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.


This Little Voice In My Head – An Entry About Human Courage

I really genuinely think I’m going crazy. Losing it.
And at the same time I don’t think I’ve ever been more in touch with myself and how I’m doing. It’s hard to explain. Sometimes I think it’s really just the fact that I’m so unused to feeling things that it knocks me for ten, and other times I think Oh my God, how the flippin’ BEEEEP am I gonna get through this? And still, somewhere at the back of my head, even when I’m feeling really low, there’s this little voice that tells me that Ok, so maybe you don’t know how to deal with this, but that doesn’t matter, because you’re just gonna have to. That’s just how it is, girl.

And I think that’s a clear indication that I am getting better; that I am in fact dealing with things, even if I have no idea how. Because that voice is new. It hasn’t been there before. Or maybe it has, but if that’s the case I must have been utterly deaf to it, because I can honestly say I haven’t heard it before.

I think it’s to do with spending those weeks at Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre earlier this year, working so desperately hard at putting in motion a change in myself. Not just on the surface, but through and through. Also, seeing D. every week, well, I guess it reinforces that idea. That, actually, the only real option here is to get myself through this, by any means necessary. And, I suppose that the reason why I’m struggling so much right now is that for the past few weeks I haven’t had that weekly dose of encouragement.

The last thing D. said to me before we parted after my last session in the second week of August was “S, I don’t want to come back and find that you are dead.” And I remember very clearly thinking that Why in the world would I be dead?, that it was a remarkably ridiculous thing to suggest, and so I went on to make a jokey comment.

I get it now. I do. Although I always knew that I liked my counselling sessions with D. I didn’t at all realise how incredibly important they really are. How being told something and then going home to think about it actually gets me through the week, and strengthens that survival instinct within me, ups the volume of that voice, if you wish.

Yesterday after work I was feeling a bit fragile. So, I went to see my friend P. and her little girl. That worked a treat at lifting my mood. I also spoke to two of my friends on the phone and spent some time just reflecting over all the difficulties in my life I have had, and marvel at the fact that I’m still around. I don’t mean to brag, but when I think about all the things in my life I’ve been through – how unconventional my life has been in many ways – well, I do feel proud to still be alive. And I think I have a right to be.

Now, on to something else that inspired me the other day. I was having one of those days where I really couldn’t think of any good reason to smile. One of those Yes, I’m alive, but so what?-days. You know what I mean. So I spent most of my day in bed, trying to, but not managing to sleep. In the end I gave up and reached for my iPod and started surfing the web and I came across this story about a little girl called Danielle. I read it, and what struck me the most was not how cruel a place the world can be, but an enormous sense of gratitude for the fact that there are people around – like Dani’s new family – who are willing to not just talk about it, but act to change that. So, please, visit the Lierow’s website. I suggest you also read the wonderful article by Lane DeGregory, sharing Dani’s story with the world. It is in parts pretty grim reading, but, I do like the way it’s been written and how it actually also offers Dani’s natural mother to give her side, indefensible as it is.

Having read Dani’s story I felt compelled to contact the Lierows to tell them how their courage has touched me, and to ask if it would be ok for me to link to their site in my blog, and yesterday I got an email back from Bernie, Dani’s new dad, to say that it was.

So, again, take a deep breath and read the story about this family. I am sure, that you, like me – will feel a bit better about the human race after. And feel that, after all – there are things worth smiling about.

Real love,