Monday morning. I wake up late, likely because I didn’t fall asleep until 4:30am. I rush to get ready, and head out the door. Driving to Bea’s my head is full of things to talk about, and yet I’m oddly calm. It’s like I’m partly removed from the thoughts of what I need to talk about in therapy, slightly numbed to it all, so while I can feel the hurt and tears deep inside, the rest of me is immune to it.
When I walk in, Bea says hello, and hands me a bag from the woman who owns the toy store downstairs. This leads to a conversation about toys, and Kat, and Valentine’s Day. I had called on Saturday to buy the Huggtopus Kimochi and a few new emotions. Huggtopus is a purple octopus, and Kat loves him, she is always asking for him. (The kimochis are stuffed animals with small stuffed emojis, and are really great for helping kids with learning emotions. I honestly think that they have helped me, too, through Kat.)
“I thought the Huggtopus was perfect for Valentine’s Day. We have Cupid leave Kat a basket, kind of like the Easter bunny. It’s nuts, but I just love the magic of it…and you only get to believe in that kind of stuff for so long,” I explain, as I set my things down and get situated.
“I agree…that’s really a cute idea.” Bea sits down, too.
I feel nervous suddenly, and not sure I want to talk, so I start rambling about how we don’t have a St. Patrick’s leprechaun because last year Hubby tried to have the leprechaun cause mischief and Kat didn’t understand it and was upset. She did not like the green toilet water, or having things messed with. Bea chuckles at this, because Kat is funny. This somehow leads to talking about birthday parties, and party planning, and we discuss themes we have done. I find pictures of Kat’s birthdays and show Bea the huge backdrop I painted for her Curious George birthday two years ago, and the sweet shop I created when she turned 2. We talk about how I love to really plan a theme out, and do something creative and unique with it; its turns out that Bea was the same way when her kids were little.
I’m not sure if Bea realizes I’m stalling, or that I’m rambling because I have anxiety about talking today, but we talk about a situation with Kat that does need to be discussed, and I show her some videos of Kat’s play that I recorded on my phone. We talk through that, and then Bea says, “We’ve used almost your whole session to talk about Kat, again. How do we transition to talking about you?”
I shake my head, I’m clueless. “We really did need to talk about this stuff, it’s kind of a big deal.”
“Yes, we did, and I usually meet with parents when I am seeing a kid. But maybe we need to decided ahead of time if a session is to be used to talk about Kat. We can start scheduling that.”
“Okay, we can do that. Then I won’t go home and be mad at myself that I didn’t talk.” I take a drink of my vanilla chai tea, and wonder if I can even come to a session and not discuss Kat as a way to avoid things.
“Let’s use the next half hour to talk about you. What does Alice need to talk about?” Bea asks.
I agree with using the next half hour for me, and then end up asking a question about Kat and delaying things a little more.
Eventually, Bea looks at me, and I am pretty sure she knows I have been stalling. “Let’s start with how you felt after last session? I didn’t mean to upset you like that, bringing up the boyfriend, but you did manage to pull yourself back together pretty quickly.”
I nod. I had to pull myself together. I had yoga to go to, and the pharmacy after that, and Hubby had wanted to go out to lunch that day when I got home from appointments. I don’t say anything about that, though, and instead I just shrug. “I don’t know. I was okay. I went to yoga, that was good. I just….I don’t know. I tried to write about it, and I couldn’t, not really.”
“Mmm-hmmm,” Bea nods at me, “It is a hard thing to think about. How have you been sleeping?”
I put my head down, hiding my face. I don’t get it; I can sit and look at her, hold an articulate conversation and as soon as the subject turns to me I can’t face her and I lose my ability to speak. “I haven’t been sleeping…” I try to think back. “Thursday was a nightmare, and I never went back to sleep. Friday I didn’t sleep until late, and woke up an hour later. Saturday….I couldn’t sleep, and finally fell asleep around 7:00 and Kat woke me two hours later. It’s not good.”
“This is exactly why it’s okay for you to take a nap. I always think if there is a nightmare after a therapy session, that is important to talk about.”
“Okay,” I agree, even though I really don’t want to talk about this particular nightmare. Bea waits me out, so I add, “It’s not a memory, not a real thing. It’s just a nightmare.”
“Is it a trauma nightmare, or a regular nightmare?” She asks me.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, trauma nightmares don’t usually change, regular nightmares can. Regular nightmare have more symbolism in them, trauma ones might have symbolism but it’s usually thinly disguised. They have more real elements.” Bea says.
I still don’t know. “Both? I don’t know. Maybe more trauma, but it….I don’t know.” The nightmare is weird, so it’s hard for me to know what to call it. All I know is it’s not a real memory, not like some of my bad dreams.
“Have we talked about this nightmare before?”
I shake my head. “No.”
“Should we talk about this nightmare?”
I hug my knees tighter, pick at my fingers. “I want to say no. But I think maybe yes.”
“We don’t have to talk about it. You are allowed to say no,” Bea says gently, and I think she adds something about me learning it is safe to say no, the same way my daughter is learning it’s okay to say no and to disagree with people.
“It’s silly how much a dream is scaring me. It’s just a dream.” I’m not sure if I’m talking to Bea, or trying to convince myself that it’s not scary to talk about a dream. “I think yes, we should try to talk about it.”
We sit in silence for a minute or so, and then Bea rescues me from having to figure out how to talk about this.
“Is Kenny in the dream?” I shake my head no.
“Is the boyfriend in the dream?” I shake my head no, again.
“Someone……someone………um……there’s someone there.” I struggle to get any words out, to begin to explain this dream. It’s almost too horrible for words. “I don’t know who.”
“Okay, so there’s you and someone. Is there a sense of being all alone with this someone?”
“Yeah…yeah.” It’s this completely isolated feeling in the dream, like there is no one else there at all. It’s not a good feeling.
“How old are you? Young or older?” Bea asks.
This is so hard to answer. “Both….it’s like….ugh….both.”
“Both?” I think Bea sounds surprised.
“I…I kinda grow up in the dream.”
“Okay…..that makes sense, we were talking about how the past affected you in college with the boyfriend….we had linked the two together, so that makes sense,” Bea says.
There’s silence because I can’t say anything. I don’t have any words.
“Where are you in the dream?”
“My room.” It take me a minute to get any words out, but I manage to.
“Your childhood room?”
“Yeah,” I sigh. I feel shaky and scared just talking about this.
“Is it light or dark in your room?”
“Dark. I never see him…I can’t see his face.” I cover my head with my arms, needing to hide more.
“Are you afraid in the dream?” Bea asks.
I think about it. “It’s more like panicky scared…I don’t know..does that make sense?”
“Yes, that makes sense. Is it a feeling that you can’t get out of the room?”
I nod my head, but that’s not quite right, I don’t think. “It’s more like…….I’m stuck.”
“Does it feel like being frozen?”
“Yeah…yes, like that. I can’t move, can’t leave.”
“Is he hurting you?” Bea asks this quietly, and her voice is kind, but the question still sends fear racing down my spine.
I don’t answer right away. I sit and feel scared. I can think the words I need to say in my head, but there seems to be a disconnect between my thoughts and my mouth. “It’s the r-word. I’m little and it happens, and I grow up some and it still is happening and I keep growing up but it never stops. It’s just over and over until I wake up.” The words tumble out, falling over each other and arriving in a rush.
“Ahhh. Of course that’s scary. It’s like you can’t get away from it, can’t escape.” I think she might have said more, but I don’t remember now. She sounds like she gets it, and knows how awful this dream really is.
I don’t say anything, and Bea finally talks some more. She suggests that the r-word is really at the root of it all, and she doesn’t know why that makes everything seem so much harder, but she suspects that it’s because the r-word means a complete loss of control, and it’s really hard to give up that control. She says that she thinks I need to process this, and work through it and talk about it, that this is the next step.
Somehow, we get back to the subject of self blame and Kenny and the boyfriend and how they parallel each other. “I was trying to explain….last week……I don’t know….I don’t think you got how it’s my fault, what I did to change him, I don’t know….”
“The boyfriend? I don’t think there’s anything you did that made him like that,” Bea says.
“No…I did…you don’t understand yet. I tried to write it down, but it didn’t make sense, I couldn’t explain it good enough, it was really hard….” I trail off. I had spent the weekend thinking and writing, and nothing explained it so she would get it.
“I wonder why it was so hard to explain it in writing?” Bea questions.
“Maybe I just couldn’t find the right words. I don’t know. I just couldn’t.”
“Do you think it’s because you didn’t have anything to do with him being mean, and that’s hard to face?”
I shake my head, and think about it. “No….it’s like I need you to understand how he was before, how nice he was….but I’m so disconnected from that, I can’t explain it well.”
“That makes sense, having to split the before from the mean boyfriend,” Bea agrees.
After a while, I say, “Maybe I should tell you about the boyfriend.” It comes out tiny and unsure.
“Maybe you should, we could talk about about him. Do you want to talk about him now, or save it for next time?”
I think about it, and then I start to speak. “You know he was nice?”
“Yes, I know he was nice.”
“We met a party. You know this part?” I ask, because I’m unsure what I have shared and what I have only thought in my head.
“Yes, I know about the party.” Bea sounds understanding and sympathetic.
“He was just so good. He understood my waiting until marriage, and was okay with that. More than that, he was supportive….he thought it was strong of me, that no one waited anymore, I don’t know. He went to church with me, even though he didn’t believe….I think I thought I could change that. I don’t know. Everyone liked him, he was just so nice. And smart. He was smart, too.”
“What was he studying?” Bea asks.
Oh, I don’t want to answer this question. I seriously don’t. I shake my head. “You don’t want to know.”
There’s a pause, and then Bea asks again, “Really, what was he studying?”
I laugh, but it’s nervous laughter. I so don’t want to get into this. I shake my head. I can’t get the words out. This is ridiculous.
“Psychology?” Bea guesses.
She’s right on target. “Yeah. Psychology. He wanted to help people. He cared.”
“Oh yes, all the crazies study psychology,” she says lightly, joking.
I giggle, feeling better, nervousness gone. She’s not going to turn this into a thing– or at least, not right now.
“Great…that makes me feel safe,” I joke back, and we both laugh for a moment.
“I….it was like I flipped a switch in him. I don’t know.”
Bea says something, but I don’t really hear her. I’m a little back there, in my head. Trying to figure out where I messed it all up.
“I feel like we have talked about this…I think I have told this memory already.”
“Well, that’s okay,” Bea’s voice is even keeled, she sounds like she means it.
“Don’t you get tired of hearing the same stories? Won’t you get annoyed?” I ask. I have this huge fear that repeating myself is a bad, bad thing to do; this belief that telling the same story again, needing to talk over something again is being too needy.
“No,” Bea sounds like this is a surprising thought to her, the idea of being annoyed and tired of hearing a story again, “I won’t be hearing it in the same way, because you are at a different place now, and we are working on something else now. So no, not at all.”
I nod my head. I’m not sure I fully believe her, but I believe her enough that I’ll tell the story again. If I can. Because last time, I didn’t tell the story in full. Maybe this time I can.
“I’m thinking this might be a good place to stop, and pick up here on Thursday. That way we don’t get into anything too…hard.”
“Okay.” I agree with her. I’m not sure I want to talk about ugly stuff right now, even if my head is full of it.
“It might also let you think about it, that maybe you aren’t to blame for flipping the switch,” Bea suggests.
I shrug. I don’t know.
Bea says something about control, and that as long as I can think I hold some responsibility for what happened, I don’t have to give up control. So, in order to let go of self blame, I have to accept I had no control. In a way, blaming myself is protecting me from how horrible it really was.
“That’s really confusing, it almost doesn’t make sense,” I tell her.
“Well, yes, but do you understand?” She asks. It seems important to her that I can understand what she is explaining, even if I can’t change my thinking and my feelings.
“Yeah. I can understand. Now, let’s talk about something good. I have to be able to go to the grocery store and function.”
Bea laughs, and asks what I have to get at the grocery store. This leads to an explanation of Hubby’s new fancy gourmet grilled cheese obsession, and what I exactly I do to make the grilled cheese– homemade bread, two kinds of cheese, turkey, bacon, tomato, jalapeños, and horseradish sauce. Bea agrees that is fancy.
I leave laughing, promising to share my easy bread recipe if she ever wants it. I feel like things are okay, even if I have a lot to think about.