I need him to be wrong 

I had a bit of a breakdown. Not in the traditional sense, but in the way I do breakdowns and falling apart. It started when Bea asked a simple question, way back in November. Things had been messy and up and down for a while, really since my brother’s wedding, and as we talked about the mess, I curled up and hid, in that way I do. I began to tell Bea that I couldn’t do this, couldn’t do any of it, and that it didn’t matter anyway. 

When she asked me what “it” was, I had no answer, and told her again, “it doesn’t matter.” Then she asked why. And my world crashed in upon itself. Frustrated, terrified, full of panic, I shouted at Bea, “why? Why? Because he can do whatever he wants. He can do whatever he wants, and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop him. It doesn’t matter what I do. I can’t keep the scary out, he can do whatever he wants and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop it.” 

That is where is started. 7 weeks later, there has been a lot of up and down. There was a lot of miscommunication, and hurt feelings and being stuck. January 2, I was ready to quit, to walk away and be done. Instead, I went against my instincts and emailed Bea. That started a line of communication, it gave Bea a way in, past the hardened crust of perfection, and it gave me a way out from behind the facade. It was hard. So hard. It was terrible, and excruciatingly vulnerable feeling, and so much shame wrapped up with all of it. But we talked it through, in several sessions, and email. And that brings us to today. 

I obviously haven’t been doing great, I’m struggling a lot to be present and not overwhelmed, and these days it feels as if triggers are everywhere. No where really feels safe. At my session on Monday, we talked more about what had occurred over the month of December, my feeling that Bea had left me, that she just didn’t want to deal with me— which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I sent an email later to touch base, because we had discussed so much and it felt as if so much has happened, I really needed to know that we were on the same page. She confirmed that yes, that covered everything, and we were on the same page.

It’s Wednesday morning, so I drop Kat off at school, and head to Bea’s office. I didn’t sleep much again last night, and I am so, so tired. I am in a hurry to get to her office, to see her. I’ve felt so alone and in so much turmoil the last 7 weeks, it is a relief to feel that she is a safe person again. I’ve been on the edge of tears since around 5:00am this morning. As I’m driving, Bea sends a text, warning me the stairs are slippery, she wants me to be careful. I text back a smiley face, feeling warm and cared for (although I probably wouldn’t admit that to Bea).

When I get to her office, I hurry up the stairs and pause outside the door to remove my boots. It snowed earlier this week, and yesterday the weather warmed up and the snow melted away, turning everything a wet muddy mess. 

“Hey, come on in.” Bea stands up, and opens the door all the way. “I’m just going to go warm my tea while you get seated.” 

I can hear her in the other room, putting her tea in the microwave and turning it on. Her office is warm, and safe. It feels sort of homey and cozy to have her in the next room, warming up tea and chatting with me. 

“The porch isn’t slippery anymore just really wet,” I call to her. 

“Oh good, I’m glad,” she calls back, and we chat easily until she is back in the office, and sits in her chair. 

“Okay,” I say as I’m pulling out my phone, “I don’t want to spend the whole session talking about Kat, I’m not avoiding things or doing that distract you with Kat talk, we just need to talk about her for a minute. We are ending ABA this month, the last day is going to be January 31. She wants to be with her peers, at school. It was her choice to end things even sooner than planned.” 

Bea is excited for Kat, for her progress, for me. I’m happy about this change. I honestly never thought Kat would choose to be with her peers. It’s amazing. I’m thankful Bea isn’t trying to make this a thing about transitions, about things changing, about losing support. It’s a good thing in my world and I’m glad she is able to recognize that. 

Once that is out of the way, she asks me where I want to start. I shrug. Even if I have things on my mind or writing to share, it’s hard for me to figure out how to answer that; it’s almost like it’s too open ended of a question. 

“Well, In your email, the thing that stuck out the most to me was the last paragraph. But I want to make sure there isn’t something else that needs to be addressed from your email, or otherwise. That’s all, that’s why I am asking.” 

“Oh. No….we can start with the email, that’s good.” I’m sitting up, one leg tucked under me right now. I’m comfortable, I’m glad that Bea feels safe again. 

“I wanted to make sure you knew that there wasn’t anything bad about anything you said. I wrote that I wanted to talk about this paragraph so you would know I wasn’t discounting it, that I did want to talk about it all, it was just too much to type. Because it’s important. What you said here, I think about it, and I want to die (and no, I am not going to do anything, everything I said before in regards to safety is still very much a factor). I think that is just how huge those feelings are, or maybe they are feelings from the little girl, maybe these out of control feelings made her feel like she would die back then and so I hid the truth from myself so I could grow up. And now, all these feelings are mixed up, me, teen, little girl feelings of horror at the truth. I feel like I’m going to be talking about this for a long time. This is it, exactly it. You are very right about all this. That’s what trauma is. That little girl couldn’t face the feelings of being out of control, they really did make her feel like she was going to die. So she tucked those feelings away. She was really smart, and so brave, because she knew she had to tuck all those feelings away so that she could grow up, and function. And she did grow up. That’s the healthy adult part of you, right? But there are those other parts, and the little girl, who held onto that truth all those years. She held it for a long time, but she doesn’t have to hold it anymore. It really was that awful back then, but it’s not like that now. She’s not alone now, and she has power now.” 

“It’s still so horrible,” I whisper.

“Yes, it still feels horrible. And it is mixed up and confusing because all those parts of you are working to understand this.” 

I’m more curled up now, but I’ve managed to stay sitting up. I keep covering my face with my hands, moving them away, covering it again. I move my hands halfway down, so I’m peeking out over the top of them, “This is so hard.” 

“It is hard. It’s very all encompassing right now, I know. And, you are right that we will be talking about this for a long time, because this– the realization, working to make sense out of it, to be able to function with that knowledge– this is the work.” 

I’m sort of going between not here and here. It’s a lot of work to not just go all the way away. It’s what I want to do. 

“Can I say something that is a little bit thinky?” Bea asks. “You can say no, that’s okay.” 

I’m grateful for the reminder that it is okay to say no, but I tell her, “I think so. I think that is okay.” 

“In SP, we talk about separating out the core definers. So, right, in this, it’s everything, right? It’s thoughts and emotions and physical feelings?”

I nod. I’m listening, and I’m not feeling a sense of Bea leaving. This feels more like she is working with me to find a way to unravel this a bit, to find a starting place. 

“So, maybe we start with the thoughts that come up, or the feelings, the emotions. We could also start with the body feelings, but that can feel triggering for you, so it may work better to start with thoughts or emotions.” She explains. And she sounds like Bea, like regular, with me in this Bea. 

I don’t say anything right away. I just sit and go a little farther away that I had been. It’s really hard to separate things out, and finding words to describe the feelings is really hard, too. “Maybe…..thoughts?”

“Sure, yeah, that’s a great place to start. We can also just be here, together, sitting with all of this. We don’t have to start anywhere or do anything.” Her voice is gentle, and she sounds so okay with whatever I choose. 

I sit there, quietly for a while, fighting back the tears I’ve been fighting since early this morning. “I think…I think everything….there’s so many……it’s a lot more……I think everything is a trigger. I can’t sleep. I can’t lay down in my own bed.”

“Mmmhhhmm,” Bea does her verbal nod thing, because I have rested my head on a pillow sitting on the arm rest of the sofa, and I’ve wrapped my arms around my head, effectively hiding. “You don’t feel safe in your bed right now.”

“No…I don’t.” My voice is soft as I agree with her. 

“Is it falling asleep, staying asleep? What happens?” 

“I….I..I just can’t relax. I can’t relax to fall asleep. I can’t lay down, that’s a flashback right then. I just stay up until I literally can’t keep my eyes open any more, and then I just fall asleep. Two hours, three hours later it’s a nightmare.” 

“Do you try sleeping sitting up? What about hubby? Is he in bed, too? Does that help you feel safer?”

Without thinking, I blurt out, “No, I don’t (and then I caught myself, thought about editing what I was saying but chose to finish my words the way they had started, because I’m trying this new thing of being more honest with Bea and not hiding who I am or what I think or feel) want him there!” 

“Ahhhhh. So having him there isn’t creating that sense of safety.” 

“No. Nothing’s safe.” Now I’m crying, and I’m annoyed with myself for crying. “Everything is changed. It changes everything. I can’t….he didn’t…” I shake my head. 

“This is a big deal, and it changes a lot of everything. I was thinking though, likely there was a side of Kenny— if you think of internal family systems, so parts, not exactly like your parts, not as separate as your parts, but just the parts that we all have– that did care about you, or didn’t want to hurt you.” Her voice is quiet and soothing. She’s remembering how I was so upset by the idea he didn’t care at all that he hurt me. 

“I….I need him….to be…..” I start and stop a few times, tripping over the strangeness of the words. “I need him to be wrong.” 

“Oh, he was wrong! He was very wrong. He was old enough to know right from wrong and what he did to the little girl was very, very wrong!” Bea is very adamant sounding, and there is a bit of….I’m not sure, it’s not happiness, exactly, but more like she is glad that I am saying these words. 

“I….it needs to be…..I need it to be cut and dried. I….I need him to be…..it just needs to be simple!” I’m falling over these thoughts, and getting twisted up, and the words are alien and frightening to say aloud. 

“It is. It is simple. I’m hearing that this is really important, for it to be cut and dried. Can I hear more about that? What do you need him to be?” 

I try to tell her, and the words freeze in the back of my throat. Clearing it, I find new words. “Why is it what I can feel as if I’m screaming in my head, and yet I can’t say a single word?” 

“I’m not sure. I wonder that, too. I’ve always though it has to do with not having a voice for so very, very long. Is the screaming angry? Or more like wanting to be heard?”

“It’s not angry.” I tell her. 

“So wanting to be heard? If I think of screaming to be heard, it feels like desperation to me.” 

I nod. Yes. Yes. That is is. I feel desperate to be heard, because this…..it needs out. 

“Okay. Then we wait. I’m right here, and I’m ready to listen whenever you are able to speak. You will be heard, okay?” Somehow, she knows exactly what I need to hear. 

Tears come again, and this time they are frustration and fear and relief that Bea is here, all rolled into one. 

“We can sit with the feelings, and just be here, okay?” She asks me. 

I nod. Okay. 

“While we are sitting, can we see what we can do to help you feel safer? I think creating a sense of safety, finding that again, is going to be really important right now.”  

“I can try.” My voice is tiny. 

“I’ve noticed that as we have been talking, you are really curling into yourself. You are really needing to feel safe right now. You know what you need, your body knows it needs safety. So I’m thinking how can we help add more safety in? I could turn around, not be looking at you. Or maybe you would like a blanket, that can feel very safe.” She is speaking with that slow, quiet voice that I sometimes think of as the ‘don’t spook the crazy girl’ voice, except when she sounds like this it is soothing, and comforting and feels very genuine.  

I want to say a blanket, but I feel stupid, so I say nothing.

“A blanket, that weight, having a boundary that can be seen and felt can feel very safe. For a long time, I kept a blanket at my therapist’s office. I used to hide under it all the time. And, we don’t have to do anything. Just sitting here, knowing you aren’t alone, that can feel safe, too.” 

Because she told me she has hidden under a blanket in her own therapy, I feel less silly, less crazy, wanting a blanket to hide under. “Maybe…..maybe try a blanket.” 

“Okay. I’m going to get up to get a blanket, okay?” Because my head is down, she warns me that she is going to be moving around her office. 

When Bea steps near me, she simply holds the blanket up, the way you might hold a sheet up for a person to change behind. I can easily sit up to grab the blanket from her and remain hidden. I pull the blanet over my head, and curl back up. “Thank you,” I whisper. 

“You’re welcome. Anytime you want a blanket, that is what they are there for. Did you want me to turn around?”

“No….no, because it…even though I won’t see you….it….just no.” 

“Because it would feel like I left?” She puts the pieces together easily. 

“Yes.” I admit it, because I’m trying that whole ‘be honest and stop editing’ thing with Bea. 

“Okay. That’s that attachment piece, it is important, and you do need it. I’m just sitting down and I’m facing you,” she says. “Let’s see if we can establish some safety. Maybe you can feel that is is warm under the blanket? And no one can see you, and I’m right here, making sure that no one can get past that blanket. You are safe now. Can you feel that having a blanket makes a boundary?” 

We sit together with that for a few moments. I feel hidden and safer than I have felt in months. I’d really like to stay right here, in Bea’s office, with her keeping watch, me hidden in a blanket, and sleep for a few hours. These are exactly the thoughts I work so hard to never allow to surface or take form– even just in my own head. “I need things to be cut and dried,” I say, “Because……because well…..I need him to be…….” I’m stuck again, unable to let the words out. 

“Well, we know you need him to be wrong, and he was so, so wrong. What else does he need to be?” 

“I……I need him to be wrong, and I need him to be…….” Instead of words, sobs erupt from deep inside. 
“I know it is so important to you to get the words out. It’s okay to let the feelings out, too.” 

It’s a back and forth struggle now, stopping the tears, trying to get the words out, and crying again when the words don’t come. Through it all, Bea is there. There is this sense from her that she is in no rush, that she isn’t trying to get us anywhere, that we can stay right here until I can get it out. That feels safe, too. And so finally, the words come, all in one big rush. “I need him to be wrong. I need him to be bad. I need it to be his fault, all his fault right now because if…if I have to feel this out of control and be my fault, I can’t do it, it’s too much, it’s all too much, I can’t do if, and it needs to be his fault. He needs to be bad.” Then I burst into tears. 

“Oh! Oh! That is too much, way too much. This is not your fault. It is all his fault. He was wrong. He is the one who is bad. Not you, never you. He did bad things, and he was wrong. It’s not your fault at all. Oh, that would be so much, just too much. You can’t be at fault for your own trauma.” Bea is full of compassion and empathy, but also sounds just horrified at the thought I was feeling so out of control and to blame. 

I’m not 100% sure it’s as simple as I am making it out to be, I’m still pretty sure I hold some responsibility, but right now, I need it to be simple. I need it to be all his fault, his wrong, because he is all bad. 

“He hurt me. He was wrong and he hurt me,” I feel whiny, and sad and a little bit mad. 

“He did hurt you. He hurt you and he was very, very wrong. It was his fault. All the blame is on him.” She tells me. 

“But nobody came. He was hurting me, and nobody came to stop it. And he hurt me and I couldn’t stop it, I couldn’t do anything, not anything at all.” I’m crying, and farther away than I’ve been all session. In my head, I keep hearing the r word, but I can’t say it. 

“No, you couldn’t stop it. But you know what? That little girl, she was so smart, and so brave, she knew she could go far, far away in her head and feel safe. So that’s just what she did. And the little girl grew up, and when she felt safe enough, she was able to tell her most awful secrets, because she survived. That little girl is safe now. It’s okay to let it out. No one can ever hurt her again. She’s safe now.” Bea tells the story— a very short version, obviously– with me being smart and brave. That’s crazy to me. I can’t wrap my head around it. 

We sit, and talk, not surface stuff, but not as deep as what we had been working with. We somehow get on the topic of the last month. I think I said I wished I had just told her what was wrong, how bad I felt. But we ended up discussing the stuck and trapped feeling again. 

I’m not sure who started the conversation, but when Bea says something about feeling helpless, during that time, I’m struck by how bad I feel about that. I’m not sorry for how how things happened, I’d do them differently, if I had a do-over, but I can’t change it and the last month brought me here, to this more open and honest place. “I didn’t mean to make you feel helpless,” I say softly. 

“I know.” 

“I would never mean to make another person feel like that.” I can’t let it go. 

“I know you wouldn’t. You aren’t a person who wants to strike out at others when you feel bad. You turn all of the upset on yourself. But feeling that helpless feeling, feeling like I was stuck and couldn’t do anything to get past that wall of okayness you had built, that needed to happen. Because when I took a step back, and went to the thinky place, I could see that these helpless, stuck, trapped feelings, they weren’t about me. They were about you. They were your feelings. When I can step back like that and see that you were sharing your feelings with me in the only way you could at that moment, then I picture myself as a big Bea container, holding all of those feelings so you aren’t alone with them.” 

“Okay.” I smile a little bit. I think that sounds sort of nice. A big Bea container holding all the yucky scary stuff with me. At first I felt like she was placing a barrier between her and I– as in, this is my job, to hold this stuff for you, I am the shrink and you are the patient– but then I realized that Bea has never behaved or spoken like that, and I was being silly. And then I thought of how I sit with Kat in her feelings, and how I do my very best to contain her huge feelings when she is having a melt down, and really, the only reason I can do that is because Bea modeled it for me, and because I care about Kat. So I conclude that she cares, because you can’t fake your way through this. 

We talk about sleep and nightmares. Bea says she knows I know this, but she wants to just remind me of the grounding techniques that help, like naming 5 things I can see, and looking in the mirror to remind myself that I’m grown, or using scents to help ground. 

“I still have vanilla on my nightstand. I never stopped those tricks….I just….” I shrug. 

“What about turning on a light?” 

I feel my face redden. “I’ve been sleeping with the lights on. I don’t want to be in the dark.”

“Understandable. You need to do whatever helps you feel safe. What about Hagrid? Is he still sleeping in your bed?” 

“Yeah. He helps. But it’s like I can’t even…..I’m trapped. I wake up, still in the nightmare and I can’t think enough to even do anything to ground to get out of it.” 

“That sounds really scary, to wake up like that. Do you know how you get out of it? Because you do get out of it. You aren’t trapped forever.” Her voice is curious and gentle, a soft reminder that I’m not still in my nightmare. 

“Maybe it ends? I don’t know. I just….it stops enough that I’m not so trapped. But,…”

“But what?” 

“Then I end up doing things I’m not supposed to do.” I whisper the words, afraid I’m disappointing her, afraid she will be angry. 

“Well, my first thought was to say, ‘Alice use your CARES worksheet.’ But then, I think that’s not what you need right now. You are using the tools you developed to feel safe. That’s what this is about; feeling safe. And so you are doing what you need to do right now. I think that is okay, because this is so big, it is such a shift you are working towards, it’s going to be very unsettling and as long as you are safe– and you know where my concerns lie– then this is okay right now. We can work on this, it is okay. And I accept this part of you, too. This part of you is very smart, and creative, to have found tools that work to make her feels safe. Sometimes using those tools meant she could go to school and learn, or it meant she could attend a social function and not be full of fear. Those things were important. This part of you worked hard at making sure you felt as safe as she could make you. That is important work. And now, we can work to create safety and build some new skills, and that part, she can still use her creativity to help find new ways to cope. It is okay, where you are at just now is okay.” 

“Okay,” I whisper. I believe her. I’m relieved, she’s not disappointed in me. 

We sit together, and it’s quiet but Bea is there, and I’m there– hiding under my blanket– and I’m calming down a little more. Every once in a while, she murmurs some reassurance, that she is there and I am safe, and it is okay to be where I am and feel what I feel and that we have all the time we need to work through this. 

“Those little micromovements, the shaking in your legs, try to let those happen, if you can. Can you feel them? That they are releasing some stress and tension?”

I hadn’t noticed until she pointed it out. I’m still so disconnected from my body, it’s as if things are back to how they used to be, ever since I danced with him at my brother’s wedding. “No….I can’t. I can’t do this. I just can’t. Stop. Stop it. I need this to stop.” I start to cry.

“Okay. Okay. We don’t have to notice anything. Let’s go back to that calm space, where we are okay. We can just sit, and feel safe under the blanket, and no one can get through that blanket. It’s a strong boundary, you are safe, and I’m out here, right here, making sure you are safe.” 

I keep crying. 

“We have almost 20 minutes to just be in the space, to feel that sense of safety.” Bea says softly. 

“Okay. Okay,” I sniffle. 

“And we can let those feelings out, too. That’s okay to do, too.” Her voice feels safe, and I can feel myself starting to relax a little bit. I don’t feel so on edge, it’s not like I need to be on guard. Bea can keep watch for a little bit. I’m safe right now, with her there. 

When there’s maybe 5 minutes left, Bea says, “I’m going to go make another cup of tea, and use the restroom, so you can have some time. Is that okay?” 

“It’s okay,” I confirm. It’s easier to sit up and come out from under the blanket when I don’t feel as if Bea is watching me. By the time she comes back, I’ve folded the blanket and righted the sofa pillows. 

“I’ll see you later today, with Kat, right?” Bea asks. 

I hand her the blanket. “Yes. We’ll be back at 2:30.” I can’t look at her, and she is being very gentle with me, and understanding of that.

She reminds me she is here and that I am safe, and I risk a glance at her. She’s fhe same Bea, looking at me the way she always looks at me; there is no disgust or annoyance or anything negative in her gaze. I look away quickly, and mumble goodbye.

Things aren’t better, exactly, but they aren’t worse, either. And I don’t feel so alone now. Maybe this truly is a time where the only way out is through. 

 

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Deeper down the rabbit hole part 2 (everything is flipped)

Continued from part one……….. (And trigger warning for talk of suicide ideation, negative coping skills, and detailed talk of childhood sexual abuse. Oh, and sweating. Yeah, I’ve been a pretty dark place……so just please be careful reading, okay?)

I walk out of Bea’s office. I can’t feel my legs, so I’m somewhat surprised that they work. I can hear her trying to get me to wait, to take a breath. She’s asking me what just happened, what upset me so much? I can’t answer. I’m a little afraid she is going to stop me, tell me I’m not allowed to leave, that I have to stay. She doesn’t stop me, or tell me I can’t leave, and in the moment, I am relieved. Later, I am hurt. I wonder why I didn’t matter enough for her to stop me? But then I realize that Bea would never knowingly do anything that would use her power in this relationship to make me do something I clearly didn’t want to do. 

It’s not until much later that night that I realize she is leaving for her trip, and that I won’t see her for a whole week. I’m upset about this, but I won’t email her, or text or call. I half hope she will email me, to check on me, but I’m fairly certain she won’t do that. I choose to write to her in my journal, but then realize I’m out of notebooks, and so I grab a pad of blank paper to write on. I write to her, explaining how everything is flipped. I unleash all the confusion, agitation and chaos onto the paper. 

***************************
Bea, 

Everything is flipped. Everything. It’s this big giant mess and I can’t fix it and nothing is okay, and I can not breathe. We’ve talked about it being abuse, that what he did hurt me, we’ve talked about nothing being the child’s fault, you have even said that no matter what the little girl instigated, it wasn’t her fault, that you would never blame her. But the little girl, and even the grown up has held onto this idea of it only being a game, no big deal, nothing harmful. I have held onto the idea that all of this was because he loved me. I thought, it meant it wasn’t so bad, it meant it wasn’t meant to hurt me, it meant he cared and loved me. I needed to believe he loved me. 

Here’s the thing. If he was playing our game with her, I wasn’t special, he didn’t love me. This is ruining everything. It’s ruining every story I told myself, every lie I have held onto. It wasn’t because I flirted, or instigated, or because he just loved me so much he could not help himself, or because he cared. If he had someone else there, was touching someone else then it was him, not me. And then I can not think or breathe any more at all because everything is spinning out of control. I had NO fucking control at all. It just changes everything. 

And flipped in the way you said. In the way you said and I got so mad and left. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have left. Please don’t hate me. I was jealous, too. I hated that he was playing our special game with her. So when he told me that all 3 of us could be special friends, I said okay. I didn’t want to lose him. I’m bad. Really, truly bad. Disgusting. Evil. No better than he is. Omg what is wrong with me? How could I have just….ugh. Ugh. 

I HATE YOU for knowing this. You don’t get to just know. Why did you have to know. Figure it out? It’s not fair! I hate that you know. I can’t deal with this. It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real. 

***************************

Thursday, and Friday, are spent in a dissociative daze. My nights are a mess of not sleeping and bad dreams, and during the day I’m too tired to function, and feeling as if I am being triggered constantly. On Saturday, hubby and I have a major fight. The awful thing is, it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except for the fact that we seem to continually have the same fight, over and over. It doesn’t even matter what it was about, or what started it, it doesn’t take long for our communication to go sideways, and things to get all muddled. I end up feeling really, really bad, lower than I have felt in a long time. If I could have been assured that Bea would respond to an email and that she would be present, I would have emailed her. If she had been in town, I would have emailed her and asked if she could call me the next day (Sunday). Instead, I did neither of those things. I wrote her a letter on my pad of blank paper. 

***************************************************************************************************
Saturday night 9:00pm
Hi Bea, 

I really hate you right now. You aren’t here. I hate you for not being here. How could you make me trust you and believe in you and now you aren’t here?!?! 

I want you to be here. I want to know that if I sent an email right now, I’d get a real response at some point tomorrow. And I want to go to therapy on Monday. But I can’t trust I’ll get a real response because of that one time, and I can’t go to therapy on Monday because you aren’t here. 

I DO NOT need you. I don’t need anyone. I don’t need anyone to be okay, I’m always okay on my own, so don’t even worry. I want to be able to write all the yuck out and get a real time response. Because this is just a lot to hold onto and I’m just so triggered right now. 

You know what? I didn’t want this whole relationship nonsense to matter, remember? I told you, from the beginning, that all this relationship shit did not get to be important, that I was not in therapy for relationship crap, AND THIS IS WHY! You gave me stupid fucking high expectations for what I might deserve, for what relationships could be, and then I wanted some of that in my marriage and somehow now hubby is threatening to leave, and you are gone and I’m alone. So no. YOU ARE WRONG. Relationships are bad. Relationships are not okay. Relationships are not hurt. People shouldn’t be trusted. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. You were so, so wrong. I hate you. I quit therapy. I quit, okay? I quit. I quit, I quit. I can not be who hubby wants right now and do therapy. So I quit. 

~Alice 

Sunday 3:30am

Bea,

I’m sorry. Please don’t leave. I don’t quit. I’m sorry I said I hate you. I don’t hate you and I need you and I just want you to come back. Please don’t quit me. I am really sad right now because you are not here and I’m really lonely. Come back soon, okay? 

~the little girl

******************************************************************************************************

I sent a text to my friend Reagan. She works nights and so she did text me back and we chatted that way for a bit. That helped me calm down enough that a slept for a few hours. 

To be continued……….

Uncomfortable 

Things have been spacey and off all weekend. On Thursday, a close friend of mine comes over, but it feels more like a dream than something that is actually taking place. I feel like I’m separated from the world, as if I’m stuck behind a thick sliding glass door, so all my interactions are muted. Friday, I lose time and don’t have much of a memory as to what I actually did on Friday. Saturday was a “block party” for the neighborhood, which I attended, but I felt as though my behavior was off. Maybe I was too chatty, or not helpful enough, or did not mingle as much as I should have or maybe I wasn’t enough of something or I was too much of something. 
Sunday, I was a complete mess. I lost a few hours in the morning, at least in part because of flashbacks. I yelled at hubby; he was helping me to cut up veggies, and what I saw how he was cutting them, I snapped. I yelled that he was doing it wrong and I would just do it myself and that I did not need him. He was leaving to go fishing later that day, and anytime I am even a little triggered, and hubby is leaving, I yell at him and push him away first. Unfortunately, while I recognize this pattern, he does not see it at all. 
I was on edge all day Sunday, zoned out but uncomfortable, hyper aware, jumpy. I snapped at Kat, and struggled to convince even just some adult part of me that Kat is not the little girl we hate and find disgusting. I ended up texting our old Nanny, and she came and watched Kat for a few hours. That helped. I just could not be mom that day.  
I emailed Bea. And she responded fairly quickly, so we sent a few messages back my forth. But it was a struggle to hold on to the fact that she cares, that she wasn’t blowing me off, that when she writes things like “I am sorry you are having such a hard day”, she means that, and just that, there isn’t a judgement anywhere. She suggests we might try some sensorimotor therapy to build some resources or to sequence what my body has been feeling, depending on what I feel like.
Monday morning, I don’t know what I want to do. I’ve been up since 2:30am. I woke from a nightmare, and the lost a few hours, so by the time I gain control of myself, it’s 7:15 and I am rushing out the door to make it to therapy on time. Driving to therapy, parking, walking into Bea’s building, I feel off, wrong. Part of me wants to run upstairs and hide in her office and feel her presence, but another part of me is fighting this every step of the way. 
I obviously walk in, say hello, sit down in my normal spot on the couch, but I don’t really remember doing so. It’s just blank space. I don’t remember sliding my shoes off my feet, or. pulling my knees to my chest. 
I’m not sure, but I imagine we chatted about normal things for a few minutes. And then Bea asked me a question, something about how I was feeling. It’s where my memory becomes more clear. I shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know.” 
Maybe she knows I wasn’t very there, or maybe she realizes something changed, but she maybe reframes her question, or maybe she starts the conversation over, with brand new questions. I’m not entirely sure. “Let’s start by having you take an internal temperature. Can you do that? Check in, see how things feel? That will help us know what direction to take. If you are so far away that you don’t know what you are feeling, we need to do some grounding before we can do anything else. If you are present enough to know what you are feeling, we can do some somatic resourcing, like we did before.” 
I don’t say anything. A part of me is so angry with Bea, I want to scream at her to shut up. I can feel her waiting for a response, and I finally manage to eek out one word, “Uncomfortable.” 
“Okay, good. So you’re feeling uncomfortable. Can you say more about that?” 
I open my mouth to speak, and then I shake my head. No. I can’t explain. 
Bea is thoughtful. “Is it uncomfortable like tension in your body, or uncomfortable like an emotion?” 
In my head, it’s both. It’s uncomfortable because the focus is on me, and what I’m feeling in my body. I’m uncomfortable because I feel put on the spot. 
“Hmmmm. If it’s hard to decipher what you are feeling, maybe doing some grounding work to bring you back into the room would be a good place to start.” She suggests, lightly.
“Okay.” I say the words, as I’m shaking my head no (I don’t notice this until Bea points it out to me later). 
Bea talks about being here, and now, and how it’s safe in the present, in her office, with her, and me, and how I’m grown up, and far away from bad things that happened, and she points out noises we are hearing, like birds singing and cars driving by. When it’s obvious to us both that I’m a bit more present, she asks me if I want to do some resourcing. “Do you remember last time you felt very out of control, and the body stuff was really front and center for you? We used a somatic resource, pushing away with your hands, and squeeze your legs together, telling yourself how strong your legs are and that no one can move them. That seemed to help give you some control back. I really do want to help you have some control, or at least be working towards a sense of being more in control and safe. What do you think?” 
“I’m scared.” I whisper to her. It’s why I don’t want to do this. Or at least, it’s partly why. 
“We don’t have to work with the scary memories or thoughts or emotions. We are just dealing with what the body feels. This is much less scary and activating if we separate out what we feel in our body, and just be curious about it. Just pay attention to it, see what is happening.” Bea says. 
Ugh. I’m so mad at her in that moment, I want to stand up and walk out. Instead I yell at her. “I can’t separate it out. We did not separate it out before because I can’t. I don’t know how to. It’s too hard.” Except, the yelling doesn’t come out as yelling, because I’m mostly frozen and wanting to hide right now. It’s more of an angry whisper. The little girl is running things, and she is very afraid of this anger. 
“That’s right, we didn’t separate it out before. You’re absolutely right. We worked with the whole memory,” Bea realizes her mistake, and agrees with me. 
“I can’t separate it.” I tell her, emphasizing the word can’t. 
“I can help you with that. We can work on that together. We can practice. It’s okay, it’s a skill like any other.” She is reassuring, and calm, and so certain that this is no big deal.
“Okay.” I shrug. 
“Can we go back to the uncomfortable feeling?” 
I shrug, then nod my head.
“What kind of uncomfortable feeling is it?” 
“Scared. I’m scared.” I tell her
“How do you know you’re scared?”
“I don’t know.” I shake my head. 
“What are you noticing in your body right now, that is telling your head that you are scared?” She pushes.
I shake my head. “Nothing. I just know in my head.” 
Bea gives me a moment, and when I don’t say anything more, she talks. “Sometimes, when I’m hungry, it seems like I just know I’m hungry, but really, all these little things going on in my body tell me that I’m hungry. Like my stomach might growl, and I might feel light headed. Maybe I feel a little bit slow cognitively. Maybe my mouth waters when I think of food. All those things let my mind know I’m hungry.” 
I stop and think about this for a minute. My first thought is that I didn’t think so many things went into knowing you were hungry. I never actually feel hungry. I go off a clock as to know when to eat. I’ve screwed up my body so badly. My second thought is to tell myself to focus on what my body feels. “My heart is beating really fast,” I tell her. 
“Okay, good. So that is one way we know we are scared.” 
Things get fuzzy then, and I can’t stay with it. My heart is beating too fast, and I can’t breathe and I’m scared and uncomfortable and we are talking about my body and it is not safe. It is not safe to feel this, and it is not safe to talk about my body out loud and it is really not safe to bring another’s attention to it. My attention to what is happening in Bea’s office fades in and out. 
She notices my fingers moving, and the very fact that she has called attention to them makes me freeze, go completely still. “It looks like you have gone very still now,” Bea says. 
I start to say something, then shake my head. 
“Who is shaking their head? I’m curious who that is?” Bea says gently. “I’ve noticed today, a part shaking their head no, saying no, even when you are saying yes today. It seems a part of you really wants to connect and a talk and be present, be here, and this other part of you is rejecting all of that. Maybe that part is scared?” 
“I don’t know who. I don’t know!” I tell her.
“That’s okay. We don’t have to know right now. We just stay curious about it. That’s all.” Bea’s voice is soothing and calm. 
I go floaty far away again, and Bea asks me if I can try taking some deep breaths. I try but can’t seem to do much more than barely avoid hyper ventilating. 
“You’re body just doesn’t trust that it’s safe right now. I can see that it’s really hard for you to even take deep breaths right now,” Bea says. “Just keep breathing. Nice slow, deep breaths.” 

Eventually I get my breath back, and then, I start to cry. I’m not even sure why, or what is going on with me, but I can’t stop the tears. 
“There is a lot of emotion coming up right now,” Bea observes. “What’s happening for you?” 
I shake my head again, and this time, I notice it, too. “I just….I don’t know. I feel like I’m messing everything up. Not good enough, or something. Like I did something bad, something wrong. Just I don’t know. I’m sorry.” 
“You don’t need to be sorry. You have nothing to be sorry for. What I’m asking you to do is incredibly difficult. And you aren’t messing up, not at all! It takes a long time, to be able to stay with the feelings and follow them. It goes against everything you have spent your whole life practicing. You learned a long time ago that it was safer to be far away from your body and not aware of what was going on in it. It’s pretty amazing that you have been able to feel the things you have, like your heartbeat. And the you were able to come back to your heartbeat. That’s amazing, it’s not messing up at all.” Bea says softly. 
“I wanted to talk about something. The little girl wants to talk about something.” I tell her, shyly. I’m afraid she is going to tell me no, or that she is going to tell me she isn’t interested or something. I don’t know. 
“She can always talk. Let’s use the rest of our time for her. What does she want to talk about?” Bea is very casual about it, very calm and quiet, so as not to spook the little girl. 
I very quietly get my journal out of my bag and hand it to her. This journal has a ribbon that marks the page, so Bea can easily open the page to what I want her to read. 
I curl up into myself, hiding my face again, and Bea opens the journal.
<><><><><><><>< I’m lost. Everything is triggering me. I’m drowning in triggers. Even yoga is triggering me right now. What am I supposed to do when the things I use for grounding are triggers now? [i wrote about something I’m not ready to share publicly yet] It’s my fault. I never told. Bea, I never said a word. Not that anyone would believe me. But I never told. You know, you have to know, where I’m going with this. I can’t fully think this, it hurts too much. But it’s my fault. Bad. Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad selfish needy self centered needy bad toxic. 
Sometimes I wanted to tell. I wanted it all to end, to be over. 
But then I don’t want it (yes, I wrote it in my journal as of it was currently happening. My mind gets confused sometimes, and I will write as if things are happening in the present) to stop at all because I am special to him, I matter, he cares about me. He loves me. Even my mom only loves me for who I can be and what I can do. 
And I like the touchy feel stuff. Sometimes. But my family is not huggy. My mom is not touchy feely, only hugs for good-byes and good nights. He is touchy feely, and huggy and cuddles me. It just always turns into more. It just turns into our special game. Always a part of our game. But I love him. I’d probably do anything for him. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><

“Mmhmmmm……..oh, I see…..uh-huh….yeah……” Bea is saying as she reads what I have written, and her voice sounds sad. 
“What?” I ask, worried. I’m afraid of what she is thinking. Is she going to kick me out? Is she firing me? Does she think I’m terrible?
“Most children never tell, at least not while they are a child. It would be…..a child’s defense is to freeze, to separate out the reality they can’t face from the reality they can, and so the idea of telling something that is unknowable to the child….you are asking yourself to be super human. No one can expect that. You aren’t bad. You didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing is the child’s fault, ever, just because they didn’t tell.” Bea says. She wants to read me something, so she pulls out one of her sensorimotor therapy books, and some of what she reads to me is helpful in the moment, but I’m pretty spaced out again. 
Bea asks me to breathe, too try to sit up, to listen to what I hear, to look around the room, even if I can’t life my head she knows I can look at the floor. I try, but it’s hard. Bea reminds me that I need to get back to an adult place, that the adult me needs to leave. Somehow I manage to get back to a semi adult place, a semi grounded place.
“My mom wants me to come visit this weekend….she’s been asking and asking….and then she says that if I don’t come this weekend, then she will come to me. So, I guess I’m not getting a choice. I don’t get a choice.” I tell Bea. I’m half pouting, a little angry. “It’s even harder, right now because of all this stuff, and I’m not ready to go to my mom’s right now. It’s too much. So I just…..I don’t know.” 
“I’m sure with these painful memories, it’s brought up old feelings of anger with her for not protecting you. How could it not?” Bea says. She is on my side, on the little girl’s side, and on the teen’s side. 
“I’m not mad……not right now. I’m just….hurt. Hurt. Confused. I made her so mad.” I’m not really hear again. 
“You made her mad? When? In the past?” Bea asks. She is trying to follow the conversation, and she does such a great job at following my crazy leaps and dissociated head, but even she gets lost sometimes. 
I nod. “Yeah. Yeah. I always mess everything up. I did something bad, something wrong, and made her so mad.” I start to cry. 
“Alice, do you realize, this is the same thing you said earlier, that you felt like you did something wrong, something bad? You weren’t sure where that feeling and emotion were coming from. I’m curious if the feelings were old feelings related to your mom. What do you think you did that was bad?” 
“You know,” I say to Bea, stressing the words. 
“The underwear incident?” She asks. 
I nod. “Yes.” 
“You weren’t bad.” She says evenly, firmly. 
“I did a bad thing and she left. She was so mad and she just left.” I whisper, crying. 
“She left. Yeah. That was so painful. You didn’t do anything bad, but it really felt like it. And now, right now, in 2016, you haven’t some anything bad or wrong, no one is mad, and no one is leaving.” Bea reassures me. 
I cry a little more, and we slowly start to chat about nothingness, everyday chit chat, the kind of conversation that calms me down. By the time I say goodbye, I’m mostly calm again. I feel a little shaky, but not horribly so. 

Little girl hiding

The little girl doesn’t want to go to therapy today. She’s not in the mood. She’s angry with Bea. Bea’s the one who left, and it’s been a week since the little girl has seen her. She feels really disconnected from Bea. And Bea is leaving again in a week and half. So what’s the point? Why bother? Thankfully, the grown up part of me is present enough that I do manage to get all the parts to therapy. It’s rather like being a child or teenager and being forced to show up to therapy at times, but the grown up me is nothing if not responsible and always on time, and so off to therapy I go.   

I walk in and stand at the bottom of the stairs for a moment. It feels really hard to climb up the stairs, and go to face Bea. Hagrid runs right up, though, and she greets him, happily. “Hagrid’s here! How’s my friend Hagrid today?” 

I follow Hagrid up the stairs, and walk into Bea’s office. It feels off to be here. Maybe it’s because I’ve been dissociated and detached since the yuck was dredged up, and Bea leaving only made it worse. Maybe it’s because I’m terrified she isn’t going to be herself; that she hasn’t really come back. I keep my gaze down, and whisper “Hi.” 

“Hello,” Bea says, like she is herself and has come back. “I feel like we have a lot to catch up on.” 

I get seated, and fill her in on what Kat has been up to the last week. I fall easily into that ‘here but not here’ space, and chat as if everything is fine between Bea and I. At this moment, the adult me, even if it is miss perfect, is running things, so there really isn’t anything wrong between us at this moment. The issues between us are between Bea and the little girl, and Bea and the teen. 

When I pause and run out of things to chatter on about, Bea switches gears on me. “I want to make sure we have time to talk about you. Should I get out your email?” 

I shrug my shoulders, and pull my knees to my chest, bury my face in my knees. The little girl is back, and she’s embarrassed and upset. She doesn’t want to be here. “It doesn’t matter.” 

“Well I can pull it up, but if there was a different direction you wanted or needed to go in today…..” Bea says. 

I don’t say anything. The direction I want to go in is out the door. I’m shut down and hiding. I can’t do this, I can’t talk to Bea. I don’t trust her right now. She left me, and she is leaving again, and she might not come back as herself.

“I can see that you are very closed off today, that you very much need to feel safe.” Bea says. 

I’m hunched over, curled into myself and continuing to bury my face. Floating, and far away, I’m not really here, but this is painful, in a dull achy way. It hurts to have Bea so close, and not be able to connect with her. As much as the little girl is afraid to trust Bea, she wants desperately to confide in Bea so she doesn’t have to hold this awful chopped up, mixed up, blender memory on her own. 

“It’s really understandable that Kat’s play was very triggering. It makes so much sense. And I was so glad that the little girl found her voice and was able to write to me and share how she is feeling. It’s so important that the little girl can share her feelings. I think we need to be very careful to pay attention to the little girl.” Bea starts off. She’s reading through an email I had sent on Friday. What she had just read was about Kat and how Kat triggered me……….Yesterday. The little girl was triggered in this big, big way by Kat. That’s been happening a lot lately, too. And so I try to find more ordered activities to do with her like board games or baking or something like that because open ended play is just….I don’t know. Hard sometimes. We are playing with the mini princess dolls and the Sofia dolls. So the princes and Prince dolls are like the grown ups and the Sofia dolls are like the kids. Everything was fine, or mostly fine. But then Kat picked up a Sofia and Prince Charming and was like “pretend he was kissing her and that they were in love and going to get married”. I froze and did my best to be neutral about it, but then she had this grownup boy doll pressed up against the Sofia doll, the little girl doll, and I just lost it. Or rather the little girl part took over. I think it’s probably going to be maybe easier if the little girl writes the rest. Just know that it’s not all of me that feels like this, but it’s pretty much the perspective and feelings that have been strongest lately, that I have been dealing with and that I don’t always like………… Bea had replied to the email, but it was our last communication. 

The grown up part of me is embarrassed and my face flushes. I don’t want to even acknowledge the feelings of the little girl. I’m so angry with the child. And the little girl part of me feels like Bea is being patronizing, or not really caring what she is feeling. 

“The body memories, those can be bad, very difficult, but I do think that sensorimotor is the best way to work through them, to help address them. What were your thoughts on that? Did you want to do some work with that today? I want to make sure we have the time to talk about anything you need to talk about. I’m sure there is a lot to update me on, too.” 

I shrug. The child is upset. She defiantly thinks that there is nothing to update Bea on. I had written to her a bit this week, and simply not sent them to her. I had written to her this morning, at 3:00am, after waking from a nightmare. I want to get out the iPad and give her the unsent notes now, so she can read how I’ve been feeling, so conflicted and up and down. I just am frozen and it’s a struggle to move. 

“I don’t think you are in the window right now. It feels like you are having a very hard time staying here.” Bea says. 

I shrug. I’m not in the window, but I don’t want to be. I’m so tired of fighting to stay in the window and be grounded and be present and be here. 

“How was the rest of the week? Has the grown up gotten to be more in charge? Have you felt more grounded, been able to use your resources?” Bea is asking. 

“No….not…..” My voice sounds too quiet and the words are stuck in my throat. “Not so much.” 

I don’t know how much time passes after that. I am getting spacer and spacier. I know Bea is trying to talk to me, to find something that sparks my attention, gets me feeling connected to her, understood and cared for, so I’ll feel safe enough to talk. The adult knows Bea is trying so hard, and that she is being real and authentic. The little girl believes Bea is just telling her what she may want to hear. She’s not sure Bea is really here. And I’m so fuzzy and blurry and far away that I can’t feel if Bea is here, or herself or not.

In the end, I manage to hand Bea my iPad so she can read my notes I’d written to her.

So…….the grown up me is sort of ping ponging between being just not here or very very angry. And it’s really not good because the grown up is so mad at the little girl, and some of that mad has come out at Kat. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not, but the grown up is aware enough to know its not good to be taking out anger she feels at the little girl at girl, so she just shuts down, detaches, pulls away and everything is numb and flat. That probably isn’t much better, because then I’m pulled away from everyone, especially the person my anger is coming out at and that person just happens to be my kid. 

Otherwise, the little girl has been running the show. She isn’t in a good place. She is in a very bad, very not trusting, very not happy place. She’s always hearing things twisted and placing negative meaning to other people’s words. She is also hateful to herself and hates her actions, but more so she is afraid– terrified, really— that others feel the same way about her the way she feels about her self. She sees everything as rejection, as a sign or signal that she is failing, not living up to the perfect she needs to be. 

I feel like if I was in my “new-normal more grounded accepting calm state” I would have read the whole email from you and felt understood and supported. But the little girl is really the one running the ship these days, and so I’m not feeling those things!

What a hard time for part of you to have to be a parent–yikes! I’m glad you were able to hide and get yourself to a safe place, even if not as long as you probably wanted.

Like this, I feel like you are thinking I’m not being a good parent and it makes me afraid to keep talking about anything. It makes me afraid to say how much snappy quick sharp anger has come out at Kat this last week. I know it’s because I’m mad at the little girl. 

It’s challenging your functioning and depleting your resources. Be gentle with yourself!

All I keep hearing in my head is “why doesn’t she know I can’t be gentle with myself?” And “why couldn’t she just tell me it’s okay to talk about it all? She didn’t say it’s okay to talk, she really doesn’t want me to talk.”

I get that you feel like you are disgusting. I don’t have those feelings, but I get that you do.

This should one of those parts of an email that make me feel really supported and much, much better —–the second sentence of ‘I don’t have those feelings’ would usually help me feel better if the grown up was in charge, but right now, with the little girl being more here, it doesn’t help. She’s just angry at you and I don’t understand why. All she wants to do is scream at you, “No, you don’t get it! You don’t get it at all!” 

Hi Bea, (from the teen speaking for, maybe with, the little girl)………

I’m so very mad at you. And I don’t really know why. And I don’t want to be mad. You push me to talk about this stupid wedding that he will be at. You dredged up so much yuck. And then you tell me that the next week you will be out of town. And you left, and it didn’t feel like you were there by email. It doesn’t feel like you want to deal with me. Why do you keep pushing dealing with the wedding? Ugh. I don’t even want to think about it. But you know that. I wrote in my last email some of my most hidden thoughts and feelings about it, finally, after you have pushed and I have not said a word, I say something. But you didn’t even really respond. 

I don’t understand why I’m so upset with everything. I understand that it might be old feelings, things from the past, but It doesn’t feel like that. It all feels now. I feel like you don’t want me to talk, that I’m not allowed to be me, that you don’t want to hear all the bad stuff, that you are going to leave if I talk and about all the bad stuff because you will be disgusted or angry with me, that I’m not doing anything right, that I’m messing up everything, that I’m all alone no matter what I do. 

I don’t even want to come to therapy today. I feel so disconnected from you, it doesn’t matter. Usually I’m upset and sad and feeling alone when we miss sessions, and am glad when we have a session after missing one and things can get back to normal. But right now? I just don’t care. Or I don’t want to care. I’m not sure which. I’m sad and scared and feel like no one gets it and anyone I talk to is going to decide I am awful and disgusting and terrible and hate me and and just leave. I’m really afraid that if I come to therapy today, you won’t really be you and you won’t really there. 

She read what I wrote and responded directly to the little girl. “I don’t have any bad feelings about you, and I really am me, I’m here and I’m back. I want to speak to the little girl, okay?” 

“Okay.” I whisper. 

“I understand why you think I would find you disgusting, I understand you feel that way. But I don’t think of you that way at all. I really don’t. I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear anything you want to tell me. I’m not afraid of it, and I’m not worried about how I will feel about you. I’m maybe a little bit drawn to the darker side of life, of a person. Remember, I don’t see failure in the ick and disgusting parts of life, I see the potential, the beauty. I know it feels so bad when things are dredged up and I am leaving on vacation. Maybe the next vacation, we might want to process me leaving that week before I go, or see if we can move schedules around so that we can still have two appointments that week. And I’m sure that ever since the trip where I wasn’t so present in email and I didn’t come back to be really present, it feels really scary to have me go on vacation and it is really hard to trust that I’m not there on the other end of the email. I promise you, I was very present, and really focused on being very grounded and there for you when I was answering your email. I was right there. I know I didn’t respond to the very last paragraph and that really hurt. I wanted to respond to that, too, there was so much there and it was all very important, I was just too tired to keep writing. You know, there is a part of me– a very big part of me– that wants to stay right with you and take care of you and make sure you are okay. There’s a part of me that always keeps you in my mind, and that part really cares about you and wants to take care of you all the time.” 

And with that, the little girl was fully and firmly seated in the captain’s chair, no longer sharing it with the grown up, and she was running the the ship. Tears poured down my cheeks, and I sobbed. I wanted to soak in her words, to really feel them, to hear that Bea has a part that cares for me and wants to stay with me and care for me all the time, but it’s sort of too much for me to feel. It makes me feel really good, that she does care, I can feel in her words that I’m important to her, but it is a lot and the feelings of comfort that come up are almost painful. I don’t want to sit in that painful, uncomfortable feeling, but I can’t shake it either. I cry and cry, all the while still pulling into myself and hiding. 

 “I can understand wanting to push someone away before they can hurt you. That makes a lot of sense to me. I’m glad you came to therapy today. I think it’s interesting that you are really feeling so strongly that I would not want you to be you, or that I don’t want to hear the things you have to say. I only want you to be you, just Alice! You’re perfect just as you are. And I do want to talk about the feelings you have been hiding about the wedding.”

I cried some more. The tears were just a mixture of relief that Bea was Bea, and sadness and pain. I shake my head at her, not wanting to discuss the feelings I have about the wedding. 

“Okay. We don’t have to talk about it right now. I do just want to say that it’s not surprising you might have feelings of wanting Kenny to find you attractive, if you have to see him at the wedding. It doesn’t make you disgusting or bad or anything else in my book. It makes sense to me. The little girl was really attached to Kenny. Of course she wants him to still like her.” 

I know Bea says more about that, but I am too ashamed of those feelings to stay present enough to hear her. I’m so very, very, upset and embarrassed over those feelings, and hating myself for it. Hearing Bea say she doesn’t have any bad feelings towards or about me over this. 

“I am wondering about this invisible ink you used, though,” Bea says softly handing me back my iPad. Her words come out happily, with a small smile and curiosity in her voice. She is talking about the way I have written about my nightmare and then turned the font white, so it couldn’t be read. I’d written above that It’s 2:00 am and I’m up. Nightmare. Pieces of the blender memory. I can’t breathe. Can’t breathe. I want this to go away. It’s all body memory stuff, and not many words and the words I do have are just so very embarrassing and shameful and not okay. I feel like it’s too much to deal with. I wrote the words, the little bit that was a nightmare. And I can’t leave them, because I don’t know if I can give them to you. So I colored the words in white– between the stars– and I can color them back in to be read if I want to. I’m just so scared, and so alone, and no one gets it. Its a scary place to be, vulnerable and emotional and feeling alone. “I am curious who the resourceful part is, that was able to make it so you could give me this without having me read exactly what happened with the nightmare.” 

I shrug, still hiding my face.

“I’d like to meet this resourceful part one day. This part really took care of you, keeping you safe, and giving you control over when and if you allow me to read these words.” 

“I don’t sleep anymore.” I cry. “And I’m scared.”

“I know. Things have been really hard.” 

“I’m afraid if you read this, you won’t want me anymore.” I whisper, fully in little girl head space.   

“I know I won’t think that at all. I can’t imagine ever being disgusted or upset with you,” Bea assures me. 

Part of me believes her, or really wants to believe her, but I’m not sure. I can only think that if she actually knew what I had to say, she would not be so confident that she won’t find me disgusting, bad, terrible. “I’m afraid. Part of me just wants to throw my iPad at you so you can read it and it can just be over with.” 

“Yes, I can understand that. To not have to feel alone with it anymore,” she says. “What was it like to write the words?” She asks. 

“I…….I don’t know. I mean…..I don’t…..” I stop speaking suddenly, and try to think. I honestly can’t remember. “I really don’t have a memory of it. I just…it’s fuzzy.” 

“Yeah…..it’s a whole different part of you that holds these memories right now. That’s okay to not know. And you can share it now. Or later, or not at all.” Bea says gently. 

I sit up and stare at my iPad, highlighting the text I had turned white and then turning it a bright navy blue. Then I just stare and stare at those blue letters on the screen, which form words that turn into sentences and create the paragraph describing my nightmares. 

“If I…….if I give this to you, can I turn around and hide?” I whisper. 

“Yes. You can hide, of course you are allowed to hide. Would you like a blanket to hide under?” She asks, once again, simply just speaking to the little girl. I’m touched because she remembers how I like to hide in my closet under my soft blanket. 

It takes me what feels like a long time to answer her question. Eventually, though, I do. “Okay. Yes.” I hand her the iPad. She takes it and sets it on her chair. She walks over to where she keeps a stack of blankets, and she chooses me.  

Bea hands me a fleece teal blanket, saying, “I think this is the softest one.” 

Taking it from her, I hide under it, and turn away. “What if it’s not okay?” I ask, feeling suddenly frantic. 

 
“It will be. I imagine I’ll feel sad for the little girl, maybe sad for adult who is in so much pain right now. But I also imagine I will feel glad that you aren’t alone with this anymore.” She is speaking so softly and carefully, so as to not scare the little girl. 

“Okay. Okay.” I tell her. 

And so I hide under a soft and fuzzy blanket, curled into a ball, burying my face in my knees, while my therapist reads my latest most shameful memory. 

It’s too much for me, that she has read it and knows now, and I’m way too far away to retain any memory of the day. What I do remember is that Bea was her most supportive, emphatic and caring self. She had no bad thoughts about me or my actions. As I am leaving her office, still unable to make eye contact, she says, “The little girl was so brave today, so brave to share so much today, to trust me that much. I hope you can get some relief now that you aren’t alone with this memory.” And I believe her.  
 

What if????

“So, how was the rest of the day on Thursday?” Bea asks me. We’ve talked about nothing major, and now she’s turning the conversation back to me, and my stuff. 

I’m sitting criss cross applesauce on the couch. Just before she asked this, I’d been looking at her, and talking like a normal person. Now, I look down. Why does answering something so simple embarrass me? “I don’t know…..I just…I was….” I shrug. The odd thing is, my answer is more positive than usual, but that scares me. I’m thinking about things differently, and that is this giant frightening thing. 

“I think it’s important that we touch base on how things felt, how the weekend was for you. Did things come up, were the nightmares of that particular memory gone, less, more? Did you feel more upset, less upset?” 

I shake my head. “I…I got sick this weekend. Sinus crap, headache, sore throat. So I was……I don’t know. The worst thing about being sick is you can’t do anything. I mean, there is no distractions. And tv, movies…those just don’t work. I mean, not like hubby. He can’t stand to turn a show off in the middle of it. But me, I don’t really care. I just, I don’t know. I can stop a movie half way through and not come back to it for weeks. So it’s not like being sick, watching tv…….it just….I don’t. I keep thinking.”

“TV doesn’t distract you, or occupy your mind very easily. It seems like a lot of the time when we don’t feel good, that is when our minds start going.” Bea states. 

“Yes, that’s….I was thinking. So I just…I was thinking.” 

“What were you thinking about?” 

“I…just stuff. I mean…Thursday, I was okay. It….I didn’t feel like hiding. I mean, like usually I would maybe want to go hide. And I didn’t feel like hiding. I was sad. But okay.” I stumble through trying to explain this to her, trying to get the words in my head, those perfectly put together and competent sounding words in my head to come out of my mouth and make sense. 

“That’s good. Okay is good.” Bea’s voice sounds like she is smiling. 

I nod. It is good. She’s right, it is good. 

“Do you want me to tell you what I thought on Thursday?” She asks. I nod my head, and so she continues. “I felt like you were more here than usual when discussing a memory. I felt like you were able to answer questions, and talk more easily. I mean, I know we didn’t talk about the actual rape, but everything with that memory is so awful, so traumatizing, and the mom stuff is big. It just feels like to me that this is one of the worst memories for so many reasons, so many layers of hurt. I mean, they are your memories, and they are all painful, and I don’t know if this memory feels worse than others to you, so maybe I shouldn’t say that. But it feels like this is a memory that took things to a whole different level. It made the traumas that much more hurtful. You really had to dissociate to be okay.” 

“It’s…it’s one that always….it just won’t go away. Even before…it’s been one of those nightmares that I’ve had a long time.” I take a drink of my vanilla chai, and peek at Bea from the corner of my eye. 

“So you felt okay on Thursday?” She brings me back to what we had been talking about. 

I nod. “Yeah. I was thinking…..I mean, I just you said something. And you’ve said it before I’m sure, but it just stuck with me this time. And I was thinking about that. I…..you were saying how I was afraid to get in trouble for………and how crazy that is.” 

“Well, people can’t hear things until they are ready to listen. And you are ready now, to hear that. So you were thinking how mind boggling that concept of being in trouble for being raped is?”

“Well….I was thinking about it. And then, my parents.” I pull my knees to my chest, and wrap my arms around them. 

“Your parents. Usually, you say your mom. This makes me wonder if you are including your dad in this? Because we don’t talk about him a lot.” 

“No….I mean, in general, yes. I was thinking about them in general, is all. And…well, you know. Thinking what if? What if they hadn’t needed perfect and I wasn’t so afraid of getting in trouble? Maybe I would have told. But…..I couldn’t get in trouble because then I wouldn’t be perfect and I have to be perfect for them to love me. Or what if they had done feelings? What if they hadn’t given me this message I was too much? What if I hadn’t felt so alone and unloveable? What is I hadn’t felt bad and not good enough and never perfect? What if they had been able to really see me? What if……i don’t know. I blame them sometimes.” I whisper the last part, feeling like this ungrateful brat of a daughter. 

“Well, yes. Of course a part of you blames them. Parents are supposed to protect their children, and they didn’t protect you. It’s okay to blame them, to be mad. It’s okay to feel that.” She sounds so calm, so sure of this, that it’s okay to blame them. It’s hard to listen to her and take that in. 

“But then I think….they were so young. And I….I was almost 30 when I had Kat, and it’s hard for me. Right? But they were 10 years younger. So, I mean….well. It’s just, they were young. And so much was not okay for them. She had an eating disorder. That didn’t just happen. Something wasn’t okay. So how can I blame them, when I get it?” 

“It can be both. You can understand it, and still blame them and be angry. That’s okay.” 

“I just…I needed a lot. And I must have known, somehow picked up on that. That I was too much for them.” I sigh, and squeeze my hands into fists, digging my nails into my palm. I feel so anxious and wrong to be talking about this. 

“I don’t believe you needed too much, or were too much. You were a child. We talk about parents and kids being a good fit. You and Kat, you are a good fit. But some people, they could have the easiest child in the world, and feel like they have a hard child. And others, they get a hard child and feel like it’s easy. It’s all about personality and fit. I’m not sure any child would have been a good fit for your mom at that age, with everything going on for her. She had her own stuff to deal with, right?” 

I nod. “Yes. I guess so. It’s just hard.” 

“I know. It is hard to hold both idea. But things aren’t black or white. They are grey. And grey is okay.” Bea loves grey. She sees the both sides and accepts that. She can recognize that my parents didn’t keep me safe and are to blame, and also that they had their own stuff and it’s not their fault. I don’t know how she can do that….I feel one way, but understand the reasonings, and they don’t match up. I don’t like grey, yet. Maybe this is progress though, to be able to discuss the black and white and actually hear the option for grey. 

“And I was thinking……” I drift off, unsure. 

After a moment Bea says, “Whatever you were thinking, it’s making it hard to stay here.” 

I nod, and we sit in quiet for a minute. 

“Are you having trouble finding words?” She asks me. 

I shake my head. “I have words….in my head….I just….” I drift off again, floating away. I’m afraid to say it, to make the thought real. I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about this. 

“Is it a more of the memory? Or new things in this memory? Feelings?” Bea speaks softly, trying to find a place to start. 

“No….I…it’s…..” I pick at my fingers, and even though I can’t hurt myself like this with my nails done, the act is still slightly soothing. “It’s not even a big deal. I’m being….dumb.”

“I don’t think so. Anything that send you this far away is a big deal.” It helps to hear her say it is a big deal in her mind. It feels validating, comforting, but I still can’t say anything. When I don’t respond, Bea asks, “What can I do to help you feel safe right now?” 

I don’t know. I want to tell her that just the fact she is asking, willing to do something to help me feel safe, just that alone does help. But I can’t say the words, because something about them feels too vulnerable and scary. “I don’t know. I really don’t.”

“Can I check in with the little girl? See how she felt about Thursday? I’d like to know if she felt listened to and supported. I want her to feel safe, too.” 

Her questions touch something in me, and I feel cared for. It’s sort of an uncomfortable feeling. “I….I think she feels better. It’s okay, I think.” The little girl wants to cry and say that she felt listened to and not alone and that she is so grateful to Bea for fixing things, for not letting the relationship be ruined and broken. I can’t let her say all that, though. It’s too much. 

“I’m glad. I’m so glad she talked to me last time, and that she is feeling a little bit better. She can talk whenever she wants to. I think it’s important that we check in with things after a session when we processed a memory. It’s good to compare now with how it was before, and to find a way to see if we are making progress. I think the way to do that is to compare how things are, where you are at.” Bea sounds…..I’m not sure the word, but it’s good. Maybe proud, or content…she sounds like she really feels glad that the little girl reached out and is feeling better.  

“Okay.” The word is a ghost of a whisper, barely there. I’m feeling overwhelmed with emotions and with my thoughts. I don’t like this progress talk. Does she want to get rid of me, is she trying to say I’m better and need to go away? Or does she think I’ve made no progress and she is mad at me, frusterated that I’m not making progress or doing things as quickly as I should be?

“I wonder if the little girl would like to color while we keep talking? If that would help or if that would feel bad?” 

I think about it for a minute and then slowly, quietly tell her that we can try it. Bea gets the little table and the coloring books and pencils, setting them all down between us. She picks up her page and starts to color. It takes me longer, but I finally lift my head and grab my picture. 

“We didn’t….I didn’t tell you….the actual…I mean…when he….what happened.” I’m trying to tell her that I didn’t tell her about the memory of the rape. “It’s not…I don’t…it’s spacey. I don’t know. But I didn’t tell you.” 

“That’s okay. It’s okay that you didn’t tell me. We talked about a lot of hard stuff last time. And we can keep talking, as long as you need to.” 

I select a yellow colored pencil, and start coloring a flower. I watch the yellow on the page, and surprisingly, as I focus on the flower being colored yellow, I start to feel less floaty. I stop coloring. I’m not sure I want to be more here. “I think….talking around it….what happened after….that was easier…..it’s…it was easier.” 

“Yes, I think so, too. I still think there is a lot of hurt and fear in the after, and it was hard work to talk about and start to process. But I do think talking around it is easier sometimes.” It feels good to hear that she doesn’t think the after of the memory is easy, or something to be brushed off. 

“I……maybe…not now, not today. But I might….the little girl…she maybe wants to tell what happened. During.” I’m afraid Bea is going to say no, that it’s too much to ask her to listen to what happened during, that I’m disgusting for wanting to talk about it. 

“She can tell me whatever she wants, when she is ready. Your window is getting bigger. They say as you process trauma, when you first start to, the window is very small, but as you go on, it gets bigger. That’s what the resourcing is all about. Being able to have a bigger window, and being able to come back if you get too pulled in. Because you have to be somewhat far away and uncomfortable, you have to be in the state you were in then to really access that memory, but we want to stay on the the edge, so you don’t get too pulled in. And it is a really powerful thing, to be able to control how far away you are, to be in control on coming back before you get retraumatized.” 

I think about that, about the experience I just had while coloring. Maybe I am able to be more in control of this than I thought, and maybe it’s not a dangerous thing. Maybe it’s okay. 

Bea says something about how she feels regret that I spent many sessions really deep in a memory and then hiding and feeling triggered and messed up when we first started working together. She says something about how where I am now is a better place for processing memories because I have so many more resources and can tolerate emotions better now. I don’t remember exactly how she said it, but it was kind. 

I shake my head, disagreeing slightly. “I think….I needed to tell someone. It didn’t matter if I talked or not, I was still hiding in my closet, hurting and scared and messy. Talking didn’t make things worse. I was already hurting. And at least with telling you, I wasn’t alone, and I had someone to talk to when I was in my closet scared. I never had that before. It wasn’t a bad thing. And I needed to talk. I couldn’t be alone with it all anymore.” 

She nods, thinking about my words. I can see her really listening, and hearing me. “You did need someone to hear you, you needed to know you weren’t alone anymore. You spent so much time, so very alone, isolated. I’m glad I was able to help you feel not alone.” 

“If you hadn’t let me talk….if you had made me work on resources….I wouldn’t be here. I’d have left. I wouldn’t have been able to be okay here.” 

“Hmmmm….you really needed to let those secrets out. Do you really think you would have left therapy though, if we had focused on resourcing first?” She sounds very curious, and maybe a little bit surprised. 

I nod my head. “Yeah, I do.” I want to explain that after the last few months of feeling like she didn’t want the little girl to talk, like she didn’t want to listen, that if I had felt that at the beginning of therapy, I would have left. Instead, when I met Bea, she was open and honest, authentic and real; everything about her said that she wanted to listen, to help, and that she cared. That is what I needed then. I needed to know someone wanted to be there. 

We talk about how things happen the way the need to, and that she had been what I needed then. She tells me that she thinks we are at the same place we would have been if she had insisted on focusing on resources and coping skills first. We talk about how I am allowed to talk about things already discussed, and how it’s okay to bring something up again and again. She says that now I can really start to process and work through it all. 

After that, we are both silent for a few minutes, focusing on our pictures. Bea suddenly sets her picture down, and looks at me. “Are you feeling as though I’m not listening to you because I’m coloring? Is that making it hard for you to say what you were thinking?” 

I shake my head. “No….you can color. That’s not…that’s not why it’s hard to talk right now.” It’s almost easier, in a way, because she isn’t looking at me when she is coloring. I just can’t get the words out. 

“Okay. I just wanted to be sure. Because I am listening, and I do want to hear what you have to say,” she says gently. 

“Okay.” I focus on coloring again, this time with a bright orange pencil. “I just…I can’t say it right now.” 

“That’s okay. We have lots of time. You’ll say it when you are ready.” She is so reassuring, so calm and confident that things will be okay. And, for the first time, I think I believe her. 

We wrap things up, and I tell her that maybe I will write it down, or talk about it on Thursday. She tells me she is listening, and here, whenever I’m ready.

When I’m in my car, I think about it. The idea, the thought just won’t stop running through my mind. I blame myself, I blame my parents, I’m hurt that no adult in my life noticed, but I can’t put any of the blame on him. Why is that? I’m afraid that if I let myself blame him, even a little bit, a massive amount of anger and rage and hurt and pain and tears will be unleashed. I’m afraid I will have to face the fact that I had no control, and that terrifies me. I think I will drown in the anger and hurt, and the loss of control will kill me. I can’t say the thought out loud because then it will be real, and I’ll have to examine it and wonder about it and talk about it. And I’m afraid Bea will be happy I’m thinking these things, thinking in this new way, and she will want me to face all of it. I can’t do it. I just can’t do. And still, I think, what if? What if I could put some of the blame on him? What if?  

All the time in the world 

This post may be triggering. I had a lot happen this past weekend. I need to write and work through some things, and many of those things could be triggering to others. Please be careful, and as always, take care of yourselves. Xx

It’s been a rough weekend. By Tuesday morning, as I am driving into the city to Bea’s office, I’m so highly triggered that I am numb. I had emailed her late last night, filling her in on some of it, knowing I wouldn’t be able to talk about it all. I wrote that I needed to talk, and not focus on safety and grounding, because I felt as if there was a hurricane, tornado and blizzard tearing through my mind. I was so afraid that being so triggered would send Bea into a grounding and safety model of therapy, and I just really felt this need to talk. She wrote back in the morning, assuring me that we would make as much space to talk as I needed.

I walk in, carrying Hagrid. Bea smiles at me, a slightly sad smile, one that says she knows how hard this is. “How’s he doing today?” She asks me. 

I blink back tears, and settle Hagrid on my lap as I sit down. “He’s okay. He can’t be jumping up or down or do stairs right now. And I feel like he looks really sad, even though hubby keeps telling me he always looks like this.” Over the weekend, Hagrid had strained a muscle in his back. Thankfully, it was a Sunday, so I only had to wait a day to bring him to our vet. Our vet does have emergency hours, and will meet you at the office during times when the office is closed, but Hagrid was walking, using the bathroom, and eating and drinking, and only crying or showing signs of pain when he jumped on or off furniture, so hubby had decided we could wait until Monday morning. The vet had said he pulled or strained a muscle, and gave him a laser therapy treatment, designed to reduce inflammation and speed healing. 

“He does look sad, just sort of shut down,” Bea agrees with me. She is really looking at him, and her face is full of empathy. She looks as if she would like nothing better than to make Hagrid feel better. “You know, animals know how to listen to their bodies much better than we do. Hagrid is listening to his body, resting so he can heal. It is a good thing. He’s okay.” 

I nod. It’s so hard seeing him hurting, and I feel so terrible. While my vet had assured me that we had done nothing wrong, and this is a common injury for dachshunds, I can’t help feeling as though I should have been able to prevent it. 

“You know,” Bea says, “If my dog was hurt, and my child had jumped and almost hurt him more, I would have yelled, too. I really would have.” Part of my breakdown this weekend had been because Hagrid was hurt, and Kat had jumped onto the couch where he was sitting– after just being told no jumping or bouncing around the dog– and I had screamed at her, like another child throwing a temper tantrum. 

“Thank you,” I whisper, grateful that Bea understands and is willing to share these kinds of things with me. 

“So your mom…….?” Bea prompts, letting her unspoken question hang in the air. 

“My mom,” I say. “I don’t know what to say. She just…..she was okay.” On Monday, after he had seen the vet, and hubby had left for work, Kat and I were sitting with him on the couch, when he let out the worst cry I have ever heard from a dog. I was so scared, and could hardly think. I had called hubby, asking him to come home because I was scared and worried and needed him. He responded very shortly with me, telling me to act like an adult and call the vet. I had called the vet (and gone back, had X-rays taken, and seen that his back, his spine, was just a bad strain), and then I had called my mom. I’d been so upset when I called her I couldn’t breathe or speak, just sob. And she had been amazing; calm and contained, and not backing away from my pain. 

“She really could handle you being so upset.” 

I nod. “She really could. I even told her, later, that I almost didn’t call because I didn’t want to upset her, and she said she could handle it, and it was her problem if she got upset, not my problem. It was….strange. I don’t know. Not like her. She was…..not my mom.” 

“She wasn’t the mom you were used to,” Bea says. 

“It’s funny. Last year, I was so anxious about thanksgiving and I didn’t want to go. This year, I am just so….it’s like I just have to make it through to Wednesday when I can leave, go to my parents’. I just…things have changed so much.” 

“So you are still going, then?” Bea asks. 

“Yeah. Hubby and Kat are going to his mom’s, so it is just me. I’m……I’m okay with that,” I say slowly. 

“A break will be good for you, I think.” Bea agrees. 

We talk about Kat, and some of the things that are concerning me. When at school, Kat is the picture of well adjusted. Yes, she needs some extra supports, and we’ve had to make accommodations for her, but it has all gone much more smoothly than I was anticipating. Of course, we had begun working towards Kat attending school this year last spring, so she was well prepared. Anyway, at home, Kat talks about school, and is sad. She had told me this weekend that her heart was broken by school, and she was very sad that she has to go there. It sparked a huge amount of concern for me, and I was very stressed and upset by her words. 

Bea talks about how much Kat has had to change to attend school, and how anytime we change, there is grief involved. She suggests that may be part of Kat’s broken heart feeling. She acknowledges how hard it must to hear that, but assures me that everything in Kat’s play is becoming more pro social, and is very healthy, even with things she needs help working through. As she is speaking, she looks at me, and tells me, “You are a good mother. You’ve had a lot of affirmation about this lately, the BCBA telling you that you are spot on in how to help Kat say goodbye to the tech that is leaving, Kat’s teacher telling you that you are her favorite kind of parent to work with because you get it, the other ABA tech telling you are her favorite family to work with because you are open and real and involved. But these things surprise you. You don’t believe them. When you first brought Kat here, I was amazed at how attuned you were to her. You were right there, with her and with me, doing therapy. For me, I had never worked with a parent so in tune to what was going on. It was like having another therapist in the room.” 

I’m shocked by her words. I shake my head at her. “I just…it’s like I somehow have you fooled, too. Even though I shouldn’t be able to fool you.” I sigh, and shake my head. She is my shrink. I’ve been so upfront with her about the times I have yelled at Kat, or ignored her, or fallen short of being a good mom. 

Bea laughs. “I don’t think you have me fooled. I think you are a good mom. But you just don’t see it, even when others tell you so.” 

“I don’t know. It’s like….they are fooled by me, or they are being nice.” 

“I wonder where this message came from? I don’t think it’s an old message, from the past.” She questions. 

“I don’t know. I really don’t. It just…is.” But now that she has asked the question, my mind is spinning, wondering, searching for answers. 

“There is….it’s not uncommon for successful people to feel as though they are a fake. It’s known as imposter syndrome.” As Bea explains what it is, I mentally nod my head in agreement. That is how I feel. But where she is explaining it as one area of a person’s life, I feel as though that is my life. I don’t respond, and we sit in silence for a few moments. Bea breaks the silence, saying, “I don’t want us to run out of time and not have talked about everything you wanted to talk about.” 

I nod. “I just…I wanted space to talk, but I don’t even know what to say.” 

“Was there one thing that is in your mind, more than anything else?” She asks. When I shake m head, she suggests she could get my email, but I shake my head at that, too.

“I….it’s like this whole weekend was one big trigger.” I’ve been aware, the whole time Bea and I have been speaking, that I’m wound very tight, on edge, just holding it together. 

“Okay,” she says, “So it was Sunday when Hagrid got hurt. That was the start?” 

“No….I think……Friday was the start.” I reach down, pull my notebook out of my bag. “I wrote…I was going to type it, email it. But then…I just didn’t.” 

“Do you want me to read it now?” He voice is soft and kind. 

I open the notebook, not really looking at it. “I don’t…I was going to edit it before I emailed it.” 

“I don’t care about editing, or something being typed,” she tells me softly. 

I scan the words I had written, barely remembering them. A good portion of it reads as though the little girl wrote it. “I think…I mean….not just grammar or punctuation. Not really edit, I guess. Revise. I mean revise.” 

“Ahhh, I see,” Bea says carefully. 

I start to read what I’d written, stop, and flip the page. I’m reading silently, trying to decide if there is any part of it that I can have her read. I finally slam the notebook shut, and throw it on the floor as if it is a snake that bit me. 

Bea has been watching all of this, but I’m not certain what she has seen, what conclusions she has drawn from my behavior. Softly, as if she is speaking to a scared child, she says, “Whatever is written in there is clearly very upsetting.” 

I nod. I can’t speak for a minute, and when I finally do, my voice is so quiet it’s barely there. I have my face covered with my hands. I can’t look at her. “I…we were playing uno. On Friday. Kat loves uno. So we were playing, after dinner. I…we always played. When I was a kid…when we would go camping, summer…I don’t know.” 

“Is there a memory associated with playing this game?” She gently asks. 

I shake my head. “No….I…maybe, sort of. Not really bad. Just….I was…it’s small things. But it…playing a game, so often played when I was a kid….I….well….maybe I was more in a little girl headspace?” The last part comes out as a question, although it wasn’t intended that way. 

“Mmmmhmmm, that makes sense.” Bea encourages me to continue. 

“So….I…after Kat was in bed…maybe….I was still in that headspace. And maybe hubby was…maybe he….I mean….we….you know.” I can’t get the words out. Why is it so impossible for me to say the words? We had sex. Three little words, but I can’t get them out.

“I know,” Bea says quickly, quietly. 

I breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have to say it for her to know, and continue. “I was…it was like…everything…just..flashbacks. And he didn’t see.” My voice breaks, and a few tears fall. “I…then Saturday…I was…..numb, gone. I don’t know. I don’t really remember a lot of Saturday.” What I do remember about Saturday is that I slept with my husband again, that night (but I can’t remember if I actually told Bea that, or not).

“And Saturday is when you wrote in your notebook?” She guesses. 

“Yeah. I…I just needed…I don’t know. Everything was too much. And then Sunday, Hagrid was hurt, and I just…I don’t know. And then I was watching a show before bed, and…..it…well, it was you know…and nightmares, and then hubby woke me up Monday morning, yelling at me and…..there was that mess…and I just was frozen. And everything felt so bad. I wanted…….to…..go away…..disappear……I just….” I break off from the story, not even sure what else to say. 

It’s a good thing I had emailed this part of the weekend to Bea. Sunday night, the show I had DVRed and was watching, the main character had an abortion. It wasn’t a main part of the storyline, but looking back, maybe I should have realized what the story was leading up to. I don’t know. And it wasn’t a long scene, but it was enough to put me on the crazy train. Then, sometime during the night, I had started my period, and woke up to a literal mess on Monday morning. My wake up came from hubby, screaming at me about mail I had left in the car, and he had found. I don’t know when I even got the mail, I never get the mail, but I had gotten it, and it had ended up buried under all the crap in my car. He has found it when he drove Kat to school, and it included a bill that he had needed. Then there was Hagrid being hurt, and the vet visit, and then hubby telling me to act like an adult to take the dog back to the vet on my own, and me yelling at Kat, and Kat being upset about school, and the Friday night little girl headspace. I was a mess by Monday afternoon; and a part of me was feeling extremely self destructive and as though all I ever do is ruin everything and hurt people around me. I felt as though everyone would be happier if I just disappeared. I almost called Bea. But, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So, I called my mom instead, needing to not be alone. And my mother surprised me by being the mom I had needed my entire life, that she was unable to be until now. 

“It was a lot. A lot to deal with, and a lot of triggers.” Bea is still speaking very softly, gently. “You were really triggered. It’s…when we get so triggered like that, and have these feelings that don’t fit with our present, daily lives, it feels very crazy. But you aren’t crazy. It’s as if you are being hijacked by old feelings. And we can work on that, so things don’t feel this much out of control. We have all the time in the world to work on this.” 

I nod, slowly. I wonder what she means by ‘all the time in the world’, but it feels like she means that we have as much time as I need, that she isn’t going anywhere. And for once, I don’t feel the need to question her, or worry over it. She’s not going anywhere, and I’m going to my parents on Wednesday for the weekend, where my mom will take care of me. Even though nothing feels okay, everything will be okay. I have all the time in the world to make it so. 

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

I pull into the parking lot at 7:30am. It’s early, but I need to walk Hagrid. He is so excited when I clip his leash on him, he practically flys out of my car. I grab my bag and my coffee, and we head out. One thing I love about my therapist’s office is that it is in the city, downtown. I love downtown. So, Hagrid and I walk the sidewalks, and window shop. I stop for another coffee, and the barista says how cute he is. I smile and say thank you. He is cute.

After I get my coffee, we head back towards Bea’s office. When we get there, I have to carry him up the steps. I’m not sure if he just doesn’t do stairs, or what. But I carry him.

“Good morning,” I call out, tapping on the door. It’s open, but I never like to just walk in.

“Come on in. Good morning. You brought Hagrid back.” She bends down to scratch his head.

“Yes. We just had a nice long walk so he shouldn’t have to potty or anything,” I tell her.

I get settled on the couch, and Hagrid curls up in my lap, laying his head on one of Bea’s pillows. We have scheduling stuff to figure out, so we talk about that. I don’t like changing my schedule and I don’t like not knowing it several months– like 6 months– out, but the best we can do is figure out therapy times until school starts. Once school starts we will have to do this all over again. I was also a little nervous to even ask to change the schedule. Anxieties of Bea not being able to find time for me, Bea being done with me, Bea saying no more twice a week, Bea saying no more 90 minute sessions all danced through my head. None of that happened, though.

In fact, after we have everything nailed down, she says, “I really want to try to keep your sessions at 90 minutes. I think that extra time is really helpful when you are working through the hard stuff.” And she never said anything about cutting down to once a week.

I nod. I don’t want to disagree, because I agree, but I’m almost afraid to admit I agree. Like, if I admit I need this, it will be taken from me. I don’t know.

We talk about Kat, and about Hagrid and random everyday things. After a while, I sigh and look down at the floor. “I’m leaving Monday to go to my parent’s. By myself, without Kat. I’m a little…..I don’t really want to go. But I do. Because my Grandma is here. And she isn’t staying like she was supposed to. She messed it all up. I don’t know.” I blink back tears of frustration, pet Hagrid.

“It will be good for you to see your Grandma, I think. I know it’s hard to go back to your parents, and with no distraction of Kat.”

“She was supposed to come on August. We were going to go stay the week before school…the last two weeks, there is no camp. So we were going to go stay then. But now she is here, and she’s not even staying two weeks. And my parents hid everything from me. She still is having heart problems. Her doctor only said she can be gone two weeks. And she has a boyfriend. And no one likes the boyfriend. I don’t know. Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?”

Bea is silent for a moment, digesting everything I just threw at her. “Why doesn’t anyone like him?”

“I don’t know. They say he is crude, rude. I don’t know. Maybe they don’t like him because he isn’t my Grandpa. Maybe he really is rude and jerky.” I breathe out, notice that Hagrid is giving me puppy kisses on the back of my hand, and I bury my face in his fur. As much as I hate to admit it, Bea is right; Hagrid is one of the most grounding things in my life.

“Your Grandpa wasn’t like that, was he?”

“No. No. Not at all. He was…he was the guy that would clean his neighbor’s gutters just because he noticed they needed to be done. That was my grandpa. But. I don’t know. I’m trying to keep an open mind. I want my grandma to be happy. My grandpa would want her to be happy.”

“Believe it or not, this is common. For older people to meet someone the rest of the family dislikes. It happens a lot.”

I sigh. “I don’t know why I remember this so well, but it’s very clear in my memory. When I went to Florida with my aunt, to visit my grandma, one afternoon we were all sitting out having wine, and Grandma’s friend’s were teasing her about some new guy in their community. She said she was never going to date anyone else, my grandpa had been it for her. I told her that if she did meet someone that made her happy, I would be happy for her, and I believed grandpa would be, too, because he would not want her to be lonely. My aunt got so upset, so shoved the table and her chair fell on the floor, and then she ran in the house and we all heard the bedroom door slam– clear on the other end!”

“Wow. It’s no one you remember that so clearly. Her reaction was so extreme. What did your grandma say?”

“No one said anything about what I said, Dorothy said my aunt need to relax, and then she said we needed more red wine. And that was that.” I shrug. It was what it was.

“Hmmm. So it really must feel bad not to have been told about the boyfriend when you were so supportive like that.”

I nod. Exactly. But even if grandma didn’t tell me, why didn’t my mom?

“And the heart trouble. That messes with this idea of a secure base. We were talking about your grandma being a safe place growing up. You might not need that anymore, but symbolically, she still has been your safe place.”

“It’s why I always think that if it’s too hard, or I can’t deal, I’ll just buy a plane ticket and go to Florida.”

“Yes. She’s been your secure base.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?” The words force themselves out.

“By anyone, we really mean your mom.” It’s said as a statement, but Bea waits until I nod to continue speaking. “If we look at this as part of a pattern, a life long pattern, why do you think she didn’t tell you?”

I shake my head. I don’t know. Every thought running through my head sounds stupid and childish, whiny and immature. Finally, I mumble one reason, anyway. “Because she didn’t want to deal with me when I got upset.”

“She didn’t want to upset you. She didn’t want to deal with those difficult emotions.” Bea repeats what I’ve said, but with a little bit kinder reframe towards me.

I nod. “She can’t deal. She never could.”

“This reminds me of the underwear memory. She could not deal with whatever was triggered in her, and so she made herself very sick. Because she can’t handle these harder emotions.”

I don’t say anything, but I agree silently. I snuggle Hagrid and wonder how I ever did therapy without him.

“Did you ask her why she didn’t tell you earlier?” Bea asks. It’s so simple when she says it.

“No. I just….no. I guess I could have. But then. Well…confrontation.” I shrug.

“You could ask her now. Just really direct, no judgement, or anger, or upset. Just, ‘mom I thought about it, and why didn’t you tell me this sooner?’ I don’t think that would be confrontational.”

I shake my head. How do I explain this? “I’m so angry with her…I’m just so full of mad. I don’t sound mad, but I am…it’s there. Maybe I sound mad. I don’t know.” I shake my head. The words come out on fits and starts, with lots of pauses, while I hug my dog and blink away tears and refuse to look at Bea. “I just…I feel like if I start asking questions, I’m going to ask the one I really want to ask. I want to drop this bomb of how in the world did you not know…well, I don’t know what to even call it now, I’m so confused, but whatever that was with Kenny.”

“Sexual abuse. It’s sexual abuse,” Bea tells me softly.

I don’t say anything for what feels like a really long time. “You read my email. With the what if questions. You remember?”

“I remember.”

“Then….is it really…I mean, doesn’t that make it not…I don’t know.”

“Sexual abuse?” She asks, filling in the question I was trying to ask.

I nod. Yes. Doesn’t everything that happened mean it wasn’t sexual abuse?

“It’s still abuse. All the what ifs change nothing,” Bea says.

“I..but….I mean….I did….how can you still say that?” Words stumble around my mouth, but a question finally emerges.

Bea waits a moment, and then, very calmly and very directly, she tells me, “You have PTSD. You wouldn’t have PTSD if you weren’t traumatized. You were sexually abused and raped. He hurt you. You wouldn’t dissociate, and not to the degree you do, if it had not been traumatizing, if it wasn’t abuse. You have PTSD reactions, like jumping at loud noises, flashbacks, nightmares. All of that because this was abuse.”

I think she says something about how my mom not keeping me safe might have contributed to the trauma, but I’m not sure. She says how the fact this went on for so long and was so frequent is partly what makes it so hard to work through, what makes it so traumatizing. I don’t know. I say something about how it’s hard to believe my mom didn’t notice, in all that time. I’m feeling a little bit gone, and fuzzy, like I’ve had too many glasses of some really good wine. I think I cry about how when I kissed him I got in trouble, and she still did not see.

“Well, I don’t know, but we have wondered about your moms history, and women who have a sexual abuse history have a big blind spot to those things. Not in your case, as you have already seen, because you are working through your stuff. But if a person hasn’t worked through it, or is not actively working through it, there is a blind spot,” Bea says.

I risk looking at her face, just for a moment. It’s okay. I bring up a worry I have about Kat, and her going to school and the possibility of the little girl who hurt her being at the same school. Bea and I talk it through, make a plan. I feel better about that. And then, I have this thought, I can not believe I am thinking it, but at the same time, I can not believe I have never wondered before. “My mom….my mom, her sister and one brother, none of them speak to their dad. It’s this big secret why, we aren’t even allowed to ask why. When we were kids, we would always be curious. I don’t know. He lives in town. If we run into him, we always have to leave. Right away.”

Bea gets what I’m wondering, without me saying it. “It could be. A missing piece, anyway. Is your mom’s family like her?”

“No…not really. It’s funny, I was just thinking about this. They are all more…I don’t know the word. It’s a feeling. More real.” I stop and think for a moment, and then explain how there are several social workers, psychologists, a psychiatrist, a physical therapist, occupational therapist, a teacher, a nurse, all in my moms family.

“So they’ve all chosen professions to help..but also where they would have to be more authentic. Interesting. Is your mom more or less real with them?”

I struggle to answer. It’s not a simple yes or no, it’s a yes and no answer. Finally I say, “Both. Sometimes more fake, other times, she has those moments of being so real. I don’t know. I see a contrast between her and her brothers. Not so much with her sister, but maybe it’s because my aunt lives in town, so I know her. I don’t know.”

We talk about my mom’s family a little more, and how they are nice to be around, and how I really didn’t spend a lot of time with my mom this last weekend because we both were spending time with family we only see twice a year.

It’s out of the blue, but I stop talking and then, “I’m sorry.”

“What are you sorry for?” Bea asks. She might be confused, as nothing has happened for me to be apologizing right now.

I blink back tears. “I just….I feel bad. I’m sorry I am whining, all the time, that I’m confused, and about my mom, and crying, and I don’t know. I’m just sorry because I feel like it has to be annoying to you and I don’t want to make you annoyed with me.”

“I think being confused makes sense. You can’t get all this out in one session, or in ten. It’s not going to be all better in a few months. It is confusing, and hard. I’m not annoyed with you, not at all. Think of everything that has happened. Think of how you are able to say this family reunion was better than last year’s was. It’s confusing, and it hurts and it’s scary. You aren’t going to heal in a day. There is a lot to drag out into the light. It’s okay to be confused right now. I’m not at all annoyed. Bea’s voice is gentle, but there is a tone to it that says she is very serious.

I nod. “Okay.” I hide my face in Hagrid’s fur again, and breathe.

“We need to wrap up in a few minutes, okay?” Bea says.

I lift my head and nod. “It feels like there is so much changing right now, it’s so hard. At least we got the schedule set for now. That helps, even though I don’t like only knowing two months. Now I need the ABA schedule.” I feel a bit like I am in limbo. Like I’m just waiting for summer to be over, so I can get back to life with a more permanent schedule. I don’t want to be waiting for summer to end; I love summer.

Bea looks at Hagrid who is stretched out across my lap. “I’m glad you have this little guy to help you through it. I think he came at just the right time.” She smiles.

I smile, too. “I think so. He’s so sweet. He’s gone everywhere with me since we got home. It’s lucky it has been cooler out; he’s been able to wait in the car while I run into the grocery store, or whatever.”

I’m not sure what is said, but we end up talking about service dogs and autism. I wanted a dog for Kat, and Hagrid would be great if he weren’t already so attached to me. We would need another dachshund for her. I say that Hagrid would be a great therapy dog, and Bea agrees.

“He’s kind of doing that for you, helping you be more grounded and less anxious,” she says. She’s right, he is doing that. And more. He snuggles me at bedtime, and I’m not alone in the dark. I realize hubby is usually home in bed, too, but this is different. This is safe. I’m not afraid of Hagrid’s expectations. Hagrid cuddles with me when I have a bad dream, and he has sat with me through a panic attack. Yeah, he really is a therapy dog.

“I don’t think that’s going to get him into stores with me, though,” I tell Bea. In my head, I joke that she should write me a note. I don’t say it out loud, because Bea actually might do just that, and I can not walk around with my dog and a note from my shrink. Nope. Geesh.

Bea laughs, and asks me what is on my agenda for the day.

“Hagrid needs a walk, so maybe the park or something. And then chores. Maybe a nap. I didn’t sleep much last night. I don’t know for sure.”

“That sounds good,” she says.

We talk for a few more minutes while I gather up my things, and then say our goodbyes, have a good days. It was a jumpy session, but I feel like a lot got talked about that needed to, even if it didn’t go very deep.