Start at the beginning. That is something we hear a lot when we have something to tell that is difficult. But how do you start at the beginning if you don’t know what the beginning is? I wish I knew. This might be a triggering post, and it’s likely to be crazy long. Sorry guys.
I’ve been writing a lot, writing in my journal, messy and unedited writing. I emailed Bea, after writing many unsent emails to her. I wrote about how I don’t know which way is up. I told her I had remembered, or maybe finally been able to face the things I have been hiding from myself. I told her how I was frightened by how well I can fool even myself, and that I don’t know what or who to trust, including myself. I said that I felt like I liar, that I had something that made her believe I was sexually abused. We told my husband I was sexually abused. But now…these things I know, what I’ve remembered, it feels like I lied. I don’t know. I told her that I needed her to be on the side of telling, and that I need to know she is aware when I’m pretending to be okay. I wrote a lot.
………….But, as I got older, my mom wasn’t there. Oh, she was there, physically. But emotionally, she was not there. She was numb and gone, busy starving or purging or something in between. She was busy being perfect. So she wasn’t there; she was here but not there. Does that change things? Does seeing how hard your mom is on herself, knowing the the things she hates most about herself and seeing those same things in yourself change things? Does knowing that your parents can’t stand anything less than perfect change things? Does believing that in order to be loved, you have to be perfect change this equation? Does having two parents who were emotionally numb, and unable to handle anything hard or overwhelming change the outcome of all this?
And if that is what gave me the ability to dissociate, to be here but not there, so well that most people have no idea I’ve checked out? Did my parents do that, or did Kenny? Or was it a combination? Does the fact that maybe my mom being here but not there might have helped me learn to have that same dissociated feeling, doesn’t that mean that part of Kat’s attachment issues, not being able to use me to learn to self soothe, ext, doesn’t that mean I did that to her? Because I was here but not there? I don’t know. Maybe I caused her crying and all the upset she had. I don’t know
And what about Kenny? Where does he fit? Does all of that change this equation, too? Would it have even been what it was if my mom had been emotionally present? If I had felt my parents would love me regardless of what I did or did not do; that they could love me just for me? Would I have told then? I don’t know. I don’t know if any of this matters, except that I want to sort it out, make it make sense. I want to understand.
Is there a reason I am so afraid that everyone in my life will turn on me if I’m not perfect? I’m afraid to even admit it, I wasn’t even aware of this fear until recently, but I’m terrified of being abandoned. I expect, I believe, that if I am open and honest and stop hiding all the ugly stuff, my friends and family will become angry with me and leave. I’m afraid hubby will leave. I’m afraid Bea will leave. Is there a reason I fight myself on being vulnerable? Is there a reason that I am very, very good at faking trust– the trust I expect a normal person would give someone? A reason why, even after I trust someone, I still doubt them and worry about reactions and almost have to choose to trust them every time I make a choice to be open– and its a huge argument within myself?
A part of me wants to tell Bea everything I remember about everything with Kenny. A part of me wants to lay it all out there, pick it apart and have it make some kind of sense. But another part of me is screaming “don’t tell.” That part of me says no one can ever know. That I’ve already screwed up by talking as much as I have.
Part of me wants to talk about what it was like, having a mom with an eating disorder. Part of me wants to talk about how she ignored me, and punished me for my eating behaviors and cutting. Part of me is screaming that I can not be that vulnerable. That I don’t talk about my behaviors, because I always end up with hurt feelings and feeling shamed.
Part of me wants to stop filtering everything, at least in therapy. Part of me can’t stop, the behavior is so ingrained and automatic for me, I don’t even know I’m doing it sometimes. I think I have built my whole life around hiding the ugly parts of me, around being perfect, never making a mistake, because one slip up could screw it all up.
I don’t know if talking about the eating stuff….ugh. I don’t know. It’s not so easy. I feel so instantly judged. I have this feeling that I have been “bad.” Maybe talking about the ugly parts of how I cope is like confession. It’s…I’m just waiting to be judged, lectured, yelled at, ignored. I don’t know. I realize you have done none of those things. Logically, rationally, it shouldn’t be difficult to talk because you have never done anything but try to understand. I get that. It just doesn’t change the feeling, the apprehension, the anxiety. I’m afraid to talk about what I do, and I’m afraid to be really honest about it. I wrote you, what seems like so long ago, that I have no idea what eating normal even means. I still feel like that. I have all these rules and idea and lists in my head about what is and isn’t okay. Maybe that is where we start– trying to figure out what eating normal (and I mean healthy, okay, no off the wall rules or diets or what have you) really is. I also have this huge fear that if I start talking about day to day eating, behaviors, rules, whatever, the only thing that will be running through your mind is that I’m fat, I should be on a diet, maybe I should be better at not eating, ext, ext. I know, I realize, that these are my thoughts, and I’m “projecting” (ugh! Shrinky word alert!) those thoughts onto someone else. I do it all the time with eating, size, ext. I get that. But it doesn’t change the thoughts, or the fears.
Bea responded very throughly, of course. Like she always does. She says that we are moving towards talking about eating and my teen years. She asked me what the “it” is that would be ruined. She was honest about Kat and the attachment stuff, saying Kat is definitely on the spectrum and that I did not cause this, but my dissociation could have possibly affected or changed things, but I didn’t make Kat like this, she was born this way. Bea wrote that she will keep things real, and help me not hide.
It’s very hard to be vulnerable and admit needing others. I’m not going to abandon or leave you–I feel very objective about this. I meant what I said about your relationship with Kenny being frozen in the early stages of abuse no matter how old you are. It would always be that way.
The good attachment you had as an infant is what allows you to function and regulate as well as you do. The trauma piece is superimposed on top of that–when you aren’t operating from trauma brain, you do have good coping skills.
And in regards to my relationship with my parents and all the stuff growing up— It’s another ingredient in the whole mix. You would have to work through all that, even without the trauma, but it wouldn’t be so intense.
I think your explanation of your worth being based on your performance speaks to this. You didn’t get the message that you were lovable, warts and all. That’s a powerful message to overcome. This is where the self acceptance/love/forgiveness come into play.
I wrote her back, but didn’t send the email. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to share some of what I wrote. I did reflect on what the “it” that would be ruined is. It’s simple, really. My relationships would be ruined. The people I care about, the ones who love me me and care about me, all that love would disappear if they knew even a third of the truth about me.
I headed to my session on Thursday feeling really apprehensive. I was afraid that Bea would be judging me over a memory she does not even know about, and I had spilled so much in that email, and stated some of my needs that I was afraid after having a couple days to think it over, she would reject me.
Obviously, she didn’t. A lot of that session is blurry, maybe blended with Monday’s session, too. I’m not sure.
We discuss Kat, and my feelings of failure at sending her to school this fall. I feel like because I am so triggered by her and unable to teach her effectively because of that, I have to send her to school. Either way, it feels like there are no good options; keep her home with her crazy triggered mom, or send her to schools where she may not have the support she needs.
Bea looks at me in that understanding way of hers, saying, “I think you have succeeded, because she is able to go to school. She wants to be social and be with others. You have supported her so well, she is able to grow in this way. We all have wishes as parents: things we want to do or wish we had or had not done. It’s hard when we bump up against our perceived limitations. From where I sit, you are still teaching her things, school or no school. You taught her self respect when she had the accident at the gym. You teach her self compassion and acceptance when you accept all of her– warts included.”
I nod. I hear what she is saying, I just don’t believe it. “It feels like if I were a better mother, I would be able to stop being triggered.”
“I’m not sure anyone could stop that,” she says gently.
Later in the session, she tells me, “I am very aware when you are staying on the surface and not addressing the hard stuff. I don’t want to push you too much, or peel away the protective layer you may need at times. That’s why I give you time to ease into it. It’s hard to walk in here and be instantly vulnerable.”
“Okay,” I say. I feel a little numb, and still anxious. A part of me is waiting for her to drop the bomb of getting rid of me.
“It seemed like you were really surprised with everything that came up on Monday.” Bea crosses and uncrosses her legs, shifts in her seat.
I cover my face, uncover it, and look at her. “I just…I really didn’t want to talk about it all. It’s just…yeah. I wasn’t planning on talking about it.”
“It felt very painful to me. You mentioned sneaking out. Do you know how old you were when you snuck out?”
I cover my face again, and nod. “Yes,” I tell her after a what feels like long period of silence.
“This is really hard to talk about.”
“I don’t know what is true or what is….I don’t know. It’s all twisted, and confusing. I’m lost.” I’m shaking, and already feeling scared and sick and angry with myself.
“If you can share it with me, we can make sense of it together, untwist it together. And I meant what I said about Kenny. Even if you snuck out now and did something with him, it would be abuse in my mind. There would always be this little girl, this traumatized part reacting to him. That relationship will always be frozen in early stages of abuse.”
It’s silent in the office for a moment, maybe longer. “I don’t understand what you are saying. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Bea explains to me her viewpoint, again. I still think she may change her mind, and after thinking about telling her, I shake my head. “I can’t. I just can’t. I’m too afraid of everything.”
“I know. Everything feels scary right now,” she says softly. “Did you sneak out before or after you kissed him?”
I can’t answer that. Because it’s both, it’s before and after. I don’t know. I’m so confused. Finally, I tell her part of it. “Before.”
She says something about me still being a child then. “You didn’t really have a choice, even if it feels like you did,” she says.
I shake my head. I knew what I was doing. Bea says something kind, gentle, understanding. I don’t remember what, but her words make the tears come.
“This is so painful. It really hurts, I know that,” she tells me.
I just sit, curled up, crying. Why am I always crying? I’m so tired of all these tears. Why is my past so full of hurt? It’s not fair.
“I have a hunch you have this written down, somewhere.” Bea’s guess should be right. I write everything down. It’s where my voice is. In my writing, I can get the words out, even when I can not speak them.
“No,” I tell her.
“No?” She repeats. Maybe she is unsure if I am saying no to letting her read what I have written, or if I am saying no to the hunch that I have even written it.
“I can’t write it. It’s not written down, not any of it,” I whisper through the tears.
“I wonder why not? Why you can’t write this?”
I shake my head. “Because once it’s out, I can’t take it back”
“And then it’s real.” Bea adds.
I nod. Yes. If I write it, or speak it, then it’s out there, it’s real, and I can no longer hide from it. I don’t remember how we ended the session, or what else was said. I know I cried more, and I think there was the discussion of people only being as sick as their secrets, that letting the light in on the ugly stuff was the only way to ever really escape it. But I can’t. I’m not ready to lose eveythjng, to ruin it all. And that’s what I’m afraid will happen.