Thanksgiving (and beyond) catch up

Thanksgiving weekend. It was good. Really good, actually. My parents were really there, engaged, present, real. They let me be upset at times, and at one point during the weekend, my mom helped me to calm down enough to talk about things (things being a general overview of my arguments with hubby). We played board games, watched a movie, shopped. We just spent time together, just being. I didn’t have to be anyone, or do anything for them to want me there, they just wanted me. ME. It was this amazing feeling, like I was okay, and whole. Things weren’t perfect, but that was okay. I felt taken care of, and loved. It was a break that I desperately needed from my current life. 

Coming back home was hard. I hadn’t wanted to leave, because I knew reality awaited me. And it really didn’t go well. Kat acted out an awful lot, and hubby said some hurtful things. He insinuated that Kat behaves better without me around, and that he was able to do all “my” chores, so I should not have the difficulties that I do. I don’t know. Coming home was hard. I had missed my little family, but it felt that they didn’t miss me, need me or even want me around. I quickly slipped into this feeling of indifference about everything. 

Monday, I saw Bea. I can’t remember most of what we talked about. If I don’t write about my sessions soon after they end, most of the content and conversations get lost somewhere. I do remember a few parts of the conversation, though. 

I had been telling her about my weekend with my parents. 



“It sounds as if you felt very taken care of, like a lot of your needs were met. Maybe even some old needs were finally met,” Bea said. 

I nodded, agreeing, and we moved on to talk about hubby. The conversation went in circles, as it usually does, because the only person who can really help solve the problem was missing– hubby. 



After a while, Bea looked at me, and said, “I’m trying to figure out who is here today. I get the sense you don’t feel like this is the real you, but I am not sure who this is.” 



I shook my head at her. “It’s not…me. Not real me. I don’t think. I don’t know. But I don’t know who.” My head was messy, and I felt very far away, hiding out in my head, not feeling my body. It was that feeling of things going on around me, and myself reacting but it doesn’t feel like it is me because me is not really here. Nothing feels real. I wish I had the words to describe it. 



“If you pause and focus, you’ll know if it is the real you.” She talked about the observer part everyone has, and how the observer would know who was here today. 



I didn’t get what she was saying. “Everything is just….gone. I was so upset..last week? Tuesday? And I know I was upset. But I can’t feel it, cant even remember what it felt like.” 



“Being able to put things in a box, a container, that is a skill. It’s a good skill to have,” she told me. 



I wanted to tell her it wasn’t like that. But I really just couldn’t. I was too tired, and didn’t really care that she had it wrong. 



“I bet by Thursday you will have your feelings back. They can’t be contained forever.” She reminded me that our feelings are like the weather, they change. 

I don’t even remember how we ended things, but I have this general impression that I didn’t really want to leave, and that I felt sad. I wanted to talk about so much, but it was all under the surface, hiding from me, because I was so indifferent. 

The rest of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday passed in a blur. Monday night I decided that hubby and I needed couple’s therapy. I emailed Bea, and asked what she thought. I wanted her opinion because I knew enough to know I was so very indifferent feeling right then that it seemed a great idea, but other parts might not be so okay with it. “I sometimes feel like my entire life has been a lie, but it doesn’t have to be anymore. I can make a choice, now. I want a marriage where my husband is my secure base, where its him I want for comfort and support– not my best friend or therapist. (There is nothing wrong with needing my best friend or therapist for support, but my husband should be on that list, too. He should be on the list of people I trust, and he is not. And that’s just not okay anymore.) So….. I don’t know. Is couples therapy a terrible idea?” 

She emailed back, saying it was okay, and that she understood wanting the things I wanted out of my marriage, but something about her wording threw me off and sent out alarm bells that she felt this was a very bad idea. I wrote back, explaining that her wording was making me feel like even though she said it was an okay idea, she didn’t really feel that way. I felt like that was big progress on my part, because I never would have written that second email a year ago. I would have done nothing and stressed out that she thought I was making bad choices. I can see now that feeling so numb and indifferent helped out in that way. 

 Bea emailed back, and explained further; she didn’t think therapy as a couple was a bad idea, but she was concerned about what would happen when I was asked to expose more of myself than I am comfortable with in a session. She stated that we could talk about this more the next day in session.  

Wednesday night, I woke up from a nightmare, and started writing. I had written some after the session before Thanksgiving, and so I added on to that, with the intent to give it to Bea to read. I wrote a lot about everything. I never really did fall back asleep, and the morning passed quickly. I got Kat off to school, and headed to Bea’s……………………………

(To be continued……..)

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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day. I don’t know how I feel about it this year. In years past, my feelings have been all over the map.

In my early twenties, I felt guilty and ashamed on Mother’s Day. I had been pregnant and had an abortion (never mind that the pregnancy was the result of forced sex by the college boyfriend) and I felt all the pain and guilt of that choice on Mother’s Day. I don’t have the words, even now, to explain it. I’ve made this point to avoid thinking about it or talking about it.

Then, when I wanted so badly to have a baby with hubby, and month after month of failed pregnancy attempts and fertility treatments continued with no results, I felt envious and ashamed of that envy. I hated all those women who had children to celebrate Mother’s Day with. I wanted a baby. The day brought much grief and sadness to me.

When I was 26 and finally pregnant, Mother’s Day was the best day ever. I loved being pregnant, loved my baby bump, and felt amazing. I was finally a mom.

And the first Mother’s Day I celebrated with my daughter, the next year, felt like a miracle.

In all these years, all these ups and downs, I have always celebrated my mom. I’ve always felt it was a day she deserved to feel loved, and reminded of how special and important she is to me. It’s a day I celebrated the friendship I have with her. It’s the day I celebrated the fact she is my mom, and how blessed and lucky I am.

This year…I feel so terribly conflicted. I refer to my mom as my best friend. I have called her that for a long time. In many ways, she has been my biggest supporter, my biggest cheerleader. She has always believed in me. And yet. I feel like I can’t talk to her. I feel like I have to hide who I am, and pretend to be the daughter she wants. She rewrote history a long time ago….if I’m honest she rewrote it as it was happening, and I went along. Her version of our lives is so much nicer, so much prettier, so perfect. But it’s not true. It’s all a lie. We love each other, that part is true. But the rest? It’s not the life I remember. It’s crazy making, to pretend to be someone I’m not. To go along with this perfect version of history. It’s so much more tiring than I remember.

I love my mom. But I’m hurt and angry and confused. She is my best friend, but I can’t talk to her, I can’t share my truth with her. She loves someone who doesn’t exist. I’m still terrified if she knew me, she would reject me, hate me, be angry with me. I’m angry with her, but I love her and need her. A year ago, I would have said that a person can’t be angry and love the person they are mad at. Bea taught me that I can, and it’s okay. Anger isn’t the end of a relationship. It’s not the be all end all. It’s something to work through and to acknowledge, so the relationship can be repaired. I won’t get a chance to work through the anger with my mom. It is what is. Maybe I need to make peace with the fact that she only loves and knows the miss perfect part of me.

As for being a mom, this year I don’t feel like I deserve to be celebrated. I’ve made terrible mistakes. I’ve screwed up. I yell. I ignore my child. I can be mean. I think awful things in my head. I don’t stick to rules I make. I break boundaries. I let her watch too much TV. I dissociate often. I have flashbacks and am triggered by my own child. What kind of mother is triggered by her daughter? No, I don’t deserve to be celebrated.

Tomorrow, I’ll make a Mother’s Day brunch. I’ll celebrate the fact that my mom loves a part of me, that we are friends, and that I love her, despite my anger and hurt. I’ll celebrate the fact that I was blessed with a precious gift; the chance to be a mom. I’ll celebrate the ray of sunshine that my daughter is in my life. I’ll celebrate the fact that all her differences have forced my family to grow in ways I never thought possible. And, I’ll celebrate the fact that my mom and my daughter are both with me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Xx❤️

Coping with hell

I’m in Bea’s office, curled on her couch, holding my chai tea in my hand. I feel like I can finally breathe, like I can relax, like I can just be. I can stop trying to pretend I’m okay, I can stop feeling guilty that I can’t seem to pretend anymore. We’ve talked about Kat, and how she played on Friday in therapy. It concerns me, but Bea seems to feel it was good, although she can see why it would feel disturbing to me. I try to hold on to the idea that the play means Kat is working through her stuff.

“So how was it, being back at your parents?” Bea asks, switching subjects from Kat to me.

I stare at the floor, play with the rubber band around my travel thermos. I don’t want to answer. I want her to know, but I don’t want to have to tell it all. It’s too much.

“You were sick, did that get better? There was a lot you were dealing with already before the weekend.” Bea looks at me. She’s referring to a situation with Kat, that had sent me into a panic, emailing Bea and begging her to help and make it okay, to give me a reality check. I had known, that being sick, and all the flashback crap I was dealing with, I wasn’t objective. Bea had emailed back quickly and reassured me, as well as pointed out several things that gave me a reality check.

“It got better. I was okay. We left for my parents Saturday.” I tell her this, and my voice feels a little robotic.

“Did your mom have stuff planned?” Bea asks.

I nod. I look up at her. “It wasn’t a good weekend.” My voice cracks, and tears threaten to fall.

After a minute, when I don’t continue speaking, Bea says,”You know, I think Easter is a hard holiday, maybe the hardest. It’s all about purity, and renewal, about joy and innocence. Even on the surface, the symbols of Easter, bunnies and baby chicks are about new life and sweetness. That can be hard to be around, hard to feel, when so many ugly truths are sitting inside your head. It can feel like you are completely at odds with everything the holiday stands for.” Her voice is kind, and understanding. Everything she is saying makes sense.

I start crying, cover my face. I don’t want to do this today.

“Did you go to church?” Bea asks.

I shake my head. “No…I…no.” I lose track of the conversation, but somehow I’m telling her how hubby came to church one year, probably the first year we dated. “We always go to sunrise service. It’s really beautiful,” I tell her. “Hubby was surprised…..he was raised baptist (at this point, I will apologize to anyone who identifies as baptist. I realize not all baptists are like this, but this is how hubby was raised.) so he was surprised how my church was.” I ask Bea if she knows much about the baptist religion, and she shakes her head. “It’s hellfire and brimstone, it seems like you believe because you are afraid not to. There’s no dancing, no singing. It’s very strict. His parents didn’t follow that….but, it’s the church they went to, so the God hubby came to know was scary.”

Bea doesn’t tell me what she believes, or even if she goes to church, but when I get worried she could be baptist, and I could have offended her, she assures me she is not. “My husband did go to a baptist church, and then he became Lutheran, so I have a little familiarity.”

“Okay. My dad was Lutheran, my mom was Methodist. I was raised non-denominational. It’s about the most lax you can get. We sing, we wear jeans….well, my generation wears jeans…it’s about God loving us, forgiving us, not about being afraid. So Hubby was surprised. He doesn’t do church now, though. But I couldn’t…I just couldn’t do sunrise service. My mom went. I stayed home, I said I was feeling sick.”

I lose track of the conversation again. Bea is talking about church, Jesus, God. I don’t want to have this talk. While I had been explaining hubby’s experience and mine with church growing up, I had lifted my face to look at her. Now, I hug my knees to my chest, bury my face.

“Do you know who Jesus hung out with?” Bea asks me.

I sigh. “I don’t want to have this conversation.”

“Okay. Can I say something about Jesus the man, the person? No theoretical religious speak from me, I’m not a religion scholar.”

“Okay.” I’m too tired to argue. And part of me really does want to have this conversation.

“Jesus hung out with the poor people, the sick, the prostitutes. He hung out with the people looked down on by society. He didn’t hang out with the high and mighty. My mom….she was an immigrant, she was poor when she moved here. Eventually, she moved to a more affluent area, that was heavily Christian and a lot of the neighbors had been talking about the gays, and the poor, and the riff raff, and saying terrible things. She finally got mad– and my mom doesn’t get mad, so this was a big deal– and she said, ‘who do you think Jesus would be hanging out with if he were here? The very people you are putting down!’ And she was right. There’s a new book out, Zealot, about the life of Jesus, as a man. The author is Muslim, but his wife and mother are Christian. He writes about Jesus and the good life he led, the people he spent his time with. And he says, even though he doesn’t believe Jesus is the savior, he wants to follow his example, because he led a kind life. That’s who Jesus was. I think your version of God, of forgiveness and love sounds about right,” Bea’s words come out in a rush, and I can hear pride in her voice when she speaks about her mom standing up for her beliefs.

“I’m not talking about this.” But I file the name of that book away in the back of my mind for later. I wonder, did Bea read it? Or has it just been one of those newsworthy books?

“Okay. I do think this is going to be important in your healing. I know it’s caused you a lot of pain. And I know I started talking on and on. I’m sorry,” she apologizes. I’m surprised. I wasn’t even feeling upset or mad, or anything, but her apology, and acknowledgement that I had asked to not discuss it but she got lost on a tangent, soothes me. It makes me feel like I have worth, like I’m allowed to speak up. Like it’s okay.

I lose track again, and then I’m telling her it was a bad weekend. “Saturday…” I shake my head. “Saturday….” I can’t get past that word. My breathing speeds up, my heart is racing. I’m shaking, and my eyes are darting around, even with my head down. I try to shrink into myself, scoot back, be small. I’m afraid. I can’t talk. I need Bea to know, but I can’t talk. How am I going to tell her? Can I text it to her? Is that stupid? I don’t know. I can’t do this. I need to hide. There is a closet in Bea’s office, it’s filled with toys and art supplies. Can I hide in the closet? Probably not. She’ll think I’ve lost it for sure if I try to go hide in her closet.

“Something really bad happened. Something very scary happened on Saturday,” Bea says. She doesn’t sound worried, or upset, or anything. She sounds fine. Her voice grounds me a little. “Did your mom pull out more pictures?”

I want to shake my head, but I can’t seem to.

“Okay. Did his parents come over?” She asks.

No. Not his parents. I can’t think. I just keep replaying those few minutes over and over.

“I wish I could just pull this out of your head, so you didn’t have to say it,” Bea says. She knows how hard talking can be for me. Sometimes, once whatever it is, is out there, I can talk around it, without naming it again. But the actual naming of it is painful.

I’m crying, and shaking, trying to control my breathing. I don’t want to have an anxiety attack.

“Is there anything I can do to help you, to make this easier?” Bea sounds like she might be a little sad or something, I don’t know. Like she really wants to help me and it pains her that I’m struggling so much.

I shake my head, hold my knees tighter. “There’s nothing you can do. I just want it to go away.” The words float out, a whisper, a plea, but they don’t come easily. Every syllable is a fight.

“It’s just really hard. This was really a bad thing,” Bea says. She knows it wasn’t good. I don’t know why, but I know, deep down to my bones that she believes me. It’s okay.

We sit in silence, Bea just being there, believing me and wanting to help, and me, trying to breathe and calm myself.

“Did you write it down?” Bea asks me.

Her question knocks me of kilter for some reason. “Yeah. Yeah I did write it.” I’m surprised. I wrote it down. Why didn’t I think of that?

“Is it here?”

“Yes…well..it’s in my iPad. On my list…it’s unedited. I don’t really turn in things unedited.” Except last week, I gave her the whole list, unedited and messy, and it was okay.

Bea gives a small laugh. “That’s something we have in common then. I don’t have many things I’m OCD about, but editing things is one of them. I won’t judge,” she says, and then almost as an after thought, she adds, “You might not get an A, though,” with a small chuckle to let me know she is joking.

I smile. “I don’t know. I need to have perfect grammar, and get an A.”

Bea laughs for real now. “Alice, you’re funny.”

I smile, laugh under my breath quietly. “I know.” And we both laugh again, as I lift my head and wipe my eyes.

I grab my iPad out, pull up the list and scroll down to where I wrote about Saturday. I sit, staring at it. I don’t move. Bea is quiet. It’s okay to give it to her, I tell myself. It takes some convincing, but I hand it to her, and immediately bury my face. I don’t want to see her face when she reads it. I don’t want to see any emotions play across it that may mirror my own. I don’t want to see nothing, either. No matter what her initial reaction is, I’ll be upset. Why is it that there is no pleasing me? Was my mom right when she said no one would ever make me happy, there was no pleasing me, I put people in impossible positions, I’m so needy, I take and take, I drain people of all they have? I hide because I can’t face Bea right now.

She reads about Saturday.

He brought a cake. Saturday afternoon. I can’t even write about it. He said hi to me. Like it was normal. Hi to hubby. My mom chatted with him, like he is the perfect person he pretends to be. Hubby talked to him. They had a conversation. I stood there. In the kitchen, frozen. There was a knife in front of me, and I thought about grabbing it, cutting. I didn’t. He left, I smiled, waved, said nice to see you, bye, happy Easter. Oh my God. What the hell is wrong with me? I can’t do this. I think he knew. I thought he might tell hubby how disgusting I am. He knows I told the secret. It’s crazy, I know I sound crazy, that there is no way he could know, but I swear he knows and it’s not okay. It’s not okay at all.

While she reads, she makes an mmmhmm sound, and then, “This is terrible. Very terrible. No wonder you feel like this, it is horrific. Your own personal hell, knocking on the door.”

I’m afraid, suddenly, that she is going to make me talk about it. I don’t know why I’m afraid of that. She’s never made me talk about anything. She’s talked and I’ve listened in uncomfortable situations. But she has never made me talk. I’m done hiding and lying and pretending though, so I say, “Please don’t make me talk about this.” My voice is tiny, and scared. But she needs to know what I’m feeling.

“I won’t,” she says seriously.

She continues reading, even though there is nothing more about him being at the house. It’s a list of the weekend, of things I dealt with, things from now and from the past that were in my head. Last time she had read something on my list, she asked if she could read the rest of it. This time, she just reads, and that’s okay. I had almost said to her to read it all anyways.

“This is your voice,” Bea sounds excited, like she has discovered something amazing. “Right here, in your writing, you are finding your voice. This is your voice: ‘I’m so tired of lying. I’m tired of saying I’m okay when I’m not. I’m tired of smiling when I want to cry. I’m tired of not being mad, when I should be mad, and hiding from mad so well, that I can’t even feel it.’ That’s you. That’s real.”

I listen to her reading my words back to me, and realize they are true. I’m tired of it all. I just want….I don’t know what. To be real. To be me and not afraid, to have a life, my life, without hiding.

“This is good, this is you finding you.” Bea sounds almost giddy. I don’t know why, but her happiness makes me feel lighter.

She goes back to reading. Next on the list is the memory of the kiss up north, when I was 12. I’m feeling hazy and light headed when Bea talks to me. I can’t focus on her words, can’t grab onto them. All I have is this overwhelming sense of rejection. He pushed me away. He didn’t want me. Why? What did I do wrong? My mother was horrified by my actions. She didn’t dig deeper. Why? What did I do wrong? They both left me. I can’t escape this feeling of alone. Isolated. Confused and hurt.

“There’s nothing before, nothing after. What was I thinking?” I finally say to Bea.

“I don’t know,” she tells me honestly. It’s one of the things I admire about her; she is honest and up front. She won’t lie to me. She says something about it being okay to be angry with my mom.

I shake my head. “I can’t….I don’t know. It’s so messy.”

“It’s going to be messy for a while. It just is.” She says, matter of fact about it.

I shrug. “Hubby talked to him. They talked.” I sound shocked.

“That was really scary. Did hubby say anything about it to you?”

“No. It was just a normal chat. I hid in the kitchen.” I’m shaking again, and all those feelings are threatening to come out. I shove them down. I can’t do it. I need to be numb, or at least as numb as I can be.

“There has to be rage there, even if you didn’t feel it. You wrote about the knives, looking at them, thinking about cutting. But you didn’t cut. I wish you would have wanted to hurt him.” Bea says. She pause a moment, and backtracks, “That was a strange thing to say, I’m sorry.”

I shake my head. I get it. “I think you just want so badly for me to be mad at him, and not to be hurting myself. That’s all.”

“Yes. The truth is, I’m mad about the injustice of it all. I’m mad at how badly you were hurt, and how much you were isolated and shut down and hiding all these years. It makes me so angry. But, I have to separate that anger from this work. Because if I’m going to walk with you on your journey, I can’t push my feelings.”

“That sounds hard,” I say. I’ve thought about it before, how hard that has to be, but we have never talked about it.

“Sure, it can be. As you know, we’ve experienced my feelings getting in the way. But you told me you needed to feel like I was on your side, not trying to get you to do something else. So I backed off on the hubby stuff. At times, I want to say, I’m calling your parents and giving them a piece of my mind, I’m emailing kenny and telling him all the damage he caused and to stay away, and send hubby in here, drag him in here and I’ll set him straight.”

I smile, despite myself. I feel protected for a minute, safe. Bea is acting like my lion at the gate. “You can’t call my parents, or email kenny.” I laugh. “I might let you have hubby, though.”

Bea laughs. “You can send him in whenever you are ready. I’m here.” There’s something reassuring in her words. Just the idea, when I’m ready, she’s here. That’s huge.

A realization is slowly forming in my mind. “I told you to back off.” I say slowly.

“Yes, you did.”

“I told you to back off, and you did. And it was okay.” I say, slowly again.

“Yes…?” Bea says, an unasked question in the air. She doesn’t know what I’m getting at. I’m not exactly sure, either, it’s something I feel, something I can’t quite get into words.

“I didn’t think about it. I just asked. I said I needed to feel like you were on my side. I wasn’t afraid to say it. I didn’t second guess myself, or anything, I just said it, and it was okay.” In my head, I add that she didn’t get mad, that she listened, she was still there, she didn’t leave.

“Ohhh. I would say we have a good working relationship then. You know it’s safe to ask for what you need. That’s good, you are learning to say what it is you need. And it’s okay to have needs.” Bea says.

I don’t say anything, just nod.

“Have you talked to Hubby about anything? How did he handle your snapping at Easter?” Bea asks.

I shrug. She’s read the part of my list that says:

I could not pull it together this weekend. I skipped church, I’ve never done that on Easter ever. We always go to sunrise service on the bluff. I did not go. I couldn’t go pray and sing and worship and proclaim that I’m saved, and act like life is perfect. I could not find my facade. I couldn’t fake anything at all. I was mean, short tempered. I snapped at so many people, including my mother. My poor mother and hubby took the worst of it. I couldn’t relax, couldn’t calm down. I couldn’t be present, I didn’t want to socialize, or talk, or be around noise. And anyone who messed with that was snapped at. I tried, and tried, but I could not fake it. I don’t seem to have it in me anymore, not like I used to. I’m so tired of lying. I’m tired of saying I’m okay when I’m not. I’m tired of smiling when I want to cry. I’m tired of not being mad, when I should be mad, and hiding from mad so well, that I can’t even feel it. I couldn’t fake it. So I claimed I was still really sick. I hid. I took a bath and cut myself with someone’s razor. I stuffed my face with Reese’s eggs and the cake he brought, and threw up. I coped. Not well. But I coped.

“My mom….she just acted like it was because I was sick. She needs it to be like that.”

“I guessed that,” Bea says.

“Hubby…well, there was one point where he gave me that look…the one that says I had gone too far….but he just pushed it all away,” I tell her, sadly, “I married my mother.”

Bea laughs at that, and then turns serious. “I was thinking that same thing, except, Hubby has the capacity to be different, to really be there for you. When we told him your past, his reaction and his plea to me to help him know how to help you the day he came in, those things show me he can change. You just have to be willing to open up to him. If he knew what you were dealing with, if he had an idea…send him in here for tune ups on a regular basis, so he stays aware and doesn’t fall into detached mode, I think it would really help, thing would be different.”

I sigh. “That’s scary.” As much as I trust Bea, the idea of hubby and Bea talking on a regular basis terrifies me. I’m not sure I like that idea. I’m paranoid about people in my life hating me, finding me annoying and needy, and to have them talking about me….I don’t know.

“It is scary. It’s an idea. When you are ready.” She pauses, and then continues, “Did you guys talk about you being mean?”

“No. It’s not worth it.” I sigh. I’m tired, so tired. “I tried to talk to him. Friday. It was…not okay…confusing…..I don’t know. Didn’t you read it?” I’d written about the sex and the questions and how messy everything got.

“No, I didn’t see it.”

I sigh. I’ll probably kick myself for doing this, but I tell her that it’s above the Saturday thing. She scrolls up, and reads. I cringe, knowing what she is reading.

“He wanted something solid, a reason, something he could fix,” Bea says.

I nod. “He can’t handle my not okays and I don’t knows. And that is a lot of what I have.”

“This was a good conversation for you guys to have. You told him you weren’t okay. That was big.” She keeps talking, but I’m not listening. She’s right, I did try to open the conversion, and that was good, but I don’t want to hear her talking about sex.

“It’s okay to have needs. You see allowed to have them. It’s not bad to want sex.”

I freeze. I don’t say a word. Inside, I’m shouting at Bea. You’re wrong, you’re stupid. Shut up, stop it. It is not okay to want sex, to like to be touched. Bad girls like that. Dirty girls, slutty girls. It’s wrong,wrong, wrong, bad, bad, bad, shut up, you are wrong, it’s not okay. I’m lost in the tirade in my head, holding it back, not allowing the words to escape. How odd, how very, very, strange that I’m normally fighting to get words out, and now, I’m fighting to keep them in. I won’t be mean to Bea. I will not be mean to the one person I trust and believe in.

“I want us to slow this down, to start coming back, to try to get to a good place.” Bea says.

Her words cut off the angry rant in my head. I nod.

We sit for a minute in silence, and then I say something about my mom, and it being hard ro be around her.

“I imagine it is right now. You might have to back off for a little bit, take some time for you again, like you did in the beginning. Going back there, to your parents, has given you lots of good things more recently, but I imagine being back in that house is like time stopped, in some ways.”

“There’s so many things now…grandpa’s anniversary memorial, Mother’s Day, June birthdays….” I sigh.

Bea stays quiet, and then she gently reminds me that I have choices.

“I don’t have to go,” I whisper. “But I’ll feel bad…she’ll feel bad…I don’t know..”

“Yes. We don’t have to figure this out right now. What’s important to remember is that you have choices now, you are aware you have choices, you aren’t powerless.”

I think about that. A year ago, I didn’t realize there was a choice, that I could choose to not go to family events, and that the world would not end if I did that. Now, I know I have a choice. I have a choice.

“You lived through your worst nightmare, in some ways, this weekend, and you survived it. You coped,” Bea tells me.

“I feel like one of the zombies on hubby’s video game,” I confess.

“Half alive?”

I nod. She gets it.

“How could you not? It’s almost unfathomable for the psyche to understand. It will take a while to process, I think.”

“I’m tired. I’m just so tired,” I cry. I don’t mean tired like I want to go to bed. I mean tired like emotionally beat down, like I can not take another thing.

“I know. I know.” She soothes, in a voice that might be used with a child, gentle and calm. “You survived, you are here. You are back in your world, your life, your house and routine, with your things. He’s not here, he’s there. Even your parents can’t come visit without your permission. This is your world here. You survived, you coped.”

I sniffle. I think of how I coped this weekend. I was mean, snappy. I was dissociative. I cut myself multiple times. I picked my fingers to a bloody mess. I stuffed myself and vomited. I stepped on the scale and obsessed over the numbers. I coped. “Not very good,” I finally say.

“Doesn’t matter. You coped, you survived, to come back to your life. You survived a version of your own personal hell.” Bea says. She’s serious, too. She isn’t condemning me for how I coped.

“I like my life,” I tell her. And I do. When I think of my friends, my daughter, homeschool, our ABA team, our gym, our routine, our neighbors….I like my life.

“I do, too. I want your life,” Bea says, laughing.

“You can’t have it.” I laugh. “Well, if you take it, you gotta take all the ugly stuff, too.”

“I suppose that’s true of anyone’s life. We all have ugly stuff with the good stuff.” Bea turns serious, and contemplative. “You might not see it, or feel it, but you have come so far. You really are healing. You’re just in the middle of the hardest part, the feelings, the confusion, the trying to understand something that is beyond comprehension. You’re digging down deep.” Bea sounds….almost proud or something. Pleased, maybe. I don’t know.

“I think….when I think about it, it feels like I have changed. I can talk more. I know feelings, I feel them. But I don’t know…it hurts more. Things are more real and they hurt more…..” I trail off. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say.

“Yes. This part does hurt more. You’re more present than you used to be. You do talk more, and have your feelings. You’re seeing it might be okay to have needs. You’re finding your voice.” Bea smiles at me.

I sigh. “It’s hard.”

“It’s very hard. A lot of people don’t get to this point. But you’re here.”

It’s silent again, maybe each of us digesting what we have just talked about.

I sit up, grabbing my things. I look up at Bea, and feel like crying with relief. The only thing on her face is kindness and caring. “I’m okay,” I tell her. “Well. Not okay. But you know.”

We talk about the plan for the rest of the day and the next few days. “I think it’s going to be important that you really try to stay grounded in the now. To remember you are here, and safe, that you survived.”

Somehow, as I’m leaving, sitting on the edge of the couch, we start talking about Kenny having a kid. I don’t know how that came up. I bury my face in my hands for a moment.

“He has a little boy, right?” Bea asks me.

I nod. “They thought they were having a girl………..the ultrasound showed a girl….” My stomach turns. I remember how sick I felt at the thought of him having a daughter. I wonder, if he’d had a girl, would I have said something?

“How old is he?” Bea asks me.

I think. Was I living here, or back home at the time? Or in college? I can’t remember now. I think it was when I was living here. “9? 8?…..I think he’s 8 now. I can’t remember. I was relieved when they had a boy.”

Bea looks unsure of what she is about to say. “I’m not sure it always matters,” she says slowly. And now I know why she seemed reluctant to say what she was saying. “It makes us feel better that he doesn’t have a little girl, but I’m not sure it always matters.”

I look down at the floor. “Sometimes…..I feel guilty….” I can’t finish the thought.

“Because you didn’t tell?” Bea asks.

“Yeah. What if he….and I could have stopped it by telling?” I stare at the blue of the rug, let it go blurry. This conversation hurts.

“It’s not for you to worry about that right now,” Bea tells me softly. She says something else too, something comforting and kind, but I’m not listening fully.

“I’m the adult. I should…I don’t know…it’s my job, as a grown up to be responsible.”

I don’t remember what she says. It’s the right thing, kind, and reassuring, and not a lie. She doesn’t placate me.

Bea helps me come back present, grounded. I leave with her reminding me that I survived, that I got through it, I coped.

I didn’t fall apart completely. I didn’t put on my miss perfect facade. I was mean, and I hurt myself, I let my ED take control for a while. But I survived the weekend of my own personal hell. I coped. As bad as things are, I feel like things are changing, I’m changing…and it hurts and is hard and I’m on unsteady ground, but I think it’s going to be good, eventually.

Easter

Easter. I was raised in church, so for me, Easter is about Christ rising, saving us from our sins. It is about being saved. It is about eternal grace. It is about the love of the cross. It is a time to remember when we accepted Christ’s gift, and were saved.

Easter weekend and all it stands for is a constant reminder of my sins, of the things I have done that can not be forgiven, of the fact I am going to hell.

It’s a day that I’ve put on a happy face and proclaimed “I’m saved!” along with the rest of my friends and family. It’s a day that I’ve spent remembering how Jesus wiped away my sins….except, He didn’t. He couldn’t. Nothing and no one can wipe away the things I’ve done. No savior, no matter how loving and good could ever forgive me. It is what it is.

This weekend, I’m struggling to put on that happy face. I’m just coming off being sick. My defenses are down because of that. My bubble has been popped by Bea. I just don’t have it in me to pretend. I’m snappy, my temper is short, there is no patience in me. I don’t want to be social, to talk to to people and smile. I don’t want to greet our guests, and talk about how my family is doing. I don’t want to smile and nod when my mom proclaims my “accomplishments” with Kat and her ABA and homeschooling and autism insurance coverage; let alone to talk about those things and answer questions. I can’t pull the facade together. It’s not there, it’s not in me to act like things are perfect. Things are so far from perfect. I don’t even know where to start. I hate feeling like this, being like this. I can hear, and feel myself reacting in anger, in frustration, but I can’t stop it. The fact that I am mean is only further proof that I’m bad.

So, I avoid people as much as I can, claim I’m still feeling sick, dissociate without meaning to. I take a shower and end up cutting myself with a razor someone left sitting on the shelf. I stuff myself with carrot cake and Reese’s eggs and run to the bathroom to throw up. It’s not a good weekend.

It’s made worse because of what I know, what I remember. A snapshot, a wisp of a memory, something I don’t want to grab onto, but that I can’t seem to stop from looking at. It’s like when you pass the scene of an accident– most people driving by can’t help but look at the wreckage. And so I look at the horror of the snapshot in my mind. It makes me question everything. Summer. 1996. I was 12. We’re at the pool. Up north. Kenny and I. His hand had been between my legs, and my mom had walked up. He moves back, and she doesn’t notice. I lean towards him, and kiss him, a real kiss, in front of her. He pushes me back, disgusted, shocked. My mom is horrified. I’m in trouble. I don’t have a memory of that, a snapshot, but I have this…feeling…this knowing, that I was talked to about having a crush, and acting appropriate, because what I did was not appropriate. I want to vomit. I feel cold. Abandoned. She didn’t see what was right in front of her. I’m being a drama queen, but I feel like she left me. Like she didn’t care enough to ask, to think, to do anything. I don’t know.

That’s it. There’s nothing more. No before, no after to the memory. Just a wispy snapshot, nothing, not even a moment really. But it’s enough. It’s yet another sin to add to the list.

Mad at Mom

Trigger warning for talk of self injury and eating disordered behavior. It hasn’t been an okay week for me, and I have slipped in many of my behaviors. Please be careful and safe when reading.

Early Sunday morning, or late Saturday night, the anger at my mom bubbled up in me, and I was so upset I couldn’t see straight. Bea says anger is hard for me because of my personality type, and because of my mothers insistence that anger was bad, not allowed. Add those things to an abusive relationship in college, where anger meant I was going to be hurt…and well, anger is scary. But there is was. I was mad. Angry, with a capital “A.” At 3:00am, there aren’t many options for getting rid of angry feelings. I wrote an email to Bea. I didn’t send it right away, because I was unsure, if I wanted her to know how mad I really was, how horrible I can actually feel and how mean and cruel and terrible I can be.

I sent it this morning, so Bea would have it before my 3:00pm therapy appointment. Of course, by the time I have sent it, the anger is gone. I’ve numbed it away. Razor blades and starving can do that. I woke up hungry, which is rare for me. I was thankful, in a way, for some thing to focus on; because as long as I spent the morning focusing on not eating, on forcing my body into submission of not being hungry, I was okay. I was in control.

I manage to do the dishes, pick up the living room. The rest of the day is spent hiding in the closet. Kat is at Art class with her ABA nanny. It’s okay for me to dissociate away the day and hide.

I shower, dress, drive to Bea’s office on auto pilot.

When I get there, I’m surprised to find Nathanial, the pet rabbit on the steps. “Hey there,” I say, bending down to pet him. He’s an old rabbit, and usually he hangs in the waiting room.

Bea walks out of her office and looks down the stairs at me. “Hey, come one up.”

“I was surprised he was all the way out here,” I tell her. She tells me he has been moving around a lot, even going up and down the stairs.

I get settled, and Bea looks at me. “You don’t seem very here today.”

Well, crap. I can’t hide much from her anymore. “No…..I’m having a hard time being here.”

“I did read your email this morning. There was a lot of anger there, justifiably so.” Bea isn’t going to waste time today, I guess.

I had started the session looking at her, now I look down. “I’m not mad anymore.”

“No. I can tell. To go from so much anger to anger turned inward. That’s a big shift.” Bea looks concerned. Maybe I imagine that, but I don’t think so, because it freaks me out. I don’t want her to be concerned.

“Why? Why do you say inward? It’s just gone.” I’m freaking out, that she somehow sees or has an idea what I have been doing to cope. That she knows exactly what “not okay” means, and how not okay I really am.

“Well, we always think of depression as anger turned inward on the self. If a person is chronically numbed out, depressed, and we can get them to turn that anger outward, anger can be energizing, it is action oriented, it changes things.” Bea believes this. In her world, anger isn’t bad. It just is. It’s energizing, it’s powerful, it changes things. She is not scared of anger. She doesn’t see that anger is just this big scary thing that can’t go anywhere or be controlled. She doesn’t see that anger changes nothing, or that anger is mean and hurtful.

I want to argue with her about depression. I’m not depressed. Does she think I’m depressed? I’m not going to ask. I don’t want to be told she thinks that. I am not depressed. I’m just…..frozen. Scared. Not here. Sick. Confused. Not depressed. I don’t say anything, though. Better that than admit the truth. Bea doesn’t say anything either.

I break the silence. “I was…..so mad.”

“Yes, you were. That’s okay. You have every right to those feelings, to be mad. How could you not be mad?” Bea gets up, “I’m going to grab my phone so I have your email, is that okay? It’s on the table.”

I nod my head at her.

She retrieves her phone, sits back down. “You expressed yourself so well in this, exactly why you are mad. It’s very clear.”

I shake my head. “I shouldn’t be mad.” I don’t like mad. Mad feels bad, awful. I feel horrible for being so mad at my mom.

“It feels bad to you. I know. Until you can really accept all the mad, and the sad and even the hatred you feel, I don’t think you will be able to grieve or heal.” The words are quiet but they penetrate, even all the way to my place of “not here.” I can’t accept the anger. I don’t know how. In my world, anger isn’t okay, and anger at my mom really isn’t okay.

Bea looks at me. “I feel like you are having a lot of trouble being present today.” I am, but I don’t say anything. “There are these nifty little neurons in our brains, called mirror neurons. They let us know what the person we are talking with, focused on, is feeling. And right now, my mirror neurons are telling me to go away. It’s like a sirens song…just go over here, it’s nice and cozy over here.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. It’s automatic, really, the apology.

“You don’t need to apologize to my mirror neurons. Without them, I wouldn’t have empathy,” Bea says. I can hear a little smile in her voice.

Bea does some grounding exercises, naming what she sees. “Did you notice the new blanket on the couch?” I nod. I want to tell her I like the color, it matches the rug perfectly. “I thought it was the softest one. I’ll probably wash the purple blanket, and put it back on the couch because I really thought the kids would like the fuzziness of this one. But can you feel how soft it is on your toes?” My feet are bare. I had worn shoes, my wool toms with the fleece lining but no socks. I realize I can’t feel the blanket, or really anything. I wiggle my toes. I’m not here.

Bea takes a different approach than normal. She reads my email to me. I think she is trying to make me mad again, to show me it’s okay. I can’t feel it though, it’s too far away. I barely remember writing the words.

Maybe she never realized how much she put on me, maybe she has no idea. But I think she has to have some idea. I’m mad that she needed this perfect daughter, that I can’t be. I’m mad that I feel like this absolute failure in the daughter department because of her expectations. I’m mad that she makes me feel like I’m not good enough, like I am always lacking in some way.

This….you expressed this so well. How can you not be mad to have all this put on you? This is a heavy weight, and not one any kid should have. You named it, exactly right, it’s her expectations that make you feel like a failure. You aren’t a failure.

I hate that I always, always have to be the one to comfort her. Even when I’m scared and upset, and hurting, I’m comforting her, telling her I’m okay, reassuring her. Because I have to make sure she is okay, not anxious, not going to starve herself back into control of the situation. That’s not my job. But it’s been my job, in some way, shape, or form, for as long as I can remember. “Don’t upset mommy.” “Perform well, just make mommy happy.” She and my Dad are adults. However ineffective and shutdown he is, he is the one who should be supporting her, not me. It is their job to deal with her “stuff”, her “illness”, not mine! But somehow, it became mine. I don’t want this job anymore.

It’s not your job! It never was your job! This was another situation you shouldn’t have been put in. You were taught to put mommy’s feelings first, to make mommy happy. It’s time to put Alice first.

I hate that she spent my “problem” years withdrawn from me, or pretending everything was fine and normal. It made me feel even more than I already did like I can not talk to her, turn to her, rely on her like that. She could hardly acknowledge me, the things I did, the hurt I was feeling. Can you even imagine if I had told the truth? There was no way. It wouldn’t have happened. But I hate that she did that. I needed a mom who was there. Who was safe. Who saw me, who listened, who tried to understand what was really happening, who did more than drop me off at shrinks and nutritionists doorsteps.

That was so hurtful. There’s just a lot of sadness here. Grief. You did need a mom who, heard you and saw you– really you, not the you she wanted you to be. You needed a mom who supported you, and you really warmed and needed a mom who did more than just drop you at therapy and make you feel like ‘the problem.’

And I can absolutely see, and understand why you couldn’t tell the truth. You almost had to wait until now, for it to be safe to really confront this, to be able to be in a safe place to heal.

I want to just scream it at my mom sometimes. That Kenny had sex with me, when I was 9, that’s why my underwear were under the damn bed, and she should have known, that he was hurting me from the time I was 5, and she never knew or even realized and I hate her for not making it safe for me to tell her. Crap. I didn’t know I had that strong of feelings until I wrote that. I want to delete this, but I won’t. I think it matters. I think I have to deal with it. Face it, somehow. I feel like we have talked circles about my mother and me. I’ve cried. I’ve talked. I’m not over it. Ugh….this sucks.

Yeah…of course you feel this way. Your whole world felt unsafe because you couldn’t tell her; the small ways you tried weren’t received positively. When you’re a kid, and you feel unprotected, your whole whole world flips.

I think you need to accept the anger and sadness and hatred to be able to heal this. It’s hard. But it’s like a bonfire. You feed it and it gets bigger but eventually it dies down, and is easier to look at, and it doesn’t burn so hot or bright.

I wish I could just tell her. It won’t happen. She’s not safe. If I told her, it would be because I wanted to be mean to her, to hurt her, to maybe end the relationship. Not because I would expect anything from her. She doesn’t have it to give. And I can’t tell her….because in order to tell her, I need her to be a safe person to talk to. I’m not sure she would believe me. I’m not sure, even if she believed me, that she would understand why I’m not okay now; I think she would expect me to let it go, after all, I danced with him at my wedding, I’ve seen him millions of times since, I was fine, I’m fine, right? I’m not sure she won’t choose to keep her life as is, and not upset it, and in doing so chooses everyone else, including him, over me. If she does believe it, and she is upset, I will have to (yet again) comfort her, when I am the one who wants comfort from my mom. And, lastly, regardless of how she acts and says she believes, she will get stressed, anxious, and obsess, and it will make her anorexia come back in full force and she will end up sick again.

It sounds like you have thought about telling your mom. (I’m shaking my head at her.) Or at least had some fantasies about telling her. (I continue shaking my head.) Okay. Maybe we will talk about this next time.

Crap. I wish she had whatever it is I need, to give. I wish I could tell her, and she could respond in this perfect way, whatever that is. Love me for me, not hate me, not think I’m bad. I don’t know. Not expect me to see him ever again. Not choose anyone over me ever in that situation. But it won’t happen.
And now, I’ve made my mom sound like this horrible person, and I’m feeling quite guilty over it. So. Angry, guilty, sad, scared, anxious, kinda not here, and really, really bad. That’s how I feel
.

Yeah. A lot of feelings. And not here. It’s hard to be here when we feel so overwhelmed with feelings, and with all of these thoughts.”

I’m crying now, big tears, sobs that I can’t catch my breath between. “I ruin everything.”

“No. You ruin nothing.” Bea pauses, thinks. “From where I sit, you have ruined nothing. You have done nothing wrong. You can’t possibly live up to your moms standards, because she is living vicariously through you, needing you to be perfect, unable to accept that you like your own things, have my your opinions, are your own person. You are perfect, just as you are. Maybe not in your mother’s world, but in this reality, in this world, you are perfect.”

I cry more. Just cry. Too much grief. And still, I can’t accept it. “If I don’t go….I’ll be the problem again. She…..I cant…she’ll….it will be like before.” I can’t get the words out. I can’t say that if I don’t go, she will withdraw from me, like before, because I ruin everything and I’m the problem.

“You aren’t the problem. Not at all. No.” She drinks her tea, pauses and thinks. After a minute, she seems to come to a decision. “If I were going to tell this story, it would go like this:There was a little girl, who was put in a horrible position no child should ever be put in, with a boy who sexually abused her and raped her. No one knew, and no one protected the little girl. The little girl felt all alone, and isolated herself from people and close relationships. The little girl never told because she wanted to protect those closest to her. The little girl grew up. She started therapy, and she told her therapist about the boy. She was strong, and she started to heal. The boy grew up too. That year there was a Christmas party the little girl, now grown up and healing, wanted to go. She couldn’t go because the boy would be there and she was scared. The little girl was forced to choose to hurt those she cared about by not going, so that she could protect herself, because of the boy. So,even now, all grown up and trying to heal, the boy is still hurting the girl.”

I’m present, but gone. It’s that weird dual awareness. I’m shocked that my shrink just narrated the story. I want to correct her. The little girl was bad, she was naughty. I want to tell her she has it wrong. But I don’t. That’s how she sees it? So simple. In Bea’s story, I’ve done nothing wrong. I can’t understand, wrap my head around this.

“I’m afraid to tell her I’m not coming to the party.” I say, after a few minutes of silence.

“I know. It is scary. You can even text her, say you are throwing up. You don’t have to call. Say you will call when you are feeling better.”

I say, ” I’m stupid, this is stupid to be scared.”

“No. You are finally standing up for yourself, really for the first time ever, in a very healthy way. Standing up to your mom, and in a way, to Kenny.” Bea drinks her tea, looks at me. She’s serious. She doesn’t think I’m being stood at all. She knows this is hard.

I cry some more. “I can’t go.”

“No, you can’t. –Oh. I should say, you feel like you can’t. But I’m on the edge of my seat, I feel very protective over you, I want you to be safe. If you chose to go, I would support you, help you make a plan, be there for you, of course. We’d try to keep you as safe as we could.” Bea is serious. She clearly doesn’t want me to go, she has felt that way from the beginning, and yet, she is saying she would support me choosing to go.

“I can’t go.” I panic. I can’t go. He’ll be there. I can’t see him. He can’t look at my daughter. No. No. No.

“No, you can’t,” Bea agrees with me, validating my words, supporting me.

It’s really decided. I’m not going. I’m going to lie. Say I’m sick. Or Kat is.

Bea tells me to remember that in present day, I am safe, supported and protected. She tells me to keep in touch between now and my appointment on Thursday.

Bea as (not) Mrs. Fix-it

After missing Thanksgiving, due to car trouble, I’m at a loss for what to do. My mother has spent every spare moment sending me guilt inducing text messages on Wednesday evening, Thursday and Friday morning. They range from, “I never see you, I feel like you didn’t want to be here anyways” to “I’m a horrible mother. I should have come to you. I’m so sorry you are having to cook on Thanksgiving” and “I miss you, I’m sorry, I love you, thanksgiving isn’t really the same without you”. By Thursday night, the messages have turned into “we’ll have next weekend, for the party. I’ll make us a Thanksgiving and it will be better than ever. You will be happy and Kat will be happy. I promise. I love you.” I can’t handle it. I can feel myself slipping off the ledge of barely okay into the pit of “not okay.” I finally send Bea a message, asking if I could possibly come in on Saturday. I told her that I hadn’t gone to my parents afterall, my car had broken down, and that my mother was causing me all kinds of guilt. I said I thought this was one of those “not okay” times I was supposed to tell her about. As soon as I send it, I feel guilty; I want to send another message reassuring her that I am actually okay, there is nothing to worry about. I don’t, though. Bea responds back that yes, I can come in and she will see me at noon on Saturday.

I’m numb when I get to her office on Saturday, not sure why I asked her to see me. Sitting in the waiting room, I feel silly. This was really dumb of me. But when I see Bea, I feel calmer. It’s like something in me believes she will know what to do, how to help make it better, that she will be able to fix it.

“Hey, hi,” she says, “Can I make you a cup of tea? I’ve been cold all day, and I need to refill my tea mug.”

It’s only then that I realize I have left my tea in the car. I’ve been such a space cadet lately, I have been forgetting things like that constantly. “I’m okay.” I don’t want her to go to any trouble for me.

Bea heats up water in her microwave that she keeps in the waiting room, opens a tea bag. “Are you sure? You didn’t bring anything today.”

“Ummm, okay.” I shrug, feeling shy, and surprised that she has noticed and cared that I don’t have my tea with me. While the tea is made, we chat about my car, how it broke, how I called Hubby freaking out. She tells me car stuff is one of her fears, and she would have been freaking out, too.

Teas in hand, we walk into her office. I curl up in my spot, and Bea sits in her chair.

“Driving there….it was. I was getting more upset the closer I got.” I sigh, and look down. I wonder if she will think I’m silly. I’m looking at a bucket of puppets Bea ordered last week. Kat has not really liked the puppets, even though Bea is pretty funny with them. She’s good at giving them their own voices and characters.

“Maybe your bad energies killed your car, Alice!” She smiles, laughs. I laugh, too. “In all seriousness, it probably was hard to go there, to be driving there. You haven’t been since the wine tour, and with the party stuff, the realization Kenny is real…..well, that has to feel scary to go back there.” She looks at me, and she’s just Bea. Calm, not judging, not anything bad.

I nod. “It does.” My voice is small, and I’m ashamed of how I’m feeling. “I was relieved. When my car broke. I was relieved. I had a reason not to go. I was safe, I could stay home.”

Bea is quiet for a minute, and I am quiet, too. There are no tears here, I’m too numb, too….something. “If we are feeling anxious, scared, afraid and some thing intervenes to stop that, relief is what we feel. That’s natural. It’s what is supposed to happen, it’s how I would have felt. And then you got to have the Thanksgiving you really wanted?”

“Yeah. I did. It was just…nice . It was real.” I drink some tea.

“Did you make a turkey?”

“No, we had done out thanksgiving already, on Monday. I made a homemade chicken potpie and apple crisp. It was just what I had stuff to make and seemed still kinda thanksgivingish. It was just a real day, no being fake.” I smile, because it was a nice day. Even with Kat being whiny, and some of my anger leaking out, the day was nice. I didn’t have to be fake. I was with my family, in my safe space, with people who love me and know me, who I love and know. It was the best Thanksgiving I have had since my grandparents had started going to Florida before the holidays.

Sunlight is streaming in through the window, hitting Bea’s face, and she shifts in her chair a little, turning away from it. “That sounds perfect. Just what you wanted. And your mom? She is okay now?”

Oh. Crap. “She sent me a text today…she is….no. She’s not so okay. She feels guilty, like she should have come and gotten Kat and I and just stayed in my hometown and had Thanksgiving there, and not traveled like we had planned….I don’t know. Now she is just thinking it will be fine because next weekend. The party.” I cover my face.

Very carefully, Bea asks me, “When did the not okay feelings start?”

I sigh. I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want to tell her how, exactly, I have been coping. “When I realized I have to go to the party.” I say it, and my voice is tiny, flat, hollow. I’m resigned. I have to go. I don’t want to. I’m terrified. I have to.

Bea doesn’t say anything right away. I can’t look at her, and I’m afraid I have made her mad at me. I feel like a little kid, one who can’t make everyone happy, no matter how hard she tries. I feel sick, and scared. I need her to understand, I have to go.

Finally, she folds her elbows to her knees, bending so she is nearer to me. I see this out of the corner of my eye. “I think when we are traumatized, it can feel inevitable that we have no choices, that we have no power, that we have to do what others want.” Bea is speaking really soft, and gentle. “I think it can be really scary to acknowledge and see the choices available. Alice, there are choices. You don’t have to go. I can see why it feels like you have to go, why it feels like there is no choice, how it can feel like having to go is the most not okay thing in the world.”

I shake my head. There isn’t a choice. “My mom. She is planning on me coming…she is only making herself okay from thanksgiving because she is planning on me coming. She is going to make thanksgiving next weekend, and she says I will be happy, Kat will be happy, she will make everything perfect. She is holding it all together because of next weekend.”

“So it feels like you have to go.”

“Yeah,” I whisper it.

We talk about how I always try to please my mom, to be perfect, to meet her expectations so that she can love me. Missing Thanksgiving means I failed. I’m afraid to fail again, by missing the party. I’m afraid to go to the party.

“You probably think I’m an idiot. It’s so simple. Just don’t go,” I tell Bea, shaking my head at myself.

“No, not at all. I certainly don’t ever think you are an idiot. This isn’t simple at all. I’m caught up in your experience, the difficulty with your mom. This isn’t easy.” She means what she is saying, she really does. I can’t believe it. I want to distance myself from her, push her away. She’s too close. I don’t, though, because I need her, I need that understanding.

“I can’t go.” I cry then. Not a lot of tears, not huge sobs, but a few silent tears leak out. “I have to go. But I can’t go.”

“No, you can’t go. It’s really a bad place to be. I know that. I don’t think you are seeing things very clear right now, though. I think that, for the moment, it’s best if you stick to the plan of keeping you and Kat safe and not going to the party. We can talk about it this week, we can work through it, but it’s my job to help keep you safe, and I really believe going to the party and seeing him isn’t safe for you right now,” Bea says this firmly, but gently. She means every word.

“I don’t know. Okay. I can’t go.” I nod, and hug my knees.

“I wouldn’t want to be where you are right now, with this choice, I know it’s not easy. It’s a bad choice, and a worse choice,” Bea says, matter-of-factly.

“Be-A!” I say her name, drawing it out, the way you do when someone says something blunt, and laugh.

Bea laughs, too. “I know, I know. That’s not really what you want to hear from your therapist, is it!?!?”

Laughing, I think about it and answer quickly, “Actually, it is, in a way. I feel less crazy for being so upset over this. Thank you.”

I had thought I wanted her to have all the answers, to fix the problem, to make it go away. It turns out, having someone show me it’s okay to be upset about my problem, and having someone believe in my ability to fix the problem is better than having them fix it for me.

Happy Thanksgiving

Earlier this week, I wrote in an email to Bea, “I want to stay home, have a nice quiet simple meal with Ryan and Claire. Be thankful with them, for the relationship the three of us have. That’s what I really want to do right now.

I said it was impossible, not something I could do, because I had to go to my parent’s. Knowing I was planning to call off sick for the Christmas party made it even more important that I go to Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, after my therapy session, I came home, and packed up my little car. Kat and I headed out. The closer I got to my parents, the more anxious I became.

As we neared the halfway point, my heart was beating way too fast, I was having trouble breathing, I kept having to remind myself where I was, I was afraid every car that passed us was full of people who were going to hurt us; I was a mess. I was sure I was going to have to text Bea and beg her to call me to talk me down, help me ground myself, because I could not do it.

Then, my check engine light started to flash. And my car started to shake. I reacted horribly, as if it were a life or death situation. I called hubby in a panic.

“Get off the highway, Alice. I will come get you, and have Chevy roadside assistance come get the car.” Hubby spoke to me in that direct, Alice is gone and acting like a loon again voice.

I got off the highway. Chevy towed my car to the dealership, and hubby came and got Kat and I.

I stayed home for Thanksgiving. I cooked a simple dinner; homemade chicken pot pie from scratch, and home made apple crisp (because we has our mini thanksgiving meal on Monday night). We had a nice, relaxing day, where no one was fake, even thought that meant some of my mad leaked out and Kat got whiny and Hubby withdrew and went into neat freak mode. We were thankful with and for eachother. We snuggled after dinner, and were grateful to be together. It has been the most perfect Thanksgiving ever.

(Minus the texts and guilt my mother has induced in me….but that’s another post, another day!)

I’m so thankful to have this group of wonderful people in “blog-land”, and for all my readers! Happy Thanksgiving!!! 🙂