Holding my hand through THIS

*photograph taken by my husband of me on the beach 

I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to put THIS hair into a pony tail since getting it cut a few months ago.

Muscle memory. 

I’ve put long hair into a pony tail my entire life. My arms remember doing it the thousands of times I did for my life. I no longer have long hair. There is nothing to put into a pony tail. My brain does not seem to know this. My arms don’t seem to know this. 

Muscle memory is powerful. 

My body remembers. 

PTSD reminds my body of events from 30 years ago. My body reacts now at 45 years old in a way that my 11 year old is experiencing the event again. My brain does not seem to know in a PTSD moment that I am not in the fight of my life with an abuser. 

I have been exploring how I feel during and after a PTSD moment and to the different triggers. I had NO idea that different triggers reminded me of different ages and different stages of abuse that occurred over my lifetime. Different triggers brought out emotions I felt at those times in my life. I had multiple abusers over many years. Some triggers leave me feeling petrified, frozen and unable to breathe. That is 11 years old. Some triggers leave me feeling manic and needing to regain control. That is 18 years old. Some triggers make me feel weak and useless. That is 23 years old. I ALWAYS end at 8 years old. Every time. I stand in the shower and I cry as I scrub my body until I cannot scrub it any more. Different ages take me to different abuses. Different triggers take me back to those ages. It takes time, mindfulness, persistance, grounding, etc, to make my way back to 45 year old me. 

I am not 8, 11, 18, or 23 years old. I am 45 years old. My body remembers what happened during those years though. The memories are there. Just like my hands automatically go to put my short hair into a pony tail out when I am hot, my brain automatically during PTSD goes back to different ages of emotions when I was abused.

With time I wonder will my arms stop going to put my non-existent hair up?

With time I wonder will the PTSD triggers lessen and will I find my way back to my 45 year old self easier? It is hard coming back. I know when I am gone. I know when I dissociate. I know exactly the age I dissociate to. My body remembers. I am trying to teach my body that during those times I can still give it love. I am working on self love at EVERY age. I can still go into the past and give that 8 year old love and that 11 year old love. Those parts are inside of me. Those memories can receive love. I hope by giving all the parts of me love, I will be able to stay the 45 year old me. I really pray this is so. 

I have been trying to let go of that that does not help me during healing. Some days are easier than others to do that. I will consciously push a thought away if it is not positive. A thought will pop up of my mother and I will just not go there. Some days. Today, I thought about me at all of those different ages I am nurturing. I thought, if my mother were in my life she could nurture those parts of myself. If I only had my mother. I miss having a mother. I wish I had a mother. Everyone  deserves a mother. Sadness leads to anger. I end up hating her for not being here. I circle back to being sad because I have to do this alone. My mother sucks. There is no way around that. She sucks as a mother right now for this 45 year old self. She is a selfish prideful awful human being. But this will not help me heal. Again, I just cannot go there. BUT in thinking of her it helps me to realize and put into perspective that she would never have helped me to heal. That helps me to refocus on my own healing and how I can accomplish that. 

I cannot rely on anyone else to heal me. No one else can save me. I would love the nurturing of my imaginary mother. But this work I need to do alone anyway. I have a husband. He cannot save me either. He is not my savior. If I put that on him then he will eventually fall from grace. He doesn’t deserve that responsibility. I HAVE to save myself. Every part of myself.  I can have some helpers like my therapist, those in my tribe, my friends. I ultimately have to fix myself though. 

I wish I had my mother’s hand to hold through this. I do not. I will go THERE less and less because she is not worth the space in my brain any longer. I do have my husband. He CAN and does hold my hand through this.  With him next to me I believe I can do this. Even if he were not…I must save myself. Saving myself means loving all of me. Even in the PTSD moments at every age and every emotion, loving myself. I am a work in progress! I am happy that my 45 year old being has someone to hold my hand right now. I am surely blessed with that. 

*picture of my husband and I holding hands taken by me

40 thoughts on “Holding my hand through THIS

  1. Beautiful post as always Bethany! I remember seeing a news report a couple of months back, about a woman in her 30’s who desperately craved the love and support of a mother and a lady in her 70’s who had never been able to have children and desperately wanted to be a mother. Somehow these 2 women became friends and filled the roles of mother-daughter so perfectly..They even admitted live on TV that they became surrogate mother-daughter to each other. It really was wonderful! Maybe this is what we need to gently help the healing! ❤

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  2. Bethany – I imagine you know this book: “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk.
    This next one changed my life. I saw it in Betsy’s office and ordered it from Amazon that night. FYI – very clear to read, but emotionally, very difficult and hugely helpful.
    “Intensive Psychotherapy for Persistent Dissociative Processes: The Fear of Feeling Real” (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) 1st Edition by Richard Chefetz
    Like looking into the mirror. TS

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  3. Lovely photos. I can feel your heart and your hand in your husband’s hand. How you feel about your mother is normal in a lot of situations like yours, ending up being angry that your mother was not there. You’re brave and you’re doing just great and going through this process of healing. You are beautiful, Bethany!

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  4. I understand about dissociation. I’ve gone through that. I think it happened to me again when I went to the chiropractor yesterday. He, yes a male, had to touch my feet. I noticed I was giggling like a little girl a few times. I thought, “Oh shit. Stop giggling you idiot.” I could feel myself wanting to please him and feeling uncomfortable.

    I trust this man. He really seems normal. Consciously, I’m not afraid of him, but the little girl inside me is. I think triggers will come and some may go, but it doesn’t devastate me anymore. I know what is happening inside my mind and I just try my best to cope with it. I don’t feel upset about seeing him again, which is a huge step forward. This will happen for you too, I’m sure.

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    • Wow you really have moved so far forward. To recognize them so well, to know where they are rooted and to not let them stop you from going forward. Thank you for sharing that.
      I am JUST now recognizing and writing about this. This was the first time really that I have started to work on ages and trigggers an I am doing al of this through my therapist and with her. Just documenting the journey on my blog. I hope what is happening with you will come to me. I can only pray that it will. Thank you for sharing that story though, it is comforting to know that you do understand and that it can be overcome

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  5. My heart breaks not having a mother to turn to as well. I can’t have her in my life – she turned a blind eye to the abuse. Even though she came through for me occasionally in other areas of my life, I can’t forgive her allowing the abuse to happen.
    Something I like to do when I’m missing and wanting my mother, is to appreciate what an awesome mother I’m being to myself. I pretty much raised myself and I deserve credit for it… you do too! Go buy yourself a card and a gift – the type you’d want to give to a loving mother – and write a letter to yourself; telling yourself all the reasons you’re an awesome mother to yourself. Put it away and next time you feel this way, pull the present and card out. I hope it comforts you as much as it comforts me.

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    • What an absolutely fantastic idea!!!!
      My therapist JUST said to remember the mother that I am and the strength and love I give my daughter and to give that same nurturing to myself.
      You really added to that. Thank you very much.
      I’m so sorry your mother turned away and did not protect you. I completely understand not having her in your life.
      Thank you for giving me comforting ideas

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  6. I love this. I love you! I’m so proud of you. I love the pictures. You are beautiful. You are a warrior and you are just fucking awesome. Your husband is the luckiest man in the world. The way you described him is the same way I would describe “my Barry.” He doesn’t watch me struggle. He helps me. I’m so glad to have you as a friend, but also as my sister. I feel we are connected in a way that makes us family. I love you. Thanks for sharing your heart with me. I love you!!!

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  7. You are so blessed to have a hand to hold…. I understand the lack of having a mother to mother you…. I applaud you for being so candid about your experience. I appreciate you sharing this as I can relate and it gives me hope that maybe one day I will have
    a hand to hold… in the meantime I’m working on saving me. I wish you love and peace.

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    • Wishing you love and peace too. I am so glad that it gave you hope. I’m so sorry that you know how it feels to not be mothered. It is so incredibly sad. As I look at my own daughter right here next to me I just cannot imagine a mother not wanting to move heaven and earth for her child. But we did not have mothers like that. Way to go on working on saving yourself!!!!!

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      • There is quote from the book/ movie “the help” it goes something like this .. it’s hard for a child when their mother don’t think their pretty… once I find the correct quote i will post it… it made so much sense and in a few works described my relationship with my mother and my life. My children? I’d walk thru fire no questions asked, no answers required! Keep writing and sharing… we are not alone in this journey called life. ☺️

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      • That is my favorite book! I absolutely loved it and I know the quote you are talking about.
        I was never pretty. I COULD be pretty if I just…fill in the blank, wore nicer clothes, wore make up, did my hair.
        So a month ago I cut all of my hair off to release the rules and regulations put on my by my mother to be pretty and it was liberating. I wanted to be the me that I wanted to be. And I feel great that I did it.
        We really are not alone. Thank you for connecting to me

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      • My mother used to say to me “even monkeys are cute”. My way of rebelling in my adulthood has been to dye my hair purple, I have eight ear piercings on one ear, I’ve gotten several tattoos and plan a few more… I am being me! I commend you for cutting your hair.. it’s sooo freeing isn’t it☺️. We are not alone … and I’m grateful for the connection too☺️

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      • Awesome!!! I was going back and forth between purple and blue tips. I cut it short and asked her if she could still do the tips and she said she could. I have so much gray we have no idea how it will turn out. It’s still on the table!!! Could happen.
        It is so nice just being you isn’t it! Like fantastic.
        Why in the heck would your mother say something like that??!!!!!!
        I like waking up and doing what I want to do for myself. One pair of pants my mother said looked like pajamas. I wear them because I like them and have no one to tell me how stupid I look in them. They are linen. LINEN WRINKLES. Duh! Who cares. I love them! And make up. I hated make up because she always wanted me to wear it and thought I looked bad without it. But now I wear it some days just for me and I love it.
        It is truly freeing being yourself.

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      • I love it purple and blue I’ve had both colors and a mix of both in my hair at one time. I can relate to the freedom of being yourself. There is no greater gift you can give yourself. Just reading your response I can feel the joy and freedom of you enjoying being you – wearing those comfy pants. It’s the best joy when you connect with yourself 😊

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