I have my standing therapist’s appointment every Tuesday afternoon, and today I don’t want to go. It’s rare that I don’t enjoy heading to her office, but something inside of me is yearning for a break. I’ve been doing some amazing work, have gained some valuable tools and I’ve grown in ways I never would have expected, but today I quite simply don’t want to be there. I’m not looking for a long-term break, just a day off. However, I’m questioning my motives slightly because she gave me homework last week that I haven’t touched.
We’ve been visiting the traumas experienced with my ex-husband and she gave me a writing exercise, of all things, that I should have spent time on without any trouble. But, I haven’t done it. You see, last week I brought a list into her office of about 15 awful incidents with my ex that I wanted to read out loud. I put the list together almost a year ago during a moment where the thoughts were pouring into me. The first time I brought it to her, she stopped me at the very first one to focus in on that. I was frustrated and wanted to get through the rest, but I didn’t know how to vocalize it back then. The list was put away after that visit and was generally forgotten, until just recently. During last week’s appointment, I was clear to her that I intended to read it in its entirety, that it was important for me to get through it all, so she allowed the space for that. To be able to speak them all out loud together in a room with someone else listening was a relief and even a little empowering. After making it through the page, we talked a bit further about some of the events and about his behavior patterns, in general. She then asked me to pick just one from that list, one that I felt spoke to me more than any of the others. Her intention was for me to perform a writing exercise around my selection. This was not meant to be an exercise where I write about the image of the event, but would instead dig in more on the trauma surrounding it. The work is meant to help release it from my body. But, when I shared with her the first one that came to me, her reaction seemed a bit surprised. She then pressed me, asking if there were any other events that came to mind that I hadn’t written about on that list. In particular, she gently questioned if he had ever forced himself on me, given his rape fantasies that I had previously shared with her. She further confirmed that whichever event from the list was what I had the most feeling about is the one I should go with, but based on her reaction, I was already doubting my choice.
I told her that now I felt awkward about the one I selected, that maybe I should have picked the time he shoved me to the ground or the incident when he lifted up my dress against my will to show my underwear to one of his friends. I explained that while the event that stood out to me most may not seem so terrible when compared with some of those others, as there was no physical involvement, it was without a doubt a memory that has stuck with me so clearly that every time it pops up it’s as though I’m seeing it like a film being replayed. Even though I have no feelings at all for the man I used to be married to, the hurt experienced on that day is like an imprint on my skin that no amount of scrubbing will remove. Before leaving her office, my therapist tried to reassure me again that I should go with whichever one spoke to me the most, but it may have been too late at that point.
The seed of doubt has flourished this past week and I’ve wanted to brush the incident and the entire list aside instead of honing in on it. I even revisited the list to see if there was anything else there that I wanted to use the homework for, but I don’t feel compelled to do the work with any of it. I know that it may be important to embrace this exercise if I want to move forward, but then again, perhaps not. Maybe it was just enough for me to get that entire list out with her. Given the discussions we’ve been having over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that the fear that I’ve been holding onto of the man formerly known as my husband has diminished greatly. But what I wonder is if it will stay that way, or is the cloud lifting only temporary?
This brings me back to my decision about today’s visit. I realize that when there is something that I’m fighting against, in many cases it probably means that I should do it. However, I continue to feel strongly that I need a break today, and if my therapist has taught me anything, it’s to listen to my body and put my self-care above all else. I recognize that I have more to get out when it comes to this former phase of my life and it will all come, just not in her office on this particular day.