Yesterday when I walked into therapy, my body could barely wait to get through the door to start feeling everything I’d been holding onto over the weekend. As soon as I sat down on the floor, weighted blanket covering my body, tears flooded. I felt relieved it wouldn’t take 45 minutes to get to this point. I almost wanted to feel all the hard things. I wanted the teen in me to feel loved while feeling upset, disgusting, and sad.
And that happened in exactly the way I needed it to.
The harder part, maybe the more upsetting part, was trying not to judge myself for the main trigger of my immediate distress from the night before. The harder part was letting 33-year-old me be loved and accepted despite feeling so gross, dirty, guilty, and ashamed. I couldn’t talk about it, couldn’t really write about it. I could cry and ask to be held, though, and that’s what I did.
And that’s ok.
When we’re working on trauma, now that I’ve mostly accepted it, I want to be in the presence of safety as much as possible. My body wants to be protected so I can move out of freeze or flight. I want to be able to let all the feelings out whenever they come. It was so hard to leave yesterday. I have to intentionally shutdown to walk out the door and get to my car. It’s like you’re telling your younger self (the self that’s been through trauma), “you’re safe now! Do whatever you need to. But wrap that shit up because you are not safe when you leave here.” This is exponentially easier now that I usually have 2 hours. I literally could not do it in one hour and was leaving almost every time in a miserable spot.
Still, I wouldn’t leave my children after they experienced something extremely difficult. In the same way, when I finally let myself be that little girl or teen, I also want the redo of a parent staying with me. I find myself so intensely feeling the same exact way of during or post-traumatic events now, in therapy, whether my therapist even knows that’s what’s happening–that I actually feel like I am the age of whatever I’m working through. Which might be any age between 4-22. I want–no, need–my mom to drop everything and show up for me and promise not to leave. Or, someone I trust who can take the spot of my mom. My therapist does an amazing job of being this person for me to the best of her ability/capacity. But it obviously has a start and end time most days and letting that little girl feel and asking her to stop sometimes tugs at my heart more than other times. Yesterday was one of those times.
Yesterday was one of those times that the teen in me had a really difficult time not feeling discarded when therapy was over. I know and trust I am loved and cared for. However, the deeply hurt child in me is angry and fearful of what happens each time my guard is let down and safety is felt, and then it’s (albeit temporarily) halted. Of course I’m aware I can text or email or leave voicemails for continued connection. That is for sure helpful. But I think it’s ok to just acknowledge sometimes I need (continued) physical connection so I can keep feeling hard things. When safety is taken out of the picture and I force myself to shutdown, I quickly become angry and feel chaotic or panicky. It’s like wait, I was just raped and you’re leaving me? What if he comes back? What if I can’t breathe? Who will help me find my way out of danger?
I can’t find answers for myself, emotionally trapped inside trauma, and I turn on myself with rage.
Why was I so stupid to let my guard down only to become hurt? I feel so sad, and it’s not safe any more, and I don’t know what to do with this so now I’m angry at myself. I can’t stand these intense feelings alone, I want it to end, I want to die.
Those thoughts replayed for hours yesterday. I tried to return to gratefulness that I have a place of safety at all. Because I am grateful. But I was so much feeling the inner child in me (not present) that that didn’t really make a difference.
What helped was a phone call from my therapist and adding additional appointments to make the return to safety not seem quite so far away. And then, having some compassion for myself for feeling all those things and having a hard time managing being out of safe arms reach.
Little girl, teen, young adult-self, you are welcome here. You can stay here. You are allowed to keep feeling. Even though it feels so hard and scary when no one is there. The thing is; you will return to safety eventually. You can ask to return earlier when you need to. And there isn’t a limit and you aren’t being judged for needing it. You just have to say it out loud. You just have to keep letting yourself feel the hard things. As hard as it is, you have to allow yourself to struggle.