I wanted to Move

Hi all, this is Wednesday’s 11/8/2017 therapy session. It is intense, and there are trauma details written in, so this is a huge trigger warning. I debated about writing leaving details out, and glossing over the intensity of this session but then decided that I wanted to show the the full picture of what a Sensorimotor Therapy session looks like. I decided that I’ve spent enough of my life glossing over details and pretending everything is no big deal. So just be careful when you are reading, take care of yourself. Xx Alice

I’ve been okay for the last two days, and I’ve been falling apart. I’ve had moments where things were just terrible and overwhelming but I managed to hold onto the fact that the feelings would pass. I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t do it. I wanted to hide forever and disappear but I didn’t. I somehow consistently managed to put all the yuck back into the therapy box; not hiding, not pretending, just knowing I needed to function. I did use the busyness defense to help push the ick away, but I was going to be busy no matter what, so why not use it to help myself function?

Walking into Bea’s office brings about a strange mix of feelings. I want her to be proud of me for holding it together. I’m afraid that if she reads in my journal about the bad moments and how I coped, that she might decide I’m just all better and okay. I want to avoid all the yuck, and I want to dive into it. I also wish I had a blanket with eyeholes I could put on my head, because the shame and disgust I feel is so huge, it’s hard not to feel afraid to be seen.

She’s heating up her tea when I walk in. “Good morning, just let me grab my tea.”

I nod, and sit down. I go ahead and pull out my notebook now. I both want to avoid anything deep, and I want to get right to work because I hate when I feel like I wasted time. When Bea gets back into the therapy room, we talk about Kat for a few minutes. Parent teacher conferences are coming up and I’m a little worried about the classroom teacher and what she is going to bring up.

After that, though, Bea asks about Monday. “How did Monday feel for you? Did anything come up after? Did things feel okay?”

Silently, I point at the orange book resting on the couch next to me.

“Should we start there then?”

I hand her the notebook, and wait. Before she starts to read, she grabs me the teal colored fuzzy blanket, and hands it to me. I don’t hide under it right then, but I clutch the blanket like its my anchor to the here and now.

Sick like something bad is going to happen. It’s funny that I can think of it now, but not before. So many words to describe that feeling. So many better words. The words could be apprehension, trepidation, dread, fear, worry, tension, suspense, unease. So many words, and I couldn’t think of a single one. Ugh.

“This is so many words. But this was later, right? When the adult was back online? I still think that the adult you has words, while the little girl didn’t have these complex words. It’s a parts thing. The little girl doesn’t have other words. Adult you does. It’s interesting that the adult could get back online and help find words later, when you were calmer.”

I don’t say anything, but the teen bristles at the use of the word interesting. Why interesting? I hate that word.

I’m okay but not okay. When I left your office I was so off kilter; feelings and other parts of the same image or maybe the same memory, just a different piece were really overwhelming. There is pain and something sharp and too much physical stuff and wanting to move or do something or maybe not after all and it was all so much but it was time to go and that that was okay, it just isn’t always so quick to stuff it all back into the therapy box, just like it takes me forever to pull it all out.

I was okay mostly all day but now it’s night time and bedtime is hard. There’s less grown up here right now, I close my eyes and I see ick. I couldn’t move, he wouldn’t let me move. That came from the image which leads to memory and feelings and everything and it all snowballs. I’m okay, except I’m not.

You asked me about what the adult thinks, what she believes. I don’t know. I know that this is hard. All those words lead to extra shame and judgement and worrying that you see the truth now. I want to tell you the grown up knows the little girl didn’t deserve it. Except, I don’t know. I wanted to explain that the little girl needed too much, that she maybe somehow did this, started it. But it doesn’t matter. Not really. Because the little girl is part of all the disgusting stuff that happened and it lives in my head and my body now, so really, I’m disgusting.

He put _________ __________ in my mouth. I write that, I think that, and I see this image of it happening, I feel it and part of me wants to disappear forever. A piece of me wants to die. It’s just so charged, so overwhelming, so much shame, so much disgust, so much helplessness and all I want to do is go away forever and ever. It’s so much. So much. Too much.

Honestly, you read my folded over paper and yeah, it’s probably good I was a little far away or I might have never managed to stop hiding long enough to leave. Writing this, I want to hide. I’m pretty sure if I could hide forever I would. I think I’d walk into your office with a blanket over my head, if I could. So much fear and so much shame.

I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t. I wanted to hide in my closet forever, but I didn’t. I went on with my life, and that was good, but it didn’t mean no feelings. Some moments were good, and I felt connected to people but boundaries in tact, and sort of just content, that I’m good and I like my life and I’m happy and fulfilled. Some moments were just crap. Awful. All the ick leaking out. But even that was okay, sort of. I always managed to put most of it away, knowing I really only had to hold it for two days and then we would deal with it. Even when I wasn’t okay, I could hold onto the fact that it wasn’t going to last forever and that all the feelings, thoughts, sensations, feelings were in the past. It was hard, but not like times when I’ve been triggered and there is no being okay, no processing whatever it coming up. I feel mostly okay.

“So I know we need to talk about Monday and pick things back up. Can I just celebrate first, though? You felt okay even when you weren’t okay. You managed to put the ick back every time it leaked out, to contain it. You coped without harming yourself. Alice, this is big. This is awesome!”

I shrug. It embarrasses me to have the praise and attention and it worries me because now I’ve set a precedent of being okay. So what happens when I can’t contain the ick on my own? Will Bea be there or will she expect me to do it because I did it before?

“I don’t want to take you back to be triggered and in too deep, so let’s maybe stay away from the memory of the image and see if we can’t focus just on the feelings. Is there movement you wanted to make back then? It sounds like some came up at the end on Monday.”

I don’t know. I don’t say a word. Bea waits, patient as always.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists.

“I can’t.. I can’t tell you! I can’t do this. I just can’t.” I’m frustrated with Bea. I can’t separate out any movement I want to make now from the story of the memory. It’s all the same to me. I need her to know where it’s coming from. I need the words. The words matter to me. But I can’t tell it like I need to because that is not how SP works and because she doesn’t want me to be too far away and I seriously can’t do anything right. I ruin everything.

“Take a minute, okay? Feel the blanket and the safety of that boundary. Remember that nothing bad can happen now.”

“I don’t know what to talk about now.” I whisper.

“Well, reading this, *there is pain and something sharp* can we talk about that?”

I shake my head. “No.”

“Okay. That’s okay. Can we talk about what is going on right now?” She asks softly.

“Nothing.” I mumble.

“Nothing, huh?” She pushes a little.

“I just…I can’t separate everything.” I’m still frustrated. My biggest complaint about all the SP junk is there is no talking about things and it feels superficial because it doesn’t care about the memory, about the words.

“Separate what? What can’t you separate?” Bea’s voice sounds genuinely confused.

“Everything. You want me to talk, but I can’t talk about feelings or physical sensation or whatever without the memory.”

“We aren’t ignoring the memory, the image, I just don’t want to take you so deep, to such a difficult place to be.”

I don’t say a thing. This is why I hesitated to even write the truth of how bad I felt at moments, why I was a little unsure about handing my notebook over. But I wanted her to know, because even when it was really, really bad this time, I managed to cope and to stay grounded enough to realize that the feelings were from the past. But now she wants to avoid the memory anyway.

“Alice? Talk to me.” She really does sound like she wants me to talk to her.

“You don’t want me to!” I cry. I’m hurt. The little girl feels shut down, as if her voice has been taken away.

“What is it you think I don’t want you to do, to tell me. I want to know whatever you want to talk about. It’s not about me. Can you tell me what is wrong?”

“You want to know about…what I wrote?” I ask.

“Yes, I was curious. I knew a lot had come up at the end last time, and I wanted to make sure we got a chance to go over it today.” She explains.

I shrug. Throw the blanket over my head. “I’m hiding now. Okay?”

“Okay.” And her voice tells me it is okay that I need to hide.

“I…..I can’t tell you…..I mean, I can’t explain it without the memory or the image and I can’t…I just…you don’t want me to tell it.”

“I’m not trying to make you stop telling it. I just want to make sure you are safe.”

“Ugh!” I’m tired of this round and round. “I can not tell you about what I wrote, I can’t talk about feelings and what they are linked to, not without you knowing the memory. I know it doesn’t matter or you already mostly know the memory or something, but it’s important to me. The words and all of it. The story, it matters to me. And I can’t do this! I can’t tell one without the other, I don’t know how, it’s all too twisted up together. But you want….the right way is to tell only one thing and I can’t do it. I’m screwing it up, again. And I just feel like I can’t do anything right.”

She takes a deep breath. “Okay. There is no right way. It’s just what works for us. I’m sorry if that hasn’t been clear, if I didn’t make that clear. We do what works for us. If this is a memory that is too twisted together, then talk about all the parts. It’s okay to do that. Tell the story. It’s not one or the other. It’s okay, you aren’t messing up anything. Maybe you will always need the words and the story, because like you said, they matter to you. I still believe you know what you need.”

I’d been curled up, crying, feeling all the pain and failure of my little girl self every time I did something the wrong way, every time I wanted to do something different than what my mother deemed was the right way. Now, listening to Bea, my tears slow. “O-Okay.”

She waits patiently, and I try to find my words. I don’t know how I’m to explain this to her, how I’m to describe the details. It’s sickening. The shame lives here. I shake my head, tell her this is hard. “Take your time, it’s okay,” she says.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists. And suddenly, we are right back where we started earlier, even having almost the same exact conversation. And that makes me so irritated.

“No!” I snap at her. “He’s…..I can’t move because he is….because….” I want so badly to get the words out, but there’s a blockage in my throat and I can’t talk.

“Because why? What’s he doing?” She pushes.

I look to my left. “I had a bruise. On my arm. I lied about it. I said it was from gymnastics. No one ever questioned.”

Bea says something, some kind of quiet understanding and comfort, some kind of sorry and horror for the little girl to be bruised.

“He….knees……..” Like a traffic jam, my words are all backed up.

“His knees were on your arms? So you couldn’t move?” Bea helps fill in the words.

I nod. “Sharp.”

“His knees were sharp? That’s the sharp and the pain,” she says, almost to herself, because it finally makes sense to her.

“Yes.” I whisper. I look back to my left again, down at my arm. It’s not real, and yet I can see knees right there, holding me in place, and I can feel them digging into my inner arms. Maybe that was easier to focus on than what else was happening. I don’t know.

“You can feel that now?” Her voice is quiet, gentle. The voice you use when speaking to scared children.

“Yeah.”

“Is there anything you want to move now?”

I nod. It’s scary to think about it, to say it aloud. I’m not sure how long it takes. Maybe a minute, maybe twenty. Bea waits patiently. Finally I answer her question. “Yes.”

“Try to just let yourself do it, then. You can stay under the blanket, even. I’m right here.” She says carefully.

I think about moving, but I can’t. The idea of it….it’s scary. So very scary.

“What wants to move?” She asks softly.

“Arms, my arms.” I can feel it. When I think about what was happening, and let the little girl run things, she wants to go away. But if things are slowed down, and we are only looking at one image from a memory, and that leads to emotions and physical feeling, the then everything the little girl felt and wanted to do is sort of pulled apart, and while that urge to go away is the biggest feeling, beneath that is this other feeling. It’s a wanting to move, to pull away, to push him away, to cover my mouth, to turn my head. This scares me though. If I let myself feel this urge to move away, to push him away, then I have to accept that I didn’t want this, that I had no control, that I was helpless, that I didn’t cause it, and that I was not playing a special super secret game with him. And that’s a hard thing to swallow.

“What do your arms want to do?”

“Move.” My answer seems silly now, but in the moment when the little girl was more present than the grown up, it made sense to me.

“What way do they want to move?”

“They wanna do two things. No, three things. Maybe. I think.” I whisper. I’m spilling secrets I didn’t even know I held.

So they want to push? Pull? Cover your mouth?” She gets all of them right, and her saying some of the words first helps.

“Pull away……to the side. That’s first.” I finally say.

“Okay. Can you let them do that?” She asks.

I try. I really try, but I’m frozen. Bea encourages me to focus on the fact my hands, my fingers can move. (And now, as I’m writing that I got a picture of my fingers always moving, of holding on to blankets, sheets, grass, my yellow fluffy rug, whatever was there to hold onto. I guess that’s another something that has popped up since this session I’m currently writing about.) Finally, I manage to throw my right arm to the side of me.

“That’s it! How did that feel?” Bea asks me.

“I….I don’t know.” It feels sort of exposing in a way. But also…..I’m proud of the fact I stayed with the memory and moved my arm.

Bea gives me a head’s up that we have about fifteen minutes left of our time, and then she tells me she has no ten o’clock appointment. “You have a busy day today, and I know that, but if you like we can stay and work on this a little longer.”

“Can we stay?” I feel like if we wrap things up now, it will be hard to get back to this place again.

“Absolutely. So, do you want to try the movement again?” She asks.

“Okay.” I’m a little anxious about agreeing but I can try.

“Maybe try to really slow it down this time, okay?”

“Why?” Teen, snarky and questioning everything.

“Well, studies have shown that it is easier for your brain to remember the new movement and to form new neural pathways when it’s a slowed down movement.” She’s not surprised with my why question. She’s never surprised when I want to know why we are doing something or why she wants to know something. And why never seems to bother her.

“Oh.” Is all I can say. I think about moving slowly for a while, “That’s a scary idea. It’s safer to move fast.” I hear the word, and wonder why it’s safer and not easier. Bea wonders, too, and so she asks. “I think it’s like the…..if I’m fast enough then no one will see me…..it’s still a version of hiding.” I explain.

“Well, if it feels safer to move fast, then let’s start there. We might need to stay with this for a while. And that’s okay.” Once again, Bea is willing to start where I am. She told me once that is the secret to therapy— to be willing to start wherever your client is at.

“Okay.” I agree.

We work with movement for a while longer, and by the end of session, I’m able to move my arms to the sides, slap one hand over my mouth, and out the other out in a *stop* gesture. We talk about the fact that it still needs to be slowed down and really felt, but decided that we will do that next time. I can’t do more today.

“This might never feel right, and I don’t think this would be good for this first time you are trying some movement, but I can bring my hands up to yours, or hold a pillow so you have something to push against. Sometimes people like to push against the wall. Or maybe you won’t need that.” She suggests.

“I….I don’t know.” I whisper.

“It’s nothing to decide today, just something to keep in mind. That’s all. In case you ever do want something to push against.”

I’m not sure about this idea. “But then I’d be…..pushing you away.” (See? Really not pretending anymore that she doesn’t matter, or the relationship isn’t important.)

“Yes, you’d be pushing against my hands, but I’m not going anywhere. We can talk about that though, if that would feel too hard because of that. It’s all okay, it’s about doing whatever feels right to you.” She’s so calm and grounded and just here. I don’t know how to explain it.

“Okay.” I shrug.

“Is there anymore to do today, or are you ready to come back and be grounded here?” She asks.

“I’m okay. I don’t…..I think we should pick this up next time, but I’m done for today. It’s a lot.” If you had told me even a few months ago that I would willingly be done with something for the moment and suggest we pick it up next time, and believe that it would be okay and that Bea would hold all of that and remember to help me pick it up next time, I’d have laughed. Yet here I am, doing just that.

“It is a lot,” she agrees.

“Even though I moved, it still feels scarier to move. It’s safer to be frozen.” There’s a question in there somewhere but I can’t figure out how to ask it.

Bea picks up on the question anyway. “Well, your brain has had a lot of years where hiding was the only answer. The little girl couldn’t move then, so she did the best thing she could. She went far away, she hid inside herself. And that kept her safe. And she needed to be able to do that for a long time. Now we just have work on teaching your brain a new response. It won’t surprise me of your first instinct is to hide or go far away when things feel threatening, or uncomfortable, but now you know you have another choice. It’s just a choice that we will need to practice, and the more we practice it, the easier it will be to choose it.”

“Okay.”

We end things just chatting about normal stuff. At some point, in between talking about our crazy dogs, or my crazy kid, I pull the blanket off my head and fold it up. It’s a struggle to look at Bea today, and I know she won’t push it, although she gently try to get me to look at her. Finally, as we both stand up and I hand her the blanket, I sneak a glance at her. No disgust is visible in her expression. I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Hey, try to pay attention to how things feel, if they feel better or if other things come up or what feelings may surface, okay?” I’m on my way out when she asks me this.

“Yeah, okay. But first I have to put all that away and go help teach Kat’s class writing and then do lunch duty, take care of PTO stuff and then take Kat to OT. After that, I can pay attention to stuff again.” I smile. In my book, it’s okay to shove things down to be able to function when you know you are doing it, why you are doing it, and there is a set time limit of how long you are going to lock up the crap.

“That’s all right. Just when you are done, see how you feel. See what is coming up. I’ll be curious to know.” She smiles at me.

We wish each other a good day, and I head out.

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I know this to be true 

We chat like always, me pretending not to notice my notebook– with all the after stuff that she kept last time– sitting on the floor at her feet. Even with my superior avoidance skills, we eventually move onto talking about my writing. 

“I read the after stuff again and it really is all so normal, exactly what I would expect. It’s just how I would expect a kid– and even an adult– to feel considering everything you were dealing with.” Bea is matter of fact, and her words are slightly reassuring. She doesn’t find me crazy. 

“Okay.” I shrug and pick my fingers. Whatever. I don’t care what she thinks, and even if I did care, I’m not about to let her know. 

I had handed her my new orange notebook when I arrived, and after asking me if it’s okay, she begins to read. “This is good, really good. You say it’s hard to only talk about one part of a memory because it all snowballs together. That’s exactly what SP is for. So, with developmental stuff, we work to stitch feelings, emotions, memories, and thoughts all together. But with trauma, it all does snowball exactly as you have described. So, we want to unstitch those things and then they can be processed separately and then either they’ll be integrated into normal memory and they lose their power, or we stitch them back together, make sense of if, and then it can be integrated into normal memory.” 

“Okay.” 

Bea continues reading and talking to me, unperturbed by my lack of conversational engagement. “I’m reading this here, and it makes a lot of sense, so much sense! This worry of needing me to know the whole memory and not just the emotions or body feelings. So, it’s not that we go right to body feelings, or even emotions. We access that by talking about a memory. And when the memory gets to be too much, then we focus on one part– like body feelings.”

Annoyed, I snap, “Right. So then you are just telling me no more talking. No more telling that memory.” I hate SP. This is stupid. I want to walk out of her office, I want to go home. 

“I know it feels like that. It feels like I might tell you no more talking, and that would hurt a lot. That’s not how this would work for us, though. Stopping and focusing on one piece of the memory and going between that one piece and your resource is only to give your system a chance to calm down. We always, always will go back to talking.” Bea is so calm, and her voice is so full of understanding that I lose some of my snark. 

“I don’t know,” I whisper, uncertain. It seems too big of a risk, to trust *SP Bea*.

Bea explains it all again, in that straight forward way she has, and suddenly something just clicks. 

“So, it’s like you are taking me out of the memory because it got to be too much for me, not too much for you?” I ask.

“Right! I’m still holding the memory as a whole, but it is my job to help keep you safe, so I take you to one tiny part of the memory and instead of you having to look at and hold the whole thing, I hold it for you.” Bea realizes that something has clicked, and she’s still calm but under the calm is excitement. 

“So it’s like clicking on a link to leave a webpage but leaving the original tab open on the iPad? And you won’t forget to come back to the original page?”

“No, I won’t forget,” she promises. 

“Okay,” I say, and then thinking about it, I say okay again. 

“Is this making sense?” She asks. 

I nod slowly. “Maybe. Sort of. I think it’s maybe just something I have to do.”

Bea agrees. “Yeah, it is more of a thing you need to experience, it’s hard to really get it just by talking about it.” 

“Okay. I’ll try,” I say, and I mean it.

Bea says something, maybe about resourcing and using my hands, I can’t remember exactly what, but it causes me to pull my fingers inside my sleeves. 

“Well, those fingers don’t like being noticed.” She says. I hear the gentle teasing in Bea’s voice and smile.

“I don’t much like being noticed.” I whisper. 

“Ahhhh,” Bea says. We (and what I mean by that is she) talk a bit, and then she suggests we talk about my need to hide. I hesitantly agree. I don’t want her to take away hiding. 

“I’m going to go get your blanket,” Bea tells me. 

I hear her get up, and walk a few steps over to the shelf holding blankets and then I hear her walk back and sit in her chair. She forgot to cover me up with the blanket. 

“So, I will give you the blanket, but I was hoping that we could first try to notice what it is like to hide without the blanket.” It’s funny, because when I type it out, it sounds like an ultimatum but it didn’t sound that way at all. In fact, I never doubted that had I said no, or asked for the blanket right then, she would have given it to me. Maybe that’s why I decided to try and do as she was asking. 

“Okay,” I say quickly before I can change my mind. 

Bea fires questions at me, too many, too fast. As soon as she asks one and the answer pops into my head, she is asking another and that answer erases the first one. I can’t hold onto any of the answers for long. They float in one ear as questions and out the other as answers. I can’t seem to direct them to turn into words. 

“I’m hiding…because you…..I don’t want you to see me when you are reading my words. Can you just ask me one thing at a time?” My voice is far away now and quiet. I’m not sure it’s really my voice at all. 

“Yes, of course.” Bea sounds a bit surprised, but not upset. “I’m curious, if you are hiding because of your notebooks and words being in my hands, would you feel safer if I gave them back?”

I shake my head. “No. You already read the words. And you might need them again anyway.”

“So there is a sense I may need them again?” She echoes. 

“Well, because you, if I can’t find the words, then you have them there. Or at least some of them.” My voice has that curious hollow sound to it, the one that means I’m heading towards too far away, but I don’t really care. 

“Ahhhh. Okay, that makes sense. It’s important that I have your words. I wondered if I gave them back now if there would be a sense of rejection?”

“No. You always give my notebooks back. And it’s not about the notebook, it is about the words in it.” I tell her. Why doesn’t she get this? Bea isn’t a writer, not like I am, anyway, or she would understand how the right words are worth more than many pounds of gold. 

“Okay. It’s the words, not the books themselves.” She pauses, thinking. “Are you feeling frozen right now?” 

“I could move.” I put the emphasis on could. “I just don’t want to.” 

“Why don’t you want to move?”

“Because then I might be….noticed. Seen.” The words are out of my mouth before I can even think about what they mean. 

“So it’s about being seen?” Bea repeats curiously.

“Yes……I don’t want anyone to see me. I don’t want anyone to pay attention to me.” That’s what’s said out loud. In my head, I continue, *if you can’t see me you can’t hurt me. And I don’t want to see your reactions to my words in case they mirror my own disgust with myself.*

“Ahhhh. I know that is such a big worry, and I know it doesn’t take away the worry but I can honestly say I can’t imagine anything you would say that would make me feel disgusted by you.” Sometimes, Bea really is a mind reader. “Is there an image that comes when you say that?” 

I think about it, focus on those words, *I don’t want anyone to see me,* and an image does pop up. I shove it away, fast. “Do you mean right away, like when I said it, or if I think about, focus on the words?” 

“Either one,” she tells me.

Inwardly, I groan. “Then yeah. Something comes up.”

“Can you tell me what it is? What do you see?” 

I sit for a long while, trying to get the words out, to tell her what it is I see, but I can’t find the words. I’m embarrassed and sick. 
Finally, I shake my head. “I can’t. I can’t say it.”

“That’s okay, we can come back to the image. Let’s notice what it is like now, and we can try again with the blanket,” Bea says simply. “Before I give you your blanket, can you take a minute and see what you notice about your body? I’d say it is curled inward, protective.”

I don’t say anything for a long time. But I do focus on what it feels like to be curled into myself. “Tight.” I finally say. 

“Your body feels tight,” Bea says. I nod my head, agreeing.

“I’m going to give you your blanket now.” She tells me before she stands up and steps over to the couch. She drapes the blanket over me.

I let out a big breath, and feel myself relax a little bit. I’m not present, but I’m not as far away as I was. 

“That was a big breath.” Bea notices. I don’t say anything, and so she begins with questions again. What do I notice? Can I move easier, knowing she can’t see me? Is there a part of my body that wants to hide more than another? Do I realize my toes are not covered? Can I feel that?

“My toes? No….I didn’t know. I mean, now I know because you told me. But I don’t feel it.”

“Do you want to focus on your toes for a moment? Try to feel them?” She asks. 

I agree, but all I can think of is her question about what body parts want to hide the most. The answer is my face. When I think of hiding, I want more than anything to cover my face, to not let anyone see my emotions playing out across my face, and I don’t want to see the other person, either. Hiding for me is not just about not being seen, it’s also about not seeing. We talk about how I do feel a little more relaxed now, that she can’t see me under the blanket. 

Eventually she asks about the image again. “I said we would come back to this, and I want to make sure we don’t run out of time. With that boundary of the blanket, could you talk about the image now?” 

I try, I really try, but the words just will not come out. I can’t say it. “I can’t. I just can’t.” 

“It’s okay, take your time. We have time. We can always come back to this next time.” Bea says soothingingly. 

“No…..I just…..it’s like I’m making it into a deal and now you expect a big thing. It really……… it’s just this stupid little piece that shouldn’t be so upsetting!” 

“Is it part of a memory that we have talked about before?” She sounds curious, like maybe she is wanting more Information so she can figure out the best way to approach it.

“Yes….no. Sort of. It’s a piece of…well, it’s a thing that probably we did talk about a memory but it’s not something we ever….it’s just this detail that I don’t know how to say and it’s awfully upsetting for just a small detail.” My eyes fill with tears as I speak. 

“The details. Those tiny pieces make things hard sometimes. I’ll never forget when a professor told me that the emotions and the story, the trauma, it is all in the details. The pain lives in the details. So it makes perfect sense that the details would feel so difficult to share.”

I struggle some more, trying to get the words out, and find a way to share this disturbing image. I take so long that Bea tells me that it’s time to start to come back, to get ready to go. “I know you have a full day to get on with, and I am going to go walk my dogs before this afternoon’s appointments. It’s nice out again, it looks like the sun should be out for most of the day.” 

I don’t say anything, but my brain goes into overdrive trying to find a way to blurt out the words before I leave. 

“Alice?” Bea says my name, a question, asking if I’m present enough to respond. 

“Yeah, I’m here. I’m fine. I just…..trying…..I mean……I was trying to get words out.” 

“Do you need to get the words out? If you need to talk about this, to get the words out, we can stay and do that. I don’t have any appointments until later this afternoon,” She says. 

“So if I said it was really important and I needed to talk now, you would stay and we would talk?” I ask.

“Yes, absolutely,” she says with no hesitation. She is ready and willing to listen if I need her to. And she means it, of that I have no doubt.

“I’m okay. It can wait until Monday.” I say easily. I think I just needed to know she would stay, that I was worth listening to, that I mattered.

“Okay.” Bea draws the word out, surprised. She was planning to stay and listen. “If you decide it can’t wait, you can write it down, or email it. And I’m only a phone call away if you need to talk about it.” 

“I know,” I tell her, and as I say it, I realize I do know. I believe deep down that Bea is here for me, that she isn’t leaving and that she will respond to me and listen to me and that it will be my choice to leave when I feel ready. Today, anyway, I know this to be true. 

Feeling Again 

Therapy has been weird. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s been weird. I think it’s because I’ve been working really hard to stay in this surfacey safe place where no real feelings or even thoughts can get in. It’s not that I haven’t had things to bring to therapy, and when I actually sit down and write, a lot comes out. Unfortunately, while there must be some parts of me that want to talk and share all this with Bea, there is a stronger part that doesn’t want to talk about anything deep. The stronger part– Ms. Perfect, I call her– works so very hard to keep things on the surface, and she is good at her job. She laughs and smiles, and is chatty and engaging. She is great at finding the perfect *sort of deep, sort of important* thing to bring up when it seems that Bea might be trying to get below the surface. Ms. Perfect knows the topics that distract Bea and she is so sneaky in the way she brings them up. 

That other part, though? The one who wants to talk? She’s desperate to talk, to not be alone, and that gives her strength, too. She spends the majority of my sessions trying to get past Ms. Perfect so she can share. Then, she spends a lot of time hemming and hawing because she is scared. It’s been about the last fifteen, maybe twenty minutes of my sessions when I finally hand over my notebook and give Bea something real. That’s hard because I’m constantly feeling like I’m wasting time and like there is a lot I want to talk about. 

Monday was different. October 23. The day before my birthday. During the previous session, on Wednesday, I had managed to give Bea my notebook earlier in the session. Ms. Perfect wanted to run things and the idea of letting go of her tenuous grasp on control of everything below the surface was really scary, but someone the part that needed to share managed to make that happen. I’d written about how so much that I am feeling right now is so reminiscent of my childhood. I’m floating on the surface because feeling anything else is too frightening and confusing. Ms. Perfect is running things again, and so I am functioning quite well. That, too, is childhood like, this need to be perfect and hide all the other stuff. I’ve been having nightmares, and flashbacks but they are weird. They seem much more intense and real, there is much more feeling and emotion involved in them, and they are tiny intense pieces of whole memories. Anyway, I have been feeling very split lately, and I don’t like it. It’s too much like being a little girl again, and that in and of itself is a trigger. In that particular segment of writing, I had written something about how my flashbacks and dreams leave me with a little girl feeling from long ago; it’s the same feeling I would get after he was done playing with me. There wasn’t a lot of time left in session, and I wasn’t at all present because just having her read my words felt too exposing. She suggested that we could talk more about these “after” feelings, and when I shook my head, she said maybe I would write about them in my notebook. I honestly don’t remember how we left things, but I did write about the after. It took a lot for me to do it, and it was painful and confusing, and it felt like an actual fight to stay present enough to write, but I did it. 

So, Monday the 23 was different. Ms. Perfect was no where to be found. I was chatty, but it didn’t feel like a desperate attempt to block Bea out or keep my feelings buried. It just felt like things I wanted to share with her, things I wanted to talk about. I’d been back to my parents on Saturday to celebrate my birthdays and that quickly became the topic of discussion. 

“This was the first time you had been back to your parents’ house since your Grandma’s funeral and the month of triggers?” Bea is sitting across from me in her chair, looking relaxed and grounded and open. She was here with me, and somehow I was able to let that in a little bit. 

I nodded. “Yeah.” 

“How was that?” 

I shrugged. I really didn’t want to think about it. With Ms. Perfect apparently off on holiday, I stumble in my attempt to gloss over things and make it out to be no big deal. “It was fine. I mean, it was, well, it was just, like I focused more on the Halloween activities we had going on and then we were busy, well actually not really busy but there was stuff we did and it was easy being with my parents this time around and it was just really not a thing, I mean I was sad a little but it was, well, it was okay and my brother and the kids came over for dinner and a bonfire and it was good. And I’m planning to do something fun tomorrow, Kat is staying home from school and we are going to the zoo if it doesn’t rain. So I’m okay, I’m fine.” 

Bea smiles at me, as if she can tell that I’m just being me, there is no facade anymore. “So, you let things be low key then. It seems like that was the right choice for yourself. Yes, there is sadness and bittersweet feelings but you feel grounded and here today. You felt more present last time, too. I think that means you are doing the right things for yourself because Ms. Perfect felt it was safe enough to let you run the ship again.” 

“Okay,” I say awkwardly. Bea’s right in what she is saying, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to respond. I wonder if I should agree with her, or talk about being more here, or something. Her assessment of me almost feels like praise, or at least as if she is saying something positive about me, and I don’t know what to do with that. I never know what to do with that. 

“Did you do birthday presents this year?” She asks and I nod my head. “What did your mom get you? I remember the year she got you that sweater and all the grief that caused.” 

I’m surprised that Bea remembers that, that must have been the first October we were working together, before we knew that lots of teen feelings came up every year at this time, and that sweater sent me right over the edge. I wasn’t an easy person to deal with during that time, I’m sure. 

“She got me some new notebooks, and some sharpies.” I love notebooks, planners, and calendars. I am addicted to sharpie markers and fancy pens. 

Bea says something about my mom getting me a gift that says maybe she does see me. I shake my head. “She asked hubby what to get me.” 

“How does that feel?” She is being serious and wants the question answered but she rolls her eyes because she knows that I’m going to be annoyed at the typical shrink question. 

“It’s fine, I hadn’t even thought about it. I don’t want to talk about this,” I tell her. 

“Well, this is therapy, and so I have to ask. Can you just take a minute and let that sink in? Your mom asked your husband what to get you for your birthday. What does that feel like? It’s bound to bring up something.” Her voice is quiet, and she is so calm. I watch as she takes a deep breath in and let’s it out. It is as if she is silently encouraging me to let my feelings come up. 

I sigh. I don’t want to talk about my mom because I really just want to give her what I’d written in my notebook. I worked so hard to write about the after, it had taken me days to write very little. I can’t just tell Bea that I have this other thing I want to talk about, because she hasn’t asked if I have writing and maybe she forgot that she asked me to write about the after and so bringing it up myself would make me too vulnerable. I decided to take things a different route, one that might be quicker than if I talk about my mom. Also, taking things in this direction will allow me to take things back to the surface if need be. 

“Well,” I say, “I guess it feels like my husband really does know me.” 

If Bea is surprised that this is the path I’m leading us down, she doesn’t show it. “I think he really does know you. He loves you, and he gets you.” 

“Ummm, you know, I think he gets part of me. He gets the…..it’s not the surface parts, the facade anymore, but it’s….I don’t know what part it is. It’s just not the big feelings or whatever. He does not get that part of me.” 

“No, he doesn’t get that part of you,” Bea agrees. “But it is like he is making space for it. He doesn’t get it, and he doesn’t know it, but he does see that it is a part of you and that notebooks and pens go along with the that. So he is making space for it and trying to get your mom to make space for that part, too.” 

I feel something, an anxiousness maybe, about this idea of hubby making space for these dark and twisty parts of me. This should be making me happy, I should feel good about this. Instead I am uncomfortable to the point of wanting to go far away. I dome know why I feel like this and I don’t want to examine it, so I simply nod my head. 

Things get fuzzy there for a bit, so I don’t know how, but the conversation changes direction when Bea asks if I have any writing. 

This is what I had wanted to begin with, to give her my notebook and maybe talk about these complicated, confusing feelings. I pull the small book out of my bag and then I turn shy all of a sudden. I can’t look at Bea, and I can’t hand her my notebook. I flip through the pages, and fidget with the corners of the notebook. I’d written Bea a letter and used it as a sort of bookmarks to mark the new segment of writing. 

“This is really hard.” Her voice is warm and understanding. She gets it. 

“Yeah. I…it’s just…it’s hard.” I’m mumbling my words because I’m pretty dissociated at the moment. 

“Was it hard to write?”

“Mmmhmm. Yea. I….it was hard to be present.” I say sadly. 

We sit like that for what feels like a very long time, me holding my notebook, curled up on the couch, flipping absent mindlessly through the notebook. Bea was probably talking to me that whole time, but her voice didn’t penetrate the fog surrounding me until she said, “You don’t have to share it with me. Or you could choose one part to share. It’s a choice, it’s your choice. I wonder if you can let yourself feel what it would feel like to tell me you aren’t going to share your writing today and put your notebook away.” 

I shake my head. IfI don’t share what I wrote then I am going to feel very lost and alone when I leave here. I’ll be sad, and maybe overwhelmed. I don’t want to do this by myself anymore. “No, I want to share it. I just…well I’m not sure. It’s hard.” 

“You know, writing, this is how you communicate, how you share your story with me. It’s what gives us an opening so we can talk about what is going on below the surface. Because there always a deeper layer for you that is hard to start a conversation about. This system, it’s worked so well for us that we really haven’t ever stopped to think about it, have we?” 

Is she trying to say she wants to take away writing? “I know. I know it’s not talking. But it is the only way….I mean, there’s so much and I can’t say the words or bring it up or explain out loud, because it is just really hard. There’s so much I wouldn’t have ever talked about if I wasn’t writing.” 

Bea pauses for a long moment, and when she speaks it is with a reassuring tone. It’s the voice adults use to reassure children they are safe and all is right in their world. “Alice. I’m not saying anything is wrong with writing, or with using it in therapy. It works for you. Using your writing has allowed is to do some amazing work. I’m just curious about the notebook and feelings we have about it, how we react. I guess I’m thinking more sensorimotor therapy stuff.”  

Inwardly, I groan. I should have know this was some sensorimotor stuff. “Okay…..” I say slowly, drawing out the word. 

“For instance, what does it feel like to be holding your notebook right now? What if you put it on the floor between us?” She asks. 

I shrug. I don’t know what I feel. Worried, maybe. Anxious that Bea will read my words and think I’m being dramatic. Or she will read my words and not get it, and that will be the worst thing ever. 

“Maybe does it feel like you have the control right now, holding onto the notebook?” 

I shake my head. “No. It’s not…no.” 

“If I focus on how I’m feeling, what comes up for me, there is a little nervousness in my belly because I can feel that you have some anxiety and so a part of me sort of becomes nervous with you. And then there is a part of me that wants to help you, to make this all better and easy for you because I don’t want you to feel more anxiety. That part of me just feels likes you have been through so much, and I want to make this as easy as I can on you. There’s also a part of me that wants to grab the notebook from you and read it all because that part can’t stand not knowing. There’s a part of me that is curious about what you have written, but this part of me wants you to take your time and feel safe enough to let me have the notebook. This part wants to do what I can to help you feel safe.” 

I think I should be upset that a part of Bea wants to read my words without my permission, but oddly I’m not upset. The fact that there is this part of her feels a little bit like my words do matter to her. Actually, everything she has said feels like I matter to her, like maybe she does care. I believe that Bea is just being Bea, and without meaning to she has said the exact right thing to help me. “It’s not really about the notebook. It’s about the words inside. It would be fine to hand you the notebook.” 

“That makes sense,” she says. 

I hand her my notebook, and she doesn’t open it. Instead, she holds it carefully on her lap so that it stays closed. 

Eventually I nod my head. “You can read it. It’s okay.” 

Bea opens it to the page that is bookmarked with the letter I’d written to her. “Should I read this first?”

“Yea,” I say so softly I don’t think anyone hears me. I’m suddenly embarrassed that I wrote a letter detailing how difficult this all has been, it’s as if I wasn’t sure she would get it just from reading my words. 

Bea starts to read, and pulling my knees into my chest, I hide my face and go far away again. 

Bea,

This has been so hard to write. So, so hard. It took me days, and it was a lot of work to stay present enough that I could write it all down. It wasn’t easy. All these feelings are big and confusing. Sad, mad, happy, worried, frustrated. These are feelings I can do. I recognize them when I feel them, and I can label them. But this stuff? It’s complex. I don’t know. This is like a giant mixture, some vague not okay, anxious, sick, empty, confused feeling that is physically present but is an emotion and I can’t name it or really describe it. I don’t have the words. It’s like I need to learn another new language to even be able to talk about anything. I’m having such a hard time with this. I feel very present with theses feelings, almost like I can’t go away to avoid them, and that’s hard, too. It’s all scary to me. This is just as scary as learning to feel and identity emotions like sad, glad, mad. Maybe more scary. 

“Do you know how big this is? That you can even feel these big mixed up complex feelings? I know they are scary, that feeling them and staying present and talking about them is scary. But do you see how far you have come? Even last year, you weren’t able to feel like this, to even recognize a vague feeling that you can’t name. This is huge.”

I can’t respond. First, I’m embarrassed that she is making this out to be this huge thing I am now able to do (even if it is a big deal, and even if part of me is basking in this attention, I’m embarrassed). Something about positive recognition or praise embarrasses me. I think it’s because I feel I don’t deserve it. I never know what to say, and all these complicated feelings come up. Secondly, all this praise over being able to do something that I couldn’t do a year ago makes me worried. It worries me because  Bea could decide I’m all better, and make me leave.

“I know, I’m making a big deal out of this. It just is a big deal in a lot of ways. Things are becoming more integrated. It’s because of all your hard work,” Bea says, still loud and excited. Then, softly she adds, “In case you had the thought, I’m going to share with you that a part of me had the thought *what if she decides she is all better now?* That part was worried and sad. But I reminded myself that there is still lots of work we can do, there is still things to process and feelings to work with and other stuff that still needs to integrate more.” 

I breathe for a moment. She still believes there is work we can do, she doesn’t think I’m all better enough to kick me out of therapy. Later, I think about her words and wonder, would she miss me if I left? I’m surprised. I’ve never thought that I would matter enough that she might miss me. I always see termination as Bea getting rid of me, as being relieved she doesn’t have to deal with me anymore. 

There’s always something more going on under the surface. That’s true. But on Wednesday in therapy, I wasn’t being pretend or prefect, I was just being me. I don’t feel fake every time I’m having more surface-type talk, I think it’s partly how I feel when I’m talking. If I’m disconnected, and talking to simply avoid going below the surface, if I’m working hard to appear to be together and on top of things, to give the appearance of being absolutely okay, then it’s the facade, the pretend me. But just talking and staying closer to the surface…..that’s not the same thing. Maybe it was acknowledging that if we went below the surface, there is a lot of feelings there. Maybe it was that I felt like it would be okay if we did end up below the surface and some of those not so perfect feelings came out. Maybe it’s the fact that I was working really hard to stay present. I don’t know. But there is a difference. 

“There’s a difference,” she agrees with me. 

“Yeah,” I say. “I didn’t know, before that there was a difference. Or maybe there wasn’t a difference before.”

“It could be a little bit of both. It’s interesting you are thinking about this, and able to tell a difference. This is great to be able to recognize the differences between them. I think it’s important, too, that we know that staying on the surface doesn’t have to mean you aren’t being authentic or that you aren’t here.” Bea tells me. 

I nod my head at her words as she returns to reading. 

So, this is supposed to be about the “after” with Kenny, and all the different layers there are to that. I have had lots of things I could say about it, lots of things that popped into my head this week. So I could write it here, or say it on Monday. But it feels so dramatic, the words that have popped into my head to describe the after. It’s embarrassing to have such dramatic words and descriptions. It’s just, I don’t know. It feels wrong. 

“A lot of judgement about how you feel or the words you want to use for describe the feelings. This was hard to get past, but you did it.” It took me a whole day to go back to writing about the after. I was (and I am) judging myself harshly. 

After. After he leaves my room. I want to get out of bed but I can’t. I don’t know why, I just can’t. It’s as if getting out of bed will break the spell I cast, this magic spell that put me far away where nothing happened and if I move the spell will break and it will all be real. When I do move, I want to keep moving, I want to run and run and run for miles and miles and never stop. Like maybe I can run away from all this or maybe it’s because I can sense that as long as I keep busy, keep going and don’t stop, don’t pause to think, then I won’t have to feel the yuck. There’s no running, no place to go, but I can hide in my secret space (closet). 

After. I feel, I don’t know, it’s something I definitely didn’t know then, and it’s hard to describe even now. It’s sad, but more than that. There’s something, it’s like there is something I wanted but didn’t get and now I feel left. I feel like I’m the doll in the bin of barbies that had her hair chopped off, or was drawn on with marker. You know, the doll no one wants to choose, the one that is the last resort when all the other dolls are already take. Maybe the word is “left” or lonely. But it’s not really one of those things. Or it’s not just one feeling, it’s also this feeling of wanting or needing something but not getting it. It’s sort of, isolating. It’s soul crushing. Maybe I feel used. Or not as loved as I thought I would feel. I don’t know. 

 After. There’s more layers for this. Sensorimotor. I feel empty. Like someone scraped out my insides. I feel like my body isn’t mine. I feel hollow. My head feels like static. No, my life feels like static, like when you turn on the tv, and you can hear and see the show, but it’s filled with static and the picture is jumping around. That’s it. I feel like static. My body isn’t mine. My head is light, maybe it will just float away like a balloon. My heart feels, not my heart, but around my heart feels like a block of ice. It’s just so frozen, which makes no sense because I feel hot, like I could have a strange kind of fever. Maybe I’m sick. My stomach….it’s like the feeling you get on a roller coaster and you go fast down a big hill. 

“Lots of dissociative feelings here. And so many confusing feelings. I wonder if it’s that these feelings were too much to have back then. You couldn’t feel them back then and you didn’t have help with your feelings so you do the only thing you child do– ignored them. Now they are popping back up because the part hat held them feels safe enough to let them out. As painful as it is, I think if we are careful to work with small pieces of these old feelings, this will all start to feel better.”

I want to talk, to say something but I’m so far away I can’t get words to form. I manage to bring myself back to the the present. Finally I whisper, “Can I have a blanket?” 

Bea gets up. “Of course,” she says. She gets a blanket and drapes it over me. “We only have a few more minutes, so just try to feel that you are safe, and work on coming back a little bit more. Try to feel that boundary the blanket sets for you.” 

“Okay.” I whisper the word. 

“If you want, we can talk about the after on Wednesday, okay? Of any other time. When you are ready to talk about if and work with it, there is a lot we can do.”

“I won’t. I mean, we won’t talk about it. I can’t because, well, I don’t know.its because it would be breaking my rules. You know. I’ll feel like I won’t be able to bring it up a second time.”

“Okay. How about this? I’ll ask you on Wednesday of you would like to talk about and work with this after stuff?” Bea suggests. 

I nod. “Do you….? Will you hold onto my notebook?”

“Sure, I can do that.” Bea tells me.  

I know time is up, and before she can gently tell me, I pull the blanket out from under my head, and fold it up. I still can’t look at her. 
“Alice,” Bea says seriously. “I read it, and nothing bad happened. I read it and you are okay. I read it and my opinion of you has not changed. I read it and nothing bad happened.”

“Okay.” I finally look up and she’s still just Bea. I stand up then, and we say our good byes. Bea wishes me a Happy Birthday as I walk out door. 

Humanity Unfiltered 

I know I haven’t responded to your many kind words over the loss of my grandma. I will reply, but right now I just want to say that your words meant a lot to me, and to thank you and to explain that it’s hurt to much to write  until recently. I’ve been buried in a sea of grief the last couple of months. I’m doing better most days, but it’s still hard. I miss my Grandma. This is a loss that hits me out of the blue when I realize I can’t text her to ask about some flowers I saw and liked, or how long to cook something for. I can’t send her pictures of something when I’m proud of it. This is hard. But I’m coming to terms with that pain, little by little, as much as a person can. The harder thing still is that it is fall, October, and all sorts of trauma memories and feelings and emotional flashbacks have been popping up. 

The last thing I wrote about was the things that are hard to talk about. The words it is hard for me to say. S_ _. I’m still struggling with that, sort of. Teen Alice has been running things, and she is so confused about so much. I don’t know where to start, really. 

Wednesday, October 4
I’m (with the teen part running things) sitting on the couch in her office, hiding under a blanket, just covered in shame. I don’t want to do this therapy bit, I’d much rather let Ms. Perfect run things so that I don’t have to think or feel. But instead it’s just me here, and ALL the feelings. Ugh. I don’t like like Bea right now, I hate her questions. I’m angry with her, but behind all that anger, is this vulnerability. There is this fear that Bea will suddenly get it, she will finally see that she has been picturing it all wrong, and I really am bad. I have this fear that I have somehow tricked her into seeing me as good. 

“You’re WRONG. You DON’T see. You picture this little girl who is good, sweet angelic. You see this innocent creature, worthy of your protection.You are so, so WRONG.” I’m yelling at Bea. She’s clearly not seeing, not getting it, and I’m going to make her see it. If I can make her see that I tricked her somehow, that will hurt less than if she figures it out of her own. “You should be picturing this needy, clingy, annoying, talks too much, always has to be right, a girl desperate for attention, who craves being seen, this little girl who bats her eyelashes and smiles to be cute, who is instigates whatever gets her attention, who is self centered and selfish and just too much. A naughty little girl who definitely does not deserve protection. That is who you should be picturing.”

Bea listens to this, and after a pause she asks, “You do know I work with kids, right?” 

I shrug. “Yes.” I’m annoyed. Of course I know that. 

“Do you know what I love best about kids?” She chuckles a bit as the words hit the spaces between us. 

I don’t answer. She’s not hearing me. 

“I love that kids are everything humanity has to offer unfiltered. Kids are some of the most real people you are going to ever find. I’ve never thought the little girl was this perfect sweet angel that deserved protection because she was perfect and sweet. I’m sure the little girl was sweet, and kind and caring, and I’m also sure that she could be selfish or mean or have feelings that came out in ways she didn’t like. It really doesn’t matter what kind of little girl she was. In my mind, she was still innocent and deserved to be protected.” 

I put up a wall, and go farther away. I can’t let her words in.This won’t do. So I hide. She’s going on now, about how maybe the teen just needs someone to sit with her in that pain. She says something about being capable of holding two things at once, that she can believe it’s not my fault and she can sit the me in the feelings of blame and shame and ickiness. 

I shake my head. “But you can’t, you just can’t. You are going to see one day, and then……you’ll leave.” 

Her voice is adamant when she replies. “Nope. I’m not going anywhere. Yes, I go on vacations, but I always come back. I’m here, I’m not leaving.”

“You don’t….you can’t be sure.” 

“Well, would the teen like to test me? Is there something she would like to tell me?”

I shake my head no. My stomach feels sick. I don’t want to test her. I don’t know what I want. It wouldn’t matter, anyway, because I would either set the test is for her to pass, or skew it so she would fail. It wouldn’t be a fair test. Right now, I want her to fail. If she fails, then she has to admit she is wrong and I am right and then I won’t have to do this therapy thing anymore. But I don’t want to lose Bea. I want her to be everything she says she is. I want her to be a person who knows it all and still thinks I am good. I want her to be a person who can see the truth and still care about me. 

“I……there’s um…….I mean, I’ve been…….you know. Memories.” Why can’t I get my words out in a coherent sentence? Ugh. 

“You’ve been having flashbacks again?” She makes sense of the puzzle of words I’ve thrown at her.

“Yeah– yes.” I mumble.

“Hmmmm. Do you think that maybe the teen is more present because there are trauma memories she needs to talk about? That maybe she is protecting more vulnerable parts from being hurt by those memories?”

I don’t know what to say. Maybe. Maybe talking about it is what I need. There’s so much risk with that, though, I can’t just blurt it out. “I…its…I can’t say it. I can’t tell it. I’m sorry. I just can’t.”

“It’s okay. When the teen is ready, we will listen to her. She has plenty of time to talk, she doesn’t have to speak right now. She can email me, too.” 

“Maybe. I don’t want to bother you while you are gone.”

“I’m not leaving until Saturday afternoon and I’m coming back on Tuesday. So I won’t even be gone until the weekend.” 

“Okay.” Why can’t she just tell me I’m not a bother? If this were a test, she would be failing. 

Somehow our time is up, Bea is telling me that we need to wrap things up for today, and I am frustrated because I was finally feeling like I might be able to get some words out, or at least to ask for help with finding the words. “That’s fine. I was ready to go anyway.” I say. The words are snarky and dripping in sass. 

“Was there something else you needed to bring up or talk about?” She’s not fazed by my snarkiness.  

“Nope. I’ve turned into a pumpkin already.” I shove my feet in my shoes and stand up to leave. 

Bea smiles at me, and her smile is just full of care and understanding, acceptance. “Okay. If something does come up, I have some sessions open, and you can always email or call me, too.” 

I feign nonchalance as I walk out. I can’t afford to care. 

Some things I can’t talk about……..

Trigger warning for talk about sex….

Sex is such a confusing thing to me. And shameful. So very shameful. Logically, I know it’s just a biological drive, nothing shameful there. But emotionally? That’s a different story. I don’t understand why I seek out this thing that terrifies me, disgusts me and hurts me. I don’t understand how I can want to be touched like that. I hate that I feel like half a wife because I don’t typically have sex with my husband. I hate that I am sickened and confused and embarrassed. 

The day we get back from camping passes by in blur. I know I felt bad, overwhelmed. That night, I crawled into bed and snuggled up to hubby. There wasn’t a grown up on board at that moment. Maybe the little girl, maybe a teen part, was running the show. It’s like I could see it happening, but not stop it. At first it was just cuddling, and nuzzling, but then she sat up, and straddled her legs on either side of hubby. She started it. I started it. Kissing, and touching, and she was fine with all of it, until hubby turned his focus more on her, and touching between her legs. One moment, he was hubby and things felt good and she wanted it, and this next moment, it wasn’t hubby anymore, and something bad was going to happen, and I couldn’t handle it. The touching felt nice but like it was too much, too intense and I wanted to squirm my body away, but I couldn’t. And I knew, I just knew, he was going to hurt me after this, because it would be his turn to feel good, and it was going to make me hurt. I started to cry, and scream at him to please don’t hurt me. After that, I don’t know. Hubby stopped, right away, and I hid under my blanky, crying all night. He sat up with me, but I couldn’t talk.  

And now, hubby hasn’t touched me, even to hug me, or hold my hand, or kiss me good morning. I say I hate being touched, but now I feel like he saw exactly how disgusting I am, and he can’t even stand to hug me. I don’t want to be his broken, sick wife. 

I feel like there is more I should say about this. But every time I catch some of the words I want to use, others escape. 

(Also, I’m way super embarrassed about this post, but I honestly can not sit alone with this stuff anymore right now. I feel like I’m losing my mind, and I hate this aspect of myself. Does anyone understand? Am I the only one? How do I cope with this? I’m so lost.)

In the nighttime (camping)

I hear voices, male voices. I bolt upright in bed, on high alert. My heart pounds. I can’t place where I am, I’m lost, I’m trapped, what is going on? A full minute later, I remember. I’m camping, I’m in our cabin. People are walking by, outside, and I’m safely locked inside. I’m a grown up. My husband is next to me, and my daughter is in the room opposite ours. 

Except, that doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel real to me at all. I feel like a child, maybe 8 years old, that is pretending to herself she is a grownup because grownups can do whatever they want, and that sounds pretty good to her right now. 

I can’t get up and go for a walk, like I would back home. It’s not safe to go walk outside when it’s dark. (In retrospect, I’m sure it was safe, but it didn’t feel safe at the time). I get out my iPad and type out an email to Bea. I tell her exactly what is wrong, the nightmare, the fears, the feelings. All of it. And then I delete it. It’s all too embarrassing to tell her. 

I try to lay down, but I still can’t sleep. My heart is still racing, and I’m like a watch dog, scanning the room around me, listening for any sounds out of place. It doesn’t feel safe to lay down, so I use my pillows to prop myself up. I type out another email to Bea, and delete this one, too. 

I want to write about this thing that has been happening since the reunion weekend, when all the things were massively triggered. I want to write about it and I’m embarrassed. And maybe there should be a trigger warning at this point for, well, I don’t know. I guess for sex words and feelings. 🙈

I think this is happening because I’m more present in my body, and I’m more aware of things I am feeling than I have ever been. For example, I bruise easily, and two years ago, I would bump into a corner of a table, not feel it and have no memory of where the bruise that would later appear came from. Now, though, I tend to know what caused every bruise because I feel it when I bump into things. I think this newfound groundedness is allowing me to feel my body more, and lots of those feelings are triggering for me. 

My nightmares have been causing me to wake up…aroused. 🙈🙈🙈 Flashbacks have also been having the same effect. Even talking about memories has been causing feelings of wanting to be touched. I feel disgusting over this. It makes me feel like a shameful, worthless whore. I HATE feeling sexually…..you know, excited. 

The worst part about these new feelings is they don’t seem to go away easily. Even when I am feeling sick and disgusting and wanting to die because of how my body physically feels, the feelings don’t go away. I don’t know how to explain it, really. It’s not an emotional experienced at all. I’m not wanting my body to feel like this. It feels almost like a betrayal, to have my body feeling things I don’t want to feel, to have the body crave sexual touch. I feel dirty and broken and wrong. 

I know sex is something that is okay between two consenting adults. I know that in theory there is nothing shameful or disgusting or wrong about having sex with my husband. But I feel wrong. I feel bad. I feel like I am disgusting for having pleasurable feelings. 

Feeling sexually aroused makes me want to hurt myself. Having sex with my husband and enjoying it makes me want to hurt myself. It all feels bad and wrong and not okay. 

I can’t even talk about it because of the intense shame and self hated I feel over this. How can I ever share this with Bea? I’ll never be able to look at her again. 

I reacted during the games that Kenny played, and I reacted when the boyfriend was….well, whatever you want to call it. Maybe I am just over-sexed, maybe I was just born slutty. I don’t know. But I reacted it, and things felt good, and it doesn’t matter that sometimes I hated it even though things felt good, because I also sought him out, I wanted him to touch me. And now, I have these nightmares and flashbacks and when it’s over, my body craves touch. But it’s not just any touch, my body wants his touch. 

I’m sick. Twisted. There is something really, really wrong with me. How does a person deal with this? How does a person cope with all of this? I’m at the end of my rope, and while Monday’s session helped some, and almost all of me believes Bea is here, a part of me also believes that if she knew all this, she’d think me disgusting and she wouldn’t be able to look at me without wanting to vomit and she wouldn’t be able to keep working with me, even Bea won’t be able to contain this. But I need help. I literally want to cease to exist when I have these feelings, and those combined with being triggered and overwhelmed and having no resources left…….I need Bea to come back soon. I won’t see her for almost a week because of her vacation. I’m also truly terrified that she won’t come back and be herself. I’m so afraid that will happen, I’m almost thinking about emailing and cancelling that whole week and the next. 🙈

I think I’m going to be okay

This might be triggering; I talk about details of specific memory pieces. Please just be careful. Xx

Therapy Monday. I’m sitting in my usual place, with Bea across from me. We’re still discussing the memories, images, physical sensations, feelings. “I don’t know. I…..it’s just a stupid thing,” I tell her. 

“If it’s there, and bothering you, it’s important. Maybe it needs to be said.” Bea is calm, always so calm. I gave her my notebook to read earlier in the session. I’d written that I didn’t understand how she could go over and over the same questions, constantly reassuring me, responding to the same worries and fears. She said it was okay, that she would reassure me and answer the same questions as long as I needed to ask them. 

“I…..it’s just….in my head…..I see……it’s….” I stop, try to slow my breathing, calm down. “I like to sleep on my stomach.” I start over, from the beginning. 

“Okay. You like to sleep on your stomach,” Bea echoes.

“I sleep on my side when he’s here. So I can see the door. I have to watch the door.” My breathing is faster now, I’m full of anxiety, and it feels like I’m there, waiting for him to come back into my room. I’m 5 years old again. 

“You need to watch the door. Yes, you were trying to keep yourself safe. You are kind of on your side right now. Can you feel that?”  

“Yeah…I’m on my side…..I…..I have to see the door. My room…all my furniture is cream and rose gold. My mom painted the walls that dusty pink color. I hated it.” It’s helping me to tell her about my room, what it looked like then. It’s important to the story, but it’s helping. 

“Mmmmhmmm.” Bea lets me know she hears me. My head is down, so I can’t see her. She makes these verbal nods. 

“My bed, it’s a day bed. The bed posts are round.” 

“Are they rose gold, or cream?” Bea asks. 

“Gold. My bed is cream. And you know how the sides….they slope on a day bed…so the posts are more level with your head…” I stop talking. I can’t breathe. 

“I see some shaking, and it looks like you are very scared right now. Let’s go back to your knees. Can you feel them? That they are strong?” 

“Now. They are strong now. Then…..but now they are strong and won’t move.” I whisper the words through tears that are falling now. 

“Yes. Then you couldn’t stop it. But now, now they are strong, and no one can move them.” She reiterates. 

I nod. “Okay. So….I have to watch the door. I have to see the door. So when he comes in my room, I know right away. And when…..when he’s closer….I…..those bed posts, they make a reflection like a mirror. But….it’s round…so it’s….like a funhouse mirror.” 

“Distorted.” 

“Yes. Distorted. So….I can see him…..smiling….but it’s…distorted….he’s happy. I’m not happy.” I sob the words out. 

“Your whole life was distorted,” she tells me sadly. 

“I was so scared.” 

“Can you see how your body is feeling? Is there anything you want to do?” She asks me. 

I shake my head at first. I’m unsure. “I don’t know. I can’t…I’m sorry, I don’t know.” 

“That’s okay. It’s okay not to know.” She reassures me. 

We sit with the feeling of not knowing for a while. Sitting there, feeling scared, and unsure, feeling like a 5 year old. And then, I know. “I want to push his hands off me. I want to push and kick his hands away.” 

“You want to push his hands away. Do you want to try an experiment? Try pushing?” She asks softly, carefully. 

“I….I’m scared.” I tell her. 

“I know.” 

“I…okay. I’ll try.” The words are choppy, and uncertain. 

“Okay. Do you want to push with hands or feet?” 

I shake my head. I don’t know. 

“Your right foot is pushing a little bit on your left foot. Do you want to push with your feet? I could put my hand under your foot, and you could push against it.” 

“Feet…..I don’t like my feet touched.” I tell her that, and it’s like something in my head clicks, and it makes sense why I have always hated having my feet touched. 

“Okay. If I put a blanket under your foot, would that feel safer?” 

“No….hands are safer than feet. Not feet.” I whisper.

“Okay. That’s something we know, now. That’s good. Do you want to try pushing with hands?” She asks carefully.

I nod. “Okay. With hands.” 

“I’m going to move nearer to you, okay?” Bea is keeping her voice gentle. 

“Okay. Okay,” I say. I try to breathe. I don’t look up, but I feel her moving closer. For a moment, I panic inside. It’s near impossible to stay in this place of two realities; the 5 year old who was scared and hurt and alone, and the grown up who is strong, and not alone. I have to work to remind myself that I’m in Bea’s office, I’m safe, it’s Bea next to me, not him. 

“I’m going to put my hand right near yours, and when your ready, you can push. If you want more or less pressure to push against, you can tell me. And if I’m too close, you can tell me to move. You are the one in control here, this rime.” 

“I can’t. I can’t. It’s not…I can’t.” I’m starting to freak out. 

“Nothing bad will happen. You are strong. Feel your knees. No one can move them. No one can open them. Your feet are strong, grounded. No one can move them.” She says. 

I unclench my fist, so my hand is open. I can’t do more than that, though. 

“You aren’t pushing me away. You’re pushing, but it’s not pushing me away. I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.” She says. 

I place my hand against hers. 

“It’s okay. You aren’t alone now. And you can push his hands away now.” She tells me, speaking softly. 

I push against her hand. I don’t push hard, I don’t apply barely any pressure. But I push against her hand. Part of me knows she is moving her hand back, allowing me to push her away. But another part of me feels like I am strong, and that I pushed hands away. 

“You did it!” Bea’s voice is full of happiness, but she keeps it quiet and somehow still calm. 

“I did it.” My voice is a little hollow, and far away sounding. It feels like a dream; I did it. 

“You did it. And nothing bad happened.” 

“Nothing bad happened…..?” It’s part question, part statement.

“No, nothing bad happened. I’m still here, and nothing bad happened.” She repeats. 

It’s quiet, for a bit. Then she asks if I want to try again. I nod my head, and push her hand away again. Then we switch hands, and I use my left to push her away. Each time, it takes me a while, and I’m terrified to push those hands away. I’m still partly there, in the then, in a time when I couldn’t push hands away, or keep my knees pushes together, a time when I had to sleep on my side to watch the door. A part of me is in the now, though, and so I’m able to use my new somatic resources and realize that I’m safe and strong. 

“If anyone put their hands on you, you can push their hands away,” Bea tells me. 

I nod. “Yes. I can push their hands away. No one can move my knees or feet.” I push my knees together, and push my feet into the sofa. 

“I can push the hands away.” My voice is stronger. 

“You did good work today. Really good work. I know it’s hard, really hard, but you are doing it. This was good work,” she tells me as she we wrap things up. 

I’m exhausted, when I get home, I want nothing more than to take a nap. I end up taking a nap, a very long nap in the afternoon. I feel like I ran a marathon. This is hard work. I think it’s worth it, I have to believe it’s worth it. 

I feel calmer, in a way that feels very deep internally, like its there to stay. It’s like there is a pool of cool blue water, with orchids surrounding it, deep inside me. Like I have a place to go to feel calm. I have a place inside myself that is safe, safer than any closet I could ever hide in. Things feel scary and hard, and I’m surrounded by feelings and physical sensation, and I’m sad and things are messy, but deep inside I feel like I have a safe place. I think I’m going to be okay.