We chat like always, me pretending not to notice my notebook– with all the after stuff that she kept last time– sitting on the floor at her feet. Even with my superior avoidance skills, we eventually move onto talking about my writing.
“I read the after stuff again and it really is all so normal, exactly what I would expect. It’s just how I would expect a kid– and even an adult– to feel considering everything you were dealing with.” Bea is matter of fact, and her words are slightly reassuring. She doesn’t find me crazy.
“Okay.” I shrug and pick my fingers. Whatever. I don’t care what she thinks, and even if I did care, I’m not about to let her know.
I had handed her my new orange notebook when I arrived, and after asking me if it’s okay, she begins to read. “This is good, really good. You say it’s hard to only talk about one part of a memory because it all snowballs together. That’s exactly what SP is for. So, with developmental stuff, we work to stitch feelings, emotions, memories, and thoughts all together. But with trauma, it all does snowball exactly as you have described. So, we want to unstitch those things and then they can be processed separately and then either they’ll be integrated into normal memory and they lose their power, or we stitch them back together, make sense of if, and then it can be integrated into normal memory.”
Bea continues reading and talking to me, unperturbed by my lack of conversational engagement. “I’m reading this here, and it makes a lot of sense, so much sense! This worry of needing me to know the whole memory and not just the emotions or body feelings. So, it’s not that we go right to body feelings, or even emotions. We access that by talking about a memory. And when the memory gets to be too much, then we focus on one part– like body feelings.”
Annoyed, I snap, “Right. So then you are just telling me no more talking. No more telling that memory.” I hate SP. This is stupid. I want to walk out of her office, I want to go home.
“I know it feels like that. It feels like I might tell you no more talking, and that would hurt a lot. That’s not how this would work for us, though. Stopping and focusing on one piece of the memory and going between that one piece and your resource is only to give your system a chance to calm down. We always, always will go back to talking.” Bea is so calm, and her voice is so full of understanding that I lose some of my snark.
“I don’t know,” I whisper, uncertain. It seems too big of a risk, to trust *SP Bea*.
Bea explains it all again, in that straight forward way she has, and suddenly something just clicks.
“So, it’s like you are taking me out of the memory because it got to be too much for me, not too much for you?” I ask.
“Right! I’m still holding the memory as a whole, but it is my job to help keep you safe, so I take you to one tiny part of the memory and instead of you having to look at and hold the whole thing, I hold it for you.” Bea realizes that something has clicked, and she’s still calm but under the calm is excitement.
“So it’s like clicking on a link to leave a webpage but leaving the original tab open on the iPad? And you won’t forget to come back to the original page?”
“No, I won’t forget,” she promises.
“Okay,” I say, and then thinking about it, I say okay again.
“Is this making sense?” She asks.
I nod slowly. “Maybe. Sort of. I think it’s maybe just something I have to do.”
Bea agrees. “Yeah, it is more of a thing you need to experience, it’s hard to really get it just by talking about it.”
“Okay. I’ll try,” I say, and I mean it.
Bea says something, maybe about resourcing and using my hands, I can’t remember exactly what, but it causes me to pull my fingers inside my sleeves.
“Well, those fingers don’t like being noticed.” She says. I hear the gentle teasing in Bea’s voice and smile.
“I don’t much like being noticed.” I whisper.
“Ahhhh,” Bea says. We (and what I mean by that is she) talk a bit, and then she suggests we talk about my need to hide. I hesitantly agree. I don’t want her to take away hiding.
“I’m going to go get your blanket,” Bea tells me.
I hear her get up, and walk a few steps over to the shelf holding blankets and then I hear her walk back and sit in her chair. She forgot to cover me up with the blanket.
“So, I will give you the blanket, but I was hoping that we could first try to notice what it is like to hide without the blanket.” It’s funny, because when I type it out, it sounds like an ultimatum but it didn’t sound that way at all. In fact, I never doubted that had I said no, or asked for the blanket right then, she would have given it to me. Maybe that’s why I decided to try and do as she was asking.
“Okay,” I say quickly before I can change my mind.
Bea fires questions at me, too many, too fast. As soon as she asks one and the answer pops into my head, she is asking another and that answer erases the first one. I can’t hold onto any of the answers for long. They float in one ear as questions and out the other as answers. I can’t seem to direct them to turn into words.
“I’m hiding…because you…..I don’t want you to see me when you are reading my words. Can you just ask me one thing at a time?” My voice is far away now and quiet. I’m not sure it’s really my voice at all.
“Yes, of course.” Bea sounds a bit surprised, but not upset. “I’m curious, if you are hiding because of your notebooks and words being in my hands, would you feel safer if I gave them back?”
I shake my head. “No. You already read the words. And you might need them again anyway.”
“So there is a sense I may need them again?” She echoes.
“Well, because you, if I can’t find the words, then you have them there. Or at least some of them.” My voice has that curious hollow sound to it, the one that means I’m heading towards too far away, but I don’t really care.
“Ahhhh. Okay, that makes sense. It’s important that I have your words. I wondered if I gave them back now if there would be a sense of rejection?”
“No. You always give my notebooks back. And it’s not about the notebook, it is about the words in it.” I tell her. Why doesn’t she get this? Bea isn’t a writer, not like I am, anyway, or she would understand how the right words are worth more than many pounds of gold.
“Okay. It’s the words, not the books themselves.” She pauses, thinking. “Are you feeling frozen right now?”
“I could move.” I put the emphasis on could. “I just don’t want to.”
“Why don’t you want to move?”
“Because then I might be….noticed. Seen.” The words are out of my mouth before I can even think about what they mean.
“So it’s about being seen?” Bea repeats curiously.
“Yes……I don’t want anyone to see me. I don’t want anyone to pay attention to me.” That’s what’s said out loud. In my head, I continue, *if you can’t see me you can’t hurt me. And I don’t want to see your reactions to my words in case they mirror my own disgust with myself.*
“Ahhhh. I know that is such a big worry, and I know it doesn’t take away the worry but I can honestly say I can’t imagine anything you would say that would make me feel disgusted by you.” Sometimes, Bea really is a mind reader. “Is there an image that comes when you say that?”
I think about it, focus on those words, *I don’t want anyone to see me,* and an image does pop up. I shove it away, fast. “Do you mean right away, like when I said it, or if I think about, focus on the words?”
“Either one,” she tells me.
Inwardly, I groan. “Then yeah. Something comes up.”
“Can you tell me what it is? What do you see?”
I sit for a long while, trying to get the words out, to tell her what it is I see, but I can’t find the words. I’m embarrassed and sick.
Finally, I shake my head. “I can’t. I can’t say it.”
“That’s okay, we can come back to the image. Let’s notice what it is like now, and we can try again with the blanket,” Bea says simply. “Before I give you your blanket, can you take a minute and see what you notice about your body? I’d say it is curled inward, protective.”
I don’t say anything for a long time. But I do focus on what it feels like to be curled into myself. “Tight.” I finally say.
“Your body feels tight,” Bea says. I nod my head, agreeing.
“I’m going to give you your blanket now.” She tells me before she stands up and steps over to the couch. She drapes the blanket over me.
I let out a big breath, and feel myself relax a little bit. I’m not present, but I’m not as far away as I was.
“That was a big breath.” Bea notices. I don’t say anything, and so she begins with questions again. What do I notice? Can I move easier, knowing she can’t see me? Is there a part of my body that wants to hide more than another? Do I realize my toes are not covered? Can I feel that?
“My toes? No….I didn’t know. I mean, now I know because you told me. But I don’t feel it.”
“Do you want to focus on your toes for a moment? Try to feel them?” She asks.
I agree, but all I can think of is her question about what body parts want to hide the most. The answer is my face. When I think of hiding, I want more than anything to cover my face, to not let anyone see my emotions playing out across my face, and I don’t want to see the other person, either. Hiding for me is not just about not being seen, it’s also about not seeing. We talk about how I do feel a little more relaxed now, that she can’t see me under the blanket.
Eventually she asks about the image again. “I said we would come back to this, and I want to make sure we don’t run out of time. With that boundary of the blanket, could you talk about the image now?”
I try, I really try, but the words just will not come out. I can’t say it. “I can’t. I just can’t.”
“It’s okay, take your time. We have time. We can always come back to this next time.” Bea says soothingingly.
“No…..I just…..it’s like I’m making it into a deal and now you expect a big thing. It really……… it’s just this stupid little piece that shouldn’t be so upsetting!”
“Is it part of a memory that we have talked about before?” She sounds curious, like maybe she is wanting more Information so she can figure out the best way to approach it.
“Yes….no. Sort of. It’s a piece of…well, it’s a thing that probably we did talk about a memory but it’s not something we ever….it’s just this detail that I don’t know how to say and it’s awfully upsetting for just a small detail.” My eyes fill with tears as I speak.
“The details. Those tiny pieces make things hard sometimes. I’ll never forget when a professor told me that the emotions and the story, the trauma, it is all in the details. The pain lives in the details. So it makes perfect sense that the details would feel so difficult to share.”
I struggle some more, trying to get the words out, and find a way to share this disturbing image. I take so long that Bea tells me that it’s time to start to come back, to get ready to go. “I know you have a full day to get on with, and I am going to go walk my dogs before this afternoon’s appointments. It’s nice out again, it looks like the sun should be out for most of the day.”
I don’t say anything, but my brain goes into overdrive trying to find a way to blurt out the words before I leave.
“Alice?” Bea says my name, a question, asking if I’m present enough to respond.
“Yeah, I’m here. I’m fine. I just…..trying…..I mean……I was trying to get words out.”
“Do you need to get the words out? If you need to talk about this, to get the words out, we can stay and do that. I don’t have any appointments until later this afternoon,” She says.
“So if I said it was really important and I needed to talk now, you would stay and we would talk?” I ask.
“Yes, absolutely,” she says with no hesitation. She is ready and willing to listen if I need her to. And she means it, of that I have no doubt.
“I’m okay. It can wait until Monday.” I say easily. I think I just needed to know she would stay, that I was worth listening to, that I mattered.
“Okay.” Bea draws the word out, surprised. She was planning to stay and listen. “If you decide it can’t wait, you can write it down, or email it. And I’m only a phone call away if you need to talk about it.”
“I know,” I tell her, and as I say it, I realize I do know. I believe deep down that Bea is here for me, that she isn’t leaving and that she will respond to me and listen to me and that it will be my choice to leave when I feel ready. Today, anyway, I know this to be true.