The Ferris Wheel

Monday morning, 8:00 am. I’m sitting on Bea’s couch, left leg tucked under the right, with my right knee bent and hugged to my chest. I’m mostly relaxed, but a little apprehensive. I’m not sure what Bea is going to say, or do today.

“How was the weekend?” Bea asks me.

I tell her about Saturday, taking Kat to the fair and riding all the rides. I love all the rides that spin and usually make people my age sick. I tell her how we went hiking on Sunday for Father’s Day, and how hubby turned a one hour hike into a three hour hike.

“Was it grounding? To be out hiking? Was it a positive thing?” She asks. Bea always tells me that going for a walk, being out in nature is grounding for people.

I shake my head, unsure where she is going with this. “That’s hard to answer. I mean…I don’t know. I hate hiking, I hate the woods. It’s not positive, it’s something I find fairly miserable. My idea of nature is sitting on my deck with a glass of wine.”

“What I’m getting at is if you were able to be disconnected from memories and the past? If being out hiking, or even out with Kat was a break from all of that. I know weekends have been hard, and I was hoping that this weekend was maybe a bit better because you were out doing things not your normal schedule.”

“I don’t know. Maybe. I….hiking is boring. It’s one foot in front of the other, follow the trail. You don’t have to be very present for that. It’s an easy activity that lets me be stuck in my head. So no, I wouldn’t say it was grounding.” I have a bit of an edge to my voice. I don’t want to talk about hiking. There are too many memories of hikes with him, with my brother and his sister and our Dads, all of us hiking and having fun. Too many good memories of him are involved in the woods and hiking. And too many ugly memories are twisted in with the good ones. So, no, it wasn’t a break. It was like being flooded with crap I had left behind in the woods, locked away and buried. Hiking through the woods for three solid hours was just what I needed to have it all come back, full force and clear as day.

Bea says something about how what I say is true, it’s easy for a walk to be mindless, but that we could choose to watch for birds or observe types of trees, or something like that. I shake my head at her. “That’s stuff I’m not ever going to do. It’s something my Dad would pay attention to, or maybe hubby. It’s not for me.”

She backs off, and circles back to the weekend. “So, we talked about the weekend, and it all sounds relatively good. Was it? Or was that the surface version?”

I sigh, and cover my face with my hands.

“I’m asking, because you told me that you need me to keep it real. So, I’m asking, and because you asked me to, I don’t have to feel bad for asking,” she says softly.

I nod. “Just because I asked you to ask, doesn’t mean it’s any easier to talk about.” But at least I know she sees through the whole act of being okay. I need to know she sees through it.

“We’re you present or more dissociated this weekend?” She asks, giving me a starting point.

“I…I’m not sure. Both?” I stumble, trying to answer but it’s difficult to do so. “I didn’t sleep on Friday, not really. I don’t know.”

“We talked about some hard stuff on Thursday. Were you having nightmares again?”

“I had a hard time falling asleep, and then I had a bad dream. It just…I wasn’t…I didn’t sleep after that. Saturday night…I don’t know. I was so tired after the fair, and I took a benedryl and fell asleep, and then I was up at maybe midnight, and just stayed up. And hubby was working all night, and so…I don’t know. And last night I was up and down, and I just gave up at three o’clock.” I shrug.

“When did you feel the most present?” Bea asks.

I’m not sure what I feel when she asks that question, because on one level I know she is trying to help me figure out when I’m more here, but another part of me feels resentful, and like she is getting shrinky on me. I really don’t want her to give me the shrinky feeling, so I go with her question, answer it. “When Kat and I were running from ride to ride at the fair, trying to make sure we got each one, and then going back to all the super spinning ones.” I smile at the memory.

“How did that feel to you?” She asks me.

I freeze. I have a definite shrinky feeling now. I can’t answer. The word is on the tip of my tongue, and part of me wants to tell her I felt happy. But I’m not sure I trust this, now. Never mind the fact that Bea asking questions makes it easier to talk.

“Maybe happy?” She suggests.

I nod. “Yes, I was happy. Kat was happy. We were having fun.”

“So this was a good thing, you were able to connect with her and not be triggered by her.”

I nod, still unsure if Bea is Bea or if she has turned shrinky on me. I feel a little disconnected from her, but I don’t want her to know. The old fear that she will leave if things are not perfect is still there. Will I ever get rid of the fear my parents placed in me?

“Maybe you felt happy and satisfied, the feeling we get as parents when we see our children enjoying something, but also happy because you were enjoying it, too?”

I nod my head yes, agreeing with her, because she is right.

“So when did you feel disconnected? Was it later that day, or on Sunday?”

I shake my head. Neither. “I…we were having a really good time. But then..she….Kat asked me to ride the Ferris Wheel. I don’t..I had to tell her no.” I feel hazy just talking about that. It’s enough to send me away, I don’t want to deal with this.

“I think that’s okay. I grew up with a mom who didn’t ride the Ferris Wheel. She got stuck at the top when she was a kid, and was afraid of the ride after that. So, it was just a ride I rode with my dad. And that was okay.” Bea says.

“I told her daddy would take her on it when he brought her back up to the fair after dinner. So..I don’t know.” I pause, and breathe. I can feel tears forming. This is so stupid, to be upset over this. “I don’t…I can’t..I don’t ride that ride.” I tell Bea, and then tears do fall.

“That was the ride?” She asks. It seems that the picture has clicked into place, and she gets it now.

“Yeah. That was the ride. So I don’t..I can’t..I haven’t since…….” My voice trails off, and I look at Bea. I don’t even know what I’m feeling. Part of me is far away, but there is a piece of me that feels ashamed and upset and overwhelmed and dirty.

“It was the Ferris Wheel at [the theme park].” She says.

I don’t know what happens, exactly, but fear and sickness wash over me and I feel too hot. I feel trapped, no way out. And I can actually feel the gondola on the Ferris Wheel swinging slightly. It’s like he is right there, right next to me. I curl both legs up to my chest and bury my face. I don’t want to see or be seen. I want to hide. This isn’t okay. Nothing is okay. Everything is scary, and no where is safe.

“What just happened for you?” Bea asks me.

I can’t answer her. I can’t breathe. She is very far away, and I really don’t know if I trust her right now. It doesn’t feel like she is here.

“I saw something on your face. You were clearly very triggered. Was it a feeling? A picture? What happened?”

I shake my head. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. I think she scared me. I’m not sure. Everything is a big, twisted mess, and no one is safe enough to trust. Everyone leaves.

“Can you try to breathe, try to be more in your body?”

I don’t know. I can’t catch my breathe. I can’t….I’ve been holding this in all weekend. The Ferris Wheel. I was so triggered when Kat asked me. Later, hubby took Kat back to the fair, and I stayed home. I felt like I could hardly function. I cut and then took a few benedryl, ensuring I would sleep and not have to deal with this mess.

“I think we need to figure out what happened, before we talk about what is going on now. That was a really powerful reaction you had. It looked like you reacted when I said [theme park]. It looked like pure terror to me.” Bea says. She seems so far from me, so disconnected. I’m pretty sure she is being gentle and kind, but all I feel is disconnect. And I’m afraid she is annoyed with me, tired of this, seriously irritated that I’m freaking out over a Ferris Wheel. Another part of me is thinking that maybe she is finally seeing how easily I’m triggered right now, and how big those things are and how little control I actually have over any of this.

I sit, shaking and crying and stuck in flashback land. I can’t escape it. I don’t know what to do. Bea is still talking, but I don’t have a clue what she is saying. I can’t focus on her words right now. Eventually I manage to calm myself a little, to come back. I feel off balance, like I’ve woken from a dream and missed something.

“We were talking about the Ferris Wheel,” I say slowly.

“Yes, we were talking about the Ferris Wheel,” Bea confirms. Maybe she thinks I’ve lost my mind. I don’t know.

“And then you said….you said the place. And I was really scared. I couldn’t think.”

“You looked terrified,” she tells me.

I’m quiet, I don’t know what else to say.

“Was it a big Ferris Wheel?”

I nod.

“Was it a single or a double?”

I’m not sure I even know what a double Ferris Wheel is. “A single.” I answer, but my voice is uncertain.

We sit, quiet for a minute.

And then, I start to tell her the story. “I…I wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel again.”

“When you were leaving? Or right after?”

“Right after. We’d already ridden. Me, my mom, Jackie, her mom in one. The girls in one, boys in the other.”

“It was one that held four people?”

I nod. “The cars…I don’t know. They were round, you know?”

“A gondola, I think they call them,” Bea supplies.

“Yes. That’s it,” I say.

“So everyone had already ridden, and you wanted to go again?” She asks.

“Yeah…so he said he would ride with me. The others…they went to the corkscrew. I didn’t want to ride the roller coaster anyway, so it was good. It worked. Everyone was happy.”

“So you really were left alone.”

“No…he was there with me. I don’t know.” I shake my head. I’m so confused.

“I wonder why he didn’t want to ride the roller coaster? Or why no one questioned why he would stay and ride with you?” Bea asks. I don’t know if she is asking because she is curious, or maybe she doesn’t believe me. I don’t know. Why is everything so confusing?

“Everyone was happy this way. I don’t know.” I say. A part of me wants to scream that he was a freaking Boy Scout, always there to help, always a good, helpful boy. So everyone trusted him. I don’t know.

“I still wonder how old you were?”

I’m starting to feel really alone in this, attacked. Like Bea is mad at me for not remembering enough, or not having enough of the answers, or for being so upset over something so stupid, or something, I don’t know what. “I don’t know. I’m sorry. I don’t remember, I don’t know. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” I’m pleading with her not to be angry.

“It’s okay. You don’t have anything to be sorry for. I just keep remembering how much older than you he is,” she says.

I hug my knees tighter, dig my nails into my scalp. I can’t do this. I really am so alone, and I can’t handle this all alone.

“What happened after the ride?” Bea asks.

I think that I haven’t even told her what happened on the ride, but I wouldn’t be able to tell her anyway.

“I don’t..it sounds weird,” I say, feeling like this is going to make it seem like everything is one giant lie. “I don’t remember what happened. I don’t even remember getting off the ride.”

“That makes sense. You probably dissociated.” Bea tells me.

I think she talks about how this is different than what he normally did, so very public, it felt different to her. I don’t know. I think she says something about this being about power, or control. Maybe she asks if I remember feeling scared.

“No…I…it’s strange. I’m sick and scared now, but I don’t feel anything in the memory. It’s just..blank. Nothing.”

“I think you had already learned to dissociate, and that anytime you were around him you maybe dissociated a little to protect yourself. Being around him was a trigger to dissociate,” she explains.

I nod. Okay. I don’t know. She asks me to think about what the little girl felt, and to maybe write about it, if I can. She suggests that this made things really hard on me, because no where was safe. Somehow anger comes up, and she wonders where my anger at him is.

That teen part of me that is usually quite buried pops out. “Why are you always wanting for me to be so angry?” I snap at Bea.

There’s a pause, and I think she is maybe surprised by my reaction. “It’s not about me wanting you to be angry. I just think that it is human to be angry. How could any human being in your position not be angry?”

I shake my head. I don’t know. She’s wrong. I’m not angry.

“That anger is there, somewhere. It has to be. We’ve seen it at your parents for not protecting you, at yourself for being part of this, even if that belief is misguided. But we haven’t seen anger at him, not yet. But it must be there.”

“I think you see this differently than I do,” I state in an almost monotone voice.

“Yes, I think so,” she agrees.

After a moment, Bea tells me we have just a few minutes left. I let the “perfect me” take over and pull on that mask of okayness. I smile at Bea, tell her I am okay and say goodbye.

It seems I can’t get off the Ferris Wheel. I’m still circling around and around, confused, alone, and unsure who I can really trust.

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19 thoughts on “The Ferris Wheel

  1. I am always so worried over all the crap, or ‘uglies’ you have to carry because of that creep, I have other names too but I’ll spare you. It’s so unfair.
    In the first paragraph, I wonder if you could email her and explain why hiking isn’t a pleasure? It is a very simple way to let her in a little. But I also understand the need to keep her at a certain distance so that you control the pace and closeness…so important.
    That you can share so much as it is awes me. I could not go to those places until the book regurgitated itself out of me.

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  2. Alice, I was thinking the same thing about the hiking and how she couldn’t have known and you were triggered and not present from the get go. And it’s so difficult to be stuck on the Ferris wheel and have someone questioning and not being able to answer. I think my T gets this and I’ve explained that when I get stuck like that that I can’t think to talk. You go into shock–dissociatiation is like being in this frozen place and your mind doesn’t work and you can’t make sense of things or say what you need because your in that place that you don’t want to be. I’ve found that my T moving closer and sitting with me or next to me is very helpful.

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  3. I relate to that feeling of being in the experience, and not able to answer questions from the T. And that image of being stuck on a Ferris wheel is so vivid. It does go round and round, like these early painful memories also do.

    I think you are doing so well at tackling all this. Can you try and give yourself credit for starting to talk about it, and for surviving as best you could? Meeting the pain and confusion with kindness helps a lot.

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    • I’m glad the image of being stuck on the ferris wheel is so easy to see. It seemed to fit, here. I don’t know. And I am sorry you know this feeling.

      I always feel like you are so smart, Ellen. Its hard to give myself any credit. Bea has said similar things. I’m trying. I can see that from when i started therapy to now, i am able to be more present, that i can name and feel my feelings. But its hard. Xx

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  4. This sounds like a really scary and painful memory. I am just so sorry for everything that happened to you, and for all of the pain you are now experiencing and working through. I’m sorry it is coming up, but I am really inspired that you are willing to work through it, slowly and carefully, with Bea. You are doing a really amazing job.

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      • I agree, there is a reason why we sought out help in the first place, right? As hard as the therapy process is, hiding and self-harm harder. I think we can do it, with a lot of gentleness and patience. Decades of trauma won’t be undone overnight, or even in a couple of years, probably.

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  5. Wow Alice, what a challenging session. Well done for being there and staying present for a lot of it! Personally, I think writing it all down for her may be scary but it will help prove to you that Bea is going nowhere and she is going to help you. I think the flashback you had may turn out to be really important- I’ve already had two in front of Dr K and she’s helped me through them. Bea will do the same for you. We aren’t going anywhere either, we will all stay and help. Stay safe and try not to hurt yourself, we are all rooting for you x

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    • It was a hard session. I did write a lot of it to her, more in the way of questions of “what if?” I’ve had flashbacks in her office before, but this was different. I couldn’t hide it from her. I don’t know. Thank you for rooting for me. Xx

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      • I’ve stopped trying to hide when I feel back from Dr K because she just KNOWS when it’s happening. I hope you’re feeling better at the minute Alice. Keep on fighting x

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  6. FIrst of all, I’m sorry any of this happened to you. As I was reading the piece about you trying to convey this moment to Bea and struggling, I really related. I always feel like I’m somehow being attacked or questioned or disbelieved when my therapist asks clarifying questions about abuse memories or related memories. Because they are so disjointed or inaccessible, it’s hard to make sense of the pieces I do have. I feel incredibly sensitive and paranoid about being asked about them. I don’t know – I just…it’s nice to know I’m not alone in those feelings.

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    • Thanks Andi. Its so hard to not feel attacked when asked questions about the abuse. Bea constantly reminds me that disjointed memories, not having all the answers, ext, is NORMAL. It just feels bad, and makses it easy to not beleive ourselves or to feel like others don’t believe.

      Liked by 1 person

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