It’s Monday morning, and I’m walking into Bea’s office as usual.
“Hey,” She says, smiling when I walk in.
“Hi,” I say softly as I sit down.
“Before we get started with anything, I wanted to make sure you were feeling okay after my second email.” Her tone is gentle, and she sounds like she really wants to make sure.
I look down at the floor. “Yeah, I was okay. I mean, it’s not like it doesn’t hurt to hear you can’t offer more right then, especially if I was needing more, but really, it’s like….if you don’t acknowledge that and try to respond, I always know something is….off….”
“You do always know, sometimes even before I can recognize it for myself!” She interjects.
“The thing is….if I feel something off, I assume it’s me, or I said something wrong, or did something, or needed too much, or am being a drama queen, or that I broke you and…..that’s worse. It’s so much worse. I’m trying to just be better about asking if I did something, but it’s easy for me to just get….I guess to spiral into this black hole of those *I broke her and she’s leaving* feelings. It’s so much better if you just tell me. And even if parts of me don’t really get it, the grown up does, the mom in me gets it. Because there are times where I just can’t keep talking to Kat, or playing toys, or whatever it is, and I tell her that we are going to have some quiet time. Sometimes I need 15 minutes, sometimes an hour. But it’s never, never about Kat being too much, or needing or wanting something that isn’t okay. I’m just tired, my brain needs a break. So that is something I understand.”
“You do get that, don’t you?!” She sounds a little surprised.
“I really do.”
“I wanted you to know that after you emailed again, with what you had been needing, and asking if you had done something, I went back and read your email and my response, and I felt a little sick. I completely ignored all the pain and hurt you were feeling. I was like, my gosh, I didn’t even acknowledge this stuff, or let her know I’m still here and that it’s okay to feel how she feels! I’m so sorry I did that. I did read all of your email the first time, while I was eating breakfast. I think I was just feeling like I couldn’t fix this for you in the 15 minutes I had to respond, and like there was nothing I could say to make it better or to help, and anything I did say was going to feel upsetting. So it just sort of got left. And I’m sorry for that. I am glad, though, that you did write back to me, and ask what was going on, and let me know you needed something more. That was so good. I know that wasn’t easy, but I was really glad you did, and that we didn’t end up back in one of our patterns of you feeling hurt and abandoned and me feeling helpless.” Bea looks at me as she is saying this, and her face says she was sorry she didn’t respond better that first time, and that she really does care.
I look away, because feeling like she cares is sometimes too much. “I really don’t expect you to fix anything. I don’t think…..” I pause, searching and thinking, making sure my next words are true. “I don’t think any of the parts expect or want you to fix things. Even the little girl.”
“Then your little girl part is way ahead of most people’s small parts.” Bea smiles at me.
I shake my head. “No….it’s more like……my mom always needed to fix me…..or ignore the problem. But….no, it’s more like fix to me– to all of me– means that someone is going to want me to bend to their expectations, or something. Even the little girl, she doesn’t want someone to fix things for her, or to fix her. She just doesn’t want to be alone. She wants to be heard. Because no one ever did that for her.”
“Ahhhh, yes. You’ve had people who fixed things for you, or who tried to fix you. Fixing was really about what they needed or wanted, and you were expected to conform. That was how things were fixed— by adults making you conform to their wishes. But no one really listened to you, or saw you, did they? You were completely alone with your feelings, with the Kenny stuff, with the mom stuff, with just normal kid stuff. It makes sense, why it is so important to you now to just not be alone. To be heard and seen.”
I nod my head. “That’s all I need. Really.”
“I would do good to remember that, wouldn’t I?” She asks. I don’t answer, because it’s partly rhetorical, and partly an apology for not remembering this before.
“I did write about this, some. If you want to read my book.” I’m quiet as I say this, and maybe a little unsure if I want her to read what I have written.
“Of course, yes!” She says. “Let’s look at your writing.”
“Can I have my blanket?” I hand her my book as I ask, but I won’t look at her now.
“Sure.” She takes my book, and setting it on her chair, she gets up and grabs my fuzzy blanket.
Once I’m hiding under the blanket, she starts to read.
The question you asked, about the memory in my pink polka dot book, the one I had you keep. You know the memory. We were working with it in the fall. I can’t even write out the memory in a coherent narrative because it’s still too painful and triggering and awful.
Knees on my arms.
Something in my mouth.
I can’t move.
I had a bruise on my arm.
I said it was from gymnastics.
That’s all. I can’t say more. But we were working with that in the fall, and we were using SP stuff and it was hard and painful and scary but also mostly okay. Until it wasn’t. And that memory was the big thing that pulled off the filter. Because I asked you if it was just a silly game then why was I so scared? And if I wanted to do this, then why was he making it so I could not move?
And more and more came up later in the day, and the next day and then the filter was gone, and so were you. There wasn’t enough of you to go around and I was just all alone. I was just left going through torture all alone. And I can’t do this again. I just can’t. I can’t do this, dig into stuff with SP, or any method really, if [well, I don’t even know how to fill this sentence in]. Maybe just that I can’t do this and be left alone again. I just can’t. It’s a scary thought that this could happen again. I don’t want it to happen again.
I don’t want you to fix me, but I can’t say things won’t come up outside of your office. If we start digging around, stuff is liable to come up. I can’t stop that, and either can you. It just happens. But how do we do this? Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold the *big overwhelming painful I need someone to hear me and see me and sit with me and not be alone* stuff.
“So first of all, I don’t want what happened in the fall to happen again, either. I won’t promise it will never happen again, but I certainly don’t want to put you through so much pain again. So, with that in mind, I would ask that you text me if you are feeling that big awful feeling, and we set up a time to have you come in or for a phone call. If we know at the end of a session that a lot is coming up, we can try to schedule another appointment before you leave— or I can at least let you know some times I have open. Because I agree, Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold something all on your own.”
“You do?” It’s my turn to be surprised. I was sure she would feel like it’s really only four days in between, and not that long at all.
“Yes, I do. That’s almost 5 full days. That is a long time to feel alone.”
“I don’t….it’s hard to…I mean, phone calls, or whatever, it just feels like asking a lot.” I whisper.
“It really isn’t. This is about what works for you. I have one person who just sends emails, and doesn’t want a response. I have someone else who texts me after every session to ask for a phone call because stuff comes up for them right after leaving. I have someone else like you who emails and needs a response. And all of those things are okay. The thing about email, though, is if there is that big awful overwhelmed feeling, sometimes what you are needing is hard to address in an email. It’s easier to address face to face or over the phone. Those times, I would feel better going that route, espessially to make sure that the fall doesn’t happen again.” She’s just sort of matter of fact and calm about this, like none of it is a big deal to her. I still don’t like it though. The thing with email is that I can explain things or say things that I might not be able to say aloud. It’s the same with writing things down in my book. There are so many things I’m afraid to say. For the moment though, I’m okay with how we are leaving things. We have a plan for how to deal with situations where I need more of an attuned response than can sometimes happen over email.
“I do remember the memory. I remember it was a particularly awful feeling one for you, and there was a lot of body stuff coming up with it. And that was also hard for you to cope with. A bit like the nightmares coming up now.” Her voice is soft, and careful. She doesn’t want to send me back to that awful place, but she wants to acknowledge it. It’s such a fine line our therapists walk at times, isn’t it?
“Yeah. Just like that. And….it was….I mean….it clashes so much with the story I tell myself. Told myself. It didn’t match, and that was hard.”
“That was hard. It was really difficult to wrap your head around it, wasn’t it?” She says.
“Yeah.” I whisper. I’m starting to feel just the slightest bit fuzzy, and I really don’t want to go back to that place.
“Now that we have talked about this a little, I can see how this can add another layer to the fears surrounding SP. Of course it would be scary for you no matter what, but this adds the layer of we were using some SP and working with body feelings and that opened up this black hole, that I just left you alone with. That just makes this much scarier, and harder to trust it will be okay, doesn’t it?” She’s so reasonable. How did I ever get this lucky, to find a therapist who just gets it?
“Yes. It makes it really hard.” My head feels sort of floaty as I answer her.
“I think anything we do with SP would be just about body feelings and nothing else. We would keep memories out of it. And if a memory did come up, and parts wanted to talk about that, we could. We would just leave the SP stuff out of it. And, if parts just have stuff they need to talk about, we can do that, too, just leaving SP stuff out of it. We are going to do this very, very slowly. Okay?”
“Okay.” I’m still not sure that all of this can be separated, but I agree with what she is saying for now. It’s a good plan, and we have a plan in place to deal with any fallout. So I’m okay. Bea is okay. We are okay.