“Hold that thought. Let’s stay with this, for just a moment. What about saying no isn’t fun?” Bea asks me. We’ve been talking about limits and boundaries and I had just told her that because hubby had held a limit with Kat, and I had seen she was okay, I had been able to gold that limit the next time on my own and say no, even though it wasn’t fun.
I’m suddenly uncomfortable, and I go from looking at Bea to looking at the floor. “I don’t know. It’s just…well….” I wrack my head, struggling to explain why saying no to Kat is hard, why it isn’t fun. “Because she feels like I hate her, she says it means I want a new little girl, no one likes her, she hates herself when I say no.”
“Mmm..hmmm. Yes. But we know that she doesn’t really believe those things. The feelings are real in that moment, and very painful and you can validate them and give her support while still holding a limit.” Bea says. “That’s kind of the negative feelings, but the positive of saying no is that Kat gets some confidence, which I think you are starting to see.”
I nod. I guess I’m starting to understand that. I don’t know.
“That’s Kat…what is it that comes up for you when you say no?” Bea questions again.
I stare at the floor. I don’t really get it. I answered, and that was hard. I don’t know what more she wants from me. “You’re asking hard questions.”
“Well, I can tell you what comes up for me, but that might not be what comes up for you. We all have things that come up and affect us emotionally. I’m asking because it is something to be aware of, that’s all.”
I shake my head, stare at the floor. I don’t know.
“Okay. Let’s try this: if someone asked you a favor and you really didn’t want to do it, would you say no?”
I think about it. “I’d probably say yes…..I don’t say no.”
We talk about that for a moment, and now it’s important to start to be aware of when I want to say no, and realize that I can, in fact, say no. But, at the very least, recognizing that I want to say no is a start.
“So, today’s a Jamie day?” Bea says. As she says this, I set my tea down on the table so I can hide quickly if I decide I need to.
I nod. “Yeah.”
“From our last email on Tuesday, you didn’t seem to be doing any better with we talked about it. How are you feeling about this? Have you been able to separate your feelings?”
I shake my head. “No. I tried.” I have my notebook with me where I tried to write about it, but every time I did I ended up falling apart.
Bea doesn’t speak for a few minutes, and either do I. The silence feels loud to me, like it drags on and on. And I can’t find any words. I end up burying my face.
Bea sighs. One of her kind of sad sighs. The kind I thinks of as her understanding sighs. “It would be normal to feel like this is a dangerous situation. Maybe feeling angry with Kat for having a crush, or horrified by it.” Bea talks about how I might feel, and so much of it it spot on.
I can’t seem to get any words out, so I just sit and feel a little panicked. I should get my notebook out, but I can’t bring myself to move. I feel frozen in place, it’s safer not to move. Finally I manage to mumble that it’s not okay, I don’t like it, it’s no good.
Bea suggests that we try to separate me from Kat, to help me see it is okay. That I try to separate out the feelings, and the facts.
“I tried. I couldn’t.” I reach into my bag and grab my notebook out. I won’t look at her, but I hold the notebook out to her, and she takes it from me.
I hug my knees tighter as Bea reads through what I’ve written. I’m really glad she is a fast reader. She responds to what I’ve written as she reads.
She chuckles, and I know she must be reading my irritation at hubby for finding Kat’s crush cute, when he is the one who said she would never be allowed to date until she was 30, and maybe she would be allowed to wed at age 50. I’d vented that he was supposed to want to murder on site any guy she liked because of the principal of the thing. “I’m really glad you’ve written this out. Really glad. This really helps.”
Bea goes back to reading. I curl up as small as I can. I imagine having something to go off of, to have an idea, any idea, of what is going on in my head has to be helpful, because all I’ve done is sit silently, struggle to talk and cry.
“I didn’t know people thought you had a crush on Kenny. That makes all of this make even more sense. Do you remember having a crush on him, or if people just thought you did?” Bea says carefully, in this delicate way, but not a walking on egg shells way. It’s hard to explain.
I take a deep breath. Even this is hard to answer. I know she is referring to my reason #1 that my feelings about Kat and Jamie are really all about me, not Kat. People thought my crush on Kenny was cute, too. The same as hubby thinks the crush Kat has is cute. “I had a crush. The grown ups thought is was sweet.” My face feels hot. I know it has to be bright red. Thank God I’ve got my head down and Bea can’t see that.
“Ahh. Here…’having a crush made me like him more than I would have, which made me more willing to be compliant to anything he suggested including that game.’ That’s probably very true. But not your fault. It’s the adult’s job to hold a boundary. Not the child’s.” Bea is still reading and responding.
I feel like telling her no, she’s wrong, it wasn’t like that, she doesn’t get it, but I can’t get the words out. So I don’t. I sit and focus on my breathing, and try to stay calm.
“‘It’s not okay for little girls to have a crush, they don’t understand the ramifications.’ That’s your world view…there should be no ramifications for an innocent crush of a little girl. There were ramifications because someone twisted what was innocent, he stole that innocence.” Bea says.
I shake my head at her. I have an urge to cover my ears and shake my head at her, saying no, no, no. I don’t, though. I simply shake my head, and tell myself that covering my ears to avoid heading Bea is something a 5 year old would do.
“Okay. When I was 4, maybe 5, I had a crush on a high school boy. He worked at the movie theater. I still remember his name. (And she proceeds to tell me his name, but for privacy reasons, I won’t post that). I chased him around the pool, and the theater, he called me a sex maniac. I didn’t know what that was, and there was nothing sexual about my crush, I liked him like Prince Charming, it was innocent. The ramifications for me was my brother and sister shamed me by sharing this at the dinner table that night, I was embarrassed. That was all. The only ramifications. And really, the age difference, between me and my crush and you and Kenny was about the same. What happened with me, that was appropriate, it was good boundaries. Kenny crossed the boundaries. But there shouldn’t be any ramifications like what happened to you.” Bea tells me. I listen, taking it in, but not really understanding exactly what she is saying, or why she is sharing this until now, as I write it out.
“You wrote ‘Little girls having a crush is disgusting’. It’s very normal. It’s innocent, and safe, and okay. It feels disgusting to you because it wasn’t safe for you. Things weren’t safe for you, but it wasn’t because you had a crush on him,” Bea says softly. She is speaking kindly but firmly, and she means what she is saying to me.
In my head, I am yelling at her that she is wrong, and terrible and that she knows nothing. In my head, I’ve covered my ears and I’m humming so I can’t hear her. In reality, I have pulled my knees tighter to my chest, buried my head a little bit more, and am blinking back tears. She doesn’t know what she is talking about.
“Your world view, your working model of the world is that it is disgusting and unsafe for little girls to have crushes. That bad things happen when little girls have crushes. That little girls get hurt when they have a crush and it is their fault they get hurt because they had a crush in the first place. If that were true, then wouldn’t I have been hurt? The only thing that happened to me was my sister embarrassed me. It wasn’t your fault. You had a crush, a perfectly normal, acceptable thing. It was innocent, and developmentally normal. Kenny crossed a line, and made it unsafe. It wasn’t the crush that was unsafe,” Bea continues gently.
She goes back to reading, and I sit and pick at my fingers. I think I shouldn’t, but what difference does it make? I don’t care. Everything is a mess. This is a mess.
“Okay. Now, let’s think for a second, What would Kat think if Jamie didn’t hug her, and everyone else in her life does hug her back? How would she feel then?” Bea asks me, and I know she has gotten to the part of my journal where I freaked out about Jaimie hugging her; ‘He hugs her. Why? What is he getting out of it? What does he want with her?’
I think about this, what Bea has said, and I can see her point. Everyone in Kat’s life hugs her back. And Kat gives a lot of hugs, she loves hugs. She would be really hurt if Jamie refused a hug, or refused to hug her back. So okay. I can get that. But I still don’t like it.
No one protected me. Jealous of Kat being protected? I wrote in my journal, in between tears and confusion,and when Bea reads this, she is characteristically sympathetic.
“You weren’t kept safe. No one did for you what you are doing for Kat. This is bound to bring up feelings of anger again, anger at your mom, grief over not being kept safe. It’s going to bring up a lot. How can it not?”
I shake my head. It takes a bit, but eventually I get a few words out. “How did no one know?”
Bea sounds sad when she answers, but strong, too. Like she is okay, so I can be okay. “Well, we don’t know if it’s because the families were so close, so the trust was so strong, or if there was something that maybe happened to your mom, creating a blind spot, or what happened. Likely, the only way we will ever know is if you chose to disclose and ask your parents.”
I take a big breath. And think for a moment. “I had dance teachers, gymnastics coaches, horse back riding trainers, cheerleading coaches, school teachers. How did no one, not one person see one little sign and wonder? How did no one see anything?” I’m crying a little bit now.
“Oh,” Bea’s tone has gone very serious and thoughtful, “I see. Well, I have worked with girls who have behaved in all different ways in response to abuse. I’ve had girls try to kiss me, sit on my lap. And I’ve had girls who acted perfectly fine, like nothing had ever happened. There was one girl, who we knew something had happened, but she never presented anything, and all her teachers, coaches, they had seen nothing to point towards abuse. Some kids really do split it off and hide it well.”
“Oh.” That’s all I can say. But it’s a word, at least. Better than silence, I suppose. Then I think of something. “She had to know.”
Bea knows what and who I’m referring to right away, thankfully. “Well, yes. I would assume so. In some way. But if she had been abused, finding your underwear under the bed like that, and your answer of why, well, that would have been a big trigger for her. She might not have been able to handle it.”
“But she had to know. I thought I was in trouble. I thought she was mad at me.” I say.
“I know.” Bea says. “Did she see the blood on your underwear?”
My insides turn cold. We’ve never talked about this. Only in email, I wrote to her, I hid them because they were bloody. I can see them, picture it all right in my head. I shake my head, trying to clear it. I can’t seem to. “I don’t know. She yelled at me for not getting them in the hamper. It was next to my bed.”
“Oh, I see.”
“And then she got sicker. And went to the hospital. My fault.” I say. I think Bea has been talking, maybe moved subjects, or asked something, I don’t know, I am stuck back here. And I’m stubborn and willful and I won’t admit that I’m half there and half here, and I’ll simply pretend to be fine, or mostly fine, because that’s what I do.
“It wasn’t your fault. She was sick, she had an eating disorder. That wasn’t your fault.” Bea says quietly.
We both go silent then; me stuck in my head, Bea reading my journal– so in a way, she’s stuck in my head, too.
He’s going to hurt her, I won’t be able to keep her safe.
“It’s natural after a trauma to feel like that we can’t keep ourselves or children safe. You are keeping Kat safe. You are keeping yourself safe. You are safe. This is one reason why we need to bring hubby in. He could help you protect Kat, and yourself. You don’t have to be alone, you have a partner.” Bea’s read my freakout that Jamie is going to hurt Kat and I won’t be able to stop it. And that means she has also read how after the meltdown, I had a reality check and made myself behave like a sane person.
“No. No. No.” I can’t tell hubby. Absolutely not. Can’t do it.
“Your working model has been to do things alone, to not let anyone in. But hubby wants to help. He could be a great resource for you, a great help. Why does it feel so scary to let him in on this?” Bea asks.
“Because he would know. If he knows that Kat’s crush…then….” I stutter through it, but can’t get all the words out.
“He would know you had a crush on Kenny?” Bea fills in the blanks for me.
I nod. “Yes. My fault.”
“No one but you sees this as your fault. I promise that. He would never say, Alice, this is all your fault.”
“He might think it.” I mumble the words, so quiet, I’m surprised Bea can hear me.
“He might wonder now.” It’s a whisper through the tears.
“He wouldn’t. You did nothing wrong. Would Kat’s husband be mad 25 years from now be mad that she had a crush on Jamie?” Bea is speaking in her authoritative voice.
“No.” I admit this even though I don’t want to. Bea has taken a situation that is not the same as mine and is comparing them. It’s not the same at all.
“Okay then,” Bea says softly.
It’s not the same. She didn’t have sex with Jamie, I think. I can’t say it, though. It’s too much to say. So I don’t. I cry and shake my head.
I’m a terrible parent. Failing. Screwing it all up. I’d written in my journal how much of a failure I was at being a mom. I’d questioned of maybe I’d had so much trouble getting pregnant because God knew I would be an awful mother.
“You aren’t a bad mom. Not at all. You are doing a great job. Please believe me.” Bea tells me. She talks about things I do right, and why a ‘good enough’ mother is exactly what we all need.
I sit and cry, shaking my head at her once in a while. It’s the most protest I can offer.
“It feels like a mess, but this is very well laid out, very clear. I know it doesn’t feel like you got a lot out, and maybe there is more, but I think you got a lot of it out, this is it; the core of it all, right here,” Bea says. She has gotten to the end. Where I am frustrated and mad at myself for not getting anything figured out. I feel like I need to organize all the thoughts in my head; I need post-it’s, or a chart, or something. But I don’t know how to put what’s I am feeling, what I know, into words.
I can’t stop crying, everything just seems so wrong right now. It’s all falling apart. “It’s not okay.” I sob.
“What isn’t okay?” Bea asks.
“All of it. Everything. Nothing is okay.”
“It sure feels that way. I think the thing to do is take small pieces of this, and work through it in little bits.”
“I don’t know how to do that.”
“You’re doing it right now.’ Bea says kindly.
I’m not sure crying and being pathetic is working through anything. I’m not sure I’ve made any sense of it.
Bea lets me cry for a few more minutes, sitting with me, and containing my feelings. Then she says, “Well, I’m not sure I can give you back your notebook.”
“What?!” I don’t even know what I’m supposed to think. Or where this is coming from. Why can’t she give me my notebook back? Oh, crap.
Bea chuckles. “Well, this pattern, the colors really match my pants. And I never thought of pairing these colors together. So, I was thinking I might keep the notebook until I find a scarf to match.”
I laugh. “You can keep the cover, but I need the notebook part back.”
“Look how perfect these colors are together, though. Don’t you think they are good together?” Bea asks.
This forces me to lift my head and peek out at her. Which is hard. I’m feeling so full of shame at the moment, I only want to hide. But Bea is right. The colors do look good together. And she looks like Bea, there isn’t any disgust or hatred on her face when I look at her.
We talk for another minute, Bea encouraging me to think about opening up to Hubby, and then we talk about the cold weather and other random things. We say goodbye, and when I tell her I will see her Thursday, she reminds me it is Thursday, and says she will see Kat and I tomorrow.