CBT is hard. I started this course of treatment before Christmas, and I intended to update this blog, and Maternity Matters, regularly with my progress. I wanted to show others what it was like, so that maybe I could help someone else along in their journey. But it’s hard. It’s really hard. Most days I don’t want to talk about it, let alone write it all down. I’ve told people snippets of what is happening, but I cannot fathom the energy to lay it all bare. I cannot allow the prickles to seep into everything right now. It’s easier to leave it all in that little room once a week, and it will probably stay there for a long time. Because right now I don’t feel strong enough at all.
I had a post in my head a few weeks ago,entitled Happy. I was in the middle of a ‘high turn’ and things were bright, happy and calm. I was spending delicious days with Elsie, really spending time with her and loving every minute. I was thankful for people around me, and I was loving being busy with work, stimulated with the team I work with and positive about life ahead of me. I knew. I knew it wouldn’t last. It never does. It always comes to an end, I just didn’t realise it would be so abrupt.
Because of the nature of cognitive behaviour therapy for PTSD, my therapist told me it was best to deal with the birth as a separate memory of it’s own, during an extended session. It would require me to go right back to the heart of what happened, and to talk about my thoughts and feelings then, rather than now. I knew it would be hard, but for a few weeks we held off because my therapist felt the emotions were not close enough to the surface right now. I was able to talk freely without distress and my anxiety levels were low. It wasn’t the right time. Instead my therapy chipped away at other things, surprising things. Things that had been hidden, things I’d never realised. Things from my childhood that have contributed towards my thoughts, feelings and reactions as an adult. Things that most definitely affected my decision making at the time of my son’s birth, and my reactions afterwards.
And the anger grew.
The sadness grew.
Anxiety levels began to rise until it was agreed now was the time to deal with the birth. No matter how we tried, we couldn’t get past it. Kept coming back to it. Like a huge box of rubbish in the middle of my path, blocking the view, obscuring my journey, stinking, rotten and useless. It needed to be dealt with. Broken down, put away.
It wasn’t so hard talking about it when it came to it. It was distressing. It was sad. It was emotional. But it was cathartic having someone listen to me, ask me questions, want to understand what happened. After all these years, saying everything out loud- and I mean, everything, I literally had to scrape through my memories to answer her questions- left me feeling such huge relief it was unreal. But.
But I wasn’t ready for some of the revelations that came out this week. I knew already that the point of trauma usually comes after a person believes that she or someone she cares for is dead. It wasn’t me. It was him. My son. My poor, poor baby. When his heart rate finally dropped and did not come back, my brain shut down. Yes, they raced to theatre. Yes, they cut my body and pulled him out. Yes, they cleaned him, wrapped him up and gave him a name. Yes, they did all of that but I wasn’t there. I had already given up, back in the delivery room. I had stopped believing in myself, and in him. I know lots of women who have a c-section under GA say they feel a detachment towards their baby after birth, they struggle to believe he is even theirs. I felt that. I felt that for a long time, but I think it started before they put me to sleep.
That was one point of trauma. Only one. Because when we talked further, about Bella and Elsie and how I have managed to cope with the trauma over the years, another point of trauma came to light. Like a pure bolt of white hot shock, I realised it was true. Over three years after my son’s birth, another point of trauma, linked back to that day.
This is hurting my head. I know its true. But it hurts. Making connections, joining the dots. It hurts. Knowing there are parts of my memory from that day that are still hazy, and unlikely to ever come back. It hurts. Knowing there is still so much to do. It hurts.
People tell me it will get better. I hope they’re right.