When do we start to be afraid of being an outcast? At what point in our development do we start putting on armor to protect us from being wounded and keep our faces from being seen?
“Do you think this fear is preverbal?”
“I don’t know. I have been like this as long as I can remember.”
My therapist helps me see when some unfulfilled version of me is in the driver’s seat. She’ll say, “Let’s thank this version of you for wanting to keep you out of harm; but you need to gain control of the vehicle again”.
Last night, while in the comfort of an office I have grown to love, I found myself simultaneously in a room full of people that were laughing at me. I was on my therapist’s couch but I was also frantically trying to find out what everyone was laughing at. I was begging familiar faces of people that I love and trust to explain what I had done wrong. But no one would. And that’s when my brain built a suit of armor.
I slipped into the armor and waited while everyone got distracted by other things and stopped looking at me. Eventually everyone started mingling at a party that I was in the room for, but not really. I waged war against the urge to smash trays of food with my fist or drop my shield and let it crash loudly onto the floor. I wanted to be seen, but not really.
The man I love, who has always seen me when no one else could, opened the slit of my armor and looked me in the eye. And I started to take off the armor. But when it was off, I kept glancing at the corner of the room, making sure that my suit was still there. I believed in the suit more than the people. It fit me just right and they didn’t.
“I think this is current” I said to my therapist, interrupting the stillness of a room that was silent other than the low buzz of the tappers in each hand. She understood and let me be with that thought.
No matter how hard I wanted to believe it, no reassurance of acceptance was strong enough to compensate for my desire to be close to my armor. I couldn’t muster up anything strong enough to make me leave that room. And I still can’t. I have been blaming other people, hiding behind anger that I tried to make righteous, and tending to wounds from inside a suit so that no one could see my pain. That girl, who hid when she was embarrassed, needs to feel loved and accepted for who she really is – emotions, weaknesses, and all.
“And, Mattie, the person she needs to feel loved and accepted by the most is you.”