Twisted and confused

Monday’s session continued….
(Also, this does contain references to sensual abuse, so please read with caution)

“I feel like…I think..” I start to talk, but stop myself. I want to tell her I think I need to repeat what we talked about last session, that it’s not done, but a part of me is afraid she will say we already talked about it, it’s done and over with now.

“There’s that filter again,” she says, and her tone is light hearted.

“Just turn the filter off?” I ask.

“Yep. Just turn it off.”

“I think..I was going to say I feel like I still need to talk about what we were talking about last time. Like it’s not done.” I say it slowly, and then freeze, waiting for her to tell me I’m being ridiculous.

“Of course, of course you feel like that. I know we didn’t talk about the memories, the trauma part before. Does it feel like something you could write and email? That seems to work well for you, to write it. Do you have words yet? Or maybe you want to try to talk about this one, I don’t know. Maybe you aren’t there, yet. Have you gotten past it being your fault?” She asks softly.

“It is my fault. I did it.” My voice sounds far away, tiny and sad. I’m crying a little bit, I think. I feel like crying.

Bea lets out a sad sigh. “You really feel like this is something you did.”

“It is something I did.” I repeat it. Doesn’t she get it? I’m so afraid, any minute it’s going to hit her and she’s going to realize just how horrible I am.

“Maybe we need to start by just trying to accept that this is what happened. Intellectually, I think, you would be able to see it wasn’t, that you weren’t old enough to make any kind of choice, but emotionally it’s not where you are.” Bea is speaking really quiet, and slow. Or maybe I am farther away than I realized.

“Do you remember what you were feeling, or thinking when you kissed him?” She finally asks.

I try to remember, but I don’t know. I just know I did it. I don’t think I was thinking anything. I don’t know. I’m so far away, back there now, and I can see what I did. But I don’t know why. “I don’t know.”

“It feels like you are very much trying to protect this vulnerable little girl part of you.”

I think about that. Maybe. I can’t be vulnerable. I’ve already been too vulnerable here, it’s too easy for her to be able to hurt me, to realize how awful I am. I need to be in control, to stop that from happening. Maybe I don’t want to know. “I was nine. I knew better. What was I thinking?” I shake my head, upset.

“It’s the adult’s job to stop that, not your job. You were a child,” Bea counters.

“No. I was nine.”

“Okay. I need to find some nine year olds then, bring them in for you to remember what nine is. Nine is a child, a little girl.” This could have sounded harsh, but she speaks so kindly, so full,of compassion, it doesn’t sound harsh at all.

“I was very smart. Smarter than most nine year olds. I knew better.” I sniffle, my nose is starting to run from all the crying I’ve done today. Lovely.

“Smart, yes. But you still had a child’s brain. I remember being nine, and all the neighborhood kids stole someone’s floodlight, and left it in the street. I knew better. I was a kid. Kids do things because they can get away with it, because being naughty is fun sometimes.”

I don’t want to insult her, but my first thought is that Bea probably was not as smart as I was when I was nine. At nine, I was reading high school level books, and writing my book reports on them. And they were good, too. I’ve read some that my parents saved. It’s surprising, really, how smart I once was, and the stupid things I did.

Bea says something, but I’m not sure what. I’m having a hard time being present. But then she’s talking, and telling a story. “If I were to tell a story about a little girl who was molested by new babysitter, made to feel things sexually way before she was ever ready to, and some of it felt good, and some of it so fusing, and her mom was in the hospital, and she was in someone else’s house on an ordinary day when her mom should be there, but her mom wasn’t there, and the little girl was crying, and the babysitter came and comforted her. And the little girl really had no control over the situation, and she felt alone and worried about her mom and afraid that it was her fault her mom was sick, and she climbed in the babysitters lap, and she kissed him. She maybe kissed him because it was exciting, or maybe because she felt grateful, or maybe because she wanted more comfort. I don’t see that as the little girl’s fault. She wasn’t in control of any of that.”

The whole time she is talking, I’m shaking my head. I don’t like this story. I want to tell her to shut up. I was in control. I’m always in control. Always. “I was the one in control.” I say, and I mean to say it in a firm voice, but it comes out in a question, and sounding frightened.

“Maybe,” Bea says. “It’s really scary to think of not being in control.”

“No. I’m always in control. Of everything. I have to be.” I feel panicked now, here and in my memory both. I don’t like the way she has changed it, made me question things. Of course I was in control.

“And now we know why you have to be in control as much as you can be,” she says gently.

“I don’t know what’s true anymore. I’m so confused.” I blurt it out before I can stop myself.

Bea waits, patiently. I don’t have to look up to know that she is calm, and there, that she is okay.

“I did this. How can I say anything else….maybe I’m being a drama queen. I don’t know. What’s true? It was a game, fun, something I liked? I don’t know. I’m confused. Everything is twisted.” I sob the words out, feeling like I’m begging her to fix it, fix me.

“It’s one thing to say my babysitter sexually abused me, and to understand that. It gets confusing and twisty when all the feelings come into play, the feelings of sometimes it felt good, sometimes I went along with it, maybe instigated it, felt like I was getting away with something, all of those feelings make us feel like we were part of it. And then we start to question if it really was abuse. I don’t see it the way you do. I clearly see you as the victim, you were reacting in a way he had taught you to react to him. Confronting these memories, where you really had no control, is so hard, and it’s really brave. I can’t make you see things the way I do, I can’t change your mind. You’ve internalizes this too much. We just have to work through it.” She gets it, but she can’t fix it.

“I’m not brave. I don’t know how to work through this.”

“You are brave. Brave people don’t ever think they are brave, but being brave…well, you might not feel brave, but going through these steps, it’s brave. You are working through this, it’s just what you are doing, just this.” She explains her thoughts to me.

“It hurts.” I say. I feel miserable.

“Yeah. It hurts. It does.”

“What if I need to talk about this again and again and for a long time?” I ask.

“Then we keep talking about it. It’s okay.” I think she means it. She sounds like she means it.

I think I space out again, a little, for a minute or two, maybe longer. I don’t know. Bea ends up asking me what we did when Kat was sick this past weekend, and we talk about that. I tell her how Kat asked me if I had a friend like hers who hurt me when I was a little girl. And how I told her yes, and that I see my shrink to talk about it, the same as she sees Bea to work through things by playing.

“You did good. It had to be a relief to her, to know that you really understand.”

“I’m afraid I screwed up. I wasn’t expecting her to ask something like that. I had no idea what to say. But I won’t lie to her. I always tell her I won’t lie to her.” I finally raise my head, look at Bea quickly, and then back at the floor. But I don’t drop my head back down or hide my face.

“I think you answered fine, it was great,” Bea tells me. She looks intent on our conversation, and she means it. She really does think I did okay.

“Okay.” I nod.

We talk about Kat for a few more minutes, and wrap up.

“I’m seeing you on Wednesday this week, right? And I don’t have Kat written down, are you guys coming on Friday?” Bea asks.

“Yeah, I think so. Let me check my book.” I pull out my calendar, and double check. “Yeah, Wednesday at 8, and Kat on Friday at 10. Is that right?”

“That’s what I have.”

I stand up to go, and Bea looks at me. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” I nod my head. I am okay. In my all or nothing world, I haven’t hit the realm of not okay. “I would tell you if I weren’t.”

“All right. I know we already established that,” Bea smiles at me.

We say goodbye, and I head home, feeling like there was so much that got said and talked about today and still so much more I wanted to say but didn’t.

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My Good Fairy

please be careful reading. This post contains details of sexual abuse. It could be very triggering. Please be safe.

Earlier in the session, Bea had asked what the worst thoughts were, what was making it the hardest to be okay. Very quietly, I say, “I keep thinking……..”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that.” I can tell she doesn’t like to make me repeat myself, but it’s nothing major I’ve said yet, so it’s okay.

“My reoccurring thoughts…..my circle thoughts right now, the ones that won’t stop since Sunday.” I speak louder, force my voice louder. I’m not yelling, but it feels like it. In my head, I’m being too loud. Rationally, I know I’m barely being loud enough for Bea to hear me.

She waits for me to finish speaking, but when I don’t, she asks, “What are they?”

“He’s real….he’s scary……”

“Yes. He’s real and scary.”

I mumble the next thought, talking into by arms because my head is down and my face is buried. Bea doesn’t hear me, and I’m frustrated with myself over this. Why can’t I just act like an adult? “I need to go hide, wanting to go hide.” I repeat myself, louder. The words come out slightly panicked.

“Oh. Yes, hiding, the urge to go hide, to be safe, because he is real now and you know he is scary. Those thoughts make sense to me,” she says.

“The last one….he….” I can’t say it, can’t it get it out. It’s too much.

We sit in silence for a few minutes, and when it’s obvious I’m not going to say anything more, that I’m stuck, Bea breaks the silence. “He, what?”

“I…he had…….he………he had……” I feel like a scratched CD, repeating the same two words, over and over, unable to move beyond that. I start crying.

“If you tell me, you won’t be alone with it anymore. You won’t have to hold all the hurt and the pain all by yourself. I can share the pain. I can’t really share it if I don’t know what it is,” Bea says. I want her to know, to just know. She sounds so full of compassion, of kindness, of caring, like she really means what she is saying.

I cry and cry. The words run through my head, along with images, feelings. I shiver, pull into myself. I try again, and can’t get past those first two words.

When Bea speaks this time, she sounds quieter to me, or maybe she is just farther away. I’m not sure. “I think it’s the little girl who is having so much trouble telling, talking. I think these are her circle thoughts, and this last one is really hard for her to give a voice to. Is there a grown up part that can help her?”

I know Bea doesn’t think I have fully separate parts, but this makes me pause, when she says this. It also makes me stop and think, to wonder. Because we’ve talked about this before. The little girl parts, the teenage part, that got stuck, that are all part of me, but they are stuck and there, somewhat separate. I can talk, now. “He had sex with me.” I blurt it out, whisper it. I freeze, then, right after. I don’t move at all.

Bea waits a moment, gives me a chance to relax, but when I don’t, she says, “It’s impossible for the little girl to understand. How someone could be her friend, be taking care of her, and then hurt her like that. That does make him scary. But he can never hurt her again. The grown up part can’t understand either, it’s really hard to understand, to even try to make sense of it. There is no sense.”

It takes me another few moments, but then it’s like some of the tension leaves me, and I relax a little bit. I cry, again. “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t think there is really any understanding this. But the little girl is finding her voice. She spoke today, I’m getting to hear from her more and more. She’s learning that she can trust us, that she will be believed, that she won’t be ignored when she speaks. I’m surprised that came out as easily as it did. The little girl was ready to speak.” Bea says.

“But why?” I ask. The tears are leaving, and all that’s left is frustration. “How am I supposed to get over this if I can’t understand it?”

“I guess we need to think about what understanding really means. There’s understanding how someone in general grows up to be a sex abuser. There’s understanding how Kenny became that way. There’s understanding how you ended up in the position to be hurt,” Bea says.

I’m surprised by her answer. I was expecting an answer that placated, that blows me off, that tells me there is no understanding but you can still heal, or that I don’t need to worry about it right now. Maybe I expected her to treat my question as rhetorical. I did not expect her to treat me like a person, like I deserved a real answer. “Can you tell me that again?” I ask her. I’m so thrown off balance by her actually answering, that I can barely remember what she said.

I can hear what sounds like a smile in her voice, when she speaks. Like she is happy I’m asking for what I need, even of it’s as simple as to have something repeated. Six months ago, I would have emailed her that I needed this repeated, and we would have ended the conversation about understanding here today. “Well, there’s understanding on a few levels. The level of people in general; how does someone get to be a sex abuser? Which we could look at. There’s understanding how Kenny got the way he was; what happened to him, did someone hurt him, what his home life was like, who he was. Then there’s the level of understanding of how someone gets in the position to be hurt by an abuser. And there’s the level of understanding of how you got put in the position to be hurt by Kenny.”

“Oh. Okay.” I don’t have anything else to say. She’s covered everything, explained it farther. “What did I do?” The question pops out, in my tiny voice, whispered. Oops. Inside, I panic. I don’t want to know what she thinks I did to deserve this.

“Nothing. Nothing.” Relief fills me. It’s so huge, overwhelming. I can’t explain it. “You were in the right place, he had access to you. It was easy to make you trust him. That’s all. You did nothing. He just found you vulnerable. We’ve never really talked about this, but in your email, you mentioned feeling pinned down. Did he threaten you?” Bea asks. She has a way of asking scary questions that make them not feel as scary as they should be, so I don’t mind. I guess that’s a good thing in a child therapist.

“No…..yes….I don’t know.” I’m not sure. I stumble over thoughts, trying to sort everything out, make sense of things before I speak. Finally I give up, and I just talk, I don’t worry about what comes out. “When I was little…he was nice….things felt nice, he was nice. It was a game, it was fun. I liked him. He was my friend, he didn’t hurt me. It was just a secret. Older….when I got older….even if…even if some thing he did felt good it felt bad in my head. It was confusing. And he hurt me. He got….mean. He ruined my story, my game with my barbies.” I stop talking. I can’t believe I just said that. Crap. Crap. This is why I need to think through what I say, what I talk about. Stupid me.

“Mean? We’ve never talked about him as mean before. How did he ruin your game?”

I shake my head. I’m so not telling her this. No way. I’m way too old to still be upset over him ruining my story. Seriously. This is beyond stupid. Not happening.

“What did he do with the barbies? How did he ruin the game?” Bea asks me again. She’s gentle about it, but she isn’t going to let this go, unless I tell her to.

“It was just my story, what I played with my barbies. It’s dumb,” I explain.

Bea tells me a story about how she cried to her therapist about something that happened when she was in elementary school, nothing even traumatic, and so I’m not silly, not dumb, not at all.

“When I was little, I loved the story of sleeping beauty. I had my own story, where my barbie was Aurora, and Ken was Prince Phillip. They had a daughter, Skipper. In my story, spinning wheels were all over the kingdom, because in the movie they hid them and lied about them and that’s how Aurora got hurt. There were no lies in my kingdom. Prince Phillip taught Skipper how to fight Malificent, so she would never be hurt, and she would be able to rescue herself.” I stop there. I could weave the tale better, describing the scene, telling how the prince teaches Skipper to rescue herself, how maleficent is never a threat again, but that’s the gist of it. I’m caught up in my head, remembering my story, though.

“Trauma play,” Bea’s voice breaks through my thoughts, and she sounds absolutely sure in her belief, “trauma play. I wonder if I would have recognized it as trauma play. I hope I would have.” She sounds sad, and I wonder what she is thinking. “Of course you didn’t want lies, spinning wheels hidden. You were tired of lies. You had so many, many lies. And skipper was being taught to save herself. I love that. That’s the part of you that is so strong. This was hopeful play. And now I know why you are so able to be there in play with Kat, why you are one of the parents who really, truly get on a kid’s level, why play is so important. It all makes sense now.”

I’m quiet. I feel silly, but I’m holding back tears over how he ruined my story. “He ruined it,” I tell her.

“How? What did he do to the barbies?” Bea asks.

She doesn’t get it. He ruined the whole story. I start crying. “I’m so stupid. Crying over a game with my barbies, now.” I’m so mad at myself. I tell myself to stop, act like an adult, but I can’t, I just can’t.

“This wasn’t just a game for you. It was your hope. And you haven’t really been allowed to grieve over it, to be upset. I don’t think it’s stupid at all. I think it was very important,” Bea tells me, kindly.

I sit and cry for a few more minutes, not sure I can stop.

“Maybe that’s enough for today? Do you want to stop there, tell the rest later? It’s your choice,” Bea reminds me that I don’t have to talk, that I’m the one in control.

“Can I tell you what he did?” My voice is tiny through my tears. I sound like I’m asking permission. Maybe I am. I feel like I’m more little girl than adult right now.

“Yes, you can tell me. Please,” Bea says, making it sound like she is answering my question, but not like she is in control, or giving me permission.

“He…..he knew my story, because it’s what I always played, in some version. Aurora, Phillip, Skipper. No lies. And Skipper learns to save herself……”

“Definitely trauma play.”

“He said Skipper had to learn……” I can’t get the words out. They are a mess when they do come out, incoherent and messy, and how Bea grasps any of it, I don’t know. “Skipper had to learn how to behave. What to do when a prince rescued her.” I think to myself how that was wrong– Skipper rescues herself! “But then Aurora and Phillip found out…Skipper was naughty, bad, they didn’t love her anymore, she got put in the dungeon.” And then more tears break free. Will the crying never end?

“He was the play therapist from hell!” Bea is quiet about it, but she is mad. “He gave you a very clear message that you were naughty and bad and your parents wouldn’t love you if you told.”

I nod. I’m remembering the dread, the icy cold sick feeling in my stomach, not just remembering, but feeling it now, when he played that scene out. It was awful.

“Did you stop playing the story, after that?” Bea asks me.

“No. It was still my story.” I shrug. It was simple, in my mind back then. I wasn’t giving up my story, not when I had used it for years.

“It’s interesting you weren’t Aurora, a princess, waiting to be rescued,” Bea tells me.

I shake my head. “No one ever came. No one ever come and found me.”

“No, they didn’t. So the little girl made her own story, with Skipper, who was strong. Who could save herself. This almost speaks more to you wanting your Dad to rescue you, be there, teach you to save yourself.”

“No one even cared,” I sob. I feel all alone, no one cares. I’m being hurt, and no one is there.

“I don’t think we can go that far, to say they didn’t care. No one came, and it felt very much like no one cared. It felt like no one cared at all to the little girl.” Bea pulls me back, but validates my feelings at the same time. Her voice is gentle, understanding, but I think she knows me well enough to know I don’t mean it when I say that no one cared, and I’m going to fell guilty later.

“Yes. That’s it. It felt like no one cared.”

“Your story is coming true, now,” Bea tells me. She has the smile in her voice again. “Skipper is learning to save herself, Malificient can never hurt Skipper, ever ever. There are no lies in this kingdom. We might have to recast Hubby in the role of Prince Phillip, to teach you how to save yourself, but your story is finally coming true.”

I shake my head, “I think I might need a few more Barbies, now, a few more extra roles to cast in this story. You left out some important parts.”

Bea laughs. “Your story grew. That’s a good thing.”

I think I’ll cast Bea in the role of one of the fairies. Probably Merriweather, because she is the one who really stands up to Malificent, and is aggressive towards her; she is a lion at the gate. I wonder if I gave her a Christmas gift, an ornament with the 3 good fairies from sleeping beauty if she would realize that is the role I cast her in?

Bea as my good fairy; I think that is very fitting, indeed.

I’m still not okay….still not better

Tuesday night, and Hubby has been called to go back into work at 11pm. I don’t want him to go. I’m feeling scared, unsafe. Earlier, I took Kat to Mcdonalds, and let her eat a happy meal and play in the play place. I’m too dissociated to do much else with her. We came home and snuggled. She’s in bed now, and Hubby is leaving for work.

“You really have to go?” I’m snuggled in bed, with all my pillows and blankets. I have Teddy Roosevelt Bear with me, too. He was given to me by my Grandma and Grandpa for my 4th birthday.

“I really do. I love you. I’ll see you in the morning, when you are home from Bea’s.” Hubby kisses me, and heads out the door.

I can’t settle myself, every noise sounds frightening, it’s not safe. I end up moving the pillows and blankets into the bedroom closet, curling up there. I feel insane, afterall, I am 31 years old. I shouldn’t need to hide in the closet, but I feel safe in small spaces. I stay there, hiding all night. I sleep off and on, waking for good at 4:17am.

I get to Bea’s early, just before 7:30am. It takes me over 10 minutes to leave my car. There are so many people walking by. I’m jumpy, on edge.

I walk into Bea’s office, it’s 7:42am. I sit down, look at her. Right away, tears threaten to fall. “I’m not better. I’m still not okay.” I shrug. I feel like a failure.

“No….I can see that.” Bea looks at me. “This is a lot this week.”

I nod, bury my head. I can’t do this. It’s all too much. I need to hide.

“Is it Thanksgiving? Are you upset about going, seeing your mom? Dealing with her and the family?” Bea asks me.

I don’t answer. I can’t, I’m stuck. I sit, quiet, not talking.

“I suppose we could really look at it as a choice. Maybe that would help, to see it as a choice. You are making a choice to go. You have free will, you are making a choice, even if it doesn’t feel like it…..you don’t want to go, but you are going…” Bea trails off, maybe sensing that’s not what is bothering me.

“I’m fine with thanksgiving. It’s fine. I’ll be fine,” I say. The words are slightly hollow, but convincing, too. “I’ve made peace with my choice. I’m okay with it.”

“Oh! Okay……Is it thinking about Kenny being real?” She hits it, spot on, this time.

“Yeah. That’s it. I can’t….I just can’t. It’s too much. It’s all too real now.” I curl up more. Just mentioning him makes me panic inside more.

“Are you worried about seeing him over thanksgiving?” Bea sounds a little worried. Like she is just now thinking this could be a real possibility.

“No, not this year, not this time,” I tell her. It’s true. We won’t see them this year.

“Do things….are you feeling less safe since he has started to feel more real?” She asks. She’s right again. That’s exactly it. I’m safe in my house, safe in her office. But I still need to hide. I still don’t feel safe, not in my head, not in my body, not in my world.

“I’m not safe. I don’t feel safe at all. It’s stupid. I know that.” I’m embaressed. I wish I could just act normal.

“It’s not. Trauma memories feel real, feel like they are happening right now, but somewhere, we know they are the past. This….this brought him from the past to the present. That’s going to effect how you feel safety wise.” Bea sounds like the shrink who knows what she is talking about. I believe her. I feel less crazy. “Are you having thoughts, images, feelings that keep coming, reoccurring?”

“Yeah….yes,” I say. Admitting that is hard. I hate admitting to what I call the “circle thoughts.” They make me feel crazy. Being told that they are actually a symptom of PTSD, and that I’m not crazy has helped, but I’ve spent a long time believing I was crazy for a lot of things, and the beliefs still stand strong in my mind.

“I’d like to talk about what is going on in your body, right now. I know you’re still here, this isn’t ‘gone’ body language, and I’m still here. Are you still feeling like hiding?” Bea asks.

I nod. “I still need to hide.”

We are silent for a few moments, and then she asks if I went to yoga yesterday. I groan. I tell her I freaked out, I went, I freaked out, it was awful.

“What was the pose, what was she wanting you to do?” Bea asks me.

“I don’t know….” I actually do know, but I don’t want to discuss it. It seems like too much to add right now. Plus, I don’t want to tell her I think I made Kris annoyed, because then I’ll cry.

“I’m just wondering, because I have a feeling you might feel more in control if you sat up, put your shoulders back, like one of your yoga poses, and breathed. But it has to be your idea. Because when we feel so strongly like hiding, even being told to stand up, or move can be extremely triggering.” Bea says.

I shake my head at her. I’m not moving, I can’t do it.

Because it is fairly obvious that I’m not going to talk right now, Bea talks for me. “Last time, a few things came up for us. Well, for me anyway. One, a major one, I was half joking that Kenny should be the one not going to the party, but really, that would be a way to circumvent all the rest of the worries, of hurting everyone else with the bomb. People confront their abuser for all kinds of reasons……it’s not something you would ever do lightly, without really thinking it through. But it’s not something we have ever talked about before.”

“No…no. No. No. No, no, no, no.” I’m a broken record, repeating no, over and over, shaking, terrified, I can’t think, I can’t confront him. No. No. No. She doesn’t know. She has no clue. He is powerful. He is scary. In real life. I can’t. No. No. No.

“That’s a scary thought. Yeah. I know. It is a very scary idea. Maybe you aren’t ready to think about that yet,” Bea speaks soft, and then she breathes, in and out, slow deep breathes. I follow her lead, calm down.

“We haven’t really talked about the good memories, I’m sure there are some really confusing things, maybe even missing things about him. It would be normal, natural to miss parts, or to think about memories of him that are good and wish he was that person only. A relationship like that….it’s so intense. There’s really no other relationship that is as intense. It’s like with the boyfriend, that intense relationship, but way before you were ever ready to have those feelings. It would be normal to have sexual feelings, even if you didn’t want to, about some of those memories.” Bea doesn’t believe in waiting for a client to bring things up that might be uncomfortable, she’ll always bring it up, throw it out there, try to make things less taboo, make it safe to talk about. I love her for that.

As grateful as I am to Bea for being willing to bring up these hard things, I’m not ready to even begin to think about approaching these subjects face to face. I freeze. I’m uncomfortable, I don’t even know what I think or feel. I can’t even really think about half of what she has said.

to be continued……