Monday, April 30, 2007

Honor thy father and thy mother?

"I would like you to continue with your earliest memories of your childhood," TGD began, "and try and put yourself back in that time and place and try and tell me what exactly you were feeling." Sure, start off with the easy questions. Fuck.
"I don't know," I stammered. Thinking back to when I was a kid was painful enough, let alone talk about how scared I always felt as a child was another issue.
"I guess I spent most of my time alone. It was safer. I made sure I kept out of everyone's way."
TGD leaned forward and quietly spoke. "Do you think it's unnatural for a small child to be alone and not feel safe?" "Well, now I do, then it was just the way it was."
"And why do you think as you say, "that's the way it was?" What the hell??? "Because that WAS the way it was. My mother worked nights, my brother was out, and my step father worked days. When my mother wasn't home, the sexual abuse from my brother would start and it was just better to be alone anytime I could get away. I never went far. Just tried to disappear and amuse myself I guess. No one was really looking for me anyway."
"What did you do by yourself all the times you were alone"? Man, this really sucked. What did I do? Interesting question but it still sucked. I thought back and images of the backyard on Henry Street came into view.
"I'd play baseball. I'd throw a pink rubber ball against the back of the brick house, where we lived, and a chalk target was drawn for pitching strikes, in or I'd play basketball. Basketball was harder because the rim was way high- for Prince Frankie my brother, and the basketball was deflated. So I made my own basketball game of throwing the stupid deflated basketball up and if I just hit the rim, it was 2 points."

Jesus, I must have sounded like a lunatic. Who the hell plays with deflated basketballs? I hadn't thought about this ever. But funny thing, the images started coming back of this funny looking little girl with the boy's haircut, throwing the pink ball against the wall, and catching it with one hand. As I recounted these memories to TGD, another image came into play. In my other hand I was holding 2 raw hot dogs.

WTF?? Yeh, I was. We weren't allowed to make noise inside the house when Mary was sleeping, so I would sneak in quietly and take whatever was in the icebox. Raw hot dogs. I used to eat fucking raw hot dogs. Yeh, I don't have an eating problem.

"What kind of mother would let her child eat raw hot dogs"? "What kind of mother would not feed her child or make arrangements for the child to be fed," or allow her to be sexually abused," TGD said.

And then TGD lowered the boom. "Suzy," she gently said, "you were motherless."

"No I wasn't." "She died when I was in my forties," I countered back.

"Suzy, you were motherless. Your mother was not there for you emotionally, physically or in any other way."

"So basically you're saying that she just gave birth to me and that was it"?

"Yes," TGD said.

Motherless. Motherless. This was the first time I had ever heard that adjective describing a mother who was still living. It took a while for me to wrap that around my head. Still does.

Motherless. But my brother wasn't. Wasn't that a bitch.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Please Identify Yourself

Inpatience began to set in amongst my friends re: the time devoted to therapy with TGD and the lack of any change in my lack of happiness. Of course it had only been a matter of weeks, but good friends began to question whether or not this kind of "therapy" would do any good.
"Why can't you just move on and let it go,"? was the most familiar chant.
"It happened over 50 years ago, it can't be undone." "Deal with it".

In all honesty this had been my mantra my entire life, but these sessions with TGD unleashed 50+ years of sadness that seemed to me, was going to take another 50+ years to rid.

"Why do you think your friends are so impatient with your therapy,"? TGD said, after listening to me whine about my life and my friend's time frame ideas about therapy

How could TGD sit and listen to this stuff hour after hour? I couldn't stand to hear myself talk, week after week. I couldn't do this job for love or money. What kind of person can do this exhausting work day after day, hour after hour? Didn't it make them crazy, sad or just want to give up?

"Don't know," I said. "They just seem to be poking at me all the time."

"Describe poking," TGD said. Was every fucking word going to be analyzed? I just told TGD what they said. Why was any further interpreting needed?

"It's like they're looking for answers I don't have and keep asking the same question in different ways and won't let up"

"I'm not saying you're wrong with the way you feel about this, but just for a moment I'd like you to think about when you were a child and try and remember when your brother or mother, as you describe, "poked" you. Can you do that for me?"

"My friends have NOTHING to do with my mother or brother. They are complete opposites," I barked back.

"Is it possible that this "poking" you are describing is a very real love and concern your friends have for you"?
"All I hear is their dissatisfaction and disapproval with my therapy process," I answered as I cried. "And what does that remind you of." "Who in your life were you always seeking approval from and never got," TGD softly said.
Dear sweet Jesus. Classic therapy bullshit. This woman knew how to get to me. Was I that easy?

"Yeh, fine," I said. "I suppose my mother and brother."

"But these friends ARE not your mother and brother, TGD continued. "Is it possible that these words are just feelings of how you were mistreated as a child, and that what is actually happening is that you are going back and these are just memories and not what is presently happening."

Now it seemed I was unable to decipher whether or not I was reacting to family bullshit or friends.

I didn't want to talk about this subject anymore. I didn't have any answers. Talk about poking. This was the Olympics of Poking. WTF????? Was TGD as pissed as I was? This was one pain in the ass ordeal.

I felt like I was in one of those movies where a prisioner of war was caged and the enemies would come by and ram sticks through the cages to try and jab the prisoners. Good luck getting out of the way.
I thought there would be some relief in therapy, instead it became another war, another method of survival I would have to manuver.

Even sitting there I was craving my isolation as I did as a child.

"Everybody leave me alone," I wanted to scream. But no one could or would hear.

I was invisible to everyone except for the poking and beatings.

For some bizarro reason I was suddenly thrown back to a time where I was 8 and would sometimes take the bus to downtown New Haven. I remember like it was yesterday. I was wearing a gray sweatshirt with a blue v neck collar and my I had just had my haircut from Johnny the Barber. Hair cut so short I looked like a little boy.

As I got on the bus and threw my nickel in the money changer, the bus driver looked at me, and loudly said, "hey kid, are you a boy or a girl," and then gave a big belly laugh as the others on the bus joined in.
I remember the faces of the people seated on the bus laughing, as I walked in shame to the rear of the bus.
Jab, jab, jab.

A circus act. Half girl-half boy.

Stick me in the cage with the tigers and lions and jab sticks at them too.

No identity to anyone except for the jabs and the pokes.

Isolation is so much safer.

God damn therapy and TGD.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Then & Now

"Before we begin," (we??) the TGD said, "I would like to ask you, Suzy, how you think the medication is working'?. "Just dandy Doctor- I am straight now and wearing dresses," my inside voice wanted to say.

But my outside voice calmly said, "I think it's beginning to work- the anxiety is a little better but now the sadness seems to be taking over." That having been so calmly said, I burst into tears for what seemed like 20 minutes. But how would I know? There was no clock to be found or at least I couldn't see it. On TV I had seen shows about people going into therapy sessions and just saying nothing for the whole session. Was I going to sit here and cry like a baby for this one? Silence. Only my sobbing. Now what?

It seemed like an hour had passed, but what did I know. TGD had her own internal clock that we were working with.

Finally TGD found some words. "Last week you recalled some memories about your mother and being alone and her paying more attention to her shoes. I would like you to go back there once again and tell me what that felt like." "It felt like shit," I said. What didn't TGD get? "Were you scared, angry, upset? Tell me what you remember thinking or what was going through your mind with all the silence in the house?"

I think I looked at TGD as if she had 6 heads. "I can barely tell you what I'm thinking/feeling now, let alone over 50 years ago." "Okay," she said. "Tell me what you're feeling and/or thinking now." Re-fucking-lentless!!!

I felt like a ping pong ball. What was I thinking/feeling then? What was I thinking/feeling now?

"I feel now like I probably felt then." The only place I feel safe and where I want to be is home, in bed with the dogs. I don't want to go back in time, I don't want to be here. I'd rather just be home."

"Go on," TDG said.
"Listen Doctor, the only time I can remember feeling safe from anyone, even now is when I'm home. I go to work in the morning, and it's a quest all day long to make it through the day just so I can get home and not be bothered. All I want is to get from Point A to Point B. It was the same way as a kid. The only place I felt safe was in my bed. I know that must sound strange coming from someone who was sexually abused so many times, but never ever did it once happen in my bed. It happened in all those other "safe places," church, the dentist office, the floor of my bedroom, a bathtub, places where I should have been safe but wasn't. The only place I was left untouched was laying in my own bunk bed."

As I sat there rambling off these details, images of my mother's raggy half brown slippers floated into view. I could hear her shuffling madly through the house screaming for me. I could see just the slippers up to her ankles and part of a black belt she was dragging. I was hiding under my bunk bed because of something/anything she thought I had done wrong. I hugged the wall as best I could, but with her reach and the aid of the belt, she could whip that belt under the bed at my legs with the mastery of a Lion Tamer at the Circus, snapping the whips at the tigers to instill fear and gain control over the beasts.
"Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!" And she did.

Funny how I felt some sort of refuge in staring at TGD's shoes.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Snail's Pace

On the other side of TGD's office door, life went on with it's usual bumps and bruises. When close friends learned that I was in therapy with a specialist for Post Traumatic Stress, questions about therapy abounded. Well-meaning friends with well-meaning questions would call immediately after my therapy appointment to "see how it went."
It soon became clear that Tuesday night was NEVER the night to call. I was uncommunicative more than ever and to be quite honest, pretty pissed off at the world. No one said anything right, no one cared or understood enough and the questions were stupid. "Was she nice to you?" "No," I answered, "she was mean." "Did she make you feel any better?" "Oh yeh, in just 45 minutes everything was resolved," I would answer like a snot. "Does she think she can help?" "No, she says it's totally useless but thinks I should spend the money anyway." And my personal favorite, "did you tell her about your weight issue?"
"Um, I didn't see a white cane by her chair or a German Sheperd Guide Dog by her side, so I ASSUME SHE ISN'T BLIND," I yelled back.
Yeh, Tuesdays. Gotta love 'em.
On the inside of TGD's office, issues were popping up like a child constantly playing with their Jack in the box. Cranking up my childhood when,"POP", a memory of abuse that I supposedly had resolved would rear it's ugly head. It seemed I had this memory bank of run on sentences when it came to my childhood.
At one point TGD said, "You mention that you were alone most of the time and no one was around. Can you try and go back there and remember what you were feeling and thinking as this little girl?" Once again TGD's shoes came into view. Shoes, always shoes. "I remember sitting in the front on a fence. It was a summer morning. I think I'm about 5 years old and I'm just sitting there swinging my legs back and forth and looking at my sneaks. They were red keds with white tops. I loved those sneaks. I felt taller, I felt like a grownup. I had shorts and a plaid shirt on. I think it was the first time I remember being able to think. I watched the cars go by. There weren't that many back in 1953. It was early. I had to get up because my mother had just come home from work after working the 11pm to 7am night shift at the White Tower. She always slept in my bunk bed. Never the big bed that Big Frank, my stepfather slept in. It was always my bed. Everyone had to be out of the house so she could sleep. The plastic curtains in the front room and the kitchen were drawn as were the venetian blinds. It always looked like night time, no matter what time of the day it was."
"Suzy, those are very good descriptions of what things were like, but were you happy, sad, looking forward to the day to play?"
"I remember feeling that there was nothing to do, no one to play with that early in the morning. I was on my own."
"And just what does that mean, "you were on your own." Shit. This woman and her shoes were relentless. WTF!
"It means just that," I snapped back. I took care of myself. I walked around, roller skated, and just sat around until I saw the "signal" that it was ok to come back into the house."
"What was the signal?" TGD asked. "My mother would open the front blinds. That meant she was up and I could come back into the house."
"What happened when you went back into the house"? What the hell was this? Why poke around these small details?
"Nothing," I responded. "I would watch TV and wait until my mother put the tv dinner in the oven."
"What time do you think this was"? Man, this was aggravating. "I think it was around 4 because the Mickey Mouse Club was on." "Was your mother happy to see you"? Okay, now TGD was getting on my nerves. Where's that clock that says the god damn session is over?
"No, not really. I just kept out of her way. She always seemed crabby and tired and never really had time to do anything else except get ready for work again that night."
"What would she do"? Ok, last straw time. "She would set up the ironing board while the Swanson Fried Chicken TV dinner was in the oven, open the ironing board and dampen the uniform she had washed and hung out to dry."
Then, as I sat there explaining my mother's routine looking at TGD's shoes, I launched into this detailed description of how she painstakingly polished her white shoes she wore at work. She polished those fucking shoes as if she were preparing for surgery. She had bottles of Sani-White shoe polish in the cabinet over the sink. The box had this stupid looking nurse smiling over her white shoes. My mother stroked those shoes with the applicator that came with it, like she was bathing a newborn baby with the utmost gentleness and care. Those stupid white shoes got more attention than I did.
"Well, time is up," TGD said. I would like to continue these thoughts next week.
Now the 45 minutes were up.