Strange instances and Sunflowers

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…….It’s annual mother-daughter weekend. This means that my mom and her sister pick me up and then we drive to my cousin’s house. It’s always fun, and I love seeing my cousin.

I went into the weekend stressed out and overwhelmed, but it ended up okay. We stayed at my cousin’s new house, and it ended up being really great. There were some really healing moments that were just kind of strange. I don’t know how to explain it.

At one point, Cousin and I hid on her front porch so we could smoke (yes, I smoke cigarettes when I’m stressed) and I shared with her what happened with Kat and the boy. She was really empathetic and understanding but there was a strange thing she said to me. She said, “I bet it was really upsetting because it feels so much like our creepy cousin.”

Kenny is her cousin, too. He didn’t live next door to her, and I’ve always thought she was fine with him. She’s never called him creepy before or even mentioned anything like that. I froze when she said it and kind of laughed it off, and then suggested we get better get back before the moms became suspicious. And that was that. I don’t know what to make of this, and I don’t even tell Bea about the girls weekend when we speak on Wednesday because….well, I don’t know why.

Then, Saturday night, I had a nightmare and it woke my mom. On girl’s weekend, my aunt shares my cousin’s bed, and my mom and I share the bed in the guest room.

So, I have this nightmare, the really bad one I have been having, and it wakes my mom up. When I was a kid if I had a nightmare, I would just lay in bed, wishing my mom would come in my room, that she would just somehow know I was awake and scared, but more often than not, I would lay there alone until morning. If I did actually get out of bed, I would be given a glass of water, a kiss on the forehead and directed back to bed. I was an annoyance, a problem to be dealt with. Which is why this is so….strange. My mom woke up, and just right away hugged me and held me in this hug. She shushed me but it was the comforting “sh sh sh” you make when a baby cries. I lied and said I didn’t know what I had been dreaming when she asked. She said it didn’t matter, and that everything was okay where we were. I cried, and my mom tucked me back in and rubbed my back and smoothed my hair. And you know what? I fell back asleep. This never happens after a nightmare.

This was healing and painful, all at the same time. It hurts because I needed this present day mom when I was little. I needed this mom so badly, and I didn’t get her.

Saturday we went to a sunflower farm, and we had such a fun time filling a vase full of sunflowers. My mom decided she wanted to pick the tallest sunflower she could find. She found one that was probably 12 feet tall and carried it around the whole time we were there. I had to use our garden clippers like a saw to get the flower with its long stem cut down. It was like a small tree! We were all laughing and just having a really fun time. The farm owners took our picture with our crazy tall flower and asked to post it on facebook. They said that no one has ever picked a flower with a stem that tall and they were thrilled with how much fun we were having.

I don’t know why I didn’t share this with Bea on Wednesday. I have so many messy feelings about the strange things that happened that weekend. I think it feels painful and hard to share. I don’t know.

PS– I’m the short one in the picture.


(Last week, Tuesday when we first got to the campground)
Driving across the state, I leave pieces of myself scattered behind. I must shrink in order to fit into the mold of Ms. Perfect. I lose pieces of myself; bread crumbs I will follow when this trip is over, to find my way back to being me again. 

I find myself becoming more agitated and panicked the closer we get. I woke this morning in a fit, scared and full of nightmares that aren’t just scary stories. It made me grumpy as soon as I left my bed. Poor hubby bore the brunt of the adrenaline pumping through my system, sending me into fight or flight mode. 

I try to breathe as we drive. I try to focus on the scenery, on what I see out the window, I can’t calm down. Hubby reaches for my hand, and takes hold. I grip his hand back. I sit like this trying to really feel his hand around mine. I don’t often allow myself to be fully present for any kind of touch and focusing on this now, I want to cry. It’s as if I can feel hubby with me, I can feel hubby on my side. It’s uncomfortable because he is here, now, but I don’t trust he will stay. I don’t trust that he is capable of being here the way I need him to be. I know as soon as I show any emotion, he will be retreat. But this display of care and support? It’s sort of overwhelming. I’m not sure what to so with it, and so I drop his hand, and drift back to far away places. 

When we get to the campground, we first have to check in at the little campground office and store. It’s the same as it was when I was a girl, and I can picture us kids running up there with our spending money to buy candy and little tchotchkes. When we get to our cabin, my parents have arrived already, but my brother — Oliver– is still on the way. By the time we finish unloading our things, Oliver has arrived. Kat is so excited to see her cousins, and we decide that the kids are old enough (his kids are 14, 12 and 10 and Kat is 7) to walk through the campground alone this year. 

Being at the campground is okay, during the day. Having Oliver there seems to off set my mother’s craziness and that helps. Somehow my conservative proper parents created two liberal, artistic, emotional, hippie children. Oliver is more relaxed than I could ever be, and truly doesn’t care if my mother approves of him or not. He never has, and that attitude helps create some balance for me now. Years ago, I didn’t get Oliver, or how he could just not care, how he could shrug off the criticisms and laugh about it. I didn’t understand, and it annoyed me. His attitude then only served to create more tension in the family because I would stick with my mom and her upset in his behavior. This was back when I was still stuck in the pattern of having to agree with my mother, so she solid be on my side. Now though, his attitude gives me freedom to hold onto some pieces of myself after all. It gives me a chance to be more myself around someone in my family. It’s easy and fun, the banter and joking and giving my mother a hard time they way only your children can. We play cards, and laugh about how my Grandpa taught us to play “bullshit”. My mother almost has a heart attack over that. 

It’s good, this new relationship I seem to be building with my little brother. We’ve never been close as adults, but we are closer now. It’s a good thing, a happy thing.

The wedding and the aftermath 

Monday morning after the wedding, I walked into Bea’s office, and I was rather, well, closed off. I was in shutdown mode. I know I told her about the wedding, but it was done rather woodenly, and I don’t have a lot of recollection of our session. I wasn’t really there. I think the manager was running things, in this very strict, very closed down, very harsh boundaried way. My clearest memory is of Bea suggesting I may have felt some things on Saturday, and her telling me that would be okay and wouldn’t make me bad, and the little girl becoming extremely enraged at Bea not only for saying those things, but for knowing them. 

Right now, I’ve been in this very up and down place, of either needing to be completely closed off and following a scheduled written out to the minute, or I’m in this falling apart, not in control, really scared, wanting to die to make it all stop, unable to even find words or function, child part. And it’s scary. Really, really scary to be in that head space. So I am working very hard to follow my schedule. It’s literally written out on paper, with days and times and everything is scheduled from when to wake up, and doing dishes, packing Kat’s lunch, to letting the dogs out to potty, to doing laundry, dusting, sweeping, checking email, doing yoga, taking a shower, giving Kat a bath, going to the grocery. I know it’s rigid and awful. But I can’t function otherwise. Not right now. And that scares me too. So, here is Saturday’s story, as I told it to Bea:

We got to the country club early, to double check finishing touches on decorations, and get dressed and then do some photos before the wedding. When we got there, I could see the wedding planner hadn’t set up the entry way correctly, and she didn’t have the isle runner covered in rose petals either. I busied myself with those tasks, and then just continued on with decorating as it appeared the decorator and wedding planner were really behind. 

Almost an hour or so into decorating and fixing what the decorator had done, my mother stormed up the stairs and yelled at me for not being dressed, and for getting messy. No thank you for fixing the disasters the decorator keeps making, just a good old fashioned berating for not being dressed yet. Later, when the assistant director met me, we shared a laugh over the fact she had fought I was maybe 6 or 7 by the way my mother had been hollering at me to get dressed— she never would have guessed I was 32 years old. It’s not really funny, but well, you know. Family 😕

Once pictures were done and wedding o’clock rolled around, we headed outside to our seats. Hubby and I sat down, and then noticed the decorator was still putting roses in the arch, and she did not have the runner secured so it was blowing all over the place. I set hubby to work with putting roses in the arch and standing on one end of the runner to hold it in place. I sent my dad to stand on the other end, and then I spent the next 25 (good thing my brother and his bride always run late!) minutes running around looking for a staple gun or duct tape. Neither of which could be found. I ended up using saucers to hold the runner down, spacing them along the edges. By this point, the wedding still hadn’t started, and guests had been sitting in the hot sun for over 30 minutes. I went to the bar to get pesticides cups and pitchers of ice water, and set those out, having people pass them around. I didn’t want anyone getting dehydrated. 

The wedding finally started, and it was beautiful ceremony. After, was cocktail hour with champagne punch and hors d’oeuvres. My grandma’s boy friend, who I don’t even want to name for my blog right now, was in line behind hubby and I. He is a horrible man, who is always telling dirty jokes and making innuendoes. He said something about me and my dress, and my chest and my behind, and hubby laughed and agreed. I know I had strong feelings about that, and became angry with hubby because I left the cocktail hour and headed to the club’s bar. I remember telling hubby to just stay faraway from me, and I went and bought a glass of wine. It was a friend of my mom’s who came and sat with me, and let me vent a bit to her. I calmed down and went back to the cocktail hour. 

When we moved into the reception room, I discovered my table– with my mom, dad, grandma, her boy friend, HIS parents, my mom’s sister and her husband, and hubby and I– was right next to HIS table because of how the numbers worked and he was almost sitting next to hubby. I wanted to vomit. I ran to the bathroom and texted Bea in a panic. She told me to leave the table as soon as I could and talk to people far away from him, and then made suggestions for whom I might want to talk to. I don’t really remember dinner. I had a vegetarian dish, and my mother had a moment about the cheese on my noodles, and I felt horribly ashamed and guilty and like I wanted to crawl under the table and hide. 

After dinner I got up, moved around, talked to people. It was okay. I danced a lot. Hubby danced with me, but a lot of my uncles and mom’s cousins and dad’s cousins and my cousins, too, danced with me. Which was good, it kept me away from him. Until. Until he approached hubby as we were dancing and asked hubby’s permission to dance with me. And hubby said yes. 

I froze. I blanked out. I don’t know what happened. I just disappeared. And then the next thing I know, the thing in my memory, is HIM, a hand on my back, and a hand holding my hand, whirling me around the dance floor. Because if you grew up where we did, you know how to dance. And I followed. I followed because it’s the thing you do when you dance, you follow and dance and move, and it’s easy and mindless muscle memory, I followed because I was frozen, and had no idea what else to do. So, I followed and danced. And then the song was over, and he kissed my cheek and thanked me for the dance and left the dance floor. I presume I was meant to follow, but I didn’t. Instead I ended up standing there, in the middle of the dance floor, half frozen, as the next song played. 

I don’t know how long I stood there, but Hagrid’s dad saw me, and came to dance with me. He spun me around a few times, and then, before the song was even over, walked me off the dance floor, out of the reception hall, and to the club’s bar. He ordered two glasses of good white wine, and asked if I was okay. I nodded, yes, of course, I’m fine. He maybe wasn’t convinced but let it go, only saying I could talk to him if I ever needed to. And then he sat with me until I was ready to go back inside. Later, I was embarrassed because it was the little girl talking to him, and he was behaving towards me much more like a care taker or protector than just my mom’s smart cousin whom I have many intellectual discussions with. This means that he saw something was wrong, and as a shrink, he may have even realized I was not there, that something had triggered me, that I wasn’t okay. It means that the central though I didn’t tell, even though I followed the family rule as best I could of putting on the show that all is fine, I sort of told, because Hagrid’s dad realized something was wrong. So, I broke the rules after all. I don’t know. 

(Side note– Bea told me that she really liked that Hagrid’s Dad rescued me, that it sit seemed fitting and right. She also said that if I ever do get to the point of wanting to tell, then maybe he would be a good first person to tell; that he is far enough removed from immediate family, but close enough to see the dynamics, and that while he is going to be sad about what happened because he is my family, that he will understand it as a therapist, but also know the family well enough to know all those nuances and be able to help me break the story to my mother and father. I understand what she is saying, and can even agree with her. I just wasn’t hearing it the day she said it, and I have no plans to tell anyone in the family anything at all ever.)

So, after that, back at the wedding reception, I just drank a lot of wine. Like, a bottle and a half at least. Way more than I ever drink. And I was really drunk. I texted Bea, freaking out and wanting to go home. I think the little girl parts wanted her to come rescue them, I don’t know. In the end, even though she suggested I go back to my parents and go to sleep, I insisted hubby take me home. I didn’t want to sleep in my childhood home. I didn’t want to be in that house where everything about me is wrong. I didn’t want to have to fake anything anymore, for even one more day. So. I insisted on being taken home, and at some point, hubby gave up arguing and agreed to do so. 

Since then, I’ve seen Bea 3 times, and aside from that first Monday where I told her the above story, I’ve more or less avoided talking about myself. I’m in the middle of dealing with a bunch of crazy business from my daughter’s school, and possibly looking for a new school. So those things have needed discussing. And the teachers/administration at Kat’s current school all behave as if I’m crazy to say she is on the spectrum, or to think she needs these extra supports, or anything else. So that dynamic is very triggering as well, to the point where I’m feeling anxiety every time I take Kat to school or pick her up. 

I finally did give me Bea my journal at yesterday’s session, and that was probably a good thing because now she is aware how screwy the inside of my head is, and how some parts of me are on a scary ledge, and how I’m holding it all together by having this very set schedule but that isn’t going to be able to last long, simply because the crud is leaking out in places and I’m struggling in ways I refuse to admit. And I’m terrified of the couple’s therapy session that is set on October. As I told Bea, I’m afraid because I’m the one saying I can’t have a superficial marriage for the rest of my life, but I am also the one who is too afraid and too damaged to go deeper. Bea says that is fine, that the therapist should start where we are at, and it’s okay. 

So, now Bea knows how screwed up my head is right now. She asked me if I could continue with my schedule for another two days until I see her again, and I said yes. She said on Wednesday, maybe we need to start unpacking all that yuck, little by little and we could do it however I wanted, talking, coloring, writing, sensorimotor, a combo of all three. So, the lan is on Wednesday to titrate the mess and just deal with tiny pieces that won’t overwhelm me to the point of the suicidal parts or the little girl running the ship. I’m sort of scared, because well, it all feels overwhelming if I let even some out– which is why I’ve kept it very locked down and separate from me. 

Wednesday before the wedding 

Session from Wednesday September 14. I cut the writing short because it is being posted so late, but I think it’s okay. Anyway…..the Wednesday before my brother’s wedding……

Today. Wednesday. It’s 7:35am, and I don’t want to sit in the parking lot outside Bea’s office drinking coffee and checking emails anymore. I can’t think enough to form a coherent reply anyway. I get out of the car, grab coffee and my purse and head up to her office. I am 10 minutes early but I don’t think Bea will be upset with me. And if she is finishing up her own emails, or vacuuming or whatever else she likes to do in the morning (yes, we have discussed our morning routines), I’m fine with waiting. I just want to be in her office, where I feel safe, and where maybe, just maybe, this manager part can let go a little and let me run things for an hour or so. I have so much I need to get out. 

Bea smiles when I walk in. “Hi,” she says. 

“Hi,” I say, “It feels like fall today.” And my voice is clear and strong and if you didn’t know me, you might believe everything is perfectly fine. The manager or Miss Perfect is running the ship right now, or maybe they are running it together. And they are both very good at their jobs. I think the manager doesn’t care as much about things being perfect as Miss Perfect does, and the manager also is less concerned about holding feelings in than with just not letting them exist to begin with. The manager keeps everything running fine and things looking normal when I am in public, or when people are coming over, ext. That’s different than Miss Perfect, because she will do things perfectly even if no one will ever know about it. The manager could care less if I spend all day in bed zoning out, as long as no feelings are coming out and I’m not breaking down. Miss perfect would see spending the day in bed as a waste, a failure, and would never allow it. 

Anyway. I answer and I sound fine. But Bea knows me really well by now, and she isn’t fooled. So she nods and says, “I made sure that we have until 9:30 today, so we have plenty of time to talk about anything you want to or need to talk about.” The last few weeks, she has had to schedule someone at 9:00, which is unusual because my appointments go from 8 until 9:30. But with school schedules and Bea’s trainings and vacations messing things up, she has needed to put someone into that time spot, but she had explained that to me and had promised it would be back to normal in October and we had been meeting at 7:45am, so I was really okay with that. But it was really nice of her to make sure we had until our normal time, and this gave me extra time because we had been starting 15 minutes early on Wednesdays to compensate for ending 1/2 hour early. 

I nod. Okay. I’m not sure what she wants me to say. I feel like I should talk but I’m at a loss. Nothing seems like the right thing to say. I end up telling her about Kat’s doctor appointment and how that went horribly wrong, but it was sort of good because hubby had taken her so he saw that I wasn’t just crazy and that I do things a certain way with Kat for a reason. Talking about hubby reminds Bea about the couples therapist. 

“I forgot to ask on Monday, did you talk to shrink#2?” (And yes, we really do call her shrink#2) 

I nod. “Yeah, actually, I had called her on Wednesday like we talked about, and then she called back, um…..Thursday night, I think it was, and I couldn’t really get it because hubby was home. So I called her back Friday morning, and she called back Monday after I had left here– I was on my way home from here, actually.” 

“So, when is the appointment with her? Or is there an appointment with her?” Bea’s voice is curious, and it has that tone to it that says she really wants to know. 

“In October. We go in October. The 6th, or something like that. It’s a Thursday. She might end up being able to do Mondays, and then maybe we could get in sooner. But for now, that’s when we have it set. So, yeah…….” My voice trails off. I’m unsure what to say from there. 

“Were you able to talk to her?” Bea sits forward a bit, leaning towards me. “I’m guessing you must have gotten something worked out, or you wouldn’t have an appointment still scheduled.”

“Yeah. So I um, well. You know, I had to change the appointment because hubby’s work schedule changed. So we did that first. And then I said that I would like to talk to her if she had a few minutes because I felt like there were things she should know before I walked into a session, things I need her to know, and I had talked with you, and you thought I needed to have a voice and advocate for myself and this was a really perfect time for me to practice that, but you had helped me write out what I wanted to say, so I was just going to read it if that was okay, and that I had the other therapist tell me I wasn’t allowed to talk over the phone so it was going f to be twice as hard to say any of this because I was feeling even more scared.”

“And what did she say?” Bea prompts me when I stop talking and drift off into space. 

“Oh, she said that she very much wanted to hear what I had to say, and it sounded like it was really important information. And I just really couldn’t get the words out, so,I said I was just going to read what was written if that was okay, and I apologized and said I wasn’t as much as a space cadet as I sounded. But I guess maybe I am sometimes……but anyway, she said I was doing great and I wasn’t being a space cadet at all. So I read the thing to her.” 

Bea’s whole face breaks out into this huge smile. “Alice! That huge! You read all of that, the trigger list and everything to her?” 

“Yeah.” I shrug. 

“I think it can be really hard to read things we write, even harder than talking, it can feel really exposing. That is amazing. I’m really proud of you. You did really good.” 

I shake my head at Bea. “No. Because reading something over the phone, I wasn’t even there at all. It’s the face to face reading that is vulnerable or having to find words. But reading off a page over the phone? That’s easy.” 

“How did she seem to feel about the dissociation and the triggers?” Bea asks me. I think she is feeling protective again. 

“She seemed okay, like that was all fine and normal in her world. She seemed like, yeah, okay, it’s okay that you don’t have words sometimes. I had said, remember it said that sometimes I can be really dissociative but am good at faking being present even though I’m not here at all? (Bea nods) Well, she asked what if she asked me if I was far away during a session, would I be able to answer? And I was like ‘I don’t know.’ I don’t know. That didn’t seem to bother her. I told her that hubby doesn’t know like anything, that I’ve kept him out of the loop. And she seemed to get that, I mean like how that happens. I don’t know.” 

“Did she ask anything else?” Bea questions. 

I shrug. “I’m not sure…..I wasn’t really there. I’m not really here. I don’t know.” 

“Yeah, I’m not surprised. I think you needed to be far away enough to call shrink#2 to feel safe, but also I think you’ve started to be far away just as a way of being for right now, until this weekend is past.” Bea tells me. 

“Yeah. I think that started last week.” I say, and I’m far away enough it’s not a big deal to be admitting that, and Bea nods, agreeing with me. 

I’m not sure who speaks next or what is said, but I end up folding my arms across the pillow of I’m leaning against, and burying my face in them. “I’m so far away,” I say to Bea and I’m crying.

“Being in the far away doesn’t always feel good,” she says. 

I cry for a while. Maybe a little while, maybe a longer while. I not sure. Time doesn’t really move the same here. But then I choke out, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” The tears come harder now. 

“Here-here, or the far away here?” Bea clarifies what I mean. I realize, or rather, the part in charge of editing everything realizes that Bea is probably trying to figure out if I am meaning ‘I don’t want to be here’ in the same way as ‘I just want to disappear’, or any of my other euphemisms for suicide or if I just mean that I simply don’t like being in the far away because being so disconnected is hard. I’m kicking myself for trusting her and for giving her unedited writings with how bad I feel at times in them, because now she has to clarify what I meant, and I hate that, I really do. I don’t want her worrying about me like that. Or wondering. Or anything else. But Im honest when I say, “Mostly the far away here.”

“Can you come and go from the far away? So you can get a break from being there? Or are you pretty much just there now?” 

“I’m stuck in the far away. I can’t come and go. It’s not safe to go. All the feelings are on the other side of the far away. No. I don’t want to be here, but I don’t want to be there either.” I can’t stop crying. I hate crying like this. 

“You are safe now,” Bea says to me quietly. 

“I don’t feel safe.” I tell her. 

“No, I know. Your body doesn’t feel safe because it feels like the past is now, and your head, your head thinks the past and the present are scary, and not safe, so your head doesn’t feel safe. So being in the far away, it is a defense to keep you safe. Even if it feel uncomfortable.” 

“I feel like nothing is real.” 

Bea says something soothing and encouraging, and so I continue talking, “It’s like….nothing is real, and I’m stuck in the far away, and I’m not going to be able to come back……I just…never mind.” I can’t even pick my head up to look at her. I feel like such an idiot. 

Bea gets it though. “It’s hard, when you are in the far away, to remember that there are things that are real and waiting for you, or to remember that something besides the far away exists.” 

I nod. “Yeah. I keep telling myself that I have a real life to come back to, but it…..I just…..I feel like I’m going to get trapped there and I just… real life feels made up. Like there’s just no way I had that life.” I sniffle, and fight back more tears, but they come anyway and I sob and sob.

“You do, you absolutely have a real life to come back to. It’s hard to hold onto that when things feel so not real, though, I know. But you will come back and go to yoga, and go to school meetings, and yell the IEP team, and walk Hagrid, and hang out at your beach, and you’ll get your sewing stuff out. You are going to come back to your real life.” Bea says the last bit with this extra firmness in her voice. 

I nod, trying to agree. “Okay. I’ll try to remember.” 

“If you need a reminder, you can always text me.” She says. And then I remember. On Monday, she said that yes I was going back to my hometown and that yes I was going to have to see HIM, but that things weren’t the same anymore, and I was safe and it wasn’t a secret anymore and I could text her, or call her this weekend if I needed a reminder of that. 

“That’s annoying,” I tell her. 

“What is?” She asks, sounding genuinely confused and as if she can’t figure out where our conversation is being picked up from. 

“Me. Texting you. I don’t want to annoy you. I’m afraid I will annoy you. You will be annoyed and like, ugh if I am too needy and then….it’s just not good.” I shake my head. I don’t want to have this conversation.

“Oh, no. It’s not annoying. If I was going to be annoyed by something I wouldn’t offer it. It’s okay. I want you to have support this weekend. I think that you, and the little girl, and maybe other parts too, could really use some extra support this weekend. You aren’t alone now, right? That’s the point, why you told me the secret, so you didn’t have to be alone. And you aren’t alone. So, text. Or email. Or call. Or don’t if you don’t need to, but I’m not expecting you to just paste a smile on your face and be okay and if at some point, you want to talk to someone, or not be alone with it, or you need a reminder of your real life, or that this is not a secret, then, you text me okay? Because it’s not annoying and you aren’t needy and I’m not going anywhere. Okay?” 

I sniffle. “Okay.” And I sorta believe her. At least enough that I let myself remember and count on being able to text Bea if I need to. 

“I do want you to know that if I could keep him from going, or make it okay for you not to go, I would. Because I don’t think it’s okay to send you back to this situation or to allow you to feel so retraumatized. But this is where you are at, and that is okay. I do want to find some things to give you some power back though, okay? Can we do that?” 

“Okay…..” I am hesitant because I don’t know what she means, and I’m a little afraid she is going to mean some sensorimotor therapy thing because she use got back from a training this weekend, and I just can’t do that right now. 

But she doesn’t. Sometimes, Bea will ask me to come up with ideas, or to think of choices. Other times, she knows my brain is way too offline to do that, and she does it for me. I really love that about her. “Well, like you are wearing pink when everyone else in the family is wearing grey or navy. That’s you. That is your voice. And you can make sure you aren’t sitting by him at the ceremony. You aren’t sitting by him at the reception and you can hang out with and focus on your moms family that you really like seeing. Is Hagrid’s Dad going to be there?”

“Yeah, he’ll be there. I can hang out with him and hubby. He’s a shrink, did I tell you that?” 

“No, no you didn’t tell me that,” she says, sounding a little surprised. 

“Yep. So I’ll just hang with my shrink cousin,” I say in this self depreciating voice, shaking my head. 

Bea laughs a little because I’m being funny, playing on the fact that I tend to call therapists shrinks when I don’t like them or don’t know them. She says he is a good person for me to spend time with at the wedding because he is safe and I enjoy talking to him. 

I agree. I don’t tell her that last summer, I had a flashback and I think he recognized it for what it was. I claimed migraine to the rest of the family, but he had followed me and asked if I needed anything and made a point that he was there if I didn’t want to be alone right then or if I needed to talk. By then I was in that here but not here place, and so I had smiled and said thank you but that I just needed to lie down and let my migraine meds kick in.

Bea smiles and continues with a few more ideas of ways I am in control.

“It’s worse… know….it’s harder…. because…….I just….” I start to talk, mumble, stop talking, scrunch my body up into a a smaller ball, and then bury my face even more. 

“Going back there? Going to the wedding? It’s harder because why?” 

“Seeing him. It’s harder………worse because of……..I……I can’t even say it. I just…I can’t say it. It’s that bad. A memory…the memory….” I’m really going even farther away now and I dig my nails into palms, making my hands into fists.

“Is it the memory with Jackie? With the three of you up north?” She asks gently. She is matter of fact and there is no judgement in her voice, but there is harsh judgement in my mind.

I nod my head. Yes. 

“That memory is popping back up, huh?”   

“It never left.” I say the words. But that’s not exactly right. Yes, the memory is very here and alive, but it’s more than that. It’s this feeling of being out of control, of not making any choices, of being so alone, of having no one to go to, of feeling so disgusted and hurt and just broken. Of feeling betrayed. I wasn’t special. I did not matter. None of this stuff, the secret game, the things that made me feel icky and excited and scared and good and bad and happy and awful all at once, they weren’t just because I was so special he couldn’t help himself, it wasn’t because he loved me and wanted to be with me. I was just there, a thing, a toy, something he could use. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t special and he did not love me and it was all bad and wrong and everything hurts. But I don’t say any of that, because it’s too many words to have to get out right now. 

I end up in a little girl place, crying to Bea, asking her to not make me go back there. She tells me that can stay right here, until I’m ready, and that on Monday I will be back here, with her, in her office. She says I can always “get sick” at the wedding and leave, that it’s okay. She talks, soothing the little girl, and I cry. When I do leave, she reminds me to reach out and text her if I need to, and to stay around the people who are safe to me, like Hagrid’s dad, and my grandma. I agree. It will be okay. 

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

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?”

“I 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.

An honest conversation with my Mom

I was telling her about some of Kat’s anxieties, and perfectionism tendencies, and how she reacts when presented with scenarios she perceives to be negative.

“I don’t know how I ended up with this kid,” I tell my mom, mostly joking.

“You don’t?! Well….I can think of a few stories. When you were in preschool you couldn’t stand having any part of a coloring page be colored out of the lines, you would throw it away at the first mistake. You would get so upset at any crinkled papers, you would yell at me not to look at them and throw them out. Once you started to refuse to make your bed. I always required you to make it, but I also fixed it after you made it. The very fact I did that showed you it wasn’t good enough, and so you refused to do it at all because you couldn’t do it perfect. You cried when you got any school marks below the highest grade you could. You couldn’t tolerate any conflicts at all, you were so afraid that any conflict that people had with each other, even if it didn’t involve you, meant they were mad at you or that you had screwed up somehow. You were so much like Kat. Kat tends to yell and fight and kick out at people, though, while you never did that. You just tried harder to make people happy with you.”

“When I was her age, though? Really? She’s not even 5 yet.”

“Hmmm….yeah. I would say by 3, you had a perfectionistic streak, and a people pleasing steak….the people pleasing streak was kind of magnified by that perfectionist. And by Kat’s age, oh yeah, you were just like that,” Mom says.

“Yeah. Okay. I’m perfectionistic now. I believe it.”

We talk about how I make sense, being the child of two perfectionists who hate conflict and like happy, how our motto is almost “it’s not good enough” and how my little brother doesn’t make sense. His motto is “it’s fine, it’s not broken, it’s good like it is.” Two kids, one so much like her parents, the other the opposite. Mom talks about how she felt awful when the bed making incident happened, that she never wanted to make me into a perfectionist. I tell her I feel the same about Kat.

She tells me when I was 8, my perfectionist tendencies turned more OCD, and I would easily blame myself for anything that went wrong, be horribly upset and try to fix it if people weren’t happy and getting along. “You turned out all right, but sometimes I think I should have done something when you started being so obsessive.”

I don’t remember becoming obsessive, I’m just me. “What did I become obsessive about?” I ask.

“Oh, everything. Doing homework assignments days in advance and then checking and rechecking them, just in case something was wrong. You had this schedule in your head, and you would become panicked if we were off your schedule even by a minute. Being late wasn’t okay. You had to have all your clothes perfectly ironed, no wrinkles. You brushed your teeth after every meal, snack and would brush them 3 times. I don’t know what else. You would rewrite your notes from school to make your handwriting perfect, one letter looking a little messy was cause to start over,” Mom tells me.

It seems a lot changed when I was 8. I wonder what caused my behavior. Was it Kenny? But why when I was 8? That’s third grade. I have almost no memories that year. I remember my teacher, her high pitched voice. What else? I’m at a loss. There are no family, school, Holliday, vacation, ballet, gymnastics, horseback riding memories.

“Huh. Well, I don’t obsess to much anymore,” I tell mom. We both laugh because it’s not true.

We finish talking after another half hour or so. The question of what happened when I was 8 that made me change so much lingers in my mind.