An excerpt from a therapy visit in 2014.
“You look upset today.” I had haphazardly plopped down on a stereotypical therapy couch whose manufacturer neglected to assemble the ‘comfort’ feature. It must be from Ikea.
Wow, nothing gets by you dear! Wait, don’t say that. No, REALLY?! No, that’s not best either.
“Does a wild bear crap in the woods?”
— my best vocal attempt at saying “yes, yes I am.” It’s been two years; she’s seen it all and knows me better than I know myself. I need not worry about how I phrase my thoughts and feelings but sometimes it’s nice to have a less-than-standard response to mix it up a bit.
“I’m simply tired. Tired of giving my all and burning out; tired of being in therapy yet again; tired of not being able to have a savings and crawl out of the financial hole I’ve been in since I got sober; tired of feeling like I can’t be a source of pride for my family; tired of letting everyone else in the world negatively affect my life.” My voice rose as she seemingly held open the clown car door, with one gesture, and all my feelings trampled one another gasping for air in an effort to escape the stuffiness.
“Where do you go when you’re upset? What age are you when you feel upset?”
Seriously?! Shifting awkwardly on the squeaky, cheaply-made couch I grabbed a throw pillow for a purpose other than its name and carefully placed it against my stomach, arms slowly wrapping around as if it were a mature way of crossing my arms in protest. Why do we need to talk about this?! I’ve got an agenda. We need to step this up because I’m not paying big money to reminisce this bullshit.
“I really don’t want to talk about this. Can we move forward?”
She looked at me with sensitivity as if to say ‘Show me where it hurts.’
Silence. I hate silence.
“Four. I’m four” I blurt out.
“And what does that 4 year old little girl look like? Close your eyes. If you see that child (you) angry, crying, upset, what do you do or say?”
Jesus. This is stupid. Wasting time talking about my “inner child”. Clearly we must be low on material after 2 years of sessions.
“I’d say ‘Get over yourself. Suck it up. Quit you’re crying you little attention-seeker and when you’re done acting up you can move on.’”
My eyes stayed shut. Any eye contact might merit another stupid question.
“And what if that were my child, or anyone else’s child?”
I opened my eyes.
“Well I certainly wouldn’t say all that.”
“So what would you do differently?”
What I thought was a quiet sigh within me was apparently more audible than desired. My breathy movement was just enough to cause the couch to squeak again and, perhaps, evoke a response that might have me involuntarily committed.
“I simply wouldn’t say that. . .” closing my eyes again in an attempt to focus “. . .I’d probably, I dunno, give the poor kid a hug, ask what is bothering her, listen and acknowledge her feelings, then tell her it’s all going to be okay while holding her.”
“Do you not know that you are that child? Can you not treat that little girl like you would everyone else?”
I must have been too lost in thought to notice a few escaping tears. Oh great, start crying. You don’t care about this topic anyway so don’t give her a reason to continue asking questions about it. My negative thoughts snapped me back to present moment.
“I hate that child and would rather she just die. She’s not mine. If we were in a crowd I sure as hell wouldn’t claim her.”
My strong, unexpected words stunned me. It was as if I were in front of a child saying all of this and I watched the color drain from her face, her lip start to quiver, her eyes instantly well up. I heard several audible cracks all around and then the dam broke.
Twelve years of therapy. Twelve long years to process my life, my struggles, the expected and unanticipated. Until that very moment I hadn’t seen the root of my self-hatred though the weeds remained unrelenting no matter the chosen and desperate methods to eradicate them.
Clutching the pillow with an increasing need for security I could no longer be bothered by the sounds made from the upholstery that supported me while I cry. It was no longer a stupid topic.
I don’t know what my therapist did during the long moments of silence that followed. For all I know she could have left me alone to use the bathroom and grab a panini and I would have had no idea. But even if she had left I was anything but alone. I had an inconsolable child in front of me that was deeply scarred by my words.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Though this is the most common language I know to speak to myself: you are weak, misunderstood, pathetic, worthy of pain and death, stupid, always needing to prove yourself, an embarrassment. Family of origin issues (which we all have) and society’s chronic asshole-ism weren’t the only contributors to undesirable self-love. I simply didn’t ever grasp the concept, like many other seemingly-obvious defining moments everyone else in life seemed to master with ease. A light clicked on that I could embrace that little kid with her Shirley Temple locks and frilly dress-of-great-discomfort. There was another option outside a slow and painful death by torture. Who knew?!
As the hour drew to a close I grounded myself to the here-and-now. With the pillow returned to its upright and fluffed position opposite my seat, I took a deep breath before pursuing the rest of the day.
I felt lighter that morning after allowing my inner child to vomit all over me after 24 some years of simmering. It stunk. It was miserable. It was necessary to begin a new, unanticipated phase of healing. All that was required of me was to crack the door on a stupid question to learn that what I have wanted and needed so desperately has been on the other side this entire time.
Perhaps it’s time to hang out with that little kid inside and learn all about her. Something tells me that she could be the key to changing everything.
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