When I was in treatment we talked about feelings a lot. It got to be a running joke where someone would say something, like we’re having chicken for dinner and someone else would say, “And about that I feel… ” and we’d all laugh. It was a good prompt though because we had trouble feeling our feelings, even with our Primary Emotions worksheets to help us.
We did this thing called a trauma egg where you drew pictures of traumatic life events. I hate psychobabble touchy-feelie shit like that. I wanted the real-man therapy where you take responsibility for your actions and stop trying to blame your problems on bad potty training. But once I got going, I was surprised to discover that (low and behold) I enjoyed the assignment.
After you’re finished you’d have this oval with lots of small cartoon like drawings in their own little compartments. One of my drawings was a tampon. I’m not a very good artist so it looked more like a strange firecracker, but you’re not graded on your artistic ability, as long as you represented the event without words, it was okay. See we had this thing in our home about closed doors. If the door was closed, my stepfather took it as a personal affront. It really bugged me because I liked to have the bathroom door closed when I pooped. It didn’t bother me as much when I was just peeing, maybe because I could pee pretty fast. I’d be sitting there flipping through the Reader’s Digest when he’d bound down the hall and sling the door open, saying something humorous about not needing to hide a natural process. It nearly gave me a fucking heart attack every time. You’d think I’d learn and just leave the door open, but I didn’t. Having the door thrown open mid wipe was even worse. I’d yell, he’d laugh, and I’d kick the door closed. At which point we’d replay the whole scene. So when I got my period for the first time, I went into my bedroom closet. It didn’t have a light so I had the door open a crack trying to see the damn diagram that comes in the package. I’d left my bedroom door open so as not to arouse suspicion, but I was still pretty nervous and trying to go as fast as possible.
It’s actually a funny story and as I was telling it to my small group, I was feeling sort of dumb for including it as a traumatic event, since it really wasn’t traumatic at all. Why did I always have to overdramatize everything? Someone asked me why I didn’t just lock the bathroom door. Well, that was because all the locks had been removed from all the doors shortly after we moved in. Evidently my sister and I had locked ourselves in our room when we’d been bad to hide from Mom. Although I don’t remember doing that, one simply did not hide from my mother, it’s certainly possible. So I’m sitting there on the floor feeling dumb and everyone else is sitting there with a sort of stunned look on their faces. Since it was nearly time to end the session, my therapist suggested we take some time for feedback. Around the room we went and nobody thought it was funny. Weird. My therapist actually had a catch in her voice as she said, “… and about that, I feel deep sadness.” My peers, all men, also felt sad for that little girl I’d been.
Only after they felt sad could I feel sad too.
You’d think that’s where it would end, in a big wallow of sadness but you’d be wrong. I was emotionally drained and completely wrung out, but ten minutes later I was bellowing out my affirmations and laughing out loud with my peers.