A Heavy Heart

It’s been a tough couple of weeks.

Seeing my ex again affected me so much more than I expected. I didn’t actually think it would affect me at all. But what gave her closure, opened up old wounds in me. Wounds, I realized, I had just placed a band-aid over.

Leaving the relationship was hard. The hardest part was leaving her behind, knowing I had hurt her by ending us. I hurt for myself as well, but most of the pain and sadness I experienced was for her. I would push my own feelings down as often as I could. I had a few moments here and there where I would just break down, and experience the pain I was in, the doubt, fear, sadness at what I had lost. I spent more time trying to convince myself that I was okay.

This time has been so much harder. I started off feeling a lot of anger towards myself. I caught myself thinking that I shouldn’t still be feeling this way. It’s over. It was over a long time ago, so there’s no reason for it to be an issue now. Thinking that I shouldn’t have gone to see her. But I did. I can’t change that. All I can do is accept the consequences, and deal with them.

Beating myself up for feeling this way, was just reinforcing a pattern I’ve repeated throughout my life. When I was thinking “I shouldn’t have gone to see her” that made the anger even stronger. Why? Because it sounds (and feels) like a demand and a judgement. The better way of thinking about it, is stating a preference instead. I wish I hadn’t gone to see her. When I changed it to the latter, I felt more compassion and gentleness towards myself, and the anger lost its sting.

It’s okay to feel this sadness. It’s okay to cry. It doesn’t mean I’m weak. It means I’m human. It means I loved. It means that I cared enough about someone to notice their absence and feel the loss. Our tears help soothe the pain we feel. They heal us from the inside out.

Our emotions, what we feel at any given moment in time, is neither good nor bad. They just are. I would rather feel, than numb myself again. Because at some point, that numbness will go away, and I’ll be forced to feel anyway. Whereas if I allow myself to feel all those emotions as they come up, they will pass quicker. These emotions aren’t going to kill me. I can’t rush it, I can’t force it. I can instead allow myself to go through this grief and see it through.

I feel that I’ve changed during this process over the past few weeks. There’s healing taking place. Not just with regards to the end of the relationship, but also in my relationship with myself. As painful as this process is, and has been, I can see the beauty in it.

I’ve been trying to treat myself with compassion. When we silence the inner critic, and let go of our judgments towards ourselves, the true healing begins. When we allow self-compassion into our hearts, it can change so much of our experience. It shows us that we’re valuable and worthy.

I took the day off from work today. I was feeling too bad, and needed time to just be. Away from the outside world. I took a long, hot bath, and did some art therapy. My new favourite thing.

You might think that I regret having gone to see my ex that day. But I don’t. Now I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it really is over. That there’s no going back. I also gained something important. That’s my closure.

My heart is heavy today. But it’s healing.

Love In The Therapeutic Relationship

Now this is an awkward topic, right? Which is why I haven’t written about it yet. I’ve been meaning to for quite a while now, but I couldn’t get myself to start. After the in-person session I had with my therapist last week Monday, I feel the time is right. There’s nothing strange with what I’m writing about, it’s just that not everyone is as comfortable with this topic as I am. I get it. I was there too. In fact, even though it’s so much easier for me to explore this these days, I still feel a little vulnerable. But that’s why I love my blog space. I can be as open and honest as I want without anyone seeing the different shades of red spreading across my face when I share certain things. “Red suits you”, one of my friends recently said after she kissed me on the cheek. In my defense, we’ve been friends for over 21 years, and she’s never done anything like that. She’s one of those “anti-touch” people.

So. I love my therapist. She knows this, as I’ve told her a couple of times in the past. I once asked her whether that was okay. Trust me when I tell you, it’s okay. I haven’t said those words to her since last year, but there have been a few times where I’ve almost blurted out again “I love you”, but didn’t. I wasn’t quite on the “knowing what I actually mean” path yet.

The love I felt for her has taken on different meanings throughout the first year of working with her. The “in what way?” question had been a source of confusion during much of that time. A few sessions into our first couple of months working together, I had a little bit of a crush on her. Okay, maybe a big one. There was also a time where I thought I might actually be in love with her, or getting there. I told you…Awkward. Plenty of times, I thought that loving her is wrong. That I’m not supposed to. Not allowed to. That it’s inappropriate. The natural consequence of those thoughts was shame. And a lot of it.

Sometime last year, I went through a stage where I had a few intimate dreams of her. They confused me. I told her about one or two of them, but never went into detail of course. It’s intimidating and so scary to bring these kinds of dreams and feelings to our therapists. Wondering what’s wrong with us, and feeling ashamed and embarrassed. But it’s nothing they haven’t heard before. Those feelings can be so big sometimes, and it’s important to talk about it. I’m guilty of not always having spoken to her about some of those feelings. But I know I’ll be able to if something ever comes up again. After all, I need to practice what I preach, right?

I once told my therapist that I love her as a person. A fellow human being. But that’s very broad isn’t it? After all, I only get to see the professional Clinical Psychologist side of her (with little bits of self-disclosure thrown into the mix every now and then). But, it’s still her. Maybe I don’t get to see the other roles she plays outside the therapy room, such as that of wife, daughter, friend, etc. But I also get to see her in her role as therapist, which they don’t get to see.

“I love coffee.”
“I love my friends.”
“I love my parents.”
“I love my partner.”
“I love my children.”
“I love my pet/s.”

Love. One word to represent different forms of it. So I’m going to call this form “therapy love”.

I feel like I’ve grown in the love I feel for her. I’m finally in a comfortable, secure place, where it just makes perfect sense. It’s not the kind of love shared between partners, parents, children or friends. It’s a love of its own. But it’s not less than those other forms. The therapeutic relationship is unique and not the typical kind of relationship, but it’s still a relationship. And the same is true of the love that we feel inside that relationship. I know a lot of you love your therapists this way too.

Then there’s the love that the youngest parts feel. I think it comes out of how children might feel about their main attachment figure? I’m not sure. I can’t remember if I felt anything about my earliest attachment to my mom. The earliest memories I have of her is when I was about 3 or 4 I think. But I also don’t remember much from those years and those after. Just little (and big) things here and there. But the love for my therapist that comes from those little parts feels different. Attachment love maybe?

Seeing my therapist again last Monday was amazing. When she came to get me, the minute I saw her face, it felt as though my heart just lit up. It was so nice being back in her office. It was familiar, with that “home” feeling. I like the fact that she has couches, and not just chairs. Like with my psychiatrist and OT, it felt a little awkward sitting in those chairs. I also find it intimidating because you have someone sitting right in front of you, whereas the way my therapist’s couches are arranged, you don’t get that “she’s staring me down” vibes. It’s comfortable and makes the space feel less clinical, and more welcoming.

I brought a lot to her that session. Way too much. I was emotional and jumped from one topic to the next. I was extremely ungrounded. So I gave her too much to work with, or too little. But at least now I understand (after she explained it to me), how the way I want therapy to work won’t provide long-term benefits. I might feel better for a few hours afterward, but that’s not the goal. I’ve always felt that maybe I’m doing therapy wrong. But there isn’t a wrong. It’s a learning journey as well. And now I understand her view better, and it makes so much more sense. Now I know better how to approach our sessions. Strangely, I feel more in control, like there’s a clear structure to work with. I’ve always tried to squeeze as much into a session as possible, because it feels time pressured due to the fact that I don’t see her every week. I feel like our most productive sessions have been when we’ve stuck with one topic though, and I know she feels the same way about this. I prefer it that way, so will give up on the “time pressure”.

Sometime during the session, my therapist asked “what do you want?”. In that moment, every part of me wanted to say “can you please come sit next to me? Hug me?” Of course I didn’t ask that. I’m very aware of boundaries these days, and I especially don’t want to cross any of her personal boundaries.

Near the end of the session, I wanted to show my therapist some of the pictures that I had taken while visiting with my mom, sisters, aunt and uncle. By that time I was feeling much more grounded. I like how she always seems so interested in seeing the pictures that I take. Last year, during one of the sessions we had when I was still living in the same city as her, I also showed her a picture (of me when I was a little girl- moody as hell), but I just handed her the phone where she was sitting. This time though, she actually moved to the furthest end of her couch, so she was close to mine. That surprised me (in a good way of course). One of the other reasons why I didn’t ask her whether she could come sit by me, was because I was also holding onto shame (so what else is new dammit), and therefore felt untouchable, unlovable and hideous. Why would she want to sit close to me? Why would anyone? Stupid inner voice. That one little action, of her moving closer, made a world of difference. It felt as though she broke through another one of my defenses. I have so many, I don’t even know all of them. Most are (probably) subconscious.

At some point I had the urge to draw, colour in, paint, etc. Why, I have no idea. My therapist let me borrow some paper and her pencil, and I got to it. It was so small, just took up a little space in the corner. I drew one thing on top of the other. No one would have been able to decipher that and know what the hell I had just drawn. But I know, so that’s what matters.

At the end of our session, I started to feel a little emotional again. I didn’t want to leave. But of course, I had to. Don’t you just hate that? As we were walking out, I wanted to ask my therapist whether I could hug her, but felt too shy to ask. But I knew that if I didn’t, I would probably regret it for a long, long time, and beat myself up over it. And then without thinking about it any further, I just came out and asked if I can give her a hug. She said “of course” and when she said it that way, I knew she was comfortable with it then, and I felt relieved. And my favourite part was when she said “I’ll give you one”. I loved that! It was the most special, meaningful hug I’ve ever had. A hug from the person that I never thought I’d ever get to be that close to.

It feels like my connection to her, that bond, has deepened. Which I didn’t think was even possible. I felt loved and valued. She really cares about me. And that’s such an amazing, warm, and soothing feeling.

So…

I love my therapist.

To The Man Who Raised Me

It feels like I’ll never get rid of you.
I constantly feel you inside me.
Like a second layer of skin.
I see you when I look in the mirror.
And I hate what I see.

You’re putting a roof over my head.
But you’re not doing it because you love me.
You don’t know how to love anyone but yourself.
You’re just doing it to keep control over me.
To show the world what a good man you are.

But you’re not a man.
You’re a monster.

I asked you to stop doing something.
You got mad, and still just keep doing it.
“That’s what family does. At least our family”.
But I don’t want to be part of that “family”.
I cringe and feel nauseous every time, but bite my tongue.

I was never your little girl.
I was just an object for you. Someone to control.
Just like you did with the rest of them.
You make me question my memories, my sanity.
My beliefs. Myself. Who am I?

I am who you say I am.
Isn’t that right?

You’re giving me so much right now.
Except that which I’ve always needed.
But you’ve taken away even more.
I wish I wasn’t yours.
But I can’t cut you out of my life.

I can’t stand the sight of you most days.
When I look at your face, I want to scream.
Memories flash on the screen of my mind.
Your voice sickens me.
Your touch destroys me little by little.

You broke what was shiny and new.
And have the audacity to say it was them that ruined me.
It’s never you, is it? It’s always everyone else.
You can do no wrong.
Your worldview is sick and twisted. Just like you.

I should have just let you die those times.
I shouldn’t have intervened.
Just go to my room and pretend I didn’t know.
Let others find you on the floor.
She says I did what I thought was right. But was it?

You think you’re a god, sitting on your throne.
Everyone must bow down and and worship you
Or face the consequences of your rage.
It works, because we’re so fucking scared of you.

I can’t escape. I’m trying so hard to find a way.
But I fail time and time again. I’m a failure.
I’m letting go of the hope that you’ll change.
That you’ll be the father I’ve always wanted.
I wish I could get you off me and out of me.

Will it ever end?

I can’t get away from you.
I’m helpless. Trapped.
“Get out” they say.
I’ve tried. I’m still trying.

And it hurts. It fucking hurts.
because even though I hate you,
I love you.

Going Back To The Old Me

Before starting therapy, I pretty much kept to myself. My feelings, my thoughts. They belonged only to me, and I didn’t share them with anyone. I was always the shy and reserved one. It protected me. It worked for me. Yet at the same time, it didn’t really work. It might have sheltered me from rejection, but it also ate me up inside. I tried to open up a few times, but just ended up getting hurt. Further reinforcing that it wasn’t safe to reveal the deepest parts of myself.

Even in primary school, I was a shadow. When I tried to make friends, and join the other children, I’d just get mocked, teased and called horrible names. So eventually I stopped trying. What was the point. I still remember the day I got my first friend. I was eating my lunch on a step, overlooking some children playing. A girl came to sit next to me and asked my name. We shared my lunch, and from that day we became best friends. I think she was the first friend I ever had. I was never allowed to go visit her at home though (my dad was very controlling- “only protecting me” in his words- when I actually needed to be protected from him). Then we moved to a new city again, and I never heard from her, or saw her again. I didn’t want to get attached to anyone again after that, and I don’t know if I ever did, as I can’t remember the next year or two.

I went to go watch the sunset on the beach today. It’s one of my favourite self-soothing practices. Usually it makes me feel better. It brings me peace. I feel at one with nature, and like I’m not alone in this world. But tonight I just felt this deep sadness the entire time. At first I didn’t understand why, and just tried to push it away. To be mindful of the beauty surrounding me. And then it came. Memories of the same way I felt so often throughout my life. Memories of moments where I felt so alone, with so much sadness buried deep, but that I couldn’t express or verbalize. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to show emotions. Both my dad and then step-mother hated any display of emotion, other than happiness. But I was hardly ever happy, so I had to pretend that I was. When I went to my biological mom every second weekend, I watched my step-dad hurt her, and occasionally my little sisters as well. I couldn’t show my fear and hatred toward him. I couldn’t protect them. I was scared he would hurt them even more, and that he’d hurt me too. But he never did. I think he was scared of my dad. He was very cruel to me though. Men (monsters) like him, usually are. He also hated displays of emotion. It was a trigger for him. So there were many tears left uncried. So much hurt with nowhere to go. So many secrets with no one to tell. That pattern has followed me ever since.

It was only when I started therapy in March last year, that the pattern got interrupted. Opening up to my therapist felt amazing. She didn’t judge, she didn’t tell me to “stop being a baby”, or get angry with me for expressing my feelings. She didn’t punish me. I felt safe with her. Since then, I’ve become more open to more people. Only to a certain extent though. I knew what to share, and what to keep hidden. Every now and then though, I’d become brave and say more than I should.

In group on Tuesday, I was in a bit of a manic state (I had been in that state for a few days already). We had the usual “check in”. I was a bit late, as I had to go pick up a friend, so when I got back to group, the check in was already underway. Other than the usual check in, we also had to pick an animal that represents us, and tell the others why we chose that animal. When it was my turn, and started sharing, I got interrupted by one of the guys. He argued with me about the correct name for the animal I had chosen. I was so embarrassed and just wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to make it known though how I really felt in that moment, so I argued back. And then I just shut down and let the next person share. It’s taken me a while to start opening up in group. But now with this, I feel it’s not okay to do that anymore. I’ll still connect to the few people I’ve really grown to care about, before group, during the break, and afterward. But I don’t want to open up during the group anymore.

Jasmine and I spent the day together yesterday. Usually when I’m with her, we speak openly about our thoughts and feelings as they come up. But this time I couldn’t. I pretended that everything was okay the whole time, that I was happy. I have to pretend with the dad and current step-mother anyway, so it’s easy. Easy to pretend, difficult to deal with internally.

I just don’t want to be vulnerable anymore. My blog is my space to be open, but in the offline world, I want to stay away from that. I had a great therapy session on Wednesday. But then on Thursday, my manic phase was over, and I went straight down into the depths. And since then I’ve been feeling this need to protect myself from the world.

My younger parts, especially, have been struggling. They need me to take care of them, protect, and love them. They can be vulnerable with the adult me. They only need me. This song is my message to them. It just seems to fit.

A Year

I don’t go onto Facebook often. A few hours ago, I did. Right at the top of my news feed I saw a post from my aunt, that knocked the breath right out of me. It felt as though someone had just stabbed me through the heart. The post was “Dearest brother, it’s been a year since you left us. We still miss you every day, and you’ll forever live on in our hearts.”

It’s been a year since one of my uncles ended his life. Right now it seems like just yesterday. I haven’t thought about him much since then, and the moments I did, I’d feel a sharp stab of pain that would only last a few minutes. I wanted to cry. I wanted to grieve, but my mind didn’t want that. It would just shut down. Exactly one year later, it’s finally hit me in full force. I’ve been crying for what feels like hours. The pain is unbearable, but I have no choice but to bear it.

I didn’t even go to his funeral. It was in another city and I couldn’t afford the plane ticket. A part of me also didn’t want to go. But now I regret it. I wish I could have said goodbye.

A few years ago, he started drinking heavily. Every time he would phone me, he was so drunk I could barely make out what he was saying.

The last time I saw him, I didn’t even recognize him. He didn’t look at all like the uncle I had known. Where was the strong man who used to make me laugh with his silly antics? The man who always called me his “little monkey”. I was angry with him that day. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d ever see him.

A week before he succeeded, he had attempted suicide, but his ex-wife found him in time. After that, I just had this feeling in my gut that he would try again. And I was right. The evening before that day, he phoned me. But I didn’t answer. And I don’t even know why. What if he was reaching out, and answering that phone call would have made a difference? Instead, I just ignored him. Maybe that’s why I didn’t think about it much this past year. Guilt. Once again, I had let someone I loved, down. And once again, I failed at being there for someone I loved, in their last moments.

I wish I could go back in time. But I can’t. And no amount of wishing can change that.

So tonight I’m feeling what I haven’t allowed myself to feel.

I miss him, and wish he was still here.

First Love

Lonely tonight.

I had her.
I lost her.
She let me go.
She broke my heart.
My first love.
A love I never experienced before or since.
There were others I thought I was in love with.
I wasn’t.
I was just infatuated for a short while.
I had been fooling myself.
But with her it was real.
Unexplainable.
Painful.
Beautiful.
What if she was the one?
My only shot at true love.
My last.
Now meant to be alone.
Forever.

Love heals? No, love destroys.

A Long, Hard Week

On Monday morning, after my step grandparents left, I was still in my Sunday good mood. I sent my therapist a text telling her that I’m looking forward to our session on Thursday. That I’m having a good day and have high hopes for the week.

Later that afternoon, I went to get something from the store. When I got home I found a note from my younger step brother, with the words “I’m sorry”. I ran through the house, and outside, calling him. But he was gone.

So many thoughts rushed through my mind at that moment. What did that “I’m sorry” mean? “I’m sorry, but I’m running away” or “I’m sorry, but I’m going to jump in front of a bus”? I was panicking. We phoned all of his friends, everyone we could think of, but no one knew where he was. I was terrified.

For a little background, I don’t see him as a step brother. To me, he’s just my little brother. I love him to bits. He’s very quiet and keeps to himself at home. I’m the only one he opens up to. He’s cried to me (he never cries in front of anyone- always appears calm and strong), he’s told me things that he’s never told anyone. He lets me into his heart. So we have a very close relationship. I’m very protective over him. In our session on Thursday, my therapist said that he is my most significant connection, other than ours. And that’s the truth.

When I realized that he wasn’t there, I was heartbroken and confused. Why didn’t he tell me? He’s told me before that he often thinks about running away, and I told him that he should tell me when and if he does. I know I’m not able to change his mind, that I can’t force him to stay. But I would want to know anyway. I would support him any way I could. Such as bringing him clean clothes when he needs them, etc.

I also felt guilty. If I had just come back from the store sooner, or hadn’t left, could I have done something to stop him? Or at least tell him to let me know every day that he’s safe? I could have asked him where he was going, and told him that I wouldn’t tell my dad. I was so angry with myself, but more so, my dad. They say we shouldn’t blame people for things, but I do blame him. He treats my brother like crap, while he puts my step sister up on a golden pedestal. He left because he hates my dad, and I don’t blame him. I wanted to run away so often while growing up (at least the parts of my childhood that I remember).

I just kept thinking what if something happens to him? What if he’s not okay or safe? I wouldn’t even know about it. Would I ever see him again? This situation was made worse due to a previous experience I had. My first step sister who had been in my life for 13 years also ran away from home. And she never came back. I can’t remember if she had left a note. I can’t actually remember anything about that time, other than one moment where I was walking from one classroom to the next at school, and hoping I would see her at school that day. A while after she left, my step mom also left. And I was scared that my current step mother would take her daughter and also disappear. So this all hit a little too close to home. It triggered me. Flashbacks, old emotions, all rushing to the surface, along with all the current feelings. In other words, a huge mess.

During this time, I found myself becoming protective of my step mom and sister. I focused all my attention on them. Doing things for them, being there for whatever they needed and wanted. Which is a pattern in my life. I push myself and my emotions to the side, in order to take care of others. My OT has a good theory about this, which I’ll mention later in this post.

I didn’t want to go to my session with her on Tuesday, and I didn’t want to attend group either. But I decided that it would be better if I do. Even if it was just to get out of the house and away from the heavy, dark energy. I ended up telling my OT about the situation, even though I initially didn’t want to. She was compassionate and supportive. Let me experience the emotions. She told me that my reactions and emotions were valid. She held space for me. She was everything that I needed someone to be during that time.

I told her how I was trying to be as supportive as possible toward my step family. Obviously I can’t remember every word she said, but it came down to this. She said that she was wondering whether my need to take care of others, and be attentive to their needs and emotions, wasn’t because I don’t want to deal with my own emotions. So I take on others emotions, as it’s easier than dealing with my own. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and looking at previous times in my life where I did the same thing. It makes so much sense, and I think she hit the nail on the head with that one.

After our session, I had a few minutes before group was due to start, and I wondered whether I should stay for it. I figured I was already there, so I might as well. When I saw my roommate from my clinic stay was there, I knew I wanted to stay.

I don’t really open up much in group. When we do the emotional check-ins, I usually just say it’s been an okay week, or not good, but that I don’t want to talk about it, or I just don’t elaborate. But I did this time. I was so emotionally exhausted by that point, that I felt numb. So that made it easier.

A few of the group members came up to me during the break, telling me that it was nice to have me open up. We have a two-week break from group, and I don’t feel too good about that. It’s my time every week to get away from home and meet up with others who “get it”.

Finally, on Wednesday we heard from my brother. He said that he was coming home on Friday. I was worried that he might not come back on Friday. What if he had just said that? But he did come home. When I saw him, I gave him the biggest hug I’ve ever given anyone, and I didn’t want to let go. He looked so happy to see me too, and hugged me again when I finally let go. When everyone was downstairs, he told me what he’d been up to. And while I wasn’t too happy about some of the things (nothing serious), it’s not my job to parent him. He’s his own person. I obviously didn’t show or let him know that I didn’t approve. All I want is to continue being supportive, and someone he can trust and open up to about anything.

I still feel some after effects of the situation. I guess I’m still a little shaken up about it, even though I’m trying to just let it go. It seems my body hasn’t yet gotten the message that everything is okay. I felt very suicidal on Sunday evening. More than I have in months. To the point that I considered going to the hospital. But I made it through. I’m also experiencing the pain of losing my first step family all those years ago. This whole weekend I felt exhausted. No matter how much I slept, my days were spent feeling in a half asleep state. Even today, I feel like night of the walking dead. Today I spent a few hours with Jasmine (which isn’t awkward anymore- thank goodness), and she commented on how tired I look. Usually people can’t see that, so that’s when you know that it’s bad.

I’m really glad that my little brother is back and safe.