I saw A on Thursday.
I was mad at her but immediately knew it was displaced anger. I was mad at her because it is safe to be mad at her. I was mad at her because in my head part of me believes that these discoveries – that I am not needed and wasn’t a difference maker in family decisions and that I have spent a lot of time and energy on something that wasn’t necessary – part of me wants to believe that they aren’t true. That the only reason I know about them is because of the work I do with A when really this truth has existed the whole time. I wish I could turn around and go back, hide in the reality I had built for myself for so long. She said many people do, that getting as far as I have is rare, and that she doesn’t think I could hide from these things even if I wanted to now. I know she’s right, and it makes me mad.
The real anger is with my family. The real hurt and sadness and grief lies below. I told A, you know I’ve made progress when I would rather feel anger than address anything else. I was scared of anger seven months ago. I told her I was angry and she smiled and said that was okay. I said I was angry because I am allowed to be angry with her. I’m allowed to be angry there.
We talked about these things. I didn’t want to talk about my emotions but she was challenging me more than usual. It was difficult but I feel like she knows me well enough now to bring me back before I get too far away. It amazes me, how well she reads me. This is going to sound incredibly conceited but it is rare for me to find an intellectual equal that I cannot manipulate in a therapist, or in general. My husband is one. A is another. I don’t get away with shit. Sometimes she will let me redirect or change the topic or not really answer a question – but she always knows I’m doing it. It’s incredibly beneficial, frustratingly so.
I told her that since I realized I wasn’t needed I was going over the ‘Big Moments’ in my head. The moments that are like little flags along the timeline of my life. The moments that stand out to me or were defined by my family as game changers. The traumatic moments. And for most of these ‘Big Moments’, if I take myself out of the video replay, nothing changes. For 88% of them (I did the math) if you take me out of it, everything ends up the exact same way. There is one time where the only difference is that my Mom wouldn’t have tripped on me on the stairs. And then there is the time where my brother first attempted suicide… where I am the difference.
TW: the next paragraph is pretty detailed and graphic in relation to an attempted suicide. Feel free to skip it if it keeps you safe.
I remember pieces of that night but find it very hard to connect to the emotion. A asked me how I felt that day – she said it keeps coming up, in my dreams and in our conversations, and that to her it feels like one of the key traumatic moments in my life. I tell her it’s fine, it was normal, and she tells me that most people don’t find their little brother standing in a pool of blood in their kitchen in the middle of the night after getting up to get a glass of water. I scream when I see him. It’s blood curdling and brings my parents running. I’ve already dialled for help and vaguely recollect my Dad grabbing the phone to connect to the operator. My mom is grabbing dishtowels and my brother is leaning on the counter where he leaves two evenly spaced perfect bloody handprints. Compared to the mess the kitchen is when they all leave for the hospital these handprints could be a child’s finger painting. Add some feathers and you have a Thanksgiving turkey plastered on a paper to give to a grandma.
I think about this. A is asking about my emotions. She’s pushing but gently. I tell her I’m afraid, which is obvious. And then it pops into my head and out loud I involuntarily say “Oh, I don’t like that one. It makes me a bad sister.” Because if I’m being honest – there was an undercurrent of hope there that day. Hope that maybe my parents would recognize the train wreck that I saw coming miles away. That maybe they genuinely did not see the sibling abuse and the torment and the serious mental anguish my brother was in. That this action, this incredibly graphic cry for help, that this would prompt them into action. There was hope there. I felt hope.
Afterwards I cleaned up the mess, alone. Everyone went to the hospital. Except me. I left the two handprints on the counter. I don’t know why. I was 17 and cleaning up something I never should have witnessed.
If I mentally remove myself from that situation, he dies. And there is no way to know if that would have been better or worse for me. I know that. He wasn’t making any noise. I only got up because I was thirsty. I have yet to drink out of that kitchen tap again. And if I think about it, that’s where all of my habits start. Because nothing does change. That was the last moment of hope I had in my life until I moved away.
Part of me wants to find the emotions I used to have surrounding my trauma. That I am overreacting or making a mountain out of a molehill. I even said it to her. I said that I don’t feel like it’s worthy of all the attention. And she said nothing. I thought about how hollow those words felt, like a badly rehearsed play. I can’t put emotion behind them anymore and I told that to A. She said “that’s why I stayed silent. If I felt you believed them, we would be having a different conversation. But you don’t, do you. You can’t anymore. You know that all of this was and is a big deal.” And she is right, I can’t believe in that anymore. I can’t see what happened to me as not traumatic, not abusive, not painful. I’ve made it down a layer where the next steps are addressing these ‘Big Moments’ and unifying my experience in order to move through it. And I wish I could go back some days. But she doesn’t let me. She doesn’t bite at the words she knows I don’t believe.
She called it out for what it is Thursday. She used the term PTSD.
I never should have been left alone that night. Being left after all those ‘Big Moments’ to fend for myself were all signs that taught me that I don’t matter. That my needs don’t matter. And I realized in A’s office that I treat myself like I don’t matter. I put off important health appointments. I let myself be in pain. I don’t eat properly, sleep properly, or exercise. I treat myself like I am the definition of what I was taught – that I am invisible and my thoughts and feelings do. not. matter. I constructed this narrative that they need me for emotional regulation, that if I don’t care for them nobody will, and yet right now they seem to be functioning alright without me. They never really needed me and I convinced myself I had a job that I never really needed to take on.
The narrative has to change and it has to change starting with me. I’m the only one who can change it. And while reintegrating these parts of me is not going to be a picnic, I’m going to leave that work for inside A’s office. And I’m going to slowly work on changing my habits outside of her office. I’m going to teach myself that I do matter. I matter to a lot of people.
I have to start treating myself like I am worthy. Because I am.