Therapy today: His lingering shadow

I had mixed feelings about my first session after the Christmas break. Unlike everyone else in the office I was glad things are back to ‘normal’ this week. I like routine. I like knowing how all the hours stretching out ahead of me at the start of a day will be filled.

Dead time is thoroughly depressing. Other people seem to enjoy this emptiness, they find it relaxing. I can’t stand it. Because it isn’t nothing; it is time with my own thoughts, and that’s something I just don’t need more of.

Back to therapy. It’s a part of my routine I had missed while I was away. Even though I had some email contact with J, that isn’t quite the same. I miss seeing her and having that time that is just mine. On the other hand, being away shows me that I can survive without therapy day-to-day. In fact, I often do a better job of it. Without having those sessions to stir everything up, I can squash it all and contain it. I know that’s probably not sustainable, but sometimes it feels good to take some time off.

That’s why I felt a bit anxious about today. I felt like I didn’t want to take the lid off again. But when I arrived, I got this wave of relief. It was as though I’d been holding my breath for two weeks and I could finally exhale. It felt so good to see J, someone who really knows me, knows all the crappy stuff I submerge with everyone else. And I did really miss her.

We inevitably talked about Christmas. I didn’t have anything interesting to say about it. We talked about the gift I made for her, which was nice but uncomfortable for me. That sort of led to a discussion about my inability to absorb anything positive. We spoke about this blog, the kind feedback I get from people and how I negate it by telling myself my readers are ‘just being nice’. I don’t feel I deserve it.

Sometime during this conversation I dissociated. I drifted off into the bookshelf like always and disconnected from where I was. Adrenaline ran through my system and I got shaky, sweaty and short of breath. I couldn’t figure out what had triggered this, but it did feel different today.

Normally when I dissociate in therapy I don’t know what I feel, I just get excessively anxious. There aren’t emotions underneath that. But I’ve had quite a lot of flashbacks since our last session, always with the same feeling. When I spoke to J before Christmas about the details of the abuse, I dissociated and recognised that I felt fear. This fear returned to me in the flashbacks.

It isn’t a logical fear. It is a terror held in my body, infused physically in my system. In the flashbacks I’m terrified of my brother. I’m frightened of his footsteps outside my door, I’m scared of how me makes me feel. I can feel it still. A heaviness in my solar plexus, a tightening in my throat, my lungs constricting.

It’s horrible what your brain can do to you. Because I realised over the last few weeks that the fear resides with J now. I am not afraid of her, or of being with her in that room, but it resurfaced when I was there and now it lingers. It was clinging to me there today. I couldn’t shake it, and I was so scared I couldn’t even speak about it.

So I dissociated and was unable to reach J to tell her how afraid I was. I put myself back in the body of that small girl who was scared of her brother touching her in ways she didn’t understand. But I let her down again; because I shut her in, alone, when I could have reached for help.

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Photo credit: Stewart Butterfield, Creative Commons.

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