“I’m Getting Worse”

“I’m Getting Worse”

Most people who decide to work with me have been journeying through recovery for many years.  They have been struggling to reduce their traumatic pain for decades.  They have tried many approaches over the years.  Some have worked a little.  Some have worked well, but only for a while.  And some have brought them permanent relief, but they seemed to hit a wall.  Despite all these efforts, there is one statement that is all too common when I talk to survivors.  “It feels like I’m getting worse.”

That statement isn’t a dramatic exaggeration coming from years of trying to heal to no avail.  It isn’t coming from the inner tantrum thrown by the controller.  It does feel like it is getting worse because we are getting closer to the trauma.  It feels like it is getting worse because the traumatic emotions are rising to the surface while our defenses are dropping.  Let me explain what is happening from an inner parts perspective.

When we were growing up in a traumatic environment, we developed defenders.  Our defenders are the protectors of our inner children and their secrets.  The goal of our defenders is to keep everything as safe as possible.  They do this by keeping the emotions squelched and the memories repressed.  They push the inner children away with invalidation and scathing insults because they believe this is the safest route.  They are willing to sacrifice our integrity to ensure safety.  And the controller is the leader of the defenders.  Their goal is to ensure we are safe no matter what.  They employ many different defenses, including extreme levels of dissociation, to avoid risk.

While these defenses served their purpose in childhood, they are not working now.  They are holding us back from who we are meant to be.  But most importantly, they are not sustainable.  We cannot use these defenses to push down the truth forever.  Eventually, the defenses will not be able to squelch the innate power that comes from our core being.  So while our controller may have been firmly in charge in our twenties, showing up as high levels of productivity and the ability to plow through almost anything, it won’t last forever.

As our controller begins to lose control of the unconscious traumatic pain, things do appear to get worse.  Inner parts begin to come to the surface and share their emotions and experiences.  Our job is to differentiate these from the present moment.  The controller will try to make these emotions about right now.  But they aren’t.  They are about the past.  They are messages from the past that we have been ignoring for decades.  And we cannot ignore them any longer.

When we are unaware of what is happening, it can feel like we are being attacked by emotions that weren’t there before, that seemed to magically appear as we got older.  But it isn’t true.  We are shifting.  We are exploring our pain in a new way.  The period of time during which we could overpower our pain with external drives and manifestations is ending.  And while this feels horrible, this is actually a good thing.  Why?

We are waking up.

We are accessing our deeper unconscious so we can heal our earliest traumas.

We are making a choice (albeit not conscious) to live from a deeper, more authentic self.

I know it hurts.  I know it sucks.  I get it.  I have spent years cursing my lack of productivity and wishing I could still plow through the unconscious emotions like I did when I was younger.  But I also don’t want to live behind the mask anymore.  I don’t want the exhausting tasks of overpowering my past emotions and wading through the external manifestations they create.  I am tired of living that life.  I want to be free and if that means feeling a bunch of “yucky stuff”, I have learned this is ultimately better.  My controller had me convinced it would kill me for many years.  But I have learned that it won’t.

And so I have come to understand that feeling of “getting worse” is actually the process of going deeper to a more authentic place within me.  And being authentic is what I want, what I am meant to achieve.  So I will stay with it (most days).  And just like you, I will grow stronger.  And worse will become better.

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23 Comments

  1. This was excellent! And explains why I have been avoiding recovery for the past 2 years. “Waking Up” for me also meant facing the truth that I spent so much time ignoring my feelings that I also ignored (and forgot) what makes me happy. “Who’s happy?”, my mother would say! Never too late to finally figure out how to be “happy”….right??

    Reply
    • It is never too late Joan. And you are so right. It is about finding happiness and joy too.

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  2. High five! Much wisdom simply put.

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  3. This is something that I had wondered about. I felt like I was worse before I got better. When going to counseling, I became angry about behaviors that I recalled from my mother. I had thought originally that I hadn’t forgotten incidents. However, I recalled memories that connected things that happened. Then I realized why some of the abuse had been allowed to happen. This made me so upset that I almost wished I hadn’t begun to look into those issues. I thought that I might have felt better not piecing it together. There must have been a part of me that really didn’t want to know. Now I know it is better to put the anger where it belongs and not turned inward on myself.

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    • That is a perfect example of what I am talking about here. Thank you. We do have to put that anger back where it belongs and it doesn’t feel good at first.

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  4. This makes a lot of sense…and hopefully describes what’s going on with me these days. I’m really emotional and a bit more irritable lately as well as sort of just spacy.I remember when I thought I was SO happy and productive – before the crash and then all of this. Hard work…indeed. always appreciate your words as they reassure me and make me feel like I’m not alone. Thank you ❤

    Reply
    • Thank you Victoria. I think it is exactly what happened. Sending my love and light to you today!

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  5. Wow! It helps for everything to be reflected back to you! I have been having body memories, tremors and what I can only refer to as “ripples under the surface” that I can feel are wanting to come up and as this is happening I have a part of me that is trying to push it all down or away. This part is screaming at me – “you don’t want to go there”, “if you go there you will open Pandora’s box”, “if you go there you will not be able to function anymore” (that one strikes me the most). – It might be important to note that I have repressed memory and most of my childhood is wiped out. I have fragments but they are so small it is like looking at a shard of glass that is so tiny you cannot identify/make out its original form or what it belongs to.

    When I am “in it” it is hard to sometimes step outside it and recognize the part that is in resistance (such as the part quoted above) but when I look at it hours later I can see the separation. What is harder still, sometimes, is knowing quite what to do when the part is screaming at you.

    So, thank you for sharing your parts with us so that we can better recognize our own <3 Now I know I need to "talk" to the screaming part and assure her that we are not going to fall apart, lose control and drown in the ocean. Ha! Ha!

    Hugs,

    Reply
    • Yes! Often our controllers believe that our emotional expression and memory recovery will lead to death or a nervous breakdown. And it can be hard to argue since we don’t really know until we try it. But keep letting them express and holding the understanding that it will be okay. Love to you Wendy.

      Reply
  6. I can relate to this. I’ve been numbing and pushing away feelings for almost 8 years now…Just a few months ago (which was coincidentally….or not!!…a few months after I went no contact with my parents), my anxiety became unbearable and I have forced myself to really dig deep. My emotions have been all over the place and I’ve been feeling worse in some ways but I’ve also been journaling and making important connections and have felt more connected to myself in the last week or so than I have in years. It’s a hard process but rewarding in its own ways. And it’s progress that we can own fully and be proud of.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing Lauren. I am so glad to hear of your connection to self. This is hard work, but it can be so beautiful when we stick to it.

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  7. Thank you, I really needed to hear this right now. I have been working on my recovery for years and lately Ive made a couple of huge breakthroughs so I was very disappointed that I still seem to be getting worse and actually just had one of the worst days of my life in the past week. Now I can see that is a positive sign that I am truly making progress. As difficult as it is that encouragement is what I needed and Im willing to stay with it as long as it takes.

    Reply
    • Yes Tina! I have noticed that the worse I feel, the bigger the breakthrough that is coming my way. Stay with it, write from it, and keep reminding yourself that it is temporary. Love to you.

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  8. Great blog post Elisabeth. I can say as a 64 year I now know that your comment that follows is very true: “So while our controller may have been firmly in charge in our twenties, showing up as high levels of productivity and the ability to plow through almost anything, it won’t last forever.”

    Reply
    • Right?! I think it might be the most true statement in the universe. Ugh. 🙂

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  9. These feelings that come with the repressed memories are the worst! They do feel totally intolerable and I immediately jump to my friend suicide to get away from them.
    When I am in a decent place I know these feelings don’t last and I will get through the worst of it after a couple of days, but when I am in the thick of it, it is the worst experience ever, and I am far from my logical brain.
    I have been dealing with repressed feelings/memories this week, and I just want to do anything to escape it, which is stupid because I am actively doing things to try to figure out the puzzle of my life.
    Earlier today, I was on the bus of let’s just get away from all this therapy stuff and go back into pretend land.

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  10. Such a great post. Thank you so much. I’ve been working so diligently on my own trauma recovery as a 50-something and for most of my adult life. More so the last 8 years as all the distractions to this kind of work have gone away. Highly dysfunctional long term marriage is over. The over-productivity in work situations / career is no longer sustainable. Managing a family and raising children is complete. Silence and time on my hands has really brought a lot of things to the forefront as I stand alone with Me, Myself and I. No where to turn. No one to blame. No distractions. As scary as it’s been, and as deep as I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole at times, there is a peace and understanding to what is happening. And a joy, hope, happiness I’ve never felt before. Almost like I trippled my anti-depressant medication.

    My most significant revelation during this rebuilding is in my understanding of lack of worthiness I still hold on to in being loved for who I am. I’ve learned so much about how I have remained in victim mode (even though I strongly state I’m not a victim) and how difficult it has been to believe another person’s perceptions of my behaviors and survival strategies (which involve pushing away those who want to be close to me) as sabotaging my own happiness and growth as opposed to seeing everyone out to get me. I’ve stood in my own way, bottom line.

    I’m grateful I have another day to try. Another day to go at it again and to be appreciative of the little, tiny realizations and victories instead of wishing time away and that ‘it’ would hurry up.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Patsy. It sounds like you are doing amazing work to heal yourself. The realizations about worthiness are so hard to integrate, but critical for our recovery (especially in relationship). Love to you.

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  11. This is so true for me! At 50yrs old, I hit a brick wall. No amount of trying to push through helped. I was physically hurting all over with no diagnosis. Doctors told me that I needed therapy because nothing was wrong. I hit bottom. Mentally and physically. I’ve been seeing a therapist for months now and initially thought I would die from the emerging feelings and emotions. It’s slowly getting better and I am trying to honor all parts of my being. Thanks for the post and letting me know I’m not alone!

    Reply
    • Thank you Debra for sharing your experience. I can relate so much! I’m glad you are moving through those emotions.

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  12. I’m on my journey of healing and I relate to everything that I read! I’m 35 and yes my twenties I just ploughed through and didn’t think or feel. Everything started unravelling a few years ago and as I get closer I find it also scarier. My main issue is that with the repressed memories I am literally petrified at what I don’t know happened. I don’t know where to start and if it even matters if I remember? But those big black holes or memory loss worry me the most. I’m just completely 6 months group therapy and then on a waiting list for EMDR sessions and then I will be in touch as I’d love to work with you.

    Reply
    • Those memories are important to recover in order to fully heal. I personally know how scary that sounds. I get it. We have many fears around doing that work, since we put them away for a good reason. But now that you are an adult, you can handle the information better than we you were a child. I would be glad to talk to you about my program anytime. Love and light to you.

      Reply

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