Sleep, sleep, and more sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I need him to be wrong 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s still so horrible,” I whisper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s not angry.” I tell her. 

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

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

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

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

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

I nod. Okay. 

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

“I can try.” My voice is tiny. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know.” 

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

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

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

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

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

“What about turning on a light?” 

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

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

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

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

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

“But what?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I keep crying. 

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

“Okay. Okay,” I sniffle. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I couldn’t stop it (11/30/16)

I walk into therapy, and right away, as I’m getting settled, I talk about Kat and school and our first Girl Scout meeting. I’m desperately trying to pretend away this sense of dread, and feeling of panic I have. I tell Bea how amazing Kat is doing, and great is was to see her interacting socially with girls she had never met before. I tell her how it was, being the troop leader. I’ve never done anything like that before, but I had a blast. 
Thankfully, I have a co-leader, who seems very comfortable when it comes to dealing with the parents. That was the one thing I was unsure about— I don’t ever feel comfortable taking a position of authority or being the “expert” over my peers. Mostly because I often feel like a 5 year or a teen, I don’t feel as if my peers are really my peers. I’m much more comfortable with kids; the little girl part of me connects with them really well. 

Today Bea won’t let me spend the entire session talking about surface stuff. I’d sent a series of emails Monday and Tuesday, and had spent the last 36 hours in a hypervigilant, panicky feeling state. 

“Okay, I’m going to find your email and just read through it really quick to get back in that headspace.” Bea transitions us to talking through the email I had sent the day before.

“Sorry….I’m sorry.” I mumble, covering my face with my hands. 

“Why sorry? Nothing to be sorry about. Needing that transition time, that’s why we have 90 minute sessions. We have time built in.” It’s no big deal, she’s saying. 

“Because I won’t stop talking.” I bury my face, mortified.

“No that’s not it at all! We have the time because that time is important for building safety, for helping you feel safe enough to drop some of those defenses you need to get through your day to day life.” She corrects me and sounds firm, as if she wants to make sure I don’t start thinking badly of myself for needing that extra time. 
Bea begins to go through my email, reading it to herself, and responding as she reads. 

“I wondered– as I was saying that about the feeling impatient, annoyed— in the back of my mind, I wondered how that was sounding to you. I wasn’t talking about you, I have never felt that towards you. I do check in with myself, see how I am feeling, but it never has come up with you. Even at times when you are stuck, or avoiding things, it’s so obvious to me why you would be stuck or why your defenses would be needed at those times. You work hard in therapy and this is hard stuff. You can’t stay raw and open all the time. It would be way too much. I was talking more about people….it’s maybe people who……. they are in therapy because they know something is wrong, but maybe aren’t even sure what, and they are so defended, there is no getting through the walls they have built up, when I check in with myself and notice I am feeling impatient or annoyed with that person, then I know that maybe it is time to push against some of those walls, to challenge some of those defenses.”

“Okay.” 

“This is interesting. You say you didn’t notice anything, that there is nothing to notice, but then you noticed a whole bunch!” 

I think, maybe it’s that I have this idea that anything I’m noticing isn’t ‘right’ it isn’t what you are supposed to notice and get out of this exercise. 

“Even right away, when you are saying how you just kept thinking that it’s no big deal……..just a phone or a coffee cup you are thinking about picking up, those are your defenses, the it’s no big deal, this is silly. That is you using your mind to distract yourself.”

We talk about how reaching out is very, very hard for me. 

“And here you are looking at this reaching and touching from hubby’s point of view. When he grabs your hand, or puts an arm around you, how triggering is that? Is it triggering like distract yourself, or triggering like heart pounding, or triggering like go away?”

“I don’t know.” It comes out automatically. 

“I’m just wondering because knowing how triggering it is will help us to know where we might want to start with this, or what things we might want to try.” 

I sigh. “It’s……maybe it depends.” 

We sit in silence for a bit, and Bea finally asks if I can say more about that. She wonders what is it like when hubby holds my hand at the doctors office. “Maybe that isn’t so scary. You’ve had good touches in your life, too, so maybe that is a time when you remember your mom or dad holding your hand and comforting you at the doctors office. Do you have other times you can remember good touch, like cuddling with your mom?”

“No…..my parents aren’t touchy feely. My mom thinks it’s weird that I would snuggle up with Kat to watch movies or let her sleep in my bed. She’s good with babies, really little kids, being cuddly, but not so much with anything else.” 

“So maybe there isn’t a lot of memory there. What happens when hubby holds your hand? What is going on then?”

“It….if we are like, out walking and he grabs my hand, it’s just….I just distract myself. It’s not a big deal. But if like….I’m at the counter cooking and he comes up and hugs me or thinks he will run my shoulders it’s like……triggered in my head. Heart racing….like want to run away…..but of course I can’t do that. So I go away instead.” 

“So maybe when you are out for a walk, and hubby holds your hand you can notice how you are safe. And other times you could use the four steps to freedom— reminding yourself you are safe, that this is a reaction from a long time ago, that you are having a flashback, that sort of thing? Or maybe it’s too triggering to even do that. It’s just some things to play around with. To see what you notice, what helps or doesn’t help.” 

We talk about couples therapy and how that could have been helpful, and how hubby just hasn’t bothered to call and schedule and how I had asked twice so I’m done begging him to do things to help our marriage be better. 

“Okay, here you are talking about sending the email to me. You noticed you physically pulled back from the iPad and it was making you have that anxious sick feeling and that you had to go away to press send. You really feel very vulnerable reaching out. It’s hard for you to reach out.”

I nod. 

“But then you did reach out. You were able to send me the email.” She says.

“Yes. I just….have to pretend it doesn’t matter to me.” The interesting thing is, I have a great imagination, and can pretend away a lot of stuff. 

“I’m glad you sent it. I know it’s hard to reach out. Interesting that words are needed to feel not alone, that having no words means alone, when for so long you kept this secret and had no words. It’s a little confusing to me. I wonder if it means that in the last few years you have learned that using words and telling your story means someone can hear and understand? That it means someone can be there for you and that you have learned telling your story and being heard feels less alone to you?” Bea asks.  

“No……it’s like……words for anything. It’s like I need words to connect at all…..like hubby would be happy and feel connected if we were sitting next to each other watching a movie or each doing our own thing, but next to each other and that is like…..nothing to me. I need to talk.” I try to explain, but I’m not sure I’m doing a good enough job of making sense. 

“Ohhhhh….okay. I hear that from a lot of women. I think that is pretty normal.”

“Well…..it’s like a simple example I could think of. Like even when I was a kid, I needed to talk, I needed to talk and be heard. I would talk about anything and get in trouble for talking too much.” I say, trying to clarify it more. 

“Yes, okay, so talking was how you connected. It’s not trauma relayed, it’s attachment based, it’s how you feel secure in the world, by being heard.”

I nod. 

“So, I’m thinking attachment, and what are other ways we can communicate and connect? What are ways I see kids connect? Touch is one of the more obvious ones, I guess. But then I also see kids, they look up to see if their attachment person is paying attention. Some kids will act out, to get seen.” 

“That was never me,” I say. 

“No, I wouldn’t think so. Some kids go the other way, and might be very clever or very well behaved, to get noticed that way.” 

I nod. Maybe me. That’s more me than anything else. 

“All of the ways we use to get our attachment needs met as kids, well, I’d imagine they would be similar when we are adults. So, when you are needing words, maybe we can try other ways to connect, you can ask yourself how else you can get your needs met, or what it is you are needing that you aren’t getting because you have no words.” 

My first thought is that there is nothing if I don’t have words. Even though Bea has literally just listed out several other ways, that belief is so automatic I have to remind myself that she has listed out other ways. 

“The more I think about just how vital words can be, how they really can keep an anxious kid feeling connected, how much having words is an inherent part of who you are, the idea that you held that secret for so long is even more horrible. It’s no wonder everything bombarded you when you broke that silence.” 

I don’t say anything, but I think that maybe she does get it, my need for words. I’ve been upset and feeling overwhelmed for weeks, but it’s all come to a point where I can barely handle it. These last two weeks I’ve just wanted Bea to fix it. The little girl has been very much in control, and she has been wanting a grown up to make it better, to make all the hurt stop, to just fix it. I know, rationally, that Bea can’t just fix it, but that doesn’t stop me from being frustrated with myself for having no words, and with Bea for not being able to make it all better. I have this urge to just scream at her *Just help me. Help me.*

“Am I right that there is a lot going on internally, so much so that it is very overwhelming feeling, and it’s more than usually is going on, that there just aren’t words to go with what is happening?” She asks. 

I nod my head, just a little. 

“Okay. Can we try to define what type of things are going on internally? Feelings? Images? Emotions? Thoughts?” 
As Bea speaks, I let go of the breath I had been holding. She is trying to help me. She’s not abandoning me, leaving me alone in this. It’s not Bea on the outside, waiting for me to have words and connect with her, she is right here with me, trying to help me find the words I so desperately need.  “I don’t know.” 

“No words can be communication, too. If I was having lot of stuff going on internally but had no words, to me that would mean the things happening were too horrible, too scary, maybe too overwhelming, too sad, to put into words. Could having no words mean something for you?” 

I shrug. Maybe. I don’t know. 

“Try to focus on those feelings, if you can. See if anything comes up, if we can categorize these things,” Bea encourages. 

As we have been talking– or rather as Bea has been reading my words and talking– all the internal chaos has been stirred up, and I’ve gone from sitting upright, to curled up, knees bent princess style, my head down, resting on my arms. I try to sit with all the feelings, and I try to check in, to see if I can’t categorize this mess. 

After a while, I think, ‘it’s all of it.’ It’s emotions so strong I can’t sit with them, and so it’s hard to name them. It’s pictures, and thoughts, and I can hear his voice. I can feel things in my body. I want to tell Bea, to say that it’s all of it all rolled up together in a big giant bowling ball that is going to knock me down. I’m not sure if I manage to tell her anything at all. I’m really far away, so far away that I don’t even realize how far I’ve gone until much, much later. 

I’m crying and shaking my head, and it’s hard to breathe. 

“You’re really closed off. You really need to feel safe and protected right now.” Bea comments. “I wonder….when kids build walls, they build them for different reasons. Sometimes to keep something scary out, and sometimes to keep things in. I wonder which one your wall is for?”

I could build the tallest, biggest wall, and it still wouldn’t keep him out. I try and try, but nothing stops him. “It doesn’t matter,” I say. The words are disjointed, out of context, although they make sense in a way. 

“What doesn’t matter?” Bea asks softly.

Maybe I’m trying to keep the horror in my head inside. Maybe my walls are for keeping this awful stuff inside. Nobody needs to hear these things, or know them. Maybe my walls are to keep everyone out. People can’t hurt you if they can’t get inside the wall. Maybe my wall is to keep the little girl as safe as she can be. Maybe there is no such thing as safe. Maybe there never was. Maybe none of it matters. He can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and there is nothing I can do to stop it or change it. 

“What is ‘It’?” Bea questions gently. I’d forgotten she was there, and her voice makes me jump.

“Nothing. Nothing. There is nothing I can do. I’m doing everything wrong and it doesn’t matter.” I blurt the thoughts out before I can stop myself. 

Bea might be talking, I’m not sure. She might be asking me what it is that I can do nothing about, or she might be reassuring me I’m not doing anything wrong; she might be telling me that it is an old belief. 

Her voice breaks through the fog in my head eventually. “You are really needing to feel safe and protected, to be far away. Are you far away in a safe space? I can see how tight you are holding onto everything, to keep yourself safe.” 

“No! It’s not a nice place. It’s not a nice place at all,” and I begin to cry. 

“It’s not a nice place. It doesn’t feel good to be where you are,” she echoes. “Can you focus on your hands, on the fists they have made? They are holding on really, really tight.” 

I don’t say anything, but I’m listening. It doesn’t truly matter what Bea is saying, her voice equals safety to me, and it’s like having a rope to grasp onto. 

“Can relax some of the tension in your arms and shoulders? You are holding on so tight. I wonder what would happen if you just let go a little bit?” 

I shake my head. “Can’t.” 

“Because your frozen or because it doesn’t feel safe?” 

I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m really frozen in the way I usually am, but everything in me is screaming that I can’t let go, I can’t move, it’s not okay. Finally I whisper, “It’s not okay.”

“What about making things even tighter? Sometimes that can be a way to get some movement back, too. To go with what is already happening.” 

“No,” I say, and I sound like a stubborn toddler.

“Okay. That’s okay,” she is speaking in that soothing voice, the one I use with Kat when she is really hurt and upset. “Can you stay with the feeling in your shoulders? See if anything comes up or if your arms or hands want to do anything? Maybe an image or a thought will come up.” 

If I weren’t so far away, I’d probably be annoyed that Bea was bring SP into this, but as it stands, I’m not upset with her at all. (And a day later, I’m still okay with it. Having no words and being so far away, SP was maybe the only tool that was going to be of any use. And Bea felt like Bea, not like a shrink, which made all the difference.) So, I tried to pay attention to how my shoulders, arms and hands felt. I was surprised to feel my hands in fits, and how tensed up and locked my shoulders and arms were. I hadn’t noticed. 

“I can’t do this, I can not do this. I can’t do anything. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.” I’m whispering, talking fast, my voice blurred by tears and punctuated by gasps. 

“That begs the question, why?” 

“Why?” I’m incredulous. Shouldn’t she know? Isn’t it obvious? “Why doesn’t it matter?”

“Yes,” she responds simply. Or maybe she says more, and the words don’t register because I’m lost in this maze in my head and I can’t find my way out and he is going to come and there is nothing I am do, it doesn’t matter.

“Because! Because I can’t do anything to change it or stop it! I can’t stop it!” Oh my God, I can’t breathe, nothing is okay, there is no such thing as safe, why isn’t my mom here, I wish my mom would come save me, no one cares, I’m all alone, he is going to hurt me, oh my God, please just make it all stop. 

“You can’t stop it,” she says carefully, and then adds firmly, “You couldn’t stop it THEN. This is now. You are safe now. You survived and you are safe.” 

“No! Stop it! I’m not safe. I’m not okay. He’s just going to do whatever he wants. He can do whatever he wants and it doesn’t matter what I do, there is no such thing as keeping the scary out, he can do whatever he wants! I can’t do anything. It doesn’t matter. He is going to do whatever he wants and I can’t stop it!” I practically scream the words at Bea. Why isn’t she getting this? Why doesn’t she see? I’m terrified and he’s going to hurt me and she is not getting it and I’m so mad at her right now, if she would just get it, she could fix it, she could stop it. Why isn’t she getting it? Why won’t she stop it? 

“Yes! Yes! You found words!” Bea shouts back, but her voice is…..well, happy isn’t the right word, exactly…..maybe excited or proud? “You are safe and you have a voice! And you aren’t alone. You did it! You did it and you are safe. You’re safe now. It was awful, and scary and nothing you should have had to live through, but you did live through it, you survived and you are okay. You are here, in my office, with me, and you aren’t alone.” 

Bea’s voice somehow registers enough that I know it’s okay to let go and melt down, and so I do. I curl into the smallest ball I can manage, and sob. I’m shaking and crying, and I feel wildly out of control, and very, very young and very, very afraid. “He does what he wants and he’s hurting me and it doesn’t matter I can’t hide and I can’t stop him and I can’t do anything at all.” 

“It’s over now. You are safe. You’re safe now. You aren’t alone, and you have words, and I am here. You are safe now. It’s all over. It’s not happening now, no matter how much it feels like it is.” Her voice is a quiet comfort, soft and gentle. “Can I move my chair closer to you?” 

“Why? Why?” I feel as though I almost shriek the words. I’m freaked out. Why does she want to be near me? What does she want? 

“So you aren’t alone, so that I’m not so far away. It’s totally your choice. I just want you to know I am here.” She’s matter-of-fact about it, and I believe her that she just wanted to make sure I don’t feel alone. 

“O-okay,” I say, and my voice is shaky. I’m still crying, and hyperventilating off and on, trying to catch my breath.

Bea moves her chair next to me, and the moment I feel her nearer, I have this urge to sort of shout, ‘don’t touch me!’ My filter is still enough in place that I check myself, and hold the words in. A moment after the urge passes, I realize it’s silly. Bea has never just touched me, or sat nearer to me, without asking. Even at times when she has maybe thought holding my hand would help me feel less alone, she has only offered, and let me know that if I ever ask her to do so, she will hold my hand. 
I start to feel as though I’ve let go of a horrible, awful secret, like my biggest fear has been revealed, and the world didn’t end. My tears slow, and I manage to catch my breath. Bea talks softly, about nothing, just soothing words, letting me know I’m not alone, giving me that verbal connection I need in order to feel safe in the world. 

“I’m scared,” I whisper. 

“I know,” she says. “That was very scary to let go of.”

“I’m so, so scared.” 

“I know. It’s a really scary thing, to feel how little control you had. It’s very, very scary.” 

“I didn’t want it to be true,” I confide. 

“You really didn’t want it to be true. It was really important to you that it wasn’t true, it was so hard, and so scary to let go of the idea that it was just a fun game. I know how badly you didn’t want it to be true. I wish for you it wasn’t true.” Her voice sounds sad, I hear tears in it. Her tears somehow make mine more acceptable; it’s okay to be full grief over this, it’s emotional and it’s a lot. 

Eventually she gently tells me I need to come back to the room, that I’ve gone really deep into things, and it’s time to come back. She reminds me of my busy day, and talks about what she sees in the room. When she has the sense I’m back here, or at least in that here but not here place, where I can function, she says, “I’m going to move my chair back, so I’m not in your face when you sit up.” 

When I do sit up, I can’t look at her, and I wonder about what she had said earlier, how looking a child will look at their parents to see if they are looking at the child, to get attachment needs met. I wonder then, why looking at Bea and having her look back at me feels like being ripped open, like everything in me is being spread out for her to see. I stare at the floor, slipping on my shoes and grabbing my bag. I heard the downstairs door a few minutes ago, which means Bea’s next appointment is here. 

“This was a lot. I want to make sure you feel safe, that you know you are safe and not alone.” Bea says. 

I nod. “I’m fine,” I say. I’m always fine. 

“I wish we had a little more time; my ten o’clock is here,” she confirms what I had already been thinking. She doesn’t want me to leave here and not be safe, but she doesn’t sound scared or panicked, just caring. “If you need to talk more, you can email or call. Okay?” 

I nod. Fine, okay. I’m fine. 

“This is a day for self care. Be gentle with yourself today, okay? Go get a coffee, relax. If you want you can sit out in the other room, as long as you need, okay?” 

“Okay. I’m okay.” 

“I’ll see you later today, okay? With Kat,” she reminds me. 

“I’ll see you later,” I echo, as I walk out the door. I’ve managed not to look at her at all, and in a fog, I walk to my car. 
Wednesdays are busy. It’s not a bad day to have tough things come out in therapy, because after i leave Bea’s, I have non-stop distractions until I bring Kat back for therapy. Then I can hide in Bea’s waiting room, back in h safe space, knowing she is right there, and begin to sort through the crap that came out during my morning session. 

Where I’m at, or something like that……..

I saw Bea today. We didn’t talk about anything, really, I just cried and cried. But I came home, found my words and wrote this to Bea. It’s long, there should be a trigger warning, and probably really convoluted. But it’s the most words I’ve had for what feels like a long time. 

Hi Bea, 

I do not know where to start. I haven’t really stopped to think, to feel, for weeks now. I don’t want to stop and feel or think, because there is an overwhelming amount of messy yucky confusing painful sad mad mixed up feelings and memories and irrational thoughts and just crap whirling around in my head. It was in a box, much like the box I always used to store all the crap in, the one that is so deep and wide, with really thick sides and a giant lock on the top and nothing can get out of it— and staying so busy and worrying/ only focusing on other ppl (Kat), using maybe not so awesome coping skills, staying numb and gone and any down time turns into time to read, or watch a movie, or find a project so I don’t have to think or feel or deal with anything at all, and everything is shoved back into the box. And so you see me not using the perfect facade or not being in the bubble, so you see it as healthy, using distraction and being able to ignore things because in the last year and a half it has been really hard to ignore things. But that’s not right. Or not exactly right. But of course I couldn’t just say that today, oh no not me, because why would I act like an adult and talk to you? Instead i just went farther into the headspace of “no one gets it.” I think it’s sort of like this:

✳️Childhood, teen years, college, twenties—- I had the box with the lock on top and kept everything shoved down. Yes, I needed to cut and starve and binge and throw up to keep things locked up and I was dissociated and not present in my life at all. It wasn’t healthy. I don’t really want to go back there, except for when everything feels really out of control because that time feels like this space where I didn’t have to live this reality of Kenny and my mom knowing and the boyfriend and the abortion and not telling and not knowing what to do and just feeling like little girl lost. And that is hard stuff. It’s hard to accept that is all real. So this place of being perfect and in the bubble, and not feeling at all, it sounds nice sometimes, like a break, like I could maybe breathe again. But then if I try to go back to that, now, it doesn’t feel good. It feels just as bad as having the mess out and running my life, just Ina a different way. 

✳️The last two or three years, then things have been leaking out, and I was emotionally a giant mess and that was before therapy and maybe the beginning of therapy, and I was soooo reactive and up and down and living with nightmares and flashbacks and really struggling to shove it all back in but I couldn’t contain it all any longer for some reason (even though I held it together for years and years and years before that) and so I needed help. And then the box broke when I named the things that were leaking out and there was no ignoring anything, just dissociation and cutting and eating disorders and hiding in my closet. (Which is what I think you were thinking about this morning?) 

✳️Now, it’s like a mixture of the two, me trying desperately to go back to the place where I could ignore everything and be just fine, but it’s not working, I’m failing at that, and maybe ultimately that is a good thing but right now it really hurts and it does not feel good at all. So,I am left with this messed up broken container and crap whirling around my head, and it’s like I’m existing in parallel worlds. The world where I focus on Kat and don’t allow myself to think or feel, and this world where everything hurts and I’m literally being suffocated by memories and feelings. Except that I have been so closed down since the wedding that I can’t figure out how to really access the feelings to actually feel them or make sense of them, it’s just this undertow of yucky feelings that are trying to drown me and I can’t put words to any of it, and I try to write and journal and make sense of things and write the feelings and the memories but MY WORDS ARE GONE. And that makes me feel sort of hopeless. MY WORDS ARE GONE, I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER ANYTHING AT ALL, DON’T TELL ANYONE, NO ONE UNDERSTANDS, I AM ALL ALONE, I ALWAYS SCREW UP, AND I CAN NOT FACE ANY OF THIS. That is what is going around and around in my head. There are so many different things going on in my head, so many different parts, but that is the overall theme. 
Then there’s the mad voice. She’s is just livid over having no control. She’s mad at mom for just leaving her with Kenny and for not seeing or knowing or caring or whatever the heck it was, and she is so angry at Ryan for saying yes to Kenny even though he didn’t know what or who he was saying yes to. She’s mad that I never said no, not once did I say no. Not to Kenny, not to the boyfriend, not even to my husband. I don’t say no, and she is full of anger that I DID NOT SAY NO. She is mad that I was either perfect or horrid, and just….UGH! She is mad that I missed him, and that I was the inappropriate one, she is mad about the underwear incident and mad that mom wasn’t there, and mad that no one got it, that no one ever gets it, mad that grandpa is dead. Mad about everything, mad at the world. I don’t need to type it all here, you already read it in my journal, two weeks ago maybe. But under all that red hot mad is the little girl. So mad is better because then there are no overwhelming sad painful grief scared hurt feelings. 

There’s the detached voice. She just doesn’t care, just wants to float through life, fuzzy and half gone, so there doesn’t have to be all these big big feelings.  

There is the shame filled part, shame over Kenny, over the boyfriend, over the abortion, over not being perfect, over being nothing but a disappointment. Over big things and small things. It’s over how I am as a mother. It’s over all the screw ups I just keep making. Shame that sometimes I have no idea what to do. That I’m the one always asking for connection and needing something, and then the one who is always pulling away and being too scared to follow through. Shame for being too much. 

There’s the part that feels very not seen and not heard and that part gets mad every time anyone in present day life doesn’t see or hear me, and the reaction is huge and out of proportion. She never used to get mad like that, it was more of a sad, defeated, not good enough to be heard or seen feeling. Now that she feels some of that, but also she feels so angry; this giant huge mad, that is sort of separate and sort of part of the mad voice.  

And this scared, sad, feeling alone, afraid to talk little girl is there too. She is so afraid of losing everything, and afraid to be vulnerable and get hurt, and she feels like everyone keeps leaving, and she is struggling to feel connection with anyone because…..I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s October. Maybe because all the being closed down, and not really talking and connecting in therapy and she feels like you are different somehow, like everything just keeps changing and she doesn’t like it, and not connecting with Ryan and being too afraid to even try, and Kristin not really being a part of my life, and missing her but realizing things will never be the same again, and that is really painful and hurts. And she is really afraid you are angry or not happy with her, or that you are sick of her and her nonsense and maybe you don’t care anymore about her or maybe you don’t care as much as you did, and that you just want her to go away because she is a pain in the butt and is wasting your time by not talking for so much of the summer and the fall. She feels like you are just gone, and I don’t know why, and it’s probably really me being and feeling so closed off and not really anything to do with you at all but it makes the little girl feel really sad and alone and unsure. And of course lots of parts of me do not like that you became this important, and I don’t really understand why that bothers me so much, why that feels so dangerous and not okay, and like something to NEVER EVER talk about. 

And right now, I’m sad because I miss my grandpa, and I don’t want to go to my parents to celebrate, and I don’t have a choice. I haven’t gone to celebrate there since the last birthday with my grandpa. It’s been 3 years. Why does it still feel like it happened yesterday? I miss him so much. I don’t want to go celebrate like we used to. It hurts too much. My mom is so excited I am coming “home” for my birthday. I just feel so sad. I’m going to ruin everything, because I can’t force myself to be happy, and I have too much whirling around in my head, a whole box of trauma and hurts and pain and anger swirling around in there, and as much as I want to find that perfect happy facade, I’m struggling to do so. I can’t maintain it for long at all. So we both know I’m going to ruin the weekend, or end up just not there at all, really far away and this weekend will end up for fuzzy and foggy and not feeling real at all like so much of my life. 

Lately, I often want to just disappear from my life. I’m stuck in that mindset of all good or all bad– black or white, no grey space. Just one or the other. And I somehow always come up in the all bad, never good enough, all I do is hurt everyone and ruin everything and I’m no good at all space. Part of me realizes this is just a state, maybe even old feelings coming up because it’s fall, because it’s October, but that doesn’t make me feel like less of a failure, like less of a screw up. I don’t know. I don’t know how to fix this, or how to change things or what to do. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I want to just hide away under my blanket in the closet and be left alone forever. And at the same time, I want someone to get it and to know how much everything hurts and how confused I am right now and what a mess it all feels, and how even saying that makes me feel like a giant drama queen who should just shut up and stop wasting your time because nothing is really so bad, none of this is a big deal, I seriously need to stop whining; I have this really good life— I have like, most everything I could really want, I should be happy and peaceful and like, normal and functioning and fine. But no. I can’t do that. I have to make big deals out of things that aren’t a big deal at all. I don’t know. 

So, okay then. There is where I’m at. I’m sorry I’ve not been able to say where I am and made things feel really….idk…like we need a plan. 

~Alice 

The wedding and the aftermath 

Monday morning after the wedding, I walked into Bea’s office, and I was rather, well, closed off. I was in shutdown mode. I know I told her about the wedding, but it was done rather woodenly, and I don’t have a lot of recollection of our session. I wasn’t really there. I think the manager was running things, in this very strict, very closed down, very harsh boundaried way. My clearest memory is of Bea suggesting I may have felt some things on Saturday, and her telling me that would be okay and wouldn’t make me bad, and the little girl becoming extremely enraged at Bea not only for saying those things, but for knowing them. 

Right now, I’ve been in this very up and down place, of either needing to be completely closed off and following a scheduled written out to the minute, or I’m in this falling apart, not in control, really scared, wanting to die to make it all stop, unable to even find words or function, child part. And it’s scary. Really, really scary to be in that head space. So I am working very hard to follow my schedule. It’s literally written out on paper, with days and times and everything is scheduled from when to wake up, and doing dishes, packing Kat’s lunch, to letting the dogs out to potty, to doing laundry, dusting, sweeping, checking email, doing yoga, taking a shower, giving Kat a bath, going to the grocery. I know it’s rigid and awful. But I can’t function otherwise. Not right now. And that scares me too. So, here is Saturday’s story, as I told it to Bea:

We got to the country club early, to double check finishing touches on decorations, and get dressed and then do some photos before the wedding. When we got there, I could see the wedding planner hadn’t set up the entry way correctly, and she didn’t have the isle runner covered in rose petals either. I busied myself with those tasks, and then just continued on with decorating as it appeared the decorator and wedding planner were really behind. 

Almost an hour or so into decorating and fixing what the decorator had done, my mother stormed up the stairs and yelled at me for not being dressed, and for getting messy. No thank you for fixing the disasters the decorator keeps making, just a good old fashioned berating for not being dressed yet. Later, when the assistant director met me, we shared a laugh over the fact she had fought I was maybe 6 or 7 by the way my mother had been hollering at me to get dressed— she never would have guessed I was 32 years old. It’s not really funny, but well, you know. Family 😕

Once pictures were done and wedding o’clock rolled around, we headed outside to our seats. Hubby and I sat down, and then noticed the decorator was still putting roses in the arch, and she did not have the runner secured so it was blowing all over the place. I set hubby to work with putting roses in the arch and standing on one end of the runner to hold it in place. I sent my dad to stand on the other end, and then I spent the next 25 (good thing my brother and his bride always run late!) minutes running around looking for a staple gun or duct tape. Neither of which could be found. I ended up using saucers to hold the runner down, spacing them along the edges. By this point, the wedding still hadn’t started, and guests had been sitting in the hot sun for over 30 minutes. I went to the bar to get pesticides cups and pitchers of ice water, and set those out, having people pass them around. I didn’t want anyone getting dehydrated. 

The wedding finally started, and it was beautiful ceremony. After, was cocktail hour with champagne punch and hors d’oeuvres. My grandma’s boy friend, who I don’t even want to name for my blog right now, was in line behind hubby and I. He is a horrible man, who is always telling dirty jokes and making innuendoes. He said something about me and my dress, and my chest and my behind, and hubby laughed and agreed. I know I had strong feelings about that, and became angry with hubby because I left the cocktail hour and headed to the club’s bar. I remember telling hubby to just stay faraway from me, and I went and bought a glass of wine. It was a friend of my mom’s who came and sat with me, and let me vent a bit to her. I calmed down and went back to the cocktail hour. 

When we moved into the reception room, I discovered my table– with my mom, dad, grandma, her boy friend, HIS parents, my mom’s sister and her husband, and hubby and I– was right next to HIS table because of how the numbers worked and he was almost sitting next to hubby. I wanted to vomit. I ran to the bathroom and texted Bea in a panic. She told me to leave the table as soon as I could and talk to people far away from him, and then made suggestions for whom I might want to talk to. I don’t really remember dinner. I had a vegetarian dish, and my mother had a moment about the cheese on my noodles, and I felt horribly ashamed and guilty and like I wanted to crawl under the table and hide. 

After dinner I got up, moved around, talked to people. It was okay. I danced a lot. Hubby danced with me, but a lot of my uncles and mom’s cousins and dad’s cousins and my cousins, too, danced with me. Which was good, it kept me away from him. Until. Until he approached hubby as we were dancing and asked hubby’s permission to dance with me. And hubby said yes. 

I froze. I blanked out. I don’t know what happened. I just disappeared. And then the next thing I know, the thing in my memory, is HIM, a hand on my back, and a hand holding my hand, whirling me around the dance floor. Because if you grew up where we did, you know how to dance. And I followed. I followed because it’s the thing you do when you dance, you follow and dance and move, and it’s easy and mindless muscle memory, I followed because I was frozen, and had no idea what else to do. So, I followed and danced. And then the song was over, and he kissed my cheek and thanked me for the dance and left the dance floor. I presume I was meant to follow, but I didn’t. Instead I ended up standing there, in the middle of the dance floor, half frozen, as the next song played. 

I don’t know how long I stood there, but Hagrid’s dad saw me, and came to dance with me. He spun me around a few times, and then, before the song was even over, walked me off the dance floor, out of the reception hall, and to the club’s bar. He ordered two glasses of good white wine, and asked if I was okay. I nodded, yes, of course, I’m fine. He maybe wasn’t convinced but let it go, only saying I could talk to him if I ever needed to. And then he sat with me until I was ready to go back inside. Later, I was embarrassed because it was the little girl talking to him, and he was behaving towards me much more like a care taker or protector than just my mom’s smart cousin whom I have many intellectual discussions with. This means that he saw something was wrong, and as a shrink, he may have even realized I was not there, that something had triggered me, that I wasn’t okay. It means that the central though I didn’t tell, even though I followed the family rule as best I could of putting on the show that all is fine, I sort of told, because Hagrid’s dad realized something was wrong. So, I broke the rules after all. I don’t know. 

(Side note– Bea told me that she really liked that Hagrid’s Dad rescued me, that it sit seemed fitting and right. She also said that if I ever do get to the point of wanting to tell, then maybe he would be a good first person to tell; that he is far enough removed from immediate family, but close enough to see the dynamics, and that while he is going to be sad about what happened because he is my family, that he will understand it as a therapist, but also know the family well enough to know all those nuances and be able to help me break the story to my mother and father. I understand what she is saying, and can even agree with her. I just wasn’t hearing it the day she said it, and I have no plans to tell anyone in the family anything at all ever.)

So, after that, back at the wedding reception, I just drank a lot of wine. Like, a bottle and a half at least. Way more than I ever drink. And I was really drunk. I texted Bea, freaking out and wanting to go home. I think the little girl parts wanted her to come rescue them, I don’t know. In the end, even though she suggested I go back to my parents and go to sleep, I insisted hubby take me home. I didn’t want to sleep in my childhood home. I didn’t want to be in that house where everything about me is wrong. I didn’t want to have to fake anything anymore, for even one more day. So. I insisted on being taken home, and at some point, hubby gave up arguing and agreed to do so. 

Since then, I’ve seen Bea 3 times, and aside from that first Monday where I told her the above story, I’ve more or less avoided talking about myself. I’m in the middle of dealing with a bunch of crazy business from my daughter’s school, and possibly looking for a new school. So those things have needed discussing. And the teachers/administration at Kat’s current school all behave as if I’m crazy to say she is on the spectrum, or to think she needs these extra supports, or anything else. So that dynamic is very triggering as well, to the point where I’m feeling anxiety every time I take Kat to school or pick her up. 

I finally did give me Bea my journal at yesterday’s session, and that was probably a good thing because now she is aware how screwy the inside of my head is, and how some parts of me are on a scary ledge, and how I’m holding it all together by having this very set schedule but that isn’t going to be able to last long, simply because the crud is leaking out in places and I’m struggling in ways I refuse to admit. And I’m terrified of the couple’s therapy session that is set on October. As I told Bea, I’m afraid because I’m the one saying I can’t have a superficial marriage for the rest of my life, but I am also the one who is too afraid and too damaged to go deeper. Bea says that is fine, that the therapist should start where we are at, and it’s okay. 

So, now Bea knows how screwed up my head is right now. She asked me if I could continue with my schedule for another two days until I see her again, and I said yes. She said on Wednesday, maybe we need to start unpacking all that yuck, little by little and we could do it however I wanted, talking, coloring, writing, sensorimotor, a combo of all three. So, the lan is on Wednesday to titrate the mess and just deal with tiny pieces that won’t overwhelm me to the point of the suicidal parts or the little girl running the ship. I’m sort of scared, because well, it all feels overwhelming if I let even some out– which is why I’ve kept it very locked down and separate from me. 

Wednesday before the wedding 

Session from Wednesday September 14. I cut the writing short because it is being posted so late, but I think it’s okay. Anyway…..the Wednesday before my brother’s wedding……

Today. Wednesday. It’s 7:35am, and I don’t want to sit in the parking lot outside Bea’s office drinking coffee and checking emails anymore. I can’t think enough to form a coherent reply anyway. I get out of the car, grab coffee and my purse and head up to her office. I am 10 minutes early but I don’t think Bea will be upset with me. And if she is finishing up her own emails, or vacuuming or whatever else she likes to do in the morning (yes, we have discussed our morning routines), I’m fine with waiting. I just want to be in her office, where I feel safe, and where maybe, just maybe, this manager part can let go a little and let me run things for an hour or so. I have so much I need to get out. 

Bea smiles when I walk in. “Hi,” she says. 

“Hi,” I say, “It feels like fall today.” And my voice is clear and strong and if you didn’t know me, you might believe everything is perfectly fine. The manager or Miss Perfect is running the ship right now, or maybe they are running it together. And they are both very good at their jobs. I think the manager doesn’t care as much about things being perfect as Miss Perfect does, and the manager also is less concerned about holding feelings in than with just not letting them exist to begin with. The manager keeps everything running fine and things looking normal when I am in public, or when people are coming over, ext. That’s different than Miss Perfect, because she will do things perfectly even if no one will ever know about it. The manager could care less if I spend all day in bed zoning out, as long as no feelings are coming out and I’m not breaking down. Miss perfect would see spending the day in bed as a waste, a failure, and would never allow it. 

Anyway. I answer and I sound fine. But Bea knows me really well by now, and she isn’t fooled. So she nods and says, “I made sure that we have until 9:30 today, so we have plenty of time to talk about anything you want to or need to talk about.” The last few weeks, she has had to schedule someone at 9:00, which is unusual because my appointments go from 8 until 9:30. But with school schedules and Bea’s trainings and vacations messing things up, she has needed to put someone into that time spot, but she had explained that to me and had promised it would be back to normal in October and we had been meeting at 7:45am, so I was really okay with that. But it was really nice of her to make sure we had until our normal time, and this gave me extra time because we had been starting 15 minutes early on Wednesdays to compensate for ending 1/2 hour early. 

I nod. Okay. I’m not sure what she wants me to say. I feel like I should talk but I’m at a loss. Nothing seems like the right thing to say. I end up telling her about Kat’s doctor appointment and how that went horribly wrong, but it was sort of good because hubby had taken her so he saw that I wasn’t just crazy and that I do things a certain way with Kat for a reason. Talking about hubby reminds Bea about the couples therapist. 

“I forgot to ask on Monday, did you talk to shrink#2?” (And yes, we really do call her shrink#2) 

I nod. “Yeah, actually, I had called her on Wednesday like we talked about, and then she called back, um…..Thursday night, I think it was, and I couldn’t really get it because hubby was home. So I called her back Friday morning, and she called back Monday after I had left here– I was on my way home from here, actually.” 

“So, when is the appointment with her? Or is there an appointment with her?” Bea’s voice is curious, and it has that tone to it that says she really wants to know. 

“In October. We go in October. The 6th, or something like that. It’s a Thursday. She might end up being able to do Mondays, and then maybe we could get in sooner. But for now, that’s when we have it set. So, yeah…….” My voice trails off. I’m unsure what to say from there. 

“Were you able to talk to her?” Bea sits forward a bit, leaning towards me. “I’m guessing you must have gotten something worked out, or you wouldn’t have an appointment still scheduled.”

“Yeah. So I um, well. You know, I had to change the appointment because hubby’s work schedule changed. So we did that first. And then I said that I would like to talk to her if she had a few minutes because I felt like there were things she should know before I walked into a session, things I need her to know, and I had talked with you, and you thought I needed to have a voice and advocate for myself and this was a really perfect time for me to practice that, but you had helped me write out what I wanted to say, so I was just going to read it if that was okay, and that I had the other therapist tell me I wasn’t allowed to talk over the phone so it was going f to be twice as hard to say any of this because I was feeling even more scared.”

“And what did she say?” Bea prompts me when I stop talking and drift off into space. 

“Oh, she said that she very much wanted to hear what I had to say, and it sounded like it was really important information. And I just really couldn’t get the words out, so,I said I was just going to read what was written if that was okay, and I apologized and said I wasn’t as much as a space cadet as I sounded. But I guess maybe I am sometimes……but anyway, she said I was doing great and I wasn’t being a space cadet at all. So I read the thing to her.” 

Bea’s whole face breaks out into this huge smile. “Alice! That huge! You read all of that, the trigger list and everything to her?” 

“Yeah.” I shrug. 

“I think it can be really hard to read things we write, even harder than talking, it can feel really exposing. That is amazing. I’m really proud of you. You did really good.” 

I shake my head at Bea. “No. Because reading something over the phone, I wasn’t even there at all. It’s the face to face reading that is vulnerable or having to find words. But reading off a page over the phone? That’s easy.” 

“How did she seem to feel about the dissociation and the triggers?” Bea asks me. I think she is feeling protective again. 

“She seemed okay, like that was all fine and normal in her world. She seemed like, yeah, okay, it’s okay that you don’t have words sometimes. I had said, remember it said that sometimes I can be really dissociative but am good at faking being present even though I’m not here at all? (Bea nods) Well, she asked what if she asked me if I was far away during a session, would I be able to answer? And I was like ‘I don’t know.’ I don’t know. That didn’t seem to bother her. I told her that hubby doesn’t know like anything, that I’ve kept him out of the loop. And she seemed to get that, I mean like how that happens. I don’t know.” 

“Did she ask anything else?” Bea questions. 

I shrug. “I’m not sure…..I wasn’t really there. I’m not really here. I don’t know.” 

“Yeah, I’m not surprised. I think you needed to be far away enough to call shrink#2 to feel safe, but also I think you’ve started to be far away just as a way of being for right now, until this weekend is past.” Bea tells me. 

“Yeah. I think that started last week.” I say, and I’m far away enough it’s not a big deal to be admitting that, and Bea nods, agreeing with me. 

I’m not sure who speaks next or what is said, but I end up folding my arms across the pillow of I’m leaning against, and burying my face in them. “I’m so far away,” I say to Bea and I’m crying.

“Being in the far away doesn’t always feel good,” she says. 

I cry for a while. Maybe a little while, maybe a longer while. I not sure. Time doesn’t really move the same here. But then I choke out, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” The tears come harder now. 

“Here-here, or the far away here?” Bea clarifies what I mean. I realize, or rather, the part in charge of editing everything realizes that Bea is probably trying to figure out if I am meaning ‘I don’t want to be here’ in the same way as ‘I just want to disappear’, or any of my other euphemisms for suicide or if I just mean that I simply don’t like being in the far away because being so disconnected is hard. I’m kicking myself for trusting her and for giving her unedited writings with how bad I feel at times in them, because now she has to clarify what I meant, and I hate that, I really do. I don’t want her worrying about me like that. Or wondering. Or anything else. But Im honest when I say, “Mostly the far away here.”

“Can you come and go from the far away? So you can get a break from being there? Or are you pretty much just there now?” 

“I’m stuck in the far away. I can’t come and go. It’s not safe to go. All the feelings are on the other side of the far away. No. I don’t want to be here, but I don’t want to be there either.” I can’t stop crying. I hate crying like this. 

“You are safe now,” Bea says to me quietly. 

“I don’t feel safe.” I tell her. 

“No, I know. Your body doesn’t feel safe because it feels like the past is now, and your head, your head thinks the past and the present are scary, and not safe, so your head doesn’t feel safe. So being in the far away, it is a defense to keep you safe. Even if it feel uncomfortable.” 

“I feel like nothing is real.” 

Bea says something soothing and encouraging, and so I continue talking, “It’s like….nothing is real, and I’m stuck in the far away, and I’m not going to be able to come back……I just…never mind.” I can’t even pick my head up to look at her. I feel like such an idiot. 

Bea gets it though. “It’s hard, when you are in the far away, to remember that there are things that are real and waiting for you, or to remember that something besides the far away exists.” 

I nod. “Yeah. I keep telling myself that I have a real life to come back to, but it…..I just…..I feel like I’m going to get trapped there and I just…..my real life feels made up. Like there’s just no way I had that life.” I sniffle, and fight back more tears, but they come anyway and I sob and sob.

“You do, you absolutely have a real life to come back to. It’s hard to hold onto that when things feel so not real, though, I know. But you will come back and go to yoga, and go to school meetings, and yell the IEP team, and walk Hagrid, and hang out at your beach, and you’ll get your sewing stuff out. You are going to come back to your real life.” Bea says the last bit with this extra firmness in her voice. 

I nod, trying to agree. “Okay. I’ll try to remember.” 

“If you need a reminder, you can always text me.” She says. And then I remember. On Monday, she said that yes I was going back to my hometown and that yes I was going to have to see HIM, but that things weren’t the same anymore, and I was safe and it wasn’t a secret anymore and I could text her, or call her this weekend if I needed a reminder of that. 

“That’s annoying,” I tell her. 

“What is?” She asks, sounding genuinely confused and as if she can’t figure out where our conversation is being picked up from. 

“Me. Texting you. I don’t want to annoy you. I’m afraid I will annoy you. You will be annoyed and like, ugh if I am too needy and then….it’s just not good.” I shake my head. I don’t want to have this conversation.

“Oh, no. It’s not annoying. If I was going to be annoyed by something I wouldn’t offer it. It’s okay. I want you to have support this weekend. I think that you, and the little girl, and maybe other parts too, could really use some extra support this weekend. You aren’t alone now, right? That’s the point, why you told me the secret, so you didn’t have to be alone. And you aren’t alone. So, text. Or email. Or call. Or don’t if you don’t need to, but I’m not expecting you to just paste a smile on your face and be okay and if at some point, you want to talk to someone, or not be alone with it, or you need a reminder of your real life, or that this is not a secret, then, you text me okay? Because it’s not annoying and you aren’t needy and I’m not going anywhere. Okay?” 

I sniffle. “Okay.” And I sorta believe her. At least enough that I let myself remember and count on being able to text Bea if I need to. 

“I do want you to know that if I could keep him from going, or make it okay for you not to go, I would. Because I don’t think it’s okay to send you back to this situation or to allow you to feel so retraumatized. But this is where you are at, and that is okay. I do want to find some things to give you some power back though, okay? Can we do that?” 

“Okay…..” I am hesitant because I don’t know what she means, and I’m a little afraid she is going to mean some sensorimotor therapy thing because she use got back from a training this weekend, and I just can’t do that right now. 

But she doesn’t. Sometimes, Bea will ask me to come up with ideas, or to think of choices. Other times, she knows my brain is way too offline to do that, and she does it for me. I really love that about her. “Well, like you are wearing pink when everyone else in the family is wearing grey or navy. That’s you. That is your voice. And you can make sure you aren’t sitting by him at the ceremony. You aren’t sitting by him at the reception and you can hang out with and focus on your moms family that you really like seeing. Is Hagrid’s Dad going to be there?”

“Yeah, he’ll be there. I can hang out with him and hubby. He’s a shrink, did I tell you that?” 

“No, no you didn’t tell me that,” she says, sounding a little surprised. 

“Yep. So I’ll just hang with my shrink cousin,” I say in this self depreciating voice, shaking my head. 

Bea laughs a little because I’m being funny, playing on the fact that I tend to call therapists shrinks when I don’t like them or don’t know them. She says he is a good person for me to spend time with at the wedding because he is safe and I enjoy talking to him. 

I agree. I don’t tell her that last summer, I had a flashback and I think he recognized it for what it was. I claimed migraine to the rest of the family, but he had followed me and asked if I needed anything and made a point that he was there if I didn’t want to be alone right then or if I needed to talk. By then I was in that here but not here place, and so I had smiled and said thank you but that I just needed to lie down and let my migraine meds kick in.

Bea smiles and continues with a few more ideas of ways I am in control.

“It’s worse…..you know….it’s harder…. because…….I just….” I start to talk, mumble, stop talking, scrunch my body up into a a smaller ball, and then bury my face even more. 

“Going back there? Going to the wedding? It’s harder because why?” 

“Seeing him. It’s harder………worse because of……..I……I can’t even say it. I just…I can’t say it. It’s that bad. A memory…the memory….” I’m really going even farther away now and I dig my nails into palms, making my hands into fists.

“Is it the memory with Jackie? With the three of you up north?” She asks gently. She is matter of fact and there is no judgement in her voice, but there is harsh judgement in my mind.

I nod my head. Yes. 

“That memory is popping back up, huh?”   

“It never left.” I say the words. But that’s not exactly right. Yes, the memory is very here and alive, but it’s more than that. It’s this feeling of being out of control, of not making any choices, of being so alone, of having no one to go to, of feeling so disgusted and hurt and just broken. Of feeling betrayed. I wasn’t special. I did not matter. None of this stuff, the secret game, the things that made me feel icky and excited and scared and good and bad and happy and awful all at once, they weren’t just because I was so special he couldn’t help himself, it wasn’t because he loved me and wanted to be with me. I was just there, a thing, a toy, something he could use. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t special and he did not love me and it was all bad and wrong and everything hurts. But I don’t say any of that, because it’s too many words to have to get out right now. 

I end up in a little girl place, crying to Bea, asking her to not make me go back there. She tells me that can stay right here, until I’m ready, and that on Monday I will be back here, with her, in her office. She says I can always “get sick” at the wedding and leave, that it’s okay. She talks, soothing the little girl, and I cry. When I do leave, she reminds me to reach out and text her if I need to, and to stay around the people who are safe to me, like Hagrid’s dad, and my grandma. I agree. It will be okay. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bea nods. “Okay.” 

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