I’m sitting in A’s office before work, about half way through session. She’s leaning forward in her chair, asking about my feelings. I am mentioning a phone call with my Mom on Sunday, that upset me, and getting myself worked up about the fact that I keep reaching and how frustrating it is.
“What do you want, when you call her. What do you want, when you reach for her.”
I almost chuckle. Fat chance of me answering that. But I try to talk my inner defence down. I’ve named my defence Sasha, it makes it easier for me to have a mental conversation with myself I’d the defense has a name. And mentally I’m like – hey, sash, back off. This is where were supposed to be open.
So I go “I don’t know.” Well, it’s better than not talking.
“I think you do. Come on, stay with me here. What do you want when you reach for her. There’s no wrong answer – nothing to be worried or ashamed of .”
I tell her how I wish she would be there, and start to cry. I mention at some point I am reaching and how I hate crying – A briefly talks about the importance of reframing that – but we move on. I say how scared I am of my brother being in town and how I didn’t realize how afraid I was until he wasn’t around anymore.
“Can you be with me, in that fear? Can I be here?”
“No, I don’t like being observed or witnessed.”
“You need someone to tell you that it’s ok to be scared. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s okay.”
I am getting annoyed at her insistence that there is nothing to be ashamed of. But I can’t blame her, I’m not exactly handing out nuggets of info on why I’m silent.
“Yesterday my friend’s son was left in a parking lot after summer camp. They were late to pick him up and he was so scared and alone. My friend called me hysterical and angry, after she put him to bed (she had held in her feelings to support him, and even though they were divorced his Dad and Mom tucked him in together after a traumatizing day), and all I could think is thats been my whole life. My whole life I’ve been left alone in a parking lot, except nobody picked me up. I’m afraid of almost everything to do with genuine relationships.”
“That’s what this about – reparenting you through that terror. You were alone, and things were traumatizing. When you’re not alone, the terror becomes much less terrifying. You needed someone to say ‘sweetie, I see you. It’s not okay that you were alone. It’s not okay that you were put into those situations, situations far worse than being left in a parking lot.'”
“I want to laugh when you say that. It sounds so ridiculous to me. My life wasn’t bad. That sentence makes no sense.
“Can you look at me? I’m going to say it again. Sweetheart, you did not deserve to be left alone, and you are not alone now.”
I sit there and try to take it in. Her love. Her care. It’s so foreign and weird and disconcerting and uncomfortable. It still makes no sense. She’s reaching for me and I’m just watching her.
It’s when I realize my inner child is basically feral. She lives in that parking lot, alone. Abandoned a long time ago. She has learned to survive and to defend herself. And although it would be better for her to be held, and cared for, she shrinks away from it. She shrinks away from being seen (she’s survived by being invisible).
There’s a stark difference between how I feel in A’s office (once I get my defences to back down, I become positively childlike and vulnerable) and how I am at work. A strong manager with 5 employees managing millions of dollars in advertising spend.
I could take the train from A’s office and be there in five minutes. But I choose to walk. The fifteen minutes of my feet hitting the pavement, my “You Can F*cking Do This” playlist playing in my ears, the sounds and atmosphere of the city – the bustle, it knocks me back into my adult self enough to continue my day.
Therapy right now is basically A inching closer to that scared child who doesn’t trust and the wild animal that is the defenses I’ve built up jumping in the way, snarling, jaws snapping, trying to get A to back off. And depending on the day, that could be all it is. We may never get past that. Or, the child climbs on the animals back, wide eyed and curious about the person who isn’t afraid of her wolf. And they could get a good look at each other.
It’s slow. It’s painful. I still can’t believe she’s willing to do it. I also can’t believe I’m willing to pay for it to happen. But I need it… I just hope she doesn’t give up on me and eventually I let her freely wander my parking lot, take my hand, and one day lead me out.