Once again, i think it’s important to start with a warning:
If you are currently in a place where you’re easily upset or triggered by content, this may be a piece you’d like to skip, either until you’re better able to process, or even altogether.
If you are a multiple, this piece contains the prelude to a discussion of integration. Take care of yourself and your system. Think about it before proceeding. Talk to your p-doc or whomever is your mental health professional go-to.
It’s okay, you can take a condom
It’s okay, you can take a valtrex
And it’s okay, you can get an abortion
And then keep on keepin’ on
And then keep on keepin’ on
~ Vic Chesnutt, You Are Never Alone
I’ve written at length about my life experience with therapy, but a (semi) brief refresher course would be apropos.
I started therapy when i was around 6yrs old, when my mother sought treatment for my night terrors. After that, she began involving me in whatever new thing she was into, as she struggled with her own mental health. We chased a few pop psychology gurus including Werner Erhardt and EST, and Fritz Perls and Gestalt. She jumped on every bandwagon and read every book. If you are unfamiliar with my story, let me be clear that, although she had her own issues that needed addressing, i don’t believe that’s why she walked those paths and broke bread with those people.
I don’t think she ever put any serious work into becoming a better, healthier person. It is my opinion that these places were rich with easy targets for her to use, and the icing on the cake was that they also vastly increased her arsenal of weapons with which to manipulate people. And this is what i may have subconsciously took in – her absolute derision of anyone seeking healing or enlightenment through psychology. They were beneath her.
Then there was the indoctrination i’d received since birth that i’m never to talk about what happens in our home. Ever. And i was a good girl who did as she was told. Even when teachers or school psychologists, members of the church, friends of the family, or mandated social workers would occasionally smell something off and ask me questions varying from vague to pointed – i said nothing. Years later, when i was a new mother and sought out an old and much-loved caregiver for insight, she related a story of a night i was dropped off at her home for an overnight. I had obviously been seriously beaten, and when she asked me about it, all i would say is that my mother had told me not to speak about it.
At one point i was taken from her and put into foster care, which cemented my brainwashing. Every visit home she’d fill my head with how all the caregivers and professionals around us were trying to take me away from her, how they were telling lies about her and trying to keep us apart; how my foster parents were trying to adopt me and i’d never see her again. I was too young to know that she’d made me both her mother and her spouse years before, so she was triggering me to come home and take care of her.
I carried that distrust and suspicion with me until i was 21yrs old, when my mother abandoned me at a shelter after an attempted rape by a family member, and a tiny, First Nations social worker convinced me by just telling her own story that i was a victim of child abuse.
Once i knew the truth i was set on figuring my shit out, and i knew i’d need help to do it, but i could never find the right person. I could work with someone for a while, but they’d either tell me after a couple of visits that i was fine, they’d hit a wall they couldn’t get over, or they’d suggest i was a multiple and i wouldn’t go back. There was a wonderful social worker through my church who was finally able to get me to accept the diagnosis, but the kind of therapy that she offered was filtered through our religion and that was never going to help me.
Since i was 21, i’ve probably seen at least a dozen therapists, and that’s not counting psychologists or psychiatrists i’ve seen through my medical doctor or when i was either staying voluntarily in various hospital units (i call them The Bin, with zero affection) and mental hospitals, or being forcibly committed. I’ve done various group therapies offered through different counselling groups and tried a lot of 12step groups, and courses and workbooks under the care of trained facilitators galore…
How funny -and here i mean both peculiar and haha- that i should finally find the right person in a little sleepy town i’d gone to hide in, who agreed to see me at my husband’s desperate request, at a women’s shelter on short notice?
I don’t remember anything about meeting her, just going to the shelter and i think she was in an office down the stairs? I may have seen her a couple of times there, but she incredibly, graciously offered to come to my home for sessions, which was wonderful, because i was taking off down the road all the time at that point. Maybe i told her these things or maybe she ascertained my level of fuckedupness and stooped down low to meet me where i was at, either way, she started coming and i actually let her in.
She did (or rather didn’t do) a number of things other than that, that no other therapist had ever (not) done before*:
– she didn’t ask for my life story;
– she didn’t ask to talk to my system or even ask for their names;
– she respected my request for no spirituality and talked about things from a science or experience perspective only.
She would sit on the big leather couch by the front door, and i would sit on the love seat, on the side farthest from her. The other thing she didn’t do, not even once, was push. Not to talk about anything, not to do anything, not even to think about anything, that i didn’t want to. Not ever.
I think it was over a year, and maybe even 2, before she could sit beside me.
And sometimes, i would even look into her eyes.
We’ll never know for sure of course, and i know i’d have kept trying as long as i could have, but i was spiralling down hard and fast and she helped me save my life. I may not have got that done in time without her.
One more thing she never pushed on me, though we discussed it: integration.
Here we go.
*Sorry to grammar people for that one. It hurts my brain a little too, but that’s how it came out, and i try not to edit this stuff.
Photo credit: Melancholy, Louis Jean François Lagrenée (c. 1785)