I’m anxious walking into Bea’s office today. I feel like I’ve done something wrong; not being able to express my panic to her in the last session, and then being upset because I believed she forgot something she didn’t actually forget has given me the feeling of being sent to the principal’s office. I peek in the door, entering the office slowly today.
Bea is finishes up an email, and then turns to me. “Hi.”
I sit down, and whisper hello back to her. I curl up, trying to be relaxed, but I’m tense. I’ve felt frozen all week.
She’s doesn’t wait for me to start in with small talk, or chatty stuff, this morning. She jumps right in. “I suppose we should start by talking about what happened last time, I can explain what direction I was going, what I was thinking.”
Anxiety hits me as she says this, I don’t want to talk about this. I know it needs to be talked about, but I had hoped the emails we had sent between Monday and today would be enough. “Okay,” I whisper the word. I feel like I’m afraid of my own voice.
Bea gives me a smile, and then she starts to talk. “I did notice that you didn’t answer the question, but we were so far away from him, talking about your Grandma and your aunt, when you didn’t answer, I didn’t want to push because I wanted to try to stay away from that trauma, from him. I did remember the memory, the part that you shared, but then when I questioned you a second time, I wasn’t sure what kind of answer I got, or if I got one, so I stayed with the direction of your mom and your family.”
I nod my head at her. I understand.
We sit for a while, more silence from me, with Bea talking periodically to break the silence. I don’t know what to do. I can’t get the words out, but I’m overwhelmed by this memory. I tell her I have no words.
Bea looks like she understands, like she knows how hard this is, like she gets it. “We could talk about what happened after, the way we have with other memories. So you aren’t all alone like this, so there is something shared, and to help reaffirm that you did survive. Or we could talk about the feelings, although maybe there aren’t words for those, either.”
I stare at the floor a while, and feel shaky, dizzy. I don’t know what to do. I feel guilty, Bea is trying so hard to help me and I’m doing nothing. I hate this. I absolutely hate this. “After….after….I…after…” I can’t get the words out. I just can’t. Nothing happened after. Nothing. That’s the thing.
“We’re you able to act like everything was okay, or were you upset after? You went back to his house, right? For dinner?” Bea helps me, with the little bit she does know.
I nod, yes. “It was fine. I was fine.” I think I sound hollow. I feel hollow, empty, like there’s nothing left. Maybe I’m just too broken, defective.
“So all these feelings got pushed down, and you are feeling them now, for likely the first time. That makes this really hard.”
My legs itch. I’m frozen. I can’t stop thinking that if she knew the truth she would hate me, kick me out, never want to be near me again. Anyone would feel that way. I can’t do this.
“I wonder if painting your feelings would help. There’s no words, but it’s another way to communicate, and then you wouldn’t be alone anymore with them.” She is holding her tea mug, sitting in her chair, and she looks a little concerned about me. But that’s because she doesn’t know the truth.
I shrug, I don’t know. I think the idea is good, but then I would have to move, and that frightens me. I don’t know why.
“Can I put the paints out, just so they are there if you would like to use them? You don’t have to use them if they are out.”
“Okay.” I whisper it. Maybe if she puts them out, I can use them. She sets the paints out, and then moves her chair to the opposite side of the table.
“Now, I’m here, and you aren’t alone anymore,” Bea says. I feel giant relief when she says that, she sounds so sure of the words, so positive that she is here and with me.
I don’t paint. I’m too frozen, and the idea of having to move is scary.
“Does this feel like you did in yoga, with the chair exercise?” Bea asks. I must look frozen. Crap. Why can’t I act normal?
“Yes….but more. Bigger.” I clench my fists, try not to pick my fingers or scratch my legs; they feel itchy like I’m wearing those stupid tights.
“Yes, because you have all the feelings and memories with it now.” Bea doesn’t act like my one word answers are crazy, thank goodness. And she understands what I’m trying to say.
“Could you move?”
I think about it. “Yeah. If I had to. But I’d be annoyed.”
“So it feels good to be frozen?” Bea sounds normal, curious.
“No…yes. I don’t know. I want to hide.” I have no idea how to explain this. Frozen is not good, it’s awful, but I have this major need to hide, and frozen and hiding seem together. I don’t know. It’s crazy making, the way I feel.
“Ahhhh, okay.” Apparently, it makes sense to Bea. “Where would be the safest place to hide? What would your safe place look like?”
I don’t answer. I don’t know. Anywhere small. Anywhere where no one else can fit with me. Anywhere it’s not dark. I feel like an idiot. I can’t say that. “I don’t know.”
I’m feeling really floaty, dizzy, not here. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t think Bea talks much for a while. I don’t know. I don’t remember. I think Bea asks me what color my memory would be. I don’t know. I don’t know anything, nothing makes sense and everything is too confusing.
“I feel like I’m wearing those stupid tights. My legs are so itchy.” The words pop out of my mouth before I can stop them. Great; now she’s going to know how insane I really am becoming.
“That makes it very hard to be present.” Bea is so understanding. How can she just hear me talk about being crazy and act like its normal? “You wore the tights to church?”
“Yes…. I wanted to wear a dress, my dad said it was too cold to wear regular tights. Stupid wool tights. They weren’t even for church.”
“Who would even think to make wool tights for a kid?” Bea shakes her head. I wonder, maybe they weren’t really wool, maybe my mom just called them that. “What were they for?”
“Were they white tights?”
“No. Cream….off white. They had bumps, ridges, I don’t know. Maybe that’s why they were itchy.” I can picture them in my head, perfectly.
“Did you ever wear them again?” Bea asks softly.
I freeze even more. I think I might be sick. “No. I put them in the trash.”
My words sit between us, and it’s silent for a minute. I feel anxious, scared. Bea is the one to break the silence, to address the anxiousness and fear I feeling. “Did something happen to the tights?”
“Is this a memory where you got hurt?” She asks me this so gently, so carefully, so full of kindness, I feel safe answering.
I nod again, yes. I think Bea says something then, but I’m not sure. I’m not really all here again. Something she says makes me frustrated, makes me think she does not get it, she doesn’t understand.
“I did it,” I say. I whisper it, my face buried in my arms, resting on top of my knees. I’m curled into a ball again; sitting up, but curled into a ball. I regret it right away. She’s going to hate me.
Bea doesn’t respond right away. Maybe she is trying to place my words, figure out there exact context and meaning. “Are you saying that you feel like you instigated it?” She finally asks.
“Yes.” My voice cracks, and I push back tears. I won’t cry about this. Not now.
There is no pause between my confirmation and what Bea says next. “You were a child. A scared and lonely child, with a mom who was sick and in the hospital. You were vulnerable. I’m not surprised, it’s not surprising, you were looking for comfort.” I think maybe she says more, but I can’t listen. She doesn’t get it; I’m horrible.
“My fault,” I finally say. It’s all I can get out. I want so badly to yell and scream at her the reasons why she is wrong, to tell her what I’ve done, but all I can so is mumble two little words.
“He was the adult. You were a child. Even if you instigated something, whose responsibility was it to stop it?” Bea asks me.
I think. I was a smart kid, I skipped grades, graduated early. I was way more responsible than most kids my age. I knew right from wrong. “Me. Mine.”
Bea shakes her head. “No. His. His responsibility. His fault. Not that little girl’s. It’s never the child’s fault.”
Bea talks some more, but I’m not hearing her. I’m back in my memory, stuck again. I’m surprised when I look up and she is near me, picking up the paints that I never used.
“I didn’t paint. I’m sorry,” I say. I feel far away.
“No, no sorries. I was almost afraid to put them out. I didn’t want you to feel like you would have to paint to make me happy. I just wanted it as an option for you.”
It takes me a bit, but I finally get the courage to tell her that I didn’t paint because I didn’t know what to paint.
“Anything; picking a color that appeals to you, something abstract, it’s just to get feeling out, to help unfreeze you.” Bea smiles at me, and picks up the little blue kids table she had placed in front of me with paints and paper to move it back across the room.
I sigh. “I’m not really an abstract person.” That might be the understatement of the year.
“No, I don’t imagine you are,” she says, sitting back down. She thinks for a minute. “What about painting a pattern? Maybe we could work out a pattern ahead of time for you to paint.”
“I could do a pattern,” I smile a little, stand to leave.
“Are you going to yoga today?” Bea asks.
“Yeah, at 10:00am,” I say, picking up my bag.
Bea stands, too. She has an appointment out of the office today. “What are you going to do now?”
“I’ll probably go get coffee or tea. Read my book, relax.”
Bea studies me. I can’t look her in the eye, or really look at her face at all. Not since I told her what I did. I think about bolting for the door, but I won’t.
“Are you okay?” She sounds concerned.
“I’m okay,” I tell her.
“You wouldn’t tell me if you weren’t, anyways,” she says. She sounds a little sad, maybe.
“I told you before when I wasn’t okay. I’d tell you.”
“All right. You’re okay, but not okay. But you are okay,” Bea says. She gets it. In my black and white thinking, there is okay and not okay. In her world there are degrees of not okay.
“I’m okay.” I repeat it, and head out.
“Have a good day, Alice. I’ll see you and Kat tomorrow,” Bea calls after me.