I’ve come to a realisation in therapy recently. In fact, I’ve had a few lightbulb moments and feel therapy is really helping me unpick some deep and dark past. Some people say the past is in the past so leave it there, but I have a problem with that. Yes, my past is my past. Yes, past performance is not an indicator of future performance BUT (yet another blog post with lots of buts!) hear me out. Past performance IS and indicator of future performance. Our past (yes, this applies not only to those in therapy!) helps create blueprints of what we expect. Go with me on this one. If we have had negative experiences with, say Father, a person I’ve had many many negative experiences with. Well, my emotional blueprint is subconsciously waiting for him to hurt me again. As a result, I seek out proof it’s going to happen. I set it up to happen. Then it happens. It reinforces my blueprint. The thing is, if I’m being honest, father has been pretty damn good about this life blip. He’s been supportive, he’s been in contact enough to remind me he loves me (I’ve waited 31 years to hear that) but also respecting that this is a really shitty time and I can’t face answering the phone or being inundated with ‘how are you’ questions. He’s offered to take me to one of my happiest places on this planet, the cottage in the middle of nowhere in Wales. He’s offered to go to the family day. He’s offered to just listen if I need him. My blueprint is that I’ll fall for Father’s charm before being hit by the train that is the disappointment and pain when he does something utterly stupid. As a result, I don’t ‘enjoy’ any of the good time. I’m always looking a few steps ahead to see when the pain train is going to turn the corner towards me. So, I become hostile to him, I roll my eyes and don’t take his offers/ contact/ support seriously. I’m basing it purely on my blueprint of my relationship with him. Yes, the pain train could be delayed and about to enter the station but, it hasn’t yet. I’m not being fair. To me or him. We both deserve to savour, however brief, this good streak is. I then need to be resilient (HATE this corporate word but felt most fitting) to manage the pain train.
Another realisation is, Sister and I have and had different fathers. Not literally but emotionally. My father looks, sounds, smells like her father but there are fundamental differences. Sister is 5 years older than me. She had Father at home until she was 12. I only had him at home until 7 and for 6+ months of that, he was screwing my mums best friend. Not trying to be arrogant but I was very much the favourite child. I’ve known for as long as I can remember that Father wasn’t hugely keen on having a second child but when I came along, I was the apple of his eye. My sister was so close to mum, I was close to father. I’d be the first to head on in the rain for a 4 hour march around the countryside and laugh with him. Mum and Sister were 15 paces behind with mum comforting sister that we’ll be home soon. Sister and I have had many an argument about Father and our expectations of him. Probably the worst fight Sister and I have ever had, took place in Scarborough on the eve of our great aunt’s funeral. If you’ve ever been to Scarborough, you’ll know it’s not the fun beach resort it used to be. Lots of shops are empty and, on a grey day, it’s a very grey town. Let’s add in the morbid situation of a funeral. To make this setting even better, let’s add a bulimic who had scoffed supper before throwing it up and washing out the taste of sick with whiskey. Sister and I started arguing in the hotel bar (post restaurant because more alcohol seemed very sensible at the time). It then moved to outside the hotel as Sister wanted a cigarette. It rapidly went downhill from there. It ended with me swiping myself back in to the hotel, throwing her the key card and then not talking for weeks. We screamed some awful abuse at each other that night. Think Jeremy Kyle but with alcohol and set in the struggling grey backdrop of a travel inn in Scarborough. We both knew how to hurt each other. Words hurt. The childhood rhyme ‘sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ is a lie. Why do we teach kids that? Words hurt and often a lot more than a punch or a bruise or a cut. The topic of Father remains a ‘no go’ topic to this day. We can’t talk about him without it descending into a fight. I had never stopped to realise we are both right. Both of our expectations are true. This may seem such a simple concept to grasp but it’s truly profound for me. We aren’t talking about the same experiences. We felt them differently. Sister was hitting adolescence when he left, I was still very much a kid. She understood more than I did. She’d seen him and mum arguing more but I was already in bed so Father’s halo didn’t slip for me. Not for a long time. So, back to the blueprint topic. Sister expects Father to be flaky and not be there for her so she never gets hurt. It’s been the same for decades. I expect Father to be great and then let the pain train knock me off my feet. I need to change the blueprint.
It’s not only the blueprint of Father that I’ve recently been enlightened on. There are other subjects. I can’t put them into black and white, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to. But, for the first time, it’s like I stepped outside my body and heard what I was saying. I wanted to give me, 31-year-old not 7-year-old, a hug and say you do not need to be ashamed. You were a child. You learnt coping mechanisms that ultimately hurt you more. I learnt that no one can hurt me if I hurt myself first. If I put myself through hell, whatever anyone else does to me, it’ll never hurt as much as the torment I’m doing to myself. Some of my behaviours are totally ‘Normal’ based on the blueprint I’ve followed.
The last few therapy sessions have been some of the hardest yet. I have brought up things I’d buried so deep that I never thought they’d have a voice again. A book I’ve just finished had a number of topics a bit too close to the bone for me but, towards the end, a main character gets told by Character R, ‘you don’t value yourself, you value me more than yourself’. A lightbulb went off. Let’s use the crutches to highlight this. The first few times out the house, I’ve waited for someone to offer me a seat on the bus. I never dreamed of asking for one. However, if a friend was on crutches and we got on the bus together, I’d have had no issue immediately demanding someone move so she/ he could have a seat. It would annoy me no one offered. Yet, for me, I don’t expect someone to offer me a seat and I don’t value me enough to ask for one. Extrapolate that scenario to almost every aspect of life and that’s me. I’m not worth a seat but obviously, everyone else is. That needs to change. I need to value me. I need to be worth the seat on the bus.