Monday is therapy day. It’s a relief to enter E’s office and not be crawling around at the very bottom of the pit. My depression has lightened some. I don’t have brain fog anymore. Most of the side effects from medication changes have receded, except for the minor problem that I cannot sleep. Okay, not a minor problem. I’m still working on that with Tabitha.
I can imagine that it’s a relief to E as well that she doesn’t have my relentless negativity rising up against anything she says to me. What a drag that must be (and thank heavens she’s willing to do it).
Today I want to talk about Doubt. Doubt is the part of me that says, “Your father didn’t really abuse you. That’s just something you somehow came up with in therapy. You jumped on it as an excuse for how poorly you manage boundaries. If it were the truth, you would remember more clearly. You wouldn’t have only these partial memories that aren’t like ‘normal’ memories. You would have some kind of evidence. Someone else would know…” You get the idea. When Doubt is on a roll, she goes on beyond the reasons why it’s not true. She’ll take the next step and say, “What kind of person are you anyway? Why do you make up such horrible things? You just want to get attention and sympathy, don’t you?”
Doubt gets in the way of my healing. Why should I spend time healing myself from something that is a lie? That’s why, going on two years ago, E convinced me to set Doubt aside for a while and “believe the girl” (that is, the abuse story of my younger self). It was amazing what a difference that made in my ability to move forward. And then, late in December I think, Doubt came back.
The thing is, when Doubt shows up, she’s very convincing. She is not only mean and nasty. She starts out very rational, focused on evidence and rationality. She’s convinced the abuse stories aren’t true. I’ll think I believe her. But at the same time, the abuse stories feel true.
I’ve told E, “I don’t know what to believe. They both make sense; they both feel right.”
So today in our session, I want to talk about Doubt. Not whether or not she is right, but what to do when she shows up. “I bet she’ll keep on showing up the rest of my life,” I say to E. It’s a discouraging thought, that I will never put this question to rest.
E wonders if I can give Doubt a different job. I suppose I could do that. But Doubt is stuck on this question of “did it happen?” She isn’t going to give it up, I think, even if I give her another job. And I can’t talk her out of her position. I mean, if she hasn’t been convinced by now, why would that change?
If I don’t know which to believe, Doubt or the girl, based on the facts, I can decide based on the results of believing one or the other. If I believe Doubt, the result is that I feel terrible about myself, I feel conflicted, and I do not allow myself the comfort of care and healing. If I believe the girl, the result is that my attachment to my father feels more complicated, but I can care for myself. It just seems healthier to choose to believe the girl. It’s a leap of faith, in a way. But if I don’t leap, one way or the other, I’m stuck forever on the edge of the rocky cliff, unable to move.
This means that every time Doubt shows up, I have to choose again. I can let Doubt appear (I don’t have to run away or resist her), but I have to choose not to listen to her. Thinking along those lines, I compose a letter for her, one to pull out the next time she comes for a visit. Here’s the first draft:
13 February 2017
Why hello Doubt,
I can’t say I’m happy, exactly, to see you again, but I guess I am not surprised. I know you’re going to come visiting sometimes.
You and I have spent a lot of time together over the years. I’ve heard all your arguments. I know you want me to hear them again, but they haven’t changed, have they? I don’t need to hear them again. I already know what you are going to say.
You might as well face it. We can’t resolve the question we keep debating: what really happened? There’s not a hidden trove of evidence we are going to discover now, all these years later. You might be right. You might not. I can’t be sure.
I am sure, however, that when I listen to you, I don’t feel well. You bring Depression with you, and she sits on me, heavy and suffocating. But when I send you away, there is space for Healing and Hope. I want their company. I choose their company over yours, even if you are right.
So my old acquaintance—I can’t call you my friend—if you need to be here a bit, then be here. I won’t fight with you. But I’m not going to sit and listen to your old stories all over again. Instead, I’ll be sitting with my friends, the ones who make me feel better about myself.
See you later, I’m quite sure.
Refusing to argue with Doubt anymore reminds me of refusing to argue with Miguel (ex-husband) anymore about all the ways I was unfair to him. He never really wanted to hear what I had to say, but rather wanted me to give in and say he was right. Doubt argues the same way, trying to break me down. But I am choosing to disengage. Let Miguel think I’m a mean lying bitch. Let Doubt think I’m a mean lying bitch. It doesn’t matter. I’m choosing (again) to believe the girl.