Yeah, I know, I know. I asked at the end of the last (random and lazy) post that you castigate me aggressively if this material was not published before midnight on…Tuesday? Wednesday? Meh. I failed. You failed too, readers. Only two or three of you had a go, and 227,000 of you have read these absurd writings from my perverted mind. (Admittedly that figure is over nearly two years rather than the last two days, but if you don’t care for my gross generalisations, then sue me and see if I care). Nuh-nuh-nuh-NUH-nuh!
Since I have four psychotherapy sessions to catch up on here, I have elected to write minimally (*chuckle* – as if I know the meaning of the word) and mash a few together. I hope that normal service will be resumed after next week’s meeting. That I feel capable of wading through this bollocks at all is testament to the fact that I must be feeling better than I did a few weeks back. I couldn’t have done this a fortnight ago.
I’ve often been asked how I retain memories of these sessions, and nowhere is such a question more pertinent than in this post, where one of the discussions was over a month ago (and the second not far behind it). This is the answer:
As soon as I leave the Nexus building and get into the car, I scribble down everything I can remember. I used to type it all onto my iPhone, but to be honest I’ve found that random scrawls are quicker than two-fingered on-screen typing, so here we are. If I later remember something else – which is frequent – then I go back to the notes and scribble it on the side of the relevant area (or at the end if it’s unrelated to anything else I’ve noted). Not hi-tech, but certainly functional.
Anyway, enough procrastinating around the issue. ***Beware of child sex abuse and related triggers, as always. Some of the following is fairly graphic***.
As is usually the case, this session opened with Paul asking me how I was, and my responding with “OK.” Apparently this was the wrong answer. He claims that I go in and proclaim myself to be fine most weeks, when I’m clearly more off my head than Charlie fucking Sheen (I wonder, will someone read this as an archived post in two years and wonder what I’m on about? Probably not, but just in case: clicky). I was told that I use the term “OK” as the easy option.
That may well be the case, but it seems thoroughly odd to me to sit down and scream, “everything is fucking shit!” As has always been the case in psychotherapy, I need prompting from the professional in the room.
This session was in the wake of the fuckery with the twatbags at the Jobs and Benefits office (Christ, that seems like millennia ago), and so I admitted to being highly pissed off, mainly in relation to that. Then, predictably, I launched into a full-scale attack on myself for being unable to work. Paul asked me why I couldn’t.
I remember mumbling some drivel about my pathetic concentration, complete inability to socially interact and my pathological fear of the phone. For some reason, he started banging on about what he called “ego strength” and my demonstrable lack of it.
He said, “I have ego strength. I’m self-assured, I feel confident in my abilities. I think you find it difficult to maintain that sort of thing.”
Slap me sideways with a dead fish. Revelatory stuff, Paul! 10/10 for observation!
I’m being unfair. It was obvious, yes, but of course he was using the point to lead elsewhere. In any case, I agreed with him, adding that whilst I was at least well aware that I have a moderately decent brain (ooh, listen to my ‘strongly narcissistic traits‘, ooh!) inside my skull, that possession seems kind of redundant when it’s rarely, if ever, put to any proper use.
He seemed to disagree with that, referencing briefly my perennial penchant for analysing and intellectualising matters that he feels should not be analysed nor intellectualised. Of which more later. He went on thus: “ego strength is based on our value as a child. When I was a youngster, I was – and, crucially, I felt – loved, cherished, protected and safe.” He cocked his head questioningly at me.
I responded in a rote, but honest, fashion. “Those words are alien to me,” I said, laughing nervously. I instantly felt guilty about this admission, though, and said that thinking that was grossly unfair to my mother, who had tried her best for me. And she did. None of this is her fault.
Paul accepted that point and nodded, but continued by saying that regardless of my mother’s love and good intentions, I still hadn’t been safe or protected.
“In your case,” he told me, “interpretations of a lack of worth seem to me to directly correlate with a lack of safety. Tell me – when did you last have any sense of self-worth?”
‘Strong narcissistic traits’ aside, I admitted truthfully that I could not ever recall such a state of being, at least internally (to an external observer, I was extremely self-assured and confident as a child. Not that that’s necessarily mutually exclusive with a lack of self-worth, mind you: I didn’t feel I had any worth, but I wasn’t un-confident nevertheless). I thought about this for a few seconds, and was reminded of something I mentioned briefly on this blog a few weeks ago: that Paedo had once raped me with some sort of pole (I retrospectively assume that it was the end of a mop or some such). I made the connection with this discussion because to rape someone with an inanimate object is to see them as someone not even worth fucking properly – I had no worth to him, just like I have very little to myself.
I started trying to tell Paul about this incident, but of course as ever the words stuck firmly in my throat. Cough, cough, splutter, splutter. Eventually I managed to say that “a pole [had been] used against me, if you know what I mean.” He did.
I gave him my analysis – ie. that in whatever twisted way, someone had to give a fuck about you in order to make the effort to rape you in the more conventional sense of the word (I was quite pleased that I managed to use the word ‘rape’, but of course this was my sitting back and reviewing the matter rather than talking directly about my experiences). For someone to rape you with a pole, they don’t have to give any sort of damn. It’s the ultimate in degrading, because it completely dehumanises the afflicted individual.
Paul agreed. “To put it crudely,” he said, “he couldn’t even be bothered to get a hard-on.”
“Which completely validates the idea of ‘worthlessness’ in your mind.”
He paused for a bit, then asked me how long I’d be carrying that memory for. Had it just emerged, had it always been there, what?
I found this hard to answer. As you know, a lot of my memories of the abuse are skewed by the dissociation I invariably experienced at the time. This was one of those memories that had been on the periphery of my anamnestic consciousness – I’d sort of always ‘known’ it, but it was pushed away and compartmentalised. I estimated that the actual visual recall had solidified in my brain maybe about two months prior to this meeting, but it’s really hard to put a timeframe on this kind of thing. It sounds odd, but it just is sometimes.
There followed a discussion surrounding my recollections of the abuse. I complained that whilst I understood the science behind dissociation, the fact that certain memories just randomly appeared sometimes merely served to reinforce my long-held belief that I’d made the whole thing up. I have written on the notes that I said that it was “odd” to ‘forget’ things, then just remember them out of the blue 20 years later. From an academic perspective, it actually seems obvious – but from a I’m here, I feel it point of view, ‘odd’ is the understatement of this entire geological age.
Paul said, “it’s like you have a cupboard. It occasionally opens, and something falls out. What stops the rest emerging?”
Forgive my naivety, Paul, but I would have assumed that was rather obvious. As he himself has said in the past – why would I want to remember?
I reminded him that the previous week I’d told him about my hallucination of a fucking peccary (of all fucking things – how creative my subconscious is), and how terrified I’d been by it.
“This concerns me,” I told him. “That terror was so strong, so visceral…it was overwhelming. I wonder if that means I’m blocking something utterly horrific out of my mind. What more is there to discover?!”
“But of course the terror is immense,” Paul replied. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s reams more to it – terror is an entirely appropriate response to what you’ve already described to me. And in my view it makes perfect sense for your mind to externalise that in the form of a hallucination. It’s a massive internal cross to bear, so it translates itself into psychosis.”
He went on to opine that psychosis is also a “clever way” of me showing myself that what happened was, in fact, very real indeed. My mind constantly terrorises me like this. It’s trying to communicate something.
I looked out the window behind me and avoided his stare.
After a few moments, he said, “you’re uncomfortable now. This is too close for your liking.”
He was perfectly correct, of course, but I wondered how averting my gaze gave him so much information.
“Do I have tells?” I asked.
To my astonishment, he didn’t know what a ‘tell’ was. I explained that it was a poker term, denoting subtleties that gave away clues to a player’s hand.
“OK,” he said, playing Dr Freud on me by over-reading my use of a poker analogy, “do you feel that your hand is becoming exposed?”
“I want it to be exposed, but my mind never lets me co-operate.”
“You need to cut yourself some slack, girl,” he said (which sounds hideously patronising as I type it, but it wasn’t delivered that way). “You’re here, you’re talking to me – your mind co-operates as much as is possible.”
I was reminded briefly of my 63 sessions with C, and how I didn’t even admit the extent of the abuse until…*checks archives*…week 46 (I knew this blog was useful for something). Yet here I have been, in a mere 13 weeks, discussing the finer, horrible minutiae of it with Paul. Admittedly, I went to Nexus with that clear mandate, which was not the case when I met C – but still. This stuff is A Big Deal.
He asked me what kept me coming back each week. “I’m guessing it’s not my animal magnetism,” he joked, which made me chuckle. With every respect to him – no, it’s not ;)
I provided him with my old disclaimer about not believing in cures for psychiatric problems, but added that I felt that therapy was the only proper means to “get back on track. Or, rather, get on track in the first place.” I added that I felt the only promising path to resolution of the issues was to go there, face them, and ultimately process them.
Paul nodded, seemingly encouraged. “But the first part of that resolution process is acceptance – accepting that it really happened.
“I have another client,” he continued. “Her life has been ruined by mental health problems. There’s an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence for her abuse – but she can’t and won’t believe that it happened.”
“I empathise,” I muttered.
“Well, I don’t know about her – but rationally, logically, I can fully believe that this happened to me. But I just can’t always…feel it. So how does one accept it? You can’t just flick a switch, Paul.”
“But what’s the benefit in making it up?”
I hypothesised that I knew that something had happened (which he proclaimed to be a good start), and that my imagination had spiralled out of control since.
“Right,” he said, definitely. “I am certain that you were abused. It’s absolutely unequivocal in my mind. You doubt, but I accept. You criticise yourself, and I defend you.”
“Don’t be sorry – I think you need me to.”
“Yes…I suppose so. It’s certainly nice to be validated. Thank you.”
“You needed validation then, and you didn’t get it, so you certainly need it now.”
True enough. I thought of my mother and her denials of what happened, and ended up banging on about this to Paul.
“She had one friend that went psychotic and had to be sectioned,” I explained. “During her psychotic phase, the woman alleged that she’d been abused by her mother, but later denied this. So whether that was true or not, my mother is of the view that anyone as mentally unstable as myself cannot legitimately make such claims, because we can’t tell fiction from reality.”
As you know, Paul does not adhere to the medical model of psychiatry. His view is that all mental illness somehow relates to trauma. That I disagree is temporarily irrelevant: his response to my anecdote was, predictably enough, that psychotic people are, in a sense at least, the most qualified to make such claims.
Of course, I hadn’t developed any psychotic symptoms when I told my mother about (some of) Paedo’s activities, but if I tried to tell her now – well, she’d be even more convinced that I was just “away in the head” and ergo incapable of reliably telling the truth.
“Well, I believe you,” Paul concluded. It is nice to hear it validated by someone not directly involved in it.
This saw the end of the session. His final comment before we said our goodbyes was that it was his challenge to help me see the certainty of what happened, and take ownership of that (or some such). I felt a passing draft of DBT in this statement, but I’m pretty sure it was just a turn of phrase and furthermore that he’d have been horrified if I’d likened him in any way to a DBT therapist. Paul is very much an analytical/dynamic practitioner, not at all a behavioural one, and I thank my lucky fucking stars all the time for that. Fuck behaviourism!
Remember the depression rating scales? This week was in the wake of those. This time, I didn’t go in and tell Paul that I was OK. Instead, I told him that I was, apparently, extremely depressed.
“Apparently?” he queried.
I told him about the dichotomy of these apparently scientifically verifiable questionnaires versus my internal sense of utter normality. “Is it possible to get used to being severely depressed?” I asked, mostly rhetorically. “My blog readers seem to think so.”
Before he could formulate an answer, I trainwrecked my way forward to the rest of my week, telling him about how I’d burst into tears over the recollection of my old ragdoll, Mr Friendly. In doing so, I unwittingly strayed into one of Paul’s favourite areas of psychology: that of early attachment patterns, and how they affect the subconscious mind.
He banged on a bit about transitional objects and about how they serve as a means of healthy attachment. Whilst true of children who do have healthy relationships with their parents and/or other caregivers, he claims that their effect is especially amplified in abused kids: in such cases, the transitional objects are the only form of healthy attachment.
Which makes sense, but then – aside from Mr Friendly, as a child I mainly regarded cuddly toys and suchlike with complete derision. Now the fucking house is falling down with them. Am I trying to live a robbed childhood?
I told Paul that my first reaction when I started bawling about Mr Friendly was to consult Detective Inspector Google about obtaining a new version.
“Hmm,” he said. “You know it’s not about the doll, don’t you? You can’t search Google for a new parent.”
“Who knows these days?” I interjected, trying to be droll.
Paul laughed briefly, but then asked me why I had been crying.
I must have employed a lot of phrases such as “I was trying to work out…” and “I hypothesised that…” because he told me to stop it, and to just ‘feel’.
“At the first hint of emotion [would someone please ban that fucking word from the English language], you wrap everything up in intellectualising, in analysis. I can do that – but that’s because I’m not you.”
I defended myself on the grounds that going through therapy was pretty useless if I couldn’t make sense of the issues in my own mind.
“True,” he admitted, “but that has to come after. You have to feel first.”
I know this to be true, but it disgusts me nevertheless. I sat in silence for a very long time.
[Cue random memories of therapy with C (again). I used to sit silently every single week with him, and it was something I had fervently sought to avoid - mainly successfully hitherto - with Paul. I hate it; it feels like such a complete and utter waste of time...and, further, a waste of time that is hugely limited].
I apologised for my quietness, and he asked me if I disliked silence. I told him that as a general rule, I welcomed it – but not in this circumstance, where I am trying to do something productive. He admitted that “the pressure [was] on” to get things done in a measly 50 minutes.
I told him about my frustrations about my medical notes being delayed, and how raging I was with those responsible within the Trust for their continued incompetence. I also told him how a blog reader, Faith, had asked why my fury was directed at them – and not at Paedo.
Of course (as you’ll see if you follow the link) I responded with all the form bullshit – they are a public body breaking the law, they’re an arm of government who should comply with their responsibilities, yadda yadda, whereas Paedo is just some miserable individual git. I still hold to all that, I have to say, but on reflection Faith did make a fair point, and I should have acknowledged that in my reply to her.
I told Paul that I felt nothing other than indifference towards Paedo. This is absolutely true. A detests him and I can see why – but I simply don’t. He’s just sort of there.
“What did the little girl think of him?” Paul asked. [I really wish he'd stop calling her that].
I shrugged. “I don’t know. A lot of my memories are in the third person, so it’s hard to access my then-thinking. At other times – you know, those times where I was trying to sustain a continued existence on this plane, like when I felt I was choking to death etc – I was investing all my energies in just surviving it, so it’s impossible to tell what I thought about him.”
“Why not hate him? It’s not dangerous to do so – not now, at least. I think it’s because you transfer that hate to her [Aurora, or my younger self, whatever] – in some capacity at least, you feel that it was all her fault.”
I nodded. “That’s true – additionally, there’s the issue that I didn’t realise that it was somehow an abnormal way to live until I was a lot older. I mean, I had a rudimentary understanding of sex from the offset, but probably didn’t really realise that it’s not supposed to happen when you’re five.”
“It became normalised,” Paul confirmed. “Just like you were saying about your depression at the start of the session – it becomes a standard part of your life.
“So you have plenty of anger – not so much at the girl who was sexually abused, but towards the girl that had sex. Do you see the subtle distinction?”
I did. “It’s ridiculous,” I replied, referring to my objective view that blaming the abused child is an absurdity.
Of course, as is so typical, the word ‘ridiculous’ sent me off on a tangent.
“Last night, I told A that GCHQ were reading my blog,” I said. “I think he thinks that I’m delusional. But they are reading my blog, narcissistic as it sounds,” I protested. “Is that ridiculous?”
“No,” he assured me. “Nowhere is safe, is it? You didn’t have any safe place to turn to as a child. You have super-strength barriers up against all the dangers you perceive around you even now. Why should your blog be any different?”
It shouldn’t. Therefore: HELLO THERE, GCHQ! WELCOME TO MY LIFE! (Actually, would you mind giving me a job sometime when I’m feeling vaguely sane? I can do corruption with the best of them and I am good with codes. I was a master codebreaker as a child – at least when I wasn’t being a pretentious little fuck, or, indeed, being fucked).
He asked me what made me feel safe, and I responded by saying that I had to lock myself in the house with all the doors locked.
“And in here?”
“Metaphorically speaking, the same thing.”
“Exactly,” Paul said. “It’s the fact that everything is ‘locked’ in this room – we have boundaries, confidentiality, and everything’s enclosed. Believe me, if GCHQ are bugging this room, then I’m in deep shit!”
I laughed. Shame I can’t keep to the confidentiality bit given my reckless blabbering about everything here, meaning that GCHQ will find out about it all anyway.
He said, “psychiatry still describes psychotic people as ‘being out of touch with reality’. I say, ‘that’s crap; psychosis makes total sense to me’. If you were sitting here after all that happened to you and were happy or what society regards as ‘normal’, that would be out of touch with reality.”
We engaged in a short discussion about societal conformity and the nature of (in)sanity. Paul referred to the author or Going Sane – Adam Phillips – and how he contended that we are all born ‘insane’, but that convention dictates that as we grow, we learn to kowtow to certain prescribed behaviours and thought patterns. For my part, I ventured that when you considered the so-called bigger picture nothing was sane or insane: it just is what it is, and it all boils down to a pathetic case of moral relativism.
“So,” Paul concluded, “all those diagnoses you have – they’re time-structured, and constantly subject to re-evaluation. Therefore, the only real evaluation is that of your own experience.”
Paul and I don’t agree on the discipline of psychiatry, nor on the medical model. I don’t like psychiatry, but I do think it can have value. However, he’d got me on this point. Once before he’d exemplified by stating that homosexuality was once a DSM diagnosis, which of course it (quite rightly) is no longer. So whilst it’s unlikely in the short term, in time it’s quite conceivable that BPD will simply be regarded as a perfectly normal state of being – a reaction to something, rather than an illness.
Another silence ensued. I wanted to respond, but I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I sat there playing with my hair and chewing my lip absent-mindedly. Eventually, his voice broke into my thoughts.
“This is going to sound awful, but…was there any part of you that enjoyed it?”
It does seem like a horribly inappropriate and grossly insensitive question, but that was not how I took it. I saw (and see) it as perfectly valid. Sadly, I am aware of a few people who were abused as kids that did enjoy parts of it. Not because they’re bad people, never that, but because they reacted as they’re supposed to in a purely physiological sense.
I consider myself fortunate not to have felt such ‘enjoyment’ – or, if I did, that I don’t have any recollection of it whatsoever. I told Paul so.
“It’s just that it strikes me that – although you ‘disappeared’ a lot – maybe you had a bit of acting to do,” he suggested.
The honest answer to that is, again, that I don’t know. I don’t recall ‘acting’, but then I don’t recall a lot of stuff. It’s entirely possible. In a hideous but sensible sort of way, it holds a twisted logic; play the part, make him enjoy it, get it over more quickly.
On a related note, I admitted to Paul that I was “…doing…um…sexualised…er…things…” at quite a premature age (I made brief reference to it here ((back in the days where a Pandorian post could be less than 2,302,227 words long)), but I didn’t and won’t discuss the specifics). I thought about Paedo, and suddenly felt utterly nauseated.
Good? Feeling the disgust of it all there, Pan? No, not really – or at least, not in the sense one might expect.
I said, “it’s not because I hate him – it’s because having sex with someone who looks like that is abhorrent to me.” (Paedo is very ugly).
“Interesting choice of phraseology,” Paul observed. “‘To have sex’. Adults ‘have sex’. Children don’t ‘have sex’. Children get raped.”
I ignored him and continued. “I’ve told you several times that the occasions that were worst were those where I was choking and so on. In my never-ending quest to contradict myself, I might now say that that wasn’t so bad – I mean, at least I couldn’t see his face.”
“You’d rather choke than see his face.”
“Yes,” I confirmed, and he nodded acceptingly. “But now my mind is pervaded with disgusting images of his face contorted in orgasmic delight. It’s fucking repugnant.”
“How was your face?”
“Probably completely blank. Well – not the first time, I suppose. I was so bemused, so confused, that I probably looked appropriately mystified. But after that came resignation. Reluctant acquiescence. Simply a wait until it was finished.”
He again picked up on my terminology, blathering on about how I never ‘acquiesced’.
“‘Tolerated’, then,” I chanced. “The first time he touched me – as opposed to the more serious stuff – I tried to push him off. But after that I didn’t. I just let it happen.”
“You’ve fallen into a trap of thinking that ‘fighting is helpless’ equals ‘I have to let him’ equals ‘I do let him’,” Paul said.
“Yes, but I was meant to be intelligent, strong and decisive! I epically failed to use those tools.”
“As a five year old?” he said, witheringly.
I looked away and neglected to answer, but inside I was completely enraged. Yes, as a fucking five year old! I wasn’t like other five year olds. I was precocious, determined and stronger-willed than Maggie fucking Thatcher (who would have been at the height of her power at the time. Maybe she subconsciously influenced me). So yeah, of course I should have been able to do something about it. I don’t get why he doesn’t understand that. I don’t get why anyone doesn’t. I’m not saying that I deserved it, but I could have done a fuckload about it, and I didn’t. Not all – not even most – five years could (or should) have done, but I could (those pesky ‘strong narcissistic traits’ rear their ugly heads again, but I’m actually serious. I was a vicious little brat. I could have done so much, but instead I just lay there and took it).
“I was at a training course the other day,” Paul was saying. “One recurring theme was about how abused kids, by about the age of six, can become very good not only at actual sex, but at masturbation. It serves as a ‘tool’ to make them better at sex the next time their abuser wants to rape them.” He looked at me probingly.
How else can one respond to that but with abject disgust? It is unspeakably vile that someone so young should be in that position.
Evidently, my repulsion was palpable. “This is your world, Pandora,” he urged. “Of course it’s disgusting, but it’s not all about third parties. It’s about you!”
[Eyes down, lips curled, brow furrowed.]
“I have this lovely memory,” he went on, “of when I was a little boy. I can’t remember my age, but I was old enough to have been out walking alone, so I can’t have been that young. I was dandering up this road, and suddenly, from nowhere, I realised that boys and girls were different [biologically speaking. I don't think he's a raging closet misogynist or anything]. I remember that moment with such fondness – I had this gentle way about me – such a lovely childlike naivety.
“You didn’t have that, did you? And you were far younger than what I was at the time. You knew that men and women were different and you knew – or thought you knew – what you were for: your purpose in life was to have sex.”
This was deeply disturbing. Not the concept, but the way he phrased it. I had literally been within half a second of saying, “my purpose in life is to have sex.” Had he read my mind?
I stared at him goggle-eyed for a minute, then told him why. He hadn’t read my mind, he claimed – he just knew that that was what the circumstances dictated. Your purpose in life is to have sex. Yes.
So, knowing my purpose, I decided to deflect the apparent seriousness of the moment away by stating, again, that it wasn’t that bad. “I know of one woman whose mother prostituted her out to the highest bidder each time,” I said. “That poor girl was made to think her purpose in life was to have sex. So if it was mine – well, at least it was generally the same fucking person each time.”
“In a way, though,” Paul replied, “it’s almost worse – you had a pre-existing relationship with this man, you continued a relationship with him throughout, and you still have a relationship with him.”
We discussed the fact that I still have to see Paedo from time to time. I stoically grin and bear it; A sits and seethes and tries not to rip his cock off. I confessed to being terrified of getting into one of Maisie’s notorious and epic fights or getting pissed or something and blurting it all out.
“I don’t particularly care for my cousins,” I said, “but I wouldn’t wish this on them; they haven’t done anything wrong. It’s moot I suppose – they wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“That’s the thing with abuse,” Paul sighed. “It’s always the victim’s ‘dirty little secret’. It’s you that would destroy lives. It’s you they wouldn’t believe. It’s you that would be persecuted.
“But,” he added, nodding pointedly in my direction, “they’d still never look at him in the same light again.”
And on that note, things drew to a close for another week.
M. E. H.
I have absolutely no idea how to end this post, so I won’t try to develop some prosaic / pretentious / uplifting conclusion to it and shall instead just fuck off. Cheerio.