Breathing to be grounded

“I don’t know. I just don’t know,” I’m mumbling, my words can barely be heard over the hum of the air conditioner in Bea’s office.

“What is your breathing like?” She asks me, again. She is ever patient.

I continue to stare at the floor. I can’t tell her. I don’t know. I have no idea what my body is doing. I don’t want to know. The idea of trying to know makes me feel panicked. I can’t do this. I feel frozen, but what I really want to do is run out the door.

Bea is still determined that I learn to recognize some of my body signals and use breathing to ground myself. I’m extremely resistant to this idea, and I can tell this makes her curious, but she hasn’t questioned me, or pushed me on the why yet.

Bea starts explaining the idea of grounding and using breathing to ground oneself. She is demonstrating how to use belly breathing again. I’m doing my best to block out what she is saying. I don’t know exactly why, but everything she is saying is making me want to go far, far away.

I scoot back into the corner of the couch, as far as I can, and scrunch into myself as much as I can. I don’t think of it then, but now, writing this, I wonder what Bea saw, noticed, thought. I hug my knees to my chest, and hide my face in my legs. I make myself as small as I can, and I start to really dissociate. This doesn’t work completely in my favor, though, because as I begin to leave the present, I start to have a flashback. And then I’m shaking, and terrified, and helpless. I’m back in hell.

Bea notices this, and she asks me where I am. “With him,” (him being my abusive ex-boyfriend) I manage to choke out, my voice sounds foreign to my own ears.

She reminds me that I’m safe, that I’m here in her office, that it’s not then. A part of me is aware of this, my flashbacks never take me fully “back”, I always retain some degree of awareness of the present, but that doesn’t lessen the fear or the dread that I am feeling. She asks if I want to tell her what is happening.

“Yes. No. I can’t. I can’t.” I’m shaking and terrified, there is no way I can share what is happening in my head. I hate myself. If she knew, if anyone knew, they would hate me, too. I’m sick over what I did, over what happened, I can never let someone know. I’m so confused, so lost, so alone.

Bea doesn’t say anything. I can imagine that she is looking at me. I try to curl into myself even smaller. “You’ll hate me,” I finally get out. I have to turn the words over and over in my head for a good ten minutes before I can actually form them and get them past my teeth, lips, tougne. Talking in therapy is hard work.

“I won’t,” she says, “but you need to feel safe telling.”

At this point, I am getting more and more lost in my memories, and more and more upset. Again, I turn the words over in my mind, and I struggle to squeeze them out through my throat, past my teeth, I am barely holding on and I know I need something, and so I manage to say to Bea, “Please. Just talk.” And so she does.

Bea talks, and talks. I don’t remember what she talked about to be honest. That’s the idea, though. Nothing calms me like someone talking about simple, everyday, mundane life stuff. So Bea talked, and I gradually came out of my flashback.

I’m calmer on my drive home, but things still feel slightly hazy and surreal to me. I decide that I will send Bea an email and ask her if we can talk about talking because I don’t know how to do this. How does one ever really begin to share the painful details of a sexually abusive relationship?