Healing is Hard

Yesterday I had the hardest session of my life.

I told her the exact details of what I went through, what I remember, what I thought, what I felt.

I had two sessions this week, which was planned about a month ago when I was having a very rough time but didn't want to cancel the opportunity for some extra growth. Tuesday's session was good. We talked about how I perceive myself in my professional atmosphere and personal atmosphere. I am two completely different people. We talked more in depth about how emotional relationships make me shut down and not offer information unless I am specifically asked for it... which lead her to my homework assignment.

On Thursday I was going to lead the session. She was not going to take the lead in questioning and directives or even topics. I was to come in there and talk about whatever was weighing on me at the time. It could be as miniscule as the blue sky or as heavy as the abuse, which is what we have been dancing around for the past month. I immediately felt pressure to do the latter, one because it had been weighing heavily and two because I felt that is what she expected. I talked to a friend about this assignment and the fear I was feeling and she called me out on the fact that I was afraid because I didn't think I was strong enough. And not only that, but I am the only one who thinks that. She's very blunt and it took me off guard. So I called C later that night and set up the same scenario, hoping she would tell me what I wanted to hear, but she said the same thing that KP did. "You're the only one who thinks you can't do it."

So I went to work yesterday dreading the ticking clock because I knew what I needed to do, but just did not feel ready. 12 PM ticked around and I left and headed to her office. I sat in the waiting room praying for God to give me the strength I needed to get through this session and the wisdom to understand that I was doing the right thing.

We walked to her office, I took my usual position on the couch across from her leather armchair and she asked me "How have the last few days been?" then added "And that will be the last question I ask!" We initially talked about how nervous I felt with having to choose the topic and talk about it without interruption, the conversations I had with KP and C and how I was hoping for a different response than what I got. We both got a laugh out of that because I always get what I want! Grrr. Time was ticking by and I knew I was going to run out of time if I didn't take the wheel. I pulled two pictures out. One I keep in my journal and one I found in my photo album. I told her I wanted her to look at those two pictures because they showed two very important things.

One is me in a wildflower field holding the puppy that we had just bought and smiling as she was licking my face, just 2 weeks before I was abused. The picture is vivid and oozes happiness.

The other is a picture I found of my bedroom at my dad's house. The room I was abused in. The picture is drab and lifeless.

She asked me why I wanted her to see those pictures. Those pictures represent the stark contrast of what I feel my life is. Happy on one half, dead on the other. While I have had many wonderful things in my life that fall into the "2nd half" I still feel the sharp contrast. She interjected that she was glad that I recognize that it isn't just this all black all white situation, that even though there appear to be two parts to my life, there is hope and happiness there.

I asked her that if I were to tell her what happened, if it were OK that I did not look at her while doing so. At this point I knew I would not be able to maintain eye contact while telling her what happened. Thankfully she was OK with but she was worried that I was doing this because I felt pressure from KP and C. Them thinking I was ready did not mean that I was. For something this huge, it needed to be a decision I made for me and no one else. While I was definitely feeling pressure to do this because of the conversations I had with KP and C, this was something that I had been thinking about a lot and was what caused me to initiate those conversations with them. Was it my choice? Yes it was. So I closed my eyes and tried to figure out where to start. I tried to figure out what I would say. I tried to figure out where I would stop. I did my best to control my breathing. I sat there for what seemed like hours before I got up the courage to say the first word. I knew once I started talking I would be fine.

I finally was able to start and as I talked I pictured in my head what I picture every day. It's so much easier to explain when you can "see" what's happening. As I talked I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and pushing their way through my closed lids, but my voice never faltered. I was able to keep my words continuous until I got to one part... I had to stop. I had to build some more courage, had to find the right words. I could feel the tears pouring down my face. When I finished I sat there with my eyes closed still, too afraid to open them and look at her. She asked me what I was feeling and in all honesty, I wasn't sure but the feeling was awful. I told her I felt like dying because the guilt and shame was just too much. "What do you have to feel guilty about?" she asked. I shouldn't have gone in there, I should have screamed, I should have fought back. My voice failed me there.

She asked me if I could open my eyes and look at her. Afraid, I remember slightly shaking my head no. Through thick tears I finally opened my eyes and looked at her. With no hesitation I hear, "You are so brave and you have nothing to feel guilty about. This was not your fault." The barrier of my eyelids could no longer hold back the tears and I cried more then than I have in a very long time. It took me a while before I could remove my head from my hands and look at her again. During those tears she was telling me that even though it may not feel like it now, I had just taken a huge step in my healing and that she was so proud that I had done what I did.

Healing is hard.


Laura L said...
February 20, 2009 at 2:55 PM

I admire your courage.

november blue said...
February 20, 2009 at 10:24 PM

I second that admiration!

Thanks for the comment, which led me to your blog.. I have a bit more reading to do but really identify with a lot so far. My chest ached a bit in identifying with your guilty and ashamed younger parts of yourself who are stuck in that experience.

Also, I NEVER EVER EVER look my therapist in the eye when we are talking about emotions/feelings. She has this waffle-y looking beige carpet that my eyes just rest on and blur like one of those "magic eyes" hidden picture posters from the 90's. That's how I know it's "working", that we're getting to the stuff that needs to be faced and explored.

Don't beat yourself up for not looking at her and don't make yourself look if it's too much for you. It's not meant to be a polite conversation - it's your work, your journey and she's just a witness to it.

be well,

Laura L said...
February 21, 2009 at 7:30 AM

Both of you bring up the reason that lying on the couch works so well. It takes away the necessity of social convention and just lets you talk... let's you say anything.

Aqua said...
February 21, 2009 at 12:28 PM

Hi Lisa Marie,
What you did was so brave. It was difficult and painful, but I believe that those moments in therapy are intensely cathartic and will open doors you could never have opened until you spoke up about what happened to you.

I almost never look at my pdoc if I am saying something painful to me. I too feel guilt and shame, despite my knowing deep inside I am doing and was doing, nothing wrong. These are hard lessons to really accept and learn.

Please do what ever you need to to get the truth out. Look at the wall or the ceiling if you have to. One day you will be so strong you will be able to look your pdoc in the eye and say your truth. It doesn't have to be now, or anytime in the near future. You will know when you are ready.

therapydoc said...
February 21, 2009 at 6:22 PM

Such a better out than in.

Laura L said...
February 24, 2009 at 7:31 AM

Lisa Marie,

Do you mind if I cite you and this post about trouble looking at the therapist in a post? I'm going to talk about the benefits of lying on the couch. Let me know. You can email me off-blog or comment on a post.


The Real Gal said...
March 10, 2009 at 5:53 PM

Lisa Marie, thanks again for sharing from your heart! Again, I can relate to a lot what you are sharing. The guilt and shame plays havoc on me a lot. When I revert to my "childlike" state, my t. can tell right away and sees the fear in my eyes. I tend to make myself not look away from her as I want to be as transparent as possible, but my tendency is to look away out of shame and fear.