For months I’ve been working in therapy to believe what happened to me as a young girl is really true. I remember a number of violations I experienced between the ages of about 13 and 21, but those that happened at ages maybe 4-9 are hazy. For years I punished myself for “making up” those memories, and E. has encouraged me to trust my intuition, believe the girl and comfort her. It’s been helpful.
But here’s what still confuses me: the girl is me, and not me. Anxiety and Doubt and Intuition and Compassion and the Wise Woman–they are all me. So who am I then? I’m dozens of selves that interact with each other. Is there a core “me”? Or is there nothing at the core, and I am only the self of the moment, Anxious Q, Workaholic Q, Avoidant Q? I sometimes imagine that at my core, I am the Wise Woman, and it’s my task (her task) to listen to the others but not let them take over, to care for the whole cluster of selves.
Lately I feel like the core self is the wounded little girl. She is supremely anxious and increasingly angry, and, in between, emotionless and disconnected from the world. And that is how I feel now in my life. I am very tired and overwhelmed by all the work I have to do. I am so anxious every morning that it’s a huge effort to get out of bed and go to work. I want to curl up in bed and hide from the world. I long to relieve some of the anxiety by burning myself, even just a little. It’s the weekend, and the weather’s good, and we were invited to a party this evening, but I haven’t left the house all day. I don’t call friends and don’t want to talk to anyone. I only want to be around my husband; he is quiet and easy. He demands little of me but is a sweet and patient companion.
Friday morning I was so agitated and anxious that I couldn’t imagine making it to work and being Professional Q all day. And yet, I had to. So I had the Wise Woman go into the girl’s room in the house where all my selves live and talk to the girl. “I need to get Professional Q to work. What do you need to be okay today? Should I get Intuition and Authenticity to come over? You’ve been spending time with them.”
The girl shook her head. “No, I don’t want them.” She didn’t want Tenderness or Joy either.
“So.. what do you need Little One?”
It will seem to any sane reader that I am making this up. But it didn’t feel as though I was making it, as though I was choosing her answer. It felt like she was a child telling me, “I want the nurse. I want someone who will take care of me because I don’t feel good.”
So that was new. I didn’t even know if there was a nurse in the house–but as it’s my house in my head, I found one. The nurse set up her desk in the girl’s bedroom, since the girl never wants to leave her room these days. She told the girl, “You can stay in bed and sleep or read books if you want. If you feel bad and want me to take care of you, I’m right here. If you get bored and want to play a game, we can do that. I’ll stay all day.” The girl was satisfied with that, and I went to work.
That evening, the Wise Woman (or I?) knocked on the girl’s bedroom door. She (we?) was surprised, when she entered, to see the mess. “The girl had a bit of a tantrum this afternoon,” the nurse explained. “She threw books and her stuffed animals around. She ripped up papers and beat on bed, some of the time yelling and crying.”
That’s a bit different. The girl is usually well-behaved and self-controlled. “She has done this before,” the nurse reassured us. “But it’s been a very long time. I think it’s probably good for her to get some of that anger out. And anyway, it’s so easy to clean up this house, we don’t even have to worry about that.”
Am I this girl? Or is she a figment of my imagination, a symbol of feelings I have? Or feelings I think I should have but cannot access? It’s just confusing sometimes. Meanwhile, my sleeping is off and my head is a bit discombobulated. Too much medication, perhaps. The astonishing thing is that colleagues at work haven’t seemed to notice. Professional Q has a really good mask that rarely slips. But it’s heavy, and she’s tired.
Image by Robert-Raik