“I hate him.” The only words that escape my mouth while trying to catch my breath.
I hate him and I love him.
“I know.” My therapist says softly but confidently like she was waiting for those exact words to come. Her tone tells me it’s ok to say that, and I hold on to the unspoken permission. I sink in like a child, tears coming in waves, and focus on feeling comforted through the guilt and grief and anger.
I’m grounded and calm, because I can feel her hand moving on my back. When I open my eyes I can clearly see my blanket, the closet door, a chair. I can hear the sound machine.
Moments earlier, none of that was possible. A second panic attack of the day hit me and I lost all feeling in my body. I could barely see through worsening tunnel vision and hyperventilating was all I could do. I remember wanting to grab on to something, and feeling relieved when her hand met mine.
Fear is a wild animal. When I let fear come, my body does embarrassing things.
It’s a miracle I trust her—my body trusts her—so wonderfully and powerfully to let that happen. I love that we are in this place. In the closet, in the deep end, in the real and honest and hard work.
And, it sets me up to be little-me, more often. Which means that if I struggle later and I am not with her, it’s painful. I find myself in helpless spots. I go through mental hoops of abandonment and depression and feel lost so quickly because where is my mom? I am five! Why isn’t she here to help me, now? It must be my fault.
My fault: a deeply entrenched historical message I frequently tell myself. Last night when this happened, I purged. As soon as I was physically alone, I felt lonely. I felt unreachable, unworthy, guilty, ashamed. It became overwhelming very quickly and impulsivity was high. I felt like I had to do something urgently or I wouldn’t be ok.
I’d made my way to the path leading from downtown to the train tracks. It’s shadowy and usually empty. An odd place to be with sketchy houses to the East and the lights and intoxicating chatter filling the air from the West. I sat on the sidewalk, back to the train tracks, my vomit in front of me. A large bush hid me from the road and downtown. I sat there for about an hour and a half, frozen. How did I wind up here? What am I doing? What kind of person does things like this? I wanted a train to come so I could be tested.
I wanted to find a way out of shame. I wanted help finding a way out of shame. I wanted shame to leave my body. I needed a hand on my back, and a soft voice saying, “it’s ok.”
A train never came. I eventually walked slowly home, head hung, body reeking with guilt. I felt hollow and heavy at the same time. I felt acidic.
“I hate him” feels like acid burning up my body. Somehow, I have to rid myself of it. Somehow, I have to stay alive while I do that. Sometimes, in the midst of trying to let trauma out it begins to feel like anyone who is in it with me will be eaten alive by my acid leaking everywhere. The parts meant for dark, sketchy places and shadowy bushes. Maybe that’s why I sat there for so long. Forcing myself to be in it, convincing myself that no one could want to sit there with me.
Today, shame lingers. The acid feeling is overwhelming. I am trying very hard to fight back, to keep re-grounding. Still, little-me is a little lost. A little fearful. Just, little. And small children need loads of help. There is too much shame to bypass to help myself, or my inner-child. But I haven’t quite given up. I’m struggling to fight and still in the fight.
But, “It’s ok.”