Tuesday morning, I wake up after a night of restless sleep. I’d dreamed of monsters last night, except my monsters were real. I make coffee and down half the pot before Kat gets up. I’m really still dissociated, numb, feeling like nothing is real. I make Kat breakfast, and get myself ready for yoga. The nanny arrives just as Kat is finishing breakfast. I numbly tell them both good-bye, and head to yoga.
As I walk into the waiting room, I wonder if it’s even a good idea to be here today. I can’t think. I can’t feel. I want to stay away from my body, all the physical memories this latest trigger has brought up are too much for me to handle. It’s not safe.
Kris walks out into the waiting area, right on time. “Hi,” she greets me warmly, as she always does. “How are you?” When she asks this, she gives the feeling that she means it, that she really wants to know.
“Okay. I’m okay.” I attempt a smile, but it’s partly frozen. “How are you?”
“I’m good, really good.” She smiles at me.
We’ve been walking down the short hall to her yoga studio as we talk. We take off our shoes and leave them at the door. I throw my bag down by the wall when we walk in, and sit on my mat, hugging my knees to my chest; an upright fetal position.
Kris looks at me. “How is your body feeling today? With the sudden weather change from warm to cool, I wondered if that effected you at all.”
I shake my head. “No. I don’t think so. I don’t know.” I mumble my answer, staring down at my toes with their bright pink nail polish.
Kris goes a different route. “You saw Bea last time after our yoga session, right? Did you make it there okay time wise?”
I nod, not trusting my voice.
“Have things been okay in therapy?”
“Yeah, yeah. It’s fine.” I shrug, grab my coffee and take a sip.
Kris looks at me, and it’s like she sees that I’m not really here. She tries a different approach. “How is Kat?” Anyone who knows me knows that talking about Kat can help ground me, bring me back to the present, help me be more here.
This time, though, it backfires. Tears spring up, and I blink them away furiously. I can’t find words, and so I shake my head at her and shrug my shoulders.
“Okay. Something is going on with Kat then. Whatever it is, I can see something really going on in your body, some tension…I can see it’s hard to be present today.” She speaks about all of this like it’s perfectly acceptable, and like I am okay and not some crazy person.
“I…the situation…it’s just triggered me a lot.” I finally say, my voice small and shaking.
“Okay. That’s okay. If you want to talk about it, we can do that, and if you want to leave it out, that’s okay too.”
I look up at her. “I don’t know…I’m not sure.”
“It’s all your choice. I see myself as holding the space so you can choose what is right for you. It’s entirely okay to talk about it, and sometimes talking it out can help release it. Other times, talking about it can be more triggering and make it feel more here. I’m okay with whatever feels right for you. I’m just here to support you and help you,” Kris tells me.
We sit quiet for a few minutes, Kris breathing in and letting her out breath extend. I can’t even seem to follow that today. I decide to talk to her. A part of me wants her to know what is going on, why I am such a mess and struggling. I’ve never chosen to spell things out for her, but she has been consistent and here, and safe since I started seeing her. I think it’s okay. And, she already knows what my trauma is, because Bea has talked to her about it (with my permission, of course).
I start talking, explaining the messy situation and the confusion. And then, to my surprise, I say, “I’m so triggered by it all. My…it was a family friend, someone who babysat me that hurt me. This is all too close, too much.” I recognize as I’m talking that I’m really dissociated, removed from this moment, and that’s why I’m able to talk. But as I talk, Kris only offers understanding and kindness.
“I can see how triggered you are in your body. Do you know what you are feeling in your body right now?” She finally asks me.
I shake my head. Embarrassed, I finally say, “I’m not so…I feel really disconnected right now.”
She nods. “You probably have felt that way since you heard what your friend had to say.”
I nod, yes, exactly.
Kris asks me to invite some movement to my body. She starts us out sitting in hero and raising our arms up to stretch. She remarks that the body doesn’t lie, and that she can see all the anxiety and tension of the triggered state and flashbacks in mine right now. It feels oddly validating.
We move through several of the more simple yoga poses, but I’m not coming back to my body. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to be grounded. I’m numb and partly frozen.
“Let’s do some chair work, okay?” Kris asks me, as she moves a folding chair onto her mat.
Almost mechanically, I copy her, moving a chair onto my mat.
And that’s when she has me sit on the edge of the chair, raise up to a squat above the chair. And then she asks me to sit back down without looking behind me. I look at her. “Crap,” I say. It’s light hearted and possibly a little funny, but I’m panicking. This is the famous chair exercise. The one that I froze during last time. “I’ve done this already. Why am I freaking out? This is so stupid,” I say.
“Your body knows what to do. You can trust it. Just sit back. The chair is still there, I promise,” Kris speaks slowly and soothingly to me.
I nod at her, and really feel how frozen I am. I reach my hand behind me, wanting to check for the chair. I pull it back before I can, mad at myself. That feels like cheating.
“However you need to sit back is okay,” Kris says. Her voice is so full of compassion in that moment, I know she isn’t judging me.
I close my eyes, and sit back. The moment I land on the chair, I burst into tears. I rush to cover my face, folding my upper body over my legs. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” I manage to get the words out.
“No sorrys. There is nothing to be sorry for. It’s okay. I’m okay with tears. Your body is just letting out some of this emotion, the feelings you’ve had locked up for so long. You sat back in the chair, you came back to the present just a little bit. It’s okay. You are safe here and now, safe in the present moment.” Kris maybe says more, but it’s all soft spoken and kind, soothing.
She allows me to cry, to breakdown. I apologize again, telling her I know we are past time, and I’m sorry, just so sorry. In a way, I’m begging her not to hate me for being a needy, sobbing mess in her yoga studio.
“It’s okay. I’m not in a rush,” she says. After a pause, she continues, “I see myself as here to support you, to help you heal in whatever ways I can. Today that means making space for tears. It’s okay.”
“Do other people cry?” I ask her. She knows I’m asking about her other trauma yoga students.
“Yes, definitely. You aren’t the only one, not at all. And, I know from my own trauma, that sometimes all that anxiety and fear can be so overwhelming and feel so bad, and it’s like even when you rationally know it’s in the past, you have to allow yourself to feel it, as painful as that can be. And that’s what you are doing, allowing yourself to feel it and move through it.”
I sniffle, and try to stop the crying. It’s not working very well. “I’m just so tired of it all. It’s so hard sometimes,” I tell her.
“I know. It really is tiring. You might not be able to hear this right now, but you are strong, and brave. You are healing and changing and working through this because you are so very strong, even if you don’t feel it right now.”
Kris brings a box of Kleenex over to me, and pulls a few out, handing them to me. I still can’t look up and face her. I hate crying in front of people. It’s shameful to me. I’m used to crying in front of Bea now, and even with her, I have a hard time facing her after.
“It’s like you are living in two worlds right now. The old world, and this new world. The old world with the paradigm of nothing being safe and not being able to trust and needing to be out of your body and the new world, where you have people who want to help you, where you can be grounded and safe in your body, where it’s okay to trust. It is hard and scary to be in the new world. It’s confusing to live in both worlds. But it will shift, and it will get easier to be in this new world. Old trauma responses will be changed and you won’t fall back into the old world as easily.” Kris is kneeling in front of my chair, just sitting near me, so I am not alone.
“You’ve been here?” I ask softly.
“Yes, I have.” She knows I mean this ugly pain filled place. “Sometimes, I still visit. But it’s less and less and I can leave a lot quicker.
I think about that. I’m grateful she is honest with me about it. “It gets better, right?” I ask her. I need to know, to hear I won’t feel so stuck and hurt and damaged forever.
“Yes. It gets so much better. It takes a long time, and hard work, but you are doing that work. And you don’t have to be alone. You have Bea, and your husband, and I count myself as a support person for you, too. You only have to reach out.”
I nod my head, knowing she’s right about just needing to reach out. I calm down, and dry my face. Kris and I say goodbye. She says she wants to offer me a hug, but she also knows that might now feel okay right now, and I don’t have to feel bad for saying no. I shake my head, no hugs, I can’t do that today. She gets it.
I’m tired the rest of the day, but some of the tension and anxiety seems to be gone. I keep thinking about her promise that even though it takes a long time, it gets better.