Therapy today. I'm writing this in a document offline, on the red line, heading home. First leg done, second in progress, third and fourth to go.
I thought that, given how intense last week had been, my therapist would probably want to talk about it - process it - today, for at least part of the time. That of course brings up the possibility that it was actually I who wanted to spend time processing. I did think about it. I was ambivalent. I would have wanted to, except I didn't know f it was possible to do it in a useful way, and I didn't want to stay surface for the whole session, which can so easily happen. I decided to go in switched, but to someone who could process. I have a cluster of somewhat young modes some of whom talk and some of whom only write, who are good intermediaries. They can talk about things - and know more about what's going on inside than my top brain does - without saying at an analytic, emotionless level. They have a name/names, but I think we're keeping that private for now. So I went in - verbal - in one of those modes.
But it turned out she didn't necessarily want to process, though she did want to hear from me about any aftermath. I described feeling very triggery and flash-backy and having 'body stuff' but couldn't give her an accurate assessment of how long that had lasted. I described some of what I'd been feeling over the weekend, but said I wasn't sure that belonged more to triggers or to depression. She responded a little, and then said that, if I was willing to talk about it, what she'd really like to hear a little more about was what I meant when I said 'body stuff.'
I considered this, imagining different scenarios, and told her that I *could* tell her, but if I did, it would be very superficial, and that if she wanted to get more information probably I should write instead. I can quite often write things I find impossible to say out loud. Sometimes I think I'm no different from millions of other people in that, and sometimes I attach significance to it, but either way, it's true, and I've had a lot of therapy sessions which involved my writing silently, interspersed with comments and questions from my therapist.
(Downtown crossing, waiting for the orange line.)
And that is why I have a half-transcript of most of my session today, because I asked her for a photocopy before I left.
I feel like I need to write this down because it's on the edge of evaporating when I try to think about it. I have a really hard time with the fact that I said/wrote/communicated these things. It feels unreal to me, like I must have been making it up, playing it up, reaching inside myself not for the truth but for the worst or most dramatic response. And I don't know. I don't know where the answers came from. I didn't have the full text to deduce my responses from: she asked, I answered, with as little thought as possible. (I swear to god, I would either be the easiest or the hardest person to hypnotize in the whole fucking world, seeing as I can put myself in a state like that on purpose - I just don't know which.) When I wrote them, I had no sense of 'this is true.' I just knew the answer and wrote it down.
I'm stalling. I want to copy out what I wrote to her, and reconstruct her reactions and questions - or at least her questions: the thought of trying to write about her reactions makes me feel weird - because in a few days, and then in a few weeks, and in a few months, but maybe not a few years--but maybe--I need to see that I said these things. And I'm writing where you can see it - where anyone can see it--
--for lots of reasons: because it's part of my on-going dare to myself, where each and every time I put something like this out and nothing bad happens to me, I prove that--nothing bad happens to me. Because there are some people I'd like to know, but I won't be able to say any of this out loud. Because sometimes some people are interested. (I was going to say 'seem,' but I'll take the daring step and assert it, extreme though it feels.) Because there's a chance that at some point, someone will read it, and it will be something they needed to read that no one else was writing.
(on the train again)
So, she asked about 'body stuff' and I told her I could tell her more in writing, so she handed me her notepad. I wrote, in an even, large, round, mature child's writing, very different from my usual scrawl.
When I say 'body things' I mostly mean feeling like there's tight things around my wrists and my throat. I feel like that now, too. ast week, when I wanted to let some of what I was keeping down out, I thought I'd take time when I took my shower, and I put my fingers all the way back in my mouth so I was almost choking. I didn't think about it or know why, I just did it. It felt bad, but it also felt right.
She read this, murmuring as she read, and then she said she thought she probably understood why it wouldn't feel good, so what she was curious about was it feeling right.
My handwriting in the next bit is suddenly small and cramped and uneven. I had shifted the pen so it was gripped tightly
(Stonybrook. Green is next.)
between my middle finger and ring finger, against my thumb.
It felt right because that's what we're supposed to be like. That's what's supposed to happen.
(Forest Hills is next and last stop.) When she read that, she wanted to know who said we were supposed to choke. Was someone inside me telling me that? Someone outside? I stared at her and didn't take the paper for a long time. (Outside on a bench at Forest Hills, waiting for the bus.) What she was asking made no sense at all. It made so little sense that I didn't even know how to tell her that it made no sense.
I wrote, It happens, so that's who we are.
She wanted to know...I'm not sure. Something more about who made it happen.
I tried to make her understand: If someone else doesn't do it, then we do it ourselves.
She said, why? Why am I supposed to be choked? (I wanted to tell her it wasn't about choking, that was a side effect it was about holding my mouth, pressing it open. But that didn't fit, I couldn't find a place to put it in the conversation.) (On the bus, going home.)
I thought hard about it, and then took the pad.
Because we're bad? We're never sure. We think it's just what we're for.
I think the next question was about who did it - maybe again, was it someone inside me choking me, or someone outside?
I wrote, It just happens.
I have no idea what she said next. Maybe something about what made it happen? What I wrote was, It's more like it's always happening. So when we said "come out" because there's too much inside, then it came out and showed us.
She said several things. What I remember was her saying that she wondered if part of why it happened right then was because of the things I'd said in the last session, to which I immediately nodded. Then I think she said something about it being a reaction to having revealed things that not all of us were comfortable with revealing. I tried to gesture that this was one piece, but not the whole thing, but she didn't understand, so I took the pad and scrawled, Partly on it.
She said something about wanting to understand what those parts that were so angry about my talking about these things were afraid was going to happen. (Home.) I didn't understand that, either. They weren't afraid. They...didn't have the necessary bits to be afraid with.
I wrote, I'm going to get in trouble for this, too. That's what those parts are. My handwriting was getting pretty ragged.
I don't remember what she said next. In response, I started writing in the neat, round writing again, smaller than before, almost like my normal writing but less spiky.
There's two things. They work together, but they don't come from the same place. One is keeping things down because it seems like if we don't, we'll fall apart, be crazy, not be able to go to school, go to work, anything. It feels like there's too much. The other thing is that I'm NOT SUPPOSED TO TELL. They have some of the same effects, but they're different. It's no good thinking about just one or just the other.
But the fear of being overwhelmed is a thinking, adult fear. The other is from the core and it doesn't think.
She surprised the hell out of me by not focusing in on the first piece and managing things so as not to be overwhelmed, which is something she's talked about a lot, but focusing on the second piece. She wanted to know what would happen if we told.
I took the pad and just wrote, We'll be killed.
That was one of my most translucent moments. I knew I was writing it, and I thought it was too melodramatic, or too trite, or too textbook, or too something, because all I had was that answer, not any context explaining it, so I couldn't believe in it. But I watched myself write it down anyhow, without any qualifiers, and hand the pad back to my therapist.
She wanted to know--
I'm not describing her. I'm just saying what the things she asked me were. If I were describing her, I'd talk about the time she took reading each thing I wrote, the little under-her-breath sounds she made as she grasped each point of what I'd written, the small comments she made and clarifying questions to make sure she was understanding what I'd said right--things I could answer with a nod or a head-shake. I'd have to think about the expressions on her face, and I don't want to. I spent the whole session, staring directly at her, once I'd started writing, silent, direct, present. My face didn't change at all when she talked, though I moved my eyes, and sometimes frowned or made another expression as I was considering my response once she was done. I was pretty much only there through the writing, and she was attentive, and I find that kind of attentiveness close to unbearable - not bad, just...hard to hold.
I just want anyone reading this to understand that when I say what I wrote, and then what she asked next, that's not all that was happening. She wasn't just plowing through my responses and tearing in with the next question.
She wanted to know who had told us that we would be killed. An outside person? An inside part? She recognized that there was no doubt, that this was knowledge for me, and she wanted to know where that knowledge came from. She put it as, how the part of me that wrote the response got the knowledge.
I put the question to myself, and waited, listening to the internal echoes for a long time. Finally I took the pad and wrote, It's the right question, but we don't know the answer.
And then I wrote, Me-writing is more like a conduit. I/me doing the writing hears the answers and tells them to you. I/we are not the ones who say the answers in the first place.
She wanted to know if the one who was writing could ask the question of the deeper parts that were answering.
I did. There was no answer. But I don't know if that's “don't know” or “won't tell” or what.
Then - I think it was then - there was a part that wasn't written. She talked about last time, and how I had brought up my brother as a specific example of someone who would get angry if I told. I shook my head and pointed at myself. It wasn't that she was wrong - I had said that - it was just that in this mode I had a different answer. She said, we need to understand who isn't supposed to hear. Was it her? I shook my head and pointed at myself again.
Then I took the pad.
But we're telling you.
We all (all of us who would talk about it) agreed, a long time ago, to tell as much as we could, no matter what might happen.
She said, Is the writing like that, too? I nodded. She said, So there are parts of you that don't want you writing this? I wrote, That's why we get in trouble.
She said, but as long as there were parts of me set against my telling things, in writing or other ways, there would be more choking, more problems.
I wrote, We know it will get stronger, but we're going to keep doing it anyway. We're not afraid.
She said she knew, she could feel my determination. She said that, in spite of my courage (her word) in being willing to plow through the barriers, we needed to understand them better. She said, we need to know who made the threat that you would be killed if you told, so that we can take measures for your safety. She said, It might even have been more than one person.
I thought, my mother and the others. But she wasn't asking me, right then, because we needed to finish up.
She told me I didn't have to talk before we ended, and she didn't know if I felt like I wanted to. I nodded. I had to go to CVS to fill a prescription after therapy was over. I didn't want to still be mute and exposed. After a minute, she asked me if I was okay, and I looked down at my hands and shook my head. In my head, I thought, “I'm stuck.”
I took the pad, and wrote, “I'm stuck.” But as soon as I wrote it, I knew I had the power to unstick myself, so I scribbled it out again and gave the pad back to her. I cleared my throat, and dragged myself back into words. Not a lot, but some. Enough.
And I asked for a copy, and she made me one. We discussed scheduling. I paid her. I spent my time in CVS, at the bus stop, and on the first bus reassembling myself. And then I started writing.