Maybe I quit

Things have been…..well, not great. I’ve been functioning thanks to the perfect part of me. I had therapy today, after a week and a half break. It wasn’t good. I’m thinking of quitting. It was awful. I shouldn’t have gone. I never ever should have shown up. 

I talked about nothing, surface stuff, a monologue designed to keep Bea from talking about serious stuff. 

She eventually brought up the last week and when I emailed and felt like her email back was shrinky and gone. She said how we’ve just always had contact and that maybe it would be more fair to me to have no contact unless it’s an emergency, so I wouldn’t have to do this contact her, feel like she’s gone, be hurt, and shut down thing. She said maybe she should set a no outside contact boundary. That she can imagine it is painful to feel like she’s gone or not responding in the was I need, that clearly I had a need she wasn’t meeting that last week, but that she thought about it and maybe it was an opportunity for growth for me. So now she doesn’t even want to email with me. Which is where most of my talking comes out– in writing. I just shut down. I wanted to cry, walk out, hurt myself. Instead I went far away to that quiet fuzzy floaty place in my head. I like it there. 



She asked how I moved from needing something from her to being okay, what was that like for me, what was my process? She said it was okay if I was mad at her. Nothing, I said. I’m fine, I’m not mad at you, everything is okay. She says it’s okay if it’s not fine, but it sounds hollow. I don’t believe her this time. And my process? I cut when the feelings get out of control, when I’m too far away, when I’m not numb enough. I stuff food on top of the feelings, the memories, the pain. If I put enough food on top of it, I can bury it awhile. Then I feel gross, dirty for shoving food in my mouth and I go throw it up. That helps too. It fixes everything for a while. So there. That’s my process. 


I can’t do this. I really can’t. I can’t tell her how much she is hurting me. I can’t talk to her. And it’s only getting worse, going today made it worse. And now I don’t see her for a whole week. I waht to disappear. I want to not exist right now. It’s all too much. I’m not sure I can fake my way through this. I’m going to try. But going to see Bea today was a horrible stupid awful thing. Kat has an appointment on Wednesday in the afternoon (I go in the morning usually but Bea has an appointment) and I don’t think I can take Kat. I’m not sure I can face Bea right now. I don’t know what I feel towards her, but it’s a lot of painful hurt feelings, frustration that she wouldn’t just let me have my happy surface monologue, anger over this past month of December, this painful feeling of needing her and not being able to talk to her, and more things mixed up. I don’t even know what to do now. 

I ended up writing and email, and I sent it. Of course, I haven’t heard back and I’m unsure if I will……….


I’m not even sure it’s okay to email right now. So I’m sorry. I’m definitely not going to talk about this right now. Sooooo, writing is all I have……….

I wrote this last night, to give you today. Obviously I didn’t give it to you….

So. I’m here. And I’m probably not talking, or I’ve spoken an entire monologue about nothing. I don’t want to be here today. I do NOT want to talk about things. I don’t even know what to write to you here. I have a journal, letter, something….writing…that I’ve been writing since the beginning of December— December 5, I think, I started it after that really bad last week of November– and I feel like I can’t give it to you to read. I’m stuck and lost and this is silly. I’m wasting your time and I am sorry. I don’t know what to do now. 

That was something I had written to give you today. And I couldn’t even do that. I don’t know what to say. Today made things feel worse, so much worse. I wish you would have just let me keep the happy-everything-is-fine-on the surface monologue. I really really needed to stay on the surface. I’m kicking myself for not just cancelling. Because I knew it wouldn’t be good. I just can’t handle this. 

Honestly, right now, my instinct is to quit therapy. To hide out in this nice bubble and to have everything be okay, and just fine; to stop everything, thinking and feeling and talking and being more than a facade of perfect, because I can’t do this. My instinct is to quit, and to have Kat take a break for a few weeks. I feel like my entire life is spinning out of control, with the bottom dropped out from under me, and I have no one to talk to. Absolutely no one. I don’t want to talk about this relationship. I’m not mad at you. I’m something but it’s all these things twisted together and I can not, will not, make myself so vulnerable to talk about this, to talk to you about you mattering to me, about you hurting my feels myself. No. I won’t. I can’t. 

So now want? Because I’m lost, and afraid and alone and the only thing my map is telling me to do is to run away. 


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. 


“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. 

I don’t want to hurt anymore 

Please be safe if you read this post. I was very blunt about eating disordered behavior, self injury, and sex. I’m a mess right now, and this post is a whole lot of crazy dumped into one place

I’m not okay. I want to be okay, I’m in this trying to act like it’s all fine place, but I’m not okay. I am absolutely, 100% not okay. 

I spent the weekend….(well, really it started when Kay informed me that I don’t exist for her any more)………in bulimia land. Binge. Barf. Stuff my face. Eat crap I NEVER eat. I ate 17 mini Reese’s eggs. Seventeen. And then I threw them up. Later, it was tacos with cheese. And pizza. And French fries. 53 French fries. Muffins. Ice cream. 3 mini ice cream cones. A blizzard from DQ another day. Chips. Fried cheese sticks. More French fries. 46 this time. Eat. Barf. Binge. Purge. I’m gross. I feel gross. I’m ready to swing the other way, to the no eating at all and being a control freak. Because I can’t keep doing this. I’m gross.

I had sex with my husband. 3 nights in a row. I wanted comfort, I wanted him to love me, I wanted to feel, for even just a moment, that someone in my life wants me and isn’t going to leave. So, I instigated things by a real kiss. And when he kissed back, that slutty little girl/teenager part took over. I was so far gone it’s like it wasn’t me. I felt like I was sitting somewhere behind myself. So far gone, it was fine. No freak outs in the middle of the act. I was fine. Until I wasn’t. But that was okay, because after he went to sleep, I simply added a few new slices to my body, and then I was okay again. Except I’m not okay at all. 

My daughter has been making her dolls play “kissing games”, pretending to be pregnant and to have her baby be “born” and she told me this weekend that her private area felt moist and steamy. I was already so triggered by her play, the use of the phrase “kissing game”. It doesn’t matter that Bea assured me it was normal and healthy play. It is triggering and scary and I struggle with that. And then, she says that. And I couldn’t breathe or think. When I didn’t respond, she told me “not to worry because it feels nice”. Oh my god. I want to die. Or throw up. Maybe both. And hubby realized something was wrong, so he set her up playing video games, and I stayed frozen, stuck in my own head, physical memories attacking me. 

When I finally could move, I hid in the bath tub. No, first I ate ice cream and tacos. Then used the running water to cover the barfing sounds. Then I took a bath, used my razor to cut some more, and proceeded to hide in my bed, dissociated and staring at nothing. When hubby came to bed, I kissed him, stripped off my clothes and went far away, except to know that he was there and wanted me. I’m disgusting. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? And of course neither of us mentioned my frozen no talking freak out earlier in the day, and he never even asked what happened. 

I texted Rory several times this weekend, either just saying hello, or checking that she still wasn’t mad at me. We made plans for a weekend away together. I don’t want a weekend away. I want to leave my life. I want to pack up my car and disappear. They’d all be better off without me. 

I emailed Bea. I told her I was a mess, that I was being bad, that I felt bad and wrong for bothering her on her vacation, that I didn’t know why I was even bothering to email. She wrote back, telling me it seems like I need a secure base, that it’s okay and everyone needs that, and she said she was here. But then in her second email, she said  that I’m not out of line (oh my gosh. Out of line. Does this mean I’m close to being out of line? Or have been before? Or she expects I will be? I feel like a kid that just got reprimanded) and that it was fine to bother (and what does that mean? Is she just using my language, or am I a bother? Does she mean I do bother– annoy, bug, make her wish I would leave her alone– her, but it’s okay that I do so? Or that I’m not a bother? What does that mean?) her although it may take her longer to respond to emails. And I emailed her back —–even though a lot of her wording felt bad and cold and scary, I emailed back and tried to reach out again, because I very well might have been reading it wrong, or who knows—– about the triggery mess the day was yesterday, and about being mad at Kay for just leaving me. She said it was okay to be mad at Kay. And that she hoped I had been able to shake this yucky feeling. I told her how I feel like a 32 year old woman behaving like a 5 year old child, how I am instigating things with hubby, how I have been in bulimia land all weekend, and maybe I just want her to know how bad I am being to test her to see if she will stick around even when I’m being bad, I told her I felt lost and like I can’t trust anyone, and this sense that everyone is going to leave, that I was so stupid to think otherwise. I dumped an awful lot of my freak out into that last email. And then she responded. And it seems I have hit her limit for having compassion for my neediness, for wanting to be there for me, for being able to validate my feelings, to be a secure base and to help me be able to maintain trust in her. I think she’s done. I hit her limit, like I knew I would, and now, she is all gone too. He email was cold and shrinky and it didn’t sound like her. It sounded like a shrink wrote it, like a standard, fill in the blank response. 

This is my fault. I present myself as this normal, together person. I’m so afraid of people knowing I have trust issues (and honestly this was so second nature to me I didn’t even know I did it until like a year into therapy) that I react with the amount of trust I think a normal person would have. So, if a regular girl would trust her good friend this particular amount, that is what I portray. But inside, I’m freaking out, and I trust nothing. And I did the same thing in therapy. I trusted Bea as much as I thought I should. I also kept a lid on all my reactions to her for a long time– anything she said that hurt my feelings, made me mad, made me feel like she didn’t get me, or didn’t care, or really wasn’t going to be there, I kept it to myself. Oh, I wrote about it, I even wrote her emails that I never sent. But I was not about to let her know the depth of my crazy. And while I have gotten better, recently, at being honest and even emailing after the fact to say that something she said hurt my feelings or made me worried, I still don’t let her know the depth of the crazy in me. Because, oh my gosh, if she knew how alone I feel and how much I worry about trusting her, and second guess everything she says, and how I so easily feel left and triggered over nothing (seriously nothing), she would declare me too crazy and too broken to work with and she would leave. 

And I spent the morning today with migraine. I was irritable, and not able to tolerate anything. I literally wanted to hide in my closet and never see or speak to another person again. I wanted d to run away, and never acknowledge my past life. I thought about downing a bottle of pills chased with a bottle of wine. So, then I did some sewing. It was as close to coping skills as I could access. I have been sewing for Kat’s (and mine) American Girl dolls. I think the little girl part of me really likes making things for the dolls, setting up the doll stuff, dressing them, and styling their hair. It’s a good thing for the little girl, and it’s a distracting activity that can keep me somewhat calm feeling for hours. But then Kat came home from school, and it was just her and I all day. And I yelled at her. I don’t mean I yelled because she did something bad. I mean I just yelled. I yelled because I’m mad, because I hate everyone and everything and the whole entire world. I yelled the way a child or a teenager yells; to be mean, to show hurt and anger and rage and pain. I yelled. I apologized, I explained that mommy was having a grumpy day and it had nothing to do with her, I told her mommy had no right to yell like that, I told her I was sorry, I told her it was okay to be mad and hurt that I yelled. I realized I needed to get us out of the house, and to not be alone, or I would most likely yell more. I texted a mom friend of mine– who is a very good friend, actually– and asked if she and her daughter wanted to go to the pool. We met at the pool, and the girls played and we sat in the hot tub and talked, and it was okay. I told her I was having a bad day, that I was irritable, and not in a nice mood, and she accepted that. I just didn’t have the energy to put on my miss perfect Mary sunshine face, and I’m so sick of lying to people who are supposed to be my friends. So I didn’t pretend. I didn’t go into major details of way I was in a bad mood, but what I really needed was someone to accept me where I was. And she did that. 

I texted hubby while I was still at home, after I had yelled for the 5th, 6th, 7th time. His response? “Do I need to come home?” It didn’t feel supportive. It felt like he was saying, “I don’t have time to deal with this, but I am stuck with a crazy, broken, defective wife, so I might as well ask if I need to come home and takeover for her before she screws up our child and turns her into an emotional wreck.” I  told him no. 

I don’t know what I want, or what I need. I only know I’m mad, and hurt and confused and scared and sorry. I hate that whatever happened in my childhood has once again turned my daughter into a giant trigger. I hate that I have put myself in this place of not trusting anyone, of always being scared of what they really mean and what they really think and what they are really going to do. I hate that I feel like I have to have sex with my husband so that he will love me. I hate that Kay leaving me has made me this crazy person, terrified of being left and afraid to trust anyone with anything. I hate that I feel disconnected from everyone in my life right now. I hate that I’m so dissociated that everything is a blur, and I’m numb and gone, and I hate that I’m too afraid to do anything to be more grounded because that means feelings and I can’t handle the feelings. I hate that Bea is on vacation, because right now, I feel like I could go to therapy everyday and that still wouldn’t be enough to contain this mess in my head or help me feel like I’m not alone. I hate that my parents weren’t there emotionally like they should have been, and that I’m unable to cope with anything because of that. I hate that it’s 4:15 in the morning and I only slept a little more than an hour because of nightmares about Kenny and the boyfriend together. 

I hate that I’m a broken, out of control mess, and the only way I know how to fix it is to be a control freak over every aspect in my life, so that nothing can get screwed up, and so there is no time to think, or feel or be scared. I hate that being that way means everyone in my life will think I’m okay, including Bea, and I won’t say otherwise. I hate that I can see myself turning from this healing road and heading down this path, and that I know it is a bad path, but I want to follow it. I want desperately to follow it. And what does that say about me, that I would choose to follow the fork in the road, the bad path, instead of the healing road? But it’s safe. It’s familiar. Nothing bad or scary happens on this path. I know it’s a path that ultimately ends in hurt and mess, but for a while, when I’m on the path, it’s clean and bright and filled with flowers and pretty trees and cute little forest creatures. I don’t really want to follow this path. I just don’t want to hurt anymore.  

The bad night and the dentist

Tuesday night was a bad, bad night. Hubby wanted to watch a show we have been watching together, and he was in the mood to cuddle. I’d been pretty cold and distant and giving off a “no touch” vibe the last few months, and was feeling guilty about this. So, I cuddled up to him, and promptly zoned out. This thing happens, whenever someone touches me; I feel frozen, as if my whole body is tense, my mind goes blank, and I feel like I am on the edge of waiting for something really bad to happen. I’ve found away to fix that particular problem, though. I simply instigate things, and get it over with. Which is exactly what I did Tuesday night. 

Things did not go well. Instead of going far, far away, and staying there, I was alternating between being far away and feeling very present in my body. Those moments of being present led to a freak-out of epic proportions, and ended with me buried under blankets and my pillow, curled into a ball on my stomach in bed, frozen and crying, scared out of my mind. I was in that place of no words, and I was not this 32 year old grown up woman in bed with her husband. I was 9 years old, with HIM. 

Hubby, for his part, tried to handle this situation as calmly as possible. But I wouldn’t talk, and based on the fact that he questioned if he had done something, I’m going to go ahead and assume he was upset, worried, feeling badly, and anxious that he couldn’t fix it. At one point, he asked if he should call Bea. That panicked me enough that I managed to shout “No. Do not call her,” at him. 

I didn’t really sleep, and ended up getting up around 4am, cutting and then going on with my day. I cut, and was able to gain some control, some feeling of safety, something I don’t know how to put into words. But it “fixed” me enough that I was able to get on with my day. I set about cleaning the kitchen, getting Kat’s things for school together, and then relaxed with a cup of coffee.  

The morning after, once hubby got up, was awkward. Neither of us mentioned the freak-out. He did, however, have a surprise for me. He informed me that I had a dentist appointment that morning, to meet a new dentist. We had discussed that he needed to set up appointments and take me. So, I wasn’t surprised, exactly, but after the night I’d had, I felt blind sided. 

“I don’t want to go. Let’s cancel today,” I told him. 

“We are going, I’m taking you, it will be fine. This is a female dentist and the office was very nice on the phone. We are going to go meet her today.”

I continued arguing, and finally gave in. “Okay. We’ll go meet her.”

“It’s no big deal. She’s just going to talk with us, and maybe do a quick exam and some X-rays if they need them,” hubby informed me. 

What? Exam?! X-rays?! No. No. I agreed to meet her and talk to her. Ugh! “I just want to talk. Okay?” 

“She’s just going to do a quick exam. No big deal.” Hubby attempted to reassure me. 

I repeated a few times that I only wanted to talk, I didn’t even want to go today, but he remained firm in his position that it was no big deal, and I would be fine. I gave up talking to him and emailed Bea. She responded almost right away, with the perfect thing. She validated how scary this was for me, reassured me I was not crazy, and then offered up some suggestions to stay grounded and gave me a mini mantra to repeat to myself. Her words gave me courage, and I felt like I wasn’t alone in this. 

With the feeling of validation and reassurance that I was acting perfectly normal given my history, I went back to hubby. “You aren’t hearing me. You haven’t been listening to what I am saying. I don’t even want to go to the dentist today. I will go, but I only want to talk. I do not want to be touched today, and I do not want anyone in my personal space. Last night was a bad night, and I am feeling very triggered. So, I will go and talk, but that is all that is happening today.” I spoke calmly and clearly. I wasn’t yelling, or freaking out at him, or being over reactive. This is new for me; to stand up for myself like this, and not be in emotional flashback-crazy girl-over reactive mode. 

He looked shocked, and didn’t speak for a full minute. Then he said, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to not listen. We’ll just go and talk. That’s fine. I’m sorry.” 

Before we left, I wrote a note about having PTSD and really needing a dentist who could be patient, kind, and understanding with me because there are so many things at the dentist that trigger me. I gave it to hubby, and we agreed that if I liked the new dentist, he would share what I’d written. 

An hour later. I sat in the dentist’s office, in an exam room. I’d chosen to sit in a real chair, leaving hubby to sit in the dental chair. I wasn’t going to even risk being in that chair. When the dentist walked in, she smiled, and introduced herself as Dr. R. She was confused for a minute about who she was seeing, due to hubby being in the chair, but when he corrected her that I was the patient, she rolled with it. Hubby informed her that I only wanted to talk today, and not have my mouth looked at. If she was annoyed or found that weird, she didn’t show it. And I’m hypersensitive to those things (to the point of seeing them when they don’t exist), so I believe I would have picked up on it. 

We discussed my general anxiety, my being terminated as a patient by several dentist due to my constant canceling of appointments, and she told us a little about herself. It turns out, she is the only one in the practice– she does it all, from teeth cleaning to dental work like root canals and cavities. I liked this about her; only having to see one person at the dentist office will give me more opportunities to build a relationship and foster trust. This also means the office is very quiet, with no one walking around behind me in the hallway, or walking into the exam room to ask questions. She was very soft spoken, but confident. 

I liked her, and after talking for about 30 minutes, she asked if I was feeling open to having a quick exam, or if I would be more comfortable waiting until another appointment. I slowly nodded, “I think it would be okay today.” Then I looked at hubby at said, “You can tell her.” I wanted her to know about the PTSD before she did any type of exam. Bea had said that telling my dentist would help them understand some of the fear I have. I trust Bea, and I liked Dr. R, and so I decided to tell her about the true nature of my anxiety.

Hubby told her, explaining that I was showing a lot of trust in her right now, and that he hoped that if Dr. R was aware of my PTSD, it would help her understand me a little better. She listened and then she turned to me. “We can work with this. I can handle this. After my dental schooling, I did some more training, working with veterans, and most of them had PTSD. A lot of times, abused or traumatized women were referred to me, too. I spent 2 years in that program, and most of it was working with traumatized people. So, we can do this together.” 

I was stunned. Hubby had not known her background, he had simply been looking for a dentist that took our insurance and was female. I nodded at her. “Okay.” 

“Can I ask some questions about things that are common triggers? So I can have an idea of what is hard for you?” She asked. I nodded, and she ran down a list of things, ranging from having things in your mouth, to having the chair laying back, to not being able to speak. I loved that she listed out things that may be triggering, as opposed to dentists I have seen in the past who simply ask me what gives me the most anxiety. That type of open ended question is very hard to answer. She brought up things I wouldn’t have even thought about, but once she mentioned them, I could easily see a connection between my fear and that trigger. 

“I also want to bring up the medication you typically have been prescribed for the dentist. I’m okay with giving you that option, but I believe that the twilight medications may make dental fears worse, especially for those with PTSD. If you can’t remember the appointment, that feels safe in the moment, but it doesn’t give you a memory of an experience that wasn’t scary. I’d like to prescribe something for anxiety, like a Valium, and maybe have you take that for a cleaning appointment. We could have the twilight medication on hand, in case you need it, but trying to have some positive experiences that you can remember may be helpful.”

I listened, but only shrugged. 

“We don’t have to decide today. You can even decide the day of the appointment, because I can prescribe both medications.” She assured me. 

At that point, I climbed, hesitantly into the dental chair. I was sitting upright, and very rigid. 

“I’m not going to do anything until you are ready, and when you are, I’m going to use my mirror–” she held a small mirror dental tool out to me– “and my fingers to look at the tooth that still needs a crown. That’s all I’m going to do today.” 

“Will you stop right away if I need you to?” I whispered the question, very much back in the little girl mindset. Usually, I feel incredibly embarrassed when the little girl starts to run the ship while I am around people who don’t really know me– dentists, doctors, my daughter’s teachers– but this time, I felt okay. I knew Dr. R understood PTSD, and so it was okay. 

“Right away. I like to give people a way to communicate. So if you hold up your hand, at anytime, that means stop. And I’ll stop and step back right away. If you hold up one finger, that means yes. If you hold up two fingers, that means no. Does that sound okay?”

I nodded, and then feeling brave, asked, “Can I stay sitting up?” 

She nodded, and informed me that she would try to always have me sit up, unless she needed me laying back in order to get to a spot in my mouth. When I gave the okay, she started a quick exam. And I froze. Then, I gagged, and my breathing changed from normal to hyperventilating. Tears leaked out of my eyes. She stopped what she was doing right away, without me asking. And then, she did something more. “Alice, can you look at my wallpaper? Can you see the wall and wallpaper, straight ahead? What colors do you see in the wallpaper?” Dr. R’s voice had that gentle tone, the one Bea uses when she is talking to the little girl, but she also sounded firm, like she expected me to follow her directions.

So, I looked at the wallpaper. There were vertical stripes, separating it into wide panels. Every other panel had a flower pattern running through it, flowers on a vertical vine. Green and yellow, red, orange, pink. I started to feel calmer. “Okay. I’m okay,” I told her. “You can finish.”

She gave me another few minutes, and then resumed the exam. While she looked at my tooth, she asked me about the pictures I saw on the walls, and told me how she had chosen each of them. There were 3 pictures, paintings, all Victorian garden scenes. It fit well with the office, which is located in an old Victorian home, and decorated to match. Which I love. Growing up, my favorite doll was the American girl doll, Samantha. She was the girly Victorian doll. I’ve always loved that era.

By the time we left, I had 3 appointments set up. The first is a cleaning, and we are going to try using Valium to see if I can begin to build some good dentist experiences. After the way Dr. R handled my freak-out, I feel pretty comfortable with her. The second is to finish the cleaning (we decided to split it up to make it easier on me) and to make a mold for the crown, if I feel okay about doing it that day. The last is to put the crown into place. 

I was so excited about this positive dental experience, and the little girl really wanted to tell Bea all about it. I don’t usually email her positive things, because I don’t want to take more time from her, or something. And it seems silly to email something I don’t need support for, especially when I was seeing her the next day. But the little girl part really, really wanted Bea to know right now. So, I emailed, and told her I was so excited that I could t wait to share this. She emailed back, just a quick note, saying she was excited, too. The little girl was oddly settled the rest of the day, and I felt fairly calm, too, even if not all there. 

Don’t tell

I saw Bea Monday morning, like usual. It’s been just over 24 hours since that appointment, and I can hardly remember our conversation. What I do remember is telling her about the weekend, and her response that it seemed I had dealt with things well. She mentioned how I hadn’t been triggered by Kat, that I had been in protective mode. She asked what it was like seeing my mom play with and spend time with my daughter? I have no idea how to answer that. I’m not very present when I’m around my mom. It’s mostly like I have no feelings, wherever it is I go when I am with her, and the ones that do trickle in tend to be more triggery feelings. So I have no idea how I feel. Fine. Happy. I don’t know. What am I supposed to feel? That is sweet, seeing my mother and daughter together. Right? Then that is what I feel.

But she’s wrong. I didn’t deal with things well. I just left out the things I did to deal. Not once have I given her a run down of my weekends, or my days and willingly said, “well, we went downtown, hung out, and then Kat was all done so we drove back to my moms. While my mom and Kat played and my hubby helped my dad with some manly outdoor project, I stuffed my face with ice cream and vomited. Then I say outside and played with my mom and Kat. After dinner, I went to the store to get some hair color, and colored my hair. While the color processed I ate a bunch of junk food, and then threw up a second time that day when I was supposed to be showering. In the middle of the night I had nightmares, hid in the closet, and got caught hiding by my hubby. Which only made me feel ashamed and vulnerable. But it was fine because once he fell back asleep, I went to the bathroom, found a razor and cut. And bye-bye bad feelings.” I don’t talk that openly. I still expect to be shamed, judged, condemned, or lectured for my behaviors, so as soon as I admit them, I figuring out how to back track. I purposefully leave that stuff out. It’s my filter, and it’s second nature. I don’t know what else to say about it.

I think part of me was disappointed she didn’t question me about how I was saying my behaviors were out of control and yet according to my story of the weekend, nothing happened. A part of me wanted Bea to back me into a corner and force me to answer or talk about those things. Because they are scary. I think a part of me thought she knew me well enough to realize I would leave those things out, always. Of course, a part of me is thankful she has left well enough alone. I don’t quite trust that she won’t ditch me if I was truly upfront about things.

I wasn’t very there, and she knew that. I told her how my parents talked of renting the cabin this year, so our families– mine and my brothers– and them could all go for a long weekend. I don’t want to go back there, but then again, there is that idea….if I went back, maybe some blanks would get filled in. Maybe memories would be triggered. I don’t know. We are going camping and to a theme park for my daughters birthday with my parents and niece and nephews. We will be staying in a campground, at campground rustic style cabins. It’s were we always stayed with the smiths when we went. I’m both looking forward to a fun trip, a really nice way to celebrate Kat’s birthday, and already despairing that I won’t be able to function or be okay. But this is for Kat, so I know I’ll do it, and even if I’m dissociated the entire time, I’ll function normally.

I almost told her. About the memory I do have of the cabin. Well, one of the memories anyways. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Well, I was going to. This is what happened…..

It’s getting towards the end of the session. I feel like I’ve floated off, like I’m not tethered to anything. Bea is supposed to be my anchor, but I’ve been working hard to cut her off, she’s too close. So, I feel disconnected, not here. I feel like I’m all alone and no one understands. She’s mentioned that I hadn’t been triggered by Kat, but she’s wrong. I just didn’t say it, because I’m mad at myself over it. And I didn’t have a lot to do with Kat this weekend, minus the party, so it was limited.

“We are getting close to our ending time today. I wanted to let you know in case there is anything else you feel like you want to talk about that we haven’t talked about,” she says. She’s calm and present and everything Bea always is. Except things feel different right now. I know it’s because of me, because I’m so disconnected.

I shake my head. I’ve been crying the last few minutes. Over what, I don’t remember now. Bea told me, as she stated in her email, that she is aware the past is right here. But she believes it’s all the anxiety and stress of current day life that has made my defense go down, and she feels that all the triggery past stuff has slipped in because of that. Maybe she’s right. Does it matter? The point is, she keeps redirecting the focus to the present, and it’s the past I need to deal with. The present is all good stuff, or stuff that is being handled. It’s not what is causing me distress, no matter what she thinks. She might be the shrink, but I’m the one living in my head.

“There doesn’t have to be anything. I just wanted to check.” Her voice sounds firm, but underneath, maybe wavering. Is she feeling a little lost in how to deal with me? Has my floatiness confused her, made it harder to read me? I don’t know.

“I just…I have..I’m afraid to say it.” I sigh. How many times have I said this sentence?

Maybe Bea responds, maybe she waits. I’m not sure. Eventually, she does ask me if I want to talk about it. Maybe if she knew I wanted to, needed to talk about it she would help me figure out how.

“I don’t know.” I tell her honestly. I feel so lost. I’m not sure which way is up, if the memory is real, if it changes anything. I’m not sure about any of it. I want to talk to Bea, to figure it out, to not be alone, to share my confusion with someone I trust and who will be steady and not confused. But I’m not sure now. She doesn’t feel connected to me, she feels far away. Her emailed responses seem rote, and not her. I feel like she isn’t really here with me anymore, like she is done with me, annoyed over how I have been acting, how much time I take up, all my whining. I don’t know. Part of me can argue with that. But these teenage and child parts, they feel this, and they are running the show.

“Then I feel like it would be better to wait, to try to get you back to a more grounded place. I don’t think talking about things that are going to send you far away is the best thing when you are already so far away. I don’t want to send your farther away. We talk about pacing. We have time to talk about this. Maybe on Thursday, if you are feeling stronger,” Bea says gently.

I nod. “Okay.” My eyes fill with tears. I blink, furiously, trying to keep them from falling. I needed her to help me talk, not shut me down. This only confirms my thoughts that she is annoyed and done and not really here with me. My feelings are behind hurt. The person I have trusted most, even more than Kay, the person I have shared my ugliest memories, thoughts, feelings with, the person I was just beginning to believe could maybe handle my anger and my fears and the worst behaviors and worst memories has basically told me to not tell. She’s no different than anyone else. Don’t tell. Smile. Pretend it’s all okay.

“Does that sound okay?” She questions. Maybe she is uncertain of her choice. I don’t know. I don’t care. She made the choice, it’s what she really believes. Maybe she sees her choice is shutting me down, and she is trying to backtrack, so I don’t close up. Because she can’t do her job if I close up.

I look up at her, briefly meet her eyes. “It’s fine.” And a tear or two falls. I swipe at them, angrily. I don’t want her to know that she has hurt me. That’s not okay. We’ve been heading here since her insistence on focusing on my current world happenings. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve felt on edge about her and whether or not she was getting it, and my feelings had already been raw and slightly hurting.

“Are you sure?” She presses, and her voice sounds like she really wants to know, and maybe she does, but I already know my role. Smile. Go along. Don’t tell.

I nod. “I’m okay.” And with that, I grab a tissue and wipe at my face. I’m sure it’s a mess.

I don’t remember the rest of the session, really. I know I smiled and nodded and tried my best to act okay.

Now I’m in this weird, fake okay, not here place. I spent the rest of Monday in bed, watching old movies and being oblivious to the world. I ditched swimming and yoga and didn’t do any cleaning. I have no desire to talk to anyone. I spent today doing the much of the same. Tomorrow, I need to get up and function and be okay. No more moping. I’m not even sure what I’m moping about. The fact that my shrink feels not here, like she doesn’t care? The fact that she shut me down, much the way I shut myself down for years? The fact that I’m a horrible mom, triggered by her kid, and even aware of that unable to fully control my reaction? The fact that I feel like I was nothing more than a living sex toy for most of my childhood and even into my teen years? I don’t know. I’m confused. I’m lost. I’m all alone.

Flashback fallout

Flashbacks, eating disorders behavior, sexual abuse, self injury. All of these things are in this post. It’s been a day. A very bad day. And I haven’t slept, and I need a place to put this all down and get it out. In a few hours, I’ll see Bea. Maybe she can contain this mess. I don’t know. But in the meantime, I’m posting this messy post. It might be triggering. Please be careful. Skip reading it if any of the above mentioned things might be triggering for you. Xx

I have to be up in 3 hours. I can’t sleep. If I’m still up in an hour, hour and a half, I’ll give up and start drinking coffee. This is so typical for me. I’ll be thankful that I have the nanny until 2 tomorrow, and maybe nap and then feel guilty, or lounge in bed and do nothing and feel ashamed and lazy, or do household chores and feel exhausted and then have no energy to give my daughter in the afternoon. But really, what will be new? Mom hasn’t had the energy to live up to her usual “mom-ness” anyway. But today, today, I cleaned and cooked dinner and ate almost nothing. A few handfuls of cereal, coffee, tea, water. I cut. I maintained control. I had a flashback, but I got through it. Life went on. I yelled at my daughter, a burst of anger over nothing, something dumb, something so typically 4. Ugh. But I kept control, I reigned it in. I scared myself. But I stopped the yelling. I cleaned, I made dinner, I played a little, I painted nails with her. I have a plan to be better tomorrow.

Why is it that I only seem to be able to maintain control of my life if I’m starving and cutting and barely sleeping? I don’t understand myself. Why is it when I’m falling apart at the seams, breaking in pieces, and hiding, I can accomplish nothing but extreme hatred of myself? And if I’m working through things in therapy, sleeping and working through the nightmares, the flashbacks, the memories, attempting to eat (it may not be “good” or “right” but eating is eating and there are only so many safe foods out there) and not throw up and not cut and not hide and be honest, I can’t seem to do anything, keep up with simple daily tasks like laundry and dishes, sweeping, cooking, grocery shopping, lesson planning, dusting, ext. Oh, yes, it’s these times when things get organized, furniture gets moved and big things get done; whenever stuff gets too much, and I don’t want to think, I’ll find a big project. But the day to day stuff lacks.

I don’t understand myself. Shouldn’t it be better when I’m not hiding, not faking okay, not shoving everything down? On Monday, Bea read the angry list out loud. And I lived, and she didn’t decided I was this terrible awful person. And I started to really think about the ideas of “Mom left me. He hurt me. I didn’t have a choice.” I thought I was okay with that, with the idea of it, becoming more real. Tuesday and today I hid behind chores and perfection. The bubble is back, a little. But not in the good way. All the out of control, scary feelings are right there.

I had this memory, this one thought, hit me today, out of the blue. I don’t know what even triggered it, exactly. I think it was partly Kat, something she said. And I just flipped out. But even as I was yelling at her, there was this memory right there, this picture, this feeling. His insistence on helping me change into pajamas, and tuck me into bed, and just this huge overwhelming feeling that I didn’t need help, I was big, but he was in charge and I couldn’t say no, and standing at my dresser, pulling out pajamas, looking out my window wishing my parents would be pulling in the drive way, but knowing they wouldn’t be home yet, it was too early, and feeling so lost and just left, and….I don’t know, not okay, because she left.

And so later, when Hubby got back home, I took a bath to try to feel human again, and calm down. I ended up cutting. And then I focused on cleaning and organizing. And Kat didn’t get a lot of mom time, I played while I cooked dinner, and I played during dinner, and after dinner we painted nails. But that was it. And it was dinner time when I realized I hadn’t eaten, and panicked over the food on my plate, and chose to not eat. And I felt more in control, and stronger. Calmer. Better. Like it was really okay, finally.

There was another memory pop up, when I laid down for bed. I had pulled the blankets down and folded them back, remade the bed with new sheets earlier in the day. And when I sat down and went to pull the blanket over me, it was like suffocating. I couldn’t find my breath. He would pull my blankets in over me, tuck me in, rub my back and it would all be so normal. Singing Jesus loves me. Like it was just a regular thing, nice. I hate that song. Hate it. He didn’t leave though, after. He stayed. And pulls the covers back down. I can’t do anything. There isn’t anything to do, except what he wants to do. But I can’t leave, or hide, or say no. I already agreed before. I already played this secret game, and promised it would be a secret. And he’s my friend, and he is in charge and it’s okay because it doesn’t hurt and it does feel good sometimes, and there is no reason to feel sick in my stomach or scared like this. But I do. And I didn’t understand why, not really. It was all confusing. There wasn’t anyone to talk to, or ask, or tell. Not my mom. She left me. She left me with him, and she left me emotionally. Not my Dad. He doesn’t see. They need perfect. And good, perfect girls don’t play secret games like this, I’m pretty sure of that.

And so it’s 3:46am, and I’m still awake because a memory that popped in my head has felt too real, and too frightening, and I’m too afraid too sleep. I’ve read a book, watched a TV show, and now resorted to writing it out. Because there is nothing left to do.

I’ve completely chickened out and moved myself out to the living room, turned on every light available, and made a cup of strong coffee. In all honesty, if there were a few more lights to turn on, I’d be happier. I’m sure Hubby will lecture me about it in the morning, when I get home from therapy. He’ll tell me how I should have gone to bed, how he got up at such and such time and couldn’t believe I was still up, just reading a book, or worse, he will have woken and realized I was up and out of bed at some ungodly hour, and he won’t be able to believe I would get up like that when I complain about not sleeping and am supposed to be working on fixing my sleep cycle. I’ll get defensive and mad, snap at him, push him away. He’d never think to approach it in a way that is gentler. Like asking me if it was a rough night, giving me an opening, to tell as much or as little as I like. Instead he criticizes me for things I can’t help, and makes me feel dumb, small, silly…’s yet another opportunity to open up to him that won’t happen because of his approach. Because it makes me feel like I don’t matter, like I’m not good enough, like I’m screwing up and doing things wrong, ruining his perfect world.

Looking for the grey and not okay

Monday night, before I managed to get my perfect facade back in place, I emailed Bea. I told her I maybe wasn’t okay. I told her I hated that she brought those things up. I told her that I was struggling. I said my feelings were hurt, and confused that she was saying we were done talking trauma; that maybe I was finally feeling like I was allowed to talk about the ugly things for the first time in my life. I said that maybe the fight with hubby was a lot worse than she thought, and I recapped the fight we had, although I left out the fact I debated ways to run away from my life permanently (I’m a little scared to admit that to my therapist). I said I didn’t understand why she wasn’t going to talk anymore, and that it felt bad and made me anxious. I said that I had maybe stopped talking about some things because I was afraid to keep bringing them up, that I thought she would get tired of having that same conversation, and that she would decide I was too needy, so I just put away the things I was talking about too much. I was really honest, more honest than I’ve been in a long time, despite the fact I kept things hypothetical by using “maybe” in almost every sentence. It feels safer somehow to do that. I even listed out symptoms, and admitted there was an increase, but I refused to say how much or how often. I sounded a lot like 15 year old me in the email; snotty and bratty, mean, and angry. But mostly? 15 year old me was scared, always scared, and felt really unloveable. She used the snottiness to keep a thick shell of perfectness and okayness around her.

Bea wrote back pretty quickly, thankfully.

Thank you for your honesty and for being the “real” Alice here–the one who has feelings, and struggles, and isn’t perfect. I will gladly bear responsibility for this, so if it helps you to rage at me then do so! It is that meaningful and important, and it wasn’t until today that I decided to try to break through the crust of perfection and “okayness” that has been so thick lately. I know the inside part of you, the part beneath the crust, has been denied its life lately, and while it might not be pretty it is real and authentic. And that counts. It has been denied its voice and its existence–warts and all–for too long.

It’s fine at times to have to function, right?! I get that. But that’s not our goal for therapy. Well, it is, but it’s to function authentically without sacrificing your real self to do so. I do get that the fight with hubby was really, really bad. I have been concerned ever since then. I don’t really know how we can move forward much more without bringing hubby into the picture. His need for you to be perfect and “okay” is about him, not you. He needs to understand what this is doing to you. You might be “okay” on the outside, but I feel like this is a big step backwards. We need not only you to step forward, but hubby and your relationship to step forward as well.

I didn’t mean it’s supposed to be over!!! Not at all. I just meant that it’s been less intense, with no new memories to process at the moment. I know there’s plenty more work to be done, but it hasn’t felt so intense lately. That is why I wanted to check in about the symptoms–that, and I also have been concerned about the fact that you have been stuffing your needs and feelings inside in order to function in your marriage.

Sorry for the trifecta today:( No, we aren’t all done I’m sorry, but I don’t regret it because it had to be done or I would be pretending everything’s okay too. And as a general rule across all my sessions, I need to talk less. I will be mindful of the stress–if you need me to talk more just ask.


I decided to write back, and her second response was that we are missing all the shades of grey, and that seems to be the biggest dilemma: how do we make it so the okay and the not okay parts can coexist at the same time?

I suppose the grey space would mean both parts– the good and the bad– would feel real. But how does that work? How do two ways of being, that both feel not real, merge and feel real? I don’t understand. Maybe it’s because my parents were professionals at living only the good and perfects parts, so I learned to split off anything ugly really early on. And thanks to Kenny, I had some really ugly stuff to push away and pretend wasn’t real. It feels like I have two me’s, two lives. I don’t know. It’s confusing. I keep trying to find a good way to explain it, but I can’t seem to find the right words.

This always seems to be what I come back to. I live in the black or the white, the bad or the good. If I’m living in a place where I am the good me, the bad stuff feels like it never happened, I can almost pretend it away, and I begin to believe that I’m a liar, and nothing really ever happened. Even then, I feel like I am wearing a mask, pretending to be perfect, pretending to be something I’m not. If I am living in a place where I am the bad me, I feel like the good parts are fake, and that I’m evil deep down to my core.

There’s the “good and perfect” story of my life, mostly the family/public version, and there’s the “story with the ugly stuff.” They might be about the same person, but the stories don’t really mesh. If I’m in a place where the good perfect story is what I’m living, then the ugly stuff feels fake, and like it can not intrude into my life or it will ruin everything. If I’m in a place where the ugly bad stuff feels real, then the good me feels fake. Well, even when I’m living the “perfect” story, the good me feels fake, like a very good actress, or someone who wants to be good but just isn’t. I guess it’s like how could it be real, feel real, when Friday night he was touching me, having sex with me, and Sunday morning we would all be sitting in church, and he would be a completely different person? It’s like I had to work even harder to be perfect so I could hide the bad things I did, but that perfect part doesn’t feel real, either; she hid all the bad, tried to be perfect, worked very hard to earn my parents’ love. That feels like an act, not like the real me.

It’s like only one of those “alices” can be real. Either the bad one who played the game, or the good perfect girl my parents loved. I don’t know. I don’t know how they are supposed to be combined. I wasn’t a stupid kid, I knew the game Kenny played wasn’t okay, that it was bad, and that I was bad for…well. Anyway. So I had to be perfect, and good, and pretend it was okay, and be okay, because I was a good girl, my parents couldn’t love a bad girl, and I knew good girls didn’t play games like that. I never want to be a child again, being a child was scary because I had no power or control over anything and oh my God, I really just realized that right now this moment. Being a child meant doing what my parents expected and always performing and being perfect and good enough in order to earn their love, and it meant never saying a word about the bad things happening with Kenny, because I was a good girl, and good girls don’t play games like that. Even I knew that. But I couldn’t say no. I had no power to tell anyone no.

And I’m not okay, and this isn’t okay, and nothing feels okay. But it only took me until late Tuesday morning to get my “outside okay” back. So. I admit it. I’m not okay. I’ve been pretending okay for a long time, but at least I was being mostly honest about the not okay in therapy and even a little with hubby, but then we had that fight, and all I’ve done is really pretend okay all the time, no matter what. Because I don’t know how else to be. Because if I really stop and think about everything, and stop hiding from feelings and the bad hard stuff, then I will fall apart, because it’s too much and it makes me feel out of control and crazy and like I might drown in the bad feelings. So, where do I go from here? I’ll admit, there is a small part of me that maybe is thankful someone saw through the crust of okayness. But I also hate it. Because now I have this mess in my head, and I don’t feel okay at all. I don’t want to hear that I will work through this. Or that I should sit with it. I can’t sit with it. It’s too much. Way, way too much, because it’s everything. It’s like I’m being smothered by it all.

I emailed Bea back, talking about the grey space. I tried to find the words, but it really was a convoluted mess of crazy. Mostly, it was everything written up above, me thinking out loud, trying to figure this mess out.

I don’t understand why things have to feel so messy, and so hard and so out of control if I’m not pretending to be perfect and if I don’t have that thick crust of okayness on. If I’m pretending everything is fine, I can ignore all the bad feelings, and smile and be fine. But, without that….I am falling apart. Bea cracked the shell on Monday, and the honesty filled emails I have sent since finished it off. It’s barely there anymore. The thick crust of perfection is more of a veneer now, and all my insides are falling out left and right. I’ve broken down into tears multiple times the last two days. I’ve caught myself dissociating and feeling fuzzy and not here. My eating habits are out of control. And cutting….well, we just don’t need to go there. Everything is worse.

I’m not okay. And I have no idea how to live in the grey.

She brought her sledge hammer

“So…I had to send an email to Carly, and I told her that I really did hope Jaime knew it wasn’t personal, that we liked him, it just wasn’t a good fit and that if she felt it was appropriate, she could pass that on to him. So I didn’t send anything to Jaime, but…well. It seems okay. Carly emailed back that I don’t need to apologize and that it’s okay.” I finally take a breath, and smile at Bea. It’s Monday morning, 8:10am, and I’ve been up since 4:30. I’ve also had two pots of coffee, done the laundry, planned dinner, unloaded the dishwasher, and swept the floor. Then I got ready for therapy, made a shopping list and headed out the door.

“Well, it sounds like you found a way to have some closure. That’s good,” Bea says.

I shrug. “I had to do it in a round a bout way, but I did it. Kind of.”

“This time, it was a round about way. Maybe not the next time. I think you handled it fine.”

And then, there’s nothing. Silence. I don’t like silence, and Bea isn’t talking. I find some idle chit chat to try to fill the silence, but Bea isn’t letting me go there. Okay. Now what? I’m lost.

Bea looks at me, and I have a feeling this is going to be bad. “I was thinking it might be a good time to talk about symptoms.”

I just stare at her for a minute. What? Why? No. That’s all I can think. No. “Umm. Well, I’m okay. You know that.”

“Yes, I know you are okay on the outside. But I haven’t brought up symptoms for quite a while. Some people might say I have been negligent to not bring them up. I really felt that unless you told me you were in a bad place, some trauma needed to be worked through in order for us to even work through the symptoms. I would dare to say you are in a healthier place with the trauma stuff now, and so it seems a good time to do a symptom check in. I’m not saying anything has to change, but we need to know where you stand right now. That’s all. Dealing with the past, processing through it, that’s good, but there’s no point if it’s not helping you in your present, and symptoms are kind of like present day manifestations of trauma,” Bea says.

As she has been talking, I’ve been slowly pulling my knees to my chest, and burying my face in them, covering my head with my arms. And then it’s quiet again.

“You know. I have a new client I’m seeing, and he tells me I talk too much in his sessions. In my head, it’s funny, because I have this other person, who tells me to talk more. But I think it’s time I stop talking so much, and let you see what comes up. I need to stop filling in the blanks for you.”

What? I’ve been working so hard to talk more. I have been talking more. I feel like I’m being punished. And she’s doing this today? On the day she is insisting we talk about symptoms? I don’t want to have this conversation.

Bea sighs. “Okay, symptoms. Have they been better? Worse? The same?” And that’s all she says. She means it. She doesn’t speak up, even after I’m quiet for another few minutes.

Finally, I say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Talking about it means admitting I am not okay. Talking about it means ripping myself apart. Talking about it means talking about why symptoms are worse. No. No, and no.

She’s silent for a second. “Okay. Can we talk about why? What about talking about it feels bad?”

I don’t answer. I don’t have an answer. I just don’t want to talk about this.

“What is the it you don’t want to talk about?” She finally asks me.

I don’t answer. I feel like a defiant teenager. Like an odd reincarnation of my fifteen year old self. Snotty, bratty, stubborn, and mean. The only thought running through my head is all of it, I don’t want to talk about any of it, and you can’t make me.

Bea can apparently be stubborn. But, I’m in the mindset of either waiting her out, or just leaving. I wonder if I can just walk out. If I have it in me. Just as I decide I do, she breaks the silence. “So, symptoms. We had sleeping, nightmares, picking, cutting, eating. And others I’m sure I haven’t listed. I always feel like it’s the cutting that increases in frequency when someone is in pain– emotional pain.”

I’m not in pain. I’m fine. I’m okay. “I’m okay.” I don’t know if I’m trying to convince Bea, or myself now. My head is spinning. I’m pretty sure she told me earlier that we are all done talking about trauma stuff, that I’m in a healthy place with that now, and it’s onto symptoms. She’s ready for me to be gone. I’m supposed to be over the trauma now. And I’m not. I finally was just starting to feel like I could talk about it. Oh my God, I’m such a failure. I can’t even do therapy right.

“All right. You’re okay. So where are these symptoms?” She asks again. Why is she pushing so hard? I hate that she brought this up. It’s not fair.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Maybe you don’t want to talk about it because it feels like I won’t be able to handle it. Maybe you don’t want to talk about it because it feels like I could freak out and say, ‘oh no, you can’t be doing that.’ I’m not going to. And I’m not going to take anything away from you. I’m not asking you to change what you are doing to cope. This is just a check in. That’s all,” she says. And then, she hits my perfect facade with a sledge hammer. “I never assumed you stopped cutting. I never assumed that the eating stuff was fixed. But those things are doing too good a job now. Nothing can get through to you, and nothing is getting out.”

I can feel myself cracking. She knew. She knew I hadn’t stopped, and she knew that I was worse. Someone saw me. Crap.

“The cutting. Is it still happening?”

I nod. And feel a tear escape. Damn it.

“How often?” She asks me, but I will not answer that, so she adds, “More frequently?”

It feels like I sit for a very long time in silence. Finally, I nod my head.

She goes through the same questions for eating, and I nod my head. Yes, there is still an issue. Yes, there is an increase in the symptom.

I don’t know what else is said. I cry a lot, and feel very broken and overwhelmed and like a failure. I don’t know what I’m doing. My head is spinning, and I can feel a migraine coming on. I hate this. I hate that she did this. I need to be okay. Why is that such a bad thing? Why couldn’t she just let me be okay?

I think Bea tells me acting perfect and stuffing all my feelings and needs down inside is a step backwards. I think she says something about how I need to see that I’m not allowing myself to exist. That I’m turning all my rage inward, and hurting myself. That the perfect act is not sustainable. But I don’t really hear her. All I can think is that she really is sick of hearing about my ugly stuff. That she is done with needy me, and it’s time for me to move on, deal with my symptoms and get out of here.

Somehow, I make it to the end up the session. I wipe my tears with the back of my hand, my head still buried in my knees.

“Do you want a Kleenex?” Bea offers me.

“No. I’m okay,” I tell her.

“Why do I have a feeling you have some in your bag, anyway?” She says. I’m always prepared, always organized. She knows this.

I shake my head. “I actually think Kat used all the ones in my bag. But I have some in the car, anyway.”

“Well, I have boxes of them, so take a few and throw them in your bag if you need them,” she offers one more time.

I don’t answer. Instead, I say, “I really just wish you had never brought this up.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” She’s quiet, soft spoken about it. She’s sorry I’m upset, but I don’t think she’s sorry she brought it up.

I say good bye, and leave. I try to realign my facade, but someone hit it with a sledge hammer.

Disconnection completed

This post is full of potential triggers– self harm, eating disorder and suicidal ideation. Please, please read with caution and be safe. It’s raw and mostly unedited; messy and very, very real. I’m in a scary place right now. I will be okay, I somehow still believe that, still want to be okay and heal. But this post isn’t pretty or nice and light reading. So please take care of yourselves, and skip it of any of the above mentioned things are triggering for you.

I don’t know what happened on Monday with Bea. The whole session felt off, wrong, scattered. I was dissociated enough that I only remember bits and pieces of the session, and Bea never once noticed how “not here” I was. I need to rewind, though. Because this story really starts Thursday, after therapy.

I left therapy on Thursday feeling sad, not quite right, but connected, like Bea was there. I cried off and on most of the day, had nightmares that night, and felt pretty awful. I wanted to do nothing more than avoid everyone and hide away from life, and everything that hurts so much. But I made it through. Friday, that started out okay, I took Kat to therapy, and then out to lunch. I was so disconnected and just “not there” that it almost felt like “zombie me” was living my life for me. It’s the feeling of going through the motions, but no one really being home, not even perfect me was up for the job of getting through the day.

Friday when I got home, hubby and I had a fight. It started because I had yelled at Kat for dumping juice all over the car. She’s had a thing lately about leaving cups upside down, and juice goes everywhere. I had told her several times to put the cup right side up. She didn’t. Hence, the yelling. And so, hubby and I fought. He said I was this terrible person, mean and selfish, and that he is only able to stick it out because he knows one day I’ll be like I used to be, and be normal again. He said some horrible things; listed out every bad thing about me that he can think of. I already know what an awful person I am. Now I know he agrees. The final straw was when he told me that Kat would be better off being raised by his mother (the crazy, narcissistic mother. See my “bat crap crazy mother in law” post to learn more about this woman). He said the words, and I had immediate visions of slitting my wrists.

I ran to the bedroom, packed a bag. Hubby promptly took my car keys. I was stuck. Which triggered me even more, if that’s even possible. So I hid in the closet. And while I hid in the closet, I held a bottle of my pain pills and debated downing all of them. I really, really wanted to in that moment. I was so hurt by hubby, beaten down by everything else being thrown at me from the past and the present, I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Instead, I emailed Bea. I emailed her about the fight, not about the suicidal feelings. That’s not something I easily admit to. She emailed back, reframing the fight. It didn’t help. She wanted me to talk to hubby, tell him what I am dealing with, make him a partner….because, after all, the point of going through all this is for authenticity and to improve my life now, in the present, and part of that is taking a risk and allowing hubby in to be a real partner, for an authentic marriage. It felt like she didn’t get it at all. Like she wasn’t seeing that this, his words, were the last thing I could handle. Like she didn’t get how hurt and desperate and falling off the edge of the cliff I am. And there was the beginning of the disconnection.

Saturday was spent going through the motions. Hubby is on a short vacation from work so I put on the facade of okay, and smiled my way through a day of family time. We went out to dinner, and ran into the child who assaulted Kat last year. The child and her family acted like nothing was wrong; the little girl ran over to Kat and hugged her, asked her to come over for a play date. I was so sickened by it all. I’m sorry, I know she is just a child, but I can’t stand her. Kat has been clingy and confused ever since.

Sunday was family fun day again, after a short ABA session. We took Kat to an indoor water park. It was a disaster. There was a kiddy slide, and it was empty, Kat wanted to feel the water first, so we walked around to the pool side, and when we went to put her toes in the water, the lifeguard blew his whistle at us. I tried explaining that she just needed to feel the water before sliding down the slide and landing in it– she’s 4. I mean, that can not be so weird. And it’s not like there were people waiting. He was all “you have to go down the slide to get in the pool, then exit the pool. It’s not for swimming.” I played the autism card. I never play that card. I don’t like to, I don’t believe we deserve special treatment, but sometimes accommodations should be made. And we weren’t holding anything up. No on was around! And he said “she doesn’t look like she has autism. She doesn’t look retarded.” And I lost it. Lost it. Yelling, swearing. In the past, I would have calmly and politely requested a manager. Now I lose it, screaming mad. I’m not a mad person. And then, I couldn’t reign it in. Every teenage male life guard got yelled at, flipped off, cursed. By me. I was the crazy screaming lady. Oh my gosh, I am so ashamed by my behavior. And later, I looked at that and thought, wow. I yelled at every male teen employed there. Kenny and the college boyfriend were both teenage males. Odd how they were the same age, yet years apart.

And so….Monday. I saw Bea. I don’t know what happened. I told her about the water park, omitting the fact I couldn’t reign in my anger; refusing to admit to the giant rage that had been in me and come out. She didn’t even see it, make a connection between teen boys who confused me, who hurt me in the past and the teen life guard who hurt my child (and me) with his words.

I know I cried a lot in the session, and hid my face, and couldn’t get words out. She pushed and pushed for me to talk to Hubby. Really pushed. I think that’s the point where I decided she wasn’t on my side anymore, and she just wants me to be okay. And so I pretended to be okay. Walls pulled up and around, armor on, dissociated and disconnected, I went through the motions of therapy.

At one point, towards the end, she asked me how the adult me feels about sexual attraction. I tried to answer, tried to let down the walls. It felt like she had a plan, like she was going somewhere with this. I couldn’t. She said she thinks the disgust and confusion and everything else is the little girl part of me. Thinking about it, I feel like the little girl is the part in charge of sex stuff; or, at least she’s in charge of how I feel about sexual attraction and sexual stuff. I don’t know. I don’t think there is an adult part of me for those things. Maybe I got stunted and never continued developing normal. Maybe I was just an over sexed little girl, who seduced a teenage boy. Because I’m screwed up, gross, evil. I don’t know. But I said none of those things.

I didn’t tell her how I sat in the closet with a bottle of pills, or how my cutting is out of control the last few days. I didn’t tell her how I have screwed up the no eating rule, and stuffed my face and vomited it back up more times than I care to count lately, or how the few times I have stuffed my face and been unable to throw up and the panic and terror I felt. I didn’t tell her I felt disconnected after her email, like she didn’t get it. I didn’t tell her how incredibly alone I feel; more so now because I have seen and felt what not alone is like. I think being alone was safer, better. No one hurts you that way. It sucks knowing how bad alone really is. I didn’t tell her how numb and overwhelmed by emotions and feelings and memories I am all at the same time, even though that is such a paradox I can’t seem to understand it. I didn’t tell her I just want to disappear, to cease to exist. I did not tell her any of that.

I did say I felt like everything was too much, that I could not do this anymore. I said that everything makes sense to her, but nothing makes sense to me. And Bea reframed it, telling me that just like Kat, she thinks I’m at a point where I need to know others in my life will provide safety and containment for me, but that I am capable of taking care of my own needs. Disconnect complete.

It feels like she’s done with me. Like I was too needy, too crazy, too broken. Like she only wants for me to be okay, to show that perfect facade I have. Like she is no different than my parents or my husband.

Everyone only wants perfect Alice. They don’t care that I’m so far down the rabbit hole I think I’m never getting out. They don’t care that I’m stuck in this hell my mind has created, or that I’m so confused and scared because I never know how I’m going to feel or act from one moment to the next. They don’t care that a single second can feel like forever when it’s his face I’m seeing in my mind, or his hands I’m feeling on my skin. They want perfect Alice. So perfect Alice they shall have.

She “gets it”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How did you meet?” Bea asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you think?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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