Parts mixed up

Trigger warning. Negative coping skills mentioned and CSA mentioned.

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So yesterday (Wednesday) after therapy (which I haven’t posted about), I was okay, maybe a little distanced but okay. As the day went on, more and more feelings came up and by 7:00pm last night, the little girl wanted to hide, to disappear forever and the teen wanted to stuff her face and throw up or hurt herself. I ended up emailing Bea at 12:30am because I didn’t know what else to do.

Hi Bea,

So, I was starting to do some writing and then I realized things were more confused in my head than I thought and the little girl is scared and sad and I just thought, I could hold onto this the rest of the week, but I don’t think that will be a good thing. I just don’t think I can hold all the parts feelings by myself right now. It got messy and mixed up so fast, and I just can’t hold it all and be the present and grounded and more healthy Alice I am. I yelled at Kat today–  (and she’s okay, and I’m okay, and I had 2 friends validate the frustration and tell me I’m okay and Kat’s okay, and so I’m not just hiding, but……..it still feels bad) she deserved to be in trouble for a sassy attitude and rude and disrespectful behavior, but I gave her a lecture that would rival the guilt laden lectures my parents loved to give me. Maybe she needed something like that, because nothing else has nipped that behavior in the bud, but she didn’t need to be lectured for the hour drive home and then punished (to write apology letters). That was too much. And I think it happened, at least in part, (and this feels like a BIG thing I’ve just figured out and put into words) because the parts are all stirred up and conflicted and that makes me feel more of the here not here (and more of the not here than here this afternoon), so I miss the impact of my outward behavior. It’s almost like for me to “feel” the mad or the disappointment or whatever it has to be extra HUGE because I’m so far away. I mean, it’s sort of a comfortable, familiar feeling, this far away, but the more I experience something different, the more I realize how much damage being far away can do. I see and feel more and more why it was needed back then, but isn’t needed now and why it’s not healthy to keep using the far away as my go to coping skill.

But, anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent, and this is what I was beginning to write in my notebook about and was trying to email about:

The little girl doesn’t want the grown up. That’s what I told you. It’s as close as I could come to saying:

I’m afraid you are trying to cut yourself out. The little  girl doesn’t want the grown up, she wants you. And this feels like you leaving— or laying the groundwork so you can leave. I know it’s your job to push me, but this is too much change all at once. I’m doing sensorimotor, even if it’s with your and my own twist to it, and I’m revising how I think of healing, and I’m figuring out how to stay in the present and keep the ick in the therapy box and I’m facing this scary huge thing (otherwise known as ‘I didn’t get a choice, he wouldn’t let me move, It wasn’t my fault’) and I cope a lot better than ever before and I manage things most of the time between appointments on my own and it just feels like still you want more from me. And maybe everything in therapy was always leading up to these big changes but this feels like a corner was turned or something and it feels like a lot of change and I can’t do all this, I can’t handle all these new ideas if the little girl thinks you are trying to leave. And it does not matter how much you reassure that it’s her choice to leave, not yours. That feels like it still is an expectation, that at some point the little girl is expected to rely on the grown up and not need therapy or you anymore and choose to leave. I know you have explained it as a choice, but it is a choice she is expected to make at some point. And that sucks. A choice like that isn’t really a choice, is it?

It’s always a conversation about the grown up needing to be online and the grown up needing to communicate with the little girl and them needing to work together and blah blah blah. I understand why, I get it, but it feels like you are really pushing for that, like its this……I don’t know….like it is something that needs to happen sooner than later. I tried not to care, to not let it matter, to ignore it, because the grown up does think it’s a ridiculous thing to be all spun up over. The old messages of being a drama queen, needing too much, being over sensitive are running through my head as I type this out. But the teen is mad and feeling like she is somehow messing everything up, and the little girl is sad and scared and feeling like she’s just not good enough, like she will never ever be good enough.

I know it took me a long time to be willing to use words and to feel emotionally and physically all at the same time. I know it took me a long time to be able to even talk during sessions, that it was a lot to always be emailing and saying everything I needed to say in email and needing a quick response to all the ick I was pouring out and that the extra time I always seem to need to be able to connect and to sort of check if you are you is not some thing most therapists would give me (and honestly, it makes me feel less guilty to know that you enjoy that chat time and that you are really okay with it) and I know it took me a long time to be able to even start to look at the details of things and see that my story of it all as a whole doesn’t match the mixed up pieces of my memory. I know I’m lucky I have a patient therapist who was willing to wait me out and start where I was. But now, It just feels like you think I should be more of something. More present, more capable, more integrated, more healed,  more something. Some part of me, maybe the teen, although she’d need admit it, worries I have used up all your patience. After all, that’s what the little girl and teen do, you know. They need too much, and they take and take and take and they drain people of all they have to give until eventually they’ve broken them. The teen, the little girl, they break everyone eventually. So maybe, just maybe, the teen is terrified she has drained most of your patience and so you need the grown up to be able to take care of the parts because soon the teen will have broken you, too.

And the really messed up thing is that it wasn’t a bad session. I was proud of myself for being able to say I needed more time to do any moving, and for making the choice to wait until Monday to come back to the sick feeling and need to move away and I was proud I sat with the really bad sick like something bad is going to happen feelings, even if it was only a minute, maybe less time, I still stayed with the feeling and felt it and that’s more than I ever did before. Even with that, today’s session, it didn’t feel bad. I felt….I don’t know, like together you and I kept things from getting overwhelming and out of control and that felt….I don’t know. Strong? Powerful? Something I don’t have the word for because it’s not a feeling I often have. So it wasn’t a session that felt yucky. Except this mixed up piece. Except all this mess that has come up now. Ugh. The teen was so mad when you sort of set it up so the grown up would have to ask for a blanket for the little girl if the little girl wanted to be able to hide. That felt like this shrinky manipulation. It wasn’t fair. My only thought during that time? “The grown up is not going to be forced help the little girl.” Yeah, I did end up asking, but the whole time the teen was pissed. Oh boy, was the teen was mad about it all. And maybe the grown up knows that you weren’t being manipulative or shrinky and that you aren’t pushing the little girl to rely on the grown up so you can escape the little girl. But it sure doesn’t feel like it right now. It just feels like you want to get away from me before my ick contaminates you, before I break you. It just all feels confusing because there’s too many conflicting feelings about you right now, on top of conflicting feelings about the Kenny stuff. I’m confused about enough. It doesn’t feel good to be confused about my secure base. (Yes, I’m all done pretending relationships don’t matter, or that you aren’t important or that the little girl has absolutely no attachment to you at all. Or, in writing I’m no longer pretending that. Face to face might be a different story.) So. This just feels bad right now. And I couldn’t tell you if it’s past or present feelings, but it is definitely a parts thing. That much I know. And of course the other old message running through my head “what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? Why do I make a deal out of things that aren’t a deal? Maybe I’m jut crazy. Maybe I am just a drama queen. Maybe this is all just a big mess I’ve created. What’s wrong with me?”

I guess the grown up is asking for help for (with?) the teen and the little girl. Because the grown up, she just can not hold all of this or sort it.

~Alice

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No therapy Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wanted to Move

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Should we start there then?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shake my head. “No.”

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

“Nothing.” I mumble.

“Nothing, huh?” She pushes a little.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nod. “Sharp.”

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

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

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

“Yeah.”

“Is there anything you want to move now?”

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

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

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

“What wants to move?” She asks softly.

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

“What do your arms want to do?”

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

“What way do they want to move?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” Teen, snarky and questioning everything.

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

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

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

“Okay.” I agree.

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

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

“I….I don’t know.” I whisper.

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

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

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

“Okay.” I shrug.

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

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

“It is a lot,” she agrees.

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

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

Trauma– it’s in the details 

Bea’s drinking coffee today, and so we talk about coffee. I love coffee, it’s my favorite drink. I love fancy coffee drinks, simple lattes, plain black coffee and coffee with cream. So, we talk about coffee because it’s easy and simple to do. We talk about coffee because I want to avoid talking about the image I’d finally managed to write about just the night before. 

Eventually though, Bea directs us to our work with a gentle push. “Can we talk about Wednesday, and how that session was for you?” 

I nod. “Okay.” And then I don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say. “It was better than the Wednesday before?” It’s true, but it comes out as a question, maybe because I am questioning what she wants to hear. 

“Yes, that’s good. How was it better?” 

“Well, it just…..I didn’t leave upset. It was better.” I’m looking at down at my hands, sort of here but not here because I know where this conversation is heading. 

“What was it like to talk about and notice some boundaries? Have you noticed them more in your life as we have been working with them?” Bea’s voice is curious. 

“I don’t know. Not really, I guess. I’m sorry.” I mumble. I don’t get why we are talking about boundaries. I guess that is some of what we have been talking about and working with lately. But I don’t know what she wants. 

“That’s okay. I bet you might start to notice. I was just curious because boundaries aren’t something you have ever really noticed or felt before, so I wonder if being more aware of them would change how you felt things.” She shifts in her chair, picking up her coffee cup.

I don’t say anything, just nod my understanding. Bea drinks some coffee, and I drink mine and finally she asks if I did any writing. I pull out my orange notebook. “It’s not much,” I tell her as I hand it over. 

She starts to read, and I start some mindless chatter. “I think I am talking, trying to distract you.” 

“That’s a good thing to notice, you are talking to keep my attention focused off your words.” She looks up at me. 

“I’ll stop now,” I say, and then I keep talking anyway. Bea patiently waits me out. “Okay. I want you to read.” And I stop talking, sitting quietly and hiding my face. 

I’ve sat down a few times to try to write about the image, but I just couldn’t. I don’t even remember the words that brought it up.

“I don’t remember either. I’d forgotten about the image until now but it sounds like this image is really an important thing for us to look at.” Her voice is clear, with a bit of an apology woven into it when she says she had forgotten. For whatever reason I’m not upset about this. Even now, writing it out, I’m surprised that my belief she cares and is here is still so strong, that my crazy mind isn’t using Bea’s forgetfulness as a way to convince myself that she doesn’t care. 

“I didn’t forget….” I whisper. 

“I know you didn’t.” She says, and her words say so much more than that. They hint at understanding that I don’t have the luxury of forgetting, of leaving the images in my brain at her office. 

Wednesday was better. It’s as if something clicked this time. For the little girl, realizing that you still hold the memory as a whole and that stopping talking and looking at the body stuff isn’t about you needing to get away from her and her stuff, that makes SP seem completely different now. Still scary, but not as terrible and awful as it did feel to me. 

“Yeah, of course realizing that, switching that perspective changed everything. It seemed so clear to me, that of course I’m still holding onto this memory as a whole, but the little girl didn’t see it that way. It’s no wonder SP has felt so scary and awful to her. I didn’t know that was what wasn’t making sense for her, I didn’t put two and two together. I’m so glad she knows now, I’m not going anywhere and I’m not letting go of the memory.” 

So, the image. What were the words? About not wanting to be seen or something like that, right? So. I guess I’m still struggling to put it on paper. It’s popped in my head, it’s been on my mind at times, I’ve wanted to write it, I really have, but it’s just so– I don’t have a good word for it– bleck, yuck, ick

“It was really hard to write it out, wasn’t it?” She murmurs. 

It’s true, I think, what you said about trauma, feelings, pain living in the details. That’s the problem. It really could be part of a memory already written or talked about. Looking at one small piece means details and that means no vague descriptions glossing over the things that shame, disgust and terrify me. 

“It really is the details, isn’t it?” She tells me how there are events in her life where if she thinks of the event as a whole, it doesn’t bring up the emotion that discussing and focusing on the details that have stuck with her from event would. I don’t feel better when she says this, but at least I know she gets how much more is in the details. 

Okay. This what I’m going to do. I’ll write the image on the next page and fold it over, so we can talk about it before you read it. And probably just give me a blanket now, before  you read that. I’m sort of just being funny, but also that is just how strong the image is– I want to hide just thinking about it. 

 

I’m hiding my face, but I hear Bea get up to get me a blanket. “I’m going to set this blanket next to you, okay?” She says and I reach my hand out, so she hands it to me instead. “Maybe let’s talk a about how you are feeling right now?”

“I don’t know. Silly. Like I’m making a deal out of a thing that isn’t a deal. The judgey part is real judgey, like just stop being a drama queen and be appropriate.” 

“I don’t feel the way the judgey part feels. It feels bad to have that part here, but that can be a good thing because it means the overwhelmed parts haven’t taken over all the way.” Her voice and words are reassuring; she doesn’t feel like the judgey part feels. “Is there anything the overwhelmed parts feel?”

I think for a moment. “Sick.” 

“Sick like nauseous? Or something else?” She asks. 

“Sick……….sick, like something bad is going to happen.” Without noticing it, I’ve buried myself in the blanket. I’m so glad I’m hidden from view. I’m scared. I don’t want to be noticed.

“Sick like something bad is going to happen.” She repeats my words, just a simple statement, but it’s maybe a question too, a checking to see if there is anything I would like to add to that. 

“It….there should be a word……something else, I don’t know what…..there should be a better word for that though,” I say, stumbling over my words. 

“Maybe the little girl didn’t have a better word. Maybe that was the closest thing she had to describe what she is feeling. Adults, we have more complex words, but little girls have simple words. Sad. Mad. Sick. Hurt.” Bea is always sticking up for the little girl– for me, really. I’m so glad she finds it easy to stick up for the little girl. 

“Maybe,” I say. I realize now that the word I was needing might be dread, apprehension, trepidation, worry and tension, suspense, uneasiness….any of those would have explained it, I think.

“So, when I’m reading about the image and we are talking about it, what is a resource you can use when it gets to be overwhelming to help bring you back to the present where it is safe?” Bea asks. 

I shrug. “Talking works. But you don’t want to let me use that anymore.” Maybe I’m pouting a little bit, but I really don’t understand why if I know that talking about regular stuff helps me calm back down, why we should change what I use to be okay, just because SP says to use body based resources. 

“So, talking is an interpersonal resource. We can still use talking. It is a good way for you to know I’m still here and with you, still on your side. What do you want to talk about?”

“You know. Regular stuff. Everyday stuff.” I’m calmer now, instantly calmer. Talking is my resource, my defense, my way I stay connected or check that my secure base is there. Spoken language, words, are everything. 

“Okay, good. So when you feel like you are really overwhelmed, you can ask for a talk break, okay?” She asks, and I nod my head. “Could you also try to focus on the blanket, the color of the blanket, what it feels like, that it makes a boundary and a boundary can keep bad things out?”

“Maybe. I can try.” And I will try. If she’s not asking me to focus on my breathing and she’s not saying no talking, then okay, I can try. 

“Good. That’s good. So that’s two resources you can use.” Bea’s voice is peppy, like she’s excited I’ve agreed to try a second resource. 

I don’t say anything. I have a million words flying through my head, but each one is scarier to say out loud than the one before it, so I am silent.

“Should I read it now?” She asks me. 

“No….I…well, it’s just…… I wanted to write it just the facts, detached, but I couldn’t. I mean…the words I can’t say. It got messy. It might be incoherent to you. Ugh.” I try to explain. 

“I won’t read it until you tell me to, okay? But I think we’ve learned each other’s shorthand, we’ve created a language that is just ours, and so you might be surprised what I can make sense of.” She reassures.

I nod. That’s true. We talk a few more minutes and then I finally nod my head. “Okay. Read it.” 

“Are you sure?” Bea asks. 

“Yes. Because if you don’t then I’ll be upset later. I’m just scared. Just read it.”

She takes a deep breath. “Okay. While I’m reading, try to focus on the blanket and feeling safe, feeling contained, okay? It won’t do to have you get overwhelmed. And after I read it, as soon as I’m done, I’ll check right back in, okay?” 

I mumble an okay, and Bea starts to read. 

Okay. I see this image from two perspectives. One is from the onlooker’s. One is from the little girl’s. 

I’m little. Sitting or lying down. I don’t know, the angle is off. But he’s big, leaning over me. His, there’s, um, it’s, he’s wanting me to, he’s put, my mouth. Ugh! You know what I’m trying to say. I just can’t say it. I can’t go anywhere. He’s really close.

It doesn’t even take 5 minutes, I don’t think, for her to read it. “Okay, I’ve read it. How do you feel now?” She asks. She sounds like Bea, like normal Bea.

 

I open my mouth but no words come out. I can’t speak.

“Alice, you are too far away, notice the blanket’s boundaries. Nothing bad can happen now. You are safe.” She directs. Her voice is clear and strong and she is able to contain all of this still.

“Safe,” I whisper. 

“Yes. Right now you are safe. I know scary things happened but you are safe now.”

“I still feel sick because I don’t know what you think.” I am so embarrassed that this is what has sent me so far away. Bea’s opinion matters so much to me that I can’t calm down and so I’ve gone away instead. So, I guess I’m admitting to this attachment now. I guess I’m no longer pretending the relationship doesn’t matter to me. 

“Okay. Do you want to know what I think?” She questions me. She’s talking to me like this is normal, as if it’s okay that I care that much about what she thinks, she talks to me as if she is absolutely okay with this attachment I have to her. 

I don’t say anything. I don’t know. Do I? Maybe. She’s never asked me, just always offered reassurances in the past that she is still here, that she isn’t thinking bad things about me, that she isn’t leaving, that she now knows whatever it is I was afraid to share and nothing bad happened.

“It’s not bad or scary,” she offers.

“Then, yes,” I say.

“Right off the bat, I was struck at how powerless the little girl was. It’s a power differential, how big he is looming over you, how scary that was for the little girl. It’s very scary. This is really scary for her. And confusing, I’m sure.” Bea tells me. 

“Even the grown up can’t make sense of it,” I confess. 

She’s quiet a moment. “Does the grown up feel that this wasn’t okay at all, that this shouldn’t have ever happened to the little girl?”

I shrug. Maybe. I don’t know. I want to tell her it’s because the little girl needed too much. I want to tell her that she somehow caused it. I want to tell her that it doesn’t matter really, because the little girl was part of the disgusting stuff that happened and it all lives in my head now and so I’m disgusting and really, she probably wanted it or asked for it or some thing like that. I don’t say any of that though, because maybe that’s right, and maybe that’s wrong, and it doesn’t really answer her question anyways.

“Maybe there isn’t enough grown up online to help the little girl yet. I think really you already answered that question. The grown up doesn’t have to be here to help the little girl. It’s okay, I’m here.” Her voice is full of compassion. She’s here. She’s got the little girl, and she’s got me.

“You don’t think anything bad?” I whisper.

“Nothing bad at all.” She says back.

“Okay.” Little girl whisper.

“What do you feel like now, what do you notice now that I’ve read it and that you know what I think?” She asks. 

I try to focus. What do I feel like? I don’t know what I feel. “I don’t know. But you realIy don’t think bad things?”

“I think plenty of bad things about him! But I think it was a scary thing for such a little girl.” 

“Confusing.” I tell her. 

“That, too. It had to have been so confusing to have someone who is supposed to be your friend, whose attention you wanted, telling you to do something you didn’t want to do, that felt icky.”

“Is is icky. So icky.” I tell her. 

Something strange is happening by focusing on this one awful detail. I’m lost as to how to explain. Body memories. Pain in my privates, gagging in my throat. I want to push him away and then run. But I can’t, I can’t move, he won’t let me. And I’m not okay. This is not okay. I’m pretty sure if Bea could see me she would be asking questions or something. But instead I’m hiding under the blanket and she redirects me to notice the safety of being where I am.   

I spend a minute doing as she asks and then I tell her, “It doesn’t match.” 

“What doesn’t match?” Curiosity in her voice. 

“His words and what he does– it doesn’t match.” 

“No, no they don’t match.” She agrees.

“He said fun and a silly game and I’d like the game and it was okay. But it didn’t match!”

“No, it didn’t match. He was supposed to be someone you could trust. He was supposed to be someone who helped keep you safe.” She validates.

“And I couldn’t move.”

“It was really scary. When scary things happen, sometimes we can’t move.” She says gently.  

“No. He wouldn’t let me move,” I say, my voice is flat, sort of dead with that revelation. I’m scared and overwhelmed. I repeat myself, “He wouldn’t let me move.” And I can see it, his knees on my arms, on the inside of my elbows. There was no way I could move. 

“That’s very scary. We need to do more work with this, next time. This is a horrible time to stop, I know it is, but we need to stop. We need to come back to here and now, where you are safe and nothing bad is happening. I know the bad feelings have been brought up and they are present, but they are still feelings about the past. I know this a bad place to stop now, but try to focus on feeling safe under the blanket.” Bea is speaking softly and I can hear how bad she feels that we are out of time.

“It’s fine. I know it’s time to go.” And I start to shift where I’m sitting, prepare to come out from under the blanket, put on my boots and go.

“Not yet. We need you to be here and grounded before you leave. This is important.” She corrects me. 

“Just talk then.” I say, shrugging. I’m fine with leaving right now. 

“What do you want to talk about?”

“You know. Everyday regular stuff,” I tell her, a little annoyed to be repeating myself.

So she talks and I listen. I come back enough to be more or less okay. We say our goodbyes, Bea reminding me that this is important and we will do more work with it on Wednesday.

I know this to be true 

We chat like always, me pretending not to notice my notebook– with all the after stuff that she kept last time– sitting on the floor at her feet. Even with my superior avoidance skills, we eventually move onto talking about my writing. 

“I read the after stuff again and it really is all so normal, exactly what I would expect. It’s just how I would expect a kid– and even an adult– to feel considering everything you were dealing with.” Bea is matter of fact, and her words are slightly reassuring. She doesn’t find me crazy. 

“Okay.” I shrug and pick my fingers. Whatever. I don’t care what she thinks, and even if I did care, I’m not about to let her know. 

I had handed her my new orange notebook when I arrived, and after asking me if it’s okay, she begins to read. “This is good, really good. You say it’s hard to only talk about one part of a memory because it all snowballs together. That’s exactly what SP is for. So, with developmental stuff, we work to stitch feelings, emotions, memories, and thoughts all together. But with trauma, it all does snowball exactly as you have described. So, we want to unstitch those things and then they can be processed separately and then either they’ll be integrated into normal memory and they lose their power, or we stitch them back together, make sense of if, and then it can be integrated into normal memory.” 

“Okay.” 

Bea continues reading and talking to me, unperturbed by my lack of conversational engagement. “I’m reading this here, and it makes a lot of sense, so much sense! This worry of needing me to know the whole memory and not just the emotions or body feelings. So, it’s not that we go right to body feelings, or even emotions. We access that by talking about a memory. And when the memory gets to be too much, then we focus on one part– like body feelings.”

Annoyed, I snap, “Right. So then you are just telling me no more talking. No more telling that memory.” I hate SP. This is stupid. I want to walk out of her office, I want to go home. 

“I know it feels like that. It feels like I might tell you no more talking, and that would hurt a lot. That’s not how this would work for us, though. Stopping and focusing on one piece of the memory and going between that one piece and your resource is only to give your system a chance to calm down. We always, always will go back to talking.” Bea is so calm, and her voice is so full of understanding that I lose some of my snark. 

“I don’t know,” I whisper, uncertain. It seems too big of a risk, to trust *SP Bea*.

Bea explains it all again, in that straight forward way she has, and suddenly something just clicks. 

“So, it’s like you are taking me out of the memory because it got to be too much for me, not too much for you?” I ask.

“Right! I’m still holding the memory as a whole, but it is my job to help keep you safe, so I take you to one tiny part of the memory and instead of you having to look at and hold the whole thing, I hold it for you.” Bea realizes that something has clicked, and she’s still calm but under the calm is excitement. 

“So it’s like clicking on a link to leave a webpage but leaving the original tab open on the iPad? And you won’t forget to come back to the original page?”

“No, I won’t forget,” she promises. 

“Okay,” I say, and then thinking about it, I say okay again. 

“Is this making sense?” She asks. 

I nod slowly. “Maybe. Sort of. I think it’s maybe just something I have to do.”

Bea agrees. “Yeah, it is more of a thing you need to experience, it’s hard to really get it just by talking about it.” 

“Okay. I’ll try,” I say, and I mean it.

Bea says something, maybe about resourcing and using my hands, I can’t remember exactly what, but it causes me to pull my fingers inside my sleeves. 

“Well, those fingers don’t like being noticed.” She says. I hear the gentle teasing in Bea’s voice and smile.

“I don’t much like being noticed.” I whisper. 

“Ahhhh,” Bea says. We (and what I mean by that is she) talk a bit, and then she suggests we talk about my need to hide. I hesitantly agree. I don’t want her to take away hiding. 

“I’m going to go get your blanket,” Bea tells me. 

I hear her get up, and walk a few steps over to the shelf holding blankets and then I hear her walk back and sit in her chair. She forgot to cover me up with the blanket. 

“So, I will give you the blanket, but I was hoping that we could first try to notice what it is like to hide without the blanket.” It’s funny, because when I type it out, it sounds like an ultimatum but it didn’t sound that way at all. In fact, I never doubted that had I said no, or asked for the blanket right then, she would have given it to me. Maybe that’s why I decided to try and do as she was asking. 

“Okay,” I say quickly before I can change my mind. 

Bea fires questions at me, too many, too fast. As soon as she asks one and the answer pops into my head, she is asking another and that answer erases the first one. I can’t hold onto any of the answers for long. They float in one ear as questions and out the other as answers. I can’t seem to direct them to turn into words. 

“I’m hiding…because you…..I don’t want you to see me when you are reading my words. Can you just ask me one thing at a time?” My voice is far away now and quiet. I’m not sure it’s really my voice at all. 

“Yes, of course.” Bea sounds a bit surprised, but not upset. “I’m curious, if you are hiding because of your notebooks and words being in my hands, would you feel safer if I gave them back?”

I shake my head. “No. You already read the words. And you might need them again anyway.”

“So there is a sense I may need them again?” She echoes. 

“Well, because you, if I can’t find the words, then you have them there. Or at least some of them.” My voice has that curious hollow sound to it, the one that means I’m heading towards too far away, but I don’t really care. 

“Ahhhh. Okay, that makes sense. It’s important that I have your words. I wondered if I gave them back now if there would be a sense of rejection?”

“No. You always give my notebooks back. And it’s not about the notebook, it is about the words in it.” I tell her. Why doesn’t she get this? Bea isn’t a writer, not like I am, anyway, or she would understand how the right words are worth more than many pounds of gold. 

“Okay. It’s the words, not the books themselves.” She pauses, thinking. “Are you feeling frozen right now?” 

“I could move.” I put the emphasis on could. “I just don’t want to.” 

“Why don’t you want to move?”

“Because then I might be….noticed. Seen.” The words are out of my mouth before I can even think about what they mean. 

“So it’s about being seen?” Bea repeats curiously.

“Yes……I don’t want anyone to see me. I don’t want anyone to pay attention to me.” That’s what’s said out loud. In my head, I continue, *if you can’t see me you can’t hurt me. And I don’t want to see your reactions to my words in case they mirror my own disgust with myself.*

“Ahhhh. I know that is such a big worry, and I know it doesn’t take away the worry but I can honestly say I can’t imagine anything you would say that would make me feel disgusted by you.” Sometimes, Bea really is a mind reader. “Is there an image that comes when you say that?” 

I think about it, focus on those words, *I don’t want anyone to see me,* and an image does pop up. I shove it away, fast. “Do you mean right away, like when I said it, or if I think about, focus on the words?” 

“Either one,” she tells me.

Inwardly, I groan. “Then yeah. Something comes up.”

“Can you tell me what it is? What do you see?” 

I sit for a long while, trying to get the words out, to tell her what it is I see, but I can’t find the words. I’m embarrassed and sick. 
Finally, I shake my head. “I can’t. I can’t say it.”

“That’s okay, we can come back to the image. Let’s notice what it is like now, and we can try again with the blanket,” Bea says simply. “Before I give you your blanket, can you take a minute and see what you notice about your body? I’d say it is curled inward, protective.”

I don’t say anything for a long time. But I do focus on what it feels like to be curled into myself. “Tight.” I finally say. 

“Your body feels tight,” Bea says. I nod my head, agreeing.

“I’m going to give you your blanket now.” She tells me before she stands up and steps over to the couch. She drapes the blanket over me.

I let out a big breath, and feel myself relax a little bit. I’m not present, but I’m not as far away as I was. 

“That was a big breath.” Bea notices. I don’t say anything, and so she begins with questions again. What do I notice? Can I move easier, knowing she can’t see me? Is there a part of my body that wants to hide more than another? Do I realize my toes are not covered? Can I feel that?

“My toes? No….I didn’t know. I mean, now I know because you told me. But I don’t feel it.”

“Do you want to focus on your toes for a moment? Try to feel them?” She asks. 

I agree, but all I can think of is her question about what body parts want to hide the most. The answer is my face. When I think of hiding, I want more than anything to cover my face, to not let anyone see my emotions playing out across my face, and I don’t want to see the other person, either. Hiding for me is not just about not being seen, it’s also about not seeing. We talk about how I do feel a little more relaxed now, that she can’t see me under the blanket. 

Eventually she asks about the image again. “I said we would come back to this, and I want to make sure we don’t run out of time. With that boundary of the blanket, could you talk about the image now?” 

I try, I really try, but the words just will not come out. I can’t say it. “I can’t. I just can’t.” 

“It’s okay, take your time. We have time. We can always come back to this next time.” Bea says soothingingly. 

“No…..I just…..it’s like I’m making it into a deal and now you expect a big thing. It really……… it’s just this stupid little piece that shouldn’t be so upsetting!” 

“Is it part of a memory that we have talked about before?” She sounds curious, like maybe she is wanting more Information so she can figure out the best way to approach it.

“Yes….no. Sort of. It’s a piece of…well, it’s a thing that probably we did talk about a memory but it’s not something we ever….it’s just this detail that I don’t know how to say and it’s awfully upsetting for just a small detail.” My eyes fill with tears as I speak. 

“The details. Those tiny pieces make things hard sometimes. I’ll never forget when a professor told me that the emotions and the story, the trauma, it is all in the details. The pain lives in the details. So it makes perfect sense that the details would feel so difficult to share.”

I struggle some more, trying to get the words out, and find a way to share this disturbing image. I take so long that Bea tells me that it’s time to start to come back, to get ready to go. “I know you have a full day to get on with, and I am going to go walk my dogs before this afternoon’s appointments. It’s nice out again, it looks like the sun should be out for most of the day.” 

I don’t say anything, but my brain goes into overdrive trying to find a way to blurt out the words before I leave. 

“Alice?” Bea says my name, a question, asking if I’m present enough to respond. 

“Yeah, I’m here. I’m fine. I just…..trying…..I mean……I was trying to get words out.” 

“Do you need to get the words out? If you need to talk about this, to get the words out, we can stay and do that. I don’t have any appointments until later this afternoon,” She says. 

“So if I said it was really important and I needed to talk now, you would stay and we would talk?” I ask.

“Yes, absolutely,” she says with no hesitation. She is ready and willing to listen if I need her to. And she means it, of that I have no doubt.

“I’m okay. It can wait until Monday.” I say easily. I think I just needed to know she would stay, that I was worth listening to, that I mattered.

“Okay.” Bea draws the word out, surprised. She was planning to stay and listen. “If you decide it can’t wait, you can write it down, or email it. And I’m only a phone call away if you need to talk about it.” 

“I know,” I tell her, and as I say it, I realize I do know. I believe deep down that Bea is here for me, that she isn’t leaving and that she will respond to me and listen to me and that it will be my choice to leave when I feel ready. Today, anyway, I know this to be true. 

Finding our way back 

Monday’s session is foggy. I was nervous when I walked in, because we had emailed a bit through the week and nothing felt resolved. My emails said a lot of what my last blog post talked about, just the upset and feeling like she wasn’t there at all, so I won’t go back into that. But her responses felt just as off as she had felt in session, like she wasn’t getting it, as if she was seeing it as a simple problem and I was just making a big deal out of things. 

Somehow though, on Monday, we found our way back to each other. Maybe that is what Bea meant once upon a time when she told me there would be ruptures and repairs and ups and downs and that the nature of any relationship is that it ebbs and flows, and there would be times where she would mess up, but if I would trust in the relationship, trust in her enough to keep talking and working through things, we would always find our way back. 

When I walk in the door on Monday, full of apprehension, Bea looks up and smiles. We greet each other and make small talk, and then Bea gets right to it. “I wasn’t sure where you would be at today, how my last email sat with you. I almost emailed a second time to check in, but it is rare that I will do that. Emailing or phone calls, those things are about you, and if I emailed you to check on things, that would be about me and my need to know how you received my response or my need to check that things in our relationship are okay. And that’s not fair to you. But I do think about you, and I did wonder when you didn’t email back if you were okay or not. Some people, not emailing back can mean *I’m giving up on you because you aren’t helping and I’m in the hospital now* or *I’m fine and living my life and things are okay now* or anything in between.” 

So…..my actions impact her, too? Huh. Why didn’t I realize this before? I always assume that I don’t matter to her enough to really have an impact on her. I shrug, and in a tone that makes it clear she should know better, I say, “Well, you should know I’m never going to end up in the hospital like that.” 

“I do know, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t experience some of those same types of feelings.” Bea says right back. 

“Okay, yes, maybe there were some of those feelings.” I curl into myself, hiding my face. After that, I don’t say much of anything, and so eventually Bea asks if I have any writing.

I throw my notebook at her, and she starts to read. “My attunement was clearly way, way off. I’m sorry, my intention was not to make you feel shut down, or like you didn’t matter. I was hopeful that ending things differently, focusing on this positive good feeling would be helpful for you. That it would be so much nicer to leave here ending with good feelings than the yuck.” 

“But you just closed the door on the yuck!!!” I shout at her.

“So it really felt like I was rejecting those feelings or trying to ignore them and get you out of my office?” She asks. She is calm and quiet, the exact opposite of this boiling loud anger I am unleashing in her direction. 

“Yes. You closed the door on the yuck, and then it’s like you didn’t want to hear about the yuck.” I half shout half snap at her. I’m MAD. 

“I want to hear about what you need to talk about. It was time to go though, so,we did need to wrap things up.” She says gently. 

“But you don’t get to close the door on the yuck. That’s not for you to do! I close the door after I leave!” I shout the words at her, each one carrying weight and said with force, like miniature bombs being lobbed across the room. 

“I’m cringing inwardly that you close the door after you leave here. That door should be closed before you go out into the world.” She’s still calm, and her voice is clear, not upset in anyway.

“No, because I need that, I need to be back in the world to be able to close the door. That’s how it works, that’s why it closes.” I’m so mad at her, yet I also want her to understand, to get it, but the anger is getting in the way of explaining. 

“Ideally, we would find a way to close the door together, before you leave. It’s safer that way.”

“No. It has to….I mean, it has to be open here. It’s just, it’s……I don’t know. But you don’t close the door. You did, and it’s like you wanted to be rid of me.” 

“I wasn’t trying to get rid of you, not at all. Alice, listen to me, okay? I need all of you to hear this. I don’t want to get rid of you, you are not too much. It was time to go, we were out of time and I was just thinking I wanted to send you out feeling that safety, that’s all.”

“But usually you…..” I start and then stop. The anger is leaving, leaking out of me and dissipating into the air. It leaves the hurt behind. 

“What do I usually do?”

“But you usually make sure I know that you know there is more. You tell me I can write about it or email it,” I whisper. 

“Ahhhhh. I didn’t say this, but of course there was more, there is always more, and there is so much to work through with the after stuff. I should have made sure you knew we would come back to it all, that we weren’t ignoring it or making it go away. I should have told you what I was thinking, that sending you out with the good safe feelings would be better for you. I’m sorry, my attunement was way off, and I’m glad you told me.”                                              

“I don’t know….I’m not sure it’s even you. Not really. I mean….you know. There’s so much feelings from October and stuff, I just…..I never know if it’s me being sensitive or if what I feel is really true.”

“Ahhh, yes, that is what I was saying to you in my email about it being simple, that it was my attunement being off and what you felt in session was probably true. I know it made you feel like I was brushing off your feelings or saying they weren’t important when I said it was simple, and that made you mad– with good reason! I didn’t like that you were blaming yourself and I wanted you to see that from where I am standing, you notice things much more quickly than most people ever do. You are very sensitive to changes in the people around you, so if you notice something is off, I believe that something is off.” She explains softly. 

Just that, right there is hard to sit with. She has such faith in my feelings being REAL and she listens and believes how I feel……there is this guilt that pops up because I was bratty and pissy and she just shows kindness and trust and compassion and acceptance. I try to find the words to explain that to her, but there aren’t any to be found at that moment. 

 Bea goes back to reading my notebook. “There was a lot that you felt when I said your words. A lot came up for you, and it was really scary in a lot of ways, to have those words out there, with all the feeling attached to them.” 

I nod. “Yeah.” 

“It’s curious that this dream came up now,” she says as she continues reading. 

“Not really.” 

“Well, I guess I am linking the dream of finding blood in your underwear after Kenny hurt– no, let’s call it was it was– raped you. Those feelings then, they were about being scared and all alone and having no one to go to because your mom couldn’t accept or even see the yuck. I just wonder if your feeling like I shut the door on the yuck and didn’t want to hear it or see it and wanted you out of my office brought up those feelings, that memory.” She explains. 

“I guess. Maybe.” I shrug. “Nightmares are par for the course.” 

“I know that you have bad dreams often, but….well, is that one that you had been having or things that you were thinking about?” 

“No.” Maybe she’s right. But does it really matter? A bad dream is a bad dream. “Can we talk about something else?” 

“Yeah, sure. Can I keep reading?” She asks, and I nod my head, yes. “So, it’s sounding like it is a lot to talk about a memory and then be more present because that’s when you feel more.” 

“Yeah. That’s why I hate SP. I just can’t be that present with all that other stuff.” 

“Well, SP isn’t saying you have to be fully here, just in your window. SP wants to find something safe to focus on when you are getting too out of your window, like your breathing for example, to help you go between focusing on something in the present and talking about a memory from the past.” Bea explains for probably the millionth time. I’m honestly surprised that she isn’t just tired and done with me and these SP discussions. I think I would be done if I were her.

“I don’t like breathing. And I don’t wanna be fully here in the present because the present is not safe. And don’t tell me that it is. If we are talking about the past, then all the feelings from the past are in the present. That’s why I go far away!” I’m frustrated. We just keep going in circles every time SP comes up. I’m so sick of it.

“I know, the present isn’t safe for you. I think SP could help with that. I think that the fear of being fully present now comes from the fact it wasn’t safe to be fully present back then. But, it does not matter right now. We can use breathing to just distract you from the upset and intense reactions to a memory from the past.”

“Well, we used talking before. I like talking.” I whine.

“Yes, we did. I think SP is saying it’s easier to go between the body feelings and breathing or a safe body based resource. It’s not as much of a difference between the two.” She’s still calm and gentle. Adult me can see that the idea is that going between two body feelings can help keep me from coming fully back and present the way talking does. I need to be able to stay far enough away that I can access those memories. 

The teen and all her snarkiness finally breaks free and my response is full of sarcasm and disdain. “Fine. Picking my fingers then.” 

“Hmmm, yes, your hands, fingers…..that could work as a resource.” Bea says agreeably.

Oh, the teen is just so full of rage and disbelief. “I was being sarcastic.” The tone is robotic now. 
Bea chuckles. “I know, but focusing on your fingers could be a starting point. Maybe not the self harming part, but maybe the fact that your hands aren’t frozen, that you can move them even when you are far away.” 

I shrug. “Maybe. Whatever.” 

“It’s only something to think about. We don’t have to do anything with it. And I promise, I’m not going to change anything without making sure all the parts are on board first, okay?”

“It’s not….I mean, I was so mad, I hated how things ended, but part of me knew it wasn’t purposeful and it wasn’t this….big thing I was making it out to be and that you weren’t trying to get rid of me, that you weren’t saying no talking, I mean, part of me got that and I just…..other parts were so upset. But it wasn’t me. I mean, it was me, but not me.” I stop talking, because the more I try to explain the crazier I sound. 

“That makes sense. When it’s something that feels like it’s not “of you”, it feels maybe a little foreign, that is how you know it’s from a part, it’s feelings and beliefs that had to be split from the core you at the time. Now that part needs to be heard and seen so we can work through the feelings and then it can become more integrated, not so separate and split off. That part needs to be cared for, and the part needs to know that we will approach the part’s feelings, thoughts, beliefs with compassion.” 

“I just….it’s not so easy. Because it makes me feel crazy!” 

“I know. But I don’t have the same struggle with judgement. I can show compassion and understanding, curiosity. So even when grown up you can’t, I can. And one day, we both will.”

“So the point is to make the parts go away?” 

“Well,” she says, stretching the word out like silly putty. “I don’t really believe that parts just *go away*, or that that is even the goal of therapy. I think that the parts will always be there, but one day the adult won’t feel such strong feelings about them, and the parts will work with the adult. Like a team that functions well together and everyone’s needs get met, instead of a group of parts all working against each other, with different agendas and fighting to get their needs met.” 

I don’t say much of anything, because I’m not even really sure what to say. “Okay.” 

We end things by spending some time just chatting, about random things. At some point in the random conversation we are having, we agree to try working with the after stuff on Wednesday. “Do you have your other notebook with you? Could I take it so I can read over the after stuff again?” Bea asks carefully. She knows how precious my notebooks are to me.

“Yeah, okay. You can take it.” I pull the notebook out and hand it to her. It’s just what I needed to help feel connected to Bea again. It feels as if my words matter to her again, and it is as if she is okay with the yuck. She’s asking to keep the notebook holding some of the yuck and making a plan to work with that particular yuck next time. She’s not getting rid of me or the yuck at all. 

When it’s time to go, I gather my things and Bea tells me to email or call if anything comes up, and that she is looking forward to seeing me on Wednesday. And I believe her.

                               

I just want to tear off my skin

I’m fighting to stay present, but it isn’t working. Dissociated is the only way I can get through this conversation. I’m pretty sure that it was only a few minutes ago that Bea and I were chatting and I was present. But then she picked up my notebook and flipped to the writing about what happened after Kenny was done playing with me, and I was instantly far away.

This session is so foggy, but the little girl has the distinct impression that Bea isn’t rally here. Oh, Bea is in the room, but emotionally, she feels far away. Of course, I have to wonder who was far away, me or Bea?  

There were conversations about the body things I’d written, or at least I think there were questions asked by Bea and answers given by me. I know I responded with some form of information, because Bea asked me several times to just “notice that” or to “sit with those feelings”. Trying to pay attention to whatever it was did bring things up, I know it did, and yet I can not remember for the life of me what was brought up. 

All of this led to a confused adult Alice, an angry and betrayed teenage Alice and an abandoned little girl Alice. This I do remember: it ended like this.

“I want two tear off my skin and never let anyone touch me again.” I answer. The question was the result of one of those *notice this* directives, followed by *what does that bring up? What does it feel like to notice that?* The feelings I’m describing are real, but my voice has no emotion in it whatsoever. I’m a robot. I’m a robot without a body. Or at least, I don’t feel anything. 

“The emotion in your voice doesn’t really match the intensity of your words,” Bea says.

“Because. I can’t feel it and say it. Then it is much too real.” I shake my head.

“Could we try an experiment? What if you tried to say it with some of the feeling there?” She asks. 

I shake my head at her. No. Just no. 

“Would you like me to say it with some feeling in it? And you can see how that feels? You can tell me if there should me more or less intensity in my tone.” 

“Okay.” I don’t know why I agreed. I suppose the adult Alice was feeling curious about what it wild be like to have the intensity of her feelings match her words. 

I think I asked for a blanket then. Maybe it was earlier in the session. At any rate, I hid under my blanket. 

Bea gave me a warning that she was going to say my words, and then she repeated them. She sounded like she meant them though. She let the words and the feeling sit between us and then she asked me what that felt like. 

I shrugged. In truth, it was a bit overwhelming and it made my feelings very, very real. Hearing emotion with those words was really scary for the little girl. 

Bea waits, but when I don’t say anything at all, she gently asks, “Did that feel a little bit out of control?”

Maybe it did. Maybe it felt wrong to have Bea saying those horrid words. Maybe it felt like all the feelings were going to hit me at once and I’d not have any control over them. The little girl felt so vulnerable and exposed hearing Bea say her words. The teen wasn’t going to stand for it. As snarky as she could, she said “Well, if it bothered me I would just tell you not to say it again.”

And Bea took that as a sign of growth or something. She was so excited. “So you are in control, and you can see that you have a choice right now.” Then she asked me to really let that idea sink in, to notice what that felt like to have a choice. That’s when things started to go downhill and the little girl felt as if Bea didn’t want to deal with any of the little girl’s bad feelings and Bea seemed far away, and I was lost. I’m still so lost.