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. 

Advertisements

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.

Broken (trigger warning)

I’ve been MIA for a little while, and I’m sorry about that. Things have been messy. I haven’t posted about my therapy sessions because I’ve been so dissociated, I start having trouble remembering what happened before the session is fully over. Normally, I can leave session and write down some notes of what happened, and that helps me to remember so I can write about it later. But now, well, I just don’t remember enough to even write some notes. I’m here but not here and the feeling is so strong right now, I feel floaty and gone, yet I’m able to present a perfectly present appearance. How is that possible? I don’t know. Bea once told me I have a talent for dissociation. Perhaps that is all it is– a talent. Yet it feels like a curse at times because then the people I need to know I’m not okay, can’t see it.

I feel broken. I don’t have any other words, just broken. Bea is convinced that the problem is not the past this time, but current day struggles. I don’t know. I think she is wrong. My current day life is triggering a lot of past stuff. I don’t know. I hate being in conflict with Bea. I need her to see my stuff from my view, my side, regardless of what she really thinks. But I don’t want her to lie or placate me, I trust her because of her honesty. So it’s all very messy. I don’t know what I want. I’m lost, I can’t see the forest from the trees. Or something.

I see my past everywhere. I was sitting at a cafe, downtown today, and a man walked by wearing sandals. Triggered; a guy wearing sandals. He wore sandals all summer long. I put my daughter to bed, and I’m laying in her bed next to her, rubbing her back and singing our pacifier song, and I’m seeing, feeling, thinking of him rubbing my back and what’s happened next. And I can feel the anxiety, the anticipation, the fear, sometimes the excitement I had then. At my daughter’s age, when he put me to bed. I’m upset and hurt and feel abandoned because no one saw, no one saved me. I wanted someone to save me. So no; it’s not my current day life, not exactly. Of course, Kat is signed up for school for the fall now. That is triggering and anxiety producing and it is current day problems. Our nanny is leaving to go back to school herself. That is a current day problem that is scary and upsetting. I’m still unable to talk to hubby, to get him to be really emotionally present with me. Which is causing fear and the feeling that he has left me. So yes. There are current day problems. Which are probably adding to this. But that’s not all this is. And I don’t think Bea gets this. And some of whatever this is, some of this huge broken feeling is just something I can not put words to right now. So I can’t make someone understand, because I have no words to explain.

I can fake okay for short periods of time. But really, I’m not okay. I’m so far past not okay, I’m broken. And broken is bad. Broken is scary. Broken is a very dangerous place to be. I don’t get to this place often. The last time was after I left the boyfriend, found out I was pregnant and had an abortion. Before that, it was when I was 15; late spring, early summer, I think. And before that, it was the October I turned 14. And maybe when I was 9; but that time I was really hiding the broken feeling, even from myself. So I’m not sure I’m right about that.

I’ve emailed Bea, and told her I feel broken. I wrote that broken and not okay means that I am eating and throwing up and cutting, it means that everything feels messy, and unorganized, out of control and it’s hard to do much beyond what I have to do to function. But there is another kind of not okay when I’m feeling broken. It’s the not okay that I claim is okay. It’s the other extreme, the bubble. It’s restricting, still cutting, being organized and scheduled and on top of everything and completely in control. And it works, as long as I don’t have to admit to not being okay, and as long as I don’t allow any of the negatives, the ugly, the scary stuff and bad thoughts into the bubble. I can feel myself swinging towards the other end of this, the okay that really isn’t okay. So, I wrote to Bea, I told her that I had to let someone know I’m not okay, before I get to that place of denying anything that might pop the bubble.

I don’t think she got it. She seemed intent on telling me to try something new, that this was current day stuff, and I don’t need old behaviors that I use to deal with past stuff to cope with current day stuff. She said something about being glad I emailed, and glad I could define not okay. That clearly I don’t like what I’m doing and feel it’s unhealthy, so trying something new now, because it’s current day problems, would be good. Doesn’t she get it? If I knew how to do something else, if it was that easy, I’d already be doing it. I’m not ready to give up the ways I cope. But I know I’m losing control of myself, of my life. I don’t know.

I called Kay, yesterday. I told her I’m broken again. She didn’t have a lot of time to talk to me, but she told me is okay, I’m okay, she’s here. She reminded me there is nothing I can do or say that will make her leave me. And she reminded me I can call her anytime, anytime at all and she can be to me within an hour if I really need her. So I have a “safety net”, so to speak. And Kay gets it, she knows what broken means. She’s been there for broken before, and helped me get the pieces put back together.

I’m not going fall apart completely, not on the outside. I have my daughter to care for. In a way, it’s harder, because I know if she wasn’t around, I wouldn’t be struggling as much to appear normal and fine. I’d just let myself fall apart and get it over with. Instead. I’m struggling to hang on and function. Which is the good part; I’ll keep going until I get the pieces put back together, because Kat still needs me.

When the past and present collide

I need to place a trigger warning. I feel like there is a lot of triggery stuff in this post. It’s taken me a few days to even decide to post it. I’ve been raw, and triggered and afraid. And this post is raw and vulnerable, and authentic. It just also is probably full of little triggers. So please take care when reading.

I’m sitting in the car, writing a note to Bea. It’s been one of the hardest weeks I’ve had in a long time. I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell Bea that, or if she will notice. I’m in that place– the here but not, able to function and smile and pretend okay, for the most part– place. Even though the bubble is gone, even though I can’t pretend like before, I can still pretend enough to fool most people. I’m not sure where Bea falls these days. She felt the way my parents made me feel, she finally got the feeling I kept trying to explain to her, so she might pick up on it. But I’m not sure. So, I’m writing her a note. Because I am pretty sure I can hand her a note.

I walk into Bea’s office, and smile. “Hi, how was the conference? I hope it was better than you expected.” The social graces are immediately out of my mouth, ingrained and automatic.

“Hi, good morning,” Bea greets me. “There were some good things. Actually, a lot of the stuff that was good, I think was useful in terms of Kat.” She grabs a folder and hands me some papers from it. “I copied some of these for you. I thought you might find them interesting. It’s about the neurobiology of attachment.”

I scan through the sheets, and we discuss them. As we discuss attachment, and how this applies perfectly to Kat’s behavior on Friday and how her attachment challenges are playing out, I blink back tears, and grit my teeth. Of course she is having challenges with attachment. I’m screwing it all up. But I can’t tell Bea that. So I attempt to nod and smile at what she is saying.

“So, enough about all that,” she says, turning the conversation to me.

I shake my head, shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know.”

After a pause, Bea says, “I started reading the book and the workbook. I didn’t get very far. It seems simple, to me. Basic. I hope it’s good. I don’t know. Her training was so amazing and great and I just really want this workbook to be helpful and not just…I don’t know. Did it seem basic to you?”

I have to shift my thinking, dig through my fuzzy brain. “No…no. It’s..it seems very ordered. Like step by step. You know? I didn’t get very far. I got really stuck…after the teenage part.”

“Ahhh, yes. I remember, you said that. Did you do the exercise or just read if?”

I stare at the floor for a while. I’m afraid if I answer, she will ask to see it. “Yes, I did it. But I don’t think I did it like they wanted.” I rush the words, afraid if I don’t say them now, I won’t ever say them.

“I don’t think there is a right way to do it, and I’m sure whatever came out needed to come out.”

“I don’t…it’s just..I barely remember it. Those years.” I sigh.

“I’m sure. I’ve heard about the big things, the stuff that had a big emotional impact. But the day to day surviving stuff….well, that would be fuzzy. Those years are hard enough for most people. Let alone trying to find an identity with all the pain you were dealing with….” Bea says.

I’m only half listening. I’m thinking it was like I was two different people. The perfect girl that everyone knew and saw, and the broken horrible person I really was.
“You graduated a year early, right?” Bea asks me

I shake my head. “16. I was 16. I turned 17 that October.”

“That’s young. How did that happen?”

I shrug. “I was smart. And an October birthday. So I started kindergarten young. And then I skipped a grade.”

“When did that happen?” Bea sounds a little surprised. I’m not sure she realizes how smart I really was, or how much my parents really pushed.

“Middle school.”

“Do you know why? Or how?”

I shrug. “I was bored.”

“Who instigated the move? Do you know?”

“Probably my parents.” I sound bitter. Maybe I have a right to be. I don’t know.

“You’re having a hard time staying here today,” Bea says. So she has noticed. I guess I haven’t been hiding it as well as I thought from her.

I shake my head, clench my fists and dig my nails into my palms. “I have had a hard time staying here this week.” It feels like I have to fight with myself to admit it.

“What happened this week?” Bea asks softly.

I shake my head. I can’t. I just can’t tell her. I can’t really tell anyone.

“Do you want to take me through what has happened each day since we last saw each other?” She suggests.

I shake my head. No. No I do not want to do that. For one, my memory has already gone fuzzy for the week, so I don’t have much to tell, except the standard things that happen every week.

“Okay. Thursday we saw each other, and then Friday morning was Kat’s session. And you seemed good. Things seemed good. You sent me that email about perfect, and that was so good, such a place of peace. I did think about you over the weekend, on Monday morning during our usual session time. And I thought I hadn’t heard from you, so things must be good. I did check email, and I did wonder, but I thought we had left off at such a positive point, and so your week was going good.” Bea says.

I stare at her wood floor, and dart my eyes over to the blue rug and back to the wooden floor again. In a way, I’m thankful she thought about me. That she cared enough to think about me. Finally I whisper, “I didn’t know what to say.”

“Ah. I get that. If it can’t be put into words, then how can you send an email?”

I nod. Exactly.

“You look like you are very much feeling like the little girl right now. Vulnerable and alone. But you aren’t alone. I’m here. And you have a grown up part, too. A grown up who is very capable of running the ship.”

“The grown up is messing everything up. She’s not doing anything right.” My voice is dead, flat, hollow.

“How is she messing everything up?” Bea asks softly.

I shake my head. How do I explain that the little girl part of me is triggered and frozen and afraid and hates herself, but the grown up part– the part who is supposed to be able to be in control and be okay and rational and take care of things– is falling apart, is angry and mean and hates the little girl, too?

“Do you want to talk about what made you go so far away all week?” She asks.

“I’m afraid.”

“I can see that. It must be a pretty bad trigger, or something bad that was triggered. I have a feeling you have it written down somewhere in your bag, and you’ll share it when you are ready.” She says softly.

“Of course it’s written down. Everything is always written down. I’m always writing.”

“It has to unfold when you’re ready. We can just talk about how it feels, or how you feel, make a plan for the rest of the day today. You don’t need to share anything until you want to.” She says.

I nod. “Okay. I might want to. I don’t know…..I feel bad.”

“How do you feel bad? Is it bad, like bad because of a memory? Bad because of something you did? What kind of bad is it?” Bea asks.

“I don’t know. It’s just bad. Really bad.” I whisper.

“I’m sorry for this. I should have had a plan in place for you, with me not being here for a day, and you missing a session.” Bea tells me.

I shake my head. “It wouldn’t have mattered. I…it wouldn’t have changed things.” What triggered me, wouldn’t have changed if I had seen her or not, had a plan in place or not. It happened. I think it was bound to happen. And I can’t avoid the trigger.

“Well, maybe not. But you wouldn’t have had to be alone with it. You could have called me, even when I was gone at the conference, you could have called me.” Bea says. She has that tone in her voice that says she means business, but her voice is still kind.

I laugh, just a little. “I won’t call you, Bea. For Kat, sure. I’ll call. For me? No. I wouldn’t have called, plan or no plan.”

“Well, I want you to know it’s okay to call. You can call me. For you. Some therapists think that you shouldn’t allow clients to call you. I think, the kind of trauma and attachment work I do, it’s a tiny world sometimes, a lot of times I’m the only one who really knows everything. And I’m acting as your secure base. So if calling me, and touching base for a few minutes when you are feeling so bad, like now can help, I think that’s okay.” Bea explains her viewpoint, quietly, confidently. I don’t respond.

I think it would be wonderful to call her sometimes. Yesterday, I thought about calling her. When I couldn’t breathe, when I was sobbing, hiding in my closet, frozen. I thought about calling. But I didn’t have permission from her to call, I didn’t know if it was really okay. Now, I have permission. But I still don’t ever plan on calling. I won’t be that needy. I won’t allow myself to behave like that, no matter how much I want to.

“I lied to hubby yesterday. He asked if I was okay. I told him yes. And then I had to call the nanny to come get Kat,” my voice breaks, and I blink away tears, “Because I’m not okay. And that is no good. I have to be okay. It’s the rule. I have to be okay. Always. All the time, I’m okay. But right now, I’m not okay.”

“I know. I know you aren’t okay. But we are going to get you as grounded as we can, and we are going to make a plan to keep you safe before you leave today. It’s going to be okay. It’s okay to not be okay. You don’t always have to be okay anymore.”

“How could I just lie to him? And then to not even be able to take care of my child? What’s wrong with me?” I cry.

“You obviously didn’t even feel safe then, admitting you weren’t okay to him, and you called the nanny, you took care of yourself and Kat. You used your available resources. Just like your are using your oldest resource– dissociation– right now. We don’t want you to always rely on it quite so much, but you are doing what you have to in order to get through this.” Bea says.

I don’t respond to her, I don’t know what to say. I am staring at my bag, debating about getting out my journal and handing it over. I’m not sure, though.

“Let’s try to be as present as you can be, okay? Whatever from the past that is intruding in your now, it isn’t happening. It’s over. It’s just me, and you here. And you are safe here.” Bea tells me.

“I don’t want to be present. I don’t want to have to feel. Being present hurts,” I say. Because half the problem is my present. It’s not just my past right now, it’s my present that is triggering my past, and my present that is making me feel guilty and ashamed and like I want to disappear.

“I know. I know it does. I think you have to feel it to move through it, to get past it.”

I shake my head. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t get it. I pull my journal out of my bag. I sit, just holding it for a minute.

“Is that a new journal?” Bea asks.

“Yeah. I go through them quick. You know.” I go through a journal every few weeks. It depends how much I write on my iPad journal, how much I handwrite into my journal and how much I handwrite onto loose leaf binder paper. Yeah. I really do write and draw and doodle a lot.

I flip through the pages to yesterday’s entry. Where I finally figured it out, exactly, and got it into words. I stare at it, flipping through the pages, thinking. Did I really want to do this?

“It looks like you drew something in there? Some bright colors?” Bea says.

I flip open to that page and hold it up. “I was just doodling. I was having a panic attack.” I shrug. It’s nothing.

“It’s really very pretty. Did it help?”

“It was better than just sitting there.” The remark comes off slightly smart, but it’s not meant to be. It’s simply the basic truth. I’m not sure it helped. But doodling mindlessly is better than sitting there panicking, and I can’t write when I’m that worked up. So, I doodle.

“It looks like it’s even hard to think about handing your writing over,” Bea says gently.

I nod. “It’s just that…I didn’t write this to be read. It’s not..”

“Not edited. Not neat. I know. It’s like giving a piece of yourself up. It’s very private. I know.”

“And messy, messy thoughts. I write emails for you. I write this for me.”

“It’s authentic and personal. I’m okay with messy and authentic and personal. And I respect and am very honored every time you have let me read what you have written for yourself.” Bea tells me.

“I’m not so okay with being messy and authentic.” I say quietly.

“I know.”

I slowly place the ribbon between the pages of my messy, personal writing, to save the place, and close the book. I hand it to Bea. And then, for the first time, all session, I bury my face.

“Believe anything is possible.” She reads the quote on the front of my journal. It’s one of the reasons I chose this journal. “I like that.” And then she starts to read. I think I might be sick. I hate myself. She is going to hate me. She’ll have to call hubby and have Kat taken from me. I don’t know. I’m a bad, bad person.

“It’s the age,” she says. She isn’t done reading, but she’s gotten the gist, most of it. And so now she knows. And yet, she sounds kind.

She finishes reading and pauses for a moment. I sit, my face buried in my knees, arms wrapped around my legs, curled in the fetal position sitting up. I pick at my fingers, dig my nails into my palms. “My daughter is my trigger,” I say. She’s read it all, she knows now. My voice breaks and I cry. My daughter is my trigger. I can’t look at her without being triggered. I can’t see her without seeing me. I hate myself. I hate the little girl. I look at my daughter and I see me– the little girl me. I hate the little girl me. I look at Kat and I see someone I hate. As if that is not enough, the present me then hates herself for feeling this way. And this hatred, this anger I feel at myself is so intense, so big, so all consuming, I am burning alive in it. I had thought I hated myself before. But that was small compared to this. This is painful and huge and it feels like pieces of me are dying inside.

“This,” she says, “this is so normal. So common. It’s the age. She’s the age you were. It’s projection; you wrote it yourself. You look at her and see you. It’s so normal in situations like yours. It’s okay. A lot of people hate the little girl.”

I sit, numb and far away. I’ve spent my life dissociated. It’s a skill I’ve earned, and perfected. How to be dissociated and still here enough to listen, to know what is happening. If I don’t write it down, if I don’t record it on paper, it will turn fuzzy and I’ll forget. But I can appear to be paying attention and there, yet still be far away and safe.

“You wrote it here, what you see, what you feel and think. ‘But I see her and then I see me and I’m scared and overwhelmed and so, so mad because how could I do those things? What the hell is wrong with me? I am gross, a child whore, bad, wrong, it’s not okay, not okay, and then I yell at her….when I should be yelling at me.’ You aren’t any of those things…..” Bea is reading my words to me, and I can’t listen. I’m cold and numb inside, as soon as she begins quoting me. That sense of dread, that things are real now.

I can’t say it. I can’t tell her I hate the little girl. I should, I know I should. Bea already knows, really. But I can’t say it. “I’m a horrible person,” I say. It’s the closest I can come to telling her she is right.

“You aren’t. Let’s think about this rationally. How much control, how much power does a five year old have? How much control did the little girl have?”

I don’t answer. My head is spinning. None. No control. All of it. The little girl seduced him. She did it. She had no control. She had all the control. No matter the answer, I lose.

“She had no control. She couldn’t stop it, she didn’t do it. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t cause it. She had no control over anything–” Bea answers her own question, but I cut her off.

“Stop it! Stop!” I scream the words at her, but she continues speaking.

“Little girls don’t have power like that. She had no control–”

“STOP IT! SHUT UP! Just shut up!” I shout at Bea. I’m shaking. I’m scared of her words, and I’m mad at her. How can she say this? How can she talk like this?

“That’s right. Get mad. Be mad about this. Get mad at me,” Bea says. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I realize she is trying to make me see, trying to get me out of this dark place and pull me back into the sunlight where she is firmly anchored.

“I don’t want to be mad. I can’t feel it. I don’t want to be mad, I’m not okay, I can’t do this,” I tell her.

“You can. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t anything the little girl did. Little girls don’t have power like that. The little girl wasn’t in control.” Bea says firmly.

Suddenly, I’m scared. There is no mad in me, just fear. Little girls don’t have power; I don’t have power. I’m frozen, I curl up as small as I can. “Please stop. Please just stop. Please. Please. Please stop.” There is no anger behind my words now, only tears.

“Okay, okay,” Bea says. Her whole tone of voice changes. She doesn’t sound firm anymore. She sounds gentle, like she is talking to a child. Maybe, in a way, she is. “It’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I tell her. I don’t know why I’m apologizing. Just that there is this big feeling inside me that I need to say I am sorry.

“You don’t need to apologize to me. You have nothing to be sorry about.”

“No….I don’t know. I just….it’s just this…maybe because I am sorry for crying, or whining, or for not being okay, or for being needy or taking time, I don’t know. I just….just say okay.” I fight to find an explanation, where this need to apologize comes from. It’s the best I can do.

“I don’t think you are whining, or being needy, or anything else. But I’ll say okay.”

“I’m damaging my daughter. I’m so afraid. Of everything. I’m not okay,” I say softly. It’s almost a whisper, really. My biggest grown up fear. That I’m going to damage Kat beyond repair.

“No, you aren’t. She’s okay. You are taking care of her. She has support people in place. She is okay.”

“I have to make this stop.” As I say the words, I see the same picture in my head that I’ve been seeing all week. Fifteen year old me, cutting my wrists. The picture is on replay, on a loop in my mind. It pops up at random times, at times when I am feeling lower than low, at times when I want to disappear, at times when I want everything to stop. I’ll never copy that image; I could never hurt my husband and child and parents like that. But sometimes, it feels safe to envision an out.

“I think when you find compassion for the little girl, it will stop. I think you have to feel this to be able to find the compassion. You were finding it, I believe that. But just like in child development, when we move forward, there is sometimes regression. I’m not surprised you fell into this bad place. You were in a peaceful, positive place. Now you’ve regressed a little. And that’s okay. Healing isn’t linear. This time, you have more resources, more support than before. You know what it feels like to feel peaceful and authentic. You’ll get back to that place, I believe that. But it all starts with compassion for the little girl. Maybe…..maybe when you are feeling so badly about how this is all effecting Kat, maybe that is where your compassion is.”

I don’t respond, yet again. But I take her words in, roll them around. Think about them. Maybe.

“Have you talked to hubby since he asked if you were okay?” Bea asks, breaking into my thoughts.

“No..no. I haven’t said anything. I can’t. He’d hate me.” The tears start up again. Two rivers, flowing down my cheeks.

“I don’t think he would hate you. I think he would understand, if it was explained to him. Or you could just tell him you are having a hard time, that you need some extra help right now,” she suggests.

“No,” I sob. “I have to be okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.”

“Except you aren’t okay. And that’s the old wold talking. In your new world, it’s okay to not be okay.”

“I can’t. He’d hate me. He’d take Kat. What am I supposed to say? Our daughter is my new trigger and I’m freaking out all over the place and I’m so not okay and I’m really dissociated and and afraid?” I wish I could sound sarcastic, but I don’t. I sound like a scared little girl, who can’t stop crying.

“Yes. I think that would be a perfect thing to say.” Bea sounds very matter of fact.

I cry. While I cry, I think. “Can he call you? So you can explain it to him?”

“Yes, absolutely. He can call me,” she says without hesitating.

“What time?”

“I have appointments most of the day, but I should be done around 7. So, say anytime after 7:30?” Bea tells me.

I nod. “Is that too late?” I don’t want my craziness, my wrongness, to disturb her evening.

“No, it’s fine. If I don’t answer, leave a message and I will call back as soon as I can,” she says.

“Okay. Maybe I’ll tell him.”

“Okay,” Bea says, and her voice sounds firm now. “We are going to make a plan. What you are going to do the next few days to stay safe. If we make a plan, write it down, I know you will keep to it. So we are going to make a plan to keep you safe.”

Her voice makes me feel like I am in trouble somehow. It’s the school principal, I mean business voice. “I just…I need a minute. Please.” I whisper.

“Okay. I do want you to have a plan to stay safe. I feel like you need to have confidence in me, that I can keep you safe. No one protected you before. But I will protect you now. I will keep you safe.” Her voice sounds kinder now. It’s still firm, but she sounds like Bea again.

I take a breath. I focus on what I see around the office. I wipe at my eyes. Finally, I lift my head up. “Okay,” I tell her.

We start making a plan. It’s not extravagant, it’s simple and easy to stick to. Where Kat will be, who she will be with. When Hubby will be home. What I will be doing during free hours. What I will do when I have Kat with me. Most of it is easy to write up. When we get to my free hours, it becomes harder.

“What are you going to do when you are alone?” Bea asks me.

Hide. Cut. Binge and purge. Panic. Thoughts flit through my mind. I’ll never say them aloud. “I just want to hide.”

“Okay. I know. I know that feels safe. But I don’t think it actually is safe for you. We need to find something to soothe you, something that can feel safe but help you be grounded in the present.” Bea says.

“No. I don’t want…I really just want to hide.” I shake my head. How do I make her understand this?

“What about taking a walk? Going for a swim by yourself?” Bea throws out ideas, probably a lot of them are good ones.

“Those…none of those feel safe to me.” I’m frustrated. We aren’t going to agree on this. I need her on my side.

“We’re taught that it’s not good for people to use old coping skills like this. That it keeps trauma alive. The past isn’t here, it’s not happening now,” Bea tells me. She sighs. “Maybe hiding is okay for a little while. Maybe it’s what soothes you right now. Is there anywhere you can hide that isn’t your closet?”

“I….I used to go to the beach. To hide. To get away.” The words come out softly, jerkily. I don’t always like to think about that time of my life. When I would go and sit, in the sand and beach grass and watch the water, listen to the waves, feel the sand trickling between my fingers. I could close my eyes and just be. I could be anyone, anywhere. That was my safest place.

“I suppose your beach now doesn’t count?” She asks, smiling.

I shake my head. “No…it’s..no.” It’s busy. The whole neighborhood is always there. Houses are right across the very narrow street. It’s not the same. My deck is more private, quiet. I can see the water from there, and I am surrounded by trees, leafy and green. Maybe I could try sitting out there.

“Okay. Is there anything else that might work?” She asks.

“I…you know what I really want to do? I want…………I want to drive to the airport, buy a plane ticket and go to my Grandma.” I blink back tears, again.

I think I may have surprised Bea, a little. She doesn’t know that is my ultimate running away plan. I have Kay to run to, and my friend Reagan. But running to Grandma in Florida is my biggest, safest running away plan. After a moment, she asks, “Is that a possibility?”

“No. Not now.”

“You want to go to your Grandma’s because she is safe. She would take care of you. You want to feel taken care of right now,” Bea says. She gets it.

“I can’t go to my Mom, because I would have to take care of her.” I sigh. Even if I ‘let’ my mom take care of me, I would still have to pretend to be okay, and make everything perfect, and that is how I would be taking care of her.

“I know,” Bea says.

“I’m being so selfish,” I say. I want to kick myself. I have a child to take care of. A child who has become my biggest trigger. And I’m talking about how I want to run away to my Grandma so I can be taken care of. I’m selfish and mean and awful. I need to be trying to fix this trigger problem before it damages my daughter.

“You aren’t. Everyone wants to be taken care of sometimes. It’s okay to want to be taken care of. That’s why I want you to feel like you can call me. So you don’t feel so alone. So you can feel safe and protected and cared for. And that feeling is why we need to make a plan. So you can feel safe and protected. It’s one way I can protect you.”

I don’t respond. I’m not calling her. It’s just not going to happen.

We finish out the session writing a plan to keep me safe for next few days. I won’t see her Monday morning because of Memorial Day, so we schedule for Tuesday morning.

I don’t really feel better when I leave, but I know I’m not alone. And I have a plan.

Small (with hubby & part four)

This is part 4 of a 4 part post series, “small.” Thursday was a messy, vulnerable session, and day for me. I left off in part 3 leaving therapy. I don’t believe this post is as full of triggering material as the other 3, but it still could be triggering, so please read carefully and take care of yourself. Xx

I really don’t want to be alone today. Bea has, of course, made sure I’m okay to leave therapy and take myself home, but I’m still feeling very tiny and alone and scared. I pay to get out of the parking lot, and as I head towards home I have this sense of dread. I’m so afraid I’m going to be yelled at by hubby. And I don’t want to go home and be alone. I’d rather be alone in the car. For a brief moment, I contemplate driving back to Bea’s office and begging her to sit with me for more time. Instead, I take a different risk, one that will actually be helpful in my life. I know if I really need Bea, I can email her, or even text or call her later. I call hubby.

“Hello.” He always answers the phone as a statement, like he is so in charge and confident. I answer with a question, unsure and awkward.

“Hi babe,” I say. My voice breaks, just a little, and I bite down on my lip to control it.

“Is everything okay?” He asks.

“Yeah, I’m just leaving therapy, I’m on my way home, and I wondered what you were up to.” I turn off the main road and onto one of the back roads I can use to get home. I don’t need to be driving in traffic in the state I’m in; overtired, and partly dissocisted, and feeling more little girl than grown up.

“It’s after 10,” hubby says. My session started at 8. He has to know its never good for a session to go over 2 hours.

“Yeah,” I say, and then I take a chance. “I had a rough night last night. I didn’t sleep.”

He’s silent for a minute. I imagine he is surprised by my admitting this, and isn’t sure how to respond. Finally, he says, “Yeah, I know you didn’t sleep and then got up really early. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. When do you have to go to work?”

“I have to be in at 3. I’ll leave about 2 or so. I was gonna tarp the boat because it’s supposed to rain, then watch some tv or something.”

“Will you..I mean, do you think….would you sit with me so I can lay down and try to nap before the ABA nanny leaves?” I stutter and stumble over my words, I’m so unused to asking my husband for things that I don’t know the answer to. I’m so anxiety ridden about his answer that I almost run a red light. He could say no. He could still yell at me for not sleeping last night.

“I’ll lay with you. Can I watch American Sniper while you rest?” He asks.

I breathe out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. “Sure, yeah.”

“All right, I’m going to go tarp the boat then, and I’ll see you at home?”

“Yeah, okay,” I say, but again, my voice breaks and I have to fight with myself to realize that him getting off the phone is not him leaving me. My God, I never knew I had this much issue with rejection and abandonment and trust.

“Is everything okay?” He asks again. Maybe I didn’t hide my hurt as well as I thought.

“Yeah. Yeah. I’m just tired,” I say. I’m not ready to go there, not right now.

“All right. Love you.”

“I love you, too,” I say.

We hang up, and I drive home. When I get home, Kat runs out of the playroom, and shows me something, and then I change into my pajama leggings and a peach colored sweatshirt that I love.

Hubby grins at me. “You waste no time getting back into pajamas!”

“I wanted my cozies.”

I lay down with my heated blanket, teddy bear and a piece of my baby blanket from childhood. Hubby sits next to me, and I end up curled onto his chest in a ball, gripping my teddy bear and blanky in one hand, his shirt in another.

“Hey…..you really okay?” He says, and it’s gentle and soft, and I almost want to say no, no I’m so not okay. I feel young and scared because I’ve been having flashbacks for days and I’m not sleeping, and I just don’t want to be alone, and please don’t hate me and please don’t go to work today, don’t leave me.

Instead I say, “I’m okay. Mostly, I’m okay.” And I close my eyes, and rest in the safety of my husband. Because no matter how afraid I am he will leave me, hate me, be disgusted by me, be appalled and shocked by me, I never doubt that he will keep me safe. It was something I knew about him almost from the moment I met him; he is a man who is safe, and who will do whatever it takes to keep me safe.

I fall asleep for a little bit, and wake up to hubby shaking me. “You’re having a bad dream. Honey, it’s not real. Wake up. It’s okay, it’s not real.” I wake up slowly, and it takes a few minutes for me to stop jumping at noises and feeling really out of it. Hubby is right, I’m okay, and it was a bad dream. I want so badly to correct him though, it is real, it did happen, it’s just not real anymore.

I stay curled into him, and he has his arms around me. He doesn’t move a hand towards anything more than being there, being a safe spot for me. I think, on some level, he knows I’m not fully me right now, and that I’m vulnerable. I think this safety, this being held tight and not alone and feeling like someone will protect you is what Bea is always talking about, what she thinks I miss out on when I won’t wake hubby or share with him. And feeling this, maybe she’s right. But it’s scary too. I don’t trust this, not right now, not yet. Perhaps it’s like when I first started seeing Bea, and she had to prove herself to me over and over, for every memory, every feeling, every thought I shared. Now, I don’t need her to do that as much. I believe and trust that she is there. Maybe, if I keep reaching out to hubby like this, one day I will be able to believe and trust that he can accept, see, love and take care of the vulnerable parts of me? I don’t know.

“I really wish you didn’t have to go to work today, and you could stay home with me,” I say. It kind of slips out, unfiltered. That’s the problem with being more little girl than grown up– I have less of a filter.

“Awww, me too, baby, me too.” Hubby brushes my hair off my forehead, and runs his hands through my hair, combing it.

I close my eyes and rest some more. My feelings are hurt, but not as badly as if I had outright asked him to stay home and he’d said no.

When 2:15 rolls around, hubby starts to get up. I clutch him tighter, I don’t want him to leave me alone. Alone is scary.

“Honey, I have to go to work. I’ll be home early if I can, okay?” He says, and tries again to remove himself from my grasp. I’m reminded of a toddler clutching a parent’s leg, not wanting to be separated.

I shake my head. “Okay,” I say, and then I start to cry. And that is when all hell breaks loose, and I beg him to stay home.

“Babe….honey.” My poor husband looks lost. He has no reference point for what to do with me. I don’t act like this. “I’m sorry. If I had known you needed me to stay home with you, that you felt this bad, I would have called, gotten someone to cover, been on call…..I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I’ll get home as soon as I can, and you can call me anytime if you want or need to talk.”

He means well. But I won’t talk to him then, like that. If he could stay with me, I might try to explain. I already know, though, by the time he gets home, it will be too late. I’m already shutting down, pulling away, trying to close off whatever feelings I can. “It’s okay. I love you. Have a good day,” I tell him. I work really hard to smile.

He sits down next to me. “Honey, if I had known you needed me, I would have worked it out. You come first, you just have to ask.”

I nod. “Okay.”

The conundrum is of course that in order to have him stay with me, I have to risk being vulnerable and admit what I need. That in order to begin to see that it’s safe to be vulnerable and ask him for what I need, I have to do the scary thing, and ask for what I need. It’s almost like a catch-22. And while he says the right thing, and it sounds perfect and reassuring and lovely, I’ve been burned before by believing him. He makes promises like this he can’t always keep, and then I’m crushed when I risk it all and he can’t keep them. I suppose the place to start is by attempting to teach hubby how vulnerable I can actually be. To try to explain to him, and help him understand that I’m so little girl like in a lot of moments, that the little girl part runs the show sometimes, and my trust is easily broken when she is in charge, my feelings crushed, and that things most adults wouldn’t bat an eye lash over can feel like rejection or abandonment when the little girl is running the show.

Every relationship started somewhere right? And in a way, hubby and the other parts of me, the parts that aren’t miss perfect have to start communicating and forming a relationship.