Finding My Strength

I’ve been really struggling lately. EMDR is hard. It’s not something I can go and do for an hour or two and then put aside until the next session. It really is like being in the deep end without a life jacket, and that is exhausting. I want to keep living my life, and to some extent I am. It’s just this overwhelming feeling of heaviness and exhaustion that I wish would let up. I know in the end this will all be worth it, but the thought of 6 more months like this is really discouraging.

I guess I should just focus on the progress I have already made. The first memory has been stored in the memory part of my brain, not perfectly, but at least I don’t live it every time I think of it. And we started working on the memory of a necklace he gave me that felt to me like a shackle. It was a mark of everything I was being forced to do, a reminder that this was my life and that I belonged to him. That I was helpless. Now I am starting to believe that I am strong.

Lori and I talked about how since the abuse happened at such a key developmental age that it really warped my sense of responsibility. I had been telling her how much it hurt me to see the guilt and regret my parents carry over what happened to me. They say they feel that they really screwed up as parents, and that just kills me. My parents are amazing people, and I love them so much and I have told them over and over that there was nothing they could have done and no way they could have known. Lori said that a big part of the guilt they are feeling is just something they have to work through, but I need to check my motives and see if I am taking responsibility for their emotions.

I am.

I do it all the time. I always feel like if someone around me is unhappy or upset that it is my responsibility to fix it. Lori explained that when the abuse happened (age 6) I was still developing my sense of self.  A child cannot understand that their parent yelled at them because they had a stressful day at work, the child sees the parent getting angry and makes the connection ‘I made Mom angry’. The same happened with me. He abused me for many reasons, none of which were my fault (it feels weird to type that, I still don’t think I completely believe it), but in my six year old mind it was happening because I had done something to deserve it. I took on the shame and responsibility that he should have been carrying. Instead of getting angry at him for crossing boundaries, like most adults would do, I accepted that I was at fault and deserved this treatment at recompense for my mistakes. And it got reinforced over and over. He would get mad at me and I would feel that I deserved his abuse. That I owed him.

And when I finally came forward and tried to get help, everyone turned on me, once again reinforcing the idea that I had done something wrong. I couldn’t understand at age 7/8 any better that those kids were turning on me because of reasons that had nothing to do with the truth, and I put the blame on my heart. I told myself that I was wrong to try and seek help. And every time I was made fun of, teased, or bullied, it reminded me that there was something wrong with me. That I was the reason these people were acting this way. So now I still do this. When someone is mad or hurt I feel personally responsible; I convince myself that it is my fault.

I think the reason why I have been feeling so overwhelmed by the EMDR is by delving into the memories and issues I am truly starting to see how much there is to deal with. It’s one thing to know that I have been through a lot and another thing to lay it all out and look at it closely. Lori has said that given everything I went through, especially given that it was at such key developmental stages, she is amazed at how much I have accomplished with my life. Hearing that felt really nice. I felt validated. To hear a professional say that what I went through was beyond bad isn’t exactly comforting, but realizing that what I have accomplished is all because of me is amazing. Lori said it says a lot about my inner strength and perseverance, as well as my drive to heal, and for the first time I actually acknowledged that part of me. I have always discounted or written off my supposed ‘inner strength’ but for some reason I was finally able to see that at the core of me–below all the struggles and doubts and traumas life has thrown at me–there is a wooden ball of strength that is always, and will always be there. That is my picture of my strength. A small, firm wooden ball, and when I think of it I feel an invigoratingly cool breeze on my face. The kind that makes me feel alive. That picture is me.


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