My therapist made a promise to me that he wouldn’t read my blog. Dave said he wanted to experience me in the room, and how I interacted with him, instead of through the words I write reflected on a screen. I am torn between believing my therapist and thinking suspiciously that he doesn’t want to get sucked into reading the 100,000+ words I’ve written. “I don’t know how you do it. Aren’t you curious?? I write about you!” “Of course I am curious, but I promised you I wouldn’t read it and I think you deserve someone sticking to their promise for once.” Ouch. Dave still delights in hearing me read stuff I’ve written TO him (not ALL of it because holy shit, 100,000+ words, but pertinent things here and there) because he gets to hear the emotion behind my words, and he gets to watch me react to the effect of my words on his emotions. *cue my IMMENSE discomfort*
I refused to read him Happy Father’s Day. I handed him my phone and let him read it instead. I knew it was important that he know what I had written because it is important to the unraveling of some of my deep-seated issues, but I didn’t want to read it to him. “Why?” “Because I’ll cry, and I don’t want to feel that right now.” It was silly, I thought. A short poem quickly jotted down for a ten minute prompt during my playwriting class…a monologue of someone on their deathbed. Class was the day before Father’s Day, and the words were easy to write. I saw them float before my eyes, drifting from my headspace as if they were separate from me, I wrote them down quickly, knowing the class would gape slack-jawed at me when I read it aloud, and then I recited it to the class. It was emotionless, delivered with ease to my fellow veteran playwrights. But when I got to Dave’s office…I couldn’t look at that poem the same way. Was it the comfort of his presence? No, it wasn’t that at all…it was a lack of Dave’s compartmentalization.
I read I am Vanessa Guillen to him yesterday and he cried…and I laughed at him. Lots to unpack there. I do NOT like when people show me sadness as it relates to my existence and my stories. It becomes very uncomfortable to watch people, especially men, cry over what has happened to me. What makes it worse about my therapist doing it is that we have officially gotten to a point in our work (a year and a half of at least once a week meetings) where I don’t feel like I am playing catch up in telling him my stories. Our sessions are no longer a firehose to the face of stories with a hundred names…they are more reflective and investigative. Everything I bring up now, every name, every story, every reaction of mine, is held by him in a single narrative. He knows when I mention a small detail about my past week, say, I receive an unwelcome email or text message, how it ties back into a dozen other things in my life. Unfortunately, how I have looked at my life and traumas has been as separate instances, different stories of my life clearly defined by introductions, conflict, and resolutions. I didn’t see my stories as a single narrative…because I couldn’t mentally handle seeing my thirty year story laid out as a single life lived…it is, as I am slowly understanding, an immense amount of pain and sadness for one person to hold.
So now I have someone I see as a father figure who knows *almost* everything and who sees me as a single narrative. Of COURSE he cries when I read about my sexual assaults and harassments. “Savannah, when you read that I realized your boyfriend had just died a few months before, you forged a signature to flee your hometown to join the Marine Corps and you were immediately assaulted for years. I think of that little girl whose dad left, who was molested, who carried mutilated bodies in Afghanistan…”
He sees the entire story and encourages me (feels like forcing me) to stop viewing my stories as separate entities. He cries, I laugh at him…because if I don’t laugh I will have to view my entire life as a compounded series of really shitty things, and I don’t know if I can hold that without breaking. He says that is his job, to hold everything with me…and I want to puke. Once I see everything in my life as a whole story, then I will start to see (and have started to see) connections in all of my behavior, from my self-destructive habits to my continued friendship with my rapist (dear god, stop clutching your pearls, I AM WORKING ON IT). Seeing my choices in my story as reflections of past trauma is not easy, continuing to make choices that harm me…something like continued friendship with my rapist is hard to explain, but THAT is complex trauma, and I need to have a little grace and forgiveness in myself for how I have handled things. Years and years of trauma…years of a scared girl just trying to protect herself.
Have you ever tried to untie a knot in a necklace? Pulling the ends apart does nothing but make the knot tighter. The only way to get enough slack in the knot is to crunch the entire thing into a tight ball, sometimes rolling the knot around again and again between your fingers until something gives….Ultimately I will be able to unravel my story, but not without grasping it tightly into a ball and rolling it around a few times. This is painful stuff.