this post does contain a little bit of sexual abuse stuff, it’s not very detailed, but could still be triggering. Please read with caution.
I’m curled on the couch, the way I like to be, and Bea is dying to hear about yoga.
“So, you liked her? And it went well?”
I nod, “It was good, she’s nice.” I explain how we had talked and how she had made me feel a little like I was in therapy.
Bea tells me, “I’ve heard that depending on the kind of trauma, and the age the person was, different yoga poses, breathing, can be helpful or triggering. She was probably trying to get a sense of things, so that she could know where to start, that’s all.”
“Maybe that’s why she wanted to collaborate with you, and with me. Because she thought she would maybe get more information that way,” I say.
“Yes, maybe so.”
I describe the session to Bea, who mainly wants to know if I was present or not, what I was feeling, if I felt okay about it.
“I wasn’t not there,” I tell her, “I was there….maybe……disconnected from my body, still, but there and aware of what was going on. And she told me what I might be feeling when we did a yoga pose, or breathing so that was nice. Just to know. But it wasn’t like she expected that I would feel anything.”
“That’s good, that’s great! This is exactly what we have been wanting for you, this piece is going to help so much, I really believe that,” Bea says.
“So, if I contact her, I’m thinking to keep things more vague for now…?”
“Yeah, I think so. I like her, but I don’t know her. Just talk to her, I trust you, go with what feels right,” I say.
“I’ll probably tell her what I’m hoping you can get out of the yoga, what skills would be helpful for therapy, for trauma processing here, maybe the type of trauma and the age range if she asks me.”
I nod my head. That sounds okay.
“One thing, though,” Bea tells me, “I want you to be careful not to get caught up in trying to be perfect at yoga, okay? That’s not what this is for.”
I smile. “I don’t think I will. There’s no one else there to judge, and I don’t think Kris cares. That’s not what she’s there for.”
“That’s good, because your personality type, that can be really easy to fall into.”
I don’t say anything. I don’t want to talk about this. I’ve avoided and been obsessed with it since Thursday. Last week, on Thursday, Bea had given me some personality type information and some things to look at. She had suggested that it might be a welcome distraction from trauma, and maybe might help explain some things. Like why I am the way I am, where all my “not good enoughs” and “shoulds” come from. Instead, it confused me and upset me more. I ended up taking the test that goes with the book, and it came up divided among types. I knew which type I really should fit into, which type Bea would put me in, but really, that was the “perfectionist” type. And I was still struggling to figure out how much of my perfectionistic tendencies were mine, and how much were from my parents, my mother. I didn’t want some test, some book telling me that’s just what my personality innately was.
“Did you decide what type you are?” Bea asks.
“No.” It’s a statement, flat, and the word sits there, between us.
She tells me why she thinks I fit into the perfectionist category, and I tell her that I disagree. We talk about it. I’m still shaking my head. Finally, looking at the floor, I say, “You really want this to be helpful. I’m sorry. I don’t like this. I’m not sure how much is my personality and how much is because I didn’t have a choice but to be perfect– because that’s what my parents wanted, needed, and nothing else mattered to them but having a perfect child. I don’t like this personality stuff, and it’s only confusing me more.” Now the words are out, and I’m already holding back tears.
Bea pauses for a minute, and then she says, very carefully, “You included your Dad in that; you said my parents. Did you feel like he wanted you to be perfect, too?”
I nod my head, and I’m crying now. “Always. It didn’t matter, grades, ballet, everything had to be perfect. Cleaning up my room, being polite, I don’t know. Everything.”
I sit and cry, hiding my face. I can’t stop crying today.
“I tried and tried and tried. But it didn’t matter. And all they ever saw was what was wrong.” I sob harder at that.
Bea says something, I can’t focus on what, but I know it’s kind, and I know she is listening to me.
“I was never good enough for her.” I’m back to crying about my mom now. “Why couldn’t anything I did just be good enough, just one time?”
“I don’t think it was you, it was about what your mom didn’t have, couldn’t give,” Bea says.
“What was wrong with me, why did I have to be too much for her? Why couldn’t she just love me?”
Bea waits a minute, and then she speaks, “How did we get to something wrong with you? There’s nothing wrong with you now, and there wasn’t then. Your mom just didn’t have whatever it was that she needed to be a really good mom to you. It wasn’t your fault. It’s never the child’s fault.”
I cry some more, and Bea gives me space to do so. And when my sobs finally stop, and I’m just leaking tears, I tell her I’m sorry for being such a mess.
“Don’t be sorry, this is what needs to happen, you need to be able to grieve what you didn’t have, and that’s okay. It’s the only way to heal. I think it’s really become more apparent to you when you compare your mom and you, to you and Kat. And you are a good mom to Kat. You give her what she needs, and you repair it when you haven’t been able to.”
I sniffle, and then ask, “If I can give Kat what she needs, even when I’m broken and a mess like this, then why couldn’t my mom love me enough to do that for me?” I think for a second, and then I dare to add, “and please don’t tell me about all the great resources she gave me, or anything else like that. That does not matter. It’s not an excuse.”
“No, it’s not. It’s just a the hand we get dealt. There’s no easy answer. All I can say is you can be mad, you can be hurt. You have every right to feel those things. It’s okay, it’s allowed. It really, really is. You can be upset. The world won’t end.”
I cry some more, but not so hard this time, and I’m feeling less alone right now.
“Now, I’m not getting ‘shrinky’ on you, but do you think, that maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons this is coming out so much easier today, is because having to tell me you didn’t want to do the personality stuff brought up the same feelings you had as a kid of needing to do the ‘right’ thing, and go along with what your parents wanted, and never telling them no? But you did tell me no, and you explained so well that you are still trying to figure out what’s you and what’s your parents, what’s your mom, that the personality stuff just made you more confused. And that’s okay. You are allowed to say no, and I’m glad you said no. It’s not helpful to use something that is making you more confused, or that is upsetting you. I’m not mad that you said no. You gave yourself a voice; and you should have a voice,” Bea says.
In the back on my mind, I’m thinking she is getting shrinky, but I also realize that she might be right, and I’m not getting the “shrink thing” feeling from her, so I don’t say anything.
“The nightmare memory,” I say.
“Yes?” Bea asks.
“I…I want to talk about it. I think.”
“Okay,” she says, “we can so that. I need to make sure you are safe though.”
“I know….but this isn’t really anything big,” I say.
We’re both silent for a moment, and then Bea says, “There was a ‘big’ thing we never did really talk about.”
I pause, it’s as if everything stops, even my thoughts, waiting for her to finish that sentence.
“Two weeks ago, we talked about it, and concluded that yes, he raped you–”
I freeze, and can feel myself wanting to go away. “I hate that word.”
“I know,” she says, softly, gently, “I know. I can’t say he had sex with you, that’s not what happened, there was no consent. We talked about it that day, a little, but then, we never talked about it again.”
I don’t say anything.
“It’s a big deal, to have asked that question. Your memories, some of them, i already felt were memories of rape, but I didn’t think you were there yet, were ready to see that. You were still seeing it as a child, and a child has no words. So it’s a very big deal to go from seeing a memory like that from the child’s view point, to seeing it from the adult viewpoint and to have a name for an act that happened. It’s a big deal. I think that might have been part of what pushed you over the edge, made things start to feel not okay for you.”
I start to dissociate, then, but Bea pulls me back, and lets the matter drop for now.
“I want to tell you what happens in my nightmare memory,” I tell her.
“Okay,” she agrees, easily.
“I’m sitting in the bathroom, while my mom is getting ready to go out, and she is mad at me. She’s mad because I had used the phone without asking, and I had called my grandma to ask if I could come stay the night there while my parents went out. She has her white hair rollers in, the ones with the metal clips, you know?” I ask her.
Bea laughs, “oh yes, I know.”
“I’m crying, and I’m asking her not to go out. She tells me no, I’ll be fine. And that’s it. Then it’s the rest of the nightmare like usual.”
“So, again, you tried to stop it by going to your grandma and grandpa’s, and then by asking your mom to stay home. That little girl had to feel so alone, so unprotected. ”
I nod my head, and the tears are back.
“Does this part of the dream feel like it’s real?” Bea asks.
I nod my head. “Yeah. It does. I know it happened that way. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? To believe so strongly that a dream is real?”
“No. Not at all. A book I’m reading now, it says that for trauma survivors their dreams are very real, literal, usually unchanged from the original trauma. I don’t think it’s crazy in any way,” Bea reassures me.
I’m sobbing harder again, because the relief in being believed is tremendous.
“All I wanted to do was go to my grandma’s,” I cry.
“You really didn’t want to be home when he was babysitting,” Bea says, “You tried the best way you could to go where you felt safe.”
I nod my head in agreement, and we talk a little more about my mom, and me, and why didn’t I just say something, anything, instead of just asking her to stay home? Bea explains to me that most kids will test the waters, and see what kind of reaction they get. I had tried to leave, and has asked my mom to stay. Both times, I was “in trouble” and told no. Most likely, in my child’s mind, it made no sense to ask or say anything else. My mom was not listening anyway.
We sit, then, in silence, the hour up, past over. My head is still down, and I’m trying to contain my tears and calm myself down.
I can’t help it though, I need to ask, and so I do. “Bea, do you ever get tired of hearing people’s ugly secrets?”
She’s silent, maybe trying to figure out what I’m asking.
I clarify, “I mean, even I don’t want this ugly stuff in my head, and I don’t know that I should be putting it into other people’s heads.”
“Oh,” she says, understanding dawning on her, “No, it doesn’t work like that. I have to take care of myself, therapists have to practice good self care, just like anyone should be doing, so I exersise, I spend time with my dogs, I make sure I relax…..but no, I don’t think of it as hearing people’s ugly secrets. I think of it as being allowed the privilege to help people. I get to care, and be with people as they work through their trauma. That’s what I think about, being there with you, sitting with, feeling with you; it’s not about hearing ugly secrets.”
I’m quiet for a minute, thinking. “So then I shouldn’t worry about putting my ugly crap in your head?”
“It’s easy to say no, but that’s the short answer. The longer answer is that you learn to detach yourself a little while still being there, and while supporting the person. But you shouldn’t worry about it, no. It’s okay, and it’s my job to worry about me, right?”
I shrug, maybe unconvinced. I believe her, of course, but it’s not always pretty stuff in my head.
“Well, there’s also therapists for therapists. So if a therapist was struggling with something, they could see a therapist for a therapist. So there are a lot of things to be done, but your stuff is okay to share, when you are ready and you feel safe.”
“Okay,” I tell her, gathering my things to head out the door.
“Alice?” Bea calls after me.
I stop at the doorway and look back. “Yeah?”
“Let someone else worry about you for a change, okay?” She asks.
“Okay,” I say.