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.

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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

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 

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…..it’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.” 

TRIGGER OVER 

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. 

Balancing 

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. 

“Sure.” 

“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…..you know….ummm…..feelings come up…..” This is so hard to say. I feel so embarrassed. “And if you redirect me to my toes…..then…..it 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…..it 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. 

Everything is broken 

I know I am so behind on replying to comments, and reading other’s posts. Things have been really hard the last few days. I want to tell all of you thank you for your kind comments, for validating my feelings, for all the support. I really feel like this is a special place, and we have this very special community where we support and understand each other. And I am so thankful that I found this community of people. Xoxo

I texted my best friend on Wednesday: “hubby and Bea have been emailing since February. Everything is so screwed up. I can’t breathe.” She called me, and we talked until I had to get Kay from school. She told me I needed to go to therapy on Thursday and tell Bea what I had found out. She said even if I wanted to quit, I still needed to go, and get closure. She also told me that she believed I should tell Bea and then work through it with her, that I was better than the girl who used to run away. I argued, but she won out. She told me she would be upset with me if I didn’t at least show up on Thursday and talk about it with Bea. 

So, off to therapy I went. It sucked. It was the hardest session I have ever had. Even all the memories, and some of the hard things Bea and I have dealt with, this was the hardest…………

Thursday morning. I’m driving to therapy, numb and sick to my stomach. I’m not really here, everything has that strange not real look about it. When I walk into her office, I try to smile, to act like everything is fine. I can’t face this right now. 

I sit down, and say hello. I can’t even look at her. It hurts. I can’t do this. 

Bea attempts to engage me in small talk. She asks about my hair, she talks about Hagrid. I can’t find it in me to truly respond, the one word answers I give sound hollow and far away. When she realizes this isn’t going to work, she says, “I was wondering if anything had come up after Monday’s session (which I never did post about). You seemed surprised that it wasn’t as scary to talk about the underwear memory this time around.” 

I shrug. Part of me wants to respond, wants to weep with pain about all the crap that came up in my head after that session. But I can’t. She doesn’t feel like Bea to me. She doesn’t even feel real. 

“Did you have a hard night last night?” She asks. 

I don’t say anything. Yes, I had a horrible night. I cried and cried and felt all alone and betrayed and hurt and flooded with memories and everything is a mess. I finally nod my head. 

“Im feeling really floaty right now. Is that you or me?” 

I’m so far away at this point, I think ‘me’ but can’t get the word out. 

“I know if I sit up and plant my feet, I’ll feel more grounded, but I’m so comfortable like this, I’m going to try to feel grounded without sitting up,” she tells me. 

I just stare at the floor, not really seeing anything at all. 

I’m not sure how much time passes, or if she talks about anything else, but eventually her voice breaks through to me. “Did something happen this week?” 

I nod my head. It feels like the most difficult thing to do, to make my head move. I want to pull my knees to my chest and hide my face, but I can not figure out how to move that much right now. 

She asks other questions, which I ignore, until she says, “Do you have anything written down?” 

I glance at my bag, where I do have a letter written to her. But then I shake my head. I’m not ready to do this, to face this, yet. I can’t. In the back of my mind, I’m feeling some satisfaction that she seems a little lost, and like she is grasping at straws. 

She asks me questions, and she talks. I really can’t hear a lot of what is being said. It’s just not getting through the fog. At some point, I whisper, “I can’t do this.” 

She waits to see if there is more, and then she asks, “Because talking about it will make it real?”

“And….reactions.” I struggle to force the words out. And then I do move, quickly pulling my legs up and hiding my face. I burst into tears. 

“This is really painful. There is so much hurt right now, it’s hard to even be present. It doesn’t feel safe to feel all this, does it? But you aren’t alone, I’m here, and you are safe.” She says softly. 

“I am all alone.” I sob the words out. I hate that she tells me she is here. She’s not here, not anymore. 

“That came out very clearly. And it feels scary, and painful.” 

I just cry and cry. I can’t speak. 

“Are there words right now? Or is this a place of no words?” She asks. 

“I have words.” 

“Can you say them?” She questions. 

I shake my head. 

“Because you are worried about my reaction?” She makes some sense of the little bit of conversation I’ve made. 

I nod my head. Yes. 

“Do you think you did something?” She asks gently, like she is speaking to a child afraid of being in trouble. 

“I….no. Yes…it’s complicated. I can’t….” I’m confused and overwhelmed and can’t find the words to speak. 

“If you can try to say the words, we can make sense of this together. You don’t have to be alone with this,” she tells me. 

Her words hurt. I cry harder. “It’s broken. I can’t….it’s just broken.” 

“Broken can be fixed.” Her voice is calm, and sure, and I know she means it. 

I shake my head. “How? How can this ever be fixed?” 

“Well, I don’t know, but I do believe broken can be fixed,” she says. “What’s broken?” 

“Everything. Everything is broken. It’s complicated.” 

“Okay. This is so very hard. Who broke it?” She’s trying so hard to help me, but I can’t really feel it. Her words seem like an echo, as if she isn’t really here with me.

I can’t answer. The answer is Bea. Bea broke it. But I can’t say that. I’m afraid of hurting her, upsetting her. 

“Okay…you didn’t say you broke it, so I don’t think you feel you did anything bad. Yet you are worried about my reaction. I’m really lost here. Is there anything else you can tell me?” She asks. 

I shake my head. “Even if I say it, what good will it do? How will it help to talk about it? It can’t be fixed. I just want it erased, gone. I wish I never found out!” 

She listens to my sobs, and says softly, “Anything causing you this much pain is worth talking about.” 

I shake my head, again. “Even if I do tell you, you’ll probably just think it doesn’t matter and I am being silly and stupid!” The words fly out of my mouth, so quickly I can’t stop them. 

“No, no. I would never think that. Anything causing this much hurt and distress is big. It’s very big and it matters.” She tells me. 

“I…hubby….I found an email…..” I can’t get out anymore than that before I start crying so hard I can’t breathe. 

“You found an email he wrote? And it was really upsetting?” She clarifies. 

I nod. Yes. 

She waits for more, but when I don’t say anything, she asks me if the email was recent. 

“February….” I mean to say more, to tell her since February but I can’t get the words out. 

She hesitatingly asks, “Did he cheat?” 

“No…I…it’s not…I mean…he didn’t really…I can’t..it’s complicated.” 

“I really hope I didn’t do anything to hurt you, to make you feel this badly, but if it’s not something hubby did, I feel like I have to ask if I’ve done anything?” She says the words slowly, like she is maybe thinking out loud. 

I freeze. I feel sick. I won’t lie to her, but I really, really don’t want to answer this question. Slowly, I nod my head yes. I feel devastated. I can’t even. It’s just too hard. I have no idea what she says next. I just curl into myself, and go far, far away. I eventually pull a notebook out of my bag, and hold it out to her. 

She reads it, and then she talks. I don’t remember all her words. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, that was never my intention. I can only imagine how bad this feels, how much pain it is. I know it has to feel really scary, and I’m sure when you found it yesterday you felt like we had been conspiring against you. I’m sure it feels like I can’t be trusted anymore. I’m so sorry. This….it’s not just a job to me, I give everything I can. I don’t take your feelings, your safety or your trust lightly. I do think this can be repaired, worked through. I believe that. We’ve worked too hard, and this is too important to not fight for our relationship.” 

I don’t say anything for quite a while. I’m drifting between really far away and a less far away. “You hold have told me. Why didn’t you tell me?”

She sounds so sad when she answers me. “I don’t have a perfect answer. He emailed during times when your stability was wavering, and I have just thought if I don’t respond, he will be questioning you, and that is not something you can handle right now, and if I can keep him calm, get him to wait, to be more supportive….I know even when you don’t want to talk to him that if things at home became unstable it might be really too much. I want to help build in support, and protection for you. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I’m not working with him, hubby and I aren’t in cahoots. I know how much your trust means, and it isn’t something I ever have or ever will take for granted.” 

I don’t respond, I’m hearing her, but all I can do is cry. This hurts. It hurts because I know she is hurt now, it hurts because I feel betrayed, it hurts because I feel alone, it hurts because my safe person isn’t safe right now.

“I can’t imagine how bad this hurts. I was wrong. I should have told you. I’m learning an important lesson right now. And if this ever comes up again, with anyone, I will tell the person next time.” 

“No more emailing with him. You don’t email him. Or talk to him. No more, ever.” I say the words, and I’m not loud, but the anger in my words is something anyone in the room would have felt. 

“No more emailing him. I understand. You are mad, that’s good. Get mad, be mad. You have every right to be mad. This feels like a huge betrayal.” She says calmly. I’m expecting her to get angry back, I have never spoken to Bea in anger before. I don’t know what to make of this. 

“You should have told me! I’m not even mad that you emailed him back. I’m mad that you didn’t tell me.” 

“I know. I know. This isn’t a small thing, it’s huge. I’ve been an important part of your life for a long time now. In some ways, I’ve been a big part, and in other ways, not. But this feels huge, and it is huge. It matters. Of course you are upset, and hurt. I understand why you are upset.” 

I sigh. I hate that she knows she is important. It feels like she shouldn’t be, like it is ridiculous that she is. “I don’t want it to matter.” I say, sadly. 

“I know. It hurts. If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t hurt. I think that we have done some really good work together. I’ve known you a long time now, and I think this relationship is too important to not fight for. This matters to me. And I really do believe we can talk it through and repair this. I want to do that with you. This relationship is worth that.” She tells me. 

“I can’t…I can’t,” I whimper. It feels good to hear her say it matters to her, to know she wants to fight for this relationship, that it is important to her. But this all feels so bad. And there is so much to contain, and I can’t go to her. I’m alone and flooded with memories and feelings and nothing feels okay. 

“I know it feels like that. I know it does. I think you can. You came here today,” she points out. 

“I didn’t…I didn’t want to. Kay made me. She told me…..she’d be mad if I didn’t. She said that I could face it…that I was better than the girl who runs away.” I whisper the words. 

“Thank you, Kay. And she is right. We can work through this. You can work through this.” 

I hear tears in her voice, and it pains me. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I tell her, frantically. 

“Don’t apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for. Why shouldn’t I feel some of this pain? It’s okay for me to cry, to feel this hurt, too.” She has said this before, that it is okay for her to cry and feel sad. 

I can’t stand being the source of people’s pain, unless I’m so angry I can’t feel their hurt. But now, I can feel it. And it sucks. “This sucks. I know…I know you didn’t do this on purpose. I’m just…I hate this.” 

I snap a few more times at her, in between crying and saying sorry. She handles my anger and crying, and tells me I have nothing to be sorry for, that she is the one who is sorry. 

“I hate this. I know why you wrote him back, I know why he wrote. This hurts. I can see your side, and get it, and it sucks.” I tell her. 

“It’s a gift to be able to see all sides. It is hard, but it is a good thing.” 

“It sucks. I can always see both sides. That’s why it’s so hard.” I say through my tears.

“I know, I know that makes it hard. I can see your side, why you feel so betrayed and hurt, and I can see me from that time period’s side. I can hold both those perspectives, and feel compassion for both,” she tells me. Maybe that is what I am missing; compassion for both. I feel more compassionate towards her side, hubby’s side. I know why I feel the way I do, but I am berating myself for it, and feeling stupid over it, and hating myself for being upset. 

“How is this ever going to be fixed? I can’t.” I wail.

“It feels huge, insurmountable right now. But we can work this through. We can talk about this as long as you need to. If we have to talk about it for 10 weeks, longer, we can.” 

I shake my head. I feel gone, or maybe it’s that I feel she is gone. I don’t know anymore. 

“Do you have the emails?” She asks. 

I nod. Sort of. I took pictures of them with my phone. I couldn’t just forward it to myself. I don’t want hubby to know what I found. So, I have them, sort of. 

“Why don’t you bring that on Monday, and we can go through it? I can tell you what I was thinking?” She suggests. 

I shake my head vehemently. “No. No. We are not doing that. You are not to read it. No.” If she doesn’t remember all the things he said, I don’t want it all coming back to her. He wrote awful things. Some may be true, but he said mean, mean things, and described me as this monster person. I’m ashamed over it, and hurt, and I don’t want to face that right now. 

“Okay. We don’t have to do that. That’s okay. We can go through my notes from that time, if you want.” She says. 

“You don’t look for those emails and you don’t read them either,” I tell her. I need her to do this, if I’m ever going to trust her again. I don’t comment on her notes, at all. I’m honestly afraid to know what she has written. I’m picturing awful things in her notes about me.

“Okay. I won’t read them. I won’t look for them, and I won’t read them,” she says seriously. 

“I hope not,” I lash out at her. I’m angry and hurt, and I can’t take much more. 

“I won’t. If I say I won’t, I really won’t.” She says softly. 

I stop and think for a minute. I know this is true, if I think about all our history. “Okay, okay. I know that,” I relent. 

I don’t remember how we ended things. I know she asked me if I was going to talk to Kay today, and she encouraged me to do so. “When your safe person is suddenly not safe, you need someone else to help you see objectively, to help you know the world is still safe.” 

I tell her I will call or text Kay today. I’m glad she knows that she doesn’t feel safe right now. I wish she did feel safe. I hate this. “I hate this so much. I hate all of it,” I tell her. “I can trust Kay. She would never talk to him without telling me.” 

“She’s much safer than I am right now. It’s okay to hate me right now. That’s okay.” She gives me permission to be mad.

I shake my head. “I don’t hate you. I hate things people do, I hate this, but I don’t hate you. I don’t hate people.” After thinking a minute, I add, “Well, maybe my mother in law. But that is a whole different thing.” My mother in law manipulates and hurts people on purpose, she doesn’t care who she hurts, or who is caught in her crossfire. She only cares about herself and getting what she wants. Bea is not like that all. 

“Maybe you are feeling a similarity between me and her? Like I manipulated things?” Bea asks. 

I shake my head. “I feel…..like you lied, like you knew what his feelings were, and have been disagreeing with me even though I am telling you exactly what he has said. But no. You aren’t like her. You didn’t…this wasn’t to hurt me, I know that.” I’m still crying and I feel like I must look a huge mess. 

“No, I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you. I honesty was doing what I believed was best at the time. In hindsight I could have done something differently, but I was truly doing what I believed was best for you. Your safety was my only concern. And things were very unstable, I wanted to do anything I could to keep things as stable as I could.” 

I nod my head and cry quietly. “I know. I know you, I know that.” 

She tells me that she is human, and flawed and she will make mistakes. She tells me she has work to do, too, because she is human. “When it feels like we are walking a tightrope, doing this very tricky balancing act, I have to do my best to keep things as stable as I can for you. It’s….things can be really unpredictable and for every Alice, there is a suicide attempt or a hospitalization. You did get through some really hard spots, but there can be so many what ifs, and I have to do what I can to help you build resources. I’d feel terrible, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I felt negligent, if I hadn’t done all I could for you.” 

I don’t respond, but her words do penetrate. I can feel that she does care, that she does want me safe and she is here. I only feel that for a minute, and then it’s gone, replaced with hurt over what I feel is lost. I dissolve into tears again. 

I don’t know how we end things. She tells me we can email, I can call or text, whatever I need. I remember it being hard to sit up, not wanting her to see me. I couldn’t look at her when I left, and I practically ran out the door. 

The one who disappears everything 

Thursday…….I was tired driving to Bea’s, and still feeling that strange indifference. I was numb, and my feelings were definitely shoved way down deep. I felt fairly indifferent to everything, as if I didn’t really care anymore. 

She greeted like normal when I arrived, and I said a happy hello. I settled myself and Hagrid in our normal place on the sofa, and looked at her. I don’t remember now what we started with, but the conversation quickly flowed into one about hubby and couples therapy. 

“I’m not against couples therapy, I think it can really help. But you are my client, and so I am feeling a little protective over the parts of you that may not be ready for couples therapy. It would be much more ideal to have hubby start in therapy to work through some of his stuff, and have each of you working towards seeing a third therapist together.” She explained to me where the hesitation I had been sensing was coming from. 

I nodded, seeing her point, but argued, “It feels like I can give him an ultimatum about couples therapy, not so much about going to his own therapy. And it seems as if he would be more likely to agree to something we were going to together than on his own.” 

“I can understand that,” she said slowly, “I think the only way we will know is to ask him. I know it doesn’t feel safe to bring him here, and I get that. This is your safe space. But maybe we need to bring him in for one session, to talk about how to proceed with this stuff.” 

As she spoke, suggesting bringing hubby here and telling him how I have been feeling in our marriage, I lifted my hands to my face and hid. 

“Yeah….” Bea said softly. “There’s those feelings returning again.” 

I sat there, my face buried in my hands, unable to look up at her. The idea of bringing him here and telling him all of this felt devastating to me. “I can’t…I mean…..it doesn’t feel…..okay.” 

“It’s a little bit of a reality check, isn’t it? If you could maintain that indifferent feeling, then it would be okay. You could protect yourself in couples therapy. But not all the parts of you are so indifferent. The little girl is scared, this feels too vulnerable. Other parts of you don’t feel safe with this idea, either. I think that is why this is such a hard choice to make.” 

“But it’s not, not really. I need to stop whining over it.” I said, feeling angry with myself for being afraid to bring my husband to therapy. 

“I don’t see it as whining, I don’t think you are whining at all. But a part of you clearly does.” 

I shook my head. “It’s whining because there is a clear solution to the problem, but instead of acting, I just keep talking about it over and over.” I sighed, and explained how growing up, and even now in my marriage, once something has been discussed, it is over and done with, and if I bring it up again, it is being a drama queen, whining, nagging, talking something to death. It’s not okay. I explained that this is why I always ask permission to bring something up again and again. I have this fear that eventually she will think I am whining or being a drama queen, too. 

“And I just expect that things will come up again and again. And when all the parts of you have different ideas on things, well, that makes it hard to figure out a plan. Talking something through, more than once, is well, I just see it as part of your process.” She said gently. 

I looked at the clock, something I rarely do, and saw that there was still over a half hour left. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I whispered. 

“Okay,” Bea said simply. She always just accepts my desire to stop discussions when I get too uncomfortable.  

We sat quietly for a few moments. I pulled out my iPad, opened the writing I had done much earlier that morning, and handed it to her. “I wrote this….I don’t know. I was going to email it but it got really long. So….I just…well, here….” 

“I was writing before thanksgiving, and then didn’t write again until this morning. But I combined them. Because…..I had wanted to give you the stuff from last week,” I explained as Bea took the iPad from me and started reading. 

11/24/15

I’ve been thinking about two things. Well, I’ve been thinking about a million more than that, really, because my mind never shuts off, but just two– or three or four at the most– things I wanted to write about: imposter syndrome and where this belief or message about my parenting abilities came from. 



First, I’m not sure that this feeling of being a bad mom, or of having everyone fooled into thinking I am a good mom came from anywhere specific. I can not think of a belief or message, besides the things I tell myself, that match it. I think it’s bigger, or deeper, or more than that. 



I think it’s not even imposter syndrome, not exactly. Because it’s….sort of this all encompassing thing. And it’s hard to even think about, or pick apart, because….well, I don’t know why, it just is. Maybe it’s sort of this childhood message of having to be perfect to be good enough, but never feeling like I was actually perfect and instead was just playing this part of this perfect girl who my parents loved but if they knew the truth they would hate me forever. I don’t know. I think that’s the beginning, maybe? 



But it’s more than that. (These are all general you’s or someone’s). If someone says I’m a good mom, either I have fooled them, or they don’t really mean it and are just being nice. If I act like I am okay and in control of my life, I’m a liar because I feel so far out of control that what people see is an illusion. If I tell you I’m not okay and falling apart, I’m a liar and a drama queen and I need to shut up right now. If I say I am a good cook, then I am bragging and making things up, because all I do is follow or tweak a recipe and it’s not a hard thing. If I am told I am good at something, then people just don’t know me, or they are being nice. If I make a mistake and am upset, I’m stupid and over reacting and ruining everything. If you tell me I am resourceful and have good ideas, then you are being nice because you can not believe how dumb I am, or I somehow got lucky with the idea I had. It doesn’t matter which direction a situation goes in, I can find a way to make it about being not good enough, fooling people, being dramatic, being lucky, I don’t know. It’s not even like I try to think like this. I just do. It just happens, instantly, quickly. You say good job, and I instantly think of everything I did wrong, all the should haves, and how I could have done better, and, at the same time, think that you are just being nice. 

“These are some really strong negative messages you’ve given yourself,” Bea commented. I think she said more, but unfortunately I don’t remember now. I think she said something about how a part of me needs to see another part of me as “bad.” I don’t know.

It’s like walking on eggshells everyday, certain I will be found out. I don’t know. Maybe it comes from being that perfect part of me for so long, because she never felt real, more flat and not really there. But that is who most of the world saw, even though I knew she wasn’t really me. 

“This walking on eggshells feeling….it has to be from childhood. Because you had such a big secret, so no matter what people thought or said or saw, there was always this secret, this hidden thing that you felt so bad about. It’s very much a split identity. The good you and the bad you with all the secrets. So, yeah, this feeling is so ingrained, it’s still present.” 

“But….even if I didn’t realize it? I mean…it would have been a subconscious thing, maybe?” I asked. Because I don’t remember feeling split or thinking about hiding this big secret. It was, unbelievably, mostly hidden from me.

“Yes, it would have been a subconscious thing. You wouldn’t have been aware of it. But being split like that, I imagine it would has felt like walking on eggshells.” She said softly, going back to reading.

I don’t know. I was also thinking that I should have just given you my notebook today. But it wasn’t pretty. I don’t usually, okay, I don’t ever write all of that stuff out, and never to share. But I did write it. And it was pretty choppy and sort of bouncing between the little girl’s voice and mine, and there was way more detail about a Kenny thing but also a present day life thing that caused the flashbacks and I just couldn’t have anyone know all of that. 

I sort of think this weekend is something to keep talking about. But maybe not. Maybe it’s over and done and I over reacted and it’s all nothing at all. I don’t know. But I don’t want to keep being “hijacked” and feeling like a crazy person. 



And I can’t leave hubby, move out. It’s crossed my mind. But I think it’s more of a running away idea, not having to deal with any of the mess or feel hurt or vulnerable or be open and honest and deal with what happens when I do that. That’s what I do, you know. I run away. But I don’t want to do that anymore. At the same time, I can not keep going through this being hurt by hubby because I keep trying and he doesn’t get it. So I need to just be in a little bit of a bubble when it comes to my marriage, and pretend it’s okay. But I want to be able to cry and be upset and sad or angry or whatever in therapy without the worry that you are wanting me to talk to him. We both know that might be the best thing to do, but I can’t do it. Not anymore, not right now. I just need a break from that.     

 “I don’t see you as a person who runs away. I’m not sure…well, I think you are a person who faces things. Look at all you have stayed and faced here, this year.” Bea said. And she is right, I have been facing things rather than running, but that is new for me. There have been numerous times I thought about running away from Bea, and therapy, but instead I stayed and worked through it. I’m learning to work through things. 

I shook my head and let out an exasperated sigh. I did not want to explain this. “I do….I um…well…..when things are hard…it’s why….I lose friends…..only Kay has stayed and that’s because she just…..think of all the times I leave her….and she….I don’t know. She just….and I run. I don’t know.” I shrug. “I could give examples, explain, but….I don’t…I don’t want to share them….ugh.” I stumbled over my words, wanting her to understand but not wanting to explain. 

“Kay knows it’s not about her. That’s why she stays,” Bea commented before going back to reading. I breathed a sigh of relief that she wasn’t going to ask me to explain more. 

12/1/15

Bad dreams tonight. I don’t want to remember them. I woke up confused and afraid, I felt like a little kid for a few minutes. I do hate that feeling. I barely remember the dream. Pieces, choppy like my memories. Ugh. I feel sad again, like I did at my parents. 



It’s like I felt safe and calm, peaceful and real while I was there. Even when I was upset, that was okay. I felt like they wanted me; just me. I didn’t have to do or be anything to be wanted, to feel loved. I don’t think I really ever felt like that with them before. And I should have, as a child, as a teen. I should have. I think, when I would go to bed while I was there, it was like I lost that feeling, and felt like I usually do there. I could remember feeling like that with my Grandpa, and Grandma and then when I would get home, it would be gone. Lost. Disappeared. Like I couldn’t hold onto it, remember it, if they weren’t right there. And so I was sad, it was like I missed something or someone, because I couldn’t hold onto that feeling, or trust that it would be there the next day. I don’t know. And I was sad that I never felt like that before with my parents, in my own home. Because I should have. And I wondered why now, why not then? What did I do wrong to not have this, then? And I worried; do I make Kat feel safe like that, or am I just like my parents when I was growing up? 



And then I would try to sleep and toss and turn. Maybe in that hyper aware state, where every noise had me jumping. But I’d fall asleep eventually, and then have this bad dream, the one that woke me tonight. On Friday night, when I woke up from a bad dream, I got up for some water, and my dad was up. He asked if I was okay, did I need anything? I shook my head, went back to bed. I remember sometimes, laying in my bed, too scared to get up, to even call for anyone, but just wishing so hard that someone would come and ask if I was okay, if I needed anything. But no one ever did. Sad. It made me sad. If only. But I don’t want to live in the “if only.” Ugh. So, sad. I felt sad. And then I would feel empty, hollow. With that falling down an elevator, empty feeling in my stomach. And I’d feel too anxious about the sad, and would put it all away. 

“This is what we were talking about, what we were saying about getting old needs met at your parents. And having those needs met, feeling like that, it raised your expectations for your own home. That’s a good thing.” Bea said.

I nodded my head, knowing where she was at in what I had written, but not having any words to say anything. 

You said you were trying to figure out which part of me was at therapy today. I don’t know. Not really. You were right, i don’t think it was the real me. It’s almost like the perfect me, but not. It’s a part who disappears everything. All the yucky feelings, memories, thoughts. This me is like very surface, functioning me. It’s indifferent and numb. This part just sort of exists. Underneath is some worry about the feelings and parts escaping. This part really just exists, and doesn’t care much. The part that was running the ship today is the part that keeps everything very boxed up. I think this part and the perfect one ran the ship a lot in the past. The problem is, this part maybe isn’t as strong as she once was, and I know all the yuck is still there. Even today, in therapy, I kept feeling like there was so much I wanted to say and talk about, but it’s all hidden and I can’t find it. So, I didn’t say anything, really. It’s like having a thought or feeling just at the edge of awareness. It’s that feeling when a word is on the tip of your tongue, but you keep searching for it. I don’t know. 

“Yes….I didn’t feel like it was the real you, either,” she agreed. 

Why is it always all or nothing with me? I hate that. It’s extremely frustrating. I know you think being able to put stuff away in a box is a skill, but it’s not. This is me. It’s just what I have always done. The thing is, I think you picture a box, like a Christmas package. There are sides and a bottom. The box in my head….if you open it, there is no bottom. It’s like a black hole, never ending. It goes on and on and on. And once stuff gets dumped down there, it is hard to find and get back. I don’t know how to open the box. I can barely find it. I don’t know how to let out anything, a little at a time. When I eventually have a breakdown then some of it will come up and out. I don’t know. I have no control over it. Maybe, maybe…….that is something, a reason to learn to control things. 

“This box…you can’t control it. It’s not….it’s another part. It’s not the same as the container I am talking about. This…it’s a different state of you,” she said. I think there was more, but she got that how I feel and put things away is different than her container. I had never thought of this as a part, once she said it, it made sense.

I nodded, thankful she got it. “I just….it’s not a good box. I don’t know. But yeah, it’s a part. It’s like the part that makes it all go away. So….I guess….it’s the one that disappears everything. But not….I don’t know. There aren’t feelings.” 

I peeked up and looked at her, and saw her nodding her head. “Yes. It’s a part that can put everything away and let you function. It’s a survival skill.” She went back to reading, not long after that, commenting that I had written a lot of good stuff.

I want to not care about the stuff with hubby. Well, I mostly don’t, right now. I feel very resigned to the fact that he is not going to change and that if I want support, I need to look elsewhere. I don’t know. He still sees everything as my problem, that I’m the one who needs to be fixed. And I used to agree; everything was my fault. Deep down, I felt like that, like I was the broken one and if I could fix myself then everything would be okay. Except, I am not going to go through therapy and end up being the perfect me that hubby met and married. That was not real. And I don’t believe I am the only one who is broken in this marriage. And I don’t even really want to be the perfect girl anymore. That’s not…..being fixed. That’s pretend. I want to be the me that says how I feel, and stands up for things I find important. The me that doesn’t yell, but speaks calmly, even if the words or the message is not kind. I don’t think hubby wants this wife. He wants the one who keeps trying to make things work with his mom. The one who blames herself, for not being good enough, kind enough, understanding enough, compassionate enough, forgiving enough. But I’m not that person anymore. 



And maybe I did get some of what I needed a long time ago from my parents this weekend. How did you put it? Old needs met? I don’t remember now. Did you mean the needs of feeling safe and accepted and wanted just as I am? I didn’t feel judged one time by them this weekend. It’s a strange feeling. And I find it hard to trust it, and it’s sort of very vulnerable making. I’m not sure why. But if I think too much about it, then I get very scared. My parents changing things still means flipping my world upside down. It still means my safety net is gone. And it means seeing everything I missed out on, then, as a child. I don’t know. 

I want to feel like that with my husband. I want to feel calm and real and like whatever I am is okay and wanted with him, in my own home. 

“You’re saying that here, that you want to feel like you did at you parents with him. Those needs being met did change expectations, and you are recognizing that.” Bea told me. And she was right.

It’s awful, but we are in a place right now where I feel much more here and like me when he is gone and it is just me and Kat. He was at work all day today, and Kat and I had such a nice day. We went to the store after I picked her up, and then we went to the vet and brought them cookies. Our vet is downtown, so we walked to the park with Hagrid, and we played there. I forgot about disappearing my feelings, about being anxious and worried. I just was there, playing with my daughter and running around, Hagrid following on his leash. And we came home, and played Legos and uno, and then had dinner and she watched a show while I read my book and we snuggled until bedtime. She fell asleep in my bed, and I felt so….right…like everything was okay and right, and I fell asleep not long after her. It wasn’t perfect. I got….I don’t know the word, I had to tell her she had to calm down at quiet time, that mommy needed quiet now. Like, all the talking and being present was a lot for me, and I needed to have some quiet and not talk, not be engaged with anyone. And I had to correct her at the store, because she was cutting in front of me and the cart, zig zagging around and I almost ran into her. But, it all felt like maybe normal stuff. No blowups or yelling at her like I am another 5 year old in the middle of a raging temper tantrum. Because that is what I feel like, when I do lose it and get mad. 

“I’m glad you were able to be present with Kat. That’s good. Really good for you.” Bea told me, her voice happy. 

I didn’t talk, but I nodded my head, remembering how good Monday with Kat had been. I had felt close to my daughter, and real for those few hours. 

My mom and I talked about that this weekend. It was strange to talk about that with her. But it helped me realize that I really do feel like a child throwing a raging tantrum when I get mad like that. It’s a different mad, it’s not the grown up mad I feel at hubby or his mother, or the mad I feel when a stranger makes a comment to Kat about her pacifier or about not smiling, or whatever. That is….maybe normal mad. I think it is the mad you talk about, that serves a purpose and makes people DO something. I didn’t understand that, before. But I think I am starting to. That I can be the “grown up” mad, and it can help me act, but I can speak calm and not yell. But the other mad, that is not….rational, or controlled. It is this angry little girl, screaming and yelling and out of control. Mom said that she didn’t get triggered or react to me when I was little, like I do with Kat, but that she did find herself feeling and behaving like a teenager with me when I was a teen. She said it was like two teen girls fighting and snipping at each other, and my Dad would intervene to stop us both. It’s funny, because I do not remember that. But I believe her, that we fought like that. I just don’t remember. 

“I want to hear more about this angry little girl part,” Bea said. She said it gently, without judgement in her voice.

I hid my face again, unable to talk, to say anything to her. After a few minutes of silence, I finally spoke. “I want….it’s not like…….it is like I’m a child. Just mad, not controlled. I don’t know. Just mad, crazy mad……..and then, later……I don’t even feel it…..I don’t know. It just…..I….it’s mad. Scary mad.” I tried my best to explain it, that crazy mad I feel, the feeling that I can’t access unless I am in that raging temper tantrum moment, but it’s hard to explain anything when you can’t feel it or really remember it. 

“It is mad,” Bea agreed, empathetically. “It does sound like a little girl. One who has a lot of anger, and I bet she has a lot of reason to be mad.”

I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say. 

It got quiet in the therapy room again, Bea maybe thinking and me feeling pretty exposed and vulnerable, but still pretty numbed. 

“I’m wondering about the part that disappears everything.” She finally said. 

I shrugged. “It just….I don’t know.” 

“This might seem a strange question,” she said slowly, “Does this part have an age?” 

I sat for what seemed a long time. I knew the answer right away, but felt silly saying it out loud. Being so unfiltered, and letting Bea more into my head felt, and still feels, very exposing. And Bea talking about parts and split identities still feels very frightening and like I am not on solid ground. Finally, I said very quietly, “16…..17. Something like that.” I felt so embarrassed, although exactly why, I didn’t know. 

“Mm….mhmm. Is that an age where maybe you needed to not feel so much?” Bea asked me. She sounded like this was a perfectly normal conversation. 

“I….I needed to be okay. To be better……I had to get better……so I…..well,” I stumbled over all my words, unsure how to say what needed to be said. I felt so guilty, “I wanted…..I…..wanted to…..get away from……all of them.” The last part of my statement was mumbled and quiet, but Bea heard it anyway. 

“Yeah….you felt that if you got away, then everything would be okay.” 

“Well, I….I thought….I mean, I had to be okay. Put everything away. I couldn’t worry, or care. And I thought then, if I left, everything would be okay. But……then……” The entire time we had been talking, I had been fighting tears. The feelings were definitely back, and it was at that point that I couldn’t hold them back any longer and began to sob. 

“Lots of painful feelings. This was a really sad and hard time.” When Bea spoke, I felt like she was far away, not understanding, not really feeling all the hurt and pain that was falling out of the crazy box in my head. I felt like her statement was generic or something. Maybe it was because I felt like the part holding all the pain was as present as the very indifferent numb part. I don’t know. 

I didn’t respond, and just kept crying. Bea said something else– what exactly, I can’t remember, but it helped, and I continued what I had been saying before the tears interrupted. “I thought if I left, everything would be okay…..I would be okay. But then….it wasn’t okay at all. Nothing was okay.” 

“Ahhhh. Yes. You met the boyfriend, and nothing really felt okay.” Bea said. 

I nodded, and told her, “I just….everything was bad again. I….he….I don’t know.” 

“That was a really painful time. No wonder you needed a part that could turn everything off, disappear everything.” Bea said to me. She normalized it, helped make sense of everything. 

“I….it’s…I made a choice,” I finally said. 

Bea was quiet for a moment, and when I peeked up at her, I saw her shaking her head, a look on her face that just looked so open and caring and accepting. It made my insides hurt, and I didn’t understand why. “Well, I could argue that you didn’t get a real choice but you feel like you made a choice, and I want to make sure there is room for you to have your feelings.”

I was aware that I had heard her reasons before, but they never seem to stick in my head. So, I asked her, “What were……what would you say? I mean why you think it wasn’t a choice.” 

“I’d say….well, with all the sexual abuse memories, even unconscious, you were looking for a way to be the one in control this time. Repetition compulsion is so strong. It’s not a conscious choice.” Bea said a lot, and when she was talking, explaining her beliefs, I was feeling and understanding what she was saying. In that moment, I almost believed what she was saying. 

I cried a little more, and I think we might have talked a little more about feeling like things are my fault, and the need to put everything away and not feel at all. I’m not really sure, to be honest. I do remember eventually saying to her, “Can we stop talking about this?” And she said yes, that it was time to start wrapping up and grounding now, anyways. 

I don’t remember what we talked about after that, but I know I left feeling a little bit sad, a little bit numb, and a little bit lonely. I didn’t want to leave her office, where I felt supported and not all alone. But we said goodbye, and I headed out into the real world.