What is real?

velveteen-rabbit-1

I noticed I’ve been posting more on this blog lately, because so much is going on with me right now, and it’s the sort of stuff I prefer to not to post on Lucky Otter’s Haven due to its extremely personal nature.   This blog feels more private to me than my other one.

I just got home from my therapy session.   Today I still had that feeling of something in me having shifted.  I feel quite vulnerable, fragile and emotional, but not in a bad way at all.  I just feel sort of…raw.  It’s a melting kind of feeling, like my usual defenses are not working properly.  But it’s okay.

I talked about this with my therapist. I told him I think something happened to me when I was sitting alone in the warm waters of the Gulf two weeks ago, feeling the water gently rocking me as I sunk into the soft silt-like sand beneath me, and little fish swam around me as if protecting me from something.   I said it felt like I’d been reborn.

We talked about a lot of other things, but mostly about my childhood.  I told him about the way my malignant narcissist mother used to scare me with nothing more than a hard, cold stare or one of her famous silences.  I could see through her mask when I was as young as 4 or 5.  She used to scare me so much and I felt so powerless and small in her presence that the only way I knew how to escape from her was to turn inward, becoming lost in my own mind.   I call this “going inside.”

When I’d “go inside,” no one could get me to come out until I was ready.  I didn’t respond to my environment normally and didn’t seem to hear people when they spoke to me.  I imagine it appeared to others that I might be autistic (I actually thought I was an Aspie for a long time), but I know this was actually an early form of dissociation, the only way I knew how to escape the harsh reality I faced at home.

Whenever I’d “go inside,” my mother became enraged, because it was the only place where she couldn’t get to me.  And she knew it.   She ordered me to stop acting “spooky.” But I couldn’t help it; these dissociative trances weren’t something I willfully decided to do; they just happened whenever I felt threatened.   I had no control over them.  She used to scream at me and punish me for acting “spooky,” sometimes slapping me hard across the face.  Sometimes her fingernails scratched me and once or twice even drew blood.   There was no longer any escape from her cruelty, because I knew whenever I “went inside,” I’d be punished or slapped for it.

“That must have felt so horrible,” my therapist said. “She should have sat you down and asked you if anything was bothering you, and then listened to what you said.”

“I know,” I whispered.   I bit my lip.  I was close to crying.  All my emotions have been so much closer to the surface the past couple of weeks.

“I’m so sorry she couldn’t appreciate you,” he said, pulling his chair up closer, from about 3 feet away to only about 2 feet away.  He was watching me closely.   Maybe he expected me to cry.  I really wanted to.  But if I didn’t, would I disappoint him?  And if I did, would it be genuine or would it be a performance because it’s what he seemed to expect?  I really didn’t even know.

“Why was she so mean?” I wailed. “Why  couldn’t she have been a normal mother? Why did she have to be different?” God, I sounded like a whiny 5 year old.

velveteen_rabbit

“Your mother had an illness, but that doesn’t mean what she did was right.   Not allowing you to feel or express your feelings and then getting angry at you for doing the only thing you knew how to do–go inside yourself–was wrong.  Belittling your feelings and calling you spooky was wrong.  So wrong.  I am so sorry.”  He looked like HE was going to cry!

Tears welled up and I buried my face in my hands.

“I’m so sorry.  I really am. You deserved better.”  He leaned forward.

Okay, it was happening. I was crying and it wasn’t a performance.  This was real.  It felt good because it felt real.

“It was terrible,” I sobbed.  “She was terrible.  People like her shouldn’t have children.  All she cared about was the way I made her look.  And I always made her look bad.”

“But only because you didn’t mirror what she wanted you to reflect in her.  It wasn’t your responsibility to do that.  You were just a child.  There was nothing wrong with you.”

I wiped my face and looked up.  “But you know, my dad wasn’t really that bad.  I know he really did love me, even though he drank all the time and hit me sometimes.   He loved that portrait of me, that one that no one knows what happened to.  He was so proud of that and it hung on the mantel for years.”

“I just noticed something.”

I looked up.

“I hear you, and we’ll talk about your dad too, but I also think you just attempted to change the subject so you wouldn’t have to feel the pain of your mother’s rejection of you.”

I thought about it.  He was right.  It’s true I felt somewhat victorious that I was able to shed tears in front of him, but crying also made me feel so self conscious and vulnerable that I unconsciously changed the subject to something “happier” or at least less traumatic.  I realized that I do this all the time.  I always unconsciously change the  subject or get “distracted” or make a joke whenever I start becoming too emotional or things start getting too painful or uncomfortable.   I never was aware I did this before.

“You know, you’re right.  I really do want to stay with this emotion, I want to feel this pain.  I know I have to.  It’s real, and that’s what I want. I want things to be real.  But it’s hard, you know.  I can get there, but I can’t keep it going.”

“Reality is difficult.”

“But that’s what I want.”

“Do you feel like you need more direction, to stay on track, and not go off on tangents when things start to feel too real?”

“Yes.  Please.   Direct me.  That’s your job.”

We talked about some other feelings I’m having.   I talked to him about the way I project onto others, like my step mother and her “hatred” of me, and this  feeling of something shifting inside.  I started getting emotional again.

“What’s happening?”

“I don’t know!  But I feel real again and I want more of that.”

“You’re already real.  You always have been.  Your defenses aren’t blinding you to what’s real as much as they did.  I can see incredible progress. But our time’s up for this week.”

As I was leaving, I blurted out something I couldn’t believe I heard myself say.   “I feel like running over there right now and giving you a hug,” is what I said.

Mortified by my outburst and feeling like I’d completely lost control of myself, I quickly turned around and started to open the door to leave.

“Wait,” he called.  I turned back around and saw him standing there with his arms open.  I stood there staring stupidly for a second, and then ran gratefully into them.  He patted me on the back during the embrace.   I pulled away first.    It’s the first time there was ever any physical contact between us, but there was nothing at all sexual about it and under the circumstances, I think it was perfectly ethical.    I trust his judgment in these matters.  And that hug felt real.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “What is real?

  1. What amazing insight you have. I remember your post about the Gulf and you feeling transformed. I love Velveteen Rabbit quote. We had it read at our wedding because it is hard and painful to be real. Good for you for sticking with it.

    Liked by 2 people

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