Last week I wrote about telling E. that I probably need to talk to her about something else but can’t bring myself to do it. She suggested that I write it down, put it in an envelope, and bring it to session, so it could become used to being in her office.
So during the week, I wrote it down on a small piece of paper, just a single sentence. Then I tucked it inside a little envelope, maybe the size for a small gift card. Then I wrapped it with colored tissue paper. Then I wrapped it again, and pasted pictures on the paper. Then I wrapped it in another layer of tissue paper. Then I put it in a red envelope. I wrote and doodled all over the red envelope the way a 14-year-old girl might write all over a notebook cover. Then I put Scotch tape all over that envelope, so it’s hard to open. Next I put the red envelope inside a larger white envelope and wrapped it with duct tape.
I know, it’s kind of funny, but this is not overkill! This is how I really feel about releasing this secret. I think it needs to come out, but I really, really do not want to share it. And I’m not taking any chances that it might sneak out on its own.
On Monday, I get to my weekly therapy session and tell E., “I wrote it down, like you suggested and put it in an envelope.”
“Great! Can I see it?” she asks.
So I pull it out out of my purse and she laughs when she sees the duct tape. I hand it to her, although right away that makes me nervous, to see it in her hands.
“Wow,” she says, “you have really protected it. You have made sure it won’t get out until it’s the right time. I won’t be able to open this without scissors.”
“That was the point.”
“That’s good; it’s important to treat it with respect.” She feels the envelope. “It seems like it’s pretty long note. There’s a lot to it.”
I don’t tell her that in fact it is very short but all the paper she feels comes from the many layers of packing.
She continues. “It seems like what we need to do is create a very safe, protected space for this secret. We want it to feel safe to show itself, when it’s ready.”
We talk some about what that safety might look like. She asks if my hesitation is still about what she will think of me. “Partly yes,” I say. “And partly telling it makes it real, and I don’t want it to be.”
She handles the envelope very gently. I move out of the chair onto the floor, facing away from her. It’s always hard for me to look at her when the situation feels emotionally risky.
“How does it feel for me to be holding the envelope?” E. asks me.
“It makes me nervous,” I tell her. “I want it back.”
Immediately, she hands it back to me. We talk a while longer, though I can’t remember what we said. After I while I start to relax a little.
“Okay, if you give me some scissors, I’ll start to open it a bit.” She gets some scissors, and I cut off just one corner. I widen the opening a little and say, “I’m letting it breathe a little.”
E. moves to the floor beside me. “Can I peek inside? Oh, it looks like pink paper. Is there a significance to the pink? Wait, is that another envelope inside there?”
“Yes. And red actually, but no significance. It’s just what I had around the house.”
After a bit, as E. continues to talk about how we can make the secret feel safer, she says something to the effect of, “we can give it nice messages, such as we will treat it gently.”
I jump on it. “Yes, that’s good. Let’s write it little notes, both of us.” I grab the yellow pad she always has sitting available. She goes along with my impulse and cuts the paper into small squares.
“What shall we write?” she asks.
“Some of the things you said. And whatever we can honestly say to it.”
She starts with Help is on the way.
I start with You are probably not the most disgusting thing ever.
She writes You will be held with the utmost respect when you come out.
I write It usually feels like a relief to talk about things; you might feel that way too.
We fold these up into small squares and push them into the envelope through the hole I cut in the corner. We keep writing more messages. My favorite from her was You can decide when and how much to talk about it even once you are out. And my favorite that I wrote was Maybe you can be forgiven, even though you don’t think so.
In the end, twelve little messages go into the envelope.
At the end of the session, she asks me, “Shall I keep it here until next time?”
I shake my head no. “And it’s nothing personal. I know you wouldn’t do anything to it. I just want to keep it.”
I’m glad I kept it. I have already shaken out all the little yellow squares twice and read through all the messages again. I’m surprised how meaningful they are to me. They make me think I might be able to let the secret come out, one day.