Today in therapy J came up with possibly her least helpful suggestion ever. I was telling her how overwhelmed I feel with everything at the moment and how I can’t even begin to deal with it because I don’t know where to start. In this scenario, she usually suggests we try and just ‘untangle’ a part of whatever mess is confusing me. This afternoon she must have realised that approach would fail, so instead she suggested I shrink the problem.
Now I know visualisations work with some people. They have worked with me in the past, particularly with flashbacks. If I’m getting intrusive images, I can visualise the word ‘stop’ in big red letters – focusing on that can shift whatever horrible flashback I’m having. But right now there is no way I can shrink what’s overwhelming me.
I told her that it isn’t really possible to switch off from caring. If I could decide how much various issues bother me, I wouldn’t need to go to therapy. Her response was to suggest that by making it smaller, I don’t have to make it less important. She used the metaphor of a diamond, being something very small and very valuable. I still pushed back.
The problem today is that I am at a very low ebb. I’m tired and stressed out. My emotions are making me feel sick and achey. I didn’t go to therapy to try and work out my difficulties, I just went there to be with someone who knows how I feel and will listen to me. I was annoyed with myself while I was there, because I knew I was brushing off every attempt J made to help.
When I was in hospital I remember being in group with another patient who always came along and disagreed with every idea anyone put forward to her. I found I got very impatient with her. For every suggestion, there was always a reason not to, a reason why she couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to help herself. I wanted her to just let a little bit of it in occasionally, because I wanted her to feel better.
That’s exactly what I did today. I resisted every effort J made to try and untangle the mess, I pushed back at every creative new approach to looking at my situation. I knew I was doing it, but I have burrowed myself into a little hole I don’t want to come out of yet. I feel like I’m hibernating. I feel like a tiny hedgehog that has given up on finding any sustenance for now and dug a safe den to snuggle into until better days come around.
I guess that analogy sprang to mind because when I thought of my family today, I thought of insulating myself against them. That would imply that they’re able to bring some deadly cold or a fatal electrical current into my life, either of which is apt. While I know being around them would likely prove unsafe for me at the moment, I also don’t want the insulation. I don’t want that distance. It feels wrong and it hurts.
That leaves me with the dilemma I was discussing with J today. Do I let them in, and how do I make that safe? Or do I freeze them out, and how can I manage that? I am angry with them for not acknowledging the severity of the abuse my brother inflicted on me. I am hurt that they won’t respect my choices now. I’m confused as to how my sister and my parents still want to be around my abuser. And I am devastated that I am the one left feeling like I’ve done something wrong, while they all see each other, talk to each other, and have fun together without me.
It is all chaotic and confusing in my head. It’s whirling around like a cyclone in there. When I tried to articulate myself with J today, I couldn’t figure anything out. I couldn’t say what I do and don’t want from them, or answer her million dollar question; ‘what would be enough?’ I wonder if I knew the answers, would it make any difference anyway?
If I had to respond to that question immediately, I actually know what I would say. I just don’t want to say it. I know that I want to see my brother punished. I want to see him go through something that equates to the horror I’ve experienced in the past year. I want my whole family; parents, sister and grandparents to cut him off and disown him for what he did. I’d love to have them all behind me, validating my feelings and letting me lean on them as much as I need.
But hoping for all that is vengeful and futile. None of it is going to happen. So I have to find a way of letting go of everything I hoped my family would be. I have to create a new role for myself in my relationships with them, different from the old ‘please others’ Laura. I’m resistant to that. I don’t want to bury her. I’m scared that a new version of me might not belong with them anymore.
Photo: Mervi Eskelinen, Creative Commons.