Little girl hiding

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…’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.  

Head and Toes

I don’t remember much of Monday’s session. I remember wanting to leave. I didn’t want to be there, I wanted to just go, just get up and leave. At the same time, I wanted to feel close to Bea, I wanted to know she was there, I wanted to feel like she cared, I wanted to talk and talk and talk until I had no words left. Everything felt unsettled, and off, yet I sat in my space in Bea’s office and I was still and quiet. You would never have known from looking at me, what was happening inside. 

I wanted so badly to be okay, for everything to be as okay inside as it was on the outside, I sat there, my face buried, telling Bea over and over, “I’m okay. I’m fine. I am okay.” At one point she asked me if I was telling her that, or if I was trying to convince myself that I was okay. I didn’t have an answer. 

She tried to talk to me about my doctor’s response. She asked if I had written a reply. I hadn’t. She tried to tell me that she really did think the response was good, and that now I can tell her what I need. She asked how I felt about having some information in my chart. I didn’t want to talk. I looked right at her, and lied. “I’m fine. I’m going to call and make an appointment. I’ll make the appointment and it will be fine, I DON’T need anything.” She tried to talk to me more, but some part of me wasn’t having it. 

She asked me something or said something, I don’t remember what now, and it shut me down. I pulled my knees to my chest and buried my face. I don’t know how long I sat like that. I wasn’t in Bea’s office then. I wasn’t anywhere. I was numb and far, far away. 

I remember Bea asking me if I was cold. She said my toes were shaking. I didn’t know. I told her I didn’t know my toes were shaking. I wasn’t cold. I looked down at my toes. I could see them shaking. They really were shaking, I just could not feel it. Bea suggested I focus on my toes. I tried. I didn’t want to, but I wanted everything to be okay so I did what she said. 

I focused on my toes. I could not feel them shaking and I wasn’t aware of it, unless I was looking at them. I wiggled them. I couldn’t feel them wiggling, but my head knew they were wiggling. It’s the strangest feeling, to be aware of movement, yet not to actually feel it. The more I paid attention to what my toes were doing, the more I realized they were shaking because I was tense. My whole body was tense, like a tightly coiled spring, ready to bolt at any moment. That was all I could think of. The longer I focused on them, the more I wanted to run away.

Bea asked if there were images, thoughts or feelings coming. I had the thought and feeling that I needed to get away, get out of there. I had images coming up of a time with the boyfriend. It’s not something I have ever talked about, and it’s not some thing I’m sure I ever will. There’s a lot of shame and hurt in that memory. So, anyway, Bea asked questions and I didn’t answer. 

I know towards the end of the session, I told her I had no words, and was sad and frustrated and hated not having words. She told me that it was okay, that she was there, with me in the frustration of needing to find the words and she knew it was hard. I feel like she might have said something about me not being alone. I know she told me I would find the words, that I would find them and I would email them to her. I told her I wouldn’t, that I wasn’t sure. 

Bea ended up being half right. I didn’t find the words, but I did email her. I emailed many, many words to her at 2:00am, Tuesday morning. I strung word after word together, forming sentences, paragraphs, a novel. It didn’t matter, though, because none of those words were the words I needed. It was okay, though, because the first thing Bea wrote in response to me was, “I actually think I know what’s going on. I’m not sure I’ll have enough time to write it all now, but I’ll try.

It’s about the parts. One part or more want to talk, and one part or more don’t. All parts have to be on board. Or, another way of looking at is that “manager” parts are trying to protect the vulnerable parts. Either way, we have to address each part in order to get them all in agreement. Make sense?

You did great work yesterday despite the words not coming to you!” And the last thing she wrote was, “I’m not sure I’ll have time to write more today, but even still I am here and thinking about you.” 

So. All the parts are riled up and messy. Things inside my head are a little crazy right now. And my toes are shaking. But I’m okay, because Bea is here and thinking about me. She hasn’t forgotten me, and she cares enough to be here and remember me. 

Parts chart revised 

I spend a good portion of the day on Tuesday working on editing, on rearranging, adding to the chart Bea gave me. I end up more confused than I was before. I don’t want to think about parts. I want to send the revised chart to Bea, but something holds me back. I don’t know that I want to publicly acknowledge parts other than the teen and the little girl. The teen and little girl don’t feel okay, and I’m constantly embarrassed by them, but they are familiar and it’s safe to talk about them now. The rest….I’m not so sure. 

This is the chart I came up with.

If I could freeze my heart…….

Bea had class this past weekend; the last of her sensorimotor classes. I’d emailed her, and she had emailed back. I didn’t send a reply back, although I did write all weekend, and had brought my writing with me. 

“How was class?” I greet her when I walk in. 

“I want to tell you about my class and what we talked about this weekend. So much of it seemed like it would be very relevant for us and our work. We talk about top down and bottom up approaches, and sensorimotor therapy has dealt with mostly bottom up, but this time we talked about things that were more top down and then working with sensory stuff. It might be more helpful for you. But before I tell you about that, I want to hear how you are. I thought I might hear more from you this weekend, and I’m wondering how it was?” Bea starts the day off by focusing right on me. 

“Ugh. It was…I don’t know. Just…I mean…..we went to my parents.” I shrug. I want to cry and tell her hard the weekend was, but I just can’t. I feel off, weird, strange. I don’t know. 

“How was it?” She asks me. 

“I didn’t…ugh. I did write back. I just didn’t send it. But I did write this weekend.” I pull my iPad out of my bag. I don’t make a move to hand it to her, just hold it in my hands and stare at it. 

“Did you want me to read it?” She’s looking at me, I don’t know what this look is. Maybe, I don’t know, like she can’t figure out what I’m doing, or what is going on in my head. I wonder if she knows I’m here-not here, in this strange space of confusion. 

I nod, and hand the iPad over to her. She takes it and she starts reading it. 

“Oh…I’m sorry, so sorry that your mom couldn’t do what you needed. That has to hurt, be difficult.” Bea says. 

I cover my face. “I can’t talk about that right now.” 

“Okay,” she says. “This….it is so scary and confusing when the okay part has to share space with the not okay part. It makes it really hard and very triggering when you have to do things like talk to the doctor about what happened.”

“I can’t. I don’t know. I don’t want to deal with this. I can’t. I can’t write anything.” 

“Well, that’s okay. It’s not surprising.” She pauses and looks at me. “Maybe now would be a good time to talk about what we learned in class this weekend.”

“Okay. That’s fine.” I shrug. I don’t care. I want something from her, I’m needing something, but I don’t know what it is. I only know I don’t feel like things are okay right now. 

“We talked about parts, and ways to look at the parts. It’s things we have talked about and acknowledged, but I like very much how the instructor broke it down. It’s the same as we have talked about before. That when trauma happens, it causes a split. It causes a part of you to stay okay, and go on functioning and a split of part become the not okay part. Some people have a lot of split off parts, some have one or two. And it’s all a spectrum; one end being a person who is mostly all okay, and the other being parts that are very separate, like DID. You’ve heard of DID?” 

I nod. “Yes. Of course.” I’m curled up, knees to my chest. I’m hiding my face, randomly peeking at her, unsure of where I stand, and what I want. 

“You aren’t DID, but you so have parts that can be fairly distinct and easy to identify. I think, as we work through things, and acknowledge the different parts and what they want or need, things will feel more integrated and that healthy adult part, the truly okay part, will be able to run the ship more often.” Bea explains. It’s similar to what she had said in her email, but maybe more of an explanation. I don’t know. 

“Okay.” I mumble. Bea hands me a sheet of paper. It’s a chart, a diagram of parts and how trauma splits things. 

“I like this chart. I wanted to share it with you. It’s not actually from the training, but it’s similar to how the instructor broke things down. What it’s saying is that the split of trauma causes different parts, and they all have a function. Like we might end up with a flight part or a fight part. We can end up with an attachment cry part, a freeze part, a submitting part.” Bea is speaking very causally, like we are having a regular conversation, but I feel like I’ve entered the twilight zone. This is the most present– and I’m not exactly here– I’ve ever been when she has been discussing parts. 

I keep reading the sheet, over and over, searching for something that I can’t find. I pull some paper and pen out of my bag, start copying the chart. 

“Can you think of what part might be activated when you are skipping meals, not eating, or binging and purging?” I groan, cover my face with my hands, and Bea’s voice sounds like she has a smile in her voice when she says, “Yes, I said it. I used the words.” 

I point to the flight part on the paper, unable to even use my words right then. 

Bea nods. “Yes, the flight part. Any eating disorder behavior, really any addictive behavior, is flight.” She describes what flight might look like, the client who is fidgety, on edge, can’t settle down, is ready to jump up and run at a moment’s notice. I think of all the times I feel like that internally, but manage to be calm, or shut down outwardly. 

She asks about the other parts, asks what I think about this language, the way it’s laid out. 

“I don’t know. I just….I need to think.” It take so long to even get that out. I’m unsure how I feel. I don’t want to talk about this. Everything feels off, disjointed, confusing. I want Bea to fix it. I don’t want to talk theory, or logistics, or concrete things. I want connection. I just don’t know how to get that. 

“You need time to digest it. It’s hard to wrap your head around when you see it all laid out like that.” Bea says. Her words feel wrong. I don’t need time to think, or to digest this. It’s a conversation we have had before, just not one I’ve managed to be present for before this. Why is she acting like this is brand new? I’m confused. I feel like I’ve missed something. 

I’m done today. I don’t want to talk or think anymore, and I don’t want to sit here and feel like I need something but don’t know what it is I want. I shut down anymore attempts Bea makes to talk with me. I just can’t deal today. Before I leave, I tell her that I will try to write a letter to the doctor. Bea smiles at me, and says she thinks it’s a good idea. 

I leave feeling empty and off and like I don’t want to think about this. I’m sad and alone and I really just want someone to make things better. By the time I get to my car, I’ve shit down, closed off my feelings and made myself numb. Maybe, if I try hard enough, I can manage to freeze my heart. That sounds good. A heart so frozen, with so many walls of ice built up around if that no one can hurt me, that it’s impossible for my heart to feel broken. 

Journaling through the weekend 

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

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

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

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

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

No wonder your identity feels messed up.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little girl lost and alone

I arrive at Bea’s early on Thursday. The last few weeks of sessions have been mostly talk about hubby and Kat, the latest nonsense his mom has pulled, and Kat’s school and ABA stuff. And, of course, we have worked on me focusing on the present moment, through the use of coloring. I’ve done my best to avoid feeling overwhelmed with feelings when I’m supposed to be present, and have found that talking about random day to day stuff seems to work quite well. 

But today is different. While the last few weeks have been better; I feel less like I’m watching my life from a far away place, and more able to function, they have also been full of nightmares and flashbacks and memories and too many feelings. I can’t keep doing this on my own. As uncertain as I am about fully trusting Bea again, I need her. So, on Monday, I had brought my notebook and had her start to read through it. Everything in there is unfiltered, and not written for her. I have been writing after waking from the nightmares, and after or during bad times when flashbacks hit, or when I’m stuck in my closet, hiding. These are the type of journal pages I typically tear out, that I have never shared. But now, I’m choosing to share them, because everything feels more real to me than it has in a very long time, and I am scared. 

We say our hellos, and then we sit in silence. For me, it’s uncomfortable and awkward. Finally, I raise my eyes to Bea’s, and say, “So?……”

“I thought instead of me starting things off by asking questions today, I would see if anything came up for you, what you felt a need to talk about.” She smiles kindly at me, and I can feel all that anxiety come up. Crap. I did want to talk today, but how and why does she know that? 

I shake my head, “No, nothing.” We sit in that weird silence for a another moment or so, and then I turn to a safe topic: hubby and Kat. 

After a while, Bea turns the conversation back around. “Did you want me to finish reading your notebook? Or was there something else? I felt like we cut things short on Monday.” I’d needed to leave early on Monday because of plans with hubby and Kat, and Bea hadn’t pushed anything very much, not wanting me far away when I went home to spend the day with my family. 

I shrug. “Yeah, you should finish reading it.” I dig it out of my bag, and hand it to her. 

As she takes the notebook from me, she says, “I bet there is a lot more in here now.” 

“I didn’t actually write anything……I mean….I typed….” I look down at my hands, and feel my face redden. “I was um…picking at my fingers. And I picked badly enough at my thumb that it hurts to hold a pen and write…….” 

“You haven’t picked in a long time,” Bea comments. 

I shake my head. “Well, I’d been painting my nails with that gel polish. It’s thick, so it’s hard to pick, your nails aren’t sharp like normal nails with it. I used a different brand this last time, and it just….it wasn’t as thick. So…..I picked. I didn’t even know I had done it, until I tried to write, and it hurt. Then…..well….. I don’t know.” 

She says something about how even after all this time, it’s still a habit, a coping skill that I use almost unconsciously. “Do you still….even with the polish, are you still making the motions of picking, do you think? Or do you think that you picked because your nails were sharper this time?” 

“I…..I don’t know. I’d guess I still do it, I just can’t break the skin. But I don’t know.” 

We discuss it a few more minutes, ending with Bea stating, “I think choosing to paint your nails so that you can’t pick is a form of self care. Painting your nails can be seen as pampering, but also, it’s doing something to keep yourself from being harmed. So, regardless of anything, the choice to paint your nails is self care.” 

I feel a little bit…I’m not exactly sure, maybe hopeful? Self-care. I’ve been performing an act of self care, and it’s not something I have felt guilty for. 

Bea starts reading, and I sit, knees curled to my chest, half hiding my face in my knees, while she reads. I have more for her to read, on my iPad. What I had mentioned to her that I’d typed. I’d written about this struggle the little girl and teenager parts are having with trusting her, with feeling safe.

In the fall, I don’t when….I had emailed, after you had sort of picked at the scab that had formed over the summer. And I felt like so much was in that email, it wasn’t just this little thing, there were so many scary feelings and vulnerable moments in it. It took you 2 days to write back. I want to be really clear— adult me understands that we get busy, or that we read an email, mean to respond and then later have that “oh crap” moment of realizing we didn’t. It happens to me all the time with phone calls, or little things I meant to do and life just gets in the way and time slips by. So, adult me gets it, and was okay. But the little girl, she felt like she must have done something bad, something wrong. She spent 2 days very scared and worried that you were gone. Just typing that is hard. I don’t want to admit it. She doesn’t know where she stands. She is on hyper alert for any changes, any sign of you leaving, or of being rejected, and she just isn’t sure it’s safe to talk anymore. Change means different to her, and when she has found something that feels safe, changing that means it’s no longer safe and that she can not trust it. She’s having such a hard time, and I think she needs to talk, but she is afraid that it will all be different now. Too many things have felt different to her the last 6 months and she is uncertain what that means now. Any trust she had in your reactions or talking to you, it feels like a lot of it is gone. Even though adult me knows this is not true, that you really haven’t changed, that you aren’t going to react differently to anything I say than you have in the past, the little girl isn’t sure she believes that. It’s like starting over in some ways.

I’d written more than that, but that was the gist of it. The little girl feels shut down, and not okay. She feels like she had this person– Bea— who was there, and who was standing up for her and helping her find a voice, and that person just changed so much that she’s gone. And that was what I wanted to talk to Bea about. I needed her to know the little girl really needs some support and containment, and to talk and be listened to. 

Bea finishes reading, I hear her close my notebook. “What jumps out at me is how very much alive the past is right now for you,” she says softly. 

“Some days. Not….not all days are bad days,” I whisper, stumbling over my words. I’m thinking that it’s different, but no different than it ever is. It’s just that anything she has ever read that I’ve written about nightmares and flashbacks had been edited, and edited and filtered until it is safe enough to give to her to see. But now……now I need for her to see how bad it is, to really get what the little girl is dealing with on a nightly, and almost daily basis. 

“Did…..” Bea starts to speak, and stops. She sounds hesitant to say her next words. “Did your mom find your underwear and get upset……was that all the same day?” She’s referring back to the majority of my flashbacks I’d written about; Kenny raping me, my mom finding my underwear.

I’m quiet for a while. It feels like forever, but it’s probably no longer than a minute. “I ummm. Well….I guess…I’m not….I mean….” Again, I’m stumbling over my words. “Yeah. I think so.” 

Bea says something, I’m not even sure what. 

“I don’t really know. Not for sure. It’s all so blurred together in my mind. It feels like the same day. I think….it was at night, clean up before bedtime. I don’t know, though.” I shrug, trying to act like its fine, but inside me a voice is screaming that I can’t admit to not knowing something, because she will decide I’m a liar, she won’t believe me.

“It doesn’t matter either way,” she tells me. “It was an awful thing, and then to feel like your mom was mad at you, blaming you, for it. That was horrible, painful.”

I don’t say anything. I thought then, that she was going to ask me if I wanted her to read whatever I had typed. She didn’t. She started to talk about all the places trauma is stored, in different parts of the brain, the body. “I think our job, right now, is to continue working on resource building, so that when we do go back to processing some of this trauma stuff, it will be helpful and less traumatizing.” She talks about how coloring and being present by focusing on that is using one sense, but we have more stepping stones to get to before we are ready for sensorimotor therapy. She says that it won’t be for a long time, and she knows I’m not ready now, but when I’m ready, we will work through this stuff. 

As she is talking, in my mind, I run away and hide. I go far away. My feelings are hurt. She doesn’t want me to talk. All her reassurances, all the times she has said I can still talk, she just shut me down, and told me no talking about trauma stuff. I handed her this notebook, full of my fears and scariest thoughts and questions, I put myself in this horrible vulnerable place because I wanted her to know how terrifying it is to be in my head these days, and she barely responded. Where is Bea? Because this person, this does not feel like Bea. 

Her voice drifts through the fog, words don’t penetrate, but the sound of it does. I don’t move, don’t respond at all. I think she keeps talking, attempting to draw me out. I don’t care. I just do not care anymore. Why am I bothering with all of this? She doesn’t want to listen to me. She just wants me to follow directions and get to a place where I have enough resources to do sensorimotor therapy. Then, I’ll be allowed to talk. A part of me wants to scream at her to just tell me what I have to do, what things do I need to accomplish, so that I can do this therapy I don’t even want to do, just so I can be allowed to talk?!?!!? But I sit, still and quiet. Inside, I’m sobbing with hurt, and feeling left. But outside? I’m fine. 

“I’m going to get the list of the different far aways, okay? I feel like that might help us.” I hear her words this time, far away and fuzzy, blurred around the edges sounding. 

She reads through it, reading the 3 choices she thinks are most likely. She numbers them, and I think she has to repeat it more than once, before I hear and respond by holding up a finger. 

The whole time, she is working to draw me out, and I am just thinking, I want to go home. I even consider asking her if I can go home now, but there is this irrational fear she will tell me no. Or, even worse (and likely) she will want to discuss why I want to go home. So, I keep quiet. I tell myself to sit up, to color in my damn picture, and to just get through the last bit of this session, and then I can go home and hide. 

Eventually, I do sit up, and I choose a few colors, and start to color. I feel very mechanical, and my voice sounds wooden to me when I answer Bea’s questions. She asks me about normal things, nothing deep, or upsetting, not even asking me to focus on the present. I don’t offer up any form of conversation. There’s a part of me that feels as though I am behaving like a brat, but I don’t really care. 

“Do you know what helped you to be able to come out of being so far away and sit up? What helped or allowed you to start to come back?” Bea asks me, finally going for something deeper. 

I refuse to look up, or look anywhere but the markers and my picture. I shake my head. “I don’t know,” I say. But in truth, I do. I’m not much more present than I was before I sat up. I’m just doing what she expects me to do, what I’m supposed to do, so that I can leave. 

“I wondered if it was maybe about the power dynamics. Me, asking you to sit up, to do something, to try this thing that is difficult and hard for you…..I just wondered if maybe, it was partly that? Because you were able to sit up when I began to be upset about my picture and the colors I had chosen. That leveled things a bit, maybe, put me in a more vulnerable place, too. Power dynamics can be very subtle. It’s something I’m always trying to be aware of, because I don’t want to be the high and mighty therapist, that doesn’t work well for trauma clients, for anyone, to feel a power differential like that. It’s not safe feeling. And, I’m aware of it on a personal level, too, because whenever I’m in the position of lesser power, I tend to push back, I don’t like not feeling on equal footing.” She says. (A lot of what she said is lost now, but that was the general idea, anyway.) 

I hadn’t even noticed. And if I stop and think about it, I tend to be okay if the other in a relationship holds more power. Maybe it’s because I’ve always felt that way– younger, weaker, not as smart, pretty, talented, good, whatever, as other people, and maybe it’s because I often tend to feel like a child playing at being a grown up in a room full of real grown ups; so, of course they know better than me, right? I don’t know. “I wasn’t thinking that…it wasn’t….what you said makes sense. It just…it’s not something I thought about or even noticed.” 

“Okay.” Her tone is easy, neutral, calm. “I just wondered.” 

After a moment, I realize that I did think, when she was upset about the colors she had used and voicing that aloud, that she was working really hard to get me to engage with her, and I was being a brat, so I just needed to get up, and do what I was supposed to be doing. 

We color in silence, and Bea looks at the clock after a few minutes. “Whoops, it’s after 11,” she tells me. 

“I should go,” I quickly say, and begin gathering my things. 

“It’s okay. I don’t have anyone right after you, we have time to finish up. We can take a few minutes.” Her tone is gentle, and kind, her voice is soft. It’s like she’s trying not to spook me. 

“It’s okay, I’m fine,” I insist. I finish throwing my stuff in my bag, putting my markers away. 

“Why don’t we each choose a picture for next time before you leave?” She suggests. 

So, I pick up a coloring book, and flip through it. I select a picture at random. I don’t even remember now what I chose. 

I hand her my the picture for next time, along with the one I’d finished today. We say goodbyes and I feel as though I run out of her office and down the steps, out into the street. 

She does not want me to talk. She doesn’t want to hear my story anymore. I’m too broken, too much, too needy, to screwed up and crazy and she doesn’t care about anything except sensorimotor therapy and I don’t even want to do it. I hate it. It’s the worst thing in the world, and it is ruining my life. 

The one who disappears everything 

Thursday…….I was tired driving to Bea’s, and still feeling that strange indifference. I was numb, and my feelings were definitely shoved way down deep. I felt fairly indifferent to everything, as if I didn’t really care anymore. 

She greeted like normal when I arrived, and I said a happy hello. I settled myself and Hagrid in our normal place on the sofa, and looked at her. I don’t remember now what we started with, but the conversation quickly flowed into one about hubby and couples therapy. 

“I’m not against couples therapy, I think it can really help. But you are my client, and so I am feeling a little protective over the parts of you that may not be ready for couples therapy. It would be much more ideal to have hubby start in therapy to work through some of his stuff, and have each of you working towards seeing a third therapist together.” She explained to me where the hesitation I had been sensing was coming from. 

I nodded, seeing her point, but argued, “It feels like I can give him an ultimatum about couples therapy, not so much about going to his own therapy. And it seems as if he would be more likely to agree to something we were going to together than on his own.” 

“I can understand that,” she said slowly, “I think the only way we will know is to ask him. I know it doesn’t feel safe to bring him here, and I get that. This is your safe space. But maybe we need to bring him in for one session, to talk about how to proceed with this stuff.” 

As she spoke, suggesting bringing hubby here and telling him how I have been feeling in our marriage, I lifted my hands to my face and hid. 

“Yeah….” Bea said softly. “There’s those feelings returning again.” 

I sat there, my face buried in my hands, unable to look up at her. The idea of bringing him here and telling him all of this felt devastating to me. “I can’t…I mean… doesn’t feel…..okay.” 

“It’s a little bit of a reality check, isn’t it? If you could maintain that indifferent feeling, then it would be okay. You could protect yourself in couples therapy. But not all the parts of you are so indifferent. The little girl is scared, this feels too vulnerable. Other parts of you don’t feel safe with this idea, either. I think that is why this is such a hard choice to make.” 

“But it’s not, not really. I need to stop whining over it.” I said, feeling angry with myself for being afraid to bring my husband to therapy. 

“I don’t see it as whining, I don’t think you are whining at all. But a part of you clearly does.” 

I shook my head. “It’s whining because there is a clear solution to the problem, but instead of acting, I just keep talking about it over and over.” I sighed, and explained how growing up, and even now in my marriage, once something has been discussed, it is over and done with, and if I bring it up again, it is being a drama queen, whining, nagging, talking something to death. It’s not okay. I explained that this is why I always ask permission to bring something up again and again. I have this fear that eventually she will think I am whining or being a drama queen, too. 

“And I just expect that things will come up again and again. And when all the parts of you have different ideas on things, well, that makes it hard to figure out a plan. Talking something through, more than once, is well, I just see it as part of your process.” She said gently. 

I looked at the clock, something I rarely do, and saw that there was still over a half hour left. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I whispered. 

“Okay,” Bea said simply. She always just accepts my desire to stop discussions when I get too uncomfortable.  

We sat quietly for a few moments. I pulled out my iPad, opened the writing I had done much earlier that morning, and handed it to her. “I wrote this….I don’t know. I was going to email it but it got really long. So….I just…well, here….” 

“I was writing before thanksgiving, and then didn’t write again until this morning. But I combined them. Because…..I had wanted to give you the stuff from last week,” I explained as Bea took the iPad from me and started reading. 


I’ve been thinking about two things. Well, I’ve been thinking about a million more than that, really, because my mind never shuts off, but just two– or three or four at the most– things I wanted to write about: imposter syndrome and where this belief or message about my parenting abilities came from. 

First, I’m not sure that this feeling of being a bad mom, or of having everyone fooled into thinking I am a good mom came from anywhere specific. I can not think of a belief or message, besides the things I tell myself, that match it. I think it’s bigger, or deeper, or more than that. 

I think it’s not even imposter syndrome, not exactly. Because it’s….sort of this all encompassing thing. And it’s hard to even think about, or pick apart, because….well, I don’t know why, it just is. Maybe it’s sort of this childhood message of having to be perfect to be good enough, but never feeling like I was actually perfect and instead was just playing this part of this perfect girl who my parents loved but if they knew the truth they would hate me forever. I don’t know. I think that’s the beginning, maybe? 

But it’s more than that. (These are all general you’s or someone’s). If someone says I’m a good mom, either I have fooled them, or they don’t really mean it and are just being nice. If I act like I am okay and in control of my life, I’m a liar because I feel so far out of control that what people see is an illusion. If I tell you I’m not okay and falling apart, I’m a liar and a drama queen and I need to shut up right now. If I say I am a good cook, then I am bragging and making things up, because all I do is follow or tweak a recipe and it’s not a hard thing. If I am told I am good at something, then people just don’t know me, or they are being nice. If I make a mistake and am upset, I’m stupid and over reacting and ruining everything. If you tell me I am resourceful and have good ideas, then you are being nice because you can not believe how dumb I am, or I somehow got lucky with the idea I had. It doesn’t matter which direction a situation goes in, I can find a way to make it about being not good enough, fooling people, being dramatic, being lucky, I don’t know. It’s not even like I try to think like this. I just do. It just happens, instantly, quickly. You say good job, and I instantly think of everything I did wrong, all the should haves, and how I could have done better, and, at the same time, think that you are just being nice. 

“These are some really strong negative messages you’ve given yourself,” Bea commented. I think she said more, but unfortunately I don’t remember now. I think she said something about how a part of me needs to see another part of me as “bad.” I don’t know.

It’s like walking on eggshells everyday, certain I will be found out. I don’t know. Maybe it comes from being that perfect part of me for so long, because she never felt real, more flat and not really there. But that is who most of the world saw, even though I knew she wasn’t really me. 

“This walking on eggshells feeling….it has to be from childhood. Because you had such a big secret, so no matter what people thought or said or saw, there was always this secret, this hidden thing that you felt so bad about. It’s very much a split identity. The good you and the bad you with all the secrets. So, yeah, this feeling is so ingrained, it’s still present.” 

“But….even if I didn’t realize it? I mean…it would have been a subconscious thing, maybe?” I asked. Because I don’t remember feeling split or thinking about hiding this big secret. It was, unbelievably, mostly hidden from me.

“Yes, it would have been a subconscious thing. You wouldn’t have been aware of it. But being split like that, I imagine it would has felt like walking on eggshells.” She said softly, going back to reading.

I don’t know. I was also thinking that I should have just given you my notebook today. But it wasn’t pretty. I don’t usually, okay, I don’t ever write all of that stuff out, and never to share. But I did write it. And it was pretty choppy and sort of bouncing between the little girl’s voice and mine, and there was way more detail about a Kenny thing but also a present day life thing that caused the flashbacks and I just couldn’t have anyone know all of that. 

I sort of think this weekend is something to keep talking about. But maybe not. Maybe it’s over and done and I over reacted and it’s all nothing at all. I don’t know. But I don’t want to keep being “hijacked” and feeling like a crazy person. 

And I can’t leave hubby, move out. It’s crossed my mind. But I think it’s more of a running away idea, not having to deal with any of the mess or feel hurt or vulnerable or be open and honest and deal with what happens when I do that. That’s what I do, you know. I run away. But I don’t want to do that anymore. At the same time, I can not keep going through this being hurt by hubby because I keep trying and he doesn’t get it. So I need to just be in a little bit of a bubble when it comes to my marriage, and pretend it’s okay. But I want to be able to cry and be upset and sad or angry or whatever in therapy without the worry that you are wanting me to talk to him. We both know that might be the best thing to do, but I can’t do it. Not anymore, not right now. I just need a break from that.     

 “I don’t see you as a person who runs away. I’m not sure…well, I think you are a person who faces things. Look at all you have stayed and faced here, this year.” Bea said. And she is right, I have been facing things rather than running, but that is new for me. There have been numerous times I thought about running away from Bea, and therapy, but instead I stayed and worked through it. I’m learning to work through things. 

I shook my head and let out an exasperated sigh. I did not want to explain this. “I do….I um…well…..when things are hard…it’s why….I lose friends…..only Kay has stayed and that’s because she just…..think of all the times I leave her….and she….I don’t know. She just….and I run. I don’t know.” I shrug. “I could give examples, explain, but….I don’t…I don’t want to share them….ugh.” I stumbled over my words, wanting her to understand but not wanting to explain. 

“Kay knows it’s not about her. That’s why she stays,” Bea commented before going back to reading. I breathed a sigh of relief that she wasn’t going to ask me to explain more. 


Bad dreams tonight. I don’t want to remember them. I woke up confused and afraid, I felt like a little kid for a few minutes. I do hate that feeling. I barely remember the dream. Pieces, choppy like my memories. Ugh. I feel sad again, like I did at my parents. 

It’s like I felt safe and calm, peaceful and real while I was there. Even when I was upset, that was okay. I felt like they wanted me; just me. I didn’t have to do or be anything to be wanted, to feel loved. I don’t think I really ever felt like that with them before. And I should have, as a child, as a teen. I should have. I think, when I would go to bed while I was there, it was like I lost that feeling, and felt like I usually do there. I could remember feeling like that with my Grandpa, and Grandma and then when I would get home, it would be gone. Lost. Disappeared. Like I couldn’t hold onto it, remember it, if they weren’t right there. And so I was sad, it was like I missed something or someone, because I couldn’t hold onto that feeling, or trust that it would be there the next day. I don’t know. And I was sad that I never felt like that before with my parents, in my own home. Because I should have. And I wondered why now, why not then? What did I do wrong to not have this, then? And I worried; do I make Kat feel safe like that, or am I just like my parents when I was growing up? 

And then I would try to sleep and toss and turn. Maybe in that hyper aware state, where every noise had me jumping. But I’d fall asleep eventually, and then have this bad dream, the one that woke me tonight. On Friday night, when I woke up from a bad dream, I got up for some water, and my dad was up. He asked if I was okay, did I need anything? I shook my head, went back to bed. I remember sometimes, laying in my bed, too scared to get up, to even call for anyone, but just wishing so hard that someone would come and ask if I was okay, if I needed anything. But no one ever did. Sad. It made me sad. If only. But I don’t want to live in the “if only.” Ugh. So, sad. I felt sad. And then I would feel empty, hollow. With that falling down an elevator, empty feeling in my stomach. And I’d feel too anxious about the sad, and would put it all away. 

“This is what we were talking about, what we were saying about getting old needs met at your parents. And having those needs met, feeling like that, it raised your expectations for your own home. That’s a good thing.” Bea said.

I nodded my head, knowing where she was at in what I had written, but not having any words to say anything. 

You said you were trying to figure out which part of me was at therapy today. I don’t know. Not really. You were right, i don’t think it was the real me. It’s almost like the perfect me, but not. It’s a part who disappears everything. All the yucky feelings, memories, thoughts. This me is like very surface, functioning me. It’s indifferent and numb. This part just sort of exists. Underneath is some worry about the feelings and parts escaping. This part really just exists, and doesn’t care much. The part that was running the ship today is the part that keeps everything very boxed up. I think this part and the perfect one ran the ship a lot in the past. The problem is, this part maybe isn’t as strong as she once was, and I know all the yuck is still there. Even today, in therapy, I kept feeling like there was so much I wanted to say and talk about, but it’s all hidden and I can’t find it. So, I didn’t say anything, really. It’s like having a thought or feeling just at the edge of awareness. It’s that feeling when a word is on the tip of your tongue, but you keep searching for it. I don’t know. 

“Yes….I didn’t feel like it was the real you, either,” she agreed. 

Why is it always all or nothing with me? I hate that. It’s extremely frustrating. I know you think being able to put stuff away in a box is a skill, but it’s not. This is me. It’s just what I have always done. The thing is, I think you picture a box, like a Christmas package. There are sides and a bottom. The box in my head….if you open it, there is no bottom. It’s like a black hole, never ending. It goes on and on and on. And once stuff gets dumped down there, it is hard to find and get back. I don’t know how to open the box. I can barely find it. I don’t know how to let out anything, a little at a time. When I eventually have a breakdown then some of it will come up and out. I don’t know. I have no control over it. Maybe, maybe…….that is something, a reason to learn to control things. 

“This box…you can’t control it. It’s not….it’s another part. It’s not the same as the container I am talking about. This…it’s a different state of you,” she said. I think there was more, but she got that how I feel and put things away is different than her container. I had never thought of this as a part, once she said it, it made sense.

I nodded, thankful she got it. “I just….it’s not a good box. I don’t know. But yeah, it’s a part. It’s like the part that makes it all go away. So….I guess….it’s the one that disappears everything. But not….I don’t know. There aren’t feelings.” 

I peeked up and looked at her, and saw her nodding her head. “Yes. It’s a part that can put everything away and let you function. It’s a survival skill.” She went back to reading, not long after that, commenting that I had written a lot of good stuff.

I want to not care about the stuff with hubby. Well, I mostly don’t, right now. I feel very resigned to the fact that he is not going to change and that if I want support, I need to look elsewhere. I don’t know. He still sees everything as my problem, that I’m the one who needs to be fixed. And I used to agree; everything was my fault. Deep down, I felt like that, like I was the broken one and if I could fix myself then everything would be okay. Except, I am not going to go through therapy and end up being the perfect me that hubby met and married. That was not real. And I don’t believe I am the only one who is broken in this marriage. And I don’t even really want to be the perfect girl anymore. That’s not…..being fixed. That’s pretend. I want to be the me that says how I feel, and stands up for things I find important. The me that doesn’t yell, but speaks calmly, even if the words or the message is not kind. I don’t think hubby wants this wife. He wants the one who keeps trying to make things work with his mom. The one who blames herself, for not being good enough, kind enough, understanding enough, compassionate enough, forgiving enough. But I’m not that person anymore. 

And maybe I did get some of what I needed a long time ago from my parents this weekend. How did you put it? Old needs met? I don’t remember now. Did you mean the needs of feeling safe and accepted and wanted just as I am? I didn’t feel judged one time by them this weekend. It’s a strange feeling. And I find it hard to trust it, and it’s sort of very vulnerable making. I’m not sure why. But if I think too much about it, then I get very scared. My parents changing things still means flipping my world upside down. It still means my safety net is gone. And it means seeing everything I missed out on, then, as a child. I don’t know. 

I want to feel like that with my husband. I want to feel calm and real and like whatever I am is okay and wanted with him, in my own home. 

“You’re saying that here, that you want to feel like you did at you parents with him. Those needs being met did change expectations, and you are recognizing that.” Bea told me. And she was right.

It’s awful, but we are in a place right now where I feel much more here and like me when he is gone and it is just me and Kat. He was at work all day today, and Kat and I had such a nice day. We went to the store after I picked her up, and then we went to the vet and brought them cookies. Our vet is downtown, so we walked to the park with Hagrid, and we played there. I forgot about disappearing my feelings, about being anxious and worried. I just was there, playing with my daughter and running around, Hagrid following on his leash. And we came home, and played Legos and uno, and then had dinner and she watched a show while I read my book and we snuggled until bedtime. She fell asleep in my bed, and I felt so….right…like everything was okay and right, and I fell asleep not long after her. It wasn’t perfect. I got….I don’t know the word, I had to tell her she had to calm down at quiet time, that mommy needed quiet now. Like, all the talking and being present was a lot for me, and I needed to have some quiet and not talk, not be engaged with anyone. And I had to correct her at the store, because she was cutting in front of me and the cart, zig zagging around and I almost ran into her. But, it all felt like maybe normal stuff. No blowups or yelling at her like I am another 5 year old in the middle of a raging temper tantrum. Because that is what I feel like, when I do lose it and get mad. 

“I’m glad you were able to be present with Kat. That’s good. Really good for you.” Bea told me, her voice happy. 

I didn’t talk, but I nodded my head, remembering how good Monday with Kat had been. I had felt close to my daughter, and real for those few hours. 

My mom and I talked about that this weekend. It was strange to talk about that with her. But it helped me realize that I really do feel like a child throwing a raging tantrum when I get mad like that. It’s a different mad, it’s not the grown up mad I feel at hubby or his mother, or the mad I feel when a stranger makes a comment to Kat about her pacifier or about not smiling, or whatever. That is….maybe normal mad. I think it is the mad you talk about, that serves a purpose and makes people DO something. I didn’t understand that, before. But I think I am starting to. That I can be the “grown up” mad, and it can help me act, but I can speak calm and not yell. But the other mad, that is not….rational, or controlled. It is this angry little girl, screaming and yelling and out of control. Mom said that she didn’t get triggered or react to me when I was little, like I do with Kat, but that she did find herself feeling and behaving like a teenager with me when I was a teen. She said it was like two teen girls fighting and snipping at each other, and my Dad would intervene to stop us both. It’s funny, because I do not remember that. But I believe her, that we fought like that. I just don’t remember. 

“I want to hear more about this angry little girl part,” Bea said. She said it gently, without judgement in her voice.

I hid my face again, unable to talk, to say anything to her. After a few minutes of silence, I finally spoke. “I want….it’s not like…….it is like I’m a child. Just mad, not controlled. I don’t know. Just mad, crazy mad……..and then, later……I don’t even feel it…..I don’t know. It just…..I….it’s mad. Scary mad.” I tried my best to explain it, that crazy mad I feel, the feeling that I can’t access unless I am in that raging temper tantrum moment, but it’s hard to explain anything when you can’t feel it or really remember it. 

“It is mad,” Bea agreed, empathetically. “It does sound like a little girl. One who has a lot of anger, and I bet she has a lot of reason to be mad.”

I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say. 

It got quiet in the therapy room again, Bea maybe thinking and me feeling pretty exposed and vulnerable, but still pretty numbed. 

“I’m wondering about the part that disappears everything.” She finally said. 

I shrugged. “It just….I don’t know.” 

“This might seem a strange question,” she said slowly, “Does this part have an age?” 

I sat for what seemed a long time. I knew the answer right away, but felt silly saying it out loud. Being so unfiltered, and letting Bea more into my head felt, and still feels, very exposing. And Bea talking about parts and split identities still feels very frightening and like I am not on solid ground. Finally, I said very quietly, “16…..17. Something like that.” I felt so embarrassed, although exactly why, I didn’t know. 

“Mm….mhmm. Is that an age where maybe you needed to not feel so much?” Bea asked me. She sounded like this was a perfectly normal conversation. 

“I….I needed to be okay. To be better……I had to get better……so I…..well,” I stumbled over all my words, unsure how to say what needed to be said. I felt so guilty, “I wanted…..I…..wanted to…..get away from……all of them.” The last part of my statement was mumbled and quiet, but Bea heard it anyway. 

“Yeah….you felt that if you got away, then everything would be okay.” 

“Well, I….I thought….I mean, I had to be okay. Put everything away. I couldn’t worry, or care. And I thought then, if I left, everything would be okay. But……then……” The entire time we had been talking, I had been fighting tears. The feelings were definitely back, and it was at that point that I couldn’t hold them back any longer and began to sob. 

“Lots of painful feelings. This was a really sad and hard time.” When Bea spoke, I felt like she was far away, not understanding, not really feeling all the hurt and pain that was falling out of the crazy box in my head. I felt like her statement was generic or something. Maybe it was because I felt like the part holding all the pain was as present as the very indifferent numb part. I don’t know. 

I didn’t respond, and just kept crying. Bea said something else– what exactly, I can’t remember, but it helped, and I continued what I had been saying before the tears interrupted. “I thought if I left, everything would be okay…..I would be okay. But then….it wasn’t okay at all. Nothing was okay.” 

“Ahhhh. Yes. You met the boyfriend, and nothing really felt okay.” Bea said. 

I nodded, and told her, “I just….everything was bad again. I….he….I don’t know.” 

“That was a really painful time. No wonder you needed a part that could turn everything off, disappear everything.” Bea said to me. She normalized it, helped make sense of everything. 

“I….it’s…I made a choice,” I finally said. 

Bea was quiet for a moment, and when I peeked up at her, I saw her shaking her head, a look on her face that just looked so open and caring and accepting. It made my insides hurt, and I didn’t understand why. “Well, I could argue that you didn’t get a real choice but you feel like you made a choice, and I want to make sure there is room for you to have your feelings.”

I was aware that I had heard her reasons before, but they never seem to stick in my head. So, I asked her, “What were……what would you say? I mean why you think it wasn’t a choice.” 

“I’d say….well, with all the sexual abuse memories, even unconscious, you were looking for a way to be the one in control this time. Repetition compulsion is so strong. It’s not a conscious choice.” Bea said a lot, and when she was talking, explaining her beliefs, I was feeling and understanding what she was saying. In that moment, I almost believed what she was saying. 

I cried a little more, and I think we might have talked a little more about feeling like things are my fault, and the need to put everything away and not feel at all. I’m not really sure, to be honest. I do remember eventually saying to her, “Can we stop talking about this?” And she said yes, that it was time to start wrapping up and grounding now, anyways. 

I don’t remember what we talked about after that, but I know I left feeling a little bit sad, a little bit numb, and a little bit lonely. I didn’t want to leave her office, where I felt supported and not all alone. But we said goodbye, and I headed out into the real world.