“You need to have a good cry. I mean the kind of cry where you are wailing, and it comes from deep within you. And after it happens, you need to set aside time to nurture yourself…take a bath, make some tea, be comfortable”. I remember my therapist telling me this back in February, back when I started therapy. Right away, I didn’t like the idea. I hate baths. And nurturing myself? That’s selfish. We had spent a few weeks trying to peel back the layers regarding my mom leaving me when I was 9 (a story for another day). We had spent weeks on it, because it seemed like this was the unresolved trauma that was affecting me as an adult. I can’t remember crying much about it, when it happened…which is weird. What 9-year-old would just be quiet and go with the flow with her mom moving away? Me. I would. I did. So, we started processing it, thinking that if I could get to the point where I could cry, where I could let out all of those pent-up emotions, I would start to heal the 9-year-old Jami. And if I started to heal her, then I could start to heal 44-year-old Jami and work on what was keeping her from not feeling anything in her marriage. Then she could become a better wife, the marriage would be healed and we could all live happily ever after. Just as soon as I fixed what was wrong with me.
The problem is, I couldn’t cry about it. Well, I could cry, but not cry…you know, like the cry she described. There was no wailing involved, which was strange to me, because I’ve always considered myself a crier. I tried channeling the old days, the days of me crying for weeks over a broken heart. I journaled. I talked. I remembered. Then I journaled and talked and remembered, again. Still, just some regular old tears…the kind that form so easily, because they are always right there, bubbling just under the surface. Just waiting for the slightest trigger. They are slightly cathartic, but not healing.I guess it’s like a volcano. You know, how they simmer and bubble, but you can’t really tell because it’s all under the surface. Every so often, they release a bit of steam, and that eases the pressure enough so it doesn’t erupt. I guess that’s the kind of crying I’ve been doing all my life…just enough so I don’t erupt.
A few months later, I let out a whole lot more steam. I guess peeling off that layer of Mom was just the beginning of this giant onion we call Jami. Turns out, there was a whole lot more than just her that I needed to process. My brain had hidden it from me. Not really hidden, as I knew it was there. Disguised is a better word. My brain disguised the other layers as a weird way of protecting me. Once we removed that outer shell, the next layer was suddenly right in front of my face. I don’t know how I hadn’t seen it all this time, but there it was… a raw, stinging layer, just ready to be peeled. I remember going into her office…crying, trembling…not wanting to tell her but having to tell her. I blurted out the story of my childhood sexual abuse, which turned into an epiphany, resulting in me tearfully asking her, “Is this why I don’t like having sex?” I remember her staring at me, wide-eyed, nodding her head. It turns out, 13-year-old Jami needed a hell of a lot more healing than we could ever imagine. I can remember her, a month or so later, commenting “you did not originally present as a typical abuse survivor”…referring to when we first started seeing her, for couples therapy. I said, “I know! My brain was so good at disguising it, even I didn’t know!” It’s true…I had spent my entire life thinking I was a bad person. A month earlier, if you had asked me if I was sexually abused, I would have replied “no”, and that would have been an honest answer. I spent my life thinking I was responsible for all those horrible acts. Thinking I did bad things. Not once did it ever occur to me that bad things were done to me. It’s funny how the brain tricks you like that. I guess it’s much easier to blame yourself than to acknowledge the horror of what’s really happening to you.
8 months later, and we can see the game plan has changed. I went into therapy to try to fix myself so I could become a better wife and save my marriage. Turns out, I did fix myself..well, some of it, at least. And I probably am a better wife now, except we’ll never really know, because I left my husband. Come to find out, I couldn’t save my marriage and save me. I had to pick one, and I chose me. The thing is, this work is never done. I am going to need to work on saving myself for the rest of my life. If I stop working, I stop healing, and I turn back into 13-year-old Jami. I’m not going to be her again. So, I’ve been using my voice. I’ve been speaking out, standing up to comments that perpetuate this awful rape culture our country is so accustomed to. The problem is…not everyone likes what I have to say. In the past few months, this election has brought sexual abuse into the spotlight. I have been made extremely uncomfortable by the words of friends, strangers, media, politicians…and I have made others uncomfortable, too. I’ve called them out on comments made about “locker room talk” and “fake Trump victims”. I’ve lost friends over it, though most probably weren’t really my friends. Though this evening, one of them was. As I typed out to her how her words made me feel, how they triggered deep emotions of fear and shame, and while I told her how people not caring about any of this reminded me of feeling like I didn’t matter…it happened. I erupted. I cried, and cried and cried. I wailed. I shuddered. It was loud. It came from my soul. I heard myself talking out loud through the sobs, “Please help me”. I was talking to God. I was talking to my angels. And, I think maybe…I was talking to me.
I think it lasted at least a half hour. It ended with a yawn, which for some reason, I found funny. I thought back to that day in Susan’s office, when she perfectly described this cry. Ah, Susan…you’re always right. I wish I would just do what you say the first time you tell me…I could save so much time! I know how she would reply to this…”Trust the process”. I heeded her advice. I’m going to nurture myself. So, I made myself comfortable. I put on some comfy clothes, made myself a cup of raspberry tea in my new butterfly mug, cuddled with the dog…and told my story to you.