I told her about the letter Lela had sent me. Nolan was just under six months old and she’d enclosed pictures. He’d grown so much and I felt a pang at missing that. My chest ached all day, dull and heavy with pain.
But you fucking had to do it, because you would have been a shitty, shitty parent and you’d ruin him like you ruin everything else…
“I made my choice though, why should I still be whining about it? And it’s been months. It’s…it’s pathetic.”
She raised a hand to stop me. “Sarai, I have noticed that you repeatedly engage in the habit of devaluing your own emotions.”
“What do you mean?” I queried.
She gave a wry little smile. “I remember many times you’ve derided yourself after expressing feelings. If we take today, you told me how you felt when you received the letter from the Foxes, and proceeded-“
“He – he isn’t my son, OK? I don’t want to fight you on this. I know you know what you’re talking about. But I said it – I said it’s ‘fucking stupid’ and that I shouldn’t feel this way because it’s true.” I insisted. Wasn’t it? I was whiny and pathetic and always made everything such a huge deal, from my mom to Nolan to a whole host of little things that didn’t even matter. I needed to get a fucking hold on myself.
“Sarai, when you devalue your own thoughts and emotions, you devalue yourself. You’re telling yourself that what you think and feel don’t matter – therefore, you don’t matter. What’s more, no matter how trivial the situation, attacking it solves nothing.”
I sorta knew she was right. It made a lot of sense. After getting the email, I was upset and all the ‘unfounded negative thoughts’ flooded my mind that whole day. Weak, stupid, you ruin everything, it’s my fault…but it’s true.
I tried to argue back, because I couldn’t just accept I was wrong. “Well…sure, but I can’t…wallow. You have to get over it, don’t you? It’s what – I want to be better.” Don’t even try it. Why are you here? I told myself to shut it and focused on Alessandra.
“You’re thinking in black and white.”
“What do you mean?” I parroted myself from earlier, like a stupid child.
“I want you to think about all you’ve said about this issue. You’ve presented yourself with a false dichotomy, and not just here. It’s likely you treat everything you feel in this way, and haven’t realised it.”
Her eyes darted slightly away from me. OK, think. What does Alessandra want you to say? I have to work this out. What did I say before? It’s ‘fucking stupid’, I said that. She didn’t like it.
“I said I shouldn’t be upset about Nolan…” I recalled aloud. “Because I chose this…and I have to move on…what’s wrong with that? I-I don’t understand! Just tell me!” I pleaded, throwing out my hands. My heart-rate quickened and I bit my lip. She thinks you’re stupid. You’re not good enough, and you can’t do this. Shit, shit, shit…
Her lips quirked slightly upwards. “You also told me that you can’t wallow.”
“So? Isn’t that true? What’s your damn point here? This is-” I snapped. I had to cut myself off. There I was, being a bitch as usual. I’d been fucking up this whole session, and now she’d…think less of me. My stomach sunk.
…Wait, I should just apologise, right? I tried to tell myself it would be fine, even if I didn’t really believe it. “That was rude. I’m sorry..”
“That’s alright.” said Alessandra. “It’s ordinary to be frustrated. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s also good to recognise it, and not let yourself be consumed by it.”
“I didn’t do that before.” I mentioned in a doleful tone. Pathetic. “I’m not a good person.” Where did that come from? I knew it but never thought about saying it.
“Er…can we stick a pin in that? I won’t forget.” Alessandra said, scribbling something in her notepad. “Let’s go back to the question I posed to you before.”
“Right…” And I thought back to what she’d said after I apologised. It’s ordinary to be frustrated…recognise it and don’t let yourself be consumed. She’d had to give me a fucking hint because I’m too stupid to realise…”There’s a middle ground, isn’t there?” I groaned. “Did I really just…”
“Forget that?” Alessandra gave a small, reassuring smile. “That’s OK, Sarai.”
“Is it? It’s so-
“Remember what we’ve discussed? There is no need to focus on knee-jerk negative thoughts. Instead, we will focus on relearning this middle ground. Because that is how things will get better. Attacking yourself will depress your mood and deplete motivation.”
“And I’m not going to do that anymore.” I insisted. I heard a jeer in my head of I’m not attacking you, you’re pathetic. Telling myself that didn’t exactly lower my mood – I’ve told myself worse – but I was realising that it felt so much better trying to be positive.
Truthfully, I hadn’t read the entirety of Lela’s email. I admitted as much to Alessandra in my session.
Read it, she’d told me, and let yourself feel whatever comes, and don’t berate yourself for it.
I opened the email for the second time. At only six months, Nolan couldn’t really do much yet. Most of the pictures were of him sleeping or lying in various places, yet I was still enthralled.
But I wasn’t there. All I’d get is pictures. That’s my choice.
Exactly, so stop it! Whiny little-
No. I had to change how I thought or nothing would change for me. That was Alessandra’s message. I’m upset I couldn’t raise him, and that’s OK, I repeated to myself. It was unnatural, because there was so much else that sprang to mind before that mantra. I had to keep going.
Maybe one day it would feel real.
It’s OK, it’s OK…
Tears were running down my face.
I didn’t notice Alexis next to me on the couch. “What’s up?”
I tensed up, and shifted slightly away, without even meaning to. “Uh…” She’d been nothing but nice to me. I could take a chance. “I just got this email from, uh, Lela – she adopted -“
“Oh.” She paused for a second. Of course she didn’t want to hear about my boring life, who does?
“It’s fine, I’ll be fine, I don’t – it’s – it’s stupid, I-“
She raised an eyebrow. “That’s not dumb. Come on. You’re fine. It’s fine. Like, let it out, you know?”
All I could see in Alexis’s expression was concern. Her brows knitted together slightly and her mouth curved downwards a little. She put a hand on my shoulder and reassuringly patted my hand.
I managed to smile a little. The pain was still there but I didn’t ruin anything…it had been OK to cry. Alexis had to go but she didn’t judge me and…
Yeah, it hurt and I still hated myself a little for it. No matter what you tell yourself it’s stupid…but logically, it wasn’t…maybe? Looking at the evidence, which I was supposed to, suggested this. I gave birth to a child who I cared hell of a lot about and then had to give him up. Perhaps this time I had the right to cry.