One of my favorite metaphors Bea has used to explain her job as my therapist, as my secure base, is this idea of me spinning in a circle—- the way you do as a child— and getting so dizzy from spinning I can’t always see where I am going, and Bea standing there watching me spin around and around. At times she may need to stand very close, and at other times she can give me more space, but she’s always there next to me, keeping me from crashing into things and helping me to slow or stop the spinning when I need to. The one thing she can never do is spin with me because then she won’t be able to see where I am going and keep me safe, and she might even get too dizzy and crash into me.
Tonight I spun around in intricate and never ending connecting circles. I bounced around from hurt teen, to scared little girl, to grown up who just can’t process this, to worried mom (because how do I make it okay for my daughter that her father voted for a bad, bad man?). I circled through hurt, scared, dismay, sadness, worry, anger, confusion. And all the while, Bea stood next to me and kept me from crashing into things. I had worried she would spin with me, because I know where she stands on the issue (because we have discussed it, and honestly, even if we hadn’t, I’d still know just because of who she is.) but she held still, and helped me slow my spinning.
“I told him I can’t understand how he can vote for a man who hurts women, who thinks it’s okay to hurt women, a man who is a rapist, and he told me I was either naive or stupid to think that Trump is the only one in the White House that is a rapist. Hubby said it’s just as likely Biden is a rapist. He said women make claims about rape that aren’t always true. He said that being a rapist doesn’t mean you can’t be a good president and that it’s not a reason to not vote for someone.” I cried as I told her this, struggling to breathe and feeling the hurt of these statements all over again.
“Oh, ouch. That hurt, I know. Those words, of course you got very triggered.” Bea’s voice was empathetic, and present. She was real and here in this conversation with me.
“I just don’t…how can he say those things? To me? I mean…it’s….he’s…this isn’t who I thought he was. I just…it’s not okay.” I stumbled through the words, just saying them hurt.
“I don’t know. I don’t think there is a clear answer. But it makes sense that you would be triggered by this.”
“He’s like Kenny.” I choked the words out, shaking as I sad it. “He’s not who he acts Ike he is.” I bursted into tears.
“It really feels like that, doesn’t it? And that doesn’t feel safe at all, especially for those younger parts. But I know there is a grown up who is exactly who she says she is and she will keep the parts safe, and I will help her do that.” Bea’s words reassured me some, and I was able to settle enough to find words.
I still jumped around, talking about parts and feelings, but Bea was able to follow my thoughts.
There really isn’t any making sense of this.
The little girl just can’t understand how the person who is supposed to fight the monsters, the person who she has always believed would keep her safe no matter what is the same person who is supporting a monster.
The teen is mad. And her world feels rocked. How can he do this thing that hurts me so much? How can the person who is supposed to love and care for me do this and not even see or care how much this hurts me? If he really believes women lie about rape all the time, what does he think about me? Does he even believe me?
The mom is worried. How do I explain to my daughter— our daughter— that her Dad voted for a mean man? That her Dad voted for someone who doesn’t respect women? How do I even begin to help her make sense of that?
The grown up— who I think of as me, the real me— well, I have no idea how I feel. My heart feels broken. I feel like I’ve lost one of my safe people. I honestly don’t want to talk to him anymore about this. Bea assured me that when things aren’t feeling so intense, hubby and I will talk about this and we will work through this. But honestly, how can I trust him right now? I feel like if Kat hadn’t voted with me and then gone to stand with her Dad, seen who he voted for and shouted out “Dad, why the fuck are you voting for that asshole Trump?” Hubby might have lied about who he voted for. For all I know, when he said he voted for Hilary 4 years ago, that was a lie.
I told Bea I just felt broken and lost and so sad that I had lost one of my safe people.
“It sad, terrible and painful actually, to feel like that. But you have other safe people you can lean on right now,” she reminded me.
“I only had three,” I whispered.
“Three? I think you have more people you are real with and can lean on than 3.” She listed my friends, my brother, my cousin.
“No…I, well, yes, I have more people in my life than I used to that I’m just me with but….my safe people….that’s different.” As I said it, I realized that my safe people are those who act as a secure base in many ways, and they are those who the parts see as safe. It’s different than the authentic relationships the grown up has with people.
“Okay, yeah, I see that. So hubby, and who else?”
“Kay. But she can’t…this isn’t…I can’t even bring this to her.” I explained to Bea why Kay knowing this about Hubby would be so very bad and not helpful. “So that just leaves you.” My voice dropped off, shame that Bea is so important to me flooding me. Why does this always happen? Why even now do I feel like such a freak, so broken for needing her so much at times?
“Who?” Bea asked, because I’d gotten too quiet for her to hear.
“You. You’re the third person. I’m sorry.” Shame just buried me as I said this.
“I can be one of your safe people. I just didn’t hear what you said, that’s all. You don’t need to be sorry.” Bea wasn’t rocked by this revelation, but even so, I still feel worried that I admitted this.
I switched gears again, talking about simple child like feelings of it all, because those were the most triggering of it all. “I think it comes down to this. I think this is what I mean when I said I just want someone to explain it, to make it okay. The simple thought of the little girl is that bad people side with bad people. If Trump is scary and mean and doesn’t care about hurting people how can someone I trusted side with him?”
And Bea answered the little girl simply and honestly. “I don’t know,” she said, “But I think that good people like Hubby can make mistakes, and still be good people. I think hubby must be seeing something we can’t see. And I still believe that hubby will fight monsters for you and keep you safe because he loves you.”
“I don’t know if I can ever believe that again. But I feel a little better. Well, not better, but I don’t feel like throwing up anymore and I feel like I might be able to sleep tonight.”
“That’s good, that means you were able to coregulate a little. I’m glad you don’t want to throw up anymore.” We were getting ready to hang up, but before we did, Bea added, “Tomorrow, if you need anything, I’m here. Let me know.”
I felt a little less alone and little less triggered, and I even managed to sleep for 4 hours that night.