"How did you survive that?"
It's hard to see yourself through someone else's eyes, especially someone you trust the opinion of.
My therapist wrote me a letter, it outlined the few things I had confided in her about my childhood and my life, it summarised the patterns of behaviour I am now stuck in and it expressed clear connections between them. It also had a smattering of personal opinion. This directly resulted in two weeks of hell.
This letter had made connections that I couldn't, connections that seem so apparent to me now but in my haze of very little self-worth and being the martyr, I couldn't ever have expected to understand. These connections had a domino effect, sparking new connections all over the place, filling in gaps with plenty to spare. I now understood a little more about why I was, who I was and I did not like the answer.
There was one line in this letter that upon reading at any point would cause me to break in to heaving sobs of monumental heartache.
"It's so sad to think of you as a little girl carrying dead animals around with you, hoping your love would bring them back to life."
It touched me so profoundly because I have a niece, something I never thought I would care about but it actually completely changed me as a person. In having absolute compassion for her, I began to have compassion for myself as a child and subsequently as an adult. I adopted the mantra 'If I wouldn't say it to my niece, I'm not allowed to say it to myself!' for the times I'm waging a war on myself, for the times I call myself a failure. To think of her carrying around dead birds in a discarded cup, hoping that if she just loved them enough, they would come back to life and then she would be worth something to the world, kills me. There is something so haunting about that picture.
This letter eviscerated me because in my head, my memories play one at a time, like short films. They come one by one, bite-size, cleaned up and dubbed so they are romantic or poetic. I haven't deleted any scenes, I can't delete any scenes, the unused ones are locked away in my mind somewhere but these memories are easy to watch. The letter wove them together in a badly hashed timeline, full of continuity errors from the omitted scenes. It stitched together the things I was willing to admit and formed a big-picture that was so painful that I couldn't even talk about it.
"How did you survive that?" she asks me, with what I can only describe as disbelief.
The funny thing about survival is that you don't know how you're doing it or even that you are doing it. I remember how many times I have said that I am going to commit suicide, how many times I have tried, and how many times I have genuinely thought I was close to giving up.
Yet, here I am.
I don't know how and I don't know why...but I do.