I’m on the phone when I walk into Bea’s office this morning. The girl who is like a little sister to me is upset. She’s about to spin out over the results of the election. I don’t have words of wisdom, I can’t say anything to make it better, I can’t logic her into a calmer state, I can’t change the outcome for her. I wish I could. Oh, if I only could. I tell her I have to go, I’m walking into therapy, but I will text her when I get out, see how she is. She says okay. I hang up the phone, hoping she takes my advice to stay off facebook for a while, and to get out of the house, to go for a walk, to do a project, not to wallow.
Bea looks up from her chair when I walk into her office. “I thought you had someone with you,” she says. You’re usually so quiet!”
I shake my head, drop my phone into my bag. “No, just a phone call. [little sister] is close to spinning out.”
“And you were trying to pre-empt the spin out,” she says knowingly.
I nod. “Yeah. Trying. I told her to get outside. To go for a walk. To take the kid she nannies to the library. I told her I would call her after I left her, check in on her”
“Good advice. She’s lucky to have you.” Bea says.
We flow into talking about some issues Kat is having at school. I tell Bea how even this issue feel manageable because the school was so supportive during Kat’s meltdown, and she is very pleased to hear this. We don’t spend long talking about Kat, it’s more me letting Bea know the things we are working on, and how Kat is feeling.
Bea easily transitions us to talking about me. “On Monday, something came up, and you said you thought you could write about it. Did you bring any writing with you today?”
I instantly go a bit farther away. I need that distance from her, from reality, from myself. I shake my head. “I……” I think I might throw up. “I……couldn’t. I tried.”
I’m far away, yet also jumpy. I keep looking around the room, not really seeing Bea’s hard wood floor, or the blue rug, or anything else.
“You tried,” Bea echoes what I’ve said, and she sound solid and grounded. “It was hard to write about then. Did you write about trying to write? Sometimes you do that.”
I shake my head. “No…..no…..nothing.” I sigh. I’m fidgeting with my fingers, picking at them and sort of scratching at my wrists.
“Okay, that’s okay. You tried to write about it, and it was really hard to do. Can we stay with ‘I tried’, and what feelings that brings up?” Bea suggests gently.
I’m still sitting up, trying to not hide my face, trying to be *good*. I feel tears welling up, and I blink them away, furiously. I can not do this. It’s too much. I cover my face with my cupped hands, as a few tears roll down my cheeks. I manage to stop them, and I wipe furiously at my face, before lifting my head again.
We sit in silence, Bea talking off an on, trying to help me. “I wonder if taking a few deep breaths would be good. If that would help you feel a little more grounded, so you can find your words,” she says softly. “Sometimes when I can’t find my thoughts, if I take a few deep breaths, that helps.” She offers up feeling words, for what trying to write might have felt like. “Sad? Scared? Frustrated? Tired? Something that’s not those, other?”
I shake my head. I don’t know how to tell her about this.
“I think it’s important we try to stay with this, that this is important, but we can take a break and come back to it, because I also think we need to stay in your window so you have words.” She pauses for a moment, and then very gently, and very carefully she says, “We don’t have to use words, there are other ways we can communicate and get things out. Words are what you feel comfortable with and I want to respect that, and help you find words.” Bea pauses again, maybe trying to give me space to speak, or to think, or maybe both. “You know…..even not having words is communicating a lot. Most communication isn’t in words. I know you need it to be in words, and that is okay, but I think….you should know, not having words, that is communication, too. I can feel how helpless you feel, how stuck you feel. Because not being to help you find words, not being able to make this better, I feel helpless in that. So not having words can communicate a lot.”
I’ve been breathing and trying to be more grounded the whole time she has been talking, and so I’m finally able to make some sense of the mess in my head, and I try to explain it to Bea. “I……it’s……it’s just…….I can’t…….” My head is still too mixed up, and I’m drowning in feeling, too many feelings. I take a deep breath, start again. “The dream…….we were talking about the dream…..and something came up. And I couldn’t…..talk…..I tried to write……it’s….it’s just there, always there. It never stops. I couldn’t stop him. I didn’t stop him. All I feel is out of control and scared. I can’t do this.” The words rush out, and tears are falling now and I’m staring at the floor, covering my face with my hands and then moving them. I’m picking at my fingers, scratching at my hands.
“You couldn’t stop him, and all those out of control feelings are coming up now. It was too overwhelming to try to think about it and write.” Bea says softly. She is quiet for a bit, and I’m going back and forth, hiding my face, uncovering it, but refusing to look up. I want to badly to bury my face and just hide. I don’t think I can handle being somewhat present, and feeling all these feelings and seeing Bea there, knowing she is there and understanding and accepting of all of me……it’s a lot.
Something clues Bea into this, and she says, “It’s okay to do what you need to do to feel safe. What we want to do, is help you to stay in your window. Staying in your window doesn’t mean that you have to sit up, or that you can’t hide.”
The grown up part of me feels like an idiot, but the little girl hugs her knees and buries her face. I need some distance, I need to hide.
“He didn’t stop,” I cry. “He didn’t stop.”
“No, he didn’t stop,” Bea echoes. She’s never shied away from stating the hard facts. “You survived. You are here, now, because you survived.”
“I couldn’t stop him. I didn’t say no, I can’t do anything, he can do whatever he wants and no one is coming and everything is out of control and he acts like he is being nice but he isn’t, he isn’t nice and I just want it all to stop and go away.” I’m half there and half here, and I’m getting confused, switching between past and present tense as I speak to Bea.
Bea murmurs soothing words, and she echoes what I’m telling her. She’s right here and grounded and she hears me.
“No one is coming, no one sees. No one WANTS to see.” I say the words quietly, little girl soft, and then tears come back again. I’ve never felt so out of control, so alone, so lost. It’s as if I am free falling through space and time, and there is no one to catch me. I am at a loss of how to describe this.
“No one came. And no one saw, no one was able to see, for whatever reason. No one was able to see, and that hurts. They didn’t get it.”
“He hurt me. He’s hurting me, he’s hurting me…….no one is here, and he is hurting me….. He hurt me.” I whisper the words, over and over, starting to panic, starting to realize the sheer size of these feelings, and I can’t contain them. It’s too much, I can’t do this, never mind, stop. Just stop.
“He hurt you. He hurt you, but he did not win. You survived. You survived. You’re here, now, in my office, it’s you and me, in the office. You are safe now. It’s safe here.” Listening to her, I start to calm down. She says, “No one was there then. You aren’t alone now.”
I sniffle, but don’t reply right away. Finally, I whisper, “Are you here?”
“I’m here. I’m right here with you, I’m not going anywhere. We are on this journey together.”
“Do you get it?” I ask quietly. I want to believe she is here with me, I want to believe she isn’t leaving me, I want to believe she gets it. But I’m unsure and a more than a little afraid to take the risk of trusting right now.
“I understand how alone you felt then, and how you still feel that way now. I understand there is a lot of grief and loss and confusion for you now. I understand that it’s really hard to sit with those feelings of overwhelm. I know it doesn’t always feel like it happened in the past, and I know it’s easy for me to offer things up, to remind you that you survived, and that sometimes you don’t really feel like you survived, and that it’s much harder to do the things I suggest than I make it sound. I know this is all scary and hard and it’s twice as scary and hard when you feel all alone. I feel like I get it, but only you can really answer that. I think…..you should know, if I’m not getting something, it’s not for not caring, and I want to know that I’m not getting it, because I do want to get it.” Bea’s voice is full of……care? Compassion? I’m not sure what, exactly, but it’s hard to stay present and not only hear her but feel what she is saying. The weight of the feelings behind her words is too much. Why is it just as hard to hold onto good feelings as bad? Why is she caring about me? Does she really care, or is this just a job to her? Is it part of her work to care? Is it real or pretend? (Writing this now, I’m seeing this parallel between my family pretending to love no matter what, but the real truth was there were contingencies with their love, and a parallel with Kenny, who pretended to care, who said nice things and claimed to love me, to care about me, to want to help me, and he hurt me. Is it any wonder I am unsure if Bea is real or pretend at times? And then all of that confusion is added to the therapist type relationship, which makes it even more odd and confusing.)
I nod my head, whisper, “okay.” It’s all I can say, and it’s enough to open the flood gates. “I don’t want to be alone with this anymore,” I cry.
Bea says soothingingly, “You aren’t alone now. I am here. You are doing so good at sitting with these tough feelings, staying in your window. I know it’s not easy, but you are doing it.”
We sit in quiet for a bit, then. After a while, she says, “You don’t have to do anything, you don’t even have to listen to this, you can tell me to stop talking. I’m noticing you are shaking, you are scared and your body is shaking. I can see you scratching at your wrists, you are feeling so hopeless and scared. This is trauma, too. It’s stored trauma coming out, just like your words, and just like your tears. If there was something you wanted to do, a movement you want to make, we can do that.”
I want to claw my skin off, because I have the creepy crawly skin tingly feeling I get with some flashbacks. I’m not about to tell Bea that though, because it’s too much to say out loud, and I don’t want the feeling on my skin to be real, so I shake my head no, and keep shaking it.
“No, I can see you are saying no. That feels too scary, and it’s okay. I’m just going to say one more thing, just so you know this. If you ever want me to sit nearer or farther away, or to come hold your hand when we are dealing with these memories, these feelings, I can, I will. If that would help you to know I’m here when you can’t look at me, if that would help you to know you aren’t alone, or to feel safe, I can do that. All you have to do is let me know.” Bea speaks slowly, carefully, but again it has that same caring tone.
I don’t say anything, and I don’t shake my head yes or no. The lonely scared little girl part who just wants someone to make her feel safe wants to reach out her hand. The rest of me is against the idea. The grown up feels like I’m too old to need my therapist to hold my hand. The teen doesn’t trust it. And really, I don’t know what the little girl is thinking; I don’t even like holding my husband’s hand. Hand holding doesn’t feel all that safe; if another is holding your hand, they then have control over where your hand is, they can move it anywhere they like. Kenny used holding my hand to move my hand to certain……areas. It doesn’t matter. I can’t reach my hand out, I can’t reach for her.
Bea meets me where I am at, instead. She talks about how sad I am feeling, how she can see that grief and confusion and pain. She tells me how she can see that I am struggling to not be overwhelmed, and she echoes what I have said: “He hurt you. He hurt you and you were little and couldn’t do anything. But you survived. You are here, and you survived. You are okay. You are here, and I am here, and you are safe now.”
I cry off and on some more, and Bea and I talk about that out of control feeling. It feels as though it has invaded my life, even though logically I know that isn’t true.
“This is a lot. It’s a lot and it’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of time, because it is a lot to deal with. You are doing it, even if it feels like you aren’t. And I’m here, even when you can’t feel it. I’m here.” Bea reminds me as I slip my shoes back on and pick up my coffee from the side table.
“Thanks,” I say, blinking rapidly to hold back tears that are threatening to fall.
“I’ll see you later today with Kat, right?” Bea asks me.
“Yeah. I’ll see you later,” I whisper the words as they rush out in a quick burst. I half run half walk down the stairs before I even finish speaking. I have to get out of there. I can’t breathe. I get in the car, and just sit for a few minutes until I’m in that here but not here space and am capable of driving.