Maybe it is something, not nothing

The teen is raging this morning, livid with Bea for continuing to insist that the memory at the window was not “nothing”, that it was “something”. I had typed a response to Bea’s last email of the day yesterday, and then realized before I sent it that it was all teen sass and frustration. So I held it until this morning, sending it as I log into therapy.

We say good morning, and then it’s silent. I hate silence, especially right now, and to fill the uncomfortableness of it, I start chatting. I tell Bea some things I’ve learned about how neurodiverse brains work, and why I think Kat is struggling so much to finish a task like cleaning her room. We talk about this new (to me) piece of information, and I tell her how I plan to help support Kat if this is indeed part of the challenge.

Finally, I take a deep breath and say, “I don’t want to spend all my time talking about Kat. I just….”

Bea picks up where I trailed off, “Need to ease into things and make sure I am here and me. I know. And, this is good information, so I am glad you shared. But you know what I was thinking?” I shake my head, and she continues, “I was thinking how great it is that even with so much coming up, you have been able to focus on some other tasks, that the grown up has been able to sort of step away and give everyone a break from the yuck.”

My face feels hot and I shrug. “I guess. I just….I don’t….parts don’t like it when…..well, I mean, I guess it is better than it was like three or four years ago or even a year ago, but I don’t like….I just….”

“I wasn’t really thinking ‘better’. Maybe more that you are able to get to a regulated place and not be swallowed by the ick all day, everyday. That this is different than it was in the past,” Bea explains.

“The thing is, it is better. But it’s not….the parts don’t really want you to…” I keep trying to say the words, to tell her I don’t want her to think I am fine now because that might mean she will decide to leave me, but they keep getting stuck. It feels too vulnerable making to say that right now.

“To think everything is better and for me to put expectations on them?” Bea asks.

“Yeah. Exactly. But it is better, sort of. It’s like certain things….specific things I can focus on and sort of step away from the ick. Like cleaning or organizing or trying to find solutions to help Kat, or being social, like when one my girl scouts stopped by to pick up more cookies. That sort of stuff. Playing with Kat or being really engaged and present, maybe not so much. But those more specific things, I can focus on those and function.”

“I can see that. It makes sense, really, because those were always Miss Perfect’s sort of things she did to distract and function, right?”

“Yes,” I say slowly, “but it’s not Miss Perfect, not this time. It’s just me. Or, I think it is just me. Because Miss Perfect is more….everything is scheduled. I mean, I used to clean the grout in my kitchen once a week with a toothbrush and vacuum hourly so there would be literally no pet hair anywhere. People who knew me used to joke about me having OCD, but I don’t think it was OCD like for real. It was just trying to control everything. Everything was a routine, a schedule and Miss Perfect couldn’t function if something screwed that up.”

Bea tells me she remembers this, how it was, and how it is no small thing how much that has changed.

“I emailed you this morning,” I blurt the words out before I can decide to shove them back down.

“Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t see it. Can I look at it now?”

“I sent it just when I logged in. It’s more of a list, and then…well, a sort of response, I guess to your last email. I just thought, if I sent it and you read it now, it was like my notebook, sort of. An email notebook.”

“Yes, a virtual notebook. That’s good, that’s great. Let me pull it up now.” So Bea pulls it up, and after checking that it’s okay, she starts to read.

Bea starts to talk through each list point as she reads them, but I stop her. “Just read it all first. Please. Because there’s….well, the teen.”

“Okay, I’ll to read it all the way through.”

When she looks up from reading, I hide my face. The teen has probably made a big mistake and everything is really going to fall apart now.

“I think we need to let the teen be heard and seen right now, and I’d really like to tell her something.” Bea’s voice is soft, her tone is gentle.

“I….I…okay,” I stumbled over the apology I want to say. The teen was not nice, she was blunt and angry and half shouting in what she had written.

Here is the short email exchange I had added to this morning’s virtual notebook. (trigger warning for a few blunt explicit details)

Bea: I do think the window memory was bad even though “nothing” happened. He still violated boundaries and imposed himself. That’s definitely “something.” Just being in your life at that point was “something.” Triggering without a doubt:(

The teen: UGH! You don’t get it. Just stop, okay? You don’t know anything! It was nothing. Nothing. It didn’t matter. Why don’t you get that? I keep telling you and telling you and you won’t believe me. You aren’t listening. Do you even care? Something was when I was 5. Something was when we played secret games. Something was when he wanted me to pretend it was a popsicle even though it wasn’t. Something was when I was 8. Something was when we were at the cabin. Something was on the Ferris wheel. Something was a hundred different times. Do you get it now? Because that night? That was NOTHING. I was old enough to flirt and to kiss. And that’s literally all it was. A kiss. Nothing. Not something at all. And definitely not something I get to be upset about. It was nothing. So just stop, stop all of this fake shrinky nice thing you always do. I hate it! UGH!

“It was something. I know it feels like nothing in comparison to all the many somethings you listed. I know it feels like you were the age when flirting and kissing were okay, so that makes it nothing. And maybe, it feels safer to yell and work really hard to convince me it was nothing, rather than taking a risk to see if I will hear and see and understand the hurt and pain that night did cause you.” Bea speaks slowly and carefully, but her tone is serious. She means what she is saying, and even with all the teen’s resistance, I can feel her words sinking in.

“It was nothing. It should be nothing.”

“But it wasn’t nothing. You had all the somethings from before, you know. You inherited all of the somethings from the little girl. Even if it wasn’t all conscious, even if you couldn’t label it as more than a game, it was all there. So how could you not be triggered when he violated boundaries and imposed himself on you again?” Bea is still speaking so calm and her voice is full of compassion.

I smush myself as far into the corner as I can and grab a pillow off the floor to hide my face. “It’s just stupid anyway.”

“Right…because you were being a drama queen, just over reacting, making a big deal out of things, right?” Bea says this in such a way that I know, like really know, that she is putting voice to my silent unspoken words.

“Yeah. And, everyone was flirting and kissing then, anyway. So it’s not like I was a little kid anymore.”

“No, maybe not, although I would argue there will always be a power imbalance between you and Kenny. I would also argue that if a boy your own age had been flirting with you and kissed you, you wouldn’t have had a reaction to harm yourself.”

“Maybe. I think it would still be confusing. Because…well…I just…it would have been confusing.” How do I even begin to explain the swirling mess of confusion that flirting and kissing and everything that goes with that?

“Yeah, of course. I think it would have been confusing for you. It might have even been triggering, but I don’t think it would have been as triggering as this situation with Kenny. I don’t think it would have triggered you to hurt yourself like that.” Bea starts to say something about fight parts being triggered or something about why we hurt ourselves like that, but I interrupt her.

“No, it wasn’t like that,” I look up at Bea, and even though she had started to go down a shrink sounding path, she’s just Bea. “I didn’t want to die. I just wanted everything to stop and to go away. I was just so confused and all these feelings…… I couldn’t shut my brain off. I just needed it to stop for a little while.”

“Ahhh, mmmhmmm. It was too much to hold by yourself. Of course you wanted everything to stop.”

“I just…I was so confused because of how I….” I stop, mid-sentence, feeling stupid and ashamed.

When I don’t continue, Bea asks, “Because you felt those crush type feelings in that moment in the window?”

I don’t speak. I just bury my face again and start to sob.

“Oh, Alice. Of course those feelings came back. It would be normal for you to have a crush or even several crushes at that age. How could those feelings not exist after the hope of him marrying you and the crush you had on him? How could they not come back after he kissed you in your window? It’s okay if they did.”

“I didn’t have crushes. Not then, I couldn’t.” I say the words sounding fiercely, harshly. Crushes are not allowed. It is not safe.

“No? It would be normal if you did.” Bea speaks casually, as if she is commenting on the grass being green or the sky being blue. Her voice says it is okay, that it’s not a big deal and I don’t have to be scared to have this conversation.

“It just….crushes feel icky.” I sound like a whiny version of my teen self, but I don’t care.

“I can see that. It probably didn’t feel safe, and it would be understandable if the exciting, good feelings of having a crush on someone with the not safe, icky feelings was really confusing. I can see it would be easier to just cut that part of you off.”

“I just…yes. That night, in my window, yes, okay? You win. Yes, all the feelings came up and it was just confusing and not good and I just…I needed it to stop.” I’m shouting at Bea, mad that she is right, and hating myself for how I felt.

“I know. It’s okay that those feelings came back. There’s nothing wrong or bad about you.”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I whisper.

“Okay. We can talk about it more when you feel ready,” Bea assures me.

“No…it’s not like that. I just…I don’t know how to do this.”

“You are doing it, right now.”

I roll my eyes. “You always say things like that. It can’t always be true.”

Bea chuckles at my sass. “I think it is true when I say it. I know it doesn’t always feel like you are doing a lot but you are doing hard work.”

“This feels different though.”

“How does it feel different?”

“Because…..usually it’s the words that matter….but it’s all about feelings right now.”

“Yes, the feelings and finding words for them is really important to you,” Bea agrees with me. Except she’s wrong, that is not what I meant, and she doesn’t get anything after all.

I shake my head, disappointed and hurt that she doesn’t understand. “You really don’t get it.”

“I want to. Can you tell me again? It is important to me to get it.”

“Fine. Whatever, I’ll try to explain it again.” I’m huffy and maybe a little rude, but Bea ignores that and waits for me to speak. “Always, always, the thing that matters when I’m triggered is the words. The story of what happened. That’s the part that always feels most…..important. It’s the biggest thing. But now…..this is different. It’s not….I mean, I know what memory things are sort of linked to, but it isn’t the part that I need to….feelings, thoughts, those are the things that are so big right now. It’s not even the what happened that seems to matter, it’s all these feelings.”

“Yeah, the feelings are really front and center right now, aren’t they? The story needing to be told, I wonder if that was because you needed to be heard and seen and held, and for that to happen you needed me to know the story, to know what happened. This, with the feelings, maybe that it a more vulnerable place for you, it’s another layer of the work. And when we share our feelings, that can make us feel deeply understood.”

Bea isn’t wrong about anything she says, and writing it out now, I think she is spot on. But in that moment, the teen was really running the ship. “Of course you would think sharing feelings is the way to feel understood!”

“That is a little shrinky like, isn’t it? But it’s also true.” Bea doesn’t miss a beat, and she doesn’t get defensive. She is so good with this confused, sassy, sometimes raging teen part of me.

“Ugh. Fine.” I don’t want her to be right. I don’t know how to do feelings. “But I don’t know how to do therapy like this. This isn’t how I do therapy. I write, I find the words. I don’t….ugh. I am not good at feelings.”

“We can figure it out together.”

“Shouldn’t you already know how to do this?” I retort.

Bea laughs again, but in a nice way. Somehow she always enjoys the teen, instead of hating her. “Well, I suppose I do already know how to work with my feelings, or how to start the process. But I know what works for me. We can figure out together what works for you.”

“But I don’t know what to do!” I protest.

“Well, you like words, right? Maybe we can try to find the words for the feelings.”

“I suck at putting words to my feelings. That’s why you made me use the kimochis for so long.”

“Awwwwww, the kimochis! I love the kimochis,” Bea says happily. “And you have gotten so good at knowing what words to use to describe your feelings. Maybe in this case, though, words just don’t seem enough to convey the feeling?”

Slowly, I nod my head and look at Bea again. “Words aren’t working. And I don’t know what to do with that.”

“Well, maybe we could do some art therapy if you felt up to it.”

“I have lots of art stuff. Would this be one of those times you would have just got out paint and paper and stuff if we were in your office?” I ask.

“Probably.” Bea smiles at me. “Would you want to get paper and paint out next time and see if that might work?”

I shrug. “I never painted when you did that.” What I don’t say is that I wanted to, I just wasn’t brave enough to try and I wasn’t sure where to even start.

“Well, maybe it wasn’t the right time then.”

“Okay. I’ll get paints out next week.” I whisper it, afraid to agree because what if I fail? What if I can’t do it? What if it doesn’t work?

“Good! It’s a plan then. We’ll try some art therapy next week.”

“What if I don’t know where to start? I’d like a map or instruction book or something. I’d even take one of those hard to make sense of ikea type instruction manuals,” I say it all jokingly, but I am also really serious.

“Well, maybe start with thinking about what colors seem right for all the feelings,” Bea suggests.

“Maybe. But if I don’t….”

“Then that’s okay, too.”

We wrap things up pretty quickly after that, and for the rest of the day, I am surprised at how many things make me think “That’s how I feel”.

When I am out running errands, I see a small weeping willow tree with no leaves standing alone in a pile of snow and ice that hasn’t melted yet. The sky is grey and dark, no sun shining through at all. That’s how I feel, like that tree.

Listening to an old playlist while I clean, Fiona Apple’s Sullen Girl resonates with me.

Looking out my back window when I let the dog outside, the crumpled muddy, dead brown leaves strike me as how I feel— dead and forgotten and no longer worth anything.

When I try to think of a color to paint for how I feel, I picture a watermelon pink covered with black, trying to hide.

Maybe I can do this. Maybe there is a way to express feelings when words just don’t seem to be enough.

I think I just might punch him

I don’t know if this was ever published or not. I thought it was, but now it’s in my unpublished posts, so I’m going to re-publish it I guess. 🤦🏼‍♀️ I wrote this on October 22.

It’s Wednesday. When Bea logs into therapy, I feel suddenly shy. Bea says a cheerful hello and I look down at my toes and mumble hi.

I think we talk about the weather and Halloween and kids and technology and other random things as I jump from topic to topic. It helps, though, because I start to feel less in the far away and more here. I’m not exactly here, but I am here more than I had been.

Bea seems to know that I am more here and so she says, “I know there is other stuff for us to talk about today, and I think it’s important that we try to work on it for a little while if you feel up to it.”

My hands fly up to hide my face, but I manage to set them in my lap again. “I think….well, I think I know and you know there is bigger stuff but I’m sort of avoiding it or tip toeing around it a little bit.”

“I think that’s okay to do for a little while. In fact, I think it helps you to talk and start to feel a little more settled before we dive in.” Bea is right of course. This has been true since the beginning of my therapy, which is how I originally had 90 minute sessions. I hate that covid and teletherapy have shortened my sessions to an hour. Why did I agree to that at the beginning of all this? Oh, right, because I thought it would be maybe three weeks in total and I hated therapy on a screen. I never imagined it would be months, and probably at least a full year before we would be back in person. I also assumed that once back in person (after a couple weeks, once covid was over) therapy appointment times would go back to normal. But that didn’t happen, and now my time is shortened and I feel a little bit like I agreed to something without really knowing the full ramifications, without questioning what shortening time would mean exactly. But the last time I brought it up, Bea just said that on days when she could give me a longer session time, she would. She never answered my question asking if I could ever have my old time back. Ugh. This is all so frustrating. Today, though, she has more time to give, and so I get to do my talking about nothing thing before diving in.

“It feels a little more like you are here when we talk for a little bit of time,” I whisper.

“Yeah, of course it does. I think you need to time to see what I feel like to you, if I am still me, still how you expect me to be,” Bea agrees.

“Yeah.” I nod my head.

“I was so glad you shared the journal page with me. That really helped things click into place for me.” Bea slowly starts to shift our focus.

My head goes fuzzy again. I cover my face with my hands and this time I don’t move them away.

“This feels so hard, doesn’t it? I know you have been feeling really bad, so bad there aren’t a lot of words. But I am glad you found some words. I’m glad this part we are getting to know could share. She feels really scared and frozen and so sad, and no wonder! This memory of it’s over but not really over, it was terrible.” Bea pushes a little.

I blink back tears. “I’m being so dumb. I know we talked about this already. I shouldn’t need to talk again and again. I’m sorry.”

“No, no sorrys. We did talk about it just a little. But we talked more factual this is what happened, not so much the feelings, the intensity of how bad this really felt. You had hope, you felt free and then all of it was just yanked away. How could this not feel bad?”

“I don’t know. I just…..I can’t get unstuck. I can’t make it stop.” I sigh. I feel broken, damaged.

“I could be wrong, but does this feel like the biggest feelings you’ve really had connected to a memory?”

“I don’t know. It’s the worst I’ve felt in my whole life. I wanted to die.” Tears stream down my face uncontrollably as I finally admit to Bea that I’ve never felt worse. I hide under my blanket. I don’t like to cry in front of anyone.

“Yeah, it was really painful. It was too much, too much for you then, and you had to go away. This part, she had a really yucky job, to hold all these feelings and keep them really far away from the rest of you. She held all this really bad stuff all by herself for a really long time, but she doesn’t have to now.”

“I just really, really want everything to stop.” I cry.

“I know. She really wanted everything to stop then. She did survive, though, and it did stop. It stopped.” Bea says softly.

“It’s not stopped. Nothing can stop him. Nothing can make it better.” I don’t think Bea knows what she is talking about. Nothing feels over or stopped right now.

“It feels like that now, and it might have been true then, but it did stop. She’s safe now.” Bea tells me again.

“You don’t know!” I argue. I feel like Bea isn’t getting it, she doesn’t understand.

“I do know. I know because I am on the outside and I can see the big picture. On the inside, it feels like time stopped, and you are trapped in this really bad place, this hopeless place. But I’m on the outside, and I see how time kept moving. I know the grown up who survived because of the parts. I know the little girl, and all the parts of the teen, and Ms. Perfect and even the one the others don’t like. I know that this new part, she is not alone now, and she is safe now.” Bea speaks firmly, but it’s still caring and gentle and so very much Bea.

“But I am alone.” I whisper-whine.

“She was so alone, and it was really awful. But she doesn’t have to be alone, or scared or frozen anymore. Really bad things did happen, but they are over now. She survived.” Bea tells me again.

“No. It’s never over. It won’t ever be over.” Why can’t I stop crying? At this rate, I’m going to cry myself a lake of feelings to drown in.

“It sure feels like that, doesn’t it? But the truth it that it ended and she is safe now, and she doesn’t have to be alone now. Everything is okay in present day reality. No one can hurt her in the present. And I think if we can help her see that, if we can get this part to rest, then you will start to feel a lot less alone and frozen in your current life.”

“Do you want me to go away?” I ask tearfully. The little bit of grown up Alice that has been working so hard to maintain any bit of control is no longer able to do so.

“No, gosh no!” Bea says quickly, “I don’t want you to go away, not at all. I would like to help you feel not so alone though. I know it feels really bad to feel so alone.”

“You can’t help. No one can help.”

“No one did help you then, but people can help now.”

I shake my head. “No.”

“It really doesn’t feel like anyone can help, does it?”

“No one can stop him. He always gets what he wants. No one can so anything at all.”

“No one stopped him then, but there is a grown up now who is very capable and won’t let anything bad happen again. He won’t ever hurt you again.” Bea informs me.

“Even grown ups can’t stop him.” Does’t she see? No one is able to beat him.

“No grown ups protected you, did they? But you know what? If I were there, I would stop him.” Bea says seriously.

“You can’t! He’s too big and you would get hurt.”

“He feels all powerful, doesn’t he? But he’s not bigger than me.”

“How could you stop him?” This part doesn’t really believe Bea can stop him.

“I could call the police. Maybe I would punch him. I’m very angry for how he hurt you, how he hurt all the parts. Yes, I think I just might punch him.” Bea doesn’t sound scared of him at all.

“Because you are bigger?” I question.

“Yes, and stronger.”

“And the police would really come and stop him?”

“Yes, the police would make him stop forever.” Bea assures this scared, hopeless, frozen part that wants to disappear.

“Forever, forever? Like the real forever?” It’s definitely the hopeless part running things at this point in my session.

“Yes, forever,” she says.

“Can I ask you something?” I whisper it, shyly.

“Of course.” Bea answers this like it’s no big deal.

“If you really were there would you wait for the police to come and stop him or would you leave?”

“I would do neither. I would stop him right away, and then I would call the police. And I wouldn’t leave you alone. I would make sure you were okay.”

“I like that answer.” I’m feeling much less alone at the moment. “What if I wasn’t okay?”

“Then I would sit with you, just like I am doing now.” It’s such a simple response and it’s said like that is a given, because what else would Bea do, besides sit with me and be there?

“What if I cried? Would you be mad or go away?”

“I wouldn’t be mad or go away.”

“And if the police came?” I’m waiting for her to say that then she would leave becase the police would take care of me.

“They would make him stop for good. He wouldn’t be allowed near you again.”

“But he lives next door.” My voice is scared. In my mind, there is never any getting away from him.

“Well, they would talk to the parents, too, yours and his. And the parents would have to keep him away from you.”

“But they would not believe me. I’m a drama queen and I tell stories and I make things up to get attention. That is what she would say.” I’m crying harder now, because I know my mom would not believe me, and that hurts just as much as this despairing feeling.

“I think the police might convince her. And if they didn’t, remember, I would be there, too, and I would tell your mom that you are not being a drama queen, and you are telling the truth.” Bea’s voice is strong, and firm, and I believe her, she would have tried to make my mom listen.

“Maybe she wouldn’t believe you. Maybe he would just be back to babysit me and be very mad with me.” I tell her.

“That’s a big worry, but do you know what? There is a law in our country and it says parents have to protect kids. And if parents know someone is hurting their kid, and the parents don’t keep their kid safe after that, they can get in big, big trouble.”

“What if they broke the law anyways because they really just thought I was lying?”

“Then you would tell me, and I would believe you. I would make sure you were safe,” Bea promises. Then she adds, “And you know who else I would call?”

“Who?”

“Your Grandma and Grandpa. And I bet they would help me keep you safe.” She’s right. If they had known in real life, they would have protected me.

“Maybe I could stay at their house for more than one night.” I feel some hope creep in, and that’s scary because I know how easily hope can be crushed.

“I bet you could!” Bea says, excitedly. “And that would feel so good to be really far away from him.”

“Maybe I could stay with them for a lot of nights.” I suggest.

“That would feel really safe, wouldn’t it?” Bea asks me.

“Yeah. But maybe….is it mean to want to be there and not with my Mom and Dad?” I feel guilty that I want to be with my Grandma and Grandpa and not my parents.

“No, I don’t think so. I think it makes sense, right? You weren’t safe at home, you weren’t protected by your parents. You always felt safe at your grandparents, and they would protect you, and you would be far away from Kenny. I think it would take some time to really trust that your mom and dad would protect you.”

“Maybe….yeah, I think so,” I agree. We sit quiet for a minute. I feel calmer than I have in weeks, and the grown up me is finally able to get somewhat back online. “This is a little ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean, I know we can’t go back and you can’t really be there.”

“No, I can’t really be there, but it’s not ridiculous. When parts are so stuck in the past, they don’t know the difference between then and now. And for our brains, imagining a different outcome, just doing that can start to rewire things a little, change how we feel about a situation. If it helps that part to think of me being there and stopping him, then I am all for that. She deserves to feel protected, and she shouldn’t have to suffer alone anymore. She’s held the worst feelings all by herself, but she doesn’t have to anymore.” Bea sounds like Bea, she feels like Bea to me again. I breathe a sigh of relief as she talks.

“I did a….sort of silly thing, I guess. Yesterday, I was trying so hard to find words and I just couldn’t, because even saying that I felt really HUGE sad didn’t seem like enough, so I googled….well, I googled feeling words.” My face is a little red now but I’m still hiding under my blanket, so Bea can’t see my embarrassment.

“That was a good idea. Did you find any words that fit?”

“I made a list….I just, well, if I didn’t know what a word meant I looked it up in the dictionary and then I wrote it on a list if it seemed right. So I made this long list, but it feels sort of…..dramatic.”

“What kind of words did you find?” Bea asks.

“Do you want me to send it to you?” I don’t know if I am hoping she says yes or if I am hoping she says no.

“Yes, I would like that very much.”

I get my phone, and copy the list into email. I send it to her.

Melancholy Despondent Angst Anguish Worthless Despair Trapped Pain Anxiety Feels like heart will burst from sadness Anguish Confused Vulnerable Ashamed Hurt Scared Sorrow Loss of hope Despondent Inconsolable Distraught Paralyzed Disillusioned Betrayed Isolated Desperate Crushed Terrified Shocked Hopeless

It’s not long before Bea’s phone dings with an email, and she reads it. “Are these words in any order, or just written out? Like is the first word the most intense?”

“No, no order, just written down. I’m worried that you will think it’s over the top, drama queen,” I whisper.

“I don’t think that at all. I think this is a really terrible way to feel. Is this feeling like a soup of all these words, all at the same time?”

I nod my head, but then remember she might not be able to see on a screen like she can in person, and I say, “Yes.”

“Well, between this word soup and the journal page and talking to the new part today, I feel like I can really imagine just how awful it was for her. She was so little, and to feel like this, of course she just wanted everything to stop.” I love how Bea points out to me how *normal* my feelings are.

“So you don’t think I’m being a drama queen?” I double check.

“Nope. That isn’t something I have ever thought about you. I think of drama queen more as an action.”

“What…..what do you mean? Like…like crying or saying you are feel really bad?” I stammer out the question, feeling uncertain or confused.

“No, feeling how you feel, sharing that, crying, those feelings are not being a drama queen. That was your mom, it was her stuff that made her feel like that because she couldn’t handle big feelings, maybe any feelings,” Bea reassures me.

“So….then what is being a drama queen? I think I don’t really know…..I think…maybe it’s like I worry, I tell you I am worried you will think that because mom might think it and then she would go away but I think I ask you, I tell you I am worried because I really just don’t know what a drama queen is and I don’t want to be that way and make you leave,” I admit.

“Well, I think it is action….maybe action that is a little bigger than the feelings or situation call for. But also, it isn’t negative, or it doesn’t have to be. Yes, your mom called you a drama queen and it really hurt because it was a way to put her inability to handle feelings on you. That blamed you for having too big of feelings, for feeling anything at all. It made you too much, and it made it your fault that she couldn’t handle it. But I would absolutely call my daughter a drama queen, and it is not a bad thing.” Bea laughs, a soft quiet laugh that is nice. “Did I tell you about the hornet’s nest when she was here this summer?”

“No…”

“Well, my daughter and her boyfriend and my son and his girlfriend went out walking in the woods, and they ran into a hornet’s nest. Now, when this happened, everyone got stung, but my daughter was running through the woods, tearing off her shirt and screaming. Her boyfriend carried her home, and then she spent the day on the couch, with the rest of us bring her ice packs and Tylenol and whatever else she thought would fix it. I’m not saying it didn’t her, but her reaction was just a lot bigger than maybe one would expect. But you know, that’s just her. Or, here, there was one day where both my kids fell and hurt their legs. My son, he just went back to his dorm and rested with ice and pain reliever. My daughter, she called an ambulance, and went to the hospital. Her injury was just a cut, a scrape really that didn’t even need stitches. But my son? When he finally went to the hospital, his leg was broken in two places! That’s just my daughter, though, it’s part of who she is, and it’s not a bad part at all.”

The whole time Bea is talking, my head is spinning. This feels like a new concept, and is very different from how I think of being a drama queen. The crazy thing is Bea doesn’t sound judgmental, or like she thinks this is a very bad thing about her daughter. She sounds like she loves her daughter even with the drama queen stuff. She sounds happy telling this story. And, this idea of a drama queen is not me. I know that. “So, having feelings is not being a drama queen?” It’s part question, part statement.

“Having feelings, even really big feelings is not being a drama queen. Having feelings is part of being human. You just really didn’t get that modeled for you.”

“My grandpa wasn’t afraid of big feelings,” I proclaim.

“I bet he wasn’t.”

“Not even mad scared him. One time, I was real mad, I don’t know why but I was super angry and you know what he did?” The grown up Alice is mostly gone again, with Little girl running things.

“What?” I can hear happy curiosity in Bea’s voice.

“He got the whole entire bucket of his dog Candy’s toys and took them outside and we threw them at the tree as hard as we could and it was okay to be mad.” I smile as I remember this moment. It’s like so many other little moments I had with my Grandparents.

“That was really smart of him,” Bea chuckles.

“It is pretty goofy though, isn’t it?”

“Oh, I don’t think so! It’s what I would have done. In fact, I have a bucket of toys for kids to throw at the wall when they feel that big mad.”

I smile because I like that Bea does this, too. “I don’t know what I was so mad about.”

“That’s not the part that mattered, I don’t think. What mattered was Grandpa being okay with your mad feelings.”

Out of the blue, the intolerable feelings of being alone and hurt and hopeless hit me. “Bea?” I ask, and my voice breaks as I say her name.

“I’m here.” Her voice is reassuring, my calm in this cyclone of feelings.

“Would you really stay with me and stop him forever?” I ask doubtfully.

“Yes, I absolutely would! If I could go back and be there, I would scoop you up and get you far away from him, and not just far away in your head, but the real kind of far away, and he would never hurt you again. I would make sure of that.” She’s so certain, so positive, that I start to feel like I could believe her.

“And you are not leaving?”

“I am not leaving. I will not leave you. when if we aren’t here, together, like right now, I am still here. You aren’t alone.”

I feel like crying. It’s way past time to say goodbye, but I really don’t want to. Saying goodbye feels like all the safety and protection I have been feeling will just evaporate. I can’t hold onto Bea if she isn’t talking to me or writing with me. I don’t want her to disappear.

“Alice, I am here, even when it doesn’t feel like it. You can reach out and double check if you need to. Can you hold onto that?”

“I can try. Just don’t leave forever, okay?”

“I’m not leaving at all. I can hold you and all the parts in my mind, even after we hang up.”

“Okay.” The word comes out a whimper. I feel like Bea ending the session is breaking my heart. Why do I feel like this? What is wrong with me? I hate being this needy, feeling so alone and desperate for Bea to be there. The shame of needing, the vulnerability of it all sends me far away again.

The end of session is fuzzy. My head feels slow, foggy, filled with sand. When things get less fuzzy again, we talk about grown up things, grocery shopping and boring normal everyday stuff like that. I tell Bea the things I forgot to get at the store yesterday, and how I had a panic attack in the middle of the cereal isle and was afraid to move for what felt like a long time, so I had to just pay for what I had and go home. Bea tells me it’s okay, I can go back to the store today if I need to, it is no big deal. We make a plan for the panic. When we say good-bye, I feel sad but not like I’m dying.

Bea is back and really here (I think)

Every time I sit down and try to write lately, I get stuck. I can’t find the words, or I get overwhelmed with feelings and it’s just all too much. This may not be my most well thought out or eloquent post, but I wanted to write an update before I disappeared all over again.

Bea is back, and she is really Bea. I think. I’m pretty sure. She still feels far away, not here, like something is off, but I think it isn’t her that’s far away. It’s me. I think this is where teletherapy is hard because I’m far away and floaty feeling, and I can’t feel her presence the same way I can when we are in the same room. I’ve only seen her once since she has been back, so maybe today will better.

I’ve been struggling ever since that situation with Kat and the boy. Maybe it’s a combination of Kat being in 4th grade (when so many of my worst memories happened) or the situation with the boy, or something else all together. I don’t know. But I feel like I’ve been on the trigger carousel. Things feel even more difficult when Bea is on vacation.

Last week, on Wednesday morning, I emailed her a journal I kept on my iPad/iPhone while she was gone. I don’t really like journaling on my iPad. I find it easier to write by hand in a notebook, but I really miss being able to just hand Bea my words at the start of a session and have her read them right then. It makes talking so much easier to not have to say everything. It worked out okay, and was a lot more helpful than me sitting in silence unable to share my words.

I wrote out some pieces of the memory nightmare that has been coming up. I separated the awful shameful memory with lots of ❌🛑🚫 (red x’s and stop sign emojis), and told Bea in my writing not to read that part unless I said to. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted her to know that much detail. Somewhere in my mind, it feels like if Bea knows these things, she will somehow be contaminated. The little girl told Bea she didn’t want to get the icky on Bea, or to have the icky swallow Bea up the way it has swallowed me up. Bea assured me that it would be okay, but I wasn’t so sure. And then I did the thing I’ve never done in therapy with her before. I think the term is “door knob confession”. I told her to read it when there was only about 3 minutes left in session, and then at 10am, I told Bea it was time to go. Bea tried to tell me we could take 5 minutes so she could help me ground, but all I could say was that I had to go, it was time to go. She let me go after I promised her I would email her to check in later that day.

The thing is, this isn’t a new memory. It’s not even new to Bea. The last time it came up was years ago, and all she got out of me was a few vague sentences in email after she had asked a question and I answered yes. But that time, I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t strong enough. I insulated myself in a nice thick bubble. Bea called it a crust of perfection. I binged and purged and starved and cut and kept up this insane schedule of being the perfect housewife and mom. Eventually the bubble popped, as it always does, but we never brought up the memory again. I buried it, surrounded by a pit of flaming hot lava and Bea left it alone when I made it clear that memory, that time of my life was a no go zone. But now it’s surfaced, and I can’t seem to throw it back into that pit of boiling lava.

There’s so much shame, fear, and confusion attached to this memory. Then there’s the parts and all the feelings belonging to them. The little girl is afraid, terrified really, and just waiting for Bea to drown in the icky and have to run away from me to protect herself. The teen is so full of shame and fear of what Bea will think, that it’s almost all I can feel. Both of them expected Bea fo be angry, disgusted, to feel lied to, and to ultimately be so mad she would fire me as a client on the spot. That didn’t happen, though. Even when the teen directly told her in email that Bea was supposed to be mad and disgusted and get rid of me, Bea countered that with understanding those expectations, but said that she thought her feelings were a normal reaction to the situation.

She wrote to me: My feelings are a “normal” reaction, I think, to hearing about you having been in this situation. All of the feelings you had were so confusing to you, and that is so sad. None of this was okay. He seems like such a monster in this memory. I feel helpless and angry at him and wish he had been stopped. A part of me wants justice for you—any adult would want that. I’m not mad or disgusted or going anywhere.

I’m trying really hard to believe that she is here and not disgusted or angry.

Leapfrogging through my mind

Thursday, 4am, and I’m frantically emailing Bea. The shame is overwhelming and everything hurts. I email her the nightmare, how it’s like a movie reel, playing snap shots of everything I did. I’m jumpy and far away, and it’s not a good combination. And I’m crying again. I feel bruised and sore, like I’m little and he really did hurt me last night. But I’m not little, and the pain is all in my head. Maybe I am going crazy.

Bea responds early in the morning, and we email back and forth a bit. She offers me a 3:30 appointment time that afternoon. I shouldn’t take it, I shouldn’t be so needy, I’ve already taken a lot of her time. I shouldn’t bother her. If I need too much, she will leave. I say okay anyway.

This time when I log into therapy, I don’t sit at the makeshift desk with the bright ring light in the guest room hubby set up for all our video conferencing needs. I sit on the floor, with my fuzzy blanket and a huge squishy stuffed Stitch. Bea logs in right away and I immediately burst into tears.

“Oh, this is so very painful today, isn’t it?” She says softly.

“I can’t, I just can’t,” I whisper.

“It’s hard to talk, isn’t it?” She says.

It’s so hard to find words. I feel buried under the fear and disgust and anger and anxiety. “I’m sorry,” I tell her.

“For what? You haven’t done anything to be sorry about.”

“Because I’m wasting your time and I can’t pull it together and I just keep crying.”

Bea sits with that for a minute before saying, “It sounds like maybe there is a part of you that has some expectations of how you are supposed to be handling this.”

I shake my head. “Not me. But maybe….other people.”

“People like me or hubby?” She gets it.

“Maybe.”

“Well, I don’t have any expectations of you. I really don’t. This is a lot and it is hard. Its just going to take some time.”

“What if I’m still a mess on Monday? Or the Monday after that? Or after that?” I can’t even look at her when I ask that.

“There’s no timeline, not for me. It takes as long as it takes. And hubby gets it. You know he does, and that he will always keep everyone safe. It’s okay. Right now, I know it’s hard. You spent a good long while feelings safe, and the parts were pretty content. This boy, he acted like a predator, and that was very scary for all the parts. Things are really stirred up right now, and that’s okay. We just work through this, one step at a time. And I am here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Why couldn’t she just not pretend it away?” I finally ask.

Bea manages to somehow follow my train of thought. “I don’t know. She just wasn’t strong enough to be able to face it.”

“I know. I know, I know how hard it was to do that, to face it. I know. But I did it anyway. And it hurts. It hurts and I hate it. I feel like a broken mess but I still did it anyway. I did it for Kat. Why couldn’t she do it for me?”

Bea lets me rage until I burn myself out, and when I am quiet, she speaks. “I wish I had a perfect answer. I just don’t think there is one. You were enough. She just wasn’t strong enough.”

“Yesterday I hated her, I was so mad. But then I remembered I can’t be mad, because she’s here and not dead when she should be dead, and even if we have time, it’s still borrowed time, and I can’t waste it on hating her.”

“Yeah. That’s tough, isn’t it? You can be mad, you are allowed to be mad. I understand though, not wanting to be mad.” Bea is always giving me permission to be mad. Why is mad so hard to allow myself to feel?

“She’s not the same now,” I say.

“No, this mom you have now, in the present, she’s not the same.” Bea agrees.

“I’m mad at someone who doesn’t exist anymore.” I feel hollow.

“You can still be mad. But now, the mom that she was isn’t the mom she is now.”

“I just always got in trouble. Every time, I got in trouble.” I say.

“Yes, every time there was a red flag, you did get in trouble.” How is Bea able to follow my weird conversation jumps today?

“She yelled at me.”

“I know.”

The rest of our hour goes by in this vein, with me making seemingly random statements as I leapfrog around my brain and Bea somehow following the thread of crazy.

When it’s time to go, I panic. “Don’t go. Don’t leave me.” Oh boy. I must be far away if I said that out loud.

“I’m not leaving you. I’m still here, always. I just have to get off the video chat in a few minutes. You can email, and you can text me. If you need it, we can set up another time to talk. And we’ll see each other on Monday. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Just sit with me for a minute, okay?” I ask.

“Okay. We’ll sit together for a minute,” she agrees.

When the minute is up, we say goodbye.

Later that night, Bea texts me. *I’m still here. I’m holding the little girl, and the teen and all the parts of Alice in my heart. I’m not going anywhere.* It’s the most perfect thing she could have said.

Back down the rabbit hole

I’ve fallen back down the rabbit hole. I’m so tired. Beyond tired, really. I forgot how exhausting it is to not sleep and be plagued with nightmares and to spend days in a weird here not here fog and to be oddly jumpy and unable to settle even while being in the fog. I forgot how stupid, stupid things, not even big things, can trigger all kinds of images, thoughts, feelings, that I don’t want to have. Intrusive thoughts, I think is what Bea labeled them. And I forgot how painful this is. How hard it is to even look at anyone and try to explain how I am struggling, and how shame just overwhelms and takes over everything. I forgot the huge fears of being not good enough and the very real fear that if I’m as bad as I feel like I am, I will be abandoned. I forgot the fear of Bea being disgusted by me, of her hating me or being mad at me and deciding not to speak to me anymore. I forgot what it feels like to feel so much like a little girl, more little girl than adult, with just enough grown up there to know how I feel, or am acting, or am thinking isn’t “normal or okay for a grownup”. I forgot the middle of the night wake ups, and the middle of the day freak outs. I forgot being so frozen I cant find words and I forgot what it was like to need to desperately hide because you cant bear the thought of being seen (except you also want nothing more than to be seen and heard. How much sense does that even make?), but even more so, you cant bear seeing the look on another’s face when they realize the truth about you. I forgot what it was like to be consumed by the borderline teen’s anger, and be so mad at Bea over nothing. I forgot what it was like to be snarky and impulsive and sometimes mean, but more than that, I forgot what it was like to feel all the hurt and fear of being rejected and I forgot the feeling of needing to hide any and all vulnerabilities at any cost. I forgot reenacting things with my husband and I forgot being afraid of words. I forgot how hard it is to ignore the voice that promises things will feel better if I just cut, or hurt myself in someway. I forgot the overwhelming need to throw up. I forgot about suicide ideation(no, I’m not planning anything, I don’t want to die. But the teen really does find some crazy weird creepy relief in thinking that she could make everything go away forever). I forgot how hard it is to live like this.

When things don’t match

“It doesn’t match!” It’s Monday, and I’m back in Bea’s office, sitting in my spot on the couch. We spent some time talking about my *grown-up* life, and although we could have spent all of our time chatting like that, Bea has directed us to things under the surface. She asked about our last session and if I’d been able to do any writing about things not matching.

“Something really isn’t matching up for you,” she says, “Can you tell me what doesn’t match?”

Last week, I really didn’t have the words for what didn’t match. It was just a feeling, a very strong feeling, that nothing matches. Now, I have the words, but I’m too embarrassed to say them. “I don’t know,” I say, instead. After a moment, I shake my head. “That’s not right. I do know. I just can’t say it.”

“Did you write about it?” She asks.

“No. Not really. I just…it’s hard. This is hard.” I haven’t covered my face yet, but I want to.

“It is hard. We can take our time with this. There’s no rush.” Her words remind me that she is here, and she isn’t leaving. I remember that she has said that she would never willing stop seeing me, that she will never fire me.

“Maybe…..can I have my blanket?” I cringe as I whisper this request, still so embarrassed that I behave like such a child at times.

Bea, however, doesn’t bat an eyelash. She gets up and grabs my turquoise blanket, unfolding it and laying it over my lap. My fingers grab onto the edges and hold on tightly. After a moment, I yank the blanket over my head and hide. It’s a relief, to not be seen, to be hidden like this. It’s also mortifying that I need this in order to feel even remotely safe enough to talk. (Now, as I’m writing this, the grown up thinks this is progress. I used to only talk in the safety of email. That first year, more therapy took place outside of my sessions than during them. This must be progress. I actually speak now, and I will share memories and painful feelings in my sessions.)

“I ummm….I….” I try to talk, I really do, but I can’t get the words out. They stick to the roof of my mouth like peanut butter.

“We were talking before about things not matching.” The prompt is gentle, a reference point to help me find what I was trying to say.

“My memories…….since things, since the filter is gone, it’s like…….I don’t know. My memories and things, they don’t match.” I’m aware that what I’m saying might not make a lot of sense, I’ve left so much out. It’s the best I can do at the moment.

“Can you tell me about the things that don’t match with your memories?”

I can feel myself going farther and farther away, but I can’t stop it. It’s like my head has been filled with helium and I’ve got this lovely floaty feeling. “It’s like, now the little girl doesn’t have to hide anymore from the reality of what happened because the filter is gone and so she has been able to stop tricking herself and the grown up can see so clearly that the little girl didn’t do anything wrong. But then, there’s……I’ve been having dreams and I just….well. I don’t know, I guess it’s that these memories the little girl holds, the scary things and the wanting to hide so nothing bad would happen, those things don’t match with these other memories. It’s………….you know. They don’t match with things I did, with things I felt.” My face feels like I have a sunburn.

“The little girl is right; she did not do anything wrong, and she is not bad. I wonder if this is a parts thing?” Bea is quick to reassure that the little girl is not bad.

“Maybe. Right now I’d really like to disappear.”

“That sounds like shame. Could this be a part we haven’t met yet?”

I think for what feels like a second but is probably much longer. Bea eventually asks if I’m here, so I know it must have been a long pause. “I……it’s sort of like maybe this part was mixed up with the little girl but now……it’s separate.”

“Mmmhmmm. That makes sense. This shame part is feeling a lot of blame and guilt.”

“I……well, yeah.”

“Can we talk about that?” She asks this carefully, speaking softly.

“I–I–I don’t know. I’m scared.”

“Let’s start there, then. You’re scared to talk about shame. I get that. Shame feels really awful. It can feel way too exposing to discuss our shame.”

“I’m afraid if we talk about this, then you will see the truth.”

“And what truth is that?”

“That I did this. That I wanted this. That I’ve somehow tricked you by leaving things out, or by twisting things, I don’t know! But you’ll finally realize that I am awful and then….never mind.” I stop myself before I can finish the sentence.

“And then I will leave?” It doesn’t matter that I cut off my words, Bea finishes them for me.

“Yeah. That.” I whisper this, wanting to throw up as I speak.

“That won’t happen.” Her voice is confident, sure.

“You can’t know that,” I argue.

“I know most of the details of your story. I know the things you think you did, and I can say that as someone on the outside, I will never view any of this as your fault.”

“You don’t know. You don’t know what’s in my head.”

“No, I don’t know what is in your head, but I do know that this is not your fault.” She pauses for a moment and then says, “I promise you that no matter what it is that is in your head, I’m not leaving.”

Her voice sounds so serious, and I believe she means it, so I blurt out the thing in my head. “It’s the things I felt. You know. Felt like…….physical felt. It’s the things I wanted to do.” Even under the blanket, even being so far away, I still wish the floor would open up and swallow me whole.

“Ahhh…….mmmhmm,” she murmurs, with this tone that says it makes sense to her, and is not surprising. I’m far, far away now, because to be present and tell those things is impossible. I think she reminds me that we have talked about this before, and it’s okay to talk about. She says something about how our bodies are made to respond, and that is normal. Her words are a blur in my brain; I was too far away to hold onto her words. She uses the word intensity, and talks about how all of the feelings I had then would have been very intense, and that is where the trauma comes in. She says that I was too young for all those intense feelings, hence the dissociation. There was something about the excitement, and maybe feeling like you were getting away something. She said there is a feeling of power and control in being the one to start something. I think there was something said ……….about maybe there was an initiator part, or perhaps the initiator and shame are the same part. I know there was more said, more explained and more empathized with and validated, but I can’t recall her words more than that.

At some point I sense silence, and I tell Bea, “I’m not here. I mean, I’m here, but I’m not here. I can’t, I just. I am not here.”

“I know,” she says simply, and then, “That was really good to notice that you are out of your window.”

“Your window,” I remind her. Even though I’m okay with the idea of the window of tolerance now, and actually find it helpful to use the terminology, I still always correct Bea that it is her window, not my window. It’s an inside joke between us.

“Okay, my window. Let’s see if we can get you back in the window.” I can hear the smile in her tone.

“I don’t want to,” I tell her.

“Okay.” That’s all she says. Way back when she first started with the window of tolerance stuff, I had felt extremely threatened, and been terrified Bea was going to force me to be present or not allow me to talk about my traumas unless I was in her window. She had made me two promises back then: she would never force me to be present, and that she would always let me talk. Bea has kept those promises.

I sit under my blanket, holding onto the edges, feeling floaty and not happy exactly but okay. I feel like if I just stay here, in this far away place, I will be okay.

“Can we check in on the little girl? You don’t have to come back right now, I just want to make sure she is okay.”

“She’s worried. She thinks if we let this new part talk, you will decide she lied and that she is disgusting and you will not want to help her.” There is also a lot of fear that Bea will stop caring about her, but I can’t add that. It’s complicated, but it comes down to the fact that I don’t feel as if I deserve to even assume another person cares about me. I’m not allowed to matter.

Bea starts to ask if the grown up can reassure the little girl, but she stops herself. “I want to tell the little girl that she is safe now. She survived something horrific, and I know it often feels like you are still living that. It is over now, and you are safe now. You aren’t alone now. If we listen to this other part, that does not mean you will be forgotten about, or that your story won’t be believed. I believe you, and I do not find you gross. You can talk whenever you want to, and I’ll check in with you, too. I know this is hard, but I think it is important to let this other part speak. I believe that working through the shame this other part feels will help you and all the other parts. Even though I want to listen to another part, that doesn’t mean you don’t matter to me. I care about you, and all the other parts. That doesn’t just go away. Okay?”

“Okay,” I whisper. I’m more here than I was before, although I’m still far enough away to not avoid feeling all the vulnerability that comes with being told someone who really knows me cares about me.

I somehow manage to get enough here that I can safely leave. As I’m heading down the stairs, Bea says one more thing to the little girl. “You can write to me or draw me a picture if you have more to say, and can’t hold it. The grown up can help send an email. Any of the parts, if they have more to say, or just need to feel some connection, to know I’m here and can help hold this stuff, they can email. Okay?”

“Okay.” I leave, knowing I probably won’t send an email, but thankful that she is there and willing to help all the parts.

I lost my door

Wednesday morning, and Bea and I are talking about school, and how at most schools, it’s the teacher that makes all the difference. We are just chatting, casually, discussing Kat and possible options for school this year.

“I never really had a bad teacher in elementary school,” I say to Bea. “My second grade teacher maybe didn’t teach things the best, but she retired the year after I finished second grade, so she was just sort of done, I think. And my fourth grade teacher didn’t believe me about how much I’d read for reading month, so I didn’t win first place. She thought I had lied, but I didn’t. My dad talked to the teacher and she apologized to me in front of the class and I won first place” 

“Were you upset that she didn’t believe you? Did she call your parents or did you tell them?” Bea asks. 

“Hmmmm…..I don’t remember feeling bad or angry or shamed when she didn’t believe me. I just remember my dad sticking up for me and my teacher apologizing.” I look down at the ground. Stupid spotty memory. 

“So, you remember the good parts. You remember your Dad sticking up for you and your teacher apologizing. That’s okay, I’m glad you remember the good parts, that is a positive thing.” 

“Okay,” I shrug. 

“So, I guess that this version of your Dad seems more involved than I had been picturing. I always pictured your Dad as off to the sidelines, with your mom more front and center,” Bea tells me.

“Well, he was involved, but like…..I don’t know. He helped with math homework, but that’s like something my mom can’t like really do like all that good. You know?” 

“Did your mom delegate things for him to do? Like helping with homework?” She suggests. 

I nod. “Yes, exactly. She would like tell him what to do when it like came to us kids.” 

“He was more present than I originally pictures…..” Bea says slowly, carefully, “Do you think he was aware of things going on?” 

I don’t talk for a long time. It’s as if I’ve tripped and can’t find my feet under me. I finally find a few words. I shake my head. “Nooooooo….No. I don’t. I can’t. I mean. I hope. Because if…I just. No.” 

“Okay,” Bea says. (I’m not sure I’ve given anyone a good picture of my Dad. He’s closed off emotionally, but not because he is shut down emotionally. I fully believe he is on the spectrum somewhere; he is a typical engineer. A good friend of mine described my Dad as “extremely socially awkward, but much more real than your mom.” My dad is okay at formal events, meetings, gatherings because there are set rules for those. He simply comes off as very shy. More casual gatherings, however, he doesn’t talk or interact a lot. He also sticks with my mom, and she will do the social navigating. He’s very protective of me. I think in his way, he might accept me for me.)

“He was always calmer than my mom. Like I’d be so mad at her, and not allowed to say anything or feel, so I’d walk away and slam my door. She took my door away because I slammed it. I’m not sure my dad would have taken it if my mom hasn’t told him to.” 

“That’s just such an invasion of your privacy, of your space. It’s not allowing you to set a boundary.” Bea is angry, so on my side over this. She hates that my door was taken away from me. 

I shrug. “I knew the rules and chose not to follow them.”

She pokes at that. “Is there shame there? Anger? What feelings were there then? What about now?” 

I start to go away. Bea notices, asks, “Is there too much feeling here? Is that why you are far away?” 

She’s using the chart I drew, she noticed the moment I went away, and she knew exactly why. I can’t handle all the feelings. I nod, slowly. 

“This seems to be linked to some thing.” Bea says. “It’s causing a strong reaction, big feelings, even though your affect and your words are saying it’s no big deal.” 

I shake my head. “No….I’m not sure why all the feelings. I knew the rules, I broke them, I lost my door. It’s not like I hadn’t been warned. I didn’t like it, you know, but it was my fault.” 

“And there’s no anger there?” 

“No, I just…no.” I sigh. I don’t even remember being mad at the time.

“Okay. I think there’s a part of me that is thinking how terrible that would be as a teen and how icky it would feel to not have a boundary you set be listened to. I’m mad for you.” Bea laughs. She is angry for me, but it’s. It scary because she can laugh at herself and she isn’t out of control. I wonder if this is what it means to feel anger and to hold it?

After a long pause, Bea asks me how long my door was gone for. 

“A week, I think. So not so long.” I tell her. Why are we talking about this? And why am I struggling to stay present? Ugh. 

Not much later, sort of out of the blue, I say to her “I lost my door a second time.” 

“Were you older or close to the same age as the first time?” She asks. I appreciate how I can say something a little random and Bea will just go with it, acting as if it is the most normal conversation in the world. 

“A little older, I think.” I can’t say more, and I’m going far, far away, as far as I can. 

Bea validates feelings, reassures safety, tells me I don’t have to do anything. Then she asks if I would be willing to step back from the feelings just a little bit? She doesn’t want me to feel like she is using her new knowledge of my dissociation against me. I nod. She asks me about my safe places as a teenager?

I tell her, in starts and stops, in the disjointed language of dissociation. “My grandma’s kitchen, Grandpa’s truck and Grandpa’s boat. My aunt’s barn.” Safe places, yes, but it’s the people who mattered. 

“Did you ride at her barn?” Bea asks. 

“Yes.” 

“Was it a big barn? How many horses did she have?” 

“Just 3. Not a real big barn.” I mumble. 

“Did you find it difficult to be firm with the horses?” Bea sounds genuinely curious. 

“Maybe….at first. But then….my aunt, she pushed me to be stronger and I learned to be strong with them.” 

“That’s a really empowering thing, to have such a big strong animal listen to you and to be able to stand up to the horse, also having your aunt believe in you and push you to be firmer.”

I shrug. I think how my mother hated my love of riding, and maybe my love of my aunt. I think she was jealous. I’m not sure.

We somehow slowly return to they why of the second time I lost my door. 

“I lost my door again. That sounds funny,” I tell Bea. 

“It does sound a little funny,” she agrees. “Do you want to talk about what happened with the door?” 

I don’t say anything, but I think about how my door was taken after my suicide attempt. The therapist at the time told my parents I was acting out, throwing a temper tantrum. They took my door to avoid any more temper tantrums. “Being a drama queen won’t get you attention. There are consequences for our actions.” I can still hear my mother’s voice when I found my door taken away. I can’t tell Bea. She’s already knows about that suicide attempt, about Kenny walking by while I sat in the window. She already knows everything, except the door part. It wasn’t relevant when we discussed this memory before. It should be easier to tell her, she already knows, but it isn’t any easier to say the words. It’s an ugly memory. 

“Do I know about this thing?”

I nod. 

“Is it something we have talked about?” 

I nod. 

“Will I remember it?”

“I think so. I guess I don’t know for sure. But I think so,” I say.

“Is it a teen behavior or a coping strategy parents might not like?”

“I feel like that’s a hard question,” I say. I hurt myself, yes, but I don’t think those coping strategies include suicide attempts. I don’t know. I’m sad. My feelings feel really hurt. Thankfully Bea feels here and with me today.  

“Okay. You don’t have to share today, we can talk about it when you are ready. You don’t have to talk about anything until it feels safe to do so,” Bea reminds me. 

I nod, “Okay.” We sit in quiet and then we talk a bit more about my safe places. 

“I’m just really glad you had those safe places and people. It made me sad to think of teenage Alice not having anyone. That’s such a hard time. Socially, she had to be perfect and then at home she had all the feelings coming out, and she wasn’t allowed to have those feelings. That is such a tough time anyway, and then all of that on top of it. I’m so glad she had safe places.” Bea continues, “I know with your aunt it can be hard because she left, and that hurt a lot, but I’m glad you had her when you needed her.” 

“She really didn’t hurt me. She left. I don’t even think about it anymore. And I needed her that first year of college with the boyfriend but she was gone.” I’m snappy, and irritated. Of course it hurt when she left. It still hurts. But I’m not about to admit that right now. There’s been too much brought up, and with none of it resolved, I can’t bring up more. 

“Well, maybe we should talk about that and process it,” She suggests. 

“Or we could not talk about it,” I reply, in a bit of a sing song tone. 

“Okay.” Bea says. 

“I might…I might just write about the door….it’s just easier to write.” I say. 

“You can do that. Oh, I didn’t forget about finishing your notebook and talking about it. This just seemed to be important today. I could see how hard you were working to stay with the feelings and sit with that uncomfortable feeling without going too far away. You worked really hard, I know that wasn’t easy.” 

“I tried,” I whisper. I’m embarrassed for some reason, and just want to downplay it.

“You did really good.” She tells me. It’s a nice way to end a session, and I feel a little more connected to her than I have been, so I leave feeling a little more grounded. 

Not  hiding anymore 

I honestly don’t know where to start. I’ve been away from really sitting down to write for so long that typing on the screen of the iPad feels foreign. I have this feeling, like I keep trying to get my life together, so I can live a full, whole life, but then I always drop the ball some how, and I never quite get to the point of having my life truly “together”. Maybe, just maybe, this is what life really is, maybe this messiness and mistakes and confusion and emotions and feelings and ups and downs is LIFE. I’m not striving for perfect anymore. Perfect…..well, perfect does not exist, can not exist, in my world. But I still want….structure, maybe. Yes, structure, that is a good way of putting it. I need a routine, some structure, some constants in my life. 

Things have been okay, and not okay, and really good. Bea is okay. We are okay. I’ve noticed in myself that even when I worry about her being upset or leaving or whatever, I trust her enough to bring it up to her and talk about it (okay, I write, she talks. But still, it’s progress). Hubby is, well, okay. We are at this sort of standstill. Things between us are very surfacey, but not fake, not exactly. I refuse to give up the realness I’ve discovered within myself, I refuse to shut off my feelings or be quiet just because it would make his life simpler. I do allow him to keep our relationship on the surface, and that’s been okay. I’m able to enjoy small things like a boat ride, or a family cookout, or a walk through the local nature center. I can simply be present during those things and enjoy them with hubby. So hubby and I, we work again, for now. Kat is great, she’s amazing. I’m so full of love and pride in her every time I look at her. Lest this post b gain to sound like a cheesy fake Christmas letter written by my mother in law, let me add that Kat has also become extremely annoying because she is going through a phase of perseverating on repeating herself and wanting me to acknowledge what she is saying even though she has just said it 50 times already in that two minute time period. Small things set her off lately, and I’m hoping it’s because of the end of the school year chaos. All the end of the year stuff is great fun, but it’s also stressful for her. I’m ready for school to be over. I have a fun summer planned for her, and I’m excited for that. 

Mother’s Day, and the week or so leading up to it, was rough. I didn’t go see my mom, and hubby and I kept things low key with a nature walk and boat ride. I’ve been having dreams that are very memory like, and they all involve me telling my mother something about a secret game I share with Kenny, and she ignores my words completely. At first, I refused to entertain the thought of the dream as real, but then as it continued to show up, night after night, for weeks on end, and the other parts of the dream are things I know are real, well……..it’s real. I sort of, indirectly, told my mother, and while I didn’t say what the game was, and I was acting snotty, she still should have questioned what I was telling her. But she didn’t, she simply sent me off to play because she was ‘all played out today’. That happened. I told, and no one heard. I told and my mother didn’t hear. 

(I wrote Bea a note in my notebook during this time, and I felt like it was a lot of growth for me….I wrote to her that I was so pissed off my mother couldn’t be what I needed then, that she didn’t hear me, that she didn’t protect me, and that I knew how lucky I was to have a therapist who did hear me, who did see me, who likes me for me and not miss perfect. I said I knew what a gift it was to have a therapist who didn’t break when I was mad, who could deal with me and my messiness, and who is willing to show her own feelings and be protective of the little girl and me, even if it’s just telling me she is having protective feelings that she can’t act on, or what she would like to do in her perfect world. I told her I wasn’t negating all of that, but I was so angry my mother couldn’t do that, be that for me, then or now. And then, when Bea read it, and acknowledged it, I let her talk about what I’d written. And she got what I was saying. And it was okay.)

So. There’s been a lot of grief, and anger, hurt and rage, tears and harsh words stuck in my throat. A lot of confusion, and grappling with this idea of being full of anger and rage at my mother for not being what I needed is okay, that I am allowed to be mad at her. And I haven’t wanted to think about those things, or to feel them, to even acknowledge the feelings and thoughts. It hurts. So I haven’t been writing, not here, not privately, not even in my notebook to Bea. I’ve fallen into old patterns of avoidance; eating disordered behavior, self injury, zoning out with book after book, trying to control everything, plan everything, and hiding in movies and TV shows. Anything so I don’t have to think, to feel. But that’s not me. It’s not who I am anymore. Hiding so much, shoving so much down and trying to lock it away doesn’t feel good. It feels terrible. So, I’m going to start writing again. It might be messier than my typical posts, it might be dissociative and disjointed, but I’m done hiding from myself. 

A lot (11/9/26)

I’m on the phone when I walk into Bea’s office this morning. The girl who is like a little sister to me is upset. She’s about to spin out over the results of the election. I don’t have words of wisdom, I can’t say anything to make it better, I can’t logic her into a calmer state, I can’t change the outcome for her. I wish I could. Oh, if I only could. I tell her I have to go, I’m walking into therapy, but I will text her when I get out, see how she is. She says okay. I hang up the phone, hoping she takes my advice to stay off facebook for a while, and to get out of the house, to go for a walk, to do a project, not to wallow. 

Bea looks up from her chair when I walk into her office. “I thought you had someone with you,” she says. You’re usually so quiet!” 

I shake my head, drop my phone into my bag. “No, just a phone call. [little sister] is close to spinning out.” 
“And you were trying to pre-empt the spin out,” she says knowingly. 

I nod. “Yeah. Trying. I told her to get outside. To go for a walk. To take the kid she nannies to the library. I told her I would call her after I left her, check in on her” 

“Good advice. She’s lucky to have you.” Bea says. 

We flow into talking about some issues Kat is having at school. I tell Bea how even this issue feel manageable because the school was so supportive during Kat’s meltdown, and she is very pleased to hear this. We don’t spend long talking about Kat, it’s more me letting Bea know the things we are working on, and how Kat is feeling. 

Bea easily transitions us to talking about me. “On Monday, something came up, and you said you thought you could write about it. Did you bring any writing with you today?” 

I instantly go a bit farther away. I need that distance from her, from reality, from myself. I shake my head. “I……” I think I might throw up. “I……couldn’t. I tried.” 
I’m far away, yet also jumpy. I keep looking around the room, not really seeing Bea’s hard wood floor, or the blue rug, or anything else. 

“You tried,” Bea echoes what I’ve said, and she sound solid and grounded. “It was hard to write about then. Did you write about trying to write? Sometimes you do that.” 

I shake my head. “No…..no…..nothing.” I sigh. I’m fidgeting with my fingers, picking at them and sort of scratching at my wrists. 

“Okay, that’s okay. You tried to write about it, and it was really hard to do. Can we stay with ‘I tried’, and what feelings that brings up?” Bea suggests gently. 

I’m still sitting up, trying to not hide my face, trying to be *good*. I feel tears welling up, and I blink them away, furiously. I can not do this. It’s too much. I cover my face with my cupped hands, as a few tears roll down my cheeks. I manage to stop them, and I wipe furiously at my face, before lifting my head again. 

We sit in silence, Bea talking off an on, trying to help me. “I wonder if taking a few deep breaths would be good. If that would help you feel a little more grounded, so you can find your words,” she says softly. “Sometimes when I can’t find my thoughts, if I take a few deep breaths, that helps.” She offers up feeling words, for what trying to write might have felt like. “Sad? Scared? Frustrated? Tired? Something that’s not those, other?” 

I shake my head. I don’t know how to tell her about this. 

“I think it’s important we try to stay with this, that this is important, but we can take a break and come back to it, because I also think we need to stay in your window so you have words.” She pauses for a moment, and then very gently, and very carefully she says, “We don’t have to use words, there are other ways we can communicate and get things out. Words are what you feel comfortable with and I want to respect that, and help you find words.” Bea pauses again, maybe trying to give me space to speak, or to think, or maybe both. “You know…..even not having words is communicating a lot. Most communication isn’t in words. I know you need it to be in words, and that is okay, but I think….you should know, not having words, that is communication, too. I can feel how helpless you feel, how stuck you feel. Because not being to help you find words, not being able to make this better, I feel helpless in that. So not having words can communicate a lot.” 

I’ve been breathing and trying to be more grounded the whole time she has been talking, and so I’m finally able to make some sense of the mess in my head, and I try to explain it to Bea. “I……it’s……it’s just…….I can’t…….” My head is still too mixed up, and I’m drowning in feeling, too many feelings. I take a deep breath, start again. “The dream…….we were talking about the dream…..and something came up. And I couldn’t…..talk…..I tried to write……it’s….it’s just there, always there. It never stops. I couldn’t stop him. I didn’t stop him. All I feel is out of control and scared. I can’t do this.” The words rush out, and tears are falling now and I’m staring at the floor, covering my face with my hands and then moving them. I’m picking at my fingers, scratching at my hands. 

“You couldn’t stop him, and all those out of control feelings are coming up now. It was too overwhelming to try to think about it and write.” Bea says softly. She is quiet for a bit, and I’m going back and forth, hiding my face, uncovering it, but refusing to look up. I want to badly to bury my face and just hide. I don’t think I can handle being somewhat present, and feeling all these feelings and seeing Bea there, knowing she is there and understanding and accepting of all of me……it’s a lot. 
Something clues Bea into this, and she says, “It’s okay to do what you need to do to feel safe. What we want to do, is help you to stay in your window. Staying in your window doesn’t mean that you have to sit up, or that you can’t hide.” 

The grown up part of me feels like an idiot, but the little girl hugs her knees and buries her face. I need some distance, I need to hide.  

“He didn’t stop,” I cry. “He didn’t stop.” 

“No, he didn’t stop,” Bea echoes. She’s never shied away from stating the hard facts. “You survived. You are here, now, because you survived.” 

“I couldn’t stop him. I didn’t say no, I can’t do anything, he can do whatever he wants and no one is coming and everything is out of control and he acts like he is being nice but he isn’t, he isn’t nice and I just want it all to stop and go away.” I’m half there and half here, and I’m getting confused, switching between past and present tense as I speak to Bea. 
Bea murmurs soothing words, and she echoes what I’m telling her. She’s right here and grounded and she hears me. 

“No one is coming, no one sees. No one WANTS to see.” I say the words quietly, little girl soft, and then tears come back again. I’ve never felt so out of control, so alone, so lost. It’s as if I am free falling through space and time, and there is no one to catch me. I am at a loss of how to describe this. 

“No one came. And no one saw, no one was able to see, for whatever reason. No one was able to see, and that hurts. They didn’t get it.” 

“He hurt me. He’s hurting me, he’s hurting me…….no one is here, and he is hurting me….. He hurt me.” I whisper the words, over and over, starting to panic, starting to realize the sheer size of these feelings, and I can’t contain them. It’s too much, I can’t do this, never mind, stop. Just stop. 

“He hurt you. He hurt you, but he did not win. You survived. You survived. You’re here, now, in my office, it’s you and me, in the office. You are safe now. It’s safe here.” Listening to her, I start to calm down. She says, “No one was there then. You aren’t alone now.” 

I sniffle, but don’t reply right away. Finally, I whisper, “Are you here?”

“I’m here. I’m right here with you, I’m not going anywhere. We are on this journey together.” 

“Do you get it?” I ask quietly. I want to believe she is here with me, I want to believe she isn’t leaving me, I want to believe she gets it. But I’m unsure and a more than a little afraid to take the risk of trusting right now. 

“I understand how alone you felt then, and how you still feel that way now. I understand there is a lot of grief and loss and confusion for you now. I understand that it’s really hard to sit with those feelings of overwhelm. I know it doesn’t always feel like it happened in the past, and I know it’s easy for me to offer things up, to remind you that you survived, and that sometimes you don’t really feel like you survived, and that it’s much harder to do the things I suggest than I make it sound. I know this is all scary and hard and it’s twice as scary and hard when you feel all alone. I feel like I get it, but only you can really answer that. I think…..you should know, if I’m not getting something, it’s not for not caring, and I want to know that I’m not getting it, because I do want to get it.” Bea’s voice is full of……care? Compassion? I’m not sure what, exactly, but it’s hard to stay present and not only hear her but feel what she is saying. The weight of the feelings behind her words is too much. Why is it just as hard to hold onto good feelings as bad? Why is she caring about me? Does she really care, or is this just a job to her? Is it part of her work to care? Is it real or pretend? (Writing this now, I’m seeing this parallel between my family pretending to love no matter what, but the real truth was there were contingencies with their love, and a parallel with Kenny, who pretended to care, who said nice things and claimed to love me, to care about me, to want to help me, and he hurt me. Is it any wonder I am unsure if Bea is real or pretend at times? And then all of that confusion is added to the therapist type relationship, which makes it even more odd and confusing.)

I nod my head, whisper, “okay.” It’s all I can say, and it’s enough to open the flood gates. “I don’t want to be alone with this anymore,” I cry. 

Bea says soothingingly, “You aren’t alone now. I am here. You are doing so good at sitting with these tough feelings, staying in your window. I know it’s not easy, but you are doing it.” 
We sit in quiet for a bit, then. After a while, she says, “You don’t have to do anything, you don’t even have to listen to this, you can tell me to stop talking. I’m noticing you are shaking, you are scared and your body is shaking. I can see you scratching at your wrists, you are feeling so hopeless and scared. This is trauma, too. It’s stored trauma coming out, just like your words, and just like your tears. If there was something you wanted to do, a movement you want to make, we can do that.” 

I want to claw my skin off, because I have the creepy crawly skin tingly feeling I get with some flashbacks. I’m not about to tell Bea that though, because it’s too much to say out loud, and I don’t want the feeling on my skin to be real, so I shake my head no, and keep shaking it. 

“No, I can see you are saying no. That feels too scary, and it’s okay. I’m just going to say one more thing, just so you know this. If you ever want me to sit nearer or farther away, or to come hold your hand when we are dealing with these memories, these feelings, I can, I will. If that would help you to know I’m here when you can’t look at me, if that would help you to know you aren’t alone, or to feel safe, I can do that. All you have to do is let me know.” Bea speaks slowly, carefully, but again it has that same caring tone. 

I don’t say anything, and I don’t shake my head yes or no. The lonely scared little girl part who just wants someone to make her feel safe wants to reach out her hand. The rest of me is against the idea. The grown up feels like I’m too old to need my therapist to hold my hand. The teen doesn’t trust it. And really, I don’t know what the little girl is thinking; I don’t even like holding my husband’s hand. Hand holding doesn’t feel all that safe; if another is holding your hand, they then have control over where your hand is, they can move it anywhere they like. Kenny used holding my hand to move my hand to certain……areas. It doesn’t matter. I can’t reach my hand out, I can’t reach for her. 

Bea meets me where I am at, instead. She talks about how sad I am feeling, how she can see that grief and confusion and pain. She tells me how she can see that I am struggling to not be overwhelmed, and she echoes what I have said: “He hurt you. He hurt you and you were little and couldn’t do anything. But you survived. You are here, and you survived. You are okay. You are here, and I am here, and you are safe now.” 

I cry off and on some more, and Bea and I talk about that out of control feeling. It feels as though it has invaded my life, even though logically I know that isn’t true. 

“This is a lot. It’s a lot and it’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of time, because it is a lot to deal with. You are doing it, even if it feels like you aren’t. And I’m here, even when you can’t feel it. I’m here.” Bea reminds me as I slip my shoes back on and pick up my coffee from the side table. 

“Thanks,” I say, blinking rapidly to hold back tears that are threatening to fall. 

“I’ll see you later today with Kat, right?” Bea asks me. 

“Yeah. I’ll see you later,” I whisper the words as they rush out in a quick burst. I half run half walk down the stairs before I even finish speaking. I have to get out of there. I can’t breathe. I get in the car, and just sit for a few minutes until I’m in that here but not here space and am capable of driving. 

Balancing 

Trigger warning 

Hagrid comes with me to therapy with me today, and he rushes up the steps to greet Bea when we arrive. As I walk up the stairs, I hear her saying hello to him and telling him how nice it is to have him in therapy today. 

“Good morning,” I tell her, walking in and setting my coffee down. I get comfortable on the sofa, and call Hagrid over to me. He happily jumps into my lap. 

I update her on Kat, because there is a messy situation going on with the substitute teacher who took over for her regular teacher when she went on maternity leave. Bea needs to know what is going on so that she can help Kat in therapy tomorrow. 

Once she is filled in, though, she turns the conversation to me. “And you? How were things yesterday?” 

I look down, and go silent. “I baked,” I finally say. 

“What did you bake?” She asks.

“Macarons.” I tell her. 

“French macarons?” She asks me. 

“Yes.” I reach into my bag and pull out a box. “Actually, I brought you some.” 

She takes the box. “Mmmmm. Yum. These are beautiful. I can’t believe you made these! I have to try one.” 

“You really don’t, not right now. I just….I thought you might like some.” I’m embarrassed now. I don’t know why, exactly, I just am. 

I list out the different flavors, and Bea tries two. She declares them perfect and delicious. We talk about macarons, and how they can be difficult to make, and how they are expensive little cookies. She tells me I could open a bakery. 

I laugh. “It’s just a distraction. It’s something I can do, something I can focus on.” 

“Well, if you have to feel bad and this is your way of coping, you might as well get rich off it.” Bea laughs, too. A second later, she says, “You haven’t talked about sewing lately.”

“It’s not enough of a distraction. It’s sort of mindless.” I shrug. I’m not sure how to explain it. 

“Ahhh. Okay.” 

I take a drink of my coffee, and hug Hagrid. I’m out of words. 

“Were you able to write anything down?” She asks. 

I nod, and pull my notebook and a stack of notecards from my bag. I hold them in my lap and look at them. “Can I…..can I go to the bathroom?” I ask her in a little girl voice. 

“Yes. Yes, of course.” Bea sounds surprised. “What if I had said no?” She asks. She looks curious. 

“I….I’m not sure. I don’t…I guess I would have stayed here.” I whisper. 

“Okay. Go to the bathroom.” 

I hand her my notebook and my cards. 

“Should I read these while you go?” 

I nod. “Yeah.” 

“Okay. I’ll read the notecards while you are gone so you don’t have to wait for me to read them.” She starts reading, and I head to the bathroom. 

I’d written the pieces of memory onto the notecards. Every time I had a flashback, a memory, a bad dream, I tried to write it down. I wrote to in my notebook about this high wire I’m balancing on, and how I feel like I’m going to fall, and how scared I am. I wrote that the last rational part of me is very scared for the rest of me, and of me. I wrote about how I was alone, balancing on this tightrope, and no one was there to catch me. I explained how I used to be under the tightrope, and stuck in the yuck and the crap, but I managed to put myself back together. I wrote that I did a crap job of it, because all I’d been able to do was build a bubble of okayness around myself, and to shove the worst of the yuck into a box. But then Kay came along and pulled me into rhe high wire. She helped me balance, but I still had a bubble. But with therapy, I was able to allow more people onto the high wire, and they helped me balance. It got easier. I was able to allow other people close enough to be under the high wire, to be there to catch me, even if I couldn’t let me help me balance. I wrote that now I feel like I’m all alone and they all just left. 

When I get back from the bathroom, I sit back in my place. 

Bea looks at me and her look says she cares. “All these memories you’ve written are sensory related. It’s all the things we have been talking about.” 

I nod. They really are; hands around my ankles, fingers down my back like bugs creepy crawly, and feelings in places I can’t write about to anyone. 

“Do they….can you stop them? Like if there is a feeling that starts, can you control it? Can you stop it by standing or doing something different?” Her voice is clear and kind. 

“I….no.” I tell her. “I….nothing….it just quiets it. It….nothing stops it. Noting makes it stop.” 

“I want us to try to find a way to get you some relief. You shouldn’t have to keep feeling like this. Can we try, can we see what might help? Can we try some different things?” 

I nod my head. “It won’t stop.” I start to cry, and fold over on myself. “It just won’t stop.” 

“It sounds like you are being hit from all sides. Are these memories, are they new or old? I mean, have you had memories like this before?” 

I shake my head. “Not really. Not like this.” I’ve had body memories before, but never like this, and they usually go away really quick. I can numb them away with self harm, or eating behaviors. And they never happened so often before. 

“I think….this seems to be another layer of healing. I think now that you are more aware of your body, more able to feel it, you are also able to feel these sensations. It’s another layer of healing, and it’s all hitting you at once. Flooding, it’s called flooding.” 

I don’t say anything, but I nod my head and cry. I let myself break apart in her office because it’s the one place I don’t have to keep trying to balance and not fall. 

Bea keeps reading. “This is very eloquent.”

“I highly doubt that,” I mumble. 

“It is very eloquent,” she states again. “I can really get how you are feeling. These pictures really help show what is going on.” I had sketched out stick figure drawings, trying to show what had happened, what was in my head. 

“If I fall, will you make sure Kat is okay? You won’t let her not be okay, right?” 

“Yes, I will make sure she is okay if you fall.” 

“Because if I fall, who will take care of her?” I ask Bea. I feel a bit frantic. 

“Your hubby. He will take care of her. And I will make sure she is okay.” 

“Will you…..if I break apart….if I fall….will you make sure….can you tell him I’m not crazy?” I ask. 

“I can….” She says slowly. “You know, this is really common for survivors with kids to plan for not being around in the future, to worry about bad things happening.” 

“It’s not….I just…I really need to know they will be okay.” 

She is finishing reading my journal. “It’s not safe in the far away, and it’s not safe in the present. Nowhere feels safe,” she repeats the words I’d written. “That is a very scary thing to feel. If you ever feel really unsafe, really not okay, you don’t have to because you can always go to the hospital.” 

“No. No. That is not safe. You don’t say that. I would not go. It’s not okay.” I’m fighting not to shut down, and I’m feeling really left. She doesn’t want to deal with my scary feelings, she wants me to go to the hospital. She wants to get rid of me. 

“Ideally, we would stop you from falling like that. We would have you come in everyday and try to keep you from falling. We would work together to keep you safe.” Bea’s voice is quiet and gentle and her words penetrate through the feelings of rejection.

I sit crying, hiding my face, but her words– that she would have me come in everyday to try to keep me from falling– stick in my brain. Maybe I’m not so alone. I’m crying, sobbing, freaking out and so scared. “It won’t stop,” I tell her. 

And then, Bea starts talking. She tells me she knows I am scared. She says she knows I feel very alone, and that no one understands. She tells me that she knows what the scary detached feeling feels like. She describes the body memories and how terrifying they are and how they can take over your feelings. She describes what it feels like in such detail that a part of me wonders if she really does know. 

I nod my head. “Yes. That.” More tears fall. 

“When did these memories start? Can you attach them to something specific?” 

“The doctor appointment…..” I’m whispering, mumbling.

“Was it something specific about the doctor?” 

“The male doctor. When he touched me.” 
“You didn’t want him there?” 

“I didn’t want him to touch me. I didn’t want him to touch me. I was so scared. I was so scared. I couldn’t breathe, I was so scared.” The words come out in a giant sob. 

“Can you say ‘No’ now?” She questions softly. “Say what you didn’t get to say then?”

I shake my head. 

“It would allow you to complete the action, or part of the action you didn’t get to complete. That’s what sensorimotor is about.” Bea tells me. 

“Can I….can I just tell you what I would have said?” I ask. 

“Sure.” 

“I….I wish I had said…….” I stumble. “I’m…not…..comfortable with a male doctor?” 

“I’m not comfortable with a male doctor. That’s very good. Anything else?” I think Bea is smiling, pleased with me. 

“I don’t want you to touch me.” I say softly. 

“I’m not comfortable with a male doctor and I don’t want you to touch me,” she repeats. “Can you say it all?” 

I shake my head. “I feel silly.” 

“It does feel silly. I know. I’ve had to do this with the training. It can feel really silly. It’s about trying things, and being playful. Could we say it together?” She asks me slowly, carefully. 

“I….okay.” I agree. I have to agree because I’m desperate to stop this and willing to try. 

“I’m not comfortable with a male doctor and I don’t want you to touch me.” We say it together, slowly. 

“How did that feel?” Bea asks. 

“I don’t know.”

“Is there anything your body wants to do? Maybe kick, or stand up, run? Push away with your hands?” She offers up so many suggestions, but the only thing I want to do is curl my legs up to myself and glue my knees together; I want to be curled up and not seen. 

I shake my head. “I…I…” I try to tell her, but end up panicking. My breathing speeds up, and I start crying again. I’m having a hard time calming down, so I clench my fists, and dig my nails into palms as hard a I can. I focus on that. 

Bea sees my hands go into fists and she asks me to focus on them. She asks things about my hands, my fists, and I can’t answer. The more she questions, the more upset I get. I can’t tell her why my hands are in fists, or what I feel. Because all I feel is pain from nails, sharp, magic, numbing inducing pain. And I can’t tell Bea that, because I’m hurting myself and I can’t admit to that and have her mad at me. 

“What do you feel in your hands? Are they loose or tight? Warm, cold? Do they want to do anything?” She asks. 

I try to answer, and get more upset. “I…I…just…you’ll be mad.” 

“I won’t. I won’t be mad. This is about what works for you. It’s experimenting. That’s all.” She tells me. 

We go back and forth, me struggling to be able to get the words out, and Bea reassuring me she won’t be mad. 

I relax my hands, set them flat. The words spill out. “I made my hands into a fist.” 

“Consciously?” She asks. She is curious. 

“Yes. I wanted….you won’t be happy.” My voice is small and scared. 

“I’m only curious. This is just about being curious. It’s about working together and seeing what works for you.” 

“My nails…..I was digging my nails……into my hands.” I’m ashamed. I don’t want to admit this. 

“So….we could say you were hurting yourself. But we could also say that you were using a coping skill. Maybe we want to work to find one that doesn’t hurt you. But I’m not mad. So if you had been able to tell me in the moment, I feel my nails digging in my palm, we would have been able to work with that. We could have seen if something else felt calming, or if something else was okay. But it was a coping skill, it allowed you to calm down.” She tells me. 

“Okay.” I whisper, tears streaming. 

We end the session with me telling her how to make macarons, the process of making meringue, and creating different flavors, to mixing in the almond flour. I wipe my face, and get back to my far away, balancing, barely functional place. She had tried to tell me she wanted to help get me as grounded as possible, and not far away just balancing and functioning. She said that she knows I am struggling, but in her office it’s okay to fall apart and try to really ground myself. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself try again. So, we talked about macarons, and baking. And I got back to that balancing place before I left.