The After…..

So, I can’t really write about the sessions after the family reunion. I wasn’t really there and so we didn’t talk about much of anything. I had written a little more in addition to my emails, and put it all together on my iPad. Bea read it all and talked about it, but I don’t remember what she said. I remember hiding under my blanket both days, and I remember crying, but I just couldn’t come back to myself. 

Wednesday was really the first day I’d gotten out of the house and not been hiding in bed under my blanket at home, or in my closet. As the day went on, it was like I started to swim up from the bottom of the ocean, and the closer I got to the surface, the more I wanted to talk to panicky and scared I started to feel. I really wanted to talk to Bea. I almost felt as if I hadn’t even had any sessions this week. So, I emailed her.

Hi Bea,

So…….I’m more here than I was, I’m closer to feeling normal, but…..I’m not there. Not really. I feel like when I first was learning to be more present and really starting to deal with trauma stuff. I’m feeling very up and down, very here one moment and so far away the next. I’m taking things out of context, like hubby reminding me to grab Kat’s swimsuit bottoms and underwear for OT, I got all upset, telling him I had the bottoms and I *actually can handle stuff and I don’t screw up all the time*. Obviously it wasn’t really hubby I was talking to. It was such a snarky teenage response, something I probably would have wanted to say to my mom, but would have held inside. I just hate feeling like this, and I can’t seem to control it. I know it gets better, and I did send hubby a *heads up, I’m crazy this week* text, so he knows something is going on. 

And I know that this is past feelings but I just feel really alone. I know you’re here, I know none of this is based on current reality, but I can’t stop feeling like this. My logical side can’t control my feelings side. I keep thinking that I’m going camping and then you will be gone so you won’t be here for a whole week. And I tell myself you said I could email or call, so it’s fine, if I really need to and am truly not okay you will be there, but then I get panicked about that, there is this huge worry that you really won’t be there and I’ll be left alone because I screw everything up. 

I just literally feel like a crazy person today. Maybe this is better than being numbed out and hiding like the past two days, maybe this is just something to move through in order to get back to feeling like myself. But it sucks. And I can’t figure out how to control it and not be so up and down and grounded and far away. It’s crazy making to be so all over the place. 
I feel like I have a lot to say, like deeper more feelings stuff, and I might email later, if it’s okay. 


Feel free to email. We may want to put the brakes on the deeper stuff, but that doesn’t mean the deeper stuff will cooperate. We’ll handle whatever comes up.

Continue the self care–good time to treat yourself well!



I’m really stuck in this teen way of thinking. It’s like background noise in my brain. Everything I do, it’s somehow made negative. Everything people say, is somehow twisted to a negative. It’s like this automatic thing, and before I know it, I’m feeling terrible and like I want to disappear. I mean, part of me realizes these thoughts and feelings are old, so I’m okay. It just feels quite present moment.
I’m struggling between very on edge, so jumpy, panicked and scared and just really far away and frozen– almost like I’m wrapped in thick blanket of cotton batting. I can’t control it. Far away is better, even though it doesn’t feel all that safe there. 

I know you said not to think about camping, but I can’t help it. I think I can’t get myself fully grounded and present and feeling safe because I know I am going to be camping. It feels like I’m not safe anywhere right now. I can’t be present, because all the anxiety and stuff of the present, but being so far away and spacey……I don’t know, some reason that seems to be making it easier for my brain to send me back to memories from the times I was far away like this as a child. Oh yeah, that’s the memories in different states thing, you told me about that. Right? So okay, that makes sense then? Ugh. Either way, it’s not been a fun few days since the weekend. Not that the weekend was all happy either. 

I really want to run away from my life right now. I just keep feeling like there’s not enough time, I don’t know, I can’t explain it. The little girl, maybe the teen, they are so freaked out about leaving…. It’s like I’m leaving, and then you are leaving, and maybe you won’t come back, or I won’t come back, or everything will be different and you won’t be you if you do come back, and I’m going to be all alone with all of this, and even the grown up me is having a lot of anxiety about being able to cope and be okay. Like, I know I could get back to feeling like me if we weren’t leaving to go camping so soon. But I don’t know how to cope with all the crap and all the feelings and all the memories and all the mixed up bits of all that stuff that is making a giant bowl of confusion that is from the weekend. And then I have all the crap coming up now, and then what about camping and all that? And I’m feeling so teen alice-ish it is sort of scary, and I’m just not sure at all. I know it’s probably dramatic and ridiculous, but in a lot of ways, right now, I really feel like there is no safe place. I’d like to hide under my blanket in your office and scream and cry and not be alone. 

I’m sorry, I think I’m just going to be emailing you right now. It’s just not working to write in my notebook and know that you will read it and respond on Monday. For some reason, it’s just not enough. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. And I don’t want to make you upset and have you be annoyed with me. And I’m really scared that if I email you, you will email back but it won’t sound like you, so please please can you just tell me if you are having a bad day or in a bit of a rush or something because I don’t think the little girl can handle any little bit of perceived, even if only in her head, rejection or anger. I really need to know its okay to email and that you aren’t mad and won’t be mad. I told you, I’m feeling a great little bit crazy right now.


I am here and have no problem with you emailing as much as you need to. I had the thought: what if you don’t go camping? It’s a choice, after all. No one is making you go–send hubby and Kat and have some alone time. Maybe just considering that will help. Remember my scary dream about my therapist and my husband asking me, ” Why didn’t you just leave?” When we’re reacting from a traumatized past we forget that now we do have choices. Let yourself explore that concept a bit.


(Maybe you are seeing something I’m not, that’s always a possibility, and I really don’t want to argue with you, but……)

This isn’t all that simple. Maybe it’s a choice, but only in the way that it can be argued everything in life is a choice. It’s not as simple as just not going. This is Kat’s birthday celebration with my parents, my brother and her cousins. Not going would be like not attending your child’s birthday party. On top of that, is the fallout not going would cause with hubby, with my parents, with my brother. It’s not so simple to just decide it’s a choice and not go. There are consequences to the choices we make. Making a choice to not go means hurting people, namely my daughter. Making a choice to go, hurts one person– me. And I’ll be fine, because I’m always fine. I can cope with going a lot better than Kat can cope with mommy not attending her birthday celebration. That’s not really a choice at all. 

I know this was just a thought, that it was supposed to make me feel less trapped or something. But it just upset me and made me feel like you don’t get it at all and now I’m really stuck in this mess alone. 
I’m so unsure about even sending this, I had a whole different email written that was me trying to think about not going and how that felt so much better and it was all fine now, I’m going to make a choice to go and I’m in control of this all and it’s actually okay after all. But that’s not even true. I just didn’t want to be on a different side than you when I’m leaving for vacation and then you’re leaving for vacation. Because being on separate sides is like you not being here anyway, and then really being gone makes it harder for the little girl to even remember you are here. That’s just repeating a pattern of how I related to my mom to feel safe (and I can clearly see when I’m doing that now that it’s been pointed out to me), and being agreeable for the sake of being agreeable isn’t really going to be all that helpful, is it? Ugh! Why does this all have to be so complicated? Too much is triggered right now and I can’t even sort it all out. 

I know it’s not that simple. I was advocating for a psychological break and a chance to experience the feeling of this being a choice. I knew what your choice was and why! It sounds like aside from being annoyed with me what I was aiming for worked–you did define for yourself that it is a choice and you defined the reasons why you’re making it. I’ve lived with the fantasy of not doing something because it’s a choice right up to the literal moment of actually doing it (knowing on some level I was going to do it all along!). For me that’s a pretty good coping strategy!
We are not on different sides. I never thought you wouldn’t actually go–I just thought it might help to think about it differently, and give you a chance to not have to suffer now. I know it’s going to be difficult at the time it happens no matter what. Hmmm, the real choice is actually about not suffering now, isn’t it?

So…. at the risk of making myself more upset……

First thought: Fine. You’re right. What you were aiming for worked and I can choose to not suffer. And on that note, maybe I should just choose to get over the bad things in my life and focus on the positive. Everything is all better. Yay. *throws phone across the room*

Second thought: You don’t get it. It’s not a choice to go or not go. All this did was resolidify the fact that I don’t really have a choice. Why aren’t you understanding this? I just need you to get it. This is not such a simple thing and it hurts that you are boiling it down to so simple. I know sometimes I want things boiled down to simple, but this just feels painful, dismissive or something. *crying*

Third thought: I’m hurt. My feelings are really hurt and that made me really sad, it was easier to be defensive and angry. I feel like you are wanting to make this less of a big deal so that it is easier for me to deal with while I’m gone and when I get back. But it doesn’t feel simple and you trying to make it simple seems like a very logical. I’m not wanting logical, I want emotional connection and support. I want to feel like you are here and getting this. I don’t need to pick it apart and examine it right now, I think I just need to be here and know you are here. It feels like to me that I can’t fully come back to myself until after I am back and you are back and we can dig into all that has been triggered. Right now, it feels like I’m stuck, like I’ve been paused (through circumstance vs me being difficult) and I can’t really box the yuck back up, but I can’t sort through it right now either. So I’m stuck in this in-between place. I just need you to be here with me. *wants to hide because this feels vulnerable*

So…..I feel like I’m treading water in this giant ocean, no land in sight, and I’m too tired and too scared to turn around and look for land behind me, no matter how many times you swear it’s there. Could you just throw me a life vest instead and hang out in the ocean with me? 


Okay, sorry…. Sometimes “trying to help” doesn’t feel that way, does it? I’m feeling a bit torn. On one hand, yes I can swim with you in the ocean and be there to honor the pain. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that wants to push for a bit of growth in the coping arena, and I’m wondering if that needs to be acknowledged too, because that feeling usually comes when someone is ready to take that step. I don’t want to keep you in a place you’re ready to take a step away from by not putting that out there, if that makes sense. That wouldn’t be fair to you either.
So having said that, I’m really listening to what you’re saying. You’re feeling mad, really hurt, and that I don’t get it. You’re feeling awful and that nothing is okay. I will stay there with you–I am staying there with you. We both know that is what you need. We can think about this other piece that’s nagging at me another time if you want to. Your choice.
I’m afraid you’re now going to feel that you’re not meeting my expectations. Don’t go there–I don’t even know what those expectations might be! It’s literally just a little nagging feeling. We would have to explore it together. But not now. I am in listening and receiving mode now, and I am with you.

I don’t email her back, I hate her email. She wants to get rid of me. She is annoyed with me after she said she wouldn’t be annoyed with me, after she said she was here and I could email, and now she is annoyed. And her response about being here and listening now feels like she is doing so simply because I asked, but she doesn’t really want to be doing so. I want to scream, to cry, to break something. I hate this email as much as I hated her last one. Why am I screwing everything up? I know better than to be this needy. I know better. She wants me to cope without her. Why I did I ever trust it was okay to need her? 

Right after the terrible email, Bea sends another email. 
Alice, just an FYI, I’ve had a cancellation and am free until 3:00pm of you would like to talk by telephone. -Bea

I don’t know what to do. Is she going to fire me over the phone? I’m afraid to email, afraid to call. She is already annoyed with me, after all. But if she didn’t want me to call, why would she offer to talk on the phone? I don’t understand, I’m so confused. I try to continue on with my task of washing the dishes, but I can’t focus. I finally decide to call Bea. 

No one can move them

This could be triggering. I put a giant trigger warning around the most– or what I think would be– the most triggering part so it’s easy to skip over, but please be careful reading this regardless. 

Friday evening and I’m emailing Bea in a panic. She emails back almost right away, and we go back and forth for a few emails. She ends up telling me she can see me tomorrow at 3:00. At first, I feel ridiculous and wrong and I’m worried about taking the appointment. I tell her part of me wants to come in and part of me thinks it is silly. She responds by telling me it is a good idea, and that she will see me at 3:00pm, if I can make it. I give in to my panic, and email her that yes, I will be there at 3:00pm. 

Which is how Hagrid and I are here, in Bea’s office, sitting in my spot on her sofa, on a Saturday. 

“I shouldn’t be here,” I tell her. 

“Why? Because it’s a Saturday? I’m okay with you being here. I see nothing wrong with you being here.” 

“Because….because I know your last appointment is at 2:00pm on Saturdays.” I feel my face flush. She should be off work now. Instead, she is stuck here, with me. 

“Well, yes, usually. But I made the decision that I could see you at 3:00pm for an hour. I’m okay with that.” Her voice is very clear and strong right now. I can’t look at her, but I imagine she looks calm and okay. 

“I’m just….I’m worried..I’m afraid…..” The words fall away. I’m afraid of this unnamed thing, but I’m also afraid of saying it out loud. 

“What are you afraid of?” 

“That…that it…I’m afraid you….that I’m…” I shake my head in frustration. 

It’s like a switch flips for Bea, and she gets it. The puzzle comes together and she finds my missing words. “You’re worried that this is too much for me, that I won’t be able to handle it and that I’ll leave?” 

I burst into tears, in that way that is usually reserved for children. It’s part fear, part relief that the words are out there. “Yes.” 

“I’m not leaving. I’m okay. I can handle this. You aren’t too much, this isn’t too much, and I’m not leaving,” Bea says, her voice firm and strong and serious. She isn’t leaving. 

“You’re not leaving?” The little girl needs to double, triple check things. 

“No. I’m not leaving.” 

“You are okay?” I hate this needs to double check, but I also have to make sure. 

“I am okay. This isn’t too much. You are not too much.” She reassures again. I wonder how she manages to reassure so often, to answer the same questions, time and time again and not sound annoyed. I would sound annoyed. 

“Okay,” I say. Hagrid jumps into my lap, and I bury my face into his fur. Deep breath. He smells like outdoors, like grass and sunshine. 

I tell her about the mess Kat’s school is creating, and the pressure it is putting on me. “It’s just another thing, another thing that I have to fight for, and I have to….it’s another….” I shake my head. Deep breath. “I’m trying so hard not to fall. And now…it’s one more reason I have to balance. And I’m so scared. It’s too much. I can’t…I’m not a grown up right now and I am failing left and right and I can’t do this.” I continue on, in this crazy girl speech, my words coming faster, and my breathing speeding up, too. I talk and I talk and I talk. Maybe more than I ever have; I talk as if I’m writing in my notebook. “And I’m just…I’m tired. I’m tired. And Kat knows, she knows I’m not present and I can’t make myself be more present and all she wants is for me to play like mommy plays, and I can’t make myself do it. I can’t be present like that. I’m damaging her.” I burst into tears again. 

It’s so important to me to be there for Kat, to be a good mom. I don’t care about being the best mom, or even about doing things the way culture or society dictates as correct. I want to raise an emotionally healthy, aware, child. I want my child to know she is worth something, to not be afraid to say how she feels, or what she thinks. I want her to believe her opinions matter, and count. I want her to feel loved for who she is, and who she chooses to be. I want her to feel supported and contained. I want to raise a child who knows how to be present, to live in this moment. I want to raise a child who is as okay with anger and sadness as most people are with happiness and joy. I want her to feel strong and to be independent but to never feel alone. I want so much for her, but none of it centers on who she will marry, or what college she will go to, or what profession she will choose. I only want her whole self to be healthy and happy. After that, anything is okay with me. 

“It’s okay. Yesterday, I saw no signs of you damaging her. She’s okay. She was playing a game of needing all the animals and me in our safety fort, so I would say she is seeking security in a healthy way, and may need a bit of extra security, but not in a bad way. She is okay.” I believe what Bea is telling me. I don’t think she would lie about Kat, because it is too important to her and me that kids get what their needs met. 

I start to say something about hubby, somehow we got on the subject of hubby. But I can’t. “It’s not….this isn’t about hubby, but I was thinking….I never had to ask you to make sure Kat was okay before, because I knew, if I fell, Kay would make sure Kat was okay, and hubby knew I wasn’t really crazy. I knew she would make sure they were both okay. And she would watch them, and make it okay until I could put myself together and be okay again.” 

“It’s a big loss then, even bigger than we talked about. Losing Kay means losing a very big safety net.” Bea says sadly.

“Yeah.” I blink back tears. 

“I noticed you said until I was okay. What would you need to be okay, if you fell?” She asks. 

I shake my head. I have no idea. I don’t know what I need. It’s not that my parents didn’t meet my needs, because they did, and they loved me, but emotional needs, well those weren’t really allowed. So I have no idea what I need, because I have pushed those down for so long. “I don’t know. I really truly don’t.” I look up at her, desperate for her to believe me. I use ‘I don’t know’ so often to avoid talking, I want her to know this isn’t that. 

“That’s okay.” 

“I wish… Hubby. He doesn’t see me, unless I’m okay or….ugh. I made things so much worse. I’m such an idiot. I just…I messed it up and things are worse. I almost emailed you. This morning, or last night, however you want to look at it, but it seemed silly when I would be here in a few hours, so I didn’t. I didn’t write it. And now I can’t say it.” I squeeze my hands into fists, push with my nails. It’s not exactly conscious and deliberate but it’s sort of planned….almost like its auto pilot, a habit now, when I’m anxious, overwhelmed.

“Did you have a fight?” She asks me softly. She sounds concerned. 

“No. No. We….he doesn’t see me unless I’m okay or when…..he sees me when he…….” Deep breath, and push hard with my nails, but I don’t feel calmer. I let myself float away, and the next time I speak, my voice is far away. “He sees me when he wants something from me.” 

“A word on the list?” Bea questions, carefully. In a dull, sort of muted way, I feel surprise that she didn’t say the word, and relief. 

I nod. “Yes. And I thought….I just….I wanted….I thought he would…I thought it might help……it just made things worse. It wasn’t a good idea.” 

“You thought that if you did, then maybe he would feel closer, and you would feel closer and seen and heard and cared for?” She manages to articulate the thoughts I am struggling to put into words. 

I nod. “And it didn’t work!” The tears fall as the words come out, and it’s like I’m yelling at her, or the world, or something, for the unfairness of it all. 

“It didn’t work. Does….it…usually bring him closer and make you feel seen?” She’s being been careful not to say anything that would add to my already triggered state. 

I shake my head. “It usually ends…..bad. It’s not…he just wants me fixed then. It doesn’t make us closer when I flip out.” 

“Ahhh. This feels really hurtful and bad, but we can look at it like an experiment that didn’t help.” 

“It was stupid.” I shake my head at myself, at my stupidity. 

“Not at all. You have all these body feelings going on, and this emotional upheaval, and you just want to be seen and heard. Validated and understood. Mirrored. And this feels really bad. Why wouldn’t you try anything to make it stop, to get some relief?” Bea’s very good at taking my side, and being on my side, even when I’m against myself. “So, what did happen? How did he act?”

“Nothing. Nothing happened. I didn’t….it wasn’t….” I want to say I was not there. I was gone and scared and really frozen in my head. “I didn’t flip out. And he must went back to ignoring me.” 

“He ignores you?” 

“No. Yes. Not like…just…he doesn’t see me. And he doesn’t…we don’t talk. He doesn’t ask me things.” It hurts. Even when I told him I was going to therapy today at 3, something highly unusual, he didn’t say anything at all. He just nodded, and when I was getting ready to leave, he said he forgot I had that thing today. Even my own kid realized I was going to my ‘shrink doctor’ and told me she hopes I had a good talk. 

“Okay. So what made things worse?” 

“The….feelings. They got stronger. It….he…I don’t know….made them more here.” My face heats up, and I can feel the bright red flush of shame, marking me like my own personal scarlet letter. 

Bea thinks for a minute. I can tell she is thinking because I see her chair swiveling from side to side, and it’s silent in the room. “Do you remember when we talked about how triggers can become linked? So eventually the original trigger, from the trauma, is not longer the trigger at all?” 

“Yeah….” I say it slowly, not sure where she is going with this. 

“Well, it makes sense to me that the feelings would be ‘more here’, if the triggers linked and hubby became a sort of trigger.” She tells me softly. 

I don’t say anything, but I nod my head. I get it. It makes sense. But oh my god, I need this to stop.

“Okay. I’m wondering what you are feeling now? I’d really like to send you out of here with some sense of relief, of knowing it will be okay. Because I really do believe it will be okay, but you don’t feel it. And that’s all right. But I’d like for us to try some things to see if we can’t help make this lessen a little.” 

“You mean, what I’m feeling right now? This minute?” 

“Yes. What is the most upsetting thing you are feeling right now?” She repeats. “What image or thought or feeling?” 

I sit for a long time, my knees pulled to my chest, my head down, face buried. “It’s a feeling.” 

“Okay, good. Can you tell me?” Her voice has gone soft and gentle, to match the smallness of my own voice. 

“It’s on my cards. You read my cards?” 

“Yes, yes I did read them. Do you have them with you?” 

“You want me to get them?” I ask her. 

“When you can. I know you’ve gotten into this kind of frozen state, and it’s hard to feel safe to move. So when you can, yes.” I see her chair stop moving, and she is very still, now. 

“If I get them, you can read it and I won’t have to say it?” I have to know it’s worth it to move, to fight through this frozen feeling. 

“Yes. I can read it,” she says. 

“Okay.” Deep breath. “Okay.” I slowly shift how I am sitting, but it’s not much. I start to talk about baking, making small talk as if I am perfectly fine. I let the switch in my head flip, so I can sit up and move and act fine. I’m talking about using lavender as a flavor– something I’ve never done before or tasted– as I reach in my bag and get my cards. I go a silent, mid-sentence when I read the top card. I shove it to the back of the pile quickly, and Bea starts talking about a restaurant in town. I focus on her words, and even though I’m spacey and between the then and now, I manage to listen to, and focus on her voice. I find the card I need, and hand it to Bea, while dropping the others back into my purse. 

She looks at the card, and I bury my face again, embarrassed. “Ahhhh. This makes sense. And I’m reading this and thinking there is a lot we can do here, a lot we can try.” 

I start to cry, at the realization that she now knows what I’m feeling, what is happening for me. The tears are a mix of fear and shame and relief. 

“Can we try some things?” She asks me gently. 

“Okay.” I agree, but then add, “I’m scared.” 

“I know. You are so, so scared. This is so scary. This whole memory is about feeling that vulnerability. It’s so scary.” She’s talking the way you talk to a scared child, and it’s what I need right now. 

“You won’t go?” I ask her, terrified she is going to leave me alone in this. 

“Nope. I’m not going anywhere. We are going to do this together.” 

The little girl wants to ask Bea to hold her hand, but the rest of me is shouting ‘danger! Danger! Danger!’ and so I say nothing, except, “okay.” 

“You couldn’t say no then, although you clearly wanted to. ‘No, no no. Words in my head, but no words in my mouth.’ You were frozen, too scared, too vulnerable and small to say no then. But you are grown up now. You are big now. You can say no now. We can say it together. Do you think you can do that?” She asks me. 

“I’ll try.” It’s a whisper. I’m afraid to fail. This whole time, I have been crying, off and on. The tears are back. 

“Okay. You are a grown up now. You can say no. You couldn’t then, but you had every right to do so. We can say it now.” Bea says more, but I lose the words. 

“What if I didn’t have the right?” I ask her. 

“Oh, you did. You had every right to say no. You just couldn’t, because you were little and scared. But no matter what, you have that right, to say no.” 

“What…” I shake my head to clear it. “You really don’t think this is my fault, do you?” It’s like a peice of a very large messy puzzle clicks into place. Something about her words, her tone of voice, I’m not sure what, but it clicked into place and I feel sure that she doesn’t see this as my fault. 

“No, I don’t think this is your fault at all.” She tells me. 

“What if….I mean, well, what If I did something bad before this, and I just don’t remember  the before?” I mumble the words, terrified she might agree with me, hoping she won’t, but knowing, deep down, she will; if I did something before, I deserved whatever happened after. 

“It wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t change what I think,” she says simply, as if it should be clear, as if it is something everyone should know, like the fact the sky is blue, or honey is sweet.

And I believe her. She doesn’t blame me. Even after all she knows. She does not blame me. 

We try a few times, but I’m unable to say ‘No’ with her. “It’s just a stupid little 2 letter word. It shouldn’t feel this scary.” 

“Because it means facing how vulnerable you were then, when you couldn’t say no. It’s okay. Maybe that’s not the place to start. Maybe we start with the body feelings.” She pauses, and then she reads the top part of my card. 

            TRIGGER warning. 

            “Picture in my head. Knees held together. Really, really tight. Hands on ankles, pulling. . Gentle but not.” 


She’s read my card out loud. Her voice was matter of fact, and she did not sound disgusted or overwhelmed. Huh. “Do you see this now?” She asks me. 

I nod. “I feel it.” 

“Okay. Don’t go too far away. Can you feel your body? Does it want to do anything? Maybe stand up, or push, kick?” 

“I want…” I stop my words before they can escape. 

“Get rid of that filter for the moment, it can come back later, but we don’t need it here.” Bea encourages me. 

“I’m trying,” I assure her. I pause for quite a while and make some random small talk. “I want to pull my legs up and hold my knees together.” 

“Okay. Okay, that’s good! So, like you are sitting now. Can you focus on your knees?” 

“I’m really scared. So scared. He’s…I…I’m so scared.” I whisper. 

“I know. You are really scared. But you aren’t little anymore, you are grown up! You’re strong now. And you your knees are very, very strong. Can you feel how strong they are?” She’s talking softly, but her voice is sort of serious again.

“I don’t feel like a grown up right now,” I cry. 

“I know you don’t,” she says, and she says it in such a way that I know she gets it. 

She talks about how my knees are very strong, and how when I was little it was scary because someone could move them, but no one can now. She has me focus on my knees, and that feeling of holding them together. 

“No one can make them move?” I ask her, not sure I believe it. 

“No one. No one can make them move, no one can open them.” She is firm on this. 

“No one can make them move,” I tell her. My voice is a little louder, a little stronger and I feel a little calmer. 

“Do you feel like you want to say no, now?” She asks me. 

I still can’t. It’s silly, but the idea of saying that insignificant, two letter word, it’s just too much. So, I shake my head. “You’re still here?” Fearfully, afraid that she is leaving because I can’t do something. 

“I’m still here. I’m not leaving.” She reassures again. How is she not sick of this? “Is there something else your body wanted to do?” 

At first, I shake my head, but then I whisper, “Hands…..push them off.” I cringe inward and feel cold. 

“Okay. You wanted to push. Yes! Do you want me to hold a pillow and you can push it away?” 

It’s quiet, while she waits for my answer. Finally, I tell her, “Monday. Let’s just…Monday.” I know that the hour has to be up, and I’m afraid to do this and end up in another tail spin when I’m feeling a bit more calm, a bit more solid. 

“Okay. We can pick this up on Monday.” I hear Hagrid jump down, and prance around her chair while she pets him. She tells him she is really proud of me, and she is celebrating how brave I was. 

I take a minute, sitting there, and when I sit up, I look at the clock. It’s 4:15. We went past her one hour time frame. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, it’s past an hour, I’m sorry, I’m going.” I’m scrambling to get my things and get out of there. I’m going to be too much for her. I’m going to take too much, and need too much and she is going to leave. 

“Breathe. Breathe for a minute. I knew, when we started with the knees, that we would be past the hour. I looked at the clock, and I knew that. I made that choice. I was okay with it. It’s okay. No one is mad. No one is in trouble. Breathe.” Bea speaks firmly, and she is looking directly at me when she says this. 

“No one is in trouble?” I double check. 

“No one.” She says. 

And so, I breathe. We spend a moment talking about grown up things, random things like cooking, or cleaning, or walking the dog, going out to dinner. And then I breathe. She reminds me that when I feel scared, or have those body memories, to remember how strong my knees are and that no one can make them move. 

When I leave, I don’t feel better, but I feel calmer. I put on my playlist of “survivor/fighter” songs,and blast the music on the way home. 

Letter to hubby

So, I wrote a letter to hubby. It’s so vulnerable making and I’m really scared to give it to him. I keep chickening out. I’m going to post it here, and maybe you all could give me your opinions on it. Bea says it is wonderful and just perfect the way it is. It’s very much a reaching-out-in-a-loving-way gesture. I’m sure his own issues might impact in some ways how he reacts to it, and how he reads it, but I think overall he should respond positively. I don’t think it’s too much–just right.

Dear Hubby,

I don’t know how to write this letter, but I really want to, so I’m going to try. I’m afraid I’m losing you, that we are losing us. Maybe before I started therapy, I was fine with relationships staying on the surface, and I was fine with us feeling distant from each other at times; I was fine with us not talking or connecting and I was fine with the big chunks of times I was really not feeling touchy feely. I want more for us, now. We deserve more, we deserve better. 

We need to talk about communicating– really talking– and about physical touch, and sex. I think that when we can’t even really cuddle and be together in any touchy feely way, you maybe feel really shut out. I don’t like that, I don’t want you to feel shut out. I want us to be able to talk and be deeper with our feelings and thoughts, and share more than just talking about Kat or the weather or whatever. I still don’t know how to have a relationship where we stay really connected. I think some of it is communicating more, talking more about what we are really thinking and feeling, and what is going on in our lives. I don’t think I knew what it meant to be connected to someone else until therapy. It’s hard to feel connected when you are so far away. I think we have trouble keeping the connection. It makes me so sad when I feel connected to you and then that connection is lost. I think we need to figure out how to talk and share with each other better. But I also think that staying connected with your spouse includes physical touch and sex. 
I hate how I have been reacting, the freak outs I have had. In the moment, it’s awful, because I’m triggered and scared, but it’s awful after the fact, too. I’m embarrassed and feel guilty for what I put you through. And I’m afraid to bring it up, and I don’t know what to say, anyways. So, I am going to try to write to you about this. 
I spent a long time living life in this sort of numb and not really there headspace. It wasn’t until therapy that I learned that isn’t exactly normal, that to be that far away from everything is a trauma response. Being farther away, though, offered some safety. I was able to tolerate cuddling, and touching, making out, even having sex because I was so far away. I’ve really been doing a lot of work this last year or so. I have a pretty long list of things that have changed for me. One of those things is the ability to be more present in my life, and to even be able to tolerate being fully present for short amounts of time. This is a good thing, but it does make things harder, too. I’m in this really tricky in between place where I’m much more aware of how I’m feeling, what I’m feeling, and what is going on around me, but not always able to tolerate it that well. It’s almost like peeling back layers of an onion, and while I dealt with some things in one layer, now I’m dealing with those things in a different layer. And that layer is being more aware of what is happening, being more here, but because of that, many of the things I used to block out, or dissociate away from, are now triggers.
I think the next layer is being able to tolerate the things that are suddenly becoming triggers, but I can’t do that all on my own. I can do a lot of it with Bea, but the touching stuff, I need you to be my partner in that. I believe Bea talked to you about how everyone has parts, and with trauma there are parts that stay stuck in the trauma? For me, I think of that part as the little girl part, because the thoughts and feelings that take over when I’m triggered feel young to me. This new, tricky layer I’m currently in seems to bring out the little girl part of me. And that makes things so difficult between us, because when that part is running things, I truly believe that all touch leads to sex. And that makes me so very scared, to the point where I will instigate things just because I can’t take sitting in that scary place anymore. Or, on the other hand, I will do my best to avoid all touch, and anyone being in my personal space. Unfortunately, most of the little girl’s feelings and beliefs are in relation to you, because you are the romantic interest in my life, you are a guy and you are my husband. It’s not fair to you, and I can only imagine how confusing it has to feel to be in your place. I want us to try to work on this, slowly, so that I can learn to sit next to you and not have the little girl part freak out. I want to be able to cuddle with you, or kiss you goodbye without that part going on hyper alert for something bad to happen. 
I know this isn’t what you signed up for when we got married. This isn’t what you were supposed to be dealing with. And I’m sorry. You can let me feel badly about that, it’s okay. I can be sorry, and also realize that it’s not anything I planned or wanted to be dealing with either. But this is where we are at, and I think that we can work through this, and teach the scared parts of me that it is safe, that now I am safe, and you are a safe person. 
I really need you to be able to help me with this. I think I need this to go very slow. I’m thinking we could start by sitting side by side, so you would be in my fairly large personal space bubble, and I would focus on staying present, and not letting the little girl part take over, and feeling whatever I’m feeling. The thing is, I can’t do the being present thing, and feelings thing, without support. I need to be able to talk through it with you in the moment, and have you share what you are feeling, too. I need you to be present and grounded and here. And if the little girl part takes over and instigates things, I need you to (gently, and making clear you still love me, but that this isn’t safe right now because I’m not running things) tell me no. I need you to be able to help me calm down if I freak out– so asking me what is around me, what colors I see, reminding me I am an adult, that it is 2016, and that I am with you. 
I really want to be able to tell you things like, “hey, in therapy Bea and I are working on me being able to be tolerate being completely present and focused on what I am doing in the moment. We are doing this by coloring right now.” But I feel like you would laugh at me, and find me to be crazy. Right now, with being in this tricky place, it’s not just touch that triggers me. It’s all kinds of little things, like feeling blame for everything– it’s like when you were mad about the shower head breaking this morning, I felt like you were angry with me and blaming me, like I had done something wrong. It feels like this a lot. Rationally, I know that isn’t true. But the little girl part of me still is in this place of magical type thinking, and is very ego centric, so just like a little kid, I end up feeling it’s my fault. I read into all kinds of things, and often end up feeling like you just think I’m being dramatic or needy or over the top crazy. 
So, anyways, I guess what I’m saying is I feel like if we can work on this touching thing like I described, we will also be working on communicating and connecting emotionally, and that could be so good for us. I’m also really worried you are going to read this as hurtful, or feel angry, or not want to try anything. Giving you this is really vulnerable making, which is really uncomfortable. I didn’t write this to be hurtful, on the contrary, I wrote it to help us get to a place of real connection because I love you and want that with you. 


Feeling contrary…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first thing :part one

I’m sitting on the sofa, criss cross applesauce, in Bea’s office. Hagrid is laying next me, tuckered out from our 7 am walk. I’ve told Bea how we moved Kat’s room upstairs and how the downstairs is one giant playroom now. We’ve talked about how I spent all weekend organizing and cleaning, and how Kat seems much happier with her room being upstairs. Now, I’m sitting, staring at the floor, silent and unsure of myself. 
“I wondered how the weekend was going to be for you, after Thursday. It was the first time in a long time we’ve dug down deeper, and I wondered if you were going to be able to be grounded or not. But it sounds like you had a productive and present weekend,” Bea says. 
I stare at the floor, my eyes going back and forth, looking but not really seeing. I feel so nauseous, I know what I need to bring up. I just don’t know how to, or if I can. “I….usually….cleaning like that is a distraction. But….it’s like auto-pilot….not really thinking at all.” I stop, try to to breathe. “I…it wasn’t like normal this time…..I was thinking a lot.” It’s all I can get out for now. I’m not trying to be cryptic, I’m just so uncomfortable with this topic I can’t say more than that.
“What were you thinking about?” Bea asks. 
I shake my head. The answer is in my head, but it’s hard to actually put the words out there, into that space between Bea and I. I’m tempted to say ‘stuff’, but the answer feels like sassy teenager, and I’m not feeling sassy. I feel scared, alone, nauseous, nervous. But not sassy. “Something that makes me anxious,” I finally answer. 
Bea waits, maybe to give me space to say more, maybe thinking of a response. “Something that makes you anxious. Do you want to say anymore about it?” Her voice is kind, curious, gentle. If I had asked that question, it would have been full of irritation and maybe even anger. But Bea is accepting of my inability to say much at a time, even if she doesn’t know what this is.
I shake my head. “I can’t. I just…I wish…I’m scared.” The words are a whisper. Maybe quieter than a whisper. 
“It’s been a long time since you’ve been in this place of digging and searching for words. It is scary to think about putting things out there. Is this something we’ve talked about before?”
Hagrid kisses my hands, head-butts me until I scoop him up and hold him for a minute. He always seems to have this sense of where I am, and he usually intervenes before I get too far away. I feel like it takes me a really long time to answer her question. “I don’t know,” I finally say. “I think so. Sort of.” It’s so confusing. Bea has talked about it. I don’t talk about it. I’ve always refused to talk about it. I don’t know. 
“Have we talked about it a lot?” Bea tries a different angle. 
I shake my head at her. “I just….I don’t know. I really don’t even know how to answer that.” 
“Can you tell me if this is the past or the present?” 
“I don’t know how to answer that, either,” I answer her honestly. 
“Okay, that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with just talking about talking about it. Talking about the feelings talking about it brings up. Talking about why it’s so scary to say it,” Bea says. She sounds so reasonable, so kind. And I’m hating myself, because I think she is probably thinking this is a memory, something to do with my trauma history, and it’s not a memory. I feel like a liar, like I am misleading her.  
“I don’t know why I am so scared. I don’t know,” I tell her. 
“Maybe this is one of those things that goes in the ‘let Bea help make sense of it’ category,” she suggests. I know she means it, because she has been saying things like that from the beginning of my therapy with her; that our job is to make sense of things together. 
I shake my head. “I’m afraid. I’m just really afraid…..but I think…..I think I should talk about this.” 
“It’s so hard, isn’t it? When we have been thinking and putting things into coherent thoughts in our minds, but it’s almost like we don’t think in words sometimes because it’s so hard for us to find words to say.”
I take a deep breath. Take another. “I…I…have the words. This time, I have the words.” I whisper this confession; it takes longer than it should for me to get the words out. 
“Okay. This isn’t one of those wordless times. That’s good,” Bea says softly. 
“I’m…I’m afraid to say the words. Because once they are out there, I can’t take them back.” 
“Maybe we can reframe this. Maybe we can look at this as if once the words are out there, they are a lump of clay, waiting for us to form them and make sense of them.” I like what Bea says; I like the idea that the words aren’t the be all end all. But I don’t know if she’s right. 
“I imagine this feels like starting over, again, in some ways. Maybe you have to figure out how to trust me again, how to feel safe opening up again. It’s a hard space to be in.” Bea adds. A little bit of the fear I feel lessens as she speaks; she gets it, she has once again somehow seen a lot of my fears.
“I wrote something.” I blurt the words out, quietly, as quickly as possible. 
“Maybe we should start there, then?” Bea asks me. 
I find it hard to respond, but eventually I whisper, “I don’t know.” I’m in that heart racing, panicked, stomach upset, migraine inducing, wanting to run away and hide but too frozen to do that place of anxiety. That place where it feels like these feelings won’t ever end, that they will go on and on forever, and you will be swallowed whole by them, until there is nothing left except anxiety. 
“Tell me, why do you think that you should talk about this?” Bea asks me. She is usually the first to point out to me that ‘should’ is one of those clue words that means I’m judging myself in some way or another, but she lets it slide this time. 
I don’t want to explain. I don’t really know how to explain, exactly. Partly, I think I should talk about it because I believe if Bea was in my head, she would be pushing me to talk. “I….well…it’s that…I mean…..if I don’t……I don’t think………I don’t think I can talk about anything else until I talk about this.” 
“So this is the first thing, then. Okay.” She says this matter of factly, simply. 
I nod, and then I slowly pull out my iPad mini and open the letter I wrote to her this morning (or last night, however you want to look at it). I stare it for several minutes, internally debating if I can really do this. “How about you read this, not out loud, and then we can not talk about it?”
“Yes, ok. We can do that. But not talking doesn’t help you very much,” Bea points out.
“You can talk then. I don’t know. I just..I’m scared.”
“We can leave the talking open ended, okay? You can see, decide after I read it.” Bea says.
I nod. I’m tempted to ask if I can leave after she reads it, but my session is only about 1/2 over. I hand her my iPad, and bury my face in my knees, curling into the smallest ball I possibly can. 
To be continued in another post……..