Finding our way back 

Monday’s session is foggy. I was nervous when I walked in, because we had emailed a bit through the week and nothing felt resolved. My emails said a lot of what my last blog post talked about, just the upset and feeling like she wasn’t there at all, so I won’t go back into that. But her responses felt just as off as she had felt in session, like she wasn’t getting it, as if she was seeing it as a simple problem and I was just making a big deal out of things. 

Somehow though, on Monday, we found our way back to each other. Maybe that is what Bea meant once upon a time when she told me there would be ruptures and repairs and ups and downs and that the nature of any relationship is that it ebbs and flows, and there would be times where she would mess up, but if I would trust in the relationship, trust in her enough to keep talking and working through things, we would always find our way back. 

When I walk in the door on Monday, full of apprehension, Bea looks up and smiles. We greet each other and make small talk, and then Bea gets right to it. “I wasn’t sure where you would be at today, how my last email sat with you. I almost emailed a second time to check in, but it is rare that I will do that. Emailing or phone calls, those things are about you, and if I emailed you to check on things, that would be about me and my need to know how you received my response or my need to check that things in our relationship are okay. And that’s not fair to you. But I do think about you, and I did wonder when you didn’t email back if you were okay or not. Some people, not emailing back can mean *I’m giving up on you because you aren’t helping and I’m in the hospital now* or *I’m fine and living my life and things are okay now* or anything in between.” 

So… actions impact her, too? Huh. Why didn’t I realize this before? I always assume that I don’t matter to her enough to really have an impact on her. I shrug, and in a tone that makes it clear she should know better, I say, “Well, you should know I’m never going to end up in the hospital like that.” 

“I do know, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t experience some of those same types of feelings.” Bea says right back. 

“Okay, yes, maybe there were some of those feelings.” I curl into myself, hiding my face. After that, I don’t say much of anything, and so eventually Bea asks if I have any writing.

I throw my notebook at her, and she starts to read. “My attunement was clearly way, way off. I’m sorry, my intention was not to make you feel shut down, or like you didn’t matter. I was hopeful that ending things differently, focusing on this positive good feeling would be helpful for you. That it would be so much nicer to leave here ending with good feelings than the yuck.” 

“But you just closed the door on the yuck!!!” I shout at her.

“So it really felt like I was rejecting those feelings or trying to ignore them and get you out of my office?” She asks. She is calm and quiet, the exact opposite of this boiling loud anger I am unleashing in her direction. 

“Yes. You closed the door on the yuck, and then it’s like you didn’t want to hear about the yuck.” I half shout half snap at her. I’m MAD. 

“I want to hear about what you need to talk about. It was time to go though, so,we did need to wrap things up.” She says gently. 

“But you don’t get to close the door on the yuck. That’s not for you to do! I close the door after I leave!” I shout the words at her, each one carrying weight and said with force, like miniature bombs being lobbed across the room. 

“I’m cringing inwardly that you close the door after you leave here. That door should be closed before you go out into the world.” She’s still calm, and her voice is clear, not upset in anyway.

“No, because I need that, I need to be back in the world to be able to close the door. That’s how it works, that’s why it closes.” I’m so mad at her, yet I also want her to understand, to get it, but the anger is getting in the way of explaining. 

“Ideally, we would find a way to close the door together, before you leave. It’s safer that way.”

“No. It has to….I mean, it has to be open here. It’s just, it’s……I don’t know. But you don’t close the door. You did, and it’s like you wanted to be rid of me.” 

“I wasn’t trying to get rid of you, not at all. Alice, listen to me, okay? I need all of you to hear this. I don’t want to get rid of you, you are not too much. It was time to go, we were out of time and I was just thinking I wanted to send you out feeling that safety, that’s all.”

“But usually you…..” I start and then stop. The anger is leaving, leaking out of me and dissipating into the air. It leaves the hurt behind. 

“What do I usually do?”

“But you usually make sure I know that you know there is more. You tell me I can write about it or email it,” I whisper. 

“Ahhhhh. I didn’t say this, but of course there was more, there is always more, and there is so much to work through with the after stuff. I should have made sure you knew we would come back to it all, that we weren’t ignoring it or making it go away. I should have told you what I was thinking, that sending you out with the good safe feelings would be better for you. I’m sorry, my attunement was way off, and I’m glad you told me.”                                              

“I don’t know….I’m not sure it’s even you. Not really. I mean….you know. There’s so much feelings from October and stuff, I just…..I never know if it’s me being sensitive or if what I feel is really true.”

“Ahhh, yes, that is what I was saying to you in my email about it being simple, that it was my attunement being off and what you felt in session was probably true. I know it made you feel like I was brushing off your feelings or saying they weren’t important when I said it was simple, and that made you mad– with good reason! I didn’t like that you were blaming yourself and I wanted you to see that from where I am standing, you notice things much more quickly than most people ever do. You are very sensitive to changes in the people around you, so if you notice something is off, I believe that something is off.” She explains softly. 

Just that, right there is hard to sit with. She has such faith in my feelings being REAL and she listens and believes how I feel……there is this guilt that pops up because I was bratty and pissy and she just shows kindness and trust and compassion and acceptance. I try to find the words to explain that to her, but there aren’t any to be found at that moment. 

 Bea goes back to reading my notebook. “There was a lot that you felt when I said your words. A lot came up for you, and it was really scary in a lot of ways, to have those words out there, with all the feeling attached to them.” 

I nod. “Yeah.” 

“It’s curious that this dream came up now,” she says as she continues reading. 

“Not really.” 

“Well, I guess I am linking the dream of finding blood in your underwear after Kenny hurt– no, let’s call it was it was– raped you. Those feelings then, they were about being scared and all alone and having no one to go to because your mom couldn’t accept or even see the yuck. I just wonder if your feeling like I shut the door on the yuck and didn’t want to hear it or see it and wanted you out of my office brought up those feelings, that memory.” She explains. 

“I guess. Maybe.” I shrug. “Nightmares are par for the course.” 

“I know that you have bad dreams often, but….well, is that one that you had been having or things that you were thinking about?” 

“No.” Maybe she’s right. But does it really matter? A bad dream is a bad dream. “Can we talk about something else?” 

“Yeah, sure. Can I keep reading?” She asks, and I nod my head, yes. “So, it’s sounding like it is a lot to talk about a memory and then be more present because that’s when you feel more.” 

“Yeah. That’s why I hate SP. I just can’t be that present with all that other stuff.” 

“Well, SP isn’t saying you have to be fully here, just in your window. SP wants to find something safe to focus on when you are getting too out of your window, like your breathing for example, to help you go between focusing on something in the present and talking about a memory from the past.” Bea explains for probably the millionth time. I’m honestly surprised that she isn’t just tired and done with me and these SP discussions. I think I would be done if I were her.

“I don’t like breathing. And I don’t wanna be fully here in the present because the present is not safe. And don’t tell me that it is. If we are talking about the past, then all the feelings from the past are in the present. That’s why I go far away!” I’m frustrated. We just keep going in circles every time SP comes up. I’m so sick of it.

“I know, the present isn’t safe for you. I think SP could help with that. I think that the fear of being fully present now comes from the fact it wasn’t safe to be fully present back then. But, it does not matter right now. We can use breathing to just distract you from the upset and intense reactions to a memory from the past.”

“Well, we used talking before. I like talking.” I whine.

“Yes, we did. I think SP is saying it’s easier to go between the body feelings and breathing or a safe body based resource. It’s not as much of a difference between the two.” She’s still calm and gentle. Adult me can see that the idea is that going between two body feelings can help keep me from coming fully back and present the way talking does. I need to be able to stay far enough away that I can access those memories. 

The teen and all her snarkiness finally breaks free and my response is full of sarcasm and disdain. “Fine. Picking my fingers then.” 

“Hmmm, yes, your hands, fingers…..that could work as a resource.” Bea says agreeably.

Oh, the teen is just so full of rage and disbelief. “I was being sarcastic.” The tone is robotic now. 
Bea chuckles. “I know, but focusing on your fingers could be a starting point. Maybe not the self harming part, but maybe the fact that your hands aren’t frozen, that you can move them even when you are far away.” 

I shrug. “Maybe. Whatever.” 

“It’s only something to think about. We don’t have to do anything with it. And I promise, I’m not going to change anything without making sure all the parts are on board first, okay?”

“It’s not….I mean, I was so mad, I hated how things ended, but part of me knew it wasn’t purposeful and it wasn’t this….big thing I was making it out to be and that you weren’t trying to get rid of me, that you weren’t saying no talking, I mean, part of me got that and I just…..other parts were so upset. But it wasn’t me. I mean, it was me, but not me.” I stop talking, because the more I try to explain the crazier I sound. 

“That makes sense. When it’s something that feels like it’s not “of you”, it feels maybe a little foreign, that is how you know it’s from a part, it’s feelings and beliefs that had to be split from the core you at the time. Now that part needs to be heard and seen so we can work through the feelings and then it can become more integrated, not so separate and split off. That part needs to be cared for, and the part needs to know that we will approach the part’s feelings, thoughts, beliefs with compassion.” 

“I just….it’s not so easy. Because it makes me feel crazy!” 

“I know. But I don’t have the same struggle with judgement. I can show compassion and understanding, curiosity. So even when grown up you can’t, I can. And one day, we both will.”

“So the point is to make the parts go away?” 

“Well,” she says, stretching the word out like silly putty. “I don’t really believe that parts just *go away*, or that that is even the goal of therapy. I think that the parts will always be there, but one day the adult won’t feel such strong feelings about them, and the parts will work with the adult. Like a team that functions well together and everyone’s needs get met, instead of a group of parts all working against each other, with different agendas and fighting to get their needs met.” 

I don’t say much of anything, because I’m not even really sure what to say. “Okay.” 

We end things by spending some time just chatting, about random things. At some point in the random conversation we are having, we agree to try working with the after stuff on Wednesday. “Do you have your other notebook with you? Could I take it so I can read over the after stuff again?” Bea asks carefully. She knows how precious my notebooks are to me.

“Yeah, okay. You can take it.” I pull the notebook out and hand it to her. It’s just what I needed to help feel connected to Bea again. It feels as if my words matter to her again, and it is as if she is okay with the yuck. She’s asking to keep the notebook holding some of the yuck and making a plan to work with that particular yuck next time. She’s not getting rid of me or the yuck at all. 

When it’s time to go, I gather my things and Bea tells me to email or call if anything comes up, and that she is looking forward to seeing me on Wednesday. And I believe her.


Humanity Unfiltered 

I know I haven’t responded to your many kind words over the loss of my grandma. I will reply, but right now I just want to say that your words meant a lot to me, and to thank you and to explain that it’s hurt to much to write  until recently. I’ve been buried in a sea of grief the last couple of months. I’m doing better most days, but it’s still hard. I miss my Grandma. This is a loss that hits me out of the blue when I realize I can’t text her to ask about some flowers I saw and liked, or how long to cook something for. I can’t send her pictures of something when I’m proud of it. This is hard. But I’m coming to terms with that pain, little by little, as much as a person can. The harder thing still is that it is fall, October, and all sorts of trauma memories and feelings and emotional flashbacks have been popping up. 

The last thing I wrote about was the things that are hard to talk about. The words it is hard for me to say. S_ _. I’m still struggling with that, sort of. Teen Alice has been running things, and she is so confused about so much. I don’t know where to start, really. 

Wednesday, October 4
I’m (with the teen part running things) sitting on the couch in her office, hiding under a blanket, just covered in shame. I don’t want to do this therapy bit, I’d much rather let Ms. Perfect run things so that I don’t have to think or feel. But instead it’s just me here, and ALL the feelings. Ugh. I don’t like like Bea right now, I hate her questions. I’m angry with her, but behind all that anger, is this vulnerability. There is this fear that Bea will suddenly get it, she will finally see that she has been picturing it all wrong, and I really am bad. I have this fear that I have somehow tricked her into seeing me as good. 

“You’re WRONG. You DON’T see. You picture this little girl who is good, sweet angelic. You see this innocent creature, worthy of your protection.You are so, so WRONG.” I’m yelling at Bea. She’s clearly not seeing, not getting it, and I’m going to make her see it. If I can make her see that I tricked her somehow, that will hurt less than if she figures it out of her own. “You should be picturing this needy, clingy, annoying, talks too much, always has to be right, a girl desperate for attention, who craves being seen, this little girl who bats her eyelashes and smiles to be cute, who is instigates whatever gets her attention, who is self centered and selfish and just too much. A naughty little girl who definitely does not deserve protection. That is who you should be picturing.”

Bea listens to this, and after a pause she asks, “You do know I work with kids, right?” 

I shrug. “Yes.” I’m annoyed. Of course I know that. 

“Do you know what I love best about kids?” She chuckles a bit as the words hit the spaces between us. 

I don’t answer. She’s not hearing me. 

“I love that kids are everything humanity has to offer unfiltered. Kids are some of the most real people you are going to ever find. I’ve never thought the little girl was this perfect sweet angel that deserved protection because she was perfect and sweet. I’m sure the little girl was sweet, and kind and caring, and I’m also sure that she could be selfish or mean or have feelings that came out in ways she didn’t like. It really doesn’t matter what kind of little girl she was. In my mind, she was still innocent and deserved to be protected.” 

I put up a wall, and go farther away. I can’t let her words in.This won’t do. So I hide. She’s going on now, about how maybe the teen just needs someone to sit with her in that pain. She says something about being capable of holding two things at once, that she can believe it’s not my fault and she can sit the me in the feelings of blame and shame and ickiness. 

I shake my head. “But you can’t, you just can’t. You are going to see one day, and then……you’ll leave.” 

Her voice is adamant when she replies. “Nope. I’m not going anywhere. Yes, I go on vacations, but I always come back. I’m here, I’m not leaving.”

“You don’t….you can’t be sure.” 

“Well, would the teen like to test me? Is there something she would like to tell me?”

I shake my head no. My stomach feels sick. I don’t want to test her. I don’t know what I want. It wouldn’t matter, anyway, because I would either set the test is for her to pass, or skew it so she would fail. It wouldn’t be a fair test. Right now, I want her to fail. If she fails, then she has to admit she is wrong and I am right and then I won’t have to do this therapy thing anymore. But I don’t want to lose Bea. I want her to be everything she says she is. I want her to be a person who knows it all and still thinks I am good. I want her to be a person who can see the truth and still care about me. 

“I……there’s um…….I mean, I’ve been…….you know. Memories.” Why can’t I get my words out in a coherent sentence? Ugh. 

“You’ve been having flashbacks again?” She makes sense of the puzzle of words I’ve thrown at her.

“Yeah– yes.” I mumble.

“Hmmmm. Do you think that maybe the teen is more present because there are trauma memories she needs to talk about? That maybe she is protecting more vulnerable parts from being hurt by those memories?”

I don’t know what to say. Maybe. Maybe talking about it is what I need. There’s so much risk with that, though, I can’t just blurt it out. “I…its…I can’t say it. I can’t tell it. I’m sorry. I just can’t.”

“It’s okay. When the teen is ready, we will listen to her. She has plenty of time to talk, she doesn’t have to speak right now. She can email me, too.” 

“Maybe. I don’t want to bother you while you are gone.”

“I’m not leaving until Saturday afternoon and I’m coming back on Tuesday. So I won’t even be gone until the weekend.” 

“Okay.” Why can’t she just tell me I’m not a bother? If this were a test, she would be failing. 

Somehow our time is up, Bea is telling me that we need to wrap things up for today, and I am frustrated because I was finally feeling like I might be able to get some words out, or at least to ask for help with finding the words. “That’s fine. I was ready to go anyway.” I say. The words are snarky and dripping in sass. 

“Was there something else you needed to bring up or talk about?” She’s not fazed by my snarkiness.  

“Nope. I’ve turned into a pumpkin already.” I shove my feet in my shoes and stand up to leave. 

Bea smiles at me, and her smile is just full of care and understanding, acceptance. “Okay. If something does come up, I have some sessions open, and you can always email or call me, too.” 

I feign nonchalance as I walk out. I can’t afford to care. 

Anger vs Rage 

Mad, as feeling, has been discussed a lot lately. I have written about a few angry episodes in my journal, and Bea reads it and talks. It wasn’t until she suggested, via email, that anger and rage are two different things and that I’m maybe talking about rage and not anger when I say the word “mad”. She had said we would talk about it all on Monday, so I spent some time researching the difference between Anger and rage. The following is not written by me, but it is copied and pasted from various internet sites. I wants to put all this information into one place, so I could share it with Bea. 


Anger is signal, and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right.”

“Anger is one of the most basic human emotions. It is a physical and mental response to a threat or to harm done in the past. Anger takes many different forms from irritation to blinding rage or resentment that festers over many years.”

“Anger is a feeling. It is just like any other feeling like sadness, joy, excitement etc. we are born with it.”

“Anger is a response to a perceived threat – past, present or future.”

According to its dictionary definition anger is strong feeling of displeasure
aroused by wrath or wrong done. It is a response to threat or fear or of being wronged or response to some unfair treatment.

Anger can be characterized as follows:
It is respectful of yourself and others. Anger doesn’t mean shouting and screaming – it means taking care of yourself.

Anger alerts us to the fact that something in the environment around us needs addressing.

Anger can prevent us from being exploited or manipulated – it’s a kind of self-preservation mechanism.

Anger protects our sense of self as a unique individual.

Anger is an emotional response to a real, felt or imagined grievance. It may have its roots in a past or present experience, or it may be in anticipation of a future event. Anger is invariably based on the perception of threat or a perceived threat due to a conflict, injustice
, negligence, humiliation and betrayal among others.

Anger can be an active or a passive emotion. In case of “active” emotion the angry person lashes out verbally or physically at an intended target. When anger is a passive emotion it characterized by silent sulking, passive-aggressive behavior, and hostility.
Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person or event (a traffic jam, a canceled event), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories
of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. Expressing your angry feelings can be done in violent destructive ways or in an assertive, but non-aggressive, manner. Hopefully, the person who is angry has learned, or will learn, how to make clear what their needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others.

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if it isn’t allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression. Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather
than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven’t learned how to constructively express their anger.

Anger is not a dissociative experience. We usually are very aware of our anger and how it affects us. We are in contact with our thoughts and emotions by and large. We might not always act in our best interests, but we are in contact with ourselves is a good way to think of it. Anger also allows for a semblance of logic to appear where a good rational self-talk can often diffuse the anger very quickly. We can be talked down from our angry state, made to laugh and so on. Anger is far more malleable than rage. 

Anger does not necessarily involve trauma, shame, guilt etc. Anger when used constructively can be a great energizer, it also can relieve tension and gives us information about what’s important to us. However if anger is stored and not dealt with appropriately it can have many negative effects. It can affect our health, relationships and career. Consequently it is important to learn to use anger appropriately


Rage, however, is disrespectful to others. It doesn’t solve a problem but only serves to make it worse. Rage can be both hot and explosive or cold and seemingly ‘reasonable’. In both cases however it remains a highly destructive emotion.

Unlike anger, rage is an unconscious process, which cannot be tamed by pure willpower or by attempting to alter behavior. These approaches will not result in a longer-term resolution to ongoing anger and rage issues. As an individual is unable to deal with more and more life’s experiences in a healthy way, they experience more and more stress. This in turn can lead to a feeling of a whole raft of different emotions trying to get out, which then explode in an uncontrollable rage.

Rage primarily is a dissociative phenomenon in that one of its prime features is a loss of contact with self. This type of loss of contact with self is not to be confused with ego loss. Rather it is a very primal form of self which for all intents and purposes operates with barely any consciousness. It is the lack of contact with thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations which are good indicators of a rage episode. Often people will remark I do not know what came over me or it was as if I was blinded
with anger when they experience a rage episode. Sometimes people will go blank and suffer from amnesia. It is common for people to be out of touch with the situation, where the situation seems to get completely out of hand.

Rage and anger differ markedly because rage is a flight/fight response in action but without any of our normal constraints. For example, I might walk past an unseen dog and the dog frightens me. I would feel this fright somewhere in my body, e.g. elevated heart rate etc. My body is preparing to either run (flight) or fight and is beginning to release chemicals in the bodily system to do that. If it was a real threat say like a lion instead of a dog, then that flight/fight response. 

In a raging episode the response differs in that the normal constraints are not intact. Someone experiencing a rage episode may well injure the dog, or its owners or even strangers. Quite literally the mechanism that would normally be in place to prevent that sort of behaviour has been lost. The person who is experiencing the rage attacks acts as if it is actually a life threatening situation, rather than recognizing that no harm was really done other than a minor scare.

In the brain of the person who is raging there has been a physiological and neurological pattern which has developed over time. Synaptic pathways and inhibitors have developed differently through over stimulation and repeated episodes of the attack. In other words what was meant to a simple flight/fight response to a real life threatening situation has been so overly stimulated that the brain now responds to many varied situations as if they are life threatening even when clearly
they are not.

The onset of a rage episode is almost instant. People will often talk about snapping or seeing red and going into a blind rage. Anger by contrast has a much slower build up. It can take anywhere between minutes to hours to days for anger to build up. This is because anger works through the parasympathetic system which by necessity require a buildup. Rage works through the adrenal glands which dispense powerful chemicals that hijack the body and mind immediately.

What is really important to understand about a rage episode is that once it is underway it cannot be stopped. There is no technique that will subside the rage and it has to run its course. This is because effectively the person is under the control of the mind chemicals that have been released into the body. They temporarily have lost the ability to effectively manage the situation and are logically incoherent. This is an extremely important point to remember because it has implications as to the best methods to utilize to help the person.

For example, asking a raging person to get in present moment awareness or to accept what is will likely exacerbate
the problem. Mindfulness techniques are close to useless in this particular scenario as are cognitive behavioral strategies or any emotion based therapy. Similarly asking people to consider the consequence of their actions just will not apply. It is because the person is in an altered state that normal methods will not succeed.
When the response to a certain situation becomes inappropriate, this may be termed as rage. Rage is actually an intense form of anger which expresses
itself in the form of an inappropriate response. Anger can be mild and positive, rage is not.

When we hear about road rage, the concept becomes clear.
Rage can make us blind to the truth and unable to accept what’s sensible and correct. When rage is the primary emotion being felt, we become less able to think and act rationally and in some cases, even our senses do not work properly because of extreme rage.


I had this email conversation with Bea about anger, rage and mad.: 

Bea: Mad is just a feeling. It can be described in terms of how it manifests physically, emotionally, and in thoughts.  

Me: It’s not JUST a feeling. At least not for me. Mad is mean. Mad is out of control. Mad is scary. The same way happy is smiling and feeling warm, and sad is tears and feeling empty in your stomach/chest. 

Bea: Scary and mean and out of control are really separate from mad. I think that’s what we’re working towards–and so is Kat. Mad is just mad. Learning to say “I’m mad” and take ownership of it is what we need to be able to do. Then it feels less scary and out of control.

Me: I can’t just say “I’m mad”. The thing to do with mad is……idk, hide it away, pretend it away. I don’t believe it is okay to be mad. So maybe that’s the problem. 

Bea: There is this part that’s just bursting to be seen and heard. Mad is energizing that part.  I think it’s a good thing–

Me: Mad might be energizing that part, but it’s not…’s not okay. It’s not a good thing in my mind. It’s this not controllable thing. It means I make choices, say or do things in this unthought out way. It’s not okay

Bea: That speaks to what i just wrote above. We need to explore mad in its pure form!

Me: Maybe. Maybe I need to understand feelings in their pure form now. Idk. 

Bea: the question is, where will that mad ultimately take you, and will it be useful in resolving anything?

Me: I don’t get it. I don’t get it. This doesn’t make sense to me. Where is mad supposed to take me? How is it useful? How is it suppose to resolve anything? I wish I could understand it when you say this. I just don’t get it. 

Bea: Maybe I’m thinking of external action. Will it ever allow you to act externally as part of your healing? This could take a variety of forms. Advocating for Kat is one, for example.

Me: I feel like we are on different pages about mad. Or maybe even different books, in separate languages. I think the problem is, you see advocating for Kat as being driven by mad energy. Is that right? And I wouldn’t call that mad. When I plan and write and speak on Kat’s behalf, it’s carefully thought out, planned, put together, and done in a calm, firm, directed, clear manner. The energy driving that advocating action, I would call it maybe fairness, or care/love, maybe frustration that Kat isn’t being given what she needs. If this is a kind of mad, I would consider it a cold clear headed mad, a detached from the feeling kind of mad. 

Bea:  I think we need to separate anger from rage. That’s the disconnect in what we’re saying, I think. It took a while for the lightbulb to go on, but finally it hit me! (And she sent a link to an article about the difference between anger and rage). 

Me: Funny….I read this last night. I’ve read a lot online yesterday/ last night that I could find about anger and rage. It seems to boils down to “anger is a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right and when it is used constructively anger can be a great energizer. Rage seems to be a flight/fight reaction, that is explosive and sudden. It is mean and out of control (everything I say mad is). It is typically a much bigger reaction than is needed and many people experience a lack of contact with thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations.”

Is that right? Is that the difference between the two? If so, I think I have been calling rage anger. Is that what we are saying? When I say I was mad or that I got so mad I yelled and was out of control, I’m calling it mad but I’m talking about rage. And because I’m calling it mad, you are thinking “anger.” Is that right? If so, I don’t like that at all. The idea of rage….it makes me feel like a horrible person. It’s like my idea of mad, and all the bad feelings I have around mad, multiplied by 1000. Just the word itself paints a terrible picture. Rage seems bad, awful, even more not okay to feel than mad. It’s embarrassing or shameful or something. Like people will think I’m this really awful, no good person for feeling this way and will have this awful perception of me, like I’m the worst person in the world.
And now I’m not sure I really feel anger. Maybe in order to feel “mad” I have to have such a big out of proportion reaction/feeling such as rage. 

I don’t know. I don’t really understand mad, anger, rage. Can you help break it down, help it make sense? Why don’t I understand or feel these emotions like a normal person? I’m really lost in this, and there is a lot of shame over even discussing the idea of being mad. 

 So Bea and I talked about this a little bit Wednesday. 

Bea said that all the stuff in the news about Trump and his awful comments about women, they have triggered a lot of women to be very angry, and women have used that anger to speak out, to take a stand against the injustice in his words/beliefs/behavior. Bea said that is anger, and it’s why anger is energizing, it propels us to act. She said rage would maybe make people just blow up and scream, or like when people riot and destroy things. It’s not action that leads to change. 

The other example she gave was personal to her. She told me that when she was younger and sometimes now, that anytime she gets hurt, she used to react with rage, like even if she had hurt herself. She said once she stubbed her toe and then turned around and punched a wall because she was so full of rage that she got hurt. That is rage. There is no real purpose to it. Anger, she said, would be like if she noticed she stubbed her toe because of a crack in the floor, and that anger propelled her to fix the crack. 

I said i think i don’t feel— or maybe recognize anger– but I do feel rage because it is such a stronger, over powering feeling. Bea said that was possible, and she also pointed out that I only scream and yell when I’m in rage, I don’t harm others or destroy things, so I do have some control. She said the first thing would be for me to notice anger so it doesn’t have a chance to turn to rage. I said that I wasn’t sure I knew how, and Bea started talking about body cues, and that’s when I said I didn’t want to talk about this anymore, so we dropped the subject for the moment, with plans to maybe pick it up again Monday. 

The bubble popper, part 2

It hits me as I’m driving to yoga. Damn it. I’m mad at Bea. She’s right. It feels like my world is imploding, and like I can’t contain the hurt. I don’t want to be mad at her. I can’t be mad at her. I need her, everything is falling apart because she popped the bubble, and I need her to help me put it back together. So, I can’t be mad at her. This is terrible. What am I going to do? I can’t breathe.

Bea is the bubble popper. She ruined everything. How is this ever going to be okay?

I get to yoga, park, walk in. I’m trying to push down all the anxiety and fear and upset and whatever else it is– the feelings I can’t name– down. I’m a little early, so I spend the wait time writing out all the feelings in me.

“Good morning,” Kris says, walking out and smiling at me in greeting.

“Hi.” I grab my things and follow her back.

Kris sits down on her green mat in hero position. “So how are things?”

“I don’t know,” I answer, and it’s honest. I have no idea. My world feels like it’s crashing down on me, and I’m struggling to pretend to be okay. I smile at her.

“You saw Dr. B last week, how was that? Did she want you to be careful with anything or work on anything?”

I pick at my fingers. I barely remember that visit. Last week, Bea popped my bubble and everything was disoriented and hard, scary, too much. “Last week feels forever ago. I don’t know. I don’t remember her saying anything specific, I think everything was good.”

“And Hubby? Kat? Are things okay there?” It seems Kris has the sense something is up, and she is trying to figure out what it is, and if I’m okay.

“Good, nothing new.” I attempt a smile, or doesn’t work great.

“Is there anything you want to focus on today? Anyway your body wants to move?” Kris asks.

I think for a minute, shake my head. “You always ask me that, and I don’t know. I’m sorry.”

“No sorrys. I’ll keep asking you, but it’s fine to not know. It’s okay to be where you are.” Kris sounds so calm, serene. She’s this person that just accepts everything. I have this momentary thought of telling her about the bubble, and being mad at Bea, but that not being okay because I need her, but needing her is not okay either. I have this feeling that Kris could handle it, and that she would be calm and accepting and somehow help me feel okay about it all. I don’t say anything at all, though.

We end up going through several series of sun salutations; I’m trying to feel grounded, but also be okay and not fall apart. Its a difficult yoga session, and I end up staying more in my head than grounding myself in my body. When I leave, I feel numbed out and gone. Dissociated.

I email Bea, freaking out, and I’m totally honest with her: (my email was long and disjointed, unedited and messy, but this is part of it below)

“I think maybe I am mad. You popped the bubble. I think though, I’m more upset that you just wouldn’t accept the idea I wasn’t mad, that you just kept pushing and…..I don’t know. Why did you have to do that??? I was perfectly happy not realizing I was mad. But you had to ask and ask, and then because I’m me, I had to think it over and over and circle it around and around my mind, until I realized I was maybe mad, in a way I can’t exactly feel, but it there if I really look for it. But I can’t allow myself to be mad, because I need you. I don’t want to say that, or think that or have you know I said that. God. I never want people to know I need them. I don’t want to need anyone. I don’t want to be so needy and just…..ugh. I don’t know. Needy. Too much. Ugh. Not okay. I don’t know.
But to be mad at someone means they will leave. And I can’t be mad at you because I need you and I can’t risk having you leave. So. There it is. I’m mad, but not mad. I don’t exactly feel mad. Ugh. It’s like….far away. Like if I really think about it, I realize I am mad at you, but I don’t really feel it. This isn’t making a lot of sense. I just can not be mad, or have this conversation, because……I don’t know. It doesn’t matter what you say. I think you said something about me not ever being in a relationship where I was allowed all my feelings, but that I’m allowed to have any feelings I have now. I don’t know, I wasn’t really there. I couldn’t be there. You were talking about scary things, you know I don’t talk about relationships, you know that makes me scared. And I’m sick and scared and having this huge anxiety because now I know there is mad somewhere in there. And that isn’t okay. I can’t be mad at you. And then I feel stupid for that. And I have been so careful to not accuse you of popping the bubble or breaking down the walls, or however you want to phrase it, because if I start to accuse you, then I can feel a little bit mad. And that is so not okay. But really, I think that there is more than mad, there. I feel….I don’t know what…..surprised maybe. I thought you didn’t know, thought you believed that I was really okay and doing well, that I had you fooled. And that felt safe. Well, part of me was annoyed,because I thought you didn’t get that I can just pretend it all away and be okay even when I’m not. But now I know I can’t fool you. Which isn’t safe, I don’t like people that I can’t fool, it’s too hard, too….real…I don’t know the right word. I don’t know. Ugh. I’m not explaining this so well. And hurt, my feelings are hurt. I don’t have a reason, or a why, just that my feelings are hurt. I think you were kind of mean to pop the bubble and dump me back into this not okay and scary place. And I’m mad. And so mad at myself for being being mad. And scared that I am mad. And scared that I can’t fool you with the “okay bubble.”
And then again, thanks to the bubble being popped, I am really kind of not okay, and you are the only person I can tell that to, and the person I am supposed to be able to fall apart around, so I can not be mad at you. I need you to help me. But you can’t be worried. But I need you to know how much more of a struggle it is, how hard things have been now that the bubble is popped. It takes so much to maintain even a fraction of the okayness I had before the bubble popped. And it’s hard to build a bubble. And now too much is bombarding me, and I just can’t make another bubble and I need your help with those things. You popped the bubble. And everything is worse. Symptoms increased. Nightmares. Not sleeping. I have pictures in my head of terrible things that just come and go as they please. Some you know about, some you don’t. I have this anxiety in my stomach, just sitting there for no reason, it’s just there, all the time. My patience is all but gone again. I mostly want to hide and not have to see or talk to anyone. I’m cutting more often. I’m not eating. Or I’m stuffing my face and bingeing. I feel like I’m crying all the time, or pushing back tears to not cry. I’ve been having migraines frequently again– I’ve taken my migraine medication almost every day the last week or so. I can not add Hubby and his hurtful comments to this mess, too. It’s too much. It’s all just too much.

I can’t believe I actually send it, but I do. The anxiety of waiting for her to reply is awful.

Several hours later, I have a reply from her: (she replied to a lot of the messiness of what I wrote, but below is the most important parts of what she said)

“You can need me and still be mad. I don’t intend to go anywhere regardless of if you are mad, mean, happy, etc.–well, I am going away for a few days next week, but I will come back! It’s a big step to admit mad–and neediness. This was not something you have experienced positively in past relationships. I will not leave. I know that is hard to believe, and you will probably have to test it, but I will not leave.Only by experiencing this in a different way can you start to believe it. I need my concerns and worries, so they can help inform me if you are safe. So you have to let me keep those! You can be mad at me, fall apart around me, and need me. My job is to contain it all and help you gather yourself together again. That is a very real and honest email. Good work!!! And wow, you do have a good reason to be mad at the person who popped that bubble….”

We email back and forth, and I spill out more of the mess inside me. I even admit that my coping methods aren’t so in control. And then Bea sends an email that doesn’t sound like her, and it feels distant and cold. I don’t understand, and my feelings are hurt. I can only assume she is mad that I won’t talk to Hubby right now, and that she is leaving after all, no,matter what she said. She doesn’t care, she’s leaving.

I take a benedryl after getting Kat to bed, and fall asleep early. Thursday, morning I’m terrified of walking into therapy. I debate not going. Even on the drive into town, I’m crying and unsure if I’m going to actually show up. I end up in Bea’s parking lot, almost twenty minutes early. I cry, and sniffle and work on pulling myself together.

I force myself out of the car, and into Bea’s building, and up the stairs. I look into Bea’s office, and pause outside the door. She looks at me, and smiles. “Hi,” she says, as I walk into the office.

To be continued…..

Being angry can cause change


I wake early, around 4:00am, when Kat climbs into our bed because of a nightmare. I snuggle her back to sleep, and then I get up. I’m angry with my mom toddy. As Kat climbed into bed with Hubby and I, and we both murmured soothing words, snuggled her, I realized something; I never would have even thought to climb into my parents’ bed because of a nightmare. Something that Hubby and I do with our daughter, almost instinctively, is something that never would have happened when I was growing up. And that makes me angry.

As I comb the curls out of my hair, and watch them spring back up anyways, and brush my teeth and put my moisturizer and magic under eye concealer on, I think about this anger. It’s not a screaming, stomping feet anger. It’s just mad. This is a strange kind of mad, almost a calm mad, and yet it’s not really calm, but it’s not how I typically think of anger. I feel strong, like I could call my mom up right now and tell her I’m not going to the party and I would be okay.

Driving to Bea’s, I still am thinking about this anger. I think this is what she means by “mad is energizing, it changes things, allows you to move forward.” I think this is that kind of angry. Halfway there, I give up thinking and sing my heart out to “Born this Way”– the song I have adopted as Kat and my theme song.

When I walk into Bea’s office, and sit down, I curl up, but it’s relaxed, not hiding. “You look good today, positive, like you are feeling okay,” she says. She seems surprised.

I shrug. I’m not sure how to explain this. I don’t want to admit that I’m mad. Mad still feels bad to me, like it’s something not allowed.

Bea looks at me, and sets her tea in her lap. “Maybe this is that mindfulness stuff. You are focused on the present, on fixing the car, dealing with the party and not going, so you are able to remember that you are Alice now, not Alice in the past. You’re able to remember all the resources and tools you have, and use them because you are more focused on the present right now.”

“Maybe.” I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about that. I don’t purposefully live in the past, but maybe the last day or so I have been more in the present. I’m not sure. I take a deep breath, “I’m mad. So I’m not so worried about telling my mom anything.”

“Well, yes. That makes sense. Anger helps you separate her feelings and her experience from your own.” I’m shaking my head, upset with myself, Bea talks. “Well, from where I sit, that’s a good thing, a very healthy thing. Anger lets you focus on you and your feelings, and not on your role in this unhealthy enmeshment with your mom,” she tells me, knowing that my head shake is because I do not like being mad.

We talk about needing to separate from our parents, how it’s normal and healthy to have our own lives, dreams, desires, goals, opinions. We talk about how it’s natural to withdraw and separate as we get older.

“She really is the one that started to withdraw first, in a way,” I tell Bea.

Bea waits for me to continue. She drinks her tea, and sits quietly. If I were her, I would be pushing for answers, but she just waits patiently.

“Well, it was when she got the dog. The puppy.” And I explain how my mother has turned her dog into this neurotic, needy thing and how she was too busy to even talk on the phone at times when she first got the dog. So, really, she’s the one who began withdrawing.

“Hmmmmm.” Bea is thinking. “So she walks the dog that much?”

I nod. “She says she has to, the dog has to be ran 3 times a day, plus walks. I don’t know.”

“How does she survive, let alone have the energy to run like that, without eating?” Bea asks me. I think she is either curios, or trying to show me that my mom does eat, even she is not a “perfect anorexic.”

“Well, she does eat. Lettuce salad….veggies, cucumbers…bananas, she eats half a banana everyday. Chicken for dinner, with lettuce salad. I don’t know. That’s really it.” I shift in my seat, to look down. I hate talking about food, even if we aren’t talking about my eating habits.
“Chicken, yeah, she would need some protein to maintain that running schedule.” Bea looks at me, and seems to be thinking out loud. “It’s almost like she has started using the dog as an excuse for her illness.”

“Yes! That’s it, exactly. The dog has only become something else for her to obsess about and to feed her craziness, her exercising and her sickness. I don’t know. It’s not been a good thing.” I sigh.

“It’s almost like she had the dog to take your place for her to focus on, in some ways. I definitely hear the resentment in your voice when you speak about her not having time to talk because of her dog, when you’ve taken the time to make sure Kat is occupied so you can talk to your mom. And with good reason!”

I think about it. I’m afraid Bea thinks it’s almost jealously, sibling rivalry in a way, but it’s not really like that. It’s more. “It’s like…she never has to think twice about what she is doing, but we all have to be so careful not to hurt her feelings. Like I could never use Kat as an excuse to not talk, her feelings would be hurt, but she can use the dog and that’s okay.”

Bea smiles at me, she looks like she wants to jump out of her seat. “Wait a minute! Back up. You just said ‘we all.’ Who is we?”

“I…I…um, me, my Dad, my brother, I guess. I don’t know. I never thought about it, it just seems that everyone is very careful with my mom.” I’m caught off guard, I really never have thought about it.

“I’m happy that you aren’t taking everything on yourself. You are seeing this as a family problem, as a whole system.” Bea still has a small smile on her face, one that reaches all the way to her eyes. She’s truly happy that I’m not putting everything on myself today.

“I’m mad right now…I don’t know. Maybe that’s why.” The truth is, if I start thinking too much, about my childish beliefs and mom getting sick, I will start to feel the blame and take it back on me. I need to stay mad, and then it’s easier.

“What about your Dad and your brother? Where do they fit in this? I feel like we have this complete picture of your mom, but they aren’t real. Do you think this was hard on your dad; being so careful around his wife so as not to send her back to the hospital?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. He wouldn’t say anything if it was. I’m not sure if he even would really think about it. He doesn’t do feelings.” I shrug. My Dad doesn’t think about things that are emotional, or if he does, he certainly never speaks about them.

“Maybe not even consciously, but even unconsciously, he had to be feeling that stress.” Bea says. She has been bringing up my Dad, more often, since I talked about the sleeping beauty story I played out as a child.

“It has to be hard, I’m sure.” I feel like I have to say something,

“Where did your brother fit? I don’t get the feeling you really care if you see him or not.” Bea says. I feel bad when she says that, it’s true in a way. We aren’t close, but we do love each other.

“I care. We just aren’t close.”

“What does he do?” I think this must be like pulling teeth, trying to get me to explain the family, and I feel bad for Bea.. The truth is, I don’t know my Dad and brother as well as my mom, so I can’t make them as known as I could her.

“He’s a chef. He’s going to back to school for video game design.”

“He’s artistic, then. Kind of the outsider of the family?” Bea suggests.

I shake my head. I won’t go near this, but there is anger at my brother, over what he was allowed and I was not. “I was artistic, too. I wasn’t allowed to go to art school. I don’t know. He just did what he liked. He never really conformed, followed the rules. He just did what he wanted, he stayed in his room a lot, stayed out a lot when he got older. I don’t know.”
“Was he closer to your Dad?”

“No, not really. They didn’t like the same things. He just avoided most everyone and everything that had to do with the family.” I shake my head, I can’t explain it. I don’t know if he withdrew himself, or if we pushed him out.

“A lot of times, it is the oldest child who bears the weight of a parent’s needs, especially if the child is the same sex as the parent. In a way, it’s like your brother escaped.” Bea says this quiet, as if she is contemplating the idea that I even have a brother. Most times, it’s as if he is in the background of my story. He held himself there, in the background of the family.

“Yeah….he did escape…I guess…I don’t know,” I agree with her, because she is right. There is so much more I would like to say about it, but I don’t know where to go with it, or how to even begin to explore it. It’s too complex right now.

Bea seems to know when I just done with a subject, sometimes, and she waits for me to speak.

“I’m just–” I stop myself from speaking, try again. “I don’t want to–” I cut myself off again.

“It sounded like you were going to say you were just mad, and that you don’t want to be mad,” Bea guesses, when it becomes apparent that I’m not going to answer.

I sigh. I feel like I’m being silly, but I force the words out, anyways. “I’m mad at my mom for not making it safe, for never making it safe, not even safe enough to tell her.”

“Of course. Of course you are.” When Bea says that, I feel lighter, less stupid, like I have a right to be so mad about this.

I tell her how Kat has been in our bed, and how that is not something that ever would have happened when I was a child.

“Your sense of safety….” Bea shakes her head, and starts over. I think I’ve thrown her for a loop. “The sense of not being protected was really pervasive, then. It wasn’t just pertaining to Kenny, at all. No wonder you didn’t feel safe telling.”

I sigh, again. “I don’t want to be mad. I don’t want to be sad, either. I’m tired of this back and forth with my feelings about my mom. And I’m tired of feeling bad about myself because of her.”

“This anger, this is the anger that is change producing, positive, motivating. We need anger to move us into the present, to move us forward to help separate you…it’s energizing, propelling you forward. Sadness, that allows us to grieve the past and let go. We need both. This isn’t a one time thing. It’s a process, a spiral. It will come up again. Likely this weekend when you cancel and your mom is sad, you will feel guilty and be back in her experience again. It’s hard to separate from her, she’s your mom, and being in that role of taking care of her, that enmeshment, that is hard to change. It will be layers of grief and anger and acceptance. This is good, though, this is positive.” Bea sounds positive, and sure and wise. Like she knows what she is talking about. I’m going to trust that she does. Even though it’s scary.