I can’t do that (when the filter left and so did you) again

It’s Monday morning, and I’m walking into Bea’s office as usual.

“Hey,” She says, smiling when I walk in.

“Hi,” I say softly as I sit down.

“Before we get started with anything, I wanted to make sure you were feeling okay after my second email.” Her tone is gentle, and she sounds like she really wants to make sure.

I look down at the floor. “Yeah, I was okay. I mean, it’s not like it doesn’t hurt to hear you can’t offer more right then, especially if I was needing more, but really, it’s like….if you don’t acknowledge that and try to respond, I always know something is….off….”

“You do always know, sometimes even before I can recognize it for myself!” She interjects.

“The thing is….if I feel something off, I assume it’s me, or I said something wrong, or did something, or needed too much, or am being a drama queen, or that I broke you and…..that’s worse. It’s so much worse. I’m trying to just be better about asking if I did something, but it’s easy for me to just get….I guess to spiral into this black hole of those *I broke her and she’s leaving* feelings. It’s so much better if you just tell me. And even if parts of me don’t really get it, the grown up does, the mom in me gets it. Because there are times where I just can’t keep talking to Kat, or playing toys, or whatever it is, and I tell her that we are going to have some quiet time. Sometimes I need 15 minutes, sometimes an hour. But it’s never, never about Kat being too much, or needing or wanting something that isn’t okay. I’m just tired, my brain needs a break. So that is something I understand.”

“You do get that, don’t you?!” She sounds a little surprised.

“I really do.”

“I wanted you to know that after you emailed again, with what you had been needing, and asking if you had done something, I went back and read your email and my response, and I felt a little sick. I completely ignored all the pain and hurt you were feeling. I was like, my gosh, I didn’t even acknowledge this stuff, or let her know I’m still here and that it’s okay to feel how she feels! I’m so sorry I did that. I did read all of your email the first time, while I was eating breakfast. I think I was just feeling like I couldn’t fix this for you in the 15 minutes I had to respond, and like there was nothing I could say to make it better or to help, and anything I did say was going to feel upsetting. So it just sort of got left. And I’m sorry for that. I am glad, though, that you did write back to me, and ask what was going on, and let me know you needed something more. That was so good. I know that wasn’t easy, but I was really glad you did, and that we didn’t end up back in one of our patterns of you feeling hurt and abandoned and me feeling helpless.” Bea looks at me as she is saying this, and her face says she was sorry she didn’t respond better that first time, and that she really does care.

I look away, because feeling like she cares is sometimes too much. “I really don’t expect you to fix anything. I don’t think…..” I pause, searching and thinking, making sure my next words are true. “I don’t think any of the parts expect or want you to fix things. Even the little girl.”

“Then your little girl part is way ahead of most people’s small parts.” Bea smiles at me.

I shake my head. “No….it’s more like……my mom always needed to fix me…..or ignore the problem. But….no, it’s more like fix to me– to all of me– means that someone is going to want me to bend to their expectations, or something. Even the little girl, she doesn’t want someone to fix things for her, or to fix her. She just doesn’t want to be alone. She wants to be heard. Because no one ever did that for her.”

“Ahhhh, yes. You’ve had people who fixed things for you, or who tried to fix you. Fixing was really about what they needed or wanted, and you were expected to conform. That was how things were fixed— by adults making you conform to their wishes. But no one really listened to you, or saw you, did they? You were completely alone with your feelings, with the Kenny stuff, with the mom stuff, with just normal kid stuff. It makes sense, why it is so important to you now to just not be alone. To be heard and seen.”

I nod my head. “That’s all I need. Really.”

“I would do good to remember that, wouldn’t I?” She asks. I don’t answer, because it’s partly rhetorical, and partly an apology for not remembering this before.

“I did write about this, some. If you want to read my book.” I’m quiet as I say this, and maybe a little unsure if I want her to read what I have written.

“Of course, yes!” She says. “Let’s look at your writing.”

“Can I have my blanket?” I hand her my book as I ask, but I won’t look at her now.

“Sure.” She takes my book, and setting it on her chair, she gets up and grabs my fuzzy blanket.

Once I’m hiding under the blanket, she starts to read.

The question you asked, about the memory in my pink polka dot book, the one I had you keep. You know the memory. We were working with it in the fall. I can’t even write out the memory in a coherent narrative because it’s still too painful and triggering and awful.

Knees on my arms.

Something in my mouth.

I can’t move.

I had a bruise on my arm.

I said it was from gymnastics.

That’s all. I can’t say more. But we were working with that in the fall, and we were using SP stuff and it was hard and painful and scary but also mostly okay. Until it wasn’t. And that memory was the big thing that pulled off the filter. Because I asked you if it was just a silly game then why was I so scared? And if I wanted to do this, then why was he making it so I could not move?

And more and more came up later in the day, and the next day and then the filter was gone, and so were you. There wasn’t enough of you to go around and I was just all alone. I was just left going through torture all alone. And I can’t do this again. I just can’t. I can’t do this, dig into stuff with SP, or any method really, if [well, I don’t even know how to fill this sentence in]. Maybe just that I can’t do this and be left alone again. I just can’t. It’s a scary thought that this could happen again. I don’t want it to happen again.

I don’t want you to fix me, but I can’t say things won’t come up outside of your office. If we start digging around, stuff is liable to come up. I can’t stop that, and either can you. It just happens. But how do we do this? Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold the *big overwhelming painful I need someone to hear me and see me and sit with me and not be alone* stuff.

“So first of all, I don’t want what happened in the fall to happen again, either. I won’t promise it will never happen again, but I certainly don’t want to put you through so much pain again. So, with that in mind, I would ask that you text me if you are feeling that big awful feeling, and we set up a time to have you come in or for a phone call. If we know at the end of a session that a lot is coming up, we can try to schedule another appointment before you leave— or I can at least let you know some times I have open. Because I agree, Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold something all on your own.”

“You do?” It’s my turn to be surprised. I was sure she would feel like it’s really only four days in between, and not that long at all.

“Yes, I do. That’s almost 5 full days. That is a long time to feel alone.”

“I don’t….it’s hard to…I mean, phone calls, or whatever, it just feels like asking a lot.” I whisper.

“It really isn’t. This is about what works for you. I have one person who just sends emails, and doesn’t want a response. I have someone else who texts me after every session to ask for a phone call because stuff comes up for them right after leaving. I have someone else like you who emails and needs a response. And all of those things are okay. The thing about email, though, is if there is that big awful overwhelmed feeling, sometimes what you are needing is hard to address in an email. It’s easier to address face to face or over the phone. Those times, I would feel better going that route, espessially to make sure that the fall doesn’t happen again.” She’s just sort of matter of fact and calm about this, like none of it is a big deal to her. I still don’t like it though. The thing with email is that I can explain things or say things that I might not be able to say aloud. It’s the same with writing things down in my book. There are so many things I’m afraid to say. For the moment though, I’m okay with how we are leaving things. We have a plan for how to deal with situations where I need more of an attuned response than can sometimes happen over email.

“I do remember the memory. I remember it was a particularly awful feeling one for you, and there was a lot of body stuff coming up with it. And that was also hard for you to cope with. A bit like the nightmares coming up now.” Her voice is soft, and careful. She doesn’t want to send me back to that awful place, but she wants to acknowledge it. It’s such a fine line our therapists walk at times, isn’t it?

“Yeah. Just like that. And….it was….I mean….it clashes so much with the story I tell myself. Told myself. It didn’t match, and that was hard.”

“That was hard. It was really difficult to wrap your head around it, wasn’t it?” She says.

“Yeah.” I whisper. I’m starting to feel just the slightest bit fuzzy, and I really don’t want to go back to that place.

“Now that we have talked about this a little, I can see how this can add another layer to the fears surrounding SP. Of course it would be scary for you no matter what, but this adds the layer of we were using some SP and working with body feelings and that opened up this black hole, that I just left you alone with. That just makes this much scarier, and harder to trust it will be okay, doesn’t it?” She’s so reasonable. How did I ever get this lucky, to find a therapist who just gets it?

“Yes. It makes it really hard.” My head feels sort of floaty as I answer her.

“I think anything we do with SP would be just about body feelings and nothing else. We would keep memories out of it. And if a memory did come up, and parts wanted to talk about that, we could. We would just leave the SP stuff out of it. And, if parts just have stuff they need to talk about, we can do that, too, just leaving SP stuff out of it. We are going to do this very, very slowly. Okay?”

“Okay.” I’m still not sure that all of this can be separated, but I agree with what she is saying for now. It’s a good plan, and we have a plan in place to deal with any fallout. So I’m okay. Bea is okay. We are okay.

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Hopes and Fears: I don’t want to feel THIS again

It’s been a rough few days. Actually, it’s been a rough few weeks, but the last few nights have been almost unbearable. Bea wanted me to look at the hopes and fears worksheet, and I did. I wrote about a part who is afraid that writing any sort of hope down will give Bea leverage to use against me if I say I don’t want to do an SP thing during a session. I wrote that fear is too big to untwist. I wrote that if I wrote down any hopes, they would be something generic, because even the idea that maybe I could focus on something internally, or notice some physical feeling and have it be positive and safe is so far out of left field for me, I can’t really comprehend it. And then I wrote in my notebook, after a particularly real dream, followed by a frozen sort of flashback when I awoke. I wrote that the hope and the fear is the same: I don’t want to feel THIS anymore.

Now it’s Wednesday and Bea is in her chair. A stack of worksheets that she filled out sits next to her along with the notebook from that horror filled week when she disappeared and the filter was just gone, and my SP book and journal are in her lap. I had requested that we maybe look at the pink polka dotted notebook because it is all written by parts, and it’s the parts that need dealing with.

She’s talking to me about the notebook. “It was really awful for you, wasn’t it? I read back through it and it is painful to read. I know how painful it was. But it’s real. It’s raw and unfiltered. The little girl’s pictures, there’s so much feeling to them, that rawness just pours off the page.” She asks me something, but I can’t remember what. I’m not sure her question ever really penetrated through the fog that swallowed me up almost the moment I walked into her office.

I had wanted to go through the notebook, maybe read it and talk about it. Now, though, I can’t focus on what she is saying. Bea’s fuzzy blanket covers my feet, and I’m burying my head in a pillow. “Can we just not?” I ask her. “I just….let’s just hold this conversation.”

“We can, of course. Did you want to take this notebook back home with you?” Her voice is mild, neutral.

“I don’t know.” I sigh. I feel a little like I’m drowning at the moment.

“Okay. We can come back to that later, or another day,” she says softly, and then it’s quiet for a minute.

“I tried to answer your question in my SP book,” I tell her.

“Do you want me to look at that now?”

“My journal, first, I think.” I whisper.

“Okay.” She opens my journal and finds the new writing.

I’ve managed to sit up and stop hiding my face in the pillow, but now I take the blanket and cover up with it. I don’t hide under it, but I am ready to hide at any moment.

“Mmm hmmm, yes. This. Exactly. You are feeling these things no matter how hard you try to avoid them.”

“I can avoid them. As long as I stay awake, don’t lay down. Oh, and don’t be in the dark. Then it’s fine. I’m fine.” As soon as I say it, I laugh a little. It sounds ridiculous.

“You can’t avoid things. You need to sleep. You deserve to sleep and not be afraid.” She’s firm in this moment, because she hates when I don’t sleep.

“I know. And I know avoiding the feelings here, it’s not doing any good. They show up when I lay down, when I sleep.” I say, quietly.

“When you wake up, and it’s all too real and stil feels real, are you here and frozen? Or far away?” She asks carefully. I pull the blanket over my head as she asks this question.

From my safe hiding spot, I answer. “I don’t know. Not far away. Frozen, but not here. Or….I feel like I’m here, but it’s not really present day. I mean….it feels like it’s then, but I’m present and frozen back then. Except it’s now, but it isn’t really. If I could go farther away, I would feel better. The feelings wouldn’t be so real.”

“Okay. So it feels like you are present and frozen, and what’s happening feels real, as if it is happening right now. So you feel present moment, even though we know it’s in the past.” Somehow it seems that she gets it, despite my convaluted explanation.

“But I don’t always know it’s from the past.” I whisper the words, embarrassed.

“Of course not. That’s part of why it feels so real.” Her voice is so matter of fact, that I believe her. “So, what if we were talking about this, and I asked you to pay attention to a feeling that doesn’t feel as bad? It could be your toes, and so we would focus on your toes. We would take the focus off the bad feelings, to help regulate you.”

I shake my head. “But the little girl….that feels like you saying no talking about this.” It’s so hard to find a way through this. Little Alice is so sensitive to feeling not seen, to being shut down, and Bea directing attention away from her memories…..well, it’s the same as if Bea got up, walked away and refused to see me ever again. I don’t know how to help Little Alice understand that Bea isn’t leaving, that she wants to help.

“Right. She really doesn’t like being directed away from a memory. Can we help her understand it’s not forever? Can I tell her right now that if I asked you to notice something else, and focus on that in order to help calm down and not feel so scared that we could go back to the memory again? That she could be the one to focus on something else, that she doesn’t have leave, or feel ignored? That I want her to work with us on this every step of the way? And learning to focus on something that doesn’t feel so bad could help in the middle of the night, help to stop the bad scary feelings?”

I shake my head. “No.” The fear that she just wants to make me stop talking is so huge. The little girl really believes that Bea doesn’t want to listen.

“Can I ask the Little girl something?”

“I guess so,” I say tentatively.

“Whose body is it, that is feeling those things? Is it yours (the little girl’s)?” Bea’s voice is gentle.

I don’t answer for a long time. Finally, I sigh and say, “The grown up thinks yes, it is.”

“Okay….” Bea says, waiting for me to say more.

“But…well….the little girl…she’s….” I stumble, finding it hard to say the words. “Not my body. Not me. That was not happening to me. No, no.”

“Yeah,”Bea soothes. “You don’t want that to be you. If it is, you have to feel it, and that is scary.”

“Yeah. Scary.” I agree.

“What if we could find a way to direct attention away from those feelings? That’s why you, or the grown up, or another part could help to focus on something else. So in the night, you don’t have to be so scared. And so that here, we can talk about memories and feelings without it getting too scary.”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay. That’s okay. You can think about it.” She tells the little girl, and then she talks about some normal simple stuff for a few minutes, enough so that the grown up is back on board.

“I just really don’t want to feel that anymore. I’m so scared that I will if we try to focus on….Any of that SP stuff. I think it is the way to help this……. but….I’m afraid.” I cover my face with my hands, even though I’m hiding under the blanket. I feel so exposed and vulnerable right now.

“I know. It’s scary, and uncomfortable. Can I challenge that idea a little bit? Can we remind parts that we have done some SP work in the past, and you were able to find some resources and it did help? Can you remember those two times?” She’s gentle as she says this, but I feel a little bit thrown. The teen feels like Bea is using those two helpful times against me, to tell me why I should be willing to try more, or do better at SP.

“Yes. Sort of. I mean, I know we did it, and that it helped, but the actual sessions….I don’t have the details. I think both times everything was all too overwhelming.”

“I do think it was times when you were a bit desperate and falling of the edge of the cliff. But the SP resourcing did help to pull you back from the edge, at least enough to get through those bad times.” She says.

When I don’t say anything for a long while, Bea offers to share her hopes and fears worksheet with me. I say okay, and she reads me her fears. It’s easy for me to jump into a helping role, and so I easily come back to being more present by listening to her. I validate her fears, but then I offer a different viewpoint, something to think about. I won’t share her list here, because it’s not mine to share, but one of her hopes sparked a conversation and that I will share.

“I guess my hopes are more things I like about SP, and that I hope to do more of,” she tells me as she starts to read her list. She reads two or three things off it, and then reads, “I like the way I feel when I take a few moments and just really connect to where my body is in space, and what sensations I’m noticing. It makes me feel calm and centered, peaceful. I hope to do more mindfulness exercises because I know how helpful it can be and I like how I feel afterward.”

She says that, and I’m just sort of….flabbergasted. Calm? Peaceful? I don’t understand. This literally makes no sense to me. I can’t really comprehend it. It takes a moment for me to even find words. “That just….it makes no sense to me. I don’t understand. This isn’t….that’s not my experience, and I don’t…peaceful? I don’t understand that. I understand feeling calmer by focusing on what I hear, or what I see. On outside things.” Maybe a tiny part of me feels betrayed, Bea is never going to understand exactly how scary and hard this is, if she finds focusing internally peaceful and calming.

“Well, so what I was thinking about when I was writing out my hopes, it wasn’t about feeling or noticing things attached to memories. It was more about, I guess like doing a check in with my body, just on what it happening in this moment.”

I stare blankly at her, but she can’t see that because I’m still hiding under my blanket. She must somehow sense I’m still confused, because she suggests, “I could go through a mindfulness exercise that I like, say it out loud while I do it, so you can hear what I mean. You wouldn’t do anything, just listen to see if it helps explain what feels peaceful to me.”

“Okaaay. I guess so.” I’m heisitant to ageee, but it’s not anything I have to do, so it’s probably okay.

Bea takes a deep breath. “I always start with a deep breath or two. Then, I tell myself that I know there is a lot to do, or that I know things were busy today, or whatever. I focus on where my feet are. Maybe they are on the floor, or resting on a chair. Maybe I can feel my socks, shoes. I focus on if my toes need to wiggle, or feet need to move. I notice where else in my body I can feel the chair. Maybe against my back. I notice what the chair feels like against my back. I focus on if I can let myself relax against the chair because it will support my back…….”

She’s talking and I’m going far, far away. I can’t do this. Just the thought of this is too much….it’s too much, and I’m gone away, to the place where I feel like my head is just a balloon on a string, floating away somewhere else. Everything is numb and wrapped in thick cotton, so no feelings will ever get through. It’s peaceful here, in this land of nothingness.

Bea’s voice isn’t really gettting through. She asking me if I have seen any of the mindfulness apps.

“No,” I say, even though I have. Of course I have, they are everywhere. I even have one on Kat’s iPad because she likes to use it before bed. My voice is hollow because there is nothing there. I’m empty. Numb. Not here.

“They might be helpful. Usually there is a pretty picture, or a circle or something you focus on, so it’s more of that external mindfulness that feels safe to you.”

I don’t respond. Not because I don’t want to, I want to tell her that those apps focus on breathing and I don’t like the breathing thing.

“Alice, are you here? Are you far away?” She asks me, realizing I’m gone.

I can’t find my words. Finally I manage to say, “Frozen. Far away.”

“Okay, okay, that’s good that you could tell me that. If just talk, will that help?” Her voice is calm. I think she is speaking slower than usual to give my foggy brain time to catch up.

I don’t answer her, and so she just talks. I don’t even know what she said. I was farther away than I’ve been in a long while. Eventually, I manage to be a bit more here, at least enough to be able to move. Being more here means feeling vulnerable, and even with the blanket, I wish I could build a pillow fort and hide in it.

Bea notices that I’m back, and says, “So, l’m going to use one of our bad words. Okay?”

She means she is going to say a word on the *words we don’t use list* and so I whisper, “Please don’t.” I know I can’t handle that right now.

“It’s not a scary one. The e one.” The e word is experiment. In SP, they use experiments to test things, or to observe new information. It makes the whole thing feel very lab rat like to me, and that is so triggering and painful for the teen.

“No. I can’t,” I tell her, realizing that I am on high alert to find something wrong with Bea, to get mad at her, a reason to push her away, to cause a rupture. I’m teetering on the edge of something and if she says anything shrinky, it will be all over; I will fall off this narrow ledge.

“Okay. Let me think.” She won’t just use a synonym, because she knows that’s not better, so she has to find a different way to tell me whatever it is she wants to tell me. “All right. I know that was triggering, and made you go far away. That wasn’t my intention, but I think that this tells us where we need to start. Just hearing a mindfulness exercise that focuses internally and on the body is too much. And that’s good for us both to know. And it’s okay. We have to start where you are at.”

I sigh. “I feel broken.”

“If you were one of the kids I see, I would challenge that. This is bringing up a lot of black and white thinking for you.”

“No, well, yeah, okay. But it is because…….the point…the whole thing in the book is to, I mean what they expect is that you can…..ugh!” I’m frustrated. Why did I think I could do this?

“Focus on the body and notice what is happening internally?” She asks.

“Yeah. And I can’t. I’m not good at this. I’m used to being good at things.” I say softly.

“There is no good or bad. It just is.”

“I don’t like this.” I tell her.

“Well, no. It’s uncomfortable. And new. And. It is challenging those old beliefs. That’s not easy.” She says in that reassuring way she has.

“Well, no. But I just….it shouldn’t feel this hard. Especially worksheets. I rock at worksheets. Ms. Perfect could fill out every worksheet in the book with all the right answers.” I tell her. I’m out from under the blanket, and I’m gathering my things as I say this.

“Well, there are no right answers.” She smiles at me.

I shake my head. “There are. For Ms. Perfect, there are.” There isn’t time to explain the thinking behind this, or to talk through it, because I have to go, and Bea’s next appointment is here. I leave feeling a little…..off.

Later, Ms. Perfect fills out all the worksheets in chapter 4, even the one that asks you to write a letter to the body. It takes her all of fifteen minutes to whip through them. In her world, the right answer is whatever a normal person would write. It’s all about what someone who isn’t broken, who is okay, would say. And she is very, very good at this game of being normal and okay. It’s actually a little bit scary how good she is at this.

Thinking about Sensorimotor Therapy

“I’ve watched you for years put your hand out in front of you push at the air, setting a boundary, or maybe pushing away what we are talking about.” Bea tells me.

“Memories have been more intense for you, you have felt more present and frozen during them, and you are physically feeling them ever since the filter was removed.” She validates my feeling that every memory and dream is much more intense than before.

“Would you be willing to get the SP book and we could read it together?” She asks gently.

“We have to deal with the parts. They matter. All the parts of you are equal, and every part can have a say. But we need to deal with the stuff that is coming up, and we can’t do that without all the parts on board.” Bea informs me.

“I believe the best way to deal with the physical memories and feelings that are coming up with your current flashbacks and dreams is by working with the body. But we are smart and creative people, we can find another way if that isn’t something that feels safe right now.” Bea says carefully, as if her voice, her words, are walking on eggshells.

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

Three weeks of therapy and this is what we have been talking about. Every session, every week for almost four weeks, we have discussed SP, and parts, and dreams and memories being so very, very real. We’ve discussed the horror of *this really happened*.

The day she asked if I might think about reading the SP book with her, I ordered it from amazon. It took me another week to open the book, and a week after that to tell her I had bought it. Bea let me know of I wanted to discuss any of it, that we could, but that we didn’t have to. She said we could do the worksheets in each chapter if I wanted to, but that we didn’t have to. She said that just because I bought the book, we didn’t have to do any SP if I didn’t want to. She said all the right things, and that helped.

So, I started to read the book. I read through chapter five. Then I bought post it notes, and read through the first five chapters again, using the blue post it notes to write my thoughts down as I read. Everything I wrote was snarky and angry and suspicious. Later, I read through it a third time and used the pink post it notes to try to write reactions from a more adult place.

The challenge is that when it’s just the grown up Alice on board, I do think SP could help. I do believe that the best way to deal with the things coming up is by working with the body. The other parts do not agree in the slightest. The little girl is terrified, and the teen is snarky and suspicious and the shame part doesn’t want to even think about the body– any body and Ms. Perfect believes SP is a waste of her time, because she is fine.

I brought the book to therapy last week, and practically threw it at Bea. “This is not going to help. I can’t do this. And the person who made this therapy just wants a bunch of guinea pigs.” I snapped as she sat calmly, holding my book.

She didn’t agree or disagree with me, just asked who was feeling that way and why.

“I wrote it down. In the book. Just read that.” My tone was all snark. The teen really wasn’t going to make this easy for Bea.

So, she opened the book, and she started to read. And you know what? We talked about the blue post it notes. It turns out, Bea agreed with some of the things that the Teen took issue with. After a while, there was enough of the grown up Alice online that we were able to talk about the pink and the blue post it notes. And that was okay. Not easy, and not comfortable, but okay. It was a bit like reviewing a book at a book club.

On Wednesday of last week, Bea asked if i has time, would I think about and maybe look at the worksheets at the end of chapter 4 (titled *The Wisdom of the Body: lost and found*. On a blue post it note, I had written, “The body has no wisdom, and if it does, it should stay lost. It’s safer that way.”). I said I might look at them. I had little to no intention of doing so, but then, curiosity got the better of me, and I did. My immediate reaction was “Nope. Not doing this. Cant do this. Nope. Nope. Nope.” So that’s what I wrote on my post it note.

Later, I looked at the worksheets again, and I wrote on another note that it was just too hard, that these sheets were asking for too much.

Monday, we talked about SP some more, and Bea read my post it notes on the worksheets. She put one of her own post it notes on one of the worksheets, asking if I could pinpoint what part or parts was reacting to that particular worksheet. She wondered if I could try to write about the parts viewson that particular worksheet.

We talked about that worksheet today, but I will write about that later on. For now, I’m going to including a photo of the worksheet, in case anyone is curious.

Frozen hand holding on

Wednesday, and we have to deal with the way last session ended. We did talk about it, and I had done lots of writing about it. What it boils down to is that Bea keeps stepping on Mom landmines, and they trigger this feeling that Bea needs me to be okay so I don’t bother her, or so she doesn’t have to deal with my feelings. What I finally realized was there is a difference between needing someone to be okay and wanting them to be okay. Bea also believes it is not solely mom stuff that is triggered during those times, some of it is truly just about Bea. She believes it is the little girl needing to test Bea, to make sure Bea is safe and capable of handling all the ugliness in her head; little Alice needs to make sure Bea is who she says she is.

I had written that when she ends things on such a positive note, pulling from something that happened earlier in the session, it just feels so contrived. Bea laughs at that, and says, “Well, it is. Not contrived to be fake or to manipulate, but yes, for all intents and purposes, it is contrived. And that doesn’t feel safe to the teen or to the little girl. I know that now, and I will do my best not to do it again.” And so there it is. Bea was being exactly who she says she is; transparent, authentic, real, and honest.

As we talk this through, and I hide under my blanket, Bea starts to notice something, and because I’ve said SP is okay, she goes in that direction.

“Is there a part of you that feels frozen right now?” Bea sounds curious, and her tone is light, but there’s an undercurrent to her voice that says she is going somewhere with this.

“I don’t think so.” I’m hesitant to answer, because I don’t know where this is going.

“I’ve been watching your left hand. I noticed as we were talking you had grabbed onto the blanket and that while it looks like the rest of you can move, that hand hasn’t moved once.”

I think for a minute. “I– I guess that’s true.” I would never have noticed it if she hadn’t pointed it out. Frozen still feels like a natural state to me.

“Can we focus on that hand?” She asks.

“Okay.” It’s whispered because I’m unsure if there is anything to gain from my hand. But I’ll try.

I have no idea what is coming up. It’s…emptiness, maybe. I can’t really figure it out. It’s just, I don’t know what it is. “I don’t know,” I finally say.

“What’s the hand doing?” Bea asks.

“Ummm….holding? Holding the corner of the blanket.” This is seriously so strange. We are talking about my left hand like it has its own ideas, thoughts, wants. My therapist is seriously weird sometimes.

“Is the hand holding on tight, or relaxed? Does it want to grip tighter or relax more? Maybe let go, or hold on?” See? She is so weird.

“Ummm. Tight, I think. Yeah, holding on tight.” And there’s this feeling of lonely that is here now. I’m so lonely. So incredibly lonely.

“Anything else?”

Bea wants me to think about her other questions but I go a different direction. I know sensorimotor therapy says to let the feelings come and then go, to stay focused on the body, but I need to say my feelings, talk about them. Or at least try to. “A feeling……lonely. Alone.”

“So feelings of being alone are coming up now, as we focus on the hand holding the blanket.”

I nod, forgetting she can’t really see me. “It’s….I’m….I don’t know! I’m just alone! There’s no one!”

“That may have been true in the past, but it’s not true now. I am here. Hubby is here. You have friends who are here. You aren’t alone now. It felt so bad to be so alone then, but you aren’t alone now. I am here.” Bea sounds a little stern. I don’t think she wants me going too far down the rabbit hole of aloneness.

“No. I’m just alone. Just me. No one else. No one. Not even….just no one.” Little Alice is insistent that no one is here.

“I know you were alone. And it might feel like that right now, but you aren’t alone now. I’m right here. You don’t have to do this alone, not anymore. That’s probably pretty hard to believe, isn’t it? But I’m here.” She isn’t stern anymore. She’s gentle now, and reassuring.

“You are?”

“Yes. I’m here, 100% in this with you.”

I honestly don’t know what happened after that. I think I was pretty far away. I don’t think I talked very much. I was stuck in feelings and images and just this huge lonely feeling. It’s vast, and all encompassing and seems to go on forever and ever, this lonely feeling.

It seems linked to my hand holding the blanket so tightly. Now that I’ve had time to process things a little more than I was capable of in session, I can clearly see myself feeling so alone with Kenny when he was playing games and just wanting someone’s hand to hold. But there was no one. Not even Kenny, because he was scary. But I really needed something to hold onto, and because no ones hand was there, I held onto blankets, pillows, teddy bears, dolls, sheets. Anything that could be held, I held onto.

I still do that now. It wasn’t something I was ever aware of, but I hold onto blankets and pillows and even the edges of my sweater sleeves. Now I have my little dog I can hold onto, and hubby’s hand, but this realization just feels impossible to wrap my head around. There’s so much sadness and grief in me right now, for all the loneliness I have carried with me for so long. It’s still there, and it’s so huge. I had no idea until last Wednesday how boundless it was. And I have no idea what to do with it all.

Choices

This is Wednesday, 11/15’s session. It’s the session that led to all the upset and mess this last week. As you will see, a lot came up, but it was actually a good session, and I left feeling quite stable.

Even though there isn’t a lot of movement going on, this session is still very much full of SP type work, so this is another way an SP session might look (at least for Bea and I) , for those of you who are curious about it.

____________________________________________________

“Should we start with the nightmares, start there with the sick something bad is going to happen feeling?” Bea asks, after we’ve caught up on day to day things.

I don’t say anything, only offering a shrug. I’ve moved from that adult place to little girl in an instant.

“Or we could check in with the the little girl. She looks sad.”

I still can’t find my words. Everything feels too exposed. I curl up, hiding my face.

“Maybe she’s wishing the grown up would ask for a blanket?”

“Maybe.” I whisper, refusing to ask. The grown up is not going to be pushed into helping the little girl. (Maybe that was more teen…..) Finally, I give up. Sitting here saying nothing isn’t going to help anyone. “Can I have a blanket?”

Bea gets me my blanket, and I hide under it. “Or we could start somewhere else. There are Choices, and you can make them,” she reminds me.

“I don’t like choices.” I say.

“Why not?”

“Because one will be wrong.” There’s a tone of frustration in my voice, this feeling of *why don’t you know that?*

“Where is that coming from, I wonder?” Bea asks.

“It’s spilt 1) having choices and trying to make the one my mom would want, so i don’t mess up and make her upset 2)it’s…..I don’t….ugh….it’s messy.”

“1 is very clear, and 2 is more mixed up, but you are very clear on what 1 is. Why is 2 mixed up?”

“Because. Because, it’s….it’s like I had a choice and made a bad choice.” I’m struggling to make sense of exactly what it is I’m trying to tell Bea. It’s a very mixed up feeling and it’s hard to find the words to it.

“With what?”

“Kenny. But….then…..if it….ugh.” I’m panicking a little bit.

“If what?” Bea pushes a bit.

“If I had choice then why those other memories? And now the sick feeling is back.” The words tumble out, fast, one after the other.

“The sick feeling. Where is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“How do you know you are having it? What makes you recognize it?”

“Because I had it before.” Little girl answer. She is fully running the ship at the moment.

“Yes, lots of times before.” Bea agrees.

“Yeah.”

“Where is it?” She asks again.

Silence.

“Is it in your big toe?” Her tone is light, playful.

“No.” I laugh. What a silly idea. People don’t feel things in their big toes. “In my belly. It’s…butterflies. But not, because butterflies are nice. Something not nice.”

“Butterflies are pretty aren’t they? Maybe it’s like ugly, evil butterflies?”

“Yeah.” I nod. “And it’s hard to breathe.”

“Sit with that feeling, try to stay with it. I know it’s hard.” She says softly. “I’m right here.”

I get panicky, the body feeling, the sick feeling is too much. Bea goes to the feelings, emotions, to try to help separate things and calm down. She explains this idea. But it’s too much and too hard to figure out the feelings. She talks to me about how we can use thoughts too.

“Thoughts are good. That’s words.” I tell her.

“Yes, and you like words. Words make you feel safe.”

“Yes.”

“Do you have words now?” She asks.

I say something, a memory or thought. That it’s all a mess.

“It is a mess. Does the grown up have words to share?”

I struggle to find grown up. Then. “Maybe. I don’t know. Words are easier but not always easy.”

“That sounds like the grownup.” Bea says. I’m struck by how well she can recognize the parts.

I smile because she knows me. “It’s…hard. Because all those details….it’s like when we first took out all the rocks and then looked at them, we didn’t really look at the sharp edges, the details, we looked at the whole rock. It’s easier to gloss over the details and then the little girl can think like……it’s my choice, I started it, I caused it, it was my fault, I did this, I did that.”

“All those old beliefs that she still holds.” Bea’s voice is sad.

“Yeah. When we look at the details then it’s like…..it can’t be a choice when (and at this point the little girl is back in control)…..I can feel…..I can’t move and I want to move but he isn’t letting me.”

“No, you couldn’t move. And that was so scary. But that’s over now, it’s not happening now.”

Silence.

“It’s confusing too, isn’t it? That she feels like she had a choice, and it has felt like that for so long, and then to come face to face with the idea she wanted to move and couldn’t.” Bea is spot on. It’s all very, very confusing. It’s hard to realize something you believed for so long isn’t true, especially when those beliefs have kept you feeling as if you had some control.

“I really want to move. I mean then, I wanted to move.” The past and the present are getting mixed up in my head.

“I know. The little girl, she was alone then, and had no know to tell. But you told me, and I believe you. I believe that you wanted to move and that he wouldn’t let you.”

“You really believe me?” My voice is small, the idea that she believes me and doesn’t think I did something bad is hard to take in.

“I really do.”

I want to ask if she would have believed me then, if she knew me then, but I can’t. It’s too scary to ask.

“Is there movement that the little girl wants to make now? Just take a minute and feel.”

“I don’t know.”

“Does she feel safe right now? Does the little girl feel like she could move if she needed or? Or is she frozen?” Bea tries to help me figure out what the little girl needs to do.

“I…well. No. I don’t know. Yes. Move. But there’s no time left.”

“It’s 10:10. So you have a few minutes.” She says softly.

“No. It’s not enough.” I insist. I know myself well enough to know if I try to do any movement, it is going to take forever and then feel rushed and scary because I don’t have enough time.

“Maybe you could complete one movement?” She suggests. I think she doesn’t want me to leave feeling like something was unfinished, but to the teen it feels like she is pushing because she wants me to do SP.

“No. It’s….it takes too long to decide to move. It’s scary. It makes me feel scared.”

“I know. It’s new. Being able to move is new.” Bea gets it.

“Well I can move my arms, but it’s….when it’s with…like linked to details.” It is strange to me, how scary it can be to move within the context of a trauma memory. I mean, it’s not like I have problems moving in my everyday life.

“I know. That’s a scary thing.” She agrees.

“Yeah. Next time we can try. Not today.” I say softly.

“Okay. Okay, that’s good. What does that feel like? To be in control enough to choose to do something next time?”

I shrug. More questions I can’t answer. I’m tired of paying attention. I don’t want to feel anymore.

“Can you pay attention to what it feels like to listen to the part of you that knows you need more time?”

“I….well. I don’t know.”

“What is it that let you know you need more time? That allowed you to listen to your needs? Can you find that wise part of yourself?” It’s important to Bea that I experience being in control and making a choice, but I’m not sure I want to fully feel it.

I sit quietly trying to figure it out, to feel what let me know I needed moe time, and then finally I say, “Bea. I just don’t know.”

“Okay. That’s okay. ”

“I mean I really don’t know. Not I don’t know because I don’t want to talk about it or think about it or feel it.” And I truly don’t know.

“So there are different kinds of I don’t knows. That’s good to recognize, too.” She says.

I don’t say anything.

“Is there anything the grown up could tell the little girl, to help soothe her?”

I sit for what feels like hours. And then I say, “No.” It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

“That’s okay. We will keep working on this. Maybe this week, just think about what it was like going between the grown up and the little girl, and what it was like trying to get them to communicate.”

I freeze. My heart feels icy and on fire all at once. “The little girl doesn’t want the grown up.” I tell her. It’s as close as I can come to saying *I’m afraid you are trying to cut yourself out. The little girl doesn’t want the grown up, she wants you. And this feels like you leaving— or laying the groundwork so you can leave.

Bea says that it’s okay for the little girl to be unsure about the grown up, that the little girl has to learn to trust the grown up and that can take time. I shrug. I don’t want to talk about this right now.

We wrap things up then, because I have to leave to go babysit Kay’s baby. (Yes, that Kay. We are slowly rebuilding our friendship and it’s a much healthy, equal type of friendship. It’s good.)

No therapy Monday

Bea wanted me to pay attention to what comes up this week. I feel like it’s been a lot, and I was sort of nervous, sort of looking forward to sharing with her what I’ve noticed this week. But instead of going to therapy, my family is dealing with yet another loss. My husband’s grandma passed away late Friday night/early Saturday morning. I’m sad and numb and my family is struggling. I’m also frustrated that I’ve been dealing with something important in therapy and now I’m having to put it on pause. I’m going to record here what is coming up.

It’s weird. Sort of like a part of me, maybe the little girl or the teen, has been carrying around a backpack full of rocks. Maybe both of them have their own rocks. And these aren’t nice smooth beach rocks. They are rough and bumpy and ugly. I used to think that healing meant emptying the bags of all the rocks. That’s not exactly what this feels like though. It feels more like someone stuck one of those rocks in a rock polisher, and now the rock is smoother, most of the sharp, painful edges have been worn away. It’s not gone, it’s not all better, but it’s less of something.

Maybe I need to revise my definition of healing. When I started this, I think my goal– as much as I resented being Ms. Perfect at times— was to get back to being Ms. Perfect. I think I thought if I did the therapy thing then the memories would magically disappear; that I’d never think about them again, that they would never be triggered again, that I would be the me I would have been before the trauma. Or something like that. But that is unrealistic.

Now, I think healing means polishing the rocks, maybe being able to store the backpacks in a closet somewhere. It means that the adult stays online with the teen and the little girl— they don’t get to run the show anymore. It means that when memories are triggered that they don’t hold the same power to pull me into the past so the memory feels new and now, instead, it may feel awful because some of my memories are truly horrible, but it will feel awful in the present and I will know it’s over and I already survived it. It means that nightmares are few and far between and it means that when they do happen, they don’t cause me to wake up in the past, frozen and terrified. I don’t want to be frozen anymore.

Once Bea asked me, surprised, *so it feels good to be frozen?* I don’t know if good is the right word, maybe familiar, safe, not threatening, comfortable. That’s still at least partly true, but I don’t want to be frozen anymore. It was so scary to be in that place in my memory and to allow myself to remember that I wanted to move, and then move in the present. I think that’s why I needed to do it fast. It’s sort of like how the details of a memory are harder to face; slowing it down would be like facing the details. I’d have to face the fact that I wanted to move.

Of course, it’s coming up anyway, in my nightmares. I’m having nightmares, both the memory kind and non-memory kind. I feel this huge amount of emotion surrounding this idea that I wanted to move, to push him away, to cover my mouth. That changes the whole story. It makes it impossible to call it a silly game, or a secret, or a thing that happened because I had a loved him and wanted to marry him, or any other reason in the long list of reasons of *How I Caused This To Happen*. So there has been a lot of emotion coming up, grief, anger, I don’t know what. Complicated feelings. There have been nightmares, all about this idea of being trapped, of wanting to move but not being able to. If it’s not the detail of the memory I have been working with, then it’s the not real nightmares. The not real nightmares always involve me being followed, and knowing I’m being a followed but not being able to do a thing to stop it and there is so much fear, so much, well, it’s the sick like something bad is going to happen feeling. Dread. Trepidation. Sometimes I wake up there, and feel off the rest of the day. Like I wake off balance and then never regain my equilibrium for the day. Other times, the nightmare goes on, and I end up abducted and then the threat of bad things happening looms over me. When I wake up from that, there is no getting back to sleep.

So, it’s been weird. I know sensorimotor therapy is supposed to resolve trauma memories, and take the power out of the memories. On one hand, that’s been true. On the other, it’s brought up more stuff. I think facing the details of this has been hard. It brings up a lot of pain and hurt. There’s a lot of grief and anger there, too.

I wanted to Move

Hi all, this is Wednesday’s 11/8/2017 therapy session. It is intense, and there are trauma details written in, so this is a huge trigger warning. I debated about writing leaving details out, and glossing over the intensity of this session but then decided that I wanted to show the the full picture of what a Sensorimotor Therapy session looks like. I decided that I’ve spent enough of my life glossing over details and pretending everything is no big deal. So just be careful when you are reading, take care of yourself. Xx Alice

I’ve been okay for the last two days, and I’ve been falling apart. I’ve had moments where things were just terrible and overwhelming but I managed to hold onto the fact that the feelings would pass. I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t do it. I wanted to hide forever and disappear but I didn’t. I somehow consistently managed to put all the yuck back into the therapy box; not hiding, not pretending, just knowing I needed to function. I did use the busyness defense to help push the ick away, but I was going to be busy no matter what, so why not use it to help myself function?

Walking into Bea’s office brings about a strange mix of feelings. I want her to be proud of me for holding it together. I’m afraid that if she reads in my journal about the bad moments and how I coped, that she might decide I’m just all better and okay. I want to avoid all the yuck, and I want to dive into it. I also wish I had a blanket with eyeholes I could put on my head, because the shame and disgust I feel is so huge, it’s hard not to feel afraid to be seen.

She’s heating up her tea when I walk in. “Good morning, just let me grab my tea.”

I nod, and sit down. I go ahead and pull out my notebook now. I both want to avoid anything deep, and I want to get right to work because I hate when I feel like I wasted time. When Bea gets back into the therapy room, we talk about Kat for a few minutes. Parent teacher conferences are coming up and I’m a little worried about the classroom teacher and what she is going to bring up.

After that, though, Bea asks about Monday. “How did Monday feel for you? Did anything come up after? Did things feel okay?”

Silently, I point at the orange book resting on the couch next to me.

“Should we start there then?”

I hand her the notebook, and wait. Before she starts to read, she grabs me the teal colored fuzzy blanket, and hands it to me. I don’t hide under it right then, but I clutch the blanket like its my anchor to the here and now.

Sick like something bad is going to happen. It’s funny that I can think of it now, but not before. So many words to describe that feeling. So many better words. The words could be apprehension, trepidation, dread, fear, worry, tension, suspense, unease. So many words, and I couldn’t think of a single one. Ugh.

“This is so many words. But this was later, right? When the adult was back online? I still think that the adult you has words, while the little girl didn’t have these complex words. It’s a parts thing. The little girl doesn’t have other words. Adult you does. It’s interesting that the adult could get back online and help find words later, when you were calmer.”

I don’t say anything, but the teen bristles at the use of the word interesting. Why interesting? I hate that word.

I’m okay but not okay. When I left your office I was so off kilter; feelings and other parts of the same image or maybe the same memory, just a different piece were really overwhelming. There is pain and something sharp and too much physical stuff and wanting to move or do something or maybe not after all and it was all so much but it was time to go and that that was okay, it just isn’t always so quick to stuff it all back into the therapy box, just like it takes me forever to pull it all out.

I was okay mostly all day but now it’s night time and bedtime is hard. There’s less grown up here right now, I close my eyes and I see ick. I couldn’t move, he wouldn’t let me move. That came from the image which leads to memory and feelings and everything and it all snowballs. I’m okay, except I’m not.

You asked me about what the adult thinks, what she believes. I don’t know. I know that this is hard. All those words lead to extra shame and judgement and worrying that you see the truth now. I want to tell you the grown up knows the little girl didn’t deserve it. Except, I don’t know. I wanted to explain that the little girl needed too much, that she maybe somehow did this, started it. But it doesn’t matter. Not really. Because the little girl is part of all the disgusting stuff that happened and it lives in my head and my body now, so really, I’m disgusting.

He put _________ __________ in my mouth. I write that, I think that, and I see this image of it happening, I feel it and part of me wants to disappear forever. A piece of me wants to die. It’s just so charged, so overwhelming, so much shame, so much disgust, so much helplessness and all I want to do is go away forever and ever. It’s so much. So much. Too much.

Honestly, you read my folded over paper and yeah, it’s probably good I was a little far away or I might have never managed to stop hiding long enough to leave. Writing this, I want to hide. I’m pretty sure if I could hide forever I would. I think I’d walk into your office with a blanket over my head, if I could. So much fear and so much shame.

I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t. I wanted to hide in my closet forever, but I didn’t. I went on with my life, and that was good, but it didn’t mean no feelings. Some moments were good, and I felt connected to people but boundaries in tact, and sort of just content, that I’m good and I like my life and I’m happy and fulfilled. Some moments were just crap. Awful. All the ick leaking out. But even that was okay, sort of. I always managed to put most of it away, knowing I really only had to hold it for two days and then we would deal with it. Even when I wasn’t okay, I could hold onto the fact that it wasn’t going to last forever and that all the feelings, thoughts, sensations, feelings were in the past. It was hard, but not like times when I’ve been triggered and there is no being okay, no processing whatever it coming up. I feel mostly okay.

“So I know we need to talk about Monday and pick things back up. Can I just celebrate first, though? You felt okay even when you weren’t okay. You managed to put the ick back every time it leaked out, to contain it. You coped without harming yourself. Alice, this is big. This is awesome!”

I shrug. It embarrasses me to have the praise and attention and it worries me because now I’ve set a precedent of being okay. So what happens when I can’t contain the ick on my own? Will Bea be there or will she expect me to do it because I did it before?

“I don’t want to take you back to be triggered and in too deep, so let’s maybe stay away from the memory of the image and see if we can’t focus just on the feelings. Is there movement you wanted to make back then? It sounds like some came up at the end on Monday.”

I don’t know. I don’t say a word. Bea waits, patient as always.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists.

“I can’t.. I can’t tell you! I can’t do this. I just can’t.” I’m frustrated with Bea. I can’t separate out any movement I want to make now from the story of the memory. It’s all the same to me. I need her to know where it’s coming from. I need the words. The words matter to me. But I can’t tell it like I need to because that is not how SP works and because she doesn’t want me to be too far away and I seriously can’t do anything right. I ruin everything.

“Take a minute, okay? Feel the blanket and the safety of that boundary. Remember that nothing bad can happen now.”

“I don’t know what to talk about now.” I whisper.

“Well, reading this, *there is pain and something sharp* can we talk about that?”

I shake my head. “No.”

“Okay. That’s okay. Can we talk about what is going on right now?” She asks softly.

“Nothing.” I mumble.

“Nothing, huh?” She pushes a little.

“I just…I can’t separate everything.” I’m still frustrated. My biggest complaint about all the SP junk is there is no talking about things and it feels superficial because it doesn’t care about the memory, about the words.

“Separate what? What can’t you separate?” Bea’s voice sounds genuinely confused.

“Everything. You want me to talk, but I can’t talk about feelings or physical sensation or whatever without the memory.”

“We aren’t ignoring the memory, the image, I just don’t want to take you so deep, to such a difficult place to be.”

I don’t say a thing. This is why I hesitated to even write the truth of how bad I felt at moments, why I was a little unsure about handing my notebook over. But I wanted her to know, because even when it was really, really bad this time, I managed to cope and to stay grounded enough to realize that the feelings were from the past. But now she wants to avoid the memory anyway.

“Alice? Talk to me.” She really does sound like she wants me to talk to her.

“You don’t want me to!” I cry. I’m hurt. The little girl feels shut down, as if her voice has been taken away.

“What is it you think I don’t want you to do, to tell me. I want to know whatever you want to talk about. It’s not about me. Can you tell me what is wrong?”

“You want to know about…what I wrote?” I ask.

“Yes, I was curious. I knew a lot had come up at the end last time, and I wanted to make sure we got a chance to go over it today.” She explains.

I shrug. Throw the blanket over my head. “I’m hiding now. Okay?”

“Okay.” And her voice tells me it is okay that I need to hide.

“I…..I can’t tell you…..I mean, I can’t explain it without the memory or the image and I can’t…I just…you don’t want me to tell it.”

“I’m not trying to make you stop telling it. I just want to make sure you are safe.”

“Ugh!” I’m tired of this round and round. “I can not tell you about what I wrote, I can’t talk about feelings and what they are linked to, not without you knowing the memory. I know it doesn’t matter or you already mostly know the memory or something, but it’s important to me. The words and all of it. The story, it matters to me. And I can’t do this! I can’t tell one without the other, I don’t know how, it’s all too twisted up together. But you want….the right way is to tell only one thing and I can’t do it. I’m screwing it up, again. And I just feel like I can’t do anything right.”

She takes a deep breath. “Okay. There is no right way. It’s just what works for us. I’m sorry if that hasn’t been clear, if I didn’t make that clear. We do what works for us. If this is a memory that is too twisted together, then talk about all the parts. It’s okay to do that. Tell the story. It’s not one or the other. It’s okay, you aren’t messing up anything. Maybe you will always need the words and the story, because like you said, they matter to you. I still believe you know what you need.”

I’d been curled up, crying, feeling all the pain and failure of my little girl self every time I did something the wrong way, every time I wanted to do something different than what my mother deemed was the right way. Now, listening to Bea, my tears slow. “O-Okay.”

She waits patiently, and I try to find my words. I don’t know how I’m to explain this to her, how I’m to describe the details. It’s sickening. The shame lives here. I shake my head, tell her this is hard. “Take your time, it’s okay,” she says.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists. And suddenly, we are right back where we started earlier, even having almost the same exact conversation. And that makes me so irritated.

“No!” I snap at her. “He’s…..I can’t move because he is….because….” I want so badly to get the words out, but there’s a blockage in my throat and I can’t talk.

“Because why? What’s he doing?” She pushes.

I look to my left. “I had a bruise. On my arm. I lied about it. I said it was from gymnastics. No one ever questioned.”

Bea says something, some kind of quiet understanding and comfort, some kind of sorry and horror for the little girl to be bruised.

“He….knees……..” Like a traffic jam, my words are all backed up.

“His knees were on your arms? So you couldn’t move?” Bea helps fill in the words.

I nod. “Sharp.”

“His knees were sharp? That’s the sharp and the pain,” she says, almost to herself, because it finally makes sense to her.

“Yes.” I whisper. I look back to my left again, down at my arm. It’s not real, and yet I can see knees right there, holding me in place, and I can feel them digging into my inner arms. Maybe that was easier to focus on than what else was happening. I don’t know.

“You can feel that now?” Her voice is quiet, gentle. The voice you use when speaking to scared children.

“Yeah.”

“Is there anything you want to move now?”

I nod. It’s scary to think about it, to say it aloud. I’m not sure how long it takes. Maybe a minute, maybe twenty. Bea waits patiently. Finally I answer her question. “Yes.”

“Try to just let yourself do it, then. You can stay under the blanket, even. I’m right here.” She says carefully.

I think about moving, but I can’t. The idea of it….it’s scary. So very scary.

“What wants to move?” She asks softly.

“Arms, my arms.” I can feel it. When I think about what was happening, and let the little girl run things, she wants to go away. But if things are slowed down, and we are only looking at one image from a memory, and that leads to emotions and physical feeling, the then everything the little girl felt and wanted to do is sort of pulled apart, and while that urge to go away is the biggest feeling, beneath that is this other feeling. It’s a wanting to move, to pull away, to push him away, to cover my mouth, to turn my head. This scares me though. If I let myself feel this urge to move away, to push him away, then I have to accept that I didn’t want this, that I had no control, that I was helpless, that I didn’t cause it, and that I was not playing a special super secret game with him. And that’s a hard thing to swallow.

“What do your arms want to do?”

“Move.” My answer seems silly now, but in the moment when the little girl was more present than the grown up, it made sense to me.

“What way do they want to move?”

“They wanna do two things. No, three things. Maybe. I think.” I whisper. I’m spilling secrets I didn’t even know I held.

So they want to push? Pull? Cover your mouth?” She gets all of them right, and her saying some of the words first helps.

“Pull away……to the side. That’s first.” I finally say.

“Okay. Can you let them do that?” She asks.

I try. I really try, but I’m frozen. Bea encourages me to focus on the fact my hands, my fingers can move. (And now, as I’m writing that I got a picture of my fingers always moving, of holding on to blankets, sheets, grass, my yellow fluffy rug, whatever was there to hold onto. I guess that’s another something that has popped up since this session I’m currently writing about.) Finally, I manage to throw my right arm to the side of me.

“That’s it! How did that feel?” Bea asks me.

“I….I don’t know.” It feels sort of exposing in a way. But also…..I’m proud of the fact I stayed with the memory and moved my arm.

Bea gives me a head’s up that we have about fifteen minutes left of our time, and then she tells me she has no ten o’clock appointment. “You have a busy day today, and I know that, but if you like we can stay and work on this a little longer.”

“Can we stay?” I feel like if we wrap things up now, it will be hard to get back to this place again.

“Absolutely. So, do you want to try the movement again?” She asks.

“Okay.” I’m a little anxious about agreeing but I can try.

“Maybe try to really slow it down this time, okay?”

“Why?” Teen, snarky and questioning everything.

“Well, studies have shown that it is easier for your brain to remember the new movement and to form new neural pathways when it’s a slowed down movement.” She’s not surprised with my why question. She’s never surprised when I want to know why we are doing something or why she wants to know something. And why never seems to bother her.

“Oh.” Is all I can say. I think about moving slowly for a while, “That’s a scary idea. It’s safer to move fast.” I hear the word, and wonder why it’s safer and not easier. Bea wonders, too, and so she asks. “I think it’s like the…..if I’m fast enough then no one will see me…..it’s still a version of hiding.” I explain.

“Well, if it feels safer to move fast, then let’s start there. We might need to stay with this for a while. And that’s okay.” Once again, Bea is willing to start where I am. She told me once that is the secret to therapy— to be willing to start wherever your client is at.

“Okay.” I agree.

We work with movement for a while longer, and by the end of session, I’m able to move my arms to the sides, slap one hand over my mouth, and out the other out in a *stop* gesture. We talk about the fact that it still needs to be slowed down and really felt, but decided that we will do that next time. I can’t do more today.

“This might never feel right, and I don’t think this would be good for this first time you are trying some movement, but I can bring my hands up to yours, or hold a pillow so you have something to push against. Sometimes people like to push against the wall. Or maybe you won’t need that.” She suggests.

“I….I don’t know.” I whisper.

“It’s nothing to decide today, just something to keep in mind. That’s all. In case you ever do want something to push against.”

I’m not sure about this idea. “But then I’d be…..pushing you away.” (See? Really not pretending anymore that she doesn’t matter, or the relationship isn’t important.)

“Yes, you’d be pushing against my hands, but I’m not going anywhere. We can talk about that though, if that would feel too hard because of that. It’s all okay, it’s about doing whatever feels right to you.” She’s so calm and grounded and just here. I don’t know how to explain it.

“Okay.” I shrug.

“Is there anymore to do today, or are you ready to come back and be grounded here?” She asks.

“I’m okay. I don’t…..I think we should pick this up next time, but I’m done for today. It’s a lot.” If you had told me even a few months ago that I would willingly be done with something for the moment and suggest we pick it up next time, and believe that it would be okay and that Bea would hold all of that and remember to help me pick it up next time, I’d have laughed. Yet here I am, doing just that.

“It is a lot,” she agrees.

“Even though I moved, it still feels scarier to move. It’s safer to be frozen.” There’s a question in there somewhere but I can’t figure out how to ask it.

Bea picks up on the question anyway. “Well, your brain has had a lot of years where hiding was the only answer. The little girl couldn’t move then, so she did the best thing she could. She went far away, she hid inside herself. And that kept her safe. And she needed to be able to do that for a long time. Now we just have work on teaching your brain a new response. It won’t surprise me of your first instinct is to hide or go far away when things feel threatening, or uncomfortable, but now you know you have another choice. It’s just a choice that we will need to practice, and the more we practice it, the easier it will be to choose it.”

“Okay.”

We end things just chatting about normal stuff. At some point, in between talking about our crazy dogs, or my crazy kid, I pull the blanket off my head and fold it up. It’s a struggle to look at Bea today, and I know she won’t push it, although she gently try to get me to look at her. Finally, as we both stand up and I hand her the blanket, I sneak a glance at her. No disgust is visible in her expression. I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Hey, try to pay attention to how things feel, if they feel better or if other things come up or what feelings may surface, okay?” I’m on my way out when she asks me this.

“Yeah, okay. But first I have to put all that away and go help teach Kat’s class writing and then do lunch duty, take care of PTO stuff and then take Kat to OT. After that, I can pay attention to stuff again.” I smile. In my book, it’s okay to shove things down to be able to function when you know you are doing it, why you are doing it, and there is a set time limit of how long you are going to lock up the crap.

“That’s all right. Just when you are done, see how you feel. See what is coming up. I’ll be curious to know.” She smiles at me.

We wish each other a good day, and I head out.