What enactment means to me and Bea

I read the 2 pages that covered enactments in the SP book, and I freaked out. I spent an hour googling and reading about enactment. I managed to calm myself down by reminding myself that I was the one who had seen the parallel between my mom’s behavior and Bea’s behavior during the spring rupture. I reminded myself that I brought it up, and that even though we had talked a bit about it, Bea had stayed present and connected, not shrinky. Then, I freaked out again about the whole maternal transference thing, googled that. Eventually, I realized what I wanted was to find some story about someone who felt like me. I wanted to read about transference and enactments from the client point of view. All the articles and medical papers, therapy books, those weren’t helping me. So, I came here and I asked you all. And I got great comments. I finally felt like I was okay, not crazy, and not alone. So much of my struggle with this stuff isn’t the….well, I guess the enactment in and of itself. Its the labeling, the clinical feel, the fear that labeling makes none of this real, the shame that comes with that. And you guys get it in a way no one else does. (Somebody really needs to write an educational book about this stuff from the client view point.)

I read your comments and I did a lot of thinking, and writing. It wasn’t easy, because the teen was hurting and pissed off about the whole thing, and wanting to avoid all the awful feelings coming up while at the same time wanting to make sense of it all and understand the feelings, the why of it and the reason all these defensive feelings come up.

I finally decided that I understood enactment to be this: Enactment happened because something in some part of me (or (and) Bea) got triggered by similarities between the past and the present in the relationship. Basically, I got so upset and rage-full because what hurt me in the present (spring 2018) was a similar hurt from the past (my mom).

I emailed Bea, just trying to make sense of it all, and we wrote back and forth a bit. I asked her why, even if I can understand what enactment is, can see it, then why does it hurt and upset me so much? Why am I so afraid of you calling something an enactment or transference or whatever other shrinky thing? Why is it so triggering to discuss this that I have to go far away to even think of talking about it? She offered up some ideas, and nothing really hit home.

Restless, I tried distracting myself. When that didn’t work, I got out pen and paper and wrote. I decided to just allow the teen to write whatever she was feeling or thinking. I didn’t censor anything, and I didn’t let Ms. Perfect censor the teen, either. And so much came out. It wasn’t a lot of writing, but it was so much. I knew I had to give it to Bea. I emailed Bea and told her the teen had important writing to give her, and asked her to please not let me avoid it, because I was scared but it needed to be talked about, and I would be upset if we didn’t talk about it.

Wednesday, when I get to Bea’s office, I feel sick. Bea doesn’t waste anytime, either. Once I sit down and get settled she says, “I’m really curious to read what the teen wrote. Would she still like to share it?”

Instantly, I’m gone. I’m so far away, I don’t answer, I don’t hide my face, I don’t do anything but freeze.

Eventually, I realize Bea is speaking. “Alice. Alice you are too far away. That really triggered something, didn’t it? The teen needs to know she doesn’t have to share anything she’s not ready for. We can wait. I’m not in any kind of hurry. We can wait until after the holidays. Okay?”

That’s enough to pull me back a little bit. “No. No, this can’t wait. If I wait, it will….It just can’t wait. It’s just hard. Because….I don’t want you to think I’m being awful again.”

“How about this? How about if I read it knowing that you were unfiltered and raw, and just writing how you feel?”

“Okay. Okay, because I’m not blaming you or being upset with you or anything like that. Okay? I don’t want you to…..just please, please don’t leave.” I whisper.

“I’m not leaving. I’m right here, and whatever you wrote isn’t going to send me away.” Bea sounds certain, and strong and so very here.

I hand her a folded sheet of notebook paper. The teen didn’t write in my notebook in case she didn’t want Bea to see it. As Bea takes it from me she asks, “Do you want your blanket?” I nod my head yes, and she gets it for me.

I cover my legs with the fleece blanket. I have cloud pillow on my lap, hugged to me. My hands are clenched, holding on to pieces of the blanket.

“Are you here enough?” Bea asks.

I’m not sure. I probably should tell her no, but instead I say, “Maybe.”

Bea smiles at that and shakes her head a little. It’s a gesture adult Alice makes often with Kat; that sort of knowing who Kat is and maybe being a bit exasperated by it but also just, well, loving who she is and being so glad that she is able to be authentic. It feels real, that smile and head shake and I sit in that feeling, that Bea is here and she is herself.

Bea doublechecks it’s okay to read, and when I give the go ahead, she opens the sheet of paper.

Enactment means the relationship is not real. It means that the hurt in the present is not real. It means that you didn’t do anything to hurt my feelings and I’m just crazy. It means that I screwed up. It means that I can’t trust my feelings. It means that I am bad, that I didn’t behave appropriately and it means that I really am a drama queen who overreacts and is over sensitive about everything. It means that all my feelings, worries, hurts, thoughts, all of it can be dismissed or ignored because it’s not real anyway. It means it’s all my fault and it means that you don’t have to deal with me because it’s my issue and so I’ll be stuck dealing with it all alone. It means that I’m exposed and vulnerable and all the hurt in the past is all dug up and there’s no one to help me with it and I can’t do it. It means that you don’t care, that I’m just something to be dealt with because none of it has anything to do with you anyway. It means I’m dumb for not realizing what was going on and you just get to presume to know and see everything because you did see what was going on! It means I somehow screwed up AGAIN and overreacted AGAIN. It means that you WILL leave me. Because why would you want to deal with a mean drama queen teen who is blaming you for things you never did? Why would you stay and try to help someone who won’t trust you because of something you didn’t even do?

It feels like a very, very long time before she’s done reading. It’s excruciating sitting there, feeling so vulnerable and exposed.

“This sounds so painful. It sounds horrible, and it’s no wonder enactment and all the shrinky things are so triggering. If this is what they feel like, of course it’s going to be awful for you to have me talk about this stuff.” Bea’s words offer me some sense of safety. She’s here, she’s not ignoring me, or yelling at me for overreacting. She’s not mad and she’s not gone.

I want to tell her I’m so thankful she sees it, that she is able to see why this is such a terrible topic. I don’t, though. Instead, I bury my face in cloud pillow.

“Does it feel to you like if we talk about enactment, that I am hiding behind this therapist wall? I get the sense that the shrinky stuff really feels like a wall between us to you. Maybe even like we are separated in different rooms and only I have a viewing window to observe you.”

“It is a wall.” I didn’t think I was whispering, but my voice is so quiet, so tiny. I don’t think I can speak any louder, though.

“Yeah, it really feels like a wall to you. I wonder if I can explain how I experience it?”

“That would be okay, I think.” I’m hesitant because I don’t want her to get shrinky.

“It’s not shrinky, okay? Just me,” she reassures me, almost like she read my mind. “I see it as….you and I are surrounded by the walls of enactment. We are in the center, we are in it together. I have to be able to see the when the walls are up and around us, but I’m right there with you.”

“Not separate?”

“No, not at all. It’s like this….did you ever spin in circles when you were s kid?”

“Yeah.” I nod my head.

“So while you are spinning in circles, it is very hard to watch where you are going, right? It’s my job to watch where you are going. I’m right there, standing right next to you in the middle of the room while you spin, but I can’t start spinning, too, otherwise you could bump your head, or I could even crash into you. And I don’t want either of those things to happen to you. That’s why I wouldn’t want to put a wall between us, because then I can’t block you from bumping your head. But I also can’t spin with you because then I could hurt you. Does that make sense?”

I think about what she just said. It actually does make sense. It’s weird, but it makes sense to me. “It does.” I think some more, and then I ask, “So you don’t want to get away from me?”

“No. Not at all. I know sometimes it really feels like I don’t care, but I do care. I care very, very much. You matter to me, and it matters to me that you are safe.” She sounds….serious. “I’m real, and our relationship is real. The feelings are real. I want to make sure you know that.”

“I really need you to be real.” I pull the blanket to my face as I say the words, and then I slowly peek out at her.

“I know you do. And I am,” she says softly.

We sit in silence for a moment, and then she says, “You aren’t dumb. None of us are aware of it when we are reacting to our past, until…well, until we are aware of it. I don’t know more about you than you know. I really don’t presume to know everything, not by a long shot. But I have to be able to see when the walls are up around us. It’s the same as when you can see that hubby is getting defensive or upset over something that doesn’t really have to do with you. He can’t see it, but you can. And I bet now that you have seen this mom transference and enactment so clearly, I bet that you will notice the next time you are reacting to someone as if you expect them to treat you like your mom did.”

“I still don’t like the shrinky words.” I know, I know, it’s semantics, but it just brings up so much negative feeling.

“Well, what if we said the situation was paralleling one from the past? Or we could say that the past was triggered. We could even just say that the walls are up.” Bea doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that once again, I am asking her to find different words.

“Those are all okay. A lot better, actually,” I tell her.

We laugh about how we have created this language that is all our own. Bea tells me a funny story about how she called something too shrinky in her SP consultation group. “Another therapist in the group was having trouble understanding why one of her clients would get so upset when she would sort of step back and get more logical, rational. I immediately thought, ‘it’s because you are being too shrinky’. Of course, then I had to explain about shrinky. I find myself using you as an example to help other therapists in my group understand why their people don’t like something the therapist is doing.”

“Really?” I ask, surprised.

“Yes, really. You have taught me a lot. This goes both ways, you know.”

I nod my head. “I guess so.” I don’t really think……I guess I don’t think about me mattering enough to have any impact on Bea. I like the fact that maybe I have helped her see some things she maybe wouldn’t have seen, and that she can use that to help other therapists not be shrinky.

“I know we talked before, a long time ago about all the shrinky stuff like transference, but this time it feels better.” I feel shy, telling her this, but I want her to know.

“I’m really glad. It feels better to me, too.”

“Bea?”

“Yeah?”

“I was looking through emails last night trying to find the ones where we talked about transference. I couldn’t find them but I….I saw how…..well, the little girl emailed you a lot. Like every other day was the most time between emails…..just to ask if you were there, to make sure you weren’t leaving…..I just….” I trail off, uncertain what it is I want to say.

“Did that surprise you?”

“Well….yeah. I mean, I know she emailed you more than me (the teen) and I know the little girl is more…..she’s better at reaching……but I didn’t know she wrote that much. And you answered. Every time you answered that you were still there.”

“I did, yes. I hope you know you can email, too. It’s okay if you need to.” I swear, I can hear all the care in her voice. I do matter to her.

“I just…..I feel like I should apologize for that. I mean, it was like the first two years, everyday, emailing to see if you were still there. I’m sorry.”

“There’s no sorry. I wasn’t bothered by it, and you― the little girl― needed that reassurance to feel safe. I knew when I made the offer of emailing when you needed to that that could mean multiple emails between appointments. I was okay with that.”

I think about it. Bea might respond a little differently to the little girl than to the teen, but she’s still always Bea. The difference is that for the little girl, a short *I’m here* email was enough, even if she had written a lot. The teen finds danger in not having her words directly responded to. The little girl just wanted the reassurance that Bea had not left her or forgotten about her. The teen needs to know that she isn’t being ignored or dismissed and she frequently approaches situations with the assumption that she is being ignored, that the other person isn’t really there and the other person needs to prove they are there and that they do see her and can handle her.

“I’m glad you were…..that it was okay with you.” I hide my face again, embarrassed.

“It’s always okay with me,” she says. “Speaking of, we are going to have to stop in a few minutes, but I want to make sure all the parts have what they need, that they are okay.”

“They are. I feel okay. I’m glad we talked about shrinky things. I was afraid it could go really wrong and that would be awful right before a break, but it didn’t go bad and I feel better. I think I get it now.”

“Okay. If the any of the parts do need to reach out, they can. I plan on doing a lot of lounging and eating cookies. I can lounge and eat cookies and respond to emails.” She sounds so cheerful.

“Okay,” I tell her.

We spend a few more minutes talking about Christmas, and I share some Grandma and Grandpa stories. It feels good to talk about them, and grounding to end the last therapy session of the year like this.

We say Merry Christmas and I head out the door. Even with a two week break, I feel okay. I know Bea is still there, even if I’m not seeing her twice a week, and she will be there when the break is over. I trust that she won’t forget about me, and I can see her lounging with a good book, a mocha and cookies. And I believe her that she will be there if I need her. I’m okay.

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All the shrinky things

All the shrinky things keeps popping up in my life. In my last post, I asked some questions about enactment, transference, how you all felt about those concepts, those words, how you deal with it, how you experience it. And I am so grateful for all the responses I received. They helped immensely when I sat down to write in my notebook, and when I talked with Bea.

I want so badly to tell you all about Wednesday’s session, but first I think that I need to back up…..

Therapy has been all about the teen lately. A lot of it has been trying to build a relationship, trust, between Bea and the teen. The teen is so suspicious of everything. A few weeks ago, as the teen and Bea talked, Bea asked if there was any part of the teen that maybe wanted to be seen, to have connection? I couldn’t answer that when she asked it. Later, though, I sorted some thoughts out, and the next session, we talked about it.

“I know we said there were two teen parts, but that’s not right,” I tell Bea cautiously. I’m always afraid that she is going to tell I’m wrong.

“Can you say more about that? About what does feel right?” She has that bright curious tone in her voice. She really does want to know.

“Well….I just….what if you think I’m wrong?” I hide behind a pillow as I ask her this.

“Well, I don’t really think anything, except that you are the only one who knows how your parts are organized. I may have guesses, but even then, I don’t have an idea of *this is how Alice’s parts are*. But I would like to know, to understand,” she says, kindly.

“Okay. Okay. Well….I think……no, I know, there is one teen part. It’s all one part. Its just like….there are, maybe pieces of her….not really enough to be a part, but also they are separate in some ways. I don’t know.” I mumble my way through this, feeling dumb.

“That makes sense. Really good sense, actually.”

“It does?” I ask, surprised.

“Yes, it does. Can you tell me about the pieces?”

I nod, still hiding behind the pillow. I have my blanket covering my legs, so I can hide under it if I need to. “There’s the vulnerable piece. That’s the piece that is afraid of you leaving. There’s the shame piece, and that’s the piece that just feels….well, shameful for even existing, and shameful for needing anything, or for being, well, I don’t know what I’m trying to say. And the angry piece. The angry piece of the teen was the one running things this spring. But they are all the teen, all one.”

“That makes a lot of sense to me,” Bea tells me.

“I do want……the teen does want….connection. I just…..before, we tried and it was just this…..it all blew up. I screwed up. I can’t….I won’t be able to….” I cannot finish my sentence. Shame washes over me, and I have no words left.

“You won’t be able to what?” Bea prompts.

“I can’t answer that right now. I just don’t want to get mad again. I don’t want to be mad and have you leave.” I yank the turquoise blanket over my head.

“I’m not worried about that,” Bea assures me.

“Why?”

“Well, because I know that mad wasn’t about me. Anytime there’s an overreaction like that, it means that one of our issues has been triggered.” Her answer is simple, and her voice is straightforward. There’s no blame, no anger, no distancing in her tone, but I shut down anyway.

Devastated. I feel devastated. I thought we had agreed it was about both of us, that it was both of us who messed up, and that it wasn’t just all about me and my past. What happened? Did she just agree with me so we could repair the rupture before her trip? Did she trick me into believing her? I can’t believe she is saying I overreacted. I can’t do this.

I stayed far away and shut down the rest of our time. Bea tried to get me to talk, but I couldn’t be present enough to get any words out. In the end, she told me to email or call if I wanted to talk before we met again.

I don’t reach out, but by the next appointment, I have lots and lots of writing for her to read. Bea reads, and responds as she reads. I hide under my blanket, and squeeze cloud pillow.

*I thought we agreed the rupture was about both of us. I thought we agreed that we both made mistakes.*

“The rupture in the spring was about both of us, we do agree about that,” she says gently.

“Then why did you say that?” The words burst out of me.

“Can you tell me what I said?” She asks.

“You said that the mad feelings weren’t about you, that was why you weren’t worried about my mad making you leave, because it had nothing to do with you! And you said I overreacted!”

“Oh…..okay.” Bea takes a deep breath. “I wasn’t speaking about you directly when I brought up overreacting. I’m sorry you heard it that way. I wasn’t trying to personalize it, not at all. I just meant that in general, when people have overreactions, it usually means something from their past has been triggered. For me, it’s usually emotional overreaction, or it means me getting very defensive. Those overreactions aren’t solely directed at the person or event that caused them. It helps me to see that, so I don’t react badly. That’s all I was saying. I wasn’t pointing a finger at any part of you.”

Shame, blame, and hurt all flood me. I don’t say anything.

After a while, Bea asks if she should keep reading and I tell her that she can.

*I thought we agreed that my reaction to the awful Monday was very big and that you experienced it as very out of proportion because you expected the adult to be on board and to help control things, to function and cope as well as she had been but that in reality there was no adult on board and hadn’t been for several days, it was just me on board and I didn’t have a really secure relationship with you, just this very new, fragile, tentative, sort of testing out trusting you thing, and with that context the big reaction and big hurt made more sense. Lashing out, being mean, none of that was acceptable and there were better ways to express myself and tell you I needed help and was really hurt and scared, but put into context it you could understand why I had all the big scared feelings on the bad Monday.*

“I agree with all of this, about the adult not being on board and that your reaction made a lot more sense to me once I knew that.” She says.

“Because I failed,” I say, tears streaming down my face now.

“What do you mean you failed?”

“I….I screwed up. I failed and I don’t want to do that again. I don’t want that to happen again.” I sob.

“How do you think you failed?” Bea asks gently.

“Because…….you…..expectations. I can’t meet them. I’m not good enough.”

Bea doesn’t respond right away, and when she does, she sound sad. “My expectations were, well, they were more about how things had been going, not about me needing you to meet certain expectations. It was an assumption I made, a wrong assumption that the adult had been doing such a great job using her coping skills, I assumed she was on board and those coping skills would kick in. I shouldn’t have made that assumption. I was wrong.”

“You said you had to lower your expectations. I failed.” I’m wailing and whining now, but I can’t stop myself. This hurts.

“Yeah,” she says sympathetically. “I hurt your feelings really badly, and I’m sorry. This is painful. What I should have said was I had to adjust my assumptions, that I had gotten used to the adult being on board and using all her tools to cope and function. I needed to adjust because it wasn’t the adult on board, was it? It was you― the teen. And you are at a different place than the adult. Does that make sense?”

“Maybe. Maybe.” I’m a little calmer, but then I think of something awful, and the wailing starts up again. “What if I can’t meet your expectations this time?”

“This time, I can honestly say that I have no expectations beyond you just continuing to keep working on this stuff. I’m still getting to know this part, and you are still getting to know and trust me. Right?”

“Okay. Okay. Maybe.” I sigh. “I’m still worried. And scared.”

“That’s all right. It’s okay to feel like that, we’ll keep talking about it and just take things slow. There’s no rush.” Her voice is sincere. She means it. I feel calmer with her words.

Later, at home, I start to think about overreactions. I think about it a lot and when I sit down to write, hundreds, thousands of words pour out of me onto the paper. When I finish, I can’t believe I’ve written this, and I am filled with fear and shame and anxiety. But I take it with me to therapy, anyway.

When I arrive, Bea greets me and tells me she has something she wants to share with me from the SP book. Inwardly, I groan. I need her to not be shrinky today. Everything I have written could turn really shrinky and and I need that not to happen.

“What is it?” I ask quietly as I sit down.

“I’d read it before, but it seems so fitting right now. There’s a whole section about enactments and overreactions. It’s nothing bad, nothing scary,” she says as I hide my face with cloud pillow.

“I think maybe you should read my notebook first. It might….well, I just….it might sort of go together,” I tell her quietly.

She suggests that maybe the SP pages might give some context, and so I agree that we can look at those first. I don’t want to, but I also can’t give her my notebook when she feels so disconnected from me.

Bea pauses for a minute. “Do you want to look at the SP thing, or do you want me to read your book first?”

I shrug. “I don’t care. Whatever seems best to you.” I sound far away, and almost robotic.

Bea notices, and just like that she is back to being Bea. “I sort of think you agreed to reading the SP pages because I wanted to read them. It feels to me like you might have some important things written down that you really want to look at today.”

“It doesn’t matter.” I can’t un-disconnect myself.

“I think we should work with your notebook first. That feels important.” She says softly.

I get my book out of my bag, but then I can’t hand it over.

“Alice, how far away are you right now?”

“Far….sort of far.”

“Okay. Okay. Maybe it felt a little scary to have me bring up SP?”

“I don’t know. I just….I don’t want you to be shrinky. Okay? Because…..it could….you could go….” I trail off.

“I’m here, and I’m not shrinky. I can see how hard this is for you. I’m sure me bringing up SP stuff right away this morning didn’t help with that. But I am here with you.” Bea’s words comfort me. It feels like she sees the problem and is here.

I flip through my book, scanning the pages I had written. “This shouldn’t be so hard.”

“It is hard. This work is hard. It’s hard to let someone in, especially when we already feel vulnerable. It’s hard.”

“Okay,” I breathe, “Okay.” And I hand my notebook over.

First, I don’t like that word. Overreaction. It feels bad. It brings up all the other words my mom like to use..,.drama queen, over sensitive. It feels the same. Overreaction makes me feel blame and shame for not being perfect, for feeling what I feel, for not being able to ignore my feelings and behave. My mother’s favorite thing to tell me, anytime I was emotional. “Don’t be a drama queen.” “Oh, Alice, she just always has to be the drama queen.” Even jokingly, said in a playful tone, “Oh! She’s our little drama queen!” Or, “Alice has always tended towards the dramatic.” That’s the first thing, it’s hard to even get past that word, the blame and shame and the feelings that word means, that I should not feel how I felt, that I am out of line.

Bea stops reading, and starts to speak. I stop her before she can form the words. “Just read all of it please. Just read it all first.”

“Okay. I can do that.” Her voice is soft, reassuring.

I would have said, even a week ago, I would have said that my reaction to that bad Monday (which actually was a Wednesday but was the first appointment that week) was not an overreaction. I would have agreed that everything later was, but not that day. I would have argued that showing up to therapy, triggered and vulnerable and needing you to be there, and you not being there was awful and that my reaction was in line with that. I would have argued that having a therapy session ―when I really needed you― and me not even needing to be there, because rationally, logically, that session was not about me. It was you, processing insurance stuff, and the email you had just read, and trying to figure out how to handle the insurance stuff, but initially, it was not about me, I didn’t need to be there.

I’m probably saying this wrong and I will probably be in trouble for being blaming, but please, just keep reading. I’m not blaming.

I would have argued that my reaction to that, my fears that I had needed too much and broken you, my hurt that you weren’t there, my fear that you were looking for a way to get rid of me, was not an overreaction. I still hate that word. But maybe it was. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and maybe I did overreact.

Maybe it’s more fair to say that I wasn’t reacting just to that day. Don’t get shrinky here, okay? Because it was about you in some ways. Even if the events that day hadn’t been extremely triggering, I still would have been hurt, and there would have been mistrust and fear. But I don’t think as much.

That whole day parallels the way my mom reacted over and over and over to me. I’d go to her, panicked or sad or mad or whatever, with all these feelings and no idea how to handle them, just drowning in them, and she would just check out. It was terrifying, to be left so alone with everything. She’d be there, right next to me, but not there, talking and talking and talking about something that had nothing to do with me, she could have been talking to anyone. And if I even dared to get upset or mad about that, she would accuse me of being a drama queen. She would blame me, “Don’t be such a drama queen. Life isn’t that hard.” If I didn’t stop my behavior, if I didn’t straighten up my act then, there would be the silent treatment until I did. Ms. Perfect would take over and fix everything. Things would go on as if nothing had ever happened.

It seems so clear now, how much that day parallels my Mom’s actions. I wouldn’t have been so upset and hurt if I hadn’t experienced that over and over and over. Me showing up distressed, and emotional, you not being present. Me getting upset and you not understanding why because all you could see was that you were just talking about insurance. Me freaking out and being angry, and you choosing to ignore my rage. Ms. Perfect finally taking over.

But what happened with you is different. Because you came back. That was hard to trust for a long time, because that was new. And you wanted to talk about what happened and hear what I really had to say. That was new, too.

I’m afraid to tell you all this, because I don’t want shrinky Bea. But I think this has to be worked through before anything else. Even little things, like when I tell you I am sure that my feeling ABC is silly, that’s my way of preempting the drama queen accusations I still expect to hear. All the uncertainty around you being able to handle my stuff and really be there, that is from this mom stuff. So. That’s it, that’s all of it. And I’m sorry for all of it.

Bea sets my book down on her lap, and lets out a deep breath. “I don’t like that word anymore, either. Overreaction is not a good word, and I am cringing that I used it. I am so sorry that you felt blame when I used it. I think a better thing to have said would be to call it disproportionate.”

“That still feels bad,” I whisper.

“Yeah. I get that. Can I say something? Remind you of something?” She asks.

“Okay.”

“I did mess up. Your feelings were, and are valid. I hurt your feelings, and you were really scared. Just because my misattunement brought up all the feelings you had every time your mom checked out and left you alone with your emotions, that doesn’t make your hurt over my actions less real. It’s an and, not an or. Does that make sense?” Bea asks.

I nod, and then realizing she can’t see me because I’m hiding under my blanket, say, “Yeah. Yeah, it does.”

“It was really scary for you to feel so alone, with me and with your mom.” Bea says quietly. “I can see how my actions mirrored hers, almost perfectly. Even my first attempt at setting a boundary, at not reinforcing the distortions……in my attempt to not reinforce those beliefs, and my worry over behaving like your mother, I did just that.”

“But we figured it out. And you won’t ignore me anymore.” I whisper.

“No, no I won’t, not as a choice. I know that wasn’t a helpful boundary for you. But I can’t promise that I won’t have days where I’m misattuned. I hope though, that if you are feeling ignored, you will be able to tell me that.”

“Maybe. I’ll try.” I can’t promise that I will, because I can so easily fall into the dark and twisty place when I feel ignored and left alone. But I can try.

“Good. That’s good.” She says.

“Bea?”

“Yeah? I’m here.”

“I’m so sorry I behaved so badly.” I’m sobbing now, as guilt and shame and grief threaten to pull me under.

“I don’t think that’s fair to say. You reacted. You were scared. I know that.”

“I was awful. I’m terrible, I’m so, so sorry. It wasn’t fair and I’m mean and bad and awful and I am so, so sorry. I didn’t mean to do it.” I can’t stop. I’m on a rollercoaster going downhill and I can’t stop the tears or the pain at looking at my behavior. I was terrible. I treated her terribly.

“You are not mean. You said some mean things, that does not make you mean. You are not bad, or awful, or anything else. You reacted emotionally, and yes, it was disproportionate, but it was real and I did hurt you. I can hold that, and at the same time know that all the rage and mean wasn’t about me. That’s what I was trying to explain the other day. It’s okay. We are okay, and you are okay. All right?” She’s stern now, kind but stern. She needs me to hear her.

“I’m still sorry.” I say the words through my tears.

Bea murmurs soothing things until I start to calm down. Then Bea wonders if different parts had a different relationship with my mom.

We talk about the parts and their relationships with my Mom. The little girl loves her mom, and just became who she needed to be to be loved. She just locked away all the questions she had about not being protected and not be good enough to be herself. There’s grief there, sometimes, but overall, the little girl knows it wasn’t about her, it was about her mom’s inability to cope, and she just holds all the good parts of her mom and none of the blame or shame of not being good enough. The adult is able to have this easy, on the surface friendship with her mom. She knows her mom’s flaws, and can even accept them. She doesn’t expect emotional support, or even authenticity or depth from her mom, but she likes chatting with her and hanging out.

The teen’s relationship however, is a mess. As I try to describe it, Bea says, “That’s part of where this push pull dynamic comes from. The teen’s…..probably even really once you were a preteen….all teens have big emotions, and confusing feelings and thoughts, but the Kenny stuff, the abuse added to that, and all teens start to separate from their parents, but it was maybe harder for you, because the teen didn’t really have that secure base, she didn’t have that soft place to land as she went out and explored. And teens need that. They need someone who is bigger, stronger, and wiser that can let them go, and yet still be there. Teens need to push boundaries and question things, and they need a safe person to be able to do that. They need a safe grownup to turn to and they need to be seen. You really needed to be seen, because so much of you was hidden for so long. All teens feel this sort of self conscious shame at times, but your shame was so much bigger and all encompassing, partly from the abuse, and I think, too, from not being seen. That’s how we beat shame, by being seen.” Bea is doing that thinking out loud thing again, but it’s okay, because she gets it. She gets how I feel, why the teen’s relationship with her mom is such a mess, and why that makes it so hard to just trust Bea to be safe. As she’s talking, I can see exactly why the teen part of me feels the way she does and acts out the way she does. All those “borderline traits” make sense.

When it’s time to go, I realize we hadn’t read Bea’s SP thing.

“We can always look at it next time if you want to,” she assures me. “This was much more important.”

“I could read it. I do have the book.”

“That’s right, I keep forgetting that. I’ll write down the page numbers for you, okay?” She offers.

“Okay. Thanks,” I say.

When I leave therapy, I feel pretty grounded. It’s only later when I read the SP book that everything gets all stirred up again.

Enactment and Transference

I have some questions for you all. I would appreciate it if you would help me out by answering. You can answer in the comments or email me at alicewithptsd@gmail.com

1. Does it upset you when your therapist labels reactions or feelings as transference or as an enactment? Why?

2. Do you have a positive, negative or neutral feeling towards the concept transference/enactment? Why?

3. If you have been read my blog, you most likely know that whenever transference, enactments, or other “shrinky” terms are used to label my behavior or feelings, I get very defensive and shut down. I refuse to consider the idea and become very triggered. Does anyone feel like this, or have you ever felt this way? Do you know why? If you no longer feel this way, what changed?

I’m trying to understand a few things about myself. This last week, I have been able to see clearly that the great rupture of spring and summer 2018 were an enactment, and that my reactions were about mom stuff. I can see it clearly, and I could (and may in a later post) list it all out, but I can’t talk about it or face it. It all feels very negative and bad to me. I know that in order to deal with the stuff the teen part needs to deal with, this mom transference/enactment stuff has to be sorted first. And yet, I can’t do it. I’ve read and read about these things, but there is nothing I can find to explain why transference feels bad to me. Yes, there are plenty of writings about how painful and difficult it is to be experiencing the feelings of transference or to be in the middle of an enactment, but there is nothing out there to explain why the very idea of transference triggers me. I thought that maybe someone here may understand this.

Xx❤️ Alice

When the undertow grabs hold

On Monday, the teen was feeling really embarrassed that she had told Bea how feeling cared about brings up all these icky, bad feelings, and wasn’t sure she wanted to go to therapy. Things were floaty and just off feeling, and it was really hard to stay grounded and connected.

Once I am settled in my place on the couch, and we chat for a bit, Bea asks me who is here today. I tell her that I don’t know, because I don’t. I feel odd, not here, and sort of numb, not real. I feel almost like a ghost or something, like I don’t quite exist. We continue on with the surface talk, mostly because I keep directing us back that direction. This sucks. I want to feel connected to her, and right now I don’t feel connected to anything.

Finally, Bea asks if I might want to look at my notebook. I get it out and flip through it. “There’s sort of old stuff in here. From October 22. Because we didn’t look at my book for a while.” I keep flipping pages as I am talking.

“Well, we can start at the beginning or with something more recent. Really it’s whatever you need to talk about, whatever is coming up for you,” she says softly.

I shrug. “It doesn’t matter, I don’t know.”

Bea waits, and I continue to just flip through pages. I’m wasting time, I know it, but I can’t seem to stop myself. (Thinking back, I think the teen was wasting time, not wanting to feel anymore exposed.)

The silence starts to make me feel panicked. “Just read the last thing I wrote and then go back to the beginning. Okay? Because it doesn’t really matter.”

“All right. We can do that.” Bea leans forward a bit, and I hand her my notebook. “This is a new notebook. It’s so pretty.”

I nod. “It’s the Harry Potter limited edition moleskin notebook. I love it.”

“Can I read from the beginning? Would that be all right?” Bea asks carefully.

“Sure. It’s fine,” I tell her.

It doesn’t take long for her to pause in her reading and look up at me. “The teen was really mad at me, huh? I can understand that. It’s really painful to have me sort of show her what she didn’t get from her mom growing up.” Bea sounds sad, and understanding and calm and kind and just so very much the Bea that the teen loves, it sent me spiraling. Or, rather, it sent the teen spiraling.

“No, no. I’m not mad anymore, I really wasn’t mad at you. I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” Panic fills my voice. I’m not floaty or spacey anymore, but I am definitely out of my window.

“You don’t have anything to be sorry about. You are allowed to be mad at me.” Bea says firmly. Her words are kind, though, and I’m able to calm down enough that I can breathe again.

“I said I hated you,” I sob. “I didn’t mean that. I didn’t.”

“If you did, that would be okay. I can handle it. I’m strong enough to handle all your feelings, even hating me.”

“I don’t hate you. I didn’t hate you. It was just….I was mad and I hated that you weren’t my mom. No….that came out wrong. Wait. I mean, I hated that….it should be my mom, not you. I was mad, I hated that it wasn’t her.”

“I know. I know that. I understand. It hurts. It hurts so much that your mom didn’t have the capacity to give you what you needed.” When I peak out from behind cloud pillow (when did I even grab him and hide my face?!?!) she’s sitting criss cross applesauce in her chair, and leaning in towards me.

All of this came about because I had been able to stand up to someone and set a healthy boundary in a kind and respectful way and feel safe and supported while I did it; something I have never experienced or done before. I had been alone when this happened, but I knew Bea would support me. Even if she disagreed with me, I knew that she would still be there for me, that she would try to understand my viewpoint. I can’t really explain it, but even though she wasn’t there, it was like she was there, helping me feel supported and contained while I spoke. I didn’t become dysregulated once. Afterward, I thought to myself, *this is what secure attachment feels like. This is what it feels like to have a secure base.* It was exhilarating and at the same time devastating. It didn’t take long for all kinds of feelings to pop up for the teen. Mostly, those feelings were anger and pain over the fact that her mom didn’t give this to her growing up.

“I want to be mad at her, you know. But she….she just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t handle anything. I can’t be mad at someone so broken. So I don’t know who I’m mad at. Not you. Not my mom.” I sigh. This is so hard.

“Maybe no one. Not being mad at me, that might be a new experience for the teen.” Bea suggests.

“That’s not fair. Yeah, she’s angry alot, but she isn’t always mad at you. And most of the time when she is mad at you it’s because she is scared.” The adult comes back just enough to defend the teen, which is unexpected.

“That’s true. I’m sorry,” Bea says.

“Okay. I’m not mad right now, okay?”

“Okay. What are you feeling?” Her voice is curious.

“I….just….I can’t be mad at her. Mostly that is what I feel.” I’m hiding behind cloud pillow still. I would really like to have a blanket to hide under, but I don’t want to ask, and Bea hasn’t offered, and it’s probably time to go anyways.

“Why not? Why can’t you be mad that your needs weren’t met? Thats a legitimate thing to be angry and rageful about.” Her tone is matter of fact now, like this is just something everyone knows.

“Because…….” The words get lost before they are even fully formed.

“Because why?” Bea asks. She is annoying me (the teen). Doesn’t she know? Can’t she put two and two together? Do I always have to spell things out for her?

“Because I don’t get to be mad. I’m not good enough! I didn’t try hard enough to do things, to be what she needed, I was always always needing more. I don’t have the right to be angry when all I ever did was screw up and make things hard for her!” I shot the words at Bea, and then hunch into myself, hugging cloud and crying.

“So only people who are good enough ―as defined by your mother― have the right to be angry?” Bea asks. Ugh. She has this innocent, playing dumb tone to her voice. I hate her again. She is asking me questions to prove a point and I don’t want her to prove a point.

“No. That is not even what I said. But all she wanted was me to be normal and I couldn’t even do that.”

“From where I am sitting, a lot of your feelings and thoughts were just like a normal teen. And you were totally normal given your history.”

“I hate it when you say that.”

“How come?”

I shrug. “Don’t know.”

“Maybe because if you are normal then you aren’t special?” Bea asks.

“No. It’s not like that. No one want to be special like this. I feel crazy. Its crazy making.”

“What is?”

“Me. My stupid feelings. I want to be cared about but then when I feel cared about I end up….well….feeling icky. That is crazy.”

“Well, it feels crazy, and it is normal for you, for what you went through.” Bea says. She sounds like Bea again and the anger towards her dissipates, but I still hate being called normal.

“It doesn’t make sense to me.” I shake my head.

“Well, I think that you had to be so defended for so long, and being cared about for so long came with strings attached, expectations, and the knowledge that you would only be cared about if you were behaving and performing well. Listen, okay? This is important. I don’t have strings or expectations. I care about you just for being you. I’m here because I care about you, about all the parts. That’s it. Okay? I know that is hard to trust, and it is difficult because as soon as you feel my caring all those defenses kick in. If you can try to just let in one little drop of caring, just allow one drop to make it past your walls, then you can feel cared about and still feel safe.”

“Maybe. Maybe I can try.” I whisper the words.

It’s not long before it’s time to go. We went over time, and I tell Bea I’m sorry.

“I’m not,” she says, “There was some stuff the teen really needed to get out.”

“Okay.” It’s all I can get out.

We say goodbye, and Bea wishes me a good day.

I really don’t know why therapy felt so off. I am pretty sure it was me, though, not Bea, considering I had been feeling off kilter for several days. It’s more than the eating thing. I still feel weird. I tried to journal and nothing really came out. I don’t know what my deal is. I probably should tell Bea that things (and me) felt weird and off on Monday and that there is so much going on with the teen, all these crazy, strong emotions and this self hatred that is so huge I (the grown up) can’t begin to fight it, and how the teen’s feelings are like an undertow, drowning me. I’m just not sure I can. I feel really apprehensive that if I try to explain, she will make a thimg out of something that is not a thing, or she will somehow inadvertently say something that feels invalidating to the teen, and then the teen will freak and we will be right back in the middle of another rupture where Bea claims its all about the past and the teen feels more and more unseen by her, and everything spirals out of control. The worst part is, I’m not sure if those are my feelings or the teen’s feelings. Because they feel like mine, and yet…….it could be the undertow taking hold.

When the teen thinks your doctor called you fat

Monday was weird. Therapy felt weird. (I’ll do a separate post about therapy.) I was sort of numb and tired and just not really with it. I’ve been feeling weird and off kilter since Thursday or maybe Friday. I’ve gotten so much stronger and capable in the last five years. The teen is still really strong though, and her feelings are like a tornado roaring through me and destroying any grip I have on reality. The thing is, there is a thing that the adult think needs to be discussed, although she is feeling quite embarrassed over it. The teen is adamant that it not be discussed or acknowledged, and she is feeling so much shame and self hatred over this, it’s unbearable. I saw my doctor on Tuesday. It was just a med-check appointment because of all my fibromyalgia meds.

Trigger warning! Talk about eating disorder and weight. If you continue reading, I ask that you please try not to judge my behavior. Please be kind. This is such a sensitive and embarrassing topic for me, a lot of my eating stuff ties into my mother’s eating disorder and the shame I felt my whole life over not be thin enough for her.

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For the first time in my life, my doctor brought up concerns about my weight gain. Always, always in my past there have only been concerns about weight loss. But now this.

I know I have gained weight, I know I haven’t been making healthy choices, and I know there have been so many times that I have binged but not purged in the since the awful rupture in April. I know I have spent a lot of time avoiding exercise and hiding in my bed these last 6 months.

The teen is livid with herself. She hates everything about this body. She is ashamed and disgusted and it was awful to have weight brought up like that.

My doctor is wonderful. She was kind and not judgmental at all. But it doesn’t matter, not really. That discussion was all the teen needed to take over and unleash ED. Sometimes, my eating disorder creeps up on me, like when I realized that I have been binging since the rupture. Other times, it sneaks up on me like when I have the best intentions to eat right and exercise, and before I know it I am restricting and only eating a limited number of foods without purging. And then there are the times, like now, when the teen takes over and begins severely restricting right away.

It’s only been a few days, but the thing is, the teen feels better, less overwhelmed and crazy. Things feel slightly fuzzy and distant all the time when you are restricting and that feels safe. I’m not sure I want to stop this, to stop her. I’m not sure I can stop it. I know this is a bad path to go down. I know it’s not healthy, or smart. But really, I just want to lose the weight and show up to my next appointment not so fat. I don’t want another talk. I’m not sure the teen can handle another talk.

I know I should talk to Bea. I know this, and the grown up me wants to. The teen though, is so, so strong, and she does not want to talk to Bea about any of this. She does not want to tell Bea that her doctor called her fat (okay, not exactly what happened, but for the teen, it’s exactly what happened) and she doesn’t want Bea to agree with her doctor. There’s also this little voice in her head, in my head, that says I am too fat, no one would believe that I have been restricting for the past week. The voice says that if anyone did believe it, they would be glad, because I am gross.

I don’t know where this leaves me. I guess I just needed to write about this, to try to sort it out, to at least not lie to myself.

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Teens and shrinky cupcakes

So, we talked about the shrinky cupcake. I had been okay all week. Emailing had given me my connection to Bea back, and up until Wednesday morning, I was okay. As I walked into her office, though, the teen’s anxiety, embarrassment and hurt took center stage in my head. I did what I always do in those moments; I shoved the teen aside and let Ms. Perfect run the show.

Bea isn’t fooled by Ms. Perfect any longer, but she will let Ms. Perfect have her bubble of perfection for a bit before Bea pops that bubble. We talked about Halloween and school activities I had organized, and I showed Bea pictures from the Halloween festival in our town square. (Side note, I would love to live in Stars Hollow because the town seems so great with all their wacky festivals, but in all actuality, the town that hubby and I live in is very much like stars hollow― complete with the town square and a gazebo, a diner with great coffee and many, many festivals for weird and wacky things)

Eventually Bea said, “I think Ms. Perfect is here today. I can tell because of the here-not-here feeling and the upbeat chatter. I’m wondering if there are other parts that would like to talk but are feeling scared or upset?” Bea really doesn’t pull any punches anymore when Ms. Perfect is around. I hate it sometimes, but it is a good thing because if you aren’t straight forward like that, Ms. Perfect is very good at avoiding things and changing the subject.

As soon as Bea outed Ms. Perfect, all the teen’s feelings rushed back in. I looked at my hands, picked my fingers, and didn’t answer.

“We need to talk about the cupcake.” Her tone was gentle and calm, but firm. She wasn’t going to budge on this.

I grabbed blue cloud pillow off the couch and hid my face. “Maybe you do, but I don’t need to talk about it.” The teen’s words shot out from my mouth before I could gain control of the situation.

“I know. You really don’t want to talk about this. I just think that I upset you, and you have every right to be mad at me. But we do need to talk about this.”

“Why? Why do we have to talk about something that wasn’t even a thing until you turned it into a shrinky thing?” I snapped.

“I guess, well, because I did turn it into a thing and we need to talk about that. Otherwise, it is like how you grew up, and that can feel lonely and awful. I think its better, even if it feels hard and uncomfortable, to air things out. I don’t want things festering and sitting between us, and I know you don’t like it when things feel like that. It makes the relationship feel unsafe.” Bea answers slowly, like she is trying to find the words to explain to me why she thinks it’s important we talk this out.

“But I wasn’t upset! I was fine. It was all fine until you turned it into a shrinky thing. I wasn’t upset until you did that.”

“It really upsets you when I make things feel shrinky. I wasn’t trying to do that. I know did, and I’m sorry. I was worried, and I wanted to make sure you weren’t stuck with bad feelings, like worrying that I was expecting something of you because I gave you a gift, or feeling like I crossed a boundary that you had set by telling me earlier in the week that you were ignoring your birthday. I didn’t want you stuck with that all week.”

“But I wasn’t! I was fine! I didn’t feel any of those things! I wasn’t stuck with any bad feelings until you made everythung go shrinky right before you were leaving and then I was stuck with those feelings for a week!” My face is buried in cloud pillow, and I feel like I am yelling because there is anger in my voice, but while the words come out short and snappy, they are said barely above a whisper.

“Okay. I thought you looked uncomfortable when I gave you the cupcake. Maybe that is my stuff, and not yours. Can you tell me what you felt when I gave it to you?”

I sigh. “That it was nice of you.”

“What about below the surface?” Bea pushes, just a bit. The way she says it, it’s like a gentle nudge.

I stare at the floor, at my hands, at the bin of stuffed toys sitting on the floor near me. After what feels like forever, I ask, “Can I have the blanket?” Sometimes I say *my* and other times I say *the*. It seems to be the little girl and the grown up who will ask for *my blanket*, and the teen who refuses to call it hers, even though Bea calls it mine.

“Sure.” I hear her get up, and then she covers me with the blanket.

I sit there, hiding and not wanting to talk, trying to find the words. Realizing that my parts all felt differently, I decide I can safely and easily talk about the little girl and maybe the grown up’s reactions. “The little girl……for her, it really was simple. She was happy to get cake.” I shrug.

“It makes sense that different parts felt different,” Bea says. “I’m glad the little girl was happy.”

“The…..the grown up……that was…..well, she thought it was nice of you, but it also made her….sad…..sort of nostalgic for…..I guess for birthdays in years past, for the time when she would have danced in here singing about her birthday and expecting a cupcake because, well, I guess because Grandpa believed she was a gift and should be celebrated and she believed it because he did. And thats not……it doesn’t feel like that anymore. The last time my birthday felt like that was six years ago, before Grandpa was sick. I don’t……its sad because things won’t feel like that again. So maybe that is what you saw. It didn’t have anything to do with you. Just sadness and nostalgia for the way things used to be.” My voice cracks as I mention Grandpa, tears streaming down my cheeks as I speak.

“He loved you so much. He really did. And you do deserve to celebrate and to sing and dance on your birthday if you feel like it again. You lost a lot, and it is understandable that you would be sad about it. If that is what I was picking up on, I am truly sorry for making it a thing and upsetting you. And I apologize for not fully picking up on that sad feeling.” Her voice is warm and caring as she talks to me.

“It’s okay. None of the parts are really upset or mad anymore.”

Bea waits, to see if there is more, and when I don’t she asks, “And what about the teen? How did she feel?”

I groan. The teen doesn’t want to discuss this. “That it’s fine. She’s not mad anymore.”

“If she was, that would be okay. And I understand why she was mad with me,” Bea says simply.

“I’m not mad.”

“Okay.”

We sit quietly, Bea waiting patiently, and me trying to find the words, to figure out how to put them together to make sense. “I don’t…..the teen doesn’t….(I was having a lot of trouble keeping the grown up in charge, so while I did try, the teen was definitely running the show.) ……like talking about relationships with the person……you know?”

“I know. It’s incredibly uncomfortable for her.”

“Why is this so hard for me? It’s impossible,” I grumble, frusterated with myself.

“It definitely feels that way, doesn’t it? Why do you think it’s hard?”

Frustrated, and feeling like Bea literally just did the shrink thing of turning a question back around, I snap, “If I knew that, I wouldn’t be asking!”

Bea chuckles softly. She enjoys the teen’s snark. “Very true. I think it’s because for so long the teen had no voice, no one but Ms. Perfect had a voice, and so some of it is learning that it’s okay. I think some of it is when the teen did use her voice, it wasn’t very well received. I want to know what she has to say, and I promise to listen and to try to understand.”

I sigh. Take a deep breath. “I……..I thought….” my voice wobbles. “I thought it was………………. nice. I liked that you thought……………. about me not just here (in Bea’s office). It….it was like……it made me feel like you cared. It……….felt……..good.” I feel vulnerable, exposed. This feels dangerous. I do not like to tell people when they make me feel cared about, or that I like feeling cared about.

“I do care,” Bea tells me, in her serious voice. “I know this feels vulnerable, and uncomfortable, but these are all good things to feel. And it is safe to feel them.”

“No. No no. This isn’t……not good. It’s not okay.”

“Because it feels like too much?” Bea asks.

“No. Yes. No.” Frustrated, I snap at Bea again, “I don’t know! Okay? I just don’t know how to explain this.”

“That’s okay. Just take your time. There’s no rush.”

“When……..as soon as……if I feel cared about then…….I think what you felt, what you noticed was…..I felt like you cared, and that felt good but right away, then I feel bad and I can’t…….it’s just…..so then it just has to go away, all the feelings I just have to shut them down.” I shake my head. I’m not making sense.

“Why do the bad feelings come up?” Bea’s voice is the soothing one she uses for the most hurt parts of me.

“Because……..” I don’t want to answer this. The teen doesn’t want to answer this. I feel tears falling again, shame heats my face and every muscle in my body is tense and shaking. I only want to run away. This feels too painful to say.

“Because…..?” Bea prompts.

“I…..it’s like……..I don’t get to……I mean, because I don’t have the right…………………. to want ………..people ……….to care…………..about me……………I’m not good. I can’t……I can’t do this. I’m sorry, I can’t.” Huge, wracking sobs come pouring out of me. I can’t stop shaking.

“You don’t feel like you deserve to be cared about. That is painful. And it is not true. You do deserve to be cared about.” Bea has tears in her voice. I’ve made her sad.

I want to tell her it’s more than that. I want to tell her that bad things happen when you feel those good feelings of being cared about. I want to tell her that I desperately want someone to care about me, just me, even with all the bad and messy and complicated pieces that make up who I am, that I want that, crave that, but it’s not okay. It’s not okay because I don’t deserve that, and when I think I have it, very bad things happen. So I can’t. I can’t feel the warmth of being cared about without all the icky feelings creeping in. I want to have a way to explain this without sounding like a crazy person. But I’m unable to weave the words together in a way that makes sense.

Bea doesn’t ask for more explanation, and she doesn’t tell me to stop crying. She just sits with me, letting me cry until my sobs slow and I can breathe again. She murmurs things about the teen really not liking herself, and how that is painful, and how the teen got so many negative messages about herself, and how she really does enjoy the quirky, snarky teen. Bea reminds the teen that if the teen were 21, she is someone Bea would have a beer with (this was something Bea told the teen a long time ago when the teen accused Bea of liking Ms. Perfect and only wanting the teen to be like Ms. Perfect.)

As awful and painful and uncomfortable as it was to talk about, and as unfinished as the conversation felt to the teen who still feels a need to explain better, strangely, I feel lighter. Nothing bad happened, Bea is still here, she didn’t call me crazy or seem confused by the complicated mess of my feelings around being cared about. And, the teen wants to write some in her notebook to share with Bea. She want to sort it out. She doesn’t want to feel bad anymore.

Shrinky 10-24

A week ago, I had a birthday. Well, almost a week ago. It was hard. I tend to cope by avoiding my birthday. This year, I really wanted to avoid it. I miss my Grandparents so much, it still hurts. Bea, however, had other plans.

Wednesday, October 24……..

I walk into Bea’s office, acting like it is any other day. I have stuff to deal with, namely this collision of attachment stuff and my mom and my Grandparents and my uncle dying unexpectedly and Kat’s challenges, and all of this, and the time of year have collided to trigger the teen like nothing else. Of course, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to deal with any of this. It’s painful.

Bea greets me like normal, and when I am settled on the couch, she hands me a small bag. “I don’t usually do this, but I was thinking about you yesterday, and so I did.”

I take it and open the bag to find a carrot cake cupcake. My heart feels warm. “Thank you,” I tell her.

“You’re welcome,” she says, and then I start talking about Kat, and regular things. Bea tries to interject a few times, to switch the subject, but I don’t let her. At one point she makes the observation that while I had been really, really far away on Monday (I had just come back from a three day trip with my mother), today I am far away, but it is more of that here-not here variety, where I seem very present but am really still far away and talking nonstop seems to be a way of controlling what is happening around me. I ignore her observation, though it isn’t wrong. Before I know it, she is telling me we have about 15 minutes or so left, and she wants to make sure we haven’t missed anything because she will be out of town Monday.

I sigh. Pick my fingers. Look at the floor. Whisper, “I did write.”

“Do you want me to read it?” Bea asks.

“I dunno. I don’t, there isn’t time to talk about it now.” Suddenly, I just want the hour (yeah, we only got an hour today which is unusual) to be over.

“Well, we could take this opportunity to do some work in the present moment. We talk about reach, and grab or push, and attach in SP. I gave you a cupcake for your birthday, and that is a type reaching.” Bea is speaking slowly, and I don’t like it. I don’t like what she is saying, and I want to tell her to shut up. But I don’t. I don’t say anything at all. So she continues, “What did it feel like when I gave you the cupcake?”

I shrug. I don’t say anything. It’s a cupcake. It was a nice thought. The little girl and the teen liked that she thinks about me even when I’m not right there. That meant something to them.

“Well, I want you to know that you don’t have to take the cupcake, you could tell me no. And I guess I should tell you, it was from my heart, I wanted to do something for you, but also, I guess I was thinking that it is sad you don’t want to acknowledge your birthday, and I wanted the little girl and the teen to know it’s not forgotten and your day still matters.” She says the last part gently, carefully, as if she knows it could set the teen off.

And it does set the teen off. “Stop it. Stop being shrinky! I hate it when you get all stupid and shrinky! Why are you making a thing out of something that wasn’t even a thing? You always do this. Just stop talking. I have to go.” I start to sit up, to put my new perfect fall boots on.

“Will you wait? For a minute? Please. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be shrinky. I really wasn’t. It was shrinky though. I just wanted you to know you didn’t have to take something from me, that whatever reaction you had was okay, and that there weren’t expectations around it.” Bea says. She is calm, grounded and so very much here and present and the teen hates her for it.

“Ugh. You didn’t……you always ruin everything! Just when I was feeling like you are here and safe and it is okay, you do this! And you do it just before you are leaving so now I get to feel like you are gone (out of town) and that you aren’t even here (emotionally). I hate this. I can’t do this right now. And it’s time to go anyway.” I stand to leave. The teen wants to throw the cupcake at Bea, but instead I leave it on the couch. I don’t want it anymore.

I walk out, and Bea doesn’t try to stop me. That feels bad, too, even though I am the one leaving. If she had tried to stop me, I would have been really mad. As I leave, she gently but firmly says, “I am here. I’m not leaving you.”

The rest of the day passes by quickly, and Thursday does, too. It’s Friday before I email her, and then only to request a schedule change for Kat. Bea doesn’t respond and I am hurt, until I realize she wouldn’t just ignore an email. I email again to see if she got my first email. Bea texts me in response, and she is just so very Bea. Something has gone wonky with her email and so her emails are not being sent. But she had gotten them both. We text a bit, and she gives me a different email address to use if I want to email more this week.

We end up touching base a few more times, and while we don’t go much below the surface, I feel more connected again. Now it’s Tuesday night, and I will see Bea in the morning. The teen’s anger has dissipated, and all that is left is embarrassment. I feel anxious about seeing Bea tomorrow. The teen is afraid Bea is mad at her for acting like a brat. She’s also afraid that Bea will bring it up, and she would rather forget it. But she wrote about it, so if Bea reads her notebook, she will see that the teen was really upset. The teen knows that it will probably be talked about, and deep down she knows it will probably be okay― uncomfortable, but okay.