We started this week by reviewing a questionnaire I'd filled out (and having a brief recap of my week, which I think went well - I said though that I wanted counseling to focus on fixing the foundation and not patching holes and didn't want to talk about the week much). The section we looked at asked a bunch of questions about how you deal with your emotions, say "I feel numb," "I feel like I don't know where my life is going," "I hide from my feelings by drinking/taking drugs/watching TV." I said I had had some dissociative episodes in the last 6 years (starting on my first trip to Lyme Regis), but 1) mostly I didn't feel like I hid from my feelings, I did things to make myself happy that I considered adaptive, not maladaptive 2) when I did things (i.e. November and December) to stop thinking about my feelings, it was because there simply wasn't anything I could do about what was upsetting me and I thought it would be better to try to focus on some happy-making things and give myself a break from the brooding 3) I exercised to try to make myself feel better but I didn't think it was hiding. So ... I'm not sure where we got with this.
This got him to wondering if I'd had dissociative episodes when I was growing up. He asked how I'd dealt with negative emotions growing up and I said ... I really just couldn't remember any more. I knew I was sad and lonely a lot of the time but I don't remember trying to "deal" with it. I remembered I liked to read a lot, as I do now, but I didn't feel like that was really escaping, it was just what I did all the time. I also watched TV with my family. I just couldn't remember very much any more. This led to him asking about just how I dealt with what my stepfather did to me, and I told him it was mostly done as games, which I didn't realize maybe weren't really "games" until I told my stepmom and the whole family went "Boom!" The therapist then spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my stepdad was thinking or what was going on in his mind and I finally said, "Look, John Q Lastname, Phoenix Arizona, why don't you call him and ask? I do not know and I have spent no time trying to figure out just what in the hell he was up to. I was more concerned about what my mom was thinking with her life. He made a lewd offer to me when I was 18, I told him to fuck himself, and we never talked again."
We also talked about what happened when my family found out, that is, when I was sent back from my father/stepmom/grandma's place in Kansas to Arizona, and how my mom told me (when I asked later, when I was 16, why she didn't try to get me away from him) that they had sat me down and asked me what had happened, and I had denied everything, in part because (as I tried to reconstruct the emotional memory, it's all just hazy, I don't remember the convo at all just as I can't really remember the details of what my stepdad did anymore other than the words I used to remember it to myself, I have no more images or emotional memory) I didn't want to get him in trouble and then lose my family. My counselor found this all just very sad, that I was trying to protect him. he was also suitably mortified that my mom had asked me about what had happened with my step dad in the room. Not really a good way to get a straight answer from me, was it?
I told him what made me sad is that after this I seemed to be contaminated. No one, my real dad, my mom, anyone in my family, would try to touch or hold or hug me anymore. So I was starved for physical affection. I was also treated like this by my peers, in 6th grade after my stepfather made a pass at one of my friends at a slumber party (causing me to be shunned socially for two years) then again in high school when I finally told one of my friends about the past I'd managed to escape from my moving school districts and changing my name and then they suddenly told everyone in my social circle and I was an outcast again. And then this guy, Mark P (can't remember his name anymore), who was in college and whom I played D&D with, was talking to me about this at his house and said, "Oh my God, why are they acting like that? You haven't done anything wrong, you're not the guilty party here." And it was like a light went on and I realized, it's true, this feeling of shame and hiding, that's what my step-dad wanted me to do to protect him, but I didn't do anything wrong. He did. I didn't have anything to be ashamed of. And ever since then, I figured, I could talk about it whenever I wanted to, without shame, because I didn't do anything wrong. I try to be careful nowadays because it upsets other people but my burden is released. He is not holding me to silence and people who would shame me into shutting up are not people I respect. This happened to me and I lived. There are others out there that share that burden of silence but know that you are not alone and none of us did anything wrong ever. We were children and we deserve to be free of all of that guilt.
Anyway, so when it comes to "have I picked up some maladaptive behaviors along the way," well, yeah, I'm willing to cop to maybe having picked some up (though I still don't know what they are), but you know what, I've tried really hard to deal with what life has dealt me and still be a person I can be proud of. And I told him at the beginning of the session I didn't want to talk about how my "anger" drove away people, because I feel like I've only really lost my temper maybe three times in the last ten years, so it's a bit of a non-starter. There are other issues for me to look at more urgently.
Then I walked home along Tooting Common and thought WOO is it cold and thought about the gorgeous Chinese food dinner wechsler and I had at San Xia Ren Jia on Goodge Street tonight and how deliciously sore I felt from Pilates and that, people, was my Monday.