The body tells a story 

Thursday. Hubby wakes me before he leaves for work, but I don’t get up. I haven’t been sleeping well. Sleep had been better, the last few months. It was something I had written on my list of things that were better. But the last few weeks, I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m up late, and then when I finally fall asleep, I’m up again an hour or so later with bad dreams. If I manage to fall back asleep again, I’m up every hour after that, startled awake, expecting something very bad is going to happen. So. Hubby has been having to help me get out of bed, and Kat has been late to school almost every day. I hate that he has to help me wake up. I feel like a big loser, like someone who can’t care for herself. And every night when hubby asks me when the latest I can get out of bed is, I feel like he hates me, is looking down on me, thinking bad things about me, is feeling like I am a bad person for not being able to wake up on time. 

So, hubby tries to get me up, but he has to leave for work, and I lay in bed in a fog. Eventually I do get up, and Kat and I rush around to get ready. We make it to school on time, and I make it to therapy with enough time to walk Hagrid for a few minutes. 

When I get up to Bea’s office, Hagrid runs to her, excitedly. He loves Bea. She pets him and says hello to us. 

“Good morning,” I say. I sit my bag down, get settled in my corner of the sofa, and Hagrid jumps into my lap. I pull out my iPad, with some journaling written in it, but tell Bea I need to talk about Kat when she tries to ask me about how I felt about her response to my email about having not having words. 

We talk about Kat for a few minutes. She’s having some struggles with the sub that’s taken over her class while her teacher is out on maternity leave, and her favorite ABA tech has left (she’s gone back to school). I don’t like the sub, either. She’s harsh. She isn’t this warm fuzzy person, and she isn’t good with kids on the spectrum, and her regular tone of voice is almost exactly the same as my ‘angry mommy’ voice. It’s not a good situation. I know it’s not in my head because Kat’s special education teacher is concerned about it, too, and has offered to have Kat and some friends come to her room every day for a an hour or so. 

“She’s been playing this…saying whatever doll or animal she is speaking wants to die, or is dead, or whatever. And it’s like no one can respond to her right.” I sigh. 

“Usually that kind of play is about pain, big emotional pain. I would ask, go in that direction, of asking if owl is sad, or whatever.” 

“She won’t let you go there. I ask her that, and she gets mad. She yells, she screams, she says to shut your mouth, that you can not talk about it, that you are stupid. It makes her so upset,” I explain. 

“Just reflect back what is happening, then. ‘Owl wants to die.’ Then go back to playing,” Bea suggests. 
“I….I just….I can do that…….but…..I don’t know..I don’t want……I mean….” I shake my head. I’m at a loss as to how to explain it. 

“You don’t want what?” Bea prompts. She wants to know. 

“I….it’s hard. I don’t want…..I mean, I don’t want to be my mom. Hubby, he gets mad at Kat for playing like that, tells her it isn’t allowed, whatever, I don’t know. He’s just like my mom. I married my freaking mom. And I don’t want to be that. I’m afraid if I don’t ask, and don’t talk to her, and just reflect back and move on, that she will feel like she can’t talk, or I am ignoring, or I am….ugh. I don’t know. I just…I don’t want to be my mom.” The words feel like a jumbled mess, and everything in my head is convoluted, but Bea gets my point.

“Well, first off, we know hubby’s personality is that he doesn’t like things to be upset he doesn’t like waves to be made, he like everything to be even keeled and easy. So those big displays of emotion are hard, they are upsetting to him and he doesn’t know how to deal with them, because it upsets his internal balance.” 

I nod. “I know. I know. But it’s still. He is my mother.” I shrug. 

Bea smiles. “With Kat, you make space for her to talk. Reflecting back, and then continuing on with the play isn’t the same as your mom, as ignoring, because you make space for her feelings.” She sounds so sure. 

I think that a year ago, if she had told me this, I wouldn’t have even known what she was talking about, what making space meant. Now, though, I know what she means. “What if Kat doesn’t know there is space?” I ask. 

“There’s space, you make space, and Kat knows you make space there.” Bea assures me. 

I nod. “I hope so.” I sigh. 

We wrap up the Kat conversation, and Bea asks, “How did my email land with you?”

I hand her my iPad. “I wrote back. Sort of. I…I just didn’t send it. I don’t know. And I was writing. It’s not the words I need. But I was writing.”

Bea takes my iPad and starts reading. I continue talking, while I curl up and hide my face. Having someone read my writing is so exposing, I don’t want anyone to look to me and see me. That would be too much. 

“I really do think it is about the parts. Some parts wanting to talk and some parts not wanting to. The parts that don’t want to talk are trying to protect you, keep you safe,” Bea tells me. 

“I know. I just….I…it’s…I want to talk. I want my words.” I sigh. 

“Your toes are very still today. Your legs are shaking, but your your toes and your feet are very still, very firmly planted.” Bea’s voice is steady and calm. 

I don’t feel my legs shaking. But I am frustrated that I can’t find my words and not really here. I haven’t been very present all week. I’ve been in this strange fog, feeling off and fuzzy. “I don’t know. I can’t…I didn’t…..ugh.” 

“I’m trauma, we talk about preverbal memories. The memories that really don’t have words, that form without words. Does the memory have an age to it or a place to it? Are there even words for that?” 
I let myself think, fall back there. It’s not hard to do. I’ve been in this on edge, fuzzy, nervous, scary, overwhelmed place. I’ve been falling back into this place off and on all week, almost like a part of me is always there. “I don’t….I can’t…I just…I mean….I don’t want….” 

“What don’t you want?” She asks me. 

I shake my head. “I…..I can’t…I can’t..I just….I don’t want….I mean…..I don’t want…..”

We sit, me struggling to get out words, and Bea reading. She prompts me another time or two, but I can’t get out the words. I’m not even sure I know what it is I am trying to say. 

“I’m reading now about therapy in the moment,” Bea says. “So, sensorimotor isn’t about focusing on the feelings, we would focus on your toes shaking, and what they want to do. If they didn’t want to do anything, we could do an ‘experiment’— see what it feels like to push against the floor, or whatever. And sometimes feelings come up, but we redirect back to the toes, and the body, to the movement. We notice the feelings, then let them go, and redirect back to the toes. I understand being scared, but you don’t have to focus on the feelings. It’s safe. We stay in the window and focus on the movements.” 

I shake my head at her. I’m not looking at her, and my head is buried in my knees, so I’m not sure she sees it. “I…it’s….that’s the…..I’m……it’s…..” I can’t say it. I want to, but I’m afraid to. 

“What is it?” Bea asks me. 

I try again, but I can’t say it. “I….it’s just that…..I don’t know. I mean, I do know. Ugh. I….it doesn’t feel like that. It doesn’t feel okay.” 

Bea shares a story about when she was doing the sensorimotor training. She tells me how they had spilt into pairs and were practicing the techniques on each other. Bea had some feelings come up, and her partner had focused on the feelings. “So I know how feelings can come up, and even start to take over. I needed my partner to help me notice the feelings and then redirect me back to my body. She was very focused on my feelings, and she was almost adding to the feelings, with the things she was saying and asking. But when I said no to her, and redirected myself back to my body, those feelings weren’t so powerful, and I felt safer again. I was able to process (my event).” 

I get what she is saying. I get it. I’m glad she shared with me that she has experienced sensorimotor therapy and having really big feelings come up. Hearing her story about that experience helps more than if she had just said she got it, or had been there and experienced it. Because I don’t trust things easily, if she just tells me she gets it, I question to myself if she is just saying that to me to make me feel safer in talking to her. Hearing a story, a real experience, means she does understand, and I can trust that. 

But the feelings coming up and being overwhelming aren’t exactly my fear. They aren’t exactly what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of focusing on my body and being present like that because then I am present with the feelings that come up. Being so present with those feelings is what is hard for me. What’s even harder though, is being so present and having someone redirect me back to my body movement, and away from my feelings. It feels like being ignored, abandoned, left when I am redirected away from my feelings. And being present and redirected is so painful. It hurts so much to feel those ignored feelings in the moment. I think it is too much like what my mother always did. The other part of it is that once I have focused on a body movement, and had overwhelming, big, scary, feelings come up, I’m afraid to focus on my body again and have more feelings come up. Because I already can’t handle the first set of feelings that came up. 

I can’t say any of that, though. Bea has stopped reading, and is trying to help me get the words out. 

“You can read. Just read. I’m not talking anyway,” I tell her. 

She goes back to reading. “I am excited, but that doesn’t mean I have any expectations of you.” She had written that she was excited about Monday’s session, and I wrote that I was terrified of that. Her being excited means I will disappoint her because I maybe won’t be able to do that again. “It’s okay. I’m not going to be upset if you can’t do it again. I don’t expect anything.” 

“Okay,” I say numbly. I don’t know what else to say. People always have expectations, they always want something. And I really don’t want to disappointment Bea. Disappointing people makes them leave, and I don’t want Bea to leave.

“Hmmmmm….mmmmhmmm. I agree, the teen is part of fight and flight. That makes sense. She is really trying to protect those vulnerable parts, and she is really front and center right now.” Bea says. 

“I just….I’m afraid….I mean…” I’m still trying to get the words out. 

“I can write a letter to the doctor for you. I’m really okay with doing that,” Bea says. 

“You don’t need to,” I repeat the same thing I had said in my writing. Then I tell her, “I have an appointment in May. It’s fine. It will be fine, it is okay. I don’t need anything.” I had called and made an appointment after Monday’s session. 

“How did you get an appointment in May?” She asks me. 

“I called. I said I would call, so I called. I made the appointment. It’s fine.” I say the words with finality. I can’t talk about this right now. 

“Okay. It will feel good to get it over with.” Bea says, letting it go. 

She goes back to reading, and then makes a “Mmmmmhmmmm…” That sounds like everything just made sense to her suddenly. “The nightmares. That makes me think this isn’t just about parts, but it’s a memory without words. That it’s not something that is present day at all, but a memory that is very alive right now. And it seems to be stored very much in the body.” 

Throughout this session, she has been periodically commenting on my legs shaking, and asking questions. She has been trying to help me say what I need to say. She pauses now, and looks at me. “Your legs are still shaking. You might not have words, but your body is telling a story.” 

Inside, I feel myself freeze; she knows. She knows how bad I feel right now. 

“I can tell that this memory is very scary,” she says softly. Her voice is full of caring. I can hear that she cares. 

“How do you know?” I whisper. I’m curious. I want to know why she knows, what she sees that I can’t feel. 

“Well, your legs are shaking, and your body pulled into itself more, curled up more, protecting yourself, hiding.” Her voice is careful, gentle. 

I nod. “It’s scary. But scary isn’t enough. It’s more than that.” 

“Terrifying?” Bea asks. 

“That seems….too dramatic.” I start to cry. “I don’t want to be a drama queen. I don’t want to be dramatic, I don’t want to be……” My voice trails off. The word that gets dropped is needy. I don’t want to be needy and a drama queen. 

“We could call it very BIG scary.” 

“Big scary. Okay.” I mumble the words through tears. 

“Your legs are still shaking. Can you feel them? Can you focus on that?” Bea asks. 

“I don’t want…..I just…….I don’t want………” I’m back to trying to explain something I’ve been trying to say all session. I’m really scared Bea is going to get annoyed with me, give up on me. 

“Clearly you don’t want something. What don’t you want? It’s okay. You can say it,” she tells me. 

“It sounds silly, dramatic.” I tell her. 

“Maybe it won’t to me. Maybe it’s something I really need to know.” 

“I….it’s….if you tell me to focus on my toes….and I focus on them….on my toes moving…” 

“Yes?” Bea prompts. 

“I focus on my toes moving……and then feelings…..you know….ummm…..feelings come up…..” This is so hard to say. I feel so embarrassed. “And if you redirect me to my toes…..then…..it would….I mean……I don’t want……it might feel…….I….” This is it, the part that makes me feel about 6 inches tall, silly, and embarrassed. “It might…..I don’t want…..if you redirect me to my toes, it might feel like I’m being ignored.” The words come in a rush, like ripping off a band aid. Once they are finally out, I feel myself melt a little, sink further into myself, preparing to be told I’m being stupid.

“I can see that. It makes sense. So maybe we don’t redirect back to focusing on movement. What do you think would be helpful in that case?” She asks. She doesn’t sound like she thinks I’m stupid. She doesn’t sound like she wants me to shut up. She sounds like it’s okay, like she can understand it. 

“I don’t know.” I tell her honestly. I truly don’t know. 

“Maybe we stay with it, with the feelings.” 

“Okay.” I agree. I’m not sure if that’s the answer, but I think it’s what I might need right now. 

There is some more talk around that, around feeling left and ignored when I’m redirected, but I can’t remember it all right now. I think she said something about paying attention to all of me, that all of me is important. 

“I’m noticing that you are still shaking, and I’m wondering if any thoughts, feelings, images are coming up?” She asks later. 

I can’t say it. There are thoughts and images and feelings, but I can’t say it out loud. All the things that are coming up are so mixed up, and weird little pieces, that I’m afraid if I start to say them out loud, I’ll be told I’m making it up, that I’m crazy. I’m afraid she won’t believe me that there is this bad scary memory, and this really bad nightmare, if I tell the pieces of it that I do have. 

“That’s okay. This memory is different. There’s something different here.” She is murmuring the words, almost to herself. 

“What? Why is it different?” I question, panicking a little. 

“Well, it’s the first memory we have worked with that is stored more in your body, that doesn’t have so many words. So it feels different. We’ll process it, we will work,through it. It’s okay.” Her voice is reassuring. 

I think I have other memories that are more body based, I just haven’t ever felt them like this, because I haven’t been present in my body. I lived my life so detached from the body, that it wasn’t possible to feel these memories stored in the body. As I’ve learned to be more present, more here, more grounded, I’ve started to feel more. “Things are so…off.” I tell her. “Yesterday. I was irritable. Not okay. I just…I don’t know. And I yelled at Kat. She told me I was a bad mommy.” Tears run down my cheeks. I try to hard to be a good mom, and it pains me to hear that my daughter thinks I am a bad mommy.

“That never feels good.” Her voice is full of empathy and understanding, and I wonder if she is thinking of her own kids. 

“I don’t know why I feel so….I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m just irritable.” 

“Is your period about to start?” Bea asks, very matter of factly.

I feel like someone just punched me in the stomach. “I… What?” 

“I guess we haven’t talked about periods before, have we? I was just thinking, hormones. They can effect you.” 

“I don’t…I mean….I’m so embarrassed…my face is literally bright red right now and….no. It’s not about to start.”

Bea laughs, a small, nice laugh. One that says it’s okay, I don’t need to be embarrassed. “We haven’t talked about it, but most of my female clients, I know where they are in their cycle. They tell me. Because hormones really can effect moods and how we react and feel.”

I think back. “I shouldn’t…I don’t get my period. Just…maybe 2, 3 times a year. So…I…that’s why my doctor makes me come in twice a year.” 

Bea asks me about that, why its not healthy, or why it concerns my doctor. I tell her I’m too embarrassed, I can’t talk about this right now, maybe I can write about it later. She says okay. (The explanation, as I wrote to Bea is as follows: But anyway. I guess when your body doesn’t naturally have periods monthly, the uterine lining continues to build up and build up, and just isn’t shed every month. So that building up of the lining isn’t good, health wise. I don’t have endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, but the issues are similar, and there is a higher risk of uterine cancer. So, these issues are why I wasn’t able to just get pregnant. My doctor wants me on birth control, to cause periods monthly. She believes that is the best course of treatment. I won’t do it. So my doctor has me come in twice a year. That’s all.)

I honestly don’t know where the conversation went next, but we eventually end up back with me being irritated that I have no words. 

“You don’t need words for this. It’s okay.” Bea is trying to reassure me, but I need her to understand, I need words. 

“I need words. That’s what I do. I write. It’s what I do. I use words, I write. Without words, without being able to write, I’m lost. I do need words.”

“Ahhh. Yes, you use words very well. You are very articulate. I know this is really frustrating for you. Really uncomfortable. But I am here. You aren’t alone. I’m here with the uncomfortable, needing words feelings, and I know that part of this story is a feeling of terror and wanting to hide. I’m here, and you are not alone.” 

I cry some, and we talk about feelings. Bea asks if there is a color or image or anything that comes up that I can put words to. I shake my head. There is, maybe, but not so much. I feel so dumb right now.

“Maybe we just need to sit, and let you feel that you aren’t alone, and let your body do what it it needs to. Your legs aren’t shaking as badly now,” she says. 

“I don’t know…..it seems…..I don’t know.” I feel like that’s not enough, like I’m not doing enough, or something, but I can’t explain it. 

“It’s hard, isn’t it? To trust that your body knows what it needs?” She asks me. 

I nod. Yes, yes it is hard. 

We wrap up the session with Bea reminding me she is here, that even without words, my body is telling the story and she understands. 

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13 thoughts on “The body tells a story 

    • Thank you. It’s so hard when your therapist redirects to help, and in your head you know they are trying to help but it hurts instead. I’m sorry you can relate to this, because it is painful. I had never told Bea it felt like this, I either tried to drop hints, or talk around it, or ignore feeling hurt which always causes me to shut down. And I’m really good at shutting down and bidding it, so Bea didn’t know. I’m glad I told her, because she reacted so perfect to it, and I feel a lot less shame over my feelings. And now, hopefully,it will happen less, or I can tell her in the moment. If you haven’t told your therapist you feel this way, I would recommend trying. I know it’s scary— it took me an almost 90 minute session to get the words out! — but it was worth the fear and vulnerability in the end. Xx

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      • I’m glad you were able to tell Bea, and that she handled it well. Had you been able to identify why being redirected felt bad relatively easily? I find, for me, sometimes I have these reactions and I feel hurt over something, but I can’t pinpoint why. It took me more than a year (and multiple therapists) to figure out that being redirected from feelings felt like being ignored. Then it took me all session to be able to tell TL finally… she took it really well also. I haven’t told Dr C yet, but it’s not really happening much with her.

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      • It’s taken me, like, almost two years of therapy to figure out that redirecting feels like abandonment. So I get it. I think there is so much we have to learn and become aware of before we can see and understand our reactions/feeling hurt over something. I’m glad it’s not happening much with Dr. C💟

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  1. I am really glad she told you that it was okay to just sit together, and your body’s wisdom is okay. I am proud of you for staying with the feelings, and sensations, even if it is really really hard. I see you becoming more willing with every session, it is incredible.

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  2. I have been there, where I am so close to saying something to E, but then I can’t do it. The many times you said, “I don’t know… I mean… I’m afraid,” that is something I can relate to. And yet in the end, you WERE able to tell her something really important: that the approach she was suggesting could backfire. Once you get the big feelings out in the room, moving your attention away from them and back to your toes or legs could absolutely feel like abandonment.

    I know you see Bea as wise and the one who knows what to do, but you also have a great wisdom in yourself, that you recognize what could go wrong with the focus on what the body is doing. It seems like you are doing a really good job respecting and protecting the importance of that memory. You won’t let it come out unless you know it will be held lovingly and attended to. Since it’s BIG SCARY, to keep from getting overwhelmed, you can always reserve the possibility of temporarily focusing on your toes or feet, but always with the promise that you will come back to comfort and care for the girl who experienced the BIG SCARY event.

    It’s hard beyond words to be in the middle of this. But honestly, I see you doing really healthy things. Many warm hugs, Q.

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    • Bea is always saying this is us working together, that I know what I need. I guess she might be right, and I’m starting to believe her. This memory is so scary. I like the idea of temporarily focusing on toes but having Bea make a promise she will come back to the little girl. Thank you. Xx

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  3. you are so courageous. and b is wonderful too. and yes you are very articulate. it really shows in your writing. Keep on writing, it sounds like that is helpful for you. xxx

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