I know it’s been a long time since I’ve really blogged, but I’m doing so, so much better than I was.
Sometimes I need to do things other than blog.
I’ve been back in therapy for six months now.
I’ve been moved out for almost 5 years. I saw three different counselors in Colorado – a Christian psychologist and two counselors at my college off and on between 2011 and 2015.
My parents wanted me to see the Christian one because they thought he would convince me that moving out was a bad idea. He didn’t. He told me to be responsible and don’t go unless I could survive on my own, but he actually encouraged me to leave.
When I told my new counselor this, while reciting my History of Therapy, he laughed and said, “backfire!”
My first counselor taught me that I wasn’t responsible for other people’s emotions, like my dad’s outbursts.
He told me that leaving would involve a risk that I wasn’t ready to take yet. I asked him what that was and he said I needed to ask myself that question.
And he showed me that I wasn’t obligated to believe religious dogma that hurt me.
One day he told me that he wanted me to “stop thinking in terms of shoulds and musts and start thinking about wants and your reasonable heart’s desires.”
I asked him if that was wrong.
I recited that Bible verse that says, “But the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
But my counselor said, “The former is living under the law and the latter is where freedom is and where Christ wants you to be.”
I didn’t have the faith to believe him yet but I wanted to. I was still so scared.
My second counselor was secular. He didn’t understand the pain of trying so hard not to stop believing when everything you were raised with seems like a lie.
But he told me to try new things and he asked me what would happen if I carried less in my backpack going to campus every day.
He asked me to put my backpack beside my chair, instead of between me and him. I’d barricaded myself off without realizing it. Not having something between me and him while talking about deep emotions was unexpectedly vulnerable.
My third counselor was through the school office again. She happened to be Christian and had been to seminary, so she could feel my faith wounds.
She told me that my flashbacks and nightmares were part of PTSD. We started a type of therapy to help my brain process old memories and not freeze up.
I found her after my first breakup, in the lurch of unexpected heartbreak. When I wanted to stop breathing.
Last summer, I knew I needed to go back.
I knew I wasn’t done yet. But I didn’t know how to begin again, to recount my whole life story all over again for a stranger who I would come to know but who knew nothing about me.
But then unexpectedly – and aren’t the best things so often like this – one of my pastors was starting graduate school for counseling last fall.
He started meeting with me. He knew parts of my story already, so vulnerability was both harder and easier. But there was really no one else I’d rather tell these things to.
It means so much when someone listens with their heart. They are more than just a counselor, then, they become an anchor.
In December, for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to hurt myself anymore.
I have wanted to hurt myself for as long as I can remember. Even as a tiny human, I believed that I deserved punishment and would invent penalties for myself when “getting in trouble” didn’t seem like enough.
I am learning to trust other people. I am trying not to withdraw so sharply when I am anxious.
I am healing.
And I want to start sharing some of what I’ve learned.
One thought on “This is a story about the unexpected.”
Eleanor, this story is so beautiful and I can feel it resonate inside me. We come from different backgrounds(orthodox Judaism for me), and I’m considerably older(57), but I feel very connected to you. It’s so hard to overcome childhood abuse. I’m so happy for you that you found loving counselors who are helping you take such loving care of yourself. I’ve struggled with that for years and in the last few, I’ve really felt the self love. You have a beautiful neshama(soul,life force).😘