Alice, just an FYI, I’ve had a cancellation and am free until 3:00pm of you would like to talk by telephone. -Bea
I stare at the email, unsure if I really want to call. I’m hiding out in our guest room, because the fan is the perfect noise filter so I can feel like I’m not being overheard. I have my water, my blanket, and my phone. I should just call her. I want to. Every time I read the email sent before the one offering to a phone call, I start to cry. If I read the entire thread, I feel hopeless, unheard, unseen, and alone, and all I want to do is quit therapy, forget about Bea.
Instead I pull up her phone number and hit the call button on the screen.
“Hello?” She answers the phone with just the slightest question at the end of the word.
Moments before, I’d been struggling not to cry, but now, all I can say is, “Hi.”
“Hi there,” she says quietly.
I can’t find my words, I say nothing.
“I wasn’t sure you would call.”
“Because you didn’t really want me to?” I whisper.
“No! No, not at all! I guess I thought you might feel awkward because I know you don’t like to call me.”
I don’t understand why she is telling me this, but not much makes sense to me these days. “Oh,” is all I can manage to say.
Bea starts talking again, but I don’t hear her because Kat interrupts my phone call. She wants me to know she is going downstairs to play with her dolls. “All right, that’s fine.” My words are short and clipped, I’m annoyed.
Bea has stopped talking, but I have no idea what she said before. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you were saying,” I tell her.
“Oh, can you hear me now?”
“No, no, I could hear you, it was just Kat, I couldn’t hear you over her.” This isn’t going well. We aren’t connecting, it’s not better to be talking to her, we are just missing each other somehow. Why did she tell me I could call? Why did I take her up on it?
“I’m sorry that I missed the mark earlier, that you felt more alone after emailing with me than before, I feel bad that I made you feel bad,” she says. Her voice is authentic, I can head that she is sorry, that she wasn’t trying to make me feel worse.
I start crying, “I can’t do anything right, right now. I just keep screwing up, over and over. And I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”
“No, I know you don’t want to make me feel bad. I’m glad you told me I was way off base.”
“I’m just so sorry I’m making everything worse. I’m messing it all up.” I’m sobbing now.
“Did you get my other email?” Her voice is soft, almost a whisper.
“Yeah, I got it.” I don’t want to talk about it.
“I was afraid that if I said something, you would feel like you were messing up by not meeting some expectation I have for you. I don’t have any expectations, I am not even sure what that feeling is about, but I felt I needed to think about it, to sit with it, to try to understand it. It’s not a bad thing, not at all. I just need to think about what this feeling is telling me, if maybe I do need to push you a little more in the coping arena. That’s all it is, is something to notice and think about, talk about it.”
I want to die. I literally want to curl up and die. She just told me to email as much as I needed to, that I could call, that she is here, and now she is telling me that she is having this feeling of maybe needing to push me in the coping arena. I am hearing that as I should be coping with this on my own and not needing her like this. “Nothing feels right. Everything just…..it all feels not okay. I’m not okay, nothing was helping. I thought, if I emailed you then maybe I’d feel better because I’d be less alone. But then, it didn’t help.” I’m crying harder now. I burying my face in my pillow.
“I’m hearing you, nothing feels safe, just everything feels wrong. I’m here and I’m listening. But I can’t help thinking that you have a few more days left, before you leave. I wish for you that you could enjoy them. Maybe do some yoga, get out and swim at your beach, take Kat for a bike ride.”
“No! I can’t.” I’m crying harder now.
“Even that doesn’t feel okay. I know that is easier said than done, that it’s not so easy to switch parts like that. They sort of show up when they want to and take control. I guess this is more about my desire to fix things for you.” She says.
“I don’t want you to fix anything! I just want to not be alone. I don’t need you to fix it. I don’t expect people to fix my stuff for me!”
“I know you don’t, I know that. It’s hard not to want to fix things for you. That not on you, it’s just me, being human. I do know that when I feel bad, I don’t want someone to fix it, I just want someone to sit with me. Sometimes you want to fix things for people, don’t you?”
“Yes. I want to fix everything for everyone I care about.” It hits me as I’m saying it. She cares. She feels a desire to fix it because she cares.
I sigh. How can I make her understand? “It’s like if I had more time…..I just….there’s so much that came up and now I just can’t…….if I wasn’t going camping, I would be able to just put this stuff away, put it in my notebook, box it up, and be back to myself, because I would know you and I would deal with it and I’d be okay. But this? This is like I’m stuck here. I can’t open the box with all the crap oozing out of it, because I know I have to leave in a few days to go camping. I can’t box it up better than it is because it’s all triggered and messy and awful.”
“You are stuck in the in between. You can’t dig into it because then you will be all the more triggered and raw, and you can’t set it aside because then you would be letting down any defenses.” The tone in her voice says she is getting it.
“I can’t come back to myself. I’m stuck here. And I’m just…I just want this week to be over with.”
“Yeah, I get that. Are you frozen far away, or the other end of the spectrum right now?”
I’m trying to think of how to answer that, when she adds, “Are you more anxious with nervous energy, waiting for the week to be over, or are you more far away and fuzzy?”
“It’s….like I’m over caffeinated. And I didn’t even drink coffee today. Or yesterday. For a few days. Because I feel too hyper. I can’t calm down. I had tea, but not coffee. And it’s caffeine free. I can’t…I don’t know. It’s like I’m running on a treadmill, but no matter how fast I run, I can’t….”
“Get anywhere?” She suggests when I stop talking.
“No…..I can’t get away.”
The words feel heavy, and are punctuated by silence. I think we both can feel the weight of them.
“It’s very telling, isn’t it? The language. You can’t get away.”
“No. I can’t get away,” I agree.
“What can’t you get away from?” She asks.
I pull my blanket over my head. It’s silly, because Bea can’t see me, but I’m suddenly feeling too exposed and vulnerable. “I’d like Kenny to get out of my head now.” I say the words softly.
More silence, and then Bea asks, “What?” I’m unsure if she just didn’t hear me, or if she isn’t following my choppy hyper over caffeinated thinking.
“I want Kenny to get out of my head.” I say the words again, stronger this time.
“Oh, okay. I didn’t know that he was there in such a big way.”
“It’s just….he’s…it’s….I don’t even want to be in my body right now. It’s all….I just can’t.” My mind is jumping all over the place, and I can’t think very clearly. Why didn’t Bea know that Kenny was a problem right now? Did I not tell her?
“I’m so glad you are telling me this now, that Kenny stuff was really triggered too. I know the mom stuff is awful and painful and full of grief, but it makes sense now, why you are having such strong reactions, so many flashbacks and nightmares and jumping from frozen far away to hyper running in place. It’s making a lot more sense to me now.”
“Monday…..I wasn’t really there, was I?”
“No, you were really far away on Monday, it was next to impossible to keep you in the room. Wednesday you were more present than Monday, but not much. You really weren’t able to sit with much or talk about very much. We talked about your mom some, and how she hurt you by not accepting you, but we didn’t go very deep.”
“I don’t think I could…talk about this before now.” Doesn’t it just suck when stuff won’t come up on therapy days?
“No, you needed to do this in layers, I think. You needed to be more here than you were.”
“I……he’s just…..I sent you that picture?”
“Yes, you sent me that picture.” It was a picture looking out my childhood bedroom window– the window on the side of the house. The window directly across from mine was Jackie’s window. The window to the left of my window was Kenny’s window.
“I think, I just wanted you to see.” I’d snapped the picture and sent it after all the Kenny stuff had been stirred up. I didn’t have words, I couldn’t find words to tell Bea exactly how not okay I was feeling, but I had this picture of just how close Kenny had been.
“You didn’t leave the house that weekend, did you? Normally you do the winery visits and that puts you in a much more adult place to start the weekend off. This time, you were at the house.”
“Backyard party,” I say woodenly. “Just like…I know, I know it’s not even the same group of people, I know that I’m an adult, I know all that……but…….I mean, I could see us all, as kids, running around. Back and forth between the yards. My mom put out the same yard games as we used do play. And the grown ups always sat on the porch. And the fire pit for bonfire later. It was all the same. So much the same. And I couldn’t…..I just….there’s no getting away.”
“Yes you are a grown up and you know all those things, but parts of you aren’t grown up and they were really triggered, of course they were really triggered. I can see it as you are describing it. When you sent that picture. I had a visceral reaction to how close he was, all the time, of course you felt like you could tell no one, he was always right there! And now you are describing how much last weekend was like those childhood backyard parties, and I can see it and feel it. It makes everything more real, doesn’t it? How could it not send you right back there? Of course you are really struggling, it makes so much more sense now, why this is all so bad right now. I’m so glad you are able to share this with me now, I’m just sorry I didn’t get it sooner, that I didn’t realize what had happened.”
“I just, I couldn’t figure out…it was all so right there, but I couldn’t tell.” I’m crying again.
“It’s okay. You needed time. That’s all. And I was very focused on the mom triggers, I wasn’t seeing anything else.”
“I should have used my words earlier, I guess.” We both laugh at that.
“I’m sorry I got so upset with you,” I tell her.
“I’m not! I’m glad you could tell me you were upset. You couldn’t tell your mom when you were growing up that you were upset or that your feelings were hurt, but you feel safe enough to to tell me, now. That’s a good thing.”
“It was still hard .”
“It still feels scary, maybe a little bit dangerous, to tell me when you are mad?”
“Yeah.” I agree. It feels scary.
“I think of it as a positive that you can tell me, now, when you are upset with me. It’s okay to be upset with me. I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to miss things, I’m going to screw up some times. But if you can tell me when I’ve made you mad, or hurt your feelings, or aren’t giving you what it is you need from me; if you can tell me those things, that is a gift. It gives me a chance to correct it and keep the connection we have and keep helping you heal. If I don’t get a chance to correct it, we can lose that connection, and I can’t help you of you are hiding things because you are afraid of my reaction. I’m glad when you trust me enough to tell me you are mad at me. And just because you are mad at me, that doesn’t mean we are on opposition sides. You can be mad at me, and I can still be on your side.”
“I know. It’s just hard to be mad at you. I don’t like feeling like we are on opposite sides.”
“I’m on your side. Sometimes, we try things and they don’t work, right? Sometimes we try something and it brings up some feelings. We have to talk about it, otherwise how can we know what else to try or not try? I’m on the side of helping you feel better. If I suggest something or do something that upsets you, it doesn’t mean I’m not still on your side. And if you tell me I messed up, I’m on your side then, too. It just means you and I have more information to work with. That’s all. Okay?”
“Okay.” I say.
“I need to get off the phone in a few minutes,” Bea says.
I don’t want to hang up. “Okay.”
“I am very glad you called and told me more about what is going on,” she says.
I want to ask her if she is going to get rid of me, if I’m messing everything up, if she is really on my side. Instead, I take a breath, remind myself of everything she just said and tell her, “I need to clean and organize some things and I have some baking to do. I’m okay. I have stuff to be busy, I’m up and doing things and functioning. I just….I’m okay.”
“Okay, but not really okay at all?” She asks.
“It’s okay to not be okay.” The reminder is nice.
“Okay. I’ll let you go,” I tell her.
“I’m swimming in the ocean with you, all right? You aren’t alone. And I’ll see you Monday, bright and early.” She says.
“See you Monday.” I hang up the phone. I sit there for a few minutes, trying to digest the conversation. Bea had no idea that so much more had been triggered. I honestly thought I told her when we talked about the picture I sent her. I guess I never said any of that out loud.
I worry that she is feeling an annoyance towards me for not being all better, that she is going to decide I don’t need the option to email or call, or she is going to cut my session time or she is going to take away a session. I don’t want any of those things to happen. And I honestly think I cope with things pretty good, much better than I used to. But when all the things get triggered and I’m heading to place filled with more triggers, I can’t do it on my own. And it is nerve wracking to know that all the things are triggered, I’m going into another triggering situation and Bea will be gone on vacation. It is scary to know I’ll be home from camping for a whole week before I get to see her, that she will be on vacation, and it just really makes me feel all alone. At least she knows now why everything is so bad. Maybe Monday’s session will be better now that she knows. Or maybe she will just take away everything and leave me all alone to cope.