The one where I ramble to avoid talking about real things

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.

15 thoughts on “The one where I ramble to avoid talking about real things

  1. I also meant to say that the pattern that you describe is a common one for abusive adult relationships. The abuser acts all nice, often extraordinarily nice, and then once the victim has been lured in, he/she will start to show his/her true colors. When the victim protests, often the problem behavior becomes the fault of the victim, according to the abuser. When the victim tries to leave, the abuser will make grand gestures to try to get them to stay, either through promising the victim that they have now reformed and everything will be wonderful now or by threatening the victim. I have heard that on average a victim will leave 7 times before they leave fore good.

    I saw all of this in action with my sister in law. It didn’t matter what the rest of us said, it took years for her to see that all of the abuse really was her husband’s problem, she couldn’t control it, and the best that she could do would be to take their son and leave for another state. It then took another 5 years to really begin to undo the psychological damage, despite living with a supportive, loving family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s awful about your sister in law, and had to be so hard to see it all firsthand.

      I know intellectually, but it seems this isn’t the same thing as what happened with him. I don’t know. I’m sure that the whole story of how i flipped the switch will end up posted after Thursday’s session– thats supposed to be the topic and i am not supposed to spend 60 of my 90 minutes talking about Kat. Ugh!

      Thank you for the reminder of how abusive guys work. I’m really struggling with the idea of me not flipping the switch.

      How does one give up the self blame that keeps one feeling in control? Ugh. This is reallt so hard. I’m starting to see that i really can’t accept the idea i wasn’t in control.


      • We live on opposite coasts, so it was all long distance, but it was terribly hard on the whole family.

        I can guess at how hard it is to give up the illusion of control. Does it help to know that while you did not have control of the situation then, your life now is very different and the same thing will not happen again? Hubby is entirely different from this guy. You would know by now if he was going to be abusive.

        I think that it is very, very hard to learn that we can not entirely control life. Bad things do happen, but as adults with internal and external resources, we can influence how things turn out in the end, so they turn out as good as possible. You got involved with this guy and he turned out to be abusive. You could have stayed with him and let yourself be abused for 10 more years, but you didn’t. You got yourself out. You did it. With the help of others, yes, but you are the one who made the call and started the ball rolling. And that was when you were a lot young, with less life experience. That was before the work that you are doing now. Imagine how much better you would be able to help yourself and your loved ones in a bad situation now!

        One of the things that I am struggling with right now is how horrible it felt to be so helpless when I was abused as a child. And I really was helpless then. My grandfather would make me pick what he did to me and have me do things which made me feel as though I really took part and had some control, but that was an illusion. He was going to do what he was gong to do. He was manipulating me and in complete control. When I was older, with my father, things were so confused because I was older, but the reality is that he was in control and was helpless in that situation, even though in other situations I wouldn’t have been. When I was in college and I found myself in a situation where making out with a man was turning into him undressing me and intercourse and he wouldn’t hear my “no”, I dissociated back into that helpless teen part. Another person could have fought him and shouted and he would have stopped, because he wasn’t violent, he just thought that I “needed to be convinced.”

        Helpless is a horrible, horrible feeling. But helpless then, doesn’t mean helpless now. Even feeling helpless now doesn’t mean that I actually am helpless; it just means that I am not taking into account the resources that I have.

        My guess is that you may be doing some black or white thinking: either you are in control, or you are helpless. In reality, there isn’t much of life that we can really control, but as competent, capable adults, we can do a very good job of taking care of things. And we are almost never, if ever, truly helpless. Out of control does not mean helpless.


      • In an abstract way it does help to realize my life now is very different, and that i have way more resources and support than i did then. It’s still a hard thing to think about realizing i had no control. Its scary. I don’t know.

        I am so sorry for what your grandfather did. Being made to feel like you chose abuse, were somehow an active participant, is so confusing and awful. I hope that you know that this was not your fault or your choice. If you had been able to make a choice, you would have chosen to leave. I know how bad it feels to think you chose the abuse. I get the college thing, too. I’ve been there after the boyfriend and dissociated too. Its almost as yucky a feeling to think about those things. Ugh.

        I have a lot of black and white thinking. I absolutley go between helpless and in comolete control. I think it depends on what part of me is running the show– if the control freak loses any bit of control the helpless part takes over.

        You’ve given me a lot to think about; all connecting with what Bea has had me thinking about…..

        Thank you for this, and for sharing, it means a lot to not feel so alone. ❤️


      • A lot of me knows that I didn’t really have any choice, some of me isn’t quite there, yet. It was a battle, though, to get to this point. It felt like a life or death matter to believe that I had some control. Probably because my grandfather was so scary that I thought that it was a life or death situation some of the time. For me, the key was getting those parts of me to see that my now is different. I’m no longer then, and I will never again be in that situation, so I can begin to accept how helpless I was! Let myself off the hook of feeling responsible, and feel compassion for myself. It is incredibly difficult, though.

        I’m glad that what I shared helped. I hoped that it would. By the way, other similarities with your boyfriend story: I wasn’t quite sure whether I was waiting until marriage, but I was very, very inclined that way. Other than the abuse, I was very inexperienced, and since I didn’t remember any of the abuse, I thought that I was a virgin. I then proceeded to continue to go out with the guy. While he wasn’t violent in any way, I still felt trapped. I now understand that he was an older man (early 30s to my 18 then 19) who wanted me sexually and it triggered old responses of believing that I had to satisfy his needs. It had nothing to do with what I wanted. In that way, it recreated the abuse for a year until I finally got out.

        You are so not alone. I know that it is terribly common for CSA survivors to be revictimized sexually as adults.

        I am sure that when you are ready to, you will put aside the burden of feeling that you had to have been in control. In general, you are working through so much of this so quickly. I’m sure that it doesn’t feel like it, because every minute of it can feel like torture.

        Speaking of which… You have worked on grounding and present centering exercises with Bea, right? I know that when my ability to cope in day to day life breaks down, my T and I often take some time to “go back to the basics”, so that I have a refresher on the tools that are available to me and how to use them. I always groan when she suggests it, but it helps. I also have a list of things to do. I resist looking at it, for some reason, but when I do, there generally is something useful there that I haven’t remembered to try.


      • Doesn’t it seem so cut ans dried sometimes? Like it should be so easy to let ourselves off the hook and not hold onto any blame? But then there is the whole (sometimes impossible to understand) piece of the blame allowing us to feel a sense of control, and giving up that control is something I just keep fighting tooth and nail. And yet, giving up control is the only way to start to get rid of the blame and self hatrd. Talking about this, writing about it, thinking about it, the concept is becoming more clear. The compassion piece is another thing to think on….its not something i have been able to do, yet.

        I know its common for csa survivors to be victimized as adults…..and Bea always links Kenny with the college BF. Its actually uncanny how many small situations are so similar with them. Kenny was never really violent, though. He was fun and nice and it was a game. Nothing felt forceful. The boyfriend could be like that, but he could also be violent and extremely scary becasue if the violence and little punishments he would cook up in his head.

        This doesn’t feel quick at all. If i look back at where i was when i started therapy, i can think i have acomplished a lot. It seems that i need to go back through it all though, again and again. I feel like i have been stuck in my head in this yucky place for months now. Ugh.

        Yes, we’ve done grounding exercises, although it’s taken a while to find things that work. I have a list, too, and i resist using it as well. I wonder what that is all about? Bea will sometimes say we are taking a week to work on grounding and less intense things, and i always groan at her, too. Its usually when i finally admit to being in a not okay place. Yoga has been so helpful in this. If I am really struggling and can force myself to drag out my yoga mat, it really does help. The other odd thing that has been working for me is knitting. Because if it is a hard pattern,its something i have to really focus on, so it keeps my mind from going back there, or at least keeps a bigger part of me here. Grounding is hard for me because i am a really good multitaskser– or at least that is my theory. I can think about several things at once, and do several things at once. So its hard to find something that i can focus all of me on. I don’t know if that makes much sesne. In some ways, even though being grounded is better than not, its so new to me to be more present, it can be very uncomfortable. I am so used to being a little dissociated all the time, it feels safer at times.


  2. Jeepers I feel like I need to send you a ton of hugs after hearing about your nightmare 😦 😦 It sounds like you were really strong in being able to speak to Bea about it, even if you struggled at first. Self-blame is super complex… I am not entirely sure but I guess the idea is that with time, patience and Bea’s support, you will have re-organized and reintegrated all the horrible memories and experiences into a narrative that is more coherent and puts you in control as the narrator. Thinking of you x


    • Awww…thank you for the hugs. And you are exactly right– the goal is to integrate and process the memories and feelings into a coherant narrative that isn’t sending me back into the past everytime I am triggered or talking about it.
      Thank you for the thoughts. xx


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