Letters to and from my doctor 

Hi Bea, 

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.

~Alice 

Alice, 

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. 
Take care, 
Cheryl

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. 



Alice,

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…..  

Bea

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 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. 

Status

The fight 

I don’t have the energy to post the whole story right now. I set a boundary with my best friend 4 weeks ago. She hasn’t spoken to me, or responded to texts messages (I sent one a week to let her know I was still here even if she was mad at me). Today she responded, basically telling me the friendship is over, that she can not forgive me. My world just fell apart. I lost my big sister, best friend, advocate and supporter. I don’t know how to do this without knowing she is there. I’m not okay. I’m really, really not okay. 

When the past and present collide

I need to place a trigger warning. I feel like there is a lot of triggery stuff in this post. It’s taken me a few days to even decide to post it. I’ve been raw, and triggered and afraid. And this post is raw and vulnerable, and authentic. It just also is probably full of little triggers. So please take care when reading.

I’m sitting in the car, writing a note to Bea. It’s been one of the hardest weeks I’ve had in a long time. I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell Bea that, or if she will notice. I’m in that place– the here but not, able to function and smile and pretend okay, for the most part– place. Even though the bubble is gone, even though I can’t pretend like before, I can still pretend enough to fool most people. I’m not sure where Bea falls these days. She felt the way my parents made me feel, she finally got the feeling I kept trying to explain to her, so she might pick up on it. But I’m not sure. So, I’m writing her a note. Because I am pretty sure I can hand her a note.

I walk into Bea’s office, and smile. “Hi, how was the conference? I hope it was better than you expected.” The social graces are immediately out of my mouth, ingrained and automatic.

“Hi, good morning,” Bea greets me. “There were some good things. Actually, a lot of the stuff that was good, I think was useful in terms of Kat.” She grabs a folder and hands me some papers from it. “I copied some of these for you. I thought you might find them interesting. It’s about the neurobiology of attachment.”

I scan through the sheets, and we discuss them. As we discuss attachment, and how this applies perfectly to Kat’s behavior on Friday and how her attachment challenges are playing out, I blink back tears, and grit my teeth. Of course she is having challenges with attachment. I’m screwing it all up. But I can’t tell Bea that. So I attempt to nod and smile at what she is saying.

“So, enough about all that,” she says, turning the conversation to me.

I shake my head, shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know.”

After a pause, Bea says, “I started reading the book and the workbook. I didn’t get very far. It seems simple, to me. Basic. I hope it’s good. I don’t know. Her training was so amazing and great and I just really want this workbook to be helpful and not just…I don’t know. Did it seem basic to you?”

I have to shift my thinking, dig through my fuzzy brain. “No…no. It’s..it seems very ordered. Like step by step. You know? I didn’t get very far. I got really stuck…after the teenage part.”

“Ahhh, yes. I remember, you said that. Did you do the exercise or just read if?”

I stare at the floor for a while. I’m afraid if I answer, she will ask to see it. “Yes, I did it. But I don’t think I did it like they wanted.” I rush the words, afraid if I don’t say them now, I won’t ever say them.

“I don’t think there is a right way to do it, and I’m sure whatever came out needed to come out.”

“I don’t…it’s just..I barely remember it. Those years.” I sigh.

“I’m sure. I’ve heard about the big things, the stuff that had a big emotional impact. But the day to day surviving stuff….well, that would be fuzzy. Those years are hard enough for most people. Let alone trying to find an identity with all the pain you were dealing with….” Bea says.

I’m only half listening. I’m thinking it was like I was two different people. The perfect girl that everyone knew and saw, and the broken horrible person I really was.
“You graduated a year early, right?” Bea asks me

I shake my head. “16. I was 16. I turned 17 that October.”

“That’s young. How did that happen?”

I shrug. “I was smart. And an October birthday. So I started kindergarten young. And then I skipped a grade.”

“When did that happen?” Bea sounds a little surprised. I’m not sure she realizes how smart I really was, or how much my parents really pushed.

“Middle school.”

“Do you know why? Or how?”

I shrug. “I was bored.”

“Who instigated the move? Do you know?”

“Probably my parents.” I sound bitter. Maybe I have a right to be. I don’t know.

“You’re having a hard time staying here today,” Bea says. So she has noticed. I guess I haven’t been hiding it as well as I thought from her.

I shake my head, clench my fists and dig my nails into my palms. “I have had a hard time staying here this week.” It feels like I have to fight with myself to admit it.

“What happened this week?” Bea asks softly.

I shake my head. I can’t. I just can’t tell her. I can’t really tell anyone.

“Do you want to take me through what has happened each day since we last saw each other?” She suggests.

I shake my head. No. No I do not want to do that. For one, my memory has already gone fuzzy for the week, so I don’t have much to tell, except the standard things that happen every week.

“Okay. Thursday we saw each other, and then Friday morning was Kat’s session. And you seemed good. Things seemed good. You sent me that email about perfect, and that was so good, such a place of peace. I did think about you over the weekend, on Monday morning during our usual session time. And I thought I hadn’t heard from you, so things must be good. I did check email, and I did wonder, but I thought we had left off at such a positive point, and so your week was going good.” Bea says.

I stare at her wood floor, and dart my eyes over to the blue rug and back to the wooden floor again. In a way, I’m thankful she thought about me. That she cared enough to think about me. Finally I whisper, “I didn’t know what to say.”

“Ah. I get that. If it can’t be put into words, then how can you send an email?”

I nod. Exactly.

“You look like you are very much feeling like the little girl right now. Vulnerable and alone. But you aren’t alone. I’m here. And you have a grown up part, too. A grown up who is very capable of running the ship.”

“The grown up is messing everything up. She’s not doing anything right.” My voice is dead, flat, hollow.

“How is she messing everything up?” Bea asks softly.

I shake my head. How do I explain that the little girl part of me is triggered and frozen and afraid and hates herself, but the grown up part– the part who is supposed to be able to be in control and be okay and rational and take care of things– is falling apart, is angry and mean and hates the little girl, too?

“Do you want to talk about what made you go so far away all week?” She asks.

“I’m afraid.”

“I can see that. It must be a pretty bad trigger, or something bad that was triggered. I have a feeling you have it written down somewhere in your bag, and you’ll share it when you are ready.” She says softly.

“Of course it’s written down. Everything is always written down. I’m always writing.”

“It has to unfold when you’re ready. We can just talk about how it feels, or how you feel, make a plan for the rest of the day today. You don’t need to share anything until you want to.” She says.

I nod. “Okay. I might want to. I don’t know…..I feel bad.”

“How do you feel bad? Is it bad, like bad because of a memory? Bad because of something you did? What kind of bad is it?” Bea asks.

“I don’t know. It’s just bad. Really bad.” I whisper.

“I’m sorry for this. I should have had a plan in place for you, with me not being here for a day, and you missing a session.” Bea tells me.

I shake my head. “It wouldn’t have mattered. I…it wouldn’t have changed things.” What triggered me, wouldn’t have changed if I had seen her or not, had a plan in place or not. It happened. I think it was bound to happen. And I can’t avoid the trigger.

“Well, maybe not. But you wouldn’t have had to be alone with it. You could have called me, even when I was gone at the conference, you could have called me.” Bea says. She has that tone in her voice that says she means business, but her voice is still kind.

I laugh, just a little. “I won’t call you, Bea. For Kat, sure. I’ll call. For me? No. I wouldn’t have called, plan or no plan.”

“Well, I want you to know it’s okay to call. You can call me. For you. Some therapists think that you shouldn’t allow clients to call you. I think, the kind of trauma and attachment work I do, it’s a tiny world sometimes, a lot of times I’m the only one who really knows everything. And I’m acting as your secure base. So if calling me, and touching base for a few minutes when you are feeling so bad, like now can help, I think that’s okay.” Bea explains her viewpoint, quietly, confidently. I don’t respond.

I think it would be wonderful to call her sometimes. Yesterday, I thought about calling her. When I couldn’t breathe, when I was sobbing, hiding in my closet, frozen. I thought about calling. But I didn’t have permission from her to call, I didn’t know if it was really okay. Now, I have permission. But I still don’t ever plan on calling. I won’t be that needy. I won’t allow myself to behave like that, no matter how much I want to.

“I lied to hubby yesterday. He asked if I was okay. I told him yes. And then I had to call the nanny to come get Kat,” my voice breaks, and I blink away tears, “Because I’m not okay. And that is no good. I have to be okay. It’s the rule. I have to be okay. Always. All the time, I’m okay. But right now, I’m not okay.”

“I know. I know you aren’t okay. But we are going to get you as grounded as we can, and we are going to make a plan to keep you safe before you leave today. It’s going to be okay. It’s okay to not be okay. You don’t always have to be okay anymore.”

“How could I just lie to him? And then to not even be able to take care of my child? What’s wrong with me?” I cry.

“You obviously didn’t even feel safe then, admitting you weren’t okay to him, and you called the nanny, you took care of yourself and Kat. You used your available resources. Just like your are using your oldest resource– dissociation– right now. We don’t want you to always rely on it quite so much, but you are doing what you have to in order to get through this.” Bea says.

I don’t respond to her, I don’t know what to say. I am staring at my bag, debating about getting out my journal and handing it over. I’m not sure, though.

“Let’s try to be as present as you can be, okay? Whatever from the past that is intruding in your now, it isn’t happening. It’s over. It’s just me, and you here. And you are safe here.” Bea tells me.

“I don’t want to be present. I don’t want to have to feel. Being present hurts,” I say. Because half the problem is my present. It’s not just my past right now, it’s my present that is triggering my past, and my present that is making me feel guilty and ashamed and like I want to disappear.

“I know. I know it does. I think you have to feel it to move through it, to get past it.”

I shake my head. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t get it. I pull my journal out of my bag. I sit, just holding it for a minute.

“Is that a new journal?” Bea asks.

“Yeah. I go through them quick. You know.” I go through a journal every few weeks. It depends how much I write on my iPad journal, how much I handwrite into my journal and how much I handwrite onto loose leaf binder paper. Yeah. I really do write and draw and doodle a lot.

I flip through the pages to yesterday’s entry. Where I finally figured it out, exactly, and got it into words. I stare at it, flipping through the pages, thinking. Did I really want to do this?

“It looks like you drew something in there? Some bright colors?” Bea says.

I flip open to that page and hold it up. “I was just doodling. I was having a panic attack.” I shrug. It’s nothing.

“It’s really very pretty. Did it help?”

“It was better than just sitting there.” The remark comes off slightly smart, but it’s not meant to be. It’s simply the basic truth. I’m not sure it helped. But doodling mindlessly is better than sitting there panicking, and I can’t write when I’m that worked up. So, I doodle.

“It looks like it’s even hard to think about handing your writing over,” Bea says gently.

I nod. “It’s just that…I didn’t write this to be read. It’s not..”

“Not edited. Not neat. I know. It’s like giving a piece of yourself up. It’s very private. I know.”

“And messy, messy thoughts. I write emails for you. I write this for me.”

“It’s authentic and personal. I’m okay with messy and authentic and personal. And I respect and am very honored every time you have let me read what you have written for yourself.” Bea tells me.

“I’m not so okay with being messy and authentic.” I say quietly.

“I know.”

I slowly place the ribbon between the pages of my messy, personal writing, to save the place, and close the book. I hand it to Bea. And then, for the first time, all session, I bury my face.

“Believe anything is possible.” She reads the quote on the front of my journal. It’s one of the reasons I chose this journal. “I like that.” And then she starts to read. I think I might be sick. I hate myself. She is going to hate me. She’ll have to call hubby and have Kat taken from me. I don’t know. I’m a bad, bad person.

“It’s the age,” she says. She isn’t done reading, but she’s gotten the gist, most of it. And so now she knows. And yet, she sounds kind.

She finishes reading and pauses for a moment. I sit, my face buried in my knees, arms wrapped around my legs, curled in the fetal position sitting up. I pick at my fingers, dig my nails into my palms. “My daughter is my trigger,” I say. She’s read it all, she knows now. My voice breaks and I cry. My daughter is my trigger. I can’t look at her without being triggered. I can’t see her without seeing me. I hate myself. I hate the little girl. I look at my daughter and I see me– the little girl me. I hate the little girl me. I look at Kat and I see someone I hate. As if that is not enough, the present me then hates herself for feeling this way. And this hatred, this anger I feel at myself is so intense, so big, so all consuming, I am burning alive in it. I had thought I hated myself before. But that was small compared to this. This is painful and huge and it feels like pieces of me are dying inside.

“This,” she says, “this is so normal. So common. It’s the age. She’s the age you were. It’s projection; you wrote it yourself. You look at her and see you. It’s so normal in situations like yours. It’s okay. A lot of people hate the little girl.”

I sit, numb and far away. I’ve spent my life dissociated. It’s a skill I’ve earned, and perfected. How to be dissociated and still here enough to listen, to know what is happening. If I don’t write it down, if I don’t record it on paper, it will turn fuzzy and I’ll forget. But I can appear to be paying attention and there, yet still be far away and safe.

“You wrote it here, what you see, what you feel and think. ‘But I see her and then I see me and I’m scared and overwhelmed and so, so mad because how could I do those things? What the hell is wrong with me? I am gross, a child whore, bad, wrong, it’s not okay, not okay, and then I yell at her….when I should be yelling at me.’ You aren’t any of those things…..” Bea is reading my words to me, and I can’t listen. I’m cold and numb inside, as soon as she begins quoting me. That sense of dread, that things are real now.

I can’t say it. I can’t tell her I hate the little girl. I should, I know I should. Bea already knows, really. But I can’t say it. “I’m a horrible person,” I say. It’s the closest I can come to telling her she is right.

“You aren’t. Let’s think about this rationally. How much control, how much power does a five year old have? How much control did the little girl have?”

I don’t answer. My head is spinning. None. No control. All of it. The little girl seduced him. She did it. She had no control. She had all the control. No matter the answer, I lose.

“She had no control. She couldn’t stop it, she didn’t do it. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t cause it. She had no control over anything–” Bea answers her own question, but I cut her off.

“Stop it! Stop!” I scream the words at her, but she continues speaking.

“Little girls don’t have power like that. She had no control–”

“STOP IT! SHUT UP! Just shut up!” I shout at Bea. I’m shaking. I’m scared of her words, and I’m mad at her. How can she say this? How can she talk like this?

“That’s right. Get mad. Be mad about this. Get mad at me,” Bea says. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I realize she is trying to make me see, trying to get me out of this dark place and pull me back into the sunlight where she is firmly anchored.

“I don’t want to be mad. I can’t feel it. I don’t want to be mad, I’m not okay, I can’t do this,” I tell her.

“You can. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t anything the little girl did. Little girls don’t have power like that. The little girl wasn’t in control.” Bea says firmly.

Suddenly, I’m scared. There is no mad in me, just fear. Little girls don’t have power; I don’t have power. I’m frozen, I curl up as small as I can. “Please stop. Please just stop. Please. Please. Please stop.” There is no anger behind my words now, only tears.

“Okay, okay,” Bea says. Her whole tone of voice changes. She doesn’t sound firm anymore. She sounds gentle, like she is talking to a child. Maybe, in a way, she is. “It’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I tell her. I don’t know why I’m apologizing. Just that there is this big feeling inside me that I need to say I am sorry.

“You don’t need to apologize to me. You have nothing to be sorry about.”

“No….I don’t know. I just….it’s just this…maybe because I am sorry for crying, or whining, or for not being okay, or for being needy or taking time, I don’t know. I just….just say okay.” I fight to find an explanation, where this need to apologize comes from. It’s the best I can do.

“I don’t think you are whining, or being needy, or anything else. But I’ll say okay.”

“I’m damaging my daughter. I’m so afraid. Of everything. I’m not okay,” I say softly. It’s almost a whisper, really. My biggest grown up fear. That I’m going to damage Kat beyond repair.

“No, you aren’t. She’s okay. You are taking care of her. She has support people in place. She is okay.”

“I have to make this stop.” As I say the words, I see the same picture in my head that I’ve been seeing all week. Fifteen year old me, cutting my wrists. The picture is on replay, on a loop in my mind. It pops up at random times, at times when I am feeling lower than low, at times when I want to disappear, at times when I want everything to stop. I’ll never copy that image; I could never hurt my husband and child and parents like that. But sometimes, it feels safe to envision an out.

“I think when you find compassion for the little girl, it will stop. I think you have to feel this to be able to find the compassion. You were finding it, I believe that. But just like in child development, when we move forward, there is sometimes regression. I’m not surprised you fell into this bad place. You were in a peaceful, positive place. Now you’ve regressed a little. And that’s okay. Healing isn’t linear. This time, you have more resources, more support than before. You know what it feels like to feel peaceful and authentic. You’ll get back to that place, I believe that. But it all starts with compassion for the little girl. Maybe…..maybe when you are feeling so badly about how this is all effecting Kat, maybe that is where your compassion is.”

I don’t respond, yet again. But I take her words in, roll them around. Think about them. Maybe.

“Have you talked to hubby since he asked if you were okay?” Bea asks, breaking into my thoughts.

“No..no. I haven’t said anything. I can’t. He’d hate me.” The tears start up again. Two rivers, flowing down my cheeks.

“I don’t think he would hate you. I think he would understand, if it was explained to him. Or you could just tell him you are having a hard time, that you need some extra help right now,” she suggests.

“No,” I sob. “I have to be okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.”

“Except you aren’t okay. And that’s the old wold talking. In your new world, it’s okay to not be okay.”

“I can’t. He’d hate me. He’d take Kat. What am I supposed to say? Our daughter is my new trigger and I’m freaking out all over the place and I’m so not okay and I’m really dissociated and and afraid?” I wish I could sound sarcastic, but I don’t. I sound like a scared little girl, who can’t stop crying.

“Yes. I think that would be a perfect thing to say.” Bea sounds very matter of fact.

I cry. While I cry, I think. “Can he call you? So you can explain it to him?”

“Yes, absolutely. He can call me,” she says without hesitating.

“What time?”

“I have appointments most of the day, but I should be done around 7. So, say anytime after 7:30?” Bea tells me.

I nod. “Is that too late?” I don’t want my craziness, my wrongness, to disturb her evening.

“No, it’s fine. If I don’t answer, leave a message and I will call back as soon as I can,” she says.

“Okay. Maybe I’ll tell him.”

“Okay,” Bea says, and her voice sounds firm now. “We are going to make a plan. What you are going to do the next few days to stay safe. If we make a plan, write it down, I know you will keep to it. So we are going to make a plan to keep you safe.”

Her voice makes me feel like I am in trouble somehow. It’s the school principal, I mean business voice. “I just…I need a minute. Please.” I whisper.

“Okay. I do want you to have a plan to stay safe. I feel like you need to have confidence in me, that I can keep you safe. No one protected you before. But I will protect you now. I will keep you safe.” Her voice sounds kinder now. It’s still firm, but she sounds like Bea again.

I take a breath. I focus on what I see around the office. I wipe at my eyes. Finally, I lift my head up. “Okay,” I tell her.

We start making a plan. It’s not extravagant, it’s simple and easy to stick to. Where Kat will be, who she will be with. When Hubby will be home. What I will be doing during free hours. What I will do when I have Kat with me. Most of it is easy to write up. When we get to my free hours, it becomes harder.

“What are you going to do when you are alone?” Bea asks me.

Hide. Cut. Binge and purge. Panic. Thoughts flit through my mind. I’ll never say them aloud. “I just want to hide.”

“Okay. I know. I know that feels safe. But I don’t think it actually is safe for you. We need to find something to soothe you, something that can feel safe but help you be grounded in the present.” Bea says.

“No. I don’t want…I really just want to hide.” I shake my head. How do I make her understand this?

“What about taking a walk? Going for a swim by yourself?” Bea throws out ideas, probably a lot of them are good ones.

“Those…none of those feel safe to me.” I’m frustrated. We aren’t going to agree on this. I need her on my side.

“We’re taught that it’s not good for people to use old coping skills like this. That it keeps trauma alive. The past isn’t here, it’s not happening now,” Bea tells me. She sighs. “Maybe hiding is okay for a little while. Maybe it’s what soothes you right now. Is there anywhere you can hide that isn’t your closet?”

“I….I used to go to the beach. To hide. To get away.” The words come out softly, jerkily. I don’t always like to think about that time of my life. When I would go and sit, in the sand and beach grass and watch the water, listen to the waves, feel the sand trickling between my fingers. I could close my eyes and just be. I could be anyone, anywhere. That was my safest place.

“I suppose your beach now doesn’t count?” She asks, smiling.

I shake my head. “No…it’s..no.” It’s busy. The whole neighborhood is always there. Houses are right across the very narrow street. It’s not the same. My deck is more private, quiet. I can see the water from there, and I am surrounded by trees, leafy and green. Maybe I could try sitting out there.

“Okay. Is there anything else that might work?” She asks.

“I…you know what I really want to do? I want…………I want to drive to the airport, buy a plane ticket and go to my Grandma.” I blink back tears, again.

I think I may have surprised Bea, a little. She doesn’t know that is my ultimate running away plan. I have Kay to run to, and my friend Reagan. But running to Grandma in Florida is my biggest, safest running away plan. After a moment, she asks, “Is that a possibility?”

“No. Not now.”

“You want to go to your Grandma’s because she is safe. She would take care of you. You want to feel taken care of right now,” Bea says. She gets it.

“I can’t go to my Mom, because I would have to take care of her.” I sigh. Even if I ‘let’ my mom take care of me, I would still have to pretend to be okay, and make everything perfect, and that is how I would be taking care of her.

“I know,” Bea says.

“I’m being so selfish,” I say. I want to kick myself. I have a child to take care of. A child who has become my biggest trigger. And I’m talking about how I want to run away to my Grandma so I can be taken care of. I’m selfish and mean and awful. I need to be trying to fix this trigger problem before it damages my daughter.

“You aren’t. Everyone wants to be taken care of sometimes. It’s okay to want to be taken care of. That’s why I want you to feel like you can call me. So you don’t feel so alone. So you can feel safe and protected and cared for. And that feeling is why we need to make a plan. So you can feel safe and protected. It’s one way I can protect you.”

I don’t respond. I’m not calling her. It’s just not going to happen.

We finish out the session writing a plan to keep me safe for next few days. I won’t see her Monday morning because of Memorial Day, so we schedule for Tuesday morning.

I don’t really feel better when I leave, but I know I’m not alone. And I have a plan.