Last night in therapy a very young, scared part of myself appeared. We were trying to figure out the root of my indecision in going to volleyball last week (even though I had an injury from yoga the week before). For those who may not have seen it, I even posted a video on MCJ’s FB page last week on my indecision. I felt so silly after posting it, but decided to keep it up on the page. And now I understand why, it was another avenue that I could reach out to for someone to help make the decision FOR me, so that I didn’t have to make the decision for MYself.
The email I had written to my therapist that day was a cry for help. Even though I logically knew I shouldn’t go to class that night, there was this opposing force that was not letting me make that decision peacefully.
This is one piece of what I wrote in my email to her that day… It’s like all common sense leaves my body and I’m helpless to know how to take care of myself.
My therapist, Katie, said that the reason that all common sense leaves my body is because my emotional brain is taking over. She said there are times when the emotional brain becomes so strong that there is not enough space for both in that moment, so the logical brain temporarily leaves. Such was the case last week.
As we started trying to unpack all of that, she asked what part of me was helpless. As if on queue, panic overcame me and my eyes filled up with tears. That scared little girl was present with us, in that very moment. Katie had me take a deep breath, close my eyes and talked me through trying to tap into her. Katie asked me how old she was. I didn’t know. I just knew that she was very young, the youngest part of myself that I’ve met thus far. As I felt into her fear, tears began rolling down my cheeks. Katie asked me what she was scared of. And right away I heard my younger self say “my mom”.
It was this weird few minutes of trying so hard to be compassionate and non-judgmental with her, but at the same time I was so incredibly frustrated by her answer. It’s just layer, after layer, after layer. I feel terrible for doing this, but I kept looking for another reason. Waiting, encouraging her even, to tell me something new. A different source of the fear. But it didn’t come. I couldn’t stay in that head space anymore. I knew that being judgmental towards her wasn’t going to help anything, so I opened my eyes.
As frustrated as I was by the answer, Katie knew how to help me decipher it. And this, my friends, is what having a good therapist is all about. She asked me how my mother reacted to my activities. While I didn’t have many structured activities, I remember not being good at the ones I did partake in.
There was gymnastics which I may have only gone to once or twice… I don’t remember, all I remember is that it made me feel bad about myself. Then, I remember taking a few years of dance. I can’t remember much of this period either, but I do remember being in the dance studio towards the end. I remember learning that the next year we were going to be doing a lot more dancing on our toes which is something that I struggled with. And I seem to remember being scared of the next year and not wanting to do it anymore.
I eventually ended up taking guitar lessons. After determining that I was not really an athletic child, I was told that I needed to do something. But I ended up quitting guitar because it hurt my fingers (which to this day I regret!) and ultimately ended up taking several years of piano lessons (which I’m now thankful for, but at the time, I hated it.)
But before all of these examples came into my head the thing that really stood out to me, was that after the divorce, while I was living with my mother, I didn’t really do any activities. I was literally forced to clean. Like everything… from normal chores, to scrubbing down the kitchen cabinets, to washing the cars, and when everything else was clean I would be sent out to do garden chores.
When I did actually have time to myself, and was allowed to hang out with my friend Kim who lived behind me, there was always a lot of fear involved. I was constantly checking the clock to make sure I wasn’t home late, if Kim wanted to do something, there was so much fear because I either (A) had to get permission from my mother, which would result in her telling me no and getting mad that I asked, or (B) I would risk doing it without her knowing and possibly getting caught.
Choice A had immediate consequences that I had to endure, while choice B had more severe consequences — but only IF we got caught. Which there were a few times that we did. Even so, most of the time I ended up choosing option B, which would ultimately lead to a constant heightened state of fear and paranoia thinking that she was going to see me. When we were protected enough doing whatever it was we were doing, I would finally let my guard down and have fun, which I suppose is why I kept taking the risk. That and the possibility of not having to deal with a known immediate consequence.
In my position of having an abusive mother, I was constantly in this limbo of I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t. Most of the time, there were heavy repercussions either way. So last night, we determined that in these instances where I have to make a decision in my present life, that that’s why I rely so heavily on having others tell me what to do. Because in those moments where that paranoid little girl shows up, it’s the safe way out. Someone else is making the decision for me.
I feel like this actually makes so much sense.
We made a lot of progress last night and I felt tired, but good, about everything when I left Katie’s office. On the drive home, I connected with that little girl again and apologized to her. I told her how I was sorry that I wasn’t able to protect her back then, but how I could protect her now. I told her how my mother is no longer in the picture. That she hasn’t been for a very long time and that she didn’t have to be afraid of her anymore.
As I consoled this young part of myself, a sick feeling began churning in the pit of my stomach. At first I thought it was anger, but then I wasn’t so sure. It would make sense for it to be anger, but with the nausea I was feeling, I’m leaning more towards the emotion being disgust. Whatever the emotion was/is, it’s directed at the fact that my mother has been out of my life longer than she was in it, yet her presence in those early years has had such a powerful effect on me that I’m just starting to truly understand it all these years later.
As frustrating as that is, I have to acknowledge the fact that, yes… I could have started this work earlier, but at least I’m doing it now. And every piece that I unravel helps me feel like I’m able to take that much more of my power back from her. For anyone who has suffered trauma in their lives (or anyone really), if the thought of therapy even casually enters the peripherals of your mind, please, please, please go. Talk to someone. I put it off for years and finally making the decision to go has been so incredibly worthwhile.
The other lesson I pulled from my experience last week (again, thanks to Katie’s outside perspective) was that I’m still incredibly hard on myself. I may not call myself names anymore, or be outwardly harsh and critical, but I still put incredible expectations on myself. Over the last few years, I may have allowed myself the grace to fall from perfection, but I definitely still have a deep routed belief that I’m supposed to have my shit together, and in the moments that I don’t, not only do I fall apart, but I then judge myself for falling apart.
My intuition is telling me that I’ll be introduced to that highly judgmental part soon. I’m actually kind of looking forward to meeting her and hearing her story. I definitely want to help her heal too. Like I said earlier… its just layers, upon layers, upon layers.