It’s been about two weeks since I last saw my therapist. Two sessions ago, things were great, and she was really proud of the progress I had made – so was I. I really felt good. The last session, I didn’t feel so great, and it was a tough session. Going into this next one, I think it will be tough again. I have had a really crappy few weeks. What do you do when your life is a Venn diagram of issues/triggers/emotions? You’re focusing on one issue, but then another issue keeps coming over and butting into the conversation, even though it was never invited. Hey issue#2, it’s nothing personal, but I would really just like to talk to issue#1 only. Can we talk another time? Yeesh.
I started working on some of my homework a few days after my last session, and felt great about it. I was sitting at an open-mic, enjoying listening to poets and musicians while writing in my journal. My assignment? Write out what positive things have come from my traumas. At first, I thought – positive? What the hell is positive about getting married at a ripe old age of 18 to someone I didn’t know much in person, and being subjected to his emotional and mental health problems for 4 years? Maybe that’s not the best way to put it – I’m sure there’s better words to describe it. How about this – after taking all these painful and toxic behaviors from my ex-husband, holding onto them, analyzing and ruminating on them for so many years. What pearls of wisdom or truth did I produce with them?
When I was a kid, I was generally very happy, had a very high self-esteem, and thought the world was a fun and wonderful place. Nothing beat popsicles, climbing trees, and sledding. As soon as I woke up, I wanted nothing more than to go outside and play with all the kids in the playground in the apartment complex. I would only come in if I ABSOLUTELY had to (aka dinner, or the sun was going down and Mom was yelling at me to come in). It was common for me to go to the bathroom at my friend’s apartments so I didn’t have to risk getting stuck helping my parents with something inside. I also loved school, I excelled in my classes and got excellent grades. 4th grade came along after I had moved to a different part of town with my family, so I was excited to start at this new school and meet all the fun students and teachers. Because my end of year test scores were above average, I was placed into a 4th/5th grade split class. The 4th graders in this class were going to be learning the same curriculum as 5th graders. Well, what ended up happening was that I was in WAY over my head because of the drastic difference in homework amounts and intensity, and was blessed with what looked and sounded EXACTLY like Professor Dolores Umbridge as our teacher.
Instead of noticing I was struggling and working to help me with any challenges I was having, she blamed me for my struggles to keep up, and humiliated me in front of the class on a frequent basis. Due to my avoidant/dissociative/ADD tendencies, I would frequently daze out or fall asleep in class after feeling overwhelmed and scared by the whole situation. She would catch me daydreaming, and purposely call on me to answer a question she knew I wasn’t paying attention to, and then ask me if I was stupid or do something equally humiliating. Kids in the class would of course, follow her behavior. So I frequently heard sniggering, kids mocking whatever noises I made or whatever I said, and was completely alienated from them. Nobody wanted to play with me or talk to me. I later found out that the kids would frequently talk to each other about whether or not I was “retarded.” The whole time this was going on, my home life was not great either. I had one sibling constantly picking on me and saying things like “why are you so weird?” My parents were mostly occupied with and burnt out by having 3 rebellious teenagers in the house at the same time. So I felt pretty isolated. Staying out of the way was the best thing I could do. I also had NO friends. My best friends at the time were my favorite doll Annie (who I had frequent tea and pudding parties with) and my orange tabby cat named Frisky. I couldn’t even play outside in my own backyard sometimes, because the ASSHOLE neighbor kids would start mocking me from their house/backyard. This was the first time I withdrew from the world into the sanctuary of my bedroom. I spent half of my time glued to my little black & white TV, or playing with my “friends” and dancing to music. My parents eventually realized something was wrong, and pulled me out of that class after yelling at the principal about what was going on. I was a LOT happier the second half of the year. The teacher was really nice, and my grades quickly climbed back to their usual A’s. Needless to say, some damage was not as easy to repair, and my self-esteem with others was never the same.
Thankfully, this was long enough ago, and I’ve thought about it enough, that I can look back at that situation with a more objective “bird’s eye view” so to speak. I still remember the emotions, but I can set them aside and see the situation for what it really is. All of this is to say, I can think about my 4th grade year, and say without hesitation what good/truth/wisdom came from this:
- Those 6 months taught me what it is like to feel deeply undesirable from all angles. Without realizing it, I decided I never wanted to make anyone feel the way I had. I would be kind, warm, open-minded, and accepting. I would befriend the “weird kids” and make them feel like they mattered too.
- As a survival mechanism, I withdrew from the world and learned how to self-soothe and self-analyze. I was forced to shut off the extroverted part of myself, and find what things made me happy, entertained me, inspired me, and made me laugh. I did all of those things without any outside influence. I believe that this is where my dancing, singing, and writing skills really bloomed.
- I never would’ve been inside the house long enough to stumble upon “I Love Lucy” and all the other awesome reruns on nick at nite – enough said.
While those months were very traumatic and scarring for me, I don’t know that I would go back and change things, even if I could. I am grateful to have the knowledge and talent I have thanks to that period of time. If anything, I wish I could go back and tell that little me that I was lovable and desirable, and that all those quirks and unruly hair would eventually become something people admired about me. That employers would tell me they appreciated the warm personality I have, because it calms everyone around me.
So, remember Issue#1 I mentioned at the beginning? The challenge now, is being able to look at those traumas I was subjected to during my previous marriage and being able to see them with that “bird’s eye view.” So far, here’s what I have come up with for the list of positives that have come out of that situation:
- Believe it or not, I could not sing blues music for the life of me before my divorce. I listened to blues, and I loved blues, but could not sing the blues. I couldn’t pick up the blues scale enough to sing it right. After my ex replaced me with what he called “ a real woman” and I withdrew from the world again, I could suddenly sing the blues. I guess that means you really do have to have the blues to sing the blues.
- I am not as naïve as I used to be. I am now very good at being able to tell if somebody is lying to me, and can pick up on patterns of suspicious behavior. I was always an intuitive person, but I never could pick up on those patterns like I do now. My sleuthing abilities even caused an ex-in-law to have to admit their cheating to a sibling of mine, because they knew I was onto them. I learned to stop doubting my gut instincts.
- I walked away from multiple possible relationships that I initially thought I wanted, because I was able to recognize personality traits that would be problematic for me. I think this is because I learned to see somebody’s personality traits, and see how they could play out in the future, for or against me.
- I now know what is a healthy sexual relationship, and what is not. What I originally thought was my problem during my 1st marriage, was never my problem all along. The problem resided with my ex-husband and his behaviors. What I felt deep down the whole time, was correct. Once again, I know now not to doubt that gut instinct.