I’ve been almost entirely absent from my online world of Twitter, FB and bloggery for a few days, which is highly unusual because, of course it (as opposed to my everyday existence) tends to represent my more vivid life (yes, yes, yes, I am paraphrasing H P Lovecraft again). As you can see though, I continue to respire; the service interruption is due almost entirely to the advent of Fable III in this household. I bought it for A’s birthday but have of course been playing it myself when he’s otherwise engaged or out of the house. I love it; I find myself mystified by moderate reviews, because it’s incredible immersive and cinematic. Anyway, this is not a blog about video games (though I suppose by virtue of its title that it could be; addictive gaming, as well as mental illness, can certainly make one into a serial insomniac. But enough of that). I know I often say this of therapy session reviews, and then completely (though unintentionally) renege on my word, but I actually mean it this time. Though having said that, part of my reluctance to go into detail is due to the fact I remember* very few of the finer points of the meeting, as I was in the throes of a Zopiclone/Seroquel hangover, and after last week’s shocking discovery, I was nervous as fuck too. Furthermore, proceedings took place in a different room than that of previous weeks – I think Paul, to be fair, thought he was doing me a favour by only making me go up one as opposed to three flights of stairs, but it’s odd how one becomes pathetically accustomed to a physical environment when conducting this kind of potentially difficult meeting. There was once a Behind the Couch post on the importance of the office/room as part of the therapeutic dyad, but alas the blog is no more, even in archive Anyway. My nervousness/drug hangover made for an awkward start, but as I said to Paul, I was always crap at starting things in therapy. Good to know that some things don’t change, then. For some reason he once again asked me how I felt our work was going, and I repeated my assertion of the previous week that I was hopeful about what it could do for me, hard and all as it was. For his part, he said that he was “enjoying working with [me].” Some smalltalk about my trip to Tyneside that had kept me from seeing him the previous week ensued. Strangely, it never occurred to me to tell him about the ‘ I am dead ‘ episode, even if it did represent some hardcore mentalism – probably because I am attributing that to missing medication, as opposed to insanity per se. I just sat there and smiled nervously at him, reporting having had a non-shit weekend away. Eventually he must have asked how I had found the previous session, and I kept using that frankly exasperating colloquialism “freaked out” in response. IMy allusions to our new friend ‘Aurora’ consisted of nothing more than the words ‘the kid’, causing Paul to claim that he felt that I was (as ever) trying to dissociate her from me. I said, at least ostensibly for the sake of clarity, that I would give her a name (I was going to tell him I’ve started calling her as Aurora), but he said that was an attempt to distance myself even further from her. “How would you prefer I refer to her, then?” I inquired. “Why not just call her Pandora?” he replied. (Or rather, more accurately, he said, “why not just call her [my real name]?” but I’ve decided trying to get into the minituae of that distinction is another post entirely). I obliged, though I did so reluctantly – and that sense of discomfort in associating Aurora and me was instantly palpable in the room. I said something like, “I could see…’Pandora‘…” with such heavily uncomfortable emphasis on my name that he said he could all but see me using that annoying finger gesture to denote quote marks around it. In the end he gave up, and agreed to allow me to refer to her as I wished in the meantime. For some reason, I became slightly embarrassed at the idea of calling her ‘Aurora’ to him. Perhaps I felt guilty for not trying to connect her to me? Mind you, the rest of the conversation wouldn’t necessarily suggest that. The long and the short of it – and I already knew this, though perhaps without the unmuddied certainty that I now do – is that I hate Aurora. I absolutely loathe and despise her, or perhaps more accurately who I was when I was ‘her’. Everything about her repels me. I can sometimes conceptualise this little kid for whom I am feel sorry – but when I look at her face, her hair, other details of what she looks like, she is someone else entirely. That girl is an ideal – nothing more. She is not me. Aurora is – kind of. A ghost, both metaphorically and, at least to an extent, literally. I think of her and I think of how ugly she is/was, and I feel nauseated. Who gives a shit if she was precocious? That does not prevent her from being a hideous, repugnant…thing. Jesus, language alone cannot convey the strength of my disgust and abhorrence. I hate her. I ranted all this out Paul, stating that I had absolutely no compassion nor sympathy for her whatsoever, eventually briefly alluding to my dislike of children in general; I’ve never really liked them, a situation to which this blog regularly attests, but I dislike very few with the passion with which I hate Aurora/Kid Pan. He said, “I think you hate ‘her’ because you think she was ‘bad’. She was the one that made this nice man do bad things.” He talked on about this for a while. My attention to what he was saying varied for several reasons; there was an uncurtained window behind me, and even though we were on the first floor (or second, if you are an American reader – your system got it right this time ) and were unlikely to be seen, I kept thinking people were looking in at me and whispering to each other, “oh, that kid must have been [hush]raped[hush].” Yes, you did read that correctly. I did say ‘kid’; not ‘woman’, not ‘person’. It seems odd to me now as I write this, but it was what popped into my head at the time. I had visions of a couple looking up at this supposedly traumatised ‘kid’ sympathetically, condemning to each other bitterly in a time-delayed second the rapist(s) responsible – then dandering off down the road, their horror and indignation forgotten before they got to the next junction. Don’t we still, generally, treat it as taboo? Anyway, there was another issue that was preventing me giving my full attention to Paul – she was knocking at the side of my head, wanting her own fucking airtime. Not literally knocking. Pushing in, maybe. But I was able to ignore her, or at least not acknowledge her, to my sublime gratification. Bloody Paul. I mean, Paul is A Good Thing and all. But he’s brought this stupid little bitch out of her hidey-hole, and now she wants to monopolise my time with him. Is this even real? I don’t think I have DID, because Aurora doesn’t take control of my body, at least to the best of my knowledge, but clearly if this whole alter thing is real, then she’s at least some sort of dissociated ego state somewhere up there on the continuum that leads to DID. And, although I don’t agree with their claims, many people don’t ‘believe’ in DID, considering it to be primarily an iatrogenic phenomenon. Is this not really the same thing? A therapist induced ego state? I mean, it feels real – of course it does – and in general I’m not a particularly suggestible person. Neither therapeutic nor stage hypnosis have actually worked upon me, for example, and submissiveness notwithstanding, I will not accept ideas with which I don’t agree, even if I only disagree to a small extent. But still, isn’t it all a bit convenient? Alternatively, looking at the circumstances as if the the glass were half full, does her presence simply mean I have met the ‘right’ therapist? Anyhow, if I could ever get to the sodding point it would be beneficial. Essentially, Paul’s argument was that I believed myself to have ‘seduced’ Paedo, which in turn led me to believe that I was an inherently bad or evil being. We’d had a discussion a few weeks ago as to why I’d never told anyone what was going on (while it was ongoing, at least), and he now suggested that it was possible it could have been at least in part because I believed that I was ‘bad’. (He kept using the word ‘bad’, and I longed for the descriptiveness of adult language. I presume that he was trying to draw Aurora out, or at least connect with some vestige of her). “I mean, children don’t run to their parents declaring that they’ve done something wrong, do they?” he declared. That of course led to a discussion surrounding my mother’s dismissive stance when I told her that Paedo had raped and abused me. Pauk said that it’s a shockingly common response. I told him of a recent conversation with her, when she started a deliberately provocative discussion on her belief that society has degraded to the point of utter inequity in this supposedly secular age (which is frankly rather hypocritical as, although to be fair she believes in God, she does not practice any Christian values). I offered a few rational and calm responses, but when she finally declared that I was categorically mistaken, that today was so much more troubled than ‘back in her day’, I asked if she really thought that the Troubles, racism, slavery and the mass brushing under the carpet of systematic child abuse – things seen frequently in her endlessly glorious day – were all acceptable? It is uncommon for her to ignore such charged statements. Even in the rare instance that she admits that I have a point, she usually responds in some way. In this case, she just clammed up and left the room. I also noted a few months ago that she had behaved in a similar fashion when I previously alluded to child abuse. This avoidance is, in my opinion, deeply telling. I still think she knows. I think she’s pretending to herself that she doesn’t know, but deep down (I hate that phrase), I do think she does. Her uncharacteristic silence reminded Paul of a similar case. This particular client was growing up in a very religious environment, where things like cursing were strictly forbidden. However, eventually it came to pass that she would make reference to her abuser in conversation with her mother, and in so doing she would use very strong language. Rather than chastise her as may be expected in their circumstances, on these occasions the mother would completely blank her daughter’s use of ‘bad’ language. In other words, the mother knew wht had happened – but was choosing to bury her head in the sand about the issue. “How sad,” I remarked, genuinely, thinking about how difficult it must have been for that poor girl – trying to send out all these alarm bells, and being perpetually and knowingly ignored. “And it’s not sad in your own case?” he inquired. I shook my head. Of course it was not sad in my own case! The other girl didn’t deserve it…but I did. Paul then surprised me by asking, “do you have any happy memories of your childhood?” I sat and thought about this for some time, which he took to mean ‘no’. “Now that’s sad, isn’t it?” he asked me. “Not really,” I replied. “It just…well, it just is.” As it happens, now that I’ve thought about it I do have some happy memories; there was the time that my old friend Louise and I made an oujea board and laughed ourselves stupid whilst playing with it in the park. There was the time my primary five teacher had been so impressed with a piece of my writing that she brought me back the next year to read it to her new class. There was being the ring-leader of a gang, otherwise entirely comprised of males, when I was in primary one. There was also the occasion of my grandfather’s 70th birthday when I was ‘drawing’ him a ‘secret’ card and I had to try and keep him out of the room whilst I completed the woeful thing. He played along with the silly game, bless him. But that’s about it. It doesn’t strike me as a bad childhood particularly – a fairly average one, surely. Indeed, I don’t remember being especially unhappy, not until I was about 12 anyway. I just was. He then started talking about what he called containment. It sounds like some sort of object relations thing, which seems to be one of Paul’s primary interests. He talks frequently of the likes of Melanie Klein, for example, and has already noted his interest in the area. “When a newborn baby cries, and it’s hungry – well, it doesn’t know that the feeling it’s experiencing is hunger. Its mother feeds it, it learns that’s what alleviates that particular type of distress. It learns that that’s hunger, and shortly the feeling is contained. The same applies to a range of senses and experiences. The child learns that the parents protect it from these feelings in the times prior to it being old enough to protect itself. “Now, in your case, and in the case of similar survivors**,” he continued, “that sense of containment becomes lost…” I went to protest that at five – the age at which I estimate the abuse started – I should not have required my mother’s protection (even though I think that it’s quite normal and acceptable in the case of others), but he pre-empted my comment by pointing out that the mind is very much still in development at such an age. “…that sense of containment becomes lost. The child is expected its caregiver to attend to it when it was in pain, and they didn’t. The child wonders why. And of course when your mother actively denies what happens to you, the subconscious view that has already been created by the lack of earlier containment is strengthened. That subconscious – or perhaps not so much subconscious – is that you are or were bad.” It all rang true. I nodded, temporarily mute – then leapt to a defence of my mother. I’m so fucking inconsistent. But, I mean, she was fucking amazing parent compared to the other 50% that spawned me, after all. Instead of making any particular response to that, Paul asked me to feel what I would have felt, all alone with all this shit, as a small child. I thought of Aurora and felt the aforementioned disgust, but I repainted the mental picture to morph her into the ‘ideal’ child of which I spoke above. I felt sadness, great sadness, for her. Of course, she was aching for her bloody say. “I know this sounds ridiculous,” I told Paul, “but…[clear throat, look sheepish]…she seems to have plenty to say. She keeps hassling me, and I keep pushing her away. Not deliberately – it just sort of happens naturally – but there you go.” “We’ve come to the end of our time today,” he responded, “but maybe we can try and connect with her next week? I think it would be really helpful if we could do that.” I agreed to try. As I left, giving him £20 I couldn’t afford (it is a charity after all, but I have, again, literally no money at all – in fact, I have less than no money, thanks to debt), he said that it was good to have me back, and to see me again. I thought that that was a nice touch. He’s certainly not the traditional blank canvas therapist, and I am certainly not obsessed with him. I thought – and still think – that an attachment to a therapist, or at least the presence of some sort of transference, is a pre-requisite to progress within the dyad. I suppose I have some sort of attachment to him, but it’s very different than that to which I am used. Still, I have faith in it, and I have faith in him. Now, let’s just hope he can make Aurora go the fuck away. — * On the point of remembering things in therapy. Nick asked on the last post , as a few others have done in the past, how on Earth I often remember what are frankly minuscule details of conversations in therapy. The answer is, generally speaking, really rather boring: I have simply been blessed with a very good memory. Which, when you think about it, for a serial dissociater (perhaps I should change the name of the blog to that?) is sort of ironic. Maybe remembering stupid things makes up for failing to remember others? Who knows. Anyhow, Nick wondered if perhaps I furiously scribble notes when I arrive back at my car – this is often the case indeed. Additionally, I’ll be sitting minding my own business, thinking of something else entirely, and then something will remind me of something said, and I’ll instantaneously whip out my iPhone to note my recollections. That said, there are two qualifying points to that. As I note in the disclaimer section of this blog, I do often paraphrase or slightly embellish dialogue for the sake of (*ahem*) dramatic effect, and additionally, it is sometimes the case that maybe things didn’t necessarily take place in the order in which they are described. I’d like to iterate though that everything sad/described was said or did happen essentially as detailed – just in an even more desultory fashion. Secondly, there have been a few cases where I did record a session. If I recall correctly most of the relevant posts are protected, because I was paranoid that C may have found this blog and would be furious with me for my subterfuge. Now I don’t care if he knows, and even if I did, it’s not like any anger or irritation on his part is likely to affect me in any way now, is it? ** I really, really hate the word ‘survivor’ in this context. Apologies if that offends anyone – I certainly don’t mean it to. As ever, this applies to me, and not others. I don’t believe my life was ever in danger; therefore what the fuck was it that I survived? I once survived what could have been a serious car accident. I didn’t survive abuse because what else was I meant to have done? Just randomly died? Actually, Judith Stout in her book The Myth of Sanity argues that that very thing can happen, but I would be very surprised if it were a likelihood in cases like mine. Still, as she notes:
…[DID] seems to emerge spontaneously in situations of extreme early trauma, and is a highly effective self-protective strategy that may preserve the individual’s very life, by allowing him to think at all in circumstances that would otherwise be tetanizing [sic]. In situations that are too chronically terrifying for the self to deal with, the self may take advantage of its several ego states, may divide the stress, and cope as a group of specalized [sic] but interrelated selves. In this way, we survive. In this way, as in so many others, our resilient brains are much more brilliant than we know.Thoughts? — So I see that I have failed in my attempt to keep this relatively short. I strode far too much into random introspection. Augh well. I should have learned by now that I can’t control my fingers when they touch the keyboard. Goodnight!