I’ve been hearing that a lot lately, trying to compartmentalize so you can actually live life and not let your past overtake your daily existence. She, my therapist, has been trying to drive that point home for me in recent weeks, because she knows that I am a thinker, and over analyzer, and I have to try and understand everything.
Compartmentalizing can be both good and bad, as long as it’s not taken to extremes in either direction. Something I of course am an expert at, Extremes.
Wiki describes compartmentalizing in part as, an unconscious psychological defense mechanism... To me know, while I’m sure some of it is unconscious, some of it has to be conscious as well.
You don’t want to completely push aside trauma and keep it bottled up or tucked away in the corner of your brain and not deal with it. I did that for 3 decades. I thought my past was out of sight out of mind, but as I’ve learned, certainly not out of “affecting me”, if that makes any sense. Basically I didn’t deal with it, but it was always there affecting me in ways I didn’t even realize.
On the other hand, you don’t want to focus on it completely and push everything out of the way into separate corners of your brain; focusing only on the trauma. You end up alienating yourself from your friends, family, social life, and pretty much can’t enjoy life as it happens. I know that feeling all to well.
Life pulls us in so many directions as it is, that we have to find balance, and believe me I know it’s not easy.
This whole thing of compartmentalizing has been something I struggle with in the healing process I have embarked on. Generally speaking, when I put my mind to something, I jump in with both feet, I’m all in, and I figure it out as I go. While that’s not really “bad”, it does tend to add a unique obstacle to try and deal with. I sometimes underestimate how much something is going to consume my time and my thoughts, or I just don’t consider it enough before starting out.
I started therapy in late January 2015, but it wasn’t until about mid summer that we started to begin to deal with my past trauma. Since then I’ve been all in:
- 100% committed to educating myself, and reading about Dissociation, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and Depression regularly.
- Reading self help books and learning how others deal with their past on a daily basis (currently reading 3).
- Trying to connect with my feelings and figure out why they happen and what they mean.
- Writing about my past on this blog (although this site has only started just under a month ago).
- Trying to understand my flashbacks more and embrace those feelings to connect the holes in memory of the trauma.
- Keeping daily track of my feelings on DBT sheets and Mood tracking sheets.
While these things are good, it really consumes most of my free time. It keeps me up at night sometimes, or occupies my brain waves when I’m on a break at work. All of this can potentially be detrimental to my healing, in the sense that it could prolong the already painfully long process.
Ya know what though, I can’t help it. It’s what I do. I have to understand what all this means, why it happened, why he did those awful things to me, how I suppressed it for 3 decades, and why in the world am I just now started to deal with it all. Like literally, why now? Why not 10 years ago, or 5 years from now? Right now honestly most of it all doesn’t make complete sense to me yet. I guess that’s where being an over analyzer might come in handy, sooner or later.
I am like you. I am pursuing healing for my shattered mind and heart.
Thank you for the comment Joy! I’ve found such great support from the online community of survivors that it meakes each day just a bit easier to handle knowing there are friendly faces out there going through what I did and feeling what I do now. We’re all in this together; all of lives were turned upside down and reality shattered into something we could never imagine possible. One step at a time, that’s all we can do 🙂
I totally get what you are describing. I suffered child abuse and abandonment, grew up in an alcoholic home, and staying true to the statistics, I married a sociopath. I was abused verbally and emotionally in the beginning which escalated to physical and sexual abuse. I was with him 15 years before I left him with our 4 children. To get the courage to leave him, I started drinking and became an alcoholic for 3 years. The State of Colorado made me sober up (3 DUI’s in 90 days) or I would lose my children. I DID EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID!! I called them boxes with tight lids, and every single traumatic event I suffered was put in that box never to be dealt with again (or so I thought). This did enable me to live a successful life, starting 3 accounting businesses in 3 different states as I moved around. I managed to suppress all of this for 4 decades until the year 2012 when I had very frightening symptoms start happening to my body. I was diagnosed with Severe Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD and my Doctor told me that I would never recover. HA! (I said to myself-Watch me) I worked with a therapist who specializes in PTSD treatment, and forced myself to open each and every box and relive the experience. I say this lightly, but this was EXTREMELY hard to do and to deal with. I just refused to stay stuck with those “labels”. I am 100% whole today, and I wrote my memoir to inspire others that they do not have to stay stuck. If you want it bad enough, you will do whatever it takes. I also questioned the timing of it, but have accepted it happened when it was supposed to happen. I can see you are totally on the right path. Just keep doing what you are doing and always stay 100% ALL IN. You will be stronger and feel a sense of empowerment when you come out to the other side. I’m ALL IN with you! Penny Hollick, Author
Penny, thank you so much for the reply! Your story is inspiring and I’m so happy you persevered throughout your life and got to a point where you are whole now and able to help others like myself. I’m all in right now that’s for sure, I have to do all I can to understand the 30 years of suppressed feelings and try to figure out what happened to me as much as possible. I’m such a long way from being whole right now, but I am absolutely not going to stop learning and hopefully helping others. I’m honored and grateful for your support and encouragement. Thank you!
I am so happy that I could help you. This is my passion right now as I see the thousands of women who are suffering just as you described and as I also did. Please remember this is a process. Sometimes you take 2 steps backward to move one big foot forward. Never, ever give up on yourself. Tell yourself daily that you will become whole again and totally healed. Refuse to stay stuck!
I can definitely relate to that 2 steps back. When I do get a solid step forward I’m waiting for the bottom to fall out from underneath. Just have to try and keep moving forward and not get discouraged. thank you! I can use all encouragement you can give 🙂
Lyric, let’s stay connected! Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pennyhollick (you don’t have to have an account just to see my page)
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Never, ever give up. There is a miracle for you also, Lyric!