Trauma therapy

It’s got harder to find the time for the usual things at home while I get deeper into the novel I’ve started writing. The creative urge is strong at the moment and I’m writing about 10,000 words a week, because I have to take advantage of the flow while it lasts. The book is a fictional account of someone else’s life, but they say you should write about what you know, and many of the main character’s experiences are coming to reflect mine. Brian’s a gay introverted alcoholic: we couldn’t be much more similar! I’ve always found it hard to write about the lives of people who aren’t similar to me; this latest attempt is really one step away from my autobiography, with the structure and the journey that the protagonist goes on following the same kind of lines. It’s easier to write because of that, I’m enjoying it more, and I think it’s turning out better than I expected.

The protagonist is in therapy, as am I. I can’t say I’m enjoying it as much as I did in the early weeks, when there was still a novelty about it. I’ve told the therapist everything and we’re progressing further into the trauma. Every week he wants me to talk in more detail about what happened to me at school, his belief being that the healing needs to take place there. Nearly every week I feel resistance to going further, as my logical brain questions what good this will do, since I’ve been over it already and it’s never made a difference to my ability to form intimate relationships with men. The therapists pushes back against my logic, reminding me that I’ve never really talked about it before in such depth. I skimmed the surface in step four, this seems to be the real work now.

I felt the usual resistance this morning, the weather was crap outside and I just wanted to be at home in bed. But I knew I needed to make the most of what I’m paying for. It was time for me to go and dig a bit deeper, to get a bit closer to the wound. I described the anxiety that I’ve been experiencing at my Tuesday home group recently, the one where I’m the secretary, this anxiety about being in the spotlight and feeling judged by phantoms that may or may not exist. I compared it to the daily judgement at school, because of course that’s where all my anxiety comes from. I remembered that my whole drinking career was essentially one big ‘fuck you’ to the world that had abandoned me at school, and I remembered that my voluntary decision to become the meeting’s secretary was a way of forcing myself back into the world, a going against the grain of my isolating instincts that still want to push everyone away. If I feel anxious now it’s a simple relic of the past. My beliefs about people today are formed by what I learnt at school, not the current evidence of what they’re actually doing.

When I talk about school long enough my mind always drifts to that day in 1999 when I tried to kill myself, the low point of my life when I was convinced I would always be alone. Today’s stresses subtly bring me back to that day, it’s obvious. With every word I could feel myself slipping back into those feelings like I was putting on an old skin. I cried for the first time in this therapeutic relationship. Something important happened. I felt a barrier fall away and I was able to plunge right into my emotions and visibly show them to the therapist, who was there to ‘hold’ me as my defences collapsed. This is the goal of therapy, to provide a client with the safe space where they can let their guard down and be completely open to everything going on in themselves. The goal isn’t to cure or suggest solutions, I know that very well, but if I allow my logical head to get too carried away I can become impatient for change, for a feeling that I’ve somehow solved the conundrum of my life.

The therapist regular says that this is a journey without a destination: there is no ‘there’ that I can get to and feel happy 100% of the time. My own life experience has shown that there is never an end point to any of this. Whenever I have achieved some goal or reached some place that I previously wanted to be in, I’ve found new problems to fret about. Slowly I must learn that this applies to everything, including my ultimate dream of forming an intimate relationship with a man. Because there is no final destination then, I can settle into today and the feelings I’m experiencing now, and I can be compassionate enough to allow them to be, whatever they are. So after all the work I’ve done over the years on my psyche, I am still traumatised by my time at school, and I’m still angry with my mother over her part in things. This doesn’t mean I’ve got to have some big conversation with her or with anyone about what happened to find some sort of ‘closure’: there probably is no closure in that sense. I can keep talking to the therapist about it, I can keep writing about it here, and maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to fall into that ‘dream’ relationship with someone while these feelings are still going on.

After crying for ten minutes at the end of the session I went to an AA meeting. I had intended to come straight home and duck out of the awful wet weather, but an old sober instinct pulled me in the direction of the fellowship. And I heard everything I needed to hear. The chair talked about a lifelong resentment that he had against his mother (coincidence?); other people shared back about how they don’t gloss over the anger they naturally feel over the past, but instead they acknowledge and talk about it (more coincidence?) So I’m really glad I went to that meeting today. I can always go to AA to hear from people who have the answers; I can use psychotherapy and other outside help to talk about my past until the wound is squeezed dry. It may take years, but, well it’s happening.


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