Today at therapy my sexual abuse carrying alter was in control for most of the session (I say sexual abuse carrying because the other abuse carrying alter carries the emotional abuse from my mother). It is only the second time she has been present, and she brought with her all her pain. There were tears. There was all her confusion. There was me somewhere there and all the rational things people have told us to try to heal us. And there was the massive, weighty incongruence of the adult logic and the emotions Ellie is carrying.
They say it’s not our fault, yet we were always being told off for talking to him. They say it’s not our fault, we were just a child, but Ellie still is that child, and she knows full well grown ups want us to take responsibility for our actions. So how can she not feel responsible for the way she protected him, encouraged him, was even sexually attracted to him and invited his touch on more than one occasion. The grown ups say we only wanted it because we were groomed but Ellie is that groomed girl and she can only see things her way and she is hurting and lost and confused and she’s never been able to say these things before.
Our story didn’t match up with the media, with the books, even with the most up to date materials. Our story isn’t black and white, there isn’t a monster and a poor helpless child. There is a teenager who desperately needed love and a man who provided it exceptionally convincingly. Maybe the love was even real. Maybe monsters are capable of love and abuse. Whatever the truth, our story doesn’t fit the books, or the recovery models, or the things counsellors have said to us before. And so Ellie was left behind, we pretended her story wasn’t real because to find someone who had any logic that could match our experience yet still help her let go of the guilt seemed far, far too impossible.
But now we have a person centred therapist. Someone whose very core is empathy and unconditional positive regard. Someone who doesn’t want my experience to fit a model he was taught at counsellor school, but who values the incongruence of real life. We can hold space for the fact that the emotions I feel as Ellie and the facts I know as an adult are in contradiction. Because contradiction is the root of all struggles. And that contradiction won’t be overcome by throwing the facts at Ellie harder or more convincingly. It will be overcome by working through her emotions. Only that way, only in that awfully painful way can we recover. I know that. She knows that. So we are doing that. I feel raw. But I feel happy that we are making progress. Recovery is hard but it is possible.