible time for someone with DID.

The political climate in San Francisco coupled with the fear brought on by the epidemic fueled a political backlash against the gay community.

Increased fag bashing was a trigger.

Friends who were healthy one week and dead the next were triggers.

Any spot on my arm sent me into panic, so much so that I became a frequent flyer at the local clinics, which eventually gave me a prescription for Xanax.

Xanax
                                 Xanax

I did not know that Xanax was addictive; I only knew that it made the fear go away.

The straight psychiatrists I saw  were completely removed from the Gay Community and the AIDS epidemic and didn’t understand why the panicked
patient whose friends were all dying was so distressed and unstable.

The pharmaceutical industry reported that Xanax had an anti-depressant effect.

By 1986 I was on a prescribed dose of eight milligrams a day.


Everything that happens during the course of Psychotherapy is a representation of the trauma, its affect your life, and the meaning of your symptoms.

For adult survivors of abuse a common theme in therapy is mistrust and the fear of forming an attachment.

DID allows a part of me to make friends and to form an attachment while protecting the parts of me that are fragile and afraid.

My task in treatment is to intentionally make all of myself vulnerable to another person; in my case, a woman therapist, since most of the damage was done by my Mother.

This process of building trust with a woman who wants what’s best for me and who acts in my interests is the path to becoming whole.


In the Hell of my childhood nothing about me was acceptable.

I was a show-off, too sensitive, too feminine, too much of everything that people in my ‘class’ had no right to be.

In the world of my childhood, God rewards the Godly with a good Christian family, white skin; and money.

A lowly birth meant your place in God’s plan was bondage.

The idea that all Americans have a right to a stake in the wealth of our nation was deemed an absurd fiction, a delusion foisted on good people by damned Yankees.


 

John C. Calhoun Homes
                                                      John C. Calhoun Homes

 

***

Children instinctively want to please their parents; it’s an evolutionary adaptation that enhances survival.

The double bind for an abused child is that the only behavior that pleases the parent is an abdication of the self.

As I enter my fourth year of intensive psychotherapy the questions I must answer become more confounding and painful.

But at least I know what they are have the strength I need to ask them.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2015-2017
The Photo of Xanax found on Google Images

First posted November 1, 2015-updated November 8, 2017 – After 7 years
of psychotherapy and I’m pleased to say I’m getting better.

 

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Thank You, Treatment Team

FIGHT STIGMA – THERE IS HOPE

Kitt O'Malley

Photos of my treatment team: Alex Michelson, MD; Brynne Lum, LMFT; My Family (son and husband)

Assuming that my therapist, Brynne Lum, LMFT, was not available (she’s very popular), I called my psychiatrist to see if he was available. He was! Yay!

Alex Michelson, MD saw me, listened to me, and reassured me that it sounds like I’m exhausted, which is understandable considering all that I’ve done in the last year and a half.

Brynne happened to be there when I visited, and I learned that she had a cancellation next week. Double yay! Now I don’t have to wait until the end of the month to see her.

Dr. Michelson reminded me that group therapy was always available for me to rejoin.

Anyway, before I got through to my team, I decided to take a couple of days off. Not exactly on a nature retreat. Just staying in a local hotel overlooking our local toll road (which is LOUD). Not as nice as I…

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EMDR Session 3: Closing the door

I’m now in EMDR treatment. This is how it feels.

blackspotsite

Monday means EMDR. It’s become a regular fixture of dread in my schedule. Although my therapy sessions with J are often tough, I rarely hate the idea of going there. But EMDR is different. It is gruelling and painful. There’s not much room for humour or to share the lighter moments in life.

Today Dr H and I were continuing to work on the intrusive image we focused on last week. I felt like I made some progress in the last session, managing to get my distress level associated with the image down to about a 3/10. This morning, Dr H asked me to go back to it and imagine being there again and we did more of the same. Repeated sets of eye movements, working through whatever feelings came up.

Last week there was a huge amount of fear connected with the memory. I kept crying because…

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There are no pills for this.

False Memories

Science has a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which neurotransmitters communicate.
Psychotropic medications that work very well for certain kinds of  biochemical processes that affect the brain.
The illnesses that respond best to medications are affective disorders and Schizophrenia.
The most exceptional cases are people who return to normal functioning.
Normal functioning is not the same as mental wellness.
Mental wellness is the ability to balance the needs of the
self with the rights of others.
A mentally well person knows his strengths and weaknesses and knows who he is in relation to other people.

Mental illness is not a constant and neither is mental wellness.

Psychotropic medications do not heal; they treat.

The healing power of psychotherapy is the power of a relationship in which one sees a reflection of the damaged self as worthy.
Medication can’t do this.
The therapeutic relationship is one that frees the mind to process memories that feel so shameful they are replaced by the “right” memories:
A loving Mother.
A strong Father.
A supportive Sister.
My false memories are the ones that
seem normal.
The stories and poems and that I post to this blog take place in a dream.
Some of these things happened but most of them only happened in my head.
Five years into therapy, I understand that the worst damage was the damage that arrested my emotional development.
I’ve never felt truly adult.
This blog represents a milestone in my therapy and in my emotional growth.
To stand up and claim my life with all of its fragmented pain is a step toward a more unified sense of who I am as a whole person.
There are no pills for this.
There never will be.
The stories on my blog are dedicated to Flora Colao, who is teaching us how to be whole.
“…We need to play so that we can rediscover the magic all around us.”
Flora Colao

Please note: Never stop taking your medications without consulting your doctor.

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