I’ve fallen back down the rabbit hole. I’m so tired. Beyond tired, really. I forgot how exhausting it is to not sleep and be plagued with nightmares and to spend days in a weird here not here fog and to be oddly jumpy and unable to settle even while being in the fog. I forgot how stupid, stupid things, not even big things, can trigger all kinds of images, thoughts, feelings, that I don’t want to have. Intrusive thoughts, I think is what Bea labeled them. And I forgot how painful this is. How hard it is to even look at anyone and try to explain how I am struggling, and how shame just overwhelms and takes over everything. I forgot the huge fears of being not good enough and the very real fear that if I’m as bad as I feel like I am, I will be abandoned. I forgot the fear of Bea being disgusted by me, of her hating me or being mad at me and deciding not to speak to me anymore. I forgot what it feels like to feel so much like a little girl, more little girl than adult, with just enough grown up there to know how I feel, or am acting, or am thinking isn’t “normal or okay for a grownup”. I forgot the middle of the night wake ups, and the middle of the day freak outs. I forgot being so frozen I cant find words and I forgot what it was like to need to desperately hide because you cant bear the thought of being seen (except you also want nothing more than to be seen and heard. How much sense does that even make?), but even more so, you cant bear seeing the look on another’s face when they realize the truth about you. I forgot what it was like to be consumed by the borderline teen’s anger, and be so mad at Bea over nothing. I forgot what it was like to be snarky and impulsive and sometimes mean, but more than that, I forgot what it was like to feel all the hurt and fear of being rejected and I forgot the feeling of needing to hide any and all vulnerabilities at any cost. I forgot reenacting things with my husband and I forgot being afraid of words. I forgot how hard it is to ignore the voice that promises things will feel better if I just cut, or hurt myself in someway. I forgot the overwhelming need to throw up. I forgot about suicide ideation(no, I’m not planning anything, I don’t want to die. But the teen really does find some crazy weird creepy relief in thinking that she could make everything go away forever). I forgot how hard it is to live like this.
Ruptured: A tentative anchor?
First of all, I would like to thank everyone for the out pouring of support and empathy that you have shown me. I have read all the comments and I will respond to individual comments at some point, but for now please accept my thanks and gratitude. You have all helped me to feel not so alone and lost in this rupture. This story is far from over, but maybe, maybe there is something healing happening. I’m not sure yet, and I have a lot of fear and apprehension. Thank you guys for all the support 🧡
This is a long post, mostly made up of emails. My emails are in italics, and Bea’s are regular font and underlined. I am working on writing my thoughts anout this all but it is a muddled mess in my head. I’m honestly unsure what I am feeling.
On Wednesday, Ms. Perfect showed up to therapy, and she and Bea sat and colored together. It was a nice, calm session, and it felt like Bea was just being Bea, and as if she might really be there. Of course, it is easy to be there with Ms. Perfect, she doesn’t ask for anything, and she is not difficult.
At the end of the session, as Ms. Perfect was leaving, standing across from Bea in the doorway, Bea looked at me, and it was as if she were looking for the real me. She asked me to check in via email again, and then, looking right at me, she added she would really like to hear from the parts, and not just from Ms. Perfect. The teen peeked out then, and looked at Bea. She looked right into Bea’s eyes, and there was only sadness and compassion there, this look that said she really did want to know how the parts were doing. It was only a moment, and then Ms. Perfect was back, saying, “If that’s what you want, I’ll try.”
That connection was enough for the teen to write an email, and even though Ms. Perfect didn’t like it, the email was sent. That was enough to start a real conversation with Bea and several back and forth emails led to this:
(I am so uncertain about even sending this, so unsure that it is a good idea, so worried that if I start this conversation you won’t allow Ms. Perfect to show up to therapy on Monday. Please remember that Ms. Perfect is tough and nothing much rattles her or even hurts her, but I am not tough. Not right now. I still haven’t found my shell.)
Yes, I— the grown up— am aware that Ms. Perfect is running things. There are cracks in her facade this time, I’m stronger than I used to be, and that makes it much harder for Ms. Perfect to box me up and run things. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m allowing it at this point because it’s easier. I’m not sure. I feel numb, empty. I don’t want to think or feel right now. It’s too overwhelming and painful when I do. It’s much easier to just let Ms. Perfect run things, because then I don’t have to think about anything. And yet, I’m not entirely comfortable with letting Ms. Perfect captain the ship, either.
I feel very hurt. I feel like I can’t talk to you about anything right now, but there is also this sense that I need more than Ms. Perfect showing up to therapy while meanwhile I’m writing emails and notebook entries I don’t share. Yet, that’s all I can really handle. There is this feeling that Ms. Perfect can’t go anywhere until I can cope with all the feelings and function in my life again, and that won’t happen until I deal with everything and can feel that I have a secure base again. But I can’t work through any of the stuff because then you and I will end up right back where we were before Ms. Perfect stepped in.
Ms. Perfect says that the adult and the teen are too twisted together right now— really anytime teen stuff comes up— to separate the adult and the teen which presents a challenge. The challenge here is that you are waiting to deal with the teen and her feelings until there is enough of the grown up present to be rational, but the grown up can not be rational when the teen stuff is front and center. The grown up and the teen are too intertwined, and the thoughts and feelings can’t be separated. If you think back to the beginning, when you were working with the little girl, for a long time the adult couldn’t be separated from the little girl; their feelings, thoughts and beliefs were one and the same. It took a lot of hard work to even begin to separate the adult from the little girl.
I don’t know where this leaves us, I truly don’t. I only know that when the cracks in Ms. Perfect’s container start to widen— usually late at night— I feel very despairing. I feel lost and alone and sad. So very, very sad.
And Bea wrote back, asking if the teen could speak about the hurt a little bit more.
The hurt. I feel hurt. And just I don’t know how to talk to you about it anymore.
I know that from your perspective I am welcome to talk about things. But from my perspective, it doesn’t feel like a good idea. It feels like a very risky, very dangerous idea. It didn’t work out so well the last time. It went very, very badly. So badly that Ms. Perfect had to step in. That’s never a good sign.
Part of the hurt is that it doesn’t feel safe to talk to you anymore. Part of the hurt is because going the last 3 weeks feeling like I have no secure base has shown me exactly what a secure base provides. It’s like I can really see exactly what I missed growing up, and I know what I’ve lost now. And that hurts. It hurts to see you because you were my secure base and now……it doesn’t feel like you are.
I feel hurt because I write and I write and I write, and for the first time in a long time I can’t give it to you, I can’t share what is going on behind Ms. Perfect’s facade.
I feel hurt because I feel like you think everything that has happened between us is my fault, because of my stuff and my behavior.
I feel hurt because you aren’t here. I know that you not being here is my fault at the moment because I’m hiding behind Ms. Perfect. But it hasn’t felt like you are really here since that Wednesday. I’m hurt because I’m afraid to even mention Wednesday to you, and it has been a very long time since I was this afraid to say anything to you.
I feel hurt because I feel like I have to weigh and measure every word I write, like I have to be so, so careful in communicating with you.
I just feel hurt and sad and scared and worried.
I’m trying to figure out what part I hear in your email so I can best respond. It feels like a very vulnerable part, far away from Ms. Perfect. I feel like it’s the teen, but you didn’t say that, so I don’t know.
I’m sorry it feels so unsafe to talk to me, and I know that feeling you’ve lost your secure base is a terrible thing. I definitely don’t blame you for any of what happened—I started to write that I blame myself, but then I stopped because really there’s no need for there to be blame anywhere. I think we both have owned our contributions.
I want to clarify something—it was a choice for me not to give empathy to the raging, blaming teen, not something that I couldn’t do. The decision was reached after my feelings led me to realize that the teen needed a clear boundary set about this in order to learn the appropriate way to communicate her feelings. I know she didn’t know anything differently, but this is now a chance for her to learn those missing skills. Modeling “taking it” by empathizing when she was out of control in emotion mind would have sent the wrong message to all the parts. In large part we learn how we ourselves should be treated by experiencing the good boundaries others set. So this was not about me being unable to contain, but about a choice to contain in a boundaried way. I expect the teen to be unhappy about that—and unsure of how to proceed as she feels her way along this new path—but I want to make sure she understands that she can freely express her feelings, and maybe the Kimochi “you can be mad, but it’s not okay to be mean” is really the best guidance for her. I know she has some important things to say!
Everything I write back feels wrong. Everything I have to say feels not okay to say. Everything I want to say, I just can’t do it. I tried. I really tried to at least start to work on this. But I just can’t. I’m in tears again over the fact that I can’t talk to you, that I can’t just write and say what I need to say, that I can’t tell you about it and have you be there to help me sort it out.
And then I’m wondering what the point of saying anything is when it’s just going to put us back to this (which is something I keep writing at the end of every unsent email):
Now, you are going write back something very general, maybe some logical explanation or a reflection and then go on to say that this is a conversation better had in person and that you don’t feel comfortable tackling it via email, that we both know from experience that things can easily be miscommunicated. And then I’ll be upset and hurt and feel unseen and unheard and I’ll write back to say that I’m not talking about this in session because it doesn’t feel anywhere safe enough to do so and I just can’t do it. So what is the point of even sending this email? Of even trying to talk about this? We will just end up right back where we started with me unable to talk to you face to face and struggling to show up to your office and you unwilling to discuss and tackle this via email.
See? Everything is screwed up and there is nothing that can even be done about it. I have pages and pages of things to say. But I can’t say any of it. This is why it’s better to just let Ms. Perfect run things. Things don’t hurt when she’s in charge.
I think starting with one chunk that doesn’t feel okay to send might be a good start? I feel like email is absolutely okay for this. I really do want to help you sort through this and repair the mess.
This feels like a bad idea. Like very bad things are going to happen. Please please please keep in mind that I am confused and scared and vulnerable that it is even harder for me now to sort out my thoughts and feelings than it was a few weeks ago, and that it is even harder now to contain my feelings— it’s either out of control feelings or Ms. Perfect with no feelings. I don’t know what to do. It feels like a much safer plan to just let Ms. Perfect continue to show up to therapy and to ignore the rest of this. Maybe I shouldn’t even send this. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.
I’m sorry it feels so unsafe to talk to me, and I know that feeling you’ve lost your secure base is a terrible thing.
Everything…I don’t know. It’s so much harder to deal with everything knowing there isn’t someone to help catch me when I fall. Ruptures….I don’t think you even know how bad they are. You’re gone, and then there’s all the feelings about that and there is whatever gets triggered when we rupture and always always nightmares and flashbacks hit me full force like they know I’m already down and are just attacking me and I get triggered over every stupid little thing and I can not contain any of it. It’s awful. Nothing is okay.
I want to clarify something—it was a choice for me not to give empathy to the raging, blaming teen, not something that I couldn’t do. The decision was reached after my feelings led me to realize that the teen needed a clear boundary set about this in order to learn the appropriate way to communicate her feelings.
I wish you had just realized that in my very first email, I was doing my very best to write out a mess of feelings, of fear and sad and scared that were incredibly intense, that I was trying to tell you how the things you said and did impacted me and exactly why it felt like I couldn’t talk to you and shouldn’t be in therapy. It feels so nit-picky to me to criticize the precise wording I used. I know that how I wrote things was very upset and sad and hurt and scared and that it could have been worded or clarified better than it was. I know that you felt it was mad and mean and ragefull. That very first email I sent? I wasn’t even so much mad as I was feeling rejected and terrified and confused and hurt. I also made a point to write that I was writing what I had written in my notebook— which you know are in the moment, messy things and not carefully thought out writings— because I knew that what was written wasn’t fully formed, or perfect. I couldn’t, I can’t, try to sort through all those feelings and thoughts and beliefs and fears and make them clear and concise and exactly how something “should” be written. I need help to do that. I feel like if you were really in your window and really back and not emotional over what had happened on Wednesday it would have been clear to you that I meant “when you did x, I felt y” rather than blaming you for “making” me feel a certain way. You have always been able to see beneath the surface of the messy words and thoughts and grasp the meaning and the feelings before. The worst part is, you didn’t try to help me sort it out. It’s not fair to decide someone is being mean and then not even talk to them about it. I don’t know, I can’t express everything around this in writing, and this is certainly not clarified or perfect enough to send you. It’s probably just going to blow up in my face again.
Your choice to ignore the anger was also a choice to ignore the very real, very scared and vulnerable and undeserving feelings. I feel that your response was mean. It left me completely alone, and even more panicked and terrified because you ignored my feelings. It would have been better if you had told me then that you were choosing to ignore my feelings because you felt I was being angry and mean. That would have been honest at least. Instead you just ignored them, gave me explanations and logic, and wrote that you had felt no negative reaction (which clearly wasn’t the entire story). And when I became more upset you told me that you felt you had responded with your most present and attuned self. But that wasn’t really the case, because you had made a choice to withdraw emotionally.
So this was not about me being unable to contain, but about a choice to contain in a boundaried way.
Stop telling me you were able to still contain everything. You didn’t contain anything. Not for me. Ms. Perfect stepped in eventually and did that. You just disappeared behind the logical rational therapy robot wall. You told me I could be angry. You told me I could be honest. You told me that I didn’t have to be perfect. You told me that messy was okay, that we could make sense of messy together. So, I shared messy, angry, honest, and imperfect feelings with you. And you left. I understand that you made a choice. I understood that the first time you said it. I understand that you believe you made a choice not to empathize or support me emotionally, but that it is okay because you were still able to contain everything. But who gets to decide that you were still able to contain things? You, or the person who needs the container? My experience of this is that nothing feels contained to me, is that the container broke and you disappeared behind the therapy robot wall and that’s theories and reflections and explanations. If I had felt contained, Ms. Perfect wouldn’t be here right now with her rigid control of everything.
This is a big chunk for me to try to tackle, so bear with me if I miss something—just bring it up in the next email—I’m not trying to ignore anything.
I apologize for needing time to decide how to handle what was going on in the moment with this. It was my own struggle with boundaries that laid the foundation for this—I am getting better, but I still tend to take on more of other people’s “stuff” than I should. In the past I haven’t set good boundaries with your parts in these circumstances. That did make this harder for you than if I’d established good boundaries from the start. Moving forward, however, I think I’ve got this under control so that it’s healthier for both of us and will allow you to grow as you need to. The fact is, it’s not okay for any teens—parts or actual teens—to rage at others like that. No matter how hurt, scared, whatever it’s just not okay. It took me time to sort this out and find the boundary, and I really, really do apologize for that.
I know that boundaries can feel mean. I know you may be mad about this for a long time, but my heart tells me I did the right thing. It wasn’t support I stopped giving, it was the enabling of a pattern of response on your part that isn’t helping you. I don’t expect you to see this right now, and if we need to disagree about this I’m okay with that. I have much empathy about that!
I get that you feel I didn’t contain this emotionally for you, and that I left. And that you’re really mad about that. I get that the lashing out is because of those feelings. I hope that even though I do understand that, you can respect that I’m no longer going to soak up that rage. I’m here, though, and I’m listening, offering support and willing to engage. It won’t be until your wise self can rein things in a bit more that we’ll really be able to repair this. I trust the process.
I’m not mad about that. I just don’t understand why you couldn’t have helped me figure out how to say what I was (am) feeling without being mean. Because I still don’t know what you want from me. I don’t know how you think I should be saying something. I don’t know what you think is and is not okay. I don’t understand why its not acceptable that something a person said or did impacted me and led to me feeling a certain way. Why is that not okay? I understand that I wasn’t…didn’t…use the right words, that I was mean and mad when I wrote them, but why couldn’t you see that what happened on Wednesday brought up every old fear and caused so much pain and that I needed help talking about it in an acceptable manner? Why couldn’t you help me figure out how to do that? I can’t learn the lesson you want me to learn if you just shut me out because I’m being mean. I’m not even mad. Not really. I’m hurt. So hurt that I don’t have words to explain it.
I’m not lashing out right now. At least I don’t feel like I am. I know that every email after I felt ignored was me lashing out. I was mad and I wanted you to listen to me. Actually, I wasn’t just mad. I was scared because you had left and I didn’t know if you were coming back. And the more I yelled and screamed to be seen and heard, the farther away you were. And the more scared, and angry I got. But I’m not screaming now. If anything I’m just crying.
Please please listen and please please please please try to see the feeling and meaning of my words because I know I’m screwing this up and I’m not trying to and I don’t want to upset you or make you go really far away again and I know that me feeling cut off from you is on me right now but at least you are more here than you were before and please please just don’t go away again. I don’t want to fight anymore.
I’m not asking you to soak up my rage. I don’t think I ever was. Maybe it came off as mad and mean. Maybe it felt like that is what I wanted. And I’m sorry my mad feelings made you feel like you had to soak up my rage. I’m really really sorry. Maybe being mad and mean was easier than being vulnerable and feeling like a turtle without a shell. I think all I wanted was to know— to be reassured — was that you don’t feel those things….I was so scared, so, so scared on that Wednesday that this was the beginning of the end, that you were really starting to feel like I shouldn’t need therapy so often or so much support. I was so afraid that you were going to be writing up a treatment plan to be all done with me sooner rather than later. I was so scared that I had needed too much and caused the entire mess on Wednesday. That because of all my neediness the last two weeks (prior to Wednesday) that I had just pushed you to a breaking point and that was what everything you were saying about insurance was really about— that all the things you were saying about insurance company thinking were what you were thinking and feeling because of me being too much. I wanted, I needed to know that I wasn’t too much, that I hadn’t broken you, that this wasn’t because of me. I was terrified it was because of me and that you were never going to bring the container back, never going to fix it. I don’t know how to even put words to those desperate, awful, terrified, abandoned feelings. I wanted you to understand how I felt, I wanted you to reassure me again and again until I could hold on to that, I wanted you to not be gone. I tried to explain how bad I felt, to ask for what I needed and I did a terrible job of it. I was mad and I was blaming. But I wasn’t really blaming you in my head….I was blaming me. This is all so complicated. I still can’t sort it out. The feelings are still there, and I still don’t know how to ask for what I need and explain them without messing everything up again.
But that isn’t fair..I don’t think it can be reined in until I feel like I have a secure base again. But I can’t feel like i have a secure base without repairing this. I’m afraid that you won’t believe there is a wise self back on board until I agree with what you say, with what you think. And I just don’t know. I’m scared. I’m very, very scared. I don’t feel okay. Not okay at all. And that makes me afraid. I don’t want to have everything messed up forever and ever.
Maybe…I know you don’t like to email so much, that it is all a lot to deal with via email. I want to say maybe I could talk on the phone. Or at least listen. But I’m afraid. I’m afraid you will say no phone call. But I’m afraid if we do try to talk on the phone about this, then you will expect me to talk on Monday face to face about it. And I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t want to waste your time, I really really don’t. I just..it’s hard. It’s really really hard. And I’m afraid you might agree to a phone call and then I won’t be able to talk anyway and that will just make you not happy with me. 😭🙈🐢⛈🌪😭😭🐢🐢🐢🙈
I found myself wanting to find a way to give you hope about the fixable nature of this. The fact that I feel more “here” to you is a good sign, I think. I think we have to try to find the “helpful thoughts,” right? I know it’s going to be hard to find my writing too, so why don’t I just answer each highlighted paragraph here in a separate paragraph, one after another? Hopefully that will work!
This is just going to take time. I have to be consistent and trustworthy. That’s the bottom line. I know that, and I will do everything I can to be that person. That actual bad Wednesday came from lack of awareness, and felt out of the blue like these things always do. And I realized it right away, as you know, but there were no take backs:(
I do wish I could be an anchor again, even if a tentative anchor right now. I feel helpless about this….
I know you don’t see what I’m talking about with the rages, and I can definitely speak to this and help that. The sheer volume of writing that would be makes me think it has to be in person—and you don’t have to talk at all, I would just explain it and you could write more about it for me to answer if you want. Does that sound reasonable? I definitely don’t want to shut you out of this— it’s just too much to try to write.
Okay, now I’m already running out of time, so I’m going to have to consolidate the rest into this paragraph—and much of the rest can go into my verbal explanation if you agree that would be okay. I know the bottom line of all this was your terror of abandonment. And it’s so easy for me to say, “Of course I would never kick you out of therapy and abandon you!!!!” but that doesn’t stop the terror that you feel in every fiber of your being. I know that, and I want you to really, really know that I will not do that! I would never put anyone through that—a literal abandonment.
I have to go. I know I didn’t begin to get through all of this. Let me know if I can explain things on Monday. You can write as much as you want and I’ll happily sort through it. I can do a little this weekend. And phone would also be okay if you would find it helpful.
Maybe. I don’t know. I just don’t know. I don’t want to trick myself into believing something that isn’t true and ending up more hurt. I’m trying. Even helpful thoughts feel dangerous right now. I can make a list of things but I don’t know if I can really believe them. I’m afraid to believe them.
Helpful thoughts (are these true?)
Fact: Bea wants to repair this, she said so
Fact: Bea came back, she feels more here now
Fact: Bea does believe I should be in therapy and that I need support therapy gives me, she has tried to schedule more sessions this summer so I’m not dealing with a lot of once a week times but I haven’t been able to look at our calendars
Fact: Bea doesn’t think I am too much, she told me so
Fact: Bea is not leaving me or getting rid of me, she told me that would never ever happen
I don’t understand. Lack of awareness of what? Of me needing too much? Of you just not being you that day? Maybe you’ve told me this already. I don’t know. Until Ms. Perfect showed up, I was so dissociated every time I showed up to therapy that I really don’t even know what we did or didn’t talk about. Or rather, what you said or didn’t say because I am pretty sure I wasn’t talking. I don’t talk much when I’m that far away that I can’t really remember things. But I wasn’t trying not to listen or not to remember or not to pay attention. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t be there. It’s too much. It was too hard. It hurt too much.
I know what you are asking is reasonable. I know that, I do. You aren’t asking anything of me, not really. But it is terrifying for me to be told “we’ll talk about this later.” It’s like being called to the principal’s office or something. You aren’t being unreasonable but I’m afraid to let you talk. I’m afraid you are going to end up being shrinky and logical and not here at all emotionally and I just can’t cope with. I’m afraid whatever you have to say is just going to hurt my feelings and it’s so much easier to read an email and then to melt down and cry when I can hide at home under my blanket with no one to see. Even letting you talk about things and me not having to talk feels so vulnerable and scary. But now I feel like I put us on this path because I emailed and wrote real feelings and now I’m stuck and just 😭😭😭. I’m afraid you are just going to tell me I was mean, that you don’t like me because I was mean and that you can’t work with me anymore because I’m not a nice person. I don’t want to be mean. I really really really don’t. I wasn’t trying to be mean or hurtful or anything like that. 🙈😭 And I don’t want you to hate me for being mean.
Yes, these helpful thoughts are all true. Very much true.
The lack of awareness was that I was full of anxiety and needed to deal with it outside of our session. It had nothing to do with you. I don’t intend to have shrinky or therapy-kicking-out things to say whether in email or in person. Whatever you need—give it some time and see if it comes clear.
I broke my therapist
“You need and you need and you need. You just drain people, Alice. What more do you want from me? I have nothing left to give.”
The words repeat in my head, like a looped photograph, I can see my mother’s face and hear her voice. Over and over.
I break people. It’s what I do. I need and I need and I need, and I drain people of all they have to give until they break.
I told Bea once early on that I break things. I told her I break people. She promised that I would not, could not break her. I reminded her again, as the teen became more and more present that I break people. I told her I was afraid I would break her. She promised again that I could not, would not break her.
I broke her. Last week, Wednesday, I lost my secure base, my soft place to land, my safe person.
I broke my therapist.
I am lost. My heart is breaking. I saw her on Monday, and things are not good. I hid behind a pillow, and then under my blanket, like I usually do. Only this time, I wasn’t hiding because we were talking about trauma memories and feelings that make me want to hide, I was hiding from Bea. Because she no longer feels safe.
She understands that Wednesday was bad. She knew before the session was even over that things had gone horribly wrong. She knows she messed up. She has assured me that I did not break her, that she can handle my stuff. She has apologized for it, owned it, and is willing and committed to repairing the relationship. She has suggested that I may need to get mad, to push her, to fight with her, to test her, time and again in order to find that sense of trust and safety again.
I don’t know if this can be repaired. I don’t know if I can trust her again. This was a bad one guys. The worst rupture we have had. In the past, Bea’s mistakes have all been about helping me– however misinformed– or her caring about me, or even about her lack of time (as in this past fall). Our ruptures have never been because of something I did, or needed, they have never been caused because she just plain couldn’t deal with me. THIS is different. And it is bad. Really bad and really painful.
I still can not write about broken Wednesday, or even about Monday. I don’t have words. I’m not in a good place right now.
I broke my therapist.
Parts mixed up
Trigger warning. Negative coping skills mentioned and CSA mentioned.
So yesterday (Wednesday) after therapy (which I haven’t posted about), I was okay, maybe a little distanced but okay. As the day went on, more and more feelings came up and by 7:00pm last night, the little girl wanted to hide, to disappear forever and the teen wanted to stuff her face and throw up or hurt herself. I ended up emailing Bea at 12:30am because I didn’t know what else to do.
So, I was starting to do some writing and then I realized things were more confused in my head than I thought and the little girl is scared and sad and I just thought, I could hold onto this the rest of the week, but I don’t think that will be a good thing. I just don’t think I can hold all the parts feelings by myself right now. It got messy and mixed up so fast, and I just can’t hold it all and be the present and grounded and more healthy Alice I am. I yelled at Kat today– (and she’s okay, and I’m okay, and I had 2 friends validate the frustration and tell me I’m okay and Kat’s okay, and so I’m not just hiding, but……..it still feels bad) she deserved to be in trouble for a sassy attitude and rude and disrespectful behavior, but I gave her a lecture that would rival the guilt laden lectures my parents loved to give me. Maybe she needed something like that, because nothing else has nipped that behavior in the bud, but she didn’t need to be lectured for the hour drive home and then punished (to write apology letters). That was too much. And I think it happened, at least in part, (and this feels like a BIG thing I’ve just figured out and put into words) because the parts are all stirred up and conflicted and that makes me feel more of the here not here (and more of the not here than here this afternoon), so I miss the impact of my outward behavior. It’s almost like for me to “feel” the mad or the disappointment or whatever it has to be extra HUGE because I’m so far away. I mean, it’s sort of a comfortable, familiar feeling, this far away, but the more I experience something different, the more I realize how much damage being far away can do. I see and feel more and more why it was needed back then, but isn’t needed now and why it’s not healthy to keep using the far away as my go to coping skill.
But, anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent, and this is what I was beginning to write in my notebook about and was trying to email about:
The little girl doesn’t want the grown up. That’s what I told you. It’s as close as I could come to saying:
I’m afraid you are trying to cut yourself out. The little girl doesn’t want the grown up, she wants you. And this feels like you leaving— or laying the groundwork so you can leave. I know it’s your job to push me, but this is too much change all at once. I’m doing sensorimotor, even if it’s with your and my own twist to it, and I’m revising how I think of healing, and I’m figuring out how to stay in the present and keep the ick in the therapy box and I’m facing this scary huge thing (otherwise known as ‘I didn’t get a choice, he wouldn’t let me move, It wasn’t my fault’) and I cope a lot better than ever before and I manage things most of the time between appointments on my own and it just feels like still you want more from me. And maybe everything in therapy was always leading up to these big changes but this feels like a corner was turned or something and it feels like a lot of change and I can’t do all this, I can’t handle all these new ideas if the little girl thinks you are trying to leave. And it does not matter how much you reassure that it’s her choice to leave, not yours. That feels like it still is an expectation, that at some point the little girl is expected to rely on the grown up and not need therapy or you anymore and choose to leave. I know you have explained it as a choice, but it is a choice she is expected to make at some point. And that sucks. A choice like that isn’t really a choice, is it?
It’s always a conversation about the grown up needing to be online and the grown up needing to communicate with the little girl and them needing to work together and blah blah blah. I understand why, I get it, but it feels like you are really pushing for that, like its this……I don’t know….like it is something that needs to happen sooner than later. I tried not to care, to not let it matter, to ignore it, because the grown up does think it’s a ridiculous thing to be all spun up over. The old messages of being a drama queen, needing too much, being over sensitive are running through my head as I type this out. But the teen is mad and feeling like she is somehow messing everything up, and the little girl is sad and scared and feeling like she’s just not good enough, like she will never ever be good enough.
I know it took me a long time to be willing to use words and to feel emotionally and physically all at the same time. I know it took me a long time to be able to even talk during sessions, that it was a lot to always be emailing and saying everything I needed to say in email and needing a quick response to all the ick I was pouring out and that the extra time I always seem to need to be able to connect and to sort of check if you are you is not some thing most therapists would give me (and honestly, it makes me feel less guilty to know that you enjoy that chat time and that you are really okay with it) and I know it took me a long time to be able to even start to look at the details of things and see that my story of it all as a whole doesn’t match the mixed up pieces of my memory. I know I’m lucky I have a patient therapist who was willing to wait me out and start where I was. But now, It just feels like you think I should be more of something. More present, more capable, more integrated, more healed, more something. Some part of me, maybe the teen, although she’d need admit it, worries I have used up all your patience. After all, that’s what the little girl and teen do, you know. They need too much, and they take and take and take and they drain people of all they have to give until eventually they’ve broken them. The teen, the little girl, they break everyone eventually. So maybe, just maybe, the teen is terrified she has drained most of your patience and so you need the grown up to be able to take care of the parts because soon the teen will have broken you, too.
And the really messed up thing is that it wasn’t a bad session. I was proud of myself for being able to say I needed more time to do any moving, and for making the choice to wait until Monday to come back to the sick feeling and need to move away and I was proud I sat with the really bad sick like something bad is going to happen feelings, even if it was only a minute, maybe less time, I still stayed with the feeling and felt it and that’s more than I ever did before. Even with that, today’s session, it didn’t feel bad. I felt….I don’t know, like together you and I kept things from getting overwhelming and out of control and that felt….I don’t know. Strong? Powerful? Something I don’t have the word for because it’s not a feeling I often have. So it wasn’t a session that felt yucky. Except this mixed up piece. Except all this mess that has come up now. Ugh. The teen was so mad when you sort of set it up so the grown up would have to ask for a blanket for the little girl if the little girl wanted to be able to hide. That felt like this shrinky manipulation. It wasn’t fair. My only thought during that time? “The grown up is not going to be forced help the little girl.” Yeah, I did end up asking, but the whole time the teen was pissed. Oh boy, was the teen was mad about it all. And maybe the grown up knows that you weren’t being manipulative or shrinky and that you aren’t pushing the little girl to rely on the grown up so you can escape the little girl. But it sure doesn’t feel like it right now. It just feels like you want to get away from me before my ick contaminates you, before I break you. It just all feels confusing because there’s too many conflicting feelings about you right now, on top of conflicting feelings about the Kenny stuff. I’m confused about enough. It doesn’t feel good to be confused about my secure base. (Yes, I’m all done pretending relationships don’t matter, or that you aren’t important or that the little girl has absolutely no attachment to you at all. Or, in writing I’m no longer pretending that. Face to face might be a different story.) So. This just feels bad right now. And I couldn’t tell you if it’s past or present feelings, but it is definitely a parts thing. That much I know. And of course the other old message running through my head “what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? Why do I make a deal out of things that aren’t a deal? Maybe I’m jut crazy. Maybe I am just a drama queen. Maybe this is all just a big mess I’ve created. What’s wrong with me?”
I guess the grown up is asking for help for (with?) the teen and the little girl. Because the grown up, she just can not hold all of this or sort it.
The phone call
Alice, just an FYI, I’ve had a cancellation and am free until 3:00pm of you would like to talk by telephone. -Bea
I stare at the email, unsure if I really want to call. I’m hiding out in our guest room, because the fan is the perfect noise filter so I can feel like I’m not being overheard. I have my water, my blanket, and my phone. I should just call her. I want to. Every time I read the email sent before the one offering to a phone call, I start to cry. If I read the entire thread, I feel hopeless, unheard, unseen, and alone, and all I want to do is quit therapy, forget about Bea.
Instead I pull up her phone number and hit the call button on the screen.
“Hello?” She answers the phone with just the slightest question at the end of the word.
Moments before, I’d been struggling not to cry, but now, all I can say is, “Hi.”
“Hi there,” she says quietly.
I can’t find my words, I say nothing.
“I wasn’t sure you would call.”
“Because you didn’t really want me to?” I whisper.
“No! No, not at all! I guess I thought you might feel awkward because I know you don’t like to call me.”
I don’t understand why she is telling me this, but not much makes sense to me these days. “Oh,” is all I can manage to say.
Bea starts talking again, but I don’t hear her because Kat interrupts my phone call. She wants me to know she is going downstairs to play with her dolls. “All right, that’s fine.” My words are short and clipped, I’m annoyed.
Bea has stopped talking, but I have no idea what she said before. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you were saying,” I tell her.
“Oh, can you hear me now?”
“No, no, I could hear you, it was just Kat, I couldn’t hear you over her.” This isn’t going well. We aren’t connecting, it’s not better to be talking to her, we are just missing each other somehow. Why did she tell me I could call? Why did I take her up on it?
“I’m sorry that I missed the mark earlier, that you felt more alone after emailing with me than before, I feel bad that I made you feel bad,” she says. Her voice is authentic, I can head that she is sorry, that she wasn’t trying to make me feel worse.
I start crying, “I can’t do anything right, right now. I just keep screwing up, over and over. And I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”
“No, I know you don’t want to make me feel bad. I’m glad you told me I was way off base.”
“I’m just so sorry I’m making everything worse. I’m messing it all up.” I’m sobbing now.
“Did you get my other email?” Her voice is soft, almost a whisper.
“Yeah, I got it.” I don’t want to talk about it.
“I was afraid that if I said something, you would feel like you were messing up by not meeting some expectation I have for you. I don’t have any expectations, I am not even sure what that feeling is about, but I felt I needed to think about it, to sit with it, to try to understand it. It’s not a bad thing, not at all. I just need to think about what this feeling is telling me, if maybe I do need to push you a little more in the coping arena. That’s all it is, is something to notice and think about, talk about it.”
I want to die. I literally want to curl up and die. She just told me to email as much as I needed to, that I could call, that she is here, and now she is telling me that she is having this feeling of maybe needing to push me in the coping arena. I am hearing that as I should be coping with this on my own and not needing her like this. “Nothing feels right. Everything just…..it all feels not okay. I’m not okay, nothing was helping. I thought, if I emailed you then maybe I’d feel better because I’d be less alone. But then, it didn’t help.” I’m crying harder now. I burying my face in my pillow.
“I’m hearing you, nothing feels safe, just everything feels wrong. I’m here and I’m listening. But I can’t help thinking that you have a few more days left, before you leave. I wish for you that you could enjoy them. Maybe do some yoga, get out and swim at your beach, take Kat for a bike ride.”
“No! I can’t.” I’m crying harder now.
“Even that doesn’t feel okay. I know that is easier said than done, that it’s not so easy to switch parts like that. They sort of show up when they want to and take control. I guess this is more about my desire to fix things for you.” She says.
“I don’t want you to fix anything! I just want to not be alone. I don’t need you to fix it. I don’t expect people to fix my stuff for me!”
“I know you don’t, I know that. It’s hard not to want to fix things for you. That not on you, it’s just me, being human. I do know that when I feel bad, I don’t want someone to fix it, I just want someone to sit with me. Sometimes you want to fix things for people, don’t you?”
“Yes. I want to fix everything for everyone I care about.” It hits me as I’m saying it. She cares. She feels a desire to fix it because she cares.
I sigh. How can I make her understand? “It’s like if I had more time…..I just….there’s so much that came up and now I just can’t…….if I wasn’t going camping, I would be able to just put this stuff away, put it in my notebook, box it up, and be back to myself, because I would know you and I would deal with it and I’d be okay. But this? This is like I’m stuck here. I can’t open the box with all the crap oozing out of it, because I know I have to leave in a few days to go camping. I can’t box it up better than it is because it’s all triggered and messy and awful.”
“You are stuck in the in between. You can’t dig into it because then you will be all the more triggered and raw, and you can’t set it aside because then you would be letting down any defenses.” The tone in her voice says she is getting it.
“I can’t come back to myself. I’m stuck here. And I’m just…I just want this week to be over with.”
“Yeah, I get that. Are you frozen far away, or the other end of the spectrum right now?”
I’m trying to think of how to answer that, when she adds, “Are you more anxious with nervous energy, waiting for the week to be over, or are you more far away and fuzzy?”
“It’s….like I’m over caffeinated. And I didn’t even drink coffee today. Or yesterday. For a few days. Because I feel too hyper. I can’t calm down. I had tea, but not coffee. And it’s caffeine free. I can’t…I don’t know. It’s like I’m running on a treadmill, but no matter how fast I run, I can’t….”
“Get anywhere?” She suggests when I stop talking.
“No…..I can’t get away.”
The words feel heavy, and are punctuated by silence. I think we both can feel the weight of them.
“It’s very telling, isn’t it? The language. You can’t get away.”
“No. I can’t get away,” I agree.
“What can’t you get away from?” She asks.
I pull my blanket over my head. It’s silly, because Bea can’t see me, but I’m suddenly feeling too exposed and vulnerable. “I’d like Kenny to get out of my head now.” I say the words softly.
More silence, and then Bea asks, “What?” I’m unsure if she just didn’t hear me, or if she isn’t following my choppy hyper over caffeinated thinking.
“I want Kenny to get out of my head.” I say the words again, stronger this time.
“Oh, okay. I didn’t know that he was there in such a big way.”
“It’s just….he’s…it’s….I don’t even want to be in my body right now. It’s all….I just can’t.” My mind is jumping all over the place, and I can’t think very clearly. Why didn’t Bea know that Kenny was a problem right now? Did I not tell her?
“I’m so glad you are telling me this now, that Kenny stuff was really triggered too. I know the mom stuff is awful and painful and full of grief, but it makes sense now, why you are having such strong reactions, so many flashbacks and nightmares and jumping from frozen far away to hyper running in place. It’s making a lot more sense to me now.”
“Monday…..I wasn’t really there, was I?”
“No, you were really far away on Monday, it was next to impossible to keep you in the room. Wednesday you were more present than Monday, but not much. You really weren’t able to sit with much or talk about very much. We talked about your mom some, and how she hurt you by not accepting you, but we didn’t go very deep.”
“I don’t think I could…talk about this before now.” Doesn’t it just suck when stuff won’t come up on therapy days?
“No, you needed to do this in layers, I think. You needed to be more here than you were.”
“I……he’s just…..I sent you that picture?”
“Yes, you sent me that picture.” It was a picture looking out my childhood bedroom window– the window on the side of the house. The window directly across from mine was Jackie’s window. The window to the left of my window was Kenny’s window.
“I think, I just wanted you to see.” I’d snapped the picture and sent it after all the Kenny stuff had been stirred up. I didn’t have words, I couldn’t find words to tell Bea exactly how not okay I was feeling, but I had this picture of just how close Kenny had been.
“You didn’t leave the house that weekend, did you? Normally you do the winery visits and that puts you in a much more adult place to start the weekend off. This time, you were at the house.”
“Backyard party,” I say woodenly. “Just like…I know, I know it’s not even the same group of people, I know that I’m an adult, I know all that……but…….I mean, I could see us all, as kids, running around. Back and forth between the yards. My mom put out the same yard games as we used do play. And the grown ups always sat on the porch. And the fire pit for bonfire later. It was all the same. So much the same. And I couldn’t…..I just….there’s no getting away.”
“Yes you are a grown up and you know all those things, but parts of you aren’t grown up and they were really triggered, of course they were really triggered. I can see it as you are describing it. When you sent that picture. I had a visceral reaction to how close he was, all the time, of course you felt like you could tell no one, he was always right there! And now you are describing how much last weekend was like those childhood backyard parties, and I can see it and feel it. It makes everything more real, doesn’t it? How could it not send you right back there? Of course you are really struggling, it makes so much more sense now, why this is all so bad right now. I’m so glad you are able to share this with me now, I’m just sorry I didn’t get it sooner, that I didn’t realize what had happened.”
“I just, I couldn’t figure out…it was all so right there, but I couldn’t tell.” I’m crying again.
“It’s okay. You needed time. That’s all. And I was very focused on the mom triggers, I wasn’t seeing anything else.”
“I should have used my words earlier, I guess.” We both laugh at that.
“I’m sorry I got so upset with you,” I tell her.
“I’m not! I’m glad you could tell me you were upset. You couldn’t tell your mom when you were growing up that you were upset or that your feelings were hurt, but you feel safe enough to to tell me, now. That’s a good thing.”
“It was still hard .”
“It still feels scary, maybe a little bit dangerous, to tell me when you are mad?”
“Yeah.” I agree. It feels scary.
“I think of it as a positive that you can tell me, now, when you are upset with me. It’s okay to be upset with me. I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to miss things, I’m going to screw up some times. But if you can tell me when I’ve made you mad, or hurt your feelings, or aren’t giving you what it is you need from me; if you can tell me those things, that is a gift. It gives me a chance to correct it and keep the connection we have and keep helping you heal. If I don’t get a chance to correct it, we can lose that connection, and I can’t help you of you are hiding things because you are afraid of my reaction. I’m glad when you trust me enough to tell me you are mad at me. And just because you are mad at me, that doesn’t mean we are on opposition sides. You can be mad at me, and I can still be on your side.”
“I know. It’s just hard to be mad at you. I don’t like feeling like we are on opposite sides.”
“I’m on your side. Sometimes, we try things and they don’t work, right? Sometimes we try something and it brings up some feelings. We have to talk about it, otherwise how can we know what else to try or not try? I’m on the side of helping you feel better. If I suggest something or do something that upsets you, it doesn’t mean I’m not still on your side. And if you tell me I messed up, I’m on your side then, too. It just means you and I have more information to work with. That’s all. Okay?”
“Okay.” I say.
“I need to get off the phone in a few minutes,” Bea says.
I don’t want to hang up. “Okay.”
“I am very glad you called and told me more about what is going on,” she says.
I want to ask her if she is going to get rid of me, if I’m messing everything up, if she is really on my side. Instead, I take a breath, remind myself of everything she just said and tell her, “I need to clean and organize some things and I have some baking to do. I’m okay. I have stuff to be busy, I’m up and doing things and functioning. I just….I’m okay.”
“Okay, but not really okay at all?” She asks.
“It’s okay to not be okay.” The reminder is nice.
“Okay. I’ll let you go,” I tell her.
“I’m swimming in the ocean with you, all right? You aren’t alone. And I’ll see you Monday, bright and early.” She says.
“See you Monday.” I hang up the phone. I sit there for a few minutes, trying to digest the conversation. Bea had no idea that so much more had been triggered. I honestly thought I told her when we talked about the picture I sent her. I guess I never said any of that out loud.
I worry that she is feeling an annoyance towards me for not being all better, that she is going to decide I don’t need the option to email or call, or she is going to cut my session time or she is going to take away a session. I don’t want any of those things to happen. And I honestly think I cope with things pretty good, much better than I used to. But when all the things get triggered and I’m heading to place filled with more triggers, I can’t do it on my own. And it is nerve wracking to know that all the things are triggered, I’m going into another triggering situation and Bea will be gone on vacation. It is scary to know I’ll be home from camping for a whole week before I get to see her, that she will be on vacation, and it just really makes me feel all alone. At least she knows now why everything is so bad. Maybe Monday’s session will be better now that she knows. Or maybe she will just take away everything and leave me all alone to cope.
Letters to and from my doctor
I sent the email to my doctor. And she wrote back.
Dear Doctor S,
Thank you for calling to check on me. I’m sorry I didn’t pick up the phone, or return your calls, I just wasn’t ready to talk about what happened last week. I’m really embarrassed over my reaction and behavior during the exam. I’d like to explain what happened and why I reacted in the way I did. I would prefer if we can keep this between us; this isn’t information I want in my medical history.
I have a history of trauma, and a diagnosis of PTSD. Pelvic exams are always hard for me, but I’ve always been quite good at holding things together, at sort of dissociating away my uncomfortable feelings, and not letting anyone know I’m less than okay. Having a male doctor present and performing part of the exam really triggered me. When he touched me, that just sent me back to that very scary trauma place. It was too big of a trigger for me to dissociate away, and I fell apart. I’m glad you asked him to leave, and I’m glad you covered me up. I feel so embarrassed for how I reacted, and that is going to make it very hard to walk back into your office.
I know I need to come back in, and finish the exam. I feel very apprehensive about that. I don’t want to put myself in another situation where I’m triggered and scared. I also don’t want to put myself in a situation where I need to be able to come to the doctor and feel like I can’t. I’m working through what happened with my therapist, and I will schedule something as soon as I feel okay about it again.
I wasn’t aware of your trauma history, or how difficult pelvic exams can be. Thank you for sharing this with me. I’ll keep this out of your file for the moment, although we may want to discuss adding some information so that these situations can be avoided in the future. I’m sorry you were triggered and felt so scared. I don’t think differently of you, and would like to have you come back in so we can talk about how to best proceed with any medical exams/treatments.
Ugh. This feels awful. All I can think is she knows, she is having all these terrible thoughts about me, I can’t face her ever again, why did I send that email, ugh, ugh, ugh. I don’t want to talk to her, she wants to talk, I’m not talking. I can’t do this. I don’t like her reply. I don’t know why. Maybe I wouldn’t have liked any reply. I can’t even think to send an email back. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I’m so angry that I sent this, I don’t even know. I just. Ugh. I wanted this to be done with, I didn’t want to keep talking about it, I don’t even know. Nothing felt okay. It seemed just…ugh. I don’t know. Yesterday, I don’t know what I needed. I felt like everything was off, and I was just not okay. So alone and wrong and sad and I didn’t want to keep talking about feeling like that, and I didn’t want to hear about how it was maybe just a pattern or whatever, because that felt terrible, and like it didn’t matter or wasn’t “real” or I don’t know what. So I said lets talk abut the letter. But then I was just annoyed and didn’t want to talk about it, or hear that I needed to do something, and I didn’t want to think about it, or why it was really a big deal, and I was just frustrated and annoyed and almost mad at you and that wasn’t feeling okay, and I didn’t know what was wrong with me or why I was so upset with you, and I wanted to be done with it. So I said ‘if I say I’ll send the email can we be done with this?’ I knew it was this very teenage response, and part of me was trying so hard to just have the conversation and be okay and behave like a grown up and talk through it and send the email and be fine, but I just couldn’t keep talking about it, so I guess I just shut down the conversation as quickly as I could. It hurts too much to think.
And now it doesn’t even matter because I sent the stupid email when I got home yesterday, still feeling irritated, and not really thinking it, just sending it in a fit of frustration and annoyance. And then after I sent it, I freaked out and wished there was a way to unsend it. And then I wanted to email you but I couldn’t because I was still annoyed. I don’t know. I just want someone to be mad at for what, I’m not sure. To blame, to be angry at for me freaking out, for me needing to tell someone else the secret, for someone now knowing and judging, for even having a secret to tell to begin with, mad because you believed her secret. I don’t know. I don’t know what is wrong with me, why I’m having this ridiculously big reaction and feelings over this. None of this feels right or okay. And I feel like this giant whiny drama queen over this, and that just makes it harder to try to talk about. I’m stuck in my head, and I feel alone and like no one understands. It’s like this crazy mix of teenager and little girl running the ship. Angry defiant teenager, but scared of being judged and thought of as a drama queen, scared of being told her feelings don’t matter, or that they aren’t real, or something. Little girl who is afraid of everyone leaving, of hurting people, of not being perfect enough, who just wants to hide, and wants someone to fix it all and make it better. I don’t know. None of this is rational.
My first reaction was to want to “fix” this by talking to the doctor, and if that is something you would like me to do I would gladly do it, but I don’t think it’s probably the best option. I’m still viewing this whole situation as an opportunity for growth and empowerment for you, difficult as it might be.
I don’t think you would have liked any reply except maybe, “it’s okay, I’m waving a magic wand and you will never need to go to the doctor again.” I think, objectively, that it was good reply and you can work with it to express what you need next. If you want, we can talk about that on Monday.
Your reactions make sense to me, of course. And if it helps to be mad or to blame me please feel free to do so. I am okay with that–I was pushing for this after all!
I have somebody coming in a minute, but in terms of the patterned emotions, what I think we want is just to be able identify them as such. Of course they still feel just as bad and are just as “real.” Just not genuine, healing expressions of emotion–which, when you think about it, are probably pretty rare in comparison. I don’t think you have to worry about any of that right now. Just engage in self care and self soothing if you’re still feeling yucky. This doctor thing will pass…..
I have no one
I leave therapy, and feel like crying. I want to curl up in bed and sob for days. I’m so, so sad, but I can’t allow myself to feel right now. I make it through the rest of my afternoon, and then, while Kat is occupied with ABA, I crawl into bed. I pull my blankets over my head, and bury my face in my pillow to muffle the sound of my cries.
I’ve felt alone and abandoned all week. Bea coming back was supposed to make everything better. Not better because I expect her to fix everything, but because I wouldn’t be alone anymore. I hadn’t wanted to talk, but I had thought…..I needed her to push and ask me how things really are and want to listen. I don’t want the bubble popped, but maybe I wanted to let her into the bubble with me, to let her see what the bubble is hiding.
And while she is back from her trip, she still isn’t here. I’m devastated. It was like sitting in a room with my mother, being a teen….I felt like it was no different than the times I’d attempted suicide and my mom had talked about weather and church activities, planned a birthday party for me. My mother was so emotionally closed off and not able to be open at all, even during those times I really needed her to be. The thing is, with my mom, I was never surprised. Hurt, yes, but not surprised. I’m not even sure that she was even aware that she was so emotionally closed off back then. But Bea? Bea has never been closed off like that. I’ve shut her out, closed myself off from her, but she has never been like that towards me. I didn’t expect this. Not really. I worry about it happening, I fear that she will one day be done with me, but I never really expected that she would be shut down like this. And she knows how to not be closed off, she is capable of being emotionally open. That makes this hurt even worse. With my mom, I feel like ‘why couldn’t she be what I needed, what was so bad about me that she couldn’t leave be me enough to be what I needed?’ But with Bea, I feel like I have done something to cause this, like she was once able to accept me, be open for me, and I have screwed up and was too honest about my feelings and the mess in my head and so she now has to close herself off from me. When she suggested she was maybe protecting herself, all I could think was that she had to protect herself from how disgusting I am. I mean, why wouldn’t she want to protect herself from the pain and hurt and crazy and disgusting mess that I am? Who could blame her?
It feels like I might never stop crying, but when my sobs calm down, I write a letter to Bea with tears still streaming down my face. I tell her that I am sad, and that I needed her to be Bea today. I tell her I think she is protecting herself from the grossness that is me. I tell her I’m hurt that she isn’t really here, and that I feel stupid for how I feel, and for even writing to her but that I think not addressing this type of stuff is what made the little girl feel like Bea wanted her to go away and that she wasn’t allowed to talk.
I NEEDED you to be YOU today. I think I spent most of the weekend and week thinking that it would be okay because I’d come to therapy and tell you how I felt, and that I was freaking out, and having a mini breakdown, and that your emails made you seem farther away, and I was sad and scared and feeling like I was so alone and everyone left me. And even though I didn’t want to pop the bubble, I sorta wanted to talk to you, or at least give you my writing. But I couldn’t do anything today, after I felt like you weren’t on my side about the school stuff. And then it just got harder to bring anything up. You said you had a wall up, and maybe you were protecting yourself. I get it, the grown up me gets how hard it is to come back from vacation, and can see that you were acknowledging things felt weird and that it is okay and we will get back to normal on monday and it would be okay, and I know you are human and make mistakes and can’t be on all the time and that you aren’t going to always get it right, and that those things can be okay, because it means I can learn to work through this crappy scary relationship stuff. So, grown up me is okay. Unfortunately grown up me is not running the ship right now. And the rest of me, I already felt shut down from how yucky and triggered I had felt, and scared and mad and not okay, and then everything today just was wrong and off and I felt like maybe you had a wall up to protect yourself from how crazy and disgusting I am and you weren’t there. And I really, really needed you to be there. And I really, really don’t feel better, I just seem better on the outside. And I’m really, really not okay.
Bea wrote back.
I’m SO sorry for me not being okay today. It was nothing about you, and I was very aware of what you needed from me and how you needed me to be, but I just couldn’t do it:( Please rest assured that it was not anything related to you! I know me not being okay triggered the little girl to not feel safe–no secure base. We all experience this at times as parents when we just can’t function emotionally as a secure base for our kids, and that was exactly what this was like for me this morning. Again, I’m SO sorry:(. Cognitively I’m very aware of how terrible that was for you–and I was aware this morning as well, but I just couldn’t unprotect myself. This was me being very human, unfortunately……
Her email didn’t feel okay. Maybe it usually would, but I am so closed off from her and afraid and she doesn’t feel safe right now. Nothing feels safe. I don’t understand why she couldn’t be how I needed her to be, why she couldn’t be herself. I’m hurt. And confused. I’m meant to pretend I’m not hurt, that her email made it all better, because I need her. I don’t know what the protocol is for being mad and hurt at the one person you need to support and help you and telling them how you are truly feeling. Normally, I would call Kay. I would cry and ask her what to do. Because she always has the answers. But I’m alone. I don’t have Kay, and I don’t have Bea. I have no one.
She didn’t come back
After a really hard weekend, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are better. Or, rather, better on the outside, because Miss Perfect is running the ship during the day, and she gets things done. Organizing, cleaning, dishes, laundry, sweeping, scrubbing, dusting, making dinner, baking treats, sewing, creating, playing with Kat, doing yoga, ext ext. I don’t have time to think when I’m like this, there is no tIme to hurt, or feel crazy. And if, for some reason, those bad feelings dare pop up when she is in charge, miss perfect has no problem starving the feelings, or binging them away, purging the memories, or cutting to be numb again. So, things have worked the last few days.
The nights have been harder, but they usually are, aren’t they? I made sure to write a lot, and did some knitting, watched a movie, attempted to read and then listen to a book, and eventually turned to my old stand by, Gilmore Girls. Wednesday night was strange. I could feel myself shutting down even more, pulling the bubble of okayness more tightly around myself. I didn’t want to go to therapy the next morning. Everything about going was aversive, and felt like a terrible idea. Miss perfect didn’t want to go because she does not want this bubble popped, the teenager felt really hurt but was trying to hold onto being angry, and the little girl was terrified that she would go to therapy and Bea wouldn’t be there, that she wasn’t really coming back because I had hit her limit and she was done with me.
Thursday, I force myself to get ready for therapy, to get into the car, and drive to Bea’s office. Even the drive to her office feels wrong. There is construction being done on the ‘main’ road that leads from my neighborhood in the boondocks to the actual main road. They are redoing the bridge, which means I have to drive all the way around the lake. The detour takes an extra 20 or 25 minutes, depending on traffic. I decide to drive in the other direction, taking a more direct yet somehow more round about route. It takes about the same amount of time, either way. But the drive in feels wrong, and several times (twice after I am back on the normal route) I look up at my surroundings only to feel scared that I don’t recognize them, and have no idea where I am or how I got there. The feeling only lasts maybe 10 or 15 seconds before I figure it out, but it’s terrifying when it’s happening.
I finally get to Bea’s, park, and Hagrid and I walk up the stairs to her office. Hagrid beats me there, running into the office excitedly to greet Bea. I follow him, say good morning and take my seat in the usual place.
Things don’t feel right, right away. I can’t explain it, it’s nothing I can put into words, but things feel off. I’m sure it’s me, wanting to talk to Bea but feeling so rejected from her email, and feeling scared and alone, and not really wanting the bubble popped but desperately wanting Bea to notice I’m not okay, so when miss perfect smiles and pretends things are fine, asks Bea how the weather was for her vacation, I’m relieved. We talk about weather and how the lake was, and our dogs, and other random things.
In the middle of our chit chat, Kat’s one teacher texts me back. I read the text, saying to Bea, “This teacher has been texting me, she sent me the assembly and field trip schedule so I’d be able to prepare Kat better.” I tell her how I am just done with the school, and while I am being nice and polite, I am no longer collaborating with them. I simply have been giving them two choices of how to handle any given situation, and that’s it– they can choose one of those, and I refuse to listen to any ideas for a third option.
Bea listens, and then asks questions, points out the good things they have done, suggests that Kat seeing me act less warm toward her teachers may be confusing. I become frustrated, and try to explained that as far as I am concerned, they lost the right to have much input, because of how they handled the last situation that arose, as well as how they behaved at the meeting, and how it is clear they simply have their own agenda and don’t really care about what is best for Kat. Bea says something to the effect that I can’t assume what they are thinking or feeling, and that sometimes we have to back off and give people a chance to make mistakes and correct them, to figure out their own rhythm with a kid.
I shake my head. “They have had that chance all year. Clearly, they can’t make good choices for Kat. I don’t trust them. Maybe that trust can be earned back, I don’t know right now. But you aren’t going to change my mind, or make me less upset, or anything else.”
She says something, I don’t even know what. I repeat that she isn’t going to make me change my mind. She tells me, “I’m not trying to change your mind, I’m trying to just put a few other thoughts in there. Because I don’t want you to lose sight of the big picture, or to only be able to think of the school as bad.”
I shake my head. “I’m well aware of the good things they have done. But those things happened when I was agreeing with them. I say no to one thing, and their true colors came out. I am not going to change my mind. It is what it is, and I am fine with how things are. I don’t need these people to like me, I don’t need them to be my friends. And I don’t trust them, at all, to,do what’s best for my kid, and not follow their own agenda.”
We go back and forth a few more times. Bea feels very argumentative to me. Why is she so firmly not on my side? It feels like she is disagreeing with me, just for the sake of disagreeing. I have this thought, that if I told her the sky was blue, she would argue it was not.
I had been writing to Bea since that email that sent me over the edge; unfiltered, raw, honest writing, that I wanted to give her today. Maybe. But now, I really can not give that to her. I felt conflicted over giving it to her, anyway, and this weirdness, Bea’s antagonistic behavior, all of it has made me certain there is no point in talking.
We’ve fallen silent in the last minute or so. “Well, we’ve talked a lot about Kat, and school, and you did need to talk about that, but I wanted to talk about this weekend. Are things feeling better now, with the week routine back in place?”
I don’t say a word. I simply float away, I can’t talk to her about this. I want to get up and leave, but that seems too final, too scary.
Bea asks again if things feel the same, or better.
“Sure, they’re better.” I sound far away, even to myself. This isn’t good. But Bea doesn’t even seem to realize I’m really far away. Whatever.
“You were really judging yourself this weekend, pretty harshly. I don’t think of the cutting, the throwing up as bad. You really had gone through a list of coping skills, and you needed what worked, the familiar survival skills, so to speak.”
I don’t respond, I just stare at the floor.
“Rory was on vacation this week, too?” She asks me. I nod. “And Monday was a week since Kay texted you?” I nod again. “It’s no wonder things felt so bad. I left, Rory left, and Kay had been gone a full week. That had to feel very scary.”
“It was fine. I was fine.” I tell her. Even if she is right, I don’t want her to know how that felt. I don’t want to talk to her. Bea isn’t Bea today, and I don’t like it. She said she wouldn’t leave, she said she would come back from vacation, but she didn’t come back. She’s not here.
I think she attempts to talk to me a few more times, but I’m not responding. When it’s silent again, I say, “I feel like you are waiting for me to say something.”
“No, I was just trying…my head was spinning in different directions and I was trying to figure out what was the best way to go, what would be most helpful.”
“Why?” I ask her.
She pauses, takes a breath, and says, “I know this isn’t really going well right now. I still feel like I’m in vacation mode somehow. I’m still in a headspace of reading and going for walks and relaxing and not being very present or attuned to alone. In therapy, I usually feel this….kind of openness, this way of being that is open and able to really feel into your experience and be with you in this. Today…..it’s like, well, I don’t know, it’s like I have a wall up right now. Maybe I’m protecting myself.”
Miss perfect smiles, and says easily, “I always feel like I need a vacation after my vacation.”
She responds, agreeing with me maybe, but also says something to the effect that she would be mad if her therapist returned from vacation and wasn’t really here.
I shake my head, laugh a little. “It’s okay. Really.”
I think I say something about the weirdness being from me, I have the okay bubble firmly in place, so it’s not like I was talking anyway. Bea shakes her head, and talks about how if she was open like she normally is, then maybe I would feel comfortable letting the bubble up a bit, and talking. She tells me that she will be better on Monday, things will go back to normal, and jokingly she says she will pop this bubble next week. I laugh, and tell her it’s all okay.
I don’t know how things progress from there, but somehow we end up talking about dachshunds and swimming. Bea says that it’s no wonder Hagrid doesn’t swim, his short legs aren’t made for swimming. I laugh, and tell her that a lot of people with dachshunds say they are good swimmers. “Besides,” I joke, “dachshunds came from the sea.”
“They did?” She asks, surprised.
I nod, tell her abut a book called ‘how dachshunds came to be”. I end up pulling the book up on my kindle, and we read it together. I don’t know what it is about this book, exactly. I just love it. It tells the story of a little girl who is lonely when she has to leave her sea creature friends every night. The sea creatures decided to create a friend for the little girl, — they choose the best of their attributes to give to this new creature (like a long nose to nuzzle and cuddle the little girl, and a tail that can wag to show happiness and love– and with magic, love and the power of the sea the dachshund is created. And the little girl has a friend who will always be with her.
I’m fine. I’m lost. I’m floating and alone. I’m so far away, I feel like I’m standing behind myself. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore; I’m not sure how I got here. Wasn’t it just a week ago I was writing out a list of all the ways I’ve made progress and feeling so good about that?
I’ve fallen into this self destructive place, this self punishment place. I hate who I am. I’m needy and bad and wrong. I want to pack up my things and run away. Just get in my car and go. I’m a mess. This isn’t okay. But I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine because I have to be. I’m going to go do some sewing now, and try to interact with my daughter like a good mom. Which I’m not. I’m not a good anything.
And my therapist is on vacation, and still I’m emailing. I can’t give her a break. I can’t be normal. And my one best friend is out of town, out of the state really, also on vacation, and my other best friend hates me and I think my husband wants to leave me, and only loves me when I sleep with him. I’m not okay. But I’m fine.
How to ruin a friendship
A few weeks ago– 4 1/2 to be exact– I got a text from my best friend, Kay. She wanted to meet with my therapist to discuss some family problems she has been having. I didn’t text back right away. I wasn’t sure what to say. I really wanted to give her Bea’s number, and be fine with it. But the thing was, I wouldn’t have been fine with it. I spent some time freaking out, and some time being angry that the whole email thing between hubby and Bea had happened, because if she had asked me before this, I would have given her the number and thought nothing of it. I texted my other best friend, and asked her what to do. If Kay is like my big sister, the person who I’ve known most of my life and who has always been this open and authentic person, Rory is more like my peer. She’s grown a lot since we met– 10 years ago!– and she can be so logical, and see things from all sides, and she is so smart and strong and has the biggest heart. Anyway, I asked Rory what to do, and she was livid that Kay would even ask to see my therapist. But then she switched to rational mode, assured me I was not insane for feeling like this, and counseled me to simply tell Kay the truth. We had a good text-convo, and I felt better. That still wasn’t enough, however. I texted Bea, too. I never text Bea. Well, I’ve texted her very few times, usually when it has to do with a Kat problem (like when Kat told me about an incident that triggered me to the point of not being able to function at all, and after the monster in law threatened to take my child away from me).
But I texted her. I was originally just going to ask her to tell Kay that she wasn’t taking new clients or something, so I could give her Bea’s number and not have to face the conflict. But I couldn’t do it. I spent a lifetime lying, pretending, and hiding secrets. Kay is one person I’ve never hidden things from, and I didn’t want to start now. I trust her with all my secrets, all my crazy. So, I decided to trust her with this, too. Bea and I had a text-convo that left me feeling okay. She agreed with Rory, that I needed to just tell Kay the truth, but also informed me that she couldn’t see Kay anyway, that it would not be in my best interest.
I tried calling Kay. She didn’t answer, and sent me a text back that she couldn’t talk right then. By this time, several hours had passed since her request, so I texted her back. I told her I didn’t really want to talk about this via text, but I didn’t want her to think I was ignoring her request. And then I explained that I really wanted to say yes, but that it didn’t feel okay to me, that things were just now feeling more stable with Bea, and that I didn’t want to hurt her or ruin our friendship, and I was very afraid to tell her this, but I wasn’t going to lie, either. She simply sent a text back saying okay.
A few days later, I sent her a list of therapist names Bea had given me, and she responded back a simple thanks. I asked if she was mad. She told me that she didn’t think this was a good time to talk about it, that she needed some time to organize her thoughts. Since then, I’ve sent a text every Monday, just to let her know I’m here, even if she is really mad, that I still love her, and I miss her, and am worried about her and want her to be okay. She never responded (until today).
This whole time, I did miss her, and I hated us not talking, but I was okay. I was handling the fact that she was mad at me. It was okay that she was mad. I had said no, I had hurt her feelings, she was upset. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been okay with that. But she was mad, and I was dealing with it. I’d even discussed it with Bea; that I was okay, that i didn’t like it, but I was okay with her being mad at me, I could understand it, and I had enough trust in that relationship to not freak out. What an idiot I was.
Kay has literally seen me through some of the worst moments in my life. I’ve seen her through some pretty bad moments, too, although I always secretly felt like she was the better friend and like I was a crap friend. She hated certain choices I made, but made sure I knew she loved me. She was just there. She didn’t let me run away from that relationship, or from my feelings, or my fears. She constantly encouraged me to stick up for myself, to voice my needs, to set boundaries. This is the friend who once stayed with me on the phone for four hours, to get me to go back to therapy with Bea and tell her how not okay things were; she talked all afternoon, the entire drive there, as I sat in the waiting room, and then told me I could call her if I needed her once I was in the office. She’s pushy about making me face certain things, but it’s not a bad kind of pushy. She is often in agreement with Bea. She’s not a bad person. She’s hurt, and she’s angry at me, and she’s freezing me out and behaving like a child right now. But she is one of the best people you could hope to know. Honestly.
So today (well, technically yesterday), I texted her, and she responded. She said she’s hurt that I don’t trust her after everything we have been through. She said she understands fear and irrationality, that she appreciates me standing up for my needs, and that I do need to be able to see and talk to Bea, and get better and keep healing, but that she is hurt and angry and emotionally wrecked over my selfishness. And that she’s not sure she can ever forgive this.
I sat and sobbed for most of the late morning and early afternoon. I emailed Bea, and texted Rory. The both told me I had done nothing wrong. Rory thinks Kay doesn’t like that I’ve said no to her, and that it’s hard for her to see me doing things I used to need her support for. Bea also questioned of maybe Kay was feeling as if Bea were taking over her role with me. Bea validates that it was a frustrating and hurtful day, she told me that what Kay isn’t seeing is that while on the surface it doesn’t seem a big deal to share your therapist, it actually IS a big deal. She mentioned how the email situation had caused such issues and that if she had seen Kay, that would have been the potential to cause many trust issues between her and I. She even simply said that Kay was being pretty mean.
I don’t know. I don’t understand it. Maybe she hates that I’m talking to Bea and trusting Bea as much as I trust her. Maybe she is having a hard time seeing me get better, because she has tried for years and years to help me heal, and Bea has helped me do something she couldn’t. Except, that isn’t fully true. Kay helped keep me alive. She helped me through so much. She showed me I could trust another person. She showed me it was okay to be this angry ugly person, that there were people in the world that could see that part of me and still love me. If it hadn’t been for her, I would never have been able to consider trusting Bea; Bea’s openness and authenticity would have been seen as a trick by me.
But I couldn’t have her see Bea. But maybe it would have been fine. Or not. I mean, I saw myself having trouble trusting anything either of them said if Kay was seeing Bea, and either being stuck in therapy and not making any progress and not able to really talk to Bea, and maybe eventually just giving up on therapy. I don’t know. I would have worried that they were talking about me, listing off all the awful things about me, everything either of them don’t like, talking about the bad choices I’ve made, what a bad person I am, ext, ext. And maybe that is crazy. But I can’t help it. I’m always afraid when people I know talk about me. I never think it’s good stuff, and I wouldn’t have believed either of them if they had said they had never talked about me, or if they had said it was good stuff. Or, at least that’s where my mind went as to what I thought would happen if I said yes. So I said no. But maybe I was over reacting, and it would have been fine. I don’t know.
I don’t know much, except I wish I had just given her Bea’s number, and let Bea tell her no. Or maybe Bea wouldn’t have told her no, and things would have feel how they fell. I don’t know. I’m hurt, and upset, numb, and freaking out a little. I can’t stop crying. This hurts. The person I’ve trusted the most and the longest in this world, the person who knew the secret part of my crazy mind, is gone. And she’s gone because I hurt her and she felt the need to remove herself from my life.