This is an old blog post; I wrote it way back in January. (1/25 to be exact). I’m not sure why I never posted it. I suppose I was feeling too vulnerable or something. But it is part of my story, so I’m going to post it now, along with another post that was written but never blogged.
Wednesday (last Wednesday– I’m behind on blogging!) morning, I’m up before 4:00am. The nightmares continue to bombard me. I’m nervous about walking into Bea’s office later today, but I manage to hold it together and get Kat to school. Once I pull out of the school’s parking lot, my mind is flooded with fears around addressing the email I’d written Bea about Monday’s session. Even though I know that Bea’s response was kind and understanding, and that she want to hear the little girl’s perspective, I am scared.
The little girl is very much in control right now and I’m full of nerves as I walk into Bea’s office. I have that *walking into the principal’s office* feeling, that feeling of *about to be in trouble even though you haven’t done anything to be in trouble for*. I needn’t have felt that way though, because when I walk into her office, Bea smiles at me, and says hello. I try to smile, and I manage to whisper a greeting.
I sit down, and we make small talk as I get comfortable, and then Bea asks, “Do you want to talk, or should I get your email?” She’s not going to give me a chance to avoid this today. Although I’d probably deny it, I’m grateful because this feels too important.
I shrug. “I can try to talk.”
But then…..silence. I suddenly feel very locked down and unable to find words. I went from feeling little girl nervous to Ms. Perfect closed off and protected. I can’t feel anything; in that moment, I can’t even remember or make sense of why I was so hurt and upset.
Bea tries to help. She suggests, and cajoles, and asks smart questions. But nothing really helps. She gets out my email, then, saying, “I think it is important that we talk about the little girl’s perspective. I think it is important that we listen to her. She is the most vulnerable part, and she needs to know she will be listened to.”
But she won’t be! The thought comes from some where behind the giant stone wall Ms. Perfect has built.
“Mmmhmmm….lots of thinking, you really worked hard to sort this out in your mind.” Bea is reading back through my email, and responding as she reads. Although she has responded to me Tuesday night, she now can go through and respond more in depth. This has worked well in the past, in terms of helping me find my voice. “Yes, SP does bump up right against the need to go away and avoid in order to feel safe. And that can make it this very scary thing. Ahhh….yes, I see…for the little girl everything in the past is very present. And she can talk about the past, she is allowed to talk about anything she wants to talk about. The present is more stopping the narrative, it’s intentionally stopping the story, and the. checking in with what we feel in the moment. But if feelings or sensations are from the past, and that is what we are feeling, that is okay, it can be talked about. The idea is not to tell a story about the feelings, but to simply focus on the feelings.”
Again, far back behind that stone wall, I think, I hate this. I don’t want to do this. This is the worst.
Bea continues, “That glass wall the little girl feels? That’s depersonalization, that feeling that you aren’t really here, like this is a movie.”
I stop listening after that. She’s wrong. She is so wrong. And that is all it takes for the stone wall to be knocked down. This feeling is not depersonalization. Before I can stop myself, I’m interrupting Bea. “I…it’s…ugh.” Nothing coherent comes out, but Bea is okay with that. She’s encouraging and gentle. I start and stop, over and over, in my quest to get the words out.
“It’s hard to find words today, isn’t it?” She says softly.
I shake my head. I’ve managed to stay sitting up, not hiding my face from her, although my knees are curled into my chest. “I’ve….I have the words. I just…..can’t say them.” I whisper sadly. I can’t look at her now, and so I look at the floor.
“I wonder what is stopping you from talking? I’m curious why you can’t say the words?” Bea pushes me, just a little bit, but she is caring in her questions, and I’m not upset by them.
“I….I just…” It’s stop and go in this train of thought belonging to Alice. Ugh. Why can’t I just speak?
“Are you afraid I will be upset with you? Or mad at you? Because I won’t be. I just want to hear what you have to say. It matters.”
“Maybe you won’t be. You don’t know! You can’t promise that!” I say, the words mad and fearful at the same time.
“You’re right, I can’t know for sure. But I also know what types of things make me mad, and I am reasonably sure you haven’t done any of those things. So, anything you have to say is in all likelihood not something that will upset me or make me mad.” She takes my words seriously, not repeating empty promises, but explaining why she feels confident in making such a promise.
I don’t talk for what feels like hours, the words rolling around and around in my brain. Finally, almost forcing myself to talk, I say very quickly, “it’s not depersonalization. That’s not what it was. Maybe I wrote it wrong. But it’s not what I meant, you are wrong.”
Bea is so calm when she speaks. “Okay. That’s okay. I’m glad you told me. I’m sorry I was wrong. I didn’t understand. When I think of depersonalization, I think of feeling separated from everyone, like things aren’t real. Like you felt once before, last winter. I’m sorry I got it wrong.”
I’d hidden my face by then, and so I cry, “I thought…I meant….it feels like that is what you feel like. Like it feels like you have a glass wall between us, that YOU are watching me on a tv screen. It’s not me. It’s this feeling I’m getting from you.”
“Oh, I am so sorry you are feeling that! I didn’t feel thinky or gone at all on Monday. I felt very there with you, trying to help find ways for you to stay present, stay with the feelings. I am so sorry you felt different.”
I can feel myself getting more and more upset and overwhelmed. All the hurt feelings, and all sadness and aloneness. envelope me. It’s the feelings of an overwhelmed, hurt, out of control little girl. I curl as into myself as I can. “You just left.” I cry, the words mushed together and heavily accented with tears.
Bea can’t understand me, even her seemingly magic powers of understanding every mumbled, whispered, overloaded with feelings word. “What? I didn’t hear you,” she says.
I sniffle and try to get it together. “I was talking and you just said stop,” I wail. I’m not sure how Bea can stand this, I sound so whiny, even to myself, but I can’t stop.
“Oh! Oh, that didn’t feel good, did it? I know that didn’t feel good,” she says, full of empathy and care.
“Nooooo,” I cry.
“That is the thing with SP, it does purposefully stop the narrative. I wondered how that felt to the little girl. I wondered if she was going to feel abandoned by that.” Bea is straight forward and matter of fact right now.
I sniffle some more, and try to talk, but am feeling so sad, and it is too hard to talk, too vulnerable, too scary.
Bea continues talking, sharing with me that she hadn’t forgotten about the little girl, and that she wasn’t leaving the little girl, and that she knew it didn’t feel good to be told she had to stop the narrative.
After several false starts, I manage to start to say, “A long time ago, you promised you wouldn’t……you said…you told me……”
“What did I say?” Bea asks. I’m listening for any hint of anger or frustration, but it’s not there, not even a little bit. She really wants to know.
“You…..a long time ago….you promised that I wouldn’t…..you said that SP wouldn’t make me stop talking, that it wasn’t to tell me no talking.” My voice cracks, and then my voice is full of tears and sounds young. “And then you did it anyways.”
“Ahhhh….That felt just like I took your voice away, and you weren’t allowed to speak anymore, didn’t it? I’m so very sorry. That wasn’t what I meant it to do. I never want to take your voice away. But it felt really sad and really lonely, didn’t it? And maybe even a little bit scary, that I did something I said I wouldn’t do. It’s no wonder the you (the little girl) hate SP and feel such a strong reaction to the very idea!” Bea is right there, very much with me and there and caring. She isn’t upset with me, and she feels bad and is sorry I have felt so awful and shut down.
I nodded, agreeing with her that it felt bad. I’m crying too hard to speak, but I am listening to her.
“If you still wanted to do SP, I think we would need to do it only if the little girl is on board, and we would do SP with her. It would all be up to her. She would have to be okay with it, and we don’t need to do SP. And you can share anything you want. If thoughts and images from the past come up when we pause the narrative and check in, that can be shared. It is okay. SP can be really hard for a person who hasn’t gotten to have a voice, because you come to therapy and learn to use your voice and tell your story, and to have the narrative interrupted, that can feel very invalidating and like the therapist is ignoring the story. SP isn’t good when it is like that. That’s one reason I haven’t pushed to use SP with the narrative of trauma, but for resourcing and grounding, and now, with the sleep stuff.”
She gets it. Somehow she always gets it. I breathe a sigh of relief. I stayed curled up, hiding my face, crying from sadness and relief and just asa way to let some of these big feelings out. I cry and cry, until it’s almost time to go. Bea gives me a few minute warning, asking me if I can do some grounding. I nod my head, and she names colors of what she sees around her. I don’t respond. But I look around and find the colors she is naming. I am calm, and able to sit up and say goodbye. But when I get to my car, I realize I am not as here as I thought, and that it might not be a good idea to drive right now. Instead, I walk around downtown, listening to an audio book. After about an hour, I feel less floaty and capable of driving. I feel raw, and exposed, and vulnerable, and I hate the fact I behaved like a sobbing 5 year old, but I’m okay. I am okay.