this post continues talk of childhood sexual abuse, please read with caution, it may be triggering to some people
I walk in, my head down. I’m unable to really meet her gaze. On Monday, we discussed the beginning of my nightmare. The nightmare that we are now accepting as memory. Between Monday and today, I stupidly sent her the rest of the memory, including what happens when I wake up.
Bea, for her part, is calmly sitting in her chair, catching up on emails. I go about setting my stuff down, my back to her, and then settle myself in place on the couch, curled in a ball already. I don’t hide my face, but I don’t look at her, either.
I finally manage a weak, “hi.”
Bea smiles, says, ” Good morning,” and decides to take the indirect route to therapy this morning. “I’m catching up emails. It’s amazing how many emails I get sometimes.” She smiles when she says this.
“It’s because you let people email you,” I say.
“Sometimes, it’s easier for people to write than talk. You aren’t the only one who finds it safer to email, or to write. Lots of people prefer writing to talking.” She says.
Okay, then. Maybe she didn’t plan this, but she sure is making a point, now. I tell her that sometimes I feel bad for emailing so much, and that I wish she would just bill me for my emails.
“Well….I don’t believe insurance allows for that, so I won’t bill for it. And emails aren’t a big deal for me. It’s an easy way for people to keep in touch, stay connected, and get things out when it’s too hard to say the words. It’s okay, emails are okay with me.”
We talk about insurance for a while, because I happen to know a lot about billing procedures and codes and how companies work— thanks to the work I did in getting hubby’s company to adopt autism coverage— and then I tell her that if it’s ethical, she can always give families my email if they would like help with any autism stuff. I have a lot of knowledge, and a bit of a different view of receiving a diagnosis than most families. When Kat was diagnosed, it was a relief; we knew what was going on, we could help her now. The hard part was finding the help, getting the insurance coverage, and getting the services put together. Bea agrees with me that I would be an excellent resource and says that she just might take me up on that offer one day for some families.
And then we begin discussing Kat, and her feelings, her trauma. She has been saying she is “bad” lately, alternating with saying the little girl who hurt her is “bad.”
“It’s part of that magical thinking. When you’re four, you think the world revolves around you. If something bad happens, you believe you caused it. It’s developmentally where she is. We just keep teaching her that she didn’t cause it, as she grows and we keep teaching this, she will believe it. And then the next step is that we provide her with some good play date experiences so she can see that not all kids will hurt her, ” Bea says.
I can’t follow the conversation. I’m stuck on the “magical thinking” and believing it is your fault. I’m stuck on Bea saying Kat will grow to believe it’s not her fault, that she isn’t bad. I never grew to believe that. I’m terrified Kat is going to be me one day. I can’t move past that thought, it’s circling around and around in my head.
Bea has stopped talking. She looks at me. I look back, I’m so upset, I can’t stand it. I’m holding back tears with all that I have. I finally mange to say “I didn’t…..” And I can’t say more, because the tears will fall, and surely if they start to fall, they will drown me.
“Didn’t what?” Bea asks, gently.
“Didn’t stop thinking that it was me.”
“Oh,” Bea says, understanding crossing her face, “Well, what happened to you was secret. Kat has been protected, the situation has been stopped, she is in therapy, she is being allowed to process it, we are talking about it, everything you should have had, that you didn’t have, you have given to Kat. She’s getting everything she needs. This trauma will be processed and filed away properly. It won’t be like yours. Will the emotions be triggered at a later time in her life? Maybe. But I imagine it would be like when we lose someone close to us, and it triggers feelings of other losses we have experienced. It’s not like we relive those losses. It’s not the same as your memories and feelings.”
Tears are streaming down my face now, I can’t stop them, and I’m not even trying. “She won’t be me?” I ask.
“No,” Bea says, “she won’t have memories like yours, she won’t hurt like you do over this.”
“I can’t have her be me, I can’t have her hurt like this. She can’t. It can’t happen.” I’m a mess now, hiding my face, I can’t stop crying.
“I know. She won’t be. She will be okay.”
Bea gives me a few minutes, and then she asks me if I slept last night.
I shake my head. “I’m afraid to sleep. And then I had it again last night.”
“My heart really grieves for that little girl, for all the things she went through in just that one memory,” Bea tells me. I’m not looking at her, but her voice is full of compassion.
I don’t want to hear this. It’s too much. How can she think like this? Doesn’t she see? Doesn’t she see that child is bad? I say nothing, I can’t get any words out, can’t question her on why she can’t see what I can so plainly see.
Bea continues, “I think it’s really poignant that such simple childhood things are so tainted by this memory. An episode of Full House, a favorite nightgown, with a matching one for your doll, sewn for you as a birthday gift by an Aunt with love, a back rub– something that should make a child feel safe and loved, cared for. All those little things, so many of us take for granted as happy symbols of childhood. And they are all entwined with this terrible thing that happened to you.”
Bea asks me then, “He helps you change into your nightgown, and you clearly state that you are too big to need help. Do you remember what you were feeling? Do you know?”
I’m back there, then, just so suddenly, I’m on the edge of here and there. I can’t answer her right away, I’m lost for a minute, stuck in the memory. Finally, I manage to tell her, “I didn’t want him to touch me. It…it….” My stomach feels sick, nauseas, “it felt yucky.”
“Yeah,” Bea says softly, kindly, as if she is speaking to a little child, “You didn’t want him to touch you.”
I say nothing then, I’m curled into myself, lost in my memory, yet I’m in that strange place of being there, but not, here, but not. It’s the edge of being in a trauma memory, where you can remember, but where you aren’t so far gone that you don’t realize where you are. It’s an odd place to be, and something you can not really begin to understand if you have never been there. I suppose it’s similar to being in that half awake, half asleep state, when you can still remember your dreams, and yet you realize your dreams aren’t really real, but the real world seems a bit fuzzy, a bit off. It’s a bit like that, except my memories are real, and I’m very much awake.
“I let him touch me,” I tell Bea. My voice sounds far away to my own ears.
“Let him? Or had no choice? No options? You just very clearly stated to me that you didn’t want him to touch you.”
“I move toward him! He’s touching me and I move to him!” I whisper it, I’m ashamed, vulnerable in saying this out loud. Bea has read this in my email of the memory; she has read all the ugly, shameful details. But saying it out loud holds new fear, it makes it more real. I move back into the couch, as far as I can get and curl my legs into myself as much as I can. I want to disapear. If I could move, I might get up and walk out. But I’m frozen in place.
I hear Bea sigh. It is a sad sigh, and she says quietly, like she is talking to a terrified person (which I suppose she is, at that point), “Because some of those things feel good. Because our bodies are made to respond to touch. Because he groomed you from a young age to accept this as okay, because you had nowhere else to go. That’s part of the trauma; you weren’t developmentally ready to feel those things physically or emotionally. That’s why you felt so confused, it’s why you were sick and scared, and felt good. Even when teenagers, or young audits start having sex for the first time, it can be overwhelming physically and emotionally, a lot to deal with. How is a child supposed to deal with that? That’s where dissociation comes in. And that’s what happens at the end of this memory, right? You dissociated. You protected yourself the only way you could.”
I don’t answer, I’m crying again. Too many emotions are swirling through me, and I don’t know what they are.
“I don’t understand. I just don’t understand.” I say, finally.
Bea sits with me, but she lets me cry, lets me have the space to do so. I’m still fighting the damn tears.
I finally gather my courage and ask her something that is killing me, not knowing…..I think I know, but I don’t know for sure, but everything in me tells me that something happened even though I have no memory of it— or at least, no memory as an adult would understand it—- but I am simultaneously doubting myself and berating myself. And I can’t look at it, sift through it, think about it too much.
“Bea….do you think….I mean….did he……did…..I can’t say it. You asked me on Monday, if it happened in this nightmare memory.”
“Do I think he had sex with you?” She asks me.
I cringe, try to move farther away, but I nod.
Bea pauses, I can tell she is thinking, even though I’m not looking at her. “I guess, I want to know why you are asking, what you think, what an answer would mean to you,” she says.
“No,” I say, “just answer my question. I NEED to know.”
“I don’t want my answer to be more traumatizing, or upsetting, I’m asking those questions to try to figure out what you are thinking, why you are asking me,” she says.
I don’t want to talk about this, I just want an answer, if I wanted to look at things, think about things, I wouldn’t have asked her.
“Because…I don’t want to look at it….because I feel like it matters. Because I don’t know why. I’m fine, I’m okay. I just need to know. You’ve read all my memory cards, you know everything I know. I just need to know what you think.” I say this almost desperately, because I don’t want to tell her what I think, I don’t want to admit it out loud, I can’t.
But then Bea asks me, anyway, and I tell her. I say, “yes.”
“I think so, too,” she says, sounding sad. She sounds sadder than I feel.
But then I’m crying, and I’m mad. I don’t know who or what I’m mad at, or how I’m crying and mad, it just is.
“WHY? WHY?” I scream it at Bea.
She doesn’t answer right away, but when she does, she tells me she doesn’t know, that there are no answers, that no one really knows.
“What did I do? What’s wrong with me?” I ask.
“Nothing. Nothing. You did nothing, there is nothing wrong with you. You aren’t bad, you weren’t bad.” She reassures me.
I cry a while longer, and finally calm down. The rest of my session is spent on grounding, and calming. I leave feeling raw and exposed, but pretending to be okay. I don’t know how else to get through this.