Friendship 

Monday’s session was much of the same as Thursday’s at the beginning and then we spent some time discussing a Kat and her weekend of meltdowns. I’m thankful she will see Bea this week. I wondered, but didn’t say, if maybe missing a week of therapy effects Kat more than we think it does. My thought process was along the lines of Bea providing some extra holding space and containment for Kat’s BIG feelings and BIG worries, because while I do my best, my container is sort of leaky, and I struggle to hold my own crap at times. Although, I do think I now have separate containers for myself and Kat, but both still have lots of holes. Which is where Bea comes in. She holds the stuff that leaks out. Maybe that theory is way off base. 

It was the end of the session that got interesting. Bea had asked before she left on vacation about friendships, and if I noticed friendships forming now that were maybe different from friendships that were formed when Ms. Perfect was running things. I didn’t really answer then, but I ended up writing about three woman who I think I may be forming friendships with. All three have kids that Kat is friends with, which is how we met, but they also seem very authentic and real, their parenting values are similar to mine, we each have a similar quality of quirkiness, of nerdiness. Two of these women I have spent time with outside of having our kids with us, and it was really nice to have grown up conversations, just someone to have girl talk with. I stayed me, most of the time, and I didn’t leave our outings feeling drained and in need of a lot of quiet, down time like I usually do after a social engagement. 

I’ve noticed that the more real and authentic I am being, the less exhausted I am. I’d written about this in my notebook, along with a lot of other things, but the friendship thing is something Bea was really interested in today. She asked a lot of questions about them, and I talked a bit, but I also felt a little embarrassed. Why am I, a grown woman, having to discuss new friendships and how to navigate those new friendships, with my therapist? I mean, I am very appropriate in social settings. I am competent and confident in speaking to anyone, really. Or at least Ms. Perfect is. She isn’t afraid of people. She doesn’t let them in, but she is great at focusing on a person, being polite, talking to anyone and everyone and getting along with all kinds of people. But me? I have no idea how to be that person. I’m okay in social settings, maybe a little awkward, maybe a little preoccupied with whether or not people are perceiving me as weird, or crazy, or needy, or annoying, or any other thing that would separate me from them. But navigating and building real friendships? Yeah, I’m lost and uncertain, like a middle school girl who doesn’t fit anywhere. 

Bea asked about close friendships, if I felt like any of the women were people who would end up as close friends. 
I smiled and shook my head. “I don’t do close friends.” 

Bea paused for a moment. “Maybe you do now.”

I shook my head. “Nope. I don’t have close friends. It’s not something I do. I do surface stuff. I prefer to play by myself in my sandbox.” I’m joking, but I’m also a little bit serious. After all, if I play alone in the sandbox, no one can mess up the design I have for the sandcastle, or think my idea is silly, no one can throw sand at me and hurt me, and no one can smash my castle. I’m safe in the sandbox all alone. 

Bea laughs, a small delighted laugh that says she enjoys my stubbornness, and my humor. In a silly voice she says, “Well, Alice, now, you are gonna make close friends.” We both crack up. 

In a small voice, I say, “I HAD a close friend. I HAD Kay. I don’t want close friends again.” 

Bea doesn’t respond right away. “You did have Kay. She was a very close friend. And maybe you really don’t want close friends. But I’m thinking there are all different kinds of friendships. Like my friend I walk with? I see her a lot and we do a lot together, we’ve already texted this morning about something, but things are sort of on the surface with her, she just doesn’t have the capacity to go to difficult places. But she is still a good friend. We have a lot in common. Then I have a friend who I see rarely, but when we do get together, there is a deeper connection, and time spent together feels much more meaningful. I have a younger friend, from my old job, who I have a lot of fun with, but we have a deeper friendship, too. Oh, and then my friend Julia, she’s weird. We have a lot of shared history, both of us have parents who passed away (I already knew Bea’s father had passed away, we discussed that when we worked through grief over my grandpa), and she can go to those grief filled places, but anything else, there is a wall and she will not go there. So, maybe there are all kinds of friendships. I think Kay was unusual; most friendships aren’t like that.”

“I know….I know it was maybe one sided in a lot of ways. But she did talk to me, too. Actually, she was quite the open book. But…..I don’t know.” I shake my head. 

“I wonder…I know her friendship was important, but I wonder if you were acting something out with her?” Bea is thinking out loud again. 
I groan. She’s heading into shrinky thinky territory, but as I’m not feeling very emotionally connected, I don’t really care. “I don’t….I mean…..well maybe.” I think for a bit. 
I think in my head, and Bea thinks out loud. “You were always shutting her out, disappearing. I wonder if you were acting something out with that.” 
“Well, it’s not like I shut her out for no reason. I mean…..well, like, if I was going to treat you like I did her……” I’m embarrassed to admit this, because there have been times where I have thought of running, of disappearing on Bea. “Like, when you brought up relationships in the past and talked about them even though you knew I did not want to discuss relationships— now it’s been okay— I would have just not come back. I’d have walked out and not looked back.” 
“But Kay, when you did that to her, she didn’t let you shut her out.” 
“Well. It’s like…….if something came up in conversations and upset me, she’d see it. Where I would be working to hide it, and others would not notice, or maybe they noticed and I am not so good at pretend as I think, and they ignored it. Kay would see it and she’d call me out on it. She wouldn’t let me pretend. She’d push to know what upset me.” I shrug. 
“Usually, I’d tell her and we would talk and then I would disappear for a few weeks.” 
“Boundaries……” Bea says slowly. “She wasn’t respecting your boundaries at all.” 

“Maybe…..” I say. I don’t want to agree with Bea right now. I can see where she is coming from, but I feel like that isn’t the whole story. “I mean, she put up with a lot from me…..I was a lot. So maybe she felt like she didn’t need to listen to any boundary I set.” I’m not sure.

“Well……..let’s say something comes up in conversation that upsets you, it’s touches on those vulnerable places. You don’t want to talk about it, so you pretend everything is okay. A friend who notices and asks you about it, they say something like ‘hey, did something just upset you? Are you okay?’ If you say you don’t want to talk about it, that is an authentic response, and a boundary. A healthy friendship would respect that boundary. If you say nothing is wrong, that is maybe coming more from Ms. Perfect, but still, a healthy friendship would respect that boundary.” 

I nod slowly. “That’s Reagan. She asks, but won’t continue to push or ask about it. She hears the boundary, I guess.” I don’t think I’ve ever thought of pretending to be okay as a boundary, as a choice, as a way of saying ‘no’. I’ve always thought of prefect as building a wall to keep people from knowing the real me that they would inevitably hate. 

“That is a healthy relationship.” Bea says.

We continue talking about friendship and boundaries, and when it’s time to leave, Bea says, “I think this is important. Maybe this is something to do some writing with, if you feel like it.” 

I nod. It might be. I’m not sure I want to talk about friendships. I’m not sure what I want to talk about, though. It seemed like so many big things were coming up before Bea’s week long break (to be fair, she was only gone for 4 days, it was just I saw her on a Wednesday and not again until Thursday), and they have just disappeared. I’ve detached from her and don’t really feel an emotional connection. Part of me wants to stay that way, talk about the shrinky side of things, because when I feel like this, I can. The other parts me are desperate to feel emotionally connected with Bea again. I don’t know which part of me is going to win.

Vacation before and after  

The session before Bea went on vacation was painful. I really don’t remember anything about it, other than Bea noticing right away that I wasn’t present at all, and my telling her (as I hid under my blanket) that it hurt too much to be present right now. She had said the session before that I could take something from her office to use as a transitional object, and I had sort of laughed it off. That last session though, she asked if I wanted to take some thing, and I nodded yes. The little girl really wanted a stuffed animal or something, something comforting so I could feel like Bea was there. The grown up part of me couldn’t even go there. Eventually, Bea and I settled on me taking her favorite pen, the one she keeps in her purse to always have with her. 

While she was gone, I kept a notebook and used her pen to write in it. I wrote a lot about attachment stuff, and tried very hard to make sense of and understand the attachment issues I had been experiencing. I also spent a lot of time filling the pages crying about her leaving, and my fears she wouldn’t come back or my worries that she was not going to be herself when she came back. I wrote that I hated her for making me trust her and then leaving me. It was a very long 8 days. The beginning was harder, it hurt more, but as the week went on, I could feel myself distancing from Bea and not really caring if she came back or not. I shut down those deeper places in myself, and stayed a bit more on the surface. That was almost a welcome relief. Of course, when Thursday rolled around, I was anxious all over again. 

Thursday’s session felt like a bit of a waste. I gave Bea the notebook I had kept while she was away. I saw that she was back. I didn’t feel like we connected, though. I felt very off, and was almost sad that I hadn’t cancelled. Sometimes it feels better to not reach out or show up at all, then to show up and not feel connected to. It felt a lot like Bea and I were in the same book, but on separate pages. I just didn’t feel that emotional connection. She was there, though, and she did show up, and when I was lost and had no words, she talked and I listened. It was really surface feeling, although we did talk a bit about relationships and attachment. I cant fully remember the session to be honest; I was pretty disconnected and fuzzy feeling. It was one definitely a *finding our rhythm after a break* type of session. 
Bea didn’t get a chance to go through and read my notebook, so she took it home to read. 

Saying No

I’m restless tonight. Nothing feels right. I don’t want to read, or watch a movie. I can’t focus on listening to a book, and when I try to write, everything that comes out is gibberish. I’m so far behind on my blog, I don’t know where to start. On top of that, the last time I posted all was good– better than good, actually. Now things are…..well, I’m not quite sure what they are. Interesting, maybe is a good word. Confusing. Difficult. I’m not sure. Using words, finding them, reading them, writing them, hearing them, holding onto them and mixing them together to form sentences and paragraphs and pages, that is my superpower. And if words are my super power, then attachments and relationships are my kryptonite. 

I don’t understand my reactions, my feelings. I write and I think and I read and research and I am no closer to understanding it. And while I have a person who could help me understand it, I’m afraid to discuss it with her. It’s uncomfortable and painful to admit to needs and wants and attachments. All the feelings popping up right now, they are confusing. I can’t sort it out in my head, things don’t make sense. Maybe this is something that isn’t ever going to make perfect sense in an intellectual way. Maybe it is something I have to feel. I’m not sure. Right now, I feel a lot of sadness and pain. I feel sort of frozen in place, afraid to do anything, but my chest by my heart hurts, and I feel a hot then cold flash over my heart, and my body feels hot, like my whole body is blushing, and I feel empty, lonely, this pull to reach, and just as instantaneous is this freeze, don’t! stop! danger! feeling, and I can immediately list off at least 5 reasons the person or persons I want to reach for would not want me. 

I’m unsure how to explain this attachment stuff going on, or what triggered it. In some ways, for me, this very big reaction I had to Bea came as a shock. It was a normal therapy day, or normal as far as therapy goes, anyway. Bea and I had been working on sleep, and I was really struggling with some nightmares and memories, but I couldn’t verbalize or write about them. Bea suggested that we try a resourcing exercise, one where I could think of a good memory, a time in childhood when I felt safe. 

I’m still not quite sure what happened. Bea smiled at me, and said, “Can you think of a memory, or even maybe more of a collection of memories, a feeling, of a time you felt safe? If I stop and do this exercise, I can think of family dinners at my grandma’s house in the summer. She had a wonderful porch, with comfy chairs and a swing, and the grownups would sit outside, and I would dig in the grass by the porch, or search for rocks, or swing on the swing, but I always had this feeling of being watched, being looked after, and being very safe. For me, it’s not one specific memory, it’s just every summer visit to her house as a child all mixed together.” 

I’m half listening, enjoying her sharing this memory, taking some of the vulnerability out of it by sharing herself, but I just……I can’t do it. I have memories, I have several I can think of, and yet, I can’t tell her. It’s that I don’t want to tell her my good memories. Its that I’m positive once I share the memory she will want to know what feelings it brings up now, in present day life. She will want to know what the sensory experience is. And I can’t go there. I just got Bea back, after feeling like I was going to have to quit because sensorimotor therapy isn’t something I want, and she is turning into a sensorimotor therapist, and I was devastated, heartbroken that I was going to have to quit. Somehow, we worked through that. She’s not tied to sensorimotor, and I’m not fully against it. We learned that my challenge is less about the type of therapy and more about needing that emotional connection and not feeling it when Bea had tried sensorimotor in the past. When that emotional connection is not there, I feel as if Bea doesn’t care, as if I’m just patient number 47, diagnosis PTSD with a side of crazy, and that she doesn’t want to deal with me, and that its about analyzing and making sense of the problem, not about working with a person and seeing them and liking them for who they are. Yeah, that emotional connection piece is a way more huge for me. So, you can see why I did not want to do this exercise. 

Bea gave me some space, but when I didn’t say anything for several minutes, she prompted me, “Maybe a memory with your grandparents?” 

I sighed. I shook my head. And then I pulled my knees or my chest, buried my head in my knees, and curled into a tiny ball. 

“What is happening for you? This idea of a good memory is causing a reaction, maybe a need to protect yourself?” Bea noticed my reaction, of course she noticed, and yet I feel a dull flash of surprise. 

I curl more into myself, making the smallest ball I can. I wish my blanket were near me, and as if she read my mind, Bea hands it to me. I cover myself, hiding under the blanket. I still haven’t said a word to her, and she pushes a bit, asking me again about what is happening right now, where I am at, what is making me feel this need to protect myself. I don’t know how much time passes before I whisper, “I’m ruining everything.” 

“What makes you say that? Why are you feeling that you ruin everything?” She asks, a hint of surprise in her voice. The surprise says that she doesn’t feel that way, and it says that she can’t see where the feeling would come from in my present day life. 

When I don’t respond Bea continues, “Sometimes it can be scary to try new things that might help us heal, because we are scared that healing means we might lose the support we have. Getting better doesn’t mean you will lose me, it only means that you will be able to better ask for help when you need it.” 

“No. That is not it. I haven’t….it’s not something I even think about, really.” I’m quick to correct her, lest she think that she matters to me or something. In truth, I don’t think about the idea that if I get better Bea will leave. I don’t think about her retiring. It hurts too much. It makes me too sad. 

“Okay,” she says simply. “Are you having trouble thinking of a memory? It’s okay if you are.” 

I shake my head. It’s not that. I just can’t tell her. It will ruin everything. I start to cry then, big, uncontrollable tears. It’s the sort of cry some refer to as ‘ugly crying’. 

Bea says something soothing, but it’s not the words that matter, it’s the tone and care in them. We go back and forth like this for a bit. Finally, I blurt out, my voice muffled by tears and hiccupy breathing, “I just don’t want to tell you! I don’t want to have to tell you a memory and then have you ask about feelings and sensorimotor stuff!” 

“Ahhhhh,” Bea says, things clicking into place for her. She says something more, but my cries about ruining everything and not being good overshadow her words. “How are you ruining everything?”

“Because I’m not doing what you want and now we are on different sides and I’m screwing it all up and I’m being so awful.” My cries turned to wails, and I could hardly catch my breath. 

“I don’t think you are screwing anything up! I think this is the work, right here. I think maybe you needed to tell me no, to experience setting a boundary. The little girl never got to learn to do that, and so grown up Alice doesn’t really know how to set boundaries, no one knows if is safe to say no, that saying no or disagreeing doesn’t mean we don’t care about someone.”

“Noooooooooo,” I sobbed. I felt this huge terror over yelling Bea no, over setting this boundary. It certainly was not okay. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I’m ruining everything. I make bad choices. I can fix it, if I can just agree with you, do what you wanted, then it will be okay.” 

“I don’t want or need you to do, or be anything. I’m okay with this. I know you don’t believe it right now, but I am okay with things as they are. It is okay for us to disagree, it is okay for you to say no.”   

“But you’re on a different side now!” I wailed. That was the way things worked in my world– people agreed and had the same ideas about things, and disagreeing, or telling someone no, putting yourself on a different side, well, that was how you lost people. 

“Why sides? I don’t see any sides, here. I see you and me, working together to help you feel safe again. I’m not mad, I’m not upset. I think this is something that needs to happen. I really do. I think you need to experience saying no, and being heard and seen, to experience a person really hearing a no and not going anywhere.” Bea told me again. 

I couldn’t answer her why I saw sides, why I felt like I was on the wrong side, why I was so scared. I didn’t really know, not in words. I just felt it, believed it. I just knew on this very deep level that things were not okay, that I had screwed them all up, that I had made a bad choice. 
 

She’s still here and it’s okay to need her (11/14/16)

We talked about Kat, and about the election today. I will maybe write about that in another post, but it’s just too much to write, right now. The very significant part of my session was what followed the talk of the election, and feeling overwhelmed and like everything is too much. 
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“You can always email me or call me.” Bea is trying to reassure me that I’m. It alone this week, with hubby leaving today to go hunting. 

As she says this, I cover my face and hide. I don’t know why, exactly, but Bea telling me I can email or call her makes me feel sad, or maybe hurt. I shake my head and cry a little. I try to say but I can’t, and the words won’t come out. 

Bea talks about how with hubby being gone for so many days, she can see how that would feel alone. She asks me if I have plans for the days he is gone and I shake my head. Cheerfully, she says, “This is your thing, this is what you are good at! Scheduling yourself!” 

I shake my head, and moan, “But that’s what feels so out of control. I can’t even make a schedule right now, and I always have had that to fall back on. Everything is a mess.” 

“Okay. If it is too hard to schedule things like you usually do, let’s just plan your evening how I do it. Tell yourself, maybe I will go to the pool today. Or, maybe we will watch a movie tonight. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. It’s just a plan, so,you can feel safer, so the day has some element of choice or control to it. It’s okay to not have a fully scheduled, down to the minute, plan.” 

“Maybe,” I say. 

“I’m finding myself wanting to rescue you, to keep this week from feeling out of control, to take away all the bad feelings, to protect you from feeling this. But that’s not helpful to you in the long run. I can’t rescue you from these feelings. If I could go back and rescue the little girl, I would.” 

“You can’t rescue me……and you don’t need to. But maybe….it’s nice to hear you want to. Like feeling taken care of or feeling safe or not alone?” I’m not sure how to explain it to her. I just know that hearing she wants to rescue me feels real to me, and it feels like she really cares. 

“You aren’t alone. I’m right here, and this week I am just an email or phone call away.” She is trying to reassure me, and instead her statement has me bursting into tears. “Something touched a nerve. What happened?” She asks gently.

I have my face buried in my hands and my blanket scarf, but I’m still trying to stay more upright so I can be a *good* client. (It’s crazy, I know, but I’m overly paranoid about anything that might turn Bea shrinky again.) I shake my head and cry. “I…..I….” The trouble is, I don’t know why this is upsetting me so much, “I….you said I can email or call…….” I know that is what upset me, but I don’t know why. 

“Yes, yes I said you can email me or call me this week– any week. It just seemed a reminder that it is okay might be a good thing.” 

“It doesn’t FEEL okay. I can’t…I just can’t. I…..I know what you said, but I can’t email or call. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I shouldn’t be upset about this.” I’m crying so hard it’s sort of amazing Bea can understand what I’m saying. 

“Do you want to come in? You can come in then, if email or phone doesn’t feel okay. All you have to do is ask,” she says lightly. 

“I can’t. I can’t ask for what I need!” 

Bea waits a moment, and when all I do is sob, she says, “This is okay, it is okay to email or call or come in. I’m thinking you are feeling the vulnerability in reaching out. Is that maybe right?” 

I slowly nod. “If I email….or call…..or ask to come in…………and you…….I………if you aren’t……” 

“If I’m not there, it’s worse than if you never reached out at all?” 

“Yes…..it’s so much worse. And I can’t do it. I can’t handle that.” I tell her. 

“I am okay, and I am here. This is just a normal week, so while some nights I might work late, I’m here and I will respond.” Bea tells me. 

“I shouldn’t…..I shouldn’t need…….I mean, I should know you are there.” I say it in a tone that clearly says I am disgusted or annoyed with myself. 

“There’s no shoulds. I think it makes sense, that you would worry about me being there if you reach out. That time I wasn’t there, that was traumatizing. It hurt, a lot. I didn’t know, I should have realized, where you were in terms of attachment and how hard relationships feel to you and how scary it is for you to really trust another person to be there and care. My responding when I wasn’t really present or grounded, that was really scary and hurtful. It made it feel risky everytime you reach out to me now. I know that. I’ve been very aware of that since that time. I’m sorry I wasn’t aware of it before, I should have realized, and I am sorry that it hurt you.” She says all this in a caring, but matter of fact voice. She isn’t upset that I’m still struggling from that rupture. And she has noticed how hard it has made it for me to reach out. I often go between appointments with no outside contact because I’m unsure and unwilling to take that risk, and she has seen that, but she also wants me to know she is aware and being very careful to be fully there. And it’s true, but every email, and the few phone calls/text messages, she has responded to me from a *I am here and I am me* place. Usually, these kinds of conversations feel unbearable to me, but I feel oddly okay with this one. It is actually helpful because then I know that she has noticed and that she is wanting to reassure me that she is there. 

“I think I shouldn’t need this. I shouldn’t be this needy. I……I’m sorry…….I don’t know what is wrong with me.” 

“You are dealing with a lot. We’ve been working on this, all this trauma stuff for a while now, and Wednesday was the first time I’ve heard you say ‘he hurt me and I had no control’ and have that be a statement you were saying and not a question you were asking me. This is a big deal. It is a lot. It is very overwhelming and hard to face. Facing a little at a time, just like you have been trying to do is how this works. It will take some time. You shouldn’t have to do this alone. Part of my responsibility to you, part of that unspoken contract I have to you, is that I will support you. To me supporting you doesn’t mean just in session. Sure, for some people it might, but not for this deep kind of trauma work that is sending you back to scary places and feelings. It’s okay to need support.” 

“Maybe,” I whisper, tears still falling, but not as hard as they had been. 

“That’s good. A maybe is better than a no,” Bea tells me. 

We sit in silence for a few minutes, me working on stopping my tears and Bea just sitting with me. As I’m lifting my head out of my hands, and wiping my face, Bea nod her head towards my bag, asking, “Is that an Alice in Wonderland coloring book?” 

I nod. “Yeah. Kat and I have been coloring it in the mornings.” 

“Did you color the cover?” 

Pulling the book out of my bag, I say, “Yeah.” I hand it her, and motioning at the cover, “This is what I did this week.” 

“It’s beautiful.” She flips through the pages, I haven’t colored yet. “These pictures are beautiful. Where did you find this?” 

“Target or Meijers, I can’t remember now. I can bring it on Wednesday and we can color it,” I offer, shyly. 

“I don’t want to ruin your book,” Bea says. 

“It’s okay. Kat colors on it. I’m working on that perfectionistic stuff.” I shrug. Yes, it drives me nuts to have Kat color everything crazy colors, and not in the lines, and not how I see it in my head. But she loves coloring in Mommy’s special coloring book, and it’s not a big deal. It’s not like I’m framing these, and I can always buy another. 

“Should we make a coloring date, then?” Bea asks. 

I nod, slowly.  

“Okay, then. But I won’t color if you aren’t coloring,” she warns.

“Okay. I’ll color,” I say softly. 

By this time, I have sat up, scooted to the edge of the couch, and slipped my shoes back on. I stand up and say bye. I feel a little sad and overwhelmed, but also like it will be okay because Bea isn’t going anywhere.

“Bye…..I’ll see you Wednesday, but I’m here before then,” she reminds one last time. 

I nod, and head downstairs. There are still tears behind my eyes although I’m not really sure why. Once I’m on the road, heading home, I let those tears fall, too. There is a lot of grief inside me right now. 
 

Trusting that someone will really be there is a challenge….

Where we left off: I had tearfully asked Bea,”Don’t be shrinky,” and she had replied that she wouldn’t be, that she didn’t want to be be shrinky. After that, no one said anything for a minute. 

Bea breaks the silence, saying, “I feel like a mom with an infant, a mom who really wants to know her baby, but then she can’t figure out what the baby needs or how to help the baby, but she cares so much about and wants to protect and help her baby, so she keeps trying to find what can help. I think that is why I keep going back to SP, or art, or other things we can try. But maybe the baby doesn’t know what she needs right now, and that is okay. Just like a mother who loves her infant, I’m going to patiently sit here with you and try to help you figure it out. We can make sense of all of this together. I’m not leaving, I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to turn into a shrinky shrink. I’m right here, and I’m still me.” 

I don’t reply because I’m too far away to talk. There are a million thoughts running through my mind, but I can’t seem to form any of them into words, or conversation. 

“I sometimes wonder……….. we got in the habit of just allowing you to collapse in on yourself and hide, so that you could talk…….. if that was the best thing. There is an SP exercise……you go from eye contact and connection to curling into yourself and hiding. It’s really hard to know someone is there for you when you are shut down and hiding. It’s amazing how making eye contact and having that connection really allows you to know that someone is there for you.” 

Bea is still talking and I’m freaking out inside. I can not do this. I don’t want to do this. It is not okay. I like hiding. I NEED to hide. Why is she talking about SP stuff again? I hate SP. 

“This isn’t anything I am expecting you to do. I know it wouldn’t feel safe to do an exercise like this right now. I’m telling you about it more so you might notice your experience right now. Maybe notice if it is hard to know I’m here, when you are so far away and closed off, when you can’t see me.” She talks about how it’s hard for me to reach out, to trust that someone is there, and how maybe it would be easier to reach out if I could see that she was physically there. 

At some point, something Bea says reminds me of couples therapy and I tell her that Kim wants me to talk to hubby. 

“In what way?” She asks. “About what?” 

“She said….if I can ask him or tell him what I need.” 

“Okay, so that is a good thing, because there is someone on your side, helping hubby to respond in ways that will make it safer for you to keep talking to him.” 

I shake my head. “I don’t think she is on my side.” I’m not sure whose side she is on, maybe on the side of my marriage being more than a surface relationship. I tell Bea “It’s is better to not ask for something than to ask for it and not…..be heard.” 

“That is an old belief. A really old belief, I think. At some point it became safer to not ask than risk being hurt.” 

“It’s hard to believe anyone is there. Because no one ever is. Everyone leaves.” The words are so silent, there is no weight to them at all, yet somehow they float between Bea and I and she hears them. 

“It is hard to believe someone is there for you. It’s hard to believe that when you reach out, someone will hear you and see you when you told adults in your life with everything but words what was happening with Kenny and no one was there, no one heard. You reached and no one was there. More fundamentally than that even, you couldn’t trust that the adults in your life would keep me safe. You didn’t get to have that safety in knowing someone was there and would keep you safe. Even developmentally, you learned that you couldn’t trust your mother to be there for you, you didn’t know if she would accept your feelings or fears or needs, or if she would reject them. That is a lot. It is no wonder it is hard for you to trust, to know that someone is there.”  

It makes sense, what she is saying. And I feel sad, that this is what my story is, that this is why it’s so hard for me to make connections and hold them, why it’s so hard for me to trust someone will be there. “That’s so much.” This time the weightless words don’t have enough substance to make it to Bea’s ears, and that is okay with me. I don’t repeat myself. 

Bea suggests that maybe we need to work on it being safe for me to really experience safety with another person. “Not just safety in talking to me, while you hide but safety in being able to reach for me and maintain the connection to really feel and know that I am here. Maybe we need to help establish safety in seeing me, while we talk about more uncomfortable things. I think you need to experience that, being able to see and deeply know someone is there for you.” 

I don’t love this idea, it feels very….vulnerable making. Not okay. I don’t say anything. I know this is probably some attachment stuff that needs working on. And that is uncomfortable for me. I hate attachment stuff. Hiding, not looking at someone when I talk, or sharing via email, it’s safer. It’s like that way if the person doesn’t respond, or isn’t there, it doesn’t hurt as much because I wasn’t really there either. On the flip side, that connection, seeing a person respond positively to me and really be there is just as scary. I don’t want to trust it, because as soon as I do, I have that much more to lose, there is that much more which can crush me. 

We go back to talking about couples therapy, and how all of this links back to that and the difficulty in me asking hubby for what I need or want. Bea asks questions and I answer them, haltingly. It’s a lot of starts and stops. Eventually I end up grabbing my iPad and pulling up what I had written about couples therapy (previously posted on the blog). In addition to that, I had written about the dream, but I told Bea I wasn’t sure I wanted her to read that part. 

She reads what I wrote about couple’s therapy. “You aren’t failing couples therapy!” And “it is a lot of risk for you to tell hubby what you need.” “Mmmmhmmm….so she did see that you maybe weren’t ready.” 

“Either that or she said it because I wasn’t talking.” 

Bea laughs, but it’s in that nice way she has, and she says, “I like to think she realized you weren’t ready. And it is okay that you aren’t ready. It is really okay.” 

“They both just think it’s so easy. But it’s not!” I shake my head and sigh. 

“I don’t think, well, I hope the therapist doesn’t think it’s so easy. I’d hope it would be obvious that if you are struggling with that, it isn’t easy for you. It is hard. And look at why. All the times you reached for help with the Kenny stuff and no one saw…..your mom stuff…..not being able to just trust that adults would keep you safe, how could you know that anyone was there? Right? It’s hard for you to even trust that I’m here, that I won’t leave, or turn shrinky, or just not be there.”

“It is hard to know that anyone is there.” I whisper. 

“I know. And so now we have this information that we didn’t have before. Now we know that really reaching for connection, and trusting that another will be there, is a big trigger. It triggered some trauma stuff, but also some developmental stuff, too. So that’s something we can work on– together, and slowly, at your pace.” Bea says.  

I shrug, and whisper, “Maybe.” 

“That’s a good place to start,” Bea says. “And I’m right here with you, even if you can’t see me right now.” 

(I’m going to write about the dream stuff in a separate post. We didn’t talk a lot about the dream, but agreed we could (maybe) start there on Wednesday.)

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. 

Monday: part six, she wants to hear what I have to say 

Here we are! Part 6; the very last post about this session. Gah. If you read all of these, you should get a cookie. I can’t send you home made cookies or cupcakes over the Internet, so go buy some, or something, okay? 

Bea goes back to reading, and I hug Hagrid close to me, grateful to have him and the comfort he offers. What did I ever do without him? 

And on Thursday (or maybe it was Monday?) you asked me to remind you of the October stuff. I really couldn’t, just couldn’t say all of it for whatever reason. Even thought I know you know, even though I’ve written and even maybe talked about some of it before, I just couldn’t. So here’s the list.  



I overdosed in October when I was 14



I left Brian in October and then I found out I was pregnant in October. I had an abortion in November right around thanksgiving. The time is blurry. I know it’s crazy sounding. I just know it was like right before break. I don’t know. 

 


my grandpa died two years ago, November. Also before thanksgiving. I don’t remember the exact day. I feel like I should. I remember what I was doing when my mom called. I remember that night. It’s like watching a movie of myself. Not real. But I remember the events, just not the day or the date. 

grandpas birthday is October 23, and mine is the 24th. The last time I saw him was our birthday party, two years ago. It’s stupid but I feel like seeing grandma…..when she hasn’t planned to be here….seeing her in the fall, it’s so much like the last time with grandpa. I have this irrational fear I’m never going to see her again.

“I knew there was a lot in October. This is a lot,” she says, pausing from her reading.  

I want to talk about Brian. The boyfriend. I’m having nightmares about him again. It’s sort of that time of year, I guess. We met in early fall. And I left in the late fall. So. I don’t know. Maybe that’s all it is. But a part of me really just wants to tell you my nightmares — memories, really–about him. But they are awful and disgusting and it’s……I don’t know. They are scary, but scary in this very grown up something very bad and disturbing is happening way. It’s different than Kenny memories. But just like with Kenny, I was usually agreeing to do whatever it was Brian wanted me to do. It was easier that way. But now, it seems more shameful. So I’m…maybe embarrassed?…….afraid of your reaction and what you will think?….I don’t know. Something. I just……I want to talk but I am afraid. And I’m sure you are probably sick of this. I know I’m always afraid but when I decided I want to talk, I do end up talking after going through all this talking of being afraid. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I can’t just talk.

“I am not sick of you in anyway. I’m not mad or frustrated. If you want to talk about talking, about being afraid, about being unsure, I want to hear it. I’m not sick of that at all. This is hard stuff. It’s tough to believe it’s safe to tell, to talk about. If you want to talk about it, I want to hear you talk about it. I want to hear your stories, what you have to say, your feelings. I’m not upset at all. I enjoy working with you, and I am not going anywhere. I am not leaving.” Bea speaks so adamantly, so seriously, every word has weight and meaning, I believe her. In that moment, I believe her. And I feel so safe. 

“Do you want to talk about the boyfriend?” She asks me after a moment,,

I nod, slowly. “I’m afraid. But I think….maybe. I just….you don’t know. I…the things….I did…I just….” I can’t explain, but a part of me wants to. The things I agreed to do, the things he forced, they play in a loop in my mind lately, awake or asleep. It’s sick. 

“I’m not going to judge you. I haven’t yet, and I won’t now. I can promise you that. This wasn’t your fault.” 

I shake my head. “It’s not so simple.”

“It never is as simple as black and white. But I’m not leaving you, or judging you.” Bea says, 

I nod, “okay.” 

“We need to wrap up in a minute, I want you to have some time to get grounded,” Bea says gently. “We can talk about the boyfriend on Thursday if you want, that will give you some time to think about it more.” 

“Okay, Thursday. Maybe. Or we talk about talking?” I ask, afraid of beinf reprimanded. 

“Sure. We can so that, too.” Bea agrees easily, and I remember her earlier words. 

I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear your stories. I’m not leaving. I’m not mad. I’m not judging you. 

I’m not sure anyone has ever said words like that to me– ‘I want to hear what you have to say’– and I feel deeply cared for and valued right now. I spend the rest of my session working on picking my head up, looking at Bea, moving my body; coming back to the present. The whole time this is going on, a part of me is simply basking in the warm sunshine of Bea’s words. They feel like a fantasy, pixie dust sparkling in the air, nothing more than an illusion. But they are real words, and there is real true meaning behind them. And so I sit and soak up the warmth provided by her words. 

“She wants to hear what I have to say.”