Abused By Her Therapist & Learning To Speak Up – Christina L

Abused By Her Therapist & Learning To Speak Up – Christina L

Christina L (a pseudonym) shares about learning to stand up for herself after an abusive rehab therapist preyed on her as she was getting sober and the confusion of not knowing what he was doing was wrong.  She shares about her dysfunctional family, being bullied by boys in middle school, binge eating, and always being the “good child” by never making waves (unlike her sister who got most of the attention through speaking up or getting in trouble) but also never learning how to talk to her parents about her struggles for fear of bringing more chaos into an already unstable home.  She also talks about the difficulties in getting mental health treatment in her country, England.

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To try a week for free go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire.  Must be 18.

This episode is sponsored by Casper Mattresses.   Help the podcast by checking out their highly rated products and to let them know you found out about them from the show go to www.Casper.com/mental and use the code MENTAL at checkout.

This episode is sponsored by Audible’s Where Should We Begin?  Go to www.Audible.com/Esther

If you’d like to help out the podcast go to www.mentalpod.com/donate  Every little bit helps, whether it’s money or frequent flyer miles.  Also when you shop through our Amazon page they donate money to our podcast but your product isn’t any more expensive.

You can also help by going to Itunes and giving us a good rating.  It helps bring more people to the show.  Also spreading the word through social media helps!  Here is our Facebook page and our Twitter Page @mentalpod

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Episode notes:

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To try a week for free go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire.  Must be 18.

This episode is sponsored by Casper Mattresses.   Help the podcast by checking out their highly rated products and to let them know you found out about them from the show go to www.Casper.com/mental and use the code MENTAL at checkout.

This episode is sponsored by Audible's Where Should We Begin?  Go to www.Audible.com/Esther

If you'd like to help out the podcast go to www.mentalpod.com/donate  Every little bit helps, whether it's money or frequent flyer miles.  Also when you shop through our Amazon page they donate money to our podcast but your product isn't any more expensive.

You can also help by going to Itunes and giving us a good rating.  It helps bring more people to the show.  Also spreading the word through social media helps!  Here is our Facebook page and our Twitter Page @mentalpod

Episode Transcript:

Transcription services donated by Accurate Secretarial LLC. You can find them at www.AccurateSecretarial.com.

 

Welcome to Episode 334 with my guest Christina L. We recorded this one in the UK and we are going to talk about her experience with an emotionally and physically inappropriate therapist that she had, in addition to other parts of her childhood.

My name is Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, a podcast for, [sighs]. I am not in a good place. My depression came in about a day and a half ago, and I just feel like I'm in a fog and the joy has been sucked out of everything, and I've just been sleeping a lot and I know, for those of you that are regular listeners to this show, that you know it's important for those of us when we're struggling to be honest about what's going on. So, I'm not going to plaster a fake smile on my face. I'm going to keep the surveys on the shorter side today. It's, it sucks. It sucks.

I, well, before that, let me share a moment that I witnessed yesterday that was so small but just made me laugh out loud. I was walking down the street and there was a guy parked in a car and, I don't know if it was his wife or girlfriend, was sitting in the passenger seat, and she was getting in his face about something, I don't know, but she was very animated, very upset, and he hand both h-, they were parked, and he had both hands on the steering wheel and he might as well have been a mummy.

He was expressionless, and he had the deadest, most faraway look in his eyes [chuckles], and it just made me laugh out loud. Maybe [chuckles], maybe because for a second I felt better about how I was feeling in the moment, which is terrible, but I'm sure a lot of you relate.

I [chuckles], I want to share, I think this might be a fun thing to begin sharing on the podcast, is great potential names for bands, and I want to run this one by you, Death, Destruction and Daffodils. I would go see them. I would go see them.

So, I've been trying to figure out what, have I changed something in my daily routine that has brought in this depression, because it rolled in about a day and a half ago. And when my depression had lifted about a year and a half, two years ago, with the addition of Adderall, I wasn't having to climb back into bed after being up for, you know, only four hours, and, because the world just felt like too much and I just felt exhausted, but the last two days I've had to do that, and today I even did it twice, I crawled back into bed twice.

So, I'm trying to do what I've learned in therapy and in support groups, which is to self-reflect on what's going on in my life, might there be any feelings that I'm running from, and so I wrote down a list of potential things that could be bothering me. And who knows, maybe it's all of them. But the fact that our country is so fucking divided and there is just a surreal quality to what is happening politically.

It could be that I've been watching this documentary, The Keepers, on Netflix, which is so well done but so fucking dark. Could be that I've been eating Ben & Jerry's right before I go to bed at night. It could be that I'm in the legal process of going through a divorce. It could be that my dog died on May 15th. Could be that living alone is now feeling different to me and now I'm getting lonelier. Could be that I'm, I have this fear, now that I live alone, that if I get sick nobody will be there for me and I won't have money, and I'll die broke and alone and in pain.

And then the last one, when I wrote it down, I went, you know, all of those other things together are probably enough, but this one happened, now that I think of it, kind of right around the same time. I saw a phone number that I didn't recognize, and it was from Chicago and I almost picked it up but I didn't. I thought, I'm going to screen it because I don't know who it is. And it was a voicemail message from my mom.

And she didn't say anything negative. She, I don't even want to share what it was, because I actually turned it off after a couple of seconds because I don't want to get drawn back into a relationship that is not healthy for me. Some people may be able to handle stuff like that, but I can't, and it's just not healthy for me.

And I felt fine for like five hours, and I even shared at my support group that I didn't feel anything. And I wonder if that was just my brain and my body giving me a blast of numb to absorb the feelings when I heard her voice again, and now that the numb is wearing off, I'm feeling the sadness and the depression. I don't know.

But this is what I've, it feels very self-indulgent to be talking about this, but that's probably the mean part of my head that thinks that I don't have any value and what I have to share can't help anybody, and the intellectual part of my brain knows that that's a lie, that it's important for all of us to talk about this stuff, but the last eight hours, I've just felt so tired and sad in a way that, I don't know how to put it into words. I think what makes it even more depressing to me is I thought I was never going to experience this again. That's it more than anything.

And I think this is where I am lucky in that I have a network of support around me that I can be honest with people about what's going on, and because I've experienced this before, I remind myself, you've gotten through it every other time before, so why would this time be any different. But when you're in it, it's so, so, so scary.

I want to read an e-mail that I got from somebody who wants to be referred to as Grease Monkey, and he writes, first of all, love the podcast, been an avid listener for years. I e-mailed you before, thanking you for this or that and I'm here to do it again. I just tried one of your sponsors, BetterHelp. I just had my second video chat with my lovely therapist and already we've managed to get a huge eureka moment. I've learned so much from the podcast and I'm really digging the BetterHelp site. It's awesome. Thanks for helping me not feel so alone. Oh, and P.S., go fuck yourself.

So, I wanted to read that because I agree. I like BetterHelp. My therapist is through BetterHelp, and I've been very, very happy with the work that we've done together. And if you are interested in trying out BetterHelp, go to BetterHelp.com/mental. It's important to include the slash mental because then they'll know you're a listener, and you'll get a free trial, free week of counseling. I’m sorry, my brain is foggy.

So, you'll complete a questionnaire. You'll get matched with a BetterHelp.com counselor, and you'll experience a free week of counseling to see if online counseling is right for you, and you have to be over 18.

All right, we're going to get to the interview with Christina, and I just want to read one thing. This is from the What Has Helped You Survey, and it really touched me, and this was filled out by Grayson, who is agender, and what have people said or done that has helped you with your issues?

And they wrote, my best friend told me, you are contributing to what the medical field knows about your diseases. It might not be in your lifetime, but eventually someone will find a cure and you will have been an important part of that journey there.

 

[Show intro]

 

PAUL: I am here in the UK with Christina L., and that's a pseudonym we're using for her so she can feel free to share. And you're a little bit nervous?

 

CHRISTINA: I am, yeah.

 

PAUL: Yeah. There's no need to be.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Everybody gets that way, though, I think, when they're about to tell their story. You're a listener to the podcast.

 

CHRISTINA: Mm-hmm.

 

PAUL: Well, that'd have been awkward, she's a listener, not to this podcast, but she's--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: --she's a listener.

 

CHRISTINA: I'm a listener to podcasts except this one, yeah.

 

PAUL: The reason I want to record you is you had an abusive relationship with a therapist that you didn't recognize right away.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, at the time.

 

PAUL: Give me some broad strokes of what childhood was like, what led you to therapy and the arc of therapy so that we get kind of some background before we get into--

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, absolutely. So, I am one of four children. I'm the youngest, and I've got two sisters and a brother. And the ques-, you know, that question that comes up in the survey about stable and safe environment, it's quite a tough one for me to answer because, on the surface, I would say I had a roof over my head. I come from quite a well-off family. My parents were together through most of my childhood. And, you know, on the surface I would say, yeah, it looks very stable.

But my experience of that was anything kind of but, especially when I got to maybe the age of 10 or 11. A couple of my siblings had their own problems going on. One in particular was suffering with mental health problems, and she would drink, and she's only two and a half years older than me, just to give you an idea of, you know, what was going on.

And, yeah, I remember sort of watching, you know, what was going on with her, that she was, I don't want to put too many labels on it because I feel like she was a kid herself and I'm not trying to point blame, but she was the troublemaker of the family and often sort of got all the attention for that reason. And I think what I did was kind of decided that I wasn't going to be a pain, and I think I was so worried about changing--

 

PAUL: That was not me farting--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: That was me adjusting the chair.

 

CHRISTINA: Lies.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: I think I was [chuckles], sorry, I was so worried about splitting my family up and thinking that I was going to be the one responsible if I was to cause a fuss, because--

 

PAUL: Like they were already at their breaking point.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. So, without going too deep into it, you know, that sister had her stuff going on. My brother came out when I was about that age and there was a big to-do--

 

PAUL: Came out as gay.

 

CHRISTINA: Yes, yeah. And I didn't even really know what that was. The reason I was told was because he did a photo shoot for a, I think it was like the Gay Times or something, and they used his picture on the front page and one of my sister's school, I won't call them friends, but someone from school pointed out his picture and just was like, that's your brother. And so then I had to be told, obviously.

And for me, I didn't really know what it was, it didn't affect me, but it, you know, we're talking, how many years ago, you know, 10, 15 years ago. It was still quite, you know, a big deal, and so there was that going on. And another one of my siblings, my oldest sister, had some stuff going on as well around an abusive boyfriend, so there was lots of bits and bobs going on at that time.

And when I was 13--

 

PAUL: Hold that thought. Was there, how did your parents deal with emotions? Not only theirs but the kids'.

 

CHRISTINA: So, my mum is very emotional, wears her heart on her sleeve, very empathic, very caring, and my dad's quite cold, but not in a way like he doesn't care. It's like he doesn't know how to get to that place of--

 

PAUL: Kind of shutdown and passive.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think the way that they were reacting at the time, I just never saw any of it. It was all hidden from me. And any crisis that happened, because I was the youngest, I was kind of, I was sheltered from the reality because they didn't want it to affect me, which, in turn, affected me because I knew something was going on, just not what.

 

PAUL: Kids pick up on that. Kids pick up on tension.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, definitely, definitely. And I suppose what I would say my parents were doing, I don't really remember my dad doing anything, you know. He would always be to the side and not really trying to intervene if there was a commotion or a problem.

It was my mum that was the one that was trying to sort it out, trying to make sure everyone was okay, but even then, I think it, I'd almost say it was like she was fighting fires all the time, trying to deal with this one, what's going on with that one, you know. That's kind of the best way I can put it, is that she was trying to help everyone but not really able to be there, be present, for me anyway. I can't speak for my siblings, but . . .

 

PAUL: You're talking about your mom wearing her heart on her sleeve or her emotions on her sleeve. Did that include, was there a feeling in you that Mom is fragile, or among also the other kids, that we kind of emotionally have to take care of Mom?

 

CHRISTINA: I always did. When I was, so I was about 11. There was one particular night where my sister was drunk. This is the one that's a couple years older than me. And she was so upset and my mum was so upset and they'd had a big row, and I remember sitting on the stairs and just saying to myself, I'm never going to cause that much trouble, I'm never going to do that to my mum and dad.

And for me now, looking back as an adult, I can go, well, that wasn't right, you know, that's not, that's adult, you know, adult thinking for a child, but at the time I thought that, if I were to cause trouble, the family would crumble, meaning really that the most, you know, the strongest person, being my mum, might crumble, because I'd see her get really upset and fight back if my sister was attacking her or whatever was going on, but always feeling like, is she going to leave?

Is she going to, you know, because it was, I was aware at that time that my dad wasn't going to be the one to stand up and go, stop doing that, you know, this ends now, or protect us really in any way. He was so sort of disconnected from the family, which you'll understand why in a minute [chuckles]. But yeah, it was, I definitely felt protective of my mum from a young age, very protective.

And when I was 13, that was the first time I found out my dad was cheating on my mum, and I found out because one of my sisters was having a big argument with them, saying, I'm not staying here if he's staying here, and obviously eventually you start to put two and two together, and I realized that he'd obviously cheated on my mum and that my sister was livid. Turns out she found out and told my mum that he was cheating on her. And I remember just being devastated and, you know, it was like my worst nightmare, that my family is going to break up and--

 

PAUL: How did your mom handle it?

 

CHRISTINA: At that time, during that argument that I witnessed, she was just saying, no, we decided we're staying together, and basically it's between us, this is for us to sort out, it's none of your business, which she's got a point, but at the same time, there was no kind of understanding of how my sister felt or almost, you know, because as much as that was her husband, we were her kids, and I don't know. It seems, looking back on it now, it seems like quite a sort of kind of like this is what's happening, we're moving on.

So, they stayed together, and so these, I'm sort of giving you milestones, you know, bits and bobs that have happened--

 

PAUL: Yeah, yeah.

 

CHRISTINA: --you know, that I would say took me to the place of going, I need some therapy, I need some help. So, yeah, they stayed together. And when I was 14, I suddenly, literally out of nowhere, started getting bullied from, you know, people at school, and it was this group of popular boys.

And I'd not done anything that I could think of. I still sometimes wrack my brains now, I'm like, what did I do? You know, of course, it's my problem.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: You know, it's got to be my fault, right? And--

 

PAUL: I'm going to log on to Facebook and find out.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Ask them for me, see what they say. And so, that started with name-calling, which is about my weight. I've always had a weight problem. I've always had an unhealthy relationship with food. I would say I have a binge-eating disorder. I've got a diagnosis of that, which is, you know, kind of an aside, but it was one of those things that I was dealing with anyway, and--

 

PAUL: That's how you were coping.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah [chuckles], pretty much. And all of my family members have an issue with food, whether it's undereating, overeating, controlling. I don't have anyone in my family who goes, oh, I've eaten quite enough now, I'm done, and just pushes their plate away. None of us, we're not that, you know, we're not that type of family.

 

PAUL: Was that modeled by your mom?

 

CHRISTINA: Both my mum and dad. My dad's mum and dad both had eating disorder, you know, or eating-disorder behaviors, and it's not for me to diagnose and, you know, I know my grandmother was bulimic and my grandfather, from what I'm told, would chew and spit, which is, again, more eating disorder-type behavior. I know my mum's side, my mum was adopted so I don't know too much about her biological parents.

But my mum was brought up in quite a, almost Victorian way. Her parents were older and she was, you know, brought up to be quite sort of prim and proper, quite well spoken.

 

PAUL: Did she wear a nice hoop skirt?

 

CHRISTINA: [Chuckles] Oh, yeah, of course. That's part of the deal.

 

PAUL: A nice bodice?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: So, where was I? Bullying. So--

 

PAUL: Your mom was very Victorian.

 

CHRISTINA: My mum, I was bullied, my mum was Victorian, my dad had crazy parents, and yeah, so it started off with name-calling at school and they would follow me around and call me names, you know, fat this, that, whatever.

And then, for some reason, they started showing up at my house, and on Halloween they larded my letter box, and it was just awful--

 

PAUL: What does that mean?

 

CHRISTINA: So, like a lump of lard, and they just smeared it all over our letter box and, like the post box. And I didn't know until I was at school and was told by one of my friends, and I just remember feeling like I just wanted to die, I just wanted the ground to swallow me up and just be concreted over, like I'd just never existed. It was kind of the beginning of, then they would turn up, so my parents' house, like I said, I grew up with, you know, wealthy parents, and so we had a house, we had a driveway and then we had gates.

And so what they would do is they'd come and ring on the gate bell incessantly and just do it over and over and over again, and I just couldn't, I was not that kid who would go, this is what's happening to me, you know, this person is bullying me. I never had the courage to say anything. And yeah, it was almost like, my parents must have known that something was going on because they'd hear the gate bell going, but I would just try and fob them off, oh, they're my friends, or all the other stupid excuses that, you know, you try and come up with to take the heat off, just don't ask me about it.

And on top of that, then, they started spreading rumors about me at school, I'd slept with some person or I'd done this or God knows. I don't think I even really listened to half of it. I'd just go, you know--

 

PAUL: God, what a nightmare.

 

CHRISTINA: Well, this is where--

 

PAUL: What a nightmare.

 

CHRISTINA: --this is where the dissociation kind of bit really kicked off for me, shall I say, where I suppose I naturally, you know, it was never a decision for me to go, I'm just not going to feel my feelings anymore, I'm going to numb out. It was just more, how do I survive what's happening.

And I remember being in classes and I can hear them behind me, saying things about me, and suddenly being able to just detach from myself, and it's so hard to explain to someone what that experience is like. The best way I could say is it's like unplugging, and I was able to kind of, you know, be in the room. I can hear everything really clearly. I can see what's going on, but I felt completely bodily numb. And emotionally as well.

Like, there was no, if someone asked me, what are you feeling, I'd say nothing. And even now, when it happens now, and someone says, well, what are you, nothing, I'm not feeling anything. And so, that was kind of my coping mechanism at the time, which was, you know, overeating, numbing out--

 

PAUL: And really both forms of numbing.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah [chuckles], absolutely, definitely. And then came this kind of, I have a love-hate relationship with sleep because what happened then is I would come home from school, I would binge, and then I'd get into bed and sleep for about four hours, because it was just the, you know, the best way I could escape what was going on around me.

 

PAUL: Nobody understands you like your pillow.

 

CHRISTINA: Oh, that's like my best friend. We're like that, we're just--

 

PAUL: I write love letters to my pillow.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: And it's all about the, for me there's this feeling of indulgence as well, of getting home when it's daylight and getting into bed and just, [sigh of relief], like you can just shut the world out. And--

 

PAUL: It was like your primitive form of self-care.
CHRISTINA: Yeah. It was all I had.

 

PAUL: Soothing, yeah.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. It never occurred to me to say, Mum, Dad, this is happening to me, you know. Anyone, even my friends, my friends were in another half of the year to me, my school year, so they didn't see any of what was going on, you know, and I kept everything from them. I just wanted to kind of isolate myself and I was so embarrassed and so full of shame that I was allowing anyone, you know, to do this to me, and yet thinking I deserved it for some reason. I must, I must have done something.

And after a year and a half, that stopped. Unfortunately, the damage was kind of done and I'd stopped going to school at this point. And I maybe would go to school two or three days a week, if I could kind of be bothered. My mum couldn't get me out of bed. I'd just lock myself in my room.

I look back now and I feel quite sorry for her, that she was struggling to try and get me to go to school, and she didn't know why I wasn't. I wouldn't tell her anything. I'd just clam up more. And so essentially I fell through the cracks. You know, this wouldn't happen at, you know, schools now. You miss a lesson and teacher are all, you know, chase you up and they have something called truancy officers here, where they'll find out and talk to your parents and get authorities involved if you miss too much school.

So, yeah, I came away from secondary school, high school, I guess, with nothing. You know, I tried to do my exams, and I had not been there, so I had nothing really to contribute, I guess. I didn't really have a chance. And from then on, really, you know, there's lots of other bits and bobs that happened, but when I was, so in the midst, I've missed this out.

In the midst of all the bullying, I was at home one day and I was using our family computer, and you know when you, like you've got the search bar and you start typing in www--

 

PAUL: I know where this is going.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: What kind was it, and whose was it? I'm going to guess your dad.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And I'm going to guess, I don't know, I can't.

 

CHRISTINA: It was, I won't name the Web site because they don't deserve any sort of publicity, but let's just say it was one for people looking for extramarital affairs, so it couldn't be more obvious what he was up to.

 

PAUL: And this was after the revelation.

 

CHRISTINA: This was after the initial revelation when I was 13. So, this was when I was, a year later, when I was 14. And I remember just being like, oh, my God, and there's this kind of vortex where you go, I don't want to look, I don't want to look, oh, my God, I can't help it, and I'm just being sucked into it. I can't help but not look. It's like a car accident, you know, you sort of, I can't, you know, I can't stop it now.

And I remember seeing his profile. I don't really remember now. Thankfully it's kind of one of those things that I've blocked out, but I remember looking at, you know, that stuff and just thinking, what is going on? I knew what it meant, and then finding escort Web sites and just thinking, oh, my God. I now have this secret, another secret, you know, family secret to just carry around with me.

And this was probably the most detached I ever became from my, you know, became, you know what I mean, the most detached I'd ever been, where I remember almost looking down at myself walking back down the hallway, walking into my room and just feeling like I was on fire, you know, with feelings and just thinking, I have to just make sure no one else knows, I have to just keep this to myself. The idea of anyone knowing will destroy my family. I will be responsible.

 

PAUL: God, the avalanche of shit on top of you--

 

CHRISTINA: Hm, it was a lot.

 

PAUL: --is staggering.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. And I probably shouldn't be smiling about it. I'm not like, it's something I still do, to go, yeah, it was really shit and I, you know, a beaming smile about it because I'm still not fully in contact with all those feelings, you know, because they're so intense when I do.

 

PAUL: I find it's much more appropriate to cry about missing a green light. That's the place for it to come out.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. I mean, I'm the sort of person now, the things that make me cry, arguments with my partner, but frustration. When I'm really, I can get so frustrated that it causes me physical pain in my neck, and then I'll just cry and, because I'm not someone who throws things around in the house, but I get that kind of, I just want to scream, and instead I cry.

And also, when I'm really angry I cry, you know when you're so raging, and then I just instant, I'm like, I'm really angry but I'm crying, I want to kill you, you know, that's the kind of person I am [chuckles]. And all the women in my family have been blessed with that, so when we get angry we cry, so lovely.

But, so when there's an argument between me [chuckles] and one of my siblings, we're like, oh, I hate you [crying].

 

PAUL: And that always works out well at work as well.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: See, this is the upside for me. At work, I think I came in with this, and I've only recently started working. I came in with this kind of attitude, and where I’m also in recovery, which I'll touch on later, I think I came in with a bit of a mask on. They don't know I'm in recovery. They don't know anything about my history. As far as they're aware, I'm just another whatever to them. So, I'm able to just kind of not, do you know what I mean?

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHRISTINA: I can kind of be that version of myself, and there's a few people that know a bit more about me, but I keep it quite at arm's length. You know, I'm like, you know, it's safer for me to be that way, especially given what I do.

I work in a convenience store and I'm just dealing with the public all day, and I am so sensitive, so it takes one person being a bit rude to me and I'm like shriveling up inside, so I have to just keep that kind of stiff upper lip and, you know, mutter that they're a cunt under my breath when they've walked away, but the usual kind of stuff.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Do you say that that was a cunt or that was a right cunt?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Total cunt.

 

PAUL: Isn't that a phrase or--

 

CHRISTINA: A right cunt?

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, the way it's just, yeah, it rolled off the tongue--

 

PAUL: Oh, he's a right cunt.

 

CHRISTINA: He's a right cunt. Yeah, shit cunt--

 

[Simultaneous discussion]

 

PAUL: --that [inaudible], in't it, in't it?

 

CHRISTINA: In't, oh, I don't say in't. Oh, no, darling, I'm not that kind of person.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: No, it's more, for me, shit cunt is the latest, you know, because it's like a double whammy of how gross you are, you're a shit cunt, so.

 

PAUL: That feels good coming off the lips, you know, because it's just, it's like every aggressive formation of your mouth--

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, oh, yeah.

 

PAUL: I like fuck stick a lot, because that one just feels, you know, good--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, fuck stick, yeah. I'll give you that one. And the best one for me when I'm really angry is prick, because you can really like belt it.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHRISTINA: Prick, that's that, you know, my poor partner gets called that a lot, usually when I'm mucking around, but just because it feels good to say.

But anyway, I digress [chuckles]. Where were we at?

 

PAUL: So how you would deal, so you saw the stuff on your dad's computer, added to another thing of shutting down.

 

CHRISTINA: Yep. So, I made a decision there and then that I wasn't going to tell anyone because I'm not going to be responsible for the breakdown of the family. I'd, you know, I would question whether my mum would like survive or whatever it was that was going through my head, and I told a couple of friends--

 

[Sirens in background]

 

PAUL: Here they come now.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Oh, shit.

 

PAUL: I don't know--

 

CHRISTINA: Found me out.

 

PAUL: --if listeners can hear the siren.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: The men in white coats are finally coming to take me away.

So, I knew, as far as I was aware, I was the only one who knew what my dad was getting up to. And [chuckles] this is like Jerry Springer, by the way. It just gets worse, so prepare yourself--

 

PAUL: I didn't know you had him over here.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Oh, yeah. And I went to see Jerry Springer at the [inaudible], it was awesome. And when I was 17, there's lots of bits are missing out because I could just, I'd be here all day with you otherwise, but it came out that he was cheating on my mum again, but in such spectacular fashion, that he was supposed to be away on a business trip and he said he'd gone to Korea and that he got held up by Customs on the way home.

He'd given my mum an itinerary, all very legit-sounding stuff, and then he didn't come home. And then my mum rang Customs and they said, we basically don't know what you're talking about, who you're talking about, we've got no one of that name here. And it turned out he'd actually been away with his mistress to somewhere like Thailand, somewhere completely different, gallivanting with her, doing whatever, and he eventually came home. And she stayed with him again and tried to work it out.

And a few months later, you see, this is where my memory isn't, I'm not one of those people that has the sort of chronological order of everything goes this happened on this date. It doesn't come up for me like that.

 

PAUL: Which for people that dissociate, I mean, how could you?

 

CHRISTINA: I don't, yeah. I just remember events, you know, very clearly. And then one day [chuckles], I'm not laughing because it's funny. It's just absurd. One day, my friends had just gone home and my sister came running up the stairs and said, she's here. And I was like, who? And she said this woman's name.

And I knew who she was talking about because obviously, you know, we'd had a family meeting about it, and I just remember thinking, what is going on? What, you know, my dad was away. My mum was home. And I went, sort of going downstairs and was like, what is going on here, and this woman was like, he's been lying to both of us, he said he's not with you, and a load of rubbish, basically, to sort of make out to my mum that she was doing her a favor in saying he was cheating on them both somehow.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHRISTINA: So, my mum took my sister home, and I sat with this woman for about an hour, and she knew so much about my life. She knew where I'd been the week before. She knew, you know, what I was into. And it was really strange, because I was like, who are you? You know, who is this person?

 

PAUL: Like your dad takes no interest in you to you, but talks about you to her.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: Do you think that was to make himself look like a--

 

CHRISTINA: I have no idea. I just--

 

PAUL: --a good dad?

 

CHRISTINA: I have no-, do you know what? I've never thought about that. I've never really, I was too weirded out by the fact that she had any idea who I, even my name, how old I was, that I'd been to see this show, and I just, again, another one of those moments where I just detached enough, made her a cup of tea or coffee or whatever and just kind of kept her in the, you know, that was my, my mum just said, keep her here until I get back, and I was like, okay, I'll do as I'm told.

 

PAUL: The world must feel so unsafe to you sometimes.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: Like, what fucking jack-in-the-box is around this corner?

 

CHRISTINA: All the time, all the time.

 

PAUL: Do you find comfort in routine?

 

CHRISTINA: I find comfort in my bed, that's kind of [chuckles], and drugs initially, you know, that was, and food. That was all I had. And by this point, I wasn't really doing any of that yet. I was just trying to survive still, you know, bearing in mind, being 17 and only just finished school, so, you know, I might have just started smoking weed and that was kind of it, really.

And when my mum came back on this occasion, I just lost the plot. I was like, I can't, they started talking about how they were going to confront my dad, lure him back to the house and, you know, together say, what have you been doing, blah, blah, blah, and I just was like, I'm, fuck this, I'm leaving, I can't--

 

PAUL: Good for you.

 

CHRISTINA: Well, my dad had, at the time, a health concern with his heart, and in my mind I was like, you could give him a heart attack, you know, and as much as he's a cheating prick, it doesn't mean that you're going to then, you know, it didn't make sense to me. So I just panicked and was like, I’m going, I’m going to my friend's house.

And stayed there overnight, came back the next morning, and it was the beginning of, you know, the end of all of that, you know, of their marriage, really. But it was such a long, drawn-out process in itself, because my mum was just distraught. She was, you know, I would say she had a breakdown about it.

And I just remember thinking, I can't, I can't deal with this, I can't, and I'm being, this is uncomfortable to say, but being really resentful, being really annoyed that I had to deal with this, because by this time I'm sort of 17. The rest of my siblings, you know, one is six years older, one is four, one is two years older, so they're all kind of off doing their own thing now. Most of them have sort of moved out, and I'm stuck here with a grieving mother who wouldn't go to bed because she hated the idea of going into their bed, you know, and I just remember thinking, oh, God, I can't, I can't take any more of what's going on.

And that was when my drug usage sort of shot up, and by this time I'd kind of become nocturnal [chuckles], so I'd be up from, I don't know, 8:00 at night, I'd get up, and then I'd, you know, go with my friends, get high, do whatever, and then go to bed at like, I don't know, 7:00, 8:00 in the morning. And that was how I survived for a little while.

So, in terms of, you know, that's the very broad, as best as I can sort of put it in a nutshell, picture of how I grew up and what sort of went on for me. And yeah, when I was 16, so to talk a bit about therapy, which I just want to say, by the way, I am very, very, very pro-therapy. I think it saved my life. I think without it I would have killed myself. And I don't think I would have the life I have today without all of that work, you know. Some of it might have been detrimental, but it's part of the journey. So, I don't want to give the impression that I'm bashing the process--

 

PAUL: I'm glad you said that. I'm really glad you said that, because a lot of times I get, you know, because I want everybody to--

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --feel better, and I worry sometimes when there is something in a survey that I read where somebody has a horrible experience with therapy, and of course I immediately go to the place of wanting to save everybody--

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah [chuckles].

 

PAUL: --and think, oh, no, there's somebody out there now who isn't going to go to therapy. But I also want to give an accurate picture that there are bad therapists out there, but the majority of them are good.

 

CHRISTINA: Just like bad doctors, you know, there's, in every profession there's going to be bad eggs, or as I would sort of say, is sick people. You know, they're just people, therapists. This is where the gray area is with therapy, is that you're, you know, one person trying to help another person, and because it's not, you know, this sort of checklist and it's not like a computer, where it's either black or white. There's all this gray area in between.

So, I just wanted to sort of touch on that a bit, because I'm not demonizing any therapists, any that I've even had either. So, when I was 16 and still at school, I knew I needed help. I knew that something wasn't right. And I didn't want to ask my family to help.

So, there was a teacher at school who allowed me to use his phone, his office phone, to ring my general practitioner's office and see if I could get an appointment with a counselor. So, at 16 in this country you can essentially take yourself down to the doctor's and go on birth control or talk to a counselor, you know, and your parents don't have to know about it.

 

PAUL: Oh, man. Would that be great if we could do that in the States.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. So, well, [chuckles]--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: --[inaudible], so I took myself down to my doctor, who was very unsympathetic and kept asking me, where is your mother? And I remember, so to try and describe all my symptoms, you're going to laugh at this--

 

PAUL: Did you say, she's engaged in a fistfight with my dad's whore?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: That would have probably got me a bit more of like a, you know, serious response. What I did was went on, I just went on a Web site and did, you know when you do like a depression inventory and it gives you all the symptoms afterwards and you can go, this is what's going on for me--

 

PAUL: Right.

 

CHRISTINA: --because I was struggling to verbalize. That Web site happened to be a Prozac Web site, and so my doctor assumed that I was telling him I wanted to go on medication. And I was like, that's not what I'm saying to you.

I'm saying I'm struggling with these things, you know, remembering that a 16-year-old, this 16-year-old, I didn't have the vocabulary to really describe what was going on for me. And he basically was like, I didn't have time for this, I'm going to refer you to the counselor, which I was like, good, that's kind of what I want.

 

PAUL: I don't know, I think he would have made a terrific talk therapist.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: He's still my doctor now. How bad is that? He's, gosh, he's just awful. He's terrible. But it's hard to find a GP where I live.

And so I went to see this counselor, and I bunked off of school, I skipped school to go and see her so that no one knew, and I just remember just going, blugh, here is everything that is on my shoulders, and I just remember her sort of being like, sitting back in her chair, looking at me like, uh-huh, right, okay, here's some worksheets on anxiety, and that was what I was given. And I remember thinking, I bunked off school for this, like I could have got myself in trouble--

 

PAUL: So you didn't feel heard or empathized with.

 

CHRISTINA: It just felt like she just was like, I don't know what to do with you. And it was almost like, if I were to, I'd say it was very Rogerian therapy, or very humanistic, where she just reflected what I said to her and didn't, what I--

 

PAUL: What was the first word you used?

 

CHRISTINA: Rogerian. So, Carl Rogers, it's humanistic therapy, basically, where someone just reflects what you say to them and--

 

PAUL: I see, kind of mirrors you like your parents were supposed to?

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah [chuckles], in theory, and that you come to your own kind of conclusions, and it's client-led therapy, basically, which this girl did not want client-led therapy. I just needed someone to go, here's what you do, you know, this is wrong, this is inappropriate, basically more perhaps CBT or something a bit more directive, because I just needed help, or someone to even go, God, isn't that shit, isn't that shit what you're going through--

 

PAUL: That's really fucked up, yeah.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, absolutely. So, I, there, and again, being 16, I was like, fuck that, I'm not doing that again. When I was 17, that was when I saw the next therapist who I ended up seeing for seven years, at 68 pounds a go by the end. I don't know how much that is in U.S. dollars, but it's a lot for therapy in this country.

And those seven years of therapy with that particular counselor, when I look back--

 

PAUL: Now, so you pay in addition to, because your health care is free here.

 

CHRISTINA: No. This was private. So, when you, in this country, generally, if you want counseling on the NHS--

 

PAUL: National Health Service.

 

CHRISTINA: --that's right, then you get referred through your GP, like I did initially when I was 16, but I don't want to diss it because I'm sure it's really helpful for some people, you generally get six, maybe 12 sessions maximum. That's it.

 

PAUL: Not per year, total.

 

CHRISTINA: That's it. That's it. And then you have to re-referred and go through the whole system again with probably a different counselor, because the system is just so crammed full of people struggling. It is a big problem.

The mental health, you know, system is held up by charities at the moment, from what I can see, from my own training. I could just see that training counselors were being taken on and put in GP surgeries, you know, and you think, there's just this sort of churning out of quick, let's just get people help, but there's no, there's not this long-term therapy available unless you pay.

 

PAUL: I think the Tories are going to turn that around, because they're a very compassionate bunch.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Oh, yeah. I’m sure. I think they've really got, you know, the idea of what mental health is all about and how to deal with it. Oh, yeah, my partner will tell you all about that. God, God. So, [chuckles] yeah, I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.

So, yeah, so I went private for this new one, and [chuckles] this is where the messed-up thing starts already, with this first counselor, and he was my dad's counselor. So, I don't know if he was still seeing my dad when I first went to see him, but again, it kind of kept me alive, these sessions, you know, once a week.

It was the one thing that I was committed to, it was routine, and I'd talk about how resentful I was and I would talk about how much I wanted to change, and so this is where the gray area of kind of them being a person comes in and about regulation of counselors in this country. We were chatting before about how, you know, in the U.S. you need to have a license and if--

 

PAUL: Like 3,000 hours of practice, maybe even more. I forget what the number is, but yeah, years of . . .

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, in this country, unfortunately, as it stands, you can do like a six-month counseling skills course. You can call yourself a counselor, put a plaque on your door, tell people you're, you know, that's what you do, and start seeing clients.

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHRISTINA: So, that's, to give you an idea of the level of accountability, then, if things go wrong, as a client, you don't know that. You have no idea what you're walking into.

Now, you know, I would say there's a whole list of things I would ask a potential counselor, but that's only because of the experience I've had.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

CHRISTINA: So, it's quite, I'm quite frightened for people, you know, who aren't informed, which is why I'm doing this, because I hope that people can get, you know, not necessarily just in this country, but so that people get a bit more of a checklist going of, what do I want and what are their credentials? They're working for you. You know, what can they offer? And, you know, I suppose just to remember that you're the one in the driving seat here and it's your mental health.

 

PAUL: They're working for you. You're not there to please them.

 

CHRISTINA: Exactly. So, I saw this counselor for those seven years, and whilst there was an element that was helpful, eventually I came to a point where I could see that, I don't think this is working for me, but just not knowing where else to go.

You know, there isn't this, I wasn't aware of this kind of Web site or this place that you go and just go, that person fits the description of what I think I need help with. Yeah, it wasn't like there's a Yellow Pages or something to just, you know, so during all this, my drug usage is getting more and more out of control.

And again, for me, it was, I'm not trying to minimize, but only weed and alcohol. That was all I really needed to keep me, you know, keep me going. You know, I'd go through periods of smoking weed all day every day, to the point where I'd go a bit mental, and then go, I probably shouldn't do this for a while because I’m feeling like I'm not attached to reality anymore. Due to smoking weed, I've given myself more anxiety than I ever had before. I now will be in a busy place and I'm like, nothing is real, so the derealization, depersonalization, all that fun stuff [chuckles] as a result.

And then, the drinking eventually was where it led to. I just wanted things to just make me as close to dead as possible without the commitment. So, sleep was always number one, but I can't do that all day, so I need something to get me to that point.

And then I just, it was 2010, going into 2011, where I just was drinking every night, and I was determined that I was not an alcoholic because I was only drinking at night and that meant I don't have a problem because I'm sober all day.

 

PAUL: [Chuckles]

 

CHRISTINA: Never mind waking up with the absolute shakes and, you know, being bloated and sick and terribly depressed, of course, that's kind of the ongoing theme. And I think what I've always had is this drive to want to get better, to know that something's wrong, and always doing it on my own, always trying to just find answers.

And this was when I found a Web site for a treatment center who were offering free addiction assessments. So, if I was questioning whether I was an addict or an alcoholic, I could go and have someone else tell me because I don't know. You know, my denial was quite, you know, intense.

And so this is where I first met the counselor that this is all about, and so I went to have this addiction assessment and he was there, along with someone else who worked at the treatment center. I then was asked to come back. They kept having me back about four or five days a week at this treatment center to help out with the peer support. So, I was basically, in reality I was just another patient who they were asking back for free. That's kind of how it felt, anyway.

And this went on for like six months, so every day, you know, or five days a week I'd get up at half past 5:00, which was early for me, and I would then go to this counselor's house, this guy, the one who gave me the initial addiction assessment, and he would then drive me to the treatment center. I'd be there all day. Then I'd go to a meeting and then I'd come home, and then just do the whole thing day in and day out.

And as much as I'd like to think, yeah, that was really helping me, I wasn't getting any better. I remember feeling just darkness all the time and saying, I don't want to try meds yet, I'm too early in recovery to do that. I think I was quite scared of medication. And I just knew that I had to just keep going, that kind of just the momentum had, you know, I've started something. You know, I'm clean, that's got to be a positive step in the right direction.

And then it got to a point where I just was like, I can't see myself progressing. I just feel like I'm coming here, I'm being present for--

 

PAUL: Staying sober for what? There's no joy in your life at that point.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Being clean or sober, however you want to say it, for the sake of it, really, because it was all I had at the time. Which I think for a lot of people was a good starting point--

 

PAUL: Great starting point, but--

 

CHRISTINA: --but that was it. That was kind of all I had.

 

PAUL: You need to have a life outside of it to road test your new skills--

 

CHRISTINA: Absolutely, yeah. I'd detached from my friends. I wasn't really seeing my family. I just committed to that kind of, you know, do a meeting every day and constant contact with my sponsor.

So, during all this time, including when I was in the treatment center, I has this counselor's mobile number, and especially once I got out, he would text me every day, even on days when I wasn't going in to the treatment center. And he'd just text me to see how I was or he'd ring me to see how I was, and I liked that. I thought that was really kind and caring, and the, you know, being another person in recovery, that's what we do. You know, we support each other.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHRISTINA: At this point, he had maybe eight years' sober himself, and then, when things were just getting really dark for me, obviously I talked to him about feeling shit, and I said, I think I want to go into therapy again, you know, one on one. And he said, okay, you know. Have you thought about anyone you'd like to go with? And I said, well, I like, you know, we get on really well, I trust you, you know, is that something you'd consider? And he said, well, yes, you know, obviously it changes the relationship that we currently have.

And I remember just thinking, well, yeah, of course, it's fine, you know, whatever, because the lines were already a bit, you know, blurred and crossed because, when you're in recovery, you've got this mentoring relationship with people that have got less time, and then also them being your therapist as well in a group, you know, setting, and then going to meetings with him as well. So there's lots of kind of weird, do you know what I mean?

 

PAUL: Yeah. That . . .

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, it's a warning sign, isn't it?

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHRISTINA: It's like the first one missed by me. And so I started to see him once a week, and because I went to a lot of different support groups, I wasn't quite sure where I fit in, and I suppose I just wanted to know how they worked.

I'm that person that wants to know as much information as possible, because then I don't have to deal with my feelings. You know, the idea of going to a support group really is about getting in touch with feelings, being present in the moment, you know, that's the point, and I just was not doing that. I was not ready for that.

So, yeah, that was the beginning of the counseling relationship. And eventually I did go on medication, which was very helpful for me. Lots of shitty side effects, but I just was able to cope a bit better. It was just having that--

 

PAUL: Getting out of bed was a little easier, anxiety was a little less?

 

CHRISTINA: I think I just felt a little bit less like I was a walking wound [chuckles], to put it nicely, you know, and I sort of found that I could talk a bit more openly about difficult subjects in therapy. Yeah, my anxiety was definitely a bit less.

 

PAUL: Did it ease some of the dread of facing the day?

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. But it also kind of numbed me out a little bit as well. And again, I'm not, you know, anti-medication at all. I think it was the, for me, being a bit numb anyway probably, I don't know, plus and minuses. All I know is that, you know, I think it helped at the time.

And so then, but alongside all of that, just not feeling like I'm really going anywhere, like I'm really getting any better, just feeling like, again, okay, I'm ticking that box now, I'm going to therapy, I'm going to support groups, I'm doing what I need to do, but there's still this kind of emptiness. There's still this anxiety about life. I wasn't working. I had no education to speak of, really, you know, no love life, no, you know, there was very little going on for me.

And I suppose that was when I start-, you know, it was almost like I'd go, right, I'm going to do this now, and I'd come up to a certain point and it'd be like, right, that feels better, and then plateau. And underneath all that was always this kind of emptiness bubbling away, and I'd try and just ignore it and go, nope, look, I'm in the solution, I'm doing something positive, and never feeling better.

So eventually the darkness kind of comes back up to meet me, really, is the best way I can put it. And I started to in sessions feel a bit like I was pulling away from myself, and that same feeling of dissociation, I guess, of feeling threatened for whatever reason, then feeling like I'm unable to speak, which was a newer issue, because before I didn't want to speak anyway, but once we were in a counseling session and I've lost the ability to speak, it felt a bit frightening, and it would pass.

You know, eventually I'd come out of it but not really knowing why that was happening. And to sort of then feed in some of what was going on outside of all this, you know, there's the daily phone calls and texts, text messages, sorry.

 

PAUL: From your therapist.

 

CHRISTINA: Yep, that's right. And not just about, you know, I know for some people they have contact with their therapist, you know, how are you doing today, how have you been dealing with this piece of work I've given you.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. It wasn't that [chuckles]. It was more, you know, very, you know, banter, what have you been up to, how is this person, the sort of conversation you'd have with your friend, which I totally engaged in at the time. I thought, how cool, that we've got that relationship.

And I spent more and more time in between sessions at his house, so obviously where I was going to the treatment center with him still, I'd hang out at his, you know, we'd come back from the treatment center, I'd hang out for a little while, and then we'd have a session, and then I'd go off to a meeting.

You know, so there became more and more time where I'm becoming enmeshed into his family and his two children were introduced to me and we got on very well. They were at school at the time, older, but still at school. I'd have dinner with them [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHRISTINA: It starts to get a bit, and again, when, if I were to say to you, you know, fancy having dinner with your therapist, you'd probably be like, that's weird. But when you look at it through the kind of lens of someone who's in recovery and you've experienced that with them, you know, gone to support groups, and there's that funny mixture of a relationship, it makes sense. It did for me, anyway.

 

PAUL: Yes. If this was a peer who was mentoring you in a support group, it would be entirely appropriate.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, absolutely.

 

PAUL: But that's peer to peer.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, not when someone is in a position of, what I would call, trust and authority. So, yeah, so then we started attending each other's family events. And I then upped my sessions to two hours. Oh, I think they might have been two hours from the beginning, sorry, and then they upped to two times a week, so that's four hours a week, which is quite a lot, I think, to be having that kind of amount of counseling that early on as well.

And [chuckles] I then, what happened then? So he also used to say he loved me.

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHRISTINA: Wrong, very, very wrong to say that to someone who is your client. And he'd always give me a hug. Now, I was that person when I was using drugs that I didn't want to be touched. I didn't want anyone to come anywhere near me. It just was unbearable.

So, in the beginning, he'd make an extra effort to kind of grip me, and I'd sort of just try to get over it, if you know what I mean, thinking, this is my issue, this is my discomfort. And then he'd always give me a kiss on the cheek.

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHRISTINA: And then in one [chuckles], in one-, it gets better. In one counseling session, he sat opposite me and he said, I'm going to do something, oh, this is so cringey. I'm going to do something, but I only do this with people I love, and he literally sort of crawled up to me and gave me a kiss on the lips. And I remember being like--

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHRISTINA: --I just kind of was like confused and yet sort of thinking, oh, what a privilege, because, do you know what I mean, the crazy confusion of this is something that maybe I should be grateful for. How mental. But, and then that became a regular thing, you know, to say hello to me, give me a kiss on the lips.

And I, you know, and sometimes it would be, not romantic, but just sometimes quite a long kiss and I just remember sort of thinking, ew, you know, get off me. But I, again, I've never been that person to say, fuck off, you know, what are you doing, I don't like that. It wasn't even--

 

PAUL: And if you had been that type of person, he would have never done it.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: A guy who is predatory or a woman who is predatory like that thrives on knowing that they can control somebody like that, at least temporarily.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, yeah, and I think the idea that I had in my mind was that it was family-type love and family-type affection, that maybe that was what was going on. I never felt, even now, I never felt any of his actions were sexual. It never was this, I didn't think there was going to suddenly be, do you know what I mean, like touching or anything like that. I didn't feel that kind of threat, not, you know, as a thought anyway.

What else would go on? So, then my family, obviously, you know, when you've got the stuff that I had going on, they have support groups for families within the treatment center this was, and he ran that support group and some of my family attended that.

And eventually, first of all, one of my sisters requested to see him, and he asked me how I felt about that. And this was the one that I have trouble with sometimes, and I just [inaudible] said no, and just because I was, you know, she was the subject of lots of our conversation, and I was like, no, absolutely not. And he was like, yep, fine, I'll refer her to my wife, who is also a counselor. And then I did agree for him to see my mum and them my stepdad, or the other way around, but both of them, but separately, not as a couple.

So, at one point, he was seeing me, my mum and my stepdad and his wife was seeing my sister. So, all of that was going on, and bearing in mind, two hours twice a week for me, two hours for my mum, two hours for my stepdad, two hours for my sister, at 50 pounds per hour, just to give you an idea of how much that works out.

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. So, you know, and again--

 

PAUL: That's basically, in U.S. dollars, with the exchange rate right now, that'd be about $75 an hour.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. So, times'ing that by however many sessions that was a week, it's a lot. The way that my mum looked at it, she was the one who was footing the bill, just sort of said, we were all getting help so, you know, I'm happy to do that.

Looking back on it now, it was excessive, the amount of therapy, because eventually I then was added into a group that he started up of an hour and a half, which I didn't have to pay for because I was already paying so much, which is a bit of an alarm bell in itself, that someone is then offering kind of a freebie because you're a frequent flyer.

So, yeah, all of my family were then involved in that sense, and I'm just trying to think of other bits and bobs that would happen. That's probably the broader strokes of what would happen in the relationship.

Oh, no, there is one [chuckles]. So, he would confide in me--

 

PAUL: Ugh, ugh.

 

CHRISTINA: In session.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: That, to me, is the most egregious of them all. Well, crawling to you and kissing you, probably, that's right up there with confiding in you.

 

CHRISTINA: Well, what he confided in me as well was so insane, and, you know, I think it was one of the biggest, for me later on, one of the things I was most resentful of, because he basically told me he was having an emotional affair on his wife and didn't know what to do about it.

Now, given my history, I remember thinking, I think it was the closest I ever got to being angry with him and saying, what the fuck are you doing? No, that's not a good idea. But feeling like, I'm carrying someone's fucking secret again, because I was--

 

PAUL: Jesus.

 

CHRISTINA: --so close with his wife and his bloody kids, so I'm like, okay. Right. Now what? You know, what do you want me to do with that? But obviously from his side of things, we're just friends and we tell each other things.

And I remember just thinking, fuck you, you know, it was one of the few things that I just thought, and I told him, you need to stop seeing her, that's not a good idea, I'm not going to condone that, you know what happened for me. And I don't know what happened in the end, because we just stopped talking about it.

But yeah, lots of really inappropriate, you know, relationships, you know, within all that, you know, spending New Year's with his family, playing pool with one of his kids all night and just chatting and, you know, sleeping over at his house, as you do, on the sofa.

 

[Paul has reaction]

 

CHRISTINA: Yep. Regularly, like I said, having dinner there.

 

PAUL: So, what did this, how did this come to a head?

 

CHRISTINA: So, this dissociative stuff, where in session I would just pull away from myself, and he panicked, by the way. He didn't know what to do, because, you know, just as a layperson, imagine talking to me right now and suddenly like the lights are on but no one's home. It is quite frightening.

But he would kind of try and get me out of it and eventually suggested maybe I go and see someone else who he said was his supervisor. And I thought, okay, I'll try something different, we're not really getting anywhere, let's, you know--

 

PAUL: And I got to say, that was a wise decision for him to say, I don't have experience with dissociation. You know, it's like there were some things he did that were good--

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, oh, yeah--

 

PAUL: --but all this other shit--

 

CHRISTINA: Absolutely, absolutely. But again, [chuckles] when I went to see her, initially I was quite guarded because I'd never had a female therapist before. I've always been quite submissive towards men, because, you know, daddy issues, and then eventually I started to open up a bit to her.

And one of the more sort of, you know that kind of honesty in therapy when you really say something that's really gross and you don't want to talk about it but you're fucking going to because you know it's what you need to do. And I remember saying to this female therapist, listen, I've got this really weird feeling about the ex-counselor. I don't know how it's best to refer to him.

I said, we used to be really close, you know, and now I feel like he's just blanked me, because as soon as I started seeing her, phone calls stopped, texting stopped, stopped really making any effort to see me except for when I'd bump into him at support groups. And I remember feeling really rejected and a bit like thrown away, I guess, just hurt, really, and a bit resentful.

However, I had this jealousy come up because, once he'd sort of wound down the relationship with me, the counseling relationship, this other girl, a bit younger than me, also struggling to get sober, also came through the same treatment center, also a general mess as we are when we're ill, he was sort of chasing her around, trying to save her. And I remember going with him to try and save her from a particular, you know, crack house, wherever she was, and thinking, this is weird, what's going on.

And admitting that I had this jealously that he'd sort of kind of, not dumped me because it wasn't that kind of, but that sort of feeling of being dropped and then witnessing him trying to recuse someone else and on some level going, that's not right, you know, I know not much about anything, clearly, but that doesn't sit right with me.

 

PAUL: By the way, crack houses in Britain, are they Tudor?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Victorian.

 

PAUL: They have the really upright uncomfortable chairs, with lots of curlicues.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, of course. See, look, you don't even need to see them now--

 

PAUL: It is so hard to pass out on a really upright chair.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Go ahead.

 

CHRISTINA: Usually slumped to the side or forward.

 

PAUL: That's usually when the butler catches you.

 

CHRISTINA: Butler, get out here, butler. It's the maid. That was also the chair, not me.

So, and this female counselor started to sort of say to me, you know, what was going on there with the male counselor, and I just said, oh, well, and I started to give little kind of tidbits, because I still wanted to protect him. He was, you know, in my eyes, I loved him, too, of course. This wasn't all one way.

If it was, I wouldn't have been around it for so long. He was like a really good friend to me and, in a lot of ways, a father figure, from very absent dad who's off doing, shagging whatever, to someone who's giving you all their time and attention and care, you know.

 

PAUL: And like a typical abuser, there is a sense that this person gets me and fulfills some need in me, but you can't also see that that's the bait.

 

CHRISTINA: Absolutely. And I still struggle with the idea that, of even calling him an abuser. I kind of, where I'm at at the minute is sick fucker, like really unwell, and I try and, if anything, have some empathy.

 

PAUL: Because it honestly sounds like he is such a torn person, like there is an empathetic side to him, but it's mixed with this broken part to him that he can't control.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. And so, it turns out that this supervisor, he hadn't been to see her in over six months. Now, the way that they practiced using the governing body that they were members of, you need to have supervision once a month, so that's six sessions he'd missed with her, and she didn't know who I was.

So, bearing in mind, I'd been seeing him [chuckles] for like a year, a year and a half. She didn't know, she'd never--

 

PAUL: So he knows he's--

 

CHRISTINA: He knew on some level that something wasn't quite right there. You wouldn't, you know, again--

 

PAUL: Well, any counselor would know--

 

CHRISTINA: [Chuckles]

 

PAUL: --what they were doing wasn't right, but he was actively--

 

CHRISTINA: Well, I was, in theory, you know, I was the sort of client that you should be talking to your supervisor about because there's dual relationships going on there. There's a gray area that needs to be addressed.

So, she was horrified. I was then starting to piece some puzzle pieces together and go, oh, shit, this is bigger than I had been able to see at the time. And I remember really breaking down in one session and just feeling like I've been duped, but not because I think he was trying to do that, but just thinking, I've been used or I've been, I don't know, someone's plaything. I can't, I don't quite know how to describe it because--

 

PAUL: I think plaything is a really good word to describe it. A lot of people who have been abused, there's a feeling of objectification, like you're something they squeeze feelings from.

 

CHRISTINA: Well, yeah. What I would say is that, you know, when I started to talk more about the dissociation, she said to me, I've very rarely seen you do that in our sessions and I'd been there a few months, and I said that it was happening all the time.

And when we started to really look at it, what was happening is I was picking up on something from him and shutting down because it felt unsafe. Every time he'd give me a hug, every time he'd kiss me on the lips for too long or, you know, used to stick his tongue in my ear. I forgot to give you that one.

 

PAUL: Oh--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: And I like, by the way, that you said, when my counselor would kiss me for too long.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Well, you know, a peck on the lips when you're mates with someone, it's like it's no big deal.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Like I said, I'm not well myself. But yeah, the tongue-in-the-ear thing was pretty grim. I can say that, I knew I'd forget bits and bobs, but when he used to give me a hug, he'd jokingly stick his tongue in my ear and I remember like just, you know that kind of, you kind of collapse in on yourself and you're like, get off me.

And I remember kind of just squirming and going, egh, get off, you know, but again laughing because what else do you do when you're this kind of shut down. You're not going to go, get the fuck off me, see you later. I didn't, anyway.

 

PAUL: And you were raised in a house without boundaries.

 

CHRISTINA: And to not say anything, you know. So, you know, the more that I revealed, the more that this female counselor was like, oh, dear God, you know, and, you know, she said, he's groomed you. It's like he's just, you know, groomed you until you're in this place of being submissive and, you know, and I was. I would do anything for him. You know, he used to say things to me like, oh, you know, I trust you with my life.

 

PAUL: Ugh.

 

CHRISTINA: You know, [chuckles] see, that as a statement isn't that big a deal, but when you put it in, you know, the frame of reference of that being, your therapist is saying to you, I trust you with my life, you know, it's insane.

So, I kind of sat with all of this, bearing in mind my mum and my stepdad were still seeing him, and I remember thinking, I don't know what to do. Is it helping them? Is the therapy improving, you know, their lives? How do I, and again, going into that, how can I protect them, how can I make their lives okay?

 

PAUL: Do you know how long he would kiss your dad on the lips?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: Ugh, the image. Thanks for that image, Paul. I’m really, really glad you've given me that take-home [chuckles]. He used to say things about my mum to me, though, that she was quite a catch and that she was very attractive--

 

PAUL: Why wouldn't he?

 

CHRISTINA: Well, you know--

 

PAUL: Why wouldn't he?

 

CHRISTINA: --seriously, given enough time, I'd reel off so much, but, you know, those kind of little tidbits of inappropriateness, it was just awful.

So, he also used to tell me things about my stepdad from their sessions, to which, because we were, you know, on a level, I'd just, oh, okay, you know. Part of me liked knowing the information, wouldn't you, having an insight into your family member's, you know, private stuff?

So, eventually I think I came to a place where I was like, I think I need to do something about this. I don't think I can sit with this, I couldn't, I don't know, pain or gut feeling anymore. I couldn't, I knew something was wrong, and I've never stood up for myself before like this, ever, really in any situation, and it felt like the right thing to do. You know, if we were talking about a doctor and a doctor was, you know, doing something terrible, you wouldn't think twice about it.

 

PAUL: No.

 

CHRISTINA: But because of the nature of our relationship, I just wanted to kind of protect him still.

 

PAUL: He had groomed you.

 

CHRISTINA: So, this organization, which again, I won't name, I don't think it's necessary, so again, being a member of a governing body in this country is voluntary, but if you do then sign up or commit to their ethical framework, you're then going to have to deal with any complaints or conduct procedures, you know, through that governing body.

So, with this new female counselor, I discussed whether I should make a complaint or not, which in itself, by the way, is a weird boundary issue, because remembering who she was to him, just lots of like very strange gray-area boundaries going on here, and I decided to meet up with him.

Initially I said you need to meet up with your supervisor, and he did, and she obviously said to him, you need to stop counseling, you're not well, I'm firing you as my, you know, supervisee, this is inappropriate, you need to get yourself some help. And then I met up with him straight after. He cried. And I remember sort of being grossed out by that, which I don't know whether that's my issue or just the fact that I--

 

PAUL: No. Your counselor crying in front of you is, it's--

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, and he had--

 

PAUL: And I don't mean the occasional tear because they're so moved by your story--

 

CHRISTINA: No, no. This was--

 

PAUL: I mean because they're crying about their life.

 

CHRISTINA: This is like groveling. This was sort of I'm so sorry, I realize what I've done, I can only apologize, and he had like a shopping list of what he was going to do to change. And I just said, you need to take a break from counseling and you need to, and I think I said, you need to stop seeing my stepdad right away.

But I remember my mum was going through some stuff and it was helping her. So I felt, still remembering, I still feel really conflicted through all this. And so I said, you can continue to see her, but I want you to wind it down with my stepdad and you need to get yourself some help.

And he was very much like, yes, okay, you know, yeah, I'll do anything you say. But as time went on and the more surfaced for me, the more I really saw an accurate picture of what happened, which I still feel really uncomfortable with the idea of being a victim of this, because as a person, I'm not a fucking victim. You know, it was my own fault or I should have known better. I think it could have been so much worse. He wasn't, you know, sexually abusing me, he wasn't hitting me, he wasn't--

 

PAUL: At the very least, you were denied that time being used for things that helped you instead of reinjured you.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, yeah. And I can see that it was wrong. I think there's still some work to be done around this. You know, I haven't spoken about this with anyone since the hearing sort of finished in 2013, so I just, maybe it was '14, a couple of years ago, so I've just put it in a box, literally put the file in a box and I don't look at it because it makes me feel very sick, very uncomfortable. I feel really angry.

You know, I said to you earlier, I pulled it out to have a look at, to remind myself of some of what happened, and I instantly was fuming and felt like crying and just, I just put it back.

 

PAUL: Is there a part of you that still wants to protect him or still has, I don't know if affection is the right word for it, cares for a part of him, or is it just like it's the door is completely shut--

 

CHRISTINA: I feel--

 

PAUL: --and the reason I ask is I'm not saying you should. I just know oftentimes with people who have been victimized, there's this really mixed bag of what they feel towards this person.

 

CHRISTINA: I feel sorry for him. I feel, and I know that pity is not a particularly pleasant thing to feel for someone, but I pity him. I feel sorry for him that he was so broken, I don't know about now, but was so broken at the time that he was using his clients to fulfill his own needs. I feel, I pity that. I think, you are pathetic for, you know, for doing that, but clearly a very, very sick man.

You know, that's not the, I don't think we're talking about someone who's a psychopath or a sociopath. I think we're talking about someone who has, you know, their own issues that they were just playing out with their clients. So, for that, I can have empathy and go, well, he's ill.

As a victim, I think, and I don't wish death on anyone, but I get that rage, that kind of I want to ruin you, I want to destroy your life, I want you to hurt, you know, even just a tiny bit of how much I have, but I would never do that because I know that's not the right thing to do, which part of that's through support groups and part of that, it's just not in my nature to be that vicious.

And I think it's been its own punishment, dragging him through the way that he was brought through this hearing. So--

 

PAUL: And ultimately, it's the most loving thing you can do, because anything short of that is enabling this guy. Because he knows it's wrong, and he can't help it, so clearly he needs a consequence greater than his own occasional shame.

 

CHRISTINA: I think the thing is, is when you've got addiction as an illness, never mind anything else, your ego, once it becomes that inflated, imagine just for a second you work in a treatment center, so people, you know, and you've got some clean time, you know, and you seem to know all about recovery, I think it's quite easy, then, to believe your own hype and believe that you're so much more well than you are.

And when people tell you how much they respect you and how great that share was and how this, that, whatever it is, I think you can, if you buy in to your own bullshit, I think it's quite easy to go down that kind of road. I'm not saying everyone can be that fucked up, but I can understand it to a point.

So, in terms of the next step that I took was after a while I kind of, this all stewed with me, and I was hearing things from people in the community, from support group, that he was doing this stuff with other people, still continuing to do so, vulnerable young women, and I just was like, I'd have enough, [inaudible] never mind my own, you know, and this is always the thing with me, never mind me, look what's going on for them, how fucking awful is that?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: You know, I, and that I was able to connect with and I went, no, fuck this, I'm going to do something productive and right. I'm not going to go and tell his wife that he's been doing this or, you know, make a massive banner and say, this man's doing that, you know. That's not going to help anyone.

 

PAUL: No. He needs a bigger consequence.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. So, I confronted him again and I said, and we, you know, went to, had a drink and I just said, I said to him, I'm making a complaint, I just thought I should give you the heads-, I don't know why I even gave him this amount of heads-up, because I probably shot myself in the foot doing this, but it just felt like the right thing to do at the time and I just said, I just thought I should let you know I am going to make a formal complaint and you should, you know, I still think you should stay away from my family. You now need to get away from my mum, and I think your family needs to stay away from mine.

So, he, again, was very, it was a bit more detached this time, no tears, very, I think he knew, you know, he knew he was in the shit this time, and I came away from that kind of, I could feel the anger starting to come out in me more.

And when I sat my mum and stepdad down to explain that I think this is why you need to get away from this man, they just wouldn't listen. There was this sort of like, well-it's-helping-us kind of attitude, and I remember thinking, [chuckles] I’m going to fucking tear my hair out. Like, I’m, and I'll admit, I wouldn't tell them specifically what because I felt so sick and uncomfortable about, and the nature of it. It's not like I went, he groped my tits so I just thought that, you know, we need to fucking stop this now. It's like, well, he used to do this, that, it was not comfortable for me to explain. I just wanted them to respect what I was asking of them.

And my stepdad I think had already maybe stopped by this point. My mum didn't. I later found out that he was telling my mum that I was mentally unwell, that what I was doing, like this complaint, was because I'm not well.

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. Which he was right, I am mentally unwell, but that's why I came to see you, you fucking dickhead.

 

PAUL: But that's beside the point.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. Trying to make out me--

 

PAUL: And not mentally unwell in regards to this.

 

CHRISTINA: Absolutely.

 

PAUL: It is actually the most mentally well you've ever been in saying, by the way, I'm making a complaint.

 

CHRISTINA: Yep.

 

PAUL: You know, when you said that, I was like, that's recovery, right there.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, absolutely. And she just, I think at, we've spoken about it since, so obviously I'm sort of relaying conversations here, there and everywhere, but she sort of said at the time she didn't really understand what he meant because she didn't know what I was talking about either. I can see why she felt a bit confused and not quite sure what to do.

At the same time, his wife was also telling my sister that I was unwell, so another kind of creeping in to, you know.

 

PAUL: I think the only thing left is for him to tell the boys that bullied you that you're not well.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I think that's the only stone left unturned.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, maybe I should send them the Facebook addresses, yeah, yeah. No, it's just, it's insane, isn't it, that, you know, insanity is a word that best describes what was going on in the situation.

And so I kind of felt like I'm going to have to go this alone, because bearing in mind I'd gone from saying this guy was better than, you know, anything ever, you know, putting him on this pedestal, making him God, you know, to me, and a father figure, to then saying, he's fucked up, get away from him, and then not explaining what happened in between, you know, I guess maybe I'd be a bit more like, well, what's happened. And if no one's going to tell me, maybe I w-, I don't know. I don't know what went on for them. They have their own version of events.

So, I did this, I wrote this complaint out on my own, with the support of some friends, and people came out of the woodwork who, two of which had been involved in the treatment center, who had independently made complaints about him to his manager, about his relationship with me and others. Nothing had ever been done, you know, protect your own.

And it ended up being, you know, me, one of those people that made the complaint at the treatment center, and his ex-supervisor, my then-current counselor, forming this complaint with witness statements. They were the witness statements, you know what I mean.

And I submitted it, and I just remember thinking, oh, my God, what happens now? And that began the process, really, of just some of the most stressful times of my adult life. I remember when they acknowledged the complaint, the organization, and that they were going to process it. I remember then they sent his version, like his response, if that makes sense?

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHRISTINA: Tell me if I'm missing anything here. And his response was, he just tried to pull it apart, really. He did it with, he used to be a solicitor, so he just pulled apart everything I said with, evidenced with this, with that, you know.

 

PAUL: What I'm mostly interested in, because I think we get a sense of who he is and the lengths that you've had to go to that he doesn't get it, or he is incapable of getting it. What I want to know is the emotional impact on you and where you're at today. Have you been able to take anything from this that has strengthened you?

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, so, in short, the process was horrific, of doing all of that. To put it bluntly, he got away with it. He had a slap on the wrist. He had his license suspended for a while and then he got it back after attending some groups and doing things that he needed to do.

And for me, what's happened is I feel like I've gained strength. I've become a lot more, I suppose I question things a lot more, my relationships with people, what's really going on, because I think I often miss quite obvious signs, do you know what I mean? Like, I don't always connect the dots, and maybe that's because I am a bit disconnected from my feelings, but . . .

 

PAUL: And I think to people that were thrown crumbs as kids, you know, when you're thrown a bigger crumb, you're like, oh, this is a feast.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, I did a lot of good work with the female counselor, and, you know, she was, she's [chuckles], I want to say, by far been the best counselor I've had, not fucking much to measure up to, but, you know--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: --she was amazing, you know.

 

PAUL: Her kisses are so brief, so brief.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: She doesn't stick her tongue all the way in my ear.

 

PAUL: No, not at all.

 

CHRISTINA: Ulg. So, yeah, just the work that I did with her, you know, going through that complaints procedure helped, you know, just because of the level of stress. It was like going into a courtroom situation. That's how official it all felt. So, just doing that alone with her was very helpful.

When I came out of the other side of it and I found out that he'd more or less got away, well, I would say he got away with it, I think I just was so disappointed, I just felt so deflated. I felt a bit like, why have I bothered doing this? Nothing has changed.

They did put his entire case, obviously with my name omitted, but with his name, on their Web site and in their magazine, so it's out there somewhere. And I just thought, what the fuck was the point in all of that? What have I gained out of it?

On one hand, I can say, yeah, I did the right thing, but I don't know, if you do the right thing sometimes and nothing good comes out of it, it can feel a bit . . .

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah [chuckles]. You know what I mean? So, it left me feeling quite--

 

PAUL: Isn't that a big part of sobriety and recovery, though, is just doing the right action and staying out of the results?

 

CHRISTINA: That's right.

 

PAUL: It's so hard, though.

 

CHRISTINA: Mm-hmm.

 

PAUL: It's so hard, though.

 

CHRISTINA: But I do believe that, I don't necessarily believe in karma, but I do think, if you do shitty things, eventually it will come back to bite you in the ass because you will get caught doing something shitty, you know. You can't get away with it forever.

And I also think that, if nothing else, standing up for myself was just the best thing I think I've done, you know, in a long time, for my own self-esteem and self-worth, because even if they denied the whole thing, I've still done it, you know, for the, if I'd ever stood up to those bullies, if I'd ever stood up and said, Mum, Dad's doing this, or do you know what I mean? It was the first time I'd actually gone, no, this is wrong, you know, and turn it over to the relevant authority and let them get on with it, you know, and that's where I had to let go of it.

So, after that point, my life did change a lot actually. I hadn't been in a relationship for a l-, ever, ever really. I'd never really even, I was always the very needy, do you know what I mean? This, what happened with this counselor was a relationship that I think played out in lots of my, you know, previous relationships with men, where I'd get really good friends with them, but it was always unrequited love on my part. And even though that wasn't a sexual relationship or I didn't fancy the counselor, it was that same pattern of being needy, wanting a male's approval, and then getting rejected.

And something seems to have shifted as a result of standing up and doing what I did. And I remember I went away on holiday as soon as I got the result back from the governing body, and I had to put my cat to sleep as well, who I was, you know, it was heartbreaking, and so it was kind of this double whammy of shit. And then I went on holiday and it was the best timing, because I just got away from it all and went skiing and it was great.

And when I got, well, actually no, while I was away, I said to myself, I'm ready for a relationship. I actually want to start looking at that. During this time, I had been training as a counselor [chuckles] because, you know, why not?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: It was what I thought, it was what I thought I wanted to be for a long time. I thought I wanted to help people, and I do. But when I started doing it, it just wasn't for me. You know, given everything that I've gone through, given my own, you know, detachment, I'm just not ready to do that in my own life, so I kind of pulled away from that as well eventually.

And then I got with my partner. I then started working in August just gone, my first real job, ever. You know, I've always just avoided work. I've been really frightened of it. And I just feel like I've completely changed my life as a result of that first kind of action, if you know what I mean, of--

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHRISTINA: --of standing up for myself and then going, no, I can do this, I can cope, I can have healthy relationships, I don't have to, you know, keep settling.

Yeah, I wouldn't say that there's a direct link with all of it, but I suppose my recovery really took off once I was rid of the toxicity. And, you know, where am I at today? Well, [chuckles] life's not perfect. It's its own, you know, I don't know. I'm a lot happier than I've ever been, and I've got the most amazing partner who I could kill sometimes but totally gets me, who I have just some of the most painful belly laughs I've ever had. I have a job that I can do, that I leave at work when I come home. I don't have any client notes or anything to write about. I just leave it there.

My family relationships are a lot better. We've come back together. We've talked about, you know, that's the biggest thing for me, is talking, you know, talking it through. There's lots of disagreements still with certain family members, but I just accept it, they accept it, and we've learned to just go, well, we love each other, let's just leave that where it is, which is--

 

PAUL: And thank God they got into therapy. You know, that's huge.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, I mean, I suppose what I would say is anyone listening who is maybe questioning what happened, you know, or what's happening for them with their own therapist or, or should I go into therapy what she went through, or, you know, is there a weird, you know, situation going on, you know, in your own counseling, first of all, bring it up.

Bring it up with the counselor. Don't ever be frightened to just confront someone, challenge them. Remember they are there to work for you. And don't worry about it being an awkward question. Don't worry about offending them. Look, you're not just sitting there calling them a, you know, a twat. You're asking, you're trying to figure out what's going on for you. That's the point.

 

PAUL: And any good counselor will encourage you to express whatever is going on emotionally and mentally with you in that moment, and anybody that doesn't--

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --is, I don't know.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, I mean, the other part of it for me is, given, you know, the state of affairs of counseling and the governing body and the, you know, regulation in this country anywhere, how long have you been, you know, practicing counseling for, what are your qualifications, are you in supervision, you know, these are questions that I would never have thought to ask, you know, as a layperson. But, you know, just remember that it's like an interview. You know, don't be afraid to ask the hard questions.

And if you don't like a counselor, move on. You don't owe them anything.

 

PAUL: Any counselor that tries to talk you out of leaving them, that's even more reason to leave them, because they should, I've never had a counselor that I've left try to talk me out of it. Maybe it's because they can't stand being around me--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: You're out.

 

PAUL: But a good counselor, and sometimes it's, you know, they've been good counselors that I left. It's just there was, we just kind of plateaued or there was an issue that I felt like, you know, I think there's probably somebody that knows more about this issue.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah, absolutely. You can't be, you know, it's that thing about being a Jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. Every counselor has a specialism, has something they've got really good, you know, strength in. You know, for some it's grief. For some it's, you know, I don't know, abuse. For some people it's CBT as a therapy.

 

PAUL: Yeah, and different modalities.

 

CHRISTINA: Yeah. Find someone who, you know, works for you, but, you know, don't ever be afraid to ask awkward, hard, weird questions. You know, a good counselor will either say, I'll get back to you on that one, or, you know, be open to discussion.

 

PAUL: And I think the best time to ask those questions is at the end of the session when you're slow dancing with your therapist.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHRISTINA: While you're paying them, of course.

 

PAUL: Christina, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

 

CHRISTINA: Thank you for asking me here.

 

PAUL: What a lovely, lovely woman, so enjoyed talking to her. And what a great story, man, what a great story.

Today's episode will soon be transcribed and available on our Web site. Many thanks to Accurate Secretarial for donating their time and helping out the show.

Also support for today's show comes from Audible, presenting Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel. This original audio series takes you inside the office of the foremost authority on modern love, Esther Perel. A celebrated psychologist who has helmed a private practice in New York City since 1983, Esther has over three decades' of experience navigating the intricacies of love and desire.

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Right now I would probably, if I was feeling peppier, ask you to donate to the show and tell you all the ways that you can support it, but just go to the show notes of this episode and we'll have a couple of links on there, or at least one link where you can help support the show.

I am sorry that my brain is scrambled eggs. This is an Awfulsome Moment that was actually included in an e-mail from a friend of mine, and she's a big supporter of the show. She helps put together the live events that we do in Oakland twice a year, Jody Colley is her name, and she runs an amazing newspaper called the East Bay Express. They do some great investigative journalism.

And anyway, she, when she found out about Herbert, my dog, dying, she sent me a really sweet e-mail and she shared a story of something that happened to her. And she writes, I lost my dog in March. We were camping in the middle of the desert by the Sultan Sea, way off-road in my Jeep, miles from anything manmade.

As soon as it started getting dark, he just disappeared. He's always off-leash and he's never left the camp area before. We camp all the time. So, I thought, either he got lost in the dunes or perhaps a mountain lion quietly got him. I was climbing up and down the dunes for several hours in the pitch dark, falling, sliding, scraping my legs on cactus and rock. I was calling out to him, but nothing.

So, I started howling up to the sky because at home if I howl he always starts howling, too. Nothing. I looked everywhere for paw prints, blood, some kind of evidence. I was bawling. I felt like the worst parent in the world. I had seen the mountain lion warning signs earlier in the day. I curled up in the back of my Jeep where I'd made a bed.

Defeated and exhausted, I cried deeply and my heart ached so much. I didn't have any signal, but I texted a few friends just to feel less helpless, even if the messages weren't going to go anywhere. I just imagined my boy in the jaws of a predator or perhaps worse, roaming the hot desert for days looking for me. It was the worst experience in my life.

Then around midnight, I had to go to the bathroom. While I peed, I thought, maybe smell is better than sound. Sound could ricochet in the canyons. Smell must just intensify and leave a truer trail. So I left everything I could all around the camp area and went back to my bed.

Not long after that, I heard something. I shined my light towards the sound and, like a dream, in a bit of light cutting through the pitch black I could see his shape come over a dune. He came running and jumped into the back of the car, totally fine, full of adventures to tell, or maybe he was nearby taking a nap, wishing I'd shut up. I'll never know.

It took me three days to recover physically. I'm still emotionally wounded, and I didn't even lose the little guy, at least not for long. And the best part of the story is, I was on my way to meet my parents in Bullhead City for some shitty casino vacation.

When I arrived, we went to dinner. I did a rare thing. I told them my story to explain why I could hardly walk and was tired, but also to share my emotional torture. I was just at the climax of the story, tearing up and could barely talk because of my sore throat from screaming and howling for hours, when my mom interrupted and went on a tangent about the garlic on my dad's fries.

When I read that, I went, oh, that's why Jody loves the show [chuckles]. Thank you for that, Jody.

This is from the What Has Helped You Survey. And this is filled out by Ugh, Five More Minutes. What a great name. His issues are substance abuse, which he's recovering from, depression and anxiety, and what has helped him. Residential treatment, 100 days of it, 12-step groups, Cipralax, humor, two of the counselors I've seen, also when, just make sure [chuckles], make sure you don't start making out with them.

Also, when going through withdrawal from the substance I was using, I thanked the withdrawal. Every time I felt resentful towards the withdrawal, I reminded myself that the discomfort I was feeling was my brain's way of telling me that it was healing itself. I said thank you out loud, over and over at times. It helped me a lot. What a great image.

Marlene shares a Happy Moment. The first time my meds worked was my first experience feeling true happiness. I've suffered with chronic depression stemming back to childhood and have just recently been diagnosed.

After hanging out with my friends, I was dropped off at my boyfriend's apartment and decided not to go back inside but to sit under a tree outside. The colors of the world were so much more vibrant than they had ever been before, and I soaked in the beautiful day.

When my boyfriend returned about 45 minutes later from work, he asked me if I'd forgotten my key, and I said no. I'm just happy and want to be outside. That's so awesome.

Any comments? I'd love an episode about daughters of narcissistic mothers. I would say, if you closed your eyes and just pointed your finger at a list of the 334 episodes that we have, there's a pretty good chance you'll hit one. One that immediately springs to mind is the one with Andrea Abbate. Her last name is spelled A-b-b-a-t-e. That episode is like a movie. It's, yeah, her mom is probably one of the most interesting characters I've heard described on the podcast, and definitely a narcissistic mother.

This is from the Shame and Secrets Survey, and I'm just going to read a portion of it. This was filled out by a girl who calls herself B.S. She's 16. And she's never been sexually abused or physically or emotionally abused.

Darkest thoughts. I'm supposed to be a, quote, recovering anorexic, as I was discharged from a unit last month. I'm drowning so deeply back into my disorder but now it's worse than ever. I have fantasies about ending it all. I feel like such a burden to everyone, that I cause people so much distress that the world would be better off without me.

Every time I shave my legs, I feel an urge to slit my wrists so deep that it's impossible to save me, or that my mum has a lot of health difficulties and so she takes a lot of pills, I could easily overdose on them. I would never act on those urges, but I'm scared that one day I will.

Darkest secrets. As I stated before, I'm slipping back into my anorexic tendencies. I count calories and I can't let myself eat over a certain amount. I have to exercise off all my meals. I take laxatives more regularly than what I did before my hospital admission.

I'm able to manipulate my mum into getting me products that are extremely lower than my caloric needs. Because of this, I'm losing nearly a kilo a week. My hair is falling out, and I barely engage in my therapy, as I was previously told that I was too honest for an anorexic.

That raises a lot of red flags for me about somebody that, the person that is helping you. You're too honest for an anorexic, I don't understand what that means. I have yet to meet somebody who has some type of addiction that they keep secretively that is ever too honest discussing themselves.

Anyways, I feel so much guilt that I keep so much painful shit to myself. I want to scream out my darkest fears. I feel trapped in my head with no escape. I'm addicted to harming myself. And then that's all she got to with the survey.

But I wanted to encourage her, if she hears this, to open up to her counselor and to hang in there, because so many of us have been at that place where we cannot imagine it ever getting better, and then somehow it does. And that's why I'm not going to the, and I'm not trying to compare my life to yours, but the reason I'm not going to the suicidal place right now is because I know it will get better.

It sucks in the meantime, riding it out, but I don't beat myself up anymore for feeling what I feel. And when people ask me how I'm doing, I fucking tell them, you guys included. And that's what helps save my life, and it's what helps make my life, it's what helps me feel connected to the world, and that is one of the best medicines for whatever is bothering me.

Of course, I need to do a lot of other stuff. I need to take meds and exercise and eat right and practice self-care, but being honest about what is going on with me is incredibly, incredibly important. And I urge anybody out there that is feeling shame about it, if you find the right person, and they're everywhere, you can share whatever it is that you need to share and you'll find compassion. It may not be the first person you share it with. You may even have a bad experience sharing it with the first person.

I know I have shared things with people that probably will now cross the street to not get in a conversation with me, and it's hard to know that that is probably the truth in some of the instances, but if I wallow in that shame, you know, I'm missing all of the people who will embrace me, all of the people who will love me as I am and open that part of me that can experience intimacy, vulnerability, joy, presence, presence as in being present, not presents as in opening presents, although I wouldn't mind. I have to be honest, in the time that I have been talking to you, I am feeling better. This helps me. This podcast helps me.

One of the things I've struggled with most of my life is I've felt invisible. I've felt like to not, my deepest fear is that my life will be forgettable and meaningless, and when I believe that is when I start to lose hope.

And my old instinct used to be, well, then you have to be exceptional at everything you do to be noticed. And the truth is just the opposite. The truth is, I have to let my walls down around safe people. I also have to protect myself from toxic people. I have to keep people who don't speak an emotional vocabulary at arm's length and just keep them as acquaintances. And that's one of the solutions for me not trying to be perfect at everything.

What connects me to people is when we have those moments where we say, oh, my God, me, too. And the clouds lift. And just in the amount of time I've been talking here, I can feel the clouds starting to lift because I feel seen, I feel heard, and it's hugely empowering. It's hugely empowering.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey, and this one is pretty, it's pretty intense. This was filled out by Violet, and she is in her 20s. She's pansexual. She was raised in an environment that she describes as slightly dysfunctional. She was a victim of sexual abuse and never reported it.

One night in Hollywood, I found myself sitting on a couch that belonged to a creepy older man with a red soul patch and hemp choker necklace. He had approached my best friend and I on the street, inviting us back to his apartment for, quote, just one drink. My friend accepted on behalf of both of us. When I, quote, woke up, it was morning and he was violently fucking me. I heard myself ask if he was wearing a condom. His immediate reaction was to start laughing. Why? You haven't cared about that all night.

I still think about that night when I masturbate. I can't fully orgasm unless I'm being penetrated so roughly it burns. Sexualizing my own sexual abuse makes me feel sick and shameful, but nothing else makes me come as hard.

Those of you that are regular listeners to the show know how incredibly common that is, that that is one of the ripples of sexual trauma, is that it can, it can do things like that, change the things that we are turned on by, you know, almost like our brain's way of going back into a time machine and taking control over it and saying, no, this isn't trauma, I'm going to enjoy this. But it's not a conscious thing. It just is.

She's been physically and emotionally abused. The last time we were in bed together, he described the following fantasy. Wow, this is intense. Hanging me from a tree, raping me with every sharp object he could find and gouging my eyes out. I was wet and wanted his fingers inside me the entire time.

Any positive experiences with the abusers? I have been in love with most of my abusers. The last one encouraged me to call him or think of him as Daddy. It made things so much more fucked up than I ever could have anticipated.

Darkest thoughts. I have a fantasy where my father is fucking me, trying his best to get me off. I tell him that his penis is too small to make me come, but he won't give up. He fucks me as hard as he can and I'm laughing at how sincere his effort is, how I'm enjoying myself, how it's still not even close to being enough.

Darkest secrets. When I was 17, my best friend's 23-year-old boyfriend got me drunk and tried to fuck me while my friend was sick in bed. I had wanted to kiss him for months. The only reason I didn't let him try to penetrate me was because he had a really small dick.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. My favorite sexual fantasies include old men, incest and being used as a sexual object in a room full of strangers. One of the earliest memories I have of being aroused as a child was watching the gang-rape scene in The Accused, home alone on a sick day from school. I am completely fucked up and/or repressing.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone that you haven't been able to? I know you're obsessive and dangerous and a huge red fucking flag, but I would still let you fist me.

What, if anything, do you wish for? Affordable therapy with someone I can trust and feel safe being vulnerable around the truth about my past and the tools I need to navigate triggers in the future.

I highly, highly, highly encourage you, if you are still living in Hollywood, to contact Antioch Counseling Center. They have free counseling, or contract-, contact, sorry, my brain is so slow, the Rape and Incest National Network, because you deserve counseling, not because of the things that turn you on, but because of what you have experienced. I'm sending you a big hug.

Have you shared these things with others? No, because, duh. How do you feel after writing these things down? Relieved, a little liberated. Anything you'd like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences? Exorcise the shards of glass stuck in your heart by writing shitty poems. Fucking the pain away doesn't actually work.

Violet, thank you so much for sharing that. I know that was probably pretty intense to relive in writing that down, but I appreciate your honesty because, if we don't talk about this shit, it will kill us.

This is from the What Has Helped You Survey. And this is filled out by a guy who calls himself Hate My Amygdala. Love that name. His issues are depression, anxiety and emotional dysregulation.

What's helped you deal with them the most? Medication has been the most helpful to me. CBT has not helped. Psychodynamic therapy helped me to understand why but did not help me to feel better.

Attachment theory has helped me to understand why but has not helped me to feel better. Dialectical behavior therapy has been genuinely beneficial. Its self-soothing and relaxation techniques have made my emotional unrest more tolerable. Getting laid has helped a lot. This is not a joke. A good sexual experience does wonders for me. Making connections with meaningful friends has helped.

What have people said or done that has helped you? On Facebook one time, a girl from my high school posted to my timeline, you were the nicest boy in the whole school. I graduated with her more than 25 years ago and she probably put that on my timeline five years ago, but I have clung to it, that one kind comment from a long-ago friend has been a kind of solid foundation and I have clung to it many, many occasions. It has really helped me to cope with some of the horrible emotional storms I have experienced.

Thank you so much for that. Man, you guys just have such, such a way of sharing something exactly when we need to hear it, more specifically, I need to hear it.

And then finally, this is a Happy Moment filled out by a woman who calls herself I'm Just a Beautiful Fucking Butterfly. And she writes, last week after an extremely difficult session with my therapist, in parentheses, we discussed my current emotionally abusive relationship in honest terms for the first time, I was sitting on the train going home, panicking, anxious, wanting to shred myself with razor blades, and in the back of my head I hear my therapist reminding me that I've got skills and tools to get through it.

Over a year ago, my therapist gave me the homework to write myself a compassionate letter. So, I opened my diary app and started writing to myself, fully loaded with compassion and care for myself. That moment means more to me in my recovery than the over two years I've gone without cutting myself.

And then she writes, if you read this and would like, I've pasted my letter to myself below. And so that's really what I want to read, which is, well, life has thrown another curveball at you and I know you were, sorry. And I know you were never really good at baseball, but let me tell you what I know.

You are strong, so incredibly strong. This is going to test you and push you to your limits in more ways than one, but I promise you, even when you cannot see it, even when it feels impossible, even when it feels like taking one more step is too much to bear, you will survive. You have endured everything [fighting back tears] . . . you have endured everything life has thrown at you. You have persevered through some of the most difficult things imaginable. And you have found the other side. I'm not going to apologize.

Time and time again you have been beaten down and every single time you have gotten back up again. I know it's scary. It's fucking terrifying to me right now, too, but by the time you are reading this again, you will have gotten through one more minute, one more hour, one more day, one more night. One step at a time, you are getting through this, and I am incredibly proud of how far you've come.

You once told me that darkness cannot drive out light, that only light can drive out darkness, and you, incredibly resilient you, have found some amazing sources of light. You've found light in your friends, in your therapist. You found light inside yourself that you never thought existed and you dragging some of your darkest secrets out into that light right now.

The darkness will not survive. The darkness will not win. The darkness cannot win if you keep yourself surrounded by light. I promise you that. And I know you may not see it right now, I know it seems impossible, but you will get through this. I know you can. You've got this.

And if right now you are scared and feeling alone, know that you have people who love you and care about you, people who will help you stand when your knees want to buckle, people who will give you a hand when you falter or fall. Let them help you, please, because you are so strong but this is bigger than anything you have faced before. I know you might cry, and that's okay. You can cry and you can hurt, and you can feel what you feel. Take care of yourself.

It's amazing how much I [chuckles] needed to read that. It's incredible the timing of the surveys that you fill out. It is so often I feel like the universe talking to me when I need to hear something to keep going, not that I want to give up necessarily, but when it just feels so undoable, so undoable.

Thank you for being such a supportive audience that I can be myself and not question too much hitting send when I upload this audio without feeling like a, without feeling shame, without feeling like an exhibitionist or an attention whore, because if it helps me and it helps other people that listen to it, not everybody, I'm sure some people are turned off by it, but if it's helping me and it's helping even just a handful of people that hear it, that to me is worth anybody that's rolling their eyes and going, oh, Jesus.

I hope you heard something tonight that brought you comfort, helped you feel less alone, gave you the inspiration to open up to somebody, maybe just to make a first therapy appointment.

 

[Closing music swells]

 

I'm so glad I did. I wouldn't get to have all you awesome people in my life. And just never forget that you're not alone, and thanks for listening.

 

[Closing music]

 

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