As with a lot of my posts some of the below could be triggering. The challenges I discuss of struggling with physical contact are not mine alone and sometimes when we read about the struggles which are similar to our own it can be upsetting. Hopefully though there is also hope in these words. Hope that treatment can help and hope that you can go from feeling stuck and hopeless to hopeful.
This time last year I would never of thought this would be something I would have to do actively address but as is life.
This week was another productive conversation. Though perhaps not entirely the conversation Chris was planning to have nor one of the many I need to face into at some point.
Chris opened the session wanting to run through some of the standard questionnaires which can help to gauge depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms. I declined and asked if we could leave them for another week.
I have to admit that I have felt a little exhausted on occasion these last couple of weeks, and I had a stinking cold. I just didn’t want to be under a magnifying glass, I knew vaguely what the answers would be and I wasn’t sure I could find the energy to critically analyse and accurately estimate my behaviours.
As always Chris was brilliant and just accepted we wouldn’t be scoring anything this session. He did sign post we would need to do some next time (we will see 😉). It’s the benefit of therapy I know lots of people worry about having conversations they don’t want to have, I have definitely found in this process that is not the case. We only do or say what we are comfortable with when we are comfortable.
Getting comfortable with physical contact.
We spent most of the session talking about practical approaches to a recent issue. Since I have stopped dissociating and opened myself open to a world of emotion. I can not stand to be touched.
Sometimes it is really bad and I feel physically sick, sometimes my skin crawls, sometimes I feel the start of an anxiety attack.
This has meant for well over a month there has been very little if any contact between me and Stephen. Hardly any hugs and those he sneaks in are cut short, I don’t remember the last time I properly kissed him and you can imagine if that stuff is hard there is nothing happening beyond that.
I have had a couple of attempts to address the issue myself…both failed. I learnt from conversations with Chris I was making some obvious mistakes, either going too fast or choosing the wrong timing or environment.
Chris was amazing as always in helping me shape a practical plan. He worked through the what if’s and I left the conversation feeling more confident and hopeful with a way forward. Having felt stuck for a long time, was really becoming rather depressing in itself. Feeling like you want to do something and are not able too, with no obvious way forward is an icky feeling.
So what where the steps…
I had to speak to Stephen. He obviously knows there is something up and I have previously given him bits of information suggesting I was finding it hard and I needed some space. But I needed to tell him more and be clear it was not him but me.
We discussed what might happen, what Stephen might say, what any of it may or may not mean. My natural first worry was that I did not want to upset him and if that happened I would likely try to back track. We talked about why he might be upset, why that could be ok and how my natural response should not be to back track. “Emotions are good.”
The next step was an action I agreed to try and complete with Stephen. I needed to list out from 1 to 10, intimate actions with I felt most comfortable with to most uncomfortable. 1 being the most bearable 10 being horrendous. I needed to think not only about the action but the environment and timing. Be really specific about the details. A couple examples for me were…
- 1-2 : Hold eye contact for ten seconds, clothed in daytime.
- 2-3: Hug, clothed, standing, in day time, but Stephen but can not hug me back.
- 4-5: Full on hug, clothed, Stephen arms have to be under mine, I have to initiate.
- 5-6: A passionate kiss, I initiate, clothed, day time.
I think normally the idea is you pick things in the middle, not too easy, not too hard. You slowly build your comfort. But honestly it can all feel so hard at times that we agreed to start at the bottom.
We listed out all our shared ideas and have stuck them on a chart on the inside of the a cupboard door. The plan is to agree what level we are at and I will suggest when we can move up to the next level.
So it has been a while now since the session. We finally found the time between kids and work to make our list. Just having the conversation has made me more comfortable. I know Stephen is making an effort and understands more now so I am not looking over my shoulder all the time or dreading the next hug. It definitely feels much more relaxed for me and I feel happier in the knowledge that Stephen understands a little more. It at least feels like there is a sensible path forward. Where as before I felt lost and stuck.
Once again grateful for the guidance and the amazing husband. Dam I am lucky!