My dancin’ shoes

So I’m okay today. I had a freak out last night and made hubby bring me home– all the way home, like hours of driving home. My mom may or may not be speaking to me. I’m not sure at this point. I feel raw, ripped open, spilt in two. I feel numb and as of I’m going to be swallowed whole by these bad feelings, as if the anxiety and thetoo real feelings, terrified, sick feelings might kill me. But I’m home. I texted Bea last night, and she was there, just like she said she would be. She was really there.  I read the comments on my blog, too, throughout the night, going to the restroom and taking a breath. All of your combined voices encouraging me and standing behind me helped. 

So, as promised, a picture of my shoes, and one of my dress as well. The picture of me might come down after today, just because I don’t know if I can feel safe leaving it up. But I wanted you guys to see my pretty pink dress. Even though I don’t love that everything always has to be this designer label, this thing back in country club land, I sure do love this dress. It really is beautiful. And, it has pockets! I know right?!?! How awesome is that? 

the very pink dress I wore to my brother’s wedding


the not designer, not fancy, not perfect shoes I wore to my brother’s wedding

Today I was real

The weekend has been weird. I spent a lot of time feeling very defensive towards Bea. I read her email from a screwed perspective, feeling as though she was done with this doctor stuff and wanted me to stop acting like this. I’m struggling with her, and unsure of what she wants from me. Not knowing what she wants, or thinks that I should be doing, or what direction she thinks I should be heading, or what she wants me to talk about now, is frustrating. I NEED to know what people want or need or expect from me, and when I don’t know those things and can behave the way I’m supposed to, I feel as though I will lose that person’s care and positive feelings towards me. I’ve already lost Kay, and my mom is back to being not here, and hubby isn’t really ever here. 

Hubby and I planned a “family date” for Saturday. We took Kat to the pool. It was nice. I haven’t been to the pool, or to a yoga class for that matter, for months. I think the last time I went to pool was maybe early January. But going today, being back in the water was good. It grounded me. I forgot how free I feel, how much I feel like me, whole and okay, when I’m in the water. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pool or a lake or a beach in Jamaica. I love the water. 

My mind clears, anxieties melt away, my body feels safe, calmer somehow. I can breathe. So, I swam a few laps today, and played with Kat, and sat in the hot tub. For a few hours I forgot about feeling alone, and being sad. I forgot about the doctor, and my secrets and the shame I feel. For a few hours, I felt like the okay part of me was running things, like I was grounded and grown up and as if things were going to be okay. 

After the pool, we went out to dinner and then to the movies. We ate and chatted and laughed at dinner. Kat has had food allergies since she was born, and this past winter, her allergies were tested again, and she was cleared to eat whatever she wants– no more allergies. Taking her out to dinner has always been fun, but now it’s almost a game of introducing her to foods she has never been able to eat before. 

We saw Zootopia after dinner. I really liked the movie. Kat and hubby did, too. We sat together, curled up and munching on popcorn. It was nice, cozy. 

Saturday showed me I need to get back to the gym. I need to start swimming again, and i need to go back to yoga. I need to start walking Hagrid again in the mornings. As much as I instinctively want to curl up in bed and hide, and do nothing, I need to remember that swimming and walking and yoga are the things that ground me. Hiding in bed is okay, and sometimes it’s something I need to do, and it can be healing and feel safe, but I also need to be able to feel calm and grounded. I need to get back to eating regularly, and being healthy. I’m capable, at times, of eating regular meals and not starving or purging, but only if I’m being very controlled and scheduled. Maybe that’s the way it starts, and if I can find a way to eat better, even if it’s controlled and regimented and I have to follow my crazy food rules, maybe that’s something that can be built on to learn to eat normal. If I can manage to not starve and not purge, maybe I can learn to be normal. After all, I found exercise that I can do without overdoing and being crazy. Maybe this can get better, too. Being together as a family, feeling grounded from being in the water, gave me a feeling of connection, of love. Things felt authentic and real today. I felt whole. Today, I was real.

Thanksgiving (and beyond) catch up

Thanksgiving weekend. It was good. Really good, actually. My parents were really there, engaged, present, real. They let me be upset at times, and at one point during the weekend, my mom helped me to calm down enough to talk about things (things being a general overview of my arguments with hubby). We played board games, watched a movie, shopped. We just spent time together, just being. I didn’t have to be anyone, or do anything for them to want me there, they just wanted me. ME. It was this amazing feeling, like I was okay, and whole. Things weren’t perfect, but that was okay. I felt taken care of, and loved. It was a break that I desperately needed from my current life. 

Coming back home was hard. I hadn’t wanted to leave, because I knew reality awaited me. And it really didn’t go well. Kat acted out an awful lot, and hubby said some hurtful things. He insinuated that Kat behaves better without me around, and that he was able to do all “my” chores, so I should not have the difficulties that I do. I don’t know. Coming home was hard. I had missed my little family, but it felt that they didn’t miss me, need me or even want me around. I quickly slipped into this feeling of indifference about everything. 

Monday, I saw Bea. I can’t remember most of what we talked about. If I don’t write about my sessions soon after they end, most of the content and conversations get lost somewhere. I do remember a few parts of the conversation, though. 

I had been telling her about my weekend with my parents. 



“It sounds as if you felt very taken care of, like a lot of your needs were met. Maybe even some old needs were finally met,” Bea said. 

I nodded, agreeing, and we moved on to talk about hubby. The conversation went in circles, as it usually does, because the only person who can really help solve the problem was missing– hubby. 



After a while, Bea looked at me, and said, “I’m trying to figure out who is here today. I get the sense you don’t feel like this is the real you, but I am not sure who this is.” 



I shook my head at her. “It’s not…me. Not real me. I don’t think. I don’t know. But I don’t know who.” My head was messy, and I felt very far away, hiding out in my head, not feeling my body. It was that feeling of things going on around me, and myself reacting but it doesn’t feel like it is me because me is not really here. Nothing feels real. I wish I had the words to describe it. 



“If you pause and focus, you’ll know if it is the real you.” She talked about the observer part everyone has, and how the observer would know who was here today. 



I didn’t get what she was saying. “Everything is just….gone. I was so upset..last week? Tuesday? And I know I was upset. But I can’t feel it, cant even remember what it felt like.” 



“Being able to put things in a box, a container, that is a skill. It’s a good skill to have,” she told me. 



I wanted to tell her it wasn’t like that. But I really just couldn’t. I was too tired, and didn’t really care that she had it wrong. 



“I bet by Thursday you will have your feelings back. They can’t be contained forever.” She reminded me that our feelings are like the weather, they change. 

I don’t even remember how we ended things, but I have this general impression that I didn’t really want to leave, and that I felt sad. I wanted to talk about so much, but it was all under the surface, hiding from me, because I was so indifferent. 

The rest of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday passed in a blur. Monday night I decided that hubby and I needed couple’s therapy. I emailed Bea, and asked what she thought. I wanted her opinion because I knew enough to know I was so very indifferent feeling right then that it seemed a great idea, but other parts might not be so okay with it. “I sometimes feel like my entire life has been a lie, but it doesn’t have to be anymore. I can make a choice, now. I want a marriage where my husband is my secure base, where its him I want for comfort and support– not my best friend or therapist. (There is nothing wrong with needing my best friend or therapist for support, but my husband should be on that list, too. He should be on the list of people I trust, and he is not. And that’s just not okay anymore.) So….. I don’t know. Is couples therapy a terrible idea?” 

She emailed back, saying it was okay, and that she understood wanting the things I wanted out of my marriage, but something about her wording threw me off and sent out alarm bells that she felt this was a very bad idea. I wrote back, explaining that her wording was making me feel like even though she said it was an okay idea, she didn’t really feel that way. I felt like that was big progress on my part, because I never would have written that second email a year ago. I would have done nothing and stressed out that she thought I was making bad choices. I can see now that feeling so numb and indifferent helped out in that way. 

 Bea emailed back, and explained further; she didn’t think therapy as a couple was a bad idea, but she was concerned about what would happen when I was asked to expose more of myself than I am comfortable with in a session. She stated that we could talk about this more the next day in session.  

Wednesday night, I woke up from a nightmare, and started writing. I had written some after the session before Thanksgiving, and so I added on to that, with the intent to give it to Bea to read. I wrote a lot about everything. I never really did fall back asleep, and the morning passed quickly. I got Kat off to school, and headed to Bea’s……………………………

(To be continued……..)

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. 

A Real Relationship

“I expected to get an email after Monday’s session. That was a lot to process.” Bea lets her statement hang in the air, waits for me to respond, to say anything. So far, I’ve said hello to her, and not much else. I’m finding it hard to speak today; it’s as if the defiant teenage part of me showed up to therapy, and I am fighting the idea of being here, of being vulnerable. Bea takes a drink of he tea, continues speaking. “Maybe you weren’t feeling safe enough to send an email. Maybe you weren’t sure you could trust me to respond.” I feel my insides freeze at that. It’s almost exactly what happened. I wasn’t sure. I was afraid. But I don’t want to admit it. “I would have responded,” she continues, “Sometimes, like this morning, I don’t respond right after I read an email, especially the longer ones. I got an email this morning that I read, and I’ll respond later, once I have some time to really think it through and process it. So even if I haven’t responded right away, it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it, or haven’t read it.”

Great. Now she thinks I have expected her to reply really quickly. It’s not like that. I really have never expected anything beyond a replay within a day, or maybe the same day depending on the content. The last email, which went 2 — almost 3– days with no reply, and was the first thing I wrote or said that let anything big out…well, that hurt. And her reply felt off. It felt like she wasn’t really there, wasn’t getting it, I don’t know.

“I bet you have been writing since I saw you last, even if you haven’t emailed.” Bea’s voice says she likes the fact I write, even if I haven’t shared it with her.

I finally nod. “I always write. It’s just…me.” I shrug. I think about pulling out my iPad, pulling up, email I wrote and didn’t send, but I don’t. Instead I stare at the floor, think about what I wrote about.
I must have dissociated far away, because the next thing I know, it’s like I’m jerking awake– although I wasn’t asleep and Hagrid is head butting me– and Bea is talking.

“I haven’t asked about your Grandma lately,” Bea says, “Have you talked to her?”

I shake my head, slowly. “That’s a funny story,” I say. Crap. I meant to say it was funny she was asking that, funny as in ironic. Being so out of it means words get easily mixed up when I speak.

“It’s a funny story?” Bea asks, not sure she heard my whispered voice right.

“No…not funny. Funny you asked.” I explain. And then we sit in silence for a moment while I gather my thoughts. “She’s here. In [state].”

“Oh. Wow. Are you going to see her?”

“I…tonight. For dinner. With the…with him.” Hagrid noses his way onto my lap. I pet his back.

We talk about how Grandma texted me to ask about meeting for dinner, and how it’s just going to be Kat and I going.

“Hubby…he hurt my feelings. It…I tried…” I stumble with the words. “He has to work. And you know I haven’t talked to him about anything since like, May, but I asked him if he was could work 9-4 today. He said no. But then asked why. So I started explaining. And he…..he starts laughing. He wasn’t even listening. He was reading emails. That’s how much I matter. And he then told me he can’t change his schedule today, no matter what, so why he acted like he could, I don’t know. But…ugh. I don’t know. It didn’t matter.”

“You were really reaching out to him, asking for support and not being seen really hurt.” Bea echoes and validates me, and I feel like I can breathe a little.

“Yes.” I nod.

We talk over this, me crying about hurt feelings, Bea echoing how it really hurts to have your husband, your partner ignore you.

“Did you have something you wanted me to read?” Bea gestures to my iPad, which is resting near my right leg. I don’t even remember removing it from my bag. “I don’t want to invalidate this experience, or rush you, or stop you from talking about it, but I also don’t want to miss something you wanted to talk about.”

I nod, and pick up the iPad. I open the email, and scan it. Yeah. All the scary crazy stuff is still there, in black and white. Ugh. “No. There isn’t much to say. I’m seeing my Grandma. It feels yucky because of the boyfriend. My husband doesn’t see me. And my feelings are hurt. That’s really it. So…here.” And I hand her the iPad. After, I curl into a ball– sitting up– and say, “I wrote it Monday night…Tuesday morning…it’s an email, I guess. I just didn’t send it because. I don’t know why. I just didn’t send it.”

“Okay.” Bea’s voice is neutral again. I have a feeling she has thoughts on why I didn’t send it, but I don’t much care. Mostly because I’m sure she is thinking I wasn’t sure it was safe enough to send it, and she’d be right.
I’m thinking again. Of course, I’m thinking again. It’s 2:00am, and I’ve had a nightmare and can’t get back to sleep. So I am thinking.

I’m thinking about one of the questions I thought about this weekend: why is it so hard for me to talk relationship stuff? Why does the very idea of that make me frozen and sick to my stomach and itchy all over? Why does it feel so incredibly not safe and why am I so convinced that in discussing those things I am going to get hurt? Is this just normal, I’m human and being vulnerable is scary stuff, or is it more than that? And what am I supposed to do about it? Because now I’m in this weird place….this sort of limbo feeling, of not being able to go back to pretending that the relationship piece doesn’t matter, of not being able to pretend there is nothing wrong in the real relationship or nothing to talk about….but I also am too damn scared to talk about if. So what am I supposed to do? I have this feeling that I am going to lose people I care about of I don’t do something. But the idea of calling Kay and talking through my ignoring her because I didn’t want her trying to force me to face reality, of maybe telling her that I love her but sometimes she is so honest and blunt she scares me and overwhelms me…..well, it’s too much. I can’t. Or the idea of telling hubby that I feel like we are existing on opposite sides of the world, that I feel very far away and isolates right now, that I feel like he doesn’t see me, maybe doesn’t really want to see me, and that makes me feel so afraid, it really triggers me, takes me right back to being a child and not being seen, and so I lash out by being nitpicky, by snapping, with passive aggressive comments, even just outright yelling. No, I’m not there yet. But I’m also unable to pretend.

And I’m thinking about this idea of limbo, and it really feels like I’m in this weird limbo place. Maybe that is just what therapy is. I don’t know. But it’s like I’m beyond believing it was all a game, but I’m I’m not really at this point where I can say I didn’t do anything wrong, either. I still have a lot of doubts about my behavior. Logically, I can say, and easily believe that kids are never to blame. But if I try to insert my name into that statement, or even just say “the little girl is never to blame”….I almost feel this strong physical reaction, like that sentence is wrong. And the first thing I feel is….I don’t know, maybe really deep buried mad, and I just want to scream that the little girl is awful and bad and disgusting and no one will ever love her. I feel like I’m in this weird limbo where I can say that Kenny had a part in everything that happened, he gets half the responsibility. Which I couldn’t believe, or even really think before. But it only brings up questions of why, and more questions of were there others– the girls from the other families in our group, his sister? And I don’t know. I don’t like this limbo place. Maybe i really wasn’t okay before, but at least I was sure of something. Now it feels like I’m more unsure of things in my life than ever before. And that scares me a lot.

I’m thinking about my parents. I talked to my mom. She called to tell me my grandma and her boyfriend had come back for grandmas high school reunion, but not told anyone or seen anyone while they were here. People found out via facebook, but my mom didn’t want me to see my grandma posting she was in this state and feel like she had hidden something from me. So I cried. And we talked about it for a bit. And then she said something…I don’t remember exactly, I was feeling not so grounded. But it was about her hiding things or ignoring things when I was growing up, and she said she is finding in therapy that burying things never fixes anything in the end, eventually it has to be dealt with. She said she spent most of her adult life hiding and burying things and she won’t do it anymore. She’s happy. She is happy in therapy, more grounded and more real than I’ve maybe ever experienced. She said she goes twice a week. That she is thinking of seeing this nutrition counselor her therapist recommended. I wanted to scream. This should be good. I should be happy. It’s everything I have said, time and time again, I wanted from my parents. But…ugh. NO. It doesn’t feel okay. It doesn’t feel okay at all. I changed my mind. Maybe I’m not capable of having more than a surface relationship with anyone in my life. Kay might be the exception. Because she can tolerate a lot of uncomfortable feelings and yucky stuff; I really do believe she can handle more than most people. So, it’s like even though she has always demanded more than a surface friendship from me, she’s been able to handle and tolerate all the yuck for both of us. Or something. And I think, like you said you are always thinking of where I am and what I can handle, she does that, too. Which is the only reason that works. But. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to have that kind of relationship with another person (you. I don’t have a surface relationship with you.But you are my shrink, so it’s not like a surface relationship would really make sense). So. No. I change my mind. I don’t want this real relationship with my mom. I don’t want her to try to repair things, or talk about the past. There’s too many hurts I’m afraid she will go to. It’s not just my fear that she will maybe realize that she knew and ignored the situation with Kenny. I need, or a part of me needs to believe she had no clue. I don’t think I can handle it if I knew for sure she knew. It would hurt too much. So much, I’m just numb even typing that; I feel completely disconnected from my body right now. But don’t worry, Hagrid has been barking at me and head butting me a lot today– he is doing his job and seems determined to not allow me to get too far away. Part of me, irrationally so, fears she will realize that I’m the one who made her sick and landed her in the hospital, or that she will realize if I hadn’t been so needy, or such an out of control teen, she wouldn’t have had the problems she had and she will be so disappointed in me, hate me. It’s obviously a fear from the little girl, nothing based in reality. But…..still. There it is. Part of me is afraid she will try to talk about the times she punished me instead of being there emotionally– taking my car keys after I cut my wrists, making me attend school two days after I over dosed, not allowing me to buy a new dress for the Christmas dance because she caught me throwing up, lecturing me about how I was ruining my life when Kristin called her to come get me from college. All of those things almost hurt too much to even type onto a page. I can’t talk about them. And I really can’t talk about them with her. I don’t know. I just know I want the fake story back.

I NEED to know I have the option of saying it was all a game. That I have the option of saying it didn’t matter, that it wasn’t a big deal. That I am being a drama queen, because that is my role in my family, it’s what I do. I need to be able to say I’m being crazy, making things up. I need to be able to tell myself it didn’t happen the way I think, obviously, because no one else is telling the story I am telling. At least a part of me is holding onto the belief that none of this is real. A part of me needs to think I’m crazy, because the alternative is just too horrible.

And it makes me so freaking angry with her. Why does she get to do this now? I was forced to live in her crazy perfect world. I had no choice but to be perfect, because I truly believed they wouldn’t love me, wouldn’t want me if I was anything less than perfect. Heck, sometimes I still believe that. But now, when I NEED her perfect family version of our history, her perfect daughter version of my history…NOW she wants to change it? ITS NOT FAIR. And I don’t want explanations or reasons. I don’t want to understand from her viewpoint. I just want to be mad. I just want to be hurt. Because, (illogical though it is) even though she has no idea about any of this, I feel hurt. I feel like once again, I’m being left emotionally. And it’s almost worse this time, because all I needed was for her fl maintain the same stupid story she has always told as the truth. And she can’t even do that. Now she wants to be real. Not when I NEEDED her to be real. Oh no. She couldn’t possibly have been real when I overdosed. Or when she caught me cutting. Or when I went through a starting phase and passed out at cheer practice. Nope. She couldn’t be real then. Not when I needed a mom who could be real. But now? Now when I need anything but real, she chooses to lead to be real. Argh. I think I’m in this little girl headspace, maybe sometimes even this teenager– like young teenager– headspace right now. I don’t want to talk things out and understand other people’s viewpoints. I just want to be upset and for someone to get that.
Bea reads. And I’m silent. She says “mmhmmm..” several times as she is reading; it’s what I have come to think of as her verbal nods. She makes a sort of snickering laugh sound at one point, and I’m assuming it is in reference to my comment about her being my shrink and so a surface relationship wouldn’t make sense– or she is laughing at the swear words and angry tone peppered throughout the email, as those are so uncharacteristic of me. But I’m betting it’s the shrink comment.

“I haven’t finished this yet,” she says at one point, “but I want to comment on this limbo feeling. It makes sense, it makes perfect sense. And it is scary. It’s like having the ground pulled out from beneath you and no safe space to run to. And it makes sense why the old story, even if it was scary or not safe…it’s familiar. So it feels safe. I was also thinking, your grandpa, your grandpa and your grandma, that is where you found safety as a child, and it’s where you have found safety as an adult. They were real. But your grandma is changing things. And that is unsettling. You can still find safety there. The safety you found as a child is still there.”

I don’t say anything, just let her words sink in, and let them roll around my mind. I need time to let that idea sit.

She reads the rest of the way through. “Wow. Wow. This is a lot.”

I shake my head. “Is it? Or is it life?” I sometimes wonder if I just suck at living life.

“It is a lot.” Bea repeats. “Your mom…this is good stuff. She is growing, and it’s good. But she, you…you and her are on different healing paths right now. She needs to be on her path. You aren’t there yet. You still have things to grieve and hurts to feel and work through.”

“I feel so guilty.” I whisper.

“Because you aren’t happy for her?”

“I should be.”

“Well…should is a logical word. This isn’t logic. It’s feelings. And there is a lot of grief here. A lot of anger. A lot of feelings that could not be felt then, and that need to be felt and worked through to be able to move on.” Bea says. She says it like this is so natural, so normal.

“She’s…she’s getting better.” It’s what I have always wanted. But it feels too late.

“And we want that for her. But you don’t have to be happy about it. You can have all your feelings. It’s okay to be mad. Of course you are going to be mad she couldn’t be better when you needed her to be. How could you not be? These things hurt. They were real hurts.” Bea says. She looks back over the hurts I’ve listed, and asks “what’s a starting phase?”

I feel lost for a minute and then realize. “Auto correct. It must have…auto correct.”

“So it’s?….?” And then Bea realizes. “Starving phase?”

“Yeah.” I nod, grateful I didn’t have to spell it out.

It’s quiet for a moment and then Bea asks me, “Was she crying, too? Your mom, when you were talking? Did it feel like she was trying to connect?”

I sigh. I don’t want to remember. It was scary for me. I feel floaty, just thinking about it. “I…she was…but it was like…she was happy but…like….relieved? Maybe? Is that the feeling?”

“Uh-huh…mhhmhhm….like she has this relief at not living under this weight of perfectionism or hiding any longer. Yes. That makes sense. And she is trying to tell you she is sorry for how things were, but she is relieved not to be that way any more.” Bea sounds a little bit excited, like she is putting the pieces together of a puzzle. She goes on to say that my actions– distancing myself, not following all the family rules, doing things that were right for me, might have pushed her towards making changes.

I shrug. “I can’t…I’m not..I don’t want this.”

“I know. And you can distance yourself and let her be on her path and you can be on yours. But I think one day, you’ll be able to have an honest conversation, to be real, and have a real relationship with her.”

“No…no, no. I can’t. I don’t. I can’t.” I shake my head, and tears are falling at this point. They are tears from too much pent up emotion. Tears of anxiety and frustration. Tears of grief and pain and hurt. Tears of anger and fear.

“Not now. But one day.” Bea says softly. She says something about having a relationship with my mom, a real relationship.

I shake my head. “I think I am only able to handle surface relationships. That’s it. It’s all I’m good at.”

I hear the smile on her voice, the kindness and the sadness when she says, “That’s not a relationship. That’s day to day interactions. Relationships are what make life worth living. They are the reason we are here. But the surface stuff? That’s just daily interactions.”

I shake my head. “Well. Those surface relationships passed for relationships for 30 years of my life. So….I think they count as relationships.”

Bea disagrees, and tells me again that the deeper relationships, real connections are what make life worth living. She says those connections are what all of us are looking for. It’s something we all need.

I don’t say anything. I don’t like this conversation. I have been thinking a lot about relationships and feelings and connections, and I have been wanting to talk about it with someone. It I don’t like the way this conversation is making me feel.

“All this stuff you are dealing with, it’s a lot, but it is sort of the nuts and bolts of life. Relationships are the nuts and bolts of life. They are so important and those connections, while at times…”

“Scary? Terrifying? Frozen making?” I supply some adjectives, ones that I have a feeling are very different from hers.

“Well, yes. Being vulnerable and opening yourself up to a relationship is scary. Especially when it is a new thing for you to do. And this is a new thing for you. You haven’t even liked to discuss, or admit even the importance of our relationship.” Bea says.

“Because then…it’s saying I need someone. And I don’t want to need anyone.” I say softly.

“Well, no. Of course not. If you need someone, you are vulnerable.”

“Is it always that scary?” I ask her, after a minute or two of quiet.

She doesn’t answer right away, except to say, “No.” Then she gathers her thoughts before speaking. “It might be uncomfortable at times, but it’s not going to be scary forever. It’s scary now because it’s a new thing, and you aren’t sure you can trust it.”

I nod. Okay. Maybe. I’m not sure I trust that answer.

“With Hagrid…it’s easy, safe to open yourself up to him, right?” She asks me.

I nod. Slowly.

“With dogs, we only get good back. We don’t get rejection or hurt. So it’s easy and safe to open up and really attach and let them in. And that’s a good thing. It’s great. And Hagrid is doing his job, being there and attaching back to you, giving you a safe attachment.” Bea says.

What she says reminds me of studies I have read about horse therapy. I also wonder if that is the reason Bea has been so happy that Hagrid was brought into my life. Why she has talked about him and supported him coming to therapy and asked about how sleeping and nightmares are with him around.

I nod, letting her know I hear her.

Bea says more, maybe, about relationships. I’m not paying much attention.

“My mom is going to see a nutritionist.”

“That has to feel maybe a little threatening, unsettling at the very least.”

“I don’t know. It’s just…I don’t like it.” I sign. It makes me want to scream and yell and hide. But I don’t know what I feel, exactly.

“Does it feel like it is threatening your eating?” She asks me.

I shake my head. I don’t know. I disappear the rest of session, I can’t handle talking about my ED.

Hagrid’s barking, and Bea’s laughing.

“He’s not letting you go too far away,” she says happily.

I nod, feeling fuzzy. Damn it. I hate it when I zone out this much.

“We need to stop anyway, work on grounding you, okay?” Bea asks me.

I nod. “Can you just talk?”

“Well, I tried to bring my golden with me to work on Tuesday, to see how he would do as a therapy dog.” I can tell by the tone in her voice that things didn’t go well. By the end of the story, I’m cracking up, and I also now have an explanation as to why two puppets are missing from the puppet bucket.

I leave feelings grounded, but with a lot to think about and process.

Creating my map: mental health

This is one of those all over the place posts. My thoughts are messy, and I’m working on sorting them out. I wanted to get some of this down and write about Friday’s therapy session before my mind got too mixed up.

I saw Bea on Friday last week because of Hubby’s work schedule, and I won’t see her until Thursday this week, because of the holiday and school starting. After that, we’ll be back to our regular Monday and Thursday schedule. Thank goodness. I’m not a person who does well without a schedule. I need that in my life. I’ve looked and found some morning yoga classes, too. So hopefully, therapy can get back to normal, Hagrid and I can get back to our walks, and I can get back to yoga. When I have a routine, I get more done. Right now, my house is a wreck. Seriously. It had been better, and then Kat had a two week break from camp. Which meant no routine at all. It’s been rough.

I saw my medical Doctor, Dr.S, and she prescribed me a sleeping pill. I’ve always been against them, mostly because I overdosed on them as a teen. But I need to sleep at night and get up in the mornings to get Kat to school on time. So, I’m willing to try sleeping pills. I’ve been taking them faithfully every night. While they do knock me out sometimes, I’m usually able to fight off the drowsiness and sleepiness they cause. Which has now shown me just how much I fight sleep. I always knew I fight it; that it is hard for me to fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s how I always remember being. Even my parents will tell you how I never slept as a child; they claim I’m just a person who doesn’t need a lot of sleep. The effect of these pills is strong, though. And yet, I fight it, and 5 out of 7 nights, I win. What does that mean? Nothing good. Maybe I’m just not meant to sleep. Maybe my nightmares have been so bad, that I’m now just afraid of sleep? I don’t know. One thing I do know, is that I’m able to sleep in longer chinks of time than before. Where I used to sleep in small increments, now once I do fall asleep, I manage to sleep for 4 or 5 hours at a time. I should probably talk about this in therapy. I haven’t even mentioned my nightmares or sleeping pills.

On another side note, related to routines, I sometimes wonder if I should just have an eating schedule. I freaking hate meal plans. Hate them. I don’t want another set of rules and lists regarding food in my head. I have enough already. But….I think I’ve messed with eating, starving, binging, barfing so much that I honestly don’t ever feel hungry. I just eat when people usually eat. Which means it is easy to miss meals, not eat, eat junk, stuff my face and bar. It just is this messy cycle. I don’t know. So maybe rules around when I eat, a routine of sorts would be good. Ugh. I think I started thinking about this because on Friday, Bea mentioned that maybe we would talk about the eating stuff more this year. I wanted to throw something at her and scream that it was not happening. That would be the pissy drama filled teenager part. I’m pretty sure she is the part that has the ED. Or controls it. I don’t know. Either way, huge internal reaction.

She also said that she has made a point to help keep me on the surface, but she knows it has been a hard summer. She said she has a list of things she wants to touch on, ask me about when I’m in a place to go below the surface again. She said she is waiting on my cues, and I’ll know when I’m ready. It’s funny that she has this list (I’m thinking it’s in her head because Bea is not super organized. She’s sort of my opposite in this. She admires organization, and wants to be organized, but has said it is something she struggles with. It’s probably a good thing for me, in all truth. The last thing I need is an OCD shrink.). Anyway, it’s funny that she has a list, because I have a list, too. Mine is in a folder on my iPad. It’s taken from journal entries, blog posts, emails I wrote and then deleted, random things I wanted to talk about but then didn’t really want to talk about. I have brought it to therapy with me, open and ready to hand over all summer. But I never hand it over. I just keep adding to it. I’m not sure why. I guess maybe it feels safe enough to write down a few things, a reminder that I need to go deeper on these topics, but I don’t feel safe enough to go very deep.

Bea told me that she hasn’t really asked me how I am, or how I am feeling because she knows that might be too much. I thought about it. When she said it, I told her I didn’t even know the answer. And that’s true, to a point. If I ignore it all, and keep it pushed away, then I have no idea what I am feeling. If I try to feel my feelings, I can’t. They are all over the place, bouncing around. Like crazed ping pong balls of emotions flying at me. It’s too much. I have to duck and run. I’ve been staying as much on the surface as I can this summer. It’s different than the numbing and ignoring and pretending I used to do, though. This time, I’m well aware that there is a mess, and that I’m doing what I have to in order to function until I can sort through the mess. It’s like I’m getting getting through the high stress, would be crisis time because I have support, new healthy coping skills, old- maybe not so healthy- coping skills that I’m not shamed for using, and new ways to care for me and ground myself. This….it’s different than before. Of course, it’s not intense crisis, either. It’s more like a….I don’t know….just stressful time, I guess. Maybe it’s normal people stress mixed with my trauma stress. Either way, I feel a difference in how I’m handling it, even if it doesn’t look that different on the outside.

Last night, I was lying in bed, and I realized something else. Bea is always saying how I’m missing that piece of human connection, of hugs and comfort that hubby can give me. But Hagrid was snuggled up next to my side, and my arm was around him as I was watching a show, and I felt safe. I think I can get that piece of safe touch from Hagrid, for now. With hubby, I either freeze, and deep down I feel frightened and tense (with anyone, really, who hugs me, I feel frozen inside, even though I am very good at just going away so no one would ever notice),although he wouldn’t know it. Sometimes, if I stay more present, I can let a simple hug feel good, but then that hug always turns to something more, and then I go away and end up feeling bad. Dirty and sick. But Hagrid, he really is safe. I don’t have to go away, and nothing happens. I had this realization, and I both hated and was thankful that I have this in my life. I hated it because I don’t want to be so broken I need my dog to help me feel safe with touch. I hated it because it is sad that I can’t hug my own husband without a huge mess happening, one way or the other. I was thankful that I somehow was given this amazing gift of this dog who is able to be this for me. It made me want to tell the person who gave him to me exactly how much Hagrid has meant to me in these few short months.

On Friday, with the holiday coming up, Bea asked what I wanted to do; did I want to try to come in on Tuesday, or Wednesday, or just see her one day next week? I thought through the schedule, and told her I didn’t see it working on Tuesday, being the first day of school, and it seemed silly to come Wednesday when I had an appointment on Thursday. I told her I would just come on Thursday, and I would email if I had a breakdown before then. She kinda smiled and said okay; probably because she would have offered a phone call but figured I’d have to be basically dying for that to happen. Even this, though, is improvement. Last year, I would have been freaking out, panicking, over the idea of missing a session. There would have been a lot of rearranging of schedules and trying to make an appointment work on Tuesday, or taking a Wednesday appointment and trying to move the other one to Friday. It would have been a mess. This year, I can accept that there is a holiday, and my schedule does not allow me to see her twice this week but I can email her if I need, and after this things will be back to normal. I sorta feel like I have grown up a little bit.

We did talked about Kat and all the changes with school. I thought, in my head, about how when I started school, everything changed. It was one of those thoughts that just pop into my head; random, out of nowhere, a thought that belongs to me but feels almost like its is not mine. I didn’t say it out loud, though. I usually don’t say these thoughts out loud. This one, in particular, was going to lead me somewhere I did not want to go. We talked about how the nanny being part of her life once a week, and me not playing on her level was setting her up in a way to make friends her age in school. In a sense, because Kat doesn’t have us playing on her level on a daily basis anymore, she will have that desire to socialize. Hopefully.

We worked on my map a little bit, too. All the family members are added in. It’s 5 big pieces on paper glued together, so the map is pretty big. On Friday, we added in mental health– substance abuse, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders, trauma. I color coded each thing, and started coloring on my map. My Mom’s family, I could only add in depression for my one cousin and her mom (because during one of our wine tours that cousin told me they were both on medication for depression) and substance abuse for another cousin. On my dad’s side, we added in depression for several people, bipolar disorder, trauma, and schizophrenia. When we got to my grandpa, I paused. I knew depression. I wasn’t sure about anything else. There were whisperings of schizophrenia, but that didn’t seem right to me. I don’t know. Bea told me it was hard to say. She said severe depression can even manifest as psychosis, which could have been his breakdown. We ended up leaving it just with depression, knowing there could be more.

Once that was done, we spread the map out on the floor, and looked at it. I know I want to add in a kind of timeline of significant events, but I am not ready to do that. I know I want to add in the Smiths, but I’m not ready to do that either.

Bea interrupted my thoughts, saying, “I think the most significant thing about this thus far, for me, has been seeing how young your parents were, and where they were in life, what happened before, what was happening.”

“I’ve told you before, I think.” I said. I couldn’t be sure. Sometimes I think I’ve said things that I haven’t.

“You have. Something about seeing it like this has really stuck out to me, though,” she told me.

I nodded. “It’s why I wanted a map. To see things. I don’t know.” I shake my head.

“We need to add you in. You still aren’t really on the map,” Bea pointed out to me.

I was aware of this. I just didn’t want to add myself in. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to see all my ugly stuff, right there in black in white.

“And your grandpa. We will have to mark his death at some point, too,” she said. It was said kindly, and in that way Bea has of being gentle but firm. She won’t let me live in fantasy land.

“I know. It’s just…then I’ll have to look at all that stuff, all the time when we have this out. Maybe….maybe we need…I don’t know. It’s just having it all there, like that, it makes it…” I shake my head.

“It’s hard, isn’t? Something about seeing it all in there, written down, makes it very real.”

“Maybe….maybe we need to put it on a post it or something, so we can take it off so we don’t have to look at it,” I suggested.

Bea nodded. “Then we can have it on the map, when we are on a place we can handle it. And it can be put away and contained when it’s not able to be faced.”

I nodded my head. “Yes.”

We talked a little more about making the Map, and I admitted to finding it hard to put certain things on the Map. I also said something about wanting to see more of the story, the events, on the Map. At one point I jokingly said that the Map was one of my dumber ideas, and Bea laughed.

“I’ve never thought you to have a dumb idea. In fact, you are one of those people who when I am stuck on a problem, I think what would Alice do? You have very good ideas, in life and in therapy.” Bea spoke firmly, but almost like a conversation, authentic, but one of those on passing type things you say. It was one of the nicest things someone has ever said to me. I didn’t reply, because I really couldn’t. I suck at accepting compliments. Maybe the perfect part of me said thank you, I’m not sure. I was able to be present enough to hear what she had to say and remember it, at least. I think that was mostly due to the very casual way she spoke.

So, the map continues to bring things up, create questions, and provide answers all at the same time. It’s giving me a sort of clear direction and having a visual is helpful for both Bea and I, I think. Perhaps on Thursday I will add in the hard things about myself and my Grandpa on post its, so they can be removed. This map is leading me in directions I didn’t expect, but it’s good. It’s made me share things with Bea that I never would have, and it’s given her more context of my family, I think.

Creating my map: finding some answers

Hagrid and I arrive downtown early, so we can walk this morning. We walk our normal route, although I take the shorter route because we don’t have as much time as usual. Because we walk the same route 3 days a week, around the same time, we are starting to see some of the same people, and we greet each other. Hagrid has his little routine of certain bushes he has to investigate, or mailboxes he has to check out. I like our walks.

We get back to the parking lot across from Bea’s with 10 minutes to spare. When I stop at the car to grab my bag and cardigan, Hagrid yanks on his leash.

“Hold on, buddy. We’ll go see Bea in a minute. Okay? Just a minute,” I say. I tend to keep up a running stream of chatter at the dog when he is with me. It’s sort of comforting to me, and he seems to like it, too.

Despite my words, he continues to yank and pull with all his might towards he office. Dachshunds can be very stubborn. “Dude. Seriously. I know you know the routine. I am just getting my crap. I need my bag. I have to refill my coffee, get my sweater. It’s okay. I promise.”

As I shut the car door, and begin to walk towards Bea’s, Hagrid practically does a happy dance across the street. I shake my head, laughing to myself. I let myself in, and Hagrid runs up the stairs ahead of me. I hear Bea greet him, and a moment later, she greets me as I walk in, too. Bea already has the small blue table moved in front of the couch.

“Hi, good morning,” I say. I throw my bag down, set my coffee down on the table, and curl up in my corner of the couch.

“I just realized I haven’t gotten our stuff out, today. Let me grab that,” Bea says. She pulls out my map, colored pencils, and extra paper, and moves her chair over next to me.

I unroll the map, and we look at it for a moment. “I think we can finish my Mom’s family.”

“Okay,” Bea says.

I add in my Mom’s siblings, and her parents. My maternal grandmother died before I was born, so I draw a line through her circle. I add her siblings in and their spouses and children.

“I need more room, again.” I look down at the map. I don’t have the space to add all of my mom’s side of the family. “Or I just need to not add them all.”

“Well, I guess it depends on how important they are to your story,” Bea reminds me.

“Not very. I mean, I didn’t really spend time with them until the wine tours started. So, it was after Kat was born.” I drink some coffee, fiddle with the cap of a sharpie marker.

“Then you could just write their names down, instead of giving them all their own circles,” she suggests.

“Okay.” I go back to concentrating on getting everyone where they belong.

Once that’s done, I go back to my mom’s dad. “So, my mom and her dad…well, her dad is estranged from all his kids, except the youngest brother.”

“That’s the brother she didn’t see for a long time?”

I nod. “Yeah. He was a kid when my mom and he dad became estranged.”

“And then they reconnected once he was an adult?”

I nod. “Yes. I was….well…they hired a private detective to find him. They emailed and stuff, and then he came to visit. But..then he didn’t come back until the first, no the second wine tour.”

“So when was the first time he came to visit? You could write that on his circle.” Bea suggests.

“Hmmm…that’s really fuzzy time. But I was older. Not at home. So I was. 18, 19? Maybe 20. It was before Hubby. I don’t know. I know it was summer. I just have this vague memory…I know it’s crazy…” I giggle because I feel stupid and anxious. I hate that even my “normal” memory is fuzzy and weird and full of holes for years at a time.

“So… I remember going to my aunt’s (mom’s sister) house, for bbq and bonfire. And it was warm out because I was wearing my blue sunflower sundress. I can see and feel that dress in my mind. It’s super vivid. Nothing else though.” I shrug, feeling like an idiot.

“So…12, 13 year ago?” Bea asks me.

“Yeah.” I nod. I write on my moyher’s youngest brother’s circle ‘reunited with family 2002’

“So…how should I draw the whole estranged thing?”

“You could draw another circle around her dad, separating him.”

“Well, he’s remarried. So he’s not exactly alone. Actually…it’s kinda…weird.” I start to draw. I add in his wife. Then I draw his wife’s daughter, Brenda. Then, I draw Brenda’s daughter, Amy. “So, Amy and I went to school together. We were friends in high school. We were on the same cheer team. I was not allowed at her house. She was allowed at mine, I was allowed to be friends with her, but my mom made it clear, I was not allowed at her house.”

“Wow. That’s intense.” Bea says. “So she’s your cousin?”

I nod. I draw a purple circle around all of them. I look at the map, and slowly nod. “Yes. Technically, Amy is my cousin.”

“Did you guys ever talk about your families not talking?”

“No…not really. Maybe to say it was weird. I don’t know.” I shrug.

“Did you wonder about it, growing up?”

I nod, slowly. It’s like admitting to doing a very bad thing. “I did. But…it wasn’t…I mean. You just did not ask. Or talk about it. There’s not pictures. My mom cut him out of all the pictures. It’s not talked about. Ever. So…it just. You didn’t ask. I remember a school thing, he was there to give a presentation, and my mom walked me right out the door. It was just…like that. My cousin (mom’s sister’s daughter) and I wondered. We used to ‘investigate’. We would call him and hang up. We would look for pictures. I don’t know. We were curious.”

“Of course you were curious. That’s your Grandpa.” Bea says, adamantly.

I have this visceral reaction when she says ‘grandpa’. Everything in me screams that I have one Grandpa, and he is gone, and no one will ever take his place. I look at Bea. “Technically.” My voice sounds flat, dry, cold, to my ears.

“Yes, technically. That’s your Grandpa.” Bea repeats herself.

I don’t know what she wants me to say. I’m lost. He’s nothing to me. I don’t know him. “Technically.” I repeat myself, unsure of what to say.

“It’s normal for you, but for me, that’s a grandpa you never got to know. You had such a great relationship with your other grandpa. It’s what you might have missed out on. Most families don’t remain estranged forever. Have they ever reached out?”

“Nope. I doubt they will.” I shake my head.

“How old is your mom, again?” Bea asks me.

I sigh. “We have to do the math. What’s 19 plus 32?”

“Fifty-one.”

“Okay. Then mom turned 51 in June, dad turned 51 in July.” I shift my weight on the couch, and sit criss cross applesauce. Hagrid climbs into my lap. I scratch his belly.

“And the Smiths were older?” Bea asks.

I nod. We go through the math. Estimating that they were around 10 years older than my parents. “So, my parents were 19 and pregnant with me when they bought into the house. Mrs. Smith was like a mom- mom….you know, very mom-ish. Like 1950’s, TV sitcom mom. So….”

“So. It was like you and the nanny.” Bea concludes, pulling the feelings and thoughts right out of my head and putting them into words.

“Yeah,” I say.

“So. Your mom had lost her mother, she was recently estranged from her dad, it doesn’t sound like she was very close to her side of the family when you were growing up…..and they met their neighbors, who had a child your age, and were kind of like parent figures to your mom. It’s another reason why she might not have been able to see what was happening with Kenny.”

I give Hagrid a hug, press my cheek into his fur. What Bea is saying makes sense on a purely cognitive level. But if I try to feel it, really see it….no. It’s too much. So I bury my face and hide, instead.

“And they had a group of friends they hung out with, all who had kids, right?”

I nod.

“That makes sense, too. They were in their 20’s. That’s college age. It’s the age of hanging out with your friends, and being part of a peer group….this is really all making so much more sense now, knowing their ages.”

“Yeah…I guess so. My mom was almost 10 years younger than I was when I had Kat. That’s so crazy to think about.” I shake my head. It’s hard to wrap my head around. Ten years is a big difference.

“Yes, exactly. It’s amazing you didn’t repeat the pattern. You broke all the patterns. So often, if mom got pregnant young, so will her daughter. But you didn’t get pregnant young.” Bea says.

I shake my head. I think I might vomit. I can’t look at her. Maybe she forgot. I don’t know. Hugging Hagrid to my chest, I whisper, “But I did.” I’m so ashamed of all of it.

Bea is silent for a moment. Maybe she feels the shame and sadness, the pain in my words. I wonder if I should have put the baby on the map. I didn’t; I don’t want to face it. If it’s on the map, then it’s really there, in black and white, and I’ve put it down as a part of my story.

“You didn’t get pregnant on purpose, you didn’t want to get pregnant; not even subconsciously. You weren’t even having consensual sex. That was a very different situation.” She speaks softly, with that same inflection of kindness in her voice I have noticed when she is speaking to Kat about tough stuff. Her tone also suggests that there isn’t an argument, that what she is saying is right and true.

I shake my head. Sometimes, I don’t know what was and wasn’t happening in that relationship. My head is screwy over it, still.

“Did you want to get pregnant?” Bea asks me. She speaks softly, but matter of factly.

“No.” I shake my head. “No. Definitely not.”

“Okay then. So it was different. And you broke the pattern”

“Okay.” I whisper.

We both look at the map for a few minutes. It’s finished, as far as getting everyone onto the map. There’s still plenty to fill in, like mental health, OCD tendency, surface people, perfect world people.

“It’s interesting to me that you know so much more about your Dad’s side, than your Mom’s.”

“That’s because…well…okay.” I pick up the pen. There are two more people to add. I draw a line (with a slash in it to show divorce) from my uncle’s circle, and put his ex-wife, my aunt, onto the map. Then I add their son. “My aunt–” I tap her circle–” told me the history. Or what she knew, anyways.”

“And she and your uncle are divorced now?” Bea asks. I think she realizes this is important, but I have jumped tracks on her, and she is scrambling to keep up.

“Yes. But they were divorced when she told me.”

Bea asks a few more questions. I’m not exactly sure what she asks. I’m fuzzy and floaty, not really here. It’s the nowhere feeling. The feeling that part of me is drowning in ugly stuff, ugly scary too much feeling, and then part of me is gone, numb, floating away to nowhere.

“And that was the last time you saw her?” This question breaks through the fuzzy feeling and I will remember it later.

I nod. I’m curled back up, in a ball hugging Hagrid. My head is down, face hidden. It’s the little girl posture. Sometimes the grown up sits like this, but usually it is the little girl who needs to hide. “Yes. No. Um. I think so.” That’s still fuzzy time, so it’s hard to say, for sure. But I think so. “So she told me. That’s why I know more than my mom’s side.”

I’m not sure of Bea’s response. I’m in that weird place of feeling and thought where it’s hard to put into words so others can understand. But one idea strikes me as maybe important. “Should we….” I falter, as soon as I start, unsure if Bea will find me silly or stupid.

“Yes? Should we what?” She prompts me to continue in a way that says she is genuinely curious about what I was going to say.

“Should we add the smiths on there? Off to the side, on a separate sheet of paper, but somehow showing my mom’s connection and attachment?”

“Why don’t we do that later? The smiths, the Kenny stuff, that’s the scary stuff, the trauma piece. This–” Bea waves her hand over the map– “is family. It’s up and down and messy and complicated, and it might hurt, and be sad in places, but it’s family stuff. It’s not scary stuff.”

I nod. I think she’s right, and she has said we will add the smiths later, but somehow I feel like she has rejected my idea.

“You’ve kept yourself right where you need to be, for now. Skimming just below the surface. You have done a good job of this. You’ll know when it’s time to go deeper.” Bea says.

I shake my head. I think she is trying to sneak a compliment in, because I have a hard time accepting compliments. (The exception being things I have baked, or being organized when it comes to Kat, or the ideas/supports we have in place for Kat– many of which I came up with.)

As I go to put away my story map and materials, my eyes are drawn to my Grandpa’s circle. “I was really missing my Grandpa the other day,” I tell Bea. My voice cracks, and even though I try to stop it, a tear escapes.

“I’m not surprised. It’s that time of year, birthdays, and holidays. Fall.” She tells me. It’s validating and normalizing to hear that she isn’t surprised.

“This was….this was the time of year when he was diagnosed.” I sniffle. It was September, to be exact. Maybe the Tuesday after Labor Day. Or the weekend after that. Several of the girls in my family were in Chicago while my Grandpa was going through tests. But the doctors had thought is wasn’t anything major. And then it was. Pancreatic cancer. Inoperable. And he passed away in November, not even a month after our birthday.

“It really hasn’t been been long,” Bea says.

I want to tell her that I was so emotionally numbed out, that even though I was sad, heartbroken, lost; I feel like I’m actually grieving now. 2 years later. I don’t say a word though. I’m afraid. There’s this fear that my hurt, my pain, will be shut down, belittled, by another person because it has been 2 years, or because I am just being a drama queen, or because of whatever. I know enough to realize it’s old messages, but I not brave enough to confront these old messages yet.

Bea talks for a few more minutes about loss and grief and how it takes time to really work through. I can’t listen. Maybe I just don’t want to be feeling this. I work on rolling up the map so Bea can store it and gathering the supplies back together to be put away.

We end the last few minutes talking about our Dogs. It’s calming, grounding conversation, and I’m okay by the time Hagrid and I head out the door.