I had a therapy appointment yesterday that was like nothing I’ve ever had before. Hard and painful don’t come close to describing it but those words are a start. It was with a therapist who I hadn’t seen before. She approached my regular counsellor after my “case” was presented at their rounds review saying that she thought she could help and offer me some insight. She specializes in hypnotherapy and dream/nightmare issues.
I was given the option to have a session with her and I thought it couldn’t hurt so why not? I am having issues not only with insomnia but with nightmares as well when I actually do sleep. Some of the nightmares are “real” events lived over, some are my minds interpretation of events that I wasn’t actually at but can visualize and others are so bizarre and unrealistic they seem to make no sense until I dissect them from writings the next morning and deduce that they are actually quite symbolic.
On to the session though…
I discovered a number of things about myself yesterday in that session. I have always known that I’m strong and independent and resilient. That I can, and have always, handled anything that comes my way. I wasn’t ever really made to be consciously aware of just how many things I’ve been through and shouldered and that was an eye opener for me yesterday. When my life was dissected from young childhood to now, it is hard to imagine how I never saw just how unhealthy my way of dealing with emotions was. To see, really see, that I have lived my life with a belief that I am healthy emotionally only to realize that I’m not is a zinger. I have always had almost a pride that I loved my kids so much and have been a good mom…but I never realized that that was the only thing that I did that wasn’t dysfunctional. I have spent my life shelving my emotions and my reactions all for the sake of doing what needed to be done and being “strong”. It started young and the pattern grew. Lacking appropriate role models and support in how to show and properly process emotions surrounding events, I grew up doing what worked for me. That was to acknowledge the emotions and push them aside. I didn’t know how to “be” sad or angry or grieving AND live my life and do all the things that needed to be done. So, I shelved the emotions. As I got older and had my kids and went through a bad marriage and a divorce I did it consciously. Telling myself that I would deal with the emotional end of things “later” … once the details of separating and moving and making sure the boys were ok was all taken care of. But the reality is that when life did settle…who the hell wants to open the cupboard of hidden emotions and deal with them. They’re fine in there…just fine…. Close the door, lock it and keep going. Then the next big thing would happen and the doors would be opened just enough to shove in more and slam it shut. And the “room” of my life stayed tidy and in control and all good. My façade of being in control and strong able to weather any storm was so well constructed that I believed it – to the point where I couldn’t NOT believe it.
I had friends throughout the years who saw my life and would ask me how I did it. My marriage ended and I had 3 little boys and was juggling a move and financial problems and then got double pneumonia… My answer was always the same “I just do, I don’t have a choice, so I just do it”. And I meant it. I did feel strong and “ok”. Sure, I had the odd day or so when I would cry and think that I didn’t know how I was going to get through it…but I woke up the next day, shrugged it off… slammed the cupboard door that was trying to open up… and went on with our lives. Worked great.
Then Willie became sick. The month before he went into the hospital I had a night when I snapped almost. It had been months of fighting and problems with Willie and things getting worse and not being able to figure out what was going on or how to fix it. I felt like I was struggling to keep my head above water and was failing. I could see it all starting to slip and fall apart and I didn’t know what to do. There was that one night that I lost it all. I screamed – not at any of the boys in particular – but at them… I ranted and I yelled about stupid things…laundry, dishes, helping out… I was sobbing and pacing and threw things. I was out of control and I knew it. So I did what I thought was best. I told my oldest son to watch the others and I went out. I needed to get away and try to get myself under control. I made it about 2 blocks before I realized that I couldn’t drive the way I was so I pulled over. I texted a friend and said that I didn’t know what I was going to do – that I couldn’t keep it all together anymore but that I HAD to. It was a horrible feeling. I contemplated suicide that evening and the only thing that stopped me was my boys. As I sat in my car, shaking and crying and not knowing how I could get through things, my boys had called their Dads because they were so worried about me. When I went home my youngest was scared and worried and needed calming down so I held him and read him a bedtime story and told him I was ok. I apologized to the older boys and tried to explain that it’s hard keeping it all going…and sometimes the balls get dropped…but that I was ok. And the cupboard door that had popped open got slammed shut – hard. The following week was when Willie wrote me the note saying that he wanted to die. After that, the only thing that mattered was making him better.
So here I find myself…a year and a half after Willie’s death.
As the therapist pointed out, I spent the first 6 months essentially in control mode. Doing what needed to be done; moving to Victoria in that time, re-settling, finding a job and a place and getting relocated. Over the next months or so the truth of what had happened starting to crawl into my conscious mind.
She explained how we all have different parts of ourselves, how I have a “thinking/controlling” part that is strong and dominant and resilient and takes over whenever something emotionally challenging is being faced. This is the part of me that I so closely identify with. If I had to pick, this is who I would say is “me”. This is the “me” that I have been taking about wanting to get back to being. But she is only a part of me. A part that was created to keep “me” safe and ok. This part works very closely with another part that is responsible for stuffing those emotions. That part has the job of grabbing those emotions and the turmoil and the pain and slamming them closed up into that cupboard and locking it. She then passes the torch to the Thinker who runs with it, making sure that life keeps going…now those pesky emotions are taken care, it’s easy. That emotional stuffing part is like a strong steel band that encompasses “me” binding and holding everything in…but also causing a weight and denseness with all of the pent up pain and hurt. Like anything pent up, eventually it bursts.
So I got settled here in Victoria. The “must take care of” items were done… I had an apartment; I was moved in and unpacked. My job was pretty much stable; I had friends and a social life that was growing. “Life” was moving on as it should. That was when the cupboard doors started to rattle. You see, that part that kept shutting away those emotions knows that they can’t stay there forever. When Thinking me had nothing that HAD to be dealt with…well… why not bring out some emotions and deal with them finally so they can be emptied out. The problem is though that once those doors opened, all hell broke loose.
Trying to come to the awareness that I need to feel, really feel, emotions is hard for me. They hurt. A lot. As my writing yesterday stated…it’s not like I cry and it gets better… these are emotions, some of them, that are going to take a long time to get easier to live with and to become less painful. Thinker part of me just wants to make them go away so that I can be “ok” and live my life, now. Not “eventually” or “someday” when the hurt might be better, but NOW.
Yesterday’s therapy session was a chance to shelve my conscious, thinking and controlling me and let the emotional guardian step forward. A chance to tell her that it’s ok; she doesn’t need to protect me anymore by hiding away the emotions. That yes, once that was good and helpful and needed. That I was young and I did need to be “ok” to get done what needed to get done. Now though… I’m older, I have resources and support and help to guide me through processing those hurts and those painful emotions. That her “services” are no longer needed. The emotions are out and can stay out. Burn the cupboard and throw away the useless lock and keys now. From this point on, the old hurts and memories will be dealt with and new ones will be faced, as they present themselves. The healthy way. Maybe not less painful, but healthier.
I finished the session with a headache, having cried and yelled and been in so much pain… but also aware. My body was dizzy and wet from the sweat. My muscles sore from clenching and shaking. The remainder of the day was spent with tears that came suddenly and randomly. An odd mixture of clarity and detachment.
I am still trying to process and make sense of yesterday. What I do know is that who I thought “I” was isn’t clear anymore. I am the parts of me but there is also “me” that is all at once more and all of who I am. As the Sanskrit saying is … Satnam, “I am”.