Weekend Flashback 

Family Reunion weekend. I should have a lot to say, there should be too many words showing up on this page. Instead, I can’t figure out how to explain the triggered dissociated mess I became. Teen Alice was completely running the show by the end of the weekend. 

I typically enjoy the weekend. In the past, we have hired sitters for the kids, rented a limo and visited multiple wineries on day one. Day two is typically a beach/movie/kid friendly activity day. This side of the family really is a blast. I enjoy them all and look forward to seeing them. 

This year though? We didn’t do the traditional touring of several wineries. Festivities took place at my parents’ house. Everyone brought wine to taste (which was actually pretty cool, we got to try wines from all over the country), activities were set up for the kids, as well as yard games and a photo booth for adults and kids alike. 

It was too much like the parties thrown in my childhood. Being at the house all weekend was just on much for me. The first day was okay. I felt really distanced from everyone, just extremely disconnected from the world, and from myself. 

The second day, my mother and I got into it, and that sent me into a giant tailspin. At first I was so angry with her that all I wanted to do was rage at her. I attempted to vent to hubby, but he just kept saying, “okay” as if I were lecturing him. I desperately needed some feedback, understanding, validation, so I emailed Bea. 

Bea,

I want to throw something. Or cry. Or scream. Or hide in the closet. Or drop a giant bomb and ruin everyone’s lives. Or just run away back to my home and forget about my mother and my childhood home and all that goes with that. 
I’m so angry, Bea. I’m never good enough. That’s the truth. It’s not me being dramatic, or something. It’s just a fact. I’m never good enough for my mother. Oh, when she is talking about me and my life and Kat and hubby, everything is said a if I am still Ms. Perfect. 
But to my face? I’m a giant fucking disappointment and I can’t manage to do anything right. Ugh! Why do I let her get to me like this? And the teen part, omg, she is so strong right now, everything is being colored by her, I know that but it doesn’t stop the feelings. 

My mother is mad because I can’t manage to follow her schedule. I’m sorry! I have an autistic child who is sensitive to crowds and changes in schedules and traveling and sleeping in places that aren’t her own home and I need to do whatever will help my child deal with traveling and transitions and changes. It’s not my job to take care of my mother, I’m not her mom! It’s my job to take care of my child. Grrrrrr. Ugh. My mother got all upset with me because we weren’t doing what she was doing with all the kids downtown/at the beach. Well, Kat had 3 meltdowns and I was dealing with that, so it might it just a little difficult to be right where my mother wanted is to be at that particular moment. But you know, she hasn’t gotten to see Kat at all this weekend, and somehow that is all my fault. But she made her choices to follow what the other kids wanted to do. She could have told them that they were gonna do x,y,z for a while, but she didn’t. She chose to spend her time talking and hanging with the grownups yesterday. 
I’m just so sick of never being good enough. Even Ms. Perfect isn’t perfect enough. 
I’m just so angry right now. What the hell does she want from me? Why isn’t it a good thing that I am respecting my daughters needs and helping her learn to cope with stressful situations and regulate her emotions? Oh right, it’s not okay because that all takes time and being present and dealing with emotions and admitting to not being perfect and it might possibly ruin your perfectly laid out schedule. Argh. 

Oh, and another thing?!?! She’s all upset we haven’t didn’t anytime together this weekend, but every time Kat or I have tried telling her something or asking her to do something with us she gets distracted by other family members, and they get precedence. So how is this my fault? I don’t understand. But somehow it is and I can’t fix it and I can’t be what she needs and I’m so tired, I barely slept last night and I know that’s not helping but ugh. 

You always want to know where’s the anger? Well, here is it. I hate her Bea. I just want to scream at her and throw everything in her face and then go home. Just be done with it all. 

I won’t, you know. I’ll lock it all down and smile and nod and apologize and be appropriate and whatever. But right now, everything in me hates that. I don’t want to be here not here. I don’t want to be far away. But, I also don’t want to be here at all.

Alice 

(Bea’s emailed words are in bold) Sounds frustrating and triggering for sure. As you say, you can’t meet her needs and Kat’s needs both, and your kid has to come first.

Thank you for saying this. I really just needed to feel like someone was on my side. I spent my whole life in that house feeling alone and not good enough and broken. I don’t often feel that way in my real life anymore. But this week….ugh. All those feelings are back in full force. 

 I hope the anger can dissipate enough for you to enjoy the rest of the weekend.
I don’t know what happened. Anger didn’t really dissipate….it just sort of got shoved down. I don’t know. I ended up far away and spacey and trying so so hard to be perfect and do whatever I thought my mom wanted me to be doing. Which basically meant trying to be perfect all the while feeling like a failure in everything. Eventually I just went so far away that being sociable and talkative was too difficult. It was the far away can’t easily orientate to what is happening in the present and can’t get words out. That doesn’t happen often in public—- it’s definitely a teenage Alice thing I think. Of course, that only added to my mother’s annoyance because she felt I was sulking and being unsocial and rude. So….yeah. 

Honestly, I think I was struggling too because we were at the house the whole time, not out at wineries. Being in the house and having a big party in the backyard……well, I lived that as a child. Lots of parties in the yard as I was growing up.

I don’t know. I wavered between angry with my mother and numb and frozen triggered and feeling exactly like teen me trying to be perfect and failing miserably —and honestly, bouncing between all 3 of those feelings, I could feel exactly why I overdosed or cut my wrists. I couldn’t keep going on feeling like that. I couldn’t understand why I felt like that, I felt like I was crazy. I had parents and a therapist who thought I was broken; something was innately wrong with my personality, with who I was. I just wanted everything to stop. I didn’t even care if that meant someone helping me or actually dying. I just needed things to not be like they were. I feel like that’s when I got really good at pretending. I don’t know. It feels like maybe before that time period I did still have a part of the real me, I still had this tiny piece of me that knew who I really was. But that had to go away. I buried that last bit of the real me and learned to pretend and be perfect. Do you know I can be having a panic attack, literally feeling like my heart might explode and I can’t breathe, and I can smile and continue talking like I have not a care in the world? Well, maybe I can’t anymore. I don’t know. But I could at one time. That’s how disconnected I became. Anyway. I think I got off point. 

I guess we are still dealing with teen stuff. Yeah, some of it is present day stuff but mostly it’s teen stuff getting mixed up in present day stuff. And you know what I keep thinking? That was 20 years ago! The Kenny stuff started almost 30 years ago (28 years ago, to be exact). And (at times) it all feels like it happened yesterday, or this morning, or 10 minutes ago. It all feels very right now, it feels present day. Does that make me crazy? 

And…..there was purging and cutting. 😞🙈 I failed there too. I just couldn’t cope. Ugh. It was all just too much.

Alice, 

Ugh! I hope by now you are already heading home. It was just too much, as you say. Do something fun that you like here, in your grown up life now–go for a swim in the lake, or something else grounding and not related to your life at home. Once your now life fully sinks in I think you’ll feel a sense of relief. If not, it’s okay to just be wherever you are right now:)

I’ll see you tomorrow,

Bea

I’m back home, and yet I still don’t feel grounded or safe or really okay at all. I’m still far away, afraid to be more present. Everything is triggering right now. I’m hoping that seeing Bea will help. There’s just too many feelings and memories and mess for me to contain by myself. Even with Bea’s emails, I feel as if I am floating in the middle of the ocean, with no way to get to shore. It’s as if I keep looking and looking for someone to come, but no one does. I’m treading water furiously, but no one is showing up to help me make a raft or swim to shore or call the coast guard to rescue us. When my mother shows up, she wants me to help her stay afloat, she needs my help. When Bea shows up, she is showing up just to be there with me, so I’m not treading water alone. She says we can figure out together how to make a raft, swim to shore or call the coastguard. I hope that seeing Bea will help settle all the parts because I really need that right now. 

There but Not Here 

There are some seriously huge shifts happening in my life right now. Big things, or at least things that feel big even if they don’t sound big when I write them out. One would think that these shifts would make things more clear to me, when instead all they do is make things more muddled and mixed together. 

The mom stuff that has been coming up since around Mother’s Day is unfortunately still very much here. It’s not going away anytime soon. It seems the only way out is through the pain and grief. I have to find a way to move through the pain of the hard truth that real me, authentic me, isn’t good enough for my mom and never was. It’s why I went to such lengths to be perfect. It’s why I never could tell her or show her my true self. My mother doesn’t love me, she can’t accept me or see me. She loves Ms. Perfect. 

There is this giant ache inside me, an empty space that can’t seem to be filled lately. It’s a hole that was created when I realized real me isn’t good enough for mother. I’m not super close with my little brother, but we had a good talk (via text) this past week. We discussed how mom plays with our kids the same way she played with us. She would play board games, that had structure and rules. She would color, do paint by numbers. She would build Legos if they were a full set that had the directions. She rode bikes, went for walks, took us sledding and skiing. She kissed us good night, said “I love you’s” and hugged us good-bye. She did things with us, which makes it all the more confusing. Its not as if she was just completely gone, or wrapped up in herself. She simply needed everything to be very structured. There was (still is) a wall around her that even her children couldn’t penetrate. There was no such thing as free play with her. 

“No moments of connection at all this weekend?” Bea is surprised that I spent the whole weekend before the Fourth of July with my mother and there was no connection there whatsoever. She came to my home, and I’m still hurt and angry enough that I was able to use good boundaries with her, and simply be myself. (Two notes about this– One, this must be what Bea is talking about when she says anger is telling is something, it is energizing, it helps me set boundaries. And two, even if it was just because I am hurt and angry, I am awful proud of myself. I set boundaries with my mother. I was ME all weekend. I actually looked at her and said ‘well, this is how we do it in my home’ when she got upset that I wasn’t cleaning dishes as I cooked breakfast, and when I left the spilled waffle batter my 13 year old nephew spilled while making waffles until he was done making all the waffles. Then, we cleaned it up together, with me assuring him it was no big deal, not a crisis at all. I was ME!) However, the impact of that, of my mother’s clear disapproval and disappointment is only now beginning to be felt, almost a full week later.  

“No….it’s just…..we were just two grown ups. It wasn’t…..she just….I wasn’t…” I shake my head. I have no words. 

“What about those little inside jokes that families have? Those light hearted moments?” Bea asks. She is searching for something, it seems. Either she doesn’t really get how emotionally dead my mother is (and I don’t think that’s it, because we have laughed about her having the emotional capacity of a cardboard cutout), or she is feeling her way around, trying to see what it is that needs to come out. 

I flinch a bit. I can’t think of any inside jokes my mother has, unless you count her *joking* about me being a drama queen, or telling her *funny* story about how I talked so much, from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed– I truly wouldn’t shut up and I would even follow her into the bathroom to continue talking, I just drained everyone with all that talking. People were grateful for silence when I went to bed. I know I have light hearted jokes with my family now— me, hubby, Kat. We have jokes, we laugh about mishaps and silly things that happened. I can’t think of any right now, but I know we have them, and with them comes this warmth, a comfort, a sense of belonging. 

Bea notices the flinching. “Goofy kind jokes, not mean jokes directed at you. You were a kid, being a kid. Nothing more.” 
I shrug, as if it’s no big deal, but inside I’m glad that she caught it, that she saw the flinch, that she knew why I flinched. 
“Do you have any memories as a kid of cuddling up with your mom, or just being spontaneous? Just being silly, relaxed? What do you and her do now that gives that same sense of connection?” Bea asks. 

I want to scream at her, I want to throw the wooden blocks that are in a box next to me on the floor. I want to walk out. NO. No, I don’t have those memories, there is nothing I can do to feel connected with my mother, unless I want to be perfect again. But she wasn’t not there. She interacted with us, we had a very busy schedule, always going, going, going, doing, doing, doing. But snuggles? Open ended play? Messiness? Curling up in bed in the middle of the day to read a book and that ending in a pillow fight? Creativeness that wasn’t reigned in and structured? It was not to be tolerated. Instead, I shake my head no, slowly and carefully. 

It seems Bea isn’t really here after all, she isn’t really seeing me. She’s not getting it. I can’t be me and be Ms. Perfect. I can only be one or the other. It’s gotten harder and harder for me to have Ms. Perfect running the show. I don’t want to feel fake anymore. I just want to be me; messy, imperfect, talkative, loud, emotional, worrywart, goofy ME. I don’t want to pretend anymore. But by choosing authenticity, I’m not longer on the same side as my mother. She can’t love what she can’t tolerate in herself, she can’t accept or see what she can’t allow to exist in herself, and so, real me is something to despise, to pray for, to fix; she is a cancer that must be excised from Ms. Perfect. 

It hurts. It hurts to realize that had I been myself as a child, I would have been rejected, not accepted. It is painful to realize that any attachment I had with my mother was between her and Ms. Perfect, and that I will never have that connection with her. It hurts that I’m not good enough. It doesn’t matter what I rationally understand, it hurts. This is pain and grief and intense loneliness. It’s unbearable. 
I’m deep in this grief and pain, I’m drowning in it, and Bea is nowhere. She’s somewhere on the surface, not able, or not willing to dive down with me. Her absence has created some giant hurt feelings, and an even more intense alone-ness. I’m hurt because she promised to be with me. And while she’s there, she’s not really here. She told me we had the whole summer, (because there weren’t many breaks planned, just a day here or there to be missed) to work through all the memories and dreams and fear and disgust and shame and horror and hurt that have been bubbling up since Mother’s Day. But she’s not really here after all. 

Journaling through the weekend 

I didn’t send a response back to Bea’s email. I did write though. The weekend was hard. I wanted to write to her. I wanted to write and have her respond and feel not alone. I wanted to feel like my feelings and fears and confusion mattered to someone. I wanted to know that someone was here. That all just seemed too impossible. Instead, I journaled and wrote with the intention of giving it to her on Monday. 
 
3/31

Basically it’s about the okay part and the not okay part. The okay part has thrived because it avoids the not okay part at all costs.  

This. This is how I was okay for so many years. This is how I “hid” the bad scary things from myself. Ugh. I know this, I’ve tried to write it, explain, make sense of it. But never in this simple, not-wordy way. This does help.

When stuff like the doctor happens the okay part is forced to share space with its foe. This is scary and confusing and not okay.  

Again, this. The okay part of me does not want the not okay parts to even exist. That’s why I fight to keep things secret, it’s why I when I am hurting and triggered and upset, I just want to run, and hide, and disappear, it’s why I just want this all to stop. I don’t know. The okay part feels like she is doing enough, by allowing the not okay parts to have a voice, in therapy, in writing. They are being acknowledged, so really, how dare the not okay parts intrude on “real/public” life? The not okay parts are not allowed there. It is very scary when they have to share space and confront each other. The okay part feels like a really bad thing happened, not only on having to deal with memories or feelings that pop up because of it, but also because it’s not allowed for those not okay parts to be seen. And the not okay parts….maybe they feel like a failure compared to the okay parts. Like they can never live up to the perfect okayness of the okay part. And they do feel ashamed for showing up, for making a mess of things, for needing something, for wanting to be seen. 

No wonder your identity feels messed up.  

Okay. Really, this makes sense. Of course it feels messed up, when part of me– the part I show everyone, the part that has mostly lived my life– does everything in her power to avoid the not okay parts. But ugh. This just feels insurmountable right now. People are supposed to form their identity in childhood, and then again as teens/young adults. And here I am, just lost. I think I get defensive, defiant, when the idea of identity comes up because I don’t know who I am, and it’s so much easier to be defiant than to admit that I don’t know. I’m only admitting it now because I’m lost and tired and too sad, overwhelmed, triggered, upset to filter and edit. Of course, the flip side of all that is that all those things mean it is hard to think and find words. Writing is easier. It’s always easier.  

As we work through these things, however, they become less separate and unintegrated. You move towards health. We are on the right track with what we are doing. We may have more parts to touch base with is all

Ugh. Not more parts. Ugh. The little girl, the teen. I don’t know. I’m sure I could really break it down, and label all sorts of “parts”. Because I’m good at that, it would be a list, and I can do lists. But. Ugh. More parts? Aren’t the little girl and the teen causing enough havoc in my life? Ugh. 

There is a “fight” part. It wouldn’t necessarily feel directed at someone–just your defensive reaction to being activated.

Blah. Great. I’m assuming activated means triggered? So this is the part that snaps at my husband, yells at my kid, and gets angry for no reason. Right? Ugh. I mean like the times I snap at him when I’m feeling upset over a bad dream, or am feeling too vulnerable, so I snap. Because I am triggered. Or when I am playing with her, or she says or does something that triggers me and I become way more frustrated and short tempered than I would be normally. Ugh. This sucks. My behaviors are my responsibility, I’m not making excuses, but this sort of means that it’s not fully in my control, either. Is that right? So how do I fix this? How do I stop being triggered and having this fight part show up? I don’t like it. It sucks. 

I think it’s good that you want that–to be held and to be comforted. That is the “attachment cry” part. Attachment is an important resource. 

Okay. So on one hand, you know I believe attachment is so, so important because of how I parent– or at least try to parent. But my instinct is to shake my head, and stomp my feet and scream that it is not important for me, that it is not an important resource for me, and that I am just fine on my own. I don’t want it to be important, I don’t want it to matter, and I don’t want to need or want it. 

I wish you could have that with your mom too. I’ll bet you will get some sense of it this weekend in your interactions with her, even if not as much as you are craving.

It doesn’t matter. And I can’t. I have to go there with walls up and being really, really, okay. Because if I’m not….I don’t know. My mom being different, more real will just be…it hurts too much right now. Because I can’t reconcile the two very different moms, and I can’t deal with the “new” mom when all it does is highlight what the “old” mom wasn’t. And it sucks. It hurts and it sucks and I don’t want to deal with it right now. And I can’t have a crying breakdown with her, because even the “new” mom isn’t capable of being whatever it is I want or need. So. I’ll go, and I’ll be sweet and happy and I’ll hold it all together. Because I can’t do anything else. 

Understandable! Parts all riled up. Hopefully you will talk to each of them and remind them that there is a grownup running the show and they need to simmer down!

So, I have these two very different responses to this. One is to say, I am not talking to them. Nope, not happening, no way. Not doing that. The other is to say, okay, I think that might be a good idea, it can’t hurt, even if it feels a little silly, okay, I’ll try it. Ugh. 

4/1
I keep trying to write that letter, and I just can’t. It’s too triggering. I can’t seem to separate writing a simple letter from what happened, and what it felt like was happening. And I sort of need to explain this to my doctor. I think it’s a combination of maybe needing to explain because I have this need to make people understand where I’m coming from, maybe a part of me feels like I “owe” her an explanation, but even more so, I really need her to get it. Because after I reacted like that, how is she ever going to view me as a competent adult again? Maybe she won’t. Maybe, even just a little piece of her will wonder if I shouldn’t have my husband there to make decisions for me. Maybe she will be afraid I’m going to freak out again. I’m afraid I’m going to freak out again. 
I can’t think today. My brain literally feels like sludge. Ugh. I’m so tired. And sad. More than sad. I can’t make it all stop, and I want someone to make it stop for me. But no one can. And that just feels sort of heartbreaking. I’m stuck right now. Stuck with all this mess. And I have no idea how to clean it up. No idea at all. 

4/2
I don’t want to go to my parents today. I don’t have the desire or energy to smile and be okay. I will. Of course I will, because what else is there to do? But I don’t want to. I want to hide in my closet, blanket over my head and cry. But I can’t do that. I’m expected to be at my parents and visit and be nice. So. 

—-I’m at my parents now. I’ve been really dissociated and not here. I just can’t. And Kat is being very possessive of my mom, and doesn’t want hubby or I playing with them. So. I don’t know. I’m allowing it, because in one way it’s good that she is being more independent from me. And, I’m glad because I don’t have to smile and pretend. Hubby is watching tv– ugh– and I’m listening to a book, writing emails to ABA staff and trying to come up with a list for the school meeting. I don’t know. I don’t want to be here today. 
And she told me that my aunt Debbie– my dad’s sister– is really, really sick. She had a brain scan, and it looks like either a tumor or MS. She goes back this week. I tried to talk to my mom about it, because I needed something. But she said that she refused to even think about it. I’m really upset. I can’t hardly feel it yet. I just can’t…its just more I don’t want to be real. It’s another thing I want to stop. 

3/4
Rory called…she is having all these issues with her boyfriend. I’m out of things to tell her, out of energy to validate her feelings and what is happening. I texted her, told her I had a migraine and couldn’t really talk, but would text with her if she wanted. She told me what was going on, and sent me a letter she was planning on sending to him. I thought what she wrote was good in that she was clear about her feelings and worries. But I also thought she was maybe a little harsh, and was really….I don’t know, almost bossy in telling him what he was doing wrong, and why she thought he was doing it. I wanted to tell her that it might be a good idea to rephrase some things in her letter. But I couldn’t. The last time I said how I felt, how I really thought, I lost a friend. So I told her what I knew she wanted to hear. And I feel terrible about it. But too scared to say what I really thought. Ugh. I’m just too tired and afraid. 
Yesterday, it wasn’t a bad visit, but it wasn’t good. I don’t know. Things were odd….I just felt so closed off. And my mom seemed really….I don’t know. Surface like again. It was jarring. She seemed like her old self. It was easy, I know how to behave when people are surfacey. So it was fine, simple, easy. But I think….I don’t know. It set me on edge, too. I don’t know. This messy here but not here, on edge feeling. It was hard. It was a hard day in some ways. And we went to dinner, at this place, fire and ice– pizza and ice cream. So not okay. I don’t know. I ate pizza, ate ice cream. Wanted to go throw up but couldn’t get away. And when I did, the bathroom was crowded. Ugh. Panic. It was uncomfortable and not okay. And the weather was bad, and scary, and hubby decided we would drive home anyway. I was really scared. Maybe it was about not being in control of the drive. I told hubby I was scared, and worried about the roads, and asked if he was okay to be driving, or too tired. He was just like “it will probably be fine”. I ended up snappy and irritated with him. I needed him to tell me it was okay, he was awake and the roads weren’t so bad. I don’t know. When I said something later, driving in a whiteout, he joked and laughed at me over it. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter. 

I’ve tried and tried to come up with a list of parts…I don’t know…this is what I have…..

Parts…….

–the grown up part
She’s…I don’t know, exactly. She is the rational one. The one that can always see all sides in an argument. She’s the one who can be present and grounded. I think she’s kind of new to me. She’s the part that wants to be vulnerable and open and authentic. She’s okay with messy, but likes some semblance of order. She’s more of an introvert. She’s happy just being at home with her family and having a few friends, and she wants to have those few friendships be less surfacey and more real. She likes yoga, and taking Hagrid for walks– either in more nature areas and downtown in busier areas. She likes to swim. She likes to sew, and be creative and bake. She likes helping people and making people feel good about themselves– she’s the one who likes doing little things to makes people feel special. This is the part that wants to be healthy. She’s the one that stops me from quitting therapy, that says even when things get messy or there is a rupture, it’s worth it to try to fix it. She’s usually the one writing, journaling and emailing. She wants to connect and she wants to be honest and she wants to be healthy. 

the little girl
scared, vulnerable, alone, feels like she did something bad, afraid to not be good enough, needs approval from everyone around her, feels like she has to be perfect to be loved, she’s needy and clingy and is always afraid “her people” aren’t really there. 

the 9 year old (the angry one)
Alone, feels left– abandoned, believes her mom knows what she did and that mom hates her for it –and she hates her mom for knowing and not fixing it– and that she made her mom sick and that she will never be good enough to fix it. She is angry, there is so much mad here, but it’s not allowed, it’s not okay, so she hides it and pretends there is no anger. She is mad that she has to be the good girl, that she can’t afford to mess things up again. She’s very afraid of disappointing her parents, and she feels a lot of pressure to be perfect, to be good enough. And she is mad that she constantly feels like she comes up short. Really big mad feelings, but they are scary feelings, too. This mad cause this heart in your throat, can’t breathe, stomach dropping anxiety feeling. It doesn’t feel good or okay

the teen
Defiant, sassy and snarky, scared, feels like she has to be perfect to be loved/needed/wanted, feels like she needs to do things on her own, doesn’t trust anyone, won’t allow herself to need anyone, feels like all she does is fail and screw everything up, feels dirty and bad, believes she is going to hell. She can be really mean, and then turn around and fall apart crying and hurting a second later. She’s afraid of vulnerability. She doesn’t like change, and fights against it, but sometimes secretly wishes someone would push her to change. She’s afraid if she admits to needing someone, they will leave. If I were to label bad coping skills to parts, she would the one that cuts for all kinds of reasons, and she is definitely the one with bulimic behaviors. 

Miss Perfect
She’s the part that is…..I don’t know, the facade, the happy, perfect, has it together, is okay, is always fine part of me. She’s the okay part. Only it’s this almost intense need to be okay, and have everyone around her be okay, and have everyone around her believe she is okay. If those things can’t or don’t happen, she falls apart. She demands perfection, and will beat herself up over any perceived mistake, even the smallest thing is cause for being upset. She’s very much a type A personality and is pretty OCD. Messy is not allowed. She thinks if she wants something done, she needs do it herself, and she doesn’t want to need anyone. She is more of an extrovert, can be very outgoing and can talk to anyone, in pretty much any situation. Shes the part with that amazing filter. If I had to assign bad coping skills to the parts, she is the one who likes to restrict food and she will cut if things feel out of control or those pesky feelings show up. She’s more of a “grown up” but deep down, secretly feels like she is a little kid pretending to be a grown up. But I would say she ran the ship for years. She’s the one my parents raised, taught me to be. She’s all about hiding anything negative, even if secrets and lies are needed to do so. I don’t really think she is actually a healthy part, but I’d guess she is the okay part that can’t tolerate any of the not okay parts. 

–the fight part
Really big mad feelings, but they are scary feelings, too. This mad cause this heart in your throat, can’t breathe, stomach dropping anxiety feeling. It doesn’t feel good or okay. Shows up when triggered, and causes big reactions that do not fit the situation. 

–the slutty one 
This is the one that slept with random guys after leaving the boyfriend. I don’t even have real memories of that time. I couldn’t tell you who, or where, or how many. I can’t even say if I was okay, or if I freaked out, or anything at all really. There’s just not much there. And, she is the one that instigates things with Ryan. I think she equates sex with being loved and wanted. I think she is young. Maybe 12, 13. It feels similar to when I kissed Kenny at the cabin, instigated things with him there. I don’t know. 

A Real Relationship

“I expected to get an email after Monday’s session. That was a lot to process.” Bea lets her statement hang in the air, waits for me to respond, to say anything. So far, I’ve said hello to her, and not much else. I’m finding it hard to speak today; it’s as if the defiant teenage part of me showed up to therapy, and I am fighting the idea of being here, of being vulnerable. Bea takes a drink of he tea, continues speaking. “Maybe you weren’t feeling safe enough to send an email. Maybe you weren’t sure you could trust me to respond.” I feel my insides freeze at that. It’s almost exactly what happened. I wasn’t sure. I was afraid. But I don’t want to admit it. “I would have responded,” she continues, “Sometimes, like this morning, I don’t respond right after I read an email, especially the longer ones. I got an email this morning that I read, and I’ll respond later, once I have some time to really think it through and process it. So even if I haven’t responded right away, it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it, or haven’t read it.”

Great. Now she thinks I have expected her to reply really quickly. It’s not like that. I really have never expected anything beyond a replay within a day, or maybe the same day depending on the content. The last email, which went 2 — almost 3– days with no reply, and was the first thing I wrote or said that let anything big out…well, that hurt. And her reply felt off. It felt like she wasn’t really there, wasn’t getting it, I don’t know.

“I bet you have been writing since I saw you last, even if you haven’t emailed.” Bea’s voice says she likes the fact I write, even if I haven’t shared it with her.

I finally nod. “I always write. It’s just…me.” I shrug. I think about pulling out my iPad, pulling up, email I wrote and didn’t send, but I don’t. Instead I stare at the floor, think about what I wrote about.
I must have dissociated far away, because the next thing I know, it’s like I’m jerking awake– although I wasn’t asleep and Hagrid is head butting me– and Bea is talking.

“I haven’t asked about your Grandma lately,” Bea says, “Have you talked to her?”

I shake my head, slowly. “That’s a funny story,” I say. Crap. I meant to say it was funny she was asking that, funny as in ironic. Being so out of it means words get easily mixed up when I speak.

“It’s a funny story?” Bea asks, not sure she heard my whispered voice right.

“No…not funny. Funny you asked.” I explain. And then we sit in silence for a moment while I gather my thoughts. “She’s here. In [state].”

“Oh. Wow. Are you going to see her?”

“I…tonight. For dinner. With the…with him.” Hagrid noses his way onto my lap. I pet his back.

We talk about how Grandma texted me to ask about meeting for dinner, and how it’s just going to be Kat and I going.

“Hubby…he hurt my feelings. It…I tried…” I stumble with the words. “He has to work. And you know I haven’t talked to him about anything since like, May, but I asked him if he was could work 9-4 today. He said no. But then asked why. So I started explaining. And he…..he starts laughing. He wasn’t even listening. He was reading emails. That’s how much I matter. And he then told me he can’t change his schedule today, no matter what, so why he acted like he could, I don’t know. But…ugh. I don’t know. It didn’t matter.”

“You were really reaching out to him, asking for support and not being seen really hurt.” Bea echoes and validates me, and I feel like I can breathe a little.

“Yes.” I nod.

We talk over this, me crying about hurt feelings, Bea echoing how it really hurts to have your husband, your partner ignore you.

“Did you have something you wanted me to read?” Bea gestures to my iPad, which is resting near my right leg. I don’t even remember removing it from my bag. “I don’t want to invalidate this experience, or rush you, or stop you from talking about it, but I also don’t want to miss something you wanted to talk about.”

I nod, and pick up the iPad. I open the email, and scan it. Yeah. All the scary crazy stuff is still there, in black and white. Ugh. “No. There isn’t much to say. I’m seeing my Grandma. It feels yucky because of the boyfriend. My husband doesn’t see me. And my feelings are hurt. That’s really it. So…here.” And I hand her the iPad. After, I curl into a ball– sitting up– and say, “I wrote it Monday night…Tuesday morning…it’s an email, I guess. I just didn’t send it because. I don’t know why. I just didn’t send it.”

“Okay.” Bea’s voice is neutral again. I have a feeling she has thoughts on why I didn’t send it, but I don’t much care. Mostly because I’m sure she is thinking I wasn’t sure it was safe enough to send it, and she’d be right.
I’m thinking again. Of course, I’m thinking again. It’s 2:00am, and I’ve had a nightmare and can’t get back to sleep. So I am thinking.

I’m thinking about one of the questions I thought about this weekend: why is it so hard for me to talk relationship stuff? Why does the very idea of that make me frozen and sick to my stomach and itchy all over? Why does it feel so incredibly not safe and why am I so convinced that in discussing those things I am going to get hurt? Is this just normal, I’m human and being vulnerable is scary stuff, or is it more than that? And what am I supposed to do about it? Because now I’m in this weird place….this sort of limbo feeling, of not being able to go back to pretending that the relationship piece doesn’t matter, of not being able to pretend there is nothing wrong in the real relationship or nothing to talk about….but I also am too damn scared to talk about if. So what am I supposed to do? I have this feeling that I am going to lose people I care about of I don’t do something. But the idea of calling Kay and talking through my ignoring her because I didn’t want her trying to force me to face reality, of maybe telling her that I love her but sometimes she is so honest and blunt she scares me and overwhelms me…..well, it’s too much. I can’t. Or the idea of telling hubby that I feel like we are existing on opposite sides of the world, that I feel very far away and isolates right now, that I feel like he doesn’t see me, maybe doesn’t really want to see me, and that makes me feel so afraid, it really triggers me, takes me right back to being a child and not being seen, and so I lash out by being nitpicky, by snapping, with passive aggressive comments, even just outright yelling. No, I’m not there yet. But I’m also unable to pretend.

And I’m thinking about this idea of limbo, and it really feels like I’m in this weird limbo place. Maybe that is just what therapy is. I don’t know. But it’s like I’m beyond believing it was all a game, but I’m I’m not really at this point where I can say I didn’t do anything wrong, either. I still have a lot of doubts about my behavior. Logically, I can say, and easily believe that kids are never to blame. But if I try to insert my name into that statement, or even just say “the little girl is never to blame”….I almost feel this strong physical reaction, like that sentence is wrong. And the first thing I feel is….I don’t know, maybe really deep buried mad, and I just want to scream that the little girl is awful and bad and disgusting and no one will ever love her. I feel like I’m in this weird limbo where I can say that Kenny had a part in everything that happened, he gets half the responsibility. Which I couldn’t believe, or even really think before. But it only brings up questions of why, and more questions of were there others– the girls from the other families in our group, his sister? And I don’t know. I don’t like this limbo place. Maybe i really wasn’t okay before, but at least I was sure of something. Now it feels like I’m more unsure of things in my life than ever before. And that scares me a lot.

I’m thinking about my parents. I talked to my mom. She called to tell me my grandma and her boyfriend had come back for grandmas high school reunion, but not told anyone or seen anyone while they were here. People found out via facebook, but my mom didn’t want me to see my grandma posting she was in this state and feel like she had hidden something from me. So I cried. And we talked about it for a bit. And then she said something…I don’t remember exactly, I was feeling not so grounded. But it was about her hiding things or ignoring things when I was growing up, and she said she is finding in therapy that burying things never fixes anything in the end, eventually it has to be dealt with. She said she spent most of her adult life hiding and burying things and she won’t do it anymore. She’s happy. She is happy in therapy, more grounded and more real than I’ve maybe ever experienced. She said she goes twice a week. That she is thinking of seeing this nutrition counselor her therapist recommended. I wanted to scream. This should be good. I should be happy. It’s everything I have said, time and time again, I wanted from my parents. But…ugh. NO. It doesn’t feel okay. It doesn’t feel okay at all. I changed my mind. Maybe I’m not capable of having more than a surface relationship with anyone in my life. Kay might be the exception. Because she can tolerate a lot of uncomfortable feelings and yucky stuff; I really do believe she can handle more than most people. So, it’s like even though she has always demanded more than a surface friendship from me, she’s been able to handle and tolerate all the yuck for both of us. Or something. And I think, like you said you are always thinking of where I am and what I can handle, she does that, too. Which is the only reason that works. But. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to have that kind of relationship with another person (you. I don’t have a surface relationship with you.But you are my shrink, so it’s not like a surface relationship would really make sense). So. No. I change my mind. I don’t want this real relationship with my mom. I don’t want her to try to repair things, or talk about the past. There’s too many hurts I’m afraid she will go to. It’s not just my fear that she will maybe realize that she knew and ignored the situation with Kenny. I need, or a part of me needs to believe she had no clue. I don’t think I can handle it if I knew for sure she knew. It would hurt too much. So much, I’m just numb even typing that; I feel completely disconnected from my body right now. But don’t worry, Hagrid has been barking at me and head butting me a lot today– he is doing his job and seems determined to not allow me to get too far away. Part of me, irrationally so, fears she will realize that I’m the one who made her sick and landed her in the hospital, or that she will realize if I hadn’t been so needy, or such an out of control teen, she wouldn’t have had the problems she had and she will be so disappointed in me, hate me. It’s obviously a fear from the little girl, nothing based in reality. But…..still. There it is. Part of me is afraid she will try to talk about the times she punished me instead of being there emotionally– taking my car keys after I cut my wrists, making me attend school two days after I over dosed, not allowing me to buy a new dress for the Christmas dance because she caught me throwing up, lecturing me about how I was ruining my life when Kristin called her to come get me from college. All of those things almost hurt too much to even type onto a page. I can’t talk about them. And I really can’t talk about them with her. I don’t know. I just know I want the fake story back.

I NEED to know I have the option of saying it was all a game. That I have the option of saying it didn’t matter, that it wasn’t a big deal. That I am being a drama queen, because that is my role in my family, it’s what I do. I need to be able to say I’m being crazy, making things up. I need to be able to tell myself it didn’t happen the way I think, obviously, because no one else is telling the story I am telling. At least a part of me is holding onto the belief that none of this is real. A part of me needs to think I’m crazy, because the alternative is just too horrible.

And it makes me so freaking angry with her. Why does she get to do this now? I was forced to live in her crazy perfect world. I had no choice but to be perfect, because I truly believed they wouldn’t love me, wouldn’t want me if I was anything less than perfect. Heck, sometimes I still believe that. But now, when I NEED her perfect family version of our history, her perfect daughter version of my history…NOW she wants to change it? ITS NOT FAIR. And I don’t want explanations or reasons. I don’t want to understand from her viewpoint. I just want to be mad. I just want to be hurt. Because, (illogical though it is) even though she has no idea about any of this, I feel hurt. I feel like once again, I’m being left emotionally. And it’s almost worse this time, because all I needed was for her fl maintain the same stupid story she has always told as the truth. And she can’t even do that. Now she wants to be real. Not when I NEEDED her to be real. Oh no. She couldn’t possibly have been real when I overdosed. Or when she caught me cutting. Or when I went through a starting phase and passed out at cheer practice. Nope. She couldn’t be real then. Not when I needed a mom who could be real. But now? Now when I need anything but real, she chooses to lead to be real. Argh. I think I’m in this little girl headspace, maybe sometimes even this teenager– like young teenager– headspace right now. I don’t want to talk things out and understand other people’s viewpoints. I just want to be upset and for someone to get that.
Bea reads. And I’m silent. She says “mmhmmm..” several times as she is reading; it’s what I have come to think of as her verbal nods. She makes a sort of snickering laugh sound at one point, and I’m assuming it is in reference to my comment about her being my shrink and so a surface relationship wouldn’t make sense– or she is laughing at the swear words and angry tone peppered throughout the email, as those are so uncharacteristic of me. But I’m betting it’s the shrink comment.

“I haven’t finished this yet,” she says at one point, “but I want to comment on this limbo feeling. It makes sense, it makes perfect sense. And it is scary. It’s like having the ground pulled out from beneath you and no safe space to run to. And it makes sense why the old story, even if it was scary or not safe…it’s familiar. So it feels safe. I was also thinking, your grandpa, your grandpa and your grandma, that is where you found safety as a child, and it’s where you have found safety as an adult. They were real. But your grandma is changing things. And that is unsettling. You can still find safety there. The safety you found as a child is still there.”

I don’t say anything, just let her words sink in, and let them roll around my mind. I need time to let that idea sit.

She reads the rest of the way through. “Wow. Wow. This is a lot.”

I shake my head. “Is it? Or is it life?” I sometimes wonder if I just suck at living life.

“It is a lot.” Bea repeats. “Your mom…this is good stuff. She is growing, and it’s good. But she, you…you and her are on different healing paths right now. She needs to be on her path. You aren’t there yet. You still have things to grieve and hurts to feel and work through.”

“I feel so guilty.” I whisper.

“Because you aren’t happy for her?”

“I should be.”

“Well…should is a logical word. This isn’t logic. It’s feelings. And there is a lot of grief here. A lot of anger. A lot of feelings that could not be felt then, and that need to be felt and worked through to be able to move on.” Bea says. She says it like this is so natural, so normal.

“She’s…she’s getting better.” It’s what I have always wanted. But it feels too late.

“And we want that for her. But you don’t have to be happy about it. You can have all your feelings. It’s okay to be mad. Of course you are going to be mad she couldn’t be better when you needed her to be. How could you not be? These things hurt. They were real hurts.” Bea says. She looks back over the hurts I’ve listed, and asks “what’s a starting phase?”

I feel lost for a minute and then realize. “Auto correct. It must have…auto correct.”

“So it’s?….?” And then Bea realizes. “Starving phase?”

“Yeah.” I nod, grateful I didn’t have to spell it out.

It’s quiet for a moment and then Bea asks me, “Was she crying, too? Your mom, when you were talking? Did it feel like she was trying to connect?”

I sigh. I don’t want to remember. It was scary for me. I feel floaty, just thinking about it. “I…she was…but it was like…she was happy but…like….relieved? Maybe? Is that the feeling?”

“Uh-huh…mhhmhhm….like she has this relief at not living under this weight of perfectionism or hiding any longer. Yes. That makes sense. And she is trying to tell you she is sorry for how things were, but she is relieved not to be that way any more.” Bea sounds a little bit excited, like she is putting the pieces together of a puzzle. She goes on to say that my actions– distancing myself, not following all the family rules, doing things that were right for me, might have pushed her towards making changes.

I shrug. “I can’t…I’m not..I don’t want this.”

“I know. And you can distance yourself and let her be on her path and you can be on yours. But I think one day, you’ll be able to have an honest conversation, to be real, and have a real relationship with her.”

“No…no, no. I can’t. I don’t. I can’t.” I shake my head, and tears are falling at this point. They are tears from too much pent up emotion. Tears of anxiety and frustration. Tears of grief and pain and hurt. Tears of anger and fear.

“Not now. But one day.” Bea says softly. She says something about having a relationship with my mom, a real relationship.

I shake my head. “I think I am only able to handle surface relationships. That’s it. It’s all I’m good at.”

I hear the smile on her voice, the kindness and the sadness when she says, “That’s not a relationship. That’s day to day interactions. Relationships are what make life worth living. They are the reason we are here. But the surface stuff? That’s just daily interactions.”

I shake my head. “Well. Those surface relationships passed for relationships for 30 years of my life. So….I think they count as relationships.”

Bea disagrees, and tells me again that the deeper relationships, real connections are what make life worth living. She says those connections are what all of us are looking for. It’s something we all need.

I don’t say anything. I don’t like this conversation. I have been thinking a lot about relationships and feelings and connections, and I have been wanting to talk about it with someone. It I don’t like the way this conversation is making me feel.

“All this stuff you are dealing with, it’s a lot, but it is sort of the nuts and bolts of life. Relationships are the nuts and bolts of life. They are so important and those connections, while at times…”

“Scary? Terrifying? Frozen making?” I supply some adjectives, ones that I have a feeling are very different from hers.

“Well, yes. Being vulnerable and opening yourself up to a relationship is scary. Especially when it is a new thing for you to do. And this is a new thing for you. You haven’t even liked to discuss, or admit even the importance of our relationship.” Bea says.

“Because then…it’s saying I need someone. And I don’t want to need anyone.” I say softly.

“Well, no. Of course not. If you need someone, you are vulnerable.”

“Is it always that scary?” I ask her, after a minute or two of quiet.

She doesn’t answer right away, except to say, “No.” Then she gathers her thoughts before speaking. “It might be uncomfortable at times, but it’s not going to be scary forever. It’s scary now because it’s a new thing, and you aren’t sure you can trust it.”

I nod. Okay. Maybe. I’m not sure I trust that answer.

“With Hagrid…it’s easy, safe to open yourself up to him, right?” She asks me.

I nod. Slowly.

“With dogs, we only get good back. We don’t get rejection or hurt. So it’s easy and safe to open up and really attach and let them in. And that’s a good thing. It’s great. And Hagrid is doing his job, being there and attaching back to you, giving you a safe attachment.” Bea says.

What she says reminds me of studies I have read about horse therapy. I also wonder if that is the reason Bea has been so happy that Hagrid was brought into my life. Why she has talked about him and supported him coming to therapy and asked about how sleeping and nightmares are with him around.

I nod, letting her know I hear her.

Bea says more, maybe, about relationships. I’m not paying much attention.

“My mom is going to see a nutritionist.”

“That has to feel maybe a little threatening, unsettling at the very least.”

“I don’t know. It’s just…I don’t like it.” I sign. It makes me want to scream and yell and hide. But I don’t know what I feel, exactly.

“Does it feel like it is threatening your eating?” She asks me.

I shake my head. I don’t know. I disappear the rest of session, I can’t handle talking about my ED.

Hagrid’s barking, and Bea’s laughing.

“He’s not letting you go too far away,” she says happily.

I nod, feeling fuzzy. Damn it. I hate it when I zone out this much.

“We need to stop anyway, work on grounding you, okay?” Bea asks me.

I nod. “Can you just talk?”

“Well, I tried to bring my golden with me to work on Tuesday, to see how he would do as a therapy dog.” I can tell by the tone in her voice that things didn’t go well. By the end of the story, I’m cracking up, and I also now have an explanation as to why two puppets are missing from the puppet bucket.

I leave feelings grounded, but with a lot to think about and process.

“Everything but the kitchen sink” random talk therapy

I’m curled up on the couch, and Bea and I are talking about boots– snow boots. I’d recommended Bogs to her, as waterproof and warm, as well as having a grippy sole for walking in the winter. Plus they come in cute colors and patterns, if you like that sort of thing.

“I saw a store over by the artsy area of downtown that sells Bogs, but they were closed when I walked by. They didn’t look very warm, though,” Bea tells me.

“Oh, they really are insulated well. Hubby and I went for a hike last winter and my feet never got cold. And I never wear socks, so a normal person should be fine.” I smile, thinking of how I am always barefoot and that just astounds people. My daughter is the same way though. She can’t stand anything on her feet.

“I’m really going to have to go try a pair on, then. All the winter boots and stuff is going on sale this time of year, too.”

“Yeah, Hubby wanted to take Kat shopping for a pair of bogs– he said he would take her to Cabelas and get her boots. I was like, um, no. Kat doesn’t need expensive boots, she keeps outgrowing shoes the moment I buy them. So he said he would just take her to Cabelas.”

Bea chuckles. “I think he just wanted an excuse to go to Cabelas.”

“Pretty much. Any excuse. Luckily, Kat likes it there,” I say, shrugging.

“Well, they have fish and the animals, the way everything is set up is pretty cool,” Bea says.

“Well, yeah, there’s that. But she also just really likes the hot dogs there. She says they are better than the ones I buy. I buy her the ones that are unprocessed, organic, not full of junk,” I grin sheepishly. I’m a little weird about food and hot dogs are one of those weird things I have.

“Ah-hah! Actually, I remember when I was pregnant wanting nothing more than a chili dog and searching everywhere to buy the nitrate free hot dogs, and then getting sick later that night,” Bea tells me.

“Were they bad? Or was it just the whole hot dog thing?” I ask her.

“No, I think it was the fact I ate 3 of them.” Bea laughs, and I laugh with her.

“When I was pregnant, hubby and I were out to dinner. He had ordered a hamburger and I had never smelled anything so wonderful. I ate his entire hamburger. And we ate hamburgers constantly the rest of my pregnancy. He was thrilled. He vegetarian wife was eating meat. Once Kat was born, though, we packed her up and went out to dinner. I ordered a hamburger, took one bite and ran for the bathroom to throw up. It was gross. Hubby was so sad, he kept trying to get me to try a different place to eat, or hamburgers at home. But it was like, nope, my meat eating days are over,” I say.

Bea laughs. “I think a lot of woman end up craving protein in pregnancy. It’s what your body needs. Milk, eggs. Those were two other things I really craved. That and greasy frozen pizza. I don’t think there was much nutrient content there.”

“Maybe carbs? Milk grosses me out, but milk was something I drank constantly when I was pregnant,” I tell her.

“We haven’t really talked about your pregnancy or your labor with Kat. But you did say that eating wasn’t really an issue when you were pregnant.” Bea takes a drink of her tea, looks at me curiously.

I look down, the subject of food and eating, even if we aren’t talking about the here and now is uncomfortable. “No, it wasn’t an issue.”

“What about being disconnected? Do you remember feeling more connected, more grounded in your body? Was pregnancy a reprieve from everything?” She asks.

I wonder if it should be, but I don’t remember that. In day to day life, I “live” in my head, it’s almost like I’m just a head with no body, as far as being connected to anything goes. I want to tell her when I was pregnant, I felt like a head and a belly, nothing else. But I don’t because that just sounds insane. “No…I was really just in my head.”

Bea asks a few more questions, but I’m not sure what she is looking for, wanting. She asks about my body changing, if that was upsetting. I shrug. The truth is, I was really unaware of any and all changes, except for my belly growing. She asks about gaining weight, if that was triggering or okay. I don’t know, I gained more weight when we were going through fertility treatments than with pregnancy, so I’d already been through the upset and surpassed my “I will kill myself if I ever reach that number on the scale” weight. But I don’t say any of that, either. We talk about all the exams being triggering, but really, after fertility, the pregnancy exams were nothing. The fertility treatment exams were triggering, and I had anxiety attacks. By the time I got pregnant, though, I was so thrilled to be carrying a baby, and so numb to the exams, it didn’t really bother me at all.

I think about the freak out I had over weight in my OB’s office. I was maybe 6 months pregnant. The nurse had weighed me, and told me the weight. And I panicked. Full on panic, like this can’t be okay, nope, not ever. I think I cried. I’m pretty sure I told the nurse I was not allowed to weigh more than xxx. My OB came in and talked to me. She wanted me to see a therapist. I said no. It was the longest OB appointment I ever had, she spent quite a while trying to convince me. I spent the time trying to convince her I was okay. In the end it was a draw, and I agreed to call and check in with the one nurse I liked every few days until my next appointment. By the next appointment, I had convinced the nurse I was okay, and nothing ever came of it. I don’t tell Bea this, either. I don’t want to talk about food and weight and freakouts. Maybe I should. But I’m scared to even start talking. I’m scared to face exactly how bad my eating has been. I’m scared to deal with it.

Bea moves on, asking about my labor. I shrug, then tell her the funny story of how my labor started. “My water broke, but I didn’t realize it was my water. It was the middle of the night, and I woke up to a wet bed. I thought I had peed the bed. I was pissed– I mean, I didn’t want to be dealing with this for the rest of my pregnancy! I didn’t want to wake up Hubby, so I just moved my part of the sheet, put a blanket down, changed my clothes, and laid back down. Maybe 15 minutes later, and it happens again. I’m soaked, the blanket is soaked, and I’m just so frustrated that I’m going to be peeing myself the rest of my pregnancy.” Bea is giggling at this image; I like to think I’m a good story teller when I have a funny or cute story to tell. “It takes me close to 45 minutes, maybe an hour to realize my water had broken and I was in labor. So I wake up hubby and tell him I’m in labor. He looks at me and says ‘it’s not the 31st yet’ and then went back to sleep!”

“Oh no! He didn’t! Really?”

“Yeah, he really did. I mean, it was two weeks early, but still….so it took me a few more tries to convince him that this was really it, but once he was up and had called the doctor, he was a man a mission and trying to get me out the door. The doctor had told him I needed to come in right away because my water had broken and I think she scared him. I just wanted to eat some cereal and take a bath. So I’m trying to eat cereal, Hubby’s telling me I shouldn’t be eating, I shouting I am hungry and that I’m gonna take a bath, he’s pulling me towards the door. We were a mess. We should have had our own comedy show.” I laugh. It’s funny now. But darn it, I really did want to take a bath!

“So what happened after that?” Bea asks me.

“Not much, I was in labor and then had a c-section.” I shrug, trying to be casual about it.

“That’s a lot. And a lot to recover from, too. C-sections can be painful to recover from, I’ve heard.”

“I don’t know. Really, the worst of it was that they try to keep you on painkillers that made my head fuzzy. I kept telling the nurse to remove the IV with the painkillers, and she kept insisting on waiting for the doctor, and I kept telling her I just wanted children’s Motrin. I finally got mad and ripped out my IV.”

Bea cringes. “Ooooh. Ouch. That had to hurt.”

I’m surprised, because I don’t remember pain. “If it did, I didn’t feel it. And everyone left me alone about pain meds after that. Hubby just went to the pharmacy and bought me my children’s Motrin.”

We go around in circles, between the labor story and the after days. (The whole story is really a post for another day) Bea is surprised when I mention my mom saying something to me while I was in labor.

“Your mom was there?” She asks.

“Well, yeah. I mean, where else would she be?”

Bea is silent for a minute. Finally, she looks at me and says, “This is the complicated nature of your relationship with your mom. You wanted her with you during an intensely private time. You felt safe with her there. Yet, there is all the anger and challenges there, too.”

“I just…I mean, when I thought about it, I couldn’t imagine going through labor without my mom there to help me. I don’t know.” I grab my tea back from the small side table and take a drink.

We talk about how things with my mom are complicated (Bea’s word) and weird (my word). My mom has been my best friend for most of my adult life; ages 22-29. Things got distanced between us last year, as my nightmares and flashbacks got harder for me to deal with. Prior to that I had really been able to box it all away and pretend that none of the bad stuff had happened; I completely bought into the nice story my parents tell about our life. Emotionally, and in times of mental or emotional pain, my mom hasn’t been able to be there. But for the day to day stuff (the my boss sucks, or school is hard, or I can’t get pregnant, or my husband ticked me off) my mom has been there. But she also needs me to fulfill some unmet needs within her; needs and wants that a child, even an adult child, really shouldn’t be responsible for. Add to that the realization that my mom maybe didn’t protect me, maybe was blind to the abuse because she couldn’t deal with it, and things get even more complicated. There wasn’t really a resolution to anything, except that the relationship I have with her is very complicated.

“How old was your mom when she had you?” Bea asks.

I try to do the math in my head. “22? Yeah, I think 22.”

Bea is a little surprised. “That makes me see her in a different perspective. So she would have been, what, 25 or 26 when you first started following her around the house, talking her ear off?”

“Yeah, that would be about right.” I don’t add that my brother would have been born by then, too.

“I don’t know very many 26 year olds who are equipped to deal with a toddler like that….and she lost her mom, she maybe was looking for a replacement, someone to love her. That’s what so many young girls look for in a baby, someone to love them and meet their need to be loved.” Bea says.

I don’t really say anything, but I can see where she is going with this, and it makes sense.

“She would have been around 30 when she went into the hospital? Around your age?”

“Yeah…just about my exact age, I think,” I say.

“Developmentally, 30 is when you really find yourself, break away from your family of orgin….but it’s almost as if she was lost.” Bea sounds sad when she says this, and thinking about it, I feel sad, too.

“Yeah…it really is.” I’ve always known my mom had struggles, been aware of a lot of her short comings. I’m maybe more aware of them now because of having my own daughter, and because therapy has made them clearer in how they relate to me, given me words to explain them. But I’ve never looked at her life as so separate from mine, and really seen this. It is sad. Bea says again how she wonders about sexual abuse in my mom’s history, and how that history can make you blind to something happening to your own children. She’s quick to reassure me that I won’t have a blind spot when it comes to Kat, because I’m doing the work, I am aware.

“Even with all of that, I think the fact that you had a lot of good with your mom is the reason you are able to do this work in therapy without falling apart. Having a secure attachment to your parents is what has allowed you to continue to function. Not everyone, a lot of people can’t. A lot of people have crisis, and struggle and decompensate. You are very strong.” Bea tells me.

I just stare at the floor, I don’t say anything. She has no idea. And I can’t tell her. I can’t tell anyone.

Bea looks at me, kind of in that careful way she has sometimes. “At least, you’ve never said anything about it to me. A lot of people having feelings and suicidal thoughts when dealing with sexual abuse.”

I close myself off, tell myself I have to be okay. I look up at her, and meet her eyes. “I’m fine. I’m okay because I’m always okay. It’s a rule that I have to be okay.” (I feel like I should add here, I’m not suicidal, not at all. I could never leave my daughter.)

I don’t know what she says to that, I think I dissociate a little bit. When I’m back in the present, Bea is asking about last week and Hubby.

“I did fill out the worksheet and give it to him to read. I told him I didn’t want to talk about it though. So he sent me an email telling me thank you for sharing that with him, or some nonsense. And then I yelled at him a lot yesterday.” I cover my face, rest my head on my curled up knees.

“To push him away?”

“Well, I..yeah. I guess so, yeah.”

“What were you yelling at him for?” There is no judgement in Bea’s voice. She sounds genuinely like she wants to know what happened.

“I don’t even remember, isn’t that awful?” I feel like an idiot. I should at least know what set me off. But I truly don’t.

“Not really. It’s a defense mechanism, the anger wasn’t really about whatever you yelled about. If you could let him know why you yelled, that would go a long way,” Bea suggests.

“I told him. Well, I wrote it down, with those questions.” I misunderstand that she means explain why I was yelling on Sunday.

“Oh, that’s good! Maybe you could just let him know you are doing the defense thing you do when you let someone too close,” Bea says. “We need to find a better way for you to talk to him, to let him know you are feeling defensive, instead of yelling.”

“Being mad is just so easy,” I say.

“Well, yeah, it is.” Bea agrees.

“Sunday was just a bad day. I was grumpy,” I try to explain. Bea laughs a little when I say grumpy. “Are grown ups not supposed to be grumpy?” I ask her.

She laughs again. “Oh no, grown ups get grumpy a lot. Just not many admit to it. And when you are a 30 year old woman with hormones, and PMS, and a million other things, oh yeah, you can be grumpy.”

Now it’s my turn to laugh, before turning more serious. “It was just one thing after another. Hubby worked overnight on Saturday night. I fell asleep early and woke up from a nightmare at 1:17am. I never did fall back to sleep.” I think about Saturday night and how absolutely awful it really was, how long the night dragged on, how nothing worked to calm me, how I finally gave up and hid in the closet, with a razor and cut myself until I was numb and not so terrified and horrible feeling. “Saturday was…..just bad. A bad night. And Sunday, Kat woke up early, so I never got the morning. And then the nanny didn’t come, so I was on my own. And I just…..I was having so much trouble staying present, and not upset, and out of my head, and I just really wanted silence and to be alone, and it was just really a crappy day. The nanny’s little sister finally came over and I got a little bit of silence. But it was like too much had piled up and I was really struggling.”

“I’m really glad you were able to tell me this, to verbalize what happens, what your experience of a bad day after a nightmare is,” she says, and she sounds truly happy I am learning to talk. “I think this is more than you could have said, well even a few months ago.”

I nod my head. “Yeah. It is. So now you know, can we fix it?”

“Yeah, we can work on this,” she tells me. “What was your nightmare about? Was it one we have discussed before?”

I don’t want to get into it, so I tell her I’m not sure. I know it’s not anything we have actually discussed, though, not really. Bea lets it go, not pushing. Maybe she could tell I didn’t really want to go there today.

“So what did you do with your silence time?” Bea asks.

“Why?” I question back. I’m not sure why, but I’m feeling like I shouldn’t have used the time to hide out, but to clean the house, do the laundry, all the things that have I have been slacking on lately. Obviously Bea doesn’t know that, or even think that, but in her question, I hear all kinds of self blame.

“I just wondered if it helped, what you did. That’s all.”

“Oh. Right.” I shake my head at myself. “I just wanted to try to get the nightmare and thoughts out of my head. I was too tired to really do anything, though. So I watched Friends.” I cringe at this. I’m not a big tv person, and to me reading or sewing or journaling would have been so much more acceptable.

“Good. Anything that can get you out of your head when you feel like that and distracted is a good thing.” Bea doesn’t seem to think watching a tv show was a bad idea.

“Did you sleep at all?” She asks me.

“No, not then.” I’m not big on naps, to begin with, but even at that point I was still feeling sufficiently haunted by the dream and unable to close my eyes.

She tells me she wishes she knew something to do about these nightmares, and that she hasn’t given up. I nod my head.

We talk for a few more minutes, and wrap things up. I tell Bea a funny story about Kat and how she decided she wanted a wedding one after she saw a wedding dress in a shop window, and how she wanted to know how she was going to marry daddy when I was married to him? We both laugh, and then the wedding dress talk leads into a whole tangent of us sharing about our wedding dresses, and Bea says how it was really so sad to her to just have her dress dry cleaned and boxed up to preserve it. (I don’t tell her mine hasn’t been preserved yet and that I wear it around the house sometimes playing with Kat) I tell her how we had my mom’s dress made into shawls for my mom and I, and how embroidered on the inside is my Mom’s name and wedding date and my name and wedding date. My shawl has lace from my grandma’s dress, too. When Kat gets married, I can have lace from my dress added and pass it on to her. Bea thinks that is just a beautiful idea, and again speaks to the closeness between the women in my family. I shrug and say, “It’s complicated.” She agrees.

We say our good-byes, have a good day, and see you Thursday. And I head out the door. It’s only later, as I drive home, that I realize how much I left unsaid today, and how random and disconnected things felt today. I wonder if it was because I was trying so hard to put on the act of being okay.

Dealing with the past to live in the present

This is my post about last Monday’s session. I wasn’t ready to share some things in it, which is why I password protected it. I had originally written out part of the memory I’m currently dealing with but I’m choosing to omit that here, for the time being.

I’m dreading therapy today. I know I should talk about the text my mom sent, and all my feelings about it. I get so confused and tangled up though, I don’t want to go near it. I think I should tell Bea about the cat, it’s probably weird if I don’t. But then we would have to talk about Kat and her reaction which would inevitably lead to the text with my mom. So instead, I sit on the couch, legs curled up, and I address the fact that every Monday I arrive in an anxious panic that I will be late. Of course, I have never been more than 3 minutes late, and Bea really doesn’t seem to get stressed out over these things. But it bother me.

“Is it possible, can we just agree that on Mondays I have until 8:15 to get here? And I won’t text that I’m running late unless I’m going to be past that?”

Bea looks at me. She doesn’t appear overly surprised, but maybe confused. “Well, yes….we can do that, but I don’t think you’ve ever been late, aside from that time we were both late, and that was only a few minutes, anyways.”

“I know, I know. But the nanny just isn’t going to get to my house any earlier, and every Monday I am anxious that I’ll be late, and even if I’m not, it’s the idea that I will be, could be, am almost going to be late that makes it so awful. I never know if I should or shouldn’t let you know, or if it doesn’t matter, and then if I say I’m going to be late and then I’m not, I think it’s silly…”

“Ahhhh. I really don’t get upset about a few minutes late,” Bea says.

“I know. But I do. I would just feel so much better if I knew it was really not late as long as I was here by 8:15.” I’m squeezing my coffee cup as if I’m holding onto it for dear life, I’m so anxious over asking for this. I hate asking for anything, especially if I don’t already know the answer.

“Okay, then. As long as you are here between 8 and 8:15, you won’t be late.” It’s as simple as that. Bea doesn’t mind, it’s okay. She said it’s okay.

We talk about being late, and how Hubby and I have different definitions of on time, so I have to give him an earlier time for the event or whatever to start. Bea tells me about a friend of hers who is late for everything, and is truly never effected or upset to be running late.

“The funny thing is, I don’t care when other people are late. It’s doesn’t upset me, unless it’s making me late, and then it just gives me anxiety, it doesn’t upset me towards them,” I say.

Bea takes a drink of her tea, and leans back in her chair. “So it doesn’t change your opinion of them as a person, if they are late?”

“Right.”

She looks right at me then, and I have a feeling I’m not going to like this. “I guess the question is then, why do you have to be held to such high standards?”

Yeah, I don’t like this question at all. I shake my head. “I don’t know. It’s just how it is. I can’t be late.”

“I don’t want to say being a time person is a trauma thing, but it’s definitely a control thing. It’s an anxiety thing, too, one that almost feeds itself as you worry about being late, the more anxious you get, and then the more worried and upset over being late you become. Do you think you’ve always been a time person? Can you remember?”

This is easy. “Yeah. My mom was a time person. She would be all stressed out about being late, and I would panic right alongside her. My brother would just ignore it all.”

“And is your mom ever really, truly late?”

“No, rarely. She is almost always early, for everything,” I tell Bea.

There’s a pause for moment, and I can see the wheels turning in Bea’s head. She’s thinking, and she is wondering. “What about your Dad? How is he about time?”

I want to laugh out loud. Taking a drink of coffee, I explain, “My family has a name for the time my dad and his brothers and a bunch of the men on that side run on. They call it Tyler Time. That’s how late they are, all the time, they get their own time.”

Bea smiles, because the whole notion of Tyler Time is a bit absurd, and silly, I suppose, but it’s something everyone on my father’s side knows about. “That has to drive your mom nuts. How does she deal with it?”

“I don’t know. She makes plans without him. They drive separate cars. He drives her batty a lot. Like, see, it’s a horrible time discrepancy, because there is no schedule or time with Tyler Time. A few years ago, I think the summer before I had Kat, my parents were going to go buy new bikes. So my mom is ready to go by like 10:00am. My dad isn’t even out of his chair, when he does get up to get ready, he doesn’t go to shower, he starts cooking himself breakfast. So now, of course, my mom has to clean the kitchen. Well, dad won’t shower when the dishwasher is running. So he has to wait. And then it just goes on and on. They went bike shopping at 5:00pm that night. I mean, this is Tyler Time.”

We talk about how, in a way, my dad was off doing his own thing, not following the rules of my mom exactly, but at the same time, he had his own standards he expected people to meet. We talk a bit about my Dad, my Mom, their relationship, and then Bea moves to my relationship with my Dad. I have to set my coffee down, and sit more upright, with my knees pulled into my chest. This whole turn of conversation makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t have any idea how to answer her questions, how to explain my Dad.

“This is how he was, just off in his own world if it didn’t apply to him. When my parents made me….when I was doing homestudy, I had an early morning class at the college, at 8:00am. Just the one in the mornings. So I was to come home after. Well, I did that day and my dad was home, when he was normally at work. He asked me where I had been, and I said school, college. Then he asked if I’d been out all night. I was like, ‘um…no. I was home and then I went to school, dad’. But that’s how he was. He wasn’t normally home at that time, so he had no clue.”

“Were you upset that he asked you where you were? Maybe hurt or angry?” Bea asks me.

“No, that’s the thing. I was more shocked than anything, more like ‘what do you means?!’ But not mad. It was just another thing of dad being clueless dad.”

We sit for a few minutes, me curled into myself, feeling a little floaty and nervous, Bea calm and grounded. “Do you have any memories of your dad really connecting with you? Maybe like little gems, things not in his usual nature? I just think Moms are the ones who nurture and love us, and they are always there, but kids get something different from their Dads. I don’t know, it’s like Dads help build confidence and they have this almost larger-than-life-God-like presence for a child….moms, we are always around, and we matter, but Dads just seem to give something different.”

I feel like she is looking for something, searching for something, maybe wanting me to see something. I think through memories I have with my Dad. I don’t really think I have any of the kind of memory she is talking about, unless I count last weekend. “I don’t know…no…I just…no.” I feel like I failed, somehow, either I don’t have a memory, or I didn’t understand the question. But I can’t answer it, I have failed.

Bea asks again, as if she is making sure, and when I shake my head, she says, “My uncle was that type, not talkative, manly, you know. When my dad died, I was young only 25.” I look up at her then, I’m sad for her, it’s not fair. She looks okay, sad, but like she’s okay with it, as much as a person can be. I want to tell her I’m sorry, but I don’t want to interrupt. “I remember my uncle coming and standing around me, near me. He didn’t say anything, but I could feel that he wanted to offer me some comfort. So it’s something I always remember about my uncle.”

My Grandpa, I have many moments like that. The sweet, emotional memories. My dad? He’s my dad. I believed he would always save me, that he was stronger than anyone or anything. I felt safe when he was around. Even now, I know he would come if I needed him. But emotional memories? No. “The closest I can think of is when my dad and his brothers drank a few too many beers and chose that time to teach me how to drive in the winter. They ditched my car in a few snowbanks–” I look up and smile, almost laugh, “I can get out of any snowbank now! Then they took me to the middle school and had me drive in the back parking lot that was iced over while they yanked the e-brake up. They taught me to control my car in a spin out on black ice. I’m a really safe winter driver.”

“Unless it was done meanly—”

I interrupt Bea, “No, none of it was mean, it was good natured. They might have poked fun at me, but they really wanted me to know what to do.”

“Then I’d say that’s one of those moments that could really build confidence. To know how to get out of a snowbank at age 16, and to have your Dad teach you that and be there to see you succeed? That’s a huge confidence boost.”

I shrug my shoulders, I guess. I don’t know. Maybe. I’m confused. I don’t know if I reply outloud or not.

Somehow, the conversation turns to when my mother was hospitalized for her eating disorder. I’m not sure what led to this. Surely something about my Dad and my mom and me. Maybe how my dad is kind of emotionally unconnected? I don’t know.

“When your mom went to the hospital, you were in 4th grade?” Bea asks.

I nod. I was nine. But I don’t say the words. I’m kind of stuck. This is such a hard thing to talk about.

“You were convinced this was your fault…because of the underwear.” She says it as a statement, but it’s almost like a question, something I need to respond to.

“Yeah.” A whisper is all I can get out. My throat is dry, and I want my coffee, but I don’t want to move.

“How long after the underwear incident did she get sick and go to the hospital?” Bea is asking a lot of questions today, more than normal, but I’m struggling to talk without them, and she seems to be following some kind of idea, or thought about something. When I don’t answer right away, she asks me gently, “Do you know?”

I nod. I kind of know. “A week, a month, maybe two. Not long, I don’t think…..I don’t know.” I pause. I want to say the two memories are just linked together, that they seem instantaneous in my mind, even though I know that isn’t what happened. I try to get words out, but they show up as barely there whispers, just the word “they” floating almost silently on the air.

Bea hears it anyway, or maybe she sees my lips move because she says, “They what?”

I turn my head and look at the paisley print on the throw pillow next to me. It’s red and blue. I stare at the red part of the pattern. “They……they just seem…….like…they are linked.” I look up at her.

Bea nods at me. She appears to think what I’ve said makes all the sense in the world. “Yes, they almost would have to be.”

I think I should tell her it all runs together and seems to be one memory, in a way. I don’t though. I just stare at her, feeling kind of blank and not here, but here. I wonder if I’m on her nerves, not talking like this, I hope not.

“Did you stay with your Grandma?”

“No….we stayed home, my grandma and my aunt alternated staying with us.” Plus my dad was there. And the Smiths, right next door.

“So, she was probably gone longer than a few days. If your grandma and your aunt took turns staying and helping,” Bea suggests.

“It seems a long time. It seemed like forever. But a week can be forever when you’re a kid.”

“That’s true. Was she in the psych ward?”

I have no idea. The hospital. I always assumed some kind of eating disorder inpatient program. Maybe not. I have no clue. I shake my head.

Bea looks at me, and she has kindness on her face. “Do you remember what they told you? What your dad told you? Maybe your grandma or your aunt talked to you about it?”

“Just…..mom was sick, and had to go to the hospital. The doctors would make her better. She would be okay. I don’t know. The kind of stuff you’d tell a kid.”

“What about you and your brother? Did you guys talk about her being in the hospital?”

“Not really. I just repeated what the adults told us. I wanted him to be okay.” This revelation of caring and feeling responsible for my brother sends us off on a tangent, Bea asking if I looked after my brother, tried to take care of him, if I did things like walk him to his classroom on the first day of school, that kind of stuff. I tell her I don’t know. Because I don’t. I remember when he fell off the slide at school, I fought with the teacher to stay with him until my mom got there. He needed stitches, and he was hurt, and I was not leaving him. I know everyone remembers where they were on September 11. I really don’t. I was at college, but what class, or if I was in the student center, I don’t know, I don’t remember. But after the TV’s were turned on, and I made sense of what the news was reporting, all I remember is grabbing my stuff and running for my car. My only thought was to get to my brother’s school and get him. That’s what I remember. So I suppose there is a caretaker feeling towards him. I don’t know. I just needed to get him from school, to know he was safe. By the time my mom called me, I was already pulling out of the school parking lot, my little brother with me. But I don’t say any of that.

Bea backs up, maybe because I’m not answering, maybe because she doesn’t think this is going to be helpful to look at right now. “Did you visit your mom?”

“No.”

“That was a lot that you were dealing with then, that’s a lot of pressure on a kid, to take on all that blame, don’t you think? Were you scared? Worried?” Bea picks up her tea, takes a drink. She’s looking at me with a curious expression, one I can’t place. Maybe she is simply trying to figure out what is going on with me. I don’t know. I feel half numb, half ripped open and raw, too overwhelmed to be talking about this. But the overwhelmed parts feel buried in a way, deep down, and the numb is what is on top, at the surface. Numb is what Bea has to be seeing. Maybe some of the other, I don’t know.

I think again that Bea is looking for something, but I don’t know what she wants me to say. “I don’t know. It was just my fault. All my fault.” I shake my head. I don’t know what I think anymore. Maybe I still believe it, sometimes. I know I still hold onto the childish belief that I must never let mom get sick like that again, I need to be a good girl and never ever make her sick again.

Bea says something about the child part of me feeling to blame. That the grown up part knows it’s not my fault. She asks about my mom’s reaction to the underwear again, and she double checks that it wasn’t long after that she got so sick. “You were nine. How old was your mom then?”

I try to do the math in my head, but I’ve never been good at math. “30? My age, a year older maybe?” It comes out in a whisper. I don’t know why.

“30. That’s a hard age. I think it’s an age when we start examining things, sometimes things come up for us….like you have had happen.” Bea says.

I think again. “She was 21 when she got pregnant with me.”

“Oh. Wow. That’s young. She was young. How old was she when she got married?” Bea asks.

“18.”

We sit in silence for a minute, and then Bea says, “I wonder, we know your mom has a need for control, and perfection and emotions are hard for her. And she couldn’t face what was happening…the underwear incident. It’s almost like that was a huge trigger for her. It makes me wonder if she was sexually abused.”

I shake my head. I have no idea. I can’t even think, or wonder about this. It’s too much. I’ve read how moms who have been sexually abused are often blind to their own kids being hurt in the same way. I can’t go there. Nope. Not today.

“But of course you didn’t have anyone telling you that it wasn’t your fault. And you would have had no idea that it wasn’t your fault, that there had been a trigger for your mom.”

“No…no one talks about anything in my family. Not then, not even now.” I feel numb. I feel like I sound dead, flat voice. I’m mad about it, but I won’t feel it. Mad is not allowed.

“Was he around then?” We both know who the he refers to, when Bea asks this. I’m not looking at her, but she speaks softly, “I hope not. That would have been too much to bear on top of how you were already feeling and why.”

I don’t know if I react, I think I am withdrawn into my head enough that I don’t. I stare at the dollhouse, the wood floor. I don’t answer, I can’t. I feel sick. I wonder if I tell Bea that I think I might be sick if she will think I am really sick like with the flu, or if she will realize it’s a memory making me ill. I don’t say anything though.

I don’t know how long she waits, but I know it can’t be very long, because Bea won’t let me sit in silence and panic, and she won’t want me going too far away, either. “Do you remember if he was around?”

I’m frozen, but my defense is to try to pretend I’m not. I can’t let anyone know how broken I am, how crazy I am. I can’t answer though. Yes. Yes, I remember. Yes, he was around. On a Sunday. Our families had gone to church, like usual, just minus my mom. My Dad had insisted I wear my wool tights. They itched. I’m in Bea’s office but my legs feel itchy. I hate this. I feel like I might be losing my mind.

“You might not remember,” she says. Bea’s tone suggests that it’s perfectly okay not to remember. She pauses, giving me time to respond, but when I don’t she continues. “You might not know this, but how did your mom end up in the hospital, anyway? What started that?”

“I think it was the doctors she worked for. Well, family friends, really. Dan and Pam.” I answer, almost on automatic. I’m aware that I’m in Bea’s office, that we are talking, but it feels like background noise, far away, almost not real. What feels real is a Sunday, 22 years ago, when he walked me back to my house so I could change out of my hated itchy tights. I’m stuck in this memory of horrible things I’ve done, and I can’t get out.

“They were both doctors?” Bea asks.

“No. Well yes. They weren’t married. Dan’s 3 girls and his wife were a group we camped with, did beach days with. Pam was around with her husband, too, but not as much.” It’s automatic again, to answer, to try to act fine. But I’m trying to think. Didn’t I tell Bea the beginning of that memory? I thought I did. I thought I told her the beginning and the end. But she doesn’t seem to have any recollection of it. To know that he was there. So maybe I only thought I told her. Crap. I can’t tell her if I already told her part, and she forgot. That would hurt my feelings. But, if I only think I told her….then, am I losing it? Crap!

Now Bea is surprised. “The doctors she worked for– they were family friends? I didn’t realize everything was so….entangled.”

“I don’t know. My parents grew up there. Most of their friends did, too. You go to the same church, the same schools, the same clubs and classes for your kids. I don’t know. You end up a group, I guess.”

“Well, yeah, that’s true. There’s even that kind of group here, in a much bigger area, where everyone knows everyone because they all grew up here. I was just surprised. I didn’t realize.” I wonder if that matters, what Bea possibly sees that I don’t see. “But, right, it would make sense that doctors she worked for would notice a problem and maybe do something about it.”

I nod. It’s always been my assumption. I don’t think she chose to go. My mom didn’t change when she came home. Nothing changed.

“Do you remember her coming home?”

My mind feels like it might explode. Now I’m remembering that day, and that Sunday, and I’m trying to focus on Bea, and I’m trying to hold in all the overwhelming and mixed up feelings I have about my mom seeming to be more open in present day. It’s just too much. I blink back tears, and shake my head at Bea, not in answer to her question, but more of a this is no good.

“You might not remember. If you do remember, maybe she hugged you, or wanted to talk to you? Maybe things went back to normal, or maybe she needed to recuperate after being in the hospital?”

Finally I tell her. “I hid. I hid in my room. My grandma had to come get me, make me come out.” I hate that I did that. I made her sick, and then when she finally comes home, I don’t want to see her? What kind of awful daughter was I?

“Hmmmm….that’s interesting that you hid from her, when she came home.” Bea says.

“Why?” I ask. She is sounding slightly shrinky, and my immediate response is to question that, I don’t like shrinky, I don’t trust shrinky.

“Well,” she pauses, maybe thinking of how to explain, or realizing that she has gone down the shrinky path, “We have talked a lot about attachment, and now, here is an example of your mom coming home, and you are hiding from her, not wanting to go to her. I had been wondering how your mom behaved towards you. What she did. It’s interesting that your grandma was the one to come get you, and make you go to your mom, too.”

“Why?” She had to know that was coming.

“It seems she realized that after that time apart, a repair needs to be made. She recognized the value of that repair, and she tried to help facilitate it. She would have stayed with you, I think, don’t you? Tried to help the connection between you and your mom?” Bea explains her line of thinking.

“Probably. I don’t know.” It’s just gone. I don’t know what my mom did or didn’t do that day she came home. I only remember hiding, and my grandma coming and getting me.

Maybe we talk some more about the past, or maybe we don’t. I’m too gone in my head to know, but I’m hiding it well enough that Bea hasn’t even noticed I’m gone. I’m both thankful she hasn’t realized and that I can still be dissociated and act normal, even fooling my therapist, but I’m also a little hurt that she doesn’t seem to realize that I’m not really here.

I finally can’t take it anymore, and I tell Bea that my mom is not acting normal. That she is being weird, not in a bad way, but, still she is being strange for her.

“How so? What happened?” She asks, and she’s right there, concerned and caring.

I shake my head. “It’s nothing..but she just…..I…she was….” I’m still stuck on my memories from that Sunday with the itchy tights, and my legs feel like they are having a crazy allergic reaction, and I’m sick to my stomach, and I’m struggling to focus.

“Has she been texting you? Calling?”

“Texting. She has more time suddenly to text again. It’s nice…..I missed that.”

“Okay, so texting again, that’s good. She’s opening a door. What did she do that was weird?”

I want to kick myself. If I weren’t so stuck in the past, and struggling to pay attention, and my head weren’t so scattered right now, this never would have happened. “Okay. So, on Friday night, Hubby had to take the cat to the vet to be put to sleep.” And I explain how he had gotten so sick, and had just continued getting worse.

Bea looks at me. “I can’t believe we have talked for an hour and you didn’t bring this up. When we lose a pet, it’s hard, it’s devastating, it’s okay to be sad.”

“I didn’t want to get into it, because then it would lead to my mom and her weirdness, and…ugh.” We talk about Kat and her relationship with the cat, and how we chose to let her say goodbye, and how she knows he died. We discuss the choice to honor Kat’s wish to get a new kitten right away. I worry that I have somehow screwed up again in my answers to her questions, or the choices we made.

“I think it was right to let her say goodbye, she needed to be able to do that. You’ve answered everything really good, you’ve been honest with her. That’s all exactly what I would do.”

“I think I’m so adamant about honesty with her because no one was honest with me,” I say. I sound sad, I think.

“Yes. It’s always best to be age appropriate honest, and you are with her. You are,” Bea reassures me, and then she asks me what my mom is doing that is weird.

I can’t figure out how to explain it, so,I hand my iPad over to her, where I’ve copied the text message conversation. “I think you can figure out who is who, and you’ll see what is weird.”

Bea reads it, and I sit, partly frozen, still struggling to lock the awful Sunday memory out of my head. She looks up at me, and smiles, “She really is opening a door. I think she has some regrets.”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

“Well this is a really honest conversation. I mean, you were extremely honest, and her responses back are just as honest. This seems really authentic to me,” Bea tells me. She seems almost amazed at what I just had her read. Maybe it is amazing; I wouldn’t have been so honest about emotions and feelings and my thoughts 6 months ago, and my mom definitely wouldn’t have responded like that.

“Well, I might not be able to tell her everything, but I’m not going to lie or pretend about what I don’t have to, anymore either. I can’t.” As I say this, I realize it’s really true. I can’t pretend all the time, or even most of the time anymore. I might hide the past to protect her, and I might hide the big things– me in therapy, for one– that will devaste my mom and make her feel like she failed, but I can’t keep hiding my feelings, my thoughts, who I really am. I don’t want to.

Bea doesn’t say anything, then. It’s like she’s waiting for me to continue. Finally, I say, “it’s awful…I know…..but…I just keep wondering what she wants?”

“It seems pretty normal, given the patterns of interactions, and how you end up comforting her. I don’t think that’s awful. This doesn’t seem manipulative to me. And you didn’t respond in a way that made it into that, either. It feels authentic.”

“I feel like I’m a little angry….” I look down, stop talking.

“I’d say parts of you are a lot angry at your mom, as well they should be. I mean, look at what we talked about today, all that hurt and scared and pain and suffering. How could you not have some very big feelings about that?” Now Bea seems firmly planted on my side, no matter how authentic my mom might be acting now, she wasn’t then, and I can be mad.

“I don’t know. I don’t want to deal with that, with those feelings. I don’t like mad.” They are too big. This mad, the present day mad, is small.

“I think until you can deal with the mad feelings, and the memories, and grieve and be angry, it’s not going anywhere. I think you are getting there. It’s going to come up, again and again, as you deal with this and other things. Part of the process. You got mad at your mom, and you’re okay. Right? We’re talking about it.”

“Just a little mad,” I insist. “I read her text, and I just felt like ‘really mom? Now you figure this out?’ But I wasn’t so upset or mad I couldn’t be happy about it, too.”

“So, you are learning to sit with mad. Even if it’s little mad. You’re seeing it’s okay.” Bea reframes my dismissal of the “little mad.” Now, I can see this is actually a big deal for me, a big step, to be acknowledging the mad feelings and not freaking out.

“Maybe…if it’s…now mad…not then mad feelings. I just feel like why couldn’t she have figured this out earlier? For me?” There, it’s out. I’m mad because I feel like she’s too late.

“I believe it’s because of changes in you, and how you are relating to people in your life that she is able to figure this out, and maybe see some things that weren’t okay.”

I sit with that for a minute and suddenly feel very argumentative,like it’s Bea’s fault this is how things have worked out. “It’s not fair! I shouldn’t be the one that has to help her change. I shouldn’t be leading things. She should have figured this out before, and helped me.” It’s an odd anger, one that is about right now, the present, and the past, and I’m sitting here talking about the here and now and being mad, but I still remembering and hyperfocusing on details in that horrible memory, and so I’m mad that she didn’t figure things out soon enough to stop that from ever happening.

“No, it’s not fair. But I don’t think she could have done it then, for whatever reason. I think it’s you who is changing her. I think it’s the work you are doing, and the changes in you that are allowing her to change the way she relates to you,” Bea says again.

I look up at her. For some reason, I don’t sensor and edit my thoughts, and I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. “Ugh! I really just want to pull a Kat and blow a raspberry at you. I’m getting why she does that now.” Blowing raspberries is Kat’s go-to move for ending a conversation with someone who is causing her frustration.

Bea shrugs and lets out a little giggle. “So do it.”

And that’s enough to pull me out of the past. Crap. I’ve just told my shrink I want to blow a raspberry at her, which is essentially saying she is frustrating me– because we both speak “Kat”– and now she’s told me to do so. “Um. No. I wouldn’t. I was just saying…”

“I know,” Bea says. “But for what it’s worth, I do think this is authentic, and I do think this is because of you. It’s not fair, I know. But you aren’t doing the work for your mom, you’re doing it for you. Who knows? You might actually have a shot at a very real, very authentic relationship with your mom. I think that’s something very few people ever get.” She pauses and looks contemplative for a moment. “I really think it’s something very few people get even a chance at having.”

“So I should just stop my whining?” I ask, laughing, now.

“Oh, no. You can ‘whine’ anytime.” She smiles, letting me know she is joking about the whining, as I had been. “I think this is great, really great. We’ve been dealing with the past– which is what we do in trauma therapy– but now this is making changes in your present and we get to deal with the present. We deal with the past, so that we can live in the present. This is good, it’s exciting.” Bea leans back in her chair, and smiles. She is happy for me, and excited about the changes in the present.

We spend another 20 minutes chatting about various pets we have had, names given to our pets and how they happened to get those names, and how Kat is doing with the new kitten. I feel more grounded when I leave, but my head also feels messier than it has in a long time. And my legs still itch.