“And you? I’m curious how you are feeling now, if you still are feeling sad? It sounds like it was a really tough week.” Bea turns to me, changes the conversation from Kat and the school meeting and everyday things to me and how I am feeling and the email I had sent. 

I go from engaged and mostly present– or at least the normal, okay, functioning part of me was present– to feeling small and silly and ashamed. I can literally feel hot pin pricks of shame or embarrassment or something burn through my chest, my neck, my face, as Bea turns her focus on me. I shut down, looking down at the floor, wanting to hide. “I don’t know,” I mumble. 

“Is the sadness…do you know what it’s from?” She asks softly. 

I shake my head, mumble a response. 

“There are lots of reasons to feel sad. Kay, your mom, the situation with the doctor and facing your identity as a survivor. Lots of reasons. It makes sense to me that you would feel sad.” 

I sit, curled up and floaty, my hands over my face, not wanting to have this conversation. “I feel like everyone has left, or is leaving or will leave.” It’s a whisper, quiet and barely there. 

My words don’t manage to cross the space between us, and Bea says, “What was that?” 

I’m annoyed. I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to have to repeat myself, but I do. 

Bea doesn’t respond right away. When she does, she is honest in her response. “My first instinct is to say I’m not leaving. To reassure you that I’m not going anywhere. But of course I can’t guarantee that. I don’t know the future. I can promise you that I have no plans to go anywhere. Kay did leave, and that is really sad. She’s not giving you space to have your feelings, she shut you out. And that hurts. Your mom, not being able to be there emotionally, that feels like she’s left you again, but I really do believe this is part of her process, her journey. That she will be back. You know as well as anyone that healing isn’t a straight path. I don’t see hubby or Rory leaving, they are here. Not everyone is leaving.” 

“I know. I know that healing isn’t a straight path.” The words sound like snapping in my head, angry and annoyed. They come out mumbled and quiet. 

“We talk about patterns of emotion, getting sort of stuck in feeling, and those aren’t helpful feelings. They aren’t authentic, healing expressions of emotion. Does this feel like sadness….like when you cry and it hurts but then you also feel lighter, and better in a way? Or does it feel like a pattern?” 

I don’t know what she is talking about, but it feels like she is saying I don’t really feel sad, or upset, or something, like she thinks it is a habit, like I just need to choose to be okay. I don’t know. I feel myself shutting down, closing her out, feeling upset and hurt. “I don’t know.” I whisper the words, because it seems there is an expectation that I respond, and I’m nothing if a not a good girl who does what is expected. And then I add, “You forget the last part. Everyone will leave.” 

She says something about everyone realizing at some point that they are alone, that it’s like this existential crisis or something. I don’t know. She talks, and I don’t listen. 

Finally, I say, “Let’s just talk about the doctor letter.” 

Bea laughs softly. “Nothing like contemplating why we are here, feeling all alone, talking about existential crisis to make the doctor letter feel like a good topic.” 

I shrug. I don’t have a response. Nothing feels like a good topic. I’m ready to go. I don’t want to be here. 

“I think we should be more grounded before we talk about this,” she says. When I don’t respond, she offers up suggestions for being more present. “Do you want to color while we talk? Do you want to look around the room and name colors you see?” 

I don’t want to do anything. I want to leave. “I’m okay. I’m fine,” I tell her. 

She doesn’t say anything right away. Then she says, “Okay.” But it doesn’t sound like she believes it. It sounds more like she has chosen to pick her battles, and she is isn’t going to push this right now. 

“Both letters are good,” Bea starts off the conversation. “You know your doctor and you know how she will respond to each.” 

“She isn’t…I don’t know. She’s just real. Like you are real, Kay…Kay was real.” 

“And you said she runs late a lot, right? Because she takes the time people need?” 

I nod. It’s true. I chose this doctor a long time ago because she’s real, she’s very caring and real. She’s also really smart, but not in a way that she talks down to people. She has always behaved like we are equals, until I behaved like a child. Ugh. 

“My doctor, I would be very boundaried and clinical with her. She’s not warm and fuzzy, she’s a ‘just the facts’ kind of person. But, my old doctor, I would have told her more, she was warm and it would have felt safe to give her more information.” 

“I don’t want to tell anyone anything!” The words slip out. 

“I know. I know. The choice is to find a new doctor, or tell this doctor something.” Bea says matter of factly.

We circle around, and around. I feel myself getting angrier and angrier. I’m mad at Bea. I want her to shut up, to stop talking to just leave it alone. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I tell her. I mean that I don’t know why I am reacting this way, why I am feeling so mad at her when all I want is to feel close to her, to feel not alone. 

“What do you mean?” She asks me. 

“Nothing. I don’t know.”

At one point she tells me I can tell my doctor what I need. I mumble that what I need is for this to not be real, for no one to make me talk to anyone, for this to not have happened. She doesn’t hear me, and so she asks me what I said. 

“It doesn’t matter,” I say. 

“I think it does matter.” 

I shake my head. “It’s not important, never mind.” 

“I think it is important,” Bea argues. 

I don’t say anything and she lets it go. I don’t know if I wanted her to push and fight with me that it is important, or if I wanted her to let it go. I have a thought running through my head, and it takes everything in me to say it out loud. I’m not sure I want to say it; the grown up part of me doesn’t want to say it, but the teen is fighting to get her words out. The teen ends up winning. “If I say I’ll send the email, can we just be done with this?” 

Bea busts up laughing, but it’s kind laughter. “That is such a teenager response,” she tells me, still chuckling. She is enjoying my snarkiness. She is not angry or defensive over it, and she’s not telling me I can’t behave like that. It’s not a response I’m used to. “We can be done talking about this,” she says, a smile in her voice. 

I don’t remember how we ended things. I do remember going home, and in a fit of anger, sending an email to my doctor. It was a very teenage feeling, a “I’ll show you, I’ll make you leave me alone” feeling. So, I send the email. Pressing the send button is like sticking a pin in a ballon– the big angry feeling deflates immediately, and I once again feel scared and alone. 

If I could freeze my heart…….

Bea had class this past weekend; the last of her sensorimotor classes. I’d emailed her, and she had emailed back. I didn’t send a reply back, although I did write all weekend, and had brought my writing with me. 

“How was class?” I greet her when I walk in. 

“I want to tell you about my class and what we talked about this weekend. So much of it seemed like it would be very relevant for us and our work. We talk about top down and bottom up approaches, and sensorimotor therapy has dealt with mostly bottom up, but this time we talked about things that were more top down and then working with sensory stuff. It might be more helpful for you. But before I tell you about that, I want to hear how you are. I thought I might hear more from you this weekend, and I’m wondering how it was?” Bea starts the day off by focusing right on me. 

“Ugh. It was…I don’t know. Just…I mean…..we went to my parents.” I shrug. I want to cry and tell her hard the weekend was, but I just can’t. I feel off, weird, strange. I don’t know. 

“How was it?” She asks me. 

“I didn’t…ugh. I did write back. I just didn’t send it. But I did write this weekend.” I pull my iPad out of my bag. I don’t make a move to hand it to her, just hold it in my hands and stare at it. 

“Did you want me to read it?” She’s looking at me, I don’t know what this look is. Maybe, I don’t know, like she can’t figure out what I’m doing, or what is going on in my head. I wonder if she knows I’m here-not here, in this strange space of confusion. 

I nod, and hand the iPad over to her. She takes it and she starts reading it. 

“Oh…I’m sorry, so sorry that your mom couldn’t do what you needed. That has to hurt, be difficult.” Bea says. 

I cover my face. “I can’t talk about that right now.” 

“Okay,” she says. “This….it is so scary and confusing when the okay part has to share space with the not okay part. It makes it really hard and very triggering when you have to do things like talk to the doctor about what happened.”

“I can’t. I don’t know. I don’t want to deal with this. I can’t. I can’t write anything.” 

“Well, that’s okay. It’s not surprising.” She pauses and looks at me. “Maybe now would be a good time to talk about what we learned in class this weekend.”

“Okay. That’s fine.” I shrug. I don’t care. I want something from her, I’m needing something, but I don’t know what it is. I only know I don’t feel like things are okay right now. 

“We talked about parts, and ways to look at the parts. It’s things we have talked about and acknowledged, but I like very much how the instructor broke it down. It’s the same as we have talked about before. That when trauma happens, it causes a split. It causes a part of you to stay okay, and go on functioning and a split of part become the not okay part. Some people have a lot of split off parts, some have one or two. And it’s all a spectrum; one end being a person who is mostly all okay, and the other being parts that are very separate, like DID. You’ve heard of DID?” 

I nod. “Yes. Of course.” I’m curled up, knees to my chest. I’m hiding my face, randomly peeking at her, unsure of where I stand, and what I want. 

“You aren’t DID, but you so have parts that can be fairly distinct and easy to identify. I think, as we work through things, and acknowledge the different parts and what they want or need, things will feel more integrated and that healthy adult part, the truly okay part, will be able to run the ship more often.” Bea explains. It’s similar to what she had said in her email, but maybe more of an explanation. I don’t know. 

“Okay.” I mumble. Bea hands me a sheet of paper. It’s a chart, a diagram of parts and how trauma splits things. 

“I like this chart. I wanted to share it with you. It’s not actually from the training, but it’s similar to how the instructor broke things down. What it’s saying is that the split of trauma causes different parts, and they all have a function. Like we might end up with a flight part or a fight part. We can end up with an attachment cry part, a freeze part, a submitting part.” Bea is speaking very causally, like we are having a regular conversation, but I feel like I’ve entered the twilight zone. This is the most present– and I’m not exactly here– I’ve ever been when she has been discussing parts. 

I keep reading the sheet, over and over, searching for something that I can’t find. I pull some paper and pen out of my bag, start copying the chart. 

“Can you think of what part might be activated when you are skipping meals, not eating, or binging and purging?” I groan, cover my face with my hands, and Bea’s voice sounds like she has a smile in her voice when she says, “Yes, I said it. I used the words.” 

I point to the flight part on the paper, unable to even use my words right then. 

Bea nods. “Yes, the flight part. Any eating disorder behavior, really any addictive behavior, is flight.” She describes what flight might look like, the client who is fidgety, on edge, can’t settle down, is ready to jump up and run at a moment’s notice. I think of all the times I feel like that internally, but manage to be calm, or shut down outwardly. 

She asks about the other parts, asks what I think about this language, the way it’s laid out. 

“I don’t know. I just….I need to think.” It take so long to even get that out. I’m unsure how I feel. I don’t want to talk about this. Everything feels off, disjointed, confusing. I want Bea to fix it. I don’t want to talk theory, or logistics, or concrete things. I want connection. I just don’t know how to get that. 

“You need time to digest it. It’s hard to wrap your head around when you see it all laid out like that.” Bea says. Her words feel wrong. I don’t need time to think, or to digest this. It’s a conversation we have had before, just not one I’ve managed to be present for before this. Why is she acting like this is brand new? I’m confused. I feel like I’ve missed something. 

I’m done today. I don’t want to talk or think anymore, and I don’t want to sit here and feel like I need something but don’t know what it is I want. I shut down anymore attempts Bea makes to talk with me. I just can’t deal today. Before I leave, I tell her that I will try to write a letter to the doctor. Bea smiles at me, and says she thinks it’s a good idea. 

I leave feeling empty and off and like I don’t want to think about this. I’m sad and alone and I really just want someone to make things better. By the time I get to my car, I’ve shit down, closed off my feelings and made myself numb. Maybe, if I try hard enough, I can manage to freeze my heart. That sounds good. A heart so frozen, with so many walls of ice built up around if that no one can hurt me, that it’s impossible for my heart to feel broken. 

Picking at the scab 

It’s Monday morning and I’m in Bea’s office, snuggled with Hagrid on her couch.

“So,” Bea takes a breath, and then continues, “I think it is interesting that you describe Kat’s grumpy mouse (this mini mouse puppet who has the grumpiest personality on the planet and only likes rude, gross, mean things. It’s sort of a representation of the parts of ourselves we find unacceptable and fear being rejected) as having to become ‘real’ if it is going to school with her. Because that’s what we are working on with you, right? Integrating all the parts and feelings, so that you are whole, and not just grumpy or just perfect. So it’s not this or that, but this and that.” 
I stop looking at her, and look down at the blue rug her chair in on. We’ve apparently come to the end of small talk….of being on the surface. And, part of me knows it has to be over with. I can’t maintain being on the surface, I can’t keep stuffing feelings down, or distancing myself from reality. But…I don’t want to be in this room. I don’t want to have this conversation. It’s funny how even in the spring, Bea’s office was one of the safest places on earth to me. Even through the summer, no matter how much I stayed on the surface, I needed to see her twice a week, to know she was there. It felt safe. Now, it feels anything but. Everything in me is screaming that it is dangerous to be here, that I need to leave. 
When it’s fairly obvious that I’m not going to respond, she continues, “I think it would have been very cruel to ask about things a few weeks ago; I know you needed that distance. But now, it’s all past. You got through it, and it feels like things are becoming more settled. Now, we can pick at the scab a little bit.” 
I shake my head. I don’t know what to say. I get it; I have held it together all summer, but I’m not so sure I can contain it all much longer. 
“You’ve helped Kat through a lot of transitions. You helped your nanny through a really hard time; one that could have been been triggering for you. Your parents separated for a few weeks and are in therapy. Your hubby and his mother had a huge fight, she said terrible things about you. You’ve got Kat settled with her ABA techs, and you even have managed to provide some safety and connection for the one tech who was a challenge. You have worked with the school, and been very organized, to get Kat settled there. You’ve been on top of things all summer. You’ve done some really amazing things summer. But what happens when you can take Kat to school that first day, and leave her crying in the classroom, and then drive home without crying? Those feelings are there somewhere.” Bea says softly. She’s spoken about this before, how kids starting school is a big change, kind of the end of that baby and toddlerhood. That is is normal to feel nostalgic and have tears. I want to shout at her, ‘and what if I don’t? What if I am just detached and fine? Then what?’ But I don’t. I don’t say anything. So Bea continues, “You needed this break, this time to be detached. I knew that. And I think that this summer showed us a lot about therapy………” 
And that’s where I really just go away. I think she says the summer showed us a lot about therapy and our relationship and how strong I am. I don’t know. All I can think about is that I am not doing this, this conversation is bad. And that now she expects me to always be okay. She expects me to never fall apart. To hold it together. The one person I thought it was safe to be real with now has expectations that I can get through hard stuff and function and be just fine. I don’t know. I can’t think, everything is fuzzy and hazy and Bea’s voice is far away and nothing feels very real right now, and my body feels numb, almost separate from me. 
“…….so maybe we could start there,” Bea says. 
I lift my head and stare at her. “I don’t know what you want me to say,” I tell her blankly. I’m lost. 
“Well, think of it like we are taking your internal weather report,” she suggests.   
“I’m fine. I don’t know.” I shrug. What the hell does she want from me?
“I’m sensing that you are pretty far away right now. Has it felt like that this summer? It felt like to me that you were staying on the surface, but that you were aware of things going on deeper, at least at times.” Bea takes a drink of tea, and focuses on me. 
I’m not sure. This summer was weird. I was aware of keeping things locked away, because I couldn’t deal with them then. But it’s like part of me was…gone. But part of me was aware and here even if only on the surface and detached from emotions. “I don’t know. I just don’t know.” I shake my head. I feel….confused. I’m not sure how to explain this. 
“In the past, you’ve described being in the bubble almost as a negative thing. This felt different to me.” 
“No….it wasn’t the bubble.” I pick at my fingers, hiding my hands in the sleeves of my oversized sweater. “It was….here…but not. Both?” 
“Mmmhm,” Bea gives me one of her ‘verbal nods’, encouraging me to keep talking. 
“Like….I don’t know….” It’s so very hard to find the words to describe this. It’s like even pulling the experience from my memory is difficult. I fight my way through the fogginess, and come up with only a few words. “Maybe it was like……maybe being just gone enough?” It comes out as a question, and in a way, I am asking Bea if I’m right. If that makes sense, if that is explaining anything to her. 
“To stay detached from all the feelings? And to stay right on the surface?” 
I nod. That’s it. But not. I don’t know. “Yeah…I think…I don’t know.” 
“Have you ever felt so unreal that you are surprised when someone talks to you? Like it’s surprising that they can see you?” Bea’s voice is conversational; if a person were to her tone but not her words, they would never guess the crazy making question she is asking me. 
I shake my head, slowly. That’s not it. It’s more annoyance when people talk to me, because they pull me back from being away. It’s tiring to keep this balance of here, but not here, of just on the surface but detached from feelings, and having to interact with people and act normal is tiring and hard. I stutter, and repeat myself, and lose words, and leave big gaps in between thoughts sometimes. But I’m way too hyper-aware of my surroundings to ever be surprised when people talk to me. I don’t say any of that though, how does one explain that crazy to another person? “No. Not like that,” I tell her. Then, after a moment of silence, I say, “I’ve held it together, and stayed on the surface. But I’m not….” 
“Not what?” She prompts when I stop myself from speaking. My crazy fast and amazing filter is back in place. 
“Not sure…” I start and stop a few times. I finally bury my face in Hagrid’s fur, and take a deep breath. “I’m not sure how much longer…I can…I mean, how much longer….” 
“How much longer you can contain it all?” 
I nod. Yes.   
“That’s what I was starting to get at. We need to talk about the cost of being okay, functioning on the surface,” Bea says slowly. I have a feeling she has been planning this for a few weeks; that when things settled down, we would talk and pick at the scab. I feel a little betrayed, even though I knew we had to talk about everything, so many things, eventually. The feeling makes no sense to me. 
“I don’t know. It is what it is. I don’t know the answer,” I tell her. Nothing feels quite right. Even far away, I still feel like I need to leave, like this is not safe. 
“Let’s start with the basics. Sleep. Eating.” Bea’s voice is neutral, but it still incites panic in me. I squash it down.
I shrug. “I don’t sleep. I don’t know. It’s….up and down, restless. Even when I do sleep, I don’t feel like I did.” I don’t mention the doctor or the sleeping meds. I’ve given up on them anyway, they don’t work. “I just…I don’t know. Some nightmares, some waking up feeling scared but no dreams to remember, I don’t know.” 
“I wonder if the nightmares are better when we aren’t digging everything up. Stirring the waters.” 
I shake my head.”Yes and no. Sometimes, I think so. But then…like camping and the Ferris wheel. I think they were worse. The worst they had been in a long time, because I wasn’t talking. But I couldn’t. I don’t know.” 
“That’s good information for us to have.” I think she says more, but I can’t focus on what she is saying. 
“It’s my fault I don’t sleep. I don’t….I just..” I shrug. 
“Why do you say that?” Bea is curious. 
“Because I fight sleep. I can be so, so tired, and I will fight falling asleep. It doesn’t matter.” 
“That makes sense. You’ve had a lot of bad things associated with sleep.” She tries to normalize to for me. But it doesn’t really help. Not right now. I need to be able to sleep, and knowing my fighting sleep makes sense doesn’t fix anything. I just want to be normal. 
“Does Hagrid help?” She asks me. 

I nod. I want to tell her that he is safe and helps so much more than I ever thought possible. I want to explain that having him to hug after a bad dream is priceless. I want to say so much about how magical he is in my life. “After bad dreams, it helps to hug him.” I finally say. It seems too vulnerable making to say more. 

“There is nothing more grounding than cuddling a dog.” She agrees. “I’m glad you have him.” 

I stop talking after that. I’m not talking about eating. Not today. Maybe not ever. 

“What about eating?” Bea asks. She’s not going to let me escape that one. 
“I don’t….I don’t want to talk about it.” I hug Hagrid, like he can help convince Bea to leave it alone.
“That tells me it’s something we should talk about. Is it more control or less control?” Bea’s statement isn’t really clear, I’m really far now. This is not okay, not a safe topic. The gist of it comes through anyways, though. 
“I don’t know. It’s fine. I just….I don’t want to talk about it.” My voice is hollow, wooden. 
“When I say we should look at the basics of sleep and eating, those are two things anyone should monitor in times of stress. They are two things we all need to survive.” 
I shake my head. What am I to even tell her? That I’m eating a limited list of ‘safe’ foods? That it’s the shortest list I’ve had in years? That I screw up and eat something off the list at least once every few days, and so then I full on binge and purge? That I’m back to my old purging rituals? No thank you. I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to have that part of me be seen. 
“What about your feelings? Do you know where they are?”
 A year ago I would have thought she was nuts. Now, I shake my head. “I don’t know. I couldn’t…they just had to be….detached. I don’t know.” I shrug. 
“And that’s what our work is right now. Finding those feelings; reconnecting to them.” She says this softly, like she is trying to reassure me it’s okay. 
“I don’t know how anymore.” I’m too overwhelmed. It’s all too much. 
“I think we start with this summer. One small thing at a time,” she tells me. 
“I have a list….notes, journal entries, I don’t know. All from the summer. Things I couldn’t talk about at the time. ”

“Should we look at it?” Bea asks. 

I pause. “I don’t know…………I’m not sure what is on it now, I don’t really remember.” I want to check the list before I hand it over. Maybe I don’t want to give it all to her right now. I’m not sure how much I trust right now. 

“When you’re ready,” Bea says simply. 

I can’t hold everything together anymore, and this feeling of panic over the conversation is too much, and the idea of letting it all back in is too much. “I’m scared,” I admit. And then the tears come. Single tears that quickly turn into sobs that I can not stop, no matter how hard I try, or how fast I scramble to shove all the feelings away. 

Hagrid anxiously licks my hands and my face, curling himself into a ball; half on my chest and half on my lap. “Hagrid says ‘I think you found your feelings, mom’.” Bea says this calmly; it’s okay to cry and to have feelings. 
I finally, and fairly quickly, win the fight to lock everything back down. I wipe my face with my hands, and look at Bea. It’s like I’m trying to prove I’m okay, but I think a part of me is almost silently begging her to see how scared and messed up I really am right now. “I can’t do this. I don’t know how.” I make the statement with almost no emotion attached. 
“A little at time. We do this very carefully. We don’t need to go so deep, or so quickly that you are having dissociated days, or struggling so much. We control it. This summer showed us that, at times you can be aware of things under the surface and control it. We wade in, slowly. Before, last year, we dove in, fast. Everything was new and coming up for you so quickly, and it was really hard. You needed space to talk and help containing it, and it all needed to be brought up and talked about. But now, we slow down. We don’t need to rush things. You shouldn’t have days where you are in a terrible funk; maybe the day of therapy, that icky after therapy feeling sometimes, but not all the time.” 
Bea is talking, and I know this is going back to the beginning. To what she told me last year, about taking the time to get our garden ready for planting, before we look at our plants. But all I hear is that I screwed up and she is unhappy with me, and now things are going to change. I think I nod my head, mumble some agreement. I don’t even know. This doesn’t feel real. It feels all wrong. 
Somehow, the sessions ends. I don’t know. I manage to convince Bea that I’m fine, and Hagrid and I leave. I talk to the parking attendant; pleasant chit chat, social niceties. And in a fog, I drive to one of my favorite walking spots. I don’t want to walk downtown today; I don’t want to stop and chat with people, or smile and say hi. I want to be alone. 
I want to be alone because Bea picked the scab, and nothing feels right. I want to be alone because I feel vulnerable and afraid. I want to be alone because I need to think, and sort out some of the things said in session. I want to be alone because nothing feels more lonely to to be all alone, even in a crowded place. I want to be alone because the scab has been picked, and I need to decide if I can keep picking at it, or if I need to let it scab back over and ignore it.