drama therapy, and my tattoos

I’m seeing a new person called Jen.

Jen is smart. She is young. When she curls her hair she looks like a 1940’s movie star. Jen is a drama therapist. We had our second session on Thursday.

She’d asked me to illustrate the sides of my disordered eating. Because of who I am as a person, I didn’t try to do it for two weeks, unable to plan exactly what images sum the characters up (what figures, sizes, mediums – on paper or in notebook? from mind or with assistance from google images? Which images??). Ended up scribbling a sketch of the binge character in the car on the way to our appointment, a vacant-eyed hungry character perched on top of my head, claws digging in for piloting and navigation. Drew the restrictive character in the library but it wasn’t accurate. It’s a hard task.

We talked about the sketches with the notebook open on my leg. Jen commented on how well-balanced it looked. I agreed. Further musing got me to confess what’s felt like a grubby secret – that the skinny one isn’t the centre of it all, it’s just an extreme fight against binging, which is (and always has been) the core impulse. Saying that aloud was scary. Writing it down means I acknowledge it and wish to work on it.

I talked a lot about Mum, and emotional distancing, and how her method of dealing with me – by trying to play doctor instead of mother – has left me incredibly needy. I suppose I am an emotional glutton. I crave responses, acknowledgement. Then get disappointed when the right responses don’t happen. So I increase the behaviour. There isn’t a right response. Often I think *really hard* about how I want a person to deal with me, but astonishingly, people aren’t psychic! Who knew!! (Working on being more communicative.)

We did an exercise exploring past-Bailey, the scared little girl with a bleeding arm in the car on the way to A&E. I set up a space in the darkest corner of the room with a chair and a fiddle object, partially enclosed by the heavy black drama-studio curtains. We called the character in that space ‘the caterpillar’. A particularly apt metaphor as it is the core of the butterfly. Insatiably hungry, insatiably emotional. Extreme. Stuck in an ill-fitting body. Scared. It was a powerful exercise. My face leaked profusely.

Jen then threw a curveball. She said ‘I know you like books.’ I sniffled ‘I do, yes.’

‘What’s your favourite book?’

‘I’m not sure it’ll be much help here, but Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’

‘What’s it about?’

There were tear tracks on my cheeks from the last exercise, and my nose was more congested than the M25 in rush hour. ‘Um, Arthur Dent wakes up one day, then his friend Ford takes him to the pub. When they get back, Arthur’s house has been knocked down to make way for a bypass. A spaceship full of Vogons appears and a Vogon says to the planet “rah rah rah we’re here to destroy your planet to make way for a hyperspace bypass.” So Ford sticks out his thumb and they hitch a lift from the ship and the Vogons blow up the Earth and Arthur and Ford go on adventures across the galaxy.’ I chuckled halfheartedly at my unflattering summary. ‘My tattoos are named after them. This is Arthur, and Ford, and Zaphod.’

‘Which one of them would you want to talk to? If they could be here right now.’

I considered. ‘Arthur just wants a cup of tea so he might not be much help. Zaphod is president of the Galaxy – nobody knows why – but he’s probably a no. Trillian is sort of unintentionally intimidating. So, Ford, I guess?’

‘Set up a space for Ford.’

I dragged the piano away from the wall, put my Hedwig cup on it, my colourful shoes by it, draped red- and green-sequined cloth on top of it, and got a scarf to represent a towel. I was grinning.

Jen asked me to think of 5 questions to ask Ford. A challenging intellectual exercise as I was simultaneously¬†feeling an entire spectrum, from depressed through exposed through hysterical. I’m paraphrasing but these were the questions:

  • Is there room on your ship?
  • How do you stay so optimistic?
  • How exactly are you related to Zaphod?
  • What’s it like facing every day with no idea what’s going to happen, and being okay with it?
  • (and because I couldn’t phrase the other existential question quite right,) What’s your favourite drink?

I channelled my inner Ford while Jen asked the questions as an improv exercise. I felt different, more animated. Leading from my chest, bubbly, joyous.

  • ¬† ‘Always room for one more!’
  • ‘Well, it’s a tough galaxy, but only as tough as you make it. Hold on to what makes you happy. Nothing else matters.’
  • ‘Uh, he’s not my cousin, he’s my semi…half-brother…’
  • ‘Exciting! It’s liberating. Like…nothing matters, so why not? Why not try? Why not see what happens? It’s great.
  • (and because there wasn’t time to explain a pan-galactic gargle blaster,) ‘Jynnan tonyx. Strong.’

Drama therapy is so extra. It worked though. Walked out feeling so much better. Like a different person entirely. Jen said it was cool that the three of them – Arthur, Zaphod and Ford – are with me all the time. My tattoos grow on me. Arthur is a bee because I quite like bees. Then Sami said it was like how bees shouldn’t be able to fly but they do anyway. Then he became Arthur Dent, a reminder to keep focused and prioritised (maybe not on tea but it’s the same idea). Zaphod is the music dragon, epitomising the importance of bluster and bravado however unqualified you are/feel. And Ford, the music phoenix, reborn from the ashes, saying ‘look around! See the wonder! Isn’t it amazing?’

I need to listen to them more.


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