Digging deeper

“So, you never did write more about the IEP meeting.” Bea shifts in her chair, looking at me curiously. I’d written to tell her we got the IEP, along with the educational diagnosis for autism, (as dumb as it is, there are two diagnosis, educational and medical. Kat has carried a medical diagnosis for two years.) and then said I might write more details later, but I was very tired and not so numb anymore, and just couldn’t find the energy to write at the moment. 
“I was just so tired.” I sigh, take a big drink of coffee. I’m still tired. Exhausted, really. 
“You said you were feeling more, now.” Bea’s voice is carefully neutral, just slightly curious. 
I shrug my shoulders and quickly become very interested in my bright pink nails. After a moment, I say, “I’m not sure what to say. I feel like i should have something to say, but I just don’t. I don’t know.”
“It’s hard, trying to get back into real therapy, isn’t it? Not that the other stuff isn’t work, but trying to get back under the surface, trying to sit with these feelings is hard.” 
I don’t say anything. I hide my hands and try to pick at my cuticles. It doesn’t work as well as usual; I’d given myself a gel manicure earlier this week, which always seems to make the sharpness of my nails dulled down and the nail edge thicker– making it harder to pick. I hadn’t wanted my nails and fingers torn up when I met and shook hands with Kat’s IEP team. 
“You feel farther away today. Do you have that feeling?” Bea asks. I nod my head and she pauses, maybe studying me. “You even look different,” she tells me. 
My head jerks up, I’m surprised. “What?!” 
Bea smiles, reassuringly. “You just look less guarded, less like you are wearing a mask,” she explains.
I try to laugh it off, her explanation makes me uncomfortable. “Oh, you mean I look like a mom who was up half the night with her kid having bad dreams.”
Instead of commenting, or asking about Kat and her bad dreams, she says, “What was coming up on Tuesday?”
I shake my head. How do I explain that after holding it all together all summer, being on my game this whole month, that having the IEP meeting done with and being able to feel more settled about Kat and school, it was like I was tired and emotionally drained, it felt like I had used up all my abilities to be present, yet detached and calm, organized, efficient. So, driving home I had this overwhelming urge to cry. Then, I drove past a sign advertising AWANAS. I felt sick, like i needed to throw up. I couldn’t breathe, and I felt like I was trapped. What about that sign was triggering, I don’t know. It was, however the most I have felt in months. When I got home, I laid in bed and cried, terrified and feeling like I was bad and going to be in major trouble. Instead of sharing this information with her, I say, “I don’t know. It was hard….leaving Kat at school…today, she was crying, asking me why I don’t love her anymore….it was….I had to fight to not cry…it was harder to be separate, detached now.”
“Ahh..mhhmhhm,” Bea says, nodding while I struggle to get the words out. Then, she says, “You aren’t anxious about school, it was hard to leave her because she was so upset, but you still remained calm for her. My guess is you weren’t anxious about leaving your mom or going to school when you were a kid. Do you remember?”
I rack my brain. Slowly, I shake my head. “I really don’t. I just…I liked school. I liked going. I don’t really remember kindergarten very good. Bits and pieces. Random stuff. I remember first grade better. Like…..not wanting the teacher I got. But then I ended up liking her.”
Bea waits a moment, and then says, “Wasn’t the first grade teacher the one you told?”
I sit, still and silent for what feels like a long time.
Bea says, “It’s strange, I was just really feeling once again how you have two realities. We are talking about school and your memories, and the sexual abuse stuff feels so far away, and even though we have talked about it, it can still be hard to bring up, to talk about.”
“I….I drew a picture…for her.” The words come out in stops and starts, with that familiar feeling of being far away from them, from this conversation. 
“What was the picture of?” 
I dig in my memory, and can almost see it. “My room…my bed, with monsters…I’m hiding in a box….it’s my closet, I think.”
“Did she ask about the picture?” Bea’s voice is soft, kind.
I nod. “Scary things happen at night. That’s what I said.”
It feels like a long time before Bea responds, but I’m sort of floaty, like a sheer veil is wrapped around me, and time seems to be different in lala land. “And I’m sure she thought you were a nice girl, from a nice family, and that it was just normal bad dream stuff, nothing more to worry about.”
I shrug. “Maybe…..I think….”
Carefully, Bea says, “It feels like the little girl is very close today. I haven’t felt her in a long time.”
“Maybe that’s where all the feelings go,” I say. There’s a disconnect between what I am feeling and thinking and the words that come out of my mouth before I can stop them. 
Bea looks like she is thinking, trying to fill in the blanks around what I have said. She finally nods. “Yes, that would make sense. You had to keep the little girl away to be able to cope, and you had to keep the feelings away. So, they go to the same place, and with the return of feelings, the little girl returns.”
I nod, and smile. That’s it. She got it. 
“I wonder if after a break from the little girl, and having compassion and fighting for Kat, if you are able to have some compassion for the little girl? If you can feel that no child is inherently bad?” Bea’s questions make my tummy feel funny and my insides freeze.
I am unable to form a sentence. I don’t want to think about this.
Bea is still talking, but her words are’t penetrating my brain fully. I know she is saying that it’s not logical for one child to deserve to be fought for and another to not be. Or something like that. I think she asks if the little girl feels more integrated, less bad, more like part of me now.
I have this desire to yell at Bea that I am not the little girl, to shout that she is bad, evil, and that I hate her. But that is not the kind of feelings I believe are safe to show, and so I keep quiet.
Things get really fuzzy after that, until I find myself saying, “I think….I think the only reason it sticks in my head is……I know what I drew and I know what are the scary things that happen at night…and she was just….being a grown up, asking a question the way grow ups do without really meaning it or it mattering.” 
I’m pretty sure that there has been some time between when we were talking about school and now, but Bea doesn’t falter. “She might have asked about your drawing because it wasn’t expected to see a drawing like that. Do you think she would have talked to your parents?”
I shake my head. “No…or if she did, they wouldn’t have talked to me.”
I don’t know where this conversation goes, but then Bea is telling me about a news story from this summer, about a little girl who was sexually abused by a family friend. “The story was so like your story. Except he got caught, and is in prison. I didn’t bring it up this summer because I was conscious of protecting you, keeping you safe and able to cope….”
Bea’s voice drifts away as I somehow curl into myself and float away. It’s that feeling of being in that room in my head, detached and far away, and my body is numb now. A part of me feels warm and cared for when I think about Bea protecting me. Another part laughs at this idea, thinking that Bea just didn’t want to be stuck dealing with the mess if I fell apart; she was protecting herself. A third part of me is feeling very scared, because if she wants to protect me then she cares, and if she cares……something bad might happen. 
Later, Bea asks if I have ever thought about the criminal aspect of what happened with Kenny. I shake my head no. She wonders out loud what would have been different if that teacher had understood what I had been saying. “Do you remember hearing about ‘safe touch’? Did gown ups ever talk about that when you were little?”
“No…no. Everything was DARE. You know?”
Bea nods. “I wonder if your parents had talked about that with you, if you would have told?”
“No….I think…I knew I would be in trouble.”
Bea nods. “You felt like you were responsible.”
I sigh. “My parents….then, it all had to be perfect. Now…they are….I mean…..they….are changing the story.”
“This seems important, it feels like a big deal. Having the story change, that’s hard when it has been the same for so long.” 
I nod. “I don’t like it.” 
Bea waits to see if I’m going to say more, but when I don’t she gently reminds me that people change. “We want your parents to grow and change, this is a good thing for them and for you in the long run. It feels hard right now because you are having to see your parents as fallible, as vulnerable. That’s very hard, and it’s not something we usually experience until we are much older, and our parents are aging, you are having to experience this earlier and that’s hard.” 
“No,” I tell her, “I always knew…..my mom….it’s why I had to be so careful. To protect her…” I stop talking in the middle of the sentence, remembering how it was when I first came to see Bea; so afraid to disappoint, to hurt, to say no to my mom. 
“Yes, that is true. You worked very hard to protect her. But that was almost like trauma; it wasn’t your fault, you didn’t make her sick, but it was easier to take the blame because then you were the one in control. It let you keep control…if your actions caused your mom’s vulnerabilities, then this wasn’t really her being fallible.”
I sigh. I can see where Bea is going with this. Logically, I can agree she is right. Before I can filter my words, before I can stop myself from speaking, I whisper, “It was my fault. I did a bad thing…” My voice is soft, little girl quiet. 
“No, it was never your fault. I think that is part of what is making this so hard.” Bea’s voice is firm now. She wants me to hear her. 
Everything in me hates that they are changing their story, hates that they are admitting problems, hates that they are seeing therapists. “I don’t like it. I want….it’s so stupid. Stupid of me, silly. How many times have I say here whining about the fact they have a fake story, and hating that? And now I hate that they are changing their story, I hate that their story isn’t so fake now. It’s stupid of me.” 
Bea ignores the anger in my voice, the way I talk about myself, and makes a simple statement. “Something about this feels very scary.”
Her statement is like a pause button in my mind. I freeze and follow that thought. “It’s….if they are changing their story….they are saying…that things weren’t so perfect…they…..it means….if their story changes it means…” I can’t finish the thought, can’t find the words. 
“It means…?” Bea prompts me after I stumble, stopping and starting my sentence a few times. I shake my head, lost. “What does it mean, if they change their story? What makes that so scary?” She asks. 
“It means….” And then it hits me, the words to explain. “I could always fall back on….me being the odd one out, the drama queen, the crazy one. Because I was the only one telling a different story.” The words come out in rush, all smooshed together and whispered. 
“Yes. Yes, it’s scary because it doesn’t feel safe. It changes things for you, too. Not just them.” Bea somehow manages to hear me and make sense of my spoken-too-fast-words. 
“I don’t like it. I don’t want them to change their story. It is not okay with me.” I say this defiantly, sounding so much like Kat (or is it that she sounds like me?) that I have to smile a little. 
“You don’t want it to change, and that’s okay,” she says gently. She makes it okay to feel like a stubborn 5 year old. 
We talk a few more minutes about this, and then Bea says, “I feel like we are just getting into this, and I want us to continue this on Monday, but right now we need to stop in a minute or two. I have another appointment soon, and I want to give you time to come back and get grounded. I want you to feel okay when you leave.” 
I nod. I’m not sure how much more I can keep talking before I fall apart completely, anyway. We switch back to discussing Kat and some of the funnier things she has said or done lately. 
And then I say goodbye and Hagrid and I head to the car. I’m feeling a little distanced, a little bit gone still when I start to drive away, and Hagrid licks my cheek, barking once, holding his head near my face. It pulls me right back to the present. I think to myself, ‘I guess he isn’t going to let me live my life locked in the room in my head any longer.’ And then I smile, because for some reason, that feels safe to me.  

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5 thoughts on “Digging deeper

  1. Alice, I’m not usually triggered by much but I so couldn’t read past your drawing the monsters in your bed. So I can only imagine how you are feeling and it’s more than a lot of stress. Kind of like we are transported back to 1st grade but in our grown up selves that still need to function and take care of our house, hubby and children. 💜

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    • I’m sorry I triggered you. 😞 But you get it…being transported back to being a little kid, except I still look like a grown up. Ugh. Thank you for getting that this is so much to deal with. Xx

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  2. Heartbreaking. I feel so saddened at the lack of intervention and utter blindness of the adults who were in your life at that time. I feel this pit in my stomach and my heart really does feel like someone is crushing it. I’m glad you are getting that much-needed and long overdue nurturing and visibility from Bea now.

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    • It’s funny…I feel sad sometimes, but mostly think I am being dramatic. Then I read a comment like yours and it sort of hits me– this was REAL. And it is not me being a drama queen, and it is sad and awful and shocking. I can’t sit with that very long, though, because it overwhelms me and scares me. But, I am really thankful for bloggy friends like you who validate my experience. Xx

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      • I know what you mean – when people tell me that my childhood was tragic, I think, me? Mine? Really? But we do deserve that validation, and I am glad you can take it in, even just a little bit. xx

        Liked by 1 person

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