Repaired: part six

On Wednesday, July 11, I walk into Bea’s office, feeling scared, but not as scared as I have been. I feel vulnerable, too, and it shows when I walk in, unable to look at Bea. Today, she notices, she sees me.

“I was really glad to get the teen’s email this morning. To know that she is able to feel some of those things. And I want her to know that she is right. I do care.”

I don’t say anything, just sit down, my face reddening. Bea already has my blanket sitting on the couch.

“You know,” she says slowly, as I grab a pillow to hide behind, “Let’s just notice for a moment we are safe. That nothing bad is happening. Maybe feel the pillow in your arms, hear the birds. Just take a moment. We aren’t in any hurry. We don’t have to rush into anything.”

I try, I really do, but it’s hard. I’m so scared that I have made a bigger mess.

“We don’t have to do anything today, we don’t have to talk about anything. Maybe we just need to focus on safety and being here this morning. That’s okay. Take a moment, think about what will help you feel safe. What do you need?”

I do think about it. At first, I don’t know, I’m uncertain. But then I relize what I do need. “I need…..I don’t….I need for…….. this to be fixed…..if….I can’t do nothing today because until we talk about it and it’s…..resolved, I’m going to stay worried and anxious.”

“Okay. We can talk about things. I think to do that though, you have to stay here, at least here enough to talk. What is the anxiety connected to?” Bea asks.

“I don’t know. Something bad is going to happen.”

“Okay, good. That’s a starting place, right? What are the things you worry about happening?”

“There’s no list, not…I guess it’s like nothing, no things to write down, not something I can tell you. I’m not worried about anything…..just something bad is going to happen.” I stumble over words and explanation. This is difficult to describe.

“Is is more of a feeling, just a general sort of thing?” Bea gets it.

I nod. “Yeah. I guess so.”

“So, I think that sort of generalized worry that we cannot pinpoint is our trauma brain. It’s normal, and the feelings are real. This is again where we have to tell ourselves, feelings aren’t facts. I can’t promise you nothing bad will happen, because bad things do happen, but we also have to realize that it’s not likely. Right? I mean, what are the chances a plane is going to crash into my office?” Bea’s voice is sympathetic, but she isn’t going to let me worry about things unlikly to happen.

“No……it’s not that……..not like that……I don’t worry…..it’s not worries about accidents. More….it’s maybe more about people.” I don’t know how to say what is in my head. I don’t know that I have the words or the language to really define it. I just know that the general something bad is going to happen worries aren’t about accidents or things like that.

“Okay, Okay. That’s good. This is helpful. Is it more worries that people will let you down somehow, or is it more worries that people will hurt you?”

It’s too much, and overwhelmed, I hide under my blanket, hugging cloud pillow to me. “I don’t know, people……. leaving me, rejecting me, not wanting to deal with me.” I wish I had the words to explain the fear I have surrounding my relationships.

“So, attachment stuff then. When attachment stuff is triggered…..that fear, that worry that something bad will happen, it’s very real. Attachment trauma, there really isn’t a list of worries. It’s very young, such early stuff, it’s from this time when we were too little and too helpless to care for ourselves, and so any rupture, any sign that our people were leaving us, that would have meant…anniliahtion back then. Developmental trauma, attachment trauma, this is all to do with very early years, so young we probably have no memories of it. With you, I think the trauma of sexual abuse compounds and even confuses the issue, but…this, what you are describing, it is attachment trauma.” Bea is speaking slowly, but with certainty.

“So….not crazy then?” I ask.

“Not crazy. This is a real thing, and when it’s triggered, it is incredibly scary and incredibly painful. I’m not sure I realized how deep…..well, how deep your attachment trauma runs. I see now I wasn’t seeing that, and I’m sorry. I’m aware of it now,” she tells me, and I think how well I have hidden this from her. I know when my impulse to freak out over a relationship is not *normal* and most offen, Ms. Perfect is really good at stopping those reactions.

We sit quietly for a moment, and then Bea asks me if I am here. “Here enough,” I say.

“Are you here enough to talk?” She checks.

“Yeah….it’s just hard. But I am here.”

“Okay. Then we will talk about all this scary stuff. Slowly, and as safely as possible.” She is using the voice that she uses when she is speaking to the little girl, that gentle, soothing voice.

“Okay. I can do this.” I hug the pillow and I feal my stomach twist in fear, but I mean what I am saying.

“I want to start by saying I am sorry I didn’t recognize your cry for help. I think, well, I know my own stuff got in the way. You are right about that. I was hurt, and I reacted from that hurt place. It doesn’t make it okay, but I was really struggling with how you could think those things of me after all this time, given our relationship, and I reacted from that place. I chose to ignore it, because in my hurt, I read it as rage.”

“But I— the teen doesn’t have a relationship with you! You don’t know her anymore than she knows you. I mean…that’s unfair.” The words jump out of me, frustrated and slightly angry.

“You’re right. We were building a relationship when all this happened. But you are right, we don’t have a relationship. Not yet. I didn’t think of that. It also….well, as I said, I was expecting coping skills like reality testing, to kick in. But I don’t even know what coping skills the teen has. We need to spend some time on the relationship, working on that safety and trust, maybe building some skills.” Bea sounds….well, like she means it when she says she wants to work on a relationship with the teen.

“There were no coping skills. That’s why I emailed you! I just wanted…..” I trail off when I realize what I was about to say, horrified that I had been about to admit to wanting anything.

“Wanted what? You just wanted…..?” Bea prompts me after several seconds tick by and I don’t continue.

“I…well, I just….ugh. I told you thing get all twisted in my head. I told you I go to the dark and twisty place where everyone hates me and……I mean, I thought…I just….I wish you had just said, *Alice stop. You’re in the dark twisty place. Those things aren’t true.* Or something.”

Bea is silent, thinking. I can hear her fingers tapping on her chair. “I don’t know that I could have done that. I don’t want to presume to know what is going on in your head, or to impose my reality on you as the true reality.”

“Maybe ask me then? If I’m in that place? I don’t know. I mean, sometimes I know I’m there, sort of, but…….it’s too risky to say it or ask someone, I just…I don’t know. But you not acknowledging those feelings, that just made them true in my mind. And then I did rage. Before, if you had just been able to say, “Those things aren’t true. I know they feel bad, but they aren’t true, I don’t think those things. I think you are in the dak and twisty place, you need to come out and I’ll be here waiting. I think that would have changed this. That’s all I wanted. Not….logic and explanations.”

“You wanted me to help you stop the distortions. Which is what my boundary of not responding to them was meant to do. It felt like responding to them would reinforce them.”

“Ignoring them reinforced them.” I tell her..

“I see that now. I think….I was feeling this need to set a boundary, but I set the wrong one, and even when I was clear that a boundary was needed, I maintained a boundary that was unhelpful.”

“I get not wanting to reinforce distortions, but can’t you acknowledge them without doing that? Can’t you just reassurance they are not true?” I don’t understand.

“You know, that’s a boundary. You wanted a boundary set. I just set the wrong one. I’ve never felt a need for boundaries with the little girl. I think the teen wanted a boundary set, and I was picking up on that.”

“No….I didn’t want a boundary. Boundaries are mean, they mean go away, you are a bother, I don’t want to deal with you….. no! I don’t like boundaries. And I don’t want you to change everything.”

“I’m not changing anything. Anything that changes we will do together. I’m not going to spring a bunch of changes on you, okay? But we need to talk about boundaries. Boundaries aren’t bad. They don’t have to feel bad to either person. Like right now, you have set a boundary. The blanket is a physical boundary. But even with the boundary there is a connection between us, there is attunement and a feeling of us both being present. I don’t see the blanket as a go away….it is what you need to feel safe, and so I feel glad you are taking care of yourself, that you can set a boundary and feel safe. And, dare I say, that boundary making you feel safer…… perhaps it makes it possible for us to feel more connection than we would without the boundary.”

I shake my head. “I don’t like boundaries. Boundaries are scary.”

“They can be. But I think once you feel, experience healthy boundaries, well, then they aren’t so scary.” She says gently.

“They are. Well, I guess I don’t really know about boundaries. My Mom’s boundaries are…..I weird. Maybe just all over the place.”

“Like your therapist’s have been lately?” Bea sounds, disapointed in herself, or something.

I think about what she has said. “No… not like that. Hers…..either they didn’t exist, I think….like, I just….I did what she wanted, dressed how she wanted, acted like she wanted, I was…like I just was part of her…I don’t know.” I sigh, not sure how to explain this.

“There’s a shrinky word for that. Enmeshment. It means your mom viewed you as extension of herself.”

“Yeah…..and I was loved and accepted and we were close as long as I was…..well, being like her. But if I didn’t….if I diagreed….she just……I don’t know. She would be upset. Then she set these boundaries….over silly things. Like really, truly, silly things. Like one time, I didn’t like these one shoes that she liked and so I just like got a different pair and she was really not happy with me. There was a boundary set then. Well, I think anyway. Silent treatment.” I blink away tears. It still hurts now, thinking about it.

“That is a boundary. Wow. No wonder me ignoring your feelings about me expressing anxiety over insurance was painful. It felt like I was giving you the silent treatment.” Bea’s voice has that sound in it, the one that means things are falling into place and she is making sense of things.

“You know….I don’t….I mean….well, you know what, never mind.” Words tumble out of me, a mess of them, blocking what I really need to say.

“Whatever it is, you can say it. I’m listening. It’s okay,” Bea reassures me.

“I don’t like it when you say it was just about you expressing worries over insurance. That’s not the story, not at all. I wish you would get that.” I whisper the words, cringing as I say them.

“You’re right. That’s not the whole story. But I do want to say, it’s important that we discuss insurance…that the adult and I talk about those things.”

“But it wasn’t a conversation! It was you freaking out and not even aware of what was going on for me! You can’t say it was us having a conversation, because you were talking…..at me. And it wouldn’t matter anyway, it isn’t about insurance! It’s about how you were talking!” I feel like I am shouting, but really, I am speaking firmly, and louder than usual.

“You know….what you wrote, asking me to imagine the situation, and describing it from your viewpoint, I….well, I have been that client before. I have had my therapist not be as present as I needed, and I have left sessions feeling unseen and unheard and hurt.”

“Except this wasn’t even my session! Not really. You can not compare the two. We have had sessions where you weren’t as attuned as I needed, and I’ve left feeling bad. But this, no. Wednesday was something else. It wasn’t my session, because I never….this was nothing about me, it wasn’t a case of I shared where I was at and you weren’t super present. This was you talking and spinning out from the moment I sat down. It wasn’t even a session! I mean, I don’t even know why I was there.” I’m being blunt, but I can’t, I won’t sugar coat it.

“You’re right. The two things don’t compare. Which I was going to say, that I have experienced the unattuned sessions, and so I can imagine how painful this was, how scary. I am so sorry, I really am. I knew the it was bad, I wanted to stop, to erase it, to have a redo, because I knew it was bad. And I am so sorry,” Bea says, sadly.

“I know. I know you are sorry. It’s okay. It was a bad day and a bad mistake, and I can’t pretend it didn’t happen, or call it something it’s not, but I’m not mad or upset or hurt anymore.” As I say the words, I realize they are true.

“If you were, that would be okay,” she reminds me. Bea worries that I forgive to make sure people don’t leave me.

“No…It’s okay. Honestly, I was more hurt and upset that I was ignored when I was hurting and scared. I just wish you had said to me, from the first email, *hey, listen, those things aren’t true. I don’t feel that way at all. You need to get out of the dark twisty place so we can talk, because I can’t help you when you are there. So come out now, I want to help you.* You know?” I say.

“Now that, that sounds like you are channeling your Grandma.” Bea sounds like she is smiling.

“Yeah….that is something she would say. She didn’t….well, she would just tell me what was and wasn’t okay. She didn’t….she made things very clear. I guess that is boundaries?”

“Yes. Your Grandma had good boundaries.” Bea agrees.

“She really did, if I think about it. She didn’t….not like mom. Grandma didn’t ignore me when I messed up or didn’t agree with her. She just, well, she just said it. Jusf plain, just like that.”

“And I’m thinking that while I was feeling it would be harsh or feel cruel to just say, hey you are twisting things, maybe that sort of bluntness feels safe to you because your Grandma set boundaries in that way. Straight forward, honest. I need to channel your Grandma, not your mom. Because in my concern of behaving like your mom and trying to avoid it, I did exactly what I was trying not to do.” Bea sighs.

“Well, you definitely don’t remind me of my mom. More of my grandma. Not age wise, but just….you feel the same, sometimes.” I shrug. It’s not something I have words for. “Like hubby feels the same as my grandpa sometimes. He reminds me of him, he always has.”

Bea laughs. “That is a very big compliment. I know how much your grandma means to you. Thank you.”

“Am I right in saying that what I was wanting from that first email was reassurance and to be told I was in the dark and twisty place….which you said was a boundary. And you felt it was me raging and so there was this feeling of needing to set a boundary……so we both really wanted the same thing?”

“Yes, yes, you are. We both did want the same thing.” Bea chuckles again.

“So….next time….maybe you can set a different boundary sooner?”

“Yes. I can do that,” Bea agrees.

I break the silence by saying what pops into my head. “Hey, you did what you said you would!”

“What do you mean?”

“When……when we talked about Kathy, and I asked you what you would have done…..and you told me? Do you remember?” I ask.

“Yes. I remember that.”

“Well….this rupture, you did what you said you would do.” I smile. Something about that feels right.

“I did? Well, thank goodness I did what I said I would!” Bea laughs, but she is sort of serious, too.

“Yeah….I’m glad you did what you said you would.”

Her tone lignt, Bea says, “You know, that brings up the whole question of enactment. Maybe you needed to see if I would do what I said I would, or maybe I needed to see if I would do what I said……it’s so interesting……”

“Don’t get shrinky,” I say, cutting her off. “And I definitely didn’t cause this mess on purpose.”

“No, enactments aren’t a concious thing. It’s all completely unconscious. But it is interesting, especially in this situation…..”

I cut her off again. “Don’t be shrinky!” I recognize this as a boundary, a need for her to not be shrinky so I can feel safe and secure knowing that Bea is Bea and not a cold analytical shrink.

“You brought it up,” she laughs.

“Just talk to your shrinky friends about this,” I tell her. It’s such a teen response, that I laugh, too.

Laughing, she agrees. “Okay. But the grown up might want to talk about this one day, and when she does want to, we can. It will be okay.” .

“Maybe. Not now.” I am stubborn.

“No, not right now. When you are in it, it’s the wrong time for shrinky. I get that. So not right now.” She is so calm, so sure, so caring again. Bea is herself again, she is really back.

“I think it’s okay. I feel okay, this is okay. Nothing bad happened and you did what you said you would.” I breathe out relief and fear and anxiety and anger as I say the words.

“Yes. Nothing bad happened. Actually, something good happened,” Bea says kindly.

“Yeah. And it’s new. Something new. And it was ok.”

“Yes. I think you grew a lot, even if it’s not something we want to happen again, I think there will be more growth and learning, more felt experience from this. I think there was a lot of new things in this for you.”

“Yes. You listened. And didn’t want me to just agree and be…whatever you wanted.” This….this means so much to me. I don’t have words for it, but there is a lightness where the fear of not being what she wanted used to be. The fear isn’t gone because it is old, old fear, but there is less of it there.

“No! Never. I want you to just be you. You are enough. Just like you are, you are enough and you deserve to be seen and heard and cared for just for being you.” Bea is adamant, and while I think she has said this before, everytime she says it, it sinks in a little more.

“Is that….is what I wrote, what you said true?” I ask quietly.

“That I care?” Her voice is neutral, maybe curious about what part of what I wrote.

“Yeah.” Shame floods me as I confirm her guess.

“Yes. Very much so. This is a real relationship. Just because it is therapy doesn’t make it not real. If it weren’t real, and I didn’t care about you, you wouldn’t have been able to hurt me. What you wrote, all of it, is true. Absolutely. I care.” She means it, I can hear it in her voice.

“Okay,” I say. It’s all I can say, because I don’t know how I feel about this. It’s….I want her to care, and I care about her, but I don’t….well, I guess I don’t want to matter. I’m afraid to matter, and there is something painful about having the whole of me accepted so openly. I blink back tears.

After a while, I ask Bea to tell me something regular, and so we talk about dogs and coffee and clothes. When I leave her office, I feel drained, but also more present and peaceful than I have felt in a while.

The wound will never be erased, the scar remains, but it’s not a bad thing. There is beauty to be found in the scars that make us who we are.

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Ruptured: part three

Monday, July 9, I walk into therapy nervous and sick to my stomach. Bea sets my blanket next to me as she says hello.

“Where did you want to start today?” She asks gently.

I shake my head. “I don’t know.”

“Let’s take a minute, just sit here and feel this moment, feel safe. Notice that nothing bad is happening.”

“But…it will.” Stubborn as always, I am insistent that something bad is going to happen. I feel it.

“I think this is where it is useful to use our feelings aren’t facts saying.”

I groan. “Ugh. Maybe.”

“Well….what about this? What happens if it does blow everything up?” She’s asking in that curious way she has.

“I don’t know. We end up back where we were, or worse.”

“What’s the worst case scenario?” She asks.

“You….you quit dealing with me.” I mumble the words.

“That I can guarantee won’t happen. And if we end up where we were, or another bad place, then we start from there. That’s how I see it. Right now, we have to start where we are at. If that path leads us somewhere else, then I think we have to start in that new place.”

“Okay,” I say. “Okay. Let’s start with my response. I brought it.” I dig out my ipad and pull up my response. She takes it, and I hide, burying myself under the blanket and my face in a pillow.

You don’t sound shrinky. This just sounds like you, trying to understand something I don’t really understand. Both are “not here”, is just a different kind of not here. Remember when we made a list of different far aways? I think it’s like that. The here not here isn’t “me the adult grounding functioning Alice” but it’s not far away out of the window can’t talk and can’t think, frozen and hyper aware scared….it’s just that Alice not being here. It’s like some part is “here” but grounded Alice “is not here”. And the effect of things being a bit foggy and the emotions and feelings being blunted and even numbed, things not feeling quite real, feeling safer because of the detachment, is the same. Ms. Perfect definitely gives the here not here feeling, but I think because she ran the ship for so long, that feeling is more detached, functioning on auto pilot, and numb, but not so foggy. I don’t know. It’s complicated. Does that help at all?

“Mmmhhmmmm…yes…..okay….” Bea talks as she reads. I hate that she does this. I mean, I know whatever I have written is making sense to her, but I also hate it because I always wonder what part she is *Mmmhhmming*.

“Well, I am glad that wasn’t shrinky! And this does make sense. It is different kinds of not being here, although I still think that having a part running things so completely that you, the adult you, can’t….well, I guess remember the experience is still what I would consider being out of your window. I don’t know, for sure. I guess we will have to think about that. Maybe as parts feel safer, then the adult won’t have to be so far away.”

“Okay,” I whisper, mostly because I want her to know I am listening.

I’m not saying that is how things are, or that this is how you would handle things. I’m not accusing you of anything, just writing what this feels like to me (teen) and I am so afraid to say anything at all because I probably won’t say it in the right way for you and I am just going to mess everything up again. It feels like you get all the say so in this. Like, if you feel strongly that Z is what happened, then even if I am sure X happened, my viewpoint/feeling/worry is a distortion. And how can I even argue with that? Because clearly, I am distorting things and can’t even trust what my heart and mind are telling me. It’s like when I say you did not contain anything for me because my feelings felt ignored and you tell me you did contain things, it feels like the “final word” and the “reality” or “true version” is that you contained things. In that instance I think it might be more correct to say “Bea felt very confident she was containing things and feels that keeping things contained was never an issue, but Alice (teen) did not feel that containment on any level, so for her things were not contained.” I don’t know if this is even making sense. I don’t know how to explain it. But to me, it feels very much like the final say about what is reality lies with you.

“You’re right,” Bea says.

Wait…what? She is agreeing with me? I’m surprised.

“This is a perfect example, and as you said before, who decides that things were contained— the person who needs to feel contained or the one who is holding the container? I’d have to say it is the person needing the container. If that person doesn’t feel contained, then the container isn’t really doing their job.” Bea pauses, but when I don’t speak, she continues. “I don’t think the final word is mine, I can be wrong. I know there is a power dynamic, a power differential that can really make it seem like I have all the power. But I don’t care about being right, or about my reality being the true one. I’m not sure there is a true reality, I think what we need to do is find a common reality. And that is exactly what the example is that you gave. I did feel like I was containing things, but you didn’t feel contained, and I would add that ultimately, that means the container wasn’t working as it should.”

“I…okay….I didn’t expect you to agree….I mean, I really am not saying that is how it is, it is just how it feels. But I didn’t think….okay. Okay. This is okay.” My words are messy and scattered, but Bea gets what I am saying.

“I know. But it makes sense for it to feel that way. And I want to make sure you know I don’t care about being right. I care about finding a common reality.”

This is a hard part for me to respond to. (Bea’s explanation of negative feelings) Right away, reading this, I just feel sick and anxious and like I should just give up on working through this stuck thing— that the best that can be done is to agree to disagree and move on. And yet, I don’t think I can do that. But I also can not say what I am really thinking or feeling. I’m too scared to express what is in my head. You didn’t even say anything that is all that scary or upsetting, really. It’s just…… a mess. This whole thing is just one big mess that keeps getting messier. I don’t know if I want to share the writing below. We should talk about that first. It’s written in orange.

“Okay, I’m not going to read farther unless you give me the go ahead,” Bea says.

“Okay,” I say. I’m unsure what else to say.

“Is there something specific you want to talk about, before I read anymore?” She asks.

I shrug. I just don’t know. Finally, I tell her, “It’s…..weird…to talk to you about you. I mean, I would not talk to hubby about hubby, or to Kay about Kay. If I was upset or hurt by hubby, I would talk to you. I wouldn’t try to work through all the mess and feelings and fears and distortions and hurt and pain that he is involved in by talking to him. So it’s just….I don’t like this.”

“It is different, isn’t it?” She agrees.

“Yes. And I don’t know how to talk to you about you. Maybe I…maybe if would be better if I didn’t….I mean if I talked to someone else about this. I feel like maybe I need a therapist to deal with my relationship with my therapist.”

“Do you feel like I get defensive?” Bea asks me.

“I don’t know.” The words are automatic, because I can’t tell her yes. But I think it is yes. “Maybe?” My voice shakes. She is not going to like this.

“I might. I need to think about that. I don’t always handle what I feel is criticism well. My parents were very critical of me, so having my mistakes pointed out can make me defensive. It’s one of my triggers.” She is speaking very softly, very carefully.

“I’m sorry,” I tell her.

“No, you don’t be sorry. Being upset with me, or having criticism to give, you are allowed to do that. The….responsibility is on me to recognize if I am triggered and becoming defensive. I need to be aware of it, and I wasn’t aware of it this time. I’m sorry because that is on me, not you. Thinking about it, I was hurt by your words, and I did react emotionally, and become very defended. It took me time to sort things out, and clearly, there was still more to sort out.”

I’m not sure what is happening, but it seems like she is really back, really Bea again. She’s here, really, fully, authentically here. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” I say.

“I know that, but I am responsible for my feelings. This isn’t on you. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Do you think you would be willing to try sharing the stuck thing with me? Giving me a chance to work through this with you? I still believe this can be repaired.” Her voice is soft, steady.

“I….I don’t want to upset you,” I say honestly.

“Well, first, it is on me to manage my feelings. Second, now that I am aware of my defensiveness, I will watch for it. So much of these things are just about being aware of what we are doing. Therapists are supposed to be aware, so we can sort out what is our stuff, and not react to that. Sometimes we mess that up. And I am very sorry I messed that up.” She really is sorry. I can hear it in her voice.

“Okay. Maybe….I think maybe I will rewrite it….I think I’m going to write in third person, using the teen and her therapist. That seems….better.”

“I think you should write it however you want to. Don’t change to third person because of me, okay?”

“No…it’s not that. It’s…less weird talking to you about you in third person. And its……better. Easier.” I sigh and pick at my fingers.

“Third person it is then,” she says.

“Can….can I email it?”

“Yes. I think that is a great idea. You email it, and we will work through it.”

When session ends, I’m still struggling to feel grounded, but the wound has been cleaned and is beginning to be stitched shut.

And so, very late Monday night, a third person explanation of the stuck thing was sent.

Repaired: part two

Between Thursday and Monday, we emailed about the stuck thing. First it was me worrying and seeking more reassurance that this wasn’t a terrible idea, and then I finally wrote out a part of it. (Mine is in italics, Bea is underlined)

So, Monday, you should read what I wrote about the stuck thing. I guess it’s just a matter of feeling like it’s okay to tell you about the stuck thing. I was feeling like maybe it was okay, maybe you got that this was this stuck thing and I can’t let it go but I’m really not sure if I’m over reacting and being silly and I am so afraid that you will put up a wall and leave, or not be there emotionally or be upset that I’m not over this or that I am making a thing out of if or that I am bringing it up again. I know that this rupture feels like it’s in the past for you, but I feel like it’s just right there, right behind us and could easily swallow us both up again. I feel like me being upset or confused or hurt or not over things that happened during that rupture is sort of keeping it alive and I need to let it go. It’s disconcerting to have something be so stuck and be so upset and scared and worried because of it, and to feel like more than anything, all I want it to not have to deal with the stuck thing, for it to just not exist. 

Yeah, it definitely seems that we need to address the stuck thing. It doesn’t seem like we’re going to move on without doing so.

I think you are right, this is a new thing for me, this idea of bringing something up again after it is done and over with, and….question another person’s feelings about something. I mean, really, the way to deal with a situation like this stuck thing is to just, well, forget about it. Shove it to the side, bury it, let it go. Pretending like that does work because eventually you sort of forget about it and the feelings just go mostly numb around the thing you buried, and before you know it, it really is no big deal. And questioning someone’s feelings? Disagreeing with them? No, no, no. That is not how these things are dealt with. The thing to do is to agree with the other person’s feelings. Then nothing bad happens. I know that is not how you do things, and so it probably seems crazy but it is how I have done them almost my entire life. I hope that by writing about small bits of it, it won’t feel so bad to give you the few pages of writing describing the stuck thing. Or, just this little bit could blow everything up and then I guess…..well, I don’t know. I think there was a plan for if that happened.

Well, we’ve all developed our various strategies for coping with things and getting our needs met. They work until they don’t, right?! That’s why we usually get to a point where we’re ready to give them up, scary as that can be.

What can I write or say that will tell you a little about the stuck thing without ruining everything? I don’t know. Everything feels like a risk. Maybe we talked about this already, but I don’t think so. Maybe I should have you give me a summary of what we did talk about (joking…sort of).  I mean, some things I know we talked about…..really, all of our sessions since (and probably including) the bad Wednesday, it’s all bits and pieces because I was having a lot of trouble being present enough to really remember. I know one session you said something about the teen being very present and here and not far away, and I wanted to laugh because I was in that weird here but not here space that I’m so good at seeming very grounded and present in, and sort of going between far away and that weird space. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for me to show up at all. I don’t even want to tell you that because I know you have this thing about me being present and in the window, and I get that, but I am so scared and so anxious, I just cant be super present right now. Well, Ms. Perfect can. Her sessions I remember pretty much in full. And like today, the grown up can be present as long as it’s all just surface stuff. Which is pretty much using Ms. Perfect’s coping skills. But anyway. Please just let this be. The teen can’t be all that present right now, and well, I need to be able to be far away to even show up. Maybe, if being more far away starts to feel safer, then I can be less far away. I’d say I have been less far-away than I was. So there’s that.

I’m beginning to think there’s a real physiological difference between the not here when you’re out of the window and the “here but not here” when you can talk and really be engaged, but be “not here” in a detached way.  What I mean is, it looks completely different from the outside. I don’t want to describe the physical ways they differ because I don’t want that to be a trigger.  The day I thanked the teen for being present I could see it was not the adult, but whoever it was had the language thing online and expressed herself without difficulty. She had a bit of an angry, defiant vibe, and spoke her mind in a defended sort of way. I guess I wouldn’t have said you seemed grounded and present as you, adult Alice, but it sure felt like this part was functioning well. You know how cut off parts can feel like “not me?”  I wonder if that could be part of “here but not here?” I’d sure like to talk more about this so I can understand it better. (Sorry if shrinky—just trying to sort this out)

There’s so much worry.  Worry you will think I am making a big deal out of nothing. Worry you will be upset with me for bringing this up again. Worry you will decide I am acting out, or being a drama queen. Worry that you will decide the stuck thing is just me distorting things yet again and displaying borderline behavior. 

If it’s a worry it needs to be brought out.  If it’s a distortion we’ll talk about why that is happening. We’ll work through it.

So, maybe first I should let you know that even though I have access to some reasoning right now, it’s a very thin grasp. This is emotional for me, it is painful and terrifying and all of the abandonment fears and attachment nonsense feel really triggered because of how extremely scary and vulnerable making even writing this much feels. I can say without too much worry that the stuck thing is about our rupture. I can say without too much worry that it is about me not understanding your feelings about something. You already read those things and didn’t get upset, so there’s not a lot of worry about saying those things again. There is some worry though. And I guess that the worry goes along with the stuck thing. Well, it is part of it….I mean, I guess the stuck thing is a lot of worries or fears combined with me not understanding something you feel and maybe disagreeing with you about something all sort of mushed together. So is this worry the stuck thing in real time? Ugh. I don’t know.  But maybe I could explain the worry, and we could start there.

The worry is that you told me you had no negative reaction to anything I said, but then later, you said you did have a negative reaction and it was very clear that you did. That makes it so hard to talk. In this current instance, maybe on Thursday you had no problem with me not understanding why you feel a certain way about something  but today you might have a negative reaction to it. I’m so afraid of saying the wrong thing, or of saying it the wrong way, all my words are trapped. It’s like I can’t express anything without having an anxiety attack. Just the thought of sending this makes it hard to breathe and makes me light headed and I feel like I need to go hide right now. 

Negative reactions—where to start?!  I think there are several things I want to say, some of which I already explained. There are a lot of things I have to factor in when I have emotional responses to things that come up in therapy—and realistically, I’m always going to have emotional responses on some level, whether I’m aware of them or not. When things are complicated I have to take the time to figure out if I am having an emotional response.  First and foremost is always, why am I having this response? Is it my stuff? It’s probably in some part my stuff, so what stuff is it?  I can’t respond until that is figured out.  Usually these responses aren’t giant, so when I say I can contain your stuff, or I’m not having negative emotions I guess it’s more accurate to say that they aren’t “emotion mind” level responses. Then—and here’s where the wall and boundary thing comes in—if I’ve sorted through the “my stuff” part of the reaction and there’s still feelings there, I have to look at what was sent my way. This last time, as I’ve said, it took me a while to know what to do with that, and my negative reaction became part of the wise mind understanding that boundaries were needed.  So it wasn’t until after I had sorted through the “my stuff” piece that I could choose to use some of my real, post-reflection reaction to let you know what the negative impact was.  Does that make sense? I wasn’t trying to be dishonest about the negative reaction at first—I was trying—in my mind—to do my professional job of offering containment and doing self-reflection on “my stuff.”

Does that make sense at all? I guess the truth is, I always have some sort of reaction to most things, which is normal.   It’s okay if I have a negative reaction to something you say—it’s not really different than a neutral or positive reaction in my mind. It gives us information. I admittedly—like most people—have less negative reactions when I’m trying to work with a struggling part that’s not being mean—I don’t feel any mean from you (teen) right now. Even if I have a negative reaction I will take ownership of it, and I’ll still like you and won’t leave.

I write Bea back, but then I can’t send it. Instead, I write her to let her know I am working on a response but it is taking me longer to process this than I expected. She writes back that that is okay, that thinking and taking time is good.

Repaired: part one

Repaired. Things are fully, and truly repaired. Not erased, not magically all better, but repaired. The wound isn’t just covered with a band aid, it has been stitched together and healed. It is still tender and sore, and there is a scar. The scar is okay, though. It’s evidence that Bea stayed, and I stayed, even when it was hard. Its evidence that she didn’t leave, that she truly listened, that she wanted to see me and help me. It is evidence that she cared enough to help me stitch the wound.

The last two weeks have been about painstakingly stitching together the wound. They have been rough. I’ve been in this constant state of feeling like something very, very bad is going to happen. I’m okay, though. I got through it.

Early Sunday morning, on July 1, the teen had a bad nightmare. She woke up, and couldn’t calm herself down. She was overwhelmed and alone, and badly needed an anchor. So, she sent Bea an email, with only emojis.

😴🧟‍♂️🐍😈☠️🌪⛈😱😢🙈🙈🙈🐢🐢🐢. 🤝? ⚓️?

Bea responded:

🤝⚓️🏄🏼‍♀️🏝🌞🌈

And that paved the way for Monday, July 2. It was enough of a tentative connection that I reached out and wrote to Bea in my notebook. Bea read everything I wrote, and we talked. I told Bea there was this stuck thing and I was struggling, but afraid to even try fo talk about it. Bea suggested to the teen that the adult could help her when things feel intense, and that would help the teen not rage at people, and not push people away. The session is foggy, because I went so far away at that point. The problem was that the adult had tried to help before, and it only messed everything up. After therapy, I went for a walk, and I wrote a lot. I wrote about the adult doing the best she could to help teen, and how it still messed everything up. I wrote about feeling like Bea’s stuff was all mixed up in this rupture and how I wasn’t sure she was seeing clearly.

Between Monday and Thursday, we emailed and talked a little bit about the belief everything would be ruined, if I talked about the stuck thing. It was tentative and careful, and lots of emojis were used, but it helped some.

I didn’t see Bea until July 5 because Wednesday was a holiday— the fourth of July. I had a lot of writing, but had simply pared it down to 1/2 a page, describing the stuck thing. It takes over half of my session to hand Bea the writing. I’m anxious and scared that this is a bad idea.

I’m trapped. I can’t really talk to you because of X, but to be able to talk, we need to deal with X. There are no good choices. I could tell you the stuck thing has to do with our rupture. I could tell you that it’s partly something I don’t understand about your feelings. I don’t even like saying that much. It’s too vulnerable making, too scary. If I tell you about the stuck thing, it’s going to blow everything up. I can’t do it.

“It has to feel awful to be stuck in that place.” Bea is gentle and present and she sounds so kind. I’m hiding under the blanket, shaking, because I am so afraid something bad will happen.

“You know,” she says slowly, “If there are things I have said or done that you don’t understand, I’m happy to explain them to you. If this is stuck, we need to deal with it, it is stuck for a reason. That’s okay. We can deal with it, together.”

But she won’t want to deal with it if I tell her. She will go away again, and having a sort of here secure base is better than no secure base at all. “I just can’t. Everything will blow up. You won’t like it.” My voice is teary and quiet, but my words are sure and certain.

“I don’t know what it is, so I can’t promise it will be okay, but I can tell you that I am here, and I feel very centered and present. Whatever it is, I don’t think I will react emotionally. Actually, that is a promise I can make you. I won’t react emotionally to the stuck thing. I will listen, and I will do my best to explain and help you understand.”

“But I don’t want you to not be here, to be shrinky. That won’t help.” I’m almost whining. The idea of Bea going back to the detached shrinky place, it’s distressing.

“It is important to you that I am here and attuned. I feel very here, very attuned, very aware that this is the teen’s experience. Maybe I should explain that this rupture, it feels in the past to me. The recent past, but the past, and so I don’t think I will react emotionally because I have some distance around it.”

“But I don’t,” I tell her.

“I know that, too. And that is okay,” she reassures.

“I just can’t. I hate that this isn’t okay.”

Bea is quiet for a minute, and then she asks, “Is this a new experience for the teen? Maybe a new feeling or experience for the teen to not pretend everything is okay?”

I shrug. I don’t want to say yes, or no. Maybe it is, but if I tell her that then she is just going to make this all about my past.

Bea continues offering all the reassurance she can give me, and just as I am feeling like maybe it is okay to give her the written explanation of the stuck thing, our time is almost up. Bea says she will read it before I leave, or I could email it (which prompts a loud “NO!” from me) or we could wait until Monday. I can’t decide, and Bea tells me it is okay to wait. Before I leave, she says if I want to email small pieces or even clues of a sort, or even if I just want to email to check in, that is okay. Basically, whatever I need is okay.

Ruptured: A tentative anchor?

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for the out pouring of support and empathy that you have shown me. I have read all the comments and I will respond to individual comments at some point, but for now please accept my thanks and gratitude. You have all helped me to feel not so alone and lost in this rupture. This story is far from over, but maybe, maybe there is something healing happening. I’m not sure yet, and I have a lot of fear and apprehension. Thank you guys for all the support 🧡

This is a long post, mostly made up of emails. My emails are in italics, and Bea’s are regular font and underlined. I am working on writing my thoughts anout this all but it is a muddled mess in my head. I’m honestly unsure what I am feeling.

On Wednesday, Ms. Perfect showed up to therapy, and she and Bea sat and colored together. It was a nice, calm session, and it felt like Bea was just being Bea, and as if she might really be there. Of course, it is easy to be there with Ms. Perfect, she doesn’t ask for anything, and she is not difficult.

At the end of the session, as Ms. Perfect was leaving, standing across from Bea in the doorway, Bea looked at me, and it was as if she were looking for the real me. She asked me to check in via email again, and then, looking right at me, she added she would really like to hear from the parts, and not just from Ms. Perfect. The teen peeked out then, and looked at Bea. She looked right into Bea’s eyes, and there was only sadness and compassion there, this look that said she really did want to know how the parts were doing. It was only a moment, and then Ms. Perfect was back, saying, “If that’s what you want, I’ll try.”

That connection was enough for the teen to write an email, and even though Ms. Perfect didn’t like it, the email was sent. That was enough to start a real conversation with Bea and several back and forth emails led to this:

(I am so uncertain about even sending this, so unsure that it is a good idea, so worried that if I start this conversation you won’t allow Ms. Perfect to show up to therapy on Monday. Please remember that Ms. Perfect is tough and nothing much rattles her or even hurts her, but I am not tough. Not right now. I still haven’t found my shell.)

Yes, I— the grown up— am aware that Ms. Perfect is running things. There are cracks in her facade this time, I’m stronger than I used to be, and that makes it much harder for Ms. Perfect to box me up and run things. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m allowing it at this point because it’s easier. I’m not sure. I feel numb, empty. I don’t want to think or feel right now. It’s too overwhelming and painful when I do. It’s much easier to just let Ms. Perfect run things, because then I don’t have to think about anything. And yet, I’m not entirely comfortable with letting Ms. Perfect captain the ship, either.

I feel very hurt. I feel like I can’t talk to you about anything right now, but there is also this sense that I need more than Ms. Perfect showing up to therapy while meanwhile I’m writing emails and notebook entries I don’t share. Yet, that’s all I can really handle. There is this feeling that Ms. Perfect can’t go anywhere until I can cope with all the feelings and function in my life again, and that won’t happen until I deal with everything and can feel that I have a secure base again. But I can’t work through any of the stuff because then you and I will end up right back where we were before Ms. Perfect stepped in.

Ms. Perfect says that the adult and the teen are too twisted together right now— really anytime teen stuff comes up— to separate the adult and the teen which presents a challenge. The challenge here is that you are waiting to deal with the teen and her feelings until there is enough of the grown up present to be rational, but the grown up can not be rational when the teen stuff is front and center. The grown up and the teen are too intertwined, and the thoughts and feelings can’t be separated. If you think back to the beginning, when you were working with the little girl, for a long time the adult couldn’t be separated from the little girl; their feelings, thoughts and beliefs were one and the same. It took a lot of hard work to even begin to separate the adult from the little girl.

I don’t know where this leaves us, I truly don’t. I only know that when the cracks in Ms. Perfect’s container start to widen— usually late at night— I feel very despairing. I feel lost and alone and sad. So very, very sad.

And Bea wrote back, asking if the teen could speak about the hurt a little bit more.

The hurt. I feel hurt. And just I don’t know how to talk to you about it anymore.

I know that from your perspective I am welcome to talk about things. But from my perspective, it doesn’t feel like a good idea. It feels like a very risky, very dangerous idea. It didn’t work out so well the last time. It went very, very badly. So badly that Ms. Perfect had to step in. That’s never a good sign.

Part of the hurt is that it doesn’t feel safe to talk to you anymore. Part of the hurt is because going the last 3 weeks feeling like I have no secure base has shown me exactly what a secure base provides. It’s like I can really see exactly what I missed growing up, and I know what I’ve lost now. And that hurts. It hurts to see you because you were my secure base and now……it doesn’t feel like you are.

I feel hurt because I write and I write and I write, and for the first time in a long time I can’t give it to you, I can’t share what is going on behind Ms. Perfect’s facade.

I feel hurt because I feel like you think everything that has happened between us is my fault, because of my stuff and my behavior.

I feel hurt because you aren’t here. I know that you not being here is my fault at the moment because I’m hiding  behind Ms. Perfect. But it hasn’t felt like you are really here since that Wednesday. I’m hurt because I’m afraid to even mention Wednesday to you, and it has been a very long time since I was this afraid to say anything to you.

I feel hurt because I feel like I have to weigh and measure every word I write, like I have to be so, so careful in communicating with you.

I just feel hurt and sad and scared and worried.

I’m trying to figure out what part I hear in your email so I can best respond.  It feels like a very vulnerable part, far away from Ms. Perfect.  I feel like it’s the teen, but you didn’t say that, so I don’t know.

I’m sorry it feels so unsafe to talk to me, and I know that feeling you’ve lost your secure base is a terrible thing.  I definitely don’t blame you for any of what happened—I started to write that I blame myself, but then I stopped because really there’s no need for there to be blame anywhere.  I think we both have owned our contributions.

I want to clarify something—it was a choice for me not to give empathy to the raging, blaming teen, not something that I couldn’t do.  The decision was reached after my feelings led me to realize that the teen needed a clear boundary set about this in order to learn the appropriate way to communicate her feelings.  I know she didn’t know anything differently, but this is now a chance for her to learn those missing skills.  Modeling “taking it” by empathizing when she was out of control in emotion mind would have sent the wrong message to all the parts.  In large part we learn how we ourselves should be treated by experiencing the good boundaries others set.  So this was not about me being unable to contain, but about a choice to contain in a boundaried way. I expect the teen to be unhappy about that—and unsure of how to proceed as she feels her way along this new path—but I want to make sure she understands that she can freely express her feelings, and maybe the Kimochi “you can be mad, but it’s not okay to be mean” is really the best guidance for her.  I know she has some important things to say!

Everything I write back feels wrong. Everything I have to say feels not okay to say. Everything I want to say, I just can’t do it. I tried. I really tried to at least start to work on this. But I just can’t. I’m in tears again over the fact that I can’t talk to you, that I can’t just write and say what I need to say, that I can’t tell you about it and have you be there to help me sort it out.

And then I’m wondering what the point of saying anything is when it’s just going to put us back to this (which is something I keep writing at the end of every unsent email):

Now, you are going write back something very general, maybe some logical explanation or a reflection and then go on to say that this is a conversation better had in person and that you don’t feel comfortable tackling it via email, that we both know from experience that things can easily be miscommunicated. And then I’ll be upset and hurt and feel unseen and unheard and I’ll write back to say that I’m not talking about this in session because it doesn’t feel anywhere safe enough to do so and I just can’t do it. So what is the point of even sending this email? Of even trying to talk about this? We will just end up right back where we started with me unable to talk to you face to face and struggling to show up to your office and you unwilling to discuss and tackle this via email.

See? Everything is screwed up and there is nothing that can even be done about it. I have pages and pages of things to say. But I can’t say any of it. This is why it’s better to just let Ms. Perfect run things. Things don’t hurt when she’s in charge.

I think starting with one chunk that doesn’t feel okay to send might be a good start?  I feel like email is absolutely okay for this.  I really do want to help you sort through this and repair the mess.

This feels like a bad idea. Like very bad things are going to happen. Please please please keep in mind that I am confused and scared and vulnerable that it is even harder for me now to sort out my thoughts and feelings than it was a few weeks ago, and that it is even harder now to contain my feelings— it’s either out of control feelings or Ms. Perfect with no feelings. I don’t know what to do. It feels like a much safer plan to just let Ms. Perfect continue to show up to therapy and to ignore the rest of this. Maybe I shouldn’t even send this. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. 

I’m sorry it feels so unsafe to talk to me, and I know that feeling you’ve lost your secure base is a terrible thing.

Everything…I don’t know. It’s so much harder to deal with everything knowing there isn’t someone to help catch me when I fall. Ruptures….I don’t think you even know how bad they are. You’re gone, and then there’s all the feelings about that and there is whatever gets triggered when we rupture and always always nightmares and flashbacks hit me full force like they know I’m already down and are just attacking me and I get triggered over every stupid little thing and I can not contain any of it. It’s awful. Nothing is okay. 

I want to clarify something—it was a choice for me not to give empathy to the raging, blaming teen, not something that I couldn’t do.  The decision was reached after my feelings led me to realize that the teen needed a clear boundary set about this in order to learn the appropriate way to communicate her feelings.

I wish you had just realized that in my very first email,  I was doing my very best to write out a mess of feelings, of fear and sad and scared that were incredibly intense, that I was trying to tell you how the things you said and did impacted me and exactly why it felt like I couldn’t talk to you and shouldn’t be in therapy. It feels so nit-picky to me to criticize the precise wording I used. I know that how I wrote things was very upset and sad and hurt and scared and that it could have been worded or clarified better than it was. I know that you felt it was mad and mean and ragefull. That very first email I sent? I wasn’t even so much mad as I was feeling rejected and terrified and confused and hurt.  I also made a point to write that I was writing what I had written in my notebook— which you know are in the moment, messy things and not carefully thought out writings— because I knew that what was written wasn’t fully formed, or perfect. I couldn’t, I can’t, try to sort through all those feelings and thoughts and beliefs and fears and make them clear and concise and exactly how something “should” be written. I need help to do that. I feel like if you were really in your window and really back and not emotional over what had happened on Wednesday it would have been clear to you that I meant “when you did x, I felt y” rather than blaming you for “making” me feel a certain way. You have always been able to see beneath the surface of the messy words and thoughts and grasp the meaning and the feelings before. The worst part is, you didn’t try to help me sort it out. It’s not fair to decide someone is being mean and then not even talk to them about it. I don’t know, I can’t express everything around this in writing, and this is certainly not clarified or perfect enough to send you. It’s probably just going to blow up in my face again. 

Your choice to ignore the anger was also a choice to ignore the very real, very scared and vulnerable and undeserving feelings. I feel that your response was mean. It left me completely alone, and even more panicked and terrified because you ignored my feelings. It would have been better if you had told me then that you were choosing to ignore my feelings because you felt I was being angry and mean. That would have been honest at least. Instead you just ignored them, gave me explanations and logic, and wrote that you had felt no negative reaction (which clearly wasn’t the entire story). And when I became more upset you told me that you felt you had responded with your most present and attuned self. But that wasn’t really the case, because you had made a choice to withdraw emotionally. 

So this was not about me being unable to contain, but about a choice to contain in a boundaried way.

Stop telling me you were able to still contain everything. You didn’t contain anything. Not for me. Ms. Perfect stepped in eventually and did that. You just disappeared behind the logical rational therapy robot wall. You told me I could be angry. You told me I could be honest. You told me that I didn’t have to be perfect. You told me that messy was okay, that we could make sense of messy together. So, I shared messy, angry, honest, and  imperfect feelings with you. And you left. I understand that you made a choice. I understood that the first time you said it. I understand that you believe you made a choice not to empathize or support me emotionally, but that it is okay because you were still able to contain everything. But who gets to decide that you were still able to contain things? You, or the person who needs the container?  My experience of this is that nothing feels contained to me, is that the container broke and you disappeared behind the therapy robot wall and that’s theories and reflections and explanations. If I had felt contained, Ms. Perfect wouldn’t be here right now with her rigid control of everything. 

This is a big chunk for me to try to tackle, so bear with me if I miss something—just bring it up in the next email—I’m not trying to ignore anything.

I apologize for needing time to decide how to handle what was going on in the moment with this. It was my own struggle with boundaries that laid the foundation for this—I am getting better, but I still tend to take on more of other people’s “stuff” than I should.  In the past I haven’t set good boundaries with your parts in these circumstances.  That did make this harder for you than if I’d established good boundaries from the start.  Moving forward, however, I think I’ve got this under control so that it’s healthier for both of us and will allow you to grow as you need to.  The fact is, it’s not okay for any teens—parts or actual teens—to rage at others like that.  No matter how hurt, scared, whatever it’s just not okay. It took me time to sort this out and find the boundary, and I really, really do apologize for that.  

I know that boundaries can feel mean. I know you may be mad about this for a long time, but my heart tells me I did the right thing.  It wasn’t support I stopped giving, it was the enabling of a pattern of response on your part that isn’t helping you. I don’t expect you to see this right now, and if we need to disagree about this I’m okay with that. I have much empathy about that!

I get that you feel I didn’t contain this emotionally for you, and that I left.  And that you’re really mad about that.  I get that the lashing out is because of those feelings.  I hope that even though I do understand that, you can respect that I’m no longer going to soak up that rage. I’m here, though, and I’m listening, offering support and willing to engage. It won’t be until your wise self can rein things in a bit more that we’ll really be able to repair this. I trust the process.

I’m not mad about that. I just don’t understand why you couldn’t have helped me figure out how to say what I was (am) feeling without being mean. Because I still don’t know what you want from me. I don’t know how you think I should be saying something. I don’t know what you think is and is not okay. I don’t understand why its not acceptable that something a person said or did impacted me and led to me feeling a certain way. Why is that not okay? I understand that I wasn’t…didn’t…use the right words, that I was mean and mad when I wrote them, but why couldn’t you see that what happened on Wednesday brought up every old fear and caused so much pain and that I needed help talking about it in an acceptable manner? Why couldn’t you help me figure out how to do that? I can’t learn the lesson you want me to learn if you just shut me out because I’m being mean. I’m not even mad. Not really. I’m hurt. So hurt that I don’t have words to explain it. 

I’m not lashing out right now. At least I don’t feel like I am. I know that every email after I felt ignored was me lashing out. I was mad and I wanted you to listen to me. Actually, I wasn’t just mad. I was scared because you had left and I didn’t know if you were coming back. And the more I yelled and screamed to be seen and heard, the farther away you were. And the more scared, and angry I got. But I’m not screaming now. If anything I’m just crying. 

Please please listen and please please please please try to see the feeling and meaning of my words because I know I’m screwing this up and I’m not trying to and I don’t want to upset you or make you go really far away again and I know that me feeling cut off from you is on me right now but at least you are more here than you were before and please please just don’t go away again.  I don’t want to fight anymore. 

I’m not asking you to soak up my rage. I don’t think I ever was. Maybe it came off as mad and mean. Maybe it felt like that is what I wanted. And I’m sorry my mad feelings made you feel like you had to soak up my rage. I’m really really sorry. Maybe being mad and mean was easier than being vulnerable and feeling like a turtle without a shell. I think all I wanted was to know— to be reassured — was that you don’t feel those things….I was so scared, so, so scared on that Wednesday that this was the beginning of the end, that you were really starting to feel like I shouldn’t need therapy so often or so much support. I was so afraid that you were going to be writing up a treatment plan to be all done with me sooner rather than later. I was so scared that I had needed too much and caused the entire mess on Wednesday. That because of all my neediness the last two weeks (prior to Wednesday) that I had just pushed you to a breaking point and that was what everything you were saying about insurance was really about— that all the things you were saying about insurance company thinking were what you were thinking and feeling because of me being too much. I wanted, I needed to know that I wasn’t too much, that I hadn’t broken you, that this wasn’t because of me. I was terrified it was because of me and that you were never going to bring the container back, never going to fix it. I don’t know how to even put words to those desperate, awful, terrified, abandoned feelings. I wanted you to understand how I felt, I wanted you to reassure me again and again until I could hold on to that, I wanted you to not be gone. I tried to explain how bad I felt, to ask for what I needed and I did a terrible job of it. I was mad and I was blaming. But I wasn’t really blaming you in my head….I was blaming me. This is all so complicated. I still can’t sort it out. The feelings are still there, and I still don’t know how to ask for what I need and explain them without messing everything up again.

But that isn’t fair..I don’t think it can be reined in until I feel like I have a secure base again. But I can’t feel like i have a secure base without repairing this. I’m afraid that you won’t believe there is a wise self back on board until I agree with what you say, with what you think. And I just don’t know. I’m scared. I’m very, very scared. I don’t feel okay. Not okay at all. And that makes me afraid. I don’t want to have everything messed up forever and ever. 

Maybe…I know you don’t like to email so much, that it is all a lot to deal with via email. I want to say maybe I could talk on the phone. Or at least listen. But I’m afraid. I’m afraid you will say no phone call. But I’m afraid if we do try to talk on the phone about this, then you will expect me to talk on Monday face to face about it. And I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t want to waste your time, I really really don’t. I just..it’s hard. It’s really really hard. And I’m afraid you might agree to a phone call and then I won’t be able to talk anyway and that will just make you not happy with me. 😭🙈🐢⛈🌪😭😭🐢🐢🐢🙈

I found myself wanting to find a way to give you hope about the fixable nature of this. The fact that I feel more “here” to you is a good sign, I think. I think we have to try to find the “helpful thoughts,” right?  I know it’s going to be hard to find my writing too, so why don’t I just answer each highlighted paragraph here in a separate paragraph, one after another? Hopefully that will work!

This is just going to take time. I have to be consistent and trustworthy. That’s the bottom line. I know that, and I will do everything I can to be that person. That actual bad Wednesday came from lack of awareness, and felt out of the blue like these things always do. And I realized it right away, as you know, but there were no take backs:(

I do wish I could be an anchor again, even if a tentative anchor right now.  I feel helpless about this….

I know you don’t see what I’m talking about with the rages, and I can definitely speak to this and help that. The sheer volume of writing that would be makes me think it has to be in person—and you don’t have to talk at all, I would just explain it and you could write more about it for me to answer if you want. Does that sound reasonable? I definitely don’t want to shut you out of this— it’s just too much to try to write.

Okay, now I’m already running out of time, so I’m going to have to consolidate the rest into this paragraph—and much of the rest can go into my verbal explanation if you agree that would be okay.  I know the bottom line of all this was your terror of abandonment. And it’s so easy for me to say, “Of course I would never kick you out of therapy and abandon you!!!!” but that doesn’t stop the terror that you feel in every fiber of your being.  I know that, and I want you to really, really know that I will not do that! I would never put anyone through that—a literal abandonment.

I have to go. I know I didn’t begin to get through all of this. Let me know if I can explain things on Monday. You can write as much as you want and I’ll happily sort through it. I can do a little this weekend. And phone would also be okay if you would find it helpful.  

Maybe. I don’t know. I just don’t know. I don’t want to trick myself into believing something that isn’t true and ending up more hurt. I’m trying. Even helpful thoughts feel dangerous right now. I can make a list of things but I don’t know if I can really believe them. I’m afraid to believe them. 

Helpful thoughts (are these true?)

Fact: Bea wants to repair this, she said so

Fact: Bea came back, she feels more here now 

Fact: Bea does believe I should be in therapy and that I need support therapy gives me, she has tried to schedule more sessions this summer so I’m not dealing with a lot of once a week times but I haven’t been able to look at our calendars

Fact: Bea doesn’t think I am too much, she told me so 

Fact: Bea is not leaving me or getting rid of me, she told me that would never ever happen 

I don’t understand. Lack of awareness of what? Of me needing too much? Of you just not being you that day? Maybe you’ve told me this already. I don’t know. Until Ms. Perfect showed up, I was so dissociated every time I showed up to therapy that I really don’t even know what we did or didn’t talk about. Or rather, what you said or didn’t say because I am pretty sure I wasn’t talking. I don’t talk much when I’m that far away that I can’t really remember things. But I wasn’t trying not to listen or not to remember or not to pay attention. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t be there. It’s too much. It was too hard. It hurt too much. 

I know what you are asking is reasonable. I know that, I do. You aren’t asking anything of me, not really. But it is terrifying for me to be told “we’ll talk about this later.” It’s like being called to the principal’s office or something. You aren’t being unreasonable but I’m afraid to let you talk. I’m afraid you are going to end up being shrinky and logical and not here at all emotionally and I just can’t cope  with. I’m afraid whatever you have to say is just going to hurt my feelings and it’s so much easier to read an email and then to melt down and cry when I can hide at home under my blanket with no one to see. Even letting you talk about things and me not having to talk feels so vulnerable and scary. But now I feel like I put us on this path because I emailed and wrote real feelings and now I’m stuck and just 😭😭😭. I’m afraid you are just going to tell me I was mean, that you don’t like me because I was mean and that you can’t work with me anymore because I’m not a nice person. I don’t want to be mean. I really really really don’t. I wasn’t trying to be mean or hurtful or anything like that. 🙈😭 And I don’t want you to hate me for being mean. 

Yes, these helpful thoughts are all true. Very much true.

The lack of awareness was that I was full of anxiety and needed to deal with it outside of our session. It had nothing to do with you. I don’t intend to have shrinky or therapy-kicking-out things to say whether in email or in person. Whatever you need—give it some time and see if it comes clear.

I broke my therapist

“You need and you need and you need. You just drain people, Alice. What more do you want from me? I have nothing left to give.”

The words repeat in my head, like a looped photograph, I can see my mother’s face and hear her voice. Over and over.

I break people. It’s what I do. I need and I need and I need, and I drain people of all they have to give until they break.

I told Bea once early on that I break things. I told her I break people. She promised that I would not, could not break her. I reminded her again, as the teen became more and more present that I break people. I told her I was afraid I would break her. She promised again that I could not, would not break her.

I broke her. Last week, Wednesday, I lost my secure base, my soft place to land, my safe person.

I broke my therapist.

I am lost. My heart is breaking. I saw her on Monday, and things are not good. I hid behind a pillow, and then under my blanket, like I usually do. Only this time, I wasn’t hiding because we were talking about trauma memories and feelings that make me want to hide, I was hiding from Bea. Because she no longer feels safe.

She understands that Wednesday was bad. She knew before the session was even over that things had gone horribly wrong. She knows she messed up. She has assured me that I did not break her, that she can handle my stuff. She has apologized for it, owned it, and is willing and committed to repairing the relationship. She has suggested that I may need to get mad, to push her, to fight with her, to test her, time and again in order to find that sense of trust and safety again.

I don’t know if this can be repaired. I don’t know if I can trust her again. This was a bad one guys. The worst rupture we have had. In the past, Bea’s mistakes have all been about helping me– however misinformed– or her caring about me, or even about her lack of time (as in this past fall). Our ruptures have never been because of something I did, or needed, they have never been caused because she just plain couldn’t deal with me. THIS is different. And it is bad. Really bad and really painful.

I still can not write about broken Wednesday, or even about Monday. I don’t have words. I’m not in a good place right now.

I broke my therapist.

Dark and twisty

It’s Wednesday. The Wednesday before Bea leaves for a trip, to be precise. I won’t see her for seven wake ups. I won’t email, or text, or have the option for a phone call. I have to practice having her unavailable when she is out of town because this summer, when she goes on her big trip, she will be unavailable for twenty wake ups. That is a long, long time. And I hate it.

But right now, it is Wednesday, and I am in Bea’s office. She is reading my notebook, and I am hiding.

A few weeks ago, Bea and I had been discussing a timeline, where Kenny was when I was a teen. Things seemed unclear, because I had memories of him leaving when I was around teen age, of him going off to college and feeling very abandoned by him. That didn’t add up, though, if he was 10 years older. The grown up simply went on facebook, looked up his brithday including the year, and made a chart. He was 7 when I was born in October, and he turned 8 in June. That makes him 12 the first time I remember him touching me, and 15 or 16 the first time I remember him raping me and I was 11 or 12 when he left for college. The fact that I had been wrong about his age didn’t really bother the adult, or Bea, but it upset the teen a lot.

I’m afraid. I am afraid you are mad at me. Because I said he was 10 years older, but he isn’t. I was wrong. He is only 8 years older. So now you are probably not happy with me because I have basically lied about this for the last 4 years and so now you must be angry and upset and maybe now you think I lied about everything, that I have been wrong about what happened all along but you can’t say that because you would have to deal with the mess that that would create and and all my upset and no one wants to deal with that. So you tell me you aren’t mad, but really, you are.

When she reaponds to this fear, it’s with gentlness and empathy, but her tone is also firm. She wants me to really hear her. “I’m not mad at you. Not in th slightest. I think it even makes sense that you had his age wrong. Let me tell you how I am seeing this. From my perspective, we have always heard about Kenny from the little girl. She is the one who has shared her story, and her feelings, with me. Now, what did she know about age? What do kids think about age? They know when people are old, like mom or dad old, or grandpa old, or even when someone is an older kid. Kids will routinely pick round numbers, like 20 or 50 to describe how much older a person is. To the little girl, Kenny was old. He might have been the cool older kid, but he was given responsibility from the parents to watch the younger kids. That would have made him old in her mind, but he’s definitely not 20 years old. So, he must be 10 years older. That’s one of my thoughts on this. The other is that it doesn’t matter. Not really. His age helps us make the timeline clearer, but it doesn’t change anything. It doesnt change what he did.”

“But….I…maybe….ugh. Okay.” I stumble over my words, struggling to get them out.

“What is it?” Bea isn’t going to let me get away with pretending it’s all okay.

“Things get twisted in my head. Its dark and twisty in here. I just….I don’t know. I tried to write about it.” I sigh. I just want her to read what I have written. That is easier than speaking.

“Okay. I’ll read what you have written.”

Things get all twisted in my head. Everything gets twisted. It’s like this. On Monday, you said that we should deal with stuff then, so we didn’t dig up stuff right before your vacation. The grown up hears that and is secure enough in this relationship to remind you that it doesn’t work like that, that we can not plan when stuff comes up, and we end up laughing a little bit about it. The littl girl hears that and just shrugs. She doesn’t feel like that statement even pertains to her, because she is believes you will be there if she needs you, and that you are coming back.

“This….this is huge. For the grown up and the little girl to feel safe in our relationship. This is a big thing. And I think this is why we can deal with the teen’s stuff now.” Bea’s voice has a smile in. She sounds proud of me.

But the teen….things get twisted. There’s so many conflicting thoughts and beliefs.

(1) you care and don’t want to leave the teen upset and alone for a whole week with a mess.

“That’s true. I don’t want to leave you alone with hard stuff.”

(2) you don’t want to deal with messy stuff right now and this is a nice way to tell her that.

(3) the teen shouldn’t be thinking that (#2)

(4) she should be fine with this. What is wrong with her that she is upset over this?

(5) this stings a little. It’s like rejection.

(6) fine. I just won’t talk at all. That will make sure nothing is dug up.

(7) bea just doesn’t want to deal with me

(8) this is silly. Just stop being a drama queen

(9) push all this nonsense to the side. Forget about it. This is not even a big deal.

“All of this tells us a lot. But the underlying feeling I get from this, is that the teen doesn’t believe she deserves to be cared about. The first thought, that is the correct one, it’s exactly why I said what I did about diggers stuff up. The rest of the thoughts seem to be talking the teen out of believing someone can say something nice to her, or care about her and mean it.”

“I guess so.” I mumble.

“Writing out the thoughts is helpful for us, because we can…I know this isn’t a good word for the teen…study thoughts and work with them. I wonder though, if after writing out the thoughts, if the teen could write about why the nice one, the caring one, can’t be true. Could she do that?”

“I can try.”

“Okay. Let’s try that then. Let’s see if that can help us work though the dark and twisties.”

I’m not sure it will help, and I’m not sure I will even know what to write. Twisting things is automatic for the teen. It’s not something she even thinks about, it happens in the blink of an eye. But she will try.