How Big Are Your Rocks?

V had me do this activity yesterday that I really enjoyed. One it let me learn a little more about her, and two it helped me pinpoint some of the specific things I am carrying around with me.

She handed me this backpack and told me to hold it out while she asked me a few questions. It was really heavy. I asked her what was in it, but she said I couldn't know yet. She asked me various questions, all fun/happy things. It was harder to concentrate on what she was asking the longer I stood there because the heavier the bag felt. Apparently that's exactly what is "supposed" to happen. The bag represents me, what was inside represents what I carry around. Everyone has their own bag, their own weights. The longer you hold onto them, the heavier they feel, even though the weight itself hasn't changed. People often do unhealthy things to temporarily forget their weights (maybe even convince themselves they completely got rid of them) but eventually they return to reality to find out that nothing changed. Quite possibly, these unhealthy things could have created new weights. V thinks my cutting has gotten to a place where it's starting to add weight. When I was younger, self injury was an unhealthy coping mechanism, but it got me through harder things that I had no clue how to deal with. At some point, however, it went from denial of my weights, to contributing to them.

We sat down, she opened the bag and pulled out a rock. It was painted with a word on it. SCARED. She told me that we were going to go through and pull out a rock, one by one, and discuss how big of a weight this was in our own bags. V doesn't strike me as anyone who gets scared a lot, but I was relieved to hear her say that she gets scared at night when her husband is gone and she's home with her kids, or when she's walking to her car alone at night. Thank God I'm not the only one who thinks this!

My first rock was WORRIED. This is a pretty big rock for me. I constantly have to (or attempt to) plan for escape routes and back-up plans when I am doing something outside of my normal activities. I can't ever be taken off guard or surprised. I never get to enjoy myself when I'm doing something different because I'm worried it'll take a turn I wasn't expecting.

V's next rock was ANGRY. First we talked a little bit about why anger is an appropriate emotion for anyone, but that the unhealthy side of it comes out in how people choose to respond to that emotion. She gave me two examples that make her angry. One that doesn't really weigh her down all that often, but she can't stand when she's not being heard. Meaning she is trying to explain or compromise on something, and another party is just not open to it or trying to understand. The second she says weighs on her more. She gets really mad when children get abused. In her line of work, especially working with children and families a bit more than adults, she sees this often and it makes her so angry.

My next rock was HURT. Physically I have been lucky. Never broken a bone. Up until May I had never even had to go to the hospital. Emotionally, that's a little different. I gave her an example that stood out in my mind. My dad was commuting back and forth from where my sister and I lived, and where he lived with his new wife, a good 10 hours away. He'd always come home for our visitations, but didn't live in the state any other time. When I was getting ready to graduate high school, I asked him if he was going to come and he told me no. High school graduations aren't that big of a deal. He'd come when I graduated college. That hurt. A lot. V asked me if I wanted to add anything about cutting with that rock, and I didn't. I don't view cutting as hurt. I view it as relief. She nodded and agreed.

V's next rock ended up weighing on me, a lot. It was GUILTY. I learned a lot about V through this rock, some of which I knew a little of already. V was a teen mom. She grew up in the city. Her parents immigrated from Mexico before she was born. She is Catholic and apparently they feel guilty about everything (she jokes). When she got pregnant at 17, she said telling her family was really hard. She is still married to her high school sweetheart, and their son is 14 now. They also now have a daughter who is 14 mo. old. She told me a few weeks ago about being a teen mom, which I couldn't believe. She volunteers for the advocacy center, leads trainings for other therapists on addiction and abuse, and works with our local school district to provide support for other teen moms. I have so much respect for her beating the odds and making something of herself, when most people would use it as an excuse. She said that when she had her son, something clicked in her. She was not going to be another statistic, especially being a minority. She wanted to be a good role model for her son. Her drive is amazing to me. Anyway, in her story she was telling me how other people tried to make her feel guilty. A girl called her and commented on how she couldn't believe the rumors were true, that SHE was the one who was pregnant. Her response to that girl: "What? So I had sex..."

The normalcy of that statement affected me greatly. It took me a while to recover and I know I missed out on what she said right after that. It pains me to think that most people are able to view sex as anything but a terrifying occurrence. It pains me to think that at 17, I could have been as blase about it, too. But instead, I'm in my 20's and can't even let a man touch me let alone go that far. There's no way she could have known something so little could affect me so greatly.

My next rock was CONFUSED. It took me a while to connect something with this, but I finally identified my spiritual side. We talked a bit about this, but she said we'd go more in depth when we had more time.

Her next rock was EMBARRASSED. Again, V seems someone who is very comfortable with who she is, but she told me a funny story about how she and her husband went out with some friends a few months ago and he congratulated them on being pregnant. They were not. LOL I couldn't help but laugh. I could tell she was still mortified!

My next rock was SAD. This has been a big weight for me lately with the deaths of my grandparents and Tayler, all in less than 2 years. I talked more about Tayler than my grandparents, because her death still affects me. I never have understood why. She was not the cousin I was closest to, but I feel like I lost a sister at times. It confuses me. V asked me some questions about her and was shocked to hear that she was 13. She looked at me and said "My God. How much horror can you take at the age of 13? For you it was abuse, for Tayler it was death. I wonder if her death affects you so much because of that. Or if part of you feels like you died at the age of 13 as well." We have talked a bit about how different I became after the abuse, so she might really be on the right track there.

The next rock she pulled was DIVORCE/ADDICTION. She handed that to me. Cheater, LOL. I identified that the divorce itself wasn't that big of a deal for me, since my life up until that point was mostly a one parent deal, but for me it was how my mom was affected by it and the parenting choices she made that made that rock a huge weight for me. As far as addiction, I know it contributes weight to my bag, but I am just coming out of denial about that so I couldn't really say much.

My turn was next, even though I had just gone. I had avoided picking up this rock that my hand touched next, but went ahead and pulled it out. ABUSE. Crap. I told her I didn't want to talk about that, but recanted and said I would at least acknowledge that it is a weight in my bag, and that it is not just sexual abuse, but emotional abuse and neglect as well.

Two rocks left. V pulls out JEALOUS. She tells me she sometimes gets jealous of people who have "easy" lives, those who don't know what suffering really is. That's understandable.

The last one for me, I pull it out and it says SECRETS. I laugh and tell her this game is rigged. She laughs and agrees. She knows what the rocks were and therefore, which ones to stay away from pulling herself. I look at the rock for a second and tell her this is probably the biggest one for me. It is connected to almost every other rock in my bag, which messes with my mind even more. My whole life has centered around the fact that I couldn't ever say or feel things in front of other people. So the other weights in my bag became secret too. Hide the weights. Pretend they aren't there.

I learned a lot about what I'm carrying around inside of me yesterday. Just acknowledging that was a huge step for me. I left V's office still reeling over her statement to the girl on the phone. I tried to sit and journal to see if that made me feel better, but ended up having a panic attack. I decided that I needed to e-mail V and let her know just how much I was affected by that (and those conversations in general) so that she would know and not accidentally trigger me that way again. As always, she was so gracious and understanding. I am so blessed to have found someone like V.


Anonymous said...
November 21, 2010 at 3:42 PM

that is a really cool idea :)

Anonymous said...
November 21, 2010 at 4:44 PM

What a neat idea for a session! And you clearly got so much out of it.

Paula said...
November 22, 2010 at 8:44 AM

Had a similar session at my trauma therapy. It worked wonders. I remember when we did Inner Child work and I told my T that I am an adult and surely cannnot sleep with a teddybaer every night just because i am traumatized! She calmy told me that the Inner Child always will be there and not only because I am traumatized. Everyone has inner kids, vey, therapists too. She sleep herself often with a teddy. I still sleep with my teddy now and it is ok.
I am so very glad that you finally have a therapist you can trust and work with. Making a happy dance for you here. Yes, on crutches!

Dr. Deb said...
November 22, 2010 at 4:59 PM

It's great that you feel comfortable to not only do this activity, but to share it with your readers. Fantastic!

Harriet said...
November 22, 2010 at 7:34 PM

Wow, so incredible! How did you feel about your t's self disclosures? What an amazing exercise. V is very creative, isn't she?

Grace said...
November 28, 2010 at 2:53 PM

I love this idea! I think I'm in love with V too...wish I lived near her...SSSOOOOOOOOOO glad you found her! She's so great!