After my dad died, my world crumbled. It was the first time that I recognised a depressive episode, although, I didn’t know that I was experiencing one. My will to live to the fullest disappeared. I come from a family deconstructed by a severe history of domestic violence and a lack of emotional connection. We don’t know how to love. My mom divorced my dad after years of abuse when I was still a child. And in the process of becoming her own person and raise a family, she began to shut down, to deal with an internal debate in which the easy way out would have been to collapse.
Audre Lorde, in her essay “Eye to Eye”, writes: “My mother taught me to survive from a very early age by her own example. Her silences also taught me isolation, fury, mistrust, self-rejection and sadness. My survival lay in learning how to use the weapons she gave me, also, to fight against those things within myself, unnamed“. What else could she do? A single woman with three children, deep scars and sadness. She did what she could to survive, and survival is the greatest gift of love.
When I was a teenager, I dealt with eating disorders and tried to kill myself once. I was convinced that I wasn’t worthy despite being seen as someone lucky, happy and successful. My dad’s death turned me into a shadow negating and discouraging any trace of my own creativity. In fact, by turning into an automatism of my own self, I wouldn’t need to face the world in any terms of worthiness rather than my productivity and existence. Despite it all, I had a normal life. I had friends, relationships. I finished school and travelled the world. When I say ‘normal’, I mean being a teenager who hated herself and took a bunch of pills at fourteen to end her life.
Reading sci-fi and Black Quantum Futurism, led me to discover the concepts of temporal consciousness and the fact that we can have multiple secular perspectives operating simultaneously. I wonder if any of those layered timescapes include a happy version of me. It seems bizarre and distant to be truly content with what I have. There’s always this feeling of being on edge; waiting for something to push you; to let you go entirely. I have no name for my darkness. I wish I could give you one to know how to treat you.
At some point in my life, I started to experience a sort of existential crisis. I began to question everything, from who I was to the purpose of my life. My only connection with love was through narcissistic personalities. The emotional vampires, as I like to call them. People who take you for granted, who uses you, who drains you and, eventually, leaves you stumped, puzzled and more empty than before. “There are myths of self-protection that hold us separate from each other and breed harshness and cruelty where we most need softness and understanding“. (“Eye to Eye”, Audre Lorde)
That crisis directed me to try therapy again –after a failed attempt during my teenage years. There’s something about having ‘daddy issues’ and male therapists that stroke me especially. After a year and a half, I decided to drop it. Big mistake. Huge. Once again, I was at the mercy of monsters. Those who identify your weakness and suck your blood with intense cruelty. Suicidal thoughts appeared again. I was feeling everything, deeply. My very own existence was unbearable. I wanted to die.
Daddy, I have had to kill you
You died before I had time
Marble-heavy, a bag full of god(…)
Bit my pretty red heart in two
I was ten when I buried you
At twenty, I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you(…)
If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two–
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year(…)
They always knew it was you.
–Daddy, Sylvia Plath
Several attempts to get on with life made me bitter and uneasy to reach. I’m not comfortable with the human touch, and I don’t know how to be soft and pretty. I used to mistake crushes and emotional vampires with true love. Last year, after resisting my vulnerability, I gave myself the chance to try a “romantic adventure”. How can I be ready for that, if I have been mistreating myself and weaponising my pain to feel something? I would answer those questions in one of the most traumatic experiences of my life: A summer trip to Estonia with a complete stranger.
I’m grateful, though. It sounds foolish, but I am. The level of emotional violence I experienced was intense. The way a man, who doesn’t care about you, treat you and treat your body; the way he speaks to you, it’s perverse. A man with a single purpose: making you feel that is your fault to be broken. A monster that scares you and sucks you dry. In your mind, you internalise the pain, the hate, the violence, and then go and dissociate yourself from reality. I was there but I wasn’t. Walking in a spiral towards the house. You learn hard lessons through experiences. It was a revelation. Where am I when I’m not in reality or my imagination?
If she were to sing
A tempest of vile blasphemies would break from her mouth
So she took a vow of silence
–This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection (2019)
In July 2019, upon my return from Estonia, I decided to go back to therapy. The first thing that I thought was to find a female therapist. I feel, based on my experience, that there’s an obvious intent to apply the same patriarchal symbolism of society into the therapy field. Above all, I wanted to feel comfortable sharing something that most men don’t see problematic rather than proof of female victimisation. After contacting a couple of psychologists, I made an appointment with Cristina, my therapist. Here’s when my EMDR journey started.
EMDR is the acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a therapy created to treat the post-traumatic disorder and to alleviate the distress associated with those painful memories and any other adverse life experience. Our brain is so powerful that when something harrowing happens to us, to survive, we block those memories. We took the pain and throw it away. We buried it deep in our psyche. Sometimes, you can live with that little secret. Although, it’s there, haunting you and ready to attack at any point. Usually, people with post-traumatic disorder tend to react angrily. It’s only the fear, trying to escape from within.
The therapy has a variant that involves sounds –a tic that goes from one lobe to the other to put you in some sort of hypnosis state. The therapist asks you to connect with a painful memory for context, and from there, your mind takes the lead role. My first session took place the second week of July, some days after my return from Estonia. I was deeply traumatised and dissociated at the same time. Daily life was overwhelming.
During the EMDR I saw a beach –a bucolic scene of Saaremaa, the Estonian Island where we spent most of the trip. I saw purple and dark green. Everything was surrounded by seaweed. The face of that man was also there, incisive and mocking. The sea was calling me, so my mind took me there. It was also the first time I saw my spectrum. A melancholic spirit that is always with me, reminding me that, at any moment, I can end my life and the pain will be over. She’s not frightening, though, she is just there—a physical representation of my suicidal thoughts.
The next sessions took place mostly underwater, painted in deep blue and green. The sea gives me peace, and I always go there. I know that my unconscious is showing me a way forward if everything else fails. I find it moving and tragic. That’s the way I am.
As the sessions progressed, I turned my parents into mythological creatures: Dad was Neptune and Mom was an Amazon. Violence is represented as stormy weather. My little self is a very critical part of my unconscious. She is scared, occasionally furious and tends to be very cruel. My old house was a destroyed battlefield. My dogs were there and also the ideal representation of the one I will love someday. I’ve protected my brothers. I’ve visualised pain, blood and my fears. The brain is so hyper-stimulated than the first two or three weeks you have vivid dreams almost every night.
For a year, I’ve confronted all sort of experiences. I have relived my childhood and adolescence, over and over again. I have shed my traumatised self as a hyperbole of survival. By confining me within my psyche, I’ve started a transformation that has evolved into this mega romance with who I am. I’ve experienced grieve, serenity, and clairvoyance. I discovered that I am an emotional hypersensitive person, and my life is full of up and downs that look and sound like lions roaring, firecrackers, aurora borealis, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes and sunsets.
I began to reclaim my space as a creative being. However, my self-criticism and lack of worthiness are still there. But, I’m allowing myself to be an artist, a creator, a poet, a musician, a human, a lover, a friend, a healer. The path is still long and muddy. I am grateful for the ones who are still here with me; the ones who were; the ones who hurt me, and the ones who also tried to care for me. The healing process is only beginning (one year ago). If you are reading this, bear with me. I’m just starting my journey. I am on the way of healing and becoming the one I love.
“Stoic beauty, her solitary character, her bravery, her hand-made life, her working life, indivisible not propelled by or waiting for worldly recognition to validate her, to pat her on the back and tell her where to go and what to do next.”
– From ‘Girls Against God‘.