Sex **Triggers**

I’m struggling in a new way right now. I’ve been spending time online looking for casual sex partners who would be willing to “force” me to have sex. I know it is a bad idea and I won’t actually do it. I don’t want to cheat on my husband but I keep looking. I tried to tell M about it in my session today but I couldn’t. I told him I wanted to hurt myself but I wouldn’t describe what kind of hurt I meant. I had hoped talking about sex last week in therapy with M (and with my husband and H) would decrease the desire to have someone force me. I have always been excited by the BD activities of BDSM role-playing. I’m not into actual physical pain or injury but I like being tied up and forced to have sex. I am excited by being used for someone else’s sexual pleasure. I used to think BDSM games were no different from liking a particular sexual position or type of sexual activity and I am sure they are that way for many people. When I first started dating my husband I told him about my desires but he wasn’t interested and after trying a couple of times I realized that he wasn’t capable of acting that differently than himself and I resolved myself to only fantasizing about those activities.

Now I feel a lot more conflicted about that type of sex. It is probably obvious how conflicted by how many different words and initials I have used in this post to describe it. z I hate that I’m excited by fantasies of rape or forcible, painful sex. It bothers me that my sexual fantasies are very similar to my PTSD-like nightmares that sometimes wake me up feeling like I am physically in pain, terrified with my heart pounding, sweating, breathing heavy, and feeling sexually aroused. I did manage to tell M that last week. That the fantasies that I have while having sex with my husband are like my nightmares which terrorize me. It doesn’t sound like a good thing. Also those nightmares (or fantasies) are much worse than anything that happened to me when I was abused as a child which makes me wonder think there is something perverse about me. After I left my session last week I was very sad and I was flooded with a lot of memories of my sexual history and how much shame and confusion I felt. Today M asked me what memories I thought of and I couldn’t tell him even the easiest one. The one where I didn’t do anything wrong and it is only looking back I can see that my feelings probably related to my abuse. Thirty years ago I had my first boyfriend and once we managed to find a place to be alone and started making out. Mainly kissing and necking and slowly we moved onto second base. When I felt his warm mouth on my nipple it was incredibly exciting. I still can remember how shocked I was and how I felt it throughout my entire body. I was completely overwhelmed and caught up in the moment until he moved his hand down to my ass and it was like I was thrown completely out of my body. I felt like I was watching from six feet away and I couldn’t feel anything anymore. I stopped his hand and he agreed that was as far as we would go but I couldn’t get back into my body at all. We kept making out and I tried to feel something and then I pretended that it felt great and faked my way through heavy breathing and moaning so he didn’t know I just wanted him to stop.

Another memory I had been the first time I was sexually excited by a book I was reading. I was a teenager and I don’t remember the name of the book but I haven’t forgotten the scene. The story was set in some fantasy world which resembled viking times. A woman is walking down the street when three soldiers pull her into an alley and start to rape her. They hold her down and cut off her clothes. One of the soldiers rubs the knife along the insides of her thighs and then gets ready to rape her. The hero walks by interrupts the rape, beats off three soldiers, and rescues the girl. It takes the rest of the book before she finally admits she loves him and gives himself to her. The culmination of their love in a consensual and mutually satisfying scene wasn’t nearly as exciting to me as the aborted rape scene.

I told M today that if I couldn’t even tell him the easy story about my first boyfriend and what happened when we made out I didn’t think I’d ever be able to talk about what sex is like for me today. I can’t tell him about the first man I had sex with and the games we played or my entertaining the idea of acting out a fantasy now. I think what I’m most ashamed of is my sexual desire. I am so ashamed of my sexuality I can’t talk about it. I can’t reason with myself that all humans are sexual because what if the intensity of my desire is out of proportion or out of control. I could if I had describe what happened without describing the emotions or at least I did earlier in therapy when I first discussed the abuse. It is my emotions that seem so wrong or to but it another way I am ashamed of my sexual desire.

Two good sessions

Today was therapy day. My husband and I met with a T for an assessment session that turned into a double session. I think I am going to call him H. H is a psychiatrist who is probably 10-20 years older than I am. He asked us that traditional “what brings you here today?” and we were off. My husband started talking about his goal to improve communication between us. We moved fluidly between what our marriage was like today and the past including our individual therapy histories, the abuse in my childhood and how it affects our sex life today, my husband’s childhood and the sudden death of his mother. It was a good conversation and H made some interesting observations and connections in what we chose to discuss today. At one point I used a specific phrase to describe what our current sex life was like for me. I said that I had told M we mostly had “drunken, angry, sex”. H asked me what I meant by that and I hesitated and my husband jumped in with his interpretation which isn’t at all what I meant. I didn’t know how to describe it and H said but you have been discussing it with your individual therapist. I replied “No, I’ve mentioned it like I did now but I haven’t discussed or explored it and I don’t know if M understood what I meant”. My husband asked me to try to describe it and after a few minutes I managed to start to tell my husband what I meant looking only at him and not at H. I kept the description very intellectual and non-emotional and H made the kindest possible interpretation of what I said and how it might represent a wish I had for the relationship I had with my husband. Then he asked me how I felt talking about it and then said perhaps you don’t feel you got all the way into it. That is true. I don’t regret it because I’m deeply ashamed both of my sexual behavior and desires and of what they say about me. I don’t think the first meeting with a marriage therapist is the place to delve into that kind of shame. We agreed to meet with H again in a couple of weeks and both my husband and I felt good about the session.

Afterwards I thought about the fact that when I mentioned “drunken, angry, sex” (DAS) to M a few months ago I didn’t say anything more about it (kind of like I was reporting the final score of a sporting event) and he didn’t ask me any questions. Ideally the place to delve into that topic would be with an individual therapist with whom I’ve built a long-term therapeutic relationship. But I don’t. I struggle to even bring up a subject like that and M doesn’t ask me about it and I shut down very quickly. I know that M is very non-directive and willing to talk about anything that I want to talk about but that just leaves me feeling like it is my fault for not being brave enough to talk about it. That kind of illustrates part of the difficulty I have in therapy. Then there is the fact that I am continually preoccupied by my worries about what M really thinks of me, how needy and dependent I am on him and therapy and how annoying that must be, and my constant quit/don’t quit or find a new T/stay with M battles. So individual therapy brings up a lot of the issues I have around attachment, dependency, trust, vulnerability and those issue make it very hard to talk about the things that I am struggling with Irl like my weight or my sex life or my relationship with my husband.

So before I went to my session tonight I wrote M and email talking about how fear that he is angry with me for calling him recently even though I didn’t have a “good” reason to call and the way I am battling with myself about how needy I feel. I told him about our session with H and then told him that I managed to talk about DAS during the session. I told him that I wanted to talk to him about it but I realized that he wouldn’t ask me about it when I mentioned it and I didn’t know how to bring it up again. I wondered if this would be a good time for me to take a break from individual therapy and the endless cycle of attachment, need, shame, and self-loathing that get activated and concentrate on marriage therapy with my husband. Even writing the sentence stressed me out and I realized that even when I think a therapy break might be a helpful thing there is still a huge and relentless fear that wells up in me thinking about it. I sent the email to M about 30 minutes before my session. When I arrived M had just read my email. He didn’t mention my fear that he was angry at me for my recent phone calls or the idea of therapy break. Instead we talked about DAS, what I had told my husband and H, and the fact that there were a lot of things I didn’t tell them. I talked more about it with M. He asked me some direct questions which helped me keep talking about it and isn’t how he typically operates but I appreciated it. Near the end of the session M asked how I felt talking about it with him and what I was afraid he was thinking which gave me a chance to predict the reaction I might have to disclosing so much. I admitted I was afraid he thought I was disgusting (because it feels so wrong) and he told me he didn’t see it in those terms at all. He didn’t think I was talking about something wrong or disgusting and that he had a lot of sympathy for the obvious conflict and pain I had between sexual desire and my childhood experiences. I also admitted that something he had said earlier in the session made me think that I didn’t need to tell him everything that I did and that I might have said too much or told him something that wasn’t necessary. Saying too much is a big concern of mine. There are so many things I want to tell him and I stop myself because I don’t think they add anything new to the story of my life, like if I’ve told him three stories illustrating how incredibly narcissistic and emotionally abusive my mother was in my childhood why do I need to tell him more stories even if I want to. He pointed out that I was unnecessarily judging how much I said or what I chose to say and that telling more stories or giving more details was a way to flesh out the conflicting and confusing feelings I had about a subject. I thanked him for telling me what he thought at that moment which has given me something positive to remember when I think about the session.

I never feel like I get to finish one things before the next thing happens

I’m feeling awful. I had the third session with M where we talked about the big fight I had with my husband. Initially I appreciate talking to M when something difficult happens to me. I don’t think about what to talk about and whether it is worth talking about or if it is going to be helpful. I may not describe all the details but I always feel like M hears me and understands what I am feeling. He normalizes my feelings and actions. Later as we continue to discuss something I start to worry that he isn’t being honest about what he thinks. Last week during my second session I told him more about my fight with my husband, the big one and the follow-up discussions we had. I expressed how frustrated I was with how my husband communicates (or doesn’t more likely) except when he gets very angry. All of a sudden I realized that I probably sounded like a complete bitch to M. Why did I think that? Because I had spent thirty minutes recounting various repetitive fights I’ve had and the things I’ve done to try to change things between my husband and me and M hadn’t said much at all. He didn’t say or do anything except not really respond much beside saying things like “that sounds very difficult or frustrating” or “I can hear how you are trying”. I pretty much stopped talking and started wondering whether I was doing all the same things as I was accusing my husband of doing.

One of the things I was thinking about today during my session was wondering if M and I were going to go back to the discussion we were having before the fight with my husband about whether I mattered to him and how I felt like I didn’t. I had written him a very honest email and had hoped to discuss it in person but it had got side tracked after I started talking about the fight with my husband. Today I left his office feeling frustrated that I couldn’t force myself to go back to that topic and that I didn’t think talking anymore about the fight with my husband was helpful. My husband and I have an appointment to meet with a marriage therapist this week. Tonight my eldest child dropped a bombshell on me by telling me who she is dating and her feelings about her own sexual preferences. I had suspected what she told me for a while and was almost prepared to have the discussion but still feel unsure of myself. Parenting is so hard and it drives the fight with my husband and my difficulties with M out of the forefront of my mind. So I always feel like I don’t give anything the attention it deserves and I keep falling further and further behind.

When is complaining okay?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the word complain is ‘to express grief, pain, or discontent’. I think everybody must complain at some point in time and that it is a necessary part of communicating. It has a lot of negative connotations to me. It suggests complaining without purpose, being too sensitive or difficult.

Last week when I was talking to M about how therapy works and how much I wanted a plan for therapy I told him that I thought that telling him sad stories about my childhood was just complaining. I told him that I frequently fight the urge to tell him things because I thought everything I said was whiny and stupid and pointless. I meant I’ve already told him that my parents had narcissistic traits and didn’t care about my feelings needs. They were at best emotionally neglectful and sometimes quite mean and abusive. I know that it damaged me so how many stories do I have to tell (or remember) that demonstrate their parenting style. I am always remembering more things and wanting to talk about it but I don’t know why. Complaining about my parents won’t help me move forward and do things differently in my life, will it?

A couple of days after my session, I had a fight with my husband. It started with me trying to talk to my husband about how hurt I was by his actions (or inaction in this case). There is no point is describing what hurt me because I am trying not to get caught up in judging which of us was “right” in this case. I used “I statements” like they encourage you to do in order to communicate. I said I felt hurt when …. and I felt ignored when … My husband reacted like I had said “you are the worst husband in the world” and almost immediately bit my head off. When I defended myself and tried to restate things he lost his temper and said “all you do is complain, complain, complain…you don’t know what it is like for me to try to live with ..” My memory gets foggy but he added something about me making him miserable. Since then I have been trying to figure out what the difference is between “complain, complain, complain” and expressing my feelings.

I spent my first session this week describing the fight and asking M whether one could express their feelings without complaining. He talked about the importance of expressing your feelings when you are in a relationship with someone so that they can understand how you feel and the importance of listening to the other person’s feelings. He said he thought complaining to the person who hurt you was very different from complaining to a another person about what happened. The first was an attempt to repair the relationship while the second was venting. It makes me wonder about therapy though because I am not telling the people who hurt that they hurt me. Instead I want to tell M that I’ve been hurt.

I will be talking more about complaining with M and with my husband. I don’t want my husband to be thinking I just complain all the time and make his life miserable but I can’t ignore how I feel. It seems like a very difficult line to walk.

Fear

I’m sitting at work fighting back the tears and trying to figure out how my feelings can spin out of control so quickly. It is my birthday and I am hoping M calls me, not because it is my birthday but because of the email I sent him last night. The waiting somehow feels worse because it is my birthday. The worst part is when I wrote the email last night I didn’t specifically ask him to call me because I didn’t care if I talked to him, I just wanted to get my thoughts out. Now I’m having this internal conversation “if he doesn’t respond to the email I’ll quit”. I don’t want to have another session where I tell him I was hurt by him not responding and he says he didn’t realize that I wanted a response or that I should have called him and asked him to call me. I hate the way my feelings change. I honestly didn’t think I needed a response yesterday but now it feels like life and death. I can wait until Monday to talk to him. Why does it seem so long and so impossible?

Ouch

Tonight during my session with M I complained that there was no plan for therapy, that I didn’t know what to talk about, that he didn’t ask me questions and I felt like I was always waiting for the “real” therapy to start. It felt hopeless and so painful. M asked me why I suddenly felt like we needed to have a therapy plan after our session on Monday upset me. I couldn’t really come up with a reason. Basically Monday’s session upset me in a way that wasn’t clear to me. I didn’t even send M a follow-up email after the session and in one sense I felt okay about the session and therapy. In another sense I felt confused and upset and I wrote an email before my session tonight asking if we could talk about the “plan” for therapy. M wondered aloud (like therapists do in order passively get their thoughts in without telling you what they actually think) if I was backing away from what the session on Monday was about. I didn’t respond but as the session continued and I argued about how frustrating therapy felt because it lacked a firm direction I realized that he was right.

The session on Monday was about an email I had written him last week that exposed more of myself than I usually do. I felt uneasy about the email starting the morning after I sent it and by the time my session came around Monday I was tense. M asked me what I would like to discuss in my email and I said I didn’t know. I talked about wishing he would comfort me when I was upset and shut down in session by sitting nearer to me or touching my shoulder or arm. I know that M wouldn’t do those things but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting him to. I also told him that I wanted to matter to him and I knew that the feeling was probably an echo of my wanting to matter to my parents. We discussed the fact that I thought that my existence mattered to my parents. They love me as much as they can love. What didn’t matter to them was my feelings or my desires or my goals or the part of me that makes me “Me”. They wanted me to fit into their idea of a happy family and they didn’t care what I wanted. This isn’t a new revelation to me at all. During the session M empathized with my pain by talking about how difficult it must have been to grow up believing that my parents didn’t care about the real me just the appearance of me. M mentioned the moving and touch but didn’t discuss them as ideas even to tell me why they weren’t good ones. He didn’t say anything about whether I mattered to him or even that I mattered generally like all living things have value and matter.

During my session I felt like I had no idea how to do therapy and I don’t know what to talk about. I got angry that M won’t help me by asking me questions or helping me figure out what we should work on next and instead he just keeps telling me that I should talk about whatever is emotionally sensitive. Later this month it will be the 5th anniversary of when I started therapy with M and I still don’t know how to do therapy right. I told him that it was hopeless and I didn’t want to do it anymore. He said that I always ended up feeling that way when we discussed the process of therapy. I said it is because he doesn’t help me and he seems to think it is necessary that I should spend time feeling miserable and shut down. I didn’t talk about any of the things I have been blogging about lately (like the Beck Depressive Index questions) or any of the triggering things that happened in session. By the end of the session I told him that therapy wouldn’t work because I didn’t think I had anything to say that wasn’t stupid and whiny and useless. He said that I had a really loud hypercritical inner voice.

Now I think that it isn’t a surprise I felt useless. I think he ignored my request for reassurance. By not saying I mattered to him (or generally), he was agreeing with the voice in my head that doesn’t think I matter either. How could I talk about anything that mattered when neither of us cared?

Depression – appearance related

Here is another question from the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) that I hate answering. It confuses me because it suggests that how I feel about my appearance is related to depression but that isn’t how I see it.

14.
0 I don’t feel that I look any worse than I used to.
1 I am worried that I am looking old or unattractive.
2 I feel there are permanent changes in my appearance that make me look
unattractive
3 I believe that I look ugly.

When I look at this question I feel like I could answer 0,1, or 3 and those answers would have been equally true for as long as I could remember no matter my age. Right now I am in my mid-40’s and morbidly obese so I have good reasons for worrying that I look old and unattractive but I have always believed I looked ugly no matter what age or weight I have been. I rarely look in a mirror and when I do so I focus intently on a small part of my appearance, my hair when I am drying or brushing it, my teeth when I am cleaning them. I try to avoid having my picture taken and I avoid looking at myself in pictures. There are a lot of pictures in my house of my children but none of me. When I got married I looked through the photographer’s proofs and printed only two pictures, one of my parents alone (I made copies for all my siblings), and the other a large picture of my entire family, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, that I framed and is currently hanging in my parents living room.

When I was in my late teens and early 20’s I spent a lot of time riding the subway and buses to get to and from school and work which meant I spent a lot of time observing people. I live in large north american city with a wide range of people travelling by public transit and I used to look to see if I could find anyone less attractive than me. I never did. There were times I wondered why everyone I met didn’t recoil in horror at my appearance because that is certainly how I felt, like I was some horrible, disgusting person whose facial features were so hideous. When my friends stood in front of mirrors and complained about the shape of their nose or the size of their thighs I would always reply that there was nothing wrong with their appearance and I meant it sincerely. I didn’t stare into mirrors or comment on my own appearance because when I did it was uncomfortable for everyone because I was so nasty about myself. A friend at that time in life once told me that I gave the best compliments and that I always noticed what was most attractive about people. She said that she thought it must be nice to have such a positive outlook. That was one of those moments where I realized I wasn’t like my friends. I was obsessed with the search for someone who was as unattractive as I was and therefore I always noticed other people’s features and appearance and I wasn’t the least bit positive about myself.

When I got older I realized that I couldn’t possibly be as ugly as I thought I was because no one else saw it. I stopped obsessing about my appearance and avoided mirrors and pictures so I wouldn’t have to see myself. I read about body dysmorphic disorder in a book about anorexia and patients who kept seeing themselves as fat no matter how emaciated they were and decided that I had some variant of that so I always looked hideous to myself and normal to the rest of the world. Even with my children there are parts of them that look like me and still look ugly to me. I hate that I can be so harshly judgemental and critical about my children even though I don’t verbalize my feelings. Of course they probably are aware and effected by the way I don’t comment on their appearance or my own.