I have been taking long breaks between posts. It’s not like I don’t have any thoughts or feelings of note. It’s that I’m unsure of how noteworthy they are. These feelings of unworthiness echo much of how I’ve been feeling as of late.
Today, I felt like I needed to hear some Indigo Girls music. I wanted to hear the raspy, deep sounds of Amy Ray. She doesn’t have a standard female voice. It’s low. I find comfort in hearing her voice. Although I don’t have a nice sounding voice, I can carry a tune and have found joy singing in choirs. But I’m not a soprano. Or an alto. I’m a tenor. I have a low voice. It’s just one of the ways that I don’t fit into the standard box of what a female is supposed to be. Amy Ray is a bit outside of that box too. I think that this is one reason why listening to her sing provides me with comfort. Her voice makes me feel like there is a place for me in this world.
Yes, I know. No one truly fits in the BOX that is supposedly the man or woman box. There is a place for all different kinds of people. These ideas are intellectually known to me. I theorized about them quite a bit in my college years. But knowing and feeling…
In the feeling part of my life, my own skin isn’t comfortable. Imagine wearing baggy denim clothes, jumping into a pool of water, and then walking around in those soggy, heavy, dripping, and slightly scented clothes all day. That’s how I feel in my body, in myself. Abuse memories are bouncing around inside my head, increasing my sense of distance from the world around me.
My own thoughts and feelings, which used to be my refuge, are frantic and menacing. Even the words inside my head, feel disempowered and disembodied. This line from the song I heard today feels most right.
“Words of my heart line up like prisoners on a fence.” Prince of Darkness by Indigo Girls.
The well of feeling
The stone well is empty, cavernous
Dark and fearsome
I don’t want to acknowledge what’s inside
Instead I notice what’s in the area
The well is surrounded by grassy fields
Green as far as the eye can see
Rolling hills and picture perfect blue skies
I ponder the open, serene space
To frolic in the fields would be fun
But it would be false to ignore the well
If I imagine what should surround the well
I see creatures, dark and amorphous
Evil, creeping, lurking, seeking to harm me
Inside the well
Feels like Death
Can’t remember what if felt like to be alive
But knows that there once was
What remains is charred and brittle
Inside the well
I let feelings come through in my therapist’s office today. My legs were shaking, my face felt hot, my throat clogged, my eyes teary. To some people this is no big feat. To others, like me, it’s a tremendous effort. I rarely cry. I don’t have feelings attached to the abuse. This is one of the coping mechanisms that I developed. I learned to keep emotions locked away. But today, I managed to let some out. It took courage for me to allow my therapist to see me in such a vulnerable state.
The second step of courage is coming back to this blog. Some of you may have noticed that I have not posted anything in months. I’ll tell you why I have not written here for so long.
A few months ago, I wrote a post that described one of the acts of abuse that was done to me. I published the post. That evening, I received an exceedingly nasty piece of hate mail telling me how gross and disgusting I was for saying such things. This person also expressed that I was a horrible wife and mother because I was speaking such things in a public forum.
My reaction was one of complete and utter shame. I deleted the blog post. I retreated inside myself and became afraid of what every person around me thought about me and what I was daring to say aloud. I stopped writing. I couldn’t bear to think of bringing more shame on myself or my family.
The holiday of Passover is approaching. It is a story of redemption and freedom from what enslaves us. With this new post and a return to my blogging, I am relinquishing the silence that enslaves me. Hopefully, I will also be freed from the enslavement of my childhood abuse through allowing myself to feel in front of my therapist and by sharing these struggles with you, the reader. I’d like to believe that I am embracing courage and strength to help me become a free person. I hope that this season also brings you the freedom from whatever enslaves you.
Growing up, I knew unequivocally that my mother loved me. I knew that according to her, the sun rose and set with me. But I never felt it. I didn’t feel like I was a good person. I certainly didn’t feel safe. I was a shadow of a child, a shell of a human who looked and acted mostly normal. But I wasn’t normal and what happened to me was far from normal. The abuse I experienced was severe enough to make me fear for my life. I never thought I’d live to grow old, to like, say, thirty. It’s almost funny, what I thought was old. But it isn’t funny that I didn’t expect to reach adulthood.
These days, there are different kinds of safety that I must achieve. There’s the daily safety of moving through the world, not fearing the people around me. There’s the safety and comfort of my marriage and children, which exists simply because of the commitment my husband and I share. Then there’s the safety of the therapeutic environment, where I must dredge up and face the aspects of my abuse and subsequent identity. The safety of the therapist’s office is crucial to my healing process. I need to feel that my therapist can figuratively hold me and anything and everything that comes up while I muck through the wretched past. It is the therapeutic safety that I treasured at PCH. It is the safety I am currently working towards in my Kaiser therapist’s office. Suffice it to say, this is not easy.
Safety is created for me in a number of ways. Consistency of action by the therapist is one. Willingness to accept responsibility for their actions is another. Wanting me to discuss times when the therapist is wrong or has said something that hurt me is a huge way to create safety. Regular meeting times over a significant period of time is another. Making me feel like I’m important and cared for also goes a long way to making me feel safe. I have found that without these factors to rely on, I do not feel very safe in my therapist’s office.
With Kaiser, I have not been able to rely any sense of consistency of meeting times. Our meeting times have not been consistent for months. The establishment thwarts my therapist Frank’s attempts at providing me with regularity. His schedule is not his own. There have also been times where it’s hard to distinguish where Frank ends and Kaiser begins. On the other hand, Frank has been open to hearing my troubles with feeling safe with him. He always listens with compassion. He makes me feel like he understands, even if he can’t change the situation.
Last week, when revealing again that I felt unsafe and unsure in his office, Frank reassured me. The next day, he called in sick.
Logically, of course I don’t fault Frank for being ill. But the little kid inside, the vulnerable and scared part of me that is still looking for plain regularity of appointment schedule, had yet again to be disappointed. Yet again…
On Saturday, though, Frank wrote me a short email. He apologized for missing our appointment. He also did some rescheduling so that some of our future weeks will not be too adversely affected by the holidays. In that small moment, I felt warm. The little kid in me said, “Frank cares about me. He’s trying not to leave me. He thought about me when he called in sick.” With the short email, Frank helped establish just a bit more safety for me. A bit more safety is a lot more good for me.
I rarely admit it and then only to my closests. I don’t want to admit that I am weak or that I am still needing so much help. I don’t want to admit that although I had many months of intensive treatment, I feel far from done. But it’s true. I’m not happy and hunky dory and oh so so grateful for the sun to come up everyday. I am thankful for my life. I recognize that I am better now than I was a year ago. But. But, I am still having a hard time.
I spent much of the weekend crying or forcing myself to stay out of bed. I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that no one will care for me like they did when I was in treatment. There is no one place where I will feel so special and important and interesting and valued, specifically acknowledging all that I deal with and honoring the pain and suffering. Simply, I felt cared for. I won’t be able to replicate that again.
Now this doesn’t mean that my husband doesn’t care for me, or that my best friend Miriam doesn’t hold me, or things like that. I know I’m cared for in my adult life. My husband truly does much more than I ever give him credit for. Somehow, it still feels different.
I have to get to the core of this. Logic tells me that this issue most certainly feels so vast and painful because it’s from my core. When I was a child, I tried to parent my mother and was abused by my father. I definitely didn’t feel cared for. I definitely didn’t get the care I needed. As a result, I have spent my whole life, even now, pining after good parenting. But only now are the feelings of grief surfacing. I did not get cared for the way I needed. Nothing is ever going to change that. No matter what I do now, my childhood was messed up. I think that if I can learn to come to terms with this pain, allow the tears their rightful place, maybe I won’t feel so ambivalent or anxious about taking care of myself. Maybe I won’t feel selfish. Maybe I’ll feel like I have a right to exist.
I don’t want to let you down.
But I feel you holding me down
With your disappointment in me.
I’m a broken person.
I’m woven with the fabric of your opinion.
What you think of me
Defines what I feel about myself.
I know with my brain this is not healthy.
I can’t make my feelings learn
What my brain tells them.
Logic is a mathematical language
That my feelings don’t compute.
Growing up in an abusive household helped forge the kind of person that I am. This kind of person is always watching what other people are thinking and feeling. This kind of person is always in fear that someone I care about will be upset. I wrote this to describe what happens when I feel that someone is unhappy because of me. Logically I know that other people’s emotions are not caused by me. The child in me, that has yet to grow up, still sees herself as responsible for making sure everyone is happy (with me). I’m sorting out how to feel that I have a right to be. That my existence does not hinge only on making other people happy. That it’s okay to exist. I’m not there yet. But I think I will be.
I received the answer from the California State Department of Managed Healthcare. They partially overturned Kaiser’s decision to deny my request for extra treatment. This means that I won’t get as much therapy as I had hoped. But Kaiser is now required to give me more than they have been. Kaiser thought that they could get away with the minimum amount of treatment. The State said no. Once again, the State is forcing Kaiser to provide me more appropriate treatment. I’m pleased. I feel vindicated.