Changes……PART ONE: school

So. I’m not really sure where to begin. So much has changed, again, and in such a short time, I’m still wrapping my head around everything. 

Perhaps the biggest change is with Kat’s school. Things finally came to a head with the local public school– as I had been predicting they would for some time. The special education case manager for my daughter this year was awful. She was dismissive, rude, condescending, and belittling. A few weeks ago, I began calling, interviewing, visiting, and adding Kat’s name to the wait list of schools I liked. There isn’t a huge selection of charter schools in my immediate town, but in the “bigger city” (where Bea’s office is, and where hubby works) there is a lot more choice. Even then, my choices were limited because I wasn’t going to take Kat out of a known situation for an unknown situation that wouldn’t be better. I added her name to a few wait lists, and assumed we would end up homeschooling before the year was out. 

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. I received a call from a school I had loved the moment I walked in the door, that Kat was at the top of the wait list and a student in the primary level was moving. I visited one more time, with more specific questions, loved the atmosphere even more, and Kat started two days later. 

I wish I could put into words how perfect this school is. First, the classrooms are multi-age classrooms, which means Kat isn’t in a room with 30 other grade K students. She is in a room with 25 other students, and there are a mix of K, first and second grade (primary level). She will stay in that classroom with the same teacher until intermediate level (3, 4, 5 grades), and then the last level is senior (6,7,8). Each of the three levels, they stay with the same teacher, and same class. 

The belief in this school is that nurturing and caring for the individual is important; that belief begins at the top level with the superintendent all the way down to the school receptionist.The school is full of emotionally attuned people, and that includes the other parents. I don’t feel like I’m wrong or annoying or anything else bad at this school when I request things for my daughter. At first I did– out old school really fed into my already negative feelings about having needs– and everyone there kept telling me I had no reason to apologize, I was advocating for my daughter. They complimented me on being intune with my kid, and they complimented me on being there for her and meeting her needs when I asked to stay at the school for Kat’s first few days. These people welcome parents. Seriously welcome them. There are parents in and out of the school all the time. A lot of them come to visit at lunch or recess, and no one views this as weird or annoying. They want parents to be involved, and they want parents input.

As for how the teachers are with the kids, it’s amazing. They respect the kids and listen to them, are genuinely interested in the things the kids want to talk about. I saw a teacher change her lesson plan because my daughter was afraid of the book that was going to be read. I’ve seen teachers sit and breathe with an upset child, and I’ve seen kids reprimanded so gently and quietly that you wouldn’t know it was happening if you weren’t watching carefully. I’ve heard a teacher admit mistakes and apologize to a child. This place is just so amazing, guys. It’s not perfect, but they don’t pretend to be. The school is perfect because they don’t hide the imperfect things. They are real and open and honest and want to be a team. 

I feel like I can breathe again, at least where school is concerned. Now, moving schools has meant I lost my rigid routine that was holding me together (not so awesome) and I am struggling to find a new routine, but maybe not so rigid. School now starts an hour earlier for us, and is an extra 30 minute drive. So things are interesting in the mornings, for sure. I used to get up around 5, do yoga, write, check social media/Wordpress/emails, and then get dressed, get Kat up, have her eat and watch a show while I packed lunch and whatever we needed for the day, and then I’d get her dressed. After that we would drive 10 minutes to school, I’d drop her off and come back home, or run errands, or go to yoga class, until I had to pick her up. Now, I get up at 5:30, get dressed (hair, make up, clothes), then pack up the car, make coffee, make Kat hot coco, get breakfast set in Kat’s travel tray, get everything in the car ready to go, wake Kat, get her dressed, put her in the car, and she eats breakfast and watches a show on the iPad while we drive to school. It’s a busier, crazier morning. Then, if I go home, I have about 2 hours at home before I have to leave and go back to school for lunch. It’s a more tiring day, and I’m not used to that right now. Afternoons have been rough– I somehow keep napping instead of doing yoga, or cleaning, or anything else, but I’ve not been sleeping great at night, so the nap is needed. 

A little below the surface: random triggers

Monday morning. I’m anxious about tomorrow’s meeting, and really unsure if I even want to go to therapy today. But I feel this need to see Bea, to hear her remind me I’m ready, and it will be okay, and I know she isn’t going to ask me to dig into stuff when I have to function like a grown up tomorrow. So, Hagrid and I head into town, park and take a quick walk before heading into Bea’s building and up the stairs to her office. 
As usual, Hagrid beats me to the top of the stairs, and I hear Bea greet him. When I arrive, she smiles and says, “Good morning.” 
I return her greeting, and get comfortable on the couch. For a while, we talk about how I am as prepared as I can be, and Bea reassures me that Kat is okay, that everything in her therapy sessions point to her being okay and working through social stuff, anxieties, but no big scary things popping up. 
After a while, we land on the topic of the ABA tech who is has more challenges with Kat. “She and Kat got into another stand off on Sunday,” I tell Bea. These fights between them really cause me stress, and emotionally drain me. 
“What happened?” 
I explain, how we had all gone on an outing and then the girls were going to do some baking, when Kat lost her cool, screamed, and locked herself in the upstairs playroom. 
“Oh dear. And nothing seemed to trigger it?” Bea questions.
“No. That’s the thing. I couldn’t pin point anything at all. And then Kat wouldn’t come out, and the tech couldn’t stay to wait her out, and Kat came out as soon as she left. It’s just…I don’t know.” I shake my head. I’m frustrated by the whole thing, and I want it to stop. 
“Does she ever do a ‘repair’ with Kat?” Bea asks. 
“No…never,” I say, something slowly dawning on me. 
Bea must see something in my face that peaks her curiosity. “What are you thinking?” 
“I…well, she just pretends everything is fine the next time she sees Kat. Like it’s a blank slate. I don’t know…..it’s really glaringly obvious– that disconnect because of the days between sessions…..but it’s…well, she is like my parents. And that…it’s no wonder why she triggers me.”
“Yes, this makes perfect sense. It would be triggering, because we know how hard those disconnects were……” Bea says. 
“She can’t handle anger…really any bad emotion. But anger….it’s like my parents.” 
Bea nods, and I think she says something validating, but I’m sort of in my own head right now. I’m thinking how confusing that disconnect has to feel to Kat, and how incredibly hard it is to be around someone who can’t handle all feelings, especially when we make a point to teach Kat that all feelings are acceptable. 
Bea asks me something, and I look up at her, confused. She repeats herself, maybe realizing I’m lost. “How did your parents handle anger?”
“It just wasn’t…allowed. I don’t know. Distraction maybe. But more like, well…like…they didn’t.” I shrug, and dig my nails into my palm. “I remember once, getting very angry, stomping off and slamming my bedroom door. And my parents took my door.” 
Bea looks surprised. “You mean took it, right off the hinges?” 
I nod, feeling an urge to giggle at the absurdity of it all. “Yup. They took it. Because I got mad.”
“What did you get mad about?” 
“Hmmm…I don’t know. Really, it couldn’t have been anything serious. I mean, I was standing at the end of the hallway that connected the bedrooms and the living room. And my mom was sitting on the couch, and my dad was in his chair. So it’s not like there was a serious discussion going on. We weren’t at the table.”
“But what you remember was really getting in trouble for being mad,” she says. “That is very much like mad wasn’t allowed.” 
“My brother…he got sent to his room for something, I don’t know what. He was maybe 7, 8? And he was mad. He picked up this toy hammer and hit his mirror so hard it shattered. He didn’t have a mirror…”
Bea interrupts, adding in some humor, “No more mirrors for him? Your mom didn’t want any more than 7 years of bad luck?” 
I laugh, but then I nod. “That room still doesn’t have a mirror, and he’s been moved out for how many years now?” 
Bea shakes her head. “Your mom was serious, huh?”
I nod. “He wasn’t allowed toy hammers anymore, either.” 
“It really felt like you were being punished for being mad. And so of course mad is very hard for you,” she validates. 
I nod, thinking about that. Punished for a feeling. Ugh. 
“What were you saying about serious discussions? Those happened at the table? What kind of serious discussions did your parents have?”
“Oh you know. Grades. College. PSATs. I don’t know. Driving, responsibility.” I shrug. Normal stuff, I think. 
“You got really good grades. What kind of discussions could you be having?” Bea is really curious. 
“I don’t know……you know. Like, why was this grade lower? And how many weeks I had to fix it before grades came out. And the plan to fix it. I don’t know.” 
“Then it wasn’t just unspoken pressure, pressure you somehow sensed, were aware of. It was spoken, discussed, their expectations of you.”
I nod. “But really. I had parents who were involved, who cared. Did I have a right to be upset by that? To complain now? When there are kids who would do anything to have their parents involved like that?” I feel guilty. I really don’t have a right to be this upset. 
“Well, yeah. There is being involved and supportive, and there is being over involved and needing your child to succeed because of your needs. There is a big difference.” Bea tells me a personal story, about her experience of being over involved as a mother. “It’s been repaired now, and my daughter and I are okay, but I was too involved, I needed her to be good at somethings to satisfy my needs, it wasn’t all about her.” 
I love that she will admit to being imperfect, that she will share her screw ups. For a minute, I wish my mom would do that, repair all this mess with me. But then I realize how vulnerable I would feel in that conversation, how scary and unsettling it would be. I feel panicky just thinking about it. I shake my head to clear it. “I’m still afraid I’m doing the same to Kat. I tried so hard not to need perfect, not to show her that perfectionism. And she still is a perfectionist. I’m screwing her up.” I look away as I’m talking. Even if Bea will admit to her parental screw ups, I’m still ashamed to address mine in front of her. 
“You aren’t. You are parenting with self awareness. That’s all any of us can do. And just try to be aware whose needs are running the show.”
I shake my head. “Kat really is still asking things like ‘will you like me if I spill this. If I hit? If I’m grumpy.’ I don’t know….”
“Do you feel like you over react when she spills or does something like that? I have one mom who does, and so we are working on things to make it easier on her.”
I shake my head. “No. Not really. I might be annoyed. Maybe. And I make her clean it up–” I glance at Bea, checking if this is okay, and she nods, yes it’s fine– “I…well, the person I’m mad at..if I spill, I yell at myself. Out loud.”
“It’s perfect to have Kat clean up her mess,” Bea says. “And the rest of it, well, this is where self compassion comes in. Because Kat does hear you being mean to yourself and so she might wonder how you feel about her in similar situations. It comes back to self compassion.”
I nod. “I did finally take her hand, spill some juice and then told her I still liked her.” 
“That’s great, that was a great thing to do,” Bea tells me. She sounds like she means it, too.
“I was just hoping that if she experienced it, she could maybe believe it,” I explain.
Bea nods. It makes sense to her. Our conversation then easily flows from Kat to talking about the meeting, again. 
As we are saying good bye, I pause at the top of the stairs. “I’ll probably email you after the meeting. Just to let you know how it went,” I tell her.
“Please do. I’d like to know what happens,” she says, like it really matters to her.
We say goodbye, and I head home. I have so much to finish up, notes and planning and preparing for this IEP meeting. 
All through that, though, I keep coming back to the reason the one ABA tech is triggering to me: she reminds me of my parents. Maybe I’m not as numb to everything happening with them as I thought.

Aside

I’m just a kid pretending to be a grown up…….

Today is my daughters IEP meeting. Hubby has to work, and I feel like he isn’t really interested in  helping anyway– although he will be the first to point out all the things he does not like.  I have our BCBA going with us, and she is smart, well spoken, confident and strong. I feel very supported by her, and Bea is waiting to hear afterwards how it went, so I feel Bea’s support, too. The thing is, this is a big deal, and I’m feeling like a child playing at being a grown up. Keep your fingers crossed for me and Kat today, please? Because it is Kat’s life, I’ll ask for and take all the support I can get. 

Play therapy 

I have therapy in the morning. I’m not sure if I’m ready to pop this fragile bubble I’m in. It’s not the tough bubble of denial and self harm and eating disorder. It’s a bubble of…well….I guess of doing what I have to so that I can function. But it’s fragile. And I’m unsure of I pop it what will happen. Maybe nothing. I think part of me is scared that even if I pop the bubble, I’ll still be numb, detached. That I’m back to my “old normal” in some ways. I don’t know.
On Thursday, we talked about random things. I honestly don’t remember the conversation, but just being there, knowing Bea is there was enough. Before we finished our session, she did say she knew there had to be a lot going on under the surface for me, even if I wasn’t showing it. She said she could almost feel it. I thought about that, later. I feel numb, mostly. Numb and detached. I don’t want to think about how I feel. I don’t want to think about Fall, and October, and all the mess and ugly that come with it. I don’t want to think about my daughter starting school, and all the triggers that sets off in me. 
I say I am not feeling anything about any of these changes, that I am fine. But, I notice I’m not sleeping, and when I do, I’m back to waking up hourly, and nightmares chase me as I drift off to sleep. I find myself so full of unexpressed, unacknowledged anxieties that I wake up realizing I have been grinding my teeth, or holding my mouth closed so tightly that I bit my tongue and drew blood. I notice that my daily headaches are back, despite the medications, and that migraines are more frequent. My body pains are back– worse than they have been in months. Maybe it’s a fibro flare, or maybe it is me being detached from my emotions and feelings. I notice my tolerance for noise, for change in plans, for anything really, is very low. I notice that I mostly just want to be left alone to get the through this— whatever this is.  
I didn’t write about Thursday’s session, because it was just more of me avoiding. Perhaps the most significant thing that happened in therapy last week happened in Kat’s session. I had stayed for all of Kat’s session, which is unusual these days, but she asked me to, so Hagrid and I snuggled on Bea’s couch and read a book on my kindle app……..
Towards the end of the session, Bea smiles at Kat, and gives her the 5 minute warning. “We have a few minutes left of our game, and then you can choose which animals are going home with you today.” Every week, Kat borrows 2 small stuffed or 2 small plastic animals from Bea; it’s a way to stay connected throughout the week, and to reassure kids that they are coming back. “How would you like to end our game today?” Bea asks Kat. 


Kat has an elaborate plan for ending the game, so I offer to clean up while they finish their game. I pick up figures, furniture, monsters, dried beans, blankets, wooden blocks and puzzle pieces. We finish our separate tasks at the same time. 


“I’m taking the kitty home, and one of the little hard ones.” Kat bounces over to the container of animals. She looks through all of them, and in the end she can’t choose between 2 kittens. “Please can I take 3?” 
You can take 2,” I remind her. 


“We can save one for next time,” Bea offers. 

 

Kat finally chooses the one she will take home and hands me the one she is leaving behind. “Speak him, mom,” she demands. Kat likes grown-ups to speak for her toys. It is her favorite thing. 


I look at the little kitten in my hand, and walk him over to Bea. “Hi,” I make him say. 


“Hello there,” Bea says. 


“I’m going to stay here a while. I need someone to take care of me and help me when I get scared,” I make the kitten say. 
Bea looks at me, then at the kitten, and says, “I can help if you would like me to.”


“Will you take care of me?” The kitten asks.


“Yes. I will take care of you,” Bea says. 
Will you keep me safe from the scary things?” The kitten asks. 


“I will do my very best to keep you safe. I want you to feel safe,” Bea tells the kitten. 


“Okay,” the kitten says, and he jumps into her out stretched hand so she can save him for Kat, for next week. 
And those 3 minutes were about as close as I got this week to talking about how scared and lost and overwhelmed I am. How much emotion is just rushing at me, and how much anxiety and tension I feel from my life right now. How much I just need someone to be there, to help me when I am scared, and of course to keep me safe.

  

Random therapy catch up

So, Thursday’s session turned into a catch up session. It was one of those, sorta random, bits and pieces, current life happenings, housekeeping type sessions. I usually end up feeling like I “wasted” a session, or didn’t go very deep, although fellow blogger, Ellen, pointed out to me that I really wasn’t wasting a session during these times at all. And I can see her point now.

I’ve thought a lot about why these sessions happen like they do, and why they feel a waste to me. I think there are multiple layers as to what, exactly happens. I know that I usually have something BIG I have almost decided to talk about, but am feeling unsure about, and am really unsure how to bring up. They also tend to happen when a lot is going on in my life, and I am struggling to hold it together, and stay on the surface, but trauma stuff is trying really hard to break down the door I’ve locked it behind. And, they tend to happen when I have avoided discussing much more than Kat. So, that’s what I have thus far…..now, I take you back to last Thursday.

Bea greets me, and I say hello, walking over to the sofa and setting my things down.

I had planned on talking about my aunt, but when I get to therapy and get situated on Bea’s sofa, I just can’t. The words don’t come.

“No Hagrid today?” She notes, looking at me curiously.

I sigh. “Yeah, no Hagrid. I feel almost naked without him, I’m so used to taking him everywhere. But I was running late and knew I couldn’t walk him before our session, and I have to get home afterwards for hubby to be able to leave for work, so he wouldn’t get a walk after, either. And he is fine without his walk, unless he thinks he is getting it. Then he is the most stubborn dog in the world. So I figured everyone would be happier if I left him at home.”

Bea takes a drink of her tea, twists the string from the tea bag in her fingers. “Makes sense to me.”

“Kat will be happy when she gets up and he is home. She is always begging me to leave him at home for her to take care of him.”

“She is really funny with him. I have this book.you should take it home to read with Kat..let me go find it, about a dachshund, named Pretzel, it might be by the woman who created Curious George. ”

She ducks out and comes back a second later, book in hand. I flip through it. It’s really cute. “You should loan this to her, she would probably like it more coming from you,” I suggest.

“Okay. I’ll put it up for tomorrow.”

Kat knows I see a therapist. She doesn’t know that she and I share Bea. I suggested to her once that maybe I should see Bea, and it upset her, so I haven’t gone there yet. Maybe I won’t. Maybe that doesn’t matter, I’m not sure. For the moment, it doesn’t.

“So, we had the school meeting yesterday.” I look down at my fingers, and really wish I had Hagrid to hold on to right now.

“How did it go?”

“Well……it went good. Carrie thought it went good, and she has been to dozens of these things, so that’s good. And we got some things figured out. But they kind of blew us off about setting a date for a second meeting.”

Bea’s smile falls. “That’s frustrating. Schools are so irritating to work with at times. Did they seem willing to work with you?”

“Yes and no. It seemed like they would on some things. Carrie really ran the meeting for us. It’s kind of strange, there are so many rules, you know, we had to just hand the meeting over to her, like verbally, once we were all seated.” Carrie is our BCBA. “Her assistant was there, too, who is also a BCBA and worked as a BCBA at a school for several years before joining the company that works with Kat. So that was really good.”

“We have BCBA’s in schools in [our state]!?!” Bea asks me, surprised.

I shake my head. “No. I think she is from New York originally. Her husband is from her.”

“That makes sense.”

“Yeah. Bigger city.” I say.

“So then what happened at the meeting?” Bea asked.

“Oh, right. So, I had given the principal an updated copy of Kat’s history– the one I gave you– when we first came in. So we all sat down. I handed the meeting over to Carrie, and she talked about Kat, our challenges, and where we are at now, how 6 months ago we couldn’t even really have her in a group setting, all that stuff. And then she asked for an IEP, with one on one support, and gave more data to back up why she was asking for that. By the end of the meeting, they seemed to agree, yet wouldn’t commit to a date for a second formal REED meeting. We did all agree on a drop of procedure for Kat. And we all agreed that she could chew gum, wear headphones to block noise, have breaks as needed, and use the sensory room without the IEP in place. Carrie talked to them about where we were at with her, what we were really working on, procedures we use to calm down, how we use validation and then repeat a demand but after that leave her be….that sort of thing. And we are meeting with the teacher for a one on one lunch with Kat on Wednesday. So that Kat can start to see her teacher as her safe person.”

“So it sounds like it went pretty good, for a first meeting. Carrie actually got a lot accomplished. I’ve seen families leave meetings like that and not get anything. It’s sounds like they will work with you, but you might have to push a little sometimes.” Bea says.

I agree. “There was just a lot of that double speak that I don’t like. The Principal is very nice, and I’ve now doubt she cares, but she kept saying things like, ‘it really doesn’t matter if our kids have a 504 or an IEP, all of our kids get what they need, no matter what label or program they have.’ Which just made me want to smile and say, ‘okay, perfect. Then just give me that IEP for my peace of mind.'” I hold my hand out as I say this and say it in a syrupy sweet princess voice.

Bea looks at me. She can tell I’m angry, deep down, even though I’m not saying so. I don’t like double speak. She knows I just want things laid out. She knows my philosophy is I don’t like games, be honest with me, because I’m honest with you. “That’s a principal for you. It’s a political position. Caring or not, it takes a certain kind of person to be in that position.”

I breathe. Okay. She gets it. Someone gets it. Hubby hadn’t. He had shrugged. I had wanted to scream at him.

“What about hubby? How did he feel the meeting went?”

“I have no idea. He said ‘fine.’ Everything with him these days is fine, or okay. It’s like after he had that one bad night with me, and was so upset, now he’s shut down. I don’t know.” I shake my head.

“Have you talked to him about how you are feeling about any of this?”

“Nope.” I close that down, quick. I’m not talking to him. She is always pushing me to freaking talk to him, and it always freaking backfires, and I always end up in this very big messy place and I can not afford to be in that big messy place right now. So no.

“On a very positive note, I think the new ABA girl is making headway with Kat,” I say. I do this; change the subject to Kat, to something safer when Bea is getting too close to a bomb.

“Oh yeah?”

I tell her about the new girl, and how she has been patiently spent sessions sitting outside playroom doors, either in silence, or watching the same show on different iPads, or playing the same game on different iPads, or talking through doors. And how, last session, Kat opened the door– the physical door, to the playroom– and allowed the new tech, Lynn into the playroom. The only rule Kat set was that Lynn was not allowed to look at her. It was really heart warming for me to hear Lynn say, “I want you to know you can trust me, Kat, so I am going to stay turned around so I won’t be able to see you. How does that sound?”

“Wow. That is really amazing. She did so good. That is so good.” Bea is smiling, and I think she is as happy as I am.

“I know. So we aren’t in another Meg dynamic.” Meg is her other tech.

“Meg is a tough one.” Bea agrees with me.

I sigh. I’ve been struggling with Meg for months; I like her, I really do. The problem is, she came from a center before working for the company who provides Kat ABA now, and this company does this differently than traditional ABA. They work with a lot of social and emotional goals. They use a lot of traditional social work/therapist type stuff in their ideas– like validating a child while setting boundaries. They don’t just sit at a table running trials. They are out in the play room, the park, we go to the pool, the store, we bake cookies, ext. They join our daily lives. It’s all about natural environment. Some things have been about teaching Kat to sit and attend to a task, of course, because she needs to be prepared for school. But most of her work is out in the real world, not at the table. So, anyway, Meg can be fairly rigid, and she is very, very, well trained in ABA. Which is good and bad. Because while she isn’t doing anything “wrong” a lot of times, she does make some mistakes in Kat’s program– because it’s not this black and white thing that traditional ABA is. So it’s more about feeling things out and knowing what to do in a given situation rather than following the ABA rule book. I’ve debated about asking for a replacement, but I genuinely like this girl. I don’t know, something about her. And I believe she truly cares about Kat a lot. She wrote to Kay everyday when she was on vacation, and before she left, just so Kat would get a letter every day while she was gone and help maintain the connection. Those things matter to a kid like like. And I feel like if she can let go of some of this rigidness, then, well, she would be a perfect fit for Kat. But right now, they have reached this point where all she has to do is enter my house and Kat starts screaming and having a fit, and I don’t mean a regular tantrum, or a little meltdown. It’s intense. Both BCBAs have described these fits as amazingly intense. And they have seen some fits. And the fits last until Meg leaves. This clearly can not continue. So, I’ve had this internal debate for the last month about what to do.

“Well…” I say, “I think we have a solution for Meg, too. We had discussed fading her out, but that’s not really what I want to do.”

“No. And the truth is, that would be another loss, and another change for Kat, which would be very hard right now,” Bea agrees.

“So what Carrie and I talked about what having Meg and Kat have sessions outside of the house– where Meg is less rigid, and Kat is less controlling. We think a few session away from home could act as a reset button. And Carrie plans on asking Meg to focus more on Kat as a person rather than meeting goals, and also on working with Meg to be more flexible and less Classic ABA.”

“That sounds really good. I like it. It might be enough to help change the dynamic.” Bea takes a sip from her travel mug. She’s drinking tea, I’m sure. She’s not really a coffee drinker.

We chat about day to day life; house cleaning, laundry, making lunches and dinners. I admit I have been slacking on yoga, and swimming, I have not been to Zumba for over a month, and poor Hagrid has not been getting as many walks as normal these last two weeks.

“It’s like I’m stuck in this weird limbo time. I can’t get anything done. I don’t know.”

“It’s okay. You will. It’s the time of year. There’s a lot going on in your life. That’s all it is. Just be gentle with yourself,” Bea reminds me.

I nod. I know. But it’s not so easy.

We wrap things up not too much later, and I head home to play with Kat.

Choppy

Session was a blur, random and choppy today. I was detached in that “I have to be okay and not break down” kind of way. It’s different than the typical dissociated flashback trauma memory therapy sessions. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s trying to stay on the surface while Bea pushes a little and I resist. It’s a piece of me trying to break through the shell of okayness, a part of me wanting to do nothing more but sob and scream and fall apart in the safety of her office, of Bea’s presence, but the part of me that controls the okayness is stronger and always wins. That perfect me part has been in control for so much longer than anything else, she has been “me” for most of my life, and she is so strong, I fall back on her all the time, whenever I am afraid I won’t be able to function if I face my feelings, face my reality. So….yeah. Session was choppy because perfect me was running the show.

I walked in and said hello, sat down. We talked about Hagrid not having his walk. I had brought a treaty bone for him, and showed her how I had filled it with treats. “I fill this with his food, too. It slows down his eating. This is the bone thing I was telling you might work for your dog.” We had been discussing those expensive slow feeder dog bowls one day, at the end of session. Bea has a dog that eats it’s food way too fast, too.

“That’s great. He’s too cute eating his treats that way,” she smiles.

I nod. He is cute.

I don’t remember conversation after that. Maybe it was small talk for a few minutes. I’m not sure. After a while, she asks me about our nanny, if I had been feeling any different or talked to her or noticed anything with her feelings.

I sighed. “She did text me and say she felt like she was losing everyone. I told her I will always be here for her. I said that I am not going anywhere, I’m just a phone call or text away. Did I tell you that already?” I can’t remember if I had told Bea this or not. Ugh. I hate it when I don’t know what I’ve told someone or not. It makes me feel crazy.

“We talked a little about it. You are a secure base for her, in some ways, I think.”

“I don’t know. It’s not like we are parents to her. But..well, we aren’t old enough to be her parents. But she calls us when her car breaks down. She called me when her boyfriend broke up with her. She called hubby when she got in trouble at a party that had alcohol. Her parents aren’t very…I don’t know…very parent like.”

“How old was she when she started working for you?”

“She was 17. Just out of highschool.”

“You really are in a secure base role. It’s almost like at the same time Kat is stepping out and separating from you, going off to explore, so is the nanny. She’s growing.” Bea says thoughtfully.

I think about this, let it sink in. “Yeah. Maybe. Does that mean I shouldn’t call her after her last day with us?”

“No, not at all. I think you can check in. Just be mindful. If she tells you how great things are, how excited she is about stuff, then she is in exploration phase. If she is telling you how stressed she is, or how hard stuff is, then she really might be needing her secure base.”

I nod. “Okay.”

Then…it gets blurry again. I think perfect me took over for a bit, and I detached to keep from crying and falling apart.

I don’t know how much later, I tell Bea, “Hubby talked to his mom a few days ago.” I almost whisper it, and I am pretty sure I say it out of the blue. But maybe Bea is used to that: me being scattered and saying things randomly. I don’t know.

“I was wondering. We never did finish talking about that last week, and what happened.”

“Well, he talked to her like, 3 days ago, and even though he had all morning yesterday, most of the morning the day before, to talk to me about it, he conveniently forgot.”

“It does seem like it would be hard to forget about, because it was such a big thing last week,” Bea agrees.

“I think he just didn’t want to deal with it, deal with me and my feelings about it. I don’t know.” I shrug.

“That makes sense. He is trying to be the compromiser, it’s his personality to make everyone happy and avoid confrontations,” Bea gently reminds me.

“I know.” I say it stubbornly, like a kid who is mad that that that they have to admit they know the adult is right.

“What did they talk about?”

“I don’t know all of it. But I guess he told her if she is to see Kat at all, there is not going to be any pretend play, they will sit at a table and do worksheets and hubby will sit there with them.”

“And she agreed to this?” Bea asks, surprise in her voice.

“Well, I doubt it. But he said she said ‘ok.’ He said his dad must have knocked some sense into her.” I shake my head, just bewildered with the entire situation.

“So did he talk to his dad?”

“No. I don’t think so. So who knows what really happened. But I told hubby that I wanted the time limited to a half hour every other week. And he said no, an hour every week I told him if it was an hour every week, I wanted the visits recorded. I told him I didn’t want to bring this up, I didn’t want to kick him when he was down, to pick on him when things were bad but he was forcing my hand, that he had told me two months ago he was supervising visits with his mom and now I learn he was hanging in the garage with his dad. So how am I supposed to trust that he will actually supervise this time? Or contain the situation?”
I don’t remember what Bea said. I was fighting within myself to show my “perfect me” or this angry teenager me that hubby’s mom seems to bring out. I know I felt like Bea got it, and was on my side. I know that she talked about compromise, and told me it didn’t feel like the decision was resolved yet. I know she said she could see why didn’t trust that he could contain the situation with his mom.

“Maybe you could let things come to a natural end? Say that you would like to aim for play dates to be a half hour but if things are going well, let it come to a natural end? Follow Kat’s lead?” Bea suggests.

I nod. “Ok. I can ask hubby if that would work.”

“The worksheet idea…that concerns me, because it is like punishment for Kat, too, not just Oma.”

“I know. I told him that. I think he wants to keep, no to force Oma to stay in a grown up mindset, and also he wants Kat to think of Oma as not fun. I don’t know.” I shake my head.

“I agree that pretend play isn’t a safe thing to do with Oma, but what making a list of things that are safe?”

I sit for a minute, feeling kind of blank, unable to think of anything. “Could you make a list?” I ask finally.

“What about games? That would be good for Kat, not allow too much time for Oma to get into trouble, and be fun.”

I nod. “Ok.” I think for a minute. “Puzzles?”

“Yes. Puzzles would be good too, although that may allow more time for Oma to talk.”

Some time passes, and I am not sure what we talk about. Maybe about Hubby not having a secure base in his mom any more, or about nanny separating from me or Kat being in the exploration phase and separating from me. I don’t know. Then Bea says it seems like I might be in need of a secure base myself right now. I think that I do feel like I am in a free fall, lost and alone.

“Have you talked to your Grandma?”

I tell her no, and some tears fall.

“Have your parents talked to her?” Bea pushes, just a little.

“I don’t know. I haven’t asked.”

Miss perfect takes over pretty quick and stops the tears. I can’t do this. I can’t break down right now.

We circle back to hubby’s mom, and Kat visiting her.

Bea gives her opinion again. “I think if you can say visits should be between a half hour and hour, coming to a natural end, following Kat’s lead that would be a good compromise. I think of you can let two or three visits happen and watch Kat’s behavior, and if it is affected then ask Hubby to record visits based upon what you are noticing, that is more than fair. And I think if you can have the activity at the play date be a game or puzzle, and allow Oma to choose the game, give her a fraction of control, that will give you the best results.”

I stare at her. “She doesn’t deserve to even see Kat! She’s not a safe person! She’s not nice or good! She is horrible. She doesn’t have the right to make any choices, or have any control over any of this. No. No. No. What should happen is she never ever sees Kat again. Ever. She is lucky she is even being allowed a half hour every other week. And you think I should allow her some control? No. No way.” I shake my head. I’m so angry. So much anger, and hurt. How can Bea think this? It is not fair.

Bea takes a breath, and starts to talk. Then she stops herself. “I almost gave you Bea the person answer, but I need to give you the therapist answer,” she says. “I’m only giving you an outside opinion on the situation. You are really emotionally invested in this, and how could you not be? But if Kat is going to see Oma, we need to think about what is going to make the visits have the best possible outcome for Kat, right? Oma is clearly emotionally, mentally unstable. So giving her some form of control, in a way that we are controlling, is a safe thing to do and will make her more willing to cooperate and be positive during her visits with Kat.”

I breathe, and listen to what Bea is saying. Then I sigh. “I know you are right. I know that. But I want to scream and say no way. I want to just keep Kat away from her. She isn’t a safe person. She’s terrible.” I shake my head.

“I’m not ‘right’.” Bea laughs. “I’m giving an opinion.”

“No….it may be an opinion, but it is right.” Her opinion is clear, Kat-focused, and not cluttered with anger and hurt and trying to control everything. Her opinion is about making the visits safe and positive for Kat, and trying to contain the situation as best as possible. So, at least in my mind, she is right. “I’ll tell hubby. I’ll suggest these things to him.”

“That’s good,” Bea says. “Now. I don’t think you ever need to see her, speak to her, have contact with her again. The things she said about you and the way she has treated you…well, you don’t deserve that, and none of those things are true. And you don’t have to forgive her or like her, and she doesn’t deserve anything from you anymore.”

“That what makes me even more angry. I still…ugh. As much as I never liked her..she was so fake, from the beginning, I tried so hard to like her, and I would notice little things she might like, remember them for birthday gifts, whatever. I still find myself noticing things like that. Even yesterday, I was out for a walk and saw a carved stone in someone’s garden and I thought that she would like it. And that makes me even angrier. It’s like I failed. I don’t know. Ugh.”

“It’s going to take some time to sort this all out. You have every reason to be angry.” Bea says something more, and I think she gets what I am saying. And she tells me that she sees there is no forgiving the things that this woman has said about me.

I shake my head. “I forgave her that, and more, before, she’s said awful things before. I remember….the memory is so clear, sitting in my moms kitchen, at the table, holding my laptop, and staring at this email she sent me about how one day when I marry her son I will carry his children which will hold her blood so i will be forever bonded to her and basically have to follow her orders because this is God’s will. And my mom was at the counter, it’s L- shaped, stirring something, and we were talking. I was trying to decide if I could marry hubby because I would be stuck with this woman. And it was maybe 3 weeks before my wedding. And my mom helped me decided that no one should stop me from being with the love of my life, my best friend for the rest of my life. And then, on my wedding day, I remember getting out of the limo, and my dad standing there, ready to walk me down the isle, and he says, ‘if you change your mind because of that crazy bitch, the truck is right there, and we can go. It’s okay.’ And I said that I was getting married today. And he okay, and walked me down the isle. But how sad is that? His question had nothing to do with hubby. My parents love him. It had everything to do with his mom. And I never knew mother in laws could be evil. My mom’s mother in law, my grandma, is like a mom to her. My grandpa, my grandma, my dads whole family is like a family to my mom. She never calls anyone in-laws. She introduced people as ‘my sister, my brother’. I didn’t go into marriage expecting anything different.” I finally take a breath.

Bea shakes her head. “I would never think you went into marriage expecting anything different than having a second family. That’s not who you are.” And I feel seen and heard and good, because she has seen me mad and mean and crying and broken an happy and in control and crazy and everything in between so she does know who I am, and her validation that I would not go into marriage expecting anything but a good relationship with my husband’s family means a lot.

I tell her about the fight when I was 5 months pregnant, how my mother in law called me a fat cow, and told me my parents didn’t love me (it was her rationalization for her bad behavior at my bridal shower) along with other terrible things. And, I forgave her saying those things and more and tried to like her, tried to get along with her and be okay, for hubby, for Kat. I tried.

“You forgave a lot. I would have been done at fat cow. My gosh. You were 5 months pregnant! Talk about hitting someone where it hurts.” Bea says.

“She always knows exactly where to hit. What people’s weaknesses are. She’s…ugh. I don’t know.” I shake my head.

“Well, you never have to see her again. It’s not good or healthy for you to be around her, and it’s not good for you to keep forgiving things like that when she isn’t sorry or changing her behavior towards her. It’s not healthy. And it’s not good for Kat to see that between you and Oma, either. So, you really need not see her again.”

I snuggle Hagrid to me, hug him. “Yeah. I know.”

We wrap things up, and Hagrid and I head out. He didn’t get his walk this morning, and he runs to the sidewalk.

Bea laughs as she watches us walk out. “He is ready for his walk!”

“He really is!” I call back to her, smiling.
“Have a good day,” she says.

“You, too,” I say.

Birthday week anger

After the camping trip, we celebrated Kat’s 5th birthday on Friday evening. I made her chocolate decadence cake, with a meringue vanilla custard flavored frosting. It was rich and perfect with editable pixie dust. We took her out to dinner and then to chuckee cheese, per her request. And today, we had a funday with her best friend; the mall for build a bear and the play place, a picnic lunch, then the movies, and last the zoo. Tomorrow will be our last bday celebration, with Hubby’s family. I’m tired. As much as I love planning and doing birthday parties, and birthday weeks, it’s tiring.

It was so important to me that this week be special. Kat wanted a big party this year, like she has had every year. She wanted the theme to be mermaids and fairies. I had great ideas, and really wanted to do it. But the child that hurt Kat took all our friends, except her best friend. How do you throw a big party when all the friends aren’t your friend anymore? The short answer is you don’t. You can’t.

So, I planned a super fun birthday week. We had a camping party with my parents and her cousins (my brother’s kids). We went to the amusement park two days in a row. We went to dinner at the place Kat chose, and chuckee cheese. She had a busy fun day with her favorite friend, and tomorrow she will celebrate with hubby’s family at county fair with rides and clowns and all kinds of fun stuff. I wanted the week to be so awesome, so fun, that she did not even realize she didn’t have a big party.

Tonight, though, as I was talking to hubby about the week, I felt so angry. I know she’s a child, but why does she get to have all the friends we shared? Why does she get to go where she pleases with no worries, while we have left parks and stores because we see that she is there? Kat was hurt by this girl, and Kat is still the one who is being hurt in someways. It’s not fair. It’s not right. The child who hurt Kat should be the one to leave places. She should be the one to have no friends. Kat did nothing wrong, and it’s like she is still being punished. I hate the entire situation. None of it is fair.