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Counselling has suddenly got a lot harder these last 3 sessions.

Harder in a good way because I’m being pushed to go where I don’t want to go which is where I need to go. But very hard. I managed a tear trickling down which is progress.

I can talk for hours about all sorts of things, including me, in terms of desires and history and hope. But when I’m asked:

“How do you feel right now?”

I’m stymied. I don’t know. I go silent. When words do come out they’re simple ones: happy, sad, scared, lost, lonely, anxious, stressed. I can express quite complex thoughts, ideas and processes, but ask “how are you” and, quite frankly, I don’t have a clue.

Some of this is due to childhood, that strong emotions weren’t encouraged: my father didn’t express any; my mother expressed her own to me (but not to him) but ran away from everyone else’s.

But as an adult my two main partners and fathers of my children also suppressed my emotions by making their own problems more important. And I let them. I spent fifteen years or my life, give or take, dealing with practicalities and trying to sort their life out, or my children’s lives out, putting my emotions to one side whilst I dealt with other things.

So now I want to be able to say how I feel but I haven’t got the vocabulary. I haven’t got the confidence that I’m allowed to feel, let alone express it. I’m also worried about the consequences. I haven’t got the words to say what is going on. The silences get longer. My sentences get shorter and more halting. I get lost inside my head, struggling to speak.

We are reduced to talking about the voices in my head: the loud, critical, dismissive, male and female voice that’s up in my head and the quieter, tiny but stronger voice that seems to reside in my stomach somewhere and is hopefully the ‘real’ me somewhat buried and trying to get out.

We discuss why I don’t want to cry and why I don’t feel comfortable enough in that space to cry and what I need to feel comfortable. I get as far as trust but no further.

It’s as if I’m being pulled between two choices: retreat into my shell and never give myself a chance or break out of my shell and risk not having one but with the chance that I can learn to not need it.

We talk about my not showing emotions in order to protect myself but that if I am to get through this and really make changes, I have to not just talk about the emotions I feel or have felt but to feel them again, to stop separating them into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ emotions which I should or shouldn’t feel but to accept them all as being important and relevant. That means crying. It means getting angry. It means feeling all sorts of other emotions that I have not yet the words for. It means digging deep and hard.

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