Wendy Woolfson

Therapy

I’ve never written anything quite so vulnerable as this, so take your time and go easy on yourself, and me. It may be hard to read if you’ve had your own experience of abuse, so I suggest you read it when you have a quiet space and time to yourself.

The poem below captures the moment in therapy when I finally found myself able to show my fear and give way to the voice of my inner child who I mention in this poem. I acknowledge abuse for the first time, breaking the silence of decades. Having the courage to look the therapist in the eye and tell her what I know, what little Wendy remembers, and admitting it to myself for the first time. It was a turning point and although a terrifying moment, it set me free. It unlocked more memories and I felt seen for the first time and believed. It took many months for us to get to that point. A skilled therapist has an inordinate amount of patience and an understanding of the path you need to walk to get to that destination, and destination it was. I’d reached the end of the line and had no choice but to disembark, carry my heavy suitcases of troubles and go to the hotel to start unpacking, piece by piece.  

The poem describes the painful, and what feels like, an incredibly long walk to make it there. It describes how her surroundings seemed to take on a different shape and feeling. Everything takes on a surreal shade and it feels like she’s trying to carry a heavy weight up from somewhere.

I can remember the sound of white noise in my ears as though trying to block out the memories and what was coming forward to be seen. Then the inner child shows up and makes it clear she wants to share her truth but that she’s also scared of doing this. In my mind’s eye I could see her, almost zombie like, bandaged and bleeding, her metaphorical wounds showing and a look of anguish and fear on her face.

The poem goes on to describe a sense of helplessness and dread for this situation and how the writer has no voice and has to give herself up to this awful feeling. I can remember the feeling of dread was palpable and I experienced it throughout my body. Sitting in the chair in that room the colours around me visibly changed and I experienced physical sensations in my body that were triggering and unpleasant. Once again, as when I was a child, I am experiencing a sense of helplessness and lack of control. There is nowhere to go and I’m at the mercy of this poor child looking for the answers and trying to be heard, to have her story told. It’s hard to breathe and I’m reaching breaking point. Reaching a decision as to whether I’m going to step forward into my truth to heal or retreat again into despair. Some memories are vague, and others concrete and I don’t know what to believe myself. I question my authenticity and fear I’m lying, that I’m making it all up. Yet, all my training tells me that I couldn’t be experiencing all that I am, unless it was true.

I’m wondering if the therapist can see me, for who I really am. I wonder if she sees the child in me and understands how excruciating this is and that I’m working so hard to open my mouth to even say just one word to her. I desperately want to say something and at the same time I don’t as it’s terrifying. What if she shoots me down? What if she doesn’t believe me? What if she’s just like all the other counsellors and fails me with one disappointing word, phrase, or action that tells me they don’t understand? I’m highly sensitive and judgemental to all of that. One wrong word could ruin everything.

Finally, I reach a decision and I break the spell and allow eye contact. I allow myself to be seen, and to see her, a kind face that understands and wants to help, and I can see that she does indeed see me for the truth of who I am. The fear rises up, and I am scared because I think I’m going to tell her. I’ve never felt this scared before. I’ve had barriers up my whole life and never allowed that emotion to surface. My bravado has kept me safe and letting that go is a huge deal. Nonetheless, it happened, and that was the moment my healing began.

There is more that you can read between the lines. That’s poetry for you, and I think it’s important to not explain everything within it as each person receives a poem in their own unique way depending on their own experience.

Therapy

The room begins to darken and fade, blurs.

I’m receding, drifting backwards in time,

pulled by my insides and all that I am.

Falling under the crushing weight,

head filling up with white noise.

 

The child begins to clamber up towards her words.

She’s reaching out with her ancient arms,

desperate to hear and terrified of what might be there.

 

Dread spills through my skin and stains me dirty

feels sticky, like black ink, spreading.

I want to cry out and tell her to stop

but I have no voice. I’m dissolving

as she climbs up this Jacobs Ladder and

I become the sacrifice she once was.

I am consumed, my barriers diminished,

broken, and fallen.

 

She’s desperate for knowledge,

she wants to know what happened

Wants to feel. Wants to tell

She grasps my heart with her

bloodied hands and squeezes so

I can barely breathe.

I’m paralysed, my body a wasteland

of repeated actions.

My drowning breath comes in tortured gasps.

I feel I’ll be sick with the foul taste of bile

and regurgitated words.

 

I wonder if she sees me.

I feel completely helpless and

with every ounce of willingness I can muster,

I look at her.

Glancing eyes dart

daring to make contact.

And I realise, in the space between me

and this small child that’s stepped forward to receive her truth.

Between this infinitesimal whisper of space,

that I’m allowing, for the first time,

the feeling of being scared.