Therapy today: Being sad together

This morning I worked at home. I had an appointment with my doctor and that was a good excuse to hide from people for most of the day.

A horrible dream last night left me with a load of crappy residual feelings that I’ve not been able to shake off. I dreamed that my sister was getting married, but that I wasn’t welcome to participate in the celebrations. Everyone was angry with me. What’s worse was that my abuser was there with my baby nephew and all of my family and friends were taking turns cuddling the little one and enjoying meeting him.

Yes, my dreams are often this un-subtle. My subconscious didn’t even bother being metaphorical here really. It just tortured me with a rendition of what I don’t want to think about. The dream heightened the feelings of alienation and exclusion I’ve been experiencing since the baby arrived.

In therapy I explained all of this. J said something about how we haven’t processed my feelings about my nephew. She asked what I feel towards him and I found it hard to answer. I’m not sure I feel anything for him really. I don’t love or hate him, I think I probably just pity him. The difficult feelings are more about what his existence means.

When the baby arrived, I chose to put in boundaries with my parents. I told them I didn’t want to hear about him and I told them that’s because it is too painful. So my sense of being exiled is one I have brought on myself. But I am between a rock and a hard place, because hearing about him is agonising, while adding him to the herd of elephants in the room brings a load of other baggage.

J asked me whether I feel as though I have been pushed out by my family and I think she was onto something there. Even though I chose this isolation, I made that decision because I had to – not because I wanted to. I knew neither option would make me happy. It was really about damage limitation.

I tried to talk about why this is painful for me, but it was really hard. I kept drifting towards dissociation. I just had this sense of not wanting to be me, not wanting the memories, thoughts and emotions that live in my head. I guess that’s a helpless place to be because it’s a futile wish.

J kept being kind to me and that brought up some sadness. She mentioned how I talk about hating feeling isolated, then arrive at my session and isolate myself by withdrawing. I felt young and alone, even as she was telling me I didn’t need to be alone. The sadness wasn’t huge, but it was weighty on my chest and I felt a little tearful.

I didn’t initially realise that J was feeling my sadness much more fully than me. Avoiding eye contact means I often don’t notice these things. But she was crying. It’s happened in the past and I’m never sure what to think about it. She asked me how it feels for me to see that, which was a difficult question. I said that it’s just strange for me that she feels sadder about my suffering than I do.

J said something about how she was feeling the sadness I won’t let myself feel. I thought that must be very unpleasant for her and felt a bit guilty. But she reminded me that it is OK for us to be sad together, and it was validating to know that sometimes she really sees how things are for me.

While validating, it also made me feel exposed. That’s my eternal conflict; wanting people to understand me while wanting to keep myself guarded, wanting closeness while wanting the safety of being alone. When the things I want are so contrary to one another, it’s no wonder I spend a so much time feeling hopelessly confused.


Photo: Mario, Creative Commons.




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