All the time in the world 

This post may be triggering. I had a lot happen this past weekend. I need to write and work through some things, and many of those things could be triggering to others. Please be careful, and as always, take care of yourselves. Xx

It’s been a rough weekend. By Tuesday morning, as I am driving into the city to Bea’s office, I’m so highly triggered that I am numb. I had emailed her late last night, filling her in on some of it, knowing I wouldn’t be able to talk about it all. I wrote that I needed to talk, and not focus on safety and grounding, because I felt as if there was a hurricane, tornado and blizzard tearing through my mind. I was so afraid that being so triggered would send Bea into a grounding and safety model of therapy, and I just really felt this need to talk. She wrote back in the morning, assuring me that we would make as much space to talk as I needed.

I walk in, carrying Hagrid. Bea smiles at me, a slightly sad smile, one that says she knows how hard this is. “How’s he doing today?” She asks me. 

I blink back tears, and settle Hagrid on my lap as I sit down. “He’s okay. He can’t be jumping up or down or do stairs right now. And I feel like he looks really sad, even though hubby keeps telling me he always looks like this.” Over the weekend, Hagrid had strained a muscle in his back. Thankfully, it was a Sunday, so I only had to wait a day to bring him to our vet. Our vet does have emergency hours, and will meet you at the office during times when the office is closed, but Hagrid was walking, using the bathroom, and eating and drinking, and only crying or showing signs of pain when he jumped on or off furniture, so hubby had decided we could wait until Monday morning. The vet had said he pulled or strained a muscle, and gave him a laser therapy treatment, designed to reduce inflammation and speed healing. 

“He does look sad, just sort of shut down,” Bea agrees with me. She is really looking at him, and her face is full of empathy. She looks as if she would like nothing better than to make Hagrid feel better. “You know, animals know how to listen to their bodies much better than we do. Hagrid is listening to his body, resting so he can heal. It is a good thing. He’s okay.” 

I nod. It’s so hard seeing him hurting, and I feel so terrible. While my vet had assured me that we had done nothing wrong, and this is a common injury for dachshunds, I can’t help feeling as though I should have been able to prevent it. 

“You know,” Bea says, “If my dog was hurt, and my child had jumped and almost hurt him more, I would have yelled, too. I really would have.” Part of my breakdown this weekend had been because Hagrid was hurt, and Kat had jumped onto the couch where he was sitting– after just being told no jumping or bouncing around the dog– and I had screamed at her, like another child throwing a temper tantrum. 

“Thank you,” I whisper, grateful that Bea understands and is willing to share these kinds of things with me. 

“So your mom…….?” Bea prompts, letting her unspoken question hang in the air. 

“My mom,” I say. “I don’t know what to say. She just…..she was okay.” On Monday, after he had seen the vet, and hubby had left for work, Kat and I were sitting with him on the couch, when he let out the worst cry I have ever heard from a dog. I was so scared, and could hardly think. I had called hubby, asking him to come home because I was scared and worried and needed him. He responded very shortly with me, telling me to act like an adult and call the vet. I had called the vet (and gone back, had X-rays taken, and seen that his back, his spine, was just a bad strain), and then I had called my mom. I’d been so upset when I called her I couldn’t breathe or speak, just sob. And she had been amazing; calm and contained, and not backing away from my pain. 

“She really could handle you being so upset.” 

I nod. “She really could. I even told her, later, that I almost didn’t call because I didn’t want to upset her, and she said she could handle it, and it was her problem if she got upset, not my problem. It was….strange. I don’t know. Not like her. She was…..not my mom.” 

“She wasn’t the mom you were used to,” Bea says. 

“It’s funny. Last year, I was so anxious about thanksgiving and I didn’t want to go. This year, I am just so….it’s like I just have to make it through to Wednesday when I can leave, go to my parents’. I just…things have changed so much.” 

“So you are still going, then?” Bea asks. 

“Yeah. Hubby and Kat are going to his mom’s, so it is just me. I’m……I’m okay with that,” I say slowly. 

“A break will be good for you, I think.” Bea agrees. 

We talk about Kat, and some of the things that are concerning me. When at school, Kat is the picture of well adjusted. Yes, she needs some extra supports, and we’ve had to make accommodations for her, but it has all gone much more smoothly than I was anticipating. Of course, we had begun working towards Kat attending school this year last spring, so she was well prepared. Anyway, at home, Kat talks about school, and is sad. She had told me this weekend that her heart was broken by school, and she was very sad that she has to go there. It sparked a huge amount of concern for me, and I was very stressed and upset by her words. 

Bea talks about how much Kat has had to change to attend school, and how anytime we change, there is grief involved. She suggests that may be part of Kat’s broken heart feeling. She acknowledges how hard it must to hear that, but assures me that everything in Kat’s play is becoming more pro social, and is very healthy, even with things she needs help working through. As she is speaking, she looks at me, and tells me, “You are a good mother. You’ve had a lot of affirmation about this lately, the BCBA telling you that you are spot on in how to help Kat say goodbye to the tech that is leaving, Kat’s teacher telling you that you are her favorite kind of parent to work with because you get it, the other ABA tech telling you are her favorite family to work with because you are open and real and involved. But these things surprise you. You don’t believe them. When you first brought Kat here, I was amazed at how attuned you were to her. You were right there, with her and with me, doing therapy. For me, I had never worked with a parent so in tune to what was going on. It was like having another therapist in the room.” 

I’m shocked by her words. I shake my head at her. “I just…it’s like I somehow have you fooled, too. Even though I shouldn’t be able to fool you.” I sigh, and shake my head. She is my shrink. I’ve been so upfront with her about the times I have yelled at Kat, or ignored her, or fallen short of being a good mom. 

Bea laughs. “I don’t think you have me fooled. I think you are a good mom. But you just don’t see it, even when others tell you so.” 

“I don’t know. It’s like….they are fooled by me, or they are being nice.” 

“I wonder where this message came from? I don’t think it’s an old message, from the past.” She questions. 

“I don’t know. I really don’t. It just…is.” But now that she has asked the question, my mind is spinning, wondering, searching for answers. 

“There is….it’s not uncommon for successful people to feel as though they are a fake. It’s known as imposter syndrome.” As Bea explains what it is, I mentally nod my head in agreement. That is how I feel. But where she is explaining it as one area of a person’s life, I feel as though that is my life. I don’t respond, and we sit in silence for a few moments. Bea breaks the silence, saying, “I don’t want us to run out of time and not have talked about everything you wanted to talk about.” 

I nod. “I just…I wanted space to talk, but I don’t even know what to say.” 

“Was there one thing that is in your mind, more than anything else?” She asks. When I shake m head, she suggests she could get my email, but I shake my head at that, too.

“I….it’s like this whole weekend was one big trigger.” I’ve been aware, the whole time Bea and I have been speaking, that I’m wound very tight, on edge, just holding it together. 

“Okay,” she says, “So it was Sunday when Hagrid got hurt. That was the start?” 

“No….I think……Friday was the start.” I reach down, pull my notebook out of my bag. “I wrote…I was going to type it, email it. But then…I just didn’t.” 

“Do you want me to read it now?” He voice is soft and kind. 

I open the notebook, not really looking at it. “I don’t…I was going to edit it before I emailed it.” 

“I don’t care about editing, or something being typed,” she tells me softly. 

I scan the words I had written, barely remembering them. A good portion of it reads as though the little girl wrote it. “I think…I mean….not just grammar or punctuation. Not really edit, I guess. Revise. I mean revise.” 

“Ahhh, I see,” Bea says carefully. 

I start to read what I’d written, stop, and flip the page. I’m reading silently, trying to decide if there is any part of it that I can have her read. I finally slam the notebook shut, and throw it on the floor as if it is a snake that bit me. 

Bea has been watching all of this, but I’m not certain what she has seen, what conclusions she has drawn from my behavior. Softly, as if she is speaking to a scared child, she says, “Whatever is written in there is clearly very upsetting.” 

I nod. I can’t speak for a minute, and when I finally do, my voice is so quiet it’s barely there. I have my face covered with my hands. I can’t look at her. “I…we were playing uno. On Friday. Kat loves uno. So we were playing, after dinner. I…we always played. When I was a kid…when we would go camping, summer…I don’t know.” 

“Is there a memory associated with playing this game?” She gently asks. 

I shake my head. “No….I…maybe, sort of. Not really bad. Just….I was…it’s small things. But it…playing a game, so often played when I was a kid….I….well….maybe I was more in a little girl headspace?” The last part comes out as a question, although it wasn’t intended that way. 

“Mmmmhmmm, that makes sense.” Bea encourages me to continue. 

“So….I…after Kat was in bed…maybe….I was still in that headspace. And maybe hubby was…maybe he….I mean….we….you know.” I can’t get the words out. Why is it so impossible for me to say the words? We had sex. Three little words, but I can’t get them out.

“I know,” Bea says quickly, quietly. 

I breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have to say it for her to know, and continue. “I was…it was like…everything…just..flashbacks. And he didn’t see.” My voice breaks, and a few tears fall. “I…then Saturday…I was…..numb, gone. I don’t know. I don’t really remember a lot of Saturday.” What I do remember about Saturday is that I slept with my husband again, that night (but I can’t remember if I actually told Bea that, or not).

“And Saturday is when you wrote in your notebook?” She guesses. 

“Yeah. I…I just needed…I don’t know. Everything was too much. And then Sunday, Hagrid was hurt, and I just…I don’t know. And then I was watching a show before bed, and……well, it was you know…and nightmares, and then hubby woke me up Monday morning, yelling at me and…..there was that mess…and I just was frozen. And everything felt so bad. I wanted…….to…..go away…..disappear……I just….” I break off from the story, not even sure what else to say. 

It’s a good thing I had emailed this part of the weekend to Bea. Sunday night, the show I had DVRed and was watching, the main character had an abortion. It wasn’t a main part of the storyline, but looking back, maybe I should have realized what the story was leading up to. I don’t know. And it wasn’t a long scene, but it was enough to put me on the crazy train. Then, sometime during the night, I had started my period, and woke up to a literal mess on Monday morning. My wake up came from hubby, screaming at me about mail I had left in the car, and he had found. I don’t know when I even got the mail, I never get the mail, but I had gotten it, and it had ended up buried under all the crap in my car. He has found it when he drove Kat to school, and it included a bill that he had needed. Then there was Hagrid being hurt, and the vet visit, and then hubby telling me to act like an adult to take the dog back to the vet on my own, and me yelling at Kat, and Kat being upset about school, and the Friday night little girl headspace. I was a mess by Monday afternoon; and a part of me was feeling extremely self destructive and as though all I ever do is ruin everything and hurt people around me. I felt as though everyone would be happier if I just disappeared. I almost called Bea. But, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So, I called my mom instead, needing to not be alone. And my mother surprised me by being the mom I had needed my entire life, that she was unable to be until now. 

“It was a lot. A lot to deal with, and a lot of triggers.” Bea is still speaking very softly, gently. “You were really triggered. It’s…when we get so triggered like that, and have these feelings that don’t fit with our present, daily lives, it feels very crazy. But you aren’t crazy. It’s as if you are being hijacked by old feelings. And we can work on that, so things don’t feel this much out of control. We have all the time in the world to work on this.” 

I nod, slowly. I wonder what she means by ‘all the time in the world’, but it feels like she means that we have as much time as I need, that she isn’t going anywhere. And for once, I don’t feel the need to question her, or worry over it. She’s not going anywhere, and I’m going to my parents on Wednesday for the weekend, where my mom will take care of me. Even though nothing feels okay, everything will be okay. I have all the time in the world to make it so. 

Things I’m afraid to say

I wrote this last night, at 2 am. It’s a letter to Bea. I have so much ugly stuff just moving around in my head, looping around, jumping around, making a giant mess. I need Bea back. I need to tell her these things. But I am afraid. So, I decided to share it here after so many of you told me you understand, that I’m not alone and that you are all supporting me.
This might be triggering, I don’t know. I don’t mention any details but I do talk about sexual abuse.

My parents are in therapy. What does that mean? I don’t even know.

On the surface, if you met our family when I was in elementary school, say second grade, you would have met a mom, a dad, a daughter and a son. The Dad went to work everyday during the week, and he was smart; usually much smarter than people around him and successful. He’s also quiet and soft spoken. The mom is talkative, social, a people person. She stays home and is the room mother for her children’s classes at school. She works out a lot, taking classes at the local Y, and runs. The daughter, she talks too much and tries to be quieter. She likes to read and play with her barbies. She dances and does gymnastics and is known for being very smart– she is already reading books meant for 5th or 6th graders. The little boy is quiet and follows his sister’s lead. He likes his trucks and GI joes, he struggles some in school but is talented in art and likes to draw and build things. The family goes to church every Sunday, and has a fairly large group of friends they see on the weekends. The kids have everything they could want, yet they are polite and other children and adults like them. They are close with the dad’s family who live in town. The family is perfect, really perfect.

That’s the story; the perfect storybook life my family has claimed to have. It’s the story I have told my whole life. The story, my story continues that daughter grows up, and does so well in school she graduates at age 16. She attends community college for a year because she is so young, and then transfers to school an hour away from home. She does well, but after a year chooses to take a break from “real” school because she was so young when she began her academic career. She attends cosmetology school and falls in love with the profession; she finds her real passion and ends up working as a colorist and then as the director of the color department at an upscale salon several hours from her hometown. She meets a nice boy, and they get married. They buy a home, and have a baby. There are many challenges with the baby, but the couple fight for what they know their child needs, and they eventually find people who help. When the child is 3, they receive a diagnosis of autism, and they find the best therapy for their child. They fight for insurance and healthy care. They accomplish a lot, because of their daughter’s diagnosis. And after all that, the little girl is doing very well, she is succeeding and happy and has made many huge strides. Because of his work on changing the insurance policy of his office, the husband gets noticed at work by the higher ups. They see his steady job performance, his dedication to his job, how smart he is, and how much he cares. The husband receives several promotions during the time the little girl grows from baby to toddler to a 5 year old. The wife stays home and takes care of the day to day stuff, she manages the house and the daughter’s therapies. She is organized and on top of it all. The family lives in a nice neighborhood, in a small town, on a lake. They have a private beach and small park in the neighborhood. Life is perfect. They are perfect.

But it’s not real. Or maybe it is and I’m crazy. I don’t know. Maybe it’s fair to say it’s real, but it’s not the whole story. I don’t know.

If my parents are in therapy, and my mom is gone because she can’t handle my Dad’s depression anymore, and they have been here many times before but never to the point of therapy, I don’t know what that means exactly. Maybe it means that what I’ve said all along, that the perfect life was false, a facade, is true. Maybe I can’t handle that being true. Maybe it’s easier if I am crazy and lying and making things up. I don’t know.

The other side of this story, isn’t so pretty. It’s about a woman (Olivia) who lost her mother (Monica) too early, and whose father (Joe) disowned her, along with her older brother (Matt) and sister (Bethany). No one talks about why, or what happened, and although joe lives in the same town, he is avoided at all costs. Olivia is estranged from joe’s entire family, although she does remain close to Monica’s extended family.

The man (Brad) she marries has a messy family history. His father (Tyler) and mother (Joyce) are divorced, the father remarried to a loving, kind person– Lottie. Joyce was emotionally abusive, and at times neglectful. She would lock her kids out of the house when she was entertaining her boyfriends. Tyler was hospitalized twice during his marriage to Joyce for what the family will only say was a nervous breakdown. The family rumor is that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but it has also been rumored that he was diagnosed with manic depressive disorder. AsBrad and his siblings reached the age of 12, they all chose to go live with their father and step-mother. By that time Tyler was on medication and stable. Lottie was also a stable and consistent person. After living with her father for about a year, brad’s older sister (Dana) disclosed that one of Joyce’s boyfriend’s had sexually abused her. Joyce accused Dana of flirting and trying to steal the boyfriend. Tyler and Lottie sent Dana to counseling, but that was all that was ever done. Joyce married that boyfriend; he became husband number 3. Many years later, it is rumored and whispered and wondered if Joyce did more than emotionally abuse her children.

Looking at this, it’s harder to know exactly what happened with Olivia but it is clear something ugly happened. It appears that she has had an eating disorder for a long time, as it has been hinted at that the eating disorder affected her pregnancy. Knowing Brad’s history, it is easy to see why he struggles with depression. I think he has refused to admit it or seek help because he doesn’t want to be “crazy” like his dad.

So. Olivia gets pregnant at 18, just out of highschool and they get married. Olivia is put on bed rest in July because of pregnancy complications. I’m born in October. A few years later, my little brother is born. Even when I was young, I felt a lot of pressure to be good, to be whatever my parents needed. It felt like I had to be good enough to be loved. My Dad didn’t talk a lot. He taught me to read before kindergarden, and he always told me he loved me before I went to bed, gave me a hug and a kiss. He sang funny songs– like the bumblebee song, but sometimes he would refuse to sing. He liked to go fishing, and he would take us with him. I always took a book and a drawing pad because he didn’t talk a lot when we would be out on the boat. It felt like he needed quiet.

My mom worked hard to be perfect; it was just something I knew from a young age. She did not like sad or mad feelings, happy is what mattered, what was allowed and acceptable. She would beat herself up over mistakes; like burning chicken for dinner, or spilling a drink. She threw up after dinner a lot. I remember thinking that was what moms did. I didn’t know. We had family friends, and the son babysat me. They lived next door. He played a secret game with me, and I didn’t understand it, not really, but I knew I was bad for playing the game and liking it and I was afraid of people finding out. But sometimes, I didn’t like the game and it was all so confusing. But I had no one to tell. Except, once, in first grade, I drew a picture of a little girl hiding in a closet. When my teacher asked about it, I told her I had to hide sometimes because scary things happen at nighttime. She thought it was about bad dreams. I remember telling her it wasn’t dreams, feeling so frustrated that she didn’t get it. I don’t know what happened after that, if anything at all. I remember thinking my mom would love me more if I were thinner like my cousin Angie. It was summer, between first and second grade. I remember my mom getting ready to go out, and asking her not to go. I remember too much, and not enough at all. I remember feeling left and like I did something wrong because she wouldn’t stay. I don’t know.

They ignored, turned a blind eye, and hid everything. No one could know about mom’s eating disorder. No one could know that their daughter was crazy. They didn’t see what was happening. Even my dirty, no not dirty, bloody underwear weren’t enough to make her question anything at all. I always blame my mom for not seeing, but really, my dad didn’t see either. He still believed, until this year, that I love the Ferris wheel. I don’t know. I don’t want to think about his depression, or how that was when I was a kid. I don’t want to know. No matter what, I always thought of him as so strong, so smart, believed he could fix anything. The little girl’s perspective of the super hero Dad. But it’s not completely true. I don’t know, I really need him to be able to fix anything. I remember that the day after I overdosed, I was grounded but still forced to attend my birthday party and smile like nothing was wrong. It’s all so screwed up. The summer before I was 13, when we were at the cabin with kenny’s family for a week. We went there without my parents because they needed some time to work through things. Was this because of depression and eating disorders and not just because of a crazy daughter? I don’t know. And the summer before Kat was born, there were problems. But then Kat was born, and family came to visit and they pretended things were perfect, like they always do. I don’t know what to think. It’s all so freaking messy and it makes me want to scream.

My mind is throwing ugly crap in my face no matter how hard i try to block it out. It’s all piecey and messy and chopped up. I’m little and he is there, touching me and I’m happy. Then I’m little and he is telling me to kiss him, down there. And I’m sick and frozen and can’t breathe but he is saying like a Popsicle and I think I might throw up and it all feels too real. And then I’m in my bed and I feel afraid and sad and I keep crying but I don’t understand why. And then I’m in 4th grade and my mom is gone, she left me, and I am kissing him, moving his hands to be on my body. It’s my fault, I did it, he hurt me but I did if. And I’m confused and I want to hide and I feel like a little girl that just wants her mom. Except that it’s my fault she is gone. And I’m older and kissing him in front of my mom and I’m in trouble and not being appropriate and he pushed me away. No one wants me. I don’t know. Why is my head so screwed up?

And maybe the nanny did something to sara, and maybe she didn’t. And maybe she did something to Kat and maybe she didn’t. I can’t really believe it, because it’s our nanny and I trust her. Except my parents trusted him. And he hurt me. But I wanted to play the game. Oh my god, this is all too confusing. And I tried to tell my teacher because she was nice and always listened to me and it didn’t feel like she just wanted me to stop talking and be quiet. But she didn’t get it, or maybe she didn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it because my family was perfect. So how can I not believe a different little girl? I don’t know. I don’t know. This is all so confusing and twisted and I really just want to run away but I don’t even have anywhere to go.

And I’ve been thinking about college boyfriend and all the things I allowed him to do, and how I just didn’t leave and how he could be so mean, and how much he could hurt me and how twisted he was and how I think he liked it when I was afraid or hurting. I don’t know, I don’t want these thoughts in my head but they loop around and around with the crazy kenny childhood memories and I can’t make them stop. All this ugly stuff pops up when it wants to and it’s stupid and I feel like a horrible, dirty, terrible person.

Everything feels so very screwed up and hard. I feel like the scared little girl and I really want to send this long, convoluted, insane and messy email to you but I’m afraid. I’m afraid it’s too long, I’m afraid I’m being too needy, I’m afraid that you’re going to get mad, that it’s not okay to send long crazy emails right now, and I’m afraid if i keep asking if you are mad or if you will get mad that that will make you mad. I’m pretty much just afraid that everyone in my life is mad at me for not being enough, not being able to handle everything, for falling apart and being up and down and I don’t even know. I think I’m afraid that everyone is leaving me. Hubby is here but he isn’t “here.” The rest of my people are all falling apart, in one way or another. And I can’t fix it all, and I really need everyone to be okay so that I can be okay. This is turning into another messy confusing paragraph.

This is stupid and I am so embarrassed but I wish you were here, and that I was seeing you on Monday, because this all feels like too much and I really need you to be here, but you aren’t here. And I’m afraid you won’t come back, even though I rationally know you are coming back. And I don’t want to tell you this because I don’t want to be that needy, or that vulnerable, and I don’t want to tell you this because I am afraid you will be mad that I am upset you aren’t here….but I’m really afraid and so alone and I can’t make this go away. And I rationally understand that you are on vacation and that is okay and you are coming back. But I feel like you left me and I am alone with all this scary, too much stuff, and I can’t figure out what I did wrong, to make you leave, and I’m afraid you are not coming back because you are upset with me. And I know you have been emailing me and said you are still here, but it doesn’t feel like you are here, it feels like you just left me all alone. I hate that I am this needy, this attached, this….I don’t know the word. But it is nothing good. I’m an adult, I should not be feeling abandoned by my therapist, especially when you have made every effort to be here, even while on vacation. Please come back soon. I can’t do this by myself.

The Ferris Wheel

Monday morning, 8:00 am. I’m sitting on Bea’s couch, left leg tucked under the right, with my right knee bent and hugged to my chest. I’m mostly relaxed, but a little apprehensive. I’m not sure what Bea is going to say, or do today.

“How was the weekend?” Bea asks me.

I tell her about Saturday, taking Kat to the fair and riding all the rides. I love all the rides that spin and usually make people my age sick. I tell her how we went hiking on Sunday for Father’s Day, and how hubby turned a one hour hike into a three hour hike.

“Was it grounding? To be out hiking? Was it a positive thing?” She asks. Bea always tells me that going for a walk, being out in nature is grounding for people.

I shake my head, unsure where she is going with this. “That’s hard to answer. I mean…I don’t know. I hate hiking, I hate the woods. It’s not positive, it’s something I find fairly miserable. My idea of nature is sitting on my deck with a glass of wine.”

“What I’m getting at is if you were able to be disconnected from memories and the past? If being out hiking, or even out with Kat was a break from all of that. I know weekends have been hard, and I was hoping that this weekend was maybe a bit better because you were out doing things not your normal schedule.”

“I don’t know. Maybe. I….hiking is boring. It’s one foot in front of the other, follow the trail. You don’t have to be very present for that. It’s an easy activity that lets me be stuck in my head. So no, I wouldn’t say it was grounding.” I have a bit of an edge to my voice. I don’t want to talk about hiking. There are too many memories of hikes with him, with my brother and his sister and our Dads, all of us hiking and having fun. Too many good memories of him are involved in the woods and hiking. And too many ugly memories are twisted in with the good ones. So, no, it wasn’t a break. It was like being flooded with crap I had left behind in the woods, locked away and buried. Hiking through the woods for three solid hours was just what I needed to have it all come back, full force and clear as day.

Bea says something about how what I say is true, it’s easy for a walk to be mindless, but that we could choose to watch for birds or observe types of trees, or something like that. I shake my head at her. “That’s stuff I’m not ever going to do. It’s something my Dad would pay attention to, or maybe hubby. It’s not for me.”

She backs off, and circles back to the weekend. “So, we talked about the weekend, and it all sounds relatively good. Was it? Or was that the surface version?”

I sigh, and cover my face with my hands.

“I’m asking, because you told me that you need me to keep it real. So, I’m asking, and because you asked me to, I don’t have to feel bad for asking,” she says softly.

I nod. “Just because I asked you to ask, doesn’t mean it’s any easier to talk about.” But at least I know she sees through the whole act of being okay. I need to know she sees through it.

“We’re you present or more dissociated this weekend?” She asks, giving me a starting point.

“I…I’m not sure. Both?” I stumble, trying to answer but it’s difficult to do so. “I didn’t sleep on Friday, not really. I don’t know.”

“We talked about some hard stuff on Thursday. Were you having nightmares again?”

“I had a hard time falling asleep, and then I had a bad dream. It just…I wasn’t…I didn’t sleep after that. Saturday night…I don’t know. I was so tired after the fair, and I took a benedryl and fell asleep, and then I was up at maybe midnight, and just stayed up. And hubby was working all night, and so…I don’t know. And last night I was up and down, and I just gave up at three o’clock.” I shrug.

“When did you feel the most present?” Bea asks.

I’m not sure what I feel when she asks that question, because on one level I know she is trying to help me figure out when I’m more here, but another part of me feels resentful, and like she is getting shrinky on me. I really don’t want her to give me the shrinky feeling, so I go with her question, answer it. “When Kat and I were running from ride to ride at the fair, trying to make sure we got each one, and then going back to all the super spinning ones.” I smile at the memory.

“How did that feel to you?” She asks me.

I freeze. I have a definite shrinky feeling now. I can’t answer. The word is on the tip of my tongue, and part of me wants to tell her I felt happy. But I’m not sure I trust this, now. Never mind the fact that Bea asking questions makes it easier to talk.

“Maybe happy?” She suggests.

I nod. “Yes, I was happy. Kat was happy. We were having fun.”

“So this was a good thing, you were able to connect with her and not be triggered by her.”

I nod, still unsure if Bea is Bea or if she has turned shrinky on me. I feel a little disconnected from her, but I don’t want her to know. The old fear that she will leave if things are not perfect is still there. Will I ever get rid of the fear my parents placed in me?

“Maybe you felt happy and satisfied, the feeling we get as parents when we see our children enjoying something, but also happy because you were enjoying it, too?”

I nod my head yes, agreeing with her, because she is right.

“So when did you feel disconnected? Was it later that day, or on Sunday?”

I shake my head. Neither. “I…we were having a really good time. But then..she….Kat asked me to ride the Ferris Wheel. I don’t..I had to tell her no.” I feel hazy just talking about that. It’s enough to send me away, I don’t want to deal with this.

“I think that’s okay. I grew up with a mom who didn’t ride the Ferris Wheel. She got stuck at the top when she was a kid, and was afraid of the ride after that. So, it was just a ride I rode with my dad. And that was okay.” Bea says.

“I told her daddy would take her on it when he brought her back up to the fair after dinner. So..I don’t know.” I pause, and breathe. I can feel tears forming. This is so stupid, to be upset over this. “I don’t…I can’t..I don’t ride that ride.” I tell Bea, and then tears do fall.

“That was the ride?” She asks. It seems that the picture has clicked into place, and she gets it now.

“Yeah. That was the ride. So I don’t..I can’t..I haven’t since…….” My voice trails off, and I look at Bea. I don’t even know what I’m feeling. Part of me is far away, but there is a piece of me that feels ashamed and upset and overwhelmed and dirty.

“It was the Ferris Wheel at [the theme park].” She says.

I don’t know what happens, exactly, but fear and sickness wash over me and I feel too hot. I feel trapped, no way out. And I can actually feel the gondola on the Ferris Wheel swinging slightly. It’s like he is right there, right next to me. I curl both legs up to my chest and bury my face. I don’t want to see or be seen. I want to hide. This isn’t okay. Nothing is okay. Everything is scary, and no where is safe.

“What just happened for you?” Bea asks me.

I can’t answer her. I can’t breathe. She is very far away, and I really don’t know if I trust her right now. It doesn’t feel like she is here.

“I saw something on your face. You were clearly very triggered. Was it a feeling? A picture? What happened?”

I shake my head. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. I think she scared me. I’m not sure. Everything is a big, twisted mess, and no one is safe enough to trust. Everyone leaves.

“Can you try to breathe, try to be more in your body?”

I don’t know. I can’t catch my breathe. I can’t….I’ve been holding this in all weekend. The Ferris Wheel. I was so triggered when Kat asked me. Later, hubby took Kat back to the fair, and I stayed home. I felt like I could hardly function. I cut and then took a few benedryl, ensuring I would sleep and not have to deal with this mess.

“I think we need to figure out what happened, before we talk about what is going on now. That was a really powerful reaction you had. It looked like you reacted when I said [theme park]. It looked like pure terror to me.” Bea says. She seems so far from me, so disconnected. I’m pretty sure she is being gentle and kind, but all I feel is disconnect. And I’m afraid she is annoyed with me, tired of this, seriously irritated that I’m freaking out over a Ferris Wheel. Another part of me is thinking that maybe she is finally seeing how easily I’m triggered right now, and how big those things are and how little control I actually have over any of this.

I sit, shaking and crying and stuck in flashback land. I can’t escape it. I don’t know what to do. Bea is still talking, but I don’t have a clue what she is saying. I can’t focus on her words right now. Eventually I manage to calm myself a little, to come back. I feel off balance, like I’ve woken from a dream and missed something.

“We were talking about the Ferris Wheel,” I say slowly.

“Yes, we were talking about the Ferris Wheel,” Bea confirms. Maybe she thinks I’ve lost my mind. I don’t know.

“And then you said….you said the place. And I was really scared. I couldn’t think.”

“You looked terrified,” she tells me.

I’m quiet, I don’t know what else to say.

“Was it a big Ferris Wheel?”

I nod.

“Was it a single or a double?”

I’m not sure I even know what a double Ferris Wheel is. “A single.” I answer, but my voice is uncertain.

We sit, quiet for a minute.

And then, I start to tell her the story. “I…I wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel again.”

“When you were leaving? Or right after?”

“Right after. We’d already ridden. Me, my mom, Jackie, her mom in one. The girls in one, boys in the other.”

“It was one that held four people?”

I nod. “The cars…I don’t know. They were round, you know?”

“A gondola, I think they call them,” Bea supplies.

“Yes. That’s it,” I say.

“So everyone had already ridden, and you wanted to go again?” She asks.

“Yeah…so he said he would ride with me. The others…they went to the corkscrew. I didn’t want to ride the roller coaster anyway, so it was good. It worked. Everyone was happy.”

“So you really were left alone.”

“No…he was there with me. I don’t know.” I shake my head. I’m so confused.

“I wonder why he didn’t want to ride the roller coaster? Or why no one questioned why he would stay and ride with you?” Bea asks. I don’t know if she is asking because she is curious, or maybe she doesn’t believe me. I don’t know. Why is everything so confusing?

“Everyone was happy this way. I don’t know.” I say. A part of me wants to scream that he was a freaking Boy Scout, always there to help, always a good, helpful boy. So everyone trusted him. I don’t know.

“I still wonder how old you were?”

I’m starting to feel really alone in this, attacked. Like Bea is mad at me for not remembering enough, or not having enough of the answers, or for being so upset over something so stupid, or something, I don’t know what. “I don’t know. I’m sorry. I don’t remember, I don’t know. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” I’m pleading with her not to be angry.

“It’s okay. You don’t have anything to be sorry for. I just keep remembering how much older than you he is,” she says.

I hug my knees tighter, dig my nails into my scalp. I can’t do this. I really am so alone, and I can’t handle this all alone.

“What happened after the ride?” Bea asks.

I think that I haven’t even told her what happened on the ride, but I wouldn’t be able to tell her anyway.

“I don’ sounds weird,” I say, feeling like this is going to make it seem like everything is one giant lie. “I don’t remember what happened. I don’t even remember getting off the ride.”

“That makes sense. You probably dissociated.” Bea tells me.

I think she talks about how this is different than what he normally did, so very public, it felt different to her. I don’t know. I think she says something about this being about power, or control. Maybe she asks if I remember feeling scared.

“No…I…it’s strange. I’m sick and scared now, but I don’t feel anything in the memory. It’s just..blank. Nothing.”

“I think you had already learned to dissociate, and that anytime you were around him you maybe dissociated a little to protect yourself. Being around him was a trigger to dissociate,” she explains.

I nod. Okay. I don’t know. She asks me to think about what the little girl felt, and to maybe write about it, if I can. She suggests that this made things really hard on me, because no where was safe. Somehow anger comes up, and she wonders where my anger at him is.

That teen part of me that is usually quite buried pops out. “Why are you always wanting for me to be so angry?” I snap at Bea.

There’s a pause, and I think she is maybe surprised by my reaction. “It’s not about me wanting you to be angry. I just think that it is human to be angry. How could any human being in your position not be angry?”

I shake my head. I don’t know. She’s wrong. I’m not angry.

“That anger is there, somewhere. It has to be. We’ve seen it at your parents for not protecting you, at yourself for being part of this, even if that belief is misguided. But we haven’t seen anger at him, not yet. But it must be there.”

“I think you see this differently than I do,” I state in an almost monotone voice.

“Yes, I think so,” she agrees.

After a moment, Bea tells me we have just a few minutes left. I let the “perfect me” take over and pull on that mask of okayness. I smile at Bea, tell her I am okay and say goodbye.

It seems I can’t get off the Ferris Wheel. I’m still circling around and around, confused, alone, and unsure who I can really trust.

Nanny triggers

Jasmine calls me back just as I am getting home from therapy. I give Kat a quick hug, and motion to hubby that I’m going to take the phone call in our room. He nods at me, and I head back to the bedroom.

Sitting down on the bed, I say, “So….what’s going on? Is everything okay? The nanny just got here, right before I got home. And I have to be honest, you’re kind of freaking me out.”

“I’m sorry,” Jasmine tells me, “I don’t want to freak you out, not at all. I just feel like I have to tell you this. My daughter, she told me that Nanny touched her private parts.” Jasmine goes on to talk in more detail about what her daughter has said. She tells me that because of a situation earlier this year, and her own bad reaction to it, her daughter has been accusing people left and right of this– to get attention and to not have to be around them when they have done something to make her mad– so Jasmine is quite confident it isn’t true, but she felt she had to tell me because it would be wrong not to, on the off chance it was true.

I can’t breathe, I can’t think. I can feel his hands in me, and smell his cologne. I’m struggling, fighting to stay present on the phone. I dig my nails into thigh until I feel something. “I…thank you for telling me. It’s okay. I would have done the same…” I choke out the words, just as hubby lets himself into the bedroom. He takes one look at me and sees that I’m not okay.

“What is it?” He mouths at me. I shake my head. I can’t right now. I need to get off the phone.

I struggle through a few more minutes of conversation. “I’m going to email Bea about this, okay?” I say to Jasmine. It’s the one thing I can think; email Bea, it will be okay, she will have a solution, she will know how to fix this. I feel like I have to warn Jasmine about it though, because her daughter sees Bea, too. Back when Kat was the only one seeing Bea, I recommended her to Jasmine for her little girl, and they have been seeing Bea since then.

“Of course. She knows about this, and agrees with me….it was actually Bea who suggested it was not a true story, but one to get a reaction out of me, to get attention.” Jasmine is fine with me talking to Bea. Thank God. “Are you okay? Is hubby there?” She asks me, and I think she sounds really far away.

“I’m fine. I’m okay. Hubby is here. It’s okay,” I tell her. She promises to call me later to check on me, and I hang up the phone.

Hubby comes and sits next to me, and waits quietly, patiently for me to talk.

“I have to email Bea.” I pick my phone back up, and stare at it blankly.

“Hold on….just a minute. Breathe, okay? Can you just breathe for a minute?” Hubby says gently. I realize now how confused he had to have been, and I’m thankful I had been letting him in a little more lately. “What happened?”

I turn to him, and the tears I had been holding back start to fall. “Jasmine’s daughter said Nanny…touched her…I don’t know…you know…” I manage to explain it all to him, including that this has become something her daughter says to get rid of people who make her angry. “Can you please buy me a nanny cam….today? I know it’s crazy, but please, just please. Because I can’t do this. I really can’t.”

“Yes. We can buy a nanny cam.” Hubby has his iPad out and is looking for nanny cams right away. “I really don’t think anything happened, and I believe Nanny is a safe person, and Kat is fine. She shows no signs of being abused like that.”

I stare at my husband for what seems like forever. “Either did I.”

“Yes, I know. But I really believe Kat would tell us if something were going on.”

I shake my head. “I’m sure my parents thought that, too. The thing is…if it’s not scary. If it seems like a game, there isn’t anything to tell, not from a child’s view.” It’s the most information I have given hubby about my abuse, the most I have said as far as what I felt.

“I know. We’ll get a nanny cam, I’m ordering one right now. And we will continue to make space for Kat to talk to us. Okay?”

I nod. I curl up under my big soft blanket, and send an email to Bea, freaking out. I honestly don’t know how long it takes her to respond. It seems like no time has passed, and like a million years had passed. Dissociation and flashbacks can do that to you. She tells me that she can understand why I don’t know what to think, what to believe. She suggests that we can ask Kat if any grown ups have ever asked her to keep a secret, and also reopen a discussion about who is allowed to see our private parts, ext. And she says she is going to talk to another therapist, someone she sees for supervision sometimes, in a little while and she will bring this whole messy situation to him and get some more input. I feel a little panicked that she feels the need to bring this to supervision, like I have screwed up somehow, made a mess of things.

Hubby lays down next to me, but doesn’t touch me. He seems unsure of what to do. “Can I do anything for you?”

I shake my head, whisper, “No.”

“Do you want me to stay home today?”

“No…I’m okay, I’m fine.” The words are automatic. It’s not safe to need anyone. I blink back tears as I talk, because I desperately want him to stay home.

He studies me for a moment, and shakes his head. “No, you aren’t okay. I’ll stay home.”

I tell him I’m really triggered. That it all is too close, and it gets messy in my head. That so many feelings I’m having right now are from my past, so even if it doesn’t make sense I really need him to accept it, because the feelings are very real. He nods and agrees.

I don’t know how much time has passed, but hubby stays sitting silently next to me, keeping me safe. “Don’t laugh at me, but can you get my teddy bear? Kat ran off with him.” I say it softly, little girl voice, little girl needs.

“Of course. I’ll go find Teddy.” Hubby gets up to search the house. Teddy is a bear my Grandpa gave me when I was really little. I’ve had him for over 26 years. The little girl part of me clings to Teddy and believes he can keep her safe.

Hubby returns, and hands Teddy to me. I bury my face in his fur, and then hold him tight to me. Hubby sits next to me, holding my hand.

My phone rings, and I look at it. “It’s Bea,” I tell hubby.

“Answer it,” he says.

Right. Of course. Answer the phone. “Hello?” I say. My voice is little girl small.

Bea tells me that she and the other therapist talked through it all, and they both agree Jasmine’s daughter is telling stories. Bea is really certain and confident about this. She apologizes that she can’t fully explain why because of confidentiality, but that she truly believes our nanny is a safe person, and Kat is okay. I don’t really remember the conversation, other than that. We talked for a few minutes, that’s what I do remember.

When I get off the phone, I relay the conversation to hubby. He nods his head. “I really do agree with her, Alice.”

“I trust Bea. She wouldn’t ignore something like this if she thought it could even remotely be true,” I finally say.

“I trust her, too,” hubby tells me.

I go in and out of being completely dissociated; enough so that I lose time several times, and am surprised to find that it’s dinner time when 6:00pm rolls around. I skip dinner, and manage to actually fall asleep for an hour.

Hubby takes care of Kat, and of me. After he puts Kat to bed, he sits next to me while I try to fall asleep. We don’t talk much, but just the fact that he stayed and was there, and that I let him stay is huge for me.

Small (with hubby & part four)

This is part 4 of a 4 part post series, “small.” Thursday was a messy, vulnerable session, and day for me. I left off in part 3 leaving therapy. I don’t believe this post is as full of triggering material as the other 3, but it still could be triggering, so please read carefully and take care of yourself. Xx

I really don’t want to be alone today. Bea has, of course, made sure I’m okay to leave therapy and take myself home, but I’m still feeling very tiny and alone and scared. I pay to get out of the parking lot, and as I head towards home I have this sense of dread. I’m so afraid I’m going to be yelled at by hubby. And I don’t want to go home and be alone. I’d rather be alone in the car. For a brief moment, I contemplate driving back to Bea’s office and begging her to sit with me for more time. Instead, I take a different risk, one that will actually be helpful in my life. I know if I really need Bea, I can email her, or even text or call her later. I call hubby.

“Hello.” He always answers the phone as a statement, like he is so in charge and confident. I answer with a question, unsure and awkward.

“Hi babe,” I say. My voice breaks, just a little, and I bite down on my lip to control it.

“Is everything okay?” He asks.

“Yeah, I’m just leaving therapy, I’m on my way home, and I wondered what you were up to.” I turn off the main road and onto one of the back roads I can use to get home. I don’t need to be driving in traffic in the state I’m in; overtired, and partly dissocisted, and feeling more little girl than grown up.

“It’s after 10,” hubby says. My session started at 8. He has to know its never good for a session to go over 2 hours.

“Yeah,” I say, and then I take a chance. “I had a rough night last night. I didn’t sleep.”

He’s silent for a minute. I imagine he is surprised by my admitting this, and isn’t sure how to respond. Finally, he says, “Yeah, I know you didn’t sleep and then got up really early. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. When do you have to go to work?”

“I have to be in at 3. I’ll leave about 2 or so. I was gonna tarp the boat because it’s supposed to rain, then watch some tv or something.”

“Will you..I mean, do you think….would you sit with me so I can lay down and try to nap before the ABA nanny leaves?” I stutter and stumble over my words, I’m so unused to asking my husband for things that I don’t know the answer to. I’m so anxiety ridden about his answer that I almost run a red light. He could say no. He could still yell at me for not sleeping last night.

“I’ll lay with you. Can I watch American Sniper while you rest?” He asks.

I breathe out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. “Sure, yeah.”

“All right, I’m going to go tarp the boat then, and I’ll see you at home?”

“Yeah, okay,” I say, but again, my voice breaks and I have to fight with myself to realize that him getting off the phone is not him leaving me. My God, I never knew I had this much issue with rejection and abandonment and trust.

“Is everything okay?” He asks again. Maybe I didn’t hide my hurt as well as I thought.

“Yeah. Yeah. I’m just tired,” I say. I’m not ready to go there, not right now.

“All right. Love you.”

“I love you, too,” I say.

We hang up, and I drive home. When I get home, Kat runs out of the playroom, and shows me something, and then I change into my pajama leggings and a peach colored sweatshirt that I love.

Hubby grins at me. “You waste no time getting back into pajamas!”

“I wanted my cozies.”

I lay down with my heated blanket, teddy bear and a piece of my baby blanket from childhood. Hubby sits next to me, and I end up curled onto his chest in a ball, gripping my teddy bear and blanky in one hand, his shirt in another.

“Hey… really okay?” He says, and it’s gentle and soft, and I almost want to say no, no I’m so not okay. I feel young and scared because I’ve been having flashbacks for days and I’m not sleeping, and I just don’t want to be alone, and please don’t hate me and please don’t go to work today, don’t leave me.

Instead I say, “I’m okay. Mostly, I’m okay.” And I close my eyes, and rest in the safety of my husband. Because no matter how afraid I am he will leave me, hate me, be disgusted by me, be appalled and shocked by me, I never doubt that he will keep me safe. It was something I knew about him almost from the moment I met him; he is a man who is safe, and who will do whatever it takes to keep me safe.

I fall asleep for a little bit, and wake up to hubby shaking me. “You’re having a bad dream. Honey, it’s not real. Wake up. It’s okay, it’s not real.” I wake up slowly, and it takes a few minutes for me to stop jumping at noises and feeling really out of it. Hubby is right, I’m okay, and it was a bad dream. I want so badly to correct him though, it is real, it did happen, it’s just not real anymore.

I stay curled into him, and he has his arms around me. He doesn’t move a hand towards anything more than being there, being a safe spot for me. I think, on some level, he knows I’m not fully me right now, and that I’m vulnerable. I think this safety, this being held tight and not alone and feeling like someone will protect you is what Bea is always talking about, what she thinks I miss out on when I won’t wake hubby or share with him. And feeling this, maybe she’s right. But it’s scary too. I don’t trust this, not right now, not yet. Perhaps it’s like when I first started seeing Bea, and she had to prove herself to me over and over, for every memory, every feeling, every thought I shared. Now, I don’t need her to do that as much. I believe and trust that she is there. Maybe, if I keep reaching out to hubby like this, one day I will be able to believe and trust that he can accept, see, love and take care of the vulnerable parts of me? I don’t know.

“I really wish you didn’t have to go to work today, and you could stay home with me,” I say. It kind of slips out, unfiltered. That’s the problem with being more little girl than grown up– I have less of a filter.

“Awww, me too, baby, me too.” Hubby brushes my hair off my forehead, and runs his hands through my hair, combing it.

I close my eyes and rest some more. My feelings are hurt, but not as badly as if I had outright asked him to stay home and he’d said no.

When 2:15 rolls around, hubby starts to get up. I clutch him tighter, I don’t want him to leave me alone. Alone is scary.

“Honey, I have to go to work. I’ll be home early if I can, okay?” He says, and tries again to remove himself from my grasp. I’m reminded of a toddler clutching a parent’s leg, not wanting to be separated.

I shake my head. “Okay,” I say, and then I start to cry. And that is when all hell breaks loose, and I beg him to stay home.

“Babe….honey.” My poor husband looks lost. He has no reference point for what to do with me. I don’t act like this. “I’m sorry. If I had known you needed me to stay home with you, that you felt this bad, I would have called, gotten someone to cover, been on call…..I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I’ll get home as soon as I can, and you can call me anytime if you want or need to talk.”

He means well. But I won’t talk to him then, like that. If he could stay with me, I might try to explain. I already know, though, by the time he gets home, it will be too late. I’m already shutting down, pulling away, trying to close off whatever feelings I can. “It’s okay. I love you. Have a good day,” I tell him. I work really hard to smile.

He sits down next to me. “Honey, if I had known you needed me, I would have worked it out. You come first, you just have to ask.”

I nod. “Okay.”

The conundrum is of course that in order to have him stay with me, I have to risk being vulnerable and admit what I need. That in order to begin to see that it’s safe to be vulnerable and ask him for what I need, I have to do the scary thing, and ask for what I need. It’s almost like a catch-22. And while he says the right thing, and it sounds perfect and reassuring and lovely, I’ve been burned before by believing him. He makes promises like this he can’t always keep, and then I’m crushed when I risk it all and he can’t keep them. I suppose the place to start is by attempting to teach hubby how vulnerable I can actually be. To try to explain to him, and help him understand that I’m so little girl like in a lot of moments, that the little girl part runs the show sometimes, and my trust is easily broken when she is in charge, my feelings crushed, and that things most adults wouldn’t bat an eye lash over can feel like rejection or abandonment when the little girl is running the show.

Every relationship started somewhere right? And in a way, hubby and the other parts of me, the parts that aren’t miss perfect have to start communicating and forming a relationship.

Small (part three)

This is part 3 of this post. We left off in part 2 talking about him, and some of the ways he behaved, especially in traumatic memories. There could potentially be triggering stuff in this post, so please take care when reading. Xx

“I didn’t matter,” I tell her. I’m thinking how he didn’t care I was hurt, how all the adults were there, out back at the pool and no one knew, or even suspected. I’m thinking how I didn’t matter enough for my mom to stay home. I didn’t matter.

“You do matter, you did matter.” Bea’s voice is strong, sure. She is serious, and she believes this.

“No. To him. I didn’t matter. I was supposed to matter. I thought I mattered.” I’m shaking and crying, again, as I have been off and on all session. There is a sense that it’s okay to be crying, now. Before, even a few months ago, I’d be upset by the fact I was crying. Now I just cry, and don’t worry about. I know it’s okay with Bea, she can handle the tears, even huge sobbing fits, and so it is safe to cry.

“He might have had different parts, too. We don’t know. You could have mattered to one of those parts. But you do matter now, and you mattered then.” Bea says.

“I didn’t matter,” I say, sadly.

“It sure felt like you didn’t matter.” My head is down, I’m hiding, but I can picture Bea, sitting in her chair, maybe leaning slightly forward, nothing but understand and compassion, kindness in her face. I can picture this because I have been looking at her more often during sessions.

“Why do people say it’s not about…you know?” I ask suddenly. It’s an abrupt change of topic, but something I have wondered about before. Because to me it’s all about…you know.

“What?” Bea asks, switching tracks fairly easily.

“You know.” I emphasize the words, after struggling to try to say the actual word.

“Sex?” Bea asks, saying it for me.

“Yes.” I say.

“Well. Sexual abuse is about power, controlling someone else. Maybe too about the sexual aspect, but it’s about that control through sex.” She maybe still talks but I’m gone, gone, gone.

I’m off in my head, stuck in a kind of bad place. Where I don’t have choices, and I’m too small to do anything.

“It seems he liked you, or little girls because he could be control. He should have been dating girls his own age.” Bea’s voice breaks through to me, and I come back to the present a little.

“He did. He took a girl to prom. I sound sour, pissy, much like Kat when she doesn’t get her way.” I tell her.

“How old were you?”

“Second grade? Seven?” I guess.

“Were there feelings about this?” She asks. I shrink away. I’m ashamed over it. “Jealousy maybe?”

I nod. Yeah. “Very. My parents asked him to stop by, they wanted to see him dressed up. Maybe it was third grade. I don’t know. It’s all messed together, blurry.”

“No wonder. How could it not be? You were working very hard to just grow up. And you did it. Some very healthy parts of you developed, and grew and thrived.” She understands, she gets it.

“Then why do I feel so broken?” I ask her.

“Well, because these stuck parts are coming out now, and you are dealing with the trauma instead of pretending it away, and for the first time a lot of your defenses are down. So that is going to feel pretty bad. But I think broken is an okay way to put it. You aren’t damaged, or bad, or any of those other things, but these stuck in the trauma parts of you need to be allowed to,have a voice and heal so that they can be integrated into the grownup part of you. The good thing is there is a healthy adult that runs the ship, and she can helps these parts heal now. It was too much then, but now there is a grown up, and that grown up has support.”

I love that Bea answers my question, and talks about how I feel, instead of giving the standard ‘you aren’t broken’ answer. “Okay. That makes sense, kinda,” I say.

We sit, quiet for a minute. I’m still half in the past, half in the present. Everything hurts. I hate this. I hated the blank spaces in my memory, I hated not knowing, but this feels so bad, I don’t even have the words to describe it. “I said I wanted to know, but I was wrong. I don’t. I don’t want to know. This hurts too much.”

“I know. It’s really, really hard.” Bea really gets it. I can feel her there, right here with me. She’s in this with me, not just sitting on the sidelines observing.

“I don’t want to feel like this.” I say. Part of what I want to say is that I never asked for this, for any of this. But I’m not sure if did or didn’t.

“I know.”

“If I can’t even handle this now, how am I supposed to have handled it then?” I ask her, almost desperately.

“Exactly. That’s it exactly. You couldn’t have. And you aren’t alone now.” Bea says. She sounds almost pleased that I am grasping the concept of how bad it really was.

“I really didn’t want to be alone today. I couldn’t go to sleep last night.” It’s so hard to admit this. I wonder what I would have done if I didn’t have therapy today. Would I have texted and asked for a session? Hurt myself? I don’t know.

“I know. That’s why I think having hubby’s support would be so beneficial. So you wouldn’t have to be alone.” It always comes back to this with Bea; she doesn’t want me to be alone anymore.

“But I talk here. That’s something. That should count.” I say, feeling a little argumentative.

“It is something, it counts for a lot,” she says, emphasizing her words. She does believe it counts. “But we need to build your support network, too.

I list off all the people who could be part of that network, if I allowed it, if I would trust them.

Bea says I can bring Kay to therapy if I ever want, and I laugh and laugh. Partly because I don’t need Bea to talk to Kay, I’m not afraid of her leaving, and partly because it was Kay who threatened to drag me back to Bea of I quit.

After a moment, Bea says, “You can’t put hubby in the role that Kenny or college boyfriend was in. I hear you doing it…and we need to find your voice. He doesn’t get to yell at you or criticize you for not sleeping. ‘I was having a rough night.’ Is all you should have to say. You don’t owe him information.”

I’m still thinking about my list of people who could support me, if I would be honest with them, and if I would talk to them. Which I am afraid to do. “I guess I have a serious problem with trust. Before this I would have said I trusted everyone. I was really fooling myself.”

“Yes. But in one sense, your worldview was that it was a game, it was nothing, and so you probably did trust everyone.” Bea reframes it, and it makes sense this way.

“If I was fooling myself that good then, what am I fooling myself about now?” I ask. It’s frightening to think how good I fooled myself. While I was playing at perfect and fooling everyone around me, I was lying to myself, too.

“Nothing, from where I sit. And I would tell you,” Bea assures me.

“You promise?” I ask shakily. I feel bad for needing extra reassurance, but I have to ask.

“Yes, I promise. The only thing I see that doesn’t match reality is your fear of hubby leaving if he knew the truth, your fears of physical punishment if you told your parents. But I also know those are big things. Big choices, and they would have big impact, but I don’t think your belief that hubby would leave aligns with reality.”

“I’m afraid,” I admit. The words are more real than in the past, they are the vulnerable part of me talking.

“I know,” Bea says.

“I’m so afraid he will leave, just not care, hate me.”

“You are still seeing this from a place of self blame, shame, disgust. I’m on the outside, and I can promise you, no one in their right mind would ever find fault with you.”

“I don’t know. So, what am I supposed to tell him?” I ask her. I’m lost. I can’t tell him who, Bea and I agree he doesn’t need to know my memories, the exactness of what happened. So what do I tell him?

“Maybe start with being able to tell him when you are having flashbacks, feeling vulnerable.” Bea suggests.

“No. No, no, no. He could leave.” I’m panicking at that thought of it all.

“Sometimes, the only way to bring out his vulnerable and nurturing side is to show him your vulnerable parts.”

I shake my head. “I’m scared.”

“I know. But the fact that you are feeling so vulnerable right now and can still talk about this, think about it is huge.” Bea tells me. She has something in her voice….happy? Proud? Pleased? Amazed? I don’t know what it is, but it’s good, and I bask in the sound of her voice.

“I’m afraid here sometimes still. Not like before, but still….I get scared.” I tell her, whispering.

“I know. It’s scary to be this vulnerable. And it took a long time to be able to.”

I nod. “Today, if he would stay home, I might talk to him. I don’t want to be alone.” It’s true, too. I’d talk today if he would stay home and not leave me.

“Can you ask him?” It’s the obvious thing to do, and Bea suggests it in a very neutral voice.

“No. He might say no. And then he would leave. He would just leave me.” My voice breaks as I talk about hubby leaving, and I burst into tears.

“And that would feel bad. Like being abandoned all over again.” Bea gets it.

I nod, then shake my head. “It’s really stupid. It’s not like my parents ever actually left me. They went out. They didn’t actually leave. I wasn’t abandoned. But I’m so afraid.”

“Well….I think being left, combined with the trauma of not being protected because they left made it worse. I think you had good attachment as a baby, but this being left and not protected and the trauma, that can mess things up. And, it’s something all kids deal with to some extent.”

“So all kids who get left with a sitter feel abandoned?” I ask. In my head I sound like I’m challenging her, being snotty. But I do really want to know.

“Well, in a sense, yes. I remember my parents would go out on Saturdays, and my older brothers and sisters would watch me. And that was always fine, and fun. But when it was bedtime, they would put me to bed, on the other side of the house, and I’d be all alone while they all got to stay up. I felt so alone, so left. So, yes, in a sense, it is something normal.” Bea shares. I love when she shares stories about herself that relate to me. Usually they underscore what should have happened, or how part of what I feel is normal for any kid. I feel less alone when she talks.

“It would have felt better if someone else had to go to bed, then, too. Then you wouldn’t have been alone.” I say.

“Yes. And if I had had kenny coming in my room and touching me, it would have made the alone and left feeling all the worse. Way worse.”

I want to say thank you to her, for telling me…for making not feel like such a freak. But I don’t. I’m not sure why I can’t tell her thank you. Maybe it would be too much like admitting attachment, or needing her in my mind. I’m not sure.

“So I’m not a complete freak?” I ask, tearfully.

“Not at all. I’d say completely normal under the circumstances,” Bea says kindly.

We talk off and on after that, and I cry, too. Mostly, I’m just there, with Bea, not alone, feeling like the little girl, vulnerable and needy and broken. And it’s mostly okay, because I know Bea is safe, and she understands, as much as anyone can, and she isn’t going to let these feelings swallow me whole. So I manage to relax, and allow myself to sit with the feeling, and to allow Bea to sit with me.

Small (part two)

This is part two of this post. Part one left off with me talking about how he could be fun, and Bea saying that wasn’t surprising. There could potentially be triggering stuff in this post, so please take care when reading. Xx. .

“Did they leave you with him a lot?”

I nod. “Friday’s. Friday nights were date night.”

“Was Jackie at your house?”

I nod again.

“Where did she sleep, and did she stay over?”

“Her parents move her when they get back. She sleeps in my parents bed usually. My brother had bunk beds. Sometimes she would sleep in there. She was kinda a tomboy. They got along better most…usually, better than she and I did,” I explain.

“Did your parents leave dinner for you?”

“Pizza.” I gag slightly. “I don’t eat pizza anymore.” Well, that’s not fully true. I eat it if I’m planning on purging. But that’s it. It’s a food that has to be thrown up. But I don’t say that, because it seems like it’s too much to explain on top of everything else.

“I don’t blame you. But pizza is pretty great. You might have to give pizza another chance,” Bea tells me.

“Do you know what time bedtime was and what time your parents got home?” She asks me.

I shake my head. “Late…after TGIF. It was dark when they’d get home.” I think, when I was older, maybe 7 or 8, it was maybe 10 chapters of a Nancy Drew or Babysitters Club book. But when I was this young? I don’t know. Late. “For all I know, it could have been 10:00pm, that would have been late to me.”

Bea and I both kinda chuckle over this a little. “Yeah, anything could be late when you are that age,” she agrees.

“But it was just normal. He’s tuck us in. Rub my back, sing to me. I don’t know….” I have to stop talking. Bea says something, but I’m not really hearing her. I interrupt her, saying, “He didn’t leave.”

She’s quiet for a moment, and in retrospect, I think how confusing it has to be to try to piece together someone else’s memories, with the stress of knowing that because that person is talking it’s a big deal, and saying the wrong thing could shut them up. “What?” She finally asks me, needing more clarification.

“He stayed. He sang, he should have said good night and left!”

“Yes, he should have.”

“But he didn’t. He untucked the covers. I didn’t understand, why tuck me in, just to untuck them? It didn’t make sense.” I shake my head. So much of this is all confusing. I’m not sure I’ll ever make any serious sense of it.

“Almost like he had to be the good boy before he could violate you.”

“But it was so normal before. I don’t know.” I sound a little whiny, insistent, I’m not sure what it is I want, maybe a reason why things flipped like that.

“It was normal mixed with scary, unspeakable things. Like a horror film, everything is ordinary and then a monster jumps out,” Bea says. She’s right. It’s like the scene with group of kids in a horror film, calm, peaceful, everyone happy and then something awful and scary happens. I don’t know.

“I don’t watch scary movies. I never can…I just replay the scary parts. Expecting to see the actual bad guy, ghost, whatever…I don’t know. I get too scared,” I tell her. I’ve never watched scary movies. I’m afraid of the dark, afraid of so many things, I never needed scary movies to add to it.

“I’m not surprised. You already lived through a scary movie, but Kenny was the monster.” She doesn’t sound the least bit judgmental or surprised. Most people think I’m childish for my extreme fear of horror films.

“Or maybe I’m just being stupid, and silly. Hating a song, not eating pizza. That stuff. I don’t know. Over sensitive.” The words sound cruel, my tone of voice is as mean as I can be. I’m angry with myself for feeling like this.

“Oh no. I don’t think so. I think it very normal under the circumstances. It twisted things together, contaminated normal stuff for you. Did kenny ever seem different to you?”

“Well….I don’t know. I told you about that summer. The pool?” I pick at my fingers, bury my face as much as I can.

“Yes, I believe so. People were there, right?” Bea asks softly.

I nod. “Outside. In the back. We were on the porch. Really a sunroom. But…he wasn’t. He wasn’t my friend then.”

“Was he scary? Mean? Threatening?”

I shake my head, I don’t know. “He hurt me.”

“Yeah. He hurt you.” She sounds sad as she repeats my words back to me.

It’s quiet, and I sit crying. I hate this.

“Did you say anything, tell him he was hurting you or were you so far gone you had no voice?” I love that she accepts that I could be so gone I couldn’t talk or do anything, that there isn’t any blame. I feel safe knowing she doesn’t blame me for anything no matter how much I try to convince her otherwise.

“No…I couldn’t..I cried….like rip off a band aid tears. Quiet.”

“Those tears from that stinging pain, you mean?” She gets it, almost right away. I don’t know how she does that.

“Yeah. That.”

“Did he notice?”

I nod.

“Did he say anything?”

I nod again. “He said. He said.”

“What did he say?” She asks gently, prompting me.

“He said….. I can’t repeat it.” It’s too awful, the words sound dirty in my brain, I can’t say them out loud.

I hand her the iPad back, because it is one of things going through my head this morning and yesterday, and it’s written in my crazy journal of thoughts.

She reads it. I’m imagining all sorts of things, bad things she is thinking about me, because of what he said. “He said it mean, not nice. He wasn’t my friend. He hurt me. He knew he hurt me, he didn’t care.”

“This is something you might say to a young child…” Bea is thinking out loud, but she doesn’t sound appalled by me, she’s not disgusted with me. “You were older…it’s almost like he sensed or knew some part of you was still stuck in the young child part. It’s about power, talking to you like you are a little child. This is how you would speak to a little girl.”

Something in me feels ripped open, too raw. “No. No, no. I wasn’t little. Not when. No I was big, my memories of you know…I’m big.”

“Of what?” She asks gently.

“That word!” I practically scream it at her, shove the words in her direction. She has to know what word I’m referring to, I can’t say it, can’t name it. It’s too bad, too big, too scary.

“Oh, yes. I know what word, okay.” She knows what I’m talking about. Thank God.

“They are older. I wasn’t little. I was big. In the memories. They are older. I was not little,” I repeat myself, going around in circles, panicking.

“Well, you were little,” Bea tells me. Her voice is quiet, and neutral.

“No, not little like little little. Like almost a baby little. I was older. I am 9 at the youngest memory I have. Not little.”

“No, it was all when you were older, too old to be talking to you like that, but you were still little. Nine is still little. You were just a little girl. But…..It’s almost like he knew….that this part of you that got struck in the trauma when it started, like he saw that part even when you were 9, 10. It’s like this was about power and control. Anger, he is raging at someone. Not you. But who, we won’t ever really know.”

I think it’s like a mystery to Bea, one she wants to organize and understand as much as I do. And maybe she is a frustrated with the pieces I’m missing as I am sometimes. It’s comforting to me, to think that she is curious about the missing pieces like me, but she isn’t judgmental about it like I am. But it’s nice to know she wants to understand and make sense of it….and I’m reminded of one of the first things she told me: our job is to understand and make sense of your story together.

Small (part one)

This post may go around in circles. I have a feeling my session went around in circles, at least a little bit. I haven’t been very present, or very much in my grown up mind since yesterday, so it was harder to keep track of everything that was said and the order in which it was said.

I’m splitting this session into several smaller posts. It ended up being a very long session, and a lot came out. I want to get it all down, but I don’t want to write a post that takes an hour to read! As always, please read with caution. I do talk about sexual abuse, ask Bea some kinda tough questions– the whys– and generally am in that headspace of feeling very small.

Bea knows, the moment I walk in the door that I’m in a vulnerable headspace, that I’m feeling small. Neither of us say anything, though. I sit across from her, flicking my eyes from her face to the floor, playing with the bow on my ballet flat. I think she’s waiting for me to say something, but all I’ve been able to get out is, “Hi.”

Finally, Bea takes a drink of tea and says, “So… was this week?”

I shake my head, fiddle with the ties on my shoe, look at the floor. “Not so good.” I barely raise my voice above a whisper and it breaks.

She waits for me to fill in more, but when I don’t, she prompts me, “Is it Hubby stuff?”

I shake my head. “I didn’t sleep last night.”

She immediately gives me a look that says she gets it, and that she is sorry I didn’t sleep. “Is it something specific, concrete, or just stuff bubbling up?” She asks.

I can’t answer. It feels like too much to say, too much to explain. I don’t have the words. I don’t know.

She looks at me. “I feel like the little girl is here today.”

I nod. I’ve managed not to hide my face, and I’ve been bouncing my gaze from Bea’s face to the floor, to the toys and the table in the corner, blinking back tears and sniffling.

“Is it memories or feelings?” Bea looks at me kindly.

“Both.” I look away as I say it.

“I was wondering, because we’ve really been dealing with more abstract feelings, like anger, and not being in control and this feels different to me,” Bea explains.

I nod my head at her. I’m shaky and in that hypervigilant state, the one that anyone with PTSD is probably familiar with.

“How old are you right now? In this memory?” Bea asks quietly.

I shake my head. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Little. I’m gripping my knees to my chest as tight as I can, and picking at my fingers. “I don’t know.”

“You feel really little to me. In a really young and vulnerable state.” When I don’t say anything more, Bea continues, “Do you know what the feelings are?”

“I just know it’s not okay.” The words are almost below a whisper, too quiet.

“This could be too young a place to have words for these things, you could be too far away to name them. You feel far away right now. Maybe the point is to be here, with these feelings, where it’s safe and they can be contained,” Bea says. I wonder how she manages talk to the young part of me, but still speak to me like I’m an adult and not treat me like a child who can’t do anything for themselves. It has to be a hard thing to figure out how to do.

“I don’t want to feel like this.”

“I know. It’s been a while since you’ve felt like this. The little girl has something to say today, and she has a voice now,” Bea tells me.

I nod. I can’t get words out. I look up at Bea, and away quickly. She doesn’t look scary or like she is getting ready to jump ship.

“Did you write any of this down?”

I nod. Yes.

“Maybe we could start with that? It seems like you are having a really hard time with words right now,” she suggests.

“Okay,” I whisper. But then I realize I’ll have to move to get my iPad journal out. So I sit, frozen where I am.

After a minute, I start talking about hubby getting upset because I wasn’t sleeping. “I don’t want to go home after therapy because hubby is going to yell at me for not sleeping and I don’t wanna get yelled at.” I’m crying now, and it’s the panic and tears of little child who is afraid to be yelled at.

“Of course you don’t want to be yelled at. No one wants to be yelled at.” I think she asks if he was up, and I explain he wakes up like for a minute and sees that I’m up and then criticizes me for it later. We talk about it, but I’m more worried about being yelled at and in trouble than anything else.

I shift and pull my iPad. I hold onto it for a minute. “I wrote this more for me. It’s not…it’s just messy. I didn’t…it’s just…”

Bea smiles at me. “It’s a little like being caught in your bathrobe and hair curlers, isn’t it? It’s okay.”

I give a small smile back and hand it over to her. As soon as it’s handed over, I bury my face. I can only take so much, and this….well this is too much exposing to not hide.

“It’s nothing new. It’s not even a big deal, I don’t know why it feels so bad,” I tell her.

“Well, it feels bad because you were triggered. If it’s come up again, it needs to be worked through again.” She sounds so sure of this, and almost matter of fact about it, calm.

Bea reads, saying “mmmhmms, and uh-huhs” to herself as she reads.

“This is again about being left. Looking out the window and wishing your parents would come home and rescue you, but knowing it was too late.” Bea’s voice is soft.

It takes me a while, and it actually physically hurts, but I manage to say, “I hated them for not coming home.”

“Of course. Of course you did. It was just another way you were left.”

“She just left. So many times…I asked, sitting in the bathroom….her not to go…to take me…but she just left. And I was fine then. When he came, it was fine and I had fun. It’s so twisted.”

“I think it has to do with magical thinking in some ways. You were a child. Of course you didn’t want her to go, but once he got there, it was fun, right? The bad stuff didn’t happen right away, did it?” Bea asks.

“No…later…but I knew..I had to know. It’s why I wanted her to stay.”

“Yes, but children don’t have a sense of time like grown ups. And with magical thinking, you could have thought it wasn’t going to happen. So it was easy to have fun and be okay.”

I sit with that idea, thinking. It’s different than my previous thoughts. An idea that has been in and out of my mind…this idea that I had no choice, drifts back into my head. In this more little girl state, I have no filter, and so I blurt out, “I didn’t get a choice.” And the words hurt to say, and I’m crying, and I hate this, all of it, all this pain.

“No, you didn’t get a choice. You didn’t get a choice at all,” Bea repeats back to me, validating, but also something else in her voice…pride…happiness that I’m seeing this differently? Something. She sounds pleased; not pleased over my lack of choice, but pleased over my realizing it.

“It could be so normal. I don’t know. Just so regular. How is that even possible? It’s confusing. He was fun, you know. He played.” I want so desperately for her to understand, to see. I need her to get it, to really know how different my two realities were.

“Of course he was fun, I’m sure he was. It’s part of the…grooming process, part of winning a child’s trust. It’s part of what abusers do. And he wasn’t always hurting you, or touching you, and he had to be fun, to get you to like him. That’s not anything you did wrong. Kids have a right to want attention, to have someone play with them. All kids want to be paid attention to.” Bea sounds so sure, so positive about this, and not surprised by what I’ve just admitted. I’m relieved. She gets it. I had no idea how wonderful it feels to be understood, to not feel alone with all the secrets upon secrets I held in for so long. I didn’t know that being so vulnerable and honest with someone who could be trusted would make me feel safer….it seems like it should be the opposite, but it doesn’t work like that.

Flashback fallout

Flashbacks, eating disorders behavior, sexual abuse, self injury. All of these things are in this post. It’s been a day. A very bad day. And I haven’t slept, and I need a place to put this all down and get it out. In a few hours, I’ll see Bea. Maybe she can contain this mess. I don’t know. But in the meantime, I’m posting this messy post. It might be triggering. Please be careful. Skip reading it if any of the above mentioned things might be triggering for you. Xx

I have to be up in 3 hours. I can’t sleep. If I’m still up in an hour, hour and a half, I’ll give up and start drinking coffee. This is so typical for me. I’ll be thankful that I have the nanny until 2 tomorrow, and maybe nap and then feel guilty, or lounge in bed and do nothing and feel ashamed and lazy, or do household chores and feel exhausted and then have no energy to give my daughter in the afternoon. But really, what will be new? Mom hasn’t had the energy to live up to her usual “mom-ness” anyway. But today, today, I cleaned and cooked dinner and ate almost nothing. A few handfuls of cereal, coffee, tea, water. I cut. I maintained control. I had a flashback, but I got through it. Life went on. I yelled at my daughter, a burst of anger over nothing, something dumb, something so typically 4. Ugh. But I kept control, I reigned it in. I scared myself. But I stopped the yelling. I cleaned, I made dinner, I played a little, I painted nails with her. I have a plan to be better tomorrow.

Why is it that I only seem to be able to maintain control of my life if I’m starving and cutting and barely sleeping? I don’t understand myself. Why is it when I’m falling apart at the seams, breaking in pieces, and hiding, I can accomplish nothing but extreme hatred of myself? And if I’m working through things in therapy, sleeping and working through the nightmares, the flashbacks, the memories, attempting to eat (it may not be “good” or “right” but eating is eating and there are only so many safe foods out there) and not throw up and not cut and not hide and be honest, I can’t seem to do anything, keep up with simple daily tasks like laundry and dishes, sweeping, cooking, grocery shopping, lesson planning, dusting, ext. Oh, yes, it’s these times when things get organized, furniture gets moved and big things get done; whenever stuff gets too much, and I don’t want to think, I’ll find a big project. But the day to day stuff lacks.

I don’t understand myself. Shouldn’t it be better when I’m not hiding, not faking okay, not shoving everything down? On Monday, Bea read the angry list out loud. And I lived, and she didn’t decided I was this terrible awful person. And I started to really think about the ideas of “Mom left me. He hurt me. I didn’t have a choice.” I thought I was okay with that, with the idea of it, becoming more real. Tuesday and today I hid behind chores and perfection. The bubble is back, a little. But not in the good way. All the out of control, scary feelings are right there.

I had this memory, this one thought, hit me today, out of the blue. I don’t know what even triggered it, exactly. I think it was partly Kat, something she said. And I just flipped out. But even as I was yelling at her, there was this memory right there, this picture, this feeling. His insistence on helping me change into pajamas, and tuck me into bed, and just this huge overwhelming feeling that I didn’t need help, I was big, but he was in charge and I couldn’t say no, and standing at my dresser, pulling out pajamas, looking out my window wishing my parents would be pulling in the drive way, but knowing they wouldn’t be home yet, it was too early, and feeling so lost and just left, and….I don’t know, not okay, because she left.

And so later, when Hubby got back home, I took a bath to try to feel human again, and calm down. I ended up cutting. And then I focused on cleaning and organizing. And Kat didn’t get a lot of mom time, I played while I cooked dinner, and I played during dinner, and after dinner we painted nails. But that was it. And it was dinner time when I realized I hadn’t eaten, and panicked over the food on my plate, and chose to not eat. And I felt more in control, and stronger. Calmer. Better. Like it was really okay, finally.

There was another memory pop up, when I laid down for bed. I had pulled the blankets down and folded them back, remade the bed with new sheets earlier in the day. And when I sat down and went to pull the blanket over me, it was like suffocating. I couldn’t find my breath. He would pull my blankets in over me, tuck me in, rub my back and it would all be so normal. Singing Jesus loves me. Like it was just a regular thing, nice. I hate that song. Hate it. He didn’t leave though, after. He stayed. And pulls the covers back down. I can’t do anything. There isn’t anything to do, except what he wants to do. But I can’t leave, or hide, or say no. I already agreed before. I already played this secret game, and promised it would be a secret. And he’s my friend, and he is in charge and it’s okay because it doesn’t hurt and it does feel good sometimes, and there is no reason to feel sick in my stomach or scared like this. But I do. And I didn’t understand why, not really. It was all confusing. There wasn’t anyone to talk to, or ask, or tell. Not my mom. She left me. She left me with him, and she left me emotionally. Not my Dad. He doesn’t see. They need perfect. And good, perfect girls don’t play secret games like this, I’m pretty sure of that.

And so it’s 3:46am, and I’m still awake because a memory that popped in my head has felt too real, and too frightening, and I’m too afraid too sleep. I’ve read a book, watched a TV show, and now resorted to writing it out. Because there is nothing left to do.

I’ve completely chickened out and moved myself out to the living room, turned on every light available, and made a cup of strong coffee. In all honesty, if there were a few more lights to turn on, I’d be happier. I’m sure Hubby will lecture me about it in the morning, when I get home from therapy. He’ll tell me how I should have gone to bed, how he got up at such and such time and couldn’t believe I was still up, just reading a book, or worse, he will have woken and realized I was up and out of bed at some ungodly hour, and he won’t be able to believe I would get up like that when I complain about not sleeping and am supposed to be working on fixing my sleep cycle. I’ll get defensive and mad, snap at him, push him away. He’d never think to approach it in a way that is gentler. Like asking me if it was a rough night, giving me an opening, to tell as much or as little as I like. Instead he criticizes me for things I can’t help, and makes me feel dumb, small, silly…’s yet another opportunity to open up to him that won’t happen because of his approach. Because it makes me feel like I don’t matter, like I’m not good enough, like I’m screwing up and doing things wrong, ruining his perfect world.

Dissociated, messy yoga practice

(Tuesday’s trauma yoga session)

I haven’t slept more than six hours in the last three days. I’m exhausted. And yet, I drive to yoga anyway. I don’t want to cancel. In a lot of ways, I really need Kris’s grounding presence right now.

I’m a few minutes early, so I take a seat in the waiting area. I check my emails, and contemplate writing in my journal, but Kris walks out just as I’m pulling out my iPad.

“Hi,” she greets me. She’s smiling, and so serene. I breathe a little sigh of relief.

I follow her back, and we sit on our mats. She goes through the process of checking in with me. I try to act like everything is fine, but I’m failing miserably. Eventually I admit that I haven’t slept, and that everything is a mess, and Bea is out of town which is making it all worse.

“Mmmhmm. That all can be really tough. When was the last time you slept?” She asks. She looks slightly concerned.

“Last night I fell asleep at 7, and I woke up a little after 9.” Just thinking about waking up from the dream I’d had, I start shaking and things become hazy and I’m light headed.

“Did you fall back asleep?” She asks.

“No…I just…no.” I’m sitting with my knees to my chest, curled into myself. I know I have dark circles under my eyes, and that my eyes looks puffy and red. I know I look like crap.

“Is there anything your body is wanting to do today?” She asks.

I groan. I hate this question. I never have an answer. Well, today, I have an answer, but it’s not one I will ever give; my body wants to curl up and hide. I want to be in my closet, hidden and small, where no one can find me. I shake my head at her.

“That will be my last question for a while, I promise.” Kris is just calm, waiting for me to think. “Take a minute, check in with yourself.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know. What do you want to do?” I finally say.

“Nope, no sorry.” She smiles at me. “I’m up for anything. Let me think for a minute, feel into this.” She says softly.

I nod, and I sit, curled up and breathing. I’m less gone than I was. What is it about Kris that makes her presence so grounding? She feels very transparent to me, very here and present, and like she accepts anything; I have a feeling that she is one of those people who accept mistakes as learning experiences, who doesn’t judge or condemn others.

“Okay. Let’s sit in our hero pose, and take some breaths. If it’s available to you, breathe in, and try to extend the out breath. It’s a simple thing we can do to help calm our nervous system.” She breathes, in and extending the out breath.

I try to follow her. It’s so triggering for me, so frustrating to have some thing as silly as breathing be a trigger. Kris talks me through it, and I mange to continue breathing. Eventually, the trigger feeling passes, and I can breathe easier. I can feel my body calming.

Kris leads us through a series of lunges, and backbends, and gentle stretches. My body is stiff and sore, not sleeping screws everything up. I run into quite a few triggers, as I try to focus on feeling what is happening in my body.

“If you can, don’t forget your breathing. What’s coming up for you?” Kris asks, each time I’m slightly triggered by what I feel in my body, and things start to go fuzzy. It’s like she has this sixth sense to recognize when I’m going away.

I shake my head. “I don’t know.” In actuality, I do know. Any pose that stretches my hips, or inner thighs feels wrong, exposing, too much. I’m not sure why. But that stretch, combined with all the flashbacks and overwhelm I’ve been faced with, sends me into body memory hell.

Kris pulls us out of the hip stretches quickly, and goes into cobra. A backbend, but lying on your stomach. That’s okay. I can do this, and I love backbends, my body naturally does them easily. I feel like control is returned to me, and the rest of the session Kris focuses on simple stretches and backbends, no more lunges or hip stretches.

At one point, I become very aware of my body, very connected without thinking about it or trying. For a moment, I’m in awe; is this what most people feel everyday? To not be in my head all the time, to not have to focus on being very present and connected. Is this it, is this what I’m striving for? And then, the physical memory washes over me, and a few tears leak out.

Kris reminds me to breathe, and and takes us from downward dog into child’s pose. I still can’t place my head on the floor, I need to keep an eye on my surroundings. But then, Kris suggests I can lay my head down and turn it to the side. I do, and it’s okay. I curl up in child’s pose, and breathe with Kris. I focus on her calm, and the kind of aura she projects of being strong and accepting and peaceful. The feeling of being out of control and scared passes. The physical feelings pass, too. The whole time, Kris is talking softly about how strong I am, how I am okay, how I am safe.

I don’t know how long I stay in child’s pose, but after, we wrap up and Kris thanks me for coming to yoga today. She sounds so sincere. I have a hard time accepting that, and so I make a joke that I was able to provide some entertainment and laughs, because in my over tired state even simple things like left and right become difficult.

Kris shakes her head at me. “No, I’m not laughing at you. I’m glad you, just you, yourself, came to practice today. It was a good practice with you. So thank you.”

I nod. “Okay. But I was joking…and you have to admit, I did make you laugh a few times.”

“Yes, you did make me laugh. Laughter is good for us, we don’t need to be so serious all the time.”

We talk for a few minutes, and I end up spilling the story about Kat.

“Thank you for sharing that with me, for trusting me. It sounds really difficult, but I also believe you are handling it extremely well.” Kris says softly.

“Thank you,” I say. We talk a bit more, and she reassures me that I’m doing okay, that I’m not screwing things up.

When I leave, I feel more connected than I have for a few days, and a little bit safer. I tell myself I only need to hold onto this feeling for the rest of today and Wednesday. Then, Bea will be back.