Saturday, June 15, 2013

I Was A Teenage Grown-Up

Dr. Oz and I have been discussing something lately that is really hard to put into words. It's hard to hold in one place in my mind and get a good look at it, you know?

Or do you? Is this a PTSR thing, or a human thing? 

Well. It's about the different "parts" within the psyche of a PTSR sufferer-- parts that become distinct and isolated from each other in order to compartmentalize and cope with all the trauma-related symptoms and feelings.

I've talked about these parts before.

Mainly, what we're doing these days is trying to get the Wise Adult-- that part within that is compassionate, soothing, authoritative, non-judgmental... the part that is the kind, loving parent to the rest of you, basically-- to step forward and take over from the other parts that have, by necessity, been performing their recognizance missions and flash mobs and covert ops and diplomatic assignations over the past 20 years, just to keep things together under the onslaught.

You've known them in these posts as, among other things, Controlly Kate™, the Ministry of Vigilance™, and my adaptive, destructive ability to Keep A Lid On It™. Also as Sherlock, as closet walls, as my limbic system, frontal cortex, and lizard brain.

Their name is legion, apparently.

My first post about these parts was last November. That was the first time we talked about them this way, and when I first became aware of the importance of finding that Wise Adult and letting her start to wrest control away from the other parts, whose intentions are good but whose scope is limited and who have been keeping me in this constant state of fight-or-flight for two decades.

We've been talking about her ever since, but like all of the big moments in this recovery, it's taken a long time for me to get any useful perspective on the situation, and it will probably take another while before I am able to use that perspective in a way that instigates change. 

The Wise Adult's big moment hasn't happened yet, is what I'm saying.

But in these past couple of weeks, I think I've figured out why:

It's because I'm not her. She is not me. We are not... acquainted. 

I don't know where she lives or how she takes her coffee. I don't know how to contact her. I don't know what her voice sounds like, and wouldn't recognize it if I heard it. 

Dr. Oz says she's in there, and always has been, and that evidence of her work is present.

Look at me, having to rely on faith that this is true.

The moment of realization happened a a few weeks back, when Dr. Oz was talking about the likelihood of there being a part of me who was frozen at 19, and who still hasn't moved past that age or the trauma that happened then, and who needs the wise adult to reach out to her and reassure her that it's over now, that we survived and moved on, and to help her to integrate with the rest of me and leave the past behind.

You know. A trivial, light-hearted conversation.

I've talked about that 19-year old before, and how my accident caused me to fail to fully launch as an adult, waiting, as I was, for the end, instead of creating a beginning for myself (I can't find the post to link to, but it's around here somewhere).

Dr. Oz has asked me, many times, who I am on the inside. How old am I? At what age does my consciousness rest?

I always say I don't know. I don't. Answering that question requires a higher level of security clearance than I have at the moment. No idea what's going on in there. Can't tell.

Couldn't tell. Can now.

Dr. Oz wasn't asking me that question in this conversation. She was talking about the Wise Adult and the 19-year old.

"Can you separate them?" she asked.

"I... don't know," I said, because I am super non-knowy in our sessions whenever we talk about stuff like this. I not only don't know, I don't even know where to look to figure it out. There's no there there. There is nothing. Empty space. Radio silence. I just don't know. Period.

"Try," she said.

"Okay. I think... I think I can do it. I think I'm doing it." Sure enough. As if to prove me wrong, part of me stepped back, it seemed, and waited for somebody to say something.

"So now, let the Wise Adult speak to the 19-year old. What does she say?"

WHOA. What the... wait a minute... did I just...

"I can't. I went with the 19-year old," I said.


"I went with the 19-year old. You said to separate them, and I did, and I went with the 19-year old. Me. My... consciousness, I guess. The part that feels like me. I'm her. I'm the 19-year old, not the Wise Adult."

"Okay," said Dr. Oz. "That's okay."

"I don't know what the Wise Adult would say. I could say something, but I'd just be making it up. I am not her."

"You're blended with the 19 -year old. You can't separate yourself from her. That makes sense, doesn't it? You've stayed with her all this time, because she has needed you.

"The truth," said Dr. Oz, "is that we are actually all of these parts. They're all there, whether you are aware of them or not. You're just blended with some of them and dissociated from others. 

"Those are adaptive behaviors. You've blended with the Sherlock part because she has kept order for you during all this turmoil. You've blended with the Freeze part because bracing against what's coming has kept you alive in the past. But your Wise Adult is in there, too, even if you can't feel her."

Hmmm. Even as we are walking the very fine line between Weird Touchy-Feely Stuff Which I Am Willing To Afford The Benefit Of The Doubt and Weird Touchy-Feely Stuff Which I Find To Be Bullshit, I feel the instinctive huh of truth-acceptance.

Truth. This does feel like truth to me.

The other day, I was standing on my front porch, clattering through my house keys and preparing to open the door for my two little girls, momsy minivan parked in my driveway, dandelions blooming in my front lawn, and a teenage girl walked past on the sidewalk.

And I actually caught myself thinking, I wonder if she thinks I'm cool? I mean, look at me, I have my own place! This whole house is MINE! No parents around to thwart my plans! I'm totally in charge! See these kids? MINE! They have to do what I say! Because I'm the mom! I get to do whatever I want!

Okay, I'm paraphrasing.

Ahem. Sort of.

But yeah, that's the gist of what I was thinking. As if she and I were peers. As if I were pulling off some sort of major scam, and had tricked my way into this adult life, even though I was not, in fact, an adult at all. 

That reaction felt as organic to me as breathing. I realized in an instant that this is where I live, in my consciousness, most of the time.

This goes beyond "late bloomer" status. I am forty-one years old, for god's sake. I am middle-aged. I have lived more of my life since the accident than I did before it. I have been an adult, responsible for myself and others, for a very long time.

There's a difference between being youthful and being inappropriately immature and undeveloped. I am no longer sure where I fall on that spectrum, but it sure as hell ain't where I thought.

So that's what I'm thinking about now. That 19-year old, and why she's still hanging around, and what she needs from me to get on with things and start launching herself for real.

The Wise Adult needs to be involved in this process, I realize. Which means I need to locate her.

"Are you ever aware of her?" asked Dr. Oz. "Is there ever a time where you know she's there?"

I thought about that for a while. "I see the results of her influence, mostly. My academic work, my marriage, my children. She did that."

Dr. Oz nodded. And waited.

"She got me here to you, too," I said. "She knew I needed to get a handle on this recovery."

"Anything else?" 

"In this room," I said. "I hear myself saying things in this room and have no idea where they came from or how I came up with them. It's like they come from someone else. Someone who is looking at the big picture and making connections. They come to me out of nowhere when I'm in here, and a lot of the time they disappear again when I leave."

"So she sees the big picture," said Dr. Oz. "She makes the connections. She's facilitating the healing, even though you aren't fully in touch with her."


"Yes," I said, and then remembered the other time when things come to me from nowhere and facilitate my healing. The other area in my life where I find myself saying things I can't believe I ever came up with, don't remember thinking, don't recognize as mine once I've said them and yet hold to tightly as my talisman, leading me along the road and protecting my journey.

"The blog," I said suddenly. "The Wise Adult writes my blog."

And so, since we're all meeting each other anew every time we sit down together, and since some of us are only recently aware of who is actually at the table, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce us to... myself.

A part of myself. Who's been sitting here, patiently, waiting to be acknowledged, all this time. I can't see her clearly if I look straight at her, but if I relax and let the conversation flow of its own accord, I can sense her in my peripheral vision.

It's a soothing presence. And it's enough to be getting on with, for now.


Hello. I am the Wise Adult. I'm here now. I wasn't here before, back then, a long time ago, when something terrible happened. 

But I am here now, and I'm not going to leave you. I will stay with you and help you through whatever comes. You don't have to be afraid, you don't have to run away, you don't have to protect yourself behind the walls anymore.

I know what to do. I have always known. And I'm going to keep trying to do it, until one day, you'll realize we're in this together, and you'll finally let go and let me take over. 

It's what I'm here for. I promise: you can trust me. And won't it be great when you do?

After all, I hear you want to live.

Sounds great. I'm in. When do we start?

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. This is a really incredible way of thinking about things. I have also just been introduced to the idea that there are several "pieces" of me that exist, having kind of broken off during moments of trauma, but which hold a weird element of control over me. This post helps me see how all the "pieces" work together, I guess. Pretty cool.