In the nighttime (camping)

I hear voices, male voices. I bolt upright in bed, on high alert. My heart pounds. I can’t place where I am, I’m lost, I’m trapped, what is going on? A full minute later, I remember. I’m camping, I’m in our cabin. People are walking by, outside, and I’m safely locked inside. I’m a grown up. My husband is next to me, and my daughter is in the room opposite ours. 

Except, that doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel real to me at all. I feel like a child, maybe 8 years old, that is pretending to herself she is a grownup because grownups can do whatever they want, and that sounds pretty good to her right now. 

I can’t get up and go for a walk, like I would back home. It’s not safe to go walk outside when it’s dark. (In retrospect, I’m sure it was safe, but it didn’t feel safe at the time). I get out my iPad and type out an email to Bea. I tell her exactly what is wrong, the nightmare, the fears, the feelings. All of it. And then I delete it. It’s all too embarrassing to tell her. 

I try to lay down, but I still can’t sleep. My heart is still racing, and I’m like a watch dog, scanning the room around me, listening for any sounds out of place. It doesn’t feel safe to lay down, so I use my pillows to prop myself up. I type out another email to Bea, and delete this one, too. 

I want to write about this thing that has been happening since the reunion weekend, when all the things were massively triggered. I want to write about it and I’m embarrassed. And maybe there should be a trigger warning at this point for, well, I don’t know. I guess for sex words and feelings. 🙈

I think this is happening because I’m more present in my body, and I’m more aware of things I am feeling than I have ever been. For example, I bruise easily, and two years ago, I would bump into a corner of a table, not feel it and have no memory of where the bruise that would later appear came from. Now, though, I tend to know what caused every bruise because I feel it when I bump into things. I think this newfound groundedness is allowing me to feel my body more, and lots of those feelings are triggering for me. 

My nightmares have been causing me to wake up…aroused. 🙈🙈🙈 Flashbacks have also been having the same effect. Even talking about memories has been causing feelings of wanting to be touched. I feel disgusting over this. It makes me feel like a shameful, worthless whore. I HATE feeling sexually…..you know, excited. 

The worst part about these new feelings is they don’t seem to go away easily. Even when I am feeling sick and disgusting and wanting to die because of how my body physically feels, the feelings don’t go away. I don’t know how to explain it, really. It’s not an emotional experienced at all. I’m not wanting my body to feel like this. It feels almost like a betrayal, to have my body feeling things I don’t want to feel, to have the body crave sexual touch. I feel dirty and broken and wrong. 

I know sex is something that is okay between two consenting adults. I know that in theory there is nothing shameful or disgusting or wrong about having sex with my husband. But I feel wrong. I feel bad. I feel like I am disgusting for having pleasurable feelings. 

Feeling sexually aroused makes me want to hurt myself. Having sex with my husband and enjoying it makes me want to hurt myself. It all feels bad and wrong and not okay. 

I can’t even talk about it because of the intense shame and self hated I feel over this. How can I ever share this with Bea? I’ll never be able to look at her again. 

I reacted during the games that Kenny played, and I reacted when the boyfriend was….well, whatever you want to call it. Maybe I am just over-sexed, maybe I was just born slutty. I don’t know. But I reacted it, and things felt good, and it doesn’t matter that sometimes I hated it even though things felt good, because I also sought him out, I wanted him to touch me. And now, I have these nightmares and flashbacks and when it’s over, my body craves touch. But it’s not just any touch, my body wants his touch. 

I’m sick. Twisted. There is something really, really wrong with me. How does a person deal with this? How does a person cope with all of this? I’m at the end of my rope, and while Monday’s session helped some, and almost all of me believes Bea is here, a part of me also believes that if she knew all this, she’d think me disgusting and she wouldn’t be able to look at me without wanting to vomit and she wouldn’t be able to keep working with me, even Bea won’t be able to contain this. But I need help. I literally want to cease to exist when I have these feelings, and those combined with being triggered and overwhelmed and having no resources left…….I need Bea to come back soon. I won’t see her for almost a week because of her vacation. I’m also truly terrified that she won’t come back and be herself. I’m so afraid that will happen, I’m almost thinking about emailing and cancelling that whole week and the next. 🙈

Oliver

(Last week, Tuesday when we first got to the campground)
Driving across the state, I leave pieces of myself scattered behind. I must shrink in order to fit into the mold of Ms. Perfect. I lose pieces of myself; bread crumbs I will follow when this trip is over, to find my way back to being me again. 

I find myself becoming more agitated and panicked the closer we get. I woke this morning in a fit, scared and full of nightmares that aren’t just scary stories. It made me grumpy as soon as I left my bed. Poor hubby bore the brunt of the adrenaline pumping through my system, sending me into fight or flight mode. 

I try to breathe as we drive. I try to focus on the scenery, on what I see out the window, I can’t calm down. Hubby reaches for my hand, and takes hold. I grip his hand back. I sit like this trying to really feel his hand around mine. I don’t often allow myself to be fully present for any kind of touch and focusing on this now, I want to cry. It’s as if I can feel hubby with me, I can feel hubby on my side. It’s uncomfortable because he is here, now, but I don’t trust he will stay. I don’t trust that he is capable of being here the way I need him to be. I know as soon as I show any emotion, he will be retreat. But this display of care and support? It’s sort of overwhelming. I’m not sure what to so with it, and so I drop his hand, and drift back to far away places. 

When we get to the campground, we first have to check in at the little campground office and store. It’s the same as it was when I was a girl, and I can picture us kids running up there with our spending money to buy candy and little tchotchkes. When we get to our cabin, my parents have arrived already, but my brother — Oliver– is still on the way. By the time we finish unloading our things, Oliver has arrived. Kat is so excited to see her cousins, and we decide that the kids are old enough (his kids are 14, 12 and 10 and Kat is 7) to walk through the campground alone this year. 

Being at the campground is okay, during the day. Having Oliver there seems to off set my mother’s craziness and that helps. Somehow my conservative proper parents created two liberal, artistic, emotional, hippie children. Oliver is more relaxed than I could ever be, and truly doesn’t care if my mother approves of him or not. He never has, and that attitude helps create some balance for me now. Years ago, I didn’t get Oliver, or how he could just not care, how he could shrug off the criticisms and laugh about it. I didn’t understand, and it annoyed me. His attitude then only served to create more tension in the family because I would stick with my mom and her upset in his behavior. This was back when I was still stuck in the pattern of having to agree with my mother, so she solid be on my side. Now though, his attitude gives me freedom to hold onto some pieces of myself after all. It gives me a chance to be more myself around someone in my family. It’s easy and fun, the banter and joking and giving my mother a hard time they way only your children can. We play cards, and laugh about how my Grandpa taught us to play “bullshit”. My mother almost has a heart attack over that. 

It’s good, this new relationship I seem to be building with my little brother. We’ve never been close as adults, but we are closer now. It’s a good thing, a happy thing.

Boundaries and my mama 

I’m behind on posts, I still have the last week or so to post about, so this is going to be out of order. 
My mother…..well, she managed to hurt me yet again. I emailed Bea, and she emailed back. 



Dear Bea, 

I need to talk….email…whatever. Just please please write me back. I need to tell trough this and I can’t hold it until Monday and I have so much I have to do this weekend and I can’t think right now and I’m so hurt and so sad and I don’t even know why I am upset because really, this is just par for the course with “new mommy”.

I’m just….ugh! Speechless. Angry. Sad. Hurt. Frustrated. I don’t even know. I’m just….my mother. My mother. She texts me tonight, about an older friend of hers from her new women’s group she now goes to, the woman’s husband committed suicide earlier this week. I don’t know the woman, but my heart goes out to her. I can’t imagine the pain she had to be feeling. I said as much to my mom. And she texts back “and to think you almost put me on the same position, more than once.” I wrote “sorry” even though I’m not sure I am, exactly. I mean, I just didn’t know what to say. She kinda hurt my feelings, although exactly why I can’t explain. Anyway, then she says “I’m thankful everyday that you never succeeded in any of your attempts. What upset you so much, so many times? I wish you had been able to talk to me, that you had felt you could come to me instead of attempting suicide. That’s never the answer, it solves nothing.” I just responded, echoing “no, it never solves anything.” And then she says “So you aren’t going to talk to me about it now either? Am I that awful of a mother?” I just said it wasn’t a good time. 

WHAT?!? Why does she think it’s okay to bring this up? I can’t. Just can’t. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. Why is she doing this? I can’t talk to her. I will NOT talk to her. I just….UGH. My issues aren’t about HER, and even before I’ve shared a single thing she’s already made it all about her and about how I screw up everything. I can’t fix this for her, or make it a nice story about how great she was, because she WASN’T great. I feel sick. And hurt. So, so hurt. I can’t handle this right now. 

She wasn’t there! She was NEVER there. She was always mad at me for “over reacting” “throwing a temper tantrum” or “ruining your life” anytime there was a suicide attempt. Those are acutely verbatim things she said to me. Yet somehow I’m to blame for not talking yo her?!?!?! I mean, this is crazy, right? She doesn’t get to do this. She doesn’t just get to try to talk to me about all this now, like it’s no big deal and I should share it all with her now, because you know, we are supposed to share everything and be super close and I can’t be my own person and my mistakes reflect on her and just Ugh! 

Okay. I’m sending this now. My head is all spinny and I’ve gone sort of numb in one way but all anxious and spazzy in another way. I hope you get this soon. 

Alice, 

Whoa! This came out of left field, and no wonder you are a bit freaked out. You have the choice to set whatever boundary you want with her–that’s the important thing to remember. You have control now, and you can respond as you wish. Let this sit for a day or so and the activation will settle. Then you can reply from your “wise mind” and not your “emotion mind.” Just trust that somewhere in you you will know how to best deal with this. You really will. But it needs some time to settle first.
I’m sorry she made it about you “doing this” to her. Ugh:(

I just can’t Bea. Boundaries. Ugh. I know, I know I can set whatever boundary I need to, but there is a part of me that is very strong and very adamant that “that is not allowed” and that “I’m going to ruin things and hurt her if I don’t respond how she NEEDS and then easter will be ruined and it will all be my fault and I always ruin everything.” And then I think these things, and some part of me is like “oh my gosh, didn’t I JUST go through this with Bea?” These things, these beliefs really are so ingrained. I’m not sure I ever noticed them before. Then I think “And didn’t I learn it is okay to not have the same thoughts and it is okay to set boundaries and that it doesn’t mean people aren’t on the same side or that they don’t care”? But then……that’s different. That was with you. This is about my mother. It’s not the same. She can’t handle boundaries being set that don’t align with her rules. I don’t what to reply at all. Anything I can think to say is hurtful. Ugh. And you know, anything I did was never about “doing something to her”. You know that right? Because it wasn’t, and it really hurts that she sees my pain and my hurts like that. 🙁


Well, not responding, or telling her it wasn’t a good time actually are boundaries, right? So you actually did set one reasonable one already. And I honestly still think you need to let this settle. You have to trust your gut–just like with Kristen’s shower. You ended up “knowing” what felt right to do. That’s the place to respond from, if you choose to respond.

I know that you never did anything to do something to her. It was about unbearable pain caused by years of sexual abuse. That’s clear.


My mother. She makes my head spin. She has the unique ability to bring up old hurts, and hopes and make them current again. I’m lost. I wish I could believe she really wanted to know why I attempted to die multiple times as a teen. I wish I believed she wanted to know me, really know me, and comfort me if I still needed that. I wish she had cared to know the answers to these questions years ago. I wish I believed this was about me and not about her needing to feel better about herself, not about her wanting, needing to be told she was a good mom. It’s all confusing. Anyway. That was Thursday night. It’s Saturday evening now, and I’m sick with the stomach flu. Being sick isn’t helping me to think rationally or let these things with my mother settle. Being sick like this makes me feel even more vulnerable, even more confused. 

What if????

“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?  

Birthday processing

Bea is back from vacation, and I am sitting in her office. I’m not sure I want to be here at all, but we emailed the entire time she was gone, and I am feeling better enough about things that I came to therapy today. It’s a start, anyways. I have gone from feeling, ‘I hate this and am quitting Bea’ to ‘I don’t like the idea of this, but I’ll work with her on it.’ 

“So tell me what has happened this week?” Bea asks me. Even though we have emailed almost everyday, we were talking about the sensorimotor therapy and my feelings around it, not all that has been going on. 

“Well, I had my birthday and my parents came,” I tell her. 

“That’s right. How was that?” 

I sigh. There is so much I want to say about it all, and yet, I don’t even know where to begin. “It was okay. We…it was okay.” I blink away some tears, just thinking about it. 

“Well, you said your mom was very real when you talked about your grandpa,” she prompts. I had emailed that much. I needed someone who would understand the significance to know. Bea looks calm, and normal. She’s in her chair, holding her favorite to go cup with tea in it, and is looking at me intently, as if she really wants to know. 

“Yeah…we just talked. Cried. She didn’t try to distract me by saying he is in heaven, or would want us to be happy.”

“Who brought him up? You or her?” 

“I did. It was when we cut the cake,” I say, and then I interject with–“speaking of which, I brought you a piece.” 

“Yum. I can’t wait to try it,” she says. 

I continue with the story, explaining how we put a candle in the cake for my grandpa. “Then we talked about him for a few minutes.” 

“What about your Dad?” 

“He was listening. Not really talking. But not shutting me down either.” I shrug. It’s weird. Really weird. I don’t know. Its new and different and uncomfortable. And then I blurt out one of those things that has been bothering me, that I don’t want to talk about but that I just need to say. “My mom ate a piece of cake.” 

“Have you ever seen her eat birthday cake?”

I shake my head. “Not that I remember. Not unless….she was…well, you know.” 

“That must have felt a little strange.” Bea says slowly, carefully. 
“It’s…I don’t know. She doesn’t have any diet pills, tea…nothing for….they are all gone.” I whisper. I don’t know what to make of this. 

“It sounds like she is really trying to get this under control.” Bea says. “Can I assume you didn’t get a too small sweater for your birthday this year?” 

I sigh, and feel sad, remembering the sweater gift and all the pain that caused. “She got me a coloring book. She says she colors in therapy. I don’t know.” 

“A lot of people color in therapy. I have a lot of teenagers who do. And others, too. Is it one of those grown up coloring books?” She asks. 

I nod. Its a book of mandalas. 

“Did she get you colored pencils or anything to go with it?” 

I shake my head. “Crayons. The big box of all the colors. It’s what I always had when I was a kid. And when they weren’t sharp anymore, I would beg for a new box.” 

“Did she seem….regretful? Sad? Anything, when she gave you your present?” Bea leans toward me, takes a drink of her tea. She is trying to figure out the puzzle of my mother. 

“Honestly, I don’t know. I wasn’t….I just don’t know.” 

“Well, when you first said coloring book, I was thinking that those coloring books are everywhere now, even though it feels like something more to me. Then when you said she got you crayons, I thought it sounded like a mother with regrets, wishing she could change the past.” She doesn’t hesitate to be honest with me, tell me what she is thinking. 

“Maybe. I don’t know. She got me this bracelet, too. She has a matching one. She wrote this whole thing…in my card about the heart charm to remind me she loves me no matter what and is always here.” I can say this without crying because I have stepped back, taken the feelings away. 

“So her gifts to you really are all about connecting.” 

“Maybe it’s too late.” I say softly. I feel sad, saying it. But it is what I feel.

“Or maybe you just need time to trust this connection she is asking for.” 

“Well maybe I don’t want to connect.” I say, a snotty tone under my words, anger blurring the edges of them. 

“And yet you are still wearing the bracelet.” Bea observes. 

“Or someone put it on my wrist and I can’t unclip the clasp one handed.” My words are flippant, meant to prove I don’t want this connection with my mom. Whether I am trying to prove it to myself or to Bea, I am not sure. 

“I have a feeling if you wanted it off, you’d have found a way to get it off.” Bea pushes back, in much the same way Kay might, not allowing me to lie to myself. 

“I just….it feels too late! Why now? She can not just change things and have them be all fine and connected after not being here. It’s not fair.”  

“No, no it’s not fair. It sucks. She should have been there then. And we can look and see that she was young, dealing with loss of her mom, maybe abused, but none of that really matters. It doesn’t change the feelings. It’s not fair. And it feels like too late.” Bea gets it. She gets there is this giant disconnect between my heart and my head. We’d emailed about that disconnect feeling in general, and she had said she got it that last session. But listening to her, I am struck by the fact that she really does get it. 

“I…hubby…when mom gave me the coloring book, he said he was going to make me take it on our thanksgiving road trip, to keep me occupied, being silly you know?” The words rush out. They are the beginning of the story of the drama mess of my bday. 

Bea nods at me. 

I curl my legs up, and hugging my knees, I look at her. “My dad, jokingly, but sort of serious, said I wasn’t allowed to color in his car anymore, and then warned him to be careful not to hit any bumps while driving. Apparently, I used to get very upset about my pictures getting messed up and not being perfect.” The words are super speed, emotions buried. I’m just telling a story, nothing more. 

“Mmhmmm. What did hubby say?” 

“I don’t think anything. I said…I said…” and I suddenly can not leave emotion out of it any longer, and I hide my face. 

“What did you say?” Bea asks, after waiting a bit for me to continue. 

“I said that I had no choice but to be perfect.” The words feel once again as though they weigh a ton. It felt as though I had dropped a bomb that day. The silence that followed had been deafening. 

“You did need to be perfect growing up. A part of you must have felt safe enough to say it. What did your dad do?” Bea is calm, and quiet. I’m struck how if someone were to hear her tone, they would never know my whole world is blowing up. 

“I…I don’t know. Nothing? My mom…all my attention was on my mom. She said….she said it was her fault.” 

“That had to feel so validating. To hear her agree with their need for you to be perfect,” Bea says softly. 

“I don’t know. I still don’t. I….I told Kat to show nanna her new coloring book app, and said I had to pee. And I went to the bathroom.” 

“It was a lot. How did you sound, when you said it?” We both know she means when I said the part about having to be perfect. 

“Like bratty teenage me. I don’t know.” I’m ashamed of how I sounded. 

“Ahhh. That makes sense. You had to be feeling some anger, some hurt, that hubby and your dad were joking about something so hurtful to you. Something that has been front and center in therapy and is still painful.” 

“I just hid on the bathroom and….I couldn’t….it was too much…so I just…” I stop myself from speaking before I say something I will regret. I had cut that day, hiding in the bathroom. Calmed myself down, got back in control. 

“You just what?” Bea prompts me. Maybe she knows there is something there, or maybe shw just wants to keep me talking about it all.  

“I just hid,” I say sadly; both because of why I was hiding and because I am too afraid to finish that sentence for real. 

“Okay,” she says. “Did your mom bring it up again when you came out?” 

I shake my head. “No. She asked if I was okay, later. But she let it drop.” 

“Maybe she sensed you weren’t ready to have that conversation.” 

“I’m just worried I screwed up by saying what I said. Hurt her. Messed things up for her.” I’ve been taking care of her feelings for so long, I am afraid to stop completely. 

“She has a therapist now. She will take it to therapy. Her therapist can hold that for her and contain her feelings about it. The therapist can support her. You don’t have to protect her anymore. She has a therapist to help her now,” Bea tells me. I realize, in some part of myself, Bea is right. 

“I just feel like I screw everything up.” The tears come now, huge sobs that I can’t stop. I have been holding them in for two weeks now, and even more has built up. Plus, I still feel like 14 year old me; like nothing I do is good enough, like I am a failure, like I ruin everything, like all I do is hurt people, like everyone would be better off without me. 

Bea says something, and I cry more. I told her nothing felt okay, that I will never be good enough. 

Softly, Bea murmurs, “Those old messages are just so deep.” 

I cry and cry. “It’s too much,” I tell her, and proceed to list out everything that is wrong with me and that I have screwed up and how I will probably screw up today. “And I just…I can’t. All I do is screw up. I told myself that I wasn’t going to do this here.” 

“It’s okay to do this here.” She reassures me, but she doesn’t get it. I don’t like this panic attack, can’t breathe Alice. I do not like others to see her. 

“Can you make it stop hurting? Please tell me how to make it stop,” I sob. 

“Well…I think this is one of those things. The only way out is through.” Bea sounds saddened by having to say that. 

“I can’t do it.”

“You can. You are,” she says firmly. 

Eventually I get control of myself. Bea lets me leave, but I suspect it is only because I am going to go pick up Kat and bring her back for a session.

Everything is changing

There are a million things I should be doing right now. If I started cleaning right now, I would be able to get my kitchen back to normal, the living room too. I could catch up on laundry, and probably get the playroom organized enough to get out the big american girl dolls and maybe have time to give the dogs a bath and cook dinner. Its 10:00 am. I could clean and organize until 12:35, when I have to go pick up my daughter, and then clean and organize from 2-5 while her ABA tech is here. That’s 5 hours. I could get a lot done in 5 hours. I am very efficient. But I am struggling today. I feel lost, frozen and alone; I have this anxiety, this tension in me. It came out this morning as frustration and yelling at Kat when she didn’t follow directions or listen to me. I feel like a terrible mother. Everyone feels so far away from me. I don’t know. I know October is a hard month, but I feel like I just don’t have the right to be falling apart. The harder I try to hold it together, the more anxiety and tension, frustration, anger, comes snapping out. I hate this version of me. 

I saw Bea yesterday. I barely remember the session. We talked about the weekend, seeing my mom. I couldn’t find the words to explain it all, to tell her how it is different with my mom right now, how she is different. I was afraid to even talk about what my mom talked about with me, because so much of it involved eating disorder behaviors. I was afraid that Bea would turn it into an opportunity to talk about my stuff. I didn’t want that to happen. I remember Bea suggesting I give her a play-by-play, a transcript of the conversation, and try to leave the emotion out of it. I think I tried, but failed. I don’t know. I’m afraid of what I am feeling. I’m afraid of how everything around me is changing. 

I had put Kat to bed, and mom was cleaning up the kitchen. She left some dirty dishes in the sink, and said she would take care of them tomorrow. This is unheard of. She doesn’t leave anything left messy, left undone. There is always this nervousness, this anxious tension, this trying to be perfect and control everything feeling that….well, people around her feel it, and they almost feel this fragilness in her, this feeling of needing to help her control things, keep them prefect.  

Bea nodded, agreed with me. I remember her saying something about that is what I had always done; try to be perfect and help her have the perfect, in control feeling. She said something about having so much internal anxiety and chaos leads us to try to control things on the outside. 

I was so surprised that my mom was leaving dirty dishes in the sink. But she was calm and fine. All that nervous, anxiety, tension….I don’t think it is there anymore. I said, joking, being silly, ‘where’s my mom? My mom doesn’t leave dirty dishes in the sink.’ And thats when she started talking about how therapy has really helped her, and how she has been doing so good. She told me how she isn’t stressed out so much, how she doesn’t try to hide things that aren’t perfect. She talked about how she is eating better, how she is seeing a nutritionist, how she doesn’t even go to the gym anymore and just walks with her dog and my dad for enjoyment. She talked about how she and my dad are doing so good and learning to communicate. She talked about hoe my dad is doing so much better; he’s doing things again, they are spending a lot more time together. She talked about how she feels guilty that I learned her habits for dealing with stressful life stuff. She wasn’t crying, or upset, or falling apart. It wasn’t her telling me this so that I could take care of her, ‘fix’ it. She was just talking. She obviously felt bad, and she obviously has a lot of guilt, but she was in control of the conversation. This was a person who had worked through this stuff and could handle discussing it. She was being the adult, she was being a mom. And i hated every minute of the conversation with her. I felt uncomfortable. My skin was crawling, I had the hot and cold feeling– the one where you feel burning hot but icy cold and frozen at the same time. I felt like I wanted to cry, or yell, or run. 

I think Bea asked me how present I was during this talk with my mom. I told her ‘not very.’ The truth is, I was just gone. I felt those uncomfortable feelings, and hid in the room in my head. The whole scene with my mom feels fake. It’s that unreal, this isn’t my life feeling. Bea asked if I was angry, and I remember shaking my head no, and her saying that she didn’t feel anger from me today. I told her I just didn’t understand why my mom couldn’t do this when I needed her to. I remember her validating that, maybe saying what she felt from me was sad. I don’t know. I just remember her saying that one word– sad. I remember her saying that and I know we talked about those feelings. I remember feeling tears in my eyes, but refusing to let them fall. I have this fuzzy vague memory of Bea wiping at her eyes, under her glasses. I remember telling Bea that my mom ate pizza this weekend. I have never seen her eat pizza. I know Bea said something about feeling lost, feeling uncertain because my mom isn’t acting like my mom. I think she asked if I was having a hard time because my mom is separating herself from me. I don’t know if I responded. 

I don’t like how things have changed with my mom. Logically, I am happy to see her and my Dad both doing so well. I am glad to see her facing things and being real and authentic. But I am having a hard time trusting that, believing her. She can do this today, and be present and real, but what happens when I respond in a real way and not the rote, drilled into me way? Is that when she is going to fall apart and it will be my fault her life– the life she is finally actually living– falls apart? I can not be responsible for another mess. I’m not sure I trust that this is for real. I’m not sure that I believe it will last. I don’t know. I was really just can’t go there with her right now. And I am hurt. I don’t understand why I didn’t matter enough for her to do this when I was a kid. I want to go back in time, I want a redo, and I want to take the person my mom is now back with me. I want that woman to raise me. 

I am almost afraid to believe the person my mom seems to be becoming is real. Because if it is real, then everything I didn’t have is very apparent, in stark contrast to who she is now. I’m afraid because all of that makes me angry and it makes me feel like sobbing. It is this big huge hurt, this giant pain, that is raw and sore and it makes me so full of deep, deep sadness and rage simultaneously that it’s too overwhelming. And a very big part of me believes I have no right to these feelings, that they are absolutely not okay and not allowed. 

I remember my session with Bea ending, very quickly telling her about a conversation I had with hubby (which I will write about later) and her asking me what I was doing the after this. I told her I was actually meeting Kay for coffee, and I think that surprised her. After all, i have been avoiding Kay for almost 6 months. We discussed a scheduling thing; I needed to let her know a day that Kat may be late. She let me leave not long after, and Hagrid and I met my best friend for coffee, just down the street. 

Monday: part four, relationships and mom

This is part 4 of Monday’s session. For a short (70 minutes compared to the usual 90) session, there was so much we talked about. I think we got through a lot because I had written so much and have been processing so much at home on my own. So, Bea was mostly reading and responding as she read, and I was talking in bits and pieces. Anyway, it ended up being a lot. So, onward………

And I’m thinking about relationships because I think my mom is trying to have this much more real relationship with me, and I’m just not sure I can do that right now– and Kat and I are supposed to go to my parents this coming weekend. It freaks me out. I do not want to have a deep relationship with her right now. I can not do it. I’m afraid to be that open with her. Because she didn’t see me then, why would she see me now? Why would she want to? She wanted perfect student, perfect ballerina, perfect gymnast, perfect cheerleader, perfect daughter. She didn’t want me. She didn’t want the broken, crazy, screwed up, hurting girl I was. She wanted the perfect image I was so good at projecting. It’s awful and mean and so wrong, but I don’t trust her. Not like this. But then I think, what if she is needing my support to help her get better? What if she is needing me to listen, to be proud, to do have a real relationship? What if because I am too stubborn to forgive and forget and get over it, I’m hurting the first chance, the first progress she has made in a long time– in forever? 

“You don’t have to trust her right now. That’s okay. Why would you! There is nothing in your history that says a deeper relationship is safe. This– these feelings– is normal. Anyone would feel like this,” Bea says, almost instantly as she finishes reading about my mom. 

“You would?” I ask, doubtful. 

“Yes. I would feel the same.” She’s serious, meaning every word. 

I nod. “I can’t…she wants more than I can give. But if she…I mean. Crap.” 

“You are not responsible for her. Remember? She is an adult. She makes her own choices, and she has a support system. She has a therapist. She is responsible for herself. You don’t hold the control on whether she heals or gets better. That’s a choice she needs to make.” Bea reminds me. 

We’ve been through this before; I feel responsible for my mother’s emotional health, and at one time made choices that hurt me but I believed would keep her from breaking. Bea helped me see that I am not the one in control of my mom and her health, and that those beliefs are old beliefs of a hurting, damaged 9 year old little girl. I’m still working on fully believing that I’m not at fault, that my bad Adrian’s didn’t make my mom sick, and that my bad actions won’t make her sick again one day, but mostly now I can see how wrong that thinking is. 

“I think, what I’m getting from this, is you are more afraid of her trying to have a conversation with you about things from the past, hear your feelings or perspective on something, get forgiveness. You might feel comfortable hearing that she saw her therapist, or is doing well, you might feel okay hearing about her day to day experiences, but you are afraid of her digging into the past and asking you to go there with her. Is that right?” 

I nod. “Yeah…I can be happy for her…listen…but I can’t..talk…not about me…about her in the past, growing up..”

“Okay. So you can be supportive. And you can be there, for present day things,” Bea tells me. “You might have to let her know, if she goes digging in the past, that you can’t do that right now, that you are working through it on your right now.”

I freeze. My stomach is sick. Bea has worded that as though I am in therapy. So she is meaning, tell my mom I am in therapy? Nope. Even if mom is in therapy, if I tell her I am seeing a shrink, she will decide she is a failure. I can’t do that to her. “No. Not that. I can’t tell her. She can’t…not about therapy. No.” 

“Okay.” Bea is calm, and she speaks slowly, thinking as she talks, “why don’t you just tell her that you aren’t ready to talk about those things right now? That’s really enough explanation. I know you don’t want to but if she starts digging, this way you have a plan of what to say, and a choice: you can not talk, or talk.” 

I think about it. What she has said doesn’t feel good. But it is logical. “Okay. I don’t like it. But okay.” 

“I know. You don’t have to like it. It’s okay to not like it.” 

“I just want things back how they were. Right now.” I say, and my voice cracks, turns into a whine as I start to cry again. 

“I know. This doesn’t feel good, or safe. Change is so hard. And this change is very unnerving; it’s shaking your whole foundation, no matter how messy or fake it was, it was the story for your whole life. It’s safe.” Bea says. She does get it. But I think she is excited that my mom is changing, healing. I’m excited, too, deep down. I just can’t go there, yet. I still need to be angry, I still need to grieve. I still need to figure out what these changes mean to a story I’ve barely begun to make sense of.