<strong>Trigger warning. I talk about eating disordered behavior in this post. Please read with caution, be safe.
Late Sunday night– technically really early Monday morning– I’m up from a bad dream. I can’t fall sleep again, can’t calm down, and so I go out to the living room and turn on every light I can. And then I write. I write the memory, the scary horrible thing that I can’t tell anyone. I finally manage to write it down. I’m so dissociated, so frozen in the memory, though, that even after writing it all out I can’t get myself grounded. It’s only when my phone’s alarm goes off at six that I am jerked back to the present. I shove the thing I’ve written into an envelope and seal it. It gets thrown in my bag, to take to therapy.
I don’t remember the drive to therapy today, neither do I remember walking into the office. I’m numb, trying to present my facade of calm and okay. I don’t know why. I should be telling Bea that I’ve been up all night, and why. But I’m not sure she should know. So I talk about Kat, and the weather, the fact I didn’t get to meet up with my mom last week because of all the snow. It’s blurry and far away, and not really remembered though.
“I was sorry to hear you got sick on Thursday night. It’s always nice to see hubby when he brings Kat, though.” Bea is looking at me, cautiously seeming to be trying to figure out where I am today, what is going on with me.
“Oh yeah. I’m still a little stuffy, but I’m sure it’s not contagious,” I tell her.
“You sound a little stuffed up. How was the weekend? Sometimes, if we are sick it’s nice because it’s an excuse to lay around and be gentle with ourselves. But it can also be kind of triggering, because you don’t feel good, and you’re tired. Your defenses are down.”
I shrug it off that it was fine, that I held it together and was fine all weekend. Never mind the not eating and being thankful I was sick and had an excuse. Or the fact I got frozen in the bath tub again, once on Saturday night and again Sunday afternoon. Or the fact I had bad dreams, couldn’t sleep, and was disconnected from my child all weekend. Never mind the flashbacks I had, the intrusive thoughts, or the way I yelled at Kat. Never mind the fact I had to pull over while driving home from the pool on Saturday because I started to panic, and then flashback, all because a song on the radio. I’ve always, always been able to control it before. But not that time. But never mind any of it.
“The pool, and figuring out a way to interact and play with Kat at home so you could still rest, getting some chores done. It sounds like you were really okay this weekend. That’s good. Maybe getting sick won’t be stressful for you. In all the time I’ve known you, I don’t think I’ve ever known you to be sick.” Bea is sitting in her chair across from me. I’m actually looking at her when we talk about this, but I’m so disconnected from the present, that I couldn’t tell you what she was wearing, or if she had tea today, or anything else.
“It was just a sinus infection. I get them chronically in the winter, so it’s no big deal,” I shrug my shoulders, smile a little.
I think we talk about sinus infections, antibiotics, maybe something else. I’m not sure. I think Bea talks about mindfulness, staying present. The only time I’m good at mindfulness is when I’m with Kat. I tell Bea that I can multi-task, and still be thinking about 2 or 3 other things. My brain is too busy. It makes the mindfulness thing hard.
Bea starts to talk about how mindfulness is a tactic we can use with eating issues. Why is she talking about this? No way. I do not want to go there, no. I want to do what I’m doing, my disordered eating is keeping me sane. I can’t function without it.
“I’m not sure what you want to talk about today. If you want to go back to the memory, the feelings, where we were on Thursday, or if you need a break from it all. I’m asking questions, trying to feel this out, but you can take over anytime. If there is something you want to talk about, you can take control,” Bea says to me.
I shake my head. “I don’t know.”
Bea says something about how we haven’t checked in with my eating lately. I wonder if she can tell I’ve lost weight, the way that everyone else on my life seems to be saying. Maybe that is why she is bringing this up? I don’t know. I’m not looking at her now, I can’t. She brings up the fact that last week, or maybe the week before, I admitted to shame at the end of the session. I ignore her. I can’t listen to this. It’s too hard.
Eventually we sit with silence, and I give up. I tell her. “I wrote it down.”
“The memory?” Bea asks. I nod. “That’s a big step, huge. There was a time when you couldn’t even grasp the idea of writing it. When did you write it?”
“Sunday…well this morning, the middle of the night.” I’ve set my tea up on the table and pulled my knees to my chest, buried my face. I need to hide now.
“Did it take a long time to write it? Or did it all just come out, quick?”
“Longer than it should have.” I can’t tell her that it took hours and I was frozen with the memory. I’m so afraid she will decide or think I’m crazy.
“Mmmhmmm….did you bring it with you?”
“Yeah. I don’t know what to do with it.” Normally, I would rewrite it, because I know it has to be a mess, choppy and disjointed, random words, incomplete sentences.
“Maybe we need to define what it is, to know what to do with it. What feeling does it hold for you?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t understand what you want.” My voice is higher than normal, and the words come out fast. I’m feeling distressed about this.
Bea is quiet for a moment, maybe thinking how to explain what should be a simple question. “Well, if it feels like sadness, then maybe we want to let the tears out. If it feels like shame, maybe we want to bury it.” She gives other examples, but I don’t hear them. I get it now.
I can’t answer. It’s shame. That’s the main feeling it holds. Finally I say, “Bad.” I feel like I’m shouting at her, frustrated by my inability to behave like an adult.
“Bad. Okay……” I think Bea validates that it feels bad, and then she talks, giving me options of what more it might be. I’m too far away to have even short term memory of this conversation. “Maybe bad is scared? Sadness, grief? Is is shame? Disgust?” I think she repeats shame and disgust, maybe I reacted to them in some way I’m unaware of.
“Those two.” When Bea says shame and disgust, I speak up. It’s not what I want to admit to, but I do it anyway.
We talk around those feelings; well, Bea talks anyway. I circle around and around the idea that I can’t have someone know, it’s bad, something very bad will happen. Bea says she suspects that this feeling is very old and ingrained, but not true anymore.
“What will happen if you read it?” I ask her.
“Nothing. Nothing will happen. If you want to know my thoughts and feelings, I’ll give them to you, when you want them. Maybe you never want them, and that’s okay, too. If you want to talk about it, we could talk about it. If you want to email about it, we could email.”
In my head, I think she is wrong. How can she say nothing will happen, when she has no idea what I did? How can she be so sure everything will be okay? I feel so strongly, so sure, that something awful will happen if she reads it, if I let go of the secret.
We talk about that, me referring to someone reading it, people knowing, and always a vague something bad will happen.
Bea eventually calls me out on this. “Well, by someone, you really mean me. Because I’m the person who would be reading it.”
I don’t respond. I can’t, because this is a conversation heading into shrinky talk about the relationship territory. I can’t handle that right now. Bea lets it drop, and we go back to my circling around and around with this, overthinking everything.
I think we talk about fear, and anxiety. Maybe we talk about my fear that hubby would find it and read it, so I hid it in an envelope that’s sealed. I tell her that it’s double scary to think about her reading it, because of the content, but also because of how it was written. “It’s messy. I know it might not even make any sense, or be readable. I usually read what I wrote, but I didn’t, I couldn’t. So I didn’t go back over it and make it make sense. I didn’t edit it. And I know what I wrote about, the story, but I don’t know what I wrote.”
“I’m a big believer that the way things come out matters. It’s raw and messy, but that feels right to me, that this should be raw and messy.” Bea says. She always is saying she believes things happen like they do for a reason, things come up in therapy when they need to, and so on.
“I always email it to you. The typed one is usually a second edit. But I couldn’t read it and try to edit it alone.” I hate admitting this. It feels way too exposed and vulnerable.
“If I read it, we could make it make sense together. You wouldn’t be alone then.” Bea tells me. I don’t remember the conversation again, but I know I circle around to overthinking it again, and finally say something about being annoyed with myself for being whiny and not letting this go, that I ought to grow up and stop it already. Bea says something about understanding why that would be frustrating to the strong, grown up parts of me, but that the vulnerable parts of me deserve a chance to be heard and to heal and to have a little patience with them.
After even more debate, I decide I will give Bea the envelope with it inside, if she will agree to not read it unless I send her directions to do so.
“This is very important to you, and I won’t read it without your permission.” Her voice is serious when she responds to my question, and I believe her.
In fact, I whisper, “I believe that,” but I’m not sure if she hears me.
It takes me a while to get grounded, and to get it out of my bag, and then it takes me more time to hand it over to Bea. But I do.
Leaving is hard, yet again. I’m afraid if I leave, something bad will happen. I know this isn’t rational, so I breathe through it. Once I’m in my car, I feel both lighter and weighted down with anxiety and sadness and shame. The ugly thing I wrote is gone, though. So maybe I can relax a little.