Giving her a voice

I am hunched and hiding, tucked in behind draped clothes inside the foot of the wardrobe, knees to my chest, eyes shut tight. My mother’s clothes hanging around my face and body, I am squashed between a tall stack of shoe boxes and the cold inside wall of the creaking piece of furniture. I am being held by these inanimate objects in a sort of a hug that smells like it should feel comforting. I can feel her all around me and see her on the inside of my eyelids. There is a throbbing pulse of pain that radiates from the centre of my chest and out down my arms. My tummy is telling me I’m feeling something but I have no idea what it is. I remember to breathe and then I sob as if I will never stop. It feels like I will run out of tears. I am searching my mind for the words to make this make sense. All I have is words, I’m good with words I can be articulate and clever and make grown ups impressed with all the things that I know. But I can’t figure out how I feel, what my body is feeling. Why can’t I work this out?

Why doesn’t she want me? I need for her to show some delight when she sees me. I need for her to be gentle and tuned in to me and my needs. But what hope does she have of doing that when I don’t even know what my needs are? When I am so unacceptable… of course she can’t bear to even look at me.

I feel like the elaborately decorated elephant balancing on the circus ball – clumsily attempting to keep everyone happy by fulfilling a role I was not made for. I am not made for this. I feel like an imposter and at every opportunity I take the chance to disappear. I hide in, on and under furniture. I hide at the bottom of the garden next to the loud and cleansing stream as it noisily drowns out my crying. I imagine somehow making myself small and fluid enough to be washed away by the water. I hide up in no-mans-land behind the golf course, when I am able to get away. I run up there and just breathe in the space around me. I imagine the repeating fantasy that began when I was 7 or 8 years old that I could gently sink back into the enveloping body of the earth and be drawn in and be gone. Part of the landscape. The image of the rolling hills holding me is such a comfort it warms me inside. When I am trapped in the house or the car, I hide in my mind. This beautiful tapestry of fixed and perfect situations I have created and cultivated for hours and hours. I look forward to visiting that vast space up there that is filled with exciting adventures that revolve around me and people who love me and I am so happy and funny and beautiful and all the things I am really not.

But hiding, deep inside the wardrobe… deep inside my mind. I can be anybody.

Vulnerability

I’ve always found it difficult to be my true self with people. Always had so much going on under the surface that no one saw. Old habits die hard.

I don’t know how to be fully authentic and open with Anna. I don’t know how to be completely vulnerable with another person. Especially not a woman. It scares me. I don’t even notice the fear but it’s there all the time, under the surface. Anna asked if I hold it in until I leave the session and I guess I always have done that. Since I was very young – that Perspex bubble around me so that the criticising, blaming, humiliating couldn’t reach me… and if I hide myself then I can’t be hurt when they don’t see me. It was the only thing I could control – that no matter what happened, they didn’t know I was hurting. I didn’t want to give them the power of knowing how I was feeling. Then I can blame myself when no one shows they care, because how were they to know?

I have a very vivid image of this little girl sobbing her heart out, wanting to crawl up onto Anna’s lap and cuddle her. She’s always either crying or hiding. The image has been popping up a lot recently, louder just before sessions. It comes through as a feeling of panic and anxiety. But in the session on Tuesday there was a wall between me and her. That happens a lot. So when Anna was trying to get me to reach inwards I just had nothing. And so Anna fills the gaps with talking and that just makes it even easier for me to hide. I get a lot from what Anna says but I know there’s a part of me that is happy to let her talk more so I can feel less. It keeps me in my head, muffling the feelings. I’m sure it’s a way to protect myself but I want the protecting part of me to fuck off, it’s not helping any more I don’t need to be protected from Anna it’s just stopping me from getting what I need. What am I so afraid of? That I’ll start to cry and wont stop? That I’ll break the dam that holds back the body of water that up until this point has only been seeping in through the cracks… that it will knock me to the ground and I will drown in it all, again, and my life will be annihilated… the life that I have worked so hard to build up. What if I go back to how I was? What if I start crying and never stop?

As soon as I left the session I felt the wave of that little girl’s pain and anguish because once again I’d abandoned her in the session when she can almost taste the comfort and support she’d get if only she could express herself. It starts as soon as I turn the corner onto the street. Then I had nightmares all night and woke up with the panicky, heavy sadness and I have to get the kids ready for school and I have to be mummy and go to work be a wife and happy, laughing, capable Lucy while I carry this intense, unignorable pain around with me.

I’m so angry with myself for not getting my fucking needs met IN THE SESSION! I mean, what the hell!?? It’s burning the back of my throat now and I’m just sitting here next to my husband ‘watching’ tv desperate to just be in the room with Anna. Because even though I feel like I can’t be completely vulnerable with her. At least I can sit in the space of not being able. I don’t have to be anything in that room. Everywhere else I have to be something or someone to somebody. But with Anna I can just be. It is the most vulnerable I have ever been with another person and it’s the most frightening thing ever. And it’s still not enough. I feel like we’re going too fast and too slow all at once. It’s too much and not enough. I want to fill the session with as many words as we can fit into an hour and I also want us both to stay silent and not utter a single word to each other. I wonder what would happen if we just said nothing… would the feelings come then, filling in the vacuum created by no words? Or maybe I would spend the whole time dissociated… just an hour of nothing.

6 years

I think it’s perfectionism that stopped me doing this a long time ago. It’s now more than 6 years after the point where I first thought ‘I wonder if I should blog about this..?’ Even now that I’ve made the decision to dive in, I’m hesitating… typing, deleting… what if this sounds really stupid/boring… A friend suggested I write for me. Maybe if I do that, I won’t stress so much about all the mistakes and whether it’s interesting or not! The scary thing about writing the raw, honest truth is the very real possibility that other people might read it and hate me just as much as I hate myself… or maybe the prospect of no one reading it is even worse? Feeling unseen… at least it would be a familiar feeling.

I have plenty to write about after all. In fact I’ve already written so much. Over 6 years ago I stepped into my first therapist’s office and so began a journey I really had no idea would be this long or this deep. I journaled after every session. Sometimes before and after each session. I’ll dip into those notes from time to time to help build a picture of what this journey of self-discovery has been like.

I have a few people in my life who know I am in therapy but I share very little of why I’m there and what I talk about when I am in session. In ‘the real world’ I appear to be a ‘normal’ person (whatever that means) – I have a husband and young kids, a professional job, friends… I listen to music, watch tv, go out, stay in. I have perfected presenting the coping, capable me while hiding all the dysfunctional crap below the surface. If I’m honest, that stuff has been leeching out of me since I was a child. The quiet creeping of blackness swelling inside me and seeping through my pores in ever increasing quantities. Maybe I was the only one who really knew it was there but it seemed so screamingly obvious to me that I was certain everyone could see it. Smell it. The stench of all that was wrong with me. I’ve worked so hard all my life painting this façade. It’s taking a long time just figuring out where the real bits of me are.

After holding it together as best I could for all of my life, I found myself in my late 20’s, after the birth of my first child, completely broken. And after a year of seriously thinking and searching for some form of help, I finally committed to meeting with a therapist. For the first three years it was Paul. Then my second child was born and I took over a years break from therapy. When I returned to therapy I headed in a slightly different direction and with a new therapist, Anna.

So in this blog I’ll attempt to share the highs and lows, the challenges of my journey. Reading other people’s experiences has helped me feel less painfully alone in all this so I thought I’d add my voice to the chorus. Even if I’m the only one who can hear it.