Editor’s Note: This is part 13 of Marie’s story.
It was therapy session day today! As I’ve come to expect, it was very worthwhile . . . after the usual preliminaries, Carl led things off with . . .
Carl: So . . . tell me how you are doing!
Me: I’m doing well . . . things are going well, I’m keeping very busy!
Carl: Is there anything specific you would like to talk about today . . . anything that has come up for you since the last session?
Me: No, not really . . . Actually, I’m ready to get going on the stuff you mentioned at the close of our last session. And, since I don’t have a clue where to start, I guess it makes sense for you to lead the way.
Carl: Well, thank you for trusting me to lead you. I have a plan in mind, but if something comes up for you along the way, I want you to trust it is your way of telling us that we need to pay attention to whatever has come up for you. If that happens, we will honor what has come up for you and bring it to completion before we return to my plan. Is that okay?
Me: That works for me!
Carl: Good. So, to start off . . . I would like to hear about your reasons for calling “X” by an anonymous letter of the alphabet rather than by his name. Let me be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t identify him that way and I’m not asking you to change. I just want to better understand your reasons for identifying him in that way.
Me: There are two reasons. First, when I started my journal to write about all that happened to me, I went through the process of creating pseudonyms for everyone involved. I couldn’t bring myself to select a name to be assigned to the character of “X” – it seemed unfair to people who might be similarly named. So, I decided to make up an identifier that would not belong to anyone else . . . alas, the name “X”.
The second reason is I have never been sure I was molested. Even now, I’m only about 95% sure. And, I have never been sure it was “X” who did it . . . currently, I’m only about 80% sure it was him. So, as I have been processing all of this, I needed a “face” or an “person” to play the role of the molester in my mind. If “X” was not the molester in reality, I didn’t want to be thinking of him because I didn’t want to send accusatory energy in his direction if he didn’t do it. Instead, I created this “other, faceless person” named “X” to be the person I thought of during the processing.
Carl: In what ways would your current experience be different if you knew for sure you were molested? In other words, if you had some solid proof like . . . um . . . like . . . .
Me: Like a videotape of the rape?
Carl: Yes, like a videotape of the rape . . . would it make a difference?
Me: I would know there was a reason why I’m so messed up now . . . I would know I’m a good person reacting to something bad that happened as opposed to an organically bad person.
Carl: Do you think you are a bad person?
Me: Logically, my adult brain says, “Of course not.” But, my child brain says, “Yes.”
Carl: What evidence does your child brain have of your badness?
Me: I know people don’t want to be around me. I have a few close friends who want to spend time with me, but the vast majority of people would rather not have to be around me.
Carl: People don’t want to be around you?
Me: That is my experience of the world. It seems most people only deal with me long enough to get what they want/need from me, then they move away from me as quickly as possible.
(A few moments to allow us to feel the pain . . . )
Carl: I’d like to know more about what happened between you and your parents in your childhood. You have mentioned that you got hit. Can you tell me about that?
Me: Well, they hit me with belts, their hands, spoons . . . whatever.
When I got older, each of my parents slapped me in the face. It happened only once with each of them.
Carl: It may have happened only once, but it impacted you enough to cause you to clearly remember it even today, right?
Me: Yes, that’s true . . .
At one point, I started peeing my pants when I knew my dad was going to whip me. He solved that problem by making me go to the bathroom beforehand. But, I pretty much knew that, if he was telling me to go to the bathroom, he was going to whip me. I quit peeing my pants at some point.
Carl: You were so terrified of what was going to happen that you peed your pants. You must have been incredibly terrified! That is awful!!
Me: (Nodding my head in agreement . . . ) When I’ve talked to my sister about this, she says she doesn’t remember me being hit so much. My dad always took me into the bedroom to spank me, so I guess she didn’t see. She didn’t get hit because she was compliant.
Carl: What reasons did they have for hitting you?
Me: Umm . . . . I don’t remember, really . . . I think it was mostly because I was being too loud, or I didn’t do what I was told to do quickly enough. I’m not really sure.
Carl: How terrible to be hit because you were expressing yourself naturally, as children do, and to be told you have to stop acting like a child and you have to be compliant!
Me: The same thing happened with my older siblings . . . my brother got hit a lot because he was defiant, and my oldest sister got hit very little because she was compliant. She was also very sick and not expected to live, so I’m guessing she didn’t really feel well enough to do much beyond being compliant.
Carl: So, let’s get back to talking about you and your experience . . . tell me more about how you were disciplined.
Me: Sometimes, when my dad was hitting me with the belt, my legs would buckle and I’d fall to the ground. To fix that problem, he would make me face the nightstand – he always took me into their bedroom to spank me – and put my hands one on each side of the top of the nightstand. Then, he would tell me to keep my knees locked. That way, I wouldn’t fall down and curl up into a ball. But, then, sometimes I put my hands on my butt. He didn’t want to injure my hands, so that is why he made me keep my hands on the nightstand.
Carl: Do you know that is child abuse?
It was worse with my mom. Her aim was bad, so her hits would land anywhere from my knees to my shoulder blades. I would have trouble sitting down at school the next day because of the welts in the tender areas. It wasn’t as bad with my dad because he had better aim – he hit harder, but he usually kept the hits on my butt. My butt was a less sensitive area.
Carl: Is it possible that your mom didn’t have bad aim?
Maybe, if she had calmed down first, before she hit you, her aim would have been far more accurate. Is it possible she was enraged and out-of-control, and she chose to physically take it out on you? Do you think it is possible she could have had improved her aim by first cooling down, but she chose not to?
Me: I hadn’t thought of that before, but I suppose it is possible. I just always assumed she had bad aim.
(I sat and pondered that for a while. I couldn’t think of anything else to say about how I had been punished as a kid, other than to repeat it all again.)
Me: I guess I’m done talking about this. (Tears welled up in my eyes)
Carl: Based upon the emotion that I’m seeing, I’m guessing you aren’t really done talking about this, but maybe you’re done talking about it for today. Would that be accurate?
(A pause while I let the emotion settle a bit)
Me: Why should my experience of child abuse be considered a big deal? Isn’t child abuse common?
Carl: Does it matter how common it is? If it were common, would it make your experience less painful?
Me: No, I guess not.
(Another pause while he watched me wipe my tears . . . )
[Continued in the next post . . . ]
Other posts in Marie’s series:
- Part 1: My Therapist Stinks… I’m Searching for a New One
- Part 2: Choosing A Therapist… and Breathing Again
- Part 3: I Have Always Had to Keep the “Real Me” In Hiding…
- Part 4: My First Therapy Session with Carl
- Part 5: An Email I Sent to Carl After Our First Session
- Part 6: Dad Threatened to Kick Me Out, So I Planned Accordingly…
- Part 7: Do You Feel You Have Intrinsic Value as a Person?
- Part 8: I Am Learning Not to Fight the Tears
- Part 9: It’s About How I Have Violent Fantasies
- Part 10: He Is Providing That Validation That I So Desperately Needed
- Part 11: Relief, and Carl Assures Me He Does Know How to Help Me
- Part 12: I Feel Like I Can Relax Into His Leadership and Expertise