I don’t look like the stereotypical sexual abuse survivor. Of course, sexual abuse is something so often not addressed, I’m not even sure there really is a stereotype. I imagine the stereotype to be the crazy stripper, the slutty party girl, the bimbo waitress, the dumb blonde. I am none of those things.
I am an over achiever. I graduated high school at 16. I would have graduated college at 20, if not for an abusive relationship that derailed me. I am organized. I am married to a good man. I am a mother– I am super mom. I am the woman who seems to do it all effortlessly, who seems to have it all, who always says yes, who always offers help. I am a people pleaser. I have a wide variety of interests from teaching myself to sew to reading harry potter novels to searching out the perfect martini. I’m not an alcoholic, and I have never used drugs. Most of my friends would tell you I am an open, if not very interesting, book. My husband would tell you I talk too much, but that is one of the reasons he fell in love with me. I find life interesting and fun, regardless of what I am doing. I’m confident, and can be pushy and demanding when it comes to my kid. I will go to bat for her, and never back down. I write speeches and stand in front of groups of people and speak about autism and insurance coverage. I am composed, and put together. I have become an adult. My parents consider me their friend, as well as their child. If you met me on the street, this is the me you would meet. And, six months ago, when my husband and I interviewed a therapist for our daughter, this is the me that therapist met.
That day, inside, I was a mess. We had been running late, my anxiety was in overdrive. I couldn’t calm my thoughts. I had not had time to put on my “grown up” clothes, and I was terrified this person of authority was going to view me as a five year old child. I could feel a migraine coming on, and I had forgotten to pack my medication. I had not slept well the night before, my re-occurring nightmare had been back for a visit. And all of this I had running through my head, sure that this therapist would know, would see that I was crazy. Of course, she didn’t see the inside me. She saw the me I show the world. Hubby and I both liked her, and we scheduled an appointment for her to see our daughter, Kat.
In a rather round a bout way, this is how I started therapy again after almost 10 years. You see, I had been having some struggles that last year. Moodiness, temper outbursts, disordered eating habits, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, OCD behaviors. All of these things were symptoms I had struggled with for years, off and on. When Kat started therapy, I attended with her. She’s four, and she wanted me there. It gave me an opportunity to get to know Bea in a way I had never gotten to know a therapist before. I got to know her as a parent. I got to know her as someone looking for advice and help, yes, but for help with their child. I felt more equal to her, more on even ground. I got to see Bea’s compassion and understanding in how she reacted to my daughter. I got to see how calm she could stay in the face of Kat’s meltdowns. Bea seemed real to me, in a way no therapist has ever seemed before.
One morning, after a particularly bad night that had been followed after a bad week, I sent Bea an email. I asked her if she could refer me to a therapist or see me as a patient for what I termed “unresolved past issues”. She suggested that she could see me or refer me, whichever made sense, and that because we had a meeting scheduled that week to discuss Kat, we could discuss the issues and go from there. I struggled with that. The fact that she wanted to discuss the issues. On one hand, I was asking for help. On the other, I had never actually spoken the words to any of the issues out loud. In the end, I sent an email explaining that. Bea replied back, “That is okay. Safety comes before all else. I will work with you regardless of what the issues are, and you will talk about them when you are ready, or you can email them now. I want you to know you are in control of this process.”
I chose to email the issues (or at least most of them) to her. And that is how I accidentally ended up back in therapy.