It’s not the end

I’m sorry to publish two posts back to back like this, but I wanted to let you all know how things ended up.

As most of you are aware, this was a really tough week. I struggled, a lot. Although I haven’t responded to comments, your comments and kind words– just the care shown and support offered– did help. It made me less alone, and reassured me in so many ways. While I don’t think there is anything super triggering in this post, maybe just be careful, just in case, because I’m not all here right now, and I would hate to trigger some one because I am not paying enough attention.

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Driving Kat to school, I am acutely aware that I must make a choice today: to go to therapy or to go home. I don’t know which to choose. It makes my head hurt when I think about it, so I stop thinking about it. I take Kat into school, and go through our morning school routine, all the little things that help her to transition to school. She lets me go easily this morning, and I walk to the car feeling off balance.

I don’t need to think, my mind and body automatically head towards Bea’s office. My heart is frozen, and the evil ugly butterflies are flying around in my stomach full speed ahead. My arms feel numb, and my chest is prickly, tingly. I can’t breathe. I don’t think I want to do this. I don’t want to see Bea. It’s going to hurt too much.

I get to her office and park the car. I’m frozen. All I can think is *she will send me away* and *she is going to leave* and *I can’t do this*. I begin to get my things together, but it is as if I am moving through thick mud; taking a long time to put my phone in my bag, to shut the car off, to grab my car keys. I stare into my bag. The large sized pink polka dotted notebook (I bought it when I was having my mini criss and my beautiful orange notebook was at home. I needed to write, so I bought a new book.) is sitting in my bag. I stare at it. Do I want it in my bag? Do I want to give it to Bea? It’s really vulnerable. The middle of the notebook is okay. But the beginning is horrible. The teen is pissed at her and struggling not to hurt herself. And the end, Little Alice drew the pictures that are stuck in her mind. They are pretty disgusting and terrible. I finally decide to carry it with me, so I can always throw the notebook at her and run away if it feels like too much.

I walk up the stairs slowly. Heart pounding. I can’t breathe. I’m so scared. Despite all that, I put one foot in front of the other and climb the steps. Bea is waiting at the door for me, and she opens it to let me in.

“I’m glad to see you,” she says. “I know it wasn’t easy to make it here today.”

I can’t look at her. I try to say hi, but no sound comes out.

I sit down fast, almost like I’m afraid if I don’t, I’m going to run out the door. I curl my legs up, and stare at the puppets in a bucket on the floor. I’m playing with my hands, the edges of my sweater, picking at my fingers. All that nervous energy has to come out somewhere, I guess, and the rest of me is frozen.

When it’s obvious I am not going to say anything, Bea begins. I’m half listening, and her voice is so far away. I don’t want to hear what she has to say. I already know she is going to take away email, or my extra session time, or possibly even fire me. I was hurt and angry and I behaved like a brat and now she is going to punish me.

“I want to apologize for what happened this week. I missed the mark, and I am sorry about that. I take full responsibility for this rupture,” she says softly.

Wait….what? She’s sorry? But it’s not all her fault. I know that. I wrote it down, somewhere. I tried and tried to understand and make sense of what had happened in between my meltdowns over flashbacks and nightmares and body sensations. Bea is still talking, but I am struggling to hear.

She is saying something about being sorry, and that she had always argued with colleagues that email wasn’t a problem because the clients she offered email to understood what she was meaning and she understood what they meant, and it just worked. “We need to make a plan,” she tells me, and that sentence breaks through the fog. I don’t respond, because now everything in my is frozen and I’m so scared she is going to say the plan is no emailing, or only ever emailing but her not responding or something equally terrible. “I have some ideas about a plan.”

I shake my head. I don’t want to talk to her about a plan.

“We can wait and talk about a plan in a little bit. I see you have a new notebook there. Did you want me to read?” She asks.

I look over at my notebook. There is so much vulnerability in there. I pick it up, and flip through it. “I don’t know.”

“Okay,” she says. And then she waits.

I flip through the notebook, again and again, numbly. I’m aware I’m doing it, I’m just not really here. I stop in the middle of the notebook, where I had rewritten my email. “I don’t think….it’s not all your fault.” I whisper. It feels like I haven’t used my voice in years.

“It’s not what?” Bea didn’t hear me, because the sound in my voice just disappeared as I was talking.

“Your fault. I wrote….I wrote that….I said….. I said polka dots but you heard stripes and you responded to stripes but I really needed polka dots. And I think…..I wasn’t so clear. I mean…..I don’t know. Never mind.” All of this said with a mumble and a whisper, while I refuse to look at her. Thank goodness Bea has become fluent in Alice speak (most of the time).

I honestly don’t remember what she said, but I know she apologized again, and she said if the teen was mad, it was okay and she could let that mad out. I shook my head at that and told her no one was mad anymore. She sighs and tells me, “I hope that all the parts know they can be mad and share that with me. I feel like the teen gets mad at me, just like my kids do, but my kids let me have it. They don’t hold back. And I can take it. I hope the teen knows that I can take it if she is mad, and that won’t make me go away. It won’t make me mad back, or make me care any less.”

I sit very still, very quiet, but I’m listening now. She continues, “I feel a bit like I do with my kids right now, when they are struggling and hurting and there is nothing I can do to take that away. I don’t like seeing you in so much pain, and I am so sorry for the pain I caused. I never want to stir up those abandonment feelings. I am not going to abandon you, not ever, there is nothing you could do that will make me go away. I do feel very badly that my response felt so bad to you. I didn’t want to make you feel like this, and I honestly felt like I had responded in the way you were needing. I had no idea I had been so off base, and your second email did surprise me. If I could take away this pain, I would.”

I’m still so scared something bad is going to happen, I’m shaking. I open the pink notebook to the middle page. “I rewrote my first email. I wasn’t…well, here.” And I hand her the notebook.

“Do you want me to start reading here?”

“Yeah. I….it’s….the beginning is where all the mad is at.” I cover my face in shame.

“So there is mad! Good! I’m glad to know its there!” I can hear a smile in Bea’s voice, and I shake my head. She is so weird. Who gets happy that mad showed up?

Bea starts to read and I grab the cloud pillow that is behind me on the back of the couch. She pauses and then asks, “Do you want your blanket?” She sounds so gentle, the way you would speak to a very emotionally exhausted child. Before I say anything, she says, “You know, I’m just going to get it and set it next to you, okay? That way it’s there if you want it.”

After she sets the blanket down, she starts reading. (I don’t have the pink notebook, the little girl wanted to leave it and all the scary pictures with Bea, so I’m going solely by memory.) I’d written that I wasn’t very coherent in my first email and so I didn’t get my message across. I wrote in the notebook: this is what I should have said.

1) I’ve realized that when I am far away, my reactions tend to be bigger than they should be, because that is the only way I can feel them, and I am having a very big problem being present right now and managing my reactions.

2) The little girl is so afraid you keep bringing up the grown up and wanting the grown up to help her. She thinks this is because you don’t want to have to listen to her or help her anymore.

3) The little girl is really triggered. She is having flashbacks and nightmares and these body feelings that make her feel disgusting and shameful and bad and they make her want to go away forever and ever.

4) The teen is so triggered by the little girls flashbacks. All of this has triggered her suicidal ideation, her need to self harm and she wants to throw up in this extreme way. It’s all so big, and her need to do something is next to impossible for the grown up to contain.

5) I need help. I’m balancing on this very small edge and I’m not sure how much longer I can keep myself from falling over it.

“Right away, I can read this and tell, you were really struggling. Things were really bad.” Bea says almost immediately.

I don’t say anything, so she goes back to reading. I’d written that I didn’t understand why she didn’t just tell me she was really busy, but she was there and listening and she knew it all hurt and she cared and that even though she couldn’t respond much, I could keep writing and pouring out the toxic gunk, it wouldn’t hurt her, and she could help contain it. The Teen had written *that is what the Bea I know and trust would have said.*

I don’t know what was going on for Bea, but when she spoke, she was very serious. “The teen is right. I didn’t make it clear that I was listening and that it was okay to keep writing. I went more the explaining route, instead of just focusing on the feelings. I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t…I mean, I just…ugh. You were talking to the grown up, explaining things, but it wasn’t the grown up that needed to be talked to.”

“No, it wasn’t the grown up that needed me to talk to her. The little girl needed soothing. I don’t think— I didn’t realize when I read your email that morning that you were screaming HELP. I read it, and heard “help”. I mistook your email….I experienced it as the little girl just needing to hear me say *I’m here and nothing I said in session means I am leaving*. I thought explaining why I brought up the grown up would help. I see now why it didn’t. There wasn’t enough grown up on board to hear that. The little girl needed to be calmed in order to calm the teen. Had I realized it was a HELP, I would have responded differently. My second email, I honestly was so surprised that you were upset by the first email, and I didn’t even see that you were trying to scream HELP again, or that you were upset because I had not responded to HELP. I went right to teacher mode, trying to explain to the parts that I didn’t have a lot of time, and that I had them in my mind. I suppose I was sort of trying to say *calm down guys, I am here even if I can’t write a long email back.*” Bea talked a lot, and she was really honest. She was human, regular Bea.

“You were really in teacher mode.” I say seriously.

“I know. And that’s not what you needed.”

Our conversation went like that for a while. Bea explaining what was happening on her end, me saying that *I know* and Bea apologizing again for missing this crisis and not realizing the little girl needed more validation and soothing. (The thing we realized is that had she known, she could have sent one email most likely taking care of the little girls needs. She apologized for not having the time to read my email throughly enough to read between the lines, and I told her that I knew I could have been more clear in what was happening. I think I get afraid to shout HELP, because I don’t want to be accused of being a drama queen.)

At one point, I’d written out what she had said in email, and what the little girl took that mean. As she read that, she stops and says,”This all had to feel terrible. These are awful things to be told, aren’t they?”

I nod. “Yeah.”

“I know this is what was heard, but let me make sure that all the parts know, this is not what I meant. I do not think you are too much. I don’t want the grown up to be the only one helping the little girl. I want to work with the grown up. My hope is….because all of this goes on inside, and the grown up can be inside, too, it would feel really good for the little girl to have the grown up be able to sit with her. But it’s okay if no one is ready for that. It’s okay. I’m here, and I’m not leaving. The grown up is supposed to be an addition to the little girl’s support. We aren’t taking anything away. I’m not being taken away from the little girl. And anything the little girl needs to share is okay. It’s not too much, it’s not going to contaminate me or break me. Okay?”

“Okay.” I whisper the word.

She goes back to reading. “On, look here. You even say that maybe I was still emotionally present but the teen and the little girl took the teacher feeling they were getting from me to mean I was going to be pulling away. And it felt like a wall.”

“Because maybe both things can be true. Maybe you were emotionally present, and maybe it felt to me like you you weren’t there. Maybe you responded in the right way to what you heard me saying and maybe your attunement was off in your response to what I had actually been trying to say.”

“Yes. I heard help when you meant HELP. I was going to ask about the third email, when I had time to sit down and respond more throughly, but here you already answered that. That email still was misattuned, and had that same teacher trying to get the class under control and explain things to them feeling. It just wasn’t what you needed. That’s why I’m thinking, in the future if that happens, then instead if continuing to email (I cringe, I knew it), we schedule a phone call. So we can talk this through before it gets to this point.” She doesn’t sound mad, or annoyed, or anything else.

I shrug. “You aren’t taking email away?”

“No. No, that is not the answer. And nine times out of ten, email works great for us. I feel like taking away email would be a terrible idea. But sometimes I will be busy and not able to put 100% of my attention on your email the way I can when we are face to face. And sometimes that means I miss the mark in a huge way. Maybe we need a signal. Like message me HELP in all caps when I miss the mark like that. But seriously, if we schedule a time to talk, then I can spend 15 or 30 minutes focused just on you. And if we need more time, then during the phone call we can schedule another call for later. And then you won’t be sitting with all this pain for so long.” She explains. And she sounds okay with this plan, and even more so, she sounds serious that taking away email would be terrible idea.

I breathe a sigh of relief over the plan. It’s okay, even though phone calls are hard for me. And then little Alice is running the show. “It was a really long time. And none of the yuck went away and it was so hard because I thought you left and I lost you and then it was just me and all the awful thoughts and feelings and the teen wanting to do scary things to herself and it was so so bad.” I start to cry then, and so I yank the blanket over my head and hide.

“It was really bad, and I’m so sorry. I wish I could help you understand that I’m always here, even if I’m not right there every moment. I wish I could help you trust that I am always able to hold you in my mind, even if I am busy.” Bea’s voice is soft and kind.

“But I can’t hold onto that. I get so scared every time that all my ick is going to make you hate me and need to leave so I don’t get the icky on you.” Little girl voice, crying and trying not to.

“The ick isn’t yours. You aren’t icky. And no matter what icky things happened, or what icky things you tell me about, I’m not going anywhere.” Bea’s tone is warm and caring, but also serious. She wants so badly for the little girl to get it.

“But…but….you were too busy to hear me. You didn’t see me when I needed help.” I cry.

“I know. That felt really bad. That’s why we are going to make a plan. I thought about you a lot this week. I was worried, and I felt bad that you were feeling so bad. You have to understand, you have a place in my heart, and you will always have a place there. That doesn’t just go away because I was busy, or because I was misattuned. That doesn’t mean I stop caring, or that you aren’t in my heart anymore. All the parts of you have a place in my heart. I care about you.” She says gently.

“I don’t want to hurt you or make you feel bad. I’m not supposed to matter like that.” The words come out of Little Alice’s mouth and they surprise me. It’s the push pull of attachment issues and relationships. I hate you, don’t leave me. Care about me, I don’t deserve to matter to you.

“Well, too bad, because you matter to me. That’s a relationship. Just because this is a therapy, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a real relationship or that I don’t care about you. You matter to me, and with that comes feelings. It’s okay. You deserve to matter to people.” Her words make me freeze again. I matter to her. I have a place in her heart and it won’t just go away because of a rupture. Things don’t work like that. I don’t know what that means to me, and it hurts to think about it, and so I don’t.

After a few minutes of me not speaking, Bea asks if I want her to finish reading. “Yeah. But just from where you are. Not the front.” The little girl might be beginning to believe Bea that she isn’t leaving and that she cares, but the idea of all that mad being poured out at Bea, it’s more than the little girl can believe is okay.

Bea goes back to reading. She’s found the pages and pages of dissociative, confused writing just spilling out onto the page. “You really needed me. This was too much to hold.” She says quietly. Her voice is so sad.

Hearing her say those words, just the very act of Bea realizing how bad it all was and how much I needed her lets loose the floods of tears I hadn’t even known I’d been fighting to hold onto. “I really, really did.” I gulp the words out, between sobs.

“The little girl did drawings? Where are they….” Bea is mostly mumbling to herself, just thinking outloud, and just when the little girl is starting to speak up, to tell Bea not to look at the drawings because they will contaminate Bea with all of my disgustingness, Bea says, “Oh, here they are.”

My heart freezes, and I want to disappear in that moment. The little girl was at a loss for words, the pain of all that she was trying so hard to hold onto was too much for words and so she drew all the images and nightmares and feelings. (Okay– these descriptions of the drawings could be triggering.)

The first picture shows Bea, in her sunny office with her comfy couch standing on one side of a thick door with a giant lock on the door knob. I’m on the other side of the door, curled into myself, with greenish-black slime covering the walls, and a box with an open lid and a big lock on the floor. Coming out of the box is a black shadowy ghost like creature with horns and red eyes. Black ooze is leaking out the bottom of the box. “You really felt like I was gone. This is so scary, and it’s too much for one little girl to handle. It’s too much for anybody to handle.” The picture seems to hit Bea hard; that imagery of her on this sunny okay side, with the lock on the door while I am stuck in the room of horrors all alone.

The next pictures depict a bruised arm, a black shadow monster with horns on top of the little girl while another part of her is sitting huddled on the floor, curled into a ball. There’s a picture of a girl drowning in green toxic slime, and a clawed hand stopping her from escape. There is another picture of a girl with her limbs and head all separate, just floating around like balloons, there is no torso, no private parts, nothing that can be hurt. Bea makes a noise as she flips through these pictures, not a gasp and not a sigh, but a sad noise, regretful. “This was all so scary, and you really needed me.”

“I did. I’m sorry, but I did.” I cry.

“No, no sorry. You are allowed to need me. You were feeling some real big, real scary feelings. They didn’t feel good and you didn’t feel safe at all. I’m really glad you shared them with me. I can see how really bad this week felt. That is a lot to hold onto. It was really hard, I know. You did a good job. Writing and drawing, that was a good job.” She sounds a little like a teacher again, but now she is a kind and open teacher. One whose voice is affectionate and caring and who gets how bad it all felt.

“You were just gone and I couldn’t and the teen couldn’t and she was being scared too and the grown up isn’t always so strong and I just wanted to go away forever and ever.”

“I know, I know you did. That’s why when all the parts are here, we are going to make a plan, so this doesn’t happen again, okay? We will make a plan and keep you safe. You are safe now. All those really, really scary things are over. I know they don’t feel over sometimes but they are. You are safe now, and we aren’t going to leave you alone like that again. Okay?” Bea tells me.

I sniffle, nod. “Okay.”

She tells me that we have just a few minutes left. I don’t want to leave, I really really don’t want to leave but I say okay, and tell her I can go. “Take a few minutes. Even if you don’t want to be fully present, I still want the grown up to try to get back online, at least a little bit.”

As I am trying to get back to a place where Bea will let me leave, I peak out from my blanket and quickly glance at her. She’s the same Bea.

Bea sits forward in her chair, and standing up, goes to set the pink notebook next to me.

“I don’t want that notebook back. No. I don’t want everything in it.” I’m in that weird place where the grown up is back online but not fully in control either and so the little girl manages to shout out her wishes at Bea.

Bea walks over to her table desk, where she has her planner and crafts and paints and projects kids ask her to save and her notes and who knows what else. She puts the pink notebook there. The little girl likes that it’s there. She doesn’t want Bea to get rid of her pictures, not yet, and if they are safe on her desk then maybe they can look at them next time and talk about it.

“Can we talk some logistical things for a moment, before you go?”

I nod. “Alright.”

“Are you going to you mom’s for Thanksgiving?” She asks.

“No, to hubby’s sister.”

“Then you will be in town. Kat doesn’t have school, does she? Can you still come on Wednesday?”

“Are you working Wednesday? I didn’t think….I mean, I don’t want…” I whisper. I’m trying to say I don’t want to make her work when she wasn’t going to, or take time away from her holiday but the little girl is screaming that she wants to see Bea and the teen is trying to convince the little girl not to be too much.

“I was planning to come in to see you if you were in town, and under the circumstances, I think we need to have a session.”

“It’s okay, because I don’t want to make you work when you weren’t going to and I don’t want to mess things up and I don’t want….”

Bea cuts me off. “This isn’t you messing anything up. Nothing is messed up. I do think, if you are able to, that it would be a good thing to have a session. You really need to experience me being here right now, so I think it’s important.”

“Okay.” I whisper.

“What time do you want to come?” She asks.

“Anytime in the morning. Whatever works for you.”

“Can you come at 8?” She asks.

“Yes, I can be here then.” I stand up and grab my bag.

“Okay then. I’ll see you Wednesday,” she says, smiling.

Just as my hand is on the door knob, I stop and look at Bea. “Are we okay?”

“Yes. I’m okay. You are okay. And we are okay. This didn’t damage us. We’re okay and I’m here.” She says softly. She’s standing next to me, because she always walks me out to the top of the stairs.

I nod. “Okay.” And then we say our goodbyes.

I’m okay when I leave. I’m sort of sad and just emotionally drained. The parts are still stirred up and I am still a little numb. I’m all sorts of mixed up, but mostly I believe Bea is here now and she gets how bad everything feels.

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Parts mixed up

Trigger warning. Negative coping skills mentioned and CSA mentioned.

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So yesterday (Wednesday) after therapy (which I haven’t posted about), I was okay, maybe a little distanced but okay. As the day went on, more and more feelings came up and by 7:00pm last night, the little girl wanted to hide, to disappear forever and the teen wanted to stuff her face and throw up or hurt herself. I ended up emailing Bea at 12:30am because I didn’t know what else to do.

Hi Bea,

So, I was starting to do some writing and then I realized things were more confused in my head than I thought and the little girl is scared and sad and I just thought, I could hold onto this the rest of the week, but I don’t think that will be a good thing. I just don’t think I can hold all the parts feelings by myself right now. It got messy and mixed up so fast, and I just can’t hold it all and be the present and grounded and more healthy Alice I am. I yelled at Kat today–  (and she’s okay, and I’m okay, and I had 2 friends validate the frustration and tell me I’m okay and Kat’s okay, and so I’m not just hiding, but……..it still feels bad) she deserved to be in trouble for a sassy attitude and rude and disrespectful behavior, but I gave her a lecture that would rival the guilt laden lectures my parents loved to give me. Maybe she needed something like that, because nothing else has nipped that behavior in the bud, but she didn’t need to be lectured for the hour drive home and then punished (to write apology letters). That was too much. And I think it happened, at least in part, (and this feels like a BIG thing I’ve just figured out and put into words) because the parts are all stirred up and conflicted and that makes me feel more of the here not here (and more of the not here than here this afternoon), so I miss the impact of my outward behavior. It’s almost like for me to “feel” the mad or the disappointment or whatever it has to be extra HUGE because I’m so far away. I mean, it’s sort of a comfortable, familiar feeling, this far away, but the more I experience something different, the more I realize how much damage being far away can do. I see and feel more and more why it was needed back then, but isn’t needed now and why it’s not healthy to keep using the far away as my go to coping skill.

But, anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent, and this is what I was beginning to write in my notebook about and was trying to email about:

The little girl doesn’t want the grown up. That’s what I told you. It’s as close as I could come to saying:

I’m afraid you are trying to cut yourself out. The little  girl doesn’t want the grown up, she wants you. And this feels like you leaving— or laying the groundwork so you can leave. I know it’s your job to push me, but this is too much change all at once. I’m doing sensorimotor, even if it’s with your and my own twist to it, and I’m revising how I think of healing, and I’m figuring out how to stay in the present and keep the ick in the therapy box and I’m facing this scary huge thing (otherwise known as ‘I didn’t get a choice, he wouldn’t let me move, It wasn’t my fault’) and I cope a lot better than ever before and I manage things most of the time between appointments on my own and it just feels like still you want more from me. And maybe everything in therapy was always leading up to these big changes but this feels like a corner was turned or something and it feels like a lot of change and I can’t do all this, I can’t handle all these new ideas if the little girl thinks you are trying to leave. And it does not matter how much you reassure that it’s her choice to leave, not yours. That feels like it still is an expectation, that at some point the little girl is expected to rely on the grown up and not need therapy or you anymore and choose to leave. I know you have explained it as a choice, but it is a choice she is expected to make at some point. And that sucks. A choice like that isn’t really a choice, is it?

It’s always a conversation about the grown up needing to be online and the grown up needing to communicate with the little girl and them needing to work together and blah blah blah. I understand why, I get it, but it feels like you are really pushing for that, like its this……I don’t know….like it is something that needs to happen sooner than later. I tried not to care, to not let it matter, to ignore it, because the grown up does think it’s a ridiculous thing to be all spun up over. The old messages of being a drama queen, needing too much, being over sensitive are running through my head as I type this out. But the teen is mad and feeling like she is somehow messing everything up, and the little girl is sad and scared and feeling like she’s just not good enough, like she will never ever be good enough.

I know it took me a long time to be willing to use words and to feel emotionally and physically all at the same time. I know it took me a long time to be able to even talk during sessions, that it was a lot to always be emailing and saying everything I needed to say in email and needing a quick response to all the ick I was pouring out and that the extra time I always seem to need to be able to connect and to sort of check if you are you is not some thing most therapists would give me (and honestly, it makes me feel less guilty to know that you enjoy that chat time and that you are really okay with it) and I know it took me a long time to be able to even start to look at the details of things and see that my story of it all as a whole doesn’t match the mixed up pieces of my memory. I know I’m lucky I have a patient therapist who was willing to wait me out and start where I was. But now, It just feels like you think I should be more of something. More present, more capable, more integrated, more healed,  more something. Some part of me, maybe the teen, although she’d need admit it, worries I have used up all your patience. After all, that’s what the little girl and teen do, you know. They need too much, and they take and take and take and they drain people of all they have to give until eventually they’ve broken them. The teen, the little girl, they break everyone eventually. So maybe, just maybe, the teen is terrified she has drained most of your patience and so you need the grown up to be able to take care of the parts because soon the teen will have broken you, too.

And the really messed up thing is that it wasn’t a bad session. I was proud of myself for being able to say I needed more time to do any moving, and for making the choice to wait until Monday to come back to the sick feeling and need to move away and I was proud I sat with the really bad sick like something bad is going to happen feelings, even if it was only a minute, maybe less time, I still stayed with the feeling and felt it and that’s more than I ever did before. Even with that, today’s session, it didn’t feel bad. I felt….I don’t know, like together you and I kept things from getting overwhelming and out of control and that felt….I don’t know. Strong? Powerful? Something I don’t have the word for because it’s not a feeling I often have. So it wasn’t a session that felt yucky. Except this mixed up piece. Except all this mess that has come up now. Ugh. The teen was so mad when you sort of set it up so the grown up would have to ask for a blanket for the little girl if the little girl wanted to be able to hide. That felt like this shrinky manipulation. It wasn’t fair. My only thought during that time? “The grown up is not going to be forced help the little girl.” Yeah, I did end up asking, but the whole time the teen was pissed. Oh boy, was the teen was mad about it all. And maybe the grown up knows that you weren’t being manipulative or shrinky and that you aren’t pushing the little girl to rely on the grown up so you can escape the little girl. But it sure doesn’t feel like it right now. It just feels like you want to get away from me before my ick contaminates you, before I break you. It just all feels confusing because there’s too many conflicting feelings about you right now, on top of conflicting feelings about the Kenny stuff. I’m confused about enough. It doesn’t feel good to be confused about my secure base. (Yes, I’m all done pretending relationships don’t matter, or that you aren’t important or that the little girl has absolutely no attachment to you at all. Or, in writing I’m no longer pretending that. Face to face might be a different story.) So. This just feels bad right now. And I couldn’t tell you if it’s past or present feelings, but it is definitely a parts thing. That much I know. And of course the other old message running through my head “what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? Why do I make a deal out of things that aren’t a deal? Maybe I’m jut crazy. Maybe I am just a drama queen. Maybe this is all just a big mess I’ve created. What’s wrong with me?”

I guess the grown up is asking for help for (with?) the teen and the little girl. Because the grown up, she just can not hold all of this or sort it.

~Alice

No therapy Monday

Bea wanted me to pay attention to what comes up this week. I feel like it’s been a lot, and I was sort of nervous, sort of looking forward to sharing with her what I’ve noticed this week. But instead of going to therapy, my family is dealing with yet another loss. My husband’s grandma passed away late Friday night/early Saturday morning. I’m sad and numb and my family is struggling. I’m also frustrated that I’ve been dealing with something important in therapy and now I’m having to put it on pause. I’m going to record here what is coming up.

It’s weird. Sort of like a part of me, maybe the little girl or the teen, has been carrying around a backpack full of rocks. Maybe both of them have their own rocks. And these aren’t nice smooth beach rocks. They are rough and bumpy and ugly. I used to think that healing meant emptying the bags of all the rocks. That’s not exactly what this feels like though. It feels more like someone stuck one of those rocks in a rock polisher, and now the rock is smoother, most of the sharp, painful edges have been worn away. It’s not gone, it’s not all better, but it’s less of something.

Maybe I need to revise my definition of healing. When I started this, I think my goal– as much as I resented being Ms. Perfect at times— was to get back to being Ms. Perfect. I think I thought if I did the therapy thing then the memories would magically disappear; that I’d never think about them again, that they would never be triggered again, that I would be the me I would have been before the trauma. Or something like that. But that is unrealistic.

Now, I think healing means polishing the rocks, maybe being able to store the backpacks in a closet somewhere. It means that the adult stays online with the teen and the little girl— they don’t get to run the show anymore. It means that when memories are triggered that they don’t hold the same power to pull me into the past so the memory feels new and now, instead, it may feel awful because some of my memories are truly horrible, but it will feel awful in the present and I will know it’s over and I already survived it. It means that nightmares are few and far between and it means that when they do happen, they don’t cause me to wake up in the past, frozen and terrified. I don’t want to be frozen anymore.

Once Bea asked me, surprised, *so it feels good to be frozen?* I don’t know if good is the right word, maybe familiar, safe, not threatening, comfortable. That’s still at least partly true, but I don’t want to be frozen anymore. It was so scary to be in that place in my memory and to allow myself to remember that I wanted to move, and then move in the present. I think that’s why I needed to do it fast. It’s sort of like how the details of a memory are harder to face; slowing it down would be like facing the details. I’d have to face the fact that I wanted to move.

Of course, it’s coming up anyway, in my nightmares. I’m having nightmares, both the memory kind and non-memory kind. I feel this huge amount of emotion surrounding this idea that I wanted to move, to push him away, to cover my mouth. That changes the whole story. It makes it impossible to call it a silly game, or a secret, or a thing that happened because I had a loved him and wanted to marry him, or any other reason in the long list of reasons of *How I Caused This To Happen*. So there has been a lot of emotion coming up, grief, anger, I don’t know what. Complicated feelings. There have been nightmares, all about this idea of being trapped, of wanting to move but not being able to. If it’s not the detail of the memory I have been working with, then it’s the not real nightmares. The not real nightmares always involve me being followed, and knowing I’m being a followed but not being able to do a thing to stop it and there is so much fear, so much, well, it’s the sick like something bad is going to happen feeling. Dread. Trepidation. Sometimes I wake up there, and feel off the rest of the day. Like I wake off balance and then never regain my equilibrium for the day. Other times, the nightmare goes on, and I end up abducted and then the threat of bad things happening looms over me. When I wake up from that, there is no getting back to sleep.

So, it’s been weird. I know sensorimotor therapy is supposed to resolve trauma memories, and take the power out of the memories. On one hand, that’s been true. On the other, it’s brought up more stuff. I think facing the details of this has been hard. It brings up a lot of pain and hurt. There’s a lot of grief and anger there, too.

Finding our way back 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do I usually do?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nod. “Yeah.” 

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

“Not really.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shrug. “Maybe. Whatever.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                               

Some things I can’t talk about……..

Trigger warning for talk about sex….

Sex is such a confusing thing to me. And shameful. So very shameful. Logically, I know it’s just a biological drive, nothing shameful there. But emotionally? That’s a different story. I don’t understand why I seek out this thing that terrifies me, disgusts me and hurts me. I don’t understand how I can want to be touched like that. I hate that I feel like half a wife because I don’t typically have sex with my husband. I hate that I am sickened and confused and embarrassed. 

The day we get back from camping passes by in blur. I know I felt bad, overwhelmed. That night, I crawled into bed and snuggled up to hubby. There wasn’t a grown up on board at that moment. Maybe the little girl, maybe a teen part, was running the show. It’s like I could see it happening, but not stop it. At first it was just cuddling, and nuzzling, but then she sat up, and straddled her legs on either side of hubby. She started it. I started it. Kissing, and touching, and she was fine with all of it, until hubby turned his focus more on her, and touching between her legs. One moment, he was hubby and things felt good and she wanted it, and this next moment, it wasn’t hubby anymore, and something bad was going to happen, and I couldn’t handle it. The touching felt nice but like it was too much, too intense and I wanted to squirm my body away, but I couldn’t. And I knew, I just knew, he was going to hurt me after this, because it would be his turn to feel good, and it was going to make me hurt. I started to cry, and scream at him to please don’t hurt me. After that, I don’t know. Hubby stopped, right away, and I hid under my blanky, crying all night. He sat up with me, but I couldn’t talk.  

And now, hubby hasn’t touched me, even to hug me, or hold my hand, or kiss me good morning. I say I hate being touched, but now I feel like he saw exactly how disgusting I am, and he can’t even stand to hug me. I don’t want to be his broken, sick wife. 

I feel like there is more I should say about this. But every time I catch some of the words I want to use, others escape. 

(Also, I’m way super embarrassed about this post, but I honestly can not sit alone with this stuff anymore right now. I feel like I’m losing my mind, and I hate this aspect of myself. Does anyone understand? Am I the only one? How do I cope with this? I’m so lost.)

Alone then, but not now

It’s Monday, and we leave for camping tomorrow. I’m in this dissociated hyper aroused state. I had emailed Bea over the weekend, even after our phone call on Friday because all those tiny worries began to grow bigger and bigger, and I just couldn’t hold onto them for even a few days. (I’ll post the emails in a separate post, so I don’t make this post into a novel!) Emailing helped, and walking into Bea’s office on Monday feels safe and not stressful. 

I curl up on the couch as soon as I walk in, and Bea smiles. “Good morning,” she says. 

“Hi,” I say back. 

We talk about the weather and the weekend and how Kat learned to ride her bike all by herself and how we went on a 5 mile bike ride together. We chat easily, and a part of me is there, having a conversation with Bea. I’m jumpy, though, and talking faster than is normal for me, and I keep looking over towards the door. Bea always makes sure the path to the door is clear, that I sit between her and the door, so no one and nothing is blocking my ability to exit the room if I need to. I never have, but it’s nice that she does this. 

Even though Bea is chatting casually, she notices my constant scanning of the room, and how I jump at every noise. “Are you still feeling on the other end of the spectrum, very hyper aroused?”

I nod. I can’t calm myself down. 

“It makes sense. Everything is so activated for you right now.” 

I nod again. 

“Can we talk about this weekend, for a minute?” She asks. 

I feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach and my eyes dart quickly to her face. “How come? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—” my words are coming out so fast they are blurring together. 

She cuts me off, “You don’t need to be sorry. You didn’t do anything to be sorry about. I wanted to talk about exactly what and why I had been thinking of asking you to try some CBT to help get yourself to shore.”

“Okay.” I shift in my seat, uncomfortable. I hated feeling like I disappointed her. 

“I was thinking that CBT could be useful in the negative thought loop of there not being enough time to be okay before having to leave to camp. I truly didn’t realize that all your resources were depleted from dealing with having all the things triggered. Once I got that, then, no CBT doesn’t seem so helpful. It’s hard to use this logical reframing when parts other than the grown up are running the show. I get that. And I’m sorry I didn’t realize that all of that had been activated.”

I shake my head. “It’s okay. I didn’t tell you, I just kept dropping….hints. I went back through emails and journal entries. And all I did was give you the window picture and tell you that I’d had nightmares. That’s it. I didn’t tell you about all the Kenny stuff and the mom stuff and the mixed up mom and Kenny stuff. How could you have known?” 

“Well, I wish I had realized. I feel as if I should have put the clues together, and I didn’t. But I am glad that even though I didn’t catch the hints, you were brave enough to still tell me.”

I think about this. I dropped hints to my mom, which she ignored and I never did tell her what the hints were trying to make her see. I dropped hints to Bea, which I felt she was ignoring but I still felt safe enough to tell her what the hints were about, and she reacted in the best way. Maybe it’s not a terrible thing that Bea missed the hints. “You fixed it when you knew. It’s okay.” 

“It is okay,” she agrees. 

We sit for a moment, after agreeing that even though I can see why CBT can be useful, that it’s not going to be so helpful right now. 

“If this isn’t what you want to talk about, please correct me, okay? Did you want to talk about the Kenny stuff that was triggered? I know it’s maybe not ideal, but if it’s already there, maybe it would help to share it and not be alone with it as you leave for vacation.” 

“Yeah….I think….yeah.” 

“Okay.” When I don’t say anything, she asks a few questions to help get me talking. “Is it Nightmares, or memories? Maybe more feelings or thoughts?”

“No….it’s….well dreams. But before that. It’s like when we were at the reunion, and everything was the same, I could see us— I mean, Kenny, me, my brother, Jackie, as kids, running around, and hear our parents calling after us, and it didn’t even matter that other people were there, that it was different people, that I’m a grown up now, it was just all right there. So real.” I shudder, thinking about it.

“Yeah, a very intense flashback.”

“But it was good stuff, nothing bad!” I argue. I feel crazy. Who has flashbacks of positive memories?

“Yes, maybe it was good stuff, on the surface. But it was Kenny, and no adults were really present protecting you, and it was good stuff that led to trauma. So it makes sense.”

“Everything was just so real. I’m in my bedroom, and it’s the same house, the same windows, and I’m just brushing my hair or whatever, and it all just hits me. I hate it. I hate it.” My voice gets higher and I’m all kinds of upset. “And then nightmares, camping and I’m at my house and then I’m little and at my parents and things are weird, it is a weird dream but then I end up camping and he’s there and it’s the Ferris Wheel and I can’t, it’s just, ugh!” 

“The Ferris Wheel, this memory, it comes up a lot. It’s a deep one. I wonder why.” She’s musing out loud, just being curious.

“Because it’s not bad enough to be upsetting?” My voice is tiny now, and the grown up me isn’t really here anymore. 

“No! It’s a bad memory. It’s a very legitimate trauma memory. I was just being curious about why this memory is so clear, why it is one of the memories that has lots of senses involved, what made it have such sticking power?”

“Did we talk about it before?” I ask her. I honestly don’t know.

“We talked about the amusement park, and we have emailed about the Ferris Wheel quite in depth. We haven’t talked about it. Last time we emailed and I brought it up, you went too far away to talk to me.” 

“Oh.” I sort of knew I had to of told her, but i still get a little jolt of shock that I don’t remember these emails. “My favorite ride was the Ferris Wheel, you know.”

“Yes, I did know. Was it a very big Ferris Wheel?” 

“Maybe. I don’t think it was really, but it seemed giant to me.” I shrug. It’s hard to judge now big things are when you are seeing them the way you saw them as a child.

“Did it have the bench seats that two people sit on?” She asks me.

I shake my head, thinking. I can just picture, feel, see, sense, Kenny and I on the Ferris Wheel. I can’t actually picture the seats. “Nooooo…..there’s more room,” I say slowly. I know that’s right, but I’m not sure how I know it.

“What did you like about the Ferris Wheel?” She’s curious. 

“I loved it. I loved being so high up and seeing everything, and I loved the drop.” 

“The drop once you go around after being at the top? That was my favorite part too! My mom didn’t do Ferris Wheels, so I always rode with my Dad,” Bea tells me. (These are the sorts of things I know some therapists won’t share, but this is what makes me feel safe with her, it’s a normal conversation and she feels human and real to me, a whole person. I know it’s not right for everyone, but for me, it is)

“I rode with my dad, with other kids, with whoever. I would go again and again, over and over.”

She laughs at this. It’s a delighted laugh, one that says she is picturing child Alice, getting in line over and over. “I imagine you like Kat, just so excited and asking to do the same ride over and over.” 

I nod, and smile. “That’s it exactly.” And then I become more serious. “That was the problem. Again, and again and again. But eventually everyone got tired of again and again. But I asked for one more time, and eventually Kenny said he would take me. And then….I don’t know. That’s my nightmare. He’s sitting with me on the Ferris Wheel, and I’m…..his hand is between my legs and he is touching me and I can’t do anything, not a thing, I’m just stuck there and he can do anything and I can’t….” The words spill out, like dominoes falling over. 

“Did you want to do something?” Bea’s voice sounds caring and gentle, but maybe a little hopeful, too.

“No!” I shout the word at her and grab a fluffy pillow off her couch, hiding my face. Once I’m hiding, I try to breathe. “Maybe. Yes. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

“Okay. That’s okay not to know.” I hear her stand up. “I’m going to go get the blanket, all right?” 

Part of me– likely the grown up– wants to say that no, I don’t need if, but I do need it, and so I nod my head. She brings the blanket over to me, and gently lets it cover me. 

“Did you feel worried when he said he would take you on the ride?” There’s no judgement in her voice, it’s just a question. 

“No.” I hug the pillow to me.

“So you were just focused on going back on your favorite ride and you were happy and excited to get on the Ferris Wheel. So you were very much in the present moment. Maybe that is part of the reason it has such sticking power. You were more present than in other times, and it was a happy place to be, the contrast was startling for you. You weren’t able to be so far away. And your parents were right near, and didn’t rescue you. Yes. That is a lot, no wonder this memory is so powerful.” She makes a sad noise as she finishes talking. It says she is sad for the little girl I uses to be. 

“No, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t call out or make him stop. I was just stuck and it was so awful and I was so afraid. I was scared we would get caught. I don’t —I didn’t want to be in trouble.” I’m talking much too fast again, but I can’t slow down. 

“You were really scared about getting in trouble. You put all the blame on yourself. But it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I was so scared.” 

“I know. You were really scared.”

“I didn’t want to get caught.” I tell her.

“No, you didn’t want to get caught. You were scared. But you did nothing wrong,” she reminds me. “Was there something you wanted to do?” 

“I didn’t want to get caught, I didn’t want to be in trouble. But his hand, his hand, it’s ….”

When my voice trails off, Bea pushes a bit. “What about his hand?”

“I want to push it away!” The words pour out of me, hot and intense, anger and panic boil under the surface.   

“Ahhh, yes! You wanted to push his hand away! He shouldn’t be touching you there! You were just a little girl, on her favorites ride. That wasn’t okay, he wasn’t okay.” She gets it. Her voice tells me she gets how desperately I wanted to make it stop. 

“I wanted him to stop. Just stop.” I feel as if I am shrieking the words out.

“Can him go back to wanting to push his hand away? Can you focus on that feeling for a little while?” 

I try. But then, suddenly, all these feelings– physical and emotional– hit me like a knockout punch in a fight without a boxing ring. “No– no, no, no. I can’t. I can’t. There’s…I can feel….” And I cut myself off, not wanting to tell her what I am feeling because I’m disgusting. The physical feelings are the worst. I am gross. “I…..if I think about pushing his hand away, all I can so is think about where is hand is at.” 

“Okay. Okay.” She is breathing slowly, the way I’m supposed to breathe to calm down. “Let’s just focus on you, and only on your hand. Which hand is wanting to push? What does it feel like? Is it tense? Is it warm? How does the hand want to push?”

I listen to her voice, and that helps me focus just on my hand. Slowly I lift up my right hand.

“Your right hand. That’s great. That is really great noticing. Just focus on that hand.”

Bea stops talking then, and without her voice, I’m back to where his hand is, and what his hand is doing. “I need you to talk.” 

“Alice, we can stop focusing on your hand. You did a lot, it is okay. We can stop this whenever you want to.” 

I shake my head, and then realize she can’t see me. “No, no. I….if you just talk about focusing on my hand it helps me not go to thinking about where his hand…..”

“Where his hand is?” She asks. 

“Yeah.” I’m embarrassed now. 

She runs through so many different ways my hand could feel. I can’t believe that there are this many words to describe physical feelings. 

“It’s tensed!” I say, excited that I can recognize a feeling.

“Tensed up, getting ready to move. That’s good. Is it just the hand, or the arm, too?” 

“I don’t know. Arm, maybe? I don’t know.” 

“Okay, that’s good. Just let yourself stay with that feeling.” She’s so calm.

We talk about wanting to push his hand away, and about what I notice in my hand and arm, and then Bea talks about how I am okay and how I can push his hand away now. “It’s a funny thing, but your brain doesn’t know the difference. You can push now, if you want. You can just push your hand out, or I can get a pillow you can push against if resistance sounds like what you might want.” She’s not pushing this on me, it’s just conversational, and so I’m okay.

“I don’t know, I don’t know. How am I supposed to know?” I’m suddenly panicked that I don’t know. 

“You just feel it. You can trust your body and your sense of what you need.” Again, she is the calm in the storm raging all around and inside me. 

“What if I sense wrong???!?!?”

“Then it’s okay. We have more information then. We try something else.”

“I can’t.” I whisper. 

“Can the grown up help the little girl move her right hand? Could the grown up use her left to help the little girl move the right?” When I don’t respond, she says, “Maybe there isn’t enough of the grown up here to help. And that’s okay. I’m here, and I’ll help however I can.”

“You can’t really help like that.” I whisper. 

“No, not like that. But I am here.” 

I realize that I have been holding my right hand down with my left, and gripping the pillow really tight. I let go with my left, and straighten the fingers on my right hand. Then, feeling so scared, I slowly move my right hand. I don’t push, or even move it in the direction to push. I simply set it down by my right side. 

“Ahhhh. The Little Girl, she is brave. You are so brave. You moved that hand! How did that feel?”

I stretch my fingers out, my palm flat on the couch. As I do that, I feel exactly what I want to do. “I want to scoot away from him. I can’t. I’m stuck, I can’t move. I can’t scoot away.” 

“Ahhhh, so you are noticing you want to scoot away. Do you want to push, then scoot?”

“No……. It’s weird….I know…I want to scoot then push.” It’s almost more of a scoot and push, one right after the other, almost at the same time. 

“That’s not weird, not at all. Do you want to scoot now?”

“I can’t, I can’t get away, I can’t move, he won’t like it, he won’t be happy, I’m stuck here, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” I freak out a little, but Bea holds it all and I’m okay.

“You couldn’t move then. You were frozen– super aware, on alert, frozen– but you aren’t frozen now. Your fingers wiggled. You are safe now. You couldn’t scoot away then, but you can now. You were all alone then, but you aren’t now. I’m here now, and I can promise you that you can scoot away now, and nothing bad will happen.” 

“You’re here?”

“I am right here.” Her voice is strong.

“You won’t go?” I’m a terrified child, panicked that the only safe person on my world is going to leave me.

“I won’t go.” 

I sit there, wanting to scoot, thinking how simple it should be to scoot away, but I can’t do it. I can’t move. 

“You are safe now. Nothing bad is going to happen. I’m here, you’re here, and you are safe. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. It’s your choice. You get a choice now.” Her voice is soft, reassuring. 

“I….I want to move. I just can’t. I can’t do it.” I sound sad. I really do want to move. It’s the strangest thing, I’m mostly back there, sitting in that Ferris Wheel with Kenny, and I’m frozen and can’t do anything about it. But I’ve managed to keep just enough of the grown up me on board to put Bea in the Ferris Wheel, too, maybe in the car across from me, or maybe a car above me. She’s there, though, and she won’t let me be hurt anymore. She will stay right there until I can scoot away from him, push his hand away. She will help keep me safe. The grown up me might not be strong enough yet to help Little Alice, but the grown up is strong enough to help imagine Bea into the memory, the grown up is strong enough to stay present with this so I can feel Bea here with me. I’m not alone in this. It’s taking the grown up me and Bea to help Little Alice stay with the feeling of wanting to move. 

“It’s okay. This was a lot. It was really good work, to stay with it all as long as you have. You did good. We don’t have to do anything more today. We can just sit with the feeling of wanting to move, and of not being alone.” There’s something in her voice, I’m not sure I recognize what it is. Maybe it’s just Bea, being at ease and in the moment with me. Maybe there is some pride in there, and some calm. Maybe I’ve just not been present enough to hear this in her voice. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I like it. It feels like she is happy with me, and that feels nice. 

“I……..I really do want to scoot. I just…I’m scared.” I whisper.

“Could you reach your hand out from under the blanket? Just a little bit, to reach your bag? It’s not very far. Maybe if you knew how far you had to go, that would help.”

I want to try, and so I nod my head. I suddenly want to ask her to hold my other hand, but I won’t. It is a good idea, to have something to reach to, and I very slowly move my hand out from under the blanket. I have to focus on that desire to move, and not think about anything else, but I do it. 

“That was great!” I can head excitement in Bea’s voice. It mirrors my own excitement that I did it. I feel like a child who has accomplished a new and difficult task for the very first time. When I don’t move or speak, Bea says, “Just focus on the feeling of wanting to scoot away. Remember you are safe now.” 

I just can’t make myself move. The little girl is running the show right now, and she is too scared. 

“Is it more of a lean, or a pick up and scoot away?” Bea asks. I think she is thinking leaning would be less movement, and therefore maybe easier. 

I shake my head and burying my face in the pillow I’m still holding. “I…..leaning won’t…I mean, because….” I’m embarrassed, I can’t explain it to her, can’t form the words. 

“Ohhhh, leaning wouldn’t move the part of your body he is touching away from him.” Something clicks for her, and Bea fills in the words for me. 

“Yeah,” I say. And then I’m thinking about where his hand is at, and the physical sensations of being touched are back. (As a side note, please tell me I’m not the only one who experiences this? I hate, hate, hate feeling the feeling of being touched. I’m embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted and I am afraid of the words I would need to use to fully explain it. 😔)

“It’s okay. That’s okay. Let’s try not to go back to what he is doing. Let’s stay with the feeling of wanting to move away, of wanting to push his hand away, of not being alone now, of being safe now. We can work more on this later. It’s okay.” Her voice and her words are like a salve to wounds I didn’t even know I had. 

We start working to bring me fully back to here and now, and I pull the blanket off my head, holding it in front of my face. I peak out from the blanket, meeting Bea’s eyes and then quickly covering my face again. She’s quicker than I am though, and before I hide behind the blanky again, she says, “Yup, I’m still here.” Her eyes are kind, I see, or maybe I jut sense this feeling of acceptance and caring in them. 

I peak put again, and look at her. She is patiently there, just sitting with me. I breathe for minute, come back to myself enough to set my feet on the floor and fold up the blanket. Saying goodbye is hard today. It will be over a week before I see her. She reminds me I can I email or call, and tells me she should have cell service during her whole vacation. 

“When do you leave?” I ask her. It shouldn’t really matter, but I want to know where she is in the world. 

“Friday Morning, so I will be in the car all day on Friday. And then for the weekend, hopefully I will be at the beach for a while, and maybe go for a hike, too. Tuesday I’ll be in the car for most of the day again.” I breathe a little easier. I like knowing where she will be. It’s easier to feel like she hasn’t just left if I can place her in the world. 

Now I can say goodbye. We wish each other a good trip, and then I almost run out of her office and down the stairs. I get to my car and realize something: I am okay. 

The phone call 

Alice, just an FYI, I’ve had a cancellation and am free until 3:00pm of you would like to talk by telephone. -Bea

I stare at the email, unsure if I really want to call. I’m hiding out in our guest room, because the fan is the perfect noise filter so I can feel like I’m not being overheard. I have my water, my blanket, and my phone. I should just call her. I want to. Every time I read the email sent before the one offering to a phone call, I start to cry. If I read the entire thread, I feel hopeless, unheard, unseen, and alone, and all I want to do is quit therapy, forget about Bea. 

Instead I pull up her phone number and hit the call button on the screen.

“Hello?” She answers the phone with just the slightest question at the end of the word. 

Moments before, I’d been struggling not to cry, but now, all I can say is, “Hi.” 

“Hi there,” she says quietly. 

I can’t find my words, I say nothing. 

“I wasn’t sure you would call.” 

“Because you didn’t really want me to?” I whisper. 

“No! No, not at all! I guess I thought you might feel awkward because I know you don’t like to call me.” 

I don’t understand why she is telling me this, but not much makes sense to me these days. “Oh,” is all I can manage to say. 

Bea starts talking again, but I don’t hear her because Kat interrupts my phone call. She wants me to know she is going downstairs to play with her dolls. “All right, that’s fine.” My words are short and clipped, I’m annoyed. 

Bea has stopped talking, but I have no idea what she said before. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you were saying,” I tell her.

“Oh, can you hear me now?” 

“No, no, I could hear you, it was just Kat, I couldn’t hear you over her.” This isn’t going well. We aren’t connecting, it’s not better to be talking to her, we are just missing each other somehow. Why did she tell me I could call? Why did I take her up on it? 

“I’m sorry that I missed the mark earlier, that you felt more alone after emailing with me than before, I feel bad that I made you feel bad,” she says. Her voice is authentic, I can head that she is sorry, that she wasn’t trying to make me feel worse. 

I start crying, “I can’t do anything right, right now. I just keep screwing up, over and over. And I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”

“No, I know you don’t want to make me feel bad. I’m glad you told me I was way off base.” 

 
“I’m just so sorry I’m making everything worse. I’m messing it all up.” I’m sobbing now. 

“Did you get my other email?” Her voice is soft, almost a whisper. 

“Yeah, I got it.” I don’t want to talk about it. 

“I was afraid that if I said something, you would feel like you were messing up by not meeting some expectation I have for you. I don’t have any expectations, I am not even sure what that feeling is about, but I felt I needed to think about it, to sit with it, to try to understand it. It’s not a bad thing, not at all. I just need to think about what this feeling is telling me, if maybe I do need to push you a little more in the coping arena. That’s all it is, is something to notice and think about, talk about it.” 

I want to die. I literally want to curl up and die. She just told me to email as much as I needed to, that I could call, that she is here, and now she is telling me that she is having this feeling of maybe needing to push me in the coping arena. I am hearing that as I should be coping with this on my own and not needing her like this. “Nothing feels right. Everything just…..it all feels not okay. I’m not okay, nothing was helping. I thought, if I emailed you then maybe I’d feel better because I’d be less alone. But then, it didn’t help.” I’m crying harder now. I burying my face in my pillow. 

“I’m hearing you, nothing feels safe, just everything feels wrong. I’m here and I’m listening. But I can’t help thinking that you have a few more days left, before you leave. I wish for you that you could enjoy them. Maybe do some yoga, get out and swim at your beach, take Kat for a bike ride.”

“No! I can’t.” I’m crying harder now.

“Even that doesn’t feel okay. I know that is easier said than done, that it’s not so easy to switch parts like that. They sort of show up when they want to and take control. I guess this is more about my desire to fix things for you.” She says. 

“I don’t want you to fix anything! I just want to not be alone. I don’t need you to fix it. I don’t expect people to fix my stuff for me!” 

“I know you don’t, I know that. It’s hard not to want to fix things for you. That not on you, it’s just me, being human. I do know that when I feel bad, I don’t want someone to fix it, I just want someone to sit with me. Sometimes you want to fix things for people, don’t you?” 

“Yes. I want to fix everything for everyone I care about.” It hits me as I’m saying it. She cares. She feels a desire to fix it because she cares.

I sigh. How can I make her understand? “It’s like if I had more time…..I just….there’s so much that came up and now I just can’t…….if I wasn’t going camping, I would be able to just put this stuff away, put it in my notebook, box it up, and be back to myself, because I would know you and I would deal with it and I’d be okay. But this? This is like I’m stuck here. I can’t open the box with all the crap oozing out of it, because I know I have to leave in a few days to go camping. I can’t box it up better than it is because it’s all triggered and messy and awful.” 

“You are stuck in the in between. You can’t dig into it because then you will be all the more triggered and raw, and you can’t set it aside because then you would be letting down any defenses.” The tone in her voice says she is getting it. 

“I can’t come back to myself. I’m stuck here. And I’m just…I just want this week to be over with.”

“Yeah, I get that. Are you frozen far away, or the other end of the spectrum right now?” 

I’m trying to think of how to answer that, when she adds, “Are you more anxious with nervous energy, waiting for the week to be over, or are you more far away and fuzzy?”  

“It’s….like I’m over caffeinated. And I didn’t even drink coffee today. Or yesterday. For a few days. Because I feel too hyper. I can’t calm down. I had tea, but not coffee. And it’s caffeine free. I can’t…I don’t know. It’s like I’m running on a treadmill, but no matter how fast I run, I can’t….” 

“Get anywhere?” She suggests when I stop talking.

“No…..I can’t get away.” 

The words feel heavy, and are punctuated by silence. I think we both can feel the weight of them. 

“It’s very telling, isn’t it? The language. You can’t get away.”

“No. I can’t get away,” I agree. 

“What can’t you get away from?” She asks. 

I pull my blanket over my head. It’s silly, because Bea can’t see me, but I’m suddenly feeling too exposed and vulnerable. “I’d like Kenny to get out of my head now.” I say the words softly. 

More silence, and then Bea asks, “What?” I’m unsure if she just didn’t hear me, or if she isn’t following my choppy hyper over caffeinated thinking. 

“I want Kenny to get out of my head.” I say the words again, stronger this time. 

“Oh, okay. I didn’t know that he was there in such a big way.”

“It’s just….he’s…it’s….I don’t even want to be in my body right now. It’s all….I just can’t.” My mind is jumping all over the place, and I can’t think very clearly. Why didn’t Bea know that Kenny was a problem right now? Did I not tell her?

“I’m so glad you are telling me this now, that Kenny stuff was really triggered too. I know the mom stuff is awful and painful and full of grief, but it makes sense now, why you are having such strong reactions, so many flashbacks and nightmares and jumping from frozen far away to hyper running in place. It’s making a lot more sense to me now.”

“Monday…..I wasn’t really there, was I?” 

“No, you were really far away on Monday, it was next to impossible to keep you in the room. Wednesday you were more present than Monday, but not much. You really weren’t able to sit with much or talk about very much. We talked about your mom some, and how she hurt you by not accepting you, but we didn’t go very deep.” 

“I don’t think I could…talk about this before now.” Doesn’t it just suck when stuff won’t come up on therapy days?

“No, you needed to do this in layers, I think. You needed to be more here than you were.”

“I……he’s just…..I sent you that picture?”

“Yes, you sent me that picture.” It was a picture looking out my childhood bedroom window– the window on the side of the house. The window directly across from mine was Jackie’s window. The window to the left of my window was Kenny’s window. 

“I think, I just wanted you to see.” I’d snapped the picture and sent it after all the Kenny stuff had been stirred up. I didn’t have words, I couldn’t find words to tell Bea exactly how not okay I was feeling, but I had this picture of just how close Kenny had been. 

“You didn’t leave the house that weekend, did you? Normally you do the winery visits and that puts you in a much more adult place to start the weekend off. This time, you were at the house.”

“Backyard party,” I say woodenly. “Just like…I know, I know it’s not even the same group of people, I know that I’m an adult, I know all that……but…….I mean, I could see us all, as kids, running around. Back and forth between the yards. My mom put out the same yard games as we used do play. And the grown ups always sat on the porch. And the fire pit for bonfire later. It was all the same. So much the same. And I couldn’t…..I just….there’s no getting away.”

“Yes you are a grown up and you know all those things, but parts of you aren’t grown up and they were really triggered, of course they were really triggered. I can see it as you are describing it. When you sent that picture. I had a visceral reaction to how close he was, all the time, of course you felt like you could tell no one, he was always right there! And now you are describing how much last weekend was like those childhood backyard parties, and I can see it and feel it. It makes everything more real, doesn’t it? How could it not send you right back there? Of course you are really struggling, it makes so much more sense now, why this is all so bad right now. I’m so glad you are able to share this with me now, I’m just sorry I didn’t get it sooner, that I didn’t realize what had happened.”

“I just, I couldn’t figure out…it was all so right there, but I couldn’t tell.” I’m crying again.

“It’s okay. You needed time. That’s all. And I was very focused on the mom triggers, I wasn’t seeing anything else.” 

“I should have used my words earlier, I guess.” We both laugh at that. 

“I’m sorry I got so upset with you,” I tell her. 

“I’m not! I’m glad you could tell me you were upset. You couldn’t tell your mom when you were growing up that you were upset or that your feelings were hurt, but you feel safe enough to to tell me, now. That’s a good thing.”

“It was still hard .” 

“It still feels scary, maybe a little bit dangerous, to tell me when you are mad?” 

“Yeah.” I agree. It feels scary. 

“I think of it as a positive that you can tell me, now, when you are upset with me. It’s okay to be upset with me. I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to miss things, I’m going to screw up some times. But if you can tell me when I’ve made you mad, or hurt your feelings, or aren’t giving you what it is you need from me; if you can tell me those things, that is a gift. It gives me a chance to correct it and keep the connection we have and keep helping you heal. If I don’t get a chance to correct it, we can lose that connection, and I can’t help you of you are hiding things because you are afraid of my reaction. I’m glad when you trust me enough to tell me you are mad at me. And just because you are mad at me, that doesn’t mean we are on opposition sides. You can be mad at me, and I can still be on your side.” 

“I know. It’s just hard to be mad at you. I don’t like feeling like we are on opposite sides.”

“I’m on your side. Sometimes, we try things and they don’t work, right? Sometimes we try something and it brings up some feelings. We have to talk about it, otherwise how can we know what else to try or not try? I’m on the side of helping you feel better. If I suggest something or do something that upsets you, it doesn’t mean I’m not still on your side. And if you tell me I messed up, I’m on your side then, too. It just means you and I have more information to work with. That’s all. Okay?”

“Okay.” I say.

“I need to get off the phone in a few minutes,” Bea says. 

I don’t want to hang up. “Okay.”

“I am very glad you called and told me more about what is going on,” she says. 

I want to ask her if she is going to get rid of me, if I’m messing everything up, if she is really on my side. Instead, I take a breath, remind myself of everything she just said and tell her, “I need to clean and organize some things and I have some baking to do. I’m okay. I have stuff to be busy, I’m up and doing things and functioning. I just….I’m okay.”

“Okay, but not really okay at all?” She asks. 

“Yeah. That.” 

“It’s okay to not be okay.” The reminder is nice. 

“Okay. I’ll let you go,” I tell her. 

“I’m swimming in the ocean with you, all right? You aren’t alone. And I’ll see you Monday, bright and early.” She says. 

“See you Monday.” I hang up the phone. I sit there for a few minutes, trying to digest the conversation. Bea had no idea that so much more had been triggered. I honestly thought I told her when we talked about the picture I sent her. I guess I never said any of that out loud. 

I worry that she is feeling an annoyance towards me for not being all better, that she is going to decide I don’t need the option to email or call, or she is going to cut my session time or she is going to take away a session. I don’t want any of those things to happen. And I honestly think I cope with things pretty good, much better than I used to. But when all the things get triggered and I’m heading to place filled with more triggers, I can’t do it on my own. And it is nerve wracking to know that all the things are triggered, I’m going into another triggering situation and Bea will be gone on vacation. It is scary to know I’ll be home from camping for a whole week before I get to see her, that she will be on vacation, and it just really makes me feel all alone. At least she knows now why everything is so bad. Maybe Monday’s session will be better now that she knows. Or maybe she will just take away everything and leave me all alone to cope.