eighty-four: small

this word stings.

if i had to summarize what i’m doing these days in therapy, it would be that i’m grieving. without any overt plans to do so, i’ve been in touch with a lot of the things little me felt, during the time that the abuse happened.

time and time again, i’ve thought i might die from the hurt of it. the knowledge that i, as a small child, felt terror and panic and fear and disgust and shame and self-loathing in even a fraction of the degree i’ve felt lately, brings me to my knees. imagining that any child, me, my own daughter, pocketbrit, anyone, feeling so alone…oh.

coz really, how did we do it? where do little kids put all of that stuff? how did we make sense of it then? and how on earth do we make sense of it now?

*

more so than ever before, i have been granted access to how i felt when i was small. (i say ‘granted access’ coz it’s not like something i asked for or planned or even wanted, it’s just what’s happened. like something’s been unlocked, or come undone). and the experience is not of uncovering a memory of a specific event, or being submerged in body sensations (though there have been those times, too), it’s more that i am flooded with really strong emotions, and i start to feel so, so small. my therapist has referred to it as a feeling flashback. which means that sometimes, i will find myself so so sad…unable to stop crying, and i won’t even know quite why. or i’ll be completely terrified. or edgy, or unsettled, but without the words to explain why. or sometimes, delighted (unfortunately this is less common). but the way my body feels…the thoughts that are in my head…the words i have at my disposal…belong to that of a much smaller person. it is unnerving and amazing and horrible all at once.

in the past, it has been really hard to allow myself to feel the needs of this small, young part. there has been so much shame in permitting her space in my life. but lately, like i just said, it’s like i can’t even help it: she’s there, and then i’m her. sometimes i fight it…the shame gets loud, and i feel ridiculous, and i tell myself i am being indulgent and stupid and idiotic but all that does is defer her takeover and make it even more marked and inconvenient.

being small is awful when i’m trying to parent. coz all of it hurts: our daughter’s anger, impatience, or even her normal everyday complaints, all of them feel like daggers, personal and critical and sharp. and if she is hurt or sad, her pain overwhelms me. and it is similarly awful when i am trying to be a professional, or to be an equal, adult partner to my wife, when all i want is to hide under the covers or cower under my desk; to have  people speak quietly and slowly. when i just want to be hugged and cuddled and rocked and sang to.

*

today was awful. i had been bottling up all my smallness, all my neediness, and i planned to let it out in therapy. i would let her out, and my therapist could help me to hold her, and contain her, and help her. i couldn’t do it alone and i felt so so ashamed and tired of asking pocketbrit and my wife to help me. not coz they weren’t good at it, but because they were…but because the giving/taking ratio has been so, so unbalanced this month. and, they have their own shit, their own hurt, their own pain.

and then, due to a family emergency, my therapist cancelled my appointment today. and that was that.

i spun out. fully. i was so angry, because i was reminded of how unimportant i was in her life, how pathetic i was to be so dependent on a person i paid to be present, when she had no problems dropping me with zero notice. i was ashamed of how upset i was, at how instantly tears sprung to my eyes, at how convinced i was that i couldn’t hold on (it will be three weeks until i next see her). i was terrified at having to do it alone; i have always done it alone, except now i know the sweet sweet relief of not, and i’ve come to depend on it.

and the small one could not be contained anymore. she lashed out at everyone in sight; shoved everyone away, and then when they complied, felt so incredibly bereft. the small one was panicking and the adult part of me was ashamed that i couldn’t reign her in. she needed soothing and i couldn’t, i just couldn’t, because i was furious and sad and impatient and ashamed. oh god, the shame.

i nearly let it get the best of me.

i told my wife to leave me alone, which she did, for a short while. i shoved pocketbrit far, far away. i told her ‘don’t’ when she was saying kind things, and to leave me be. despite wanting exactly the opposite of that. (honestly, no one can win when i’m like that…there pretty much is no right thing to do, ugh.) i didn’t answer when she called and i rejected her love and i ignored her. the small one wanted her so badly, but i couldn’t let her.

except then i did.

and we asked her to read.

and she did.

but not only did she read, she asked if we wanted her to read on video, and we could hardly speak to answer yes (because the answer to that is always yes). and i had to press the mute button on my end, because as she read, i was taking raggedy horrible sobbing breaths, eyes and nose streaming, i couldn’t even believe she did it never mind so easily, i don’t even know how she could, except she did.

the small one felt it, and i did too, and we were soothed. and i could hold her, because i was being held, because i was being loved, because i wasn’t left alone, despite being convinced that i should be.

and so, my gratitude for today is the opposite of small. it’s gigantic as the sea, as the night sky, as the love in my heart.

*

Freedom

Ugh.

*****

Ugh some more. I don’t feel free, that’s why this word is crap. To any onlooker, I absolutely am. And fuck, get over yourself pocketbrit, first world problems right here…compared to so many people out there you are so damned free and should be grateful, not here, moaning, yet again.

*****

But actually, screw that too, I’m reflecting on a word, that’s all, and like I said, I don’t feel free. I feel trapped in a life that I don’t seem to be able to have control over; I know, logically, that I do make many minor decisions all the time which place me in control of my life (which therefore should infer freedom, and yet, it really doesn’t feel that way). I don’t feel like I am able to know what to do with my life, I don’t feel like I am capable of risking things and giving things a go if there’s a potential for failure. I don’t feel like I can escape my current reality of remaining in the town where my parents live, working in their business and seeing them regularly. Isn’t that so weak? Seriously pb, grow up…if you want to do differently, do it. Nobody else can do it for you and you can’t blame anybody else for not doing it yourself.

But its not really about that…I absolutely am a coward in ways, but this is trauma, this is attachment, and screwed up family dynamics, and the recent aftermath of telling my family (sort of…all they’ve made me do is keep it a secret from other family members that they consider more important…my abuser being one of them). This is the fact that the family I belong to, the only family I have, and perhaps the only family I will ever have, want to keep me quiet, want to ignore my pain, push it aside, tell me its no big deal, that he matters more. And I feel trapped. My emotional freedom perhaps, (at some point in the future, and likely not ever fully emotionally free), lies in leaving them and living a life where I am not forced to keep the most vile family secrets. And yet, that’s a life without a family…maybe that’s freedom, but what does that involve giving up? Won’t I feel so alone? Won’t I miss all the good times? Won’t I think of them all the time? Won’t I wish I hadn’t given them up? Won’t I wish I could take it all back, just for one moment of feeling like I belong somewhere, even if I’m only allowed to belong if I keep my mouth firmly shut? But also, do I even really have those things by staying?

*****

I also don’t feel free in my body. Especially lately. My one body feels like it’s containing several people. Several people that I’ve on and off acknowledged are there for a couple of years, but that’s 98% off and only 2% on until recently. Now it’s about 85% on and all I want to do is revert it back to that comfortable 2%. I have an image in my head of an old wooden trunk in a loft….i’ve picked up my wee one and put her in there, upset though she always fucking is. I’ve told my young one to get in, she doesn’t talk much, and she’s just gone in, eyes watching me. My sullen, ‘told-you-so’, sarcastic, detached, scary one gets in on her own accord, like she expects it and is rolling her eyes and shaking her head, and seething at me, for never stepping up and helping, for always being a disappointment. And finally I scream and shout at my teen, who argues back and rages. She won’t get in, not without me physically forcing her. And that’s exactly what I want to do. I want to get her in there and push her back, and put my foot on her and hold her down if I have to and put all my weight on the lid of the trunk to try to close it fucking shut, even though it can’t really fit all these stupid people to begin with. I want to scream back at them, to tell them to get lost. That I want nothing at all to do with them. I want them gone. I want them dead. And I’m meant to be the one in control, the one that gets by and lives our life, and is functioning. Not so functioning, is it, to be scared and spinning because I can’t shut my brain up?

So, this doesn’t feel like freedom. This feels like being locked in a cage with people I really don’t like and don’t want to have to interact with, yet are coming right up to me and crying/raging/talking incessantly in my ear. I want quiet, but I can’t have it.

Control

This is maybe the most obvious factor that’s played out in abusive situations and then subsequently by the abused person in the rest of their life. I wish I could say I was different, but well, I’m not.

Abuse involves a lack of control. Always. A child being raped has no control over the situation and yet tries to claw at it in any possible way. I recently read the book The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, and in it the author gives an example of one of his clients, who during a time of sexual abuse by one of her mothers’ boyfriends, would go and find him when he was drinking and act provocatively. What she was doing was simply trying to gain some form of control over the situation. By doing that she could dictate when it would happen, and she wouldn’t have to be anxious and awake all night, waiting for it to happen. It likely increased the number of times he assaulted her, but at least she had some control over when it would happen.

I did something different, and yet similar, and have always hated myself more than anything for it. I have been disgusted right to my core at myself, called myself a prostitute, a disgusting little whore, and could never hear anybodys attempts at compassion for the child I was, gaining control over the situation in any way I could. I still hate myself. When I first read that chapter in the book something clicked and I suddenly felt sad, but that has long since dissipated.

But even in the everyday, normal things, I am, and for as long as I can remember have been, a massive (and extremely annoying) control freak.

I’ve never cared if it meant I’d be doing all the work, so long as I was the one in control and doing it. My best friends used to laugh at me for it frequently… It was just one of those things about me. And actually not something I’ve ever really wanted to change about myself (aside from getting a bit better at relinquishing control over really unimportant things, which I have done).

But the thing is, I still do it to my detriment far too often in my life.

Several weeks ago I got really mad at my therapist… I took a book with me that she had given me, that we were working on, and when I got mad I told her that I only brought the book with me because I was giving it back to her. I wouldn’t do the work, didn’t want to, and there was no point in me having it. (my version of a ‘fuck you’ – you’ve disappointed me so have it back. I’m in control here, and I’m not doing anything you tell me to).

And I had refused to commit to doing the work up to that point too. I’d read the chapters a lot of the time, but refused to do any of the homework or exercises in it that she told me she wanted me to.

Then, a few weeks after giving her the book back, I went to therapy and at the end of my session asked if I could get it back (petulant child? Oh yes). That was just two sessions ago…I got it back (I think she was pleased I wanted it back), and I went home and read a few chapters and did a few of the exercises. Because this time I was in control, it was on my terms, not hers. And I went back last week with the book in my hand, full of bits that I’d written in it.

And then (I promise we’re coming towards the end of this boring story, sorry), I was panicky and young and scared last week, and I told her I quit.

I was done with therapy. Didn’t need it, was a waste of money, there is nothing wrong with me and I’m just being stupid. Really, I was just feeling all out of control of my life. My best friend was wanting to kill herself, and I realised I couldn’t help her or stop her, no matter how desperately I wanted to. My other best friend is having a terrible time with her family and yet is in the beginnings of what will be a successful career, in a long term relationship with the man I have no doubts she will marry and have kids with, and doing all of this with her own background of trauma. And then I’m here, entirely alone, unable to work out what I want to do, unable to move away, unable to feel in control of my life. I have an ex(not boyfriend, don’t know what to call him) who is pestering me to see him and that’s really just one 6 year long mess. I’ve got a family that I don’t know what to do with because I can’t seem to stop myself loving them even though i know they won’t ever be who I need or want. My brothers fiancé is talking about them having kids, which just makes me want to hurl. And I just completed a chapter in a book on dissociative disorders that terrifies me and that I had refused to do up until that point but somehow I wrote stuff and now it’s out there for somebody to read, even if that somebody is my therapist, and that scares the crap out of me.

So I quit. Because that was something I finally had effing control over. I could say, no more. I could say I was done…Except I signed a contract stating we’d have 2 finishing sessions in the event of terminating therapy (fuck it).

So I handed her the book, told her to rub all the stuff I’d written in it out (to which she said the book was mine to keep, that I mattered, and that my thinking she would just erase me from her life made her sad and brought tears to her eyes). But she took the book, swapped it out for another one that I could read this week while she reads what I wrote in the first one. And then, tomorrow, she’ll let me leave and not come back, without fulfilling the requirement of two final sessions, if this is what I want.

And now I don’t know what I want.

Going there tomorrow and saying goodbye, refusing to let her in, makes me feel in control.

Going there tomorrow and saying I’ve changed my mind, I want to carry on, feels weak. It feels very much not in control. It feels exposed and vulnerable and like I want to push anyone that comes near my heart far away.

It feels like something that I can finally do to say fuck you, I don’t need anybody, I decide what I do, and nobody gets to hurt me.

What a bloody mess, this need for control. I’m not sure how much sense this makes, it’s now 2.45am, and I’m going to take something to try to sleep, so I’m ending it here regardless…