“The moon is a loyal companion.
It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.
Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”
― Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Today was the beginning step.

I arrived at my first counseling session and waited.

When she came in to get me I hastily made my way back to her office.

She sat, I sat, and the questions began. The rest is a rushed blur, but I’ll try to recall it.

That nominal first question: What brings you in?

More than anything I hate being asked questions. I don’t like having my inner thoughts pulled from me and placed on a platter in front of me to be judged. It feels like a violation, and under normal circumstances, this line of questioning would put my defensive mechanisms on alert. I’d mentally assess the purpose and reason for the question, and I’d overthink why someone would want to know this about me.

Today, however, I accept this question and sit for a quiet moment to gather my thoughts and begin to lay out how I intend to answer her. I ignore my first reaction of defense and move quickly to acceptance. I didn’t show up at my appointment today to throw up my shields and armor. I showed up today to open the floodgates and let whatever was going to come rushing out be seen.

I explain that I’m not there to discuss my “mommy issues,” because I’d already come to terms with the sardonic history I share with my mother. I’m good with it. I’m also not there to discuss my grim childhood memories of domestic violence and the questionable parenting I was subjected to. None of that is the real reason I’m sitting on the couch across from her laying out my current challenges.

Now, that’s not to say that I can just avoid those topics. My C-PTSD issues stem directly from all that I endured, and while I’ve come to terms with the fact these incidents occurred, the consequences of the defense mechanisms I had to learn are what’s hindering me at the moment. So, did I mention them? Absolutely. Admittedly, they’re not why I’m there.

Once I get into the discussion and I begin to lay the footstones of how I want this secret garden to be viewed, and she can see a more clear version of what it is I’m trying to share with her, she begins to discuss my struggles in more detail. I’m not just focused, I’m hyper-focused. What does that translate as? It’s sort of like opening a can of soda. You put your finger into the tab, you pull the tab up and hear that satisfying pop sound of the can opening, then without warning, there are 100 other cans that open at the same time and they have all been shaken so that they explode over everything.

That’s hyper-focused.

Not only is it as scary as it sounds, but it’s also completely debilitating. It’s why I can lose weight over the course of four or five months, then one day I’m just exhausted and don’t ever want to hear about losing weight again. Or, on a larger scale, it’s why I currently have four ongoing painting projects in my house. They’ve each been started and progressed, but the idea of trying to restart them to finish is overwhelming and daunting on a level that I can barely even discuss it. When I was trying to put it into words with my counselor today I began to cry because I have never been able to put it into words until today.

I spoke to her about how my anxiety was alive and well and had a mind of its own. She acknowledged my struggle and confirmed that my C-PTSD would be a parent issue that would spawn off-spring problems, like; anxiety, hyper-vigilance, hyper-focus, defensive posture, cognitive processing issues, and compulsive over-thinking.

I can sit here all night and talk about the ins and outs of what she and I talked about, but the real meaningful moment that occurred during my first counseling appointment happened when we started discussing how I should be handling this unveiling of on-going issues. How do I handle the fact I feel adrift in an ocean I don’t know the name of? What do I do when I need to find land and can’t get back to the sand? I’m already having coping issues, and that’s after I’ve made myself overtly self-aware.

Her words: You cannot help being this way. You had to survive.

To her, anyone who knows my story should be able to see why dropping my defensive measures in favor of the person I coulda/shoulda/woulda been is necessary now. I don’t need these elements of my personality. I don’t have to rely on these ninja traits to get me through a day. They lay dormant in a body that no longer needs to be protected. The person I had to be is not the same person I strive to be, and these conflicting elements are at odds at the present moment. I cannot help being this way, I had to survive.

Now, I have to learn how to live.

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