Day 180: To Everything Its Season (Trigger Warning)
When I left yesterday to visit Portland Friend (PF) I had a nagging feeling I wouldn't be able to find the words I needed. I knew I would read the letter to her, but after that I didn't think any more words would out. I was pretty scared as I drove there and thought several times to turn back. When I got to town I pulled off to a restaurant and sat for a half hour trying to make up my mind. I thought about you all here and how you would encourage me, but also tell me it was OK to do whatever felt safe. And I thought, "She's safe. She has always been safe." I texted to let her know I was in town and would be to her house soon.
She had a sinus infection and I felt bad about her spending time out-and-about with me. When I saw her coughing and struggling, I offered to put off the conversation. But, she was insistent about it. She said, "It's a God thing. To each its season. It is now the season for you to become complete. I have waited a long time for this and so have you."
Once that was settled she and I went out to an overlook to talk. She was crying before I even started reading the letter. This was a big moment that was more than two decades in the making. She has always been there for me and accepted my limitations. Now I was opening up to her completely and it was intense for both of us.
I experienced very little emotion reading it. There were times we both laughed. There were times she became very angry. We talked a fair bit about my step-father and how I felt spending time with him, other than the abuse. This made her very sad. She said, "You were starving. You literally starved as a child, causing you to not grow, and you starved for affection as well." I nodded. She said, "You had to do what he wanted in order to get just a little bit of attention and approval."
I realized as I was reading my letter one of the reasons compliments are difficult for me. He (my step-father) gave them to me to manipulate me. He would say nice things to me, call me smart, call me talented, call me pretty . . . but then he turned those things into sexual gratification for him. So, ever since then it is triggering for me when I receive a compliment. It reminds me of him using those kinds of words to make me vulnerable to him. I was so desperate for affection, for approval, for attention, and for kindness, I would let his words convince me what he wanted from me was OK, despite how sick it made me feel.
PF cried when I told her this. And she understood for the first time why I always react strangely to compliments. I understood for the first time why I always react strangely to compliments. And, I understood why my reaction to AF telling me my writing was beautiful was so hard for me. I felt her genuineness, her conviction. I knew she was safe and was not manipulating me. It caused me to hear her words as love, and not abuse, for the first time in my life. I was able to hear a compliment and it was disorienting.
Hearing about the affects of the abuse by my step-father and the neglect of my childhood made PF even more angry with my egg-donor/incubator than she was already. She liked me referring to my mom as egg-donor/incubator.
We talked for four hours and then went out for midnight breakfast, getting back in just before 1 am. When we got to her house she hugged me fiercely. I nearly cried. I wasn't quite ready for that with her and the emotion receded.
I slept for a solid nine hours and woke feeling out of sorts. I wanted to get out, get away, run back home and just do the work I needed to do. I had quite a bit I needed to get done today. But, I believed it could get done this evening. My urge to escape was more related, I think, to feeling vulnerable and needy.
I realized that as I knock away the shame I have carried all my life associated with needing affection, I feel more keenly that starvation for affection. It seems the shame served the function of burying this need. Shame drove me to keep my distance, which then resulted in not feeling the pain of neglect.
This morning I didn't know how I could bear it. I wondered this morning if the healing process was worth this suffering. I packed my things and prepared to leave. But, I thought about how this would hurt her feelings. I sat myself down and I told myself not to run away. I think Little Intrepid was in there reminding me she can stand up to just about anything. And she needs me to keep going.
PF and I went to a lake and talked some more. I didn't think I had anything else left to say. I felt stuck. But, she talked and asked questions. She shared some of her concerns and problems, which allowed me to return the friendship to her that she gives to me.
Eventually I realized I needed to talk to her about that pain episode I had in May and ask her to help me in the future. I told her my T had encouraged me to make a plan. If I find myself in a similar situation where I need healthcare urgently, I need a plan so I won't be overcome by fear (as I was last month). I made the plan and spoke to two of the people involved (the doctor and AF, but needed to talk to others).
- Tell family I need either to be monitored or taken to the doctor. Give them instructions what to do in either case.
- Call my doctor and ask if she can see me (if appropriate). Or, at least let her know what's happening.
- Call AF to see if she'll come with me to the doctor should that prove necessary.
- Call PF. PF can deal with my family so I don't have to worry about their reactions if I have a panic attack. She can also go to the doctor with me if AF isn't available.
I also told her about my desire to buy a gun as well as the writing I have done here. She extracted two promises from me: (1) no buying a gun while I'm in this healing process; and, (2) keep writing every day. She could tell the difference the writing is making for me. She said it's the first time she's heard me name emotions and the first outlet she's known me to have for them.
I also told her I need a little mothering. She said, "Of course you do! And, I'm here for you, whatever you need." I talked to her about replacing the need for mothering with shame so I wouldn't feel the pain. She understood that and said it is better to go through this pain than to keep living with that shame.
At that point I knew I had said what I needed to say and heard what I needed to hear. We agreed to see each other more often as I am in this grieving process. I told her I didn't think it would last much longer, maybe a few weeks. She smiled at me, knowingly. She said, "It took 47 years to get to this point, sweetie, it might take more than a few weeks to rewire your brain."
With that, I brought her home and we said our goodbyes. I had great weather for the whole visit, as though even mother nature was saying, "This is your season. It is time to grow."