This past weekend I had the opportunity to play women’s hockey, I am a goaltender and have been playing since my early teens but this was my first major experience since my mental breakdown in January. I realized that prior to my mental breakdown goaltending was the most relaxing activity in my adult life. For most people goaltending is stressful, but for me it was a break. I didn’t know it at the time but all of the planning, scheming and keeping track of lies in my head was just exhausting. Everything in my life is easier now. But during that time goaltending was the only time I was truly in the moment, when I was truly present, when I was just reacting to what was going on. I had lived with so much anxiety that when I was actually in a high anxiety situation it came as a welcome relief. I was in a situation where I could just react. No planning, no thinking, no lying.
My sister once told me I look like a different person when I play hockey, and she was right. I am someone who is actually here with you in the moment. In therapy I have learned a lot about listening skills and how difficult it can be to actually listen. At hockey, I actually listen, I am patient, I wait for things to unfold and I react to the moment in the moment. This made me realize that I’ve never actually heard the words coming out of people’s mouths. I was always anxiously waiting for my turn to talk. I was always trying to guess what the “right” thing to say would be, what the best response would be.
When I would visit my sisters and they said “I love you” I heard “I love you because you visit me” so I would create a story in my head where love was conditional on visits, I would try to visit as much as I could but then either resent the time or the cost and end up being angry. I did that all on my own, an expectation of my own creation that drove distance between my siblings all because I could not pay attention to that moment.
When my parents would say, “We want you to be happy” I heard “We want you to be happy the same way we are happy” which meant a heterosexual relationship. They were talking about my own wellbeing and I heard rejection. The rejection wasn’t there, it wasn’t real but I made it real. The anxious nervous anger inside of meant I always heard how I wasn’t enough. My parents accept me the way I am.
When my friends told me they cared about me I would hear “We like you for your success” which meant if I wasn’t the best, wasn’t the most talented, if I didn’t have the best pictures, the nicest things that I would be rejected. Again, a fabrication, a fairy tale I told myself.
All of that planning, my ability to listen but not hear allowed me to insert narrative where there was none. Allowed me to create stories in my own head and verbalize those into the lies that I would tell. Looking back I am wondering what else I missed. It’s frustrating to think in all those conversations I never picked up on the feeling, the nuance, and the vulnerability people would show. I missed the essence of people being open.
I also can’t believe its taken me this long to talk about Star Trek in my Blog, but in the episode “Measure of a Man” Data the android (an artificially intelligent robot) is at the risk of losing his memory and then having it re-uploaded as just the information. Data talks about the affable quality of memory. It is the essence of memory, the feeling of it, the indescribable connection that is made when you share life experience with someone. My lies lack that affable quality, I remember facts, flow charts in my brain, no love, no feeling everything was discernible and describable.
Then it happened, in my psychologist office after months of lies and sessions of telling her every deceitful, abusive, monstrous act I have committed she said “Sithara I need you to listen, I want you to stop thinking and I want you to listen, you think you are a bad person, you think you can’t forgive yourself, you aren’t a bad person, and you need to forgive yourself so you can move forward” and upon hearing that, really hearing, the feelings and the tears started to flow.