Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

My therapist went over the basics of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with me today. She says it entails talking about incidents that cause symptoms. Like discussing the trauma behind my PTSD.

Well, that is not the sort of therapy I want. She damn well knows it.

I don’t want to talk about what happened to me. I rarely do so. I could use the word “never” and be accurate for ninety percent of my history. She mentions that she doesn’t expect me to start from the beginning and tell her everything, but she says that I throw out bits that shock her. Things that I am nonchalant about, like living on the streets as a child, and she has no idea where it comes from. I tell her I can tell her anything about being a kid, anything, it’s wide open, just not about being battered. She told me my walls are up too high. What walls? Sarcasm, sorry. Truthfully I crack jokes all the way through my sessions, she can’t treat me for laughing.

So I gave her one today. One incident that bothers me so much that I cannot forgive it. But it was nothing done to me, it was when I tried to grab my son to keep him from pushing his sister over and instead knocked him down. He was three. I can still see him crying after, in my mind. Middle Child has the worst PTSD of us all and he was barely three when his mother made him fall down. What if the reason he has PTSD is not because of his father’s actions, but because of his mother’s? Because of his mother’s PTSD, or because of this incident? What if I broke my son? What if the years of his mother being hypervigilant, afraid of punishment for laughter or noise or mischief or mess is what has really damaged him? What if it is me, short tempered and shushing and terrified in those first few years, who has broken him? What if it is the fear he drank with my milk, my fear, that poisoned his development?

The therapist asked me how I could think that, when it was the father who was abusive. She used words like accident and dismissed the incident. I told her most fathers are abusive, right? It is what is expected of fathers, that they should hurt their families or their wives. But to be hurt by your mother, that must hurt more than anything. That would be scarring. Fathers who beat and scream at their loved ones are everywhere, as common as pennies. But mothers who hurt their children are rare. She asks me how I know. I tell her to pull up any public conviction record in any community involving violence. I am more than right. It worsens statistically when you look at sexual abuse. Where I used to live there were 246 offenders, and only one was female.

The therapist and I do not agree. She thinks it is a common and forgivable incident, an accident, and I see it as a crime. I chose to try to grab him and I instead knocked him over. I could have let him go and tried to distract him with a noise. I could have done something else instead of reaching for him when I wasn’t sure I could catch him. He never thought his mother would hurt him.

The teacher said he is always happy in class. I try to remember that when I blame myself. I try to remember that he used to have four hour tantrums and now he has at most ten minutes. I remember that he tells me that he loves me, that he is learning what he needs to learn about his emotions lately.

I don’t want to talk about these things. It does not seem to get easier. I don’t want to be vulnerable. I don’t want to remember on purpose when accidentally remembering is so painful, and I don’t want my children to remember, either.

Maybe I might need ACT, but I cannot find any studies on ACT being done with children, never mind young children. I might have to rethink this and perhaps the kids can keep their therapist if we stick with CBT. For that matter, maybe I don’t need ACT. I work and I keep the kids clean and fed and the laundry never overflows the basket. I function. So many with PTSD do not function. I am fine, right?

She said the clinic is undergoing training on CBT for trauma in children right now. She said it requires that they remember. I can’t win for losing.


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