“So, I guess that’s really it. I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to talk about Kat stuff the whole time. But I did say I could spend a whole session on this.” I sigh. I’ve just spent 60 minutes talking about Kat. I really didn’t mean to take so much time. On the way here, I’d felt like I needed to talk about Kat stuff, but also that I wanted to talk about my stuff and not “waste” my time with Bea.
It felt good, though, to tell her how our BCBA validated my feelings about the school psych, and to hear that my ‘read’ of everyone at the school meeting matched up to hers. I don’t trust how i feel about people, I’m always unsure if my ‘read’ of them is crazy. If felt good to tell Bea how i met with Kat’s teachers and we are working on more ideas to help Kat be able to function at school, but also not be a mess when she comes home. It felt good to tell her how I had emailed (he called me back while I was in her office!) the super intendant to offer help with campaigning to get a millage for special needs funding passed.
She had been impressed that I had reached out like that. “You know, we are always looking for ways to allow you to turn your mind off, and this is a great way for you to do that. As we are digging back into to therapy and these scary places, we need to keep finding things that help you to get a break so you can function.”
I had agreed. “Research and having a cause gets my full attention. I like that sort of thing.”
“You’re good at it,” Bea had said in such a straight forward way, I was able to believe her.
Now, though, I’m out of Kat stuff to talk about, and I realize that I had needed someone to bounce ideas off of, and to talk things through with. I think this is the kind of stuff hubby used to be willing to talk through with me, even if I needed to repeat it a million times. Now, I am using my therapy sessions for this.
“Was there anything on your mind you were really wanting to talk about?” Bea asks.
I shake my head, slowly. I can feel that sort of change that always happens to me in therapy when we switch to discussing me and my stuff. Its like one minute I’m ‘Miss Perfect’; confident and chatty, animated and present– but its like just that surface perfect piece of me is present, the rest of me is in the room in my head, watching, so things don’t feel quite real. It really is hard to explain this internal experience. Even worse, I feel like my explanation makes me sound truly crazy. But now, we have switched to talking about me, and I look down, curl info myself, I mumble when I talk, and I struggle to think of words. “I don’t know. I really don’t. I was driving here thinking I needed to talk about my stuff, but I needed to talk about Kat, but i didn’t want to use all my time to talk about her. And then I did. But it needed to be talked about.”
“It was important to talk about. We still have a half an hour. I guess the question is how do we switch gears?” Bea leans back in her chair, looks at me.
I shrug. I don’t know. I’m sort of lost in this giant abyss of having too much to talk about.
“It felt, to me, that the most distressing thing for you, out of everything you wrote and we talked about Monday, was the way things are with hubby.” Bea says softly. I know she likes to see what comes up for me, but I am glad she is willing to give me some direction.
“I just…its…I am just done.” I say.
“I know. I think you have a lot of anger– rightfully so– and that this is very complicated and difficult.” Bea says.
I sigh. I’m so tired of this conversation. I feel like we have if all the time. “Well, he doesn’t listen. He doesn’t care.” I follow that with stories of him not listening, stories of me being sarcastic, rude, snappy. I look down, and trying not to cry say, “You know he never even asked how dinner with my grandma was?”
“Did you bring it up to him? There’s nothing wrong with saying that you need to tell him about dinner, that you want to share that with him.” Bea says.
I ignore her. Nope. Not doing that.
“Sometimes….with his personality type, he may just keep his mind on work, where he has control and things are easy. As long as you are in your corner, telling him you are okay, he’s not going to look too closely.” Bea suggests.
I snap at her. “Thats not true. He has time to think about hunting and fishing, he should have time for his family.”
“Thats very true. But you’re real, and you upset that balance of okayness in his life if he looks too closely.”
“Well. I’m sick of it. I’m done trying. He hurts my feelings all the time. It’s his turn. I wish I could stop caring at all. I don’t like how I’m being, I don’t like feeling mean, I don’t like any of this.”
“Then you need to tell him that it is now on him and that you need him to fix it. I know that feels kind of like telling a person what to buy you for your birthday, but it really would be good if you could let him know.” Bea says softly. Why won’t she back off about this? I don’t want to talk to him.
“Maybe he just needs to stay in his corner. I don’t want him to come out of his corner right now.” I say it quietly, but clearly. The thought escapes before I can think to stop it.
“Ahhh. Tell me more about that; about wanting him to stay in his corner.” Bea sounds intrigued.
I stare at blue rug on the floor. Hagrid isn’t with me today, he refused to get out of bed this morning, and stayed with hubby. The traitor. “I don’t know. I just think he should stay there.”
“Well, I have some ideas about how this feels, but what I really want is to hear your experience of it.” Bea’s voice is gentle, and honest. I am reminded of what she said on Monday– ‘I want to hear your stories.’
I try to figure it out. “If he stays there…its just….well……he….I…..it’s not…..I don’t know…….” I stop and start about a billion times. Finally, I have it. “I won’t have to talk to him if he stays there.”
“Yes. It’s safer if he stays in his corner.” Bea agrees.
I am having so much trouble putting this into words. If I had my iPad journal or my notebook in front of me, I might be able to find the words. But right now, I am at a loss. So I try something different. I ask Bea, “Why?”
“Well, it is safe because you don’t have to be vulnerable. You don’t have to risk being hurt. If he stays in his corner, and believes things are okay, you each go about your daily lives and you don’t have to be vulnerable.” She answers. I love that she takes me seriously, and attempts to answer my questions. I was a kid who asked a lot of questions, I wanted to know what made people tick, how things worked, what made the world turn? No one really took my questions seriously. They were annoying after a while, I’m sure. Mu grandpa always tried to help me find answers. He took me seriously. So did Kenny. But…ugh. Anyway, it means a lot that she always answers questions and that she is digging for answers with me.
“And afraid. I don’t have to feel afraid.” I can’t explain it; maybe it’s fear of connection, maybe it’s fear of being vulnerable.
“Yes. If he stays in his corner, you don’t have to be afraid.”
“I need him to change it.” I say softly.
“I feel that you guys have been in places like this one before. It seems to cycle. Can you think of what you have done before to get out of it?” She asks.
“We don’t get out of it, not really. I give up, act happy, perfect wife like he wants, and then he pays more attention to me, when I am happy, and so everything seems better.” I say. The thing of it is, though, its not better. Its not exactly pretend, at least not on his part, but I am going through the motions, not feeling much and eventually I reach a point where I can’t pretend anymore, and this happens. That is why there is a cycle.
“So you pretend to be happy, and he pays more attention to you?” She clarifies.
I nod my head yes, and realize that once he is paying more attention to me, I might even truly feel happier and more content. Because the underlying issues– not trusting him enough to be vulnerable and connect– are still there, never having been dealt with, I end up packing away hurts and things I wish I could share with him until the small box can not hold anymore and i start to snap, and make sarcastic remarks, and feel angry and alone. And my husband does not like the angry, sad, broken, hurting part of me. He tolerates it, but avoids that part and it is very clear he does not accept her. He wants and accepts the cheerful, positive part of me.
“This is an important clue about him, and what is going on for him.”
“I don’t get it. And I just…I’m so tired of being hurt.”
“I know….” Bea says. “Can you ask him for things, concrete things, like letting Hagrid outside? Can you say ‘I need you to let Hagrid out’?”
I think about it. “Well, I might ask him to get me a glass of water of I was in bed and he was up.”
“So it’s the emotional vulnerability that scares you. Other stuff is okay?” Bea asks.
I don’t know. I really have never thought about it. (Now, while writing this out, I think it is complicated. I’m not as afraid to ask for concrete things, however, I usually won’t ask if I am not already fairly sure of the answer. I’ve been like that as long as I can remember; some people may say I am spoiled and always get what I want. It’s more that I only ask when I know the answer. Being told no, feels like rejection to me. I’m very hyperaware of any sign of rejection or what feels like being rejected.) “Well, I wouldn’t ask if he wasn’t up already. Like if we were both in bed, I would just get up. ” I finally say. Its not exactly an answer, but it is the best I can so.
“I think it helps to practice asking for small daily needs, so when the big stuff comes up it isn’t this hard.” Bea is still pushing for me to talk.
“I don’t…I mean….I’m not even sure what needs come up daily, but it doesn’t matter. I am not doing that.”
“I can’t think of any, either, right now,” she admits, “You wouldn’t have to ask for anything. Just stating, ‘I am feeling really upset right now that I haven’t gotten to talk to you about dinner with my Grandma.’ Its just a statement, nothing directed at him and all about how you are feeling.”
“No. No, no.” I hate this conversation. It is making me sick. My head hurts. “It’s all BIG. Anything that is what I need is BIG stuff. It’s all BIG and scary.”
“Mhmmmhm,” Bea does her verbal nod. She says something else, but I’ve disappeared, and the world has that fake, not real quality to it.
“He can’t win. No matter what, I won’t let him win. He can’t win right now.” I don’t mean to share my thoughts out loud.
“Can we talk more about that?” Bea asks, carefully.
“Well…I’m terrible, mean. He can’t win right now……… Too stubborn for my own good. I…even if he did exactly what I wanted, what I needed, if he listened and whatever else, did everything, I wouldn’t believe it. I would think it was a lie, fake. I don’t know.” I’ve buried my face in my knees. I can’t look at her right now. I don’t want to be seen right now.
“You need to have the upper hand right now. It feels safer. Although I wonder if the not believing it if he did everything you needed is more about how you are feeling about yourself at the moment?” She questions.
I ignore the question– although i am thinking about it now– and say, “Having the upper hand, acting like this, feeling like this about him, I don’t like it. I tried to even give him the answers, telling him things like ‘this fight over this small thing isn’t really about this at all’ and whatever. I tried. I told him that he would have to ask me questions, convince me to talk, I tried to give him the answers, but he didn’t freaking listen.” The words burst out, unthought and unclear until I speak them. This is not how I do therapy; I filter everything, think about it, I rehearse it in my mind.
“Maybe he likes that you need to be asked, maybe that is safe for him, knowing he doesn’t have to be vulnerable: he can keep that door closed.”
I nod. I get it.
“Of course, we can’t know for sure what is going on with him because he isn’t here.” Bea says.
“I can’t…I don’t think therapy with him would work, anyway. I figured out when we are a ‘we’ and it is always for Kat stuff, or in public. So we would go, and be a ‘we’ and smile and fake it and say and do all the right things and the shrink would wonder why we were even there.” I’ve raised my head, and am glancing at Bea. I am expecting her to disagree, to push me towards therapy with my husband.
Bea surprises me. “I’m not sure couple’s therapy is the answer. I can’t speak for hubby, but I don’t believe– at this point– you would be able to feel safe enough to let the real you out. So you’re right, the fake you would go to therapy, and fool the therapist and nothing would be worked out.”
I feel very validated in this moment. I feel seen. Its wonderful, like a warm, safe hug, but at the same time, its uncomfortable. I look away. Rub my nails between my pointer finger and thumb– my new alternative to picking because my polish dulls the sharpness and i can’t pick.
“I wish you could tell him everything you just told me. Or even the part about him not being able to win right now.” Bea says softly.
I shake my head at her. “I can’t. Especially can not tell him he can’t win. That’s not….fair….what….I mean….I can’t.”
“It’s very honest. And it would put things on him, and he would know its on him.”
“But I said he can’t win. How do I put it on him, when he can’t win?”
“You said he can’t win right now. But you didn’t say forever. You said you don’t like feeling this way, being this way.” Bea counters.
“I am afraid.” I whisper.
“It would be very vulnerable.”
We sit together for a minute, quiet. The whole session since we started talking about hubby has had a very choppy, stop….start…push…pull feel to it.
“He would leave me.” I whisper. I don’t even want to voice the fear, I don’t want it to be real.
“Thats a real fear,” Bea speaks just as softly. She’s careful as she continues to talk. “I still see the two of you as together, as a couple who will fight to be together. I think you have a lot of affection for him. And he cares about you. I think you guys…you’re at the age where you should be solidifying your individuality, figuring out who you are. It would be nice if you could share part of that journey. If you could grow together. In marriage, theres going to be highs and lows, ups and downs, times where you grow closer and times where you are farther apart. You just want to be careful you don’t grow so far apart you can’t find each other again.”
I don’t say anything, but I am afraid that we have grown too far apart to fix anything.
“What you guys need is a weekend away together. To reconnect. They always say if a couple is struggling to find each other, to go away together. And if you can reconnect when you are away from daily life, you can fix it.”
Bea is talking, but I’m doing my best to hide a small panic attack. My very first thought is that going away means having sex; he will expect sex. “No. Not going away.”
“It doesn’t feel like a good idea when you are feeling very unsure and unsafe about being vulnerable with him.”
I shake my head, try to organize my thoughts. “I….well…no. It wouldn’t work. First off, I’m not sure if I want him out of the corner.” Then i think to myself that we would need longer. It would take me a weekend just to build some trust. I finally voice that, too. Then I try to say my first scary thougt. “And, well, if…the very first thing I thought was..that if we go away….its…a weekend away….I…umm…well…I can’t say it right now.”
Bea lets me try to get it out, but when its very obvious I just can’t, she steps in. “The intimacy part?”
I feel myself blush while the rest of my body freezes. I nod my head and choke out, “Yes.”
“It is one thing people think about when going away, even if the point is to reconnect emotionally.” Bea notices that I’m struggling to hold it together and says light heartedly, “Too bad theres not a place you can stay with separate dormitories for men and women.”
I’m able to easily add to her train of thought. “A catholic college, maybe?”
Bea laughs. “Here honey, I found this great retreat. We get to stay in separate rooms. It’s a catholic couples retreat.”
I laugh, too. “He’d be like never in a million years.”
“Do you want to go hunting?” She asks me.
“No. I don’t even eat meat! I’m not killing anything. I can shoot, though. Targets only.”
Bea smiles. “I was joking. I didn’t really expect you to go hunting.”
We giggle; the image of me hunting is truly ridiculous.
Before I leave, Bea comments on the ‘offness’ of our session today. “Things felt a little off, hard to find a rhythm today. I know you felt it too.”
I feel like I am ice cold all over, but at the same time I’m burning up. I frown. “I think it was me. Because I did and didn’t want to talk about this. So it was push-pull.” And I’m hyper aware of everything, and was afraid she was frustrated that i just won’t talk to my husband, or more on his side, or whatever.
“It was us,” she says firmly, gesturing at herself and me. I feel nauseous. Why are we talking about this?
“I’ve never been perfect, so you get all my flaws and messiness and imperfectness. And when you aren’t hiding, you bring all yours, too. And that is part of a relationship. It might not be perfect connection every time, but we are okay.” She says, making her point. (Which i may not have all of it, or the exactness of it. I was pretty anxious and gone at this point.)
Bea notices the anxiety and switches things back to a more playful tone with a goofy story. We wrap things up with some more silly stories, and light hearted jokes.