I've mentioned previously here that I started therapy last year. I have yet to mention my reasons.
Close to two years ago now, I met someone and clicked with them immediately. This, in itself, is not rare. I'm most drawn to people I click with immediately. We met through mutual business and so, in the beginning, there was no personal relationship other than hour and a half long phone calls to discuss ten minutes worth of business. About four months after we met, we went out for drinks for the first time and both could not deny the spark between us. The business still hovered, so nothing happened other than a hug on my front porch.
A couple of months later, the business situation was resolved and we started texting about non-business matters. The following month saw our first true date. Our conversations, our sex, everything that flowed between us felt right and we enjoyed each other's company. I went on my solo trip to Europe, found a gift for him there, had it personalized. When I presented it to him upon my return, the emotion he displayed, I could not engage in. I stood near him, but did everything I could not to be with him in that moment. I became aware of what I was doing and I felt guilty and tried to get present, but I was too confronted by the situation. I knew something was off, but I let it slide.
Later that same evening, I believe, when we were back to my house after dinner and drinks, we were standing in my living room talking to my eldest daughter. As she spoke, she referred to him as my boyfriend. He said, "Oh, I'm your boyfriend now, huh?" I responded, "Everyone else calls you that, I don't." To which he muttered, "Oh," and fell quiet. I was immediately wracked with guilt. My mind raced, "Shit! Am I blowing a chance at a romantic relationship?! Am I just too distant? What is wrong with me??"
As I turned over the situation in my mind, I thought about the juxtaposition that is me:
Anyone who has met me knows me to be loving, kind, and generous. Accepting of everyone I meet. I present as more loving, kind, and generous than others you might meet. These are not a falsehood--however there is what lies beneath. The truth that only those that actually try to get emotionally close to me have found:
I don't let anyone in.
Not truly, anyway. My outer reaches are much more accessible to other humans than most are, but my innermost keep, few have ever penetrated.
In fact, there are few souls that have ever been let inside that innermost keep and none was ever willingly.
I have had almost every romantic partner I've ever had remark to me, "You love your cats more than you love me." To which I can only ever respond, "Because they have never made me cry except in their sickness/unconsciousness. I don't fear they will ever leave me except through their death."
And that is the heart of the matter, right there.
It is well documented here in this blog how much work I've done on myself over the last few years. I have a strong desire to be the best me I can be, so I am constantly working toward that.
Back to why I went to therapy.
I realized in those moments, after that situation, that I would never be able to be in a successful romantic relationship if I couldn't let people in. Here was this pretty awesome guy, who was there for me, would help me, who I very much enjoyed sex with and I knew I couldn't let him in, not that way.
Honestly, I had no idea whether or not he even wanted in, but the thought that if he did and I also wanted him in that I wouldn't be able to, was enough to cause me to seek outside help.
So, I've actively been in therapy for about 8 months now, with a great therapist for 7 months. It was only very recently that I was finally able to dig to this point that let me find what was in my way of letting myself be loved.
My therapist has a habit of giving out stickers. Whenever I tell her of a personal accomplishment, she celebrates by giving me a sticker. The first time, my internal thought was, "Seriously? How fucking lame is this? You can just say, 'Yay! Way to go!' and I'll be good." But since, I've gotten into the practice: allowing myself to feel like a child whenever I receive a sticker, proud also for my personal accomplishment.
One day, probably about two months ago now, she was presenting me with a sticker and it had Dumbo on it. I said, "Dumbo! That was my favorite movie when I was little..." and out it ALL came:
I ended up in heavy tears as I related the attachment that I had to Dumbo, that it was a child who was violently separated from their loving parent. I had recalled a specific incident from my childhood, watching my father desperately trying to get into my house, screaming, and finally being led away by the MP's (Military Police). I realized, at the end of this story, this particular instance is the source of all of my feelings of abandonment.
My therapist responded, "How old were you?"
"I don't know, three, four? Not more than six, I know for sure, that's when we left Washington and I didn't see him again until I was 14."
"When we're that young, the things that happen to us, we aren't really verbal enough to put words to it, all we have is a strong emotional sense about it."
"That would explain why, whenever I'm feeling intense feelings surrounding rejection/abandonment that I'm not able to talk myself out of them. Usually, when I'm struggling emotionally, I talk to myself, aloud, in my head, doesn't matter, I calm myself down by telling myself everything is okay, that I'll be alright, there's nothing wrong with me. But I can never convince myself in those moments, and those are what keep me distant from people."
By that point, we were out of time. Over my next couple of visits, we were never able to get around to addressing the issue, except for my therapist to say, "Because we're not verbal when these things happen, we can't use words. There's a method, we'll go over it next time, of assigning a symbol to the feelings, this usually helps."
That time has yet to come, but it seems I found my own.
About two and a half months ago now, I met a guy and we seriously lit on fire. It was amazing: everything about me that makes me feel different from the rest of the world, that I had no one in my inner circle who was the same as me on, we were the same. We texted every day, all day, basically narrating our days to each other on the days we didn't see each other. We saw each other every weekend and sometimes mid-week. But this only lasted for a month.
At the end of the month, he suddenly backed off. I had no clue why. He finally related a little, that the relationship was more intense than he wanted. But before I knew this, all I could do was the same thing I've always done, go absolutely fucking insane in my head. Add to it that my best friend was in the hospital for weeks, I was PMS'ing and having one of my bouts of severe depression with the PMS and I felt like I was falling apart, going insane.
The one thing I wanted, someone to hold me, comfort me, tell me everything was going to be alright, was the one thing I didn't have. To be quite honest, it's the one thing I've never had: my biggest, lifelong, unmet need. I desperately needed to cry in someone's arms and I had no one to go to, or so I felt. I should mention here, that I did, a couple of times, cry in the arms of my roommate, which helped, but for some reason, wasn't the same. I guess because the abandonment feelings come from my father, I needed a male, I couldn't be consoled without a male.
This guy, the one who was backing off, had made clear from the beginning that wouldn't be him. It didn't bother me too much, until I needed it. And then I needed it right after he started backing off. Or maybe he started backing off right after I needed it. That detail is not that important.
So, fast forward to just a few weeks ago. I had seen my therapist on Friday and she had told me this thing about assigning a symbol. The following day, Saturday, I was supposed to see fire guy...for the first time in weeks. He had said he'd be over later in the evening, I invited him to spend time with me and my kids in the later afternoon, but told him I understood if he couldn't make it until evening.
I woke up later Saturday morning and texted fire guy good morning, as was our ritual. I acknowledged that I slept late and he was probably already working on his weekend chores. I didn't hear back from him immediately, but wasn't surprised, assumed he was focused on getting stuff done. Finally, when I got out of the shower, just as my kids were arriving for our party, I found a text from him, essentially breaking up with me.
I texted back, acknowledging his feelings, apologized for my part in them, told him I understood, but he didn't have to go away if he didn't want to. After about three texts of the thoughts that went immediately through my head, I decided it was time to leave him be, get dressed and go see my kids. As I got dressed, I fought little moments of tears.
When I finally made it out to the kitchen, I told my roommate what had happened. Her response was, "Look, if someone can't be in a relationship with you, the most accepting, least pressuring person I've ever known, they simply can't be in a relationship with anyone."
"I know. Thank you." And I cried a bit and had to retreat to my room.
I heard my other kids arrive, my younger daughter came to my door. It took me a couple minutes to let her in, but when I did, she hugged me and said, "I'm sorry, Mom, I heard."
And then the floodgates opened.
But this time was different.
As I had my arms wrapped around her and I cried, I said, "I know it's not me. I know it has nothing to do with me, but I can't help crying. It's that little part of me, the little girl who was abandoned, she feels the pain right now and I can't talk to her, so I just have to let her cry."
As I said, this, as I hugged my daughter and I cried, in my head, I imagined picking up myself as a child. That skinny little brown-haired girl who experienced so much pain and so much loss at such a young age. I picked her up and I held her. I stroked her hair, kissed her head and told her that everything was going to be okay. That I love her, that she is lovable, she is worthy, that there is nothing wrong with her, that what other people do has nothing to do with her.
AND THAT WAS IT
THAT WAS WHAT I NEEDED
Each time I started crying after that, I had the same mental picture and it was AMAZING:
I FELT NO HURT AND I FELT NO PAIN
I just cried.
Later that evening, fire guy came back, baffled by my response. He was maybe expecting anger, hurt, or rejection where he received none.
Our relationship has been tenuous since then, but it seems to have continued.
I also realized that I do have a close male friend who would gladly be there for me anytime I need to reach out to someone, anytime I need to be held. I've told him the story of feeling like I had no one and realizing I had him and he acknowledged, "Good, I'm glad you know. I am here for you. Anytime you need me, just reach out, I'll be here."
So after visiting him, I feel amazing.
I finally feel free to have any relationship with any person be exactly what it's going to be and no more. I finally am free of the need to draw more from a person than what they want to give.
All because I picked up my child, my SELF and hugged her. Held her. Let her know she's not alone, she's not unloved and there's NOTHING WRONG WITH HER.