The phone call 

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi there,” she says quietly. 

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

“I wasn’t sure you would call.” 

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, can you hear me now?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No! I can’t.” I’m crying harder now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No…..I can’t get away.” 

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

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

“No. I can’t get away,” I agree. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was still hard .” 

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

“Yeah.” I agree. It feels scary. 

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

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

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

“Okay.” I say.

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

I don’t want to hang up. “Okay.”

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

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

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

“Yeah. That.” 

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

“Okay. I’ll let you go,” I tell her. 

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

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

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

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Charts

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay,” I say back. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks.” I whisper it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah. Okay.” I say. 

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

Terrible week

It’s been a terrible week, last week and this week. 

I’ve written posts, and not posted them. I’m in a really bad headspace, of not wanting to communicate, not wanting to connect, not wanting to talk to anyone, and then feeling so horribly, terribly alone. 

Really, this started after the wedding. Well, I mean, I held it together for a few weeks, but when October hit, there was just too much to deal with. My birthday, the new schedule (it’s wonderful that Kat has a new school, but I’m still dealing with the new schedule and trying to find a happy medium type of scheduling or planning), my grandpa, past suicide attempts and the memories of the why, the whole underwear memory, leaving the boyfriend, finding out I was pregnant.

 And then going into November, it doesn’t get better. There are memories of having an abortion, the wreck I became afterward, Bea turning shrinky, the realization that I had no control as a child, and of course, this entire election mess. To top that off, I have been dealing with sinus crud since October (the usual), migraines from stress/anxiety/flashbacks (does anyone else get migraines after particularly bad flashbacks?) and that sinus crap turned into a full blow infection I couldn’t get rid of and then I ended up with an earache. 

And let me tell you, this earache business is no joke. I know exactly why babies and kids scream and cry. It’s like having a friggin’ migraine in your ear. I can’t even. And those homeopathic earache drops they make? Those a a joke. Seriously. They don’t do a thing, except add to the pressure in your ear and make your ear feel like you need to clean it out, except you can’t because you have an ear ache and it hurts like nothing else, and sticking a q-tip in your ear when it hurts like this is a dumb idea. Inprofun doesn’t help either. It’s a racket. And my ear hurts. 

I called my doctor on Friday, and her office only had opening with a male physician. I declined the appointment, stating the time wouldn’t work, and hubby took me to urgent care later that day. It was awful. At least the doctor was female. But she kept asking me if I had damaged my ear, of I had caused trauma to my ear, of I had shoved a q-tip on my ear and damaged it. I kept saying no, and she kept asking. It was like she was accusing me of lying. It was so upsetting. I mean, I clean my ears after a shower or bath with q-tips sometimes, but I think I would remember if I hurt my ear! Right? 
The pain started in the middle of the night of Thursday ,that itchy something is in my ear uncomfortable feeling. Friday morning, at 6:00am, it had turned into a constant dull pain, that achy throbbing kimd of pain, like a headache, and it was punctuated by sharp pain, and this feeling of my ear being stuffed with cotton or water, clogged somehow. So I’m pretty sure it’s not something I did. She eventually said it could be that the sinus infection spread and that it was possible the sinus stuff was putting pressure or had created a middle ear infection. She said all she could see was some dried blood and some pus. She prescribed antibiotics after fighting with me about amoxicillin. She wanted to give me the Amox, and I said no because it gives me a terrible rash, and the rash only gets worse each day I’m on it, to the point my doctor had to treat with a steroid shot the last time someone prescribed Amox. She kept telling that was a side effect, not an allergy, and that the rash does not mean it shouldn’t be prescribed. Eventually she wrote a script for z-pack and I was on my way. I wanted to cry. I felt like I’d been verbally attacked. And after 4 days of z-pack, my ear still hurts. I called my regular doctor’s office, and made an appointment for Thursday. My doctor is out of town this week, so I’m seeing the female nurse practitioner. Of course now I’m afraid she is going to accuse me of hurting my own ear, too, and yell at me. Ugh. I’m hoping my ear gets better before then because I really don’t want to have to go to the doctor again. I have a lot of anxiety about this right now. 

Between all of that, the grown up Alice is struggling to stay present. The little girl has been ruling things. And she likes to hide, to stay cut off from people. Well, she wants people around, but she is afraid to ask. She is afraid to say she needs anyone. She’s terrified of reaching out, needing something, and finding no one there. She can’t do it. And so here I am, holding onto posts I wrote over a week ago, reading blogs and writing comments that I then delete instead of sending, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Either there is nothing wrong with me, or everything is wrong with me. 
(I wrote this on Monday. Since then, I have been back to urgent care, this time with a different doctor. She looked at my ear and said it was a really severe infection and prescribed stronger antibiotics with ear drop antibiotics too. The doctor warned if it wasn’t better by Wednesday to go to the hospital because I will need IV antibiotics. She was concerned about the infection going into the bone. This doctor, and the nurses, were really kind and compassionate. I was crying and upset and I know the little girl was running things but they treated me very kind and were really gentle. I got a shot for pain so I could sleep that night, which helped a lot. Now it’s Wednesday and my ear still hurts quite a bit, but it is better than Monday. I’m not sure if ‘better by Wednesday’ meant no more pain or just better than it felt on Monday. At the moment I’m planning to take Kat to school and to go to therapy. After that, I’ll see.) 

Deeper down the rabbit hole part 5 (she’s home)

Somehow I made it through until Wednesday morning. At 3:00am, I ended up emailing Bea. I wrote to her that I was afraid she was assuming I was okay because she had not gotten any emails from me, but actually, I wasn’t okay, nothing was okay. I needed her to know that the little girl was feeling unseen, and triggered and needed to be seen. I needed her to know I was struggling with believing she was back, really truly back, before I even set foot in her office. I gritted my teeth, wrote the email, detached and numbed myself out enough to send it.  

It wasn’t until I was in my car, driving to her office, I felt so anxious I thought I might throw up. Walking into the little house that Bea’s office is in, I feel massive amounts of apprehension. I’m so worried she is going to be mad at me for walking out. This past week, I’ve been able to pretend it didn’t happen, detach from it all, and now it all comes rushing back to me. 

I walk in with my head down, unable to look at Bea. She’s sitting in her chair. “Hi?” I whisper. 

“Hey,” she says easily, smiling up at me. 

I nod my head at her, but I can’t get words out. I sit on my spot on the sofa, throwing my coral orange colored bag down next to me. It is holding all my writing from this week. 

“So,” Bea says slowly. “I got your email, I’m glad to have gotten it. I wasn’t thinking that you were okay. I was checking my email, watching for any mail from you. And I did wonder how you were. Because things were left really not settled. So I was worried about you, and I did think about you. But I won’t usually email people. Because if I had emailed you when I was feeling worried and was wondering about how you were…..it just, it might have been more about my needs, and not yours. I just, I think contact needs to come from you, not be initiated from me. Of course, you know, it’s not to say I won’t email or be the first to contact, I just think therapists really need to let their clients initiate contact. But I really never thought things were okay. And I was thinking and worrying about you and hoping you were okay.” Everything she says is said in a gentle way, in this caring and careful way. 

“How was your vacation?” I ask her, smiling. It’s as if she hasn’t said a word at all about me not feeling okay at all. Miss Perfect— this part of me is so determined to pretend things are okay and normal and fine and to smile and behave within the realm of the social niceties I grew up with.

Bea plays along for a minute. She’s says she had a good time, and tells me a quick silly story about her trip. Then, she is back to business. “I wondered if you wanted to start by looking at your journals or anything you had written this week, or if there was something else you wanted to start with.” 

“I….I just…….I don’t know.” I sigh. I dig my journal and loose sheets of paper out of my bag. 

“Alice, I want to make sure that the little girl knows she is being seen today, that she isn’t alone. So whatever you need today, okay? I’m here.” Bea says softly. 

I shake my head. “I don’t know. I don’t know what I need.” In truth, I’m not sure I trust her enough in this moment. If she’s not back, and I hand over everything I wrote and felt and struggled with this week…..well, it won’t end well for me.

“I’m back. I’m here. I feel very here and very present and I just want to follow your lead.” Bea says firmly.

I sit there for a while. I’m holding my journal tight in my arms, and I’m unsure if I can hand it over. Finally, I whisper, very softly and cautiously, “Are you really back?” 

“I am. I’m really back.” She says. She sounds present and here. 

I’m still unsure, and so we sit in silence again, until in a small voice, I ask, “Are you sure?” 

“Yes. I’m very sure. I’m here.” She says seriously. 

I stretch my arm out, holding out the loose leaf papers and then my journal when she had taken the papers. 

Bea begins to read, and I bury my face in my knees. I can’t look at her. I’m too afraid, too ashamed. 

“Mmmhmmm. Yeah, everything is flipped. There is a lot of shame, but the little girl did nothing wrong,” she says as she reads, commenting on my words. “The teen was protecting the little girl, I think. The teen wasn’t sure I could be trusted to be present when I was gone, and so she took care of the little girl. That’s okay. I can see what the teen wouldn’t trust me, why that would be hard to think of trusting me again.” And then, “I know you won’t like this, but I’m sort of dancing in my chair right now, that you could hate me. I’m glad you had a place to put those very bad feelings. You were mad. And that’s okay. I’m glad you could hate me, that you could,let yourself hate me. That’s a good thing, as strange as that might sound.” She really is sounding okay, upbeat…..not in this way that she isn’t taking my feelings seriously, but that she is actually seeing it as a good thing I could hate her. Bea reads through pages and pages of writing, some of what I have already posted in part 1, 2, 3. She acknowledges how badly I was feeling, and how the little girl was really running things and how it feels to be fighting with hubby. 

In all honesty, most of the session after that point is pretty blurry. A lot of it was focused on the little girl, and shame and bad, scared feelings. We will have to talk through it all again, when I’m more present, but until then what I do know is Bea was quite adamant the little girl was not to blame. She was understanding and sympathetic to the confusion and fear and revulsion I had been feeling. She acknowledged that things feel very out of control and told me it was okay, and understandable. 

And then, I get the feeling I just couldn’t continue having this conversation, and the adult me took over things. From that point forward, we talk about hubby and our fight. 

“We just keep circling…..ugh. It’s like the same fight, over and over.” 

“I know. I know it really feels that way. Do you think that there is anyway to talk to him about this? I know that’s not what you want to hear, and I am on your side, but I feel like in order to be on your side, I have to push a little.” Bea says. 

“I can’t. I don’t know. Anything I say, I’ll just be accused of putting words in his mouth, or he won’t listen anyway or who knows what else?” I snap back at her. 

“Okay. What if we stepped back and tried to draw out what happens between you?” She asks. “So you can show him, say that you identified what keeps happening?” 

“No. No-no.” I mumble. I’m too not here, and I don’t want to be more present than I am. 

Bea attempts a few more times to get me to act, to try something, to get a bit more here. And I refuse. I just can’t. 

“Have you given more thought to couples therapy?” Bea asks me. 

I shake my head. “I’m afraid. And I don’t…I just…I’m afraid.” 

“I think that if you found someone who understood trauma and who is comfortable working with couples, it could be a really helpful thing.” She says. I know it’s coming from a place of caring and wanting to help, but I’m annoyed. 

“Just stop. Stop it. I can’t do therapy with him! Didn’t you see that whole list of why I don’t trust him?” 

Bea nods. “I did. And I believe that those are all valid reasons to feel vulnerable and afraid to trust. But you know that in relationships if we don’t give people chance, if we don’t test those things that feel unsafe, it’s really hard to find trust and safety. We have to give people a chance.” 

“I don’t wanna talk about this. About relationships. I’ll think on it,” I say. 

Bea nods. “Okay.” 

We wrap things up rather awkwardly, but it’s okay. Nothing feels resolved or fixed, but it’s okay. Bea is back. She’s home. And she’s really back. Like really, truly, back. So, I’m not upset. I feel okay. Things are okay now. It’s okay. Bea is home.  

But she’s supposed to be my anyway friend……

It’s only Friday night and Thursday already seems like a month ago. I’ve been on this crazy emotional roller coaster all week. I’m exhausted. 

Thursday’s session…..I talked about my kid, about a meeting I’d had with the school the previous week that ended in me yelling at everyone. I don’t get mad like that, and it was very unsettling– even if it was an appropriate reaction (as my daughters behavior analyst who also attended the meeting assured me). In fact, it was so unsettling I ended up texting with Bea later that night, simply because I couldn’t calm myself down and stop the feelings of anger– a feeling that leads to shame and fear. 

I’ve felt extremely vulnerable all week. Being cut off from Kay, hearing that our friendship is just over, has sent me down a dark and twisty rabbit hole. I’ve gone from emailing Bea, and texting Rory– just to make sure they are still here and not angry with me, too– to being livid with everyone. When I’m stuck in those feelings, it’s all I can feel, and I can’t control it. When I’m able to step away, I can see that Kay leaving has sent me into this clingy mode that then turns into a pushing away mode. My life has been a regular party this week, let me tell you (why isn’t there a sarcasm font yet????). The little girl, the teenager and the miss perfect grown up part have all shown up. 

So, I drove into therapy really needing connection and reassurance that Bea was still here and everything was okay. Unfortunately, the perfect me showed up in Bea’s office, and chose to focus on Kat instead of me. I’d been emailing with Bea since Kay’s text message, though, so she knew I needed more than just talking about Kat. I’d even emailed her about my self destructive behavior, which isn’t something I usually admit to so easily. I think I needed to test Bea a little, and make sure she wasn’t going to leave me just for being bad. 

Me: I was really bad last night. I made pizza for dinner with the intention of throwing up. And then I felt like crap after and didn’t feel better and that just sucked. And then I had nightmares most of the night until I gave up on sleep. Boyfriend nightmares.  

Bea: Kay was there for you and witnessed the horror of the boyfriend stuff. Feeling abandoned by her no doubt took away some of your safety, and your sense of yourself as having been wronged. “Bad” fits with that. Of course you weren’t “bad” yesterday–you were trying to cope and self soothe in the way you knew how. And being self destructive goes right along with your guilt.

I loved that she told me I wasn’t bad, that I was reacting in the way I knew how to and trying to cope. Kay leaving like this has triggered all kinds of crazy in my head. Thankfully, I have the miss perfect part of me to function in daily life; she’s so very, very good at acting normal even when I feel like my world is collapsing. She should be good at it though, she’s had 27 years to practice her act. 

Even with miss perfect showing back up and taking over, my trust issues were triggered. And so, I sent another email. 

Me: So you don’t think I’m bad? And you aren’t going anywhere? Even if I tell you no about something, or get mad, or disagree with you, or mess up? 

Bea: Yes, I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. You can disagree with me, get mad at me, and act as obnoxious as you want and I will still be here.

Just what I needed to hear. 
I also sent a text to poor Rory. We had been texting all week, but this was maybe the most vulnerable one I sent her. And while it sort of sucks to be that vulnerable with anyone, I think it’s progress, because a year ago I would have either pretended everything was fine, or I would have found something to be angry with Rory about, and push her away before she could leave me. 

Me: Okay, I know this is incredibly ridiculous but I just need to make sure you are still here and not mad at me for anything. Because I’m sort of freaking out a little bit. 

Rory: Not mad in the slightest. Not even one shred
Me: I’m just feeling a little unstable at the moment.

Rory: It is ok. You aren’t nuts. And you and her have had big fallings out before 
Me: Not like this. I’m always the one who shuts her out for pushing me too much on something i don’t want to deal with. This is different. She left me. I didn’t do the leaving. 

Rory: I am sorry. But I won’t leave. 

The only person I didn’t double check things with was hubby. And not because I didn’t want to, but because he is seeing this falling out as typical girl drama and I am so not in a place where I can be vulnerable with him and risk feeling rejected.

So, Bea was aware of all my ups and downs because we had been emailing this week. She eventually changed the Kat subject into how I was dealing with everything. I froze and drifted away a little. I finally told her I had no words, that I just didn’t even know what to say. Bea asked some questions then, and helped me get started talking. 

I told her how Kay probably was more in the caretaker role early on in our friendship, that it was definitely unbalanced, and she was giving more than I was. The friendship, in the beginning was certainly more about her helping me, picking up the pieces of whatever mess I’d made, and keeping me from killing myself. But, I changed, and became more stable (even if that was a somewhat masterful illusion that didn’t fully hide all my flaws from Kay) and the friendship balanced out. It’s a different friendship than I have with Rory; in some ways, offering advice, or support, or taking care of Kay feels a bit like a child offering the adult help. But, Kay has always been the person in my life with the answers. I don’t know. I told Bea that although things started out unbalanced, and at times I worried I wasn’t a good enough friend, I did think they were more balanced now. She told me that I am caring and emphatic, even with her in the capacity of therapy, or when she has seen me interact with other adults (like the moms in a playgroup Kat was in, or when there is a client before or after me) and she couldn’t imagine me being less than that in my other relationships. I didn’t tell her, but that surprised me. It was unexpected. I don’t expect others to view me as kind; I’m always assuming they think I am selfish and self centered. It’s maybe the first time I’ve really thought that people truly don’t view me as I view me. 

I told Bea how Kay is my anyway friend, and I’m hers. She the one who sees all the ugly, hears the mean things I have to say, sees my hurt and tears and crazy, but she loves me anyway. And I saw her emotional ups and downs, her anger at her wife, the regrets she has, the hurt and pain caused by an insane ex-husband, and more, but I loved her anyway. An anyway friend is someone you don’t have to hide things from, you don’t have to be afraid of what parts of you they have seen, you don’t have to perform well, or be something you aren’t. Because they love you anyway. And an anyway friend is not supposed to leave. 

I don’t remember much of what I said in session, but I do remember saying this. “She left. She’s not supposed to leave. She left. And if she could leave, anyone could leave. And I’m freaked out over that. She left. But she’s supposed to be my anyway friend.” 

I don’t remember everything Bea said. But I do remember peeking at her and seeing her face. She looked sad, she looked like she really could feel my hurt, and like it made her sad for me. “I know. I can hear the little girl is really worried that anybody could just get mad and leave if Kay could leave. I’m still here. I’m not leaving. Well, I’m leaving this week for vacation, so I won’t see you Monday, but I will be back on Wednesday and I will see you Thursday.” 

It hit me then, how bad I really felt, and how scared I was that I could lose everyone. I started to cry, but forced myself to pull it together, knowing that the time was almost up. When I left, I stood by her office door, and asked very quietly, “I can email, right? Even though you’ll be gone, you’re still here and I can email?” I was embarrassed to ask this again, but the little girl desperately needed to know. 

“Yes, you can email. I’m still here, and I will be back. I’m not leaving.” Her tone was kind, and her voice was soft when she told me this, but there was something that said she was very firm and serious about this. 

I left feeling connected but sad. I still feel sad. And really disconnected from everyone right now. I’ve checked my email, hoping that Bea would email for some random reason, even though I haven’t emailed her today. And I saw her today when Kat was at therapy. (But Kat’s therapy session and subsequent conversations at home have been massively triggering for me, so I’m extra unsettled tonight….that’s a whole different post though). I’ve thought about emailing Bea, even just to say I feel floaty and lost and alone and as if I have no anchor and that I’m scared. But I haven’t, because I feel silly. Instead– for the moment at least– I’m going to curl up in bed with my dog and watch some Gilmore Girls. They always make me feel better. 

Don’t wanna think anymore

I don’t want to think, I don’t want to feel. The past is too close right now, and if I stop and think, I’m likely to end up sucked into memories and feelings that I really don’t want to deal with. I spent the whole weekend avoiding and distracting myself from all the yuck. And now it’s Monday morning, and I’m in Bea’s office. 

“Let’s see if we can switch gears and talk about you,” she says, changing topics. We had been talking about Kat, and some of the struggles she has been having since going to back to school. It is something that we need to talk about, both because I need support in how to deal with Kat, and help separating what is really going on now from the past feelings that tend to show up when Kat is involved, and because, as Kat’s therapist, she needs to know what is going on with Kat in day to day life. “I didn’t hear anything from you this weekend, how were things after Thursday?” 

I don’t know. Her asking a direct question like that makes it harder to avoid thinking and feeling. I feel a little floaty, and a lot frozen. I’m still sitting with my knees tucked to my chest, but my head is up. I’m not really seeing anything, though, even as I look around the room. 

“Maybe, let’s try something a little more concrete. How did you sleep this week?” Bea sort of sounds far away. 

“I…..I don’t wanna talk about sleep.” I mumble the words. Sleep has been rough, more so lately, and I don’t want to face the nightmares. I’m unsure if I’m even allowed to talk about them, or if I’ll be told I’m too far away to talk, and the little girl is too afraid to open up only to find that Bea isn’t as there as she believed. It’s not a risk she is willing to take. Things might be feeling a lot better between Bea and I, but it’s still as if we are on uneven ground and working to find our footing again. 

“That makes me think it’s not so good.” Her voice is soft, and understanding. “We don’t have to talk about that. We can talk about whatever you like.” 

I shake my head. The little girl wants to tell Bea that she is afraid, and confused. She wants to scream and cry and ask Bea to make everything how it was, to not change anymore. She wants someone to hear how much she is hurting. She wants Bea to know she is afraid to fall asleep, and that the nightmares are almost as bad as living through it the first time. But I don’t say anything at all. 

We sit in the quiet for a minute or two, and then she breaks the silence. “What do you think about getting out our pictures and the markers, and working to orient back to the external, in the moment? Now you are focused more inside, and farther away, this would be a chance to be in control of being far away or more present.” 

Slowly, I nod. I don’t want to do this exercise again, but I make myself say, “Okay.” In the long run, it is meant to help, no matter how uncomfortable it feels in this moment. The idea is if I can be present with what is happening in the room, in the relationship, in the moment, for even a few seconds, I can start to retrain my brain to see that it is safe to be present now. And the more I can do that, and feel safer in the present, the easier it will be to control how dissociated I am, and the safer it will be to work through the memories, feelings, thoughts and physical memories left behind from trauma. I have a feeling this is going to be a long process. 

Bea gets out the markers and our pictures, and she starts to color. It takes me longer, but eventually I pick up a marker and color, too. I don’t mean to, but I end up talking about hubby. It’s in that sort of disjointed, hard to focus on what I’m saying, pausing frequently, sort of far away but trying not to fall down the cliff into the past, dissociated way I have sometimes. I desperately want to stay distracted, and I don’t want to think or feel. It’s all too much. 

We talk about how supportive he was over the dentist stuff, and how I had my hopes up that things were changing between us, and then nothing really changes and my feelings are hurt. I explain how it seems like hubby blames everything on my PTSD. It’s so frustrating to have every reaction that isn’t “happy and nice” be blamed on PTSD. Sometimes, I’m upset simply because I’m upset, and would have been upset even if there was no PTSD in my life. Bea is listening and validating my life experience. She tells me that more education about trauma would be helpful for hubby, because unless you have experienced it, the symptoms can be very confusing and hard to understand. 

Eventually, when the conversation pauses, Bea says, “Let’s see if we can focus on this moment, on coloring…..” 

I shake my head. “I can’t. Not….just…” 

“Okay. That’s okay. Can I maybe talk about my picture?” 

I nod my head; yes, okay, she can talk. She talks about colors, and how she chose the colors she did, what she was thinking, her reactions to certain colors. Then she tilts her head towards my page. “Which color is your favorite that you’ve used?” 

It’s a struggle to even focus on what I’ve used, to even label the colors in my head. “Orange. Orange is my favorite color.” 

“I did know that.” She smiles at me. “I really like that blue you are using now. That is my favorite blue, I think. What do you think about it?” 

I shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know. I guess…..I was thinking it was the same blue as these sweatpants my mom used to love.” 

“It’s funny how we can’t really look at, or experience a color without relating it something else, isn’t it?” Bea asks. 

“I don’t know. Can we be done?” I ask softly. The little girl is afraid of making Bea mad, but I can’t do this being present thing anymore right now. 

She nods her head, and starts picking up markers and putting the pictures away. I gather my things quickly, wanting to get out of there, to run home, to hide. “How do you feel about this, how do you think this is going?” Bea asks, as I am heading towards the door. 

“I don’t know,” I mumble. I feel very put on the spot. I’m so sure that for her, this is a simple question, but I feel like it is complicated and twisty. 

I think she takes my uncertainty to mean i don’t think it is working well, or I’m not finding it helpful, because she begins to make other suggestions of things we can, other senses we can use besides seeing. I’m overwhelmed, and it all seems like too much. 

“Okay. Okay, sure,” I say, and then I tell her goodbye and rush out of the office. 

A Real Relationship

“I expected to get an email after Monday’s session. That was a lot to process.” Bea lets her statement hang in the air, waits for me to respond, to say anything. So far, I’ve said hello to her, and not much else. I’m finding it hard to speak today; it’s as if the defiant teenage part of me showed up to therapy, and I am fighting the idea of being here, of being vulnerable. Bea takes a drink of he tea, continues speaking. “Maybe you weren’t feeling safe enough to send an email. Maybe you weren’t sure you could trust me to respond.” I feel my insides freeze at that. It’s almost exactly what happened. I wasn’t sure. I was afraid. But I don’t want to admit it. “I would have responded,” she continues, “Sometimes, like this morning, I don’t respond right after I read an email, especially the longer ones. I got an email this morning that I read, and I’ll respond later, once I have some time to really think it through and process it. So even if I haven’t responded right away, it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it, or haven’t read it.”

Great. Now she thinks I have expected her to reply really quickly. It’s not like that. I really have never expected anything beyond a replay within a day, or maybe the same day depending on the content. The last email, which went 2 — almost 3– days with no reply, and was the first thing I wrote or said that let anything big out…well, that hurt. And her reply felt off. It felt like she wasn’t really there, wasn’t getting it, I don’t know.

“I bet you have been writing since I saw you last, even if you haven’t emailed.” Bea’s voice says she likes the fact I write, even if I haven’t shared it with her.

I finally nod. “I always write. It’s just…me.” I shrug. I think about pulling out my iPad, pulling up, email I wrote and didn’t send, but I don’t. Instead I stare at the floor, think about what I wrote about.
I must have dissociated far away, because the next thing I know, it’s like I’m jerking awake– although I wasn’t asleep and Hagrid is head butting me– and Bea is talking.

“I haven’t asked about your Grandma lately,” Bea says, “Have you talked to her?”

I shake my head, slowly. “That’s a funny story,” I say. Crap. I meant to say it was funny she was asking that, funny as in ironic. Being so out of it means words get easily mixed up when I speak.

“It’s a funny story?” Bea asks, not sure she heard my whispered voice right.

“No…not funny. Funny you asked.” I explain. And then we sit in silence for a moment while I gather my thoughts. “She’s here. In [state].”

“Oh. Wow. Are you going to see her?”

“I…tonight. For dinner. With the…with him.” Hagrid noses his way onto my lap. I pet his back.

We talk about how Grandma texted me to ask about meeting for dinner, and how it’s just going to be Kat and I going.

“Hubby…he hurt my feelings. It…I tried…” I stumble with the words. “He has to work. And you know I haven’t talked to him about anything since like, May, but I asked him if he was could work 9-4 today. He said no. But then asked why. So I started explaining. And he…..he starts laughing. He wasn’t even listening. He was reading emails. That’s how much I matter. And he then told me he can’t change his schedule today, no matter what, so why he acted like he could, I don’t know. But…ugh. I don’t know. It didn’t matter.”

“You were really reaching out to him, asking for support and not being seen really hurt.” Bea echoes and validates me, and I feel like I can breathe a little.

“Yes.” I nod.

We talk over this, me crying about hurt feelings, Bea echoing how it really hurts to have your husband, your partner ignore you.

“Did you have something you wanted me to read?” Bea gestures to my iPad, which is resting near my right leg. I don’t even remember removing it from my bag. “I don’t want to invalidate this experience, or rush you, or stop you from talking about it, but I also don’t want to miss something you wanted to talk about.”

I nod, and pick up the iPad. I open the email, and scan it. Yeah. All the scary crazy stuff is still there, in black and white. Ugh. “No. There isn’t much to say. I’m seeing my Grandma. It feels yucky because of the boyfriend. My husband doesn’t see me. And my feelings are hurt. That’s really it. So…here.” And I hand her the iPad. After, I curl into a ball– sitting up– and say, “I wrote it Monday night…Tuesday morning…it’s an email, I guess. I just didn’t send it because. I don’t know why. I just didn’t send it.”

“Okay.” Bea’s voice is neutral again. I have a feeling she has thoughts on why I didn’t send it, but I don’t much care. Mostly because I’m sure she is thinking I wasn’t sure it was safe enough to send it, and she’d be right.
I’m thinking again. Of course, I’m thinking again. It’s 2:00am, and I’ve had a nightmare and can’t get back to sleep. So I am thinking.

I’m thinking about one of the questions I thought about this weekend: why is it so hard for me to talk relationship stuff? Why does the very idea of that make me frozen and sick to my stomach and itchy all over? Why does it feel so incredibly not safe and why am I so convinced that in discussing those things I am going to get hurt? Is this just normal, I’m human and being vulnerable is scary stuff, or is it more than that? And what am I supposed to do about it? Because now I’m in this weird place….this sort of limbo feeling, of not being able to go back to pretending that the relationship piece doesn’t matter, of not being able to pretend there is nothing wrong in the real relationship or nothing to talk about….but I also am too damn scared to talk about if. So what am I supposed to do? I have this feeling that I am going to lose people I care about of I don’t do something. But the idea of calling Kay and talking through my ignoring her because I didn’t want her trying to force me to face reality, of maybe telling her that I love her but sometimes she is so honest and blunt she scares me and overwhelms me…..well, it’s too much. I can’t. Or the idea of telling hubby that I feel like we are existing on opposite sides of the world, that I feel very far away and isolates right now, that I feel like he doesn’t see me, maybe doesn’t really want to see me, and that makes me feel so afraid, it really triggers me, takes me right back to being a child and not being seen, and so I lash out by being nitpicky, by snapping, with passive aggressive comments, even just outright yelling. No, I’m not there yet. But I’m also unable to pretend.

And I’m thinking about this idea of limbo, and it really feels like I’m in this weird limbo place. Maybe that is just what therapy is. I don’t know. But it’s like I’m beyond believing it was all a game, but I’m I’m not really at this point where I can say I didn’t do anything wrong, either. I still have a lot of doubts about my behavior. Logically, I can say, and easily believe that kids are never to blame. But if I try to insert my name into that statement, or even just say “the little girl is never to blame”….I almost feel this strong physical reaction, like that sentence is wrong. And the first thing I feel is….I don’t know, maybe really deep buried mad, and I just want to scream that the little girl is awful and bad and disgusting and no one will ever love her. I feel like I’m in this weird limbo where I can say that Kenny had a part in everything that happened, he gets half the responsibility. Which I couldn’t believe, or even really think before. But it only brings up questions of why, and more questions of were there others– the girls from the other families in our group, his sister? And I don’t know. I don’t like this limbo place. Maybe i really wasn’t okay before, but at least I was sure of something. Now it feels like I’m more unsure of things in my life than ever before. And that scares me a lot.

I’m thinking about my parents. I talked to my mom. She called to tell me my grandma and her boyfriend had come back for grandmas high school reunion, but not told anyone or seen anyone while they were here. People found out via facebook, but my mom didn’t want me to see my grandma posting she was in this state and feel like she had hidden something from me. So I cried. And we talked about it for a bit. And then she said something…I don’t remember exactly, I was feeling not so grounded. But it was about her hiding things or ignoring things when I was growing up, and she said she is finding in therapy that burying things never fixes anything in the end, eventually it has to be dealt with. She said she spent most of her adult life hiding and burying things and she won’t do it anymore. She’s happy. She is happy in therapy, more grounded and more real than I’ve maybe ever experienced. She said she goes twice a week. That she is thinking of seeing this nutrition counselor her therapist recommended. I wanted to scream. This should be good. I should be happy. It’s everything I have said, time and time again, I wanted from my parents. But…ugh. NO. It doesn’t feel okay. It doesn’t feel okay at all. I changed my mind. Maybe I’m not capable of having more than a surface relationship with anyone in my life. Kay might be the exception. Because she can tolerate a lot of uncomfortable feelings and yucky stuff; I really do believe she can handle more than most people. So, it’s like even though she has always demanded more than a surface friendship from me, she’s been able to handle and tolerate all the yuck for both of us. Or something. And I think, like you said you are always thinking of where I am and what I can handle, she does that, too. Which is the only reason that works. But. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to have that kind of relationship with another person (you. I don’t have a surface relationship with you.But you are my shrink, so it’s not like a surface relationship would really make sense). So. No. I change my mind. I don’t want this real relationship with my mom. I don’t want her to try to repair things, or talk about the past. There’s too many hurts I’m afraid she will go to. It’s not just my fear that she will maybe realize that she knew and ignored the situation with Kenny. I need, or a part of me needs to believe she had no clue. I don’t think I can handle it if I knew for sure she knew. It would hurt too much. So much, I’m just numb even typing that; I feel completely disconnected from my body right now. But don’t worry, Hagrid has been barking at me and head butting me a lot today– he is doing his job and seems determined to not allow me to get too far away. Part of me, irrationally so, fears she will realize that I’m the one who made her sick and landed her in the hospital, or that she will realize if I hadn’t been so needy, or such an out of control teen, she wouldn’t have had the problems she had and she will be so disappointed in me, hate me. It’s obviously a fear from the little girl, nothing based in reality. But…..still. There it is. Part of me is afraid she will try to talk about the times she punished me instead of being there emotionally– taking my car keys after I cut my wrists, making me attend school two days after I over dosed, not allowing me to buy a new dress for the Christmas dance because she caught me throwing up, lecturing me about how I was ruining my life when Kristin called her to come get me from college. All of those things almost hurt too much to even type onto a page. I can’t talk about them. And I really can’t talk about them with her. I don’t know. I just know I want the fake story back.

I NEED to know I have the option of saying it was all a game. That I have the option of saying it didn’t matter, that it wasn’t a big deal. That I am being a drama queen, because that is my role in my family, it’s what I do. I need to be able to say I’m being crazy, making things up. I need to be able to tell myself it didn’t happen the way I think, obviously, because no one else is telling the story I am telling. At least a part of me is holding onto the belief that none of this is real. A part of me needs to think I’m crazy, because the alternative is just too horrible.

And it makes me so freaking angry with her. Why does she get to do this now? I was forced to live in her crazy perfect world. I had no choice but to be perfect, because I truly believed they wouldn’t love me, wouldn’t want me if I was anything less than perfect. Heck, sometimes I still believe that. But now, when I NEED her perfect family version of our history, her perfect daughter version of my history…NOW she wants to change it? ITS NOT FAIR. And I don’t want explanations or reasons. I don’t want to understand from her viewpoint. I just want to be mad. I just want to be hurt. Because, (illogical though it is) even though she has no idea about any of this, I feel hurt. I feel like once again, I’m being left emotionally. And it’s almost worse this time, because all I needed was for her fl maintain the same stupid story she has always told as the truth. And she can’t even do that. Now she wants to be real. Not when I NEEDED her to be real. Oh no. She couldn’t possibly have been real when I overdosed. Or when she caught me cutting. Or when I went through a starting phase and passed out at cheer practice. Nope. She couldn’t be real then. Not when I needed a mom who could be real. But now? Now when I need anything but real, she chooses to lead to be real. Argh. I think I’m in this little girl headspace, maybe sometimes even this teenager– like young teenager– headspace right now. I don’t want to talk things out and understand other people’s viewpoints. I just want to be upset and for someone to get that.
Bea reads. And I’m silent. She says “mmhmmm..” several times as she is reading; it’s what I have come to think of as her verbal nods. She makes a sort of snickering laugh sound at one point, and I’m assuming it is in reference to my comment about her being my shrink and so a surface relationship wouldn’t make sense– or she is laughing at the swear words and angry tone peppered throughout the email, as those are so uncharacteristic of me. But I’m betting it’s the shrink comment.

“I haven’t finished this yet,” she says at one point, “but I want to comment on this limbo feeling. It makes sense, it makes perfect sense. And it is scary. It’s like having the ground pulled out from beneath you and no safe space to run to. And it makes sense why the old story, even if it was scary or not safe…it’s familiar. So it feels safe. I was also thinking, your grandpa, your grandpa and your grandma, that is where you found safety as a child, and it’s where you have found safety as an adult. They were real. But your grandma is changing things. And that is unsettling. You can still find safety there. The safety you found as a child is still there.”

I don’t say anything, just let her words sink in, and let them roll around my mind. I need time to let that idea sit.

She reads the rest of the way through. “Wow. Wow. This is a lot.”

I shake my head. “Is it? Or is it life?” I sometimes wonder if I just suck at living life.

“It is a lot.” Bea repeats. “Your mom…this is good stuff. She is growing, and it’s good. But she, you…you and her are on different healing paths right now. She needs to be on her path. You aren’t there yet. You still have things to grieve and hurts to feel and work through.”

“I feel so guilty.” I whisper.

“Because you aren’t happy for her?”

“I should be.”

“Well…should is a logical word. This isn’t logic. It’s feelings. And there is a lot of grief here. A lot of anger. A lot of feelings that could not be felt then, and that need to be felt and worked through to be able to move on.” Bea says. She says it like this is so natural, so normal.

“She’s…she’s getting better.” It’s what I have always wanted. But it feels too late.

“And we want that for her. But you don’t have to be happy about it. You can have all your feelings. It’s okay to be mad. Of course you are going to be mad she couldn’t be better when you needed her to be. How could you not be? These things hurt. They were real hurts.” Bea says. She looks back over the hurts I’ve listed, and asks “what’s a starting phase?”

I feel lost for a minute and then realize. “Auto correct. It must have…auto correct.”

“So it’s?….?” And then Bea realizes. “Starving phase?”

“Yeah.” I nod, grateful I didn’t have to spell it out.

It’s quiet for a moment and then Bea asks me, “Was she crying, too? Your mom, when you were talking? Did it feel like she was trying to connect?”

I sigh. I don’t want to remember. It was scary for me. I feel floaty, just thinking about it. “I…she was…but it was like…she was happy but…like….relieved? Maybe? Is that the feeling?”

“Uh-huh…mhhmhhm….like she has this relief at not living under this weight of perfectionism or hiding any longer. Yes. That makes sense. And she is trying to tell you she is sorry for how things were, but she is relieved not to be that way any more.” Bea sounds a little bit excited, like she is putting the pieces together of a puzzle. She goes on to say that my actions– distancing myself, not following all the family rules, doing things that were right for me, might have pushed her towards making changes.

I shrug. “I can’t…I’m not..I don’t want this.”

“I know. And you can distance yourself and let her be on her path and you can be on yours. But I think one day, you’ll be able to have an honest conversation, to be real, and have a real relationship with her.”

“No…no, no. I can’t. I don’t. I can’t.” I shake my head, and tears are falling at this point. They are tears from too much pent up emotion. Tears of anxiety and frustration. Tears of grief and pain and hurt. Tears of anger and fear.

“Not now. But one day.” Bea says softly. She says something about having a relationship with my mom, a real relationship.

I shake my head. “I think I am only able to handle surface relationships. That’s it. It’s all I’m good at.”

I hear the smile on her voice, the kindness and the sadness when she says, “That’s not a relationship. That’s day to day interactions. Relationships are what make life worth living. They are the reason we are here. But the surface stuff? That’s just daily interactions.”

I shake my head. “Well. Those surface relationships passed for relationships for 30 years of my life. So….I think they count as relationships.”

Bea disagrees, and tells me again that the deeper relationships, real connections are what make life worth living. She says those connections are what all of us are looking for. It’s something we all need.

I don’t say anything. I don’t like this conversation. I have been thinking a lot about relationships and feelings and connections, and I have been wanting to talk about it with someone. It I don’t like the way this conversation is making me feel.

“All this stuff you are dealing with, it’s a lot, but it is sort of the nuts and bolts of life. Relationships are the nuts and bolts of life. They are so important and those connections, while at times…”

“Scary? Terrifying? Frozen making?” I supply some adjectives, ones that I have a feeling are very different from hers.

“Well, yes. Being vulnerable and opening yourself up to a relationship is scary. Especially when it is a new thing for you to do. And this is a new thing for you. You haven’t even liked to discuss, or admit even the importance of our relationship.” Bea says.

“Because then…it’s saying I need someone. And I don’t want to need anyone.” I say softly.

“Well, no. Of course not. If you need someone, you are vulnerable.”

“Is it always that scary?” I ask her, after a minute or two of quiet.

She doesn’t answer right away, except to say, “No.” Then she gathers her thoughts before speaking. “It might be uncomfortable at times, but it’s not going to be scary forever. It’s scary now because it’s a new thing, and you aren’t sure you can trust it.”

I nod. Okay. Maybe. I’m not sure I trust that answer.

“With Hagrid…it’s easy, safe to open yourself up to him, right?” She asks me.

I nod. Slowly.

“With dogs, we only get good back. We don’t get rejection or hurt. So it’s easy and safe to open up and really attach and let them in. And that’s a good thing. It’s great. And Hagrid is doing his job, being there and attaching back to you, giving you a safe attachment.” Bea says.

What she says reminds me of studies I have read about horse therapy. I also wonder if that is the reason Bea has been so happy that Hagrid was brought into my life. Why she has talked about him and supported him coming to therapy and asked about how sleeping and nightmares are with him around.

I nod, letting her know I hear her.

Bea says more, maybe, about relationships. I’m not paying much attention.

“My mom is going to see a nutritionist.”

“That has to feel maybe a little threatening, unsettling at the very least.”

“I don’t know. It’s just…I don’t like it.” I sign. It makes me want to scream and yell and hide. But I don’t know what I feel, exactly.

“Does it feel like it is threatening your eating?” She asks me.

I shake my head. I don’t know. I disappear the rest of session, I can’t handle talking about my ED.

Hagrid’s barking, and Bea’s laughing.

“He’s not letting you go too far away,” she says happily.

I nod, feeling fuzzy. Damn it. I hate it when I zone out this much.

“We need to stop anyway, work on grounding you, okay?” Bea asks me.

I nod. “Can you just talk?”

“Well, I tried to bring my golden with me to work on Tuesday, to see how he would do as a therapy dog.” I can tell by the tone in her voice that things didn’t go well. By the end of the story, I’m cracking up, and I also now have an explanation as to why two puppets are missing from the puppet bucket.

I leave feelings grounded, but with a lot to think about and process.