No therapy Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In the nighttime (camping)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep, sleep, and more sleep

Ever since we worked through this last rupture and began to deal with the falling apart, out of control mess that was December me, we have been very focused on sleep. It started when I emailed Bea, telling her I felt a bit more like I had been able to put all the crap away, maybe into a suitcase, and it wasn’t gone, but it wasn’t really with me, either, and I could open the suitcase when I was journaling or in her office and so I was okay during the day, that the bad thing was at night, I couldn’t keep the suitcase shut, it just pops open and I have no control over it, so I can’t sleep because I have to keep the suitcase shut and stop anyone who might open it. 

So, 4 sessions ago, on a Monday, Bea asked, “Can we talk about sleep? Because I think we could do some work around this, maybe see if we can’t make it not so scary to go to bed.”

I nodded, sure, okay. “I guess so. We can try.” I wasn’t sure I really believed we could *fix* my sleep, but I was willing to try. 

“Can you talk about what your bedtime routine is like? Do you have a routine? Or even what your evenings usually look like?” She asked. 

I shrugged, and proceeded to describe how Kat has quiet time, watching a show and snuggling with me. After that, usually around 8, she gets her pajamas on, brushes teeth and we put anything in her room that needs to be there, like pacifier (yes, my 6 year old still uses a pacifier, please don’t judge me. She needs it, it is a sensory thing associated with her autism, and we are working on not using it any longer, but by nighttime, she needs it), or her iPad to plug in, or her current favorite stuffed animal. Then we put on a short yoga video, do a bed time meditation, and then I tuck her into bed, sing a song, do one more bedtime mediation, put on her audio book, and kiss her goodnight. By this time, it’s usually 9:00pm. I clean up, pack lunches, do whatever needs doing. And then I start to find things to do in order to put off going to bed. And then when I go to my bedroom, I won’t lay down, and I won’t turn out the lights. I will sit up, in a brightly lit room, and avoid bed and falling asleep. 

“So then what happens when you do try to fall asleep?” She wanted to know. 

I shrugged. I didn’t have a great answer. “I don’t try. I try not to. I don’t know. I can’t lay down. I mean, I can’t like, lay down and try to fall asleep. I just stay sitting up. And read. Or listen to a book. Or watch a movie. And I fight falling asleep. Until I can’t anymore. Then I just……I don’t know. I guess then I finally fall asleep.” 

“Do you feel less safe when you lay down?” I remember her asking this gently, trying hard not to upset me. 

I nodded my head at first, and then told her, “It just….it triggers things. Pictures. Feelings. I don’t know. It is triggering to lay down right now.” 

She mentioned that I lay down when I do yoga, but I shook my head. I may twist myself into pigeon, and then take the form of sleepy pigeon, or do an up dog as I move through sun salutations, but never do I lay down on my back. I just skip those asanas in class and take a different pose, and at home, my flows just avoid it. Savasana is done in child’s pose, and it took me a long time to even feel somewhat okay with child’s pose. I used to take savasana sitting up, in hero pose, so child’s pose is improvement of a sort. I tried to explain this to Bea, but my words got twisted up, and it didn’t make sense when I spoke out loud. So I simply said I didn’t know. 

Three sessions ago, on a Wednesday, Bea asked me if I felt okay continuing to talk about sleep, or if there was anything else I wanted to discuss. I didn’t have anything else, sleep and flashbacks and nightmares had become my new normal and I was fine with talking about and trying to mitigate the flashbacks and terrifying dreams. 

I’d written to Bea on Tuesday, upset that I never got the chance to be *normal*. I said that all I ever remember was being afraid of the dark, of wanting to hide under blankets or in my closet, of being afraid to sleep. I said all I remember is having bad dreams and being scared and alone. I said it was like that now, when I go to bed. 

“When you go to bed, and you fall asleep, or lie down and have a flashback, what is that like?” She asked me, after reading back over my email. 

“I…..Its like I can’t move. I get trapped there.” I told her. 

“Do you feel frozen?” Bea suggested, and she wasn’t wrong to suggest that, because frozen tends to be a common state for me. 

“No, not like that………a child, afraid to get out of their bed in the middle of the night. More like, because it’s night so it’s sort of scary, but also, my mother had rules about getting up and getting out of bed. Until I was 5, she had to come get me out of bed in the mornings, because she had drilled that rule into me so well.” I explained as well as I could. 

Bea hesitated then, but she eventually asked me if it was the same when Kenny would put me to bed. 

I remember feeling extremely foggy, and not wanting to feel anything while I talked. “No..I…he would put me to bed and sometimes, right away…..he’d, well, you know, rub my back, sing a song, I don’t know…..and then….he’d stay in my room and bad things would happen.” As much as I didn’t want to feel anything, fear and shame and disgust still lurked around the edges of feeling. 

Bea murmured something validating and understanding and it seems it was the exact right thing to say, because I continued on with the story. “Sometimes though, he would put me to bed and then leave. And he might come back. And he might not. And I never knew. I couldn’t know. So I just stayed awake and waited. And waited. And I was trapped and stuck and couldn’t do anything!” I remember sort of shouting the last sentence at her, but Bea never gets upset by that type of thing. 

“That was hard,” she told me, “Really scary and really hard. Worse in someways, to just be waiting, not knowing.”

I nodded. Exactly. And then, in a very tiny voice, I said to her, “I wanted and didn’t want him to come back. It’s confusing.” I felt so much shame when I told her that.

There wasn’t any judgement in her voice, though. “Of course you did. That’s what we talk about, how bodies respond, and how these things can get very complicated, because our bodies are made to feel good.” 

I remember physically shrinking away from her words. “I’m disgusting.” I whispered. 

“No, I don’t think so. Not at all. Bodies reacting, that’s part of the confusing part, but it’s also part of that touch being too much for a little girl. You never should have been touched in that way when you were little. You were a child. You weren’t disgusting, you weren’t bad. That is all on him. And that’s when you went away, right? You went away because it was too much, too confusing to handle?”

I nodded, I agreed with her. She continued then, when I didn’t say anything, “You protected yourself in the best way you could. That little girl was very smart, and very brave.” 

I shrugged, and I felt even blurrier. “I went far away to the place in my head. That was different than here not here.” 

“Yes,” Bea asked, “Did you create a place you could go and feel safe? Did you have a place you imagined?” 

I remembered sort of day dreaming as I tried to fall asleep, but I don’t share that. They were always dreams of my Sunday school teacher or regular school teacher or my favorite aunt taking me home and letting me live with them. I desperately wanted to live in a place with no secrets. Instead, I opted to share something else. “Maybe a place from my book…..”

“Ahhh, yes. Books were very important to you, weren’t they?” Bea remembered. I learned to read really early, before school, even, so by first and second grade, I was reading chapter books. “Was there a certain book you pictured places from?” 

“Maybe the secret garden?” It came out as a question, but I had meant it a statement. It was just difficult to share that part of my story. I’d never before shared how I used the garden Mary finds and creates to feel safe. It made me feel vulnerable, like Bea could see through me and see all my secrets. 

“Oh, that is a good one. I didn’t read the book, but I imagine the garden was beautiful.” 

I didn’t respond right away, and then I told her, “You should read it, it is a really good book. It was one of my favorites, I read it all the time.” 

We discussed the storyline, but I didn’t remember much of it. It’s hard to recall facts, when the last time I read the book I was probably 10 or 11. 

“What does the garden look like, when you picture it?” Bea had wanted to know. 

At first, it felt too embarrassing to say anything. I cant explain why. I just get embarrassed when asked to share things from my imagination. I finally described how the garden is a secret, so no one can find it or even knows about it, and then I described the weeping willow tree with a bench under it, and how I liked the tree because it sort of hides a person who sits on the bench, and I shared how there are purple flowers on vines that climb every where (morning glories, Bea supplied the name) and pink roses, and other flowers, too, lavender, and ones I don’t know the name of. 

Bea told me it sounded wonderful and very safe. “I think this book could be a resource for you. Maybe you could read some before bed, see if it can help?” 

Before we ended therapy that day, Bea carefully broached the subject of trying some SP around my sleep issues. She told me she felt like SP was the perfect thing for the sleep troubles, because they were so much more than a memory, the sleep issues are happening right now, in my present day life, and they involve feelings and thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. She was very careful in the way she suggested it, making sure to stress that SP was just an option, not something we had to do. I agreed to think about it. 

During my session, I had shrugged off her suggestion of reading The Secret Garden at the time, but when I got home that night, I found a copy of the book on kindle with the audible companion, and downloaded it. I’ve been listening to the story at night, when I am trying to fall asleep. So far, it’s not helped, but it’s only been three nights that I have tried it. 

Monday: part six, she wants to hear what I have to say 

Here we are! Part 6; the very last post about this session. Gah. If you read all of these, you should get a cookie. I can’t send you home made cookies or cupcakes over the Internet, so go buy some, or something, okay? 

Bea goes back to reading, and I hug Hagrid close to me, grateful to have him and the comfort he offers. What did I ever do without him? 

And on Thursday (or maybe it was Monday?) you asked me to remind you of the October stuff. I really couldn’t, just couldn’t say all of it for whatever reason. Even thought I know you know, even though I’ve written and even maybe talked about some of it before, I just couldn’t. So here’s the list.  

I overdosed in October when I was 14

I left Brian in October and then I found out I was pregnant in October. I had an abortion in November right around thanksgiving. The time is blurry. I know it’s crazy sounding. I just know it was like right before break. I don’t know. 


my grandpa died two years ago, November. Also before thanksgiving. I don’t remember the exact day. I feel like I should. I remember what I was doing when my mom called. I remember that night. It’s like watching a movie of myself. Not real. But I remember the events, just not the day or the date. 

grandpas birthday is October 23, and mine is the 24th. The last time I saw him was our birthday party, two years ago. It’s stupid but I feel like seeing grandma…..when she hasn’t planned to be here….seeing her in the fall, it’s so much like the last time with grandpa. I have this irrational fear I’m never going to see her again.

“I knew there was a lot in October. This is a lot,” she says, pausing from her reading.  

I want to talk about Brian. The boyfriend. I’m having nightmares about him again. It’s sort of that time of year, I guess. We met in early fall. And I left in the late fall. So. I don’t know. Maybe that’s all it is. But a part of me really just wants to tell you my nightmares — memories, really–about him. But they are awful and disgusting and it’s……I don’t know. They are scary, but scary in this very grown up something very bad and disturbing is happening way. It’s different than Kenny memories. But just like with Kenny, I was usually agreeing to do whatever it was Brian wanted me to do. It was easier that way. But now, it seems more shameful. So I’m…maybe embarrassed?…….afraid of your reaction and what you will think?….I don’t know. Something. I just……I want to talk but I am afraid. And I’m sure you are probably sick of this. I know I’m always afraid but when I decided I want to talk, I do end up talking after going through all this talking of being afraid. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I can’t just talk.

“I am not sick of you in anyway. I’m not mad or frustrated. If you want to talk about talking, about being afraid, about being unsure, I want to hear it. I’m not sick of that at all. This is hard stuff. It’s tough to believe it’s safe to tell, to talk about. If you want to talk about it, I want to hear you talk about it. I want to hear your stories, what you have to say, your feelings. I’m not upset at all. I enjoy working with you, and I am not going anywhere. I am not leaving.” Bea speaks so adamantly, so seriously, every word has weight and meaning, I believe her. In that moment, I believe her. And I feel so safe. 

“Do you want to talk about the boyfriend?” She asks me after a moment,,

I nod, slowly. “I’m afraid. But I think….maybe. I just….you don’t know. I…the things….I did…I just….” I can’t explain, but a part of me wants to. The things I agreed to do, the things he forced, they play in a loop in my mind lately, awake or asleep. It’s sick. 

“I’m not going to judge you. I haven’t yet, and I won’t now. I can promise you that. This wasn’t your fault.” 

I shake my head. “It’s not so simple.”

“It never is as simple as black and white. But I’m not leaving you, or judging you.” Bea says, 

I nod, “okay.” 

“We need to wrap up in a minute, I want you to have some time to get grounded,” Bea says gently. “We can talk about the boyfriend on Thursday if you want, that will give you some time to think about it more.” 

“Okay, Thursday. Maybe. Or we talk about talking?” I ask, afraid of beinf reprimanded. 

“Sure. We can so that, too.” Bea agrees easily, and I remember her earlier words. 

I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear your stories. I’m not leaving. I’m not mad. I’m not judging you. 

I’m not sure anyone has ever said words like that to me– ‘I want to hear what you have to say’– and I feel deeply cared for and valued right now. I spend the rest of my session working on picking my head up, looking at Bea, moving my body; coming back to the present. The whole time this is going on, a part of me is simply basking in the warm sunshine of Bea’s words. They feel like a fantasy, pixie dust sparkling in the air, nothing more than an illusion. But they are real words, and there is real true meaning behind them. And so I sit and soak up the warmth provided by her words. 

“She wants to hear what I have to say.”  

Things I’m afraid to say

I wrote this last night, at 2 am. It’s a letter to Bea. I have so much ugly stuff just moving around in my head, looping around, jumping around, making a giant mess. I need Bea back. I need to tell her these things. But I am afraid. So, I decided to share it here after so many of you told me you understand, that I’m not alone and that you are all supporting me.
This might be triggering, I don’t know. I don’t mention any details but I do talk about sexual abuse.

My parents are in therapy. What does that mean? I don’t even know.

On the surface, if you met our family when I was in elementary school, say second grade, you would have met a mom, a dad, a daughter and a son. The Dad went to work everyday during the week, and he was smart; usually much smarter than people around him and successful. He’s also quiet and soft spoken. The mom is talkative, social, a people person. She stays home and is the room mother for her children’s classes at school. She works out a lot, taking classes at the local Y, and runs. The daughter, she talks too much and tries to be quieter. She likes to read and play with her barbies. She dances and does gymnastics and is known for being very smart– she is already reading books meant for 5th or 6th graders. The little boy is quiet and follows his sister’s lead. He likes his trucks and GI joes, he struggles some in school but is talented in art and likes to draw and build things. The family goes to church every Sunday, and has a fairly large group of friends they see on the weekends. The kids have everything they could want, yet they are polite and other children and adults like them. They are close with the dad’s family who live in town. The family is perfect, really perfect.

That’s the story; the perfect storybook life my family has claimed to have. It’s the story I have told my whole life. The story, my story continues that daughter grows up, and does so well in school she graduates at age 16. She attends community college for a year because she is so young, and then transfers to school an hour away from home. She does well, but after a year chooses to take a break from “real” school because she was so young when she began her academic career. She attends cosmetology school and falls in love with the profession; she finds her real passion and ends up working as a colorist and then as the director of the color department at an upscale salon several hours from her hometown. She meets a nice boy, and they get married. They buy a home, and have a baby. There are many challenges with the baby, but the couple fight for what they know their child needs, and they eventually find people who help. When the child is 3, they receive a diagnosis of autism, and they find the best therapy for their child. They fight for insurance and healthy care. They accomplish a lot, because of their daughter’s diagnosis. And after all that, the little girl is doing very well, she is succeeding and happy and has made many huge strides. Because of his work on changing the insurance policy of his office, the husband gets noticed at work by the higher ups. They see his steady job performance, his dedication to his job, how smart he is, and how much he cares. The husband receives several promotions during the time the little girl grows from baby to toddler to a 5 year old. The wife stays home and takes care of the day to day stuff, she manages the house and the daughter’s therapies. She is organized and on top of it all. The family lives in a nice neighborhood, in a small town, on a lake. They have a private beach and small park in the neighborhood. Life is perfect. They are perfect.

But it’s not real. Or maybe it is and I’m crazy. I don’t know. Maybe it’s fair to say it’s real, but it’s not the whole story. I don’t know.

If my parents are in therapy, and my mom is gone because she can’t handle my Dad’s depression anymore, and they have been here many times before but never to the point of therapy, I don’t know what that means exactly. Maybe it means that what I’ve said all along, that the perfect life was false, a facade, is true. Maybe I can’t handle that being true. Maybe it’s easier if I am crazy and lying and making things up. I don’t know.

The other side of this story, isn’t so pretty. It’s about a woman (Olivia) who lost her mother (Monica) too early, and whose father (Joe) disowned her, along with her older brother (Matt) and sister (Bethany). No one talks about why, or what happened, and although joe lives in the same town, he is avoided at all costs. Olivia is estranged from joe’s entire family, although she does remain close to Monica’s extended family.

The man (Brad) she marries has a messy family history. His father (Tyler) and mother (Joyce) are divorced, the father remarried to a loving, kind person– Lottie. Joyce was emotionally abusive, and at times neglectful. She would lock her kids out of the house when she was entertaining her boyfriends. Tyler was hospitalized twice during his marriage to Joyce for what the family will only say was a nervous breakdown. The family rumor is that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but it has also been rumored that he was diagnosed with manic depressive disorder. AsBrad and his siblings reached the age of 12, they all chose to go live with their father and step-mother. By that time Tyler was on medication and stable. Lottie was also a stable and consistent person. After living with her father for about a year, brad’s older sister (Dana) disclosed that one of Joyce’s boyfriend’s had sexually abused her. Joyce accused Dana of flirting and trying to steal the boyfriend. Tyler and Lottie sent Dana to counseling, but that was all that was ever done. Joyce married that boyfriend; he became husband number 3. Many years later, it is rumored and whispered and wondered if Joyce did more than emotionally abuse her children.

Looking at this, it’s harder to know exactly what happened with Olivia but it is clear something ugly happened. It appears that she has had an eating disorder for a long time, as it has been hinted at that the eating disorder affected her pregnancy. Knowing Brad’s history, it is easy to see why he struggles with depression. I think he has refused to admit it or seek help because he doesn’t want to be “crazy” like his dad.

So. Olivia gets pregnant at 18, just out of highschool and they get married. Olivia is put on bed rest in July because of pregnancy complications. I’m born in October. A few years later, my little brother is born. Even when I was young, I felt a lot of pressure to be good, to be whatever my parents needed. It felt like I had to be good enough to be loved. My Dad didn’t talk a lot. He taught me to read before kindergarden, and he always told me he loved me before I went to bed, gave me a hug and a kiss. He sang funny songs– like the bumblebee song, but sometimes he would refuse to sing. He liked to go fishing, and he would take us with him. I always took a book and a drawing pad because he didn’t talk a lot when we would be out on the boat. It felt like he needed quiet.

My mom worked hard to be perfect; it was just something I knew from a young age. She did not like sad or mad feelings, happy is what mattered, what was allowed and acceptable. She would beat herself up over mistakes; like burning chicken for dinner, or spilling a drink. She threw up after dinner a lot. I remember thinking that was what moms did. I didn’t know. We had family friends, and the son babysat me. They lived next door. He played a secret game with me, and I didn’t understand it, not really, but I knew I was bad for playing the game and liking it and I was afraid of people finding out. But sometimes, I didn’t like the game and it was all so confusing. But I had no one to tell. Except, once, in first grade, I drew a picture of a little girl hiding in a closet. When my teacher asked about it, I told her I had to hide sometimes because scary things happen at nighttime. She thought it was about bad dreams. I remember telling her it wasn’t dreams, feeling so frustrated that she didn’t get it. I don’t know what happened after that, if anything at all. I remember thinking my mom would love me more if I were thinner like my cousin Angie. It was summer, between first and second grade. I remember my mom getting ready to go out, and asking her not to go. I remember too much, and not enough at all. I remember feeling left and like I did something wrong because she wouldn’t stay. I don’t know.

They ignored, turned a blind eye, and hid everything. No one could know about mom’s eating disorder. No one could know that their daughter was crazy. They didn’t see what was happening. Even my dirty, no not dirty, bloody underwear weren’t enough to make her question anything at all. I always blame my mom for not seeing, but really, my dad didn’t see either. He still believed, until this year, that I love the Ferris wheel. I don’t know. I don’t want to think about his depression, or how that was when I was a kid. I don’t want to know. No matter what, I always thought of him as so strong, so smart, believed he could fix anything. The little girl’s perspective of the super hero Dad. But it’s not completely true. I don’t know, I really need him to be able to fix anything. I remember that the day after I overdosed, I was grounded but still forced to attend my birthday party and smile like nothing was wrong. It’s all so screwed up. The summer before I was 13, when we were at the cabin with kenny’s family for a week. We went there without my parents because they needed some time to work through things. Was this because of depression and eating disorders and not just because of a crazy daughter? I don’t know. And the summer before Kat was born, there were problems. But then Kat was born, and family came to visit and they pretended things were perfect, like they always do. I don’t know what to think. It’s all so freaking messy and it makes me want to scream.

My mind is throwing ugly crap in my face no matter how hard i try to block it out. It’s all piecey and messy and chopped up. I’m little and he is there, touching me and I’m happy. Then I’m little and he is telling me to kiss him, down there. And I’m sick and frozen and can’t breathe but he is saying like a Popsicle and I think I might throw up and it all feels too real. And then I’m in my bed and I feel afraid and sad and I keep crying but I don’t understand why. And then I’m in 4th grade and my mom is gone, she left me, and I am kissing him, moving his hands to be on my body. It’s my fault, I did it, he hurt me but I did if. And I’m confused and I want to hide and I feel like a little girl that just wants her mom. Except that it’s my fault she is gone. And I’m older and kissing him in front of my mom and I’m in trouble and not being appropriate and he pushed me away. No one wants me. I don’t know. Why is my head so screwed up?

And maybe the nanny did something to sara, and maybe she didn’t. And maybe she did something to Kat and maybe she didn’t. I can’t really believe it, because it’s our nanny and I trust her. Except my parents trusted him. And he hurt me. But I wanted to play the game. Oh my god, this is all too confusing. And I tried to tell my teacher because she was nice and always listened to me and it didn’t feel like she just wanted me to stop talking and be quiet. But she didn’t get it, or maybe she didn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it because my family was perfect. So how can I not believe a different little girl? I don’t know. I don’t know. This is all so confusing and twisted and I really just want to run away but I don’t even have anywhere to go.

And I’ve been thinking about college boyfriend and all the things I allowed him to do, and how I just didn’t leave and how he could be so mean, and how much he could hurt me and how twisted he was and how I think he liked it when I was afraid or hurting. I don’t know, I don’t want these thoughts in my head but they loop around and around with the crazy kenny childhood memories and I can’t make them stop. All this ugly stuff pops up when it wants to and it’s stupid and I feel like a horrible, dirty, terrible person.

Everything feels so very screwed up and hard. I feel like the scared little girl and I really want to send this long, convoluted, insane and messy email to you but I’m afraid. I’m afraid it’s too long, I’m afraid I’m being too needy, I’m afraid that you’re going to get mad, that it’s not okay to send long crazy emails right now, and I’m afraid if i keep asking if you are mad or if you will get mad that that will make you mad. I’m pretty much just afraid that everyone in my life is mad at me for not being enough, not being able to handle everything, for falling apart and being up and down and I don’t even know. I think I’m afraid that everyone is leaving me. Hubby is here but he isn’t “here.” The rest of my people are all falling apart, in one way or another. And I can’t fix it all, and I really need everyone to be okay so that I can be okay. This is turning into another messy confusing paragraph.

This is stupid and I am so embarrassed but I wish you were here, and that I was seeing you on Monday, because this all feels like too much and I really need you to be here, but you aren’t here. And I’m afraid you won’t come back, even though I rationally know you are coming back. And I don’t want to tell you this because I don’t want to be that needy, or that vulnerable, and I don’t want to tell you this because I am afraid you will be mad that I am upset you aren’t here….but I’m really afraid and so alone and I can’t make this go away. And I rationally understand that you are on vacation and that is okay and you are coming back. But I feel like you left me and I am alone with all this scary, too much stuff, and I can’t figure out what I did wrong, to make you leave, and I’m afraid you are not coming back because you are upset with me. And I know you have been emailing me and said you are still here, but it doesn’t feel like you are here, it feels like you just left me all alone. I hate that I am this needy, this attached, this….I don’t know the word. But it is nothing good. I’m an adult, I should not be feeling abandoned by my therapist, especially when you have made every effort to be here, even while on vacation. Please come back soon. I can’t do this by myself.

Hubby’s midnight wake-up

“Hubby. Hubby. Please wake up. Please.” I’m begging, desperate. Images flying through my mind, I don’t want to be alone, I can’t do this. It’s 3:00am. I haven’t slept, and when I did get tired and close my eyes, I took a trip to flashback city.

“Hmmmm? What?” He rolls over slowly, mumbling, not awake. When he turns and looks at me, he wakes quickly. “What happened, what’s wrong?”

I shake my head at him. I am so scared to ask anything, to say anything. “Can you just hold me? Sit here with me and hold me? I can’t sleep.”

He nods, and shifts to a sitting position. I curl up next to him, my head on his chest, his arms around me. It’s okay. I’m okay. Hubby will keep me safe. We sit this way for a little while. I’m shaking but okay. I find some courage, hidden deep down, and speak. “Sometimes…I’m just….the nightmares….and memories that come up. It’s too much.”

“I know. I’m sorry, you deal with so much. I don’t know how you do it. You are the strongest person I know.” He rubs my back, and I stiffen a little, but then remember it’s Hubby, he’s a protector, a fighter for the people he loves, and I will be okay. I relax.

“I don’t want you to be sorry,” I tell him.

“Well, it’s sorry like sympathy,” hubby tells me; his voice is soft and gentle, he sounds kind and loving.

“I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I don’t want pity,” I say softly. I want him to understand and be here and hold me, but I don’t want pity.

“Okay. You are still strong, and still amazing. You’ve come so far in the last year babe.”

We talk about when I feel small, and vulnerable. I tell him how a long time ago, I locked all the bad, ugly crap up in a box, like pressing pause on that part of my life, and then I finally felt safe enough– probably because of Hubby, and being further away from my family of origin– That the lock broke, and everything came flooding out, like pressing play on a part of my life that had been paused for 20 plus years. He gets it. I tell him I feel alone, and young because of all the feelings that have been unpaused.

“It’s just your turn to be taken care of. It’s okay to need things,” he says. He lifts my chin to make me look at him. “I like taking care of you. You take care of me, and always have. I have a job where I have more time to be here for you now. Let me.”

“It’s just hard, to be the one needing. I’m terrified I will be too needy and you will leave.”

“Nope. Not going to happen. You are stuck with me.”

“I’m afraid that if I get needy…..this needy, crazy, fucking mess in my head is awful and so much and I’m afraid if I really let you see that you will leave.” It’s scary to tell him these things, but I need him to know.

“It’s okay. I get it, but I’m not leaving. You are my mess,” he says, and I can literally feel the love in his words. I feel wrapped in safety and love between his words and his arms around me.

We talk about my mom leaving me, and how those feelings are out and being transferred to Hubby when he leaves. He says how hard that must be, how awful it had to feel, and how he doesn’t want to make me feel rejected, and even when he does leave to go to work or an errand, he will always come back to me. I tell him I’m afraid because last year he did threaten to leave.

“It was different last year, you were different. Now I know what’s going on, we are doing this together, I’m in this with you, all the way.” Hubby’s voice turns serious and strong, confident.

I’m afraid to ask, but I need to know. Last year, about this time, is when things really broke for me. Kat was telling me how much she hates me, hated herself. I stopped sleeping. My nightmares came back. I started bingeing and purging again. I was just really in a bad place. But I don’t remember a lot. It was just a lot of feeling, hated, isolated, scared, like I was doing everything wrong. It’s a blurry time. “So…..what um….I mean…how was I then? What was I acting, how were you perceiving me? I don’t know exactly what I’m asking….but…you know.”

Hubby stutters, and tells me it was hard, and that he was unsure of what was happening and so decided I was unhappy with him. I have to push him to talk to me. Finally he says, “It was walking on egg shells. Never knowing what you would react to, or how you would react. It was like you had no emotions, you were just gone, unless you were having these rages, these freakouts. You seemed so unhappy, I really was sure you didn’t want this life anymore. You weren’t here. It’s like you were broken, like you lost yourself and this little zombie person ran things until you started seeing Bea,”

I nod. “I’m sorry. I think I was just struggling to stay above water and not drown, but it’s no excuse. I’m really sorry I did that to you.”

“It was okay once I knew what you were dealing with.”

“I think last year, something broke in me…the box opened for some reason……but I didn’t know what was going on, either. I couldn’t have told you or anyone else exactly what was happening,” I say.

We keep talking along this line. We agree he can ask me how I am, ask me to talk about whatever is going on, say that he wants me to talk, all of those things. I need permission to talk, and now he knows I need it. We talk about being abandoned, and trusting and how I’m learning to reach out and trust him. We talk about Bea, and Hubby says she is good for me. I tell him some Bea stories. It feels a little awkward to talk about my shrink with him, but it’s nice. She’s important to me, she’s my safe space, she helps me hold all the ugly stuff and scary overwhelming feelings, and she helps me figure things out, and I think that all of this started with her popping my bubble and my being so small and vulnerable with her and seeing it’s okay, and then learning it’s okay and safe to do that, and being able to be more open more often with her and see that she didn’t leave…..and so I was able to try with Hubby. I don’t know. I just feel like I’ve turned a corner, but I’m in this weird headspace of little girl feeling needy and scared, wanting to hide but at the same time feeling like I am going somewhere, and this is just a part of what has to happen to get there, and in the end it will be okay. I’m trying to trust the process.

The one where I ramble to avoid talking about real things

Monday morning. I wake up late, likely because I didn’t fall asleep until 4:30am. I rush to get ready, and head out the door. Driving to Bea’s my head is full of things to talk about, and yet I’m oddly calm. It’s like I’m partly removed from the thoughts of what I need to talk about in therapy, slightly numbed to it all, so while I can feel the hurt and tears deep inside, the rest of me is immune to it.

When I walk in, Bea says hello, and hands me a bag from the woman who owns the toy store downstairs. This leads to a conversation about toys, and Kat, and Valentine’s Day. I had called on Saturday to buy the Huggtopus Kimochi and a few new emotions. Huggtopus is a purple octopus, and Kat loves him, she is always asking for him. (The kimochis are stuffed animals with small stuffed emojis, and are really great for helping kids with learning emotions. I honestly think that they have helped me, too, through Kat.)

“I thought the Huggtopus was perfect for Valentine’s Day. We have Cupid leave Kat a basket, kind of like the Easter bunny. It’s nuts, but I just love the magic of it…and you only get to believe in that kind of stuff for so long,” I explain, as I set my things down and get situated.

“I agree…that’s really a cute idea.” Bea sits down, too.

I feel nervous suddenly, and not sure I want to talk, so I start rambling about how we don’t have a St. Patrick’s leprechaun because last year Hubby tried to have the leprechaun cause mischief and Kat didn’t understand it and was upset. She did not like the green toilet water, or having things messed with. Bea chuckles at this, because Kat is funny. This somehow leads to talking about birthday parties, and party planning, and we discuss themes we have done. I find pictures of Kat’s birthdays and show Bea the huge backdrop I painted for her Curious George birthday two years ago, and the sweet shop I created when she turned 2. We talk about how I love to really plan a theme out, and do something creative and unique with it; its turns out that Bea was the same way when her kids were little.

I’m not sure if Bea realizes I’m stalling, or that I’m rambling because I have anxiety about talking today, but we talk about a situation with Kat that does need to be discussed, and I show her some videos of Kat’s play that I recorded on my phone. We talk through that, and then Bea says, “We’ve used almost your whole session to talk about Kat, again. How do we transition to talking about you?”

I shake my head, I’m clueless. “We really did need to talk about this stuff, it’s kind of a big deal.”

“Yes, we did, and I usually meet with parents when I am seeing a kid. But maybe we need to decided ahead of time if a session is to be used to talk about Kat. We can start scheduling that.”

“Okay, we can do that. Then I won’t go home and be mad at myself that I didn’t talk.” I take a drink of my vanilla chai tea, and wonder if I can even come to a session and not discuss Kat as a way to avoid things.

“Let’s use the next half hour to talk about you. What does Alice need to talk about?” Bea asks.

I agree with using the next half hour for me, and then end up asking a question about Kat and delaying things a little more.

Eventually, Bea looks at me, and I am pretty sure she knows I have been stalling. “Let’s start with how you felt after last session? I didn’t mean to upset you like that, bringing up the boyfriend, but you did manage to pull yourself back together pretty quickly.”

I nod. I had to pull myself together. I had yoga to go to, and the pharmacy after that, and Hubby had wanted to go out to lunch that day when I got home from appointments. I don’t say anything about that, though, and instead I just shrug. “I don’t know. I was okay. I went to yoga, that was good. I just….I don’t know. I tried to write about it, and I couldn’t, not really.”

“Mmm-hmmm,” Bea nods at me, “It is a hard thing to think about. How have you been sleeping?”

I put my head down, hiding my face. I don’t get it; I can sit and look at her, hold an articulate conversation and as soon as the subject turns to me I can’t face her and I lose my ability to speak. “I haven’t been sleeping…” I try to think back. “Thursday was a nightmare, and I never went back to sleep. Friday I didn’t sleep until late, and woke up an hour later. Saturday….I couldn’t sleep, and finally fell asleep around 7:00 and Kat woke me two hours later. It’s not good.”

“This is exactly why it’s okay for you to take a nap. I always think if there is a nightmare after a therapy session, that is important to talk about.”

“Okay,” I agree, even though I really don’t want to talk about this particular nightmare. Bea waits me out, so I add, “It’s not a memory, not a real thing. It’s just a nightmare.”

“Is it a trauma nightmare, or a regular nightmare?” She asks me.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, trauma nightmares don’t usually change, regular nightmares can. Regular nightmare have more symbolism in them, trauma ones might have symbolism but it’s usually thinly disguised. They have more real elements.” Bea says.

I still don’t know. “Both? I don’t know. Maybe more trauma, but it….I don’t know.” The nightmare is weird, so it’s hard for me to know what to call it. All I know is it’s not a real memory, not like some of my bad dreams.

“Have we talked about this nightmare before?”

I shake my head. “No.”

“Should we talk about this nightmare?”

I hug my knees tighter, pick at my fingers. “I want to say no. But I think maybe yes.”

“We don’t have to talk about it. You are allowed to say no,” Bea says gently, and I think she adds something about me learning it is safe to say no, the same way my daughter is learning it’s okay to say no and to disagree with people.

“It’s silly how much a dream is scaring me. It’s just a dream.” I’m not sure if I’m talking to Bea, or trying to convince myself that it’s not scary to talk about a dream. “I think yes, we should try to talk about it.”

We sit in silence for a minute or so, and then Bea rescues me from having to figure out how to talk about this.

“Is Kenny in the dream?” I shake my head no.

“Is the boyfriend in the dream?” I shake my head no, again.

“Someone……someone………um……there’s someone there.” I struggle to get any words out, to begin to explain this dream. It’s almost too horrible for words. “I don’t know who.”

“Okay, so there’s you and someone. Is there a sense of being all alone with this someone?”

“Yeah…yeah.” It’s this completely isolated feeling in the dream, like there is no one else there at all. It’s not a good feeling.

“How old are you? Young or older?” Bea asks.

This is so hard to answer. “Both….it’s like….ugh….both.”

“Both?” I think Bea sounds surprised.

“I…I kinda grow up in the dream.”

“Okay…..that makes sense, we were talking about how the past affected you in college with the boyfriend….we had linked the two together, so that makes sense,” Bea says.

There’s silence because I can’t say anything. I don’t have any words.

“Where are you in the dream?”

“My room.” It take me a minute to get any words out, but I manage to.

“Your childhood room?”

“Yeah,” I sigh. I feel shaky and scared just talking about this.

“Is it light or dark in your room?”

“Dark. I never see him…I can’t see his face.” I cover my head with my arms, needing to hide more.

“Are you afraid in the dream?” Bea asks.

I think about it. “It’s more like panicky scared…I don’t know..does that make sense?”

“Yes, that makes sense. Is it a feeling that you can’t get out of the room?”

I nod my head, but that’s not quite right, I don’t think. “It’s more like…….I’m stuck.”

“Does it feel like being frozen?”

“Yeah…yes, like that. I can’t move, can’t leave.”

“Is he hurting you?” Bea asks this quietly, and her voice is kind, but the question still sends fear racing down my spine.

I don’t answer right away. I sit and feel scared. I can think the words I need to say in my head, but there seems to be a disconnect between my thoughts and my mouth. “It’s the r-word. I’m little and it happens, and I grow up some and it still is happening and I keep growing up but it never stops. It’s just over and over until I wake up.” The words tumble out, falling over each other and arriving in a rush.

“Ahhh. Of course that’s scary. It’s like you can’t get away from it, can’t escape.” I think she might have said more, but I don’t remember now. She sounds like she gets it, and knows how awful this dream really is.

I don’t say anything, and Bea finally talks some more. She suggests that the r-word is really at the root of it all, and she doesn’t know why that makes everything seem so much harder, but she suspects that it’s because the r-word means a complete loss of control, and it’s really hard to give up that control. She says that she thinks I need to process this, and work through it and talk about it, that this is the next step.

Somehow, we get back to the subject of self blame and Kenny and the boyfriend and how they parallel each other. “I was trying to explain….last week……I don’t know….I don’t think you got how it’s my fault, what I did to change him, I don’t know….”

“The boyfriend? I don’t think there’s anything you did that made him like that,” Bea says.

“No…I did…you don’t understand yet. I tried to write it down, but it didn’t make sense, I couldn’t explain it good enough, it was really hard….” I trail off. I had spent the weekend thinking and writing, and nothing explained it so she would get it.

“I wonder why it was so hard to explain it in writing?” Bea questions.

“Maybe I just couldn’t find the right words. I don’t know. I just couldn’t.”

“Do you think it’s because you didn’t have anything to do with him being mean, and that’s hard to face?”

I shake my head, and think about it. “No….it’s like I need you to understand how he was before, how nice he was….but I’m so disconnected from that, I can’t explain it well.”

“That makes sense, having to split the before from the mean boyfriend,” Bea agrees.

After a while, I say, “Maybe I should tell you about the boyfriend.” It comes out tiny and unsure.

“Maybe you should, we could talk about about him. Do you want to talk about him now, or save it for next time?”

I think about it, and then I start to speak. “You know he was nice?”

“Yes, I know he was nice.”

“We met a party. You know this part?” I ask, because I’m unsure what I have shared and what I have only thought in my head.

“Yes, I know about the party.” Bea sounds understanding and sympathetic.

“He was just so good. He understood my waiting until marriage, and was okay with that. More than that, he was supportive….he thought it was strong of me, that no one waited anymore, I don’t know. He went to church with me, even though he didn’t believe….I think I thought I could change that. I don’t know. Everyone liked him, he was just so nice. And smart. He was smart, too.”

“What was he studying?” Bea asks.

Oh, I don’t want to answer this question. I seriously don’t. I shake my head. “You don’t want to know.”

There’s a pause, and then Bea asks again, “Really, what was he studying?”

I laugh, but it’s nervous laughter. I so don’t want to get into this. I shake my head. I can’t get the words out. This is ridiculous.

“Psychology?” Bea guesses.

She’s right on target. “Yeah. Psychology. He wanted to help people. He cared.”

“Oh yes, all the crazies study psychology,” she says lightly, joking.

I giggle, feeling better, nervousness gone. She’s not going to turn this into a thing– or at least, not right now.

“Great…that makes me feel safe,” I joke back, and we both laugh for a moment.

“I….it was like I flipped a switch in him. I don’t know.”

Bea says something, but I don’t really hear her. I’m a little back there, in my head. Trying to figure out where I messed it all up.

“I feel like we have talked about this…I think I have told this memory already.”

“Well, that’s okay,” Bea’s voice is even keeled, she sounds like she means it.

“Don’t you get tired of hearing the same stories? Won’t you get annoyed?” I ask. I have this huge fear that repeating myself is a bad, bad thing to do; this belief that telling the same story again, needing to talk over something again is being too needy.

“No,” Bea sounds like this is a surprising thought to her, the idea of being annoyed and tired of hearing a story again, “I won’t be hearing it in the same way, because you are at a different place now, and we are working on something else now. So no, not at all.”

I nod my head. I’m not sure I fully believe her, but I believe her enough that I’ll tell the story again. If I can. Because last time, I didn’t tell the story in full. Maybe this time I can.

“I’m thinking this might be a good place to stop, and pick up here on Thursday. That way we don’t get into anything too…hard.”

“Okay.” I agree with her. I’m not sure I want to talk about ugly stuff right now, even if my head is full of it.

“It might also let you think about it, that maybe you aren’t to blame for flipping the switch,” Bea suggests.

I shrug. I don’t know.

Bea says something about control, and that as long as I can think I hold some responsibility for what happened, I don’t have to give up control. So, in order to let go of self blame, I have to accept I had no control. In a way, blaming myself is protecting me from how horrible it really was.

“That’s really confusing, it almost doesn’t make sense,” I tell her.

“Well, yes, but do you understand?” She asks. It seems important to her that I can understand what she is explaining, even if I can’t change my thinking and my feelings.

“Yeah. I can understand. Now, let’s talk about something good. I have to be able to go to the grocery store and function.”

Bea laughs, and asks what I have to get at the grocery store. This leads to an explanation of Hubby’s new fancy gourmet grilled cheese obsession, and what I exactly I do to make the grilled cheese– homemade bread, two kinds of cheese, turkey, bacon, tomato, jalapeños, and horseradish sauce. Bea agrees that is fancy.

I leave laughing, promising to share my easy bread recipe if she ever wants it. I feel like things are okay, even if I have a lot to think about.