this post contains references to eating disordered behavior and sexual abuse. Please read with caution as it could be very triggering.
“We have just over half our time left, if you want to talk about your flashback,” Bea tells me.
(you can read about the flashback (not in detail) and my reaction in my “Flashback Sunday” post.)
Crap. She wasn’t going to just ignore that, then. I had sent Bea a list for a reason– because I knew if I didn’t send the list I might not bring up the flashback, or my reaction to it, and I really did want to talk about it. Well, I sorta wanted it talk about it. But not really.
“Ummm.” I mumbled, and covered my face. “I don’t know.”
“Is this new?” Bea asks.
“Yes. No. Yes. Ugh. I don’t know. Kimda. Sorta,” I have no idea how to explain it. How do I make it make sense? It is but it isn’t, not really.
“Maybe it’s not new, but more of the story is getting filled in?” Bea suggests.
I nod. And then I grab my journal, I flip through the pages, I know which pages have the flashback in them, but I can’t focus on the words I’ve written to figure out which of the pages actually contain it.
I’m ready to hand over the whole entry, but before I do, I tell Bea, “I didn’t write this for you…I didn’t proofread, or rewrite it to make it neat, or anything, it’s my journal, it’s not edited, it’s not what I would give you…I can’t focus enough to pick out where I wrote the flashback, so just skim through and find it or something. But it’s messy….and I….”
“Well, I don’t know, messy handwriting, not edited! I’m not sure I can read that,” Bea jokes, “oh, wait, it will be like reading my own writing.”
I hand the papers to her, and hide my face quickly. This is bad. Why did I decide to do this? Right. I need her to know what happened.
“Sunday was a rough day?” Bea asks as she reads.
“Uh-huh. Yeah,” I mumble.
“You had a really strong reaction to the flashback,” She states.
I don’t say anything. I stuffed my face. I purged. Yeah, strong reaction is a bit on an under-statement.
“Did it feel better after you ate?” Bea asks.
“No. I was gross, fat.”
“Maybe during?” She suggests.
I shake my head. I don’t know. I don’t remember, I think I dissociated then.
“What about the throwing up? Does that help?”
“Yeah. That helps. Sometimes. At least it fixes what I ruined,” I say, not really thinking.
“What you ruined?”
“Eating. Eating on a no food day,” I explain.
“So throwing up helps?” She asks again.
“Yeah.” Except not eating is better. Cutting is better. But if I eat on accident and ruin it all and I’m fat and gross throwing up helps.
“Did this feeling of being dirty start when you were little, or after the boyfriend?” Bea asks.
I freeze. Oh crap. She read the fact I was in the tub all day. Oh God. She must think I’m insane. Seriously, certifiable. Oh crap.
“It just jumps out at me, because it’s not a feeling we’ve ever talked about before with Kenny,” she explains.
“No…no. Not with him. With the boyfriend. Or nightmares. Memories. I don’t know,” I say. Later, journaling and thinking about it, I realize that it was before the boyfriend, when I eleven– sexual education at church youth group. That was when I first decided and felt dirty.
“Yeah,” she says. And then she is reading, again.
I can tell when she has gotten to the flashback, because she says, “Even he played into you needing to do things right, perfect.”
I feel awful. I changed my mind. She can’t know this, no one should no this.
“This is the first memory where things aren’t a game, this feels almost dark, and like you are really, really scared. Not that there hasn’t been scary feelings before, but this memory…..your very upset if you can’t do this right, by his directions. What happens if you can’t?” Bea is calm, she is matter of fact, she doesn’t sound hateful.
I want to answer. I do. I want so badly to explain, to make everything make sense. But I can’t. I can’t get the words out. I can’t face it, I can’t say it.
“Would he hurt you?” She asks.
No. Yes. Crap. How do I explain this? No, not like I think she is meaning, he wouldn’t hurt me. But what would come next, that would hurt. So yes. Crap. So, again, I don’t say anything, because I don’t know what to say.
“I….I think I was……..that kid that always had to please grown ups. Um. You know….I think I wanted to get it right because I just did….but….” I am speaking haltingly, with long pauses in between words. “This is hard. Talking. I thought if you read it, had some idea, it would be easier.”
“I think it helps because we are speaking a common language, so to speak. We are speaking about the same memory, we both know the general elements of what took place,” Bea says, “But it’s not easy to talk when you have been silent for so long. The little girl in you is still unsure of talking, not sure if it’s safe to trust yet.”
I start over, with the same halting spaces between my words, “I think I needed to get it right, do things right because that’s the kind of kid I was, I had to please everyone.”
“So a part of you felt like you had to please him?”
I can’t answer, but I nod my head.
“I’m not even sure why I asked that. It doesn’t matter. You were a victim. And by that point, he had groomed you to do whatever he wanted. You didn’t have any choices. It makes me so mad that this guy is still out there, after what he did to you. It makes me so mad that you were raised to think you had to always do everything right, and be good,” Bea says.
“If I couldn’t do it right……..” I stop. I breathe. “He would. I mean. It would be something worse…..he would want……….” I can’t say it.”
I’m falling farther away from Bea, her bright cheerful office, the birds and traffic outside, and more and more into this memory. I’m scared because I know I haven’t done a good enough job. I know he will want something else. I know the something else will hurt.
Bea is talking to me, “Do you want to write it?”
I shake my head. I can’t move right now. I can’t do anything. I’m stuck. Trapped. Trapped in my memory and trapped in my spot on her couch.
“I think you can say it,” Bea tells me.
I shake my head. “I can’t, I can’t.”
“Do you want to stop, come back?” She asks.
I shake my head. I need her to know. But I can’t say it.
“Okay. I think this wants to come out. I think the little girl is trying so hard to have a voice, to tell her story,” Bea says, soothingly, softly. She talks, softly, helping me to maintain that crucial link with the present.
I’m crying a little. But I barely notice that I’m crying in the present. It’s the past that feels real, and it’s the past where I want to cry, but I’m not. I’m holding my tears in, I’m numb on the outside; silent tears falling only on the inside where no one will ever see, where those tears can never help me heal or grieve.
“No. No, no. No. It hurts. It just hurts,” I say the words, but they don’t register, until Bea asks me, “What hurts?”
“Ahh…….um……….I can’t……..no,” I’m trying so hard to get the word out, but I can’t.
“You’re safe, it’s okay to tell it. You’re trying so hard to get it out. But if you do or don’t, there’s no failure, you have the same value to me. You’re good either way. Saying it, writing it, not telling it at all. All choices are okay,” Bea says.
“Sex,” I half whimper, half forcefully push the word out at her. And then, as soon as it’s out, I’m sobbing and falling into the memory, losing touch with the present.
I’m small, and I have no power. No choices. I know I’m bad, though, and I have to work so hard to make sure no one knows so they don’t leave me alone. He’s hurting me, but I couldn’t do the other thing right, it’s my fault. He was nice to me. He’s nice to me. I’m not safe here, I don’t want to be here.
“Alice, we need to come back. We need to breathe, hear the birds, hear the cars, open our eyes. What can we see?” Bea is talking, she knows I’m not okay. Her voice is too fuzzy to follow, to understand, to really listen to. I only know this reality.
“Alice, you’re safe in my office, in 2014.” Bea is talking again. Safe? I’m not safe. She goes on though, about being safe, in her firm but kind and gentle voice, the one I have labeled her “Alice is too far gone” voice.
Eventually, I mange to say, “Not safe. He’s going to hurt me.” I sound like a little frightened girl, not my adult self.
“Okay. We really need to come back, then, Alice. You are safe. You are safe here, in 2014. You’re 31. You just had a birthday. You ate pancakes with your daughter and your husband for your birthday. You like to sew, and bake. You like to draw, and read. You got a car, that you picked out, just for you, with no strings, for your birthday. You’re intelligent, and resilient, you can tell a great story. You have a wonderful fashion sense, you care about people,” Bea talks me back, but it’s slow. I’m really far away. She talks about who I am now, where I am, things I like to do now, things I have accomplished in this life– my adult life.
A car horn beeps, and I jump, scooting backwards into the couch. I’m as curled into myself as possible, physically, but also emotionally. I’m not okay, no where near okay.
I think Bea is moving, but I can’t look up. “I’m just going to check the phone, Alice, I think it might be buzzing.” (Later, I realize that I was way, way over my session, and she probably needed to let her next appointment– a home visit– know she was running late because of the crazy girl. —-I want to add that never once has Bea act stressed about the time, or even mentioned it to me (a terrible time freak) or acted like I have taken more time than I should when I have been in a bad head space and needed more time.)
Her phone is across the office, no where near me, but still I scoot back–it’s not safe— until I’m sitting on the back of the couch. I’m more aware of the present, along with the past, but not exactly in a good way. It’s a link, though, a start. And Bea builds on that.
It’s another 30 minutes before I can breathe normally, and my fear is less intense. I’m still sitting on the back edge of the couch, still curled into myself, hiding my face. But I’m feeling more ‘normal’.
“That was very, very hard. You gave the little girl a voice. She hasn’t had a voice in a long, long time. Maybe never. And that’s hard. Sex is a scary word. But next time it won’t be so scary. You took some of the power away from the word,” Bea tells me.
I don’t say anything, but I’m listening.
“I noticed when I read your journal writing that your handwriting changed as you wrote about your experience. It starts out as your normal handwriting– the bubbly Alice writing that I normally see– and then it starts to change, until by the time you are writing about the flashback, it’s smaller, printed, straight up and down. A handwriting change like that signifies different states of mind. When you are ready to open your eyes and look up, I want you too see this, too,” Bea says. I think, that while she does find it interesting, because Bea finds everything in life wonderful and interesting, she is trying to get me interested and to want to open my eyes.
“I can’t….I don’t want to face you,” I finally say. I’m embarrassed that I fell apart.
“I’ll set these on your bag, then, on the couch, and I’ll go use the restroom, okay?” Bea says. I flinch when she sets the papers down, but I hold it together.
By the time Bea gets back, I have gathered my things, and am ready to run out the door. I had thought about just leaving, but that seemed rude, and I’m nothing if not polite.
“Okay then, “Bea says, walking back in, “I’ll see you tomorrow at 10, with Kat?”
Oh. Crap. ” Yeah, tomorrow,” I agree.
We talk about Kat’s session tomorrow morning as we walk out. Another child will be joining us after Kat’s normal hour, so that Kat can work on social skills and learn that not all friends will hurt her like the other little girl who traumatized her earlier this year.
“I’ll bring a snack, maybe stuff for tea party?” I suggest.
“Perfect,” Bea tells me.
“Okay, then. See you tomorrow,” we say.
I head to my new car, the car I picked out for my 31st birthday. It’s 2014. I’m an adult. I like to sew, bake, draw. I like to go wine tasting, and read. I’m safe. I’m safe. I’m safe.