adventures in therapy – part 6

Why do I think I don’t deserve love?

Because what have I actually done
to deserve it?
I am not particularly kind,
I am stubborn and selfish
and sometimes I am just downright rude.
I haven’t done anything
that would make me worthy of love
in my own eyes
so why should I expect anyone else to?

Amy gives me that look,
a look that I learned means
“keep going”.
But I can’t keep going.
My answers end there
and I realise how daft I’ve been.

adventures in therapy – the specialist

During my time in mental health services,
I have met many specialists;
eating disorder
domestic violence
“catholic care” (the red flag was right in the name)
and now I can add cancer to that list.

“Why do you think
you have a tendency to self-destruct?”
she asks, sat opposite me
in an uncomfortably clinical office.
I promised a friend I would
be on my best behaviour
but that didn’t last long
as I just smiled and said
that I am bored of living,
words dipped in saccharine.
She blinks
and leans back in her chair,
head tilting slightly.

Forty minutes
of wasted conversation later
and I am finally allowed to leave.

“I am bored of living
so I’m trying to make things
more interesting, I guess.
I suppose I get a weird kick
out of hurting people.
The more they care…
the more I push back.
I want people to give up on me
so they won’t miss me if I die.”

The words leave my mouth
and I leave the hospital.

adventures in therapy: the cancer edition

I sit in the car
outside the local community centre,
leaflet in hand.
It is the night
I finally attend the support group
for young adults with cancer.
My blood is ice in my veins
and I shake uncontrollably –
with fear or sadness
or maybe just exhaustion.
I promised my friend I would go,
and I’ve already disappointed enough people lately
so here I am
and I am not ready
but I will never be ready
so here I go.

“So everyone,
give your name,
your age,
your diagnosis
and one interesting fact about yourself!”

Hi, my name is astera
I am 23,
I have ovarian cancer, stage 2
and I hid my tattoos from my parents
for four years
while living with them.

adventures in therapy part 5

“So,
those core beliefs –
that you don’t deserve love –
where do they come from?”

As much as I want bite back with a
“isn’t it your job to tell me that”,
I decide to bite my tongue
and take a deep breath
and start talking.

I guess it starts with my childhood.
I always felt inferior
compared to my brother.
I love my brother
more than anything else
but he is so perfect
and I am just not.
He deserves the love
and celebration
and praise –
not me.
I would never take that away from him.

But I know my brother will always love me
and that is enough.

adventures in therapy part 4

“So
how are you feeling?”

It is a new week,
a new session
and Amy is once again
mirroring me.
We are not sat cross-legged this time.
We are curled up
in the corners of our respective sofas,
feet tucked under us.
I have my arms folded
across my chest
in a very intentional act of hostility
and I am staring past her,
out the window.
She is a lot more open,
fiddling with her anklet
while she waits for me
to acknowledge her existence.
I don’t want to acknowledge her.
I don’t want her here.
I don’t want to talk to her.
I don’t want to think about him.
I want to shrink down
and slip down the back
of the sofa cushions
to live amongst the pennies
and sweet wrappers
that have long since
been lost and forgotten.
Eventually, I grant Amy
the privilege of a half-shrug,
still refusing to look at her.

“You know,
I didn’t drive
all the way the way
out to your home
for you to ignore me.”

That gets my attention.
My eyes snap to her with a cold glare.
She copies my expression
so closely
I may as well be looking in a mirror.

“Never asked you to come to my house.
You lot decided I was too
‘high risk’
to travel to your offices.”

I wish I could hold her stare,
but I am already on the brink
of crying under her gaze.

This is going to be a long session.

adventures in therapy part 2

Amy puts her shoes back on,
grabs her bag and coat
and left with a smile
and a cheery wave
and a “see you next week!”
Somehow I manage to wave back
and give an exhausted grimace
before my legs pull me up the stairs
two at a time
and I collapse into bed,
wrapping myself up
nice and tight
and safe and warm
in the blanket Rosie gave me
for comfort and protection.

Time ticks by and
I am not sure when I started crying
but I know I cannot stop
and soon the quiet tears turn into
wrenching sobs that hurt my whole body
as the last six and a half years
are pulled up to the surface
to be relived in glorious high definition.
We did not even talk about the heavy stuff –
we only decided on our focus for the sessions
(my low self-esteem)
but we got the whisper of a hair away
from talking about the abuse
and that was enough for me.

I turn my phone off
and I let the emotions
drag me under
and I let all the memories
play fullscreen
and I give them my undivided attention.

“What’s your biggest belief about yourself?”
she asked me.

“That I am difficult to love.
That I am not worthy of love.”

“Why do you think those things?”

“Because they’re true.”

I still believe them now.