Creating Safety Kind Of Day
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.