I just want to tear off my skin

I’m fighting to stay present, but it isn’t working. Dissociated is the only way I can get through this conversation. I’m pretty sure that it was only a few minutes ago that Bea and I were chatting and I was present. But then she picked up my notebook and flipped to the writing about what happened after Kenny was done playing with me, and I was instantly far away.

This session is so foggy, but the little girl has the distinct impression that Bea isn’t rally here. Oh, Bea is in the room, but emotionally, she feels far away. Of course, I have to wonder who was far away, me or Bea?  

There were conversations about the body things I’d written, or at least I think there were questions asked by Bea and answers given by me. I know I responded with some form of information, because Bea asked me several times to just “notice that” or to “sit with those feelings”. Trying to pay attention to whatever it was did bring things up, I know it did, and yet I can not remember for the life of me what was brought up. 

All of this led to a confused adult Alice, an angry and betrayed teenage Alice and an abandoned little girl Alice. This I do remember: it ended like this.

“I want two tear off my skin and never let anyone touch me again.” I answer. The question was the result of one of those *notice this* directives, followed by *what does that bring up? What does it feel like to notice that?* The feelings I’m describing are real, but my voice has no emotion in it whatsoever. I’m a robot. I’m a robot without a body. Or at least, I don’t feel anything. 

“The emotion in your voice doesn’t really match the intensity of your words,” Bea says.

“Because. I can’t feel it and say it. Then it is much too real.” I shake my head.

“Could we try an experiment? What if you tried to say it with some of the feeling there?” She asks. 

I shake my head at her. No. Just no. 

“Would you like me to say it with some feeling in it? And you can see how that feels? You can tell me if there should me more or less intensity in my tone.” 

“Okay.” I don’t know why I agreed. I suppose the adult Alice was feeling curious about what it wild be like to have the intensity of her feelings match her words. 

I think I asked for a blanket then. Maybe it was earlier in the session. At any rate, I hid under my blanket. 

Bea gave me a warning that she was going to say my words, and then she repeated them. She sounded like she meant them though. She let the words and the feeling sit between us and then she asked me what that felt like. 

I shrugged. In truth, it was a bit overwhelming and it made my feelings very, very real. Hearing emotion with those words was really scary for the little girl. 

Bea waits, but when I don’t say anything at all, she gently asks, “Did that feel a little bit out of control?”

Maybe it did. Maybe it felt wrong to have Bea saying those horrid words. Maybe it felt like all the feelings were going to hit me at once and I’d not have any control over them. The little girl felt so vulnerable and exposed hearing Bea say her words. The teen wasn’t going to stand for it. As snarky as she could, she said “Well, if it bothered me I would just tell you not to say it again.”

And Bea took that as a sign of growth or something. She was so excited. “So you are in control, and you can see that you have a choice right now.” Then she asked me to really let that idea sink in, to notice what that felt like to have a choice. That’s when things started to go downhill and the little girl felt as if Bea didn’t want to deal with any of the little girl’s bad feelings and Bea seemed far away, and I was lost. I’m still so lost. 

The little girl 

On Wednesday, we talk for a few minutes about the little girl. She has been feeling so sad and so disconnected from Bea. I tell Bea that I’m not even sure what to do with her, because she is sad and lonely, but I don’t really want to deal with her. I wrote to Bea in my notebook:

It feels like the healthier I get, the farther away the little girl goes. It’s as if I’ve shipped her off to boarding school or something so I don’t have to deal with her. But we. It’s know that never works, so I want to talk about this far away feeling she has. It’s almost like she can’t find a way to come back and be here, and she hates feeling so far away fro you.”   

Bea reads and I cover my face. “We have been dealing with very grown up things,” she says. “We haven’t spoken directly to the little girl since I came back. And that can’t feel good. She isn’t forgotten, and she isn’t unwanted. She just needs to be patient sometimes. But I am always here for her. And I am really back.” 

I nod my head because words are hard to access right now. 

Bea continued reading. The little girl had written that things felt bad with Bea and she really needed to fix things, and that she knew how to fix it. She wrote that if she shared a memory with her grandparents that could be used for the SP exercise, then maybe Bea wouldn’t be upset and they would be on the same side again. 

“Are there parts that want to share this memory and test out an SP session?” She asked me. 

I’m quiet for a long time, feeling ashamed of my neediness and my wrongness. “Well…… it’s…..no…..but the little girl, she wants to fix things. Remember, it was me saying no to you over this exercise that set off the reaction and all of that. So she just wants to share the memory, do the exercise and have things be okay again.” 

“Then no,” Bea said adamantly. “There isn’t anything to fix. I am not mad with the little girl. Or with anyone else. It is okay. We aren’t doing something parts don’t want to do.” 

“Okay.” I whispered. 

Then we talked about SP a little bit, and because I was in a grown up detached headspace, I was able to talk to Bea about it, I even asked some questions. Bea shared that she liked the way SP works with boundaries, and she thought it might be helpful for me. 

She brought her SP book in on Wednesday afternoon and while Kat was in session, I flipped through it and took pictures of worksheets and parts of the book that may be relevant to me. She suggested that me reading and doing worksheets on my own, and then sharing what felt safe might be less triggering. 

{if anyone wants copies of the pictures I took of the SP stuff, let me know. I’m happy to share.}

Summer therapy 

Therapy this summer, up until a few weeks ago, has been fairly quiet. When I stopped writing on the blog, I’d been in a pretty messy space, due to a doctor appointment that had triggered the little girl and sent me over the edge. Bea was really there for me and we worked really hard to help the little girl feel safe again, and to get me grounded again and able to function. So the summer really has been spent on looking at relationships, and my behavior in them. It’s been spent looking at my stressors and how I function, and we’ve talked a lot about feelings and about the grown up things, like my marriage. 

The little girl has popped out a few moments, here and there this summer, but it’s been possible to get her under control. I’ve had moments where I’ve not slept all night, and days where I have hidden in the closet, and therapy sessions where Bea has really left me feeling alone and lost, like she didn’t get it at all, or as if she maybe just doesn’t care. But for the most part, it’s been okay. 

A few weeks ago, however, Bea really began pushing me to face the fact my brother is getting married, and that Kenny will be there. I was already in a bit of a state, and she was asking questions about where my memory has taken me, and a question she asked sent me back to a scary, scary, place. It dredged up a very choppy, very messy, memory. The little girl has been front and center for weeks. This memory feels like the worst out of all of them, but it’s hard to say because it’s messy. It’s like someone took this whole memory and put it in the blender, adding extra strong emotions, physical memory/body stuff with it, and maybe even some extra triggers just to make it really ugh. Then they turned the blender on, and mixed it all up really good. But I don’t have the blender, or even a container filled with what was in the blender. I have maybe one or two scoopfuls of it. So it’s enough to have my head screwed up over it. To be triggered and have flashbacks and not sleep because of it and hate myself and question things again. I have enough pieces to put together a rough story of what the adult thinks happened. But it’s not…it’s disgusting. And the other pieces, the body feelings and emotions are SO MUCH. Like all the crisis and freakouts too much. It’s been rough, to say the least. 

The hardest thing is that I’m an adult, yet feeling and behaving like a child. I’m often stuck following all these rules that belong to the little girl, and this mess is depleting my resources and challenging my functioning. I’m trying to believe it is okay to give the child a voice, that people want to hear her. Often time when she is running the show, I tend to believe that no one wants to hear me, that I’m too much trouble, that I’m whiny and annoying, that no one cares. I find it difficult to say things that I find not appropriate, or not okay for an adult woman to think or feel. It doesn’t matter that Bea tells me she understands it is the little girl who feels this way, or that she is not judging or that she wants to hear what the little girl has to say. The adult has hard time understanding that, even though she trusts Bea, and the little girl doesn’t fully trust her. Part of the work right now is learning to allow the little girl to speak and to trust Bea is not judging, which is much harder than it sounds. 

She’s on vacation this weekend, which means I won’t be seeing her on Monday. The little girl is feeling pretty rejected and abandoned. She hates being left, and she hates Bea not being here and she hates that email doesn’t feel like a connection at all.  The little girl is working on being brave, amd working on talking to Bea. Even though email doesn’t feel enough, she has been emailing the last few days. 

You read and maybe I will color 

I’m not sure I want to be here, but I didn’t want to cancel, either. So, I sit, curled up on the sofa, Hagrid in my lap, unsure of what I’m doing. I’ve lost track of the conversation. Bea has been forced to lead the conversation, to try to pick apart what I might need to talk about, because I’ve shared very little. 

“Do you know what you will be doing for Easter? Are you going to your mom’s?” 

I nod. “Yeah….I think….I don’t know. I just want to go for the day, really, but it will hurt her feelings, I don’t know. So I can’t decide if we are just going Saturday, or staying through Sunday.” 

“I haven’t heard you worry about your moms feelings recently,” Bea states.

She’s right. I haven’t. I want to say this whole mess with Kay, and with her, means I am treading very carefully with my other relationships. I don’t want to hurt anyone else, have anyone else become angry with me and leave. “No, I haven’t. I’ve been more…I don’t know……making my choices based on what Kat or I need. But I just…I don’t know.” I shrug. I’ve spent most of re session staring at the floor. 

“It doesn’t seem as if it’s been as triggering, or as hard to go back to your parents home. Is it easier, now?” 

I nod, slowly, because I’m thinking. But she’s right, it has been less triggering lately. 

“Why do you think that is?” She asks.

“I don’t know. I just….it just is, I guess. I don’t know why.” And in that moment, I really don’t. But now, as I’m writing, I suspect it is a combination of better coping skills, of the grown up part of me being stronger, of my parents being more real. 

“Maybe it’s because you are able to be more in the present, now? The past doesn’t overtake you so easily, and you can stay in the present and see that that was then and this is now.” Bea suggests. 

“Yeah…..” I really do agree. It makes sense. 

“Are you worried about seeing him again?” 

I shake my head. “No. That was a freak thing. If we went to church, maybe…but we don’t go. My parents do, but we never have gone since Kat was born. But she did do Christmas service, so maybe they will expect…..I don’t know. But no. That was a freak thing, a fluke.” 

I see Bea nodding out of the corner of my eye. “What happened with your brother’s wedding? Is that…..?” 

“September. It’s this September.” 

“Are you worried about seeing Kenny there?” She asks. 

I pet Hagrid, unsure how to answer. “No…yes….I just try not to think about it.” 

I think there is some more conversation around this, but then she asks, “I’m sure this won’t ever happen, but hypothetically……..What if he wrote you a letter, taking all the blame, saying he was sorry and he did a bad thing to you and it was all his fault? How would that feel?” 

I stare at the floor, at the couch, at Hagrid. “I…..I’m not sure it would really matter. I mean….I don’t know if it’s really about him….I don’t know…..” I answer honestly, even though a part of me doesn’t want to say anything at all. 

“I know it’s hard to take in and hear me saying it wasn’t your fault, I just wondered how it would feel or change things if he said it, too.” She explains. 

“I don’t know that it would.” I whisper. 
She asks more questions, all around Kenny, and seeing him, and him being to blame for it all. I’m not sure what they all were, but eventually I get tired of them, and I look at her and say, “Why?” I’m not upset, exactly, more curious as to where all these questions are coming from. 

Bea pauses, thinking it through, sorting her thoughts out. “Well, I suppose I was wondering if it would feel different to see him since you have accessed some of that anger towards him. If you would feel stronger, or like you wanted to yell at him, or if you were worried about how you would react.” She takes a breath, giving me time to respond, but when I don’t, she continues. She talks about how when others she has worked with feel some anger towards their abuser, seeing that person can be very different from seeing them when that anger was split off. 

She also tells me— but I’m not sure when during the session that we talk about this— about a young girl she is working with who was sexually assaulted by a man at the park, and how that girl has talked about messy things, not liking messy things, and how when they were going to court, the little girl wanted to write a letter using her messiest handwriting, and using marker to make it messier. The mom asked Bea about this, and Bea told her it wasn’t surprising because almost everyone she has ever worked with who was sexually abused has hated messy, and used the word messy as an almost metaphor for out of control–exactly what things were during the trauma. (And the girl is doing really well now, and is okay with messy.) I don’t know why but I found this very validating, that so many people, including a little girl, would use the word messy in the same way. It’s always validating to know other adult people feel the way I do, but there is something about hearing that kids, do, too. It’s like it makes it okay for the little girl me to feel the way she does. But anyway……

“I guess that knowing you had some anger towards him, that you have been able to express it a bit, made me curious about how you were feeling now.”

“I’m not angry today,” I say softly. 

“No, I can see that you aren’t.” Her voice is just as soft. “You feel sad to me.”

I cover my face with my hands, and say to her, “This week was a really bad week.” My voice breaks, and tears fall for a moment before I push them back down. 

“I don’t know what happened, but I can hear that it was a hard week.” When I don’t say anything, she goes on to talk about how she had been sort of poking around, trying to see what I might need to talk about. I don’t remember how she said it, but she mentioned that when she doesn’t get emails from me, she feels a little lost because she has no idea what is going on in my life between sessions.

“I did write…not a lot but I did….but I was……I guess I was worried…if you aren’t really back and I sent it….that….” My voice trails off, as I’m not even sure how to finish that sentence. 

“That would have hurt worse, almost have been unbearable?” 

“Yes…..it wold have been too vulnerable making.” 

“Well, I really am back. And nothing you say is going to send me away, nothing you said or did was the cause of me going away before. I like getting your emails, knowing what is going on for you. I need to be better about explaining why, at times, I may not be able to write a long reply, or may not be as emotionally available as you are used to. But I always read them, and am glad to get them, and always hold whatever is going on.” I don’t remember everything she said, but it was all really healing and validating to hear. I came away believing she really is okay with my emails, and really does like the continuity it gives between sessions. 

“Did you want to talk about the bad week, or have me read what you wrote?” She asks. 

It takes a while, but I finally pull out my iPad, and read over what I had written. “I was writing about church….you’d asked things Monday, and I was thinking about church, so I was writing about it. But then Tuesday….I wrote a little more. It’s all jumbled together though, so I don’t know.” 

“That’s okay.” And then, she adds, “Do you maybe want to color and talk? Would that be helpful?” 

I stare at my pink Easter egg colored toe nail polish for what feels like 100 minutes. “I…..maybe you can read, and I will color.” 

Bea gets up, and starts putting the stuff out. Once she is sitting back down, I hand her my iPad and she starts to read. I pick up my picture, and some colored pencils, and start coloring. 

That doesn’t last long, however. As soon as she begins to speak, I cover my face and hide. I don’t remember what she said now about church stuff, but that wasn’t the important part of the session anyway. 

“Which Doctor were you seeing?” She asks me. 

“Dr. S. My general Doctor.”

“Was this like a check up, or was something going on?” 

“Just a check up….she makes me see her twice a year for check ups because my periods…I guess not having them regular makes it a higher risk for cancers…I don’t know.” I don’t have regular periods, and I never have. The so-called monthly friend shows up once or twice a year. Which concerns my doctor a lot, and she has wanted me to use birth control to fix that for sometime now, but I won’t. So the compromise is that I see her twice a year. I hate those kind of exams, but my doctor is really amazing. She doesn’t know my history, but she has always made an effort to make me comfortable. 

“Ahhhh. So you didn’t know she had a student with her until the appointment had started?” 

“No…they ask at the desk, when I checked in. But they didn’t say it was a male student. Just a student. So…I said it was fine. I wouldn’t have….but I didn’t know.” 

“It sounds like this was really retraumatizing,” Bea says softly. “I’m sorry you were so alone with it.” 

“I couldn’t…I couldn’t email you. And I just…I couldn’t say no. She asked. If he could….do whatever….and I just couldn’t…I couldn’t say no, I said okay….” I’m starting to cry now, and it’s like being back at the doctor’s office all over again. 

“Well, ‘no’ isn’t something you are used to saying. ‘No’ wasn’t allowed in your world for so long.” Bea’s voice is reassuring, and kind. 

I’m unsure if I want to talk to her or not, because the teen and little girl parts aren’t sure they trust her anymore, and miss perfect doesn’t want to admit to any weakness. I try to let the grown up part be in charge right now, at least enough so that I can tell Bea what happened. Because the grown up me does trust her, and knows that talking to her will help. The grown up doesn’t manage to keep running things right now, but she at least gets the story out, even through the little girl’s tears. 

“Were you getting a Pap smear? Like that kind of thing?” She asks. 

I nod. “Yeah.” 

“I want to know what freaking out looks like,” she tells me. She simply sounds curious, like this is a normal conversation and I have information she is interested in. I’d written that I had freaked out at the doctor and can never go back. 

I shrug, “I don’t know. Just…..freaked out…you know.” 

“Did you punch him?” She asks, being over the top to help me feel better about whatever I did. 

I shake my head. No. 

“Kick him?” She asks. 


“Swear at him, curse him, and shove him to the floor?” She asks me. 

I crack a tiny smile. “No.” 

We sit quiet for a moment, and Bea finishes reading. “I’m reading now about why you didn’t want to talk to me. I’m sorry. I absolutely in no way think you hold any of the fault, and I can’t see myself ever being tired of holding that position and telling you how I see things,” she says. 

“I know, I know you didn’t say any of those things. I know. But the little girl….the teen….they……I’m not sure, I don’t know why I heard that and not what you were saying.” I jump in, talking fast. I need her to know how grown up me feels. 

“Its okay. Sometimes it’s hard for the little girl part and the teen not to look for rejection, and to hear it even if it’s not there. I think hearing the words, the idea of someone, anyone, telling you they agreed with you, that it was your fault, can feel really scary. I do think you have a part that knows what he did to you was wrong, and not your fault. She might be very buried, very cut off from your awareness, but I do believe she exists. And I don’t think it was your fault at all. Not in any way, in any circumstance or planet could it be your fault. I’m sorry you were all alone with this, and then the doctor….that had to feel really bad.” 

I nod my head and sniffle. “It was a really bad week.”

“Do you want to tell me what happened, why you think you can’t go back?” She asks gently. 

“I couldn’t say no. I…she asked, but he was right there and I didn’t want to make him feel sad. I couldn’t say no.” 

“Of course not. Of course you didn’t want to make someone feel bad.” Bea interjects, and it feels so good to know she gets it. 

“And then…he was….and I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t breathe.” 

“Uh-huh….this was really retraumatizing.” 

“And I just….he….I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t say no, I was so scared and it didn’t feel okay, I wasn’t safe and bad things were happening and I was crying and I couldn’t move.” I’m talking fast, words jumbled together, hyperaroused and not here all at the same time. 

“It was really scary. And it really didn’t feel safe,” she says softly. “Did your doctor ask him to stop?” 

I nod. “She had him leave the room.”

“So she protected you. Did she finish the exam?” 

“No….I…she just draped one of those paper blankets over me, and sat with me for a few minutes.” 

“So you have to go back to finish the exam?” Bea asks. 

I nod. “I can’t….I can’t…I just…I can’t.” 

“I know. We don’t have to worry about that right now, okay?” 

“Okay,” I say tearfully. 

“So she sat with you for a few minutes and then let you leave? Or did she have you stay for a bit?” Bea asks, casually.

“Well…..I don’t know. She sat with me and then let me leave. But it could have been longer. So….well, I don’t know. You know, I do my everything is okay routine, and I just wanted to go home. So I went to that functioning but not here place.” I tell her. Bea has seen— and been fooled by—- the functioning everything is okay act, so she is well aware of what it is. 

“Ahhh, yes. And you really wanted to go where it was safe.”

I nod.”yeah.” 

“Were you able to feel better once home, safer?” 

“No…..I….I wanted my closet. But hubby was home, so I kept the functioning act going.”

“That had to be hard.” I’m actually listening, and her voice sounds sad, compassionate.

“And now…I’m so embarrassed.” 

“You have nothing to be embarrassed for. Women’s doctors are really sensitive to how vulnerable a position you are in during those exams.” Bea tells me. 

“I acted like a little girl. I behaved like a child…I couldn’t answer her questions. I just cried. I don’t know. I acted like a child.” I say sadly. 

“You were really triggered. And I’m sure you aren’t the first one to have a bad reaction. She’s probably experienced this before.” Bea reassures me. “Does she know your history?” 

I shake my head. No way. 

“She never asked?” Bea says. She sounds protective, like she is not happy the doctor never asked about my history. 

“Well, it’s just forms. I filled them out a long time ago. Before Kat. And now I just have to check my address, insurance, phone number. And the forms have the question, but I always marked no. I probably wouldn’t even mark yes now, if I were to redo the sheets.” 

“It doesn’t feel safe for her to know?” Bea asks. I’m sure she has to be thinking that it’s too late, the doctor has to know something now. 

“Well, I don’t want it in my file. Because then everyone knows, anyone who gets my chart knows.” My worst nightmare is having strangers know. 

“Okay, that makes sense.” Bea says. 
We talk a little more about the feelings and what happened. And then we start to talk about how I’m going to go back there. 

“I can’t go back.” I’m so embarrassed, so afraid of any judgments made. 

“Well, you could see a different doctor.” Bea’s tone is very neutral as she says this.

“No. I don’t want to do that.” 

“Okay. So, then we come up with a plan. Did the office follow up with you? Did she check on you after?” Bea asks.

“She called that night. I didn’t answer. And I deleted the message. And again called on Wednesday, but no message.” I tell her. 

“You weren’t ready to talk to her. That’s okay. But I am glad she called. I don’t like that she let you leave like that. So soon after.” 

“I was pretending to be okay. I’m really good at that. I’m great at being okay. So….you know.” I say. 

“I know, ” Bea says, “So, how are we going to get you back to the doctor?” 

“I don’t know what will make it better. I’m scared and embarrassed.” It’s not just embarrassment making me afraid to go back; I’m terrified of feeling frozen again.

 “We could write a letter, and I could help you do that.” Bea suggests. 

“Maybe. I don’t know. I wouldn’t know what to say.” I tell her.

“Maybe hubby could go with you?” Her voice is a little tentative. “He’s been a help with the dentist.” 

I shake my head. “No. He can’t go. It’s just…no.” I don’t know why I don’t want him there. it seems too vulnerable, too difficult to bring a guy to an exam of my private area. Ugh.

“I could go with you,” Bea offers. 

I don’t respond. But I can’t believe she would offer this. I feel really supported and cared for. Like she wants to help keep me safe, like she really does care. I can’t respond to her offer, I can’t express my feelings of thankfulness for her; I can’t tell someone about my postoperative feelings for them without feeling shame. What the heck is up with that? “If we wrote a letter, we wouldn’t have to give it to her. Just write it to get my thoughts in order and then figure it out?”

“Nope, we wouldn’t have to send it,” she agrees. 

We wrap up a bit later, and I leave feeling okay. Well, not okay, but like I have Bea back. She’s not gone. She likes getting my emails, she likes hearing what the teen has to say, she wants me to feel safe, and she offered to go with me to the doctor. She does care. 

The little girl shares

Monday morning, 8:00am, and I’m in my usual place on Bea’s couch. I have an envelope in my bag, containing a letter. I hadn’t been able to give Bea my letter on Thursday, it was too scary. I’d written another letter this weekend, and now it sits in my bag. 

“What’s coming up for you today?” Bea asks. 

I shrug. “I don’t know.” I mumble. 

“Was there anything you wanted to talk about today?” She pushes a little bit. Maybe she knows there is something. I just feel lost and like she is far away. 

I shake my head. “I don’t know.”

“Why don’t we start coloring and we can talk about anything that is coming up? Go from there.” She suggests softly. 

I nod my head, a little. “Sure. Okay.” I feel numb, I don’t really care. 

Bea gets out the markers, colored pencils and our pictures. We start coloring. I’m not really here, but I’m not far away, either. I don’t even know, I’m ignoring Bea as much as I can. 

Bea talks to me, and I answer her questions as shortly as possible. I don’t want to be here. I should give her my letter, but I’m too afraid. 

“I was thinking about picking a marker and asking you to find something in the room that matches the color. Like a game, to work on orientating to the room, to the present.” She tells me. 

I freeze inside. No. No games. I’m not doing this. No. I don’t say anything to her, and I can’t meet her eyes. 

“What’s the little girl thinking about this? How is she feeling?” Bea asks gently. 

I shake my head. I can’t tell her. The little girl is too afraid. Finally, I say, “The little girl isn’t happy.”

Bea waits to see if there is more, but I don’t say anything else. I think she might ask more questions, or say something. I don’t know. In the end, she suggests that I can email what I’m thinking and feeling. 

I say, “Maybe,” and leave it at that. 

Bea says something, she wants to make sure I know that she wants to hear from me. I don’t say anything, and when I leave, it’s awkward and feels disconnected. I say goodbye and rush out the door. 


Later, I write to Bea. I let the little girl write, top. I don’t send either email. Eventually, I write her a short note, telling her I’m afraid, that I had a letter to give her but didn’t, that the little girl doesn’t trust her right now, and that she feels like she can’t talk anymore. Bea writes back, “The little girl needs to know that she will always be seen and her needs taken into account. If she is scared I will try to figure out how to help her feel safe. I wondered today if she was mad? If so, I hope she knows it is okay to be mad and express those feelings too. I’m sure me talking about playing the orienting game made her not trust me. Games were not good and not to be trusted in the past, but this is a healing game, one that can help her feel less powerless. She can play it however she wants. “

On Tuesday, I write more to Bea about the little girl. “She’s afraid of mad. And she’s sure if she lets out any mad feelings you will be upset with her. And, I don’t….the little girl’s mad feelings…they seem very childish, and silly to the grown up part of me. Which makes it embarrassing to explain this mad, or to give the mad feelings a voice. It’s this mad that is, I don’t know…like want to throw something, stomp your feet, scream, act like a two year old throwing a tantrum feeling. The feeling is really at odds with the grown up part…….Resource building, and you pushing it forward is the problem, in her opinion. She doesn’t want anymore resource building right now. The little girl just feels like she keeps being pushed aside to focus on resource building. (The grown up part of me knows that’s not accurate in the least —but they are her feelings—and the little girl doesn’t always hear things right….she just is on hyper alert for any sign of you being upset, not wanting her to talk, of being rejected, of anything negative, or anything that she can perceive negatively—– which is almost anything, really.)”

Bea writes back, later that day. “But do we know what she’s mad about? How can we help her? She’s frustrated, maybe, and doesn’t feel heard?…….She can take control over these games–unless she decides that they are not going to be safe and helpful. She isn’t used to getting to decide, or to work together with somebody who doesn’t want to hurt her………She will not be “fired.” She is not expected to be good or nice. Maybe she’s encouraged to be a little bit brave, but that’s about it……….It’s a catch 22. We can’t effectively process the trauma without building the resources first, so the little girl is being kept in perpetual misery. She can always talk–collaborating is what this is about, and the more ideas she has, the better. She can also tell what memories might be coming up, etc. She won’t be silenced! it is definitely okay for her to express her thoughts and feelings. Experiencing that as okay will be a big step for her!”

I write back, Tuesday evening. “Brave. Maybe this is just as brave as I can be right now. I don’t know. I know I’m always scared and hiding and not very brave. And I’m sorry. I’m trying to be. I really am. Not expected to be good or nice. I don’t know. I want to believe that. But I just don’t. Why would you want to listen to me or help me if I’m not good or nice? There’s all this mad. I’m mad because I feel like I’m not supposed to talk. Maybe the stubborn mad you felt from me was….stubborn but it’s stubborn mad like I am not going to be hurt again. Every time I think I’m being told– even if the grown up knows my (the little girl’s) perceptions are all off– to not talk, my feelings are hurt. I feel wrong, like I believed you that I could talk and then….I don’t know. It doesn’t matter what you are really saying, I hear that I’m not allowed to talk. I’m mad that I’m stuck with all these memories and nightmares. I’m mad that the better the grown up part of me feels– the healthier the grown up part seems to feel– the more present I am and then the more yucky crap and awful feelings comes up. It’s not fair that the better, the healthier a part of me gets, the more bad stuff I have to deal with. It’s not fair! I’m maybe mad at Kenny, but I’m not even sure why exactly because my feelings about it being all my fault haven’t changed. But I’m mad that he hurt me, that he pretended to be my friend, to be nice, just so I would play his games, just so I would do what he wanted. I’m mad that I can’t go back to believing he was my friend and that nothing really happened. And I’m mad at you for changing things, for doing things different. And I’m terrified of being mad at you. I’m mad that I’m being kept in perpetual misery. Sometimes I’m mad that I ever opened up and told to begin with. I don’t want to have all these mad feelings. And I’m mad at myself. Well, the grown up is mad at the little girl part for being mad and causing issues. That part of me just wants the little girl to go away, to take her feelings and her nightmares and all of it away. “

I get Bea’s response Tuesday night. “She’s being brave just by hanging in there with all this! We have to have her on board to continue moving forward, so she certainly won’t be forgotten. Your worth is not based on being good or nice. Your worth is based on just being you! Authentic, real expressions of feelings are much more valuable than covering up things that are only going to surface in another way anyways. It’s okay for you to be mad at me. I won’t be destroyed and I won’t go away even if you are really really mad. It’s my job to contain all the mad–and the other feelings–so you feel safe to express them. I’m trying to figure out why you feel like you’re not supposed to talk? That part confuses me. With what we are doing the idea is that you will share little pieces of the memory, and if you get out of the window we will do things like orient to the room so you can stay in the window so that the memory can be integrated and not retraumatizing. You have to be on the edge of the window–feeling pretty uncomfortable–for this to work, but not out of the window. It’s always okay to talk about the memories, but we’ll be safe about it. Is this what the little girl means about not being able to talk?”

The little girl still wasn’t sure she was ready to trust Bea again. “Mad is not okay, I don’t like mad. I mean, I’m better with mad than I used to be– I can at least admit to feeling mad now. But it feels yuck. I feel guilty for bring mad. I feel like this terrible person. I can’t explain it really. It’s like…..there is this belief that if I am mad, I am a bad person. And maybe me being mad at you won’t destroy you, but what if it ruins the relationship? Well….I just keep thinking of course you are confused. Because the grown up part knows that there has been nothing said about no talking, that in fact, the opposite has been said—- that I can always talk about whatever I want to or need to talk about. The little girl though…she thinks differently, and so it feels to me like I’m not supposed to talk. And where this belief came from, it’s so convoluted and messy and I’m not really sure I even understand it. It’s this…..I don’t know. So….I think I’m going to have the little girl write to you. If she can be brave enough. The grown up part of me feels stupid and embarrassed over how the little girl feels and the things that have made her believe she can’t talk. The grown up is frustrated and annoyed and feels like the little girl is being whiny and silly and a drama queen, and the little girl is so afraid you are going to feel the same way as the grown up part. She can’t see why you wouldn’t feel the same way. She’s terrified of being that vulnerable and then feeling like you are mad at her, annoyed, and wanting the little girl to go away.” 
When I wake up Wednesday morning, Bea has written back, and her response is enough to convince the little girl to write. “It’s my job to be sure it doesn’t ruin the relationship–and I feel confident in being able to do that. I do feel like you’ve gotten more comfortable with mad, which is great! Well, the little girl comes from a time when she really wasn’t supposed to talk–and it didn’t work when she did try to talk about what was happening to her. So it’s no wonder she would think she’s not supposed to talk. The grown up part often struggles for compassion for the little girl part. I won’t have that same struggle. I want to know what she’s thinking and feeling.”

So, the little girl writes and sends Bea her letter. 

Dear Bea,

I’m afraid to say all this. I’m afraid that you will be annoyed, or even angry that I’m upset over such small stupid things. I am afraid you will give up on me, that you will get tired of dealing with me and listening to me. 

I was really mad on Monday. You hurt my feelings. I don’t like telling someone they hurt my feelings, and I don’t like talking about it. I’m usually afraid that I’ll just be told I’m being silly, or that I’m wrong about what happened to hurt my feelings. That’s why I was mad, though. I wanted you to go away, to stop changing things, to stop making everything so different. But I didn’t really want you to go away, I just wanted all the yucky feelings to go away. And, I was so angry that you are trying to make me change, and that you have helped the grown up part to change and that you are trying to make me play a game to be more “here”. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to feel everything that I feel when I’m more here. I want to be far away and hiding. And I don’t want to play any games. And I don’t believe you that I can say no to something. If I say no, you just ask about something else that is almost the same or bring it up later, or keep pushing in some way. So what good is “no”? That makes me mad, too. 

And I’m mad because I’m afraid you are wrong; that you will be mad back, and fire me or just leave because I am acting like a brat. I’m mad that I don’t want you to leave. I don’t like feeling like this, and I don’t want to need anyone. I get scared of you. This is scary. 
I thought..on Monday….or maybe it was Thursday…….(I think both days I had a letter to give you but something happened that made me feel like it wasn’t okay to give it to you) you had my notebook. And you read it. You read about my nightmares and my scared feelings, and how confused I am right now and you read my questions, and fears. But we didn’t talk about it. Not really. I’m afraid to talk about it, but I thought if I gave you all of that, you would talk to me about it. Help me somehow, even if it’s just not feeling alone. I don’t know what I wanted, really. But we didn’t talk about it. I know you said something, but can’t remember what it was. And I had written something over the weekend about how I have been feeling not okay, and about feeling like I am not allowed to talk. I was really afraid to give it to you, and then you just switched to talking to me about resources, and…..something about working on resources so that we can use sensorimotor therapy to process trauma stuff later, when I’m able to do sensorimotor. All I heard was that I can’t talk until I can do sensorimotor therapy. There was no way I was going to give you my letter then. And that’s when I went far away. My feelings were hurt. I never really did come back. I just sat up and colored, and chose a picture because that was what you wanted me to do. All I really wanted to do was go home because I felt sad. I was sad that you didn’t want to listen to me, sad that I wasn’t allowed to talk, and sad that I am too scared of all these changes to be able to do what you want me to do, and it felt like I will never be allowed to talk again. 
This is sort of what my letter on Monday said—-

Ever since you started that training, you have been different. You say you aren’t, but you are. You feel different to me, and you respond differently, too. I started just bringing my writing with me because you didn’t email me back once, for a few days. And I was scared and hurt and so sure I had done a bad thing and you were leaving. But then you did email back, and you said sorry, and it should have been okay, it should have been fine, I should have been fine with it, except it wasn’t oaky. It wasn’t okay because it felt like anyone could have written your response, any therapist, it didn’t feel like you wrote it. And then, it’s just little things. Every time you redirect me to resourcing and coping skills instead of talking to me, I feel shut down. It’s as if I’m being told I’m not allowed to talk, or have feelings. When you tell me to focus on this or that, and not the feelings that come up when we are coloring, I feel like you just don’t want to deal with another meltdown. The grown up part was so embarrassed and mad at me after that freak out while coloring. And I was scared and overwhelmed and felt really left alone. And when I wrote about it, you just…I don’t know. Maybe the point isn’t to focus on the feelings, but they pop up, and it’s like you want me to ignore them, because you are tired of dealing with my crazy. Or when you are talking about orienting, and where we shine the flashlight being a habit, all I heard was that it is my fault I feel bad and frozen and crazy. My fault, because it is a habit I created. And, of course, my fault because I started it anyway, So, change it, get over it. I don’t know. You said something about maybe we won’t ever get to the point of being able to pay attention to what I feel in my body for the sensorimotor therapy…I’m not sure what you said, really, because I was just so instantly triggered, because all I heard was that I’m too broken, too damaged to be able to do that therapy the right way. I think I am just super aware of anything that is said or done that could mean you want me to go away, or that might mean you feel the same way I feel about me, or the same way that grown up part feels about me. So it’s all these little things– me “hearing” or getting a different message then the one you might actually be saying— on top of all the changes you’ve made, and you feeling different to me, and the hubby emails. And then, I don’t know why else. There’s more, but it’s just there— this really strong feeling of don’t talk. So every time I do talk, I notice anything that might mean I should not be talking. 

That’s mostly it, what it said. 
And maybe you are right, and my thoughts and beliefs are from a time when it wasn’t okay to talk. Anytime I tried to talk, no one listened or got it anyways. Maybe I’m still searching, waiting for that to happen. To not be listened to, to not be understood. I don’t know. 

Maybe this window thing might be okay. Maybe. It feels like the taking a break, coming up for air, is the same as telling me to stop talking, that it is not okay to keep talking. And, it kind of is. Even if it’s “stop talking because you are too far away and this isn’t safe”, it doesn’t feel any different than “stop talking because I don’t want to hear anymore or deal with this.” Maybe there is a way……what about if you have to say stop talking and take a break, you could tell me, remind me that it’s okay and we will come back to whatever we were talking about and that you do want to listen? And then make sure we do go back to it. Because I won’t bring it back up. I’ll question and wonder, no matter what is said, that you don’t really want to listen. The grown up part thinks this is ridiculous. I think you maybe don’t know how much I question everything people say or do, and trusting them, and believing them, because the grown up is really good at pushing that all away and pretending to be confident and okay. She’s good at pretending to be normal. Or maybe she is normal. But I’m here, too and I doubt everything, and my default belief is that people don’t like me, that people don’t want to listen to me, that I need too much, that I’m a drama queen, that I am silly, that people say nice things but really don’t mean them, that people can’t stand to be around me, and that they only like me if I do what they want and follow their rules. 

You said you wanted to know my thoughts and feelings. I really hope you meant it, and that you aren’t mad. I’m confused and scared and sad and mad and I don’t want to be so alone anymore. 

~the little girl 

Bea responded back within a few hours, and her response just made things so much better. “So glad you were able to send all of this. There are some themes here that I’m paying attention to–one, that we do need to talk about the day to day how you’re doing as expressed in your journal, another, that I haven’t been inquiring about your feelings while we’re coloring (which is such a basic therapist thing that it’s terrible that I haven’t been doing it!), and, another, that this need to have a voice is really important. That’s not going to happen. (Bea getting annoyed or giving up on me). In fact, I want to hear more from you! I knew you were really mad. I wasn’t sure why, but I figured it was about things changing. That must feel out of control and scary, on top of making you mad! And hurting your feelings. I like to think think that things changing means we’re adding things, not taking things away, but it doesn’t feel that way to you. ……I’m sure it’s very scary–you had to be very brave. I’m still here, though………….I think we shouldn’t color tomorrow–I think we should talk about the notebook. I should have known that was important…….Yes, we need to pay more attention to your feelings–and to the stories and things that come up. It should be an “and” with the new stuff, not a taking away…………(in response to my idea that she remind me she wants to hear what I’m saying and to make sure we will go back to what we were talking about if we have to take a break). What a great idea! Yes, I can be sure to tell you that we will come back to it, that of course I want to listen and hear what you are saying……………….I’m so glad you shared your thoughts and feelings! I did want to listen. You were very brave.”

There’s been so much she has said the last few days—- that she won’t give up on me, that she isn’t going to fire me, that she wants to hear the little girl’s thoughts and feelings, that I can be really mad at her and it won’t ruin the relationship (she won’t let it), that she won’t have the same struggle the grown up part has with feeling compassion for the little girl, about my worth not being based on my being good or nice– that has helped so much. I don’t understand why she is being so nice. I’m not sure I fully trust it but  I do feel safer, again, like things will maybe be okay.