I had my therapy appointment this morning. I was telling her about my sense of shame and disgust over my relationship in Thailand. She asked me why I felt shame, and I launched into a laundry list of reasons. I realized that what happened to me in my childhood and in Thailand shaped my future relationships, I said. I equated love with pain. I felt broken by it.
She let me ramble on for a few minutes before gently interrupting me. She said, “You say you feel ashamed, and yet, you’re giving me abstract reasons why you feel that way. How about something concrete?” I made a joke, but inside, I was scrambling. I didn’t know what she meant, exactly. Or, more to the point, I didn’t want to go there. I stammered, hemmed, and hawed. She finally said, “Why don’t you tell me what happened in Thailand?”
Taking a deep breath, I did. I started telling her pretty much what I wrote in my blog entry about that relationship. I recited it as if I’d told the story a million times before, rushing through it because I was anxious to be done with it.
At one point, she stopped me and asked what I was feeling. I said shame and disgust without any hesitation. After a moment of thought, I said haltingly, “Sadness.” She asked me why I felt sadness. I couldn’t explain it to her, though I was in tears. She said she felt sad because that girl in the hotel had such cognitive dissonance, she could make herself believe that she could go to a hotel and not have the things that normally happen in a hotel happen to her.
I’m not expressing it well. I had told her about how I knew about date rape. I knew that I shouldn’t have gone with him. I knew I knew I knew. And yet, because of my loneliness, because of my desperation to be loved, because of my fucked-up childhood and my fucked-up notion of love, marriage, and sex, I denied what I knew to be true.
When she articulated the sadness she felt, with such a look of empathy in her eyes, I felt the shame and disgust melt away from me. All that was left was a deep, aching, almost unbearably sadness that twisted my heart.
I continued with my recitation. As I did, the sadness faded again, and the shame and the disgust returned. I found that I could not look at her as I told my tale. She knew what had happened because we had talked about it before, but I had never told her the details.
I stuttered, and my voice faltered as I told her what I considered to be the difficult parts. The shameful parts. The disgusting parts. My voice would flatten out until she would interrupt me again to gauge what I was feeling. She wouldn’t let me retreat into my defense of numbness and depression.
I can recall that my voice was flat for our sessions for years. I hated the sound of it, but I couldn’t do anything to change it. It took too much effort to liven it up as I did in the real world.
I told her that I didn’t want to be that person again. I couldn’t.
Back to the sadness. She gently prodded me to look behind my automatic response of shame and disgust. Each time, sadness and vulnerability shimmered up at me.
My therapist was right. That girl in Thailand had no core to her. She was bruised and battered from a childhood in which a family appeared one way, but was actually another. She learned that her noes did not matter very much, or rather, not at all. In addition, she had learned from the love of her life that she simply wasn’t enough. She learned from ‘her people’ that they didn’t consider her their own.
So, when she went to Thailand, she was especially vulnerable to a guy like Marty who was tough and macho and predatory, all at the same time. She was a sad, lonely, battered outsider whose self-esteem was worn to a nub.
When I let down my defenses and let go of the automatic responses of shame and disgust, I feel incredibly sad for that girl. And that scares the shit out of me. Why? I am not exactly sure. I also feel defenseless and vulnerable, stripped of any armor that would protect me from outside assaults.
I couldn’t say no. I didn’t feel I had the right. That’s why I withdrew into my shell, when I wasn’t putting myself in danger by engaging in risky behavior. I am listening to the final song I will be posting at the end of this entry, and I am crying. I am crying for that girl in Thailand who was broken against her will. I am crying for the little girl whose childhood was filled with nightmares instead of peaceful sleep. I am crying for the young woman who decided that it was better to be safe and frozen than to live. I am crying for the woman who thought hurting herself, punishing herself for her imaginary sins was only fair and just.
My heart is hurting with an almost unbearable pain.
My therapist told me that when I think about Thailand or my childhood, I should look under the disgust and shame. She said they may be there, but that I should always assume that underneath it all is sadness.
Sadness. So much scarier than disgust and shame. Sadness. It’s a real feeling that is deep, raw, painful, and it fucking hurts. Loathing, disgust, and shame are all more distant feelings. It’s hard to explain, but the loathing, disgust, and shame are almost external. They are like coats I can slip on. Sure, they have barbed wires that dig into my flesh, but they are still not a part of me. The sadness, on the other hand, is in here (that would be my heart). It courses through my veins alongside my blood, and it hurts.
With sadness comes a terrible fragility. I feel like an open wound, being poked and prodded without remorse. Without my shell, without my shields, without my wall, I have to feel all the sadness, the pain, the loneliness, the hurt, and the agony that I had tucked into the corner of my mind. If I let go of the shame and the disgust and the self-loathing, I would have to acknowledge and accept some heartbreaking truths. The betrayal by someone I was supposed to trust. The sudden knowledge that a loved one was not to be trusted. The violation of my body, my soul, my heart, and, yes, my mind of that same trusted person.
You see, it is much easier to focus all the loathing, shame, and disgust on myself. In a way, it was oddly comforting because it meant I had some control of what had happened. When I said I should have been able to fight my abuser, I really meant, I desperately fucking wish I could have fought off my abuser, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t fight him. I couldn’t fight Marty any more than I did. I did what I could.
My therapist gave me an assignment for this week. She wants me to do active visualization with that girl in Thailand. She wants me to ask the girl what she needed at any point during the trip, and then provide it for her. I agreed. I am good at active visualization, and I trust my therapist.
As I left her office, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness envelop me. It has lingered on and off for most of the day, but I am OK with it because it is a good kind of sad. It means that I am finally, finally, ready to face my past in preparation for embracing my future.