Don’t tell

I saw Bea Monday morning, like usual. It’s been just over 24 hours since that appointment, and I can hardly remember our conversation. What I do remember is telling her about the weekend, and her response that it seemed I had dealt with things well. She mentioned how I hadn’t been triggered by Kat, that I had been in protective mode. She asked what it was like seeing my mom play with and spend time with my daughter? I have no idea how to answer that. I’m not very present when I’m around my mom. It’s mostly like I have no feelings, wherever it is I go when I am with her, and the ones that do trickle in tend to be more triggery feelings. So I have no idea how I feel. Fine. Happy. I don’t know. What am I supposed to feel? That is sweet, seeing my mother and daughter together. Right? Then that is what I feel.

But she’s wrong. I didn’t deal with things well. I just left out the things I did to deal. Not once have I given her a run down of my weekends, or my days and willingly said, “well, we went downtown, hung out, and then Kat was all done so we drove back to my moms. While my mom and Kat played and my hubby helped my dad with some manly outdoor project, I stuffed my face with ice cream and vomited. Then I say outside and played with my mom and Kat. After dinner, I went to the store to get some hair color, and colored my hair. While the color processed I ate a bunch of junk food, and then threw up a second time that day when I was supposed to be showering. In the middle of the night I had nightmares, hid in the closet, and got caught hiding by my hubby. Which only made me feel ashamed and vulnerable. But it was fine because once he fell back asleep, I went to the bathroom, found a razor and cut. And bye-bye bad feelings.” I don’t talk that openly. I still expect to be shamed, judged, condemned, or lectured for my behaviors, so as soon as I admit them, I figuring out how to back track. I purposefully leave that stuff out. It’s my filter, and it’s second nature. I don’t know what else to say about it.

I think part of me was disappointed she didn’t question me about how I was saying my behaviors were out of control and yet according to my story of the weekend, nothing happened. A part of me wanted Bea to back me into a corner and force me to answer or talk about those things. Because they are scary. I think a part of me thought she knew me well enough to realize I would leave those things out, always. Of course, a part of me is thankful she has left well enough alone. I don’t quite trust that she won’t ditch me if I was truly upfront about things.

I wasn’t very there, and she knew that. I told her how my parents talked of renting the cabin this year, so our families– mine and my brothers– and them could all go for a long weekend. I don’t want to go back there, but then again, there is that idea….if I went back, maybe some blanks would get filled in. Maybe memories would be triggered. I don’t know. We are going camping and to a theme park for my daughters birthday with my parents and niece and nephews. We will be staying in a campground, at campground rustic style cabins. It’s were we always stayed with the smiths when we went. I’m both looking forward to a fun trip, a really nice way to celebrate Kat’s birthday, and already despairing that I won’t be able to function or be okay. But this is for Kat, so I know I’ll do it, and even if I’m dissociated the entire time, I’ll function normally.

I almost told her. About the memory I do have of the cabin. Well, one of the memories anyways. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Well, I was going to. This is what happened…..

It’s getting towards the end of the session. I feel like I’ve floated off, like I’m not tethered to anything. Bea is supposed to be my anchor, but I’ve been working hard to cut her off, she’s too close. So, I feel disconnected, not here. I feel like I’m all alone and no one understands. She’s mentioned that I hadn’t been triggered by Kat, but she’s wrong. I just didn’t say it, because I’m mad at myself over it. And I didn’t have a lot to do with Kat this weekend, minus the party, so it was limited.

“We are getting close to our ending time today. I wanted to let you know in case there is anything else you feel like you want to talk about that we haven’t talked about,” she says. She’s calm and present and everything Bea always is. Except things feel different right now. I know it’s because of me, because I’m so disconnected.

I shake my head. I’ve been crying the last few minutes. Over what, I don’t remember now. Bea told me, as she stated in her email, that she is aware the past is right here. But she believes it’s all the anxiety and stress of current day life that has made my defense go down, and she feels that all the triggery past stuff has slipped in because of that. Maybe she’s right. Does it matter? The point is, she keeps redirecting the focus to the present, and it’s the past I need to deal with. The present is all good stuff, or stuff that is being handled. It’s not what is causing me distress, no matter what she thinks. She might be the shrink, but I’m the one living in my head.

“There doesn’t have to be anything. I just wanted to check.” Her voice sounds firm, but underneath, maybe wavering. Is she feeling a little lost in how to deal with me? Has my floatiness confused her, made it harder to read me? I don’t know.

“I just…I have..I’m afraid to say it.” I sigh. How many times have I said this sentence?

Maybe Bea responds, maybe she waits. I’m not sure. Eventually, she does ask me if I want to talk about it. Maybe if she knew I wanted to, needed to talk about it she would help me figure out how.

“I don’t know.” I tell her honestly. I feel so lost. I’m not sure which way is up, if the memory is real, if it changes anything. I’m not sure about any of it. I want to talk to Bea, to figure it out, to not be alone, to share my confusion with someone I trust and who will be steady and not confused. But I’m not sure now. She doesn’t feel connected to me, she feels far away. Her emailed responses seem rote, and not her. I feel like she isn’t really here with me anymore, like she is done with me, annoyed over how I have been acting, how much time I take up, all my whining. I don’t know. Part of me can argue with that. But these teenage and child parts, they feel this, and they are running the show.

“Then I feel like it would be better to wait, to try to get you back to a more grounded place. I don’t think talking about things that are going to send you far away is the best thing when you are already so far away. I don’t want to send your farther away. We talk about pacing. We have time to talk about this. Maybe on Thursday, if you are feeling stronger,” Bea says gently.

I nod. “Okay.” My eyes fill with tears. I blink, furiously, trying to keep them from falling. I needed her to help me talk, not shut me down. This only confirms my thoughts that she is annoyed and done and not really here with me. My feelings are behind hurt. The person I have trusted most, even more than Kay, the person I have shared my ugliest memories, thoughts, feelings with, the person I was just beginning to believe could maybe handle my anger and my fears and the worst behaviors and worst memories has basically told me to not tell. She’s no different than anyone else. Don’t tell. Smile. Pretend it’s all okay.

“Does that sound okay?” She questions. Maybe she is uncertain of her choice. I don’t know. I don’t care. She made the choice, it’s what she really believes. Maybe she sees her choice is shutting me down, and she is trying to backtrack, so I don’t close up. Because she can’t do her job if I close up.

I look up at her, briefly meet her eyes. “It’s fine.” And a tear or two falls. I swipe at them, angrily. I don’t want her to know that she has hurt me. That’s not okay. We’ve been heading here since her insistence on focusing on my current world happenings. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve felt on edge about her and whether or not she was getting it, and my feelings had already been raw and slightly hurting.

“Are you sure?” She presses, and her voice sounds like she really wants to know, and maybe she does, but I already know my role. Smile. Go along. Don’t tell.

I nod. “I’m okay.” And with that, I grab a tissue and wipe at my face. I’m sure it’s a mess.

I don’t remember the rest of the session, really. I know I smiled and nodded and tried my best to act okay.

Now I’m in this weird, fake okay, not here place. I spent the rest of Monday in bed, watching old movies and being oblivious to the world. I ditched swimming and yoga and didn’t do any cleaning. I have no desire to talk to anyone. I spent today doing the much of the same. Tomorrow, I need to get up and function and be okay. No more moping. I’m not even sure what I’m moping about. The fact that my shrink feels not here, like she doesn’t care? The fact that she shut me down, much the way I shut myself down for years? The fact that I’m a horrible mom, triggered by her kid, and even aware of that unable to fully control my reaction? The fact that I feel like I was nothing more than a living sex toy for most of my childhood and even into my teen years? I don’t know. I’m confused. I’m lost. I’m all alone.

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30 thoughts on “Don’t tell

  1. Oh, Alice, been there, done that, and in my experience, it just made things worse. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I could have reacted any other way, for awhile. It sounds like you are having a hard time reacting differently, yourself.

    I can assure you that Bea isn’t trying to shut you down or shut you up in the way that it feels like she is (also been there and done that with MB.) It is what therapists with current training in treating trauma are taught to do. If the client is decompensating (falling apart and just getting worse), work on strengthening her coping strategies that do work, teaching her others that can replace unhealthy coping strategies, and DO NOT go into the trauma memories, if at all possible. That idea is to get you stabilized and better able to deal with the memories without being retraumatized. Being retraumatized is bad for your brain and just makes everything harder. The other idea is that you are living in the present day, so that is what is most important anyways: increasing your current quality of living. You don’t live so you can go to therapy and do trauma work, you go to therapy and do trauma work so that you can live the life that you want.

    It makes very good sense to me and I can see why it is the current approach. It’s certainly much, much more helpful than the old idea of doing abreactions- trying to get all of the emotions out at once- which was a sure recipe for retraumatization. I think that it’s on target most of the time, but I’m unconvinced that it’s on target all of the time.

    Once something has come up really strongly, it’s there, pushing at me until I deal with it. I can’t contain the really bad memories on my own, I need MB’s help at this point. I need to know that I am no longer alone with what happened. However, if I talk about the details of a memory in session, it will almost certainly drag me back into the experience. When I re-experience it too strongly, I can’t help the traumatized parts. Instead, they take over. One thing that helps me is to write out what happened in the memory and send it by email. It lets me write down and contain the memory and then share it with the one person I am sure can take it. Being able to do so took my developing a tolerance for using explicit language in my writing and testing out MB to make sure that she was ok with my writing out those things and wasn’t going to judge me. This way, it is easier for me to put off working on the memory, if I need a break from the work being so intense or I can refer to pieces of the memory, rather than having to run through the whole thing, which helps to keep the intensity level at a manageable level.

    Unfortunately, the only way to get what you want is to tell Bea, especially if it goes against conventional wisdom as to what constitutes good therapy. Bea can’t read your mind. She’ll get better and better at guessing as she gets to know you better, but she will always make mistakes if she is guessing. The funny thing is that the more that you tell her what you need, the faster that she will become a good guesser. πŸ˜‰

    I read something about memory on another blog this evening and there a comment about how young, traumatized parts can get to the point where they very much want to share and get help with the distressing memories, while at the same time other parts will try to shut you up and keep you from talking, believing that the safest thing is to not tell. Being caught in that struggle is very painful. It sounds like you are caught between those two sides right now and I feel for you. I hope that you can find a way to get some help negotiating between the two needs.

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    • I know all of this makes so much sense, the living in present day, the idea thay we go to therapy to live. Its so simple, really, but somehow complcated. I don’t know. Thank you for taking time to type this out and explain it to me.

      Its also funny that you said the more i tell her what i need the better she will be at guessing what i need, because she said something to that effect yesterday. I think she has just been so attuned to so much of what i needed, able to fill in the blanks, to help me figure out what i needed, its hard when she doesn’t get it. I realized yesterday, when she told me she needs me to tell her what i need that a) i need her to be on the side of “telling”– to speak against the parts that are screaming dont tell….that even if we are out of time in session, i need her to make it clear to me she wants to hear what i have to say, even though we will have to email it or wait until next time, and b) i am afraid to say what i need, afraid of being rejected, afraid of being too needy, and adraid that saying what i need is selfish. So. Maybe that is where i start.

      I think i am caught between “tell, don’t tell”. It is a hard place to be. Something Bea pointed out to me yesterday, though, is that a year ago the “don’t tell” parts were probbably almost 100% the voice i heard, then 6 months ago, it was more like 75% to 25%, and now i have told her its 50/50. So i am growing and changing. Maybe one day the don’t tell will be quieter, like 5% there. 😊

      Thank you again, and i really hope you havw found a little peace ans calm, too. Xx

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      • I knew that there was a good chance that you knew most or all of what I was saying, but just because you know it doesn’t mean that you can always access it. Plus, hearing the same thing said with different words, by a different person sometimes helps me a great deal.

        Going from 100% don’t tell to 50/50 in one year is a huge deal! πŸ™‚

        I am up and down. Mama Bear is in a huge, “let’s deal with how this is affecting you in real life” with a behavioral emphasis kick this week. At least she is recognizing that I have all sorts of resistance come up when she does that, even when I can see that it is a valuable thing to do. (It seems that parts of me are causing fear/ freeze reactions when I try to be more in charge/ act like a full adult. I understand that it’s in response to what was and wasn’t safe in my family growing up (safer to act helpless), but at the moment it’s causing a pretty severe exaggerated startle reflex, lots of dissociation, and literally freezing up.) Needing to try to get myself to do things that are scary just isn’t my favorite thing to do. Even if I know in my head that none of them are actually dangerous to me and lack of activity in some areas will make some things harder in the long run. Ugh.

        Other than a period of about six months, I have managed to avoid self harming behavior. And the point when I did seemed to be more about holding so much rage that I had to take it out on myself and some reenactment of abuse while very dissociative and not in control. But for the last year or so, I have a part who keeps on imaging cutting. I have better control now, so I don’t think that I’ll find myself doing something I don’t want to do again, but I understand that urge to flee the chaos and fear in one’s mind by doing something that a person has some control over and is very distracting from that which much me escaped. Yes, there are so many coping techniques that are ultimately kinder, but they aren’t as strong or as immediate.

        I don’t know about you, but I really resent being subjected to experiences that my mind wasn’t equipped to deal with at all. And then to make it worse, not having any help dealing with being hurt so badly, not being given the soothing, support, and comfort that we needed in order to be able deal with it in ways that are kind to ourselves. Instead we blame ourselves for the actions of grown men, hate ourselves for feeling and needing contact and love, reflexively hurt ourselves rather than comforting ourselves, and treat ourselves with the contempt that was shown for our rights to not have our bodies and souls violated to serve the needs of someone else rather than the self compassion that we so desperately need. I am pissed.

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      • I’m sorry you have been up and down. Its so hard to be in that all or nothing place. I hate the behavioral real likfe empasis stuff. I have a lot of resistance to it, too. I wonder why this seems to be a common thing that is difficult for so many of us????

        I know its cheesy, but good job, pat yourself of the back for avoiding self harm. I know how hard it is to avoid. You are really spot on when you say that there are kinder coping texhniques but none are as strong or as immeidate. It’s just so true. And that is what makes it so hard to avoid. Have you heard of CARES? Its a technique to avoid any kind of self harming behavior. It has the science to back it up, so it is really proven to work. Bea is really trying to convince me to use it, but i have a lot of resisitance going to right now.
        I don’t know if i resent it or not. I have this really big mad in me, but i typically direct it at myself. Its frightening for me to place it on another person. I feel like this last paragrapgh you wrote just explains, makes sense of so much, beautifully.
        I hope you are able to be kind to yourself today. Xx

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      • No, I haven’t heard of CARES. I should take a look at it. Yes, allowing the anger to be aimed straight at the people who earned it is the trick. I have learned to not completely aim it back at myself as a reflex, every time, in ever situation. I started with MB and a lot of coaxing on her part. She kept on saying, “I’m the safest person you will have to be angry at. I won’t get angry back at you. I promise. I never do at my clients unless they get abusive and I know you, you won’t do that. ”

        She told the truth. She hasn’t ever gotten angry at me for being angry and bringing that anger to her. By the time I talk with her about it, the anger generally has turned to hurt, if it is something fairly large between us, but I am learning how to be angry in that moment with her, now. Mostly it’s about things like my needing for her to stop talking and listen to me and it’s a child part that bursts out with, “Let me talk!” or “Stop!” It’s incredibly healing to have her just respect my outburst and do what I say. Often she will applaud me afterwards for listening to my anger and communicating what I needed. Having little experiences like that over and over have shown me that anger isn’t this huge dangerous thing, especially when it is allowed to be expressed on a regular basis between I two people. Then it gets expressed, dealt with, and it is over.

        I am sure that you already know all of this, but I’m just saying it from how it is working for me, so you can hear it another way, in case that helps.

        Interestingly, the person that I do anger with most healthily is my daughter. Especially in terms of dealing with her anger. Unless I’m already really triggered, it doesn’t bother me. I either remain calm and can deal with it or I get pushed to the point where it is too much and I tell her that she has gone too far and that I need a time out to regain my ability to think clearly. She gets frightened by my anger, partially because she almost never sees it. It made me realize that I needed to show it to her more often, so it became less scary. She still hates it when Mama gets angry at her, but she is now confident that no matter how angry I get, I will always love her and I won’t abandon her. I might just need a bit of time to myself to calm down.

        Enough about me! I’ve been wondering how you are doing and aware that the fact that you aren’t writing isn’t a good sign. 😦 I hope that you are at least feeling a bit of forward progress as you slog through this period. Those stretches where things are in process, but nothing is to the point where it feels better are so hard to make it through. Sending supportive thoughts and believing in you…

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      • Thank you…I am glad you shared how you direct anger away from yourself to the people who it is really at. That helps. Bea has told me it’s okay to be mad her, that it would be completely normal for me to get angry with her. I’ve really only been mad at her once, and then I was so upset I was mad because I really needed her right then. She said I can be mad at her and need her, both at the same time. That fascinated me, it’s so different from the rules of anger when I grew up.

        It’s ironic (I think that’s the right word….) to me, that your daughter is the person you do anger the best with. I can handle Kat’s anger very well, and accept it, and all the stuff no one did for me. Maybe it’s something about you and I not wanting our daughters to grow up like we did. I know I try very hard to do things different than my parents and to accept all the her feelings, and not make her feel like she is bad for feeling however she feels. I fail, a lot, I think. But I try. But when she pushes me to the point where I am frustrated or upset or angry towards her, it’s either I shut down or am very triggered and then proceed to behave like I’m another 5 year old. Sigh. It’s not good. I’m impressed that you can tell her you need a time out. I really, really want to get to that point.

        I’m better than I was, actually. Words are still hard to find, and I feel like there is so much to write, and nothing at all to write, if you know what I mean. I’ve been doing a lot of sewing lately; last year I made Kat sensory friendly (read soft and comfy) princess dresses and she has outgrown them, so I am working on getting all the princesses and a few of the fairies done by her birthday. That’s like 11 more I have left to do, I think, and her bday is July 17. So I have at least had a distraction. I feel like I’m mainly going through the motions, just waiting for everyone around me to see the truth and run from me. Or maybe it’s that I’m waiting for all my anger to explode and send everyone running. I don’t know. But I at least feel a bit more stable than I did, even if I still would say I’m not really okay. I’ve been working on a post for 2 days now, which is a long time for me, but it’s just a slow process of putting all of this into words right now.

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      • Oh, and the CARES protocol, you can search for it, but she also has a book. It’s “letting go of self destructive behaviors” by Lisa Ferentz. It’s on kindle. 😊 it’s a workbook, but you can also just read through it. I read through it and then started the workbook but the teen years exercise got me stuck. And I’m pretty resistant to using CARES, but you know. Maybe one day.

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  2. No wonder you don’t feel ‘there’ around your Mom. You put her first as if you don’t matter or exist. I wish I had been sitting next to you when she talked about renting the cabin with ‘them.’ You mean Ken and family? I’d stand up and shout, “You dam well will NOT invite them, not around Alice and her daughter! Are you out of your mind?”
    Bea is trustworthy, right? She has proved that time and again. Trustworthy does not mean on track perfectly as far as advice, guidance or direction all the time. There are times when you may feel you can fall back into the safety of her guidance, but if you feel this strongly she is not getting it, would you tell her? It sounds like a mix of past of present, not one or the other; and won’t that always be the case?
    You both are right and wrong, it’s somewhere in the middle. Hard to sift out what to work on, but you are the one ultimately who decides. Tell her the truth about how painful that weekend was driving you to default habits which relieve pain immediately but only temporarily and really hurt you long-term. You so deserve freedom from such pain. Tell her.

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    • It’s so hard to see and find a middle ground, but i think you are right– Bea and i are both right. And she is trustworthy. Thank you for writing out that trustworthy does not mean on track perfectly. I think, in addition to struggling to trust, i view trust almost like a child– black or white; feeling that if someone misses the mark, they are suddenly untrustworthy, and all they have done in the past doesnt matter. BUT, you are right. It’s all the actions, all the ways she has shown me i can trust her and that she does care, that need to be considered. And if i add all that to the mix, i can easlily feel connected and like its okay,

      I did manage to tell her how the weekened really went, all the ugly unspoken parts. She didnt flinch, she thought my reactions were “normal and understandsble given the circumstances” and she went on to tell me that she saw it has a huge growth that i was able to sit there and tell the ugly parts of the weekend, that it is a huge change, because i have never done that before. I think i finally realized that i am always hurt when she doesnt get that i am not coping well, but how can she get it if i am not telling her the ugly parts of my week along with the good stuff?

      Thank you for this. Xx

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  3. Keep telling Bea how you feel. Sure she is trustworthy but is not always right. I have run into that with my therapist. It took me a while to tell her I thought she was off base. It is difficult but freeing. Sorry you are in such pain. I have been there. You will find lightness again.

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    • Its very hard to disagree with, and then tell her. When i read your comment, it clicked; i am afraid she will leave me, reject me, if i don’t agree with her, or tell her she is wrong. I was able to CBT the thought, and i did manage to talk to her a little bit yesterday. Thank you. Xx

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  4. I relate a lot to the painful feeling that thanks T doesn’t get it. That’s so hard when you depend on them so much. If you feel you need to talk about the past, I hope you will be able to.

    That said, I can see the sense in not opening up something traumatic in the last minutes of a session. Could be Bea is taking good care of you by advising this.

    Hope you can stay away from your family for a while.

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  5. I love the first comment and that we don’t live to go to therapy to do trauma work but that we go to therapy and do trauma work in order to live the life we want. I too am struggling with finding a balance between the past and the present and I’ve gotten myself all worked up with my T and angry and I don’t know if I love her or if I hate her. And at some point I realized that because of my past I am behaving in this crazy way.
    You said something about Bea not being the one living in your mind and it’s true and I so know that feeling and really it is what we are working on moving away from. And part of therapy probably needs to be not getting sucked back into our minds and learning how to utilize what we know helps and sometimes it’s so confusing and it feels like others don’t care but really they are trying to focus on who we are now and we get pisses that they don’t get it. They are ignoring that child part of us that feels so much who we are in the moment. And we are screaming on the inside that they don’t get it and that we are scared and miserable and want it all to stop and I’m probably not making any sense but I so get it.

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    • I think you nailed it in the last paragraph– its the child part that feels ignored. I wonder, if, by not speaking up, we are ignoring the child part, too? Just a thought….i need to sit with it a while, see if it really fits. But maybe, telling our therapists we need them to pay attention to the child parts even when they arent seeing that part would be helpful? I don’t know.

      You make perfect sense to me. Xx

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      • I’ve found that this messy part of myself that is writing these crazy emails and is feeling clingy and mixed up and messy is really this younger part of myself that feels very sad and scared and alone. She desperately wants affection and to connect but only knew how to do it in sexualized ways and now “I” feel lost and confused as to how to make that connection. So my emails are this combination of intellect and sex and love and overwhelm and really I am trying to explain and tell and I just want to be heard. My T didn’t get the email I wrote her before our session but she replied later that night asking what story I would like for her to read. And of course I have the story in mind and I feel so silly but I think she gets it. πŸ’œ

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  6. I’m sorry things aren’t going well in therapy right now. How frustrating that must be, for her not to really hear your problems. Thinking of you and sending some hugs your way. ❀

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  7. I don’t believe Bea was trying to shut you down at all. But I can see how you’d react as though she was (and I’m sure I’d do the same). Keep talking to her about this. Try not to push her away. This feeling of disconnect can’t last forever. Supporting you xo

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    • I think you are right, she really wasn’t shutting me down. I did go to therapy yesterday, and i did talk a little, and as you said, the disconnect didnt last forever. Thank you for all your support. I hope things are feeling okay for you today. Xx

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  8. Hi Alice,
    Something weird happened and many of the blogs I was following fell off my list, yours included. I wondered why I wasn’t getting any new posts, so I went on your site just now and looked. Sorry to have missed a couple! It sounds like you are hitting up against a really sensitive emotional edge. I really relate to and empathize with wondering why your therapist isn’t drawing out those difficult emotions, why she isn’t asking about the self-harm, why you are having to keep it all inside. Bea sounds very dedicated to your healing, and I am certain she was doing what she felt was right in the moment. I understand how it does not feel that way though, when so triggered. Because you have let her in.
    Hang in there, I think you are doing a really good job of working through the tough emotions. xx

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    • Yes, i think it is a really sensative and emotional edge. And it is extra sensative because i have trusted her with so much. We did talk a little about it, though, and she assured me she is very aware when i am keeping things in the surface and not saying what it really going on. She explained that she doesn’t push me because she doesn’t want to peel off the protective layer if i need it. I told her i need her to be on the side of telling, and that i need her to tell me that she is aware i am in “perfect pretend” mode because otherwise it hurts and feels disconnected when she goes along with my act. She promised to help me be “real” when I am in her office. So its okay.
      I’ve been reading your posts, and i am sorry things are so messy right now. Xx

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