Mission Accomplished!

This is not a phrase I get to say often.  More often than not, I fail at my mission, fall short, or screw it up somehow.  (What’s that?  Overly negative self talk?  Yes.  I’m aware of it.  Let’s not dwell.)

But Monday I did not fail!  Monday I had counseling and walked in and brought up all three topics!  My counselor was talking to me briefly about some big news she had and then asked if I had anything I’d like to talk about.  Actually, three things, I said.

The look of shock on her face was unmistakable.  In almost eight months of counseling, I have only ever walked in with a topic on my mind once (and regretted that decision pretty quickly).  I think if there had been a bottle of champagne, she may have broken it open, but as it were, she only mentioned the fact that this date needs to be recorded for all posterity.

I started with the easiest of the three points – my need/desire to punish myself.  This easily segued into my childhood memory of begging God to punish me.  We talked briefly about shame, about the role of the enemy, and how a child’s mind works.  It had not occurred to me up to this point that young children are incredibly self-centered, so anything that goes wrong around them, they automatically take on as their fault.

I have very few memories of my home life from ages four to eight (but plenty of memories of school, curiously).  I do know, however, that my older brother (eight years my senior) ran away from home when he was 16.  So we are working around the same time frame, to be sure.  Is it possible that there were huge fights, dramatic encounters and physical violence that I blamed myself for?  Maybe.

We paused after considering this and my counselor asked me what I was thinking and feeling.

It makes a lot of logical sense, I say.  But even if that’s the case, and I took blame that didn’t belong to me, I still screwed up.  Nobody did that to me.

(This is a common refrain in my counseling:  I screwed up.  I fucked up.  Failure.  Crazy.  Shame shame shame shame shame.)

You were a child, she reminds me.  These sorts of things are going to happen in every child’s life. It is a parent’s job to be attuned to their child’s emotional state, to have the kind of open, trusting relationship with their kid that they can discuss these things and help the child understand that it’s not their fault.

My parents – who were known to withhold meals if my room wasn’t clean, threaten to lock up the refrigerator so I wouldn’t get fat, and publicly demean my awkward teenage body – were not (and are not) known for being particularly attuned to their children’s emotional states and the potential damage that could be occurring through simple actions.  But I digress.

She gives me a homework assignment: spend some time with my parents and bring up the topic of my brother.  Why did he leave?  What happened before he left?  Even if I only get their side of the story (though I could – gasp! – call my brother and ask him, too!), it might be enough to jog some memories.  (Two days later, I am still no closer to getting this done.)

Okay, that was two.  What was the third thing? she asks.

I sigh heavily, dreading the topic of my somewhat psychotic fantasies.  I’m just becoming increasingly aware of how much I hate myself, I say.  Like last week, when I talked about wanting to rip my head off and slam it against the wall…

There is the look.  The look that last week I mistook to mean “crazycrazycrazy.”  It is a look of sadness, pain, recognition.  A look that says she cares.  It is brief, but raw and real and I find myself looking away, not wanting to acknowledge that my words, actions, thoughts affect others.

I admit that last week’s outburst was a tame version, that my real thoughts are far more violent, the sort of thing of horror films and serial killers.  She encourages me to discuss them in detail, bring them into the light, but I can’t.  I talk for a few minutes, rationalizing why I shouldn’t have to tell her or anyone else.  But shame hangs heavy over the conversation and we both know the real reason I don’t say anything.

She reroutes conversation, asks where God is in all this.  This is not an easy question – my time with God has been more consistent lately, but angry and sad and very moody.  The self-hatred always loops back to being angry at God.  After all, I reason, HE made me this way.  He screwed up.  I hate me and I hate him for making me so fucked up. My counselor stops, looks me in the eye, and repeats what is becoming a refrain on her end.

God didn’t screw up when He made you, Jessica.

I look away. I remain unconvinced.


5 thoughts on “Mission Accomplished!

  1. Good for you for bringing all of this up and talking it through with your therapist. That’s huge and a really great step for you! And she’s right–you are not a screw up. Nothing that happened in your family when you were a child is your fault.

    I’m really sorry about your parents and they way that they treated you. I grew up with an abusive father so I can relate. And it took a long time for me to realize that a lot of the things that happened weren’t my fault.

    Take care of yourself!

  2. I know I said this last time I commented, but you are SUCH a good writer! Do you mind if I put you on my blog roll so others can find you? You can say no too :)

    I definitely, DEFINITELY can relate to this. I spent years feeling like a huge screw up and being a perfectionist at the same time, and even now I sometimes let myself feel that way. Three things have helped me most:
    -letting myself be vulnerable (like you’re doing here.) Sometimes when you talk about the things that you feel most ashamed of, and most deeply, they lose their power over you.
    -getting married (sorry, can’t offer a quick fix there)
    -praying over and over and over again that God would beat me over the head with my true value–that He would let me see myself the way He saw me–that He would counter every bad thought with something TRUE. Put your therapists’ words in your car, on your cabinets, on your fridge, on your mirror. Remind yourself over and over again that the way you see yourself is SO much different than the way God sees yourself. It really does start to sink in after a while.

    • Thanks for the kind words about my writing – I couldn’t possibly say any of this out loud, but writing seems to help. You are welcome to add me to your blog roll.

      Regarding your three suggestions (which are fantastic!):
      1. “Vulnerable” is worse than most four-letter words for me. But I’m working on it. :)
      2. I can see this – last time my ED was really bad in college, the thing that was most helpful in dragging me out was my [now ex] fiance’.
      3. I like this – I have started asking God to beat me over the head with truth and my true value. And He answered almost immediately. Much to my ED’s dismay.

  3. i just came across your blog, and can relate so much to all of your posts. there is such determination for recovery in your writing.
    thanks for writing. it’s encouraging.

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