Hopes and Fears: I don’t want to feel THIS again

It’s been a rough few days. Actually, it’s been a rough few weeks, but the last few nights have been almost unbearable. Bea wanted me to look at the hopes and fears worksheet, and I did. I wrote about a part who is afraid that writing any sort of hope down will give Bea leverage to use against me if I say I don’t want to do an SP thing during a session. I wrote that fear is too big to untwist. I wrote that if I wrote down any hopes, they would be something generic, because even the idea that maybe I could focus on something internally, or notice some physical feeling and have it be positive and safe is so far out of left field for me, I can’t really comprehend it. And then I wrote in my notebook, after a particularly real dream, followed by a frozen sort of flashback when I awoke. I wrote that the hope and the fear is the same: I don’t want to feel THIS anymore.

Now it’s Wednesday and Bea is in her chair. A stack of worksheets that she filled out sits next to her along with the notebook from that horror filled week when she disappeared and the filter was just gone, and my SP book and journal are in her lap. I had requested that we maybe look at the pink polka dotted notebook because it is all written by parts, and it’s the parts that need dealing with.

She’s talking to me about the notebook. “It was really awful for you, wasn’t it? I read back through it and it is painful to read. I know how painful it was. But it’s real. It’s raw and unfiltered. The little girl’s pictures, there’s so much feeling to them, that rawness just pours off the page.” She asks me something, but I can’t remember what. I’m not sure her question ever really penetrated through the fog that swallowed me up almost the moment I walked into her office.

I had wanted to go through the notebook, maybe read it and talk about it. Now, though, I can’t focus on what she is saying. Bea’s fuzzy blanket covers my feet, and I’m burying my head in a pillow. “Can we just not?” I ask her. “I just….let’s just hold this conversation.”

“We can, of course. Did you want to take this notebook back home with you?” Her voice is mild, neutral.

“I don’t know.” I sigh. I feel a little like I’m drowning at the moment.

“Okay. We can come back to that later, or another day,” she says softly, and then it’s quiet for a minute.

“I tried to answer your question in my SP book,” I tell her.

“Do you want me to look at that now?”

“My journal, first, I think.” I whisper.

“Okay.” She opens my journal and finds the new writing.

I’ve managed to sit up and stop hiding my face in the pillow, but now I take the blanket and cover up with it. I don’t hide under it, but I am ready to hide at any moment.

“Mmm hmmm, yes. This. Exactly. You are feeling these things no matter how hard you try to avoid them.”

“I can avoid them. As long as I stay awake, don’t lay down. Oh, and don’t be in the dark. Then it’s fine. I’m fine.” As soon as I say it, I laugh a little. It sounds ridiculous.

“You can’t avoid things. You need to sleep. You deserve to sleep and not be afraid.” She’s firm in this moment, because she hates when I don’t sleep.

“I know. And I know avoiding the feelings here, it’s not doing any good. They show up when I lay down, when I sleep.” I say, quietly.

“When you wake up, and it’s all too real and stil feels real, are you here and frozen? Or far away?” She asks carefully. I pull the blanket over my head as she asks this question.

From my safe hiding spot, I answer. “I don’t know. Not far away. Frozen, but not here. Or….I feel like I’m here, but it’s not really present day. I mean….it feels like it’s then, but I’m present and frozen back then. Except it’s now, but it isn’t really. If I could go farther away, I would feel better. The feelings wouldn’t be so real.”

“Okay. So it feels like you are present and frozen, and what’s happening feels real, as if it is happening right now. So you feel present moment, even though we know it’s in the past.” Somehow it seems that she gets it, despite my convaluted explanation.

“But I don’t always know it’s from the past.” I whisper the words, embarrassed.

“Of course not. That’s part of why it feels so real.” Her voice is so matter of fact, that I believe her. “So, what if we were talking about this, and I asked you to pay attention to a feeling that doesn’t feel as bad? It could be your toes, and so we would focus on your toes. We would take the focus off the bad feelings, to help regulate you.”

I shake my head. “But the little girl….that feels like you saying no talking about this.” It’s so hard to find a way through this. Little Alice is so sensitive to feeling not seen, to being shut down, and Bea directing attention away from her memories…..well, it’s the same as if Bea got up, walked away and refused to see me ever again. I don’t know how to help Little Alice understand that Bea isn’t leaving, that she wants to help.

“Right. She really doesn’t like being directed away from a memory. Can we help her understand it’s not forever? Can I tell her right now that if I asked you to notice something else, and focus on that in order to help calm down and not feel so scared that we could go back to the memory again? That she could be the one to focus on something else, that she doesn’t have leave, or feel ignored? That I want her to work with us on this every step of the way? And learning to focus on something that doesn’t feel so bad could help in the middle of the night, help to stop the bad scary feelings?”

I shake my head. “No.” The fear that she just wants to make me stop talking is so huge. The little girl really believes that Bea doesn’t want to listen.

“Can I ask the Little girl something?”

“I guess so,” I say tentatively.

“Whose body is it, that is feeling those things? Is it yours (the little girl’s)?” Bea’s voice is gentle.

I don’t answer for a long time. Finally, I sigh and say, “The grown up thinks yes, it is.”

“Okay….” Bea says, waiting for me to say more.

“But…well….the little girl…she’s….” I stumble, finding it hard to say the words. “Not my body. Not me. That was not happening to me. No, no.”

“Yeah,”Bea soothes. “You don’t want that to be you. If it is, you have to feel it, and that is scary.”

“Yeah. Scary.” I agree.

“What if we could find a way to direct attention away from those feelings? That’s why you, or the grown up, or another part could help to focus on something else. So in the night, you don’t have to be so scared. And so that here, we can talk about memories and feelings without it getting too scary.”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay. That’s okay. You can think about it.” She tells the little girl, and then she talks about some normal simple stuff for a few minutes, enough so that the grown up is back on board.

“I just really don’t want to feel that anymore. I’m so scared that I will if we try to focus on….Any of that SP stuff. I think it is the way to help this……. but….I’m afraid.” I cover my face with my hands, even though I’m hiding under the blanket. I feel so exposed and vulnerable right now.

“I know. It’s scary, and uncomfortable. Can I challenge that idea a little bit? Can we remind parts that we have done some SP work in the past, and you were able to find some resources and it did help? Can you remember those two times?” She’s gentle as she says this, but I feel a little bit thrown. The teen feels like Bea is using those two helpful times against me, to tell me why I should be willing to try more, or do better at SP.

“Yes. Sort of. I mean, I know we did it, and that it helped, but the actual sessions….I don’t have the details. I think both times everything was all too overwhelming.”

“I do think it was times when you were a bit desperate and falling of the edge of the cliff. But the SP resourcing did help to pull you back from the edge, at least enough to get through those bad times.” She says.

When I don’t say anything for a long while, Bea offers to share her hopes and fears worksheet with me. I say okay, and she reads me her fears. It’s easy for me to jump into a helping role, and so I easily come back to being more present by listening to her. I validate her fears, but then I offer a different viewpoint, something to think about. I won’t share her list here, because it’s not mine to share, but one of her hopes sparked a conversation and that I will share.

“I guess my hopes are more things I like about SP, and that I hope to do more of,” she tells me as she starts to read her list. She reads two or three things off it, and then reads, “I like the way I feel when I take a few moments and just really connect to where my body is in space, and what sensations I’m noticing. It makes me feel calm and centered, peaceful. I hope to do more mindfulness exercises because I know how helpful it can be and I like how I feel afterward.”

She says that, and I’m just sort of….flabbergasted. Calm? Peaceful? I don’t understand. This literally makes no sense to me. I can’t really comprehend it. It takes a moment for me to even find words. “That just….it makes no sense to me. I don’t understand. This isn’t….that’s not my experience, and I don’t…peaceful? I don’t understand that. I understand feeling calmer by focusing on what I hear, or what I see. On outside things.” Maybe a tiny part of me feels betrayed, Bea is never going to understand exactly how scary and hard this is, if she finds focusing internally peaceful and calming.

“Well, so what I was thinking about when I was writing out my hopes, it wasn’t about feeling or noticing things attached to memories. It was more about, I guess like doing a check in with my body, just on what it happening in this moment.”

I stare blankly at her, but she can’t see that because I’m still hiding under my blanket. She must somehow sense I’m still confused, because she suggests, “I could go through a mindfulness exercise that I like, say it out loud while I do it, so you can hear what I mean. You wouldn’t do anything, just listen to see if it helps explain what feels peaceful to me.”

“Okaaay. I guess so.” I’m heisitant to ageee, but it’s not anything I have to do, so it’s probably okay.

Bea takes a deep breath. “I always start with a deep breath or two. Then, I tell myself that I know there is a lot to do, or that I know things were busy today, or whatever. I focus on where my feet are. Maybe they are on the floor, or resting on a chair. Maybe I can feel my socks, shoes. I focus on if my toes need to wiggle, or feet need to move. I notice where else in my body I can feel the chair. Maybe against my back. I notice what the chair feels like against my back. I focus on if I can let myself relax against the chair because it will support my back…….”

She’s talking and I’m going far, far away. I can’t do this. Just the thought of this is too much….it’s too much, and I’m gone away, to the place where I feel like my head is just a balloon on a string, floating away somewhere else. Everything is numb and wrapped in thick cotton, so no feelings will ever get through. It’s peaceful here, in this land of nothingness.

Bea’s voice isn’t really gettting through. She asking me if I have seen any of the mindfulness apps.

“No,” I say, even though I have. Of course I have, they are everywhere. I even have one on Kat’s iPad because she likes to use it before bed. My voice is hollow because there is nothing there. I’m empty. Numb. Not here.

“They might be helpful. Usually there is a pretty picture, or a circle or something you focus on, so it’s more of that external mindfulness that feels safe to you.”

I don’t respond. Not because I don’t want to, I want to tell her that those apps focus on breathing and I don’t like the breathing thing.

“Alice, are you here? Are you far away?” She asks me, realizing I’m gone.

I can’t find my words. Finally I manage to say, “Frozen. Far away.”

“Okay, okay, that’s good that you could tell me that. If just talk, will that help?” Her voice is calm. I think she is speaking slower than usual to give my foggy brain time to catch up.

I don’t answer her, and so she just talks. I don’t even know what she said. I was farther away than I’ve been in a long while. Eventually, I manage to be a bit more here, at least enough to be able to move. Being more here means feeling vulnerable, and even with the blanket, I wish I could build a pillow fort and hide in it.

Bea notices that I’m back, and says, “So, l’m going to use one of our bad words. Okay?”

She means she is going to say a word on the *words we don’t use list* and so I whisper, “Please don’t.” I know I can’t handle that right now.

“It’s not a scary one. The e one.” The e word is experiment. In SP, they use experiments to test things, or to observe new information. It makes the whole thing feel very lab rat like to me, and that is so triggering and painful for the teen.

“No. I can’t,” I tell her, realizing that I am on high alert to find something wrong with Bea, to get mad at her, a reason to push her away, to cause a rupture. I’m teetering on the edge of something and if she says anything shrinky, it will be all over; I will fall off this narrow ledge.

“Okay. Let me think.” She won’t just use a synonym, because she knows that’s not better, so she has to find a different way to tell me whatever it is she wants to tell me. “All right. I know that was triggering, and made you go far away. That wasn’t my intention, but I think that this tells us where we need to start. Just hearing a mindfulness exercise that focuses internally and on the body is too much. And that’s good for us both to know. And it’s okay. We have to start where you are at.”

I sigh. “I feel broken.”

“If you were one of the kids I see, I would challenge that. This is bringing up a lot of black and white thinking for you.”

“No, well, yeah, okay. But it is because…….the point…the whole thing in the book is to, I mean what they expect is that you can…..ugh!” I’m frustrated. Why did I think I could do this?

“Focus on the body and notice what is happening internally?” She asks.

“Yeah. And I can’t. I’m not good at this. I’m used to being good at things.” I say softly.

“There is no good or bad. It just is.”

“I don’t like this.” I tell her.

“Well, no. It’s uncomfortable. And new. And. It is challenging those old beliefs. That’s not easy.” She says in that reassuring way she has.

“Well, no. But I just….it shouldn’t feel this hard. Especially worksheets. I rock at worksheets. Ms. Perfect could fill out every worksheet in the book with all the right answers.” I tell her. I’m out from under the blanket, and I’m gathering my things as I say this.

“Well, there are no right answers.” She smiles at me.

I shake my head. “There are. For Ms. Perfect, there are.” There isn’t time to explain the thinking behind this, or to talk through it, because I have to go, and Bea’s next appointment is here. I leave feeling a little…..off.

Later, Ms. Perfect fills out all the worksheets in chapter 4, even the one that asks you to write a letter to the body. It takes her all of fifteen minutes to whip through them. In her world, the right answer is whatever a normal person would write. It’s all about what someone who isn’t broken, who is okay, would say. And she is very, very good at this game of being normal and okay. It’s actually a little bit scary how good she is at this.


Thinking about Sensorimotor Therapy

“I’ve watched you for years put your hand out in front of you push at the air, setting a boundary, or maybe pushing away what we are talking about.” Bea tells me.

“Memories have been more intense for you, you have felt more present and frozen during them, and you are physically feeling them ever since the filter was removed.” She validates my feeling that every memory and dream is much more intense than before.

“Would you be willing to get the SP book and we could read it together?” She asks gently.

“We have to deal with the parts. They matter. All the parts of you are equal, and every part can have a say. But we need to deal with the stuff that is coming up, and we can’t do that without all the parts on board.” Bea informs me.

“I believe the best way to deal with the physical memories and feelings that are coming up with your current flashbacks and dreams is by working with the body. But we are smart and creative people, we can find another way if that isn’t something that feels safe right now.” Bea says carefully, as if her voice, her words, are walking on eggshells.


Three weeks of therapy and this is what we have been talking about. Every session, every week for almost four weeks, we have discussed SP, and parts, and dreams and memories being so very, very real. We’ve discussed the horror of *this really happened*.

The day she asked if I might think about reading the SP book with her, I ordered it from amazon. It took me another week to open the book, and a week after that to tell her I had bought it. Bea let me know of I wanted to discuss any of it, that we could, but that we didn’t have to. She said we could do the worksheets in each chapter if I wanted to, but that we didn’t have to. She said that just because I bought the book, we didn’t have to do any SP if I didn’t want to. She said all the right things, and that helped.

So, I started to read the book. I read through chapter five. Then I bought post it notes, and read through the first five chapters again, using the blue post it notes to write my thoughts down as I read. Everything I wrote was snarky and angry and suspicious. Later, I read through it a third time and used the pink post it notes to try to write reactions from a more adult place.

The challenge is that when it’s just the grown up Alice on board, I do think SP could help. I do believe that the best way to deal with the things coming up is by working with the body. The other parts do not agree in the slightest. The little girl is terrified, and the teen is snarky and suspicious and the shame part doesn’t want to even think about the body– any body and Ms. Perfect believes SP is a waste of her time, because she is fine.

I brought the book to therapy last week, and practically threw it at Bea. “This is not going to help. I can’t do this. And the person who made this therapy just wants a bunch of guinea pigs.” I snapped as she sat calmly, holding my book.

She didn’t agree or disagree with me, just asked who was feeling that way and why.

“I wrote it down. In the book. Just read that.” My tone was all snark. The teen really wasn’t going to make this easy for Bea.

So, she opened the book, and she started to read. And you know what? We talked about the blue post it notes. It turns out, Bea agreed with some of the things that the Teen took issue with. After a while, there was enough of the grown up Alice online that we were able to talk about the pink and the blue post it notes. And that was okay. Not easy, and not comfortable, but okay. It was a bit like reviewing a book at a book club.

On Wednesday of last week, Bea asked if i has time, would I think about and maybe look at the worksheets at the end of chapter 4 (titled *The Wisdom of the Body: lost and found*. On a blue post it note, I had written, “The body has no wisdom, and if it does, it should stay lost. It’s safer that way.”). I said I might look at them. I had little to no intention of doing so, but then, curiosity got the better of me, and I did. My immediate reaction was “Nope. Not doing this. Cant do this. Nope. Nope. Nope.” So that’s what I wrote on my post it note.

Later, I looked at the worksheets again, and I wrote on another note that it was just too hard, that these sheets were asking for too much.

Monday, we talked about SP some more, and Bea read my post it notes on the worksheets. She put one of her own post it notes on one of the worksheets, asking if I could pinpoint what part or parts was reacting to that particular worksheet. She wondered if I could try to write about the parts viewson that particular worksheet.

We talked about that worksheet today, but I will write about that later on. For now, I’m going to including a photo of the worksheet, in case anyone is curious.

Therapy and the what if

Wednesday’s session was weird. Not bad, just weird. It’s always like that when Bea has been on vacation, even if we only missed one session. I have this sort of compulsive need to talk about nothing and make sure she is still Bea, that it is safe to dig into the rubble of my life. I always need to do this to a certain extent; I need to form this more superficial connection, to test the waters before I hand over my notebook and bare my soul……..

It’s Wednesday, and Bea is back from her trip, and I’m back in her office and all is right in my world. She came back. I’m okay. I was okay while she was gone. And yet, I can’t settle down. I can’t get out my new notebook, even just to show off the pretty turquoise blue and cream striped fabric covering it. I love nice, well made, beautiful notebooks, and this is a really pretty one, with smooth cream colored paper inside.

I ask about her trip, and I tell her about Kat’s school, and we chat about nothingness. “I’m sorry,” I tell her, “I keep trying….I’m not trying to not talk. I just, I don’t know.”

Bea shakes her head. “You are okay. And honestly, these parenting things, and relationships, and all of that, these things you see as wasting time? These are things lots of people go to therapy to talk about. So I don’t see this as you wasting time.”

“I know, but it just..I beleive you, and I know that stuff can be hard, but for me, that’s the stuff I can usually handle no problem. It’s the other stuff that I need to talk about because I can’t talk about it anywhere else. I don’t know. Never mind.”

“Okay, so what other stuff do you want to talk about today?”

“I have writing.” I finally pull my notebook out of my bag.

“Let’s start there then,” Bea says.

I give her my notebook, but even as she is reading through it, I’m struggling to settle down. I keep talking and fidgeting. “I’m having a hard time. It’s the end, I mean the last two things I wrote about, I’m having a hard time.”

“Do you want me to stop reading?” She places the ribbon bookmark in my journal and closes the book. “I don’t have to read it, it is up to you.”

“No, read it. It’s just hard.”

“Do you want your blanket?” She asks, and I nod yes, so she goes and gets my blanket and drapes it over me. I can hear her sit back in her chair and start reading again.

“Okay,” she says once she has finished reading, “I think we need to talk about this dream, but can we just talk about the what if for a minute?”

“I….maybe. We can try. But I don’t…I mean….it’s hard.”

“I know. The second you want to stop talking about this, you say the word and we will be done. Okay?”


Mostly we talk about everything that is already in my what If post. Bea offers to call CPS for me, to not mention my name, but to report it. She would need his name and his address, but she can call for me. That just feels like too much telling. Like it’s this line I can’t go back from, once she has his name. It’s just….maybe a part of still wants to hide him. I don’t know why, but I can’t give up his full name. I just can’t. Another option is that I can call CPS and report anonymously. I just don’t know. We go around and around. Finally I tell her how my life, and my world are split. There is the perfect me, the old me, from my old life. Then there is me. Just me. From this life. And on this side of the state, I’m just me. But on the other side of the state, I’m still her— Ms. Perfect, the girl I used to be. I need that separation.

“It’s a boundary. A very real, physical boundary, but also, a felt boundary, a boundary that is emotional. You need that boundary to feel safe.”

I nod my head, even though she can’t see me. “I don’t need, or want justice. I don’t need to see him in court, sentenced to jail. I just want to keep my old life over there, and to be here, to be me. I want to live my life, and feel my feelings, and to be real. I want to come to therapy and process my stuff and learn and grow and be okay. That’s all. That is enough justice for me; that I still managed to learn to be me, to live, and I’m okay. I might be messy, but I’m okay.”

“It sounds like you already know what you need.” Her voice has a question in it.

“Except the what if.” I whisper.

“You aren’t responsible for anyone but yourself. You are only responsible for keeping yourself safe and healthy so you can live your life.” She says gently.

“Am I a terrible person for not telling?” I’m crying now, feeling guilty and awful because of the what if.

“No. No. Not in any way.” Her voice is stern. She wants me to hear her and to really listen.

We go around like this for a while longer, until I say I can’t keep talking about this. Bea says okay, and then adds, “It’s 25 after, I don’t know what time you need to leave by….”

We’ve gone over again. When I apologize, Bea says it was her choice and that she thought this needed talking about.

“If you have time, can we chat about the dream?” She asks.

“Okay.” It’s a whisper, because this, too, is a hard topic.

“You didn’t write much, and that’s okay, but can I ask if it’s a flashback dream, or a dream-dream?”

“Both. It’s weird. It’s…memories, but it all….it goes from one to the next, like it’s all the same time, the same age, but it’s not. I mean, these things happened, but not the same age.”

“Okay. Do these things, the memories, are they linked somehow?”

I shake my head. “They are awful. Just really awful. And I feel it. I just….I don’t know anything. But it’s there, every night, this dream is there.”

“Okay.” Bea takes a breath. “It’s coming up for a reason. I think we need to do some work on this. I think SP is a good place to start with dreams, process things from the ground up, take away some of its’ power. If you want to do some SP work.”

“I’m scared.” I tell her. This is becoming a pattern. She brings up SP, I feel scared, and we talk about It. I suppose the pattern has changed, because I used to dissociate and freak out, and refuse to even think about it. Now I get quiet, work to stay present, admit I am really scared, talk about it and then I warily agree to try it.

The pattern holds. We talk about what SP does and does not mean, and how Bea is not going to stop me from talking. Then I warily agree to try.

“Monday, then. We will work with this dream.” Bea says.

“Okay….” I say slowly. “I’ll try to write it down.”

“If you can, that’s great. If not, that is okay, too.” I peek out from under the blanket, and Bea moves her gaze from my direction, knowing that would be too much for me. She smiles at me before she does, though.

“Okay. I’ll try. I’m just scared,” I say again.

“I know. And that’s okay,” she assures me.

What if….?

This is more of a thinking aloud post, but I would like your thoughts. I need to talk this out, and while this was the major subject of therapy today– which I will post about later– I can’t be completely honest with Bea about it all.

My question today: what if? What if he has hurt someone else because I never told? What if he is hurting someone right now because I never told? What if he hurts someone tomorrow or next week or next month or next year, because I didn’t tell today?

But I can not tell. I don’t feel this need to punish him, to get “justice.” I just….what if he is hurting someone else?

Can I report anonymously to CPS? Would that make a difference? Bea suggested that I could call the police anonymously. Or that she could call CPS and keep my name out of it. None of that sounds like a terrible idea. It might be do-able.

Except…..and it is this except that I can not tell Bea. I just….I don’t know, but she won’t like this. So, except it’s a small town and people there will know him. If CPS is from each town or whatever, chances are they will know him and they won’t believe it. If I call the police in town, well….he is the police. He is the director of public safety. No one is going to believe me, much less investigate it. And whoever I talk to will probably tell him, and then he will know I told and no good can come of that.

So what am I supposed to do about this what if?

You just gotta trust the process

It’s Wednesday and I’m still struggling with my memories not matching things. I’m back in Bea’s office, and I have writing– a lot of writing– to share with her. I’d written about the shame part, and how I wasn’t sure if the shame part and the instigator part were the same part or different parts. I’d also written that I (not the adult, but some part) would call the instigator the slutty part. Of course, I could never say that aloud, but there it was, in my journal.

Bea reads this, and stops reading to comment. “We can call this instigator part whatever she wants to be called or whatever you want to call her. If the slutty part is her name, then that’s her name. Another name for this part might be the seducer. I don’t remember exactly where I read, but in psychoanalytic theory, the seducer is a common part in sexual abuse cases.”

I don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure if Bea is going to turn shrinky or not, and so I’m sort of just waiting to see where this goes. Bea goes back to reading when it’s clear I’m not going to speak. She pauses periodically and comments on something I’d written, and I don’t say anything. Most of my session went like this. I don’t know know why, when I have so much in my head, I can’t seem to speak.

Two years ago, Bea would have talked to me, using the words in my journal as if I were responding to her. Now though, she won’t let me get away with silence. “What’s going on in that head of yours? Hmmm? You’ve been so quiet today.” Her voice has this playful quality to it, but I know she is asking for real; asking because she cares.

I shrug and look down at my hands. I’ve been picking at my fingers again. “I don’t know. I just….this. It’s hard. It doesn’t match. Not like, like the little girl, she didn’t match, but it was….there was no question she was part of me, even when I didn’t like her. This….this part is different.”

“Because the feelings and thoughts are so outside of who you are, of things you value?”

“No….not like that…not exactly.” I couldn’t figure out how to explain it then, and I’m not even sure now, but this is what I do know. Bea is right in a way– the idea of a part of me being sexual and enjoying it makes me sick. I see it as bad. (I realize that sex is healthy normal part of life and isn’t bad, and I am not calling anyone who enjoys sex or who is sexual bad. It’s just this belief I’ve taken on about myself.) However, it’s not exactly this “shadow side” of myself that I can’t acknowledge. I think the difference between the little girl and this part is that the little girl’s experiences aligned with my own, and I didn’t know all of her memories at one time. Mostly, her memories lined up with the story I had always told myself about it all just being a fun game. And when fear or shame showed up in these memories, it was after I had been working through things with Bea for a while. By then, I could at least feel those things in the moment, when the little girl was running things, and she could get her feelings out, and then they would be all but gone once the adult was back in control. It took a long time — almost 4 years — for all the awfulness of the little girl’s memories to come to light. Now this shame part and this instigator part, all their feelings, all their memories, everything about them and their perspectives are all right here. It’s a lot. I think if I had been hit with the little girl’s experiences, filter free, all at once, it would have felt as if she didn’t match in a very big way. Just like these parts now feel.

Bea tries to follow this thread, but it doesn’t go very far. Or maybe I can’t let her take it very far. Either way, this wasn’t a conversation I was willing to keep having.

All session, it felt like we were each wanting to talk about these things, wanting to work on it, but some part of me just wasn’t going to let Bea in. I don’t know. We kept missing each other. I think it would have continued on like that until the very end, except Bea took another stab in the dark, and asked, “What does the little girl think about the instigator part?”

I knew, instantly I knew what the little girl thought. It took me a minute to answer Bea, though, because I felt a little silly. “She’s mad. She just.. she’s mad.”

“Mad at the instigator? Can she say more about that?” Bea is curious. There is no judgment in her voice, she’s just glad to have found a way in.

“She’s ruining everything! I just want her to go away! To shut up and go away!”

“The instigator is ruining everything?” Bea asks. I nod, and so she continues. “What is she ruining?”

“Everything.” I’m exasperated. Didn’t I just say that? Didn’t I just tell Bea that the instigator is ruining everything?

“Can you tell me more about everything? I know she is ruining everything, but what does everything mean?” Beas voice is soft now, she is not talking to grown up Alice, she is talking to little Alice, and she is very aware of that.

“This. You. She’s going to ruin this.” I whisper this, but it is a whisper that contains all the emotions of a scream; anger, fear, vulnerability.

“Ahhhh, Okay. I see. You are afraid she is going to ruin the relationship.” Bea sounds as if it all makes sense to her now.

“Maybe.” The single word is said in a teeny tiny voice, but it tries to sound as if this doesn’t matter at all.

“I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not going to stop caring about you or stop believing your story just because we let this other part be heard.” Bea reassures the little girl again. How does she never tire of reassuring me that she isn’t leaving? It’s pretty incredible.


“Would it be okay with the little girl if we checked in with the instigator? I’m curious if she has something to say about the little girl being mad at her?” Bea is careful to keep her voice neutral as she asks this.

“I guess that’s okay.” I agree, but only because I’m pretty sure that if I’d said no, Bea would have been supportive of that.

“Well then…..I will say to the instigator part, did she hear the little girl speaking? Does she have anything she would like to say about the little girl being mad at her? Or just anything she would like to say?”

As Bea was speaking, I’d been feeling ridiculous, but as she finishes her question, I just know the answer. It’s strange, yes, but I knew the answer. “I feel a little silly….. but, well, the instigator is mad at the little girl.”

“She is? Why is she mad?” Bea asks. She sounds a little surprised, but it’s sort of like surprised that the instigator was willing to talk.

“Because….well, I guess it’s sort of like that kid thing of if you are mad at me, then I’m gonna be mad back at you. You know?”

“Hmmm, yeah. I do know. So she’s only mad because the little girl is mad at her?” Bea is trying to get more information.

“I think so.” I shrug. I’m not sure.

“What does the little girl think about that?” I have my face buried in my knees, but I can see Bea’s feet. She uncrosses her legs and puts both feet flat on the floor.

My first answer is that I don’t know. But I sit silently, thinking of the question and directing it to the little girl. “I don’t care. She ruined everything before. She wanted…..she did things that started….he hurt me and she wanted him to do it! I hate her!” My voice breaks as I’m speaking and the tears come. I hate the instigator. She just went along with everything. She started things. He hurt me, and she helped him do it. I hate this part.

“Yeah. Of course, of course you do. He did hurt you, and you couldn’t stop it. You did everything you could to escape it–that the dissociation, right? How can you begin to understand how she could instigate things with him, after all you went through?” She is so full of empathy and understanding, I can actually feel it. It’s like being wrapped up in a safe, warm hug. Bea lets that sit for a moment before asking, “What about the instigator? Does she have anything to she would like to say?”

It doesn’t take long for me to *hear* the instigator’s voice in my head. “She is upset. She feels like, well, if the little girl hadn’t been so dumb, so stupid to trust him, to go along with it all, to believe it was just a game, then, well, she wouldn’t have had to do the things she did.”

“Yeah. There were real reasons that the instigator did what she did. She was trying to protect herself, protect all the parts.”

That little bit of empathy for the instigator is all it takes for shame to show up. I think I’m going to be sick. I’m far away, in a flash, before I can even stop to think about grounding myself. I want to disappear. I think how that I dream of Genie trick, where you wiggle your nose and disappear, well that would be a great trick to have right about now.

“What just happened? Where did you go?” Bea asks. She’s gotten really good at knowing when I’ve gone far away.

“Not here.” The answer sounds sassy, but it’s really just all the words I can get out right now.

“Here didn’t feel very safe all of a sudden. What happened?” Bea says softly.

“I’m disgusting.” I gag on the words. Shame is so strong right now.

“I don’t think so. What made you feel that right now?”

“I…..it’s….. because of the things I did.”

“And maybe my acknowledgment of those things that the instigator did?” Bea adds this in gently, but she is fully aware that being *seen* can be a huge trigger for me.

“No…maybe. I don’t know. It’s more…it is not…..9 year old girls are not supposed to know about, much less do those things, and want them! No, ewww……just ick.” I’m crying as I speak, and trying to curl into the smallest ball I can. I need to hide. I don’t want to be seen anymore.

“Well, no, 9 year old girls shouldn’t know about those things. They don’t choose to know about them.” Bea’s voice is soft. I like how she always uses the same words I use to describe things, unless she is trying to help me use those words that I find impossible to say.

“See? Normal 9 year old girls don’t do those things! I’m sick. I’m sick and twisted and disgusting.” I sob.

“Normal,” Bea says thoughtfully. “You were normal. It is absolutely normal for a girl who was victimized to look for connection in that way. Yes, you were completely normal. You aren’t disgusting, or sick or twisted. He was sick and twisted, to sexually touch a little girl, to turn that act of betrayal into a game, to make it because he loved you and you were special. He is disgusting, not you. You behaved in a way that was normal for your history.”

I don’t say anything. I can’t wrap my head around that.

“Alice? Are you here enough to have heard me?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I heard you.” My voice sounds thick, like I’ve been drugged. I’m just that far away.

“What does shame think about that?”

I don’t answer. Shame thinks Bea is wrong, that I’ve really pulled one over on her, or that maybe she just doesn’t want to see the truth of the awful things I did. I shake my head. “I don’t wanna talk anymore right now, k?” I mumble to Bea.

“Okay. We don’t have to talk right now.” She goes on to talk about everyday type stuff. She tells me about her dogs, and her trip she is going on over the weekend, and just random conversational stuff.

When I am more present, I look up at her. “I feel silly. And crazy. All this….mismatch memories and feelings and parts being mad at each other? I feel crazy.”

“You aren’t crazy. This is just the process. It’s working through a lot of really deeply buried feelings and beliefs. It gets better, and becomes less crazy making over time. You know that from past times you have felt like this.”

“And in the meantime, I just get to feel crazy and silly?” Even though I am serious that I feel silly and crazy, with the adult back in charge, I feel okay, and my question comes out good-naturedly.

She smiles at me. “That’s the process.”

I groan, interrupting her. “And we just have to trust the process, right?” I punctuate the question with a giggle.

Bea laughs with me. “Yup. You just gotta trust the process.”

When things don’t match

“It doesn’t match!” It’s Monday, and I’m back in Bea’s office, sitting in my spot on the couch. We spent some time talking about my *grown-up* life, and although we could have spent all of our time chatting like that, Bea has directed us to things under the surface. She asked about our last session and if I’d been able to do any writing about things not matching.

“Something really isn’t matching up for you,” she says, “Can you tell me what doesn’t match?”

Last week, I really didn’t have the words for what didn’t match. It was just a feeling, a very strong feeling, that nothing matches. Now, I have the words, but I’m too embarrassed to say them. “I don’t know,” I say, instead. After a moment, I shake my head. “That’s not right. I do know. I just can’t say it.”

“Did you write about it?” She asks.

“No. Not really. I just…it’s hard. This is hard.” I haven’t covered my face yet, but I want to.

“It is hard. We can take our time with this. There’s no rush.” Her words remind me that she is here, and she isn’t leaving. I remember that she has said that she would never willing stop seeing me, that she will never fire me.

“Maybe…..can I have my blanket?” I cringe as I whisper this request, still so embarrassed that I behave like such a child at times.

Bea, however, doesn’t bat an eyelash. She gets up and grabs my turquoise blanket, unfolding it and laying it over my lap. My fingers grab onto the edges and hold on tightly. After a moment, I yank the blanket over my head and hide. It’s a relief, to not be seen, to be hidden like this. It’s also mortifying that I need this in order to feel even remotely safe enough to talk. (Now, as I’m writing this, the grown up thinks this is progress. I used to only talk in the safety of email. That first year, more therapy took place outside of my sessions than during them. This must be progress. I actually speak now, and I will share memories and painful feelings in my sessions.)

“I ummm….I….” I try to talk, I really do, but I can’t get the words out. They stick to the roof of my mouth like peanut butter.

“We were talking before about things not matching.” The prompt is gentle, a reference point to help me find what I was trying to say.

“My memories…….since things, since the filter is gone, it’s like…….I don’t know. My memories and things, they don’t match.” I’m aware that what I’m saying might not make a lot of sense, I’ve left so much out. It’s the best I can do at the moment.

“Can you tell me about the things that don’t match with your memories?”

I can feel myself going farther and farther away, but I can’t stop it. It’s like my head has been filled with helium and I’ve got this lovely floaty feeling. “It’s like, now the little girl doesn’t have to hide anymore from the reality of what happened because the filter is gone and so she has been able to stop tricking herself and the grown up can see so clearly that the little girl didn’t do anything wrong. But then, there’s……I’ve been having dreams and I just….well. I don’t know, I guess it’s that these memories the little girl holds, the scary things and the wanting to hide so nothing bad would happen, those things don’t match with these other memories. It’s………….you know. They don’t match with things I did, with things I felt.” My face feels like I have a sunburn.

“The little girl is right; she did not do anything wrong, and she is not bad. I wonder if this is a parts thing?” Bea is quick to reassure that the little girl is not bad.

“Maybe. Right now I’d really like to disappear.”

“That sounds like shame. Could this be a part we haven’t met yet?”

I think for what feels like a second but is probably much longer. Bea eventually asks if I’m here, so I know it must have been a long pause. “I……it’s sort of like maybe this part was mixed up with the little girl but now……it’s separate.”

“Mmmhmmm. That makes sense. This shame part is feeling a lot of blame and guilt.”

“I……well, yeah.”

“Can we talk about that?” She asks this carefully, speaking softly.

“I–I–I don’t know. I’m scared.”

“Let’s start there, then. You’re scared to talk about shame. I get that. Shame feels really awful. It can feel way too exposing to discuss our shame.”

“I’m afraid if we talk about this, then you will see the truth.”

“And what truth is that?”

“That I did this. That I wanted this. That I’ve somehow tricked you by leaving things out, or by twisting things, I don’t know! But you’ll finally realize that I am awful and then….never mind.” I stop myself before I can finish the sentence.

“And then I will leave?” It doesn’t matter that I cut off my words, Bea finishes them for me.

“Yeah. That.” I whisper this, wanting to throw up as I speak.

“That won’t happen.” Her voice is confident, sure.

“You can’t know that,” I argue.

“I know most of the details of your story. I know the things you think you did, and I can say that as someone on the outside, I will never view any of this as your fault.”

“You don’t know. You don’t know what’s in my head.”

“No, I don’t know what is in your head, but I do know that this is not your fault.” She pauses for a moment and then says, “I promise you that no matter what it is that is in your head, I’m not leaving.”

Her voice sounds so serious, and I believe she means it, so I blurt out the thing in my head. “It’s the things I felt. You know. Felt like…….physical felt. It’s the things I wanted to do.” Even under the blanket, even being so far away, I still wish the floor would open up and swallow me whole.

“Ahhh…….mmmhmm,” she murmurs, with this tone that says it makes sense to her, and is not surprising. I’m far, far away now, because to be present and tell those things is impossible. I think she reminds me that we have talked about this before, and it’s okay to talk about. She says something about how our bodies are made to respond, and that is normal. Her words are a blur in my brain; I was too far away to hold onto her words. She uses the word intensity, and talks about how all of the feelings I had then would have been very intense, and that is where the trauma comes in. She says that I was too young for all those intense feelings, hence the dissociation. There was something about the excitement, and maybe feeling like you were getting away something. She said there is a feeling of power and control in being the one to start something. I think there was something said ……….about maybe there was an initiator part, or perhaps the initiator and shame are the same part. I know there was more said, more explained and more empathized with and validated, but I can’t recall her words more than that.

At some point I sense silence, and I tell Bea, “I’m not here. I mean, I’m here, but I’m not here. I can’t, I just. I am not here.”

“I know,” she says simply, and then, “That was really good to notice that you are out of your window.”

“Your window,” I remind her. Even though I’m okay with the idea of the window of tolerance now, and actually find it helpful to use the terminology, I still always correct Bea that it is her window, not my window. It’s an inside joke between us.

“Okay, my window. Let’s see if we can get you back in the window.” I can hear the smile in her tone.

“I don’t want to,” I tell her.

“Okay.” That’s all she says. Way back when she first started with the window of tolerance stuff, I had felt extremely threatened, and been terrified Bea was going to force me to be present or not allow me to talk about my traumas unless I was in her window. She had made me two promises back then: she would never force me to be present, and that she would always let me talk. Bea has kept those promises.

I sit under my blanket, holding onto the edges, feeling floaty and not happy exactly but okay. I feel like if I just stay here, in this far away place, I will be okay.

“Can we check in on the little girl? You don’t have to come back right now, I just want to make sure she is okay.”

“She’s worried. She thinks if we let this new part talk, you will decide she lied and that she is disgusting and you will not want to help her.” There is also a lot of fear that Bea will stop caring about her, but I can’t add that. It’s complicated, but it comes down to the fact that I don’t feel as if I deserve to even assume another person cares about me. I’m not allowed to matter.

Bea starts to ask if the grown up can reassure the little girl, but she stops herself. “I want to tell the little girl that she is safe now. She survived something horrific, and I know it often feels like you are still living that. It is over now, and you are safe now. You aren’t alone now. If we listen to this other part, that does not mean you will be forgotten about, or that your story won’t be believed. I believe you, and I do not find you gross. You can talk whenever you want to, and I’ll check in with you, too. I know this is hard, but I think it is important to let this other part speak. I believe that working through the shame this other part feels will help you and all the other parts. Even though I want to listen to another part, that doesn’t mean you don’t matter to me. I care about you, and all the other parts. That doesn’t just go away. Okay?”

“Okay,” I whisper. I’m more here than I was before, although I’m still far enough away to not avoid feeling all the vulnerability that comes with being told someone who really knows me cares about me.

I somehow manage to get enough here that I can safely leave. As I’m heading down the stairs, Bea says one more thing to the little girl. “You can write to me or draw me a picture if you have more to say, and can’t hold it. The grown up can help send an email. Any of the parts, if they have more to say, or just need to feel some connection, to know I’m here and can help hold this stuff, they can email. Okay?”

“Okay.” I leave, knowing I probably won’t send an email, but thankful that she is there and willing to help all the parts.

Shame and Regret

Regret. Shame. These two little words can have such an impact on us. They can determine how we feel about ourselves, and they can even change the entire course of our lives. These two words have popped up frequently in my life lately. Im fact, I’d say they seem to be a theme in my therapy recently.

Last week, I wrote in my journal about this part of me that feels alone is safer. It’s most definitely the teen, and she wants to be left alone. In fact, she wants for Bea to leave me alone and stop trying to sift through all the rubble to find all the pain underneath. The teen just wants to be done, to be normal, to be okay. And she does not want to let any of these feelings out. It’s her job to control all the other parts, to protect me from their confusion and pain and anger. While there was a lot of just free writing, jumping from topic to topic last week, I felt better than I had in a long while. I felt present again. And when I went to therapy, I handed over my journal, and Bea read through it.

******************************************************************* Wednesday February 7, 2018

“I wonder if the little girl will feel alone until the teen stops believing that alone is safer?” Bea reads my question aloud. “That’s a good question. An important question. Do you have an answer?”

I shake my head. “Not really. No. I just….the teen, she has to keep everyone safe. For her, alone is safe. No one can hurt me if I’m alone.”

“Ahhhh, yes. She works so hard to keep all the parts safe. To keep you safe. I wonder if being back here feels threatening to her after a long break where things started to feel more stable?”

“Maybe. I…the adult me….I don’t think….I mean, I was okay for those weeks. I mean, there were triggers, but mostly, I just stayed on the surface and avoided feeling. Sort of numb. Not exactly, but sort of. I think, well, you know, there were times things would come up and I would think that I should sit down and write but then I would find something else to do. I would clean up, or I would watch a movie, read a book, take care of school stuff. I just stayed….. I floated on the surface, you know. And I think that’s okay, but it’s not good for me to do, not healthy long term. It’s too easy for that to suck me back into just being kinda of numb and not here all the time.”

“It’s a healthier way of coping than ways you have used in the past, but no, I don’t think it’s good long term. Maybe if you were able to sit down and let whatever come up, write about it, and then find a way back to the surface, that would feel better to you.” Bea suggests.

“Something more like that, yeah.” Her idea feels right, like that could be healthy and okay. “It’s funny that I’m saying this, but I don’t really like the sort of numb feeling.”

“It keeps you safe, but if everything bad is being numbed away, then more than likely everything feels blunted…..”

She’s not really done speaking, but I interrupt her. “Blunted! That’s exactly it. My whole life has been feeling blunted lately.”

“That can make it hard to feel joy, to feel connected to others, even to feel alive, can’t it?” Bea says. It’s not really a question, more of a statement to let me know she gets what I’m trying to say. I nod my head, and then she asks, “Does the teen feel a little threatened to have me poking around and digging under the surface after being able to keep everything blunted and safe?”

I think for moment, and then nod. “Yes. She likes things how they are.”

“I can understand that. And I think she is doing a very important job, one that helps to keep you okay enough to function in your daily life. We don’t want her to quit her job, and we don’t want to get rid of her. Do you think she would let us check in on the little girl? It’s been a while since we have checked in on her, and I bet she is feeling pretty lonely. I haven’t forgotten about her.”

“Not lonely. Not really. Confused.” I whisper the words and then bury my face in my knees.

“Confused, huh? What is confusing?”

“Nothing matches anymore.”

“Can you tell me what doesn’t match?” Bea is just so calm. She sounds curious, but not pushy, and I love that she is willing to just follow me down whatever rabbit hole I’m ready to jump down.

“Things. None of it. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t match.” I sound whiny. The little girl is not happy that things don’t match.

Bea asks again what it is that doesn’t match, and I continue to be unable to answer her. Eventually she reassures the little girl that it’s okay if things don’t match right now, that we will figure it out together. She says that she can understand it feels confusing and maybe the little girl feels sad or angry, and whatever she is feeling is okay and that she’s not alone. For a minute I feel like crying, and then it’s gone, and everything is blunted again.

******************************************************************* Sunday, February 11, 2018

We go to church again, and I’m starting to feel more comfortable here. I can smile and say hello to people who smile at me, and I even manage to make small talk with a few.

But then (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?) the service starts, and it’s all about regrets. It’s a different teaching pastor than a few weeks ago when I wrote about the Larry Nassar trials. He directs us to a bible passage, and that’s all fine and well. The whole thing is about Peter, and Peter denying Jesus three times. The pastor sets this whole scene, including a charcoal fire. Then he directs us to a second passage in the Bible, and says that in this passage is the first time Peter sees Jesus since denying the relationship. And wouldn’t you know it, Jesus is cooking something, and there is a charcoal fire? This is a trigger, for Peter, the pastor says, it triggers all the regret and shame he felt when he realized what he had done. Now, the Pastor goes on to talk about how Jesus forgave Peter, and how he gave Peter a chance to confirm their relationship, and then went on to give Peter a purpose in his life. That was all fine. Food for thought, but okay.

Now, though, the pastor continues to talk. He says that we all have regrets, and that there are three types of regret; regret of our actions, regret of our inaction, and regret that is not ours to own, but that we take on anyway. He says the last one often leads to feelings of shame, and that is so damaging to us. He says that when we regret things that have been done to us, or that have happened to us, and we hold onto shame and blame and guilt that is not ours to own, it hurts us. He says that each time we are triggered, just as Peter was triggered, and those feelings come up again and again, it is damaging to us. He talks about how shame about something that happened to us makes us begin to question our worth, our value. We begin to ask things like “what is wrong with me?” and to believe things like “I’m bad” or “I don’t deserve good things”. He talks about how these feelings can separate us from God, and how we don’t have to deal with those feelings alone, that their are people at church, including any of the pastors, that they would be happy to talk, or help find a therapist or to pray for anyone who is struggling. And then, he says that two weeks ago, we talked about the Nassar trials, and how many of the girls he had hurt felt that regret and shame for something they didn’t do, for something someone did to them. At least one in five women have been hurt in the same way, he says. Some of you are sitting out there, listening to me talk and you are thinking that you are different, that what happened to you really is your fault. But it’s not. He introduces a woman then, and says that she would like to share her story. And then she begins to speak. Her story is my story, it’s the story of so many of my blog friends. It’s not exactly the same story as mine, or as yours, of course, but it’s the story of a girl who was hurt by a man, a girl who took on all the blame and shame and regret for actions that never belonged to her. Of course, her story is also a story of finding Jesus and becoming a Christian.

I felt sick. I wanted to run out of the room. I wanted to scream and cry. It felt like a mean trick, to have such things openly discussed in public. Of course, now, with the adult in charge, I think this is maybe a good thing. They aren’t hiding from the ugly stuff, the hard stuff. This isn’t a church that pretends perfection. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it all. I think I’m still processing what church and God mean to me. Maybe that’s why I’m there. I have questions, things I may one day need to have conversations about, and I’m going to need to have a place to ask them, to be able to tell my story and figure how where I stand with God, what I believe. This might be a safe place to do just that.