Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Sideways

A. is back.
Four long weeks, but now she’s back. And that’s good. Really good.

But, it doesn’t change things.
I’m still having flashbacks and they are still as vile as ever, still as difficult to cope with. I’m still trying to not cut, and I’m still failing most evenings. But at least I have a place to explore that.

I’ve seen A. a few times since she’s been back, and I’ve found it incredibly hard to talk. It’s as if the words are in my head and they’re desperate to come out – to be born, in a sense – but at the same time what I want to say is so frightening that I just can’t do it.

So, the first few sessions were a real struggle, trying to explain about the flashbacks and how hard things have been in A.’s absence. And whenever I get even close to saying something about what actually happens in the flashbacks [and by extension in the abuse situation] it feels as if the only way for me to get the words out would be to vomit them out. It’s an almost physical obstruction.

I did manage to tell A. that I have been able, for the first time ever, to draw some of the flashbacks, and we talked about me showing her them. It seemed like a good place to start. Only, for the following three sessions I was sitting there with my journal [where I keep my drawings] on my lap, completely unable to open it.

There was something so scary about the thought of sharing this very secret side of me, that even looking at the pictures myself in A.’s presence [without showing them to her] seemed impossible. So we spent time talking about that. About what it is that’s so frightening: A.’s possible reaction or lack of reaction, my own potential reaction, the fact that it’s so deeply rooted in me that I’m not supposed to talk about what happened, how other people in my life have been unable to cope with my story and so on.

Then last Friday the breakthrough came. I spent ten minutes at the beginning of session again utterly unable to speak, thinking I might never be able to break this pattern, before A. asked me if I would like to show her one of my drawings. At first I couldn’t, and so we spent some more time talking about the reasons for that and about other semi-related things. But then I did it. I sort of hugged my journal one last time and then I opened it and looked.

Some of the drawings I had to skip past, because I just couldn’t handle looking at them with A. there, but some I could look at. It’s all a bit of a blur to me, but I think A. might have asked me what was in the picture I was looking at, and I began, very tentatively, to explain that it was in my room. The room my dad made for me. Then I couldn’t say anything more, so I handed the journal over to A., who took it and looked at the drawing. As I handed it to her, I had to look away, because I was too scared to find out what her reaction might be – but at the same time there was a very strong feeling of Please let me pass this horrible memory over to you.

With some help from A. we managed to look at two drawings. There were some things I just couldn’t say, some words that were too dangerously charged for me to say out loud, but A. helped me out by saying them for me, and by asking questions.

Yes, I was a little switched off – but not completely. Not like I was during the police investigation or in court, when I mechanically delivered facts, completely without feeling.

That said, it wasn’t until after the session, when I was back on the street it really hit me. What I’d done. I started shaking as I was walking, to the point where I was wondering if other people could see it. And I had to stop and be sick three times on the way back.

But, I did it.
I really did it.
I shared something that I have never been able to share before.
And I survived it.

Still, me being me – I am now stuck with this ice-cold fear that I’ve done something very bad. That this will be far too much for A. to cope with, and she will call at any moment to tell me she can’t carry on seeing me, that she’ll have to terminate therapy.

I know it doesn’t make logic sense, but it’s what I feel.
So much so that I find it almost impossible to think of anything else. The last few days since Friday I’ve been completely wrapped up in this feeling. In fact, yesterday I spent four hours at the Tate, hoping to be so overwhelmed by other impressions that it would somehow drown out this gripping fear.

But, it didn’t.

So there you go – two step forward, three steps sideways.

And on we march.


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