I talk about nonsense– the morning and traffic and how foggy it is outside.
We slowly go into talking about hubby’s hunting trip, and how he had lessened the days he will be gone. Bea says, “It was good you discussed it in therapy, how was that, to talk something like that through in therapy?”
I correct her, “No, we didn’t go last week because Kat was sick and I just acted like a brat to prove my point (snarky teen really helped with that) and hubby cancelled therapy but never rescheduled and we can really only see Kim once in December and not in November now at all and that seems like too much space between appointments, but whatever.”
“Did you feel relieved or upset to miss therapy? Was it like, oh good, I don’t have to go deal with this today? Or maybe more like, you had psyched yourself up to go, and now had to cancel?”
“Neither. Both. I don’t know.” I’m really unsure exactly. “I’m more upset that we are missing so many appointments and that hubby never rescheduled.”
“That makes sense. For you, it’s going to be about the relationship. And a lot of time between appointments can feel like you are starting over at each appointment.” Bea agrees.
“She made me so mad one appointment…..she was saying that all the feeling words and labeling feelings and staying with feelings is hard for hubby, it’s hard for men, and when I said I didn’t grow up like that either, she said that it was easier for women. That isn’t fair. She doesn’t know me. It’s not fair to make this generalization. I said, no, not really, and that I learned in therapy.”
“And what did she say?” Bea asks.
“I don’t know. I was already too far away by that point to know.” I shrug.
“That’s okay. It’s okay. I’m glad you were able to correct the assumption she made. Too be honest, I’m sure I’ve made similar assumptions. It really isn’t fair, is it? We sort of coddle men around that in couples therapy, and it is unfair. It’s male privilege, assuming they need more help with feelings, or that women don’t need to,work just as hard.” Bea says.
“Thank you! I mean…..It’s like, you know, I couldn’t even label my feelings except to say happy or bad or I would say I was feeling like I wanted to go for a walk, or feeling like I needed to go to bed when I started seeing you. I couldn’t stay with my feelings, and there was any number of feelings I wouldn’t even admit existed. I didn’t know how to be present. And I couldn’t feel my body at all, unless I was in some kind of extreme pain.”
Bea nods. “That’s right. I forget how far we have come. I forgot about all the work we did with the kimochis around naming feelings and with working to feel even little bits of your body and to sit with your feelings. You’ve come a long way with feelings.”
“I feel like hubby and I are on equal playing fields now, because…..like, he might have trouble with feelings, but when he is present he is able to label them and handle them. Not great, but you know…..better than I could before I started therapy. And his mom didn’t have issues with feelings existing, her feelings were just really big. Always, these huge feelings.”
“Hmmmm……….and maybe that is part of his discomfort with big feelings.” Bea says.
We talk about that for a bit, and then she says, “I want to make sure we have time to dig into your stuff a little before our time is up today. Is there anything coming up for you, anything you want to talk about?” Bea looks at the clock and says we have 40 minutes left. I wonder how I used up almost an hour. Oops.
I shrug. I feel myself going away, just a little. I force myself to stay sitting up, I don’t want her to get shrinky about me curling up.
“Maybe we need a checklist, like eating and sleeping, feeling grounded or dissociated, that kind of thing. We could use it to start sessions, to sort of guide us.”
I think that she wants a damn plan because SP says we need a plan and so I had told her things I needed to talk about and told her to put them in her plan, but then she ruined that by being shrinky and now I can not talk to her about what was in the plan because it feels too scary to really trust that she is there and present and not gone and I’m too closed down to feel if she is or isn’t there.
“I was glad the little girl reached out on Wednesday night. I wonder how the little girl has been feeling since then, how you are feeling?”
I feel tears behind my eyes. ‘Go away, Bea. Just shut up,’ I think.
She eventually throws out ideas, “Is she still feeling alone? Is she angry? Maybe you are annoyed with her for emailing me? What is the feeling that first made made it okay to email me?”
When I don’t answer her, she lands on the fact we had talked about finding a middle— somewhere between on the surface and present and talking about deeper things and far, far away. She asks if the dream I’d written about (the one we were supposed to work through on Wednesday but didn’t) would be a middle place? The reaction is instant. I cover my face, as I feel hot and cold in my body, my heart pounds, I feel tears falling down my cheeks and I am frozen. I shake my head. No, no it is most certainly not a middle place.
“Have you still been having the dream?”
It take me a minute, or longer, to work through the fog. Slowly, I nod, and then silent tears turn to sobs.
“I don’t think I have a copy of the dream,” Bea says.
It feels like a long time before I eventually sit up, pull my blanket scarf over my face, find the dream on my iPad,, and hand the iPad to her.
And my dream. I’ve been trying to write it out, but I can’t. I feel sort of silly writing it out, because there is this very much hazy weird dreamy, it’s not real quality to it, but I’m so scared and upset when I wake for it, that I can’t really shake that feeling when I’m thinking about it either. It’s more of a fuzzy thing as opposed to my usual nightmares that are so crisp and clear.
It always starts out the same. I think I’m me, like just regular me-me and I’m with hubby. We’re playing at the park I used to play at when I was a kid, even though I’m pretty sure we aren’t really kids but I’m happy and the sun is shiny and it’s a good day. And then someone asks hubby something, and he says okay. Suddenly he’s gone, and I’m not really me, I’m actually a Barbie sized doll, so it’s just my mind that is there, really, because the rest of me is a doll, and I’m being picked up and carried away. And then things get really messy and scary. For a lot of the dream I’m made to do things I don’t want to do, wear clothes I don’t like, ext, ext……think of a child playing with a doll. It’s like that. Except it’s not a kid playing. I don’t know who it is, but he isn’t nice. The dream jumps around a lot, from place to place, or maybe *scene* to *scene*. At some point in the dream, I get passed around, like kids do with dolls, and then I’m thrown in the bottom of a toy bin and forgotten about. There’s more specifics, and sometimes it’s different, but that’s the general overview. Crazy and weird. And so absurd, it’s silly, and I feel seriously ridiculous for being afraid of this dream, for waking up scared out of my mind from it. I mean, seriously?!?! I have nightmares that are like flashbacks, replicas of my memories and they are so real and terrifying. It is silly that this dream is bothering me. But I’ve been having it for weeks now, always more or less the same, and it’s not going anywhere.
She reads, and I try to stay sitting up. When she says it is a very scary dream, I’m okay. But when she asks me about it, and talks about why it would be so scary, I can’t stay here, and I bury my face again, sitting princess style, my legs tucked under me knees bent and to the right, with my upper body turned to the left, arms encircling the pillows I’d buried my face in.
“This dream is very scary. It’s a lot. You don’t usually have more symbolic trauma dreams, but those can feel just as real as the reality based ones, and even scarier sometimes because what you are left with are all these very big feelings.”
I can’t talk about this, it’s too much, I change my mind. I don’t know. “It really scares me,” I tell Bea.
“I can see why! You know…..when kids play out trauma here, they always start their play with ‘it was a normal day’ or ‘it was a good day’. And that’s really speaking to the heart of trauma, right? Scary things don’t happen when we are expecting them to happen, they can happen anytime time, and even on a good day or a normal day. That is part of what makes trauma so scary.”
“I didn’t know that was how kids play.” The words are whispered. It’s interesting to me that this is how kids start off their play, and that this dream feels very much like a dream a child would have. It just doesn’t feel very adult to me.
“There is so much here that this dream speaks to. The wedding, even, and hubby saying yes to you dancing with Kenny. Feeling so abandoned by that, and even more so, how it parallels your mom leaving you and you feeling helpless to stop it as a child. It speaks to you being frozen and it speaks to your having to be that perfect girl, having to act how your mom needed you to act, as if you were a doll.”
I’m trying so hard not to cry, but I don’t succeed.
“Can we try something?” Bea asks.
“Maybe.” I don’t quite trust her not to try to mix in some SP stuff, or not to turn shrinky.
“Can the doll in the dream move?”
I shake my head. “She’s a doll. She can’t do anything.”
“Hmmm. Okay. Can we pretend she can move?”
“If the doll could move, what would she want to do in the dream?” Bea asks me.
I don’t answer right away. The words are in my head, they are just hard to get out. “She’d run away and hide.”
“Yeah, she would run away and hide. Where would she hide?” Bea’s voice is soft, it’s the voice she uses when the little girl is running the ship.
“I don’t know. Somewhere really good.”
“What about somewhere in my office? Could the doll hide in my office?” She suggests.
I nod my head; I like that idea.
“Where would she hide here? She’s tiny, which is lucky because she has lots of places to hide.”
“Behind something big and heavy. So no one could move it and make her come out.” I’m being very serious, this is serious business to the little girl.
“Maybe behind the couch?” I shake my head no.
“Maybe behind the toy shelf?” She gestures behind her, and I shake my head no again.
“Maybe in my messy closer, behind the shelf in there?” Bea suggests.
“Maybe,” I say.
Bea gets up and opens the door to the closet, so I can see.
“Yes. The doll could hide behind the big shelf in your closet.” I agree.
Bea shuts the door and sits back down. We talk about the doll hiding a little bit more, and how she is safe now and then we wrap things up. “If you wake up from bad dreams tonight, remind yourself the doll can get away, and she can hide behind the big shelf, in the closet, in my office. And anyone who wants to hurt the doll will have to get through me first,” Bea says.
I nod, feeling a little bit embarrassed, because the little girl isn’t running things anymore, and grown up me is embarrassed to have acted like such a child. I won’t admit it to Bea, but it is comforting to think of someone having to go through her to get to the doll. It means I’m safe.