************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Monday, July 22, 2013


It's been almost a year since my therapist began to change the dynamic of our work.

For nearly five years she'd been answering my emails quite regularly. It is a lot to ask, much more than I ever would have expected from anyone before I came to know her. That connection brought more growth than I could have imagined was possible in a relatively short time. Because I didn't have to do it alone, I could handle much more of what was going on inside me as I walked the hard steps through my past. I needed to be there for my family - for my children. Without her near-constant presence,I believe hospitalization would have been necessary on more than one occasion - or I would have had to give up on the self-work completely.

Her commitment brought trust.
I trusted like a child.
I trusted in a way I'd never trusted when I actually was a child.
In many ways, it was this trust that helped me grow up through our work.

And then, the day came when she said I didn't need that kind of attention any longer.
In my mind, I heard, "I'm leaving."

I went through a months-long grieving process which seemed to be all about her, but was in reality about much more than our relationship. I was already months into this process when I wrote the story, "The Eagle and the Swan". I believe you can hear the pain I still felt as you read about Eagle finally flying on her own.

So, I've been letting go of the email connection with my therapist. If I really need a response from her, I have to ask for it. While I still see her for weekly sessions, the in-between interaction very gradually diminished.

It took eight months before I went an entire week without asking for any response. During that time, I wasn't able to work on much other than the growing up surrounding this difficult letting-go. I had to come to trust myself as I'd trusted her, and that was no easy matter.

And now, eleven months since this shift started, I have finally reached a point where I don't go to bed feeling sad every night. Maybe that sounds ridiculous to you, but that was the reality. I've cried more over this separation than I have over any childhood issue we've addressed.

I'm aware that a lot of my sadness was really about my childhood. I was grieving those things I needed as a child that my therapist gave so freely--specifically, unconditional love and acceptance.

 I always feel a disappointed in myself when I start thinking about asking for a reply to an email, but yesterday, I was feeling overwhelmed. I counted and found that it had been thirteen days since I'd last asked for a response. So, I wrote up my feelings and put, "Please Respond" in the subject line.
 And then I waited.
And checked.
And waited.
And checked.
I stayed up until 1:30 this morning. No reply came.

When I finally dragged myself up to bed, I sat down on the floor where I do my nightly self-check-in. I opened a journal and put pen to paper and immediately felt tears well up. I felt so angry at myself for crying but there was no stopping it.
It's ridiculous. 
I shouldn't need her. 
I am an adult. 
A capable adult.
I should not need her to be okay.

It was all I could do to keep from sending her another email asking what had happened. I knew if I did, I'd regret it. I knew my anger would find its way onto the page and in the morning I'd be filled with remorse. Instead, I poured my anger and grief and frustration into my journal. As I did so, a memory from when I was four years old popped up. As I saw the connection between the pain I felt at not receiving a reply and the old memory, my crying became more intense, but also more healing.

The memory:

There’s ghosts! 
I scream but they don’t go away! I scream and scream! I get out of my bed and run to Dana’s door and my head feels so big and full I think the ghosts are right inside me.
Dana's door is locked! I jiggle the doorknob and scream again. When she opens the door, I run in and right to her and grab hold of her legs and start crying.
“What are you doing?”
She doesn't sound right. My head is full of ghosts and it makes her voice sound really far away. I put my hands on my ears and squint in the dark. I say, “I don’t feel good.”  I take a big gaspy breath to make the crying stop.
“Are you gonna throw up?”
I didn't think of that. I hope I don't do that. “No.”
“You sure?”
I nod my head.  “My head hurts." It really feels giant but I don't say that. "And my ears hurt and my throat hurts. My everything hurts.”
“Come on,” she says and she takes my hand. We walk to Mommy and Daddy’s room and she knocks on their door. I can hear Daddy being grumpy but Mommy opens the door. I can only see her a little bit. It’s her hair and her shape and she’s right there but she seems far away. 
Everything is so far away.
Dana tells Mommy I was screaming.
“I don’t feel good,” I say and even my voice is far away. It’s like the whole world just left me here.
Mommy puts her hand on my forehead. “She’s burning up.”
I'm not really burning up. She just says that when I’m sick. It means she b’lieves me.
Mommy closes her bedroom door and picks me up even though I'm too big. Dana goes back in her room and closes her door. Mommy carries me to the bathroom. She closes that door, too. She turns on the light and now it’s so bright I can’t open my eyes. 
She sits me on the sink. It's cold but its not wet. I hear the cabinet open and then she says, "Under your tongue.”
I peek and open my mouth for the 'mometer.  After while, I can open my eyes a little more. Mommy smiles a really tired smile at me. There's a humming sound in my head but otherwise it's really quiet while we wait. Everything still seems pretty far away.
She takes the ‘mometer out of my mouth and looks at it. Then she opens the little bottle of yucky orange candy. I chew them up. They taste like sweet chalk at first and then the sweet part goes away.  It hurts my throat to swallow them and then I’m crying again. I don't usually cry and I feel so mad that I am and that makes me cry more. Maybe I’ll never stop.
Mommy wipes my face off with toilet paper and says shh and its okay.  I try to stop crying and then I think I make a funny face ‘cause she asks, “Are you going to throw up?”
I shake my head and I’m glad I’m not gonna throw up.
She stands me on the floor. “Come on.” She takes my hand and we walk back to my room.
Mommy tucks me in and she pushes the hair off my forehead. “You’ll feel better in a little bit,” she says. “Try to get some sleep.”
She turns off the light and then she starts to leave.
“Don’t leave!” I sit up and throw the covers off and everything feels really far away again.
Mommy comes back. “Shh. Okay. Okay. Come on.” She tucks me in again and sits by my bed. “Try to get some sleep.”
“Don’t go ‘way.”
“Okay. I’m right here.”
I watch her. She’s just a dark shape but I know it’s her.  After a while my eyes go shut even though I try not to let them.

I hear a creak. It’s the steps outside my room and I open my eyes. “Mommy!”
She comes back in. “Shh. I thought you were asleep.” She sits back down.
“Don’t leave.”
“I’m right here.”
My ears hurt a little less and the buzzing in my head is a little better but my throat seems to hurt even more so I tell her.
“That’s probably from all this crying,” she says.
I didn't mean to cry. 
I watch her. “Don’t leave.”
“I’m right here.”
I try not to close my eyes but it's really hard. I keep them open for a long time but they go shut and then I hear that creak again.
I sit up. “Don’t leave!”
Mommy comes back in. “Do I really need to stay here all night?”
My heart is banging and banging inside me. I don't want to make her stay. But I want her to stay. “Please please please don’t leave.” 
“Okay. I’m right here. I’ll stay.” She tucks me in and sits by my bed. 
For a really long time I watch her shape in the dark. Sometimes I move a little so she knows I’m not asleep. Sometimes I think I might fall asleep and I rub the sleep out of my eyes.
“Don’t leave.”
“Shh. Sleep now. I’m right here.”
I don't want to sleep but my eyes are fighting me and my brain feels soggy like all the crying went right in there. My eyes droop and I pop them open again and again.
“Don’t leave.”
“I won’t. I'm right here.”
I watch her in the dark. My ears feel  better and even my throat feels a little better. I swallow to check and it still hurts but not that bad. My eyes won't stay open so I put my hand on her knee. My skin is right on her skin ‘cause she has her nighty on and she feels warm and real. Now I can tell she's there even with my eyes closed.  
“Don’t leave,” I whisper.
“I won’t," she whispers, too.
I hear the dream voices in my head. I feel Mommy’s knee under my hand.
The dream door opens and I go in.

My eyes pop open.
It’s still dark.
Under my hand I feel blanket.
Mommy’s gone.  

When I wrote out my day's frustrations to my therapist and asked for a response, what I was really asking was, "Are you still there?"
What I was really saying was, "Please don't leave."
And all I really wanted to hear was, "I'm here."
When the expected reply didn't come, it was like waking up in that dark room, alone, all over again.

Will I ever outgrow this?
I want to believe I can. In fact, I have to believe that I can and will.

I am an adult. A capable adult.

Things are getting better all the time. One of these days I'm going to find that I really don't need to ask for a response anymore. In the meantime, I can cut myself some slack. I see the need and I see the reason for the need and I understand that when I cry because my therapist hasn't responded to an email, it's really that little four-year-old who's crying. I can comfort her and tell her, it's okay. I'm here. And I'm not going anywhere.

And I can mean it and make it true in a way that no one else ever could.

We can't be there for anyone else a hundred percent of the time. It is just not humanly possible. But, as adults, we can learn to be there for ourselves. I can accept myself, love myself, and allow my feelings.
All my feelings.
Grief, even when it seems ridiculous.
Anger that seems unwarranted.
Hurt that seems completely over-the-top.
And tears and more tears until I one day wash it all away.

I've learned that when I allow the painful feelings, I can also experience peace and joy and love as well as connection with others when they're available. I can be more open to these positive feelings because I'm not not seeing them through a veil of don't-leave-fear.

In this moment, I accept the reality that others will be there for me as they can and when they can't, I can be there for myself.

And -even so, sometimes it still hurts.

1 comment:

  1. It is hard to let go of people and memories when they have stopped serving us the way they did in the past. For me it means I am moving on and the child inside is reluctant because change is scary. But it ultimately leads to freedom.


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