I don’t know if this was ever published or not. I thought it was, but now it’s in my unpublished posts, so I’m going to re-publish it I guess. 🤦🏼♀️ I wrote this on October 22.
It’s Wednesday. When Bea logs into therapy, I feel suddenly shy. Bea says a cheerful hello and I look down at my toes and mumble hi.
I think we talk about the weather and Halloween and kids and technology and other random things as I jump from topic to topic. It helps, though, because I start to feel less in the far away and more here. I’m not exactly here, but I am here more than I had been.
Bea seems to know that I am more here and so she says, “I know there is other stuff for us to talk about today, and I think it’s important that we try to work on it for a little while if you feel up to it.”
My hands fly up to hide my face, but I manage to set them in my lap again. “I think….well, I think I know and you know there is bigger stuff but I’m sort of avoiding it or tip toeing around it a little bit.”
“I think that’s okay to do for a little while. In fact, I think it helps you to talk and start to feel a little more settled before we dive in.” Bea is right of course. This has been true since the beginning of my therapy, which is how I originally had 90 minute sessions. I hate that covid and teletherapy have shortened my sessions to an hour. Why did I agree to that at the beginning of all this? Oh, right, because I thought it would be maybe three weeks in total and I hated therapy on a screen. I never imagined it would be months, and probably at least a full year before we would be back in person. I also assumed that once back in person (after a couple weeks, once covid was over) therapy appointment times would go back to normal. But that didn’t happen, and now my time is shortened and I feel a little bit like I agreed to something without really knowing the full ramifications, without questioning what shortening time would mean exactly. But the last time I brought it up, Bea just said that on days when she could give me a longer session time, she would. She never answered my question asking if I could ever have my old time back. Ugh. This is all so frustrating. Today, though, she has more time to give, and so I get to do my talking about nothing thing before diving in.
“It feels a little more like you are here when we talk for a little bit of time,” I whisper.
“Yeah, of course it does. I think you need to time to see what I feel like to you, if I am still me, still how you expect me to be,” Bea agrees.
“Yeah.” I nod my head.
“I was so glad you shared the journal page with me. That really helped things click into place for me.” Bea slowly starts to shift our focus.
My head goes fuzzy again. I cover my face with my hands and this time I don’t move them away.
“This feels so hard, doesn’t it? I know you have been feeling really bad, so bad there aren’t a lot of words. But I am glad you found some words. I’m glad this part we are getting to know could share. She feels really scared and frozen and so sad, and no wonder! This memory of it’s over but not really over, it was terrible.” Bea pushes a little.
I blink back tears. “I’m being so dumb. I know we talked about this already. I shouldn’t need to talk again and again. I’m sorry.”
“No, no sorrys. We did talk about it just a little. But we talked more factual this is what happened, not so much the feelings, the intensity of how bad this really felt. You had hope, you felt free and then all of it was just yanked away. How could this not feel bad?”
“I don’t know. I just…..I can’t get unstuck. I can’t make it stop.” I sigh. I feel broken, damaged.
“I could be wrong, but does this feel like the biggest feelings you’ve really had connected to a memory?”
“I don’t know. It’s the worst I’ve felt in my whole life. I wanted to die.” Tears stream down my face uncontrollably as I finally admit to Bea that I’ve never felt worse. I hide under my blanket. I don’t like to cry in front of anyone.
“Yeah, it was really painful. It was too much, too much for you then, and you had to go away. This part, she had a really yucky job, to hold all these feelings and keep them really far away from the rest of you. She held all this really bad stuff all by herself for a really long time, but she doesn’t have to now.”
“I just really, really want everything to stop.” I cry.
“I know. She really wanted everything to stop then. She did survive, though, and it did stop. It stopped.” Bea says softly.
“It’s not stopped. Nothing can stop him. Nothing can make it better.” I don’t think Bea knows what she is talking about. Nothing feels over or stopped right now.
“It feels like that now, and it might have been true then, but it did stop. She’s safe now.” Bea tells me again.
“You don’t know!” I argue. I feel like Bea isn’t getting it, she doesn’t understand.
“I do know. I know because I am on the outside and I can see the big picture. On the inside, it feels like time stopped, and you are trapped in this really bad place, this hopeless place. But I’m on the outside, and I see how time kept moving. I know the grown up who survived because of the parts. I know the little girl, and all the parts of the teen, and Ms. Perfect and even the one the others don’t like. I know that this new part, she is not alone now, and she is safe now.” Bea speaks firmly, but it’s still caring and gentle and so very much Bea.
“But I am alone.” I whisper-whine.
“She was so alone, and it was really awful. But she doesn’t have to be alone, or scared or frozen anymore. Really bad things did happen, but they are over now. She survived.” Bea tells me again.
“No. It’s never over. It won’t ever be over.” Why can’t I stop crying? At this rate, I’m going to cry myself a lake of feelings to drown in.
“It sure feels like that, doesn’t it? But the truth it that it ended and she is safe now, and she doesn’t have to be alone now. Everything is okay in present day reality. No one can hurt her in the present. And I think if we can help her see that, if we can get this part to rest, then you will start to feel a lot less alone and frozen in your current life.”
“Do you want me to go away?” I ask tearfully. The little bit of grown up Alice that has been working so hard to maintain any bit of control is no longer able to do so.
“No, gosh no!” Bea says quickly, “I don’t want you to go away, not at all. I would like to help you feel not so alone though. I know it feels really bad to feel so alone.”
“You can’t help. No one can help.”
“No one did help you then, but people can help now.”
I shake my head. “No.”
“It really doesn’t feel like anyone can help, does it?”
“No one can stop him. He always gets what he wants. No one can so anything at all.”
“No one stopped him then, but there is a grown up now who is very capable and won’t let anything bad happen again. He won’t ever hurt you again.” Bea informs me.
“Even grown ups can’t stop him.” Does’t she see? No one is able to beat him.
“No grown ups protected you, did they? But you know what? If I were there, I would stop him.” Bea says seriously.
“You can’t! He’s too big and you would get hurt.”
“He feels all powerful, doesn’t he? But he’s not bigger than me.”
“How could you stop him?” This part doesn’t really believe Bea can stop him.
“I could call the police. Maybe I would punch him. I’m very angry for how he hurt you, how he hurt all the parts. Yes, I think I just might punch him.” Bea doesn’t sound scared of him at all.
“Because you are bigger?” I question.
“Yes, and stronger.”
“And the police would really come and stop him?”
“Yes, the police would make him stop forever.” Bea assures this scared, hopeless, frozen part that wants to disappear.
“Forever, forever? Like the real forever?” It’s definitely the hopeless part running things at this point in my session.
“Yes, forever,” she says.
“Can I ask you something?” I whisper it, shyly.
“Of course.” Bea answers this like it’s no big deal.
“If you really were there would you wait for the police to come and stop him or would you leave?”
“I would do neither. I would stop him right away, and then I would call the police. And I wouldn’t leave you alone. I would make sure you were okay.”
“I like that answer.” I’m feeling much less alone at the moment. “What if I wasn’t okay?”
“Then I would sit with you, just like I am doing now.” It’s such a simple response and it’s said like that is a given, because what else would Bea do, besides sit with me and be there?
“What if I cried? Would you be mad or go away?”
“I wouldn’t be mad or go away.”
“And if the police came?” I’m waiting for her to say that then she would leave becase the police would take care of me.
“They would make him stop for good. He wouldn’t be allowed near you again.”
“But he lives next door.” My voice is scared. In my mind, there is never any getting away from him.
“Well, they would talk to the parents, too, yours and his. And the parents would have to keep him away from you.”
“But they would not believe me. I’m a drama queen and I tell stories and I make things up to get attention. That is what she would say.” I’m crying harder now, because I know my mom would not believe me, and that hurts just as much as this despairing feeling.
“I think the police might convince her. And if they didn’t, remember, I would be there, too, and I would tell your mom that you are not being a drama queen, and you are telling the truth.” Bea’s voice is strong, and firm, and I believe her, she would have tried to make my mom listen.
“Maybe she wouldn’t believe you. Maybe he would just be back to babysit me and be very mad with me.” I tell her.
“That’s a big worry, but do you know what? There is a law in our country and it says parents have to protect kids. And if parents know someone is hurting their kid, and the parents don’t keep their kid safe after that, they can get in big, big trouble.”
“What if they broke the law anyways because they really just thought I was lying?”
“Then you would tell me, and I would believe you. I would make sure you were safe,” Bea promises. Then she adds, “And you know who else I would call?”
“Your Grandma and Grandpa. And I bet they would help me keep you safe.” She’s right. If they had known in real life, they would have protected me.
“Maybe I could stay at their house for more than one night.” I feel some hope creep in, and that’s scary because I know how easily hope can be crushed.
“I bet you could!” Bea says, excitedly. “And that would feel so good to be really far away from him.”
“Maybe I could stay with them for a lot of nights.” I suggest.
“That would feel really safe, wouldn’t it?” Bea asks me.
“Yeah. But maybe….is it mean to want to be there and not with my Mom and Dad?” I feel guilty that I want to be with my Grandma and Grandpa and not my parents.
“No, I don’t think so. I think it makes sense, right? You weren’t safe at home, you weren’t protected by your parents. You always felt safe at your grandparents, and they would protect you, and you would be far away from Kenny. I think it would take some time to really trust that your mom and dad would protect you.”
“Maybe….yeah, I think so,” I agree. We sit quiet for a minute. I feel calmer than I have in weeks, and the grown up me is finally able to get somewhat back online. “This is a little ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean, I know we can’t go back and you can’t really be there.”
“No, I can’t really be there, but it’s not ridiculous. When parts are so stuck in the past, they don’t know the difference between then and now. And for our brains, imagining a different outcome, just doing that can start to rewire things a little, change how we feel about a situation. If it helps that part to think of me being there and stopping him, then I am all for that. She deserves to feel protected, and she shouldn’t have to suffer alone anymore. She’s held the worst feelings all by herself, but she doesn’t have to anymore.” Bea sounds like Bea, she feels like Bea to me again. I breathe a sigh of relief as she talks.
“I did a….sort of silly thing, I guess. Yesterday, I was trying so hard to find words and I just couldn’t, because even saying that I felt really HUGE sad didn’t seem like enough, so I googled….well, I googled feeling words.” My face is a little red now but I’m still hiding under my blanket, so Bea can’t see my embarrassment.
“That was a good idea. Did you find any words that fit?”
“I made a list….I just, well, if I didn’t know what a word meant I looked it up in the dictionary and then I wrote it on a list if it seemed right. So I made this long list, but it feels sort of…..dramatic.”
“What kind of words did you find?” Bea asks.
“Do you want me to send it to you?” I don’t know if I am hoping she says yes or if I am hoping she says no.
“Yes, I would like that very much.”
I get my phone, and copy the list into email. I send it to her.
Melancholy Despondent Angst Anguish Worthless Despair Trapped Pain Anxiety Feels like heart will burst from sadness Anguish Confused Vulnerable Ashamed Hurt Scared Sorrow Loss of hope Despondent Inconsolable Distraught Paralyzed Disillusioned Betrayed Isolated Desperate Crushed Terrified Shocked Hopeless
It’s not long before Bea’s phone dings with an email, and she reads it. “Are these words in any order, or just written out? Like is the first word the most intense?”
“No, no order, just written down. I’m worried that you will think it’s over the top, drama queen,” I whisper.
“I don’t think that at all. I think this is a really terrible way to feel. Is this feeling like a soup of all these words, all at the same time?”
I nod my head, but then remember she might not be able to see on a screen like she can in person, and I say, “Yes.”
“Well, between this word soup and the journal page and talking to the new part today, I feel like I can really imagine just how awful it was for her. She was so little, and to feel like this, of course she just wanted everything to stop.” I love how Bea points out to me how *normal* my feelings are.
“So you don’t think I’m being a drama queen?” I double check.
“Nope. That isn’t something I have ever thought about you. I think of drama queen more as an action.”
“What…..what do you mean? Like…like crying or saying you are feel really bad?” I stammer out the question, feeling uncertain or confused.
“No, feeling how you feel, sharing that, crying, those feelings are not being a drama queen. That was your mom, it was her stuff that made her feel like that because she couldn’t handle big feelings, maybe any feelings,” Bea reassures me.
“So….then what is being a drama queen? I think I don’t really know…..I think…maybe it’s like I worry, I tell you I am worried you will think that because mom might think it and then she would go away but I think I ask you, I tell you I am worried because I really just don’t know what a drama queen is and I don’t want to be that way and make you leave,” I admit.
“Well, I think it is action….maybe action that is a little bigger than the feelings or situation call for. But also, it isn’t negative, or it doesn’t have to be. Yes, your mom called you a drama queen and it really hurt because it was a way to put her inability to handle feelings on you. That blamed you for having too big of feelings, for feeling anything at all. It made you too much, and it made it your fault that she couldn’t handle it. But I would absolutely call my daughter a drama queen, and it is not a bad thing.” Bea laughs, a soft quiet laugh that is nice. “Did I tell you about the hornet’s nest when she was here this summer?”
“Well, my daughter and her boyfriend and my son and his girlfriend went out walking in the woods, and they ran into a hornet’s nest. Now, when this happened, everyone got stung, but my daughter was running through the woods, tearing off her shirt and screaming. Her boyfriend carried her home, and then she spent the day on the couch, with the rest of us bring her ice packs and Tylenol and whatever else she thought would fix it. I’m not saying it didn’t her, but her reaction was just a lot bigger than maybe one would expect. But you know, that’s just her. Or, here, there was one day where both my kids fell and hurt their legs. My son, he just went back to his dorm and rested with ice and pain reliever. My daughter, she called an ambulance, and went to the hospital. Her injury was just a cut, a scrape really that didn’t even need stitches. But my son? When he finally went to the hospital, his leg was broken in two places! That’s just my daughter, though, it’s part of who she is, and it’s not a bad part at all.”
The whole time Bea is talking, my head is spinning. This feels like a new concept, and is very different from how I think of being a drama queen. The crazy thing is Bea doesn’t sound judgmental, or like she thinks this is a very bad thing about her daughter. She sounds like she loves her daughter even with the drama queen stuff. She sounds happy telling this story. And, this idea of a drama queen is not me. I know that. “So, having feelings is not being a drama queen?” It’s part question, part statement.
“Having feelings, even really big feelings is not being a drama queen. Having feelings is part of being human. You just really didn’t get that modeled for you.”
“My grandpa wasn’t afraid of big feelings,” I proclaim.
“I bet he wasn’t.”
“Not even mad scared him. One time, I was real mad, I don’t know why but I was super angry and you know what he did?” The grown up Alice is mostly gone again, with Little girl running things.
“What?” I can hear happy curiosity in Bea’s voice.
“He got the whole entire bucket of his dog Candy’s toys and took them outside and we threw them at the tree as hard as we could and it was okay to be mad.” I smile as I remember this moment. It’s like so many other little moments I had with my Grandparents.
“That was really smart of him,” Bea chuckles.
“It is pretty goofy though, isn’t it?”
“Oh, I don’t think so! It’s what I would have done. In fact, I have a bucket of toys for kids to throw at the wall when they feel that big mad.”
I smile because I like that Bea does this, too. “I don’t know what I was so mad about.”
“That’s not the part that mattered, I don’t think. What mattered was Grandpa being okay with your mad feelings.”
Out of the blue, the intolerable feelings of being alone and hurt and hopeless hit me. “Bea?” I ask, and my voice breaks as I say her name.
“I’m here.” Her voice is reassuring, my calm in this cyclone of feelings.
“Would you really stay with me and stop him forever?” I ask doubtfully.
“Yes, I absolutely would! If I could go back and be there, I would scoop you up and get you far away from him, and not just far away in your head, but the real kind of far away, and he would never hurt you again. I would make sure of that.” She’s so certain, so positive, that I start to feel like I could believe her.
“And you are not leaving?”
“I am not leaving. I will not leave you. when if we aren’t here, together, like right now, I am still here. You aren’t alone.”
I feel like crying. It’s way past time to say goodbye, but I really don’t want to. Saying goodbye feels like all the safety and protection I have been feeling will just evaporate. I can’t hold onto Bea if she isn’t talking to me or writing with me. I don’t want her to disappear.
“Alice, I am here, even when it doesn’t feel like it. You can reach out and double check if you need to. Can you hold onto that?”
“I can try. Just don’t leave forever, okay?”
“I’m not leaving at all. I can hold you and all the parts in my mind, even after we hang up.”
“Okay.” The word comes out a whimper. I feel like Bea ending the session is breaking my heart. Why do I feel like this? What is wrong with me? I hate being this needy, feeling so alone and desperate for Bea to be there. The shame of needing, the vulnerability of it all sends me far away again.
The end of session is fuzzy. My head feels slow, foggy, filled with sand. When things get less fuzzy again, we talk about grown up things, grocery shopping and boring normal everyday stuff like that. I tell Bea the things I forgot to get at the store yesterday, and how I had a panic attack in the middle of the cereal isle and was afraid to move for what felt like a long time, so I had to just pay for what I had and go home. Bea tells me it’s okay, I can go back to the store today if I need to, it is no big deal. We make a plan for the panic. When we say good-bye, I feel sad but not like I’m dying.