I arrive to therapy a few minutes early so that Hagrid can have a quick walk. It’s too cold out for much more than that. By the time I head upstairs to Bea’s office, my nose is cold.
She greets me as I set my bag down and get settled. Hagrid hops up next to me. I sit, uneasy and unsure of what to say. A part of me is still waiting for her to get angry with me and quit.
Bea asks about Kat, and the Valentine’s Day party at school that is tomorrow. We chat about that for a few minutes, and I start to relax a bit.
When our conversation pauses, Bea says, “I was so glad to get your email. Did you get my reply?”
I nod my head, and look away. It happens so fast, that switch from comfortable, competent grown up me to nervous, embarrassed, afraid to talk me. “I just….I wrote back, but then I didn’t send it. It was late, and I was going to see you today….it seemed silly to send it.”
“Maybe we could start with that today, then? What do you think?”
“Okay.” I grab my bag off the floor, and get out my iPad. It only takes me a minute to find my unsent reply. “I didn’t really write very much,” I tell her, as she starts to read.
“What did you think about not coloring today? Did that feel like an okay thing?” She asks me.
I feel my face heat up, and I look down. “That’s fine. It doesn’t matter.” In her email she had said that maybe today we needed to focus on letting the little girl talk, and not do any coloring. I’d responded that I felt bad, guilty, for making her change things, for not following the expectations or rules or something.
“I think it’s important that we really give the little girl some space to talk. She has been feeling very left behind lately, and she needs to know that she still has a voice, and that she will be listened to. But you need to be okay with whatever we decide to do today,” Bea says gently.
She goes back to reading, and she laughs softly to herself. “Why am I being so nice?” She reads my question out loud. “Well, you are right, it’s not ‘just a job thing’. I care. I suppose I’m being nice because I care and because you deserve to be treated kindly.”
I shake my head. “I just….I mean, it seems….you should be….I don’t know.” I shrug.
“What should I be?” Bea’s voice is soft and curious.
“Just….irritated. Through the roof annoyed with me.” I cover my face with both hands as I speak.
“Oh. You feel like I should be irritated with you, and acting like that, instead of being nice to you?” She questions.
“Yes.” I realize that if she were mad at me, and acting annoyed, I wouldn’t question that at all the way I question her being nice.
“Okay, I see that. I don’t feel annoyed or irritated at all. I’m curious, about the different parts, and your thoughts and feelings. I suppose the only time I feel anything like annoyed is when something I suggest trying doesn’t work. But it is not towards you. It’s more of a ‘darn, that didn’t work’ and then a curiousness as to why it didn’t work. I don’t feel irritated with you at all. You’ve done nothing that would irritate me.”
She finishes reading, and we sit in silence. It’s probably not even a minute, but it feels like a long time to me. “And here you are, telling me I can talk, that you will listen, and I’m still not able to talk.” What is wrong with me?
“It’s been a long time since the little girl has talked about anything. It’s okay. It’s hard to find words for things that are unspeakable,” she says gently.
“I don’t know what to even say.”
“Well, were there things in your notebook you wanted to talk about? Is there a specific memory or nightmare that has been coming up? And if it’s something we’ve been over before, that’s okay. We can talk about things as many times as the little girl needs. If it’s coming up again, it’s there for a reason. I want to listen to what she wants to talk about.”
I nod my head. There is one, and it has been terrorizing me for weeks.
“Do you want to say what it is?” From the corner of my eye, I see Bea’s hand reach down and pick up her cup of hot tea from the floor.
I’m very still, and very quiet while I think. “I was going to say ‘I don’t know’ but I do know. I just…I’m afraid of the words.”
“It’s really hard, I know. Is this a new memory? Or one we’ve talked about before?” She asks.
“It’s not new.”
“Well, remember, we had come up with names for a lot of the memories. Could you tell me the name of the memory?” She suggests.
I’m embarrassed and I feel like an idiot. I want to cry, or to run away and hide. Instead, I mumble, “I…..I can’t even think of names right now. I just…I can’t think.”
“That’s okay. It’s okay. Do you know how old you are in the memory?” She tries another route.
I nod my head.
“I…it’s….when my mom found…….my underwear…….it’s what happened before. With him.”
“That has really be very real for you lately, hasn’t it?” She asks me.
“That was 4th grade? So, you were 9, maybe 10?” She prompts me.
I nod. “Nine.” I sit, curled up on the couch, words running through my mind. They are words I want to say loud. I just can’t. “I have words. I just…can’t.” I tell Bea. I feel defeated.
“It’s hard for the little girl to talk. It’s hard to believe that she will be listened to now, and that someone will believe her this time.”
“They didn’t listen to me.” I tell her sadly.
“No, they sure didn’t,” she agrees.
“I say that….I tell you no one listened. But I didn’t….I really didn’t tell.” I whisper. I’m so afraid she is going to be mad.
“Not in words, no. What words did you have then? What could you have said? But you did tell, in every way you were able. You did tell.”
“I never…..” I sigh, take a deep breath, and let the words come out. “I didn’t want to get in trouble.”
“Of course not. Kids don’t ever want to get in trouble. And all you knew was this felt bad, felt yucky. Of course you didn’t want to get in trouble.”
I sit with her words for a moment, wondering if she could be right.
“How did your mom end up finding your underwear?” She asks me, when I don’t say anything more.
“I….I hid them. They….I don’t know. We cleaned up, before bed, and…I had hid them.”
“Where were they?”
“My bed…I had a day bed…with the pop up bed underneath? I always was shoving things I was supposed to pick up under there. So….she found them.”
“Did she say anything to you?” Bea asks me.
I think. I don’t know. “She was mad. She….asked why my dirty underwear weren’t in the hamper. She was so mad.”
“And that felt really bad, so painful, after already being hurt that day. To feel like she was mad at you for what happened.”
I nod. “Yeah.”
“Do you remember how much blood? Do you think she noticed it?” Bea asks.
“I…..I…I was so scared. Something was really wrong.”
“That she didn’t notice, or that she was mad? That felt wrong?” Bea’s voice is very gentle.
I shake my head. “With me. Something wrong with me. I….thought I was really sick.”
“Yes, of course you did. How scary to have blood down there, and not understand why. That had to be very scary. Did you realize that it was connected to earlier in the day?”
“No…I don’t…I didn’t think…I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”
“You had no reason to know. You were a child. Children don’t know about those things, they have no words for what happened to you.”
“But I didn’t even……I feel so stupid. I didn’t know…..” I cut myself off, I feel too dumb to continue speaking.
“Why do you feel stupid? What is it?”
“I didn’t know…I mean, last year…when…..” I start and stop a few times. Finally, I say, “When I told you this memory, the first time? Well, I probably wrote about….”
“Yes, you wrote about it,” she confirms to me that she remembers,
“I…me, now, I didn’t know……I didn’t..not until you said…..I just…..stupid.”
Somehow, even with all the blank spaces between my words, Bea knows what I’m trying to say. “You mean when you didn’t know he had raped you?”
“Yeah. I didn’t know. I told the whole story, and had no clue.”
“That’s not stupid. That whole memory, it was frozen in time. That’s where this little girl part comes from. She holds so many of these memories and scary things. She stayed frozen in time, too. You weren’t looking at it from a grown up view point. You were seeing it, living it, remembering it from the little girl’s view. And she has no reference for things like rape. How would she know what that was? You weren’t ready to face that, not then. Now…..you are starting to be able to see things from the little girl’s view and the grown up’s view. It’s becoming more integrated.”
“But how could I have not known? I didn’t know what happened to me!”
Bea talks some more, about the child’s perspective, and tells me a story about words she remembers using as a child to talk about sexual things. The words include “stuff”, “things” and other nondescript words that I often use when talking about my past.
“It hurt.” I tell her quietly, and I start to cry.
“I know,” she says. I wonder if she knows that I mean physically, as much as emotionally. After a minute, when I’m still crying, she asks me if I want a tissue.
“No,” I shake my head and sniffle.
“Okay,” Bea says.
“I….sometimes…..I hate him.” I whisper the words, barely able to believe I’ve spoken them out loud.
“Yeah? You are really feeling mad right now. Good. It’s okay to hate him.” Her voice gets stronger, and she sounds firmer, and as if she is 100% in support of my anger.
“He lied.” I snap the words at her. “He lied.”
“What did he lie about?”
“He was supposed to be my friend. He was supposed to care about me. He was supposed to be nice to me. He said it was just a fun game, that it was okay! He was supposed to to be my friend. He lied. He was pretending. He lied and I hate him. I hate him, I hate him!” My voice has been getting louder as I continue to talk.
“He was supposed to be your friend. It wasn’t a fun game, he did lie. He didn’t act like he cared about you that day.” She validates.
“And then….I say that, feel like that, and I feel like this horrible person.”
“For hating him?” She asks me. I think she sounds surprised.
“Yeah. I shouldn’t hate him.”
“It’s okay to hate him. You have every right to hate him. He hurt you, he raped you. You are okay to hate him, to be really, really mad.”
“I just….I don’t know.” I shake my head. “I didn’t say no. Or stop. So…..I don’t know.”
“This is where….well, he had been abusing you for years. Why would you have even thought to say no? This is part of the plan, to make you feel involved, to feel blame, but you weren’t a partner in this. You weren’t.”
“My mom …….I…..if I’d gotten her. I don’t know. I was too afraid of being in trouble.”
“Where was your mom?” Bea asks me.
“Home.” The answer is simple, quick. She was home. Of course she was home. I’ve always remembered being afraid of being caught. She was sewing that say, with his mom. He was watching us kids. But then, where was my brother and his sister? I don’t know. I’m confused. Where was she? This isn’t making sense. I don’t know. But she was home. She had to be home. In my head, she’s home.
I think the wheels in Bea’s head are spinning and she is surprised. She wonders why he was there, then, that he was too old to be hanging out with me like that, and why didn’t anyone wonder what was going on? I think she doesn’t like that no one ever caught him. I don’t explain, but that weekend, he was home from school. I’d been really sad when he left, and it was his first time home, and I was so happy.
“I just didn’t want to be in trouble.” I whisper to Bea.
“I know. I know you didn’t.” She tells me. “You aren’t in trouble.. You didn’t do anything wrong, or bad. It’s hard to fathom, you were afraid of being in trouble for being raped. Wrap your head around that. When the grown up part is back in control, think about that. You were afraid of getting in trouble for being raped.”
The r-word makes me freeze; it sends icy cold chills through my insides. I keep breathing, though. “He hurt me, and I didn’t understand.”
“I know. He really hurt you.” She repeats, softly.
I’ve been curled up, knees pulled into my chest, face buried this whole time. Hagrid snuggles against me as I cry some more.
Bea tells me the time. “I want to give you lots of time to come back,” she says, “You’ve done a lot of really good work today. We’ve talked about a lot. How are you feeling? I think you’ve stayed in the window, feeling really uncomfortable, yes, but able to still speak and not shaking or getting too overwhelmed.”
I nod my head. She’s right. I’ve been more here than I have been before when talking to her about memories. I don’t feel as floaty and numb to it all, but I also don’t feel as overwhelmed and terrified as I usually do.
“Is there anything more that you want to talk about right now? Or are you ready to start coming back?” She asks me.
“I don’t know.” I whisper. I’m sort of frozen feeling now, afraid of either option.
She waits to see if I have anything else to add, and then asks, “Do you want me to decide?”
“No….” I tell her. If she decides we are done talking, I know I’ll feel shut down and like she doesn’t want to listen to me. “We can be done talking.”
“Okay. You did a lot of hard work today. You talked more about your feelings involved than I’ve heard before. You did good. And we can talk about this again, on Monday if you want.”
“We can talk again if I want to? But we don’t have to?”
“Yes, that’s right. We can see where you are at on Monday.” She reminds me. “I’m glad the little girl shared today. I’m always glad to listen.”
“Okay,” I say. I still have tears falling, randomly, and I sniffle.
“I’m wondering what we can do to help you come back and feel really grounded before you leave. Maybe focusing on Hagrid, or looking around the room and naming colors you see?”
I don’t say anything. I’m not as far away, or as frozen as I have been in the past, but focusing on the present still feels like a scary idea.
“Is it easier if I leave for a minute, go heat up my tea and give you some space? Or would that feel too much like I left you right now?” She is really thinking of the little girl and her fears of rejection and being left.
I don’t want to admit to not wanting her to leave right now, but something I say or do clues her in, because she stays. “I’m sorry,” I tell Bea.
“For what?” She sounds truly confused.
“I…..I’m not sure. I just…I’m sorry. For being difficult. For taking things so slow and just taking forever to do anything. I don’t know.”
“You are doing really hard work. Integrating trauma memories, that takes time. The little girl part needs us to go slowly. That’s usually true of anyone who has frozen in time little girl parts. Things need to move slowly. That’s okay, I’m okay with that. You don’t have anything to be sorry for. We need to be careful with the little girl. She is the most vulnerable part.”
“I just….I feel like crying.”
“Crying is okay. You did a lot of processing today. Your brain has to work through that. Maybe there is some grief, some sadness there. That is okay. It takes a long time to process this stuff and work through it.”
I nod, and almost ask her if I have changed, of I’m different than I was almost 2 years ago when we started therapy. Sometimes I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress, and things are changing. Other times, I feel like I’m no different than I was, or like any progress is so small, it’s not noticeable. After a bit, I slowly sit up. “Can we just sit for a minute?”
Bea nods, and she sits with me until I’m calmer and more grounded. “It will be interesting to see how this memory feels to you after today. If it feels less confused. Right now, you are working on letting the little girl tell her story, so the grown up can start to hold the memories for her, and all of you can know it’s the past.”
“We can talk about this, come back to it on Monday?” I ask one more time.
“We can come back to it whenever you want,” she tells me.
Once I begin to gather my things together, Bea doublechecks that it is okay, and then goes to heat up her tea. We chat about Hagrid and Kat, about silly light topics. And then I say goodbye, and she wishes me a good day. I head home, and I feel…..okay. I’m not far away or frozen, and I don’t have this intense need to go hide in the closet or cut myself. I feel a little bit sad, but not alone. I’m okay.