This is not October

I don’t want to do therapy today. I just don’t. I’m trapped in circular cycle of despair. It goes like this: I feel numb, with all these feelings and landmines underneath the numb. I can’t cope with the landmines on my own, it’s too BIG, too overwhelming. I build walls and go far away and feel empty and numb because the feelings are too much. The feelings leak through the walls anyway, and I feel panicky and alone. I need Bea, I need to not feel alone with this, I need her to contain it for me. I can’t feel her, though, because I am too far away. That means she can not contain it for me, or soothe me. So I feel more panic, more alone, more overwhelmed and I go farther away, which only makes it feel more like she is not here.

I log on anyway and when Bea says hello and good morning, I say hi back. My voice sounds wooden, hollow. Does it sound like that to her?

We talk about Kat, about school, about Halloween. Bea asks questions, and I answer them on autopilot. Eventually she asks about my birthday.

“My parents are coming. It’s fine. It all just feels far away.”

She nods her head. “That will be nice that they are coming. Usually you have a whole birthday week, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” She’s right, I do, and this week is birthday week. I just can’t get into celebration mode, though. (The back story is my Grandpa and I share a birthday. He and I had Birthday Month, and it was always really special. We loved our birthday. He always said I was the best birthday present ever, and that no gift would ever top the day I was born. He made me feel special and loved and like I was very important. He died right after I celebrated 29 and he celebrated 79. My birthday is bittersweet now, and for a lot of years, I didn’t celebrate at all. I miss him terribly. He was my favorite person on the planet. I wish everyday that he was here.)

“I haven’t forgotten about October being hard,” she says softly. When I don’t say anything, she continues, wondering out loud if that is part of what is going on.

I’ve denied that this feeling is the October feeling, and I still don’t think this has anything to do with October. It took two years, maybe three years of therapy to recognize that there is this October feeling, this pattern that has emerged. But once we saw the pattern, we worked to change it. Parts got less out of control, and I developed better coping skills and even though I always have this echo of the October feeling it is manageable. But THIS, this overwhelming, needing to disappear, wanting to die feeling? This is not October. Finally, I just bury my head in my knees.

“What’s happening for you right now? Can you tell me?” Bea asks.

“It’s not October. October is feeling like I am a failure, like I can do nothing right, like everyone is mad at me, hates me, is going to leave me because I am horrible. October is being mean and mad and pushing everyone away before they can leave me. October is sad, and it’s the teen freaking out, and it’s out of control and acting out, and wanting to die, and even I usually know I’m not acting okay, I am being mean and crazy but I can not stop it. THIS is not October. You know that! You know what October is.”

“No, this doesn’t sound like October. You’re right, I do know what October is and that it is really a hard time.” Then, she adds in her gentle voice, “But remember, I am not inside. I don’t know what things feel like inside, and I don’t think you have ever really described what October feels like. I only see the outside of it, that it is out of control, and painful and that there is lots of suicidal ideation happening. But I can see now that this feeling is not October.”

I don’t respond, but I am relieved she is finally getting it.

Bea talks, but I am farther and farther away, and it’s too hard. This is too hard. I’m alone, even though Bea is right here, talking to me, trying to help. When she asks me if I can describe the feelings that are too much, her words break through the fog.

“I don’t know. I just don’t know. I can’t, I can’t because you are too far away and it’s my fault anyway and I can’t do this.” The words are jumbled and repetitive and I know I am not explaining well at all. I hate this. Bea doesn’t feel like Bea, I can’t tell her anything, and I am trapped all alone in a head filled with nightmare images, overwhelming emotions and landmines.

“Why do you think it’s your fault?”

“Because. Because I am far away and that makes everyone feel far away, so I should not be so far away but I can’t stop it, I can’t do this by myself but I am alone because I can’t be here.” I’m whiny, I know I sound whiny but I don’t even care.

“Well, I think last time we met you felt like I was less far away after we had been talking for a while,” she says lightly.

“I can’t talk to you right now. You don’t feel like you.” I throw my blanket over my head as I say the words, afraid she won’t like that I am telling her this.

“Hmmmm. I feel like me, just Bea. I wonder who it is that feels like I am not me? Is there a part here that doesn’t know me, maybe?” Bea is so inquisitive. Usually I like that about her, but today I really hate it.

She might be right. It might be a different part that is here. This part, she’s not a teen part, or the little girl, or Ms. Perfect or the slutty part. She feels different. All of this feels different. But I can not say that. I don’t know why. I just can’t. So instead I whisper whine, “I don’t know. I’m just stuck. There are no good choice right now.”

“Yeah, this really does feel like a stuck point. It feels like we have been bouncing between stuck places for a while now. Either stuck in feelings and trauma or stuck in the numb place.”

“Are you frustrated?” I ask.

“It is frustrating, isn’t it? This is a hard place to be. Stuck places are always hard, and they always feel difficult and frustrating,” Bea responds.

I freeze. I knew it, I knew it. She is frustrated with me for not being okay, for not talking, for being far away and for anything and everything else. Vacantly, I say, “I knew you were frustrated with me.”

“No, not at all. No, no. I’m not frustrated with you or with the stuckness at all! Oh gosh, I’m sorry that was confusing. I meant that I know it is frustrating for you.” Bea’s words rush out, fast, like she just wants to make sure I understand she is not annoyed with me, or mad at me, or anything else.

“Okay.” I shrug, but she can’t see me because I am still hiding.

“I wonder if there is something I can do to help you feel like I am here, or to help any parts that don’t know me feel safe to share how they feel?”

“I never want you or anyone to fix things for me…..” I start to say and then I trail off because the second half of the sentence is too hard to say.

“I know. And I am a terrible fixer,” she says.

I feel crushed, and I start to cry. “I just wish this one time you could fix it.”

I think she says something kind and caring back, but I don’t know because that little bit of vulnerability sends me so far away I have no idea what is happening in the here and now.

“Alice, I think you’ve disappeared on me. I can’t see you, so I don’t know for sure but it feels like you are really, really far away. This is too far. I know you need some distance to feel safe, but I need you to come back a little, okay?” Soothing but firm, Bea pulls me back a little bit.

“Yeah.” I’m hollow and dead inside except not really because my voice breaks as I speak and the sobbing starts again. “I feel like my world is ending and nothing will be okay ever again and I just want to disappear. I spend all my time hiding in my head, and I can not stop it. I don’t get anything done, I’m not doing anything I should be doing. I just hide in my head.”

“That is a lot. This feels like new feelings, the depth of all this pain.” I think that this is meant to be soothing, but it feels so much like an analytical observation.

I have no words the rest of our session, I just vacillate between being numb and sobbing.

At 10:00am, echo reminds Kat to take her medicine. (I set this reminder for the summer, and now I can not figure out how to cancel it. Every time I ask echo to cancel all reminders, timers, routines, she says I have nothing scheduled. I also can find nothing in the app. It’s beyond annoying.)

“It’s time to go,” I say.

“Yes, but we can take a minute to try to get you back to a place where you can cope,” Bea tells me.

“I’m not coping, I’m not okay, I can not do this. There is no going back to a coping place, because I am not coping,” I snap at Bea.

“I know, I just meant to get to a place where you aren’t so upset….” her voice trails off. She sounds like she feels helpless.

“Whatever. It’s fine, I’m fine. You have to go, just go,” I tell her.

“Maybe this is a time where you could email me later. I have sessions until 6:30 tonight, but if you email, I will read it and write back then, okay?”

“Okay, sure, fine.” I’m wooden and numb and dead inside again. I sit frozen under my blanket.

Bea says something, but I don’t know what. I feel a sense of her not wanting to leave me like this and feeling helpless to comfort me.

I sit and cry for a few minutes after she hangs up. I don’t know how to stop this. I feel like I am dying, like my world is ended, like I am all alone in a place of complete darkness. I am not coping, I am not okay, I am not functioning. In all the ups and downs and scared feelings and aloneness and trauma and pain and confusion, I don’t think I have ever felt this bad before.

I don’t see this being fixable

I emailed Bea, and told her I was not wanting to bring Kat to therapy. I didn’t want to have to go see her, and feel her being so far away, and have to try to act like things are okay so that Kat doesn’t know things aren’t okay, and then end up feeling worse. She wrote me back, and said that she was okay, and back to normal, and to rest assured that she would be there for both Kat and I today. 

I wasn’t sure about it, but I got Kat ready, and we piled into the car, and drove to Bea’s. We some how arrive early, and so we sit in the car for about 10 minutes. I sit, looking at Bea’s building, and feel tears in my eyes. Shutting down my feelings, I tell Kat we can head inside.

Bea says hello to both of us, and I can’t look at her. I try, but I can’t. I feel myself shutting down, and freaking out. I tell Kat that mom is going to go hang in the waiting room because I have some emails to write. Kat immediately whines that she doesn’t want me to go, and climbs onto my lap, clinging to me. I finally look at Bea, wanting her to tell me what to do, to help me leave. I can’t be here. 

We somehow convince Kat that mom will stay and help her and Bea do a craft, and then mom is going to go write her emails. The three of us sit on the floor, and start crafting a turtle out of a sock. I can’t look at Bea, and I feel stiff and uncomfortable. She says something to me about being okay now, being back to herself, assuring me she is really here for me and Kat. I smile a small smile, but I can’t respond. Maybe she is back to herself. I don’t know. I’m too shut down to be able to feel anything. I’m hurt. I’m confused. Why couldn’t she be what I needed? I want to move past this, but how? I was already in this state of not being able to trust anything, feeling floaty, anchorless, and alone. I needed Bea to be extra here, to be really open, to be very here, to be a very strong secure base. It’s not fair, but after everything that has happened with Kay, I needed Bea to prove to me that she won’t leave and that she will not judge me for anything, or be disgusted with me or mad at me. And she did the opposite. She left. I realize her vacation was planned prior to to the mess my life turned into, but she promised to be there via email, and she didn’t feel like she was there. She promised she would come back, but she didn’t really come back.  How can I ever trust that she is really here now? I can’t lift the bubble, I can’t risk the vulnerability, if I do and Bea still feels shut down, I won’t survive that. This relationship won’t survive that. And if the relationship doesn’t make it, I really won’t be okay. Without Bea and without Kay, I can’t do this; I can’t work to heal, I can’t be me. The me I am learning to be won’t survive. Miss Perfect will come back and take over, the bubble will be permanent and everything will be shoved down. I won’t be okay. 

As soon as the turtle is crafted, I practically run out of her office. I can hear Kat protesting, and Bea distracting her by asking her how they will decorate turtle. 

I sit on the floor in the waiting room, pull my knees to my chest, bury my face in my knees, and cry. I cry for maybe 20 minutes and then I force myself to shut it down. I end up just sitting there, dissociated and hurting and sad. I want Bea to be herself. This hurts. Seeing her, and feeling things are so wrong, hurts. 

When Kat’s session is over, I ask if they need help cleaning up. Bea smiles, and says they got everything cleaned up already. I help Kat gather her things, and she tells Bea bye. I don’t say anything, just follow Kat down the stairs. Normally, I stand at the top of the stairs, chatting with Bea while she makes tea, or straightens up. I hear her saying something, but it’s muffled. I call goodbye up the stairs, and she makes a surprised noise, and says goodbye. 

Things aren’t right, they aren’t okay. And I don’t see how this can be fixed. 

Turtles taking risks & repairing a rift

Tuesday night and Wednesday, I composed a letter to Bea in my notebook. I wrote about how I felt like she wasn’t getting it, that she wasn’t on my side. I told myself I was just going to hand her my notebook and if the letter went over well, I’d tell her to read the last few entires.

I didn’t end up giving her the notebook. Or the letter. I walk into her office, feeling oddly calm, disconnected from everyone and everything. We chat about the weather, and a little about Kat. The Kat talk easily could have overtaken my entire session; talking about Kat and the challenges we have is easy, and talking about my stuff is so not easy.

“Today’s the day Jamie comes, right?” Bea asks me.

I’m sitting on her sofa, curled up with my feet tucked under me, drinking a chai tea latte. I nod. “Yeah. But not today. We had him face time in earlier this week, and so have used most of our BCBA hours already for the week. We have an hour left; he’ll probably just use that hour to face time in today or another day.”

“Oh, I see.” Bea seems surprised by this. I’ll admit, I found the face timing in thing odd at first, but I’m so used to it now, it seems normal. We discuss the benefits of using FaceTime, and how that all works. “Kat hasn’t mentioned him to me since that day. How is that going?” She asks.

I shake my head, and set down my chai. “I hate it.”

We sit quiet for a moment, and then Bea replies. I don’t really hear her. I’m telling myself to give her my notebook, the letter, but I just can’t.

“I didn’t…..I mean….Monday was really scattered. I couldn’t get out of my head to talk,” I finally say. “I think I didn’t explain very well how bad I feel.”

“The last few weeks have been really tough. A lot has been thrown at you,” Bea says gently. I feel like she’s not really there, not getting it.

“No…since Thanksgiving, when my mom told me HE would be at the Christmas party, I’ve felt messy, falling….I don’t know.” I sigh. I’m not explaining this well at all. “It is like all this stuff keeps getting tossed at me, faster than I can process it or deal with it, and more crap is piled on top of that other crap, and I can’t fix any of it. And then I can’t get away, because there is crap in my head, too.”

Bea slowly nods her head. “Yes, you’re being bombarded with triggers and memories and present day problems. I think when you said you can’t fix it, that’s the key. Maybe it’s not for you to fix, to even be fixed. Maybe you just need to sit with it and process it.”

I shake my head, and hide my face. Why is it, every session, I hide my face? I used to feel ridiculous, but since Bea confessed to hiding when she was in therapy, I don’t feel as silly. And I’m thankful I have a therapist who will allow me to cover my face. “I can’t. It’s too much. I don’t even know….”

“I think this is one of those things that would be helpful to break into pieces. Let’s make a list of all the things that are overwhelming you.” Bea is not a list maker, not really. I’m the list maker, the one with OCD, that needs control and lists and organization.

I nod my head. I don’t feel like she’s here with me, but I will go through this session and keep trying.

“What’s first on the list?”

“Hubby. Our fight.” The tears come now.

“Have you talked?” Bea asks. Her voice is neutral, but I feel like a naughty child who didn’t do their homework. My stomach drops, and I can feel myself start to have trouble breathing.

I shake my head, crying harder. “No. My bag is still packed. We just…..I’m functioning. I’m acting it’s okay, being perfect again. He’s happy.”

“He doesn’t know there is anything wrong.”

I shrug. I don’t care. I don’t want him to know there is anything wrong.

“So, the weekend you pretended all was fine, and then the last few days, you guys never talked about your fight?” Bea asks again.

“No. It’s fine. He thinks it’s fine. We went out to dinner Tuesday night. He changed my dinner order, and it was gross. I had cosmos for dinner.” I’m snapping the words out, not mad at her, but annoyed. The whole things upsets me, annoys me.

“It’s this lack of control; I think that is what has made this fight feel so bad to you. You mentioned he took the car keys, and you couldn’t leave. And now you are giving up control, smothering your voice,” Bea says.

“No, it’s fine now. He took my keys and I was trapped there……” I cry for a bit, and then continue. “I don’t think you get how bad it was. How bad it all is.”

Bea doesn’t say anything right away. “It feels bad because it is bad. You’re just finding your voice and now you’re giving it up again. Hubby is your attachment figure, and a fight like this, it’s a big rift. It can be repaired though, if you talk to him.”

I shake my head. “No. No. No.”

“You could bring him back here-”

“No. I’m not talking to him.”

“You sound so much more certain of that than you did on Monday. What changed?” Bea asks.

“Nothing. I was certain on Monday. You weren’t getting it.”

I don’t know what she says in reply; I’m not really listening. I’m done with this conversation about Hubby. “Let’s finish the list,” I tell her.

“Okay,” she agrees, even though we had been in the middle of discussing Hubby. “What’s next?”

“Yelling.” I pick at my fingers. Even thinking about how I yelled, I feel anxious. Guilty. Bad. Wrong. “I yelled at the lifeguard.”

“You yelled at another lifeguard?” Bea asks. I think she sounds surprised.

“No. The one from Sunday.”

“Okay, yelling is on the list…’s natural that the anger you have builds up and then boils over. And usually, anger like that always comes out at the wrong time, in the wrong way. We need to help you find a way to use your anger constructively.”

I shift a little in my spot. I want to tell her that I either feel angry, or I’m so numb to it, it’s not there. “I just don’t want to be mad. I’m not a mad person.”

“Anger is hard for you. It’s okay to be angry. How can you not have anger at Kenny for what he took? Anger at your mom for not protecting you? Maybe anger at Kat for having a crush? That would all be normal,” Bea assures me.

I shake my head at her, and return to list making. We end up with nine items (and a few that are broken down into mini lists) on the list; it’s a big list for therapy. Once the list is done, I’m out of things to say, and Bea directs the conversation back to Kat, and her crush and all the triggers in my life right now. She’s pushing for me to talk to hubby, or to send him in to talk to her.

“No,” I say it again. I think I must sound like a two year old. I take a big breath and start to cry. I don’t want to be a brat, or make her mad at me. I’m trying so hard, but I just can’t do this. “I don’t trust him.”

“Yeah, I can see that. He said a lot of hurtful things that cut deep.” Bea says.

I cry silently. “He thinks I’m a terrible mother. That I’m selfish. And mean. I didn’t need a list of every thing wrong with me. I could give him pages and pages of lists…..”

“I know you could. I’m not sure he realized how deep those things would hit you. Comments like that, he can roll off his back, forget them. It might be hard for him to understand that you will accept them as the truth.”

I shake my head. “I can’t do this. Why did I think I could? It’s not okay, nothing is okay. Everything feels wrong.”

She talks about my worldview, and how, in her opinion, part of what therapy does it help us reframe our world view, and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves. But that takes time. She compared me to a turtle, because one of my favorite calming yoga poses is what my yoga teacher calls “turtle pose.” I basically sit in turtle pose in every T session– just didn’t know it was a yoga pose until recently. She says worldview is that it is safer to be alone, to let everyone think I’m okay and never really come out of my shell. It’s that having a crush is unsafe, and wrong and disgusting. It’s that anything sexual is bad. It’s that good girls don’t have a voice, they are quiet and demure, polite and they do what will make others happy. It’s that I have to do what I should do, regardless of what I want to do. She says that having a turtle shell to retreat into can be a useful thing, but now, the turtle needs to not feel alone, and the only way to do that is to risk feeling unsafe and to come out of the shell. She calls it a paradox; that to truly feel safe I need to not be alone, but I’m so retreated in my shell and I feel so unsafe, that the idea of coming out even a little bit to see that I’m not alone is too frightening, too exposing.

I take a deep breath, and take a risk of peeking out of my shell. “I really just need you to be on my side. I feel like no one is on my side, and I’m all alone, and I just need you to be on my side.” I’m crying louder, heading into full,on sobbing territory.

Bea responds quickly. “Thank you for telling me how you feel.” Then she pauses, maybe to think, I don’t know. “I am on your side, but it’s my job to make sure you know that. Thank you for reminding me of that.”

I cry silently, and risk looking up at her for a moment. She looks concerned. That’s all. Not angry, or like she’s going to yell or leave me. Just concerned. She talks a little more about being on my side, and I nod. I’m starting to feel less alone. The rift is beginning to be repaired, just like that.

“You keep pushing me to talk to him, and I don’t want to.” I say. This is a big deal for me, to speak up against what someone….well, someone I’m attached to, is saying and doing.

“Yes, I do. And you’re right. You have told me no, and I haven’t been listening to that very well. You aren’t ready to bring Hubby in. It’s a big deal. I get that.” She responds back to me like I just said something very normal and okay. There is no big blow up, and she doesn’t ignore me.

“I’m afraid. He won’t understand, I’ll push him away more because we talked. He’ll hate me…I don’t know. I can’t do it.” Talking about talking to hubby is back on the table, now that I don’t feel so alone.

“I think, when you are ready to even tell him some general information like how when a child reaches the age abuse started for her mother, it can be so triggering for mom. If he understood why you are pushing him away, and how much you are dealing with right now, I really believe he would be supportive.” Bea says softly. “You deserve a real relationship, a deeper relationship. This abuse took so much; you deserve a life, to not have it take this, too.”

I shake my head. “He can’t do it. He’s as screwed up as I am. He can’t do it.”

Bea is quiet when she asks, “Are you afraid that if you reach out for a deeper relationship, he won’t be able to be there and have that?”

Slowly, I nod my head. Hubby loves me, but he likes things to be simple and easy. He likes emotions of the surface, he doesn’t like rifts, and he buries his head in the sand a lot.

“That’s hard. His personality likes things to be simple, he doesn’t like conflict or difficult things. But some things are hard. And that’s okay.” Bea tells me.

“No. I’m not doing this. It’s too much.”

“Okay. When you’re ready, we’ll do it.”

I sigh. I’m not ready. I want to run away, disappear. I can’t do this all. It’s too much. I don’t say this to her, because I don’t want to have a conversation about what disappearing means.

“I feel like the little girl is crying out to not have her voice hidden again. Squashing it down is how the anger builds up and boils over,” Bea says.

“It’s fine. I just need to pretend, to go along with being perfect and okay and fine,” I try to explain. I know how much Bea hates that I push my feelings and thoughts aside to play the role of Miss Perfect. “It’s the only reason I’m functioning right now,” I finally say. Crap. I so didn’t want to admit that in therapy.

“Okay. If that’s what you need to function, to get through the weekend, okay for now. For a little while,” Bea reluctantly agrees, but I feel like she’s back; she’s seeing my side of this, and that I need my facade right now.

She talks about my worldview, and how, in her opinion, part of what therapy does it help us reframe our world view, and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves. But that takes time. She compared me to a turtle, because one of my favorite calming yoga poses is what my yoga teacher calls “turtle pose.” I basically sit in turtle pose in every T session– just didn’t know it was a yoga pose until recently. She says worldview is that it is safer to be alone, to let everyone think I’m okay and never really come out of my shell. It’s that having a crush is unsafe, and wrong and disgusting. It’s that anything sexual is bad. It’s that good girls don’t have a voice, they are quiet and demure, polite and they do what will make others happy. It’s that I have to do what I should do, regardless of what I want to do. She says that having a turtle shell to retreat into can be a useful thing, but now, the turtle needs to not feel alone, and the only way to do that is to risk feeling unsafe and to come out of the shell.

I leave therapy feeling like she is on my side. I’m still disconnected and just…off, needing to pretend to be Miss Perfect, but I’m not alone. Why is this such a difficult thing for me to hold onto; the fact that Bea is here, and I’m not alone? I head home, using my facade like a turtle shell, to hide from the world.