“Why are you here today, Hanna?” My new therapist Vince asks me. He’s in his fifties, gray hair, kind eyes. He reminds me of my grandfather from my fathers side. I have very little memories from that side of the family. He was a serious drinker, I think he passed away shortly after I turned five.
“My friends think I should be seeing someone.” I shrug. “I don’t know.”
“Well, why do they think you should be here?” I take a deep breath.
“I am having nightmares, I wake up screaming almost every night. I also just found out I have a sister that’s ten years younger than me that I didn’t know even existed.” I sigh. “I’m fucked up, and my friends can see that.”
“What goal are you trying to achieve by coming here, Hanna?” He asks me and I’m stuck. I’m not sure. “I don’t believe you would have come unless you believed yourself that you needed to come.” He elaborates.
“I don’t know. Is it wrong that I don’t know?” He shakes his head.
“It’s not wrong. There is no right or wrong in therapy. I’ll ask you again in a couple sessions, so we will just begin elsewhere.” I nod. “I want you to close your eyes and think of the happiest memory you have, and say it out loud.” I close my eyes.
I frown as I think about my memory.
“What is it?” Vince asks.
“It’s the happiest memory I have, but I remember being very terrified at the same time.” My voice shakes.
“A happy memory is a happy memory.” I can feel the tears coming.
“Last year, right when summer was beginning I was feeling off. I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive real fast, and went in to see my doctor. She did an ultrasound, and it was real. I was pregnant. I knew I shouldn’t be happy, but I was.” I could feel the tears running down my face.
“Why did you think you shouldn’t have been happy?” I wipe some of the tears.
“I wasn’t in a relationship with the father, we hadn’t talked since we conceived. I knew how he felt about wanting children, and I was scared to tell him. I was also terrified of what kind of mother I would be.”
“Fear is a normal feeling when finding out big news like pregnancy.” I open my eyes and just let him talk.
“What was your childhood like?” Vince asks me.
“What’s so funny?” He asks.
“I just didn’t think we’d get into childhood trauma this quickly.” I stop laughing. “Sorry it’s not funny.” He smiles.
“We all deal with trauma in our own way, Hanna. Don’t apologize.” Then he motions for me to go on.
“Well, I was raised by drug addicts. Meth was their drug of choice. They also would drink heavily. For ten years I was seen as an inconvenience by them, my best friends family actually would take me in a lot when I didn’t want to go home. Her dad was a cop, and he did his best to help me, but the situation wasn’t great. He couldn’t prove that they were on drugs, or the ways they were abusing me. I would go hungry at home because drug addicts don’t grocery shop. It all stopped when one weekend they went on a drug binge, I was locked in a closet for the whole weekend. No food. No bathroom. No water. I was on the brink of death when my best friends dad found me. I went into my grandparents custody after that. They went to jail.” Vince had a serious look on his face.
“You said last time that you have a sister that’s ten years younger than you. Was your mother pregnant while that happened to you?” I nod.
“She says she didn’t know, and found out when she was put into jail.”
“What was living with your grandparents like?” I shrug.
“They were strict, but I always knew it was because they wanted to protect me. I had seen more than a child should ever see, they were trying to protect whatever innocence I had left. They died within a year of me graduating college.”
“I’m sorry.” I shake my head.
“They had a beautiful life, they were happy.” I take a deep breath.
“Did they ever send you to a therapist?” I nod.
“Shortly after I was taken away from my parents. For two whole years. I had terrible nightmares, but whenever we would talk about what happened...my brain refused to remember, it was all blank.”
“Do you remember now?”
I don’t say anything for a moment. I haven’t said it out loud. I just felt like I wasn’t sure what the nightmares were, except I knew exactly what they were. I couldn’t keep lying to myself.
“The closet is always pitch black, I can hear someone on the other side. I can barely think because all I could think about was food and water. I was cried out and I couldn’t even stand. I remember running my fingers on the wall, and feeling the wallpaper “ I rub my fingers together. “I always find myself in that closet, that’s always how the nightmare ends.”
“Why do you think that is, Hanna?” Vince asks me.
“I don’t know.” I think hard. “I think if I was strong enough back then, I could have saved myself from that situation.”
“Hanna,” Vince straightens himself out and leans forward. “You were ten years old. Children aren’t supposed to have responsibilities, especially not saving themselves from a toxic environment. Parents are supposed to protect you, and unfortunately your parents couldn’t save you from themselves.” Tears start streaming down my face.