self sufficiency

Usually, there are two scenarios in which I return to therapy. The first is when things are absolutely intolerable and terrifying and I can’t take it anymore. The second is when I’m feeling self indulgent. The latter almost never happens, and so it’s under the former that I’ve picked it up again.

Every time I restart therapy, I wish I could just hand the new person a piece of paper listing everything that has contributed to the situation they are about to get themselves into. It would just help us get to it, but I suspect that rehashing it all is part of the process? Or something. I have so far had one session with the new therapist, who I’m going to refer to as T in this blog from now on, since“therapist” starts with T. (Clever, right? I know.)

In the first of what I expect will be many moments of working with T in which I am completely disarmed, she asked, “(When you were a kid), who took care of you?”

There are three possible answers to this question: The first is my mother and grandmother, the people who were my parents. The second is that I took care of myself, and the third is that no one took care of me. I want to believe that the first is true, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s more like number three.

What a thing to realize, and I have no idea what to do with it. In some ways, I already knew that I had had to take care of myself well before my mom died, before my grandmother died, and before I moved out to go to college. The striking part comes with having another adult articulate the truth to me, which is that while it might be possible for a kid to take care of themselves technically (as in, keeping myself alive), there are just some things that I couldn’t do. I couldn’t convince myself that it was going to be okay if I never had any evidence, if there was no one helping me to feel safe, no one to create and maintain  an emotional safety net.

For a long time, I just accepted these realities, and in some ways, I still accept them. Maybe I think I deserve it. The point of therapy, I guess, is to help one get over these things, and in the meantime, learn to cope with how they’ve impacted life up until now and restore some power.

I am, of course, thinking about the role of feminism in the midst of all this. I’ve written before about how people love to explain away political opinions they don’t agree with by chalking them up to pathology-“your childhood was fucked up, so you make choices that are accordingly fucked up and extreme.” On the contrary, feminism is what taught me that I’m not insane. It made everything make sense, it gave me a context in which to believe that I can be my authentic self, that I can trust my own instincts, that I’m worthy of being not only powerful, but unapologetic.

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