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.”
“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.