“So…I had to send an email to Carly, and I told her that I really did hope Jaime knew it wasn’t personal, that we liked him, it just wasn’t a good fit and that if she felt it was appropriate, she could pass that on to him. So I didn’t send anything to Jaime, but…well. It seems okay. Carly emailed back that I don’t need to apologize and that it’s okay.” I finally take a breath, and smile at Bea. It’s Monday morning, 8:10am, and I’ve been up since 4:30. I’ve also had two pots of coffee, done the laundry, planned dinner, unloaded the dishwasher, and swept the floor. Then I got ready for therapy, made a shopping list and headed out the door.
“Well, it sounds like you found a way to have some closure. That’s good,” Bea says.
I shrug. “I had to do it in a round a bout way, but I did it. Kind of.”
“This time, it was a round about way. Maybe not the next time. I think you handled it fine.”
And then, there’s nothing. Silence. I don’t like silence, and Bea isn’t talking. I find some idle chit chat to try to fill the silence, but Bea isn’t letting me go there. Okay. Now what? I’m lost.
Bea looks at me, and I have a feeling this is going to be bad. “I was thinking it might be a good time to talk about symptoms.”
I just stare at her for a minute. What? Why? No. That’s all I can think. No. “Umm. Well, I’m okay. You know that.”
“Yes, I know you are okay on the outside. But I haven’t brought up symptoms for quite a while. Some people might say I have been negligent to not bring them up. I really felt that unless you told me you were in a bad place, some trauma needed to be worked through in order for us to even work through the symptoms. I would dare to say you are in a healthier place with the trauma stuff now, and so it seems a good time to do a symptom check in. I’m not saying anything has to change, but we need to know where you stand right now. That’s all. Dealing with the past, processing through it, that’s good, but there’s no point if it’s not helping you in your present, and symptoms are kind of like present day manifestations of trauma,” Bea says.
As she has been talking, I’ve been slowly pulling my knees to my chest, and burying my face in them, covering my head with my arms. And then it’s quiet again.
“You know. I have a new client I’m seeing, and he tells me I talk too much in his sessions. In my head, it’s funny, because I have this other person, who tells me to talk more. But I think it’s time I stop talking so much, and let you see what comes up. I need to stop filling in the blanks for you.”
What? I’ve been working so hard to talk more. I have been talking more. I feel like I’m being punished. And she’s doing this today? On the day she is insisting we talk about symptoms? I don’t want to have this conversation.
Bea sighs. “Okay, symptoms. Have they been better? Worse? The same?” And that’s all she says. She means it. She doesn’t speak up, even after I’m quiet for another few minutes.
Finally, I say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Talking about it means admitting I am not okay. Talking about it means ripping myself apart. Talking about it means talking about why symptoms are worse. No. No, and no.
She’s silent for a second. “Okay. Can we talk about why? What about talking about it feels bad?”
I don’t answer. I don’t have an answer. I just don’t want to talk about this.
“What is the it you don’t want to talk about?” She finally asks me.
I don’t answer. I feel like a defiant teenager. Like an odd reincarnation of my fifteen year old self. Snotty, bratty, stubborn, and mean. The only thought running through my head is all of it, I don’t want to talk about any of it, and you can’t make me.
Bea can apparently be stubborn. But, I’m in the mindset of either waiting her out, or just leaving. I wonder if I can just walk out. If I have it in me. Just as I decide I do, she breaks the silence. “So, symptoms. We had sleeping, nightmares, picking, cutting, eating. And others I’m sure I haven’t listed. I always feel like it’s the cutting that increases in frequency when someone is in pain– emotional pain.”
I’m not in pain. I’m fine. I’m okay. “I’m okay.” I don’t know if I’m trying to convince Bea, or myself now. My head is spinning. I’m pretty sure she told me earlier that we are all done talking about trauma stuff, that I’m in a healthy place with that now, and it’s onto symptoms. She’s ready for me to be gone. I’m supposed to be over the trauma now. And I’m not. I finally was just starting to feel like I could talk about it. Oh my God, I’m such a failure. I can’t even do therapy right.
“All right. You’re okay. So where are these symptoms?” She asks again. Why is she pushing so hard? I hate that she brought this up. It’s not fair.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Maybe you don’t want to talk about it because it feels like I won’t be able to handle it. Maybe you don’t want to talk about it because it feels like I could freak out and say, ‘oh no, you can’t be doing that.’ I’m not going to. And I’m not going to take anything away from you. I’m not asking you to change what you are doing to cope. This is just a check in. That’s all,” she says. And then, she hits my perfect facade with a sledge hammer. “I never assumed you stopped cutting. I never assumed that the eating stuff was fixed. But those things are doing too good a job now. Nothing can get through to you, and nothing is getting out.”
I can feel myself cracking. She knew. She knew I hadn’t stopped, and she knew that I was worse. Someone saw me. Crap.
“The cutting. Is it still happening?”
I nod. And feel a tear escape. Damn it.
“How often?” She asks me, but I will not answer that, so she adds, “More frequently?”
It feels like I sit for a very long time in silence. Finally, I nod my head.
She goes through the same questions for eating, and I nod my head. Yes, there is still an issue. Yes, there is an increase in the symptom.
I don’t know what else is said. I cry a lot, and feel very broken and overwhelmed and like a failure. I don’t know what I’m doing. My head is spinning, and I can feel a migraine coming on. I hate this. I hate that she did this. I need to be okay. Why is that such a bad thing? Why couldn’t she just let me be okay?
I think Bea tells me acting perfect and stuffing all my feelings and needs down inside is a step backwards. I think she says something about how I need to see that I’m not allowing myself to exist. That I’m turning all my rage inward, and hurting myself. That the perfect act is not sustainable. But I don’t really hear her. All I can think is that she really is sick of hearing about my ugly stuff. That she is done with needy me, and it’s time for me to move on, deal with my symptoms and get out of here.
Somehow, I make it to the end up the session. I wipe my tears with the back of my hand, my head still buried in my knees.
“Do you want a Kleenex?” Bea offers me.
“No. I’m okay,” I tell her.
“Why do I have a feeling you have some in your bag, anyway?” She says. I’m always prepared, always organized. She knows this.
I shake my head. “I actually think Kat used all the ones in my bag. But I have some in the car, anyway.”
“Well, I have boxes of them, so take a few and throw them in your bag if you need them,” she offers one more time.
I don’t answer. Instead, I say, “I really just wish you had never brought this up.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” She’s quiet, soft spoken about it. She’s sorry I’m upset, but I don’t think she’s sorry she brought it up.
I say good bye, and leave. I try to realign my facade, but someone hit it with a sledge hammer.