The baby shower 

Kay is pregnant. I’m happy for her, but it’s strange for me, too. I’m not involved in knowing about this baby, not the way I would have been a year ago. An invitation arrived in the mail last week, and it hurt. I can’t explain it, but that invitation caused a lot of grief to come up, and I knew I could not attend that baby shower. I also knew that not attending could very well be the equivalent of drawing a line in the sand and that coils cost me what semblance of friendship I have left. 

So, Monday’s session started off very on the surface again. I didn’t want to bring up Kay and the baby shower. I knew Bea would see it as a big deal, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that validation. Part of me really wanted some one to tell me to suck it up, to be appropriate and attend the shower like a good girl. Eventually, though, I told Bea about the invite. 

“Well, the million dollar question is, of course, are you going to go?” She asked. 

I shrugged, looked down. “I don’t know. I just……not going is sort of drawing a line in the sand. But I don’t want to go.”

“Could you go, take Kat with you, and just be happy for Kay, celebrate the baby and stay focused on Kat?” Bea asked. 

“Sure, I could,” I said. “It’s just…..I don’t fit anywhere now. I would have been the one THROWING the shower. Now I’m not even really a friend. I just….it would be really uncomfortable and I don’t want to deal with it.”

“That’s understandable,” Bea agreed.

We talked about the friendship, and how my setting a boundary ended the friendship a while. We go through how Kay and I began talking again, and how Kay isn’t even really in my life now. She doesn’t know me. She isn’t a person I would call if I needed to talk. Bea suggests that maybe I am ready to let go of this friendship, that I have, in a sense, outgrown it. 

All week, even outside of therapy, I think about this. I start to see that I am beginning to know who I am, and who I am is a person who doesn’t want to pretend things are great and wonderful when they aren’t. I don’t want to pretend to be friends and be closer to someone than I’m not, and I don’t want to make excuses, either. I want to be real, I want to be authentic. 

“I used to be that person, the one who pretended everything was good and did whatever the other party needed or expected, but I’m not that girl anymore,” I said to Bea. 

“No, you sure aren’t. I think this whole week, here in therapy and in your writing, it’s been about finding out who you are,” she told me. 

I nodded. “With Kay…..I thought, in a perfect world, I would send a gift and then call her and explain why I can’t attend the shower, that this rupture between us being left umrepaired makes it awkward for me, and I am feeling very sad because the last baby shower she has, I threw it. I would explain to her that I am happy she is having a baby, and that is something to celebrate and I would not be very celebratory with how I am feeling, and it is important to me to be authentic and true to myself. And then we would talk and she would understand and I would attend or not, but I wouldn’t be faking my way through anything. But this isn’t a perfect world, and so of I send a gift and message her my regrets, I think it will cost me the friendship.” 

“That’s hard. That is the hard thing. But you do know what you want to do, what feels right. You really are developing a sense of self,” Bea said to me. She sounded happy, maybe even proud of me.

I talked about how losing her friendship at this point would be more about losing the memories or the possibility of things being fixed— although I don’t believe I’d ever trust her the way once did. I shared wit Bea that I am planning on sending a gift with a nice card, and sending Kay a message that says “I am sorry we can’t make it to the shower, I have a conflict, but I wish I could be there. I’m so happy for you guys.” That puts the ball in her court, and if she chooses do question the conflict, I can then choose to share with her the conflict I have with our not exactly real, very surface, no repairs made friendship. 

Bea agreed that made sense, and she seemed proud of me for making a choice that was right for me. 
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But she’s supposed to be my anyway friend……

It’s only Friday night and Thursday already seems like a month ago. I’ve been on this crazy emotional roller coaster all week. I’m exhausted. 

Thursday’s session…..I talked about my kid, about a meeting I’d had with the school the previous week that ended in me yelling at everyone. I don’t get mad like that, and it was very unsettling– even if it was an appropriate reaction (as my daughters behavior analyst who also attended the meeting assured me). In fact, it was so unsettling I ended up texting with Bea later that night, simply because I couldn’t calm myself down and stop the feelings of anger– a feeling that leads to shame and fear. 

I’ve felt extremely vulnerable all week. Being cut off from Kay, hearing that our friendship is just over, has sent me down a dark and twisty rabbit hole. I’ve gone from emailing Bea, and texting Rory– just to make sure they are still here and not angry with me, too– to being livid with everyone. When I’m stuck in those feelings, it’s all I can feel, and I can’t control it. When I’m able to step away, I can see that Kay leaving has sent me into this clingy mode that then turns into a pushing away mode. My life has been a regular party this week, let me tell you (why isn’t there a sarcasm font yet????). The little girl, the teenager and the miss perfect grown up part have all shown up. 

So, I drove into therapy really needing connection and reassurance that Bea was still here and everything was okay. Unfortunately, the perfect me showed up in Bea’s office, and chose to focus on Kat instead of me. I’d been emailing with Bea since Kay’s text message, though, so she knew I needed more than just talking about Kat. I’d even emailed her about my self destructive behavior, which isn’t something I usually admit to so easily. I think I needed to test Bea a little, and make sure she wasn’t going to leave me just for being bad. 

Me: I was really bad last night. I made pizza for dinner with the intention of throwing up. And then I felt like crap after and didn’t feel better and that just sucked. And then I had nightmares most of the night until I gave up on sleep. Boyfriend nightmares.  

Bea: Kay was there for you and witnessed the horror of the boyfriend stuff. Feeling abandoned by her no doubt took away some of your safety, and your sense of yourself as having been wronged. “Bad” fits with that. Of course you weren’t “bad” yesterday–you were trying to cope and self soothe in the way you knew how. And being self destructive goes right along with your guilt.

I loved that she told me I wasn’t bad, that I was reacting in the way I knew how to and trying to cope. Kay leaving like this has triggered all kinds of crazy in my head. Thankfully, I have the miss perfect part of me to function in daily life; she’s so very, very good at acting normal even when I feel like my world is collapsing. She should be good at it though, she’s had 27 years to practice her act. 

Even with miss perfect showing back up and taking over, my trust issues were triggered. And so, I sent another email. 

Me: So you don’t think I’m bad? And you aren’t going anywhere? Even if I tell you no about something, or get mad, or disagree with you, or mess up? 

Bea: Yes, I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. You can disagree with me, get mad at me, and act as obnoxious as you want and I will still be here.

Just what I needed to hear. 
I also sent a text to poor Rory. We had been texting all week, but this was maybe the most vulnerable one I sent her. And while it sort of sucks to be that vulnerable with anyone, I think it’s progress, because a year ago I would have either pretended everything was fine, or I would have found something to be angry with Rory about, and push her away before she could leave me. 

Me: Okay, I know this is incredibly ridiculous but I just need to make sure you are still here and not mad at me for anything. Because I’m sort of freaking out a little bit. 

Rory: Not mad in the slightest. Not even one shred
Me: I’m just feeling a little unstable at the moment.

Rory: It is ok. You aren’t nuts. And you and her have had big fallings out before 
Me: Not like this. I’m always the one who shuts her out for pushing me too much on something i don’t want to deal with. This is different. She left me. I didn’t do the leaving. 

Rory: I am sorry. But I won’t leave. 

The only person I didn’t double check things with was hubby. And not because I didn’t want to, but because he is seeing this falling out as typical girl drama and I am so not in a place where I can be vulnerable with him and risk feeling rejected.

So, Bea was aware of all my ups and downs because we had been emailing this week. She eventually changed the Kat subject into how I was dealing with everything. I froze and drifted away a little. I finally told her I had no words, that I just didn’t even know what to say. Bea asked some questions then, and helped me get started talking. 

I told her how Kay probably was more in the caretaker role early on in our friendship, that it was definitely unbalanced, and she was giving more than I was. The friendship, in the beginning was certainly more about her helping me, picking up the pieces of whatever mess I’d made, and keeping me from killing myself. But, I changed, and became more stable (even if that was a somewhat masterful illusion that didn’t fully hide all my flaws from Kay) and the friendship balanced out. It’s a different friendship than I have with Rory; in some ways, offering advice, or support, or taking care of Kay feels a bit like a child offering the adult help. But, Kay has always been the person in my life with the answers. I don’t know. I told Bea that although things started out unbalanced, and at times I worried I wasn’t a good enough friend, I did think they were more balanced now. She told me that I am caring and emphatic, even with her in the capacity of therapy, or when she has seen me interact with other adults (like the moms in a playgroup Kat was in, or when there is a client before or after me) and she couldn’t imagine me being less than that in my other relationships. I didn’t tell her, but that surprised me. It was unexpected. I don’t expect others to view me as kind; I’m always assuming they think I am selfish and self centered. It’s maybe the first time I’ve really thought that people truly don’t view me as I view me. 

I told Bea how Kay is my anyway friend, and I’m hers. She the one who sees all the ugly, hears the mean things I have to say, sees my hurt and tears and crazy, but she loves me anyway. And I saw her emotional ups and downs, her anger at her wife, the regrets she has, the hurt and pain caused by an insane ex-husband, and more, but I loved her anyway. An anyway friend is someone you don’t have to hide things from, you don’t have to be afraid of what parts of you they have seen, you don’t have to perform well, or be something you aren’t. Because they love you anyway. And an anyway friend is not supposed to leave. 

I don’t remember much of what I said in session, but I do remember saying this. “She left. She’s not supposed to leave. She left. And if she could leave, anyone could leave. And I’m freaked out over that. She left. But she’s supposed to be my anyway friend.” 

I don’t remember everything Bea said. But I do remember peeking at her and seeing her face. She looked sad, she looked like she really could feel my hurt, and like it made her sad for me. “I know. I can hear the little girl is really worried that anybody could just get mad and leave if Kay could leave. I’m still here. I’m not leaving. Well, I’m leaving this week for vacation, so I won’t see you Monday, but I will be back on Wednesday and I will see you Thursday.” 

It hit me then, how bad I really felt, and how scared I was that I could lose everyone. I started to cry, but forced myself to pull it together, knowing that the time was almost up. When I left, I stood by her office door, and asked very quietly, “I can email, right? Even though you’ll be gone, you’re still here and I can email?” I was embarrassed to ask this again, but the little girl desperately needed to know. 

“Yes, you can email. I’m still here, and I will be back. I’m not leaving.” Her tone was kind, and her voice was soft when she told me this, but there was something that said she was very firm and serious about this. 

I left feeling connected but sad. I still feel sad. And really disconnected from everyone right now. I’ve checked my email, hoping that Bea would email for some random reason, even though I haven’t emailed her today. And I saw her today when Kat was at therapy. (But Kat’s therapy session and subsequent conversations at home have been massively triggering for me, so I’m extra unsettled tonight….that’s a whole different post though). I’ve thought about emailing Bea, even just to say I feel floaty and lost and alone and as if I have no anchor and that I’m scared. But I haven’t, because I feel silly. Instead– for the moment at least– I’m going to curl up in bed with my dog and watch some Gilmore Girls. They always make me feel better. 

How to ruin a friendship 

A few weeks ago– 4 1/2 to be exact– I got a text from my best friend, Kay. She wanted to meet with my therapist to discuss some family problems she has been having. I didn’t text back right away. I wasn’t sure what to say. I really wanted to give her Bea’s number, and be fine with it. But the thing was, I wouldn’t have been fine with it. I spent some time freaking out, and some time being angry that the whole email thing between hubby and Bea had happened, because if she had asked me before this, I would have given her the number and thought nothing of it. I texted my other best friend, and asked her what to do. If Kay is like my big sister, the person who I’ve known most of my life and who has always been this open and authentic person, Rory is more like my peer. She’s grown a lot since we met– 10 years ago!– and she can be so logical, and see things from all sides, and she is so smart and strong and has the biggest heart. Anyway, I asked Rory what to do, and she was livid that Kay would even ask to see my therapist. But then she switched to rational mode, assured me I was not insane for feeling like this, and counseled me to simply tell Kay the truth. We had a good text-convo, and I felt better. That still wasn’t enough, however. I texted Bea, too. I never text Bea. Well, I’ve texted her very few times, usually when it has to do with a Kat problem (like when Kat told me about an incident that triggered me to the point of not being able to function at all, and after the monster in law threatened to take my child away from me). 

But I texted her. I was originally just going to ask her to tell Kay that she wasn’t taking new clients or something, so I could give her Bea’s number and not have to face the conflict. But I couldn’t do it. I spent a lifetime lying, pretending, and hiding secrets. Kay is one person I’ve never hidden things from, and I didn’t want to start now. I trust her with all my secrets, all my crazy. So, I decided to trust her with this, too. Bea and I had a text-convo that left me feeling okay. She agreed with Rory, that I needed to just tell Kay the truth, but also informed me that she couldn’t see Kay anyway, that it would not be in my best interest. 

I tried calling Kay. She didn’t answer, and sent me a text back that she couldn’t talk right then. By this time, several hours had passed since her request, so I texted her back. I told her I didn’t really want to talk about this via text, but I didn’t want her to think I was ignoring her request. And then I explained that I really wanted to say yes, but that it didn’t feel okay to me, that things were just now feeling more stable with Bea, and that I didn’t want to hurt her or ruin our friendship, and I was very afraid to tell her this, but I wasn’t going to lie, either. She simply sent a text back saying okay. 

A few days later, I sent her a list of therapist names Bea had given me, and she responded back a simple thanks. I asked if she was mad. She told me that she didn’t think this was a good time to talk about it, that she needed some time to organize her thoughts. Since then, I’ve sent a text every Monday, just to let her know I’m here, even if she is really mad, that I still love her, and I miss her, and am worried about her and want her to be okay. She never responded (until today).

This whole time, I did miss her, and I hated us not talking, but I was okay. I was handling the fact that she was mad at me. It was okay that she was mad. I had said no, I had hurt her feelings, she was upset. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been okay with that. But she was mad, and I was dealing with it. I’d even discussed it with Bea; that I was okay, that i didn’t like it, but I was okay with her being mad at me, I could understand it, and I had enough trust in that relationship to not freak out. What an idiot I was. 

Kay has literally seen me through some of the worst moments in my life. I’ve seen her through some pretty bad moments, too, although I always secretly felt like she was the better friend and like I was a crap friend. She hated certain choices I made, but made sure I knew she loved me. She was just there. She didn’t let me run away from that relationship, or from my feelings, or my fears. She constantly encouraged me to stick up for myself, to voice my needs, to set boundaries. This is the friend who once stayed with me on the phone for four hours, to get me to go back to therapy with Bea and tell her how not okay things were; she talked all afternoon, the entire drive there, as I sat in the waiting room, and then told me I could call her if I needed her once I was in the office. She’s pushy about making me face certain things, but it’s not a bad kind of pushy. She is often in agreement with Bea. She’s not a bad person. She’s hurt, and she’s angry at me, and she’s freezing me out and behaving like a child right now. But she is one of the best people you could hope to know. Honestly. 

So today (well, technically yesterday), I texted her, and she responded. She said she’s hurt that I don’t trust her after everything we have been through. She said she understands fear and irrationality, that she appreciates me standing up for my needs, and that I do need to be able to see and talk to Bea, and get better and keep healing, but that she is hurt and angry and emotionally wrecked over my selfishness. And that she’s not sure she can ever forgive this. 

I sat and sobbed for most of the late morning and early afternoon. I emailed Bea, and texted Rory. The both told me I had done nothing wrong. Rory thinks Kay doesn’t like that I’ve said no to her, and that it’s hard for her to see me doing things I used to need her support for. Bea also questioned of maybe Kay was feeling as if Bea were taking over her role with me. Bea validates that it was a frustrating and hurtful day, she told me that what Kay isn’t seeing is that while on the surface it doesn’t seem a big deal to share your therapist, it actually IS a big deal. She mentioned how the email situation had caused such issues and that if she had seen Kay, that would have been the potential to cause many trust issues between her and I. She even simply said that Kay was being pretty mean. 

I don’t know. I don’t understand it. Maybe she hates that I’m talking to Bea and trusting Bea as much as I trust her. Maybe she is having a hard time seeing me get better, because she has tried for years and years to help me heal, and Bea has helped me do something she couldn’t. Except, that isn’t fully true. Kay helped keep me alive. She helped me through so much. She showed me I could trust another person. She showed me it was okay to be this angry ugly person, that there were people in the world that could see that part of me and still love me. If it hadn’t been for her, I would never have been able to consider trusting Bea; Bea’s openness and authenticity would have been seen as a trick by me. 

But I couldn’t have her see Bea. But maybe it would have been fine. Or not. I mean, I saw myself having trouble trusting anything either of them said if Kay was seeing Bea, and either being stuck in therapy and not making any progress and not able to really talk to Bea, and maybe eventually just giving up on therapy. I don’t know. I would have worried that they were talking about me, listing off all the awful things about me, everything either of them don’t like, talking about the bad choices I’ve made, what a bad person I am, ext, ext. And maybe that is crazy. But I can’t help it. I’m always afraid when people I know talk about me. I never think it’s good stuff, and I wouldn’t have believed either of them if they had said they had never talked about me, or if they had said it was good stuff. Or, at least that’s where my mind went as to what I thought would happen if I said yes. So I said no. But maybe I was over reacting, and it would have been fine. I don’t know. 

I don’t know much, except I wish I had just given her Bea’s number, and let Bea tell her no. Or maybe Bea wouldn’t have told her no, and things would have feel how they fell. I don’t know. I’m hurt, and upset, numb, and freaking out a little. I can’t stop crying. This hurts. The person I’ve trusted the most and the longest in this world, the person who knew the secret part of my crazy mind, is gone. And she’s gone because I hurt her and she felt the need to remove herself from my life. 

Status

The fight 

I don’t have the energy to post the whole story right now. I set a boundary with my best friend 4 weeks ago. She hasn’t spoken to me, or responded to texts messages (I sent one a week to let her know I was still here even if she was mad at me). Today she responded, basically telling me the friendship is over, that she can not forgive me. My world just fell apart. I lost my big sister, best friend, advocate and supporter. I don’t know how to do this without knowing she is there. I’m not okay. I’m really, really not okay. 

Unfiltered week 

This week has been full of spaciness, choppy and hard. I’ve been as unfiltered as I can be with the 3 most important people in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time zoned out and hiding in the room in my head. So much feeling has come out, and I can’t handle it all at once. It’s too much. And so the Miss perfect part of me has come out, taking over, making sure things were okay. I don’t remember all of this week, as a consequence, but there were big important moments, when I was real and at least partly there. I’ve written what I remember. 

Monday, I saw Bea. 

“Should we look at your email? Should I pull that up?” Bea asks. 

“I don’t know. I guess.” I feel exposed. I’m afraid she is angry with me for my snarkiness. 

“Well, I’ll pull it up. I didn’t find teenage you all that snarky,” she says in that forthright way she has. 

I shrug. Maybe I am embarrassed that I made such a big to do. “I certainty felt very snarky.” 

“Well, yes.” She makes a reference to what she had said in her emailed response to the snarkiness. It’s something about this being different, not like my parents, the experience not being like my teen years of not being accepted. 

“I was just….I was upset. I don’t know. But you weren’t mad. You listened.” I think about how she admitted to things I accused her of, when I was right. 

Bea says something, I don’t remember what, and I tell her that I feel like replying in a quite snarky way; that the teenage part was feeling very sassy and argumentative. 

“Would you have said something like that to your mother?”

“Oh no. Not ever. That….well, My parents took my door once, for being just a bit snarky.” I laugh, although it may not be so funny. 

I pull my iPad out, and hand it to her. “I wrote this, too. It’s about the teenage stuff…the body stuff. I don’t know.” I hide my face. 

We talk, but much of that is gone from my memory. I just know she was still there and not upset that teen me had rebelled a bit and tested her boundaries.

 Later, she shifts in her seat. “Well, let’s maybe look at it like this. If I had handed you all the information on these classes, and you had been able to study and research sensorimotor therapy, would you have told me to take the classes? Or maybe a better thing to ask is what would the grown up, the teenager, and the little girl all think about this?” 

“The grown up would say take the classes.” I state it matter of factly. It’s true. 

“And the little girl?” She asks softly. 

I take a minute to think, to look inside myself, wait for an answer to her question. “Well….she says no.”  

“Just no? Is there more to that?”

“Ummm….it’s like..the little girl……” I bury my face in my knees. I need to hide. “I’m scared.” 

“What is feeling so scary?” 

“I don’t want things to change.” I whisper. I’m far away now. Maybe too far away. 

“What would have to change?” 

“I…you. There’s…..you listen to me………but if….I mean, if I can’t….do what you want, I’ll um….you’ll leave. Everything will change.” 

“Ahhhhh. Nothing has to change. I’m not leaving, even if you never want anything to do with sensorimotor stuff. I’m not leaving.” I’m peeking through my fingers, and she is leaning forward a little bit. “I am curious though, why is change a bad thing?”

“Because things are okay like this. I’m not alone. I have someone listening to me finally after I waited so long. I don’t want to be alone again.” The answer just pops out. I don’t have a minute to filter it. 

“That makes sense. Nothing has to change, even with me learning new tools. I’m very aware of the little girl, of keeping her and you safe.” She reassures me. It’s quiet for a minute. “What about the teenager?” 

“She says no.” 

“I’m not surprised.” Bea says. 

“She doesn’t want anything to do with body stuff.”

“I understand. It makes sense, she’s had a lot of scary things happen in her body.” 

“She’d want….she would want you to do…I mean, go anyway. Even though she says no.” I admit. 

“She would want me to do what was best for her, even if she disagreed.” Bea is nodding, agreeing with what I am saying and showing me she understands what I am saying.  

We agree we will discuss sensorimotor stuff, but that there is no expectation of me to agree. 

“Thank you, for really looking and seeng that asking me to sit up was from the sensorimotor stuff. I felt a little crazy, being so sure and you…..I don’t know. And I was so sure you were mad, frustrated with me, for not doing what I’m supposed to. And you kept saying you weren’t mad.” She had admired she was frustrated that she had what seemed the perfect tool, and couldn’t figure out how to make it safe to use. But she had been very clear that she wasn’t frustrated with me, she almost never gets mad with people who have trauma histories because she understands there is a reason for behavior. She had said she gets frustrated when parents use their child, or when she is put on the middle of divorce cases and feels used.  

“Well, I didn’t want to admit it! But you deserved to hear the truth. I had to really look at it.” She says softly. 

I nod. I get it. 

We switch to the list of teenage upsets, and she suggests that having a more in depth discussion of the boyfriends “list” might be helpful. I agree to try and write one. She invited me to email it, and reminds me that she is here. 

After session with Bea, Hagrid and I make our way to my best friend’s house. We have a nice morning, chatting and drinking coffee. She fills me in on the big and small things in her life right now. After all, two weeks ago we met for coffee, kept things light. Before that, I hadn’t seen her for months. Now, after she catches me up, she turns to me, and looks at me, really looks. 

“We need to talk about this.” She gestures to the space between us, implying the relationship. “You push me away, avoid me for months. I know this scares you. But I love you. Those aren’t just words, they are my feelings, how I feel about you. You are my family. It makes me sad when you push me away.” 

She talks about attachment, and fears. She talks to me about how we matter to each other. I admit to her that she matters. I tell her that she was the first person in my life who to see me, to hear me, and to stay. She was the first person to see all the ugly and accept that, love me anyway. 

“Well, yes. Because you are my family. That is what it means to be family.”

“Not in my family. My parents weren’t abusive, they loved me, but things were never like this.” 

“Not abusive is debatable. But no, things were not like that in your family.”

“I think…I wish, I mean, I know that I can’t expect my marriage to be the same as us. But I wish I could be attached to hubby like I am to you.” I tell her sadly. 

“I think you can. I think you should have the same safety in marriage as you do with me. You deserve that. Hubby is capable of that. You won’t always talk to him about the same things we talk about, but you have the right to have the same safety and attachment.” 

This ends up with me letting down the wall around my anger. I scream and rant and rave at her; the venom and hurt in my voice is so evident. I scream about hubby, his mom, my parents. All of it. And K listens. She hears it all, validates a lot of it, says I have the right to be angry about all of this and more. She’s the only person I have ever fully showed my rage to and believed she could still see me as good and love me. 

The conversation lasts an hour or so, but it ends with her saying, “You need to talk to hubby. You are hurt and have the right, but not talking to him is a disservice to you both. You are not even giving him a chance to prove you wrong. Pass the baton to him. You trust me. I trust that hubby is capable. You’re growing apart. If you don’t talk to him your marriage will be ruined. I can say those things because I’m not your shrink.” She tells me she loves me and is here, and that I can call or text anytime, that she is not going anywhere. 

Later in the day, I try to write to Bea, but I can’t. It’s too much. I email her that I can’t do it. She tells me not to worry, that it might be too much right now and that’s ok. 

I’ve been allowing this teenage part of me to run the show. Which means initiating things with hubby and being willing to do sexual things I would not normally do. Monday night, We are in the middle of intimate acts when I fall apart. Hubby moves, instantly. I roll to my side, face down in my pillow and sob. Wracking, pain filled sobs. Hubby asks me what is wrong, what happened? I’m dissociated enough that I answer; the answer comes much later, when I can talk. But I tell him about how hard the fall is for me. I tell him how much I hurt sometimes. I tell him that “he” (as in Kenny, or maybe the boyfriend) raped me. I tell him I am afraid he (hubby) will leave me. I tell him how triggering it is to have my parents change, how I tried to overdose when I was 14. I tell him so much, in that spacey disconnected way. I even tell him about Bea and her sensorimotor therapy and how threatening that is to me. Eventually, we both go back to sleep.     

On Tuesday, I email Bea. I’m afraid that hubby will change his mind about me. I’m afraid that he will decide I’m horrible and that he is going to leave. She emails with me most of the day, short messages, validating that this is scary and that I am okay. 

When hubby comes home, things are okay. We don’t discuss a lot, but he is present with me. We have a movie night with Kat, and we have retro movie night– watching ninja turtles– after she goes to bed. 

There is an odd relief in that it is up to hubby now, that I passed the baton to him. He is failing, and that hurts, but it is not unexpected, and so it feels somewhat ok, and i managed to tell him how he said one thing and didn’t follow through and that upset me, without yelling (which prompts a discussion of how he is free to respond as he wishes, regardless of my requests or making needs known, in therapy)
I see Bea for the Kat’s appointment, which gives me some safety, even though I’m a little extra spacey, just to be in her office, and hear her playing with Kat. Sometimes, it feels like getting a peek into what my past would have been like if she, or someone like her had seen me as a child. Bea later emails that I had a relieved sense about me so she was going to leave well enough alone. This feels uncaring at first but then I see my distorted thinking, and realize she cared enough to see how I was feeling, reach out to me, and let me know she was looking forward to talking about this tomorrow, but that she was confident in my abilities to know what I needed.  

Thursday morning, I arrive at Bea’s, a little nervous over how vulnerable and unfiltered this week. 

“So, a lot happened this week,” Bea says as I sit down. 

“I…well, yeah. I guess so.” I pull Hagrid onto my lap. 

“It seemed like telling hubby needed to happen, even though that felt so unsafe. How has it been now?” She asks. 

“Well, I didn’t mean to tell him. I just….I wasn’t really there. I mean, I was talking, but it was spacey, choppy. I just…..I don’t know.” 

“Yeah, it was hard to tell him, so scary to feel that vulnerable. How did he react?” 

I shrug. “I’m not….I’m not sure. He says he was glad I told him. That he isn’t leaving. But….I, well…I don’t remember what, how exactly he reacted.” 

“That’s okay. It sounded like K had something to do with you talking to him. That her words were in your head.” Bea says. 

“Well, yes. She just….she said that she can say things to me that you won’t because you are my therapist. She said my marriage would be over if we grew too far apart, that I needed to give him a chance. She said…it wasn’t fair to him.” I shrug. 

Bea smiles. “She’s right, she said what I couldn’t. Why do I get the feeling she’s on my side?”

“Oh, she’s very much on your side. The one time I was ready to quit, she convinced me to call you and ask to see you on an extra day. She said she would hog tie me and drag me here…..she stayed on the phone that day, texting or talking to me. I believe she didn’t say good bye until I got in your office. In here, I mean. But she would say that her side is my side, even when I don’t think she is on my side.” 

Bea nods. “Yeah, she is right. The only side is being on your side.”

“I know that. Even when I don’t feel it, I know. It’s why I keep talking through things with you, when I’ve never done it before, except with Kay.” I smile, thinking I am changing and growing even though it is slow. 

“So, Kay was talking to you about your relationship, and relationships, feelings. She talked about and you admitted how you feel, how was that?”

“She said….she said that she already knew how important she was to me, and me saying so didn’t change anything.” I sigh. This conversation is really uncomfortable to me. I’m drifting away. “She said…..she said people aren’t as bad as I think. That I need to give them a chance. That if I drop the perfect facade, let people in, they will surprise me. She said she likes me better this way.” 

“Are you feeling too far away right now?” She asks, noticing the spaciness in me. I don’t answer, so she continues, “I know we’ve tried different things to help you ground. But maybe looking around, finding 3 of your favorite things in this room. If you like, if you feel too far away. It’s another option, but it’s your choice to use it.” 

We sit quiet for a minute. I don’t want to be more present. I can’t help but listen to her, though, notice some of my favorite things in the room. 

“Did Kay talk about how she feels about you?”

I freeze. The way Kay feels is at odds with my perceptions. It’s complicated because I trust Kay, yet I can’t fully believe her. I tell Bea what Kay said. 

“Wow. I don’t know that I have ever had a friend like that, one who feels like that about me. I’ve never had a friend talk like that to me. How was that?”

“I…..its just Kay. It’s who she is. I don’t know. But…it was hard, I guess.” I hide my face in Hagrid’s fur. 

“Yes, I imagine it was so hard to hear those things.” 

When just a few minutes are left, I tell her that I have written about the boyfriend. She asks if I want her to read it now, but I’m not sure. I finally decide that no, I don’t want to have her read it because she won’t be able to respond or talk to me about it. We agree that I will type it and email it, if I’m able to. Bea tells me she does like seeing handwritten things because she likes to see the handwriting changes, which signal state changes. We talk about how she has seen big changes in my handwriting before, changes that match with my voice changes. We flip through what I’ve written, noting that the handwriting doesn’t change. I tell her I will do my very best to type it all unfiltered. 

As I’m leaving, I tell her that it’s okay if she is geeked about what she learns this weekend, that I’m okay with it and understand. She had told me via email she hoped she didn’t come back so geeked up this time. We agree that she will tell me about what she learned, and I will be able to choose if I want to talk more about it or stop and change the subject. She tells me about the aspects of the class that are hard for her, how each therapist in the class has to existence being therapist and client. So she does know what it’s like to be on my side of things, at least a little. 

Late Thursday night, early Friday morning, I type the horrible truth of the boyfriend. When I wake Friday morning, Bea has already emailed back. It means a lot that she emailed back so early, first thing. What I told her mattered. 

Showing up

I email Bea over the weekend. Since Thursday, I have been trying to find a reason to be angry with her, to quit therapy. I can’t find a reason, except that I am scared of how close she is now. I tell her that I am scared of seeing her on Monday, that I’m having really bad anxiety, that I am heading into “not okay” territory, that I don’t want to follow my usual pattern of pushing people away, that I am feeling very insecure. I ask if she is angry with me.

She emails back, with the best response she could have:
I can only imagine how difficult it was to let someone into that place where the worst of secrets live–that it exposed too much of the vulnerable part of you. I understand what a great responsibility it is for me to know those things, and just how important it is to you. I am not in any way angry with you for anything! Why don’t you think about what would help you to feel the most safe on Monday? (aside from not coming, because I think that would just make it worse!) I am happy to accommodate anything that would help, from facing my chair the other way, to letting you completely lead the entire session, to anything else you might think of that would give you that sense of control. This is a collaborative effort,–we’ve worked through rough spots before, and I know we can work through this one as well.

We email back and forth through the weekend. I’m feeling calmer, and less anxious about showing up on Monday. When she responds to my fears of trusting another person, I know she gets it:
I think I might kind of get a piece of the not wanting anyone to know the most awful thing about you. In a way it really is–though terrible–your most precious secret, and so not just the sharing of it, but the who you share it with is very important. That person cannot trivialize it, or suddenly just go away, or act like you’re not important. There is a huge amount of trust at stake in revealing something so huge. All I can say is that I get that, and I intend to treat it with the importance it deserves.

__________________________________________________________________________

I cross the street to Bea’s office. It’s in one of the houses downtown that has been converted to a store. The lower level is a speciality toy store, and Bea’s office is upstairs. I love that her office is downtown; I love the atmosphere here, love getting a coffee and walking around after my appointments when the weather is nice. As I let myself in the door and head upstairs, I’m holding my breath. I pause outside the office door, wondering if I can do this.

“Good morning,” Bea says, quietly. She’s sitting in her chair, waiting for me and doing something with the art supplies.

I duck my head and dart for the couch. “Hi,” I say back. It’s a loud whisper, and I’m amazed I could even find my voice. I curl up right away, hugging my knees to my chest. I keep my head up, but look down at the floor. I can’t look at her.

“You made it,” she says, still speaking quietly to me.

I nod my head, and then whisper “Yeah.”

“Was it really hard to get here today?”

“Yeah. It was.” I’m still looking down at the floor, sitting as far back as I can.

“I’m glad you decided to come to therapy today,” Bea says. I wonder if she had been partly convinced I wasn’t going to show up, even though we had talked about in our emails that me showing up and reestablishing a sense of safety was the most important thing. And quite frankly, it is a pretty deal that I did show up.

“Okay,” I whisper to her, nodding my head.

“In your email……one thing that stood out to me, that I know you don’t like to talk about, is the relationship between you and me. You said you might push me away.” As Bea is speaking, I put my head down and cover my face. She continues, “I think that’s natural, when we reveal a part of ourselves that feels so vulnerable. I meant what I said in my email; I know what a risk of trust this is, and I know what a great responsibility it is to have this secret. I plan to treat it with the respect this deserves.”

As she is talking, I go from feeling super panicked to calmer. I think I believe her. She means what she is saying, that much I know.

“Nothing has changed for me, nothing. My opinion of you hasn’t changed. Nothing about the relationship has changed for me. It’s changed for you. But it hasn’t changed for me,” Bea says. She sounds very serious about this idea that knowing it has changed nothing for her.

I don’t respond, I really can’t. I just sniffle a little. I feel like crying with relief.

“I’m not sure, I can usually go by what I’m feeling to help me know where you are, but I don’t want to put feelings on you that aren’t right. I was feeling sad, but now I’m feeling kind of this relief. And I hesitate to say this, because I don’t want to jinx this, but dare I say it, a sense of acceptance.” Bea is speaking almost tentatively, as if she is being very careful towards me.

I’m not sure. Relief, I think is here, and maybe acceptance that what she is saying is true. There is so much swirling in my head, so many feelings,thoughts, emotions, that I can’t figure out what I am feeling. I’ve disconnected from a lot of it.

“I don’t know. And I really mean I don’t know, it’s not I don’t know but really I don’t want to say.”

“That’s okay. You don’t have to know what you are feeling. Maybe it’s nothing, that could be an option, too.” Bea reassures me, and reminds me that it is okay to not have the answers all the time.

It’s quiet for a few minutes, and I try to figure out what I’m feeling. I have no idea. Maybe nothing. Maybe too much to deal with, to separate out. I think about what I need to tell Bea, how I want to explain exactly why it’s so awful that I let her read it.

“I didn’t know you hadn’t seen Kay since November. Did you want to talk about that? It seems like it might be a relatively safe thing to talk about. I want us to get you back to a place where you feel safe here.” Bea tells me. “What happened with Kay? Has this happened before?”

I don’t say anything. I’m staring at the purple blanket that covers the couch. I don’t know how to answer this. I have been avoiding Kay since she confronted me about my eating. I don’t want to go there.

“Was there something else you maybe wanted to talk about?” Bea asks, after I’ve been quiet for a while.

“No. I don’t know.” I shrug my shoulders. “Kay…..she just…she gets um…”

“You said in your email she was getting too nosy.” Bea prompts me.,
“Yeah….she just gets too nosy….she was pushing me about eating…..I don’t know. I’ve been avoiding her.”

“I can see how it would be easier to avoid someone who is pushing you to look at that things you don’t want to deal with.”

“Yes, exactly. But she knows me, so I still get text messages and voicemails from her telling me I can’t avoid her forever, that she knows what I’m doing, saying to stop avoiding her because she misses me.” I know how lucky I am, how rare it is that I have a friend who recognizes my need to push people away, and who still sticks with me.

Bea chuckles at this, at the idea of my friend texting me to stop avoiding her. “So has this happened a lot in the past? It seems like she is familiar with your defense mechanism.”

“Weeeellll….” I draw the word out, thinking. “I wouldn’t say a lot. But yeah, it’s happened before.””

“What caused it before?”

“Same stuff…when I got engaged, she pushed me to tell hubby about the college boyfriend. I avoided her for months. She kept texting me that I couldn’t avoid her forever, because she was my maid of honor.” I turn my head the other direction, stare at the red, blue, and grey pattern on the couch pillow.

Bea laughs, again.

“Kay is funny,” I say.

“Yes, she is. She sounds interesting.” Bea says, and I can hear a smile in her voice.

We talk about my friendship with Kay. Bea really knows nothing of my friends, or their lives and how they combine with my life. We talk about how Kay was out here, going to college and that’s the reason I chose to come here for cosmetology school. She’s surprised, because she had thought that I has chosen cosmetology school because Kay was there. In reality, Kay chose cosmetology school after she saw how happy I was in my career. Bea remarks that when I chose to move out here, and go to school for something that was more creative, it was almost like I finally had my independence and freedom. (Thinking about it now, she is quite right. However, that is a whole separate post.)

We talk about how I met hubby, and our first date.

“A friend of mine from cos school introduced us. She set us up. I wasn’t very happy about it, because I really didn’t want any boyfriend at that time. It was too late, though, by the time I knew what she was up to, to back out.”

“So what happened? How did he ask you to go on a date?” Bea sounds curious, and…maybe happy? This is a more cheerful, and different kind of thing than we normally have talked about.

“Well, hubby asked my friend to ask me if it was okay for her to give him my number. I said sure, and he called. He asked me out to the rain forest cafe because he remembered I has mentioned liking that place when we were at the setup dinner.” I smile, despite myself. He always has been so very good at paying attention to what I liked, and small things I said.

“That sounds like hubby,” Bea says, chuckling. “I didn’t know when you guys took Kat there a few weeks ago that there was all this history with rain forest cafe.”

We talk about how hubby just conveys this sense of being a safe person. We talk about how I yell at hubby to push him away. I admit that I get scared of pushing him too far away, of ruining my marriage. Bea suggests that if I could explain to him that I’m yelling to push him away because I’m afraid of letting him too close, that could go a long way. She says that before things ever get to the point of ruining my relationship with hubby, we would have hubby come to a session and we would explain my defenses to him. She asks me if I have tested hubby, pushed to see if he will lose it on me. I tell her that I have, and cringe in shame at the way I sometimes treat the man I love. She tells me that it is normal for woman who has been in an abusive relationship to test the boundaries of the person they are with.

“Things were getting a little better, until I threw this latest fit. Hubby is so normal, and I’m so….just so….not.” I shake my head, feeling broken.

“What was the latest fit?”

“That workbook. It was….the questions were too much, I refused to answer them, acted like a brat. I said it was stupid..hubby was trying to be nice, ask why I didn’t answer them, and I just yelled at him, threw this big fit like I was teenage me.” I can feel my face flush; even weeks later, I’m embarrassed about the way I behaved.

“Were the questions about closeness?” Bea asks.

“I don’t know. I have them,” I tell her. I really don’t know if they are about closeness. They were all about attachment; past and present.

“I’d be interested to know what they were.”

I take a deep breath, and grab the worksheets out of my bag. “You have them here?” Bea asks me.

“Yeah.” I hand them to Bea, still not looking at her. I’ve had them sitting in my journal for weeks, thinking I would talk about them with her at some point.

She shuffles the papers, and I can hear her flipping through them. “These are all about closeness. Answering these would make you feel really vulnerable.”

Bea talks through some of the questions, helping me to find the answers. She suggests that I answer the questions, and if nothing else, have hubby read my answers. She says I can always tell him that I’m not ready to talk about my answers, but that I want him to know these things.

“It’s scary,” I whisper.

“Yes, it is. Maybe one day, as you start to open up to hubby, you will be able to ask him for space, instead of yelling to accomplish that. This would be a start.” What Bea is saying makes a lot of sense. It’s just hard to comprehend that I will be able to ever drop my defense mechanism.

“This isn’t so bad. I’m okay being here. Talking like this isn’t so awful,” I tell her, because the thought enters my mind and I’m pleased that I’m feeling calmer about being here, and not as shaky or panicked.

“Good, that’s good,” Bea tells me, and I’m sure if I looked up at her, she would be smiling at me.

We talk a little more about hubby. Bea says that looking at his is answers on the worksheets, she believes he is coming from a secure attachment style, and while I may have had a secure attachment when I was a very little kid there is interference because of the abuse, and emotional difficulties with my mom, and the feelings that my mom didn’t protect me. I state again that I am broken, and hubby is normal. Bea stops me, saying that there is a reason hubby is in this relationship; maybe he isn’t comfortable with closeness, either. By the end of the conversation, she has me convinced it’s going to be okay, and that I can at least fill out the worksheets and use them to talk to hubby about things.

“I feel like we are in a good place right now. We could wrap things up now, unless there is anything more you wanted to talk about,” Bea says.

After thinking about it, I say, “I’m 50/50 about it.”

To be continued…….

She “gets it”

I’m sitting in my usual spot in Bea’s office, curled up on the couch, against on of the squishy white and paisley pillows. She’s looking at me from her chair like she is waiting for me to talk. We’ve said our “hellos”, and gotten situated, but I have nothing to say.

“I think you want me to talk? But I don’t really have anything to talk about?” I finally say, breaking the silence.

“Ahhhh,” she says, nodding. I pick at my scarf. I’m afraid that if I have nothing to talk about she is going to tell me I don’t need to be here twice a week. “Let’s start with what you did between Monday and today. How you have been feeling.”

“Ummm. Okay. Tuesday, ummm…” I have to think. What did I do on Tuesday? Not much. “Oh! I got my car back! I went and got my car on Tuesday and now I have navigation again.”

“And that has to feel good, to have your car back. Is it all fixed now?” Bea asks.

“Mostly, they had to put a new engine in it. But they didn’t get the radio, the my link system fixed. Because they only tested it with blue tooth and I use it with the cord, plugged into the car. It has to be plugged into the car for the map to work. And I always use the map. Which the guy said just use blue tooth when I’m not using the map, but I was like, no, I always use the map, always. Which he seemed to think was kinda weird, but, he also said my link should work with map because both are made for Chevy. So, I don’t know. I have to take it back to have that looked at.” I shrug, it’s not a huge deal, but I do want siri hands free to work when I have bringo maps running. I like both, and use both.

“I wonder….this feeling of not liking to be lost. Have you ever been lost before?” Bea is looking at me, curiously, with that look like she knows something, or has an idea about something.

“Not really lost. Because I aways have my GPS. I don’t really go anywhere I can’t get to without it. Even with it, you can get a little lost, for a minute until it resets itself or reroutes you.”

“I told you about when my husband and I got lost in the woods?” I nod, yes. “Well, that helplessness, panic, it’s similar to trauma feelings. I wonder if not getting lost, having navigation, for you, is a way to control that, to not feel like that again. Have you thought about what you feel when you take a wrong turn, and you are waiting for the map to reroute you? When you are a little lost?”

I’m listening, and I can see a parallel, I can understand what she means, what she is saying. “I’m scared. I feel like I might be lost forever. If the GPS didn’t reroute me, I’d probably freeze………..so……if I know this is…..I mean……what am I supposed to do about this? Not use my GPS?”

She smiles at me. “Use your GPS. I think anything that makes you feel safe and in control is a good thing, it’s not something to get rid of, just to be aware of, to know where it comes from. That’s all.”

I don’t say anything back, I’m just thinking for a minute. I grab my tea and hold it to keep from picking at my fingers. “I..um. When I got there, the guy, he wanted to see what I was doing with the radio my link system because they tested it, and they said it was all fine, but I insisted it wasn’t.” I’m staring at my orange to go mug, I can’t meet Bea’s eyes, I feel like too much of an idiot. “So he wanted to go out to my car. I just went. I didn’t even……I don’t know……it was dark, 5:20, they were closed in 10 minutes, no one was really around, I went with him to the back parking lot, my car was way out, dark parking lot, I just didn’t think until I was sitting in the car and had set up my phone for him. Then I was like ‘oh crap. This wasn’t smart.’ I don’t know. I’m so stupid.”

I’m not sure if I’ve explained my moment of stupidity well, or not, but Bea gets it, she understands. “I think when we experience trauma, we forget, or maybe we have never felt that we have a right to safety. You always have a right to ask for safety. In that instance, I don’t think you would have been out of line to ask him to bring the car up to the garage. But, I’m not sure I would have, either. My mind would have been going 200 miles an hour, ‘well he works here it would be stupid for him to do something/ don’t go to a dark parking lot alone/he would lose his job, it’s fine/just ask him to pull the car up/I don’t want to offend anyone…. You know, that kind of thing.”

Now I look up at Bea. It’s really okay. She doesn’t think I’m an idiot. “My mind was really blank. Frozen. I just followed. I don’t know. It wasn’t until we were in the car that I really realized this might not be a smart situation.”

“That makes sense. It makes sense that you froze. That’s your reaction to trauma, and a man suggesting a situation that your mind perceived as dangerous, it makes sense you would freeze. But then you functioned through the rest of the time he was there, looking at the radio? You were okay?”

I want to tell her I was back in the room in my head, and I just went through the motions. I don’t though. “Yeah. I…functioned.”

Bea reaches down and grabs her tea. She has her red travel mug today. She hasn’t had it the last few weeks, she had thought she lost it. She has to be happy to have found it. It was one of her favorites. “I’m wondering if your more adult relationship has more of an impact on how you relate in these situations, than Kenny does. I feel like Kenny effects a lot, maybe many things, but I wonder if that adult relationship effects how you relate to men in general, or feel about men in situations like that.”

I shrug. I’m not sure where she is going with this, or exactly what she is wanting me to say. Well, Bea would say that she isn’t wanting me to say anything, except whatever I want to say. Ugh.

“I have a feeling, I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that the boyfriend doesn’t effect you as much as Kenny, the impact is not as big. This might be a good time to talk about the boyfriend, maybe see if we can work on the dual awareness that is so important, before we work on more Kenny stuff.”

“Okay…..” I say, uneasy. These memories are clearer, more recent. More and less confusing, in some ways just as difficult as my childhood. More violent, so in some ways it easier to see that he was a bad guy. I don’t know. “Why is is not as bad?”

“Well…” Bea pauses, and takes a breath. “I don’t want to minimize what happened with the boyfriend, because it was horrible. But with Kenny…the developmental stages you were at, the lack of safety you had, the duration, the confusion, the young age. All of that trauma. It set you up for the boyfriend.”

“Oh. Okay.” My voice sounds small, far away to me, because I’m already half gone, thinking about him. About Brian.

“How did you meet?” Bea asks.

Im staring at a bucket of puppets on the floor, I can see the bottom floor the doll house, the blue rug that Bea’s chair is sitting on, but in my head, I’m back at a party. College kids everywhere, music playing so loud your whole body vibrates. I’m wearing tight white pants and a short pink boat neck shirt, pearls, my (colored) blonde hair straightened and then curled with a round brush. I feel fat, but my friend Heather has dragged me out to this frat party because her boyfriend is in the frat. I don’t want to be here, and so I’m drinking. I don’t drink, ever. I also still have many of my eating disordered behaviors, including skipping meals. I hadn’t eaten that day, so the alcohol hits me fast. I end up drunk, and sick. Heather had introduced Brian and I earlier in the evening.

Bea interrupts my thoughts. “Don’t go too far away. Come back a little, okay?”

“Right…we met at a party.” I shake my head, try to clear it a little, but I end up back at the party anyways.

“Was he cute?” Bea asks, bringing me back, again.

Why is it so hard for me to answer this? Yes. Yes he was cute. Out of my league, cuter than should be dating me. I thought he was so good looking. I finally just nod my head yes at her, I can’t even speak the words to agree. Why exactly is this conversation so embarrassing?

“Dark hair?” And Bea isn’t going to let it go, either.

My face feels hot. I have a sudden inclination to fall back on my hair colorist training and use technical terms she wouldn’t understand, but I know that has to be the bratty 15 year old part of me. I swallow some tea, take a breath and force myself to speak. “He had dark hair, dark eyes. He was always tan.” Preppy, but not too preppy. Toned, but not crazy built.

“Where was he from?” She asks when I go silent again. I name a town not too far from my hometown.

“That’s weird how we never met, before, huh? Growing up so close to one another?” I say.

“So, you met at a party. Who’s party? Did someone introduce you?”

“A frat party. My friend’s boyfriend was in the frat.”

“Was he in the frat?” Bea leans back in her chair, relaxed, calm.

I shake my head. “He was friends with someone.”

“So did he ask you out? Ask for your number and call? What happened?”

I stop talking, withdraw away. I feel 18 again, young and dumb, embarrassed by my mistakes and afraid of getting in trouble. And one of the biggest mistakes keeps rushing into my memories, taunting me. I slept with him. Not that night. But willingly, soon after, I slept with him.

“Alice? Don’t go too far. Let’s take a minute. Hear the cars, the birds. Can you feel the couch under you? Hear the clock ticking? Look around, what can you see?” Bea waits a moment, gives me a chance to get grounded, and then asks again, “How did you meet?”

“We were introduced. But…I don’t know. I never drank. But that night, I was drinking. I forget why. But it didn’t take much…..and I was….really drunk. So drunk. Stupid.”

Bea is kind when she speaks, her voice full of understanding. “Because you were 18. You were away from home. You were experimenting, and you were a teenager, you were doing what you were supposed to be doing. That’s why.”

“I was so drunk. I drank way too much, for someone who never drank, someone my size back then. He took care of me.” I’m looking down, at the floor as I talk and remember. When I do look up, my eyes dart all over the room, I can’t focus on Bea, it’s too much.

“Took care of you,” she says the words slowly, like the is digesting them, trying to understand and make sense of them. “What does that mean?”

“‘I got sick. I was throwing up…he held my hair back for me.” I sigh. “He drove me home. To my apartment. Walked me to my front door. That was it. He called later that day to check on me, asked if he could take me eat. I said yes. I thought he was nice. A nice guy.”

“Yeah…I would have thought he was nice, too. How did you get away with having an apartment and not living on campus in the dorms, the first year of college?”

Does Bea think I’m lying? I don’t know. I feel under the microscope, like she doesn’t believe me. “Community college. Remember, I graduated early. I was a sophomore, almost a junior at that point.” I tell her.

“Oh yes, that’s right,” she says, like it’s no big deal. I decide it must have been no big deal. There aren’t many college sophomores who are just 18 anymore, I don’t think.

“Do you remember how long it was before he got violent?” She asks this softly, in that gentle non-intrusive way she has.

Not long…I don’t know. A month and a half. I think. After I slept with him. It was a week, maybe, I don’t know, time is fuzzy then…I told him I couldn’t again, I was waiting for marriage. Then he got mad. Then he blew up. Then….then….well. Then, everything changed. My life became a nightmare for the next year. “I…I don’t know. Not long. I think…..” I trail off, I can’t voice everything right now.

“What do you think?”

“He was jealous. Maybe from the beginning, I don’t know. I thought it was sweet…that he wanted my time, my attention, but now…looking back…I don’t know. I just…I don’t know….I thought he was nice, he seemed nice.” I feel like little girl lost. Trying to understand how someone can go from so kind to the monster he turned into.

“It probably did feel good, jealousy can make us feel,special, wanted. People don’t start out mean. It’s the same as Kenny, right? An attachment has to form, be created, and that can’t happen if he had treated you like crap, then you would just walk away. Right?” Bea says.

I shrug, I guess. I don’t know. I’m not sure.

“It’s hard to think about having an attachment to someone who hurt us. Was this your first boyfriend? Your first love?” Bea says this like it is already a given, like it’s not shameful that I would have loved him. But I don’t know what I felt. I thought it was love. Whatever it was, I don’t even want to admit it myself. I freeze, withdraw in my head. “Was he your first boyfriend? Did you date in high school, have boyfriends? I didn’t really think so, but I guess we haven’t really talked about that.”

“I dated….but no, not really, no boyfriends. He was my first boyfriend.” The first guy I loved. I look at Bea, briefly. I feel sick, panicked, not here. Her face says it’s okay, and helps me be more present. I breathe. Okay. I’m okay.

“It’s hard to wrap our heads around loving someone who hurt us.”

I shrug. I don’t want to talk about this. It’s too much. I can’t keep thinking about this, about loving him. I’m still too confused over this.

“One thing we never did talk about, was after you left, what happened. Did he leave you alone? I know about the shower, and you calling Kay. But then what?” Bea says.

“No….he left me alone….I think….I don’t know. Kay…she answered my phone, the door. She stayed with me. I don’t know. I didn’t want to know….I just…I was a mess…..”

It seems like it finally makes sense to Bea, why my best friend knows so much more than Hubby, why I run to her over Hubby. “She was really a protector, then. She really protected you.” Bea’s voice is full of awe. I’m full of awe, when I think of Kay, back then, too. She was just 20, only a year older than I was, and she took on this mother protector caretaker role. She was more than my best friend, then, and now. How and why she loved me so much to care for me in that way, I don’t know, but I’m forever grateful that she did, and that she does.

“Until after…..I found out I was pregnant….” I look up at Bea then, and there is nothing in her eyes but understanding. Of course, this isn’t news to her. We’ve been over this, before. She really isn’t judging me. She looks sad, compassionate. But she isn’t judging me. I have to look away. I can’t do this.

“That was like adding insult to injuries. I can’t imagine much worse. That had to be such a shock, just to think, to feel it wasn’t really over, even after you had left.”

I shake my head, “I’m not…I’m not talking about this. No. Not what I did. No. But after….after, I was a wreck. I was cutting, worse than ever before. I wasn’t eating….anything I did eat, I threw up. Crazy. I was crazy. Kay got tired of picking me up off the floor, of putting me back together, of trying to fix me. I don’t know. She called my mom.”

We’ve been through this before, too. But Bea doesn’t act bored, or like its old news, or as though she is sick of hearing about it. She doesn’t back me up, either, or press the issue I skirt around, each and every time it comes up. “You were using every tool you had to hold yourself together, in a horrible crisis. You were doing everything you could to keep yourself together, to be okay. They might not have been healthy coping tools, but that was all you had, all you knew. You were strong, even then, you were trying to survive this terrible emotional crisis. What did Kay tell your mom?” How does Bea do this? How does she see, when even I can’t, that I was doing the best I could? How does she have such compassion for that 19 year old girl, when I just want to scream at her, when I hate her guts?

“I don’t know for sure. That I was cutting again. That my anorexia was back. That I was throwing up. That I needed help. That I was failing all my classes…..and they came. My parents came. My mom hated her for a long time.”

Bea knows why, instantly. “Because Kay knew you weren’t perfect?”

I nod. “Yeah. I was so mad at Kay. I didn’t talk to her for months…six months, maybe. She kept trying though. She never left.”

Bea smiles, and I think she gets it, now. She knows why Kay is the person I trust most in this world. “What was that drive home like? With your parents?”

With that question, I’m gone. All the feelings of failure wash over me, as if they had never left. I look away from Bea, turning not only my face but my body, too. I not only remember the feeling of I would rather be dead, but I can feel it, deep down, to the center of my being for a moment. I shake my head, clear it.

I can feel Bea’s gaze on me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that she hasn’t turned toward me, but has stayed seated in her regular place. She won’t crowd me, or make me feel like she’s too close. I know this. “That had to be a really terrible feeling. Like going home with nothing.”

I shake my head. Not because Bea is wrong. She’s read my mind, in a way. But because it was awful. “They didn’t really care. They weren’t there. They showed up. But they weren’t there. They wanted me fixed, but I was just the failure, again. She never even asked what was wrong…..it was just back to therapy and nutritionists and get better, get fixed. That’s all. Be perfect again.” My voice is hollow, far away. I’m numb. I can’t feel this. It’s too much, too hard.

“Did you talk in therapy? About him, the relationship?”

“I tried. The first therapist….I tried. But……I left. I couldn’t. I left, and the new therapist I just…I got fixed. I pretended, I became perfect again. That’s all the mattered anyways.” I turn to Bea now, and I smile, then I giggle. “See? I run away if I start talking. It’s kind of big that I stuck around here.” What I don’t say is I had Kat to keep me here, and I had become attached to Bea more quickly than I wanted to admit, feeling like I needed her.

Bea smiles. “I’m glad you aren’t alone anymore, no one should be alone like that.”

Our talk turns to Kat, and therapy tomorrow. We talk about toys and play, and how things evolve and change. We talk about play therapy. As we discuss play therapy in general, I really want to ask a question, but I feel a bit silly. Gathering some courage, I finally say, “Can I ask you something?”

Bea looks at me, and I think she doesn’t like that I am asking permission to ask a question. But she smiles at me and tells me, “Yes, you can ask anything.”

I sigh, and remind myself that I’ve already cried over my story with my barbies, so nothing can be more embarrassing than that. But….I’m not embarrassed. I realize, Bea didn’t find me silly at all, maybe it hadn’t been. Bea has told me before that if we haven’t dealt with our feelings of grief, anger, our sadness, our mad, our confusion, anything else, all of our trauma feelings, they stay frozen in time. That’s where all the frozen in time parts of me are from, and that’s the parts that need to be allowed to speak. That’s where the little girl comes from. So some of those feelings might be old, and childish, and seem silly to the parts of me that continued to grow and weren’t frozen in time. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to be dealt with.

“You called the way I played with my barbies trauma play? My story, the sleeping beauty story?”

Bea nods her head. “Yes. Because of the repetitiveness. The way no secrets were allowed, and the little girl in the story was saving herself.”

“But…” I don’t know how to ask this, exactly, or what the right words are, and I stumble through it. “I never…..there was no…..I mean…..Kat always locked people up…..I never had any…..um…..you know…like….” I trail off, unsure of exactly what I am trying to say.

Bea gets it, though, and she fills in the words. “You never re-in-acted the trauma. Your play was more hopeful. It was more about helping you to keep hope that an end was going to happen, that you would be saved, I think.”

“If my parents….if I had been sent to therapy for some reason, then someone would have recognized it?” I ask. This scenario never would have happened, but I still need to know. The past can’t be changed anyway, but I can still explore different outcomes. Somehow, this soothes me, helps me put together the puzzle pieces, understand my life.

“I guess it really depends on the therapist. I hope that any play therapist would pick up on the fact you were playing the same story over and over, but some might not. I would have focused in on the no secrets thing, and wondered about that. I would have had my character ask what secrets?” Bea speaks slowly, she is thinking as she talks.

“I’m not sure I would have answered, anyway. Maybe, I don’t know.” I wonder. What would that have been like? To have someone like Bea, when I was a child, ask me about secrets? Would I have felt safe enough to tell her even one secret? To maybe tell her that my mom was sick, that I was scared, that I wasn’t as perfect as everyone thought? To say out loud that my parents didn’t love me, that they loved this perfect girl that didn’t really exist? Would I have felt safe enough to tell her how Kenny played with my barbies, perhaps? Or to even tell her about the the secret game eventually? I don’t know.

Bea senses I’m off in daydream what-if land, and she brings me back. “Your parents wouldn’t have sent you to therapy anyway, would they have?”

“No. They wouldn’t have. I just wondered, anyways. You know.”

“Yeah, I know,” she says. And she does. I believe she gets it. And I’m so glad to have a therapist who “gets it.”