Transitions and internal shifts

Things are shifting right now. I’m in a transition and it’s incredibly painful. The last few weeks, Bea and I have been focusing on the details of memory, and so many questions have been brought up. If it was just a game, why do I remember this awful feeling of something bad was going to happen? Why can I feel those evil butterflies flapping around in my belly when I remember? Why do I want nothing more than to curl up in a ball, hide, disappear, to become invisible? Why do I remember pain and wanting to move away, to push him away? If it was nothing more than a fun, innocent, game, a special secret, then why do I hold all these bad feelings around the memories of this game?

In focusing on these details, a filter has been removed. This filter saved me when I was a child, a teen, a young woman newly engaged, a new mother. It kept me safe, and now it’s gone. I can no longer look at my past as a fun game; my childhood wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows and sunshine. There was a darkness, a cloud that covered the sun, and I can see it so clearly now. The filter twisted things, it made it seem as if I had a choice, as if I were in control, as if it was my fault. But you know what? That filter is gone now, and It wasn’t my fault.

Bea has spent years of therapy telling me it wasn’t my fault, telling me she didn’t believe I had done anything to cause any of this. She would acknowledge that I believed otherwise, and then continue to insist it was not my fault. There have been other points in therapy when this filter has begun to be removed, when I’ve see the dark clouds, when I’ve begun to question things. Each time, I’ve run from it, fought to get that filter back. Whether it was a rupture with Bea, or Ms. Perfect taking over and finding a bubble, or being flooded with memories where I *clearly* was in control, I’ve run.

This time has been different. A rupture did happen; one that Bea helped create, but one that I added to. I told myself she didn’t care, that she didn’t want to deal with me or my memories, that these details were going to break her and cause her to go away. In the past, I would have gone to therapy pretending all was well, and refused to discuss what happened. This time, there was enough of that wise, grounded grown up on board to actually talk through the rupture with Bea, and to find a repair. That’s not to say Bea never tried to find a repair in the past, but that’s hard to do when Ms. Perfect is running the show. In the past, the repair was never allowed to happen until the filter was firmly back in place. This time, the filter is still gone. I think it might still exist somewhere, and if I really reached for it, I could lock it back in place. But I don’t want to. This feels far too important, as if I’m moving forward on this path of healing.

I’m not exactly sure what this means, or where it will lead. I know the crisis I was in a few weeks ago was due to the filter being gone and my world being flipped upside down. I know that we are going to have to move slowly with this, and that it’s going to take a lot of time for my world to be flipped right side up again. I know things inside me are shifting and changing, and that on the outside that can look like a hot mess sometimes.

Last week, while reading my notebook, Bea asked what it meant for the filter to be gone. I shrugged. It means so much, I can hardly wrap my head around it. The only answer I had for her was, “I don’t know.”

“Take a minute, really think about,” she insists, because she is aware my *I don’t knows* can be a reflex, and I very well may know.

So, I thought about it, and Bea continued reading. “Okay, you talk about that here. It means different things for different parts. Can we talk about that?”

I shrug, and then nod. Then I realize Bea can’t see me because I’m hiding under the blanket. “Okay, let’s talk about that.”

“Ms. Perfect has some strong feelings about the filter being gone.” Bea steers me towards talking about the parts, as if she knows I’d sit there in silence for the entire session otherwise.

“Ms. Perfect wants to stay on the surface and ignore it all. She’s afraid things will fall apart if she doesn’t get the filter back.”

“She’s made sure you could function all those years before. But things are different now. You are stronger. You have more coping skills and you have more support. You don’t have to be pretend anymore.” Her voice is gentle, she’s not going to try to push Ms. Perfect into believing this right now.

“Yeah….but….there’s…before….I mean last week, no, two weeks ago…everything….I just…”

“You ended up feeling really alone, struggling to cope. I can’t promise that will never happen again, but I think we have a good plan in place now to prevent it as best we can. And you did find support from others, even if it wasn’t what you really were wanting.”

“Yeah. I did…people I didn’t even think….well, they were there. But it’s not the same as you because you know everything, you know how bad it really feels.” I’m sad, remembering how bad it felt that week. It was like Bea disappeared.

“I know it’s not the same. Sometimes we have to accept support even when it’s not from someone who knows the depth of our pain. And that’s okay. I know it was a bad week. And I am very sorry I added to the pain.” She’s apologizing again. I feel bad about this, but it’s nice to hear, too. It’s comforting to know she is aware she hurt me and that she feels bad about it.

“The teen is scared that you will disappear when the world flips upside down again,” I whisper.

“Of course she is. She’s been defending you and protecting everyone for so long, of course she would be worried about that. Maybe angry with me, too, for disappearing when she and little Alice needed me. She might be wondering if I’m trustworthy now.”

“I don’t know. She’s just very scared you will go away again, even if you say you won’t.”

“I know. I can’t change her mind. But I’d like to let her know I’m here, I’m not going anywhere. Even when we have ruptures like that, I will always work through them with her. Always.” Bea’s voice is dead serious. She has the mom tone I get when I want Kat to really take in what I am saying to her.

“Maybe okay.” I shrug.

“What about the little girl? I’m sure she is having some big feelings about the filter being gone.”

“She’s scared.” I answer automatically and then add, “It’s like if someone so nice can be so scary, how can I ever know if nice is really just nice? Anyone could be scary.”

“Is that the little girl or the grownup?”

“I dunno. Maybe…..both?”

“It sounds like the grown up trying to make sense of the little girl’s feelings. And that all does make sense. It’s understandable to feel that way. What is the little girl thinking?” Bea tries again to get little Alice to talk to her.

“I can’t talk to you! I don’t wanna hurt you. I don’t want you to leave!”

“There’s the little girl. You really felt like I went away because of you, didn’t you?” Her voice is softer now, and soothing to little Alice.,

“I just….I just…I never should’ve gave you my pictures!”

“Oh, but I am so glad you were brave enough to let me see them. They were really helpful in showing me how you feel and what you are dealing with. It showed me that this is a lot, and that you really needed me and it hurt that I didn’t get it. I get it now. And it’s not too much. Any details you want to tell me, anything at all, even words you don’t like, it’s okay. I can handle it. I will be okay, and I’ll help you handle it, too.” Something in Bea’s voice turns this into a promise, because she really, really means it.

“I didn’t hurt you? I didn’t make you go away?”

“Nope. Not at all.”

“Okay.” It’s a whisper, but I believe her. Little Alice believes her, too.

“Can you tell me what it means to you that the filter is gone?” Bea asks, going back to her original question.

“Scary.” It’s mumbled, but clear enough Bea hears.

“Yeah, it is scary. Is there anything else? Maybe some mad, or other feelings?” She asks gently.

“He tricked me.”

“He did trick you. That doesn’t feel very good, does it?”

“I never want to be tricked like that again!” The words are loud in this space where I am usually all whispers and silences searching for words.

“No, of course not. There’s some conviction there. He tricked you, and you never want to be tricked again!” She echoes my tone, but I think there might be pride there, too. Is that possible? Could she be proud of me?

“No. Not ever.” The words are firm, a boundary of sorts. I feel strong inside, and a little scared to be so firm in what I’m saying. I don’t feel strong on the outside, but inside, in that moment, I am a giant, I am Wonder Woman, I can do anything.

“Yes! He tricked you and you never want to be tricked again! How does that feel to say that?”

I shake my head. I don’t know. This is maybe the first time the little girl has ever set a boundary or thought about saying no. I don’t know what it feels like. It’s like taking the first step on the moon; scary, and exhilarating, and amazing, and nervous making.

Bea says something, but I’m not hearing her. I’m too far away. “Don’t go too far away, okay? Come back a little.” She says it playfully, there’s no force involved.

I’m struggling to come back, but she realizes this and changes direction. ” So, the filter being gone really feels like it changes things, doesn’t it?” Her tone is that of an adult speaking to another adult, and that helps.

“The filter being gone changes everything. Well, everything for me, even if it changes nothing for you. There is a new realization that you never had a filter, you never had this filter that made you see everything as my fault, did you?”

“No, I’ve never thought it was your fault. Not ever.” She confirms.

“For me though, it means the story of Kenny changes, but it also means the story of my mom changes, and the story of who I am changes. It brings up all kinds of questions. Looking at those details changes everything,” I say, quietly.

Bea wonders why, what made this change occur? “It feels sudden to me, in a lot of ways. It’s not been a slow realization. Maybe that’s just how it happens, I don’t know what I thought, really, how I expected it to be. I suppose, given how difficult it was for you to accept my words, and to even try on the idea of it not being your fault, I thought it would be this slow progression. What do you think it was, the thing that broke through that filter?”

I sigh, this feels like a huge question, with a big answer. “I think it’s all the seeds planted in the last few years, and how the last few weeks have been like water and food for those seeds. Seeing the details of memory, actually feeling them and focusing on the somatic things that come up, it was like giving those seeds sunlight. it made those seeds grow until I could no longer ignore them. The seeds grew strong enough to remove the filter. That filter was like a weed that would not allow the seeds to grow. It was strong. But the sunlight was stronger, and the seeds did grow.”

After I’m done talking, and Bea is very silent, I’m embarrassed. Maybe my explanation was dumb. It sounded good in my head, but it was poetic and weird to say aloud. What was I thinking? I should have just said I don’t know.

“That makes perfect sense. All those details brought questions to light you couldn’t ignore.” When she finally speaks, it feels like hours later, but really it’s probably just a minute or two. She sounds sort of amazed. “It wasn’t so quick then, it was just happening inside where I can’t go and see what changes and shifts are occurring.”

I’m quiet, because I don’t really know what to say. There’s so much in my head, but it’s all jumbled and mixed together and there are too many questions to answer today, anyways.

“I just want to take a few minutes to read the rest of your writing, is that okay?”

“Okay. You should read it. That’s a good idea.” I agree.

A moment later, and Bea is done reading. “I think you are right, when you say here that we need to just stay with the little girl, and the details, and that desire to move, and the fact the filter is gone. This is big. It’s a lot, and it’s going to take time to make sense of.”

Just like that, I’m back in the details, and thinking of wanting to push him away, and what that means that I didn’t, couldn’t push him away.

And then Bea is talking, and it’s terrible. She’s saying how we should focus on the little girl’s conviction of *he tricked me and I never want to be tricked again.* Shes telling me that we can reassure the little girl the grown up won’t let us be tricked again, and that the grown up can hang onto those convictions this week, because it’s important. She’s wondering if the teen can hear the little girl’s adamancy that she never be tricked again, if the teen can see the little girl is getting stronger, and the teen can maybe not need to defend against everyone on the outside so much?

Bea is talking, and I want to cry. She just wants me to be okay. She’s wrapping it all up in this neat bow again, and I hate it. She doesn’t care. She needs me to leave here okay, so I can be okay during the week and not bother her.

And just as I’m almost at this edge, this line I cross when I’m hurt and emotionally abandoned; this line that allows Ms. Perfect to take over, Bea realizes what she is doing. “Oh no. I’m doing it again, aren’t I? Go back, pretend I didn’t say anything. This doesn’t have to end in a nice neat bow. I wasn’t thinking about that, and I’m sorry.”

I peek out from the blanket, still covering most of my face and all of me. Bea looks crestfallen and horrified that she started down that path. “It’s okay,” I tell her.

“Well, it’s not okay, but I want you to know, all the feelings are okay. I don’t need you to be okay. I suppose I was just thinking I wanted you to leave with something that let you feel strong. Just pretend I didn’t say anything, okay?” She’s back pedaling, and trying hard to fix it in the last few minutes of my session. I’m glad she realized what she was doing, and it helps that she realized she was hurting me, and stopped and is sorry, but it still hurts.

Bea talks some more, just normal things, trying to help me regulate. It doesn’t really make a difference at this point. I’ve gone faraway, to the place that lets me act normal even when I am feeling hurt and abandoned. I fold up the blanket and pack my things, making chit chat and smiling and nodding.

Before I leave, Bea stops me and makes eye contact. “You are okay however you feel right now. I’m very sorry I started to end things like that. If you need to email, I’m here.”

“It’s okay, we can talk about it on Wednesday,” I tell her. Then we say our goodbyes, and I head to the car feeling this strange combination of numb and present.

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It’s not the end

I’m sorry to publish two posts back to back like this, but I wanted to let you all know how things ended up.

As most of you are aware, this was a really tough week. I struggled, a lot. Although I haven’t responded to comments, your comments and kind words– just the care shown and support offered– did help. It made me less alone, and reassured me in so many ways. While I don’t think there is anything super triggering in this post, maybe just be careful, just in case, because I’m not all here right now, and I would hate to trigger some one because I am not paying enough attention.

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Driving Kat to school, I am acutely aware that I must make a choice today: to go to therapy or to go home. I don’t know which to choose. It makes my head hurt when I think about it, so I stop thinking about it. I take Kat into school, and go through our morning school routine, all the little things that help her to transition to school. She lets me go easily this morning, and I walk to the car feeling off balance.

I don’t need to think, my mind and body automatically head towards Bea’s office. My heart is frozen, and the evil ugly butterflies are flying around in my stomach full speed ahead. My arms feel numb, and my chest is prickly, tingly. I can’t breathe. I don’t think I want to do this. I don’t want to see Bea. It’s going to hurt too much.

I get to her office and park the car. I’m frozen. All I can think is *she will send me away* and *she is going to leave* and *I can’t do this*. I begin to get my things together, but it is as if I am moving through thick mud; taking a long time to put my phone in my bag, to shut the car off, to grab my car keys. I stare into my bag. The large sized pink polka dotted notebook (I bought it when I was having my mini criss and my beautiful orange notebook was at home. I needed to write, so I bought a new book.) is sitting in my bag. I stare at it. Do I want it in my bag? Do I want to give it to Bea? It’s really vulnerable. The middle of the notebook is okay. But the beginning is horrible. The teen is pissed at her and struggling not to hurt herself. And the end, Little Alice drew the pictures that are stuck in her mind. They are pretty disgusting and terrible. I finally decide to carry it with me, so I can always throw the notebook at her and run away if it feels like too much.

I walk up the stairs slowly. Heart pounding. I can’t breathe. I’m so scared. Despite all that, I put one foot in front of the other and climb the steps. Bea is waiting at the door for me, and she opens it to let me in.

“I’m glad to see you,” she says. “I know it wasn’t easy to make it here today.”

I can’t look at her. I try to say hi, but no sound comes out.

I sit down fast, almost like I’m afraid if I don’t, I’m going to run out the door. I curl my legs up, and stare at the puppets in a bucket on the floor. I’m playing with my hands, the edges of my sweater, picking at my fingers. All that nervous energy has to come out somewhere, I guess, and the rest of me is frozen.

When it’s obvious I am not going to say anything, Bea begins. I’m half listening, and her voice is so far away. I don’t want to hear what she has to say. I already know she is going to take away email, or my extra session time, or possibly even fire me. I was hurt and angry and I behaved like a brat and now she is going to punish me.

“I want to apologize for what happened this week. I missed the mark, and I am sorry about that. I take full responsibility for this rupture,” she says softly.

Wait….what? She’s sorry? But it’s not all her fault. I know that. I wrote it down, somewhere. I tried and tried to understand and make sense of what had happened in between my meltdowns over flashbacks and nightmares and body sensations. Bea is still talking, but I am struggling to hear.

She is saying something about being sorry, and that she had always argued with colleagues that email wasn’t a problem because the clients she offered email to understood what she was meaning and she understood what they meant, and it just worked. “We need to make a plan,” she tells me, and that sentence breaks through the fog. I don’t respond, because now everything in my is frozen and I’m so scared she is going to say the plan is no emailing, or only ever emailing but her not responding or something equally terrible. “I have some ideas about a plan.”

I shake my head. I don’t want to talk to her about a plan.

“We can wait and talk about a plan in a little bit. I see you have a new notebook there. Did you want me to read?” She asks.

I look over at my notebook. There is so much vulnerability in there. I pick it up, and flip through it. “I don’t know.”

“Okay,” she says. And then she waits.

I flip through the notebook, again and again, numbly. I’m aware I’m doing it, I’m just not really here. I stop in the middle of the notebook, where I had rewritten my email. “I don’t think….it’s not all your fault.” I whisper. It feels like I haven’t used my voice in years.

“It’s not what?” Bea didn’t hear me, because the sound in my voice just disappeared as I was talking.

“Your fault. I wrote….I wrote that….I said….. I said polka dots but you heard stripes and you responded to stripes but I really needed polka dots. And I think…..I wasn’t so clear. I mean…..I don’t know. Never mind.” All of this said with a mumble and a whisper, while I refuse to look at her. Thank goodness Bea has become fluent in Alice speak (most of the time).

I honestly don’t remember what she said, but I know she apologized again, and she said if the teen was mad, it was okay and she could let that mad out. I shook my head at that and told her no one was mad anymore. She sighs and tells me, “I hope that all the parts know they can be mad and share that with me. I feel like the teen gets mad at me, just like my kids do, but my kids let me have it. They don’t hold back. And I can take it. I hope the teen knows that I can take it if she is mad, and that won’t make me go away. It won’t make me mad back, or make me care any less.”

I sit very still, very quiet, but I’m listening now. She continues, “I feel a bit like I do with my kids right now, when they are struggling and hurting and there is nothing I can do to take that away. I don’t like seeing you in so much pain, and I am so sorry for the pain I caused. I never want to stir up those abandonment feelings. I am not going to abandon you, not ever, there is nothing you could do that will make me go away. I do feel very badly that my response felt so bad to you. I didn’t want to make you feel like this, and I honestly felt like I had responded in the way you were needing. I had no idea I had been so off base, and your second email did surprise me. If I could take away this pain, I would.”

I’m still so scared something bad is going to happen, I’m shaking. I open the pink notebook to the middle page. “I rewrote my first email. I wasn’t…well, here.” And I hand her the notebook.

“Do you want me to start reading here?”

“Yeah. I….it’s….the beginning is where all the mad is at.” I cover my face in shame.

“So there is mad! Good! I’m glad to know its there!” I can hear a smile in Bea’s voice, and I shake my head. She is so weird. Who gets happy that mad showed up?

Bea starts to read and I grab the cloud pillow that is behind me on the back of the couch. She pauses and then asks, “Do you want your blanket?” She sounds so gentle, the way you would speak to a very emotionally exhausted child. Before I say anything, she says, “You know, I’m just going to get it and set it next to you, okay? That way it’s there if you want it.”

After she sets the blanket down, she starts reading. (I don’t have the pink notebook, the little girl wanted to leave it and all the scary pictures with Bea, so I’m going solely by memory.) I’d written that I wasn’t very coherent in my first email and so I didn’t get my message across. I wrote in the notebook: this is what I should have said.

1) I’ve realized that when I am far away, my reactions tend to be bigger than they should be, because that is the only way I can feel them, and I am having a very big problem being present right now and managing my reactions.

2) The little girl is so afraid you keep bringing up the grown up and wanting the grown up to help her. She thinks this is because you don’t want to have to listen to her or help her anymore.

3) The little girl is really triggered. She is having flashbacks and nightmares and these body feelings that make her feel disgusting and shameful and bad and they make her want to go away forever and ever.

4) The teen is so triggered by the little girls flashbacks. All of this has triggered her suicidal ideation, her need to self harm and she wants to throw up in this extreme way. It’s all so big, and her need to do something is next to impossible for the grown up to contain.

5) I need help. I’m balancing on this very small edge and I’m not sure how much longer I can keep myself from falling over it.

“Right away, I can read this and tell, you were really struggling. Things were really bad.” Bea says almost immediately.

I don’t say anything, so she goes back to reading. I’d written that I didn’t understand why she didn’t just tell me she was really busy, but she was there and listening and she knew it all hurt and she cared and that even though she couldn’t respond much, I could keep writing and pouring out the toxic gunk, it wouldn’t hurt her, and she could help contain it. The Teen had written *that is what the Bea I know and trust would have said.*

I don’t know what was going on for Bea, but when she spoke, she was very serious. “The teen is right. I didn’t make it clear that I was listening and that it was okay to keep writing. I went more the explaining route, instead of just focusing on the feelings. I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t…I mean, I just…ugh. You were talking to the grown up, explaining things, but it wasn’t the grown up that needed to be talked to.”

“No, it wasn’t the grown up that needed me to talk to her. The little girl needed soothing. I don’t think— I didn’t realize when I read your email that morning that you were screaming HELP. I read it, and heard “help”. I mistook your email….I experienced it as the little girl just needing to hear me say *I’m here and nothing I said in session means I am leaving*. I thought explaining why I brought up the grown up would help. I see now why it didn’t. There wasn’t enough grown up on board to hear that. The little girl needed to be calmed in order to calm the teen. Had I realized it was a HELP, I would have responded differently. My second email, I honestly was so surprised that you were upset by the first email, and I didn’t even see that you were trying to scream HELP again, or that you were upset because I had not responded to HELP. I went right to teacher mode, trying to explain to the parts that I didn’t have a lot of time, and that I had them in my mind. I suppose I was sort of trying to say *calm down guys, I am here even if I can’t write a long email back.*” Bea talked a lot, and she was really honest. She was human, regular Bea.

“You were really in teacher mode.” I say seriously.

“I know. And that’s not what you needed.”

Our conversation went like that for a while. Bea explaining what was happening on her end, me saying that *I know* and Bea apologizing again for missing this crisis and not realizing the little girl needed more validation and soothing. (The thing we realized is that had she known, she could have sent one email most likely taking care of the little girls needs. She apologized for not having the time to read my email throughly enough to read between the lines, and I told her that I knew I could have been more clear in what was happening. I think I get afraid to shout HELP, because I don’t want to be accused of being a drama queen.)

At one point, I’d written out what she had said in email, and what the little girl took that mean. As she read that, she stops and says,”This all had to feel terrible. These are awful things to be told, aren’t they?”

I nod. “Yeah.”

“I know this is what was heard, but let me make sure that all the parts know, this is not what I meant. I do not think you are too much. I don’t want the grown up to be the only one helping the little girl. I want to work with the grown up. My hope is….because all of this goes on inside, and the grown up can be inside, too, it would feel really good for the little girl to have the grown up be able to sit with her. But it’s okay if no one is ready for that. It’s okay. I’m here, and I’m not leaving. The grown up is supposed to be an addition to the little girl’s support. We aren’t taking anything away. I’m not being taken away from the little girl. And anything the little girl needs to share is okay. It’s not too much, it’s not going to contaminate me or break me. Okay?”

“Okay.” I whisper the word.

She goes back to reading. “On, look here. You even say that maybe I was still emotionally present but the teen and the little girl took the teacher feeling they were getting from me to mean I was going to be pulling away. And it felt like a wall.”

“Because maybe both things can be true. Maybe you were emotionally present, and maybe it felt to me like you you weren’t there. Maybe you responded in the right way to what you heard me saying and maybe your attunement was off in your response to what I had actually been trying to say.”

“Yes. I heard help when you meant HELP. I was going to ask about the third email, when I had time to sit down and respond more throughly, but here you already answered that. That email still was misattuned, and had that same teacher trying to get the class under control and explain things to them feeling. It just wasn’t what you needed. That’s why I’m thinking, in the future if that happens, then instead if continuing to email (I cringe, I knew it), we schedule a phone call. So we can talk this through before it gets to this point.” She doesn’t sound mad, or annoyed, or anything else.

I shrug. “You aren’t taking email away?”

“No. No, that is not the answer. And nine times out of ten, email works great for us. I feel like taking away email would be a terrible idea. But sometimes I will be busy and not able to put 100% of my attention on your email the way I can when we are face to face. And sometimes that means I miss the mark in a huge way. Maybe we need a signal. Like message me HELP in all caps when I miss the mark like that. But seriously, if we schedule a time to talk, then I can spend 15 or 30 minutes focused just on you. And if we need more time, then during the phone call we can schedule another call for later. And then you won’t be sitting with all this pain for so long.” She explains. And she sounds okay with this plan, and even more so, she sounds serious that taking away email would be terrible idea.

I breathe a sigh of relief over the plan. It’s okay, even though phone calls are hard for me. And then little Alice is running the show. “It was a really long time. And none of the yuck went away and it was so hard because I thought you left and I lost you and then it was just me and all the awful thoughts and feelings and the teen wanting to do scary things to herself and it was so so bad.” I start to cry then, and so I yank the blanket over my head and hide.

“It was really bad, and I’m so sorry. I wish I could help you understand that I’m always here, even if I’m not right there every moment. I wish I could help you trust that I am always able to hold you in my mind, even if I am busy.” Bea’s voice is soft and kind.

“But I can’t hold onto that. I get so scared every time that all my ick is going to make you hate me and need to leave so I don’t get the icky on you.” Little girl voice, crying and trying not to.

“The ick isn’t yours. You aren’t icky. And no matter what icky things happened, or what icky things you tell me about, I’m not going anywhere.” Bea’s tone is warm and caring, but also serious. She wants so badly for the little girl to get it.

“But…but….you were too busy to hear me. You didn’t see me when I needed help.” I cry.

“I know. That felt really bad. That’s why we are going to make a plan. I thought about you a lot this week. I was worried, and I felt bad that you were feeling so bad. You have to understand, you have a place in my heart, and you will always have a place there. That doesn’t just go away because I was busy, or because I was misattuned. That doesn’t mean I stop caring, or that you aren’t in my heart anymore. All the parts of you have a place in my heart. I care about you.” She says gently.

“I don’t want to hurt you or make you feel bad. I’m not supposed to matter like that.” The words come out of Little Alice’s mouth and they surprise me. It’s the push pull of attachment issues and relationships. I hate you, don’t leave me. Care about me, I don’t deserve to matter to you.

“Well, too bad, because you matter to me. That’s a relationship. Just because this is a therapy, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a real relationship or that I don’t care about you. You matter to me, and with that comes feelings. It’s okay. You deserve to matter to people.” Her words make me freeze again. I matter to her. I have a place in her heart and it won’t just go away because of a rupture. Things don’t work like that. I don’t know what that means to me, and it hurts to think about it, and so I don’t.

After a few minutes of me not speaking, Bea asks if I want her to finish reading. “Yeah. But just from where you are. Not the front.” The little girl might be beginning to believe Bea that she isn’t leaving and that she cares, but the idea of all that mad being poured out at Bea, it’s more than the little girl can believe is okay.

Bea goes back to reading. She’s found the pages and pages of dissociative, confused writing just spilling out onto the page. “You really needed me. This was too much to hold.” She says quietly. Her voice is so sad.

Hearing her say those words, just the very act of Bea realizing how bad it all was and how much I needed her lets loose the floods of tears I hadn’t even known I’d been fighting to hold onto. “I really, really did.” I gulp the words out, between sobs.

“The little girl did drawings? Where are they….” Bea is mostly mumbling to herself, just thinking outloud, and just when the little girl is starting to speak up, to tell Bea not to look at the drawings because they will contaminate Bea with all of my disgustingness, Bea says, “Oh, here they are.”

My heart freezes, and I want to disappear in that moment. The little girl was at a loss for words, the pain of all that she was trying so hard to hold onto was too much for words and so she drew all the images and nightmares and feelings. (Okay– these descriptions of the drawings could be triggering.)

The first picture shows Bea, in her sunny office with her comfy couch standing on one side of a thick door with a giant lock on the door knob. I’m on the other side of the door, curled into myself, with greenish-black slime covering the walls, and a box with an open lid and a big lock on the floor. Coming out of the box is a black shadowy ghost like creature with horns and red eyes. Black ooze is leaking out the bottom of the box. “You really felt like I was gone. This is so scary, and it’s too much for one little girl to handle. It’s too much for anybody to handle.” The picture seems to hit Bea hard; that imagery of her on this sunny okay side, with the lock on the door while I am stuck in the room of horrors all alone.

The next pictures depict a bruised arm, a black shadow monster with horns on top of the little girl while another part of her is sitting huddled on the floor, curled into a ball. There’s a picture of a girl drowning in green toxic slime, and a clawed hand stopping her from escape. There is another picture of a girl with her limbs and head all separate, just floating around like balloons, there is no torso, no private parts, nothing that can be hurt. Bea makes a noise as she flips through these pictures, not a gasp and not a sigh, but a sad noise, regretful. “This was all so scary, and you really needed me.”

“I did. I’m sorry, but I did.” I cry.

“No, no sorry. You are allowed to need me. You were feeling some real big, real scary feelings. They didn’t feel good and you didn’t feel safe at all. I’m really glad you shared them with me. I can see how really bad this week felt. That is a lot to hold onto. It was really hard, I know. You did a good job. Writing and drawing, that was a good job.” She sounds a little like a teacher again, but now she is a kind and open teacher. One whose voice is affectionate and caring and who gets how bad it all felt.

“You were just gone and I couldn’t and the teen couldn’t and she was being scared too and the grown up isn’t always so strong and I just wanted to go away forever and ever.”

“I know, I know you did. That’s why when all the parts are here, we are going to make a plan, so this doesn’t happen again, okay? We will make a plan and keep you safe. You are safe now. All those really, really scary things are over. I know they don’t feel over sometimes but they are. You are safe now, and we aren’t going to leave you alone like that again. Okay?” Bea tells me.

I sniffle, nod. “Okay.”

She tells me that we have just a few minutes left. I don’t want to leave, I really really don’t want to leave but I say okay, and tell her I can go. “Take a few minutes. Even if you don’t want to be fully present, I still want the grown up to try to get back online, at least a little bit.”

As I am trying to get back to a place where Bea will let me leave, I peak out from my blanket and quickly glance at her. She’s the same Bea.

Bea sits forward in her chair, and standing up, goes to set the pink notebook next to me.

“I don’t want that notebook back. No. I don’t want everything in it.” I’m in that weird place where the grown up is back online but not fully in control either and so the little girl manages to shout out her wishes at Bea.

Bea walks over to her table desk, where she has her planner and crafts and paints and projects kids ask her to save and her notes and who knows what else. She puts the pink notebook there. The little girl likes that it’s there. She doesn’t want Bea to get rid of her pictures, not yet, and if they are safe on her desk then maybe they can look at them next time and talk about it.

“Can we talk some logistical things for a moment, before you go?”

I nod. “Alright.”

“Are you going to you mom’s for Thanksgiving?” She asks.

“No, to hubby’s sister.”

“Then you will be in town. Kat doesn’t have school, does she? Can you still come on Wednesday?”

“Are you working Wednesday? I didn’t think….I mean, I don’t want…” I whisper. I’m trying to say I don’t want to make her work when she wasn’t going to, or take time away from her holiday but the little girl is screaming that she wants to see Bea and the teen is trying to convince the little girl not to be too much.

“I was planning to come in to see you if you were in town, and under the circumstances, I think we need to have a session.”

“It’s okay, because I don’t want to make you work when you weren’t going to and I don’t want to mess things up and I don’t want….”

Bea cuts me off. “This isn’t you messing anything up. Nothing is messed up. I do think, if you are able to, that it would be a good thing to have a session. You really need to experience me being here right now, so I think it’s important.”

“Okay.” I whisper.

“What time do you want to come?” She asks.

“Anytime in the morning. Whatever works for you.”

“Can you come at 8?” She asks.

“Yes, I can be here then.” I stand up and grab my bag.

“Okay then. I’ll see you Wednesday,” she says, smiling.

Just as my hand is on the door knob, I stop and look at Bea. “Are we okay?”

“Yes. I’m okay. You are okay. And we are okay. This didn’t damage us. We’re okay and I’m here.” She says softly. She’s standing next to me, because she always walks me out to the top of the stairs.

I nod. “Okay.” And then we say our goodbyes.

I’m okay when I leave. I’m sort of sad and just emotionally drained. The parts are still stirred up and I am still a little numb. I’m all sorts of mixed up, but mostly I believe Bea is here now and she gets how bad everything feels.

Choices

This is Wednesday, 11/15’s session. It’s the session that led to all the upset and mess this last week. As you will see, a lot came up, but it was actually a good session, and I left feeling quite stable.

Even though there isn’t a lot of movement going on, this session is still very much full of SP type work, so this is another way an SP session might look (at least for Bea and I) , for those of you who are curious about it.

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“Should we start with the nightmares, start there with the sick something bad is going to happen feeling?” Bea asks, after we’ve caught up on day to day things.

I don’t say anything, only offering a shrug. I’ve moved from that adult place to little girl in an instant.

“Or we could check in with the the little girl. She looks sad.”

I still can’t find my words. Everything feels too exposed. I curl up, hiding my face.

“Maybe she’s wishing the grown up would ask for a blanket?”

“Maybe.” I whisper, refusing to ask. The grown up is not going to be pushed into helping the little girl. (Maybe that was more teen…..) Finally, I give up. Sitting here saying nothing isn’t going to help anyone. “Can I have a blanket?”

Bea gets me my blanket, and I hide under it. “Or we could start somewhere else. There are Choices, and you can make them,” she reminds me.

“I don’t like choices.” I say.

“Why not?”

“Because one will be wrong.” There’s a tone of frustration in my voice, this feeling of *why don’t you know that?*

“Where is that coming from, I wonder?” Bea asks.

“It’s spilt 1) having choices and trying to make the one my mom would want, so i don’t mess up and make her upset 2)it’s…..I don’t….ugh….it’s messy.”

“1 is very clear, and 2 is more mixed up, but you are very clear on what 1 is. Why is 2 mixed up?”

“Because. Because, it’s….it’s like I had a choice and made a bad choice.” I’m struggling to make sense of exactly what it is I’m trying to tell Bea. It’s a very mixed up feeling and it’s hard to find the words to it.

“With what?”

“Kenny. But….then…..if it….ugh.” I’m panicking a little bit.

“If what?” Bea pushes a bit.

“If I had choice then why those other memories? And now the sick feeling is back.” The words tumble out, fast, one after the other.

“The sick feeling. Where is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“How do you know you are having it? What makes you recognize it?”

“Because I had it before.” Little girl answer. She is fully running the ship at the moment.

“Yes, lots of times before.” Bea agrees.

“Yeah.”

“Where is it?” She asks again.

Silence.

“Is it in your big toe?” Her tone is light, playful.

“No.” I laugh. What a silly idea. People don’t feel things in their big toes. “In my belly. It’s…butterflies. But not, because butterflies are nice. Something not nice.”

“Butterflies are pretty aren’t they? Maybe it’s like ugly, evil butterflies?”

“Yeah.” I nod. “And it’s hard to breathe.”

“Sit with that feeling, try to stay with it. I know it’s hard.” She says softly. “I’m right here.”

I get panicky, the body feeling, the sick feeling is too much. Bea goes to the feelings, emotions, to try to help separate things and calm down. She explains this idea. But it’s too much and too hard to figure out the feelings. She talks to me about how we can use thoughts too.

“Thoughts are good. That’s words.” I tell her.

“Yes, and you like words. Words make you feel safe.”

“Yes.”

“Do you have words now?” She asks.

I say something, a memory or thought. That it’s all a mess.

“It is a mess. Does the grown up have words to share?”

I struggle to find grown up. Then. “Maybe. I don’t know. Words are easier but not always easy.”

“That sounds like the grownup.” Bea says. I’m struck by how well she can recognize the parts.

I smile because she knows me. “It’s…hard. Because all those details….it’s like when we first took out all the rocks and then looked at them, we didn’t really look at the sharp edges, the details, we looked at the whole rock. It’s easier to gloss over the details and then the little girl can think like……it’s my choice, I started it, I caused it, it was my fault, I did this, I did that.”

“All those old beliefs that she still holds.” Bea’s voice is sad.

“Yeah. When we look at the details then it’s like…..it can’t be a choice when (and at this point the little girl is back in control)…..I can feel…..I can’t move and I want to move but he isn’t letting me.”

“No, you couldn’t move. And that was so scary. But that’s over now, it’s not happening now.”

Silence.

“It’s confusing too, isn’t it? That she feels like she had a choice, and it has felt like that for so long, and then to come face to face with the idea she wanted to move and couldn’t.” Bea is spot on. It’s all very, very confusing. It’s hard to realize something you believed for so long isn’t true, especially when those beliefs have kept you feeling as if you had some control.

“I really want to move. I mean then, I wanted to move.” The past and the present are getting mixed up in my head.

“I know. The little girl, she was alone then, and had no know to tell. But you told me, and I believe you. I believe that you wanted to move and that he wouldn’t let you.”

“You really believe me?” My voice is small, the idea that she believes me and doesn’t think I did something bad is hard to take in.

“I really do.”

I want to ask if she would have believed me then, if she knew me then, but I can’t. It’s too scary to ask.

“Is there movement that the little girl wants to make now? Just take a minute and feel.”

“I don’t know.”

“Does she feel safe right now? Does the little girl feel like she could move if she needed or? Or is she frozen?” Bea tries to help me figure out what the little girl needs to do.

“I…well. No. I don’t know. Yes. Move. But there’s no time left.”

“It’s 10:10. So you have a few minutes.” She says softly.

“No. It’s not enough.” I insist. I know myself well enough to know if I try to do any movement, it is going to take forever and then feel rushed and scary because I don’t have enough time.

“Maybe you could complete one movement?” She suggests. I think she doesn’t want me to leave feeling like something was unfinished, but to the teen it feels like she is pushing because she wants me to do SP.

“No. It’s….it takes too long to decide to move. It’s scary. It makes me feel scared.”

“I know. It’s new. Being able to move is new.” Bea gets it.

“Well I can move my arms, but it’s….when it’s with…like linked to details.” It is strange to me, how scary it can be to move within the context of a trauma memory. I mean, it’s not like I have problems moving in my everyday life.

“I know. That’s a scary thing.” She agrees.

“Yeah. Next time we can try. Not today.” I say softly.

“Okay. Okay, that’s good. What does that feel like? To be in control enough to choose to do something next time?”

I shrug. More questions I can’t answer. I’m tired of paying attention. I don’t want to feel anymore.

“Can you pay attention to what it feels like to listen to the part of you that knows you need more time?”

“I….well. I don’t know.”

“What is it that let you know you need more time? That allowed you to listen to your needs? Can you find that wise part of yourself?” It’s important to Bea that I experience being in control and making a choice, but I’m not sure I want to fully feel it.

I sit quietly trying to figure it out, to feel what let me know I needed moe time, and then finally I say, “Bea. I just don’t know.”

“Okay. That’s okay. ”

“I mean I really don’t know. Not I don’t know because I don’t want to talk about it or think about it or feel it.” And I truly don’t know.

“So there are different kinds of I don’t knows. That’s good to recognize, too.” She says.

I don’t say anything.

“Is there anything the grown up could tell the little girl, to help soothe her?”

I sit for what feels like hours. And then I say, “No.” It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

“That’s okay. We will keep working on this. Maybe this week, just think about what it was like going between the grown up and the little girl, and what it was like trying to get them to communicate.”

I freeze. My heart feels icy and on fire all at once. “The little girl doesn’t want the grown up.” I tell her. It’s as close as I can come to saying *I’m afraid you are trying to cut yourself out. The little girl doesn’t want the grown up, she wants you. And this feels like you leaving— or laying the groundwork so you can leave.

Bea says that it’s okay for the little girl to be unsure about the grown up, that the little girl has to learn to trust the grown up and that can take time. I shrug. I don’t want to talk about this right now.

We wrap things up then, because I have to leave to go babysit Kay’s baby. (Yes, that Kay. We are slowly rebuilding our friendship and it’s a much healthy, equal type of friendship. It’s good.)

Dear fellow PTO Mom

Dear Fellow PTO Mom,

We don’t know each other that well, but yesterday you saw me. I was struggling to walk in the door of the school to pick up my kid. You said hello, and I tried to be okay. I waited for Ms. Perfect to step in. I’m the president of the PTO, afterall. Ms. Perfect should have stepped in to preserve the image of having it all together. But she didn’t. So I looked at you, and tried to smile and said hi back. You asked me if I was okay, was something wrong? The tears broke free then, and you grabbed my hand in solidarity after handing me a tissue and we walked into school together. You helped my kid get her things together, because somehow you knew it was all I could do to keep the tears at bay. You saw me.

Later, you sent me a message, suggesting we have a drink together via video chat while we made our dishes for school potluck. I agreed, figuring you would forget. But you didn’t forget. You would called me after the kids were in bed. We had a drink and did some baking together. Most important we chatted about nothing but I felt less alone than I had all day. Thank you for reaching out and caring. Thank you for seeing me.

Parts mixed up

Trigger warning. Negative coping skills mentioned and CSA mentioned.

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

So yesterday (Wednesday) after therapy (which I haven’t posted about), I was okay, maybe a little distanced but okay. As the day went on, more and more feelings came up and by 7:00pm last night, the little girl wanted to hide, to disappear forever and the teen wanted to stuff her face and throw up or hurt herself. I ended up emailing Bea at 12:30am because I didn’t know what else to do.

Hi Bea,

So, I was starting to do some writing and then I realized things were more confused in my head than I thought and the little girl is scared and sad and I just thought, I could hold onto this the rest of the week, but I don’t think that will be a good thing. I just don’t think I can hold all the parts feelings by myself right now. It got messy and mixed up so fast, and I just can’t hold it all and be the present and grounded and more healthy Alice I am. I yelled at Kat today–  (and she’s okay, and I’m okay, and I had 2 friends validate the frustration and tell me I’m okay and Kat’s okay, and so I’m not just hiding, but……..it still feels bad) she deserved to be in trouble for a sassy attitude and rude and disrespectful behavior, but I gave her a lecture that would rival the guilt laden lectures my parents loved to give me. Maybe she needed something like that, because nothing else has nipped that behavior in the bud, but she didn’t need to be lectured for the hour drive home and then punished (to write apology letters). That was too much. And I think it happened, at least in part, (and this feels like a BIG thing I’ve just figured out and put into words) because the parts are all stirred up and conflicted and that makes me feel more of the here not here (and more of the not here than here this afternoon), so I miss the impact of my outward behavior. It’s almost like for me to “feel” the mad or the disappointment or whatever it has to be extra HUGE because I’m so far away. I mean, it’s sort of a comfortable, familiar feeling, this far away, but the more I experience something different, the more I realize how much damage being far away can do. I see and feel more and more why it was needed back then, but isn’t needed now and why it’s not healthy to keep using the far away as my go to coping skill.

But, anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent, and this is what I was beginning to write in my notebook about and was trying to email about:

The little girl doesn’t want the grown up. That’s what I told you. It’s as close as I could come to saying:

I’m afraid you are trying to cut yourself out. The little  girl doesn’t want the grown up, she wants you. And this feels like you leaving— or laying the groundwork so you can leave. I know it’s your job to push me, but this is too much change all at once. I’m doing sensorimotor, even if it’s with your and my own twist to it, and I’m revising how I think of healing, and I’m figuring out how to stay in the present and keep the ick in the therapy box and I’m facing this scary huge thing (otherwise known as ‘I didn’t get a choice, he wouldn’t let me move, It wasn’t my fault’) and I cope a lot better than ever before and I manage things most of the time between appointments on my own and it just feels like still you want more from me. And maybe everything in therapy was always leading up to these big changes but this feels like a corner was turned or something and it feels like a lot of change and I can’t do all this, I can’t handle all these new ideas if the little girl thinks you are trying to leave. And it does not matter how much you reassure that it’s her choice to leave, not yours. That feels like it still is an expectation, that at some point the little girl is expected to rely on the grown up and not need therapy or you anymore and choose to leave. I know you have explained it as a choice, but it is a choice she is expected to make at some point. And that sucks. A choice like that isn’t really a choice, is it?

It’s always a conversation about the grown up needing to be online and the grown up needing to communicate with the little girl and them needing to work together and blah blah blah. I understand why, I get it, but it feels like you are really pushing for that, like its this……I don’t know….like it is something that needs to happen sooner than later. I tried not to care, to not let it matter, to ignore it, because the grown up does think it’s a ridiculous thing to be all spun up over. The old messages of being a drama queen, needing too much, being over sensitive are running through my head as I type this out. But the teen is mad and feeling like she is somehow messing everything up, and the little girl is sad and scared and feeling like she’s just not good enough, like she will never ever be good enough.

I know it took me a long time to be willing to use words and to feel emotionally and physically all at the same time. I know it took me a long time to be able to even talk during sessions, that it was a lot to always be emailing and saying everything I needed to say in email and needing a quick response to all the ick I was pouring out and that the extra time I always seem to need to be able to connect and to sort of check if you are you is not some thing most therapists would give me (and honestly, it makes me feel less guilty to know that you enjoy that chat time and that you are really okay with it) and I know it took me a long time to be able to even start to look at the details of things and see that my story of it all as a whole doesn’t match the mixed up pieces of my memory. I know I’m lucky I have a patient therapist who was willing to wait me out and start where I was. But now, It just feels like you think I should be more of something. More present, more capable, more integrated, more healed,  more something. Some part of me, maybe the teen, although she’d need admit it, worries I have used up all your patience. After all, that’s what the little girl and teen do, you know. They need too much, and they take and take and take and they drain people of all they have to give until eventually they’ve broken them. The teen, the little girl, they break everyone eventually. So maybe, just maybe, the teen is terrified she has drained most of your patience and so you need the grown up to be able to take care of the parts because soon the teen will have broken you, too.

And the really messed up thing is that it wasn’t a bad session. I was proud of myself for being able to say I needed more time to do any moving, and for making the choice to wait until Monday to come back to the sick feeling and need to move away and I was proud I sat with the really bad sick like something bad is going to happen feelings, even if it was only a minute, maybe less time, I still stayed with the feeling and felt it and that’s more than I ever did before. Even with that, today’s session, it didn’t feel bad. I felt….I don’t know, like together you and I kept things from getting overwhelming and out of control and that felt….I don’t know. Strong? Powerful? Something I don’t have the word for because it’s not a feeling I often have. So it wasn’t a session that felt yucky. Except this mixed up piece. Except all this mess that has come up now. Ugh. The teen was so mad when you sort of set it up so the grown up would have to ask for a blanket for the little girl if the little girl wanted to be able to hide. That felt like this shrinky manipulation. It wasn’t fair. My only thought during that time? “The grown up is not going to be forced help the little girl.” Yeah, I did end up asking, but the whole time the teen was pissed. Oh boy, was the teen was mad about it all. And maybe the grown up knows that you weren’t being manipulative or shrinky and that you aren’t pushing the little girl to rely on the grown up so you can escape the little girl. But it sure doesn’t feel like it right now. It just feels like you want to get away from me before my ick contaminates you, before I break you. It just all feels confusing because there’s too many conflicting feelings about you right now, on top of conflicting feelings about the Kenny stuff. I’m confused about enough. It doesn’t feel good to be confused about my secure base. (Yes, I’m all done pretending relationships don’t matter, or that you aren’t important or that the little girl has absolutely no attachment to you at all. Or, in writing I’m no longer pretending that. Face to face might be a different story.) So. This just feels bad right now. And I couldn’t tell you if it’s past or present feelings, but it is definitely a parts thing. That much I know. And of course the other old message running through my head “what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? Why do I make a deal out of things that aren’t a deal? Maybe I’m jut crazy. Maybe I am just a drama queen. Maybe this is all just a big mess I’ve created. What’s wrong with me?”

I guess the grown up is asking for help for (with?) the teen and the little girl. Because the grown up, she just can not hold all of this or sort it.

~Alice

No therapy Monday

Bea wanted me to pay attention to what comes up this week. I feel like it’s been a lot, and I was sort of nervous, sort of looking forward to sharing with her what I’ve noticed this week. But instead of going to therapy, my family is dealing with yet another loss. My husband’s grandma passed away late Friday night/early Saturday morning. I’m sad and numb and my family is struggling. I’m also frustrated that I’ve been dealing with something important in therapy and now I’m having to put it on pause. I’m going to record here what is coming up.

It’s weird. Sort of like a part of me, maybe the little girl or the teen, has been carrying around a backpack full of rocks. Maybe both of them have their own rocks. And these aren’t nice smooth beach rocks. They are rough and bumpy and ugly. I used to think that healing meant emptying the bags of all the rocks. That’s not exactly what this feels like though. It feels more like someone stuck one of those rocks in a rock polisher, and now the rock is smoother, most of the sharp, painful edges have been worn away. It’s not gone, it’s not all better, but it’s less of something.

Maybe I need to revise my definition of healing. When I started this, I think my goal– as much as I resented being Ms. Perfect at times— was to get back to being Ms. Perfect. I think I thought if I did the therapy thing then the memories would magically disappear; that I’d never think about them again, that they would never be triggered again, that I would be the me I would have been before the trauma. Or something like that. But that is unrealistic.

Now, I think healing means polishing the rocks, maybe being able to store the backpacks in a closet somewhere. It means that the adult stays online with the teen and the little girl— they don’t get to run the show anymore. It means that when memories are triggered that they don’t hold the same power to pull me into the past so the memory feels new and now, instead, it may feel awful because some of my memories are truly horrible, but it will feel awful in the present and I will know it’s over and I already survived it. It means that nightmares are few and far between and it means that when they do happen, they don’t cause me to wake up in the past, frozen and terrified. I don’t want to be frozen anymore.

Once Bea asked me, surprised, *so it feels good to be frozen?* I don’t know if good is the right word, maybe familiar, safe, not threatening, comfortable. That’s still at least partly true, but I don’t want to be frozen anymore. It was so scary to be in that place in my memory and to allow myself to remember that I wanted to move, and then move in the present. I think that’s why I needed to do it fast. It’s sort of like how the details of a memory are harder to face; slowing it down would be like facing the details. I’d have to face the fact that I wanted to move.

Of course, it’s coming up anyway, in my nightmares. I’m having nightmares, both the memory kind and non-memory kind. I feel this huge amount of emotion surrounding this idea that I wanted to move, to push him away, to cover my mouth. That changes the whole story. It makes it impossible to call it a silly game, or a secret, or a thing that happened because I had a loved him and wanted to marry him, or any other reason in the long list of reasons of *How I Caused This To Happen*. So there has been a lot of emotion coming up, grief, anger, I don’t know what. Complicated feelings. There have been nightmares, all about this idea of being trapped, of wanting to move but not being able to. If it’s not the detail of the memory I have been working with, then it’s the not real nightmares. The not real nightmares always involve me being followed, and knowing I’m being a followed but not being able to do a thing to stop it and there is so much fear, so much, well, it’s the sick like something bad is going to happen feeling. Dread. Trepidation. Sometimes I wake up there, and feel off the rest of the day. Like I wake off balance and then never regain my equilibrium for the day. Other times, the nightmare goes on, and I end up abducted and then the threat of bad things happening looms over me. When I wake up from that, there is no getting back to sleep.

So, it’s been weird. I know sensorimotor therapy is supposed to resolve trauma memories, and take the power out of the memories. On one hand, that’s been true. On the other, it’s brought up more stuff. I think facing the details of this has been hard. It brings up a lot of pain and hurt. There’s a lot of grief and anger there, too.

I wanted to Move

Hi all, this is Wednesday’s 11/8/2017 therapy session. It is intense, and there are trauma details written in, so this is a huge trigger warning. I debated about writing leaving details out, and glossing over the intensity of this session but then decided that I wanted to show the the full picture of what a Sensorimotor Therapy session looks like. I decided that I’ve spent enough of my life glossing over details and pretending everything is no big deal. So just be careful when you are reading, take care of yourself. Xx Alice

I’ve been okay for the last two days, and I’ve been falling apart. I’ve had moments where things were just terrible and overwhelming but I managed to hold onto the fact that the feelings would pass. I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t do it. I wanted to hide forever and disappear but I didn’t. I somehow consistently managed to put all the yuck back into the therapy box; not hiding, not pretending, just knowing I needed to function. I did use the busyness defense to help push the ick away, but I was going to be busy no matter what, so why not use it to help myself function?

Walking into Bea’s office brings about a strange mix of feelings. I want her to be proud of me for holding it together. I’m afraid that if she reads in my journal about the bad moments and how I coped, that she might decide I’m just all better and okay. I want to avoid all the yuck, and I want to dive into it. I also wish I had a blanket with eyeholes I could put on my head, because the shame and disgust I feel is so huge, it’s hard not to feel afraid to be seen.

She’s heating up her tea when I walk in. “Good morning, just let me grab my tea.”

I nod, and sit down. I go ahead and pull out my notebook now. I both want to avoid anything deep, and I want to get right to work because I hate when I feel like I wasted time. When Bea gets back into the therapy room, we talk about Kat for a few minutes. Parent teacher conferences are coming up and I’m a little worried about the classroom teacher and what she is going to bring up.

After that, though, Bea asks about Monday. “How did Monday feel for you? Did anything come up after? Did things feel okay?”

Silently, I point at the orange book resting on the couch next to me.

“Should we start there then?”

I hand her the notebook, and wait. Before she starts to read, she grabs me the teal colored fuzzy blanket, and hands it to me. I don’t hide under it right then, but I clutch the blanket like its my anchor to the here and now.

Sick like something bad is going to happen. It’s funny that I can think of it now, but not before. So many words to describe that feeling. So many better words. The words could be apprehension, trepidation, dread, fear, worry, tension, suspense, unease. So many words, and I couldn’t think of a single one. Ugh.

“This is so many words. But this was later, right? When the adult was back online? I still think that the adult you has words, while the little girl didn’t have these complex words. It’s a parts thing. The little girl doesn’t have other words. Adult you does. It’s interesting that the adult could get back online and help find words later, when you were calmer.”

I don’t say anything, but the teen bristles at the use of the word interesting. Why interesting? I hate that word.

I’m okay but not okay. When I left your office I was so off kilter; feelings and other parts of the same image or maybe the same memory, just a different piece were really overwhelming. There is pain and something sharp and too much physical stuff and wanting to move or do something or maybe not after all and it was all so much but it was time to go and that that was okay, it just isn’t always so quick to stuff it all back into the therapy box, just like it takes me forever to pull it all out.

I was okay mostly all day but now it’s night time and bedtime is hard. There’s less grown up here right now, I close my eyes and I see ick. I couldn’t move, he wouldn’t let me move. That came from the image which leads to memory and feelings and everything and it all snowballs. I’m okay, except I’m not.

You asked me about what the adult thinks, what she believes. I don’t know. I know that this is hard. All those words lead to extra shame and judgement and worrying that you see the truth now. I want to tell you the grown up knows the little girl didn’t deserve it. Except, I don’t know. I wanted to explain that the little girl needed too much, that she maybe somehow did this, started it. But it doesn’t matter. Not really. Because the little girl is part of all the disgusting stuff that happened and it lives in my head and my body now, so really, I’m disgusting.

He put _________ __________ in my mouth. I write that, I think that, and I see this image of it happening, I feel it and part of me wants to disappear forever. A piece of me wants to die. It’s just so charged, so overwhelming, so much shame, so much disgust, so much helplessness and all I want to do is go away forever and ever. It’s so much. So much. Too much.

Honestly, you read my folded over paper and yeah, it’s probably good I was a little far away or I might have never managed to stop hiding long enough to leave. Writing this, I want to hide. I’m pretty sure if I could hide forever I would. I think I’d walk into your office with a blanket over my head, if I could. So much fear and so much shame.

I wanted to cut, but I didn’t. I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t. I wanted to hide in my closet forever, but I didn’t. I went on with my life, and that was good, but it didn’t mean no feelings. Some moments were good, and I felt connected to people but boundaries in tact, and sort of just content, that I’m good and I like my life and I’m happy and fulfilled. Some moments were just crap. Awful. All the ick leaking out. But even that was okay, sort of. I always managed to put most of it away, knowing I really only had to hold it for two days and then we would deal with it. Even when I wasn’t okay, I could hold onto the fact that it wasn’t going to last forever and that all the feelings, thoughts, sensations, feelings were in the past. It was hard, but not like times when I’ve been triggered and there is no being okay, no processing whatever it coming up. I feel mostly okay.

“So I know we need to talk about Monday and pick things back up. Can I just celebrate first, though? You felt okay even when you weren’t okay. You managed to put the ick back every time it leaked out, to contain it. You coped without harming yourself. Alice, this is big. This is awesome!”

I shrug. It embarrasses me to have the praise and attention and it worries me because now I’ve set a precedent of being okay. So what happens when I can’t contain the ick on my own? Will Bea be there or will she expect me to do it because I did it before?

“I don’t want to take you back to be triggered and in too deep, so let’s maybe stay away from the memory of the image and see if we can’t focus just on the feelings. Is there movement you wanted to make back then? It sounds like some came up at the end on Monday.”

I don’t know. I don’t say a word. Bea waits, patient as always.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists.

“I can’t.. I can’t tell you! I can’t do this. I just can’t.” I’m frustrated with Bea. I can’t separate out any movement I want to make now from the story of the memory. It’s all the same to me. I need her to know where it’s coming from. I need the words. The words matter to me. But I can’t tell it like I need to because that is not how SP works and because she doesn’t want me to be too far away and I seriously can’t do anything right. I ruin everything.

“Take a minute, okay? Feel the blanket and the safety of that boundary. Remember that nothing bad can happen now.”

“I don’t know what to talk about now.” I whisper.

“Well, reading this, *there is pain and something sharp* can we talk about that?”

I shake my head. “No.”

“Okay. That’s okay. Can we talk about what is going on right now?” She asks softly.

“Nothing.” I mumble.

“Nothing, huh?” She pushes a little.

“I just…I can’t separate everything.” I’m still frustrated. My biggest complaint about all the SP junk is there is no talking about things and it feels superficial because it doesn’t care about the memory, about the words.

“Separate what? What can’t you separate?” Bea’s voice sounds genuinely confused.

“Everything. You want me to talk, but I can’t talk about feelings or physical sensation or whatever without the memory.”

“We aren’t ignoring the memory, the image, I just don’t want to take you so deep, to such a difficult place to be.”

I don’t say a thing. This is why I hesitated to even write the truth of how bad I felt at moments, why I was a little unsure about handing my notebook over. But I wanted her to know, because even when it was really, really bad this time, I managed to cope and to stay grounded enough to realize that the feelings were from the past. But now she wants to avoid the memory anyway.

“Alice? Talk to me.” She really does sound like she wants me to talk to her.

“You don’t want me to!” I cry. I’m hurt. The little girl feels shut down, as if her voice has been taken away.

“What is it you think I don’t want you to do, to tell me. I want to know whatever you want to talk about. It’s not about me. Can you tell me what is wrong?”

“You want to know about…what I wrote?” I ask.

“Yes, I was curious. I knew a lot had come up at the end last time, and I wanted to make sure we got a chance to go over it today.” She explains.

I shrug. Throw the blanket over my head. “I’m hiding now. Okay?”

“Okay.” And her voice tells me it is okay that I need to hide.

“I…..I can’t tell you…..I mean, I can’t explain it without the memory or the image and I can’t…I just…you don’t want me to tell it.”

“I’m not trying to make you stop telling it. I just want to make sure you are safe.”

“Ugh!” I’m tired of this round and round. “I can not tell you about what I wrote, I can’t talk about feelings and what they are linked to, not without you knowing the memory. I know it doesn’t matter or you already mostly know the memory or something, but it’s important to me. The words and all of it. The story, it matters to me. And I can’t do this! I can’t tell one without the other, I don’t know how, it’s all too twisted up together. But you want….the right way is to tell only one thing and I can’t do it. I’m screwing it up, again. And I just feel like I can’t do anything right.”

She takes a deep breath. “Okay. There is no right way. It’s just what works for us. I’m sorry if that hasn’t been clear, if I didn’t make that clear. We do what works for us. If this is a memory that is too twisted together, then talk about all the parts. It’s okay to do that. Tell the story. It’s not one or the other. It’s okay, you aren’t messing up anything. Maybe you will always need the words and the story, because like you said, they matter to you. I still believe you know what you need.”

I’d been curled up, crying, feeling all the pain and failure of my little girl self every time I did something the wrong way, every time I wanted to do something different than what my mother deemed was the right way. Now, listening to Bea, my tears slow. “O-Okay.”

She waits patiently, and I try to find my words. I don’t know how I’m to explain this to her, how I’m to describe the details. It’s sickening. The shame lives here. I shake my head, tell her this is hard. “Take your time, it’s okay,” she says.

Finally, I start. “I….he…..I’m laying down. And I can’t move. I….just can’t.”

“You can’t move. Are there movements you want to make now?”

“No….no, because…it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me move.” My words stumble through the shame and fear but still come out mostly coherent.

“He won’t let you move. But you can move now.” She insists. And suddenly, we are right back where we started earlier, even having almost the same exact conversation. And that makes me so irritated.

“No!” I snap at her. “He’s…..I can’t move because he is….because….” I want so badly to get the words out, but there’s a blockage in my throat and I can’t talk.

“Because why? What’s he doing?” She pushes.

I look to my left. “I had a bruise. On my arm. I lied about it. I said it was from gymnastics. No one ever questioned.”

Bea says something, some kind of quiet understanding and comfort, some kind of sorry and horror for the little girl to be bruised.

“He….knees……..” Like a traffic jam, my words are all backed up.

“His knees were on your arms? So you couldn’t move?” Bea helps fill in the words.

I nod. “Sharp.”

“His knees were sharp? That’s the sharp and the pain,” she says, almost to herself, because it finally makes sense to her.

“Yes.” I whisper. I look back to my left again, down at my arm. It’s not real, and yet I can see knees right there, holding me in place, and I can feel them digging into my inner arms. Maybe that was easier to focus on than what else was happening. I don’t know.

“You can feel that now?” Her voice is quiet, gentle. The voice you use when speaking to scared children.

“Yeah.”

“Is there anything you want to move now?”

I nod. It’s scary to think about it, to say it aloud. I’m not sure how long it takes. Maybe a minute, maybe twenty. Bea waits patiently. Finally I answer her question. “Yes.”

“Try to just let yourself do it, then. You can stay under the blanket, even. I’m right here.” She says carefully.

I think about moving, but I can’t. The idea of it….it’s scary. So very scary.

“What wants to move?” She asks softly.

“Arms, my arms.” I can feel it. When I think about what was happening, and let the little girl run things, she wants to go away. But if things are slowed down, and we are only looking at one image from a memory, and that leads to emotions and physical feeling, the then everything the little girl felt and wanted to do is sort of pulled apart, and while that urge to go away is the biggest feeling, beneath that is this other feeling. It’s a wanting to move, to pull away, to push him away, to cover my mouth, to turn my head. This scares me though. If I let myself feel this urge to move away, to push him away, then I have to accept that I didn’t want this, that I had no control, that I was helpless, that I didn’t cause it, and that I was not playing a special super secret game with him. And that’s a hard thing to swallow.

“What do your arms want to do?”

“Move.” My answer seems silly now, but in the moment when the little girl was more present than the grown up, it made sense to me.

“What way do they want to move?”

“They wanna do two things. No, three things. Maybe. I think.” I whisper. I’m spilling secrets I didn’t even know I held.

So they want to push? Pull? Cover your mouth?” She gets all of them right, and her saying some of the words first helps.

“Pull away……to the side. That’s first.” I finally say.

“Okay. Can you let them do that?” She asks.

I try. I really try, but I’m frozen. Bea encourages me to focus on the fact my hands, my fingers can move. (And now, as I’m writing that I got a picture of my fingers always moving, of holding on to blankets, sheets, grass, my yellow fluffy rug, whatever was there to hold onto. I guess that’s another something that has popped up since this session I’m currently writing about.) Finally, I manage to throw my right arm to the side of me.

“That’s it! How did that feel?” Bea asks me.

“I….I don’t know.” It feels sort of exposing in a way. But also…..I’m proud of the fact I stayed with the memory and moved my arm.

Bea gives me a head’s up that we have about fifteen minutes left of our time, and then she tells me she has no ten o’clock appointment. “You have a busy day today, and I know that, but if you like we can stay and work on this a little longer.”

“Can we stay?” I feel like if we wrap things up now, it will be hard to get back to this place again.

“Absolutely. So, do you want to try the movement again?” She asks.

“Okay.” I’m a little anxious about agreeing but I can try.

“Maybe try to really slow it down this time, okay?”

“Why?” Teen, snarky and questioning everything.

“Well, studies have shown that it is easier for your brain to remember the new movement and to form new neural pathways when it’s a slowed down movement.” She’s not surprised with my why question. She’s never surprised when I want to know why we are doing something or why she wants to know something. And why never seems to bother her.

“Oh.” Is all I can say. I think about moving slowly for a while, “That’s a scary idea. It’s safer to move fast.” I hear the word, and wonder why it’s safer and not easier. Bea wonders, too, and so she asks. “I think it’s like the…..if I’m fast enough then no one will see me…..it’s still a version of hiding.” I explain.

“Well, if it feels safer to move fast, then let’s start there. We might need to stay with this for a while. And that’s okay.” Once again, Bea is willing to start where I am. She told me once that is the secret to therapy— to be willing to start wherever your client is at.

“Okay.” I agree.

We work with movement for a while longer, and by the end of session, I’m able to move my arms to the sides, slap one hand over my mouth, and out the other out in a *stop* gesture. We talk about the fact that it still needs to be slowed down and really felt, but decided that we will do that next time. I can’t do more today.

“This might never feel right, and I don’t think this would be good for this first time you are trying some movement, but I can bring my hands up to yours, or hold a pillow so you have something to push against. Sometimes people like to push against the wall. Or maybe you won’t need that.” She suggests.

“I….I don’t know.” I whisper.

“It’s nothing to decide today, just something to keep in mind. That’s all. In case you ever do want something to push against.”

I’m not sure about this idea. “But then I’d be…..pushing you away.” (See? Really not pretending anymore that she doesn’t matter, or the relationship isn’t important.)

“Yes, you’d be pushing against my hands, but I’m not going anywhere. We can talk about that though, if that would feel too hard because of that. It’s all okay, it’s about doing whatever feels right to you.” She’s so calm and grounded and just here. I don’t know how to explain it.

“Okay.” I shrug.

“Is there anymore to do today, or are you ready to come back and be grounded here?” She asks.

“I’m okay. I don’t…..I think we should pick this up next time, but I’m done for today. It’s a lot.” If you had told me even a few months ago that I would willingly be done with something for the moment and suggest we pick it up next time, and believe that it would be okay and that Bea would hold all of that and remember to help me pick it up next time, I’d have laughed. Yet here I am, doing just that.

“It is a lot,” she agrees.

“Even though I moved, it still feels scarier to move. It’s safer to be frozen.” There’s a question in there somewhere but I can’t figure out how to ask it.

Bea picks up on the question anyway. “Well, your brain has had a lot of years where hiding was the only answer. The little girl couldn’t move then, so she did the best thing she could. She went far away, she hid inside herself. And that kept her safe. And she needed to be able to do that for a long time. Now we just have work on teaching your brain a new response. It won’t surprise me of your first instinct is to hide or go far away when things feel threatening, or uncomfortable, but now you know you have another choice. It’s just a choice that we will need to practice, and the more we practice it, the easier it will be to choose it.”

“Okay.”

We end things just chatting about normal stuff. At some point, in between talking about our crazy dogs, or my crazy kid, I pull the blanket off my head and fold it up. It’s a struggle to look at Bea today, and I know she won’t push it, although she gently try to get me to look at her. Finally, as we both stand up and I hand her the blanket, I sneak a glance at her. No disgust is visible in her expression. I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Hey, try to pay attention to how things feel, if they feel better or if other things come up or what feelings may surface, okay?” I’m on my way out when she asks me this.

“Yeah, okay. But first I have to put all that away and go help teach Kat’s class writing and then do lunch duty, take care of PTO stuff and then take Kat to OT. After that, I can pay attention to stuff again.” I smile. In my book, it’s okay to shove things down to be able to function when you know you are doing it, why you are doing it, and there is a set time limit of how long you are going to lock up the crap.

“That’s all right. Just when you are done, see how you feel. See what is coming up. I’ll be curious to know.” She smiles at me.

We wish each other a good day, and I head out.