Reflections on 2010

| By Paul | | Comments (35)

Last year in Looking Back and Ahead, I tried to make sense of my long healing journey as well as identified my gains for the year. I think it is probably good practice for all of us to reflect on the past year and use it as an opportunity to celebrate the gains, validate the tribulations, and set goals for the upcoming year.

For me, this year has been filled with at least as many ups and downs as the last one. Most of what follows is based on a discussion with "My Healing Guide" a couple of days ago. Whenever I talk about short-term gains, she likes to frame them in a larger context, as being built on the accumulated efforts of the entire journey. She says it is like I have already built a foundation, and our task is to add floors and rooms. I do like that metaphor.

I do believe that the Contract of a year ago was the launching point for what I was able to accomplish this past year. The entire Contract is really based on just a few basic principles (summarized by single words): trust, acceptance, and validation. Everything flows from this. While I don't read the Contract much these days, I don't really need to; its creation came from a place of near complete common ground and all of me knows its essential elements to the core. Yes, the Contract has stood up well this past year. All of me has understood its significance.

While I know our therapy work this past year was a true collaboration, it was important for me to tell "My Healing Guide" that she played a huge role in helping me continue to heal. I absolutely do not take that help for granted. None of my gains would have been possible without her help, without her willingness to be there for me, to walk with me, to listen to me, to promote trust, acceptance, and validation.

I also have an appreciation for the fact that healing is really about living. It is not all about therapy. The work we have done has helped me live more of the life I want to live. Yes, there have been some really low lows this year. But there have also been new connections inside, with my children and, to some extent, with my wife.

The 2010 year started out horribly with the Our Family Crisis, which blew up in our faces. This family "friend" was truly distorting my relationship with my wife and driving a huge wedge between us. This situation had been ongoing for years, but I think it came to a head because the "friend" saw an opening partly because I was in the hospital so often. It is astonishing to me that I was able to solve it. I stood up for my family. I took charge. I reestablished boundaries. The result was that my wife and I became closer and that set us up for what was to come.

In Holy Week, Church Visit, Scandal, and Miracles, I wrote about how "My Healing Guide" went with me to the church where a good deal of my childhood abuse took place. I never imagined that would have been possible, and I still cannot believe we did it! It was initially all completely validating and healing, but it did stir things up inside which caused us to eventually question whether it was the right thing to do after all.

There were gains made, however, which helped us realize it was definitely the right decision. Those gains came at a cost, though, because of internal instability that landed me inpatient quite a bit this past year; five hospitalization for 59 total days. I knew Easter was going to be really tough. In The Word of the Lord?, I wrote about some of the issues I faced during Easter and how I tried to put into perspective the stream of news coming out of Rome.

We then addressed directly an aspect of me key to the self-abuse. Inside, we were all certain this part was the embodiment of evil. We were all afraid of what seemed like unlimited power. In Inside, an art piece done in the hospital, this part stepped forward and joined in the healing process. That was a huge leap forward for all of me.

Not all was safe, though. That huge shift led to additional instability in my system. There was a long period of continued self-abuse from other parts who were newly activated. I wrote about this, mainly from an intellectual perspective, in Sex Injury: Past and Present. I recreated situations that would lead to my own abuse which kept fueling feelings of worthlessness. I do think, now, that I have come out the other side. I firmly believe that kind of self-abuse is permanently behind me. I am continually being reminded of what it was about (through flashbacks) and know it cannot ever happen again.

There were two occurrences that led to this resolution.

First, was when my wife found out about my self-abuse by my accidentally leaving my electronic journal open to a particularly sensitive entry. That she now knows about what has been my life's deepest secret—though she does not know details—is incredulous to me. Even more surprising is that while she had immense trouble with this new knowledge, I think it has made us stronger. The cards were put on the table. She finally learned that there are truly dark aspects to what I have to deal with.

Second, was that I physically got hurt from the self-abuse itself. After I wrote Taking Care When Physically Sick, I found out the illness was a result of the self-abuse. Getting hurt in this way ushered in a whole new sense of what the consequences really are, a reality that acting out parts had no concept of before. It brought self-abuse parts together with more healthy parts and is causing yet another reordering inside.

I have the sense that this new internal reordering will be what 2011 will be about. I know it will not be painless and I do not know what the months ahead will bring. But I hope the reordering and focus on safety will allow certain aspects of my life to flourish. I expect work and my relationships with my kids and wife will be where new gains will be made.

Already, the new reordering inside is leading me to come face-to-face with how to achieve balance in my life. How can I be successful at work, for example, while practicing good self-care? Or, said more broadly: How can I participate more fully in life and still practice self-care? 2011 will be about finding and maintaining this balance. Whereas 2010 was about acceptance.

Balance partly comes from being in touch with feelings. And this is why I have been proactive lately about getting in touch with feelings as a kid and connecting the past to the present. I have watched movies and television shows and read books which are validating and asked my Mom for old pictures of me as a kid. This is one way I know of to achieve balance. It is more difficult to get lost in a single part of me if I am also reminding myself of feelings. I have to always remember that balance is key now. Yes, I know I am being very proactive. I know I am forcing myself to feel feelings. This is one major aspect of self-care. And this is the one area I know I focused on when I started this new healing path a couple of years ago.

I also know that self-abuse was one way to solve internal problems, even though it was definitely harmful and dysfunctional. I talked with "My Healing Guide" about it not only being about making myself feel worthless. But also about recreating abusive events so that I could come out the other side and prove that I was "not really hurt" and could go on and be functional. I am not sure how much was which. But I do not think it needs to be my job to figure out what the relative weights were. We are all on a new course now.

If part of the self-abuse was to feel worthless, I have to challenge that now and do deeds that heal that way of thinking. If part of it was about control and recreation, I can challenge those by practicing my skills at balancing and validation.

What is important for me to keep in mind is that I know I have skills and a plan in place to help keep my life balanced and safe.

Yes, 2010 was a year of great accomplishment. And I know 2011 will be equally great if not better.

Happy New Year to all of you!

35 Comments


Nansie said:

Nice post Paul! Happy New Year to you as well. I really enjoyed reading this and your progress throughout the year. There really are milestones of accomplishment. It's funny how sometimes we get lost in the moment and forget about the bigger picture and all the progress we made getting to where we are now. My best wishes in continuing your journey... I am so impressed! Hugs!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Yes, Nansie. Thanks. So, are you going to write about your progress? I think if you looked at it closely, you would be able to identify a ton of gains for you.

Nansie replied to Paul:

haha Paul... I'm thinking about writing something kinda like this. I don't know... I am still afraid to really look but then other parts are proud... I am still mixed up inside with no real straight insights... :( I have confidence though at some point I'll get there.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Nansie. If you do write about what's happened this past year, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Nansie replied to Paul:

Thank you Paul for the encouragement. All of us inside are contemplating this....Sometimes we all feel so stupid for the things we write about...embarassed, ashamed..it just radiates thru me. I haven't been able to write for a while. I don't feel comfortable enough to stop and see what's gone on inside lately. But the headaches have been back for 2 or 3 days now so I know I need to stop and pay attention. I am so used to shutting it down from myself tho. I just want to run away from myself and be free. I don't like this at all. I'm tired. I go to bed very late and then I sleep late in the morning and wake up with a terrible headache...UGH. Lately every night I'm having dreams of lots of ppl around me and that someone in an important position rapes me. It goes on and on but I just carry on in the dream like nothing happened. During the day I feel myself withdrawing into myself again. It's a fight to engage with my husband or anyone around me. I set my T up to do most of the talking yesterday so I wouldn't have to tell him. Parts come and go thruout the day...they fill the time so I don't have to think about anything. Tomorrow I go for orientation at nursing school. I got my ass accepted...one of the highest scorers on the testing...UGH. Some part did that for me that thinks we can all live a normal life..This is just not a good day for me. I want to cut but fear getting caught.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Nansie. Good job on the nursing test and good luck with orientation. I'm sorry you are in such a hard place right now. I find that when I need to be super functional (like maybe a parallel to what you are doing with the nursing school) I end up being more fragmented. There's a price to pay. I don't like it, but it seems to be true. As I said earlier, I know that I need to work on balance, but that's very much still a work in progress. It's the crux of what DID is all about actually. Also, I can identify with your feelings of embarrassment and shame about what you write. That happens to me all the time here. Be well and I hope you are able to get more in touch inside.

castorgirl said:

This is a great reflection on all of the work you've done. I like how you acknowledge the way the foundations have been built, and how that has enabled you to create a path forward.

Wishing you and your family all the best for your future together,
CG

Paul Author Profile Page replied to castorgirl:

Thank you CG. I wish for you a year of gains.

Kerro said:

What a wonderful post, Paul. A great reflection on all the hard work you've done. I also like that you recognise these as foundations, which might get lost if we didn't step back. Important progress on all fronts.

I also hope 2011 is a great year for you. :)

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Kerro:

Thanks Kerro. It's funny how time flies by. We really do need to take a step back and see what's happened.

Kerro replied to Paul:

I also love your comment "healing is really about living". I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to use this as the start for a blog post of my own. Credits, of course, will be yours.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Kerro:

Yes, Kerro, absolutely go ahead and use the line. I'm sure I'm not the first to say it.

onelongjourney said:

I liked the comment 'healing is really about living. It is not just the therapy.'

Rings so true.

Wishing the best for you.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to onelongjourney:

Thanks OneLongJourney. It's very important for me not to put all my energies in the "work" of healing, but to take time to practice what I learn.

Ivory said:

Yes, you have pretty much walked on hot coals and ended with few burns. Reading this made me see some of my own accomplishments.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ivory:

Hi Ivory. I'm glad that some of this helped you see your own accomplishments. I was worried that this post was being selfish. I saved what you said about walking on coals! Thanks!

Holly said:

Wow!

I'd only read the last linked post before so I went back and read all the others you linked to. That gave me a fuller picture of some of what you've discussed here. You've done a lot of work!

The contract - that's amazing and I admit to being a little envious. My system is very large and I wouldn't even know how to begin to try and get everyone on the same page about anything, let alone such important issues. Knowing there's someone out there who's done it is comforting to me.

The family crisis - that came to a head after the contract, yes? I like the way you handled that. The temptation is to deal with things quietly, or if overwhelmed enough, not at all - just avoid their existence. But you spoke. You actively approached everyone relevant to the situation honestly. Exposure is really important, I think. Secrecy breeds shame. By blaming things on your mental health, it may be the "friend" was counting on you to be too ashamed to speak up.

The church stuff - it's so archetypal and huge. Good, evil, etc., etc. Wrestling with those issues on a personal level can be monumental because of the large, all-encompassing nature of the "themes." I remember as a child in church being taught by the deacons - all of whom were male - that if a man goes astray (there was a sexual undertone to this) it is a woman who led him. Jezebel was their case in point. This confused me for decades and is likely still believed by many parts. If someone hurt me, well, it's because I'm female and therefore seductive. He simply couldn't help himself. Ludicrous - however, because it came from church, from God himself!, the power that lesson had/has over me is huge. I've worked through some of the religious/spiritual damage but man, it's just so deep. Hard work you did, especially considering that religion wasn't simply a part of your life, as it was mine, but tied tightly to your trauma history.

The sexual self-abuse and ensuing sickness - it's courageous to tackle a topic like that. I'm humbled by how many in the blogging world are so much braver than I, talking about issues like these. I avoid, avoid, avoid. A dissociative solution to real life problems. I'm inspired by your (and others') courage.

What a year you've had. I hope 2011 is as valuable and rich with growth for you as 2010 was.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Holly:

Thank you so much Holly. I'm touched you took the time to read all those linked posts. I really struggled with this post afterwards, because part of me felt like it was so self-serving. That really wasn't why I wrote it though. I wrote it because I thought it needed to be said. Yes, I was more honest here about the sex self-abuse. It's not easy to be that way. But I know that if I bring it out into the open more, the behaviors lose their power and parts can join in the healing. That's the goal. My hope is that others can see how that approach works and try it themselves. It's not about bravery. We are all brave, you included!

Holly replied to Paul:

For what it's worth, it didn't come across as self-serving at all. Because I'm a relatively new reader, I rather enjoyed the chance to get to know you a bit better.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Holly:

Thanks Holly! That makes me feel better!

OneSurvivor said:

I really enjoyed reading this. It makes me wonder if I could sum up 2010 as well as you have.

Two paragraphs really stood out to me. I think this one really sums it up well:

I also have an appreciation for the fact that healing is really about living. It is not all about therapy. The work we have done has helped me live more of the life I want to live. Yes, there have been some really low lows this year. But there have also been new connections inside, with my children and, to some extent, with my wife.

I also loved this expression of hope for the future:

Already, the new reordering inside is leading me to come face-to-face with how to achieve balance in my life. How can I be successful at work, for example, while practicing good self-care? Or, said more broadly: How can I participate more fully in life and still practice self-care? 2011 will be about finding and maintaining this balance. Whereas 2010 was about acceptance.

I look forward to seeing how your healing journey goes this year. :-)

Paul Author Profile Page replied to OneSurvivor:

Thank you OneSurvivor. The point about working towards living life is something I think a lot about. As far as hope for the future, one of the things I hope is that others know that even if things feel as though they have lost, it is very possible to turn things around. Yes, I lose hope. I wrote about it here. But we must pick ourselves up when we can and keep trying. I'm determined not to lose this battle (if it's even a battle). I'm stubborn about that. Personally, while I know I read a lot of stories in blogs about survivors losing hope, I always hold out hope for all of these survivors. Because I know that to write a blog and to comment on someone else's shows a determination to heal.

tai0316 said:

Paul this post is amazing! I'm truly... moved. That's all I can at the moment. There was so much honesty and hope in your post that I'm a little speechless. But I had to say something because it's so amazing.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to tai0316:

Thanks Tai. I had a sudden burst of genuineness. Don't know why.

Laura said:

Paul,

Thanks for the post - it was excellent, as usual. You probably don't remember talking to me; I commented on a couple of your posts over the course of the year and we emailed once or twice. I have to admit that I was actually at McLean at the same time you were in October - I recognized your name from the blog and because I knew that's where you go when you are hospitalized. I hope you don't think it's too creepy - I didn't want to say anything because I felt like shit and you did, too. I have to admit that your presence was something of a comfort, because I knew you have a good sense of humor and we often ended up sitting in front of the nurses station together... just sitting and watching the goings by. I'm sure you won't remember me, as I don't even think I told you my name.

Anyway, I'm writing specifically to thank you for your mention of sexual self injury - I hadn't seen that post when you put it up but I went back and read it just now. It is one of my biggest struggles right now, and I often feel helpless and at the mercy of other parts of myself (not true, I know it's my responsibility but I haven't found a way to hold it). I am trying to find a way to talk to my therapist about it, because I need her help but I can't yet, she only knows that it happens (thank you, McLean).

I do appreciate your addressing this issue - I have searched the internet and the library but so few speak of it, and it makes me feel less alone to see that so many other people struggle, too (although that is horrible, too). Your frank discussions also have helped me BEGIN to think about my (new) dx of DID (again, thanks to my October stay at McLean). Not a new problem, just a new name for it.

I hope I haven't said too much - I always worry that I will say something triggering to you.

Good luck in your new year - may it be peaceful.

Best,
Laura

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Laura:

Hi Laura! Yes, I definitely remember you commenting on my blog a while back and the discussions we had on email. It's okay you didn't say anything while we were both there in October. For what it's worth, I would not had been freaked out had you said who you were. Thank you for the kudos on talking about the sexual self-injury. I've had to tread carefully on this subject, but I'm determined to talk about it in a way that's both safe for me and for readers. It's so important, and as you say, it's not often talked about. I'll send you an email. You don't have to worry about triggering me.

Evan said:

Hi Paul, I like the idea that 'not everything that is therapeutic is therapy' - I really think it is about living life not doing therapy.

What a year you have had. Congratulations on having responded so well and having got through it.

Hoping that 2011 is equally liberating and positive for you.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Evan:

Thanks Evan! I'm not sure I responded so well... 59 days in the hospital seems a horribly large number. But I know what you are saying.

fragmentz said:

just wanted to pop by to send my love, and best wishes for 2011
love
fragz x

Paul Author Profile Page replied to fragmentz:

Thank you so much Fragmentz! Love and wishes accepted!!! Same to you!

Kylie said:

You have covered and expressed your year so well here. Like many other readers, I am moved. It sounds like it has been a very full and confronting year for you but as you have dealt with each of these confrontations you have made huge bounds in healing. That is something you should be really proud of.

You may not realise it but since I have started reading your blog, you have been a huge encouragement to my own healing journey, and as I read others comments I think they may feel the same. That is not including the amzing thing you have started with the Expressive Arts Carnival. It amazes me that as you have been going through so many struggles you still are encouraging others.

59 days in hospital may seem a horribly large number, but it means there were over 300 days you were not in hospital. Not only that, you had the strength to recognise that you needed help and open enough to accept it. That in itself takes strength. Try not to see hospitalisation as a failure, it never is.

I will definitely be remembering that line "healing is about living". I think it will be a huge encouragement when the healing journey feels too hard - a great reminder of why we struggle to deal with the past.

I wish you the best of luck with finding balance this year, with all of your new years resolutions. I hope this year is filled with healing and as such, filled with living. Happy New Year, Paul.

As always, take gentle care of yourself.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Kylie:

Kylie. I think you give me way too much credit. It's hard to hear people compliment me. But I thank you for your kind words. Sometimes I feel incredibly insecure about this blog. Like I'm embarrassed about it. But sometimes I'm not. I have struggled in the past with seeing hospitalization as a failure. Not so much these days, though I know it's a strain on my family and that weighs on me. But I know that I need to be there, so I try to put that aside and focus on getting better. Happy New Year to you too, and good wishes for a productive year for you in every way possible!

Kylie replied to Paul:

Thanks Paul,

I can really relate to struggling to hear a commpliment, but I meant everything I said.

Take gentle care
Kylie

Lisa said:

You sound positively positive! If you could wrap some of that positivity up and send it over I would greatly appreciate it.

Lisa

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Lisa:

Don't worry Lisa. The positivity is absolutely all gone now. Don't know where it went.

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This page contains a single entry published on January 1, 2011 4:29 PM.

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