Week 42. Week 42. How can this be? I look back through this journal, and see prose referencing sessions as far back as week 10. I read through said posts, and remember clearly the discussions, the facial expressions, the tones of voice to which I have alluded. It all seems like yesterday. How did we get so far, essentially without me even noticing it? And now, with abject horror, I remember there will only be a total of 59 sessions with this man (unless there’s some sort of miracle), and four of those are about drawing things to a close. That means a mere 13 weeks of actual therapy remain. How – HOW – did things get to this point? How is that even possible? I don’t do anything. My life doesn’t consist of anything. How can time pass so quickly, through this sheer nothingness of an existence? How can I now be teetering on this precipice of therapeutic abandonment, when it seems like seconds ago that I was settled in a stable and helpful, if asymmetrical, relationship with C?
He is off this week, which is why I’m writing about last week’s session on what would normally be my Therapy Thursday. I miss him. I miss him very much. On Tuesday I had a moment (read: quite a long time) of utter desolation pertaining to his absence, accompanied by my old friends of depression, self-loathing and suicidal ideation. If my inability to cope without him is so acute and all-consuming after a matter of days without seeing him, what – in all seriousness – are things going to be like when the 59th session has been and gone? I can already see myself falling into an abyss of, at a minimum, abject depression. I have contingency plans, of course, but can they ever be the same? I’ve seen something like nine therapists over the past decade. C was/is the first and only one with whom I really connected. How long will I have to wait, how many more people will I have to see, before I can find a relationship with someone else that even approaches the quality of this one?
A doesn’t think attachment to a therapist is good. I know some others, including mental health professionals, don’t either. Personally, I don’t think it is ‘good’ either (in the sense that it is a difficult position for the client to be in), but as a somewhat-proponent of the psychodynamic school of psychotherapy, I believe that some form of transference – and, if it is vaguely positive, therefore attachment also – is necessary. As research consistently finds, the most important aspect of successful psychotherapy is the therapeutic relationship. I have a good one, and yet it is on the verge of being brutally severed.
But enough with my pointlessly whiny ruminations. 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything, apparently. I’m not sure that C: Week 42 was necessarily the answer to my life, my universe and my everything, but then – just like in the Hitchhiker’s Guide – I’ve never been entirely sure what the precipitating question was or is. I merely have had and do have the awareness that many things have been afoot in my world.
Anyway. The first thing that struck me was, once again, the beard. It is still there. I have nothing against beards – on people who suit them. C suited his erstwhile goatee reasonably well (he looked a bit like Derren Brown), but this full beard makes him look like a walking statue of Christ. What was of particular note last week was that it was perfectly trimmed. It was so exact that it must have some mathematical or scientific use – perhaps it could be used to plot planetary movement around stars or something. I longed to leave, drive to the nearest petrol station, buy some fuel, return, douse the beard in said fuel, and light a match. I don’t want to cause him any pain, but really. The beard needs to go.
As ever he tried to find out where I wanted to start our discussion, and as ever I stubbornly shrugged and claimed not to know. Luckily – in a sense, at least – he had planned for this, and reminded me that in the previous session, we had agreed that we would spend some time talking about the various incidents that took place with Paedo when I was a kid.
In all honesty, I don’t remember a great deal of what we discussed. In fact, in the end a lot of what we covered was related to my mother’s reaction to my revelations to her about the sexual abuse (see bottom of the page of the link in the previous paragraph). I do remember telling him that I was absolutely able to be open and frank about what happened in writing (namely, here, on this blog), but that I simply couldn’t manage to get the words out to him.
Of course he wanted to know what I thought he would think about me if I did say what needed to be said. I couldn’t think of the word at the time, but what I think I was trying to articulate is that he would be ashamed of me. My own shame, my anxiety about uttering the word ‘rape’ to him and my utter inability to actually eventually do so would seem to confirm that. It was like there was a metaphorical stopper in my mouth; every time my lips tried to form the word, or my vocal chords tried to convey it, something stopped it from being enunciated. Maybe some ethereal presence put its hand over my mouth and silenced me. Utterance of that word, and the specifics of the incidents, was impossible.
Without putting it in so many words, I basically conveyed to C that I had a supreme difficulty in verbally declaring some of the stuff that I should be discussing with him.
He reminded me that a few months back I had put together a range of material, largely garnered from my writings here, that I had wanted him to read. He had refused, to my considerable disgust.
“What of it?” I inquired.
“I’m not sure exactly what that stuff consisted of,” C acknowledged, “but I believe that you were trying to reach out to me in preparing it, that you were trying somehow to tell me about this stuff. But…[thoughtful pause]…but I think we need to get you to say it. To say it out loud.”
I’d always suspected that at least part of his reasoning for refusing to take the myriad of pages I’d printed that day was related to the fact that he wanted to hear me actually verbalise this shit. I still fervently believe that it was mostly about his refusal to have anything to do with me beyond my allocated 50 pathetic minutes, of course, but I did and do believe that his secondary motivation was to get me to actually speak. I just wish he’d bothered to have told me that at the fucking time. I would not have been so out-and-out furious had he done so.
Back to what I thought he’d think of me if I did speak of these experiences: I told C that I felt like a filthy whore and to that end provided him with the details of my complete knobbery from a fortnight ago, where I endlessly castigated myself as a slut of evil (we both agreed that I need to take care vis a vis alcohol whilst taking Quetiapine). I also confided in him that in huge, angry letters the word ‘SuzanneUT’ is etched, permanently, across my lower abdomen (along with its kindreds of ‘HATE’ ((the second incarnation thereof)) and ‘DIE BITCH’). ‘SuzanneUT’ is the most dramatic, however, and seems to have been the deepest of the various mutilations (all garnered, if memory serves me correctly, on the night I tried to kill myself last month).
“It’s ridiculous,” I admitted, finally. “Of course I’m nearly as far from a slut as it is possible to be [not quite perhaps, but largely]; I see that rationally. But I still believe that I am one, whilst at the same time believing that I am not.”
He referred back to schema models, about which we have talked on several occasions now. He said that the part of me that felt that my belief that I’m a slag is ridiculous was, in many ways, an example of a healthy adult; she is rational, and can see things in a sensible, evidential sort of way.
“However,” he went on, “your healthy adult seems to have become rather merged with your punitive parent. You can be very logical and whatnot, but when you do so, you’re very critical of the more child-like, emotional sides of yourself – not that you’d use the word ’emotional’ [he added dryly] – in this case, you use the word ‘ridiculous’, but on other occasions you’ve been even more disparaging. You would agree that that’s punitive, I take it?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“So there is hope there, in the expression of the healthy adult,” he said, “but we need to separate that punitive side from her…”
“Well, as you know,” I interjected, “I don’t ‘do’ self-compassion especially well.” He has consistently told me that having some genuine compassion for myself would be a major breakthrough. I have to say that in all honesty, this still seems as unlikely to me as it did when he first mentioned it months ago. I feel sorry for myself at times, I think some of what I’ve gone through is unfair at times – but I never feel what I would call ‘compassion’, and frankly that applies to others as well as myself. I have tried to develop some sense of it – I’ve read the stupid books and I’ve cried (admittedly rarely) under C’s watchful gaze. But it still isn’t happening. I don’t think years of psychotherapy can induce this supposed quality in me.
Somehow the dialogue progressed to an analysis of my mother’s response to matters with Paedo. In particular, I told him how outraged I had been with her comments to the McFs in the immediate aftermath of my last therapy session (see the last few paragraphs of here). Cue much questioning along the lines of the inveterate “how did that make you feel?” type.
I felt physically sick, not something common in my mentalness. Struggled not to throw up. Despondency followed. Which was later subsumed by a raging inferno of anger.
I’m sure I’ve told him before (well, I know I have), but I felt compelled to outline again that my mother had initially said that I had “misinterpreted” Paedo’s actions, which – when I stupidly admitted the true extent of things – was later replaced by an accusation of outright lies, which were apparently fuelled by my desire not to see my family.
I didn’t get particularly angry in relaying this information, but nevertheless, the picture I painted of my mother to C was wholly negative, and at some point or another, I became acutely aware of that.
“I make it sound as if she’s a terrible person,” I sighed. “She isn’t. It’s just…this.”
(Actually, it’s not just ‘this’; I’ll have to introduce C to the tales of how she would viciously beat me up, leaving temporary but significant bruising, almost daily during periods of ((my)) intense depression when I was a teenager. But I’ll leave that for another time…not that I have that many ‘other times’ remaining).
He responded by saying that he was well aware that, broadly speaking, I presently have a good relationship with my mother and that I didn’t see her as a ‘bad person’. He shrugged. “We all have different facets to our characters, as well you know. She’s made mistakes in this regard, but just because you’re highlighting them to me doesn’t mean that I necessarily think that that’s representative of her entire personality.”
“I wrote a rant about her behaviour last week on my blog,” I murmured, absent-mindedly. He asked about the content of it, and I said that it largely mirrored the information that I had just relayed to him, except that it was furious and bitter.
He nodded thoughtfully for a minute, then asked about my audience here. Was the blog open for everyone to read? How many read it? Who, broadly speaking, might my readership be?
I told him that I do password protect the odd post, though if I am honest I probably gave him the impression that I do it much more than I actually do (this is my 121st post; out of all those 121, only three are password protected. Two of those three are about C, if that reveals any deep psychological insights). I said that the majority of my audience seemed to be others involved in various mental health systems, mainly but not exclusively from my side of the couch. And that there were, at that point, in the region of 20,000 hits.
“But it’s all anonymous?” he checked, which irritated the fuck out of me, as we already had this conversation, leading to a particularly fraught interaction between us and a horrible few post-therapy hours for me.
“And no one in your “real-life” reads it?”
“Not ‘no one’. There’s a few, but they’re a select few. It’s definitely not for my mother’s eyes.”
“And maybe you think it’s not for my eyes either? Maybe you’d feel uncomfortable about me reading it?”
Oh for God’s sake, C. Not this crap again. “Why, have you?” I challenged, looking him straight in the eye.
He too had been looking directly at me, but as he replied, “No, I haven’t,” he tellingly lowered his eyes.
I don’t believe he is lying, but I do believe the statement was a half-truth. It would be hard for C not to find this blog, given some of the Google terms he is likely to be searching for in his line of work; therefore I believe that he’s probably come across it. He would have recognised me after having read a mere few lines though, and in his defence he is a professional, so is unlikely to have read any further.
I told him I didn’t care if he’d read it or not, as there was nothing contained within these pages that I wouldn’t say to his face. He was about to respond when I interrupted, saying that technically that wasn’t entirely true, as I was fully able to discuss the issues of child sexual abuse on the blog, but not with him. (Specifically, I can write ‘rape’, but not say it, at least not to him. Look, see: RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE. The day I do that in therapy with particular allusion to myself is the day I eat the contents of a 14th century latrine).
“But you know what I mean, I hope,” I continued, and he confirmed that he did.
There was a lull for a few minutes, then C noticed that I was laughing softly. Naturally he asked why.
I had been thinking about the fact I have an entire alter-ego here through this blog. My material is searingly honest and intensely personal at times, and yet it’s a very tiny fraction of my readers that know to whom this intimate information really belongs. As things stand now, that’s an unfortunate necessity, but it doesn’t keep it from being ever-so-slightly odd, and hence vaguely comical (at least to me).
We had a brief conversation about how the cloak of the internet allows one to accentuate particular parts of one’s personality. In my case, in this guise at least, the accentuated part has been my madness. I’ve had other guises related to other specific parts of my personality, of course, but relatively few that have been about ‘me’ as a whole, whoever she even is. Anyhow, this was part of the reason why I felt that I should consider giving myself an actual name on this blog, even if it’s still not the ‘real’ one.
This saw the end of the session. C said that we have a lot of material to work with over the coming weeks – well, my friend, isn’t that a shocking surprise! We still won’t grasp it all, though; we can’t in the time we have remaining together. As I departed, he wished me all the best. Little things like that make me feel pathetically good about our relationship, perhaps because it gives me the impression that he cares about me, however tangentially.
So, no strong revelations as to my life, my universe and my everything in week 42, but as he says, there’s material to work with for a while. Can we find the ultimate question? Moreover, can we find it in the small window of time that remains?