Finding Independence

Most people begin to find independence as teenagers. I found it at age 22, when I moved 3 hours away from home.

It was the summer of 2005. I was 21. I’d been living back home, with my parents for almost 2 years; since that day Kay called my mom and told her of the mess I was making out of my life. I’d left my abusive college boyfriend, but things had fallen apart even farther from that point. By the time my parents came to drag me back home, I was deep in the grip of eating disordered behavior, self injury was a daily occurrence, I had overdosed multiple times, and poor Kay was worn out and on the brink of a nervous breakdown just trying to keep me alive. But I had just turned 20, and I couldn’t see that, then. So, I left without saying goodbye, and ignored texts and phone calls for the next year and a half.

The drive home that day was a special kind of hell. My mom, angry with me for failing yet again, not even able to look at me from the front seat. My dad, no emotion on his face, silent, driving home. Me, in the backseat, with some of my crap, crying. I was lectured the entire way home about how I was ruining my life. The two lines that stick in my head the most are my mom’s cries of, “You had such a bright future, you were so smart.” As if at age 20, I had flunked out of life, and destroyed any hope of ever having any kind of future. And the other one, a question, asked in anger, “How could you do this to me?”

Once home, my mom moved fast. By the end of the week, I had a therapist, a nutritionist, and an eating disorders group to attend. And so started yet another journey of my parents directing my life, and me attempting to allow the shrinks to fix me. I’m not sure that the goal of being fixed was ever sufficiently met, but I did get better enough to build a facade of being whole and healed.

I announced I wanted to go to school to do hair one night. It was a whim, really, but seemed fun, and I had found a school near the university Kay was now attending, 3 hours away from our hometown. I thought my parents would lose it. They were shocked and slightly horrified. So I persisted. Eventually, they relented. An interview was set up for me to try to get into the school. I’m not sure my parents expected me to be accepted, and yet I was. So, I was enrolled at school. An apartment near school was found. My stuff was packed up, yet again, and a moving van filled. My parents moved me into my apartment at the end of July. School started in September.

At first, I was lonely. I had never lived alone before, and I had never lived more than 45 minutes from my parents. But then, I started to feel like I could be anyone, do anything. When school started, it wasn’t long before I knew I wanted this to be my career, and not just some passing whim before I went back to “real school”– as my mom and dad called it. Being so far away afforded me a level of safety in telling them that I was going to apply to one of the major hair companies when I finished school. It felt as though their freak outs and disappointments couldn’t touch me.

During the time I was in school, I met the man who became my husband. It was a set up, a friend from school wanted me to meet a friend of hers she had gone to high school with. We ended up actually having things to talk about, and although he didn’t ask for my number at the end of the night, he did ask our mutual friend for it the next day.

That was the beginning of my dating the first safe guy I ever dated (well, unless you count my high school boyfriend who went to my church and who wanted to become a pastor when he grew up). That relationship was strange to me; I couldn’t figure out what Hubby-before-he-was-hubby wanted from me. I think in some ways, I kept dating him to try to figure that out.

All of these things– being far away from my parents, taking a job I wanted that they didn’t really approve of, dating a good guy– made me feel independent and free of the stress and ugliness from life before. It was easy to split my life into two parts, the before out here, and out here parts. But, these things laid the ground work, the foundation, for my safety to be in therapy and confronting all the issues and ugliness of my past that I’m confronting now. I guess, in some ways, I’m attempting to integrate the splits I created in my life.

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.”

Why I got upset in Monday’s Session

After therapy on Monday, I was really doing a lot of thinking about why I had gotten so upset, so quickly. While crying and grieving over some of what my parents had not been able to give me was healing, I still wanted to know what had set those tears off to begin with. So, as I drove home, I thought about it. When I got home, I journaled. And then, as I cleaned up the house, I thought some more. I did eventually figure out what led to my reaction, and proud of myself for figuring it out, I emailed Bea.

Hi Bea,

Well, the dishes are out of the oven, and in the dishwasher. 🙂 Cleaning up gave me plenty of time to think, which led to this:

I figured out why I was so upset when you said I had been doing so good not picking, when in fact I was picking at that very moment and had been all weekend. It wasn’t really that, or at least it wasn’t all because of that, not even mostly because of that— it was just the final thing that was too much. So I had to hide my face and cry.

I was feeling guilty over feeling so bad about my parents not being there, talking about my mom and for being so mad at her and hurt by her, like I have no right to be so upset….like I’m being a drama queen and negating the fact that I had it good. Kind of like my mom is right; nothing satisfies me, I am too needy.

I was thinking about taking that sweater back, and realized I wouldn’t really be able to. It’s from a “skinny girl store”, and I can’t walk in there and exchange the small sweater for a bigger size, even with Hubby doing the talking. That’s an internal, silent panic attack just waiting to happen. I can’t do it. I was thinking what you were saying sounded nice– take back a sweater, be fine with me, with my size, my body, ext, whatever. And I was thinking that was some kind of fairy tale. I hate the ways I think sometimes, and that’s new, that’s different for me, but it doesn’t change how I think. That’s so ingrained, I practically was taught to think this way from the time I was little. How can that even be changed? The sad truth is that my thoughts regarding food and body size and weight and eating aren’t really different than they were 10 years ago. Or 15 years ago.

So those things were at the front of my mind, plus the idea of trying to put into perspective/accept/grieve/ the idea that my parents were not able to be there emotionally, that they had a set of standards I had to meet to be loved. And the new perspective on what really happened with Him when I was a child– the r word. Those things were swirling around in my head.

And then you said I was doing good at something that I was actually not doing good at; at least not at that moment, and that was just too much to handle. (And I hate this, because it means talking about relationships and admitting closeness or something, and I don’t do those things.) It gave me the feeling of not meeting the expectations, the standards, of being a disappointment.
I was just too overwhelmed with everything else to add that on top of it. And I was waiting to be “scolded” or lectured or made to feel guilty, or something—- all my whining and drama queen freakouts, and now I screwed this up and am picking again? I was just waiting to be made to feel guilty for this.

So that’s what happened.

I feel like I put a lot of rules on you, and I’m sorry. It’s not that you can’t talk about the relationship piece because I’m being difficult. It’s because it scares the crap out of me. I’m trying. I’m trying not to be so freaked out by people and trusting them and being close to them. And then talking about it. Why do we need to talk about it?


I sent this email Monday, late afternoon, before the fight with Hubby. Bea didn’t answer the email right away, in fact, I didn’t receive a response until Tuesday morning. Of course, not hearing back quickly sent me into a tailspin, because I had admitted I felt like I had disappointed her. If you are upset that you disappointed someone, then you care about their opinion. If you care about their opinion, then you must care about them, need them. Which means, I had basically admitted to needing Bea, to being close to her, to trusting her. I was freaked beyond words when she had not responded, sure I had done something wrong. (And, hating myself for feeling like that)

Of course, her response was thoughtful, and real, and calmed me.


Well the fact that what I was saying–about taking back the sweater, feeling empowered to be who you are, etc.–sounded nice is a very good thing! If it sounded nice maybe it would be a good thing to think more about? Like what’s really standing in the way of that? What makes it just a fairy tale?

I just ordered some books on having a healthier relationship with food and our bodies–for people with all kinds of issues from eating too much to eating too little. They should be arriving soon–I’m excited! Maybe we will find some helpful ways to think about this and work on it more. Two are workbooks, one is about soothing without food, and one is just a regular book, I think.

All of those things that you said were swirling around in your head are big and hard to wrap your head around. I’m sure they will continue to swirl until they kind of settle into perspective in your “story” and lose their emotional punch.

I so wanted to take back saying anything about the picking! But it caused you to think about your reaction, so it was actually good–that is the thing–everything that happens to us causes both positive and negative things to occur as a result. The same with your parents and the things they put on you. There are positives–you do accomplish a lot and are very capable. There are negatives–we are dealing with those now. Nothing is really ever just black and white, bad or good–there’s almost always another perspective.

What you are considering “rules” for me are all about you feeling safe, which is very understandable. Why do we need to talk about it? Well, if we don’t, from time to time, it’s no different than not talking about things in your family growing up, right? This is a new way. I brought it up yesterday just to point out the parallels. I know it’s uncomfortable–feels risky and unsafe. And unnatural in some ways, but it can be very helpful.


I didn’t have a response to her email, partly because Hubby and I had a fight, and partly because the things she asked I’m still trying to answer.

Flashback Sunday

please read with caution for this post as references to sexual abuse and PTSD symptoms

Sunday 2:00am I’m not sleeping yet. Why am I not asleep? I really need to sleep.

Sunday 4:00 am I wake, with a start, my heart pounding, anxiety sky rocketing, something is wrong. But, nothing is wrong. Everything is fine. And it’s only been 2 hours since the last time I checked the clock.

Sunday 5:40 am half awake, half asleep, and the flashback hits me. It’s not fully a dream, not fully a flashback because I’m still in bed, still laying in the dark. This isn’t a new memory, and yet it is. It’s new because there’s more. Gaps filled in, and sound is added– in peices. Snapshots flash by, and emotions overwhelm. Physical memories hit me, full force. Everything at once. I’m frozen there, unable to move out of it, terrified and alone. I’m small. I can’t do anything, I have no power. I’m scared. I need to do everything right. I just need to make it okay, please him, follow directions. Oh God, I’m so scared. Why can’t I just do it right? He’s so much bigger. I have to listen. He’s nice to me, he does nice things, he is not mean. He says I’m a good girl.


I’m jolted from the flashback as Hubby’s alarm goes off. His alarm is the loudest, most annoying alarm you ever heard.

Hubby gets up, and I resort to all my tricks for grounding. Lavender. Mints. Looking in the mirror and telling myself I’m an adult, I am 31 years old and it’s 2014 and I’m safe. Eventually I resort to hiding under the covers.

When Hubby leaves for work, I stuff my face with ice cream while I make a cup of coffee without even realizing it. Once I realize it, I eat more ice cream. And then I run for the bathroom. I’m stupid. Gross. Bad. I’ve ruined everything. I’m evil. Terrible. Corrupt. I throw up the ice cream. Again and again, until I know it’s all gone. Some of the pressure is received, it’s better. I’m better. I might be able to face the day. I’m still bad.

Then, I shower. I stay in the shower until Kat gets up. I feed her breakfast, play with her, maybe cuddle. I don’t know. I don’t remember. I was too dissociated.

When the Nanny shows up, I go back in the bath tub. I’m dirty, I’m gross, I need to bathe. I end up frozen and unable to move, and I stay in the tub almost all day. I’m crazy. Literally, crazy. Who does that? It’s not normal. People don’t spend hours in the bath because they feel dirty and then get frozen and can’t get out. It’s not normal.

Later, I write in my journal about it, including an attempt to write about the memory. I plan to give it to Bea on Momday. Except I don’t give it to her on Momday, because I can’t face the memory. And I don’t tell her I spent Sunday in the bathtub because I am afraid she will think I’m insane.

The email about the body image talk

if you have an eating disorder, this could be a triggering post. I am talking about the roots of my ED, the childhood beliefs, memories I have of my body image and thoughts associated with food even then. Please read with caution, and as always, be safe.

After therapy on Thursday, I couldn’t quite get all the body image thoughts and questions out of my head. I couldn’t get the examples and the memories out of my head from childhood.

I managed to shut it down, and get through hubby’s awards dinner. I smiled, and chatted. Several people complimented me on my dress, my hair, my earrings, how Hubby’s yellow tie and dress shirt coordinated beautifully with my kelly green dress without being too matchy-matchy. I acted my part, and everyone believes I enjoyed myself. I can be charming and witty. I’m actually intelligent and can carry on a conversation with just about anybody; it’s why I did so well as a hair colorist, and why I was able to really reach people to help us get the votes needed to get the autism insurance added to hubby’s work. I am so proud of Hubby; that wasn’t an act. He works harder than anyone I know, and he cares more, too. He deserved to be recognized, and honored.

Thursday night, we stayed at the hotel, and in the middle of the night, I used the hot tub in our room when I couldn’t sleep. And I started to journal the thoughts swirling in my head. I journaled pages and pages worth. Friday was more journaling as we drove home– along with a rest stop for some shopping (because I needed clothes, and shoes, of course).

And then on Saturday, I cleaned it all up, and emailed it to Bea:

Hi Bea,

I think I’m ready to talk about some of the eating and body image stuff. I say “think” because it’s a scary thing to me. But I guess anything that has to do with me and my feelings is scary.

I know I didn’t like myself, even as a child. I’ve always, really deep down blamed my parents for that, because don’t kids just like themselves? But maybe not. I don’t know. I feel like the more honest I am with myself about my life, the more confused I am, too. I always assumed it had to do with feeling like I was never good enough for my parents, or that they did not love me for me. Now, I really wonder of it had to do with the sexual abuse, or my personality, or a combination? Whatever it was, I have specific memories, as well as an overall feeling of there never really being a time where I liked myself.

Memories I have– some of these came to mind when you were talking on Thursday, but it was too much to even think about talking about this stuff last week. I needed to get through Hubby’s awards dinner, and that meant not thinking too much about body image or how I really feel about me, or how I felt about myself when I was a kid.

*kindergarten: when the letter people q and u got married, I remember being just so excited (we had a “wedding” at school that day) but not talking to anyone about it partly because I didn’t feel like anyone really cared about what I had to say anyway and partly because I wanted to disappear and hide– like I really didn’t want anyone to notice me

*First grade: I hated having to line up, and having people be so close to me. I remember crying in line when someone bumped into me and then being embarrassed that I would be so stupid to cry over that when no one else cared, but at the same time hating that another person had touched me

*Summer before 2nd grade: I read “Harriet the Spy” and decided that my mom would like Harriet better than me, so I tried to be just like Harriet. I even ate BLT sandwiches everyday for lunch just like Harriet, except I fed the bacon to our dog because bacon makes you fat and I did not want to get fat.

*Second grade: I remember trying to change one of my marks on a progress report before giving it to my parents because it was not perfect. I don’t remember what the marks were, if I changed it, or what happened. I simply remember the desperate feeling that I had not done good enough and could not let them know I had failed because they wouldn’t love me anymore

*When I read “the babysitters club” books, I was always trying to figure out which babysitter would be the best one to copy, who my parents would like best, who would make everyone happy with me? (And I read those in 2nd and 3rd grades)

*I have a memory of my mom doing my hair, maybe 3rd or 4th grade and I am looking at our faces side by side in the bathroom mirror. I remember thinking my face was fat and not pretty, that I did not look like my mom at all.

*I remember thinking my mom probably would have liked me to look more like my cousin– who I saw as thin and pretty– and I wished I looked like her too. (Now, when I look back at pictures of us at dance or at the pool, or family functions, we are the same size, or at least we appear to be)

*It was 3rd grade when I started skipping and limiting what I ate, 4th grade when I really began to skip lunch as a routine thing.

*It was 5th grade when I threw up for the first time. I got caught a year or so later, after lunch, by the school guidance councilor. And that’s how I ended up in therapy for the “issues”.

*My mom always dictated my clothing, what was and wasn’t appropriate. Eventually, I had an opinion, but I never “over rode” her opinion. Even when she decided I was old enough to wear makeup, she took me to have my makeup done professionally, to be taught how to wear makeup, and then bought me nice makeup. I wasn’t allowed to go buy “cheap trashy” makeup with my friends or wear the bright blues and purples and greens they sometimes wore. I had to look nice, look the “right” way.

I hate my body now. I could probably criticize and pick apart any part of my body, it’s really just that awful. I try not to even think about it, because I hate the way I feel about it. It’s not a nice feeling. I’ve hated my body for as long as I can remember. I think it’s good that you see me as comfortable with my body. That’s exactly the image I am trying so hard to be, to show Kat. It seems that I’ve got it. I feel like I say this all the time, and I’m embarrassed to be saying it again, but it’s just an act, one that is so second nature by now it’s on auto-pilot. I can’t let Kat grow up like I did, and so I try my best to show her someone who is comfortable with their body. I don’t usually say anything about it though. And I’m afraid if we start talking about body image, then I might not be able to fake my way through pretending to be okay with myself, and then what?

I have other memories, thoughts, ext but those are the ones that came to mind. This isn’t going to be easy to talk about. And even though I’m saying let’s talk about it, I want to maybe work on the eating and body image stuff and all the things twisted up with that, I’m sure I’ll need help talking. Because this is a hard topic, and I just don’t know where to start. Which is why I decided to start with an email. 🙂


Bea emailed back, and that was that. Food, eating and body image were on the table as acceptable topics for the therapy room.

Body image

One minute we are talking about Hubby’s awards dinner tonight, and how I don’t really want to go, but that I will, and Bea is using this as an example of when CBT can be a useful tool– because she believes that CBT is a tool, not a be all end all, it does not get to the root of the issue. And the next minute we are talking about body image. Or rather, Bea is talking body image, and I am sitting, frozen, unable to speak, trying to figure out how we got to this subject, and how I can get away from it quickly.

“At least both my dresses fit.” That’s what I had said.

“Do you like to dress up?” Bea asks me.

“I don’t know…”

“Well, do you feel good about dressing up? Pretty? You always look put together, dressed cute, stylish, your hair is always done, you always look nice. I know you say you just throw clothes on, but you always present yourself well. So you must go shopping to buy clothes. What’s that like? We’ve never really talked about body image, how you see yourself, with the eating, I’ve never thought to bring that up… carry yourself well, look confident….what do you think about your body image?”

Bea is talking, and I’m shrinking into myself, trying to go as far away as I can. I don’t want to talk about this, I don’t want to break down the facade of confidence and put togetherness and prettiness I have managed to build over the years. I’m a great faker. I need for Kat to see a woman who likes herself, bumps, and wrinkles, zits, moles, and all. As a girl, she is going to get enough negative messages about herself and her body from society. It doesn’t need to start at home, with her mom. So I have worked from the moment we started trying to get pregnant to really build this persona of liking my outer appearance. That facade is strong now, and so in place, I don’t even have to think about it; it is on auto pilot.

“Alice, I think this is a hard topic for a lot of women, not just you. Do you remember being a kid and liking your body? A lot of times it’s not until puberty that girls start to dislike their bodies. It’s harder to say with the sexual abuse, though. Do you remember? Girls usually like their bodies because they can run, climb trees, jump, do things. And you were active, right?”

“Dance, ballet, jazz, tap, horse back riding, cheerleading, gymnastics,” I list out the activities my mother had me in.

“I don’t think I knew about the gymnastics. You were busy, that’s a lot of activities.” Bea says.

“It was what my mom wanted. I only liked the horse back riding.” I say.

“What did you like about it?”

I shake my head, I don’t know. I can’t explain. It just felt right, like I belonged, like I was okay.

Bea talks about how a lot of trauma therapy patients make a connection with horses for whatever reason, so she isn’t surprised that as a child, that was the activity I liked. “Have you ever thought about going back to riding, now, as an adult?”

I shake my head again, no, I don’t know, probably not. There are too many bad memories associated with riding now, too many expectations, too many shoulds, and not good enoughs. But I don’t explain.

“Do you remember liking your body as a kid? Liking food? Or was there already too much pressure from your mom?”

I don’t know. My memories are so vague, so not there. They are more feelings than memories, and that makes me feel crazy, too.

“Bad memories, I think. They don’t feel good.”

“Your grandpa sneaking you candy, that’s a good memory about food,” Bea reminds me.

“Yes, my grandpa, and my grandma, they didn’t have weird food things…..” I’m silent for a minute, trying to grasp a vague memory, it’s like a ghost of a memory, one that’s barely there, “I have this vague memory…… grandma cooking breakfasts, after I would stay the night…’s just a feeling, really……..a feeling that no one cared what I ate.”

“Ahhhh, yes. The feeling stayed with you, even of the details are lost. The feeling that no one cared what you ate at grandma and grandpa’s house, meaning at home, someone did care,” Bea says. She gets it, she understands what I was trying to say, what the barely there memory means to me.

“What about the body image stuff? Do you think yours started to change around puberty?” She asks me, again.

I stare at the floor, at the fluffy blue rug. It’s a bright blue. I’m not sure. I don’t know. What I do remember seems too embarrassing to say out loud. I finally say, “I didn’t like myself before then.” But I don’t offer any explanations.

Bea doesn’t ask, or if she does, I don’t hear her. I’m back in my head, far away. I can’t face the body image talk, or how I really feel about myself. I don’t want to know, or think about it. I want to pretend it’s not real, that we never touched on this subject. I know Bea won’t let me do so for long, but right now, I can’t face this. I need to keep my facade firmly in place. I have an event tonight. I need to smile, and be pretty; I need to be charming and pleasant. I need to have my carefully constructed persona in order to do so, which means Bea can not begin tearing her down today.

A slip and a fall

I slipped, and then, I fell. Literally, and figuratively.

I’ve been struggling lately. All my trauma stuff has been front and center in therapy, and in my mind. So Bea has had us back off, and we haven’t been talking about it. It’s still there, though. The nightmare, that is really a memory, has become flashbacks during the day. I’m a mess of feeling emotions and struggling to be present and then locking myself away in my head and going through the motions. I spend whole days not even sure what I have really said or done, but pretty sure I played my “role” well. In that same vein, I am overly aware of what I have eaten, or not eaten, and when the last time I hurt myself or purged was.

Friday, I realized that in a week, it’s my birthday. Normally, this would bring about plan making, and excitement, and hints to hubby, and all manner of things involving celebrating my birthday for the next week. This year, though, all I can think is that my Grandpa is not here. You see, my birthday falls on the 24th of October. Grandpa’s falls on the 23rd. I’ve always celebrated my birthday with him. Last year, he was sick, and it was the last birthday we had together.

I still have not really said good-bye. I don’t know how. I cried after our birthday, when hubby drove us back home, knowing deep in my heart that when my grandparents left for their Florida home, Grandpa wouldn’t be coming back. I cried when my mom called and said he had passed, then I shut it down and stayed up all night, cleaning. I spoke at his service. But I have not said good bye.

On Friday, I realize it’s birthday week. I don’t want to think about this, and so I binge, without even realizing it. And then, inevitably come the “What the hell have you done? You’ve ruined everything, you have no control,” thoughts, and I have to lock myself in the bathroom and purge. No one is home, so it’s okay. After, because I’ve throughly, carefully thrown up everything, I feel terrible and dizzy.

Kat wants to go to the pool when she gets home, and I think this is a good idea. Hubby has a weird work schedule this week, and needs to sleep to go back into work tonight. So off to the pool we go, where I end up slipping and falling.

I’ve now spent the weekend sore and with a monster headache from the slip and fall at the pool, and starving myself back into control because I need to be in control this week. Did I mention hubby has a very important award he has won, for the entire state, and that the dinner and ceremony is on the 23rd? I really, really need to be in control. He’s so excited and proud he hasn’t even realized what that day means to me. I feel lost, and trapped. I want out, I want to run, to hide, to not be here right now.

Working towards safety

this post is all about eating disorders, and may be very triggering if you have or have had an eating disorder. Please read with caution

I’m curled up, knees to my chest, head down. It’s Thursday, and Bea is talking about Eating Disorders.

“That conference I went to, really focused viewing eating disorders a little differently. It’s what we were talking about a little in our email. With the eating disorder behaviors never really healing completely until the trauma is processed.”

I don’t say anything, but I’m thinking. I’m thinking back to all the years of eating disorder therapy; all the cognitive behavior therapy combined with talk therapy, therapists who specialized in eating disorders, group therapies, weigh-ins with nurses at my doctors office, diagnosis of bulimia, anorexia, eating disorder not otherwise specified, I’m thinking of pretending to get better but never really stopping my behaviors.

“This is why my behaviors never stopped?” I ask, quietly, tentatively. I’m unsure I want to go here, to do this.

“That’s my theory,” Bea says, “Since the trauma wasn’t addressed there was no real way to get better, right? I mean, the healthy part of you kept getting healthier and developing into a competent adult, but the frozen in time parts of you remained untouched. It’s sort of like having a ball of kryptonite in your gut exerting influence over you no matter how hard you try to live your life and pretend it’s not there.”

I nod my head, it makes sense. It’s why I got better, but not. It’s why I was able to function, but continuer my behaviors in a very secret, hidden way. I

“I think you have to make a choice, here,” Bea tells me, “You made one, when you kept working so hard to get your message to me that you weren’t okay, that you aren’t eating and cutting everyday. You decided that wasn’t okay to be doing.”

I’m silent, but she’s right. When I told her, I has decided this wasn’t okay, that I needed help before I fell all the way down the rabbit hole of this eating disorder. Now that it’s out, though, I don’t really know if I want to be pulled out of this rabbit hole.

“I think you have to decide if you want to stop, you have to really be ready. There were a lot of good ideas at this conference, and I met a great eating disorder therapist that we can talk to if we need to—-”

“No. I’m not talking to someone else,” I say quickly, interrupting before she can even finish the thought. That is not happening.

“Alice. I’m not an expert in eating disorders. I know some, I can work with you, I can help, I can get you back to your standard of safety, I believe that as your trauma is processed, you won’t need your behaviors, but if and when you are ready to give this up, and reach for the dream, the goal for your life you told me about, then we made need to collaborate with someone who is an expert.”

I don’t say anything, I’m ignoring this. I don’t want to hear it. No experts, no nurtrionists, no meal plans. Nope. I don’t have a “real” eating disorder anyway, I tell myself.

“Well, when you’re ready, we can make a list of all the things the eating disorder gives you, or has given you, and all the things it has taken away from you. You could write a letter to the eating disorder, and say goodbye. I don’t think you’re ready to do that yet.”

“Not yet. I don’t know. Maybe a list. Not today,” I say. My thoughts are all confused, I having trouble thinking straight.

Bea and I talk a little more about eating disorders, my fear of Kat inheriting my issues, but also how Kat is my reason for being almost ready to stop.

As I leave, I think that on my list of negatives would be tiredness and not being able to think clearly.

So now she knows the truth about “Not okay”

On Monday, I sent Bea an email. In it, I very bluntly told her that I was “not okay” and that she needed to stop telling me I was okay; that I needed her to see past my act of being fine, that I needed to her believe me that I wasn’t okay. And then I told her I wasn’t eating, I was cutting daily. I told her I was cutting before therapy. I told her I had an all out bulimic episode last week– something I am terribly ashamed of.

I was so afraid to send this email, but I sent it. I know I need help. I don’t want to be self destructing this way. Not anymore. I want to have energy to play with my daughter. I want to sit down and eat dinner with my husband. I don’t want to feel an urgent need to run off and cut myself every time I get overwhelmed.

Bea responded kindly, and in her non-judgmental way, that we really needed to go back to symptom management and safety this week. So, when I showed up to therapy on Tuesday, it was with dread. I do not like talking about my behaviors. I don’t like picking them apart, and I don’t like talking about why. I didn’t want to hear that I should just eat, or a lecture on the damage I was doing, or listen to theories on why I cut. Nope. I didn’t want to be doing this. I wanted to keep starving, keep cutting, keep pretending I was fine. Except……I really didn’t want to do that, either.

I walked into Bea’s office feeling like a kid that is in trouble. How I hate that feeling. It’s not a good feeling. I couldn’t even get a “hello” out. I sat down, and just hid my face. I wanted to run out of there, and just go and go and go. What was I thinking? Telling her I wasn’t okay? Telling her exactly how bad things had gotten? Maybe I really was crazy.

“Hi,” Bea says, “this is going to be hard today for you, isn’t it?”

From my spot on the couch, I nod my head without looking up.

“I think it’s really important that you told me. I’m really glad you sent that email, thank you for telling me. We need to go back to working on being safe, keeping you safe.”

I don’t say anything. I can’t. I don’t want to be here. I know we need to talk about these things, I know I should pick my head up and start talking, start behaving like an adult. I’m just too tired, though. And she knows now, anyway, so what’s they point in trying to pretend?

“I do need to be able to trust that you will tell me if you have worsening symptoms. We are stirring up a lot of stuff, and we are staying on the edge of safety here, that’s a given, considering you have behaviors you have never given up or have been willing to give up. And that’s okay. But you have to communicate with me, I can’t see what is being stirred up, or what is happening on the inside. That’s why I was so glad that you reached out with your email. We can work on these things, together, okay?”

I nod again. I’m still not talking.

“I want us to make a list of behaviors that you are using the most to escape, or to feel better when things are overwhelming,” she says.

I cringe. I don’t want a list. That requires my participation. Crap.

After a while, Bea asks me what I think the number one thing I use to avoid feeling or dealing with stuff is right now. It’s an easy answer. “Not eating,” I mumble it, embarrassed and mad at myself.

“I don’t think this is rooted in a need for being a certain weight, or being a perfect size,” she tells me, “I really, really believe that this is you being in complete control of your body. You weren’t in control of your body during the abuse, and now, I think you get the feeling of you can be— ‘oh no, body, you aren’t hungry, I will not feed you, I am the one in comtrol. And we know that’s fine and well, until it doesn’t work anymore, because one day it will make you sick. I’m not going to lecture you on that, or tell you to eat. It’s not that simple. But I do think, for you, it’s the ultimate control over what you had no control over.”

I don’t say a word. I don’t react, I won’t react. Bea’s words hit me deep; maybe because she is the first therapist who knows what happened, maybe because she is the first therapist I have really ever begun to trust, whatever the reason, she seems to get it, to put into words what I can not, what I have never really been able to explain or express. I won’t tell her, I can’t tell. It seems imperative that she not know how close to home her words have hit, or true they ring in my heart.

We sit in silence for a while, again. I am struggling to get words out, to say the second thing that should go on the list.

Bea is laughing at herself. “You should be encouraged; the most disorganized therapist in the world is making a list! You love lists….maybe you are rubbing off on me……”

Finally she asks if I would rather write the list at home and bring it to her on Thursday.

I sigh. “No. Either way, you want the list, so you’ll know what’s on it.”

“I can’t help you if I don’t know, that’s all,” she tells me, “you did this before. I already know all the things you do, and about them, too. It’s okay. But if I don’t know what’s being used the most often, how can I even try to help you? That’s the only reason I want to know.”

I try to remind myself that this is Bea, who does not think I’m crazy, who usually convinces me I’m normal (for a person with a trauma history), who has never judged me, who already knows all the crap I do to myself, and all the other “crazy” things I do to try to be okay.


I can hear her pen on paper, and then she asks me if my experience is like other people who cut, “I’ve had people tell me that it almost feels good to hurt themselves, either because they feel numb, or because it makes them numb, but then there is a second part to it, almost a self care part….like you are being kind to yourself, bandaging the wound, cleaning it—”

I’m shaking my head no, because she’s wrong. This is not my experience. This might be what other cutters say, or maybe is the typical cutter experience. I don’t know. But I have heard this all before, and Bea is heading into the dangerous “shrinky things” territory. But, maybe, this is why no one has ever been able to help me before. I’ve never tried to explain it, or correct their assumptions. So, I shake my head no.

“Not your experience?” Bea asks.

I gather my courage, and then I blurt out, as fast as I can, “it’s like throwing up, without haveing to eat or puke, so it’s better.”

“Oh, oh!” She sounds like something just clicked for her, “it’s about relief, then. It’s release, for you.”

And with that, I feel like a weight is gone. I’m still hiding my face, still curled up, still tense but not as much. She got it. She understood.

“Is this why not eating and cutting go together for you?” She asks me, and I nod. “So…..don’t eat, and you have control. Cut and you have release,” she says. I nod again.

She gets it. She understands the twisted way my head works, and why I self destruct.

The list is easier after that. Bulimic behavior, running/over exercising (which I don’t really do anymore thanks to my fibro). Then I say swimming can make me feel better, but not the same as the other stuff. We add sewing, reading, playing with Kat, cooking, baking, taking care of others.

Bea wants me to spend time outdoors. I tell her I’m not an outdoors kind of girl. I used to like to sit outside and read, or take relaxing boat rides, things like that. The type of outdoors stuff you do without kids. So, no, I’m not a go for a walk outdoors kind of girl. She’s surprised by this. I get the feeling I surprise her a lot.

We talk about yoga. Bea has wanted me to try yoga for quite a while now. I’m not against the idea, but it has taken me a while to warm up to it. She suggested it, and has gently reminded me since then how much yoga could help me to be grounded and connected to my body.

“I just really want you to think about yoga. It could be another tool for you to use instead of hurting yourself,” Bea says.

I nod. I’ve talked a little this session, but not very much. Poor Bea. She doesn’t really like to talk, but somehow, with me, she gets stuck talking an awful lot.

“I really want us to try the container exercise today,” Bea says.

“Ok. But I already have a box,” I remind her.

“Right, so this should be an easy one for you. But remember, you said your lock was broken. So I want to make a new container. And fix the lock.”

I nod.

“Okay, close your eyes if it feels safe, if you like, I usually do, and take some good deep belly breathes,” Bea starts walking me through the exersise. I hate belly breathes, but they don’t trigger me like they used to. I don’t focus on them though I can’t. I focus on her voice, on the noises outside, on the fact that I am picking at my fingers. “Okay. We are going to build a container……” And so we start. In my mind, I picture a big box, dark and shadowy, strong enough to hold all the ugly inside. Bea continues, guiding though how to build the container, and then putting the ugly, the memories inside.

That’s when the anxiety kicks in. I start to feel like I have to get everything, all the ugly in the box right now. I feel like a scared little girl. I want to cry, I feel so overwhelmed, but I have to get all the memories picked up, so I can smile and be okay or nothing will ever be okay again. I have to do this right now. I’m shaking, and I’m fighting back tears. I can’t even listen to Bea, but at some point the exercise is over. I’m still lost in the anxiety and scared and the trying not to cry.

“Did that work for you? Could you follow it through? Did you make a box and lock everything inside?” Bea asks me.

I nod, it’s all I can do, because if I open my mouth to talk, I know the tears will fall, and then how will I ever explain that?

Bea is quiet for a minute. She finally says, “Did you really do it, or are you telling me you did because you think that’s the right answer? Because this doesn’t work for everyone. And that’s okay.”

The part of me that is “here” and not stuck in the scared anxious place is so thankful she knows to ask now, that she realizes I will always give what I perceive to be the “right” answer, that I can’t stop myself from pretending to be okay. It gives me the courage to think about telling the truth.

It takes me almost 5 minutes, and then I say, “I didn’t do it.” I whisper it, barely getting it out. I’m still stuck in the scared anxious place.

“Did you go somewhere? I feel like you are in a scary place,” Bea says very softy.

I shake my head no….then yes. Finally, “I don’t know, it’s a feeling. I’m anxious, scared. I want to cry. I’ve been trying not to cry.”

Bea helps me calm down, come back, get grounded. She asks me to email her later about where I was, what happened. She also says that we won’t do any more imaginative exercises; that sometimes childhood sexual abuse survivors are already too good at going away. So it’s back to working on grounding. And, as I head out the door, she tells me to really think about yoga.

Coming clean about the ED

In therapy, the subject of my eating, or not eating, and other habits, has come up. Bea has brought them up in that sneaky round-about-shrinky way. I’ve avoided it, because it makes me uncomfortable. I know I might have a problem. I know my thoughts about eating aren’t what one could call healthy. I also know that if I want Kat to learn different, I need to start behaving differently. Yet, I still avoid this topic, because I’m not so sure I’m really ready for a change.

Last weekend, I came clean. Bea and I had an email conversation in which I told all about my adult years of disordered eating. I didn’t even go near my teen years. As usual, it started with something she had asked days ago. I finally decided I might be ready to talk, if it was safe enough.

I emailed a list of questions, first. I needed to know she wasn’t going to freak out, or insist on some meal plan or that hubby know this, too so he could watch me. It took a few emails, but her general feeling seems to be that any behavior that is not immediately life threatening is a coping merchanism, and taking away a persons coping mechanism without teaching new tools is not a good idea. Also, teaching new tools does not mean replace, it means add to, but we would hope that at some point the new coping skills would begin to be chosen over the old. And, I am an adult so hubby can’t be told unless I choose. And, she would never think to have someone “watch” me, I’m not a child.

I took a deep breath, and began to email. I wrote that while I would not say I have an eating disorder, I think I don’t know what normal eating is. I tried to explain what I meant. Bea wrote back asking me if I felt comfortable, if I would write out what I normally eat in a week. That was a scary thing. It made it real. I mean, really real. It meant letting her into my crazy just a little more. I wasn’t so sure that was a great idea. I figured I was either doing this, or I wasn’t. So I wrote it up, adding a little, in here and there (yeah, bad Alice, bad!) just so it would not seem so empty, and sent that off. After of course, explaining the whole how I gained weight thing (anyone ever go through IVF? I swear they create those hormone cocktails for the sole purpose of weight gain and to make women insane).

She emailed back. She understands. She thinks we need to watch this. It does make her concerned. She would like to hear about my teen years with ED. If, and when I’m comfortable, she would like a food journal, with foods but also emotions and if I don’t have the emotion then whatever is happening that moment in time.

So now I’m keeping a food journal. I’ve made rules for the journal. Yes, rules. As though I’m 12. I sent Bea an email letting her know I would keep a journal as asked, but also that I was really afraid to give it to her. I said I needed some rules for it becasue I was feeling very out of control. She said okay to all my rules, and that she was just happy I was wiling to keep a journal for her.