This feeling, this part

Bea and I spent most of Monday and Tuesday emailing; her trying to show me she understood how bad I was feeling and reassure that she was there and not leaving and very much herself, and me crying about how bad I felt and how much Bea didn’t feel like Bea.

Bea wondered if these feelings are a part that didn’t know her, if maybe that was why she didn’t feel like Bea to me. Once she said it, that felt obvious to me. Yes, this is a part. So we wrote back and forth but nothing felt very understood at all. In fact, I felt more alone than ever.

I spent a lot of time on Tuesday sitting in the hot tub and journaling. My hot tub is my covid birthday gift this year. It’s nothing fancy, just a blow up one, but hubby set it up in the garage with my porch swing and a pink rug and twinkle lights and curtains that let me close out the rest of the world. I love it. So I hid in my hot tub and journaled. I took photos of a journal page and sent it to Bea. Until that point, I think she was there, and wanted to help, but just couldn’t find her way in, past my walls, and I couldn’t find words to say how I felt, or find a way to let her in, but once she read that journal page and was able to say that she thought she understood, things changed a little. I felt like maybe she might really be there even if I couldn’t feel it.

Journal page sent to Bea.

Bea wrote back:

Alice,

I understand this part now, I think. She seems like a frozen in place part from the It’s Over/It’s Not Over memory that’s so unbearably emotionally overwhelming. I’m glad you wrote all of the nuances of the thoughts and feelings from that time. It was good for me, too, to see it all written out. I guess this part simply exists to hold this most awful batch of feelings—and no wonder it feels so lonely. She may not know anyone else at all:(

Bea

I responded to her pretty late:

That makes me feel better. Can you help her now?  Because I can’t help her. She’s too strong. Her feeling are too strong. This feels like it can never be fixed, will never be better, will never stop hurting. I don’t know how much longer I can feel this way, can do this. I wrote one of my email responses a lot of times because I just needed to edit out all of my too muchness.  But this part, these feelings it’s just too much for me to handle. I’m afraid of it all. 

Even though it was late, Bea responded that she would try to help in the morning and that this part being so frozen made a lot of sense to her.

I went to bed holding onto the fact that Bea understood and wasn’t going anywhere.

This is not October

I don’t want to do therapy today. I just don’t. I’m trapped in circular cycle of despair. It goes like this: I feel numb, with all these feelings and landmines underneath the numb. I can’t cope with the landmines on my own, it’s too BIG, too overwhelming. I build walls and go far away and feel empty and numb because the feelings are too much. The feelings leak through the walls anyway, and I feel panicky and alone. I need Bea, I need to not feel alone with this, I need her to contain it for me. I can’t feel her, though, because I am too far away. That means she can not contain it for me, or soothe me. So I feel more panic, more alone, more overwhelmed and I go farther away, which only makes it feel more like she is not here.

I log on anyway and when Bea says hello and good morning, I say hi back. My voice sounds wooden, hollow. Does it sound like that to her?

We talk about Kat, about school, about Halloween. Bea asks questions, and I answer them on autopilot. Eventually she asks about my birthday.

“My parents are coming. It’s fine. It all just feels far away.”

She nods her head. “That will be nice that they are coming. Usually you have a whole birthday week, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” She’s right, I do, and this week is birthday week. I just can’t get into celebration mode, though. (The back story is my Grandpa and I share a birthday. He and I had Birthday Month, and it was always really special. We loved our birthday. He always said I was the best birthday present ever, and that no gift would ever top the day I was born. He made me feel special and loved and like I was very important. He died right after I celebrated 29 and he celebrated 79. My birthday is bittersweet now, and for a lot of years, I didn’t celebrate at all. I miss him terribly. He was my favorite person on the planet. I wish everyday that he was here.)

“I haven’t forgotten about October being hard,” she says softly. When I don’t say anything, she continues, wondering out loud if that is part of what is going on.

I’ve denied that this feeling is the October feeling, and I still don’t think this has anything to do with October. It took two years, maybe three years of therapy to recognize that there is this October feeling, this pattern that has emerged. But once we saw the pattern, we worked to change it. Parts got less out of control, and I developed better coping skills and even though I always have this echo of the October feeling it is manageable. But THIS, this overwhelming, needing to disappear, wanting to die feeling? This is not October. Finally, I just bury my head in my knees.

“What’s happening for you right now? Can you tell me?” Bea asks.

“It’s not October. October is feeling like I am a failure, like I can do nothing right, like everyone is mad at me, hates me, is going to leave me because I am horrible. October is being mean and mad and pushing everyone away before they can leave me. October is sad, and it’s the teen freaking out, and it’s out of control and acting out, and wanting to die, and even I usually know I’m not acting okay, I am being mean and crazy but I can not stop it. THIS is not October. You know that! You know what October is.”

“No, this doesn’t sound like October. You’re right, I do know what October is and that it is really a hard time.” Then, she adds in her gentle voice, “But remember, I am not inside. I don’t know what things feel like inside, and I don’t think you have ever really described what October feels like. I only see the outside of it, that it is out of control, and painful and that there is lots of suicidal ideation happening. But I can see now that this feeling is not October.”

I don’t respond, but I am relieved she is finally getting it.

Bea talks, but I am farther and farther away, and it’s too hard. This is too hard. I’m alone, even though Bea is right here, talking to me, trying to help. When she asks me if I can describe the feelings that are too much, her words break through the fog.

“I don’t know. I just don’t know. I can’t, I can’t because you are too far away and it’s my fault anyway and I can’t do this.” The words are jumbled and repetitive and I know I am not explaining well at all. I hate this. Bea doesn’t feel like Bea, I can’t tell her anything, and I am trapped all alone in a head filled with nightmare images, overwhelming emotions and landmines.

“Why do you think it’s your fault?”

“Because. Because I am far away and that makes everyone feel far away, so I should not be so far away but I can’t stop it, I can’t do this by myself but I am alone because I can’t be here.” I’m whiny, I know I sound whiny but I don’t even care.

“Well, I think last time we met you felt like I was less far away after we had been talking for a while,” she says lightly.

“I can’t talk to you right now. You don’t feel like you.” I throw my blanket over my head as I say the words, afraid she won’t like that I am telling her this.

“Hmmmm. I feel like me, just Bea. I wonder who it is that feels like I am not me? Is there a part here that doesn’t know me, maybe?” Bea is so inquisitive. Usually I like that about her, but today I really hate it.

She might be right. It might be a different part that is here. This part, she’s not a teen part, or the little girl, or Ms. Perfect or the slutty part. She feels different. All of this feels different. But I can not say that. I don’t know why. I just can’t. So instead I whisper whine, “I don’t know. I’m just stuck. There are no good choice right now.”

“Yeah, this really does feel like a stuck point. It feels like we have been bouncing between stuck places for a while now. Either stuck in feelings and trauma or stuck in the numb place.”

“Are you frustrated?” I ask.

“It is frustrating, isn’t it? This is a hard place to be. Stuck places are always hard, and they always feel difficult and frustrating,” Bea responds.

I freeze. I knew it, I knew it. She is frustrated with me for not being okay, for not talking, for being far away and for anything and everything else. Vacantly, I say, “I knew you were frustrated with me.”

“No, not at all. No, no. I’m not frustrated with you or with the stuckness at all! Oh gosh, I’m sorry that was confusing. I meant that I know it is frustrating for you.” Bea’s words rush out, fast, like she just wants to make sure I understand she is not annoyed with me, or mad at me, or anything else.

“Okay.” I shrug, but she can’t see me because I am still hiding.

“I wonder if there is something I can do to help you feel like I am here, or to help any parts that don’t know me feel safe to share how they feel?”

“I never want you or anyone to fix things for me…..” I start to say and then I trail off because the second half of the sentence is too hard to say.

“I know. And I am a terrible fixer,” she says.

I feel crushed, and I start to cry. “I just wish this one time you could fix it.”

I think she says something kind and caring back, but I don’t know because that little bit of vulnerability sends me so far away I have no idea what is happening in the here and now.

“Alice, I think you’ve disappeared on me. I can’t see you, so I don’t know for sure but it feels like you are really, really far away. This is too far. I know you need some distance to feel safe, but I need you to come back a little, okay?” Soothing but firm, Bea pulls me back a little bit.

“Yeah.” I’m hollow and dead inside except not really because my voice breaks as I speak and the sobbing starts again. “I feel like my world is ending and nothing will be okay ever again and I just want to disappear. I spend all my time hiding in my head, and I can not stop it. I don’t get anything done, I’m not doing anything I should be doing. I just hide in my head.”

“That is a lot. This feels like new feelings, the depth of all this pain.” I think that this is meant to be soothing, but it feels so much like an analytical observation.

I have no words the rest of our session, I just vacillate between being numb and sobbing.

At 10:00am, echo reminds Kat to take her medicine. (I set this reminder for the summer, and now I can not figure out how to cancel it. Every time I ask echo to cancel all reminders, timers, routines, she says I have nothing scheduled. I also can find nothing in the app. It’s beyond annoying.)

“It’s time to go,” I say.

“Yes, but we can take a minute to try to get you back to a place where you can cope,” Bea tells me.

“I’m not coping, I’m not okay, I can not do this. There is no going back to a coping place, because I am not coping,” I snap at Bea.

“I know, I just meant to get to a place where you aren’t so upset….” her voice trails off. She sounds like she feels helpless.

“Whatever. It’s fine, I’m fine. You have to go, just go,” I tell her.

“Maybe this is a time where you could email me later. I have sessions until 6:30 tonight, but if you email, I will read it and write back then, okay?”

“Okay, sure, fine.” I’m wooden and numb and dead inside again. I sit frozen under my blanket.

Bea says something, but I don’t know what. I feel a sense of her not wanting to leave me like this and feeling helpless to comfort me.

I sit and cry for a few minutes after she hangs up. I don’t know how to stop this. I feel like I am dying, like my world is ended, like I am all alone in a place of complete darkness. I am not coping, I am not okay, I am not functioning. In all the ups and downs and scared feelings and aloneness and trauma and pain and confusion, I don’t think I have ever felt this bad before.

Metal Walls and Black Holes (part two)

“I can’t do this by myself.” I whisper the words, a barely there ghost like whisper.

“You don’t have to. I am here,” Bea says firmly. When I’m silent, she asks, “Do you feel anymore like you aren’t alone? Can you feel me here at all?”

I think about it. I’m not sure. “Maybe…..not like I feel it but I know it….sort of logical, maybe? I don’t know. Talking with you, and you listening and then when you get it, I know that would make me feel like you are really, really here. I just don’t feel it. So I guess so it’s sort of better.”

“That makes sense. I’m glad you can at least know I’m here, even if you can’t really feel it. You don’t have to be alone now. You were hurt so bad and so alone and not protected. You don’t have to be alone or hurt anymore. You deserve to feel protected and cared for.”

“Bea?” This comes out as a question, in the way kids will say *Mom* as a question.

“Yeah?”

“If he….if before was because I mattered, then why….that night when he…..why would…I mean….why did he if I didn’t matter and he didn’t love me and I’m not special, why did he do it?” I’m tripping over my words, my thoughts and my questions tumbling together in my head.

Bea is quiet for what feels like a long time. “Well,” she finally says, speaking slowly, carefully. “Well, I don’t think any of this, before or after was about love for him. He knew, sometimes bad guys know that kids need to feel like they matter, and he used that to get what he wanted. I think that all of this was about what he wanted and his pleasure. It was about power and doing what he wanted, and he used whatever he could to get you to go along with him.” She sounds so, so sad as she is saying this.

“Oh. It was mean,” I say.

“Yes, it was very, very mean.” Bea’s voice sounds funny.

“Are you okay? Did I do something wrong?” There’s a worry there about upsetting Bea, but it’s sort of dulled down from how it would normally feel.

“Yes, yes I am okay. I just wasn’t sure how to answer your question. I didn’t want to make you feel bad. Sometimes answering questions that…the answer might hurt, it feels wrong to me. I will always answer your questions and I won’t lie to you. I just…I feel very protective of you and of all the parts, and I was feeling some….like I didn’t want to tell the Little Girl about Bad people existing. I was feeling, am feeling protective over her.”

“I know monsters are real. They don’t look scary though. Just regular.”

“Yes, you do know that, don’t you? You’ve known that for a long time.” Bea breathes, and it’s the kind of breathing you do when you are trying not to cry.

“It’s okay. I’m not really upset,” I tell her.

“No, you are too far away to feel upset right now, aren’t you?”

“Yeah…..I wish I never wanted to be special, though.”

Bea won’t let that belief stand. “You did nothing wrong. Everyone wants to feel special and like they matter. Everyone wants to feel loved. He was wrong! He preyed on that need, he was a monster. You didn’t deserve to feel hurt then, and you don’t deserve it now. It makes me so mad that he is out there free, living his life and you are still hurting because of what he did, because he was selfish and mean and used you.” Bea stops talking, and then says more gently, “That longing to matter? That is that attachment seeking system, and it is a good thing. It’s okay, it is a good thing to want to attach, to want to matter to someone. Okay? I want you to know that.”

I feel like Bea speaking about attachment and needing to matter to others in this caring voice is very, very dangerous. The walls start to feel as though they are softening. “Stop, no, no, no. Just no. Stop. please, please, no.” I shake my head, cover my eyes even though I am still hiding under my blanket.

“Okay. Okay. I know that’s hard to hear right now. We can talk about something else.”

The walls harden back into place, and I slowly peek out from under my blanket. “Did you ever play that computer game where you click on the boxes and you are trying to avoid hitting the landmines? I can’t think of what it’s called.”

Bea shakes her head. “I don’t think so, no.”

“Oh. Well, there are lots of bombs and you click on the boxes and try not to hit them. That’s what my head feels like right now.”

“I can see that. I’ll try very hard not to hit any landmines, okay?”

I shrug. “I don’t know where they are. But it seems I keep bumping into them anyway. I hate this.”

“I know. What would it mean if a landmine was triggered?” Bea asks curiously.

“I….I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

“Okay,” Bea agrees.

We talk about how my being able to tell her in an email that I was upset is a big change. When I say that it’s different than what would have happened two years ago, maybe even a year ago, Bea smiles. “What is different do you think?”

“Well, before, I might have been hurt but I would have seen you not noticing under the surface stuff as you not caring, maybe a sign you were leaving me, or somehting and I would have been so hurt and so upset about it that I would have emailed but probably not been very nice about it.”

“Yes, maybe so. This time, though, you just said like *hey, this really hurt when I felt like you didn’t see how badly I am feeling and how not okay I am.* That wasn’t mean at all, but it was good sticking up for yourself, it is important to be able to tell people how they have hurt us.”

“I never wanted to be mean before, it’s just so much would spin out of control, I would be so triggered and panicked and scared. Relationships really terrified me, you know.”

“I know, the very idea of any relationship, any attachment was very, very threatening to you.” Bea says. She sounds proud of me.

“It’s still a little scary, sometimes,” I say.

“Well, yeah, of course it is. You were hurt in relationships, by attachment figures, by people who were supposed to care for you and love you and keep you safe. It’s always going to be a little scary to let people in after that. But you can choose now to let them in anyway, when you know they are safe, right?”

“Right. I choose now. Mostly.” I smile at Bea. I am so grateful to her. I worked hard, but I never would have gotten to this place without her.

“Reminder. Leave in 5 minutes to pick up Kat.” Every Amazon Echo in the house blares the reminder. We’ve run way over my hour.

“I’m sorry, I made us run over,” I apologize.

“Don’t be sorry. I had the time, and I think you needed it. I’m glad we had some time to talk today.” Bea smiles.

“Thanks.”

“Are you okay to go get Kat?” Bea asks.

“Yeah. I’m okay to go get her.”

“Okay. I’ll see you and Kat on Thursday, then.”

I nod my head. I hate that Wednesday is cancelled, but I’m glad she was able to see me today.

“Bye,” we say in unison, and I log out of teletherapy.

Metal Walls and black holes (part one)

It’s been a long time since I have felt this detached. I’m so far away that I can’t even remember last week’s therapy sessions. I only have the vaguest sense that I spent one of those sessions avoiding everything and began a tangent of talking about big things that have changed. It’s not a bad thing to think about, and I did end up making a list of things that have changed. It’s nice to see it all listed out. Some things shift so slowly, I only really notice when I think about what’s different now.

I end up upset after therapy on Monday, hurt that Bea seems to think the triggery, flashbacky, overwhelmed mess that I have been for months has shifted, and things are feeling calmer to me. She says I have seemed to be in a more reflective mood, and that things seem more settled. They don’t feel settled to me. Things are not calm inside. I’m hurt that she doesn’t see this. I spent almost all of Monday’s session feeling trapped, unable to find a way to tell her how bad things feel right now. I open my mouth several times to tell her I feel like I’m dying, like nothing is okay, that I feel so completely hopeless and numb I can’t find words to describe it at all. Instead, I continue talking about things that have changed in the 6 years since I started therapy. Why do I do this? Is there some part of me that stops me from speaking the words I really want to say?

It doesn’t take me very long after our session ends to email Bea and tell her that I am not okay. I calmly write that I don’t feel settled, that my feelings are hurt because she thinks I am okay, because she only saw the surface stuff. I write that I feel so far away, so numb, so alone, and her only seeing the surface feels terrible. It doesn’t take her long to respond. She tells me that she knew there was more, but that she felt as if she couldn’t find a way in. She tells me that she tried fishing around for a way in, but the walls were too thick today. She apologizes, and validates my hurt feelings, saying that she is sure it is really painful and lonely to not be seen. She asks me what I and the parts need from her. I don’t know. I need her to not feel so far away, but I’m the one that is far away, not her.

We meet again on Tuesday, and this time Bea has a way in, sort of. I’ve sent some of my notebook pages to her. (I’ll put those in a separate post https://fallingdowmtherabbithole.wordpress.com/2020/10/16/notebook-pages-metal-walls-and-black-holes/).

I log into teletherapy after I get settled in on the floor with my pillows and blankets. We say hello, and chat about nothing for a minute.

“I was really glad you were able to tell me your feelings were hurt,” Bea says.

I cover my face with my hands, embarrassed.

“It’s okay. I really was glad you were able to find your voice and share that with me. And I am really sorry you felt so hurt.”

“It always hurts when……..people don’t see under the surface.” By people, I mean my attachment relationships– Bea, Kay, and Hubby.

“Yes, it feels too much like reliving your childhood, where no one saw all the hurt underneath that Ms. Perfect was hiding.” Bea says softly.

I nod. “Yeah. It feels lonely.”

“I know. And I want to say that I did know there was more under the surface. I just couldn’t find a way in.”

“Well, I….it feels like…..” my voice trails off, scared to say the words.

“It feels like what?” Bea pushes a little to try to get me to finish my sentence.

I shrug. “There’s my famous filter again.”

“Yeah, that filter is tough! And it’s protected you for a long time. But it’s safe to let the filter go for a little while. Do you think the part that filters things can trust that?”

I shake my head and hide under my blanket. “I don’t want you to think I am being a drama queen,” I whisper.

“Hmmmm…I know that is a real fear, but that’s not me, right? That is something your mom said, that she believed about you, not something I think about you.” The reminder is gentle, and kind. It could sound angry or frustrated, but the way Bea says it, it is reassurance she doesn’t feel that way.

“I know. You always say you don’t think that about me.”

“Alice, in all seriousness, everything you have been through, all the trauma, everything, it was so horrible, I believe that anything you want to do, or think, or say, none of it will ever make you a drama queen.”

I sit in stunned silence for a minute, maybe longer. For probably the millionth time I wonder, was it really that bad? I don’t ask her this though. Instead, I spit out the words I was trying so hard to say earlier. “I feel like…..you know those commercials, I can’t think of which ones, but the ones where everything is grey and awful and sad and then the people find some miracle yogurt or medicine or whatever and everything is colorful and bright and happy? I feel like the before in those commercials.”

“Ahhhh. Things feel really bad right now. I could tell from your notebook pages how terrible things are feeling. That is a good description.”

“I feel really alone. Everything is far away and muted and I’m just numb. Except I don’t know if I get to say that, because there is sad, and maybe other stuff, and its big, really big, maybe too big, and I know it’s there, it’s just too far away to feel. So I don’t know if I get to call that numb.” I’m still hiding. It might feel childish, but it also feels safe, and safe trumps childish.

“I think you can call it whatever you want, but numb is a good explanation. Reading your writing, I was struck by the way the sad was described. I think there is a lot of grief to work through. That’s a big piece of trauma work, to process that grief. Grief is vital to healing, to moving on. I know it hurts, but try to hang on to the fact that getting to a point where you can even be aware of that grief is huge.”

I don’t say anything, because it feels like Bea is leaving. It feels like what she is saying about grief is her declaring we are at the end of things to work through. I shake my head at myself. No, I tell myself, no, no, no. Bea is not telling you that you are almost done with therapy. She is not kicking you out or leaving. She feels far away right now because you are far away. Everyone feels far away right now, even Kat. This is a you problem, not something Bea is doing to you. “Bea?” I say, tentatively.

“Yeah? I’m listening.”

“You feel too far away, and this is too big and I’m all alone. I don’t want to feel like this.”

“I know, I know you don’t. I am here, and I’m not going anywhere. I know this is scary but I’m not afraid of the big feelings, okay?” She speaks soothingly, the way I might speak to Kat when she is so distressed that anything I say isn’t landing with her anyway. “Are there things we can do right now to help you feel a little more connected? Like maybe feel your blanket, it looks fuzzy and soft. Or snuggle Hagrid? Can you listen to my voice and know I’m here with you even if you can’t feel it?”

“You just feel far away. I think it’s me. I’m too far away or too numb, or something. I don’t know. It’s like I built these walls and I was trying to….it’s like the bubble but not…this is….ugh…” I sigh, frustrated that I can not find the words I need to explain how or what I am feeling.

“No, I don’t see Ms. Perfect, not today. In fact I haven’t seen her in a long time.” Bea tells me.

“Well, yeah, because Ms. Perfect is…..I don’t know. She shows up for short things, like….I don’t know….it’s not, well…the bubble is light and bouncy and well, bubbly and stuff and this is….”

“Heavy.” Bea fills in the word for me when my voice drops off, and she’s absolutely right. This is heavy. There is such a huge weight to it, suffocating me.

“Yeah,” I say. “It’s so heavy. There’s this black hole of sad and other icky stuff and big feelings, and I just….I can’t look at it, I can’t even acknowledge it really, it’s too much and I just can’t so, I tried….it’s like I tried to build a wall around it but instead I built a wall and locked myself in with the black hole and there’s no windows or doors or anything and I can’t find a way to get out….or to even open a window to let anyone in.”

“I think you must need to be really far away to feel safe. Even if it feels awful, and you aren’t okay, I think the distance you need to be from the world, from yourself– and still feeling not okay– I think that tells us how badly this hurt you, how much it felt like your very existence was being annihilated.” Bea sounds so sad. Is she sad for me?

“I thought….well, you know….I just…it was over. I thought it was over and I wasn’t even sad, or anything but….not happy, I don’t know the right word….”

“Relieved?” Bea suggests.

“Yeah, maybe. I think so. Relieved. But then…I was wrong, it’s not over. And I am not special now, this isn’t because he loves me, I don’t know why now, and it is like everything is broken and none of it will ever be okay or anything else and I can’t, well, I just….” I sigh. This is so hard to explain. “I think that it was like…..before that night, I had this….it wasn’t normal, right? The stuff with him, it wasn’t normal.”

“No, it was not normal,” Bea agrees.

“But it was my normal. A fairytale. Well, maybe a twisted sort of fairytale, but a fairytale in my head. I had a story I would tell myself.”

“Yes, it was a game, he loved you, you were special.” Bea knows the story well.

“Right,” I say. I’m speaking more than usual, but I’m detached, cold, not here and definitely not feeling any of it. The feelings all live in the black hole I am working so hard to avoid. “So, I had this story I told myself, and it was normal, everything was okay. I was okay. But then, that night…..everything changed. It wasn’t over, and I wasn’t special anymore, either. My story didn’t work anymore. I couldn’t make sense of it, there was no understanding, no nice story to tell, and so then….I think I wanted to die.”

“Yeah, I can see that. There were no good choices emotionally that night.”

We are both quiet for what feels like a long while. Maybe Bea talks, or I talk, and I’m just too far away to even remember exactly what was said. Eventually though Bea says something about how I did come back to some sort of feeling that I loved him, or was going to marry him. I really don’t want to talk about this, but the words fall out of my mouth anyway. “I had to fix it.”

“Fix what? Fix it how?” Bea asks. I think I have confused her, but I don’t know for sure. I can’t sense her. Part of it is doing therapy on a screen, but most of it is that I’m too defended to feel her presence. She sounds like Bea, she looks like Bea, but she doesn’t feel like Bea to me.

I don’t answer the question. I’m not sure how to explain the thoughts swirling in my head like a hurricane. The thing is, everything changed that night in the cabin. It was the summer before 5th grade. That’s the year that the eating disorder really started. It was a bad year. And then came the sex talk at church and I realized what exactly was going on, and how sinful and bad I really was, I had to fix it. In my mind, the only way to to fix the whole sex before marriage sin and avoid going to hell was to marry the person. Yeah, I know. It wasn’t sex, the sin was not mine, blah, blah, blah. But it felt like it was mine, and desperate to fix it, I once again had a “crush” on him, and wanted to marry him. Typing this out makes it sound crazier than it feels in my mind. I don’t explain any of this to Bea. It feels too hard, like too many words to say.

When it’s clear I am not going to respond, Bea heads in a different direction. “What happened after? Did vacation go on as planned, were you able to have fun?”

I feel confused, like my head is filled with sand and I can’t think. “I…..I don’t know.” I shake my head, trying to clear it. Things feel….wrong. “I….I really don’t know. I just….ummm…This is crazy. I have no idea.” Panic hits me, hard and out of nowhere. In an instant, I go from numb and far away and feeling like I’m buried alive to terror that I don’t remember what happened after. It’s like not remembering means I didn’t survive.

“Hey, Alice, you are okay. I know, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but you are safe now. You did survive. Not remembering what happened after, that is okay, that just tells us how far away you had to go to protect yourself and survive.” Bea’s voice is reassuring, and calm, and she’s still my safe person.

The panic doesn’t last long., As Bea is talking, I shut down again. I think now it’s because the panic combined with me feeling Bea’s presence and her being safe is too much. It threatens to melt away the heavy metal walls I have constructed, and I need my walls. I hate them, but I need them.

I should be writing…….

I should be writing. My daughter is home sick with a sinus infection. I’m sick with a sinus infection. We both have an middle ear infection from the sinus crud clogging the eustation tube. It’s nasty crud, but thankfully it’s the normal sick we experience every year at this time. It’s not even contagious because the sinus crud is a result of really awful seasonal allergies and the change in weather. With covid though, she is stuck at home until she is symptom free. I’m thankful for her school’s policy on this because it makes me feel safer sending her to school, but it’s also hard. She’s not handling being home without social interaction very good this time around. I’m surprised because she handled the quarantine from March through June really good.

But I should be writing. I should write about how this memory feels like it is slowly killing me. I should write about how there is this stuck point (well, many stuck points, but one that keeps coming up over and over right now) that leaves me feeling completely and utterly defeated. I should write about how in this memory, for a moment, maybe just a fraction of a moment, I thought it was over. I thought the sexual abuse was over and I would never be hurt again. And then, well, it wasn’t over. But that little girl part of me that was so relieved? She is crushed, devastated, hopeless. She wants to do more than disappear. She feels like she’s dying. Because that’s what it felt like then, in that moment when I realized I was wrong and it wasn’t over. It felt like I was going to die.

Bea is back and really here (I think)

Every time I sit down and try to write lately, I get stuck. I can’t find the words, or I get overwhelmed with feelings and it’s just all too much. This may not be my most well thought out or eloquent post, but I wanted to write an update before I disappeared all over again.

Bea is back, and she is really Bea. I think. I’m pretty sure. She still feels far away, not here, like something is off, but I think it isn’t her that’s far away. It’s me. I think this is where teletherapy is hard because I’m far away and floaty feeling, and I can’t feel her presence the same way I can when we are in the same room. I’ve only seen her once since she has been back, so maybe today will better.

I’ve been struggling ever since that situation with Kat and the boy. Maybe it’s a combination of Kat being in 4th grade (when so many of my worst memories happened) or the situation with the boy, or something else all together. I don’t know. But I feel like I’ve been on the trigger carousel. Things feel even more difficult when Bea is on vacation.

Last week, on Wednesday morning, I emailed her a journal I kept on my iPad/iPhone while she was gone. I don’t really like journaling on my iPad. I find it easier to write by hand in a notebook, but I really miss being able to just hand Bea my words at the start of a session and have her read them right then. It makes talking so much easier to not have to say everything. It worked out okay, and was a lot more helpful than me sitting in silence unable to share my words.

I wrote out some pieces of the memory nightmare that has been coming up. I separated the awful shameful memory with lots of ❌🛑🚫 (red x’s and stop sign emojis), and told Bea in my writing not to read that part unless I said to. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted her to know that much detail. Somewhere in my mind, it feels like if Bea knows these things, she will somehow be contaminated. The little girl told Bea she didn’t want to get the icky on Bea, or to have the icky swallow Bea up the way it has swallowed me up. Bea assured me that it would be okay, but I wasn’t so sure. And then I did the thing I’ve never done in therapy with her before. I think the term is “door knob confession”. I told her to read it when there was only about 3 minutes left in session, and then at 10am, I told Bea it was time to go. Bea tried to tell me we could take 5 minutes so she could help me ground, but all I could say was that I had to go, it was time to go. She let me go after I promised her I would email her to check in later that day.

The thing is, this isn’t a new memory. It’s not even new to Bea. The last time it came up was years ago, and all she got out of me was a few vague sentences in email after she had asked a question and I answered yes. But that time, I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t strong enough. I insulated myself in a nice thick bubble. Bea called it a crust of perfection. I binged and purged and starved and cut and kept up this insane schedule of being the perfect housewife and mom. Eventually the bubble popped, as it always does, but we never brought up the memory again. I buried it, surrounded by a pit of flaming hot lava and Bea left it alone when I made it clear that memory, that time of my life was a no go zone. But now it’s surfaced, and I can’t seem to throw it back into that pit of boiling lava.

There’s so much shame, fear, and confusion attached to this memory. Then there’s the parts and all the feelings belonging to them. The little girl is afraid, terrified really, and just waiting for Bea to drown in the icky and have to run away from me to protect herself. The teen is so full of shame and fear of what Bea will think, that it’s almost all I can feel. Both of them expected Bea fo be angry, disgusted, to feel lied to, and to ultimately be so mad she would fire me as a client on the spot. That didn’t happen, though. Even when the teen directly told her in email that Bea was supposed to be mad and disgusted and get rid of me, Bea countered that with understanding those expectations, but said that she thought her feelings were a normal reaction to the situation.

She wrote to me: My feelings are a “normal” reaction, I think, to hearing about you having been in this situation. All of the feelings you had were so confusing to you, and that is so sad. None of this was okay. He seems like such a monster in this memory. I feel helpless and angry at him and wish he had been stopped. A part of me wants justice for you—any adult would want that. I’m not mad or disgusted or going anywhere.

I’m trying really hard to believe that she is here and not disgusted or angry.

She’s back (or so she says)

Bea is back from vacation. It’s been 2 weeks. Two really long, really hard weeks. All I’ve wanted to do is talk to her, but now that she’s back and I have therapy in the morning, all I want to do is run the opposite direction. Why is everything so hard lately? I emailed her to say that the Little Girl was very afraid she wasn’t really back, that Bea wouldn’t be Bea tomorrow morning. Her response was kind and she assured me she is bs j and is really here and herself but it just felt off. So I responded, and her reply was short, to the point and very much not Bea-like. She says she is back but I don’t think I really believe her.

The Non-rupture part 2

I’m still hiding under my blanket, too afraid, or ashamed or some feeling I can’t name, to come out of hiding. So Bea reads, and I hide.

(I’ve tried to label the email as to who is saying what because Bea and I have this habit of writing our responses directly into the email, so it becomes more of a conversation, a back and forth.)

Alice (email 1) So. Every time I try to write, I can’t find the words, or I delete them before I can share them. Stupid editor part. I’ve written this stupid email 3 times today. 

Parts are all stirred up. Ms. Perfect is….well, I don’t know. Unable to run the ship all the time like she used to. I think this….all the triggers and stuff, and school starting and needing to be, I don’t know, not crazy…..maybe the editing part is what is keeping me acting normal and hiding all the ick. Except it’s not helping, not really, not like Ms. Perfect and the bubble. 

Bea (response to Alice email 1) It’s interesting that now this Editing Part is a thing.  Is it the same part that cuts off the words when you try to speak?

Alice (response to Bea) Yes, I think it is the same part. Maybe it’s not even a part. It just feels like a part, a part that is erasing or stopping or rewriting or ignoring all the ugly things. It feels like a part that is, I don’t know, maybe like my mother in some ways. But it’s not like Ms. Perfect. Ms. Perfect does things, is always go go go. Even with covid, I could see her scheduling out blocks of time for things like bible study, cleaning, exercise….still always go go go. The editing part, she doesn’t care what I do as long as the ugly is not acknowledged or shared. If I laid in bed all day and watched movies, as long as the ugly stuff was being shoved under the rug, the editing part would be happy. Ms. Perfect would never be okay with that level of laziness, or with that much screen time. 

“It’s almost like the editor has taken Ms. Perfect’s place,” Bea murmurs.

It’s not like that, not really. I shake my head, but of course she can’t see me. “No….not exactly,” I say softly.

“Can you tell me more about this part?” Bea asks.

“I…..the editor is…..I don’t know. It’s not….she just needs things to be buried, ignored, not thought about or said out loud or anything. I don’t know. She doesn’t care about things being perfect and right and good, not like Ms. Perfect.” I try to explain it. It’s not easy.

“So, the editor doesn’t care about what is happening on the outside, as long as all the scary trauma stuff is hidden away even from yourself?” Bea asks, trying again to see if she gets it.

“No….it’s like…” I sit up straight and come out from under my blanket. I look at Bea. “I still hate the enneagram and I do not want to talk about it ever, ever again, but for this one instance, this one time, I think it will help. Ms. Perfect is the one that cares about how things look to others but also really cares about doing things perfect and good and right even if others don’t see that, or know it.”

“Thats a one on the enneagram, the perfectionist.” Bea interjects.

“Yeah, what you insisted I was for like ever and ever. And I’m not.”

“No, I don’t think you are, either.” Bea agrees.

“Okay. And the editor is the one that just kind of goes along and doesn’t like to acknowledge hard stuff or yucky feelings and hides from conflict.” I tell Bea.

“That would be a nine. So the editor is a 9 and Ms. Perfect is a 1,” she says slowly, as if she is thinking. “So, okay, what you are saying is that even though Ms. Perfect and the editor have the same job, Ms. Perfect is more of an external showing, and the editor is more internal. For me, Ms. Perfect feels like a part I know really well, it is is easy to recognize when she is running the ship. The editor, she feels more shadowy to me, I don’t have a handle on who this part is.”

“Yes. You get it. Its not the same, not exactly, but it is the same, sort of.” I smile because of the absurdity of using the enneagram to help sort this out is funny to me.

Bea (response to Alice email 1) It’s probably good that this part is being spoken of as a part—then we can work with it! Not that it wasn’t here before, but it didn’t have a name. Nice to meet you!

Alice (email 1) I write about what the creepy cousin comment means and how confused I am. And then I delete it all.

Bea (response to Alice email 1) I would love to read that if the editor would ever allow it.

Alice (response to Bea) I can’t share it. If I were writing in a paper journal this would be a folded over and taped shut page. Instead it just gets deleted. Ugh. I try to write a journal on my iPad so I can share it and end up just deleting everything. Ugh. 

“Yes, I remember your folded over journal pages taped shut. We had a lot of those in the beginning.” Bea says.

I hide again, and whisper, “But then we did open some eventually.”

“Yes, we did. When you were ready and felt safe enough to do so. And you will be ready and feel safe enough to share this, too, one day. You just have to be patient.”

Ugh. Patience. I am not good at being patient with myself, or the parts. It’s really hard when some parts want so badly to talk and others are just as desperate to never share any of it. Ugh.

Alice (email 1) I write about all this mad inside, and how it all came out at kat and then hubby yelled at me for it and there is so much guilt around this and shame and it just is awful. And then I delete if before I can share it. 

Bea (response to Alice email 1) I’m sure that felt bad:(  It makes so much sense why it would come out that way, but of course I know you don’t want to dump it on kat.

Alice (email 1) I write about the bad memory. I write the pieces I remember, even the fuzzy parts and the parts that feel awful and the confusing parts. Then I delete it before no one can know. I can’t tell. Not ever. 

Bea (response to Alice email 1) I know this is a very difficult memory. And you don’t have to tell—we can work with what is happening now because of it instead. If some of it does need to be shared, that’s okay too.

Alice (response to Bea) I need you to make the confusing bits not so confusing. Those are the worst. Scary and confusing and it doesn’t really make sense because why would this be what happened, except it’s how I remember it…ugh. I feel like I explained this a few weeks ago. 

Bea starts in on some talk about how memories work, or how trauma memories can be weird or how they form different or something. I don’t know, I just know she’s not getting it.

“No. No. You aren’t listening. You don’t get it! We talked about this already, why don’t you remember? Ugh.” I feel like I’m shouting at her, but I’m in the weird space of here not here, so I could just be whispering or actually shouting.

“Can you tell me what we talked about exactly?” Bea asks.

“Because you forgot,” I say, sadly.

“Because I need a little help to jog my memory. You are important to me, and I want to get this right. I do remember talking about memories and how they can be weird and confusing sometimes, but I don’t remember exactly the explanation of what helped before. Can you share that again?”

Okay. Okay. She didn’t forget because she doesn’t care. I can say it again, I can do this. “Um….you know…it took a long time to talk about what happened before my mom found my underwear…..”

“Yes, that was a very bad memory. So many scary pieces for the little girl. It was really hard to talk about. You needed to know I was a very safe person before you could talk about it.” Bea is reassuring and present and caring.

“Well….I um….do you remember how I said….I told you that it was confusing because I felt…….pain….and I couldn’t move…..so much weight on me……I couldn’t move at all……..it hurt down there but his hands were by my face, both hands and I thought maybe he did something to hurt me before his hands were on my face but all I could remember then was his hands holding my face and pain…it hurts, it hurts so much, I think maybe I am dying or being cut in half, maybe he did something with my scissors except they are on my art desk so that’s not right……” I’m talking too fast and too mixed up and I’m so far away. I hate this memory. I hate that this is part of my life story. This crazy making stuff. I hate how easily I can be back there again.

“Yes, I remember that day, the first time you told me this memory. I remember it very well. That was a hard time for you. You were so hurt. He hurt you so badly, I was so angry that had been done to you, I wanted to kill him,” Bea tells me.

Her admission of anger and of wanting to kill him, pulls me back to present day. “And you called it something. The word I don’t say.”

“Yes, the *R* word,” Bea says.

“Yes….and that was…..it was awful because I didn’t know that was…..that that happened in that memory when I was so young……and also because it was….I don’t know, just bad and it was real after you said that but….also, the really confusing, weird bit of that memory made sense to me, to grown up me, after you called it that. I didn’t…..I couldn’t see, the grown up couldn’t see what…..couldn’t make sense of what the memory really was.”

“Yes, yes, I remember. You didn’t have a grown up version of the memory, just the little girl’s trauma memory and she wouldn’t have known that he raped you in that memory. She wouldn’t have words or context for that. She would only know what she could make sense of. So you are saying that this memory that is coming up now, you need a grown up to help you make sense of it? Because then the confusing bits won’t be so scary, because they will have a context, and maybe make a little bit of sense. Is that right?” Bea’s voice has that excited tone people get when something clicks and they finally understand something they weren’t fully grasping before.

I nod. “Yes. I need you to help me.” I cover my mouth as soon as the words are spoken. Did I really just tell her that I need her? Why did I do that? What is wrong with me?

“I’m here, and I will be here to try to help make sense of this when you are ready to share it, okay?” Bea tells me. Her voice has so much love in it. That’s the only way to describe it. She cares and she is going to be here.

Alice (email 1) I write that I wish I hadn’t said I didn’t want more than an hour for video therapy and that I wish I could ask you to have my old time back because an hour doesn’t feel like enough to talk about those awful things. But I can’t ask for that because the teen and the little girl are so afraid of and so hyper sensitive to rejection (real or imagined). Then I delete that, too, while I beat myself up for needing too much, and for wanting more than I should. 

Bea (response to Alice email 1) We can plan in extra time if we want to work on those difficult things. I don’t always have more than an hour, but sometimes I do.

Alice (response to Bea) I hate this. The adult is all like, yep, that sounds good to plan extra time if I need it and it’s an option. The adult knows that early on during covid, the extra time would have been crazy, because she was not really talking about anything. The teen is just mad. She wants her time back like it was. She feels like there was no talking about stuff early on because by the time she had the sense that you were you and really here, time was almost up because through a screen it feels so much harder to feel that you are here and still her safe person. She’s mad you asked about making video therapy an hour and that I agreed without thinking it through or asking about what happens if I need my time back or anything. She just wants things back how they were. And she’s sad that this is just how it is. And she hates everything right now. 

Bea (response to Alice email 1) When I come back from up north I think the following Monday I have group. So we could do 7:30 to 9:00 that day as one option, for example.

Alice (response to Bea) The grown up thinks yes, let’s try that. The teen wants to just scream never mind, forget it. 🤦🏼‍♀️

Alice (email 1) On Monday, I wrote that the little girl feels like you don’t want her to talk. You offered a longer time on Wednesday and then in the same breath said it’s not a good time to dig into things, and that just felt like you didn’t really want to hear all the mess that I keep writing about and then deleting. It felt like a big rejection to her. I deleted that, too, because my instinct is still to hide my hurt and pretend it’s fine.

Bea (response to Alice email 1) Oh, I’m so sorry about that! I said we had more time, then remembered as I said it that it was our last time before my vacation, so I was just thinking out loud. I was only thinking about not stirring things up too much when we have to miss three sessions right after. It wasn’t/isn’t about me not wanting to hear about it, but rather it was about keeping you safe.

Alice (response to Bea) I feel like I say this a lot but it doesn’t matter if we talk about it or not, if it’s all there under the surface and messy, it’s there even if we both ignore it. And it’s almost worse if we both ignore it and don’t talk about something so you can “keep me safe.” I feel like all this does is let you feel better about things and not have to worry that we dug up something. Because either way, it’s there for me, whether you talk with me about it or not. Why don’t you get that? It’s all dug up. It’s dug up on an almost nightly basis. 

“You’re right. Trying to keep you as safe as possible does let me feel better about going on vacation and missing 3 sessions in a row. It doesn’t mean that I won’t think about you or worry about you, but yes, trying to keep you safe is about you, but it helps me feel better, too. If I didn’t try to keep you safe, I would be a bad therapist. But of course it’s there for you even if we don’t bring it up. I know that. I do know that. Let me check something…..” Bea’s voice trails off for a second, and then she’s back. “It looks like I will have wifi there, so I can email and could probably even do a short video call check in, if you needed. You know how spotty cell service is there. I know you won’t use my backup therapist while I’m gone, but now I know you can contact me if you need to. I still think trying to keep you safe and going slow, waiting for all the parts to be okay with telling is important. But I do know it is always there for you right now and that it is very hard for you to have this editing part stopping you from speaking.”

“Okay,” I respond. I feel like I should say more, but my thoughts are messy.

Alice (email 1) I write that I really hate that you are leaving. I know you will be back but this is the first time in a long time that you leaving is triggering all these fears and feelings of abandonment. I delete that, too, because there is so much shame around needing anyone. 

Bea (response to Alice email 1) It’s okay to need people,

Alice (response to Bea) Ugh. I can’t. I just can’t right now. This does not feel okay. It’s not a good idea. I just can’t. So please stop. It’s not okay, not safe.

“I know it really doesn’t feel okay. I promise it is though. People need people. We are made that way. Can I ask if there is something specific making it feel bad that I’m going on vacation?”

“I don’t want to talk about this.” I whisper.

“Okay, we don’t want have to talk about it,” Bea agrees.

Bea (response to Alice email 1) and I used to feel like this when my therapist left, too. This is a vulnerable time for you for a lot of reasons.

Alice (email 1) I just can’t do this. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t pretend okay, and yet I can’t stop editing everything. I feel stuck and alone and I hate this. I hate that you kept saying how much better I seemed and how much more in the present I was and whatever. I hate that you kept telling me you sense a transition. No. No transition. Just me, doing my best to feel in control and the editing part stopping me from saying all the things that I want so very badly to not be alone with.  I hate that I couldn’t talk last week and that I can’t seem to talk this week and it’s all just hard. 

Bea (response to Alice email 1) Sounds really frustrating, for sure.  Also sounds like I didn’t spend enough time talking to the parts yesterday. Let me clarify: I didn’t say “better,” I said “regulated,” and the positive thing about regulated is that most people can find words better than when they’re out of their window. The Editor may not allow that, of course.

Alice (response to Bea) Well it felt like you just cared that I was acting better…sorry, acting more “regulated”…because that’s much nicer to deal with than crazy stirred up messy Alice.  

“I like dealing with all parts of Alice. I wasn’t pointing it out because I didn’t want to deal with the stirred up parts. I was just hopeful that feeling more regulated would help you find the words when you wanted to talk.” Bea explains. She is so patient. How many times has she had to reassure me over the years that the messy crazy stirred up me does not frighten her or worry her? Way too many to count, and way more often than she should have to.

Bea (response to Alice email 1) The transition I was talking about was the real one—school starting. I don’t just sense it—it happened, and that made left-brain stuff come on line. 

Alice (response to Bea) Yes fine. School started. I acted like a functioning adult. That doesn’t mean any of this is better. It means that I obsessively cleaned and organized to ”an extreme” (not my words, hubby’s words when I was still cleaning— using an old toothbrush to scrub the grout in between the tiles in our entire upstairs—- at 2am one night). It means that in order to manage to function and get Kat to school with a good start to her day, and to pick her up and act like a mom, I have to have this extra organized house and life with every routine and schedule planned to the last detail. Because I need to control something, anything, or I’ll lose my mind. And this is something I’m great at controlling. But I wouldn’t call it a healthy left brain transition thing. I’d call it crazy with a purpose maybe, but not healthy. Yes, sure, I know on the outside it all looks healthy and positive and regulated. But it does not feel that way. I know, without it happening, that if one thing does not go according to my schedule and my very organized plans and routines, I’ll lose it in a not pretty way. This does not feel regulated or better or positive to me. It feels awful. It feels like falling apart from the inside out and no one even sees what’s right in front of them.

“Oh….oh, I see. I didn’t see on Monday, did I? I’m sorry. That must have felt really awful. This doesn’t sound like it feels very healthy or regulated at all. It sounds hard.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. She gets it. “It’s really hard.” I start crying then. I needed her to see, to get it, that I’m not okay, that I’m using every not so great tool I have to hold it together, that I’m trapped alone in my nightmare and I can’t get out, so all I can do is frantically try to regain some kind of control over everything.

“What’s coming up right now?”

“I told you on Monday,” I sob. “I told you I was….that it wasn’t regulated and you just kept telling me how better I was and something about left brain and I just…..”

“Oh, yikes. I really stepped in it, didn’t I? Of course you were mad! I didn’t listen or see you, did I? I’m sorry. I think I was just feeling so hopeful that this would be a time that you could feel a little more in your window, and I am sorry that I was so focused on that, that it caused me to have blinders on.” Bea means it. She messed up and she is willing to accept that responsibility.

“But now you see?” I ask.

“Yes, I see now that things do not feel grounded,” she answers.

“I was so mad. I’m not mad now, though.” I peek out from my blanket. Bea is just Bea, the same as always.

“It would be okay if you were still mad,” Bea teases. It is kind of a joke between us, because I hate mad so much.

“Well, I’m still mad about the editing part. I just….it’s so hard. I hate this.” The tears start again, and I hide my face with my hands for a minute before I give up and hide under my blanket again.

“Can you say more about what this is?” Bea asks.

“The….some parts wanting to talk and then the editor not wanting to talk. It’s just so hard. I can’t keep doing this.” Frustrated, I pick at my fingers until my thumb starts bleeding. Oops.

“Do we know why the editor doesn’t want some parts to be heard?” Bea wonders. She’s doing the curiosity thing, but whatever, I don’t care.

“Because…..it’s not a good idea, bad things would happen then.” It’s not grown up Alice who answers, but I’m not sure if it’s the teen or the little girl or another part.

Bea says something in response, but I don’t remember what. I’ve been dissociating off and on to different degrees all session and things get very fuzzy at this point. I know that somehow, maybe from questions Bea asks, I’m telling Bea that the editor does not want to be seen, and it physically hurts because other parts of me need so badly for her to see them.

“Yeah, that is really hard, isn’t it? Even if I don’t know the words that need to be shared, I do know the little girl and the teen, and I see them.”

“I know…it’s just so hard and I feel so alone.” I know I sound whiny, but I can’t stop myself.

“Do you know why the editor doesn’t want to be seen?” Bea wants to know.

I sigh. “It’s so hard not to edit answers about the editor!”

“Hmmm, yes, I imagine that would be very true. I’m sure the editor doesn’t want me knowing too much about her.”

“Ugh,” I mumble. And then, interrupting Bea, and speaking very quickly, I say, “Real answer, no editing, first thought after you asked that is because it’s dangerous.”

“Being seen is dangerous, yeah. It feels very dangerous. If I see you, I could reject you. If I see you, I can hurt you. Yes, being seen is scary because it can feel so dangerous.” Bea sympathizes.

I don’t say anything, but I am feeling very uncomfortable and way too vulnerable.

Bea (response to Alice email 1) I keep dozing off and starting to dream, so I need to go to bed, and I hope there’s nothing weird that doesn’t make sense. See you in the morning!

Alice (response to Bea) And now that the mad has been let out…….Are you mad with me now? please just don’t leave me okay? Please tell me you are coming back and you will still be you and it will be okay. 

“No, I’m not mad at the little girl or the teen or any parts of Alice. I’m not mad at all. And I will be back, and I will be me, just me. It will be okay.”

Shame heats my face. I hate that I need this reassurance.

“Alice? Are you still here?” Bea asks.

“Yeah….just….embarrassed. I’m sorry.” I whisper.

“You don’t have anything to be sorry about,” Bea declares. “Can I tell you something?”

“Okay,” I say.

“I was worried earlier that I would mess this up and you would leave. You worry about me getting mad and leaving you, but I worry about the same thing sometimes.” She stage whispers this, like it is a secret.

It takes a minute for her words to sink in. “You would be sad if I left?” The little girl needs to check that she is understanding this right.

“Yes, I would be sad. This is a relationship. It’s real, even if it is a therapy relationship. I would be very sad if you left.” She affirms.

I am finding this to be unbelievable. “You really would be sad?” I question again.

“Yes! You matter to me. You matter to lots of people. You are important, and you have value just for being you. Yes, I would be sad.” Bea assures me.

“Oh,” is all I can say. I’m surprised, but Bea sounds authentic. She means it. I matter to her. All of a sudden, things feel a little more equal. This is no longer a relationship where I am needy and pathetic and attached to Bea and she could take me or leave me. It’s no longer a relationship where she is one of the most important people in my life and I am nothing to her. (I know Bea has never actually felt like I am nothing to her, but when those attachment and abandonment feelings kick in before she leaves for a trip, it feels like I am just an interchangeable client.)

The rest of the day, I keep returning to this idea that I matter to Bea, that she would miss me and be sad if I just suddenly left therapy. Just like that, the rupture I was so scared we were careening towards, has been avoided. We’re okay.

The Non-rupture part 1

Tuesday, I email Bea. She writes back, and it’s only then that I realize a part of me is so angry at her for not seeing how bad I really feel. I respond to her email, but it’s so snarky and mean, I can’t send it. I want to send it, I want her to know I’m upset with her. On one hand, I don’t want to her to leave for vacation while I’m so angry, but on the other, I am so afraid that we are headed for a rupture and I really don’t want to have this huge blow out rupture right before she leaves. Maybe it would be easier to just pretend everything is okay.

Wednesday morning, after I’m all settled on the floor with my blanket and pillows and Stitch, I read my response to her email one more time. And then, without even thinking about it, I hit send. Crap. Why did I just do that? I didn’t really want to send it, did I? Ugh.

When I log on for therapy, I don’t even want to talk to Bea. I’m behaving like a snarky teen, showing up to therapy because I am being forced to go. In my mind all I can think is that Bea can’t force me to talk.

When Bea logs on and says hello, I want to throw my iPad across the room. The teen is so angry at her.

Bea talks about her dog, asks about how school is going for Kat, and says hello to Hagrid. I know she is trying to get me engaged, to look at her, to respond. Instead, I stare at the floor, refusing to look at her. I sit with my knees pulled into my chest and my arms wrapped around them. My responses are monosyllabic, and my voice is hollow, with the words clipped and short.

Finally, Bea says, “I’m feeling a little bit anxious and I think I better take a minute and check in with that feeling, see if I can reassure it. Otherwise I am afraid that I won’t be fully present with you.” She does stuff like this, sometimes. It’s good modeling for me. It is actually really helpful to see Bea’s process of checking in with herself. I do this sometimes with Kat, this pause to check in with yourself so your stuff doesn’t get in the way of what the other person needs. It’s a good skill to have, I think. But today, I am annoyed. I don’t care how Bea is feeling. I want her to shut up and leave me alone. I also desperately want her to see me and to get it.

Bea talks through her process out loud, and soothes her anxious feeling. “This anxious feeling is really worried I am going to mess this up, and it feels so important to me that today be a good session so that when I leave for vacation you can still feel connection and safety.”

I shrug. I don’t care.

“Okay,” Bea takes a deep breath and continues, “That feels better. I was glad to get an email from you, and I hope my response made sense. I kept dozing off, and then trying to finish writing, so I hope there wasn’t anything weird there.”

“There wasn’t.” My voice is cold, and I still can’t look at her.

We sit in silence, and just when I think this is going no where and I should just hang up, I tell Bea I sent a response to her email. “But don’t open it. You shouldn’t read it. I just…I don’t know.”

“Okay. I won’t open it yet. Can we talk about it?” She asks me.

“I…I was mad.”

“Yeah. That’s okay. You can be mad. Mad is just a feeling.” She sounds so sure, so certain that mad is okay.

I shake my head. “I was mad at you. I don’t want things to, well….I don’t want that to make a mess of everything again. I don’t want to fight.”

“Ahhh. You’re worried that you being mad will make me defensive and we will have a bad rupture. I’m not feeling defensive, only curious about what made you mad, and hopeful that I can help sort out the mad and repair anything I did or said to make you feel like this.”

Her words sink in, slowly. She sounds real, and not upset in the least. I still can’t trust it, though. “Maybe you should just delete it,” I suggest.

“I could do that. But I wonder if the teen would be upset then? If she would feel unheard, and alone because I deleted her words? I wonder if I read them now and responded to them if that would help her to feel less hurt and angry?” Bea is gentle when she says this, but there is a tone in her voice….not a bad tone, maybe more like a serious tone….like a mom tone that says *I care and I think this is important so please pay attention*.

“I don’t know. I don’t want to ruin everything and I was so mad at you.” I pick at a corner of my blanket as I speak, still refusing to look at her.

“I don’t think your mad feelings are going to ruin things between us.” Bea pauses, and then says slowly, “I had a new client recently, we had only had a few sessions, and she got angry with me. A big rupture happened, and she ended up quitting. When that happened, I thought of you, and all the ruptures we have had and worked through to repair, and I realized how very important it is to have a strong relationship as a foundation for when these things happen. I mean, of course I know the relationship is the most important thing in therapy, but this contrast just really stood out to me. I’m telling you this because I want you to know, to really see that our relationship is strong enough to withstand the mad. I can handle the mad, and so can this relationship.”

I shake my head. I’m so confused. I don’t know what I want. I feel like I have all these conflicting feelings and thoughts going on inside. “Just delete it,” I whisper the words, and they come out mumbled and muted.

Bea hears *just read it* and so she begins reading. I don’t realize this right away because I’m still looking down, refusing to look at Bea.

Bea reads…..

okay…I wrote this, the purple, last night…I’m just going to send it now…even though I sort of just want to smile and pretend everything is fine. But I’ve learned enough to know that does not work, so…..here goes. I’m feeling really vulnerable this morning. 

I’m not sure about sending this. Some part of me feels like it would be better to just pretend everything is all okay. Even if I send this, there’s no guarantee that the editing part won’t stop my words in the morning anyway. But, I thought if I send this you can read it and we can talk about it in the morning. I just don’t know if it’s a good idea. 

The teen is mad and being snarky and mean. I feel that…….the be so angry and make you go away so it won’t matter if you hurt my feelings thing happening. But then after the mad and the snarky and the mean is still the fear of being left. But there’s a lot of mad here, right now. I hate being mad at you. Why does this mad seem to happen every time the really bad memories pop up? 

I don’t realize Bea is reading my email until she says, “I knew the teen was here this morning.” She says it in this happy voice, like she is glad to have this mean, snarky, sulky teen around. “I know there is a lot of hurt and fear under that mad, and I’m not scared of any of your feelings. I really believe we can talk about it, and that there will be no ruptures today. I know how much you want to pretend it’s okay, but I am really glad you didn’t.”

My head snaps up, and I look at Bea. Then, I throw my blanket over my head and say angrily, “I said to delete it, not read it!”

Bea immediately apologizes. “I’m stopping reading right now. I’m so sorry. I thought you said to *just read it*. I am very sorry I misheard. I can delete it right now if that’s what you really want. But I sure would like to know what you were thinking and feeling.”

I sigh. I could get really mad right now. She didn’t listen, she betrayed my trust, she read the thing I told her to delete. I could get mad, be full of righteous indignation. But do I really want to do that? Do I want to get angry and push her away over something that was an honest mistake? And really, now that she has started reading, do I want her to stop or do I want her to read it all and understand how mad I am? I don’t know. I can’t decide. Both options seem reasonable to me, and they each seem like an equally good choice. Today, at this moment, I can see that acting furious and causing a rupture over Bea *betraying my trust and not listening* was clearly all about protecting myself from further hurts.

I go back and forth, unsure what to do. “Just read it,” I finally snap at Bea.

“Are you sure? I won’t be angry if you tell me to delete it.” I think she is trying to be reassuring and to make sure I am making choices based on what I want and not what I think the other person wants me to do.

“Yes, just read it.” I’m exasperated and it shows in my voice.

“Okay, then,” Bea says, and she starts to read.