Yesterday was an interesting session with the therapist. Very intense, yet…not. I talked about very intense things, but I have this way of doing so in such a detached manner that it’s as though I’m speaking about someone else. I suppose that’s probably because in many ways, I am.
I have no memories of abuse that are truly my own. My memory starts right in the aftermath of the last time this body experienced any sexual violence. I’m pretty sure I came into fruition at that time as the new “host” solely for the purpose to somehow get us through that tremendously difficult time. My very first responsibility was to procure an abortion from a pregnancy that resulted from incest. It was certainly traumatic, but not in the same way and not for the same reasons as many other parts.
I have about six years of autobiographical memory – mostly intact, but with some blank spaces where I likely lost time due to switching. Everything before that time is in pieces and the memories vary in how I understand them. Some are like images or movies. So I can recall a memory from my life the same way I can recall the memory of seeing a photograph or watching a movie. I can recap the movie and tell you what I saw, but I was not actually IN the film itself. Other times I just “know” something happened. It’s like there’s a place in my brain where other parts drop off memories for me to have. Then I get those memories either through flashbacks, nightmares, sensations, or sometimes it just pops into my brain as I’m talking about my past.
It’s really strange because there are times, especially in therapy or with my wife, that I’ll be talking about something and realize it needs a back story. I’ll go to explain that I don’t have access to the back story and then bam! all of a sudden I have it. It’s like someone filled in the blanks for me in an instant. But I’m sure I didn’t know those details when I began talking. It’s bizarre, but also kinda useful.
Anyway, so I started talking about my new nephew and all the emotions around that. Which prompted me to mention my cousin’s death. I thought I’d already told her, but the therapist asked me what happened, so obviously I didn’t. Since that memory is from the last six years, I was able to relay the story to her. But then she started asking questions to connect some things, especially about my biological family. I’ve been able to piece together enough memory to give a fairly solid idea of what it was like to grow up, but it never feels like my own childhood and adolescence. And I’m missing a LOT of information from about 10-15 years old. Why? I have no clue. Not sure I even want to know.
I didn’t get into details. I’m too scared to get into details. Partly because I don’t want to trigger myself. But also because I don’t want her to become overwhelmed the way Zooey did. I told one short story that was not graphic, but certainly would be upsetting for any person to hear. Yet I prefaced it by saying, “I’m going to add something to give you a better sense of what I’m talking about, but don’t worry it’s not graphic or anything.” Obviously I felt the need to qualify my statement before I allowed myself to say it. She responded in a way that kinda told me it would be fine even if it was graphic, but I just can’t be in that space with someone again. Not yet.
Up until yesterday, she knew very few details about the nature of my abuse. In one of my first sessions, she asked me if I could sum up my trauma in one word. I said “Of course: incest.” And that was that.
I don’t know why, but I thought she knew more. However, as I was talking yesterday, I realized that she only knew of one abuser. So throughout the rest of the session, I managed to tell her that I was sexually abused by both of my biological parents, my biological grandfather, and raped by my neighbor. Which means she is now aware of 4 of the 15 people who have perpetrated some form of sexual violence against one (or more) parts of this system. A good start.
I didn’t go into details about any one thing. I mostly talked about the overall dynamic of my biological family. My mother is an absolute narcissist who hates herself and thus treated me as an extension of herself to attain vicarious validation and procure sympathy. My father is a passive wallflower who used me to fill his need for both affection and to feel powerful in an emasculating marriage. They are both incredibly resentful towards each other and I landed right in the middle of their toxicity. My biological siblings are in serious (and impressive) denial about what my parents have done and remain very enmeshed in their lives. In the same way that I split in order to get through all of that hell, I think they just blocked it out. I suppose we all did what we needed to do in order to survive.
It was hard to talk about even this very basic, superficial stuff. It all has a direct link to worst of it. But I’m glad I got it out. I think that by telling select anecdotal stories from my “memory box” of childhood and adolescent experiences, I was able to paint a pretty good picture of my life and what it was like to grow up in that house. I would eventually love for the traumatized parts to come out in session and tell their stories themselves, but I don’t want to even attempt that for a while. For me, it needs to be a very safe, controlled environment in which I am allowed to hear. So I don’t want full switches where I lose time – I want to hear the memories co-consciously. That way I can talk about it with the therapist, too. And I can get a stronger sense of the story of my own life. Our life.
By the end, I was absolutely beat. I felt so exhausted and spacey. The system was expectedly rattled and the sheer volume of headnoise I was getting made it difficult to keep talking. This therapist holds session for 55 minutes. Zooey’s were 45. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a lot until you’re talking about really awful shit. But I like the 55 minute sessions because I feel like I often need those extra ten minutes to “warm up”.
It was a difficult, but productive session. She listened attentively and I could tell she was being very mindful of the questions she asked. At one point she was unclear as to what, exactly, I was suggesting. She asked a question and I wasn’t sure how to answer it without being too graphic. I think she sensed my hesitancy because she told me that I could answer however I wanted, but she was “trying not to be intrusive” with her questioning. I thought that was lovely.
So, I mean, we’re making progress. I’m slowly moving away from Zooey-processing territory and I’ve started laying the foundation (again) with which to do the rest of the therapeutic work. It feels okay, though. I can tell how much I learned from the experiences I had with Zooey. I have a much better sense of pacing and the importance of checking-in with myself and with the therapist throughout the sessions. I’m very grateful that this woman is actually willing to communicate with me and talk about how she’s experiencing the moment.
Still….it’s terrifying. For so many reasons.