Trigger warning for talk of self injury and eating disordered behavior. It hasn’t been an okay week for me, and I have slipped in many of my behaviors. Please be careful and safe when reading.
Early Sunday morning, or late Saturday night, the anger at my mom bubbled up in me, and I was so upset I couldn’t see straight. Bea says anger is hard for me because of my personality type, and because of my mothers insistence that anger was bad, not allowed. Add those things to an abusive relationship in college, where anger meant I was going to be hurt…and well, anger is scary. But there is was. I was mad. Angry, with a capital “A.” At 3:00am, there aren’t many options for getting rid of angry feelings. I wrote an email to Bea. I didn’t send it right away, because I was unsure, if I wanted her to know how mad I really was, how horrible I can actually feel and how mean and cruel and terrible I can be.
I sent it this morning, so Bea would have it before my 3:00pm therapy appointment. Of course, by the time I have sent it, the anger is gone. I’ve numbed it away. Razor blades and starving can do that. I woke up hungry, which is rare for me. I was thankful, in a way, for some thing to focus on; because as long as I spent the morning focusing on not eating, on forcing my body into submission of not being hungry, I was okay. I was in control.
I manage to do the dishes, pick up the living room. The rest of the day is spent hiding in the closet. Kat is at Art class with her ABA nanny. It’s okay for me to dissociate away the day and hide.
I shower, dress, drive to Bea’s office on auto pilot.
When I get there, I’m surprised to find Nathanial, the pet rabbit on the steps. “Hey there,” I say, bending down to pet him. He’s an old rabbit, and usually he hangs in the waiting room.
Bea walks out of her office and looks down the stairs at me. “Hey, come one up.”
“I was surprised he was all the way out here,” I tell her. She tells me he has been moving around a lot, even going up and down the stairs.
I get settled, and Bea looks at me. “You don’t seem very here today.”
Well, crap. I can’t hide much from her anymore. “No…..I’m having a hard time being here.”
“I did read your email this morning. There was a lot of anger there, justifiably so.” Bea isn’t going to waste time today, I guess.
I had started the session looking at her, now I look down. “I’m not mad anymore.”
“No. I can tell. To go from so much anger to anger turned inward. That’s a big shift.” Bea looks concerned. Maybe I imagine that, but I don’t think so, because it freaks me out. I don’t want her to be concerned.
“Why? Why do you say inward? It’s just gone.” I’m freaking out, that she somehow sees or has an idea what I have been doing to cope. That she knows exactly what “not okay” means, and how not okay I really am.
“Well, we always think of depression as anger turned inward on the self. If a person is chronically numbed out, depressed, and we can get them to turn that anger outward, anger can be energizing, it is action oriented, it changes things.” Bea believes this. In her world, anger isn’t bad. It just is. It’s energizing, it’s powerful, it changes things. She is not scared of anger. She doesn’t see that anger is just this big scary thing that can’t go anywhere or be controlled. She doesn’t see that anger changes nothing, or that anger is mean and hurtful.
I want to argue with her about depression. I’m not depressed. Does she think I’m depressed? I’m not going to ask. I don’t want to be told she thinks that. I am not depressed. I’m just…..frozen. Scared. Not here. Sick. Confused. Not depressed. I don’t say anything, though. Better that than admit the truth. Bea doesn’t say anything either.
I break the silence. “I was…..so mad.”
“Yes, you were. That’s okay. You have every right to those feelings, to be mad. How could you not be mad?” Bea gets up, “I’m going to grab my phone so I have your email, is that okay? It’s on the table.”
I nod my head at her.
She retrieves her phone, sits back down. “You expressed yourself so well in this, exactly why you are mad. It’s very clear.”
I shake my head. “I shouldn’t be mad.” I don’t like mad. Mad feels bad, awful. I feel horrible for being so mad at my mom.
“It feels bad to you. I know. Until you can really accept all the mad, and the sad and even the hatred you feel, I don’t think you will be able to grieve or heal.” The words are quiet but they penetrate, even all the way to my place of “not here.” I can’t accept the anger. I don’t know how. In my world, anger isn’t okay, and anger at my mom really isn’t okay.
Bea looks at me. “I feel like you are having a lot of trouble being present today.” I am, but I don’t say anything. “There are these nifty little neurons in our brains, called mirror neurons. They let us know what the person we are talking with, focused on, is feeling. And right now, my mirror neurons are telling me to go away. It’s like a sirens song…just go over here, it’s nice and cozy over here.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. It’s automatic, really, the apology.
“You don’t need to apologize to my mirror neurons. Without them, I wouldn’t have empathy,” Bea says. I can hear a little smile in her voice.
Bea does some grounding exercises, naming what she sees. “Did you notice the new blanket on the couch?” I nod. I want to tell her I like the color, it matches the rug perfectly. “I thought it was the softest one. I’ll probably wash the purple blanket, and put it back on the couch because I really thought the kids would like the fuzziness of this one. But can you feel how soft it is on your toes?” My feet are bare. I had worn shoes, my wool toms with the fleece lining but no socks. I realize I can’t feel the blanket, or really anything. I wiggle my toes. I’m not here.
Bea takes a different approach than normal. She reads my email to me. I think she is trying to make me mad again, to show me it’s okay. I can’t feel it though, it’s too far away. I barely remember writing the words.
“Maybe she never realized how much she put on me, maybe she has no idea. But I think she has to have some idea. I’m mad that she needed this perfect daughter, that I can’t be. I’m mad that I feel like this absolute failure in the daughter department because of her expectations. I’m mad that she makes me feel like I’m not good enough, like I am always lacking in some way.
This….you expressed this so well. How can you not be mad to have all this put on you? This is a heavy weight, and not one any kid should have. You named it, exactly right, it’s her expectations that make you feel like a failure. You aren’t a failure.
I hate that I always, always have to be the one to comfort her. Even when I’m scared and upset, and hurting, I’m comforting her, telling her I’m okay, reassuring her. Because I have to make sure she is okay, not anxious, not going to starve herself back into control of the situation. That’s not my job. But it’s been my job, in some way, shape, or form, for as long as I can remember. “Don’t upset mommy.” “Perform well, just make mommy happy.” She and my Dad are adults. However ineffective and shutdown he is, he is the one who should be supporting her, not me. It is their job to deal with her “stuff”, her “illness”, not mine! But somehow, it became mine. I don’t want this job anymore.
It’s not your job! It never was your job! This was another situation you shouldn’t have been put in. You were taught to put mommy’s feelings first, to make mommy happy. It’s time to put Alice first.
I hate that she spent my “problem” years withdrawn from me, or pretending everything was fine and normal. It made me feel even more than I already did like I can not talk to her, turn to her, rely on her like that. She could hardly acknowledge me, the things I did, the hurt I was feeling. Can you even imagine if I had told the truth? There was no way. It wouldn’t have happened. But I hate that she did that. I needed a mom who was there. Who was safe. Who saw me, who listened, who tried to understand what was really happening, who did more than drop me off at shrinks and nutritionists doorsteps.
That was so hurtful. There’s just a lot of sadness here. Grief. You did need a mom who, heard you and saw you– really you, not the you she wanted you to be. You needed a mom who supported you, and you really warmed and needed a mom who did more than just drop you at therapy and make you feel like ‘the problem.’
And I can absolutely see, and understand why you couldn’t tell the truth. You almost had to wait until now, for it to be safe to really confront this, to be able to be in a safe place to heal.
I want to just scream it at my mom sometimes. That Kenny had sex with me, when I was 9, that’s why my underwear were under the damn bed, and she should have known, that he was hurting me from the time I was 5, and she never knew or even realized and I hate her for not making it safe for me to tell her. Crap. I didn’t know I had that strong of feelings until I wrote that. I want to delete this, but I won’t. I think it matters. I think I have to deal with it. Face it, somehow. I feel like we have talked circles about my mother and me. I’ve cried. I’ve talked. I’m not over it. Ugh….this sucks.
Yeah…of course you feel this way. Your whole world felt unsafe because you couldn’t tell her; the small ways you tried weren’t received positively. When you’re a kid, and you feel unprotected, your whole whole world flips.
I think you need to accept the anger and sadness and hatred to be able to heal this. It’s hard. But it’s like a bonfire. You feed it and it gets bigger but eventually it dies down, and is easier to look at, and it doesn’t burn so hot or bright.
I wish I could just tell her. It won’t happen. She’s not safe. If I told her, it would be because I wanted to be mean to her, to hurt her, to maybe end the relationship. Not because I would expect anything from her. She doesn’t have it to give. And I can’t tell her….because in order to tell her, I need her to be a safe person to talk to. I’m not sure she would believe me. I’m not sure, even if she believed me, that she would understand why I’m not okay now; I think she would expect me to let it go, after all, I danced with him at my wedding, I’ve seen him millions of times since, I was fine, I’m fine, right? I’m not sure she won’t choose to keep her life as is, and not upset it, and in doing so chooses everyone else, including him, over me. If she does believe it, and she is upset, I will have to (yet again) comfort her, when I am the one who wants comfort from my mom. And, lastly, regardless of how she acts and says she believes, she will get stressed, anxious, and obsess, and it will make her anorexia come back in full force and she will end up sick again.
It sounds like you have thought about telling your mom. (I’m shaking my head at her.) Or at least had some fantasies about telling her. (I continue shaking my head.) Okay. Maybe we will talk about this next time.
Crap. I wish she had whatever it is I need, to give. I wish I could tell her, and she could respond in this perfect way, whatever that is. Love me for me, not hate me, not think I’m bad. I don’t know. Not expect me to see him ever again. Not choose anyone over me ever in that situation. But it won’t happen.
And now, I’ve made my mom sound like this horrible person, and I’m feeling quite guilty over it. So. Angry, guilty, sad, scared, anxious, kinda not here, and really, really bad. That’s how I feel.
Yeah. A lot of feelings. And not here. It’s hard to be here when we feel so overwhelmed with feelings, and with all of these thoughts.”
I’m crying now, big tears, sobs that I can’t catch my breath between. “I ruin everything.”
“No. You ruin nothing.” Bea pauses, thinks. “From where I sit, you have ruined nothing. You have done nothing wrong. You can’t possibly live up to your moms standards, because she is living vicariously through you, needing you to be perfect, unable to accept that you like your own things, have my your opinions, are your own person. You are perfect, just as you are. Maybe not in your mother’s world, but in this reality, in this world, you are perfect.”
I cry more. Just cry. Too much grief. And still, I can’t accept it. “If I don’t go….I’ll be the problem again. She…..I cant…she’ll….it will be like before.” I can’t get the words out. I can’t say that if I don’t go, she will withdraw from me, like before, because I ruin everything and I’m the problem.
“You aren’t the problem. Not at all. No.” She drinks her tea, pauses and thinks. After a minute, she seems to come to a decision. “If I were going to tell this story, it would go like this:There was a little girl, who was put in a horrible position no child should ever be put in, with a boy who sexually abused her and raped her. No one knew, and no one protected the little girl. The little girl felt all alone, and isolated herself from people and close relationships. The little girl never told because she wanted to protect those closest to her. The little girl grew up. She started therapy, and she told her therapist about the boy. She was strong, and she started to heal. The boy grew up too. That year there was a Christmas party the little girl, now grown up and healing, wanted to go. She couldn’t go because the boy would be there and she was scared. The little girl was forced to choose to hurt those she cared about by not going, so that she could protect herself, because of the boy. So,even now, all grown up and trying to heal, the boy is still hurting the girl.”
I’m present, but gone. It’s that weird dual awareness. I’m shocked that my shrink just narrated the story. I want to correct her. The little girl was bad, she was naughty. I want to tell her she has it wrong. But I don’t. That’s how she sees it? So simple. In Bea’s story, I’ve done nothing wrong. I can’t understand, wrap my head around this.
“I’m afraid to tell her I’m not coming to the party.” I say, after a few minutes of silence.
“I know. It is scary. You can even text her, say you are throwing up. You don’t have to call. Say you will call when you are feeling better.”
I say, ” I’m stupid, this is stupid to be scared.”
“No. You are finally standing up for yourself, really for the first time ever, in a very healthy way. Standing up to your mom, and in a way, to Kenny.” Bea drinks her tea, looks at me. She’s serious. She doesn’t think I’m being stood at all. She knows this is hard.
I cry some more. “I can’t go.”
“No, you can’t. –Oh. I should say, you feel like you can’t. But I’m on the edge of my seat, I feel very protective over you, I want you to be safe. If you chose to go, I would support you, help you make a plan, be there for you, of course. We’d try to keep you as safe as we could.” Bea is serious. She clearly doesn’t want me to go, she has felt that way from the beginning, and yet, she is saying she would support me choosing to go.
“I can’t go.” I panic. I can’t go. He’ll be there. I can’t see him. He can’t look at my daughter. No. No. No.
“No, you can’t,” Bea agrees with me, validating my words, supporting me.
It’s really decided. I’m not going. I’m going to lie. Say I’m sick. Or Kat is.
Bea tells me to remember that in present day, I am safe, supported and protected. She tells me to keep in touch between now and my appointment on Thursday.