This post may go around in circles. I have a feeling my session went around in circles, at least a little bit. I haven’t been very present, or very much in my grown up mind since yesterday, so it was harder to keep track of everything that was said and the order in which it was said.
I’m splitting this session into several smaller posts. It ended up being a very long session, and a lot came out. I want to get it all down, but I don’t want to write a post that takes an hour to read! As always, please read with caution. I do talk about sexual abuse, ask Bea some kinda tough questions– the whys– and generally am in that headspace of feeling very small.
Bea knows, the moment I walk in the door that I’m in a vulnerable headspace, that I’m feeling small. Neither of us say anything, though. I sit across from her, flicking my eyes from her face to the floor, playing with the bow on my ballet flat. I think she’s waiting for me to say something, but all I’ve been able to get out is, “Hi.”
Finally, Bea takes a drink of tea and says, “So…..how was this week?”
I shake my head, fiddle with the ties on my shoe, look at the floor. “Not so good.” I barely raise my voice above a whisper and it breaks.
She waits for me to fill in more, but when I don’t, she prompts me, “Is it Hubby stuff?”
I shake my head. “I didn’t sleep last night.”
She immediately gives me a look that says she gets it, and that she is sorry I didn’t sleep. “Is it something specific, concrete, or just stuff bubbling up?” She asks.
I can’t answer. It feels like too much to say, too much to explain. I don’t have the words. I don’t know.
She looks at me. “I feel like the little girl is here today.”
I nod. I’ve managed not to hide my face, and I’ve been bouncing my gaze from Bea’s face to the floor, to the toys and the table in the corner, blinking back tears and sniffling.
“Is it memories or feelings?” Bea looks at me kindly.
“Both.” I look away as I say it.
“I was wondering, because we’ve really been dealing with more abstract feelings, like anger, and not being in control and this feels different to me,” Bea explains.
I nod my head at her. I’m shaky and in that hypervigilant state, the one that anyone with PTSD is probably familiar with.
“How old are you right now? In this memory?” Bea asks quietly.
I shake my head. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Little. I’m gripping my knees to my chest as tight as I can, and picking at my fingers. “I don’t know.”
“You feel really little to me. In a really young and vulnerable state.” When I don’t say anything more, Bea continues, “Do you know what the feelings are?”
“I just know it’s not okay.” The words are almost below a whisper, too quiet.
“This could be too young a place to have words for these things, you could be too far away to name them. You feel far away right now. Maybe the point is to be here, with these feelings, where it’s safe and they can be contained,” Bea says. I wonder how she manages talk to the young part of me, but still speak to me like I’m an adult and not treat me like a child who can’t do anything for themselves. It has to be a hard thing to figure out how to do.
“I don’t want to feel like this.”
“I know. It’s been a while since you’ve felt like this. The little girl has something to say today, and she has a voice now,” Bea tells me.
I nod. I can’t get words out. I look up at Bea, and away quickly. She doesn’t look scary or like she is getting ready to jump ship.
“Did you write any of this down?”
I nod. Yes.
“Maybe we could start with that? It seems like you are having a really hard time with words right now,” she suggests.
“Okay,” I whisper. But then I realize I’ll have to move to get my iPad journal out. So I sit, frozen where I am.
After a minute, I start talking about hubby getting upset because I wasn’t sleeping. “I don’t want to go home after therapy because hubby is going to yell at me for not sleeping and I don’t wanna get yelled at.” I’m crying now, and it’s the panic and tears of little child who is afraid to be yelled at.
“Of course you don’t want to be yelled at. No one wants to be yelled at.” I think she asks if he was up, and I explain he wakes up like for a minute and sees that I’m up and then criticizes me for it later. We talk about it, but I’m more worried about being yelled at and in trouble than anything else.
I shift and pull my iPad. I hold onto it for a minute. “I wrote this more for me. It’s not…it’s just messy. I didn’t…it’s just…”
Bea smiles at me. “It’s a little like being caught in your bathrobe and hair curlers, isn’t it? It’s okay.”
I give a small smile back and hand it over to her. As soon as it’s handed over, I bury my face. I can only take so much, and this….well this is too much exposing to not hide.
“It’s nothing new. It’s not even a big deal, I don’t know why it feels so bad,” I tell her.
“Well, it feels bad because you were triggered. If it’s come up again, it needs to be worked through again.” She sounds so sure of this, and almost matter of fact about it, calm.
Bea reads, saying “mmmhmms, and uh-huhs” to herself as she reads.
“This is again about being left. Looking out the window and wishing your parents would come home and rescue you, but knowing it was too late.” Bea’s voice is soft.
It takes me a while, and it actually physically hurts, but I manage to say, “I hated them for not coming home.”
“Of course. Of course you did. It was just another way you were left.”
“She just left. So many times…I asked, sitting in the bathroom….her not to go…to take me…but she just left. And I was fine then. When he came, it was fine and I had fun. It’s so twisted.”
“I think it has to do with magical thinking in some ways. You were a child. Of course you didn’t want her to go, but once he got there, it was fun, right? The bad stuff didn’t happen right away, did it?” Bea asks.
“No…later…but I knew..I had to know. It’s why I wanted her to stay.”
“Yes, but children don’t have a sense of time like grown ups. And with magical thinking, you could have thought it wasn’t going to happen. So it was easy to have fun and be okay.”
I sit with that idea, thinking. It’s different than my previous thoughts. An idea that has been in and out of my mind…this idea that I had no choice, drifts back into my head. In this more little girl state, I have no filter, and so I blurt out, “I didn’t get a choice.” And the words hurt to say, and I’m crying, and I hate this, all of it, all this pain.
“No, you didn’t get a choice. You didn’t get a choice at all,” Bea repeats back to me, validating, but also something else in her voice…pride…happiness that I’m seeing this differently? Something. She sounds pleased; not pleased over my lack of choice, but pleased over my realizing it.
“It could be so normal. I don’t know. Just so regular. How is that even possible? It’s confusing. He was fun, you know. He played.” I want so desperately for her to understand, to see. I need her to get it, to really know how different my two realities were.
“Of course he was fun, I’m sure he was. It’s part of the…grooming process, part of winning a child’s trust. It’s part of what abusers do. And he wasn’t always hurting you, or touching you, and he had to be fun, to get you to like him. That’s not anything you did wrong. Kids have a right to want attention, to have someone play with them. All kids want to be paid attention to.” Bea sounds so sure, so positive about this, and not surprised by what I’ve just admitted. I’m relieved. She gets it. I had no idea how wonderful it feels to be understood, to not feel alone with all the secrets upon secrets I held in for so long. I didn’t know that being so vulnerable and honest with someone who could be trusted would make me feel safer….it seems like it should be the opposite, but it doesn’t work like that.