I’ve not written for a while because I’ve not had the words. It’s been an eventful time, so much has happened. I decided to wait until I had words for all that’s been going on.
During my session with ‘K’ two weeks ago I spoke very explicitly about a memory. It was the first time I had spoken explicitly about the sexual abuse. It was a very icky memory that I’ve carried a lot of disgust and revulsion inside all these years. I watched ‘K’ closely to gauge her reaction to me and she handled what I said with immense respect and sensitivity. I felt immensely vulnerable. As I revealed the memory I realised that I had translated feelings of disgust and revulsion into “I am a disgusting and revolting person”. It was a huge step forward for me and I felt really proud of myself for doing it. I felt very vulnerable as I did so but I knew it was safe and ok.
But I was not prepared for how vulnerable I’d feel not only at the time but also between the sessions. I was also not prepared for how that vulnerability would wobble me.
During the week that followed it felt like I lived through several lifetimes. I was extremely wobbly and disconnected from myself. I was dissociating a lot and seemed to be going through a shock reaction.
Three days later I called the mental health team and spoke to a colleague of ‘K’ for twenty minutes. It was really useful to say how I was feeling and what I was experiencing and for ‘M’ to normalise it for me. Her reassurance told me, “no I’m not over-reacting, this was a really big thing I did and it’s ok to feel wobbly and insecure about it”.
‘M’ said a couple of things to me which were really helpful.
Firstly she said “when you talk about the abuse you are talking about things that were done to you but not because of you”.
I stopped her and queried that because as I said to her “that statement flies totally in the face of everything my abusers told me.” Throughout my childhood I was told I was being abused because they had to because I was bad, I was a girl, I brought it all on myself, I deserved it all. Often they didn’t need a reason or excuse just the fact that ‘I was’ seemed enough reason. So to be told it was not because of me was quite revolutionary and stopped me in my tracks. ‘M’ said to me “they abused you because of who and what they were, you were in effect in the wrong place at the wrong time, there was nothing you could have done about it.” It really made me think.
‘M’ then went on to say “I want to draw your attention to the beginning of that statement – you are talking about things that were done to you”.
I realised that because the abuse was so all-encompassing I do not see it as being separate from me. The abuse had become part of the fibre of my being. It became so much a part of me that at no point of my life have I seen myself as being separate from the abuse. The events of my childhood also told me in many ways that I had no value outside of the abuse. My only value came in being available for them to take and use as they saw fit then discard when I was of no further use. What terrible things that told me.
So to see the abusive events as being separate from me as “something that was done to me” is another revolutionary thought.
As I’ve thought about it I’ve realised that if I can keep that thought at the front of my mind during my sessions with ‘K’ it could be key to me getting through the shame, the blame, the embarrassment and the awkwardness about talking about things that are so disgusting and revolting.
If I am able to keep in my mind that I’m talking about things that were done to me, that I didn’t invite those things nor want those things and I was not a willing participant in those things it might just help me find a way through to bringing those memories out of the darkness of the recesses of my mind.
It is true that I am talking about things that were done to me, but it takes a HUGE shift in thinking for me to see the abuse that way!
After last week I realise there is strength and healing in finally talking about these things.
But it’s really hard too and it’s going to take hard work and sheer guts and a lot of determination to do it.
I made it through from that phone call to this week’s session with ‘K’ on Tuesday. I got there still very disconnected and dissociated.
As I sat down with ‘K’ I realised I was feeling so vulnerable I was actually scared and I noticed I was shaking.
For about half an hour I chatted about what had happened avoiding making eye contact with her. As we went on I began to relax and to realise it was ok. I needed to reaffirm for myself that I was safe, she was safe and it was safe. It was affirmed for me both verbally and non-verbally. As that slowly happened as we talked and I began to realise it is ok, I can be me, I can be vulnerable and be safe.
It was quite a lesson in how terrifying being vulnerable is and how hard it is going to be to talk about the abuse and find a way through it. Hopefully now I’ve survived the first time of making myself so vulnerable the next time won’t be quite so painful or terrifying!
We’ve now transitioned to fortnightly appointments. ‘K’ asked me how I feel about that, I said “er not great”. I know I was heard and I know she does not want this to happen either. But a part of me feels that what I need, what I want and what I feel doesn’t matter. It’s a case of “well we have to move to fortnightly appointments, live with it” kind of thing. I think ‘K’ has handled it sensitively but it still sucks and doesn’t feel right.
In the middle of all that happening I had another interesting development.
Several weeks ago ‘K’ mentioned a voluntary organisation in town which is staffed entirely by volunteers but has qualified therapists offering various therapies to people on low incomes at a nominal fee. I followed up the information and went there for an assessment appointment last week.
It took immense courage just to walk through the door. I sat and shook all the way through my initial appointment. I deliberately fidgeted all the time to try to hide my shaking. At the end of our appointment ‘C’ said to me “I think it would be a good idea for you to see one of our qualified counsellors, what do you think about that?” I said “I hadn’t liked to dare to hope for that but I was hoping you weren’t going to suggest a massage because I couldn’t cope with someone touching me”.
‘C’ mentioned that the reason she suggested that is that she thinks I need to do some very basic but profound work around me, my value, my worth and my identity and then see where that leads. I thought that sounded spot on. I think this counselling work could really complement the work I’m doing with ‘K’ and also help to add to my support network. I also think it’ll be really good for me to be seeing a professional counsellor because ‘K’ has told me that she is a CPN but not a counsellor.
‘C’ said to me that it won’t be like seeing my CPN or anyone else connected with the NHS. It will be a case of them being here for me and willing to work with me and support me as much as I need to be supported and as long I need them to be there for me. I know it will cost me five pounds a time. At the moment I’m wondering how I’m going to afford that.
A friend said to me “I know you can’t do this at the moment, but see that fiver as an investment in you because you’re worth it”. I know what she was saying and really appreciated her empathy and understanding. I also know that to pay five pounds for an hour’s counselling instead of having to privately five to six times that amount is a really good deal. There is a part of me which is able to sort of see it as an investment.
I’m really pleased this has happened. I feel both excited and terrified about this development. Yes I know it means starting over with someone new and so it’s daunting but I dare to hope this is going to be good for me!
I know from looking at their website that their counsellors are professionally trained and accredited, so I know it’s safe from that point of view. So I am due to have my first appointment with the counsellor 'T' on Tuesday.