I went to therapy this evening and asked E. my question of the day, “Which came first, the depressive chicken or the therapy egg?” The context was a broader discussion of what I have been doing and neglecting to do to take care of myself, to heal. I told her that the two worst depressions I have experienced in my life have come upon me when I have tried in therapy to deal with childhood wounds.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be focusing too much on the past,” I said. “Maybe I should say, yes, there were wounds, but they happened a long time ago. Now I have a good life: a dear husband and interesting work, children who are struggling a bit on their road toward adulthood but making progress. Maybe I should be focusing on this instead of on things that make me feel depressed.”
E. would have none of it. “What are you going to do, box it all up and forget about it? Do you really think it will leave you alone?”
Hm, well, she has a point. When not dealing with memories of childhood abuse, I might not be contemplating the relative merits of different methods of suicide all the time (which I did a lot this spring), but I’m still not a model of mental health. I never know when the ghosts are going to creep out of odd corners of my life and trip me up. Still, that’s not as debilitating as my Great Depression of 2015 has been.
“I believe,” E. told me, “that you’re not going to get the relief and healing you seek until you truly believe that little girl. It’s my opinion that as long as you hold onto the position of skepticism, she won’t feel believed and supported. She’ll think you believe she’s a liar, and she’ll be unhappy.”
“I’ve been trying…” I said.
“You’re holding back,” she said. “I don’t know exactly what happened in your past, of course. But I do believe that it’s true that something happened with your father. I don’t know how often or all the details. But your core self is telling me–is telling you–that there was something very wrong. You have spent a lot of energy trying to ignore it or doubt it or bury it, and I don’t see that helping you.”
Those weren’t her exact words, but they capture the meaning of what she said. And this was a much firmer stance than she has taken before. Usually she follows my lead on the “I know I was abused” theme or the “but the memories have such a strange quality that I can’t really trust them” theme or the “no one in my family acknowledges that anything was wrong so I must be crazy” theme, depending on where I’m settling at any particular moment. She has often used language like, “whether or not something happened, you deserved to heal.” Not today.
“I’m not trying to put words in your mouth,” she told me. “But the pain and the stories and the fears have come from you. They have come repeatedly. Would it be so terrible to believe them?”
I think about the post I wrote back a few months ago, making the choice to believe the little girl. It was a relief. It felt right. But I haven’t been able to hang on to it.
She asked me if I could commit to believing the little girl for a while and see if it made a difference. She’ll help me hang on to the belief, to beat off the doubt. She’ll help me through the fear. I’ll see her weekly instead of every two weeks for a while. And from now through the end of July, I’ve promised to believe the little girl.
So, the verdict is that the depressive chicken came first and is going to hang around in one form or another until I accept and deal the truth that my core self keeps trying to tell me.