Evening session with E. The realer it gets, the closer I get to the floor. Today I don’t even try to sit in the chair. I start out cross-legged on the floor, leaning against the cushioned chair, E across from me in her therapy chair.
“I had such a plan for this session,” I tell her. “I printed out copies of a couple of my blog posts and of pictures from the girl. Especially one picture, a painting she made that she then wrote on.” “But I had errands to run earlier. One of them took longer than I thought, so I didn’t have the time swing back home to get my journal and papers. I’m so aggravated!”
“I like it when you bring you show-and-tell,” she smiles.
“Yeah, well it makes it a bit easier talk to you using the pictures. I wanted to share them. I’m so annoyed not to have them,” I know I’m fussing pointlessly. “But okay, I’ll just have to tell you about them instead.”
First I tell her about the map of the pit. This is something I made a few weeks ago when we both realized that I wasn’t communicating to her how bad my depression was this spring. Now I have a pictorial guide to my own personal pit, and I can mark on the map what symptoms I have been having. I am pleased that my symptoms are generally less frequent and less severe than a few months ago. You can see it on this map (with my name whited out).
Since she has seen the map before, she knows what I am talking about and recognizes that I’m doing better.
Next we talk a little about my son with developmental disabilities, a vast and complicated topic I have not really discussed yet on this blog. Someday, perhaps.
Then we get to the core of today’s topic, my wounded little girl’s experiments with art. “I used the touch painting technique you told me about. I painted in reds and oranges and blacks. Then I wrote with my non-dominant hand. You were right; it was a good way to access a different, less rational and linear way of thinking,” I tell her.
I am surprised to discover that I’m struggling to find words to tell E what the girl wrote. “She wrote that… um… she was… she has very conflicted feelings about…” and then I freeze. I just can’t get any more words out. I draw my knees to my chest and clutch a cushion tightly.
E waits. She is patient. Neither of us is accustomed to long silences in our sessions; but she can wait when she senses it’s important.
After a long time, I say, “I don’t know how to talk about it.”
“How about if you tell me what happened just now? You said, ‘she has conflicted feelings’ and then you stopped. Was it because you didn’t know what the feelings were? Or because it was hard to talk about them?”
“Hard to talk about them,” I say, in a low voice.
“Okay,” she nods and waits some more.
Why can’t I tell her? I feel paralyzed. I feel sick. This is crazy. I’ve known E. for years. Talk, I tell myself. After a while, I say, “I am going to sit over here and not look at you.”
I move myself over to the far side of the cushy chair and look at the wall instead of at her.
“Do you know what an implicit memory is?” she asks me.
I shake my head.
“You can read about it later, but it’s different that an explicit memory; it’s held in your body. I think that’s what you are experiencing now,” she tells me. “Generally implicit memories don’t go away, but they can become easier to deal with.”
I nod. After a few moments, I can talk again, but slowly. “My dad’s father, my grandfather, I always felt a little worried about him. I felt like I should protect him. My grandmother said mean things to him, and I felt sorry.”
Pause, pause, pause. I hold the cushion tighter and slouch down toward the floor. “I used to hold his hand; I was his little girl.”
Then I’m floating. I can’t talk for a very long time. “I don’t know what to say,” I finally tell her.
“Can I ask you questions?” she wants to know.
“Can you tell me about what you are feeling in your body?”
I hesitate. “A knot in my stomach, and like I can’t get a deep breath.” She is writing this down. Be honest with her, I tell myself. “My skin is tingling. And I feel… it’s like… a pressure in my vagina.”
She asks about my grandparents. Somehow, with her questions, I start to talk more. Now I am lying on the floor, telling her about this side of the family. “I don’t know what all lies behind it. My father is an alcoholic and has been my whole life. One of his brothers drinks too much as well. Another one used to be drug addicted, though he’s clean now. Carl, the younger one, I remember being at a dinner party with him once. His wife said something about how much Carl was like his father, and he lost it. He was screaming profanities, completely out of control. In the end, they left the dinner. I don’t know what was behind that, but they are all messed up.”
“Do you think your father knew about what your grandfather did to you?”
“No,” I reply, feeling quite sure about this. “One of the first adjectives I would choose to describe my father is oblivious. I don’t think he’s ever known anything about the emotional state of any of his children.”
We talk more, about being at the shop my grandfather had. Now I am curled in a fetal position on the floor.I tell her I have a strong urge to burn my tongue, even though I know it would hurt a lot.
“Why is that, do you think?”
“As a punishment. Punishment for talking about it,” I tell her. “But I won’t do it. It’s okay if she talks.”
We end the session with E telling me she’s glad the little girl can communicate, glad I believe her. She appreciates that I feel so comfortable in her office that I can move myself around the space in the ways I need to. She recognizes the deep work I am doing. Her calm voice helps to me pull myself together. I say goodbye and head home.