They always saw me

Last week, therapy was more light hearted. Well, maybe not light hearted, but not majorly trauma centered. We talked about Bea, and her meeting the teen halfway. We talked about how it is scary to trust. The teen wrote that she wants to trust Bea, but she is afraid of her, afriad of Bea leaving, not being able to handle the teen. The teen thought she might test the water by talking about the party she’d gone to, and her therapist at the time, and the giant mess that followed. She thought maybe she could talk about the suicide attempt after the church’s sex education, and the way her parents handled it.

In the end, the conversation became about my Grandma. After that suicide attempt, my parents had forced me to behave as if things were normal. We went to my birthday party, at my grandparents’ house.

“They’d told everyone my stomach was upset, that I’d had a migraine earlier that day. I don’t know. I didn’t want cake. And I’m standing there, in the kitchen, and my Grandma asked me if everything was okay, if I was okay. I could have said something. I didn’t. I just, I said I had a headache.” I tell Bea.

“It would have been hard to say something,” she says, and she is as understanding as she always is.

I shrug. “Yeah, well. I just, I remember thinking I could tell her why my stomach was upset, the truth. But then there would be questions, and I didn’t want……I didn’t want to disappoint her. To have her……to have her know what I had done, because….I wanted….I could be just me with them. I didn’t want to lose that.” Tears are falling as I say this. The teen is sad that she couldn’t tell, and all the pain of wanting to talk but being afraid of losing the relationship because of what I’d done, all that pain is just so present in this moment. The grown up, though, is so mad. Kenny, my parents, they warped my head so badly that I couldn’t even tell the people I trusted the most. I spent most of my life pretending to be what my parents wanted so I would be loved, and that led to me needing so much more, it gave Kenny a way in, and it locked me in a prison where I couldn’t even ask the two people who did accept me for me, to protect me. I couldn’t risk losing the acceptance and love that my Grandparents so freely gave. It makes me sad that all of my experiences told me I couldn’t fully trust even my safest person.

Bea and I talk about this for a while, with Bea concluding that it would have felt too threatening to the teen to risk telling them, and that it may have even felt like it would destroy my safe world if I let the trauma out into it. And then we talk about the good memories I have with them as a teen. Trips my Grandma took me on, and weekend nights at their home, and showing off my prom dress to them on my way home from the mall. It feels like a betrayal to my parents, but I really did look forward to sharing my life with my Grandma and Grandpa. They were always just so proud of me, they always loved me so much, and they always thought I was wonderful, smart and beautiful– not perfect, though. They didn’t need or want perfect. They wanted me.

Sometimes, I think if they could have seen me this last year, running the PTO, leading a girl scout troop, getting a job as a teaching assistant/para pro, setting healthy boundaries, standing up for myself without getting nasty, and just really living my life, they would be surprised. But then I think, they wouldn’t be surprised at all, because they always saw me.