I need him to be wrong 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s still so horrible,” I whisper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s not angry.” I tell her. 

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

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

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

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

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

I nod. Okay. 

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

“I can try.” My voice is tiny. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know.” 

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

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

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

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

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

“What about turning on a light?” 

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

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

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

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

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

“But what?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I keep crying. 

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

“Okay. Okay,” I sniffle. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Maybe I quit

Things have been…..well, not great. I’ve been functioning thanks to the perfect part of me. I had therapy today, after a week and a half break. It wasn’t good. I’m thinking of quitting. It was awful. I shouldn’t have gone. I never ever should have shown up. 

I talked about nothing, surface stuff, a monologue designed to keep Bea from talking about serious stuff. 

She eventually brought up the last week and when I emailed and felt like her email back was shrinky and gone. She said how we’ve just always had contact and that maybe it would be more fair to me to have no contact unless it’s an emergency, so I wouldn’t have to do this contact her, feel like she’s gone, be hurt, and shut down thing. She said maybe she should set a no outside contact boundary. That she can imagine it is painful to feel like she’s gone or not responding in the was I need, that clearly I had a need she wasn’t meeting that last week, but that she thought about it and maybe it was an opportunity for growth for me. So now she doesn’t even want to email with me. Which is where most of my talking comes out– in writing. I just shut down. I wanted to cry, walk out, hurt myself. Instead I went far away to that quiet fuzzy floaty place in my head. I like it there. 
TRIGGER WARNING!!!

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She asked how I moved from needing something from her to being okay, what was that like for me, what was my process? She said it was okay if I was mad at her. Nothing, I said. I’m fine, I’m not mad at you, everything is okay. She says it’s okay if it’s not fine, but it sounds hollow. I don’t believe her this time. And my process? I cut when the feelings get out of control, when I’m too far away, when I’m not numb enough. I stuff food on top of the feelings, the memories, the pain. If I put enough food on top of it, I can bury it awhile. Then I feel gross, dirty for shoving food in my mouth and I go throw it up. That helps too. It fixes everything for a while. So there. That’s my process. 

💥💥💥END TRIGGER 💥💥💥

I can’t do this. I really can’t. I can’t tell her how much she is hurting me. I can’t talk to her. And it’s only getting worse, going today made it worse. And now I don’t see her for a whole week. I waht to disappear. I want to not exist right now. It’s all too much. I’m not sure I can fake my way through this. I’m going to try. But going to see Bea today was a horrible stupid awful thing. Kat has an appointment on Wednesday in the afternoon (I go in the morning usually but Bea has an appointment) and I don’t think I can take Kat. I’m not sure I can face Bea right now. I don’t know what I feel towards her, but it’s a lot of painful hurt feelings, frustration that she wouldn’t just let me have my happy surface monologue, anger over this past month of December, this painful feeling of needing her and not being able to talk to her, and more things mixed up. I don’t even know what to do now. 

I ended up writing and email, and I sent it. Of course, I haven’t heard back and I’m unsure if I will……….

Bea, 

I’m not even sure it’s okay to email right now. So I’m sorry. I’m definitely not going to talk about this right now. Sooooo, writing is all I have……….

I wrote this last night, to give you today. Obviously I didn’t give it to you….


So. I’m here. And I’m probably not talking, or I’ve spoken an entire monologue about nothing. I don’t want to be here today. I do NOT want to talk about things. I don’t even know what to write to you here. I have a journal, letter, something….writing…that I’ve been writing since the beginning of December— December 5, I think, I started it after that really bad last week of November– and I feel like I can’t give it to you to read. I’m stuck and lost and this is silly. I’m wasting your time and I am sorry. I don’t know what to do now. 

That was something I had written to give you today. And I couldn’t even do that. I don’t know what to say. Today made things feel worse, so much worse. I wish you would have just let me keep the happy-everything-is-fine-on the surface monologue. I really really needed to stay on the surface. I’m kicking myself for not just cancelling. Because I knew it wouldn’t be good. I just can’t handle this. 

Honestly, right now, my instinct is to quit therapy. To hide out in this nice bubble and to have everything be okay, and just fine; to stop everything, thinking and feeling and talking and being more than a facade of perfect, because I can’t do this. My instinct is to quit, and to have Kat take a break for a few weeks. I feel like my entire life is spinning out of control, with the bottom dropped out from under me, and I have no one to talk to. Absolutely no one. I don’t want to talk about this relationship. I’m not mad at you. I’m something but it’s all these things twisted together and I can not, will not, make myself so vulnerable to talk about this, to talk to you about you mattering to me, about you hurting my feels myself. No. I won’t. I can’t. 

So now want? Because I’m lost, and afraid and alone and the only thing my map is telling me to do is to run away. 
Alice 

A lot (11/9/26)

I’m on the phone when I walk into Bea’s office this morning. The girl who is like a little sister to me is upset. She’s about to spin out over the results of the election. I don’t have words of wisdom, I can’t say anything to make it better, I can’t logic her into a calmer state, I can’t change the outcome for her. I wish I could. Oh, if I only could. I tell her I have to go, I’m walking into therapy, but I will text her when I get out, see how she is. She says okay. I hang up the phone, hoping she takes my advice to stay off facebook for a while, and to get out of the house, to go for a walk, to do a project, not to wallow. 

Bea looks up from her chair when I walk into her office. “I thought you had someone with you,” she says. You’re usually so quiet!” 

I shake my head, drop my phone into my bag. “No, just a phone call. [little sister] is close to spinning out.” 
“And you were trying to pre-empt the spin out,” she says knowingly. 

I nod. “Yeah. Trying. I told her to get outside. To go for a walk. To take the kid she nannies to the library. I told her I would call her after I left her, check in on her” 

“Good advice. She’s lucky to have you.” Bea says. 

We flow into talking about some issues Kat is having at school. I tell Bea how even this issue feel manageable because the school was so supportive during Kat’s meltdown, and she is very pleased to hear this. We don’t spend long talking about Kat, it’s more me letting Bea know the things we are working on, and how Kat is feeling. 

Bea easily transitions us to talking about me. “On Monday, something came up, and you said you thought you could write about it. Did you bring any writing with you today?” 

I instantly go a bit farther away. I need that distance from her, from reality, from myself. I shake my head. “I……” I think I might throw up. “I……couldn’t. I tried.” 
I’m far away, yet also jumpy. I keep looking around the room, not really seeing Bea’s hard wood floor, or the blue rug, or anything else. 

“You tried,” Bea echoes what I’ve said, and she sound solid and grounded. “It was hard to write about then. Did you write about trying to write? Sometimes you do that.” 

I shake my head. “No…..no…..nothing.” I sigh. I’m fidgeting with my fingers, picking at them and sort of scratching at my wrists. 

“Okay, that’s okay. You tried to write about it, and it was really hard to do. Can we stay with ‘I tried’, and what feelings that brings up?” Bea suggests gently. 

I’m still sitting up, trying to not hide my face, trying to be *good*. I feel tears welling up, and I blink them away, furiously. I can not do this. It’s too much. I cover my face with my cupped hands, as a few tears roll down my cheeks. I manage to stop them, and I wipe furiously at my face, before lifting my head again. 

We sit in silence, Bea talking off an on, trying to help me. “I wonder if taking a few deep breaths would be good. If that would help you feel a little more grounded, so you can find your words,” she says softly. “Sometimes when I can’t find my thoughts, if I take a few deep breaths, that helps.” She offers up feeling words, for what trying to write might have felt like. “Sad? Scared? Frustrated? Tired? Something that’s not those, other?” 

I shake my head. I don’t know how to tell her about this. 

“I think it’s important we try to stay with this, that this is important, but we can take a break and come back to it, because I also think we need to stay in your window so you have words.” She pauses for a moment, and then very gently, and very carefully she says, “We don’t have to use words, there are other ways we can communicate and get things out. Words are what you feel comfortable with and I want to respect that, and help you find words.” Bea pauses again, maybe trying to give me space to speak, or to think, or maybe both. “You know…..even not having words is communicating a lot. Most communication isn’t in words. I know you need it to be in words, and that is okay, but I think….you should know, not having words, that is communication, too. I can feel how helpless you feel, how stuck you feel. Because not being to help you find words, not being able to make this better, I feel helpless in that. So not having words can communicate a lot.” 

I’ve been breathing and trying to be more grounded the whole time she has been talking, and so I’m finally able to make some sense of the mess in my head, and I try to explain it to Bea. “I……it’s……it’s just…….I can’t…….” My head is still too mixed up, and I’m drowning in feeling, too many feelings. I take a deep breath, start again. “The dream…….we were talking about the dream…..and something came up. And I couldn’t…..talk…..I tried to write……it’s….it’s just there, always there. It never stops. I couldn’t stop him. I didn’t stop him. All I feel is out of control and scared. I can’t do this.” The words rush out, and tears are falling now and I’m staring at the floor, covering my face with my hands and then moving them. I’m picking at my fingers, scratching at my hands. 

“You couldn’t stop him, and all those out of control feelings are coming up now. It was too overwhelming to try to think about it and write.” Bea says softly. She is quiet for a bit, and I’m going back and forth, hiding my face, uncovering it, but refusing to look up. I want to badly to bury my face and just hide. I don’t think I can handle being somewhat present, and feeling all these feelings and seeing Bea there, knowing she is there and understanding and accepting of all of me……it’s a lot. 
Something clues Bea into this, and she says, “It’s okay to do what you need to do to feel safe. What we want to do, is help you to stay in your window. Staying in your window doesn’t mean that you have to sit up, or that you can’t hide.” 

The grown up part of me feels like an idiot, but the little girl hugs her knees and buries her face. I need some distance, I need to hide.  

“He didn’t stop,” I cry. “He didn’t stop.” 

“No, he didn’t stop,” Bea echoes. She’s never shied away from stating the hard facts. “You survived. You are here, now, because you survived.” 

“I couldn’t stop him. I didn’t say no, I can’t do anything, he can do whatever he wants and no one is coming and everything is out of control and he acts like he is being nice but he isn’t, he isn’t nice and I just want it all to stop and go away.” I’m half there and half here, and I’m getting confused, switching between past and present tense as I speak to Bea. 
Bea murmurs soothing words, and she echoes what I’m telling her. She’s right here and grounded and she hears me. 

“No one is coming, no one sees. No one WANTS to see.” I say the words quietly, little girl soft, and then tears come back again. I’ve never felt so out of control, so alone, so lost. It’s as if I am free falling through space and time, and there is no one to catch me. I am at a loss of how to describe this. 

“No one came. And no one saw, no one was able to see, for whatever reason. No one was able to see, and that hurts. They didn’t get it.” 

“He hurt me. He’s hurting me, he’s hurting me…….no one is here, and he is hurting me….. He hurt me.” I whisper the words, over and over, starting to panic, starting to realize the sheer size of these feelings, and I can’t contain them. It’s too much, I can’t do this, never mind, stop. Just stop. 

“He hurt you. He hurt you, but he did not win. You survived. You survived. You’re here, now, in my office, it’s you and me, in the office. You are safe now. It’s safe here.” Listening to her, I start to calm down. She says, “No one was there then. You aren’t alone now.” 

I sniffle, but don’t reply right away. Finally, I whisper, “Are you here?”

“I’m here. I’m right here with you, I’m not going anywhere. We are on this journey together.” 

“Do you get it?” I ask quietly. I want to believe she is here with me, I want to believe she isn’t leaving me, I want to believe she gets it. But I’m unsure and a more than a little afraid to take the risk of trusting right now. 

“I understand how alone you felt then, and how you still feel that way now. I understand there is a lot of grief and loss and confusion for you now. I understand that it’s really hard to sit with those feelings of overwhelm. I know it doesn’t always feel like it happened in the past, and I know it’s easy for me to offer things up, to remind you that you survived, and that sometimes you don’t really feel like you survived, and that it’s much harder to do the things I suggest than I make it sound. I know this is all scary and hard and it’s twice as scary and hard when you feel all alone. I feel like I get it, but only you can really answer that. I think…..you should know, if I’m not getting something, it’s not for not caring, and I want to know that I’m not getting it, because I do want to get it.” Bea’s voice is full of……care? Compassion? I’m not sure what, exactly, but it’s hard to stay present and not only hear her but feel what she is saying. The weight of the feelings behind her words is too much. Why is it just as hard to hold onto good feelings as bad? Why is she caring about me? Does she really care, or is this just a job to her? Is it part of her work to care? Is it real or pretend? (Writing this now, I’m seeing this parallel between my family pretending to love no matter what, but the real truth was there were contingencies with their love, and a parallel with Kenny, who pretended to care, who said nice things and claimed to love me, to care about me, to want to help me, and he hurt me. Is it any wonder I am unsure if Bea is real or pretend at times? And then all of that confusion is added to the therapist type relationship, which makes it even more odd and confusing.)

I nod my head, whisper, “okay.” It’s all I can say, and it’s enough to open the flood gates. “I don’t want to be alone with this anymore,” I cry. 

Bea says soothingingly, “You aren’t alone now. I am here. You are doing so good at sitting with these tough feelings, staying in your window. I know it’s not easy, but you are doing it.” 
We sit in quiet for a bit, then. After a while, she says, “You don’t have to do anything, you don’t even have to listen to this, you can tell me to stop talking. I’m noticing you are shaking, you are scared and your body is shaking. I can see you scratching at your wrists, you are feeling so hopeless and scared. This is trauma, too. It’s stored trauma coming out, just like your words, and just like your tears. If there was something you wanted to do, a movement you want to make, we can do that.” 

I want to claw my skin off, because I have the creepy crawly skin tingly feeling I get with some flashbacks. I’m not about to tell Bea that though, because it’s too much to say out loud, and I don’t want the feeling on my skin to be real, so I shake my head no, and keep shaking it. 

“No, I can see you are saying no. That feels too scary, and it’s okay. I’m just going to say one more thing, just so you know this. If you ever want me to sit nearer or farther away, or to come hold your hand when we are dealing with these memories, these feelings, I can, I will. If that would help you to know I’m here when you can’t look at me, if that would help you to know you aren’t alone, or to feel safe, I can do that. All you have to do is let me know.” Bea speaks slowly, carefully, but again it has that same caring tone. 

I don’t say anything, and I don’t shake my head yes or no. The lonely scared little girl part who just wants someone to make her feel safe wants to reach out her hand. The rest of me is against the idea. The grown up feels like I’m too old to need my therapist to hold my hand. The teen doesn’t trust it. And really, I don’t know what the little girl is thinking; I don’t even like holding my husband’s hand. Hand holding doesn’t feel all that safe; if another is holding your hand, they then have control over where your hand is, they can move it anywhere they like. Kenny used holding my hand to move my hand to certain……areas. It doesn’t matter. I can’t reach my hand out, I can’t reach for her. 

Bea meets me where I am at, instead. She talks about how sad I am feeling, how she can see that grief and confusion and pain. She tells me how she can see that I am struggling to not be overwhelmed, and she echoes what I have said: “He hurt you. He hurt you and you were little and couldn’t do anything. But you survived. You are here, and you survived. You are okay. You are here, and I am here, and you are safe now.” 

I cry off and on some more, and Bea and I talk about that out of control feeling. It feels as though it has invaded my life, even though logically I know that isn’t true. 

“This is a lot. It’s a lot and it’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of time, because it is a lot to deal with. You are doing it, even if it feels like you aren’t. And I’m here, even when you can’t feel it. I’m here.” Bea reminds me as I slip my shoes back on and pick up my coffee from the side table. 

“Thanks,” I say, blinking rapidly to hold back tears that are threatening to fall. 

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

“Yeah. I’ll see you later,” I whisper the words as they rush out in a quick burst. I half run half walk down the stairs before I even finish speaking. I have to get out of there. I can’t breathe. I get in the car, and just sit for a few minutes until I’m in that here but not here space and am capable of driving. 

“They’ll have to go through me” (11/7/16) 

I talk about nonsense– the morning and traffic and how foggy it is outside. 

We slowly go into talking about hubby’s hunting trip, and how he had lessened the days he will be gone. Bea says, “It was good you discussed it in therapy, how was that, to talk something like that through in therapy?”

I correct her, “No, we didn’t go last week because Kat was sick and I just acted like a brat to prove my point (snarky teen really helped with that) and hubby cancelled therapy but never rescheduled and we can really only see Kim once in December and not in November now at all and that seems like too much space between appointments, but whatever.”

 “Did you feel relieved or upset to miss therapy? Was it like, oh good, I don’t have to go deal with this today? Or maybe more like, you had psyched yourself up to go, and now had to cancel?” 

“Neither. Both. I don’t know.” I’m really unsure exactly. “I’m more upset that we are missing so many appointments and that hubby never rescheduled.”

“That makes sense. For you, it’s going to be about the relationship. And a lot of time between appointments can feel like you are starting over at each appointment.” Bea agrees. 

“She made me so mad one appointment…..she was saying that all the feeling words and labeling feelings and staying with feelings is hard for hubby, it’s hard for men, and when I said I didn’t grow up like that either, she said that it was easier for women. That isn’t fair. She doesn’t know me. It’s not fair to make this generalization. I said, no, not really, and that I learned in therapy.” 

“And what did she say?” Bea asks. 

“I don’t know. I was already too far away by that point to know.” I shrug. 

“That’s okay. It’s okay. I’m glad you were able to correct the assumption she made. Too be honest, I’m sure I’ve made similar assumptions. It really isn’t fair, is it? We sort of coddle men around that in couples therapy, and it is unfair. It’s male privilege, assuming they need more help with feelings, or that women don’t need to,work just as hard.” Bea says.
 
“Thank you! I mean…..It’s like, you know, I couldn’t even label my feelings except to say happy or bad or I would say I was feeling like I wanted to go for a walk, or feeling like I needed to go to bed when I started seeing you. I couldn’t stay with my feelings, and there was any number of feelings I wouldn’t even admit existed. I didn’t know how to be present. And I couldn’t feel my body at all, unless I was in some kind of extreme pain.” 

Bea nods. “That’s right. I forget how far we have come. I forgot about all the work we did with the kimochis around naming feelings and with working to feel even little bits of your body and to sit with your feelings. You’ve come a long way with feelings.”  

“I feel like hubby and I are on equal playing fields now, because…..like, he might have trouble with feelings, but when he is present he is able to label them and handle them. Not great, but you know…..better than I could before I started therapy. And his mom didn’t have issues with feelings existing, her feelings were just really big. Always, these huge feelings.” 

“Hmmmm……….and maybe that is part of his discomfort with big feelings.” Bea says. 

We talk about that for a bit, and then she says, “I want to make sure we have time to dig into your stuff a little before our time is up today. Is there anything coming up for you, anything you want to talk about?” Bea looks at the clock and says we have 40 minutes left. I wonder how I used up almost an hour. Oops. 

I shrug. I feel myself going away, just a little. I force myself to stay sitting up, I don’t want her to get shrinky about me curling up. 

“Maybe we need a checklist, like eating and sleeping, feeling grounded or dissociated, that kind of thing. We could use it to start sessions, to sort of guide us.” 

I think that she wants a damn plan because SP says we need a plan and so I had told her things I needed to talk about and told her to put them in her plan, but then she ruined that by being shrinky and now I can not talk to her about what was in the plan because it feels too scary to really trust that she is there and present and not gone and I’m too closed down to feel if she is or isn’t there. 

“I was glad the little girl reached out on Wednesday night. I wonder how the little girl has been feeling since then, how you are feeling?”

 I feel tears behind my eyes. ‘Go away, Bea. Just shut up,’ I think. 

She eventually throws out ideas, “Is she still feeling alone? Is she angry? Maybe you are annoyed with her for emailing me? What is the feeling that first made made it okay to email me?”

When I don’t answer her, she lands on the fact we had talked about finding a middle— somewhere between on the surface and present and talking about deeper things and far, far away. She asks if the dream I’d written about (the one we were supposed to work through on Wednesday but didn’t) would be a middle place? The reaction is instant. I cover my face, as I feel hot and cold in my body, my heart pounds, I feel tears falling down my cheeks and I am frozen. I shake my head. No, no it is most certainly not a middle place. 

“Have you still been having the dream?”  
It take me a minute, or longer, to work through the fog. Slowly, I nod, and then silent tears turn to sobs. 

“I don’t think I have a copy of the dream,” Bea says. 

It feels like a long time before I eventually sit up, pull my blanket scarf over my face, find the dream on my iPad,, and hand the iPad to her. 

And my dream. I’ve been trying to write it out, but I can’t. I feel sort of silly writing it out, because there is this very much hazy weird dreamy, it’s not real quality to it, but I’m so scared and upset when I wake for it, that I can’t really shake that feeling when I’m thinking about it either. It’s more of a fuzzy thing as opposed to my usual nightmares that are so crisp and clear. 

It always starts out the same. I think I’m me, like just regular me-me and I’m with hubby. We’re playing at the park I used to play at when I was a kid, even though I’m pretty sure we aren’t really kids but I’m happy and the sun is shiny and it’s a good day. And then someone asks hubby something, and he says okay. Suddenly he’s gone, and I’m not really me, I’m actually a Barbie sized doll, so it’s just my mind that is there, really, because the rest of me is a doll, and I’m being picked up and carried away. And then things get really messy and scary. For a lot of the dream I’m made to do things I don’t want to do, wear clothes I don’t like, ext, ext……think of a child playing with a doll. It’s like that. Except it’s not a kid playing. I don’t know who it is, but he isn’t nice. The dream jumps around a lot, from place to place, or maybe *scene* to *scene*. At some point in the dream, I get passed around, like kids do with dolls, and then I’m thrown in the bottom of a toy bin and forgotten about. There’s more specifics, and sometimes it’s different, but that’s the general overview. Crazy and weird. And so absurd, it’s silly, and I feel seriously ridiculous for being afraid of this dream, for waking up scared out of my mind from it. I mean, seriously?!?! I have nightmares that are like flashbacks, replicas of my memories and they are so real and terrifying. It is silly that this dream is bothering me. But I’ve been having it for weeks now, always more or less the same, and it’s not going anywhere. 

She reads, and I try to stay sitting up. When she says it is a very scary dream, I’m okay. But when she asks me about it, and talks about why it would be so scary, I can’t stay here, and I bury my face again, sitting princess style, my legs tucked under me knees bent and to the right, with my upper body turned to the left, arms encircling the pillows I’d buried my face in. 

“This dream is very scary. It’s a lot. You don’t usually have more symbolic trauma dreams, but those can feel just as real as the reality based ones, and even scarier sometimes because what you are left with are all these very big feelings.” 

I can’t talk about this, it’s too much, I change my mind. I don’t know. “It really scares me,” I tell Bea.

“I can see why! You know…..when kids play out trauma here, they always start their play with ‘it was a normal day’ or ‘it was a good day’. And that’s really speaking to the heart of trauma, right? Scary things don’t happen when we are expecting them to happen, they can happen anytime time, and even on a good day or a normal day. That is part of what makes trauma so scary.” 

“I didn’t know that was how kids play.” The words are whispered. It’s interesting to me that this is how kids start off their play, and that this dream feels very much like a dream a child would have. It just doesn’t feel very adult to me. 

“There is so much here that this dream speaks to. The wedding, even, and hubby saying yes to you dancing with Kenny. Feeling so abandoned by that, and even more so, how it parallels your mom leaving you and you feeling helpless to stop it as a child. It speaks to you being frozen and it speaks to your having to be that perfect girl, having to act how your mom needed you to act, as if you were a doll.”

I’m trying so hard not to cry, but I don’t succeed. 

“Can we try something?” Bea asks. 

“Maybe.” I don’t quite trust her not to try to mix in some SP stuff, or not to turn shrinky. 

“Can the doll in the dream move?”

I shake my head. “She’s a doll. She can’t do anything.” 

“Hmmm. Okay. Can we pretend she can move?” 

“I guess.” 

“If the doll could move, what would she want to do in the dream?” Bea asks me. 

I don’t answer right away. The words are in my head, they are just hard to get out. “She’d run away and hide.” 

“Yeah, she would run away and hide. Where would she hide?” Bea’s voice is soft, it’s the voice she uses when the little girl is running the ship.

“I don’t know. Somewhere really good.”

“What about somewhere in my office? Could the doll hide in my office?” She suggests. 

I nod my head; I like that idea. 

“Where would she hide here? She’s tiny, which is lucky because she has lots of places to hide.” 

“Behind something big and heavy. So no one could move it and make her come out.” I’m being very serious, this is serious business to the little girl. 

“Maybe behind the couch?” I shake my head no. 

“Maybe behind the toy shelf?” She gestures behind her, and I shake my head no again. 

“Maybe in my messy closer, behind the shelf in there?” Bea suggests. 

“Maybe,” I say. 

Bea gets up and opens the door to the closet, so I can see. 

“Yes. The doll could hide behind the big shelf in your closet.” I agree. 

Bea shuts the door and sits back down. We talk about the doll hiding a little bit more, and how she is safe now and then we wrap things up. “If you wake up from bad dreams tonight, remind yourself the doll can get away, and she can hide behind the big shelf, in the closet, in my office. And anyone who wants to hurt the doll will have to get through me first,” Bea says. 

I nod, feeling a little bit embarrassed, because the little girl isn’t running things anymore, and grown up me is embarrassed to have acted like such a child. I won’t admit it to Bea, but it is comforting to think of someone having to go through her to get to the doll. It means I’m safe. 

Trusting that someone will really be there is a challenge….

Where we left off: I had tearfully asked Bea,”Don’t be shrinky,” and she had replied that she wouldn’t be, that she didn’t want to be be shrinky. After that, no one said anything for a minute. 

Bea breaks the silence, saying, “I feel like a mom with an infant, a mom who really wants to know her baby, but then she can’t figure out what the baby needs or how to help the baby, but she cares so much about and wants to protect and help her baby, so she keeps trying to find what can help. I think that is why I keep going back to SP, or art, or other things we can try. But maybe the baby doesn’t know what she needs right now, and that is okay. Just like a mother who loves her infant, I’m going to patiently sit here with you and try to help you figure it out. We can make sense of all of this together. I’m not leaving, I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to turn into a shrinky shrink. I’m right here, and I’m still me.” 

I don’t reply because I’m too far away to talk. There are a million thoughts running through my mind, but I can’t seem to form any of them into words, or conversation. 

“I sometimes wonder……….. we got in the habit of just allowing you to collapse in on yourself and hide, so that you could talk…….. if that was the best thing. There is an SP exercise……you go from eye contact and connection to curling into yourself and hiding. It’s really hard to know someone is there for you when you are shut down and hiding. It’s amazing how making eye contact and having that connection really allows you to know that someone is there for you.” 

Bea is still talking and I’m freaking out inside. I can not do this. I don’t want to do this. It is not okay. I like hiding. I NEED to hide. Why is she talking about SP stuff again? I hate SP. 

“This isn’t anything I am expecting you to do. I know it wouldn’t feel safe to do an exercise like this right now. I’m telling you about it more so you might notice your experience right now. Maybe notice if it is hard to know I’m here, when you are so far away and closed off, when you can’t see me.” She talks about how it’s hard for me to reach out, to trust that someone is there, and how maybe it would be easier to reach out if I could see that she was physically there. 

At some point, something Bea says reminds me of couples therapy and I tell her that Kim wants me to talk to hubby. 

“In what way?” She asks. “About what?” 

“She said….if I can ask him or tell him what I need.” 

“Okay, so that is a good thing, because there is someone on your side, helping hubby to respond in ways that will make it safer for you to keep talking to him.” 

I shake my head. “I don’t think she is on my side.” I’m not sure whose side she is on, maybe on the side of my marriage being more than a surface relationship. I tell Bea “It’s is better to not ask for something than to ask for it and not…..be heard.” 

“That is an old belief. A really old belief, I think. At some point it became safer to not ask than risk being hurt.” 

“It’s hard to believe anyone is there. Because no one ever is. Everyone leaves.” The words are so silent, there is no weight to them at all, yet somehow they float between Bea and I and she hears them. 

“It is hard to believe someone is there for you. It’s hard to believe that when you reach out, someone will hear you and see you when you told adults in your life with everything but words what was happening with Kenny and no one was there, no one heard. You reached and no one was there. More fundamentally than that even, you couldn’t trust that the adults in your life would keep me safe. You didn’t get to have that safety in knowing someone was there and would keep you safe. Even developmentally, you learned that you couldn’t trust your mother to be there for you, you didn’t know if she would accept your feelings or fears or needs, or if she would reject them. That is a lot. It is no wonder it is hard for you to trust, to know that someone is there.”  

It makes sense, what she is saying. And I feel sad, that this is what my story is, that this is why it’s so hard for me to make connections and hold them, why it’s so hard for me to trust someone will be there. “That’s so much.” This time the weightless words don’t have enough substance to make it to Bea’s ears, and that is okay with me. I don’t repeat myself. 

Bea suggests that maybe we need to work on it being safe for me to really experience safety with another person. “Not just safety in talking to me, while you hide but safety in being able to reach for me and maintain the connection to really feel and know that I am here. Maybe we need to help establish safety in seeing me, while we talk about more uncomfortable things. I think you need to experience that, being able to see and deeply know someone is there for you.” 

I don’t love this idea, it feels very….vulnerable making. Not okay. I don’t say anything. I know this is probably some attachment stuff that needs working on. And that is uncomfortable for me. I hate attachment stuff. Hiding, not looking at someone when I talk, or sharing via email, it’s safer. It’s like that way if the person doesn’t respond, or isn’t there, it doesn’t hurt as much because I wasn’t really there either. On the flip side, that connection, seeing a person respond positively to me and really be there is just as scary. I don’t want to trust it, because as soon as I do, I have that much more to lose, there is that much more which can crush me. 

We go back to talking about couples therapy, and how all of this links back to that and the difficulty in me asking hubby for what I need or want. Bea asks questions and I answer them, haltingly. It’s a lot of starts and stops. Eventually I end up grabbing my iPad and pulling up what I had written about couples therapy (previously posted on the blog). In addition to that, I had written about the dream, but I told Bea I wasn’t sure I wanted her to read that part. 

She reads what I wrote about couple’s therapy. “You aren’t failing couples therapy!” And “it is a lot of risk for you to tell hubby what you need.” “Mmmmhmmm….so she did see that you maybe weren’t ready.” 

“Either that or she said it because I wasn’t talking.” 

Bea laughs, but it’s in that nice way she has, and she says, “I like to think she realized you weren’t ready. And it is okay that you aren’t ready. It is really okay.” 

“They both just think it’s so easy. But it’s not!” I shake my head and sigh. 

“I don’t think, well, I hope the therapist doesn’t think it’s so easy. I’d hope it would be obvious that if you are struggling with that, it isn’t easy for you. It is hard. And look at why. All the times you reached for help with the Kenny stuff and no one saw…..your mom stuff…..not being able to just trust that adults would keep you safe, how could you know that anyone was there? Right? It’s hard for you to even trust that I’m here, that I won’t leave, or turn shrinky, or just not be there.”

“It is hard to know that anyone is there.” I whisper. 

“I know. And so now we have this information that we didn’t have before. Now we know that really reaching for connection, and trusting that another will be there, is a big trigger. It triggered some trauma stuff, but also some developmental stuff, too. So that’s something we can work on– together, and slowly, at your pace.” Bea says.  

I shrug, and whisper, “Maybe.” 

“That’s a good place to start,” Bea says. “And I’m right here with you, even if you can’t see me right now.” 

(I’m going to write about the dream stuff in a separate post. We didn’t talk a lot about the dream, but agreed we could (maybe) start there on Wednesday.)

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

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

Hi Bea, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Alice 

The wedding and the aftermath 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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