Now what?

Monday, after that intense yet so detached and dissociated session, I went for a long walk. I thought and I sorted through some of what we talked about. And then I sent Bea an email. (She did eventually respond, acknowledging that she had not gotten to it, and promising she would later in the day. Her responses are in italics and quotes.)

Hi Bea,
You asked me about sleep and eating. Sleep, we covered. Really, I think in some ways I sleep worse when I’m not dealing with feelings and stuff, I’m more restless in sleep, more anxious. I have more nightmares sometimes, when I don’t talk about things– like camping and Ferris wheels and all that ugly stuff. But really, the main thing is I don’t sleep and I do it to myself because I fight sleep. I can take a Benadryl and be almost knocked out from it and still fight falling asleep. So, it’s my own doing. Eating…..I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it. I feel like maybe at some point we have to, and for some reason that scares me as much as talking about the trauma stuff scares me. It’s almost like that is where I have safety and control and I am not giving that up completely, or even risking the idea of giving it up, or even going to make myself vulnerable enough to really talk about eating stuff. 
I think you have to separate talking about it from feeling that anything has to change. First we have to make it real–right now I feel like it dwells in this shadowy land where you–and I–can pretend it doesn’t exist. But it does! It’s very real, and while it’s giving you a sense of control, from the outside it appears more that it’s controlling you. We need to do some work with it as it is now, not as we’d like it to be. That’s not real either! What is it right now? It’s meaning, it’s shape, it’s color. What are it’s attributes? We need to make it real, to put it on your circle as part of who Alice is. No judgement, just what it is.


We should continue talking about–and trying things–with sleep too.”
And you asked about being present or dissociated. I said I didn’t know, and then I said it was sort of both. But then Hagrid and I went for a nice long walk, and I really thought about it. And I have a messy, confusing answer. 
I am present but not. It’s strange, and I’m not even sure I have the language to describe it, to explain it. It’s like I’m split, somehow. Part of me is away and not here and everything in my life that is going on has a very unreal quality to it. And part of me is present, at least on the surface, and able to function and be “normal” and here, even if there isn’t much feeling or emotion attached to what is going on. It’s like I’ve found a box to bury, or store, all those feelings and emotions in. And I guess depending which part I’m more aware of at any given time kind of influences my answer to the “internal weather report” question. But if I really were to take a step back, it would be more that I’ve split things; the me who is not here and none of this feels real, and the me who is present and has to function on the surface and all the feelings are buried and boxed up. I had to think about this, because answering that it felt like both, or that I didn’t know, wasn’t exactly right. I just wasn’t sure how to explain. And now I think I figured out how to explain it, and I feel crazy. I feel like this sounds crazy. 
“I think being split is a very accurate description in many ways. It’s very helpful when you have the ability to put things in a container–this is a good skill, not crazy!”
You didn’t see me being far away this summer, and really, you wouldn’t have. I wasn’t, and I was. It was just far enough away to function. But…there is that feeling of, I KNOW we went camping, I KNOW I rode on the Ferris wheel, I KNOW that there were a lot of changes this summer. I KNOW that Kat and I swam a lot and she swims like a fish now, and I KNOW I took Kat to school on her first day and left her her even though she was upset. But it might as well be someone else’s life I’m talking about, it doesn’t feel quite real, it’s not….I don’t know. I mean, I have it all organized and in control and people are impressed by how on top of things I am,but I might as well be talking about someone else’s life I organized. But oh my word is that a crazy, scary thing to really put into words and then write down on paper. And then to share….ugh. I don’t know. It just sounds crazy making.  
It has worked when you needed it to. That’s what I was referring to in terms of feeling more confident when things start spinning out of control–you have a coping state that you can get back to.”
Mostly, especially the last two weeks, I’ve felt like I’m balancing on a high wire without a net, very precariously and that I have to be very careful to keep this balance and not fall over either direction. I suppose that might be leading to more anxiety, or panic, or something. I don’t know. But I think if that box of feelings gets open, I will fall off the wire. And that’s not even thinking about all the mess that fall brings with it. Or the fact that I can’t add my Grandpa’s death to my map, or my own personal stuff to the map. It’s almost like starting over, in some ways; I’ve spent the whole summer fairly locked down, detached from myself in some ways and my feelings and emotions and even, in some ways, I guess, my life, and now all of that is past, and therapy can resume, but it’s like I forgot how to find where I buried my feelings, where I buried the past– be it the recent past or the distant past. It’s like the break was needed so that I could get Kat through the transitions, but now I’m not sure how to do this anymore. And I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’ll end up overwhelmed. I’m afraid I will fall apart. I’m afraid that because I was “fine” and “okay” and made it through this summer with no issue, no breakdowns or falling apart, that’s expected now. Now I HAVE to be be okay, no matter what. Because now you really know I can be okay. And that’s probably not what you meant, about the summer showing us things about therapy, but now….it seems like that is what you meant, or something like it. Like your expectations have changed, or you see that I can really be okay, no matter what is going on. Ugh. So I can’t even try to find that box, or talk bad dreams, or talk eating or anything because I might fall apart. And then what? It’s not okay. I guess the cost of always being okay is that I can’t deal with feelings and emotions and anything else. I can only deal with concrete, day to day, functional daily living things. Nothing deeper. Because then I will be break into pieces, and I might not function as well, or something. This is so frustrating. Like I’m caught between worlds; now I’m aware of some of these things, but I’m too afraid to change it or do something different, where before I wasn’t aware of it at all. I don’t know. And I guess the cost of being okay is nightmares, and not sleeping or sleeping restless, and having moments of panic during the day where I can’t breathe and the eating stuff and whatever else. But maybe that’s not so bad. 
“Well, now we can really start to open up the container slowly and continue working on all this–but trying to preserve your functioning as much as we can while still moving on with this. I could feel the stress of the last two weeks. It was real, legitimate stress!!! Anybody would have been precariously balanced!”
Is any of this making any sense whatsoever? I feel like I just keep trying and trying to explain how I feel, and I’m not sure it makes sense, that it even can make sense to someone else. Or maybe I’m afraid it just sounds crazy. Maybe both. And maybe, this is just life, and I’m being a drama queen. Plenty of parents sending their kids to school had changes and transitions this summer and whatever, and aren’t all kinds of crazy like I am. Which is hard for me. Because I feel like I should logically be able to deal with this stuff and not be split, or dissociated, or detached, or whatever else. Faking normal wasn’t working, I couldn’t hide everything from myself or anyone else anymore. So I came to therapy. And now I can see things I didn’t before, and I can feel my feelings and name them, and I’m more aware than I used to be. But I’m still not “normal.” Or maybe I’m just….I don’t know. Making a big deal out of things. Ugh.
It all makes a whole lot of sense! I’m going to send this now as I’m out of time to write.”
~Alice 

And then she didn’t respond. I was anxious and vulnerable and feeling left. I don’t know, exactly. But I couldn’t reach out to her. Maybe I needed to see if she would respond on her own; a kind of test. One she sort of, eventually passed. Because she did respond. But it was so much later than usual, and the first thing I put out there, that I opened up about, she didn’t seem as attuned as she once was. I don’t know. Maybe I am really losing it, or looking for reasons to avoid opening up again. But I feel….hurt. Like she left me, or like I’m lower on her list of priorities now that she knows I can be okay, no matter what. I don’t know. I have therapy in the morning, and I feel rather like a sulky teenager, angry that I “have” to go. I don’t like this feeling, this fear, any of this. I wanted her to pass this test….this stupid test that I didn’t even see as a test until now. But I wanted her to pass it, so I would know for sure it’s okay, and safe to talk. But she didn’t exactly pass. Now what? 

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18 thoughts on “Now what?

  1. Alice, I’m going to remind you of some things that you probably know, but you may not be in touch with at the moment. I know that when things get so intense, it’s hard to remember in more than a superficial way some of the things that can help us to separate then from now.

    Bea is human and she will let you down some times. It’s inevitable. And obviously this is one of the times. It’s pretty miserable because it brings up all sorts of difficult feelings, but at the same time it’s actually a good thing. That’s because it gives you a chance to go in and say, “I feel like we aren’t in the same wavelength and I really need to feel understood by you.” And then you can experience her accepting that, not punishing you for sharing that you feel like you aren’t getting what you need, and the two of you working out something together. I’m going to bet that you have rarely experienced that sort of interaction with someone, if ever. I can tell you from experience that doing it repeatedly leads to stronger relationships both in and out of therapy and a greater sense of self worth and confidence.

    I know that dealing with the therapeutic relationship is scary for you and I feel for you with the amount of anxiety that you are currently dealing with. But you yourself have said it, avoiding things doesn’t actually make them better. Instead the issues come out in different ways, like sleep and eating.

    I suspect that Bea is trying to go really slowly and not put pressure on you and overwhelm you. Unfortunately, if that’s what she’s doing, then she’s coming across to you as unengaged and not picking up on how things really are. Another thought… I know that MB is always trying to point out to me how what I am doing is succeeding, even if it is only partway succeeding. Sometimes that drives me batty because I’m so far from where I want to be, but I also understand that she is trying to get me to pay attention to where I am developing strengths and not just remain stuck in feeling helpless and out of control. I wonder if Bea is doing something similar here.

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    • I know you get this…all the fears about the relationship. I also know you are right, that telling her I feel like we are on a different wavelength and I need to feel understood is the best, really the only thing to do to resolve this. It just feels…scary. Like it will be disappointing, or she won’t get it, or she will argue that she is understanding, or any number of things. Because you are right, I’ve never really told someone they are getting it wrong…I don’t know.

      I think you might be right on both counts; she is trying to slow things down and trying to point out where I am doing better– even if it’s not where I think I should be.

      The whole relationship, talking about the relationship, admitting it matters is hard. Frightening. I hate that I get like this; so frozen and afraid around anything to do with the relationship. I guess this could be said of my other close relationships..I don’t know. I suppose it’s time to try to talk this out. I’m just not sure I can.

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      • I hear what you are saying about being in a scary, overwhelmed feeling place and how weak and vulnerable you are feeling. When it’s like this, it feels like one wrong move can just be shattering.

        Heck, I spent my entire last session struggling with my ambivalence over whether to share a new part with MB or not. I do not want to go anywhere near what this part holds and yet the part needs to feel known and accepted. That’s not quite right, but it’s as close as a quick description is going to get. Add on top that I’m going on Monday to have probable skin cancer looked at by a dermatologist, so I think that there was more internal pressure to not open up anything painful. Oh, plus the previous Friday MB and I had a massive reenactment of the dynamics between my mom and me. And on Tuesday evening this part was ready to introduce herself to MB, so I tried to text MB and ask her if she could call. MB didn’t get the message for a couple of hours and by then my family situation didn’t allow my to stay that open, so I had texted back to tell her “never mind.” All of it added up to a miserable session with me struggling to talk and MB being patient with me, but definitely being way out of sync. I hate these stretches of struggle to trust and allow her to be close, however I do have enough experience now to know not to panic. We’ll work through it and on the other side we will have an even stronger working relationship.

        I’ve seen how strong you are, my friend. I trust that you can do the relationship work. Just remember that you don’t have to do the whole thing at the same time. You can pick off as small of a piece as you like and just do that to start. There is always “talking about talking about something,” prefacing it with, “I’m not committing myself to actually talk about this and I need to not feel pressured to talk about it.”

        You can do it!

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      • I like this idea…”I’m talking about talking, not committing myself to talking about this”. I have done this before about things, and silly as it sounds, talking about talking about it is very helpful to me. Thank you for this reminder.

        I’m sending good thoughts your way for the result on Mondays appointment, I hoe the dermatologist has good news.

        I’m so sorry for all the struggles you are having with this new part. I hate being out of sync with Bea, and I’m sorry you feel that with MB right now, I like how you have this confidence that you will work through it and the relationship will be stronger. I always think everyone is braver than me, more willing to talk about the relationship piece…but maybe I’m wrong, maybe everyone started here in this place of huge fear, and I’m seeing where you have gotten to. I don’t know.

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      • Yes. Especially when you have opened yourself up to someone for the first time. Like your insides are exposed and that is such a vulnerable, sensitive, raw and open time, yet so necessary.
        Add to that up till now, you have done things on your own, keep all that in. So it’s also hard to be in place to need someone. It’s a double whammy. But she won’t leave you intentionally. You will be the one leaving her when you are ready.

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      • This makes me so sad right now– that I will leave her. Oh, I am so not ready for that. But, I think you are right, she won’t leave on intentionally. But it’s hard. You know. Like you said, opening up to someone for the first time is really hard. I’ve depended on me, and kept so much locked down and at arm’s length, that this is hard.

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      • It is. Laying oneself bare like that. Of course you feel a great need for reassurance. As I did. As your therapist would if the roles were reversed.
        Even though Raymond left years ago, and of course there’s sadness in that, I remember him so fondly. Like yesterday, walking the meadow. Fall, the scents of the forest drying, reminds me of him and the scent in his office, of earth and dried plants, so soothing. And it just made me feel good to know that are people, healers, who do heal, who have good intentions, character, and depth.

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  2. It makes so much sense that you would feel she isn’t attuned and as engaged with you – of course! Your history was full of people so very NOT attuned to you. That is your framework for vulnerable relationship. And can you remind yourself of the support she has provided, knowing it will always be not enough, because therapy can’t be everything we wish it could (and probably the therapists also wish it could), and that some needs will get met by her, and some won’t. And working through this painful anxiety and hurt will ultimately make the hurt feel less intense. I know how hard it is, when those tender spots are triggered.

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    • I know you know how hard it is to have these tender spots triggered. And yea, she has provided so much support…I think part of the problem is I don’t feel that support now. I think it’s more on my end, but I’m looking for answers and basically blaming it on “she saw I made it through the summer ok, so now she has this expectation of me being able to handle more. Which obviously means she can pull back the level of support she was providing”. Like I have”grown up” in therapy, and now don’t need her as much– or that’s what I’m thinking/feeling that she is thinking/feeling. And to outright ask if that is the case….ugh. So vulnerable, so scary…it’s too much. I might send an email. I don’t know yet.

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