A Re-enactment or How Transference is a B**** Part I
Greetings gentle readers,
I’m back from vacation, which was quite refreshing. I have not been blogging for several reasons: work was a bit busy (I am the technical documentation department so nothing gets done while I’m gone), I was catching up on my correspondence (which, alas, is still not complete) and my return to therapy was a bit rough. Note: I started writing this about two weeks back then got hit by an ubervirus that morphed into bronchitis and kicked off my asthma. I am now on enough steroids to lift a building after the second visit to my doctor and slowly trying to recover a normal energy level. And we have about four feet of snow and -1 degree weather. I am NOT a big fan of February.
The return to therapy was rough, not as in disruptions (that’s for the next post 🙂 ), but as in the material coming up. BN and I had a five-week break around Christmas (his two week trip ran into my 2 1/2 week trip. Otherwise known as bad timing. 🙂 ). I ended up jumping right off into the deep end despite not having seen him for five weeks. I did a lot of reading over vacation, including some books about weight loss and bariatric surgery. One that I especially enjoyed was Obese from the Heart: A Fat Psychiatrist discloses. I highlighted a whole bunch of passages, as well as emailing one to BN during vacation) and took them into my session.
I do need to back up a little and say there was a little surprise in wait for me when BN opened the door. He had decided to grow a beard while he was gone. I must confess I have a thing for beards, and this one looked really good on him. (It has continued to be a bit of a distraction, albeit pleasant one. 🙂 ) I remarked on it and told him it looked good, then we sat down. I started with an overview of events since we had last seen each other, including a description of vacation. I talked to him about the reading I had done on vacation and about how the more research I did on the bariatric surgery, the more unsure I became that it was the right choice for me. I talked about the fine dining on the cruise ship and how I would miss being able to do that, but maybe I needed to. BN asked what has been his favorite question for several sessions now: “What does it feel like to know you wouldn’t be able to overeat?”
I immediately go to a really bad place. Very upset and the fear shoots off the charts while I quickly become incoherent. I feel very little and have trouble talking. I also tend to fight the feelings, so often BN will gently say “AG, it’s ok, just stay with it.” As I stay with the feelings and try to express them, I start having these disturbing flashbacks. I should explain that my flashbacks are NEVER clear, like I’m remembering something. It’s really intense feelings with these quick nuggets of “knowing” what happened (which makes me feel crazy and like I’m making it up.) I really appreciate that at times when BN is summing things up, he assures me that he believes me, that even if I don’t remember exact events, that something terrible happened.
So I was talking about how scary it feels to think about not eating, that if I can’t eat I will have to be present. I talked about not wanting to be present for the abuse and now terrifying and overwhelming it was, but that there was also a sense of arousal. BN decided it was time to push me and started asking specific questions about the arousal, how it felt, does it feel the same way as I feel as an adult, etc. I want to stress there was NOTHING voyeuristic or titillating about the questions, we needed to go there. He was very much his usual, calm self and could have been talking about the weather. But we were using words like “vaginal” and “genitals.” One thing that was really clear to me is that I am PROFOUNDLY uncomfortable discussing sex. I’m not happy being a sexual creature. I remembered that while the abuse was terrifying and overwhelming, it was also exciting and pleasurable. Add to that, I think my father would humiliate me afterwards, telling me it was all my fault. So my sexual feelings and desires are very mixed up with a deep sense of revulsion and shame and feeling like there’s something twisted about having sexual desires. That wanting sex, in any way, or wanting anyone to desire me sexually, means I am doing something very wrong and therefore must be bad. And the whole time we’re discussing it, I’m feeling aroused. I seriously wanted to puke.
We spent a lot of the session discussing sex and my feelings about not wanting to be attractive because attention of a sexual nature feels too dangerous. One of the things I talked to him about was reading about how some clients wanted to push their T’s boundaries and see if they could seduce them and I told him it would never occur to me to even try because I believe I am so profoundly NOT attractive. I honestly cannot imagine anyone wanting me in that way. He keeps telling me that although I won’t believe it, there are people attracted to all kinds of body types. I physically flinch every time he says someone might find me attractive. He also wondered if part of what was scary about acknowledging my sexual feelings was that I wouldn’t be able to control them, that I would try to act out with him. I kind of skimmed over that part. More on that later.
The shame is so bad that I couldn’t look at him at all aside from when I said hello when I walked in (and got thrown for a loop by the aforementioned beard. I told him he was killing me at the end of the session. 🙂 ). I have been projecting all of my feelings of shame and being repulsive and had to ask him several times if he was angry or upset or fed up with me (he’s very patient)? He also gets very mixed up with my father when I go so deep, so I get scared of how he’s going to react. (Which we discussed and both acknowledged, also more on that later). It was just really rough remembering all of those feelings and leaving was difficult. That night I realized I had no sense of connection because the shame is interfering too much. Actually, that has been going on for some time. So I called his service. When he called back I told him I was feeling very triggered and needed some help regulating and that I had no sense of emotional connection, that I felt like I hadn’t seen him at all and I felt lost. It really helped that he expressed that it was understandable, because it had been really difficult stuff and it was no surprise I was triggered. He also reassured me he was there and not going anywhere and that I needed to remember that my feeling of not having a connection didn’t mean the connection wasn’t there. It helped enough to get me through the next week.
I posted about the session on Psychcafe and got some great response which really helped me to process the session and think through my feelings. One of the things I realized was that I really wanted to ask BN if HE found me attractive, but was very scared to so so. (Like he would answer, ha! 🙂 ) I realized that I don’t really want to know the answer to that question since if he answered in the negative, it would hurt. And if he answered in the affirmative, I would be terrified. Not knowing allows me a space in which I can consider either. So I headed into my session ready to discuss all the feelings that had been evoked, which is what I will cover in the next post. And get to that whole transference thing mentioned in the title.
This is the first part of a two-part series. Part II can be found here.