“So what happened this weekend?” Bea asks.
I’m curled into her couch, eating a mint, playing with silly putty, already half hiding my face. She’s asking because this weekend was a family reunion for my mothers side of the family, and my parents hosted. It’s the first time I have been back to my childhood home since I asked the question that changed everything. Bea already has some idea what happened. I sent her several panicked emails. Like the amazing therapist that she is, she responded quickly to each of them.
I finally shake my head. I don’t really know what to say.
Bea tries a different approach. “Did you find any wine you liked?” She knew on Friday, we would be touring several wineries .
“Yes,” I say, excited, “the one winery had my plum wine again. They haven’t had it since we got Kat to sleep through the night. Hubby got me 3 bottles!”
We talk about wine, and how hubby finally was able to make it to the reunion, and how our nanny/ABA therapist was able to travel with us for the third year in a row which is such a blessing for me and for Kat. We talk of regular everyday things, which brings us right to how hard this weekend was. I feel like crying. I don’t cry, and I won’t. It’s really out of character for me to cry like I did in my first session. That breakdown feels very surreal, like it wasn’t me. I cry over Kleenex commercials, but I don’t cry over my own stuff.
“It was just hard.” I say. I don’t know what else to say. There is so much in me that wants to come out. So many, many words, just waiting to burst forth, but somewhere inside me there is a gatekeeper who stops all the words…..and so I just say, “it was really hard.”
Bea nods. She doesn’t speak. I know she is waiting for me to elaborate. In the beginning of therapy this made me uncomfortable, and so she wouldn’t do it so much. Now, though, she pushes me a little. I start to pick at my fingers, and Bea notices. “Say whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be a complete thought.”
“You know I won’t do that.” I remind her. I’m far to much concerned with perfection to say whatever comes to mind without thinking it over a hundred times before saying it.
“But you said something,” she tells me, grinning.
I smile, in spite of myself.
“I’m not mad at my mother.” I tell her. It’s a sentence that has been hiding in the back of my mind since I got in the car to drive to therapy. The truth is, I might be mad at my mom, but if I admit that, then I might never ever be able to take it back and put the mad feelings back away.
Bea doesn’t say anything for a while. When she does, she speaks so kindly, so full of understanding, I think I can’t handle the understanding she is giving to me. “It’s hard to be mad at the ones who were supposed to love and protect us. We can be mad at someone and still love them. It’s confusing to have conflicting feelings, but it’s possible and okay to have those feelings. If you were mad at your mom, it wouldn’t mean you didn’t love her. You could be mad at her and still love her.”
I don’t say anything back, but part of what she says is what I have been struggling with. Perhaps it’s a concept that most adults are already familiar with. It’s not one I learned. It’s an idea I will tuck away, and think about again and again. Perhaps one day, I will begin to internalize it as a truth.
“I’m so angry at myself!” I scream this out, except my head is down, tucked between my knees and I’m as curled into myself and as tucked into the corner of the couch as I can be. I’ve gone from thinking of why I am mad at my mom to reliving a memory. I’m shaking and mad and scared and confused. Mostly, I’m confused and scared.
The scared is something new. I had told Bea before I was never scared when I was a kid. Now, I’m feeling scared. I think it’s scared. The feeling is so out of place in this memory that it literally takes me a few minutes, and Bea’s help to name.
“Are you still here?” Bea asks.
“Not really.” I tell her.
“Where did you go? Can you tell me?” She asks me.
“Back home– my paremts, when I was a kid. I’m back there, with him. You know.” I tell her.
“You look scared.” She tells me. She’s calm, though. Very calm, suggesting that there is nothing scary happening at all right now.
“No, I don’t.” I say.
“You do,” she says firmly, yet patiently, “the look on your face, the way your eyes are kind of widened, you look scared. Is this a scary memory?”
I pause. I think about it. I’m so confused. “No. I don’t know. Yes. Maybe. I don’t know.” I stop talking and just look at Bea, completely overwhelmed. Finally I say, “I am so confused. And I really want to tell you this, but I can’t because I can’t say the you know what words.”
Bea nods. She knows what I am talking about. She has hypothesized that I am still thinking of the situation from the point of view of my child-self, and so I have no words, because what words would a child have?
“Didn’t you have a solution you wrote in one of our emails?” She asks me.
My face turns red. “I was joking! Well. Mostly joking. I mean, it’s one way I could talk, I guess. But I feel really dumb.” I had said we could write the sex words on flash cards, and whenever I got to a sex word I could just hold up a card instead of saying it. The biggest problem is I don’t think I can write the words on the cards. So I would need Bea to do it, and I feel like a stupid, silly little girl asking her to do that. So, I laugh the whole idea off, and we don’t do anything with it.
Bea circles our session back around to lighter talk. She asks me to fill her in on Kat and how ABA is going. We talk about that for a while until I begin to feel more of my normal level of dissociation. Then, we decide that I will write down and email Bea my two flashbacks from the weekend before my Thursday session, and we will talk about them then.