Monday, after I wake up late and rush to Bea’s office, I walk in fairly calm, Hagrid in tow. It’s my last session before her vacation. She’s going to be gone for 3 sessions.
“Good morning,” I say, after my usual knock on the door followed by poking my head into the office.
Bea is sitting in her chair, waiting for me. She smiles, waves me in. “Good morning. I was just reading some of those funny things people put of facebook. This one was a fake study that proves children behave 200% worse for their mothers. It says the bad behavior includes kicking, whining, forgetting how to walk, crying, yelling, not knowing how to feed oneself, and so on.”
I smile, and try to laugh, but I can’t quite get a laugh out. I’ve sat on my usual spot, but I’ve opted to sit criss cross applesauce, with Hagrid on my lap. I can’t find any words, and so I just look at her.
After a moment, Bea takes a drink of her tea and says, “I was thinking today we could go through all the hard things on that list from last time, and do our best to sort through and contain them.”
I shrug a little. “Okay.” I give her a quick run down of the weekend; meeting my mom, feeling so separate from Hubby.
“Did your mom say anything about what happened?”
“No…she just…I don’t know.” I shake my head. “She said she just couldn’t deal with my Fad anymore, and his depression.”
This is news to Bea. I’m not 100% convinced my Dad is depressed, but there is something. I tell her my Dad’s history as best I know it; how my Grandpa had a nervous breakdown and ended up in the hospital, how his mother was not a good mother and would leave the kids locked out of the house while she entertained her boyfriends. I tell Bea how his mother was very narcissistic and emotionally cruel, that she has been married maybe 8 or 9 times now. I tell her how my Grandpa divorced the woman and married my Grandma, that each of the kids– all 4 of them– chose to live full time with grandpa and grandma as soon as they were old enough. I tell her how my uncle had a breakdown after my aunt left him. I tell her that mental illness seems to run in the family. I don’t tell her that my aunt– my dad’s older sister– was molested by one of the boyfriends, or that their mother believed the boyfriend over her daughter. I don’t tell her that their mother used to babysit my one cousin and that my cousin told her parents that grandma was hurting her– but she could never say how. I don’t tell her that the diagnosis that run in my family are bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I’m not sure why, exactly. The best I can explain is that I am afraid she will decide everything I have ever told her might not be true, and maybe I really am just sick. But I give her a pretty compressive background, considering that no one talks of these things and it’s taken me my whole life to put even that much together.
“This, this all explains a lot. It gives me a 3-D picture of your Dad. Before, he was always off on the sidelines, just there, because we focused much more on your mom, but this fills in a lot.” Bea shifts positions in her seat, and reaches down to pet Hagrid.
I’m honestly not sure of everything we talked about after that. I’ve been existing in this fuzzy state, where it is hard to form memories.
Before the session ends, Bea brings up Hubby. “I think one of the things that is so sad to me is he could be such a support to you right now, but he feels too distant for you to talk to him.”
I sigh. “Please don’t try to convince me to talk to him. He can’t be that person.” There is so much I want to say about Hubby, I could fill many sessions with it all. “I just…he needs do be on the surface. I don’t know if it’s because of the stuff with his mom, or what. But I can not keep opening up to him, and ending up hurt. I don’t know. I’m done.” I look up, right at Bea and say again, “I’m done. I can’t keep doing this.” As soon as the words are out, I feel so fatigued, as if I could sleep a month.
“It’s hard when we are vulnerable and we aren’t heard or seen,” Bea tells me.
“He doesn’t get it. It’s like…layers. Before, when we first met, got married, even a year ago, if I told him xyz and he didn’t listen, I was fine with being mad and him apologizing. That was surface stuff. But now, I want him to understand it’s not about him not doing xyz, it’s about being hurt that he didn’t listen, and I want to talk about that, about the hurt of not feeling seen by him and why he is being so distant. But that’s not something he can do. So. It’s surface stuff, that’s what he can do.”
Bea says something; I don’t know what, but I think it must have been understanding.
I stumble over words and sentences get trapped in my throat. “I…ug…well…..I don’t know….what changed…but I…expect…no…need more.” I shake my head. In the course of this last year, I’ve gone from someone who needs to hide everything, remain detached and numb no matter what, someone who can not do emotions or handle anything deeper than the veryI surface stuff to a person who wants to look beneath the surface, who wants a real connection, who wants to talk through the feelings. Something changed. Maybe this is the result of “the process”, I’m not sure. I only know I’m not the same person who married Hubby. “We always end up back here. Don’t we?! With hubby unable and me tired of it? I can’t keep pushing him to do something he can not do, to be what he can’t be. So, it’s surface with him, I’m done.”
Bea points out all the ways hubby has worked to connect with me, add that there are ups and downs in marriage; like all relationships there is an ebb and flow.
I shake my head at her. “This is different. It’s what we always come back to. And I can’t keep getting hurt, banging my head on a brick wall.” I ask her again if she sees this is what hubby and I seem to always come back to.
She nods, and says something about not giving up, they being vulnerable is what lets us make connections.
“He just can’t be that person,” I tell her. I feel sad, saying that.
“Not until he does his own work,” she agrees.
“Yes. He needs a shrink. I know it seems silly, for me to want my husband in therapy but be upset my parents are in therapy.”
“Not at all. Those are two different things. Just remember though, people change. Your parents are different people now than when you were growing up.”
I nod. I know. I feel listened to, heard, seen. Finally. It’s what I have needed all weekend; what I have needed for weeks. The ironic thing is, you can’t feel heard and seen without being vulnerable first which is so counter intuitive to how I want to be seen but yet feel this giant need to hide all the vulnerable parts of myself. There is a voice in my head that says it is not safe to show these parts of myself no matter how much I want to be seen.
I think we talked about why it feels so frightening that my parents are in therapy, but I can not be sure.
At the end of session, Bea tells me she would send a picture and a message on Friday for Kat, and that she felt bad that this trip was such bad timing with all the changes in Kat’s life and with the loss of her nanny causing Kat to worry other people will leave. I smile, and say “It is what is is. You can’t change your vacation over it. She’ll be okay, and a message will help. It’s not like you can plan around every little thing that might come up.”
Bea nods and we talk about Kat for a minute. “You can email me. Or text or call of you need to.”
I shake my head at her. “It’s your vacation, I won’t bother you.”
Bea looks at me, and it seems like she is debating something with herself. Finally she says, “I don’t like leaving you when so much is going on. I want you to know I am here, and you can email or call or text. It’s okay. I’ll have time for you.”
I look away from her. It’s uncomfortable, being told so directly that even on vacation she is still here. It makes me feel safe and like she is supporting me even when she isn’t here. It’s silent in the office for what feels like a long time. Finally I say, “Okay.”
After that, it’s time to get ready to go. I wish Bea a good vacation and double check when our next appointment is. She wishes me a good week, and reminds me that she is here. I don’t feel as panicked as I did the first time she went away and we missed one session. I’ve never missed 3 sessions before, but right now I feel okay about it. Maybe it’s because I really do trust that she will respond to an email, answer a text or talk on the phone if I need her to. I finally believe she isn’t leaving me, or going to quit me I trust that she will be here while she is on vacation and that she will come back. I think I really do trust her when she says that she is on this journey with me.