Last night, my boyfriend and I watched ‘Into the Wild’. For those who haven’t seen it, it is a film about a man called Chris McCandless (he assumed the name Alexander Supertramp whilst travelling). Very long story short, after quite an abusive childhood he graduates from college, leaves his entire life savings to Oxfam, and goes on a journey that ultimately ends in Alaska. If you haven’t seen it, or read the book by Jon Krakauer, then do. It’s the second time I’ve seen it and I think there are a lot of messages to be taken from his journey and the lessons he learned along the way.
Whilst I was watching it last night, I felt myself drawing parallels between the film and my experience in therapy this week and recently. When Chris graduates and begins his journey, he purposefully covers his tracks so that his parents (and in a broader sense, his past) can’t find him. The journey itself is spectacular, but for me what struck me as more powerful yesterday was the people who he met on his journey.
The film shows him meeting different people, all of whom have an impact on his journey in some way. He meets a man who gives him some work farming wheat, a couple living in a nonconformist way in Slab City, and a more elderly man who lost his wife and child to a drunk driver.
It made me think about the people who have shaped my journey, after I ran from my parents and my childhood.
The first person was a teacher at school. She tried and tried to save me but I was too wild and she was too inexperienced and too unsure. She hurt me in so many awful ways, and she’s a large part of my fears of abandonment, but she also taught me that people would listen to me and believe me. She was the first person I ever told about the demons that lived inside me, and although it ended horribly, she didn’t run because of what I said.
Then there was T. There had been therapists before her, I had been given to her after another left, but she was the first that I truly connected with. She started with my hysterical child, plagued by flashbacks and tortured by surfacing memories and so much attachment agony. So, so much agony inside me. Most of that pain has flowed out of me now. Not all of it, perhaps never all of it, but the pressure has been released. She is magical and her strength, intuition and care has changed my life. She’s changed me.
Some time shortly after that, I met R. T and R overlapped and intertwined for quite a while whilst I was at university, but the effects they had on my journey were quite different. R took me from panicking, immature child to capable grown up. She’s taught me everything from how to write lists through to how to survive a break up, how to manage work stress through to how to keep calm when I talk to my mother! She’s shaped a lot of my ‘adult life’, I feel her impact throughout a lot of my day.
Then there was G. She was the first GP to start listening to me about what the inside of my head was like. Looking back, she must have been hopelessly out of her depth with me… she was still training, bless her, but she was fabulous. On one memorable day, I had a hideous meeting with a total bitch of a mental health nurse, and G followed me out to the car and sat in the passenger seat as I howled and howled into the steering wheel, rubbing my back and telling me it was going to be okay. It didn’t feel okay at the time, but she was the person that taught me that taking control of my health (both mental and physical) would genuinely be okay.
Then there was my best friend. We met when we were both in treatment and became the best of friends almost overnight, really. E has taught me so much. She is the kindest person I have ever met, without exception. The views she holds and the ways she interacts with the world around her… she is the most beautifully kind person and she’s shaped how I react to my world. I will never be anywhere near her in that way, but her perfection in this way makes me try a lot harder than I did before! She has also shown me that I am not alone with the demons in my head. Everyone’s are different, of course, but also joined by similarities and by opening up to me, E helped understand myself and be a little kinder because of it. She’s also brilliantly good fun to be with, I adore spending time with her and since we’ve met, I have had more fun than I ever thought possible.
Then there was GP. He’s helped me take control of my mental health, he’s taught me how to advocate for myself because he does it constantly. He’s helped me unpick a lot of demons around my body and my worries about the physical effects of my childhood – bless him, he constantly answers questions that I’m sure he must hate being asked (I hate that I have to ask them…), but he answers them truthfully and kindly anyway. He’s literally rewritten my experience of men – he’s taught Little what They did to her was wrong by his modelling of consent (Is it okay for me to touch you?). He’s taught her that real men don’t take pleasure in what happened, but are instead saddened and sickened by it. He’s taught her that she can rely on him for safety instead of abuse and pain. She’s learned so very much from him in his modelling of contrasts. I have as an adult, too. He’s been there through the scariest moments without flinching, and his safety and security has shaped me beyond measure.
There have been others, too. The personal tutor who told me it was okay to take time out to look after myself. A lady who I worked with in my first job who kept me coming in every day even through the darkest days. The lady who first taught me to reconnect to my body through massage. Most recently, my boyfriend. Even people I’ve never met – authors, musicians, actors.
I was sat with T in session this week, after a bit of a rough week for Little. Little had been thrown out of sync as T had been on holiday the week before. I’d probably silenced her, because it hurts me too much to listen to Little when T isn’t around, so it all came pouring out once T returned. In our session this week, T and I sat together on her sofa, with my knees up, listening to her heartbeat, covered by her blanket. I told her how lucky I was to have met her.
T said something that really made me think. She said she believes in balance in the world. That the very worst things can happen, and they do, but that somehow, the universe finds a way of balancing that out.
I’ve really struggled in the last few weeks with a sense of unfairness – why did those things happen to me? What did I do? Why should I have to live with the consequences of their actions for the rest of my life? I’ve felt really tired of having to explain myself with my background as a reason or excuse. It happens so much more often than I’d like – when the optician is too close to my face, when I can’t go into a small room with no windows at work, when I flip out because someone touches my shoulder from behind and I’m not expecting it.
My background is shit. It is unfair that I’m living with the shit when the people who hurt me probably don’t even think about what they did. It is unfair. But without it, I’d probably never have met any of the spectacular people I’ve written about above. And maybe that’s the balance T was talking about. Maybe that’s the beauty in the pain. When I watched the film last night, and thought about the people who’ve shaped me and my journey through their presence in my life… it reminded me how immensely lucky I am. How the world has found its balance for me, after the pain. Because after everything, I’m so blessed. I am so magically, so wonderfully blessed with the balance of these beautiful people and the impact they have on my life.