To talk or not to talk

“…..and hubby…. He’s, well……I don’t know.” I look down, averting my gaze from Bea’s face, and feeling floaty. It happens so quickly, that going away because I’m uncomfortable, I’m surprised. I’m in my usual place on Bea’s couch, with my knees pulled into my chest, and Hagrid is curled up next to me. 

Bea just waits, giving me time and space to pull the words from my brain. Finally, I say, “He’s sort of….it’s like he’s afraid of me.” I’m feeling a lot of shame, over how I freaked out the other night, and now, hubby is being very distant towards me. It doesn’t feel like anger, though, it feels like fear. 

“It had to be scary for him to have you get so upset. He may feel like he caused it, and not want to do anything else to hurt you. Have you talked about what happened?” Bea turns her chair slightly, to be able to face me a little bit better. 

I shake my head. “No…I don’t know how to bring it up. I mean, I know, like you said in your email, what guy wouldn’t want to work on this? And I think he would. But then I’d have to explain it all to him. And I can’t…..I mean…..I don’t know.” After a pause, I tell her, “Well, I do know. I’m just embarrassed to say it.” 

“I think it would be good if you could try to say it,” she says softly. 

“I know. I know. I just….ugh. How do I ever explain..I mean…it’s like….ugh!” 

Bea lets it go for the moment, and we talk about Hagrid and his goofy antics for a few minutes. “He’s just so cute,” she tells me. I agree. 

I’m feeling calmer when I blast of bravery hits me. “I’m afraid to tell him….I mean….why it was okay….why I could…..with him….I mean……I’d have to explain that I wasn’t…..that I wasn’t here, before, when…..” 

“You would have to explain to him that you weren’t really present when you were having sex before?” She is so good at figuring out my messy fill in the blank sentences.

I nod. “Yes. And I feel like that is really hurtful. Because what guy wants to hear that their wife was only able to…….because she was gone? I mean….ugh. And then to go on and explain that now I’m more present and it’s making me freak out? That just seems so hurtful.” 

“Well, yes, it could be seen that way. It could be hurtful. But if it’s explained as this is so normal– because it is really normal given your history– and that you are just at a tricky in between place in your therapy, I think it could be understood as normal and okay and not hurtful.” 

I shake my head. I’m feeling really annoyed with her. She’s not getting how hard the would be. “If you were me, and you had to tell your husband these things, how would you ever do it? Wouldn’t that be really hard?” I don’t need Bea to be therapist Bea, I need her to be fellow human Bea, and to really get this. 

She doesn’t respond right away. At first I wonder if she is upset, if I had been snappier than I thought, but then I realize she is just thinking it over. Finally, she answers, and I can tell she has truly out herself in my position, and thought out how she would approach this with her husband.

“Thank you.” I whisper the words to her, grateful she took the time to really see, to understand as much as she can. “Also….I guess I feel like I don’t really trust him, in some ways. Because every time we have a good moment, he screws it up big time, and I let myself think things changed, but then…..”

“That change isn’t sustained, and it hurts.” She’s right. That’s exactly it. “I think if you can break this down, into small steps, and give him something concrete, he can do it. Guys like to fix things, and we’ve seen before how he is very good with concrete things. And I wonder if working on this with him, and experiencing him as safe, if that will help with trust.” 

I’m set to argue with her, I want her to be wrong. Instead, I swallow my words, because I know she is possibly right, and tell her another concern I have. “I don’t know if he can handle this. I mean…I can’t do this on my own. I need him to help me with…..being present and the feelings….like….” I’m feeling really vulnerable, but I say it anyway, “like you….with this…..I couldn’t have worked on being present and feelings if you didn’t help.” I hide my face then. It’s sort of silly, because clearly, her job description is to help, but this is as close as I’ve ever come to admitting needing her without screaming that I don’t want to need her. 

Thankfully, Bea doesn’t respond to the my needing her aspect of what I’ve said. She stays really neutral, actually. “I think he could do that. He’s shown that he can in other ways. My big thing is that I want to make sure he knows, that he understands you aren’t crazy. I think he needs a lot of psycho-education so he can understand how normal this is.” 

“I know. He just won’t read any of the books I got him.” 

“It would be helpful of you had a third party to explain it to him,” she says carefully. 

“I know. I just…I can’t….it…” I feel bad, because I’m trying to tell her I don’t want him here, or them talking, even if I am here. In a way, it feels like if I allowed him into my therapy space, I’d be saying everything that happened was okay. And I can’t do that. 

“It might not feel safe to bring him here after the emails. That would make sense. If that were the case, maybe you guys could see a different therapist together,” she tells me. I feel like her voice is carefully neutral, like she is not wanting to upset me. 

“Then I’d have to tell someone else….trust them…..I can’t do that. It be so much easier to bring him here. I can’t do that, either.” I want to scream out of frustration. I really need it to be safe to bring him here, but it doesn’t. As I’m writing this now, I wonder if it has to do more with hubby than Bea. She and I worked though it, but hubby doesn’t even know I found and read the emails. We haven’t worked through it. 

We run through different ways of talking to hubby. Bea suggests that keeping things very clinical, no feelings might feel safer to me, but she acknowledges that it would be really good if he could hear the feelings and the personal, to really understand how this is effecting me. I really feel like he needs to know the feelings. In the end, I decide that I’ll write a letter, and Bea can add in psycho-education where it is needed. 

We move on to talk about other things. “Were you going to email me the list of words?” She asks. 

“Well, I was….I couldn’t. It’s too embarrassing.” 

“Words can be powerful triggers. And I’m not comfortable with all words, either. As you saw last week.” She laughs at herself, and I smile. 

“I know, I just….it’s ugh! They are just words. They shouldn’t be this big a deal. I just…it’s crazy how much words can effect me…..” My face feels hot, and I suspect it is bright red. 

“It’s really normal to have words be triggers. It’s okay. But I think we can work on it.” 

“It’s not even those words though. I mean, like I had to ask you to use a different word on Thursday! I felt like such an idiot.” 

“You mean pleasure?” She asks nonchalantly. 

“Yes.” 

“Well, that should go on the list, too. Any word that is a trigger, should go on the list. We can work on it. Maybe you can get out the list, and we can each write out a copy to make a matching game. I really see this as being something that could be quite light hearted and comical. It will be okay.” She says. 

“I just…..I know. It’s just really hard.” 

“Maybe we start with just a few words, then. Or we use the least triggering. We will figure it out as we go.” I’m always amazed at her willingness to work with me and come up with ideas to help. Often, I too embarrassed or feel too silly to try them, but I’m getting better about it. The grown up part of me needs therapy, sure, but it’s really the little girl part that struggles with things the most. And often times, I feel like the ideas Bea has are for a child, which is maybe why they are idea that are able to feel okay to the little girl. I don’t know. 

“Okay.” I shrug. 

“Did you want to try doing the safe space exercise on Thursday? I kind of forgot we were going to try it today.” She swivels in her chair, and I can see her feet moving. She’s wearing striped socks today. 

“Yeah, okay.” I’m hesitatent, but I do want to try it. I rack my brain for where my safe space could be. Where have I felt safe, and protected and truly okay? I feel a bit panicky, because I can’t think of anything. And then my room at my grandparents pops into my head, along with the woods and gardens and greenhouse surrounding their home. I feel better. I have a space besides a closet. I have a safe space to use. 

“There’s other exercises we can do, too. One that I haven’t offered to you is the personal space exercise. But we could try that one day, if you felt like it.” 

I look at Bea, curious about how the exercise works. “What is it?” 

“Well, with kids, I’ve had them draw out their personal space with yarn, and I draw out mine. Then we practice going in and out of each other’s personal space. With adults, I usually have them define the space with their hands, and then we see what it feels like to have me step into the space, or what it is like to have me put a hand into the space. And then, we usually do something where I step into the space, and you psychically push me out of your space. That’s hard for a lot of people. To push me out.” 

I’ve been feeling farther and farther away as she is talking, and anxiety is growing in my stomach. I can’t do this. I can not do that exercise. “I….I don’t…not now. I’m not saying never, but not now.” 

“That feels like a lot, doesn’t it?” She asks me. 

I nod my head. It really does. I know Bea is okay with people in her space, because I’ve seen my kid climb all over her. And we have even stood close enough to hold a whispered conversation about Kat. But I’m in a totally different mind set then. This feels like a lot. 

“I’ve had people who don’t expect it to be triggering, and then it is. This exercise can be very triggering. With you, we could break it down into steps. Maybe we could start by even sitting on the floor, and using the blankets to define our personal space–you’d have a bigger boundary– and we could just talk about what it’s like to have that space defined. We wouldn’t have to do anything else.” 

“Maybe….maybe…that sounds better. So maybe.” Writing this out now, I’m thinking maybe we can sit there and color while we talk. 

I don’t remember how we wrapped things up, but when I left, I was okay. I went home and later that night I wrote a letter to hubby. I wrote everything I wish I could tell him, and maybe more. I’m a little afraid the letter is too much, and will overwhelm him and crush me if he can’t be what I need, after making myself so vulnerable. I’m half planning on giving it to him tomorrow night so that if it doesn’t go well, I’ll see Bea in the morning. I sent it to Bea to get her input. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m sure I will. 

Monday: part four, relationships and mom

This is part 4 of Monday’s session. For a short (70 minutes compared to the usual 90) session, there was so much we talked about. I think we got through a lot because I had written so much and have been processing so much at home on my own. So, Bea was mostly reading and responding as she read, and I was talking in bits and pieces. Anyway, it ended up being a lot. So, onward………

And I’m thinking about relationships because I think my mom is trying to have this much more real relationship with me, and I’m just not sure I can do that right now– and Kat and I are supposed to go to my parents this coming weekend. It freaks me out. I do not want to have a deep relationship with her right now. I can not do it. I’m afraid to be that open with her. Because she didn’t see me then, why would she see me now? Why would she want to? She wanted perfect student, perfect ballerina, perfect gymnast, perfect cheerleader, perfect daughter. She didn’t want me. She didn’t want the broken, crazy, screwed up, hurting girl I was. She wanted the perfect image I was so good at projecting. It’s awful and mean and so wrong, but I don’t trust her. Not like this. But then I think, what if she is needing my support to help her get better? What if she is needing me to listen, to be proud, to do have a real relationship? What if because I am too stubborn to forgive and forget and get over it, I’m hurting the first chance, the first progress she has made in a long time– in forever? 

“You don’t have to trust her right now. That’s okay. Why would you! There is nothing in your history that says a deeper relationship is safe. This– these feelings– is normal. Anyone would feel like this,” Bea says, almost instantly as she finishes reading about my mom. 

“You would?” I ask, doubtful. 

“Yes. I would feel the same.” She’s serious, meaning every word. 

I nod. “I can’t…she wants more than I can give. But if she…I mean. Crap.” 

“You are not responsible for her. Remember? She is an adult. She makes her own choices, and she has a support system. She has a therapist. She is responsible for herself. You don’t hold the control on whether she heals or gets better. That’s a choice she needs to make.” Bea reminds me. 

We’ve been through this before; I feel responsible for my mother’s emotional health, and at one time made choices that hurt me but I believed would keep her from breaking. Bea helped me see that I am not the one in control of my mom and her health, and that those beliefs are old beliefs of a hurting, damaged 9 year old little girl. I’m still working on fully believing that I’m not at fault, that my bad Adrian’s didn’t make my mom sick, and that my bad actions won’t make her sick again one day, but mostly now I can see how wrong that thinking is. 

“I think, what I’m getting from this, is you are more afraid of her trying to have a conversation with you about things from the past, hear your feelings or perspective on something, get forgiveness. You might feel comfortable hearing that she saw her therapist, or is doing well, you might feel okay hearing about her day to day experiences, but you are afraid of her digging into the past and asking you to go there with her. Is that right?” 

I nod. “Yeah…I can be happy for her…listen…but I can’t..talk…not about me…about her in the past, growing up..”

“Okay. So you can be supportive. And you can be there, for present day things,” Bea tells me. “You might have to let her know, if she goes digging in the past, that you can’t do that right now, that you are working through it on your right now.”

I freeze. My stomach is sick. Bea has worded that as though I am in therapy. So she is meaning, tell my mom I am in therapy? Nope. Even if mom is in therapy, if I tell her I am seeing a shrink, she will decide she is a failure. I can’t do that to her. “No. Not that. I can’t tell her. She can’t…not about therapy. No.” 

“Okay.” Bea is calm, and she speaks slowly, thinking as she talks, “why don’t you just tell her that you aren’t ready to talk about those things right now? That’s really enough explanation. I know you don’t want to but if she starts digging, this way you have a plan of what to say, and a choice: you can not talk, or talk.” 

I think about it. What she has said doesn’t feel good. But it is logical. “Okay. I don’t like it. But okay.” 

“I know. You don’t have to like it. It’s okay to not like it.” 

“I just want things back how they were. Right now.” I say, and my voice cracks, turns into a whine as I start to cry again. 

“I know. This doesn’t feel good, or safe. Change is so hard. And this change is very unnerving; it’s shaking your whole foundation, no matter how messy or fake it was, it was the story for your whole life. It’s safe.” Bea says. She does get it. But I think she is excited that my mom is changing, healing. I’m excited, too, deep down. I just can’t go there, yet. I still need to be angry, I still need to grieve. I still need to figure out what these changes mean to a story I’ve barely begun to make sense of. 

Spinning our wheels: Getting Real

Bea wanted me to finish filling out the workbook questions from the EFT workbook (emotionally focused couples therapy workbook) that I had refused to fill out. Her thought was filling it out would be a good way to at least start the conversation between Hubby and I regarding my fears of allowing him to be close. She had spent some time in therapy going through the questions with me, helping me work out my answers, so when I sat down to write them, it wasn’t very hard.

Chapter 4 was the chapter I got upset about. It was all about our attachment relationships in the past, and what those relationships have taught us about ourselves. Answering those questions felt way too exposing to me, and I left many of them blank. The entire time hubby and I shared our answers, I had a bad grumpy attitude; I essentially acted like my 15 year old self. It was only made worse in that hubby found the questions easy to answer, and everything he had to say seemed so normal and typical. He clearly had a very healthy, secure attachment style, and I had this broken screwed up attachment style that I most certainly didn’t want to admit to– ever.

I sat down, though, and I answered the questions:

On a scale of 1-10 how worthy am I of receiving help from my spouse or friends?
It really varies depending on state on mind and mood. Bea says I have these frozen in time parts, the traumatized parts that don’t really match up to the grown up parts. So some parts would be very low on this scale, and others would be higher.

On a scale of 1-10 how comfortable am I allowing others to be close to me?
Not so much. I’m afraid of letting people close to me, and don’t like feeling vulnerable. I usually act mad to hide it. That’s why I got so bent out of shape about these questions in the workbook– they felt too exposing to me.

Who was the person that comforted me when I was upset, how did they comfort me and what did that teach me about myself?
My mom, she tried to distract me, and it taught me that my real emotions, and to some extent my authentic self was not acceptable.

Have you been in an abusive relationship in the past? Has this made approaching your current partner difficult at times?
Yes, my relationship in college was physically and sexually abusive.

I gave Hubby the worksheets and told him that he could read them later, but that I didn’t want to talk about them right now. I woke up this morning to email from him.

You’re sleeping now but I wanted to say thank you for sharing your answers. I’ll take every opportunity to know more about you. It makes me feel more connected to you. I love you more and more each day and I think you’re an amazing wife, mom, and person.

I love you and always will because of who you are.

I let him in, and now I need to try not to kick him out. I only hope I’m stronger enough to do it.

Spinning our wheels (with a migraine): Emotions

(Friday)

I’ve had a migraine all day; the kind of pounding, throbbing, ice pick through your eye headache that even prescription medication can’t touch. By 9:00 pm, eight hours after the onset of the worst of the pain, I can finally handle listening to a quiet voice and talking. I’ve been bored, laying in bed with a blanket and heated rice pack over my eyes, doing nothing but thinking. And thinking can be dangerous for me; I’ve been stuck in my own head for hours now, and some of those places have been quite scary. So when Hubby suggests that we do our workbook, I agree.

He reads the chapter to me. I usually find it hard to pay attention to people reading to me, but I’ve been bored enough all day that this is enough for me. Plus, I had read ahead and being familiar with the chapter made it easier to follow along to hubby reading.

The chapter is about our emotions, and what the author’s call defensive or secondary emotions. It’s a concept we are all familiar with in our lives. For me, the easiest example is when I am angry, I’m typically feeling hurt or vulnerable or scared underneath that. The worksheets were mostly about how a different reactions from your partner can cause different emotions, and those emotions can be different based on what we have learned in our past attachment relationships. They gave different examples ranging from when your partner calls your name in an angry voice to when they frown.

Surprisingly, for the most part, Hubby and I have the same responses to cues from our partner. The main difference is that while we both tend to have the same external response, my internal response tends to be about what I’ve done wrong, or should have done better, or how I’m never good enough, or whatever. His internal responses are much more neutral; in a way, Hubby seems to effortlessly practice the mindfulness that so many therapists are suggesting nowadays.

One part of the worksheet was to fill out what you are feeling in your body when you experience these emotions. Hubby was able to do this very well, but when it was my turn, I had nothing. He wanted to know why, but I really couldn’t explain it very well. I didn’t really want to talk about exactly how detached I am from my body or my emotions. I asked him to just let it go, and he did.

We ended up snuggling and talking quietly about our feelings. Hubby told me he worries that he is emotionally dead. He said that until he met me, no one had ever even thought to ask him how he felt about something; that having all emotions while growing up was allowed, it was just that they weren’t talked about. And he worries with his job that he needs to be emotionally detached, and that he brings that emotional detachment home.

“I think I’m emotionally dead sometimes,” he said.

I told him that I disagreed, that maybe speaking in the language of emotions wasn’t his first language, and didn’t always feel comfortable, but that he was far from emotionally dead. We talk about how he doesn’t like anything to upset his equilibrium and emotions can be messy.

We talk about how I go between overwhelming emotions or numbed emotions but really nothing in between. I don’t have a lot to say about it, except that is what therapy is for. Hubby laughs at that, and says okay.

I tell him I’m ready to be done and try to sleep or at least put a show on and listen to it. He says okay. I tell him that I had finished the worksheets from the last chapter, and hand them to him as he is getting ready to play his game. I’m amazed when he sets the controller down, and asks me if I want to talk about them. I tell him no, he can just read them. He says okay, but if I did want to, we could. I smile and give him a kiss, telling him to play his game.

I put Friends on, and listen to Ross and Rachel, Monica, Joey, Chandler and Phoebe play out the drama of their lives in the coffee shop while I try to fall asleep and forget about exactly how much I have just let Hubby in. It’s a scary thing to let someone close.

Feeling lonely

Breathe in, breathe out with an “sssss” sound. I’m late, my anxiety is sky-rocketing. It snowed last night, not a lot, but just enough to make the roads icy in some spots. And of course, everyone has forgotten how to drive in the winter, and so we are all traveling along at 25 miles an hour– in a 55 mile an hour zone, so I can’t even speed to make up for lost time. It’s funny, because I’m breathing to calm myself down for several moments before I realize that I am breathing like this. I continue with it, and send Bea a text, letting her know I’m sorry I am stuck in traffic. Of course, I wouldn’t be late if my nanny hadn’t been late. The nanny is always late in the early mornings, and it’s usually been fine, but as the roads get snowier, it won’t be. I’m going to need to say something, but I’m not sure what, or how. Ugh. I hate having to be the bad guy.

I finally arrive 10 minutes late, rush in, apologize, leave my boots on the rug in the hall, sit down in my usual place on the couch and breathe. “Whew. The nanny was 20 minutes late. I’m so, so sorry.”

“She’s young, isn’t, she? Young people like to sleep,” Bea laughs. She’s not concerned, not stressed, not upset. I relax about it. It’s really okay.

“I guess so,” I shrug. I don’t think I ever really slept.

“How are you sleeping? We haven’t really talked about that lately. You haven’t talked about nightmares, or not sleeping.” She studies me, but not in a mean way. More like a someone who cares, searching for signs of tiredness, or not okayness.

I look down now, as if my socks are suddenly the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen. “I don’t..I don’t sleep. Nightmare aren’t every night like they were but sometimes…..sometimes it’s like one night of nightmares can ruin the whole week of sleep.”

“Well, yes. We don’t want to go to a bad place if we can help it. No one does.”

“So I just don’t sleep, I guess. I sleep for a while, wake up, fall back asleep, wake up. I don’t know,” I’m chronically tired, worn out. But I can’t relax, can’t really rest.

Bea swivels in her chair, like a kid might do. “So, what happens, when you lay down? Do you fall asleep or lay there, get up?”

“I lay down when Hubby lays down, sometimes earlier if I’m tired. So maybe 9:30. I’ll read my book, or write in my journal. But if I put that stuff down, I get too anxious, and can’t fall asleep. So I will just read until sleep hits me over the head and knocks me out. Then I sleep for a few hours, and either have a nightmare and wake up freaked out, or just jerk awake, no nightmare but sure something is not okay, or I wake up feeling like everything is off, and disoriented for a few minutes. Then I’m up for a while, or up for good, it depends on how I woke up. If I fall back asleep, it’s usually that in and out sleep for another hour or two. And then I’m up.”

“So like last night, how did you sleep?” Bea asks.

“I think I fell asleep around 10— the last time I looked at the clock it was 9:45. Then, I woke up around 12:00. And then I read my book for maybe an hour or so, fell back asleep, and woke up,at 3:30. And I’ve been up since 3:30.” I yawn, and laugh, “I’m a little tired.”

“You never look tired to me,” Bea tells me.

I smile. A few weeks ago, I would have taken this as her calling me a liar. Now, I hear her saying that I don’t have dark circles under my eyes— which I am really sensitive about having, so it’s nice to hear– “I have really good concealer.” (The concealer is yves saint Laurent radiant touch— it literally reflects light and brightens the face. I don’t wear foundation, or much makeup, anymore but this and my mascara is where I spend my money when it comes to makeup.)

Bea laughs. I think she thinks I am making a joke, but I’m so serious. My concealer is like 8 hours of sleep in a bottle. “Did you sleep good when you were a teenager?”

I shake my head. “No. Not really. Those were the insomnia years.” I don’t tell her that those were the years my mother was annoyed I didn’t sleep a lot like teens were supposed to, that she would be annoyed I was awake when she went to bed, and up before her. I don’t tell her that my parents forced sleeping pills on me then, and that is part of the reason I am so against them now, I don’t explain how scary sleeping pills felt to me, how they just conked me out, or how I still dreamed but couldn’t wake up. I don’t explain that once I took the pills, because my mother always made sure I took them, and then I didn’t go to bed and fought falling asleep and that was a terrible night, because I hallucinated scary, scary things– it was like my childhood nightmares come to life. All of these things run through my head, but I cant say them out loud. I can’t go there. There is….still a feeling of disconnection between Bea and I, at least in my head, and it makes me feel like I can’t be fully honest or talk about everything that goes on in my head.

“What about before that? When is the last age you remember sleeping good?”

I shake my head. I’ve kind of drawn into myself a little, with the thoughts from the teen years and sleep. I’m alone with them. The horrible thing is, that I should be able to share these thoughts with Bea, but I can’t. It’s like things have gone backwards again, in the trust department, or something. That’s not exactly right, either, though, because I trust her. And yet there is this disconnection, and I don’t understand why, and I’m not sure Bea even knows it’s there, which means it’s just me being crazy. Ugh.

“Did you get up and go to your parents, then? Ask for a glass of water, get a hug, or something?” Bea is looking at me, but not directly. It’s like she knows I’ve gotten uncomfortable and gone away a little.

“No, I was, they-” I cut myself off, hold back tears. It doesn’t feel safe to cry here right now. It’s that disconnection again. I was going to say that I never got out of bed when I was little. I was afraid. I had nightmares that snakes lived under my bed and would hurt me, and so,I was afraid to get out of my bed at night. They, my parents would come if I called loud enough that they would hear me, but usually I couldn’t yell loud enough. I have vague memories of being scared at night, and calling for my mom, but my voice being frozen, I couldn’t get the words out loud enough for her to hear me to even know to come to me. “No. I don’t really think I have ever been a good sleeper. I think I’m one of those people, I don’t need a lot sleep.”

“Mmmhhh. That’s probably true. If this is a life long pattern, then it would make sense.”

I nod, and don’t say anything else. We sit quiet, for a minute. Bea is calm, and I am restless with the silence. I hate silence. I need to have someone talking to me, or to be filling the silence with chatter. In therapy, it is hard for me to fill the silence.

Bea doesn’t have tea with her today. It’s odd to see her without tea. She turns her head more directly toward me. “Are you wanting to work on sleep here? We could do that here….one thing would be to work directly with the nightmares. Of course, I know that makes them worse before they get better.”

My heart feels like it stops for a minute. I breathe. I can barely think. “Nightmares. Not today. Thursday. We can do it Thursday. I’ll write it down.”

“Okay, that sounds good. What about talking to your MD about sleep? Or Dr. Beals?” Bea sounds far away to me. Why doesn’t she notice I’m not so much here right now?

“My doctor just would give me meds, I told her no. Dr. Beals has been working with me, we cut down on caffeine, really slow. From coffee to tea. So now it’s 1 or 2 cups of coffee in the morning, and then tea. I can have caffeine tea until noon, after that it has to be decaf, or really low caffeine. She says tea with caffeine is different than coffee, so even that is less of a jolt than coffee would be in the morning. And then we looked at supplements, vitamins, all that. Nothing, no change.” I shake me head. Nothing helps. Because I am tired, I just fight sleep so much.

“Caffeine!” Bea hits her forehead jokingly, “Now why haven’t I thought of that?!? Here we have been discussing sleep, and I haven’t even thought of telling you to cut back on caffeine!”

“It didn’t make a difference anyway,” I say.

“How has it been with Hubby gone?”

I sigh. “Awful. Every noise makes me wonder what is going on, makes me jump. Kat has been sleeping in my bed, because she has been told every night forever that when Daddy goes on his hunting trip, she can have a sleepover with mom every night. So I’m even more paranoid about having nightmares because I don’t want to wake her, or scare her.”

“So, in some sense, Hubby is the protector at night for you, making you feel safe, even if you won’t turn to him.” Bea seems intrigued by this.

“I guess. I mean, I’m used to him being there.” I don’t know. I wish I had a definite answer. I suppose I feel safer with him there, I believe he is capable and that he is safe. But, at the same time, he scares me, because I’m afraid of what will happen if I turn to him when we are in bed in the middle of the night; I don’t know what to expect.

Bea doesn’t say anything for a minute, and either do I. Then she tells me about how her husband was out of town last week, and she let the dog sleep in the bed. Which worked out well, until he came home and the dog hopped into bed the first night. We both laugh.

“I still have the eating behaviors list, why it’s hard to let go of the behaviors,” Bea tells me, when our laughter stops.

“No. Oh no, not today.” I shake my head, make a face and look down. Why did I ever give her that damn list? Now she has it. I should have taken it back, not let her keep it. Crap. “Hubby and I did the first chapter from the workbook together.”

My tactic of distraction works well, Bea is too curious about this workbook, and she wants me to be able to lean on Hubby for support. “How did it go?”

“Well, I’d say that you can recommend it to people, for sure.” I smile at her. I’m happy with the way the workbook has gone.

“Well, tell me!” She says, really wanting to know, and I can believe that she does care about what happens with me, and that she wants me to be okay.

I tell her about the workbook, how it was rough going, but how things got better. She is amazed with some of the things the book talks about, and she really likes the attachment viewpoint. I tell her that it was a very noticeable parallel to me that when Hubby tunes me out, or I feel insecure about our attachment, I talk incessantly, and I would do the same thing as a 3 and 4 year old to my mom–she still complains about it to this day, in fact. “That’s one of the ways it feels safe for you to seek attachment with your attachment figures,” Bea says. I wonder if this is why I have always liked people to tell me a story about themselves, about their day, their lives, anything, to help me calm down. I don’t ask though, because it could be a way off base-totally crazy thought.

“I thought it seemed to work well, I mean Hubby was pretty standoffish about it, even though he agreed to do it, and by the very end, he was really talking openly. We both were. I mean, I couldn’t read my paper, I had to give it to him, but that started things for him, he was upset at how upset and hurt I was. But after that he shared more, too.” I pull out our mini binder, and the loop worksheet, to show Bea. “This loop was helpful to see, and to fill out. How the feelings lead to a behavior, but my behavior triggers a feeling in him which leads to a behavior in him, which triggers my feelings which leads right back to my behavior, and round and round we go.”

Bea nods, looking at the loop. “When you were vulnerable, and really showed him how much he effects you, you took a chance. But it made it safer for him to open up and be more vulnerable. Guys are taught to hold back feelings. This workbook is really forcing the feelings front and center, though, isn’t it? And the loop is a really good visual, for you guys to see. I like the list of behaviors, too. It’s all good.”

“It really is. I ended up buying the book by the lady that created the therapy. I got really interested in it, and read ahead in the workbook, but I wanted to know a little more. You probably will want that one, too. Because it has more information in it than the workbook does. It’s called Hold me Tight.” I drink some tea, wiggle my toes. I’m fidgety today.

“I’m going to have amazon at my house everyday this week!” Bea laughs.

“I like the viewpoint. I read other books on couples stuff. But this makes the most sense. There’s no scripted conversations, it’s more questions, things to talk about with your partner, to understand each other. She compares it to addressing a symptom versus addressing the real problem.”

“I’m excited for you, it seems like you feel good about this. And I’m interested, curious to learn about it, I have to say. I haven’t heard of viewing relationships as adult attachments, not in therapy like this, not in a formal way, but I like it.”

I frown a little. “You said before I even found this, that Hubby was my closest attachment figure. That a spouse was an adults closest attachment figure.”

“Yes, yes I did, because that is my personal belief as a therapist. But most couples therapists, most adult therapists believe attachment needs end in childhood. So this is very, very interesting to me. That’s why I’m so curious about it.” Bea smiles.

“Now you are going to want to be a couples therapist,” I say. What I really mean, is you are going to stop seeing individuals and “quit” me to see couples.

“I might be more likely to see couples if I’m already see one person of the couple. Like you, and then you could bring Hubby if I saw couples.” She says.

I feel better. At least she isn’t quitting me. “Hubby is coming home for lunch. He called and said he missed me. So he is driving back from hunting camp to come see me.” I smile.

“That’s a great thing! He left for his trip feeling more connected to you, and so he missed you. It’s great– and huge– that he is coming back for lunch.”

“It’s weird though. Before, we did the workbook and talked like we did that night, he kept,telling me he wasn’t coming home because I was bored. But he would come if I needed something. And now, he’s coming home for lunch? It’s like it made a difference, you know?”

“You guys connected on an emotional level. That’s the difference, I think. You haven’t been letting him in, and he hasn’t been letting you in. The other night, you did. It’s easier to miss someone when you are connected.” Bea stretches her hands in front of her, and crosses her legs. It’s all slow and calm, though. Nothing seems fidgety or awkward like I feel when I move around.

We chat a few more minutes, and then wrap up the session heading out. Bea to errands, me home. We say our goodbyes, and see you Thursdays.

I’m mad at myself for not really doing anything with my time in therapy today. I feel like today was a waste. I don’t know why I can’t open back up. If I had maybe said some of what was going on in my head, therapy wouldn’t have been a waste today. Why do I feel so separated from Bea? I end up not talking to her, and then I feel really alone. Thursday I’m supposed to tslk nightmares. Will I actually be able to do that? Or so I need to figure out what is going on with me and Bea first? But she doesn’t seem to sense it, or feel it, or realize it, so it must be me– in my head? Driving back home, I shake my head. I’ll figure it out later. I’m too tired to think about it right now.

“Spinning our wheels”

So, Hubby and I have been fighting. We fight about nothing, we fight about everything. I don’t like it. He doesn’t like it. I have been trying to do things differently and talk about the fighting, rather than ignore it and pretend it’s not happening. Hubby doesn’t want to talk about it. He wants it to go away. On Tuesday night (or maybe Wednesday morning, depending how you look at it) I started researching couples therapy methods. I came across Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples, or EFT, thanks to a link sent to me by a good friend. I looked into it. And I liked what I read.

EFT is based on the idea that we all need an attachment figure, a secure base in our life, no matter what our age is. In EFT, the attachment is with your partner. The therapy focuses on changing how the couple reacts and responds to each other on an emotional level, it focuses on creating a stronger attachment bond, healing a severed bond, or perhaps helping to create a secure bond for the first time. I found a workbook, Our relationship: an emotionally focused workbook for creating closeness: the two of us, and Hubby agreed to do it with me. Chapter one was an overview of what EFT is, and who the workbook is designed for. I read and summarized chapter one for Hubby. Last night, we did chapter two together.

I’m nervous. The anxiety I feel is probably more than I should be feeling. I’ve looked ahead though, and read enough about EFT to I know I’m going to feel vulnerable and exposed. Lately, every time I feel vulnerable, Hubby makes me feel worse.

We get comfortable in bed, blankets and pillows, hot tea.

I look at him, and I know my voice is wobbly when I speak. “We can read the reading part out loud, take turns reading, or read it to ourselves?” I feel responsible, like I have to to make this work, and make him happy with it because it was my idea.

“I’ll just read it. I won’t listen if you read it.” In my mind, Hubby sounds harsh, like he is cutting me off, not willing to talk.

“Okay. Okay. Then we can do the worksheets together, and talk about what we read.” I grab the silly putty off my nightstand before I can start picking my fingers because my anxiety is so high I already want to pick the skin off my fingers.

Chapter two is all about fighting patterns. It’s referred to as a “dance” and couples are encouraged to name their dance. Hubby and I name our dance “Spinning our wheels.” Our pattern is clearly protest-withdraw, with me being the the protester, and Hubby being the one who withdraws. There is a list of behaviors associated with each partner, and neither has nice traits listed. The protester has behaviors like criticizing, complaining, following around the house, nagging (which hubby informs me means talking incessantly), yelling to make my point, ignoring when partner tries to rectify the situation, and questioning. The withdrawing person has behaviors like reasoning, appeasing, placating, numbing out, shutting down, leaving the room, not responding, yelling to shut things down and minimizing. The book explains how my behavior triggers Hubby to feel a certain way which leads to a behavior that triggers me to feel a certain way and leads to a behavior which triggers Hubby’s feelings, and….on and on, caught in an endless loop.

We finish reading, and look I look at Hubby. “Well….I um. I guess we would be the protest withdraw dance.”

“Oh yeah,” Hubby says.

While we had been reading, I had written out the behaviors of the protestor and withdrawer, as well as the worksheets. “I thought we could highlight the behaviors we know we do, and what we feel the other does.”

Hubby takes the green highlighter from me. “I’m obviously the one who withdraws.”

I feel like he is being short with me, but I am afraid anything I say will be taken as a criticism or complaint, and, after all, he is doing the workbook. I hand him the list of withdraw behaviors, and the worksheets to fill out.

For my own, I highlight a lot of the behaviors, but not every single one. Before I get started on worksheet, Hubby says, “it’s all of them.” He is gesturing at his list of behaviors.

“Well, then just draw a line down the page with the highlighter,” I suggest.

“Why? It’s all of them.”

“Well, if I highlight not all of them, then we can see the difference in what you and I see,” I say. I don’t know, really, I just think it should just be highlighted, because that’s the exercise.

“That makes no sense.”

“I don’t know. It satisfies my OCD,” I say, and Hubby draws a line down the page to highlight all the behaviors. I don’t understand why I’m always considered the difficult one, and yet he is the one who just made us have a 5 min conversation about highlighting.

With that done, we can trade pages to highlight the other person’s behaviors. I’m actually really afraid to see what he highlights. I have this deep fear he is going to highlight every single thing on the pages. I don’t want to have to face that my husband thinks I’m this awful person. I don’t have to mark all the behaviors on Hubby’s sheet, even though he thinks he displays them all. The work sheet is harder for me, because filling it out makes me feel like crying. It’s really rough. All the hurt and fear is right there as I’m writing about what behaviors Hubby does that make me feel threatened. The second step of the worksheet is to write out how I respond to that behavior. I fill the sheet out honestly, but it makes me feel very exposed to do so. And, I wonder if this will be the time Hubby loses it on me (Bea has assured me that given my trauma history, it is absolutely normal for me to have this fear of Hubby losing it).

Hubby sets his worksheets down, next to me. “I’m done with my sheets, too,” I tell him, “Should we maybe look at the behaviors first?” I want to put off the actual worksheet as long as possible.

“Why? We know what we do.” He holds them up anyway, regardless of his words. I look at them. We marked a lot of the same ones, but some different. We each marked more for ourselves than our partner marked for us. I breathe a sigh of relief over that– he hasn’t marked everything, and so he at least doesn’t see me as this completely awful person.

“Okay. I guess it’s just maybe helpful to have them listed out, and to realize that when you are displaying any of these behaviors, you are actually quietly protesting conflict, or trying to avoid disappointing me, or trying to protect yourself. And you can maybe try to realize that when I am displaying these behaviors, it is because I am feeling a disconnect between us.” I shrug, and put the lists in the mini binder I made to hold our workbook stuff. “Do you want to share your worksheet first?” I’m hoping Hubby says okay, because once again, I’m putting off sharing my worksheet.

“I wrote, I feel threatened when you criticize or nag and then I shut down and don’t respond to manage.” Hubby reads it off, no problem. I sigh. I don’t think he is really emotionally involved.

We talk. He clarifies what he feels is criticism or nagging. It turns out, it’s not what I say, or even how it’s said. It’s the fact that after I say it once, I keep talking. That’s what he sees as criticism. He explains to me that nagging is just talking incessantly, for the sake of talking; essiantially, in his view, it’s talking at him. I think of nagging as more of the wife with the “honey-do” list ans trying to get the husband to do everything on it. But this is about his experience, not my vocabulary definitions.

Then, my turn. “I wrote….I feel threatened when you look at me and say ‘I’m done.’ because I ..” My voice breaks and I hand the paper to Hubby. It says, I feel threatened when you look at me and say I’m done because I hear “I’m done with you.” When you shut down and refuse to respond or walk away from me, this reinforces that, and then I yell to make my point, follow you around or purposefully push your buttons because at that point any reaction is better than no reaction at all.

Tears fall down my cheeks now, and Hubby looks at me, “Im sorry. I don’t mean I’m done with you. I never would be done with you, with us. I’m sorry that is what you hear.”

We’re able to talk through this, too. It feels scary to talk about this, but like a relief, too, to be getting things out in the open and working towards an understanding of each other. We talk about the fact that Hubby doesn’t think I’m a mean person, he doesn’t think my behavior is meant to be mean. I tell him I’m hurt or scared under the criticizing, or complaining.

We fill out a few more worksheets together. On one, I notice that when Hubby is shut down from me, actively tuning me out, my response is to talk incessantly. “I can trace that all the way back to childhood. My mom always says that all I did until the year I turned 5 was follow her around the house talking non-stop, and she would just ignore me and tune me out. Bea told me the fact I needed to follow my mom around and talk like that was probably me searching out a connection; that even with a most likely secure attachment, I sensed the emotional distance from my mom and that’s what I was responding to.”

“I can understand that. That’s sad to me….I’m sorry. I’m sorry for now and for you then. I can understand why you talk a lot to me, it makes you feel safe,” Hubby says.

Tonight, before Hubby goes to bed and I read my book, we snuggle together and talk. We talk about the workbook some more, but also about everyday things. I feel safer talking to him and more truly connected and understood than I have in a long time.

The walls I built around my anger……..

Trigger warning for just about everything, I think. Sexual abuse, eating disorder, cutting, swearing,– lots of swearing– I don’t know what else. Please just read with caution. I’m not normally an angry person, but I’m feeling quite mad today

The walls I built around my anger are unable to contain all the mad I am feeling at the moment…………..

Anger scares me. I push it down, don’t acknowledge it. Sometimes it sneaks past, and I snap or yell, explode without meaning to. Mostly though, anger is buried deep down. It’s walled off. Long ago, I built walls around my anger and any anger I feel, I shove down to be contained by those walls.

I want to cry. I want to yell at someone. Probably Hubby, as he is safe to yell at. Well, he was safe. I’m not sure he is safe to yell at anymore. Bea has described him as my attachment figure; if he is my attachment figure, then I should be able to yell at him and know that he will still love me and so it will be safe to let all this mad out at him, much the way Kat lets all her mad out at me. But I don’t think it’s safe to let my mad out at Hubby any longer. Which only makes me more mad.

Ever since I’ve had the realization, a few weeks ago now, that HE (childhood abuser) had sex with me, I have wanted to scream it at Hubby. In our normal, everyday married life moments, I have had this urge to look at him and scream, to yell,” HE had sex with me. “. I want the contrast of the moments, I want to shock him, make him realize the difference of my lives, the normal vs the abuse, I want him to see. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I am so damn angry with Hubby.

Things have been rocky with Hubby, with our marriage for a while. It’s mostly my fault. Because I am the way I am, messy, emotional, push then pull, not perfect, I don’t know. I yell at the drop of a hat. Not on purpose. I know this, though. I also know that this summer, after things with Kat’s autism settled down, and life was fairly smooth and I had nothing to focus on, my anger started to leak out more. I yelled at Hubby a lot. I even yelled at Kat. (I still yell sometimes, I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth, and maybe the the truth will help someone else.)

I thought things would be better after I told Hubby the truth. I thought I would be able to continue telling him more of my truth, my past and my present struggles, and together we would get to know me. And don’t get me wrong, he has been supportive, he is a good husband, and he does love me, love our little family. Of that I have no doubt. He is also so good at saying the right thing, and making great gestures; loving me for being Alice, creating a hiding place for me so I don’t have to hide in the closet like a scared 5 year old anymore, finding an Alice down the rabbit hole necklace to help me remember to stay out of the rabbit holes.

But, he likes his world to be pretty. He likes his world to be easy, nice, relaxing, unruffled. And that’s the problem. I am none of those things right now. I am ruffled, and stormy and messy. I am loud. I am going to interrupt the relaxing times, and makes things hard. Last week, we had a fight, which ended with me feeling like I was back in the family I grew up in, after I attempted to talk it out with him several times.

I’ve done an experiment this weekend, starting on Thursday. I have been the perfect wife again, the girl he met. I have been unruffled and uncomplicated. I have made dinners he likes, cleaned things up everyday (I’m working my way through the house), offered to do things he likes, made no complaints, only spoken of surface things, asked questions about things like his video game (and watched him play), I’ve made things nice and pretty for him.

Last night he said to me, “I’m glad that you are feeling better. Therapy combined with yoga must be really helping. And Dr. B. must be helping the fibro and migraine pain. I feel like we are a team again. I’m glad we’ve been talking so much lately, it’s made such a difference.”

Talking?!?!? We haven’t been talking. I’ve been fucking trying. He’s been shutting it down. Ugh!

I want to yell at Bea, tell her that I NEVER should have listened to her. That she screwed up everything. That thanks to her, I believed that I could tell Hubby everything and things would be different. But they aren’t. Because he does not fucking care! He wants his perfect fucking world. That’s it. My experiment proves that, she can’t argue with it. The shitty thing is, she’ll try. I know she will. She will get all damn shrinky on me and try. Why the hell did I listen to her?!?! Stupid. Stupid. I trusted her. Why the fuck did I?

I’m so mad at myself. I’m so mad at Hubby, at Bea. I believed them. The walls I built, the ways I related to everyone for years to stay safe, I changed those ways; I tried a new way with Bea and Hubby, I lowered the walls. I’d always kept people at a distance, even those closest to me– even my husband!— had no idea of my feelings, my inner thoughts, my past, my childhood memories, who I really was. Not to mention my traumas. But all that started to changed this past summer. Now, six months later, I’m regretting that choice. This is exactly why I never lowered my walls before.

I have therapy tomorrow, and I don’t even see the point. I’ll go, I’ll sit there and pretend to be fine, to talk. I don’t know. It will be a repeat of Thursday, only harder because I’m fully aware of the fact that I’m detached, mad, and not wanting to have a connection with Bea, or trust her anymore. I won’t tell her, I won’t talk about the relationship, not face to face, not like that. So I’ll waste another session. When what I would really like to do is yell at her for convincing me trusting Hubby was ever a good idea. I should have left things as they were. I want to scream in the therapy room the words, “HE fucking had sex with me and I did NOT want to.” I want to talk about that with someone, because I am so confused, I don’t understand. My head says one thing, my memory, my inner child says another thing. It’s the little girl in me that has more weight when it comes to sexual abuse memories, she holds the memories and the emotions. She wins, right now, And damn it, I should be able to talk to Bea, except I am so angry with her, I can’t imagine trusting her right now.

All this mad is leaking out, and I have no where to put it. I have only myself to take it out on. Cutting. I’ve already cut this weekend. I’ll end up cutting again. This is what happens. I trust people and they hurt me, and I hurt myself. It is not fucking worth it.And Bea, who put me in charge of monitoring my “okayness” and telling her, who assured me that now she understands what “I’m not okay” means, will most certainly never be told that I have been cutting again. Fuck that. I’m done reporting to her.