I sent these pages of my journal to Bea Monday night, so she would have them for our Tuesday session.
Metal Walls and black holes (part one)
It’s been a long time since I have felt this detached. I’m so far away that I can’t even remember last week’s therapy sessions. I only have the vaguest sense that I spent one of those sessions avoiding everything and began a tangent of talking about big things that have changed. It’s not a bad thing to think about, and I did end up making a list of things that have changed. It’s nice to see it all listed out. Some things shift so slowly, I only really notice when I think about what’s different now.
I end up upset after therapy on Monday, hurt that Bea seems to think the triggery, flashbacky, overwhelmed mess that I have been for months has shifted, and things are feeling calmer to me. She says I have seemed to be in a more reflective mood, and that things seem more settled. They don’t feel settled to me. Things are not calm inside. I’m hurt that she doesn’t see this. I spent almost all of Monday’s session feeling trapped, unable to find a way to tell her how bad things feel right now. I open my mouth several times to tell her I feel like I’m dying, like nothing is okay, that I feel so completely hopeless and numb I can’t find words to describe it at all. Instead, I continue talking about things that have changed in the 6 years since I started therapy. Why do I do this? Is there some part of me that stops me from speaking the words I really want to say?
It doesn’t take me very long after our session ends to email Bea and tell her that I am not okay. I calmly write that I don’t feel settled, that my feelings are hurt because she thinks I am okay, because she only saw the surface stuff. I write that I feel so far away, so numb, so alone, and her only seeing the surface feels terrible. It doesn’t take her long to respond. She tells me that she knew there was more, but that she felt as if she couldn’t find a way in. She tells me that she tried fishing around for a way in, but the walls were too thick today. She apologizes, and validates my hurt feelings, saying that she is sure it is really painful and lonely to not be seen. She asks me what I and the parts need from her. I don’t know. I need her to not feel so far away, but I’m the one that is far away, not her.
We meet again on Tuesday, and this time Bea has a way in, sort of. I’ve sent some of my notebook pages to her. (I’ll put those in a separate post https://fallingdowmtherabbithole.wordpress.com/2020/10/16/notebook-pages-metal-walls-and-black-holes/).
I log into teletherapy after I get settled in on the floor with my pillows and blankets. We say hello, and chat about nothing for a minute.
“I was really glad you were able to tell me your feelings were hurt,” Bea says.
I cover my face with my hands, embarrassed.
“It’s okay. I really was glad you were able to find your voice and share that with me. And I am really sorry you felt so hurt.”
“It always hurts when……..people don’t see under the surface.” By people, I mean my attachment relationships– Bea, Kay, and Hubby.
“Yes, it feels too much like reliving your childhood, where no one saw all the hurt underneath that Ms. Perfect was hiding.” Bea says softly.
I nod. “Yeah. It feels lonely.”
“I know. And I want to say that I did know there was more under the surface. I just couldn’t find a way in.”
“Well, I….it feels like…..” my voice trails off, scared to say the words.
“It feels like what?” Bea pushes a little to try to get me to finish my sentence.
I shrug. “There’s my famous filter again.”
“Yeah, that filter is tough! And it’s protected you for a long time. But it’s safe to let the filter go for a little while. Do you think the part that filters things can trust that?”
I shake my head and hide under my blanket. “I don’t want you to think I am being a drama queen,” I whisper.
“Hmmmm…I know that is a real fear, but that’s not me, right? That is something your mom said, that she believed about you, not something I think about you.” The reminder is gentle, and kind. It could sound angry or frustrated, but the way Bea says it, it is reassurance she doesn’t feel that way.
“I know. You always say you don’t think that about me.”
“Alice, in all seriousness, everything you have been through, all the trauma, everything, it was so horrible, I believe that anything you want to do, or think, or say, none of it will ever make you a drama queen.”
I sit in stunned silence for a minute, maybe longer. For probably the millionth time I wonder, was it really that bad? I don’t ask her this though. Instead, I spit out the words I was trying so hard to say earlier. “I feel like…..you know those commercials, I can’t think of which ones, but the ones where everything is grey and awful and sad and then the people find some miracle yogurt or medicine or whatever and everything is colorful and bright and happy? I feel like the before in those commercials.”
“Ahhhh. Things feel really bad right now. I could tell from your notebook pages how terrible things are feeling. That is a good description.”
“I feel really alone. Everything is far away and muted and I’m just numb. Except I don’t know if I get to say that, because there is sad, and maybe other stuff, and its big, really big, maybe too big, and I know it’s there, it’s just too far away to feel. So I don’t know if I get to call that numb.” I’m still hiding. It might feel childish, but it also feels safe, and safe trumps childish.
“I think you can call it whatever you want, but numb is a good explanation. Reading your writing, I was struck by the way the sad was described. I think there is a lot of grief to work through. That’s a big piece of trauma work, to process that grief. Grief is vital to healing, to moving on. I know it hurts, but try to hang on to the fact that getting to a point where you can even be aware of that grief is huge.”
I don’t say anything, because it feels like Bea is leaving. It feels like what she is saying about grief is her declaring we are at the end of things to work through. I shake my head at myself. No, I tell myself, no, no, no. Bea is not telling you that you are almost done with therapy. She is not kicking you out or leaving. She feels far away right now because you are far away. Everyone feels far away right now, even Kat. This is a you problem, not something Bea is doing to you. “Bea?” I say, tentatively.
“Yeah? I’m listening.”
“You feel too far away, and this is too big and I’m all alone. I don’t want to feel like this.”
“I know, I know you don’t. I am here, and I’m not going anywhere. I know this is scary but I’m not afraid of the big feelings, okay?” She speaks soothingly, the way I might speak to Kat when she is so distressed that anything I say isn’t landing with her anyway. “Are there things we can do right now to help you feel a little more connected? Like maybe feel your blanket, it looks fuzzy and soft. Or snuggle Hagrid? Can you listen to my voice and know I’m here with you even if you can’t feel it?”
“You just feel far away. I think it’s me. I’m too far away or too numb, or something. I don’t know. It’s like I built these walls and I was trying to….it’s like the bubble but not…this is….ugh…” I sigh, frustrated that I can not find the words I need to explain how or what I am feeling.
“No, I don’t see Ms. Perfect, not today. In fact I haven’t seen her in a long time.” Bea tells me.
“Well, yeah, because Ms. Perfect is…..I don’t know. She shows up for short things, like….I don’t know….it’s not, well…the bubble is light and bouncy and well, bubbly and stuff and this is….”
“Heavy.” Bea fills in the word for me when my voice drops off, and she’s absolutely right. This is heavy. There is such a huge weight to it, suffocating me.
“Yeah,” I say. “It’s so heavy. There’s this black hole of sad and other icky stuff and big feelings, and I just….I can’t look at it, I can’t even acknowledge it really, it’s too much and I just can’t so, I tried….it’s like I tried to build a wall around it but instead I built a wall and locked myself in with the black hole and there’s no windows or doors or anything and I can’t find a way to get out….or to even open a window to let anyone in.”
“I think you must need to be really far away to feel safe. Even if it feels awful, and you aren’t okay, I think the distance you need to be from the world, from yourself– and still feeling not okay– I think that tells us how badly this hurt you, how much it felt like your very existence was being annihilated.” Bea sounds so sad. Is she sad for me?
“I thought….well, you know….I just…it was over. I thought it was over and I wasn’t even sad, or anything but….not happy, I don’t know the right word….”
“Relieved?” Bea suggests.
“Yeah, maybe. I think so. Relieved. But then…I was wrong, it’s not over. And I am not special now, this isn’t because he loves me, I don’t know why now, and it is like everything is broken and none of it will ever be okay or anything else and I can’t, well, I just….” I sigh. This is so hard to explain. “I think that it was like…..before that night, I had this….it wasn’t normal, right? The stuff with him, it wasn’t normal.”
“No, it was not normal,” Bea agrees.
“But it was my normal. A fairytale. Well, maybe a twisted sort of fairytale, but a fairytale in my head. I had a story I would tell myself.”
“Yes, it was a game, he loved you, you were special.” Bea knows the story well.
“Right,” I say. I’m speaking more than usual, but I’m detached, cold, not here and definitely not feeling any of it. The feelings all live in the black hole I am working so hard to avoid. “So, I had this story I told myself, and it was normal, everything was okay. I was okay. But then, that night…..everything changed. It wasn’t over, and I wasn’t special anymore, either. My story didn’t work anymore. I couldn’t make sense of it, there was no understanding, no nice story to tell, and so then….I think I wanted to die.”
“Yeah, I can see that. There were no good choices emotionally that night.”
We are both quiet for what feels like a long while. Maybe Bea talks, or I talk, and I’m just too far away to even remember exactly what was said. Eventually though Bea says something about how I did come back to some sort of feeling that I loved him, or was going to marry him. I really don’t want to talk about this, but the words fall out of my mouth anyway. “I had to fix it.”
“Fix what? Fix it how?” Bea asks. I think I have confused her, but I don’t know for sure. I can’t sense her. Part of it is doing therapy on a screen, but most of it is that I’m too defended to feel her presence. She sounds like Bea, she looks like Bea, but she doesn’t feel like Bea to me.
I don’t answer the question. I’m not sure how to explain the thoughts swirling in my head like a hurricane. The thing is, everything changed that night in the cabin. It was the summer before 5th grade. That’s the year that the eating disorder really started. It was a bad year. And then came the sex talk at church and I realized what exactly was going on, and how sinful and bad I really was, I had to fix it. In my mind, the only way to to fix the whole sex before marriage sin and avoid going to hell was to marry the person. Yeah, I know. It wasn’t sex, the sin was not mine, blah, blah, blah. But it felt like it was mine, and desperate to fix it, I once again had a “crush” on him, and wanted to marry him. Typing this out makes it sound crazier than it feels in my mind. I don’t explain any of this to Bea. It feels too hard, like too many words to say.
When it’s clear I am not going to respond, Bea heads in a different direction. “What happened after? Did vacation go on as planned, were you able to have fun?”
I feel confused, like my head is filled with sand and I can’t think. “I…..I don’t know.” I shake my head, trying to clear it. Things feel….wrong. “I….I really don’t know. I just….ummm…This is crazy. I have no idea.” Panic hits me, hard and out of nowhere. In an instant, I go from numb and far away and feeling like I’m buried alive to terror that I don’t remember what happened after. It’s like not remembering means I didn’t survive.
“Hey, Alice, you are okay. I know, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but you are safe now. You did survive. Not remembering what happened after, that is okay, that just tells us how far away you had to go to protect yourself and survive.” Bea’s voice is reassuring, and calm, and she’s still my safe person.
The panic doesn’t last long., As Bea is talking, I shut down again. I think now it’s because the panic combined with me feeling Bea’s presence and her being safe is too much. It threatens to melt away the heavy metal walls I have constructed, and I need my walls. I hate them, but I need them.
Connection in the midst of living a nightmare
I’m home alone, and it’s time for therapy. I get situated and log on.
“Hey there,” Bea says as she logs on.
“Hi,” I say. My voice is quiet and uncertain.
“Hey! I can hear you today. Yay!” Bea does a little cheer.
I feel relieved, but I don’t say anything.
“How are things today?” She asks.
I shrug. “I don’t know.”
Bea waits, and I finally whisper, “Yesterday was a bad night and a bad morning and I really wanted to tell you.”
“Do you still want to tell me? I’m ready to listen to whatever you want to talk about.”
“Yes, okay. I want to talk to you.” Why does it feel embarrassing to admit that Bea is the one I want to talk to? She’s my therapist, and more than that, she is one of my attachment relationships. It’s normal for me to want to talk to her, it shouldn’t feel embarrassing or like I’m broken for wanting to talk to her.
“Do you want to talk about why it was a bad night and a bad morning?” Bea’s voice is careful, cautious. I think maybe she doesn’t want to make me feel pushed into talking.
“I had a scary dream,” I tell her.
“Yeah, that can set us up for a rough day, can’t it?”
I nod. “It was the dream….it was bad. Scary. It’s funny, because I don’t think I was scared when things happened. I don’t remember scared back then. Scared happens now, when I dream or when I remember when I’m awake. That’s strange, right? Crazy?” I’m a bit scattered and messy today.
“No, it’s not strange. I think you couldn’t feel the scared back then, it was too big and too much, and your family didn’t really believe in emotions, so you had to seperate it away. But now, it’s safe to really feel the scared feelings. I think you are feeling the feelings you would have felt then. Does that make sense? I hope it does. You aren’t crazy.”
“I guess. So I had the scary dream and then, I was awake, and I really like to go upstairs and turn on all the lights and look in the mirror and see that I am grown up and I just couldn’t. I was too stuck, so I was in bed and just there and hubby got up early for this meeting and then….it was not good. Not a good morning.” I pull my blanket over my head, not even thinking about it. It seems a little silly to hide like this over a screen, but I feel safer, and I don’t have to go so far away, which is good.
“That dream must have made it really hard to be in the present. Maybe you were still stuck in the past, feeling scared and hurt?” Bea says softly.
“Yes. I was. I was scared. Hubby scared me. He leaned over me to say goodbye and I hid under my blanket and yelled at him to go away.” I start to cry softly. I feel so much shame for how I acted.
“I can see how that would happen. It was probably very scary.”
“It was bad.” I hide my face, even though I am under the blanket.
“Things have been so real and alive for you right now, it is probably very hard to seperate things out.” Bea tells me.
“We don’t talk about this dream.” I feel really far away when I tell Bea this.
“Because it is….we can’t talk about it. I can’t say it. So we don’t talk about it.”
“Is it something new, or just something we haven’t talked about?” Bea asks.
“Not new,” I whisper.
“But not something we talk about?”
“No…we don’t talk about this. And it’s so…ugh. I can’t, because….I see these things in my head and it’s so real and awful but then, it’s…I mean, it’s crazy because there’s no way that is what happened. It doesn’t make sense, you know?” I’m rambling but I can’t stop it.
Bea is confused, I can hear it in her voice. “Your dreams are usually more of a trauma dream, a flashback, so they are very real. Sometimes having dreams that are the regular kind, with all the crazy stuff that happens in them can feel really weird.”
“No, no, no. It’s not like that!” I’m so frusterated she isn’t getting it.
“Okay, I hear that. Can you tell me what is crazy in the nightmare?”
“No. I….it’s…..do you remember when I was talking about what happened with him before I hid my underwear under my bed and got in trouble?” I ask.
“Yes, I remember.”
“Not like we just mentioned it but I was telling you what happened, the first time I told you all of it? A long time ago?” It wasn’t a long time ago, not really. It was maybe two or three years ago. But that feels like a long time ago right now.
“I do remember. It was one of the hardest memories for you to talk about.” Bea reassures me.
“Yeah….and I was talking about what happened but it was really….the little girl’s story….it was her…..you know, how she saw things?” I’m talking slow, and I feel hollow and numb.
“Yes, it was a child’s veiwpoint, it was all from the little girl’s perspective,” Bea agrees. She does remember and she is getting this, at least.
“So then….you said….you called it….that word. You know.”
“Yes, I called it a word you don’t like.” Her voice is soft and reassuring. She’s not judging me.
“Say it,” I direct her.
“Rape. He raped you.” Bea says slowly. Her voice is this careful neutral tone.
“Yes. But I couldn’t…..it didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t make sense to me that my memory was that word. It just….it didn’t seem like that was right. It felt crazy.”
“Yes, I remember. It was really hard to sort of blend the child’s perspective with the adult’s understanding of what happened. There were some things that the child believed to help make sense of it all at the time, and you had to really rearrange your thinking around all of it. That was a lot of hard work on your part to be able to do that. But you did it.”
“I think…..I think this might be like that. But it’s not making sense and I just can’t…..and it’s so….I’m so….I can’t…I don’t know.” I hope she understands. I desperately need her to understand.
“That makes sense. I get that. We can work on helping it make sense and be less confusing.”
“But I can’t talk about it.” The shame is that great. Once, years ago, Bea asked a question about this, kind of a *did this ever happen* question, and I answered yes, but refused to really discuss it, or acknowledge it.
“Have we ever talked about it?” She asks. “You don’t have to tell me, and you don’t have to talk about it.”
“I….yes. But not….we don’t talk about it.” I’m not sure if the we is me and Bea or if the we is grown up Alice and the parts. It just doesn’t seem correct to say that I don’t talk about it.
“Okay. I have maybe an idea of what it is.” Bea says this slowly and carefully, and I still hear no judgement or worry in her voice.
“What?” I ask.
“Well….I don’t know if I want to say it, because I don’t want to make you feel upset or scared or worried. I don’t want you to feel like you have to talk about this. I want you to be able to talk about this when you choose, at your own pace.”
I think for a minute. “No, it’s okay. I just need to know what you think it is, even if I can’t say any words right now.”
“The (blank blank blank thing because I’m not ready to share it, even here.)” Bea speaks clearly and again with no judgement.
“Yes, that. And something else. But that.” I start to sob as I say the words.
We spend the rest of my session with me crying, and Bea reassuring me she is here and not leaving. She says I don’t have to talk until I am ready, and that it’s okay. I calm down enough to say goodbye, but I stay hidden under my blanket.
I might be living a nightmare over and over in my head, but it’s not the same as when I was a little girl. I’m not alone. Bea is here, and she isn’t leaving me. I’m not alone.
So, I emailed the pastor….now what?
So, I emailed the pastor. I’m regretting it at the moment, because I haven’t received a response yet. While I kmow that it hasnt even been 24 hours since I sent my email, and that this isnt the sort of email you send a casual reply to, and that everything is probably okay, I am really wishing I had listened to my instinct to hide, not sent the email. Anyone invented an unsend button yet?
Anyway….here is the email I sent. I feel like I shared too much information, and am feeling over exposed and vulnerable right now.
I’m writing because 2 sundays ago, during the first talk in the church vs hate series, at the end of that talk, you said if anyone had something they wanted to talk about, something they needed help with, that you were inviting them to start a conversation. You gave out your email address. I’m hoping you meant it, because I do have something I need help dealing with. I’ve been praying and wrestling with this concept of reaching out to someone else, and I’ve felt compelled to write today.
There have been some really serious topics at church lately. Topics that have just really stuck with me, but more than that, they have brougt all this hurt and pain in my heart to the surface. The RPMS series made me see that this is not a church or a ministry that avoids being real, that only wants to touch on the shiny surface. Then came the starting over series, where the whole idea of needing to start over from something that was done to you was brought up. And the story that was shared was a woman who was sexually abused as a child. Then on another Sunday, part of the testimony in the Larry Nassar trials was played. And now, we have the separation of church and hate series, and both Sundays I have cried and felt my heart just rip in pieces because there is so much pain beiing touched upon. The last two Sundays, I have felt that if I made a choice to, I could talk to someone at church, I could tell my story, with all the ugly pieces, and it would be okay. That I wouldn’t be condemned, or hated, but that there could be a conversation about these beliefs and hurts and fears and confusion and struggle with believing God loves me and I’m forgiven that I’ve been carrying around almost my whole life.
But I’m not sure where to even start. These aren’t things I really ever talk about, because they aren’t easy, nice or neat things. They are hard and messy. I don’t need a therapist, I have someone I see twice a week. She’s the one who encouraged me to go back to church, and while we have talked about God and my feelings and hurts and fears, ultimately she is a trauma therapist and hasn’t studied the Bible and Christianity and she lacks the ability to really answer questions. It has taken me five years of therapy to even be ready to find a church. (Church) wasn’t the first church I visited when I started looking for a church. It was the first church that felt comfortable and safe. I’m really happy being back in a church. It feels like I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my life. I never stopped believing in God, but I have been struggling with these feelings of not being good enough, with this fear– this belief– that God can’t love me, can’t forgive me because of all the bad things in my life, this fear that even though I believe Jeuss died on the cross and rose again, believe He is God’s son and that through him there is eternal life that I am somehow exempt from salvation and lastly, I am grappling with anger. I am angry at God. In some ways, according to my therapist, my anger is legitimate. She says God can handle my anger at him in the same way I handle my daughter’s anger towards me. I’m not sure that she is right, but I hope she is.
I grew up in church. Youth group was my social life. Lock-ins and outings and small groups and retreats and summer camp. I was a junior CIT and and CIT at church camp in the summers during my teens. I’ve been the one in the position of counseling another who is grappling with their faith. It’s been a long time, I havent been in a church to worship Jesus since I was 19 (I’m 35 now) but I havent forgotten everything. I understand that there is this thing called freewill, and that freewill means people can make choices to hurt others and that pain and hurt are not God’s fault. I know that God can– and will– use all things for his glory. I know that our pain is never in vain; God will use it. I know that we can be given tough situations because it is those hard things that draw us nearer to Him.
I know these things, I even believe these things. That doesn’t take away this hurt and pain that I hold. It doesn’t stop me from being angry and disappointed and confused. It doesn’t change anything. And I have prayed and prayed and yet, I’m still lost. I don’t know what to do with all of this. My therapist believes I won’t be able to heal until I fix my problem with God. She says I need to be able to accept that God loves me, and has forgiven me my sins.
Somehow, this feels like I have simultaneously written too much information and not enough information. Unfortunately, I need to keep things vague right now. I suppose I am testing the waters a little bit, seeing if you think you can even help me find answers.
I can’t do that (when the filter left and so did you) again
It’s Monday morning, and I’m walking into Bea’s office as usual.
“Hey,” She says, smiling when I walk in.
“Hi,” I say softly as I sit down.
“Before we get started with anything, I wanted to make sure you were feeling okay after my second email.” Her tone is gentle, and she sounds like she really wants to make sure.
I look down at the floor. “Yeah, I was okay. I mean, it’s not like it doesn’t hurt to hear you can’t offer more right then, especially if I was needing more, but really, it’s like….if you don’t acknowledge that and try to respond, I always know something is….off….”
“You do always know, sometimes even before I can recognize it for myself!” She interjects.
“The thing is….if I feel something off, I assume it’s me, or I said something wrong, or did something, or needed too much, or am being a drama queen, or that I broke you and…..that’s worse. It’s so much worse. I’m trying to just be better about asking if I did something, but it’s easy for me to just get….I guess to spiral into this black hole of those *I broke her and she’s leaving* feelings. It’s so much better if you just tell me. And even if parts of me don’t really get it, the grown up does, the mom in me gets it. Because there are times where I just can’t keep talking to Kat, or playing toys, or whatever it is, and I tell her that we are going to have some quiet time. Sometimes I need 15 minutes, sometimes an hour. But it’s never, never about Kat being too much, or needing or wanting something that isn’t okay. I’m just tired, my brain needs a break. So that is something I understand.”
“You do get that, don’t you?!” She sounds a little surprised.
“I really do.”
“I wanted you to know that after you emailed again, with what you had been needing, and asking if you had done something, I went back and read your email and my response, and I felt a little sick. I completely ignored all the pain and hurt you were feeling. I was like, my gosh, I didn’t even acknowledge this stuff, or let her know I’m still here and that it’s okay to feel how she feels! I’m so sorry I did that. I did read all of your email the first time, while I was eating breakfast. I think I was just feeling like I couldn’t fix this for you in the 15 minutes I had to respond, and like there was nothing I could say to make it better or to help, and anything I did say was going to feel upsetting. So it just sort of got left. And I’m sorry for that. I am glad, though, that you did write back to me, and ask what was going on, and let me know you needed something more. That was so good. I know that wasn’t easy, but I was really glad you did, and that we didn’t end up back in one of our patterns of you feeling hurt and abandoned and me feeling helpless.” Bea looks at me as she is saying this, and her face says she was sorry she didn’t respond better that first time, and that she really does care.
I look away, because feeling like she cares is sometimes too much. “I really don’t expect you to fix anything. I don’t think…..” I pause, searching and thinking, making sure my next words are true. “I don’t think any of the parts expect or want you to fix things. Even the little girl.”
“Then your little girl part is way ahead of most people’s small parts.” Bea smiles at me.
I shake my head. “No….it’s more like……my mom always needed to fix me…..or ignore the problem. But….no, it’s more like fix to me– to all of me– means that someone is going to want me to bend to their expectations, or something. Even the little girl, she doesn’t want someone to fix things for her, or to fix her. She just doesn’t want to be alone. She wants to be heard. Because no one ever did that for her.”
“Ahhhh, yes. You’ve had people who fixed things for you, or who tried to fix you. Fixing was really about what they needed or wanted, and you were expected to conform. That was how things were fixed— by adults making you conform to their wishes. But no one really listened to you, or saw you, did they? You were completely alone with your feelings, with the Kenny stuff, with the mom stuff, with just normal kid stuff. It makes sense, why it is so important to you now to just not be alone. To be heard and seen.”
I nod my head. “That’s all I need. Really.”
“I would do good to remember that, wouldn’t I?” She asks. I don’t answer, because it’s partly rhetorical, and partly an apology for not remembering this before.
“I did write about this, some. If you want to read my book.” I’m quiet as I say this, and maybe a little unsure if I want her to read what I have written.
“Of course, yes!” She says. “Let’s look at your writing.”
“Can I have my blanket?” I hand her my book as I ask, but I won’t look at her now.
“Sure.” She takes my book, and setting it on her chair, she gets up and grabs my fuzzy blanket.
Once I’m hiding under the blanket, she starts to read.
The question you asked, about the memory in my pink polka dot book, the one I had you keep. You know the memory. We were working with it in the fall. I can’t even write out the memory in a coherent narrative because it’s still too painful and triggering and awful.
Knees on my arms.
Something in my mouth.
I can’t move.
I had a bruise on my arm.
I said it was from gymnastics.
That’s all. I can’t say more. But we were working with that in the fall, and we were using SP stuff and it was hard and painful and scary but also mostly okay. Until it wasn’t. And that memory was the big thing that pulled off the filter. Because I asked you if it was just a silly game then why was I so scared? And if I wanted to do this, then why was he making it so I could not move?
And more and more came up later in the day, and the next day and then the filter was gone, and so were you. There wasn’t enough of you to go around and I was just all alone. I was just left going through torture all alone. And I can’t do this again. I just can’t. I can’t do this, dig into stuff with SP, or any method really, if [well, I don’t even know how to fill this sentence in]. Maybe just that I can’t do this and be left alone again. I just can’t. It’s a scary thought that this could happen again. I don’t want it to happen again.
I don’t want you to fix me, but I can’t say things won’t come up outside of your office. If we start digging around, stuff is liable to come up. I can’t stop that, and either can you. It just happens. But how do we do this? Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold the *big overwhelming painful I need someone to hear me and see me and sit with me and not be alone* stuff.
“So first of all, I don’t want what happened in the fall to happen again, either. I won’t promise it will never happen again, but I certainly don’t want to put you through so much pain again. So, with that in mind, I would ask that you text me if you are feeling that big awful feeling, and we set up a time to have you come in or for a phone call. If we know at the end of a session that a lot is coming up, we can try to schedule another appointment before you leave— or I can at least let you know some times I have open. Because I agree, Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold something all on your own.”
“You do?” It’s my turn to be surprised. I was sure she would feel like it’s really only four days in between, and not that long at all.
“Yes, I do. That’s almost 5 full days. That is a long time to feel alone.”
“I don’t….it’s hard to…I mean, phone calls, or whatever, it just feels like asking a lot.” I whisper.
“It really isn’t. This is about what works for you. I have one person who just sends emails, and doesn’t want a response. I have someone else who texts me after every session to ask for a phone call because stuff comes up for them right after leaving. I have someone else like you who emails and needs a response. And all of those things are okay. The thing about email, though, is if there is that big awful overwhelmed feeling, sometimes what you are needing is hard to address in an email. It’s easier to address face to face or over the phone. Those times, I would feel better going that route, espessially to make sure that the fall doesn’t happen again.” She’s just sort of matter of fact and calm about this, like none of it is a big deal to her. I still don’t like it though. The thing with email is that I can explain things or say things that I might not be able to say aloud. It’s the same with writing things down in my book. There are so many things I’m afraid to say. For the moment though, I’m okay with how we are leaving things. We have a plan for how to deal with situations where I need more of an attuned response than can sometimes happen over email.
“I do remember the memory. I remember it was a particularly awful feeling one for you, and there was a lot of body stuff coming up with it. And that was also hard for you to cope with. A bit like the nightmares coming up now.” Her voice is soft, and careful. She doesn’t want to send me back to that awful place, but she wants to acknowledge it. It’s such a fine line our therapists walk at times, isn’t it?
“Yeah. Just like that. And….it was….I mean….it clashes so much with the story I tell myself. Told myself. It didn’t match, and that was hard.”
“That was hard. It was really difficult to wrap your head around it, wasn’t it?” She says.
“Yeah.” I whisper. I’m starting to feel just the slightest bit fuzzy, and I really don’t want to go back to that place.
“Now that we have talked about this a little, I can see how this can add another layer to the fears surrounding SP. Of course it would be scary for you no matter what, but this adds the layer of we were using some SP and working with body feelings and that opened up this black hole, that I just left you alone with. That just makes this much scarier, and harder to trust it will be okay, doesn’t it?” She’s so reasonable. How did I ever get this lucky, to find a therapist who just gets it?
“Yes. It makes it really hard.” My head feels sort of floaty as I answer her.
“I think anything we do with SP would be just about body feelings and nothing else. We would keep memories out of it. And if a memory did come up, and parts wanted to talk about that, we could. We would just leave the SP stuff out of it. And, if parts just have stuff they need to talk about, we can do that, too, just leaving SP stuff out of it. We are going to do this very, very slowly. Okay?”
“Okay.” I’m still not sure that all of this can be separated, but I agree with what she is saying for now. It’s a good plan, and we have a plan in place to deal with any fallout. So I’m okay. Bea is okay. We are okay.
Restless (just thinking out loud)
Trigger warning. Possible Self harm and sexual abuse and whatever else that should be on a trigger list talked about. I’m just thinking out loud, and so I can’t say for sure where this will go, so please just read carefully.
I’m restless tonight. Not because of any one thing, really.
I had a bad night on Friday night. Really bad. The dream I had was vivid and real, and a felt experience. Waking up from it didn’t stop the feelings. It’s horrendous, really. The combination of feelings that I have begun to refer to as THIS because I have no other words for it. THIS feeling is so unfathomablely uncomfortable, I can’t even describe it. It’s painful. It’s terrifying. And I don’t want to feel it.
When I wake up from this dream, I’m on edge, and scared. And it’s like every nerve ending in my body is hyper awake and feeling everything. The problem is, I feel things that aren’t happening. Except, in my world, at that moment they are happening. Even placing myself back in the present as a grown up, a 34 year old woman, a mom, a wife, none of that stops me from feeling. It’s torture. Which is why I have been willing to think about, read about, talk about sensorimotor psychotherapy. It’s why I WANT to be able to do SP. The crux of it is, though, I’m afraid to feel.
Once THIS feeling happens, there is no ending it. Writing, drawing, distraction, talking, yoga, nothing helps. Yoga makes it worse because it’s too body based. Nothing makes it stop, except one thing. Self injury. I hate myself for this. For cutting, and burning and hurting. But it stops the THIS feeling. One cut, and I can stop it all, I can go to the numb, fuzzy place and be okay.
So Friday night, I tried everything else. I wrote, I drew, I tried to read a book, I colored a page in my Alice in Wonderland coloring book. None of it helped. None of it stopped the torture. That’s what it is for me, you know; to feel myself in my body, to feel physical sensations, it is not peaceful or calming or grounding. It is not nice. It is torture. So, I cut. I stopped the torture.
After that, I emailed Bea. I wrote about the dream, and the feelings, and all of it. Even the cutting being the only way to stop the feelings. However, that was all hidden in the email. I wrote it all at the end. Another part of me, the one that is so good at talking to avoid and distract, wrote about Ms. Perfect doing the worksheets, and about how I was so glad Bea hadn’t used the e word (experiment) and how I was feeling really good about us being able to communicate and about me being able to recognize that the teen was on the edge and anything shrinky was going to push her over that edge, and how I was really proud that we had managed to avoid a huge rupture that could have resulted.
And Bea responded to the first part of the email. That was it. It was a great response. It really was. If that was all I had written, it would have been enough, it would have been perfect. But I had written more, so much more. It hurt that she hadn’t even acknowledged all that pain. It hurt that she wasn’t hearing me, seeing me. And it felt like what happened in the Fall could happen all over again. Thankfully, I kept the teen in check and managed to keep the adult online. I emailed Bea again. I highlighted the painful things I had written, and I wrote out what I had been needing and that I knew I had sort of hidden those things at the end of the email, but I had really needed her to see them, to hear them. I said that instead of panicking and assuming I had been too much, or somehow overwhelmed her, instead of allowing the little girl to assume she had broken Bea and Bea was never coming back, I was asking why she hadn’t acknowledged those painful things I had written about. It was a hard email to send, but I sent it anyway. I wanted to lash out, to just be done with her, to never see her again, because clearly, I am too much. But instead, I kept the grown up in control, and I asked what was going on.
She emailed back, and it was better. Not perfect, but honest.
Let me reassure those parts—I’m here, I’m not freaked out or worried by them, I don’t think these things are unfixable. No, there’s nothing I can do to alleviate the pain and the horror of what you describe, but I am listening and hearing you even when I don’t have time to respond in more depth. There are many ways out of the super glue, but all will require patience.
To the Little Girl—I’m not going to leave, and you will always be able to have your voice. At this point you are pretty much always on my radar, don’t worry.
Please know this is everything I can offer right now. I’m not ignoring you, or leaving you. I hear you and I hear how hard this is. I am simply at my capacity for how much I can absorb and how much I can give right now. My tank is completely empty at the moment. This isn’t because of you, or anything you have done, or said. I will rest and recharge tonight and tomorrow and my tank will be full again on Monday. In the meantime, I am still here, and you have not broken me.
Sure, it hurts a little to have her tell me she is just running on empty, and doesn’t have much left to give. But it’s so much better than me sensing something being off, and immediately assuming it is me, that I have broken her.
There is a problem, however, and it all ties into why I’m afraid to even try SP.
I think the problem lies in the fact that the last time I really needed her (in the fall), she just disappeared. She wasn’t there, because she had nothing left to give. And I was falling apart, going through hell because the filter was gone, and all my nightmares were real, Kenny really has hurt me, and I was all alone. Bea wasn’t there. And I struggled. I contemplated suicide on an almost hourly basis. I didn’t function. I cut, and binged and purged, and burned. I almost crashed my car into a tree, because I truly didn’t want to be here anymore. I don’t think I will survive something like that again. And I’m so, so afraid that if I try to do any SP things, if I try to feel anything body based or really notice internally what I am feeling, I will fall into this giant abyss. I’ll be stuck with THIS feeling, or worse things coming up between sessions, and I’ll email Bea and she will be at her capacity for supporting me. And I will be left alone to deal with it all again. And I honestly don’t think I can survive something like that again.
Trigger, trigger trigger. Warning, this is a little graphic and detailed but I just need to write it. To stop hiding from this.
Awake or asleep, it doesn’t matter. I feel his weight on top of me. I feel his fingers on me, in me. It hurts, like getting a rug burn on your knees. And I can feel it happening, feel it in my body. I feel knees on my arms, bruising and hurting and holding me in place. I feel his you know what in my mouth, I struggle to breathe, and I gag. I want to wiggle free, to push him away, to kick my feet, to turn my head and cover my mouth with my hands. But I can’t move. And some of that touching doesn’t feel bad. It feels weird, and it is sort of uncomfortable and sort of pleasant and sort of like bubbles in a glass of soda and makes me want to squirm. There’s more, so much more, but how in the world am I supposed to even begin to talk about this? I’m embarrassed. More than that. I feel so much shame for feeling these things. Body feelings are shameful. So shameful. And the fact that I feel these things, over and over and over? Maybe the most shameful of all. To make it even worse, these are old feelings from old memories, from things that happened in the past, and I feel them NOW, in this moment, in this present, in this time. And they are real. Which is crazy. Because no one is here. Kenny is not here, no one is touching me. When I first wake up, I don’t even realize that no one is here, because it is so real, and everything in me feels him here. And then I realize no one is here, but the feelings stay. They stay and make feel like a crazy person. The torture just doesn’t end.
Transitions and internal shifts
Things are shifting right now. I’m in a transition and it’s incredibly painful. The last few weeks, Bea and I have been focusing on the details of memory, and so many questions have been brought up. If it was just a game, why do I remember this awful feeling of something bad was going to happen? Why can I feel those evil butterflies flapping around in my belly when I remember? Why do I want nothing more than to curl up in a ball, hide, disappear, to become invisible? Why do I remember pain and wanting to move away, to push him away? If it was nothing more than a fun, innocent, game, a special secret, then why do I hold all these bad feelings around the memories of this game?
In focusing on these details, a filter has been removed. This filter saved me when I was a child, a teen, a young woman newly engaged, a new mother. It kept me safe, and now it’s gone. I can no longer look at my past as a fun game; my childhood wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows and sunshine. There was a darkness, a cloud that covered the sun, and I can see it so clearly now. The filter twisted things, it made it seem as if I had a choice, as if I were in control, as if it was my fault. But you know what? That filter is gone now, and It wasn’t my fault.
Bea has spent years of therapy telling me it wasn’t my fault, telling me she didn’t believe I had done anything to cause any of this. She would acknowledge that I believed otherwise, and then continue to insist it was not my fault. There have been other points in therapy when this filter has begun to be removed, when I’ve see the dark clouds, when I’ve begun to question things. Each time, I’ve run from it, fought to get that filter back. Whether it was a rupture with Bea, or Ms. Perfect taking over and finding a bubble, or being flooded with memories where I *clearly* was in control, I’ve run.
This time has been different. A rupture did happen; one that Bea helped create, but one that I added to. I told myself she didn’t care, that she didn’t want to deal with me or my memories, that these details were going to break her and cause her to go away. In the past, I would have gone to therapy pretending all was well, and refused to discuss what happened. This time, there was enough of that wise, grounded grown up on board to actually talk through the rupture with Bea, and to find a repair. That’s not to say Bea never tried to find a repair in the past, but that’s hard to do when Ms. Perfect is running the show. In the past, the repair was never allowed to happen until the filter was firmly back in place. This time, the filter is still gone. I think it might still exist somewhere, and if I really reached for it, I could lock it back in place. But I don’t want to. This feels far too important, as if I’m moving forward on this path of healing.
I’m not exactly sure what this means, or where it will lead. I know the crisis I was in a few weeks ago was due to the filter being gone and my world being flipped upside down. I know that we are going to have to move slowly with this, and that it’s going to take a lot of time for my world to be flipped right side up again. I know things inside me are shifting and changing, and that on the outside that can look like a hot mess sometimes.
Last week, while reading my notebook, Bea asked what it meant for the filter to be gone. I shrugged. It means so much, I can hardly wrap my head around it. The only answer I had for her was, “I don’t know.”
“Take a minute, really think about,” she insists, because she is aware my *I don’t knows* can be a reflex, and I very well may know.
So, I thought about it, and Bea continued reading. “Okay, you talk about that here. It means different things for different parts. Can we talk about that?”
I shrug, and then nod. Then I realize Bea can’t see me because I’m hiding under the blanket. “Okay, let’s talk about that.”
“Ms. Perfect has some strong feelings about the filter being gone.” Bea steers me towards talking about the parts, as if she knows I’d sit there in silence for the entire session otherwise.
“Ms. Perfect wants to stay on the surface and ignore it all. She’s afraid things will fall apart if she doesn’t get the filter back.”
“She’s made sure you could function all those years before. But things are different now. You are stronger. You have more coping skills and you have more support. You don’t have to be pretend anymore.” Her voice is gentle, she’s not going to try to push Ms. Perfect into believing this right now.
“Yeah….but….there’s…before….I mean last week, no, two weeks ago…everything….I just…”
“You ended up feeling really alone, struggling to cope. I can’t promise that will never happen again, but I think we have a good plan in place now to prevent it as best we can. And you did find support from others, even if it wasn’t what you really were wanting.”
“Yeah. I did…people I didn’t even think….well, they were there. But it’s not the same as you because you know everything, you know how bad it really feels.” I’m sad, remembering how bad it felt that week. It was like Bea disappeared.
“I know it’s not the same. Sometimes we have to accept support even when it’s not from someone who knows the depth of our pain. And that’s okay. I know it was a bad week. And I am very sorry I added to the pain.” She’s apologizing again. I feel bad about this, but it’s nice to hear, too. It’s comforting to know she is aware she hurt me and that she feels bad about it.
“The teen is scared that you will disappear when the world flips upside down again,” I whisper.
“Of course she is. She’s been defending you and protecting everyone for so long, of course she would be worried about that. Maybe angry with me, too, for disappearing when she and little Alice needed me. She might be wondering if I’m trustworthy now.”
“I don’t know. She’s just very scared you will go away again, even if you say you won’t.”
“I know. I can’t change her mind. But I’d like to let her know I’m here, I’m not going anywhere. Even when we have ruptures like that, I will always work through them with her. Always.” Bea’s voice is dead serious. She has the mom tone I get when I want Kat to really take in what I am saying to her.
“Maybe okay.” I shrug.
“What about the little girl? I’m sure she is having some big feelings about the filter being gone.”
“She’s scared.” I answer automatically and then add, “It’s like if someone so nice can be so scary, how can I ever know if nice is really just nice? Anyone could be scary.”
“Is that the little girl or the grownup?”
“I dunno. Maybe…..both?”
“It sounds like the grown up trying to make sense of the little girl’s feelings. And that all does make sense. It’s understandable to feel that way. What is the little girl thinking?” Bea tries again to get little Alice to talk to her.
“I can’t talk to you! I don’t wanna hurt you. I don’t want you to leave!”
“There’s the little girl. You really felt like I went away because of you, didn’t you?” Her voice is softer now, and soothing to little Alice.,
“I just….I just…I never should’ve gave you my pictures!”
“Oh, but I am so glad you were brave enough to let me see them. They were really helpful in showing me how you feel and what you are dealing with. It showed me that this is a lot, and that you really needed me and it hurt that I didn’t get it. I get it now. And it’s not too much. Any details you want to tell me, anything at all, even words you don’t like, it’s okay. I can handle it. I will be okay, and I’ll help you handle it, too.” Something in Bea’s voice turns this into a promise, because she really, really means it.
“I didn’t hurt you? I didn’t make you go away?”
“Nope. Not at all.”
“Okay.” It’s a whisper, but I believe her. Little Alice believes her, too.
“Can you tell me what it means to you that the filter is gone?” Bea asks, going back to her original question.
“Scary.” It’s mumbled, but clear enough Bea hears.
“Yeah, it is scary. Is there anything else? Maybe some mad, or other feelings?” She asks gently.
“He tricked me.”
“He did trick you. That doesn’t feel very good, does it?”
“I never want to be tricked like that again!” The words are loud in this space where I am usually all whispers and silences searching for words.
“No, of course not. There’s some conviction there. He tricked you, and you never want to be tricked again!” She echoes my tone, but I think there might be pride there, too. Is that possible? Could she be proud of me?
“No. Not ever.” The words are firm, a boundary of sorts. I feel strong inside, and a little scared to be so firm in what I’m saying. I don’t feel strong on the outside, but inside, in that moment, I am a giant, I am Wonder Woman, I can do anything.
“Yes! He tricked you and you never want to be tricked again! How does that feel to say that?”
I shake my head. I don’t know. This is maybe the first time the little girl has ever set a boundary or thought about saying no. I don’t know what it feels like. It’s like taking the first step on the moon; scary, and exhilarating, and amazing, and nervous making.
Bea says something, but I’m not hearing her. I’m too far away. “Don’t go too far away, okay? Come back a little.” She says it playfully, there’s no force involved.
I’m struggling to come back, but she realizes this and changes direction. ” So, the filter being gone really feels like it changes things, doesn’t it?” Her tone is that of an adult speaking to another adult, and that helps.
“The filter being gone changes everything. Well, everything for me, even if it changes nothing for you. There is a new realization that you never had a filter, you never had this filter that made you see everything as my fault, did you?”
“No, I’ve never thought it was your fault. Not ever.” She confirms.
“For me though, it means the story of Kenny changes, but it also means the story of my mom changes, and the story of who I am changes. It brings up all kinds of questions. Looking at those details changes everything,” I say, quietly.
Bea wonders why, what made this change occur? “It feels sudden to me, in a lot of ways. It’s not been a slow realization. Maybe that’s just how it happens, I don’t know what I thought, really, how I expected it to be. I suppose, given how difficult it was for you to accept my words, and to even try on the idea of it not being your fault, I thought it would be this slow progression. What do you think it was, the thing that broke through that filter?”
I sigh, this feels like a huge question, with a big answer. “I think it’s all the seeds planted in the last few years, and how the last few weeks have been like water and food for those seeds. Seeing the details of memory, actually feeling them and focusing on the somatic things that come up, it was like giving those seeds sunlight. it made those seeds grow until I could no longer ignore them. The seeds grew strong enough to remove the filter. That filter was like a weed that would not allow the seeds to grow. It was strong. But the sunlight was stronger, and the seeds did grow.”
After I’m done talking, and Bea is very silent, I’m embarrassed. Maybe my explanation was dumb. It sounded good in my head, but it was poetic and weird to say aloud. What was I thinking? I should have just said I don’t know.
“That makes perfect sense. All those details brought questions to light you couldn’t ignore.” When she finally speaks, it feels like hours later, but really it’s probably just a minute or two. She sounds sort of amazed. “It wasn’t so quick then, it was just happening inside where I can’t go and see what changes and shifts are occurring.”
I’m quiet, because I don’t really know what to say. There’s so much in my head, but it’s all jumbled and mixed together and there are too many questions to answer today, anyways.
“I just want to take a few minutes to read the rest of your writing, is that okay?”
“Okay. You should read it. That’s a good idea.” I agree.
A moment later, and Bea is done reading. “I think you are right, when you say here that we need to just stay with the little girl, and the details, and that desire to move, and the fact the filter is gone. This is big. It’s a lot, and it’s going to take time to make sense of.”
Just like that, I’m back in the details, and thinking of wanting to push him away, and what that means that I didn’t, couldn’t push him away.
And then Bea is talking, and it’s terrible. She’s saying how we should focus on the little girl’s conviction of *he tricked me and I never want to be tricked again.* Shes telling me that we can reassure the little girl the grown up won’t let us be tricked again, and that the grown up can hang onto those convictions this week, because it’s important. She’s wondering if the teen can hear the little girl’s adamancy that she never be tricked again, if the teen can see the little girl is getting stronger, and the teen can maybe not need to defend against everyone on the outside so much?
Bea is talking, and I want to cry. She just wants me to be okay. She’s wrapping it all up in this neat bow again, and I hate it. She doesn’t care. She needs me to leave here okay, so I can be okay during the week and not bother her.
And just as I’m almost at this edge, this line I cross when I’m hurt and emotionally abandoned; this line that allows Ms. Perfect to take over, Bea realizes what she is doing. “Oh no. I’m doing it again, aren’t I? Go back, pretend I didn’t say anything. This doesn’t have to end in a nice neat bow. I wasn’t thinking about that, and I’m sorry.”
I peek out from the blanket, still covering most of my face and all of me. Bea looks crestfallen and horrified that she started down that path. “It’s okay,” I tell her.
“Well, it’s not okay, but I want you to know, all the feelings are okay. I don’t need you to be okay. I suppose I was just thinking I wanted you to leave with something that let you feel strong. Just pretend I didn’t say anything, okay?” She’s back pedaling, and trying hard to fix it in the last few minutes of my session. I’m glad she realized what she was doing, and it helps that she realized she was hurting me, and stopped and is sorry, but it still hurts.
Bea talks some more, just normal things, trying to help me regulate. It doesn’t really make a difference at this point. I’ve gone faraway, to the place that lets me act normal even when I am feeling hurt and abandoned. I fold up the blanket and pack my things, making chit chat and smiling and nodding.
Before I leave, Bea stops me and makes eye contact. “You are okay however you feel right now. I’m very sorry I started to end things like that. If you need to email, I’m here.”
“It’s okay, we can talk about it on Wednesday,” I tell her. Then we say our goodbyes, and I head to the car feeling this strange combination of numb and present.
Trauma– it’s in the details
Bea’s drinking coffee today, and so we talk about coffee. I love coffee, it’s my favorite drink. I love fancy coffee drinks, simple lattes, plain black coffee and coffee with cream. So, we talk about coffee because it’s easy and simple to do. We talk about coffee because I want to avoid talking about the image I’d finally managed to write about just the night before.
Eventually though, Bea directs us to our work with a gentle push. “Can we talk about Wednesday, and how that session was for you?”
I nod. “Okay.” And then I don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say. “It was better than the Wednesday before?” It’s true, but it comes out as a question, maybe because I am questioning what she wants to hear.
“Yes, that’s good. How was it better?”
“Well, it just…..I didn’t leave upset. It was better.” I’m looking at down at my hands, sort of here but not here because I know where this conversation is heading.
“What was it like to talk about and notice some boundaries? Have you noticed them more in your life as we have been working with them?” Bea’s voice is curious.
“I don’t know. Not really, I guess. I’m sorry.” I mumble. I don’t get why we are talking about boundaries. I guess that is some of what we have been talking about and working with lately. But I don’t know what she wants.
“That’s okay. I bet you might start to notice. I was just curious because boundaries aren’t something you have ever really noticed or felt before, so I wonder if being more aware of them would change how you felt things.” She shifts in her chair, picking up her coffee cup.
I don’t say anything, just nod my understanding. Bea drinks some coffee, and I drink mine and finally she asks if I did any writing. I pull out my orange notebook. “It’s not much,” I tell her as I hand it over.
She starts to read, and I start some mindless chatter. “I think I am talking, trying to distract you.”
“That’s a good thing to notice, you are talking to keep my attention focused off your words.” She looks up at me.
“I’ll stop now,” I say, and then I keep talking anyway. Bea patiently waits me out. “Okay. I want you to read.” And I stop talking, sitting quietly and hiding my face.
I’ve sat down a few times to try to write about the image, but I just couldn’t. I don’t even remember the words that brought it up.
“I don’t remember either. I’d forgotten about the image until now but it sounds like this image is really an important thing for us to look at.” Her voice is clear, with a bit of an apology woven into it when she says she had forgotten. For whatever reason I’m not upset about this. Even now, writing it out, I’m surprised that my belief she cares and is here is still so strong, that my crazy mind isn’t using Bea’s forgetfulness as a way to convince myself that she doesn’t care.
“I didn’t forget….” I whisper.
“I know you didn’t.” She says, and her words say so much more than that. They hint at understanding that I don’t have the luxury of forgetting, of leaving the images in my brain at her office.
Wednesday was better. It’s as if something clicked this time. For the little girl, realizing that you still hold the memory as a whole and that stopping talking and looking at the body stuff isn’t about you needing to get away from her and her stuff, that makes SP seem completely different now. Still scary, but not as terrible and awful as it did feel to me.
“Yeah, of course realizing that, switching that perspective changed everything. It seemed so clear to me, that of course I’m still holding onto this memory as a whole, but the little girl didn’t see it that way. It’s no wonder SP has felt so scary and awful to her. I didn’t know that was what wasn’t making sense for her, I didn’t put two and two together. I’m so glad she knows now, I’m not going anywhere and I’m not letting go of the memory.”
So, the image. What were the words? About not wanting to be seen or something like that, right? So. I guess I’m still struggling to put it on paper. It’s popped in my head, it’s been on my mind at times, I’ve wanted to write it, I really have, but it’s just so– I don’t have a good word for it– bleck, yuck, ick.
“It was really hard to write it out, wasn’t it?” She murmurs.
It’s true, I think, what you said about trauma, feelings, pain living in the details. That’s the problem. It really could be part of a memory already written or talked about. Looking at one small piece means details and that means no vague descriptions glossing over the things that shame, disgust and terrify me.
“It really is the details, isn’t it?” She tells me how there are events in her life where if she thinks of the event as a whole, it doesn’t bring up the emotion that discussing and focusing on the details that have stuck with her from event would. I don’t feel better when she says this, but at least I know she gets how much more is in the details.
Okay. This what I’m going to do. I’ll write the image on the next page and fold it over, so we can talk about it before you read it. And probably just give me a blanket now, before you read that. I’m sort of just being funny, but also that is just how strong the image is– I want to hide just thinking about it.
I’m hiding my face, but I hear Bea get up to get me a blanket. “I’m going to set this blanket next to you, okay?” She says and I reach my hand out, so she hands it to me instead. “Maybe let’s talk a about how you are feeling right now?”
“I don’t know. Silly. Like I’m making a deal out of a thing that isn’t a deal. The judgey part is real judgey, like just stop being a drama queen and be appropriate.”
“I don’t feel the way the judgey part feels. It feels bad to have that part here, but that can be a good thing because it means the overwhelmed parts haven’t taken over all the way.” Her voice and words are reassuring; she doesn’t feel like the judgey part feels. “Is there anything the overwhelmed parts feel?”
I think for a moment. “Sick.”
“Sick like nauseous? Or something else?” She asks.
“Sick……….sick, like something bad is going to happen.” Without noticing it, I’ve buried myself in the blanket. I’m so glad I’m hidden from view. I’m scared. I don’t want to be noticed.
“Sick like something bad is going to happen.” She repeats my words, just a simple statement, but it’s maybe a question too, a checking to see if there is anything I would like to add to that.
“It….there should be a word……something else, I don’t know what…..there should be a better word for that though,” I say, stumbling over my words.
“Maybe the little girl didn’t have a better word. Maybe that was the closest thing she had to describe what she is feeling. Adults, we have more complex words, but little girls have simple words. Sad. Mad. Sick. Hurt.” Bea is always sticking up for the little girl– for me, really. I’m so glad she finds it easy to stick up for the little girl.
“Maybe,” I say. I realize now that the word I was needing might be dread, apprehension, trepidation, worry and tension, suspense, uneasiness….any of those would have explained it, I think.
“So, when I’m reading about the image and we are talking about it, what is a resource you can use when it gets to be overwhelming to help bring you back to the present where it is safe?” Bea asks.
I shrug. “Talking works. But you don’t want to let me use that anymore.” Maybe I’m pouting a little bit, but I really don’t understand why if I know that talking about regular stuff helps me calm back down, why we should change what I use to be okay, just because SP says to use body based resources.
“So, talking is an interpersonal resource. We can still use talking. It is a good way for you to know I’m still here and with you, still on your side. What do you want to talk about?”
“You know. Regular stuff. Everyday stuff.” I’m calmer now, instantly calmer. Talking is my resource, my defense, my way I stay connected or check that my secure base is there. Spoken language, words, are everything.
“Okay, good. So when you feel like you are really overwhelmed, you can ask for a talk break, okay?” She asks, and I nod my head. “Could you also try to focus on the blanket, the color of the blanket, what it feels like, that it makes a boundary and a boundary can keep bad things out?”
“Maybe. I can try.” And I will try. If she’s not asking me to focus on my breathing and she’s not saying no talking, then okay, I can try.
“Good. That’s good. So that’s two resources you can use.” Bea’s voice is peppy, like she’s excited I’ve agreed to try a second resource.
I don’t say anything. I have a million words flying through my head, but each one is scarier to say out loud than the one before it, so I am silent.
“Should I read it now?” She asks me.
“No….I…well, it’s just…… I wanted to write it just the facts, detached, but I couldn’t. I mean…the words I can’t say. It got messy. It might be incoherent to you. Ugh.” I try to explain.
“I won’t read it until you tell me to, okay? But I think we’ve learned each other’s shorthand, we’ve created a language that is just ours, and so you might be surprised what I can make sense of.” She reassures.
I nod. That’s true. We talk a few more minutes and then I finally nod my head. “Okay. Read it.”
“Are you sure?” Bea asks.
“Yes. Because if you don’t then I’ll be upset later. I’m just scared. Just read it.”
She takes a deep breath. “Okay. While I’m reading, try to focus on the blanket and feeling safe, feeling contained, okay? It won’t do to have you get overwhelmed. And after I read it, as soon as I’m done, I’ll check right back in, okay?”
I mumble an okay, and Bea starts to read.
Okay. I see this image from two perspectives. One is from the onlooker’s. One is from the little girl’s.
I’m little. Sitting or lying down. I don’t know, the angle is off. But he’s big, leaning over me. His, there’s, um, it’s, he’s wanting me to, he’s put, my mouth. Ugh! You know what I’m trying to say. I just can’t say it. I can’t go anywhere. He’s really close.
It doesn’t even take 5 minutes, I don’t think, for her to read it. “Okay, I’ve read it. How do you feel now?” She asks. She sounds like Bea, like normal Bea.
I open my mouth but no words come out. I can’t speak.
“Alice, you are too far away, notice the blanket’s boundaries. Nothing bad can happen now. You are safe.” She directs. Her voice is clear and strong and she is able to contain all of this still.
“Safe,” I whisper.
“Yes. Right now you are safe. I know scary things happened but you are safe now.”
“I still feel sick because I don’t know what you think.” I am so embarrassed that this is what has sent me so far away. Bea’s opinion matters so much to me that I can’t calm down and so I’ve gone away instead. So, I guess I’m admitting to this attachment now. I guess I’m no longer pretending the relationship doesn’t matter to me.
“Okay. Do you want to know what I think?” She questions me. She’s talking to me like this is normal, as if it’s okay that I care that much about what she thinks, she talks to me as if she is absolutely okay with this attachment I have to her.
I don’t say anything. I don’t know. Do I? Maybe. She’s never asked me, just always offered reassurances in the past that she is still here, that she isn’t thinking bad things about me, that she isn’t leaving, that she now knows whatever it is I was afraid to share and nothing bad happened.
“It’s not bad or scary,” she offers.
“Then, yes,” I say.
“Right off the bat, I was struck at how powerless the little girl was. It’s a power differential, how big he is looming over you, how scary that was for the little girl. It’s very scary. This is really scary for her. And confusing, I’m sure.” Bea tells me.
“Even the grown up can’t make sense of it,” I confess.
She’s quiet a moment. “Does the grown up feel that this wasn’t okay at all, that this shouldn’t have ever happened to the little girl?”
I shrug. Maybe. I don’t know. I want to tell her it’s because the little girl needed too much. I want to tell her that she somehow caused it. I want to tell her that it doesn’t matter really, because the little girl was part of the disgusting stuff that happened and it all lives in my head now and so I’m disgusting and really, she probably wanted it or asked for it or some thing like that. I don’t say any of that though, because maybe that’s right, and maybe that’s wrong, and it doesn’t really answer her question anyways.
“Maybe there isn’t enough grown up online to help the little girl yet. I think really you already answered that question. The grown up doesn’t have to be here to help the little girl. It’s okay, I’m here.” Her voice is full of compassion. She’s here. She’s got the little girl, and she’s got me.
“You don’t think anything bad?” I whisper.
“Nothing bad at all.” She says back.
“Okay.” Little girl whisper.
“What do you feel like now, what do you notice now that I’ve read it and that you know what I think?” She asks.
I try to focus. What do I feel like? I don’t know what I feel. “I don’t know. But you realIy don’t think bad things?”
“I think plenty of bad things about him! But I think it was a scary thing for such a little girl.”
“Confusing.” I tell her.
“That, too. It had to have been so confusing to have someone who is supposed to be your friend, whose attention you wanted, telling you to do something you didn’t want to do, that felt icky.”
“Is is icky. So icky.” I tell her.
Something strange is happening by focusing on this one awful detail. I’m lost as to how to explain. Body memories. Pain in my privates, gagging in my throat. I want to push him away and then run. But I can’t, I can’t move, he won’t let me. And I’m not okay. This is not okay. I’m pretty sure if Bea could see me she would be asking questions or something. But instead I’m hiding under the blanket and she redirects me to notice the safety of being where I am.
I spend a minute doing as she asks and then I tell her, “It doesn’t match.”
“What doesn’t match?” Curiosity in her voice.
“His words and what he does– it doesn’t match.”
“No, no they don’t match.” She agrees.
“He said fun and a silly game and I’d like the game and it was okay. But it didn’t match!”
“No, it didn’t match. He was supposed to be someone you could trust. He was supposed to be someone who helped keep you safe.” She validates.
“And I couldn’t move.”
“It was really scary. When scary things happen, sometimes we can’t move.” She says gently.
“No. He wouldn’t let me move,” I say, my voice is flat, sort of dead with that revelation. I’m scared and overwhelmed. I repeat myself, “He wouldn’t let me move.” And I can see it, his knees on my arms, on the inside of my elbows. There was no way I could move.
“That’s very scary. We need to do more work with this, next time. This is a horrible time to stop, I know it is, but we need to stop. We need to come back to here and now, where you are safe and nothing bad is happening. I know the bad feelings have been brought up and they are present, but they are still feelings about the past. I know this a bad place to stop now, but try to focus on feeling safe under the blanket.” Bea is speaking softly and I can hear how bad she feels that we are out of time.
“It’s fine. I know it’s time to go.” And I start to shift where I’m sitting, prepare to come out from under the blanket, put on my boots and go.
“Not yet. We need you to be here and grounded before you leave. This is important.” She corrects me.
“Just talk then.” I say, shrugging. I’m fine with leaving right now.
“What do you want to talk about?”
“You know. Everyday regular stuff,” I tell her, a little annoyed to be repeating myself.
So she talks and I listen. I come back enough to be more or less okay. We say our goodbyes, Bea reminding me that this is important and we will do more work with it on Wednesday.
Some things I can’t talk about……..
Trigger warning for talk about sex….
Sex is such a confusing thing to me. And shameful. So very shameful. Logically, I know it’s just a biological drive, nothing shameful there. But emotionally? That’s a different story. I don’t understand why I seek out this thing that terrifies me, disgusts me and hurts me. I don’t understand how I can want to be touched like that. I hate that I feel like half a wife because I don’t typically have sex with my husband. I hate that I am sickened and confused and embarrassed.
The day we get back from camping passes by in blur. I know I felt bad, overwhelmed. That night, I crawled into bed and snuggled up to hubby. There wasn’t a grown up on board at that moment. Maybe the little girl, maybe a teen part, was running the show. It’s like I could see it happening, but not stop it. At first it was just cuddling, and nuzzling, but then she sat up, and straddled her legs on either side of hubby. She started it. I started it. Kissing, and touching, and she was fine with all of it, until hubby turned his focus more on her, and touching between her legs. One moment, he was hubby and things felt good and she wanted it, and this next moment, it wasn’t hubby anymore, and something bad was going to happen, and I couldn’t handle it. The touching felt nice but like it was too much, too intense and I wanted to squirm my body away, but I couldn’t. And I knew, I just knew, he was going to hurt me after this, because it would be his turn to feel good, and it was going to make me hurt. I started to cry, and scream at him to please don’t hurt me. After that, I don’t know. Hubby stopped, right away, and I hid under my blanky, crying all night. He sat up with me, but I couldn’t talk.
And now, hubby hasn’t touched me, even to hug me, or hold my hand, or kiss me good morning. I say I hate being touched, but now I feel like he saw exactly how disgusting I am, and he can’t even stand to hug me. I don’t want to be his broken, sick wife.
I feel like there is more I should say about this. But every time I catch some of the words I want to use, others escape.
(Also, I’m way super embarrassed about this post, but I honestly can not sit alone with this stuff anymore right now. I feel like I’m losing my mind, and I hate this aspect of myself. Does anyone understand? Am I the only one? How do I cope with this? I’m so lost.)
Alone then, but not now
It’s Monday, and we leave for camping tomorrow. I’m in this dissociated hyper aroused state. I had emailed Bea over the weekend, even after our phone call on Friday because all those tiny worries began to grow bigger and bigger, and I just couldn’t hold onto them for even a few days. (I’ll post the emails in a separate post, so I don’t make this post into a novel!) Emailing helped, and walking into Bea’s office on Monday feels safe and not stressful.
I curl up on the couch as soon as I walk in, and Bea smiles. “Good morning,” she says.
“Hi,” I say back.
We talk about the weather and the weekend and how Kat learned to ride her bike all by herself and how we went on a 5 mile bike ride together. We chat easily, and a part of me is there, having a conversation with Bea. I’m jumpy, though, and talking faster than is normal for me, and I keep looking over towards the door. Bea always makes sure the path to the door is clear, that I sit between her and the door, so no one and nothing is blocking my ability to exit the room if I need to. I never have, but it’s nice that she does this.
Even though Bea is chatting casually, she notices my constant scanning of the room, and how I jump at every noise. “Are you still feeling on the other end of the spectrum, very hyper aroused?”
I nod. I can’t calm myself down.
“It makes sense. Everything is so activated for you right now.”
I nod again.
“Can we talk about this weekend, for a minute?” She asks.
I feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach and my eyes dart quickly to her face. “How come? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—” my words are coming out so fast they are blurring together.
She cuts me off, “You don’t need to be sorry. You didn’t do anything to be sorry about. I wanted to talk about exactly what and why I had been thinking of asking you to try some CBT to help get yourself to shore.”
“Okay.” I shift in my seat, uncomfortable. I hated feeling like I disappointed her.
“I was thinking that CBT could be useful in the negative thought loop of there not being enough time to be okay before having to leave to camp. I truly didn’t realize that all your resources were depleted from dealing with having all the things triggered. Once I got that, then, no CBT doesn’t seem so helpful. It’s hard to use this logical reframing when parts other than the grown up are running the show. I get that. And I’m sorry I didn’t realize that all of that had been activated.”
I shake my head. “It’s okay. I didn’t tell you, I just kept dropping….hints. I went back through emails and journal entries. And all I did was give you the window picture and tell you that I’d had nightmares. That’s it. I didn’t tell you about all the Kenny stuff and the mom stuff and the mixed up mom and Kenny stuff. How could you have known?”
“Well, I wish I had realized. I feel as if I should have put the clues together, and I didn’t. But I am glad that even though I didn’t catch the hints, you were brave enough to still tell me.”
I think about this. I dropped hints to my mom, which she ignored and I never did tell her what the hints were trying to make her see. I dropped hints to Bea, which I felt she was ignoring but I still felt safe enough to tell her what the hints were about, and she reacted in the best way. Maybe it’s not a terrible thing that Bea missed the hints. “You fixed it when you knew. It’s okay.”
“It is okay,” she agrees.
We sit for a moment, after agreeing that even though I can see why CBT can be useful, that it’s not going to be so helpful right now.
“If this isn’t what you want to talk about, please correct me, okay? Did you want to talk about the Kenny stuff that was triggered? I know it’s maybe not ideal, but if it’s already there, maybe it would help to share it and not be alone with it as you leave for vacation.”
“Okay.” When I don’t say anything, she asks a few questions to help get me talking. “Is it Nightmares, or memories? Maybe more feelings or thoughts?”
“No….it’s….well dreams. But before that. It’s like when we were at the reunion, and everything was the same, I could see us— I mean, Kenny, me, my brother, Jackie, as kids, running around, and hear our parents calling after us, and it didn’t even matter that other people were there, that it was different people, that I’m a grown up now, it was just all right there. So real.” I shudder, thinking about it.
“Yeah, a very intense flashback.”
“But it was good stuff, nothing bad!” I argue. I feel crazy. Who has flashbacks of positive memories?
“Yes, maybe it was good stuff, on the surface. But it was Kenny, and no adults were really present protecting you, and it was good stuff that led to trauma. So it makes sense.”
“Everything was just so real. I’m in my bedroom, and it’s the same house, the same windows, and I’m just brushing my hair or whatever, and it all just hits me. I hate it. I hate it.” My voice gets higher and I’m all kinds of upset. “And then nightmares, camping and I’m at my house and then I’m little and at my parents and things are weird, it is a weird dream but then I end up camping and he’s there and it’s the Ferris Wheel and I can’t, it’s just, ugh!”
“The Ferris Wheel, this memory, it comes up a lot. It’s a deep one. I wonder why.” She’s musing out loud, just being curious.
“Because it’s not bad enough to be upsetting?” My voice is tiny now, and the grown up me isn’t really here anymore.
“No! It’s a bad memory. It’s a very legitimate trauma memory. I was just being curious about why this memory is so clear, why it is one of the memories that has lots of senses involved, what made it have such sticking power?”
“Did we talk about it before?” I ask her. I honestly don’t know.
“We talked about the amusement park, and we have emailed about the Ferris Wheel quite in depth. We haven’t talked about it. Last time we emailed and I brought it up, you went too far away to talk to me.”
“Oh.” I sort of knew I had to of told her, but i still get a little jolt of shock that I don’t remember these emails. “My favorite ride was the Ferris Wheel, you know.”
“Yes, I did know. Was it a very big Ferris Wheel?”
“Maybe. I don’t think it was really, but it seemed giant to me.” I shrug. It’s hard to judge now big things are when you are seeing them the way you saw them as a child.
“Did it have the bench seats that two people sit on?” She asks me.
I shake my head, thinking. I can just picture, feel, see, sense, Kenny and I on the Ferris Wheel. I can’t actually picture the seats. “Nooooo…..there’s more room,” I say slowly. I know that’s right, but I’m not sure how I know it.
“What did you like about the Ferris Wheel?” She’s curious.
“I loved it. I loved being so high up and seeing everything, and I loved the drop.”
“The drop once you go around after being at the top? That was my favorite part too! My mom didn’t do Ferris Wheels, so I always rode with my Dad,” Bea tells me. (These are the sorts of things I know some therapists won’t share, but this is what makes me feel safe with her, it’s a normal conversation and she feels human and real to me, a whole person. I know it’s not right for everyone, but for me, it is)
“I rode with my dad, with other kids, with whoever. I would go again and again, over and over.”
She laughs at this. It’s a delighted laugh, one that says she is picturing child Alice, getting in line over and over. “I imagine you like Kat, just so excited and asking to do the same ride over and over.”
I nod, and smile. “That’s it exactly.” And then I become more serious. “That was the problem. Again, and again and again. But eventually everyone got tired of again and again. But I asked for one more time, and eventually Kenny said he would take me. And then….I don’t know. That’s my nightmare. He’s sitting with me on the Ferris Wheel, and I’m…..his hand is between my legs and he is touching me and I can’t do anything, not a thing, I’m just stuck there and he can do anything and I can’t….” The words spill out, like dominoes falling over.
“Did you want to do something?” Bea’s voice sounds caring and gentle, but maybe a little hopeful, too.
“No!” I shout the word at her and grab a fluffy pillow off her couch, hiding my face. Once I’m hiding, I try to breathe. “Maybe. Yes. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
“Okay. That’s okay not to know.” I hear her stand up. “I’m going to go get the blanket, all right?”
Part of me– likely the grown up– wants to say that no, I don’t need if, but I do need it, and so I nod my head. She brings the blanket over to me, and gently lets it cover me.
“Did you feel worried when he said he would take you on the ride?” There’s no judgement in her voice, it’s just a question.
“No.” I hug the pillow to me.
“So you were just focused on going back on your favorite ride and you were happy and excited to get on the Ferris Wheel. So you were very much in the present moment. Maybe that is part of the reason it has such sticking power. You were more present than in other times, and it was a happy place to be, the contrast was startling for you. You weren’t able to be so far away. And your parents were right near, and didn’t rescue you. Yes. That is a lot, no wonder this memory is so powerful.” She makes a sad noise as she finishes talking. It says she is sad for the little girl I uses to be.
“No, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t call out or make him stop. I was just stuck and it was so awful and I was so afraid. I was scared we would get caught. I don’t —I didn’t want to be in trouble.” I’m talking much too fast again, but I can’t slow down.
“You were really scared about getting in trouble. You put all the blame on yourself. But it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I was so scared.”
“I know. You were really scared.”
“I didn’t want to get caught.” I tell her.
“No, you didn’t want to get caught. You were scared. But you did nothing wrong,” she reminds me. “Was there something you wanted to do?”
“I didn’t want to get caught, I didn’t want to be in trouble. But his hand, his hand, it’s ….”
When my voice trails off, Bea pushes a bit. “What about his hand?”
“I want to push it away!” The words pour out of me, hot and intense, anger and panic boil under the surface.
“Ahhh, yes! You wanted to push his hand away! He shouldn’t be touching you there! You were just a little girl, on her favorites ride. That wasn’t okay, he wasn’t okay.” She gets it. Her voice tells me she gets how desperately I wanted to make it stop.
“I wanted him to stop. Just stop.” I feel as if I am shrieking the words out.
“Can him go back to wanting to push his hand away? Can you focus on that feeling for a little while?”
I try. But then, suddenly, all these feelings– physical and emotional– hit me like a knockout punch in a fight without a boxing ring. “No– no, no, no. I can’t. I can’t. There’s…I can feel….” And I cut myself off, not wanting to tell her what I am feeling because I’m disgusting. The physical feelings are the worst. I am gross. “I…..if I think about pushing his hand away, all I can so is think about where is hand is at.”
“Okay. Okay.” She is breathing slowly, the way I’m supposed to breathe to calm down. “Let’s just focus on you, and only on your hand. Which hand is wanting to push? What does it feel like? Is it tense? Is it warm? How does the hand want to push?”
I listen to her voice, and that helps me focus just on my hand. Slowly I lift up my right hand.
“Your right hand. That’s great. That is really great noticing. Just focus on that hand.”
Bea stops talking then, and without her voice, I’m back to where his hand is, and what his hand is doing. “I need you to talk.”
“Alice, we can stop focusing on your hand. You did a lot, it is okay. We can stop this whenever you want to.”
I shake my head, and then realize she can’t see me. “No, no. I….if you just talk about focusing on my hand it helps me not go to thinking about where his hand…..”
“Where his hand is?” She asks.
“Yeah.” I’m embarrassed now.
She runs through so many different ways my hand could feel. I can’t believe that there are this many words to describe physical feelings.
“It’s tensed!” I say, excited that I can recognize a feeling.
“Tensed up, getting ready to move. That’s good. Is it just the hand, or the arm, too?”
“I don’t know. Arm, maybe? I don’t know.”
“Okay, that’s good. Just let yourself stay with that feeling.” She’s so calm.
We talk about wanting to push his hand away, and about what I notice in my hand and arm, and then Bea talks about how I am okay and how I can push his hand away now. “It’s a funny thing, but your brain doesn’t know the difference. You can push now, if you want. You can just push your hand out, or I can get a pillow you can push against if resistance sounds like what you might want.” She’s not pushing this on me, it’s just conversational, and so I’m okay.
“I don’t know, I don’t know. How am I supposed to know?” I’m suddenly panicked that I don’t know.
“You just feel it. You can trust your body and your sense of what you need.” Again, she is the calm in the storm raging all around and inside me.
“What if I sense wrong???!?!?”
“Then it’s okay. We have more information then. We try something else.”
“I can’t.” I whisper.
“Can the grown up help the little girl move her right hand? Could the grown up use her left to help the little girl move the right?” When I don’t respond, she says, “Maybe there isn’t enough of the grown up here to help. And that’s okay. I’m here, and I’ll help however I can.”
“You can’t really help like that.” I whisper.
“No, not like that. But I am here.”
I realize that I have been holding my right hand down with my left, and gripping the pillow really tight. I let go with my left, and straighten the fingers on my right hand. Then, feeling so scared, I slowly move my right hand. I don’t push, or even move it in the direction to push. I simply set it down by my right side.
“Ahhhh. The Little Girl, she is brave. You are so brave. You moved that hand! How did that feel?”
I stretch my fingers out, my palm flat on the couch. As I do that, I feel exactly what I want to do. “I want to scoot away from him. I can’t. I’m stuck, I can’t move. I can’t scoot away.”
“Ahhhh, so you are noticing you want to scoot away. Do you want to push, then scoot?”
“No……. It’s weird….I know…I want to scoot then push.” It’s almost more of a scoot and push, one right after the other, almost at the same time.
“That’s not weird, not at all. Do you want to scoot now?”
“I can’t, I can’t get away, I can’t move, he won’t like it, he won’t be happy, I’m stuck here, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” I freak out a little, but Bea holds it all and I’m okay.
“You couldn’t move then. You were frozen– super aware, on alert, frozen– but you aren’t frozen now. Your fingers wiggled. You are safe now. You couldn’t scoot away then, but you can now. You were all alone then, but you aren’t now. I’m here now, and I can promise you that you can scoot away now, and nothing bad will happen.”
“I am right here.” Her voice is strong.
“You won’t go?” I’m a terrified child, panicked that the only safe person on my world is going to leave me.
“I won’t go.”
I sit there, wanting to scoot, thinking how simple it should be to scoot away, but I can’t do it. I can’t move.
“You are safe now. Nothing bad is going to happen. I’m here, you’re here, and you are safe. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. It’s your choice. You get a choice now.” Her voice is soft, reassuring.
“I….I want to move. I just can’t. I can’t do it.” I sound sad. I really do want to move. It’s the strangest thing, I’m mostly back there, sitting in that Ferris Wheel with Kenny, and I’m frozen and can’t do anything about it. But I’ve managed to keep just enough of the grown up me on board to put Bea in the Ferris Wheel, too, maybe in the car across from me, or maybe a car above me. She’s there, though, and she won’t let me be hurt anymore. She will stay right there until I can scoot away from him, push his hand away. She will help keep me safe. The grown up me might not be strong enough yet to help Little Alice, but the grown up is strong enough to help imagine Bea into the memory, the grown up is strong enough to stay present with this so I can feel Bea here with me. I’m not alone in this. It’s taking the grown up me and Bea to help Little Alice stay with the feeling of wanting to move.
“It’s okay. This was a lot. It was really good work, to stay with it all as long as you have. You did good. We don’t have to do anything more today. We can just sit with the feeling of wanting to move, and of not being alone.” There’s something in her voice, I’m not sure I recognize what it is. Maybe it’s just Bea, being at ease and in the moment with me. Maybe there is some pride in there, and some calm. Maybe I’ve just not been present enough to hear this in her voice. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I like it. It feels like she is happy with me, and that feels nice.
“I……..I really do want to scoot. I just…I’m scared.” I whisper.
“Could you reach your hand out from under the blanket? Just a little bit, to reach your bag? It’s not very far. Maybe if you knew how far you had to go, that would help.”
I want to try, and so I nod my head. I suddenly want to ask her to hold my other hand, but I won’t. It is a good idea, to have something to reach to, and I very slowly move my hand out from under the blanket. I have to focus on that desire to move, and not think about anything else, but I do it.
“That was great!” I can head excitement in Bea’s voice. It mirrors my own excitement that I did it. I feel like a child who has accomplished a new and difficult task for the very first time. When I don’t move or speak, Bea says, “Just focus on the feeling of wanting to scoot away. Remember you are safe now.”
I just can’t make myself move. The little girl is running the show right now, and she is too scared.
“Is it more of a lean, or a pick up and scoot away?” Bea asks. I think she is thinking leaning would be less movement, and therefore maybe easier.
I shake my head and burying my face in the pillow I’m still holding. “I…..leaning won’t…I mean, because….” I’m embarrassed, I can’t explain it to her, can’t form the words.
“Ohhhh, leaning wouldn’t move the part of your body he is touching away from him.” Something clicks for her, and Bea fills in the words for me.
“Yeah,” I say. And then I’m thinking about where his hand is at, and the physical sensations of being touched are back. (As a side note, please tell me I’m not the only one who experiences this? I hate, hate, hate feeling the feeling of being touched. I’m embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted and I am afraid of the words I would need to use to fully explain it. 😔)
“It’s okay. That’s okay. Let’s try not to go back to what he is doing. Let’s stay with the feeling of wanting to move away, of wanting to push his hand away, of not being alone now, of being safe now. We can work more on this later. It’s okay.” Her voice and her words are like a salve to wounds I didn’t even know I had.
We start working to bring me fully back to here and now, and I pull the blanket off my head, holding it in front of my face. I peak out from the blanket, meeting Bea’s eyes and then quickly covering my face again. She’s quicker than I am though, and before I hide behind the blanky again, she says, “Yup, I’m still here.” Her eyes are kind, I see, or maybe I jut sense this feeling of acceptance and caring in them.
I peak put again, and look at her. She is patiently there, just sitting with me. I breathe for minute, come back to myself enough to set my feet on the floor and fold up the blanket. Saying goodbye is hard today. It will be over a week before I see her. She reminds me I can I email or call, and tells me she should have cell service during her whole vacation.
“When do you leave?” I ask her. It shouldn’t really matter, but I want to know where she is in the world.
“Friday Morning, so I will be in the car all day on Friday. And then for the weekend, hopefully I will be at the beach for a while, and maybe go for a hike, too. Tuesday I’ll be in the car for most of the day again.” I breathe a little easier. I like knowing where she will be. It’s easier to feel like she hasn’t just left if I can place her in the world.
Now I can say goodbye. We wish each other a good trip, and then I almost run out of her office and down the stairs. I get to my car and realize something: I am okay.