…And 2 months later…

I reestablished contact with my father 2 months ago for the first time in 3 years.  It was sudden and unexpected, but uneventful.  Or, as uneventful as something like this can be.

I visited my father, per his request, only a couple of weeks after we reestablished contact.  It went fine.  He was simply “showing me off” to his employees and colleagues and wanted to impress me.  I’m not fooled by his attempts, but it’s typical for him.

Life just continued.

Christmas Eve.  My father decided that he wanted to “hash out” some of what happened on the day that I told him I no longer wanted to have contact with him.  I asked him why we needed to go over it, since all is said and done.  He told me that he has a major problem with how I treated him.  He said he couldn’t understand what he did that was so bad.

I didn’t, and don’t, have the courage to tell him.. or ask him… if he did what I think he did…or know he did?  Do I know?  Do I really?

“Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.” – Oscar Wilde

I just tried to appease him enough by telling him I was sensitive and the things he would say were too much for me to handle growing up.  It was enough to end the conversation.  Apparently it wasn’t enough to satisfy him for good.

“Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however, is for those who are substantial enough to move on.” -Criss Jami

Today, I received a text message from him saying that he wanted to “talk.”  I had a very bad feeling about it, but I called him anyway.

He said we had a lot more to “hash out.”  I asked him, why do we still need to go over the past 3 years?  He said it was because he has such a big problem with the way I treated him.  I explained that I had to do what was right for me at the time, and while I understand it may have been hurtful for him, it also wasn’t easy for me, but it was still the best way for me to figure out who I was, take care of myself, etc.

“We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” -Malcom X

He didn’t like that answer.  He just kept pestering me, asking me how I couldn’t feel the need to apologize.  I told him that it was the right thing for me to do.  He accused me of never telling him “why” I didn’t want to be in contact with him anymore.  I did, partially, but he doesn’t remember.  However I told him that I was terrified, because any time I say anything that he doesn’t agree with, it turns into an argument that ends in a screaming match.

He switched tactics.  He said that it has become obvious to him that there is a major problem with how I was raised.  A dig at my mother, but also telling me that he sees fault in who I am today.  I told him, immediately, that if he is telling me that he sees a problem with who I am as a person today, I will end the conversation.  He mentioned our old neighbor, who used to spank his children (quite often, quite hard), and how his children turned out so wonderful and that they must have been doing something right.

I told him that I will not continue to have someone in my life who keeps telling me that he finds something wrong with who I am today, because I feel more secure in who I am as a person than ever before, and that it was those 3 years apart that helped me define that.  He told me how selfish that was and how selfish I was being.  I said that I am not being selfish by taking care of myself when necessary, and he insisted I was.  I “threatened” him that if the conversation continues the way it was going, I was going to go right back to not talking to him, because I don’t need a person like him in my life.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

He wanted to know why I didn’t “worship” him like my cousins worship their father, who is quite a mess.  He wanted to know what he did that was so bad that he didn’t get the same treatment that they give their father.  I asked him if he has any compassion for me, for the journey that I’ve gone through.  He didn’t answer.  He just said I’m unbelievable.  He said I’m selfish.  Several times.

I told him I can’t talk to him anymore.

“One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.”  ― Shannon L. Alder

No matter how strong I may have gotten, this still rips me to pieces.  It still makes me question everything.  It still makes me question my self worth, my value as a person, my character… all of it.  And even worse, everything that he said, all of his questions, make me question the very basis upon which I’ve built the stronger me.

I feel like my whole self is a game of Jenga, and almost all of the pieces had been put into place.  But now, I’ve suddenly had several key pieces removed, causing the whole structure to wobble and sway and threaten to collapse.  I’ll get over it, of course.  I always do.

And that’s the end of that.  Forever this time.

“As you become your own advocate and your own steward, your life will beautifully transform.” – Miranda Barrett 

 

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I went back..

I’m still in the middle of recovering from my knee surgery, which has gone much slower and has been much more painful than I expected.  I ended up needing 2 weeks off of work – I just came back this week. I’m back in physical therapy again, which is very painful, however I am realizing that I seem to handle pain better than I realize.  During that time, I also cancelled my appointment with new T.  I cancelled because I truly could not make it..I was not in any shape to be up and about for the day we’d scheduled.

I’d left her a message saying that I needed to cancel the appointment because my recovery was taking longer than I thought and that I’d call when I was able to come again.  When I did this, I was very well aware that I had the perfect out – to just never call her again, never come back, never go any deeper.

The entire three weeks since my previous session I thought a lot about not calling her back, but I also didn’t entirely decide not to go back, mainly because I’d given her my word that I would not just quit without talking about it with her.  She asked me for my word that I’d talk about it with her prior to quitting, since I had told her that I’d ended very abruptly with old T.

She called me on Monday, more than a week after I’d left the message, to say that she got my message and apologize for not calling earlier.  She said she hoped I was recovering well and that she wanted me to know that she was thinking about me.  Given that it was so long since I called her, I was not only surprised that she called, but I was surprised that she cared enough to call.  I don’t entirely trust and believe everything she said, since it seems counter intuitive (to me) that she’d waste her time thinking about me when she barely knows me.

She hadn’t asked for a call back and seemed surprised when I called her back nearly an hour later and asked to schedule an appointment.

I went in yesterday and rattled off some of how the past few weeks have been.  I was embarrassingly sweaty, because I was not only a bit anxious, but the pain medication I’ve been on makes me unreasonably hot.  We got to a point in the session where she asked if I had anything specific I wanted to talk about, so I dove in and told her that I was VERY tempted to never call her again but that I had told her I wouldn’t do that, so I didn’t.

She smiled and thanked me for telling her.  She also thanked me for giving her another chance and for allowing us to talk about it, and for being brave enough to bring it up. I told her that it seemed like I didn’t want to come back because there was a part of me that just wanted to numb out and not delve into anything deep and not be vulnerable.

She asked me to pay attention to my breathing and what sort of feelings, sensations, etc., I was having when I was talking to her about coming back and being vulnerable.  I told her that there was this sensation that a part of me was scurrying around, trying to find a place to hide.   She asked, if that part had a voice, what would it say?  I sat for a minute and told her that I didn’t know if I was comfortable sharing, so I wrote it down and held onto it.  She then asked me to stay aware of my present self but to also go back in time and think of the very earliest time I could remember feeling that way.

This became quite hard for me.  I haven’t even begun to tell her all of what happened in the past, so I did not feel comfortable explaining to her the first thing that popped into my head, which is something that involved my father.  So, I told her the  second thing that popped into my head, which was from kindergarten.  A very benign memory that I could handle her knowing.

She asked me to try putting my hands on my chest as a sort of hug to that little girl in kindergarten, like wrapping her in a warm, safe blanket.  When I first started, I felt very silly, but it didn’t take long before I started to feel quite emotional.  I didn’t say anything, and I’m not sure I even expressed much in my face or body language, but she picked up on this.  I couldn’t tell her why it was so emotional for me, though.  I couldn’t tell her that it was because the little girl I was hugging felt so dirty and unsafe and wrong.  So I just said that she wasn’t used to that.

I was shocked at the depth of emotion I felt, just by putting my hands on my chest and visualizing hugging that little girl.  When new T started to talk about rocking her, stroking her hair, talking to her, it became too much.  I nearly started to cry, but new T picked up on this and asked if that was too much, which it was, so she told me to just visualize having her sitting in my lap, which I was okay with.

We sort of gradually transitioned out of this.  She asked if I noticed how much deeper my breathing had gotten.  I felt a release in my chest and a sense of relaxation that I’m not used to.  She told me that it’s hypervigilance that keeps my breathing so shallow all the time, although I told her that I didn’t think I did that because it seemed like I’d be aware of it.  She just said that I may have done it for so long that it’s become a new normal and that I’ve become habituated to it.  She asked if I could describe how the little girl was feeling after the exercise, and, shockingly both to me and to her (maybe not shocking, but she seemed pleasantly surprised), I said that she felt an okay with being open and vulnerable because she had a sense of safety.  She seemed so happy at this and said that all she wants is for her to feel safe and cared for here.  I’m not sure why but it was both a warm comment to hear, but also disconcerting, maybe even slightly triggering, just because I don’t know her well enough to believe her.

Throughout the session, she kept talking about, “…if you decide to come back…”.   I told her at the end that I was glad I came, which was the truth.  I appreciated her openness and willingness to let me stop if I wanted to.  We scheduled a session for next week, and as I walked out the door, I handed her the piece of paper that held what the little girl is afraid of.  It said, “I’m afraid you’ll hurt me.”  Truer words have never been spoken.

A revelation

I found out today that my father had a sexual harassment suit against him a couple years ago.

I keep thinking that if I’d taken action against him, that would never have happened. And I’m being hit, more and more, with the realization that maybe what I seem to remember did really happen. Because, apparently, I still don’t trust my memories.

And I also keep thinking that now, if I do take legal action, maybe I wouldn’t be blown off. He has quite a history with the law – embezzling, tax evasion, now sexual harassment – although, somehow, he’s managed to avoid major jail time. The most time he’s spent in jail is a week for embezzling many years ago.

My mother was the one who shared with me that he had a sexual harassment suit against him, and she said that what the woman said about him was “outrageous” but that she believes every word of it. But I still adamantly know that she would not believe me if I told her about him, because she always insists that he used to truly love me. No wonder my idea of love is totally convoluted.

He is truly a psychopath. He’s copied me on emails recently that he has exchanged with my mother regarding their divorce. He sent me a copy of the divorce papers he was served with last week and copied me on another a couple days ago. After not having any contact with him since last year, I’m finding it hard to get these emails from him.

So, I’m feeling very triggered right now. I wish I had someone to talk to about this, but I don’t, not really. I see new T next week, but I’m not sure if this is something I’ll be ready to talk to her about. Last week was our first session, and I like her so far, but this is such very personal stuff to share with someone I hardly know. I feel painfully alone with this at the moment.

I’m a little sensitive and very messed up

Things have been very busy and very stressful lately.  My living situation, which I had thought was going to be permanent for several years, may be in danger.  I’ve had to start working nights and weekends to keep up with work, not only because my workload is increasing but also because I’m having trouble concentrating long enough to be productive.  I have so many appointments for my knee, and my boss is continuing to give me veiled grief about the time I’ve had to take off from work.  Group therapy is very triggering.  We are in the middle of telling our stories, and I’ve had memories come up and it’s especially hard because my story is so very similar to 2 out of the 3 other women there.  So I’ve had nightmares and I’m feeling depressed and overwhelmed, which is leading to another spike in my suicidal thoughts.  And not to mention I have to take off more time from work for group as well.

When I shared my group woes with my T, she seemed surprised that we were already sharing our stories.  I told her that it’s a 10 week group, so there’s not a whole lot of time.  Even though she suggested the group to me, she didn’t seem to know that it was time limited like that.  She didn’t  approve of how quickly we’ve gone to sharing our stories, but there really isn’t much time to build up to it.  I explained to her that I was afraid to bring up anything about how I was triggered hearing the other stories, because I didn’t want them to feel bad for sharing.  That’s the last thing I want.  T was trying to help me find a way to mention it to the group but in a way that won’t make anyone feel bad for sharing, although I’m still not sure how to bring it up.  She said that if I find it triggering, others might find it triggering, too, which I had thought of..but I still don’t know.

She apologized to me for suggesting the group, since it is very hard for me right now.  She said she had hoped it would be helpful, but I told her that it is, but it’s just coming with a consequence.  But I am committed to staying in it, although I’m pretty sure that I’m not committed for me – I’m committed for the three other women in there, because I don’t want to cause a disruption by leaving.  And it is true that it’s helpful.  I am able to talk with people who intimately understand the ins and outs of everything that we’ve all gone through.  But it’s hard for me to figure out if the cons outweigh the pros.

At my last session with my T, she told me that she’d gotten a consultation with a therapist that is actually two states away, because of where I have been recently.  On the one hand it was comforting to know that she does reach out if/when she needs help, but it also makes me feel crazier since I’ve obviously thrown something at my T that she’s not quite sure how to handle or if she’s handling it right.  She seemed to focus more on my different parts more, asking about names and such.  She said that she’d seen many different parts of me the session before, which is probably true, because I really don’t remember that session except for about 5 minutes.  She said that many people have parts that conflict, like their head and their heart, but that I am a bit more “complicated” than that (which she said with a small smile) but that all of my parts are beautiful.

I know she means well, I really do.  And part of me is comforted by all of that, but another part of me feels so, so messed up.  After telling her everything about the group, I told her that I feel like I’m being sensitive about it.  She said I’m being sensitive for a reason.  But could I not just be overly sensitive?

I also discussed the memories I’ve had coming up recently, which revolve around all of those signs that something was wrong but that no one ever noticed.  And on the one hand, I do understand why someone wouldn’t say anything, because you just don’t know.  But I also just wish someone had said something.  Just one person.  One person over the course of 5 years.  You would think there would have been someone, but there wasn’t.  And I have to come to terms with the fact that there never was anyone…because somehow I still keep hoping that someone will save the little girl.

Overwhelming grief

This weekend has been filled with grief. Like many Americans, and even those around the world, I cannot get over the senseless loss of those precious children in Connecticut. Thinking of their parents brings me to tears instantly. And so close to Christmas.

My tears have been mixed with grief over discussing those abuse memories with my T as well, although my feelings about that feel so petty in comparison to what those parents and that community is going through.

I asked for a second session with my T last week, but it felt like I mainly used it to just cry and ask her over and over again if she is disgusted with me. She was a bit sick, like everyone in town has been, so she told me she wasn’t 100%, but she was present as she could be, which I appreciated. Like the session before, she admitted to being disgusted with my father, but not with me. I was in tears but told her that the things he did to me were disgusting, and she (frighteningly enough) agreed, which, to me, makes me disgusting simply by default. She said she understood that it was hard to separate the two, but that the act itself does not make me a disgusting person.

She said the things I told her were “drastic” which of course makes me doubt their truth. How can anything so bad actually be true? What makes me doubt myself even more, and this doesn’t quite make sense to me, is what she told me about her feeling for my father. She said that she feels such extreme rage for him and, somewhat jokingly, said that she hopes she never meets him because of the almost homicidal rage she has for him. What makes me doubt is that it seems like I should never have said anything that makes her feel that way about him, although, objectively, I suppose I can understand.

Towards the end of the session, I asked her again if she was disgusted with me, and she said no. She also told me to keep asking so that I can keep checking in with her about it and maybe eventually see that she really isn’t disgusted with me and won’t ever become disgusted. She also told me that she’s glad I’m alive, because I’d told her that I was surprised when I’d spoken to her on the phone, because she said she was thankful I wasn’t suicidal, and I’d told her that I expected her to want me dead after the things I’d told her.

This weekend, between everything, I’ve felt such overwhelming grief that I can hardly stand it. I haven’t been actively suicidal, but at a couple times, the grief was so overwhelming that death felt like it would have been the only release. Today has been a little bit better, although I’ve been using some not so great ways to help accomplish that. I’m moving, by the end of the month, into a great new place, so perhaps once the moving bit is accomplished and I’m settled, I can start to get past all of this. I’m excited about where I’ll be living, but not excited about moving. This will be the 5th move within 4 years, but this last one is hopefully going to stick.

I’m hoping I can at least get to the point where I can manage things okay on my own, since there will be a 3 week break from my T over the holidays and then another couple weeks toward the end if January. I better get good at that self-soothing thing, and quick.

Another update and a tell-all

Hello, everyone. I’m sorry about my absence lately – it has been a busy and emotional time. Right now, I just need to type out some stuff, because it’s interfering with my ability to think and do my job. It may not help, but it’s worth a try, right?

Last night I had what ended up being a 2 hour session with T. We had scheduled a session at 5 so I didn’t have to miss work, but she normally doesn’t work after 5, so the timing of it was an exception. She wanted to do it after work, because we were going to allow for more time for me to share more details with her about the abuse, which I’ve basically never done, and she didn’t want me to have to go back to work. That ended up being a good decision.

It was dark and rainy by the time I got there, and the first thing I talked about was my work situation. I’m technically considered a temporary full-time employee at my job, but my job is actually stable – it’s just the stipulations around being temporary that are killing me. No leave time, no benefits, and, at some time during any 12 months of employment, mandatory 31 consecutive days off with no pay. I had been told when I was hired in May that they were looking for someone who would stay on as permanent. I thought my position may be up in August, so I talked to my boss at that point, who told me that my status as a temp was through next May, however there may be a chance I could become permanent in November.

I talked to my boss at the beginning of this month, who told me that I likely wouldn’t even have a chance at becoming permanent until next June, because they can’t officially make a position available until then. Right now, I’m doing double the work I was originally hired to do at the same pay. I will be losing my health insurance in the next few months. And now the 31 days off is inevitable. All of that hit me at once when she said that about June, so at that point, I started to get emotional. I ended up in tears for the rest of our 20-30 minute conversation. She was very empathetic and asked questions about what was going on for me lately. She seemed shocked at what was going on (I only told her about breaking off contact with my father – not any specifics as to why), because I am known around the office as always being that person with a smile on their face. She said I’d been doing great work, especially with what was going on for me, but that her hands are tied right now. I told her I understood, but I’m just not sure what to do right now. Temporary unemployment benefits are a possibility during those 31 days off, however I won’t even be able to file a claim until I’m off of work, which won’t be until sometime next year.

So I relayed all of this to my T, who, like me, seemed maybe a little surprised that I ended up crying in front of my boss, but then again wasn’t surprised at all. We talked for a few more minutes, and then made a kind of rocky transition into what we were there for. She wanted to lay down some ground rules before we got started. She wanted me to keep my eyes open as much as possible, to look around me and remember where I am, and to look at her and remember who she is. She asked if there was anything she could do to make the office safer first. I could feel my cheeks get hot, because part of me felt like I was being scolded for not always doing those things before, but I pushed it away and started to talk about some of the nightmares I’d been having.

***Potential CSA triggers***

They’ve all involved my father in some way. Sometimes as a good person, sometimes as a bad person. My thoughts were scattered, though, so I didn’t stay with that long before I went on to talk about some of the physical sensations I get. I normally gloss over those or don’t even mention them, but seeing as T kept reassuring me that she can take care of herself and that I can tell her anything, I pushed myself to go into more detail. Which then led into the memories themselves.

I’ve never shared specific details with her about those memories. I’ve never been able to. I shared a bit, and then got to a point where I started to be vague again, which T noticed and reassured me once more that she can handle it and that she has ways to take care of herself no matter what I tell her. So I went into slightly more graphic details, but couldn’t continue for much longer. At one point, I could tell I’d said something that slightly shocked T, which unsettled me. T gave me a moment and asked me if I wanted her to ask questions. I asked her if she had questions, and she said she did, but that it only mattered if I thought it would help me. So I said okay. I gave answers to things that I would never have been able to tell her in any other form of communication other than a nod.

I was oddly unemotional while I was telling her things, and then I would become emotional afterward. Anytime she said any kind words to me, it’d cause another burst of tears. At one point, I wrapped a blanket around me, because she suggested it might help that feeling like I was going to explode with emotion. Oddly, or maybe not so much, when I I had the blanket around me, it beckoned even more tears, and I probably cried harder than I ever have in her office. I still did so while making the least amount of noise as possible, which we also discovered the reason for last night.

T was wonderfully supportive and told me, regarding my worries that she would find me disgusting, that there wasn’t “room in her heart” to be disgusted with me. She admitted to being disgusted with my father, but never with me.

The reason she had suggested having this “tell-all” per say was because I’d never shared, in detail, any of that with anyone. And she said it would help take some of the power away from those memories if I share them. It may have done that, and maybe I’ll be able to feel that eventually, but right now, I’m still reeling. I can’t concentrate, and I must be dissociating because there’s a slight sense of things being unreal. My emotions are up at the surface and dangerously easy to feel.

Maybe it’s because I’m slightly out of it, but I think maybe it did help to write all of this down. All the while listening over and over to the beautiful instrumental song “Heroes” by Michael W. Smith. Maybe I can make it through this day.

Gratitude

I want to use this post to express my gratitude to my T. In an indirect way, of course. Quite indirect, actually. My last session just left me with profound feelings of thankfulness toward her.

The greatest thing about my therapist is that she doesn’t shy away from me, even though I always expect her to. She knows I expect this, so it makes it more meaningful for both of us when I can share something scary or sad with her and she doesn’t turn and run away but stays with me as I try to work through everything. She lets me know that I don’t have to take care of her and her feelings, because nothing bad will happen if I don’t. Yet, she’s completely accepting as to why it feels so necessary for me to take care of her, and even though she’ll gently challenge me whenever I attempt to care for her, she doesn’t force me to stop if I’m not ready.

I got to my session this week right on time, but she was standing in the waiting room, looking out the window, so I assumed that maybe I was later than I thought and that’s why she was out there. I apologized for being late, but she told me that I was right on time and then asked if I spend a lot of energy trying to take care of her. It wasn’t an order to stop, rather a suggestion that I consider whether or not it would feel safe enough to allow her to take care of herself. I’ve been trying to take care of her for 2+ years, and she’s never been angry with me for it or resentful that I haven’t been able to take that risk of not constantly monitoring her feelings for fear of something bad happening. She is accepting of my reasoning for why I take care of her and fully understands why it feels necessary.

She didn’t shy away from me when I told her that a child’s voice in my head answered a question she asked, and she didn’t run when I told her what the child said. She helped her get out of our dark childhood bedroom and out to a safe place, away from danger and invisible to the world. She offered to stand by her and help carry her burden and promised to never knowingly do anything that would hurt her. And she accepts that that girl is a part of me, separated off for very good reasons.

She’s giving and assures me that she wouldn’t do anything or offer me certain things if she didn’t genuinely want to do them. She told me in our last session that I never have to let her in if I don’t want to. So, despite everything she’s done for me, it’s okay with her if I still try to keep her at arms length.

So, I guess in lieu of being able to really express my gratitude to her, sharing here about how wonderful she has been to me the past 2+ years will have to suffice.