Maybe I don’t always need words

Monday morning, I set out my paints and my paper, paint brushes and oil pastels before I log into therapy.

Bea logs in, and we talk for a while about nothing type stuff until she asks me if I bought paint.

“Yeah. I bought paint for myself.”

“What kind of paint did you get?” Bea asks.

I hold up a watercolor palette with close to 30 colors.

“Ooooh, nice. I love all the colors. Did you want to paint together today?”

I shrug. “I guess I can paint while we talk.” The teen is way too cool to say what she really wants to— yes, I absolutely want to paint, I’m desperate to find a way to let out all the ick inside and words aren’t working and I just really need you to get it.

“This is hard,” I tell Bea. “I don’t know how to paint feelings.”

“What about a color? Is there a color that feels right to you?” She asks.

“I don’t know. I mean, yellow is happy and red is mad and blue is sad and black is probably depressed and I think green means peaceful…….”


“Because the rules of our culture say so?” Even though it’s not really a question, the words come out with a sassy teenage lilt to them and the valley-girl-esque way of speaking with every sentence sounding like it’s a question.

“Well, that’s true,” Bea laughs. “I think that is the logical way of doing art you were talking about in your email. But this….we want to try to focus maybe more on the process than the end result.”

“I guess I can try.” I pick up an oil pastel and draw lines on my paper to make the corner of a room. I’ll draw me, sitting on the floor doing therapy. It’s a straight forward thing to paint, and I need a plan. I use a pencil to quickly sketch out a human shape sitting on the floor. I can use paints to draw the rest.

“Can you pull up my emails?” I’m not looking at Bea when I ask this, I’m carefully painting hair on the girl in the painting.

“Yeah, sure. I have them right here. Did you want me to go through them like your notebook writing?”

I nod my head, and Bea starts the familiar rhythm of her reading my words and responding to them.

I’d written: I think, looking at the whole of what is stirred up in my head, there is a theme here. The window memory, I don’t know if that one fits, but the rest, it’s this theme of being in trouble for the something that happened. It’s a lot of out of control feelings and shame, and I don’t know what. Maybe something to do (and I’m cringing writing this, wanting to hide or maybe throw up or both) with the whole ummm, you know growing up and curiosity and figuring things out stuff. Ugh. Ick. 

“I think so, there is a theme of blame and shame. A lot of shame for feelings that were normal, and for things that happened that were not your fault. It makes me sad for the little girl, the teen, that they didn’t get to experience these normal feelings in a safe way.”

I’d written: And from the teen because well, she’s just so here and stirred up right now: So maybe you are right and it was something. But it’s not as bad a something as the real somethings. So is it okay to even be upset like this? Do you think I’m over reacting? I don’t know for sure what to think. But you were right about one thing and I hate it that you were right because I just don’t want it to be true. The crush feelings. They were like not there at all and then he was smiling at me and telling me I was too pretty to be smoking and that cigarettes kill people and then he kissed me and all those disgusting feelings were there. So quick. You don’t know how bad that feels. I can’t even put it into words. But it’s very bad feeling. 

“Yes, I really do think the window memory was something. I really do think it is okay to feel however you feel about it. It makes sense to me, that you would have a lot of feelings and overwhelm about it. I know it feels really bad and really confusing.”

I don’t look up from my painting when I speak. “I just…there were no feelings about him at all, I wasn’t scared when he walked up to me, even. Well, maybe I didn’t want him to tell my parents that I was smoking. And then, he kissed me. And I just….ick. It’s just ick. I can’t breathe, or think. I just…it’s so confusing, everything in my head and it just needs to stop. I can’t……” I trail off, absorbed in the process of putting paint onto my paper.

Bea says something, but I’m not so focused on her right now. I’m no longer painting a planned out picture, but swirls of dark purple and blue and grey. I’m upset, overwhelmed, confused. And suddenly I am painting feelings. I finish painting, and look in the container for a black oil pastel. I sketch out what I couldn’t paint. When I look up, Bea is there, waiting patiently.

“Sorry….I wasn’t listening to you,” I whisper.

“No, no sorrys needed. You were really intent on your painting,” Bea says.

“Yeah, I….well…” I look then, really look at it and while it’s not technically good, and it is painfully obvious I don’t have a talent for art, the painting looks like I feel. “I didn’t paint what I planned.”

“No? What did you plan?”

“To paint me, doing therapy in the guest room. It’s all big easy shapes to draw, so I figured painting them should be pretty easy.” I shrug.

“Ahhh. That makes sense. What did you end up painting?” Bea is asks the question with curiosity and no judgement.

“I…well….it’s…” I shake my head, and finally just hold up my picture. I hide behind it though.

Bea looks, and then says, “I love it. There is something so safe and protective about it.”

I feel like she’s slapped me in the face. Safe? I painted my pain, and I know I am not the best artist, but where does she get safe from? I pick up a pillow, hide behind it. I can’t look at her right now. This was a horrible idea.

“Alice, where did you go? What happened?” Bea notices right away that something has gone very wrong.

I shake my head, feeling miserable. “You don’t get it. It’s not safe. I don’t think you even looked. Just never mind.”

Bea doesn’t respond right away, but when she does, she sounds cautious. “I want to get it. I did look at your painting, but maybe I didn’t see what I was supposed to. Could I look again?”

I sigh, and hold up my artwork again. This time, I stay hidden behind the pillow. Bea doesn’t say anything for what feels like forever.

“Oh, yeah,” Bea says slowly. “I really missed the point. I didn’t see the hand reaching or the face screaming. It’s creepy, isn’t it? And feels like the girl in the picture is doing her best to hide from all the chaos. It’s like she’s trapped in the center on a tornado she can’t stop.”

“Yeah,” I whisper the word. I feel something lift inside me, Bea does see, and she gets it. For today, it’s enough to feel understood, even if I don’t have any words all.

Maybe it is something, not nothing

The teen is raging this morning, livid with Bea for continuing to insist that the memory at the window was not “nothing”, that it was “something”. I had typed a response to Bea’s last email of the day yesterday, and then realized before I sent it that it was all teen sass and frustration. So I held it until this morning, sending it as I log into therapy.

We say good morning, and then it’s silent. I hate silence, especially right now, and to fill the uncomfortableness of it, I start chatting. I tell Bea some things I’ve learned about how neurodiverse brains work, and why I think Kat is struggling so much to finish a task like cleaning her room. We talk about this new (to me) piece of information, and I tell her how I plan to help support Kat if this is indeed part of the challenge.

Finally, I take a deep breath and say, “I don’t want to spend all my time talking about Kat. I just….”

Bea picks up where I trailed off, “Need to ease into things and make sure I am here and me. I know. And, this is good information, so I am glad you shared. But you know what I was thinking?” I shake my head, and she continues, “I was thinking how great it is that even with so much coming up, you have been able to focus on some other tasks, that the grown up has been able to sort of step away and give everyone a break from the yuck.”

My face feels hot and I shrug. “I guess. I just….I don’t….parts don’t like it when…..well, I mean, I guess it is better than it was like three or four years ago or even a year ago, but I don’t like….I just….”

“I wasn’t really thinking ‘better’. Maybe more that you are able to get to a regulated place and not be swallowed by the ick all day, everyday. That this is different than it was in the past,” Bea explains.

“The thing is, it is better. But it’s not….the parts don’t really want you to…” I keep trying to say the words, to tell her I don’t want her to think I am fine now because that might mean she will decide to leave me, but they keep getting stuck. It feels too vulnerable making to say that right now.

“To think everything is better and for me to put expectations on them?” Bea asks.

“Yeah. Exactly. But it is better, sort of. It’s like certain things….specific things I can focus on and sort of step away from the ick. Like cleaning or organizing or trying to find solutions to help Kat, or being social, like when one my girl scouts stopped by to pick up more cookies. That sort of stuff. Playing with Kat or being really engaged and present, maybe not so much. But those more specific things, I can focus on those and function.”

“I can see that. It makes sense, really, because those were always Miss Perfect’s sort of things she did to distract and function, right?”

“Yes,” I say slowly, “but it’s not Miss Perfect, not this time. It’s just me. Or, I think it is just me. Because Miss Perfect is more….everything is scheduled. I mean, I used to clean the grout in my kitchen once a week with a toothbrush and vacuum hourly so there would be literally no pet hair anywhere. People who knew me used to joke about me having OCD, but I don’t think it was OCD like for real. It was just trying to control everything. Everything was a routine, a schedule and Miss Perfect couldn’t function if something screwed that up.”

Bea tells me she remembers this, how it was, and how it is no small thing how much that has changed.

“I emailed you this morning,” I blurt the words out before I can decide to shove them back down.

“Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t see it. Can I look at it now?”

“I sent it just when I logged in. It’s more of a list, and then…well, a sort of response, I guess to your last email. I just thought, if I sent it and you read it now, it was like my notebook, sort of. An email notebook.”

“Yes, a virtual notebook. That’s good, that’s great. Let me pull it up now.” So Bea pulls it up, and after checking that it’s okay, she starts to read.

Bea starts to talk through each list point as she reads them, but I stop her. “Just read it all first. Please. Because there’s….well, the teen.”

“Okay, I’ll to read it all the way through.”

When she looks up from reading, I hide my face. The teen has probably made a big mistake and everything is really going to fall apart now.

“I think we need to let the teen be heard and seen right now, and I’d really like to tell her something.” Bea’s voice is soft, her tone is gentle.

“I….I…okay,” I stumbled over the apology I want to say. The teen was not nice, she was blunt and angry and half shouting in what she had written.

Here is the short email exchange I had added to this morning’s virtual notebook. (trigger warning for a few blunt explicit details)

Bea: I do think the window memory was bad even though “nothing” happened. He still violated boundaries and imposed himself. That’s definitely “something.” Just being in your life at that point was “something.” Triggering without a doubt:(

The teen: UGH! You don’t get it. Just stop, okay? You don’t know anything! It was nothing. Nothing. It didn’t matter. Why don’t you get that? I keep telling you and telling you and you won’t believe me. You aren’t listening. Do you even care? Something was when I was 5. Something was when we played secret games. Something was when he wanted me to pretend it was a popsicle even though it wasn’t. Something was when I was 8. Something was when we were at the cabin. Something was on the Ferris wheel. Something was a hundred different times. Do you get it now? Because that night? That was NOTHING. I was old enough to flirt and to kiss. And that’s literally all it was. A kiss. Nothing. Not something at all. And definitely not something I get to be upset about. It was nothing. So just stop, stop all of this fake shrinky nice thing you always do. I hate it! UGH!

“It was something. I know it feels like nothing in comparison to all the many somethings you listed. I know it feels like you were the age when flirting and kissing were okay, so that makes it nothing. And maybe, it feels safer to yell and work really hard to convince me it was nothing, rather than taking a risk to see if I will hear and see and understand the hurt and pain that night did cause you.” Bea speaks slowly and carefully, but her tone is serious. She means what she is saying, and even with all the teen’s resistance, I can feel her words sinking in.

“It was nothing. It should be nothing.”

“But it wasn’t nothing. You had all the somethings from before, you know. You inherited all of the somethings from the little girl. Even if it wasn’t all conscious, even if you couldn’t label it as more than a game, it was all there. So how could you not be triggered when he violated boundaries and imposed himself on you again?” Bea is still speaking so calm and her voice is full of compassion.

I smush myself as far into the corner as I can and grab a pillow off the floor to hide my face. “It’s just stupid anyway.”

“Right…because you were being a drama queen, just over reacting, making a big deal out of things, right?” Bea says this in such a way that I know, like really know, that she is putting voice to my silent unspoken words.

“Yeah. And, everyone was flirting and kissing then, anyway. So it’s not like I was a little kid anymore.”

“No, maybe not, although I would argue there will always be a power imbalance between you and Kenny. I would also argue that if a boy your own age had been flirting with you and kissed you, you wouldn’t have had a reaction to harm yourself.”

“Maybe. I think it would still be confusing. Because…well…I just…it would have been confusing.” How do I even begin to explain the swirling mess of confusion that flirting and kissing and everything that goes with that?

“Yeah, of course. I think it would have been confusing for you. It might have even been triggering, but I don’t think it would have been as triggering as this situation with Kenny. I don’t think it would have triggered you to hurt yourself like that.” Bea starts to say something about fight parts being triggered or something about why we hurt ourselves like that, but I interrupt her.

“No, it wasn’t like that,” I look up at Bea, and even though she had started to go down a shrink sounding path, she’s just Bea. “I didn’t want to die. I just wanted everything to stop and to go away. I was just so confused and all these feelings…… I couldn’t shut my brain off. I just needed it to stop for a little while.”

“Ahhh, mmmhmmm. It was too much to hold by yourself. Of course you wanted everything to stop.”

“I just…I was so confused because of how I….” I stop, mid-sentence, feeling stupid and ashamed.

When I don’t continue, Bea asks, “Because you felt those crush type feelings in that moment in the window?”

I don’t speak. I just bury my face again and start to sob.

“Oh, Alice. Of course those feelings came back. It would be normal for you to have a crush or even several crushes at that age. How could those feelings not exist after the hope of him marrying you and the crush you had on him? How could they not come back after he kissed you in your window? It’s okay if they did.”

“I didn’t have crushes. Not then, I couldn’t.” I say the words sounding fiercely, harshly. Crushes are not allowed. It is not safe.

“No? It would be normal if you did.” Bea speaks casually, as if she is commenting on the grass being green or the sky being blue. Her voice says it is okay, that it’s not a big deal and I don’t have to be scared to have this conversation.

“It just….crushes feel icky.” I sound like a whiny version of my teen self, but I don’t care.

“I can see that. It probably didn’t feel safe, and it would be understandable if the exciting, good feelings of having a crush on someone with the not safe, icky feelings was really confusing. I can see it would be easier to just cut that part of you off.”

“I just…yes. That night, in my window, yes, okay? You win. Yes, all the feelings came up and it was just confusing and not good and I just…I needed it to stop.” I’m shouting at Bea, mad that she is right, and hating myself for how I felt.

“I know. It’s okay that those feelings came back. There’s nothing wrong or bad about you.”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I whisper.

“Okay. We can talk about it more when you feel ready,” Bea assures me.

“No…it’s not like that. I just…I don’t know how to do this.”

“You are doing it, right now.”

I roll my eyes. “You always say things like that. It can’t always be true.”

Bea chuckles at my sass. “I think it is true when I say it. I know it doesn’t always feel like you are doing a lot but you are doing hard work.”

“This feels different though.”

“How does it feel different?”

“Because…..usually it’s the words that matter….but it’s all about feelings right now.”

“Yes, the feelings and finding words for them is really important to you,” Bea agrees with me. Except she’s wrong, that is not what I meant, and she doesn’t get anything after all.

I shake my head, disappointed and hurt that she doesn’t understand. “You really don’t get it.”

“I want to. Can you tell me again? It is important to me to get it.”

“Fine. Whatever, I’ll try to explain it again.” I’m huffy and maybe a little rude, but Bea ignores that and waits for me to speak. “Always, always, the thing that matters when I’m triggered is the words. The story of what happened. That’s the part that always feels most…..important. It’s the biggest thing. But now…..this is different. It’s not….I mean, I know what memory things are sort of linked to, but it isn’t the part that I need to….feelings, thoughts, those are the things that are so big right now. It’s not even the what happened that seems to matter, it’s all these feelings.”

“Yeah, the feelings are really front and center right now, aren’t they? The story needing to be told, I wonder if that was because you needed to be heard and seen and held, and for that to happen you needed me to know the story, to know what happened. This, with the feelings, maybe that it a more vulnerable place for you, it’s another layer of the work. And when we share our feelings, that can make us feel deeply understood.”

Bea isn’t wrong about anything she says, and writing it out now, I think she is spot on. But in that moment, the teen was really running the ship. “Of course you would think sharing feelings is the way to feel understood!”

“That is a little shrinky like, isn’t it? But it’s also true.” Bea doesn’t miss a beat, and she doesn’t get defensive. She is so good with this confused, sassy, sometimes raging teen part of me.

“Ugh. Fine.” I don’t want her to be right. I don’t know how to do feelings. “But I don’t know how to do therapy like this. This isn’t how I do therapy. I write, I find the words. I don’t….ugh. I am not good at feelings.”

“We can figure it out together.”

“Shouldn’t you already know how to do this?” I retort.

Bea laughs again, but in a nice way. Somehow she always enjoys the teen, instead of hating her. “Well, I suppose I do already know how to work with my feelings, or how to start the process. But I know what works for me. We can figure out together what works for you.”

“But I don’t know what to do!” I protest.

“Well, you like words, right? Maybe we can try to find the words for the feelings.”

“I suck at putting words to my feelings. That’s why you made me use the kimochis for so long.”

“Awwwwww, the kimochis! I love the kimochis,” Bea says happily. “And you have gotten so good at knowing what words to use to describe your feelings. Maybe in this case, though, words just don’t seem enough to convey the feeling?”

Slowly, I nod my head and look at Bea again. “Words aren’t working. And I don’t know what to do with that.”

“Well, maybe we could do some art therapy if you felt up to it.”

“I have lots of art stuff. Would this be one of those times you would have just got out paint and paper and stuff if we were in your office?” I ask.

“Probably.” Bea smiles at me. “Would you want to get paper and paint out next time and see if that might work?”

I shrug. “I never painted when you did that.” What I don’t say is that I wanted to, I just wasn’t brave enough to try and I wasn’t sure where to even start.

“Well, maybe it wasn’t the right time then.”

“Okay. I’ll get paints out next week.” I whisper it, afraid to agree because what if I fail? What if I can’t do it? What if it doesn’t work?

“Good! It’s a plan then. We’ll try some art therapy next week.”

“What if I don’t know where to start? I’d like a map or instruction book or something. I’d even take one of those hard to make sense of ikea type instruction manuals,” I say it all jokingly, but I am also really serious.

“Well, maybe start with thinking about what colors seem right for all the feelings,” Bea suggests.

“Maybe. But if I don’t….”

“Then that’s okay, too.”

We wrap things up pretty quickly after that, and for the rest of the day, I am surprised at how many things make me think “That’s how I feel”.

When I am out running errands, I see a small weeping willow tree with no leaves standing alone in a pile of snow and ice that hasn’t melted yet. The sky is grey and dark, no sun shining through at all. That’s how I feel, like that tree.

Listening to an old playlist while I clean, Fiona Apple’s Sullen Girl resonates with me.

Looking out my back window when I let the dog outside, the crumpled muddy, dead brown leaves strike me as how I feel— dead and forgotten and no longer worth anything.

When I try to think of a color to paint for how I feel, I picture a watermelon pink covered with black, trying to hide.

Maybe I can do this. Maybe there is a way to express feelings when words just don’t seem to be enough.

I think I just might punch him

I don’t know if this was ever published or not. I thought it was, but now it’s in my unpublished posts, so I’m going to re-publish it I guess. 🤦🏼‍♀️ I wrote this on October 22.

It’s Wednesday. When Bea logs into therapy, I feel suddenly shy. Bea says a cheerful hello and I look down at my toes and mumble hi.

I think we talk about the weather and Halloween and kids and technology and other random things as I jump from topic to topic. It helps, though, because I start to feel less in the far away and more here. I’m not exactly here, but I am here more than I had been.

Bea seems to know that I am more here and so she says, “I know there is other stuff for us to talk about today, and I think it’s important that we try to work on it for a little while if you feel up to it.”

My hands fly up to hide my face, but I manage to set them in my lap again. “I think….well, I think I know and you know there is bigger stuff but I’m sort of avoiding it or tip toeing around it a little bit.”

“I think that’s okay to do for a little while. In fact, I think it helps you to talk and start to feel a little more settled before we dive in.” Bea is right of course. This has been true since the beginning of my therapy, which is how I originally had 90 minute sessions. I hate that covid and teletherapy have shortened my sessions to an hour. Why did I agree to that at the beginning of all this? Oh, right, because I thought it would be maybe three weeks in total and I hated therapy on a screen. I never imagined it would be months, and probably at least a full year before we would be back in person. I also assumed that once back in person (after a couple weeks, once covid was over) therapy appointment times would go back to normal. But that didn’t happen, and now my time is shortened and I feel a little bit like I agreed to something without really knowing the full ramifications, without questioning what shortening time would mean exactly. But the last time I brought it up, Bea just said that on days when she could give me a longer session time, she would. She never answered my question asking if I could ever have my old time back. Ugh. This is all so frustrating. Today, though, she has more time to give, and so I get to do my talking about nothing thing before diving in.

“It feels a little more like you are here when we talk for a little bit of time,” I whisper.

“Yeah, of course it does. I think you need to time to see what I feel like to you, if I am still me, still how you expect me to be,” Bea agrees.

“Yeah.” I nod my head.

“I was so glad you shared the journal page with me. That really helped things click into place for me.” Bea slowly starts to shift our focus.

My head goes fuzzy again. I cover my face with my hands and this time I don’t move them away.

“This feels so hard, doesn’t it? I know you have been feeling really bad, so bad there aren’t a lot of words. But I am glad you found some words. I’m glad this part we are getting to know could share. She feels really scared and frozen and so sad, and no wonder! This memory of it’s over but not really over, it was terrible.” Bea pushes a little.

I blink back tears. “I’m being so dumb. I know we talked about this already. I shouldn’t need to talk again and again. I’m sorry.”

“No, no sorrys. We did talk about it just a little. But we talked more factual this is what happened, not so much the feelings, the intensity of how bad this really felt. You had hope, you felt free and then all of it was just yanked away. How could this not feel bad?”

“I don’t know. I just…..I can’t get unstuck. I can’t make it stop.” I sigh. I feel broken, damaged.

“I could be wrong, but does this feel like the biggest feelings you’ve really had connected to a memory?”

“I don’t know. It’s the worst I’ve felt in my whole life. I wanted to die.” Tears stream down my face uncontrollably as I finally admit to Bea that I’ve never felt worse. I hide under my blanket. I don’t like to cry in front of anyone.

“Yeah, it was really painful. It was too much, too much for you then, and you had to go away. This part, she had a really yucky job, to hold all these feelings and keep them really far away from the rest of you. She held all this really bad stuff all by herself for a really long time, but she doesn’t have to now.”

“I just really, really want everything to stop.” I cry.

“I know. She really wanted everything to stop then. She did survive, though, and it did stop. It stopped.” Bea says softly.

“It’s not stopped. Nothing can stop him. Nothing can make it better.” I don’t think Bea knows what she is talking about. Nothing feels over or stopped right now.

“It feels like that now, and it might have been true then, but it did stop. She’s safe now.” Bea tells me again.

“You don’t know!” I argue. I feel like Bea isn’t getting it, she doesn’t understand.

“I do know. I know because I am on the outside and I can see the big picture. On the inside, it feels like time stopped, and you are trapped in this really bad place, this hopeless place. But I’m on the outside, and I see how time kept moving. I know the grown up who survived because of the parts. I know the little girl, and all the parts of the teen, and Ms. Perfect and even the one the others don’t like. I know that this new part, she is not alone now, and she is safe now.” Bea speaks firmly, but it’s still caring and gentle and so very much Bea.

“But I am alone.” I whisper-whine.

“She was so alone, and it was really awful. But she doesn’t have to be alone, or scared or frozen anymore. Really bad things did happen, but they are over now. She survived.” Bea tells me again.

“No. It’s never over. It won’t ever be over.” Why can’t I stop crying? At this rate, I’m going to cry myself a lake of feelings to drown in.

“It sure feels like that, doesn’t it? But the truth it that it ended and she is safe now, and she doesn’t have to be alone now. Everything is okay in present day reality. No one can hurt her in the present. And I think if we can help her see that, if we can get this part to rest, then you will start to feel a lot less alone and frozen in your current life.”

“Do you want me to go away?” I ask tearfully. The little bit of grown up Alice that has been working so hard to maintain any bit of control is no longer able to do so.

“No, gosh no!” Bea says quickly, “I don’t want you to go away, not at all. I would like to help you feel not so alone though. I know it feels really bad to feel so alone.”

“You can’t help. No one can help.”

“No one did help you then, but people can help now.”

I shake my head. “No.”

“It really doesn’t feel like anyone can help, does it?”

“No one can stop him. He always gets what he wants. No one can so anything at all.”

“No one stopped him then, but there is a grown up now who is very capable and won’t let anything bad happen again. He won’t ever hurt you again.” Bea informs me.

“Even grown ups can’t stop him.” Does’t she see? No one is able to beat him.

“No grown ups protected you, did they? But you know what? If I were there, I would stop him.” Bea says seriously.

“You can’t! He’s too big and you would get hurt.”

“He feels all powerful, doesn’t he? But he’s not bigger than me.”

“How could you stop him?” This part doesn’t really believe Bea can stop him.

“I could call the police. Maybe I would punch him. I’m very angry for how he hurt you, how he hurt all the parts. Yes, I think I just might punch him.” Bea doesn’t sound scared of him at all.

“Because you are bigger?” I question.

“Yes, and stronger.”

“And the police would really come and stop him?”

“Yes, the police would make him stop forever.” Bea assures this scared, hopeless, frozen part that wants to disappear.

“Forever, forever? Like the real forever?” It’s definitely the hopeless part running things at this point in my session.

“Yes, forever,” she says.

“Can I ask you something?” I whisper it, shyly.

“Of course.” Bea answers this like it’s no big deal.

“If you really were there would you wait for the police to come and stop him or would you leave?”

“I would do neither. I would stop him right away, and then I would call the police. And I wouldn’t leave you alone. I would make sure you were okay.”

“I like that answer.” I’m feeling much less alone at the moment. “What if I wasn’t okay?”

“Then I would sit with you, just like I am doing now.” It’s such a simple response and it’s said like that is a given, because what else would Bea do, besides sit with me and be there?

“What if I cried? Would you be mad or go away?”

“I wouldn’t be mad or go away.”

“And if the police came?” I’m waiting for her to say that then she would leave becase the police would take care of me.

“They would make him stop for good. He wouldn’t be allowed near you again.”

“But he lives next door.” My voice is scared. In my mind, there is never any getting away from him.

“Well, they would talk to the parents, too, yours and his. And the parents would have to keep him away from you.”

“But they would not believe me. I’m a drama queen and I tell stories and I make things up to get attention. That is what she would say.” I’m crying harder now, because I know my mom would not believe me, and that hurts just as much as this despairing feeling.

“I think the police might convince her. And if they didn’t, remember, I would be there, too, and I would tell your mom that you are not being a drama queen, and you are telling the truth.” Bea’s voice is strong, and firm, and I believe her, she would have tried to make my mom listen.

“Maybe she wouldn’t believe you. Maybe he would just be back to babysit me and be very mad with me.” I tell her.

“That’s a big worry, but do you know what? There is a law in our country and it says parents have to protect kids. And if parents know someone is hurting their kid, and the parents don’t keep their kid safe after that, they can get in big, big trouble.”

“What if they broke the law anyways because they really just thought I was lying?”

“Then you would tell me, and I would believe you. I would make sure you were safe,” Bea promises. Then she adds, “And you know who else I would call?”


“Your Grandma and Grandpa. And I bet they would help me keep you safe.” She’s right. If they had known in real life, they would have protected me.

“Maybe I could stay at their house for more than one night.” I feel some hope creep in, and that’s scary because I know how easily hope can be crushed.

“I bet you could!” Bea says, excitedly. “And that would feel so good to be really far away from him.”

“Maybe I could stay with them for a lot of nights.” I suggest.

“That would feel really safe, wouldn’t it?” Bea asks me.

“Yeah. But maybe….is it mean to want to be there and not with my Mom and Dad?” I feel guilty that I want to be with my Grandma and Grandpa and not my parents.

“No, I don’t think so. I think it makes sense, right? You weren’t safe at home, you weren’t protected by your parents. You always felt safe at your grandparents, and they would protect you, and you would be far away from Kenny. I think it would take some time to really trust that your mom and dad would protect you.”

“Maybe….yeah, I think so,” I agree. We sit quiet for a minute. I feel calmer than I have in weeks, and the grown up me is finally able to get somewhat back online. “This is a little ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean, I know we can’t go back and you can’t really be there.”

“No, I can’t really be there, but it’s not ridiculous. When parts are so stuck in the past, they don’t know the difference between then and now. And for our brains, imagining a different outcome, just doing that can start to rewire things a little, change how we feel about a situation. If it helps that part to think of me being there and stopping him, then I am all for that. She deserves to feel protected, and she shouldn’t have to suffer alone anymore. She’s held the worst feelings all by herself, but she doesn’t have to anymore.” Bea sounds like Bea, she feels like Bea to me again. I breathe a sigh of relief as she talks.

“I did a….sort of silly thing, I guess. Yesterday, I was trying so hard to find words and I just couldn’t, because even saying that I felt really HUGE sad didn’t seem like enough, so I googled….well, I googled feeling words.” My face is a little red now but I’m still hiding under my blanket, so Bea can’t see my embarrassment.

“That was a good idea. Did you find any words that fit?”

“I made a list….I just, well, if I didn’t know what a word meant I looked it up in the dictionary and then I wrote it on a list if it seemed right. So I made this long list, but it feels sort of…..dramatic.”

“What kind of words did you find?” Bea asks.

“Do you want me to send it to you?” I don’t know if I am hoping she says yes or if I am hoping she says no.

“Yes, I would like that very much.”

I get my phone, and copy the list into email. I send it to her.

Melancholy Despondent Angst Anguish Worthless Despair Trapped Pain Anxiety Feels like heart will burst from sadness Anguish Confused Vulnerable Ashamed Hurt Scared Sorrow Loss of hope Despondent Inconsolable Distraught Paralyzed Disillusioned Betrayed Isolated Desperate Crushed Terrified Shocked Hopeless

It’s not long before Bea’s phone dings with an email, and she reads it. “Are these words in any order, or just written out? Like is the first word the most intense?”

“No, no order, just written down. I’m worried that you will think it’s over the top, drama queen,” I whisper.

“I don’t think that at all. I think this is a really terrible way to feel. Is this feeling like a soup of all these words, all at the same time?”

I nod my head, but then remember she might not be able to see on a screen like she can in person, and I say, “Yes.”

“Well, between this word soup and the journal page and talking to the new part today, I feel like I can really imagine just how awful it was for her. She was so little, and to feel like this, of course she just wanted everything to stop.” I love how Bea points out to me how *normal* my feelings are.

“So you don’t think I’m being a drama queen?” I double check.

“Nope. That isn’t something I have ever thought about you. I think of drama queen more as an action.”

“What…..what do you mean? Like…like crying or saying you are feel really bad?” I stammer out the question, feeling uncertain or confused.

“No, feeling how you feel, sharing that, crying, those feelings are not being a drama queen. That was your mom, it was her stuff that made her feel like that because she couldn’t handle big feelings, maybe any feelings,” Bea reassures me.

“So….then what is being a drama queen? I think I don’t really know…..I think…maybe it’s like I worry, I tell you I am worried you will think that because mom might think it and then she would go away but I think I ask you, I tell you I am worried because I really just don’t know what a drama queen is and I don’t want to be that way and make you leave,” I admit.

“Well, I think it is action….maybe action that is a little bigger than the feelings or situation call for. But also, it isn’t negative, or it doesn’t have to be. Yes, your mom called you a drama queen and it really hurt because it was a way to put her inability to handle feelings on you. That blamed you for having too big of feelings, for feeling anything at all. It made you too much, and it made it your fault that she couldn’t handle it. But I would absolutely call my daughter a drama queen, and it is not a bad thing.” Bea laughs, a soft quiet laugh that is nice. “Did I tell you about the hornet’s nest when she was here this summer?”


“Well, my daughter and her boyfriend and my son and his girlfriend went out walking in the woods, and they ran into a hornet’s nest. Now, when this happened, everyone got stung, but my daughter was running through the woods, tearing off her shirt and screaming. Her boyfriend carried her home, and then she spent the day on the couch, with the rest of us bring her ice packs and Tylenol and whatever else she thought would fix it. I’m not saying it didn’t her, but her reaction was just a lot bigger than maybe one would expect. But you know, that’s just her. Or, here, there was one day where both my kids fell and hurt their legs. My son, he just went back to his dorm and rested with ice and pain reliever. My daughter, she called an ambulance, and went to the hospital. Her injury was just a cut, a scrape really that didn’t even need stitches. But my son? When he finally went to the hospital, his leg was broken in two places! That’s just my daughter, though, it’s part of who she is, and it’s not a bad part at all.”

The whole time Bea is talking, my head is spinning. This feels like a new concept, and is very different from how I think of being a drama queen. The crazy thing is Bea doesn’t sound judgmental, or like she thinks this is a very bad thing about her daughter. She sounds like she loves her daughter even with the drama queen stuff. She sounds happy telling this story. And, this idea of a drama queen is not me. I know that. “So, having feelings is not being a drama queen?” It’s part question, part statement.

“Having feelings, even really big feelings is not being a drama queen. Having feelings is part of being human. You just really didn’t get that modeled for you.”

“My grandpa wasn’t afraid of big feelings,” I proclaim.

“I bet he wasn’t.”

“Not even mad scared him. One time, I was real mad, I don’t know why but I was super angry and you know what he did?” The grown up Alice is mostly gone again, with Little girl running things.

“What?” I can hear happy curiosity in Bea’s voice.

“He got the whole entire bucket of his dog Candy’s toys and took them outside and we threw them at the tree as hard as we could and it was okay to be mad.” I smile as I remember this moment. It’s like so many other little moments I had with my Grandparents.

“That was really smart of him,” Bea chuckles.

“It is pretty goofy though, isn’t it?”

“Oh, I don’t think so! It’s what I would have done. In fact, I have a bucket of toys for kids to throw at the wall when they feel that big mad.”

I smile because I like that Bea does this, too. “I don’t know what I was so mad about.”

“That’s not the part that mattered, I don’t think. What mattered was Grandpa being okay with your mad feelings.”

Out of the blue, the intolerable feelings of being alone and hurt and hopeless hit me. “Bea?” I ask, and my voice breaks as I say her name.

“I’m here.” Her voice is reassuring, my calm in this cyclone of feelings.

“Would you really stay with me and stop him forever?” I ask doubtfully.

“Yes, I absolutely would! If I could go back and be there, I would scoop you up and get you far away from him, and not just far away in your head, but the real kind of far away, and he would never hurt you again. I would make sure of that.” She’s so certain, so positive, that I start to feel like I could believe her.

“And you are not leaving?”

“I am not leaving. I will not leave you. when if we aren’t here, together, like right now, I am still here. You aren’t alone.”

I feel like crying. It’s way past time to say goodbye, but I really don’t want to. Saying goodbye feels like all the safety and protection I have been feeling will just evaporate. I can’t hold onto Bea if she isn’t talking to me or writing with me. I don’t want her to disappear.

“Alice, I am here, even when it doesn’t feel like it. You can reach out and double check if you need to. Can you hold onto that?”

“I can try. Just don’t leave forever, okay?”

“I’m not leaving at all. I can hold you and all the parts in my mind, even after we hang up.”

“Okay.” The word comes out a whimper. I feel like Bea ending the session is breaking my heart. Why do I feel like this? What is wrong with me? I hate being this needy, feeling so alone and desperate for Bea to be there. The shame of needing, the vulnerability of it all sends me far away again.

The end of session is fuzzy. My head feels slow, foggy, filled with sand. When things get less fuzzy again, we talk about grown up things, grocery shopping and boring normal everyday stuff like that. I tell Bea the things I forgot to get at the store yesterday, and how I had a panic attack in the middle of the cereal isle and was afraid to move for what felt like a long time, so I had to just pay for what I had and go home. Bea tells me it’s okay, I can go back to the store today if I need to, it is no big deal. We make a plan for the panic. When we say good-bye, I feel sad but not like I’m dying.

This is not October

I don’t want to do therapy today. I just don’t. I’m trapped in circular cycle of despair. It goes like this: I feel numb, with all these feelings and landmines underneath the numb. I can’t cope with the landmines on my own, it’s too BIG, too overwhelming. I build walls and go far away and feel empty and numb because the feelings are too much. The feelings leak through the walls anyway, and I feel panicky and alone. I need Bea, I need to not feel alone with this, I need her to contain it for me. I can’t feel her, though, because I am too far away. That means she can not contain it for me, or soothe me. So I feel more panic, more alone, more overwhelmed and I go farther away, which only makes it feel more like she is not here.

I log on anyway and when Bea says hello and good morning, I say hi back. My voice sounds wooden, hollow. Does it sound like that to her?

We talk about Kat, about school, about Halloween. Bea asks questions, and I answer them on autopilot. Eventually she asks about my birthday.

“My parents are coming. It’s fine. It all just feels far away.”

She nods her head. “That will be nice that they are coming. Usually you have a whole birthday week, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” She’s right, I do, and this week is birthday week. I just can’t get into celebration mode, though. (The back story is my Grandpa and I share a birthday. He and I had Birthday Month, and it was always really special. We loved our birthday. He always said I was the best birthday present ever, and that no gift would ever top the day I was born. He made me feel special and loved and like I was very important. He died right after I celebrated 29 and he celebrated 79. My birthday is bittersweet now, and for a lot of years, I didn’t celebrate at all. I miss him terribly. He was my favorite person on the planet. I wish everyday that he was here.)

“I haven’t forgotten about October being hard,” she says softly. When I don’t say anything, she continues, wondering out loud if that is part of what is going on.

I’ve denied that this feeling is the October feeling, and I still don’t think this has anything to do with October. It took two years, maybe three years of therapy to recognize that there is this October feeling, this pattern that has emerged. But once we saw the pattern, we worked to change it. Parts got less out of control, and I developed better coping skills and even though I always have this echo of the October feeling it is manageable. But THIS, this overwhelming, needing to disappear, wanting to die feeling? This is not October. Finally, I just bury my head in my knees.

“What’s happening for you right now? Can you tell me?” Bea asks.

“It’s not October. October is feeling like I am a failure, like I can do nothing right, like everyone is mad at me, hates me, is going to leave me because I am horrible. October is being mean and mad and pushing everyone away before they can leave me. October is sad, and it’s the teen freaking out, and it’s out of control and acting out, and wanting to die, and even I usually know I’m not acting okay, I am being mean and crazy but I can not stop it. THIS is not October. You know that! You know what October is.”

“No, this doesn’t sound like October. You’re right, I do know what October is and that it is really a hard time.” Then, she adds in her gentle voice, “But remember, I am not inside. I don’t know what things feel like inside, and I don’t think you have ever really described what October feels like. I only see the outside of it, that it is out of control, and painful and that there is lots of suicidal ideation happening. But I can see now that this feeling is not October.”

I don’t respond, but I am relieved she is finally getting it.

Bea talks, but I am farther and farther away, and it’s too hard. This is too hard. I’m alone, even though Bea is right here, talking to me, trying to help. When she asks me if I can describe the feelings that are too much, her words break through the fog.

“I don’t know. I just don’t know. I can’t, I can’t because you are too far away and it’s my fault anyway and I can’t do this.” The words are jumbled and repetitive and I know I am not explaining well at all. I hate this. Bea doesn’t feel like Bea, I can’t tell her anything, and I am trapped all alone in a head filled with nightmare images, overwhelming emotions and landmines.

“Why do you think it’s your fault?”

“Because. Because I am far away and that makes everyone feel far away, so I should not be so far away but I can’t stop it, I can’t do this by myself but I am alone because I can’t be here.” I’m whiny, I know I sound whiny but I don’t even care.

“Well, I think last time we met you felt like I was less far away after we had been talking for a while,” she says lightly.

“I can’t talk to you right now. You don’t feel like you.” I throw my blanket over my head as I say the words, afraid she won’t like that I am telling her this.

“Hmmmm. I feel like me, just Bea. I wonder who it is that feels like I am not me? Is there a part here that doesn’t know me, maybe?” Bea is so inquisitive. Usually I like that about her, but today I really hate it.

She might be right. It might be a different part that is here. This part, she’s not a teen part, or the little girl, or Ms. Perfect or the slutty part. She feels different. All of this feels different. But I can not say that. I don’t know why. I just can’t. So instead I whisper whine, “I don’t know. I’m just stuck. There are no good choice right now.”

“Yeah, this really does feel like a stuck point. It feels like we have been bouncing between stuck places for a while now. Either stuck in feelings and trauma or stuck in the numb place.”

“Are you frustrated?” I ask.

“It is frustrating, isn’t it? This is a hard place to be. Stuck places are always hard, and they always feel difficult and frustrating,” Bea responds.

I freeze. I knew it, I knew it. She is frustrated with me for not being okay, for not talking, for being far away and for anything and everything else. Vacantly, I say, “I knew you were frustrated with me.”

“No, not at all. No, no. I’m not frustrated with you or with the stuckness at all! Oh gosh, I’m sorry that was confusing. I meant that I know it is frustrating for you.” Bea’s words rush out, fast, like she just wants to make sure I understand she is not annoyed with me, or mad at me, or anything else.

“Okay.” I shrug, but she can’t see me because I am still hiding.

“I wonder if there is something I can do to help you feel like I am here, or to help any parts that don’t know me feel safe to share how they feel?”

“I never want you or anyone to fix things for me…..” I start to say and then I trail off because the second half of the sentence is too hard to say.

“I know. And I am a terrible fixer,” she says.

I feel crushed, and I start to cry. “I just wish this one time you could fix it.”

I think she says something kind and caring back, but I don’t know because that little bit of vulnerability sends me so far away I have no idea what is happening in the here and now.

“Alice, I think you’ve disappeared on me. I can’t see you, so I don’t know for sure but it feels like you are really, really far away. This is too far. I know you need some distance to feel safe, but I need you to come back a little, okay?” Soothing but firm, Bea pulls me back a little bit.

“Yeah.” I’m hollow and dead inside except not really because my voice breaks as I speak and the sobbing starts again. “I feel like my world is ending and nothing will be okay ever again and I just want to disappear. I spend all my time hiding in my head, and I can not stop it. I don’t get anything done, I’m not doing anything I should be doing. I just hide in my head.”

“That is a lot. This feels like new feelings, the depth of all this pain.” I think that this is meant to be soothing, but it feels so much like an analytical observation.

I have no words the rest of our session, I just vacillate between being numb and sobbing.

At 10:00am, echo reminds Kat to take her medicine. (I set this reminder for the summer, and now I can not figure out how to cancel it. Every time I ask echo to cancel all reminders, timers, routines, she says I have nothing scheduled. I also can find nothing in the app. It’s beyond annoying.)

“It’s time to go,” I say.

“Yes, but we can take a minute to try to get you back to a place where you can cope,” Bea tells me.

“I’m not coping, I’m not okay, I can not do this. There is no going back to a coping place, because I am not coping,” I snap at Bea.

“I know, I just meant to get to a place where you aren’t so upset….” her voice trails off. She sounds like she feels helpless.

“Whatever. It’s fine, I’m fine. You have to go, just go,” I tell her.

“Maybe this is a time where you could email me later. I have sessions until 6:30 tonight, but if you email, I will read it and write back then, okay?”

“Okay, sure, fine.” I’m wooden and numb and dead inside again. I sit frozen under my blanket.

Bea says something, but I don’t know what. I feel a sense of her not wanting to leave me like this and feeling helpless to comfort me.

I sit and cry for a few minutes after she hangs up. I don’t know how to stop this. I feel like I am dying, like my world is ended, like I am all alone in a place of complete darkness. I am not coping, I am not okay, I am not functioning. In all the ups and downs and scared feelings and aloneness and trauma and pain and confusion, I don’t think I have ever felt this bad before.

Teens and shrinky cupcakes

So, we talked about the shrinky cupcake. I had been okay all week. Emailing had given me my connection to Bea back, and up until Wednesday morning, I was okay. As I walked into her office, though, the teen’s anxiety, embarrassment and hurt took center stage in my head. I did what I always do in those moments; I shoved the teen aside and let Ms. Perfect run the show.

Bea isn’t fooled by Ms. Perfect any longer, but she will let Ms. Perfect have her bubble of perfection for a bit before Bea pops that bubble. We talked about Halloween and school activities I had organized, and I showed Bea pictures from the Halloween festival in our town square. (Side note, I would love to live in Stars Hollow because the town seems so great with all their wacky festivals, but in all actuality, the town that hubby and I live in is very much like stars hollow― complete with the town square and a gazebo, a diner with great coffee and many, many festivals for weird and wacky things)

Eventually Bea said, “I think Ms. Perfect is here today. I can tell because of the here-not-here feeling and the upbeat chatter. I’m wondering if there are other parts that would like to talk but are feeling scared or upset?” Bea really doesn’t pull any punches anymore when Ms. Perfect is around. I hate it sometimes, but it is a good thing because if you aren’t straight forward like that, Ms. Perfect is very good at avoiding things and changing the subject.

As soon as Bea outed Ms. Perfect, all the teen’s feelings rushed back in. I looked at my hands, picked my fingers, and didn’t answer.

“We need to talk about the cupcake.” Her tone was gentle and calm, but firm. She wasn’t going to budge on this.

I grabbed blue cloud pillow off the couch and hid my face. “Maybe you do, but I don’t need to talk about it.” The teen’s words shot out from my mouth before I could gain control of the situation.

“I know. You really don’t want to talk about this. I just think that I upset you, and you have every right to be mad at me. But we do need to talk about this.”

“Why? Why do we have to talk about something that wasn’t even a thing until you turned it into a shrinky thing?” I snapped.

“I guess, well, because I did turn it into a thing and we need to talk about that. Otherwise, it is like how you grew up, and that can feel lonely and awful. I think its better, even if it feels hard and uncomfortable, to air things out. I don’t want things festering and sitting between us, and I know you don’t like it when things feel like that. It makes the relationship feel unsafe.” Bea answers slowly, like she is trying to find the words to explain to me why she thinks it’s important we talk this out.

“But I wasn’t upset! I was fine. It was all fine until you turned it into a shrinky thing. I wasn’t upset until you did that.”

“It really upsets you when I make things feel shrinky. I wasn’t trying to do that. I know did, and I’m sorry. I was worried, and I wanted to make sure you weren’t stuck with bad feelings, like worrying that I was expecting something of you because I gave you a gift, or feeling like I crossed a boundary that you had set by telling me earlier in the week that you were ignoring your birthday. I didn’t want you stuck with that all week.”

“But I wasn’t! I was fine! I didn’t feel any of those things! I wasn’t stuck with any bad feelings until you made everythung go shrinky right before you were leaving and then I was stuck with those feelings for a week!” My face is buried in cloud pillow, and I feel like I am yelling because there is anger in my voice, but while the words come out short and snappy, they are said barely above a whisper.

“Okay. I thought you looked uncomfortable when I gave you the cupcake. Maybe that is my stuff, and not yours. Can you tell me what you felt when I gave it to you?”

I sigh. “That it was nice of you.”

“What about below the surface?” Bea pushes, just a bit. The way she says it, it’s like a gentle nudge.

I stare at the floor, at my hands, at the bin of stuffed toys sitting on the floor near me. After what feels like forever, I ask, “Can I have the blanket?” Sometimes I say *my* and other times I say *the*. It seems to be the little girl and the grown up who will ask for *my blanket*, and the teen who refuses to call it hers, even though Bea calls it mine.

“Sure.” I hear her get up, and then she covers me with the blanket.

I sit there, hiding and not wanting to talk, trying to find the words. Realizing that my parts all felt differently, I decide I can safely and easily talk about the little girl and maybe the grown up’s reactions. “The little girl……for her, it really was simple. She was happy to get cake.” I shrug.

“It makes sense that different parts felt different,” Bea says. “I’m glad the little girl was happy.”

“The…..the grown up……that was…..well, she thought it was nice of you, but it also made her….sad…..sort of nostalgic for…..I guess for birthdays in years past, for the time when she would have danced in here singing about her birthday and expecting a cupcake because, well, I guess because Grandpa believed she was a gift and should be celebrated and she believed it because he did. And thats not……it doesn’t feel like that anymore. The last time my birthday felt like that was six years ago, before Grandpa was sick. I don’t……its sad because things won’t feel like that again. So maybe that is what you saw. It didn’t have anything to do with you. Just sadness and nostalgia for the way things used to be.” My voice cracks as I mention Grandpa, tears streaming down my cheeks as I speak.

“He loved you so much. He really did. And you do deserve to celebrate and to sing and dance on your birthday if you feel like it again. You lost a lot, and it is understandable that you would be sad about it. If that is what I was picking up on, I am truly sorry for making it a thing and upsetting you. And I apologize for not fully picking up on that sad feeling.” Her voice is warm and caring as she talks to me.

“It’s okay. None of the parts are really upset or mad anymore.”

Bea waits, to see if there is more, and when I don’t she asks, “And what about the teen? How did she feel?”

I groan. The teen doesn’t want to discuss this. “That it’s fine. She’s not mad anymore.”

“If she was, that would be okay. And I understand why she was mad with me,” Bea says simply.

“I’m not mad.”


We sit quietly, Bea waiting patiently, and me trying to find the words, to figure out how to put them together to make sense. “I don’t…..the teen doesn’t….(I was having a lot of trouble keeping the grown up in charge, so while I did try, the teen was definitely running the show.) ……like talking about relationships with the person……you know?”

“I know. It’s incredibly uncomfortable for her.”

“Why is this so hard for me? It’s impossible,” I grumble, frusterated with myself.

“It definitely feels that way, doesn’t it? Why do you think it’s hard?”

Frustrated, and feeling like Bea literally just did the shrink thing of turning a question back around, I snap, “If I knew that, I wouldn’t be asking!”

Bea chuckles softly. She enjoys the teen’s snark. “Very true. I think it’s because for so long the teen had no voice, no one but Ms. Perfect had a voice, and so some of it is learning that it’s okay. I think some of it is when the teen did use her voice, it wasn’t very well received. I want to know what she has to say, and I promise to listen and to try to understand.”

I sigh. Take a deep breath. “I……..I thought….” my voice wobbles. “I thought it was………………. nice. I liked that you thought……………. about me not just here (in Bea’s office). It….it was like……it made me feel like you cared. It……….felt……..good.” I feel vulnerable, exposed. This feels dangerous. I do not like to tell people when they make me feel cared about, or that I like feeling cared about.

“I do care,” Bea tells me, in her serious voice. “I know this feels vulnerable, and uncomfortable, but these are all good things to feel. And it is safe to feel them.”

“No. No no. This isn’t……not good. It’s not okay.”

“Because it feels like too much?” Bea asks.

“No. Yes. No.” Frustrated, I snap at Bea again, “I don’t know! Okay? I just don’t know how to explain this.”

“That’s okay. Just take your time. There’s no rush.”

“When…… soon as……if I feel cared about then…….I think what you felt, what you noticed was…..I felt like you cared, and that felt good but right away, then I feel bad and I can’t…….it’s just… then it just has to go away, all the feelings I just have to shut them down.” I shake my head. I’m not making sense.

“Why do the bad feelings come up?” Bea’s voice is the soothing one she uses for the most hurt parts of me.

“Because……..” I don’t want to answer this. The teen doesn’t want to answer this. I feel tears falling again, shame heats my face and every muscle in my body is tense and shaking. I only want to run away. This feels too painful to say.

“Because…..?” Bea prompts.

“I…’s like……..I don’t get to……I mean, because I don’t have the right…………………. to want ………..people ……….to care…………..about me……………I’m not good. I can’t……I can’t do this. I’m sorry, I can’t.” Huge, wracking sobs come pouring out of me. I can’t stop shaking.

“You don’t feel like you deserve to be cared about. That is painful. And it is not true. You do deserve to be cared about.” Bea has tears in her voice. I’ve made her sad.

I want to tell her it’s more than that. I want to tell her that bad things happen when you feel those good feelings of being cared about. I want to tell her that I desperately want someone to care about me, just me, even with all the bad and messy and complicated pieces that make up who I am, that I want that, crave that, but it’s not okay. It’s not okay because I don’t deserve that, and when I think I have it, very bad things happen. So I can’t. I can’t feel the warmth of being cared about without all the icky feelings creeping in. I want to have a way to explain this without sounding like a crazy person. But I’m unable to weave the words together in a way that makes sense.

Bea doesn’t ask for more explanation, and she doesn’t tell me to stop crying. She just sits with me, letting me cry until my sobs slow and I can breathe again. She murmurs things about the teen really not liking herself, and how that is painful, and how the teen got so many negative messages about herself, and how she really does enjoy the quirky, snarky teen. Bea reminds the teen that if the teen were 21, she is someone Bea would have a beer with (this was something Bea told the teen a long time ago when the teen accused Bea of liking Ms. Perfect and only wanting the teen to be like Ms. Perfect.)

As awful and painful and uncomfortable as it was to talk about, and as unfinished as the conversation felt to the teen who still feels a need to explain better, strangely, I feel lighter. Nothing bad happened, Bea is still here, she didn’t call me crazy or seem confused by the complicated mess of my feelings around being cared about. And, the teen wants to write some in her notebook to share with Bea. She want to sort it out. She doesn’t want to feel bad anymore.

Shame and Regret

Regret. Shame. These two little words can have such an impact on us. They can determine how we feel about ourselves, and they can even change the entire course of our lives. These two words have popped up frequently in my life lately. Im fact, I’d say they seem to be a theme in my therapy recently.

Last week, I wrote in my journal about this part of me that feels alone is safer. It’s most definitely the teen, and she wants to be left alone. In fact, she wants for Bea to leave me alone and stop trying to sift through all the rubble to find all the pain underneath. The teen just wants to be done, to be normal, to be okay. And she does not want to let any of these feelings out. It’s her job to control all the other parts, to protect me from their confusion and pain and anger. While there was a lot of just free writing, jumping from topic to topic last week, I felt better than I had in a long while. I felt present again. And when I went to therapy, I handed over my journal, and Bea read through it.

******************************************************************* Wednesday February 7, 2018

“I wonder if the little girl will feel alone until the teen stops believing that alone is safer?” Bea reads my question aloud. “That’s a good question. An important question. Do you have an answer?”

I shake my head. “Not really. No. I just….the teen, she has to keep everyone safe. For her, alone is safe. No one can hurt me if I’m alone.”

“Ahhhh, yes. She works so hard to keep all the parts safe. To keep you safe. I wonder if being back here feels threatening to her after a long break where things started to feel more stable?”

“Maybe. I…the adult me….I don’t think….I mean, I was okay for those weeks. I mean, there were triggers, but mostly, I just stayed on the surface and avoided feeling. Sort of numb. Not exactly, but sort of. I think, well, you know, there were times things would come up and I would think that I should sit down and write but then I would find something else to do. I would clean up, or I would watch a movie, read a book, take care of school stuff. I just stayed….. I floated on the surface, you know. And I think that’s okay, but it’s not good for me to do, not healthy long term. It’s too easy for that to suck me back into just being kinda of numb and not here all the time.”

“It’s a healthier way of coping than ways you have used in the past, but no, I don’t think it’s good long term. Maybe if you were able to sit down and let whatever come up, write about it, and then find a way back to the surface, that would feel better to you.” Bea suggests.

“Something more like that, yeah.” Her idea feels right, like that could be healthy and okay. “It’s funny that I’m saying this, but I don’t really like the sort of numb feeling.”

“It keeps you safe, but if everything bad is being numbed away, then more than likely everything feels blunted…..”

She’s not really done speaking, but I interrupt her. “Blunted! That’s exactly it. My whole life has been feeling blunted lately.”

“That can make it hard to feel joy, to feel connected to others, even to feel alive, can’t it?” Bea says. It’s not really a question, more of a statement to let me know she gets what I’m trying to say. I nod my head, and then she asks, “Does the teen feel a little threatened to have me poking around and digging under the surface after being able to keep everything blunted and safe?”

I think for moment, and then nod. “Yes. She likes things how they are.”

“I can understand that. And I think she is doing a very important job, one that helps to keep you okay enough to function in your daily life. We don’t want her to quit her job, and we don’t want to get rid of her. Do you think she would let us check in on the little girl? It’s been a while since we have checked in on her, and I bet she is feeling pretty lonely. I haven’t forgotten about her.”

“Not lonely. Not really. Confused.” I whisper the words and then bury my face in my knees.

“Confused, huh? What is confusing?”

“Nothing matches anymore.”

“Can you tell me what doesn’t match?” Bea is just so calm. She sounds curious, but not pushy, and I love that she is willing to just follow me down whatever rabbit hole I’m ready to jump down.

“Things. None of it. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t match.” I sound whiny. The little girl is not happy that things don’t match.

Bea asks again what it is that doesn’t match, and I continue to be unable to answer her. Eventually she reassures the little girl that it’s okay if things don’t match right now, that we will figure it out together. She says that she can understand it feels confusing and maybe the little girl feels sad or angry, and whatever she is feeling is okay and that she’s not alone. For a minute I feel like crying, and then it’s gone, and everything is blunted again.

******************************************************************* Sunday, February 11, 2018

We go to church again, and I’m starting to feel more comfortable here. I can smile and say hello to people who smile at me, and I even manage to make small talk with a few.

But then (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?) the service starts, and it’s all about regrets. It’s a different teaching pastor than a few weeks ago when I wrote about the Larry Nassar trials. He directs us to a bible passage, and that’s all fine and well. The whole thing is about Peter, and Peter denying Jesus three times. The pastor sets this whole scene, including a charcoal fire. Then he directs us to a second passage in the Bible, and says that in this passage is the first time Peter sees Jesus since denying the relationship. And wouldn’t you know it, Jesus is cooking something, and there is a charcoal fire? This is a trigger, for Peter, the pastor says, it triggers all the regret and shame he felt when he realized what he had done. Now, the Pastor goes on to talk about how Jesus forgave Peter, and how he gave Peter a chance to confirm their relationship, and then went on to give Peter a purpose in his life. That was all fine. Food for thought, but okay.

Now, though, the pastor continues to talk. He says that we all have regrets, and that there are three types of regret; regret of our actions, regret of our inaction, and regret that is not ours to own, but that we take on anyway. He says the last one often leads to feelings of shame, and that is so damaging to us. He says that when we regret things that have been done to us, or that have happened to us, and we hold onto shame and blame and guilt that is not ours to own, it hurts us. He says that each time we are triggered, just as Peter was triggered, and those feelings come up again and again, it is damaging to us. He talks about how shame about something that happened to us makes us begin to question our worth, our value. We begin to ask things like “what is wrong with me?” and to believe things like “I’m bad” or “I don’t deserve good things”. He talks about how these feelings can separate us from God, and how we don’t have to deal with those feelings alone, that their are people at church, including any of the pastors, that they would be happy to talk, or help find a therapist or to pray for anyone who is struggling. And then, he says that two weeks ago, we talked about the Nassar trials, and how many of the girls he had hurt felt that regret and shame for something they didn’t do, for something someone did to them. At least one in five women have been hurt in the same way, he says. Some of you are sitting out there, listening to me talk and you are thinking that you are different, that what happened to you really is your fault. But it’s not. He introduces a woman then, and says that she would like to share her story. And then she begins to speak. Her story is my story, it’s the story of so many of my blog friends. It’s not exactly the same story as mine, or as yours, of course, but it’s the story of a girl who was hurt by a man, a girl who took on all the blame and shame and regret for actions that never belonged to her. Of course, her story is also a story of finding Jesus and becoming a Christian.

I felt sick. I wanted to run out of the room. I wanted to scream and cry. It felt like a mean trick, to have such things openly discussed in public. Of course, now, with the adult in charge, I think this is maybe a good thing. They aren’t hiding from the ugly stuff, the hard stuff. This isn’t a church that pretends perfection. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it all. I think I’m still processing what church and God mean to me. Maybe that’s why I’m there. I have questions, things I may one day need to have conversations about, and I’m going to need to have a place to ask them, to be able to tell my story and figure how where I stand with God, what I believe. This might be a safe place to do just that.

Anger vs Rage 

Mad, as feeling, has been discussed a lot lately. I have written about a few angry episodes in my journal, and Bea reads it and talks. It wasn’t until she suggested, via email, that anger and rage are two different things and that I’m maybe talking about rage and not anger when I say the word “mad”. She had said we would talk about it all on Monday, so I spent some time researching the difference between Anger and rage. The following is not written by me, but it is copied and pasted from various internet sites. I wants to put all this information into one place, so I could share it with Bea. 


Anger is signal, and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right.”

“Anger is one of the most basic human emotions. It is a physical and mental response to a threat or to harm done in the past. Anger takes many different forms from irritation to blinding rage or resentment that festers over many years.”

“Anger is a feeling. It is just like any other feeling like sadness, joy, excitement etc. we are born with it.”

“Anger is a response to a perceived threat – past, present or future.”

According to its dictionary definition anger is strong feeling of displeasure
aroused by wrath or wrong done. It is a response to threat or fear or of being wronged or response to some unfair treatment.

Anger can be characterized as follows:
It is respectful of yourself and others. Anger doesn’t mean shouting and screaming – it means taking care of yourself.

Anger alerts us to the fact that something in the environment around us needs addressing.

Anger can prevent us from being exploited or manipulated – it’s a kind of self-preservation mechanism.

Anger protects our sense of self as a unique individual.

Anger is an emotional response to a real, felt or imagined grievance. It may have its roots in a past or present experience, or it may be in anticipation of a future event. Anger is invariably based on the perception of threat or a perceived threat due to a conflict, injustice
, negligence, humiliation and betrayal among others.

Anger can be an active or a passive emotion. In case of “active” emotion the angry person lashes out verbally or physically at an intended target. When anger is a passive emotion it characterized by silent sulking, passive-aggressive behavior, and hostility.
Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person or event (a traffic jam, a canceled event), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories
of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. Expressing your angry feelings can be done in violent destructive ways or in an assertive, but non-aggressive, manner. Hopefully, the person who is angry has learned, or will learn, how to make clear what their needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others.

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if it isn’t allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression. Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather
than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven’t learned how to constructively express their anger.

Anger is not a dissociative experience. We usually are very aware of our anger and how it affects us. We are in contact with our thoughts and emotions by and large. We might not always act in our best interests, but we are in contact with ourselves is a good way to think of it. Anger also allows for a semblance of logic to appear where a good rational self-talk can often diffuse the anger very quickly. We can be talked down from our angry state, made to laugh and so on. Anger is far more malleable than rage. 

Anger does not necessarily involve trauma, shame, guilt etc. Anger when used constructively can be a great energizer, it also can relieve tension and gives us information about what’s important to us. However if anger is stored and not dealt with appropriately it can have many negative effects. It can affect our health, relationships and career. Consequently it is important to learn to use anger appropriately


Rage, however, is disrespectful to others. It doesn’t solve a problem but only serves to make it worse. Rage can be both hot and explosive or cold and seemingly ‘reasonable’. In both cases however it remains a highly destructive emotion.

Unlike anger, rage is an unconscious process, which cannot be tamed by pure willpower or by attempting to alter behavior. These approaches will not result in a longer-term resolution to ongoing anger and rage issues. As an individual is unable to deal with more and more life’s experiences in a healthy way, they experience more and more stress. This in turn can lead to a feeling of a whole raft of different emotions trying to get out, which then explode in an uncontrollable rage.

Rage primarily is a dissociative phenomenon in that one of its prime features is a loss of contact with self. This type of loss of contact with self is not to be confused with ego loss. Rather it is a very primal form of self which for all intents and purposes operates with barely any consciousness. It is the lack of contact with thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations which are good indicators of a rage episode. Often people will remark I do not know what came over me or it was as if I was blinded
with anger when they experience a rage episode. Sometimes people will go blank and suffer from amnesia. It is common for people to be out of touch with the situation, where the situation seems to get completely out of hand.

Rage and anger differ markedly because rage is a flight/fight response in action but without any of our normal constraints. For example, I might walk past an unseen dog and the dog frightens me. I would feel this fright somewhere in my body, e.g. elevated heart rate etc. My body is preparing to either run (flight) or fight and is beginning to release chemicals in the bodily system to do that. If it was a real threat say like a lion instead of a dog, then that flight/fight response. 

In a raging episode the response differs in that the normal constraints are not intact. Someone experiencing a rage episode may well injure the dog, or its owners or even strangers. Quite literally the mechanism that would normally be in place to prevent that sort of behaviour has been lost. The person who is experiencing the rage attacks acts as if it is actually a life threatening situation, rather than recognizing that no harm was really done other than a minor scare.

In the brain of the person who is raging there has been a physiological and neurological pattern which has developed over time. Synaptic pathways and inhibitors have developed differently through over stimulation and repeated episodes of the attack. In other words what was meant to a simple flight/fight response to a real life threatening situation has been so overly stimulated that the brain now responds to many varied situations as if they are life threatening even when clearly
they are not.

The onset of a rage episode is almost instant. People will often talk about snapping or seeing red and going into a blind rage. Anger by contrast has a much slower build up. It can take anywhere between minutes to hours to days for anger to build up. This is because anger works through the parasympathetic system which by necessity require a buildup. Rage works through the adrenal glands which dispense powerful chemicals that hijack the body and mind immediately.

What is really important to understand about a rage episode is that once it is underway it cannot be stopped. There is no technique that will subside the rage and it has to run its course. This is because effectively the person is under the control of the mind chemicals that have been released into the body. They temporarily have lost the ability to effectively manage the situation and are logically incoherent. This is an extremely important point to remember because it has implications as to the best methods to utilize to help the person.

For example, asking a raging person to get in present moment awareness or to accept what is will likely exacerbate
the problem. Mindfulness techniques are close to useless in this particular scenario as are cognitive behavioral strategies or any emotion based therapy. Similarly asking people to consider the consequence of their actions just will not apply. It is because the person is in an altered state that normal methods will not succeed.
When the response to a certain situation becomes inappropriate, this may be termed as rage. Rage is actually an intense form of anger which expresses
itself in the form of an inappropriate response. Anger can be mild and positive, rage is not.

When we hear about road rage, the concept becomes clear.
Rage can make us blind to the truth and unable to accept what’s sensible and correct. When rage is the primary emotion being felt, we become less able to think and act rationally and in some cases, even our senses do not work properly because of extreme rage.


I had this email conversation with Bea about anger, rage and mad.: 

Bea: Mad is just a feeling. It can be described in terms of how it manifests physically, emotionally, and in thoughts.  

Me: It’s not JUST a feeling. At least not for me. Mad is mean. Mad is out of control. Mad is scary. The same way happy is smiling and feeling warm, and sad is tears and feeling empty in your stomach/chest. 

Bea: Scary and mean and out of control are really separate from mad. I think that’s what we’re working towards–and so is Kat. Mad is just mad. Learning to say “I’m mad” and take ownership of it is what we need to be able to do. Then it feels less scary and out of control.

Me: I can’t just say “I’m mad”. The thing to do with mad is……idk, hide it away, pretend it away. I don’t believe it is okay to be mad. So maybe that’s the problem. 

Bea: There is this part that’s just bursting to be seen and heard. Mad is energizing that part.  I think it’s a good thing–

Me: Mad might be energizing that part, but it’s not…’s not okay. It’s not a good thing in my mind. It’s this not controllable thing. It means I make choices, say or do things in this unthought out way. It’s not okay

Bea: That speaks to what i just wrote above. We need to explore mad in its pure form!

Me: Maybe. Maybe I need to understand feelings in their pure form now. Idk. 

Bea: the question is, where will that mad ultimately take you, and will it be useful in resolving anything?

Me: I don’t get it. I don’t get it. This doesn’t make sense to me. Where is mad supposed to take me? How is it useful? How is it suppose to resolve anything? I wish I could understand it when you say this. I just don’t get it. 

Bea: Maybe I’m thinking of external action. Will it ever allow you to act externally as part of your healing? This could take a variety of forms. Advocating for Kat is one, for example.

Me: I feel like we are on different pages about mad. Or maybe even different books, in separate languages. I think the problem is, you see advocating for Kat as being driven by mad energy. Is that right? And I wouldn’t call that mad. When I plan and write and speak on Kat’s behalf, it’s carefully thought out, planned, put together, and done in a calm, firm, directed, clear manner. The energy driving that advocating action, I would call it maybe fairness, or care/love, maybe frustration that Kat isn’t being given what she needs. If this is a kind of mad, I would consider it a cold clear headed mad, a detached from the feeling kind of mad. 

Bea:  I think we need to separate anger from rage. That’s the disconnect in what we’re saying, I think. It took a while for the lightbulb to go on, but finally it hit me! (And she sent a link to an article about the difference between anger and rage). 

Me: Funny….I read this last night. I’ve read a lot online yesterday/ last night that I could find about anger and rage. It seems to boils down to “anger is a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right and when it is used constructively anger can be a great energizer. Rage seems to be a flight/fight reaction, that is explosive and sudden. It is mean and out of control (everything I say mad is). It is typically a much bigger reaction than is needed and many people experience a lack of contact with thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations.”

Is that right? Is that the difference between the two? If so, I think I have been calling rage anger. Is that what we are saying? When I say I was mad or that I got so mad I yelled and was out of control, I’m calling it mad but I’m talking about rage. And because I’m calling it mad, you are thinking “anger.” Is that right? If so, I don’t like that at all. The idea of rage….it makes me feel like a horrible person. It’s like my idea of mad, and all the bad feelings I have around mad, multiplied by 1000. Just the word itself paints a terrible picture. Rage seems bad, awful, even more not okay to feel than mad. It’s embarrassing or shameful or something. Like people will think I’m this really awful, no good person for feeling this way and will have this awful perception of me, like I’m the worst person in the world.
And now I’m not sure I really feel anger. Maybe in order to feel “mad” I have to have such a big out of proportion reaction/feeling such as rage. 

I don’t know. I don’t really understand mad, anger, rage. Can you help break it down, help it make sense? Why don’t I understand or feel these emotions like a normal person? I’m really lost in this, and there is a lot of shame over even discussing the idea of being mad. 

 So Bea and I talked about this a little bit Wednesday. 

Bea said that all the stuff in the news about Trump and his awful comments about women, they have triggered a lot of women to be very angry, and women have used that anger to speak out, to take a stand against the injustice in his words/beliefs/behavior. Bea said that is anger, and it’s why anger is energizing, it propels us to act. She said rage would maybe make people just blow up and scream, or like when people riot and destroy things. It’s not action that leads to change. 

The other example she gave was personal to her. She told me that when she was younger and sometimes now, that anytime she gets hurt, she used to react with rage, like even if she had hurt herself. She said once she stubbed her toe and then turned around and punched a wall because she was so full of rage that she got hurt. That is rage. There is no real purpose to it. Anger, she said, would be like if she noticed she stubbed her toe because of a crack in the floor, and that anger propelled her to fix the crack. 

I said i think i don’t feel— or maybe recognize anger– but I do feel rage because it is such a stronger, over powering feeling. Bea said that was possible, and she also pointed out that I only scream and yell when I’m in rage, I don’t harm others or destroy things, so I do have some control. She said the first thing would be for me to notice anger so it doesn’t have a chance to turn to rage. I said that I wasn’t sure I knew how, and Bea started talking about body cues, and that’s when I said I didn’t want to talk about this anymore, so we dropped the subject for the moment, with plans to maybe pick it up again Monday. 

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. 


Trigger warning 

Hagrid comes with me to therapy with me today, and he rushes up the steps to greet Bea when we arrive. As I walk up the stairs, I hear her saying hello to him and telling him how nice it is to have him in therapy today. 

“Good morning,” I tell her, walking in and setting my coffee down. I get comfortable on the sofa, and call Hagrid over to me. He happily jumps into my lap. 

I update her on Kat, because there is a messy situation going on with the substitute teacher who took over for her regular teacher when she went on maternity leave. Bea needs to know what is going on so that she can help Kat in therapy tomorrow. 

Once she is filled in, though, she turns the conversation to me. “And you? How were things yesterday?” 

I look down, and go silent. “I baked,” I finally say. 

“What did you bake?” She asks.

“Macarons.” I tell her. 

“French macarons?” She asks me. 

“Yes.” I reach into my bag and pull out a box. “Actually, I brought you some.” 

She takes the box. “Mmmmm. Yum. These are beautiful. I can’t believe you made these! I have to try one.” 

“You really don’t, not right now. I just….I thought you might like some.” I’m embarrassed now. I don’t know why, exactly, I just am. 

I list out the different flavors, and Bea tries two. She declares them perfect and delicious. We talk about macarons, and how they can be difficult to make, and how they are expensive little cookies. She tells me I could open a bakery. 

I laugh. “It’s just a distraction. It’s something I can do, something I can focus on.” 

“Well, if you have to feel bad and this is your way of coping, you might as well get rich off it.” Bea laughs, too. A second later, she says, “You haven’t talked about sewing lately.”

“It’s not enough of a distraction. It’s sort of mindless.” I shrug. I’m not sure how to explain it. 

“Ahhh. Okay.” 

I take a drink of my coffee, and hug Hagrid. I’m out of words. 

“Were you able to write anything down?” She asks. 

I nod, and pull my notebook and a stack of notecards from my bag. I hold them in my lap and look at them. “Can I…..can I go to the bathroom?” I ask her in a little girl voice. 

“Yes. Yes, of course.” Bea sounds surprised. “What if I had said no?” She asks. She looks curious. 

“I….I’m not sure. I don’t…I guess I would have stayed here.” I whisper. 

“Okay. Go to the bathroom.” 

I hand her my notebook and my cards. 

“Should I read these while you go?” 

I nod. “Yeah.” 

“Okay. I’ll read the notecards while you are gone so you don’t have to wait for me to read them.” She starts reading, and I head to the bathroom. 

I’d written the pieces of memory onto the notecards. Every time I had a flashback, a memory, a bad dream, I tried to write it down. I wrote to in my notebook about this high wire I’m balancing on, and how I feel like I’m going to fall, and how scared I am. I wrote that the last rational part of me is very scared for the rest of me, and of me. I wrote about how I was alone, balancing on this tightrope, and no one was there to catch me. I explained how I used to be under the tightrope, and stuck in the yuck and the crap, but I managed to put myself back together. I wrote that I did a crap job of it, because all I’d been able to do was build a bubble of okayness around myself, and to shove the worst of the yuck into a box. But then Kay came along and pulled me into rhe high wire. She helped me balance, but I still had a bubble. But with therapy, I was able to allow more people onto the high wire, and they helped me balance. It got easier. I was able to allow other people close enough to be under the high wire, to be there to catch me, even if I couldn’t let me help me balance. I wrote that now I feel like I’m all alone and they all just left. 

When I get back from the bathroom, I sit back in my place. 

Bea looks at me and her look says she cares. “All these memories you’ve written are sensory related. It’s all the things we have been talking about.” 

I nod. They really are; hands around my ankles, fingers down my back like bugs creepy crawly, and feelings in places I can’t write about to anyone. 

“Do they….can you stop them? Like if there is a feeling that starts, can you control it? Can you stop it by standing or doing something different?” Her voice is clear and kind. 

“I….no.” I tell her. “I….nothing….it just quiets it. It….nothing stops it. Noting makes it stop.” 

“I want us to try to find a way to get you some relief. You shouldn’t have to keep feeling like this. Can we try, can we see what might help? Can we try some different things?” 

I nod my head. “It won’t stop.” I start to cry, and fold over on myself. “It just won’t stop.” 

“It sounds like you are being hit from all sides. Are these memories, are they new or old? I mean, have you had memories like this before?” 

I shake my head. “Not really. Not like this.” I’ve had body memories before, but never like this, and they usually go away really quick. I can numb them away with self harm, or eating behaviors. And they never happened so often before. 

“I think….this seems to be another layer of healing. I think now that you are more aware of your body, more able to feel it, you are also able to feel these sensations. It’s another layer of healing, and it’s all hitting you at once. Flooding, it’s called flooding.” 

I don’t say anything, but I nod my head and cry. I let myself break apart in her office because it’s the one place I don’t have to keep trying to balance and not fall. 

Bea keeps reading. “This is very eloquent.”

“I highly doubt that,” I mumble. 

“It is very eloquent,” she states again. “I can really get how you are feeling. These pictures really help show what is going on.” I had sketched out stick figure drawings, trying to show what had happened, what was in my head. 

“If I fall, will you make sure Kat is okay? You won’t let her not be okay, right?” 

“Yes, I will make sure she is okay if you fall.” 

“Because if I fall, who will take care of her?” I ask Bea. I feel a bit frantic. 

“Your hubby. He will take care of her. And I will make sure she is okay.” 

“Will you…..if I break apart….if I fall….will you make sure….can you tell him I’m not crazy?” I ask. 

“I can….” She says slowly. “You know, this is really common for survivors with kids to plan for not being around in the future, to worry about bad things happening.” 

“It’s not….I just…I really need to know they will be okay.” 

She is finishing reading my journal. “It’s not safe in the far away, and it’s not safe in the present. Nowhere feels safe,” she repeats the words I’d written. “That is a very scary thing to feel. If you ever feel really unsafe, really not okay, you don’t have to because you can always go to the hospital.” 

“No. No. That is not safe. You don’t say that. I would not go. It’s not okay.” I’m fighting not to shut down, and I’m feeling really left. She doesn’t want to deal with my scary feelings, she wants me to go to the hospital. She wants to get rid of me. 

“Ideally, we would stop you from falling like that. We would have you come in everyday and try to keep you from falling. We would work together to keep you safe.” Bea’s voice is quiet and gentle and her words penetrate through the feelings of rejection.

I sit crying, hiding my face, but her words– that she would have me come in everyday to try to keep me from falling– stick in my brain. Maybe I’m not so alone. I’m crying, sobbing, freaking out and so scared. “It won’t stop,” I tell her. 

And then, Bea starts talking. She tells me she knows I am scared. She says she knows I feel very alone, and that no one understands. She tells me that she knows what the scary detached feeling feels like. She describes the body memories and how terrifying they are and how they can take over your feelings. She describes what it feels like in such detail that a part of me wonders if she really does know. 

I nod my head. “Yes. That.” More tears fall. 

“When did these memories start? Can you attach them to something specific?” 

“The doctor appointment…..” I’m whispering, mumbling.

“Was it something specific about the doctor?” 

“The male doctor. When he touched me.” 
“You didn’t want him there?” 

“I didn’t want him to touch me. I didn’t want him to touch me. I was so scared. I was so scared. I couldn’t breathe, I was so scared.” The words come out in a giant sob. 

“Can you say ‘No’ now?” She questions softly. “Say what you didn’t get to say then?”

I shake my head. 

“It would allow you to complete the action, or part of the action you didn’t get to complete. That’s what sensorimotor is about.” Bea tells me. 

“Can I….can I just tell you what I would have said?” I ask. 


“I….I wish I had said…….” I stumble. “I’m…not…..comfortable with a male doctor?” 

“I’m not comfortable with a male doctor. That’s very good. Anything else?” I think Bea is smiling, pleased with me. 

“I don’t want you to touch me.” I say softly. 

“I’m not comfortable with a male doctor and I don’t want you to touch me,” she repeats. “Can you say it all?” 

I shake my head. “I feel silly.” 

“It does feel silly. I know. I’ve had to do this with the training. It can feel really silly. It’s about trying things, and being playful. Could we say it together?” She asks me slowly, carefully. 

“I….okay.” I agree. I have to agree because I’m desperate to stop this and willing to try. 

“I’m not comfortable with a male doctor and I don’t want you to touch me.” We say it together, slowly. 

“How did that feel?” Bea asks. 

“I don’t know.”

“Is there anything your body wants to do? Maybe kick, or stand up, run? Push away with your hands?” She offers up so many suggestions, but the only thing I want to do is curl my legs up to myself and glue my knees together; I want to be curled up and not seen. 

I shake my head. “I…I…” I try to tell her, but end up panicking. My breathing speeds up, and I start crying again. I’m having a hard time calming down, so I clench my fists, and dig my nails into palms as hard a I can. I focus on that. 

Bea sees my hands go into fists and she asks me to focus on them. She asks things about my hands, my fists, and I can’t answer. The more she questions, the more upset I get. I can’t tell her why my hands are in fists, or what I feel. Because all I feel is pain from nails, sharp, magic, numbing inducing pain. And I can’t tell Bea that, because I’m hurting myself and I can’t admit to that and have her mad at me. 

“What do you feel in your hands? Are they loose or tight? Warm, cold? Do they want to do anything?” She asks. 

I try to answer, and get more upset. “I…I…just…you’ll be mad.” 

“I won’t. I won’t be mad. This is about what works for you. It’s experimenting. That’s all.” She tells me. 

We go back and forth, me struggling to be able to get the words out, and Bea reassuring me she won’t be mad. 

I relax my hands, set them flat. The words spill out. “I made my hands into a fist.” 

“Consciously?” She asks. She is curious. 

“Yes. I wanted….you won’t be happy.” My voice is small and scared. 

“I’m only curious. This is just about being curious. It’s about working together and seeing what works for you.” 

“My nails…..I was digging my nails……into my hands.” I’m ashamed. I don’t want to admit this. 

“So….we could say you were hurting yourself. But we could also say that you were using a coping skill. Maybe we want to work to find one that doesn’t hurt you. But I’m not mad. So if you had been able to tell me in the moment, I feel my nails digging in my palm, we would have been able to work with that. We could have seen if something else felt calming, or if something else was okay. But it was a coping skill, it allowed you to calm down.” She tells me. 

“Okay.” I whisper, tears streaming. 

We end the session with me telling her how to make macarons, the process of making meringue, and creating different flavors, to mixing in the almond flour. I wipe my face, and get back to my far away, balancing, barely functional place. She had tried to tell me she wanted to help get me as grounded as possible, and not far away just balancing and functioning. She said that she knows I am struggling, but in her office it’s okay to fall apart and try to really ground myself. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself try again. So, we talked about macarons, and baking. And I got back to that balancing place before I left. 

The body tells a story 

Thursday. Hubby wakes me before he leaves for work, but I don’t get up. I haven’t been sleeping well. Sleep had been better, the last few months. It was something I had written on my list of things that were better. But the last few weeks, I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m up late, and then when I finally fall asleep, I’m up again an hour or so later with bad dreams. If I manage to fall back asleep again, I’m up every hour after that, startled awake, expecting something very bad is going to happen. So. Hubby has been having to help me get out of bed, and Kat has been late to school almost every day. I hate that he has to help me wake up. I feel like a big loser, like someone who can’t care for herself. And every night when hubby asks me when the latest I can get out of bed is, I feel like he hates me, is looking down on me, thinking bad things about me, is feeling like I am a bad person for not being able to wake up on time. 

So, hubby tries to get me up, but he has to leave for work, and I lay in bed in a fog. Eventually I do get up, and Kat and I rush around to get ready. We make it to school on time, and I make it to therapy with enough time to walk Hagrid for a few minutes. 

When I get up to Bea’s office, Hagrid runs to her, excitedly. He loves Bea. She pets him and says hello to us. 

“Good morning,” I say. I sit my bag down, get settled in my corner of the sofa, and Hagrid jumps into my lap. I pull out my iPad, with some journaling written in it, but tell Bea I need to talk about Kat when she tries to ask me about how I felt about her response to my email about having not having words. 

We talk about Kat for a few minutes. She’s having some struggles with the sub that’s taken over her class while her teacher is out on maternity leave, and her favorite ABA tech has left (she’s gone back to school). I don’t like the sub, either. She’s harsh. She isn’t this warm fuzzy person, and she isn’t good with kids on the spectrum, and her regular tone of voice is almost exactly the same as my ‘angry mommy’ voice. It’s not a good situation. I know it’s not in my head because Kat’s special education teacher is concerned about it, too, and has offered to have Kat and some friends come to her room every day for a an hour or so. 

“She’s been playing this…saying whatever doll or animal she is speaking wants to die, or is dead, or whatever. And it’s like no one can respond to her right.” I sigh. 

“Usually that kind of play is about pain, big emotional pain. I would ask, go in that direction, of asking if owl is sad, or whatever.” 

“She won’t let you go there. I ask her that, and she gets mad. She yells, she screams, she says to shut your mouth, that you can not talk about it, that you are stupid. It makes her so upset,” I explain. 

“Just reflect back what is happening, then. ‘Owl wants to die.’ Then go back to playing,” Bea suggests. 
“I….I just….I can do that…….but…..I don’t know..I don’t want……I mean….” I shake my head. I’m at a loss as to how to explain it. 

“You don’t want what?” Bea prompts. She wants to know. 

“I….it’s hard. I don’t want…..I mean, I don’t want to be my mom. Hubby, he gets mad at Kat for playing like that, tells her it isn’t allowed, whatever, I don’t know. He’s just like my mom. I married my freaking mom. And I don’t want to be that. I’m afraid if I don’t ask, and don’t talk to her, and just reflect back and move on, that she will feel like she can’t talk, or I am ignoring, or I am….ugh. I don’t know. I just…I don’t want to be my mom.” The words feel like a jumbled mess, and everything in my head is convoluted, but Bea gets my point.

“Well, first off, we know hubby’s personality is that he doesn’t like things to be upset he doesn’t like waves to be made, he like everything to be even keeled and easy. So those big displays of emotion are hard, they are upsetting to him and he doesn’t know how to deal with them, because it upsets his internal balance.” 

I nod. “I know. I know. But it’s still. He is my mother.” I shrug. 

Bea smiles. “With Kat, you make space for her to talk. Reflecting back, and then continuing on with the play isn’t the same as your mom, as ignoring, because you make space for her feelings.” She sounds so sure. 

I think that a year ago, if she had told me this, I wouldn’t have even known what she was talking about, what making space meant. Now, though, I know what she means. “What if Kat doesn’t know there is space?” I ask. 

“There’s space, you make space, and Kat knows you make space there.” Bea assures me. 

I nod. “I hope so.” I sigh. 

We wrap up the Kat conversation, and Bea asks, “How did my email land with you?”

I hand her my iPad. “I wrote back. Sort of. I…I just didn’t send it. I don’t know. And I was writing. It’s not the words I need. But I was writing.”

Bea takes my iPad and starts reading. I continue talking, while I curl up and hide my face. Having someone read my writing is so exposing, I don’t want anyone to look to me and see me. That would be too much. 

“I really do think it is about the parts. Some parts wanting to talk and some parts not wanting to. The parts that don’t want to talk are trying to protect you, keep you safe,” Bea tells me. 

“I know. I just….I…it’s…I want to talk. I want my words.” I sigh. 

“Your toes are very still today. Your legs are shaking, but your your toes and your feet are very still, very firmly planted.” Bea’s voice is steady and calm. 

I don’t feel my legs shaking. But I am frustrated that I can’t find my words and not really here. I haven’t been very present all week. I’ve been in this strange fog, feeling off and fuzzy. “I don’t know. I can’t…I didn’t…..ugh.” 

“I’m trauma, we talk about preverbal memories. The memories that really don’t have words, that form without words. Does the memory have an age to it or a place to it? Are there even words for that?” 
I let myself think, fall back there. It’s not hard to do. I’ve been in this on edge, fuzzy, nervous, scary, overwhelmed place. I’ve been falling back into this place off and on all week, almost like a part of me is always there. “I don’t….I can’t…I just…I mean….I don’t want….” 

“What don’t you want?” She asks me. 

I shake my head. “I…..I can’t…I can’t..I just….I don’t want….I mean…..I don’t want…..”

We sit, me struggling to get out words, and Bea reading. She prompts me another time or two, but I can’t get out the words. I’m not even sure I know what it is I am trying to say. 

“I’m reading now about therapy in the moment,” Bea says. “So, sensorimotor isn’t about focusing on the feelings, we would focus on your toes shaking, and what they want to do. If they didn’t want to do anything, we could do an ‘experiment’— see what it feels like to push against the floor, or whatever. And sometimes feelings come up, but we redirect back to the toes, and the body, to the movement. We notice the feelings, then let them go, and redirect back to the toes. I understand being scared, but you don’t have to focus on the feelings. It’s safe. We stay in the window and focus on the movements.” 

I shake my head at her. I’m not looking at her, and my head is buried in my knees, so I’m not sure she sees it. “I…it’s….that’s the…..I’m……it’s…..” I can’t say it. I want to, but I’m afraid to. 

“What is it?” Bea asks me. 

I try again, but I can’t say it. “I….it’s just that…..I don’t know. I mean, I do know. Ugh. I….it doesn’t feel like that. It doesn’t feel okay.” 

Bea shares a story about when she was doing the sensorimotor training. She tells me how they had spilt into pairs and were practicing the techniques on each other. Bea had some feelings come up, and her partner had focused on the feelings. “So I know how feelings can come up, and even start to take over. I needed my partner to help me notice the feelings and then redirect me back to my body. She was very focused on my feelings, and she was almost adding to the feelings, with the things she was saying and asking. But when I said no to her, and redirected myself back to my body, those feelings weren’t so powerful, and I felt safer again. I was able to process (my event).” 

I get what she is saying. I get it. I’m glad she shared with me that she has experienced sensorimotor therapy and having really big feelings come up. Hearing her story about that experience helps more than if she had just said she got it, or had been there and experienced it. Because I don’t trust things easily, if she just tells me she gets it, I question to myself if she is just saying that to me to make me feel safer in talking to her. Hearing a story, a real experience, means she does understand, and I can trust that. 

But the feelings coming up and being overwhelming aren’t exactly my fear. They aren’t exactly what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of focusing on my body and being present like that because then I am present with the feelings that come up. Being so present with those feelings is what is hard for me. What’s even harder though, is being so present and having someone redirect me back to my body movement, and away from my feelings. It feels like being ignored, abandoned, left when I am redirected away from my feelings. And being present and redirected is so painful. It hurts so much to feel those ignored feelings in the moment. I think it is too much like what my mother always did. The other part of it is that once I have focused on a body movement, and had overwhelming, big, scary, feelings come up, I’m afraid to focus on my body again and have more feelings come up. Because I already can’t handle the first set of feelings that came up. 

I can’t say any of that, though. Bea has stopped reading, and is trying to help me get the words out. 

“You can read. Just read. I’m not talking anyway,” I tell her. 

She goes back to reading. “I am excited, but that doesn’t mean I have any expectations of you.” She had written that she was excited about Monday’s session, and I wrote that I was terrified of that. Her being excited means I will disappoint her because I maybe won’t be able to do that again. “It’s okay. I’m not going to be upset if you can’t do it again. I don’t expect anything.” 

“Okay,” I say numbly. I don’t know what else to say. People always have expectations, they always want something. And I really don’t want to disappointment Bea. Disappointing people makes them leave, and I don’t want Bea to leave.

“Hmmmmm….mmmmhmmm. I agree, the teen is part of fight and flight. That makes sense. She is really trying to protect those vulnerable parts, and she is really front and center right now.” Bea says. 

“I just….I’m afraid….I mean…” I’m still trying to get the words out. 

“I can write a letter to the doctor for you. I’m really okay with doing that,” Bea says. 

“You don’t need to,” I repeat the same thing I had said in my writing. Then I tell her, “I have an appointment in May. It’s fine. It will be fine, it is okay. I don’t need anything.” I had called and made an appointment after Monday’s session. 

“How did you get an appointment in May?” She asks me. 

“I called. I said I would call, so I called. I made the appointment. It’s fine.” I say the words with finality. I can’t talk about this right now. 

“Okay. It will feel good to get it over with.” Bea says, letting it go. 

She goes back to reading, and then makes a “Mmmmmhmmmm…” That sounds like everything just made sense to her suddenly. “The nightmares. That makes me think this isn’t just about parts, but it’s a memory without words. That it’s not something that is present day at all, but a memory that is very alive right now. And it seems to be stored very much in the body.” 

Throughout this session, she has been periodically commenting on my legs shaking, and asking questions. She has been trying to help me say what I need to say. She pauses now, and looks at me. “Your legs are still shaking. You might not have words, but your body is telling a story.” 

Inside, I feel myself freeze; she knows. She knows how bad I feel right now. 

“I can tell that this memory is very scary,” she says softly. Her voice is full of caring. I can hear that she cares. 

“How do you know?” I whisper. I’m curious. I want to know why she knows, what she sees that I can’t feel. 

“Well, your legs are shaking, and your body pulled into itself more, curled up more, protecting yourself, hiding.” Her voice is careful, gentle. 

I nod. “It’s scary. But scary isn’t enough. It’s more than that.” 

“Terrifying?” Bea asks. 

“That seems….too dramatic.” I start to cry. “I don’t want to be a drama queen. I don’t want to be dramatic, I don’t want to be……” My voice trails off. The word that gets dropped is needy. I don’t want to be needy and a drama queen. 

“We could call it very BIG scary.” 

“Big scary. Okay.” I mumble the words through tears. 

“Your legs are still shaking. Can you feel them? Can you focus on that?” Bea asks. 

“I don’t want…..I just…….I don’t want………” I’m back to trying to explain something I’ve been trying to say all session. I’m really scared Bea is going to get annoyed with me, give up on me. 

“Clearly you don’t want something. What don’t you want? It’s okay. You can say it,” she tells me. 

“It sounds silly, dramatic.” I tell her. 

“Maybe it won’t to me. Maybe it’s something I really need to know.” 

“I….it’s….if you tell me to focus on my toes….and I focus on them….on my toes moving…” 

“Yes?” Bea prompts. 

“I focus on my toes moving……and then feelings… know….ummm…..feelings come up…..” This is so hard to say. I feel so embarrassed. “And if you redirect me to my toes…..then… would….I mean……I don’t want……it might feel…….I….” This is it, the part that makes me feel about 6 inches tall, silly, and embarrassed. “It might…..I don’t want…..if you redirect me to my toes, it might feel like I’m being ignored.” The words come in a rush, like ripping off a band aid. Once they are finally out, I feel myself melt a little, sink further into myself, preparing to be told I’m being stupid.

“I can see that. It makes sense. So maybe we don’t redirect back to focusing on movement. What do you think would be helpful in that case?” She asks. She doesn’t sound like she thinks I’m stupid. She doesn’t sound like she wants me to shut up. She sounds like it’s okay, like she can understand it. 

“I don’t know.” I tell her honestly. I truly don’t know. 

“Maybe we stay with it, with the feelings.” 

“Okay.” I agree. I’m not sure if that’s the answer, but I think it’s what I might need right now. 

There is some more talk around that, around feeling left and ignored when I’m redirected, but I can’t remember it all right now. I think she said something about paying attention to all of me, that all of me is important. 

“I’m noticing that you are still shaking, and I’m wondering if any thoughts, feelings, images are coming up?” She asks later. 

I can’t say it. There are thoughts and images and feelings, but I can’t say it out loud. All the things that are coming up are so mixed up, and weird little pieces, that I’m afraid if I start to say them out loud, I’ll be told I’m making it up, that I’m crazy. I’m afraid she won’t believe me that there is this bad scary memory, and this really bad nightmare, if I tell the pieces of it that I do have. 

“That’s okay. This memory is different. There’s something different here.” She is murmuring the words, almost to herself. 

“What? Why is it different?” I question, panicking a little. 

“Well, it’s the first memory we have worked with that is stored more in your body, that doesn’t have so many words. So it feels different. We’ll process it, we will work,through it. It’s okay.” Her voice is reassuring. 

I think I have other memories that are more body based, I just haven’t ever felt them like this, because I haven’t been present in my body. I lived my life so detached from the body, that it wasn’t possible to feel these memories stored in the body. As I’ve learned to be more present, more here, more grounded, I’ve started to feel more. “Things are so…off.” I tell her. “Yesterday. I was irritable. Not okay. I just…I don’t know. And I yelled at Kat. She told me I was a bad mommy.” Tears run down my cheeks. I try to hard to be a good mom, and it pains me to hear that my daughter thinks I am a bad mommy.

“That never feels good.” Her voice is full of empathy and understanding, and I wonder if she is thinking of her own kids. 

“I don’t know why I feel so….I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m just irritable.” 

“Is your period about to start?” Bea asks, very matter of factly.

I feel like someone just punched me in the stomach. “I… What?” 

“I guess we haven’t talked about periods before, have we? I was just thinking, hormones. They can effect you.” 

“I don’t…I mean….I’m so embarrassed…my face is literally bright red right now and….no. It’s not about to start.”

Bea laughs, a small, nice laugh. One that says it’s okay, I don’t need to be embarrassed. “We haven’t talked about it, but most of my female clients, I know where they are in their cycle. They tell me. Because hormones really can effect moods and how we react and feel.”

I think back. “I shouldn’t…I don’t get my period. Just…maybe 2, 3 times a year. So…I…that’s why my doctor makes me come in twice a year.” 

Bea asks me about that, why its not healthy, or why it concerns my doctor. I tell her I’m too embarrassed, I can’t talk about this right now, maybe I can write about it later. She says okay. (The explanation, as I wrote to Bea is as follows: But anyway. I guess when your body doesn’t naturally have periods monthly, the uterine lining continues to build up and build up, and just isn’t shed every month. So that building up of the lining isn’t good, health wise. I don’t have endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, but the issues are similar, and there is a higher risk of uterine cancer. So, these issues are why I wasn’t able to just get pregnant. My doctor wants me on birth control, to cause periods monthly. She believes that is the best course of treatment. I won’t do it. So my doctor has me come in twice a year. That’s all.)

I honestly don’t know where the conversation went next, but we eventually end up back with me being irritated that I have no words. 

“You don’t need words for this. It’s okay.” Bea is trying to reassure me, but I need her to understand, I need words. 

“I need words. That’s what I do. I write. It’s what I do. I use words, I write. Without words, without being able to write, I’m lost. I do need words.”

“Ahhh. Yes, you use words very well. You are very articulate. I know this is really frustrating for you. Really uncomfortable. But I am here. You aren’t alone. I’m here with the uncomfortable, needing words feelings, and I know that part of this story is a feeling of terror and wanting to hide. I’m here, and you are not alone.” 

I cry some, and we talk about feelings. Bea asks if there is a color or image or anything that comes up that I can put words to. I shake my head. There is, maybe, but not so much. I feel so dumb right now.

“Maybe we just need to sit, and let you feel that you aren’t alone, and let your body do what it it needs to. Your legs aren’t shaking as badly now,” she says. 

“I don’t know… seems…..I don’t know.” I feel like that’s not enough, like I’m not doing enough, or something, but I can’t explain it. 

“It’s hard, isn’t it? To trust that your body knows what it needs?” She asks me. 

I nod. Yes, yes it is hard. 

We wrap up the session with Bea reminding me she is here, that even without words, my body is telling the story and she understands.