Monday morning, and I feel somewhat…..not better exactly, but maybe like there is more of my wise self present, enough to know that if I talk to Bea, she will help me through this.
“Hey,” Bea says, smiling when I log into therapy. I’m sitting on the floor again, snuggled in a corner that feels safe, with my big fuzzy blanket, my stuffed Stitch, and my dog.
“How was Saturday night? Was it helpful to have friends over?” Saturday we had friends over for a BBQ and bonfire. While we still are mostly isolating so that we can safely spend time with my mom, we have one set of friends we have seen regularly since restrictions lifted in June. They live down the street from us, and they have two kids (A and L) that are Kat’s age, so it works out well. The mom (I’ll call her J) and I have been good friends for a while, and hubby and her husband (I’ll call him M) started talking and hanging out at the end of last summer. Anyway, it was a good night, and I did have fun, even if I felt a little off the whole evening. Hubby told M and J about what happened with the boy and Kat because the boy lives right across the street from them.
I shrug. “It was good. Sort of hard but it was okay. I don’t really feel like I have to be anything for J or M.”
“Did you talk to J about what happened with Kat and the boy?”
“No…well, yes, sort of. Hubby told them.”
“And how did J react?” Bea asks. J has some kind of trauma history. She and I have never discussed details, really, but we both know that the other has a history and have discussed triggers and therapy before.
“She was mad at the boy.”
“Really? How was that, to hear a grown up be angry with the boy?” Bea asks.
There’s something there, but I am not sure what. I shake my head and shrug. I just don’t know.
“Does the little girl feel any safer knowing that there are grownups who are mad at the boy for this situation and who are protecting the other little girls in this situation?”
“I….maybe….I don’t know. It’s….a feeling I don’t know the words. Like I can breathe a little bit better.” I feel so stupid right now. All those years of working so hard to name emotions, to describe feelings and thoughts and sensation, and I don’t know the word for this.
“It sounds a little bit like relief. Maybe relief that this time little girls will be protected, and maybe relief that there are other grown ups to help, that it’s not all on Alice to take care of,” Bea suggests.
“Yes, yes, that’s it, I think. Relief. I don’t have to do this alone,” I say. That feels good, to not have to deal with this boy alone.
“Do you want to explore this further?”
I shake my head. It’s hitting too close to the *my mom didn’t protect me* pain, and I’m afraid to go there. I’m afraid to spend time being mad at her.
“Can I say one more thing about this?”
“Yeah, okay,” I agree.
“Things are different now, you aren’t your mom. Kat is safe, and you don’t have to do this alone. You have hubby, and Kay, and J and M to help. And you have me. Can the little girl let herself feel that there are lots of grown ups who will help keep everyone safe?”
“Sort of.” I think I can’t really let myself feel this, partly because it bumps up too closely to the pain of my mom not keeping me safe but also because the little girl isn’t so sure right now that she deserved to be kept safe. I don’t say this to Bea, though. I just can’t right now.
“I think you’ve gone a little too far away.” Bea’s voice interrupts my thoughts, and I wonder if I have been quiet for longer than the minute or two it feels like.
“Sorry,” I mumble.
“No, not sorry,” she corrects. “You don’t need to be sorry.”
She waits until it’s clear I’m not going to say anything else and asks, “Do you want to look at your list, or is something else coming up for you?”
I shake my head, I just don’t know. “It’s too messy.”
“The nightmares seem to be really big right now.” Her voice is soft when she says this, but it’s kind of a neutral statement.
“Yeah,” I say. “Sleep’s not so good right now.”
Neither of us speaks for a bit. Then Bea tells me she will be right back. I barely hear her or notice she is gone. She’s only away from the screen for a second. When she comes back she says, “I grabbed this guy from my office yesterday. I was thinking the little girl might like to see him, I know she said last week that she wished she could hold him.” Bea holds cloud pillow up to the screen.
I feel cared about and it feels believable that she really does think about me and all the parts even when I’m not with her. I smile at Bea, but don’t tell her how cared for the little girl feels. Her gesture opens something in me, though, and even frozen and far away, I manage to say, “Parts want to talk but….”
“Some parts don’t?” She fills in the blanks for me.
“Some parts don’t think its okay.”
“Why is that? Do they know?” Bea asks.
I sigh and look down at my blanket. I don’t know if it’s embarrassment or shame or something else I feel. “I…it’s not allowed.”
“Hmmmm. What isn’t allowed? Is it the telling of secrets in general or something else more specific?” Bea has gotten so good at helping me narrow down what is really going on.
“I already talked about it. It’s not allowed to be talked about again.” The words come out fast, short and snappy. I sound like my mom telling me to stop being a drama queen and to just let it go. I bury my face in Hagrid’s fur. He’s warm and snuggly and safe.
“Ahhh. Yes, this is an old rule, isn’t it? But you know what? I don’t have that rule. I have different rules. In fact, I have a rule that sometimes things need to be talked about again and again until they are worked through. We might talk and talk and talk about something for a long while and then it feels better, like it’s not a sharp stick poking you all the time, and you might even feel like that memory can’t hurt you anymore. But you know what happens sometimes? Sometimes, we get older or things around us change or something triggers us and that memory turns back into a sharp stick poking us again. So then, if it feels helpful, and all the parts agree, we talk about it again. Maybe there is another layer, or a different piece to process. There are no rules about talking about memories we’ve already talked about. You are allowed to talk about anything you want, as many times as you want. I promise I won’t be mad.”
“What if…..it’s too much now? I don’t want to make you feel icky, too,” I whisper. The little girl is so afraid she will somehow infect Bea with her memories.
“It isn’t. I have lots of ways I take care of myself. Part of my job is to keep myself safe, and to know how to help contain your stuff. Does that make sense?”
“Sort of,” I tell her.
“You know how when a friend is really upset and dealing with something bad? You can listen, and you might feel sad for your friend, you might even cry or have other emotions, but it doesn’t effect you in the same way because it’s not actually happening to you?”
I nod my head.
“It’s a little bit like that.”
“Oh. Okay. I guess that makes sense,” I say.
“Do the parts feel better about talking now?” Bea asks.
“Maybe, a little. I need to think about this. Are you sure it’s a rule?”
“That you can talk about something as much or as little as you like? Yes, I am very sure it is a rule.” Bea says this like it’s a fact.
I want to tell her that there is this part of my nightmare I am obsessing over, because it just doesn’t make sense. I want to tell her I don’t understand, or what I think I understand is too painful to even think or say out loud. I want to tell her that I wake up hurting. I want to say so much, and I cant get the words out.
“It’s hard to talk again, isn’t it? You’ve gotten far away.” Bea’s voice pulls me back and I look at her on the screen and nod my head. “When you write, are you far away? Is it easier to write than talk when you are far away?”
I don’t know. Maybe. I think so. Why can’t I say this to her? Where did my words go? Right, I am too far away. I pick up Stitch, he’s big and soft and squishy. His fabric is fuzzy, and blue, a lot like cloud pillow. That’s why I bought him for myself, back in October, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer— I wanted something to hug that made me feel safe. “I can write when I’m far away. That’s why I used to joke I was going to use the whiteboard in your office when I couldn’t talk. But I never did because I felt stupid.”
“I remember. I don’t think it’s stupid, though. It has to do with different areas of the brain. That’s all. It doesn’t mean anything bad about you.”
“What’s wrong with me? Do you think….I mean, do you hate me for what I did? Are you mad at me? I don’t want you to think I am bad.” It’s very much the little girl asking. I’m so afraid that things I have already told her have made Bea think differently about me. I’m afraid that what I want to tell her will make her think I’m crazy, or lying, or something.
“I don’t hate you. I could never hate you. You aren’t bad, or gross or anything else you might feel like. You are precious to me. You didn’t do anything bad.”
“I did all those…….things,” I protest.
“You didn’t do them. Even the things that felt like your idea, you never would have done those things if someone hadn’t hurt you. If Kenny had never abused you, you would never have done them. You weren’t in control. You didn’t do anything.” She sounds so firm in this belief of hers, and in that moment, the borderline teen is triggered and mad.
“Shut up. Shut up! You’re wrong. I hate you. Take it back! I’m in control. Shut up!” I scream the words at her, unable to stop them from pouring out of me.
Gently, she says, “I know. It makes you really angry when I say that. I can’t take it back though, because it’s the truth, and I will always tell you the truth.”
“You’re lying! You’re wrong! I hate you, I hate you. Take it back right now. Right now.” I’m being mean, but I don’t care. I’m panicking. She has to take it back. She’s wrong. I did this. I made a choice. It’s a game, just a game, nothing else, nothing bad. It’s just a secret game and I wanted to play it. She has to take it back.
“You can hate me. It’s okay. I’m not going to lie to you, and I won’t take it back. That’s not fair to you, or to the Little girl. I know it feels like you made a choice, like you were in control, but you weren’t. You can hate me, thats all right. I can handle it. I’m not going anywhere.” Bea speaks calmly, and almost….lovingly? I don’t know. But she’s not yelling back, or ignoring me, or leaving.
I rage some more at her, and she sits quietly, waiting for me to be done. And eventually, I stop. The anger and fear just sort of….taper off. That’s when the tears and the guilt come. I’ve learned that intense rage is like a wave, it comes up quick and then gets more intense, but eventually, it tapers off. All that’s left now is horror at my behavior. “Oh no. Oh no, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Don’t leave me, I’m sorry,” I sob.
“I know. I’m here. It’s so scary for you when I say those things. I know. I’m not leaving. I’m here. It’s okay. You’re safe. It’s okay.” Bea murmurs soothing words while I cry.
We end things with an agreement I will email or text if I want to, and that she will check in on Wednesday with the little girl and the things she might want to talk about.