This is part 3 of this post. We left off in part 2 talking about him, and some of the ways he behaved, especially in traumatic memories. There could potentially be triggering stuff in this post, so please take care when reading. Xx
“I didn’t matter,” I tell her. I’m thinking how he didn’t care I was hurt, how all the adults were there, out back at the pool and no one knew, or even suspected. I’m thinking how I didn’t matter enough for my mom to stay home. I didn’t matter.
“You do matter, you did matter.” Bea’s voice is strong, sure. She is serious, and she believes this.
“No. To him. I didn’t matter. I was supposed to matter. I thought I mattered.” I’m shaking and crying, again, as I have been off and on all session. There is a sense that it’s okay to be crying, now. Before, even a few months ago, I’d be upset by the fact I was crying. Now I just cry, and don’t worry about. I know it’s okay with Bea, she can handle the tears, even huge sobbing fits, and so it is safe to cry.
“He might have had different parts, too. We don’t know. You could have mattered to one of those parts. But you do matter now, and you mattered then.” Bea says.
“I didn’t matter,” I say, sadly.
“It sure felt like you didn’t matter.” My head is down, I’m hiding, but I can picture Bea, sitting in her chair, maybe leaning slightly forward, nothing but understand and compassion, kindness in her face. I can picture this because I have been looking at her more often during sessions.
“Why do people say it’s not about…you know?” I ask suddenly. It’s an abrupt change of topic, but something I have wondered about before. Because to me it’s all about…you know.
“What?” Bea asks, switching tracks fairly easily.
“You know.” I emphasize the words, after struggling to try to say the actual word.
“Sex?” Bea asks, saying it for me.
“Yes.” I say.
“Well. Sexual abuse is about power, controlling someone else. Maybe too about the sexual aspect, but it’s about that control through sex.” She maybe still talks but I’m gone, gone, gone.
I’m off in my head, stuck in a kind of bad place. Where I don’t have choices, and I’m too small to do anything.
“It seems he liked you, or little girls because he could be control. He should have been dating girls his own age.” Bea’s voice breaks through to me, and I come back to the present a little.
“He did. He took a girl to prom. I sound sour, pissy, much like Kat when she doesn’t get her way.” I tell her.
“How old were you?”
“Second grade? Seven?” I guess.
“Were there feelings about this?” She asks. I shrink away. I’m ashamed over it. “Jealousy maybe?”
I nod. Yeah. “Very. My parents asked him to stop by, they wanted to see him dressed up. Maybe it was third grade. I don’t know. It’s all messed together, blurry.”
“No wonder. How could it not be? You were working very hard to just grow up. And you did it. Some very healthy parts of you developed, and grew and thrived.” She understands, she gets it.
“Then why do I feel so broken?” I ask her.
“Well, because these stuck parts are coming out now, and you are dealing with the trauma instead of pretending it away, and for the first time a lot of your defenses are down. So that is going to feel pretty bad. But I think broken is an okay way to put it. You aren’t damaged, or bad, or any of those other things, but these stuck in the trauma parts of you need to be allowed to,have a voice and heal so that they can be integrated into the grownup part of you. The good thing is there is a healthy adult that runs the ship, and she can helps these parts heal now. It was too much then, but now there is a grown up, and that grown up has support.”
I love that Bea answers my question, and talks about how I feel, instead of giving the standard ‘you aren’t broken’ answer. “Okay. That makes sense, kinda,” I say.
We sit, quiet for a minute. I’m still half in the past, half in the present. Everything hurts. I hate this. I hated the blank spaces in my memory, I hated not knowing, but this feels so bad, I don’t even have the words to describe it. “I said I wanted to know, but I was wrong. I don’t. I don’t want to know. This hurts too much.”
“I know. It’s really, really hard.” Bea really gets it. I can feel her there, right here with me. She’s in this with me, not just sitting on the sidelines observing.
“I don’t want to feel like this.” I say. Part of what I want to say is that I never asked for this, for any of this. But I’m not sure if did or didn’t.
“If I can’t even handle this now, how am I supposed to have handled it then?” I ask her, almost desperately.
“Exactly. That’s it exactly. You couldn’t have. And you aren’t alone now.” Bea says. She sounds almost pleased that I am grasping the concept of how bad it really was.
“I really didn’t want to be alone today. I couldn’t go to sleep last night.” It’s so hard to admit this. I wonder what I would have done if I didn’t have therapy today. Would I have texted and asked for a session? Hurt myself? I don’t know.
“I know. That’s why I think having hubby’s support would be so beneficial. So you wouldn’t have to be alone.” It always comes back to this with Bea; she doesn’t want me to be alone anymore.
“But I talk here. That’s something. That should count.” I say, feeling a little argumentative.
“It is something, it counts for a lot,” she says, emphasizing her words. She does believe it counts. “But we need to build your support network, too.
I list off all the people who could be part of that network, if I allowed it, if I would trust them.
Bea says I can bring Kay to therapy if I ever want, and I laugh and laugh. Partly because I don’t need Bea to talk to Kay, I’m not afraid of her leaving, and partly because it was Kay who threatened to drag me back to Bea of I quit.
After a moment, Bea says, “You can’t put hubby in the role that Kenny or college boyfriend was in. I hear you doing it…and we need to find your voice. He doesn’t get to yell at you or criticize you for not sleeping. ‘I was having a rough night.’ Is all you should have to say. You don’t owe him information.”
I’m still thinking about my list of people who could support me, if I would be honest with them, and if I would talk to them. Which I am afraid to do. “I guess I have a serious problem with trust. Before this I would have said I trusted everyone. I was really fooling myself.”
“Yes. But in one sense, your worldview was that it was a game, it was nothing, and so you probably did trust everyone.” Bea reframes it, and it makes sense this way.
“If I was fooling myself that good then, what am I fooling myself about now?” I ask. It’s frightening to think how good I fooled myself. While I was playing at perfect and fooling everyone around me, I was lying to myself, too.
“Nothing, from where I sit. And I would tell you,” Bea assures me.
“You promise?” I ask shakily. I feel bad for needing extra reassurance, but I have to ask.
“Yes, I promise. The only thing I see that doesn’t match reality is your fear of hubby leaving if he knew the truth, your fears of physical punishment if you told your parents. But I also know those are big things. Big choices, and they would have big impact, but I don’t think your belief that hubby would leave aligns with reality.”
“I’m afraid,” I admit. The words are more real than in the past, they are the vulnerable part of me talking.
“I know,” Bea says.
“I’m so afraid he will leave, just not care, hate me.”
“You are still seeing this from a place of self blame, shame, disgust. I’m on the outside, and I can promise you, no one in their right mind would ever find fault with you.”
“I don’t know. So, what am I supposed to tell him?” I ask her. I’m lost. I can’t tell him who, Bea and I agree he doesn’t need to know my memories, the exactness of what happened. So what do I tell him?
“Maybe start with being able to tell him when you are having flashbacks, feeling vulnerable.” Bea suggests.
“No. No, no, no. He could leave.” I’m panicking at that thought of it all.
“Sometimes, the only way to bring out his vulnerable and nurturing side is to show him your vulnerable parts.”
I shake my head. “I’m scared.”
“I know. But the fact that you are feeling so vulnerable right now and can still talk about this, think about it is huge.” Bea tells me. She has something in her voice….happy? Proud? Pleased? Amazed? I don’t know what it is, but it’s good, and I bask in the sound of her voice.
“I’m afraid here sometimes still. Not like before, but still….I get scared.” I tell her, whispering.
“I know. It’s scary to be this vulnerable. And it took a long time to be able to.”
I nod. “Today, if he would stay home, I might talk to him. I don’t want to be alone.” It’s true, too. I’d talk today if he would stay home and not leave me.
“Can you ask him?” It’s the obvious thing to do, and Bea suggests it in a very neutral voice.
“No. He might say no. And then he would leave. He would just leave me.” My voice breaks as I talk about hubby leaving, and I burst into tears.
“And that would feel bad. Like being abandoned all over again.” Bea gets it.
I nod, then shake my head. “It’s really stupid. It’s not like my parents ever actually left me. They went out. They didn’t actually leave. I wasn’t abandoned. But I’m so afraid.”
“Well….I think being left, combined with the trauma of not being protected because they left made it worse. I think you had good attachment as a baby, but this being left and not protected and the trauma, that can mess things up. And, it’s something all kids deal with to some extent.”
“So all kids who get left with a sitter feel abandoned?” I ask. In my head I sound like I’m challenging her, being snotty. But I do really want to know.
“Well, in a sense, yes. I remember my parents would go out on Saturdays, and my older brothers and sisters would watch me. And that was always fine, and fun. But when it was bedtime, they would put me to bed, on the other side of the house, and I’d be all alone while they all got to stay up. I felt so alone, so left. So, yes, in a sense, it is something normal.” Bea shares. I love when she shares stories about herself that relate to me. Usually they underscore what should have happened, or how part of what I feel is normal for any kid. I feel less alone when she talks.
“It would have felt better if someone else had to go to bed, then, too. Then you wouldn’t have been alone.” I say.
“Yes. And if I had had kenny coming in my room and touching me, it would have made the alone and left feeling all the worse. Way worse.”
I want to say thank you to her, for telling me…for making not feel like such a freak. But I don’t. I’m not sure why I can’t tell her thank you. Maybe it would be too much like admitting attachment, or needing her in my mind. I’m not sure.
“So I’m not a complete freak?” I ask, tearfully.
“Not at all. I’d say completely normal under the circumstances,” Bea says kindly.
We talk off and on after that, and I cry, too. Mostly, I’m just there, with Bea, not alone, feeling like the little girl, vulnerable and needy and broken. And it’s mostly okay, because I know Bea is safe, and she understands, as much as anyone can, and she isn’t going to let these feelings swallow me whole. So I manage to relax, and allow myself to sit with the feeling, and to allow Bea to sit with me.