Choices and perspectives 

I wanted to thank all of you for your supportive words these last few days. I feel like so many of you have been very protective of me and my feelings and reactions to this situation. It is such a warm and fuzzy feeling. That being said, I didn’t realize there would be so many strong opinions and feelings over this. I appreciate everyone’s perspective, and– maybe for the first time in my life– have seen how it is okay for people to see things differently, and discuss it in a kind manner. I truly hope that when I have disagreed with anyone on this that I have done the same, and that everyone can continue to disagree in a respectful and kind way. 

I wanted to explain my perspective on things, where I stand as of now. I have been emailing with Bea this weekend, and it has helped a lot. I still feel very shaky where she is concerned, and hurt, betrayed, angry, sad. Even with all that, I do get the sense she is still here and not going anywhere. This sucks, and I wish it hadn’t happened, I wish I could erase it all. Or at least, erase knowing what happened. But I can’t do that, and either can Bea. 

The way I see it, I have four choices:

One–I can pretend everything is fine, and continue in therapy as if nothing happened. That is an old response; one I have used often, if I didn’t want to lose the person who hurt my feelings, and it is something I learned in childhood, but it is not healthy. 

Two— I can throw my hands up, run away and never look back. This, too, is an old response. I run from conflict, and I run from tough feelings in relationships. I don’t want to do this anymore. A while ago, I said I wanted to work on understanding relationships and not being so frightened of them. 

Three— I can talk to her, confront her, face it and then leave, having had some closure. This wouldn’t be an unhealthy choice, by any means. But it doesn’t feel right to me, at this moment. 

And finally, there is option number Four— I can confront her, talk it through and hope that things can be repaired. This is where I am at. It feels healthy to me, and as if there is a lot of potential for growth. I have never– honestly never– told someone they have hurt my feelings and then saw it through. Last year, in October, Bea hurt my feelings. I never directly told her, but she knew, by the things I said. She attempted to discuss it with me, and I refused. I completely shut her down. I pretended I wasn’t hurt, and that hurt was buried fairly easily. That is how I have always dealt with conflict and hurt feelings if I still wanted that person in my life. This, now, is an opportunity to do something different. It’s a chance to confront the hurt feelings, the person who hurt them, and allow that person to repair it. And, it’s a chance to do so with a safe person. Because even though I don’t feel like she is really safe right now, in this moment, a part of me recognizes that she hasn’t changed, and somewhere, deep down, I still believe she is safe. 

It’s extremely vulnerable making to do this, and so much harder than I ever would have thought. There are a lot of old feelings coming up, a lot of old fears. I grew up in a household where conflict was avoided at all costs, and if not avoided apologies were accepted no matter what your feelings really were, and the issue never brought up again. The idea that it is okay to bring this up again and again, week after week, in session or email or a phone call, is overwhelming to me. It feels like it can not be true. It’s not something I have experienced, and a big part of me wants to experience being able to talk about the same thing as many times as I need to.  

I know at some point, I am will need to talk about hubby’s words. Right now, I’m too shamed by them and hurt. I’m not sure what to believe about him anymore, and I feel very lost and out to sea without an anchor. I am confused and hurt. The things he wrote are so different from the things he says to me. I don’t know what is the real hubby anymore, or where my marriage really stands. There is obviously work to do there, in my own therapy to work through my feelings about this and maybe in therapy with him, at some point. I just don’t know right now. The only thing I can do right now, is to have perfect Alice run the ship when it comes to my marriage. There is a distance between us, and I’m not sure if it is me, or him, but it makes me very sad. 

I know many of my readers disagree with me, and see things from a different perspective. That is okay, and in my opinion it is a good thing. We need other’s perspectives. It’s part of what allows us to see all sides of an issue and make informed choices. I know many of you would make a different choice than I am, and that’s okay, too. I don’t think there is a right or wrong choice in this situation. 

Everything is broken 

I know I am so behind on replying to comments, and reading other’s posts. Things have been really hard the last few days. I want to tell all of you thank you for your kind comments, for validating my feelings, for all the support. I really feel like this is a special place, and we have this very special community where we support and understand each other. And I am so thankful that I found this community of people. Xoxo

I texted my best friend on Wednesday: “hubby and Bea have been emailing since February. Everything is so screwed up. I can’t breathe.” She called me, and we talked until I had to get Kay from school. She told me I needed to go to therapy on Thursday and tell Bea what I had found out. She said even if I wanted to quit, I still needed to go, and get closure. She also told me that she believed I should tell Bea and then work through it with her, that I was better than the girl who used to run away. I argued, but she won out. She told me she would be upset with me if I didn’t at least show up on Thursday and talk about it with Bea. 

So, off to therapy I went. It sucked. It was the hardest session I have ever had. Even all the memories, and some of the hard things Bea and I have dealt with, this was the hardest…………

Thursday morning. I’m driving to therapy, numb and sick to my stomach. I’m not really here, everything has that strange not real look about it. When I walk into her office, I try to smile, to act like everything is fine. I can’t face this right now. 

I sit down, and say hello. I can’t even look at her. It hurts. I can’t do this. 

Bea attempts to engage me in small talk. She asks about my hair, she talks about Hagrid. I can’t find it in me to truly respond, the one word answers I give sound hollow and far away. When she realizes this isn’t going to work, she says, “I was wondering if anything had come up after Monday’s session (which I never did post about). You seemed surprised that it wasn’t as scary to talk about the underwear memory this time around.” 

I shrug. Part of me wants to respond, wants to weep with pain about all the crap that came up in my head after that session. But I can’t. She doesn’t feel like Bea to me. She doesn’t even feel real. 

“Did you have a hard night last night?” She asks. 

I don’t say anything. Yes, I had a horrible night. I cried and cried and felt all alone and betrayed and hurt and flooded with memories and everything is a mess. I finally nod my head. 

“Im feeling really floaty right now. Is that you or me?” 

I’m so far away at this point, I think ‘me’ but can’t get the word out. 

“I know if I sit up and plant my feet, I’ll feel more grounded, but I’m so comfortable like this, I’m going to try to feel grounded without sitting up,” she tells me. 

I just stare at the floor, not really seeing anything at all. 

I’m not sure how much time passes, or if she talks about anything else, but eventually her voice breaks through to me. “Did something happen this week?” 

I nod my head. It feels like the most difficult thing to do, to make my head move. I want to pull my knees to my chest and hide my face, but I can not figure out how to move that much right now. 

She asks other questions, which I ignore, until she says, “Do you have anything written down?” 

I glance at my bag, where I do have a letter written to her. But then I shake my head. I’m not ready to do this, to face this, yet. I can’t. In the back of my mind, I’m feeling some satisfaction that she seems a little lost, and like she is grasping at straws. 

She asks me questions, and she talks. I really can’t hear a lot of what is being said. It’s just not getting through the fog. At some point, I whisper, “I can’t do this.” 

She waits to see if there is more, and then she asks, “Because talking about it will make it real?”

“And….reactions.” I struggle to force the words out. And then I do move, quickly pulling my legs up and hiding my face. I burst into tears. 

“This is really painful. There is so much hurt right now, it’s hard to even be present. It doesn’t feel safe to feel all this, does it? But you aren’t alone, I’m here, and you are safe.” She says softly. 

“I am all alone.” I sob the words out. I hate that she tells me she is here. She’s not here, not anymore. 

“That came out very clearly. And it feels scary, and painful.” 

I just cry and cry. I can’t speak. 

“Are there words right now? Or is this a place of no words?” She asks. 

“I have words.” 

“Can you say them?” She questions. 

I shake my head. 

“Because you are worried about my reaction?” She makes some sense of the little bit of conversation I’ve made. 

I nod my head. Yes. 

“Do you think you did something?” She asks gently, like she is speaking to a child afraid of being in trouble. 

“I….no. Yes…it’s complicated. I can’t….” I’m confused and overwhelmed and can’t find the words to speak. 

“If you can try to say the words, we can make sense of this together. You don’t have to be alone with this,” she tells me. 

Her words hurt. I cry harder. “It’s broken. I can’t….it’s just broken.” 

“Broken can be fixed.” Her voice is calm, and sure, and I know she means it. 

I shake my head. “How? How can this ever be fixed?” 

“Well, I don’t know, but I do believe broken can be fixed,” she says. “What’s broken?” 

“Everything. Everything is broken. It’s complicated.” 

“Okay. This is so very hard. Who broke it?” She’s trying so hard to help me, but I can’t really feel it. Her words seem like an echo, as if she isn’t really here with me.

I can’t answer. The answer is Bea. Bea broke it. But I can’t say that. I’m afraid of hurting her, upsetting her. 

“Okay…you didn’t say you broke it, so I don’t think you feel you did anything bad. Yet you are worried about my reaction. I’m really lost here. Is there anything else you can tell me?” She asks. 

I shake my head. “Even if I say it, what good will it do? How will it help to talk about it? It can’t be fixed. I just want it erased, gone. I wish I never found out!” 

She listens to my sobs, and says softly, “Anything causing you this much pain is worth talking about.” 

I shake my head, again. “Even if I do tell you, you’ll probably just think it doesn’t matter and I am being silly and stupid!” The words fly out of my mouth, so quickly I can’t stop them. 

“No, no. I would never think that. Anything causing this much hurt and distress is big. It’s very big and it matters.” She tells me. 

“I…hubby….I found an email…..” I can’t get out anymore than that before I start crying so hard I can’t breathe. 

“You found an email he wrote? And it was really upsetting?” She clarifies. 

I nod. Yes. 

She waits for more, but when I don’t say anything, she asks me if the email was recent. 

“February….” I mean to say more, to tell her since February but I can’t get the words out. 

She hesitatingly asks, “Did he cheat?” 

“No…I…it’s not…I mean…he didn’t really…I can’’s complicated.” 

“I really hope I didn’t do anything to hurt you, to make you feel this badly, but if it’s not something hubby did, I feel like I have to ask if I’ve done anything?” She says the words slowly, like she is maybe thinking out loud. 

I freeze. I feel sick. I won’t lie to her, but I really, really don’t want to answer this question. Slowly, I nod my head yes. I feel devastated. I can’t even. It’s just too hard. I have no idea what she says next. I just curl into myself, and go far, far away. I eventually pull a notebook out of my bag, and hold it out to her. 

She reads it, and then she talks. I don’t remember all her words. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, that was never my intention. I can only imagine how bad this feels, how much pain it is. I know it has to feel really scary, and I’m sure when you found it yesterday you felt like we had been conspiring against you. I’m sure it feels like I can’t be trusted anymore. I’m so sorry. This….it’s not just a job to me, I give everything I can. I don’t take your feelings, your safety or your trust lightly. I do think this can be repaired, worked through. I believe that. We’ve worked too hard, and this is too important to not fight for our relationship.” 

I don’t say anything for quite a while. I’m drifting between really far away and a less far away. “You hold have told me. Why didn’t you tell me?”

She sounds so sad when she answers me. “I don’t have a perfect answer. He emailed during times when your stability was wavering, and I have just thought if I don’t respond, he will be questioning you, and that is not something you can handle right now, and if I can keep him calm, get him to wait, to be more supportive….I know even when you don’t want to talk to him that if things at home became unstable it might be really too much. I want to help build in support, and protection for you. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I’m not working with him, hubby and I aren’t in cahoots. I know how much your trust means, and it isn’t something I ever have or ever will take for granted.” 

I don’t respond, I’m hearing her, but all I can do is cry. This hurts. It hurts because I know she is hurt now, it hurts because I feel betrayed, it hurts because I feel alone, it hurts because my safe person isn’t safe right now.

“I can’t imagine how bad this hurts. I was wrong. I should have told you. I’m learning an important lesson right now. And if this ever comes up again, with anyone, I will tell the person next time.” 

“No more emailing with him. You don’t email him. Or talk to him. No more, ever.” I say the words, and I’m not loud, but the anger in my words is something anyone in the room would have felt. 

“No more emailing him. I understand. You are mad, that’s good. Get mad, be mad. You have every right to be mad. This feels like a huge betrayal.” She says calmly. I’m expecting her to get angry back, I have never spoken to Bea in anger before. I don’t know what to make of this. 

“You should have told me! I’m not even mad that you emailed him back. I’m mad that you didn’t tell me.” 

“I know. I know. This isn’t a small thing, it’s huge. I’ve been an important part of your life for a long time now. In some ways, I’ve been a big part, and in other ways, not. But this feels huge, and it is huge. It matters. Of course you are upset, and hurt. I understand why you are upset.” 

I sigh. I hate that she knows she is important. It feels like she shouldn’t be, like it is ridiculous that she is. “I don’t want it to matter.” I say, sadly. 

“I know. It hurts. If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t hurt. I think that we have done some really good work together. I’ve known you a long time now, and I think this relationship is too important to not fight for. This matters to me. And I really do believe we can talk it through and repair this. I want to do that with you. This relationship is worth that.” She tells me. 

“I can’t…I can’t,” I whimper. It feels good to hear her say it matters to her, to know she wants to fight for this relationship, that it is important to her. But this all feels so bad. And there is so much to contain, and I can’t go to her. I’m alone and flooded with memories and feelings and nothing feels okay. 

“I know it feels like that. I know it does. I think you can. You came here today,” she points out. 

“I didn’t…I didn’t want to. Kay made me. She told me…..she’d be mad if I didn’t. She said that I could face it…that I was better than the girl who runs away.” I whisper the words. 

“Thank you, Kay. And she is right. We can work through this. You can work through this.” 

I hear tears in her voice, and it pains me. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I tell her, frantically. 

“Don’t apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for. Why shouldn’t I feel some of this pain? It’s okay for me to cry, to feel this hurt, too.” She has said this before, that it is okay for her to cry and feel sad. 

I can’t stand being the source of people’s pain, unless I’m so angry I can’t feel their hurt. But now, I can feel it. And it sucks. “This sucks. I know…I know you didn’t do this on purpose. I’m just…I hate this.” 

I snap a few more times at her, in between crying and saying sorry. She handles my anger and crying, and tells me I have nothing to be sorry for, that she is the one who is sorry. 

“I hate this. I know why you wrote him back, I know why he wrote. This hurts. I can see your side, and get it, and it sucks.” I tell her. 

“It’s a gift to be able to see all sides. It is hard, but it is a good thing.” 

“It sucks. I can always see both sides. That’s why it’s so hard.” I say through my tears.

“I know, I know that makes it hard. I can see your side, why you feel so betrayed and hurt, and I can see me from that time period’s side. I can hold both those perspectives, and feel compassion for both,” she tells me. Maybe that is what I am missing; compassion for both. I feel more compassionate towards her side, hubby’s side. I know why I feel the way I do, but I am berating myself for it, and feeling stupid over it, and hating myself for being upset. 

“How is this ever going to be fixed? I can’t.” I wail.

“It feels huge, insurmountable right now. But we can work this through. We can talk about this as long as you need to. If we have to talk about it for 10 weeks, longer, we can.” 

I shake my head. I feel gone, or maybe it’s that I feel she is gone. I don’t know anymore. 

“Do you have the emails?” She asks. 

I nod. Sort of. I took pictures of them with my phone. I couldn’t just forward it to myself. I don’t want hubby to know what I found. So, I have them, sort of. 

“Why don’t you bring that on Monday, and we can go through it? I can tell you what I was thinking?” She suggests. 

I shake my head vehemently. “No. No. We are not doing that. You are not to read it. No.” If she doesn’t remember all the things he said, I don’t want it all coming back to her. He wrote awful things. Some may be true, but he said mean, mean things, and described me as this monster person. I’m ashamed over it, and hurt, and I don’t want to face that right now. 

“Okay. We don’t have to do that. That’s okay. We can go through my notes from that time, if you want.” She says. 

“You don’t look for those emails and you don’t read them either,” I tell her. I need her to do this, if I’m ever going to trust her again. I don’t comment on her notes, at all. I’m honestly afraid to know what she has written. I’m picturing awful things in her notes about me.

“Okay. I won’t read them. I won’t look for them, and I won’t read them,” she says seriously. 

“I hope not,” I lash out at her. I’m angry and hurt, and I can’t take much more. 

“I won’t. If I say I won’t, I really won’t.” She says softly. 

I stop and think for a minute. I know this is true, if I think about all our history. “Okay, okay. I know that,” I relent. 

I don’t remember how we ended things. I know she asked me if I was going to talk to Kay today, and she encouraged me to do so. “When your safe person is suddenly not safe, you need someone else to help you see objectively, to help you know the world is still safe.” 

I tell her I will call or text Kay today. I’m glad she knows that she doesn’t feel safe right now. I wish she did feel safe. I hate this. “I hate this so much. I hate all of it,” I tell her. “I can trust Kay. She would never talk to him without telling me.” 

“She’s much safer than I am right now. It’s okay to hate me right now. That’s okay.” She gives me permission to be mad.

I shake my head. “I don’t hate you. I hate things people do, I hate this, but I don’t hate you. I don’t hate people.” After thinking a minute, I add, “Well, maybe my mother in law. But that is a whole different thing.” My mother in law manipulates and hurts people on purpose, she doesn’t care who she hurts, or who is caught in her crossfire. She only cares about herself and getting what she wants. Bea is not like that all. 

“Maybe you are feeling a similarity between me and her? Like I manipulated things?” Bea asks. 

I shake my head. “I feel… you lied, like you knew what his feelings were, and have been disagreeing with me even though I am telling you exactly what he has said. But no. You aren’t like her. You didn’t…this wasn’t to hurt me, I know that.” I’m still crying and I feel like I must look a huge mess. 

“No, I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you. I honesty was doing what I believed was best at the time. In hindsight I could have done something differently, but I was truly doing what I believed was best for you. Your safety was my only concern. And things were very unstable, I wanted to do anything I could to keep things as stable as I could.” 

I nod my head and cry quietly. “I know. I know you, I know that.” 

She tells me that she is human, and flawed and she will make mistakes. She tells me she has work to do, too, because she is human. “When it feels like we are walking a tightrope, doing this very tricky balancing act, I have to do my best to keep things as stable as I can for you. It’s….things can be really unpredictable and for every Alice, there is a suicide attempt or a hospitalization. You did get through some really hard spots, but there can be so many what ifs, and I have to do what I can to help you build resources. I’d feel terrible, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I felt negligent, if I hadn’t done all I could for you.” 

I don’t respond, but her words do penetrate. I can feel that she does care, that she does want me safe and she is here. I only feel that for a minute, and then it’s gone, replaced with hurt over what I feel is lost. I dissolve into tears again. 

I don’t know how we end things. She tells me we can email, I can call or text, whatever I need. I remember it being hard to sit up, not wanting her to see me. I couldn’t look at her when I left, and I practically ran out the door. 

The first thing: something I wrote 

When I was cleaning and thinking, this is what I was thinking about. Here is the something I wrote, that I gave to Bea to read.
The first thing I kept thinking about is the email I sent you, and your later than usual reply. I wasn’t upset because logically I understand that things happen, you are very busy, and that you did email and even acknowledged that you had meant to write back and hadn’t had time. But, and this is that big scary but (at least for me) emotionally, it’s not that simple. It felt like I had finally let something out, after holding so much in for months, and you weren’t there. It felt like maybe you had decided I was “better” or something, so I maybe didn’t need a reply as quickly as I used to. I don’t know. And then when you did reply, some of the reply felt like I’m expected to cope all the time now, and not fall apart, or end up in the bubble, because I coped this summer. It felt like because I was able to function this summer, and able to still be aware that I was shoving things away, burying them in a box until it was a better time to deal with them, that I’m expected to function like that all the time now. Which led to thoughts of “Bea thinks I’m just a drama queen. Bea is annoyed with me and my meltdowns. Bea is tired of dealing with me. Bea is sick and tired of needy broken Alice and she likes coping Alice a lot better. Bea thinks I should be over this crap by now, and is tired of hearing me whine.” And so on, and so on. And while most of me is pretty sure those are crazy thoughts and not true, a part of me is pretty sure they are true. And I’m pretty sure you attempted to talk about some of this that next session with me; I really wasn’t very there. I think I dissociated enough that I don’t remember that conversation very well at all. As soon as you brought up the email, I felt frozen and scared and like this was too much. I know I didn’t say a lot. I hate talking about the relationship. I hate talking about hurt feelings, or stupid thoughts like the ones I just wrote down. It’s so uncomfortable. Really, calling it uncomfortable is like saying that a severed finger is “just a scratch”. But I feel like somehow we need to talk about this, i just have no idea how to do that. Just writing this is making me sick to my stomach and itchy (did you know I sometimes break out in hives when I’m really anxious or upset?). And I think the little girl is sort of wary again, in a way. Because I trust you, because logically you have never given me a reason not to, because you’ve always done everything you’ve said you are going to do, and because you really hear me, because you see me and still accept me But I think the little girl is afraid of the new expectations (possibly perceived, but still very real to her), and afraid to fail and have you go away because of that. She’s afraid if she does reach out, you might not be there now. I actually went back and forth about emailing you again, that weekend, to ask if you had gotten my email, or if you thought I was crazy, or if you were mad that I had said I just couldn’t talk about the eating stuff. I even wrote an email asking those things, talking about you not emailing back, and hurt feelings. I just didn’t send it. Actually, I think, it feels like the little girl decided not to send it; she needed you to email without her asking you to. A test, I guess, maybe. Stupid. Childish. I hate that. So. I guess this is important to talk about. But I don’t like it. It scares me to talk about all this. And that’s another thing; I don’t understand why this is all so scary and hard to talk about. And it’s not just with you. It’s with hubby, Kay, Rebecca, Jamie. (obviously my parents, but that is them as much as me, I think) It’s anyone I am close to. I don’t know. I think I haven’t really talked to Kay for months because I don’t want to discuss the uncomfortable stuff, and she will. She is fine with it. And Jaime? She hurt my feelings, not on purpose, and we talked it out through text and it’s fine, we are okay, except we aren’t because I still feel like there is this weirdness there and she is mad at me or doesn’t like me anymore or whatever. I don’t know. Ugh. And before I would have just ignored it all and pretended everything was fine, and maybe have been so stuck in my head that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because I wouldn’t have felt any of this. But now. Well, I can’t pretend it’s all okay. But I don’t know how to talk through it either. Ugh. This is so frustrating to me, I’m angry with myself for not being able to act like a grown up and have a simple conversation. 
I thought a lot about the whole ABA tech triggering me thing because she doesn’t do any repair with Kat, and pretends everything is perfect and fine. And I thought a lot about being punished for my emotions; whether it was concrete punishment or just my parents not being there emotionally. And I just, well, I don’t know exactly what, but this all feels really very significant. These triggers, like this, over well, I don’t know how to put it, just normal daily stuff, not trauma stuff, it’s just…ridiculous. I feel like I’m being…I don’t know what. Silly, maybe. But, either way, I can see it so clearly now. Friday, watching Kat and the tech and listening to them, I could just see it, and see exactly how it could remind me of my parents and pretending everything is okay. I kept thinking how I was punished for bad emotions. Anger. Sad. Anxiety. Anything really that isn’t upbeat, happy. I don’t know. And I wonder if that is why it’s so hard for me to cry around people. I mean, I cry in front of you now, but even hubby, I run to the bedroom, and hide if I’m going to cry. I feel almost….guilty, or something, for subjecting others to my bad emotions. Maybe shame. I don’t know, exactly. It’s like I’ve done some thing wrong. And seeing, naming the fact I got punished for feelings, it makes sense why I always feel like I am being bad for feeling certain things– sadness, anxiety, fear, frustration. And anger. Ugh, anger. I don’t know what to do with anger. And I wonder if it’s because I just never was allowed to be angry. And now….I don’t know. How does a person let out the mad feelings without turning into a monster? I mean, emotions like sadness are easier, in a way, because you cry, and you feel the feelings and maybe talk about where they are coming from, but you cry and get the sad out. But what in the world does a person do to get out anger? 
I was so angry with hubby for so much of this weekend. I snapped a few times. Mostly I just made those awful passive aggressive comments– the way he usually does. And I hate that. I don’t like that Alice. I don’t want to be that angry passive aggressive person. But I just….I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. And I can’t even explain the anger I have toward him, except it’s just this general feeling of him not being there and not seeing me and not hearing me, not paying attention. It’s that trigger of “he doesn’t care enough to see me or hear me”. And no matter how many times I try to explain, he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t care to. I don’t know. 
And thinking about how much they pretended everything was okay, leads me to thinking about how they are no longer pretending. And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with that. It scares me. Because that means the story I have told all along is real. I can’t fall back on the fact I the only one telling it, I must be crazy, I must be a liar, making stuff up, ext, ext. If means that everything was that crazy making, that ugly, that…I don’t know what. And I still….well, I think, like you said on Thursday, even though we have talked about it, it is still so taboo and it feels far away and very separate and is hard to bring up…..I think it’s because I keep it separate, in a way, like, I keep it in that realm of “this MIGHT not be real, so it’s not REALLY part of my story, not really”….I don’t know if that even makes sense. I just know I am afraid of my parents being more real. It terrifies me. Like makes my insides feel frozen, and my chest tight, and I can’t breathe and my body feels frozen, too, and I feel like I need to run away and hide. It doesn’t feel safe. It’s like my safety net is being taken away, and my story is real. Which really, really scares me. 
My nightmare is back. The boyfriend nightmare. Where he is listing everything out. Sometimes it’s different….times…but always, his voice, listing things out. I don’t know. Maybe I need to talk about this, about him. But how am I supposed to talk about this, when I can’t even write it down, because of the words? Ugh. I hate how afraid I am of certain words. It’s ridiculous. And I head his voice in my head, telling me that no one is going to want me now, I’m ruined, a slut. And then I wonder if hubby had known me, instead of fake perfect me, if he would have wanted me still? Because I sometimes think he is refusing to see me, because he is waiting for the me he married to come back. 

Crying yoga practice

Tuesday morning, I wake up after a night of restless sleep. I’d dreamed of monsters last night, except my monsters were real. I make coffee and down half the pot before Kat gets up. I’m really still dissociated, numb, feeling like nothing is real. I make Kat breakfast, and get myself ready for yoga. The nanny arrives just as Kat is finishing breakfast. I numbly tell them both good-bye, and head to yoga.

As I walk into the waiting room, I wonder if it’s even a good idea to be here today. I can’t think. I can’t feel. I want to stay away from my body, all the physical memories this latest trigger has brought up are too much for me to handle. It’s not safe.

Kris walks out into the waiting area, right on time. “Hi,” she greets me warmly, as she always does. “How are you?” When she asks this, she gives the feeling that she means it, that she really wants to know.

“Okay. I’m okay.” I attempt a smile, but it’s partly frozen. “How are you?”

“I’m good, really good.” She smiles at me.

We’ve been walking down the short hall to her yoga studio as we talk. We take off our shoes and leave them at the door. I throw my bag down by the wall when we walk in, and sit on my mat, hugging my knees to my chest; an upright fetal position.

Kris looks at me. “How is your body feeling today? With the sudden weather change from warm to cool, I wondered if that effected you at all.”

I shake my head. “No. I don’t think so. I don’t know.” I mumble my answer, staring down at my toes with their bright pink nail polish.

Kris goes a different route. “You saw Bea last time after our yoga session, right? Did you make it there okay time wise?”

I nod, not trusting my voice.

“Have things been okay in therapy?”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s fine.” I shrug, grab my coffee and take a sip.

Kris looks at me, and it’s like she sees that I’m not really here. She tries a different approach. “How is Kat?” Anyone who knows me knows that talking about Kat can help ground me, bring me back to the present, help me be more here.

This time, though, it backfires. Tears spring up, and I blink them away furiously. I can’t find words, and so I shake my head at her and shrug my shoulders.

“Okay. Something is going on with Kat then. Whatever it is, I can see something really going on in your body, some tension…I can see it’s hard to be present today.” She speaks about all of this like it’s perfectly acceptable, and like I am okay and not some crazy person.

“I…the situation…it’s just triggered me a lot.” I finally say, my voice small and shaking.

“Okay. That’s okay. If you want to talk about it, we can do that, and if you want to leave it out, that’s okay too.”

I look up at her. “I don’t know…I’m not sure.”

“It’s all your choice. I see myself as holding the space so you can choose what is right for you. It’s entirely okay to talk about it, and sometimes talking it out can help release it. Other times, talking about it can be more triggering and make it feel more here. I’m okay with whatever feels right for you. I’m just here to support you and help you,” Kris tells me.

We sit quiet for a few minutes, Kris breathing in and letting her out breath extend. I can’t even seem to follow that today. I decide to talk to her. A part of me wants her to know what is going on, why I am such a mess and struggling. I’ve never chosen to spell things out for her, but she has been consistent and here, and safe since I started seeing her. I think it’s okay. And, she already knows what my trauma is, because Bea has talked to her about it (with my permission, of course).

I start talking, explaining the messy situation and the confusion. And then, to my surprise, I say, “I’m so triggered by it all. My…it was a family friend, someone who babysat me that hurt me. This is all too close, too much.” I recognize as I’m talking that I’m really dissociated, removed from this moment, and that’s why I’m able to talk. But as I talk, Kris only offers understanding and kindness.

“I can see how triggered you are in your body. Do you know what you are feeling in your body right now?” She finally asks me.

I shake my head. Embarrassed, I finally say, “I’m not so…I feel really disconnected right now.”

She nods. “You probably have felt that way since you heard what your friend had to say.”

I nod, yes, exactly.

Kris asks me to invite some movement to my body. She starts us out sitting in hero and raising our arms up to stretch. She remarks that the body doesn’t lie, and that she can see all the anxiety and tension of the triggered state and flashbacks in mine right now. It feels oddly validating.

We move through several of the more simple yoga poses, but I’m not coming back to my body. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to be grounded. I’m numb and partly frozen.

“Let’s do some chair work, okay?” Kris asks me, as she moves a folding chair onto her mat.

Almost mechanically, I copy her, moving a chair onto my mat.

And that’s when she has me sit on the edge of the chair, raise up to a squat above the chair. And then she asks me to sit back down without looking behind me. I look at her. “Crap,” I say. It’s light hearted and possibly a little funny, but I’m panicking. This is the famous chair exercise. The one that I froze during last time. “I’ve done this already. Why am I freaking out? This is so stupid,” I say.

“Your body knows what to do. You can trust it. Just sit back. The chair is still there, I promise,” Kris speaks slowly and soothingly to me.

I nod at her, and really feel how frozen I am. I reach my hand behind me, wanting to check for the chair. I pull it back before I can, mad at myself. That feels like cheating.

“However you need to sit back is okay,” Kris says. Her voice is so full of compassion in that moment, I know she isn’t judging me.

I close my eyes, and sit back. The moment I land on the chair, I burst into tears. I rush to cover my face, folding my upper body over my legs. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” I manage to get the words out.

“No sorrys. There is nothing to be sorry for. It’s okay. I’m okay with tears. Your body is just letting out some of this emotion, the feelings you’ve had locked up for so long. You sat back in the chair, you came back to the present just a little bit. It’s okay. You are safe here and now, safe in the present moment.” Kris maybe says more, but it’s all soft spoken and kind, soothing.

She allows me to cry, to breakdown. I apologize again, telling her I know we are past time, and I’m sorry, just so sorry. In a way, I’m begging her not to hate me for being a needy, sobbing mess in her yoga studio.

“It’s okay. I’m not in a rush,” she says. After a pause, she continues, “I see myself as here to support you, to help you heal in whatever ways I can. Today that means making space for tears. It’s okay.”

“Do other people cry?” I ask her. She knows I’m asking about her other trauma yoga students.

“Yes, definitely. You aren’t the only one, not at all. And, I know from my own trauma, that sometimes all that anxiety and fear can be so overwhelming and feel so bad, and it’s like even when you rationally know it’s in the past, you have to allow yourself to feel it, as painful as that can be. And that’s what you are doing, allowing yourself to feel it and move through it.”

I sniffle, and try to stop the crying. It’s not working very well. “I’m just so tired of it all. It’s so hard sometimes,” I tell her.

“I know. It really is tiring. You might not be able to hear this right now, but you are strong, and brave. You are healing and changing and working through this because you are so very strong, even if you don’t feel it right now.”

Kris brings a box of Kleenex over to me, and pulls a few out, handing them to me. I still can’t look up and face her. I hate crying in front of people. It’s shameful to me. I’m used to crying in front of Bea now, and even with her, I have a hard time facing her after.

“It’s like you are living in two worlds right now. The old world, and this new world. The old world with the paradigm of nothing being safe and not being able to trust and needing to be out of your body and the new world, where you have people who want to help you, where you can be grounded and safe in your body, where it’s okay to trust. It is hard and scary to be in the new world. It’s confusing to live in both worlds. But it will shift, and it will get easier to be in this new world. Old trauma responses will be changed and you won’t fall back into the old world as easily.” Kris is kneeling in front of my chair, just sitting near me, so I am not alone.

“You’ve been here?” I ask softly.

“Yes, I have.” She knows I mean this ugly pain filled place. “Sometimes, I still visit. But it’s less and less and I can leave a lot quicker.

I think about that. I’m grateful she is honest with me about it. “It gets better, right?” I ask her. I need to know, to hear I won’t feel so stuck and hurt and damaged forever.

“Yes. It gets so much better. It takes a long time, and hard work, but you are doing that work. And you don’t have to be alone. You have Bea, and your husband, and I count myself as a support person for you, too. You only have to reach out.”

I nod my head, knowing she’s right about just needing to reach out. I calm down, and dry my face. Kris and I say goodbye. She says she wants to offer me a hug, but she also knows that might now feel okay right now, and I don’t have to feel bad for saying no. I shake my head, no hugs, I can’t do that today. She gets it.

I’m tired the rest of the day, but some of the tension and anxiety seems to be gone. I keep thinking about her promise that even though it takes a long time, it gets better.

Yoga article

My yoga teacher, Kris, is writing an article about trauma informed yoga. She asked me if I would share with her how it has helped me, what I think yoga has done in terms of healing. This is what I sent her, and I wanted to share it here. I think it’s a good synopsis of how yoga has helped me, and why I think yoga is such a great tool for dealing with trauma.

Being able to take trauma informed yoga has definitely impacted my journey of healing from trauma. When my therapist suggested yoga, my first response was to say “no way”. I’d been disconnected from my body for so long, it felt safer to be that way. The therapist didn’t let it go, though. Every so often, she would suggest yoga, and say she really felt that yoga would be a good way for me to get in touch with my body in a safe way. She kept trying to make me understand that trauma, and all the scary feelings and thoughts that go along with it are in the past, and if I could be connected to, and present in my body, I would be grounded in the here and now.

I didn’t understand that until I met Kris, and started seeing her for weekly yoga sessions. Because I had spent a good portion of my life participating in ballet, gymnastics and cheerleading, a lot of the yoga poses came easily to me if I didn’t think about it. When I tried to think about it, or feel something in my body, it was harder to perform the pose. Kris was never pushy, and she never made me feel bad for not feeling something in my body, or not wanting to do a particular pose. She was simply accepting of where I was at, and seemed to easily make space for whatever feelings I had coming up even when I couldn’t articulate them.

During one session, she had me sit in a chair, stand up and then asked me to sit back down in the chair without looking behind me. It seemed simple, but I froze. I can’t fully explain it, but later when I talked with my therapist about it, she hypothesized that Kris was asking me to do something that was out of my control in some ways, and that triggered a freeze reaction. Trauma is all about loss of control, so it made sense. Kris worked through it with me, and I did eventually sit back in the chair. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was really the moment that I understood being in the present, connected to my body and trusting my body was safer than being disconnected and constantly stuck in the past. I felt more confident after that, stronger somehow, just knowing I had been able to get through the scared feelings and move past them without disconnecting from the moment.

I’ve learned a lot from yoga. I’ve learned to be able to focus on my breathing to help calm myself. Before, focusing of breathing was always slightly triggering for me. I think that being able to breathe through any uncomfortable feelings that come up from poses in yoga has helped me see I can breathe through any feelings that might come up during therapy, or in life. I’ve learned I’m stronger than I think I am, and that I can trust myself. My therapist and I have both noticed that when I talk to her about traumatic memories, I’m able to keep one foot grounded in the present and one foot in the past. Before, I was constantly getting fully sucked into my past, never able to really hold onto the here and now. Yoga has had a lot to do with that.

On a more practical side, yoga has helped me to connect with my body again. I’m diagnosed with fibromyalgia, so while I do feel pain if it’s bad enough, I’ve always been able to block it out quite easily. While that can be beneficial in some situations, it has meant I tend to over stress my body because I don’t feel it, and it has made it hard to communicate with my doctors about where I feel pain at. Since starting yoga, I’ve learned to listen to my body, and stop before I hurt myself. I’ve been able to communicate more effectively with my doctors, too.

I wish I could fully explain how yoga has helped me. I think so much of it is a feeling, something I just know, that it’s hard to find words. It’s helped move out of my head and back into my body. I’ve grown a lot in the year since I started trauma therapy. I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be nearly as far in this journey if it weren’t for trauma informed yoga.

Dissociated, messy yoga practice

(Tuesday’s trauma yoga session)

I haven’t slept more than six hours in the last three days. I’m exhausted. And yet, I drive to yoga anyway. I don’t want to cancel. In a lot of ways, I really need Kris’s grounding presence right now.

I’m a few minutes early, so I take a seat in the waiting area. I check my emails, and contemplate writing in my journal, but Kris walks out just as I’m pulling out my iPad.

“Hi,” she greets me. She’s smiling, and so serene. I breathe a little sigh of relief.

I follow her back, and we sit on our mats. She goes through the process of checking in with me. I try to act like everything is fine, but I’m failing miserably. Eventually I admit that I haven’t slept, and that everything is a mess, and Bea is out of town which is making it all worse.

“Mmmhmm. That all can be really tough. When was the last time you slept?” She asks. She looks slightly concerned.

“Last night I fell asleep at 7, and I woke up a little after 9.” Just thinking about waking up from the dream I’d had, I start shaking and things become hazy and I’m light headed.

“Did you fall back asleep?” She asks.

“No…I just…no.” I’m sitting with my knees to my chest, curled into myself. I know I have dark circles under my eyes, and that my eyes looks puffy and red. I know I look like crap.

“Is there anything your body is wanting to do today?” She asks.

I groan. I hate this question. I never have an answer. Well, today, I have an answer, but it’s not one I will ever give; my body wants to curl up and hide. I want to be in my closet, hidden and small, where no one can find me. I shake my head at her.

“That will be my last question for a while, I promise.” Kris is just calm, waiting for me to think. “Take a minute, check in with yourself.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know. What do you want to do?” I finally say.

“Nope, no sorry.” She smiles at me. “I’m up for anything. Let me think for a minute, feel into this.” She says softly.

I nod, and I sit, curled up and breathing. I’m less gone than I was. What is it about Kris that makes her presence so grounding? She feels very transparent to me, very here and present, and like she accepts anything; I have a feeling that she is one of those people who accept mistakes as learning experiences, who doesn’t judge or condemn others.

“Okay. Let’s sit in our hero pose, and take some breaths. If it’s available to you, breathe in, and try to extend the out breath. It’s a simple thing we can do to help calm our nervous system.” She breathes, in and extending the out breath.

I try to follow her. It’s so triggering for me, so frustrating to have some thing as silly as breathing be a trigger. Kris talks me through it, and I mange to continue breathing. Eventually, the trigger feeling passes, and I can breathe easier. I can feel my body calming.

Kris leads us through a series of lunges, and backbends, and gentle stretches. My body is stiff and sore, not sleeping screws everything up. I run into quite a few triggers, as I try to focus on feeling what is happening in my body.

“If you can, don’t forget your breathing. What’s coming up for you?” Kris asks, each time I’m slightly triggered by what I feel in my body, and things start to go fuzzy. It’s like she has this sixth sense to recognize when I’m going away.

I shake my head. “I don’t know.” In actuality, I do know. Any pose that stretches my hips, or inner thighs feels wrong, exposing, too much. I’m not sure why. But that stretch, combined with all the flashbacks and overwhelm I’ve been faced with, sends me into body memory hell.

Kris pulls us out of the hip stretches quickly, and goes into cobra. A backbend, but lying on your stomach. That’s okay. I can do this, and I love backbends, my body naturally does them easily. I feel like control is returned to me, and the rest of the session Kris focuses on simple stretches and backbends, no more lunges or hip stretches.

At one point, I become very aware of my body, very connected without thinking about it or trying. For a moment, I’m in awe; is this what most people feel everyday? To not be in my head all the time, to not have to focus on being very present and connected. Is this it, is this what I’m striving for? And then, the physical memory washes over me, and a few tears leak out.

Kris reminds me to breathe, and and takes us from downward dog into child’s pose. I still can’t place my head on the floor, I need to keep an eye on my surroundings. But then, Kris suggests I can lay my head down and turn it to the side. I do, and it’s okay. I curl up in child’s pose, and breathe with Kris. I focus on her calm, and the kind of aura she projects of being strong and accepting and peaceful. The feeling of being out of control and scared passes. The physical feelings pass, too. The whole time, Kris is talking softly about how strong I am, how I am okay, how I am safe.

I don’t know how long I stay in child’s pose, but after, we wrap up and Kris thanks me for coming to yoga today. She sounds so sincere. I have a hard time accepting that, and so I make a joke that I was able to provide some entertainment and laughs, because in my over tired state even simple things like left and right become difficult.

Kris shakes her head at me. “No, I’m not laughing at you. I’m glad you, just you, yourself, came to practice today. It was a good practice with you. So thank you.”

I nod. “Okay. But I was joking…and you have to admit, I did make you laugh a few times.”

“Yes, you did make me laugh. Laughter is good for us, we don’t need to be so serious all the time.”

We talk for a few minutes, and I end up spilling the story about Kat.

“Thank you for sharing that with me, for trusting me. It sounds really difficult, but I also believe you are handling it extremely well.” Kris says softly.

“Thank you,” I say. We talk a bit more, and she reassures me that I’m doing okay, that I’m not screwing things up.

When I leave, I feel more connected than I have for a few days, and a little bit safer. I tell myself I only need to hold onto this feeling for the rest of today and Wednesday. Then, Bea will be back.

The bubble popper, part 2

It hits me as I’m driving to yoga. Damn it. I’m mad at Bea. She’s right. It feels like my world is imploding, and like I can’t contain the hurt. I don’t want to be mad at her. I can’t be mad at her. I need her, everything is falling apart because she popped the bubble, and I need her to help me put it back together. So, I can’t be mad at her. This is terrible. What am I going to do? I can’t breathe.

Bea is the bubble popper. She ruined everything. How is this ever going to be okay?

I get to yoga, park, walk in. I’m trying to push down all the anxiety and fear and upset and whatever else it is– the feelings I can’t name– down. I’m a little early, so I spend the wait time writing out all the feelings in me.

“Good morning,” Kris says, walking out and smiling at me in greeting.

“Hi.” I grab my things and follow her back.

Kris sits down on her green mat in hero position. “So how are things?”

“I don’t know,” I answer, and it’s honest. I have no idea. My world feels like it’s crashing down on me, and I’m struggling to pretend to be okay. I smile at her.

“You saw Dr. B last week, how was that? Did she want you to be careful with anything or work on anything?”

I pick at my fingers. I barely remember that visit. Last week, Bea popped my bubble and everything was disoriented and hard, scary, too much. “Last week feels forever ago. I don’t know. I don’t remember her saying anything specific, I think everything was good.”

“And Hubby? Kat? Are things okay there?” It seems Kris has the sense something is up, and she is trying to figure out what it is, and if I’m okay.

“Good, nothing new.” I attempt a smile, or doesn’t work great.

“Is there anything you want to focus on today? Anyway your body wants to move?” Kris asks.

I think for a minute, shake my head. “You always ask me that, and I don’t know. I’m sorry.”

“No sorrys. I’ll keep asking you, but it’s fine to not know. It’s okay to be where you are.” Kris sounds so calm, serene. She’s this person that just accepts everything. I have this momentary thought of telling her about the bubble, and being mad at Bea, but that not being okay because I need her, but needing her is not okay either. I have this feeling that Kris could handle it, and that she would be calm and accepting and somehow help me feel okay about it all. I don’t say anything at all, though.

We end up going through several series of sun salutations; I’m trying to feel grounded, but also be okay and not fall apart. Its a difficult yoga session, and I end up staying more in my head than grounding myself in my body. When I leave, I feel numbed out and gone. Dissociated.

I email Bea, freaking out, and I’m totally honest with her: (my email was long and disjointed, unedited and messy, but this is part of it below)

“I think maybe I am mad. You popped the bubble. I think though, I’m more upset that you just wouldn’t accept the idea I wasn’t mad, that you just kept pushing and…..I don’t know. Why did you have to do that??? I was perfectly happy not realizing I was mad. But you had to ask and ask, and then because I’m me, I had to think it over and over and circle it around and around my mind, until I realized I was maybe mad, in a way I can’t exactly feel, but it there if I really look for it. But I can’t allow myself to be mad, because I need you. I don’t want to say that, or think that or have you know I said that. God. I never want people to know I need them. I don’t want to need anyone. I don’t want to be so needy and just…..ugh. I don’t know. Needy. Too much. Ugh. Not okay. I don’t know.
But to be mad at someone means they will leave. And I can’t be mad at you because I need you and I can’t risk having you leave. So. There it is. I’m mad, but not mad. I don’t exactly feel mad. Ugh. It’s like….far away. Like if I really think about it, I realize I am mad at you, but I don’t really feel it. This isn’t making a lot of sense. I just can not be mad, or have this conversation, because……I don’t know. It doesn’t matter what you say. I think you said something about me not ever being in a relationship where I was allowed all my feelings, but that I’m allowed to have any feelings I have now. I don’t know, I wasn’t really there. I couldn’t be there. You were talking about scary things, you know I don’t talk about relationships, you know that makes me scared. And I’m sick and scared and having this huge anxiety because now I know there is mad somewhere in there. And that isn’t okay. I can’t be mad at you. And then I feel stupid for that. And I have been so careful to not accuse you of popping the bubble or breaking down the walls, or however you want to phrase it, because if I start to accuse you, then I can feel a little bit mad. And that is so not okay. But really, I think that there is more than mad, there. I feel….I don’t know what…..surprised maybe. I thought you didn’t know, thought you believed that I was really okay and doing well, that I had you fooled. And that felt safe. Well, part of me was annoyed,because I thought you didn’t get that I can just pretend it all away and be okay even when I’m not. But now I know I can’t fool you. Which isn’t safe, I don’t like people that I can’t fool, it’s too hard, too….real…I don’t know the right word. I don’t know. Ugh. I’m not explaining this so well. And hurt, my feelings are hurt. I don’t have a reason, or a why, just that my feelings are hurt. I think you were kind of mean to pop the bubble and dump me back into this not okay and scary place. And I’m mad. And so mad at myself for being being mad. And scared that I am mad. And scared that I can’t fool you with the “okay bubble.”
And then again, thanks to the bubble being popped, I am really kind of not okay, and you are the only person I can tell that to, and the person I am supposed to be able to fall apart around, so I can not be mad at you. I need you to help me. But you can’t be worried. But I need you to know how much more of a struggle it is, how hard things have been now that the bubble is popped. It takes so much to maintain even a fraction of the okayness I had before the bubble popped. And it’s hard to build a bubble. And now too much is bombarding me, and I just can’t make another bubble and I need your help with those things. You popped the bubble. And everything is worse. Symptoms increased. Nightmares. Not sleeping. I have pictures in my head of terrible things that just come and go as they please. Some you know about, some you don’t. I have this anxiety in my stomach, just sitting there for no reason, it’s just there, all the time. My patience is all but gone again. I mostly want to hide and not have to see or talk to anyone. I’m cutting more often. I’m not eating. Or I’m stuffing my face and bingeing. I feel like I’m crying all the time, or pushing back tears to not cry. I’ve been having migraines frequently again– I’ve taken my migraine medication almost every day the last week or so. I can not add Hubby and his hurtful comments to this mess, too. It’s too much. It’s all just too much.

I can’t believe I actually send it, but I do. The anxiety of waiting for her to reply is awful.

Several hours later, I have a reply from her: (she replied to a lot of the messiness of what I wrote, but below is the most important parts of what she said)

“You can need me and still be mad. I don’t intend to go anywhere regardless of if you are mad, mean, happy, etc.–well, I am going away for a few days next week, but I will come back! It’s a big step to admit mad–and neediness. This was not something you have experienced positively in past relationships. I will not leave. I know that is hard to believe, and you will probably have to test it, but I will not leave.Only by experiencing this in a different way can you start to believe it. I need my concerns and worries, so they can help inform me if you are safe. So you have to let me keep those! You can be mad at me, fall apart around me, and need me. My job is to contain it all and help you gather yourself together again. That is a very real and honest email. Good work!!! And wow, you do have a good reason to be mad at the person who popped that bubble….”

We email back and forth, and I spill out more of the mess inside me. I even admit that my coping methods aren’t so in control. And then Bea sends an email that doesn’t sound like her, and it feels distant and cold. I don’t understand, and my feelings are hurt. I can only assume she is mad that I won’t talk to Hubby right now, and that she is leaving after all, no,matter what she said. She doesn’t care, she’s leaving.

I take a benedryl after getting Kat to bed, and fall asleep early. Thursday, morning I’m terrified of walking into therapy. I debate not going. Even on the drive into town, I’m crying and unsure if I’m going to actually show up. I end up in Bea’s parking lot, almost twenty minutes early. I cry, and sniffle and work on pulling myself together.

I force myself out of the car, and into Bea’s building, and up the stairs. I look into Bea’s office, and pause outside the door. She looks at me, and smiles. “Hi,” she says, as I walk into the office.

To be continued…..

I cheated on my yoga teacher……

I cheated on my yoga teacher. I went to a yoga class at my gym on Saturday morning. Surprisingly, I liked it, and was able to do everything they did. It was a really different experience, though.

The gym that Kat and I are members of is awesome. It’s family owned, and the employees are accepting of Kat and her quirks, as are the people who are there to work out. Kat goes to the kid gym sometimes, and the child care workers have been nothing short of amazing with her. Usually, Kat and I just go to swim, but sometimes I put her in kid gym so I can swim alone for an hour or so.

When we swim at the pool, we play games, swim laps, and (yes, I know some people are against this next one) hang out in the hot tub. Because we typically go at the same time everyday, Kat knows the adults who are there to swim, and they all chat with her. A lot of them compliment me on how good I am with her, and how well I have handled some of her meltdowns– but never once have I felt judged or like someone was annoyed by her meltdowns. Joining the gym last year was a really great thing for us.

So, anyway, I’ve really only ever used the pool, and kid gym for Kat. I did a water aerobics class that I enjoyed last summer and fall, but then our schedule changed and I got out of the habit of going to class. Because I have been loving yoga so much, and because I have been in such a bad place, I looked at the class schedule this week for yoga classes at the gym, and found 2– maybe 3– classes that I could attend during the week in addition to my yoga class with Kris.

Saturday was the first one I have attended. The teacher was really nice, and I liked her class. It was strange to have poses called out, and to not talk about what I was feeling, or to pause and notice when something was coming up. For the most part, I was okay, but I did spend more of the hour in my head than I do when I am at yoga with Kris. With Kris, I am fully in my body, and really aware of everything. In this class, I started out like that, but as soon as we were on our backs and doing a hip stretch, I realized that wasn’t going to be possible. The hip stretch involved spreading the legs apart, which I didn’t do. I thought it might seem weird that I wasn’t doing it, but then decided that I wasn’t going to care. I was also hyper aware of the people next me, although I had made sure I was in the way back of the class, right next to the door. That helped, and it wasn’t so bad.

Thanks to Kris, I actually felt really confident that I was doing everything right, and that I could trust my body to square my hips, or line up my feet correctly for different poses. I don’t know when the last time I trusted my body like this was, but it felt good to do so. I didn’t know the proper names of the poses, so I had to watch the rest of the class and then follow along, but that was okay– anyone who was new to a yoga class would probably not know the names of the poses. Some of the poses, the class did differently then Kris had taught me, so I did them the way I learned.

Even though it wasn’t the same as doing yoga with Kris, I felt more grounded after class. It was good. And I did notice things coming up in class, in the same poses that they come up with Kris. Which just might be worth exploring further, I don’t know.

And, at the end of class, the teacher approached me. I thought she was going to tell me I had done so many things wrong that I needed to take the beginning yoga class (taught by the one person at the gym who has not been accepting of Kat) which I will never take. Instead, she told me I did a great job. She seemed surprised. At the beginning of class, when she asked if I had ever done yoga before, I told her I had taken mother-daughter yoga with my almost 5 year old (which is true, Kat and I did do yoga. We just only took like, 3 classes). I didn’t want to get into the whole private yoga lessons, or trauma informed yoga. So, I think it surprised her that I could keep up. It felt good to have the teacher of the class tell me “good job” but the moment she said it, and I felt that warmth of being considered good enough, I also felt that I didn’t need the outside validation. I like yoga, it grounds me, and it’s not about other people. It’s about me. And only me.

Breathe through it

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m heading into yoga. I don’t want to go. I’m so disconnected right now, and I’m not sure I want to be grounded, be here. It’s been a rough few days. If I were honest with myself, things haven’t felt okay since that Sunday in November when my Mom told me Kenny would be at the annual Christmas Party; he became more real in that moment, not just a figment of my imagination. That’s when all hell began breaking loose in my mind, and that’s when I began to to struggle.

Now, it seems as if everything is coming to a breaking point. I’m being bombarded by my past, and besieged by things happening in my present. I can’t escape. Being grounded is the worst thing possible, because my present only triggers my past. It’s not safe anywhere.

I run into yoga, 5 minutes late because Kat had a meltdown over me leaving her this morning. We ran into the child who assaulted her this weekend, and Kat has been especially clingy, and acting out since then. “I’m so sorry, it was a rough morning,” I say to Kris as I pull my black boots off and follow her into the studio.

“It’s no problem, really. I was having a morning, too. Changing my schedule has really confused me,” she says, smiling and sitting down on her mat.

I throw my coat and bag in the corner, and join her in the center of the room, on my mat.

“You’re wearing orange today. Color, I like it,” Kris remarks.

I groan. “Yeah. I need to do laundry. I’m behind in everything. I can’t catch up, it’s been….I don’t know. Anyways.” And then I remember I never took my morning medication today. We talk about being sore, not sleeping, life being hard right now.

“Why don’t we do some gentle stretches for the hips and lower back, and then do the same for the shoulders and upper back? I always think when we are in pain, and not getting enough rest, that stretching like that is most helpful to bring relief to those muscles.” Kris is so calm. I don’t know what it is about her; she just has this peace and calmness about her, this acceptance. I forget what a relief it is to be around her until I’m here, in the studio.

“Okay, sure.” I nod in agreement.

“Would it be okay if I came and sat next to you and walked you through a hip stretch?” Kris asks me. She always asks. In a trauma informed yoga class, the instructor always asks questions, or phrases things like “what would happen if….?” and, “if it’s available to you…” rather than giving strict instructions.

Kris moves over to sit next to me, and I lay on my back, knees bent. We go through a series of stretches, pulling one knee to my chest, straightening my leg, rolling it to the side, folding myself into a pretzel like twist that stretches my lower back and surprises me when I feel that stretch.

“Can you bring that right foot to the left knee?” Kris asks.

I move my right leg, awkward and unsure. Sometimes the instructions are so simple, but I have to really think and focus on them. It’s been a long time since I have been in my body and present.
“You’ll make a number four,” Kris says.

“Oh, okay,” I smile. I get it. As soon as I have my right foot to my left knee, making a number four, I feel………… something. I still don’t know what that something was. Tears just start leaking out of my eyes, and I’m furiously blinking them away, so angry at myself.

Kris moves a box of Kleenex over to me. “What’s coming up for you right now?”

I shake my head. I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

“We can stop at anytime, do something else, skip this part. It’s okay.” She says this very softly, almost serenely. She’s okay with whatever comes up, with however the session progresses.

I shake my head, pull my knees into my chest and cover my face with my hands for a minute. “I’m fine. I’m fine. We don’t need to skip it.”

“Let’s just take a minute, breathe through whatever is coming up, know that it won’t last, nothing lasts forever, know that whatever you are feeling is okay, know that you are okay, that you are safe.” Kris isn’t going to let me just bypass this, or dissociate it away.

I put my body back into the number four position, and again feel something. We breathe through it together; me following Kris’s lead. We move through the series of stretches.

Kris has me place my right foot to the ground, crossing over my left leg and pulling my left leg to the floor as well. Pushing my right knee down creates a stretch in my lower back that alarms me. I pull away from the exercise.

“What’s coming up for you? What are you feeling?” She asks me.

“My back…I don’t know.” I shake my head, and tears come falling down again. What is wrong with me?

“Okay. We don’t want to do anything that is hurting, we don’t want to cause an injury.”

“No…it’s more like a big stretch.” I say, after I think about it.

“Ahhh,” She nods her head, “Those lower back muscles of yours are always tensed. I think that they are locked in a flight or fight pattern, part of the PTSD if you will, and they never relax.” She talks a little more about it, but the gist is those muscles are always tense, never having come out of the flight or fight response.

“Okay,” I say to her. I’ll try it.

“Can you breathe through it for even one breath? I just have a feeling teaching your body new responses is what is needed to help with some of the physical pain. If we can teach your body that it’s safe to relax, create new synopses…’s hard work. You have been working so incredibly hard these last few months. I know that. This isn’t easy. It’s painful and tough.” Kris is sitting near me, but she has been very still this whole time. My guess is that she doesn’t want to startle me.
“I don’t know why I just can’t do this, it should be so easy…….okay. Let’s try.” I move back into position, and push my right knee to the floor. Kris breathes with me, and I make it through three breathes before I’m done, and move my feet back to the floor, knees bent. Tears fall again.

“You’re okay. You did it. That was hard, you breathes through it. You’re safe,” Kris tells me gently. “Stretch out, wiggle around and relax for a moment before we do the left side.”

I don’t. I stay like I am, feet flat on the floor, knees bent. I never relax, and I never really wiggle like she suggests after a stretch.

“Okay, let’s try this before we do the left hip. What would happen if you increased the arch in your back while breathing in, and then pressed your back flat to the floor while exhaling?” Kris suggests. When I lay on my back, it naturally arches off the floor; I can fit my arm between my back and the floor and still have room above my arm.

I start to follow her instructions, but when I press my lower back to the floor, my pelvis lifts up. And I’m triggered, again, just like that. I don’t know why. I feel like a failure, why can’t I do something that is so simple?

“What’s coming up for you?” Kris asks.

I can’t answer. Tears just slowly fall, and I wipe them away.

“It’s okay. Sometimes things come up, that happens in this work.” Kris hands me a Kleenex.

“I just can’t do it. I don’t know why.”

We talk about back muscles being tensed for flight or fight, she tells me that asking the body to do something that is unnatural to it can bring up a lot of feelings, that it’s okay. I keep trying, but my back can’t get near the floor.

Kris has me get up, and she shows me how her own back arches up. She says that while not exactly the same, she had her own trauma that left her body in a permanent state of fight or flight. “You can put your hand under my back, I want you to feel something,” she says to me.

I look at her, uncertain. I don’t touch people. I’m touchy feely with my kid, and that’s about it. “It’s okay. Really,” she tells me, and so I put my hand under her back. It’s arched, naturally off the floor, almost as much as mine is. She goes through the arch up, and press down movements, and she can’t get her back to the floor, either. However, each time she does the exercise, her back gets straighter and closer to the floor.

“My back won’t touch the floor. It just doesn’t. There’s nothing wrong with you. You aren’t a failure, or doing this wrong. It just is what the body knows. We are teaching the body something different, and that takes time.” Kris gets up off the mat, and smiles at me.

I take her place, try again. Through tears, I go through the exercise twice. After that, it’s too much and I can’t do it anymore. I sit up for a minute.

“Let’s breathe for a moment, and then move onto that left hip,” she suggests.
I nod, trying to get a grip on myself. Why am I such a mess?

“Are you okay? It seems like a lot is coming up for you today.”

I insist I’m fine, and we move through the hip stretches on the left leg. After, as we sit in hero pose, and breathe through the feelings that have come up today, Kris looks at me. “I want to tell you to just relax for a moment, but I know you can’t do that yet, your body doesn’t know how. Let’s breathe and try to feel the mat below us and stretch up tall……” We breathe for a few minutes, and then Kris starts talking again, softly but very direct. “There is nothing wrong with you. I want you to know that, to hear that. There is nothing wrong with you.”

I stare back at her, unsure. “Well….there’s a lot wrong, but thank you.”

“No, there is nothing wrong. You are working very hard to heal, to be better, and that can feel like the world is caving in on you at times. But there is nothing wrong with you”

“Okay.” I shrug. I agree to get her to stop talking, to let it go.

We wrap up the session, and I head home, all the while thinking I am more connected to my yoga teacher than my shrink right now. And then I tell myself to breathe through it.

Building a new relationship with my body

I had yoga today, and I realized, I have not written about yoga for a while. I always mean to, but I never seem to find the time. I love yoga. I love my yoga teacher, Kris, and I love my yoga practice with her. We’ve developed a relationship where she allows me to help direct where the practice goes each day. We base things on what my osteopath finds is going on with my body, on what I’m feeling that week, physically and emotionally, and on what Kris has planned. Sometimes, when I’m having difficult time getting out of my head, I’ll ask Kris to do anything she would like, as long as it is complicated and challenging. Sometimes, I need easy and familiar yoga poses to help me connect to my body. It depends on the day. But I’m learning what I need, and the awesome thing about private class is I can ask for it, and we can do it.

A few weeks ago, before Christmas, I joked to her that I wanted to do a back bend. She decided that I could do a back bend, because my body does move that way, and after a few yoga classes of stretching and working our way to it, and getting permission from my osteopath, I did indeed do a wheel pose, from s standing position. It was exciting, just to realize I could do that, and not fall; that my body was strong enough and flexible enough to catch me and hold me in a position I hadn’t been in for well over 15 years.

Since then, Kris has incorporated many different kinds of back bends into our yoga practice. I always like doing back bends, because it’s something I find easy to do. Prior to that, she had been focusing on hip movements and poses, and keeping the hips squared, because Dr. B (my osteopath) was always finding that my hips are unaligned and was always having to adjust them. I’m amazed that after weeks of practicing this in yoga, it started to become second nature to me in real life, too, and Dr. B hasn’t had to adjust my hips for several weeks now.

The most recent thing Dr. B has been wanting me to do is work on letting my shoulders relax down and back, instead of rounding them forward and up. I told Kris this, and we have been working on opening up and stretching the chest and dropping the shoulders down and back. Dr. B says this will help my back and neck and should help relieve some of the tension type headaches I suffer from on a daily basis.

The first day that I talked to Kris about this and we tried this in class, it felt so exposing to have my shoulders down and back, and to feel a stretch across my collar bones. It’s not a natural position for my body to be in anymore. It’s uncomfortable. It’s been three weeks now, and it’s feeling more comfortable, to the point where I will even attempt to drop my shoulders when I am at home.

In yoga, this means that I get to learn new, harder back bends, because those are not only comfortable for my body, they open the chest and put the shoulders back naturally. Today I did one of the more advanced back bends, and it felt amazing. I was shocked that I could even do it.

Kris approaches yoga with the attitude that it is play, just fun, it is about learning what we can do. She approaches it specifically with me asking the question, “what would happen if……..?” And with the idea of allowing me to learn and build a new relationship with my body, one where I am present and its okay and safe to be fully grounded in my body. Kris is so calm, and she is really enthusiastic about yoga, about being present and connected to everything; it’s hard to explain, but she just has this presence of being there, but not in an overwhelming way.

There are moments where I get upset or stressed out, though. Today, for example, after doing the new back bend pose, we went into a series of poses we do frequently, they stretch the legs and hips. When I went into a low lunge pose, my back leg started to shake from the stretch– most likely because of the new way it has moved earlier– and I got a bit freaked out. I told Kris my leg was shaking, and she continued with the series of poses, speaking calmly. I followed along, but it all became more mechanical, and more of a not here type feeling. I didn’t like not feeling in control of what was happening in my body. This is the whole reason it is not safe to be grounded in my body, the entire reason it is a hundred times safer to live in my head. To go from feeling to strong and capable and so alive to scared and weak and out of control is disconcerting.

After the series of poses was through, we sat in what is known as hero’s pose. Kris asked me what was going on when my led started to to shake, if I could share. I stuttered for a minute, and finally managed to tell her that I’m a control freak and I don’t like to be not in control. She talked about that for a moment, something about being in our bodies means we are in control, even if we are not controlling every muscle spasm. I’m not sure exactly what she said, because I wasn’t totally there. We did some breathing, and I left grounded enough to face the grocery store, but still as disconnected as I could be from my body.