The phone call 

Alice, just an FYI, I’ve had a cancellation and am free until 3:00pm of you would like to talk by telephone. -Bea

I stare at the email, unsure if I really want to call. I’m hiding out in our guest room, because the fan is the perfect noise filter so I can feel like I’m not being overheard. I have my water, my blanket, and my phone. I should just call her. I want to. Every time I read the email sent before the one offering to a phone call, I start to cry. If I read the entire thread, I feel hopeless, unheard, unseen, and alone, and all I want to do is quit therapy, forget about Bea. 

Instead I pull up her phone number and hit the call button on the screen.

“Hello?” She answers the phone with just the slightest question at the end of the word. 

Moments before, I’d been struggling not to cry, but now, all I can say is, “Hi.” 

“Hi there,” she says quietly. 

I can’t find my words, I say nothing. 

“I wasn’t sure you would call.” 

“Because you didn’t really want me to?” I whisper. 

“No! No, not at all! I guess I thought you might feel awkward because I know you don’t like to call me.” 

I don’t understand why she is telling me this, but not much makes sense to me these days. “Oh,” is all I can manage to say. 

Bea starts talking again, but I don’t hear her because Kat interrupts my phone call. She wants me to know she is going downstairs to play with her dolls. “All right, that’s fine.” My words are short and clipped, I’m annoyed. 

Bea has stopped talking, but I have no idea what she said before. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you were saying,” I tell her.

“Oh, can you hear me now?” 

“No, no, I could hear you, it was just Kat, I couldn’t hear you over her.” This isn’t going well. We aren’t connecting, it’s not better to be talking to her, we are just missing each other somehow. Why did she tell me I could call? Why did I take her up on it? 

“I’m sorry that I missed the mark earlier, that you felt more alone after emailing with me than before, I feel bad that I made you feel bad,” she says. Her voice is authentic, I can head that she is sorry, that she wasn’t trying to make me feel worse. 

I start crying, “I can’t do anything right, right now. I just keep screwing up, over and over. And I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”

“No, I know you don’t want to make me feel bad. I’m glad you told me I was way off base.” 

 
“I’m just so sorry I’m making everything worse. I’m messing it all up.” I’m sobbing now. 

“Did you get my other email?” Her voice is soft, almost a whisper. 

“Yeah, I got it.” I don’t want to talk about it. 

“I was afraid that if I said something, you would feel like you were messing up by not meeting some expectation I have for you. I don’t have any expectations, I am not even sure what that feeling is about, but I felt I needed to think about it, to sit with it, to try to understand it. It’s not a bad thing, not at all. I just need to think about what this feeling is telling me, if maybe I do need to push you a little more in the coping arena. That’s all it is, is something to notice and think about, talk about it.” 

I want to die. I literally want to curl up and die. She just told me to email as much as I needed to, that I could call, that she is here, and now she is telling me that she is having this feeling of maybe needing to push me in the coping arena. I am hearing that as I should be coping with this on my own and not needing her like this. “Nothing feels right. Everything just…..it all feels not okay. I’m not okay, nothing was helping. I thought, if I emailed you then maybe I’d feel better because I’d be less alone. But then, it didn’t help.” I’m crying harder now. I burying my face in my pillow. 

“I’m hearing you, nothing feels safe, just everything feels wrong. I’m here and I’m listening. But I can’t help thinking that you have a few more days left, before you leave. I wish for you that you could enjoy them. Maybe do some yoga, get out and swim at your beach, take Kat for a bike ride.”

“No! I can’t.” I’m crying harder now.

“Even that doesn’t feel okay. I know that is easier said than done, that it’s not so easy to switch parts like that. They sort of show up when they want to and take control. I guess this is more about my desire to fix things for you.” She says. 

“I don’t want you to fix anything! I just want to not be alone. I don’t need you to fix it. I don’t expect people to fix my stuff for me!” 

“I know you don’t, I know that. It’s hard not to want to fix things for you. That not on you, it’s just me, being human. I do know that when I feel bad, I don’t want someone to fix it, I just want someone to sit with me. Sometimes you want to fix things for people, don’t you?” 

“Yes. I want to fix everything for everyone I care about.” It hits me as I’m saying it. She cares. She feels a desire to fix it because she cares.

I sigh. How can I make her understand? “It’s like if I had more time…..I just….there’s so much that came up and now I just can’t…….if I wasn’t going camping, I would be able to just put this stuff away, put it in my notebook, box it up, and be back to myself, because I would know you and I would deal with it and I’d be okay. But this? This is like I’m stuck here. I can’t open the box with all the crap oozing out of it, because I know I have to leave in a few days to go camping. I can’t box it up better than it is because it’s all triggered and messy and awful.” 

“You are stuck in the in between. You can’t dig into it because then you will be all the more triggered and raw, and you can’t set it aside because then you would be letting down any defenses.” The tone in her voice says she is getting it. 

“I can’t come back to myself. I’m stuck here. And I’m just…I just want this week to be over with.”

“Yeah, I get that. Are you frozen far away, or the other end of the spectrum right now?” 

I’m trying to think of how to answer that, when she adds, “Are you more anxious with nervous energy, waiting for the week to be over, or are you more far away and fuzzy?”  

“It’s….like I’m over caffeinated. And I didn’t even drink coffee today. Or yesterday. For a few days. Because I feel too hyper. I can’t calm down. I had tea, but not coffee. And it’s caffeine free. I can’t…I don’t know. It’s like I’m running on a treadmill, but no matter how fast I run, I can’t….” 

“Get anywhere?” She suggests when I stop talking.

“No…..I can’t get away.” 

The words feel heavy, and are punctuated by silence. I think we both can feel the weight of them. 

“It’s very telling, isn’t it? The language. You can’t get away.”

“No. I can’t get away,” I agree. 

“What can’t you get away from?” She asks. 

I pull my blanket over my head. It’s silly, because Bea can’t see me, but I’m suddenly feeling too exposed and vulnerable. “I’d like Kenny to get out of my head now.” I say the words softly. 

More silence, and then Bea asks, “What?” I’m unsure if she just didn’t hear me, or if she isn’t following my choppy hyper over caffeinated thinking. 

“I want Kenny to get out of my head.” I say the words again, stronger this time. 

“Oh, okay. I didn’t know that he was there in such a big way.”

“It’s just….he’s…it’s….I don’t even want to be in my body right now. It’s all….I just can’t.” My mind is jumping all over the place, and I can’t think very clearly. Why didn’t Bea know that Kenny was a problem right now? Did I not tell her?

“I’m so glad you are telling me this now, that Kenny stuff was really triggered too. I know the mom stuff is awful and painful and full of grief, but it makes sense now, why you are having such strong reactions, so many flashbacks and nightmares and jumping from frozen far away to hyper running in place. It’s making a lot more sense to me now.”

“Monday…..I wasn’t really there, was I?” 

“No, you were really far away on Monday, it was next to impossible to keep you in the room. Wednesday you were more present than Monday, but not much. You really weren’t able to sit with much or talk about very much. We talked about your mom some, and how she hurt you by not accepting you, but we didn’t go very deep.” 

“I don’t think I could…talk about this before now.” Doesn’t it just suck when stuff won’t come up on therapy days?

“No, you needed to do this in layers, I think. You needed to be more here than you were.”

“I……he’s just…..I sent you that picture?”

“Yes, you sent me that picture.” It was a picture looking out my childhood bedroom window– the window on the side of the house. The window directly across from mine was Jackie’s window. The window to the left of my window was Kenny’s window. 

“I think, I just wanted you to see.” I’d snapped the picture and sent it after all the Kenny stuff had been stirred up. I didn’t have words, I couldn’t find words to tell Bea exactly how not okay I was feeling, but I had this picture of just how close Kenny had been. 

“You didn’t leave the house that weekend, did you? Normally you do the winery visits and that puts you in a much more adult place to start the weekend off. This time, you were at the house.”

“Backyard party,” I say woodenly. “Just like…I know, I know it’s not even the same group of people, I know that I’m an adult, I know all that……but…….I mean, I could see us all, as kids, running around. Back and forth between the yards. My mom put out the same yard games as we used do play. And the grown ups always sat on the porch. And the fire pit for bonfire later. It was all the same. So much the same. And I couldn’t…..I just….there’s no getting away.”

“Yes you are a grown up and you know all those things, but parts of you aren’t grown up and they were really triggered, of course they were really triggered. I can see it as you are describing it. When you sent that picture. I had a visceral reaction to how close he was, all the time, of course you felt like you could tell no one, he was always right there! And now you are describing how much last weekend was like those childhood backyard parties, and I can see it and feel it. It makes everything more real, doesn’t it? How could it not send you right back there? Of course you are really struggling, it makes so much more sense now, why this is all so bad right now. I’m so glad you are able to share this with me now, I’m just sorry I didn’t get it sooner, that I didn’t realize what had happened.”

“I just, I couldn’t figure out…it was all so right there, but I couldn’t tell.” I’m crying again.

“It’s okay. You needed time. That’s all. And I was very focused on the mom triggers, I wasn’t seeing anything else.” 

“I should have used my words earlier, I guess.” We both laugh at that. 

“I’m sorry I got so upset with you,” I tell her. 

“I’m not! I’m glad you could tell me you were upset. You couldn’t tell your mom when you were growing up that you were upset or that your feelings were hurt, but you feel safe enough to to tell me, now. That’s a good thing.”

“It was still hard .” 

“It still feels scary, maybe a little bit dangerous, to tell me when you are mad?” 

“Yeah.” I agree. It feels scary. 

“I think of it as a positive that you can tell me, now, when you are upset with me. It’s okay to be upset with me. I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to miss things, I’m going to screw up some times. But if you can tell me when I’ve made you mad, or hurt your feelings, or aren’t giving you what it is you need from me; if you can tell me those things, that is a gift. It gives me a chance to correct it and keep the connection we have and keep helping you heal. If I don’t get a chance to correct it, we can lose that connection, and I can’t help you of you are hiding things because you are afraid of my reaction. I’m glad when you trust me enough to tell me you are mad at me. And just because you are mad at me, that doesn’t mean we are on opposition sides. You can be mad at me, and I can still be on your side.” 

“I know. It’s just hard to be mad at you. I don’t like feeling like we are on opposite sides.”

“I’m on your side. Sometimes, we try things and they don’t work, right? Sometimes we try something and it brings up some feelings. We have to talk about it, otherwise how can we know what else to try or not try? I’m on the side of helping you feel better. If I suggest something or do something that upsets you, it doesn’t mean I’m not still on your side. And if you tell me I messed up, I’m on your side then, too. It just means you and I have more information to work with. That’s all. Okay?”

“Okay.” I say.

“I need to get off the phone in a few minutes,” Bea says. 

I don’t want to hang up. “Okay.”

“I am very glad you called and told me more about what is going on,” she says. 

I want to ask her if she is going to get rid of me, if I’m messing everything up, if she is really on my side. Instead, I take a breath, remind myself of everything she just said and tell her, “I need to clean and organize some things and I have some baking to do. I’m okay. I have stuff to be busy, I’m up and doing things and functioning. I just….I’m okay.”

“Okay, but not really okay at all?” She asks. 

“Yeah. That.” 

“It’s okay to not be okay.” The reminder is nice. 

“Okay. I’ll let you go,” I tell her. 

“I’m swimming in the ocean with you, all right? You aren’t alone. And I’ll see you Monday, bright and early.” She says. 

“See you Monday.” I hang up the phone. I sit there for a few minutes, trying to digest the conversation. Bea had no idea that so much more had been triggered. I honestly thought I told her when we talked about the picture I sent her. I guess I never said any of that out loud. 

I worry that she is feeling an annoyance towards me for not being all better, that she is going to decide I don’t need the option to email or call, or she is going to cut my session time or she is going to take away a session. I don’t want any of those things to happen. And I honestly think I cope with things pretty good, much better than I used to. But when all the things get triggered and I’m heading to place filled with more triggers, I can’t do it on my own. And it is nerve wracking to know that all the things are triggered, I’m going into another triggering situation and Bea will be gone on vacation. It is scary to know I’ll be home from camping for a whole week before I get to see her, that she will be on vacation, and it just really makes me feel all alone. At least she knows now why everything is so bad. Maybe Monday’s session will be better now that she knows. Or maybe she will just take away everything and leave me all alone to cope.    

Weekend Flashback 

Family Reunion weekend. I should have a lot to say, there should be too many words showing up on this page. Instead, I can’t figure out how to explain the triggered dissociated mess I became. Teen Alice was completely running the show by the end of the weekend. 

I typically enjoy the weekend. In the past, we have hired sitters for the kids, rented a limo and visited multiple wineries on day one. Day two is typically a beach/movie/kid friendly activity day. This side of the family really is a blast. I enjoy them all and look forward to seeing them. 

This year though? We didn’t do the traditional touring of several wineries. Festivities took place at my parents’ house. Everyone brought wine to taste (which was actually pretty cool, we got to try wines from all over the country), activities were set up for the kids, as well as yard games and a photo booth for adults and kids alike. 

It was too much like the parties thrown in my childhood. Being at the house all weekend was just on much for me. The first day was okay. I felt really distanced from everyone, just extremely disconnected from the world, and from myself. 

The second day, my mother and I got into it, and that sent me into a giant tailspin. At first I was so angry with her that all I wanted to do was rage at her. I attempted to vent to hubby, but he just kept saying, “okay” as if I were lecturing him. I desperately needed some feedback, understanding, validation, so I emailed Bea. 

Bea,

I want to throw something. Or cry. Or scream. Or hide in the closet. Or drop a giant bomb and ruin everyone’s lives. Or just run away back to my home and forget about my mother and my childhood home and all that goes with that. 
I’m so angry, Bea. I’m never good enough. That’s the truth. It’s not me being dramatic, or something. It’s just a fact. I’m never good enough for my mother. Oh, when she is talking about me and my life and Kat and hubby, everything is said a if I am still Ms. Perfect. 
But to my face? I’m a giant fucking disappointment and I can’t manage to do anything right. Ugh! Why do I let her get to me like this? And the teen part, omg, she is so strong right now, everything is being colored by her, I know that but it doesn’t stop the feelings. 

My mother is mad because I can’t manage to follow her schedule. I’m sorry! I have an autistic child who is sensitive to crowds and changes in schedules and traveling and sleeping in places that aren’t her own home and I need to do whatever will help my child deal with traveling and transitions and changes. It’s not my job to take care of my mother, I’m not her mom! It’s my job to take care of my child. Grrrrrr. Ugh. My mother got all upset with me because we weren’t doing what she was doing with all the kids downtown/at the beach. Well, Kat had 3 meltdowns and I was dealing with that, so it might it just a little difficult to be right where my mother wanted is to be at that particular moment. But you know, she hasn’t gotten to see Kat at all this weekend, and somehow that is all my fault. But she made her choices to follow what the other kids wanted to do. She could have told them that they were gonna do x,y,z for a while, but she didn’t. She chose to spend her time talking and hanging with the grownups yesterday. 
I’m just so sick of never being good enough. Even Ms. Perfect isn’t perfect enough. 
I’m just so angry right now. What the hell does she want from me? Why isn’t it a good thing that I am respecting my daughters needs and helping her learn to cope with stressful situations and regulate her emotions? Oh right, it’s not okay because that all takes time and being present and dealing with emotions and admitting to not being perfect and it might possibly ruin your perfectly laid out schedule. Argh. 

Oh, and another thing?!?! She’s all upset we haven’t didn’t anytime together this weekend, but every time Kat or I have tried telling her something or asking her to do something with us she gets distracted by other family members, and they get precedence. So how is this my fault? I don’t understand. But somehow it is and I can’t fix it and I can’t be what she needs and I’m so tired, I barely slept last night and I know that’s not helping but ugh. 

You always want to know where’s the anger? Well, here is it. I hate her Bea. I just want to scream at her and throw everything in her face and then go home. Just be done with it all. 

I won’t, you know. I’ll lock it all down and smile and nod and apologize and be appropriate and whatever. But right now, everything in me hates that. I don’t want to be here not here. I don’t want to be far away. But, I also don’t want to be here at all.

Alice 

(Bea’s emailed words are in bold) Sounds frustrating and triggering for sure. As you say, you can’t meet her needs and Kat’s needs both, and your kid has to come first.

Thank you for saying this. I really just needed to feel like someone was on my side. I spent my whole life in that house feeling alone and not good enough and broken. I don’t often feel that way in my real life anymore. But this week….ugh. All those feelings are back in full force. 

 I hope the anger can dissipate enough for you to enjoy the rest of the weekend.
I don’t know what happened. Anger didn’t really dissipate….it just sort of got shoved down. I don’t know. I ended up far away and spacey and trying so so hard to be perfect and do whatever I thought my mom wanted me to be doing. Which basically meant trying to be perfect all the while feeling like a failure in everything. Eventually I just went so far away that being sociable and talkative was too difficult. It was the far away can’t easily orientate to what is happening in the present and can’t get words out. That doesn’t happen often in public—- it’s definitely a teenage Alice thing I think. Of course, that only added to my mother’s annoyance because she felt I was sulking and being unsocial and rude. So….yeah. 

Honestly, I think I was struggling too because we were at the house the whole time, not out at wineries. Being in the house and having a big party in the backyard……well, I lived that as a child. Lots of parties in the yard as I was growing up.

I don’t know. I wavered between angry with my mother and numb and frozen triggered and feeling exactly like teen me trying to be perfect and failing miserably —and honestly, bouncing between all 3 of those feelings, I could feel exactly why I overdosed or cut my wrists. I couldn’t keep going on feeling like that. I couldn’t understand why I felt like that, I felt like I was crazy. I had parents and a therapist who thought I was broken; something was innately wrong with my personality, with who I was. I just wanted everything to stop. I didn’t even care if that meant someone helping me or actually dying. I just needed things to not be like they were. I feel like that’s when I got really good at pretending. I don’t know. It feels like maybe before that time period I did still have a part of the real me, I still had this tiny piece of me that knew who I really was. But that had to go away. I buried that last bit of the real me and learned to pretend and be perfect. Do you know I can be having a panic attack, literally feeling like my heart might explode and I can’t breathe, and I can smile and continue talking like I have not a care in the world? Well, maybe I can’t anymore. I don’t know. But I could at one time. That’s how disconnected I became. Anyway. I think I got off point. 

I guess we are still dealing with teen stuff. Yeah, some of it is present day stuff but mostly it’s teen stuff getting mixed up in present day stuff. And you know what I keep thinking? That was 20 years ago! The Kenny stuff started almost 30 years ago (28 years ago, to be exact). And (at times) it all feels like it happened yesterday, or this morning, or 10 minutes ago. It all feels very right now, it feels present day. Does that make me crazy? 

And…..there was purging and cutting. 😞🙈 I failed there too. I just couldn’t cope. Ugh. It was all just too much.

Alice, 

Ugh! I hope by now you are already heading home. It was just too much, as you say. Do something fun that you like here, in your grown up life now–go for a swim in the lake, or something else grounding and not related to your life at home. Once your now life fully sinks in I think you’ll feel a sense of relief. If not, it’s okay to just be wherever you are right now:)

I’ll see you tomorrow,

Bea

I’m back home, and yet I still don’t feel grounded or safe or really okay at all. I’m still far away, afraid to be more present. Everything is triggering right now. I’m hoping that seeing Bea will help. There’s just too many feelings and memories and mess for me to contain by myself. Even with Bea’s emails, I feel as if I am floating in the middle of the ocean, with no way to get to shore. It’s as if I keep looking and looking for someone to come, but no one does. I’m treading water furiously, but no one is showing up to help me make a raft or swim to shore or call the coast guard to rescue us. When my mother shows up, she wants me to help her stay afloat, she needs my help. When Bea shows up, she is showing up just to be there with me, so I’m not treading water alone. She says we can figure out together how to make a raft, swim to shore or call the coastguard. I hope that seeing Bea will help settle all the parts because I really need that right now. 

Charts

It’s 7:40am, but I walk up the stairs to Bea’s office anyway. I have so much stuff that I need to talk about, I need to make Bea see, make her understand. My notebook is very, very full of all kinds of messy, overwhelmed feelings. 

I had emailed Bea on Thursday, and unsure and uneasy with her response, I finally emailed her back Saturday. I spent a lot of the week making charts, lists, graphs. I was trying to find a way to feel in control, I think. One thing Bea has been insisting we work on is my dissociation. She wants to find what triggers it; why we can be talking about baking and I will be fine, but the moment the subject turns to me and my stuff, I begin to go away. To Bea it seems very sudden, and I’m sure it is, but for me, I can feel that I am uncomfortable with the emotions bubbling up and I can sense, in my mimd, that I am going to feel very scared of this topic. It’s at that point, this split second moment, when time slows down for me, and things get a little bit fuzzy, like I’m looking though a telescope at the world around me; that’s the moment I can make a choice. I can choose to use those grounding skills Bea has so diligently taught me, or I can go far, far away from the bad scary stuff in the present. And please don’t tell me the present is safe, nothing bad is happening there. The feelings are there. The memories are there. It’s not safe there. Not in the very least. 

In my email I explained that Parts were split, and fighting over what was the best thing to do with these charts I had made. One chart in particular had everyone stirred up. I had created a chart showing what I am feeling on one side and what my reaction is on the other side. For example, the right side of the chart says,” feelings start to grow, and can be named and recognized.” The left side of the chart says,”Really uncomfortable. Danger! This is not safe to feel these things.” Grown up real me is excited about this chart, it makes sense, Bea will understand it, and I am excited to understand more about how my dissociation and my system works. The little girl is scared that if Bea knows how dissociation works, then Bea will take it away because Bea doesn’t want any of the parts to dissociate, Bea says we have to be more present to deal with the trauma. Every part is conflicted over this. So, I emailed. It was a bit messy, but I wanted to talk to Bea about this. The little girl was so upset over not being able to tell Bea something because she was afraid Bea would use it against me. I also wrote about how alone I felt, but I couldn’t say that I felt as if Bea was there but not HERE. I was too afraid that she would tell me it was my fault she was far away, that I was too draining, too difficult. So I simply described the far away and all alone feeling. 

Bea’s response was fine. There was nothing wrong with it. And maybe if I weren’t so hyper alert to any changes in her behavior towards me and therapy, then it wouldn’t have bothered me at all. She addressed the loneliness, saying, “the being so alone feeling sounds like a part that has no access to an attachment figure.” And then she went on to discuss the fear over letting her in on the secret of how my dissociation works, “The part that doesn’t want to tell sounds like a good protector part. I think the grown up should assure that part that you will only share with me as much as feels safe. I don’t need to know any secrets, unless you think it would help you. There is no reason to alarm parts of you that have organized this system of keeping you safe. We only want the grown up to be more in control of the system.” Even though her response was fine, it left me with a sense of not being seen, of being alone, as if I had dove down to the middle of the ocean and there was no one on the surface to pull me up. I felt left. It felt as if she didn’t care, she was just replying to get rid of me. Finally, I gathered up some courage, and emailed again. I told Bea the little girl really had been looking for reassurance that Bea was safe to share secrets with, that Bea wouldn’t use secrets against me to hurt me or to get what she wants. The little girl needed reassurance that Bea had no ulterior motives, no tricks. Bea responded, and it all felt off. She wrote, “My thought while reading the beginning of your email: *Well of course I’m not going to use that against you*. It seemed so obvious to me, but I understand you actually needed to hear it! Please be reassured that this is a collaborative effort, and I don’t have any ulterior motives.” Why does her email feel both causal and authentic, but then so formal and rigid? I don’t understand, and I don’t write back. 

So, at 7:40am, I walk into Bea’s office. I’m planning on sitting in the waiting room, because I know I am early, but Bea sends me in, even with my protests that I can wait. 

“Go on in, I’ll be right there. I’m just going to warm up this tea,” she says. 

“Okay,” I say back. 

By the time I’ve sat down and gotten cozy, Bea is in the office, too. She sits down, and I blurt out, “My mother in law is moving 5 minutes away and hubby isn’t really seeing the big deal of this and I just found out last night but I’m freaking out and I really don’t want to waste my session on her but I need to talk about this all a little bit but I have a whole notebook full of stuff that I really need to talk about.” 

“Whoa. That’s a lot! She’s moving 5 minutes away from you? I know that can’t be an easy thing to have found out.” Bea says, her face holding this look of shock and anger at the awfulness of this situation, at the audacity of hubby’s mother. 

(I don’t want to waste a lot of blog space on this woman, either, but for those of you newer to my blog, 2 summer ago, my mother in law (aka MIL) —- who never liked me and always caused problems between hubby and me—- flipped out on me in public, and then attempted to take us to court to take Kat away from us. I have nothing to do with my mother or father in law since then. Hubby still sees them. I didn’t allow him to take Kat over there for a long time, but for about a year, Kat has occasionally gone with hubby to visit for no more than an hour. Hubby’s sister doesn’t talk to MIL, and her daughter’s don’t see MIL either. MIL, we are all pretty sure, has narcissistic personality disorder. I’m sure she is moving closer to all of us to be difficult, to find a way to weasel her way back into our lives.)

I vent about MIL, and about hubby and the whole mess. Bea listens and understands. Eventually I stop venting and pull out my notebook. “I don’t want to waste all my time on her. I have so much in here.” 

“Okay.” She takes the notebook from me. “We can talk about whatever you want to or need to talk about. This isn’t wasting time.” 

I shrug. “I just….ugh. It’s like I don’t want her to take all MY time for dealing with my stuff. I don’t know. But I’m done talking about her for now.” I laugh, because I’m sure we will be talking about MIL again soon. 

Bea nods, and starts reading. “Ahhhhh. The little girl was really feeling worried about it not being safe to talk to me. I need to apologize for not realizing that was her fear, that she needed an emotional connection and reassurance from me that I wasn’t going to hurt her. I think my response was just an everyday life Bea response, sort of that first instinct, not so much from my wiser self. I don’t know if it’s summer, or what it is exactly, but I haven’t been able to be very deep lately. I’ve been much more on the surface, and not seeing the deeper stuff. I’m sorry because that isn’t helpful to you, and I know you are very sensitive to those shifts, and you can easily internalize that to be about you. This isn’t your stuff– it’s my stuff, and it’s something I’m working on.” 

If I were braver, I would say to Bea: *I’m glad you told me that. I have so much mom stuff popping up lately that I’m already feeling this loss of an attachment figure, or I am realizing that mom was never there for the real me anyway, or something, that this distance I have been feeling of you not being here, this feeling of being disconnected, it is 1000 times worse because it seems I am losing attachment figures all over the place, and I really am alone.* Instead, I simply nod. 

Bea continues reading, letting that drop for now. I think how in the past she would have actually reassured the little girl, she would have made sure that parts knew she was there, and wouldn’t hurt them. But this more surface Bea doesn’t do that. She stops reading and looks up. “I wondered what you and your brother had talked about.” I and told her via email that I had talked to my brother. “So you really remember and see the same things about your mom. This….the playing with Legos IF there was a full set with directions, that really speaks to her needing to hold everything very rigid, very controlled. She couldn’t allow free play, or messy play. That probably would be very scary for her. But that couldn’t have been easy on you. Reading this, there is so much pain there.” Her voice is sad for me, but I can’t let down my guard right now. 

Bea reads about my heartache over my mom not loving me, and she reads the pages and pages I wrote after nightmares, during flashbacks. Those pages are full of confusion, and anger and hurt. Some of them are written when overwhelmed and unable to control it. Some were written when I was trying to control everything, and you can see it in my handwriting; messy, large and loopy cursive versus teeny tiny perfectly formed print. She stops reading periodically to say something empathetic and kind, or to ask a question. 

Before she gets to the end, but as our session is close to over, she stops and says, “I hope the little girl, and all the parts, I hope you know, I would never hurt you. I won’t use anything you share with me against you.”

I shrug. “Maybe. But you can’t promise that. Maybe you really do want me to stop going away and….I don’t know.” 

She nods. “You’re right. I can’t know for sure. But if there was a part of me that you picked up on, a part that just wants to make it all better for you, make it easier for you, help you…..if there is a part like that, then because we’ve talked about it, and I’m aware to be paying attention for that within myself, I would be aware of an impulse to ‘fix’ you, and I would curb that impulse.” 

I’m not sure what to say. I value Bea’s honesty, it is one reason I trust her. But I sort of hate that what she is saying isn’t what I wanted to hear from her. It’s how I know her response is real, and it feels caring. She cares enough to be honest with me. I hand her 3 pieces of paper. One is a list of different far aways, another is a list of how to make things real, and the last (and only chart Bea hasn’t seen before) is about what triggers dissipating. 

“Ahhh. This is good. It’s really good, really helpful. You did some hard work with this.” 

“Thanks.” I whisper it.

“This makes so much sense. When you start to feel too many feelings, that triggers danger signals, and you go away. This makes total sense. This will be really helpful with our work. I think the thing is to stay between the pink and light green on the present side of the line. Because while even keel is nice, and that’s where we want to function in our day to day lives, we heal when we are on the edge our window, right?” Bea is excited, I can hear it in her voice.

“Yeah. I know. It’s just….well, I don’t know how to stay there.” 

“I know, it’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable. We can use the other side of your chart, somewhere in the pink and blue writing, that says it is being more logical and more in your head. We don’t want to go too far into the pink but that being in your head, being more logical can help you feel calmer and safer when you get overwhelmed. We can go between the two, staying on the edge of your window. This is great, because it shows us right where your window is and what triggers your need to dissociate, what signals you that it’s time to go away.”

Bea is talking more theory and logic right now, but I’m okay with it. She doesn’t feel quite so far away as she did earlier. I think it’s because I shared my chart with her. I had been a little proud of working on that, and I can feel Bea is proud of me, and excited to have this explanation. “Okay. We can try,” I tell her. Little Alice is still afraid that having Bea direct me to leave a memory and ground myself again, will feel like rejection, like she doesn’t really want to deal with the memory. 

Before I know it, Bea is telling me we have just a few minutes left. I’m not so far away now, so I nod, and easily pack up my bag when she hands me back my notebook. 

“I didn’t get a chance to finish all of it,” she says, “And I do want to read it all and talk through it. You have enough there to keep us busy for months!” Her voice is light, not worried in the least. 

“I’m sorry. I just….there was a lot in my head. I don’t know.” 

“No, you don’t need to be sorry. This is good. It gives us….or at least me, a general idea of what is going on, what is coming up. Okay?” She checks in with me.

“Yeah. Okay.” I say. 

We chase for a few more minutes and then we say goodbye and Bea smiles when she wishes me a good day. 

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!!!

🌹

🌹

🌹
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.