DBT 11: Abused Daughter to Loving Mother

There weren’t many of us today. Our therapy group is shrinking. I’m not surprised. It’s bloody hard and painful stuff. 

Anyway, homework feedback was uneventful and I’m handling the group sessions much better now. I sit there half-smiling with willing hands. I have my therapy kit: my lavender playdoh, my cocoa hand cream, my water, my lip balm, my mints, my essential oils. It sounds a lot but, in practice, it’s not really and it really does help.

Back into group and we were starting the Emotion Regulation module. This is a biggie for me. I know I desperately need this. So much so that as Amy the psychologist gets started I feel a pang of fear. What if I fail at this? What if I can’t get it? What if I just can’t handle my emotions? My amygdala kicks in and the fear response begins. Nervous energy pulses through my veins. To focus I take notes. I can do this, I can do this. Then they show a YouTube of a mum and baby interacting in an experimental setting. The mum withdraws any expression and remains neutral. She just sits there. Quickly the baby tries everything in his repertoire to get his mum to interact with him again but she just keeps sitting there.


I can’t take it. I don’t watch much of the video but it causes me total distress. I can hear the narrator explain how the baby is desperately trying to get his mum to interact. ( I am the baby). This baby only endures a few seconds but it is chilling to watch. I feel and sort of see my mum’s face just at my left shoulder. I remember when my mum silenced my fussing daughter  with just a look. When my mum looks at you then you know, you sense the danger. Sat in the session it’s all flooding into my brain. I feel like I might pass out or scream. I half expect someone else to do it because, let’s be honest, we’ve all got a trauma background. The video ends with the mum scooping up and soothing the baby. He quickly returns to happy baby land. The narrator says that the mother returning the affection pulls the baby out of the bad place, however, had the child been left with the mother there giving no interaction then “the baby would remain stuck…” and I can finish his sentence: ‘in the bad’. I am stuck in the bad. Nope, I absolutely cannot stay in this room. Escape.

I leave banging into chairs. I get asked if I’m ok and I mumble about needing a few minutes. Then I’m out. I go to the conservatory (our break area). What the fuck do I do now? I recognise that this is a time for TIP skills but before that I fall to the floor and begin crying. Ok. Now TIP. I try intense exercise but my clumpy boots make such a noise! I try paired muscle relaxation but my muscles won’t relax. I curl up on the cold floor in a corner, making sure I can watch the door. I never want to move but equally I don’t want to be caught so vulnerable. A facilitator comes to find me…it’s been 5 minutes. That’s all we’re allowed in case we do something dangerous. I choke back tears and explain I’ll be fine. Reassured she leaves me. I start to sob again. Then I stop suddenly. I stand up and – just like that- I put my mask back on. I walk back into the group, head high and smiling. I engage and smile and laugh. Had they not just witnessed my exit then no one would have been any the wiser. Few people have  knowingly seen how good I am at this. When they do see it it tends to frighten them as, for the first time, they see how skilfully I hide complete soul destroying pain. It’s disconcerting for people. For me it’s all I have ever known. 

I think about how much I love my children. Love love love them. The transition from abused daughter to loving mother is a painful one and I’m just beginning to understand that. My daughter is so like me…but so different; confident, affectionate and strong willed. It’s a bit hard watching what might have been. I mean we’re different people, of course I understand that, but in so many ways I see our similarities. She’s the baby and she’s not stuck in the bad. I am stuck in the bad.


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