And there was a new voice
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
-Mary Oliver, from the poem The Journey
It happened the other day on the phone with Kaiser. We had scheduled some sort of psych evaluation after I had requested therapy – EMDR to be exact.
When we got on the phone, I explained that I had a sort of backlog of trauma that I wanted to address – from childhood sexual abuse, to my son’s seizure disorder, to an incident that happened only a few months ago – a date gone awry, a scary man, fleeing his home in the middle of the night.
“I’m a mom,” I explained. “The show must go on. I haven’t had the time or resources to process this and I know EMDR does wonders. I would love to find someone who does that.”
She asked me the standard questions – Are you thinking of harming yourself or anyone else? Are you eating? Are you sleeping? That sort of thing. After the interview she said, “Well, I’ve determined that you don’t need therapy, but you could come to our resource center and take one of our classes. How’s that sound?”
I was aghast. My jaw might have dropped. And then my voice (the most fierce and self-loving voice I hardly recognized) came through. “Honestly?” I began. “This feels unacceptable. I just told you about a history of abuse and trauma and that just weeks ago I fled from a sexual assault and you don’t think I qualify to have therapy? I’ve been with Kaiser for 7 years. I’ve gone through having small children, a panic disorder and a divorce. Up until now I’ve never called you to book therapy. And today, when I finally ask for help, you tell me that I don’t qualify? That it’s not bad enough?”
By this time, I’m crying on the phone. “I’m a very contained person. I know how to talk about this stuff and sound like I’m okay. But let me just tell you, I’m NOT okay.”
She thanked me.
She told me she was glad I spoke up.
And then she booked me an appointment with someone who does EMDR.
I’m sharing this for a few reasons: One, because this is a victory around voice for me personally. This is the culmination of a lifetime of work around loving myself. This is a symptom of progress! This is also about claiming my power. I haven’t known how to advocate for myself. This was a first.
Perhaps more importantly, this is reflective of a culture that tells women, “It’s not that bad. Why are you being a drama queen? You’re just trying to get attention. At least he didn’t…”
These messages are designed to keep us quiet.
It was a small thing really – advocating for my right to get support, to know that I’m suffering and to get help. But it’s also HUGE. I couldn’t do this as a child. It wasn’t safe. I didn’t know how to speak my truth. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. So I turned all that grief inward. And it became depression, anxiety and despair.
I’m still afraid people won’t believe me. I’m afraid, even as I write this, that you will roll your eyes in a gesture of “well isn’t she dramatic…”
But this is what we have been trained to do. To do to each other… and ultimately to ourselves.
I’m sharing this because our stories matter. And somehow, me finding my voice has everything to do with you finding yours too.
When I was at Spirit Rock meditation center recently, the woman giving the talk had us come up with intentions – things we wanted to focus on and cultivate in ourselves. “What about power?” she began. “I often ask my clients this and they say, no, no power isn’t important to me. But that’s because we think of power as power over others… but that’s not real power. That’s fear. We need good people with power more than ever now. Power and goodness.”
Power has become one of my daily words of intention now. And it’s the fierce, loving kind of power:
The kind of power that protects.
The kind of power that tells the truth.
The kind of power that is clear and strong and brave.
Sometimes power is ruffling feathers – it’s choosing being self-loving and protecting over needing to be perceived as nice.
Goodness and power. Side by side.