Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Necklace that Brought me Comfort in a time of Need

I had been preparing for a trip to visit my grandmother for months. I knew that I would also see my mother on this trip, and I was working with my therapist on how that would play out, how I would handle my anxiety, fear and anger when I saw her, or talked to her. My mother and I had never had a relationship, as a teen I created the nickname, “the host body” to describe her because that’s really what she was to me. A body I hung out in for 9 months before entering a world filled with hate and abuse.

Two days before my family and I were to board the plane for the 1200 mile trip, I was sitting in my office and a feeling of panic came over me and I could not make the trip. I sent a text message to my therapist telling her that I was thinking about hurting myself as a way to get out of the dreaded trip. It was only minutes before she emailed me back telling me that if I was going to hurt myself, I needed to call her immediately or call 911. I chose to call her. She told me she could meet me at her office at 9:00am and I immediately agreed.

I hung up the phone and called my best friend, nearly incoherent to anyone on the other end of the phone, I just kept repeating, “I can’t do it…I can’t go…and my husband is going to be so mad at me. We’ve spent the money on the plane tickets, they’re non-refundable. I don’t know how to get out of it, or what to do. But I can’t go, I just can’t do it.”

My friend just kept repeating, “Grace, calm down. We’ll figure this out. It’s going to me okay. We’ll figure it out.” She then asked me where I was and I told her I was at work, but that I was meeting my therapist at her office in 20 minutes. She and I agreed that I would call her after my appointment.

I left my office and walked the short distance to my car, the tears that had started an hour before were still streaming down my face making the drive to my therapist’s office a difficult task. Dear therapist and I arrived at the same time, she unlocked the door and we walked into her office together. I was still crying, barely able to breathe as I curled myself into a ball on the well-worn blue sofa in her office. I could hear her voice, but was unable to make out what she was saying to me, it sounded like she was in a tunnel, far away from me. She moved closer to me and asked me if she could put her hand on my back. Still unable to speak, I nodded my head, but did not move. I could feel the warmth of her hand on my back, and she was speaking to me in a soft, calm voice, “Grace, you’re having trouble breathing because your diaphragm is cramped by the way you’re laying. Can you sit up?” Once again, I nodded my head, I sat up and leaned my head back into the sofa. Dear therapist moved her hand from my back to my ankle and asked me if I would like her to sit next to me. I did not hesitate to once again nod my head yes. She sat down next to me on the sofa and I laid my head on shoulder. She put her arm around me and reminded me that I needed to breathe. As I cried she began taking deep breaths herself, in an effort to get me to do the same. She smoothed my hair and talked to me softly, “It’s okay, Grace, you’re safe here. No one is going to hurt you here. You’re okay. Listen to my heart beating. It’s okay. You are safe now.” I lost all track of time, I just lay there, listening to her voice, her heartbeat, her breathing, and during those moments, I felt safe. I felt safe. Eventually, my crying slowed, as did my breathing and I pulled away from her and sat up. Dear therapist went into the bathroom and brought me some wet paper towels and then sat down next to me again. She asked me if I was okay, and I nodded my head, still unable to speak.

“Grace,” dear therapist said, “I brought something for you today. It is up to you whether to take it or not, but I want you to have it so you will know that I am with you, in spirit, even when I am not physically present with you.” And she took my hand and placed what looked like a very small envelope. It was soft and made of silk or satin, the kind of soft material that lines the edges of a baby blanket. It was light blue and had red around the border, it reminded me of a Chinese silk kimono. Dear therapist unsnapped the small silk envelope and took out a silver necklace. The charm on the necklace looked like a mother holding a small child, it was nearly a complete circle, and it was the most beautiful necklace I had ever seen. I was overwhelmed with childish love for this woman. I couldn’t believe she cared about me enough to trust me with something so special that belonged to her.

I must have looked at her with questioning eyes and she explained again that her intention in bringing the necklace was to impress upon me that even if she was not with me, she still cared about me, and she placed the necklace and the silky envelope in my purse. A few minutes later she walked me to my car and said goodbye.

After she walked away, I sat in my car and pulled out that silk envelope and took out the silver necklace. I held the envelope in my left hand and the necklace in the other; I could still feel the warmth of Dear Therapist’s arm around me, and in that moment that I felt safe and cared for and at the age of 37, I began to understand that it was okay to experience ‘overwhelming feelings’ in front of another person, and it was okay allow someone else to help me in a moment of need, and that the power of ‘safe, human, touch’ really existed.

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