Miki had told me that SC wanted to speak to me that morning at her session. Given the week that we’d just been through, I was expecting her to sit us both down and try and help us both work through our emotions, accusations, and behavior.
As usual, I was waiting downstairs, outside the flat a few minutes before 10:00. I texted Miki, telling her where I was parked and that I was ready whenever she was. Thirty minutes later, I was still waiting. Miki always makes me wait – her definition of five minutes definitely isn’t the same as mine – but this was the longest she’d ever made me wait. Finally, I saw her saunter around the corner. I leant over and opened the door for her. She looked fantastic.
“You look fantastic,” I said as she settled into the passenger seat, pulling the seat buckle across her and fastening it with a small snick. “That’s a new top, I’ve never seen that top before.” I smiled enquiringly at her.
“Yeah, Mikhaila bought it the other day,” Emma replied.
“Hi Emma. You joining us for the session, or just the ride?”
“Just the ride she replied.”
I always enjoyed Emma’s company, but today her conversation was a bit frosty, a bit accusatory. I figured it was the result of the long, painful week we’d both had. The girls had had a few days to talk amongst themselves without any interference from me, and they could’ve decided on anything.
The drive out to Blaauwberg was as beautiful as ever. It was unseasonably warm that morning, and there was no wind to speak of. The sun shone low from the northeast as we drove up the R27 – a perfect, autumn day. I was quite nervous about the upcoming session, but I smiled and chatted with Emma as the sea drifted past smoothly on our left. Just before Blaauwberg, they were working on the other side of the road; big, purpose-built tarmac trucks and machines inching their way along one of the lanes, cordoned off by bright orange bollards. The traffic had backed up for about four kilometers on that side of the road.
“Oh no, it’s going to be a nightmare trying to get back into town after the session.” I said to Emma, pointing out the traffic. “I have to be at YvdH’s at 13:15 – not a lot of time to get stuck in a traffic jam.”
“Huh, what did you say?” Miki asked confusedly.
“I was just pointing out the traffic to Emma, but you’re here now. How are you today? I see you have a new top – Mikhaila bought it.”
Miki looked down at what she was wearing and groaned. “Oh, these girls, I’d never buy this, it’s too expensive.”
“Price is no issue for Emma, Mikhaila, it appears,” I replied, “you know that!”
Since SC wanted to speak with me, I was expecting to go in with Miki, but she came up to me personally, “Brett, I’d like to speak to you alone for a few minutes before I speak to Miki. Are you OK with that,” she asked.
“Sure, no problem.” Must be serious, I thought to myself and followed her down the doglegged passage to her rooms, seated myself on her couch, leaning forward slightly expectantly. Here, I couldn’t choose between the chair and the couch, because there was only a couch. Her room was smaller, more intimate than Yoav’s, and there were fewer books around. Whereas YvdH’s room was more of a testament to his studies of the mind – shelves of books on a myriad of subjects – and personality in general, SC’s room was setup strictly for therapist and patient discussion. Directly in front of me was a glossy book, open, double-spread to a beautiful picture of nature. It was very calm, quiet and pleasant. I relaxed.
“Brett, I asked you in here, because I thought it’s important that you know I understand – as best I can – how difficult this is for you. It’s a momentous task you’ve undertaken, and I want you to know that I recognize that. I think it’s important that you know that I am aware of how difficult this is for you.”
Well, I hadn’t been expecting that. I believed her. It was a relief to hear someone acknowledge the difficulties that I faced daily in dealing with Miki and her Alters.
“I know that everything is black and white for Miki, and that she often thinks you’re being a complete bastard to her. But I want you to know that I don’t think you’re being a bastard to her. I understand that it’s very hard for you all the time, and what Miki may feel as terrible behavior on your part, is just a natural reaction to the situation you’re in.”
That was a big relief to hear SC say. Miki speaks to her so often, and there’s always so much negative, or uncontrolled emotion threading it’s way through our daily behavior that I always feel Simona must think that I’m a terrible partner, and that I contribute to her disorder and distress. Sometimes I think the exact thing myself; I said as much to her.
“Brett, you’re in a very difficult position. What you’re doing is super hero stuff. I know it’s going to feel hard, and I know that you’re not always going to cope as appropriately as you, or Miki, or I would like. That’s ok too.”
We talked for longer than a few minutes, longer than SC was expecting I think. She gave me a crash-course in psychotherapy, and I jumped ahead with each thought-train as soon as I had grasped the essentials. We talked quickly and we covered a lot of ground in just thirty minutes.
I explained how terrified I was all the time; terrified that something was going to happen to Miki, that she was going to die at any moment. I was also angry all the time, and often this terror and anger would manifest itself at completely inappropriate times and places, often towards complete strangers. I’ve walked up to strangers, engaged them in an argument, hoping they’d get aggressive and I’d have an excuse to beat them.
SC said something I really hadn’t expected. She said that it was quite possible that the fear and rage I was feeling wasn’t my own, it was Miki’s and I was acting as a container for her fear and anger. I had never thought about it that way, but it made sense. Emotions are energy, and people are always interacting on that subtle level, exchanging emotions, and energy. It was entirely probable that I was trying to own and contain all of Miki’s pent up rage and fear, trying to protect her from it.
I explained that I was frustrated with our relationship. I didn’t know anymore how two adults were supposed to interact. We hadn’t interacted like partners for a long time. I had Miki and a whole host of Alters to manage – that’s not a partnership. I told her I wanted Miki to be my partner again, to stand next to me. I wanted to be able to rely on her, and love her as an equal, not continually look after her, and fear for her life constantly.
SC looked a bit sad when I said that, and all she could say was that it would take time.
We discussed and agreed that boundaries were acceptable. I give Miki a lot of freedom, a lot of space. We don’t have a conventional family life. At times, it’s complete chaos in the house: furniture gets rearranged on a daily basis; I find Miki’s outfits and boots stuffed into kitchen cupboards – no idea – or pilling up behind the door in the bathroom; I can never dress the kids because their clothes are always in a different place. At one point, I tried to instill the maxim ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ but that failed miserably. Each Alter has it’s own idea of a place for something and that’s where they put it. I don’t rigidly enforce any rules in the house – how can I? You have to pick your battles and that one would just be pointless. Control has been synonymous with abuse for the whole of Miki’s life. As it is, most of Miki’s Alters are teenagers, or young adults just finding their freedom, their voices. To push back on that, and stifle that, would be to stifle Miki and prevent her from moving on with her life. She has to have the space, both internally, and externally, to act out her emotions, and to learn to manage them. But, I had to put boundaries in place to ensure her safety. I was adamant about that with SC, and she agreed wholeheartedly. Miki was a thirty year-old woman, with three children: she needs to behave as such, and if I have to put boundaries in place to ensure she does, I must.
Finally, SC insisted that I must start my martial arts again. I’ve been practicing for 24 years; it’s a fundamental part of my make up. I need to make the time for personal maintenance – I can’t help anyone if I fall apart completely. And I’m close to it.
I sent SC the following text that night:
Thank you for taking the time with me today. It was totally unexpected but really appreciated and insightful. I honestly was hopelessly lost and feeling completely alone, but not so much anymore. ☺