Last week: therapy Monday 

Therapy last week. Ugh. It was hard. Monday sucked. I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to talk through my long letter. When I got there, I talked about Kat, and hubby, and tried to avoid talking about real things. Bea wasn’t going to let that happen, though. She looked at the clock, in an obvious way, then looking at me, said, “We really need to talk about your letter, and I want to make sure we have time for that. I should get it out now.” 

I looked at her, and it was the teen that responded, flippantly “So, we’re doing this now?” 

Bea nodded yes, and I covered my face, but found I didn’t need to hide. I’d walked in numb, and was only growing more and more numb and gone now that we were going to talk about real things. 

I honestly don’t remember much of what we talked about. I remember her telling me that the amount of food I’d written down— really, I’d been freaking out over how badly I had been binging– wasn’t surprising to her, because she was sure she has at times eaten 53 French fries, or 17 mini Reese’s eggs. I couldn’t really let that sink in, but I think some of the shame around my eating was lessened, at least in terms of Bea. 

I remember her going through where she had been, what was going on, each time she responded to my emails. She shared that she enjoys hearing from me, even while on vacation, but that she should have written a disclaimer that she wasn’t as available as usual (like emotionally available). I remember feeling sort of hurt during this conversation, and telling her that I am aware that if she is on vacation, her responses my be shorter, or not as there, or whatever. I’m aware of that, and I get it, and it’s usually– has almost always been– fine. Except this time. This time was different because of Kay, and Rory was on vacation, too, and hubby is, well, hubby. I told her this, and she said, “I know. And I remember thinking that I hoped you weren’t as alone as you sounded, but also that you really were all alone right then. That made me so sad for you. You’ve been alone long enough. But there was nothing I could really do to help right then.” 

I nodded. “So you sent me strategy, and ideas, and tried to….well…it was shrinky.” She nodded agreement, maybe said something. I’m not sure. It seemed like sometime had passed when I said, “I wish you would have just written that you could feel how alone I was right then. That would have been better, it would have felt better than what you wrote.”

“It would have validated your feelings, and the situation. It would have been honest. I didn’t write that because it didn’t seem helpful, and I did want to help.” 

“You could have reminded me that you would be back, and so would Rory, that this alone-ness wouldn’t be forever. That it’s not the same as my past.” I told her. And she agreed. She said she should have, and she was sorry, and that in the future she would just be honest. 

She talked about how everything happening made sense to her, after Kay shut me out, and my other two supports ‘left’. She said it was okay. We talked about my craziness, the way I over think and freak myself out. I remember she said that is why some therapists won’t email, because things get lost in the written word with no facial expressions or body language to cue is into the meaning behind the words. 

“No….that’s not it. I do it all the time, email, talking face to face, texting. It doesn’t matter. I overthink and freak out, but I hide it.” I remember really wanting to make it clear to her that it wasn’t just an email thing. Even though I hadn’t wanted to send an email recently, I was very afraid she was about to set a boundary telling me no more emails. 

Bea surprised me, though. “I think email can be helpful for some people between sessions. So often, with this kind of work, it’s the days after therapy that things come up, that you process what we talked about. And if you can email it, and work through it a little bit instead of having to wait, because so much is always coming up, then it’s a good thing. And it doesn’t bother me one bit. I have time to be available. My kids aren’t at home anymore, and I work for myself. So I have much more availability than a lot of therapists, and I like hearing how you are, and what is coming up. I don’t have many people who need to email, and no one takes advantage of it, so I’m fine with emailing.” I breathed a sigh of relief at her words. 

I remember she talked about control, and how I feel about not being in control. I don’t remember the specific, though. That was a tough conversation, and I was really far away. She asked a few times if I was here, and each time Miss Perfect snapped to attention, smiling and saying I was okay, I was present enough. Finally, Bea stopped asking, and simply said, “You aren’t here.” She offered up some grounding suggestions, and I rejected every last one of them. 

“What’s happening right now? Where is your focus, where are you shining the flashlight?” She asked. 

“I don’t know. I want….. I don’t really want to be more here. I just…..I want to not feel. I don’t want to focus on the present.” I finally said, completely honest. 

I think we talked a bit more. But I’m not sure. As I was leaving, Bea gave me homework: to try to pay attention to where I was shining the flashlight. And then, I left, sad and not as connected as I had wanted to feel. 

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A week ago: Sunday emails 

It’s been awhile. I’ve been reading everyone’s posts, I just haven’t had the words to comment. I’m sort of here and gone. It’s messy. 

Last I wrote, I had seen Bea on Friday during Kat’s session. And that hurt. It was hard. I spent the weekend very numb, very much in this bubble of perfection. I did some crafty things, some sewing, and the usual housewife and mom type things. I didn’t stop to think, until Sunday when hubby went out fishing and our old nanny (who is now like family to us) came to visit and hang out with Kat. I should have gone out, and ran errands. Instead, I took a bath, and with that down time, all the worries and hurt and confusion came rushing at me. 

I did the only thing I knew to do. I wrote Bea an email. 

I literally feel sick and scared when I think about coming to therapy tomorrow. A part of me is so afraid that this is the beginning of the end. The teen believes that everyone leaves, no one wants to deal with her, and eventually they all get rid of her, and it just took you longer than most. Crazy, I know. Nothing that bad has happened, I am really over reacting and this is not what is happening and that I am being this drama queen, but I can’t stop my feelings. Well, I can stop them for a while, but they come back. So annoying. Part of me wants to go to therapy tomorrow and just smile and be perfect and okay and really shut you out, but act like nothing is wrong. The teen wants to either not go, or if I make her go, she wants to sit in silence and be petulant. The little girl wants to go, and give you this insanely long letter and talk and have you say everything will be okay. And maybe the teen wants that, too, in a way, but she is too scared that you will say nothing is okay and that she has to go. 

There was more, but that was the gist of it. So, that email began this long email conversation, which essentially resulted in me deciding I could show up to therapy and feel mostly okay with it. 

I’ve copied the more important parts of the emails below…..(it was a LONG talk, lol)

From Bea: I’m glad you sent this! I understand that it will be hard to come tomorrow. The main reassurance I can give is that I’m working really hard on my own self-care so that I can be emotionally available. The loss of a secure base and a person offering unconditional positive regard is huge, don’t get me wrong, and I am taking responsibility for that. Engaging in my own self-care is the path to repair. I’m not going anywhere, and I’m committed to repairing the situation. It’s actually surprising that I haven’t hit one of these patches before this–nobody can be “on” as a therapist all the time. It’s a good time for me to reevaluate my boundaries and self-care to keep this from happening more often. Again, it was–and is–about me and my stuff. I’m sorry you have been suffering with all these thoughts and worries:(. That makes me feel bad. Please let yourself off the hook!

From Alice: None of this feels okay. I’ve read it, thought about it, read it, wrote back, deleted what I wrote, read it again, cried, tried to distract myself…..but it doesn’t feel okay. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry because I want to be okay with everything. All of this scares me. I sent my email so I could feel less anxious and nervous about all this and about therapy tomorrow and I only feel more worried and scared and upset. This boundary talk scares me. And I don’t want you to feel bad. I really, really don’t. I know everyone has stuff, even you. You’ve told me that before, and I do know that. But I’m scared. I’m scared your stuff means you aren’t okay, and I want you to be okay. In a selfish way, yes, but also just because I want you to be okay for you. But selfishly, I can’t talk to you, I can’t make you listen to all my crap, or say things I’m afraid will make you feel worse, or I don’t know, I just can’t do this if I am afraid you aren’t okay. I’m freaked out. 
And I just want to talk to you, but I also don’t want to talk to you at all. I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I’m scared and upset and afraid. And I really just want you to be okay. Nothing feels right. 

From Bea: I am okay! There isn’t anything you can say or need right now that will change that. My stuff is always going to be there, and I always have to manage it just like everyone else does. I know how to do that 99% of the time, and I am feeling back “on” again. I’m not worried about my stuff continuing to be a problem, and I hope you can stop worrying about it as well.  
Increasing boundaries and self care just means staying on top of my needs, just like I hope you and everyone I see will do. If I’m working too many hours in the evening, I need to cut back. If I need to spend half an hour meditating in the morning, I need to make space for that. If I need to stop reading the news because it’s overwhelming me, I need to do that. Whatever it might be that any of us do for healthy self care and boundaries, I need to do it. It’s my professional obligation to you and everyone I work with. It’s just time for me to give this some extra thought
You can say whatever you need to, and please do. Nothing is going to make me feel worse, I promise! None of my stuff is originating from my work, and nothing that you need to express is going to make me put up a wall or withdraw or anything–I’m no longer experiencing that need to protect myself. It’s okay!

From Alice: I want to believe it’s okay, I really, really do. I’m just…I don’t know the word. Like, I read this and thought, okay, it’s okay, she’s okay, okay. But the next thing I think is, “or she is saying that to make me feel better and stop freaking out.” My rational guess is that you aren’t just saying it’s okay, and I’m only worried about that because I am a person who will say things are okay just to make someone else okay….ugh. You know what I mean, I think. 

From Bea: I’m not just saying it–I am okay! (She also explained why she had such a hard time being present when she came back from vacation, and that actually helped a lot. It was reassuring. I’m not posting that here, because it’s not my stuff to tell.) 

From Bea: The little girl need not worry– I’m not going anywhere until retirement. 🙂 Yes, send the long letter if it feels right.

I sent the long letter, which was basically a culmination of all my freakouts the weekend she was gone, and all my fears and triggers around her emails, and her not really being here even when she came back. I’m not going to post that because a lot of it is similar to what is written in the few previous posts and it’s very, very long. 

From Bea: Dare I say I’m not surprised by any of this??? It all makes sense, and it fits with what I kind of figured was going on? Your lack of emails to me always speaks as clearly as your emails, quite honestly. I want to check and see when I sent the “shrinky” and distant emails last weekend. I will then be able to explain why they had that quality. It was indeed lack of availability on my part, for various reasons, and I’m curious to see what was going on when I sent each of them. I should have given disclaimers with them, but I’ll at least give them after the fact. I was well aware that you were suffering–but also that I couldn’t really do anything about it. 😞 I think going through this tomorrow would be very healing, if difficult. Two things stood out to me as very positive–first of all, your writing was outstanding, and secondly, you were finally really expressing big feelings about Kenny. You may feel ambivalent about that, but I thought it was a real breakthrough!!!

From Alice: Okay. Tomorrow, we will go through this. Just one more stupid silly question. You aren’t retiring anytime really soon are you? 

From Bea: Hahaha! No, I probably won’t be able to afford to retire for another twenty years!

And so, the flood of emotions and worries and confusion lessened, and I started to feel like I could breathe again. 

I don’t see this being fixable

I emailed Bea, and told her I was not wanting to bring Kat to therapy. I didn’t want to have to go see her, and feel her being so far away, and have to try to act like things are okay so that Kat doesn’t know things aren’t okay, and then end up feeling worse. She wrote me back, and said that she was okay, and back to normal, and to rest assured that she would be there for both Kat and I today. 

I wasn’t sure about it, but I got Kat ready, and we piled into the car, and drove to Bea’s. We some how arrive early, and so we sit in the car for about 10 minutes. I sit, looking at Bea’s building, and feel tears in my eyes. Shutting down my feelings, I tell Kat we can head inside.

Bea says hello to both of us, and I can’t look at her. I try, but I can’t. I feel myself shutting down, and freaking out. I tell Kat that mom is going to go hang in the waiting room because I have some emails to write. Kat immediately whines that she doesn’t want me to go, and climbs onto my lap, clinging to me. I finally look at Bea, wanting her to tell me what to do, to help me leave. I can’t be here. 

We somehow convince Kat that mom will stay and help her and Bea do a craft, and then mom is going to go write her emails. The three of us sit on the floor, and start crafting a turtle out of a sock. I can’t look at Bea, and I feel stiff and uncomfortable. She says something to me about being okay now, being back to herself, assuring me she is really here for me and Kat. I smile a small smile, but I can’t respond. Maybe she is back to herself. I don’t know. I’m too shut down to be able to feel anything. I’m hurt. I’m confused. Why couldn’t she be what I needed? I want to move past this, but how? I was already in this state of not being able to trust anything, feeling floaty, anchorless, and alone. I needed Bea to be extra here, to be really open, to be very here, to be a very strong secure base. It’s not fair, but after everything that has happened with Kay, I needed Bea to prove to me that she won’t leave and that she will not judge me for anything, or be disgusted with me or mad at me. And she did the opposite. She left. I realize her vacation was planned prior to to the mess my life turned into, but she promised to be there via email, and she didn’t feel like she was there. She promised she would come back, but she didn’t really come back.  How can I ever trust that she is really here now? I can’t lift the bubble, I can’t risk the vulnerability, if I do and Bea still feels shut down, I won’t survive that. This relationship won’t survive that. And if the relationship doesn’t make it, I really won’t be okay. Without Bea and without Kay, I can’t do this; I can’t work to heal, I can’t be me. The me I am learning to be won’t survive. Miss Perfect will come back and take over, the bubble will be permanent and everything will be shoved down. I won’t be okay. 

 
As soon as the turtle is crafted, I practically run out of her office. I can hear Kat protesting, and Bea distracting her by asking her how they will decorate turtle. 

I sit on the floor in the waiting room, pull my knees to my chest, bury my face in my knees, and cry. I cry for maybe 20 minutes and then I force myself to shut it down. I end up just sitting there, dissociated and hurting and sad. I want Bea to be herself. This hurts. Seeing her, and feeling things are so wrong, hurts. 

When Kat’s session is over, I ask if they need help cleaning up. Bea smiles, and says they got everything cleaned up already. I help Kat gather her things, and she tells Bea bye. I don’t say anything, just follow Kat down the stairs. Normally, I stand at the top of the stairs, chatting with Bea while she makes tea, or straightens up. I hear her saying something, but it’s muffled. I call goodbye up the stairs, and she makes a surprised noise, and says goodbye. 

Things aren’t right, they aren’t okay. And I don’t see how this can be fixed. 

I have no one

I leave therapy, and feel like crying. I want to curl up in bed and sob for days. I’m so, so sad, but I can’t allow myself to feel right now. I make it through the rest of my afternoon, and then, while Kat is occupied with ABA, I crawl into bed. I pull my blankets over my head, and bury my face in my pillow to muffle the sound of my cries. 

I’ve felt alone and abandoned all week. Bea coming back was supposed to make everything better. Not better because I expect her to fix everything, but because I wouldn’t be alone anymore. I hadn’t wanted to talk, but I had thought…..I needed her to push and ask me how things really are and want to listen. I don’t want the bubble popped, but maybe I wanted to let her into the bubble with me, to let her see what the bubble is hiding. 

And while she is back from her trip, she still isn’t here. I’m devastated. It was like sitting in a room with my mother, being a teen….I felt like it was no different than the times I’d attempted suicide and my mom had talked about weather and church activities, planned a birthday party for me. My mother was so emotionally closed off and not able to be open at all, even during those times I really needed her to be. The thing is, with my mom, I was never surprised. Hurt, yes, but not surprised. I’m not even sure that she was even aware that she was so emotionally closed off back then. But Bea? Bea has never been closed off like that. I’ve shut her out, closed myself off from her, but she has never been like that towards me. I didn’t expect this. Not really. I worry about it happening, I fear that she will one day be done with me, but I never really expected that she would be shut down like this. And she knows how to not be closed off, she is capable of being emotionally open. That makes this hurt even worse. With my mom, I feel like ‘why couldn’t she be what I needed, what was so bad about me that she couldn’t leave be me enough to be what I needed?’ But with Bea, I feel like I have done something to cause this, like she was once able to accept me, be open for me, and I have screwed up and was too honest about my feelings and the mess in my head and so she now has to close herself off from me. When she suggested she was maybe protecting herself, all I could think was that she had to protect herself from how disgusting I am. I mean, why wouldn’t she want to protect herself from the pain and hurt and crazy and disgusting mess that I am? Who could blame her? 

It feels like I might never stop crying, but when my sobs calm down, I write a letter to Bea with tears still streaming down my face. I tell her that I am sad, and that I needed her to be Bea today. I tell her I think she is protecting herself from the grossness that is me. I tell her I’m hurt that she isn’t really here, and that I feel stupid for how I feel, and for even writing to her but that I think not addressing this type of stuff is what made the little girl feel like Bea wanted her to go away and that she wasn’t allowed to talk. 

I NEEDED you to be YOU today. I think I spent most of the weekend and week thinking that it would be okay because I’d come to therapy and tell you how I felt, and that I was freaking out, and having a mini breakdown, and that your emails made you seem farther away, and I was sad and scared and feeling like I was so alone and everyone left me. And even though I didn’t want to pop the bubble, I sorta wanted to talk to you, or at least give you my writing. But I couldn’t do anything today, after I felt like you weren’t on my side about the school stuff. And then it just got harder to bring anything up. You said you had a wall up, and maybe you were protecting yourself. I get it, the grown up me gets how hard it is to come back from vacation, and can see that you were acknowledging things felt weird and that it is okay and we will get back to normal on monday and it would be okay, and I know you are human and make mistakes and can’t be on all the time and that you aren’t going to always get it right, and that those things can be okay, because it means I can learn to work through this crappy scary relationship stuff. So, grown up me is okay. Unfortunately grown up me is not running the ship right now. And the rest of me, I already felt shut down from how yucky and triggered I had felt, and scared and mad and not okay, and then everything today just was wrong and off and I felt like maybe you had a wall up to protect yourself from how crazy and disgusting I am and you weren’t there. And I really, really needed you to be there. And I really, really don’t feel better, I just seem better on the outside. And I’m really, really not okay.

Bea wrote back. 

I’m SO sorry for me not being okay today. It was nothing about you, and I was very aware of what you needed from me and how you needed me to be, but I just couldn’t do it:( Please rest assured that it was not anything related to you! I know me not being okay triggered the little girl to not feel safe–no secure base. We all experience this at times as parents when we just can’t function emotionally as a secure base for our kids, and that was exactly what this was like for me this morning. Again, I’m SO sorry:(. Cognitively I’m very aware of how terrible that was for you–and I was aware this morning as well, but I just couldn’t unprotect myself. This was me being very human, unfortunately……

Her email didn’t feel okay. Maybe it usually would, but I am so closed off from her and afraid and she doesn’t feel safe right now. Nothing feels safe. I don’t understand why she couldn’t be how I needed her to be, why she couldn’t be herself. I’m hurt. And confused. I’m meant to pretend I’m not hurt, that her email made it all better, because I need her. I don’t know what the protocol is for being mad and hurt at the one person you need to support and help you and telling them how you are truly feeling. Normally, I would call Kay. I would cry and ask her what to do. Because she always has the answers. But I’m alone. I don’t have Kay, and I don’t have Bea. I have no one. 

She didn’t come back 

After a really hard weekend, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are better. Or, rather, better on the outside, because Miss Perfect is running the ship during the day, and she gets things done. Organizing, cleaning, dishes, laundry, sweeping, scrubbing, dusting, making dinner, baking treats, sewing, creating, playing with Kat, doing yoga, ext ext. I don’t have time to think when I’m like this, there is no tIme to hurt, or feel crazy. And if, for some reason, those bad feelings dare pop up when she is in charge, miss perfect has no problem starving the feelings, or binging them away, purging the memories, or cutting to be numb again. So, things have worked the last few days. 

The nights have been harder, but they usually are, aren’t they? I made sure to write a lot, and did some knitting, watched a movie, attempted to read and then listen to a book, and eventually turned to my old stand by, Gilmore Girls. Wednesday night was strange. I could feel myself shutting down even more, pulling the bubble of okayness more tightly around myself. I didn’t want to go to therapy the next morning. Everything about going was aversive, and felt like a terrible idea. Miss perfect didn’t want to go because she does not want this bubble popped, the teenager felt really hurt but was trying to hold onto being angry, and the little girl was terrified that she would go to therapy and Bea wouldn’t be there, that she wasn’t really coming back because I had hit her limit and she was done with me. 

Thursday, I force myself to get ready for therapy, to get into the car, and drive to Bea’s office. Even the drive to her office feels wrong. There is construction being done on the ‘main’ road that leads from my neighborhood in the boondocks to the actual main road. They are redoing the bridge, which means I have to drive all the way around the lake. The detour takes an extra 20 or 25 minutes, depending on traffic. I decide to drive in the other direction, taking a more direct yet somehow more round about route. It takes about the same amount of time, either way. But the drive in feels wrong, and several times (twice after I am back on the normal route) I look up at my surroundings only to feel scared that I don’t recognize them, and have no idea where I am or how I got there. The feeling only lasts maybe 10 or 15 seconds before I figure it out, but it’s terrifying when it’s happening. 

I finally get to Bea’s, park, and Hagrid and I walk up the stairs to her office. Hagrid beats me there, running into the office excitedly to greet Bea. I follow him, say good morning and take my seat in the usual place. 

Things don’t feel right, right away. I can’t explain it, it’s nothing I can put into words, but things feel off. I’m sure it’s me, wanting to talk to Bea but feeling so rejected from her email, and feeling scared and alone, and not really wanting the bubble popped but desperately wanting Bea to notice I’m not okay, so when miss perfect smiles and pretends things are fine, asks Bea how the weather was for her vacation, I’m relieved. We talk about weather and how the lake was, and our dogs, and other random things. 

In the middle of our chit chat, Kat’s one teacher texts me back. I read the text, saying to Bea, “This teacher has been texting me, she sent me the assembly and field trip schedule so I’d be able to prepare Kat better.” I tell her how I am just done with the school, and while I am being nice and polite, I am no longer collaborating with them. I simply have been giving them two choices of how to handle any given situation, and that’s it– they can choose one of those, and I refuse to listen to any ideas for a third option. 

Bea listens, and then asks questions, points out the good things they have done, suggests that Kat seeing me act less warm toward her teachers may be confusing. I become frustrated, and try to explained that as far as I am concerned, they lost the right to have much input, because of how they handled the last situation that arose, as well as how they behaved at the meeting, and how it is clear they simply have their own agenda and don’t really care about what is best for Kat. Bea says something to the effect that I can’t assume what they are thinking or feeling, and that sometimes we have to back off and give people a chance to make mistakes and correct them, to figure out their own rhythm with a kid. 

I shake my head. “They have had that chance all year. Clearly, they can’t make good choices for Kat. I don’t trust them. Maybe that trust can be earned back, I don’t know right now. But you aren’t going to change my mind, or make me less upset, or anything else.” 

She says something, I don’t even know what. I repeat that she isn’t going to make me change my mind. She tells me, “I’m not trying to change your mind, I’m trying to just put a few other thoughts in there. Because I don’t want you to lose sight of the big picture, or to only be able to think of the school as bad.”

I shake my head. “I’m well aware of the good things they have done. But those things happened when I was agreeing with them. I say no to one thing, and their true colors came out. I am not going to change my mind. It is what it is, and I am fine with how things are. I don’t need these people to like me, I don’t need them to be my friends. And I don’t trust them, at all, to,do what’s best for my kid, and not follow their own agenda.” 

We go back and forth a few more times. Bea feels very argumentative to me. Why is she so firmly not on my side? It feels like she is disagreeing with me, just for the sake of disagreeing. I have this thought, that if I told her the sky was blue, she would argue it was not. 

I had been writing to Bea since that email that sent me over the edge; unfiltered, raw, honest writing, that I wanted to give her today. Maybe. But now, I really can not give that to her. I felt conflicted over giving it to her, anyway, and this weirdness, Bea’s antagonistic behavior, all of it has made me certain there is no point in talking. 

We’ve fallen silent in the last minute or so. “Well, we’ve talked a lot about Kat, and school, and you did need to talk about that, but I wanted to talk about this weekend. Are things feeling better now, with the week routine back in place?” 

I don’t say a word. I simply float away, I can’t talk to her about this. I want to get up and leave, but that seems too final, too scary. 

Bea asks again if things feel the same, or better. 

“Sure, they’re better.” I sound far away, even to myself. This isn’t good. But Bea doesn’t even seem to realize I’m really far away. Whatever. 

“You were really judging yourself this weekend, pretty harshly. I don’t think of the cutting, the throwing up as bad. You really had gone through a list of coping skills, and you needed what worked, the familiar survival skills, so to speak.”

I don’t respond, I just stare at the floor. 

“Rory was on vacation this week, too?” She asks me. I nod. “And Monday was a week since Kay texted you?” I nod again. “It’s no wonder things felt so bad. I left, Rory left, and Kay had been gone a full week. That had to feel very scary.” 

“It was fine. I was fine.” I tell her. Even if she is right, I don’t want her to know how that felt. I don’t want to talk to her. Bea isn’t Bea today, and I don’t like it. She said she wouldn’t leave, she said she would come back from vacation, but she didn’t come back. She’s not here. 

I think she attempts to talk to me a few more times, but I’m not responding. When it’s silent again, I say, “I feel like you are waiting for me to say something.” 

“No, I was just trying…my head was spinning in different directions and I was trying to figure out what was the best way to go, what would be most helpful.” 

“Why?” I ask her. 

She pauses, takes a breath, and says, “I know this isn’t really going well right now. I still feel like I’m in vacation mode somehow. I’m still in a headspace of reading and going for walks and relaxing and not being very present or attuned to alone. In therapy, I usually feel this….kind of openness, this way of being that is open and able to really feel into your experience and be with you in this. Today…..it’s like, well, I don’t know, it’s like I have a wall up right now. Maybe I’m protecting myself.” 

Miss perfect smiles, and says easily, “I always feel like I need a vacation after my vacation.” 

She responds, agreeing with me maybe, but also says something to the effect that she would be mad if her therapist returned from vacation and wasn’t really here. 

I shake my head, laugh a little. “It’s okay. Really.”

I think I say something about the weirdness being from me, I have the okay bubble firmly in place, so it’s not like I was talking anyway. Bea shakes her head, and talks about how if she was open like she normally is, then maybe I would feel comfortable letting the bubble up a bit, and talking. She tells me that she will be better on Monday, things will go back to normal, and jokingly she says she will pop this bubble next week. I laugh, and tell her it’s all okay.  

I don’t know how things progress from there, but somehow we end up talking about dachshunds and swimming. Bea says that it’s no wonder Hagrid doesn’t swim, his short legs aren’t made for swimming. I laugh, and tell her that a lot of people with dachshunds say they are good swimmers. “Besides,” I joke, “dachshunds came from the sea.” 

“They did?” She asks, surprised. 

I nod, tell her abut a book called ‘how dachshunds came to be”. I end up pulling the book up on my kindle, and we read it together. I don’t know what it is about this book, exactly. I just love it. It tells the story of a little girl who is lonely when she has to leave her sea creature friends every night. The sea creatures decided to create a friend for the little girl, — they choose the best of their attributes to give to this new creature (like a long nose to nuzzle and cuddle the little girl, and a tail that can wag to show happiness and love– and with magic, love and the power of the sea the dachshund is created. And the little girl has a friend who will always be with her.

A Real Relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh. Wow. Are you going to see her?”

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

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

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

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

“Yes.” I nod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I feel so guilty.” I whisper.

“Because you aren’t happy for her?”

“I should be.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nod. Slowly.

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

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

I nod, letting her know I hear her.

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

“My mom is going to see a nutritionist.”

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

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

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

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

Hagrid’s barking, and Bea’s laughing.

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

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

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

I nod. “Can you just talk?”

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

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

Status

Anxiety

I am having some major anxiety today. After yesterday’s season– which I will post about eventually– I took a long walk and did some processing and sorting. Then I emailed Bea. It’s been 24 hours, and she still hasn’t responded. I’ve kept busy– grocery shopping. Swimming, 2 yoga classes, cleaning. Playing with Kat. But I’m almost topped out for anxiety and vulnerability and I’m so close to closing off and saying screw it, I don’t need her. Why oh why hasn’t she responded?