I have been living in the past and worrying about the future.
Yesterday, I had another therapy appointment. This time, EMDR was on the menu. It has been a long time since I’ve ventured back into the depths of my memory in this way…and it is always something that I approach with anxiety and apprehension.
Sometimes, I respond very emotionally to this process. It is powerful. And real. And hard.
My focus yesterday was to target why I rely so heavily on other people for my value. Why I worry so much and spiral out of control when I feel alone even when I am not really alone.
It was, without a doubt a deeply emotional and difficult appointment. I admitted some things I was pretty concerned about admitting. I was argumentative, remorseful, anxious, overwhelmed, scared, and frustrated.
It is a complex experience.
My therapist instructed me to think about the first time that I felt anxious and worried that I’d be left.
I closed my eyes and felt the vibrations of the pulsers passing from one hand to the next.
It was third grade. My grandma was leaving me at mother’s trailer to live with my mom again.
I didn’t want her to leave me. I tried to tell her. Her house was stable and safe and I felt loved. My mom’s house was scary and unknown.
She didn’t, or couldn’t, listen.
I panicked. I screamed and cried. My grandma was surprised by my overreaction and decided to leave me, alone, in the house. She went out the front door and stood against it so I couldn’t get out. I was supposed to calm down.
I couldn’t. I can see that gray, textured plastic door. I started to throw my body against it, absolutely terrified and absolutely desperate to get out.
The door sprung open, scraping against my grandmother in the process. “What is wrong with you?!!” she asked.
I was scared, anxious, and fearful. I was 7…maybe 8 years old. But I knew something was wrong with me.
I moved on to the next memory.
It is still third grade. My mom has moved us 8 hours away with her new boyfriend and his children. My new sister is a younger than me and we cling to each other…the only familiar thing in a new city…a new school.
I don’t remember a lot about this school. What I do remember is feeling nervous and anxious all the time. I would frequently leave my classroom to go to the bathroom…but really, I was walking by my new sister’s classroom. Just seeing her, knowing that she was in there…it made me feel better.
One day, I walked by her room and noticed that she wasn’t in there anymore. I panicked. Where could she have gone to? I went back to my class and told my teacher that I felt sick. I went to the nurse, and was then called into the principal’s office. There was a big desk. A leather chair. I don’t remember his face. I do remember him telling me that my sister’s mom had come and taken her away, and that she wouldn’t be at my house when I arrived home…and she wouldn’t be coming back to school.
I got on the bus, sobbing…terrified. I was absolutely convinced that no one would be at my house when I got there. Absolutely convinced that I would be all alone.
To my surprise, my mom and her boyfriend were at the trailer when I got off the bus. I started to cry in relief and I tried to tell them that my sister was gone. My mom’s boyfriend got angry.
I was crying harder. My mom told me to go to my room. I didn’t understand what was happening. But I knew…I was in trouble for something. I had to figure out what to do on my own. I had to learn to fix it.
I started to internalize all the anxiety. I got frequent stomachaches that resulted in diarrhea. I got in trouble for being sick…for being dramatic and not just dealing with it all.
This is where it began.
It was not an easy process…remembering these things. It feels shameful. I feel like a grown woman stuck in the emotions of a third grader.
I felt shaky. I felt grumpy. I felt frustrated.
I felt mad at my therapist when she suggest that no matter what other people would give me, it would not be enough. I challenged her…All I want, is someone to give me a hug! When I am upset, I just need a hug.
Is that really enough? she asked.
I felt like it would be.
But I also felt the unfairness of not having that person all the time.
Her point, exactly. I will never have someone ALL the time. I’ve got to learn how to give myself what I need.
I’ve got to learn that connections last, even when I don’t hear from someone for a few days.
It does not mean that I will be left behind. Or that it is my fault.
I just feel that way.
So, out of fear, out of a need for reassurance…or since I believe that I will just be left behind anyway…I cling. I push.
I end up driving them away.
God do I hate it!!
And myself, for doing it.
I left this therapy appointment feeling absolutely raw. EMDR is good at that. I was drained from crying all the tears. From feeling all the anxiety. From worrying about the confessions I had made.
But, I also heard what my therapist told me. I heard her say that I was a scared, young girl. One who never was told why things were happening. So, I filled in the blanks. I believe I was the problem…and it may take me some more time to learn to believe that none of it had anything to do with me.
I also heard her say that she does not judge me. And that she likes me and chooses to see me…not that she sees me because she has to. I felt her hug at the end of my session, telling me that I am human and I will be okay.
So, that evening, and all of today, I have been trying very hard to focus on right now. If I start to worry, or overthink, or project onto others, I have been forcing myself to just stop. Take a deep breath. And think about what is happening right now.
And you know what? It kind of helps.
So much of this journey I have been trying SO hard to figure everything out. I have thought and thought and worried and worried about how to get better.
I’ve been getting in my own way.
All that thinking and all that worrying? Guess what? It isn’t changing things.
No…it is only making ME feel worse.
This is, I am sure, a very “Duh!” moment for seasoned healers.
But, I am taking baby steps. This journey is a marathon for me…one that I am painfully walking and crawling my way through–even though I really want to sprint.
It is time to slow down. To accept that I don’t have it all figured out.
And that I don’t have to.
It isn’t ignoring. It isn’t avoiding.
It is, simply, learning to be present. Learning to stop resisting.
Learning to accept what comes.