I just wanted to give a heads up, this could be triggering. I wrote about the things from my past I’m angry about. I didn’t write any major details, but there is a lot listed, even if it is generalized. I talk about sexual abuse..
I walk in, hesitant, unsure. I’d emailed a lot with Bea this past weekends, really poured my heart out. Walking in, I feel exposed, and vulnerable.
“Hey, come on in. I’m just trying to organize some of the new toys I got,” Bea says.
I walk in and take my seat on the sofa.
“I got a bunch of new toys for my teens,” Bea explains, “It’s hard for teens to talk sometimes. It’s easier if they have something to do. Some of them like the more intricate coloring books, but I have puzzles and building type things too.”
I’m surprised, in some ways. But it seems like such Bea thing to do– to get teens to ‘play’. “No one gave me anything to do when…well, back then.” I shrug.
“They didn’t? What did you do then?” Bea asks. She is genuinely surprised.
I shake my head. “I don’t know. Talked. They asked questions. I answered sometimes. I sat in silence a lot. I don’t know.”
“Wow. That seems so hard to me. Teens don’t always want to talk. That’s why I like to have things for them to do.”
Not for the first time, I wonder what it would have been like if I had a therapist like Bea when I was that age. “I guess it was a long time ago.” I struggle with the math. I’m surprised by how long ago it really was. “It was 17 years ago. 19 years ago when I first went to therapy.” I shake my head at myself. I’m too old, and it’s been too long for me to still be in therapy, dealing with the same old issues.
“Even then, we knew teens needed something. We knew it was hard for teens to just sit and talk,” Bea says. She seems so surprised by this; maybe it fills in a blank, explains why therapy never really helped me.
The subject drifts to Kat, and we talk about her for a while. I’m grateful, because I don’t want to talk about my stuff, my confusion, my anger. Eventually, Bea turns the conversation to me, anyway.
“Well, I know we are moving away from Kat, but we went to the zoo this weekend. It was actually good. The long drive, and Kat with her headphones on to watch a movie meant hubby and I got to talk. We talked about his work, about his friend’s wedding. Surface stuff. But it was something. Because we haven’t been talking at all. And I did ask him last night then, about our workbook, and he said he is ‘fine with doing it, just make him turn off his game or iPad’.” I tell her. I actually felt pretty good about hubby and I talking, and about being gutsy enough to bring up the workbook.
“That’s good. That’s really good. I was wondering if staying too surfacey, or just not talking at all was making it harder for you to even think about the deeper conversations.” Bea says.
I shrug, and then nod my head. “I just wish he wouldn’t phrase things like that– make him, fine with it.” I sigh.
“It makes it feel more like he isn’t as on board with it as you. But he is willing to try.” Bea says.
“Yeah. I guess. I don’t want to spend forever on this again.”
“Okay,” Bea says.
I end up telling her about the book I had gotten on having a narcisistic parent– one that she recommended because of hubby and mil’s relationship. We talk about that, and I pull the book up on kindle, let Bea flip through the parts I found relevant and helpful.
“This is very helpful, for you to see why hubby behaves the way he does. It might not tell you what to do, exactly, but this is helpful.”
“Yes, exactly,” I say. She hands the iPad back to me. I sit, looking down at it. My list of confusion and anger is within it, and I wanted to give it to Bea. At the same time, I wanted to end the session. Ending it now means I will be mad at myself, and feel like I didn’t talk about what I needed to talk about. But it will feel safer, in some ways. I think about the email I sent to Bea this weekend, that said I was afraid she was going to get mad and be done with me because of the stuckness in our relationship. Her response had been a simple statement, but powerful. ‘I will not leave. Not gonna happen.’ I sigh. I’m going to trust her words. “I made…I guess it’s a list. I wasn’t sure if I should get it out or wait.”
Bea looks at me. It seems like she sees me, really sees me in that moment. She nods. “Bring it on. I was wondering if I should get your email out.”
I hand my iPad back, with the list up, and then scoot away, covering my face with my hands. It’s one of the hardest lists I’ve ever given to her.
“I love all the color coding you do with your lists.”
I smile, despite myself. “I have to be organized. OCD, you know.”
“This….this is good. Seriously major processing you are doing here. Just this, old thoughts and new thoughts. Just naming it abuse, and not a game, or a thing is major. And hard.”
My anxiety is making it hard to breathe, so I focus on breathing in and breathing a longer breath out. It’s how Kris has taught me to breathe in yoga.
“I have a feeling, as you are able to accept its not your fault when you were Kat’s age, you’ll start to have compassion for the other parts, too. You’ll be able to see none of it was your fault. And your right, you were just a baby, a little girl. None of it was your fault. This is a good new thought.” Bea pauses as she reads some more. “The why of it. The truth is, we can’t really know why. The only one with an answer is Kenny.”
Bea says something more, but I’m too focused on my need for an answer, a reason. “I just…..I just need…..why?” I force out the words, gripping my hands into fists, feeling my nails digging into my palms.
“I know you do. An answer, something to make sense out of all the confusion.”
I nod. That’s it, exactly.
“It’s really confusing, this difference of ‘he was my friend, he was safe, he could be trusted, he cared, I mattered’ and ‘he hurt me, he used me, he lied’. That is very confusing and hard to wrap your head around.”
I can feel myself shrinking into that place in my head as she is reading the differences between my thoughts. At the same time, I’m a little floaty, a little not there. “He hurt me,” I tell her, but the words are soft and quiet, and I feel like I sound little.
“Yes. He did hurt you. But you’re safe now,” Bea says gently. Her voice has changed. She sounds like she is speaking to a traumatized child.
I shake my head at her. I don’t feel like ‘me’, I feel like the little girl part of me. Alone and scared. Desperate for someone to see. “He hurt me.”
“I know. I know he did,” she says soothingly. She continues speaking soothingly to me, calmly and softly.
I’m shaking, I can feel my legs shaking. I pull them closer to my chest, but it doesn’t stop the shaking.
“I think that’s what this all boils down to. The core of it is ‘he hurt me’.” Bea says softly. She says something about the little girl not having a voice for so long, but now she does, and that we know he hurt her, and it’s okay because she is safe now and we are listening.
I nod. Tears threaten to fall, and I force them back.
Bea keeps reading. She’s gotten to my writing about all my mad leaking out. “Did something happen this weekend?” She asks.
I shake my head. I yelled at Kat Friday morning, completely uncalled for. I talked to her, and it was repaired quickly, though.
“I just wondered, if that was why you were writing about anger now.” She says.
I don’t respond. It’s just leaking everywhere. I don’t know. I don’t like being mad. I don’t like it at all. It’s like behind the brick wall holding back my anger is a well of mad feelings, one that is never going to run dry. It’s all consuming, huge, too much. I’d written that to Bea in an email, finally admitting to anger being there.
“I haven’t read the rest, yet. I really like this list, though. To be able to name some of the things you are mad about. That’s huge. So important. Would it be okay if I read this out loud?” Bea asks.
I don’t know what to say. When she had first told me she hadn’t read the rest, I had thought she was ending the session and my heart had sunk. I wanted to get through this, all of it. I never expected she would want to read the whole list out loud. “I don’t know. I guess.” I mumble the words.
Bea is quiet for a moment. “I don’t want to read it if you aren’t okay with it. How about if I start reading it, and you tell me to stop if it doesn’t feel okay?”
“Okay.” I whisper. And then, before she can start reading, “You’ll really stop?” The question slips out, before it even fully forms in my consciousness.
“Yes, if you say stop, I’ll really stop.” Bea takes the question seriously, even though it is silly for me to be asking her. I know she will listen to what I say.
But perhaps the fear of not being heard when I want someone to stop something is deeper than I realized, because before I even know what has happened, I’m blurting out another question. “What if I can’t say stop?” The words are rushed, slammed together, panicked.
Bea takes this seriously, too. “I won’t read it if you aren’t okay with it. I will listen if you tell me to stop, and I won’t be upset.”
I shake my head. It’s not what I meant. “What if I can’t talk?” I’m worried about getting upset, frozen, dissociated and not being able to say anything.
“Ahh. Okay. I could read one and check in with you.” Bea suggests.
“Are you sure?” She checks again.
“Yeah. It’s okay.”
She waits a minute, and then starts reading.
“I’m angry that Kenny did those things. I’m angry he hurt me.” True to her word, she stops reading, and asks, “Are you okay?”
I nod, but Bea doesn’t say or do anything to let me know she’s seen me, so I verbalize it. “I’m okay.” The words sounds shaky, but I’m speaking. So that’s something.
Bea continues reading, checking in after each point on the list. I’m okay, but hearing my words spoken makes them real somehow. Each point sends a memory, or memories jolting around my brain, and each point twists my stomach up in knots more and more, my feelings more exposed. I’m completely raw right now. It’s not fun, but it’s real.
“I’m angry my parents needed perfect. I’m angry they couldn’t “do” feelings. I’m angry my parents weren’t there when I really needed them, and that they made me feel like I was the problem, needing to be fixed.
I’m angry I could never trust anyone, to the point of having “fake secrets” to share with my friends.
I’m angry he ever thought it was okay to touch me.
I’m angry I instigated things.
I’m angry I couldn’t even be honest with my husband.
I’m angry that I still can’t talk to my husband and that I feel like I married my parents.
I’m angry that he won’t stand up for me, because it seems like one more time where I’m not seen or heard.
I’m angry that Kenny hurt me.
I’m angry that I was so alone as a child.
I’m angry that my mom didn’t realize, or pay attention or face the facts of what my underwear hidden under my bed meant.
I’m angry that I kissed him when I was 12. I’m angry he pushed me away. I’m angry that I got in trouble for doing that. I’m angry that my mom didn’t question what that meant, or the why of it.” Here Bea stops completely, and says, “How backwards that had to feel. That still blows my mind. It’s no wonder you didn’t remember it.” I can picture her shaking her head, face full of empathy for me and partly furious at the twistedness of it all.
Before I can stop myself, I’m feeling like I’m 12 again, stuck in that headspace. I shake my head at Bea, even though I won’t lift it to look at her. “I was inappropriate,” I say, as if that explains it all.
She maybe responds. I don’t know. At some point, she goes back to reading.
“I’m angry that I believed my dad could do anything, he was like superman to me, but he didn’t see or stop what Kenny was doing.
I’m angry that my mom got so sick, and no one talked about it. I’m angry that I was able to believe, for years and years that it was my fault she got so sick because no one ever talked about what was going on with her. I’m angry that I spend so much time weighting choices that would maybe effect her by wondering if it’s something that could make her sick again. I’m angry that she left me.”
Bea pauses here, too. “We were talking about her leaving a little while ago. She didn’t just leave when she was sick, did she?”
I fight to find my voice. “No….she went out. I asked her to stay……..” I lose it in a mess of tears.
“I knew….we had talked about when you called your Grandma and asked to stay the night. Did you ask your mom to not leave you with him more often?” Bea isn’t afraid of the hard questions.
I nod my head. “But she went out. And then he would babysit and I’d be happy to see him.”
Luckily, I had written above the angry list about my confusion of asking to not be left with Kenny, but being happy and fine when he got there, so Bea knows what I’m referring to. “You had to. How else could you be okay? Another part of your brain kicked in, let you have fun, be a kid.”
I feel tears falling down my face. “She left me.”
Soft, understanding, kind, Bea repeats my words, “She left you.”
I shake my head over it. Cry a little, and Bea sits with me. After a bit, she goes back to reading my list.
“I’m angry that my parents willingly treated the wrist cutting incident like a temper tantrum, instead of asking me what was wrong, or trying to help me figure out why I didn’t know. I’m angry Kenny kissed me that night, and I’m angry that I let it happen, maybe almost for a moment wanted it to happen.
I’m angry that I had a crush on him, liked him, wanted to marry him. I’m angry that having a crush meant getting hurt, and so I never really allowed myself to ever have a crush again. I literally pretended crushes on people who were “safe (unavailable)” like movie stars, a teacher, and finally the boy I’d known forever who wanted to be a pastor when he grew up– him I dated, he was my only boy friend through high school.”
I feel my face heat up, and I’m warm all over, too warm. This will be news to Bea. I’ve always refused to discuss crushes in middle school and highschool. Now she knows why. She knows the extent of pretending I went to in order to appear normal.
“I’m angry that all of this led me to the college boyfriend, Brian. I’m angry I let him hurt me. I’m angry I was so stupid, and stayed and made so many mistakes in that relationship to be constantly making him angry.
I’m angry that I kissed Kenny when I was 9.”
Bea pauses again, and I hear her sniffle and she says, “You’re going to make me cry.” I wonder what it is that is making her cry. Is it because I’m so upset, crying my eyes out? Or is it something else? There was a time I would have wondered if she thought I was pathetic or crazy, but I know she doesn’t think those things. I don’t feel like there is pity in her words, either, only kindness and understanding, caring. I can hear her crying softly. But she keeps reading.
“I’m angry that Kenny seems so unaffected by it all, it’s like it either was a game that was fun and okay, or he just doesn’t care at all.
I’m angry that I’m stuck pretending everything is fine, like nothing ever happened, because I feel a need to protect those that I’m mad at (my family, his family, maybe even him in some ways).
I’m angry that I’m tense and anxious even when my husband kisses me, hugs me, just places a hand on my back because I’m immediately afraid of where that will lead. I’m angry that I can’t be present during sex.
I’m angry that I feel so much shame over so many things.
I’m angry that I have all this ugly crap, bad memories, popping up in my head– often at the worst times. I’m angry that I don’t sleep because I’m afraid of my dreams.”
Bea gets through reading the list, and we sit in silence for a moment. I’m still shaking, my hands still fisted, like they are holding on to something for dear life. I’m crying, and I can’t control it.
Finally Bea speaks. “I’m really glad you were able to put some of this into words. It’s good. You have so much right to be angry, about so many things.”
“Everything I’m angry about it in the past. But it comes out now, over stupid things, little things. I don’t understand.”
“Well, I think it’s because you buried it all these years. It still has to come out. And even though it feels bad, instead of blowing up, you’re letting out a little at a time. Like a balloon you need to deflate. We can pop it, or slowly let the air out. You’re just slowly letting out that air. It comes out at things now because you finally dropped the wall that buried it. It just needs to come out and it will get better. This, writing this out like this, labeling the things you are actually angry about. That will help.”
“Sometimes….I can be so mad, but all I can do is cry,” I tell her, through my tears. I’m not sure what I’m feeling right now.
“Ahhh. That’s really…well, I hate to stereotype, but, it’s a really feminine response to anger. We’re taught anger isn’t okay, good girls don’t get mad, and so we cry, because crying is acceptable. It’s a way to let anger out. And mad was not allowed in your family. So it makes sense. Don’t forget, too, anger is part of the grieving process.”
What am I grieving? Why do I have to go through this grieving process? I don’t understand. I don’t ask Bea my questions out loud, I simply wonder to myself.
“You have a lot to grieve. And just labeling what happened as abuse, that brings up a lot of big feelings. It changes everything. It means having to really let go of the fact you didn’t have the control. You’re working your way there. You’ve been working your way there, you are on this path. It’s a hard thing to do. The hardest part, maybe. Realizing it wasn’t you in control.”
I’m floaty again, dizzy, and I can’t feel my body anymore. I’m numb and gone. “I didn’t have a choice,” I say to Bea. This time, I’m not asking her, it’s a statement, not a question.
“No, you didn’t have a choice.” She says softly.
In my head, I’m replaying things that happened when I was 5, maybe 6. I don’t want to replay them, but I can’t control it. I can see him, hear him. I can smell his cologne, and feel his hands on me. Bea says something, I don’t know what. I scoot back farther. I don’t want to be here. “I didn’t have a choice,” I say it again.
“No, you didn’t have a choice,” Bea says. She has a little surprised quality in her voice. Had we moved on from that conversation? Crap. I shake my head. “I think we should start coming back now,” Bea says gently.
It takes me a few minutes, to pull myself out of the memory enough to talk, but I finally ask Bea to just talk.
“Okay….well, I don’t know. I’m running out of stories, things to talk about,” she says. “I did want to ask if you felt having Kat see me was interfering with your therapy?”
Oh crap. Is this because I spend too much time discussing Kat in session, using her to avoid talking about my stuff? I don’t know. “No. Not at all. Why?”
“It’s just something I had been meaning to check in with you about. That’s all. I wanted to make sure…I mean, you have to share Kat with me, and I didn’t know…well, it just seemed like I should check in about that.”
I don’t think it matters, at Kat’s age that we share a therapist. If she were a teenager, that might become an issue. “It’s fine. The only time it’s been hard is if I felt upset or whatever about coming back on Friday with her, but then I either sent hubby with her or I emailed you how I was feeling about it, and it was okay.”
“Okay, good. I just wanted to make sure it was okay,” Bea says.
I’m calmer, but I’m not very present or grounded. I need something to distract me from myself. “Bea, please, tell me something, anything.”
“Okay, well, this isn’t exactly appropriate or professional, but I really don’t have anything else I can think of, so…well, I’m thinking about putting color in my hair. I really want some purple in my hair.”
My head pops up almost the moment she says colored hair, and I’m totally in ‘professional Aveda colorist mode’. I can’t help it. If someone talks about hair color, or cut, or anything I am secure in my knowledge in, well, I turn into miss expert. “Really? That’s so fun. Have you tried hair chalk first to see how you actually feel about it?” I’m off and running, directing her on how to use hair chalk the ‘right’ way.
“I have, with kids when they have brought it in. And I like it. I really think I want to do it. I’ve actually been thinking about it for weeks, and I was back and forth on if I should say something to you, because it’s not entirely professional, but I didn’t want you wondering why I wouldn’t ask you when you were so good at your job.”
I laugh. Bea has insecurities, too. “I honesty wouldn’t have thought anything, except you got some fun color.” I ask questions, look at some pictures with her. After about ten minutes or so, I think I have an idea of what she wants. I pull my phone out and flip through to when I had cut and colored Kat’s hair last year. I hold it up to Bea. “Is this what you want?”
“Yes, something just like that.”
“I can text this picture to you, if you want, so you can take it to the salon,” I offer. I’m aware she isn’t supposed to have client pictures on her phone. “It’s okay with me if you have it, even if it’s a HIPPA violation. Just delete it afterwards.”
“Okay. Send it to me, and I’ll delete it after,” Bea agrees. I describe the technique I used for Kat’s hair, to create the effect of color on the ends and bottom layers, because Bea, like Kat, has no layers in her hair.
“I know you said this wasn’t ethical, but thank you, and I don’t see what is unethical about it. I feel better.” I’ve grabbed my things, and I’m in a headspace where I can drive now.
“Well, it’s using your knowledge for my gain. Like if I had asked you to do my hair in exchange for a session, that would be very, extremely unethical. This was maybe more on the line, but still.” Bea explains the reasons, and I get the sense she had stated to begin with that it was unethical because she felt I had a right to know.
I shake my head at her. “I don’t see it that way. I asked you to talk, because I needed help getting out of my head. You had the perfect thing to talk about. It worked. Maybe it helped you, but it helped me, and that was the point of me asking you to talk about something.”
Bea smiles. “It did work. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you come back so fast!”
I laugh. “Safe topic. Easy for me to talk about, and one I know a lot about. It was a good choice.”
Bea smiles me, and I head out the door. We say our goodbyes, and I head to my car.