“Are you protecting them or are you protecting you?”
“I don’t know. I don’t understand this.”
“You don’t need to protect them anymore.”
I know that; intellectually I know that. But I was still so afraid to say out loud what happened. We were trained not to tell anyone anything. She told us they wouldn’t understand. So I kept quiet. I never told. And even though she’s not here now, I’m still not telling. I’m still living in fear of a threat that is no longer valid.
I think I am protecting her. I am still protecting both of them. I can still hear her voice inside my head sometimes. Don’t tell. Don’t tell. Don’t tell.
“Look around. You are safe here. They are not here. No one can hurt you here.”
I knew where I was. But I was somewhere else in my mind. I was existing within two worlds at the same time: the world of now and the world of my childhood. It was as if I were standing on an invisible line, with one foot on either side: the past to my left, and the present to my right. I can see both worlds, but I can’t pick a side. So I stand there, existing in limbo.
“What was your mother doing?”
The pressure built up inside my head again. I could feel my insides shaking and I started to panic. Why is it so hard for me to tell? I want so badly just to let it out and I can’t. I can’t do it.
“Do we need to take a break?”
I wanted so badly to say no. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to fight through the chaos inside. But I knew in that moment that I couldn’t go on. I wanted to flee from my own body. I wanted to escape right then and there. But why? I was in a safe place. I was with a safe person. So why do I still want to run away?
I want to run away from the truth. I want everything to be okay. But it’s too late for that.
I told her yes. I didn’t acknowledge in that moment how powerful it was for me to admit that I needed a break. I never did that before.
My therapist asked what I had for breakfast. Nothing. She asked what I had for lunch. Nothing. She asked about coffee. I always have coffee before therapy, even if I don’t eat anything. I used to drink it black, but now I get it with cream and sugar for the added calories. It all tastes the same to me.
I’m in therapy now, talking about coffee. I was slowly crossing over the invisible line into the present, no longer teetering into the past. We talked about my school situation. We talked about the GRE, and how I cried over the phone because the person registering me could not understand me. But I wasn’t crying about the misunderstanding or about the GRE; I was crying because I couldn’t handle everything that was going on in my mind.
We talked about TV. I bought a TV back in February and have watched it twice since then. I don’t know why. She asked what kinds of television shows I like to watch. She mentioned reality shows. “I can’t watch them, my father watches them.” She mentioned another type. “I can’t watch them, either. He liked them, too.”
I have disconnected myself from anything that reminds me of my abusers. I told my therapist about the Poptart incident from the week before. I told her how I can’t wear headbands because my mother wore them, how I can’t eat certain candies because my mother ate them. I don’t want to be like her. I don’t want to be like my father, either.
“That doesn’t make you anything like them. You need to reclaim those things. You can eat a chocolate Poptart because you like to eat them. It doesn’t make you your mother.”
“It’s alright, I switched to peanut butter. My mother hates peanut butter.“ But I knew that wasn’t my therapist’s point. I’m still avoiding. I’m still restricting myself from things that I could enjoy just because those other people enjoyed them, too. It’s not fair.
By the time the coffee and Poptart conversation was done, we were nearing the end of session. It didn’t feel like all that time had passed. I was sitting there, still very much unresolved. I knew the memories were going to come back. I knew I failed again.
I want to stay here. I don’t want to flee anymore. Help me get through this. Help me stop this.