I had an EMDR session scheduled yesterday. As I drove to the appointment, I could feel my anxiety mounting, getting higher and higher. I took deep breaths and tried to talk to myself logically–it will be okay.
In my head, I had practiced discussing my triggers with my therapist. But saying the words–connecting the dots–out loud, feels so much harder.
It embarrasses me to say the words aloud. It is as if all this pain that I am feeling seems petty when the words are out there. And yet, until the words are out there, there is no relief.
I couldn’t do a lot of explaining. I did try…but I couldn’t bring myself to fully admit any of the words out loud. Why?
I did explain that I had been triggered by discussing the boundaries of the therapy relationship. This relationship is absolutely important and meaningful to me. In my life, there are very few people who I have shared my whole self with–and sharing my feelings of closeness to my therapist immediately made me fear that I was crossing a boundary and would lose the one person who knows and supports me.
The feelings of abandonment and panic were quick to emerge. Last night, I attempted to address these feelings through an EMDR session.
When I think about the word abandonment, I immediately get a picture of a textured gray door. It was the door to my mother’s trailer house. As my therapist tapped, I fell back into the memory.
I am eight. It is the summer before third grade. My mother has decided to “clean up her act” and my grandmother tells us that we are going to go back to live with her. I DON’T WANT TO. But, I can’t really say that…she is my mother, I am supposed to live with her.
My grandma’s house has become my home. I have lived there for the last two years. I have friends. I have a school. I ride the bus. I have a secret hide-out in the backyard, and I love her three small dogs. I feel, for the first time in my active memory, safe and stable. Unworried and just cared for.
On the day of the move, I ride in the front seat of my grandma’s car, listening to our favorite 50’s tape–I remember singing, “My boyfriend’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble…” We avoid talking about the obvious–I DON’T WANT TO GO. We pull into the trailer park and drive up to the one my mother has rented. I am not impressed.
We walk into the trailer and I look around–it is foreign, unknown. Yet, I am told…this is my new “home.”
Before long, my mother has a new boyfriend. It doesn’t take long before she leaves us alone, overnight. My biological father creeps around, trying to scare us and her. One night, she yells at me to hide in a closet–someone is outside. I hide, all alone, terrified in the dark.
My grandma arrives one day, angry when she discovers that my junior high aged brother and I are all alone, with no groceries. She takes us home, to her house.
Home. I take a deep breath. I am safe.
…but then, she takes us back. My mom is at work. My brother is in the yard. She says goodbye, and I start to cry. I don’t want her to leave! I am scared! I want to be with her!
I can’t breathe. I can’t think of anything other than not being alone. She is confused by my reaction and tells me I need to calm down.
I can’t. I beg. Don’t leave! Please, don’t leave me here, alone! I grab her, cling to her.
I need her!!
She tries tough love. She just walks out, and holds the door shut.
The gray, textured door.
I see it, even now. I feel it, even now. I throw my body against the door, absolutely panicked. I need out! I can’t be alone! It’s not safe!
She still left.
My therapist stops tapping and asks me what I notice. I don’t want to say it again. We’ve been through this memory. I should be over it. I say something non-committal. She continues tapping.
I’m 18 years old, a freshman in college. I love my best friend, my boyfriend, with all of my being. There are no boundaries for me–I am him and he is me. We are one person, with the same interests, the same friends, a team…meant to be, forever. He knows me, more fully than any other person has.
I am wrong.
One day, he gets upset and says he needs to go on a hike with his friends. I throw a fit because I want to go, too. I am hurt that he needs alone time–he is my refuge! Why does he need refuge from me? I go to my dorm room and pout. I take a nap and awake to a knock on the door.
He is eating a bowl of cereal, which strikes me as odd. He delivers the news with no emotion–no pain. He wants to end it.
Again, I panic. I beg. Don’t leave me alone! Please…
But he does. And I am now the crazy girl who can’t accept the news. The aftermath–it was terrible. And then there were the events that occurred after.
My therapist stops tapping. What do I notice? I don’t want to admit it. I was 18, it was a year long relationship. It feels petty that it can still hurt and affect me so deeply.
The tapping resumes.
I see myself now. Laying on my couch, in my home full of my family. Feeling utterly alone. The memory begins to spin, fast, and I feel the overwhelming urge to just sob and let it out. My marriage is fractured, haunting me. I have no one who knows me. I am so ALONE. And desperate.
I can’t go there!! I can’t. I yank my hands away and say, No! I can’t go there right now. I just can’t.
I hit that wall. That wall of resistance. The resistance I don’t want and don’t understand…Where processing what is happening inside of me, right now, is just too much. Too painful.
I am sitting in front of the one person I trust, fully, and I just, still, can’t allow myself to feel totally vulnerable. I am ashamed of falling apart. I can’t do it in front of her, again. I don’t want to be needy. I just can’t fall apart in front of her, knowing that the distance must be respected…that I can cry, and she can only watch. I can’t be that vulnerable. Even that vulnerability feels lonely–less human. It is a me thing–I know this.
I just can’t.