The little girl….5 years ago

Every time I sit down to write, to try to put all my thoughts and feelings onto paper, I find a reason to avoid doing so. I think it is partly because I don’t know what to write, and partly because I am still attempting to avoid feeling at times.

This summer was good, and busy but weird in some ways. With Bea being gone for three weeks to Europe, I had to work to stay more on the surface of things. September seemed to be about getting Kat back into the school routine and opening up all the turmoil of the teen in therapy. Now it’s October, and while the feeling of October is very real, I also feel like I am finally coming up for air.

Fall has been hard for Kat. She is struggling with a new class, and a new teacher. Being older is proving to be difficult for her, with more complex social expectations and her confusion about unspoken social rules. She’s also started puberty early, so I’m sure some of her challenges have been more difficult for her to navigate, because hormones and all that. Needless to say, the puberty thing threw me for a loop. I am not ready for this and it has been hugely triggering.

Days with Kat have looked like this since school started:

6:30am fight with mom about wearing clothes to school. Finally decide to wear the same too thin tank top and gym shorts she wore yesterday and the day before. Keep in mind, she won’t wear underwear or a camisole or training bra. She won’t wear deodorant. And all these things? She should be wearing, but I can barely get the kid into clothing every morning.

8:15am drop her off at school with our good bye ritual. She cries and asks me to stay. I leave anyway, feeling heart broken and like I am letting her down somehow.

3:15pm I pick her up from school

3:40pm I notice she has taken off all her clothing in the backseat, but now I’m on the highway and there isn’t much I can do about it.

4:00pm get home, and the moment we get in the door, the meltdown starts. Forget getting clothing back on her, or getting her to bathe. She cries and screams about clothes and school and kids who don’t follow the rules and a joke someone told that she took seriously and on and on. This will go on until at least 6:00pm, maybe later. If it goes past 8:00pm, I will give her a melatonin and a benedryl because I need her to calm down so she can sleep. If I’m lucky, she will be asleep by 10:00pm.

It’s never ending, and I don’t know how to help her. None of my tools have been working. I feel helpless. I’m sad for her, because she isn’t happy. And I’m sad for me, because I can’t fix it.

I have our old team of speech, ABA and OT working with insurance to get approval for short term services. But that will take time.

Two weeks ago, I asked Bea to start seeing Kat again. She agreed, and I felt relieved. We had a good conversation about it all, actually.

“So….Kat still doesn’t know you are my therapist. She knows I go to therapy, just not who I see….I feel like I made a mistake by not telling her. I don’t know.” I tell Bea, sighing.

“Remind me, why didn’t you tell her?” Bea asks.

“I was going to, I had planned to, but then when I went to tell her, and I started by saying how you see grown ups too, she made it clear that she was glad I wasn’t seeing you without her there, and so I just left it. Sometimes I wondered if that meant I should have found myself a different therapist, but Kat was three. And I just….” I shake my head, not sure how to explain.

“You were drowning and you needed help. You couldn’t let your three old dictate that. And you getting help is a gift to Kat. It really is.”

I nod. “I just feel guilty about it now that she is older.”

“I get that, but I don’t think that guilt is deserved.” Bea pauses for a minute, thinking. “You know, I don’t usually see parents and kids. If I’m seeing a kid first and the parent asks to be seen for their own issues, I will often meet with them and help them find another therapist. You were different though. I even remember the session we had with Kat right before you reached out. I remember I had been talking to Kat, and saying something about little girls and all the things they can do, and how grown ups job is to keep them safe, and I looked over at you and you were really far away. That was unusual because you were always so present with Kat. But that day you just gone, and it was maybe a day or so later that you reached out to me.”

“I’m glad you agreed to see me, that you didn’t try to send me to someone else,” I say quietly. I feel a little shy; I didn’t know she had seen me even back then.

“You know, I didn’t really have a reason, it was just instinct, but I thought if I sent you to someone else, you wouldn’t have gone.”

“No, I wouldn’t have. I think it was different because I had a relationship with you through Kat, so on some level, I trusted you.”

“Yeah, yeah that makes sense. Looking back now, I think you were so far away that day because something I said got the attention of the little girl. I think 5 years ago, it was the little girl who decided then and there that I was safe and I could help her, and that was that.” Bea smiles as she says this.

I nod, slowly. “I think so. I think it was the little girl that decided she had found someone she could tell her secret to.” My face flushes. This feels too seen, exposed and vulnerable.

“I am so glad she found someone to tell, and I feel very honored that she chose me.” Bea tells me.

It’s strange, how seen a simple conversation can make me feel. I’m amazed that she remembers that moment from so many years ago. Does this mean I have had an impact on her, too? That I have helped her grow and learn, too? Because that is sort of interesting to think about.

I’m not the same person I was almost 5 years ago. 5 years ago, I was struggling. I think my worlds were colliding in a way. Ms. Perfect could no longer run the ship because this grown up part that did not want her daughter growing up feeling the same way I did was trying to run the ship. On top of that, nightmares and flashbacks and half formed memories I didn’t want to believe and insomnia and mood swings were plaguing my life. Being a mom, having a daughter, had triggered all kinds of crazy in me. I needed help, and I took a chance in asking. I never would have believed so much would come from that.

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