Pain, Fear & Courage – Daring To Say How You Feel

A couple of very raw nerves were touched in my last session with A. Early in the session I made a statement to the effect that I feel un-anchored, adrift, floating with no direction. Later on A. commented on this, saying – and I’m paraphrasing here, I don’t remember the exact words – that even though I say that I feel un-anchored, it seems to her that I am perhaps a little too anchored. To the past, to old thoughts, old feelings, old memories. She then went on to saying that she can understand why that is.

I felt instantly hurt by this, because, what I heard was perhaps less of what she was actually saying and more an echo of what others around me have either said or through actions have made me feel: that I’m holding on too hard to the past, to the abuse I experienced. That I am overreacting and should just let it go. In my immediate feeling-reaction I discarded without thought the part about A. understanding why this is, and allowed the first part of the comment to hit me at full force; that I’m stubbornly refusing to let go of what happened to me as a child.

I was able to articulate this to A., to explain that what she had said left me hurting, but that I also recognised, even in the moment, that my reaction was not necessarily to what she had said, but to what other people have said, and that while I did in a physical sense hear her say that she has some understanding of why this holding on happens, the first part, the direct echo of other peoples’ views, was the part that was ringing in my ears.

Objectively I can see that she wasn’t actually repeating what others have said or made me feel, but emotionally, that is what I heard and what I responded to. In the moment, the “can understand why” didn’t feel very convincing, felt like it might have been something she just added to soften the blow while letting me know how she really feels about me and the way I live my life-.

I fell silent after my initial explanation, feeling unable to say more. Hurting too much, and trying to self-soothe, to reassure myself that A. doesn’t really think I’m overreacting or refusing to let go, that that wasn’t at all what she was saying. But it didn’t work particularly well.

During my silence A. took the opportunity to remind me that it’s OK for me to feel things about her, that she already knows I do. It was probably needed, her saying that; I am notoriously bad at expressing my feelings about A. openly and directly to her, and it was all said in the gentlest of ways; an offer for me to express freely how I felt about both what she had said and how I feel about her, but I just wasn’t ready for it right then, had too much fear inside. She went on to very honestly say that of course she couldn’t promise she wouldn’t be affected by what I might say, but that she can deal with it.

Only this shifted my focus to another sore, another deep-rooted fear; that I actually don’t feel at all certain that she can deal with it, that she can cope with me. I said as much to her, but, I feel I failed to really convey that in an odd way this isn’t something personal to her, that it’s not a case of me thinking she’s not a strong enough person, but that it stems from the simple fact that, as much as I intellectually know that this – coping with me, with what I bring to session – is her job, that it’s what all that training was there for, that she is (that dreaded word) a professional, to me, she is first and foremost a human being and no amount of training can change that fact. And my experience of human beings is that they can’t cope with me, can’t deal with me. That sooner or later I become too much, sooner or later I break people.

And that’s a hard one. Because, if this is how I feel deep down, then has my therapy got any chance of bringing about change? If I am so terrified of breaking A., then will I ever be able to truly open up? Will I ever find the courage to risk it, or will that fear forever stand in my way of letting my emotions out?

There is a part of me that wants to close the door and run as far as I can, and another that wants to be brave and carry on, beginning with exploring this immense fear. Together with A.

I still don’t know what I will do, but I know this:

My three and a half year honeymoon with A. is over.
And maybe, just maybe, this is where real therapy begins.

xx

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Anchorlessness, Flashbacks & Change

It’s been nearly a month since my last entry. A few pretty difficult weeks have gone by. Went through a phase of feeling completely anchorless – like there was nothing but nothing holding me down, in terms of who I am and where I come from. And that’s a lot to deal with. That feeling of not knowing anything about my heritage.

I’ve spent the best part of my life trying to desperately tell myself that it really doesn’t matter, that I’m not interested in who my parents are. And, in some ways, I still hold true to that; this journey into Who Am I isn’t really about knowing who my parents were. What it is about, however, is which parts of them are recognisable in me? What qualities, good and bad, did I get from them? Or even those people who came before them. What has been passed down through the generations? Things that most other people have the luxury of knowing.

Another crucial aspect of this search for who I am is, of course, that just as the ups and sometimes very severe downs of my childhood has shaped the person I am today, so, too, have the choices my parents made. No matter which angle you look at it, the bottom line is that – as hard as it may have been – my mother did decide to give me up. Yes, there may very well have been reasons – good reasons – for this decisions; I’m  fairly sure that no mother would easily give their child up.

But that doesn’t change that simple fact; that that decisionwas made.

And it’s had a huge effect on me.

Having struggled with these questions, and the feelings they stir, spending a lot of time talking about it in session, I think I got to a point where I couldn’t quite handle it any more. This constant drumming of I have no idea where I come from, it got too much. And I think I needed to distance myself from it.

The issue didn’t come up naturally in therapy; it was introduced. And although I know that this is absolutely something I need to be dealing with, need to work through, I think it was a little too much a little too soon. I don’t think I was ready to work all the way through it just yet. I know that, with time, I will eventually make my way through all of these huge and existentially fundamental questions. But, for now, I think I just needed a break.

Unfortunately a break from one thing doesn’t necessarily mean that everything goes back to being nice and neat. There is always a bit of an emotional hang-over.

Also, in the last two weeks I’ve started having flashbacks again. It hasn’t gone into a full-blown, all-consuming and seemingly endless period of flashbacks, but I have had a few evenings where there has been quite a lot of them, and it makes things difficult, because – apart from the flashbacks in themselves being pretty horrendous – it makes it very hard to commit to things. And so these last two weeks I’ve had to miss out on things that I’d really wanted to do, because having a flashback in public isn’t really ideal.

I do believe that these flashbacks happen for a reason; maybe as a sign that I’m psychologically more ready to look at what actually happened when I was a child. I mean, as far as the abuse goes, I haven’t really got any repressed memories; I remember pretty much all of it – but the flashbacks brings them to life in a way that memories don’t. Firstly you have absolutely no control over when a flashback will happen, and therefore you also have no way of shielding yourself from the impact of the experience. It’s like – for a moment – existing in complete simultaneous reality. [To see a drawing I made last year trying to illustrate what that’s like, check out my entry What Words Can’t Express – A Visual Explanation of Flashbacks].

I have been able to talk about the flashbacks in detail with A., and I think that’s a really big step. Some of the incidents that have come up as flashbacks have been some of the most difficult memories of the abuse. Some of them I have talked about before in therapy. But, as I was explaining to A. the other day, even though I’ve talked about a specific incident before, each time feels like the first time, because in between each time I’ve become more able to stay connected emotionally with the memory. The first times I talked about it; in the police interview and in court it was easy; I was completely and utterly emotionally detached from it, and therefore I could retell things in graphic detail without skipping a beat. The first time I talked about it in therapy I was still switching off emotionally to a degree, and although it wasn’t by any means easy to talk about it, I could do it, because the emotional impact was limited.

This time around I feel that I have been able to stay much more connected. It’s a pretty big deal for me, seeing as my chief defence mechanism has always been the ability to switch off all feelings at will. I still fall into that trap every now and then, but I do work hard at noticing when I’m doing it, and trying to find my way back to that emotional place, because, painful as it is –that’s where change happens.

Anyway, good people of the blog-reading world, I’d best stop there. Time for evening prayers and settling down time.

Be good to your Selfs.

xx