The Ache of Longing and Loss
Greetings gentle readers,
I know my posting has been rather scant lately. I have been doing some really intense work in therapy and sometimes when I am in the midst of deep work, it can be hard to speak of it. I also think unconsciously, I may be attempting to “contain” the energy so that it stays in therapy. Writing about it can almost spring a leak in the therapeutic vessel. But tonight I feel so drained and bereft that I need to make some connection. I am hoping that talking about my session today will help.
I may have mentioned before that I was having troubles with my knees, especially my left one. I already go to an orthopedic practice for my bad cervical disc, so I went there about my knees. We did a full set of x-rays and turns out I’m not imagining the pain in my knees. The NP I see sent me on a surgical consult, after telling me that most likely I would be having knee surgery and that somewhere in my future were full knee replacements. This was highly ironic, since BN and I have been digging into the feelings surrounding my body and being overweight and my need to understand that my body is an integral part of me which deserves self care. I went on the surgical consult, but it didn’t quite turn out the way I expected.
The surgeon was a very kind, sensitive man and there was absolute no shaming in how he handled the conversation but after asking me some questions about my physical capabilities and my weight history, he told me he was going to be very straight with me. He said that my knees were that of a woman at least 10 years older than me, if not more, but that at my weight, knee replacement surgery was high risk. Besides which, he’d only need to do another replacement in 10 years. He also told me that he wanted me at a weight I haven’t seen since high school and that he believed that Weight Watcher’s or another diet weren’t going to cut it. I needed to get bariatric surgery. Then he gave me a month of anti-inflammatory medication and sent me back out the door. It is a measure of just how much healing I have done that I was present for the whole conversation and did not break down. I waited until my husband and I got back to the car. As we discussed it, my husband managed to sum up the situation in one pithy phrase. I have run out of my get out of jail free cards. I have come to a point in my life where my health is being seriously compromised by my weight and has to be addressed. My deepest fear is that I will end up as a burden on my husband.
So I have been doing a lot of research on bariatric surgery, including researching articles, attending a support group meeting and talking with my new GP about it. It is an extreme solution but one that I am coming to believe that I may need. But I am also exploring other alternatives. I have of course been discussing this situation with BN, which is how we started todays’ session. We were originally supposed to meet on Monday at 11:30 but I woke up to a text on my phone telling me he needed to cancel because he had a cold. I got another text last night asking if I could come in at 3:30 today. We were of course having our first winter storm (it could be worse, I could live in Buffalo) and the roads were really bad, but I went anyway. Just took a bit longer.
Just a note I want to add because I realized something while writing the post, I think is important for you to know, which is that what I am about to relate was by no means a flowing, easy conversation. I was crying with my face buried in my hands or a pillow, struggling to express these feelings, and physically flinching as the memories rose through my body. At several points I was sobbing or screaming into a pillow. I think I actually looked at BN for all of about 4 seconds in a 55 minute session (I ran over.) I do NOT want to give the impression that I sat there calm and composed and easily expressed such terrible thoughts.
We started discussing the bariatric surgery. I did tell BN that I was noticing that I was at least able to do the research I needed and discuss this with my doctors and my friends without falling apart which was a marked improvement and did somewhat offset all the shame that arises from feeling so stuck about my obesity. (The ostensible reason I started therapy all those years ago was to deal with the fact that not only was I overweight, but I dissolved into hysterical weeping anytime I attempted to discuss it. I was sidetracked by discovering memories of sexual abuse. For some reason, my body has been the the last thing I got to. Go figure.) BN very graciously told me that it was the result of all the work I have been doing.
The rest of the session was raw beyond belief and difficult to relate, but I will try. I told BN that I was concerned about the surgery because it was such a radical change. BN agreed and said that I would no longer be able to eat large quantities and how did that feel? I told him it felt scary. He asked what was scary and what hopes did I have about the surgery? Just thinking about answering that question ramped up the intensity considerably. I told him that I hoped to be in better health and have more mobility and not become a burden on my husband. BN, who knows me very well, asked how I felt about being thinner? We talked about the one time in my life, during a period of high school, when I lost enough weight to be a “normal” size. I told BN that while consciously I wanted to be attractive and admired and desirable in the way anyone wants to be, that I also very much did not want to be. Being thinner would leave me feeling terribly exposed. And at the same time, in a completely contradictory manner, I feared that I would disappear and be invisible.
And there it was. I realized I am scared because I do not know who I would be without food and without being overweight. That it feels scary and exposing to be without both. I have very few conscious memories of my childhood but all of the good ones involve food. I know it’s an addiction and the sense of control it provides is false (hence my out of control weight problem) but I was so powerless as a child, that food and eating it provided at least an illusion of control. It’s scary, ok, terrifying, to think about coping without food being an option. BN told me that is why it is so important that we are allowing my feelings out now and healing. My last couple of months of sessions have been mainly taken up with unprocessed, painful emotions being expressed. It’s odd, there’s so much transference floating around because these feelings are from such an early age, that I have found myself scared of BN and worried about the relationship in a way I have not been in a long time while simultaneously experiencing just how deep the trust runs, because I am filtering my feelings so much less and just saying how I feel. This had produced some interesting moments. Just for the record, BN accepts hearing “I hate you” with the same calm, welcoming care with which he hears “I love you.” We have been slowly digging deeper.
BN continued to pursue a line of questioning about my feelings about my body and I hit some very young, extremely raw memories, some of which were new. I was weeping and sobbing through much of it, often struggling to find words to express the feelings, because when these things happened I did not have words. I feel such terrible conflict about my body because I was so confused about my own needs and where they led to. I got so scared, that BN reassured me in a way he often does, which is to tell me that I am in a safe place. My usual response is to start sobbing in earnest (it often takes a lot of encouragement from BN for me to actually allow myself to have, let alone express my feelings), but this time I also managed to tell him that while it is a relief to hear that, I am also wondering if it’s really true and can I trust him? That I so longed to really trust I was safe, but always there is that catch, that pulling up short. The voice inside that says “do not be so stupid as to trust that.” BN just told me that how terrible that feeling must be, to have it be so hard to trust. Then I said that I kept feeling like I needed to apologize to him and he answered that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. The next thing that rose up that I managed to choke out was that I kept wanting to say “Please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me” and he very gently said “it’s ok to say that.” To my shock, I managed to blurt out in a very young voice, but with an emotional immediancy “Please don’t leave me.” BN assured me he wasn’t going anywhere.
Memories and memories of feelings kept bubbling up. I remembered needing my father so much and wanting safety but it wasn’t available. The next thing I spoke about felt so shameful, I actually asked BN if it was really ok if I said anything to him? I told BN that I felt so small and what I really wanted in that moment was to crawl up into his lap (in the midst of these memories, I often feel so young that I feel smaller even physically. It’s often a shock to shift my consciousness completely back to the present and find myself in an adult body) and have him just hold me, but I knew that was not possible. BN acknowledged how painful it was to want that and not be able to have it. I was able to tell him that yes, it was painful now and had been even more painful to want that so badly with my father and not be able to have it.
And then things got really bad.
I remembered and managed to choke out, that I could remember wanting my father to think I was pretty and BN told me how normal that was but all I could feel was how wrong it felt to feel that way. My needs, my wanting to be loved, my wanting closeness, they were the problem. BN told me that it was natural and healthy to want closeness. I had the terrible memory of just how confusing it was to want closeness, to enjoy the closeness but at the same time feel so overwhelmed and ashamed of what happened. That I wanted it so badly, that there must be something evil about me to want something so bad. BN questioned me, trying to get me to see that I had not wanted the abuse and I remembered (confusingly one of those times I “knew” something without knowing how I knew it) that my father told me that what happened between us, the sexual abuse, was my fault for tempting him, that I must be a bad girl for wanting it to happen. I told BN it was truly perverse, in the root meaning of the word, that my father took something good and innocent but twisted it to his own evil purpose. What a twisted, overwhelming mess it was. I felt sick to my stomach, wanting to throw up, remembering this and then even more sickening, was realizing that there was a sense of sexual arousal present under the sickness. BN being very clear about how this would have felt as a child and with only a child’s understanding was the only thing that allowed me to have any compassion for myself.
We hit a point where BN was pressing me to go further and I just refused to go any further. I told him I needed to stop, I felt too drained and too scared to go any further. I have never had concrete memories of the abuse and I am terrified that I am heading there. That I may need to remember in order to heal. BN was quick to reassure me that during the session I had connected with and remembered new things but had been able to face and process them. That he felt it had been a healing session.
At that point I looked at the clock and to my horror, realized I was already five minutes over. The memories were so painful and I felt so in need of comfort (and was remembering so vividly what it was like to not have it). I looked at BN and told him how horrible it felt because I felt so scared and did not want to leave him, but knew I had to. BN gave me one of those answers that are at the heart of why I so love the man. He said “It’s going to really suck.” I did something I thought would have been completely impossible in that moment and totally cracked up. I was laughing when I told him “thank you for that. I love when you don’t argue me out of my feelings.” We made an appointment for next week, but then he’ll be gone for two weeks which overlaps with a vacation of mine, so I am facing a four to five week break. Augh.
So… leaving was really sucky. I feel very raw and little and sad and needy. I know it’s not true, but right now BN feels like the only thing that will help. The ride home was a long one due to bad road conditions from a winter storm and I spent some time realizing how deep runs my longing to be able to go back to being little and have BN be my father, while knowing the impossibility of having that longing fulfilled. But I was also able to recognize how totally understandable it was that I should want that. Just because what I long for is impossible to have, doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with wanting it. It is not often that the true horror of what I went through really breaks over me, but tonight is one of those times. I still want to crawl into BN’s lap, but he is somewhere miles across town in his own home while I ache to be with him, to feel safe and loved without it turning into something overwhelming and confusing. As I write that I realize these feelings are a memory. I know how very important it is that I get to these feelings, I know I am doing good work, but still I feel undone by the grief. I am so sad for that little girl I was.
Thank you for reading, it helped to be able to speak about this, although I must confess that any description feels inadequate.
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