Choices

This is Wednesday, 11/15’s session. It’s the session that led to all the upset and mess this last week. As you will see, a lot came up, but it was actually a good session, and I left feeling quite stable.

Even though there isn’t a lot of movement going on, this session is still very much full of SP type work, so this is another way an SP session might look (at least for Bea and I) , for those of you who are curious about it.

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“Should we start with the nightmares, start there with the sick something bad is going to happen feeling?” Bea asks, after we’ve caught up on day to day things.

I don’t say anything, only offering a shrug. I’ve moved from that adult place to little girl in an instant.

“Or we could check in with the the little girl. She looks sad.”

I still can’t find my words. Everything feels too exposed. I curl up, hiding my face.

“Maybe she’s wishing the grown up would ask for a blanket?”

“Maybe.” I whisper, refusing to ask. The grown up is not going to be pushed into helping the little girl. (Maybe that was more teen…..) Finally, I give up. Sitting here saying nothing isn’t going to help anyone. “Can I have a blanket?”

Bea gets me my blanket, and I hide under it. “Or we could start somewhere else. There are Choices, and you can make them,” she reminds me.

“I don’t like choices.” I say.

“Why not?”

“Because one will be wrong.” There’s a tone of frustration in my voice, this feeling of *why don’t you know that?*

“Where is that coming from, I wonder?” Bea asks.

“It’s spilt 1) having choices and trying to make the one my mom would want, so i don’t mess up and make her upset 2)it’s…..I don’t….ugh….it’s messy.”

“1 is very clear, and 2 is more mixed up, but you are very clear on what 1 is. Why is 2 mixed up?”

“Because. Because, it’s….it’s like I had a choice and made a bad choice.” I’m struggling to make sense of exactly what it is I’m trying to tell Bea. It’s a very mixed up feeling and it’s hard to find the words to it.

“With what?”

“Kenny. But….then…..if it….ugh.” I’m panicking a little bit.

“If what?” Bea pushes a bit.

“If I had choice then why those other memories? And now the sick feeling is back.” The words tumble out, fast, one after the other.

“The sick feeling. Where is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“How do you know you are having it? What makes you recognize it?”

“Because I had it before.” Little girl answer. She is fully running the ship at the moment.

“Yes, lots of times before.” Bea agrees.

“Yeah.”

“Where is it?” She asks again.

Silence.

“Is it in your big toe?” Her tone is light, playful.

“No.” I laugh. What a silly idea. People don’t feel things in their big toes. “In my belly. It’s…butterflies. But not, because butterflies are nice. Something not nice.”

“Butterflies are pretty aren’t they? Maybe it’s like ugly, evil butterflies?”

“Yeah.” I nod. “And it’s hard to breathe.”

“Sit with that feeling, try to stay with it. I know it’s hard.” She says softly. “I’m right here.”

I get panicky, the body feeling, the sick feeling is too much. Bea goes to the feelings, emotions, to try to help separate things and calm down. She explains this idea. But it’s too much and too hard to figure out the feelings. She talks to me about how we can use thoughts too.

“Thoughts are good. That’s words.” I tell her.

“Yes, and you like words. Words make you feel safe.”

“Yes.”

“Do you have words now?” She asks.

I say something, a memory or thought. That it’s all a mess.

“It is a mess. Does the grown up have words to share?”

I struggle to find grown up. Then. “Maybe. I don’t know. Words are easier but not always easy.”

“That sounds like the grownup.” Bea says. I’m struck by how well she can recognize the parts.

I smile because she knows me. “It’s…hard. Because all those details….it’s like when we first took out all the rocks and then looked at them, we didn’t really look at the sharp edges, the details, we looked at the whole rock. It’s easier to gloss over the details and then the little girl can think like……it’s my choice, I started it, I caused it, it was my fault, I did this, I did that.”

“All those old beliefs that she still holds.” Bea’s voice is sad.

“Yeah. When we look at the details then it’s like…..it can’t be a choice when (and at this point the little girl is back in control)…..I can feel…..I can’t move and I want to move but he isn’t letting me.”

“No, you couldn’t move. And that was so scary. But that’s over now, it’s not happening now.”

Silence.

“It’s confusing too, isn’t it? That she feels like she had a choice, and it has felt like that for so long, and then to come face to face with the idea she wanted to move and couldn’t.” Bea is spot on. It’s all very, very confusing. It’s hard to realize something you believed for so long isn’t true, especially when those beliefs have kept you feeling as if you had some control.

“I really want to move. I mean then, I wanted to move.” The past and the present are getting mixed up in my head.

“I know. The little girl, she was alone then, and had no know to tell. But you told me, and I believe you. I believe that you wanted to move and that he wouldn’t let you.”

“You really believe me?” My voice is small, the idea that she believes me and doesn’t think I did something bad is hard to take in.

“I really do.”

I want to ask if she would have believed me then, if she knew me then, but I can’t. It’s too scary to ask.

“Is there movement that the little girl wants to make now? Just take a minute and feel.”

“I don’t know.”

“Does she feel safe right now? Does the little girl feel like she could move if she needed or? Or is she frozen?” Bea tries to help me figure out what the little girl needs to do.

“I…well. No. I don’t know. Yes. Move. But there’s no time left.”

“It’s 10:10. So you have a few minutes.” She says softly.

“No. It’s not enough.” I insist. I know myself well enough to know if I try to do any movement, it is going to take forever and then feel rushed and scary because I don’t have enough time.

“Maybe you could complete one movement?” She suggests. I think she doesn’t want me to leave feeling like something was unfinished, but to the teen it feels like she is pushing because she wants me to do SP.

“No. It’s….it takes too long to decide to move. It’s scary. It makes me feel scared.”

“I know. It’s new. Being able to move is new.” Bea gets it.

“Well I can move my arms, but it’s….when it’s with…like linked to details.” It is strange to me, how scary it can be to move within the context of a trauma memory. I mean, it’s not like I have problems moving in my everyday life.

“I know. That’s a scary thing.” She agrees.

“Yeah. Next time we can try. Not today.” I say softly.

“Okay. Okay, that’s good. What does that feel like? To be in control enough to choose to do something next time?”

I shrug. More questions I can’t answer. I’m tired of paying attention. I don’t want to feel anymore.

“Can you pay attention to what it feels like to listen to the part of you that knows you need more time?”

“I….well. I don’t know.”

“What is it that let you know you need more time? That allowed you to listen to your needs? Can you find that wise part of yourself?” It’s important to Bea that I experience being in control and making a choice, but I’m not sure I want to fully feel it.

I sit quietly trying to figure it out, to feel what let me know I needed moe time, and then finally I say, “Bea. I just don’t know.”

“Okay. That’s okay. ”

“I mean I really don’t know. Not I don’t know because I don’t want to talk about it or think about it or feel it.” And I truly don’t know.

“So there are different kinds of I don’t knows. That’s good to recognize, too.” She says.

I don’t say anything.

“Is there anything the grown up could tell the little girl, to help soothe her?”

I sit for what feels like hours. And then I say, “No.” It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

“That’s okay. We will keep working on this. Maybe this week, just think about what it was like going between the grown up and the little girl, and what it was like trying to get them to communicate.”

I freeze. My heart feels icy and on fire all at once. “The little girl doesn’t want the grown up.” I tell her. It’s as close as I can come to saying *I’m afraid you are trying to cut yourself out. The little girl doesn’t want the grown up, she wants you. And this feels like you leaving— or laying the groundwork so you can leave.

Bea says that it’s okay for the little girl to be unsure about the grown up, that the little girl has to learn to trust the grown up and that can take time. I shrug. I don’t want to talk about this right now.

We wrap things up then, because I have to leave to go babysit Kay’s baby. (Yes, that Kay. We are slowly rebuilding our friendship and it’s a much healthy, equal type of friendship. It’s good.)

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I wanted to Move

Hi all, this is Wednesday’s 11/8/2017 therapy session. It is intense, and there are trauma details written in, so this is a huge trigger warning. I debated about writing leaving details out, and glossing over the intensity of this session but then decided that I wanted to show the the full picture of what a Sensorimotor Therapy session looks like. I decided that I’ve spent enough of my life glossing over details and pretending everything is no big deal. So just be careful when you are reading, take care of yourself. Xx Alice

I’ve been okay for the last two days, and I’ve been falling apart. I’ve had moments where things were just terrible and overwhelming but I managed to hold onto the fact that the feelings would pass. I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t do it. I wanted to hide forever and disappear but I didn’t. I somehow consistently managed to put all the yuck back into the therapy box; not hiding, not pretending, just knowing I needed to function. I did use the busyness defense to help push the ick away, but I was going to be busy no matter what, so why not use it to help myself function?

Walking into Bea’s office brings about a strange mix of feelings. I want her to be proud of me for holding it together. I’m afraid that if she reads in my journal about the bad moments and how I coped, that she might decide I’m just all better and okay. I want to avoid all the yuck, and I want to dive into it. I also wish I had a blanket with eyeholes I could put on my head, because the shame and disgust I feel is so huge, it’s hard not to feel afraid to be seen.

She’s heating up her tea when I walk in. “Good morning, just let me grab my tea.”

I nod, and sit down. I go ahead and pull out my notebook now. I both want to avoid anything deep, and I want to get right to work because I hate when I feel like I wasted time. When Bea gets back into the therapy room, we talk about Kat for a few minutes. Parent teacher conferences are coming up and I’m a little worried about the classroom teacher and what she is going to bring up.

After that, though, Bea asks about Monday. “How did Monday feel for you? Did anything come up after? Did things feel okay?”

Silently, I point at the orange book resting on the couch next to me.

“Should we start there then?”

I hand her the notebook, and wait. Before she starts to read, she grabs me the teal colored fuzzy blanket, and hands it to me. I don’t hide under it right then, but I clutch the blanket like its my anchor to the here and now.

Sick like something bad is going to happen. It’s funny that I can think of it now, but not before. So many words to describe that feeling. So many better words. The words could be apprehension, trepidation, dread, fear, worry, tension, suspense, unease. So many words, and I couldn’t think of a single one. Ugh.

“This is so many words. But this was later, right? When the adult was back online? I still think that the adult you has words, while the little girl didn’t have these complex words. It’s a parts thing. The little girl doesn’t have other words. Adult you does. It’s interesting that the adult could get back online and help find words later, when you were calmer.”

I don’t say anything, but the teen bristles at the use of the word interesting. Why interesting? I hate that word.

I’m okay but not okay. When I left your office I was so off kilter; feelings and other parts of the same image or maybe the same memory, just a different piece were really overwhelming. There is pain and something sharp and too much physical stuff and wanting to move or do something or maybe not after all and it was all so much but it was time to go and that that was okay, it just isn’t always so quick to stuff it all back into the therapy box, just like it takes me forever to pull it all out.

I was okay mostly all day but now it’s night time and bedtime is hard. There’s less grown up here right now, I close my eyes and I see ick. I couldn’t move, he wouldn’t let me move. That came from the image which leads to memory and feelings and everything and it all snowballs. I’m okay, except I’m not.

You asked me about what the adult thinks, what she believes. I don’t know. I know that this is hard. All those words lead to extra shame and judgement and worrying that you see the truth now. I want to tell you the grown up knows the little girl didn’t deserve it. Except, I don’t know. I wanted to explain that the little girl needed too much, that she maybe somehow did this, started it. But it doesn’t matter. Not really. Because the little girl is part of all the disgusting stuff that happened and it lives in my head and my body now, so really, I’m disgusting.

He put _________ __________ in my mouth. I write that, I think that, and I see this image of it happening, I feel it and part of me wants to disappear forever. A piece of me wants to die. It’s just so charged, so overwhelming, so much shame, so much disgust, so much helplessness and all I want to do is go away forever and ever. It’s so much. So much. Too much.

Honestly, you read my folded over paper and yeah, it’s probably good I was a little far away or I might have never managed to stop hiding long enough to leave. Writing this, I want to hide. I’m pretty sure if I could hide forever I would. I think I’d walk into your office with a blanket over my head, if I could. So much fear and so much shame.

I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t. I wanted to hide in my closet forever, but I didn’t. I went on with my life, and that was good, but it didn’t mean no feelings. Some moments were good, and I felt connected to people but boundaries in tact, and sort of just content, that I’m good and I like my life and I’m happy and fulfilled. Some moments were just crap. Awful. All the ick leaking out. But even that was okay, sort of. I always managed to put most of it away, knowing I really only had to hold it for two days and then we would deal with it. Even when I wasn’t okay, I could hold onto the fact that it wasn’t going to last forever and that all the feelings, thoughts, sensations, feelings were in the past. It was hard, but not like times when I’ve been triggered and there is no being okay, no processing whatever it coming up. I feel mostly okay.

“So I know we need to talk about Monday and pick things back up. Can I just celebrate first, though? You felt okay even when you weren’t okay. You managed to put the ick back every time it leaked out, to contain it. You coped without harming yourself. Alice, this is big. This is awesome!”

I shrug. It embarrasses me to have the praise and attention and it worries me because now I’ve set a precedent of being okay. So what happens when I can’t contain the ick on my own? Will Bea be there or will she expect me to do it because I did it before?

“I don’t want to take you back to be triggered and in too deep, so let’s maybe stay away from the memory of the image and see if we can’t focus just on the feelings. Is there movement you wanted to make back then? It sounds like some came up at the end on Monday.”

I don’t know. I don’t say a word. Bea waits, patient as always.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists.

“I can’t.. I can’t tell you! I can’t do this. I just can’t.” I’m frustrated with Bea. I can’t separate out any movement I want to make now from the story of the memory. It’s all the same to me. I need her to know where it’s coming from. I need the words. The words matter to me. But I can’t tell it like I need to because that is not how SP works and because she doesn’t want me to be too far away and I seriously can’t do anything right. I ruin everything.

“Take a minute, okay? Feel the blanket and the safety of that boundary. Remember that nothing bad can happen now.”

“I don’t know what to talk about now.” I whisper.

“Well, reading this, *there is pain and something sharp* can we talk about that?”

I shake my head. “No.”

“Okay. That’s okay. Can we talk about what is going on right now?” She asks softly.

“Nothing.” I mumble.

“Nothing, huh?” She pushes a little.

“I just…I can’t separate everything.” I’m still frustrated. My biggest complaint about all the SP junk is there is no talking about things and it feels superficial because it doesn’t care about the memory, about the words.

“Separate what? What can’t you separate?” Bea’s voice sounds genuinely confused.

“Everything. You want me to talk, but I can’t talk about feelings or physical sensation or whatever without the memory.”

“We aren’t ignoring the memory, the image, I just don’t want to take you so deep, to such a difficult place to be.”

I don’t say a thing. This is why I hesitated to even write the truth of how bad I felt at moments, why I was a little unsure about handing my notebook over. But I wanted her to know, because even when it was really, really bad this time, I managed to cope and to stay grounded enough to realize that the feelings were from the past. But now she wants to avoid the memory anyway.

“Alice? Talk to me.” She really does sound like she wants me to talk to her.

“You don’t want me to!” I cry. I’m hurt. The little girl feels shut down, as if her voice has been taken away.

“What is it you think I don’t want you to do, to tell me. I want to know whatever you want to talk about. It’s not about me. Can you tell me what is wrong?”

“You want to know about…what I wrote?” I ask.

“Yes, I was curious. I knew a lot had come up at the end last time, and I wanted to make sure we got a chance to go over it today.” She explains.

I shrug. Throw the blanket over my head. “I’m hiding now. Okay?”

“Okay.” And her voice tells me it is okay that I need to hide.

“I…..I can’t tell you…..I mean, I can’t explain it without the memory or the image and I can’t…I just…you don’t want me to tell it.”

“I’m not trying to make you stop telling it. I just want to make sure you are safe.”

“Ugh!” I’m tired of this round and round. “I can not tell you about what I wrote, I can’t talk about feelings and what they are linked to, not without you knowing the memory. I know it doesn’t matter or you already mostly know the memory or something, but it’s important to me. The words and all of it. The story, it matters to me. And I can’t do this! I can’t tell one without the other, I don’t know how, it’s all too twisted up together. But you want….the right way is to tell only one thing and I can’t do it. I’m screwing it up, again. And I just feel like I can’t do anything right.”

She takes a deep breath. “Okay. There is no right way. It’s just what works for us. I’m sorry if that hasn’t been clear, if I didn’t make that clear. We do what works for us. If this is a memory that is too twisted together, then talk about all the parts. It’s okay to do that. Tell the story. It’s not one or the other. It’s okay, you aren’t messing up anything. Maybe you will always need the words and the story, because like you said, they matter to you. I still believe you know what you need.”

I’d been curled up, crying, feeling all the pain and failure of my little girl self every time I did something the wrong way, every time I wanted to do something different than what my mother deemed was the right way. Now, listening to Bea, my tears slow. “O-Okay.”

She waits patiently, and I try to find my words. I don’t know how I’m to explain this to her, how I’m to describe the details. It’s sickening. The shame lives here. I shake my head, tell her this is hard. “Take your time, it’s okay,” she says.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists. And suddenly, we are right back where we started earlier, even having almost the same exact conversation. And that makes me so irritated.

“No!” I snap at her. “He’s…..I can’t move because he is….because….” I want so badly to get the words out, but there’s a blockage in my throat and I can’t talk.

“Because why? What’s he doing?” She pushes.

I look to my left. “I had a bruise. On my arm. I lied about it. I said it was from gymnastics. No one ever questioned.”

Bea says something, some kind of quiet understanding and comfort, some kind of sorry and horror for the little girl to be bruised.

“He….knees……..” Like a traffic jam, my words are all backed up.

“His knees were on your arms? So you couldn’t move?” Bea helps fill in the words.

I nod. “Sharp.”

“His knees were sharp? That’s the sharp and the pain,” she says, almost to herself, because it finally makes sense to her.

“Yes.” I whisper. I look back to my left again, down at my arm. It’s not real, and yet I can see knees right there, holding me in place, and I can feel them digging into my inner arms. Maybe that was easier to focus on than what else was happening. I don’t know.

“You can feel that now?” Her voice is quiet, gentle. The voice you use when speaking to scared children.

“Yeah.”

“Is there anything you want to move now?”

I nod. It’s scary to think about it, to say it aloud. I’m not sure how long it takes. Maybe a minute, maybe twenty. Bea waits patiently. Finally I answer her question. “Yes.”

“Try to just let yourself do it, then. You can stay under the blanket, even. I’m right here.” She says carefully.

I think about moving, but I can’t. The idea of it….it’s scary. So very scary.

“What wants to move?” She asks softly.

“Arms, my arms.” I can feel it. When I think about what was happening, and let the little girl run things, she wants to go away. But if things are slowed down, and we are only looking at one image from a memory, and that leads to emotions and physical feeling, the then everything the little girl felt and wanted to do is sort of pulled apart, and while that urge to go away is the biggest feeling, beneath that is this other feeling. It’s a wanting to move, to pull away, to push him away, to cover my mouth, to turn my head. This scares me though. If I let myself feel this urge to move away, to push him away, then I have to accept that I didn’t want this, that I had no control, that I was helpless, that I didn’t cause it, and that I was not playing a special super secret game with him. And that’s a hard thing to swallow.

“What do your arms want to do?”

“Move.” My answer seems silly now, but in the moment when the little girl was more present than the grown up, it made sense to me.

“What way do they want to move?”

“They wanna do two things. No, three things. Maybe. I think.” I whisper. I’m spilling secrets I didn’t even know I held.

So they want to push? Pull? Cover your mouth?” She gets all of them right, and her saying some of the words first helps.

“Pull away……to the side. That’s first.” I finally say.

“Okay. Can you let them do that?” She asks.

I try. I really try, but I’m frozen. Bea encourages me to focus on the fact my hands, my fingers can move. (And now, as I’m writing that I got a picture of my fingers always moving, of holding on to blankets, sheets, grass, my yellow fluffy rug, whatever was there to hold onto. I guess that’s another something that has popped up since this session I’m currently writing about.) Finally, I manage to throw my right arm to the side of me.

“That’s it! How did that feel?” Bea asks me.

“I….I don’t know.” It feels sort of exposing in a way. But also…..I’m proud of the fact I stayed with the memory and moved my arm.

Bea gives me a head’s up that we have about fifteen minutes left of our time, and then she tells me she has no ten o’clock appointment. “You have a busy day today, and I know that, but if you like we can stay and work on this a little longer.”

“Can we stay?” I feel like if we wrap things up now, it will be hard to get back to this place again.

“Absolutely. So, do you want to try the movement again?” She asks.

“Okay.” I’m a little anxious about agreeing but I can try.

“Maybe try to really slow it down this time, okay?”

“Why?” Teen, snarky and questioning everything.

“Well, studies have shown that it is easier for your brain to remember the new movement and to form new neural pathways when it’s a slowed down movement.” She’s not surprised with my why question. She’s never surprised when I want to know why we are doing something or why she wants to know something. And why never seems to bother her.

“Oh.” Is all I can say. I think about moving slowly for a while, “That’s a scary idea. It’s safer to move fast.” I hear the word, and wonder why it’s safer and not easier. Bea wonders, too, and so she asks. “I think it’s like the…..if I’m fast enough then no one will see me…..it’s still a version of hiding.” I explain.

“Well, if it feels safer to move fast, then let’s start there. We might need to stay with this for a while. And that’s okay.” Once again, Bea is willing to start where I am. She told me once that is the secret to therapy— to be willing to start wherever your client is at.

“Okay.” I agree.

We work with movement for a while longer, and by the end of session, I’m able to move my arms to the sides, slap one hand over my mouth, and out the other out in a *stop* gesture. We talk about the fact that it still needs to be slowed down and really felt, but decided that we will do that next time. I can’t do more today.

“This might never feel right, and I don’t think this would be good for this first time you are trying some movement, but I can bring my hands up to yours, or hold a pillow so you have something to push against. Sometimes people like to push against the wall. Or maybe you won’t need that.” She suggests.

“I….I don’t know.” I whisper.

“It’s nothing to decide today, just something to keep in mind. That’s all. In case you ever do want something to push against.”

I’m not sure about this idea. “But then I’d be…..pushing you away.” (See? Really not pretending anymore that she doesn’t matter, or the relationship isn’t important.)

“Yes, you’d be pushing against my hands, but I’m not going anywhere. We can talk about that though, if that would feel too hard because of that. It’s all okay, it’s about doing whatever feels right to you.” She’s so calm and grounded and just here. I don’t know how to explain it.

“Okay.” I shrug.

“Is there anymore to do today, or are you ready to come back and be grounded here?” She asks.

“I’m okay. I don’t…..I think we should pick this up next time, but I’m done for today. It’s a lot.” If you had told me even a few months ago that I would willingly be done with something for the moment and suggest we pick it up next time, and believe that it would be okay and that Bea would hold all of that and remember to help me pick it up next time, I’d have laughed. Yet here I am, doing just that.

“It is a lot,” she agrees.

“Even though I moved, it still feels scarier to move. It’s safer to be frozen.” There’s a question in there somewhere but I can’t figure out how to ask it.

Bea picks up on the question anyway. “Well, your brain has had a lot of years where hiding was the only answer. The little girl couldn’t move then, so she did the best thing she could. She went far away, she hid inside herself. And that kept her safe. And she needed to be able to do that for a long time. Now we just have work on teaching your brain a new response. It won’t surprise me of your first instinct is to hide or go far away when things feel threatening, or uncomfortable, but now you know you have another choice. It’s just a choice that we will need to practice, and the more we practice it, the easier it will be to choose it.”

“Okay.”

We end things just chatting about normal stuff. At some point, in between talking about our crazy dogs, or my crazy kid, I pull the blanket off my head and fold it up. It’s a struggle to look at Bea today, and I know she won’t push it, although she gently try to get me to look at her. Finally, as we both stand up and I hand her the blanket, I sneak a glance at her. No disgust is visible in her expression. I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Hey, try to pay attention to how things feel, if they feel better or if other things come up or what feelings may surface, okay?” I’m on my way out when she asks me this.

“Yeah, okay. But first I have to put all that away and go help teach Kat’s class writing and then do lunch duty, take care of PTO stuff and then take Kat to OT. After that, I can pay attention to stuff again.” I smile. In my book, it’s okay to shove things down to be able to function when you know you are doing it, why you are doing it, and there is a set time limit of how long you are going to lock up the crap.

“That’s all right. Just when you are done, see how you feel. See what is coming up. I’ll be curious to know.” She smiles at me.

We wish each other a good day, and I head out.

I just want to tear off my skin

I’m fighting to stay present, but it isn’t working. Dissociated is the only way I can get through this conversation. I’m pretty sure that it was only a few minutes ago that Bea and I were chatting and I was present. But then she picked up my notebook and flipped to the writing about what happened after Kenny was done playing with me, and I was instantly far away.

This session is so foggy, but the little girl has the distinct impression that Bea isn’t rally here. Oh, Bea is in the room, but emotionally, she feels far away. Of course, I have to wonder who was far away, me or Bea?  

There were conversations about the body things I’d written, or at least I think there were questions asked by Bea and answers given by me. I know I responded with some form of information, because Bea asked me several times to just “notice that” or to “sit with those feelings”. Trying to pay attention to whatever it was did bring things up, I know it did, and yet I can not remember for the life of me what was brought up. 

All of this led to a confused adult Alice, an angry and betrayed teenage Alice and an abandoned little girl Alice. This I do remember: it ended like this.

“I want two tear off my skin and never let anyone touch me again.” I answer. The question was the result of one of those *notice this* directives, followed by *what does that bring up? What does it feel like to notice that?* The feelings I’m describing are real, but my voice has no emotion in it whatsoever. I’m a robot. I’m a robot without a body. Or at least, I don’t feel anything. 

“The emotion in your voice doesn’t really match the intensity of your words,” Bea says.

“Because. I can’t feel it and say it. Then it is much too real.” I shake my head.

“Could we try an experiment? What if you tried to say it with some of the feeling there?” She asks. 

I shake my head at her. No. Just no. 

“Would you like me to say it with some feeling in it? And you can see how that feels? You can tell me if there should me more or less intensity in my tone.” 

“Okay.” I don’t know why I agreed. I suppose the adult Alice was feeling curious about what it wild be like to have the intensity of her feelings match her words. 

I think I asked for a blanket then. Maybe it was earlier in the session. At any rate, I hid under my blanket. 

Bea gave me a warning that she was going to say my words, and then she repeated them. She sounded like she meant them though. She let the words and the feeling sit between us and then she asked me what that felt like. 

I shrugged. In truth, it was a bit overwhelming and it made my feelings very, very real. Hearing emotion with those words was really scary for the little girl. 

Bea waits, but when I don’t say anything at all, she gently asks, “Did that feel a little bit out of control?”

Maybe it did. Maybe it felt wrong to have Bea saying those horrid words. Maybe it felt like all the feelings were going to hit me at once and I’d not have any control over them. The little girl felt so vulnerable and exposed hearing Bea say her words. The teen wasn’t going to stand for it. As snarky as she could, she said “Well, if it bothered me I would just tell you not to say it again.”

And Bea took that as a sign of growth or something. She was so excited. “So you are in control, and you can see that you have a choice right now.” Then she asked me to really let that idea sink in, to notice what that felt like to have a choice. That’s when things started to go downhill and the little girl felt as if Bea didn’t want to deal with any of the little girl’s bad feelings and Bea seemed far away, and I was lost. I’m still so lost. 

Feeling Again 

Therapy has been weird. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s been weird. I think it’s because I’ve been working really hard to stay in this surfacey safe place where no real feelings or even thoughts can get in. It’s not that I haven’t had things to bring to therapy, and when I actually sit down and write, a lot comes out. Unfortunately, while there must be some parts of me that want to talk and share all this with Bea, there is a stronger part that doesn’t want to talk about anything deep. The stronger part– Ms. Perfect, I call her– works so very hard to keep things on the surface, and she is good at her job. She laughs and smiles, and is chatty and engaging. She is great at finding the perfect *sort of deep, sort of important* thing to bring up when it seems that Bea might be trying to get below the surface. Ms. Perfect knows the topics that distract Bea and she is so sneaky in the way she brings them up. 

That other part, though? The one who wants to talk? She’s desperate to talk, to not be alone, and that gives her strength, too. She spends the majority of my sessions trying to get past Ms. Perfect so she can share. Then, she spends a lot of time hemming and hawing because she is scared. It’s been about the last fifteen, maybe twenty minutes of my sessions when I finally hand over my notebook and give Bea something real. That’s hard because I’m constantly feeling like I’m wasting time and like there is a lot I want to talk about. 

Monday was different. October 23. The day before my birthday. During the previous session, on Wednesday, I had managed to give Bea my notebook earlier in the session. Ms. Perfect wanted to run things and the idea of letting go of her tenuous grasp on control of everything below the surface was really scary, but someone the part that needed to share managed to make that happen. I’d written about how so much that I am feeling right now is so reminiscent of my childhood. I’m floating on the surface because feeling anything else is too frightening and confusing. Ms. Perfect is running things again, and so I am functioning quite well. That, too, is childhood like, this need to be perfect and hide all the other stuff. I’ve been having nightmares, and flashbacks but they are weird. They seem much more intense and real, there is much more feeling and emotion involved in them, and they are tiny intense pieces of whole memories. Anyway, I have been feeling very split lately, and I don’t like it. It’s too much like being a little girl again, and that in and of itself is a trigger. In that particular segment of writing, I had written something about how my flashbacks and dreams leave me with a little girl feeling from long ago; it’s the same feeling I would get after he was done playing with me. There wasn’t a lot of time left in session, and I wasn’t at all present because just having her read my words felt too exposing. She suggested that we could talk more about these “after” feelings, and when I shook my head, she said maybe I would write about them in my notebook. I honestly don’t remember how we left things, but I did write about the after. It took a lot for me to do it, and it was painful and confusing, and it felt like an actual fight to stay present enough to write, but I did it. 

So, Monday the 23 was different. Ms. Perfect was no where to be found. I was chatty, but it didn’t feel like a desperate attempt to block Bea out or keep my feelings buried. It just felt like things I wanted to share with her, things I wanted to talk about. I’d been back to my parents on Saturday to celebrate my birthdays and that quickly became the topic of discussion. 

“This was the first time you had been back to your parents’ house since your Grandma’s funeral and the month of triggers?” Bea is sitting across from me in her chair, looking relaxed and grounded and open. She was here with me, and somehow I was able to let that in a little bit. 

I nodded. “Yeah.” 

“How was that?” 

I shrugged. I really didn’t want to think about it. With Ms. Perfect apparently off on holiday, I stumble in my attempt to gloss over things and make it out to be no big deal. “It was fine. I mean, it was, well, it was just, like I focused more on the Halloween activities we had going on and then we were busy, well actually not really busy but there was stuff we did and it was easy being with my parents this time around and it was just really not a thing, I mean I was sad a little but it was, well, it was okay and my brother and the kids came over for dinner and a bonfire and it was good. And I’m planning to do something fun tomorrow, Kat is staying home from school and we are going to the zoo if it doesn’t rain. So I’m okay, I’m fine.” 

Bea smiles at me, as if she can tell that I’m just being me, there is no facade anymore. “So, you let things be low key then. It seems like that was the right choice for yourself. Yes, there is sadness and bittersweet feelings but you feel grounded and here today. You felt more present last time, too. I think that means you are doing the right things for yourself because Ms. Perfect felt it was safe enough to let you run the ship again.” 

“Okay,” I say awkwardly. Bea’s right in what she is saying, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to respond. I wonder if I should agree with her, or talk about being more here, or something. Her assessment of me almost feels like praise, or at least as if she is saying something positive about me, and I don’t know what to do with that. I never know what to do with that. 

“Did you do birthday presents this year?” She asks and I nod my head. “What did your mom get you? I remember the year she got you that sweater and all the grief that caused.” 

I’m surprised that Bea remembers that, that must have been the first October we were working together, before we knew that lots of teen feelings came up every year at this time, and that sweater sent me right over the edge. I wasn’t an easy person to deal with during that time, I’m sure. 

“She got me some new notebooks, and some sharpies.” I love notebooks, planners, and calendars. I am addicted to sharpie markers and fancy pens. 

Bea says something about my mom getting me a gift that says maybe she does see me. I shake my head. “She asked hubby what to get me.” 

“How does that feel?” She is being serious and wants the question answered but she rolls her eyes because she knows that I’m going to be annoyed at the typical shrink question. 

“It’s fine, I hadn’t even thought about it. I don’t want to talk about this,” I tell her. 

“Well, this is therapy, and so I have to ask. Can you just take a minute and let that sink in? Your mom asked your husband what to get you for your birthday. What does that feel like? It’s bound to bring up something.” Her voice is quiet, and she is so calm. I watch as she takes a deep breath in and let’s it out. It is as if she is silently encouraging me to let my feelings come up. 

I sigh. I don’t want to talk about my mom because I really just want to give her what I’d written in my notebook. I worked so hard to write about the after, it had taken me days to write very little. I can’t just tell Bea that I have this other thing I want to talk about, because she hasn’t asked if I have writing and maybe she forgot that she asked me to write about the after and so bringing it up myself would make me too vulnerable. I decided to take things a different route, one that might be quicker than if I talk about my mom. Also, taking things in this direction will allow me to take things back to the surface if need be. 

“Well,” I say, “I guess it feels like my husband really does know me.” 

If Bea is surprised that this is the path I’m leading us down, she doesn’t show it. “I think he really does know you. He loves you, and he gets you.” 

“Ummm, you know, I think he gets part of me. He gets the…..it’s not the surface parts, the facade anymore, but it’s….I don’t know what part it is. It’s just not the big feelings or whatever. He does not get that part of me.” 

“No, he doesn’t get that part of you,” Bea agrees. “But it is like he is making space for it. He doesn’t get it, and he doesn’t know it, but he does see that it is a part of you and that notebooks and pens go along with the that. So he is making space for it and trying to get your mom to make space for that part, too.” 

I feel something, an anxiousness maybe, about this idea of hubby making space for these dark and twisty parts of me. This should be making me happy, I should feel good about this. Instead I am uncomfortable to the point of wanting to go far away. I dome know why I feel like this and I don’t want to examine it, so I simply nod my head. 

Things get fuzzy there for a bit, so I don’t know how, but the conversation changes direction when Bea asks if I have any writing. 

This is what I had wanted to begin with, to give her my notebook and maybe talk about these complicated, confusing feelings. I pull the small book out of my bag and then I turn shy all of a sudden. I can’t look at Bea, and I can’t hand her my notebook. I flip through the pages, and fidget with the corners of the notebook. I’d written Bea a letter and used it as a sort of bookmarks to mark the new segment of writing. 

“This is really hard.” Her voice is warm and understanding. She gets it. 

“Yeah. I…it’s just…it’s hard.” I’m mumbling my words because I’m pretty dissociated at the moment. 

“Was it hard to write?”

“Mmmhmm. Yea. I….it was hard to be present.” I say sadly. 

We sit like that for what feels like a very long time, me holding my notebook, curled up on the couch, flipping absent mindlessly through the notebook. Bea was probably talking to me that whole time, but her voice didn’t penetrate the fog surrounding me until she said, “You don’t have to share it with me. Or you could choose one part to share. It’s a choice, it’s your choice. I wonder if you can let yourself feel what it would feel like to tell me you aren’t going to share your writing today and put your notebook away.” 

I shake my head. IfI don’t share what I wrote then I am going to feel very lost and alone when I leave here. I’ll be sad, and maybe overwhelmed. I don’t want to do this by myself anymore. “No, I want to share it. I just…well I’m not sure. It’s hard.” 

“You know, writing, this is how you communicate, how you share your story with me. It’s what gives us an opening so we can talk about what is going on below the surface. Because there always a deeper layer for you that is hard to start a conversation about. This system, it’s worked so well for us that we really haven’t ever stopped to think about it, have we?” 

Is she trying to say she wants to take away writing? “I know. I know it’s not talking. But it is the only way….I mean, there’s so much and I can’t say the words or bring it up or explain out loud, because it is just really hard. There’s so much I wouldn’t have ever talked about if I wasn’t writing.” 

Bea pauses for a long moment, and when she speaks it is with a reassuring tone. It’s the voice adults use to reassure children they are safe and all is right in their world. “Alice. I’m not saying anything is wrong with writing, or with using it in therapy. It works for you. Using your writing has allowed is to do some amazing work. I’m just curious about the notebook and feelings we have about it, how we react. I guess I’m thinking more sensorimotor therapy stuff.”  

Inwardly, I groan. I should have know this was some sensorimotor stuff. “Okay…..” I say slowly, drawing out the word. 

“For instance, what does it feel like to be holding your notebook right now? What if you put it on the floor between us?” She asks. 

I shrug. I don’t know what I feel. Worried, maybe. Anxious that Bea will read my words and think I’m being dramatic. Or she will read my words and not get it, and that will be the worst thing ever. 

“Maybe does it feel like you have the control right now, holding onto the notebook?” 

I shake my head. “No. It’s not…no.” 

“If I focus on how I’m feeling, what comes up for me, there is a little nervousness in my belly because I can feel that you have some anxiety and so a part of me sort of becomes nervous with you. And then there is a part of me that wants to help you, to make this all better and easy for you because I don’t want you to feel more anxiety. That part of me just feels likes you have been through so much, and I want to make this as easy as I can on you. There’s also a part of me that wants to grab the notebook from you and read it all because that part can’t stand not knowing. There’s a part of me that is curious about what you have written, but this part of me wants you to take your time and feel safe enough to let me have the notebook. This part wants to do what I can to help you feel safe.” 

I think I should be upset that a part of Bea wants to read my words without my permission, but oddly I’m not upset. The fact that there is this part of her feels a little bit like my words do matter to her. Actually, everything she has said feels like I matter to her, like maybe she does care. I believe that Bea is just being Bea, and without meaning to she has said the exact right thing to help me. “It’s not really about the notebook. It’s about the words inside. It would be fine to hand you the notebook.” 

“That makes sense,” she says. 

I hand her my notebook, and she doesn’t open it. Instead, she holds it carefully on her lap so that it stays closed. 

Eventually I nod my head. “You can read it. It’s okay.” 

Bea opens it to the page that is bookmarked with the letter I’d written to her. “Should I read this first?”

“Yea,” I say so softly I don’t think anyone hears me. I’m suddenly embarrassed that I wrote a letter detailing how difficult this all has been, it’s as if I wasn’t sure she would get it just from reading my words. 

Bea starts to read, and pulling my knees into my chest, I hide my face and go far away again. 

Bea,

This has been so hard to write. So, so hard. It took me days, and it was a lot of work to stay present enough that I could write it all down. It wasn’t easy. All these feelings are big and confusing. Sad, mad, happy, worried, frustrated. These are feelings I can do. I recognize them when I feel them, and I can label them. But this stuff? It’s complex. I don’t know. This is like a giant mixture, some vague not okay, anxious, sick, empty, confused feeling that is physically present but is an emotion and I can’t name it or really describe it. I don’t have the words. It’s like I need to learn another new language to even be able to talk about anything. I’m having such a hard time with this. I feel very present with theses feelings, almost like I can’t go away to avoid them, and that’s hard, too. It’s all scary to me. This is just as scary as learning to feel and identity emotions like sad, glad, mad. Maybe more scary. 

“Do you know how big this is? That you can even feel these big mixed up complex feelings? I know they are scary, that feeling them and staying present and talking about them is scary. But do you see how far you have come? Even last year, you weren’t able to feel like this, to even recognize a vague feeling that you can’t name. This is huge.”

I can’t respond. First, I’m embarrassed that she is making this out to be this huge thing I am now able to do (even if it is a big deal, and even if part of me is basking in this attention, I’m embarrassed). Something about positive recognition or praise embarrasses me. I think it’s because I feel I don’t deserve it. I never know what to say, and all these complicated feelings come up. Secondly, all this praise over being able to do something that I couldn’t do a year ago makes me worried. It worries me because  Bea could decide I’m all better, and make me leave.

“I know, I’m making a big deal out of this. It just is a big deal in a lot of ways. Things are becoming more integrated. It’s because of all your hard work,” Bea says, still loud and excited. Then, softly she adds, “In case you had the thought, I’m going to share with you that a part of me had the thought *what if she decides she is all better now?* That part was worried and sad. But I reminded myself that there is still lots of work we can do, there is still things to process and feelings to work with and other stuff that still needs to integrate more.” 

I breathe for a moment. She still believes there is work we can do, she doesn’t think I’m all better enough to kick me out of therapy. Later, I think about her words and wonder, would she miss me if I left? I’m surprised. I’ve never thought that I would matter enough that she might miss me. I always see termination as Bea getting rid of me, as being relieved she doesn’t have to deal with me anymore. 

There’s always something more going on under the surface. That’s true. But on Wednesday in therapy, I wasn’t being pretend or prefect, I was just being me. I don’t feel fake every time I’m having more surface-type talk, I think it’s partly how I feel when I’m talking. If I’m disconnected, and talking to simply avoid going below the surface, if I’m working hard to appear to be together and on top of things, to give the appearance of being absolutely okay, then it’s the facade, the pretend me. But just talking and staying closer to the surface…..that’s not the same thing. Maybe it was acknowledging that if we went below the surface, there is a lot of feelings there. Maybe it was that I felt like it would be okay if we did end up below the surface and some of those not so perfect feelings came out. Maybe it’s the fact that I was working really hard to stay present. I don’t know. But there is a difference. 

“There’s a difference,” she agrees with me. 

“Yeah,” I say. “I didn’t know, before that there was a difference. Or maybe there wasn’t a difference before.”

“It could be a little bit of both. It’s interesting you are thinking about this, and able to tell a difference. This is great to be able to recognize the differences between them. I think it’s important, too, that we know that staying on the surface doesn’t have to mean you aren’t being authentic or that you aren’t here.” Bea tells me. 

I nod my head at her words as she returns to reading. 

So, this is supposed to be about the “after” with Kenny, and all the different layers there are to that. I have had lots of things I could say about it, lots of things that popped into my head this week. So I could write it here, or say it on Monday. But it feels so dramatic, the words that have popped into my head to describe the after. It’s embarrassing to have such dramatic words and descriptions. It’s just, I don’t know. It feels wrong. 

“A lot of judgement about how you feel or the words you want to use for describe the feelings. This was hard to get past, but you did it.” It took me a whole day to go back to writing about the after. I was (and I am) judging myself harshly. 

After. After he leaves my room. I want to get out of bed but I can’t. I don’t know why, I just can’t. It’s as if getting out of bed will break the spell I cast, this magic spell that put me far away where nothing happened and if I move the spell will break and it will all be real. When I do move, I want to keep moving, I want to run and run and run for miles and miles and never stop. Like maybe I can run away from all this or maybe it’s because I can sense that as long as I keep busy, keep going and don’t stop, don’t pause to think, then I won’t have to feel the yuck. There’s no running, no place to go, but I can hide in my secret space (closet). 

After. I feel, I don’t know, it’s something I definitely didn’t know then, and it’s hard to describe even now. It’s sad, but more than that. There’s something, it’s like there is something I wanted but didn’t get and now I feel left. I feel like I’m the doll in the bin of barbies that had her hair chopped off, or was drawn on with marker. You know, the doll no one wants to choose, the one that is the last resort when all the other dolls are already take. Maybe the word is “left” or lonely. But it’s not really one of those things. Or it’s not just one feeling, it’s also this feeling of wanting or needing something but not getting it. It’s sort of, isolating. It’s soul crushing. Maybe I feel used. Or not as loved as I thought I would feel. I don’t know. 

 After. There’s more layers for this. Sensorimotor. I feel empty. Like someone scraped out my insides. I feel like my body isn’t mine. I feel hollow. My head feels like static. No, my life feels like static, like when you turn on the tv, and you can hear and see the show, but it’s filled with static and the picture is jumping around. That’s it. I feel like static. My body isn’t mine. My head is light, maybe it will just float away like a balloon. My heart feels, not my heart, but around my heart feels like a block of ice. It’s just so frozen, which makes no sense because I feel hot, like I could have a strange kind of fever. Maybe I’m sick. My stomach….it’s like the feeling you get on a roller coaster and you go fast down a big hill. 

“Lots of dissociative feelings here. And so many confusing feelings. I wonder if it’s that these feelings were too much to have back then. You couldn’t feel them back then and you didn’t have help with your feelings so you do the only thing you child do– ignored them. Now they are popping back up because the part hat held them feels safe enough to let them out. As painful as it is, I think if we are careful to work with small pieces of these old feelings, this will all start to feel better.”

I want to talk, to say something but I’m so far away I can’t get words to form. I manage to bring myself back to the the present. Finally I whisper, “Can I have a blanket?” 

Bea gets up. “Of course,” she says. She gets a blanket and drapes it over me. “We only have a few more minutes, so just try to feel that you are safe, and work on coming back a little bit more. Try to feel that boundary the blanket sets for you.” 

“Okay.” I whisper the word. 

“If you want, we can talk about the after on Wednesday, okay? Of any other time. When you are ready to talk about if and work with it, there is a lot we can do.”

“I won’t. I mean, we won’t talk about it. I can’t because, well, I don’t know.its because it would be breaking my rules. You know. I’ll feel like I won’t be able to bring it up a second time.”

“Okay. How about this? I’ll ask you on Wednesday of you would like to talk about and work with this after stuff?” Bea suggests. 

I nod. “Do you….? Will you hold onto my notebook?”

“Sure, I can do that.” Bea tells me.  

I know time is up, and before she can gently tell me, I pull the blanket out from under my head, and fold it up. I still can’t look at her. 
“Alice,” Bea says seriously. “I read it, and nothing bad happened. I read it and you are okay. I read it and my opinion of you has not changed. I read it and nothing bad happened.”

“Okay.” I finally look up and she’s still just Bea. I stand up then, and we say our good byes. Bea wishes me a Happy Birthday as I walk out door. 

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. 

Sleep, sleep, and more sleep

Ever since we worked through this last rupture and began to deal with the falling apart, out of control mess that was December me, we have been very focused on sleep. It started when I emailed Bea, telling her I felt a bit more like I had been able to put all the crap away, maybe into a suitcase, and it wasn’t gone, but it wasn’t really with me, either, and I could open the suitcase when I was journaling or in her office and so I was okay during the day, that the bad thing was at night, I couldn’t keep the suitcase shut, it just pops open and I have no control over it, so I can’t sleep because I have to keep the suitcase shut and stop anyone who might open it. 

So, 4 sessions ago, on a Monday, Bea asked, “Can we talk about sleep? Because I think we could do some work around this, maybe see if we can’t make it not so scary to go to bed.”

I nodded, sure, okay. “I guess so. We can try.” I wasn’t sure I really believed we could *fix* my sleep, but I was willing to try. 

“Can you talk about what your bedtime routine is like? Do you have a routine? Or even what your evenings usually look like?” She asked. 

I shrugged, and proceeded to describe how Kat has quiet time, watching a show and snuggling with me. After that, usually around 8, she gets her pajamas on, brushes teeth and we put anything in her room that needs to be there, like pacifier (yes, my 6 year old still uses a pacifier, please don’t judge me. She needs it, it is a sensory thing associated with her autism, and we are working on not using it any longer, but by nighttime, she needs it), or her iPad to plug in, or her current favorite stuffed animal. Then we put on a short yoga video, do a bed time meditation, and then I tuck her into bed, sing a song, do one more bedtime mediation, put on her audio book, and kiss her goodnight. By this time, it’s usually 9:00pm. I clean up, pack lunches, do whatever needs doing. And then I start to find things to do in order to put off going to bed. And then when I go to my bedroom, I won’t lay down, and I won’t turn out the lights. I will sit up, in a brightly lit room, and avoid bed and falling asleep. 

“So then what happens when you do try to fall asleep?” She wanted to know. 

I shrugged. I didn’t have a great answer. “I don’t try. I try not to. I don’t know. I can’t lay down. I mean, I can’t like, lay down and try to fall asleep. I just stay sitting up. And read. Or listen to a book. Or watch a movie. And I fight falling asleep. Until I can’t anymore. Then I just……I don’t know. I guess then I finally fall asleep.” 

“Do you feel less safe when you lay down?” I remember her asking this gently, trying hard not to upset me. 

I nodded my head at first, and then told her, “It just….it triggers things. Pictures. Feelings. I don’t know. It is triggering to lay down right now.” 

She mentioned that I lay down when I do yoga, but I shook my head. I may twist myself into pigeon, and then take the form of sleepy pigeon, or do an up dog as I move through sun salutations, but never do I lay down on my back. I just skip those asanas in class and take a different pose, and at home, my flows just avoid it. Savasana is done in child’s pose, and it took me a long time to even feel somewhat okay with child’s pose. I used to take savasana sitting up, in hero pose, so child’s pose is improvement of a sort. I tried to explain this to Bea, but my words got twisted up, and it didn’t make sense when I spoke out loud. So I simply said I didn’t know. 

Three sessions ago, on a Wednesday, Bea asked me if I felt okay continuing to talk about sleep, or if there was anything else I wanted to discuss. I didn’t have anything else, sleep and flashbacks and nightmares had become my new normal and I was fine with talking about and trying to mitigate the flashbacks and terrifying dreams. 

I’d written to Bea on Tuesday, upset that I never got the chance to be *normal*. I said that all I ever remember was being afraid of the dark, of wanting to hide under blankets or in my closet, of being afraid to sleep. I said all I remember is having bad dreams and being scared and alone. I said it was like that now, when I go to bed. 

“When you go to bed, and you fall asleep, or lie down and have a flashback, what is that like?” She asked me, after reading back over my email. 

“I…..Its like I can’t move. I get trapped there.” I told her. 

“Do you feel frozen?” Bea suggested, and she wasn’t wrong to suggest that, because frozen tends to be a common state for me. 

“No, not like that…..like……a child, afraid to get out of their bed in the middle of the night. More like, because it’s night so it’s sort of scary, but also, my mother had rules about getting up and getting out of bed. Until I was 5, she had to come get me out of bed in the mornings, because she had drilled that rule into me so well.” I explained as well as I could. 

Bea hesitated then, but she eventually asked me if it was the same when Kenny would put me to bed. 

I remember feeling extremely foggy, and not wanting to feel anything while I talked. “No..I…he would put me to bed and sometimes, right away…..he’d, well, you know, rub my back, sing a song, I don’t know…..and then….he’d stay in my room and bad things would happen.” As much as I didn’t want to feel anything, fear and shame and disgust still lurked around the edges of feeling. 

Bea murmured something validating and understanding and it seems it was the exact right thing to say, because I continued on with the story. “Sometimes though, he would put me to bed and then leave. And he might come back. And he might not. And I never knew. I couldn’t know. So I just stayed awake and waited. And waited. And I was trapped and stuck and couldn’t do anything!” I remember sort of shouting the last sentence at her, but Bea never gets upset by that type of thing. 

“That was hard,” she told me, “Really scary and really hard. Worse in someways, to just be waiting, not knowing.”

I nodded. Exactly. And then, in a very tiny voice, I said to her, “I wanted and didn’t want him to come back. It’s confusing.” I felt so much shame when I told her that.

There wasn’t any judgement in her voice, though. “Of course you did. That’s what we talk about, how bodies respond, and how these things can get very complicated, because our bodies are made to feel good.” 

I remember physically shrinking away from her words. “I’m disgusting.” I whispered. 

“No, I don’t think so. Not at all. Bodies reacting, that’s part of the confusing part, but it’s also part of that touch being too much for a little girl. You never should have been touched in that way when you were little. You were a child. You weren’t disgusting, you weren’t bad. That is all on him. And that’s when you went away, right? You went away because it was too much, too confusing to handle?”

I nodded, I agreed with her. She continued then, when I didn’t say anything, “You protected yourself in the best way you could. That little girl was very smart, and very brave.” 

I shrugged, and I felt even blurrier. “I went far away to the place in my head. That was different than here not here.” 

“Yes,” Bea asked, “Did you create a place you could go and feel safe? Did you have a place you imagined?” 

I remembered sort of day dreaming as I tried to fall asleep, but I don’t share that. They were always dreams of my Sunday school teacher or regular school teacher or my favorite aunt taking me home and letting me live with them. I desperately wanted to live in a place with no secrets. Instead, I opted to share something else. “Maybe a place from my book…..”

“Ahhh, yes. Books were very important to you, weren’t they?” Bea remembered. I learned to read really early, before school, even, so by first and second grade, I was reading chapter books. “Was there a certain book you pictured places from?” 

“Maybe the secret garden?” It came out as a question, but I had meant it a statement. It was just difficult to share that part of my story. I’d never before shared how I used the garden Mary finds and creates to feel safe. It made me feel vulnerable, like Bea could see through me and see all my secrets. 

“Oh, that is a good one. I didn’t read the book, but I imagine the garden was beautiful.” 

I didn’t respond right away, and then I told her, “You should read it, it is a really good book. It was one of my favorites, I read it all the time.” 

We discussed the storyline, but I didn’t remember much of it. It’s hard to recall facts, when the last time I read the book I was probably 10 or 11. 

“What does the garden look like, when you picture it?” Bea had wanted to know. 

At first, it felt too embarrassing to say anything. I cant explain why. I just get embarrassed when asked to share things from my imagination. I finally described how the garden is a secret, so no one can find it or even knows about it, and then I described the weeping willow tree with a bench under it, and how I liked the tree because it sort of hides a person who sits on the bench, and I shared how there are purple flowers on vines that climb every where (morning glories, Bea supplied the name) and pink roses, and other flowers, too, lavender, and ones I don’t know the name of. 

Bea told me it sounded wonderful and very safe. “I think this book could be a resource for you. Maybe you could read some before bed, see if it can help?” 

Before we ended therapy that day, Bea carefully broached the subject of trying some SP around my sleep issues. She told me she felt like SP was the perfect thing for the sleep troubles, because they were so much more than a memory, the sleep issues are happening right now, in my present day life, and they involve feelings and thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. She was very careful in the way she suggested it, making sure to stress that SP was just an option, not something we had to do. I agreed to think about it. 

During my session, I had shrugged off her suggestion of reading The Secret Garden at the time, but when I got home that night, I found a copy of the book on kindle with the audible companion, and downloaded it. I’ve been listening to the story at night, when I am trying to fall asleep. So far, it’s not helped, but it’s only been three nights that I have tried it. 

I need him to be wrong 

I had a bit of a breakdown. Not in the traditional sense, but in the way I do breakdowns and falling apart. It started when Bea asked a simple question, way back in November. Things had been messy and up and down for a while, really since my brother’s wedding, and as we talked about the mess, I curled up and hid, in that way I do. I began to tell Bea that I couldn’t do this, couldn’t do any of it, and that it didn’t matter anyway. 

When she asked me what “it” was, I had no answer, and told her again, “it doesn’t matter.” Then she asked why. And my world crashed in upon itself. Frustrated, terrified, full of panic, I shouted at Bea, “why? Why? Because he can do whatever he wants. He can do whatever he wants, and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop him. It doesn’t matter what I do. I can’t keep the scary out, he can do whatever he wants and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop it.” 

That is where is started. 7 weeks later, there has been a lot of up and down. There was a lot of miscommunication, and hurt feelings and being stuck. January 2, I was ready to quit, to walk away and be done. Instead, I went against my instincts and emailed Bea. That started a line of communication, it gave Bea a way in, past the hardened crust of perfection, and it gave me a way out from behind the facade. It was hard. So hard. It was terrible, and excruciatingly vulnerable feeling, and so much shame wrapped up with all of it. But we talked it through, in several sessions, and email. And that brings us to today. 

I obviously haven’t been doing great, I’m struggling a lot to be present and not overwhelmed, and these days it feels as if triggers are everywhere. No where really feels safe. At my session on Monday, we talked more about what had occurred over the month of December, my feeling that Bea had left me, that she just didn’t want to deal with me— which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I sent an email later to touch base, because we had discussed so much and it felt as if so much has happened, I really needed to know that we were on the same page. She confirmed that yes, that covered everything, and we were on the same page.

It’s Wednesday morning, so I drop Kat off at school, and head to Bea’s office. I didn’t sleep much again last night, and I am so, so tired. I am in a hurry to get to her office, to see her. I’ve felt so alone and in so much turmoil the last 7 weeks, it is a relief to feel that she is a safe person again. I’ve been on the edge of tears since around 5:00am this morning. As I’m driving, Bea sends a text, warning me the stairs are slippery, she wants me to be careful. I text back a smiley face, feeling warm and cared for (although I probably wouldn’t admit that to Bea).

When I get to her office, I hurry up the stairs and pause outside the door to remove my boots. It snowed earlier this week, and yesterday the weather warmed up and the snow melted away, turning everything a wet muddy mess. 

“Hey, come on in.” Bea stands up, and opens the door all the way. “I’m just going to go warm my tea while you get seated.” 

I can hear her in the other room, putting her tea in the microwave and turning it on. Her office is warm, and safe. It feels sort of homey and cozy to have her in the next room, warming up tea and chatting with me. 

“The porch isn’t slippery anymore just really wet,” I call to her. 

“Oh good, I’m glad,” she calls back, and we chat easily until she is back in the office, and sits in her chair. 

“Okay,” I say as I’m pulling out my phone, “I don’t want to spend the whole session talking about Kat, I’m not avoiding things or doing that distract you with Kat talk, we just need to talk about her for a minute. We are ending ABA this month, the last day is going to be January 31. She wants to be with her peers, at school. It was her choice to end things even sooner than planned.” 

Bea is excited for Kat, for her progress, for me. I’m happy about this change. I honestly never thought Kat would choose to be with her peers. It’s amazing. I’m thankful Bea isn’t trying to make this a thing about transitions, about things changing, about losing support. It’s a good thing in my world and I’m glad she is able to recognize that. 

Once that is out of the way, she asks me where I want to start. I shrug. Even if I have things on my mind or writing to share, it’s hard for me to figure out how to answer that; it’s almost like it’s too open ended of a question. 

“Well, In your email, the thing that stuck out the most to me was the last paragraph. But I want to make sure there isn’t something else that needs to be addressed from your email, or otherwise. That’s all, that’s why I am asking.” 

“Oh. No….we can start with the email, that’s good.” I’m sitting up, one leg tucked under me right now. I’m comfortable, I’m glad that Bea feels safe again. 

“I wanted to make sure you knew that there wasn’t anything bad about anything you said. I wrote that I wanted to talk about this paragraph so you would know I wasn’t discounting it, that I did want to talk about it all, it was just too much to type. Because it’s important. What you said here, I think about it, and I want to die (and no, I am not going to do anything, everything I said before in regards to safety is still very much a factor). I think that is just how huge those feelings are, or maybe they are feelings from the little girl, maybe these out of control feelings made her feel like she would die back then and so I hid the truth from myself so I could grow up. And now, all these feelings are mixed up, me, teen, little girl feelings of horror at the truth. I feel like I’m going to be talking about this for a long time. This is it, exactly it. You are very right about all this. That’s what trauma is. That little girl couldn’t face the feelings of being out of control, they really did make her feel like she was going to die. So she tucked those feelings away. She was really smart, and so brave, because she knew she had to tuck all those feelings away so that she could grow up, and function. And she did grow up. That’s the healthy adult part of you, right? But there are those other parts, and the little girl, who held onto that truth all those years. She held it for a long time, but she doesn’t have to hold it anymore. It really was that awful back then, but it’s not like that now. She’s not alone now, and she has power now.” 

“It’s still so horrible,” I whisper.

“Yes, it still feels horrible. And it is mixed up and confusing because all those parts of you are working to understand this.” 

I’m more curled up now, but I’ve managed to stay sitting up. I keep covering my face with my hands, moving them away, covering it again. I move my hands halfway down, so I’m peeking out over the top of them, “This is so hard.” 

“It is hard. It’s very all encompassing right now, I know. And, you are right that we will be talking about this for a long time, because this– the realization, working to make sense out of it, to be able to function with that knowledge– this is the work.” 

I’m sort of going between not here and here. It’s a lot of work to not just go all the way away. It’s what I want to do. 

“Can I say something that is a little bit thinky?” Bea asks. “You can say no, that’s okay.” 

I’m grateful for the reminder that it is okay to say no, but I tell her, “I think so. I think that is okay.” 

“In SP, we talk about separating out the core definers. So, right, in this, it’s everything, right? It’s thoughts and emotions and physical feelings?”

I nod. I’m listening, and I’m not feeling a sense of Bea leaving. This feels more like she is working with me to find a way to unravel this a bit, to find a starting place. 

“So, maybe we start with the thoughts that come up, or the feelings, the emotions. We could also start with the body feelings, but that can feel triggering for you, so it may work better to start with thoughts or emotions.” She explains. And she sounds like Bea, like regular, with me in this Bea. 

I don’t say anything right away. I just sit and go a little farther away that I had been. It’s really hard to separate things out, and finding words to describe the feelings is really hard, too. “Maybe…..thoughts?”

“Sure, yeah, that’s a great place to start. We can also just be here, together, sitting with all of this. We don’t have to start anywhere or do anything.” Her voice is gentle, and she sounds so okay with whatever I choose. 

I sit there, quietly for a while, fighting back the tears I’ve been fighting since early this morning. “I think…I think everything….there’s so many……it’s a lot more……I think everything is a trigger. I can’t sleep. I can’t lay down in my own bed.”

“Mmmhhhmm,” Bea does her verbal nod thing, because I have rested my head on a pillow sitting on the arm rest of the sofa, and I’ve wrapped my arms around my head, effectively hiding. “You don’t feel safe in your bed right now.”

“No…I don’t.” My voice is soft as I agree with her. 

“Is it falling asleep, staying asleep? What happens?” 

“I….I..I just can’t relax. I can’t relax to fall asleep. I can’t lay down, that’s a flashback right then. I just stay up until I literally can’t keep my eyes open any more, and then I just fall asleep. Two hours, three hours later it’s a nightmare.” 

“Do you try sleeping sitting up? What about hubby? Is he in bed, too? Does that help you feel safer?”

Without thinking, I blurt out, “No, I don’t (and then I caught myself, thought about editing what I was saying but chose to finish my words the way they had started, because I’m trying this new thing of being more honest with Bea and not hiding who I am or what I think or feel) want him there!” 

“Ahhhhh. So having him there isn’t creating that sense of safety.” 

“No. Nothing’s safe.” Now I’m crying, and I’m annoyed with myself for crying. “Everything is changed. It changes everything. I can’t….he didn’t…” I shake my head. 

“This is a big deal, and it changes a lot of everything. I was thinking though, likely there was a side of Kenny— if you think of internal family systems, so parts, not exactly like your parts, not as separate as your parts, but just the parts that we all have– that did care about you, or didn’t want to hurt you.” Her voice is quiet and soothing. She’s remembering how I was so upset by the idea he didn’t care at all that he hurt me. 

“I….I need him….to be…..” I start and stop a few times, tripping over the strangeness of the words. “I need him to be wrong.” 

“Oh, he was wrong! He was very wrong. He was old enough to know right from wrong and what he did to the little girl was very, very wrong!” Bea is very adamant sounding, and there is a bit of….I’m not sure, it’s not happiness, exactly, but more like she is glad that I am saying these words. 

“I….it needs to be…..I need it to be cut and dried. I….I need him to be…..it just needs to be simple!” I’m falling over these thoughts, and getting twisted up, and the words are alien and frightening to say aloud. 

“It is. It is simple. I’m hearing that this is really important, for it to be cut and dried. Can I hear more about that? What do you need him to be?” 

I try to tell her, and the words freeze in the back of my throat. Clearing it, I find new words. “Why is it what I can feel as if I’m screaming in my head, and yet I can’t say a single word?” 

“I’m not sure. I wonder that, too. I’ve always though it has to do with not having a voice for so very, very long. Is the screaming angry? Or more like wanting to be heard?”

“It’s not angry.” I tell her. 

“So wanting to be heard? If I think of screaming to be heard, it feels like desperation to me.” 

I nod. Yes. Yes. That is is. I feel desperate to be heard, because this…..it needs out. 

“Okay. Then we wait. I’m right here, and I’m ready to listen whenever you are able to speak. You will be heard, okay?” Somehow, she knows exactly what I need to hear. 

Tears come again, and this time they are frustration and fear and relief that Bea is here, all rolled into one. 

“We can sit with the feelings, and just be here, okay?” She asks me. 

I nod. Okay. 

“While we are sitting, can we see what we can do to help you feel safer? I think creating a sense of safety, finding that again, is going to be really important right now.”  

“I can try.” My voice is tiny. 

“I’ve noticed that as we have been talking, you are really curling into yourself. You are really needing to feel safe right now. You know what you need, your body knows it needs safety. So I’m thinking how can we help add more safety in? I could turn around, not be looking at you. Or maybe you would like a blanket, that can feel very safe.” She is speaking with that slow, quiet voice that I sometimes think of as the ‘don’t spook the crazy girl’ voice, except when she sounds like this it is soothing, and comforting and feels very genuine.  

I want to say a blanket, but I feel stupid, so I say nothing.

“A blanket, that weight, having a boundary that can be seen and felt can feel very safe. For a long time, I kept a blanket at my therapist’s office. I used to hide under it all the time. And, we don’t have to do anything. Just sitting here, knowing you aren’t alone, that can feel safe, too.” 

Because she told me she has hidden under a blanket in her own therapy, I feel less silly, less crazy, wanting a blanket to hide under. “Maybe…..maybe try a blanket.” 

“Okay. I’m going to get up to get a blanket, okay?” Because my head is down, she warns me that she is going to be moving around her office. 

When Bea steps near me, she simply holds the blanket up, the way you might hold a sheet up for a person to change behind. I can easily sit up to grab the blanket from her and remain hidden. I pull the blanet over my head, and curl back up. “Thank you,” I whisper. 

“You’re welcome. Anytime you want a blanket, that is what they are there for. Did you want me to turn around?”

“No….no, because it…even though I won’t see you….it….just no.” 

“Because it would feel like I left?” She puts the pieces together easily. 

“Yes.” I admit it, because I’m trying that whole ‘be honest and stop editing’ thing with Bea. 

“Okay. That’s that attachment piece, it is important, and you do need it. I’m just sitting down and I’m facing you,” she says. “Let’s see if we can establish some safety. Maybe you can feel that is is warm under the blanket? And no one can see you, and I’m right here, making sure that no one can get past that blanket. You are safe now. Can you feel that having a blanket makes a boundary?” 

We sit together with that for a few moments. I feel hidden and safer than I have felt in months. I’d really like to stay right here, in Bea’s office, with her keeping watch, me hidden in a blanket, and sleep for a few hours. These are exactly the thoughts I work so hard to never allow to surface or take form– even just in my own head. “I need things to be cut and dried,” I say, “Because……because well…..I need him to be…….” I’m stuck again, unable to let the words out. 

“Well, we know you need him to be wrong, and he was so, so wrong. What else does he need to be?” 

“I……I need him to be wrong, and I need him to be…….” Instead of words, sobs erupt from deep inside. 
“I know it is so important to you to get the words out. It’s okay to let the feelings out, too.” 

It’s a back and forth struggle now, stopping the tears, trying to get the words out, and crying again when the words don’t come. Through it all, Bea is there. There is this sense from her that she is in no rush, that she isn’t trying to get us anywhere, that we can stay right here until I can get it out. That feels safe, too. And so finally, the words come, all in one big rush. “I need him to be wrong. I need him to be bad. I need it to be his fault, all his fault right now because if…if I have to feel this out of control and be my fault, I can’t do it, it’s too much, it’s all too much, I can’t do if, and it needs to be his fault. He needs to be bad.” Then I burst into tears. 

“Oh! Oh! That is too much, way too much. This is not your fault. It is all his fault. He was wrong. He is the one who is bad. Not you, never you. He did bad things, and he was wrong. It’s not your fault at all. Oh, that would be so much, just too much. You can’t be at fault for your own trauma.” Bea is full of compassion and empathy, but also sounds just horrified at the thought I was feeling so out of control and to blame. 

I’m not 100% sure it’s as simple as I am making it out to be, I’m still pretty sure I hold some responsibility, but right now, I need it to be simple. I need it to be all his fault, his wrong, because he is all bad. 

“He hurt me. He was wrong and he hurt me,” I feel whiny, and sad and a little bit mad. 

“He did hurt you. He hurt you and he was very, very wrong. It was his fault. All the blame is on him.” She tells me. 

“But nobody came. He was hurting me, and nobody came to stop it. And he hurt me and I couldn’t stop it, I couldn’t do anything, not anything at all.” I’m crying, and farther away than I’ve been all session. In my head, I keep hearing the r word, but I can’t say it. 

“No, you couldn’t stop it. But you know what? That little girl, she was so smart, and so brave, she knew she could go far, far away in her head and feel safe. So that’s just what she did. And the little girl grew up, and when she felt safe enough, she was able to tell her most awful secrets, because she survived. That little girl is safe now. It’s okay to let it out. No one can ever hurt her again. She’s safe now.” Bea tells the story— a very short version, obviously– with me being smart and brave. That’s crazy to me. I can’t wrap my head around it. 

We sit, and talk, not surface stuff, but not as deep as what we had been working with. We somehow get on the topic of the last month. I think I said I wished I had just told her what was wrong, how bad I felt. But we ended up discussing the stuck and trapped feeling again. 

I’m not sure who started the conversation, but when Bea says something about feeling helpless, during that time, I’m struck by how bad I feel about that. I’m not sorry for how how things happened, I’d do them differently, if I had a do-over, but I can’t change it and the last month brought me here, to this more open and honest place. “I didn’t mean to make you feel helpless,” I say softly. 

“I know.” 

“I would never mean to make another person feel like that.” I can’t let it go. 

“I know you wouldn’t. You aren’t a person who wants to strike out at others when you feel bad. You turn all of the upset on yourself. But feeling that helpless feeling, feeling like I was stuck and couldn’t do anything to get past that wall of okayness you had built, that needed to happen. Because when I took a step back, and went to the thinky place, I could see that these helpless, stuck, trapped feelings, they weren’t about me. They were about you. They were your feelings. When I can step back like that and see that you were sharing your feelings with me in the only way you could at that moment, then I picture myself as a big Bea container, holding all of those feelings so you aren’t alone with them.” 

“Okay.” I smile a little bit. I think that sounds sort of nice. A big Bea container holding all the yucky scary stuff with me. At first I felt like she was placing a barrier between her and I– as in, this is my job, to hold this stuff for you, I am the shrink and you are the patient– but then I realized that Bea has never behaved or spoken like that, and I was being silly. And then I thought of how I sit with Kat in her feelings, and how I do my very best to contain her huge feelings when she is having a melt down, and really, the only reason I can do that is because Bea modeled it for me, and because I care about Kat. So I conclude that she cares, because you can’t fake your way through this. 

We talk about sleep and nightmares. Bea says she knows I know this, but she wants to just remind me of the grounding techniques that help, like naming 5 things I can see, and looking in the mirror to remind myself that I’m grown, or using scents to help ground. 

“I still have vanilla on my nightstand. I never stopped those tricks….I just….” I shrug. 

“What about turning on a light?” 

I feel my face redden. “I’ve been sleeping with the lights on. I don’t want to be in the dark.”

“Understandable. You need to do whatever helps you feel safe. What about Hagrid? Is he still sleeping in your bed?” 

“Yeah. He helps. But it’s like I can’t even…..I’m trapped. I wake up, still in the nightmare and I can’t think enough to even do anything to ground to get out of it.” 

“That sounds really scary, to wake up like that. Do you know how you get out of it? Because you do get out of it. You aren’t trapped forever.” Her voice is curious and gentle, a soft reminder that I’m not still in my nightmare. 

“Maybe it ends? I don’t know. I just….it stops enough that I’m not so trapped. But,…”

“But what?” 

“Then I end up doing things I’m not supposed to do.” I whisper the words, afraid I’m disappointing her, afraid she will be angry. 

“Well, my first thought was to say, ‘Alice use your CARES worksheet.’ But then, I think that’s not what you need right now. You are using the tools you developed to feel safe. That’s what this is about; feeling safe. And so you are doing what you need to do right now. I think that is okay, because this is so big, it is such a shift you are working towards, it’s going to be very unsettling and as long as you are safe– and you know where my concerns lie– then this is okay right now. We can work on this, it is okay. And I accept this part of you, too. This part of you is very smart, and creative, to have found tools that work to make her feels safe. Sometimes using those tools meant she could go to school and learn, or it meant she could attend a social function and not be full of fear. Those things were important. This part of you worked hard at making sure you felt as safe as she could make you. That is important work. And now, we can work to create safety and build some new skills, and that part, she can still use her creativity to help find new ways to cope. It is okay, where you are at just now is okay.” 

“Okay,” I whisper. I believe her. I’m relieved, she’s not disappointed in me. 

We sit together, and it’s quiet but Bea is there, and I’m there– hiding under my blanket– and I’m calming down a little more. Every once in a while, she murmurs some reassurance, that she is there and I am safe, and it is okay to be where I am and feel what I feel and that we have all the time we need to work through this. 

“Those little micromovements, the shaking in your legs, try to let those happen, if you can. Can you feel them? That they are releasing some stress and tension?”

I hadn’t noticed until she pointed it out. I’m still so disconnected from my body, it’s as if things are back to how they used to be, ever since I danced with him at my brother’s wedding. “No….I can’t. I can’t do this. I just can’t. Stop. Stop it. I need this to stop.” I start to cry.

“Okay. Okay. We don’t have to notice anything. Let’s go back to that calm space, where we are okay. We can just sit, and feel safe under the blanket, and no one can get through that blanket. It’s a strong boundary, you are safe, and I’m out here, right here, making sure you are safe.” 

I keep crying. 

“We have almost 20 minutes to just be in the space, to feel that sense of safety.” Bea says softly. 

“Okay. Okay,” I sniffle. 

“And we can let those feelings out, too. That’s okay to do, too.” Her voice feels safe, and I can feel myself starting to relax a little bit. I don’t feel so on edge, it’s not like I need to be on guard. Bea can keep watch for a little bit. I’m safe right now, with her there. 

When there’s maybe 5 minutes left, Bea says, “I’m going to go make another cup of tea, and use the restroom, so you can have some time. Is that okay?” 

“It’s okay,” I confirm. It’s easier to sit up and come out from under the blanket when I don’t feel as if Bea is watching me. By the time she comes back, I’ve folded the blanket and righted the sofa pillows. 

“I’ll see you later today, with Kat, right?” Bea asks. 

I hand her the blanket. “Yes. We’ll be back at 2:30.” I can’t look at her, and she is being very gentle with me, and understanding of that.

She reminds me she is here and that I am safe, and I risk a glance at her. She’s fhe same Bea, looking at me the way she always looks at me; there is no disgust or annoyance or anything negative in her gaze. I look away quickly, and mumble goodbye.

Things aren’t better, exactly, but they aren’t worse, either. And I don’t feel so alone now. Maybe this truly is a time where the only way out is through.