Something happened this week to remind me that no matter how much we think we've put our past behind us, if it's something traumatic it just doesn't go away on its own. A bit of back story needs to come into play here so I can loop all of what happened together. So, here's the bit from the past:
Back in the day when I was still seeing my wonderful counselor Dr. B (which you can read about here) I decided the best course of action was to engage the Borg Queen & try to set some boundaries as I felt my marriage was going down the toilet. (This was before I knew anything at all about narcissistic personality disorder & its associated fun.) I informed Donald (code name for my husband) I was going to start writing letters to the BQ in order to try to clear up some of our gunk. Donald thought this was a terrific idea. So in my INFJ (my Myer's Brigss type) way, I wrote to the BQ and tried to explain what I thought was appropriate and wasn't appropriate for her role in my daughter's life. Letters went back and forth for about a month and a half. The gist of the letters ended up being because I was trying to set boundaries the BQ felt attacked, but she didn't think she had to change anything about what she had done in the first place. Which basically defeated the point of the letters. *Sigh*
So after one of the times the BQ came out to our house in New Mexico for a visit (which really needs a blog post all of its very own that I may write tomorrow) Donald gets a phone call in which the BQ informs him that she wants me to have a phone teleconference with her & her therapist. This sent up warning signals for me because it only fed into the whole "she was right I was wrong" thing. So I asked Dr. B about it....and I asked him if he would feel comfortable with me bringing her in for a counseling session with me so we could try to has some of this stuff out. His immediate response after telling me I was probably right to think a teleconference would not really help was "What does she want from this?" I honestly didn't know. But I was curious to see what a counselor who had never met her would think of our interactions. Because I was starting to believe that just maybe....the problem wasn't so much our interactions but her unrealistic expectations.
The joint counseling appointment was agreed to for the next time the BQ came out. I became immediately aware to me that the BQ fully expected the counselor to side with her on a professional level. Upon meeting Dr. B she introduced herself with her name, LCSW. Which immediately clued me in that she was going to try to pull professional rank on me. I won't get into the details of the session, except to say that the entire thing had me almost in a panic attack & absolutely nothing was accomplished. Except to let me know that the BQ indeed felt I was to blame for every problem with our relationship and she had absolutely nothing to change in her behavior. (To put a somewhat positive spin on it, Dr. B was not taken in with her professional title & even said at a later point that she shouldn't be licensed to counsel. I have thus far kept myself out of the same professional circles as the BQ & endeavor to keep it that way.)
Anyhow, during this entire period when I was actively trying to work with the BQ, I would feel panic attacks coming on. Part of me could feel that I was having to part with my sense of self to satisfy the BQ, Donald, and the rest of that dysfunctional family. And that part of me was reacting by causing panic attacks. Eventually I just told Donald that he was just going to have to deal with the BQ & I not getting along or spending time together. And the panic attacks lessened considerable.
Fast forward to this week. Six years into the future and an echo of those panic attacks resurfaced unexpectedly when I saw an argument. It was the strangest thing. Not a true panic attack, but a shadow of one. I felt my breathing change and a very small sense of panic begin and literally thought "What the hell is this?" Because the panic wasn't mine in that moment I was able to breathe past it. But it did remind me that the panic is there, beneath the surface. It's there to remind me NOT to lose myself ever again. And to help me empathize with people who are scared, and anxious, and frustrated, and just trying to get on with their lives.
I've been there. And I survived it....and maybe I can even help some other people find themselves again. Because becoming lost inside yourself is the scariest thing I've ever faced.