No bribe or gift in the universe could manipulate my mind into speaking at school
nbeknownst to me, my parents went through many sleepless nights and nearly turned the world upside down to find a solution for me. They were stumped by my behavior and so was my school.
The number of gifts I was promised if I started talking were slowly mounting. An American Girl doll, pierced ears, and a pink VTech laptop were only some of them. Unfortunately, no bribe or gift in the universe could manipulate my mind into speaking at school. It obviously went much deeper than that.
Our house became peppered with books, CDs, and toys geared for selective mutism. I had a collection of conversation-starter games and feelings flashcards. My family would sit down regularly to a game of 5 Second Rule, which I was really good at. Only problem was, how to make me speak up in school?
After being silent for eight hours straight each day, my poor parents would sometimes have to deal with quite some temper tantrums. Mute at school, I experienced enormous pressure, and the mist of fear, anxiety, frustration, and unsatisfied needs were triggers of those outbursts.
Silent treatment was another component of my situation. It was creeping into my skin, making it more comfortable and easier to ignore conflict at home. My father remembers that when I was upset with him, I would retreat into my bedroom, refusing to talk to him, and when he left the house and came back after a bit, I resumed talking to him as if nothing had happened.
Along with it, I had my thumb-sucking habit. More like a safeguard. A way to escape opening my mouth in intimidating circumstances.
That’s when Vikky came into the picture. According to me, she was my therapist. Why? To help me stop sucking my thumb. According to my parents, she was my hypnotherapist. For selective mutism, obviously. And the fact that I only found out while writing this serial that I had received hypnosis back then, shows me how truly little I knew at the time. My parents were a little cautious, as hypnotherapy wasn’t yet such a popular method back then, but they had heard from a reliable source that Vikky was the one who could help me.
I enjoyed being picked up from school in the middle of the day to go to these appointments. It was a 30-minute drive, so I would get to spend some quality time with either my father or mother.
When I met Vikky for the first time in her soft pastel-colored office, I thought she was nice but rather proper in her straight-cut suit, perfectly coiffed brown hair, and wine-colored lipstick.
“Hello, what’s your name?”
If she thought she’d get an answer from me, she was wrong. Well, at least she tried.
She made me get onto some sort of dentist chair that she controlled with her remote to make me lay flat. After that, my memory is very hazy. I never really understood why I can’t remember much of the sessions, till I recently found out about how I was being hypnotized to heal from my trauma. Although, I do remember crying. A lot. My face was very wet and sticky by the time Vikky had finished the hour. I probably emptied tissue boxes in that small office.
“Let it out,” she said as I sniffled loudly. “Let it all out.”
I had no inkling what I was letting out exactly, nor how it would help me stop sucking my thumb, but I continued going to these therapy sessions either way. Sometimes I would refuse to cooperate, so my parents bought me little gifts or treated me to pizza afterward.
I carried on with the therapy for a few months, but still no results. My parents were advised to “be patient” with the process. But for how much longer? And would it really be the solution to this never-ending puzzle?
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 970)
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