Last week, Thursday’s session. It was one of those sessions that I barely remember, but feels like a turning point. We talked about a lot of things, maybe the most important the idea of telling hubby more about my past. I’ve refused to discuss it with Bea lately. She has been pushing me to talk to hubby, and I finally told her I needed her to stop, to be firmly on my side and it felt like she was against me when she pushed for me to talk to him. She agreed to follow the road I was on, even though she was afraid I was heading towards self destruction.
It started out talking about Easter, and seeing kenny. It still feels slightly surreal, like it didn’t happen, couldn’t have happened.
“He was talking to him. They talked.” I’m still in shock over this. They have talked before, of course. But it feels different now that I’m not hiding my past from myself. It feels wrong, to have my husband talking to the guy who hurt me.
“What if hubby had been aware, and could have been supporting you? You wouldn’t have had to be alone in the kitchen, thinking about cutting,” Bea says. Her eyes are kind, and she isn’t pushing me to talk to hubby, it’s a question, but not pushy, just calm. She has a way of making this conversation feel like normal talk between two people, and not like we are discussing a scary moment, one of my nightmares come to life.
I shake my head. I’m curled up on the couch, and Bea is across from me in her chair. She’s looking at me intently, but patiently. I cover my face with my hand, and then set it down. Looking back at Bea, I shake my head again. “He can’t know. He wouldn’t be able to act normal.”
She nods. “There would have to be an understanding that he could not say anything to anyone, that it’s your choice to tell. He’d have to know ahead of time that he would need to be able to act like things were no different than before he knew.”
“He can’t do it. He’d be too angry to sit and have a conversation and pretend things are normal and okay.”
“Would that feel good to have him angry? Like a protector?” Bea asks.
All I can think is of the damage his anger could do. “No. It would ruin everything.”
“Ahhh. You would have to be really reassured he could hold it in,” she says, understanding on her face.
“I think….I mean….most people….” I stop, frustrated with myself. I don’t know how to express this, or explain it without sounding like I think I’m special. “I don’t think I’m special, and I think this is going to sound like I think I’m so great…..but most normal…” I stop and look at Bea. She doesn’t like the word normal, she challenges me on what normal is constantly. “Average. Regular people can’t do what I do. They can’t pretend as well as I can. I’ve spent my whole life pretending, it’s easy for me. Most people…I don’t think they can do that.” I look down, embarrassed. I feel like I’m placing myself above other people, and I don’t want to do that. But I also know my ability to pretend things away and act ‘normal’ is not something everyone can do.
Bea waits a moment before answering. “No. Not everyone can do that like you do. Most people can’t to the level that you can. But hubby had to be able to hide somewhat, with his mother. He developed a way to hide and pretend her actions away.”
I shake my head. “That’s different. It’s not the same as me. It’s pretending she isn’t crazy, that she is a normal mom. But it’s not the same as me.”
I’m surprised when Bea nods. “It’s not the same. You really developed what therapists would call a false self. You had lots of reasons to do this, and you did it very well.”
We have never talked about my ability to pretend like this. I’ve told her how good I pretend, I’ve thought she didn’t believe me, I have thought she was buying the miss perfect facade, and she’s popped the bubble of perfection. But we have never talked about it like this. I feel slightly validated to hear Bea admit I can do this very well. I secretly like that she sees through the facade, but I am glad she realizes how good of a facade it is.
“It’s harder…I can’t pretend like I used to.” I look down. I hate this, I miss my ability to pretend. Ever since Bea popped the bubble, I’ve struggled to put the facade back in place. But it’s not the same. It’s not as good as it used to be, and it feels wrong, somehow. I don’t want to hide and pretend anymore.
“That’s a good thing!” Bea smiles at me.
“In your world, it is. In mine……it’s hard.”
“What would it be like to be honest with hubby? To stop hiding in your life, in your family? Well, your family here, not your extended family.” Bea asks.
I shake my head at her. It’s not happening. But the idea of it is like a cool breeze, it’s like a swim in the ocean, it’s like sitting on a beach with a fruity drink in my hand. It’s refreshing and freeing. But it can’t be. “I just can’t do it.”
“This is progress…you aren’t shutting the conversation down. Before, you have refused to think about it. It was too much to even consider. Now, we are talking about it a little. Whatever happens, it’s going to take time, and lots of conversations before you really make a choice.”
I shrug. Maybe. I hate that she is so confident we are heading down a road to talk to hubby. Even if she is right, even if I can see that might be where this road ends. I’m not ready to admit it.
“I imagine there were a lot of feelings that came up, seeing him again. Do you know what you were feeling when he walked in the door?” Bea asks.
There is too much to categorize, to explain. It’s a tidal wave of feelings, an undertow threatening to drown me. “I don’t know. I just….he was there, and I said hi. I went in the kitchen. I couldn’t think. I don’t know.” It’s all a blur.
“Was he there a long time?”
“No…maybe 10….15 minutes. Not long.” I breathe deep, trying to calm down. Those few minutes were a lifetime. Time slowed down, I swear. I stared at the knife block in my parent’s kitchen, sitting on the counter by the stainless steel stove. I pictured picking one up, cutting my wrists. The thought was so similar to my actions when I was 15. It’s confusing. Time mixes up, and I’m lost. I can hear hubby and him talking, and hubby has the tone in his voice that is relaxed. He likes the guy. Crap. This is not okay. My mom is gushing thank you for bringing the cake over. I don’t know. It’s all a mess. The knives are right there. This crazy can stop running through my head, and I can be back in control. I don’t grab one of the knives. I clench my fists, and let my nails dig into my palms. That’s what I focus on. Time is never ending.
“That had to feel like the longest 15 minutes of your life, like it was never going to be over.” Bea is sympathetic, but the look she gives me isn’t full of pity, it’s understanding. She gets it, she can imagine it, feel it.
She asks me if there were good feelings of seeing him. I barely register her question, I don’t even know the words she used, but it penetrates the fog I’m in, and I know what she is asking. I cover my face, and then bury my head. “I don’t know, I just….it was…I don’t know.” My face is hot, flaming with shame.
“They are just feelings. They don’t mean anything. Letting them out is better than keeping them trapped,” Bea says softly, soothingly.
I shake my head. My face is still hidden. “I shouldn’t…I can’t.”
“That’s judgement. Stop judging yourself for feelings. They are just feelings, acknowledge them, accept them. They don’t mean anything.” She says.
I sigh. “When I was 12…..”
“Did you remember more?” She prompts me softly to keep speaking.
“No. But the feelings….it’s the same.” I shake my head. It’s all mashed together in my mind, a confusing tangle. “He pushed me away. He pushed me away from him.” My voice cracks now, and tears threaten to fall. “I know, rationally, I know why he pushed me away, and was disgusted. But it hurts. And I don’t understand why it hurts now.” The words come out in a rush. I’m afraid if I don’t say them quickly, I won’t say them at all.
“And why did he push you away?” Bea asks. She knows the answer, and the way she asks I can tell she wants me to say it; that she is hoping my saying it and talking it out will help the mess in my head.
“Because someone was there.” I can’t say more, I can’t explain it better,
“Who?” The question is gentle, but firm.
“My mom.” I breathe out the air I’d been holding, and the tears come now.
Bea talks about how hard that had to be, confusing, difficult. That maybe I had kissed him in front of my mom because I was testing if the game was really okay and normal. She says how terrible it had to feel to be the one who was in trouble, when kenny had been raping me all those years.
“I don’t know if I got in trouble. I don’t remember. It just feels like I was talked to. But I don’t know.” I’m frustrated with myself for not knowing more.
“When I read what you wrote, it sounded like a 12 year old speaking to me. And the ‘talked to about appropriate behavior for a crush’ sounds like adult words. I believe you were talked to. And it’s no wonder you blocked this all out. It’s painful.” Bea tells me.
I breathe a sigh of relief. She believes me. Even if I don’t believe myself, Bea believes me. “It hurt. My feelings were hurt. And that’s how I felt on Saturday. Just the same…all the same feelings.” It’s the best I can do to explain.
Bea gets it. There is understanding in her voice when she speaks. “Of course. Your mom let him in the house, talked to him, was happy to see him. And your feelings and needs were ignored. It felt like rejection all over again. And he was right there, acting like everything was fine, like he had done nothing wrong, and you were forced to go along with that act. Of course the feelings were the same.”
It’s enough that I look up at her, wipe my eyes. “I really don’t want to cry today,” I tell her, as fresh tears stream down my face.
“Let’s stop here then, take some time to just get grounded and come back,” she tells me. The look on her face is understanding, sympathy…it’s kind, but no pity. She’s not looking at me like I’m less than because of all this. I wonder how that is possible.
We talk about me, about this therapy journey and how far I’ve come. I’m hazy and emotionally wiped out, so the actual words don’t stick with me. The feeling does, though. It’s like a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Comforting. Bea believes me, even when I doubt myself. Bea sees that I’ve changed, that I’m more ‘me.’ We talk about hiding, and how I can’t do it so much anymore. She says it’s okay, although I wonder. I feel raw, exposed, naked, a good portion of the time. It makes me defensive and hypervigilant when I feel like I have to hide and can’t quite get the facade in place. I don’t know.
Things feel different inside me. I don’t know exactly what it is. It’s not numb, but a strange calm. It’s not bad, simply different, new. It feels like the fact I can’t hide as easily is peaceful in a way. I feel like something is changing. Like something is on the horizon, just out of reach, and if I work hard enough, stretch enough, I will be able to grab it. I don’t know what ‘it’ is. It’s like an elusive brass key, one that will open a door to finding me. Maybe, this is all a journey to finding myself, and maybe, just maybe, I’m finding me piece by piece.