My Art Therapist offered me tea today, and today, for the first time, I accepted.
It’s cold here, and damp, and not very much like Winter. It’s more like the ugly sort of Autumn that makes you sad and wish it were an ugly sort of Spring.
And thus my trauma therapy began.
I was sexually abused as an adolescent on multiple occasions by my mother’s former husband. I didn’t tell anyone, especially my mother. My mother was an alcoholic and trying to keep our lives together as she went through the process of divorcing someone who was physically and emotionally abusive. I kept the sexual abuse a secret… I kept it as ammunition. Somehow I thought it would get us “more,” or secure our future financially.
There were very good things about my life from age 6 to age 18 publicly. Behind closed doors my life was a horror. I was my mother’s emotional support system. I didn’t cry. I made the best grades I could. I kept up appearances. I became handy to do the things she couldn’t. I learned to shoot a gun someone had given her to protect us.
I was a quivering child with undiagnosed ASD who would scream at her mother that she was smarter than her… because I had this long game… because I could whip this sexual abuse card out of my pocket and make everything okay for us.
That didn’t happen.
And here I am, 34, curled up in my girl cave, crying, because my Art Therapist pointed out the patterns of my risk-taking behaviours that link directly back to my fucked up childhood. Throughout the session she asked repeatedly if I was okay. I teared up a few times. I didn’t cry. I drove home. I didn’t cry. It wasn’t until I was in the car with my son, later, that I lost it a little. He said something about my hair in my art. He said that he’s noticed I always include blue figures with long red hair in my pieces. He said, “You think I don’t pay attention, but I do.” He asked me what it meant.
I had just spent an hour with my therapist telling her about horrible things, and here was my son noticing something important about my art. Something important and very personal. That made me cry. I cried because my hair is my strength. When I was little, people cut my hair. My mother let me grow it long, and I let it grow as long as it would grow throughout my teens. My hair grew and grew during all of the horrors of that time. I didn’t cut it until after my son was born, because I realized my life wasn’t about me… it was about “us.”
The next time I cut my hair was after his biological father beat me up and I lived on my own for the first time in my life.
And the last time was after my mother died.
That’s when I cried.