Tuesday night and Wednesday, I composed a letter to Bea in my notebook. I wrote about how I felt like she wasn’t getting it, that she wasn’t on my side. I told myself I was just going to hand her my notebook and if the letter went over well, I’d tell her to read the last few entires.
I didn’t end up giving her the notebook. Or the letter. I walk into her office, feeling oddly calm, disconnected from everyone and everything. We chat about the weather, and a little about Kat. The Kat talk easily could have overtaken my entire session; talking about Kat and the challenges we have is easy, and talking about my stuff is so not easy.
“Today’s the day Jamie comes, right?” Bea asks me.
I’m sitting on her sofa, curled up with my feet tucked under me, drinking a chai tea latte. I nod. “Yeah. But not today. We had him face time in earlier this week, and so have used most of our BCBA hours already for the week. We have an hour left; he’ll probably just use that hour to face time in today or another day.”
“Oh, I see.” Bea seems surprised by this. I’ll admit, I found the face timing in thing odd at first, but I’m so used to it now, it seems normal. We discuss the benefits of using FaceTime, and how that all works. “Kat hasn’t mentioned him to me since that day. How is that going?” She asks.
I shake my head, and set down my chai. “I hate it.”
We sit quiet for a moment, and then Bea replies. I don’t really hear her. I’m telling myself to give her my notebook, the letter, but I just can’t.
“I didn’t…..I mean….Monday was really scattered. I couldn’t get out of my head to talk,” I finally say. “I think I didn’t explain very well how bad I feel.”
“The last few weeks have been really tough. A lot has been thrown at you,” Bea says gently. I feel like she’s not really there, not getting it.
“No…since Thanksgiving, when my mom told me HE would be at the Christmas party, I’ve felt messy, falling….I don’t know.” I sigh. I’m not explaining this well at all. “It is like all this stuff keeps getting tossed at me, faster than I can process it or deal with it, and more crap is piled on top of that other crap, and I can’t fix any of it. And then I can’t get away, because there is crap in my head, too.”
Bea slowly nods her head. “Yes, you’re being bombarded with triggers and memories and present day problems. I think when you said you can’t fix it, that’s the key. Maybe it’s not for you to fix, to even be fixed. Maybe you just need to sit with it and process it.”
I shake my head, and hide my face. Why is it, every session, I hide my face? I used to feel ridiculous, but since Bea confessed to hiding when she was in therapy, I don’t feel as silly. And I’m thankful I have a therapist who will allow me to cover my face. “I can’t. It’s too much. I don’t even know….”
“I think this is one of those things that would be helpful to break into pieces. Let’s make a list of all the things that are overwhelming you.” Bea is not a list maker, not really. I’m the list maker, the one with OCD, that needs control and lists and organization.
I nod my head. I don’t feel like she’s here with me, but I will go through this session and keep trying.
“What’s first on the list?”
“Hubby. Our fight.” The tears come now.
“Have you talked?” Bea asks. Her voice is neutral, but I feel like a naughty child who didn’t do their homework. My stomach drops, and I can feel myself start to have trouble breathing.
I shake my head, crying harder. “No. My bag is still packed. We just…..I’m functioning. I’m acting it’s okay, being perfect again. He’s happy.”
“He doesn’t know there is anything wrong.”
I shrug. I don’t care. I don’t want him to know there is anything wrong.
“So, the weekend you pretended all was fine, and then the last few days, you guys never talked about your fight?” Bea asks again.
“No. It’s fine. He thinks it’s fine. We went out to dinner Tuesday night. He changed my dinner order, and it was gross. I had cosmos for dinner.” I’m snapping the words out, not mad at her, but annoyed. The whole things upsets me, annoys me.
“It’s this lack of control; I think that is what has made this fight feel so bad to you. You mentioned he took the car keys, and you couldn’t leave. And now you are giving up control, smothering your voice,” Bea says.
“No, it’s fine now. He took my keys and I was trapped there……” I cry for a bit, and then continue. “I don’t think you get how bad it was. How bad it all is.”
Bea doesn’t say anything right away. “It feels bad because it is bad. You’re just finding your voice and now you’re giving it up again. Hubby is your attachment figure, and a fight like this, it’s a big rift. It can be repaired though, if you talk to him.”
I shake my head. “No. No. No.”
“You could bring him back here-”
“No. I’m not talking to him.”
“You sound so much more certain of that than you did on Monday. What changed?” Bea asks.
“Nothing. I was certain on Monday. You weren’t getting it.”
I don’t know what she says in reply; I’m not really listening. I’m done with this conversation about Hubby. “Let’s finish the list,” I tell her.
“Okay,” she agrees, even though we had been in the middle of discussing Hubby. “What’s next?”
“Yelling.” I pick at my fingers. Even thinking about how I yelled, I feel anxious. Guilty. Bad. Wrong. “I yelled at the lifeguard.”
“You yelled at another lifeguard?” Bea asks. I think she sounds surprised.
“No. The one from Sunday.”
“Okay, yelling is on the list…..it’s natural that the anger you have builds up and then boils over. And usually, anger like that always comes out at the wrong time, in the wrong way. We need to help you find a way to use your anger constructively.”
I shift a little in my spot. I want to tell her that I either feel angry, or I’m so numb to it, it’s not there. “I just don’t want to be mad. I’m not a mad person.”
“Anger is hard for you. It’s okay to be angry. How can you not have anger at Kenny for what he took? Anger at your mom for not protecting you? Maybe anger at Kat for having a crush? That would all be normal,” Bea assures me.
I shake my head at her, and return to list making. We end up with nine items (and a few that are broken down into mini lists) on the list; it’s a big list for therapy. Once the list is done, I’m out of things to say, and Bea directs the conversation back to Kat, and her crush and all the triggers in my life right now. She’s pushing for me to talk to hubby, or to send him in to talk to her.
“No,” I say it again. I think I must sound like a two year old. I take a big breath and start to cry. I don’t want to be a brat, or make her mad at me. I’m trying so hard, but I just can’t do this. “I don’t trust him.”
“Yeah, I can see that. He said a lot of hurtful things that cut deep.” Bea says.
I cry silently. “He thinks I’m a terrible mother. That I’m selfish. And mean. I didn’t need a list of every thing wrong with me. I could give him pages and pages of lists…..”
“I know you could. I’m not sure he realized how deep those things would hit you. Comments like that, he can roll off his back, forget them. It might be hard for him to understand that you will accept them as the truth.”
I shake my head. “I can’t do this. Why did I think I could? It’s not okay, nothing is okay. Everything feels wrong.”
She talks about my worldview, and how, in her opinion, part of what therapy does it help us reframe our world view, and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves. But that takes time. She compared me to a turtle, because one of my favorite calming yoga poses is what my yoga teacher calls “turtle pose.” I basically sit in turtle pose in every T session– just didn’t know it was a yoga pose until recently. She says worldview is that it is safer to be alone, to let everyone think I’m okay and never really come out of my shell. It’s that having a crush is unsafe, and wrong and disgusting. It’s that anything sexual is bad. It’s that good girls don’t have a voice, they are quiet and demure, polite and they do what will make others happy. It’s that I have to do what I should do, regardless of what I want to do. She says that having a turtle shell to retreat into can be a useful thing, but now, the turtle needs to not feel alone, and the only way to do that is to risk feeling unsafe and to come out of the shell. She calls it a paradox; that to truly feel safe I need to not be alone, but I’m so retreated in my shell and I feel so unsafe, that the idea of coming out even a little bit to see that I’m not alone is too frightening, too exposing.
I take a deep breath, and take a risk of peeking out of my shell. “I really just need you to be on my side. I feel like no one is on my side, and I’m all alone, and I just need you to be on my side.” I’m crying louder, heading into full,on sobbing territory.
Bea responds quickly. “Thank you for telling me how you feel.” Then she pauses, maybe to think, I don’t know. “I am on your side, but it’s my job to make sure you know that. Thank you for reminding me of that.”
I cry silently, and risk looking up at her for a moment. She looks concerned. That’s all. Not angry, or like she’s going to yell or leave me. Just concerned. She talks a little more about being on my side, and I nod. I’m starting to feel less alone. The rift is beginning to be repaired, just like that.
“You keep pushing me to talk to him, and I don’t want to.” I say. This is a big deal for me, to speak up against what someone….well, someone I’m attached to, is saying and doing.
“Yes, I do. And you’re right. You have told me no, and I haven’t been listening to that very well. You aren’t ready to bring Hubby in. It’s a big deal. I get that.” She responds back to me like I just said something very normal and okay. There is no big blow up, and she doesn’t ignore me.
“I’m afraid. He won’t understand, I’ll push him away more because we talked. He’ll hate me…I don’t know. I can’t do it.” Talking about talking to hubby is back on the table, now that I don’t feel so alone.
“I think, when you are ready to even tell him some general information like how when a child reaches the age abuse started for her mother, it can be so triggering for mom. If he understood why you are pushing him away, and how much you are dealing with right now, I really believe he would be supportive.” Bea says softly. “You deserve a real relationship, a deeper relationship. This abuse took so much; you deserve a life, to not have it take this, too.”
I shake my head. “He can’t do it. He’s as screwed up as I am. He can’t do it.”
Bea is quiet when she asks, “Are you afraid that if you reach out for a deeper relationship, he won’t be able to be there and have that?”
Slowly, I nod my head. Hubby loves me, but he likes things to be simple and easy. He likes emotions of the surface, he doesn’t like rifts, and he buries his head in the sand a lot.
“That’s hard. His personality likes things to be simple, he doesn’t like conflict or difficult things. But some things are hard. And that’s okay.” Bea tells me.
“No. I’m not doing this. It’s too much.”
“Okay. When you’re ready, we’ll do it.”
I sigh. I’m not ready. I want to run away, disappear. I can’t do this all. It’s too much. I don’t say this to her, because I don’t want to have a conversation about what disappearing means.
“I feel like the little girl is crying out to not have her voice hidden again. Squashing it down is how the anger builds up and boils over,” Bea says.
“It’s fine. I just need to pretend, to go along with being perfect and okay and fine,” I try to explain. I know how much Bea hates that I push my feelings and thoughts aside to play the role of Miss Perfect. “It’s the only reason I’m functioning right now,” I finally say. Crap. I so didn’t want to admit that in therapy.
“Okay. If that’s what you need to function, to get through the weekend, okay for now. For a little while,” Bea reluctantly agrees, but I feel like she’s back; she’s seeing my side of this, and that I need my facade right now.
She talks about my worldview, and how, in her opinion, part of what therapy does it help us reframe our world view, and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves. But that takes time. She compared me to a turtle, because one of my favorite calming yoga poses is what my yoga teacher calls “turtle pose.” I basically sit in turtle pose in every T session– just didn’t know it was a yoga pose until recently. She says worldview is that it is safer to be alone, to let everyone think I’m okay and never really come out of my shell. It’s that having a crush is unsafe, and wrong and disgusting. It’s that anything sexual is bad. It’s that good girls don’t have a voice, they are quiet and demure, polite and they do what will make others happy. It’s that I have to do what I should do, regardless of what I want to do. She says that having a turtle shell to retreat into can be a useful thing, but now, the turtle needs to not feel alone, and the only way to do that is to risk feeling unsafe and to come out of the shell.
I leave therapy feeling like she is on my side. I’m still disconnected and just…off, needing to pretend to be Miss Perfect, but I’m not alone. Why is this such a difficult thing for me to hold onto; the fact that Bea is here, and I’m not alone? I head home, using my facade like a turtle shell, to hide from the world.