I can’t count the number of counselors’ offices I’ve seen over the years. Some I’ve walked into willing, others not. Most of them have been bad. I’ve been threatened (You’d better tell me about this or I’ll tell your parents you won’t talk!), pitied, ignored (the coffeemaker was in this counselor’s office and she’d chat with anyone who walked in), yelled at (he was deaf in one ear, but no one told me that initially), and given tapes (yes, tapes!) with subliminal messages to raise my self-esteem. I’ve learned to enter new offices guarded, to hold my own hopes at bay.
Perhaps that’s why I love M so very much. She introduced herself promptly and kindly (one counselor simply said, “so you’re Meg? Tell me what happened. She never told me her name.) M is patient and kind, but there is no hint of pity. She believes in me, takes me seriously, and doesn’t make me prove I was abused. She’s no-nonsense and challenges my ways of seeing the world, of seeing myself. She doesn’t just let me talk, but she shows me how my thoughts and feelings are both normal and counterproductive to my healing. I can ask her pointed and difficult questions, even challenge her opinions, and she doesn’t get defensive. She offers me thoughtful explanations without over-simplifying. She gives me “homework” that is empowering. It’s so helpful.
And painful. In the past month we’ve delved more deeply into systems of beliefs that I’ve never really understood myself, not to mention let anyone else see. I’ve been a wreck. Add in 17 credits of tough classes, a demanding directed study, unpaid spring work for the farm, a paper to write for a conference this summer, involvement as VP of the horti*culture club and planning the spring plant sale, working on a research project with a faculty member, trying to figure out grad school, plus a house, a husband, and life in general I’ve barely been keeping my head above water. I’ve been dropping a lot of balls, which is not something I do. It’s been humbling and frustrating and I can’t imagine how I’m going to make all this work.
Yesterday M told me that I’m in the thick of the “healing process.” I’m examining and throwing away unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and defenses, while simultaneously building up new, healthier systems. I’m working on breaking down the walls I’ve erected to protect myself, and that’s hard work. She’s encouraged me to “be gentle with myself”, “be patient with myself”, and “take care of myself.” She emphasized, over and over, it’s important to take care of that little kid in me that wasn’t taken care of when I was a child. It’s essential that I not judge that little kid, not judge her feelings no matter how immature and unfair those feelings seem. That is something I’ve routinely heard from almost all counselors, good and bad. It puts me on edge. I don’t like any talk of the “inner child.” I’m an adult, god damn it.
But I trust M, she’s not a touchy-feely earth-mama kind of counselor. She’s practical and down to earth. If she says this will be helpful than I’ll try it. But it makes me edgy and suspicious. And I am struggling to find a balance between “being kind and gentle” and “sitting on the couch all day in my PJs not doing anything.” That may seem like an exaggeration, and maybe it is, but I’ve barely gotten anything done except un-intimidating things like playing my fiddle, cuddling with the cat, hanging out on FB, and knitting. While meanwhile feeling guilty about all the things I’m not doing. Truth is, I’ve got to get to work on some other projects, projects that require concentration and brain power. But when I break down sobbing at any particular point, sobbing that I should honor and experience, not just cover up, it’s hard to engage in real life. Even routine things cooking. And you all know how much I love food.
So I’ve been gentle as I can muster, giving myself lots of space to sleep, to craft, to think. God, I hope this pays off. It’s hard on me and all those around me, P included. He’s been a saint through all this, but it’s hard for him. He needs a partner, not an over-grown child. Here’s to hoping.