Because This Is The Only Way I Can Communicate With You

Dear A,

​I don’t want to talk to you right now. I want to quit. I am feeling frustrated, I’m feeling like this whole process (the timing, and how fast I’m able to go) is out of my control. I’m ashamed about the fact that when I’m in moments of overwhelm or even approaching them, I can’t communicate. I absolutely hate that I am capable of thinking things that I want to say to you, things I need to communicate, but can’t verbalize them. I can think about what I need or what is going on for me, I usually know at least where I am mentally, but I can’t tell you. It’s like I’m incapable of speaking. I’m helpless. I dive into body memories out of my control and can’t surface of my own accord but I also can’t communicate to you that I need help surfacing.

Do you know how incredibly frustrating that is and how incredibly pathetic it makes me feel? To have thoughts, in my head, that I want to share with you, and to not be able to open my mouth and say them because it’s suddenly so scary? Because connection is terrifying. I’m literally terrified of sharing my feelings and thoughts. And I didn’t realize how scared I was until I started doing this work and thinking about it. And now all I can think of when I try to talk to you is what normally happened when I shared my feelings. Which I had forgotten, but now remember. And the fact that I am speechless, and incapable, it doesn’t surprise me anymore. The emotions render me speechless, in so many ways, and I feel so helpless when I can think of what I want to tell you and what I need to say, but I can’t verbalize it. And I know it makes you work harder too. Anything outside of a yes/no question or you being incredibly directive leaves me silent, when the last thing I want to be is silent. And then we miss each other, because you’re not psychic and you’re trying to work with what I’m giving you (which isn’t a lot). So you are left guessing. And I leave less connected than when I arrived when we miss each other like that.

I’m angry, I’m grieving, I’m sad, I’m ashamed. Why not add being a quitter to that list? Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe working through this mountain of trauma and emotion is just too much. I started this week off thinking I needed to ask for help in communicating, maybe I needed a non-verbal bridge to get me from where I am (whether it’s overwhelmed, or just taking a break, or it’s shame, or it’s counting) to communicating with you (because they all look the same, and you’re not psychic). Or maybe yes/no questions, or even a scale of “how overwhelmed are you 1 to 10”. Or flash cards or something that lets me communicate to you without opening my mouth. Or maybe I need more reminders of safety… that you’re not going to be mad at me, or punish me, for sharing. In fact, I know I need that. But all of those feel so kindergarten-esque and I keep thinking I should be better than that, and I’m smarter than that. And then I feel so so lost and just want to quit. 

Last week, when you said that it’s harder for you to do your work when we aren’t connected, you asked how I felt hearing that. And I got quiet and refused to speak to you. That, in that moment, unlike the others, was me choosing not to talk. Because that upset me. In my head, I had been trying SO hard to tell you what I was thinking, and whether or not you intended to, you telling me I was making it hard on you made me feel really shitty, and like no matter what I do I’m going to I am going to end up making this difficult. And you’re going to quit on me, just like she did, because I’m ‘too much for you to deal with.’ Even though it’s not on purpose it’s another case of me being difficult. And that means my hard work doesn’t matter. So the answer to your question – how did hearing that make you feel – is guilty. Hearing what you said made me defensive and feel guilty. Because the last thing I want is to be making this more difficult for you. I am sure I’m not a joy to be around anyways, throwing emotion left and right, being incapable of talking. Forcing you to guess at my feelings. I know you weren’t implying it but I felt like I was doing a shitty job while simultaneously trying so hard to connect. I felt like I was letting you down. It felt like all you needed from me was for me to speak and tell you how I feel, and after all you’ve given me I can’t even do that. I am not choosing to be difficult, A. I am not choosing to be quiet 99% of  I the time. I have always been an exceptionally good communicator, and I can’t even get that right  here. That’s how it made me feel. Like I’m failing. I can’t even bring my best skill to the table to try to help us. 

I’m tired, and it feels like I’m never going to get better, so what’s the point? And that’s how I am today, and that’s where I am today. I honestly don’t know if I can do this work. We are taking on my biggest defence, my ability to go through life pretending to have the emotions of the normal people I observed long enough to successfully adopt their habits. And we are also taking on my biggest fear. I don’t share, because I am going to be dismissed at best, punished at worst, with a few other steps in between. The world of actual emotions is foreign to me. And not having my shield makes me feel vulnerable, and small. And, apparently, renders me unable to speak. So I don’t know if I am able to do this work. Connecting with you makes me feel defenseless, and that’s never been something I could allow in my life. Because that’s always when the other shoe drops. 

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7 thoughts on “Because This Is The Only Way I Can Communicate With You

  1. This is a great email, and I think it will help A understand what is going on.

    E used to tell me “go only as fast as your slowest part wants to go.” It took me a while to get it, but now that I’ve really soaked in that message, it has helped me. I’ve learned that feeling overwhelmed in therapy may mean that I’m pushing to go faster than I am actually ready to go. (I used to do this a lot and would end up the next day at work, lying on the floor in the [co-ed] bathroom, hyperventilating, even as I wondered if any of the guys had dribbled on the floor. Yuck!)

    Anyway, now when I feel Shame creeping up on me in therapy, I sometimes pause and slow down. I recently told E, “I think that’s as much as I’m ready to talk about today.” This felt GOOD. It was partly about having the control about what does and does not happen.

    I know this may not seem very relevant to you, and maybe it isn’t. I was just thinking that maybe feeling overwhelmed and unable to talk to A might be because you don’t feel entirely ready to talk. One part of you has those thoughts you want to share (the brave, charge-ahead part). Another part (maybe Shame or one of her friends) says, waaaah, no, I can’t bear the intimacy or attachment or vulnerability of sharing this. So you end up silent. (Again, I don’t know, just one theory…). What if you accepted this part, kindly and with compassion? what if you said, “Hey Shame (or Fear or Anxiety or Mumblety Jumble), I see how much this upsets you. I see you don’t want me to tell A about [whatever]. And I bet you have a reason for that. Maybe we can write or draw or talk about what that reason is. I bet you’ve been trying in your own way to protect me, and I’m so grateful to you for that. Can you help me understand better what you want to communicate?”

    Please disregard if this is way off base. I may be projecting my own experience too much onto you. But for me, it’s been helpful to learn to accept and even love my resistant, anxious, irrational parts and to acknowledge that they might not be quite ready to give up their old ways. They might need time and permission to let down their guard before they are willing to try something different.

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  2. I really really get where this is coming from. And I am sad for you, but also a bit relieved that I am not the only one. Writing emails and actually sending them is what eventually made it so I could start talking to Elle. I still really suck at it, but it helped. And she is better able to help me speak as she is more informed of where I may be coming from. I also found that doing things with my hands makes it easier, like playing with the sand as well as having her sit beside me on the floor rather then across. It sometimes makes me feel so silly that she has to accommodate me this way, but that’s just Shame talking. I hope you do give this to her.

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  3. I agree. Trust yourself and this process. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be right now, and A isn’t coming into this with any expectations. You are where you are, and that’s okay. Giving her this letter will show her where you are (this is my favorite one, btw). This isn’t linear. This isn’t easy. But it will be worth it, I truly believe that.

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    • Thanks for reading all the versions. I agree that this is my favourite. I can now relax. I know I have found the right words when it feels like the version I can bring to session. I need her to know where I am and I haven’t been able to communicate it.

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  4. PD, healing is a long and difficult process. I can vouch for that. I can also understand how someone would want to quit and how someone would feel that they aren’t going to get better, I know how all of that feels. because I too have experienced that. I can’t tell you that this is easy or that it won’t continue to be painful as you continue healing. What I can tell you however, is that with time, patience with yourself, and the support of those who love and care about you, you WILL get through this. Please don’t give up on the process or yourself.

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