What if????

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What were you thinking about?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aside

Feeling contrary…..

Things feel really bad right now. I feel like I am living in limbo, disconnected from everyone. I don’t know. My old “story” and deep seated beliefs aren’t true anymore, but I haven’t exactly replaced them with anything. So, I am in limbo. 

I have managed to catch up on almost all household chores, and then some. I’m totally, completely in control of it all. I’m fine. Everything is okay. I’ve found a rhythm, a routine, a schedule to follow. So I force everything way, way down, turn off my feelings and let Ms. Perfect run the show. 

But underneath it all is this chaos and confusion and anger and sadness and fear. It all comes down to fear. Everything and everyone is changing. I can’t do anything right. I am afraid I am chasing Bea away. On top of everything else– the time of year with all the ugly anniversaries and the all alone feeling, my parents changing, hubby being so distant and gone– Bea is changing things. And I hate it. I have told her I don’t like it, but the truth is, I HATE it. It’s not fair. She is the shrink. She is supposed to be stable and reliable. She is NOT supposed to change. 

She is taking this class on somatic (i think that is the word) trauma work. She felt like she wanted to have more knowledge on working with the feelings and sensations in the body, on using movement in therapy. She wanted that for her trauma clients. And I know I am lucky to have a therapist who is always looking for ways to help me. But I do not like this. I do not feel lucky. They– the class teachers– have taught her that I go too far away during therapy. So now she wants to keep me more present when I talk. I can not do that. I am capable of talking BECAUSE I go away. I am terrified of the thought of being present when I talk. I can’t even talk about feelings and be present. 

She says the idea is that I talk about whatever I want and she will check in more often, or I can say that I am too far away and need to stop talking (yeah right, that is never going to happen), or she can stop me and we will do some grounding to adjust things and bring me back. Just the idea of being paused, stopped from talking feels like rejection to the little girl. I HATE this. 

Why is she changing everything?!!? I was already like my whole world has shifted and the ground has been ripped out from under me. I was already feeling alone and shaky and not very okay. I was trying to work through the whole email fiasco and feeling very disconnected from Bea. I was just beginning to feel like she is the same Bea, it was okay, I could trust her. And she goes and changes everything. It’s not fair!!!! 

I emailed her– we have been emailing this week– and I told her I hate grounding because being truly present is very uncomfortable. I told her that I do not want to talk and be present. And she is going to say that being present is safe, nothing bad is happening in the present. But it’s not freaking true! If I am present and talking about all the hard things, then all the feelings are in the present. And it is overwhelming and scary. So no, being present is not safer. 

I told her I feel like a 5 year old throwing a temper tantrum, refusing to try the new vegetables on my dinner plate– even if eating them is in my best interest, they are new and different, so they are not okay. I can see Bea’s view point, intellectually I can even agree with her. But the little girl feels differently. She hates this, and is afraid. She feels all alone and like she has no control at all. Everyone else is bigger, smarter, stronger, faster, better. She can’t do anything to stop the changes. She wants to run and hide. 

I’m both frozen and panicked. I’ve jumped at every little noise outside tonight, feel on edge and scared, but I have also zoned out enough that a 1/2 hour passed by in what seemed like a minute. I don’t even know what happened to that time. I hate blanking out like that. It makes me more panicky and jumpy which makes me more frozen and dissociated. Stupid freaking crazy making cycle. I’m hiding in the closet. Nothing feels okay right now. 

Everything is changing

There are a million things I should be doing right now. If I started cleaning right now, I would be able to get my kitchen back to normal, the living room too. I could catch up on laundry, and probably get the playroom organized enough to get out the big american girl dolls and maybe have time to give the dogs a bath and cook dinner. Its 10:00 am. I could clean and organize until 12:35, when I have to go pick up my daughter, and then clean and organize from 2-5 while her ABA tech is here. That’s 5 hours. I could get a lot done in 5 hours. I am very efficient. But I am struggling today. I feel lost, frozen and alone; I have this anxiety, this tension in me. It came out this morning as frustration and yelling at Kat when she didn’t follow directions or listen to me. I feel like a terrible mother. Everyone feels so far away from me. I don’t know. I know October is a hard month, but I feel like I just don’t have the right to be falling apart. The harder I try to hold it together, the more anxiety and tension, frustration, anger, comes snapping out. I hate this version of me. 

I saw Bea yesterday. I barely remember the session. We talked about the weekend, seeing my mom. I couldn’t find the words to explain it all, to tell her how it is different with my mom right now, how she is different. I was afraid to even talk about what my mom talked about with me, because so much of it involved eating disorder behaviors. I was afraid that Bea would turn it into an opportunity to talk about my stuff. I didn’t want that to happen. I remember Bea suggesting I give her a play-by-play, a transcript of the conversation, and try to leave the emotion out of it. I think I tried, but failed. I don’t know. I’m afraid of what I am feeling. I’m afraid of how everything around me is changing. 

I had put Kat to bed, and mom was cleaning up the kitchen. She left some dirty dishes in the sink, and said she would take care of them tomorrow. This is unheard of. She doesn’t leave anything left messy, left undone. There is always this nervousness, this anxious tension, this trying to be perfect and control everything feeling that….well, people around her feel it, and they almost feel this fragilness in her, this feeling of needing to help her control things, keep them prefect.  

Bea nodded, agreed with me. I remember her saying something about that is what I had always done; try to be perfect and help her have the perfect, in control feeling. She said something about having so much internal anxiety and chaos leads us to try to control things on the outside. 

I was so surprised that my mom was leaving dirty dishes in the sink. But she was calm and fine. All that nervous, anxiety, tension….I don’t think it is there anymore. I said, joking, being silly, ‘where’s my mom? My mom doesn’t leave dirty dishes in the sink.’ And thats when she started talking about how therapy has really helped her, and how she has been doing so good. She told me how she isn’t stressed out so much, how she doesn’t try to hide things that aren’t perfect. She talked about how she is eating better, how she is seeing a nutritionist, how she doesn’t even go to the gym anymore and just walks with her dog and my dad for enjoyment. She talked about how she and my dad are doing so good and learning to communicate. She talked about hoe my dad is doing so much better; he’s doing things again, they are spending a lot more time together. She talked about how she feels guilty that I learned her habits for dealing with stressful life stuff. She wasn’t crying, or upset, or falling apart. It wasn’t her telling me this so that I could take care of her, ‘fix’ it. She was just talking. She obviously felt bad, and she obviously has a lot of guilt, but she was in control of the conversation. This was a person who had worked through this stuff and could handle discussing it. She was being the adult, she was being a mom. And i hated every minute of the conversation with her. I felt uncomfortable. My skin was crawling, I had the hot and cold feeling– the one where you feel burning hot but icy cold and frozen at the same time. I felt like I wanted to cry, or yell, or run. 

I think Bea asked me how present I was during this talk with my mom. I told her ‘not very.’ The truth is, I was just gone. I felt those uncomfortable feelings, and hid in the room in my head. The whole scene with my mom feels fake. It’s that unreal, this isn’t my life feeling. Bea asked if I was angry, and I remember shaking my head no, and her saying that she didn’t feel anger from me today. I told her I just didn’t understand why my mom couldn’t do this when I needed her to. I remember her validating that, maybe saying what she felt from me was sad. I don’t know. I just remember her saying that one word– sad. I remember her saying that and I know we talked about those feelings. I remember feeling tears in my eyes, but refusing to let them fall. I have this fuzzy vague memory of Bea wiping at her eyes, under her glasses. I remember telling Bea that my mom ate pizza this weekend. I have never seen her eat pizza. I know Bea said something about feeling lost, feeling uncertain because my mom isn’t acting like my mom. I think she asked if I was having a hard time because my mom is separating herself from me. I don’t know if I responded. 

I don’t like how things have changed with my mom. Logically, I am happy to see her and my Dad both doing so well. I am glad to see her facing things and being real and authentic. But I am having a hard time trusting that, believing her. She can do this today, and be present and real, but what happens when I respond in a real way and not the rote, drilled into me way? Is that when she is going to fall apart and it will be my fault her life– the life she is finally actually living– falls apart? I can not be responsible for another mess. I’m not sure I trust that this is for real. I’m not sure that I believe it will last. I don’t know. I was really just can’t go there with her right now. And I am hurt. I don’t understand why I didn’t matter enough for her to do this when I was a kid. I want to go back in time, I want a redo, and I want to take the person my mom is now back with me. I want that woman to raise me. 

I am almost afraid to believe the person my mom seems to be becoming is real. Because if it is real, then everything I didn’t have is very apparent, in stark contrast to who she is now. I’m afraid because all of that makes me angry and it makes me feel like sobbing. It is this big huge hurt, this giant pain, that is raw and sore and it makes me so full of deep, deep sadness and rage simultaneously that it’s too overwhelming. And a very big part of me believes I have no right to these feelings, that they are absolutely not okay and not allowed. 

I remember my session with Bea ending, very quickly telling her about a conversation I had with hubby (which I will write about later) and her asking me what I was doing the after this. I told her I was actually meeting Kay for coffee, and I think that surprised her. After all, i have been avoiding Kay for almost 6 months. We discussed a scheduling thing; I needed to let her know a day that Kat may be late. She let me leave not long after, and Hagrid and I met my best friend for coffee, just down the street.