“How are you?”
“Well, I’ve been great, like really good, normal. It’s been fantastic, it really has but today it’s gone. Today I am angry for no reason.”
“What has changed?”
“Nothing. It’s just like a switch. I’ve just changed. That’s the way it is with this. It’s so stupid being angry for no reason. It does my head in. Why am I like this?! I just need to stop it. Just stop being like this.”
“It’s quite common for people with trauma in their background to feel like this and to feel that they have these different versions of themselves. You, most certainly, had traumatic experiences so it’s understandable that you would experience this”.
…later in the same appointment…
“Why don’t you try talking to her? Asking her why she’s angry?”
“I…I… I’m scared…”
“What if you try?”
“OK, I’ll try.”
“Just ask her and see what she says”.
“I will. I’ll try”.
… That was a snapshot from schema therapy this morning. I was angry at everything with no idea why. My therapist was encouraging me to talk to the teenage version of myself, Kathleen. Instead of shutting Kathleen down I was to try and listen to her. I was very scared to do this because it is the Kathleen part of my personality that urges me to harm myself. She urges me to really hurt myself and, in return, I end up wanting to stab her. You can see how this is a lose-lose situation for me, right? …
Later, walking the dog before school pick up, it hit me (gr-r-r-r-reat timing). The Kathleen voice inside of me began talking, so, as instructed by my therapist, I used my healthy adult to talk back to her (all in my head of course because I was outside with the dog!) I morphed into Kathleen. I felt how she felt. Her thoughts were my thoughts which is unsurprising as her thoughts are my thoughts: we are the same person, even although it feels like we are 2 separate people. That’s a trauma thing – it happened to someone else, not me. I’m not her.
It all came tumbling out.
I got home and found myself crying in the kitchen, not as a 38 year old woman, but as a scared girl. God, I was so scared.
But why so angry?
I was angry because I was a coward.
I didn’t tell. I should have told. There are countless logical arguments against this but we’re not dealing with logic here, we’re dealing with emotions. Locked up, ignored, stifled and denied emotions.
Why didn’t I tell?
Because I was too scared. A coward. So, instead of telling, I made the best of what I had. I kept the secret and the pretence even although all I wanted to do was to scream HELP. I stifled those screams. I put them deep, deep down inside of me. I focused on escaping, on moving out to university but, in the meantime, I let it happen. How would things have been had I been braver, had I been bolder? Pointless wondering.
This has been a cataclysmic realisation to me – that I’m angry at myself for my silence. I had no idea. None. I can work with this now. I CAN DO SOMETHING about these feelings. I can show Kathleen compassion. I can explain to her why her actions don’t deserve her harsh judgment and, hopefully, I may bring her some peace. When she finds peace, I find peace, we are one in the same; a personality divided by trauma.
I further realised that even now, all grown up, I am still afraid of talking about my secret. Not my mental illness, I can talk about that. No, it’s the why that I can’t talk about. I can’t talk about it because I’m not allowed. Who? Who says I’m not allowed?! My parents, of course.
I write Facebook posts or blogs and try to be sensitive about what I say. I don’t want to upset anyone – I’m too scared. So even now I am a coward and it disgusts me. Yes I’ll talk about my struggles but I’ll hide as much as possible…because it’s a secret.
I’m not sure if I can be brave enough to change my approach, to be more honest. Maybe a bit at a time. Even writing this post terrifies me. Who will see it? What may come of it? What if? What if? So many fears.
It’s been quite a day.