According to Me

According to Me

“You know what this makes you,” she said to me leaning in; seriousness reflected in her eyes.

I laughed knowing what she was going to say, but unable to say it myself. I suppose that’s why I pay her $100 an hour. To say the things that I can’t.  Instead, I started giggling at her over the seriousness of the unspoken truth.

I started seeing this particular counselor a couple months ago. Having journeyed through nearly two and a half years without my younger brother, I felt like I wasn’t really getting any better. I had also stepped through and extracted myself from nine months of an abusive relationship back in August. Not to mention family history and specific childhood traumas that I had thought were long past. There’s nothing quite like counseling to remind you of the wounds you thought were long closed over still hold shards of glass that are pushing their way up through your skin. You have a choice to sit there in pain for an unspecified amount of time, or go in with a scalpel and remove the offender to allow you to finally heal. I’m beginning to think that in order to truly heal you have to be willing to wear your scars.

My therapist will have all kinds of sayings for me to run with. Like when she asked me how I was being emotionally fulfilled. “People will eat strange things when they’re hungry,” she told me. Sometimes it’s easier to speak in metaphor than to say the words that stick in your throat.

I think back to Paul the last year he was alive. He was struggling with closing himself off and would often talk about how he would end a fight by just shutting off. He knew he did it, and he was seeing a counselor to talk through things. There was a young woman he cared deeply for but couldn’t open the hurdle of that closed door to his emotional self. I don’t know if he ever gave her the ring. I don’t suppose he did.

There were many pieces of his childhood that he didn’t remember as well and I recounted them to him as only an older sister could. Stories of our troublemaking, our punishments, and the scenarios we tried to explain later when we grew up and started to understand that maybe some of those things weren’t supposed to be that way.

“Have you hung around any 12 or 13 year olds recently?” my therapist asked.
I paused, not certain of the ages of the children I’d been in proximity to lately.
“They’re babies!” she exclaimed. “Babies! If you came to me as a twelve year old telling me that same thing, I would be calling the police.”

It stuck in my brain at that moment that when I say that my childhood wasn’t normal, it really wasn’t. The truth is that when I’m reaching out to people trying to explain my feelings that I’m not starting a competition to see “who had it worst.” I’m asking for acknowledgement, understanding, sympathy, and maybe even a hug.

“Survivors often try to minimize what happened to them,” she educated me. “They’ll say, ‘Well I wasn’t raped’ or ‘someone else has been through so much worse’ in a way that they diminish the reality. They want to make it insignificant and often pretend it didn’t happen.”

I realized that in order to “survive” I had left so many things behind, including memories, in order to function. I could leave it long enough in the past that it disappeared from all conscious thought. The key being that I didn’t really understand that it wasn’t exactly being purged from my unconscious thought.

So when Paul died and I was faced with a reality I didn’t want to face, I was afraid. I was afraid that to deal with things and move forward with life I would have to forget him. For the last two and a half years I have been saying, “I don’t want to forget” with people around me saying “Of course you won’t forget.” When forgetting is all I have known.

These therapy sessions have been like opening stuck doors and letting the light in to see all the spiders scatter back into the shadows, leaving exposed the skeletons of the monsters of my childhood. Then I find myself going back and reading my old journals, finally understanding my dreams, and taking the time to remember. I finally know what it’s like to remember. It’s making me feel sick.

My counselor is sure to ask me if I’m taking care of myself. “You’re going to feel sick from this,” she tells me. Her prescription is self-care: through shopping, massage, dessert, petting puppies, and sitting at home drinking wine and watching a chick-flick. But inevitably the headaches come, the shoulder starts to tighten, and the gut turns unpredictable. It’s just part of the body clearing out the infection of the mind.

“You know what this makes you,” she said to me leaning in; seriousness reflected in her eyes.
I laughed knowing what she was going to say, but unable to say it myself.
“You’re the survivor of sexual abuse,” she tells me.
I know she’s right, but I can’t stop giggling.

I’m going to be sick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Switch to mobile version