Into the Whirlpool

What is therapy?

Yesterday I recorded my 4yr old noisily eating apples and blueberries. Today he asked to listen to the recording while he ate apples and blueberries. That’s similar to what therapy feels like except it would be more accurate if he was eating apples and blueberries while listening to a recording of himself eating apples and blueberries while listening to a recording of eating apples and blueberries.

My therapist – psychologist J – has in his waiting room the poster from the movie Inception which my terrible memory recalls being about a dream within a dream within a dream which is also how therapy frequently feels. But mostly it just feels like this (see image below).

Artwork by my son 4 yrs.

Sometimes in session I dissociate and then go into a flashback and psychologist J is sucked into the re-enactment transforming into the predator or sometimes a large spider with glasses and 4 long hairy limbs. And coming from his general direction is something that seems to be his voice attempting to talk about the present but as it hits my ears it is overlaid with voices from the past and suddenly I feel a little like my son eating fruit while listening to himself eating fruit in the past. And then when after much effort I ground myself to the present and my voice snaps back into my throat, we begin the third spiral: not the original trauma, not the re-enactment of the original trauma but a discussion of the re-enactment of the original trauma.

I tell him that he looked like a giant spider and I thought I was losing my mind. And I tell him in a panicked voice that one time his head appeared to be blowing up like a balloon with the horror growing equally exponentially until his head seemed to explode and I looked away. Psychologist J explains to me that dissociation can cause changes in the visual cortex – at least I think that’s what he said. Anyway he says something neurosciencey about how limbs appearing disproportionate to the body is a common phenomenon. I feel my whole body relax a teeny bit as I hear this. I’ve gone from being a knot of barbed wire to a ball of twine. It’s a relief to know I’m not going insane, this is just run-of-the-mill brain fuckery.

Then the session ends and I drive home with my thoughts still spiralling in a whirlpool. There’s 3 days until the next session where most of the time will be spent attempting to drain the whirlpool or find some raft to cling onto as the emotional flashbacks rage on. Sometimes a different version of me will appear mid-flashback and remain in control of my body until the next appointment.

But it’s ok, I’m not insane…yet.

Random motivational signs that I typically find irritating rather than motivating.


Beatson J. Borderline personality disorder and auditory verbal hallucinations.
Australas Psychiatry 2019 Dec;27(6):548-551. Epub 2019 Jul 15 doi: 10.1177/1039856219859290. PMID: 31304765

Deka K, Dutta H. Hallucination: A symptom of dissociative disorder. Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2015;31:76-7. Available from:

Lipsanen T, Lauerma H, Peltola P, Kallio S. Visual distortion and dissociation. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 1999 Feb;187(2):109-12 PMID: 10069751 DOI:10.1097/00005053-199902000-00007

Image by Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber

Published by sarcasticfringehead

I'm an adult survivor of child abuse who documents therapy; a yellow brick road to hell.

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