I just had a huge breakthrough in therapy today. It was also the longest session I’ve ever had because technically, I had requested for a walk-in session and this wasn’t my usual weekly therapy session so S allowed me to spend a little more time than usual (which was very nice! I think he probably realized that if we stopped midway through, I probably won’t come back to this again – at least, not for a while since the things we dealt with today were too intense for me to want to bring up too often).
This is going to be a long post that might not make sense for people who don’t experience dissociated parts of their psyche. I learned today that I experience that in a very intense way because I’ve been repressing and ignoring parts of me.
As I walked to CAPS, I prayed that S would be on-call. I had to talk to him. I desperately needed to after what happened yesterday in session (Lashing Out After Session). I had been belligerent and angry. I had blamed S for how I felt. Then quickly, I had felt guilty for feeling that way towards S. I felt guilty because he’s always been on my side and has never given me any reasons to think otherwise. So for me to be so disrespectful and ungrateful felt wrong.
When I got to CAPs, I asked D (the receptionist) if S was on-call. She said that he was on back-up. I then said, “Um… Can I see him? I mean… If he wants to see me, I guess.”
D said, in a somewhat confused way, “I don’t see why not… Take a seat. He’ll be right with you…”
I realized then that I felt guilty and I felt like S must be angry at me. He must be disappointed in me. Why wouldn’t he? I acted in a way that showed him that I didn’t want to get better. I didn’t want to get better despite the fact that he’s been working hard to help me. So why shouldn’t I feel guilty? Those were my reasoning for what I had said to D.
When S came out of his office to greet me, I felt relieved to see that he didn’t look angry. I immediately said, “Thank you for seeing me”. Somehow, I felt like I needed to bring a peace offering to S because of how afraid I am that he is angry at me.
He started our session by complimenting my choice of t-shirt today. I was wearing an “N7” shirt – it was an unconscious decision to wear it.
“Oh Mass Effect today… Wow…”
Those of you who are new to my blog, let me just explain that I got lucky when I was assigned to S. Somehow, I managed to get a psychologist that I not only relate to on a deep level, but I also managed to get one who’s extremely nerdy like me. One of the things that I like to do is bust out my huge geek/nerd t-shirt collection and wear a different shirt each time I see him, just to see his reaction and to see what he’d say. So far, he’s not disappointed me in his wealth of knowledge of all things nerdy! (Oh, and I like to wear shirts that have obscure references or references that only someone who has watched the show/read the book/played the game would know and the first time S had impressed me was when I wore a “Stargate” t-shirt that only had the SGC Chevron on it and he had correctly identified the fandom. Another time, I wore a shirt that said “Blue Suns” and he said, “Firefly today huh?” and I was overjoyed by that. Yeah… I get excited over the nerdiest things…).
“I’m assuming that the choice of shirt partially has relevance to what we’ve been working on…”
It didn’t even occur to me that I had made that choice because of the relevance of what we’ve been talking about but when he mentioned it, I realized that yeah, there is a partial relevance. Like I have mentioned before, it was completely an unconscious decision to wear it. I didn’t wear the “N7” this time for any other reason but the fact that I hadn’t worn it in a long time…
Anyway, hearing S’ light-hearted start to our walk-in session was a comfort because as soon as I sat down, I realized that I had been paranoid over him being angry at me for no reason. It was all really my own projection on him.
After our initial light-hearted start, things took a serious turn quickly because I didn’t waste time this time. I felt an urgent need to tell him that I’ve been mentally blaming him for how bad I’ve felt the whole day yesterday. That a part of me was really angry that he had said some things that touched some really raw areas that made the “teenager” flare up. I didn’t hesitate because I knew that as soon as I hesitate, I won’t follow through with the reason I requested a walk-in. I knew that I couldn’t chicken out from the uncomfortable feeling of telling S that I was angry at him (the very first occurrence for me as I’ve never ever been angry at S before).
“The moment I walked out of CAPS yesterday, I knew that I needed to talk to you again. I wrote in my email to you yesterday after I got to class that I’m sorry for being stubborn…”
“Yeah, I was a little confused by that…”
“I felt really bad and I wanted to apologize… For being stubborn or rude or whatever. A couple of things came up for me. Somehow when I left, I felt that you were angry at me or disappointed at me. A distinct thought came up that said, ‘Oh no, mommy’s angry and disappointed at me’. I realize that I sometimes perceive you as the ‘mommy’ figure in my life.”
“Ah… So not just the father figure but also the ‘mommy’ as well…”
“Yeah…” (The ‘mommy’ term refers to how I distinguish a caring mom and a harsh mother). “I felt like my lashing out had disappointed you. Something you said triggered my anger. And I was angry at you…”
“Okay…” S said, sounding a little surprised at my admission.
“I think the teen was very angry to be called out. You had named one of my deepest fears and weaknesses. That at a critical time in my life, the people who were most important to me weren’t there… And I get now that the guilt and shame that I’ve always had has been masking the deeper pain that I feel – the pain that is feeling like no one has ever cared for me or that no one cares…”
“So you were feeling that anger for me…”
“Yeah and with that anger comes the guilt, almost immediately. I’m very sorry for being angry. I felt like I had somehow made you angry at me or that you were disappointed in me even though there was no evidence of that at all from your side… I realized that at the end of the session yesterday, when I was feeling extremely self destructive, it was because the teenager was being stubborn and refusing to let me go. She wanted to kill me. She wanted to hurt me in as many ways possible…” I said, my voice starting to shake as I talk about my separate parts. “The teenager was extremely angry… I didn’t want to listen to anything you had to say yesterday despite the fact that you were trying to soothe me and help me… The teenager is angry that the adult is trying to protect her. She’s pushing the adult away. She’s stubborn and doesn’t want to be better. She doesn’t believe that the adult actually cares for her. She doesn’t believe that anyone does. She thinks that the child is so pathetic while the adult is fake. When you said to me yesterday, ‘I’m on your side, I protect you and I look out for you’, the teenager responded violently with ‘LIES!!’. When the adult tried to reason with the teenager over the suicidal thoughts, by saying, ‘What about the people who do care about us that we’ll leave behind? They love us… How can we cause them such pain?’, the teenager’s response was, ‘Good! FUCK THEM!'”
This was the first time I used the F-word in therapy. It’s been 10 years since I’ve said that word aloud in an angry manner.
“Wow…” S responded, looking surprised.
“‘They don’t care! They never did!’ So I realized that, at least on an intellectual level, that these are all parts of me. They’re all me. But I guess I never realized how self-destructive I am. How angry I am at people…”
“There’s so much… For a second there, I don’t know where to start because that is such a dense statement…” S said. “So it was like we were enacting something yesterday. At that time, I was the adult trying to tell you not to do something while you took on the role of the teenager who said, ‘Fuck you. I’m going to do whatever I want. You don’t care!’…”
This was also the first time I’ve ever heard S use the F-word.
“Yeah… Yeah, that’s what happened. It’s been 10 years since I’ve used that word out loud… And I’ve never realized just how volatile the teenager really was. I guess that’s why I’m so concerned for my safety sometimes because I know that if and when the teenager gets control, I’ll be harmed… What I don’t get is why the teen is so angry… I’m confused. When you said to me that there were people who weren’t there for me at critical times in my life, you touched a nerve and I had lost it – this was when the teenager emerged. The thing is though, I don’t know why the teen doesn’t want to accept the fact that yes, there were people who were jerks to me and that they didn’t care. It happened, why is she trying to act like it didn’t?”
“Is it the teenager that’s trying to deny it though?”
“I don’t know. I’m confused… I also don’t understand why the teen is so spiteful… I mean, that’s not me. I’m not a spiteful person.”
“It sounds like you identify more with the kind adult. And that the spite and anger are off to the side. Like they’re not a part of you…” S said.
“Yeah. I am not a spiteful person but I have all these spiteful feelings…” I said, “I guess if I were to own up to all of them, it means that I have these feelings and to know that I have these feelings hurt… The realization of ‘Well, yeah I’m not that nice. I’m not that good of a person as I’ve always thought, even though that’s what I want to portray… I have that evil side…'”
“So you think that that’s the evil side?”
“Yeah… I really do. After watching Star Wars, I really feel like this side of me is the Dark Side… I really feel like I’m like Kylo Ren – even though he’s super whiny…”
Of course, we both chuckled at this.
“Yeah… Throughout Force Awakens, he struggled with his Light side, he wanted to be Dark but couldn’t fully do it because he had a glimmer of Light. He believed that his Light side was his weakness… I feel like I’m the opposite. I keep fighting my Dark side because I want to be in the Light side. I feel like the Dark side is my weakness…”
“It seems like just acknowledging your anger is like you’re giving in to the Dark side…”
We were broaching the nerd zone as we sometimes do – I don’t know why but I seem to identify more with movies, TV shows, books, and comics more than “real life”. So S, knowing that full well, will also use references to my fandoms to help me understand and cope.
“Yeah… I think just thinking of that is hard…” I continued.
“What’s it like just thinking about that? What’s hard about it?”
“Just thinking of this conflict in my mind just makes me confused… When I’m alone, I seem to just react to my feelings. But when I’m here with you, my rational side is able to reach for you and stabilize myself. I am able to put words into feelings instead of just experiencing and reacting. When I left your office yesterday, I walked into the elevator and punched it…”
“Yeah… A thought came to my mind at that time, and the teen said, ‘We don’t need the knife!’ (S had taken my knife away from me)”
“Was taking the knife part of it too?”
“I think so… The teenager was like, ‘Fine! You want take my knife! I’ll do other things!’ And I kept having thoughts of throwing myself against the wall, hitting things, punching things… Right now at this period of time, the teen wants to hurt me. She doesn’t want to kill me anymore – she just wants to hurt me as much as she can without killing me. The suicidal feelings are still there but it’s reduced and now the self-harm feelings are back in fuller force!”
As we hashed out what I had just shared with S more, he realized that the anger that the teenager has is directed at the parent-side of me, toward S himself, towards my husband’s parents, and also seemingly towards my parents. Since I see S as a father figure as well as a mommy figure, it made sense that I would have lashed out at him too because it’s not just adults that the teen has a problem with, it’s the parent type, more than anything.
We also talked about how I’m angry at my husband’s father specifically because of how he had abused my husband so severely throughout his life and that I’ve told Hubster multiple times before that I am angry enough that I would want to kill him.
I talked about how terrified I am of this anger because it’s so destructive. There’s so much anger. I don’t know what triggers the anger. “What if one day, I lose control and do something terrible?” I said, my voice shaking because I was still fighting the fact that given the wrong circumstances, I could hurt someone. “As much as I want to deny and compartmentalize this feeling… Given the opportunity, I would do something terrible…”
“It sounds like this anger toward your husband’s father is also another form of compartmentalization… Because it’s much easier, not that he hasn’t done terrible things, for you to be mad at him than to really own the anger towards your own parents… And even, I wonder, with our interaction from before, like you felt that anger and the reaction was to feel like I was angry at you. It feels like you can’t tolerate that anger so you push it away and then reason that maybe I was angry at you… And that maybe felt easier for me to be angry at you than for you to have that anger at me…” S said, totally calling me out. I know the truth – the truth is, I do feel angry but I can’t own it. I can’t accept it.
We realized that the reason is because I can’t bear the feeling of being ungrateful. That if he, as my parent-figure, had always provided for me (and he has provided for me emotionally and mentally), that it was wrong for me to be angry at him. In the same way, this is why I can’t be angry at my own parents – because I believe that they’ve always provided for me and so it was wrong for me to be angry at them. It makes me feel guilty.
“It sounds like you get hit by multiple feelings all at the same time…” S said, realizing that with the anger comes shame, guilt, feeling bad, as well as fear. “It seems like the anger comes first and then the guilt comes immediately after to cover the anger…”
“Yeah…” Then I admitted to him what I had said to D before he had come out to greet me. He realized then at that point, how deeply this was threatening to me. How deeply I fear that my anger towards him yesterday would make him not ever want to see me again. That he would get sick of me and give up on our work together. I realize that I don’t want to be better because I want to keep seeing S. He’s my anchor, the parent I desperately need. And the thought of losing him is too much to bear.
“So the fear is that the anger is going to destroy our relationship…” S said.
“Yeah… Because the anger has destroyed a lot of my relationships!”
“I wonder if part of what’s so scary is that I’m not sure if the teenager wants you to die or wants me to die or wants your parents to die… But I mean that sounds very destructive and there’s a part of you that’s so angry that it wants to kill the adult-parent-figure. Just think Kylo Ren in his example, wants to kill his parent and throw him off the bridge…”
It was an interesting parallel because it made me realize that like Kylo, I do want to remove the weakness in my life – in his mind, his father was his weakness. And it seems like in my mind, my parents are mine. And that’s so hard to admit. My head was reeling and we were only 1/3 of the way through the session!
Anyway, in the end, through more hashing out of my anger, fear and guilt, we were able to come to the realization that the teenager is really angry at my parents and the “adult” side because she has felt hurt for so long but has never been acknowledged. The adult has always just told her that “It’s fine. They’re your parents. You shouldn’t feel the way you do…” which essentially is telling the teen that her opinions, thoughts, and feelings are invalid. S and I both realized that the lashing out by the teen, the self-harming, the anger, the suicidality, and the rage are all because the teenager has been fighting to be heard. She wants me to know how much she’s been hurting by people around her throughout her life but I had refused to listen – instead always covering her voice up with guilt and shame. Every time she attempts to speak (that is, by making me feel angry), I shut her down by replacing that anger with guilt instead. So she escalates things, the way an angry teenager would, by smashing things, breaking things, and self-harming.
This realization was so painful because I (the adult) realized now that I had not been looking out for the angry teenager and the fearful child. That in my attempt to be a people-pleaser and care for others that I’ve forgotten to care about myself. I had overlooked my own feelings. It was a powerful realization.
S summed it up pretty well near the end of our session, “Yeah… I think moving forward, one thing that has to happen, and I think we’re making progress towards that today is like you making peace with the teen side of you. The adult and the teen kinda coming together. And I know that still feels very threatening and very scary at this point. I’m not saying let the teen do whatever she wants but just for the adult to know a bit more, I guess. To give that part a voice and kinda see where you are at that point and I think once that happens, then you’ll feel like more of a sense of control. But does that make sense?”
It did. 2 weeks from now, Friday, April 22nd will mark my one year anniversary of attending therapy. I’ll have worked with S for a year now and we’re finally make some kind of progress. I’ve had epiphanies before but this one seems to be a pretty big one.
S is optimistic that we can work through this. He told me that I have the insight and intellectual depth to be able to explore this. It sure isn’t easy but I think it might all just be worth it.