I ended up quite angry before Thursdays session. I knew, that when she asked me how I was, I would tell her “I am angry.” It would be the first time in 5 months I answered with something other than “I don’t know”, or “I’m fine”.
I practiced saying what I wanted to say to A in the bathroom at work, to myself, etc. Eventually, this is what I told her.
I am angry. I am angry with you and I hate when I’m angry with you because I can’t distinguish between logical anger and the validity of my feelings or if it’s overblown or if it’s coming from another place or what is actually going on. Yesterday when you asked me why I defined it as sexual assault – why does it matter?
Why does it matter what it is or what it is supposed to be defined as. Isn’t how I feel what counts? We are taught early as women that any unwanted contact is defined as assault. Unwanted contact of a sexual nature is defined as sexual assault.
It was unwanted contact of a sexual nature so by the definition of what I was taught doesn’t that make it sexual assault? But you confused me yesterday when you talked about it being sexual assault or not and asked me why I chose those words. And I assume you didn’t mean it that way but I kind of felt the implication then was that I am overreacting and it was my fault it happened and – because I didn’t move away or assert my needs earlier and then all the onus is on me. If only I had been smart enough to assert myself. So much for my intelligence.
And yes, I should have asserted myself. When I became uncomfortable I should have asserted myself. There was a period of time where I enjoyed the contact and then I didn’t and when it switched I should have done something. And I hate that I didn’t and it has made me all kinds of angry. But who says he would have stopped? I am not psychic. And it’s no secret I suck at asserting my needs or even knowing what they are.
All I know is at some point, when he started kissing me, I pushed away and he didn’t stop. That when he was lying on top of me with his fingers inside of me and I was watching the blue jays with glazed over eyes that I lost the ability to tell him to stop and his whole weight was pinned to me. I wasn’t going anywhere, I knew that. It was easier to just lie there at that point. And I couldn’t get out of my head or stop thinking about what everyone else needed or out from underneath him until the dog decided she had had enough, growled, and I found my voice and threatened that she was going to start barking and I needed to go to bed.
And we talk about the difference between the lies and this event and you keep asking me to remember the difference – I know the fucking difference. I have spent a lot of time living with that lie. One happened, one didn’t. And you say well, one was violent. And it’s like yea so that diminishes what happened last Friday? The violent one wasn’t real but does that make the actual event less of a real thing or something that affects me less? That because he didn’t hit me or threaten me or leave a mark it doesn’t count? It felt aggressive. It felt angry. It felt like someone was taking something from me that they weren’t meant to have. But now I’m questioning my right to be angry about that. I am questioning my right to have any sort of emotions towards him. Perhaps I should apologize to him for even just being a woman or having boobs or being in his presence or being in a house I belong in way more than he does. I am questioning my right to define this as my experience and I am regretting having talked about it at all.
And while I’m angry and at it, in the future try not to check in with me about if I have lied to you within minutes of me telling you my greatest fear right now is not being believed by you. It doesn’t inspire confidence that you have believed a word I’ve said about anything. And I brought it up in the moment but it kind of felt like a cop out when I asked if you believed me and you said “all that matters is that you feel believed” or “look at me and tell me what you think you see”. I need you to say “PD I believe you” because it matters to me that you believe me. Because I’m done talking about this if you don’t. Because what I did or said in the past isn’t supposed to determine things now. If I am not allowed to project current me to the future then if you are bringing past me to the present isn’t that hypocritical? And In my head you’re not saying “I believe you” outright because you don’t believe me. And I don’t know how to navigate this and if you don’t believe it’s true then why am I bothering to trust you with it.
You keep telling me it doesn’t matter – the actual definition of what happened – that all that matters is how I define it and how I see it – but it sure as hell feels like it matters to you.
All I know is somebody I trusted took something he wanted from me without my permission, that I am angry and I feel violated. That I feel like it was my fault. And I know that right now I don’t feel safe talking about it. And so I’m talking about why that makes me angry instead.
I said this all to her, and yelled at her in person and got mad and then ended up just staring at the wall.
She talked about believing me and everything I tell her at face value and about how much she values our relationship, she was trying to keep me engaged and from disassociating… I was angry and just staring at the wall (I used to stare out the window, but she closes the blinds now, cleverly). She asked for my eyes, if I could look at her. I said no, so she told me to take my time. Then I said I felt like an adult throwing a temper tantrum and she said that was more than okay. She said “PD, you expressed valid hurt that is reasonable. You have every right to feel hurt right now.”
I said I felt like we were back in month one where I couldn’t look at her, and she said “ah yes, but we have a relationship now. One that is safe. Can you please try to look at me? I have something to tell you, something important.”
I looked and she said, completely sincere and genuine “PD, I believe you. I believe you.”
I started to cry. I said thank you. She said “what did that mean to you?”
I told her that any time I reveal any part of myself, it is a big risk. It is a big risk for me to show up each week. I tell her things that have gone poorly when I’ve told others. I trust that she holds some of it, and when I thought she was judging me it felt impossible.
That I know that our relationship is her focusing on me and not equal but I need to genuinely feel like she is there. And then she said such a lovely thing.
“Yes, PD, our relationship is one sided in many ways – it is my job to care for you and hold space for you. But I want you to know that I learn SO much from you. You challenge me and make me better. I have to be on my game and growing as a counsellor because you will call me on things I do in error, like today. I am so grateful you brought what you did up because I can see the connection you made between lying and me not believing you and you teach me something every day. I want you to know I am so grateful for you. And for our relationship because I am learning and growing as a counsellor in this room too.”
We talked about the labelling, and how I didn’t even notice and she said “and yet it was such a big deal to me, as a mistake, that I think I over corrected.” And I said “we had two different interpretations of the same situation” and she said “that is an excellent observation, and I am sorry, PD.”
I told her that defining my experience was too difficult and that it just felt too big. That the experience felt too big for the words – like some languages have 17 words for love I didn’t feel my vocabulary was big enough for my feelings.
And she asked me how that felt. And I answered – maybe sadness, and grief.
She asked me to sit with it, and it became difficult. My emotions are difficult, I find them so hard. I kept trying and she kept saying “PD, I’m right here” and “PD, stay with it.” I tell her saying my name helps me stay and she tells me that’s good to know.
Eventually I float into my safe and numb place and I count the ceiling tiles and she says “where did you go, where are you” – and I say “somewhere safe and numb” and she says “okay, that’s okay. It’s okay to be there” and I tell her “A, I feel like I’m making no progress at all” and she tells me “PD you stay with it for so much longer now, it’s okay, you’re doing so well. I love you and I’m proud of you.”
She helps me ground and come back, and I realize I like that she doesn’t shy away from the L word. We do some scheduling, I get my hug and MnMs and we totally don’t end up doing payment which was interesting. I called her from the lobby and we agreed to move it forward to next session.
I’m proud of myself for articulating my anger and I’m so grateful to A for handling it. A while ago this would have been a multi week rupture of me refusing to talk, so it’s better this way.
And she believes me. Which means we can start to heal.