Deeper down the rabbit hole part 5 (she’s home)

Somehow I made it through until Wednesday morning. At 3:00am, I ended up emailing Bea. I wrote to her that I was afraid she was assuming I was okay because she had not gotten any emails from me, but actually, I wasn’t okay, nothing was okay. I needed her to know that the little girl was feeling unseen, and triggered and needed to be seen. I needed her to know I was struggling with believing she was back, really truly back, before I even set foot in her office. I gritted my teeth, wrote the email, detached and numbed myself out enough to send it.  

It wasn’t until I was in my car, driving to her office, I felt so anxious I thought I might throw up. Walking into the little house that Bea’s office is in, I feel massive amounts of apprehension. I’m so worried she is going to be mad at me for walking out. This past week, I’ve been able to pretend it didn’t happen, detach from it all, and now it all comes rushing back to me. 

I walk in with my head down, unable to look at Bea. She’s sitting in her chair. “Hi?” I whisper. 

“Hey,” she says easily, smiling up at me. 

I nod my head at her, but I can’t get words out. I sit on my spot on the sofa, throwing my coral orange colored bag down next to me. It is holding all my writing from this week. 

“So,” Bea says slowly. “I got your email, I’m glad to have gotten it. I wasn’t thinking that you were okay. I was checking my email, watching for any mail from you. And I did wonder how you were. Because things were left really not settled. So I was worried about you, and I did think about you. But I won’t usually email people. Because if I had emailed you when I was feeling worried and was wondering about how you were…..it just, it might have been more about my needs, and not yours. I just, I think contact needs to come from you, not be initiated from me. Of course, you know, it’s not to say I won’t email or be the first to contact, I just think therapists really need to let their clients initiate contact. But I really never thought things were okay. And I was thinking and worrying about you and hoping you were okay.” Everything she says is said in a gentle way, in this caring and careful way. 

“How was your vacation?” I ask her, smiling. It’s as if she hasn’t said a word at all about me not feeling okay at all. Miss Perfect— this part of me is so determined to pretend things are okay and normal and fine and to smile and behave within the realm of the social niceties I grew up with.

Bea plays along for a minute. She’s says she had a good time, and tells me a quick silly story about her trip. Then, she is back to business. “I wondered if you wanted to start by looking at your journals or anything you had written this week, or if there was something else you wanted to start with.” 

“I….I just…….I don’t know.” I sigh. I dig my journal and loose sheets of paper out of my bag. 

“Alice, I want to make sure that the little girl knows she is being seen today, that she isn’t alone. So whatever you need today, okay? I’m here.” Bea says softly. 

I shake my head. “I don’t know. I don’t know what I need.” In truth, I’m not sure I trust her enough in this moment. If she’s not back, and I hand over everything I wrote and felt and struggled with this week…..well, it won’t end well for me.

“I’m back. I’m here. I feel very here and very present and I just want to follow your lead.” Bea says firmly.

I sit there for a while. I’m holding my journal tight in my arms, and I’m unsure if I can hand it over. Finally, I whisper, very softly and cautiously, “Are you really back?” 

“I am. I’m really back.” She says. She sounds present and here. 

I’m still unsure, and so we sit in silence again, until in a small voice, I ask, “Are you sure?” 

“Yes. I’m very sure. I’m here.” She says seriously. 

I stretch my arm out, holding out the loose leaf papers and then my journal when she had taken the papers. 

Bea begins to read, and I bury my face in my knees. I can’t look at her. I’m too afraid, too ashamed. 

“Mmmhmmm. Yeah, everything is flipped. There is a lot of shame, but the little girl did nothing wrong,” she says as she reads, commenting on my words. “The teen was protecting the little girl, I think. The teen wasn’t sure I could be trusted to be present when I was gone, and so she took care of the little girl. That’s okay. I can see what the teen wouldn’t trust me, why that would be hard to think of trusting me again.” And then, “I know you won’t like this, but I’m sort of dancing in my chair right now, that you could hate me. I’m glad you had a place to put those very bad feelings. You were mad. And that’s okay. I’m glad you could hate me, that you could,let yourself hate me. That’s a good thing, as strange as that might sound.” She really is sounding okay, upbeat…..not in this way that she isn’t taking my feelings seriously, but that she is actually seeing it as a good thing I could hate her. Bea reads through pages and pages of writing, some of what I have already posted in part 1, 2, 3. She acknowledges how badly I was feeling, and how the little girl was really running things and how it feels to be fighting with hubby. 

In all honesty, most of the session after that point is pretty blurry. A lot of it was focused on the little girl, and shame and bad, scared feelings. We will have to talk through it all again, when I’m more present, but until then what I do know is Bea was quite adamant the little girl was not to blame. She was understanding and sympathetic to the confusion and fear and revulsion I had been feeling. She acknowledged that things feel very out of control and told me it was okay, and understandable. 

And then, I get the feeling I just couldn’t continue having this conversation, and the adult me took over things. From that point forward, we talk about hubby and our fight. 

“We just keep circling…..ugh. It’s like the same fight, over and over.” 

“I know. I know it really feels that way. Do you think that there is anyway to talk to him about this? I know that’s not what you want to hear, and I am on your side, but I feel like in order to be on your side, I have to push a little.” Bea says. 

“I can’t. I don’t know. Anything I say, I’ll just be accused of putting words in his mouth, or he won’t listen anyway or who knows what else?” I snap back at her. 

“Okay. What if we stepped back and tried to draw out what happens between you?” She asks. “So you can show him, say that you identified what keeps happening?” 

“No. No-no.” I mumble. I’m too not here, and I don’t want to be more present than I am. 

Bea attempts a few more times to get me to act, to try something, to get a bit more here. And I refuse. I just can’t. 

“Have you given more thought to couples therapy?” Bea asks me. 

I shake my head. “I’m afraid. And I don’t…I just…I’m afraid.” 

“I think that if you found someone who understood trauma and who is comfortable working with couples, it could be a really helpful thing.” She says. I know it’s coming from a place of caring and wanting to help, but I’m annoyed. 

“Just stop. Stop it. I can’t do therapy with him! Didn’t you see that whole list of why I don’t trust him?” 

Bea nods. “I did. And I believe that those are all valid reasons to feel vulnerable and afraid to trust. But you know that in relationships if we don’t give people chance, if we don’t test those things that feel unsafe, it’s really hard to find trust and safety. We have to give people a chance.” 

“I don’t wanna talk about this. About relationships. I’ll think on it,” I say. 

Bea nods. “Okay.” 

We wrap things up rather awkwardly, but it’s okay. Nothing feels resolved or fixed, but it’s okay. Bea is back. She’s home. And she’s really back. Like really, truly, back. So, I’m not upset. I feel okay. Things are okay now. It’s okay. Bea is home.  

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Deeper down the rabbit hole part 2 (everything is flipped)

Continued from part one……….. (And trigger warning for talk of suicide ideation, negative coping skills, and detailed talk of childhood sexual abuse. Oh, and sweating. Yeah, I’ve been a pretty dark place……so just please be careful reading, okay?)

I walk out of Bea’s office. I can’t feel my legs, so I’m somewhat surprised that they work. I can hear her trying to get me to wait, to take a breath. She’s asking me what just happened, what upset me so much? I can’t answer. I’m a little afraid she is going to stop me, tell me I’m not allowed to leave, that I have to stay. She doesn’t stop me, or tell me I can’t leave, and in the moment, I am relieved. Later, I am hurt. I wonder why I didn’t matter enough for her to stop me? But then I realize that Bea would never knowingly do anything that would use her power in this relationship to make me do something I clearly didn’t want to do. 

It’s not until much later that night that I realize she is leaving for her trip, and that I won’t see her for a whole week. I’m upset about this, but I won’t email her, or text or call. I half hope she will email me, to check on me, but I’m fairly certain she won’t do that. I choose to write to her in my journal, but then realize I’m out of notebooks, and so I grab a pad of blank paper to write on. I write to her, explaining how everything is flipped. I unleash all the confusion, agitation and chaos onto the paper. 

***************************
Bea, 

Everything is flipped. Everything. It’s this big giant mess and I can’t fix it and nothing is okay, and I can not breathe. We’ve talked about it being abuse, that what he did hurt me, we’ve talked about nothing being the child’s fault, you have even said that no matter what the little girl instigated, it wasn’t her fault, that you would never blame her. But the little girl, and even the grown up has held onto this idea of it only being a game, no big deal, nothing harmful. I have held onto the idea that all of this was because he loved me. I thought, it meant it wasn’t so bad, it meant it wasn’t meant to hurt me, it meant he cared and loved me. I needed to believe he loved me. 

Here’s the thing. If he was playing our game with her, I wasn’t special, he didn’t love me. This is ruining everything. It’s ruining every story I told myself, every lie I have held onto. It wasn’t because I flirted, or instigated, or because he just loved me so much he could not help himself, or because he cared. If he had someone else there, was touching someone else then it was him, not me. And then I can not think or breathe any more at all because everything is spinning out of control. I had NO fucking control at all. It just changes everything. 

And flipped in the way you said. In the way you said and I got so mad and left. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have left. Please don’t hate me. I was jealous, too. I hated that he was playing our special game with her. So when he told me that all 3 of us could be special friends, I said okay. I didn’t want to lose him. I’m bad. Really, truly bad. Disgusting. Evil. No better than he is. Omg what is wrong with me? How could I have just….ugh. Ugh. 

I HATE YOU for knowing this. You don’t get to just know. Why did you have to know. Figure it out? It’s not fair! I hate that you know. I can’t deal with this. It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real. 

***************************

Thursday, and Friday, are spent in a dissociative daze. My nights are a mess of not sleeping and bad dreams, and during the day I’m too tired to function, and feeling as if I am being triggered constantly. On Saturday, hubby and I have a major fight. The awful thing is, it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except for the fact that we seem to continually have the same fight, over and over. It doesn’t even matter what it was about, or what started it, it doesn’t take long for our communication to go sideways, and things to get all muddled. I end up feeling really, really bad, lower than I have felt in a long time. If I could have been assured that Bea would respond to an email and that she would be present, I would have emailed her. If she had been in town, I would have emailed her and asked if she could call me the next day (Sunday). Instead, I did neither of those things. I wrote her a letter on my pad of blank paper. 

***************************************************************************************************
Saturday night 9:00pm
Hi Bea, 

I really hate you right now. You aren’t here. I hate you for not being here. How could you make me trust you and believe in you and now you aren’t here?!?! 

I want you to be here. I want to know that if I sent an email right now, I’d get a real response at some point tomorrow. And I want to go to therapy on Monday. But I can’t trust I’ll get a real response because of that one time, and I can’t go to therapy on Monday because you aren’t here. 

I DO NOT need you. I don’t need anyone. I don’t need anyone to be okay, I’m always okay on my own, so don’t even worry. I want to be able to write all the yuck out and get a real time response. Because this is just a lot to hold onto and I’m just so triggered right now. 

You know what? I didn’t want this whole relationship nonsense to matter, remember? I told you, from the beginning, that all this relationship shit did not get to be important, that I was not in therapy for relationship crap, AND THIS IS WHY! You gave me stupid fucking high expectations for what I might deserve, for what relationships could be, and then I wanted some of that in my marriage and somehow now hubby is threatening to leave, and you are gone and I’m alone. So no. YOU ARE WRONG. Relationships are bad. Relationships are not okay. Relationships are not hurt. People shouldn’t be trusted. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. You were so, so wrong. I hate you. I quit therapy. I quit, okay? I quit. I quit, I quit. I can not be who hubby wants right now and do therapy. So I quit. 

~Alice 

Sunday 3:30am

Bea,

I’m sorry. Please don’t leave. I don’t quit. I’m sorry I said I hate you. I don’t hate you and I need you and I just want you to come back. Please don’t quit me. I am really sad right now because you are not here and I’m really lonely. Come back soon, okay? 

~the little girl

******************************************************************************************************

I sent a text to my friend Reagan. She works nights and so she did text me back and we chatted that way for a bit. That helped me calm down enough that a slept for a few hours. 

To be continued……….

Journaling and ruminating

I started this last night, and finished it just a little bit ago. It’s more journal entry than anything, not my usual posting. But I have been ruminating about what is going on with me, and this is what I got this weekend.

I’m tired, but hyped up. I’m not sure sleep is something that is going to happen, although it’s almost 1:00am. We drove out to my parent’s today. I’ve spent the day faking okay, smiling, laughing, talking, going through the motions. But I wasn’t really there. While I could tell you the things we did today, I can’t really tell you how I was feeling about those things, or the conversations that were had. In truth, I probably would leave out a few of the more minor things we did. That’s how gone I was.

What is it about being around my parents that sends me far away? I just don’t get it. Out of everyone on this earth, I should feel most comfortable being present, here and authentic, around my parents. They are the people who are supposed to always love you for you, be proud of you, like you, want to be around you, and they are not supposed to leave you (even if leaving is just emotionally leaving you). But that’s not what my parents did. On the surface, sure. It’s exactly they did. But….they really weren’t there. They didn’t give a message that they would love me just for me, or believe I was perfect just as I am. They sent the message I had to be perfect– smart, talented, happy, good, likable– if I wanted their love. So, I was those things. I worked hard at it. I’m very good at being perfect; or at least my mom and dad’s definition of perfect. I hid away, dissociated, was here but not here, all in order to be that perfect little girl. The habit is so learned, so ingrained in me, that I think I just automatically do it now when I’m with them

Why did they need perfect? Did I read the message they sent me correctly? I must have. I told Bea I remember being in second grade, and trying desperately to figure out how to change one of my marks on my report card before giving it to them, because I knew it wouldn’t be good enough. I told her I remember that same year, thinking my mom would rather me be thin and pretty like my cousin. The funny thing is, when I look back at picture of my cousin and I, we are the same size. So all of this, the crazy nonsense in my head, it started so young. Before I even knew who I was. It’s no wonder I’m still trying to figure it out, and it’s no wonder that it is all confusing and hard.

But…..on the other hand, I do have this determination, this sense of myself, somewhere deep down, that I do always somehow come back to. So my parents did a lot of things right, too. And I think my grandma and grandpa helped with that part of me. They wanted the real me, they loved just me. I knew that even as a kid. I know certain things about myself, like what I believe, what I’m afraid of, things I like. So I do have that sense. I think it’s a strange dichotomy, to have both those extremes given me from my parents. Most kids, I assume, would somehow fall into this grey space, a middle ground between being lost and knowing, believing in themselves. But not me. Oh no. I had to just split the two things apart, black and white, no grey space here.

I’m jumpy tonight. I don’t want to sleep in this room. I feel very….my head is achy and foggy. My chest hurts, I feel like I’m trying to breathe in air that is so thick you could scoop it up. My stomach hurts….like that feeling you get when a movie follows the main character from a cheerful scene to a dark road, and you know something bad is about to happen, but you don’t know when and so you are waiting, unsure when or if, and it’s a fun feeling when it’s a movie, but not so great when it’s a feeling that won’t leave you.

I emailed Bea again, trying to explain broken better, and to tell her I really feel like she isn’t getting it. Her response was probably kind and empathetic, but I only can find fault. I see and hear criticisms and frustration and a wish for me to go away and stop whining in most of what she wrote. I know, rationally, I know this is me projecting my own feelings into her words. Or maybe it’s the child part of me expecting that Bea will behave like every adult in my life always behaves. She did say that broken to her means fixable, and when the special vase in her office got broken a few weeks ago, she didn’t hesitate to take the time and the effort to fix it; that with time and effort, I will be fixed, too. I think she is saying that I matter enough for her to take the time and effort to fix. Or, on the other hand maybe she is saying I am taking too much time and effort to fix? This is what my mind does. It flips between thoughts like this, black and white. At this point, I can’t even reframe things to get them to the grey space.

I told Bea how I drew a picture for my first grade teacher in the last email. It was of a girl hiding in a closet, monsters on and under the bed. I can remember drawing it, and giving it her. I remember her asking me about it, and that scared, nervous, relieved feeling that washed over me at her words. I remember telling her that sometimes scary things happen at night. I don’t remember anything else. Obviously, nothing came of it. But I think I believed that if she only knew everything, she could stop it, she could fix it. She was the first grown up, outside of my family or my parents circle, that I really, truly believed in. On some level, I wanted to be saved. She didn’t save me though. It wasn’t until fifth grade, when she taught my class again, that I had another adult in my life I felt was trustworthy. I allowed her to catch me throwing up. I claimed I was sick. She never questioned further, but again, I think at least a part of me wanted someone to stop me. To care enough to stop me. I didn’t find another grown up to trust until I was in 7th grade. My small group leader at church, her name was Jen, was the next person I reached out to. She didn’t catch the secrets I was trying to tell, without telling. If there was anyone after that, I don’t remember them.

So, adults failed me all my life. The ones who were supposed to protect me, see me, love me for being me, couldn’t do that. The ones who were in my life– family, friends, doctors, teachers, coaches– they didn’t see what was happening, they didn’t see any sign something was wrong. And, finally, the adults I did reach out, even if it was a coded not direct message, missed the message. So, adults have always failed me. I think in some ways I am replaying this with Bea. Even though I am an adult, I don’t feel like a grown up. Bea says I’m getting more grown up and when all these pieces of me are integrated and not running the show, I will feel more grown up. But anyways, as I do with everyone my age (and sometimes with people younger) and older, I view Bea as the grown up. And I’ve reached out to her in a somewhat hidden message kind of way (instead of being very blunt and saying I’m hitting crisis point and I really need her to step on and help) and she is failing me. I did try a second time, and was more clear, and it still feels like she is failing me. I wanted someone, a grown up because grown ups can do things and have all the power, to fix it, to stop it, to save me. To make things better. Is that what I’m wanting from Bea? Because even I know she can’t do that.

If I’m honest, I can even see this scenario playing out in my marriage, and in my friendship with Kay. The thing about Kay is she has fixed me before, and she has saved me from myself. So she has done exactly what I wanted and needed. Hubby…well, he plays the role of the grown up very well. He takes care of me, and he would save me, fix me, if he could. But he is so very, very unaware of things, he misses the coded messages I send to him.

I’m not exactly sure where this is all going, I’m just trying to get out some thoughts I’ve been having since getting to my parents.

I’m trying to understand why they trusted him. I’m trying to see what it is that made my parents feel it was safe for me to be around him. Was it because he was charming? Or because he was kind, had this good boy, super helpful, super friendly kind of vibe? Bea once said– like months ago– she would be interested in Kay’s thoughts about Kenny. I asked Kay. She said he was funny, a jokester but in a good fun friendly way. That he was always very helpful towards any adult he was around, she didn’t like that, as a kid. She said she remembers thinking, and hearing from her parents, that the whole family was weird, but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was exactly. He was weird, she thought, because he didn’t have a lot of friends in his own grade. And, it was weird that while the rest of us were free to ride bikes around the neighborhood, and run down to the park and whatever else, Jackie was always accompanied by Kenny. He was supposed to keep an eye on her. Kay said it was odd how strict the smiths were with their two younger children, while Mandy did what she wanted, when she wanted and ran wild. I asked Kay how Mandy was wild. She said there had been rumors of a teen pregnancy and abortion. I don’t know if I believe that. Mrs. Smith is not the type to allow for an abortion. And then, Mandy had her first child without being married and she was young– just out of high school. So there was a lot of talk about her.

I thought Kenny was so cool and so awful all at the same time. He was fun, he played, when he came with us we could ride our bikes down to the little corner store and get a candy bar or cookie. But it was a busy road, so we weren’t allowed to go alone. I don’t know. I liked him. I had a crush on him. I wanted him to never be around me. I wanted him to babysit. I wanted to stay somewhere else and not have him babysit. I thought I loved him, I wanted to marry him. I hated him. I don’t know. He had a fun game he played with me, only after a long while, it wasn’t fun anymore. But I was older by that time and it wasn’t….,I don’t know. It was confusing. Hard, I don’t know. I liked him, thought he was my friend, and couldn’t do anything about the game not being fun anymore. And I had been involved, made a choice to play his games, and likes his games. So I was stuck. I don’t know. It all gets twisted in my head.

Bea says having nightmares about the boyfriend is on par with the present happenings, even though it may seem silly that it would be that important. I don’t even know what that means.

I’m wishing now I hadn’t written that email to her, that I had just gone with pretending it all away. Now I am going to have to face her, and I’m afraid. I feel like I’m going to be walking into…..something scary. Like I’m in trouble. Or going to be shamed. Or she is not going to be happy with me. I don’t know. I also feel numb and my feelings are hurt by her last email. No matter how many ways I look at it, I can’t find her usual warmth and understanding. Even though I know it’s there, that it is the headspace I am in. I don’t know.

We went to hubby’s family get together thing today. I can’t stand his mom, and she was crowding me a good portion of the day. I realize it was becasue Kat was clinging to me, and she wanted to be around Kat, but she kept saying all these comments like “I’m so jealous mommy gets to hold you. I don’t have any babies to hold anymore, my kids grew up and left me all alone.” I finally snapped at her. She got the message and backed off. Then, Kat misplaced her shoes. Everyone was supposed to be out getting pictures taken, which Kat wasn’t going to pose for anyway, and she was perseverating on her shoes. I took her back inside to look for them, and as we were walking away from the group, hubby’s mom yelled that we were supposed to stay out there and get pictures taken. I had to stop and explain the entire situation to her, the whole group hearing it, many of them with no context for anything because hubby’s mom doesn’t want extended family knowing Kat’s autistic. Ugh. It just makes me so mad. So I was very snippy about it with her. Then, after pictures, hubby’s dad kept trying to take extra pictures of me. His mom wanted a picture of hubby and I together for her Christmas letter (which I can not stand) because I was (and I quote) “actually looking thin today.” So I moved away from th camera, thinking that should have sent the message. So then I got stuck having to actually yell and state I was done with pictures, didn’t want my picture taken anymore. Which meant hubby and I got into, ending with me saying me that “if some asshole can’t see and respect the fact I don’t want my picture taken, that’s not my problem.” Ugh. So, yeah. It was not the best of days.