On Friday, I had an emergency EMDR session with Dee. Following the stress from the last couple of weeks, I was having multiple panic attacks. Dee managed to fit me in due to a last minute cancelation and we began the session talking briefly about the events that were triggering the panic before getting to work.
I've been using EMDR as a way of process both my pregnancy losses as well as the failed rounds of treatment, but Dee has been wanting to delve deeper for a while. As torturous as infertility has been, she believes that the trauma caused by a dysfunctional family is only exacerbating the situation. I need to be healthy if we are going to be able to proceed with adoption and part of being healthy means also coming to some resolution about the abuse.
As I clutched a Kleenex, Dee began the procedure. Digging deep into my past we revisited the first time I vividly remember being struck and verbally assaulted by my mother. I was 9 yrs old and my parents had left us in the care of a babysitter. The sitter had demolished the aquarium my mother had recently purchased and stocked. When my parents came home, she blamed me. So as my father drove the babysitter home, my mother climbed the stairs to where we were sleeping and began interrogating me. I don't remember what happened after my mother realized I had been falsely accused, all I remember is the pain and the tears.
As terrifying as that incident was, it turns out that wasn't the key to the panic. The key came while Dee was helping me reprocess that incident, reminding me that as terrible as all of that was I'm now safe. And the more she repeated 'your safe,' the harder I shook my head. Finally I opened my eyes and looked right at her. And I told her a tale I haven't spoken about in many years.
When I was 18 yrs old, I decided to get my first tattoo. Being from the midwest, there were only a few acts of adulthood that really appealed to me: I wasn't a smoker, I had no desire to gamble, joining the military wasn't my idea of a good time and strip-clubs didn't have much appeal. In addition, I had been dreaming about a tattoo for a couple of years. On my 18th birthday, I quietly left my parents' house and walked into a tattoo parlor for my first tattoo. It wasn't anything overly original (a tiger on my hip with its paw extending a little bit down my leg), but it was my first act of independence. Considering I was an 'A' student with a bright future, this was my bit of rebellion.
When my mom found out she stopped speaking to me for 3 months. I can't begin to tell you how damaging it is to live with someone who pretends you don't even exist. I spent many nights apologizing and trying to amend the situation. I begged, pleaded and even tried reasoning with her. Nothing worked. Finally, she dropped the ultimate bomb: either I have the tattoo removed or forgo college. I spent about a month looking into options to finance college on my own. With no one helping me, I became an easy target for military recruiters and bankers interested in preying on the naive. I'm lucky I didn't sign anything. Finally, with a heavy heart, I made the decision to remove the tattoo. Paying for most of the procedure myself.
As much as people complain about tattoo application, removal is a thousand times worse. The only pain that has surpassed that in my life has been the D&C. It was painful because I had given up control of my body to a mad woman. I still remember the doctors looking at my mother and trying to talk her out of this procedure. It was clear to them I was being forced. And yet, no one did anything. Not my teachers, not my friends and not even the members of my family. They were too afraid of her wrath.
When I told Dee this story, she sat back and said "I'm so sorry." The first time ever that anyone outside of Grey has told me that. And immediately that became our target for the session.
The truth is I'm scared that one day I'll come home and find my mother on my doorstep. I'm beyond angry about what she's done to me and yet I feel powerless regarding protecting myself from her. She's violated my body and been such a source of pain for most of my life that I never learned how to stick up for myself against her. Nothing about her actions is predictable. Everything is a possible trigger and she's used me as her personal whipping-boy for so very long. Initially I thought I had overcome this, that I was doing better. My sister's wedding invitation brought it all back though: all the fear, all the loss and all the pain.
As I cried during the session, I realized something about all of this: I've never grieved the loss of my childhood. I've never allowed myself to. For too long I've been in survival mode, just trying to make it through all the madness. When my mom told me that I deserved my infertility, I took it to heart believing that damnation with each failed treatment or loss. Every bit of it. Sure, I swung back too, accusing her of being an unfit and undeserving mother. But this dance was taught at a very young age. Instead of playing and learning about the world, I was honing my tongue and learning how to brace myself for an outburst.
We have a long way to go still. This process is complex because despite the abuse, there were good moments too. It's the good moments that make all of this difficult as without them I could easily cut my losses. But that's not how the world works. How dysfunction works. The truth is, I've long believed I don't deserve to be a mother. To feel the movements of my child growing within me, to hold them when they first enter the world, to watch them grow and to take joy in watching them become part of the world. But the truth is that I also use to believe that I was unlovable and would never find a partner in life. Grey proved that idea wrong and continues to do so every day. With Dee's help, I want to overcome this last-lingering myth about myself. I want to feel like I do deserve children, just as much as the next person. Because I have done nothing to deserve the venom that was forced onto me, the lies I was told simply to make me subordinate me.
It was not the cat
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