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.