So. I mentioned at the end of my post the other week that I was going to see Paul that evening. I know I’d brought up that fact somewhere before then, but I’m not sure if it was on this blog or elsewhere. Either way, anybody who is a regular reader will probably be aware that Christine, my CPN, and NewVCB, my psychiatrist – not to mention A, and in something of a bizarre juxtaposition, my mother – had been nagging and nagging and nagging me to contact Nexus to follow-up my resumed contact with the organisation at the end of September.
To that end, I emailed Nice Lady That Works for Nexus shortly after Maisie’s funeral (the ‘summary’ ((scare quotes because I don’t do ’summaries’)) of that is coming, fear not). I’ve always wondered why Nice Lady had a tendency to respond very promptly when I emailed her outside of normal business hours; OK, so I religiously checked and, if necessary, responded to my work emails at 3am, but I’m not exactly normal. Anyway, it seems that it’s because they’re open later on some days of the week to accommodate people that, you know…actually work.
Nice Lady responded to my email by stating that she had put me on the list for “ongoing therapy” with Paul, inferring that a regular slot for same had not yet come up. That seems a little odd to me given that nearly four months had elapsed between my having contacted the organisation about a re-commencement of contact and my later follow-up, since the maximum amount of time allowed for Nexus counselling is six months – but it’s theoretically possible, to be fair. Either way, I didn’t really mind, and in any case it doesn’t matter; she offered me a meeting with Paul to discuss my “present circumstances” for the Tuesday evening. I confirmed that I would attend. It turned out that I saw him twice in the end – the second meeting being exactly a week later – but for the sake of this post I’m going to mash them together. Mainly because I can’t remember what happened in each, rather than the sessions themselves being inherently faulty.
On the afternoon of the first session, I sat in the house in growing discomfiture. I really did not want to go to the appointment, in the everyday, sort of micro sense. Of course, in contrast, I did want to go in a wider, macro sense; therapy helped me before, and things have definitely gone downhill since I left it last summer. The latter compelled me not to call (or, more likely, email) Nice Lady to advise her that I would not be attending, and sheer bloody will-power stopped me ingesting the beautiful anodyne properties of a Diazpeam, my rationale being that if I did not get the dosage exactly right, that I would not be able to converse in any meaningful measure.
I left the house stupidly early, in light of the traditional difficulties of finding a parking space that attending Nexus creates. I suspected that, at this time (6pm or something), things would be a lot quieter – but were they fuck. For once, as I drove around and around for ages, I thanked the twisted cosmos for granting me my time-keeping neurosis. It’s funny; I used to be late for everything. Now it’s rare for me to be anything less than 20 minutes early. I’d say I look forward to seeing how this pans out at my own funeral, but since I’ll be dead I’ll not be seeing too much of it, will I?
Anyway, I found a space. Eventually. I still had a few minutes to kill so I dicked about on my phone, hoping for a meteorite storm or nuclear bomb or some such to suddenly descend on my little town. No such force majeurs came to pass, however, so five minutes prior to the allocated appointment time, I took a deep breath, and got out of the car.
As I waited at the door of the Institute for someone to buzz me in, I wondered what in the name of actual fuck I was going to say to Paul. How did I greet him – this man who knew all my deepest, darkest secrets? How did I justify my return to him (aside from allusions to the badgering persistently quipped out by my psychiatric team)? How could I be sure that I could re-develop our erstwhile rapport?
When I entered, both he and Nice Lady were standing at the reception desk. I was horrified to feel the need to introduce myself; my hair has changed since I last saw them, but beyond that, there was no reason for them not to recognise me. Unless they’d just forgotten.
I don’t know why that surprises me, as I sit here considering the incident retrospectively. I am eminently forgettable. I might well have a not-entirely-pleasant history, but everyone Paul (or any other Nexus therapist) sees is in that boat. It’s what keeps him (them) in work.
Whatever the case, introduce myself I did. When Nice Lady sort of nodded, I went to go to the (hidden) waiting room in anticipation of Paul’s readiness. There sat a young woman. She turned to look at the disturbance I’d created in her quiet world, and our eyes met for a split second. I was struck, again, by how such a simple, brief action can engender a whole barrage of thoughts and questions and assumptions in one’s mind. Yet despite our brief unity, I felt disgusted that by seeing her face, I’d somehow intruded upon her darkest moments and, by dent of that, her privacy.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Paul suddenly piped up that “we [could] go in now, Pandora,” so I withdrew from the room, mere seconds after entering it, tripping over something in my rush to free the girl of my rotund self, thus making an even bigger arsehole of myself.
Well. 1,200 words and the session hasn’t even began yet. Is that a record even for me?
It was a different room from the one we’d spent most of our time in during our last stint of meetings together. As if I weren’t unsettled enough, that unnerved me a fair bit. I have no idea why, as I had been in the room at least once in the past – and anyway, I hadn’t even been in the Nexus building in something like nine months, so surely it was all due to be new to me again?
I spent the next 50 minutes garrulously rambling at Paul about fuck knows what, but here’s my best attempt at making some vague coherence of that.
So, how had things been since our last meeting, the man himself queried?
“Things have been…eventful,” I began, trying to sate my agitation by assuming the sardonic tilt of my entire body to which I am used to showing the outside world. I failed.
“Eventful,” I repeated wistfully, before launching into a brief monologue on just how things had been ‘eventful’. “Oddly enough, just last week [Paedo]‘s wife dropped dead. A while back, the cat was killed. I took up the [now co-]editorship of a popular mental health blog. I won a major award for my own blog then had a mini-breakdown. I’ve started writing more seriously – I’ve had professional pieces in One in Four and a major non-mentalist magazine. Though the latter is still about being mental, mind. The fucking house was burgled again. Oh, and I started taking a mood stabiliser on top of Quetiapine and Venlafaxine.” The one thing I completely forgot to mention was that my diagnosis – primarily borderline personality disorder when I last saw Paul – has changed. Not that it really matters, I suppose, since Paul is a fully paid-up member of the “EVERYTHING ABOUT PSYCHIATRY IS EVIL!!!!!1!!!eleven!!!11!15932!! GAAAAHHHHH!11!14!!seventeen!!!!” lobby. Indeed, when I mentioned the Lamotrigine, I noticed his characteristic eye-roll, however much he may (or indeed may not) have fought to suppress it.
When I’d finally shut my overactive gob, he sat silently for a minute, regarding me with a nebulous, enigmatic look that I eventually interpreted as curiosity.
I didn’t want to be the one to break the resultant silence, but neither could I meet such a piercing gaze. An old trait of mine when I’m nervous (or tired) is to play with a strand of my hair. I twirl it between my index and middle fingers, then release via a stroke of my thumb. Involuntarily – or at least unconsciously – said behaviour began again at this juncture, whilst my eyes darted from one form of nothing to another. The cheap non-descript carpet, the cracks in the walls, the blandness of the paint – any of it was better than returning his look.
“Why are you back?” he finally queried.
I took this as an accusation that I shouldn’t be back, even though it of course transpired in the course of the discussion that this was not the case. I didn’t admit this, however, and instead – after thinking for a bit – told him that I was sick of being stuck in this cyclical rut of madness. “I still can’t work. Being able to deal with people, losing my anxiety around them – that’s my goal. I believe that I was starting to get to that point when I left therapy with you before, but then it all went to shit.”
He said, “I remember telling you before that in an ideal world, we’d be working together for at least two years.”
I nodded in recollection. “Six months was a good start, but I need to build on that. Get things out of my system, work them out in my mind, delve deep for resolution. I can’t do it alone, and whilst a year isn’t ideal, it’s a damn sight better than nothing.”
In fact, in marked contrast to a lot of what I’ve written here before, I defended C. Not because C didn’t ultimately behave like a dickhead, but because whilst we were on good terms, I had at least done some groundwork with him. Would I have been able to walk straight into Nexus and own up to everything, had I not at least been able to raise it somewhere first? I doubt it.
“OK,” Paul said. “So you found that useful. Did you find our work together helpful, then?”
“Of course not,” I laughed with nervous sarcasm. “That’s why I’m back.”
He…I don’t know, he sort of guffawed at that. We then had a discussion surrounding the previous bout of therapy, concluding that part of its success had been that it gave me a ‘safe’ place in which to admit to my history of abuse, a circumstance in which that could be properly ‘contained’, which it hadn’t been when it was happening. A place where I was believed and not judged, with someone who was beginning to get past my endless intellectual prevaricating to the point where I might have felt a modicum of compassion for my former self. Remember the baby, for example?
Randomly, then, Paul said, “you told me earlier that things had been ‘eventful’.”
“The first three points. You noted that your aunt and cat died with a certain nonchalence, yet when you spoke of the award yon won, you almost spat the words out.”
“Did I?” I replied askance.
He raised his eyebrows in confirmation, forcing me to think back on what I’d said – or, more specifically, how I’d said it. I recalled that I had counted Maisie and Ms Cat’s demises off on my fingers, reducing them to mere footnotes of my life, though that is not how I saw either of the events in question. But of particular surprise was that I spoke of the award in tones of virtual disgust? How could that be?
“I was immensely grateful for and touched by that award,” I told him, puzzled.
He rescued me. “I didn’t think that you weren’t, but your tone suggested to me that…you know, death happens. It sucks, but it’s bad, and only bad things happen to you, right? The notion of something positive befalling you, particularly on a scale outside your immediate social circle, is alien territory.”
“I’ve won awards before,” I mused quietly, still avoiding his gaze (why does he stare so fucking intently? What is it with therapists and that…that device, that stupid, ugly, staring device, that they always employ?!). “This departed only in scale from them, I suppose, but what a scale it was. A ceremony, public recognition and a beautiful, shiny trophy.”
“You’re pleased with yourself,” he observed.
“Isn’t that oxymoronic? A minute ago you were suggesting that I was at best perplexed, at worst repelled, by it.”
“‘Perplexed’, yes, but not ‘repelled’. I think that you’re pleased you won it, but you still struggle with the ‘why’ behind that success.”
I certainly couldn’t argue with that analysis. How many times have I asked the following question of you, readers: “why do you like this blog?” On many occasions. And whilst I understand (and greatly appreciate) the responses you’ve given, I don’t – as Paul put it – understand the ‘whys’ of them.
He asked me a few more questions about it, and I answered honestly, as I had done with Christine (I can’t find any review of that appointment here. That was something of a fail. I can’t remember much about it now, but suffice to say she was thrilled to hear I’d won, and like Paul asked me lots of questions about it. That means that within about three seconds they can have gone from Mind’s website to here and read about themselves from my twisted perspective, which ((especially in light of l’affaire Little Feet)) is not entirely desirable. But anyway, if either of you are reading this, hello! I actually do like you both, if it’s any consolation in lieu of the general misery I spout here. I’m sorry if you dislike your sobriquets, but I had to anonymise you somehow).
Discussion moved on to Paedo – initially in the context of Maisie’s death, though we did discuss more specifics in the second appointment I’m coalescecently (spot the made-up adverb) detailing here. Since I have as yet failed to discuss the funeral on this blog, there’s going to be a spoiler here, and this is it. As we were leaving Hotel California that evening, I hugged Paedo – entirely of my own volition. So much of my own volition, in fact, that Paedo seemed surprised by the gesture.
Paul asked me why I had done this.
“Two reasons: one calculated, one…well, not calculated. In the first instance, I’d hugged most of my cousins and other assorted personnel, and it would have looked out of place had I not engaged in the same practice with him,” I blathered. “The second reason was that, whatever he’s done, the poor sod had just buried his wife of over 50 fucking years.”
“OK,” he replied in a very definite tone. “Fuck the first reason, that’s a load of bullshit [I don't concur, but whatever]. The second – that’s a very human act. That’s normal in the aftermath of a death, to extend your humanity to grieving individuals, and you’re far more human than you give yourself credit for. But was what he did to you human?”
“Well, the biochemistry of our species dictates that…”
“You know what I mean,” he interrupted witheringly.
I shrugged. “No. I suppose that it wasn’t particularly human.”
***Pointless Tangent(s) Warning – Feel Free to Ignore the Next Paragraph***
[This is an issue I have. 'Human', to me, is a biological term, referring to the last surviving species of the homo genus. 'Humanity', even in what others regard the "emotional" sense, is, again to me, a reference back to the race of humankind. The traits to which Paul was referring derive from personhood, the qualities of a person (er...obviously, Pan). I think that it's quite possible to be a human without being a person (and, arguably, vice versa: it's very easy to anthropomorphise animals); any of you that have ever been on either side of the abortion debate will be familiar with this position, but it's not confined solely to that arena. This isn't the time to get into any of that, though, so I'll say that no, what Paedo did
(What Paedo Did. It sounds like a paedophilic version of What Katy Did - though, repugnant as Paedo's behaviour may have been, the retelling of it is ((hopefully)) nowhere near as boring as the reading Katy's "adventures" is) wasn't particularly personable. Call me an abuser of the English language, or a pedant, or whatever if you will].
***End of Pointless Tangent(s)***
***Start of Possible Triggers!***
***Probable End of Possible Triggers, and Hopeful End of Stupid Bolded and Asterisked Warning Things!***
He was making the point that these three incidents, at least in part, were ones that I remembered clearly. He also alluded to the fact I’d remembered other ostensibly silly details well too.
“But you don’t recall all minutiae of the abuse even now?” he checked.
And, lo! A rearrangement of that therapeutic manta and how does that make you feel? came to pass. He said, “how do you feel about the lack of those memories now?”
Once more, I fixated my eyes upon the carpet. “Don’t know,” I mumbled onto my chest, like some sort of surly teenager.
“No False Memory Syndrome, no Munchausen’s Disorder?”
“Well, yeah, obviously. That doesn’t even require a question mark.”
“It’s still better to believe that you’re a liar rather than someone who went through this sadistic abuse.”
“I suppose so. What of it?”
“I’m just trying to gauge where you’re at psychologically. But for what it’s worth, and you probably know this, the timeline of an abused kid isn’t linear. Everything becomes so defragmented that the child has to ‘put together’ bits and pieces of memories, so what happens is – at least in your case – you get a general sense of what happened without it all being eidetic or palpable. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to hideous circumstances, and it means you’re not a liar or a faker. I think that has to be one of our goals in this process – to get you to really believe that heinous things were done to you. Or, at least, to dramatically curtail the strength and frequency of your doubts about it all.”
That seemed reasonable. ‘Reasonable’ in the sense of ‘acceptable’, rather than “yes, I think that’s perfectly obtainable,” so obdurate can my beliefs in my supposed falsifications be at times. However, in a discussion around the abuse that followed the above, I actually used the word ‘rape’ several times. In fact, I think I might even have said ‘gang rape’ at one point. I really couldn’t do that when I first met Paul. I could barely even say it to A. Does this denote progress? That the work I’ve hitherto done with Paul has had some lasting psychological impact, despite the fact my life’s not exactly a barrel of laughs?
There was a discussion of self-harm, felicitously catalysed by Paul’s opinion that “every scar on [my] body is inflicted by [Paedo]” (which belies the fact that I used to fall in the playground every day at primary school, despite the fact that on such occasions Paedo was, usually, over 30 miles away – but I’ll let that slide). I admitted to having tried to slit my wrists since I’d last seen him; I didn’t raise it here because it was an irrelevance, an idiotic act done on the spur of the moment to see how far I could go (this was the week before Maisie’s death). The intent was not suicidal, but borne out of an existential boredom – and beyond it, I’ve engaged in very little self-injury since I last saw Paul, if any at all.
So, then, Maisie’s death. Would it have been better had it been Paedo that died? Or would that have been worse?
“Who knows?” I shrugged. “I’m ambivalent towards the man, so my perception is that I’d probably not give a shit – but the mind’s a curious phenomenon, isn’t it? It could so happen that when he croaks it – and we think he will soon, given his formerly symbiotic relationship with my aunt – I regret the ‘words left unsaid’ or something twattish like that, and it screws me up a little more. I think it unlikely, but it’s possible. It’s hard to predict.”
Paul nodded thoughtfully at my assessment, whilst I remembered something that had previously been said on this blog.
I wrote in a recent post about how Maisie had always, for reasons seeminlgy unknown, had a grudge against her daughter Sarah. In the comments section, the very lovely CimmerianInk postulated this hypothesis on that relationship:
I have seen in past stories that if a daughter is being abused by her father, if the mother is more concerned with appearances etc., she ends up hating the daughter or at least they end up having a strained relationship with a lot of complicated layers. So, I wonder if Paedo ever did anything to Sarah. (I’m assuming that I remember correctly and Sarah was at home all her life with him).
You did remember correctly, CI. I actually think this is a very possible scenario, and it would explain a lot.
A brief piece of context: years ago, A and I were at the McFaul’s for some reason, and had been drinking. I became ensconced in the dining area with my mother and Sarah, presumably as that was the only room in the house in which one was allowed to smoke. Anyhow, the alcohol must have in some way ignited a spark of bitterness in me, because – in talking about my mental illness – I said something like, “you know, many people go doolally because they were sexually abused.” If I recall correctly, I raised my eyebrows at the two of them in a gesture of smug fuck you.
Sarah, without missing a beat, and without any hint of horror or surprise in her voice, replied, “there’s something there, isn’t there?”, at which point I realised my mistake in even raising the issue and wisely changed the subject.
I have often wondered in passing about her blasé attitude to my loaded comment. A and I had already discussed the possibility that Paedo may have abused her too (she was the only daughter, if that’s even relevant in paedophilia), but always in the context of “what if?” rather than in terms of Maisie’s relentlessly negative attitude towards her. But CI’s comment seemed to really ‘fit’ the situation. I told Paul about it.
Essentially, he concurred that this was a distinct possibility. He said, “she didn’t spot what was under her nose when all of this was happening to you. How could she not have done so? You would have walked strangely, you would have been withdrawn, you may even have been dirty and bleeding. And your aunt just didn’t notice? Or, could it be, that she didn’t want to notice – possibly, as your friend says, because she’s seen it all before?”
I felt a chill run down my spine.
“I feel uncomfortable with the notion that my aunt was somehow complicit in her husband’s behaviour,” I said carefully.
“Don’t you think they all were? Everyone in that house?”
“Maybe not. It could have been entirely unwitting [though I have to say, he sounded distinctly uncertain about this]. But a child doesn’t know that. All she knows is that nobody’s protecting her from these horrors.”
“Well, OK – but if my cousin was abused, would my aunt not have noticed all the factors to which you’ve alluded in her? I know she wasn’t a perfect woman, but even I can’t believe she’d willingly let her kid be raped by anyone, never mind its father.”
He was evidently going to say something like, “you’d be surprised” – and actually, I wouldn’t have been, because I’ve heard of many mothers deliberately, and thus unforgivably, overlooking these things – but he thought better of it. As he himself would agree, he didn’t know Maisie, so could not know what she was or wasn’t capable of.
“Well, they could have been ostensibly unaware. The evidence does seem to support that the mother had an inkling, if her daughter was being hurt, but it may not have been conscious. It’s clear from what you said though that she resented [Sarah] greatly, and what you sometimes see is a parent somehow ‘knowing’ what’s going on, and then transferring their disgust and rage onto the child, under the almost psychotic justification that that child has ‘seduced’ their spouse or something. It’s actually not uncommon.”
It’s a frightening idea, but I have to say – it would explain a lot of the problems that have been inherent in Hotel California throughout my living memory.
Further conversations arose, but were not particularly consequential. I felt that I’d rambled like a fucking eejit throughout both sessions, but Paul assured me that my discourse had enabled him to further ascertain the current nature of my psychology. He thinks that, although for the most part I’m able to suppress it in every day life (not that he thinks that that’s a good thing), there is still a lot of raw, visceral, deep hurt inside me.
Indeed, that was probably the image I projected: even just being in Nexus made me feel…I don’t know what the word is. Headfucked. Filled with ominous dread. Anxious. Not scared, but…well, more than apprehensive. All of those things, but much more besides. I did admit this to him when he asked about it.
He said that it actually must have taken “a hell of a lot” of courage to make myself go there that day, at which point I intimated to him that I had seriously considered calling the meeting off.
“But you didn’t,” he (rather pointlessly) noted. “Don’t you think that’s courageous? That you want to fight this shit?”
I mulled that over for a few minutes – and honestly, readers, I think that it was. I felt a small slither of pride in myself for a few teeny-weeny seconds.
Our agreed goal, apart from that of trying to believe myself about the abuse, is to overcome my constant need to intellectualise and rationalise, thus continuing to develop empathy and compassion for Aurora/child me. He thinks that, at an intellectual level, I sympathise with her – but that, apparently, is quite a different thing. He is of the view that should this be successful, Aurora “will stop ruining [my] life, to use what would no doubt be [my] parlance.”
His parting line, before goodbyes, was that he’s “really, really looking forward to working with [me] again.” Although I was a bit of a wreck following the first meeting, I was at least reassured by the enthusiastic tone and sentiment of this final statement.
We’ll see. My psychotherapy with Paul should recommence properly in three to four weeks, which will certainly make for some interesting times ahead – but I know I’m with the right person for the job.
PS. I deleted that stupid ‘Fail’ post. You know I’m alive now, right?