The session with S went well enough… At the start. Near the end, it took a turn for the worse because the child was craving more attention while the adult wanted to keep us safe.
So the adult said to S, “I didn’t want to tell you this….” I paused because the child started to protest. After a few moments of hesitation, the adult regained control and continued, “I actually bought a knife…”
S looked a little alarmed. “When did you do that?”
“Last week…” I responded. “So in the way, you know, I kinda have things lined up. In the back of my mind, I think to myself, if the loneliness gets too difficult… I could just do whatever and no one will know…”
“Do you mean cut yourself or try to end your life?”
I swallowed a lump that had formed in my throat. “Try to end my life,” I whispered. “I think I reasoned that I’ll be living in the basement. No one will know…”
“Someone will know. Eventually, right?,” S said.
“I’m glad you told me,” S said, concern etched all over his face. “Is the knife packed with your things?”
“Um…” I said, hesitating again. I really didn’t want him to take it but at some points in the past two weeks I had felt vulnerable and out of control. I actually felt like I wasn’t able to control my destructive urges. “I carry it with me”
“Do you have it right now?”
“You probably know what I’m going to ask. How do you feel about leaving it with me?” S asked quickly.
“Um…” I said, hesitating more. I stared at the ground for a little while before I said, “I really don’t want to. But….. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have told you. But I really don’t want to…”
“So when you told me, you had already thought that you would probably leave it with me or that I would ask?”
“That you would ask…” I said. I think I felt like I needed someone to keep me accountable. Carrying my knife around with me was not a smart thing to do and I have to admit that. But I did it because I could and no one was the wiser for it. I knew S would ask. And I knew that if he’d asked, I would give it to him – however much I hated the idea because I trusted S with everything. “In some ways, sometimes, I feel like I’m a danger to myself. Um… Not all the time… Just…”
I saw the look in S’ eyes. It was the “Do we have to admit you to the hospital?” kind of look. And I vehemently refuse hospitalization. I don’t care what people say about it. I’m not going to the hospital. I’m not giving up my freedom. I have too much shit to do to be hospitalized. I can’t jeopardize school and work. Ironically, whenever I think of the hospital, I think of my future. I think of a future. When my suicidality hits though, I have no future in mind.
“And that’s what concerns me too, ‘cuz, sometimes – like we’ve talked before I left, it seems like you were just so stable and so in control and so optimistic…”
He was right. I was actually very stable when he left. I thought 2 weeks ago that I would be fine. That things will be great. That I would be able to handle it when he was gone. I didn’t account for all the triggers I would encounter and all the pain I would be experiencing.
“I realize that too,” I said.
“Yeah, and then… But then it seems like it could flip. And I know a lot of times you feel like you’re going to be okay and I think that’s a really good sign. I just don’t want you to get to a low point, where you’d do something that the rest of you doesn’t even want to do,” S said gently.
“Yeah…” I agreed, “I think it’s just… I think last week, I kinda realized why… Part of why I want to kill myself. It’s almost like an act of revenge. Just a final middle finger to the world kind of thing. To my parents. I asked the Ex yesterday if my parents would be surprised if I killed myself. Since they saw the divorce coming, would that surprise them?”
“So in some ways, it’d be, not just escaping but a lashing out at them,” S noted.
“Yeah. A permanent reminder that they’ve failed,” I said.
“Is that the child’s anger?” S asked.
“It’s uncontrollable rage. Even she can’t control it. It just consumes me. That’s all I can think about. It’s that I want to die. Nothing’s worth it,” I said, starting to feel the rage stir. The child was starting to feel vengeful again.
“So there were time when you think about that, but then, you do come out of it, right? Even though it doesn’t feel like you can control those times,” S said, reminding me that it’s not always a hopeless case. Even when I feel like it is.
“Will it help to do a prompted writing, as you and J have discussed? That one of the prompts you write be all the good things about your move?” S asked, mentioning one of the coping strategies that J and I had discussed that could work.
J had told me about writing down whatever I feel and using prompts like, “What are you feeling?” then followed by, “Have you felt this way before?”, then followed by, “Why do you feel this way?” and finally, “What questions do you have right now that you can’t yet answer?” He told me that this way, I can help contain the emotions on paper and not lash out.
I told J that I’ve been writing something similar in the form of letters to S. I’ve been writing these letters as a way to vent my problems whenever he’s not around. And every time I’ve done that, it’s been helpful. J had noted that it was a great idea and it was a similar premise to the prompted writing.
“Yeah, I think so”
“You could write down what the child feels and give her some space. You could even set some time and then, ‘What’s the other side? What are all the positives?'”
I nodded. Then we sat in silence for a while, while I sniffled and tried to put the child back into a calmer position.
“Again, I have to ask. Can you leave the knife with me?” S asked, again.
I clenched my teeth. “Yeah…”
I took the knife from my pocket and felt the heaviness of the steel. It was brand new and it was a beautiful silver pocket hunting knife. I really liked the knife but all the knife’s ever done so far has been to cut me. I’ve never actually used it for any practical purpose. I handed it to S. S took it from me and looked at the knife. Possibly admiring it as well.
“Thank you,” S said, as he closed his fist over the knife and held it.
“You’re welcome,” I whispered, almost bitterly.
“I appreciate you trusting me enough to do that,” He said.
“Yeah…” I said, in a less than satisfied tone. “I’m pretty sure I know what’s going to happen next” I continued, as the child bombarded me with images of me hanging from the rafters in the basement that I’ll be moving into. As well as images of me drinking lots of alcohol. She was angry but she didn’t have control so the adult kept speaking.
“What’s going to happen next?”
“The child’s going to lash out”
“Is the child lashing out now?” S asked.
“Can you promise me that you won’t try to end your life until we see each other again, for the next week?”
“Yeah,” I said, not entirely meaning it. I mean, a large part of me meant it, but of course the child didn’t.
“Maybe… Remind the child that I’m not taking the knife to be a jerk but I’m taking it because I care about her – because I care about you. I don’t want anything to happen to you,” S said. He sat so close to the edge of his seat as he said that, that I could easily reach out and held his hand. I think the child wanted that.
“Yeah…” I said, tensing up. “She needs to stop being so angry…”
“She’s been through a lot,” S said quickly, defending her. “This is bringing it up for her. It’s ok for her to be angry sometimes”
I think this is why the adult and child don’t get along all the time. It’s because the adult tries too hard to quickly have the child process her emotions and move on. Like it was some kind of a rush for me to have to move on. I’ve been wondering why the child sometimes lash out and hurt me and I think it’s probably because she feels hurt, unheard, and abandoned. The things that I’m going through right now – with my divorce, with my move, with my financial difficulties, with my struggle with sexuality, and with my impending start of the Fall semester – all trigger these feelings of hurt and abandonment. And because the adult wants to just get over these feelings quickly so as to move on, she makes the child feel small and uncared for – like her feelings are invalid. So in order to get the adult’s attention, she cuts. She threatens suicide.
S was good to defend the child. It was something the adult has never done for her. The adult just wants to sweep everything under the rug and be “okay”.
“Yeah…” I said, not fully getting it yet.
S then had to wrap up – I heard his computer chime several times. I think it was the chime of the private messaging app that CAPS uses to communicate internally. I know that we had reached the hour mark because 10 minutes ago, his phone had rung to indicate that we only had 5 minutes left. S has always been good about letting me go a little over so as to take care of me.
He then told me that he had originally planned for us to go back down to just one session a week since I’d been able to cope with that for the past two weeks with J, but that what I revealed to him at the end of today’s session has had him concerned. He wanted me to come back in to CAPS tomorrow morning but unfortunately, tomorrow is when I will be moving out.
I do want to see him again this week. And I do rue the fact that I can’t because of the move that I’d scheduled for noon tomorrow. At the same time, I also think that maybe I can manage. I had more things I want to talk to S about – more things that I’m struggling with that I haven’t yet revealed. But I can’t. I’ll be honest about it; I hate that I can’t.
“Why don’t we try just meeting next Wednesday at 10?” S asked, “If you need to come in for on-call, don’t hesitate to do that. And I know you have group on Friday”
“Yeah…” I said. I thought about group a little grudgingly. I often get triggered every time I go to group because another member of the group is facing similar challenges – he’d recently broke up with his 7-year-girlfriend and he was having difficulty moving on, the way I am. So every time I leave group, I feel raw and pained. And it messes me up for the rest of the evening because I can’t leave my issues at CAPS. So when S mentioned group, I internally sighed because I knew that more often than not, I’m going to be triggered again. I think that was the reason why I had skipped it last week. I didn’t think I could handle more triggers last Friday.
“What can you do right now?” S asked.
“I’m not exactly sure”
“You could go to your workplace. Go skateboarding. Walk around downtown, look at the buildings like that one time…” S suggested. I had forgotten all those coping strategies that S and I had established a while ago. Maybe because I’ve been going through the motions lately.
I nodded and said that I would go to my workplace. I felt cared for there. Even if I was just there to waste time, just being with my coworkers feels good.
S wished me luck on my move and told me to take care of myself as I gathered myself and walked out of his office. I felt cared for by him. I felt heard today and though things took a turn for the worse as we wrapped up, I still felt like it was a session that went well. We’d talked about more things before I’d admitted to owning a new knife, and one of it was that I’m starting to build my own style of clothing and how I want to look.
I told S that I dubbed it “Nerd-Punk” just because I didn’t know if that was something that had already existed or not, and if it didn’t, then I would create it. I didn’t want to just be a punk because I didn’t think I really fit the whole stereotype – especially not in the fashion sense. So I didn’t want people to look at me and say, “But you’re not punk… You’re not dressed up like one anyway”. So I decided that I would mesh my nerdy side with my punk side and embrace that.
I showed S my two new piercings on my left ear, and elaborated on my design choices which included my colored mohawk with a bald fade in the back and sides of my head, grungy looking earrings and an earcuff, wearing flannel shirts over all of my nerd/geek t-shirts, leather bracelet on my wrists, skinny jeans and, sneakers or sometimes combat boots. I told him that I was far from finished with how I want to look but I didn’t want to rush things – that it was a process and I would let it evolve.
S approved. He said that he really liked what I was doing for myself and that he really liked all the reasoning I had behind all of my choices. He said that he also liked that I had begun to think of it as a process. It was healthy. I told him that the teen had been very calm since I’ve begun to do this because she feels validated – I’m now living the teen years of my life (yes, at age 30 – I think some might see this as a midlife crisis).
I also told S that people have been staring at me. I think people are trying to figure me out most of the time – they possibly couldn’t figure out what I was trying to be. I’m trying to be me. I said that I’ve been called “Butch” by some, and I’ve had some people who were more conservative stare at me like I was a lesbian and they didn’t look like they’d approve of that, and I’ve also had people think I was a boy because they call me “buddy”.
S asked me how I felt about all that. I told him that I sometimes feel self-conscious. But at the same time, I also tell myself that people don’t know me. What they see is a small slice of my life. They don’t know the things I’m going through. For all they know, I could just look like this when I go out in public. He said that he felt encouraged to hear that – that I was able to not feel invalidated by how others perceive me. I actually feel proud to hear him say that. I guess he’s right. Since starting my transformation, I’d barely even thought about what I was doing for myself.
“I’d bought a plaid shirt and thought to myself, ‘I’ve always liked plaid shirts. Maybe I’ll try this and see how it feels’,” I said to S, “And when I put on the plaid shirt over my nerd T-shirt, it felt good. I felt comfortable!”
“I like that you did that. That you tried something to see how you’d feel about it and then went with it because you feel comfortable with it. I really like that,” S had said.
He was right. I have begun to do things that feels right and comfortable for me. Regardless of what people think or say, for once in my life, I feel like me. When I cut my hair and styled it the way I wanted it, I felt good. And now, when I’m starting to dress the way I do, I’m feeling good. I’ll continue with this for sure. I really am liking the style I chose for myself. It’s a sign for me of things to come – that sure, I might struggle a lot with the feelings of abandonment, the hurt, the guilt, the pain and suffering, but that there is also a glimmer of hope in all of it. A little part of me that’s doing things for myself and feeling good in return.
I’m so glad S is back!