Living in the Dip
I’m a lot like the dog abandoned at the shelter looking to be adopted and in the description, it states “fearful of men”. Both of us have had a rough go with them. We’d like to trust but it’s a big ask. The hope is with time, the right environment, and relationship the dog can once again feel safe and find positive relationships with men, in fact, with everyone. I guess that’s the hope for me too.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written about therapy. The world is on fire and my experience and even more so my sharing seems irrelevant. The world is always going to be on fire and writing allows me to process.
Therapy is quite difficult at the moment. I’m in the biggest dip to date (yeah, that’s right, I’m referring to Seth Godin once again!). I am constantly debating with myself if this is the dip where I quit or keep going. I’m very close to quitting on most days. Then I don’t. The thing is I’m unsure if a lot of my struggle has to do with the messiness of healing, the attachment issues I have, the lack of relational success I’ve experienced, and thus I'm overwhelmed or because my alliance with my therapist just isn’t strong enough. I don’t trust myself at this point to know. So I stay.
It’s so damn unbalanced in therapy. One reason among so many is I do better with longer sessions and going twice a week. I’m literally like take my money because my mental health insurance sucks and instead of having a new car, adult furniture, putting away for a trip overseas, or whatever, I’ll give it to you so hopefully I can find a better, stronger, more secure me. Yet, I don’t always get what I need, some of it out of both our control and lots of it because he decides his hours and when he’s available. There’s a lot going on in that room besides the frequency of therapy and he recently said “I’m not just a client” when I walk in that room. I mean, sure, you say that to all of your clients and yes, yes I am because I’m throwing money at you but so are all these other people that you work with so I, just another client, might not get that second session which I already struggle with because it’s just another standard I can’t seem to live up too: the weekly, one-hour set-up.
From there it can be a free fall. Yeah, I have coping skills and plans for dysregulation but really they are ridiculous. I mean that’s how I’ve managed my entire life and I'm exhausted.
It’s more than that. I pay a person to reject me every week so that I can build resiliency to that rejection. I have a transactional relationship with a male therapist to work on healing because all of my relationships with men have been transactional. Talk about a clusterfuck.
One of the hardest things about therapy is how it mimics my real-life relationships. As long as I agree to give him something, accept I only get attention when he has time and on his terms, abide by his rules and boundaries then I’m allowed to exist. And I get the difference. Cognitively I can break apart all of this and of course, that’s how it will be but therapy is about my fucking dumb feelings and this feels like shit. I wish I could turn off my internal world, fill the hole that violently exploded into existence when I was 5 and has only grown since, or even just finally do what I’ve been fighting since I was 10. Except I can’t hence why I’m in therapy.
My therapist asks me all the time "what do I need". I hate the question. How am I supposed to answer that? Needing anything has led me to many harmful situations. Having needs isn't something I believe I'm entitled to and as I slowly unlearn that I am left without the skills to figure it out. Assessing that I have needs is one thing, articulating them, yikes!
I also know that some of what I need isn't going to happen. The result in my brain is then why even bother telling someone because it won't change anything and just leave me in a lot of pain and I'm already drowning from it.
Fine, I can't say it in therapy and I'm not sure I know how to articulate it but maybe what I write next is a first draft (the job of drafts is to suck, see below!) to learning how to be okay with having needs.
I need my husband's emotional availability at a minimum to quadruple. I need him to understand so many things without it leading to him quitting on me.
I need to be told over and over that these terrible things weren't my fault until I'm able to tell myself.
I need to be believed and reminded often that I am believed. Let's throw in this wasn't my fault while were at it.
I need reassurance I'm not a burden and I'm not getting fired as a therapy client (yeah, this is a real dumb fear I have, and the fears are only going to get dumber).
I need to know I'm going to therapy twice a week no matter what (I mean yeah there's some room for exceptions, duh) until I say I don't need to do that. I need to not feel guilty about it.
I need my therapist to remind me I exist in between sessions. I don't even think I understand this one let alone what it means or looks like and whatever it is won't happen so I'm fucked. I also know myself to know until I figure it out I'll fill with shame which then leads me to just armoring up.
I need a family. The kind of family where I'm embraced just for being me. A family that shows up. A family that gathers regularly and won't end in chaos. I had a chosen family and that made things less lonely but they were ripped from me just like so much else in my life. I need this family to include my husband. I need him to be on my side.
There is so much more but I don't have the words. The closest I’ve been able to encapsulate what I am experiencing is in this not good thing I wrote. It’s not good because it’s an early draft and the job of early drafts is to suck (just like my needs list!). I don’t know what I’m going to do with this piece but I’ll share the raw version nonetheless because for now, I have nothing left except wandering alone, lost, scared, confused, and sad in the dip.
The building with the outdoor glass elevator no one seems brave enough to use appears and just as quickly disappears.
This isn’t one stand-alone building. There are a series of doors opening into worlds that have nothing to do with her. Sometimes she hears voices of strangers she’ll never meet. Sometimes they sound angry. It scares her. The door she needs only unlocks when it’s decided it has time for her.
The building with the door she needs has a room inside where she waits. While the building has decided it has the time she then waits for the room to acknowledge she exists. For so long she’s been in existence without anyone seeing she’s there. In fact, she sometimes forgets she does exist, and if she remembers she grows lonely with the belief that she’s only existed under a set of conditions not because she’s good enough just being human.
In the building with the door she needs with the room where she waits there is a hallway. She may only travel the hallway if she is invited. As she walks the lonely hallway she wonders what others feel when they do the same. Hope, relief, encouragement? She feels shame. Shame for what’s happened to her. Shame for things she cannot say and those that she has. She’s desperate to be seen, to exist, even if there are rules and under these circumstances. So desperate that she continues the walk down the hallway week after week.
There is a building with a door she needs and inside a room where she waits until she’s invited to walk through the hallway of shame to her destination. Another room. The room of secrets. Inside this room, there is a couch. The seams in some places are coming apart and there are parts where the leather has been rubbed away. Carrying the weight of a room required to hold secrets has a price.
The couch makes her feel like a child. So does most furniture. Her feet never seem to truly touch the ground forcing her to shift and never getting comfortable. It’s as if all furniture was created to remind her that her body is, was, and will never be her own. The couch, the room, the hallway, and the building whisper reminders of what she never had...
Choice. Control of her own life, her own body. A chance to be who she should instead of what she has become. She grieves someone she never met and life never lived. She grieves what she has endured. She grieves in silence and shame.
The room of secrets with it’s broken couch in a building that decides she’s allowed to exist is a man. Just like her life, so much of him is not real. Parts of him are real while others only exist in the room within the building that decides. He has kind eyes. So have other men. Men’s eyes never stay kind. She fears the days his eyes change.
The worlds she created a lifetime ago to escape the pain often feel more real than this man. Like every man in her life, he’s only available if she abides by his rules. She understands why it’s different so she hangs her head in shame and agrees. Maybe he will see. Understand. So she continues to walk the hallway on the days when the building has decreed she may exist. When he has time to see.
The room with secrets gives you 3600 seconds. Each tick she hears. Clocks and watches remind both of them that this isn’t real. Soon the clock will get to zero and all of this will disappear. She tries not to listen to those clocks as they murmur nor notice when he looks at his wrist. She wonders if he’s counting down because he understands or because like so many others before him won’t see her although she is right there. It doesn’t matter because she never mattered. She withdraws to the haven in her mind.
The room with the secrets is watching and her time has ended. She stands. Dizzy. Sad. Always sad. One step in front of another bracing for the pain that follows. The silence that screams. The loneliness because she needs too much. The hallway seems smaller and her shame bigger when the building has decided she must leave. This is what happens when you bargain with what isn’t real.
The building with the glass elevator, doors to other worlds, and the room with the man and her secrets opens one last time and casts her to the side. It doesn’t care that she’s in pain. Hanging on to the hope that maybe she is real but she doesn’t have time to ask because it all disappears. She knows her fate. She is alone never once even existed.