Two sides of the same coin 

This is the second post I wrote but never blogged. It is from February 1,2017. 
Wednesday. Things felt weird, not because of Bea, but because I was very late to Monday’s session –rough morning with Kat, and getting to school late, plus bad weather all conspired against me. The wonderful, amazing thing, though, was when I texted Bea at 9:30, that ‘I was just leaving school, should I still come to therapy?’she responded with a ‘YES!’ And that felt really good. Like she wanted me there. So Monday we discussed my adult life, and normal everyday things, which isn’t a bad way to spend a session, it just isn’t the norm in my therapy and so it took a bit of time to find our footing. 

“What would you like to start with? What seems important today? Sleep? The little girl? Does she have things to share? Something else? We stayed more on the surface last time, so I really don’t know where you’re at.” Bea starts off, after we have had some chatty conversation.

I shrug. I don’t know. “I don’t know. Sleep still….I mean…maybe sleep?” It’s so hard for me to say what I want to work on. I don’t t know. Even though I know I could choose anything, I’m afraid of being told it is not important enough to work on. Even now, bringing up sleep, it is anxiety-making because I feel like we have talked about sleep for 4 sessions, and that it’s not okay to keep talking about the same thing over and over. 

“Yeah, sleep. I think that is still important. I’m not sure we’ve ever talked about what you would like sleep to look like?” 

I have no idea. Ugh. Why is she asking me this? How am I supposed to answer this? I’m completely bewildered, and I must have a look on my face that says so, because Bea says, “Was there ever a time you can think of that you just lay down and closed your eyes and easily went to sleep?”

I try to think. “I don’t…maybe when I was Kat’s age? Maybe. I mean. I remember by first, second grade, reading a book at night. I’d read and fall asleep reading.” My voice is hesitant and slow. I’m thinking as I speak.

“With the light on?” Bea asks. 

“Yes. Always with the light on.”

“What about later? When you were older?”

“I read. Well….later…..I..hmmmm…my parents didn’t let me have a tv until I was 15. Then I watched movies. Or read. But always something to distract from sleep.” I watched Gilmore Girls episodes, or my favorite movies, While you were Sleeping, Sleeping Beauty, and Now and Then. Anyone notice a theme with sleep? 

“It’s hard to know what you want something to look like when you never had it in the first place,” Bea acknowledges simply. It’s such a simple statement, but it is so sad. 

“I think how hubby just lays down and is out, that seems so nice. You know?” I say. 

“It does see nice,” she agrees. There’s a pause, and then she asks, a bit hesitantly, “Did he ever find it odd that you had so much trouble falling asleep, or that you really wouldn’t sleep laying down?” 

I cover my face with my hands, shake my head, slowly. “Nooooo. I don’t…..he never said anything, I don’t think.”

“Did he ever wonder why you wouldn’t share a blanket with him?” Bea asks. She doesn’t sound judgmental, just curious, but I cover my face again anyway. I know it’s not normal to refuse to share blankets with your husband. 

I shrug. “I think he just figured it’s the way I was, I guess, I’m not sure.” 

“I just wondered,” Bea tells me. “Do you know what you don’t want when it comes to sleep?”

I nod. Yeah. “No nightmares? Not being afraid to fall asleep?” I suggest. The things I don’t want. It’s easier to know what I don’t want. 

“I’m thinking, if we create more safety around sleep and bedtime, then it won’t be so scary to go fall sleep, and as sleep improves, it will be easier to function and then it will be easier to deal with the stuff that causes nightmares. I just don’t think there is a way to deal with nightmares in general. Maybe in resources or grounding, to help come back from them quicker, but not to actually get rid of them. That comes from working through the trauma stuff. Being tired all the time, that’s not easy to live like that, and I’d like to help you feel better rested.”

“Okay.” I agree.

“What about your Grandma and Grandpa? You had safety at their house at bedtime. We talked….was it Wednesday? You do have good memories around them. Did you get a chance to try using those memories?”

I shake my head. “I….well…it…” My words are stumbling and falling, tripping over each other. I’m still hiding my face from when we had the husband and blanket sharing conversation. 

Bea seems to sense that this isn’t going to be easy territory, and she says, “I’m going to get your blanket, just in case you need it.” She gets up, grabs the turquoise blanket and sets it by my feet on the couch. 

It’s not long before I grab the blanket and throw it over my head. Wearing the blanky like a coat of armor, a visible shield between me and the world, I am finally able to blurt out, “I didn’t do anything with any memories because you talked about that on Monday and I was too upset to do anything around SP, too hurt and sad.”

“Ahhh, yes. You were really hurt and sad.”

“And I know it’s not really SP to use good memories to feel safe, but it didn’t matter because it was all talked about together and I just couldn’t…..” I jump to let her know I *know* using positive memories like this isn’t SP, before she can correct me or get defensive about it (and now, of course, I’m fairly certain she wouldn’t have, but I was afraid of that at the moment). 

“It all felt linked together. It’s okay. Even if you just didn’t feel ready to try something new, that’s okay, too.” Bea says softly. 

“Okay.” I whisper. 

We sit in the quiet together, and when Bea is sure I’m not going to add anything more, she asks me, “What, exactly, happens, when you lay down to go to sleep? I mean, I know we have talked about it being scary, and it not feeling safe, but what is it that is happening?”

I try to think. I’m tired, I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open, I want to sleep, I lay down……

Bea says, “It’s hard for you to stay here.” Her voice is far away. With fuzzy thinking, I wonder how she knows that when I’m hiding under *my* blanky? 

“I know it’s flashbacks,” she says, prompting me. “Is it images, body sensations, emotions?”

I don’t say anything. I’m sort of caught between being here, in her office and being stuck in the memory, the idea, of what happens at bedtime. 

“Yeah, you are really far away. Maybe the work is to practice using the safety of the memory of your grandparents’ caring for you, to help come back from the scary memory of what happens at bedtime,” she suggests. 

I can see how this is a good idea. It is a smart idea, to practice going from being so far away away, so frozen and so scared, to being calmer and able to think and move. I am afraid to practice though. “Can’t…..it……the little girl……”

“Yes, what about the little girl?” Bea asks. “What is she thinking about all this?” 

“I…ugh! I know it’s a good idea, to practice. But I am afraid the little girl will feel like she is being told no talking. And it will feel just like the SP Monday.” I say it quiet, afraid of the words. Afraid of repercussions of not being happy with therapy. 

“That felt really bad, didn’t it?” Bea says. 

I nod. “Yes! I trusted you! You told me it would never happen, that SP would never shut down my voice, you promised the little girl, and then it happened anyway! It was like you just said what you knew I wanted to hear so I wouldn’t be so against SP!” 

“And that makes SP, or anything that is part of SP, very scary to try again, doesn’t it?”

Crying, I nod my head again. 

“The narrative, the telling of the story, is an important part of your story. And it’s all the more important because it is important to the little girl.” 

“Yes. Words matter. Words matter a lot to her. And she felt like you took them all away, even though you said you never would.” 

“I know. I know she really felt like she couldn’t speak here. She still doesn’t want to speak here, does she?” 

“No.”

“She told me, last time, what I did, how upset she was, but she doesn’t want to speak here, now, does she?” Bea says. She gets it. She really does. 

“Nope,” I tell her.

“If using SP is something you want to try…..because we don’t have to use it. Or we can hold off, try again in a few weeks, or months. If we use it again, I know now that the narrative needs to be a focus of the work, even as we are working with the body. SP is a little weird, remember me saying last time how SP stops the narrative on purpose? (I nod my head, I do remember) Well, therapy is a collaboration– there’s that word again!– between you and I, so we can change things and make it our own. Maybe SP for you is going to be using the narrative, and instead of stopping the narrative completely, it will be a break, a pause, to check in with yourself, see what sensations, emotions, thoughts are coming up from the telling of the narrative, maybe we see what we can link back to that narrative. Maybe a new narrative or new parts of the narrative come up, and we talk about that. Maybe we just quickly check in and then unpause, so we get right back to the narrative.” Bea’s voice is very soothing, almost musical at times, and right now is one of those times.

I’m listening intently even though I haven’t responded. I don’t really know what to say. I sort of shrug and say, “Okay. Maybe.” 

“Could I speak to the little girl now? Could you ask her to listen for a just a moment?” Bea’s voice is soft now, and there is something……she really wants to talk to the little girl. 

“Maybe.” I say the word as gently as I can. I want to say yes, okay, sure, but maybe is the best I can do right now. 

“Okay,” Bea says, and it’s like she had been holding her breath waiting for an answer. And then, “Your voice is heard here. You will always have the space to speak here. Your words matter to me. You are wanted and cared about here. You can always tell your story here. You are allowed to talk as much as you want to and I will never tell you it’s too much. Your words are important.” 

I stop all my fidgeting, and become very still and very quiet. I’m digging my nails into the palms of my hands, but I am very, very still. I’m listening. The little girl is listening, too. 

“What is that like? To hear that?” Bea asks me after a while. 

“I…I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know.” I tell her. The little girl….well, all she’s ever wanted is to hear words like those. But she doesn’t believe they are true, so while they brought some happiness and good feelings at first, now she is feeling very wary and unsure. Another part of me—what part, I don’t know– is livid; feeling like Bea is saying whatever she has to to get me to do SP. 

“That’s okay. You don’t have to know. Maybe it feels good, and safe. That’s sort of the auto,Aric thought, right? That it has to feel that way? But it could also feel scary. It could feel like it’s too big of a risk to believe my words, to trust me like that. Maybe anger or grief over words that the little needed to hear a long, long time ago, way back when you were a little girl. And that’s okay.” Bea’s voice is very nonchalant, calm and even. She’s totally okay with whatever.

“It’s worse. It’s worse when….I mean…..I had this….sleep, everything is worse now. Knowing I couldn’t stop him…..it makes it all worse.” I say very softly. 

“It does feel worse, this out of control feeling of not being able to stop of it. That can feel way worse. It overwhelming,” Bea agrees. 

“I thought….I thought it would feel better. I thought the whole point of working towards this idea that I couldn’t stop him, that I didn’t do anything, was because it would feel better!” My face feels very red as I speak, I’m embarrassed for wanting, for expecting this to feel better. For even thinking I deserve to feel better, and all but admitting that out loud. 

Bea thinks for a minute. She doesn’t answer right away, and when she does, she is speaking slowly– a sure sign she is thinking through her response. “Well….I believe that there are two sides to this coin. One side, it holds the horror and the overwhelming fear of *I couldn’t do anything, I could not stop him* is the side you have been sitting with. What I’m hoping, what I believe will happen, is one day you will flip the coin over and find the side that holds the relief of *I didn’t do anything, this is not my fault!* I think it is the other side of the coin that holds the feeling better feelings, the *I didn’t do this. I didn’t cause this. I’m not bad* feelings.” 

She’s still talking, but I’m having this incredibly strong reaction inside myself to her words. The *I’m not bad, I didn’t cause this* words. In my head I am screaming at her, “But I am bad. I liked it. Sometimes I liked it. I’m a bad, disgusting, terrible girl. I don’t get to be absolved of fault! I don’t deserve that! Shut up, shut up! I filthy and disgusting and horrible. I’m bad. I am bad. I don’t get to feel better.” I never said a word out loud. Ironically, I think if I had been able to say even a fraction of what was being rattled around in my head, SP would have been useful in working through all that was coming up, because I also felt this urge to cut, to make all the feelings and thoughts just stop. 

“Alice?” Bea is calling my name, but my head is too fuzzy to respond. “Alice, you are really far away. We need to come back now, okay? Could we use the memories of your Grandparents to help to do that? Alice?” 

I shrug, I don’t care. Whatever. Wait, I remember, she can’t see me, I’m hiding under a blanket. But either she does see me, or she decides I’m to far away to make choices, because she is telling me stories I have told her about my grandma and grandpa. I don’t often get to hear those stories told by someone else, and it’s nice. Comforting. Then a horrible thought strikes me. “Bea?!?” I say her name suddenly, breaking through the fog. 

“Yes? I’m here,” she responds. 

“Do you think…..? I mean….do you think she would hate me if she knew?” I’m referring to my Grandma, and the truth of my childhood, and Bea gets that right now. 

“No! Gosh no! Not at all. Not one little bit. I think she would hug you and feel so sorry that she didn’t know when you were little. And she would wrap you up in her arms and give you a big, big, hug and love you just like she always has.” Bea’s response to my question is instant, no hesitation, no thinking, just certainty that Grandma would still love me. 

“And Grandpa? If he were here? Do you think…….?” I have to ask about him, too.

“Oh, he would love you just as much as he ever did. He would wish he had known sooner, and he would probably want to kill Kenny, but he would love you just as much as he loved you the day you were born and everyday after that.” Bea tells me. Her words are beautiful. 

“Thank you,” I sniffle. There is this sense of relief, this sense of it’s okay, when I come back to the room. 

Bea smiles at me when I come out from my hiding spot, and meet her eyes as I hand her the folded blanket. “I can never fold blankets this perfectly,” she tells me. 

I smile back, feeling self conscious over the praise. We wrap things up as I pull my boots back on, and grab my bag and coffee. 

“I’ll see you later today with Kat, right?” She double checks. 

“Yup.”

“Okay then. See you this afternoon,” she says as I head out the door.

“Have a good day!” I call, heading down the stairs. 

I’m not okay, but I’m okay. I feel okay. Like I can leave the yucky stuff at Bea’s office, maybe, and get on with my life. 

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4 thoughts on “Two sides of the same coin 

  1. The “sometimes I liked it” and therefore “I am bad” – those are big issues for me, too. Even though I know that bodies can respond even in coercive situations or that we can be so conditioned that we go along with things even when we could get away, it is hard to deal with the sense of complicity.

    EXCEPT if I think about it being another girl. If I imagine the same thing happening with a girl that is not me, I don’t blame her. I have to keep coming back to that, because it helps to straighten out my thinking and remind me that children are not to blame.

    What I’m struggling with now, and will probably write about soon, is how this carries over into my adult sexuality. So even if I don’t explicitly blame the girl, I do still have something in me that links sexual pleasure to shame and dirtiness. I would very much like to figure out how to uncouple those things.

    You are brave, Alice. You are dealing with very scary things. You are talking about them. Remember how you used to be unable to talk? You’ve come so far. It’s a privilege to read about it and watch your progress. xxoo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing Q. It is a really confusing issue, and I have the same issue with this effecting me as an adult. I totally understand that.

      Oh yes! I do remember how I would sit on Bea’s couch, no words coming out of my mouth but so many swimming in my head. Thank you for reminding me that I have grown. Xx

      Like

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