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.