*Brief mentions of trauma, abuse, and sexual assault*
I’ve tried therapy several times in the past, but I’ve always ended up giving up before I make any progress. There are several reasons for this: I wasn’t ready yet, I couldn’t afford it, I felt like it was a waste of time, it was too hard… the list goes on and on. Usually my “Fuck This” mark is hit around the 3rd session. Yesterday I hit a milestone, I attended my fourth session.
I’ll be completely honest. I didn’t want to go to therapy yesterday. It’s hard. It’s exhausting, and quite frankly, it sucks. No one actually enjoys therapy, and the more you need it, the harder it is to go. Still, despite all of this, I know that I need to go to identify, fight, and slay my inner demons.
Session 1: My first therapy session we did a survey test. I forget what it’s called, but it measures for adverse childhood experiences that contribute to PTSD (if anyone knows the name, please comment). A score of 4 or higher is considered “adverse childhood trauma. I scored an 8. Next, I was asked to identify and circle words and phrases I identified with, and list my top 5 words/phrases. With both tests completes Dr. Alan decided that untreated PTSD, extreme emotional suppression, depression, anxiety, and stress were the cause of my pseudo-seizures. Basically, I was so mentally unstable, my body was starting to react. We decided that a form of EMDR would be my best option for my personal treatment plan.
Session 2: The therapy truly begins. In order to move toward being happy and healthy, I had to identify what those words mean to me. Then, I needed to look within myself to figure out how to achieve it. EMDR is a lot like meditation- it’s about looking inward with you therapist serving as a guide, to figure out what you need to be happy and healthy. While looking into myself to figure out what “healthy” and “happy” mean to me, I also had to ask myself what was stopping me in the first place. What was it standing in my way. After identifying some key factors to work on, we ended the session with some “reprogramming” work where I told my mind that I deserved to be human. As strange as that sounds, I tend to forget that I’m allowed to have emotions, make mistakes, and be happy. In short, I forget that I’m allowed to be human, and I have to remind myself.
Session 3: Just like Freud, this session was about my mother. It didn’t start out that way- but that is where we ended up. We started with sexual assault. I’m still not ready to go into detail, but I was sexually assaulted by a close friend in October. It was this assault that triggered my final down-ward spiral into mental collapse. While working through this recent experience, I kept remembering the first time I was assaulted when I was 16. When digging deeper into these memories, I finally realized why I repeating experiences with sexual assault, dehumanization in dating (guys treating me like a doll), and abusive relationships, and why they affected me so much. In those moments, I felt like my mother.
I love my mom. She is beautiful, loving, sweet, caring, and is a paramount Hufflepuff. This is also why she is so easily abused. My mother has been married 4 times: two of her husbands were abusive, and one was neglectful. It’s only on her fourth try that the cycle has broken. Watching my Mother, who hasn’t been single for more than a year since she was 18, jump from unhealthy marriage to a fully abusive marriage as a child left an impact. Watching my first step-father abuse, berate, belittle, and trample her from the time I was 7 until he was sent to prison for aggravated robbery when I was 13 taught me to expect that sort of treatment. Mom attempted to leave and divorce him several times, once on my 10th birthday- an attempt that spectacularly backfired, but it wasn’t until he was firmly in prison and unable to follow us when we left Texas for Utah that we could be free from him. By then, however, the damage had been done. I had told myself that I wouldn’t be hurt like that. The fear of being abused the way she had been was so strong that the moment I started to receive the same treatment (assault, abuse, insults, belittlement, dehumanization etc.) I froze. In a twisted way, I has started to accept that my fate would be to continue on the cycle, even though I am so outspoken against this sort of treatment. By the end of this session, I was crying- remembering the abuse I watched her suffer, and the abuse I had suffered myself. We ended the session with another mantra: “I am not my mother. I don’t have to make her same mistakes”.
This was my most most recent session. It had been about two weeks since session 3, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to go back- but I did, because I knew I needed to. I had returned to work after FMLA and was exhausted and overwhelmed. In fact, I was so over-whelmed with work and finals coming up that we had to focus on those thoughts first before we could start working on my past traumas. My tendency to obsess about work and school is a terrible habit I need to break. I need to relax and just let things be- and that’s exactly what I had to tell myself. There were more important things to work on.
My next major break-through after session 3’s break-through about my Mom was about my ex. I was in an unhealthy, on-and-off again relationship with a guy we will call “K” for 8 years. From age 16 to 24 we had an extremely messed-up dynamic. On more than one occasion we were forced to concede that our relationship was abusive- me with a therapist, and he after a training on domestic abuse with the Navy. The problem was that we didn’t know how to stop it. He never hit me, it was all mental, emotional abuse that cut even deeper than bruises. It was the kind of abuse that was harder to stop, harder to identify, and harder to stop. No matter how much he hurt me, how often he insulted me, left me, used me, controlled me- I couldn’t let go. I left and returned to him time and time again, and he would leave and return to me. I lost count after 8 “break-ups”. Logically, I knew that our relationship was killing me. It drained me, and left me feeling worthless and trapped- but I still couldn’t leave. I knew he never meant to hurt me. He always felt bad about it, and he would try to stop before we fell back into the same patterns. K had suffered from his own past experiences of abuse and neglect at the hands of his parents. That’s why I always forgave him- I knew he was afraid of emotions and feelings. I knew he didn’t know how to have healthy relationships- does that sound familiar? It should, because yesterday in therapy I was finally able to make the full connection between my relationship with him and my relationship with myself.
I saw myself in him.
He was a more extreme version of me. His fear of emotions and tendency to suppress them. His lack of ability to connect to others out of fear. His fear of true intimacy and commitment, and his tendency to self-sabotage relationships out of fear (in my case through leaving, and in his through emotional-abuse or cheating) were my own traits amplified. In a twisted way, I thought that by fixing him, I would fix myself. When I saw myself in him, I saw the broken parts of me that I couldn’t admit to myself. I saw the missing gaps I longed to fill, and thought that we could complete each other like puzzle pieces. None of this makes sense of course, because this was all happening on a subconscious level. All I knew consciously is that I understood him in a way no one else did, and that he understood me. He couldn’t let me go for the same reason I couldn’t let him go: we both saw a distorted mirror.
Knowing that doesn’t make anything easier. I still think about him, and even occasionally dream about him. He’s always served as a stand-in for anxiety in my dreams. He always haunted me in a way I used to associated with “soul-mates” and love (thank you chick-flicks for that unhealthy trope about obsession). Now that I know the full reason I couldn’t let him go, why his memories are so strong, why his imprint is so permanent, I understand how I can fully let him go.
I have to find myself.
His ghost, that association I made between him and me, won’t leave until I fill it with my own missing pieces. I have to heal myself the way I had tried to heal him. I have to complete myself without him, or anyone else.
Sorry this was so long. I just needed to get it out of my head somewhere other than my journal. I did say I would document my menal illness, so- I am keeping msesesexy word.