I said this to my daughter’s therapist. My daughter’s therapist, who has somehow become a surrogate therapist for me as well. It’s been over a decade since I spoke to somebody one-on-one, and I can feel it as deep as the depression that rests in my bones. Yet it took Addie needing a place of release for me to find someone. Always rejecting myself even though the everyday has gotten near unbearable.
Everyday is heavy. Everyday is hard. The good stuff that comes always bears dread. How am I going to fuck this day up? So one day I started talking, I started telling her… we’ll call her Mary… about me. And in speaking to Mary my traumas arose. It was more than just the stress of being a parent and not wanting to yell at my kids. It was more than not having enough money to grocery shop with ease. It was more than not enough sleep, not eating well, not getting enough me time. It was the recollection of trauma, that when I’d spoken of it previously, had been in some way victimizing all over again.
Perhaps the initial trigger had been reading the book Baffled by Love by Laurie Kahn. I don’t know what it was about the book, it wasn’t in any place special on the shelf at the public library. But I picked it up and went through it, and read the synopsis. It was something I wanted to explore. So I read one chapter every few days, because I can’t take more than that. Each page is in some way relatable, whether it be my detachment from the idea of physical contact and love, or it’s trusting people who will hurt me emotionally… physically. The book spoke to me and I started to remember things. To feel things.
I never wanted to feel them again.
But you have to feel the trauma in order to heal it.
And I am not healed.
I don’t want to be on medication I repeated.
Addie wasn’t in the room at the time… and the therapy seems like it’s actually more for Dave and myself, trying to cope with everything she’s been through. To be supportive parents and not hovering parents. To not let our worry about what will happen in her future. To be unafraid of what will happen today. To understand that our actions and reactions are shaping her. That kids mimic the behaviors they see.
So maybe the therapy is for me anyway, but in this instance I spewed out some of the hurt that happened to me. This beautiful, soft-spoken woman opened her eyes wide- in shock. I don’t think she meant to have that reaction, but I think she saw me as a seemingly normal woman who just wanted to help her child, who was now sitting in her office unpacking things that would lead to deeper issues. Some of it she needs to know, so she can connect the dots. So she doesn’t have to ask why my girls will never go to a sleepover. Why we won’t hire a sitter. Why I won’t have anyone watch them for me.
Mary swallowed, looked down at her notebook, and said to me, “That makes sense. I don’t think you need medication. I think, like all of us, you just need coping skills.”
I’m the daughter of a psychologist. I’ve survived sexual trauma, physical abuse, accidents, injury, deaths of loved ones. I held the deceased bodies of a child and a parent. I’ve lost pregnancies. I’ve battled my own sexuality. Some days getting dressed hurts my skin. I’ve made it through these things.
I must have some coping skills, but I said nothing. I looked up at her she mentioned other things I could try as I babbled about Thorazine, Prozac, Depakote, Tegretol, Neurontin, Zoloft, Paxil. The time I got desperate with nothing working and I turned to St John’s Wort. I took a whole blister pack. And still I felt nothing. Or I felt empty. Not sad. Not happy. Nothing. I felt no pain, no pleasure. Nothing fulfilled me. Nothing gutted me.
She smiles. Not an I’ve been there smile, but an I understand smile. We spoke about a few different things and then she mentioned fish oil. It was here in the conversation that I started to imagine her as just another sales person trying to make snake oil seem like a godly healer. But I listened and she seemed to understand the difference between the DHA and the EPA, its links to mood stabilization, and as she spoke I looked it up on Amazon and ordered some High EPA Fish Oil. I love my Shakeology, so I get daily vitamins from it, but let’s be honest I haven’t been consistent. Because of this I started to take a multivitamin. I also started taking something called Blood Builder, because of excessive anemia. I am so sick of not feeling well. I can smile better than anyone you’ve ever met. I assure you of that. “But you’re always so happy” is the most common thing I hear. And I am happy, or I want to be.
I have no reason not to be.
And it’s embarrassing when you live a good life and you’re not happy. I’m embarrassed by my lack of graciousness. I’m appalled that I just can’t be happy. I’ve tried so many methods… And now, fish oil. I only just took them yesterday morning and today, but I wanted to say that I’m trying.
And I hope you are too.
I hope that if you’re embarrassed and ashamed, you know that I am too. And when I feel that way about myself I feel like I deserve those awful feelings, but when I look at you I don’t think you do. I think you are strong and you are brave. I think the days are hard and the happy moments fleeting. And I know that putting your feet on the floor in the morning is one of the most difficult things you do all day. And I know you want to close your eyes and you want to sleep and you want to wake up anyone but you. You want to wake up someone else. You want to wake up that better mother, that better friend, that better daughter, that better partner.
But you won’t heal until you try and you fail and you try again.
I uttered the words I don’t want to be medicated, and someone listened.