Things have been spacey and off all weekend. On Thursday, a close friend of mine comes over, but it feels more like a dream than something that is actually taking place. I feel like I’m separated from the world, as if I’m stuck behind a thick sliding glass door, so all my interactions are muted. Friday, I lose time and don’t have much of a memory as to what I actually did on Friday. Saturday was a “block party” for the neighborhood, which I attended, but I felt as though my behavior was off. Maybe I was too chatty, or not helpful enough, or did not mingle as much as I should have or maybe I wasn’t enough of something or I was too much of something.
Sunday, I was a complete mess. I lost a few hours in the morning, at least in part because of flashbacks. I yelled at hubby; he was helping me to cut up veggies, and what I saw how he was cutting them, I snapped. I yelled that he was doing it wrong and I would just do it myself and that I did not need him. He was leaving to go fishing later that day, and anytime I am even a little triggered, and hubby is leaving, I yell at him and push him away first. Unfortunately, while I recognize this pattern, he does not see it at all.
I was on edge all day Sunday, zoned out but uncomfortable, hyper aware, jumpy. I snapped at Kat, and struggled to convince even just some adult part of me that Kat is not the little girl we hate and find disgusting. I ended up texting our old Nanny, and she came and watched Kat for a few hours. That helped. I just could not be mom that day.
I emailed Bea. And she responded fairly quickly, so we sent a few messages back my forth. But it was a struggle to hold on to the fact that she cares, that she wasn’t blowing me off, that when she writes things like “I am sorry you are having such a hard day”, she means that, and just that, there isn’t a judgement anywhere. She suggests we might try some sensorimotor therapy to build some resources or to sequence what my body has been feeling, depending on what I feel like.
Monday morning, I don’t know what I want to do. I’ve been up since 2:30am. I woke from a nightmare, and the lost a few hours, so by the time I gain control of myself, it’s 7:15 and I am rushing out the door to make it to therapy on time. Driving to therapy, parking, walking into Bea’s building, I feel off, wrong. Part of me wants to run upstairs and hide in her office and feel her presence, but another part of me is fighting this every step of the way.
I obviously walk in, say hello, sit down in my normal spot on the couch, but I don’t really remember doing so. It’s just blank space. I don’t remember sliding my shoes off my feet, or. pulling my knees to my chest.
I’m not sure, but I imagine we chatted about normal things for a few minutes. And then Bea asked me a question, something about how I was feeling. It’s where my memory becomes more clear. I shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know.”
Maybe she knows I wasn’t very there, or maybe she realizes something changed, but she maybe reframes her question, or maybe she starts the conversation over, with brand new questions. I’m not entirely sure. “Let’s start by having you take an internal temperature. Can you do that? Check in, see how things feel? That will help us know what direction to take. If you are so far away that you don’t know what you are feeling, we need to do some grounding before we can do anything else. If you are present enough to know what you are feeling, we can do some somatic resourcing, like we did before.”
I don’t say anything. A part of me is so angry with Bea, I want to scream at her to shut up. I can feel her waiting for a response, and I finally manage to eek out one word, “Uncomfortable.”
“Okay, good. So you’re feeling uncomfortable. Can you say more about that?”
I open my mouth to speak, and then I shake my head. No. I can’t explain.
Bea is thoughtful. “Is it uncomfortable like tension in your body, or uncomfortable like an emotion?”
In my head, it’s both. It’s uncomfortable because the focus is on me, and what I’m feeling in my body. I’m uncomfortable because I feel put on the spot.
“Hmmmm. If it’s hard to decipher what you are feeling, maybe doing some grounding work to bring you back into the room would be a good place to start.” She suggests, lightly.
“Okay.” I say the words, as I’m shaking my head no (I don’t notice this until Bea points it out to me later).
Bea talks about being here, and now, and how it’s safe in the present, in her office, with her, and me, and how I’m grown up, and far away from bad things that happened, and she points out noises we are hearing, like birds singing and cars driving by. When it’s obvious to us both that I’m a bit more present, she asks me if I want to do some resourcing. “Do you remember last time you felt very out of control, and the body stuff was really front and center for you? We used a somatic resource, pushing away with your hands, and squeeze your legs together, telling yourself how strong your legs are and that no one can move them. That seemed to help give you some control back. I really do want to help you have some control, or at least be working towards a sense of being more in control and safe. What do you think?”
“I’m scared.” I whisper to her. It’s why I don’t want to do this. Or at least, it’s partly why.
“We don’t have to work with the scary memories or thoughts or emotions. We are just dealing with what the body feels. This is much less scary and activating if we separate out what we feel in our body, and just be curious about it. Just pay attention to it, see what is happening.” Bea says.
Ugh. I’m so mad at her in that moment, I want to stand up and walk out. Instead I yell at her. “I can’t separate it out. We did not separate it out before because I can’t. I don’t know how to. It’s too hard.” Except, the yelling doesn’t come out as yelling, because I’m mostly frozen and wanting to hide right now. It’s more of an angry whisper. The little girl is running things, and she is very afraid of this anger.
“That’s right, we didn’t separate it out before. You’re absolutely right. We worked with the whole memory,” Bea realizes her mistake, and agrees with me.
“I can’t separate it.” I tell her, emphasizing the word can’t.
“I can help you with that. We can work on that together. We can practice. It’s okay, it’s a skill like any other.” She is reassuring, and calm, and so certain that this is no big deal.
“Okay.” I shrug.
“Can we go back to the uncomfortable feeling?”
I shrug, then nod my head.
“What kind of uncomfortable feeling is it?”
“Scared. I’m scared.” I tell her
“How do you know you’re scared?”
“I don’t know.” I shake my head.
“What are you noticing in your body right now, that is telling your head that you are scared?” She pushes.
I shake my head. “Nothing. I just know in my head.”
Bea gives me a moment, and when I don’t say anything more, she talks. “Sometimes, when I’m hungry, it seems like I just know I’m hungry, but really, all these little things going on in my body tell me that I’m hungry. Like my stomach might growl, and I might feel light headed. Maybe I feel a little bit slow cognitively. Maybe my mouth waters when I think of food. All those things let my mind know I’m hungry.”
I stop and think about this for a minute. My first thought is that I didn’t think so many things went into knowing you were hungry. I never actually feel hungry. I go off a clock as to know when to eat. I’ve screwed up my body so badly. My second thought is to tell myself to focus on what my body feels. “My heart is beating really fast,” I tell her.
“Okay, good. So that is one way we know we are scared.”
Things get fuzzy then, and I can’t stay with it. My heart is beating too fast, and I can’t breathe and I’m scared and uncomfortable and we are talking about my body and it is not safe. It is not safe to feel this, and it is not safe to talk about my body out loud and it is really not safe to bring another’s attention to it. My attention to what is happening in Bea’s office fades in and out.
She notices my fingers moving, and the very fact that she has called attention to them makes me freeze, go completely still. “It looks like you have gone very still now,” Bea says.
I start to say something, then shake my head.
“Who is shaking their head? I’m curious who that is?” Bea says gently. “I’ve noticed today, a part shaking their head no, saying no, even when you are saying yes today. It seems a part of you really wants to connect and a talk and be present, be here, and this other part of you is rejecting all of that. Maybe that part is scared?”
“I don’t know who. I don’t know!” I tell her.
“That’s okay. We don’t have to know right now. We just stay curious about it. That’s all.” Bea’s voice is soothing and calm.
I go floaty far away again, and Bea asks me if I can try taking some deep breaths. I try but can’t seem to do much more than barely avoid hyper ventilating.
“You’re body just doesn’t trust that it’s safe right now. I can see that it’s really hard for you to even take deep breaths right now,” Bea says. “Just keep breathing. Nice slow, deep breaths.”
Eventually I get my breath back, and then, I start to cry. I’m not even sure why, or what is going on with me, but I can’t stop the tears.
“There is a lot of emotion coming up right now,” Bea observes. “What’s happening for you?”
I shake my head again, and this time, I notice it, too. “I just….I don’t know. I feel like I’m messing everything up. Not good enough, or something. Like I did something bad, something wrong. Just I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to be sorry. You have nothing to be sorry for. What I’m asking you to do is incredibly difficult. And you aren’t messing up, not at all! It takes a long time, to be able to stay with the feelings and follow them. It goes against everything you have spent your whole life practicing. You learned a long time ago that it was safer to be far away from your body and not aware of what was going on in it. It’s pretty amazing that you have been able to feel the things you have, like your heartbeat. And the you were able to come back to your heartbeat. That’s amazing, it’s not messing up at all.” Bea says softly.
“I wanted to talk about something. The little girl wants to talk about something.” I tell her, shyly. I’m afraid she is going to tell me no, or that she is going to tell me she isn’t interested or something. I don’t know.
“She can always talk. Let’s use the rest of our time for her. What does she want to talk about?” Bea is very casual about it, very calm and quiet, so as not to spook the little girl.
I very quietly get my journal out of my bag and hand it to her. This journal has a ribbon that marks the page, so Bea can easily open the page to what I want her to read.
I curl up into myself, hiding my face again, and Bea opens the journal.
<><><><><><><>< I’m lost. Everything is triggering me. I’m drowning in triggers. Even yoga is triggering me right now. What am I supposed to do when the things I use for grounding are triggers now? [i wrote about something I’m not ready to share publicly yet] It’s my fault. I never told. Bea, I never said a word. Not that anyone would believe me. But I never told. You know, you have to know, where I’m going with this. I can’t fully think this, it hurts too much. But it’s my fault. Bad. Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad selfish needy self centered needy bad toxic.
Sometimes I wanted to tell. I wanted it all to end, to be over.
But then I don’t want it (yes, I wrote it in my journal as of it was currently happening. My mind gets confused sometimes, and I will write as if things are happening in the present) to stop at all because I am special to him, I matter, he cares about me. He loves me. Even my mom only loves me for who I can be and what I can do.
And I like the touchy feel stuff. Sometimes. But my family is not huggy. My mom is not touchy feely, only hugs for good-byes and good nights. He is touchy feely, and huggy and cuddles me. It just always turns into more. It just turns into our special game. Always a part of our game. But I love him. I’d probably do anything for him. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><
“Mmhmmmm……..oh, I see…..uh-huh….yeah……” Bea is saying as she reads what I have written, and her voice sounds sad.
“What?” I ask, worried. I’m afraid of what she is thinking. Is she going to kick me out? Is she firing me? Does she think I’m terrible?
“Most children never tell, at least not while they are a child. It would be…..a child’s defense is to freeze, to separate out the reality they can’t face from the reality they can, and so the idea of telling something that is unknowable to the child….you are asking yourself to be super human. No one can expect that. You aren’t bad. You didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing is the child’s fault, ever, just because they didn’t tell.” Bea says. She wants to read me something, so she pulls out one of her sensorimotor therapy books, and some of what she reads to me is helpful in the moment, but I’m pretty spaced out again.
Bea asks me to breathe, too try to sit up, to listen to what I hear, to look around the room, even if I can’t life my head she knows I can look at the floor. I try, but it’s hard. Bea reminds me that I need to get back to an adult place, that the adult me needs to leave. Somehow I manage to get back to a semi adult place, a semi grounded place.
“My mom wants me to come visit this weekend….she’s been asking and asking….and then she says that if I don’t come this weekend, then she will come to me. So, I guess I’m not getting a choice. I don’t get a choice.” I tell Bea. I’m half pouting, a little angry. “It’s even harder, right now because of all this stuff, and I’m not ready to go to my mom’s right now. It’s too much. So I just…..I don’t know.”
“I’m sure with these painful memories, it’s brought up old feelings of anger with her for not protecting you. How could it not?” Bea says. She is on my side, on the little girl’s side, and on the teen’s side.
“I’m not mad……not right now. I’m just….hurt. Hurt. Confused. I made her so mad.” I’m not really hear again.
“You made her mad? When? In the past?” Bea asks. She is trying to follow the conversation, and she does such a great job at following my crazy leaps and dissociated head, but even she gets lost sometimes.
I nod. “Yeah. Yeah. I always mess everything up. I did something bad, something wrong, and made her so mad.” I start to cry.
“Alice, do you realize, this is the same thing you said earlier, that you felt like you did something wrong, something bad? You weren’t sure where that feeling and emotion were coming from. I’m curious if the feelings were old feelings related to your mom. What do you think you did that was bad?”
“You know,” I say to Bea, stressing the words.
“The underwear incident?” She asks.
I nod. “Yes.”
“You weren’t bad.” She says evenly, firmly.
“I did a bad thing and she left. She was so mad and she just left.” I whisper, crying.
“She left. Yeah. That was so painful. You didn’t do anything bad, but it really felt like it. And now, right now, in 2016, you haven’t some anything bad or wrong, no one is mad, and no one is leaving.” Bea reassures me.
I cry a little more, and we slowly start to chat about nothingness, everyday chit chat, the kind of conversation that calms me down. By the time I say goodbye, I’m mostly calm again. I feel a little shaky, but not horribly so.