I sit across from Bea, hiding my face, as she reads my messy list. I had started the list as a reply to her emailed response to my email about relationships.
I think I could “rank” all my relationships by depth, though I’ve never tried that. You do that too–you know how Kay always comes up as the deepest relationship? And sometimes we can be aware that a relationship lacks depth, but the vulnerability involved with deepening it can seem like too much and bot worth the effort.
Maybe I’m a weirdo for thinking about these things. It’s just..not exactly some thing I really was aware of before, exactly. I mean, I knew that most people seemed closer somehow than I felt to anyone at all when I was growing up. It’s sick, but Kenny was probably the closest deepest relationship I had— in this weird twisted way. I don’t know. It’s confusing.
“Mmhmmm. This is what I was telling you about; about trauma bonds. It is confusing. But it is really normal for what you went through. That kind of…that trauma, it creates this complicated bond. Because he wasn’t all mean, or all bad, or all scary. So there are good feeling mixed in there.” I remember her saying something about sexual relationships causing feelings and emotions that I was too young too handle, that that was part of the trauma, but also part of those intense feelings that create this trauma bond.
I feel sick. I don’t know why I gave her this list. Can I take it back? Maybe that would be worse. I’d decided I was done hiding, that at the very least, if I was afraid to talk about something for fear she will leave me or judge me, then, well, I’m going to tell her that I am afraid to talk about it. And we will talk about talking. I’m tired of hiding.
A part of me even wants to talk about this; this intense, confusing, twisted, odd connection I have– or had– with Kenny. Not now. I can’t talk now. It’s more than enough that I’ve admitted it. But maybe one day I will write about it and we will talk about it. Intellectually, I want to understand. I need to understand. Because right now, it’s confusing on both a feeling and intellectual level, and I know that I can at least make sense of it all in a logical, rational way. Hopefully.
Mostly it’s like I existed behind this glass wall, so I couldn’t really connect to anyone. They were there, I was there. But this invisible glass wall was stopping that connection other people seem to get. I faked my way through so much. I mean, I knew how I was supposed to act, supposed to feel. I don’t know. Pretended connections. It’s embarrassing to me now. I was that numb? That cold hearted I had to pretend connections with my friends, family? What was wrong with me? Ugh. And still, now, I can’t do it, can’t handle a connection. I avoid it. I hate this, it seems so stupid, doesn’t it? Like, just stop it, Alice, just stop avoiding and hiding and getting mad and ruining things. But I can’t. I don’t know. Maybe I am just broken.
“Depersonalization. Or derealization. To be honest, I get them confused. But it’s along the dissociative spectrum. This is protective. A lot of people who experience trauma feel this way. You’ve described it really well….knowing what you should feel, almost feeling it but not, so able to pretend. It’s a form of dissociation,” Bea says. She sounds so matter of fact, like it’s fine, and I’m not a freak.
I’ve wondered at times if there is really something wrong with me. My deepest fear is that I’m no different than those sociopathic people you read about, with no feelings, no ability to care or make a connection, just an amazing ability to pretend. I’m sometimes terrified I’m like that. I don’t say that, I’m afraid to share that with her, because even though I don’t think that’s true (my feelings are hurt too easily, so I do have feelings) a tiny part of me is afraid to hear confirmation.
“You aren’t cold hearted, you are protecting yourself. You’re afraid. It’s about protection.” Bea continues softly.
“But why?” I ask. I feel frustrated with myself. I wonder if I sound frustrated. I can’t tell right now. I’m pretty far away in my head.
“Well….it’s back to that relationship with Kenny. That trauma bond. Someone close hurt you. So good feelings, and closeness get mixed up with fear and hurt.” She explains it as simply as possible, maybe aware that I can’t handle an in depth explanation right now.
I sigh. Hagrid hasn’t moved from my lap, and I hug him close.
“You’re really looking at relationships and trying to find answers, to understand. You are doing some really hard work on this right now,” Bea says. She talks about how I’m trying to make sense of where things fit and how relationships fit together.
I nod, slowly. “But I don’t know what I want with that.” The words sneak out, not even a fully formed thought. I mean that I am unsure if I want deeper relationships, or if I just want to understand why I feel the way I feel, or what exactly my reason is for working on this.
“That’s okay. I think we can just trust that we are always working towards growth, and that there is a reason things come up. Things come up when they need to. So we trust the process.” Bea says, confident that it’s okay to not have all the answers.