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. 

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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. 

I am seen

This post may be triggering. I wrote about sexual abuse, self harm, eating disordered behaviors. Please be careful when you are reading it. 

This hasn’t been a good week. In all honesty, things haven’t been good since that bad doctor appointment. It’s been a sort of steady decline since then, of me getting more and more overwhelmed. Bea had a thing Monday morning that couldn’t be done any other time, so I saw Tuesday instead. We kept in touch via email over the weekend; mostly it was me writing how gone I was, how alone I feel, and checking that she was still there. She offered up grounding ideas, and reassurance that she was still there, and that she sees me and is still listening. 

I emailed her that I was afraid, that the last time I was feeling and acting like this my husband emailed her. I told her these memories are similar to the ones the last winter, when I lost it. I told her I was lost and confused. I said that I thought it didn’t matter anymore, I had to find a way to fix it, to work through it, to get over it, so I’d try whatever she threw at me, I’d try it. Because I don’t want to be this person, and I’m not sure how much longer I can be okay when I feel like this. 

I spent the weekend baking. I made french macarons. I made many, many macarons. My kitchen, freezer, and fridge are full of macarons. I used to bake cupcakes. I used to make fancy, creative flavors, and fancy beautiful frosting. Cupcakes are simple, now, though. I can make them without thinking, I can make them completely dissociated and falling apart, and they don’t distract me anymore. Macarons, on the other hand, take attention, careful attention. They can be made in all kinds of crazy, creative flavors. They are small and cute and different. And they offer a small distraction, they aren’t mindless. 

I need a distraction. I’m so lost in hurt and mess and memories I can’t breathe. I’m lost and scared, and being dissociative doesn’t offer any relief because it feels unsafe to be so far away. It feels unsafe to be far away, and it feels unsafe to be here. I want to spend every minute of everyday cutting, throwing up. Those things stop me from hurting. They numb all the fear. So, instead I’ve been baking and I will continue to bake, and bake and bake.

I’ve all but lost Tuesday’s session. Its fuzzy. The last few weeks are fuzzy. I drive there in a daze, a fog. I take Hagrid with me, and he offers me some comfort. He always does, and I’m so glad I have him with me. I love this dog. 

Bea greets us with a smile, and we settle onto her sofa. I don’t think she let me get away with much distracting small talk. Or maybe I was too far away to make small talk. 

“Did hubby ever talk to you?” Bea asks. She was referring to an email I sent her about a fight– or rather a me screaming at him thing– in which I told hubby I wasn’t Polly-fucking-Anna. I’d told him I try to be, I want to be, and that was who he met, married and fell in love with, but no one listens to Polly-Fucking-Anna. I screamed that he wanted whatever “this”– meaning the issues between us are– was to be my fault, to be because my of PTSD, my triggers, my issues, but it is about us, the both of us, it’s him, too. I told him that this issue was going to remain until he dealt with his stuff. And he said nothing in response. Not one word. 

I shook my head. “He doesn’t….he doesn’t see me. And I yelled. I mean, I swore. I don’t swear. It’s not…..I just…ugh. He had me so upset, I was swearing. I just….I don’t know.”

“Well, you had a voice, you expressed something you have needed to for a long time, and that’s important.” Bea says. 

“Ummmmm…….I’m not so sure. I just screamed and screamed and he didn’t say a word. So what was the point? I don’t know. He needs therapy.” Hagrid nudges me with his nose, and I run my fingers through his ears. 

“I wasn’t trying to be discouraging in my email; I think asking him to go to therapy is good, it’s great, but I think people have to go to therapy for themselves, and choose it for themselves to really heal.” She’d written: People have to want to work on their stuff in order to change, so if he’s not motivated to go to therapy for himself I’m not sure how much work would actually get done. (if you convinced him to go). Most people change best when they are in pain, which makes sense I guess. That’s not encouraging in a situation like yours, of course, but still it’s worth continuing to encourage him to go. 

“I didn’t think that,” I say honestly. “And I know. I just wish he would go. Did you think I was right though? About us being good, and him seeing me when I was Polly-Anna, and now all this PTSD stuff coming out has triggered something in him, it triggers his stuff and makes him shut down, which only triggers me more because I feel not listened to and that triggers his stuff more, and it’s just this bad cycle we are in. Is that right? Am I right about that?”

I had explained it more throughly via email and asked if what I said was right, and she had responded in a way that told me she agreed, but she hadn’t explicitly said I was right. “Yes, it’s right, it makes sense. It’s good to understand the cycle that you are in, what is happening.” She tells me.

“I just…I don’t know.” I cover my face, and stop talking. I don’t want to talk about hubby anymore. 

It seems we sit in silence for a long time. Or, at least there is a big blank in my mind. I’m really not sure where the conversation went from there. 

“What happens when you get snappy with hubby?” Bea asks. I had told her that I was snappy all week, and that was what led to our fight.

“It’s anyone. I mean…..it’s…I’m in this far away place. I don’t…..it’s not okay, I don’t…..it’s not this safe feeling…..it’s not okay here, but then…..it’s….I’m…….anything that interrupts me, that distracts me lit of the far away, I snap.” I shake my head. It’s really hard to explain this. I don’t have the words to explain my internal world, my reactions, my feelings, any of it. 

“Do you feel irritable?” She asked more, described it better, but I don’t remember what her words were. Maybe she talked about being short tempered, snapping before you can think, feeling slightly out of control. 

Her words make me feel really understood. I hate this part of myself, but she says it all so kindly, so full of empathy and just curiosity but it doesn’t sound like she is hating this part of me. I nod my head, but then realize that because I’ve curled up and hidden my face in my knees, Bea probably can’t see me, so I say, “Yeah.” 

We talk about the far away, and Bea tells me that the here and now is safe, that I am Grown up and safe. 

“It’s too much,” I tell her. Our session is near the end, but I need her to hear this, to get it. “It’s like….I’m on this tightrope. Trying to balance. And I can’t. I’m falling, and I have to balance. If I don’t….I…..I’m falling and I have to balance. If I fall, there’s no one there to catch me.” My voice catches and I start to cry. 

“Ahhh. You are feeling really alone.” She says softly. “What would happen if you fell?” 

“No one would catch me. I….all this….it would be right there. And then….I don’t know. I don’t know what would happen.” 

“These memories that are so real lately. They really have you feeling so alone and scared. Have any of them connected or have you been able to put words to it?” She asks me. 

“No…it’s just pieces.” Really bad pieces. I don’t know. I can’t.” There’s so much about these memories I am afraid to say. They are pieces, little ransoms pieces that don’t fit together. They are body memories, images, sounds, smells, thoughts. I’m scared and ashamed of them. It literally like being attacked all day and night. 

“Could you write them down, and we could look at them and see how they fit together?” She asks me. 

“Maybe.” I blink back tears. “Maybe. I can try.” 

“Okay. That’s good. Trying is good.” Her voice is kind. 

When I do sit up, and get ready to leave, she tells me she is here, I’m not alone, that she sees me. I leave her office with the message that I’m seen and my voice, my story matters. My voice is heard, and my story matters. I am seen. 

I hate him 

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. 

“Okay. It’s…..okay.” 

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. 

“Okay, good.” 

“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.

I nod. 

“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. 

Coloring freak out 

It’s the day after the dentist visit, and I just want to hide and not think. I don’t feel like doing anything. I’m not feeling triggered or bad, exactly, just more like I don’t want to deal with anything. I email Bea, and she responds back, telling me it makes sense I would want to hide out and lick my wounds after the day I had yesterday. Feeling validated, and slightly less guilty for ignoring all the household chores I’ve fallen so far behind on, I decide to veg out on the couch and relax. 
I think back to the last time I saw Bea, the session with the scented markers, and remember my thought that there are different kinds of being present and feeling far away. After a while, I begin to jot down notes, and make a type of chart describing the differences. I email it to Bea, and she likes it. From the notes she writes back, I feel that she gets what I’m describing, and despite myself, I feel a little bit excited to have been able to put all of these different far aways and presents into a list and describe them. Six months ago, I would have said far away is far away, and present is present. (I’m going to post the list as a page, if anyone is interested in seeing it)
It’s later in the day, nearing Kat’s bedtime, when I begin to feel triggered. Kat is being very touchy feely, and hubby has his headphones on playing a video game (and he tends to moan and groan when he gets shot in the game, and the noises are extremely triggering at times). I want to crawl out of my skin, rip my hair out, stuff my face and throw it all up. I can feel this huge amount of anxiety just covering me, suffocating me, and there is this feeling that something very, very bad is going to happen soon. It takes me forever to fall asleep, and even when I do, my sleep is broken by nightmares and memories. 
Wednesday I wake up groggy and scared, feeling like I need to hide, as if everything bad has happened. I somehow manage to get Kat to school, and then I hide in the closet with my blanket and my dog. It takes over an hour, but I write a short email to Bea, telling her I’m struggling. When she writes back, she validates that this feels really scary right now, and offers up some ideas to help get me out of this headspace. They all seem too difficult, so I continue sitting until it’s time to go get Kat. The rest of Wednesday passes by in a dissociative blur, and that night is another full of bad dreams. 
Thursday morning, I drive to Bea’s office with Hagrid, park, and head inside. I don’t feel as badly as yesterday, but there is still this cloak of anxiety covering me, and if I stop and let myself think, I feel like something very awful is about to happen, or currently happening. 
“Good morning.” I peek into the door, and tentatively say hello. 
Bea smiles, looking up from the paperwork in her lap. “Good morning.” 
Hagrid runs into her office, and after removing my snow and slush covered boots, I follow. We settle ourselves onto the couch in the usual spot, as Bea sets her papers down. Hagrid hops in my lap, and I hug him, pressing my face into his hair. Bea’s office feels safe again. 
“I was going to get the markers and some paper out, and set it up earlier, before you got here. I can do that now…….” She trails off, looking at me. “Or, why don’t we just sit a minute and catch up first?” She suggests instead. 
I nod my head, but don’t say anything. I feel like I’m halfway between getting stuck in the past again, or pretending everything is perfect. I end up doing neither. 
“It your tooth feeling better?” 
“Yeah,” I nod. 
“You know, it really does make sense that the dentist is so scary for you. I’ve had other clients with trauma who were afraid, too, and who struggled with going to the dentist. One women I saw, years and years ago, she ended up needing a lot of dental work done, but she got through it, and she was so proud of herself for doing it.” 
“I just…..I feel so….stupid.” The last work is said in a snappy whisper. 
“Not the way I see it. Think about it. Going to see the dentist, it’s like recreating a nightmare for an abuse survivor. You are being asked to lay back, to allow someone to do things to you, seeing the dentist…it’s this very passive thing, how scary for someone with trauma! And then there’s the things in your mouth, and not knowing what is going on, and having someone standing over you. It’s very scary. Talk about triggering!” Bea tells me. She is speaking a tone that says she wants me to listen and understand I am not crazy or stupid. How is she always able to make the most crazy behaviors seem normal and okay? How is it that she is always abl to have so much empathy for situations like this, and not just want to laugh and tell me to get over myself? 
“I just……I mean…..I cry. It’s….” My voice trails off, and I don’t finish the sentence.
“Understandable.” 
“No. Embarrassing,” I finally say. 
“Well, I think, as I wrote to you, that when you find the dentist you want to see long term, it will be important to communicate to them that you have PTSD. That will give your fear a name, and explain some of your behaviors, like crying.” 
By this time, I’ve curled up and buried my face. I only want to hide. 
“Do you think it was the dentist visit that triggered you yesterday and made you feel like hiding?” She asks. When I shrug, she says, “It wouldn’t be surprising. That was a lot of triggers, and a lot to deal with. Was it just a general bad feeling or a specific memory that sent you to the closet?”
“I….well……Tuesday night…that’s when….” The words come slowly, but I start to explain. I’m not sure I’ve ever walked Bea through a day of triggers and what exactly happens. Usually, I’m too embarrassed and afraid of being that vulnerable to do so. But before the emails, I had been able to be a lot more unfiltered with Bea, and I find myself wanting that now. “Kat was being touchy feely. And I’m not. I mean, I try. But….sometimes……I can’t. I just can’t.”
“Kids are very touchy feely creatures.”
“Yeah…..but Kat, she just…..she wants to be touching me all the time. I don’t know.”
“Is there something specific she does that is triggering? Or is it just specific times? You were really primed to have a very triggery day.” 
“She……” I stumble. Just saying the words makes me want to climb of of my skin. What in the world is wrong with me? “She wants to like, pet me. Like I’m a dog or something. Just….ugh.” I shudder and feel nauseous. 
“Like she wants to rub your arm?” Bea clarifies.
I nod. “It’s never….I never like it, but sometimes I can deal. But Tuesday…….” I shake my head. 
“It was too much?” I nod, and Bea continues, “Are there things that feel better, or are maybe easier with her?” 
“I…if she would sit on my lap, and just sit. Or a hug, but a quick one. Or not moving. I don’t know. ” As I’m talking, I realize that touch always feels safer when the other person doesn’t move. Huh.
“What if she could sit in your lap, and you could give her something soft to hold, or a book to hold, something like that?” Bea suggests. 
“Maybe…….but it’s hard with her, you know. But anyway…..so that was the first thing Tuesday night. And then hubby…..he was playing his game….with his headphones. You know.” 
“That makes it feel like he is in his own world, closed off from you and not seeing you.” 
I nod. It’s not the biggest problem with his headphones and game, but it is one of the things that make it hard to feel connected to him. “And he…..it’s the…..I mean…..” I struggle to get the words out. Even just thinking about it is triggering and makes me feel creepy crawly. 
Bea gives me space, and then when that doesn’t work, she talks a little bit about husbands and marriage, just normal everyday things. I finally manage to say it. “He groans, like makes noises…..” The problem is, I speak so quickly and quietly that Bea doesn’t hear me. 
I can hear her lean forward, and softly she says, “My ears aren’t working very good today. I didn’t catch that. Can you tell me again?” 
I shake my head. I can’t. I just can’t say it again. “It’s so triggering…I just can’t.” 
“The words are triggering? Or thinking about what it is he does?” She wonders. 
“I don’t know. It……I don’t know. I emailed you about it once.” I’m hoping that is enough. It wasn’t a long email, though, and it wasn’t a big thing we had discussed. I only remember the email because I felt so dumb for being triggered by this.
 
“I know, I remember that. I’m just having trouble remembering what it is he does.” We sit for a moment, and then she says, “The noises. Is that right? He makes noises when he plays his game?” 
Relived, I tell her, “Yes. And then it’s like…..before…..Kenny….and I just…..” I’m having trouble breathing and it’s hard to get any words out. 
“Of course that is triggering, of course that reminds you of being a kid. That is very hard, very triggering, and to make it worse, he is closed off from you and unaware that he is triggering you.” 
“So…..it just….I wanted to go away. It was just that bad, scary feeling. But I finally fell asleep.”
“Was it really hard to fall asleep?” 
“Yeah, yeah it was. I was just….I don’t know. Scared. And then there was a dream, a memory. And that is what made me really want to hide in the closet.” 
“So you got Kat to school and then came home……” Bea prompts. 
“And I hid in the closet. Doing nothing, just hiding.” 
“You emailed me. That was something,” she says. 
I nod. “Yes. I did email you.” 
“Did you get out of the closet? Well, you’re here, so obviously you got out of the closet, but how did the rest of the day go? Did you get back to a little more present?” 
I shake my head. “When I had to get Kat from school, that’s when I left. And then…it’s trying to act normal, listen and respond to other adults. I forced myself to clean up when ABA was there, and then when hubby got home, I hid in the bathtub. And slept for a few hours, a bad dream woke me.” The words rush out of me, finishing off the story of yesterday.

 
“Did you go back to sleep after the dream?” 
“No…..it’s scary to do that.” 
“It does feel really scary to fall back asleep after a bad dream,” she validates. 

“Does the little guy go with you when you hide in the closet?” She’s talking about Hagrid.
“Yeah. He doesn’t like it when I hide in the closet though. But he follows me.” 
“Does it feel safe in the closet? Do you take a blanket with you? Or anything with you?” She sounds like we are talking about something perfectly normal, and I’m reminded of the first time I admitted my hiding place to her. 
“It’s not…..nothing feels safe when I feel like this. But it feels better.” The words are whisper quiet, but Bea manages to hear. 
“Better is good. Better is something.” 
After a minute, I decide to answer her other questions. “I always….I have a favorite blanket…..it maybe changes because I get new ones, but I always have a favorite……” Even when I was a child, I had always had a special blanket, and I would carry it around with me. When I moved away to college, I actually brought my blanky with me. And hubby was the first guy I never hid blanky from. I’m not sure why I didn’t feel the need to hide it from him, I just didn’t. “So, I take my blanket and wrap up in it, put it over my head, and hide in the closet.” Just like I used to do as a child. 
“Well, in my mind, it’s not real hiding without a blanket,” she tells me kindly. 
“It’s embarrassing.” My face is hot, and I know it must be bright red. 
“You think it’s embarrassing?” 
I nod. I’m a 32 year old woman, married, with a child, and I still have a blanky. And not only do I still have a blanky, but I hide under it, in a closet, when I get really scared. I’m not 5 years old. It’s incredibly embarrassing.
“I bet it’s not embarrassing to the little girl.” Her voice is soft, but matter of fact. I might be 32 years old, but there is a part of me that is just a little girl. 
“Probably not,” I admit. 
We sit in silence for a moment, maybe longer, and I really don’t feel as embarrassed as I had. Bea’s acceptance of the little girl and her needs goes a long way toward that. She is more kind and understanding toward the little girl than I am. 
“I have some ideas of things we could try to help get out of that retraumatizing headspace,” she tells me. “And none of it has to do with the body, it’s all focusing on things outside of yourself. Do you want to hear a little bit about it?” 
I feel a little frozen, afraid of the things she might have to say, but then I nod my head. “Okay.” 
She talks about the orientating response– The orienting response, also called orienting reflex, is an organism’s immediate response to a change in its environment, when that change is not sudden enough to elicit the startle reflex.– and how with trauma, this response gets mixed up, and traumatized individuals end up orientating towards the internal, like past memories or feelings. (Or something like that.) She says that we can work to retrain this response to orient towards the external, like naming colors or objects in a room. “It’s like right now a flashlight is shining on trauma memories, so our goal is to try to get the light to shine on something else. And we do that by paying attention to the present moment, but it does not have to be internal or body related at all.” I’m sure she explained it better than that, and it made a lot of sense when she was talking. I’m just having trouble fully remembering everything she said. 
“You can orient to color, to objects, to sounds. One thing I think you already do is orient to my voice,” she tells me. I feel my face flush, embarrassed……exactly why, I’m not sure. I think it has something to do with needing her to help ground me. I hate needing anyone.
 
“Maybe that’s why I always ask you to just talk?” My voice sounds small, and shy. 
“Yes, exactly like that,” she agrees. “So, I was thinking we could try some things with this. Maybe coloring, and just orientating towards the colors you are choosing. What do you think?” 
I’m honestly not sure what I think. It seems as if it sounds simpler than it is, but it also doesn’t sound as scary as other things she has suggested. Finally, nodding, I say, “It might be okay.” 
“And what about the little girl? What does she think? I feel like we always need to be mindful of her.” 
I take a minute and try to feel the little girl part. “It doesn’t sound so terrible,” I whisper. 
“Shall I get some markers and maybe some coloring books?” She asks me. 
“Okay.” I agree, and she gets up. I can hear her moving around the room, gathering our materials. I slowly look up, and Hagrid jumps back into my lap. I hug him for a few minutes. 
Bea chooses a picture, and starts to color. It takes me longer, but I choose a picture too, and then I stare at it blankly for a while. We chat about normal things, about Kat and school, the weather, books we’ve read. I finally choose a green marker and start to color. After a while, Bea asks, “What made you start with green?” 
I shrug, I have no idea. I just did. “Ummm..I don’t know. This seems like a hard question.” 
“Well, it is, in a way. But if I really stop and think about it, I can think that I chose to start with blue because I decided I wanted to use all the blues in this picture.” She tells me. 
“I guess it just made sense, to start with green.” 
Bea continues to periodically bring my attention back to what I’m coloring. Why did I switch colors? Did that color turn out how I expected? Did I notice my picture is colored very symmetrically? Was that pink or orange I colored the flowers with? I start to feel more anxious the longer we sit at the little table coloring. It hasn’t even really been 15 minutes, and I want to cry.
I look up at Bea. “You don’t agree with this, but I….I think the present is scary.” My voice breaks while I’m talking, and I start to cry. Frantically, I try to bury my face, and set my marker down. I need to hide right now. I am not okay. In my panic, I knock my coffee cup (thankfully it is a straw thermos with a lid) and drop my picture and marker on the floor. I curl into a ball and cry. 
Bea calmly picks up the coffee cup and wipes up the spill. She sets my stuff back on the table and says very quietly, “There’s those emotions bubbling up to the surface. That’s okay.” 
“It’s not. It’s not. This is why…..it’s not okay, it is not safe to be here, the present is bad. All the feelings are here.” I choke out between sobs. 
“Those old beliefs are very strong,” she tells me, as Hagrid nudges me with his nose. “She’s okay, Hagrid, she is just learning that it is okay to be present, that she is okay. When she was a little girl, it wasn’t safe to be present, she couldn’t be present. Imagine how terrifying it would have been to be in the present moment. And all the little girl has ever really known is that it isn’t safe to be present. And she was right, then. But she’s a grown up now, and being far away isn’t always so helpful. Very slowly and carefully, the little girl will start to learn it is okay to be present.” 
I’m listening to Bea, and she sounds so calm and understanding, like she really cares and wants the little girl to feel safe, I start to relax, just a little bit. I’m feeling very defective, and broken, that something as simple as paying attention to what is going on in the room, in the moment has sent me into this meltdown place. “I hate that this is so hard for me,” I tell her. 
“I hate that this is so hard for you, too,” she says, and I hear tears in her voice. “But, I also celebrate every bit of progress you make, every victory you have. And you’ve made a lot of progress.” She sounds proud. I can’t really take it in, not fully, but her words stay with me. 
“I’m sorry,” I tell her. I feel badly that I just can’t do this, like I have failed.
 
“There’s nothing to be sorry for. This is the process, and we are on this journey together.” 
She lets me have some room to cry, and then encourages me to try to sit up and color one more thing on my picture, not wanting me to end this activity with the overwhelming feelings causing panic. “I won’t ask about your picture, or the colors, or anything, okay? I might talk about mine, because I’m proud of it, but I won’t ask you anything.” 
I sit up, and slowly choose a turquoise marker. I color in one small section of my picture, and sit it down on the table. We talk about everyday, simple stuff, and I’m feeling okay when I leave. I hate that this is all so hard and complicated. I hate that I can’t just be normal. But I don’t feel horribly overwhelmed or ashamed when I leave, even after my meltdown. And, more importantly, I feel connected to Bea again, and like we really are okay.