“Right now, this is the real you. The you in the present moment, the you who is talking to me about these pictures, giving your opinion, no judgement. She’s living in the present moment. I think that’s where the mindfulness piece, and the yoga can really help. That split? Both those states– all okay, or all not okay– is the past. Neither of those states are real, they are from the past. In a sense it’s your worldview, right? That you have to be all good or all bad. Neither of those is you in the present moment; in the present moment is where you find the grey. The real you is the you that is here right now, in the present. That’s the real you.” Bea is talking, and I’m hiding my face. We were looking at pictures of the lake that she had taken on a recent trip, and the way the lake has frozen is awesome and beautiful.
“That’s too complicated,” I mumble. I can’t wrap my head around what she is saying. I don’t understand.
“Yes, it can feel complicated. I think sometimes, it’s so simple, it’s complicated. We make it harder than it really is.”
It’s silent in her office for a while. I don’t know what to say. How to explain. Ugh. I hate this. “It’s…..like……well, kind of…it’s like auto pilot. Automatic, you know?”
“Mmmhmm, okay. Is it automatic, like you were in the moment and so that conversation just felt easy and natural? Or is it autopilot like you are dissociated, maybe like you are looking out from the room in your head? To me, it felt very natural and authentic, it felt like you were here.” Bea asks, and she is calm and sounds like either answer is okay.
I can’t answer. I’m afraid to say it’s autopilot like I’m in the room in my head. I afraid to admit that those conversations, those moments, where I seem real and like I am in the present are the very moments that I don’t feel real; they are the very moments I feel like I am in the room in my head and everything feels like it’s running on automatic, they are the moments I am there but not there. Finally, I say, “I don’t know.”
“Maybe that’s where we start then. Try to notice those moments this week, and see how you feel, what they bring up,” Bea suggests.
I don’t say anything back to her, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because the bad, gross, yucky feelings are spilling out, and I can’t stop myself from crying.
“It seems like something is coming up for you now,” Bea says softly.
I shake my head, and inside I’m repeating NO, NO, NO, over and over. I don’t want anything to come up. I don’t want to have this conversation. I don’t want to feel like this.
“Do you know what it is you are feeling?” She asks me.
I shake my head some more. “I don’t know.” My voice sounds small and tear filled. “Sick. I feel sick. Just bad.”
“It seems like this feeling is coming from the little girl. There was something in your email last night that really struck me. Let me grab it,” Bea says. I can hear her walk over to the table and grab her phone. After a minute, she has my email pulled up. “This, it just seemed like it was really hitting you and connecting, in a really deep way, like you were just realizing this and that it was really painful: ‘I never want to be a child again, being a child was scary because I had no power or control over anything, being a child meant doing what my parents expected and always performing and being perfect and good enough in order to earn their love, and it meant never saying a word about the bad things happening with Kenny, because I was a good girl, and good girls don’t play games like that. Even I knew that. But I couldn’t say no. I had no power to tell anyone no.’ That’s exactly right. It’s the truth. You didn’t have any of the control then.” Bea says this gently, but it still hurts.
I cry and pick at my fingers, curl more into myself. Oh God, do I just want to go away. This hurts too much. “No. No.” I tell Bea. I don’t want that to be right, I want it to be wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
“You really didn’t have any control. You were vulnerable, and he took advantage of that. He violated you.” She’s speaking softly, and I think she says more, but I’m not listening.
I want to tell her to stop. I want to cover my ears. I don’t want to listen to her. I don’t want this to be true.
“The truth is, it’s not your fault. And you are good, and perfect just as you are.”
“Every time…..when you say it’s not my fault, I want to argue with you,” I tell her. It’s the closest I’ve come to saying what goes through my mind every time she says it is not my fault.
“I know. I know you do.” The way she says it, I think she really might know and understand.
I don’t say anything, but I feel bad, full of yucky feelings. Like a toxic, oozing green-black slime has coated me on the inside, and I can’t get it out of me.
“What would happen, what would it mean if you weren’t in control? If you could accept that it wasn’t your fault?”
I’ve been crying off and on, all session, and now all those tears escape yet again, and I cry so hard my body shakes. “I don’t know. I don’t. This isn’t, ‘I don’t know, I don’t want to answer.’ I just really don’t know.”
“Maybe that’s the scariest part of all. That feelings wise, you don’t know what it would mean. That can be really scary.” I hear Bea’s chair turn, she must have moved a little.
I don’t know why, but I just have all these thoughts in my head, and for some reason, I feel like I want to say them to someone. Maybe because the walls that have been surrounding me are knocked down, maybe because it feels safe to talk to Bea. I’m not sure. “You know what I did.” I sob the words out, little voice asking to be heard and understood.
“Yes. I know. And I’m still saying it’s not your fault, that you are good and perfect just as you are– imperfections and all.” Bea says simply.
“I made a choice!” I throw the words at her, attempt to yell them, but they are coming from a tiny scared part of me, a part that is just waiting to be rejected.
“Well, okay. I want to say you didn’t have a choice, but let’s sit with this feeling for a minute. You feel you made a choice, but was it a real choice? Or was it a choice within confines of what you had to work with? It might have been a choice, or felt like a choice, but it really wasn’t a real choice. It’s about survival, right? Kidnapping victims sometimes take on the traits of their kidnapper, adopting the religion, or whatever. It’s not a real choice, it’s about survival. Then as adults, we judge, and we wonder how we could have done that, made those choices, but we forget just how little power a child has, and how that choice wasn’t a real choice.”
I listen and let what she says sink in for a few minutes. I shake my head. I feel sick. “I…..he….I…”
Bea gives me time to speak, but when I can’t get more words out, she says, “it’s so hard to say the words sometimes.”
It seems like a small thing, but her knowing how hard this is helps. “I….I…he…..” I stop again, and cry. Through my tears, I sputter out, “I slept with him.”
“And that feels really bad. I can feel all the grief and pain. But it wasn’t a choice you were old enough to make, that’s why this feels so very bad.” Bea says firmly.
“I can’t get it out of my head. It’s just there, always there. I can see it, it’s just…there.” I shake my head, and hug my knees tighter. I want to be the smallest ball I can be. I can’t do this.
“I know. We need a way to let go of some of the blame, or, if that can’t happen, maybe a way to find some sort of acceptance.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know we keep having this conversation, I’m sorry, I’ll stop, I’m sorry.” I’m freaking out, crying and apologizing. I knew that I was too needy, that I was too much, I knew I was doing therapy all wrong.
“No, that’s not what I meant. This needs to be talked about, worked through. I just want a way to help you be able to stop blaming yourself. That’s all.” Bea reassures me.
“You aren’t…annoyed to be having this conversation again?” I ask.
“No, not at all. There’s still so much pain, and hurt, grief, that needs to be worked through. Yiu aren’t done with this yet.” She sounds like she means it, like it’s really okay.
I can’t help myself, though, and so, once more, I ask her, “You’re sure it’s okay? That you aren’t upset?”
“I’m not upset, not even a little bit. I’m pretty honest, you know.” I can hear a little smile in her voice.
I nod. “I know…I think so..I just…well, I just had to make sure.”
I think for a minute, maybe two. “Do you still have my envelope?” I ask.
“I still have it. It’s safe, and no one has seen it.”
“I think……well, I think I need to….I don’t know…..deal with it.” I’m shaking, I’m so afraid of it.
“I don’t have it here, it’s at home with my files–” Bea says hesitantly.
I cut her off. “Not today! No, not today. Next week.” Oh my God, not today. I can’t do this today.
“Okay. I’ll bring it with me on Monday.” She tells me.
“I feel like…..like that is proof of my blame,” I stutter and mumble, but get the words out.
“Then it’s really important we talk about it,” Bea agrees. “I’m going to make sure I read through it again, to really be familiar with it, and so I know the whole memory. I only read it the one time when you gave me permission.”
I shake my head. “That’s scary to me.”
“I already know what happened. I’ve already read it. And nothing bad happened,” she reminds me.
“Yeah. Okay. You probably know it better than I do, anyways.”
“I imagine you were in a really dissociated state when you wrote it, maybe not really so much here,” she says.
“Yeah….I was really gone. And I didn’t, couldn’t read it, so I put it in that envelope.”
“It’s okay. I’m well aware what part of your mind that memory came from,” She says.
“Okay,” I nod my head.
“I’m almost afraid to say it..because even the idea of this can be scary sometimes..but..I think you are psychologically stronger now. Wanting to look at the envelope, thinking about the idea of it not being your fault. When you go away, you don’t feel as far away as you did. I think some pieces of the trauma are integrated, have been put in the past,” Bea says.
I don’t say anything for a little while. “I’m afraid of the envelope.”
“That’s okay. I’ll bring it, and we can decide what to do with it then, okay?”
I nod. “Bea?” I ask, and I know my voice sounds a little bit serious. I feel like a little kid, asking to be listened to.
“I’m really afraid.”
“We don’t have to do anything with it on Monday. We can just decide what to do, or talk about being afraid,” she says.
“You’ve really done some amazing work, being willing to go to these ugly places….” Bea is still talking, but in my head I’m blocking out her words. I want to shout at her to stop, that I’m a fraud and a fake, and I’m not amazing, I’m a mess, and I’m terrible. But I don’t. I just ignore what she says. I hate this. I don’t want her to think I’m amazing, or that I’ve done something amazing. I don’t want her to be concerned about me. No. No. No.
After awhile, I’m still crying, and I can’t get myself to stop.
“Try to just sit with the feelings, let them be heard. The little girl really needs her grief and pain to be heard,” Bea says. I think she is willing to listen to all that pain and hurt and grief, and I don’t understand why she would be willing to do so.
“I can’t.” I feel like I’m choking, like I can’t see my way out, can’t breathe, can’t function.
“It’s hard. But you’ve been doing it all session. Can you find some compassion for the little girl part? It seems that most of us either have compassion or hatred for the little girl. Do you know what you feel?” Bea encourages me to try to stay with the feelings. She is calm, grounded, and I believe she can contain the raging storm of emotion in me.
I don’t answer, but I know how I feel. I hate the little girl part. I hate her and resent her. But she is me. It’s confusing.
“It hurts,” I shove the words at Bea, wanting her to feel how much this all hurts.
“I know, I know,” she says it soothingly.
“It actually hurts.” I’m surprised to be realizing this, and surprised I’m admitting it out loud.
“Physically hurts?” Bea asks me, and I nod. It seems she is saying something validating, something that says she gets it, but I have no idea what the words are. I can’t pay that much attention for some reason.
We talk a while longer. I bring up hubby, but I can’t remember what we really said about him. We talked about Kat. I don’t know.
By the time I left, I was back to who I was when I arrived this morning. I’m able to hold a conversation without breaking down into tears. But as Bea and I talk about cleaning and everyday type stuff, I realize that while she thinks it’s the real me, me in the present, holding this conversation, it’s not. It’s me in the room in my head, a little bit not here, a little bit spaced out. It’s not exactly perfect me, but I think that this feeling is part of perfect me; it’s about being socially correct, appropriate, polite. It’s even about having conversation I enjoy. But it feels not real, and I’m not really here. Not enough that anyone will ever notice, but enough that this doesn’t feel real. But because I’m smiling and chatting pleasantly, the last ninety minutes of pain doesn’t feel real either. So where is the real me?