Today I did something that truly frightened me. I did something I never thought I would have the courage to do. After soul searching last night and writing for hours, I put down on paper everything I have been too afraid to say to my therapist. I wrote it in the form of a letter I didn’t intend to send. The kind of letter you would leave as a suicide note because you’d know you wouldn’t have to see the consequences.
Once I’d finished writing, I thought about my options. The most attractive one was to burn the letter. Next, I thought I could give the letter to J after a session and let her read it while we were apart. Finally, I considered what it might be like to read it aloud to her, to actually speak the words and hear her response. That scared me sh*tless.
Then I thought about a post I read by Andi over at Therapy Sucks earlier in the day. As always, she had shared a candid account of her most recent therapy session and I was bowled over by what she said. She spoke to her therapist about their relationship; about how she longs to be close to her and has trouble feeling connected when they are apart. Her courage in addressing this horribly painful attachment related material inspired me. I realised that if she was brave enough, maybe I could do it too.
I guess I worked out the worst case scenarios and realised that the risk of changing something wasn’t greater than the risk of letting things stay the same. I have been so very stuck in therapy lately and I’ve worried we’d reached a dead end. But I think a big part of the problem is my inner conflict; my feeling desperately attached to J at the same time as not wanting the vulnerability of that attachment.
So today I unfolded that letter and held it in my shaking, sweaty hands. I looked down at the words and felt like beginning to read them was the equivalent of jumping off a cliff. I could hardly catch my breath. I was so nervous; scared that J would turn against me upon hearing what I wanted to say. It felt like there was a very real chance she would abandon me.
Once I had finished reading, I felt nauseous yet relieved. As J spoke to me in response, I could only get air into my lungs. It felt like none would come out and I was going to explode with the air I was taking in. But her words calmed me and I could exhale. Nothing I had said had offended her. She reiterated that she isn’t going anywhere and she will continue to be here for me. She didn’t seem to be surprised or shocked at the content of my letter. I think she already knew most of it.
I told J that I need her. I told her she is one of the most important people in my life. I explained how childish my attachment to her makes me feel. And I voiced how ashamed I feel because I can’t help but love her. These were the hardest things I have ever said in therapy. Harder than talking about my childhood abuse, my suicide attempts, my pain and my anger. I was so scared, but I think the risk paid off.
I feel stronger now. I can recognise that it was courageous of me to go through with something that frightened me. I could’ve squashed that letter back into my pocket and taken it home with me. But instead I was honest and real. And I feel cautiously optimistic that as a result, I am more secure in my attachment to J. That’s a big deal to me. A really big deal.
Photo: Joel Olives, Creative Commons.