I got stuck in the bath tub last night. I needed to shower, but I couldn’t stand the idea of showering, so I settled on a bath. I got in the tub at 6:00pm. The next thing I knew, it was almost midnight, and I was still in the tub. This is a routine problem. I get frozen and stuck, and I dissociate, lose time. I vaguely remember Kat telling me good night, hubby checking on me, and hubby going to bed. But that’s about it. I think I’m slowly losing it, although, if you ran into me in public, you wouldn’t know it. My pretend self is still around, enough so that I can fake okay when I need to.
I finally fell asleep around 2:00am, only to awaken at 4 with nightmares. I fell back asleep, somehow, and only wake up when the phone rings.
“Hullo?” I’m groggy, out of it. I have that dissociated feeling combined with lack of sleep. The bed covers are twisted around me, and for a terrifying moment, I feel trapped.
“Are you awake? It’s 6:30.” It’s the nanny. The one who runs late, who I usually call to wake up. Crap. I jerk out of bed. Thanking her, I hang up and rush to get ready. Crap.
I go to make coffee, only to discover my keriug is broken. Crap. This is not a good start to the day. I throw on clothes, braid my hair, pick at a pimple on my face. I make tea, instead of coffee.
The nanny gets to the house, and assures me she can take care of the dogs and everything else. She says it’s okay, everything is okay. I rush out the door late, and somehow still arrive at therapy 15 minutes early.
I force myself to walk into Bea’s office like everything is okay, and I smile at her as I sit down. “How was your Christmas?”
She’s in her chair, in the middle of the room on the blue rug, typing an email. She looks up, and smiles at me. “It was good. It was so nice to have my kids home, be with family. How was yours?”
“It was good, it was nice,” I tell her. I feel a little dissociated, trying to act okay. I never really realized how much work it is to put on my facade of normality.
We end up chatting about Kat, and Christmas, and Hubby, and how things were good. How happy Kat was, and how cute she was this year at Christmas. Bea finally turns in her seat, and looks at me. “That’s how Kat is doing. What about Alice?”
I shrug, look down. “I’m fine. I’m okay.”
“How was it, being at your parents?”
“Okay.” I find myself blinking back tears. It was nice being there, and Christmas was good, but it was hard, too.
“Christmas was good for you, too, not just for Kat?” She asks.
“It was, it really was.” I tell her about visiting Hubby’s family, and my family. It was a good two days. The only downfall in seeing extended family was everyone commented on my weight. I hadn’t seen a lot of the extended family since the summer, and everyone felt it necessary to ask what my secret was to losing weight, to say how great I looked, to warn against getting any thinner, and to watch with eagle eyes and comment on what I chose to eat or not eat. I don’t bring that up, though. It’s too complicated and messy.
“How was your mom? She was okay?” Bea asks.
“She was, she was good.” We talk about my mom, and how she was more real this visit than she has been, maybe in my whole life.
“She’s changing, trying to show you her thought process, maybe show why some things are hard for her. She seems to really be trying to connect,” Bea says. “I think you did that.”
I shake my head. I don’t think I did anything.
“Maybe she is reevaluating her life, looking at things….that happens in your fifties. This could be her decade for change and growth. If she got into therapy….”
“No. She won’t do therapy. No way.” Even while I say this, I wonder though. Maybe I’m wrong. A lot has changed with her, so maybe this could change, too.
I space out for a minute, and I’m not sure what we talk about.
“It’s hard to come back and think about these things, after a break, I know. Did you get a break? Maybe you feel like you didn’t?” Bea is looking at me, curiously. I think she knows I went away.
Crap. What did I do or say that clued her in? I hug my knees to my chest, and stare down at the floor. “I don’t know.”
“Were you able to stop thinking about things over the holiday?”
I’m quiet for a minute. “I didn’t sleep. On Christmas Eve, I couldn’t sleep.”
“Oh, uh-hmm. That makes sense. I wondered if it was going to be hard for you to be back there.” Bea gets it. She understands. “What was it that made it hard to sleep?”
I shrug, I’m not sure. Everything, and nothing.
“Are you in your old room at your parents?” Bea asks. I nod, yes. “Your old bed?” I shake my head, no. Not my old bed. My old bed was a single, a twin bed. There’s a queen bed in there now. “I think it’s worth exploring what made it hard to sleep.” She finally says.
“I just…every time I closed my eyes, I-” I stop myself from talking, not sure what I was going to say, or how to explain what was so difficult.
“Man, you have a quick filter,” Bea says, and I can hear a smile in her voice.
“Of course I do. I have to. You can’t be perfect, can’t possibly be fake okay and perfect without a quick filter.” I’m smiling too, a little. I’ve never really noticed how much of a filter I have.
“Of course. You had to get really good at filtering and watching everything. I wish we could just turn that filter off in here,” Bea tells me, gently.
“It’s kind of off. I say more than I would anywhere else.” I shrug. “It’s hard to change what you’ve done your whole life.”
“Oh, it’s very hard. You needed to be able to filter. It’s amazing, really, the way our minds work.” Bea says. “You said ‘every time I closed my eyes I’ and then that filter kicked in. What were you going to say?”
“I don’t know.” It’s automatic. I feel like I have to give an answer, but I don’t want to give the answer. I don’t know works. It fills the empty space.
“You remind me of the traumatized kids I work with who have been medicated. They come here, to work through their traumas, and they work so hard at holding themselves together, and the mediation blunts and numbs down their reactions. It’s easier for them to hold it together one on one, but I want them to have their outbursts and meltdowns. They were put on medication to stop these things, so they could function at school, in a group. But it doesn’t help in therapy. I can’t very well tell the parents to take their kids off medication, though, even though that might be the best way for the outbursts and feelings to happen here.”
I sigh. “You can, however, tell your adult patients to turn off their filter.”
“Well, I can ask.” She says. “I can imagine all these scenarios of what was going on. Anxiety, maybe hypervigalance that it didn’t feel safe to fall asleep. Maybe thoughts of trauma, worries. You left off at the best part of the story, I’m on the edge of my seat, wanting to know what happened.”
I nod. “I’m trying. I just don’t know.”
“Maybe if I ask questions, that would help.” Bea suggests. “Was it anxiety that you were feeling, or maybe thoughts, worries?”
All of it. None of it. I don’t know how to tell her. “I don’t know. I just couldn’t sleep. All night. But I was fine on Christmas. In the morning, in the daytime.”
“Did you stay in bed all night?”
I don’t want to answer. I sit for a while, picking at my fingers, the hems of my pant legs. “Mostly.”
“Where did you go when you weren’t in bed?” Bea always zeros in on the things I don’t want to say, and that I so desperately need to say. How does she do that?
I don’t answer for a while. I consider asking why it matters. Finally I hide my face, burying it in my knees and wrapping my arms around my head. “My closet. I hid in my closet.” I blurt it out quick. And then I hold my breath, embarrassed.
“Did you have a hiding place there when you were a kid?” She asks me this softly, like it’s okay, even though I’ve clearly lost my mind. I nod my head. “Yeah. I thought we talked about that before. It makes sense to me. I can see exactly why you would end up in your closet.”
I don’t say anything. I just stare at the purple throw covering the couch, and the blue and gray part of the pattern I can see on the throw pillow I’m sitting next to.
“Is it a big closet, like a walk-in, or a small closet?”
It’s not a walk-in closet, but it’s bigger than most normal size closets. “Medium.”
“Did you take a blanket in with you?” She asks.
I nod. I had grabbed my blanket, the one I take with me everywhere, and a pillow. If I’d had my teddy bear, he would have come, too.
“It sounds cozy and safe. I’m glad you went in the closet.” Bea sounds serious. She isn’t laughing or telling me I’m insane. I wonder if I should be questioning her sanity. “I don’t think all the parts of you could just stop thinking about the really traumatic memory we were working with last time, even if it felt like you had. Clearly, some parts of you didn’t feel safe. So you couldn’t sleep, and you went where you felt safe. I think it was the little girl part. I’m really glad you were able to go where you felt safer.”
I shake my head. I’m embarrassed. I hate that I hid in the closet.
“What did you do in the closet? Did you manage to fall asleep for a little bit?” Bea asks.
“I cried.” It’s a whisper, half covered by the tears that are now falling. I hate this. I hate crying, I hate feeling this way.
“You cried. There was some sadness, grief. You were alone, and crying.” She sounds sad. I think she doesn’t like that I hid in the closet to cry. She talks about how night time is hard anyway, and then with the extra anxieties I have about the dark, and the memories I have been facing, it’s no surprise I cried. “Did hubby wake up?”
“No. He can sleep through anything.” It’s true, too. He really can. “I guess I should be grateful.”
“Or, imagine how nice it would have been to have him hold you and comfort you all night. You wouldn’t have been alone.”
“Then we both would have been tired the next day.” I’m serious. I don’t see a point in waking him up, and having us both struggle to function on no sleep.
“I imagine it was a relief when morning came,” Bea says.
“Yeah. Everything was better.” She’s right. It was like a switch was flipped, and the horror in my head turned off. Plus, when 5:30am rolled around, I felt like it was acceptable to get up, because my mom was up.
“Christmas Day was good, though?” Even though I’ve already said it was, it seems like Bea needs to double check, now that I’ve told her about the sleepless night.
“It was. It was nice. My parents were great.” I tell some stories about the day, and laugh and smile. I talk about building Kat’s Lego house and how proud I was, and how my dad teased me because it was for three to five year olds. It was a good day. “It was hard to leave. I wanted to cry when we left….I didn’t want to leave my parents.” I sniffle, the feelings aren’t gone, and tears are falling as I talk.
“It sounds like you were really feeling held by their love. We all need that. You always need your parents. No one can take the place of that bond. It gets confusing, I think, because of the feelings that they didn’t protect you, that they should have known. It’s easy to forget that Kenny wasn’t family, that your family was, is safe. Even with all the short falls and needs, and things your parents couldn’t give you because of their own stuff, your family was safe. With these more real connections, you’re feeling that safety.”
“It’s all twisty and confusing.” I shake my head. Nothing is black or white. It’s all shades of grey. This is what Bea keeps trying to get me to see, to accept. It’s hard.
“Yes. It’s very confusing.” She agrees with me.
My session ended up being extra long, so I’ve split this post of. To be continued….