[Private journal entry written on Friday, August 3, 2012 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]
Edward: How has working with Renee affected you and your own healing journey?
Me: Well, for one thing, she’s teaching me about connection . . . she hugged me last week . . . just out of the blue, she walked up to me and hugged me as she was leaving . . . and she hugged me the day I had that tough conversation with her dad . . .
So, she’s teaching me about expressing affection physically . . . pushing me out of my comfort zone a bit . . .
Edward: I remember you sending me an email about the conversation with her dad . . .
Me: Yeah . . . that was quite a while ago . . . like a couple of months . . .
Photo by Martin Chen
Edward: Yes . . . I recall that the conversation had a significant impact on you.
Edward: I was curious about that experience . . . I wondered if it felt like you were talking with your own dad . . .
Me: Not really . . . I mean, I recognized that I was saying things to him that I wish I could have said to my own dad . . . or that I did say but he didn’t hear me . . . or I wish that someone else had said on my behalf . . .
So, while it didn’t feel like I was talking to my own dad, saying those things to her dad stirred up a lot of strong emotion for me . . . which is why I was so emotional after they left . . . well, I was emotional when I was talking to him, as well . . .
Edward: Was it difficult for you to say those things to him?
Me: No . . . it was pretty easy . . . I knew what to say and I knew I had to say it . . . I didn’t debate about saying them, I just said them . . . it was just emotional for me, which made it difficult to maintain my composure . . . but, I didn’t struggle at all with saying what I knew needed to be said.
However, I didn’t quite know how to respond when he asked me about my parenting experience . . . I told him that, while I don’t have kids and I don’t have practical experience with parenting, I do know what it is like to be a daughter and to be a little girl . . . I told him I could speak to him from that perspective.
Edward: What a brilliant answer! What a brilliant way to give yourself credit for what you have to offer, and to validate what you have to say!
Me: (Grinning a little) Thank you . . .
Speaking of giving credit . . . before we finish up with this topic, I want to say that, as I’ve been trying to figure out how to interact with Renee, I keep going back to how you interact with me when I behave the same way . . . when I go into that withdrawn, helpless mode . . .
I know what it feels like to be in that stuck place and to be fearful of being criticized and judged for it . . . and then what it feels like to be shown compassion instead . . . I know that because that is what you do for me. Because I’ve been in her shoes with you, I have an idea of how to pass along that compassion to her . . . I think of it as “pulling an Edward” when I pass along that compassion to someone . . .
I believe it is easier for me, as an adult, to give up the helpless act . . . I guess it’s easier for me to realize I have other options. I imagine she doesn’t yet have that awareness and therefore, she gets stuck more deeply in that place.
Edward: You might be the only person in her life who is showing up for her in that way.
If you can continue doing that, even though her behavior in response is not ideal . . . if you can keep giving her the assurance that the relationship will continue to exist regardless how she behaves . . . that you are not going to abandon her . . . that will allow her to develop trust in you and it will allow her to begin to believe she does have the capacity for connection and for being in meaningful relationships.
Me: Which is what you are doing for me . . .
Edward: (With a smile) . . . which is what I’m doing for you . . .
(We paused to let the warm, fuzzy feeling settle around us . . . then Edward continued . . . )
Edward: It sounds like you are being a lifesaver for her . . . literally, a lifesaver . . .
Me: It feels that way to me.
My concern is that her parents . . . more specifically, her dad, since he is the decision-maker . . . might pull the plug on this because she is not progressing at the speed he thinks she should progress. Maybe I can have another conversation with him in which I can set his expectations to a more realistic level. I really would like to keep him onboard . . .
Edward: Congratulations on keeping him onboard so far! I’m sure you will figure out an effective way to manage his expectations.
Me: Thanks . . .
(Glancing sideways at the clock) It feels like we’ve covered a lot of territory today!
Edward: (Laughing) We have!
Me: Oh, before we run out of time, there’s something else I wanted to touch on with you concerning the CASA stuff . . .
Edward: Oh, okay!
Me: So . . . well . . . first off, you know how I said in my email that I didn’t want to talk to anyone beyond you about my plans to become a CASA . . .
Edward: Yes . . .
Me: Well, I did end up telling Cindy and James, the paramedic and cop husband and wife . . .
Edward: How did they respond to the news?
Me: They both thought it was a great idea . . . that I would be ideal for the job . . .
And, I asked them if they would be willing to be character references for me for the application process . . . they both said they would be delighted to . . .
Which brings me to my question for you . . .
(I took a deep breath before nervously plunging into my question . . . )
Me: I’m sure that the CASA staff members are going to want to talk to you about my fitness as a CASA . . . to see if you think I’m far enough along in my healing to be ready to deal with the stuff I will experience as a CASA . . .
I won’t be applying for about another year or so, so I will have time to progress further than I am now . . . but, do you have any concerns now about my readiness in a year from now?
Edward: I would be glad to talk to them . . . I would give you a five-star rating right now on being ready for doing the job, and for being an ideal fit with your skill set.
Me: (Long pause) Wait . . . am I hearing you say that you think I’m ready right now?
Me: I mean . . . if I were to apply for the program right now, you would feel comfortable saying I’m ready to be a CASA right now? I’m not planning to do that, but . . . you know . . .
Edward: I think you are absolutely ready. You are already in a strong enough position to handle the stress.
I hear that there are some things in your life that need to be put into place – mechanisms that would make it easier for you to handle the stress . . . but you are already ready.
Me: Oh . . . wow . . . I wasn’t expecting to hear that . . . well, neat! That’s neat to hear you say that!
Edward: I think that the stress would cause you to go one of two directions . . .
Either you would regress back into your old, destructive coping habits . . . or, you would become focused on the fact that a child is depending upon you to show up consistently and healthily and that would cause you to stick with healthier habits for dealing with the stress.
I am betting that you would be motivated to do the latter . . . I am very sure that is the direction you would go.
Me: You make a good point . . . I’m already feeling motivated by the knowledge a child will be depending upon me in the near future . . .
At the informational meeting, I told them I would be back with my application in a year from now . . . so, that gives me a deadline . . . and I’m already thinking about the fact that I must improve my self-care habits now if I’m going to be able to give my best possible efforts towards advocating for that child starting in a year from now . . . I already am feeling the pressure of that now . . . but, in a good way . . . in a constructive way . . .
Edward: I agree that it is a good idea to put into place those self-care habits sooner rather than later as it will make it easier for you when you do become a CASA . . .
However, for the record, I believe you already have the mechanisms in place that you would need in order to manage that stress.
And, I would be delighted to tell the CASA staff that I feel that way about your progress. I would be happy to answer any question they might have about your readiness – with your permission, of course. You are absolutely ready and you would be awesome at it. I would recommend you very strongly.
I had another client with a similar situation and I gave her a strong recommendation . . . and, by the way, she got the job! I would be happy to do the same with you. Hopefully, it would help you get through the application process successfully.
Me: Thank you so much . . . that means so much to me!
[Continued in the next post . . . ]