After missing Thanksgiving, due to car trouble, I’m at a loss for what to do. My mother has spent every spare moment sending me guilt inducing text messages on Wednesday evening, Thursday and Friday morning. They range from, “I never see you, I feel like you didn’t want to be here anyways” to “I’m a horrible mother. I should have come to you. I’m so sorry you are having to cook on Thanksgiving” and “I miss you, I’m sorry, I love you, thanksgiving isn’t really the same without you”. By Thursday night, the messages have turned into “we’ll have next weekend, for the party. I’ll make us a Thanksgiving and it will be better than ever. You will be happy and Kat will be happy. I promise. I love you.” I can’t handle it. I can feel myself slipping off the ledge of barely okay into the pit of “not okay.” I finally send Bea a message, asking if I could possibly come in on Saturday. I told her that I hadn’t gone to my parents afterall, my car had broken down, and that my mother was causing me all kinds of guilt. I said I thought this was one of those “not okay” times I was supposed to tell her about. As soon as I send it, I feel guilty; I want to send another message reassuring her that I am actually okay, there is nothing to worry about. I don’t, though. Bea responds back that yes, I can come in and she will see me at noon on Saturday.
I’m numb when I get to her office on Saturday, not sure why I asked her to see me. Sitting in the waiting room, I feel silly. This was really dumb of me. But when I see Bea, I feel calmer. It’s like something in me believes she will know what to do, how to help make it better, that she will be able to fix it.
“Hey, hi,” she says, “Can I make you a cup of tea? I’ve been cold all day, and I need to refill my tea mug.”
It’s only then that I realize I have left my tea in the car. I’ve been such a space cadet lately, I have been forgetting things like that constantly. “I’m okay.” I don’t want her to go to any trouble for me.
Bea heats up water in her microwave that she keeps in the waiting room, opens a tea bag. “Are you sure? You didn’t bring anything today.”
“Ummm, okay.” I shrug, feeling shy, and surprised that she has noticed and cared that I don’t have my tea with me. While the tea is made, we chat about my car, how it broke, how I called Hubby freaking out. She tells me car stuff is one of her fears, and she would have been freaking out, too.
Teas in hand, we walk into her office. I curl up in my spot, and Bea sits in her chair.
“Driving there….it was. I was getting more upset the closer I got.” I sigh, and look down. I wonder if she will think I’m silly. I’m looking at a bucket of puppets Bea ordered last week. Kat has not really liked the puppets, even though Bea is pretty funny with them. She’s good at giving them their own voices and characters.
“Maybe your bad energies killed your car, Alice!” She smiles, laughs. I laugh, too. “In all seriousness, it probably was hard to go there, to be driving there. You haven’t been since the wine tour, and with the party stuff, the realization Kenny is real…..well, that has to feel scary to go back there.” She looks at me, and she’s just Bea. Calm, not judging, not anything bad.
I nod. “It does.” My voice is small, and I’m ashamed of how I’m feeling. “I was relieved. When my car broke. I was relieved. I had a reason not to go. I was safe, I could stay home.”
Bea is quiet for a minute, and I am quiet, too. There are no tears here, I’m too numb, too….something. “If we are feeling anxious, scared, afraid and some thing intervenes to stop that, relief is what we feel. That’s natural. It’s what is supposed to happen, it’s how I would have felt. And then you got to have the Thanksgiving you really wanted?”
“Yeah. I did. It was just…nice . It was real.” I drink some tea.
“Did you make a turkey?”
“No, we had done out thanksgiving already, on Monday. I made a homemade chicken potpie and apple crisp. It was just what I had stuff to make and seemed still kinda thanksgivingish. It was just a real day, no being fake.” I smile, because it was a nice day. Even with Kat being whiny, and some of my anger leaking out, the day was nice. I didn’t have to be fake. I was with my family, in my safe space, with people who love me and know me, who I love and know. It was the best Thanksgiving I have had since my grandparents had started going to Florida before the holidays.
Sunlight is streaming in through the window, hitting Bea’s face, and she shifts in her chair a little, turning away from it. “That sounds perfect. Just what you wanted. And your mom? She is okay now?”
Oh. Crap. “She sent me a text today…she is….no. She’s not so okay. She feels guilty, like she should have come and gotten Kat and I and just stayed in my hometown and had Thanksgiving there, and not traveled like we had planned….I don’t know. Now she is just thinking it will be fine because next weekend. The party.” I cover my face.
Very carefully, Bea asks me, “When did the not okay feelings start?”
I sigh. I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want to tell her how, exactly, I have been coping. “When I realized I have to go to the party.” I say it, and my voice is tiny, flat, hollow. I’m resigned. I have to go. I don’t want to. I’m terrified. I have to.
Bea doesn’t say anything right away. I can’t look at her, and I’m afraid I have made her mad at me. I feel like a little kid, one who can’t make everyone happy, no matter how hard she tries. I feel sick, and scared. I need her to understand, I have to go.
Finally, she folds her elbows to her knees, bending so she is nearer to me. I see this out of the corner of my eye. “I think when we are traumatized, it can feel inevitable that we have no choices, that we have no power, that we have to do what others want.” Bea is speaking really soft, and gentle. “I think it can be really scary to acknowledge and see the choices available. Alice, there are choices. You don’t have to go. I can see why it feels like you have to go, why it feels like there is no choice, how it can feel like having to go is the most not okay thing in the world.”
I shake my head. There isn’t a choice. “My mom. She is planning on me coming…she is only making herself okay from thanksgiving because she is planning on me coming. She is going to make thanksgiving next weekend, and she says I will be happy, Kat will be happy, she will make everything perfect. She is holding it all together because of next weekend.”
“So it feels like you have to go.”
“Yeah,” I whisper it.
We talk about how I always try to please my mom, to be perfect, to meet her expectations so that she can love me. Missing Thanksgiving means I failed. I’m afraid to fail again, by missing the party. I’m afraid to go to the party.
“You probably think I’m an idiot. It’s so simple. Just don’t go,” I tell Bea, shaking my head at myself.
“No, not at all. I certainly don’t ever think you are an idiot. This isn’t simple at all. I’m caught up in your experience, the difficulty with your mom. This isn’t easy.” She means what she is saying, she really does. I can’t believe it. I want to distance myself from her, push her away. She’s too close. I don’t, though, because I need her, I need that understanding.
“I can’t go.” I cry then. Not a lot of tears, not huge sobs, but a few silent tears leak out. “I have to go. But I can’t go.”
“No, you can’t go. It’s really a bad place to be. I know that. I don’t think you are seeing things very clear right now, though. I think that, for the moment, it’s best if you stick to the plan of keeping you and Kat safe and not going to the party. We can talk about it this week, we can work through it, but it’s my job to help keep you safe, and I really believe going to the party and seeing him isn’t safe for you right now,” Bea says this firmly, but gently. She means every word.
“I don’t know. Okay. I can’t go.” I nod, and hug my knees.
“I wouldn’t want to be where you are right now, with this choice, I know it’s not easy. It’s a bad choice, and a worse choice,” Bea says, matter-of-factly.
“Be-A!” I say her name, drawing it out, the way you do when someone says something blunt, and laugh.
Bea laughs, too. “I know, I know. That’s not really what you want to hear from your therapist, is it!?!?”
Laughing, I think about it and answer quickly, “Actually, it is, in a way. I feel less crazy for being so upset over this. Thank you.”
I had thought I wanted her to have all the answers, to fix the problem, to make it go away. It turns out, having someone show me it’s okay to be upset about my problem, and having someone believe in my ability to fix the problem is better than having them fix it for me.