Humanity Unfiltered 

I know I haven’t responded to your many kind words over the loss of my grandma. I will reply, but right now I just want to say that your words meant a lot to me, and to thank you and to explain that it’s hurt to much to write  until recently. I’ve been buried in a sea of grief the last couple of months. I’m doing better most days, but it’s still hard. I miss my Grandma. This is a loss that hits me out of the blue when I realize I can’t text her to ask about some flowers I saw and liked, or how long to cook something for. I can’t send her pictures of something when I’m proud of it. This is hard. But I’m coming to terms with that pain, little by little, as much as a person can. The harder thing still is that it is fall, October, and all sorts of trauma memories and feelings and emotional flashbacks have been popping up. 

The last thing I wrote about was the things that are hard to talk about. The words it is hard for me to say. S_ _. I’m still struggling with that, sort of. Teen Alice has been running things, and she is so confused about so much. I don’t know where to start, really. 

Wednesday, October 4
I’m (with the teen part running things) sitting on the couch in her office, hiding under a blanket, just covered in shame. I don’t want to do this therapy bit, I’d much rather let Ms. Perfect run things so that I don’t have to think or feel. But instead it’s just me here, and ALL the feelings. Ugh. I don’t like like Bea right now, I hate her questions. I’m angry with her, but behind all that anger, is this vulnerability. There is this fear that Bea will suddenly get it, she will finally see that she has been picturing it all wrong, and I really am bad. I have this fear that I have somehow tricked her into seeing me as good. 

“You’re WRONG. You DON’T see. You picture this little girl who is good, sweet angelic. You see this innocent creature, worthy of your protection.You are so, so WRONG.” I’m yelling at Bea. She’s clearly not seeing, not getting it, and I’m going to make her see it. If I can make her see that I tricked her somehow, that will hurt less than if she figures it out of her own. “You should be picturing this needy, clingy, annoying, talks too much, always has to be right, a girl desperate for attention, who craves being seen, this little girl who bats her eyelashes and smiles to be cute, who is instigates whatever gets her attention, who is self centered and selfish and just too much. A naughty little girl who definitely does not deserve protection. That is who you should be picturing.”

Bea listens to this, and after a pause she asks, “You do know I work with kids, right?” 

I shrug. “Yes.” I’m annoyed. Of course I know that. 

“Do you know what I love best about kids?” She chuckles a bit as the words hit the spaces between us. 

I don’t answer. She’s not hearing me. 

“I love that kids are everything humanity has to offer unfiltered. Kids are some of the most real people you are going to ever find. I’ve never thought the little girl was this perfect sweet angel that deserved protection because she was perfect and sweet. I’m sure the little girl was sweet, and kind and caring, and I’m also sure that she could be selfish or mean or have feelings that came out in ways she didn’t like. It really doesn’t matter what kind of little girl she was. In my mind, she was still innocent and deserved to be protected.” 

I put up a wall, and go farther away. I can’t let her words in.This won’t do. So I hide. She’s going on now, about how maybe the teen just needs someone to sit with her in that pain. She says something about being capable of holding two things at once, that she can believe it’s not my fault and she can sit the me in the feelings of blame and shame and ickiness. 

I shake my head. “But you can’t, you just can’t. You are going to see one day, and then……you’ll leave.” 

Her voice is adamant when she replies. “Nope. I’m not going anywhere. Yes, I go on vacations, but I always come back. I’m here, I’m not leaving.”

“You don’t….you can’t be sure.” 

“Well, would the teen like to test me? Is there something she would like to tell me?”

I shake my head no. My stomach feels sick. I don’t want to test her. I don’t know what I want. It wouldn’t matter, anyway, because I would either set the test is for her to pass, or skew it so she would fail. It wouldn’t be a fair test. Right now, I want her to fail. If she fails, then she has to admit she is wrong and I am right and then I won’t have to do this therapy thing anymore. But I don’t want to lose Bea. I want her to be everything she says she is. I want her to be a person who knows it all and still thinks I am good. I want her to be a person who can see the truth and still care about me. 

“I……there’s um…….I mean, I’ve been…….you know. Memories.” Why can’t I get my words out in a coherent sentence? Ugh. 

“You’ve been having flashbacks again?” She makes sense of the puzzle of words I’ve thrown at her.

“Yeah– yes.” I mumble.

“Hmmmm. Do you think that maybe the teen is more present because there are trauma memories she needs to talk about? That maybe she is protecting more vulnerable parts from being hurt by those memories?”

I don’t know what to say. Maybe. Maybe talking about it is what I need. There’s so much risk with that, though, I can’t just blurt it out. “I…its…I can’t say it. I can’t tell it. I’m sorry. I just can’t.”

“It’s okay. When the teen is ready, we will listen to her. She has plenty of time to talk, she doesn’t have to speak right now. She can email me, too.” 

“Maybe. I don’t want to bother you while you are gone.”

“I’m not leaving until Saturday afternoon and I’m coming back on Tuesday. So I won’t even be gone until the weekend.” 

“Okay.” Why can’t she just tell me I’m not a bother? If this were a test, she would be failing. 

Somehow our time is up, Bea is telling me that we need to wrap things up for today, and I am frustrated because I was finally feeling like I might be able to get some words out, or at least to ask for help with finding the words. “That’s fine. I was ready to go anyway.” I say. The words are snarky and dripping in sass. 

“Was there something else you needed to bring up or talk about?” She’s not fazed by my snarkiness.  

“Nope. I’ve turned into a pumpkin already.” I shove my feet in my shoes and stand up to leave. 

Bea smiles at me, and her smile is just full of care and understanding, acceptance. “Okay. If something does come up, I have some sessions open, and you can always email or call me, too.” 

I feign nonchalance as I walk out. I can’t afford to care. 

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The After…..

So, I can’t really write about the sessions after the family reunion. I wasn’t really there and so we didn’t talk about much of anything. I had written a little more in addition to my emails, and put it all together on my iPad. Bea read it all and talked about it, but I don’t remember what she said. I remember hiding under my blanket both days, and I remember crying, but I just couldn’t come back to myself. 

Wednesday was really the first day I’d gotten out of the house and not been hiding in bed under my blanket at home, or in my closet. As the day went on, it was like I started to swim up from the bottom of the ocean, and the closer I got to the surface, the more I wanted to talk to panicky and scared I started to feel. I really wanted to talk to Bea. I almost felt as if I hadn’t even had any sessions this week. So, I emailed her.

Hi Bea,

So…….I’m more here than I was, I’m closer to feeling normal, but…..I’m not there. Not really. I feel like when I first was learning to be more present and really starting to deal with trauma stuff. I’m feeling very up and down, very here one moment and so far away the next. I’m taking things out of context, like hubby reminding me to grab Kat’s swimsuit bottoms and underwear for OT, I got all upset, telling him I had the bottoms and I *actually can handle stuff and I don’t screw up all the time*. Obviously it wasn’t really hubby I was talking to. It was such a snarky teenage response, something I probably would have wanted to say to my mom, but would have held inside. I just hate feeling like this, and I can’t seem to control it. I know it gets better, and I did send hubby a *heads up, I’m crazy this week* text, so he knows something is going on. 

And I know that this is past feelings but I just feel really alone. I know you’re here, I know none of this is based on current reality, but I can’t stop feeling like this. My logical side can’t control my feelings side. I keep thinking that I’m going camping and then you will be gone so you won’t be here for a whole week. And I tell myself you said I could email or call, so it’s fine, if I really need to and am truly not okay you will be there, but then I get panicked about that, there is this huge worry that you really won’t be there and I’ll be left alone because I screw everything up. 

I just literally feel like a crazy person today. Maybe this is better than being numbed out and hiding like the past two days, maybe this is just something to move through in order to get back to feeling like myself. But it sucks. And I can’t figure out how to control it and not be so up and down and grounded and far away. It’s crazy making to be so all over the place. 
I feel like I have a lot to say, like deeper more feelings stuff, and I might email later, if it’s okay. 

******
Alice, 

Feel free to email. We may want to put the brakes on the deeper stuff, but that doesn’t mean the deeper stuff will cooperate. We’ll handle whatever comes up.

Continue the self care–good time to treat yourself well!

Bea

*****

I’m really stuck in this teen way of thinking. It’s like background noise in my brain. Everything I do, it’s somehow made negative. Everything people say, is somehow twisted to a negative. It’s like this automatic thing, and before I know it, I’m feeling terrible and like I want to disappear. I mean, part of me realizes these thoughts and feelings are old, so I’m okay. It just feels quite present moment.
I’m struggling between very on edge, so jumpy, panicked and scared and just really far away and frozen– almost like I’m wrapped in thick blanket of cotton batting. I can’t control it. Far away is better, even though it doesn’t feel all that safe there. 


I know you said not to think about camping, but I can’t help it. I think I can’t get myself fully grounded and present and feeling safe because I know I am going to be camping. It feels like I’m not safe anywhere right now. I can’t be present, because all the anxiety and stuff of the present, but being so far away and spacey……I don’t know, some reason that seems to be making it easier for my brain to send me back to memories from the times I was far away like this as a child. Oh yeah, that’s the memories in different states thing, you told me about that. Right? So okay, that makes sense then? Ugh. Either way, it’s not been a fun few days since the weekend. Not that the weekend was all happy either. 


I really want to run away from my life right now. I just keep feeling like there’s not enough time, I don’t know, I can’t explain it. The little girl, maybe the teen, they are so freaked out about leaving…. It’s like I’m leaving, and then you are leaving, and maybe you won’t come back, or I won’t come back, or everything will be different and you won’t be you if you do come back, and I’m going to be all alone with all of this, and even the grown up me is having a lot of anxiety about being able to cope and be okay. Like, I know I could get back to feeling like me if we weren’t leaving to go camping so soon. But I don’t know how to cope with all the crap and all the feelings and all the memories and all the mixed up bits of all that stuff that is making a giant bowl of confusion that is from the weekend. And then I have all the crap coming up now, and then what about camping and all that? And I’m feeling so teen alice-ish it is sort of scary, and I’m just not sure at all. I know it’s probably dramatic and ridiculous, but in a lot of ways, right now, I really feel like there is no safe place. I’d like to hide under my blanket in your office and scream and cry and not be alone. 

I’m sorry, I think I’m just going to be emailing you right now. It’s just not working to write in my notebook and know that you will read it and respond on Monday. For some reason, it’s just not enough. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. And I don’t want to make you upset and have you be annoyed with me. And I’m really scared that if I email you, you will email back but it won’t sound like you, so please please can you just tell me if you are having a bad day or in a bit of a rush or something because I don’t think the little girl can handle any little bit of perceived, even if only in her head, rejection or anger. I really need to know its okay to email and that you aren’t mad and won’t be mad. I told you, I’m feeling a great little bit crazy right now.

******

I am here and have no problem with you emailing as much as you need to. I had the thought: what if you don’t go camping? It’s a choice, after all. No one is making you go–send hubby and Kat and have some alone time. Maybe just considering that will help. Remember my scary dream about my therapist and my husband asking me, ” Why didn’t you just leave?” When we’re reacting from a traumatized past we forget that now we do have choices. Let yourself explore that concept a bit.

******

(Maybe you are seeing something I’m not, that’s always a possibility, and I really don’t want to argue with you, but……)


This isn’t all that simple. Maybe it’s a choice, but only in the way that it can be argued everything in life is a choice. It’s not as simple as just not going. This is Kat’s birthday celebration with my parents, my brother and her cousins. Not going would be like not attending your child’s birthday party. On top of that, is the fallout not going would cause with hubby, with my parents, with my brother. It’s not so simple to just decide it’s a choice and not go. There are consequences to the choices we make. Making a choice to not go means hurting people, namely my daughter. Making a choice to go, hurts one person– me. And I’ll be fine, because I’m always fine. I can cope with going a lot better than Kat can cope with mommy not attending her birthday celebration. That’s not really a choice at all. 


I know this was just a thought, that it was supposed to make me feel less trapped or something. But it just upset me and made me feel like you don’t get it at all and now I’m really stuck in this mess alone. 
I’m so unsure about even sending this, I had a whole different email written that was me trying to think about not going and how that felt so much better and it was all fine now, I’m going to make a choice to go and I’m in control of this all and it’s actually okay after all. But that’s not even true. I just didn’t want to be on a different side than you when I’m leaving for vacation and then you’re leaving for vacation. Because being on separate sides is like you not being here anyway, and then really being gone makes it harder for the little girl to even remember you are here. That’s just repeating a pattern of how I related to my mom to feel safe (and I can clearly see when I’m doing that now that it’s been pointed out to me), and being agreeable for the sake of being agreeable isn’t really going to be all that helpful, is it? Ugh! Why does this all have to be so complicated? Too much is triggered right now and I can’t even sort it all out. 

*******
I know it’s not that simple. I was advocating for a psychological break and a chance to experience the feeling of this being a choice. I knew what your choice was and why! It sounds like aside from being annoyed with me what I was aiming for worked–you did define for yourself that it is a choice and you defined the reasons why you’re making it. I’ve lived with the fantasy of not doing something because it’s a choice right up to the literal moment of actually doing it (knowing on some level I was going to do it all along!). For me that’s a pretty good coping strategy!
We are not on different sides. I never thought you wouldn’t actually go–I just thought it might help to think about it differently, and give you a chance to not have to suffer now. I know it’s going to be difficult at the time it happens no matter what. Hmmm, the real choice is actually about not suffering now, isn’t it?
******

So…. at the risk of making myself more upset……


First thought: Fine. You’re right. What you were aiming for worked and I can choose to not suffer. And on that note, maybe I should just choose to get over the bad things in my life and focus on the positive. Everything is all better. Yay. *throws phone across the room*

Second thought: You don’t get it. It’s not a choice to go or not go. All this did was resolidify the fact that I don’t really have a choice. Why aren’t you understanding this? I just need you to get it. This is not such a simple thing and it hurts that you are boiling it down to so simple. I know sometimes I want things boiled down to simple, but this just feels painful, dismissive or something. *crying*

Third thought: I’m hurt. My feelings are really hurt and that made me really sad, it was easier to be defensive and angry. I feel like you are wanting to make this less of a big deal so that it is easier for me to deal with while I’m gone and when I get back. But it doesn’t feel simple and you trying to make it simple seems like a very logical. I’m not wanting logical, I want emotional connection and support. I want to feel like you are here and getting this. I don’t need to pick it apart and examine it right now, I think I just need to be here and know you are here. It feels like to me that I can’t fully come back to myself until after I am back and you are back and we can dig into all that has been triggered. Right now, it feels like I’m stuck, like I’ve been paused (through circumstance vs me being difficult) and I can’t really box the yuck back up, but I can’t sort through it right now either. So I’m stuck in this in-between place. I just need you to be here with me. *wants to hide because this feels vulnerable*

So…..I feel like I’m treading water in this giant ocean, no land in sight, and I’m too tired and too scared to turn around and look for land behind me, no matter how many times you swear it’s there. Could you just throw me a life vest instead and hang out in the ocean with me? 

******

Okay, sorry…. Sometimes “trying to help” doesn’t feel that way, does it? I’m feeling a bit torn. On one hand, yes I can swim with you in the ocean and be there to honor the pain. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that wants to push for a bit of growth in the coping arena, and I’m wondering if that needs to be acknowledged too, because that feeling usually comes when someone is ready to take that step. I don’t want to keep you in a place you’re ready to take a step away from by not putting that out there, if that makes sense. That wouldn’t be fair to you either.
So having said that, I’m really listening to what you’re saying. You’re feeling mad, really hurt, and that I don’t get it. You’re feeling awful and that nothing is okay. I will stay there with you–I am staying there with you. We both know that is what you need. We can think about this other piece that’s nagging at me another time if you want to. Your choice.
I’m afraid you’re now going to feel that you’re not meeting my expectations. Don’t go there–I don’t even know what those expectations might be! It’s literally just a little nagging feeling. We would have to explore it together. But not now. I am in listening and receiving mode now, and I am with you.
********

I don’t email her back, I hate her email. She wants to get rid of me. She is annoyed with me after she said she wouldn’t be annoyed with me, after she said she was here and I could email, and now she is annoyed. And her response about being here and listening now feels like she is doing so simply because I asked, but she doesn’t really want to be doing so. I want to scream, to cry, to break something. I hate this email as much as I hated her last one. Why am I screwing everything up? I know better than to be this needy. I know better. She wants me to cope without her. Why I did I ever trust it was okay to need her? 
*********

Right after the terrible email, Bea sends another email. 
Alice, just an FYI, I’ve had a cancellation and am free until 3:00pm of you would like to talk by telephone. -Bea

I don’t know what to do. Is she going to fire me over the phone? I’m afraid to email, afraid to call. She is already annoyed with me, after all. But if she didn’t want me to call, why would she offer to talk on the phone? I don’t understand, I’m so confused. I try to continue on with my task of washing the dishes, but I can’t focus. I finally decide to call Bea. 

Weekend Flashback 

Family Reunion weekend. I should have a lot to say, there should be too many words showing up on this page. Instead, I can’t figure out how to explain the triggered dissociated mess I became. Teen Alice was completely running the show by the end of the weekend. 

I typically enjoy the weekend. In the past, we have hired sitters for the kids, rented a limo and visited multiple wineries on day one. Day two is typically a beach/movie/kid friendly activity day. This side of the family really is a blast. I enjoy them all and look forward to seeing them. 

This year though? We didn’t do the traditional touring of several wineries. Festivities took place at my parents’ house. Everyone brought wine to taste (which was actually pretty cool, we got to try wines from all over the country), activities were set up for the kids, as well as yard games and a photo booth for adults and kids alike. 

It was too much like the parties thrown in my childhood. Being at the house all weekend was just on much for me. The first day was okay. I felt really distanced from everyone, just extremely disconnected from the world, and from myself. 

The second day, my mother and I got into it, and that sent me into a giant tailspin. At first I was so angry with her that all I wanted to do was rage at her. I attempted to vent to hubby, but he just kept saying, “okay” as if I were lecturing him. I desperately needed some feedback, understanding, validation, so I emailed Bea. 

Bea,

I want to throw something. Or cry. Or scream. Or hide in the closet. Or drop a giant bomb and ruin everyone’s lives. Or just run away back to my home and forget about my mother and my childhood home and all that goes with that. 
I’m so angry, Bea. I’m never good enough. That’s the truth. It’s not me being dramatic, or something. It’s just a fact. I’m never good enough for my mother. Oh, when she is talking about me and my life and Kat and hubby, everything is said a if I am still Ms. Perfect. 
But to my face? I’m a giant fucking disappointment and I can’t manage to do anything right. Ugh! Why do I let her get to me like this? And the teen part, omg, she is so strong right now, everything is being colored by her, I know that but it doesn’t stop the feelings. 

My mother is mad because I can’t manage to follow her schedule. I’m sorry! I have an autistic child who is sensitive to crowds and changes in schedules and traveling and sleeping in places that aren’t her own home and I need to do whatever will help my child deal with traveling and transitions and changes. It’s not my job to take care of my mother, I’m not her mom! It’s my job to take care of my child. Grrrrrr. Ugh. My mother got all upset with me because we weren’t doing what she was doing with all the kids downtown/at the beach. Well, Kat had 3 meltdowns and I was dealing with that, so it might it just a little difficult to be right where my mother wanted is to be at that particular moment. But you know, she hasn’t gotten to see Kat at all this weekend, and somehow that is all my fault. But she made her choices to follow what the other kids wanted to do. She could have told them that they were gonna do x,y,z for a while, but she didn’t. She chose to spend her time talking and hanging with the grownups yesterday. 
I’m just so sick of never being good enough. Even Ms. Perfect isn’t perfect enough. 
I’m just so angry right now. What the hell does she want from me? Why isn’t it a good thing that I am respecting my daughters needs and helping her learn to cope with stressful situations and regulate her emotions? Oh right, it’s not okay because that all takes time and being present and dealing with emotions and admitting to not being perfect and it might possibly ruin your perfectly laid out schedule. Argh. 

Oh, and another thing?!?! She’s all upset we haven’t didn’t anytime together this weekend, but every time Kat or I have tried telling her something or asking her to do something with us she gets distracted by other family members, and they get precedence. So how is this my fault? I don’t understand. But somehow it is and I can’t fix it and I can’t be what she needs and I’m so tired, I barely slept last night and I know that’s not helping but ugh. 

You always want to know where’s the anger? Well, here is it. I hate her Bea. I just want to scream at her and throw everything in her face and then go home. Just be done with it all. 

I won’t, you know. I’ll lock it all down and smile and nod and apologize and be appropriate and whatever. But right now, everything in me hates that. I don’t want to be here not here. I don’t want to be far away. But, I also don’t want to be here at all.

Alice 

(Bea’s emailed words are in bold) Sounds frustrating and triggering for sure. As you say, you can’t meet her needs and Kat’s needs both, and your kid has to come first.

Thank you for saying this. I really just needed to feel like someone was on my side. I spent my whole life in that house feeling alone and not good enough and broken. I don’t often feel that way in my real life anymore. But this week….ugh. All those feelings are back in full force. 

 I hope the anger can dissipate enough for you to enjoy the rest of the weekend.
I don’t know what happened. Anger didn’t really dissipate….it just sort of got shoved down. I don’t know. I ended up far away and spacey and trying so so hard to be perfect and do whatever I thought my mom wanted me to be doing. Which basically meant trying to be perfect all the while feeling like a failure in everything. Eventually I just went so far away that being sociable and talkative was too difficult. It was the far away can’t easily orientate to what is happening in the present and can’t get words out. That doesn’t happen often in public—- it’s definitely a teenage Alice thing I think. Of course, that only added to my mother’s annoyance because she felt I was sulking and being unsocial and rude. So….yeah. 

Honestly, I think I was struggling too because we were at the house the whole time, not out at wineries. Being in the house and having a big party in the backyard……well, I lived that as a child. Lots of parties in the yard as I was growing up.

I don’t know. I wavered between angry with my mother and numb and frozen triggered and feeling exactly like teen me trying to be perfect and failing miserably —and honestly, bouncing between all 3 of those feelings, I could feel exactly why I overdosed or cut my wrists. I couldn’t keep going on feeling like that. I couldn’t understand why I felt like that, I felt like I was crazy. I had parents and a therapist who thought I was broken; something was innately wrong with my personality, with who I was. I just wanted everything to stop. I didn’t even care if that meant someone helping me or actually dying. I just needed things to not be like they were. I feel like that’s when I got really good at pretending. I don’t know. It feels like maybe before that time period I did still have a part of the real me, I still had this tiny piece of me that knew who I really was. But that had to go away. I buried that last bit of the real me and learned to pretend and be perfect. Do you know I can be having a panic attack, literally feeling like my heart might explode and I can’t breathe, and I can smile and continue talking like I have not a care in the world? Well, maybe I can’t anymore. I don’t know. But I could at one time. That’s how disconnected I became. Anyway. I think I got off point. 

I guess we are still dealing with teen stuff. Yeah, some of it is present day stuff but mostly it’s teen stuff getting mixed up in present day stuff. And you know what I keep thinking? That was 20 years ago! The Kenny stuff started almost 30 years ago (28 years ago, to be exact). And (at times) it all feels like it happened yesterday, or this morning, or 10 minutes ago. It all feels very right now, it feels present day. Does that make me crazy? 

And…..there was purging and cutting. 😞🙈 I failed there too. I just couldn’t cope. Ugh. It was all just too much.

Alice, 

Ugh! I hope by now you are already heading home. It was just too much, as you say. Do something fun that you like here, in your grown up life now–go for a swim in the lake, or something else grounding and not related to your life at home. Once your now life fully sinks in I think you’ll feel a sense of relief. If not, it’s okay to just be wherever you are right now:)

I’ll see you tomorrow,

Bea

I’m back home, and yet I still don’t feel grounded or safe or really okay at all. I’m still far away, afraid to be more present. Everything is triggering right now. I’m hoping that seeing Bea will help. There’s just too many feelings and memories and mess for me to contain by myself. Even with Bea’s emails, I feel as if I am floating in the middle of the ocean, with no way to get to shore. It’s as if I keep looking and looking for someone to come, but no one does. I’m treading water furiously, but no one is showing up to help me make a raft or swim to shore or call the coast guard to rescue us. When my mother shows up, she wants me to help her stay afloat, she needs my help. When Bea shows up, she is showing up just to be there with me, so I’m not treading water alone. She says we can figure out together how to make a raft, swim to shore or call the coastguard. I hope that seeing Bea will help settle all the parts because I really need that right now. 

You aren’t broken and You don’t have to hide anymore part 1

Wednesday morning when I wake up, it’s cold. The temperature has dropped overnight. It’s still chilly when I get to Bea’s. Her office is warm and cozy, though, and I settle into my spot on the sofa easily. We spend some time talking about schools, because the window for application for school of choice enrollment to the district I would like to put Kat in, opens August 1.

“I’d forgotten, I’m not sure why I didn’t even realize, but Kay’s youngest son goes to the middle school that is attached to the elementary school I want to get Kat into.”

“Oh yeah? Did you see her this week?” Bea is curious. I don’t think I’ve talked about Kay since my decision about the baby shower.

“Yeah, Kat and I went to see Kay and the new baby.” I talk a little about Kat and Kay, and the gifts Kat had chosen for the new baby and how excited Kat was to visit.

Bea remarks,”It sounds as if you have distanced yourself from Kay and maintained the relationship more between Kay and Kat.”

“Yeah…….” I say, thinking. “I suppose I really have…..I hadn’t realized, but I think that is right….huh.”

“How does that feel for you?” She asks. 

“It’s…well, I guess I feel sort of guilty, but not really….I mean, even when I learned my MIL was moving down the road from me, I didn’t even think to call her. Before, I would have NEEDED Kay. Now….I don’t know. I texted my friend Robin, who is vacationing with no cell service, so she didn’t respond, but I know she will when she gets service. And I talked to my friend Amy a few days later. And it was good. I don’t know.”

“Why would you have needed Kay?” Bea asks. I have a feeling she knows the answer.

“I needed her to fix it. Or to fix me if I had hurt myself during my reaction to whatever awful thing was happening.” 

“And now?” 

“Now I just….I guess I want to know my own feelings first, how I want to handle it, and then I just want someone to validate the awfulness, or to support how I plan to handle things, or to tell me they think I’m making a mistake. But not fix it for me.” I think for a moment and then add, “Well, usually. Sometimes, I do want someone to fix it. Or maybe to help me fix it.”

“We all need that sometimes.” Bea smiles. “I wonder….do you think Kay was getting something out of fixing you?”

I sigh, I don’t like thinking about this. “Maybe. Probably.” 

“And when you didn’t need that anymore, things got complicated between you?” 

“Well, I think maybe she was jealous of you, that maybe she thought you took her place. But then, she saw how much better I was, like really better, not pretend better, and she wanted that for herself, too. I think she tried to grow with me. It’s just she wanted my therapist. And I said no. And then she couldn’t be my friend anymore.” It saddens me now, but it doesn’t hurt like it did. Now I just hope that she is okay and that she finds a way to keep growing, to keep working on herself. “I still trust her, I mean, I would leave Kat with her, trust her pick Kat up from school. I still trust if something really awful happened, she would be there.” 

“She’s like a family member that you love and trust but aren’t close with,” Bea suggests. 

“Yes, exactly,” I tell her. 

All of this opens up a discussion about friends and new friends and types of friendships and me being in healthier relationships overall. It’s funny, because I suddenly realize as we are talking that people I have chosen to be friends with now are very different from groups of friends I have chosen in the past. I’m not worried about fitting in or about impressing them. I’m just me.

“You are doing quite well in your adult life, and in your mom life— very present, very healthy.” Bea pauses and then adds, “I almost made a joke about how nice it would be to tell that shrinky guy therapist how great his ‘borderline’ patient is doing now that her trauma is being addressed. But then I thought that might not feel very good to you. I wanted to talk about that, about that label a little bit more because it came up at the end of session and I felt like maybe we didn’t get to really talk about it.” 

I shrug. “It was fine.” I’m not sure I want to talk more about this. How did we even get to talking about this? I honestly can’t remember. 

“Can I talk about this for a few minutes?” She asks. 

“Sure, okay.” I shrug again.

“I really think, this idea of borderline personality disorder…..it’s just my personal belief, that this disorder describes a collection of symptoms that so clearly are trauma and PTSD symptoms. I don’t really think Borderline is a fair thing to label someone. Borderline is a person with trauma, that’s all. The label has become, and has been for a long time, so stigmatized. I never thought…it’s just not something I would label someone. I’d say trauma, PTSD, C-PTSD, depression maybe. But I’m not a fan of labels, you know that. I am still a little surprised this never came up before.” 

“Well, I wasn’t going to tell you the label that just means I’m crazy and you don’t have to deal with me! I wasn’t going to give you the diagnosis that makes no one like……I mean…therapists don’t want to deal with borderlines. I didn’t want to give you reason to get rid of me.”

“I’m not going to get rid of you! And that label doesn’t apply here. You have trauma. Big traumas that we are working through. You aren’t broken or damaged, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you. You have some big traumas, and they are a lot, it’s a lot. You dealt with a lot. But you aren’t alone now, and we are working through this stuff.” 

I feel as if Bea has wrapped me up into a warm hug. Those words, her words, mean everything to me. “I just…..now you see some of how I got the story that there is something really wrong inside me?” 

Bea sighs. It’s one of those sighs that says she is not happy. “Yes, I see how you thought that. That therapist, he just labeled you so quick like that, though, one suicide attempt and he has put a neat label on you and checked all the boxes off.” Yep, it’s like I thought. Bea is not happy. She is angry with that therapist. 

“No, not exactly……. I……I was seeing him before that,” I say, and the words are hard to get out. I like her being angry at him, and I don’t want that to change. 

“Either way, you don’t label a teenager like that! You just don’t!” She says. She is going to be on my side in this, no matter what. I like that. It feels safe.

I’m quiet, just sort of sitting with this idea that Bea doesn’t think I’m crazy, that she is on my side, that she doesn’t think I’m broken. 

In part two of this post, Bea and I talk about a suicide attempt and what happened afterwards. We discuss the details of my narrative of that night, so please read with caution. Xx

Thing we never talk about: The shrinky shrink 

This is the second half of a post, “Things we never talked about”. Bea and I had been discussing the fact that parts of me were so separated, I truly didn’t know why I had tried to commit suicide. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I thought I was crazy. So did the shrink my parents had found. They found one that agreed with them, one that they liked.”
“Did you like him? Did he try to connect with you?” Bea is curious. I’ve never talked much about this shrink. 

“No. I didn’t like him…..he couldn’t…He was a guy. I was scared…I didn’t like being alone in that room with the door shut with him.”

“Did you think anything about that?”

“I think I just thought I was weird. There was no reason to be afraid of him. I don’t know.” I feel like I sound sort of monotone, numb.

“Your parts really were so split. That’s why you didn’t know why you were scared. But you weren’t weird.”

“Okay.” 

“Did he do any drawing or anything like that with you?” She asks. 

I shake my head. “I can see how hard it would be to deal with a teen who wouldn’t talk to you at all.” 

 Bea says, “Nope, it’s. It hard. You start wherever they are, that’s all. It’s simple, really.”

I shrug again. “He thought I was crazy. He told my parents I was throwing a temper tantrum and trying to get attention.”

“Ahhhhh,” Bea says. “So they took your door so you couldn’t throw another tantrum?”

“Exactly.”

“I really don’t understand how you don’t even try to understand why your patient tried to kill herself. How you don’t start where she is! Ugh!” Bea is angry with him for not looking into why I cut my wrists, for saying it was a tantrum, a fit, a bid for attention. 

“He didn’t ….he label me….lots of things people don’t like….Defiant….but that’s not the word. What’s the shrinky word for someone not following directions, not cooperating?” I ask her.

“Resistant?” She says.

“Yup. Resistant and borderline. That’s what he called me. Labeled me.” 

“Oh….oh yuck. Did you know then that is what he labeled you?” She asks. 

I nod. Then I remember she can’t see me. “Yes. He explained it to me. It wasn’t….what was wrong with me, my behavior, it was me. It was part of my personality. I was broken.” My voice cracks. 

Bea’s voice is firm, maybe firmer than I’ve heard her before, “You weren’t broken. You aren’t broken. There is nothing wrong with you except you experienced some serious trauma.”

Time is almost up, but she talks to me a few more minutes. She wants to make sure I know that she doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with my personality, with who I am as a person. She tells me that It makes sense to her now, how that therapist and other professionals treated me, it’s all because of how he labeled me and the stigma attached to it. All my behaviors that were from trauma were easily explained away as me being borderline. 

“Bea?” I say, after a silence. I’ve pulled the blanket off my head and am holding it in my lap.

“Yes?” 

I pull the blanket over my face, peek out at her. I feel really vulnerable, but I need to say this. “Thank you for starting where I was at. For not forcing me to talk and putting up with emailing and silence. Thank you for still not making me talk and just reading my notebook.” 

“I wasn’t putting up with you. I was glad to start where you were. It’s really not hard. You did all the hard work. We just had to find our way to what would make you feel safe enough to open up to me. If that email, I was happy to email with you and to do the talking in session.”

“I talk a lot now, considering, huh?” I say. 

“You’ve grown a lot and gotten braver. And I’m glad to hear your voice in session, but reading your words is no problem.” 

“Well…..I just……thank you.” I say again. I know how lucky I am to have Bea, but when I think about some therapists of the past, well, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I have her in my life.  

Things we never talked about: teenage suicide attempts 

Trigger warning: suicide discussed 
This post has been difficult to write. This week, especially, I have been very much in a grown up place, very much in the moment, because it is my daughters birthday week. Somehow in session I have been able to dig deeper and let some feelings come up, and while the content of what we have been dealing might not be trauma memories it still isn’t easy at all. Oh, I should probably trigger warning this for mention/discussion of a suicide attempt (I was 16, and I’m not having those feelings in my present day life at all). 

Today is Kat’s birthday, but she won’t be up for long before I get home, so I didn’t think I needed to cancel therapy. I walk into Bea’s office right on time.

“Good morning,” I say as I sit down on the sofa. 

“Good morning,” Bea says back. She settles down in her chair, too.

We start out by talking about Kat’s birthday and the plans we have for the day. I tell Bea how I made Kat home made Oreo poptarts (whole what flour, no white refined sugar, less sugar over all, no weird chemical ingredients) because Kat really wanted poptarts for breakfast but I won’t buy poptarts. I tell her about the birthday scavenger hunt I planned for Kat and her best friend who is coming over later.

 Bea lets me talk until I run out of chatter. She’s interested, and she is chatting, too, but when it is clear I have run out of chatter, she turns to me. “I don’t want to put you in a rough place when you have all this great stuff going on today…….” 

“It’s okay. Somehow I’ve been able to hold it all in between…..I don’t know, but I’ve been okay.” And it’s true. I’ve mostly been okay, too much in the moment to really be bothered by the past, and things that come up go into my notebook and then I’m usually okay again. 

She nods. “Did you do bring any writing?”

“I just wrote real quick last night, because I wanted to explain why I lost my door the second time, I just couldn’t say it so…….” I hand her the notebook. 

Bea flips through it, picks up reading where she had left off before. “This makes sense,” she tells me.

Why I lost my door? Yeah, I know it makes sense. I nod. “Yeah.” 

Bea looks as if she is confused for a moment, as if she is thinking and trying to make sense of something. Then she says, “I had just read the blue writing, from last week? About the house and the walls? How some times it keeps stuff in and sometimes keeps stuff out? You were elaborating on our analogy that asking you to stop dissociating was like taking away the walls to your house.”

“Oh! Okay.” I’m surprised, because I had thought I still wasn’t making sense as I was writing that all out. 

“It’s really good, it makes a lot of sense.” 

I feel…..I don’t know. Pleased? Something good, from having my explanation complimented and understood when I had thought it was crap. 

Bea finishes reading. “I have a lot of questions,” she says. 

“Okay,” I say, uncertain.

“We’ve never really talked about this, that’s all,” she says. 

“Oh, right. Okay.” 

“Why was taking your door a consequence? I’m not understanding why it was a consequence of a suicide attempt. Or really that it needed a consequence.” Bea is truly baffled. 

“It’s because….Kenny….he had come by….I was sitting in the window…….”

“He kisses you.” She says.

I nod. “And then…..I don’t know….but…well.”

I am far away now. Bea asks something about the Kenny thing. I don’t know. She wants to know if I still wanted to marry Kenny or if I was more into other boys at that point. Did I have crushes or like other boys then or was I still thinking of Kenny as Prince Charming? I didn’t have a crush on anyone. I was just numb when it came to that stuff. I thought something must be wrong with me. So I pretended. I got really good at pretending crushes. I don’t say any of this to her. I can’t get any words out. 

Bea realizes I’m far away and hiding and scared. She gets up and grabs my blanket. She hands it to me. “In case this might help.” 

I unfold it quickly and hide under the blanket. “I’m sorry.” I whisper. I feel like I’m weak, hiding under a blanket because a conversation scares me.

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for.”

“Okay.” 

“How long after that did you hurt yourself?” As she is saying that, she shakes her head. “No, let’s call it what it is. How long after that did you attempt suicide?

“That night. It was that night. Late. I dunno.” 

“Did you tell your parents? What happened?” Bea asks.

“I….there was so much blood. I was scared. I….I think I just showed them.”

“How did they react?” 

“My mom………she was…….mad…..so mad. My dad…..he wrapped my wrists. We went to the ER. I got stitches.” I look down, at my wrists. I have faint scars there, still. 

“At the hospital, do you remember anyone nice? Anyone who was kind to you?” She asks me.  

I can’t figure out why it matters, but I answer her question, anyway. “A lady, maybe a nurse? I don’t know. It’s foggy.”

Bea says, “Maybe a nurse, maybe a social worker. Hospitals usually have social workers in the ER for things like that.”  

“Maybe.” I agree. “I was so thirsty, she got me a lemonade. And I feel like she cared about me, not about what I had done. I don’t know.”

Bea says something about how that is good, it is good there was someone kind there. I wonder if she asked just because she cares and had wanted at least one kind person there for me. She says how even though the parts of me didn’t know about each other or share knowledge about Kenny, clearly what had happened in the present day to teen Alice triggered another part that just needed to get away from the feelings or the memories. She sees a clear link between Kenny and the abuse and that suicide attempt. 

I shrug, “People asked me why but I just said I don’t know. But the thing is, I was so separated, Kenny wasn’t part of that. I just….I really don’t think I knew.” (As a matter of fact, I really didn’t know until after Bea and I were working together).

“No, of course you didn’t know! You had no idea. You were overwhelmed and scared and traumatized but had no idea why.” 


To be continued……..

We go on to discuss the shrinky shrink, and you can find that in part two of this post. 

I lost my door

Wednesday morning, and Bea and I are talking about school, and how at most schools, it’s the teacher that makes all the difference. We are just chatting, casually, discussing Kat and possible options for school this year.

“I never really had a bad teacher in elementary school,” I say to Bea. “My second grade teacher maybe didn’t teach things the best, but she retired the year after I finished second grade, so she was just sort of done, I think. And my fourth grade teacher didn’t believe me about how much I’d read for reading month, so I didn’t win first place. She thought I had lied, but I didn’t. My dad talked to the teacher and she apologized to me in front of the class and I won first place” 

“Were you upset that she didn’t believe you? Did she call your parents or did you tell them?” Bea asks. 

“Hmmmm…..I don’t remember feeling bad or angry or shamed when she didn’t believe me. I just remember my dad sticking up for me and my teacher apologizing.” I look down at the ground. Stupid spotty memory. 

“So, you remember the good parts. You remember your Dad sticking up for you and your teacher apologizing. That’s okay, I’m glad you remember the good parts, that is a positive thing.” 

“Okay,” I shrug. 

“So, I guess that this version of your Dad seems more involved than I had been picturing. I always pictured your Dad as off to the sidelines, with your mom more front and center,” Bea tells me.

“Well, he was involved, but like…..I don’t know. He helped with math homework, but that’s like something my mom can’t like really do like all that good. You know?” 

“Did your mom delegate things for him to do? Like helping with homework?” She suggests. 

I nod. “Yes, exactly. She would like tell him what to do when it like came to us kids.” 

“He was more present than I originally pictures…..” Bea says slowly, carefully, “Do you think he was aware of things going on?” 

I don’t talk for a long time. It’s as if I’ve tripped and can’t find my feet under me. I finally find a few words. I shake my head. “Nooooooo….No. I don’t. I can’t. I mean. I hope. Because if…I just. No.” 

“Okay,” Bea says. (I’m not sure I’ve given anyone a good picture of my Dad. He’s closed off emotionally, but not because he is shut down emotionally. I fully believe he is on the spectrum somewhere; he is a typical engineer. A good friend of mine described my Dad as “extremely socially awkward, but much more real than your mom.” My dad is okay at formal events, meetings, gatherings because there are set rules for those. He simply comes off as very shy. More casual gatherings, however, he doesn’t talk or interact a lot. He also sticks with my mom, and she will do the social navigating. He’s very protective of me. I think in his way, he might accept me for me.)

“He was always calmer than my mom. Like I’d be so mad at her, and not allowed to say anything or feel, so I’d walk away and slam my door. She took my door away because I slammed it. I’m not sure my dad would have taken it if my mom hasn’t told him to.” 

“That’s just such an invasion of your privacy, of your space. It’s not allowing you to set a boundary.” Bea is angry, so on my side over this. She hates that my door was taken away from me. 

I shrug. “I knew the rules and chose not to follow them.”

She pokes at that. “Is there shame there? Anger? What feelings were there then? What about now?” 

I start to go away. Bea notices, asks, “Is there too much feeling here? Is that why you are far away?” 

She’s using the chart I drew, she noticed the moment I went away, and she knew exactly why. I can’t handle all the feelings. I nod, slowly. 

“This seems to be linked to some thing.” Bea says. “It’s causing a strong reaction, big feelings, even though your affect and your words are saying it’s no big deal.” 

I shake my head. “No….I’m not sure why all the feelings. I knew the rules, I broke them, I lost my door. It’s not like I hadn’t been warned. I didn’t like it, you know, but it was my fault.” 

“And there’s no anger there?” 

“No, I just…no.” I sigh. I don’t even remember being mad at the time.

“Okay. I think there’s a part of me that is thinking how terrible that would be as a teen and how icky it would feel to not have a boundary you set be listened to. I’m mad for you.” Bea laughs. She is angry for me, but it’s. It scary because she can laugh at herself and she isn’t out of control. I wonder if this is what it means to feel anger and to hold it?

After a long pause, Bea asks me how long my door was gone for. 

“A week, I think. So not so long.” I tell her. Why are we talking about this? And why am I struggling to stay present? Ugh. 

Not much later, sort of out of the blue, I say to her “I lost my door a second time.” 

“Were you older or close to the same age as the first time?” She asks. I appreciate how I can say something a little random and Bea will just go with it, acting as if it is the most normal conversation in the world. 

“A little older, I think.” I can’t say more, and I’m going far, far away, as far as I can. 

Bea validates feelings, reassures safety, tells me I don’t have to do anything. Then she asks if I would be willing to step back from the feelings just a little bit? She doesn’t want me to feel like she is using her new knowledge of my dissociation against me. I nod. She asks me about my safe places as a teenager?

I tell her, in starts and stops, in the disjointed language of dissociation. “My grandma’s kitchen, Grandpa’s truck and Grandpa’s boat. My aunt’s barn.” Safe places, yes, but it’s the people who mattered. 

“Did you ride at her barn?” Bea asks. 

“Yes.” 

“Was it a big barn? How many horses did she have?” 

“Just 3. Not a real big barn.” I mumble. 

“Did you find it difficult to be firm with the horses?” Bea sounds genuinely curious. 

“Maybe….at first. But then….my aunt, she pushed me to be stronger and I learned to be strong with them.” 

“That’s a really empowering thing, to have such a big strong animal listen to you and to be able to stand up to the horse, also having your aunt believe in you and push you to be firmer.”

I shrug. I think how my mother hated my love of riding, and maybe my love of my aunt. I think she was jealous. I’m not sure.

We somehow slowly return to they why of the second time I lost my door. 

“I lost my door again. That sounds funny,” I tell Bea. 

“It does sound a little funny,” she agrees. “Do you want to talk about what happened with the door?” 

I don’t say anything, but I think about how my door was taken after my suicide attempt. The therapist at the time told my parents I was acting out, throwing a temper tantrum. They took my door to avoid any more temper tantrums. “Being a drama queen won’t get you attention. There are consequences for our actions.” I can still hear my mother’s voice when I found my door taken away. I can’t tell Bea. She’s already knows about that suicide attempt, about Kenny walking by while I sat in the window. She already knows everything, except the door part. It wasn’t relevant when we discussed this memory before. It should be easier to tell her, she already knows, but it isn’t any easier to say the words. It’s an ugly memory. 

“Do I know about this thing?”

I nod. 

“Is it something we have talked about?” 

I nod. 

“Will I remember it?”

“I think so. I guess I don’t know for sure. But I think so,” I say.

“Is it a teen behavior or a coping strategy parents might not like?”

“I feel like that’s a hard question,” I say. I hurt myself, yes, but I don’t think those coping strategies include suicide attempts. I don’t know. I’m sad. My feelings feel really hurt. Thankfully Bea feels here and with me today.  

“Okay. You don’t have to share today, we can talk about it when you are ready. You don’t have to talk about anything until it feels safe to do so,” Bea reminds me. 

I nod, “Okay.” We sit in quiet and then we talk a bit more about my safe places. 

“I’m just really glad you had those safe places and people. It made me sad to think of teenage Alice not having anyone. That’s such a hard time. Socially, she had to be perfect and then at home she had all the feelings coming out, and she wasn’t allowed to have those feelings. That is such a tough time anyway, and then all of that on top of it. I’m so glad she had safe places.” Bea continues, “I know with your aunt it can be hard because she left, and that hurt a lot, but I’m glad you had her when you needed her.” 

“She really didn’t hurt me. She left. I don’t even think about it anymore. And I needed her that first year of college with the boyfriend but she was gone.” I’m snappy, and irritated. Of course it hurt when she left. It still hurts. But I’m not about to admit that right now. There’s been too much brought up, and with none of it resolved, I can’t bring up more. 

“Well, maybe we should talk about that and process it,” She suggests. 

“Or we could not talk about it,” I reply, in a bit of a sing song tone. 

“Okay.” Bea says. 

“I might…I might just write about the door….it’s just easier to write.” I say. 

“You can do that. Oh, I didn’t forget about finishing your notebook and talking about it. This just seemed to be important today. I could see how hard you were working to stay with the feelings and sit with that uncomfortable feeling without going too far away. You worked really hard, I know that wasn’t easy.” 

“I tried,” I whisper. I’m embarrassed for some reason, and just want to downplay it.

“You did really good.” She tells me. It’s a nice way to end a session, and I feel a little more connected to her than I have been, so I leave feeling a little more grounded.