Thursday, February 09, 2006
My therapist is a pretty woman. At first, I guessed her to be “my age” (whatever that means) and I guess technically she’s within that “range” but she’s actually older, or else has aged more poorly than I have. She has crinkles at the corners of her eyes, and slight puffy bags, but they aren’t unbecoming, if anything they give her a sense of wisdom and sincerity. She is thin with blond hair and an attentive gaze so that even when I’m not talking she looks like she is very deeply listening.
Our first appointment, I primarily told her The Story of Me, which is long, and sort of boring when you break it down into a summary. It’s hard to fit the interesting quips and fun side plots in when trying to give a brief overall view of 32 years of moments and memories. After I left her office I felt, well, raw, naked, and maybe just a little sore. It was, for all intent and purposes, like picking scabs off the wounds I have carefully hidden for as long as I can remember. We established that I didn’t really talk to people who were close to me about the “dark places” inside me, because, well, I already feel unworthy, unwanted and unlovable. Sharing that darkness would only make me (at least in my mind) more unworthy, more unwanted, and even less lovable. The problem with shutting out the world like that is that it only perpetuates those feelings of depression and isolation.
The second appointment was much, much harder. We had to go places I have been reluctant and unwilling to go, even here, even in my head. We talked about the relationship between my parents and myself. We talked about how abandoned I’ve felt and about how I didn’t get from my mother what I not only wanted but needed. As a result, I’m still seeking those things I didn’t get as a child (love, affection, acceptance of my worth, inclusion in a family unit, praise for a job well done, and on and on…) in my adult life, but I’m doing so in a way that sets me up for failure because I now feel I’m not worthy of those things (obviously, I mean, if I wasn’t granted those simple respects and acknowledgements as a child, well, why would I be allowed to now?) so the circle goes round and round. It was really hard having to admit that, well, yeah, my childhood was fucked up. On the outside, the very facade of a normal family life was kept up very prettily, but inside, things were wrong, very wrong.
The thing is, parents do things to us that change us forever. In some ways, that’s their job. I want to change my children from being totally dependant suckling babes into (eventually) independant, self sufficient, contributing members of society. Along the way, though, I’ll probably change them in ways that leave them hurting and helpless and, well, just not quite where they want to be mentally or emotionally, or even financially or physically (Devon has often regretted moving from Livermore.) In that way I know my parents have scarred me, too, and I find that I agonize over that. Part of me feels so hateful, so resentful, so “How could you do this to me?” and part of me feels so guilty and ashamed and embarrassed, because, well, somehow I should be able to just pick up and move on, and somehow it must be my fault, and somehow I deserved all that I got. Being a parent now, I understand a bit more why my mother was so bitter, so resentful, so burdened by her children (me, in particular), but that doesn’t change the fact that it wounded me deeply.
So. Here’s where it gets tricky. If someone other than my mother had done or said the things she has done or said to me, I could, without looking back, without regret, without a single second thought, walk away and remove myself from that unhealthy and unhappy situation. As a child, I had no choice, I was reliant on my parents for what they did offer (food and shelter if nothing else) and couldn’t just walk away. Now that I have a choice, the pattern has been set and that little voice keeps coming back to haunt me, the one that says, “But, she’s my mother!” We forgive our mothers their tresspasses, or at least pretend to pretty well, don’t we?
The third therapy visit was less traumatic. We talked about my family today, now. We talked about the dynamics and the fragilities. A huge revelation to me was that I feel very comfortable in this parenting gig. It’s something others may do better, it’s something that I may not do perfectly, but I’m generally comfortable with my imperfections. In part, I am comfortable because I know what I’m doing is not a repeat of what my mother did, at least not usually (there are moments…) and I can see the fruit of my labor in how my children behave and succeed in their lives. Could I do better? Sure. But at least I’m comfortable admitting that, too, and in moving forward every day with my achievements and failures.
However, with the partnering gig? Not so comfy. Not so secure. I’m married to someone with whom I share almost nothing of my internal workings or even, anymore, daily life. I feel shut out and shut in, and lonely most of the time. We talked a lot about how formulating a stronger family platform from which to jump off would make expanding my support network and social settings a bit easier. I’ve always had one or two really close friends and then maybe a circle of people with whom I associated but who were never terribly close. Those one or two close friends became, for all intent and purposes, my family. Well, clearly now that I have a family of my own, I have more power to change the dynamics and make things a bit more how I want them to be - to strengthen the familial platform, such that it is. In doing so, I’ll be able to have a strong enough base to stand from to help ward off the early stages of depression, and to gain experience in socializing with other people, other friends, so that I can then form wards to help with social anxiety and even further with depressive episodes. Neat, huh?
Not that it’s that easy, “Oh, I’ll just make my marriage better and everything will be hunky dorey!” but at least it’s a good place to start.
The most recent appointment was more centralled around TDO and what he does (or doesn’t) give to the relationship. We talked about how I treat him and what I wish I could get from him. It was a difficult session because I really hit a road block. Are there things I want from TDO? Definitely. Does he give them to me? No. Is that because he’s unwilling or unable? I don’t think so, at least not always. So what’s the issue? Simple. I don’t know how to communicate my needs. I don’t know how to ask for time, attention, affection, etc. Not only do I not know the appropriate ways to ask, I feel utterly terrified and mortified at asking. My mother made me to feel that I was a huge burden on her. If that is so, then isn’t it more burdensome ot ask for something more than what TDO is already giving me? Isn’t that selfish? Shouldn’t I be able to just take care of my own needs? I always had to as a child. If I needed comfort, I comforted myself. If I was lonely, I had to seek outside the family for company. If I wanted to talk to someone, I called a friend. It’s really difficult to break that pattern. It’s really hard to comprehend that maybe - just maybe - TDO likes being helpful, wanted, and needed.
After session number three, he and I had a long talk and one of the things he said was that he felt very much like a rock at the bottom of “Friendship Pond.” He just lurks at the bottom and waits for other people to come to him - usually people who have sunk to their lowest. Me? I jump right into that pond and while I may splash and flail for not knowing how to swim, I at least am willing to give it a try. I seek out that pond. He just lives at the bottom, friends coming to and surrounding him. Something struck me hard and deep when he said, “But I seek you out. You’re the only person I do seek out.”
After this most recent session, we talked about how I have a really hard time asking him for what I need. He was so frustrated. We talked in circles for so long until he finally said, “You don’t need me!” And… that’s… a… bad thing? I mean, that was the whole point of all these years, is me making myself as unobtrusive and self sufficient as I could manage. But, no, he wanted me to need him. He felt that if I didn’t need him, there was no point to him being here in this relationship, and once that had time to sink in, wow… he’s right.
So, I think I’m making progress. Maybe all this is so simple and obvious to others, but to me, some of these things are just huge revelations. Most of the time, I feel that these are sneak peaks into what could really be, but at least I feel optimistic and hopeful that I can possibly reveal the rest of the picture as time passes and I delve further into these altered perspectives. I guess that’s the coolest thing, it’s not about changing who you are or who you’re with or making other people change how they are, it’s just about altering your perspective, moving a few degrees one direction or another so you can see the picture a little differently. It’s amazing how much that alone can adjust attitudes and actions and reactions.
breeno at 02/10/06 06:33 AM
This is a thing of great beauty, Liberty.
MaxliderGrl at 02/10/06 02:49 PM
“I guess that’s the coolest thing, it’s not about changing who you are or who you’re with or making other people change how they are, it’s just about altering your perspective, moving a few degrees one direction or another so you can see the picture a little differently. It’s amazing how much that alone can adjust attitudes and actions and reactions.”
It does my heart good to read posts such as this. The realization you just described has been my greatest weapon in the war on Depression (nearly 5 years without a significant “episode”). Everything changed for me when I made the choice to commit to that understanding fully and completely. I wish you all the best on this path.
Pooka at 02/10/06 08:19 PM
Bottom of the pond. That’s how I felt when said “hi” to the guy at the lunch table at Mitchell 15 years ago. It took weeks of sitting at that same table, just the two of us, one on either end, before that greeting occurred. I see what that can mean.
And I feel that alone-ity in trying to communicate the bitty parts of me. It’s strangely hard to share them with this one of mine who is so close. I’d rather talk over all the wants and needs elsewhere, just not with someone I have to face every day. If only intimacy really could be what it means—sharing everything.