We will make our own language 

“It is so important for me to know that you are feeling this way. Stuck. Overwhelmed. Held captive by the tyranny of language. Because now I know what we can do. We will make our own language.” – A 

I was ready to quit. I think she knew that too, considering my opening line was “I don’t want to talk to you.” I get stuck in these moments that I can’t intellectualize away, and as somebody who has often only been praised for being intelligent, with my intellect being a core part of my identity (the only one that has not changed, the life force I hold on to), it frustrates me and feels limiting when my plentiful cognitive assets cannot navigate me through therapy.

Couple that with what A said last week about it being harder for her when I don’t let her in, and I arrived at session on Thursday ready to walk right out if she refused to read my letter. I was not having any of it. This is the first time I sat down and basically quit. 

Feeling stuck, worthless, ashamed, and generally underserving. We bounced back and forth. She kept asking me why I didn’t want to talk to her and I kept telling her that all I wanted was for her to read the letter. She asked me to read it, and I said no, and if she wasn’t going to read it, I was leaving. She then danced around the letter, asking me why I won’t talk to her, and eventually I told her how last week I felt like that this is the point where my therapists abandon me, because I stop being able to communicate, and then I’m too much. So what is the point in even trying? She asked another question and I was like “listen, it is way more eloquently explained in my letter. I will even acquiesce and read it to you, but can we please read it?” So we did (note how she got what she wanted, and I read it to her).

So I read it – and explained that how we are taking on my biggest defence of being what is “normal”, acting “normal”, and that I have no problem with confrontations based off of fake emotions but if it’s how I really feel? I freeze. I struggle with communication. I don’t recognize myself or my body as separate from the events or emotions of a situation. I don’t see myself as a separate entity. 

I also referenced my biggest fear, about being dismissed or abandoned or punished when I do share my feelings. 

And A, being A, directed the conversation to how I did show up even though I didn’t want to, about how I am worthy of care (she asked me to say “I am worthy of care. I am deserving of care.” And I told her if I said that I’d be lying to her, because I don’t believe it. I don’t. Not on any true, real, level). So she said it for me. She talked about how our brains work – primitive vs non-primitive, and how we can be limited by language in moments of duress.

And then she said that quote, that I started with, and suggested we form our own language, with our own cues. Verbal, non-verbal, whatever works for us so I can cue her, somehow, when I’m overwhelmed. She apologized for unintentionally tripping what I call the “Liz wire”, of me feeling like I’m going to be too much and she’s going to abandon me.

I told her at the end of the session that I feel like there is no good choice. Silence means she abandons me. Talking means she abandons me. So my instinct was to not show up. But I know, that if I leave now, I’m never coming back to therapy. 

So we created some cues and discussed what works and want doesn’t and I’m hopeful that I actually can communicate with her. We have a therapy safe-word, if you will, that I just say if I can’t say anything else (the word is chicken, cause that’s what popped into my head, and we are unlikely to be talking about chickens). So I just say “chicken” or she can ask “chicken?” And if I don’t reply, or nod my head, she knows I’m too far in it, that I’m overwhelmed.

I felt better when I left. I still felt ashamed and small, that I need help communicating. I still felt like there was something wrong with me. But closer to her, warmer, and that would have been enough. 

But then… 

Later that night I get an email. From A, with a link to two podcasts. One about trauma and the brain, and one about vulnerability. Both over a year old, with the sentence “our sessions lately reminded me of these talks that I think will help you.”  Not only did it make me feel amazing that she thought of me outside the office (which she tells me she does but I don’t believe), but also that she pulled up old podcasts to share.

So I listen to the trauma and the body one, that night. And after having this whole session where I talk about how I cannot intellectualize the fact that I cannot speak to her – she goes and fucking finds someone, who has studied this, a PhD level Harvard instructor, who has peer reviewed things to say. She finds someone who can appeal to the intellectual side of me and defeat my shame with facts. 

And I am just so grateful to have a therapist who gets it.


11 thoughts on “We will make our own language 

  1. This is lovely. I love that A meets you where you are, and seems to understand you on a deeper level. You’ve found a great therapist. 🙂 I also struggle to communicate when I get overwhelmed… It’s like my brain just shuts down. I would love to listen to those podcasts in you don’t mind sharing them? ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d love to listen to the podcasts if you are willing to share?
    I’m so glad you braced going to therapy and that you talked (even reading your letter!) to A. You did good. And you know what? Bea and I used flash cards at one point because I couldn’t say or spell certain words. We used email. We’ve used a white board, with my writing on it when I couldn’t speak. I once hid under a blanket and texted Bea, and she texted me back because even hearing her say the words out loud was too painful. We had to create our own way of communicating, and you know what? I think that when we are real and express ourselves and let vulnerability out in our relationships outside of therapy, we create our own language with that person, based on shared experiences and vulnerabilities and who we each are. Right? So it’s not so weird or shameful I that light. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Alice! They’re in the new post 🙂

      I love those examples that you gave me, they definitely help. I’m starting to realize that creating our own language is actually a tool to help us, and that I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. And you’re right, we really do create our own languages with everyone, when its intimate and vulnerable, so thank you for that context. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A is awesome. She sounds like she can be very tough too, when she thinks it will benefit you – I love how you ended up reading the letter anyway. I understand the feeling of being scared of being dismissed or abandoned or punished when you expose yourself by sharing your real feelings, it’s something that’s coming up a lot for me as well at the moment. I often find myself thinking “I don’t remember therapy being this much hard work before” and constantly wanting to not go or not talk or lie or quit just to avoid dealing it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A IS awesome. And yes, she can be incredibly tough and I can get really bullheaded with her, but she never budges and also never takes it personally, which is helpful.

      I also don’t remember it being this much work before, but that’s probably because I’m really IN the shit this time. I just can’t be in a hurry, because that makes things feel slower!


  4. 🙂 I’m grateful that you have someone who gets it too. She really does get it, and she’s going to be there for you. I’m glad you have this communication method and I’ll be interested to see how it works.

    Liked by 1 person

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