I pull into the parking lot at 7:30am. It’s early, but I need to walk Hagrid. He is so excited when I clip his leash on him, he practically flys out of my car. I grab my bag and my coffee, and we head out. One thing I love about my therapist’s office is that it is in the city, downtown. I love downtown. So, Hagrid and I walk the sidewalks, and window shop. I stop for another coffee, and the barista says how cute he is. I smile and say thank you. He is cute.
After I get my coffee, we head back towards Bea’s office. When we get there, I have to carry him up the steps. I’m not sure if he just doesn’t do stairs, or what. But I carry him.
“Good morning,” I call out, tapping on the door. It’s open, but I never like to just walk in.
“Come on in. Good morning. You brought Hagrid back.” She bends down to scratch his head.
“Yes. We just had a nice long walk so he shouldn’t have to potty or anything,” I tell her.
I get settled on the couch, and Hagrid curls up in my lap, laying his head on one of Bea’s pillows. We have scheduling stuff to figure out, so we talk about that. I don’t like changing my schedule and I don’t like not knowing it several months– like 6 months– out, but the best we can do is figure out therapy times until school starts. Once school starts we will have to do this all over again. I was also a little nervous to even ask to change the schedule. Anxieties of Bea not being able to find time for me, Bea being done with me, Bea saying no more twice a week, Bea saying no more 90 minute sessions all danced through my head. None of that happened, though.
In fact, after we have everything nailed down, she says, “I really want to try to keep your sessions at 90 minutes. I think that extra time is really helpful when you are working through the hard stuff.” And she never said anything about cutting down to once a week.
I nod. I don’t want to disagree, because I agree, but I’m almost afraid to admit I agree. Like, if I admit I need this, it will be taken from me. I don’t know.
We talk about Kat, and about Hagrid and random everyday things. After a while, I sigh and look down at the floor. “I’m leaving Monday to go to my parent’s. By myself, without Kat. I’m a little…..I don’t really want to go. But I do. Because my Grandma is here. And she isn’t staying like she was supposed to. She messed it all up. I don’t know.” I blink back tears of frustration, pet Hagrid.
“It will be good for you to see your Grandma, I think. I know it’s hard to go back to your parents, and with no distraction of Kat.”
“She was supposed to come on August. We were going to go stay the week before school…the last two weeks, there is no camp. So we were going to go stay then. But now she is here, and she’s not even staying two weeks. And my parents hid everything from me. She still is having heart problems. Her doctor only said she can be gone two weeks. And she has a boyfriend. And no one likes the boyfriend. I don’t know. Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?”
Bea is silent for a moment, digesting everything I just threw at her. “Why doesn’t anyone like him?”
“I don’t know. They say he is crude, rude. I don’t know. Maybe they don’t like him because he isn’t my Grandpa. Maybe he really is rude and jerky.” I breathe out, notice that Hagrid is giving me puppy kisses on the back of my hand, and I bury my face in his fur. As much as I hate to admit it, Bea is right; Hagrid is one of the most grounding things in my life.
“Your Grandpa wasn’t like that, was he?”
“No. No. Not at all. He was…he was the guy that would clean his neighbor’s gutters just because he noticed they needed to be done. That was my grandpa. But. I don’t know. I’m trying to keep an open mind. I want my grandma to be happy. My grandpa would want her to be happy.”
“Believe it or not, this is common. For older people to meet someone the rest of the family dislikes. It happens a lot.”
I sigh. “I don’t know why I remember this so well, but it’s very clear in my memory. When I went to Florida with my aunt, to visit my grandma, one afternoon we were all sitting out having wine, and Grandma’s friend’s were teasing her about some new guy in their community. She said she was never going to date anyone else, my grandpa had been it for her. I told her that if she did meet someone that made her happy, I would be happy for her, and I believed grandpa would be, too, because he would not want her to be lonely. My aunt got so upset, so shoved the table and her chair fell on the floor, and then she ran in the house and we all heard the bedroom door slam– clear on the other end!”
“Wow. It’s no one you remember that so clearly. Her reaction was so extreme. What did your grandma say?”
“No one said anything about what I said, Dorothy said my aunt need to relax, and then she said we needed more red wine. And that was that.” I shrug. It was what it was.
“Hmmm. So it really must feel bad not to have been told about the boyfriend when you were so supportive like that.”
I nod. Exactly. But even if grandma didn’t tell me, why didn’t my mom?
“And the heart trouble. That messes with this idea of a secure base. We were talking about your grandma being a safe place growing up. You might not need that anymore, but symbolically, she still has been your safe place.”
“It’s why I always think that if it’s too hard, or I can’t deal, I’ll just buy a plane ticket and go to Florida.”
“Yes. She’s been your secure base.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?” The words force themselves out.
“By anyone, we really mean your mom.” It’s said as a statement, but Bea waits until I nod to continue speaking. “If we look at this as part of a pattern, a life long pattern, why do you think she didn’t tell you?”
I shake my head. I don’t know. Every thought running through my head sounds stupid and childish, whiny and immature. Finally, I mumble one reason, anyway. “Because she didn’t want to deal with me when I got upset.”
“She didn’t want to upset you. She didn’t want to deal with those difficult emotions.” Bea repeats what I’ve said, but with a little bit kinder reframe towards me.
I nod. “She can’t deal. She never could.”
“This reminds me of the underwear memory. She could not deal with whatever was triggered in her, and so she made herself very sick. Because she can’t handle these harder emotions.”
I don’t say anything, but I agree silently. I snuggle Hagrid and wonder how I ever did therapy without him.
“Did you ask her why she didn’t tell you earlier?” Bea asks. It’s so simple when she says it.
“No. I just….no. I guess I could have. But then. Well…confrontation.” I shrug.
“You could ask her now. Just really direct, no judgement, or anger, or upset. Just, ‘mom I thought about it, and why didn’t you tell me this sooner?’ I don’t think that would be confrontational.”
I shake my head. How do I explain this? “I’m so angry with her…I’m just so full of mad. I don’t sound mad, but I am…it’s there. Maybe I sound mad. I don’t know.” I shake my head. The words come out on fits and starts, with lots of pauses, while I hug my dog and blink away tears and refuse to look at Bea. “I just…I feel like if I start asking questions, I’m going to ask the one I really want to ask. I want to drop this bomb of how in the world did you not know…well, I don’t know what to even call it now, I’m so confused, but whatever that was with Kenny.”
“Sexual abuse. It’s sexual abuse,” Bea tells me softly.
I don’t say anything for what feels like a really long time. “You read my email. With the what if questions. You remember?”
“Then….is it really…I mean, doesn’t that make it not…I don’t know.”
“Sexual abuse?” She asks, filling in the question I was trying to ask.
I nod. Yes. Doesn’t everything that happened mean it wasn’t sexual abuse?
“It’s still abuse. All the what ifs change nothing,” Bea says.
“I..but….I mean….I did….how can you still say that?” Words stumble around my mouth, but a question finally emerges.
Bea waits a moment, and then, very calmly and very directly, she tells me, “You have PTSD. You wouldn’t have PTSD if you weren’t traumatized. You were sexually abused and raped. He hurt you. You wouldn’t dissociate, and not to the degree you do, if it had not been traumatizing, if it wasn’t abuse. You have PTSD reactions, like jumping at loud noises, flashbacks, nightmares. All of that because this was abuse.”
I think she says something about how my mom not keeping me safe might have contributed to the trauma, but I’m not sure. She says how the fact this went on for so long and was so frequent is partly what makes it so hard to work through, what makes it so traumatizing. I don’t know. I say something about how it’s hard to believe my mom didn’t notice, in all that time. I’m feeling a little bit gone, and fuzzy, like I’ve had too many glasses of some really good wine. I think I cry about how when I kissed him I got in trouble, and she still did not see.
“Well, I don’t know, but we have wondered about your moms history, and women who have a sexual abuse history have a big blind spot to those things. Not in your case, as you have already seen, because you are working through your stuff. But if a person hasn’t worked through it, or is not actively working through it, there is a blind spot,” Bea says.
I risk looking at her face, just for a moment. It’s okay. I bring up a worry I have about Kat, and her going to school and the possibility of the little girl who hurt her being at the same school. Bea and I talk it through, make a plan. I feel better about that. And then, I have this thought, I can not believe I am thinking it, but at the same time, I can not believe I have never wondered before. “My mom….my mom, her sister and one brother, none of them speak to their dad. It’s this big secret why, we aren’t even allowed to ask why. When we were kids, we would always be curious. I don’t know. He lives in town. If we run into him, we always have to leave. Right away.”
Bea gets what I’m wondering, without me saying it. “It could be. A missing piece, anyway. Is your mom’s family like her?”
“No…not really. It’s funny, I was just thinking about this. They are all more…I don’t know the word. It’s a feeling. More real.” I stop and think for a moment, and then explain how there are several social workers, psychologists, a psychiatrist, a physical therapist, occupational therapist, a teacher, a nurse, all in my moms family.
“So they’ve all chosen professions to help..but also where they would have to be more authentic. Interesting. Is your mom more or less real with them?”
I struggle to answer. It’s not a simple yes or no, it’s a yes and no answer. Finally I say, “Both. Sometimes more fake, other times, she has those moments of being so real. I don’t know. I see a contrast between her and her brothers. Not so much with her sister, but maybe it’s because my aunt lives in town, so I know her. I don’t know.”
We talk about my mom’s family a little more, and how they are nice to be around, and how I really didn’t spend a lot of time with my mom this last weekend because we both were spending time with family we only see twice a year.
It’s out of the blue, but I stop talking and then, “I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry for?” Bea asks. She might be confused, as nothing has happened for me to be apologizing right now.
I blink back tears. “I just….I feel bad. I’m sorry I am whining, all the time, that I’m confused, and about my mom, and crying, and I don’t know. I’m just sorry because I feel like it has to be annoying to you and I don’t want to make you annoyed with me.”
“I think being confused makes sense. You can’t get all this out in one session, or in ten. It’s not going to be all better in a few months. It is confusing, and hard. I’m not annoyed with you, not at all. Think of everything that has happened. Think of how you are able to say this family reunion was better than last year’s was. It’s confusing, and it hurts and it’s scary. You aren’t going to heal in a day. There is a lot to drag out into the light. It’s okay to be confused right now. I’m not at all annoyed. Bea’s voice is gentle, but there is a tone to it that says she is very serious.
I nod. “Okay.” I hide my face in Hagrid’s fur again, and breathe.
“We need to wrap up in a few minutes, okay?” Bea says.
I lift my head and nod. “It feels like there is so much changing right now, it’s so hard. At least we got the schedule set for now. That helps, even though I don’t like only knowing two months. Now I need the ABA schedule.” I feel a bit like I am in limbo. Like I’m just waiting for summer to be over, so I can get back to life with a more permanent schedule. I don’t want to be waiting for summer to end; I love summer.
Bea looks at Hagrid who is stretched out across my lap. “I’m glad you have this little guy to help you through it. I think he came at just the right time.” She smiles.
I smile, too. “I think so. He’s so sweet. He’s gone everywhere with me since we got home. It’s lucky it has been cooler out; he’s been able to wait in the car while I run into the grocery store, or whatever.”
I’m not sure what is said, but we end up talking about service dogs and autism. I wanted a dog for Kat, and Hagrid would be great if he weren’t already so attached to me. We would need another dachshund for her. I say that Hagrid would be a great therapy dog, and Bea agrees.
“He’s kind of doing that for you, helping you be more grounded and less anxious,” she says. She’s right, he is doing that. And more. He snuggles me at bedtime, and I’m not alone in the dark. I realize hubby is usually home in bed, too, but this is different. This is safe. I’m not afraid of Hagrid’s expectations. Hagrid cuddles with me when I have a bad dream, and he has sat with me through a panic attack. Yeah, he really is a therapy dog.
“I don’t think that’s going to get him into stores with me, though,” I tell Bea. In my head, I joke that she should write me a note. I don’t say it out loud, because Bea actually might do just that, and I can not walk around with my dog and a note from my shrink. Nope. Geesh.
Bea laughs, and asks me what is on my agenda for the day.
“Hagrid needs a walk, so maybe the park or something. And then chores. Maybe a nap. I didn’t sleep much last night. I don’t know for sure.”
“That sounds good,” she says.
We talk for a few more minutes while I gather up my things, and then say our goodbyes, have a good days. It was a jumpy session, but I feel like a lot got talked about that needed to, even if it didn’t go very deep.