I can’t do that (when the filter left and so did you) again

It’s Monday morning, and I’m walking into Bea’s office as usual.

“Hey,” She says, smiling when I walk in.

“Hi,” I say softly as I sit down.

“Before we get started with anything, I wanted to make sure you were feeling okay after my second email.” Her tone is gentle, and she sounds like she really wants to make sure.

I look down at the floor. “Yeah, I was okay. I mean, it’s not like it doesn’t hurt to hear you can’t offer more right then, especially if I was needing more, but really, it’s like….if you don’t acknowledge that and try to respond, I always know something is….off….”

“You do always know, sometimes even before I can recognize it for myself!” She interjects.

“The thing is….if I feel something off, I assume it’s me, or I said something wrong, or did something, or needed too much, or am being a drama queen, or that I broke you and…..that’s worse. It’s so much worse. I’m trying to just be better about asking if I did something, but it’s easy for me to just get….I guess to spiral into this black hole of those *I broke her and she’s leaving* feelings. It’s so much better if you just tell me. And even if parts of me don’t really get it, the grown up does, the mom in me gets it. Because there are times where I just can’t keep talking to Kat, or playing toys, or whatever it is, and I tell her that we are going to have some quiet time. Sometimes I need 15 minutes, sometimes an hour. But it’s never, never about Kat being too much, or needing or wanting something that isn’t okay. I’m just tired, my brain needs a break. So that is something I understand.”

“You do get that, don’t you?!” She sounds a little surprised.

“I really do.”

“I wanted you to know that after you emailed again, with what you had been needing, and asking if you had done something, I went back and read your email and my response, and I felt a little sick. I completely ignored all the pain and hurt you were feeling. I was like, my gosh, I didn’t even acknowledge this stuff, or let her know I’m still here and that it’s okay to feel how she feels! I’m so sorry I did that. I did read all of your email the first time, while I was eating breakfast. I think I was just feeling like I couldn’t fix this for you in the 15 minutes I had to respond, and like there was nothing I could say to make it better or to help, and anything I did say was going to feel upsetting. So it just sort of got left. And I’m sorry for that. I am glad, though, that you did write back to me, and ask what was going on, and let me know you needed something more. That was so good. I know that wasn’t easy, but I was really glad you did, and that we didn’t end up back in one of our patterns of you feeling hurt and abandoned and me feeling helpless.” Bea looks at me as she is saying this, and her face says she was sorry she didn’t respond better that first time, and that she really does care.

I look away, because feeling like she cares is sometimes too much. “I really don’t expect you to fix anything. I don’t think…..” I pause, searching and thinking, making sure my next words are true. “I don’t think any of the parts expect or want you to fix things. Even the little girl.”

“Then your little girl part is way ahead of most people’s small parts.” Bea smiles at me.

I shake my head. “No….it’s more like……my mom always needed to fix me…..or ignore the problem. But….no, it’s more like fix to me– to all of me– means that someone is going to want me to bend to their expectations, or something. Even the little girl, she doesn’t want someone to fix things for her, or to fix her. She just doesn’t want to be alone. She wants to be heard. Because no one ever did that for her.”

“Ahhhh, yes. You’ve had people who fixed things for you, or who tried to fix you. Fixing was really about what they needed or wanted, and you were expected to conform. That was how things were fixed— by adults making you conform to their wishes. But no one really listened to you, or saw you, did they? You were completely alone with your feelings, with the Kenny stuff, with the mom stuff, with just normal kid stuff. It makes sense, why it is so important to you now to just not be alone. To be heard and seen.”

I nod my head. “That’s all I need. Really.”

“I would do good to remember that, wouldn’t I?” She asks. I don’t answer, because it’s partly rhetorical, and partly an apology for not remembering this before.

“I did write about this, some. If you want to read my book.” I’m quiet as I say this, and maybe a little unsure if I want her to read what I have written.

“Of course, yes!” She says. “Let’s look at your writing.”

“Can I have my blanket?” I hand her my book as I ask, but I won’t look at her now.

“Sure.” She takes my book, and setting it on her chair, she gets up and grabs my fuzzy blanket.

Once I’m hiding under the blanket, she starts to read.

The question you asked, about the memory in my pink polka dot book, the one I had you keep. You know the memory. We were working with it in the fall. I can’t even write out the memory in a coherent narrative because it’s still too painful and triggering and awful.

Knees on my arms.

Something in my mouth.

I can’t move.

I had a bruise on my arm.

I said it was from gymnastics.

That’s all. I can’t say more. But we were working with that in the fall, and we were using SP stuff and it was hard and painful and scary but also mostly okay. Until it wasn’t. And that memory was the big thing that pulled off the filter. Because I asked you if it was just a silly game then why was I so scared? And if I wanted to do this, then why was he making it so I could not move?

And more and more came up later in the day, and the next day and then the filter was gone, and so were you. There wasn’t enough of you to go around and I was just all alone. I was just left going through torture all alone. And I can’t do this again. I just can’t. I can’t do this, dig into stuff with SP, or any method really, if [well, I don’t even know how to fill this sentence in]. Maybe just that I can’t do this and be left alone again. I just can’t. It’s a scary thought that this could happen again. I don’t want it to happen again.

I don’t want you to fix me, but I can’t say things won’t come up outside of your office. If we start digging around, stuff is liable to come up. I can’t stop that, and either can you. It just happens. But how do we do this? Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold the *big overwhelming painful I need someone to hear me and see me and sit with me and not be alone* stuff.

“So first of all, I don’t want what happened in the fall to happen again, either. I won’t promise it will never happen again, but I certainly don’t want to put you through so much pain again. So, with that in mind, I would ask that you text me if you are feeling that big awful feeling, and we set up a time to have you come in or for a phone call. If we know at the end of a session that a lot is coming up, we can try to schedule another appointment before you leave— or I can at least let you know some times I have open. Because I agree, Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold something all on your own.”

“You do?” It’s my turn to be surprised. I was sure she would feel like it’s really only four days in between, and not that long at all.

“Yes, I do. That’s almost 5 full days. That is a long time to feel alone.”

“I don’t….it’s hard to…I mean, phone calls, or whatever, it just feels like asking a lot.” I whisper.

“It really isn’t. This is about what works for you. I have one person who just sends emails, and doesn’t want a response. I have someone else who texts me after every session to ask for a phone call because stuff comes up for them right after leaving. I have someone else like you who emails and needs a response. And all of those things are okay. The thing about email, though, is if there is that big awful overwhelmed feeling, sometimes what you are needing is hard to address in an email. It’s easier to address face to face or over the phone. Those times, I would feel better going that route, espessially to make sure that the fall doesn’t happen again.” She’s just sort of matter of fact and calm about this, like none of it is a big deal to her. I still don’t like it though. The thing with email is that I can explain things or say things that I might not be able to say aloud. It’s the same with writing things down in my book. There are so many things I’m afraid to say. For the moment though, I’m okay with how we are leaving things. We have a plan for how to deal with situations where I need more of an attuned response than can sometimes happen over email.

“I do remember the memory. I remember it was a particularly awful feeling one for you, and there was a lot of body stuff coming up with it. And that was also hard for you to cope with. A bit like the nightmares coming up now.” Her voice is soft, and careful. She doesn’t want to send me back to that awful place, but she wants to acknowledge it. It’s such a fine line our therapists walk at times, isn’t it?

“Yeah. Just like that. And….it was….I mean….it clashes so much with the story I tell myself. Told myself. It didn’t match, and that was hard.”

“That was hard. It was really difficult to wrap your head around it, wasn’t it?” She says.

“Yeah.” I whisper. I’m starting to feel just the slightest bit fuzzy, and I really don’t want to go back to that place.

“Now that we have talked about this a little, I can see how this can add another layer to the fears surrounding SP. Of course it would be scary for you no matter what, but this adds the layer of we were using some SP and working with body feelings and that opened up this black hole, that I just left you alone with. That just makes this much scarier, and harder to trust it will be okay, doesn’t it?” She’s so reasonable. How did I ever get this lucky, to find a therapist who just gets it?

“Yes. It makes it really hard.” My head feels sort of floaty as I answer her.

“I think anything we do with SP would be just about body feelings and nothing else. We would keep memories out of it. And if a memory did come up, and parts wanted to talk about that, we could. We would just leave the SP stuff out of it. And, if parts just have stuff they need to talk about, we can do that, too, just leaving SP stuff out of it. We are going to do this very, very slowly. Okay?”

“Okay.” I’m still not sure that all of this can be separated, but I agree with what she is saying for now. It’s a good plan, and we have a plan in place to deal with any fallout. So I’m okay. Bea is okay. We are okay.

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Restless (just thinking out loud)

Trigger warning. Possible Self harm and sexual abuse and whatever else that should be on a trigger list talked about. I’m just thinking out loud, and so I can’t say for sure where this will go, so please just read carefully.

I’m restless tonight. Not because of any one thing, really.

I had a bad night on Friday night. Really bad. The dream I had was vivid and real, and a felt experience. Waking up from it didn’t stop the feelings. It’s horrendous, really. The combination of feelings that I have begun to refer to as THIS because I have no other words for it. THIS feeling is so unfathomablely uncomfortable, I can’t even describe it. It’s painful. It’s terrifying. And I don’t want to feel it.

When I wake up from this dream, I’m on edge, and scared. And it’s like every nerve ending in my body is hyper awake and feeling everything. The problem is, I feel things that aren’t happening. Except, in my world, at that moment they are happening. Even placing myself back in the present as a grown up, a 34 year old woman, a mom, a wife, none of that stops me from feeling. It’s torture. Which is why I have been willing to think about, read about, talk about sensorimotor psychotherapy. It’s why I WANT to be able to do SP. The crux of it is, though, I’m afraid to feel.

Once THIS feeling happens, there is no ending it. Writing, drawing, distraction, talking, yoga, nothing helps. Yoga makes it worse because it’s too body based. Nothing makes it stop, except one thing. Self injury. I hate myself for this. For cutting, and burning and hurting. But it stops the THIS feeling. One cut, and I can stop it all, I can go to the numb, fuzzy place and be okay.

So Friday night, I tried everything else. I wrote, I drew, I tried to read a book, I colored a page in my Alice in Wonderland coloring book. None of it helped. None of it stopped the torture. That’s what it is for me, you know; to feel myself in my body, to feel physical sensations, it is not peaceful or calming or grounding. It is not nice. It is torture. So, I cut. I stopped the torture.

After that, I emailed Bea. I wrote about the dream, and the feelings, and all of it. Even the cutting being the only way to stop the feelings. However, that was all hidden in the email. I wrote it all at the end. Another part of me, the one that is so good at talking to avoid and distract, wrote about Ms. Perfect doing the worksheets, and about how I was so glad Bea hadn’t used the e word (experiment) and how I was feeling really good about us being able to communicate and about me being able to recognize that the teen was on the edge and anything shrinky was going to push her over that edge, and how I was really proud that we had managed to avoid a huge rupture that could have resulted.

And Bea responded to the first part of the email. That was it. It was a great response. It really was. If that was all I had written, it would have been enough, it would have been perfect. But I had written more, so much more. It hurt that she hadn’t even acknowledged all that pain. It hurt that she wasn’t hearing me, seeing me. And it felt like what happened in the Fall could happen all over again. Thankfully, I kept the teen in check and managed to keep the adult online. I emailed Bea again. I highlighted the painful things I had written, and I wrote out what I had been needing and that I knew I had sort of hidden those things at the end of the email, but I had really needed her to see them, to hear them. I said that instead of panicking and assuming I had been too much, or somehow overwhelmed her, instead of allowing the little girl to assume she had broken Bea and Bea was never coming back, I was asking why she hadn’t acknowledged those painful things I had written about. It was a hard email to send, but I sent it anyway. I wanted to lash out, to just be done with her, to never see her again, because clearly, I am too much. But instead, I kept the grown up in control, and I asked what was going on.

She emailed back, and it was better. Not perfect, but honest.

Alice,

Let me reassure those parts—I’m here, I’m not freaked out or worried by them, I don’t think these things are unfixable.  No, there’s nothing I can do to alleviate the pain and the horror of what you describe, but I am listening and hearing you even when I don’t have time to respond in more depth. There are many ways out of the super glue, but all will require patience.

To the Little Girl—I’m not going to leave, and you will always be able to have your voice.  At this point you are pretty much always on my radar, don’t worry.

Please know this is everything I can offer right now. I’m not ignoring you, or leaving you. I hear you and I hear how hard this is. I am simply at my capacity for how much I can absorb and how much I can give right now. My tank is completely empty at the moment. This isn’t because of you, or anything you have done, or said. I will rest and recharge tonight and tomorrow and my tank will be full again on Monday. In the meantime, I am still here, and you have not broken me.

Bea

Sure, it hurts a little to have her tell me she is just running on empty, and doesn’t have much left to give. But it’s so much better than me sensing something being off, and immediately assuming it is me, that I have broken her.

There is a problem, however, and it all ties into why I’m afraid to even try SP.

I think the problem lies in the fact that the last time I really needed her (in the fall), she just disappeared. She wasn’t there, because she had nothing left to give. And I was falling apart, going through hell because the filter was gone, and all my nightmares were real, Kenny really has hurt me, and I was all alone. Bea wasn’t there. And I struggled. I contemplated suicide on an almost hourly basis. I didn’t function. I cut, and binged and purged, and burned. I almost crashed my car into a tree, because I truly didn’t want to be here anymore. I don’t think I will survive something like that again. And I’m so, so afraid that if I try to do any SP things, if I try to feel anything body based or really notice internally what I am feeling, I will fall into this giant abyss. I’ll be stuck with THIS feeling, or worse things coming up between sessions, and I’ll email Bea and she will be at her capacity for supporting me. And I will be left alone to deal with it all again. And I honestly don’t think I can survive something like that again.

Trigger, trigger trigger. Warning, this is a little graphic and detailed but I just need to write it. To stop hiding from this.

Awake or asleep, it doesn’t matter. I feel his weight on top of me. I feel his fingers on me, in me. It hurts, like getting a rug burn on your knees. And I can feel it happening, feel it in my body. I feel knees on my arms, bruising and hurting and holding me in place. I feel his you know what in my mouth, I struggle to breathe, and I gag. I want to wiggle free, to push him away, to kick my feet, to turn my head and cover my mouth with my hands. But I can’t move. And some of that touching doesn’t feel bad. It feels weird, and it is sort of uncomfortable and sort of pleasant and sort of like bubbles in a glass of soda and makes me want to squirm. There’s more, so much more, but how in the world am I supposed to even begin to talk about this? I’m embarrassed. More than that. I feel so much shame for feeling these things. Body feelings are shameful. So shameful. And the fact that I feel these things, over and over and over? Maybe the most shameful of all. To make it even worse, these are old feelings from old memories, from things that happened in the past, and I feel them NOW, in this moment, in this present, in this time. And they are real. Which is crazy. Because no one is here. Kenny is not here, no one is touching me. When I first wake up, I don’t even realize that no one is here, because it is so real, and everything in me feels him here. And then I realize no one is here, but the feelings stay. They stay and make feel like a crazy person. The torture just doesn’t end.

Hopes and Fears: I don’t want to feel THIS again

It’s been a rough few days. Actually, it’s been a rough few weeks, but the last few nights have been almost unbearable. Bea wanted me to look at the hopes and fears worksheet, and I did. I wrote about a part who is afraid that writing any sort of hope down will give Bea leverage to use against me if I say I don’t want to do an SP thing during a session. I wrote that fear is too big to untwist. I wrote that if I wrote down any hopes, they would be something generic, because even the idea that maybe I could focus on something internally, or notice some physical feeling and have it be positive and safe is so far out of left field for me, I can’t really comprehend it. And then I wrote in my notebook, after a particularly real dream, followed by a frozen sort of flashback when I awoke. I wrote that the hope and the fear is the same: I don’t want to feel THIS anymore.

Now it’s Wednesday and Bea is in her chair. A stack of worksheets that she filled out sits next to her along with the notebook from that horror filled week when she disappeared and the filter was just gone, and my SP book and journal are in her lap. I had requested that we maybe look at the pink polka dotted notebook because it is all written by parts, and it’s the parts that need dealing with.

She’s talking to me about the notebook. “It was really awful for you, wasn’t it? I read back through it and it is painful to read. I know how painful it was. But it’s real. It’s raw and unfiltered. The little girl’s pictures, there’s so much feeling to them, that rawness just pours off the page.” She asks me something, but I can’t remember what. I’m not sure her question ever really penetrated through the fog that swallowed me up almost the moment I walked into her office.

I had wanted to go through the notebook, maybe read it and talk about it. Now, though, I can’t focus on what she is saying. Bea’s fuzzy blanket covers my feet, and I’m burying my head in a pillow. “Can we just not?” I ask her. “I just….let’s just hold this conversation.”

“We can, of course. Did you want to take this notebook back home with you?” Her voice is mild, neutral.

“I don’t know.” I sigh. I feel a little like I’m drowning at the moment.

“Okay. We can come back to that later, or another day,” she says softly, and then it’s quiet for a minute.

“I tried to answer your question in my SP book,” I tell her.

“Do you want me to look at that now?”

“My journal, first, I think.” I whisper.

“Okay.” She opens my journal and finds the new writing.

I’ve managed to sit up and stop hiding my face in the pillow, but now I take the blanket and cover up with it. I don’t hide under it, but I am ready to hide at any moment.

“Mmm hmmm, yes. This. Exactly. You are feeling these things no matter how hard you try to avoid them.”

“I can avoid them. As long as I stay awake, don’t lay down. Oh, and don’t be in the dark. Then it’s fine. I’m fine.” As soon as I say it, I laugh a little. It sounds ridiculous.

“You can’t avoid things. You need to sleep. You deserve to sleep and not be afraid.” She’s firm in this moment, because she hates when I don’t sleep.

“I know. And I know avoiding the feelings here, it’s not doing any good. They show up when I lay down, when I sleep.” I say, quietly.

“When you wake up, and it’s all too real and stil feels real, are you here and frozen? Or far away?” She asks carefully. I pull the blanket over my head as she asks this question.

From my safe hiding spot, I answer. “I don’t know. Not far away. Frozen, but not here. Or….I feel like I’m here, but it’s not really present day. I mean….it feels like it’s then, but I’m present and frozen back then. Except it’s now, but it isn’t really. If I could go farther away, I would feel better. The feelings wouldn’t be so real.”

“Okay. So it feels like you are present and frozen, and what’s happening feels real, as if it is happening right now. So you feel present moment, even though we know it’s in the past.” Somehow it seems that she gets it, despite my convaluted explanation.

“But I don’t always know it’s from the past.” I whisper the words, embarrassed.

“Of course not. That’s part of why it feels so real.” Her voice is so matter of fact, that I believe her. “So, what if we were talking about this, and I asked you to pay attention to a feeling that doesn’t feel as bad? It could be your toes, and so we would focus on your toes. We would take the focus off the bad feelings, to help regulate you.”

I shake my head. “But the little girl….that feels like you saying no talking about this.” It’s so hard to find a way through this. Little Alice is so sensitive to feeling not seen, to being shut down, and Bea directing attention away from her memories…..well, it’s the same as if Bea got up, walked away and refused to see me ever again. I don’t know how to help Little Alice understand that Bea isn’t leaving, that she wants to help.

“Right. She really doesn’t like being directed away from a memory. Can we help her understand it’s not forever? Can I tell her right now that if I asked you to notice something else, and focus on that in order to help calm down and not feel so scared that we could go back to the memory again? That she could be the one to focus on something else, that she doesn’t have leave, or feel ignored? That I want her to work with us on this every step of the way? And learning to focus on something that doesn’t feel so bad could help in the middle of the night, help to stop the bad scary feelings?”

I shake my head. “No.” The fear that she just wants to make me stop talking is so huge. The little girl really believes that Bea doesn’t want to listen.

“Can I ask the Little girl something?”

“I guess so,” I say tentatively.

“Whose body is it, that is feeling those things? Is it yours (the little girl’s)?” Bea’s voice is gentle.

I don’t answer for a long time. Finally, I sigh and say, “The grown up thinks yes, it is.”

“Okay….” Bea says, waiting for me to say more.

“But…well….the little girl…she’s….” I stumble, finding it hard to say the words. “Not my body. Not me. That was not happening to me. No, no.”

“Yeah,”Bea soothes. “You don’t want that to be you. If it is, you have to feel it, and that is scary.”

“Yeah. Scary.” I agree.

“What if we could find a way to direct attention away from those feelings? That’s why you, or the grown up, or another part could help to focus on something else. So in the night, you don’t have to be so scared. And so that here, we can talk about memories and feelings without it getting too scary.”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay. That’s okay. You can think about it.” She tells the little girl, and then she talks about some normal simple stuff for a few minutes, enough so that the grown up is back on board.

“I just really don’t want to feel that anymore. I’m so scared that I will if we try to focus on….Any of that SP stuff. I think it is the way to help this……. but….I’m afraid.” I cover my face with my hands, even though I’m hiding under the blanket. I feel so exposed and vulnerable right now.

“I know. It’s scary, and uncomfortable. Can I challenge that idea a little bit? Can we remind parts that we have done some SP work in the past, and you were able to find some resources and it did help? Can you remember those two times?” She’s gentle as she says this, but I feel a little bit thrown. The teen feels like Bea is using those two helpful times against me, to tell me why I should be willing to try more, or do better at SP.

“Yes. Sort of. I mean, I know we did it, and that it helped, but the actual sessions….I don’t have the details. I think both times everything was all too overwhelming.”

“I do think it was times when you were a bit desperate and falling of the edge of the cliff. But the SP resourcing did help to pull you back from the edge, at least enough to get through those bad times.” She says.

When I don’t say anything for a long while, Bea offers to share her hopes and fears worksheet with me. I say okay, and she reads me her fears. It’s easy for me to jump into a helping role, and so I easily come back to being more present by listening to her. I validate her fears, but then I offer a different viewpoint, something to think about. I won’t share her list here, because it’s not mine to share, but one of her hopes sparked a conversation and that I will share.

“I guess my hopes are more things I like about SP, and that I hope to do more of,” she tells me as she starts to read her list. She reads two or three things off it, and then reads, “I like the way I feel when I take a few moments and just really connect to where my body is in space, and what sensations I’m noticing. It makes me feel calm and centered, peaceful. I hope to do more mindfulness exercises because I know how helpful it can be and I like how I feel afterward.”

She says that, and I’m just sort of….flabbergasted. Calm? Peaceful? I don’t understand. This literally makes no sense to me. I can’t really comprehend it. It takes a moment for me to even find words. “That just….it makes no sense to me. I don’t understand. This isn’t….that’s not my experience, and I don’t…peaceful? I don’t understand that. I understand feeling calmer by focusing on what I hear, or what I see. On outside things.” Maybe a tiny part of me feels betrayed, Bea is never going to understand exactly how scary and hard this is, if she finds focusing internally peaceful and calming.

“Well, so what I was thinking about when I was writing out my hopes, it wasn’t about feeling or noticing things attached to memories. It was more about, I guess like doing a check in with my body, just on what it happening in this moment.”

I stare blankly at her, but she can’t see that because I’m still hiding under my blanket. She must somehow sense I’m still confused, because she suggests, “I could go through a mindfulness exercise that I like, say it out loud while I do it, so you can hear what I mean. You wouldn’t do anything, just listen to see if it helps explain what feels peaceful to me.”

“Okaaay. I guess so.” I’m heisitant to ageee, but it’s not anything I have to do, so it’s probably okay.

Bea takes a deep breath. “I always start with a deep breath or two. Then, I tell myself that I know there is a lot to do, or that I know things were busy today, or whatever. I focus on where my feet are. Maybe they are on the floor, or resting on a chair. Maybe I can feel my socks, shoes. I focus on if my toes need to wiggle, or feet need to move. I notice where else in my body I can feel the chair. Maybe against my back. I notice what the chair feels like against my back. I focus on if I can let myself relax against the chair because it will support my back…….”

She’s talking and I’m going far, far away. I can’t do this. Just the thought of this is too much….it’s too much, and I’m gone away, to the place where I feel like my head is just a balloon on a string, floating away somewhere else. Everything is numb and wrapped in thick cotton, so no feelings will ever get through. It’s peaceful here, in this land of nothingness.

Bea’s voice isn’t really gettting through. She asking me if I have seen any of the mindfulness apps.

“No,” I say, even though I have. Of course I have, they are everywhere. I even have one on Kat’s iPad because she likes to use it before bed. My voice is hollow because there is nothing there. I’m empty. Numb. Not here.

“They might be helpful. Usually there is a pretty picture, or a circle or something you focus on, so it’s more of that external mindfulness that feels safe to you.”

I don’t respond. Not because I don’t want to, I want to tell her that those apps focus on breathing and I don’t like the breathing thing.

“Alice, are you here? Are you far away?” She asks me, realizing I’m gone.

I can’t find my words. Finally I manage to say, “Frozen. Far away.”

“Okay, okay, that’s good that you could tell me that. If just talk, will that help?” Her voice is calm. I think she is speaking slower than usual to give my foggy brain time to catch up.

I don’t answer her, and so she just talks. I don’t even know what she said. I was farther away than I’ve been in a long while. Eventually, I manage to be a bit more here, at least enough to be able to move. Being more here means feeling vulnerable, and even with the blanket, I wish I could build a pillow fort and hide in it.

Bea notices that I’m back, and says, “So, l’m going to use one of our bad words. Okay?”

She means she is going to say a word on the *words we don’t use list* and so I whisper, “Please don’t.” I know I can’t handle that right now.

“It’s not a scary one. The e one.” The e word is experiment. In SP, they use experiments to test things, or to observe new information. It makes the whole thing feel very lab rat like to me, and that is so triggering and painful for the teen.

“No. I can’t,” I tell her, realizing that I am on high alert to find something wrong with Bea, to get mad at her, a reason to push her away, to cause a rupture. I’m teetering on the edge of something and if she says anything shrinky, it will be all over; I will fall off this narrow ledge.

“Okay. Let me think.” She won’t just use a synonym, because she knows that’s not better, so she has to find a different way to tell me whatever it is she wants to tell me. “All right. I know that was triggering, and made you go far away. That wasn’t my intention, but I think that this tells us where we need to start. Just hearing a mindfulness exercise that focuses internally and on the body is too much. And that’s good for us both to know. And it’s okay. We have to start where you are at.”

I sigh. “I feel broken.”

“If you were one of the kids I see, I would challenge that. This is bringing up a lot of black and white thinking for you.”

“No, well, yeah, okay. But it is because…….the point…the whole thing in the book is to, I mean what they expect is that you can…..ugh!” I’m frustrated. Why did I think I could do this?

“Focus on the body and notice what is happening internally?” She asks.

“Yeah. And I can’t. I’m not good at this. I’m used to being good at things.” I say softly.

“There is no good or bad. It just is.”

“I don’t like this.” I tell her.

“Well, no. It’s uncomfortable. And new. And. It is challenging those old beliefs. That’s not easy.” She says in that reassuring way she has.

“Well, no. But I just….it shouldn’t feel this hard. Especially worksheets. I rock at worksheets. Ms. Perfect could fill out every worksheet in the book with all the right answers.” I tell her. I’m out from under the blanket, and I’m gathering my things as I say this.

“Well, there are no right answers.” She smiles at me.

I shake my head. “There are. For Ms. Perfect, there are.” There isn’t time to explain the thinking behind this, or to talk through it, because I have to go, and Bea’s next appointment is here. I leave feeling a little…..off.

Later, Ms. Perfect fills out all the worksheets in chapter 4, even the one that asks you to write a letter to the body. It takes her all of fifteen minutes to whip through them. In her world, the right answer is whatever a normal person would write. It’s all about what someone who isn’t broken, who is okay, would say. And she is very, very good at this game of being normal and okay. It’s actually a little bit scary how good she is at this.

Thinking about Sensorimotor Therapy

“I’ve watched you for years put your hand out in front of you push at the air, setting a boundary, or maybe pushing away what we are talking about.” Bea tells me.

“Memories have been more intense for you, you have felt more present and frozen during them, and you are physically feeling them ever since the filter was removed.” She validates my feeling that every memory and dream is much more intense than before.

“Would you be willing to get the SP book and we could read it together?” She asks gently.

“We have to deal with the parts. They matter. All the parts of you are equal, and every part can have a say. But we need to deal with the stuff that is coming up, and we can’t do that without all the parts on board.” Bea informs me.

“I believe the best way to deal with the physical memories and feelings that are coming up with your current flashbacks and dreams is by working with the body. But we are smart and creative people, we can find another way if that isn’t something that feels safe right now.” Bea says carefully, as if her voice, her words, are walking on eggshells.

************************************************************************************************************************

Three weeks of therapy and this is what we have been talking about. Every session, every week for almost four weeks, we have discussed SP, and parts, and dreams and memories being so very, very real. We’ve discussed the horror of *this really happened*.

The day she asked if I might think about reading the SP book with her, I ordered it from amazon. It took me another week to open the book, and a week after that to tell her I had bought it. Bea let me know of I wanted to discuss any of it, that we could, but that we didn’t have to. She said we could do the worksheets in each chapter if I wanted to, but that we didn’t have to. She said that just because I bought the book, we didn’t have to do any SP if I didn’t want to. She said all the right things, and that helped.

So, I started to read the book. I read through chapter five. Then I bought post it notes, and read through the first five chapters again, using the blue post it notes to write my thoughts down as I read. Everything I wrote was snarky and angry and suspicious. Later, I read through it a third time and used the pink post it notes to try to write reactions from a more adult place.

The challenge is that when it’s just the grown up Alice on board, I do think SP could help. I do believe that the best way to deal with the things coming up is by working with the body. The other parts do not agree in the slightest. The little girl is terrified, and the teen is snarky and suspicious and the shame part doesn’t want to even think about the body– any body and Ms. Perfect believes SP is a waste of her time, because she is fine.

I brought the book to therapy last week, and practically threw it at Bea. “This is not going to help. I can’t do this. And the person who made this therapy just wants a bunch of guinea pigs.” I snapped as she sat calmly, holding my book.

She didn’t agree or disagree with me, just asked who was feeling that way and why.

“I wrote it down. In the book. Just read that.” My tone was all snark. The teen really wasn’t going to make this easy for Bea.

So, she opened the book, and she started to read. And you know what? We talked about the blue post it notes. It turns out, Bea agreed with some of the things that the Teen took issue with. After a while, there was enough of the grown up Alice online that we were able to talk about the pink and the blue post it notes. And that was okay. Not easy, and not comfortable, but okay. It was a bit like reviewing a book at a book club.

On Wednesday of last week, Bea asked if i has time, would I think about and maybe look at the worksheets at the end of chapter 4 (titled *The Wisdom of the Body: lost and found*. On a blue post it note, I had written, “The body has no wisdom, and if it does, it should stay lost. It’s safer that way.”). I said I might look at them. I had little to no intention of doing so, but then, curiosity got the better of me, and I did. My immediate reaction was “Nope. Not doing this. Cant do this. Nope. Nope. Nope.” So that’s what I wrote on my post it note.

Later, I looked at the worksheets again, and I wrote on another note that it was just too hard, that these sheets were asking for too much.

Monday, we talked about SP some more, and Bea read my post it notes on the worksheets. She put one of her own post it notes on one of the worksheets, asking if I could pinpoint what part or parts was reacting to that particular worksheet. She wondered if I could try to write about the parts viewson that particular worksheet.

We talked about that worksheet today, but I will write about that later on. For now, I’m going to including a photo of the worksheet, in case anyone is curious.

Therapy and the what if

Wednesday’s session was weird. Not bad, just weird. It’s always like that when Bea has been on vacation, even if we only missed one session. I have this sort of compulsive need to talk about nothing and make sure she is still Bea, that it is safe to dig into the rubble of my life. I always need to do this to a certain extent; I need to form this more superficial connection, to test the waters before I hand over my notebook and bare my soul……..

It’s Wednesday, and Bea is back from her trip, and I’m back in her office and all is right in my world. She came back. I’m okay. I was okay while she was gone. And yet, I can’t settle down. I can’t get out my new notebook, even just to show off the pretty turquoise blue and cream striped fabric covering it. I love nice, well made, beautiful notebooks, and this is a really pretty one, with smooth cream colored paper inside.

I ask about her trip, and I tell her about Kat’s school, and we chat about nothingness. “I’m sorry,” I tell her, “I keep trying….I’m not trying to not talk. I just, I don’t know.”

Bea shakes her head. “You are okay. And honestly, these parenting things, and relationships, and all of that, these things you see as wasting time? These are things lots of people go to therapy to talk about. So I don’t see this as you wasting time.”

“I know, but it just..I beleive you, and I know that stuff can be hard, but for me, that’s the stuff I can usually handle no problem. It’s the other stuff that I need to talk about because I can’t talk about it anywhere else. I don’t know. Never mind.”

“Okay, so what other stuff do you want to talk about today?”

“I have writing.” I finally pull my notebook out of my bag.

“Let’s start there then,” Bea says.

I give her my notebook, but even as she is reading through it, I’m struggling to settle down. I keep talking and fidgeting. “I’m having a hard time. It’s the end, I mean the last two things I wrote about, I’m having a hard time.”

“Do you want me to stop reading?” She places the ribbon bookmark in my journal and closes the book. “I don’t have to read it, it is up to you.”

“No, read it. It’s just hard.”

“Do you want your blanket?” She asks, and I nod yes, so she goes and gets my blanket and drapes it over me. I can hear her sit back in her chair and start reading again.

“Okay,” she says once she has finished reading, “I think we need to talk about this dream, but can we just talk about the what if for a minute?”

“I….maybe. We can try. But I don’t…I mean….it’s hard.”

“I know. The second you want to stop talking about this, you say the word and we will be done. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Mostly we talk about everything that is already in my what If post. Bea offers to call CPS for me, to not mention my name, but to report it. She would need his name and his address, but she can call for me. That just feels like too much telling. Like it’s this line I can’t go back from, once she has his name. It’s just….maybe a part of still wants to hide him. I don’t know why, but I can’t give up his full name. I just can’t. Another option is that I can call CPS and report anonymously. I just don’t know. We go around and around. Finally I tell her how my life, and my world are split. There is the perfect me, the old me, from my old life. Then there is me. Just me. From this life. And on this side of the state, I’m just me. But on the other side of the state, I’m still her— Ms. Perfect, the girl I used to be. I need that separation.

“It’s a boundary. A very real, physical boundary, but also, a felt boundary, a boundary that is emotional. You need that boundary to feel safe.”

I nod my head, even though she can’t see me. “I don’t need, or want justice. I don’t need to see him in court, sentenced to jail. I just want to keep my old life over there, and to be here, to be me. I want to live my life, and feel my feelings, and to be real. I want to come to therapy and process my stuff and learn and grow and be okay. That’s all. That is enough justice for me; that I still managed to learn to be me, to live, and I’m okay. I might be messy, but I’m okay.”

“It sounds like you already know what you need.” Her voice has a question in it.

“Except the what if.” I whisper.

“You aren’t responsible for anyone but yourself. You are only responsible for keeping yourself safe and healthy so you can live your life.” She says gently.

“Am I a terrible person for not telling?” I’m crying now, feeling guilty and awful because of the what if.

“No. No. Not in any way.” Her voice is stern. She wants me to hear her and to really listen.

We go around like this for a while longer, until I say I can’t keep talking about this. Bea says okay, and then adds, “It’s 25 after, I don’t know what time you need to leave by….”

We’ve gone over again. When I apologize, Bea says it was her choice and that she thought this needed talking about.

“If you have time, can we chat about the dream?” She asks.

“Okay.” It’s a whisper, because this, too, is a hard topic.

“You didn’t write much, and that’s okay, but can I ask if it’s a flashback dream, or a dream-dream?”

“Both. It’s weird. It’s…memories, but it all….it goes from one to the next, like it’s all the same time, the same age, but it’s not. I mean, these things happened, but not the same age.”

“Okay. Do these things, the memories, are they linked somehow?”

I shake my head. “They are awful. Just really awful. And I feel it. I just….I don’t know anything. But it’s there, every night, this dream is there.”

“Okay.” Bea takes a breath. “It’s coming up for a reason. I think we need to do some work on this. I think SP is a good place to start with dreams, process things from the ground up, take away some of its’ power. If you want to do some SP work.”

“I’m scared.” I tell her. This is becoming a pattern. She brings up SP, I feel scared, and we talk about It. I suppose the pattern has changed, because I used to dissociate and freak out, and refuse to even think about it. Now I get quiet, work to stay present, admit I am really scared, talk about it and then I warily agree to try it.

The pattern holds. We talk about what SP does and does not mean, and how Bea is not going to stop me from talking. Then I warily agree to try.

“Monday, then. We will work with this dream.” Bea says.

“Okay….” I say slowly. “I’ll try to write it down.”

“If you can, that’s great. If not, that is okay, too.” I peek out from under the blanket, and Bea moves her gaze from my direction, knowing that would be too much for me. She smiles at me before she does, though.

“Okay. I’ll try. I’m just scared,” I say again.

“I know. And that’s okay,” she assures me.

What if….?

This is more of a thinking aloud post, but I would like your thoughts. I need to talk this out, and while this was the major subject of therapy today– which I will post about later– I can’t be completely honest with Bea about it all.

My question today: what if? What if he has hurt someone else because I never told? What if he is hurting someone right now because I never told? What if he hurts someone tomorrow or next week or next month or next year, because I didn’t tell today?

But I can not tell. I don’t feel this need to punish him, to get “justice.” I just….what if he is hurting someone else?

Can I report anonymously to CPS? Would that make a difference? Bea suggested that I could call the police anonymously. Or that she could call CPS and keep my name out of it. None of that sounds like a terrible idea. It might be do-able.

Except…..and it is this except that I can not tell Bea. I just….I don’t know, but she won’t like this. So, except it’s a small town and people there will know him. If CPS is from each town or whatever, chances are they will know him and they won’t believe it. If I call the police in town, well….he is the police. He is the director of public safety. No one is going to believe me, much less investigate it. And whoever I talk to will probably tell him, and then he will know I told and no good can come of that.

So what am I supposed to do about this what if?

You just gotta trust the process

It’s Wednesday and I’m still struggling with my memories not matching things. I’m back in Bea’s office, and I have writing– a lot of writing– to share with her. I’d written about the shame part, and how I wasn’t sure if the shame part and the instigator part were the same part or different parts. I’d also written that I (not the adult, but some part) would call the instigator the slutty part. Of course, I could never say that aloud, but there it was, in my journal.

Bea reads this, and stops reading to comment. “We can call this instigator part whatever she wants to be called or whatever you want to call her. If the slutty part is her name, then that’s her name. Another name for this part might be the seducer. I don’t remember exactly where I read, but in psychoanalytic theory, the seducer is a common part in sexual abuse cases.”

I don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure if Bea is going to turn shrinky or not, and so I’m sort of just waiting to see where this goes. Bea goes back to reading when it’s clear I’m not going to speak. She pauses periodically and comments on something I’d written, and I don’t say anything. Most of my session went like this. I don’t know know why, when I have so much in my head, I can’t seem to speak.

Two years ago, Bea would have talked to me, using the words in my journal as if I were responding to her. Now though, she won’t let me get away with silence. “What’s going on in that head of yours? Hmmm? You’ve been so quiet today.” Her voice has this playful quality to it, but I know she is asking for real; asking because she cares.

I shrug and look down at my hands. I’ve been picking at my fingers again. “I don’t know. I just….this. It’s hard. It doesn’t match. Not like, like the little girl, she didn’t match, but it was….there was no question she was part of me, even when I didn’t like her. This….this part is different.”

“Because the feelings and thoughts are so outside of who you are, of things you value?”

“No….not like that…not exactly.” I couldn’t figure out how to explain it then, and I’m not even sure now, but this is what I do know. Bea is right in a way– the idea of a part of me being sexual and enjoying it makes me sick. I see it as bad. (I realize that sex is healthy normal part of life and isn’t bad, and I am not calling anyone who enjoys sex or who is sexual bad. It’s just this belief I’ve taken on about myself.) However, it’s not exactly this “shadow side” of myself that I can’t acknowledge. I think the difference between the little girl and this part is that the little girl’s experiences aligned with my own, and I didn’t know all of her memories at one time. Mostly, her memories lined up with the story I had always told myself about it all just being a fun game. And when fear or shame showed up in these memories, it was after I had been working through things with Bea for a while. By then, I could at least feel those things in the moment, when the little girl was running things, and she could get her feelings out, and then they would be all but gone once the adult was back in control. It took a long time — almost 4 years — for all the awfulness of the little girl’s memories to come to light. Now this shame part and this instigator part, all their feelings, all their memories, everything about them and their perspectives are all right here. It’s a lot. I think if I had been hit with the little girl’s experiences, filter free, all at once, it would have felt as if she didn’t match in a very big way. Just like these parts now feel.

Bea tries to follow this thread, but it doesn’t go very far. Or maybe I can’t let her take it very far. Either way, this wasn’t a conversation I was willing to keep having.

All session, it felt like we were each wanting to talk about these things, wanting to work on it, but some part of me just wasn’t going to let Bea in. I don’t know. We kept missing each other. I think it would have continued on like that until the very end, except Bea took another stab in the dark, and asked, “What does the little girl think about the instigator part?”

I knew, instantly I knew what the little girl thought. It took me a minute to answer Bea, though, because I felt a little silly. “She’s mad. She just.. she’s mad.”

“Mad at the instigator? Can she say more about that?” Bea is curious. There is no judgment in her voice, she’s just glad to have found a way in.

“She’s ruining everything! I just want her to go away! To shut up and go away!”

“The instigator is ruining everything?” Bea asks. I nod, and so she continues. “What is she ruining?”

“Everything.” I’m exasperated. Didn’t I just say that? Didn’t I just tell Bea that the instigator is ruining everything?

“Can you tell me more about everything? I know she is ruining everything, but what does everything mean?” Beas voice is soft now, she is not talking to grown up Alice, she is talking to little Alice, and she is very aware of that.

“This. You. She’s going to ruin this.” I whisper this, but it is a whisper that contains all the emotions of a scream; anger, fear, vulnerability.

“Ahhhh, Okay. I see. You are afraid she is going to ruin the relationship.” Bea sounds as if it all makes sense to her now.

“Maybe.” The single word is said in a teeny tiny voice, but it tries to sound as if this doesn’t matter at all.

“I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not going to stop caring about you or stop believing your story just because we let this other part be heard.” Bea reassures the little girl again. How does she never tire of reassuring me that she isn’t leaving? It’s pretty incredible.

“Okay.”

“Would it be okay with the little girl if we checked in with the instigator? I’m curious if she has something to say about the little girl being mad at her?” Bea is careful to keep her voice neutral as she asks this.

“I guess that’s okay.” I agree, but only because I’m pretty sure that if I’d said no, Bea would have been supportive of that.

“Well then…..I will say to the instigator part, did she hear the little girl speaking? Does she have anything she would like to say about the little girl being mad at her? Or just anything she would like to say?”

As Bea was speaking, I’d been feeling ridiculous, but as she finishes her question, I just know the answer. It’s strange, yes, but I knew the answer. “I feel a little silly….. but, well, the instigator is mad at the little girl.”

“She is? Why is she mad?” Bea asks. She sounds a little surprised, but it’s sort of like surprised that the instigator was willing to talk.

“Because….well, I guess it’s sort of like that kid thing of if you are mad at me, then I’m gonna be mad back at you. You know?”

“Hmmm, yeah. I do know. So she’s only mad because the little girl is mad at her?” Bea is trying to get more information.

“I think so.” I shrug. I’m not sure.

“What does the little girl think about that?” I have my face buried in my knees, but I can see Bea’s feet. She uncrosses her legs and puts both feet flat on the floor.

My first answer is that I don’t know. But I sit silently, thinking of the question and directing it to the little girl. “I don’t care. She ruined everything before. She wanted…..she did things that started….he hurt me and she wanted him to do it! I hate her!” My voice breaks as I’m speaking and the tears come. I hate the instigator. She just went along with everything. She started things. He hurt me, and she helped him do it. I hate this part.

“Yeah. Of course, of course you do. He did hurt you, and you couldn’t stop it. You did everything you could to escape it–that the dissociation, right? How can you begin to understand how she could instigate things with him, after all you went through?” She is so full of empathy and understanding, I can actually feel it. It’s like being wrapped up in a safe, warm hug. Bea lets that sit for a moment before asking, “What about the instigator? Does she have anything to she would like to say?”

It doesn’t take long for me to *hear* the instigator’s voice in my head. “She is upset. She feels like, well, if the little girl hadn’t been so dumb, so stupid to trust him, to go along with it all, to believe it was just a game, then, well, she wouldn’t have had to do the things she did.”

“Yeah. There were real reasons that the instigator did what she did. She was trying to protect herself, protect all the parts.”

That little bit of empathy for the instigator is all it takes for shame to show up. I think I’m going to be sick. I’m far away, in a flash, before I can even stop to think about grounding myself. I want to disappear. I think how that I dream of Genie trick, where you wiggle your nose and disappear, well that would be a great trick to have right about now.

“What just happened? Where did you go?” Bea asks. She’s gotten really good at knowing when I’ve gone far away.

“Not here.” The answer sounds sassy, but it’s really just all the words I can get out right now.

“Here didn’t feel very safe all of a sudden. What happened?” Bea says softly.

“I’m disgusting.” I gag on the words. Shame is so strong right now.

“I don’t think so. What made you feel that right now?”

“I…..it’s….. because of the things I did.”

“And maybe my acknowledgment of those things that the instigator did?” Bea adds this in gently, but she is fully aware that being *seen* can be a huge trigger for me.

“No…maybe. I don’t know. It’s more…it is not…..9 year old girls are not supposed to know about, much less do those things, and want them! No, ewww……just ick.” I’m crying as I speak, and trying to curl into the smallest ball I can. I need to hide. I don’t want to be seen anymore.

“Well, no, 9 year old girls shouldn’t know about those things. They don’t choose to know about them.” Bea’s voice is soft. I like how she always uses the same words I use to describe things, unless she is trying to help me use those words that I find impossible to say.

“See? Normal 9 year old girls don’t do those things! I’m sick. I’m sick and twisted and disgusting.” I sob.

“Normal,” Bea says thoughtfully. “You were normal. It is absolutely normal for a girl who was victimized to look for connection in that way. Yes, you were completely normal. You aren’t disgusting, or sick or twisted. He was sick and twisted, to sexually touch a little girl, to turn that act of betrayal into a game, to make it because he loved you and you were special. He is disgusting, not you. You behaved in a way that was normal for your history.”

I don’t say anything. I can’t wrap my head around that.

“Alice? Are you here enough to have heard me?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I heard you.” My voice sounds thick, like I’ve been drugged. I’m just that far away.

“What does shame think about that?”

I don’t answer. Shame thinks Bea is wrong, that I’ve really pulled one over on her, or that maybe she just doesn’t want to see the truth of the awful things I did. I shake my head. “I don’t wanna talk anymore right now, k?” I mumble to Bea.

“Okay. We don’t have to talk right now.” She goes on to talk about everyday type stuff. She tells me about her dogs, and her trip she is going on over the weekend, and just random conversational stuff.

When I am more present, I look up at her. “I feel silly. And crazy. All this….mismatch memories and feelings and parts being mad at each other? I feel crazy.”

“You aren’t crazy. This is just the process. It’s working through a lot of really deeply buried feelings and beliefs. It gets better, and becomes less crazy making over time. You know that from past times you have felt like this.”

“And in the meantime, I just get to feel crazy and silly?” Even though I am serious that I feel silly and crazy, with the adult back in charge, I feel okay, and my question comes out good-naturedly.

She smiles at me. “That’s the process.”

I groan, interrupting her. “And we just have to trust the process, right?” I punctuate the question with a giggle.

Bea laughs with me. “Yup. You just gotta trust the process.”