Monday: part five, honesty about the eating disorder

This was maybe one of the most surprising things I wrote (and allowed Bea to read) on Monday. This is all about eating disorders, and why I don’t want to talk about it. Bea has mentioned it a few times, casually, but I am aware this is the year she wants us to at least have more of a conversation and bring the eating disorder out of the shadowy land of make believe and into the real world. I feel the need to place a trigger warning on this, because I was more honest than I’ve ever been, and it could be triggering if you have or have had an eating disorder. Please read safely. Xx

Which brings us to the whole nutritionist thing. I know I said something about it Thursday, and we had somewhat of a conversation…..but I wasn’t so here and grounded. Gah. I want her to get better. I do. But then. I don’t know. It just feels very threatening. Like if she gives up her eating disorder, then I can certainly give up the odd eating habits I have. Ugh. I don’t know. And I know you think I should be able to talk about it, but I don’t even know what to say. And I know my eating stuff exists in this shadowy not real place, but I sort of like it that way. I don’t want it to be real to anyone but me. Because then…..I don’t know. I can say there is nothing wrong. That I have quirky habits, am a picky eater. I don’t know. I only know I get very afraid to talk about it all, and I feel like just talking about is it going to mean someone taking it away, that I won’t be in control anymore. And that brings out this very defiant teenager feeling part in me, and it makes me want to grab onto the eating issues with both hands and never give them up. 

“Yeah. Of course you want to grab onto this with everything you have and not let go. With all that is going on in your life, all the upheaval and changes, how could you not? I’m not taking it away, I don’t have that power. I only want to bring it to the light, so you can make informed choices.” Bea says carefully. I can feel how carefully she is treading, she is so aware how touchy this subject is and what a big deal it is to be talking about this at all, and I’ve been so honest…ugh.

“I am making a choice.” I mumble, whisper, the sentence. I’m not sure I even want her to hear what I’ve said. It feels a bit sassy, a bit like teen me is peeking out, testing the waters. 

“It feels to you like you are making a choice. From the outside…it appears, at times, that it is controlling you.” It’s said kindly, and gently.

“No, not at all. I make the choice.” This time, I’m firm and bordering on rude. I hate the way I sound, but I can’t really control it, either. How do you explain that you can’t stop your reactions, even when you don’t like them or want to react differently? 

Bea accepts the anger in my voice, and lets it go. She isn’t going to win this argument, and I don’t think she warms to fight with me about this; she warms to support me, help me. 

And that defiant teenager feeling part of me is not nice. It’s not even just sassy, or difficult. That part is mean and cruel and easily angered over nothing. And really, bulimic behaviors are gross. Like seriously gross. I’m not sure I can actually talk about that. Because it’s gross. And embarrassing. And…this is seriously uncomfortable to even try to put what I think I into words…….it’s the whole…weight thing. I assume, I feel, like anyone who is discussing food with me is judging me and my weight, thinking I just shouldn’t be eating at all, that I’m too fat to eat. I don’t know. I think that discussing eating draws attention to my body, and I can’t…I don’t like that…’s just not okay. I don’t know. And then I think anyone who knows about the eating issues must think I should try a little harder….like be a better anorexic or something. And I can’t….I don’t know, discussing bulimic behavior is as intolerable to me as actually saying the words of things that happened when I was a kid out loud. Not okay. Disgusting, and anyone who hears it will judge me as gross and bad and want nothing to do with me. ……….. So, I am scared to talk about eating stuff because I don’t want to not be the one in control, and I’m afraid I’ll look crazy because of the eating issues– the rules, behaviors, I don’t know…I’m afraid to show just what a control freak I am– and I’m afraid to have this angry, mean part of me show up. Because I don’t know what will happen then. It’s scary. And all the eating stuff is really so twisted in with so much of my life, where in the world do we start? It’s messy. And I don’t like messy. And maybe there really is nothing wrong and I am just a very quirky eater. Maybe none of it is even a big deal and I’m making a deal out of nothing. So there it is. All the reasons I’m afraid to talk about this.

“You,” Bea says, “have been doing some very hard work. You have been doing a lot of processing, haven’t you?” 

I nod. “Yeah.” 

“This is big stuff. This is what I have been saying, giving it shape, color, making it real. You made the fear of talking about this real. I can tell you, I can handle the angry teenager when you are ready for me to see her. And I’m not thinking anything bad about you, nothing at all. I’m not going anywhere.”

I let a few tears of relief, of just too much pent up emotions, slide down my cheeks. I’m shaking with nerves, and with relief. She can handle the angry part when I’m ready for that part to be seen. Not now. But she says she can handle it.  

“So many people have control issues. Especially if trauma is involved, because trauma is a huge loss of control. Of course you are looking for control. And this is a very big way you can have control; a very concrete, here and now way. It’s not crazy.” I think Bea is reading back over the paragraph I’ve written, and is now addressing other fears she is noticing. “We can talk about this more as you are ready. I’m really glad you are looking at it, and sharing this with me.”

“I’m not…not changing…this..” I say, slowly. 

“You don’t have to.” She reassures me. There is no panic or worry in her voice. She might not like what I choose to do, but I think she understands it as much as a person can, and she accepts it for where it is at the moment. 

“I don’t want to talk about it.” 

“I think you are in the thinking and processing and writing about it stage. And that is right where you need to be.” 

We sit in silence for a moment, and I’m afraid Bea has moved on to reading the last part of my messy list. I have one more thing I need to say. Really, I think it’s the defiant angry teenager who needs to say it, because I feel afraid and silly and embarrassed to say it. But I do. “I’m in control.”

“What?” Bea asks. She didn’t hear me, I mumbled it and had this sarcastic angry edge to my voice that isn’t common for me at all. For a moment though, I think she is saying ‘what’ in a ‘I can’t believe you said that’ sort of way, and my feelings are beyond hurt. “I didn’t hear you,” Bea clarifies, after I don’t say anything else. Maybe she realizes I was hurt. 

I shake my head, feeling so dumb for not realizing why she said what, and repeat myself. “I’m in control of the eating stuff. And I don’t have to change or stop. And I’m in control of talking about it. That’s the rule right? You can’t talk about it?” 

“Well…if you need that rule, then yes. But I really hate to have things I can’t bring up at all in this space. I’d rather bring it up and have you make the choice, tell me you don’t want to talk about it.” She says softly. 

“And then you really won’t talk about it?” I double check. Angry teenager does not trust anyone, and believes everything is a trick. Who can really blame her, though? That’s been her experience. 

“I really will listen. If you say not right, not today, I’ll listen. And I won’t talk about it.” 

I think about this. Maybe I am trying to convince the teenager it’s okay. 

“And you are in charge of when or if eating changes.” Bea adds. 

“Okay. No rule that you can’t talk. Okay.” I say. I sort of feel like saying ‘you win.’ except I know that’s the angry teen, so I hold that inside. 

“This is good. It’s hard, it was a lot of hard work. But I am glad you shared it, and that the eating has some reality to it for me, and maybe for you, too.” Bea says. 

I nod. I mostly feel pretty numb. I really can’t believe I have shared the reasons why I won’t talk with Bea, and she took them pretty okay. It’s a lot, but I’m glad Bea knows. I feel okay about that, which surprises me. 

Then why do I feel so bad?

Bea and I spend a portion of my appointment this morning discussing Kat and her nightmares. She reassured me that we Hubby and I are handling things quite well, and doing a very good job. Whenever we start to discuss Kat, it can be hard for me to switch subjects because I have so many doubts about myself as a mother, but Bea eventually steers the conversation to me.

“Wasn’t it just last week that I was saying you would be able to sit here next week and be okay? And look, here we are. So, I’ve really been wondering what happened? How this weekend went for you?” I can see it in her face, and hear it in her voice; she really did wonder how I was. I’m surprised. During her weekend, at least a moment, she wondered how I was doing, what has happened.

I’m able to keep looking at Bea. I want to tell her the whole story. I tell her how I texted Mom on Thursday night and told her I couldn’t come this weekend because my car wouldn’t be fixed in time– it needs a new engine. I smile, because I’m proud of myself. “She asked a few different ways for me to come anyway, and I just stuck with my original answer, and continued to say that I loved her and missed her. I invited her to come visit out here.”

Bea looks at me and she has this look on her face that seems to say she is happy, proud, amazed. I don’t know for sure. “You kept your boundaries. You set them, and kept them, even if it was hard. In a way, you did for her what you do for Kat; what good parents do, setting appropriate boundaries and then holding those boundaries in place.”

I shake my head at her. “I’m mad, so it wasn’t hard. I just….well, they came to visit. On Sunday.”

“Wait a minute! I do want to head about this visit, but wait a minute, back up. You don’t seem mad to me! I think you were firm, but kind. That’s not mad, or mean. It’s necessary for everyone in healthy relationships. I see this as very, very healthy for you.” Bea wants to back up my story, even though I want to plow on ahead. I can tell by the look on her face that she isn’t going to let me plow on ahead, either.

“Well. I’m mad. Old mad, not new mad. I don’t know. I just… I mean…it’s not mad like I want to scream. I just feel….” I stop talking. I don’t know what I feel, because I feel too much right now.

“So, it’s not mad like a rage mad.”

I shift in my spot, curl up a little more, hug my knees to my chest. I’m looking down at the floor. “No. Not that kind of mad. Quiet mad. I’m mad that my mom wasn’t who I needed her to be when I was a kid. So it was easier…I just…..I’m not mad now, really. Not exactly.”

I look up at Bea, and then down again. I don’t know how to explain this feeling, I don’t know the name, or what it is. She waits moment to give me time to keep talking, but when I’m quiet, she says, “You aren’t used to asserting boundaries, to being firm with people. This might be the first time in your life you set a boundary and held it in a healthy way. That has to feel weird, and new and different. But I don’t think it’s just mad all on its’ own.”

I shrug. I don’t like this conversation. It’s uncomfortable. The only words I have are mad, and I don’t know.

“Well, is this mad bad?” Bea asks me.

Well, crap. I don’t know. “Maybe. I don’t know. It’s not…I mean…I wasn’t mad-mad. Just mad. I’m sorry. Ugh. I don’t know. It might not be all bad.”

“Ahhhhhh. This mad is energizing.” Bea stares at me, and seems to think. “Mad is not bad. You don’t apologize for being sad, do you? Why apologize for being mad?”

“Well…I apologize for crying. That’s maybe apologizing for being sad. I don’t know.” I shrug. I’m not sure. I’ve never thought about it. I actually look at her when I say this, which is something I don’t do a lot in therapy. But I’m feeling brave today.

She just looks at me with kindness. “Yeah….you do. Do you think you don’t deserve to have needs? To have feelings, to take up space in this world?” She speaks in a way that implies I most certainly do deserve to have these things, whether or not I believe it.

I’m looking at her as she is speaking, but then it’s too much, and I have to look down. I can feel that familiar shrinking into myself feeling, trying to be invisible, wanting to disappear, hating the fact that I am too needy. I don’t answer, I have no answer. I just want to disappear. This conversation is making me really uncomfortable.

“A very wise person,” Bea smiles, and changes her words, “My therapist– said we are all like boats going through life; no matter how hard we try, we all make wake as we travel in this world. We all effect the world, and those around us. You can avoid your mom, pull away, hide and the effect is that she wonders if she is a bad mom and she is hurt. Or, like you did this weekend, you can be more honest, set a boundary, and the effect is your mom had clear expectations and rules set up, and knew what was really going on and what she could expect of you. Having needs isn’t bad, no matter what, those needs get expressed. It all depends on how you choose to express them on how you effect the world. We all have needs. Everyone of us. And regardless of if we go through life trying to hide our needs, or go through life putting them out there, either way we are effecting the world.”

I shrug. I’m not joining this conversation. “Well…I don’t know. I’m not liking this conversation.” Bea nods at me, acknowledging what I’ve said, although I suspect she already knew that without me saying a word. “So, my parents showed up at the worst time….” and I proceed to tell the story of swimmimg Sunday Funday
When I get to the part of my mom telling me she admires how I parent, I get teary eyed. Bea looks at me. “That makes me want to cry. It’s so much what you needed. After all the work you have been doing the last few months, you really needed that connection with her.” And her eyes do look misty.

I nod my head, agreeing. “I wanted to cry then. I really did, and it felt like we were just there, together. I don’t know. I was ready to start talking, to test the waters with Kat’s story. But she got up to get coffee. She ran away.” I look away from Bea as I say this, because the empathy and understanding in her eyes is more than I can take at the moment. I gaze at the far wall, the one that has turtles and under the sea creatures painted on it. I don’t look that direction often, and so its a good way to keep myself grounded right now.

“Ohhhh. That was hard. You have this moment, and you were ready to share something big. She left you.” Bea can be so very, very validating. She pauses though, as if to let that message sink into my thick head before she continues on, “Can you think how hard that one moment was for her? How much that took? How scary it had to feel? She probably had to run away. Think how scary it is when you connected with me, and with Hubby really on an emotional level for the first time. That was scary. It still feels scary.”

“I know. I was just sad. It was more than I thought…I don’t know. She was just so there. It was like she was really talking about me.”

“Yes, she saw you. She really did see you. It’s almost like she was saying she wished she could have parented you differently.” Bea says.

I agree. I continue on with the story of the day, and Bea stops me again, when I get to the part about Dairy Queen and ordering what I wanted. “How did that feel?”

Again, I don’t want to think about this. I want to hide away. I shake my head at her, a silent plea of don’t go there.

“What did your mom order? What did you order?” Bea asks.

“She had a salad. I had a kid’s meal. I always get a kid’s meal because you get ice cream and a slushy with it. I had grilled cheese.” I smile, because I was proud of ordering what I wanted to order.

Bea smiles too. “I didn’t even know Dairy Queen had salads.”

“Apparently not very good ones.”

She leans forward, and looks at me seriously. Maybe more serious than I’ve seen her look before, however because I don’t spend much of my session time looking at her, it’s hard to say how often the serious look crosses her face. “I guess the question is, did you throw up?”

“No.” I look at her. I’m not sure she believes me. For a minute, I feel 13, when no one believed me about my eating habits. “No. I really didn’t.” I look Bea in the eye this time, when I say this.

She smiles, just a bit, the seriousness fading. “And how did that feel for you? Was it hard?”

Again, I look down, not wanting to think about anything. This is too much. I don’t want to think about how it felt, I’m not sure. Strong. Hard. Bad. Great. Like I screwed up. But also defiant. And then later that night, fat, like I had gained 50 lbs from one meal. I don’t know, so I don’t answer. I don’t want to talk about this. Bea doesn’t offer me an out, she doesn’t save me from the silence, this time. Finally, I say, “I don’t want to talk about this, I don’t like this.”

“Okay. I liked how happy you were about ordering your choice in food, in choosing a grilled cheese. You were like a little kid, just seeming very happy and satisfied with yourself, that’s all. I liked that.” Bea tells me. She looks happy, glad that I felt this way and shared it with her.

“I was proud of myself. But now….I don’t know. I want to tell you about my Dad, anyways. That’s more important.”

She turns and faces me, and waits for me to speak. I have her full attention, like always, but this is some thing she wants to hear about– my Dad. I tell her how we were swimming, and the story of how I learned to swim.

“He said he never would have thrown me in like that if he hadn’t known he could get to me, and if he hadn’t known I trusted him to save me. I told him I….” I have to stop speaking, because this is harder, and tears are threatening to fall now. “I don’t know who ended this moment, me or him. Me, I think.”

“We’ve talked so much about your mom, we really have never explored your Dad’s capacity for emotional connection. It’s hard to say. And that’s a moment, him teaching you to swim, when he was your secure base. That’s something you do come back to. I knew there had to be a moment when you had a secure base at least some of the time, because you have so much strength and this internal sense of yourself, that you are finding and learning to come back to.”

I stutter through my words, this time. Bea’s had barely penetrated at the moment. “I…I did always trust my dad to save me.” It’s all I can say.

I look up at Bea, and understanding crosses her face. “I can see why you would want to break that connection. There’s so much left unsaid, in that statement, and between you and your Dad. I don’t get the sense that your Dad knows, or has any idea, though.”

“No…I don’t think he knew. But….but…I don’t know. He was supposed to save me. I believed he could always save me. I believed he would save me,” I say, and the tears that have been filling my eyes brim over and fall. I had been looking at Bea, but as I blink the tears away as hard as I can, I turn my head, and finally, I cover my face.

“There’s still a lot of grief to be worked out, let out.” Bea says, “He would have saved you if he had known.”

“I don’t understand myself. I don’t. I should be happy. Yesterday was good. I should be happy. Why do I feel so bad?” I’m so confused. I can’t believe I’m admitting this confusion to Bea. I never would have admitted this a month or two ago; I would have felt too crazy. Now, though, I just need her to explain me to myself.

“I imagine it’s a mixture of feelings. Happy and sad. Bittersweet. There’s grief for what you didn’t have then, happiness for the connection yesterday, maybe anger, it’s a lot of feelings mixed together, it’s not just one feeling.” Bea is leaning forward, elbows of her knees, bent towards me, but she sits far enough away that she isn’t in my space.

I cry for a few minutes, and then again I say in a miserable way, “I don’t understand.”

“Well. It’s that holding two opposite ideas at once, like we talk about. You can be happy and sad at the same time. This is a lot to be taking in, to have happened this weekend. It’s powerful, to have your parents see you and validate you and connect with you in the moment. It makes sense there would be a lot of feelings,” Bea says.

“It was good stuff.” I’m frustrated with myself. It was all so much good this weekend. I was excited to tell Bea about it. Why do I feel so terrible?

“Yes, it was good,” Bea starts to talk, but I cut her off, asking “Why do I feel so bad then?” I look up when I ask her this, uncover my face and wipe away my tears.

“Maybe because you think you don’t deserve to feel connected to your parents, for them to see you and love you, because they don’t know everything, because you think they won’t feel the same if they knew. Because you feel you don’t deserve love and kindness.” She says this softly, gently, but it still makes me want to hide. She sees too much.

I withdraw a little, distance myself, hug my knees and curl into myself. I don’t answer. I don’t know if she’s right. Maybe. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s too much to think about. All I know is that it’s too much to face, too hard. I shake my head at her, I’m not talking about this. We sit like that for a while, me withdrawn into myself, Bea waiting.

Eventually she tells me that it’s hard to set new patterns, to try new things, but that I had done it, and that the outcome had been good, positive. She tells me that a family is like a mobile, that you can not turn one part of the mobile without turning and changing the other parts. She thinks things are changing, and I maybe will find things changing even more as time goes on.

“Were you surprised?” I ask her.

“Well…yes. In a good way, a happy way. I was surprised.” This is one of my very favorite things about Bea. She doesn’t lie, even if it means admitting she was surprised, or that she has made a mistake. “This is a weekend that I think we can really see where you are growing and moving on this journey, on your path. Look how far you have really come. Sometimes you can’t see the forest from the trees, but I think you can right now.”

“Yeah. I can.”

I really can. Even 3 months ago, this would have been unimaginable. Now, I was me with my parents. I’m thinking of testing the waters with them. I admitted to my therapist I was angry, and maybe, just maybe I didn’t feel as bad about being mad as I used to. I ate junk food in front of my mom, and didn’t throw up. I felt strong, and good about myself, and I even felt like my parents saw me, and not the pretend person they want me to be. I’m able to look at Bea when I talk, more and more often now. I’m able to sometimes tell her when I don’t like the direction she is steering the session in, or the questions and statements she is making. I’m getting stronger. I’m finding me. I’m healing. And my life is feeling fuller because of it.

What is standing in your way?

Bea proposed the questions: what is standing in your way? What makes liking yourself, being happy with your body, leaving disordered eating behind a fairy tale? to me when I stated that her idea of how life could be, and even my “wish, what I really want” was just a fairy tale, unattainable, even though they sounded nice, good, like something I did want. What follows is the list that I gave her, and a copy of my “wish.” It could be triggering, if you have or have had an eating disorder. There are no numbers are sizes listed to try to keep triggers to a minium.

What I want, more than anything, is to be okay. I don’t want hurting myself to be my first response to being upset, or anxious, or having my feelings hurt, or to not knowing how to cope. I don’t want to be afraid to talk to my husband about our relationship. I don’t want my first reaction to be stress or anxiety, or frustration with myself, when I make a mistake. I want to look in the mirror and be able to name 3 things that I am comfortable with; I don’t even have to love those things, just to be able to have 3 things about the way I look, about my body that I am truly comfortable with would be amazing. I want to be recognize that my body is more than the way it looks– it is the body that can swim and climb and roll down hills. I want to be able name my emotions, to know what I am feeling, instead of labeling the feeling as bad and running from it, or good and trying to figure out what it might be. I want to have to ability to not be so controlling all the time, to relax once in a while. I don’t want to “live” in the room in my head forever. I want to be connected to my body. I don’t want to be nervous every time I hug my husband, or kiss him. I want to be able to talk about things that are “real” without stuttering and being so obviously awkward. I want to feel emotionally connected to the people I care about, in the way I have experienced recently in small amounts— I want that most of the time because it is amazing, and good. I want the fear of trusting to be less than the joy that trusting others brings. I want the rewards of showing my vulnerability to those that care about me to show me that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and that it can be a good thing. I want to remember that connecting with my daughter on an emotional level is a whole different kind of wow than I have experienced before, and it’s one I want to keep experiencing in my life. I don’t want to believe for the rest of my life that I am bad; I want to let go of the shame and guilt. I don’t want to hate myself for choices I have made, or for things that were done to me.

Why I can’t let go of the ED Behavior
1. It’s my little bit of control, absolute control, over what happens to my body. I don’t think I can let go of that.

2. I have this secret wish that if I am just good enough with my eating, then I will be back in my size X jeans, or if I am really extra good, my size X jeans.

3. My mother hates fat people, I can’t be really fat because she will never be able to accept me. (And somehow, what I believe her feelings are about me being fat, I have projected onto everyone else in my life. — this I have just realized while writing this post out)

4. I’m afraid that If I ever did try to eat normal, then I would really be fat. (Logic: I eat maybe one meal a day, throw up anything bad I eat, any food over one meal a day is usually thrown up. If I am fat doing those things, eating 3 meals a day and not throwing up will make me huge)

5. I still believe, deep down, that if the scale would say my “magic number” then I would like myself, and I would finally be happy.

I don’t know exactly what this all means, but I suspect it is big. Just the fact that I have made a list is big. I’ve never made a list about my eating behaviors before– and I am the queen of list making, let me tell you. I think our wedding planner wondered if I was going to put her out of a Job, and what exactly, her role was, with my binders and folders and lists and notecards and post-its. 🙂 So, this might be big. If I can keep stepping forwards.

Reading, drawing, and talking, oh my!

I feel a bit like Dorothy in the wizard of oz. I’m walking along a road, one that I’ve been told leads somewhere great, and I’ve been facing my “lions and tiger and bears, oh my!” It’s just that my lions and tigers and bears happen to be reading, drawing, and talking.

Reading about sexual abuse. That’s right. I have avoided reading, studying, learning. I’ve been afraid. In all other aspects of life, I tend to become a “human google” for whatever it is that I am interested in, or needing to learn about. When Kat was diagnosed with a milk allergy, I lived vegan recipes. When she was diagnosed autistic, I learned all about autism. When we fought for autism insurance, I learned more about insurance policy and hubby’s company and various board members than I ever wanted to know. But……to become human google for sexual abuse? To acknowledge it and to be knowledgeable about it? To recognize myself on pages of a book? No. Just no. Except, I am currently reading my first book I’ve read about childhood sexual abuse.

Drawing for real. By that, I mean not drawing little things for Kat with crayon or marker, but using charcoal and drawing in a sketch book. I haven’t drawn in almost 17 years. I put down the charcoal when my parents decided I was smarter than I was talented and I needed to focus on my smarts. So, I focused on my academics. I did well, too. I was smart. They weren’t wrong about that. I missed sketching. I’m very stiff with it now, it doesn’t seem to flow the way I remember. It’s scary to do something just to do it; for no other reason but because you enjoy it. I haven’t done any amazing sketches. Nothing my parents would deem “good enough.” The best part is, I don’t care. I’m proud of the fact I am drawing, and I don’t care how good or not good my sketches are. Hubby is being supportive and proud of me for it, too.

Talking to my osteopath as openly as I possibly could on Thursday was hard. It was good, but hard. I was able to tell her my week had been full of trauma triggers and flashbacks, nightmares, and no sleep. I was able to tell her I thought my week long migraine was a result of that. Her response reaffirmed why I love her.

“Did I give you my little booklet on dealing with flashbacks?” She asked me.

“No,” I said, “but I wasn’t really talking last time I was here. I practically ran out of here.”

“Well, today is a different day. Tomorrow you might not be talking either. And then again you might.” Dr. B handed me a little orange booklet entitled “Living with Traumatic Flashbacks. “My sister had flashbacks for years. Her kids were older than Kat, but they knew when mom was in the corner crying, to call Aunt Lynn. As they got older, and she healed, she had a list of things that helped on her fridge, so they could help her. You can do the same with Kat, one day.”

I nodded, shocked. She really got it. She had loved through this with her sister; she didn’t think I was crazy at all. No wonder she had recognized dissociation, and had known how to handle it.

“You get this, you didn’t think I was nuts last week,” I finally said.

She looked surprised. “Think you were nuts? No. No. I thought something was very much not okay. I was worried. I did not for one minute think you were nuts.”

We talk about my sleep, my nightmares, and she makes a few homeopathic suggestions. And we begin treatment. We talk off and on.

Dr. B asks me something about therapy, and about the abuse, of which she still only has a general idea.

I responded to her, slightly dissociated now, “Well no one knew until just a few weeks ago when I told my shrink.”

“Surely Hubby knew.”

“No. He knows now. I told him last week,” I said.

“Oh sweetie.” She says. And then, “fuck.”

Can Pollyanna be “real”, too?

I spend a lot of time talking about my pretend self. She’s the one the world has met, the one my family of origin helped create.

Pretend self knows how to smile no matter what. She is engaging, even charming. She’s great fun to talk to. I can be on the verge of tears, having a flashback, experiencing a panic attack, but pretend self can look at another person and claim we are “doing just great! Thanks for asking! And how’re things with you? We really must catch up soon! Give me call next time you’re in town….”

Yeah. That’s my pretend self. She always shows her best face. She’s the one with the hair and makeup, always done, who always wears the “grown up” clothes. She likes the “right” things– the things moms like; baking, reading, exercising. I don’t know what else she is supposed to like. She’s always happy. The glass is half full with her. She is an eternal Pollyanna.

Except…..I don’t think that part is fake. I think that part is me.

Trauma therapy is a bit like peeling back layers. Bea assures me that I am a grown up, even though I feel like the person I show the world is a fake. She assures me that there is a grown up part of me that runs the ship— that I am more than the scared little girl I feel like I am, or the fake me I feel I show the world. I’m slowly learning Bea is right. I’m not sure who I really am, but I think I might like whoever that really is.

I don’t like fake me. But maybe I might like real me. I know I like the Pollyanna part. I like being positive, I like thinking things will be okay, that they will work out. I like seeing the world through rose colored glasses. That part, that feels real to me.