Therapy and the what if

Wednesday’s session was weird. Not bad, just weird. It’s always like that when Bea has been on vacation, even if we only missed one session. I have this sort of compulsive need to talk about nothing and make sure she is still Bea, that it is safe to dig into the rubble of my life. I always need to do this to a certain extent; I need to form this more superficial connection, to test the waters before I hand over my notebook and bare my soul……..

It’s Wednesday, and Bea is back from her trip, and I’m back in her office and all is right in my world. She came back. I’m okay. I was okay while she was gone. And yet, I can’t settle down. I can’t get out my new notebook, even just to show off the pretty turquoise blue and cream striped fabric covering it. I love nice, well made, beautiful notebooks, and this is a really pretty one, with smooth cream colored paper inside.

I ask about her trip, and I tell her about Kat’s school, and we chat about nothingness. “I’m sorry,” I tell her, “I keep trying….I’m not trying to not talk. I just, I don’t know.”

Bea shakes her head. “You are okay. And honestly, these parenting things, and relationships, and all of that, these things you see as wasting time? These are things lots of people go to therapy to talk about. So I don’t see this as you wasting time.”

“I know, but it just..I beleive you, and I know that stuff can be hard, but for me, that’s the stuff I can usually handle no problem. It’s the other stuff that I need to talk about because I can’t talk about it anywhere else. I don’t know. Never mind.”

“Okay, so what other stuff do you want to talk about today?”

“I have writing.” I finally pull my notebook out of my bag.

“Let’s start there then,” Bea says.

I give her my notebook, but even as she is reading through it, I’m struggling to settle down. I keep talking and fidgeting. “I’m having a hard time. It’s the end, I mean the last two things I wrote about, I’m having a hard time.”

“Do you want me to stop reading?” She places the ribbon bookmark in my journal and closes the book. “I don’t have to read it, it is up to you.”

“No, read it. It’s just hard.”

“Do you want your blanket?” She asks, and I nod yes, so she goes and gets my blanket and drapes it over me. I can hear her sit back in her chair and start reading again.

“Okay,” she says once she has finished reading, “I think we need to talk about this dream, but can we just talk about the what if for a minute?”

“I….maybe. We can try. But I don’t…I mean….it’s hard.”

“I know. The second you want to stop talking about this, you say the word and we will be done. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Mostly we talk about everything that is already in my what If post. Bea offers to call CPS for me, to not mention my name, but to report it. She would need his name and his address, but she can call for me. That just feels like too much telling. Like it’s this line I can’t go back from, once she has his name. It’s just….maybe a part of still wants to hide him. I don’t know why, but I can’t give up his full name. I just can’t. Another option is that I can call CPS and report anonymously. I just don’t know. We go around and around. Finally I tell her how my life, and my world are split. There is the perfect me, the old me, from my old life. Then there is me. Just me. From this life. And on this side of the state, I’m just me. But on the other side of the state, I’m still her— Ms. Perfect, the girl I used to be. I need that separation.

“It’s a boundary. A very real, physical boundary, but also, a felt boundary, a boundary that is emotional. You need that boundary to feel safe.”

I nod my head, even though she can’t see me. “I don’t need, or want justice. I don’t need to see him in court, sentenced to jail. I just want to keep my old life over there, and to be here, to be me. I want to live my life, and feel my feelings, and to be real. I want to come to therapy and process my stuff and learn and grow and be okay. That’s all. That is enough justice for me; that I still managed to learn to be me, to live, and I’m okay. I might be messy, but I’m okay.”

“It sounds like you already know what you need.” Her voice has a question in it.

“Except the what if.” I whisper.

“You aren’t responsible for anyone but yourself. You are only responsible for keeping yourself safe and healthy so you can live your life.” She says gently.

“Am I a terrible person for not telling?” I’m crying now, feeling guilty and awful because of the what if.

“No. No. Not in any way.” Her voice is stern. She wants me to hear her and to really listen.

We go around like this for a while longer, until I say I can’t keep talking about this. Bea says okay, and then adds, “It’s 25 after, I don’t know what time you need to leave by….”

We’ve gone over again. When I apologize, Bea says it was her choice and that she thought this needed talking about.

“If you have time, can we chat about the dream?” She asks.

“Okay.” It’s a whisper, because this, too, is a hard topic.

“You didn’t write much, and that’s okay, but can I ask if it’s a flashback dream, or a dream-dream?”

“Both. It’s weird. It’s…memories, but it all….it goes from one to the next, like it’s all the same time, the same age, but it’s not. I mean, these things happened, but not the same age.”

“Okay. Do these things, the memories, are they linked somehow?”

I shake my head. “They are awful. Just really awful. And I feel it. I just….I don’t know anything. But it’s there, every night, this dream is there.”

“Okay.” Bea takes a breath. “It’s coming up for a reason. I think we need to do some work on this. I think SP is a good place to start with dreams, process things from the ground up, take away some of its’ power. If you want to do some SP work.”

“I’m scared.” I tell her. This is becoming a pattern. She brings up SP, I feel scared, and we talk about It. I suppose the pattern has changed, because I used to dissociate and freak out, and refuse to even think about it. Now I get quiet, work to stay present, admit I am really scared, talk about it and then I warily agree to try it.

The pattern holds. We talk about what SP does and does not mean, and how Bea is not going to stop me from talking. Then I warily agree to try.

“Monday, then. We will work with this dream.” Bea says.

“Okay….” I say slowly. “I’ll try to write it down.”

“If you can, that’s great. If not, that is okay, too.” I peek out from under the blanket, and Bea moves her gaze from my direction, knowing that would be too much for me. She smiles at me before she does, though.

“Okay. I’ll try. I’m just scared,” I say again.

“I know. And that’s okay,” she assures me.

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Shame and Regret

Regret. Shame. These two little words can have such an impact on us. They can determine how we feel about ourselves, and they can even change the entire course of our lives. These two words have popped up frequently in my life lately. Im fact, I’d say they seem to be a theme in my therapy recently.

Last week, I wrote in my journal about this part of me that feels alone is safer. It’s most definitely the teen, and she wants to be left alone. In fact, she wants for Bea to leave me alone and stop trying to sift through all the rubble to find all the pain underneath. The teen just wants to be done, to be normal, to be okay. And she does not want to let any of these feelings out. It’s her job to control all the other parts, to protect me from their confusion and pain and anger. While there was a lot of just free writing, jumping from topic to topic last week, I felt better than I had in a long while. I felt present again. And when I went to therapy, I handed over my journal, and Bea read through it.

******************************************************************* Wednesday February 7, 2018

“I wonder if the little girl will feel alone until the teen stops believing that alone is safer?” Bea reads my question aloud. “That’s a good question. An important question. Do you have an answer?”

I shake my head. “Not really. No. I just….the teen, she has to keep everyone safe. For her, alone is safe. No one can hurt me if I’m alone.”

“Ahhhh, yes. She works so hard to keep all the parts safe. To keep you safe. I wonder if being back here feels threatening to her after a long break where things started to feel more stable?”

“Maybe. I…the adult me….I don’t think….I mean, I was okay for those weeks. I mean, there were triggers, but mostly, I just stayed on the surface and avoided feeling. Sort of numb. Not exactly, but sort of. I think, well, you know, there were times things would come up and I would think that I should sit down and write but then I would find something else to do. I would clean up, or I would watch a movie, read a book, take care of school stuff. I just stayed….. I floated on the surface, you know. And I think that’s okay, but it’s not good for me to do, not healthy long term. It’s too easy for that to suck me back into just being kinda of numb and not here all the time.”

“It’s a healthier way of coping than ways you have used in the past, but no, I don’t think it’s good long term. Maybe if you were able to sit down and let whatever come up, write about it, and then find a way back to the surface, that would feel better to you.” Bea suggests.

“Something more like that, yeah.” Her idea feels right, like that could be healthy and okay. “It’s funny that I’m saying this, but I don’t really like the sort of numb feeling.”

“It keeps you safe, but if everything bad is being numbed away, then more than likely everything feels blunted…..”

She’s not really done speaking, but I interrupt her. “Blunted! That’s exactly it. My whole life has been feeling blunted lately.”

“That can make it hard to feel joy, to feel connected to others, even to feel alive, can’t it?” Bea says. It’s not really a question, more of a statement to let me know she gets what I’m trying to say. I nod my head, and then she asks, “Does the teen feel a little threatened to have me poking around and digging under the surface after being able to keep everything blunted and safe?”

I think for moment, and then nod. “Yes. She likes things how they are.”

“I can understand that. And I think she is doing a very important job, one that helps to keep you okay enough to function in your daily life. We don’t want her to quit her job, and we don’t want to get rid of her. Do you think she would let us check in on the little girl? It’s been a while since we have checked in on her, and I bet she is feeling pretty lonely. I haven’t forgotten about her.”

“Not lonely. Not really. Confused.” I whisper the words and then bury my face in my knees.

“Confused, huh? What is confusing?”

“Nothing matches anymore.”

“Can you tell me what doesn’t match?” Bea is just so calm. She sounds curious, but not pushy, and I love that she is willing to just follow me down whatever rabbit hole I’m ready to jump down.

“Things. None of it. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t match.” I sound whiny. The little girl is not happy that things don’t match.

Bea asks again what it is that doesn’t match, and I continue to be unable to answer her. Eventually she reassures the little girl that it’s okay if things don’t match right now, that we will figure it out together. She says that she can understand it feels confusing and maybe the little girl feels sad or angry, and whatever she is feeling is okay and that she’s not alone. For a minute I feel like crying, and then it’s gone, and everything is blunted again.

******************************************************************* Sunday, February 11, 2018

We go to church again, and I’m starting to feel more comfortable here. I can smile and say hello to people who smile at me, and I even manage to make small talk with a few.

But then (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?) the service starts, and it’s all about regrets. It’s a different teaching pastor than a few weeks ago when I wrote about the Larry Nassar trials. He directs us to a bible passage, and that’s all fine and well. The whole thing is about Peter, and Peter denying Jesus three times. The pastor sets this whole scene, including a charcoal fire. Then he directs us to a second passage in the Bible, and says that in this passage is the first time Peter sees Jesus since denying the relationship. And wouldn’t you know it, Jesus is cooking something, and there is a charcoal fire? This is a trigger, for Peter, the pastor says, it triggers all the regret and shame he felt when he realized what he had done. Now, the Pastor goes on to talk about how Jesus forgave Peter, and how he gave Peter a chance to confirm their relationship, and then went on to give Peter a purpose in his life. That was all fine. Food for thought, but okay.

Now, though, the pastor continues to talk. He says that we all have regrets, and that there are three types of regret; regret of our actions, regret of our inaction, and regret that is not ours to own, but that we take on anyway. He says the last one often leads to feelings of shame, and that is so damaging to us. He says that when we regret things that have been done to us, or that have happened to us, and we hold onto shame and blame and guilt that is not ours to own, it hurts us. He says that each time we are triggered, just as Peter was triggered, and those feelings come up again and again, it is damaging to us. He talks about how shame about something that happened to us makes us begin to question our worth, our value. We begin to ask things like “what is wrong with me?” and to believe things like “I’m bad” or “I don’t deserve good things”. He talks about how these feelings can separate us from God, and how we don’t have to deal with those feelings alone, that their are people at church, including any of the pastors, that they would be happy to talk, or help find a therapist or to pray for anyone who is struggling. And then, he says that two weeks ago, we talked about the Nassar trials, and how many of the girls he had hurt felt that regret and shame for something they didn’t do, for something someone did to them. At least one in five women have been hurt in the same way, he says. Some of you are sitting out there, listening to me talk and you are thinking that you are different, that what happened to you really is your fault. But it’s not. He introduces a woman then, and says that she would like to share her story. And then she begins to speak. Her story is my story, it’s the story of so many of my blog friends. It’s not exactly the same story as mine, or as yours, of course, but it’s the story of a girl who was hurt by a man, a girl who took on all the blame and shame and regret for actions that never belonged to her. Of course, her story is also a story of finding Jesus and becoming a Christian.

I felt sick. I wanted to run out of the room. I wanted to scream and cry. It felt like a mean trick, to have such things openly discussed in public. Of course, now, with the adult in charge, I think this is maybe a good thing. They aren’t hiding from the ugly stuff, the hard stuff. This isn’t a church that pretends perfection. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it all. I think I’m still processing what church and God mean to me. Maybe that’s why I’m there. I have questions, things I may one day need to have conversations about, and I’m going to need to have a place to ask them, to be able to tell my story and figure how where I stand with God, what I believe. This might be a safe place to do just that.

Digging through the rubble

So…..here is yet another collection of sort of random thoughts.

I’ve been avoiding my life or far too long. Sure, I’ve been running the PTO, and I’ve been leading my daisy troop, and I’ve been volunteering at school and meeting for play dates and even attending church. But I’ve not gotten on my yoga mat in months. Months. I’ve had to force myself to sit and journal. My house is a very scary disaster. I’ve been avoiding my feelings, my thoughts, my life. I’m not living.

In this day and age, it’s so easy to drown out the noise in our heads. Put on a movie. Binge watch a new tv show. Listen to an audiobook. Pick up your kindle and find an e-book. For that matter, pick up your phone and get sucked into the time waster of facebook, or reddit, or Instagram, or even just the news. And then of course, are the good old fallbacks. The big guns. Eating. Purging. Starving. Cutting. Whatever it is, whatever is available to drown out my feelings and thoughts and anxieties, I’ve been doing it. And I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t like who I am becoming. I don’t like the time I am wasting, and the connections I am avoiding.

How did this happen? I don’t know. I was okay. Good. Stable. Feeling like I was here, present, grounded. And then….well, I suppose the filter was removed and all hell broke loose, and I’m still trying to climb my way out of the black hole I was plunged into. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that a part of me has climbed out, but the rest of the parts are scrambling up the side of that huge black hole to no avail. They can’t get out until I look at the feelings, the thoughts, the beliefs. All of it.

And that brings us to my last few therapy sessions. Bea has slowly been poking and digging through the rubble that’s left from the filter disappearing. It’s not easy, because I’ve been really resistant. I think with the holiday break, and then the two week break because of the flu, a bit of that “crust of perfection” (as Bea once referred to it) returned. It had to, in order for me to function in my daily life. The difficulty comes in that Ms. Perfect will do whatever is necessary to keep Bea from breaking through that crust of perfection. Unlike times in the past, however, there is an adult self that is aware that crust needs to be cracked, and I am working so hard to break through all these layers and figure out what is really going on with me.

Confusion and aloneness have been the big things that keep seeping out past my barriers. We’ve explored what alone means, and that being alone is different than feeling alone, and that is different from hiding. Last week, I told Bea that alone doesn’t feel good, but it is safer to be alone. It was just this sentence that slipped out and Bea asked if that was a part or if that was me, the adult. I didn’t know, and so I when I got home, I decided to write about it. I wrote and wrote. I didn’t find any answers, not really, but I think I’m starting to come out of this fog. I feel more present than I have recently. It doesn’t really feel good, because there are so many yucky, messy feelings seeping to the surface. But it’s not a bad thing. I’m slowly coming back to my life. I just hope I can survive the mess I’m about to dig through.

It’s all real

I need to make a trigger warning for talking about church, and about sexual abuse. Nothing very specific is written, but it’s just this sort of messy, mixed up thoughts in my head and raw feelings that I wrote about. So, you know. Be safe. ❤️

Forgiveness. Anger. Revenge. Hate. Love. Grief. Guilt. Innocence. These are things that have been on my mind lately. I don’t know how much airtime the Larry Nassar trials have gotten where everyone else lives, but here they are big news. Huge news. I live in Michigan, and so I have been surrounded by news of the trials and sentencing.

I had managed to avoid it, for the most part, until Sunday. You see, I’ve recently been back to church. Church is hard for me, it’s triggering in a way I can not fully explain. It’s a place I want to be, because it is familiar, and yet, it doesn’t always feel like a safe place.

But, I like this church. I like the people, I like the sermons, I like the community of it. I like that my kid can go to Sunday school, because they actually are aware of kids with special needs, and they work very hard to accommodate them and make the kids feel safe and welcome, like they belong. And this church, it’s not just a church. It’s a community center, where all people are welcome. They have comfy seating, and an indoor play area. They are open daily. I love it there, my kid loves it there, and even hubby has been going to Sunday service with me and paying attention.

So, on Sunday, we went to church. And the message was all about spiritual health. It was about how we form a relationship with God, and what it means to believe in Jesus and to live your life knowing you are forgiven by grace. That was all fine and well. Not an easy message for me to listen to, because where I stand with God, and Jesus, it’s well, complicated. But that was okay. The thing that hit home for me, that has stuck in my mind ever since, has been this video clip that was played.

Have you watched any of the testimony of the women and girls that Larry hurt? I hadn’t. I had stayed away from it on purpose. I knew that it would hit too close to home for me. But on Sunday, I watched Rachel Dellhollander confront her abuser. The teaching pastor had picked out a clip where she is speaking of God’s forgiveness, of Jesus’s grace. He said it was one of the best examples he had ever seen of what God’s grace looks like.

You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others and the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially, no matter what it costs me.

In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.

The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well. —Rachel Dellhollander

Rachel was eloquent, and brave to speak out the way she did. Her words hit me right in my heart. It was like those words, sliced me in half. I sat there, listening to her speak, crying. *How? How is she forgiving him?* I thought. *She should be pissed, she should hate him, she should want him to suffer and burn in hell. She should hate him with every fiber of her being. I would.*

It hit me then. I’m so angry. I’m full of anger. I’m angry with Kenny, yes, but I’m angry with so many more people. I’m angry with my parents, his parents, other adults who should have seen but didn’t. I’m mad at myself. I’m mad at God. So, so mad.

Oh, there is fear and nightmares, and anxiety, and this feeling of needing to hide, and there is grief and confusion, so much uncertainty, but there is anger there too.

I grew up in church. The perfect little church girl. And every Sunday, he was at church, too. And he was loved by the members of our church. He was so kind, and so helpful. He was such a great example of a Christian. That wasn’t true, though. He wasn’t good, or kind or loving. Even when he pretended to be nice and caring, he wasn’t good. He was evil. A monster. He was not nice. That’s maybe the worst part of this. I couldn’t let him be bad, so I became the bad one. I let myself believe he was nice, I let myself believe I was special. I let myself believe I mattered, and that he was my friend. In truth, he was a monster, and a part of me knew it. The part of me that hid in my closet, alone and scared, knowing something bad was going to happen; that part always knew the truth.

Even though I can see that clearly now, it doesn’t make things better. It makes the fear and the terror and the disgust and the out of control feelings real. It makes the little girl, hiding in the closet with her teddy bear, praying to God to help her, real. It makes everything all too real, and I don’t know what to do with that.

Chicken Pox

I know I’ve been MIA the last week. Some crazy person scheduled all of my school obligations (book fair, holiday shop, leading meetings, planning get togethers) to happen in the same 2 week time frame. Who does that?!?! (Me, that’s who. 😑)

Then on Friday, Kat complained about a rash in her armpit. Bug bites, I said. That looked like mosquito bites. But hope. It’s chicken pox. When more spots popped up on Saturday, I sent a picture to my mom, thinking it was a weird rash.

It’s Chicken pox, she wrote back.

No, no way! She had the vaccine, and the booster.

Breakthrough varicella, she said.

Ummm, no, Mom. I had chicken pox. I know what Chicken pox looks like. This isn’t that.

It’s the vaccinated chicken pox. There’s not a lot of spots. It doesn’t look like chicken pox used to look.

Maybe…..

So then I sent messages to all my friends whose kids had been around Kat, just in case. Because you know, that’s the responsible thing to do.

And the pediatrician confirmed it. We have chicken pox. So I may be MIA for a bit longer. Stupid chicken pox.

****As a side note, the filter is still off, and it’s still not my fault and it’s all still messy and painful and new and strange.

Dear fellow PTO Mom

Dear Fellow PTO Mom,

We don’t know each other that well, but yesterday you saw me. I was struggling to walk in the door of the school to pick up my kid. You said hello, and I tried to be okay. I waited for Ms. Perfect to step in. I’m the president of the PTO, afterall. Ms. Perfect should have stepped in to preserve the image of having it all together. But she didn’t. So I looked at you, and tried to smile and said hi back. You asked me if I was okay, was something wrong? The tears broke free then, and you grabbed my hand in solidarity after handing me a tissue and we walked into school together. You helped my kid get her things together, because somehow you knew it was all I could do to keep the tears at bay. You saw me.

Later, you sent me a message, suggesting we have a drink together via video chat while we made our dishes for school potluck. I agreed, figuring you would forget. But you didn’t forget. You would called me after the kids were in bed. We had a drink and did some baking together. Most important we chatted about nothing but I felt less alone than I had all day. Thank you for reaching out and caring. Thank you for seeing me.

To my blog friends…..

I wanted to thank you all for your kind comments and support this last few weeks. I want to respond to everyone’s comments, I’m just in a very triggered state right now and struggling. I know I’ve been writing a lot, it helps me to sort things out and process them— and your comments and experiences you write about in your own blogs help me process things or to see things in a different light. Thank you. 

I’ve been attempting to keep up with your blogs, but commenting has proven to be difficult; I just can’t find my words right now. If I “like” your post but don’t manage to comment, please know I am sending support and hugs and understanding your way.  I care about you all and am so glad I’ve found a tribe here on WordPress. Xx

I’m struggling and triggered but I’m okay. There’s a part of me that realizes I will get through this. Bea will be back in 3 wake ups. 

Love, 

Alice 💕