The first thing: part two

Bea is reading, and I am shaking and crying, curled in a sitting up ball on the couch. Hagrid has pressed himself into my side, and he licks my hands and arms every once in a while. It’s taking what feels like forever for her to read what I’ve written, and I’m ready to bolt out the door now, let her keep my iPad. Instead, I force myself to sit and wait, and I cry from the massive amount of anxiety I am feeling. 
Just when I’m about to speak, to tell Bea she isn’t talking and that’s bad, that I’m mega freaked out, she starts to talk. “Let me say again, how sorry I am for not getting to your email sooner. I know how important it is to get a response, and I am really sorry.” 
I want to scream that it’s not important, that it didn’t matter, and that I don’t want an apology. But I don’t. Because it did matter. But I don’t say anything, instead I try to shrink into myself even more. I don’t know. I don’t like this. 
“The truth is, I have been busy and distracted these past few weeks. Like everyone else, getting into a new routine, new schedule. It’s not an excuse, but it’s what happened. I saw your email, and meant to reply and it got pushed down in all my emails. So it got answered later than it would have.” She pauses for a moment, then. I get it, what she is saying. It’s exactly what I had thought– logically. 
“That doesn’t take away from the feelings of rejection, or hurt. And I am sorry. I know how important getting a response to an email is. You don’t know this,– because how could you know this if I don’t tell you?– I am constantly judging what kind of state you are in, what you can handle, if I should push or back off, or protect you and keep you from digging too deep. I am thinking about you are where you are emotionally all the time. That is very important to me. And this summer, I was very aware of needing to help protect you, keep you from digging too much. There were so many high stress events and changes happening in your life, and I knew that you just needed to stay together and cope until these events passed. But I have no expectation that you will always be able to cope, or that you won’t get upset, or that you won’t fall apart sometimes. You can’t fail, because I have no expectation of that whatsoever. I’m not leaving, not at all. I’m not going anywhere. I might, at times, email you back to say I’m taking a two hour break ands will email back after that, or I might at times be busy in sessions and have to email back that I won’t be able to respond until tonight. But, I am not going anywhere. And if you do email, and I haven’t emailed back as quickly as you needed a response, then please send me a text, just saying you need me to reply to an email. That’s okay. I’m perfectly okay with that, because I am a therapist that believes if your therapist is going to encourage you to go to these yucky scary places, then your therapist should be there to support you, so you aren’t alone. Does that sound fair?” 
I’m still shaking, and a little zoned out, gone, but Bea’s words are sinking in. It might take a while for me to process them, but I’m hearing her. I nod my head. “Yeah…..I didn’t….I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad.” 
“I know you weren’t, that’s not what this letter was about. I’m glad you wrote it. You were right, this was the first thing.” Bea’s voice is genuine, not a hint of anger in her tone. I don’t understand it. “I don’t have more affection towards coping Alice than broken Alice. In fact, when coping Alice is around, I wonder about the little girl, and the broken Alice and all the other parts. I like this part, this honest and creative and vulnerable and authentic Alice who wrote this. But again, it’s not this or that. They are all you. The Alice who organized everything for Kat for school, who impressed the school officials and teachers with her organization and comprehension of her child, the Alice who fought and got that IEP? That’s the same Alice who is hurting so much right now. They are all parts of you.” 
I shrug. Nothing feels like parts of me. Everything feels separated, smashed into a million pieces. I wonder if I should say something. I really can’t, any words I might have are lodged in the back of my throat. I’m just….stuck right now.
“It makes sense to me, that the little girl would be feeling like this. It’s like starting over, in some ways. She needs to know I can still handle her feelings, still contain things, still keep the space safe. She’s wondering if I’ll still be there. It makes so much sense. And it’s okay.” Once again, Bea pauses. I sniffle. She gets it. Even unsure and wary, I’m grateful to have all these feelings validated. 
“I do think, this year, I am going to expect that we do some work around the eating stuff. Not right now. Not this moment. It doesn’t feel very urgent to me, but I don’t think it’s entirely unfair of me to feel that we need to do some work on this, talk about this a little. What kind of therapist would I be if I just ignored a major symptom? Not a very good one.” 
I know. I know. I get it, I do. But I just….ugh. I’m afraid of that mess, too. But she didn’t say right now. So I tell myself to let it go for now, not to worry about it. Of course, even Bea’s simple statement, even her belief that she can’t take my eating disorder from me, even knowing that she just wants to have some discussion about it, make it real, terrifies me. It makes me feel like that defensive teen, and it makes me want to grab onto the eating disorder with both hands and never look back. 
“I’m not surprised that the dreams about the boyfriend and his list are back. They are kind of that internal voice, working towards stopping everything you are working for. Those dreams, that list, it helped keep you separated, making it harder to be one integrated whole.”
I shake my head. “The list….it’s….” I can’t finish. 
“I know. It’s cruel. Just cruel. It says nothing about you, or who you are.” 
“It’s true…I mean…he…it was….he listed out true things…” I blink back tears, but it’s a wasted effort. And they fall down my cheeks, which are heated with shame. 
I think I must have gone farther away for a minute, because the next thing I know, I’m literally snapping out of it, and Bea is talking about my parents. 
“It’s not fair. It’s not. I need them to go back to their old story. The fake story. I just…..I need them to.” I feel like a whiny little kid. 
“This really doesn’t feel safe,” Bea muses. It sounds like she is re-reading what I’d written. “I wonder….what is it, specifically, that makes this feel so unsafe? I get the sense it’s more than just a safety net being gone, or a fear of your story being real now. This feels…bigger maybe. What is is that makes your parents changing their story, being real, so scary?” 
“I don’t know. It just is. It’s not okay. They need to stop it. It’s not okay.” 
We circle around like this a few times, until Bea asks, one more time, “What is it that makes them being real so threatening?”
And I know, just like that. It’s more than feelings, odd thoughts now. It’s words. And everything in me revolts at it. “No. No, no, no…no, no….no no…” I whisper the words like a mantra, shaking my head as I do so. 
“What is it?” Bea pushes gently. 
“I….they might know…I mean…we know my mom knows…and I can’t…I can’t….no…no…if they knew…..and…no, no…no, no……” 
I hear Bea’s sigh, and it sounds very sad. “Yeah. That’s…impossible to understand. But I don’t think you have to worry about them facing anything like that anytime soon. Most likely, it would be slowly, not wick. 
“I just…if they knew and they didn’t do anything…didn’t stop it…thus didn’t care…or they thought I was bad and started it…I don’t know….I just…I can’t know this. I’m afraid. I just can’t.” 
“It feels like too much right now. I really don’t believe your parents would have thought you were bad, or started it. That I can’t believe. You weren’t, you didn’t.” 
“They made me be perfect…when I really was hurting. They made me love in that stupid fake world. They should have to go back to that stupid fake perfect world.” I tell Bea. I hear venom in my voice, and I don’t like how angry and scared and upset I feel right now. 
“Of course. They stuck to that story for years. Even when it hurt you. Now you need them to stick with if. It’s not fair they can’t do that.” Bea echoes what I’ve said. Good grief does it feel like exactly what I need right then. 
We sit in silence, me calming down, Bea sitting with me. And Hagrid doing his thing to help ground me. 
Bea laughs at Hagrid and tells me that she is going to give him a treat every time he catches me going too far away, and train him to be my grounding dog. “It seems he was made to ground you. He’s even low to the ground, a visual reminder,” she says, smiling. 
“He is….I never really thought about that…..you can’t give him all those treats though…He’d get so fat. I’d have to walk him way more than 2 miles a day. And he wouldn’t just be close to the ground, his belly would be on the ground.” I laugh with her. 
We chat for a minute more about nothing type thing– coffee drinks and morning rituals, walking the dog, household chores– and then say goodbye. As I’m leaving, Bea reminds me, “You’ll have to test the email situation again, okay? I’m here, and you can email, and I will write back. I’m not leaving.”
I nod. “Okay.” But I’m not sure I’m ready to test out email quite yet. I feel like someone just cut me in two, or maybe in fours. I’m tired, drained. I’m ready for bed. I’m not sure I trust that she will be there, and part of me is afraid she will be there for the first email because she is expecting me to test her, but then she will falter later, when I feel safe and trusting of her again. It’s all so confusing. I have a feeling I’m going to be processing this for days. 

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4 thoughts on “The first thing: part two

  1. Bea is really an incredible therapist. You are a good team together and you both work so so hard. Really good work here. Painful, I know, but you two are so in this work – very important work.

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  2. This was so important, you sharing with her how you felt. her hearing that, and being reminded how sensitive therapy is for you. She already knew, of course, but the reminder is so helpful. And I love how she is not defensive and is transparent about being distracted; because that is life, right? I get so upset when I don’t get an immediate response, and it hurts to realize that she has a life and sometimes will be delayed. But it is the truth, and somehow I find comfort in being told the truth. Even if it hurts. Because for so long, people did not tell me the truth. Great work, Alice.

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    • I love how she is honest about being distracted, too. She usually is. I remember when I first started seeing her and she had been a little distanced and she was honest about a tough court case she was working, and I was so hurt. I wanted to be the most important, yet I hated feeling that way. Now (and then, too) I love that she is honest like this because it makes me feel like I can trust her. I think it’s like you said– for so long no one told me the truth.
      Thank you for saying how important it is that I told her how I felt. That was so hard. Xx

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