The little girl doesn’t want to go to therapy today. She’s not in the mood. She’s angry with Bea. Bea’s the one who left, and it’s been a week since the little girl has seen her. She feels really disconnected from Bea. And Bea is leaving again in a week and half. So what’s the point? Why bother? Thankfully, the grown up part of me is present enough that I do manage to get all the parts to therapy. It’s rather like being a child or teenager and being forced to show up to therapy at times, but the grown up me is nothing if not responsible and always on time, and so off to therapy I go.
I walk in and stand at the bottom of the stairs for a moment. It feels really hard to climb up the stairs, and go to face Bea. Hagrid runs right up, though, and she greets him, happily. “Hagrid’s here! How’s my friend Hagrid today?”
I follow Hagrid up the stairs, and walk into Bea’s office. It feels off to be here. Maybe it’s because I’ve been dissociated and detached since the yuck was dredged up, and Bea leaving only made it worse. Maybe it’s because I’m terrified she isn’t going to be herself; that she hasn’t really come back. I keep my gaze down, and whisper “Hi.”
“Hello,” Bea says, like she is herself and has come back. “I feel like we have a lot to catch up on.”
I get seated, and fill her in on what Kat has been up to the last week. I fall easily into that ‘here but not here’ space, and chat as if everything is fine between Bea and I. At this moment, the adult me, even if it is miss perfect, is running things, so there really isn’t anything wrong between us at this moment. The issues between us are between Bea and the little girl, and Bea and the teen.
When I pause and run out of things to chatter on about, Bea switches gears on me. “I want to make sure we have time to talk about you. Should I get out your email?”
I shrug my shoulders, and pull my knees to my chest, bury my face in my knees. The little girl is back, and she’s embarrassed and upset. She doesn’t want to be here. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Well I can pull it up, but if there was a different direction you wanted or needed to go in today…..” Bea says.
I don’t say anything. The direction I want to go in is out the door. I’m shut down and hiding. I can’t do this, I can’t talk to Bea. I don’t trust her right now. She left me, and she is leaving again, and she might not come back as herself.
“I can see that you are very closed off today, that you very much need to feel safe.” Bea says.
I’m hunched over, curled into myself and continuing to bury my face. Floating, and far away, I’m not really here, but this is painful, in a dull achy way. It hurts to have Bea so close, and not be able to connect with her. As much as the little girl is afraid to trust Bea, she wants desperately to confide in Bea so she doesn’t have to hold this awful chopped up, mixed up, blender memory on her own.
“It’s really understandable that Kat’s play was very triggering. It makes so much sense. And I was so glad that the little girl found her voice and was able to write to me and share how she is feeling. It’s so important that the little girl can share her feelings. I think we need to be very careful to pay attention to the little girl.” Bea starts off. She’s reading through an email I had sent on Friday. What she had just read was about Kat and how Kat triggered me……….Yesterday. The little girl was triggered in this big, big way by Kat. That’s been happening a lot lately, too. And so I try to find more ordered activities to do with her like board games or baking or something like that because open ended play is just….I don’t know. Hard sometimes. We are playing with the mini princess dolls and the Sofia dolls. So the princes and Prince dolls are like the grown ups and the Sofia dolls are like the kids. Everything was fine, or mostly fine. But then Kat picked up a Sofia and Prince Charming and was like “pretend he was kissing her and that they were in love and going to get married”. I froze and did my best to be neutral about it, but then she had this grownup boy doll pressed up against the Sofia doll, the little girl doll, and I just lost it. Or rather the little girl part took over. I think it’s probably going to be maybe easier if the little girl writes the rest. Just know that it’s not all of me that feels like this, but it’s pretty much the perspective and feelings that have been strongest lately, that I have been dealing with and that I don’t always like………… Bea had replied to the email, but it was our last communication.
The grown up part of me is embarrassed and my face flushes. I don’t want to even acknowledge the feelings of the little girl. I’m so angry with the child. And the little girl part of me feels like Bea is being patronizing, or not really caring what she is feeling.
“The body memories, those can be bad, very difficult, but I do think that sensorimotor is the best way to work through them, to help address them. What were your thoughts on that? Did you want to do some work with that today? I want to make sure we have the time to talk about anything you need to talk about. I’m sure there is a lot to update me on, too.”
I shrug. The child is upset. She defiantly thinks that there is nothing to update Bea on. I had written to her a bit this week, and simply not sent them to her. I had written to her this morning, at 3:00am, after waking from a nightmare. I want to get out the iPad and give her the unsent notes now, so she can read how I’ve been feeling, so conflicted and up and down. I just am frozen and it’s a struggle to move.
“I don’t think you are in the window right now. It feels like you are having a very hard time staying here.” Bea says.
I shrug. I’m not in the window, but I don’t want to be. I’m so tired of fighting to stay in the window and be grounded and be present and be here.
“How was the rest of the week? Has the grown up gotten to be more in charge? Have you felt more grounded, been able to use your resources?” Bea is asking.
“No….not…..” My voice sounds too quiet and the words are stuck in my throat. “Not so much.”
I don’t know how much time passes after that. I am getting spacer and spacier. I know Bea is trying to talk to me, to find something that sparks my attention, gets me feeling connected to her, understood and cared for, so I’ll feel safe enough to talk. The adult knows Bea is trying so hard, and that she is being real and authentic. The little girl believes Bea is just telling her what she may want to hear. She’s not sure Bea is really here. And I’m so fuzzy and blurry and far away that I can’t feel if Bea is here, or herself or not.
In the end, I manage to hand Bea my iPad so she can read my notes I’d written to her.
So…….the grown up me is sort of ping ponging between being just not here or very very angry. And it’s really not good because the grown up is so mad at the little girl, and some of that mad has come out at Kat. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not, but the grown up is aware enough to know its not good to be taking out anger she feels at the little girl at girl, so she just shuts down, detaches, pulls away and everything is numb and flat. That probably isn’t much better, because then I’m pulled away from everyone, especially the person my anger is coming out at and that person just happens to be my kid.
Otherwise, the little girl has been running the show. She isn’t in a good place. She is in a very bad, very not trusting, very not happy place. She’s always hearing things twisted and placing negative meaning to other people’s words. She is also hateful to herself and hates her actions, but more so she is afraid– terrified, really— that others feel the same way about her the way she feels about her self. She sees everything as rejection, as a sign or signal that she is failing, not living up to the perfect she needs to be.
I feel like if I was in my “new-normal more grounded accepting calm state” I would have read the whole email from you and felt understood and supported. But the little girl is really the one running the ship these days, and so I’m not feeling those things!
What a hard time for part of you to have to be a parent–yikes! I’m glad you were able to hide and get yourself to a safe place, even if not as long as you probably wanted.
Like this, I feel like you are thinking I’m not being a good parent and it makes me afraid to keep talking about anything. It makes me afraid to say how much snappy quick sharp anger has come out at Kat this last week. I know it’s because I’m mad at the little girl.
It’s challenging your functioning and depleting your resources. Be gentle with yourself!
All I keep hearing in my head is “why doesn’t she know I can’t be gentle with myself?” And “why couldn’t she just tell me it’s okay to talk about it all? She didn’t say it’s okay to talk, she really doesn’t want me to talk.”
I get that you feel like you are disgusting. I don’t have those feelings, but I get that you do.
This should one of those parts of an email that make me feel really supported and much, much better —–the second sentence of ‘I don’t have those feelings’ would usually help me feel better if the grown up was in charge, but right now, with the little girl being more here, it doesn’t help. She’s just angry at you and I don’t understand why. All she wants to do is scream at you, “No, you don’t get it! You don’t get it at all!”
Hi Bea, (from the teen speaking for, maybe with, the little girl)………
I’m so very mad at you. And I don’t really know why. And I don’t want to be mad. You push me to talk about this stupid wedding that he will be at. You dredged up so much yuck. And then you tell me that the next week you will be out of town. And you left, and it didn’t feel like you were there by email. It doesn’t feel like you want to deal with me. Why do you keep pushing dealing with the wedding? Ugh. I don’t even want to think about it. But you know that. I wrote in my last email some of my most hidden thoughts and feelings about it, finally, after you have pushed and I have not said a word, I say something. But you didn’t even really respond.
I don’t understand why I’m so upset with everything. I understand that it might be old feelings, things from the past, but It doesn’t feel like that. It all feels now. I feel like you don’t want me to talk, that I’m not allowed to be me, that you don’t want to hear all the bad stuff, that you are going to leave if I talk and about all the bad stuff because you will be disgusted or angry with me, that I’m not doing anything right, that I’m messing up everything, that I’m all alone no matter what I do.
I don’t even want to come to therapy today. I feel so disconnected from you, it doesn’t matter. Usually I’m upset and sad and feeling alone when we miss sessions, and am glad when we have a session after missing one and things can get back to normal. But right now? I just don’t care. Or I don’t want to care. I’m not sure which. I’m sad and scared and feel like no one gets it and anyone I talk to is going to decide I am awful and disgusting and terrible and hate me and and just leave. I’m really afraid that if I come to therapy today, you won’t really be you and you won’t really there.
She read what I wrote and responded directly to the little girl. “I don’t have any bad feelings about you, and I really am me, I’m here and I’m back. I want to speak to the little girl, okay?”
“Okay.” I whisper.
“I understand why you think I would find you disgusting, I understand you feel that way. But I don’t think of you that way at all. I really don’t. I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear anything you want to tell me. I’m not afraid of it, and I’m not worried about how I will feel about you. I’m maybe a little bit drawn to the darker side of life, of a person. Remember, I don’t see failure in the ick and disgusting parts of life, I see the potential, the beauty. I know it feels so bad when things are dredged up and I am leaving on vacation. Maybe the next vacation, we might want to process me leaving that week before I go, or see if we can move schedules around so that we can still have two appointments that week. And I’m sure that ever since the trip where I wasn’t so present in email and I didn’t come back to be really present, it feels really scary to have me go on vacation and it is really hard to trust that I’m not there on the other end of the email. I promise you, I was very present, and really focused on being very grounded and there for you when I was answering your email. I was right there. I know I didn’t respond to the very last paragraph and that really hurt. I wanted to respond to that, too, there was so much there and it was all very important, I was just too tired to keep writing. You know, there is a part of me– a very big part of me– that wants to stay right with you and take care of you and make sure you are okay. There’s a part of me that always keeps you in my mind, and that part really cares about you and wants to take care of you all the time.”
And with that, the little girl was fully and firmly seated in the captain’s chair, no longer sharing it with the grown up, and she was running the the ship. Tears poured down my cheeks, and I sobbed. I wanted to soak in her words, to really feel them, to hear that Bea has a part that cares for me and wants to stay with me and care for me all the time, but it’s sort of too much for me to feel. It makes me feel really good, that she does care, I can feel in her words that I’m important to her, but it is a lot and the feelings of comfort that come up are almost painful. I don’t want to sit in that painful, uncomfortable feeling, but I can’t shake it either. I cry and cry, all the while still pulling into myself and hiding.
“I can understand wanting to push someone away before they can hurt you. That makes a lot of sense to me. I’m glad you came to therapy today. I think it’s interesting that you are really feeling so strongly that I would not want you to be you, or that I don’t want to hear the things you have to say. I only want you to be you, just Alice! You’re perfect just as you are. And I do want to talk about the feelings you have been hiding about the wedding.”
I cried some more. The tears were just a mixture of relief that Bea was Bea, and sadness and pain. I shake my head at her, not wanting to discuss the feelings I have about the wedding.
“Okay. We don’t have to talk about it right now. I do just want to say that it’s not surprising you might have feelings of wanting Kenny to find you attractive, if you have to see him at the wedding. It doesn’t make you disgusting or bad or anything else in my book. It makes sense to me. The little girl was really attached to Kenny. Of course she wants him to still like her.”
I know Bea says more about that, but I am too ashamed of those feelings to stay present enough to hear her. I’m so very, very, upset and embarrassed over those feelings, and hating myself for it. Hearing Bea say she doesn’t have any bad feelings towards or about me over this.
“I am wondering about this invisible ink you used, though,” Bea says softly handing me back my iPad. Her words come out happily, with a small smile and curiosity in her voice. She is talking about the way I have written about my nightmare and then turned the font white, so it couldn’t be read. I’d written above that It’s 2:00 am and I’m up. Nightmare. Pieces of the blender memory. I can’t breathe. Can’t breathe. I want this to go away. It’s all body memory stuff, and not many words and the words I do have are just so very embarrassing and shameful and not okay. I feel like it’s too much to deal with. I wrote the words, the little bit that was a nightmare. And I can’t leave them, because I don’t know if I can give them to you. So I colored the words in white– between the stars– and I can color them back in to be read if I want to. I’m just so scared, and so alone, and no one gets it. Its a scary place to be, vulnerable and emotional and feeling alone. “I am curious who the resourceful part is, that was able to make it so you could give me this without having me read exactly what happened with the nightmare.”
I shrug, still hiding my face.
“I’d like to meet this resourceful part one day. This part really took care of you, keeping you safe, and giving you control over when and if you allow me to read these words.”
“I don’t sleep anymore.” I cry. “And I’m scared.”
“I know. Things have been really hard.”
“I’m afraid if you read this, you won’t want me anymore.” I whisper, fully in little girl head space.
“I know I won’t think that at all. I can’t imagine ever being disgusted or upset with you,” Bea assures me.
Part of me believes her, or really wants to believe her, but I’m not sure. I can only think that if she actually knew what I had to say, she would not be so confident that she won’t find me disgusting, bad, terrible. “I’m afraid. Part of me just wants to throw my iPad at you so you can read it and it can just be over with.”
“Yes, I can understand that. To not have to feel alone with it anymore,” she says. “What was it like to write the words?” She asks.
“I…….I don’t know. I mean…..I don’t…..” I stop speaking suddenly, and try to think. I honestly can’t remember. “I really don’t have a memory of it. I just…it’s fuzzy.”
“Yeah…..it’s a whole different part of you that holds these memories right now. That’s okay to not know. And you can share it now. Or later, or not at all.” Bea says gently.
I sit up and stare at my iPad, highlighting the text I had turned white and then turning it a bright navy blue. Then I just stare and stare at those blue letters on the screen, which form words that turn into sentences and create the paragraph describing my nightmares.
“If I…….if I give this to you, can I turn around and hide?” I whisper.
“Yes. You can hide, of course you are allowed to hide. Would you like a blanket to hide under?” She asks, once again, simply just speaking to the little girl. I’m touched because she remembers how I like to hide in my closet under my soft blanket.
It takes me what feels like a long time to answer her question. Eventually, though, I do. “Okay. Yes.” I hand her the iPad. She takes it and sets it on her chair. She walks over to where she keeps a stack of blankets, and she chooses me.
Bea hands me a fleece teal blanket, saying, “I think this is the softest one.”
Taking it from her, I hide under it, and turn away. “What if it’s not okay?” I ask, feeling suddenly frantic.
“It will be. I imagine I’ll feel sad for the little girl, maybe sad for adult who is in so much pain right now. But I also imagine I will feel glad that you aren’t alone with this anymore.” She is speaking so softly and carefully, so as to not scare the little girl.
“Okay. Okay.” I tell her.
And so I hide under a soft and fuzzy blanket, curled into a ball, burying my face in my knees, while my therapist reads my latest most shameful memory.
It’s too much for me, that she has read it and knows now, and I’m way too far away to retain any memory of the day. What I do remember is that Bea was her most supportive, emphatic and caring self. She had no bad thoughts about me or my actions. As I am leaving her office, still unable to make eye contact, she says, “The little girl was so brave today, so brave to share so much today, to trust me that much. I hope you can get some relief now that you aren’t alone with this memory.” And I believe her.