Monday night, before I managed to get my perfect facade back in place, I emailed Bea. I told her I maybe wasn’t okay. I told her I hated that she brought those things up. I told her that I was struggling. I said my feelings were hurt, and confused that she was saying we were done talking trauma; that maybe I was finally feeling like I was allowed to talk about the ugly things for the first time in my life. I said that maybe the fight with hubby was a lot worse than she thought, and I recapped the fight we had, although I left out the fact I debated ways to run away from my life permanently (I’m a little scared to admit that to my therapist). I said I didn’t understand why she wasn’t going to talk anymore, and that it felt bad and made me anxious. I said that I had maybe stopped talking about some things because I was afraid to keep bringing them up, that I thought she would get tired of having that same conversation, and that she would decide I was too needy, so I just put away the things I was talking about too much. I was really honest, more honest than I’ve been in a long time, despite the fact I kept things hypothetical by using “maybe” in almost every sentence. It feels safer somehow to do that. I even listed out symptoms, and admitted there was an increase, but I refused to say how much or how often. I sounded a lot like 15 year old me in the email; snotty and bratty, mean, and angry. But mostly? 15 year old me was scared, always scared, and felt really unloveable. She used the snottiness to keep a thick shell of perfectness and okayness around her.
Bea wrote back pretty quickly, thankfully.
Thank you for your honesty and for being the “real” Alice here–the one who has feelings, and struggles, and isn’t perfect. I will gladly bear responsibility for this, so if it helps you to rage at me then do so! It is that meaningful and important, and it wasn’t until today that I decided to try to break through the crust of perfection and “okayness” that has been so thick lately. I know the inside part of you, the part beneath the crust, has been denied its life lately, and while it might not be pretty it is real and authentic. And that counts. It has been denied its voice and its existence–warts and all–for too long.
It’s fine at times to have to function, right?! I get that. But that’s not our goal for therapy. Well, it is, but it’s to function authentically without sacrificing your real self to do so. I do get that the fight with hubby was really, really bad. I have been concerned ever since then. I don’t really know how we can move forward much more without bringing hubby into the picture. His need for you to be perfect and “okay” is about him, not you. He needs to understand what this is doing to you. You might be “okay” on the outside, but I feel like this is a big step backwards. We need not only you to step forward, but hubby and your relationship to step forward as well.
I didn’t mean it’s supposed to be over!!! Not at all. I just meant that it’s been less intense, with no new memories to process at the moment. I know there’s plenty more work to be done, but it hasn’t felt so intense lately. That is why I wanted to check in about the symptoms–that, and I also have been concerned about the fact that you have been stuffing your needs and feelings inside in order to function in your marriage.
Sorry for the trifecta today:( No, we aren’t all done I’m sorry, but I don’t regret it because it had to be done or I would be pretending everything’s okay too. And as a general rule across all my sessions, I need to talk less. I will be mindful of the stress–if you need me to talk more just ask.
I decided to write back, and her second response was that we are missing all the shades of grey, and that seems to be the biggest dilemma: how do we make it so the okay and the not okay parts can coexist at the same time?
I suppose the grey space would mean both parts– the good and the bad– would feel real. But how does that work? How do two ways of being, that both feel not real, merge and feel real? I don’t understand. Maybe it’s because my parents were professionals at living only the good and perfects parts, so I learned to split off anything ugly really early on. And thanks to Kenny, I had some really ugly stuff to push away and pretend wasn’t real. It feels like I have two me’s, two lives. I don’t know. It’s confusing. I keep trying to find a good way to explain it, but I can’t seem to find the right words.
This always seems to be what I come back to. I live in the black or the white, the bad or the good. If I’m living in a place where I am the good me, the bad stuff feels like it never happened, I can almost pretend it away, and I begin to believe that I’m a liar, and nothing really ever happened. Even then, I feel like I am wearing a mask, pretending to be perfect, pretending to be something I’m not. If I am living in a place where I am the bad me, I feel like the good parts are fake, and that I’m evil deep down to my core.
There’s the “good and perfect” story of my life, mostly the family/public version, and there’s the “story with the ugly stuff.” They might be about the same person, but the stories don’t really mesh. If I’m in a place where the good perfect story is what I’m living, then the ugly stuff feels fake, and like it can not intrude into my life or it will ruin everything. If I’m in a place where the ugly bad stuff feels real, then the good me feels fake. Well, even when I’m living the “perfect” story, the good me feels fake, like a very good actress, or someone who wants to be good but just isn’t. I guess it’s like how could it be real, feel real, when Friday night he was touching me, having sex with me, and Sunday morning we would all be sitting in church, and he would be a completely different person? It’s like I had to work even harder to be perfect so I could hide the bad things I did, but that perfect part doesn’t feel real, either; she hid all the bad, tried to be perfect, worked very hard to earn my parents’ love. That feels like an act, not like the real me.
It’s like only one of those “alices” can be real. Either the bad one who played the game, or the good perfect girl my parents loved. I don’t know. I don’t know how they are supposed to be combined. I wasn’t a stupid kid, I knew the game Kenny played wasn’t okay, that it was bad, and that I was bad for…well. Anyway. So I had to be perfect, and good, and pretend it was okay, and be okay, because I was a good girl, my parents couldn’t love a bad girl, and I knew good girls didn’t play games like that. I never want to be a child again, being a child was scary because I had no power or control over anything and oh my God, I really just realized that right now this moment. Being a child meant doing what my parents expected and always performing and being perfect and good enough in order to earn their love, and it meant never saying a word about the bad things happening with Kenny, because I was a good girl, and good girls don’t play games like that. Even I knew that. But I couldn’t say no. I had no power to tell anyone no.
And I’m not okay, and this isn’t okay, and nothing feels okay. But it only took me until late Tuesday morning to get my “outside okay” back. So. I admit it. I’m not okay. I’ve been pretending okay for a long time, but at least I was being mostly honest about the not okay in therapy and even a little with hubby, but then we had that fight, and all I’ve done is really pretend okay all the time, no matter what. Because I don’t know how else to be. Because if I really stop and think about everything, and stop hiding from feelings and the bad hard stuff, then I will fall apart, because it’s too much and it makes me feel out of control and crazy and like I might drown in the bad feelings. So, where do I go from here? I’ll admit, there is a small part of me that maybe is thankful someone saw through the crust of okayness. But I also hate it. Because now I have this mess in my head, and I don’t feel okay at all. I don’t want to hear that I will work through this. Or that I should sit with it. I can’t sit with it. It’s too much. Way, way too much, because it’s everything. It’s like I’m being smothered by it all.
I emailed Bea back, talking about the grey space. I tried to find the words, but it really was a convoluted mess of crazy. Mostly, it was everything written up above, me thinking out loud, trying to figure this mess out.
I don’t understand why things have to feel so messy, and so hard and so out of control if I’m not pretending to be perfect and if I don’t have that thick crust of okayness on. If I’m pretending everything is fine, I can ignore all the bad feelings, and smile and be fine. But, without that….I am falling apart. Bea cracked the shell on Monday, and the honesty filled emails I have sent since finished it off. It’s barely there anymore. The thick crust of perfection is more of a veneer now, and all my insides are falling out left and right. I’ve broken down into tears multiple times the last two days. I’ve caught myself dissociating and feeling fuzzy and not here. My eating habits are out of control. And cutting….well, we just don’t need to go there. Everything is worse.
I’m not okay. And I have no idea how to live in the grey.