Sensorimotor Psychotherapy & Sleep

Wednesday night was a rough night, and on Thursday night, when I felt myself begin to get anxious, and struggle to think, I emailed Bea. I told her I was just checking she was there, and she responded quickly, that yes, she was there. We ended up discussing the bad night, and she suggested that one option to try to get some relief from all of this uncomfortably somatic stuff would be to try SP. I responded with a maybe, and Monday morning when I arrived at Bea’s office, I felt okay with this idea of trying SP. 

After a brief discussion with Bea double checking that I felt okay with doing SP, she asked me to talk about what I do to get ready for bed. 

“I don’t know. I just…well you know. Didn’t we talk about this already?” I ask her. 

“Yes, we did, last week. I thought that might be a good starting place, though, so you can get into the headspace of what is is like for you at night.” She explained. 

“Okay,” I nodded, and then I took her through Kat’s bedtime routine and how I put off going to bed. 

And then it all fell apart. She asked me to stop telling the story of getting ready for bed and to check in with what was coming up now. Adult me was okay with that, maybe even a little bit curious about this whole process of SP. The little girl through, she was hurt. She had thought she was going to get to talk about the flashbacks and nightmares, the memories and feelings that keep coming up. She wasn’t even sure she could tell it, but she had thought that was the idea behind discussing bedtime. From that point forward, I struggled to be present, to talk to Bea, to even hear her. I vacillated between wanting to try to follow the rules of SP, and just trying not to cry because my feelings were hurt. Bea remarked that she could tell I was having trouble staying present, and she talked about what kinds of words might describe things we notice when we check in. She also shared that I might not notice or be able to label anything, and that was okay. At some point, she suggested that maybe the work today was trying to stay here and sit with whatever was coming up.

I’m pretty sure a decent chunk of time went by, with me not talking. Maybe a half hour, maybe more. This used to be the norm in my sessions, but now I talk, or try to talk, or give Bea my not book. I don’t usually flat out stop communicating. I remember Bea asking me if I could feel what I feel at night time, at bedtime, or of it was more that I know what I feel at bedtime, so I was thinking about it, but those feelings weren’t present at this moment. I shrugged. I was too far away to feel anything. She persisted, though, and I eventually snapped at her that I had to go far away so that I wouldn’t have to feel like that again. I didn’t want to feel those scary feelings, and as long as I could stop them, I would. 

Bea seemed pleased with this information, and shared that she felt that information was important. I might have discussed this with her, more, I’m not sure. I honestly don’t remember much of that session. Towards the end, she asked me what I had thought, how the session had felt for me. I shrugged, unable to speak. Bea said she felt like we had gotten some important information. She talked about now this is a typical SP session, how the beginning of it works. She explained we would typically discuss what was happening in the present moment, what was coming up, and then there would be an experiment to help process what had come up, or some kind of resourcing, or whatever and those things were typically some sort of movement. 

I remember telling her that I wasn’t sure, I didn’t know, that I needed to sort my thoughts. She said okay, and gave me space, and I rushed to pack my things and leave. I didn’t want to be there anymore. 

It took me until Tuesday late afternoon to fully sort my thoughts, and even then, they weren’t extremely coherent or well organized. 

Bea,

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of thought sorting. I wanted to email yesterday or earlier today, but I just didn’t have things sorted enough in my own mind to put ideas and thoughts into sentences and onto paper. I’m honestly still not sure I have anything sorted. I did a lot of writing in my notebook, and a took a few walks with no music and no audiobook– just my own thoughts. Which I don’t really do lately. I more or less try to avoid thoughts and feelings as much as possible these days. 

Anyway. There’s so many parts with so many different feelings around SP that it’s overwhelming and confusing and I end up unsure what I really think or feel, almost as if there are too many conflicting thoughts and feelings for any of them to be “real” or “right” or “true”. It’s really hard to sort that out, and to try to make sense of any of of it. 

I can see where talking about going to bed, and the feelings or thoughts that go with that, and then stopping talking about that and seeing what is happening right then, right in the moment during therapy and talking about that present moment makes sense. I can see where it might help, or at least where it won’t hurt, or make things worse. But that is all grown up, logical Alice. If I am logical about it, it makes sense, it’s a good idea, it could be very helpful. (And, having an ah-ha! moment…..maybe, because SP only makes sense to me in this very cognitive, logical way, maybe that is partly why I always believe you to be more in the thinking part of your brain and not feeling…..) The thing is though, feeling wise……intuitively wise…..I don’t know what word I’m looking for….I just, I know in my head that SP is a good thing, but the rest of me, everything in me is screaming “No way. Just no. This is not an okay thing, I do not like this. Just no. No.” 

Maybe it’s because I spend so much time working to not feel the things SP asks you to let in (small piece of those feelings, or not, it’s still feelings I work so hard to avoid and now I’m supposed to let them in. Do you get how absolutely terrifying that is?), or maybe it’s because my automatic defense is to go far away, and with SP I’m not supposed to go so far. I mean, that’s really just SP butting right up against the very thing that makes me feel safe. 

Maybe it’s because the little girl feels disconnected from you anytime SP is brought up. I wrote a lot from her perspective, because it really does seem to be the little girl who isn’t okay with SP. There’s a teen part in the mix too, but I’m not sure where she stands. Maybe she doesn’t know. I do think she is there to keep the little girl safe. I think she’s still angry about things changing? I don’t know. ugh. 

So. I’m not sure where that leaves us. Because grown up me is willing to try SP, and wants it to work because I am tired. I’m tired like I need to sleep, but I’m also tired like tired of being scared every night, tired of panic attacks before bed, tired of nightmares and pictures in my head that play on a loop and feelings I can’t get rid of. I’m tired of all of it. Of course, body stuff scares me, and it does make me want to go far away, because I don’t want feel those things, but I want to try. I don’t want to give up after the first *real* try. But clearly, the little girl is not on the same page. She wants nothing to do with SP or body stuff. Nothing at all. Everything in her is saying not okay, not happening. 

So where does that leave me? Because I’m conflicted and confused and while I’ve at least separated things out a bit, it’s really all twisted up inside me, and I feel like I can’t make sense of it, like I don’t have a clue as to what I want. Ugh. This is really frustrating for me. Normally, I’d probably try to push the little girl’s thoughts aside and just follow what the grown up me thinks, because that’s what seems “right, or appropriate” or something, but we agreed I was going to try to speak up before things fall apart like they did in December, so I’m trying that. But it is a very vulnerable and nerve wracking feeling to do so. 

Okay. I think that’s all. I really have this urge to apologize for being difficult and frustrating, so instead I’m going to say thank you for understanding my craziness and putting up with me being difficult; I know you are only offering SP to help me, and I do appreciate that. 

Alice 

Alice, 

I think we need to address the little girl’s perspective tomorrow. That seems like a good place to start. I also wonder what it feels like to have the narrative cut off when we try SP? Because it’s all process and “what’s happening right now,” and it ignores the story being told on purpose. The story is just the access point to the “right now.” Being cut off from the story seems like it could bring a sense of abandonment, so I’m curious if you have any sense of that.

It sure didn’t feel thinky to me Monday–I was really caught up in the process and trying to find a way to help you stay present and access stuff. And your explanation about going away when you started to feel the caffeinated feeling was just perfect! That’s exactly what we’re looking for.

We’ll talk tomorrow!

Bea

I couldn’t stop it (11/30/16)

I walk into therapy, and right away, as I’m getting settled, I talk about Kat and school and our first Girl Scout meeting. I’m desperately trying to pretend away this sense of dread, and feeling of panic I have. I tell Bea how amazing Kat is doing, and great is was to see her interacting socially with girls she had never met before. I tell her how it was, being the troop leader. I’ve never done anything like that before, but I had a blast. 
Thankfully, I have a co-leader, who seems very comfortable when it comes to dealing with the parents. That was the one thing I was unsure about— I don’t ever feel comfortable taking a position of authority or being the “expert” over my peers. Mostly because I often feel like a 5 year or a teen, I don’t feel as if my peers are really my peers. I’m much more comfortable with kids; the little girl part of me connects with them really well. 

Today Bea won’t let me spend the entire session talking about surface stuff. I’d sent a series of emails Monday and Tuesday, and had spent the last 36 hours in a hypervigilant, panicky feeling state. 

“Okay, I’m going to find your email and just read through it really quick to get back in that headspace.” Bea transitions us to talking through the email I had sent the day before.

“Sorry….I’m sorry.” I mumble, covering my face with my hands. 

“Why sorry? Nothing to be sorry about. Needing that transition time, that’s why we have 90 minute sessions. We have time built in.” It’s no big deal, she’s saying. 

“Because I won’t stop talking.” I bury my face, mortified.

“No that’s not it at all! We have the time because that time is important for building safety, for helping you feel safe enough to drop some of those defenses you need to get through your day to day life.” She corrects me and sounds firm, as if she wants to make sure I don’t start thinking badly of myself for needing that extra time. 
Bea begins to go through my email, reading it to herself, and responding as she reads. 

“I wondered– as I was saying that about the feeling impatient, annoyed— in the back of my mind, I wondered how that was sounding to you. I wasn’t talking about you, I have never felt that towards you. I do check in with myself, see how I am feeling, but it never has come up with you. Even at times when you are stuck, or avoiding things, it’s so obvious to me why you would be stuck or why your defenses would be needed at those times. You work hard in therapy and this is hard stuff. You can’t stay raw and open all the time. It would be way too much. I was talking more about people….it’s maybe people who……. they are in therapy because they know something is wrong, but maybe aren’t even sure what, and they are so defended, there is no getting through the walls they have built up, when I check in with myself and notice I am feeling impatient or annoyed with that person, then I know that maybe it is time to push against some of those walls, to challenge some of those defenses.”

“Okay.” 

“This is interesting. You say you didn’t notice anything, that there is nothing to notice, but then you noticed a whole bunch!” 

I think, maybe it’s that I have this idea that anything I’m noticing isn’t ‘right’ it isn’t what you are supposed to notice and get out of this exercise. 

“Even right away, when you are saying how you just kept thinking that it’s no big deal……..just a phone or a coffee cup you are thinking about picking up, those are your defenses, the it’s no big deal, this is silly. That is you using your mind to distract yourself.”

We talk about how reaching out is very, very hard for me. 

“And here you are looking at this reaching and touching from hubby’s point of view. When he grabs your hand, or puts an arm around you, how triggering is that? Is it triggering like distract yourself, or triggering like heart pounding, or triggering like go away?”

“I don’t know.” It comes out automatically. 

“I’m just wondering because knowing how triggering it is will help us to know where we might want to start with this, or what things we might want to try.” 

I sigh. “It’s……maybe it depends.” 

We sit in silence for a bit, and Bea finally asks if I can say more about that. She wonders what is it like when hubby holds my hand at the doctors office. “Maybe that isn’t so scary. You’ve had good touches in your life, too, so maybe that is a time when you remember your mom or dad holding your hand and comforting you at the doctors office. Do you have other times you can remember good touch, like cuddling with your mom?”

“No…..my parents aren’t touchy feely. My mom thinks it’s weird that I would snuggle up with Kat to watch movies or let her sleep in my bed. She’s good with babies, really little kids, being cuddly, but not so much with anything else.” 

“So maybe there isn’t a lot of memory there. What happens when hubby holds your hand? What is going on then?”

“It….if we are like, out walking and he grabs my hand, it’s just….I just distract myself. It’s not a big deal. But if like….I’m at the counter cooking and he comes up and hugs me or thinks he will run my shoulders it’s like……triggered in my head. Heart racing….like want to run away…..but of course I can’t do that. So I go away instead.” 

“So maybe when you are out for a walk, and hubby holds your hand you can notice how you are safe. And other times you could use the four steps to freedom— reminding yourself you are safe, that this is a reaction from a long time ago, that you are having a flashback, that sort of thing? Or maybe it’s too triggering to even do that. It’s just some things to play around with. To see what you notice, what helps or doesn’t help.” 

We talk about couples therapy and how that could have been helpful, and how hubby just hasn’t bothered to call and schedule and how I had asked twice so I’m done begging him to do things to help our marriage be better. 

“Okay, here you are talking about sending the email to me. You noticed you physically pulled back from the iPad and it was making you have that anxious sick feeling and that you had to go away to press send. You really feel very vulnerable reaching out. It’s hard for you to reach out.”

I nod. 

“But then you did reach out. You were able to send me the email.” She says.

“Yes. I just….have to pretend it doesn’t matter to me.” The interesting thing is, I have a great imagination, and can pretend away a lot of stuff. 

“I’m glad you sent it. I know it’s hard to reach out. Interesting that words are needed to feel not alone, that having no words means alone, when for so long you kept this secret and had no words. It’s a little confusing to me. I wonder if it means that in the last few years you have learned that using words and telling your story means someone can hear and understand? That it means someone can be there for you and that you have learned telling your story and being heard feels less alone to you?” Bea asks.  

“No……it’s like……words for anything. It’s like I need words to connect at all…..like hubby would be happy and feel connected if we were sitting next to each other watching a movie or each doing our own thing, but next to each other and that is like…..nothing to me. I need to talk.” I try to explain, but I’m not sure I’m doing a good enough job of making sense. 

“Ohhhhh….okay. I hear that from a lot of women. I think that is pretty normal.”

“Well…..it’s like a simple example I could think of. Like even when I was a kid, I needed to talk, I needed to talk and be heard. I would talk about anything and get in trouble for talking too much.” I say, trying to clarify it more. 

“Yes, okay, so talking was how you connected. It’s not trauma relayed, it’s attachment based, it’s how you feel secure in the world, by being heard.”

I nod. 

“So, I’m thinking attachment, and what are other ways we can communicate and connect? What are ways I see kids connect? Touch is one of the more obvious ones, I guess. But then I also see kids, they look up to see if their attachment person is paying attention. Some kids will act out, to get seen.” 

“That was never me,” I say. 

“No, I wouldn’t think so. Some kids go the other way, and might be very clever or very well behaved, to get noticed that way.” 

I nod. Maybe me. That’s more me than anything else. 

“All of the ways we use to get our attachment needs met as kids, well, I’d imagine they would be similar when we are adults. So, when you are needing words, maybe we can try other ways to connect, you can ask yourself how else you can get your needs met, or what it is you are needing that you aren’t getting because you have no words.” 

My first thought is that there is nothing if I don’t have words. Even though Bea has literally just listed out several other ways, that belief is so automatic I have to remind myself that she has listed out other ways. 

“The more I think about just how vital words can be, how they really can keep an anxious kid feeling connected, how much having words is an inherent part of who you are, the idea that you held that secret for so long is even more horrible. It’s no wonder everything bombarded you when you broke that silence.” 

I don’t say anything, but I think that maybe she does get it, my need for words. I’ve been upset and feeling overwhelmed for weeks, but it’s all come to a point where I can barely handle it. These last two weeks I’ve just wanted Bea to fix it. The little girl has been very much in control, and she has been wanting a grown up to make it better, to make all the hurt stop, to just fix it. I know, rationally, that Bea can’t just fix it, but that doesn’t stop me from being frustrated with myself for having no words, and with Bea for not being able to make it all better. I have this urge to just scream at her *Just help me. Help me.*

“Am I right that there is a lot going on internally, so much so that it is very overwhelming feeling, and it’s more than usually is going on, that there just aren’t words to go with what is happening?” She asks. 

I nod my head, just a little. 

“Okay. Can we try to define what type of things are going on internally? Feelings? Images? Emotions? Thoughts?” 
As Bea speaks, I let go of the breath I had been holding. She is trying to help me. She’s not abandoning me, leaving me alone in this. It’s not Bea on the outside, waiting for me to have words and connect with her, she is right here with me, trying to help me find the words I so desperately need.  “I don’t know.” 

“No words can be communication, too. If I was having lot of stuff going on internally but had no words, to me that would mean the things happening were too horrible, too scary, maybe too overwhelming, too sad, to put into words. Could having no words mean something for you?” 

I shrug. Maybe. I don’t know. 

“Try to focus on those feelings, if you can. See if anything comes up, if we can categorize these things,” Bea encourages. 

As we have been talking– or rather as Bea has been reading my words and talking– all the internal chaos has been stirred up, and I’ve gone from sitting upright, to curled up, knees bent princess style, my head down, resting on my arms. I try to sit with all the feelings, and I try to check in, to see if I can’t categorize this mess. 

After a while, I think, ‘it’s all of it.’ It’s emotions so strong I can’t sit with them, and so it’s hard to name them. It’s pictures, and thoughts, and I can hear his voice. I can feel things in my body. I want to tell Bea, to say that it’s all of it all rolled up together in a big giant bowling ball that is going to knock me down. I’m not sure if I manage to tell her anything at all. I’m really far away, so far away that I don’t even realize how far I’ve gone until much, much later. 

I’m crying and shaking my head, and it’s hard to breathe. 

“You’re really closed off. You really need to feel safe and protected right now.” Bea comments. “I wonder….when kids build walls, they build them for different reasons. Sometimes to keep something scary out, and sometimes to keep things in. I wonder which one your wall is for?”

I could build the tallest, biggest wall, and it still wouldn’t keep him out. I try and try, but nothing stops him. “It doesn’t matter,” I say. The words are disjointed, out of context, although they make sense in a way. 

“What doesn’t matter?” Bea asks softly.

Maybe I’m trying to keep the horror in my head inside. Maybe my walls are for keeping this awful stuff inside. Nobody needs to hear these things, or know them. Maybe my walls are to keep everyone out. People can’t hurt you if they can’t get inside the wall. Maybe my wall is to keep the little girl as safe as she can be. Maybe there is no such thing as safe. Maybe there never was. Maybe none of it matters. He can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and there is nothing I can do to stop it or change it. 

“What is ‘It’?” Bea questions gently. I’d forgotten she was there, and her voice makes me jump.

“Nothing. Nothing. There is nothing I can do. I’m doing everything wrong and it doesn’t matter.” I blurt the thoughts out before I can stop myself. 

Bea might be talking, I’m not sure. She might be asking me what it is that I can do nothing about, or she might be reassuring me I’m not doing anything wrong; she might be telling me that it is an old belief. 

Her voice breaks through the fog in my head eventually. “You are really needing to feel safe and protected, to be far away. Are you far away in a safe space? I can see how tight you are holding onto everything, to keep yourself safe.” 

“No! It’s not a nice place. It’s not a nice place at all,” and I begin to cry. 

“It’s not a nice place. It doesn’t feel good to be where you are,” she echoes. “Can you focus on your hands, on the fists they have made? They are holding on really, really tight.” 

I don’t say anything, but I’m listening. It doesn’t truly matter what Bea is saying, her voice equals safety to me, and it’s like having a rope to grasp onto. 

“Can relax some of the tension in your arms and shoulders? You are holding on so tight. I wonder what would happen if you just let go a little bit?” 

I shake my head. “Can’t.” 

“Because your frozen or because it doesn’t feel safe?” 

I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m really frozen in the way I usually am, but everything in me is screaming that I can’t let go, I can’t move, it’s not okay. Finally I whisper, “It’s not okay.”

“What about making things even tighter? Sometimes that can be a way to get some movement back, too. To go with what is already happening.” 

“No,” I say, and I sound like a stubborn toddler.

“Okay. That’s okay,” she is speaking in that soothing voice, the one I use with Kat when she is really hurt and upset. “Can you stay with the feeling in your shoulders? See if anything comes up or if your arms or hands want to do anything? Maybe an image or a thought will come up.” 

If I weren’t so far away, I’d probably be annoyed that Bea was bring SP into this, but as it stands, I’m not upset with her at all. (And a day later, I’m still okay with it. Having no words and being so far away, SP was maybe the only tool that was going to be of any use. And Bea felt like Bea, not like a shrink, which made all the difference.) So, I tried to pay attention to how my shoulders, arms and hands felt. I was surprised to feel my hands in fits, and how tensed up and locked my shoulders and arms were. I hadn’t noticed. 

“I can’t do this, I can not do this. I can’t do anything. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.” I’m whispering, talking fast, my voice blurred by tears and punctuated by gasps. 

“That begs the question, why?” 

“Why?” I’m incredulous. Shouldn’t she know? Isn’t it obvious? “Why doesn’t it matter?”

“Yes,” she responds simply. Or maybe she says more, and the words don’t register because I’m lost in this maze in my head and I can’t find my way out and he is going to come and there is nothing I am do, it doesn’t matter.

“Because! Because I can’t do anything to change it or stop it! I can’t stop it!” Oh my God, I can’t breathe, nothing is okay, there is no such thing as safe, why isn’t my mom here, I wish my mom would come save me, no one cares, I’m all alone, he is going to hurt me, oh my God, please just make it all stop. 

“You can’t stop it,” she says carefully, and then adds firmly, “You couldn’t stop it THEN. This is now. You are safe now. You survived and you are safe.” 

“No! Stop it! I’m not safe. I’m not okay. He’s just going to do whatever he wants. He can do whatever he wants and it doesn’t matter what I do, there is no such thing as keeping the scary out, he can do whatever he wants! I can’t do anything. It doesn’t matter. He is going to do whatever he wants and I can’t stop it!” I practically scream the words at Bea. Why isn’t she getting this? Why doesn’t she see? I’m terrified and he’s going to hurt me and she is not getting it and I’m so mad at her right now, if she would just get it, she could fix it, she could stop it. Why isn’t she getting it? Why won’t she stop it? 

“Yes! Yes! You found words!” Bea shouts back, but her voice is…..well, happy isn’t the right word, exactly…..maybe excited or proud? “You are safe and you have a voice! And you aren’t alone. You did it! You did it and you are safe. You’re safe now. It was awful, and scary and nothing you should have had to live through, but you did live through it, you survived and you are okay. You are here, in my office, with me, and you aren’t alone.” 

Bea’s voice somehow registers enough that I know it’s okay to let go and melt down, and so I do. I curl into the smallest ball I can manage, and sob. I’m shaking and crying, and I feel wildly out of control, and very, very young and very, very afraid. “He does what he wants and he’s hurting me and it doesn’t matter I can’t hide and I can’t stop him and I can’t do anything at all.” 

“It’s over now. You are safe. You’re safe now. You aren’t alone, and you have words, and I am here. You are safe now. It’s all over. It’s not happening now, no matter how much it feels like it is.” Her voice is a quiet comfort, soft and gentle. “Can I move my chair closer to you?” 

“Why? Why?” I feel as though I almost shriek the words. I’m freaked out. Why does she want to be near me? What does she want? 

“So you aren’t alone, so that I’m not so far away. It’s totally your choice. I just want you to know I am here.” She’s matter-of-fact about it, and I believe her that she just wanted to make sure I don’t feel alone. 

“O-okay,” I say, and my voice is shaky. I’m still crying, and hyperventilating off and on, trying to catch my breath.

Bea moves her chair next to me, and the moment I feel her nearer, I have this urge to sort of shout, ‘don’t touch me!’ My filter is still enough in place that I check myself, and hold the words in. A moment after the urge passes, I realize it’s silly. Bea has never just touched me, or sat nearer to me, without asking. Even at times when she has maybe thought holding my hand would help me feel less alone, she has only offered, and let me know that if I ever ask her to do so, she will hold my hand. 
I start to feel as though I’ve let go of a horrible, awful secret, like my biggest fear has been revealed, and the world didn’t end. My tears slow, and I manage to catch my breath. Bea talks softly, about nothing, just soothing words, letting me know I’m not alone, giving me that verbal connection I need in order to feel safe in the world. 

“I’m scared,” I whisper. 

“I know,” she says. “That was very scary to let go of.”

“I’m so, so scared.” 

“I know. It’s a really scary thing, to feel how little control you had. It’s very, very scary.” 

“I didn’t want it to be true,” I confide. 

“You really didn’t want it to be true. It was really important to you that it wasn’t true, it was so hard, and so scary to let go of the idea that it was just a fun game. I know how badly you didn’t want it to be true. I wish for you it wasn’t true.” Her voice sounds sad, I hear tears in it. Her tears somehow make mine more acceptable; it’s okay to be full grief over this, it’s emotional and it’s a lot. 

Eventually she gently tells me I need to come back to the room, that I’ve gone really deep into things, and it’s time to come back. She reminds me of my busy day, and talks about what she sees in the room. When she has the sense I’m back here, or at least in that here but not here place, where I can function, she says, “I’m going to move my chair back, so I’m not in your face when you sit up.” 

When I do sit up, I can’t look at her, and I wonder about what she had said earlier, how looking a child will look at their parents to see if they are looking at the child, to get attachment needs met. I wonder then, why looking at Bea and having her look back at me feels like being ripped open, like everything in me is being spread out for her to see. I stare at the floor, slipping on my shoes and grabbing my bag. I heard the downstairs door a few minutes ago, which means Bea’s next appointment is here. 

“This was a lot. I want to make sure you feel safe, that you know you are safe and not alone.” Bea says. 

I nod. “I’m fine,” I say. I’m always fine. 

“I wish we had a little more time; my ten o’clock is here,” she confirms what I had already been thinking. She doesn’t want me to leave here and not be safe, but she doesn’t sound scared or panicked, just caring. “If you need to talk more, you can email or call. Okay?” 

I nod. Fine, okay. I’m fine. 

“This is a day for self care. Be gentle with yourself today, okay? Go get a coffee, relax. If you want you can sit out in the other room, as long as you need, okay?” 

“Okay. I’m okay.” 

“I’ll see you later today, okay? With Kat,” she reminds me. 

“I’ll see you later,” I echo, as I walk out the door. I’ve managed not to look at her at all, and in a fog, I walk to my car. 
Wednesdays are busy. It’s not a bad day to have tough things come out in therapy, because after i leave Bea’s, I have non-stop distractions until I bring Kat back for therapy. Then I can hide in Bea’s waiting room, back in h safe space, knowing she is right there, and begin to sort through the crap that came out during my morning session. 

Uncomfortable 

Things have been spacey and off all weekend. On Thursday, a close friend of mine comes over, but it feels more like a dream than something that is actually taking place. I feel like I’m separated from the world, as if I’m stuck behind a thick sliding glass door, so all my interactions are muted. Friday, I lose time and don’t have much of a memory as to what I actually did on Friday. Saturday was a “block party” for the neighborhood, which I attended, but I felt as though my behavior was off. Maybe I was too chatty, or not helpful enough, or did not mingle as much as I should have or maybe I wasn’t enough of something or I was too much of something. 
Sunday, I was a complete mess. I lost a few hours in the morning, at least in part because of flashbacks. I yelled at hubby; he was helping me to cut up veggies, and what I saw how he was cutting them, I snapped. I yelled that he was doing it wrong and I would just do it myself and that I did not need him. He was leaving to go fishing later that day, and anytime I am even a little triggered, and hubby is leaving, I yell at him and push him away first. Unfortunately, while I recognize this pattern, he does not see it at all. 
I was on edge all day Sunday, zoned out but uncomfortable, hyper aware, jumpy. I snapped at Kat, and struggled to convince even just some adult part of me that Kat is not the little girl we hate and find disgusting. I ended up texting our old Nanny, and she came and watched Kat for a few hours. That helped. I just could not be mom that day.  
I emailed Bea. And she responded fairly quickly, so we sent a few messages back my forth. But it was a struggle to hold on to the fact that she cares, that she wasn’t blowing me off, that when she writes things like “I am sorry you are having such a hard day”, she means that, and just that, there isn’t a judgement anywhere. She suggests we might try some sensorimotor therapy to build some resources or to sequence what my body has been feeling, depending on what I feel like.
Monday morning, I don’t know what I want to do. I’ve been up since 2:30am. I woke from a nightmare, and the lost a few hours, so by the time I gain control of myself, it’s 7:15 and I am rushing out the door to make it to therapy on time. Driving to therapy, parking, walking into Bea’s building, I feel off, wrong. Part of me wants to run upstairs and hide in her office and feel her presence, but another part of me is fighting this every step of the way. 
I obviously walk in, say hello, sit down in my normal spot on the couch, but I don’t really remember doing so. It’s just blank space. I don’t remember sliding my shoes off my feet, or. pulling my knees to my chest. 
I’m not sure, but I imagine we chatted about normal things for a few minutes. And then Bea asked me a question, something about how I was feeling. It’s where my memory becomes more clear. I shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know.” 
Maybe she knows I wasn’t very there, or maybe she realizes something changed, but she maybe reframes her question, or maybe she starts the conversation over, with brand new questions. I’m not entirely sure. “Let’s start by having you take an internal temperature. Can you do that? Check in, see how things feel? That will help us know what direction to take. If you are so far away that you don’t know what you are feeling, we need to do some grounding before we can do anything else. If you are present enough to know what you are feeling, we can do some somatic resourcing, like we did before.” 
I don’t say anything. A part of me is so angry with Bea, I want to scream at her to shut up. I can feel her waiting for a response, and I finally manage to eek out one word, “Uncomfortable.” 
“Okay, good. So you’re feeling uncomfortable. Can you say more about that?” 
I open my mouth to speak, and then I shake my head. No. I can’t explain. 
Bea is thoughtful. “Is it uncomfortable like tension in your body, or uncomfortable like an emotion?” 
In my head, it’s both. It’s uncomfortable because the focus is on me, and what I’m feeling in my body. I’m uncomfortable because I feel put on the spot. 
“Hmmmm. If it’s hard to decipher what you are feeling, maybe doing some grounding work to bring you back into the room would be a good place to start.” She suggests, lightly.
“Okay.” I say the words, as I’m shaking my head no (I don’t notice this until Bea points it out to me later). 
Bea talks about being here, and now, and how it’s safe in the present, in her office, with her, and me, and how I’m grown up, and far away from bad things that happened, and she points out noises we are hearing, like birds singing and cars driving by. When it’s obvious to us both that I’m a bit more present, she asks me if I want to do some resourcing. “Do you remember last time you felt very out of control, and the body stuff was really front and center for you? We used a somatic resource, pushing away with your hands, and squeeze your legs together, telling yourself how strong your legs are and that no one can move them. That seemed to help give you some control back. I really do want to help you have some control, or at least be working towards a sense of being more in control and safe. What do you think?” 
“I’m scared.” I whisper to her. It’s why I don’t want to do this. Or at least, it’s partly why. 
“We don’t have to work with the scary memories or thoughts or emotions. We are just dealing with what the body feels. This is much less scary and activating if we separate out what we feel in our body, and just be curious about it. Just pay attention to it, see what is happening.” Bea says. 
Ugh. I’m so mad at her in that moment, I want to stand up and walk out. Instead I yell at her. “I can’t separate it out. We did not separate it out before because I can’t. I don’t know how to. It’s too hard.” Except, the yelling doesn’t come out as yelling, because I’m mostly frozen and wanting to hide right now. It’s more of an angry whisper. The little girl is running things, and she is very afraid of this anger. 
“That’s right, we didn’t separate it out before. You’re absolutely right. We worked with the whole memory,” Bea realizes her mistake, and agrees with me. 
“I can’t separate it.” I tell her, emphasizing the word can’t. 
“I can help you with that. We can work on that together. We can practice. It’s okay, it’s a skill like any other.” She is reassuring, and calm, and so certain that this is no big deal.
“Okay.” I shrug. 
“Can we go back to the uncomfortable feeling?” 
I shrug, then nod my head.
“What kind of uncomfortable feeling is it?” 
“Scared. I’m scared.” I tell her
“How do you know you’re scared?”
“I don’t know.” I shake my head. 
“What are you noticing in your body right now, that is telling your head that you are scared?” She pushes.
I shake my head. “Nothing. I just know in my head.” 
Bea gives me a moment, and when I don’t say anything more, she talks. “Sometimes, when I’m hungry, it seems like I just know I’m hungry, but really, all these little things going on in my body tell me that I’m hungry. Like my stomach might growl, and I might feel light headed. Maybe I feel a little bit slow cognitively. Maybe my mouth waters when I think of food. All those things let my mind know I’m hungry.” 
I stop and think about this for a minute. My first thought is that I didn’t think so many things went into knowing you were hungry. I never actually feel hungry. I go off a clock as to know when to eat. I’ve screwed up my body so badly. My second thought is to tell myself to focus on what my body feels. “My heart is beating really fast,” I tell her. 
“Okay, good. So that is one way we know we are scared.” 
Things get fuzzy then, and I can’t stay with it. My heart is beating too fast, and I can’t breathe and I’m scared and uncomfortable and we are talking about my body and it is not safe. It is not safe to feel this, and it is not safe to talk about my body out loud and it is really not safe to bring another’s attention to it. My attention to what is happening in Bea’s office fades in and out. 
She notices my fingers moving, and the very fact that she has called attention to them makes me freeze, go completely still. “It looks like you have gone very still now,” Bea says. 
I start to say something, then shake my head. 
“Who is shaking their head? I’m curious who that is?” Bea says gently. “I’ve noticed today, a part shaking their head no, saying no, even when you are saying yes today. It seems a part of you really wants to connect and a talk and be present, be here, and this other part of you is rejecting all of that. Maybe that part is scared?” 
“I don’t know who. I don’t know!” I tell her.
“That’s okay. We don’t have to know right now. We just stay curious about it. That’s all.” Bea’s voice is soothing and calm. 
I go floaty far away again, and Bea asks me if I can try taking some deep breaths. I try but can’t seem to do much more than barely avoid hyper ventilating. 
“You’re body just doesn’t trust that it’s safe right now. I can see that it’s really hard for you to even take deep breaths right now,” Bea says. “Just keep breathing. Nice slow, deep breaths.” 

Eventually I get my breath back, and then, I start to cry. I’m not even sure why, or what is going on with me, but I can’t stop the tears. 
“There is a lot of emotion coming up right now,” Bea observes. “What’s happening for you?” 
I shake my head again, and this time, I notice it, too. “I just….I don’t know. I feel like I’m messing everything up. Not good enough, or something. Like I did something bad, something wrong. Just I don’t know. I’m sorry.” 
“You don’t need to be sorry. You have nothing to be sorry for. What I’m asking you to do is incredibly difficult. And you aren’t messing up, not at all! It takes a long time, to be able to stay with the feelings and follow them. It goes against everything you have spent your whole life practicing. You learned a long time ago that it was safer to be far away from your body and not aware of what was going on in it. It’s pretty amazing that you have been able to feel the things you have, like your heartbeat. And the you were able to come back to your heartbeat. That’s amazing, it’s not messing up at all.” Bea says softly. 
“I wanted to talk about something. The little girl wants to talk about something.” I tell her, shyly. I’m afraid she is going to tell me no, or that she is going to tell me she isn’t interested or something. I don’t know. 
“She can always talk. Let’s use the rest of our time for her. What does she want to talk about?” Bea is very casual about it, very calm and quiet, so as not to spook the little girl. 
I very quietly get my journal out of my bag and hand it to her. This journal has a ribbon that marks the page, so Bea can easily open the page to what I want her to read. 
I curl up into myself, hiding my face again, and Bea opens the journal.
<><><><><><><>< I’m lost. Everything is triggering me. I’m drowning in triggers. Even yoga is triggering me right now. What am I supposed to do when the things I use for grounding are triggers now? [i wrote about something I’m not ready to share publicly yet] It’s my fault. I never told. Bea, I never said a word. Not that anyone would believe me. But I never told. You know, you have to know, where I’m going with this. I can’t fully think this, it hurts too much. But it’s my fault. Bad. Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad selfish needy self centered needy bad toxic. 
Sometimes I wanted to tell. I wanted it all to end, to be over. 
But then I don’t want it (yes, I wrote it in my journal as of it was currently happening. My mind gets confused sometimes, and I will write as if things are happening in the present) to stop at all because I am special to him, I matter, he cares about me. He loves me. Even my mom only loves me for who I can be and what I can do. 
And I like the touchy feel stuff. Sometimes. But my family is not huggy. My mom is not touchy feely, only hugs for good-byes and good nights. He is touchy feely, and huggy and cuddles me. It just always turns into more. It just turns into our special game. Always a part of our game. But I love him. I’d probably do anything for him. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><

“Mmhmmmm……..oh, I see…..uh-huh….yeah……” Bea is saying as she reads what I have written, and her voice sounds sad. 
“What?” I ask, worried. I’m afraid of what she is thinking. Is she going to kick me out? Is she firing me? Does she think I’m terrible?
“Most children never tell, at least not while they are a child. It would be…..a child’s defense is to freeze, to separate out the reality they can’t face from the reality they can, and so the idea of telling something that is unknowable to the child….you are asking yourself to be super human. No one can expect that. You aren’t bad. You didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing is the child’s fault, ever, just because they didn’t tell.” Bea says. She wants to read me something, so she pulls out one of her sensorimotor therapy books, and some of what she reads to me is helpful in the moment, but I’m pretty spaced out again. 
Bea asks me to breathe, too try to sit up, to listen to what I hear, to look around the room, even if I can’t life my head she knows I can look at the floor. I try, but it’s hard. Bea reminds me that I need to get back to an adult place, that the adult me needs to leave. Somehow I manage to get back to a semi adult place, a semi grounded place.
“My mom wants me to come visit this weekend….she’s been asking and asking….and then she says that if I don’t come this weekend, then she will come to me. So, I guess I’m not getting a choice. I don’t get a choice.” I tell Bea. I’m half pouting, a little angry. “It’s even harder, right now because of all this stuff, and I’m not ready to go to my mom’s right now. It’s too much. So I just…..I don’t know.” 
“I’m sure with these painful memories, it’s brought up old feelings of anger with her for not protecting you. How could it not?” Bea says. She is on my side, on the little girl’s side, and on the teen’s side. 
“I’m not mad……not right now. I’m just….hurt. Hurt. Confused. I made her so mad.” I’m not really hear again. 
“You made her mad? When? In the past?” Bea asks. She is trying to follow the conversation, and she does such a great job at following my crazy leaps and dissociated head, but even she gets lost sometimes. 
I nod. “Yeah. Yeah. I always mess everything up. I did something bad, something wrong, and made her so mad.” I start to cry. 
“Alice, do you realize, this is the same thing you said earlier, that you felt like you did something wrong, something bad? You weren’t sure where that feeling and emotion were coming from. I’m curious if the feelings were old feelings related to your mom. What do you think you did that was bad?” 
“You know,” I say to Bea, stressing the words. 
“The underwear incident?” She asks. 
I nod. “Yes.” 
“You weren’t bad.” She says evenly, firmly. 
“I did a bad thing and she left. She was so mad and she just left.” I whisper, crying. 
“She left. Yeah. That was so painful. You didn’t do anything bad, but it really felt like it. And now, right now, in 2016, you haven’t some anything bad or wrong, no one is mad, and no one is leaving.” Bea reassures me. 
I cry a little more, and we slowly start to chat about nothingness, everyday chit chat, the kind of conversation that calms me down. By the time I say goodbye, I’m mostly calm again. I feel a little shaky, but not horribly so. 

Little girl hiding

The little girl doesn’t want to go to therapy today. She’s not in the mood. She’s angry with Bea. Bea’s the one who left, and it’s been a week since the little girl has seen her. She feels really disconnected from Bea. And Bea is leaving again in a week and half. So what’s the point? Why bother? Thankfully, the grown up part of me is present enough that I do manage to get all the parts to therapy. It’s rather like being a child or teenager and being forced to show up to therapy at times, but the grown up me is nothing if not responsible and always on time, and so off to therapy I go.   

I walk in and stand at the bottom of the stairs for a moment. It feels really hard to climb up the stairs, and go to face Bea. Hagrid runs right up, though, and she greets him, happily. “Hagrid’s here! How’s my friend Hagrid today?” 

I follow Hagrid up the stairs, and walk into Bea’s office. It feels off to be here. Maybe it’s because I’ve been dissociated and detached since the yuck was dredged up, and Bea leaving only made it worse. Maybe it’s because I’m terrified she isn’t going to be herself; that she hasn’t really come back. I keep my gaze down, and whisper “Hi.” 

“Hello,” Bea says, like she is herself and has come back. “I feel like we have a lot to catch up on.” 

I get seated, and fill her in on what Kat has been up to the last week. I fall easily into that ‘here but not here’ space, and chat as if everything is fine between Bea and I. At this moment, the adult me, even if it is miss perfect, is running things, so there really isn’t anything wrong between us at this moment. The issues between us are between Bea and the little girl, and Bea and the teen. 

When I pause and run out of things to chatter on about, Bea switches gears on me. “I want to make sure we have time to talk about you. Should I get out your email?” 

I shrug my shoulders, and pull my knees to my chest, bury my face in my knees. The little girl is back, and she’s embarrassed and upset. She doesn’t want to be here. “It doesn’t matter.” 

“Well I can pull it up, but if there was a different direction you wanted or needed to go in today…..” Bea says. 

I don’t say anything. The direction I want to go in is out the door. I’m shut down and hiding. I can’t do this, I can’t talk to Bea. I don’t trust her right now. She left me, and she is leaving again, and she might not come back as herself.

“I can see that you are very closed off today, that you very much need to feel safe.” Bea says. 

I’m hunched over, curled into myself and continuing to bury my face. Floating, and far away, I’m not really here, but this is painful, in a dull achy way. It hurts to have Bea so close, and not be able to connect with her. As much as the little girl is afraid to trust Bea, she wants desperately to confide in Bea so she doesn’t have to hold this awful chopped up, mixed up, blender memory on her own. 

“It’s really understandable that Kat’s play was very triggering. It makes so much sense. And I was so glad that the little girl found her voice and was able to write to me and share how she is feeling. It’s so important that the little girl can share her feelings. I think we need to be very careful to pay attention to the little girl.” Bea starts off. She’s reading through an email I had sent on Friday. What she had just read was about Kat and how Kat triggered me……….Yesterday. The little girl was triggered in this big, big way by Kat. That’s been happening a lot lately, too. And so I try to find more ordered activities to do with her like board games or baking or something like that because open ended play is just….I don’t know. Hard sometimes. We are playing with the mini princess dolls and the Sofia dolls. So the princes and Prince dolls are like the grown ups and the Sofia dolls are like the kids. Everything was fine, or mostly fine. But then Kat picked up a Sofia and Prince Charming and was like “pretend he was kissing her and that they were in love and going to get married”. I froze and did my best to be neutral about it, but then she had this grownup boy doll pressed up against the Sofia doll, the little girl doll, and I just lost it. Or rather the little girl part took over. I think it’s probably going to be maybe easier if the little girl writes the rest. Just know that it’s not all of me that feels like this, but it’s pretty much the perspective and feelings that have been strongest lately, that I have been dealing with and that I don’t always like………… Bea had replied to the email, but it was our last communication. 

The grown up part of me is embarrassed and my face flushes. I don’t want to even acknowledge the feelings of the little girl. I’m so angry with the child. And the little girl part of me feels like Bea is being patronizing, or not really caring what she is feeling. 

“The body memories, those can be bad, very difficult, but I do think that sensorimotor is the best way to work through them, to help address them. What were your thoughts on that? Did you want to do some work with that today? I want to make sure we have the time to talk about anything you need to talk about. I’m sure there is a lot to update me on, too.” 

I shrug. The child is upset. She defiantly thinks that there is nothing to update Bea on. I had written to her a bit this week, and simply not sent them to her. I had written to her this morning, at 3:00am, after waking from a nightmare. I want to get out the iPad and give her the unsent notes now, so she can read how I’ve been feeling, so conflicted and up and down. I just am frozen and it’s a struggle to move. 

“I don’t think you are in the window right now. It feels like you are having a very hard time staying here.” Bea says. 

I shrug. I’m not in the window, but I don’t want to be. I’m so tired of fighting to stay in the window and be grounded and be present and be here. 

“How was the rest of the week? Has the grown up gotten to be more in charge? Have you felt more grounded, been able to use your resources?” Bea is asking. 

“No….not…..” My voice sounds too quiet and the words are stuck in my throat. “Not so much.” 

I don’t know how much time passes after that. I am getting spacer and spacier. I know Bea is trying to talk to me, to find something that sparks my attention, gets me feeling connected to her, understood and cared for, so I’ll feel safe enough to talk. The adult knows Bea is trying so hard, and that she is being real and authentic. The little girl believes Bea is just telling her what she may want to hear. She’s not sure Bea is really here. And I’m so fuzzy and blurry and far away that I can’t feel if Bea is here, or herself or not.

In the end, I manage to hand Bea my iPad so she can read my notes I’d written to her.

So…….the grown up me is sort of ping ponging between being just not here or very very angry. And it’s really not good because the grown up is so mad at the little girl, and some of that mad has come out at Kat. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not, but the grown up is aware enough to know its not good to be taking out anger she feels at the little girl at girl, so she just shuts down, detaches, pulls away and everything is numb and flat. That probably isn’t much better, because then I’m pulled away from everyone, especially the person my anger is coming out at and that person just happens to be my kid. 

Otherwise, the little girl has been running the show. She isn’t in a good place. She is in a very bad, very not trusting, very not happy place. She’s always hearing things twisted and placing negative meaning to other people’s words. She is also hateful to herself and hates her actions, but more so she is afraid– terrified, really— that others feel the same way about her the way she feels about her self. She sees everything as rejection, as a sign or signal that she is failing, not living up to the perfect she needs to be. 

I feel like if I was in my “new-normal more grounded accepting calm state” I would have read the whole email from you and felt understood and supported. But the little girl is really the one running the ship these days, and so I’m not feeling those things!

What a hard time for part of you to have to be a parent–yikes! I’m glad you were able to hide and get yourself to a safe place, even if not as long as you probably wanted.

Like this, I feel like you are thinking I’m not being a good parent and it makes me afraid to keep talking about anything. It makes me afraid to say how much snappy quick sharp anger has come out at Kat this last week. I know it’s because I’m mad at the little girl. 

It’s challenging your functioning and depleting your resources. Be gentle with yourself!

All I keep hearing in my head is “why doesn’t she know I can’t be gentle with myself?” And “why couldn’t she just tell me it’s okay to talk about it all? She didn’t say it’s okay to talk, she really doesn’t want me to talk.”

I get that you feel like you are disgusting. I don’t have those feelings, but I get that you do.

This should one of those parts of an email that make me feel really supported and much, much better —–the second sentence of ‘I don’t have those feelings’ would usually help me feel better if the grown up was in charge, but right now, with the little girl being more here, it doesn’t help. She’s just angry at you and I don’t understand why. All she wants to do is scream at you, “No, you don’t get it! You don’t get it at all!” 

Hi Bea, (from the teen speaking for, maybe with, the little girl)………

I’m so very mad at you. And I don’t really know why. And I don’t want to be mad. You push me to talk about this stupid wedding that he will be at. You dredged up so much yuck. And then you tell me that the next week you will be out of town. And you left, and it didn’t feel like you were there by email. It doesn’t feel like you want to deal with me. Why do you keep pushing dealing with the wedding? Ugh. I don’t even want to think about it. But you know that. I wrote in my last email some of my most hidden thoughts and feelings about it, finally, after you have pushed and I have not said a word, I say something. But you didn’t even really respond. 

I don’t understand why I’m so upset with everything. I understand that it might be old feelings, things from the past, but It doesn’t feel like that. It all feels now. I feel like you don’t want me to talk, that I’m not allowed to be me, that you don’t want to hear all the bad stuff, that you are going to leave if I talk and about all the bad stuff because you will be disgusted or angry with me, that I’m not doing anything right, that I’m messing up everything, that I’m all alone no matter what I do. 

I don’t even want to come to therapy today. I feel so disconnected from you, it doesn’t matter. Usually I’m upset and sad and feeling alone when we miss sessions, and am glad when we have a session after missing one and things can get back to normal. But right now? I just don’t care. Or I don’t want to care. I’m not sure which. I’m sad and scared and feel like no one gets it and anyone I talk to is going to decide I am awful and disgusting and terrible and hate me and and just leave. I’m really afraid that if I come to therapy today, you won’t really be you and you won’t really there. 

She read what I wrote and responded directly to the little girl. “I don’t have any bad feelings about you, and I really am me, I’m here and I’m back. I want to speak to the little girl, okay?” 

“Okay.” I whisper. 

“I understand why you think I would find you disgusting, I understand you feel that way. But I don’t think of you that way at all. I really don’t. I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear anything you want to tell me. I’m not afraid of it, and I’m not worried about how I will feel about you. I’m maybe a little bit drawn to the darker side of life, of a person. Remember, I don’t see failure in the ick and disgusting parts of life, I see the potential, the beauty. I know it feels so bad when things are dredged up and I am leaving on vacation. Maybe the next vacation, we might want to process me leaving that week before I go, or see if we can move schedules around so that we can still have two appointments that week. And I’m sure that ever since the trip where I wasn’t so present in email and I didn’t come back to be really present, it feels really scary to have me go on vacation and it is really hard to trust that I’m not there on the other end of the email. I promise you, I was very present, and really focused on being very grounded and there for you when I was answering your email. I was right there. I know I didn’t respond to the very last paragraph and that really hurt. I wanted to respond to that, too, there was so much there and it was all very important, I was just too tired to keep writing. You know, there is a part of me– a very big part of me– that wants to stay right with you and take care of you and make sure you are okay. There’s a part of me that always keeps you in my mind, and that part really cares about you and wants to take care of you all the time.” 

And with that, the little girl was fully and firmly seated in the captain’s chair, no longer sharing it with the grown up, and she was running the the ship. Tears poured down my cheeks, and I sobbed. I wanted to soak in her words, to really feel them, to hear that Bea has a part that cares for me and wants to stay with me and care for me all the time, but it’s sort of too much for me to feel. It makes me feel really good, that she does care, I can feel in her words that I’m important to her, but it is a lot and the feelings of comfort that come up are almost painful. I don’t want to sit in that painful, uncomfortable feeling, but I can’t shake it either. I cry and cry, all the while still pulling into myself and hiding. 

 “I can understand wanting to push someone away before they can hurt you. That makes a lot of sense to me. I’m glad you came to therapy today. I think it’s interesting that you are really feeling so strongly that I would not want you to be you, or that I don’t want to hear the things you have to say. I only want you to be you, just Alice! You’re perfect just as you are. And I do want to talk about the feelings you have been hiding about the wedding.”

I cried some more. The tears were just a mixture of relief that Bea was Bea, and sadness and pain. I shake my head at her, not wanting to discuss the feelings I have about the wedding. 

“Okay. We don’t have to talk about it right now. I do just want to say that it’s not surprising you might have feelings of wanting Kenny to find you attractive, if you have to see him at the wedding. It doesn’t make you disgusting or bad or anything else in my book. It makes sense to me. The little girl was really attached to Kenny. Of course she wants him to still like her.” 

I know Bea says more about that, but I am too ashamed of those feelings to stay present enough to hear her. I’m so very, very, upset and embarrassed over those feelings, and hating myself for it. Hearing Bea say she doesn’t have any bad feelings towards or about me over this. 

“I am wondering about this invisible ink you used, though,” Bea says softly handing me back my iPad. Her words come out happily, with a small smile and curiosity in her voice. She is talking about the way I have written about my nightmare and then turned the font white, so it couldn’t be read. I’d written above that It’s 2:00 am and I’m up. Nightmare. Pieces of the blender memory. I can’t breathe. Can’t breathe. I want this to go away. It’s all body memory stuff, and not many words and the words I do have are just so very embarrassing and shameful and not okay. I feel like it’s too much to deal with. I wrote the words, the little bit that was a nightmare. And I can’t leave them, because I don’t know if I can give them to you. So I colored the words in white– between the stars– and I can color them back in to be read if I want to. I’m just so scared, and so alone, and no one gets it. Its a scary place to be, vulnerable and emotional and feeling alone. “I am curious who the resourceful part is, that was able to make it so you could give me this without having me read exactly what happened with the nightmare.” 

I shrug, still hiding my face.

“I’d like to meet this resourceful part one day. This part really took care of you, keeping you safe, and giving you control over when and if you allow me to read these words.” 

“I don’t sleep anymore.” I cry. “And I’m scared.”

“I know. Things have been really hard.” 

“I’m afraid if you read this, you won’t want me anymore.” I whisper, fully in little girl head space.   

“I know I won’t think that at all. I can’t imagine ever being disgusted or upset with you,” Bea assures me. 

Part of me believes her, or really wants to believe her, but I’m not sure. I can only think that if she actually knew what I had to say, she would not be so confident that she won’t find me disgusting, bad, terrible. “I’m afraid. Part of me just wants to throw my iPad at you so you can read it and it can just be over with.” 

“Yes, I can understand that. To not have to feel alone with it anymore,” she says. “What was it like to write the words?” She asks. 

“I…….I don’t know. I mean…..I don’t…..” I stop speaking suddenly, and try to think. I honestly can’t remember. “I really don’t have a memory of it. I just…it’s fuzzy.” 

“Yeah…..it’s a whole different part of you that holds these memories right now. That’s okay to not know. And you can share it now. Or later, or not at all.” Bea says gently. 

I sit up and stare at my iPad, highlighting the text I had turned white and then turning it a bright navy blue. Then I just stare and stare at those blue letters on the screen, which form words that turn into sentences and create the paragraph describing my nightmares. 

“If I…….if I give this to you, can I turn around and hide?” I whisper. 

“Yes. You can hide, of course you are allowed to hide. Would you like a blanket to hide under?” She asks, once again, simply just speaking to the little girl. I’m touched because she remembers how I like to hide in my closet under my soft blanket. 

It takes me what feels like a long time to answer her question. Eventually, though, I do. “Okay. Yes.” I hand her the iPad. She takes it and sets it on her chair. She walks over to where she keeps a stack of blankets, and she chooses me.  

Bea hands me a fleece teal blanket, saying, “I think this is the softest one.” 

Taking it from her, I hide under it, and turn away. “What if it’s not okay?” I ask, feeling suddenly frantic. 

 
“It will be. I imagine I’ll feel sad for the little girl, maybe sad for adult who is in so much pain right now. But I also imagine I will feel glad that you aren’t alone with this anymore.” She is speaking so softly and carefully, so as to not scare the little girl. 

“Okay. Okay.” I tell her. 

And so I hide under a soft and fuzzy blanket, curled into a ball, burying my face in my knees, while my therapist reads my latest most shameful memory. 

It’s too much for me, that she has read it and knows now, and I’m way too far away to retain any memory of the day. What I do remember is that Bea was her most supportive, emphatic and caring self. She had no bad thoughts about me or my actions. As I am leaving her office, still unable to make eye contact, she says, “The little girl was so brave today, so brave to share so much today, to trust me that much. I hope you can get some relief now that you aren’t alone with this memory.” And I believe her.  
 

I think I’m going to be okay

This might be triggering; I talk about details of specific memory pieces. Please just be careful. Xx

Therapy Monday. I’m sitting in my usual place, with Bea across from me. We’re still discussing the memories, images, physical sensations, feelings. “I don’t know. I…..it’s just a stupid thing,” I tell her. 

“If it’s there, and bothering you, it’s important. Maybe it needs to be said.” Bea is calm, always so calm. I gave her my notebook to read earlier in the session. I’d written that I didn’t understand how she could go over and over the same questions, constantly reassuring me, responding to the same worries and fears. She said it was okay, that she would reassure me and answer the same questions as long as I needed to ask them. 

“I…..it’s just….in my head…..I see……it’s….” I stop, try to slow my breathing, calm down. “I like to sleep on my stomach.” I start over, from the beginning. 

“Okay. You like to sleep on your stomach,” Bea echoes.

“I sleep on my side when he’s here. So I can see the door. I have to watch the door.” My breathing is faster now, I’m full of anxiety, and it feels like I’m there, waiting for him to come back into my room. I’m 5 years old again. 

“You need to watch the door. Yes, you were trying to keep yourself safe. You are kind of on your side right now. Can you feel that?”  

“Yeah…I’m on my side…..I…..I have to see the door. My room…all my furniture is cream and rose gold. My mom painted the walls that dusty pink color. I hated it.” It’s helping me to tell her about my room, what it looked like then. It’s important to the story, but it’s helping. 

“Mmmmhmmm.” Bea lets me know she hears me. My head is down, so I can’t see her. She makes these verbal nods. 

“My bed, it’s a day bed. The bed posts are round.” 

“Are they rose gold, or cream?” Bea asks. 

“Gold. My bed is cream. And you know how the sides….they slope on a day bed…so the posts are more level with your head…” I stop talking. I can’t breathe. 

“I see some shaking, and it looks like you are very scared right now. Let’s go back to your knees. Can you feel them? That they are strong?” 

“Now. They are strong now. Then…..but now they are strong and won’t move.” I whisper the words through tears that are falling now. 

“Yes. Then you couldn’t stop it. But now, now they are strong, and no one can move them.” She reiterates. 

I nod. “Okay. So….I have to watch the door. I have to see the door. So when he comes in my room, I know right away. And when…..when he’s closer….I…..those bed posts, they make a reflection like a mirror. But….it’s round…so it’s….like a funhouse mirror.” 

“Distorted.” 

“Yes. Distorted. So….I can see him…..smiling….but it’s…distorted….he’s happy. I’m not happy.” I sob the words out. 

“Your whole life was distorted,” she tells me sadly. 

“I was so scared.” 

“Can you see how your body is feeling? Is there anything you want to do?” She asks me. 

I shake my head at first. I’m unsure. “I don’t know. I can’t…I’m sorry, I don’t know.” 

“That’s okay. It’s okay not to know.” She reassures me. 

We sit with the feeling of not knowing for a while. Sitting there, feeling scared, and unsure, feeling like a 5 year old. And then, I know. “I want to push his hands off me. I want to push and kick his hands away.” 

“You want to push his hands away. Do you want to try an experiment? Try pushing?” She asks softly, carefully. 

“I….I’m scared.” I tell her. 

“I know.” 

“I…okay. I’ll try.” The words are choppy, and uncertain. 

“Okay. Do you want to push with hands or feet?” 

I shake my head. I don’t know. 

“Your right foot is pushing a little bit on your left foot. Do you want to push with your feet? I could put my hand under your foot, and you could push against it.” 

“Feet…..I don’t like my feet touched.” I tell her that, and it’s like something in my head clicks, and it makes sense why I have always hated having my feet touched. 

“Okay. If I put a blanket under your foot, would that feel safer?” 

“No….hands are safer than feet. Not feet.” I whisper.

“Okay. That’s something we know, now. That’s good. Do you want to try pushing with hands?” She asks carefully.

I nod. “Okay. With hands.” 

“I’m going to move nearer to you, okay?” Bea is keeping her voice gentle. 

“Okay. Okay,” I say. I try to breathe. I don’t look up, but I feel her moving closer. For a moment, I panic inside. It’s near impossible to stay in this place of two realities; the 5 year old who was scared and hurt and alone, and the grown up who is strong, and not alone. I have to work to remind myself that I’m in Bea’s office, I’m safe, it’s Bea next to me, not him. 

“I’m going to put my hand right near yours, and when your ready, you can push. If you want more or less pressure to push against, you can tell me. And if I’m too close, you can tell me to move. You are the one in control here, this rime.” 

“I can’t. I can’t. It’s not…I can’t.” I’m starting to freak out. 

“Nothing bad will happen. You are strong. Feel your knees. No one can move them. No one can open them. Your feet are strong, grounded. No one can move them.” She says. 

I unclench my fist, so my hand is open. I can’t do more than that, though. 

“You aren’t pushing me away. You’re pushing, but it’s not pushing me away. I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.” She says. 

I place my hand against hers. 

“It’s okay. You aren’t alone now. And you can push his hands away now.” She tells me, speaking softly. 

I push against her hand. I don’t push hard, I don’t apply barely any pressure. But I push against her hand. Part of me knows she is moving her hand back, allowing me to push her away. But another part of me feels like I am strong, and that I pushed hands away. 

“You did it!” Bea’s voice is full of happiness, but she keeps it quiet and somehow still calm. 

“I did it.” My voice is a little hollow, and far away sounding. It feels like a dream; I did it. 

“You did it. And nothing bad happened.” 

“Nothing bad happened…..?” It’s part question, part statement.

“No, nothing bad happened. I’m still here, and nothing bad happened.” She repeats. 

It’s quiet, for a bit. Then she asks if I want to try again. I nod my head, and push her hand away again. Then we switch hands, and I use my left to push her away. Each time, it takes me a while, and I’m terrified to push those hands away. I’m still partly there, in the then, in a time when I couldn’t push hands away, or keep my knees pushes together, a time when I had to sleep on my side to watch the door. A part of me is in the now, though, and so I’m able to use my new somatic resources and realize that I’m safe and strong. 

“If anyone put their hands on you, you can push their hands away,” Bea tells me. 

I nod. “Yes. I can push their hands away. No one can move my knees or feet.” I push my knees together, and push my feet into the sofa. 

“I can push the hands away.” My voice is stronger. 

“You did good work today. Really good work. I know it’s hard, really hard, but you are doing it. This was good work,” she tells me as she we wrap things up. 

I’m exhausted, when I get home, I want nothing more than to take a nap. I end up taking a nap, a very long nap in the afternoon. I feel like I ran a marathon. This is hard work. I think it’s worth it, I have to believe it’s worth it. 

I feel calmer, in a way that feels very deep internally, like its there to stay. It’s like there is a pool of cool blue water, with orchids surrounding it, deep inside me. Like I have a place to go to feel calm. I have a place inside myself that is safe, safer than any closet I could ever hide in. Things feel scary and hard, and I’m surrounded by feelings and physical sensation, and I’m sad and things are messy, but deep inside I feel like I have a safe place. I think I’m going to be okay. 

No one can move them

This could be triggering. I put a giant trigger warning around the most– or what I think would be– the most triggering part so it’s easy to skip over, but please be careful reading this regardless. 

Friday evening and I’m emailing Bea in a panic. She emails back almost right away, and we go back and forth for a few emails. She ends up telling me she can see me tomorrow at 3:00. At first, I feel ridiculous and wrong and I’m worried about taking the appointment. I tell her part of me wants to come in and part of me thinks it is silly. She responds by telling me it is a good idea, and that she will see me at 3:00pm, if I can make it. I give in to my panic, and email her that yes, I will be there at 3:00pm. 

Which is how Hagrid and I are here, in Bea’s office, sitting in my spot on her sofa, on a Saturday. 

“I shouldn’t be here,” I tell her. 

“Why? Because it’s a Saturday? I’m okay with you being here. I see nothing wrong with you being here.” 

“Because….because I know your last appointment is at 2:00pm on Saturdays.” I feel my face flush. She should be off work now. Instead, she is stuck here, with me. 

“Well, yes, usually. But I made the decision that I could see you at 3:00pm for an hour. I’m okay with that.” Her voice is very clear and strong right now. I can’t look at her, but I imagine she looks calm and okay. 

“I’m just….I’m worried..I’m afraid…..” The words fall away. I’m afraid of this unnamed thing, but I’m also afraid of saying it out loud. 

“What are you afraid of?” 

“That…that it…I’m afraid you….that I’m…” I shake my head in frustration. 

It’s like a switch flips for Bea, and she gets it. The puzzle comes together and she finds my missing words. “You’re worried that this is too much for me, that I won’t be able to handle it and that I’ll leave?” 

I burst into tears, in that way that is usually reserved for children. It’s part fear, part relief that the words are out there. “Yes.” 

“I’m not leaving. I’m okay. I can handle this. You aren’t too much, this isn’t too much, and I’m not leaving,” Bea says, her voice firm and strong and serious. She isn’t leaving. 

“You’re not leaving?” The little girl needs to double, triple check things. 

“No. I’m not leaving.” 

“You are okay?” I hate this needs to double check, but I also have to make sure. 

“I am okay. This isn’t too much. You are not too much.” She reassures again. I wonder how she manages to reassure so often, to answer the same questions, time and time again and not sound annoyed. I would sound annoyed. 

“Okay,” I say. Hagrid jumps into my lap, and I bury my face into his fur. Deep breath. He smells like outdoors, like grass and sunshine. 

I tell her about the mess Kat’s school is creating, and the pressure it is putting on me. “It’s just another thing, another thing that I have to fight for, and I have to….it’s another….” I shake my head. Deep breath. “I’m trying so hard not to fall. And now…it’s one more reason I have to balance. And I’m so scared. It’s too much. I can’t…I’m not a grown up right now and I am failing left and right and I can’t do this.” I continue on, in this crazy girl speech, my words coming faster, and my breathing speeding up, too. I talk and I talk and I talk. Maybe more than I ever have; I talk as if I’m writing in my notebook. “And I’m just…I’m tired. I’m tired. And Kat knows, she knows I’m not present and I can’t make myself be more present and all she wants is for me to play like mommy plays, and I can’t make myself do it. I can’t be present like that. I’m damaging her.” I burst into tears again. 

It’s so important to me to be there for Kat, to be a good mom. I don’t care about being the best mom, or even about doing things the way culture or society dictates as correct. I want to raise an emotionally healthy, aware, child. I want my child to know she is worth something, to not be afraid to say how she feels, or what she thinks. I want her to believe her opinions matter, and count. I want her to feel loved for who she is, and who she chooses to be. I want her to feel supported and contained. I want to raise a child who knows how to be present, to live in this moment. I want to raise a child who is as okay with anger and sadness as most people are with happiness and joy. I want her to feel strong and to be independent but to never feel alone. I want so much for her, but none of it centers on who she will marry, or what college she will go to, or what profession she will choose. I only want her whole self to be healthy and happy. After that, anything is okay with me. 

“It’s okay. Yesterday, I saw no signs of you damaging her. She’s okay. She was playing a game of needing all the animals and me in our safety fort, so I would say she is seeking security in a healthy way, and may need a bit of extra security, but not in a bad way. She is okay.” I believe what Bea is telling me. I don’t think she would lie about Kat, because it is too important to her and me that kids get what their needs met. 

I start to say something about hubby, somehow we got on the subject of hubby. But I can’t. “It’s not….this isn’t about hubby, but I was thinking….I never had to ask you to make sure Kat was okay before, because I knew, if I fell, Kay would make sure Kat was okay, and hubby knew I wasn’t really crazy. I knew she would make sure they were both okay. And she would watch them, and make it okay until I could put myself together and be okay again.” 

“It’s a big loss then, even bigger than we talked about. Losing Kay means losing a very big safety net.” Bea says sadly.

“Yeah.” I blink back tears. 

“I noticed you said until I was okay. What would you need to be okay, if you fell?” She asks. 

I shake my head. I have no idea. I don’t know what I need. It’s not that my parents didn’t meet my needs, because they did, and they loved me, but emotional needs, well those weren’t really allowed. So I have no idea what I need, because I have pushed those down for so long. “I don’t know. I really truly don’t.” I look up at her, desperate for her to believe me. I use ‘I don’t know’ so often to avoid talking, I want her to know this isn’t that. 

“That’s okay.” 

“I wish… Hubby. He doesn’t see me, unless I’m okay or….ugh. I made things so much worse. I’m such an idiot. I just…I messed it up and things are worse. I almost emailed you. This morning, or last night, however you want to look at it, but it seemed silly when I would be here in a few hours, so I didn’t. I didn’t write it. And now I can’t say it.” I squeeze my hands into fists, push with my nails. It’s not exactly conscious and deliberate but it’s sort of planned….almost like its auto pilot, a habit now, when I’m anxious, overwhelmed.

“Did you have a fight?” She asks me softly. She sounds concerned. 

“No. No. We….he doesn’t see me unless I’m okay or when…..he sees me when he…….” Deep breath, and push hard with my nails, but I don’t feel calmer. I let myself float away, and the next time I speak, my voice is far away. “He sees me when he wants something from me.” 

“A word on the list?” Bea questions, carefully. In a dull, sort of muted way, I feel surprise that she didn’t say the word, and relief. 

I nod. “Yes. And I thought….I just….I wanted….I thought he would…I thought it might help……it just made things worse. It wasn’t a good idea.” 

“You thought that if you did, then maybe he would feel closer, and you would feel closer and seen and heard and cared for?” She manages to articulate the thoughts I am struggling to put into words. 

I nod. “And it didn’t work!” The tears fall as the words come out, and it’s like I’m yelling at her, or the world, or something, for the unfairness of it all. 

“It didn’t work. Does….it…usually bring him closer and make you feel seen?” She’s being been careful not to say anything that would add to my already triggered state. 

I shake my head. “It usually ends…..bad. It’s not…he just wants me fixed then. It doesn’t make us closer when I flip out.” 

“Ahhh. This feels really hurtful and bad, but we can look at it like an experiment that didn’t help.” 

“It was stupid.” I shake my head at myself, at my stupidity. 

“Not at all. You have all these body feelings going on, and this emotional upheaval, and you just want to be seen and heard. Validated and understood. Mirrored. And this feels really bad. Why wouldn’t you try anything to make it stop, to get some relief?” Bea’s very good at taking my side, and being on my side, even when I’m against myself. “So, what did happen? How did he act?”

“Nothing. Nothing happened. I didn’t….it wasn’t….” I want to say I was not there. I was gone and scared and really frozen in my head. “I didn’t flip out. And he must went back to ignoring me.” 

“He ignores you?” 

“No. Yes. Not like…just…he doesn’t see me. And he doesn’t…we don’t talk. He doesn’t ask me things.” It hurts. Even when I told him I was going to therapy today at 3, something highly unusual, he didn’t say anything at all. He just nodded, and when I was getting ready to leave, he said he forgot I had that thing today. Even my own kid realized I was going to my ‘shrink doctor’ and told me she hopes I had a good talk. 

“Okay. So what made things worse?” 

“The….feelings. They got stronger. It….he…I don’t know….made them more here.” My face heats up, and I can feel the bright red flush of shame, marking me like my own personal scarlet letter. 

Bea thinks for a minute. I can tell she is thinking because I see her chair swiveling from side to side, and it’s silent in the room. “Do you remember when we talked about how triggers can become linked? So eventually the original trigger, from the trauma, is not longer the trigger at all?” 

“Yeah….” I say it slowly, not sure where she is going with this. 

“Well, it makes sense to me that the feelings would be ‘more here’, if the triggers linked and hubby became a sort of trigger.” She tells me softly. 

I don’t say anything, but I nod my head. I get it. It makes sense. But oh my god, I need this to stop.

“Okay. I’m wondering what you are feeling now? I’d really like to send you out of here with some sense of relief, of knowing it will be okay. Because I really do believe it will be okay, but you don’t feel it. And that’s all right. But I’d like for us to try some things to see if we can’t help make this lessen a little.” 

“You mean, what I’m feeling right now? This minute?” 

“Yes. What is the most upsetting thing you are feeling right now?” She repeats. “What image or thought or feeling?” 

I sit for a long time, my knees pulled to my chest, my head down, face buried. “It’s a feeling.” 

“Okay, good. Can you tell me?” Her voice has gone soft and gentle, to match the smallness of my own voice. 

“It’s on my cards. You read my cards?” 

“Yes, yes I did read them. Do you have them with you?” 

“You want me to get them?” I ask her. 

“When you can. I know you’ve gotten into this kind of frozen state, and it’s hard to feel safe to move. So when you can, yes.” I see her chair stop moving, and she is very still, now. 

“If I get them, you can read it and I won’t have to say it?” I have to know it’s worth it to move, to fight through this frozen feeling. 

“Yes. I can read it,” she says. 

“Okay.” Deep breath. “Okay.” I slowly shift how I am sitting, but it’s not much. I start to talk about baking, making small talk as if I am perfectly fine. I let the switch in my head flip, so I can sit up and move and act fine. I’m talking about using lavender as a flavor– something I’ve never done before or tasted– as I reach in my bag and get my cards. I go a silent, mid-sentence when I read the top card. I shove it to the back of the pile quickly, and Bea starts talking about a restaurant in town. I focus on her words, and even though I’m spacey and between the then and now, I manage to listen to, and focus on her voice. I find the card I need, and hand it to Bea, while dropping the others back into my purse. 

She looks at the card, and I bury my face again, embarrassed. “Ahhhh. This makes sense. And I’m reading this and thinking there is a lot we can do here, a lot we can try.” 

I start to cry, at the realization that she now knows what I’m feeling, what is happening for me. The tears are a mix of fear and shame and relief. 

“Can we try some things?” She asks me gently. 

“Okay.” I agree, but then add, “I’m scared.” 

“I know. You are so, so scared. This is so scary. This whole memory is about feeling that vulnerability. It’s so scary.” She’s talking the way you talk to a scared child, and it’s what I need right now. 

“You won’t go?” I ask her, terrified she is going to leave me alone in this. 

“Nope. I’m not going anywhere. We are going to do this together.” 

The little girl wants to ask Bea to hold her hand, but the rest of me is shouting ‘danger! Danger! Danger!’ and so I say nothing, except, “okay.” 

“You couldn’t say no then, although you clearly wanted to. ‘No, no no. Words in my head, but no words in my mouth.’ You were frozen, too scared, too vulnerable and small to say no then. But you are grown up now. You are big now. You can say no now. We can say it together. Do you think you can do that?” She asks me. 

“I’ll try.” It’s a whisper. I’m afraid to fail. This whole time, I have been crying, off and on. The tears are back. 

“Okay. You are a grown up now. You can say no. You couldn’t then, but you had every right to do so. We can say it now.” Bea says more, but I lose the words. 

“What if I didn’t have the right?” I ask her. 

“Oh, you did. You had every right to say no. You just couldn’t, because you were little and scared. But no matter what, you have that right, to say no.” 

“What…” I shake my head to clear it. “You really don’t think this is my fault, do you?” It’s like a peice of a very large messy puzzle clicks into place. Something about her words, her tone of voice, I’m not sure what, but it clicked into place and I feel sure that she doesn’t see this as my fault. 

“No, I don’t think this is your fault at all.” She tells me. 

“What if….I mean, well, what If I did something bad before this, and I just don’t remember  the before?” I mumble the words, terrified she might agree with me, hoping she won’t, but knowing, deep down, she will; if I did something before, I deserved whatever happened after. 

“It wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t change what I think,” she says simply, as if it should be clear, as if it is something everyone should know, like the fact the sky is blue, or honey is sweet.

And I believe her. She doesn’t blame me. Even after all she knows. She does not blame me. 

We try a few times, but I’m unable to say ‘No’ with her. “It’s just a stupid little 2 letter word. It shouldn’t feel this scary.” 

“Because it means facing how vulnerable you were then, when you couldn’t say no. It’s okay. Maybe that’s not the place to start. Maybe we start with the body feelings.” She pauses, and then she reads the top part of my card. 

            TRIGGER warning. 

            “Picture in my head. Knees held together. Really, really tight. Hands on ankles, pulling. . Gentle but not.” 

TRIGGER OVER 

She’s read my card out loud. Her voice was matter of fact, and she did not sound disgusted or overwhelmed. Huh. “Do you see this now?” She asks me. 

I nod. “I feel it.” 

“Okay. Don’t go too far away. Can you feel your body? Does it want to do anything? Maybe stand up, or push, kick?” 

“I want…” I stop my words before they can escape. 

“Get rid of that filter for the moment, it can come back later, but we don’t need it here.” Bea encourages me. 

“I’m trying,” I assure her. I pause for quite a while and make some random small talk. “I want to pull my legs up and hold my knees together.” 

“Okay. Okay, that’s good! So, like you are sitting now. Can you focus on your knees?” 

“I’m really scared. So scared. He’s…I…I’m so scared.” I whisper. 

“I know. You are really scared. But you aren’t little anymore, you are grown up! You’re strong now. And you your knees are very, very strong. Can you feel how strong they are?” She’s talking softly, but her voice is sort of serious again.

“I don’t feel like a grown up right now,” I cry. 

“I know you don’t,” she says, and she says it in such a way that I know she gets it. 

She talks about how my knees are very strong, and how when I was little it was scary because someone could move them, but no one can now. She has me focus on my knees, and that feeling of holding them together. 

“No one can make them move?” I ask her, not sure I believe it. 

“No one. No one can make them move, no one can open them.” She is firm on this. 

“No one can make them move,” I tell her. My voice is a little louder, a little stronger and I feel a little calmer. 

“Do you feel like you want to say no, now?” She asks me. 

I still can’t. It’s silly, but the idea of saying that insignificant, two letter word, it’s just too much. So, I shake my head. “You’re still here?” Fearfully, afraid that she is leaving because I can’t do something. 

“I’m still here. I’m not leaving.” She reassures again. How is she not sick of this? “Is there something else your body wanted to do?” 

At first, I shake my head, but then I whisper, “Hands…..push them off.” I cringe inward and feel cold. 

“Okay. You wanted to push. Yes! Do you want me to hold a pillow and you can push it away?” 

It’s quiet, while she waits for my answer. Finally, I tell her, “Monday. Let’s just…Monday.” I know that the hour has to be up, and I’m afraid to do this and end up in another tail spin when I’m feeling a bit more calm, a bit more solid. 

“Okay. We can pick this up on Monday.” I hear Hagrid jump down, and prance around her chair while she pets him. She tells him she is really proud of me, and she is celebrating how brave I was. 

I take a minute, sitting there, and when I sit up, I look at the clock. It’s 4:15. We went past her one hour time frame. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, it’s past an hour, I’m sorry, I’m going.” I’m scrambling to get my things and get out of there. I’m going to be too much for her. I’m going to take too much, and need too much and she is going to leave. 

“Breathe. Breathe for a minute. I knew, when we started with the knees, that we would be past the hour. I looked at the clock, and I knew that. I made that choice. I was okay with it. It’s okay. No one is mad. No one is in trouble. Breathe.” Bea speaks firmly, and she is looking directly at me when she says this. 

“No one is in trouble?” I double check. 

“No one.” She says. 

And so, I breathe. We spend a moment talking about grown up things, random things like cooking, or cleaning, or walking the dog, going out to dinner. And then I breathe. She reminds me that when I feel scared, or have those body memories, to remember how strong my knees are and that no one can make them move. 

When I leave, I don’t feel better, but I feel calmer. I put on my playlist of “survivor/fighter” songs,and blast the music on the way home. 

Balancing 

Trigger warning 

Hagrid comes with me to therapy with me today, and he rushes up the steps to greet Bea when we arrive. As I walk up the stairs, I hear her saying hello to him and telling him how nice it is to have him in therapy today. 

“Good morning,” I tell her, walking in and setting my coffee down. I get comfortable on the sofa, and call Hagrid over to me. He happily jumps into my lap. 

I update her on Kat, because there is a messy situation going on with the substitute teacher who took over for her regular teacher when she went on maternity leave. Bea needs to know what is going on so that she can help Kat in therapy tomorrow. 

Once she is filled in, though, she turns the conversation to me. “And you? How were things yesterday?” 

I look down, and go silent. “I baked,” I finally say. 

“What did you bake?” She asks.

“Macarons.” I tell her. 

“French macarons?” She asks me. 

“Yes.” I reach into my bag and pull out a box. “Actually, I brought you some.” 

She takes the box. “Mmmmm. Yum. These are beautiful. I can’t believe you made these! I have to try one.” 

“You really don’t, not right now. I just….I thought you might like some.” I’m embarrassed now. I don’t know why, exactly, I just am. 

I list out the different flavors, and Bea tries two. She declares them perfect and delicious. We talk about macarons, and how they can be difficult to make, and how they are expensive little cookies. She tells me I could open a bakery. 

I laugh. “It’s just a distraction. It’s something I can do, something I can focus on.” 

“Well, if you have to feel bad and this is your way of coping, you might as well get rich off it.” Bea laughs, too. A second later, she says, “You haven’t talked about sewing lately.”

“It’s not enough of a distraction. It’s sort of mindless.” I shrug. I’m not sure how to explain it. 

“Ahhh. Okay.” 

I take a drink of my coffee, and hug Hagrid. I’m out of words. 

“Were you able to write anything down?” She asks. 

I nod, and pull my notebook and a stack of notecards from my bag. I hold them in my lap and look at them. “Can I…..can I go to the bathroom?” I ask her in a little girl voice. 

“Yes. Yes, of course.” Bea sounds surprised. “What if I had said no?” She asks. She looks curious. 

“I….I’m not sure. I don’t…I guess I would have stayed here.” I whisper. 

“Okay. Go to the bathroom.” 

I hand her my notebook and my cards. 

“Should I read these while you go?” 

I nod. “Yeah.” 

“Okay. I’ll read the notecards while you are gone so you don’t have to wait for me to read them.” She starts reading, and I head to the bathroom. 

I’d written the pieces of memory onto the notecards. Every time I had a flashback, a memory, a bad dream, I tried to write it down. I wrote to in my notebook about this high wire I’m balancing on, and how I feel like I’m going to fall, and how scared I am. I wrote that the last rational part of me is very scared for the rest of me, and of me. I wrote about how I was alone, balancing on this tightrope, and no one was there to catch me. I explained how I used to be under the tightrope, and stuck in the yuck and the crap, but I managed to put myself back together. I wrote that I did a crap job of it, because all I’d been able to do was build a bubble of okayness around myself, and to shove the worst of the yuck into a box. But then Kay came along and pulled me into rhe high wire. She helped me balance, but I still had a bubble. But with therapy, I was able to allow more people onto the high wire, and they helped me balance. It got easier. I was able to allow other people close enough to be under the high wire, to be there to catch me, even if I couldn’t let me help me balance. I wrote that now I feel like I’m all alone and they all just left. 

When I get back from the bathroom, I sit back in my place. 

Bea looks at me and her look says she cares. “All these memories you’ve written are sensory related. It’s all the things we have been talking about.” 

I nod. They really are; hands around my ankles, fingers down my back like bugs creepy crawly, and feelings in places I can’t write about to anyone. 

“Do they….can you stop them? Like if there is a feeling that starts, can you control it? Can you stop it by standing or doing something different?” Her voice is clear and kind. 

“I….no.” I tell her. “I….nothing….it just quiets it. It….nothing stops it. Noting makes it stop.” 

“I want us to try to find a way to get you some relief. You shouldn’t have to keep feeling like this. Can we try, can we see what might help? Can we try some different things?” 

I nod my head. “It won’t stop.” I start to cry, and fold over on myself. “It just won’t stop.” 

“It sounds like you are being hit from all sides. Are these memories, are they new or old? I mean, have you had memories like this before?” 

I shake my head. “Not really. Not like this.” I’ve had body memories before, but never like this, and they usually go away really quick. I can numb them away with self harm, or eating behaviors. And they never happened so often before. 

“I think….this seems to be another layer of healing. I think now that you are more aware of your body, more able to feel it, you are also able to feel these sensations. It’s another layer of healing, and it’s all hitting you at once. Flooding, it’s called flooding.” 

I don’t say anything, but I nod my head and cry. I let myself break apart in her office because it’s the one place I don’t have to keep trying to balance and not fall. 

Bea keeps reading. “This is very eloquent.”

“I highly doubt that,” I mumble. 

“It is very eloquent,” she states again. “I can really get how you are feeling. These pictures really help show what is going on.” I had sketched out stick figure drawings, trying to show what had happened, what was in my head. 

“If I fall, will you make sure Kat is okay? You won’t let her not be okay, right?” 

“Yes, I will make sure she is okay if you fall.” 

“Because if I fall, who will take care of her?” I ask Bea. I feel a bit frantic. 

“Your hubby. He will take care of her. And I will make sure she is okay.” 

“Will you…..if I break apart….if I fall….will you make sure….can you tell him I’m not crazy?” I ask. 

“I can….” She says slowly. “You know, this is really common for survivors with kids to plan for not being around in the future, to worry about bad things happening.” 

“It’s not….I just…I really need to know they will be okay.” 

She is finishing reading my journal. “It’s not safe in the far away, and it’s not safe in the present. Nowhere feels safe,” she repeats the words I’d written. “That is a very scary thing to feel. If you ever feel really unsafe, really not okay, you don’t have to because you can always go to the hospital.” 

“No. No. That is not safe. You don’t say that. I would not go. It’s not okay.” I’m fighting not to shut down, and I’m feeling really left. She doesn’t want to deal with my scary feelings, she wants me to go to the hospital. She wants to get rid of me. 

“Ideally, we would stop you from falling like that. We would have you come in everyday and try to keep you from falling. We would work together to keep you safe.” Bea’s voice is quiet and gentle and her words penetrate through the feelings of rejection.

I sit crying, hiding my face, but her words– that she would have me come in everyday to try to keep me from falling– stick in my brain. Maybe I’m not so alone. I’m crying, sobbing, freaking out and so scared. “It won’t stop,” I tell her. 

And then, Bea starts talking. She tells me she knows I am scared. She says she knows I feel very alone, and that no one understands. She tells me that she knows what the scary detached feeling feels like. She describes the body memories and how terrifying they are and how they can take over your feelings. She describes what it feels like in such detail that a part of me wonders if she really does know. 

I nod my head. “Yes. That.” More tears fall. 

“When did these memories start? Can you attach them to something specific?” 

“The doctor appointment…..” I’m whispering, mumbling.

“Was it something specific about the doctor?” 

“The male doctor. When he touched me.” 
“You didn’t want him there?” 

“I didn’t want him to touch me. I didn’t want him to touch me. I was so scared. I was so scared. I couldn’t breathe, I was so scared.” The words come out in a giant sob. 

“Can you say ‘No’ now?” She questions softly. “Say what you didn’t get to say then?”

I shake my head. 

“It would allow you to complete the action, or part of the action you didn’t get to complete. That’s what sensorimotor is about.” Bea tells me. 

“Can I….can I just tell you what I would have said?” I ask. 

“Sure.” 

“I….I wish I had said…….” I stumble. “I’m…not…..comfortable with a male doctor?” 

“I’m not comfortable with a male doctor. That’s very good. Anything else?” I think Bea is smiling, pleased with me. 

“I don’t want you to touch me.” I say softly. 

“I’m not comfortable with a male doctor and I don’t want you to touch me,” she repeats. “Can you say it all?” 

I shake my head. “I feel silly.” 

“It does feel silly. I know. I’ve had to do this with the training. It can feel really silly. It’s about trying things, and being playful. Could we say it together?” She asks me slowly, carefully. 

“I….okay.” I agree. I have to agree because I’m desperate to stop this and willing to try. 

“I’m not comfortable with a male doctor and I don’t want you to touch me.” We say it together, slowly. 

“How did that feel?” Bea asks. 

“I don’t know.”

“Is there anything your body wants to do? Maybe kick, or stand up, run? Push away with your hands?” She offers up so many suggestions, but the only thing I want to do is curl my legs up to myself and glue my knees together; I want to be curled up and not seen. 

I shake my head. “I…I…” I try to tell her, but end up panicking. My breathing speeds up, and I start crying again. I’m having a hard time calming down, so I clench my fists, and dig my nails into palms as hard a I can. I focus on that. 

Bea sees my hands go into fists and she asks me to focus on them. She asks things about my hands, my fists, and I can’t answer. The more she questions, the more upset I get. I can’t tell her why my hands are in fists, or what I feel. Because all I feel is pain from nails, sharp, magic, numbing inducing pain. And I can’t tell Bea that, because I’m hurting myself and I can’t admit to that and have her mad at me. 

“What do you feel in your hands? Are they loose or tight? Warm, cold? Do they want to do anything?” She asks. 

I try to answer, and get more upset. “I…I…just…you’ll be mad.” 

“I won’t. I won’t be mad. This is about what works for you. It’s experimenting. That’s all.” She tells me. 

We go back and forth, me struggling to be able to get the words out, and Bea reassuring me she won’t be mad. 

I relax my hands, set them flat. The words spill out. “I made my hands into a fist.” 

“Consciously?” She asks. She is curious. 

“Yes. I wanted….you won’t be happy.” My voice is small and scared. 

“I’m only curious. This is just about being curious. It’s about working together and seeing what works for you.” 

“My nails…..I was digging my nails……into my hands.” I’m ashamed. I don’t want to admit this. 

“So….we could say you were hurting yourself. But we could also say that you were using a coping skill. Maybe we want to work to find one that doesn’t hurt you. But I’m not mad. So if you had been able to tell me in the moment, I feel my nails digging in my palm, we would have been able to work with that. We could have seen if something else felt calming, or if something else was okay. But it was a coping skill, it allowed you to calm down.” She tells me. 

“Okay.” I whisper, tears streaming. 

We end the session with me telling her how to make macarons, the process of making meringue, and creating different flavors, to mixing in the almond flour. I wipe my face, and get back to my far away, balancing, barely functional place. She had tried to tell me she wanted to help get me as grounded as possible, and not far away just balancing and functioning. She said that she knows I am struggling, but in her office it’s okay to fall apart and try to really ground myself. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself try again. So, we talked about macarons, and baking. And I got back to that balancing place before I left.