My therapist, she is all therapizing me. I forgot how good they are at picking things out. Important little bits that I might kinda know, or maybe didn’t quite know, but are probably incredibly important and potentially vital to the healing process.
She remembered a few things I’d mentioned about my family situation. Namely the way my mom could also be an abusive asshole, both to me and my dad. My childhood involved a lot of my mom screaming at my dad (or me) for ridiculous bullshit things. It wasn’t an unusual event in my house for my mom to get angry and refuse to talk to me for days. Which was monumentally better than her yelling. I actually used to look forward to those episodes, though I couldn’t do so outwardly; nothing pisses of an abusive asshole like realizing that their punishment is actually a blessing.
From my mom I have a (so far) life long hatred of that little flick sound that a light switch makes if you flip it too hard. You know, that *tock* sound of the switch snapping upward to turn the light on? My mom was obsessed with me getting up to get ready for school at five am. I have no idea why this was; I’ve been a life-long “give me fifteen minutes and I’m ready” kind of person (excepting special occasions, which may merit a whole half an hour of prep time to get ready). But she thought I should be up at five am, so she’d open my bedroom door, and flick the light switch that was located right about the head of my bed on at five am.
Did you know that you can tell a person’s mental state by the sound a light switch makes when they turn it on?
The worst mornings were the ones when I went to bed with her in an OK mood, and woke up to her pissed off. The light switch flick could tell me she was angry. It couldn’t tell me what she was angry at. Me, my dad, or the news…me, my dad, and the news…the only way to find out was to interact with her. And interacting with her tentatively, because she’s clearly pissed, when she wasn’t actually pissed at me was nearly as bad an interacting with her when she was pissed at me. Because if I behaved tentatively, then she’d get pissed at me for assuming that her being pissed at something else would make her pissed at me.
That never happened. </sarcasm>
So what does this happy little stroll down memory lane have to do with Lora? My therapist, while acknowledging that the situation with Lora was horrible and absolutely deserving of my anger, frustration, fear, and much misery felt that the amount of anger, frustration, fear, and misery I have is…she didn’t say “stronger than warranted”. But I got the impression that my instant jumps to rage (from being happy, or at least calm a moment prior, when discussion something other than Lora) are unusually strong.
Both situations have a lot of overlap. Watching and hearing a male figure in be verbally and emotionally abused by a female figure. A familiar feeling of helplessness and an inability to feel like I could take action – with my mom, that was because I was a child and because she told me “Nobody would believe that I’m abusing you; there’s not a mark on you!”. With Lora, the need that both Lora and Jon instilled in me that Lora was fragile and unable to be held accountable for her actions in the way that I would normally hold a person accountable.
One of the great things that I got out of therapy today was that at some point, I’ll have to make it clear to Jon (and later, potentially Lora, if she comes back in/stays in Jon’s life) is that if Lora and I have any relationship in the future, those gloves are coming off. I am completely fine with being gentle with people who have past trauma and need to be treated carefully – up until the moment when that need for careful treatment is used by them to avoid being called on their shit and held accountable for their own bad behavior.
That is a potential future impact from therapy today. A potential present impact is that I want to talk to Jon about how extra-special-shitty it was to be subjected to a horrible dynamic from my childhood. I would like him to understand that (as my doc pointed out) if my reactions to Lora’s behavior seem extreme or near-obsessive, it’s because they are triggered by the longest-running negative dynamic that I had in my life. This isn’t to blame him; it was my choice to stay. But it is to inform him of a source of my rage, as well as help him understand why I am not going to allow myself to be subjected to that dynamic again.
I do take full responsibility for detoxing myself of the rage I feel towards Lora. It’s still very near the surface. I still think about her far too much. As I’ve written before, I am taking steps to diffuse that and redirect my energies. But until her possessions are out of here, there’s only so far I can go to diffuse those feelings. As long as she has keys, can get in, and has a physical presence here, I can only relax so much.
Unless I hear a key in the door when Jon and I are home.
A few friends (Rachel and Rob) have keys to our place. They live nearby; we used to hang out all the time – we tried to have a functioning polycule. It failed, and left some tender spots are sore feelings, which caused us to have a bit of a break in seeing each other. We had started rebuilding our friendships around the time Jon and Lora moved in. When the abuse got bad, the four of us (Rachel, Rob, me, and Jon) nearly stopped hanging out again for months. But Jon and I are trying to reach out to friends again, and we’ve all started getting into the habit of stopping by and saying hi. We shared our keys when we stopped living together and have tried to maintain the kind of relationship where coming by and letting ourselves in is something that we all do. Due to things like…you know…sex on the couch (*ahem*), we have a policy of letting ourselves in and then yelling “Halloooooooo” a few times before venturing deeper into each other’s homes. But we do semi-frequently pop by each other’s homes to say hi and chat a few minutes or hang out for a few hours.
The only downside to this is that the sound of a key in the door when Jon and I are both home (or when I know Jon is at work) is my new light switch flick noise. Except that the key in the door never sounds benign; my heart always drops into my toes when I hear it.
I am really hoping that when Lora is out of here and her possessions are gone, that reaction fades, because having a stress reaction to the sound of a key in a lock for life sounds really unpleasant. If it doesn’t fade on its own, I may try systematic desensitization therapy.
For now though, especially given that I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop, I’m doing my best to manage my anger my giving myself time to feel it, write about it, and then actively directing my energies elsewhere. One thing I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that I need to write about it a little bit nearly every day. For every post here, I have at least a couple journal entries about something that I’ve realized or remembered that pisses me off or scares me or hurts me (or all of those). I try to write each one very carefully and get the full scope of memory and feeling that is evoked. I will look at it off and on for a bit, until I get that feeling of “yes, that is everything for this one”. Then I slowly read it over one last time, reabsorb it all back it and then let it all out.
It’s a technique that I’ve used in the past for my own bad break-ups. It’s just as helpful now as it was then.
Another useful tool I’ve been utilizing is writing and talking to close friends (like Issi and Jo) who have their own abuse that they’ve lived through. Both Issi and Jo are also very interested in dialogs about restorative justice and how to best model it in society at large, as well as within our friend, poly, and BDSM groups. I have been learning about it over the past few months, and when I’m not feeling ragey and like I want Lora to just disappear of the face of the earth, I think it sounds like an admirable way of thinking and acting. I think it’s something I aspire to. Writing to my friends helps me to both expunge some of my negative emotions, as well as think over what kind of concrete steps I want to take forward that honor my feelings, Jon’s feelings, and even Lora’s feeling. Hard thoughts, but definitely thoughts worth thinking. And having been there themselves, Issi and Jo often pick up on little things that I’ve missed, or maybe just haven’t stated clearly, and coax them out into the open, so that I’m more able to really figure things out and order them well in my mind.
In the immediate term, I think that the most helpful thing for me will be Lora getting her stuff out and giving her keys back. Equally helpful will be talking to Jon and the need to talk through some of these things regularly. I think I might talk to my therapist about her meeting him next time. I don’t want him to dread me coming home from the therapist, but I think it’s likely that I’m going to want to talk to him about specific things after many therapy situations for the next few months. So I think it’d be important to articulate that and set up guidelines that respect the needs and feelings that we both have.
Another really helpful thing is writing here. This has become another place to get it all out, try to make sense of it, and also…one thing a blog gives me is a sense of a continuing narrative that I can look back over more easily than emails to my friends or journal entries. I can see where I’ve been, how I got there, and where I’m going. The feedback from you lovely readers also means a lot, both in terms of support and in great ideas. Thank you all for that. It always makes a difference.
Writing here, journaling, therapy, talking to Jon and writing to my friends all combine like laying all the puzzle pieces out and lining them up to rebuild a puzzle. Unlike the traditional puzzle, I think this is a puzzle that is in a constant state of rebuilding, new building, and sometimes losing pieces – both deliberately losing them and sometimes having them slip through my fingers to be lost in the cracks. I don’t know what the final picture will be, but I do know that I have the power to make it a beautiful one.