Day 219: Replacement for Being a Burden
Things I believed about myself in childhood:
- I am ugly.
- I am selfish.
- I am bold.
- I am dramatic.
- I am attention seeking.
- I am plain.
- I am awkward.
- I am weak.
- I am a good student.
- I am well behaved.
- I am shy to the point of backward.
- I am afraid of other people.
- I am worthless except for my ability to help others.
- I am controlled.
- I. Am. A. Burden.
- My needs are a burden.
- My hopes are a burden.
- Time with me is a burden.
- Listening to me is a burden.
On Monday, as I explained earlier this week, I felt intense angst about going on a business trip, because I felt #1 and #6 from the above list. I decided because of this angst to try completing a homework assignment from my T from weeks ago . . . to go shopping with someone close to me, someone I trust. I thought I might be able to purchase an outfit for my business trip that felt good to wear, that I felt good wearing, something more feminine than my usual manner of dress, but not a dress. Normally I would wear a dress, which requires nylons for me.
As I wrote the other day, I was in a terrible state of self-loathing, thinking about the way I look and my fear of doing anything about it. But, I didn't share the following: I made several decisions to help me break free of this trap I feel I am in. First, I joined Weight Watchers for an 8-week trial. Second, I plan to have laser hair removal at my bikini line (so I will be more comfortable wearing nylons). I have been thinking about laser hair removal for at least six months but have been afraid to look into it. I wanted to talk to my T and to AF about these two topics.
As I said on Monday, I broke down and called AF to ask her to go shopping with me. She wasn't available, which ended up being a relief. It felt like the decision was made for me. I wouldn't go alone, so I wouldn't go; I wouldn't face that shame and fear I always feel when shopping for clothing. Clothes shopping is tied to disgust for me, I feel a deep revulsion because of all of the things it is linked with in my history. The anger and pain attached to these feelings took me careening off the road and caused me to sit in a parking lot for about an hour and a half.
Unfortunately, the tears I cried that day didn't give me relief. The anger and pain stuck inside me, oozing below the surface like magma, waiting for a fissure to form in order to erupt again. It happened yesterday.
I was working with AF for a short while when she observed, "You seem off." I let out a big breath, not even aware I was holding it. I didn't want her to have to deal with my grieving again. She has a lot of stress in her life right now. I wanted to help her.
I admitted something was up but asked to talk about it later, when we were done with our tasks for the day. She accepted that and we went about our work. We were both having difficulty concentrating, but we made good progress. We made it to the end of the work day and decided to get dinner. In the interim it became apparent to me just how tired she was, how much she needed her batteries recharged. I couldn't think of a way to help with that, but I decided not to unload my burdens on her. As we drove out of the parking lot she asked me to talk. I nodded, no, vigorously. Then I nearly drove into curb of the sidewalk. She stopped me just in time and kept us from crashing . . . or at least flattening a tire.
I apologized and we made our way to the restaurant. I had an increasingly difficult time concentrating. I was horribly distracted by the noise in my head, by the pain, by the need for comfort. And I was intensely angry at myself for it. "Why can't I focus on her just this once when something is bothering me?! Why can't I set aside my worries and just care for her? I know I will be OK. Nothing bad with happen to me if I let my love for her overtake my needs for a time." I tried and tried to tell Little Intrepid to be quiet and to wait. It was like dealing with a colicky baby. And I got even more angry at myself because I know Little Intrepid is me and I was putting myself ahead of my friend who had greater need than I at that moment.
Belief #2, 4, and 5 were ringing loudly in my ears.
The two decisions I made related to my appearance were to the point of screaming. I just wasn't able to attend to AF as I wanted. Finally, she asked me again and I agreed to talk. I felt completely defeated and ashamed that I wasn't able to win my internal battle, to set my healing process aside for one evening, for AF's sake.
I am crying right now admitting this. I'm so very sorry, AF, if you are reading this.
She had me drop off my car, telling me she was worried about how distracted I was and asking if I could get home safely. I assured her I could and then I proceeded to drive the wrong direction. It took me a long time to get home. She was delayed meeting me, so I didn't turn out to be a problem. We went to a park and parked in the shade. By this point it was next to impossible for me to form words. I don't know if I said more than three words before she said something to me that broke open the flood gates. I cried for some time. I talked about feeling like I have opened Pandora's box. She asked if I needed her to back away and give me space.
I was alarmed by this question. She asked it several times. I don't know if she was asking because it seemed like I needed space or if she was asking because she needed space. I didn't ask her that question. I simply said it wasn't what I needed at all.
I couldn't bring myself to tell her about my decisions. I was afraid of the implications, of the possibility of next steps, of needing her help with shopping and learning how to be a feminine version of myself. The revulsion was stronger than my courage to speak the words. I was able to admit to feeling intense anger at my parents for what they did to me that put me in this situation of not being able to go shopping for clothes. I also realized I felt afraid about my altering reality, no longer being behind a veil (as I described last night). I cried and, eventually, when I stopped crying I asked for a hug. She hugged me and told me she loves me. I said the same. I felt greatly relieved, but guilty for not telling her what was sparking my anxiety.
I talked with my T about this today. I didn't get the whole story out, but enough for her to say to me, "You need to replace this belief that you're a burden. You feel like a burden to her don't you?"
I nodded, yes. I said, "I have always been a burden."
"How often did you hear that growing up?"
"I didn't so much hear that word exactly, but many versions of it, countless times. For example, my mom used to keep a ledger of everything she did for each of us. She would hold it out in front of us complaining about how much we cost. 'See how much we spent on you?' She would demand. It was proof she was a good mother and I was a burden. She let me know I was a burden from the day I was born. She felt the same way about my two younger siblings."
I felt sad as I said this.
My T said, "OK. You know how when you have a sore in your mouth your tongue will worry over it, even if you try not to?" I nodded my understanding.
"You need to find another image, a happy, loving experience to replace 'I'm a burden.' Can you think of a moment when providing for your children that makes you feel content?"
I thought about it and said, "When I would go to their elementary school. It was a magical place. I felt really good I was able to get them into that school and keep them there. They did very well there. I always felt happy when I went there. I made great friends with several of the teachers. They're the people I visit when I return to our former town."
She nodded her agreement with this choice. She gave me a homework assignment of working to use this image as a replacement for 'I'm a burden." And I still need to complete my earlier homework of shopping. She was very encouraging about it. "Imagine how you'll feel when eventually you can go shopping by yourself and it feels like a natural experience?"
At the moment, that takes a lot of imagination. But, I do have an inkling of the possibility, if only I can find the courage the take a first step.