I don’t want to hurt anymore 

Please be safe if you read this post. I was very blunt about eating disordered behavior, self injury, and sex. I’m a mess right now, and this post is a whole lot of crazy dumped into one place

I’m not okay. I want to be okay, I’m in this trying to act like it’s all fine place, but I’m not okay. I am absolutely, 100% not okay. 

I spent the weekend….(well, really it started when Kay informed me that I don’t exist for her any more)………in bulimia land. Binge. Barf. Stuff my face. Eat crap I NEVER eat. I ate 17 mini Reese’s eggs. Seventeen. And then I threw them up. Later, it was tacos with cheese. And pizza. And French fries. 53 French fries. Muffins. Ice cream. 3 mini ice cream cones. A blizzard from DQ another day. Chips. Fried cheese sticks. More French fries. 46 this time. Eat. Barf. Binge. Purge. I’m gross. I feel gross. I’m ready to swing the other way, to the no eating at all and being a control freak. Because I can’t keep doing this. I’m gross.

I had sex with my husband. 3 nights in a row. I wanted comfort, I wanted him to love me, I wanted to feel, for even just a moment, that someone in my life wants me and isn’t going to leave. So, I instigated things by a real kiss. And when he kissed back, that slutty little girl/teenager part took over. I was so far gone it’s like it wasn’t me. I felt like I was sitting somewhere behind myself. So far gone, it was fine. No freak outs in the middle of the act. I was fine. Until I wasn’t. But that was okay, because after he went to sleep, I simply added a few new slices to my body, and then I was okay again. Except I’m not okay at all. 

My daughter has been making her dolls play “kissing games”, pretending to be pregnant and to have her baby be “born” and she told me this weekend that her private area felt moist and steamy. I was already so triggered by her play, the use of the phrase “kissing game”. It doesn’t matter that Bea assured me it was normal and healthy play. It is triggering and scary and I struggle with that. And then, she says that. And I couldn’t breathe or think. When I didn’t respond, she told me “not to worry because it feels nice”. Oh my god. I want to die. Or throw up. Maybe both. And hubby realized something was wrong, so he set her up playing video games, and I stayed frozen, stuck in my own head, physical memories attacking me. 

When I finally could move, I hid in the bath tub. No, first I ate ice cream and tacos. Then used the running water to cover the barfing sounds. Then I took a bath, used my razor to cut some more, and proceeded to hide in my bed, dissociated and staring at nothing. When hubby came to bed, I kissed him, stripped off my clothes and went far away, except to know that he was there and wanted me. I’m disgusting. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? And of course neither of us mentioned my frozen no talking freak out earlier in the day, and he never even asked what happened. 

I texted Rory several times this weekend, either just saying hello, or checking that she still wasn’t mad at me. We made plans for a weekend away together. I don’t want a weekend away. I want to leave my life. I want to pack up my car and disappear. They’d all be better off without me. 

I emailed Bea. I told her I was a mess, that I was being bad, that I felt bad and wrong for bothering her on her vacation, that I didn’t know why I was even bothering to email. She wrote back, telling me it seems like I need a secure base, that it’s okay and everyone needs that, and she said she was here. But then in her second email, she said  that I’m not out of line (oh my gosh. Out of line. Does this mean I’m close to being out of line? Or have been before? Or she expects I will be? I feel like a kid that just got reprimanded) and that it was fine to bother (and what does that mean? Is she just using my language, or am I a bother? Does she mean I do bother– annoy, bug, make her wish I would leave her alone– her, but it’s okay that I do so? Or that I’m not a bother? What does that mean?) her although it may take her longer to respond to emails. And I emailed her back —–even though a lot of her wording felt bad and cold and scary, I emailed back and tried to reach out again, because I very well might have been reading it wrong, or who knows—– about the triggery mess the day was yesterday, and about being mad at Kay for just leaving me. She said it was okay to be mad at Kay. And that she hoped I had been able to shake this yucky feeling. I told her how I feel like a 32 year old woman behaving like a 5 year old child, how I am instigating things with hubby, how I have been in bulimia land all weekend, and maybe I just want her to know how bad I am being to test her to see if she will stick around even when I’m being bad, I told her I felt lost and like I can’t trust anyone, and this sense that everyone is going to leave, that I was so stupid to think otherwise. I dumped an awful lot of my freak out into that last email. And then she responded. And it seems I have hit her limit for having compassion for my neediness, for wanting to be there for me, for being able to validate my feelings, to be a secure base and to help me be able to maintain trust in her. I think she’s done. I hit her limit, like I knew I would, and now, she is all gone too. He email was cold and shrinky and it didn’t sound like her. It sounded like a shrink wrote it, like a standard, fill in the blank response. 

This is my fault. I present myself as this normal, together person. I’m so afraid of people knowing I have trust issues (and honestly this was so second nature to me I didn’t even know I did it until like a year into therapy) that I react with the amount of trust I think a normal person would have. So, if a regular girl would trust her good friend this particular amount, that is what I portray. But inside, I’m freaking out, and I trust nothing. And I did the same thing in therapy. I trusted Bea as much as I thought I should. I also kept a lid on all my reactions to her for a long time– anything she said that hurt my feelings, made me mad, made me feel like she didn’t get me, or didn’t care, or really wasn’t going to be there, I kept it to myself. Oh, I wrote about it, I even wrote her emails that I never sent. But I was not about to let her know the depth of my crazy. And while I have gotten better, recently, at being honest and even emailing after the fact to say that something she said hurt my feelings or made me worried, I still don’t let her know the depth of the crazy in me. Because, oh my gosh, if she knew how alone I feel and how much I worry about trusting her, and second guess everything she says, and how I so easily feel left and triggered over nothing (seriously nothing), she would declare me too crazy and too broken to work with and she would leave. 

And I spent the morning today with migraine. I was irritable, and not able to tolerate anything. I literally wanted to hide in my closet and never see or speak to another person again. I wanted d to run away, and never acknowledge my past life. I thought about downing a bottle of pills chased with a bottle of wine. So, then I did some sewing. It was as close to coping skills as I could access. I have been sewing for Kat’s (and mine) American Girl dolls. I think the little girl part of me really likes making things for the dolls, setting up the doll stuff, dressing them, and styling their hair. It’s a good thing for the little girl, and it’s a distracting activity that can keep me somewhat calm feeling for hours. But then Kat came home from school, and it was just her and I all day. And I yelled at her. I don’t mean I yelled because she did something bad. I mean I just yelled. I yelled because I’m mad, because I hate everyone and everything and the whole entire world. I yelled the way a child or a teenager yells; to be mean, to show hurt and anger and rage and pain. I yelled. I apologized, I explained that mommy was having a grumpy day and it had nothing to do with her, I told her mommy had no right to yell like that, I told her I was sorry, I told her it was okay to be mad and hurt that I yelled. I realized I needed to get us out of the house, and to not be alone, or I would most likely yell more. I texted a mom friend of mine– who is a very good friend, actually– and asked if she and her daughter wanted to go to the pool. We met at the pool, and the girls played and we sat in the hot tub and talked, and it was okay. I told her I was having a bad day, that I was irritable, and not in a nice mood, and she accepted that. I just didn’t have the energy to put on my miss perfect Mary sunshine face, and I’m so sick of lying to people who are supposed to be my friends. So I didn’t pretend. I didn’t go into major details of way I was in a bad mood, but what I really needed was someone to accept me where I was. And she did that. 

I texted hubby while I was still at home, after I had yelled for the 5th, 6th, 7th time. His response? “Do I need to come home?” It didn’t feel supportive. It felt like he was saying, “I don’t have time to deal with this, but I am stuck with a crazy, broken, defective wife, so I might as well ask if I need to come home and takeover for her before she screws up our child and turns her into an emotional wreck.” I  told him no. 

I don’t know what I want, or what I need. I only know I’m mad, and hurt and confused and scared and sorry. I hate that whatever happened in my childhood has once again turned my daughter into a giant trigger. I hate that I have put myself in this place of not trusting anyone, of always being scared of what they really mean and what they really think and what they are really going to do. I hate that I feel like I have to have sex with my husband so that he will love me. I hate that Kay leaving me has made me this crazy person, terrified of being left and afraid to trust anyone with anything. I hate that I feel disconnected from everyone in my life right now. I hate that I’m so dissociated that everything is a blur, and I’m numb and gone, and I hate that I’m too afraid to do anything to be more grounded because that means feelings and I can’t handle the feelings. I hate that Bea is on vacation, because right now, I feel like I could go to therapy everyday and that still wouldn’t be enough to contain this mess in my head or help me feel like I’m not alone. I hate that my parents weren’t there emotionally like they should have been, and that I’m unable to cope with anything because of that. I hate that it’s 4:15 in the morning and I only slept a little more than an hour because of nightmares about Kenny and the boyfriend together. 

I hate that I’m a broken, out of control mess, and the only way I know how to fix it is to be a control freak over every aspect in my life, so that nothing can get screwed up, and so there is no time to think, or feel or be scared. I hate that being that way means everyone in my life will think I’m okay, including Bea, and I won’t say otherwise. I hate that I can see myself turning from this healing road and heading down this path, and that I know it is a bad path, but I want to follow it. I want desperately to follow it. And what does that say about me, that I would choose to follow the fork in the road, the bad path, instead of the healing road? But it’s safe. It’s familiar. Nothing bad or scary happens on this path. I know it’s a path that ultimately ends in hurt and mess, but for a while, when I’m on the path, it’s clean and bright and filled with flowers and pretty trees and cute little forest creatures. I don’t really want to follow this path. I just don’t want to hurt anymore.  

Advertisements

Don’t tell

I saw Bea Monday morning, like usual. It’s been just over 24 hours since that appointment, and I can hardly remember our conversation. What I do remember is telling her about the weekend, and her response that it seemed I had dealt with things well. She mentioned how I hadn’t been triggered by Kat, that I had been in protective mode. She asked what it was like seeing my mom play with and spend time with my daughter? I have no idea how to answer that. I’m not very present when I’m around my mom. It’s mostly like I have no feelings, wherever it is I go when I am with her, and the ones that do trickle in tend to be more triggery feelings. So I have no idea how I feel. Fine. Happy. I don’t know. What am I supposed to feel? That is sweet, seeing my mother and daughter together. Right? Then that is what I feel.

But she’s wrong. I didn’t deal with things well. I just left out the things I did to deal. Not once have I given her a run down of my weekends, or my days and willingly said, “well, we went downtown, hung out, and then Kat was all done so we drove back to my moms. While my mom and Kat played and my hubby helped my dad with some manly outdoor project, I stuffed my face with ice cream and vomited. Then I say outside and played with my mom and Kat. After dinner, I went to the store to get some hair color, and colored my hair. While the color processed I ate a bunch of junk food, and then threw up a second time that day when I was supposed to be showering. In the middle of the night I had nightmares, hid in the closet, and got caught hiding by my hubby. Which only made me feel ashamed and vulnerable. But it was fine because once he fell back asleep, I went to the bathroom, found a razor and cut. And bye-bye bad feelings.” I don’t talk that openly. I still expect to be shamed, judged, condemned, or lectured for my behaviors, so as soon as I admit them, I figuring out how to back track. I purposefully leave that stuff out. It’s my filter, and it’s second nature. I don’t know what else to say about it.

I think part of me was disappointed she didn’t question me about how I was saying my behaviors were out of control and yet according to my story of the weekend, nothing happened. A part of me wanted Bea to back me into a corner and force me to answer or talk about those things. Because they are scary. I think a part of me thought she knew me well enough to realize I would leave those things out, always. Of course, a part of me is thankful she has left well enough alone. I don’t quite trust that she won’t ditch me if I was truly upfront about things.

I wasn’t very there, and she knew that. I told her how my parents talked of renting the cabin this year, so our families– mine and my brothers– and them could all go for a long weekend. I don’t want to go back there, but then again, there is that idea….if I went back, maybe some blanks would get filled in. Maybe memories would be triggered. I don’t know. We are going camping and to a theme park for my daughters birthday with my parents and niece and nephews. We will be staying in a campground, at campground rustic style cabins. It’s were we always stayed with the smiths when we went. I’m both looking forward to a fun trip, a really nice way to celebrate Kat’s birthday, and already despairing that I won’t be able to function or be okay. But this is for Kat, so I know I’ll do it, and even if I’m dissociated the entire time, I’ll function normally.

I almost told her. About the memory I do have of the cabin. Well, one of the memories anyways. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Well, I was going to. This is what happened…..

It’s getting towards the end of the session. I feel like I’ve floated off, like I’m not tethered to anything. Bea is supposed to be my anchor, but I’ve been working hard to cut her off, she’s too close. So, I feel disconnected, not here. I feel like I’m all alone and no one understands. She’s mentioned that I hadn’t been triggered by Kat, but she’s wrong. I just didn’t say it, because I’m mad at myself over it. And I didn’t have a lot to do with Kat this weekend, minus the party, so it was limited.

“We are getting close to our ending time today. I wanted to let you know in case there is anything else you feel like you want to talk about that we haven’t talked about,” she says. She’s calm and present and everything Bea always is. Except things feel different right now. I know it’s because of me, because I’m so disconnected.

I shake my head. I’ve been crying the last few minutes. Over what, I don’t remember now. Bea told me, as she stated in her email, that she is aware the past is right here. But she believes it’s all the anxiety and stress of current day life that has made my defense go down, and she feels that all the triggery past stuff has slipped in because of that. Maybe she’s right. Does it matter? The point is, she keeps redirecting the focus to the present, and it’s the past I need to deal with. The present is all good stuff, or stuff that is being handled. It’s not what is causing me distress, no matter what she thinks. She might be the shrink, but I’m the one living in my head.

“There doesn’t have to be anything. I just wanted to check.” Her voice sounds firm, but underneath, maybe wavering. Is she feeling a little lost in how to deal with me? Has my floatiness confused her, made it harder to read me? I don’t know.

“I just…I have..I’m afraid to say it.” I sigh. How many times have I said this sentence?

Maybe Bea responds, maybe she waits. I’m not sure. Eventually, she does ask me if I want to talk about it. Maybe if she knew I wanted to, needed to talk about it she would help me figure out how.

“I don’t know.” I tell her honestly. I feel so lost. I’m not sure which way is up, if the memory is real, if it changes anything. I’m not sure about any of it. I want to talk to Bea, to figure it out, to not be alone, to share my confusion with someone I trust and who will be steady and not confused. But I’m not sure now. She doesn’t feel connected to me, she feels far away. Her emailed responses seem rote, and not her. I feel like she isn’t really here with me anymore, like she is done with me, annoyed over how I have been acting, how much time I take up, all my whining. I don’t know. Part of me can argue with that. But these teenage and child parts, they feel this, and they are running the show.

“Then I feel like it would be better to wait, to try to get you back to a more grounded place. I don’t think talking about things that are going to send you far away is the best thing when you are already so far away. I don’t want to send your farther away. We talk about pacing. We have time to talk about this. Maybe on Thursday, if you are feeling stronger,” Bea says gently.

I nod. “Okay.” My eyes fill with tears. I blink, furiously, trying to keep them from falling. I needed her to help me talk, not shut me down. This only confirms my thoughts that she is annoyed and done and not really here with me. My feelings are behind hurt. The person I have trusted most, even more than Kay, the person I have shared my ugliest memories, thoughts, feelings with, the person I was just beginning to believe could maybe handle my anger and my fears and the worst behaviors and worst memories has basically told me to not tell. She’s no different than anyone else. Don’t tell. Smile. Pretend it’s all okay.

“Does that sound okay?” She questions. Maybe she is uncertain of her choice. I don’t know. I don’t care. She made the choice, it’s what she really believes. Maybe she sees her choice is shutting me down, and she is trying to backtrack, so I don’t close up. Because she can’t do her job if I close up.

I look up at her, briefly meet her eyes. “It’s fine.” And a tear or two falls. I swipe at them, angrily. I don’t want her to know that she has hurt me. That’s not okay. We’ve been heading here since her insistence on focusing on my current world happenings. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve felt on edge about her and whether or not she was getting it, and my feelings had already been raw and slightly hurting.

“Are you sure?” She presses, and her voice sounds like she really wants to know, and maybe she does, but I already know my role. Smile. Go along. Don’t tell.

I nod. “I’m okay.” And with that, I grab a tissue and wipe at my face. I’m sure it’s a mess.

I don’t remember the rest of the session, really. I know I smiled and nodded and tried my best to act okay.

Now I’m in this weird, fake okay, not here place. I spent the rest of Monday in bed, watching old movies and being oblivious to the world. I ditched swimming and yoga and didn’t do any cleaning. I have no desire to talk to anyone. I spent today doing the much of the same. Tomorrow, I need to get up and function and be okay. No more moping. I’m not even sure what I’m moping about. The fact that my shrink feels not here, like she doesn’t care? The fact that she shut me down, much the way I shut myself down for years? The fact that I’m a horrible mom, triggered by her kid, and even aware of that unable to fully control my reaction? The fact that I feel like I was nothing more than a living sex toy for most of my childhood and even into my teen years? I don’t know. I’m confused. I’m lost. I’m all alone.

I’m sorry

Trigger waring. I’m in a horribly messy place, and I have debated about writing it here or not. I don’t want to hide or lie or keep secrets on my blog, though. This is the place where I can be me, and speak my truth– whatever it is. I’m going to post it all, and there may be a lot of triggering stuff in here, so please, read carefully. Xx

Thursday’s therapy session. It was messy. Well, I was a mess, Bea was great; understanding and compassionate as she always is. Words felt non-existent in my world that day.

The night before I had tried to seduce my husband, and he had ignored me, pushed me away. I ended up in the chair in my living room, all the lights turned on, crying. I felt worthless, and disgusting, dirty and bad and like a whore. I couldn’t believe what I had done. Who acts like that? And what’s more, why did I ever think he could truly want me? I’m a disgusting, worthless, slut. And I don’t even like sex. But a part of me needed my husband to want me, because then he wouldn’t be so distant, and I would know he loves me. But he rejected me. He doesn’t want me. He’s disconnected and gone, and he doesn’t want me. I hadn’t cut for almost a whole week. I failed. I cut. Cutting doesn’t hurt, I never feel that pain. But it stops the thoughts, distracts me, grounds me and somehow numbs me at the same time. And so I hurt myself, again. Because he doesn’t want me.

I wrote it all out, in my notebook. Sometimes I write in a real journal, I need pen and paper to be able to put my thoughts and feelings into words. That night, I wrote on paper. I wrote a letter to Bea, telling her how messed up my head is. I told her I did feel rejected when she didn’t email, that everything she said on Tuesday was right, and I was so angry that I needed someone.

I couldn’t get many words out on Tuesday. I finally gave her my notebook, after freaking out that she would be mad, hate me, leave me. I wanted her to have it, to read it, to know. At the same time, I didn’t want to face her reaction.

I needn’t have worried. She told me a lot of women initiate sex, want to seduce their husbands. She said of course I felt rejected. She told me that abuse survivors are more sensitive to rejection and perceived rejection. She suggested I talk to him about how disconnected he feels. I can’t do that. I keep thinking I should, but I’m afraid. I don’t remember where the conversation led. I just remember being really ashamed, but feeling accepted by Bea anyway.

We talked about Kat, and feelings I have towards her, how she triggers me so much right now. I have never felt so low or awful in my life. Admitting that sometimes I see Kat as me, and think awful things in my head before I can even stop the thoughts. Like, the other day when Kat was running around bare bottomed and in nothing but a tank top because she was hot, I thought she was dirty and sick and such a freaking slut. Then, I felt like the scum of the earth, and I pressed my finger to the stove top where I was cooking scrambled eggs. I hate myself for so many reasons, but this is one of the top reasons. I don’t deserve to be Kat’s mom. This beautiful child. Innocent and sweet and kind, so full of light and love. How did she get stuck with someone whose soul is as black as mine? I’m so sorry for her, so sorry for all the ways I screw up, time and time again.

I don’t remember everything Bea said. I feel like she said I was okay, I wasn’t bad. I feel like she wanted me to feel better. That she saw and felt all the hatred and despair I have over this, over everything about me. She remarked about how I was really feeling so badly about myself….it seems to me that she was seeing me so differently than I see me.

I didn’t tell her about the flashbacks. Well, she knows I am having them, but not the content. And I end up so angry, just wanting to be alone when this happens. I yell at anyone around me, and I shut it all down so quickly. Lately, anytime I feel not listened to, I freak out. It’s always over dumb things but it feels like an emotional flashback, yelling and screaming and crying because no one listened to me as a child.

My hour and half session lasted two hours. Bea told me that she thinks we really need to keep session to an hour and a half, that two hours of processing ugly stuff is too much for anyone. I immediately felt bad and guilty and like I had done something wrong. I apologized and asked her to please not be mad. Was it in my head, or did I really tell her I felt so ashamed for screwing up again and taking more time than I should? She assured me she wasn’t angry, that I hadn’t done anything wrong, I had no reason to apologize, that this was simply about keeping me safe, because it’s really hard to come back from two hours of sitting with big feelings and talking about the ugly scary stuff. I made a point to sit up and tell her I was okay, I was good, no worries. I told her I’m always okay. And she said, “except for when you truly aren’t okay.” I reminded her I tell her when I’m not okay. Of course, in Bea’s world there are more than one kind of okay and not okay. In my world, there is okay, and not okay. And the not okays are really, really bad.

When I left, I paused at the top of the stairs and told her I was very sorry. She looked surprised and said quietly, “For what?!” I told her I didn’t know, I just felt sorry, and that she should just say okay and accept it because I needed her to do that. She nodded and said, “okay. But you don’t need to be sorry.”

I think I’m sorry for existing; for taking time from someone else, for needing Bea, for needing hubby. I’m sorry for being screwed up, and stubborn and afraid of so many things. I’m sorry for being bad, and for putting all my awful thoughts and memories into Bea’s head. I’m sorry for so much, for so many things, and I have no words to explain it. I simply feel sad and hurting and sorry. That’s all.

Brass keys and finding me

Last week, Thursday’s session. It was one of those sessions that I barely remember, but feels like a turning point. We talked about a lot of things, maybe the most important the idea of telling hubby more about my past. I’ve refused to discuss it with Bea lately. She has been pushing me to talk to hubby, and I finally told her I needed her to stop, to be firmly on my side and it felt like she was against me when she pushed for me to talk to him. She agreed to follow the road I was on, even though she was afraid I was heading towards self destruction.

It started out talking about Easter, and seeing kenny. It still feels slightly surreal, like it didn’t happen, couldn’t have happened.

“He was talking to him. They talked.” I’m still in shock over this. They have talked before, of course. But it feels different now that I’m not hiding my past from myself. It feels wrong, to have my husband talking to the guy who hurt me.

“What if hubby had been aware, and could have been supporting you? You wouldn’t have had to be alone in the kitchen, thinking about cutting,” Bea says. Her eyes are kind, and she isn’t pushing me to talk to hubby, it’s a question, but not pushy, just calm. She has a way of making this conversation feel like normal talk between two people, and not like we are discussing a scary moment, one of my nightmares come to life.

I shake my head. I’m curled up on the couch, and Bea is across from me in her chair. She’s looking at me intently, but patiently. I cover my face with my hand, and then set it down. Looking back at Bea, I shake my head again. “He can’t know. He wouldn’t be able to act normal.”

She nods. “There would have to be an understanding that he could not say anything to anyone, that it’s your choice to tell. He’d have to know ahead of time that he would need to be able to act like things were no different than before he knew.”

“He can’t do it. He’d be too angry to sit and have a conversation and pretend things are normal and okay.”

“Would that feel good to have him angry? Like a protector?” Bea asks.

All I can think is of the damage his anger could do. “No. It would ruin everything.”

“Ahhh. You would have to be really reassured he could hold it in,” she says, understanding on her face.

“I think….I mean….most people….” I stop, frustrated with myself. I don’t know how to express this, or explain it without sounding like I think I’m special. “I don’t think I’m special, and I think this is going to sound like I think I’m so great…..but most normal…” I stop and look at Bea. She doesn’t like the word normal, she challenges me on what normal is constantly. “Average. Regular people can’t do what I do. They can’t pretend as well as I can. I’ve spent my whole life pretending, it’s easy for me. Most people…I don’t think they can do that.” I look down, embarrassed. I feel like I’m placing myself above other people, and I don’t want to do that. But I also know my ability to pretend things away and act ‘normal’ is not something everyone can do.

Bea waits a moment before answering. “No. Not everyone can do that like you do. Most people can’t to the level that you can. But hubby had to be able to hide somewhat, with his mother. He developed a way to hide and pretend her actions away.”

I shake my head. “That’s different. It’s not the same as me. It’s pretending she isn’t crazy, that she is a normal mom. But it’s not the same as me.”

I’m surprised when Bea nods. “It’s not the same. You really developed what therapists would call a false self. You had lots of reasons to do this, and you did it very well.”

We have never talked about my ability to pretend like this. I’ve told her how good I pretend, I’ve thought she didn’t believe me, I have thought she was buying the miss perfect facade, and she’s popped the bubble of perfection. But we have never talked about it like this. I feel slightly validated to hear Bea admit I can do this very well. I secretly like that she sees through the facade, but I am glad she realizes how good of a facade it is.

“It’s harder…I can’t pretend like I used to.” I look down. I hate this, I miss my ability to pretend. Ever since Bea popped the bubble, I’ve struggled to put the facade back in place. But it’s not the same. It’s not as good as it used to be, and it feels wrong, somehow. I don’t want to hide and pretend anymore.

“That’s a good thing!” Bea smiles at me.

“In your world, it is. In mine……it’s hard.”

“What would it be like to be honest with hubby? To stop hiding in your life, in your family? Well, your family here, not your extended family.” Bea asks.

I shake my head at her. It’s not happening. But the idea of it is like a cool breeze, it’s like a swim in the ocean, it’s like sitting on a beach with a fruity drink in my hand. It’s refreshing and freeing. But it can’t be. “I just can’t do it.”

“This is progress…you aren’t shutting the conversation down. Before, you have refused to think about it. It was too much to even consider. Now, we are talking about it a little. Whatever happens, it’s going to take time, and lots of conversations before you really make a choice.”

I shrug. Maybe. I hate that she is so confident we are heading down a road to talk to hubby. Even if she is right, even if I can see that might be where this road ends. I’m not ready to admit it.

“I imagine there were a lot of feelings that came up, seeing him again. Do you know what you were feeling when he walked in the door?” Bea asks.

There is too much to categorize, to explain. It’s a tidal wave of feelings, an undertow threatening to drown me. “I don’t know. I just….he was there, and I said hi. I went in the kitchen. I couldn’t think. I don’t know.” It’s all a blur.

“Was he there a long time?”

“No…maybe 10….15 minutes. Not long.” I breathe deep, trying to calm down. Those few minutes were a lifetime. Time slowed down, I swear. I stared at the knife block in my parent’s kitchen, sitting on the counter by the stainless steel stove. I pictured picking one up, cutting my wrists. The thought was so similar to my actions when I was 15. It’s confusing. Time mixes up, and I’m lost. I can hear hubby and him talking, and hubby has the tone in his voice that is relaxed. He likes the guy. Crap. This is not okay. My mom is gushing thank you for bringing the cake over. I don’t know. It’s all a mess. The knives are right there. This crazy can stop running through my head, and I can be back in control. I don’t grab one of the knives. I clench my fists, and let my nails dig into my palms. That’s what I focus on. Time is never ending.

“That had to feel like the longest 15 minutes of your life, like it was never going to be over.” Bea is sympathetic, but the look she gives me isn’t full of pity, it’s understanding. She gets it, she can imagine it, feel it.

She asks me if there were good feelings of seeing him. I barely register her question, I don’t even know the words she used, but it penetrates the fog I’m in, and I know what she is asking. I cover my face, and then bury my head. “I don’t know, I just….it was…I don’t know.” My face is hot, flaming with shame.

“They are just feelings. They don’t mean anything. Letting them out is better than keeping them trapped,” Bea says softly, soothingly.

I shake my head. My face is still hidden. “I shouldn’t…I can’t.”

“That’s judgement. Stop judging yourself for feelings. They are just feelings, acknowledge them, accept them. They don’t mean anything.” She says.

I sigh. “When I was 12…..”

“Did you remember more?” She prompts me softly to keep speaking.

“No. But the feelings….it’s the same.” I shake my head. It’s all mashed together in my mind, a confusing tangle. “He pushed me away. He pushed me away from him.” My voice cracks now, and tears threaten to fall. “I know, rationally, I know why he pushed me away, and was disgusted. But it hurts. And I don’t understand why it hurts now.” The words come out in a rush. I’m afraid if I don’t say them quickly, I won’t say them at all.

“And why did he push you away?” Bea asks. She knows the answer, and the way she asks I can tell she wants me to say it; that she is hoping my saying it and talking it out will help the mess in my head.

“Because someone was there.” I can’t say more, I can’t explain it better,

“Who?” The question is gentle, but firm.

“My mom.” I breathe out the air I’d been holding, and the tears come now.

Bea talks about how hard that had to be, confusing, difficult. That maybe I had kissed him in front of my mom because I was testing if the game was really okay and normal. She says how terrible it had to feel to be the one who was in trouble, when kenny had been raping me all those years.

“I don’t know if I got in trouble. I don’t remember. It just feels like I was talked to. But I don’t know.” I’m frustrated with myself for not knowing more.

“When I read what you wrote, it sounded like a 12 year old speaking to me. And the ‘talked to about appropriate behavior for a crush’ sounds like adult words. I believe you were talked to. And it’s no wonder you blocked this all out. It’s painful.” Bea tells me.

I breathe a sigh of relief. She believes me. Even if I don’t believe myself, Bea believes me. “It hurt. My feelings were hurt. And that’s how I felt on Saturday. Just the same…all the same feelings.” It’s the best I can do to explain.

Bea gets it. There is understanding in her voice when she speaks. “Of course. Your mom let him in the house, talked to him, was happy to see him. And your feelings and needs were ignored. It felt like rejection all over again. And he was right there, acting like everything was fine, like he had done nothing wrong, and you were forced to go along with that act. Of course the feelings were the same.”

It’s enough that I look up at her, wipe my eyes. “I really don’t want to cry today,” I tell her, as fresh tears stream down my face.

“Let’s stop here then, take some time to just get grounded and come back,” she tells me. The look on her face is understanding, sympathy…it’s kind, but no pity. She’s not looking at me like I’m less than because of all this. I wonder how that is possible.

We talk about me, about this therapy journey and how far I’ve come. I’m hazy and emotionally wiped out, so the actual words don’t stick with me. The feeling does, though. It’s like a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Comforting. Bea believes me, even when I doubt myself. Bea sees that I’ve changed, that I’m more ‘me.’ We talk about hiding, and how I can’t do it so much anymore. She says it’s okay, although I wonder. I feel raw, exposed, naked, a good portion of the time. It makes me defensive and hypervigilant when I feel like I have to hide and can’t quite get the facade in place. I don’t know.

Things feel different inside me. I don’t know exactly what it is. It’s not numb, but a strange calm. It’s not bad, simply different, new. It feels like the fact I can’t hide as easily is peaceful in a way. I feel like something is changing. Like something is on the horizon, just out of reach, and if I work hard enough, stretch enough, I will be able to grab it. I don’t know what ‘it’ is. It’s like an elusive brass key, one that will open a door to finding me. Maybe, this is all a journey to finding myself, and maybe, just maybe, I’m finding me piece by piece.

Coping with hell

I’m in Bea’s office, curled on her couch, holding my chai tea in my hand. I feel like I can finally breathe, like I can relax, like I can just be. I can stop trying to pretend I’m okay, I can stop feeling guilty that I can’t seem to pretend anymore. We’ve talked about Kat, and how she played on Friday in therapy. It concerns me, but Bea seems to feel it was good, although she can see why it would feel disturbing to me. I try to hold on to the idea that the play means Kat is working through her stuff.

“So how was it, being back at your parents?” Bea asks, switching subjects from Kat to me.

I stare at the floor, play with the rubber band around my travel thermos. I don’t want to answer. I want her to know, but I don’t want to have to tell it all. It’s too much.

“You were sick, did that get better? There was a lot you were dealing with already before the weekend.” Bea looks at me. She’s referring to a situation with Kat, that had sent me into a panic, emailing Bea and begging her to help and make it okay, to give me a reality check. I had known, that being sick, and all the flashback crap I was dealing with, I wasn’t objective. Bea had emailed back quickly and reassured me, as well as pointed out several things that gave me a reality check.

“It got better. I was okay. We left for my parents Saturday.” I tell her this, and my voice feels a little robotic.

“Did your mom have stuff planned?” Bea asks.

I nod. I look up at her. “It wasn’t a good weekend.” My voice cracks, and tears threaten to fall.

After a minute, when I don’t continue speaking, Bea says,”You know, I think Easter is a hard holiday, maybe the hardest. It’s all about purity, and renewal, about joy and innocence. Even on the surface, the symbols of Easter, bunnies and baby chicks are about new life and sweetness. That can be hard to be around, hard to feel, when so many ugly truths are sitting inside your head. It can feel like you are completely at odds with everything the holiday stands for.” Her voice is kind, and understanding. Everything she is saying makes sense.

I start crying, cover my face. I don’t want to do this today.

“Did you go to church?” Bea asks.

I shake my head. “No…I…no.” I lose track of the conversation, but somehow I’m telling her how hubby came to church one year, probably the first year we dated. “We always go to sunrise service. It’s really beautiful,” I tell her. “Hubby was surprised…..he was raised baptist (at this point, I will apologize to anyone who identifies as baptist. I realize not all baptists are like this, but this is how hubby was raised.) so he was surprised how my church was.” I ask Bea if she knows much about the baptist religion, and she shakes her head. “It’s hellfire and brimstone, it seems like you believe because you are afraid not to. There’s no dancing, no singing. It’s very strict. His parents didn’t follow that….but, it’s the church they went to, so the God hubby came to know was scary.”

Bea doesn’t tell me what she believes, or even if she goes to church, but when I get worried she could be baptist, and I could have offended her, she assures me she is not. “My husband did go to a baptist church, and then he became Lutheran, so I have a little familiarity.”

“Okay. My dad was Lutheran, my mom was Methodist. I was raised non-denominational. It’s about the most lax you can get. We sing, we wear jeans….well, my generation wears jeans…it’s about God loving us, forgiving us, not about being afraid. So Hubby was surprised. He doesn’t do church now, though. But I couldn’t…I just couldn’t do sunrise service. My mom went. I stayed home, I said I was feeling sick.”

I lose track of the conversation again. Bea is talking about church, Jesus, God. I don’t want to have this talk. While I had been explaining hubby’s experience and mine with church growing up, I had lifted my face to look at her. Now, I hug my knees to my chest, bury my face.

“Do you know who Jesus hung out with?” Bea asks me.

I sigh. “I don’t want to have this conversation.”

“Okay. Can I say something about Jesus the man, the person? No theoretical religious speak from me, I’m not a religion scholar.”

“Okay.” I’m too tired to argue. And part of me really does want to have this conversation.

“Jesus hung out with the poor people, the sick, the prostitutes. He hung out with the people looked down on by society. He didn’t hang out with the high and mighty. My mom….she was an immigrant, she was poor when she moved here. Eventually, she moved to a more affluent area, that was heavily Christian and a lot of the neighbors had been talking about the gays, and the poor, and the riff raff, and saying terrible things. She finally got mad– and my mom doesn’t get mad, so this was a big deal– and she said, ‘who do you think Jesus would be hanging out with if he were here? The very people you are putting down!’ And she was right. There’s a new book out, Zealot, about the life of Jesus, as a man. The author is Muslim, but his wife and mother are Christian. He writes about Jesus and the good life he led, the people he spent his time with. And he says, even though he doesn’t believe Jesus is the savior, he wants to follow his example, because he led a kind life. That’s who Jesus was. I think your version of God, of forgiveness and love sounds about right,” Bea’s words come out in a rush, and I can hear pride in her voice when she speaks about her mom standing up for her beliefs.

“I’m not talking about this.” But I file the name of that book away in the back of my mind for later. I wonder, did Bea read it? Or has it just been one of those newsworthy books?

“Okay. I do think this is going to be important in your healing. I know it’s caused you a lot of pain. And I know I started talking on and on. I’m sorry,” she apologizes. I’m surprised. I wasn’t even feeling upset or mad, or anything, but her apology, and acknowledgement that I had asked to not discuss it but she got lost on a tangent, soothes me. It makes me feel like I have worth, like I’m allowed to speak up. Like it’s okay.

I lose track again, and then I’m telling her it was a bad weekend. “Saturday…” I shake my head. “Saturday….” I can’t get past that word. My breathing speeds up, my heart is racing. I’m shaking, and my eyes are darting around, even with my head down. I try to shrink into myself, scoot back, be small. I’m afraid. I can’t talk. I need Bea to know, but I can’t talk. How am I going to tell her? Can I text it to her? Is that stupid? I don’t know. I can’t do this. I need to hide. There is a closet in Bea’s office, it’s filled with toys and art supplies. Can I hide in the closet? Probably not. She’ll think I’ve lost it for sure if I try to go hide in her closet.

“Something really bad happened. Something very scary happened on Saturday,” Bea says. She doesn’t sound worried, or upset, or anything. She sounds fine. Her voice grounds me a little. “Did your mom pull out more pictures?”

I want to shake my head, but I can’t seem to.

“Okay. Did his parents come over?” She asks.

No. Not his parents. I can’t think. I just keep replaying those few minutes over and over.

“I wish I could just pull this out of your head, so you didn’t have to say it,” Bea says. She knows how hard talking can be for me. Sometimes, once whatever it is, is out there, I can talk around it, without naming it again. But the actual naming of it is painful.

I’m crying, and shaking, trying to control my breathing. I don’t want to have an anxiety attack.

“Is there anything I can do to help you, to make this easier?” Bea sounds like she might be a little sad or something, I don’t know. Like she really wants to help me and it pains her that I’m struggling so much.

I shake my head, hold my knees tighter. “There’s nothing you can do. I just want it to go away.” The words float out, a whisper, a plea, but they don’t come easily. Every syllable is a fight.

“It’s just really hard. This was really a bad thing,” Bea says. She knows it wasn’t good. I don’t know why, but I know, deep down to my bones that she believes me. It’s okay.

We sit in silence, Bea just being there, believing me and wanting to help, and me, trying to breathe and calm myself.

“Did you write it down?” Bea asks me.

Her question knocks me of kilter for some reason. “Yeah. Yeah I did write it.” I’m surprised. I wrote it down. Why didn’t I think of that?

“Is it here?”

“Yes…well..it’s in my iPad. On my list…it’s unedited. I don’t really turn in things unedited.” Except last week, I gave her the whole list, unedited and messy, and it was okay.

Bea gives a small laugh. “That’s something we have in common then. I don’t have many things I’m OCD about, but editing things is one of them. I won’t judge,” she says, and then almost as an after thought, she adds, “You might not get an A, though,” with a small chuckle to let me know she is joking.

I smile. “I don’t know. I need to have perfect grammar, and get an A.”

Bea laughs for real now. “Alice, you’re funny.”

I smile, laugh under my breath quietly. “I know.” And we both laugh again, as I lift my head and wipe my eyes.

I grab my iPad out, pull up the list and scroll down to where I wrote about Saturday. I sit, staring at it. I don’t move. Bea is quiet. It’s okay to give it to her, I tell myself. It takes some convincing, but I hand it to her, and immediately bury my face. I don’t want to see her face when she reads it. I don’t want to see any emotions play across it that may mirror my own. I don’t want to see nothing, either. No matter what her initial reaction is, I’ll be upset. Why is it that there is no pleasing me? Was my mom right when she said no one would ever make me happy, there was no pleasing me, I put people in impossible positions, I’m so needy, I take and take, I drain people of all they have? I hide because I can’t face Bea right now.

She reads about Saturday.

He brought a cake. Saturday afternoon. I can’t even write about it. He said hi to me. Like it was normal. Hi to hubby. My mom chatted with him, like he is the perfect person he pretends to be. Hubby talked to him. They had a conversation. I stood there. In the kitchen, frozen. There was a knife in front of me, and I thought about grabbing it, cutting. I didn’t. He left, I smiled, waved, said nice to see you, bye, happy Easter. Oh my God. What the hell is wrong with me? I can’t do this. I think he knew. I thought he might tell hubby how disgusting I am. He knows I told the secret. It’s crazy, I know I sound crazy, that there is no way he could know, but I swear he knows and it’s not okay. It’s not okay at all.

While she reads, she makes an mmmhmm sound, and then, “This is terrible. Very terrible. No wonder you feel like this, it is horrific. Your own personal hell, knocking on the door.”

I’m afraid, suddenly, that she is going to make me talk about it. I don’t know why I’m afraid of that. She’s never made me talk about anything. She’s talked and I’ve listened in uncomfortable situations. But she has never made me talk. I’m done hiding and lying and pretending though, so I say, “Please don’t make me talk about this.” My voice is tiny, and scared. But she needs to know what I’m feeling.

“I won’t,” she says seriously.

She continues reading, even though there is nothing more about him being at the house. It’s a list of the weekend, of things I dealt with, things from now and from the past that were in my head. Last time she had read something on my list, she asked if she could read the rest of it. This time, she just reads, and that’s okay. I had almost said to her to read it all anyways.

“This is your voice,” Bea sounds excited, like she has discovered something amazing. “Right here, in your writing, you are finding your voice. This is your voice: ‘I’m so tired of lying. I’m tired of saying I’m okay when I’m not. I’m tired of smiling when I want to cry. I’m tired of not being mad, when I should be mad, and hiding from mad so well, that I can’t even feel it.’ That’s you. That’s real.”

I listen to her reading my words back to me, and realize they are true. I’m tired of it all. I just want….I don’t know what. To be real. To be me and not afraid, to have a life, my life, without hiding.

“This is good, this is you finding you.” Bea sounds almost giddy. I don’t know why, but her happiness makes me feel lighter.

She goes back to reading. Next on the list is the memory of the kiss up north, when I was 12. I’m feeling hazy and light headed when Bea talks to me. I can’t focus on her words, can’t grab onto them. All I have is this overwhelming sense of rejection. He pushed me away. He didn’t want me. Why? What did I do wrong? My mother was horrified by my actions. She didn’t dig deeper. Why? What did I do wrong? They both left me. I can’t escape this feeling of alone. Isolated. Confused and hurt.

“There’s nothing before, nothing after. What was I thinking?” I finally say to Bea.

“I don’t know,” she tells me honestly. It’s one of the things I admire about her; she is honest and up front. She won’t lie to me. She says something about it being okay to be angry with my mom.

I shake my head. “I can’t….I don’t know. It’s so messy.”

“It’s going to be messy for a while. It just is.” She says, matter of fact about it.

I shrug. “Hubby talked to him. They talked.” I sound shocked.

“That was really scary. Did hubby say anything about it to you?”

“No. It was just a normal chat. I hid in the kitchen.” I’m shaking again, and all those feelings are threatening to come out. I shove them down. I can’t do it. I need to be numb, or at least as numb as I can be.

“There has to be rage there, even if you didn’t feel it. You wrote about the knives, looking at them, thinking about cutting. But you didn’t cut. I wish you would have wanted to hurt him.” Bea says. She pause a moment, and backtracks, “That was a strange thing to say, I’m sorry.”

I shake my head. I get it. “I think you just want so badly for me to be mad at him, and not to be hurting myself. That’s all.”

“Yes. The truth is, I’m mad about the injustice of it all. I’m mad at how badly you were hurt, and how much you were isolated and shut down and hiding all these years. It makes me so angry. But, I have to separate that anger from this work. Because if I’m going to walk with you on your journey, I can’t push my feelings.”

“That sounds hard,” I say. I’ve thought about it before, how hard that has to be, but we have never talked about it.

“Sure, it can be. As you know, we’ve experienced my feelings getting in the way. But you told me you needed to feel like I was on your side, not trying to get you to do something else. So I backed off on the hubby stuff. At times, I want to say, I’m calling your parents and giving them a piece of my mind, I’m emailing kenny and telling him all the damage he caused and to stay away, and send hubby in here, drag him in here and I’ll set him straight.”

I smile, despite myself. I feel protected for a minute, safe. Bea is acting like my lion at the gate. “You can’t call my parents, or email kenny.” I laugh. “I might let you have hubby, though.”

Bea laughs. “You can send him in whenever you are ready. I’m here.” There’s something reassuring in her words. Just the idea, when I’m ready, she’s here. That’s huge.

A realization is slowly forming in my mind. “I told you to back off.” I say slowly.

“Yes, you did.”

“I told you to back off, and you did. And it was okay.” I say, slowly again.

“Yes…?” Bea says, an unasked question in the air. She doesn’t know what I’m getting at. I’m not exactly sure, either, it’s something I feel, something I can’t quite get into words.

“I didn’t think about it. I just asked. I said I needed to feel like you were on my side. I wasn’t afraid to say it. I didn’t second guess myself, or anything, I just said it, and it was okay.” In my head, I add that she didn’t get mad, that she listened, she was still there, she didn’t leave.

“Ohhh. I would say we have a good working relationship then. You know it’s safe to ask for what you need. That’s good, you are learning to say what it is you need. And it’s okay to have needs.” Bea says.

I don’t say anything, just nod.

“Have you talked to Hubby about anything? How did he handle your snapping at Easter?” Bea asks.

I shrug. She’s read the part of my list that says:

I could not pull it together this weekend. I skipped church, I’ve never done that on Easter ever. We always go to sunrise service on the bluff. I did not go. I couldn’t go pray and sing and worship and proclaim that I’m saved, and act like life is perfect. I could not find my facade. I couldn’t fake anything at all. I was mean, short tempered. I snapped at so many people, including my mother. My poor mother and hubby took the worst of it. I couldn’t relax, couldn’t calm down. I couldn’t be present, I didn’t want to socialize, or talk, or be around noise. And anyone who messed with that was snapped at. I tried, and tried, but I could not fake it. I don’t seem to have it in me anymore, not like I used to. I’m so tired of lying. I’m tired of saying I’m okay when I’m not. I’m tired of smiling when I want to cry. I’m tired of not being mad, when I should be mad, and hiding from mad so well, that I can’t even feel it. I couldn’t fake it. So I claimed I was still really sick. I hid. I took a bath and cut myself with someone’s razor. I stuffed my face with Reese’s eggs and the cake he brought, and threw up. I coped. Not well. But I coped.

“My mom….she just acted like it was because I was sick. She needs it to be like that.”

“I guessed that,” Bea says.

“Hubby…well, there was one point where he gave me that look…the one that says I had gone too far….but he just pushed it all away,” I tell her, sadly, “I married my mother.”

Bea laughs at that, and then turns serious. “I was thinking that same thing, except, Hubby has the capacity to be different, to really be there for you. When we told him your past, his reaction and his plea to me to help him know how to help you the day he came in, those things show me he can change. You just have to be willing to open up to him. If he knew what you were dealing with, if he had an idea…send him in here for tune ups on a regular basis, so he stays aware and doesn’t fall into detached mode, I think it would really help, thing would be different.”

I sigh. “That’s scary.” As much as I trust Bea, the idea of hubby and Bea talking on a regular basis terrifies me. I’m not sure I like that idea. I’m paranoid about people in my life hating me, finding me annoying and needy, and to have them talking about me….I don’t know.

“It is scary. It’s an idea. When you are ready.” She pauses, and then continues, “Did you guys talk about you being mean?”

“No. It’s not worth it.” I sigh. I’m tired, so tired. “I tried to talk to him. Friday. It was…not okay…confusing…..I don’t know. Didn’t you read it?” I’d written about the sex and the questions and how messy everything got.

“No, I didn’t see it.”

I sigh. I’ll probably kick myself for doing this, but I tell her that it’s above the Saturday thing. She scrolls up, and reads. I cringe, knowing what she is reading.

“He wanted something solid, a reason, something he could fix,” Bea says.

I nod. “He can’t handle my not okays and I don’t knows. And that is a lot of what I have.”

“This was a good conversation for you guys to have. You told him you weren’t okay. That was big.” She keeps talking, but I’m not listening. She’s right, I did try to open the conversion, and that was good, but I don’t want to hear her talking about sex.

“It’s okay to have needs. You see allowed to have them. It’s not bad to want sex.”

I freeze. I don’t say a word. Inside, I’m shouting at Bea. You’re wrong, you’re stupid. Shut up, stop it. It is not okay to want sex, to like to be touched. Bad girls like that. Dirty girls, slutty girls. It’s wrong,wrong, wrong, bad, bad, bad, shut up, you are wrong, it’s not okay. I’m lost in the tirade in my head, holding it back, not allowing the words to escape. How odd, how very, very, strange that I’m normally fighting to get words out, and now, I’m fighting to keep them in. I won’t be mean to Bea. I will not be mean to the one person I trust and believe in.

“I want us to slow this down, to start coming back, to try to get to a good place.” Bea says.

Her words cut off the angry rant in my head. I nod.

We sit for a minute in silence, and then I say something about my mom, and it being hard ro be around her.

“I imagine it is right now. You might have to back off for a little bit, take some time for you again, like you did in the beginning. Going back there, to your parents, has given you lots of good things more recently, but I imagine being back in that house is like time stopped, in some ways.”

“There’s so many things now…grandpa’s anniversary memorial, Mother’s Day, June birthdays….” I sigh.

Bea stays quiet, and then she gently reminds me that I have choices.

“I don’t have to go,” I whisper. “But I’ll feel bad…she’ll feel bad…I don’t know..”

“Yes. We don’t have to figure this out right now. What’s important to remember is that you have choices now, you are aware you have choices, you aren’t powerless.”

I think about that. A year ago, I didn’t realize there was a choice, that I could choose to not go to family events, and that the world would not end if I did that. Now, I know I have a choice. I have a choice.

“You lived through your worst nightmare, in some ways, this weekend, and you survived it. You coped,” Bea tells me.

“I feel like one of the zombies on hubby’s video game,” I confess.

“Half alive?”

I nod. She gets it.

“How could you not? It’s almost unfathomable for the psyche to understand. It will take a while to process, I think.”

“I’m tired. I’m just so tired,” I cry. I don’t mean tired like I want to go to bed. I mean tired like emotionally beat down, like I can not take another thing.

“I know. I know.” She soothes, in a voice that might be used with a child, gentle and calm. “You survived, you are here. You are back in your world, your life, your house and routine, with your things. He’s not here, he’s there. Even your parents can’t come visit without your permission. This is your world here. You survived, you coped.”

I sniffle. I think of how I coped this weekend. I was mean, snappy. I was dissociative. I cut myself multiple times. I picked my fingers to a bloody mess. I stuffed myself and vomited. I stepped on the scale and obsessed over the numbers. I coped. “Not very good,” I finally say.

“Doesn’t matter. You coped, you survived, to come back to your life. You survived a version of your own personal hell.” Bea says. She’s serious, too. She isn’t condemning me for how I coped.

“I like my life,” I tell her. And I do. When I think of my friends, my daughter, homeschool, our ABA team, our gym, our routine, our neighbors….I like my life.

“I do, too. I want your life,” Bea says, laughing.

“You can’t have it.” I laugh. “Well, if you take it, you gotta take all the ugly stuff, too.”

“I suppose that’s true of anyone’s life. We all have ugly stuff with the good stuff.” Bea turns serious, and contemplative. “You might not see it, or feel it, but you have come so far. You really are healing. You’re just in the middle of the hardest part, the feelings, the confusion, the trying to understand something that is beyond comprehension. You’re digging down deep.” Bea sounds….almost proud or something. Pleased, maybe. I don’t know.

“I think….when I think about it, it feels like I have changed. I can talk more. I know feelings, I feel them. But I don’t know…it hurts more. Things are more real and they hurt more…..” I trail off. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say.

“Yes. This part does hurt more. You’re more present than you used to be. You do talk more, and have your feelings. You’re seeing it might be okay to have needs. You’re finding your voice.” Bea smiles at me.

I sigh. “It’s hard.”

“It’s very hard. A lot of people don’t get to this point. But you’re here.”

It’s silent again, maybe each of us digesting what we have just talked about.

I sit up, grabbing my things. I look up at Bea, and feel like crying with relief. The only thing on her face is kindness and caring. “I’m okay,” I tell her. “Well. Not okay. But you know.”

We talk about the plan for the rest of the day and the next few days. “I think it’s going to be important that you really try to stay grounded in the now. To remember you are here, and safe, that you survived.”

Somehow, as I’m leaving, sitting on the edge of the couch, we start talking about Kenny having a kid. I don’t know how that came up. I bury my face in my hands for a moment.

“He has a little boy, right?” Bea asks me.

I nod. “They thought they were having a girl………..the ultrasound showed a girl….” My stomach turns. I remember how sick I felt at the thought of him having a daughter. I wonder, if he’d had a girl, would I have said something?

“How old is he?” Bea asks me.

I think. Was I living here, or back home at the time? Or in college? I can’t remember now. I think it was when I was living here. “9? 8?…..I think he’s 8 now. I can’t remember. I was relieved when they had a boy.”

Bea looks unsure of what she is about to say. “I’m not sure it always matters,” she says slowly. And now I know why she seemed reluctant to say what she was saying. “It makes us feel better that he doesn’t have a little girl, but I’m not sure it always matters.”

I look down at the floor. “Sometimes…..I feel guilty….” I can’t finish the thought.

“Because you didn’t tell?” Bea asks.

“Yeah. What if he….and I could have stopped it by telling?” I stare at the blue of the rug, let it go blurry. This conversation hurts.

“It’s not for you to worry about that right now,” Bea tells me softly. She says something else too, something comforting and kind, but I’m not listening fully.

“I’m the adult. I should…I don’t know…it’s my job, as a grown up to be responsible.”

I don’t remember what she says. It’s the right thing, kind, and reassuring, and not a lie. She doesn’t placate me.

Bea helps me come back present, grounded. I leave with her reminding me that I survived, that I got through it, I coped.

I didn’t fall apart completely. I didn’t put on my miss perfect facade. I was mean, and I hurt myself, I let my ED take control for a while. But I survived the weekend of my own personal hell. I coped. As bad as things are, I feel like things are changing, I’m changing…and it hurts and is hard and I’m on unsteady ground, but I think it’s going to be good, eventually.

Easter

Easter. I was raised in church, so for me, Easter is about Christ rising, saving us from our sins. It is about being saved. It is about eternal grace. It is about the love of the cross. It is a time to remember when we accepted Christ’s gift, and were saved.

Easter weekend and all it stands for is a constant reminder of my sins, of the things I have done that can not be forgiven, of the fact I am going to hell.

It’s a day that I’ve put on a happy face and proclaimed “I’m saved!” along with the rest of my friends and family. It’s a day that I’ve spent remembering how Jesus wiped away my sins….except, He didn’t. He couldn’t. Nothing and no one can wipe away the things I’ve done. No savior, no matter how loving and good could ever forgive me. It is what it is.

This weekend, I’m struggling to put on that happy face. I’m just coming off being sick. My defenses are down because of that. My bubble has been popped by Bea. I just don’t have it in me to pretend. I’m snappy, my temper is short, there is no patience in me. I don’t want to be social, to talk to to people and smile. I don’t want to greet our guests, and talk about how my family is doing. I don’t want to smile and nod when my mom proclaims my “accomplishments” with Kat and her ABA and homeschooling and autism insurance coverage; let alone to talk about those things and answer questions. I can’t pull the facade together. It’s not there, it’s not in me to act like things are perfect. Things are so far from perfect. I don’t even know where to start. I hate feeling like this, being like this. I can hear, and feel myself reacting in anger, in frustration, but I can’t stop it. The fact that I am mean is only further proof that I’m bad.

So, I avoid people as much as I can, claim I’m still feeling sick, dissociate without meaning to. I take a shower and end up cutting myself with a razor someone left sitting on the shelf. I stuff myself with carrot cake and Reese’s eggs and run to the bathroom to throw up. It’s not a good weekend.

It’s made worse because of what I know, what I remember. A snapshot, a wisp of a memory, something I don’t want to grab onto, but that I can’t seem to stop from looking at. It’s like when you pass the scene of an accident– most people driving by can’t help but look at the wreckage. And so I look at the horror of the snapshot in my mind. It makes me question everything. Summer. 1996. I was 12. We’re at the pool. Up north. Kenny and I. His hand had been between my legs, and my mom had walked up. He moves back, and she doesn’t notice. I lean towards him, and kiss him, a real kiss, in front of her. He pushes me back, disgusted, shocked. My mom is horrified. I’m in trouble. I don’t have a memory of that, a snapshot, but I have this…feeling…this knowing, that I was talked to about having a crush, and acting appropriate, because what I did was not appropriate. I want to vomit. I feel cold. Abandoned. She didn’t see what was right in front of her. I’m being a drama queen, but I feel like she left me. Like she didn’t care enough to ask, to think, to do anything. I don’t know.

That’s it. There’s nothing more. No before, no after to the memory. Just a wispy snapshot, nothing, not even a moment really. But it’s enough. It’s yet another sin to add to the list.

She brought her sledge hammer

“So…I had to send an email to Carly, and I told her that I really did hope Jaime knew it wasn’t personal, that we liked him, it just wasn’t a good fit and that if she felt it was appropriate, she could pass that on to him. So I didn’t send anything to Jaime, but…well. It seems okay. Carly emailed back that I don’t need to apologize and that it’s okay.” I finally take a breath, and smile at Bea. It’s Monday morning, 8:10am, and I’ve been up since 4:30. I’ve also had two pots of coffee, done the laundry, planned dinner, unloaded the dishwasher, and swept the floor. Then I got ready for therapy, made a shopping list and headed out the door.

“Well, it sounds like you found a way to have some closure. That’s good,” Bea says.

I shrug. “I had to do it in a round a bout way, but I did it. Kind of.”

“This time, it was a round about way. Maybe not the next time. I think you handled it fine.”

And then, there’s nothing. Silence. I don’t like silence, and Bea isn’t talking. I find some idle chit chat to try to fill the silence, but Bea isn’t letting me go there. Okay. Now what? I’m lost.

Bea looks at me, and I have a feeling this is going to be bad. “I was thinking it might be a good time to talk about symptoms.”

I just stare at her for a minute. What? Why? No. That’s all I can think. No. “Umm. Well, I’m okay. You know that.”

“Yes, I know you are okay on the outside. But I haven’t brought up symptoms for quite a while. Some people might say I have been negligent to not bring them up. I really felt that unless you told me you were in a bad place, some trauma needed to be worked through in order for us to even work through the symptoms. I would dare to say you are in a healthier place with the trauma stuff now, and so it seems a good time to do a symptom check in. I’m not saying anything has to change, but we need to know where you stand right now. That’s all. Dealing with the past, processing through it, that’s good, but there’s no point if it’s not helping you in your present, and symptoms are kind of like present day manifestations of trauma,” Bea says.

As she has been talking, I’ve been slowly pulling my knees to my chest, and burying my face in them, covering my head with my arms. And then it’s quiet again.

“You know. I have a new client I’m seeing, and he tells me I talk too much in his sessions. In my head, it’s funny, because I have this other person, who tells me to talk more. But I think it’s time I stop talking so much, and let you see what comes up. I need to stop filling in the blanks for you.”

What? I’ve been working so hard to talk more. I have been talking more. I feel like I’m being punished. And she’s doing this today? On the day she is insisting we talk about symptoms? I don’t want to have this conversation.

Bea sighs. “Okay, symptoms. Have they been better? Worse? The same?” And that’s all she says. She means it. She doesn’t speak up, even after I’m quiet for another few minutes.

Finally, I say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Talking about it means admitting I am not okay. Talking about it means ripping myself apart. Talking about it means talking about why symptoms are worse. No. No, and no.

She’s silent for a second. “Okay. Can we talk about why? What about talking about it feels bad?”

I don’t answer. I don’t have an answer. I just don’t want to talk about this.

“What is the it you don’t want to talk about?” She finally asks me.

I don’t answer. I feel like a defiant teenager. Like an odd reincarnation of my fifteen year old self. Snotty, bratty, stubborn, and mean. The only thought running through my head is all of it, I don’t want to talk about any of it, and you can’t make me.

Bea can apparently be stubborn. But, I’m in the mindset of either waiting her out, or just leaving. I wonder if I can just walk out. If I have it in me. Just as I decide I do, she breaks the silence. “So, symptoms. We had sleeping, nightmares, picking, cutting, eating. And others I’m sure I haven’t listed. I always feel like it’s the cutting that increases in frequency when someone is in pain– emotional pain.”

I’m not in pain. I’m fine. I’m okay. “I’m okay.” I don’t know if I’m trying to convince Bea, or myself now. My head is spinning. I’m pretty sure she told me earlier that we are all done talking about trauma stuff, that I’m in a healthy place with that now, and it’s onto symptoms. She’s ready for me to be gone. I’m supposed to be over the trauma now. And I’m not. I finally was just starting to feel like I could talk about it. Oh my God, I’m such a failure. I can’t even do therapy right.

“All right. You’re okay. So where are these symptoms?” She asks again. Why is she pushing so hard? I hate that she brought this up. It’s not fair.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Maybe you don’t want to talk about it because it feels like I won’t be able to handle it. Maybe you don’t want to talk about it because it feels like I could freak out and say, ‘oh no, you can’t be doing that.’ I’m not going to. And I’m not going to take anything away from you. I’m not asking you to change what you are doing to cope. This is just a check in. That’s all,” she says. And then, she hits my perfect facade with a sledge hammer. “I never assumed you stopped cutting. I never assumed that the eating stuff was fixed. But those things are doing too good a job now. Nothing can get through to you, and nothing is getting out.”

I can feel myself cracking. She knew. She knew I hadn’t stopped, and she knew that I was worse. Someone saw me. Crap.

“The cutting. Is it still happening?”

I nod. And feel a tear escape. Damn it.

“How often?” She asks me, but I will not answer that, so she adds, “More frequently?”

It feels like I sit for a very long time in silence. Finally, I nod my head.

She goes through the same questions for eating, and I nod my head. Yes, there is still an issue. Yes, there is an increase in the symptom.

I don’t know what else is said. I cry a lot, and feel very broken and overwhelmed and like a failure. I don’t know what I’m doing. My head is spinning, and I can feel a migraine coming on. I hate this. I hate that she did this. I need to be okay. Why is that such a bad thing? Why couldn’t she just let me be okay?

I think Bea tells me acting perfect and stuffing all my feelings and needs down inside is a step backwards. I think she says something about how I need to see that I’m not allowing myself to exist. That I’m turning all my rage inward, and hurting myself. That the perfect act is not sustainable. But I don’t really hear her. All I can think is that she really is sick of hearing about my ugly stuff. That she is done with needy me, and it’s time for me to move on, deal with my symptoms and get out of here.

Somehow, I make it to the end up the session. I wipe my tears with the back of my hand, my head still buried in my knees.

“Do you want a Kleenex?” Bea offers me.

“No. I’m okay,” I tell her.

“Why do I have a feeling you have some in your bag, anyway?” She says. I’m always prepared, always organized. She knows this.

I shake my head. “I actually think Kat used all the ones in my bag. But I have some in the car, anyway.”

“Well, I have boxes of them, so take a few and throw them in your bag if you need them,” she offers one more time.

I don’t answer. Instead, I say, “I really just wish you had never brought this up.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” She’s quiet, soft spoken about it. She’s sorry I’m upset, but I don’t think she’s sorry she brought it up.

I say good bye, and leave. I try to realign my facade, but someone hit it with a sledge hammer.