Content warning: dissociation, depression, suicidal thoughts.
I walk into my Counsellor’s office and as we sit down we’re both smiling. There is a small, awkward silence; we never seem to know how to start these sessions so he asks me how I’m feeling. The answer to this question has mostly been the same for the past year. I don’t know; I’m not feeling much so he asks me where my awareness rests instead.
I tend to notice when the window is open if it wasn’t the week before. Or that the light is on when it was off last Tuesday. I notice that my feet are touching the floor and that my hands are playing with my hair tie; his silhouette is dark against the bright sun on the window and when I point this out, he gets up to close the blinds. I don’t feel any emotions.
It’s only when we get to certain topics, which are never planned, that feelings surface. When it happens I know it’s coming and automatically, I feel that I’m taking a step back. Within the timespan of a snap of my fingers, I’ve retreated and have become increasingly aware of the blank expression on my face. The room has expanded and the distance between us grown. He can tell when it’s happening as I become incredibly still.
What do I feel and can I stay with that feeling? But before he finishes his sentence the feeling is gone. The corners of my mouth curl into a smile as I glance sideways; this has happened so many times before that it’s funny. I attempt to trace back the feeling.
“I felt sad, I guess.”
His head moves ever so slightly, wondering if my feelings might return though we both know better.
“Erm…” My glance starts jumping from the wall to the floor to the window to him as my mind frantically keeps digging in an attempt to find what’s lost. “I felt hopeless, but I can’t feel it anymore.”
This occurrence tends to take place several times each session. My defence mechanism is too strong and as soon as I feel something that’s potentially unsafe, my mind removes itself and I become empty. This isn’t that different from what happens when I have an emotional breakdown. The experience is painful and frightening and so I dissociate. All these years, there has been no lead to a possible solution to prevent them or to make them stop; no therapeutic ideas or medication that could help. But when it happens, my counsellor is interested in what would happen if I stayed with the feeling, rather than dissociate.
The idea of staying with the emotion is that if I acknowledge it and trace it back to where it comes from, I might be able to find peace, which should ease its overwhelming strength and become just an emotion that I know will pass. I’ve tested this before, with Lois. It worked that one time and recently, I’d been able to do it reasonably successfully on my own. We’ve discovered that my defence mechanism stems from my childhood and is a response to my environment from back then. This means that I can tell myself that this extreme response is only happening because of the past and has no bearing on the present. Since getting to this point, I’ve been feeling hopeful but since the virus hit, it feels like I’ve taken four steps backwards.
Old Ghosts Return
As like everyone else, my life has been put on hold and we are quite literally unable to move right now. I’m not unfamiliar with spending time in my room; it’s still the place I spend most of my time at but for me, one of the things of my depression means that time is frozen and endless. Since the last ten years, I’ve been trying terribly hard to keep on moving so that time keeps ticking. Having no more friends, writer & supervisor meetings, football & rugby training and my recently newly discovered kinky events and meetups is a big pace changer. I’m very used to doing everything online but I used to heavily depend on online alone. The internet was my rescue as a depressed child, teenager and young adult and the more my mental health improved the more I’ve gone offline.
Today, our therapy session is digital; this is the first time I see the ceiling of my counsellors living room and quite frankly, it’s weird. Strangely, we’re technically further apart but our faces are much closer. We forget about our bodies and right from the start the session becomes very thought-based. Today we don’t start where we left off two weeks ago and instead, we start talking about my family, as since the virus outbreak, I haven’t been able to ignore the negative impact they’re having.
My dad started pressuring me to come home to the extent where he made me feel like it’d be my fault if I never got to see him and grandma again and that it would be my fault if I ended up in the hospital too because of the virus. Then Mum messaged and mansplained the news to me, which she only knew about because of her husband and she concluded also that I should come home. Important detail: Mum and I don’t talk. When I slept that night, I had so many nightmares that I woke up drenched in sweat to the extent that I had to change my underwear, turn my duvet around and find a different dry spot to continue sleeping on. Then my sister messaged me! Important detail: we don’t talk either, except for that time she asked me for money because she didn’t want to message my parents. Have any of my family members considered that this right here is my home? Or that it’s perhaps not that safe to travel right now? That I read the news myself? That I’m a responsible adult who thinks about her choices very thoroughly? Or that I would like to discuss options rather than being told what to do.
Since two weeks it’s been feeling as if I’m living back with my parents since before the divorce. I feel like I’m stuck in the house where I’m given no agency and live under their rules and truths without their consideration for how I feel. They’re bombarding me with messages in which they’re exerting their self-proclaimed power and I can’t leave the house to put this aside by playing some football. I could block them I suppose, but that seems like a bad idea given the circumstances. More so than any anxiety regarding the virus, I’ve been feeling depressed and on edge because of my family. I’m scared for my mental health because this reminds me of last year.
Last year between April and September, my mental health slipped for several reasons but mostly because I had no means to get out of my depression as football wasn’t available to me. I tried a lot of other things but by the time we reached July, I nearly took an overdose of pills. I’d already taken them out of my drawer when I thought I should call my dad to ask if this was truly a good idea, which sounds ridiculous, I know. This blog, mlslavepuppet.com, that I made in August was the first thing that helped me out of that period then. Currently, I’m nowhere near that state of mind but the memory and its resulting fear are present and my family’s current influence has been pushing me close to breakdown.
Pausing Does Not Mean Erasing
Just two weeks ago, I would have let that breakdown happen, stayed with the feeling and have it ease off but instead, I’ve been holding it off out of fear. The reason for this might be in my subconscious, who can’t sleep peacefully when my mother appears in my life. The nightmares in response to my mother show a sense of losing control, which feeds into the fear of losing control over my mental health too. All of a sudden, the familiar sense of darkness returns and I feel a sense of panic, then just as I’m about to fall over that edge, I think of what Lois would want me to do? The thought remains for a fleeting moment; clearly she trained my mind well to stay away from despair by immediately triggering my focus on her instead. I shake the thought from my mind. It’s in difficult times that old ghosts return, as my parents prove. I need to remind myself of the present.
I would have liked to continue the upwards trend in the sessions with my counsellor. I felt like if we kept following it for just a little longer, I would have reached the surface. Since getting a grip on my breakdowns I’ve been feeling like I can start moving forwards and letting go, of which I think my jump onto the local scene symbolises. I’d been feeling hope and a sense of trust that I’d get there and so I finally told my counsellor about D/s, revealing that last but very important part of me. Family and dissociation out of the way, it felt like we were about to focus on me.
“You can let it happen here,” he says, referring to my frustration of being stuck and keeping my feelings at bay. He starts saying things, presumably telling me it is safe but I can’t hear it anymore.
I lose my ability to speak, followed by my ability to move. My vision blurs and I’m wondering if he’s noticed yet. I look at the wall on the other side of the room and it doesn’t mean anything, just like my door didn’t when I stared past my call with Lois as I allowed the breakdown to happen. I want to stop the tear from running down my cheek but unlike every other part of my body, my tears aren’t frozen. My breathing becomes shallow as if the air can’t move through my tight throat. I feel an overwhelming sense of fear and I desperately wish that my existence would be erased.
I wait until I can identify these feelings; I wait for the wave to wash over me so that I can speak again. As I talk through what’s happening, I regain my ability to move and feel a little lighter. At this moment, he’s the lifeline I needed to safely get back out. As our session comes to an end I realise that this is moving forwards too as I had never been able to let this happen in front of him. Perhaps, my life being on pause doesn’t mean that I have taken steps backwards. Pausing does not mean erasing. Humans adapt to their situation and for now, I will have to find other ways to keep my positive sense of self, as well as my slave self alive.
Xx Marie Louise