Choices

This is Wednesday, 11/15’s session. It’s the session that led to all the upset and mess this last week. As you will see, a lot came up, but it was actually a good session, and I left feeling quite stable.

Even though there isn’t a lot of movement going on, this session is still very much full of SP type work, so this is another way an SP session might look (at least for Bea and I) , for those of you who are curious about it.

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“Should we start with the nightmares, start there with the sick something bad is going to happen feeling?” Bea asks, after we’ve caught up on day to day things.

I don’t say anything, only offering a shrug. I’ve moved from that adult place to little girl in an instant.

“Or we could check in with the the little girl. She looks sad.”

I still can’t find my words. Everything feels too exposed. I curl up, hiding my face.

“Maybe she’s wishing the grown up would ask for a blanket?”

“Maybe.” I whisper, refusing to ask. The grown up is not going to be pushed into helping the little girl. (Maybe that was more teen…..) Finally, I give up. Sitting here saying nothing isn’t going to help anyone. “Can I have a blanket?”

Bea gets me my blanket, and I hide under it. “Or we could start somewhere else. There are Choices, and you can make them,” she reminds me.

“I don’t like choices.” I say.

“Why not?”

“Because one will be wrong.” There’s a tone of frustration in my voice, this feeling of *why don’t you know that?*

“Where is that coming from, I wonder?” Bea asks.

“It’s spilt 1) having choices and trying to make the one my mom would want, so i don’t mess up and make her upset 2)it’s…..I don’t….ugh….it’s messy.”

“1 is very clear, and 2 is more mixed up, but you are very clear on what 1 is. Why is 2 mixed up?”

“Because. Because, it’s….it’s like I had a choice and made a bad choice.” I’m struggling to make sense of exactly what it is I’m trying to tell Bea. It’s a very mixed up feeling and it’s hard to find the words to it.

“With what?”

“Kenny. But….then…..if it….ugh.” I’m panicking a little bit.

“If what?” Bea pushes a bit.

“If I had choice then why those other memories? And now the sick feeling is back.” The words tumble out, fast, one after the other.

“The sick feeling. Where is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“How do you know you are having it? What makes you recognize it?”

“Because I had it before.” Little girl answer. She is fully running the ship at the moment.

“Yes, lots of times before.” Bea agrees.

“Yeah.”

“Where is it?” She asks again.

Silence.

“Is it in your big toe?” Her tone is light, playful.

“No.” I laugh. What a silly idea. People don’t feel things in their big toes. “In my belly. It’s…butterflies. But not, because butterflies are nice. Something not nice.”

“Butterflies are pretty aren’t they? Maybe it’s like ugly, evil butterflies?”

“Yeah.” I nod. “And it’s hard to breathe.”

“Sit with that feeling, try to stay with it. I know it’s hard.” She says softly. “I’m right here.”

I get panicky, the body feeling, the sick feeling is too much. Bea goes to the feelings, emotions, to try to help separate things and calm down. She explains this idea. But it’s too much and too hard to figure out the feelings. She talks to me about how we can use thoughts too.

“Thoughts are good. That’s words.” I tell her.

“Yes, and you like words. Words make you feel safe.”

“Yes.”

“Do you have words now?” She asks.

I say something, a memory or thought. That it’s all a mess.

“It is a mess. Does the grown up have words to share?”

I struggle to find grown up. Then. “Maybe. I don’t know. Words are easier but not always easy.”

“That sounds like the grownup.” Bea says. I’m struck by how well she can recognize the parts.

I smile because she knows me. “It’s…hard. Because all those details….it’s like when we first took out all the rocks and then looked at them, we didn’t really look at the sharp edges, the details, we looked at the whole rock. It’s easier to gloss over the details and then the little girl can think like……it’s my choice, I started it, I caused it, it was my fault, I did this, I did that.”

“All those old beliefs that she still holds.” Bea’s voice is sad.

“Yeah. When we look at the details then it’s like…..it can’t be a choice when (and at this point the little girl is back in control)…..I can feel…..I can’t move and I want to move but he isn’t letting me.”

“No, you couldn’t move. And that was so scary. But that’s over now, it’s not happening now.”

Silence.

“It’s confusing too, isn’t it? That she feels like she had a choice, and it has felt like that for so long, and then to come face to face with the idea she wanted to move and couldn’t.” Bea is spot on. It’s all very, very confusing. It’s hard to realize something you believed for so long isn’t true, especially when those beliefs have kept you feeling as if you had some control.

“I really want to move. I mean then, I wanted to move.” The past and the present are getting mixed up in my head.

“I know. The little girl, she was alone then, and had no know to tell. But you told me, and I believe you. I believe that you wanted to move and that he wouldn’t let you.”

“You really believe me?” My voice is small, the idea that she believes me and doesn’t think I did something bad is hard to take in.

“I really do.”

I want to ask if she would have believed me then, if she knew me then, but I can’t. It’s too scary to ask.

“Is there movement that the little girl wants to make now? Just take a minute and feel.”

“I don’t know.”

“Does she feel safe right now? Does the little girl feel like she could move if she needed or? Or is she frozen?” Bea tries to help me figure out what the little girl needs to do.

“I…well. No. I don’t know. Yes. Move. But there’s no time left.”

“It’s 10:10. So you have a few minutes.” She says softly.

“No. It’s not enough.” I insist. I know myself well enough to know if I try to do any movement, it is going to take forever and then feel rushed and scary because I don’t have enough time.

“Maybe you could complete one movement?” She suggests. I think she doesn’t want me to leave feeling like something was unfinished, but to the teen it feels like she is pushing because she wants me to do SP.

“No. It’s….it takes too long to decide to move. It’s scary. It makes me feel scared.”

“I know. It’s new. Being able to move is new.” Bea gets it.

“Well I can move my arms, but it’s….when it’s with…like linked to details.” It is strange to me, how scary it can be to move within the context of a trauma memory. I mean, it’s not like I have problems moving in my everyday life.

“I know. That’s a scary thing.” She agrees.

“Yeah. Next time we can try. Not today.” I say softly.

“Okay. Okay, that’s good. What does that feel like? To be in control enough to choose to do something next time?”

I shrug. More questions I can’t answer. I’m tired of paying attention. I don’t want to feel anymore.

“Can you pay attention to what it feels like to listen to the part of you that knows you need more time?”

“I….well. I don’t know.”

“What is it that let you know you need more time? That allowed you to listen to your needs? Can you find that wise part of yourself?” It’s important to Bea that I experience being in control and making a choice, but I’m not sure I want to fully feel it.

I sit quietly trying to figure it out, to feel what let me know I needed moe time, and then finally I say, “Bea. I just don’t know.”

“Okay. That’s okay. ”

“I mean I really don’t know. Not I don’t know because I don’t want to talk about it or think about it or feel it.” And I truly don’t know.

“So there are different kinds of I don’t knows. That’s good to recognize, too.” She says.

I don’t say anything.

“Is there anything the grown up could tell the little girl, to help soothe her?”

I sit for what feels like hours. And then I say, “No.” It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

“That’s okay. We will keep working on this. Maybe this week, just think about what it was like going between the grown up and the little girl, and what it was like trying to get them to communicate.”

I freeze. My heart feels icy and on fire all at once. “The little girl doesn’t want the grown up.” I tell her. It’s as close as I can come to saying *I’m afraid you are trying to cut yourself out. The little girl doesn’t want the grown up, she wants you. And this feels like you leaving— or laying the groundwork so you can leave.

Bea says that it’s okay for the little girl to be unsure about the grown up, that the little girl has to learn to trust the grown up and that can take time. I shrug. I don’t want to talk about this right now.

We wrap things up then, because I have to leave to go babysit Kay’s baby. (Yes, that Kay. We are slowly rebuilding our friendship and it’s a much healthy, equal type of friendship. It’s good.)

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I wanted to Move

Hi all, this is Wednesday’s 11/8/2017 therapy session. It is intense, and there are trauma details written in, so this is a huge trigger warning. I debated about writing leaving details out, and glossing over the intensity of this session but then decided that I wanted to show the the full picture of what a Sensorimotor Therapy session looks like. I decided that I’ve spent enough of my life glossing over details and pretending everything is no big deal. So just be careful when you are reading, take care of yourself. Xx Alice

I’ve been okay for the last two days, and I’ve been falling apart. I’ve had moments where things were just terrible and overwhelming but I managed to hold onto the fact that the feelings would pass. I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t do it. I wanted to hide forever and disappear but I didn’t. I somehow consistently managed to put all the yuck back into the therapy box; not hiding, not pretending, just knowing I needed to function. I did use the busyness defense to help push the ick away, but I was going to be busy no matter what, so why not use it to help myself function?

Walking into Bea’s office brings about a strange mix of feelings. I want her to be proud of me for holding it together. I’m afraid that if she reads in my journal about the bad moments and how I coped, that she might decide I’m just all better and okay. I want to avoid all the yuck, and I want to dive into it. I also wish I had a blanket with eyeholes I could put on my head, because the shame and disgust I feel is so huge, it’s hard not to feel afraid to be seen.

She’s heating up her tea when I walk in. “Good morning, just let me grab my tea.”

I nod, and sit down. I go ahead and pull out my notebook now. I both want to avoid anything deep, and I want to get right to work because I hate when I feel like I wasted time. When Bea gets back into the therapy room, we talk about Kat for a few minutes. Parent teacher conferences are coming up and I’m a little worried about the classroom teacher and what she is going to bring up.

After that, though, Bea asks about Monday. “How did Monday feel for you? Did anything come up after? Did things feel okay?”

Silently, I point at the orange book resting on the couch next to me.

“Should we start there then?”

I hand her the notebook, and wait. Before she starts to read, she grabs me the teal colored fuzzy blanket, and hands it to me. I don’t hide under it right then, but I clutch the blanket like its my anchor to the here and now.

Sick like something bad is going to happen. It’s funny that I can think of it now, but not before. So many words to describe that feeling. So many better words. The words could be apprehension, trepidation, dread, fear, worry, tension, suspense, unease. So many words, and I couldn’t think of a single one. Ugh.

“This is so many words. But this was later, right? When the adult was back online? I still think that the adult you has words, while the little girl didn’t have these complex words. It’s a parts thing. The little girl doesn’t have other words. Adult you does. It’s interesting that the adult could get back online and help find words later, when you were calmer.”

I don’t say anything, but the teen bristles at the use of the word interesting. Why interesting? I hate that word.

I’m okay but not okay. When I left your office I was so off kilter; feelings and other parts of the same image or maybe the same memory, just a different piece were really overwhelming. There is pain and something sharp and too much physical stuff and wanting to move or do something or maybe not after all and it was all so much but it was time to go and that that was okay, it just isn’t always so quick to stuff it all back into the therapy box, just like it takes me forever to pull it all out.

I was okay mostly all day but now it’s night time and bedtime is hard. There’s less grown up here right now, I close my eyes and I see ick. I couldn’t move, he wouldn’t let me move. That came from the image which leads to memory and feelings and everything and it all snowballs. I’m okay, except I’m not.

You asked me about what the adult thinks, what she believes. I don’t know. I know that this is hard. All those words lead to extra shame and judgement and worrying that you see the truth now. I want to tell you the grown up knows the little girl didn’t deserve it. Except, I don’t know. I wanted to explain that the little girl needed too much, that she maybe somehow did this, started it. But it doesn’t matter. Not really. Because the little girl is part of all the disgusting stuff that happened and it lives in my head and my body now, so really, I’m disgusting.

He put _________ __________ in my mouth. I write that, I think that, and I see this image of it happening, I feel it and part of me wants to disappear forever. A piece of me wants to die. It’s just so charged, so overwhelming, so much shame, so much disgust, so much helplessness and all I want to do is go away forever and ever. It’s so much. So much. Too much.

Honestly, you read my folded over paper and yeah, it’s probably good I was a little far away or I might have never managed to stop hiding long enough to leave. Writing this, I want to hide. I’m pretty sure if I could hide forever I would. I think I’d walk into your office with a blanket over my head, if I could. So much fear and so much shame.

I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t. I wanted to hide in my closet forever, but I didn’t. I went on with my life, and that was good, but it didn’t mean no feelings. Some moments were good, and I felt connected to people but boundaries in tact, and sort of just content, that I’m good and I like my life and I’m happy and fulfilled. Some moments were just crap. Awful. All the ick leaking out. But even that was okay, sort of. I always managed to put most of it away, knowing I really only had to hold it for two days and then we would deal with it. Even when I wasn’t okay, I could hold onto the fact that it wasn’t going to last forever and that all the feelings, thoughts, sensations, feelings were in the past. It was hard, but not like times when I’ve been triggered and there is no being okay, no processing whatever it coming up. I feel mostly okay.

“So I know we need to talk about Monday and pick things back up. Can I just celebrate first, though? You felt okay even when you weren’t okay. You managed to put the ick back every time it leaked out, to contain it. You coped without harming yourself. Alice, this is big. This is awesome!”

I shrug. It embarrasses me to have the praise and attention and it worries me because now I’ve set a precedent of being okay. So what happens when I can’t contain the ick on my own? Will Bea be there or will she expect me to do it because I did it before?

“I don’t want to take you back to be triggered and in too deep, so let’s maybe stay away from the memory of the image and see if we can’t focus just on the feelings. Is there movement you wanted to make back then? It sounds like some came up at the end on Monday.”

I don’t know. I don’t say a word. Bea waits, patient as always.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists.

“I can’t.. I can’t tell you! I can’t do this. I just can’t.” I’m frustrated with Bea. I can’t separate out any movement I want to make now from the story of the memory. It’s all the same to me. I need her to know where it’s coming from. I need the words. The words matter to me. But I can’t tell it like I need to because that is not how SP works and because she doesn’t want me to be too far away and I seriously can’t do anything right. I ruin everything.

“Take a minute, okay? Feel the blanket and the safety of that boundary. Remember that nothing bad can happen now.”

“I don’t know what to talk about now.” I whisper.

“Well, reading this, *there is pain and something sharp* can we talk about that?”

I shake my head. “No.”

“Okay. That’s okay. Can we talk about what is going on right now?” She asks softly.

“Nothing.” I mumble.

“Nothing, huh?” She pushes a little.

“I just…I can’t separate everything.” I’m still frustrated. My biggest complaint about all the SP junk is there is no talking about things and it feels superficial because it doesn’t care about the memory, about the words.

“Separate what? What can’t you separate?” Bea’s voice sounds genuinely confused.

“Everything. You want me to talk, but I can’t talk about feelings or physical sensation or whatever without the memory.”

“We aren’t ignoring the memory, the image, I just don’t want to take you so deep, to such a difficult place to be.”

I don’t say a thing. This is why I hesitated to even write the truth of how bad I felt at moments, why I was a little unsure about handing my notebook over. But I wanted her to know, because even when it was really, really bad this time, I managed to cope and to stay grounded enough to realize that the feelings were from the past. But now she wants to avoid the memory anyway.

“Alice? Talk to me.” She really does sound like she wants me to talk to her.

“You don’t want me to!” I cry. I’m hurt. The little girl feels shut down, as if her voice has been taken away.

“What is it you think I don’t want you to do, to tell me. I want to know whatever you want to talk about. It’s not about me. Can you tell me what is wrong?”

“You want to know about…what I wrote?” I ask.

“Yes, I was curious. I knew a lot had come up at the end last time, and I wanted to make sure we got a chance to go over it today.” She explains.

I shrug. Throw the blanket over my head. “I’m hiding now. Okay?”

“Okay.” And her voice tells me it is okay that I need to hide.

“I…..I can’t tell you…..I mean, I can’t explain it without the memory or the image and I can’t…I just…you don’t want me to tell it.”

“I’m not trying to make you stop telling it. I just want to make sure you are safe.”

“Ugh!” I’m tired of this round and round. “I can not tell you about what I wrote, I can’t talk about feelings and what they are linked to, not without you knowing the memory. I know it doesn’t matter or you already mostly know the memory or something, but it’s important to me. The words and all of it. The story, it matters to me. And I can’t do this! I can’t tell one without the other, I don’t know how, it’s all too twisted up together. But you want….the right way is to tell only one thing and I can’t do it. I’m screwing it up, again. And I just feel like I can’t do anything right.”

She takes a deep breath. “Okay. There is no right way. It’s just what works for us. I’m sorry if that hasn’t been clear, if I didn’t make that clear. We do what works for us. If this is a memory that is too twisted together, then talk about all the parts. It’s okay to do that. Tell the story. It’s not one or the other. It’s okay, you aren’t messing up anything. Maybe you will always need the words and the story, because like you said, they matter to you. I still believe you know what you need.”

I’d been curled up, crying, feeling all the pain and failure of my little girl self every time I did something the wrong way, every time I wanted to do something different than what my mother deemed was the right way. Now, listening to Bea, my tears slow. “O-Okay.”

She waits patiently, and I try to find my words. I don’t know how I’m to explain this to her, how I’m to describe the details. It’s sickening. The shame lives here. I shake my head, tell her this is hard. “Take your time, it’s okay,” she says.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists. And suddenly, we are right back where we started earlier, even having almost the same exact conversation. And that makes me so irritated.

“No!” I snap at her. “He’s…..I can’t move because he is….because….” I want so badly to get the words out, but there’s a blockage in my throat and I can’t talk.

“Because why? What’s he doing?” She pushes.

I look to my left. “I had a bruise. On my arm. I lied about it. I said it was from gymnastics. No one ever questioned.”

Bea says something, some kind of quiet understanding and comfort, some kind of sorry and horror for the little girl to be bruised.

“He….knees……..” Like a traffic jam, my words are all backed up.

“His knees were on your arms? So you couldn’t move?” Bea helps fill in the words.

I nod. “Sharp.”

“His knees were sharp? That’s the sharp and the pain,” she says, almost to herself, because it finally makes sense to her.

“Yes.” I whisper. I look back to my left again, down at my arm. It’s not real, and yet I can see knees right there, holding me in place, and I can feel them digging into my inner arms. Maybe that was easier to focus on than what else was happening. I don’t know.

“You can feel that now?” Her voice is quiet, gentle. The voice you use when speaking to scared children.

“Yeah.”

“Is there anything you want to move now?”

I nod. It’s scary to think about it, to say it aloud. I’m not sure how long it takes. Maybe a minute, maybe twenty. Bea waits patiently. Finally I answer her question. “Yes.”

“Try to just let yourself do it, then. You can stay under the blanket, even. I’m right here.” She says carefully.

I think about moving, but I can’t. The idea of it….it’s scary. So very scary.

“What wants to move?” She asks softly.

“Arms, my arms.” I can feel it. When I think about what was happening, and let the little girl run things, she wants to go away. But if things are slowed down, and we are only looking at one image from a memory, and that leads to emotions and physical feeling, the then everything the little girl felt and wanted to do is sort of pulled apart, and while that urge to go away is the biggest feeling, beneath that is this other feeling. It’s a wanting to move, to pull away, to push him away, to cover my mouth, to turn my head. This scares me though. If I let myself feel this urge to move away, to push him away, then I have to accept that I didn’t want this, that I had no control, that I was helpless, that I didn’t cause it, and that I was not playing a special super secret game with him. And that’s a hard thing to swallow.

“What do your arms want to do?”

“Move.” My answer seems silly now, but in the moment when the little girl was more present than the grown up, it made sense to me.

“What way do they want to move?”

“They wanna do two things. No, three things. Maybe. I think.” I whisper. I’m spilling secrets I didn’t even know I held.

So they want to push? Pull? Cover your mouth?” She gets all of them right, and her saying some of the words first helps.

“Pull away……to the side. That’s first.” I finally say.

“Okay. Can you let them do that?” She asks.

I try. I really try, but I’m frozen. Bea encourages me to focus on the fact my hands, my fingers can move. (And now, as I’m writing that I got a picture of my fingers always moving, of holding on to blankets, sheets, grass, my yellow fluffy rug, whatever was there to hold onto. I guess that’s another something that has popped up since this session I’m currently writing about.) Finally, I manage to throw my right arm to the side of me.

“That’s it! How did that feel?” Bea asks me.

“I….I don’t know.” It feels sort of exposing in a way. But also…..I’m proud of the fact I stayed with the memory and moved my arm.

Bea gives me a head’s up that we have about fifteen minutes left of our time, and then she tells me she has no ten o’clock appointment. “You have a busy day today, and I know that, but if you like we can stay and work on this a little longer.”

“Can we stay?” I feel like if we wrap things up now, it will be hard to get back to this place again.

“Absolutely. So, do you want to try the movement again?” She asks.

“Okay.” I’m a little anxious about agreeing but I can try.

“Maybe try to really slow it down this time, okay?”

“Why?” Teen, snarky and questioning everything.

“Well, studies have shown that it is easier for your brain to remember the new movement and to form new neural pathways when it’s a slowed down movement.” She’s not surprised with my why question. She’s never surprised when I want to know why we are doing something or why she wants to know something. And why never seems to bother her.

“Oh.” Is all I can say. I think about moving slowly for a while, “That’s a scary idea. It’s safer to move fast.” I hear the word, and wonder why it’s safer and not easier. Bea wonders, too, and so she asks. “I think it’s like the…..if I’m fast enough then no one will see me…..it’s still a version of hiding.” I explain.

“Well, if it feels safer to move fast, then let’s start there. We might need to stay with this for a while. And that’s okay.” Once again, Bea is willing to start where I am. She told me once that is the secret to therapy— to be willing to start wherever your client is at.

“Okay.” I agree.

We work with movement for a while longer, and by the end of session, I’m able to move my arms to the sides, slap one hand over my mouth, and out the other out in a *stop* gesture. We talk about the fact that it still needs to be slowed down and really felt, but decided that we will do that next time. I can’t do more today.

“This might never feel right, and I don’t think this would be good for this first time you are trying some movement, but I can bring my hands up to yours, or hold a pillow so you have something to push against. Sometimes people like to push against the wall. Or maybe you won’t need that.” She suggests.

“I….I don’t know.” I whisper.

“It’s nothing to decide today, just something to keep in mind. That’s all. In case you ever do want something to push against.”

I’m not sure about this idea. “But then I’d be…..pushing you away.” (See? Really not pretending anymore that she doesn’t matter, or the relationship isn’t important.)

“Yes, you’d be pushing against my hands, but I’m not going anywhere. We can talk about that though, if that would feel too hard because of that. It’s all okay, it’s about doing whatever feels right to you.” She’s so calm and grounded and just here. I don’t know how to explain it.

“Okay.” I shrug.

“Is there anymore to do today, or are you ready to come back and be grounded here?” She asks.

“I’m okay. I don’t…..I think we should pick this up next time, but I’m done for today. It’s a lot.” If you had told me even a few months ago that I would willingly be done with something for the moment and suggest we pick it up next time, and believe that it would be okay and that Bea would hold all of that and remember to help me pick it up next time, I’d have laughed. Yet here I am, doing just that.

“It is a lot,” she agrees.

“Even though I moved, it still feels scarier to move. It’s safer to be frozen.” There’s a question in there somewhere but I can’t figure out how to ask it.

Bea picks up on the question anyway. “Well, your brain has had a lot of years where hiding was the only answer. The little girl couldn’t move then, so she did the best thing she could. She went far away, she hid inside herself. And that kept her safe. And she needed to be able to do that for a long time. Now we just have work on teaching your brain a new response. It won’t surprise me of your first instinct is to hide or go far away when things feel threatening, or uncomfortable, but now you know you have another choice. It’s just a choice that we will need to practice, and the more we practice it, the easier it will be to choose it.”

“Okay.”

We end things just chatting about normal stuff. At some point, in between talking about our crazy dogs, or my crazy kid, I pull the blanket off my head and fold it up. It’s a struggle to look at Bea today, and I know she won’t push it, although she gently try to get me to look at her. Finally, as we both stand up and I hand her the blanket, I sneak a glance at her. No disgust is visible in her expression. I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Hey, try to pay attention to how things feel, if they feel better or if other things come up or what feelings may surface, okay?” I’m on my way out when she asks me this.

“Yeah, okay. But first I have to put all that away and go help teach Kat’s class writing and then do lunch duty, take care of PTO stuff and then take Kat to OT. After that, I can pay attention to stuff again.” I smile. In my book, it’s okay to shove things down to be able to function when you know you are doing it, why you are doing it, and there is a set time limit of how long you are going to lock up the crap.

“That’s all right. Just when you are done, see how you feel. See what is coming up. I’ll be curious to know.” She smiles at me.

We wish each other a good day, and I head out.

Trauma– it’s in the details 

Bea’s drinking coffee today, and so we talk about coffee. I love coffee, it’s my favorite drink. I love fancy coffee drinks, simple lattes, plain black coffee and coffee with cream. So, we talk about coffee because it’s easy and simple to do. We talk about coffee because I want to avoid talking about the image I’d finally managed to write about just the night before. 

Eventually though, Bea directs us to our work with a gentle push. “Can we talk about Wednesday, and how that session was for you?” 

I nod. “Okay.” And then I don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say. “It was better than the Wednesday before?” It’s true, but it comes out as a question, maybe because I am questioning what she wants to hear. 

“Yes, that’s good. How was it better?” 

“Well, it just…..I didn’t leave upset. It was better.” I’m looking at down at my hands, sort of here but not here because I know where this conversation is heading. 

“What was it like to talk about and notice some boundaries? Have you noticed them more in your life as we have been working with them?” Bea’s voice is curious. 

“I don’t know. Not really, I guess. I’m sorry.” I mumble. I don’t get why we are talking about boundaries. I guess that is some of what we have been talking about and working with lately. But I don’t know what she wants. 

“That’s okay. I bet you might start to notice. I was just curious because boundaries aren’t something you have ever really noticed or felt before, so I wonder if being more aware of them would change how you felt things.” She shifts in her chair, picking up her coffee cup.

I don’t say anything, just nod my understanding. Bea drinks some coffee, and I drink mine and finally she asks if I did any writing. I pull out my orange notebook. “It’s not much,” I tell her as I hand it over. 

She starts to read, and I start some mindless chatter. “I think I am talking, trying to distract you.” 

“That’s a good thing to notice, you are talking to keep my attention focused off your words.” She looks up at me. 

“I’ll stop now,” I say, and then I keep talking anyway. Bea patiently waits me out. “Okay. I want you to read.” And I stop talking, sitting quietly and hiding my face. 

I’ve sat down a few times to try to write about the image, but I just couldn’t. I don’t even remember the words that brought it up.

“I don’t remember either. I’d forgotten about the image until now but it sounds like this image is really an important thing for us to look at.” Her voice is clear, with a bit of an apology woven into it when she says she had forgotten. For whatever reason I’m not upset about this. Even now, writing it out, I’m surprised that my belief she cares and is here is still so strong, that my crazy mind isn’t using Bea’s forgetfulness as a way to convince myself that she doesn’t care. 

“I didn’t forget….” I whisper. 

“I know you didn’t.” She says, and her words say so much more than that. They hint at understanding that I don’t have the luxury of forgetting, of leaving the images in my brain at her office. 

Wednesday was better. It’s as if something clicked this time. For the little girl, realizing that you still hold the memory as a whole and that stopping talking and looking at the body stuff isn’t about you needing to get away from her and her stuff, that makes SP seem completely different now. Still scary, but not as terrible and awful as it did feel to me. 

“Yeah, of course realizing that, switching that perspective changed everything. It seemed so clear to me, that of course I’m still holding onto this memory as a whole, but the little girl didn’t see it that way. It’s no wonder SP has felt so scary and awful to her. I didn’t know that was what wasn’t making sense for her, I didn’t put two and two together. I’m so glad she knows now, I’m not going anywhere and I’m not letting go of the memory.” 

So, the image. What were the words? About not wanting to be seen or something like that, right? So. I guess I’m still struggling to put it on paper. It’s popped in my head, it’s been on my mind at times, I’ve wanted to write it, I really have, but it’s just so– I don’t have a good word for it– bleck, yuck, ick

“It was really hard to write it out, wasn’t it?” She murmurs. 

It’s true, I think, what you said about trauma, feelings, pain living in the details. That’s the problem. It really could be part of a memory already written or talked about. Looking at one small piece means details and that means no vague descriptions glossing over the things that shame, disgust and terrify me. 

“It really is the details, isn’t it?” She tells me how there are events in her life where if she thinks of the event as a whole, it doesn’t bring up the emotion that discussing and focusing on the details that have stuck with her from event would. I don’t feel better when she says this, but at least I know she gets how much more is in the details. 

Okay. This what I’m going to do. I’ll write the image on the next page and fold it over, so we can talk about it before you read it. And probably just give me a blanket now, before  you read that. I’m sort of just being funny, but also that is just how strong the image is– I want to hide just thinking about it. 

 

I’m hiding my face, but I hear Bea get up to get me a blanket. “I’m going to set this blanket next to you, okay?” She says and I reach my hand out, so she hands it to me instead. “Maybe let’s talk a about how you are feeling right now?”

“I don’t know. Silly. Like I’m making a deal out of a thing that isn’t a deal. The judgey part is real judgey, like just stop being a drama queen and be appropriate.” 

“I don’t feel the way the judgey part feels. It feels bad to have that part here, but that can be a good thing because it means the overwhelmed parts haven’t taken over all the way.” Her voice and words are reassuring; she doesn’t feel like the judgey part feels. “Is there anything the overwhelmed parts feel?”

I think for a moment. “Sick.” 

“Sick like nauseous? Or something else?” She asks. 

“Sick……….sick, like something bad is going to happen.” Without noticing it, I’ve buried myself in the blanket. I’m so glad I’m hidden from view. I’m scared. I don’t want to be noticed.

“Sick like something bad is going to happen.” She repeats my words, just a simple statement, but it’s maybe a question too, a checking to see if there is anything I would like to add to that. 

“It….there should be a word……something else, I don’t know what…..there should be a better word for that though,” I say, stumbling over my words. 

“Maybe the little girl didn’t have a better word. Maybe that was the closest thing she had to describe what she is feeling. Adults, we have more complex words, but little girls have simple words. Sad. Mad. Sick. Hurt.” Bea is always sticking up for the little girl– for me, really. I’m so glad she finds it easy to stick up for the little girl. 

“Maybe,” I say. I realize now that the word I was needing might be dread, apprehension, trepidation, worry and tension, suspense, uneasiness….any of those would have explained it, I think.

“So, when I’m reading about the image and we are talking about it, what is a resource you can use when it gets to be overwhelming to help bring you back to the present where it is safe?” Bea asks. 

I shrug. “Talking works. But you don’t want to let me use that anymore.” Maybe I’m pouting a little bit, but I really don’t understand why if I know that talking about regular stuff helps me calm back down, why we should change what I use to be okay, just because SP says to use body based resources. 

“So, talking is an interpersonal resource. We can still use talking. It is a good way for you to know I’m still here and with you, still on your side. What do you want to talk about?”

“You know. Regular stuff. Everyday stuff.” I’m calmer now, instantly calmer. Talking is my resource, my defense, my way I stay connected or check that my secure base is there. Spoken language, words, are everything. 

“Okay, good. So when you feel like you are really overwhelmed, you can ask for a talk break, okay?” She asks, and I nod my head. “Could you also try to focus on the blanket, the color of the blanket, what it feels like, that it makes a boundary and a boundary can keep bad things out?”

“Maybe. I can try.” And I will try. If she’s not asking me to focus on my breathing and she’s not saying no talking, then okay, I can try. 

“Good. That’s good. So that’s two resources you can use.” Bea’s voice is peppy, like she’s excited I’ve agreed to try a second resource. 

I don’t say anything. I have a million words flying through my head, but each one is scarier to say out loud than the one before it, so I am silent.

“Should I read it now?” She asks me. 

“No….I…well, it’s just…… I wanted to write it just the facts, detached, but I couldn’t. I mean…the words I can’t say. It got messy. It might be incoherent to you. Ugh.” I try to explain. 

“I won’t read it until you tell me to, okay? But I think we’ve learned each other’s shorthand, we’ve created a language that is just ours, and so you might be surprised what I can make sense of.” She reassures.

I nod. That’s true. We talk a few more minutes and then I finally nod my head. “Okay. Read it.” 

“Are you sure?” Bea asks. 

“Yes. Because if you don’t then I’ll be upset later. I’m just scared. Just read it.”

She takes a deep breath. “Okay. While I’m reading, try to focus on the blanket and feeling safe, feeling contained, okay? It won’t do to have you get overwhelmed. And after I read it, as soon as I’m done, I’ll check right back in, okay?” 

I mumble an okay, and Bea starts to read. 

Okay. I see this image from two perspectives. One is from the onlooker’s. One is from the little girl’s. 

I’m little. Sitting or lying down. I don’t know, the angle is off. But he’s big, leaning over me. His, there’s, um, it’s, he’s wanting me to, he’s put, my mouth. Ugh! You know what I’m trying to say. I just can’t say it. I can’t go anywhere. He’s really close.

It doesn’t even take 5 minutes, I don’t think, for her to read it. “Okay, I’ve read it. How do you feel now?” She asks. She sounds like Bea, like normal Bea.

 

I open my mouth but no words come out. I can’t speak.

“Alice, you are too far away, notice the blanket’s boundaries. Nothing bad can happen now. You are safe.” She directs. Her voice is clear and strong and she is able to contain all of this still.

“Safe,” I whisper. 

“Yes. Right now you are safe. I know scary things happened but you are safe now.”

“I still feel sick because I don’t know what you think.” I am so embarrassed that this is what has sent me so far away. Bea’s opinion matters so much to me that I can’t calm down and so I’ve gone away instead. So, I guess I’m admitting to this attachment now. I guess I’m no longer pretending the relationship doesn’t matter to me. 

“Okay. Do you want to know what I think?” She questions me. She’s talking to me like this is normal, as if it’s okay that I care that much about what she thinks, she talks to me as if she is absolutely okay with this attachment I have to her. 

I don’t say anything. I don’t know. Do I? Maybe. She’s never asked me, just always offered reassurances in the past that she is still here, that she isn’t thinking bad things about me, that she isn’t leaving, that she now knows whatever it is I was afraid to share and nothing bad happened.

“It’s not bad or scary,” she offers.

“Then, yes,” I say.

“Right off the bat, I was struck at how powerless the little girl was. It’s a power differential, how big he is looming over you, how scary that was for the little girl. It’s very scary. This is really scary for her. And confusing, I’m sure.” Bea tells me. 

“Even the grown up can’t make sense of it,” I confess. 

She’s quiet a moment. “Does the grown up feel that this wasn’t okay at all, that this shouldn’t have ever happened to the little girl?”

I shrug. Maybe. I don’t know. I want to tell her it’s because the little girl needed too much. I want to tell her that she somehow caused it. I want to tell her that it doesn’t matter really, because the little girl was part of the disgusting stuff that happened and it all lives in my head now and so I’m disgusting and really, she probably wanted it or asked for it or some thing like that. I don’t say any of that though, because maybe that’s right, and maybe that’s wrong, and it doesn’t really answer her question anyways.

“Maybe there isn’t enough grown up online to help the little girl yet. I think really you already answered that question. The grown up doesn’t have to be here to help the little girl. It’s okay, I’m here.” Her voice is full of compassion. She’s here. She’s got the little girl, and she’s got me.

“You don’t think anything bad?” I whisper.

“Nothing bad at all.” She says back.

“Okay.” Little girl whisper.

“What do you feel like now, what do you notice now that I’ve read it and that you know what I think?” She asks. 

I try to focus. What do I feel like? I don’t know what I feel. “I don’t know. But you realIy don’t think bad things?”

“I think plenty of bad things about him! But I think it was a scary thing for such a little girl.” 

“Confusing.” I tell her. 

“That, too. It had to have been so confusing to have someone who is supposed to be your friend, whose attention you wanted, telling you to do something you didn’t want to do, that felt icky.”

“Is is icky. So icky.” I tell her. 

Something strange is happening by focusing on this one awful detail. I’m lost as to how to explain. Body memories. Pain in my privates, gagging in my throat. I want to push him away and then run. But I can’t, I can’t move, he won’t let me. And I’m not okay. This is not okay. I’m pretty sure if Bea could see me she would be asking questions or something. But instead I’m hiding under the blanket and she redirects me to notice the safety of being where I am.   

I spend a minute doing as she asks and then I tell her, “It doesn’t match.” 

“What doesn’t match?” Curiosity in her voice. 

“His words and what he does– it doesn’t match.” 

“No, no they don’t match.” She agrees.

“He said fun and a silly game and I’d like the game and it was okay. But it didn’t match!”

“No, it didn’t match. He was supposed to be someone you could trust. He was supposed to be someone who helped keep you safe.” She validates.

“And I couldn’t move.”

“It was really scary. When scary things happen, sometimes we can’t move.” She says gently.  

“No. He wouldn’t let me move,” I say, my voice is flat, sort of dead with that revelation. I’m scared and overwhelmed. I repeat myself, “He wouldn’t let me move.” And I can see it, his knees on my arms, on the inside of my elbows. There was no way I could move. 

“That’s very scary. We need to do more work with this, next time. This is a horrible time to stop, I know it is, but we need to stop. We need to come back to here and now, where you are safe and nothing bad is happening. I know the bad feelings have been brought up and they are present, but they are still feelings about the past. I know this a bad place to stop now, but try to focus on feeling safe under the blanket.” Bea is speaking softly and I can hear how bad she feels that we are out of time.

“It’s fine. I know it’s time to go.” And I start to shift where I’m sitting, prepare to come out from under the blanket, put on my boots and go.

“Not yet. We need you to be here and grounded before you leave. This is important.” She corrects me. 

“Just talk then.” I say, shrugging. I’m fine with leaving right now. 

“What do you want to talk about?”

“You know. Everyday regular stuff,” I tell her, a little annoyed to be repeating myself.

So she talks and I listen. I come back enough to be more or less okay. We say our goodbyes, Bea reminding me that this is important and we will do more work with it on Wednesday.

Weekend Flashback 

Family Reunion weekend. I should have a lot to say, there should be too many words showing up on this page. Instead, I can’t figure out how to explain the triggered dissociated mess I became. Teen Alice was completely running the show by the end of the weekend. 

I typically enjoy the weekend. In the past, we have hired sitters for the kids, rented a limo and visited multiple wineries on day one. Day two is typically a beach/movie/kid friendly activity day. This side of the family really is a blast. I enjoy them all and look forward to seeing them. 

This year though? We didn’t do the traditional touring of several wineries. Festivities took place at my parents’ house. Everyone brought wine to taste (which was actually pretty cool, we got to try wines from all over the country), activities were set up for the kids, as well as yard games and a photo booth for adults and kids alike. 

It was too much like the parties thrown in my childhood. Being at the house all weekend was just on much for me. The first day was okay. I felt really distanced from everyone, just extremely disconnected from the world, and from myself. 

The second day, my mother and I got into it, and that sent me into a giant tailspin. At first I was so angry with her that all I wanted to do was rage at her. I attempted to vent to hubby, but he just kept saying, “okay” as if I were lecturing him. I desperately needed some feedback, understanding, validation, so I emailed Bea. 

Bea,

I want to throw something. Or cry. Or scream. Or hide in the closet. Or drop a giant bomb and ruin everyone’s lives. Or just run away back to my home and forget about my mother and my childhood home and all that goes with that. 
I’m so angry, Bea. I’m never good enough. That’s the truth. It’s not me being dramatic, or something. It’s just a fact. I’m never good enough for my mother. Oh, when she is talking about me and my life and Kat and hubby, everything is said a if I am still Ms. Perfect. 
But to my face? I’m a giant fucking disappointment and I can’t manage to do anything right. Ugh! Why do I let her get to me like this? And the teen part, omg, she is so strong right now, everything is being colored by her, I know that but it doesn’t stop the feelings. 

My mother is mad because I can’t manage to follow her schedule. I’m sorry! I have an autistic child who is sensitive to crowds and changes in schedules and traveling and sleeping in places that aren’t her own home and I need to do whatever will help my child deal with traveling and transitions and changes. It’s not my job to take care of my mother, I’m not her mom! It’s my job to take care of my child. Grrrrrr. Ugh. My mother got all upset with me because we weren’t doing what she was doing with all the kids downtown/at the beach. Well, Kat had 3 meltdowns and I was dealing with that, so it might it just a little difficult to be right where my mother wanted is to be at that particular moment. But you know, she hasn’t gotten to see Kat at all this weekend, and somehow that is all my fault. But she made her choices to follow what the other kids wanted to do. She could have told them that they were gonna do x,y,z for a while, but she didn’t. She chose to spend her time talking and hanging with the grownups yesterday. 
I’m just so sick of never being good enough. Even Ms. Perfect isn’t perfect enough. 
I’m just so angry right now. What the hell does she want from me? Why isn’t it a good thing that I am respecting my daughters needs and helping her learn to cope with stressful situations and regulate her emotions? Oh right, it’s not okay because that all takes time and being present and dealing with emotions and admitting to not being perfect and it might possibly ruin your perfectly laid out schedule. Argh. 

Oh, and another thing?!?! She’s all upset we haven’t didn’t anytime together this weekend, but every time Kat or I have tried telling her something or asking her to do something with us she gets distracted by other family members, and they get precedence. So how is this my fault? I don’t understand. But somehow it is and I can’t fix it and I can’t be what she needs and I’m so tired, I barely slept last night and I know that’s not helping but ugh. 

You always want to know where’s the anger? Well, here is it. I hate her Bea. I just want to scream at her and throw everything in her face and then go home. Just be done with it all. 

I won’t, you know. I’ll lock it all down and smile and nod and apologize and be appropriate and whatever. But right now, everything in me hates that. I don’t want to be here not here. I don’t want to be far away. But, I also don’t want to be here at all.

Alice 

(Bea’s emailed words are in bold) Sounds frustrating and triggering for sure. As you say, you can’t meet her needs and Kat’s needs both, and your kid has to come first.

Thank you for saying this. I really just needed to feel like someone was on my side. I spent my whole life in that house feeling alone and not good enough and broken. I don’t often feel that way in my real life anymore. But this week….ugh. All those feelings are back in full force. 

 I hope the anger can dissipate enough for you to enjoy the rest of the weekend.
I don’t know what happened. Anger didn’t really dissipate….it just sort of got shoved down. I don’t know. I ended up far away and spacey and trying so so hard to be perfect and do whatever I thought my mom wanted me to be doing. Which basically meant trying to be perfect all the while feeling like a failure in everything. Eventually I just went so far away that being sociable and talkative was too difficult. It was the far away can’t easily orientate to what is happening in the present and can’t get words out. That doesn’t happen often in public—- it’s definitely a teenage Alice thing I think. Of course, that only added to my mother’s annoyance because she felt I was sulking and being unsocial and rude. So….yeah. 

Honestly, I think I was struggling too because we were at the house the whole time, not out at wineries. Being in the house and having a big party in the backyard……well, I lived that as a child. Lots of parties in the yard as I was growing up.

I don’t know. I wavered between angry with my mother and numb and frozen triggered and feeling exactly like teen me trying to be perfect and failing miserably —and honestly, bouncing between all 3 of those feelings, I could feel exactly why I overdosed or cut my wrists. I couldn’t keep going on feeling like that. I couldn’t understand why I felt like that, I felt like I was crazy. I had parents and a therapist who thought I was broken; something was innately wrong with my personality, with who I was. I just wanted everything to stop. I didn’t even care if that meant someone helping me or actually dying. I just needed things to not be like they were. I feel like that’s when I got really good at pretending. I don’t know. It feels like maybe before that time period I did still have a part of the real me, I still had this tiny piece of me that knew who I really was. But that had to go away. I buried that last bit of the real me and learned to pretend and be perfect. Do you know I can be having a panic attack, literally feeling like my heart might explode and I can’t breathe, and I can smile and continue talking like I have not a care in the world? Well, maybe I can’t anymore. I don’t know. But I could at one time. That’s how disconnected I became. Anyway. I think I got off point. 

I guess we are still dealing with teen stuff. Yeah, some of it is present day stuff but mostly it’s teen stuff getting mixed up in present day stuff. And you know what I keep thinking? That was 20 years ago! The Kenny stuff started almost 30 years ago (28 years ago, to be exact). And (at times) it all feels like it happened yesterday, or this morning, or 10 minutes ago. It all feels very right now, it feels present day. Does that make me crazy? 

And…..there was purging and cutting. 😞🙈 I failed there too. I just couldn’t cope. Ugh. It was all just too much.

Alice, 

Ugh! I hope by now you are already heading home. It was just too much, as you say. Do something fun that you like here, in your grown up life now–go for a swim in the lake, or something else grounding and not related to your life at home. Once your now life fully sinks in I think you’ll feel a sense of relief. If not, it’s okay to just be wherever you are right now:)

I’ll see you tomorrow,

Bea

I’m back home, and yet I still don’t feel grounded or safe or really okay at all. I’m still far away, afraid to be more present. Everything is triggering right now. I’m hoping that seeing Bea will help. There’s just too many feelings and memories and mess for me to contain by myself. Even with Bea’s emails, I feel as if I am floating in the middle of the ocean, with no way to get to shore. It’s as if I keep looking and looking for someone to come, but no one does. I’m treading water furiously, but no one is showing up to help me make a raft or swim to shore or call the coast guard to rescue us. When my mother shows up, she wants me to help her stay afloat, she needs my help. When Bea shows up, she is showing up just to be there with me, so I’m not treading water alone. She says we can figure out together how to make a raft, swim to shore or call the coastguard. I hope that seeing Bea will help settle all the parts because I really need that right now. 

You aren’t broken and you don’t have to hide anymore part 2

Trigger warning!! This is the second half of this post. In it, Bea and I talk– fairly in depth– about a teenage suicide attempt. Please read with caution. 

“The suicide attempt,” she says slowly, “Was that it, or did you try again later? Because I would imagine with no one was addressing the pain, with no one trying to understanding why, all those overwhelming bad feelings wouldn’t just disappear. I think that with trauma and these awful feelings, it is normal to think about dying. I know we haven’t talked about it, but you have written before about not wanting to be here anymore, and we have emailed about why you wouldn’t follow through on any plans, and what to do if you felt like you might. But I’m not sure I’ve stressed the fact that I believe when we experience such extreme traumas that our minds find ways to survive, and sometimes that includes the idea that if things get too bad, we can end it. It’s an escape, right? You aren’t crazy for having these feelings. And that why I would imagine that as a teen, those awful feelings didn’t go away, and maybe you tried to escape them again.” 

It is hard to talk, I feel as if I am encased in a thick layer of quilting batting. “I….” I start and stop like that several times. I want my blanket, but I can’t ask. The words won’t come. 

“Do you want your blanket?” Sometimes, it is as if Bea is a mind reader. I nod my head. She gets the blanket, unfolds it and holds it up on front of, letting it drop gently to cover me. I feel cared for when she does this, like she wants me to feel safe, like it matters to her. 

“Okay. See if you can feel this boundary, that you are safe. See if having that solid boundary, feeling the blanket there, see if that will allow you to be more here.” Bea’s voice is soothing and soft. 

I hold up 4 fingers under the blanket. Of coarse Bea can’t see that. “Four……four times.” I whisper. It’s six or seven if you count college after the boyfriend, but I don’t want to go there.

“Four times? You really were just begging for help, for someone to see you and no one did. I just want to tell that teen girl she is seen now, she’s not alone now.” Bea’s voice is kind, but there’s an edge to it, a tone that says she is so angry with the adults in teen Alice’s life. “Did you have to go to the hospital?” 

“No.” I say, finding it funny. My parents couldn’t have me in a hospital. It would ruin that perfect image of our family. Then I think about it, and say, “Well yes, I guess. I mean, sort of. The ER. Not the hospital. I…”

“Did you cut yourself everytime? Or were there other things?” Geesh. Bea isn’t shying away from this. She’s of afraid to talk about it. It feels invasive, in a way, as if she is trying to unlock a box full of my secrets, but on the other hand I am glad that she isn’t shying away from this topic. I’ve never been allowed to talk about it.

I shake my head. “Other things. You know the first time…..before I cut my wrists.” 

“Can you remind me? I’m sorry, I think I need a memory jog.” Ordinarily I would be hurt that Bea forgot something about my story, but since this was a story told only very quickly as to how I lost my therapist Cathy, I’m not surprised that Bea can’t really remember. 

“This is hard to talk about.” I mumble the words. 

“I know. It’s not normal conversation. But it is okay.” 

“It’s….I mean….always it was just ignored. I mean, like, I knew that I was to pretend nothing ever happened. The Kenny stuff…..it might have been known, it might have been ignored, but it was me pretending it away, it was me splitting parts away and not even knowing what happened…..but this….it was just the rules. Don’t talk about it. Pretend it never happened. It’s different.” I try my best to explain, but I’m not sure I’ve made sense.

Even though I can’t see her, I picture Bea nodding. Her voice has that *light bulb* moment quality to it. Something just clicked for her. “I can see that. It’s something that was definitely known to your parents and a deliberate choice was made to cover it up and hide it.” 

“Yes!” She gets it. “So it’s….hard to talk about. I’m breaking the rules again.”

“It’s okay. We can take our time. When you are ready.”

“No….I want to….I think…..it’s just…..hard. And I wanted to say why it is hard.”

“Okay.”

After another long pause, I speak. “I……… overdosed.”

“The first time?”

“Yes.”

“What did you take?”

“Tylenol. Just Tylenol.”

“What happened? Did you tell your parents?”

“I….I’m not sure. It’s fuzzy. I was throwing up. I think they found me. Or caught me? I don’t know.”

“But you ended up at the hospital?”

“At the ER.”

“How did they treat you there? Were they kind?”

“I….I’m not sure…..I don’t remember getting there. I just….I remember when I woke up.”

“What happened when you woke up?”

“I….I was….I mean, it was, my mom was checking me out. To go home. I was. The nurse….”

And then it’s silence because I can’t get the words out. Bea waits, and then she reassures. But mostly there is a lot of silence. Finally, words begin to find their way our of my head and into the room. “It…..I feel like I’m making this a big deal when it’s not. It’s silly.”

“You think it’s silly?”

“Well, it’s just, it’s not even a thing. But I’m having a hard time talking and so it seems a big deal but then when I say it, it will be like, well that’s silly.”

“I don’t think it’s silly. I think it has some significance if it’s a struggle to talk about. Clearly this impacted you in some way.”

“It…..I was……the nurse. He was telling me……I might throw up more and if it was black not to panic it was okay.”

“Because of the charcoal?” Her voice is matter of fact. 

“Yeah. Because they pumped my stomach. And then….I had clothes there to put on. To go home. So he was to help me get up to get dressed.”

I pause again. I can’t tell this story. It’s not even a big deal. It’s not a trauma memory, it’s nothing, and Bea is going to think I’m an idiot. Yet, I can feel the panic in my belly and my chest, I can feel myself wanting to run, to hide, to disappear. 

I know we have to be running out of time and I don’t want to hold this until next time and I don’t want to write it in an email. The words come out in a rush. “There was a catheter and he reached under the blanket….under my gown to remove it. I….I freaked out….” Oh my God, the shame of this behavior is going to kill me. I’m going to die, right here, on Bea’s sofa, of shame. 

“Of course, of course you did. It was a trigger, a trauma reaction. It is a big deal. It was a big trigger. Did anyone realize? How did they react?”

“They……it’s fuzzy….they held me……a shot…..” My words are quiet and I’m pretty far away. 

“They gave you something to calm you down?” She asks, sounding like she can’t believe I was treated that way. 

“A shot. And then he finished removing the catheter and helped to get me dressed.” I can feel the sharp prick in my right arm, the fear inside me of having my arms held down, and then I can feel the fear and anxiety being covered up, blocked somehow, and everything is numb and fuzzy again. 

“Ugh! I’m sorry! You didn’t deserve that! You didn’t need that. You needed someone to see this trauma reaction and help you.” 

“I was just crazy. The crazy borderline girl. It didn’t matter.”

“It does matter. You weren’t crazy. This is revictimization. It’s doctors and other helping professionals not seeing trauma signs and not helping, just treating you like a label, like you were something needing to be fixed. You weren’t then, and aren’t now. You aren’t broken. You aren’t crazy.” 

 
“I just…..I thought something was wrong with me. Just me….being crazy. Acting out. Being broken.”

“Ahhh….the parts didn’t know about each other then. The teen didn’t know all the trauma and how she could be triggered. She had no idea. You had no idea back then why you behaved in that way. It’s not like now, where the grown up you knows about the other parts and has an awareness.”

 
I nod. “Yeah.” 

Bea is not happy that no one saw I had a trauma reaction. She is angry for me that no one realized what was going on, and no one helped me. I don’t know why I do it, but I stick up for all the people who didn’t see, and didn’t help. “It was almost 20 years ago. I don’t think anyone knew about stuff like this then. No one talked about it.” 

“That true, it’s been more in the last ten years that trauma and trauma responses, PTSD and dissociation have been talked about in the therapies world and the medical community. But I still can’t believe– I believe you– but I can’t fathom that not one nurse or doctor there thought to ask you what happened, why you got upset, how you were doing. I know that 20 years ago it was everything was more of a medical model. But it makes me angry for you! You deserved better! You’ve had so much trauma. Adding more from helping professionals, it’s just unfortunate.”

We sit in silence for a few minutes. I slowly pull the blanket off my head, holding it over my face and peeking out over the edge of it like a little kid. I’m still afraid to look at her. I’m terrified of seeing disgust, or disinterest, or something bad. I don’t know. 

Before I leave, Bea looks at me, making eye contact. “We can’t go back and change things now, as much as I wish we could. But what we can do is listen to the teen, and validate her pain and help her see that there is nothing wrong with her, that she is not crazy or broken. We can help her to feel heard and cared for. I hope that she’s listening to this now. Can I tell her something? I hope you know you aren’t alone now. You don’t have to hide any of this anymore. You don’t have to be perfect. I won’t leave, you can’t make me leave, even if you aren’t perfect. I’m here, and I see you.” 

When I finally leave Bea’s office, I feel as if I have been wrapped in a warm hug. I’m exhausted, and sad for what the teen needed but didn’t get, but I’m secure in the knowledge that Bea is here.

Falling deeper down the rabbit hole……..

I’m so deep in this hole, I’m having trouble seeing how I will get out. Thankfully, because of my trauma, my mind created fragments, or parts. The human body is designed to adapt, to survive. Even our minds are made to adapt and survive. I’m not sure if I should be in awe of that or horrified. Maybe both. But my mind was determined to adapt and survive, and in my family growing up, I had to be able to function, to be be perfect and more than normal— I needed to be the all american, perfect, involved, popular, beautiful, smart, little girl, teenager, college student. So Bea has this theory that my mind split into extra parts; it created these “going on with normal life parts” to deal with things. It’s why I am so very, very good at switching from a complete mess to a smiling hostess, asking after a guest, in thirty seconds flat. It’s why I can shut off my emotions, get control of myself, and walk out of Bea’s office after an intense session, as if we just had tea and cookies. So, despite being so far down this hole, I can’t even see a light at the end of the tunnel, there is a part of me that is determined to survive. 

Now, I feel like I better put some trigger warnings in here, but for what exactly I’m not sure. I just know it has been a really terrible week and a half. I’ve used some not so awesome coping skills. I’ve had some not so good thoughts about how to make it all go away. I’ve had a lot of nightmares and confusion over the abuse and what really happened and what it all meant, and as shamed as I am over it all, I’m so tired of being afraid and alone with it all. So, I’m going to write and write and write, and I’m not going to edit myself. I’m going to let it be raw and authentic and me. Because that was why I started this blog, to have a place to be truly, authentically me. I’ve been blessed to have found a community of bloggers who accept me. I don’t have to hide anymore (at least here, in bloggy land). So, trigger warning and all that jazz, okay? 

Wednesday, a week ago, before Bea left for her trip

I’m in Bea’s office, and I’m trying not to cry. We’d been looking at some charts that draw out trauma, and its effects, and I wasn’t having it. 

I’d redraw my own version, which had my “noticing brain” bypassing my amygdala and going straight to the reptilian brain, with the explanation that I was broken. “All that happens when I use my noticing brain to pay attention to sensations, or even emotions, is that somatic scared stuff increases, safety is not restored, and the body is not calmed. Everything is more activated! The alarm is not turned off and the reptilian brain does not calm down.” I had written that if Bea notices my fingers moving and comments on it, I will work very hard to focus on my fingers and stop moving them, I will focus on being very, very still, so that there is nothing for her to notice, nothing for her to draw my attention to because it is not safe. 
Bea nods, it makes sense to her. I’m agitated. In my head, I’m sarcastic, and I’m thinking, “of course it makes sense to her. Everything freaking makes sense to her.”  
“It’s where the disorganized attachment comes on,” She begins. My stomach flips, and I feel cold but hot at the same time. She’s bringing up attachment, she’s talking about me and how I relate in relationships. I spaced out for most of what she was saying, but I think it was basically something like this, explaining how disorganized attachment or relationships that maybe weren’t always safe feeling could lead to the issue of noticing things making me more agitated, not calmer. Bea’s explanation was probably much more conversational and normalizing, but this was what I could find in my search online. If anyone has anything to add, please do! 
“When we feel safe in relationship, we stay within our window of tolerance and our cortex stays functional. When we perceive threat or danger, the SNS arouses the amygdala to prepare for fight or flight. We can experience this as an emotional hijacking; our rational self temporarily nowhere to be found. When we perceive a life threat, the PNS calms down everything, down to the point of shut down. We go numb and freeze. The most well-known structure of the limbic system is the amygdala, almond shaped structures of perception-appraisal-response. Our 24/7 alarm center, constantly scanning the environment for threat or danger, even in our sleep. The amygdala generates the fight – flight response, very important to attachment.
The amygdala is also the core of our interactive social processing and the center of our emotional learning. The amygdala assesses every experience, including relational experience, for safety or danger, for pleasure or pain, and pairs each experience with an emotional valence, an emotional charge, positive or negative, that makes us approach or avoid similar experiences in the future. The more intense the emotional charge, the more neurons will fire in our brain and the more likely we will register the experience in implicit memory. The amygdala operates below the radar of conscious awareness, and it stores all of its responses to experience in implicit memory, outside of awareness.
The amygdala operates much faster than the more complex cortex – 200 milliseconds to trigger fight or flight rather than the 3-5 seconds of the cortex that notices we just got in somebody’s face or bolted out of the room just precious seconds before. So the processing of the amygdala does not have to come to our awareness for an experience to register and be stored in our implicit memory. 80% of the time it doesn’t.
Here’s where that disorganized attachment challenge comes in………. Any emotional-relational-social experiences that are processed before the brain structures that can process experience consciously are fully mature, those experiences are stored only in implicit memory, only outside of awareness. This includes ALL early patterns of attachment. Attachment patterns are stable and unconscious before we have any conscious choice in the matter and unless new experiences change them, will remain stable “rules” of relating well into adulthood.
Unfortunately, for purposes of attachment, because the amygdala is the structure of both our social emotional processing and is our fear center, the negotiation of relationships and the modulation of fear so overlap, our earliest relating, our earliest implicit experience of self can have a bias toward the negative.
If the parenting style of the parent is Pre-occupied: inconsistent, unpredictable, sometimes attentive and loving, sometimes harsh or punitive, sometimes over-involved, sometimes off in their own world –
Then the attachment style that develops in the child is likely to be Insecure-Anxious: the child is insecure about the reliability of the parent for safety-protection; they are not easily soothed; ambivalence: they are sometimes clingy and possessive, sometimes angry-defiant. There is an internalization of anxious mom. There is a focus on others, not on self.
Insecurely-anxious children are likely to become Insecure-Anxious adults: they are subject to abandonment fears; there is chronic vigilance about attachment-separation, there is emotional dysregulation and anxiety, passivity and lack of coping; there can be a victim stance.
In insecure-anxious attachment, the sympathetic nervous system is over-stimulated and under-regulated. The personal can feel flooded with stress, fear of abandonment, panic and not be able to self regulate enough, not enough calming of the parasympathetic nervous system. There is energy for fight; people engage through anger aggression.
If the parenting style of the parent becomes Disorganized: if the parent, even temporarily, is fragmented, disorganized, dissociated; or is frightening, bizarre, abusive, traumatizing to the child –
Then the attachment style of the child can become Disorganized: the child can become, even temporarily, helpless, paralyzed, fragmented, chaotic dissociated; they cannot focus; they cannot soothe.
Experiences of disorganized attachment can lead to an Unresolved/Disorganized adult: there are difficulties functioning; they are unable to regulate emotions; there are dissociative defenses.
In disorganized attachment, “fright without solution,” there can be such a sense of danger or life threat, even the momentum of the amygdala, the flight-fight response, collapses. Only the brainstem is operating. The parasympathetic nervous system over-regulates bodily energy to the point of paralysis and helplessness.”
When she finishes explaining, in that moment, part of me believes her and feels better, because at least there is a reason, a logical explanation that this noticing/mindfulness/being present, makes me feel more anxious and freaked out. At least I’m not crazy and broken. But the rest of me feels off, like she’s just spouting shrink talk at me to make me feel better, but it doesn’t solve anything, and I’m not really understanding it, but I can’t even get to a place where I can ask her about it because I don’t want to discuss relationships.
 I hand her a notebook, a new one, because even when notebooks aren’t finished, sometimes I just really need to change them, get away from what was written in one, I don’t know. So, I hand her a new notebook, it’s slim, and had a pink and turquoise paisley pattern on it. 
I’d written about having awful dreams, and the bad things in my head, and how if Bea could see inside my head, she would know how bad I was, how disgusting and bad, and awful I really truly was, she would despise me, blame me, and she would leave. I’d written about blank spaces in my memory, and having to fill in gaps. I’d written that the words I do have are fuzzy and difficult and that it’s all too awful because everytime I go to find the words in my head, I just panic and can’t think. 
Bea reads. “Mmmhmmm, you are really scared. I’m not going anywhere. Even if I could be inside your head, I wouldn’t think you bad, or blame that little girl. I’m not leaving. Whatever that little girl went through, whatever she thinks she did, she did to survive, and I’m not leaving her. Okay?” 
I’m crying now. I don’t know why, exactly. Bea’s words make me sad. I’m thinking they should make me happy, she is saying she won’t leave, but I’m sad, and scared and crying instead. 
“What’s coming up for you? What’s happening right now?” She asks. 
“I….you don’t know. You don’t know. You only have……those sentences, and I just…it’s not….” I’m continually stopping, shaking my heading and then starting again. 
“Who is shaking their head?” She asks me. When I can only shake my head in response and shrug my shoulders, she says, “Maybe a protector part? Is the the part with that amazing filter? An editing part, maybe?” 
I shrug, and nod. It makes sense. The part with the filter. 
“Can you ask her to step back for a little bit? We can let her know she does such a great job filtering things out and keeping your secrets, keeping you safe, but it’s okay to take a little rest right now. I can take care of the little girl right now. She needs a chance to speak, too. I’ll make sure she is safe.” Bea is speaking in this low, soft tone, this careful conversational tone. She is really here, that much I can tell, shes here and she’s in this with me, and maybe, just maybe, she really means it when she says she is not leaving. 
For a minute, the little girl feels connected to Bea, she feels safe. I even lift my head from where it had been buried in my knees, hiding, and meet Bea’s gaze. All I see is acceptance. All the little girl feels from Bea right then is acceptance, and safety, and understanding. Before I can stop myself, I blurt out, “Everything in my whole life is flipped now. Everything is flipped and I don’t want it to be true, but it is, and I’m not okay, it’s not okay, nothing it okay and I don’t have any words and Its too hard.” And then a massive amount of tears burst free, and I’m doing that ugly crying thing. 
On Monday, the little girl has written something for Bea to read. I referenced it in my blog post, but did not share what it was. *****I’m going to say trigger warning, just in case, because this is a memory about the abuse that is deeply disturbing ******* I had written about how, I have this memory, of bits and pieces, blended up and thrown back at me, of being at the summer cabin. I’m maybe 7, or 8. It’s night, or at least it is dark and it feels like night time. I’m in the hallway, and there is this feeling of I am not supposed to be up and out of bed, but I’m standing outside a room, and Kenny is in the room, with his little sister, my then-best friend. 
There’s more to that memory, bits and peices, mixed up and confusing, frightening, but that was all the little girl had written to Bea about it, and that was enough. 
“What do you mean, everything is flipped?” She questions. She is curious, and open, and even though I’m sort of far away, I can feel that. 
I shake my head. I can’t explain it. I want to, I do, but right now it’s more of a feeling, it’s not something I can logic out and pit words to. And I’m afraid if I try, I might have that breakdown. 
“Sometimes, a person might feel as though they took on the role of the abuser, if they participated in certain situations,” Bea says carefully. “A child wouldn’t be to blame, I would never think a little girl was bad if this was the case. Is that what you mean by everything being flipped?” 
I freeze. I can’t move. She knows. She knows and it is not okay and everything is falling apart. I don’t know how long I am frozen there for. Maybe a second, maybe a minute, maybe an hour. Time has no meaning when you are that frozen. When I move, it’s to sit up and grab my bag. 
Bea is saying something, trying to tell me she doesn’t think I am bad or that the little girl is bad, that she does not blame me, that none of this is my fault. She’s speaking soothing words to the little girl. I can’t really hear her, though. None of it matters. She knows this horrible awful thing. Maybe the worst thing, and it’s too much. I can’t handle it. 
“Stop it. Just stop it!” I shout at her. “Shut up! Shut up, shut up! I’m not doing this. I won’t do this.” And I walk out. 
To be continued in part two………….

I’m just a (scared, little) Girl

I have so much to tell you. It’s been a very busy week.

I had therapy on Thursday. Bea and I talked– well, okay, she did most of the talking– about the email I had sent her on Tuesday. I told her how much I dislike the woods, and how tangled up in memories hiking is for me. I told her how all her questions made me feel, how unsure and triggered and messy I felt. I told her how hard the weekend really was.

And then I wrote to her what I think the little girl felt on that Ferris wheel. I continued the story, writing about the little girl getting older.

I think she was scared. Not at first, but maybe there was a little bit of a nervous feeling when no one else wanted to ride again except him. And maybe she wanted to change her mind, when only he offered to ride again. But she couldn’t, because she had whined and been such a drama queen about wanting to ride again. And maybe she felt a little bit excited, to be alone with him. And when the others left, maybe that was when she felt that first twinge of being afraid. But when they were on the ride, and he moved his hand, she felt very, very scared. And very trapped. Because there was no where to go. And there was no one to ask for help. Maybe she felt bad, being touched, letting him touch her in public like that. Maybe she felt like she was doing something naughty, and that she asked for it by going on the ride alone with him. Maybe she realized she couldn’t ever stop it, that he could do anything he wanted because he was the one in control. Maybe she felt like she might throw up, like everything was falling apart.

And maybe that little girl grew up. Maybe she was so good at pretending nothing ever happened, and making things go fuzzy, and forcing herself to forget that she managed to keep everything bad that ever happened locked up tight. Until one day things started to spill out.

And then everything got messy and confusing and the more she remembered, the more she stopped hiding and stopped pretending, the more confused she got.

What if she told you that she loved him? What if she told you that she thought she was going to marry him? What if she told you that she used to email and AOL instant message him in secret? That she snuck out to meet him, not once, but often? What if she told you that the night she cut her wrists was the night he told her he was engaged, that he was getting married? That she wanted to die? What if she told you she can’t get it straight in her head, what was her choice, when did she start thinking of him as her secret boyfriend and what about everything that happened when she was little? What if she told you everything in her life feels fake and confusing and twisted? What if she told you that he broke her heart? What if she said that it felt like he was the only person in the world who knew how screwed up her family was, and didn’t expect her to pretend and go along with the part she was supposed to play? What if she told you he said she was adult for her age, more grown up than people even their parents age but that no one else would see that or understand? What if she said she’s tired of feeling so alone, and scared? What if she told you that sometimes she just really wants to disappear? That sometimes the things she thinks or does scare her? What if she told you she doesn’t really believe that you won’t judge her, or leave her, or decide that she’s this horrible person, or freak out on her or be horribly disappointed or get really angry but she doesn’t know what else to do, so she keeps trying anyway? What if she told you that this all hurts, actually hurts and that she doesn’t know where to begin to make it better? What if she told you that she’s terrified there is no fixing this, fixing her? What then?

Bea responded that nothing would change for her, and that her heart hurt that I was sitting with even more pain than I had been letting on.

So. Kenny started playing the secret game with me when I was very little; I was five, Kat’s age. And it continued, with me having a crush on him– crushes are not safe– and finally choosing to be with him, believing I loved him and would marry him. It’s all so very confusing. I don’t know which way is up, or what is true anymore. I can’t decide if Bea is right and he hurt me, abused me, raped me, or if I am a liar who loved him, a crazy girl who couldn’t handle the rejection. I just don’t know. It’s all hard to understand and make sense of.

Bea talked on Thursday about how I was almost brainwashed by him, brought into his crazy world and now, as hard and confusing as it is, I’m leaving his world. I just don’t know if she is right. Everything in me says she has to be wrong. It feels awful to think of someone having that much control over me. It’s scary and….I don’t know, unsettling and unsafe. It’s not okay.

I want to run and run and run and never look back until I am so far away from myself, I’ll never be able to find me again. I want to crawl out of my own skin. I don’t want to be here, to be this, to know these things. I want them gone, I want it all gone. I can’t do it. I can’t face my demons. I thought I could, but the truth is, I’m weak. I’m just a scared little girl. I’m not brave, or strong, or in control, or competent, or smart, or anything else people think I am. I’m frightened, and I want to hide. That’s what I am. A coward.