“So, how was the rest of the day on Thursday?” Bea asks me. We’ve talked about nothing major, and now she’s turning the conversation back to me, and my stuff.
I’m sitting criss cross applesauce on the couch. Just before she asked this, I’d been looking at her, and talking like a normal person. Now, I look down. Why does answering something so simple embarrass me? “I don’t know…..I just…I was….” I shrug. The odd thing is, my answer is more positive than usual, but that scares me. I’m thinking about things differently, and that is this giant frightening thing.
“I think it’s important that we touch base on how things felt, how the weekend was for you. Did things come up, were the nightmares of that particular memory gone, less, more? Did you feel more upset, less upset?”
I shake my head. “I…I got sick this weekend. Sinus crap, headache, sore throat. So I was……I don’t know. The worst thing about being sick is you can’t do anything. I mean, there is no distractions. And tv, movies…those just don’t work. I mean, not like hubby. He can’t stand to turn a show off in the middle of it. But me, I don’t really care. I just, I don’t know. I can stop a movie half way through and not come back to it for weeks. So it’s not like being sick, watching tv…….it just….I don’t. I keep thinking.”
“TV doesn’t distract you, or occupy your mind very easily. It seems like a lot of the time when we don’t feel good, that is when our minds start going.” Bea states.
“Yes, that’s….I was thinking. So I just…I was thinking.”
“What were you thinking about?”
“I…just stuff. I mean…Thursday, I was okay. It….I didn’t feel like hiding. I mean, like usually I would maybe want to go hide. And I didn’t feel like hiding. I was sad. But okay.” I stumble through trying to explain this to her, trying to get the words in my head, those perfectly put together and competent sounding words in my head to come out of my mouth and make sense.
“That’s good. Okay is good.” Bea’s voice sounds like she is smiling.
I nod. It is good. She’s right, it is good.
“Do you want me to tell you what I thought on Thursday?” She asks. I nod my head, and so she continues. “I felt like you were more here than usual when discussing a memory. I felt like you were able to answer questions, and talk more easily. I mean, I know we didn’t talk about the actual rape, but everything with that memory is so awful, so traumatizing, and the mom stuff is big. It just feels like to me that this is one of the worst memories for so many reasons, so many layers of hurt. I mean, they are your memories, and they are all painful, and I don’t know if this memory feels worse than others to you, so maybe I shouldn’t say that. But it feels like this is a memory that took things to a whole different level. It made the traumas that much more hurtful. You really had to dissociate to be okay.”
“It’s…it’s one that always….it just won’t go away. Even before…it’s been one of those nightmares that I’ve had a long time.” I take a drink of my vanilla chai, and peek at Bea from the corner of my eye.
“So you felt okay on Thursday?” She brings me back to what we had been talking about.
I nod. “Yeah. I was thinking…..I mean, I just you said something. And you’ve said it before I’m sure, but it just stuck with me this time. And I was thinking about that. I…..you were saying how I was afraid to get in trouble for………and how crazy that is.”
“Well, people can’t hear things until they are ready to listen. And you are ready now, to hear that. So you were thinking how mind boggling that concept of being in trouble for being raped is?”
“Well….I was thinking about it. And then, my parents.” I pull my knees to my chest, and wrap my arms around them.
“Your parents. Usually, you say your mom. This makes me wonder if you are including your dad in this? Because we don’t talk about him a lot.”
“No….I mean, in general, yes. I was thinking about them in general, is all. And…well, you know. Thinking what if? What if they hadn’t needed perfect and I wasn’t so afraid of getting in trouble? Maybe I would have told. But…..I couldn’t get in trouble because then I wouldn’t be perfect and I have to be perfect for them to love me. Or what if they had done feelings? What if they hadn’t given me this message I was too much? What if I hadn’t felt so alone and unloveable? What is I hadn’t felt bad and not good enough and never perfect? What if they had been able to really see me? What if……i don’t know. I blame them sometimes.” I whisper the last part, feeling like this ungrateful brat of a daughter.
“Well, yes. Of course a part of you blames them. Parents are supposed to protect their children, and they didn’t protect you. It’s okay to blame them, to be mad. It’s okay to feel that.” She sounds so calm, so sure of this, that it’s okay to blame them. It’s hard to listen to her and take that in.
“But then I think….they were so young. And I….I was almost 30 when I had Kat, and it’s hard for me. Right? But they were 10 years younger. So, I mean….well. It’s just, they were young. And so much was not okay for them. She had an eating disorder. That didn’t just happen. Something wasn’t okay. So how can I blame them, when I get it?”
“It can be both. You can understand it, and still blame them and be angry. That’s okay.”
“I just…I needed a lot. And I must have known, somehow picked up on that. That I was too much for them.” I sigh, and squeeze my hands into fists, digging my nails into my palm. I feel so anxious and wrong to be talking about this.
“I don’t believe you needed too much, or were too much. You were a child. We talk about parents and kids being a good fit. You and Kat, you are a good fit. But some people, they could have the easiest child in the world, and feel like they have a hard child. And others, they get a hard child and feel like it’s easy. It’s all about personality and fit. I’m not sure any child would have been a good fit for your mom at that age, with everything going on for her. She had her own stuff to deal with, right?”
I nod. “Yes. I guess so. It’s just hard.”
“I know. It is hard to hold both idea. But things aren’t black or white. They are grey. And grey is okay.” Bea loves grey. She sees the both sides and accepts that. She can recognize that my parents didn’t keep me safe and are to blame, and also that they had their own stuff and it’s not their fault. I don’t know how she can do that….I feel one way, but understand the reasonings, and they don’t match up. I don’t like grey, yet. Maybe this is progress though, to be able to discuss the black and white and actually hear the option for grey.
“And I was thinking……” I drift off, unsure.
After a moment Bea says, “Whatever you were thinking, it’s making it hard to stay here.”
I nod, and we sit in quiet for a minute.
“Are you having trouble finding words?” She asks me.
I shake my head. “I have words….in my head….I just….” I drift off again, floating away. I’m afraid to say it, to make the thought real. I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about this.
“Is it a more of the memory? Or new things in this memory? Feelings?” Bea speaks softly, trying to find a place to start.
“No….I…it’s…..” I pick at my fingers, and even though I can’t hurt myself like this with my nails done, the act is still slightly soothing. “It’s not even a big deal. I’m being….dumb.”
“I don’t think so. Anything that send you this far away is a big deal.” It helps to hear her say it is a big deal in her mind. It feels validating, comforting, but I still can’t say anything. When I don’t respond, Bea asks, “What can I do to help you feel safe right now?”
I don’t know. I want to tell her that just the fact she is asking, willing to do something to help me feel safe, just that alone does help. But I can’t say the words, because something about them feels too vulnerable and scary. “I don’t know. I really don’t.”
“Can I check in with the little girl? See how she felt about Thursday? I’d like to know if she felt listened to and supported. I want her to feel safe, too.”
Her questions touch something in me, and I feel cared for. It’s sort of an uncomfortable feeling. “I….I think she feels better. It’s okay, I think.” The little girl wants to cry and say that she felt listened to and not alone and that she is so grateful to Bea for fixing things, for not letting the relationship be ruined and broken. I can’t let her say all that, though. It’s too much.
“I’m glad. I’m so glad she talked to me last time, and that she is feeling a little bit better. She can talk whenever she wants to. I think it’s important that we check in with things after a session when we processed a memory. It’s good to compare now with how it was before, and to find a way to see if we are making progress. I think the way to do that is to compare how things are, where you are at.” Bea sounds…..I’m not sure the word, but it’s good. Maybe proud, or content…she sounds like she really feels glad that the little girl reached out and is feeling better.
“Okay.” The word is a ghost of a whisper, barely there. I’m feeling overwhelmed with emotions and with my thoughts. I don’t like this progress talk. Does she want to get rid of me, is she trying to say I’m better and need to go away? Or does she think I’ve made no progress and she is mad at me, frusterated that I’m not making progress or doing things as quickly as I should be?
“I wonder if the little girl would like to color while we keep talking? If that would help or if that would feel bad?”
I think about it for a minute and then slowly, quietly tell her that we can try it. Bea gets the little table and the coloring books and pencils, setting them all down between us. She picks up her page and starts to color. It takes me longer, but I finally lift my head and grab my picture.
“We didn’t….I didn’t tell you….the actual…I mean…when he….what happened.” I’m trying to tell her that I didn’t tell her about the memory of the rape. “It’s not…I don’t…it’s spacey. I don’t know. But I didn’t tell you.”
“That’s okay. It’s okay that you didn’t tell me. We talked about a lot of hard stuff last time. And we can keep talking, as long as you need to.”
I select a yellow colored pencil, and start coloring a flower. I watch the yellow on the page, and surprisingly, as I focus on the flower being colored yellow, I start to feel less floaty. I stop coloring. I’m not sure I want to be more here. “I think….talking around it….what happened after….that was easier…..it’s…it was easier.”
“Yes, I think so, too. I still think there is a lot of hurt and fear in the after, and it was hard work to talk about and start to process. But I do think talking around it is easier sometimes.” It feels good to hear that she doesn’t think the after of the memory is easy, or something to be brushed off.
“I……maybe…not now, not today. But I might….the little girl…she maybe wants to tell what happened. During.” I’m afraid Bea is going to say no, that it’s too much to ask her to listen to what happened during, that I’m disgusting for wanting to talk about it.
“She can tell me whatever she wants, when she is ready. Your window is getting bigger. They say as you process trauma, when you first start to, the window is very small, but as you go on, it gets bigger. That’s what the resourcing is all about. Being able to have a bigger window, and being able to come back if you get too pulled in. Because you have to be somewhat far away and uncomfortable, you have to be in the state you were in then to really access that memory, but we want to stay on the the edge, so you don’t get too pulled in. And it is a really powerful thing, to be able to control how far away you are, to be in control on coming back before you get retraumatized.”
I think about that, about the experience I just had while coloring. Maybe I am able to be more in control of this than I thought, and maybe it’s not a dangerous thing. Maybe it’s okay.
Bea says something about how she feels regret that I spent many sessions really deep in a memory and then hiding and feeling triggered and messed up when we first started working together. She says something about how where I am now is a better place for processing memories because I have so many more resources and can tolerate emotions better now. I don’t remember exactly how she said it, but it was kind.
I shake my head, disagreeing slightly. “I think….I needed to tell someone. It didn’t matter if I talked or not, I was still hiding in my closet, hurting and scared and messy. Talking didn’t make things worse. I was already hurting. And at least with telling you, I wasn’t alone, and I had someone to talk to when I was in my closet scared. I never had that before. It wasn’t a bad thing. And I needed to talk. I couldn’t be alone with it all anymore.”
She nods, thinking about my words. I can see her really listening, and hearing me. “You did need someone to hear you, you needed to know you weren’t alone anymore. You spent so much time, so very alone, isolated. I’m glad I was able to help you feel not alone.”
“If you hadn’t let me talk….if you had made me work on resources….I wouldn’t be here. I’d have left. I wouldn’t have been able to be okay here.”
“Hmmmm….you really needed to let those secrets out. Do you really think you would have left therapy though, if we had focused on resourcing first?” She sounds very curious, and maybe a little bit surprised.
I nod my head. “Yeah, I do.” I want to explain that after the last few months of feeling like she didn’t want the little girl to talk, like she didn’t want to listen, that if I had felt that at the beginning of therapy, I would have left. Instead, when I met Bea, she was open and honest, authentic and real; everything about her said that she wanted to listen, to help, and that she cared. That is what I needed then. I needed to know someone wanted to be there.
We talk about how things happen the way the need to, and that she had been what I needed then. She tells me that she thinks we are at the same place we would have been if she had insisted on focusing on resources and coping skills first. We talk about how I am allowed to talk about things already discussed, and how it’s okay to bring something up again and again. She says that now I can really start to process and work through it all.
After that, we are both silent for a few minutes, focusing on our pictures. Bea suddenly sets her picture down, and looks at me. “Are you feeling as though I’m not listening to you because I’m coloring? Is that making it hard for you to say what you were thinking?”
I shake my head. “No….you can color. That’s not…that’s not why it’s hard to talk right now.” It’s almost easier, in a way, because she isn’t looking at me when she is coloring. I just can’t get the words out.
“Okay. I just wanted to be sure. Because I am listening, and I do want to hear what you have to say,” she says gently.
“Okay.” I focus on coloring again, this time with a bright orange pencil. “I just…I can’t say it right now.”
“That’s okay. We have lots of time. You’ll say it when you are ready.” She is so reassuring, so calm and confident that things will be okay. And, for the first time, I think I believe her.
We wrap things up, and I tell her that maybe I will write it down, or talk about it on Thursday. She tells me she is listening, and here, whenever I’m ready.
When I’m in my car, I think about it. The idea, the thought just won’t stop running through my mind. I blame myself, I blame my parents, I’m hurt that no adult in my life noticed, but I can’t put any of the blame on him. Why is that? I’m afraid that if I let myself blame him, even a little bit, a massive amount of anger and rage and hurt and pain and tears will be unleashed. I’m afraid I will have to face the fact that I had no control, and that terrifies me. I think I will drown in the anger and hurt, and the loss of control will kill me. I can’t say the thought out loud because then it will be real, and I’ll have to examine it and wonder about it and talk about it. And I’m afraid Bea will be happy I’m thinking these things, thinking in this new way, and she will want me to face all of it. I can’t do it. I just can’t do. And still, I think, what if? What if I could put some of the blame on him? What if?