** WARNING: Trigger alert **
In my last post I talked about some of the progress I’ve made in therapy; things I’ve done but never imagined I’d do. It feels quite weird acknowledging this. My therapist has been rabbitting on about trying to get me to see this for ages. Finally, I’m starting to see it. I mean really see it and really believe it.
Today I discovered more proof. I was flicking through old emails when I came across an email I sent to my therapist in my very early days of therapy. Back when she was trying to get me to disclose the secrets of my past.
Reading over the email I realised that I have come a long way. It’s as plain as the nose on my face. I’m going to share some of that email to my therapist, but I warn you – it could be triggering. I’m oddly scared of posting this stuff… scared of scaring you all away. Some of you say that you care and you care already so nothing will scare you away, but the little kid inside is still not sure.
Anyway, I hope you will see my progress as well. What I wrote then was filled with turmoil; filled with struggle every step of the way. I think about therapy now and it’s different. I’m different. Even when I’m flailing about on the floor, I’m different. Even when I’m scared to talk about stuff, it’s different. Even my writing now is different. I have come a long way. I have disclosed a load of toxic junk. I’ve processed a lot of that junk. I think I’d even go so far as to say I’ve grown through doing that.
Gee that’s scary to say!
By the way, for those of you monitoring my adherence to the NaBloPoMo theme – yes, I know, this post has more to do with “yesterday” than it does with “tomorrow”, but hey, they are both on the space-time continuum. 😉
** Start of trigger alert **
Dear T –
I found it incredibly difficult to tell you the things I told you last week. They were things I’d long forgotten; things I’d never spoken about before. And yet I didn’t tell you everything. I couldn’t. There’s stuff I just can’t bring myself to say out loud. But there’s something about it that feels unresolved.
So I’ve written stuff down. Even that has been incredibly hard. I’ve avoided it, procrastinated, distracted myself in a thousand ways. I’ve told myself that nothing I say will be new to you; that nothing will shock, offend or concern you; that you’ve heard it all before, and worse.
And yet still I feel embarrassed and afraid. This is stuff I’ve NEVER told anyone. I’ve kept it hidden in places I NEVER let anyone go. I feel incredibly vulnerable, even though I know your office is safe and you will respect my confidentiality. Something in me says I have to let the walls down if my sessions with you are going to do any good. I’m still not sure if I can talk about some of it – but you can try.
It’s a pretty random dump. Some of it I’ve told you already. Some I haven’t. And I suspect some you know even though I haven’t told you.
When I write it down it doesn’t seem that bad. Part of me thinks I’m just over reacting or being over sensitive. After all, there were no broken limbs; I wasn’t locked in cupboards; and there were no satanic rituals.
[I have just realised that some of this is written like I’m talking to my father – sorry but I can’t be bothered fixing it up]
As a child, and now, I’ve always bottled things up. I always pretend everything was “fine”, even when it isn’t. At home. At work. With friends. I’m always the strong one; the one who copes. Mum always told me to “be strong – be a survivor”. I have, but I’m starting to think it wasn’t necessarily a good thing. For the longest time I’ve felt alone in the world. I put on a mask every time I get up – a different mask for different aspects of my life (the “good daughter”, the “smart student”; the “capable worker/boss”, etc etc). I’ve been doing that for so long that I’m not sure what’s underneath anymore.
I’m guessing part of that stems from my father, being constantly on edge, worried, afraid of what mood he’d be in. Having to play the appropriate role around that. I grew up thinking that what I felt/thought/experienced didn’t matter. And it didn’t. My only concern was keeping the peace. Doing anything I could to stop him going off, even if it usually didn’t work.
I’m sad that I never got the kind of childhood other kids had. Instead of being nurtured, loved and supported, I spent my years in fear. I was constantly on edge, and yet had to pretend that everything was ok. And when I didn’t – when I told the school counsellor – Mum denied it, blaming “adolescent angst” or “overactive imagination” or whatever.
I remember being afraid. Constantly. You’d often go to the pub and come home late, drunk. You’d complain about how bad your dinner was (no wonder – it had been in the oven for hours). There was always yelling on those nights. Tirades about how useless mum and I were. Constant tirades about how I was stupid/useless/just a child. What I remember most strongly is being nervous and afraid. Wondering what mood you’d be in when you got home. I still feel it now, and it still comes back when you drink too much – the nervousness, the tensions around your mood and when you’ll turn.
Sometimes dad used to sit in the kitchen getting drunk, yelling about how useless mum and I were. Mum and I would retreat to the lounge room – staying out of the way, hiding, or just watching TV, I’m not sure. I remember mum closing the lounge room door to shut out dad’s tirades. Dad hated that. He’d have one/ten/a hundred drinks too many and put his fist or foot through the door, yelling and screaming. That always frightened me. I can still hear the wood splitting.
I remember mum sleeping in my room a few times. We’d squeeze into my bed and she’d tell me “Don’t worry. It will be ok.” But I did worry, and it wasn’t ok. One time (many?) we’d barricaded ourselves in by putting the chest of drawers up against the door. Dad hated that. He’d smash the door, yelling and screaming.
I hated Xmas. The pressure, the tensions, the pretence. When I was little (4? 5?) dad would spend the day in the back room getting pissed, yelling at mum about what a crap job she’d done with the food, and telling me to “piss off”. I pretty much hate all meal times actually – they’ve usually ended in disaster. The constant tension, the pressure building, the anticipation of you exploding. Even now I eat quickly – just to get it over with, get out of it peacefully (or at least in one piece).
I remember the time you brought the gun home and threatened mum and me with it. I was afraid. I didn’t understand what I’d done wrong or why you’d want to kill us. You reminded me of its presence constantly after that. Part of me wanted you to just do it so I didn’t have to put up with you or be afraid anymore. Many times after that I wanted to die. Still do, sometimes. I just wanted to be safe and free from the hurt and the pain. I thought I’d found a way to block out that pain, but turns out I was wrong. It’s been lying in wait for me all these years.
I remember the times you stayed in the garden at night, or slept in the car. Mum would lock the door and say it was a good thing you were out of the house. But all I remember is being afraid. I was nervous about the locked door and how angry that would make you. I was afraid that you’d come back inside during the night – and afraid of what you’d do when you did. I was afraid to go to sleep those nights.
I remember constantly feeling embarrassed. I’d have friends over, but I was always on edge. Always wondering when you’d turn. Usually you didn’t while they were there, but you kept your distance, ignoring me (but not my friends). I could feel the tension building and I knew there’d be trouble after they’d gone.
You’d set up, or just take joy in, any accidents I had. You’d wait and watch me fall over in the yard; bait the dog to bite me; or laugh when I fell off my bike. I remember the time I broke something on the bike and had to carry it home from the park, bloody kneed, hurting. You watched me walk up the street, and you laughed. Even when I had that car accident and broke my wrist [about 10 years ago], all you said was “oh yea, good”.
I remember a couple of times (one?) after you’d yelled at me, [a family friend] tried to console me and tell me it would be ok. It wasn’t, but he showed more kindness in those moments than you have shown me in a lifetime.
I remember always being criticised for what I wore. You always told me I looked awful. Even now, there’s always something wrong with my clothes/hair/nails/etc. I remember when I was about 15 or 16, going to a party, you said “you’re not wearing that, are you? You look awful. Everyone will laugh.” And so of course, in my mind, they did. They still do.
You always told me I was too fat; too ugly; I’d never get a boyfriend. You were right – I never have had a positive, meaningful, adult relationship. I say I don’t care, but really, I think I do. I fear I’ll end up one of those sad old people with no one. I’ll be dead for weeks before anyone notices. Even then it’ll only be because of the smell.
You taunted me endlessly about being stupid/fat/ignorant/ugly/blah blah blah. Either that or you’d just ignore me completely. Even now.
You never came to school plays/speech nights. You never wrote me a birthday or Xmas card. You never gave me a gift, never chose anything for me. I’ve never understood why you hated me so much, or what I did to deserve all this. You’ve never said you loved me. In fact, no one has ever said “I love you” or “you’re beautiful”. I used to think it didn’t matter but, you know, actually I think it does.
I can’t believe I’m telling you this stuff. It’s wrong. It’s scary. I’m scared of what you’ll think. I’m scared that I’m opening myself up too much. I feel vulnerable. And yet I’m hopeful that it will help. It’s taken more courage than I thought I had to actually write it down. Will I actually send it? Yes. No. May be. I don’t know. It’s raising a lot of questions for me, but I’ll leave those for another time.
** End of trigger alert **