She Thinks the Chicken Came First

I went to therapy this evening and asked E. my question of the day, “Which came first, the depressive chicken or the therapy egg?” The context was a broader discussion of what I have been doing and neglecting to do to take care of myself, to heal. I told her that the two worst depressions I have experienced in my life have come upon me when I have tried in therapy to deal with childhood wounds.

“Maybe I shouldn’t be focusing too much on the past,” I said. “Maybe I should say, yes, there were wounds, but they happened a long time ago. Now I have a good life: a dear husband and interesting work, children who are struggling a bit on their road toward adulthood but making progress. Maybe I should be focusing on this instead of on things that make me feel depressed.”

E. would have none of it. “What are you going to do, box it all up and forget about it? Do you really think it will leave you alone?”

Hm, well, she has a point. When not dealing with memories of childhood abuse, I might not be contemplating the relative merits of different methods of suicide all the time (which I did a lot this spring), but I’m still not a model of mental health. I never know when the ghosts are going to creep out of odd corners of my life and trip me up. Still, that’s not as debilitating as my Great Depression of 2015 has been.

“I believe,” E. told me, “that you’re not going to get the relief and healing you seek until you truly believe that little girl. It’s my opinion that as long as you hold onto the position of skepticism, she won’t feel believed and supported. She’ll think you believe she’s a liar, and she’ll be unhappy.”

“I’ve been trying…” I said.

“You’re holding back,” she said. “I don’t know exactly what happened in your past, of course. But I do believe that it’s true that something happened with your father. I don’t know how often or all the details. But your core self is telling me–is telling you–that there was something very wrong. You have spent a lot of energy trying to ignore it or doubt it or bury it, and I don’t see that helping you.”

Those weren’t her exact words, but they capture the meaning of what she said. And this was a much firmer stance than she has taken before. Usually she follows my lead on the “I know I was abused” theme or the “but the memories have such a strange quality that I can’t really trust them” theme or the “no one in my family acknowledges that anything was wrong so I must be crazy” theme, depending on where I’m settling at any particular moment. She has often used language like, “whether or not something happened, you deserved to heal.” Not today.

“I’m not trying to put words in your mouth,” she told me. “But the pain and the stories and the fears have come from you. They have come repeatedly. Would it be so terrible to believe them?”

I think about the post I wrote back a few months ago, making the choice to believe the little girl. It was a relief. It felt right. But I haven’t been able to hang on to it.

She asked me if I could commit to believing the little girl for a while and see if it made a difference. She’ll help me hang on to the belief, to beat off the doubt. She’ll help me through the fear. I’ll see her weekly instead of every two weeks for a while. And from now through the end of July, I’ve promised to believe the little girl.

So, the verdict is that the depressive chicken came first and is going to hang around in one form or another until I accept and deal the truth that my core self keeps trying to tell me.

11 thoughts on “She Thinks the Chicken Came First

  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing this, the words of your therapist helped me too because that’s what I needed to do, believe the little girl in me who was so lonely and afraid and felt bad. She is not a liar, even though I don’t remember the details, it did happen. It happened a long time ago and the memories are so fragmented, my mother says it didn;t happen, so sometimes even I have moments when I think maybe I am making all of this up but it really did happen. I think our coping mechanism was to deny and deny and repress until the truth became almost unrecogniseable to ourselves. We were raised not to trust our feelings. our thoughts and our instincts. Childhood sexual abuse is so poisonous, it turns a child against him/herself. But this is a survival mechanism. we had to believe the lie to keep living with all that pain and hurt. I know you know all of this but it is helping me somehow to articulate it! Sending you much love

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much for this comment. People don’t write much about doubting the veracity of their memories, so sometimes I think it’s just me. And if it’s just me, then I am probably right to doubt them, because after all… others who were abused as children seem pretty clear about it all, for the most part.

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      • I have very few memories of when I was a child, so I’m amazed that you can remember anything at all about something so traumatic. Maybe your memories will never be clear, but I think when you let go of the shame and blame, you may be able to see the past as it really was. Comparing your experiences to others may be helpful, but I’m sure every abuse story is unique.

        Just want to say that I believe you.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. this is so where I am at too. It’s like I write and share about myself but it wasn’t me. That girl wasn’t someone else yet I’m desperately searching for reasons to believe that I’m lying. I don’t fully believe my younger self. I’m fearful of her. Embarrassed by her. Overwhelmed by her. But yes, wouldn’t it be healing to embrace our child self and believe her and validate her and comfort her. My T also tells me that this is part of my work, to embrace the 12 year old who was vulnerable, innocent yet all grown up at the same time.
    Thank you for the reminder. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it is a little easier for me if I imagine that some other little girl were to come to me with the story that I have to tell. She is only eight or nine, and her dad came into her room at night, and now she feels confused and ashamed and needs reassurance that it wasn’t her fault and doesn’t reflect on her value as a human being. If it were some other little girl, I would have no trouble believing her and caring for her. l can imagine what I would want to offer her. Then I try to take that empathic, non-judgmental stance and apply it to myself. I can soemtimes do that for a little while. But then I kind of lose track and slip back into the doubt again. But since I promised E. I’d do this through the end of July, I am going to try very hard to ban doubt and stick to the empathy. Maybe you should try it, too. We could encourage each other!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m working on something very similar right now. I am trying to forgive a younger me for seemingly seeking out abuse. It’s hard. It’s near impossible. I can intellectually understand why that younger part should be forgiven, but emotionally, I just want to scream at her and tell her to leave me alone.

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  4. Don’t scream at the poor girl – she’s been through so much, and she already blames herself! If it appears to you that she “sought it out,” that could only be because something was already wrong enough that she didn’t know how to protect herself, didn’t know she had a right to protect herself, didn’t think she mattered enough to keep herself safe. And she deserves love and care for that as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Day 35 of Believing the Girl – What Makes You Who You Are | la quemada

  6. Pingback: Day 38 of Believing the Girl – A Difficult Request | la quemada

  7. I have one memory that plays over, time and time again. I know that it is real, but there is part of it that I still cannot look at. It used to haunt me. I gave it back to him. He’s dead, but I know he is paying for his betrayal and for stealing my trust. I am free of the monster. I hate him and choose not to forgive him. For me, forgiving him would be to discount myself. He cannot have more than he has already taken.

    Liked by 1 person

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