Whenever I feel like I've heard it all, I meet someone new whose story strikes that thought down with a bolt of lightening. It happened again today. I was caught holding my breath listening to a woman pour out her story which included events and details I had never heard before.........painful sob catching admissions which has left her with acquired shame and disgust. These feelings had numbed her into a submissive relationship which until recently seemed like a life sentence. The numbness didn't happen overnight. It was a gradual accumulation, starting with the shutting of the mind and heart and working it's way out into the limbs.
Now? Though she still feels these deeply, she knows that there may be a day when she can lift that black cloak of shame and guilt, drop it on the floor and walk away from it. Her life sentence eternity was wracked with such pain. She spoke of how the shame scraped at her spirit, how the knowledge she carries with her punched holes in her soul which left her feeling physical pain. She then turned to Dilaudid to eliminate it and was hooked on this powerful drug of choice within a couple of weeks. But, she has escaped the clutches. Her personal baggage is buldging at the seams, weighted down with sharpe craggy rocks. But, she's broken free of the life sentence, and she can inhale her new freedom..........scared, scarred........but basically in one piece.
Sometimes we search for something which replaces the pain with ecstacy.......our numbness turns into a peaked feeling of pleasure. Escape.......even for a short period of time is sought with obsessive salivation. Drugs do this. Sex can do this. Violence can even do this. Heart pain goes away when one cuts through skin somewhere on the body. If one can't physically run away, one will find a way to mentally run away. If one is numb, one will seek something which will heighten the senses..........sanctity through self indulgent pleasure in order to FEEL comfort.........in order to FEEL escape...........in order to FEEL a spiritual connection however fleeting.
I couldnt help myself today.............my eyes filled with tears as I listened, as I passed her the box of kleenex. It doesn't happen very often.........usually I am able to keep focused on the counselling, still feeling but focused on taking the person through their own journey and not adding my reaction to the mix. But today, what I heard struck a chord in me which started my own tears. I had no words..........nothing that could strip away the past. Instead of using any counselling techniques in my little professional toolbox, I moved closer and held onto her like a friend......like a Mom. I found myself rocking her.......a Mom rocking another Mom and I wondered when was the last time she had felt an unconditional rocking hug...............maybe never. Who knows? What I do know was that as I was hugging her, I could feel her relax into her deep emotions.......I could feel her pass some of it on......letting it drop onto the floor. Part of that black cloak shed. It was a beginning. She shared her deepest most sorrowful secret and I wanted to respond to her with my own honesty. I wanted her to know that is was such a good thing to have shared it.............in a place where there would be no commentary.
We spent almost two hours together this morning............alone in my little office, surrounded by others on the other side of the walls who were working away in theirs oblivious to the pain and honesty being shared by this brave but bruised woman. It was a draining, challenging, fulfilling, helpful, enlightening, growing, showing, important two hours. Neither of us will forget what was shared. Neither of us will forget how close we became during that time when all barriers fell, when two human beings met on a precipice of disclosure to release the shackled shame.
After we made arrangements to meet again, and after I walked her to the exit.......... I was left with an emptiness from feeling drained and bewildered by the intensity of the connection. I was also left with the realization that counselling keeps life real. It keeps me real. Counselling is my vehicle for lifelong learning.