I’ve been trying to tell Hubby what it’s like to live with trauma, to explain how trauma changes a person, how memories are different than normal memories. I haven’t even begun to try to explain what makes sexual abuse as a child so damaging. Even talking about these relatively benign things are hard for me. It’s hard for me to explain my experience, it hard for me to remember the “right” or “technical” explanations. It’s all hard. And that’s when I came up with my brilliant idea; Hubby could go see Bea, for a kind of trauma for dummies class. She could explain trauma to him, in a way that was relevant to me. So, on Friday, Hubby went to see Bea.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous, so I gave Bea some rules:
1. I don’t want Hubby to know who— male babysitter is enough information for now, maybe forever
2. No major details of what happened to me unless there is a specific question or example that you really believe it will help him understand something.
3. I’m really afraid that sex is going to be brought up, by either one of you. I don’t want him to know how not “there” I have always been. That seems like a cruel thing to tell him. You can talk about why it might be a really hard or scary thing to talk about or think about or do right now. Or why I might be afraid that touch is always going to lead to something more.
4. Please don’t talk about cutting or eating behaviors in relation to me specifically as he doesn’t know anything about my history. But in general, as in “these are common coping mechanisms, ext,” that might be a good starting point. If he flat out brings it up or asks, you can answer or talk about it.
And that was it. I also told her that I trusted her, so if she felt like something was important to be talked about, then she should follow her instincts and go ahead and talk about it.
Last night, Hubby told me how the session went. It was really weird to hear about my shrink from him. But he seemed really positive and happy with the session, and he was really glad that he went. He said Bea explained things really well, gave him information that was relevant, and also gave him things to do to help me; she explained to him how she sees his role in my therapy process.
Kat’s in bed. The house is (mostly) clean. Hubby and I sit down to talk. He settles in the arm chair, and I sit sideways on the sofa, tea in my hand.
“So….I’m really glad I went, Bea is really nice,” he starts out.
“Did she help?” I ask. I’m anxious, I want it to have gone well, to have been good. I want him to be happy.
“Yeah, she really did. We spent half the session on trauma stuff, and half of stuff I can actually do to help you.”
I smile. I’m glad, Hubby is so picky sometimes, so, I wasn’t sure how he would feel. “What did she tell you about trauma? Will you tell me?” I ask him.
“Yeah, yeah. I was planning on telling you all of it,” he says, “Bea told me how childhood trauma can hold a lot of self blame, because it’s not like someone is really forcing you, in the sense of you being held down. She explained grooming, how the perpetrator is an adult the child trusts, how children are taught that adults are right, to obey adults, and then if a perpetrator grooms a child, the child can feel like they were involved in their own abuse, that they were a part of it. She told me how part of that is the adult can try to make the child like it, feel some pleasure…..and a lot of those adults are very good at what they do, and so the child ends up confused, feeling good and bad, terrible, and like they are to blame. That has to be such a horrible feeling. No matter what, you weren’t. I don’t blame you.” Hubby looks sad.
I nod, say, “yeah,” because it’s all I can say.
“If this is too hard for you, let me know, okay?” Hubby tells me.
Then he continues his story of his session with Bea. “We talked about how trauma memories are different than regular memory. And I told her, I said ‘Bea, I’m a schmuck. Alice was telling me about memory, and how she doesn’t have memories of childhood, and I said that was really scary….but I was trying to empathize.’ I said, ‘Obviously, that was the WRONG thing to say.’ And Bea told me everything I did wrong.”
“Wait, what!?” I interrupt him, I can’t help it. “She told you everything you did wrong!?! What did she say? I can’t imagine her being like ‘you were so wrong.” Secretly, I’m kinda tickled pink; Bea really stood up for me! she told him he was wrong. And I wasn’t even there. She didn’t have to stand up for me, but she did, anyway.
“Well, she just told me why it’s not scary, and that saying it was is like you telling me that a fishing trip I told you about is scary. So, I get it. I asked her about the nightmares, if they will go away. I told her you don’t sleep. She said they will, or they will lessen, as you heal. We talked about dissociation, too, and how that has to do with memories not being there. She said that also with that, you might not always feel your body. So my job is to help ground you. I can hold your hand, talk to you. Things like that.
Bea said that anyone who experiences trauma….it’s to be out of control, kind of helpless. So that’s why you need so much control. She says that some of it is your personality, but all trauma victims need that control, because they never want to feel that way again. So my job is to let you have that, because you need it, to stop arguing with you about it.
I told her how I keep getting in trouble for not listening and trying to fix things for you. She said yeah, that’s gonna happen. But she said that my job (his day job, at work) I have to almost not listen, and start coming up with ways to fix the persons problem right away. She wants me to try to practice being just a little more empathetic with the callers, so I can bring that home to you.”
I’m feeling elated. This is good, this is great. “That’s good babe. She actually gave you ideas of things to do. That’s so good,” I tell him, “I usually just want to know that you understand. A lot of times I feel like we are having two different conversations, and that makes me sad….I don’t want you to fix everything. I’ll tell you if I do.”
“I know. That’s what Bea said, too. I told her how you are mad your mom,” and here, he pauses to reassure me it’s okay that I’m mad, I’m allowed to be mad, “and that we talked about how when I first met you, and until maybe Claire was born, you were on the phone with her all the time, back there visiting all the time, and now…..well, this is hard on you.”
I shrug, and look down. I can’t talk about it. Losing my mom because I’ve chosen to be honest with myself, it means I’ve lost a best friend, too. I’m sad. I can’t really talk about it yet.
“I told Bea I’m afraid to ask you questions or say the wrong thing. She said you are strong, and you’ll tell me you aren’t answering that, if you don’t want to answer it,” he says.
I nod. “If you want to know something, ask me. I just might not answer it, or I might send you back to Bea. So be ready to not get an answer. Even Bea doesn’t get a lot of answers,” I tell him.
Hubby looks like he is gearing up for something, and then he asks, “Does anyone else in your family know, besides your parents?”
“No….and my parents don’t know.”
“I thought you were mad at your mom because she knew,” he says.
I sigh. This is the difficulty, in not wanting to share the details. “I feel like my mom should have known. She should have seen signs, she should have put two and two together. She should have known. But even if she did have an idea, a suspicion, she needs for things to be good, and right, and perfect, she would have pushed that knowledge away from her so fast—- she wouldn’t have really known.”
“Oh,” Hubby says, “I get that. I told Bea I don’t know whoit was that hurt you.”
I’m wondering if he has forgotten, the carefully worded, truthful statement of male babysitter? I can’t remind him, I can’t say those words right now.
“She said that she thinks once you tell me, you will see rage, anger in me. She said you are afraid to see that much mad in someone, you aren’t ready for that. You know, you never have to tell me, if you don’t want. It’s your story, I’m okay with not knowing,” he tells me.
I’m thinking how can he be okay not knowing? Of course he’s not okay not knowing. If he was okay not knowing, he wouldn’t be saying all this, bringing it up.
“One day,” I say, “I’ll tell you, okay? But now today.”
“Okay,” he says, nodding. “After all that, I told Bea about you when we first met. I told her how timid you were, how you wouldn’t even call to order pizza. I told her how you would get scared of noises, crowds, how the big mall scared you, remember, when I took you on a Saturday? Or the haunted house? When the chainsaw guy chased you? I told her how you were quiet and kind, and never, ever would you tell anyone you were mad.”
I remember. Well, I vaguely, blurry, hazy, dissociatively remember. It wasn’t long after I had been “fixed” by the shrinks. But still, I wasn’t over what damage that abusive relationship had caused me. I wasn’t over any of it, not at all. So, what Hubby got was the “fixed”-broken girl.
“So Bea helped?” I ask.
“She helped a lot,” he says.
“Good,” I say, “but you can’t have her. She’s too busy with me.”
Hubby laughs and agrees.