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Going Back to Go Forward (9)

by JustEliza on 12 January 2011

I arrived at therapy eager and ready to share how much ground I covered during the weeks she was on holiday. I pulled out a map of my ANP (apparently normal part) and EPs (emotional parts) and explained how I identify more with the EP-Sad: how it’s harder to integrate EP-Happy because I’ve spent so much time hiding and protecting it. I tried to talk about the music and how it helped me access the EPs, but I faltered when it came to EP-Happy.


There was a block, I was struggling, and we both saw it. I admitted that it was too overwhelming to cover, and we moved on to EP-Sad.


I tapped into an EP-Sad memory easily enough.


“And do you remember how you felt?”


The room clouded into a dark winter, chills whistling through the ghost-like trees, and the chair became splintered wood. There were lights on the other side of the small forest, and their laughter carried. My cries didn’t.


I remember how I felt. “Angry.”


A breath. Hesitation. “Lonely.” The room yellowed; I sat on a twin bed in a dusty loft, room bare except one tape playing Wilson Phillips over and over. “Except, it’s not lonely.” Everything dissolved around me. “It’s more than lonely.” My voice was a whisper. A deep, ragged emptiness was opening inside of me.


She named it. “Despair.”


I felt like the princess in Neverending Story, finally named by Sebastian. For a brief moment. And then I felt, well, despair. I felt despair into the night and into the next day. It was horrible. That might not seem like progress to you, but for me it was life-changing. Overjoyed.


My research into adoption revealed a world of children with experiences identical to mine – and a world of people whose primary goals are to help them. I read detailed accounts of a 7 year old’s day from the eyes of their adoptive parent and I crumble in familiarity. An 'A-ha!' moment.


My therapist asks pointedly about my marriage.  I smiled, because I had been expecting this question since day 1. How can I have suffered without attachments for so long and yet have attached to him?


“I love him.”


I love him, so why can’t I trust him? Why do I hide myself from him? Resist intimacy? Control everything?


Together, my therapist and I acknowledged how I specifically seek out the role of Parent to avoid facing my own vulnerability. Even my mother-in-law seeks me out for counsel and protection. And I’m afraid, if I give up those roles, I will be rejected. Unnecessary. Unwanted. Unloved. Alone. Despair.


We left therapy with a partially unanswered directive: in lieu of any other suitable relationships (and given that I am 30 years old), how can I parent myself?


Thanks to my adoption research, I already knew how to find that answer. Self-care.


I started by taking all of the photos of my parents and stuffing them in a drawer. I stood in the hallway, fists clenched, staring across an ocean, declaring to an empty house: “I am angry at you. I don’t like you. And it’s okay to feel that way.” It was unbelieveably cathartic, because it wasn't said in anger or hate. It was said out of deep respect for myself. I don't want to see my parents right now.


It was a tumultuous weekend. I knew what I had to do, and I was afraid. We sat together in silence, he and I, for several minutes. I explained what happened in therapy that morning. I broke down in my husband’s arms. That’s a foolish phrase. I cried in my husband’s arms. I expressed my vulnerability, my grief, my fear, and my despair in my husband’s arms. I didn’t break down. I integrated.


It’s a wall that still needs a lot of smashing, but I carved a window by accepting his love and protection of me.


Suddenly, a part of me desired his approval. No. That desire was always there. Suddenly, I respected that desire. I cared for that desire. I cared for myself. I respected myself. 


I’ve been able to keep the kitchen clean ever since.


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