When you have a counselling session that goes quite deep it can leave you feeling a little bit like you’re in shock for a day or two afterwards. It leaves you drained and exhausted. I told Sam about how Dan, Josh’s dad, once said to me that every time we had an argument I would end the relationship and I admitted to Sam that it’s something I’ve done in all relationships as long as I can remember and she felt that was worth exploring some more. She asked what happened during the process of me ending things and I said the person involved would do something that pissed me off in some way and then, without me being able to control it at all, over the course of a few hours to a few days I would 100% convince myself that actually I didn’t love that person, didn’t want to be with them and that I should just end it and that I’d be far far happier without them. I can’t convey enough how strong this feeling is when it happens, it totally consumes me and there’s literally no room in my mind or my heart for any other possible conclusion. I simply and absolutely stop loving that person or at least I convince myself I do, although this never happened with Tom. Sam said that it sounds as though what’s happening is that something from an earlier time in my life is being triggered and I’m totally shutting down, emotionally, and this would have been my coping mechanism from childhood. I’m protecting myself by totally believing I don’t love or need that person, like a block of concrete coming down and stopping any life left in whatever is there.
Sam asked me to think back to a time in my childhood when this may have happened and I couldn’t pinpoint any times but I did remember being about 8 or 9 and running away from home because I was convinced my parents didn’t love me. I felt as though I were treated so differently to my sisters. One time, when I was about 10, my parents called everyone into the kitchen and started handing out gifts. (The memory is so strong I can remember it as if it just happened.) Millie was given a very big, thick book about how to use computers because she’d done really well at something in school. Izzy and Sasha were given a toy dog and toy cat because Dad didn’t want them to feel left out. I sat there and watched as the empty bag was discarded with nothing in it for me, then sneaked off to my room without anyone even noticing I’d even been in the room, let alone left it. I felt invisible and unlovable and couldn’t understand why my parents loved the others and not me, after all, I was the good child while the others were constantly demanding things from Mum and Dad, and constantly got them. The present giving occasion is just one example out of many I can remember about how differently I was treated. Not only that, but while my sisters were given choices and opportunities in life, I never was. When I ran away, I was gone from about 8.30am till about 6.30pm when I was found and taken home. I described to Sam how my Mum wouldn’t even look at me but how Mum and Dad both screamed and shouted at me and just sent me to my room where I sat planning my next escape until my Dad came up and basically made me feel guilty about what I’d done. Not once did they ever ask me why and never did I receive a cuddle or any understanding about why I may have done it. Sam asked me to go back further, to a younger age and see if any more memories came up and I remembered a time when I was probably about five and I’d been ripping my hair out in chunks to the point that I had bald patches. I remembered my Mum and Nan asking me how it happened and I told them a girl at school did it. I got marched to the school and into the headmistresses office and made to admit that it wasn’t true and that I had done it. Again I got totally bollocked for lying and bollocked for pulling my hair out. At no point did I ever get asked why. (If any of my kids did this, I know it would be because they were deeply upset and traumatised by something and I’d be asking myself what had happened and what I could do to correct this and probably getting them help to get to the bottom of it, I certainly wouldn’t be punishing them for it). Sam asked if I could remember what had possibly traumatised me so much but I couldn’t and she said it’s possibly so painful that I’ve completely blocked it from my memory. She said that hair pulling in a child is a form of self harm, and the nail biting that I’ve done since I was 3 or 4 is a sign in children of severe stress so obviously, something terrible happened but I really don’t know what. Sam said that from a very early age I would have learned that no-one listens to me and that no-one cares enough to listen to me (and therefore I am not likeable or lovable) and rather than continuing to self-harm and take it to a much worse level, I took the safer option of shutting down. She said it would have been something that kept me safe. I do remember spending a lot of time, as a child, in my room. I know I saw it as a place to escape and I would go there whenever I felt attacked or lonely or vulnerable (that was almost all of the time, I don’t remember a time until I was about 15, where I sat downstairs with everyone else) and I would spend hours writing in diaries . . . old habits die hard.
According to Sam, this explains why writing is something I use a lot and why verbalising my feelings doesn’t feel safe to me as whenever I did it as a child, I would have got ‘attacked’ for it. Sam then said that every time I shut down as an adult it’s because someone’s behaviour is acting as a trigger for my old patterns. She asked me to give an example so I used Phil. I said everything was okay with him until the day before I moved house when he was round helping me and he shoved my sofa into the fireplace. I recall feeling a mixture of things at that point which Sam asked me to relay to her. I said that I felt that he hadn’t been listening to me at all for the previous ten months when I’d told him how precious my sofa was to me and what it symbolised – me leaving Tom and becoming independent. She said that was because I never got heard as a child. I said that I felt disrespected, again how I would have felt as a child, and I felt angry and that he didn’t care about my feelings or how important certain things were to me. Sam then said that those feelings would all have been how I felt as a child when I learned to shut down to keep safe, and so my automatic response now as an adult, is complete and utter shutdown. I told her that had I told Phil this at the time (forgetting that I had told him and he told me to stop moaning), he wouldn’t have shouted at me, wouldn’t have punished me and wouldn’t have done anything negatively towards me, that he probably would have listened and apologised but I said, I never ever feel that I can say anything and Sam said this is because I learned that speaking up gets me either unheard or punished and so it makes total sense why I don’t say anything to anyone when they do something to upset me. Instead, I get angry inside and start shutting down until I’m at a place as I was recently where I’ve shut down so much that I’ve convinced myself 100% that I don’t love him and it now makes total sense to me why I struggled to end the relationship. The risk of not being heard, or of being punished, was too great to that little girl trapped inside me.
I told Sam that if I could fix one thing about myself it would be this because I hate it, I hate how I go from loving someone so much to being totally convinced I don’t at all within minutes, hours or days and that it’s ruining my life and ultimately ruining other people’s lives too. I would do anything to be able to sort this out. Sam said that by finally becoming aware of why I do it, is the start to healing it but because it’s been a habit that has kept me safe for at least the last 35 years it’s not going to be an easy one to break. We discussed what would have happened had Phil come round here and ‘forced’ his way back into my heart and she thinks it probably would have pushed me away even further because that little girl that is trapped inside me would have felt even more unheard and disrespected so now it leaves the question, what do I do when this happens? I can try my hardest to talk if something someone does makes me feel unheard or disrespected but I know that’s going to be really difficult for me. I honestly don’t know how to deal with this at all. Sam says I need to start writing down the triggers and to keep writing as its what has worked for me my entire life, and start honouring how I’m feeling.
Another thing my parents did, and then Tom later, was constantly tell me that what I was feeling was wrong. If I said I was in pain, I was told I wasn’t. If I said I was upset, I was told I wasn’t. It taught me to not trust what I feel which is a whole other fucking problem to sort out! During my session today I also described to Sam how when I was 10 I got an ingrowing toenail and had to have a small op to sort it out. The doctor then told my Mum to cut my toenail down into a V shape. She told my Dad and the only bit he heard was cut my toenail down. I remember him squeezing my foot to hold it in place, taking a sharp pair of scissors and cutting down my toenail alongside the bed of my nail. The pain was excruciating and I remember screaming and crying and telling him to stop as it hurt so much. Instead, he gripped my foot harder and told me it didn’t hurt. As a child, you believe your parents know better than you, so while I could feel the terrible pain, my Dad was saying it didn’t hurt and I remember not knowing what to believe. The pain I could clearly feel, or my Dad for all his ‘wisdom’.
We also discussed how this incident as well as others, some already said, made me feel as though I didn’t have choices. I was left with no choice about whether to have my toenail cut. I rarely got choices as a child. My parents decided everything for me. Even when I was pregnant with Josh, my Mum chose my clothes and all of Josh’s newborn clothes and items and even tried to choose his name and so it’s really important for me to feel as though I have choices in life. What this adds up to is one big fuck up of a person but I do want to overcome this because now that I feel stable and grounded, I can see that I do love Phil very much. He has so many amazing qualities and I really do want him in my life, long-term but I can’t promise him that I won’t do this again, and again and again while I learn a new way to deal with my pain and it could take years to overcome this. Hopefully, it won’t but it could. I know Phil is someone I can trust not to hurt me and not to abuse me in any way but it’s going to take a while for that to really sit comfortably with me and for that little girl to believe that. I’ve never had a single person in my life that I’ve been able to trust not to hurt me, not to ignore me when I speak, or speak over me when I try to talk to them or not to do all the stuff everyone has ever done.