The baby shower 

Kay is pregnant. I’m happy for her, but it’s strange for me, too. I’m not involved in knowing about this baby, not the way I would have been a year ago. An invitation arrived in the mail last week, and it hurt. I can’t explain it, but that invitation caused a lot of grief to come up, and I knew I could not attend that baby shower. I also knew that not attending could very well be the equivalent of drawing a line in the sand and that coils cost me what semblance of friendship I have left. 

So, Monday’s session started off very on the surface again. I didn’t want to bring up Kay and the baby shower. I knew Bea would see it as a big deal, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that validation. Part of me really wanted some one to tell me to suck it up, to be appropriate and attend the shower like a good girl. Eventually, though, I told Bea about the invite. 

“Well, the million dollar question is, of course, are you going to go?” She asked. 

I shrugged, looked down. “I don’t know. I just……not going is sort of drawing a line in the sand. But I don’t want to go.”

“Could you go, take Kat with you, and just be happy for Kay, celebrate the baby and stay focused on Kat?” Bea asked. 

“Sure, I could,” I said. “It’s just…..I don’t fit anywhere now. I would have been the one THROWING the shower. Now I’m not even really a friend. I just….it would be really uncomfortable and I don’t want to deal with it.”

“That’s understandable,” Bea agreed.

We talked about the friendship, and how my setting a boundary ended the friendship a while. We go through how Kay and I began talking again, and how Kay isn’t even really in my life now. She doesn’t know me. She isn’t a person I would call if I needed to talk. Bea suggests that maybe I am ready to let go of this friendship, that I have, in a sense, outgrown it. 

All week, even outside of therapy, I think about this. I start to see that I am beginning to know who I am, and who I am is a person who doesn’t want to pretend things are great and wonderful when they aren’t. I don’t want to pretend to be friends and be closer to someone than I’m not, and I don’t want to make excuses, either. I want to be real, I want to be authentic. 

“I used to be that person, the one who pretended everything was good and did whatever the other party needed or expected, but I’m not that girl anymore,” I said to Bea. 

“No, you sure aren’t. I think this whole week, here in therapy and in your writing, it’s been about finding out who you are,” she told me. 

I nodded. “With Kay…..I thought, in a perfect world, I would send a gift and then call her and explain why I can’t attend the shower, that this rupture between us being left umrepaired makes it awkward for me, and I am feeling very sad because the last baby shower she has, I threw it. I would explain to her that I am happy she is having a baby, and that is something to celebrate and I would not be very celebratory with how I am feeling, and it is important to me to be authentic and true to myself. And then we would talk and she would understand and I would attend or not, but I wouldn’t be faking my way through anything. But this isn’t a perfect world, and so of I send a gift and message her my regrets, I think it will cost me the friendship.” 

“That’s hard. That is the hard thing. But you do know what you want to do, what feels right. You really are developing a sense of self,” Bea said to me. She sounded happy, maybe even proud of me.

I talked about how losing her friendship at this point would be more about losing the memories or the possibility of things being fixed— although I don’t believe I’d ever trust her the way once did. I shared wit Bea that I am planning on sending a gift with a nice card, and sending Kay a message that says “I am sorry we can’t make it to the shower, I have a conflict, but I wish I could be there. I’m so happy for you guys.” That puts the ball in her court, and if she chooses do question the conflict, I can then choose to share with her the conflict I have with our not exactly real, very surface, no repairs made friendship. 

Bea agreed that made sense, and she seemed proud of me for making a choice that was right for me. 
.  

Friendship 

Monday’s session was much of the same as Thursday’s at the beginning and then we spent some time discussing a Kat and her weekend of meltdowns. I’m thankful she will see Bea this week. I wondered, but didn’t say, if maybe missing a week of therapy effects Kat more than we think it does. My thought process was along the lines of Bea providing some extra holding space and containment for Kat’s BIG feelings and BIG worries, because while I do my best, my container is sort of leaky, and I struggle to hold my own crap at times. Although, I do think I now have separate containers for myself and Kat, but both still have lots of holes. Which is where Bea comes in. She holds the stuff that leaks out. Maybe that theory is way off base. 

It was the end of the session that got interesting. Bea had asked before she left on vacation about friendships, and if I noticed friendships forming now that were maybe different from friendships that were formed when Ms. Perfect was running things. I didn’t really answer then, but I ended up writing about three woman who I think I may be forming friendships with. All three have kids that Kat is friends with, which is how we met, but they also seem very authentic and real, their parenting values are similar to mine, we each have a similar quality of quirkiness, of nerdiness. Two of these women I have spent time with outside of having our kids with us, and it was really nice to have grown up conversations, just someone to have girl talk with. I stayed me, most of the time, and I didn’t leave our outings feeling drained and in need of a lot of quiet, down time like I usually do after a social engagement. 

I’ve noticed that the more real and authentic I am being, the less exhausted I am. I’d written about this in my notebook, along with a lot of other things, but the friendship thing is something Bea was really interested in today. She asked a lot of questions about them, and I talked a bit, but I also felt a little embarrassed. Why am I, a grown woman, having to discuss new friendships and how to navigate those new friendships, with my therapist? I mean, I am very appropriate in social settings. I am competent and confident in speaking to anyone, really. Or at least Ms. Perfect is. She isn’t afraid of people. She doesn’t let them in, but she is great at focusing on a person, being polite, talking to anyone and everyone and getting along with all kinds of people. But me? I have no idea how to be that person. I’m okay in social settings, maybe a little awkward, maybe a little preoccupied with whether or not people are perceiving me as weird, or crazy, or needy, or annoying, or any other thing that would separate me from them. But navigating and building real friendships? Yeah, I’m lost and uncertain, like a middle school girl who doesn’t fit anywhere. 

Bea asked about close friendships, if I felt like any of the women were people who would end up as close friends. 
I smiled and shook my head. “I don’t do close friends.” 

Bea paused for a moment. “Maybe you do now.”

I shook my head. “Nope. I don’t have close friends. It’s not something I do. I do surface stuff. I prefer to play by myself in my sandbox.” I’m joking, but I’m also a little bit serious. After all, if I play alone in the sandbox, no one can mess up the design I have for the sandcastle, or think my idea is silly, no one can throw sand at me and hurt me, and no one can smash my castle. I’m safe in the sandbox all alone. 

Bea laughs, a small delighted laugh that says she enjoys my stubbornness, and my humor. In a silly voice she says, “Well, Alice, now, you are gonna make close friends.” We both crack up. 

In a small voice, I say, “I HAD a close friend. I HAD Kay. I don’t want close friends again.” 

Bea doesn’t respond right away. “You did have Kay. She was a very close friend. And maybe you really don’t want close friends. But I’m thinking there are all different kinds of friendships. Like my friend I walk with? I see her a lot and we do a lot together, we’ve already texted this morning about something, but things are sort of on the surface with her, she just doesn’t have the capacity to go to difficult places. But she is still a good friend. We have a lot in common. Then I have a friend who I see rarely, but when we do get together, there is a deeper connection, and time spent together feels much more meaningful. I have a younger friend, from my old job, who I have a lot of fun with, but we have a deeper friendship, too. Oh, and then my friend Julia, she’s weird. We have a lot of shared history, both of us have parents who passed away (I already knew Bea’s father had passed away, we discussed that when we worked through grief over my grandpa), and she can go to those grief filled places, but anything else, there is a wall and she will not go there. So, maybe there are all kinds of friendships. I think Kay was unusual; most friendships aren’t like that.”

“I know….I know it was maybe one sided in a lot of ways. But she did talk to me, too. Actually, she was quite the open book. But…..I don’t know.” I shake my head. 

“I wonder…I know her friendship was important, but I wonder if you were acting something out with her?” Bea is thinking out loud again. 
I groan. She’s heading into shrinky thinky territory, but as I’m not feeling very emotionally connected, I don’t really care. “I don’t….I mean…..well maybe.” I think for a bit. 
I think in my head, and Bea thinks out loud. “You were always shutting her out, disappearing. I wonder if you were acting something out with that.” 
“Well, it’s not like I shut her out for no reason. I mean…..well, like, if I was going to treat you like I did her……” I’m embarrassed to admit this, because there have been times where I have thought of running, of disappearing on Bea. “Like, when you brought up relationships in the past and talked about them even though you knew I did not want to discuss relationships— now it’s been okay— I would have just not come back. I’d have walked out and not looked back.” 
“But Kay, when you did that to her, she didn’t let you shut her out.” 
“Well. It’s like…….if something came up in conversations and upset me, she’d see it. Where I would be working to hide it, and others would not notice, or maybe they noticed and I am not so good at pretend as I think, and they ignored it. Kay would see it and she’d call me out on it. She wouldn’t let me pretend. She’d push to know what upset me.” I shrug. 
“Usually, I’d tell her and we would talk and then I would disappear for a few weeks.” 
“Boundaries……” Bea says slowly. “She wasn’t respecting your boundaries at all.” 

“Maybe…..” I say. I don’t want to agree with Bea right now. I can see where she is coming from, but I feel like that isn’t the whole story. “I mean, she put up with a lot from me…..I was a lot. So maybe she felt like she didn’t need to listen to any boundary I set.” I’m not sure.

“Well……..let’s say something comes up in conversation that upsets you, it’s touches on those vulnerable places. You don’t want to talk about it, so you pretend everything is okay. A friend who notices and asks you about it, they say something like ‘hey, did something just upset you? Are you okay?’ If you say you don’t want to talk about it, that is an authentic response, and a boundary. A healthy friendship would respect that boundary. If you say nothing is wrong, that is maybe coming more from Ms. Perfect, but still, a healthy friendship would respect that boundary.” 

I nod slowly. “That’s Reagan. She asks, but won’t continue to push or ask about it. She hears the boundary, I guess.” I don’t think I’ve ever thought of pretending to be okay as a boundary, as a choice, as a way of saying ‘no’. I’ve always thought of prefect as building a wall to keep people from knowing the real me that they would inevitably hate. 

“That is a healthy relationship.” Bea says.

We continue talking about friendship and boundaries, and when it’s time to leave, Bea says, “I think this is important. Maybe this is something to do some writing with, if you feel like it.” 

I nod. It might be. I’m not sure I want to talk about friendships. I’m not sure what I want to talk about, though. It seemed like so many big things were coming up before Bea’s week long break (to be fair, she was only gone for 4 days, it was just I saw her on a Wednesday and not again until Thursday), and they have just disappeared. I’ve detached from her and don’t really feel an emotional connection. Part of me wants to stay that way, talk about the shrinky side of things, because when I feel like this, I can. The other parts me are desperate to feel emotionally connected with Bea again. I don’t know which part of me is going to win.

Two sides of the same coin 

This is the second post I wrote but never blogged. It is from February 1,2017. 
Wednesday. Things felt weird, not because of Bea, but because I was very late to Monday’s session –rough morning with Kat, and getting to school late, plus bad weather all conspired against me. The wonderful, amazing thing, though, was when I texted Bea at 9:30, that ‘I was just leaving school, should I still come to therapy?’she responded with a ‘YES!’ And that felt really good. Like she wanted me there. So Monday we discussed my adult life, and normal everyday things, which isn’t a bad way to spend a session, it just isn’t the norm in my therapy and so it took a bit of time to find our footing. 

“What would you like to start with? What seems important today? Sleep? The little girl? Does she have things to share? Something else? We stayed more on the surface last time, so I really don’t know where you’re at.” Bea starts off, after we have had some chatty conversation.

I shrug. I don’t know. “I don’t know. Sleep still….I mean…maybe sleep?” It’s so hard for me to say what I want to work on. I don’t t know. Even though I know I could choose anything, I’m afraid of being told it is not important enough to work on. Even now, bringing up sleep, it is anxiety-making because I feel like we have talked about sleep for 4 sessions, and that it’s not okay to keep talking about the same thing over and over. 

“Yeah, sleep. I think that is still important. I’m not sure we’ve ever talked about what you would like sleep to look like?” 

I have no idea. Ugh. Why is she asking me this? How am I supposed to answer this? I’m completely bewildered, and I must have a look on my face that says so, because Bea says, “Was there ever a time you can think of that you just lay down and closed your eyes and easily went to sleep?”

I try to think. “I don’t…maybe when I was Kat’s age? Maybe. I mean. I remember by first, second grade, reading a book at night. I’d read and fall asleep reading.” My voice is hesitant and slow. I’m thinking as I speak.

“With the light on?” Bea asks. 

“Yes. Always with the light on.”

“What about later? When you were older?”

“I read. Well….later…..I..hmmmm…my parents didn’t let me have a tv until I was 15. Then I watched movies. Or read. But always something to distract from sleep.” I watched Gilmore Girls episodes, or my favorite movies, While you were Sleeping, Sleeping Beauty, and Now and Then. Anyone notice a theme with sleep? 

“It’s hard to know what you want something to look like when you never had it in the first place,” Bea acknowledges simply. It’s such a simple statement, but it is so sad. 

“I think how hubby just lays down and is out, that seems so nice. You know?” I say. 

“It does see nice,” she agrees. There’s a pause, and then she asks, a bit hesitantly, “Did he ever find it odd that you had so much trouble falling asleep, or that you really wouldn’t sleep laying down?” 

I cover my face with my hands, shake my head, slowly. “Nooooo. I don’t…..he never said anything, I don’t think.”

“Did he ever wonder why you wouldn’t share a blanket with him?” Bea asks. She doesn’t sound judgmental, just curious, but I cover my face again anyway. I know it’s not normal to refuse to share blankets with your husband. 

I shrug. “I think he just figured it’s the way I was, I guess, I’m not sure.” 

“I just wondered,” Bea tells me. “Do you know what you don’t want when it comes to sleep?”

I nod. Yeah. “No nightmares? Not being afraid to fall asleep?” I suggest. The things I don’t want. It’s easier to know what I don’t want. 

“I’m thinking, if we create more safety around sleep and bedtime, then it won’t be so scary to go fall sleep, and as sleep improves, it will be easier to function and then it will be easier to deal with the stuff that causes nightmares. I just don’t think there is a way to deal with nightmares in general. Maybe in resources or grounding, to help come back from them quicker, but not to actually get rid of them. That comes from working through the trauma stuff. Being tired all the time, that’s not easy to live like that, and I’d like to help you feel better rested.”

“Okay.” I agree.

“What about your Grandma and Grandpa? You had safety at their house at bedtime. We talked….was it Wednesday? You do have good memories around them. Did you get a chance to try using those memories?”

I shake my head. “I….well…it…” My words are stumbling and falling, tripping over each other. I’m still hiding my face from when we had the husband and blanket sharing conversation. 

Bea seems to sense that this isn’t going to be easy territory, and she says, “I’m going to get your blanket, just in case you need it.” She gets up, grabs the turquoise blanket and sets it by my feet on the couch. 

It’s not long before I grab the blanket and throw it over my head. Wearing the blanky like a coat of armor, a visible shield between me and the world, I am finally able to blurt out, “I didn’t do anything with any memories because you talked about that on Monday and I was too upset to do anything around SP, too hurt and sad.”

“Ahhh, yes. You were really hurt and sad.”

“And I know it’s not really SP to use good memories to feel safe, but it didn’t matter because it was all talked about together and I just couldn’t…..” I jump to let her know I *know* using positive memories like this isn’t SP, before she can correct me or get defensive about it (and now, of course, I’m fairly certain she wouldn’t have, but I was afraid of that at the moment). 

“It all felt linked together. It’s okay. Even if you just didn’t feel ready to try something new, that’s okay, too.” Bea says softly. 

“Okay.” I whisper. 

We sit in the quiet together, and when Bea is sure I’m not going to add anything more, she asks me, “What, exactly, happens, when you lay down to go to sleep? I mean, I know we have talked about it being scary, and it not feeling safe, but what is it that is happening?”

I try to think. I’m tired, I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open, I want to sleep, I lay down……

Bea says, “It’s hard for you to stay here.” Her voice is far away. With fuzzy thinking, I wonder how she knows that when I’m hiding under *my* blanky? 

“I know it’s flashbacks,” she says, prompting me. “Is it images, body sensations, emotions?”

I don’t say anything. I’m sort of caught between being here, in her office and being stuck in the memory, the idea, of what happens at bedtime. 

“Yeah, you are really far away. Maybe the work is to practice using the safety of the memory of your grandparents’ caring for you, to help come back from the scary memory of what happens at bedtime,” she suggests. 

I can see how this is a good idea. It is a smart idea, to practice going from being so far away away, so frozen and so scared, to being calmer and able to think and move. I am afraid to practice though. “Can’t…..it……the little girl……”

“Yes, what about the little girl?” Bea asks. “What is she thinking about all this?” 

“I…ugh! I know it’s a good idea, to practice. But I am afraid the little girl will feel like she is being told no talking. And it will feel just like the SP Monday.” I say it quiet, afraid of the words. Afraid of repercussions of not being happy with therapy. 

“That felt really bad, didn’t it?” Bea says. 

I nod. “Yes! I trusted you! You told me it would never happen, that SP would never shut down my voice, you promised the little girl, and then it happened anyway! It was like you just said what you knew I wanted to hear so I wouldn’t be so against SP!” 

“And that makes SP, or anything that is part of SP, very scary to try again, doesn’t it?”

Crying, I nod my head again. 

“The narrative, the telling of the story, is an important part of your story. And it’s all the more important because it is important to the little girl.” 

“Yes. Words matter. Words matter a lot to her. And she felt like you took them all away, even though you said you never would.” 

“I know. I know she really felt like she couldn’t speak here. She still doesn’t want to speak here, does she?” 

“No.”

“She told me, last time, what I did, how upset she was, but she doesn’t want to speak here, now, does she?” Bea says. She gets it. She really does. 

“Nope,” I tell her.

“If using SP is something you want to try…..because we don’t have to use it. Or we can hold off, try again in a few weeks, or months. If we use it again, I know now that the narrative needs to be a focus of the work, even as we are working with the body. SP is a little weird, remember me saying last time how SP stops the narrative on purpose? (I nod my head, I do remember) Well, therapy is a collaboration– there’s that word again!– between you and I, so we can change things and make it our own. Maybe SP for you is going to be using the narrative, and instead of stopping the narrative completely, it will be a break, a pause, to check in with yourself, see what sensations, emotions, thoughts are coming up from the telling of the narrative, maybe we see what we can link back to that narrative. Maybe a new narrative or new parts of the narrative come up, and we talk about that. Maybe we just quickly check in and then unpause, so we get right back to the narrative.” Bea’s voice is very soothing, almost musical at times, and right now is one of those times.

I’m listening intently even though I haven’t responded. I don’t really know what to say. I sort of shrug and say, “Okay. Maybe.” 

“Could I speak to the little girl now? Could you ask her to listen for a just a moment?” Bea’s voice is soft now, and there is something……she really wants to talk to the little girl. 

“Maybe.” I say the word as gently as I can. I want to say yes, okay, sure, but maybe is the best I can do right now. 

“Okay,” Bea says, and it’s like she had been holding her breath waiting for an answer. And then, “Your voice is heard here. You will always have the space to speak here. Your words matter to me. You are wanted and cared about here. You can always tell your story here. You are allowed to talk as much as you want to and I will never tell you it’s too much. Your words are important.” 

I stop all my fidgeting, and become very still and very quiet. I’m digging my nails into the palms of my hands, but I am very, very still. I’m listening. The little girl is listening, too. 

“What is that like? To hear that?” Bea asks me after a while. 

“I…I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know.” I tell her. The little girl….well, all she’s ever wanted is to hear words like those. But she doesn’t believe they are true, so while they brought some happiness and good feelings at first, now she is feeling very wary and unsure. Another part of me—what part, I don’t know– is livid; feeling like Bea is saying whatever she has to to get me to do SP. 

“That’s okay. You don’t have to know. Maybe it feels good, and safe. That’s sort of the auto,Aric thought, right? That it has to feel that way? But it could also feel scary. It could feel like it’s too big of a risk to believe my words, to trust me like that. Maybe anger or grief over words that the little needed to hear a long, long time ago, way back when you were a little girl. And that’s okay.” Bea’s voice is very nonchalant, calm and even. She’s totally okay with whatever.

“It’s worse. It’s worse when….I mean…..I had this….sleep, everything is worse now. Knowing I couldn’t stop him…..it makes it all worse.” I say very softly. 

“It does feel worse, this out of control feeling of not being able to stop of it. That can feel way worse. It overwhelming,” Bea agrees. 

“I thought….I thought it would feel better. I thought the whole point of working towards this idea that I couldn’t stop him, that I didn’t do anything, was because it would feel better!” My face feels very red as I speak, I’m embarrassed for wanting, for expecting this to feel better. For even thinking I deserve to feel better, and all but admitting that out loud. 

Bea thinks for a minute. She doesn’t answer right away, and when she does, she is speaking slowly– a sure sign she is thinking through her response. “Well….I believe that there are two sides to this coin. One side, it holds the horror and the overwhelming fear of *I couldn’t do anything, I could not stop him* is the side you have been sitting with. What I’m hoping, what I believe will happen, is one day you will flip the coin over and find the side that holds the relief of *I didn’t do anything, this is not my fault!* I think it is the other side of the coin that holds the feeling better feelings, the *I didn’t do this. I didn’t cause this. I’m not bad* feelings.” 

She’s still talking, but I’m having this incredibly strong reaction inside myself to her words. The *I’m not bad, I didn’t cause this* words. In my head I am screaming at her, “But I am bad. I liked it. Sometimes I liked it. I’m a bad, disgusting, terrible girl. I don’t get to be absolved of fault! I don’t deserve that! Shut up, shut up! I filthy and disgusting and horrible. I’m bad. I am bad. I don’t get to feel better.” I never said a word out loud. Ironically, I think if I had been able to say even a fraction of what was being rattled around in my head, SP would have been useful in working through all that was coming up, because I also felt this urge to cut, to make all the feelings and thoughts just stop. 

“Alice?” Bea is calling my name, but my head is too fuzzy to respond. “Alice, you are really far away. We need to come back now, okay? Could we use the memories of your Grandparents to help to do that? Alice?” 

I shrug, I don’t care. Whatever. Wait, I remember, she can’t see me, I’m hiding under a blanket. But either she does see me, or she decides I’m to far away to make choices, because she is telling me stories I have told her about my grandma and grandpa. I don’t often get to hear those stories told by someone else, and it’s nice. Comforting. Then a horrible thought strikes me. “Bea?!?” I say her name suddenly, breaking through the fog. 

“Yes? I’m here,” she responds. 

“Do you think…..? I mean….do you think she would hate me if she knew?” I’m referring to my Grandma, and the truth of my childhood, and Bea gets that right now. 

“No! Gosh no! Not at all. Not one little bit. I think she would hug you and feel so sorry that she didn’t know when you were little. And she would wrap you up in her arms and give you a big, big, hug and love you just like she always has.” Bea’s response to my question is instant, no hesitation, no thinking, just certainty that Grandma would still love me. 

“And Grandpa? If he were here? Do you think…….?” I have to ask about him, too.

“Oh, he would love you just as much as he ever did. He would wish he had known sooner, and he would probably want to kill Kenny, but he would love you just as much as he loved you the day you were born and everyday after that.” Bea tells me. Her words are beautiful. 

“Thank you,” I sniffle. There is this sense of relief, this sense of it’s okay, when I come back to the room. 

Bea smiles at me when I come out from my hiding spot, and meet her eyes as I hand her the folded blanket. “I can never fold blankets this perfectly,” she tells me. 

I smile back, feeling self conscious over the praise. We wrap things up as I pull my boots back on, and grab my bag and coffee. 

“I’ll see you later today with Kat, right?” She double checks. 

“Yup.”

“Okay then. See you this afternoon,” she says as I head out the door.

“Have a good day!” I call, heading down the stairs. 

I’m not okay, but I’m okay. I feel okay. Like I can leave the yucky stuff at Bea’s office, maybe, and get on with my life. 

But you said

This is an old blog post; I wrote it way back in January. (1/25 to be exact). I’m not sure why I never posted it. I suppose I was feeling too vulnerable or something. But it is part of my story, so I’m going to post it now, along with another post that was written but never blogged. 

Wednesday (last Wednesday– I’m behind on blogging!) morning, I’m up before 4:00am. The nightmares continue to bombard me. I’m nervous about walking into Bea’s office later today, but I manage to hold it together and get Kat to school. Once I pull out of the school’s parking lot, my mind is flooded with fears around addressing the email I’d written Bea about Monday’s session. Even though I know that Bea’s response was kind and understanding, and that she want to hear the little girl’s perspective, I am scared.

The little girl is very much in control right now and I’m full of nerves as I walk into Bea’s office. I have that *walking into the principal’s office* feeling, that feeling of *about to be in trouble even though you haven’t done anything to be in trouble for*. I needn’t have felt that way though, because when I walk into her office, Bea smiles at me, and says hello. I try to smile, and I manage to whisper a greeting. 

I sit down, and we make small talk as I get comfortable, and then Bea asks, “Do you want to talk, or should I get your email?” She’s not going to give me a chance to avoid this today. Although I’d probably deny it, I’m grateful because this feels too important.

I shrug. “I can try to talk.” 

But then…..silence. I suddenly feel very locked down and unable to find words. I went from feeling little girl nervous to Ms. Perfect closed off and protected. I can’t feel anything; in that moment, I can’t even remember or make sense of why I was so hurt and upset. 

Bea tries to help. She suggests, and cajoles, and asks smart questions. But nothing really helps. She gets out my email, then, saying, “I think it is important that we talk about the little girl’s perspective. I think it is important that we listen to her. She is the most vulnerable part, and she needs to know she will be listened to.” 

But she won’t be! The thought comes from some where behind the giant stone wall Ms. Perfect has built. 

“Mmmhmmm….lots of thinking, you really worked hard to sort this out in your mind.” Bea is reading back through my email, and responding as she reads. Although she has responded to me Tuesday night, she now can go through and respond more in depth. This has worked well in the past, in terms of helping me find my voice. “Yes, SP does bump up right against the need to go away and avoid in order to feel safe. And that can make it this very scary thing. Ahhh….yes, I see…for the little girl everything in the past is very present. And she can talk about the past, she is allowed to talk about anything she wants to talk about. The present is more stopping the narrative, it’s intentionally stopping the story, and the. checking in with what we feel in the moment. But if feelings or sensations are from the past, and that is what we are feeling, that is okay, it can be talked about. The idea is not to tell a story about the feelings, but to simply focus on the feelings.”

Again, far back behind that stone wall, I think, I hate this. I don’t want to do this. This is the worst. 

Bea continues, “That glass wall the little girl feels? That’s depersonalization, that feeling that you aren’t really here, like this is a movie.” 

I stop listening after that. She’s wrong. She is so wrong. And that is all it takes for the stone wall to be knocked down. This feeling is not depersonalization. Before I can stop myself, I’m interrupting Bea. “I…it’s…ugh.” Nothing coherent comes out, but Bea is okay with that. She’s encouraging and gentle. I start and stop, over and over, in my quest to get the words out. 

“It’s hard to find words today, isn’t it?” She says softly. 

I shake my head. I’ve managed to stay sitting up, not hiding my face from her, although my knees are curled into my chest. “I’ve….I have the words. I just…..can’t say them.” I whisper sadly. I can’t look at her now, and so I look at the floor. 

“I wonder what is stopping you from talking? I’m curious why you can’t say the words?” Bea pushes me, just a little bit, but she is caring in her questions, and I’m not upset by them. 

“I….I just…” It’s stop and go in this train of thought belonging to Alice. Ugh. Why can’t I just speak?

“Are you afraid I will be upset with you? Or mad at you? Because I won’t be. I just want to hear what you have to say. It matters.” 

“Maybe you won’t be. You don’t know! You can’t promise that!” I say, the words mad and fearful at the same time. 

“You’re right, I can’t know for sure. But I also know what types of things make me mad, and I am reasonably sure you haven’t done any of those things. So, anything you have to say is in all likelihood not something that will upset me or make me mad.” She takes my words seriously, not repeating empty promises, but explaining why she feels confident in making such a promise. 

I don’t talk for what feels like hours, the words rolling around and around in my brain. Finally, almost forcing myself to talk, I say very quickly, “it’s not depersonalization. That’s not what it was. Maybe I wrote it wrong. But it’s not what I meant, you are wrong.” 

Bea is so calm when she speaks. “Okay. That’s okay. I’m glad you told me. I’m sorry I was wrong. I didn’t understand. When I think of depersonalization, I think of feeling separated from everyone, like things aren’t real. Like you felt once before, last winter. I’m sorry I got it wrong.” 

I’d hidden my face by then, and so I cry, “I thought…I meant….it feels like that is what you feel like. Like it feels like you have a glass wall between us, that YOU are watching me on a tv screen. It’s not me. It’s this feeling I’m getting from you.” 

“Oh, I am so sorry you are feeling that! I didn’t feel thinky or gone at all on Monday. I felt very there with you, trying to help find ways for you to stay present, stay with the feelings. I am so sorry you felt different.” 

I can feel myself getting more and more upset and overwhelmed. All the hurt feelings, and all sadness and aloneness. envelope me. It’s the feelings of an overwhelmed, hurt, out of control little girl. I curl as into myself as I can. “You just left.” I cry, the words mushed together and heavily accented with tears. 

Bea can’t understand me, even her seemingly magic powers of understanding every mumbled, whispered, overloaded with feelings word. “What? I didn’t hear you,” she says. 

I sniffle and try to get it together. “I was talking and you just said stop,” I wail. I’m not sure how Bea can stand this, I sound so whiny, even to myself, but I can’t stop.  

“Oh! Oh, that didn’t feel good, did it? I know that didn’t feel good,” she says, full of empathy and care.

“Nooooo,” I cry. 

“That is the thing with SP, it does purposefully stop the narrative. I wondered how that felt to the little girl. I wondered if she was going to feel abandoned by that.” Bea is straight forward and matter of fact right now. 

I sniffle some more, and try to talk, but am feeling so sad, and it is too hard to talk, too vulnerable, too scary. 

Bea continues talking, sharing with me that she hadn’t forgotten about the little girl, and that she wasn’t leaving the little girl, and that she knew it didn’t feel good to be told she had to stop the narrative.

After several false starts, I manage to start to say, “A long time ago, you promised you wouldn’t……you said…you told me……”

“What did I say?” Bea asks. I’m listening for any hint of anger or frustration, but it’s not there, not even a little bit. She really wants to know. 

“You…..a long time ago….you promised that I wouldn’t…..you said that SP wouldn’t make me stop talking, that it wasn’t to tell me no talking.” My voice cracks, and then my voice is full of tears and sounds young. “And then you did it anyways.” 

“Ahhhh….That felt just like I took your voice away, and you weren’t allowed to speak anymore, didn’t it? I’m so very sorry. That wasn’t what I meant it to do. I never want to take your voice away. But it felt really sad and really lonely, didn’t it? And maybe even a little bit scary, that I did something I said I wouldn’t do. It’s no wonder the you (the little girl) hate SP and feel such a strong reaction to the very idea!” Bea is right there, very much with me and there and caring. She isn’t upset with me, and she feels bad and is sorry I have felt so awful and shut down. 

I nodded, agreeing with her that it felt bad. I’m crying too hard to speak, but I am listening to her.

“If you still wanted to do SP, I think we would need to do it only if the little girl is on board, and we would do SP with her. It would all be up to her. She would have to be okay with it, and we don’t need to do SP. And you can share anything you want. If thoughts and images from the past come up when we pause the narrative and check in, that can be shared. It is okay. SP can be really hard for a person who hasn’t gotten to have a voice, because you come to therapy and learn to use your voice and tell your story, and to have the narrative interrupted, that can feel very invalidating and like the therapist is ignoring the story. SP isn’t good when it is like that. That’s one reason I haven’t pushed to use SP with the narrative of trauma, but for resourcing and grounding, and now, with the sleep stuff.” 

She gets it. Somehow she always gets it. I breathe a sigh of relief. I stayed curled up, hiding my face, crying from sadness and relief and just asa way to let some of these big feelings out. I cry and cry, until it’s almost time to go. Bea gives me a few minute warning, asking me if I can do some grounding. I nod my head, and she names colors of what she sees around her. I don’t respond. But I look around and find the colors she is naming. I am calm, and able to sit up and say goodbye. But when I get to my car, I realize I am not as here as I thought, and that it might not be a good idea to drive right now. Instead, I walk around downtown, listening to an audio book. After about an hour, I feel less floaty and capable of driving. I feel raw, and exposed, and vulnerable, and I hate the fact I behaved like a sobbing 5 year old, but I’m okay. I am okay. 

Saying No

I’m restless tonight. Nothing feels right. I don’t want to read, or watch a movie. I can’t focus on listening to a book, and when I try to write, everything that comes out is gibberish. I’m so far behind on my blog, I don’t know where to start. On top of that, the last time I posted all was good– better than good, actually. Now things are…..well, I’m not quite sure what they are. Interesting, maybe is a good word. Confusing. Difficult. I’m not sure. Using words, finding them, reading them, writing them, hearing them, holding onto them and mixing them together to form sentences and paragraphs and pages, that is my superpower. And if words are my super power, then attachments and relationships are my kryptonite. 

I don’t understand my reactions, my feelings. I write and I think and I read and research and I am no closer to understanding it. And while I have a person who could help me understand it, I’m afraid to discuss it with her. It’s uncomfortable and painful to admit to needs and wants and attachments. All the feelings popping up right now, they are confusing. I can’t sort it out in my head, things don’t make sense. Maybe this is something that isn’t ever going to make perfect sense in an intellectual way. Maybe it is something I have to feel. I’m not sure. Right now, I feel a lot of sadness and pain. I feel sort of frozen in place, afraid to do anything, but my chest by my heart hurts, and I feel a hot then cold flash over my heart, and my body feels hot, like my whole body is blushing, and I feel empty, lonely, this pull to reach, and just as instantaneous is this freeze, don’t! stop! danger! feeling, and I can immediately list off at least 5 reasons the person or persons I want to reach for would not want me. 

I’m unsure how to explain this attachment stuff going on, or what triggered it. In some ways, for me, this very big reaction I had to Bea came as a shock. It was a normal therapy day, or normal as far as therapy goes, anyway. Bea and I had been working on sleep, and I was really struggling with some nightmares and memories, but I couldn’t verbalize or write about them. Bea suggested that we try a resourcing exercise, one where I could think of a good memory, a time in childhood when I felt safe. 

I’m still not quite sure what happened. Bea smiled at me, and said, “Can you think of a memory, or even maybe more of a collection of memories, a feeling, of a time you felt safe? If I stop and do this exercise, I can think of family dinners at my grandma’s house in the summer. She had a wonderful porch, with comfy chairs and a swing, and the grownups would sit outside, and I would dig in the grass by the porch, or search for rocks, or swing on the swing, but I always had this feeling of being watched, being looked after, and being very safe. For me, it’s not one specific memory, it’s just every summer visit to her house as a child all mixed together.” 

I’m half listening, enjoying her sharing this memory, taking some of the vulnerability out of it by sharing herself, but I just……I can’t do it. I have memories, I have several I can think of, and yet, I can’t tell her. It’s that I don’t want to tell her my good memories. Its that I’m positive once I share the memory she will want to know what feelings it brings up now, in present day life. She will want to know what the sensory experience is. And I can’t go there. I just got Bea back, after feeling like I was going to have to quit because sensorimotor therapy isn’t something I want, and she is turning into a sensorimotor therapist, and I was devastated, heartbroken that I was going to have to quit. Somehow, we worked through that. She’s not tied to sensorimotor, and I’m not fully against it. We learned that my challenge is less about the type of therapy and more about needing that emotional connection and not feeling it when Bea had tried sensorimotor in the past. When that emotional connection is not there, I feel as if Bea doesn’t care, as if I’m just patient number 47, diagnosis PTSD with a side of crazy, and that she doesn’t want to deal with me, and that its about analyzing and making sense of the problem, not about working with a person and seeing them and liking them for who they are. Yeah, that emotional connection piece is a way more huge for me. So, you can see why I did not want to do this exercise. 

Bea gave me some space, but when I didn’t say anything for several minutes, she prompted me, “Maybe a memory with your grandparents?” 

I sighed. I shook my head. And then I pulled my knees or my chest, buried my head in my knees, and curled into a tiny ball. 

“What is happening for you? This idea of a good memory is causing a reaction, maybe a need to protect yourself?” Bea noticed my reaction, of course she noticed, and yet I feel a dull flash of surprise. 

I curl more into myself, making the smallest ball I can. I wish my blanket were near me, and as if she read my mind, Bea hands it to me. I cover myself, hiding under the blanket. I still haven’t said a word to her, and she pushes a bit, asking me again about what is happening right now, where I am at, what is making me feel this need to protect myself. I don’t know how much time passes before I whisper, “I’m ruining everything.” 

“What makes you say that? Why are you feeling that you ruin everything?” She asks, a hint of surprise in her voice. The surprise says that she doesn’t feel that way, and it says that she can’t see where the feeling would come from in my present day life. 

When I don’t respond Bea continues, “Sometimes it can be scary to try new things that might help us heal, because we are scared that healing means we might lose the support we have. Getting better doesn’t mean you will lose me, it only means that you will be able to better ask for help when you need it.” 

“No. That is not it. I haven’t….it’s not something I even think about, really.” I’m quick to correct her, lest she think that she matters to me or something. In truth, I don’t think about the idea that if I get better Bea will leave. I don’t think about her retiring. It hurts too much. It makes me too sad. 

“Okay,” she says simply. “Are you having trouble thinking of a memory? It’s okay if you are.” 

I shake my head. It’s not that. I just can’t tell her. It will ruin everything. I start to cry then, big, uncontrollable tears. It’s the sort of cry some refer to as ‘ugly crying’. 

Bea says something soothing, but it’s not the words that matter, it’s the tone and care in them. We go back and forth like this for a bit. Finally, I blurt out, my voice muffled by tears and hiccupy breathing, “I just don’t want to tell you! I don’t want to have to tell you a memory and then have you ask about feelings and sensorimotor stuff!” 

“Ahhhhh,” Bea says, things clicking into place for her. She says something more, but my cries about ruining everything and not being good overshadow her words. “How are you ruining everything?”

“Because I’m not doing what you want and now we are on different sides and I’m screwing it all up and I’m being so awful.” My cries turned to wails, and I could hardly catch my breath. 

“I don’t think you are screwing anything up! I think this is the work, right here. I think maybe you needed to tell me no, to experience setting a boundary. The little girl never got to learn to do that, and so grown up Alice doesn’t really know how to set boundaries, no one knows if is safe to say no, that saying no or disagreeing doesn’t mean we don’t care about someone.”

“Noooooooooo,” I sobbed. I felt this huge terror over yelling Bea no, over setting this boundary. It certainly was not okay. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I’m ruining everything. I make bad choices. I can fix it, if I can just agree with you, do what you wanted, then it will be okay.” 

“I don’t want or need you to do, or be anything. I’m okay with this. I know you don’t believe it right now, but I am okay with things as they are. It is okay for us to disagree, it is okay for you to say no.”   

“But you’re on a different side now!” I wailed. That was the way things worked in my world– people agreed and had the same ideas about things, and disagreeing, or telling someone no, putting yourself on a different side, well, that was how you lost people. 

“Why sides? I don’t see any sides, here. I see you and me, working together to help you feel safe again. I’m not mad, I’m not upset. I think this is something that needs to happen. I really do. I think you need to experience saying no, and being heard and seen, to experience a person really hearing a no and not going anywhere.” Bea told me again. 

I couldn’t answer her why I saw sides, why I felt like I was on the wrong side, why I was so scared. I didn’t really know, not in words. I just felt it, believed it. I just knew on this very deep level that things were not okay, that I had screwed them all up, that I had made a bad choice. 
 

Chit chat about hubby session 

On Wednesday, after my therapy session, when I brought Kat back, I had sat in Bea’s cozy waiting room and draw out the loop of what goes on between hubby and when we fight. I’d left the note with Bea, and emailed her about it later, as well as emailing about the therapists I had called. 

When I walk in to Bea’s office on Monday morning, she has my hand drawn loop sitting next to her chair. “Hey,” she says. 

“Hi,” I say. I’m in a more closed off shut down place than I had been, but I’m doing that here but not here thing right now. 

“I feel like we have a lot to catch up on,” she says. “I know we didn’t get to talk very in depth about the last week on Wednesday, and I’m sure there are things from this weekend to talk about, too.” 

I shrug. “We didn’t do much. My parents didn’t come to visit. We met them halfway. Which was maybe easier. I don’t know.” 

“Oh? I’m sure there is plenty to after seeing your mom,” Bea prompts. 

“Eh. Not really. It wasn’t any big deal. Kat and I visited a school on Friday.” I switch gears abruptly, not wanting to talk about my mother. 

“Oh yeah? Where was the school? Are you sending her somewhere different this year?” 

I shake my head. “Not yet. I want to, but she’s only on the wait list. It’s Montessori, it was private but last year they switched to being a charter school. It seemed so good. Even when we were sit waiting to fill out paperwork, a group of kids her age who had been helping clean up the playground came inside and they all were talking to Kat. They were really friendly, welcomed her to the school. And the director of the school was a therapist for kids on the spectrum before she became the school director. She was really amazing.” I name a well know therapy group and therapist for autistic kids in our area, one that Bea is very familiar with, and tell her that the director worked on that project. 

“I think I know her. And she is wonderful if it’s who I think. It sounds like a good fit. We’ll keep fingers crossed a spot opens up,” Bea says. She allows me to talk a little more about Kat and school, and then she says, “I want to make sure we have time to talk about you.” 

I nod. “Okay.” 

“I’m curious what you told your mom about where you wanted to be seated.” At the end of last week, my mother had told me I needed to choose between sitting at the “kids” table where Kenny would be seated, or sitting at my parents table with his parents and my grandma’s boyfriend (who I can’t stand), and that I needed to let her know by the weekend. 

“I didn’t choose. I told her I didn’t know. Because I just….if I could….” I trail off. I’m attempting to say if I could have mom move Kenny, I would sit at the kids table. But I can’t get the words out. I’m triggered just from this little conversation and so I’m shut down and can’t access my words.

“I have to say, the part of me that wants to protect you is feeling very protective and does not want you to sit at his table.” Bea tells me. 

“That’s what I was trying to say. If I could have mom move him, then I’d sit at the kids table.” I whisper.

“Ahhh. That makes sense. Neither spot is an ideal spot to be seated. But I would think his parents are better than him.” 

I nod. Probably she is right. I jut don’t want to deal with any of this. 

Somehow the question comes up of them sitting at my parents table, and I shrug. “They are like family. Like, I don’t know.” I shrug. How do I explain that they are like my aunt and uncle, like my cousins? I don’t know how to do that. But Bea nods. I think the closeness of his family is really clicking into place for her. 

Bea’s asking some other questions about the wedding, questions I can’t remember now. I do remember explaining to her that no matter how many times I double check the times, or ask my mom the other stuff, I can’t keep track of it all. It’s in one ear and out the other. I’m so lost. I can’t hold onto details about this wedding, because I don’t want to know. 

“I’m just going to pretend the wedding is not happening. And then I’ll just detach and get through it. And we can deal with the fall out, okay?” I tell Bea. 

“Yes. Okay, that is okay, as long as you have enough support in place to get through the wedding. Otherwise, I think we need to talk about it. At least to put support in place.” 

“It’s fine. I’ll be fine. I am always fine.”

“But maybe I think you should be able to be more than just fine or always fine. And you don’t always have to be fine. It’s okay to be hurting.” 

“I can’t. I just need to be fine.” 

“Okay.” She says. 

We move on, to discuss the therapists that had called me back. 

“So I called 3, and only 2 called me back. The one I had written you about, and the other one called back, I don’t know, maybe Friday?” 

“Okay. So did you call the first one back?” Bea asks.

I shake my head. “No-oo. I was waiting….to….I don’t know. I mean, I have appointments set with both of them. So,I just need to decide.” 

“What’s worrying you?” She’s curious. 

“I just…if I say the first one, and then I don’t like her but hubby does….I don’t know. And I really just….I mean, I wanted her to talk to you.” I say. I feel a little whiny, but it’s how I feel.

“Well, like I said in my email, you can tell her all the things I would have,” Bea says carefully, gently. 

“But that wasn’t how….ugh!” I don’t know what I want Bea to say. “So, the first one, well, both of them, seemed nice and soft spoken. But I just….I don’t know. The first one, she was really nice and seemed soft spoken until I asked her to talk to you. And she said no, not until we had met with her and decided to see her, and she explained it like it was for my protection. But I mean….what about what I wanted? So I didn’t say anything and when she asked if I was still there, I told her that made me uncomfortable and she attempted to explain again and I just….I didn’t really respond and then I told her that it just made me uncomfortable. And she said that maybe I would want to talk about this with my own therapist, and if I decided that it was a deal breaker for me that she wouldn’t talk to my therapist before we met then, that was okay, it wasn’t a big deal and I could call and cancel, no problem. So you know, that’s not so good thing. But then she said she is used to working with couples and it didn’t freak her out or worry her that I hadn’t informed hubby I was calling and has no plans to do so until a day or two before the appointment, she said she was used to one person not wanting to be in therapy.” 

“And where is her understanding of trauma?” Bea asks. 

“She said she is used to one or both people having trauma in their history, she asked if hubby had trauma in his past, too. I said no, just his narcissistic mother, and she seemed aware of what that might have been like for him.” I take a breath. “So I searched couples or marriage or family therapist plus trauma or PTSD, and only got 6 people. Two were men, so I tossed them out the window. One was farther away, so I tossed her out, and that left me three. Oh, and this forest lady, she used the S word.” I cover my face. I’m so embarrassed. 

“Because she doesn’t know you, or know how triggering that is. But you can tell her.” Bea reminds me. 

“The second lady, she was really soft spoken too, and she said she would talk to you, no problem, just ask you to call her.” 

“So that was a big difference.” Bea looks like she is thinking.

“And she said she works with a lot of individuals with trauma history. But she seemed…..I don’t know….to question me not telling hubby about calling.” 

“Like she was curious?” Bea asks. 

“No…..more like she was hesitant.” 

“Hmmmm. I’m wondering if she isn’t as experienced in working with couples.” Bea is curious. 

“I don’t know who is the right one.” I sigh.

We talk around it some more, and I start to think Bea has a definite opinion of it. “I think you have an opinion but you don’t think you should give it to me and influence me,” I tell her. 

“No….I…” She pauses and takes a breath. She looks down at her hands and then at me. “I’m thinking that she has very good boundaries and is possibly following best practice by not speaking with. But when I get rid of my insecurities about not having firm enough boundaries, I always come back to it being important to meet people where they are. And where you were when you called was it being very Important to you that your couples therapist speak with your individual therapist before you meet with the couples therapist. If the situation was reversed, I would have been wondering why it was so important to you, what about me speaking to your therapist would make you feel safer? That’s where I’m curious about her boundaries. Because while boundaries are for everyone’s protection, I feel very strongly that meeting people where they are at is what is most important. Which is why I am more flexible. Did you tell her why you wanted her to speak to me? Do you remember what you said?” 

I nod. “I wrote it down. So I can read to you what I wrote.” And then I read to her what I had said. 

“Hmmm,,,,Yeah, okay. I’m wondering if because she wasn’t aware you were wanting me to give her some background on your triggers and trauma history, if she thought that you were maybe hoping to get her on your side. Because a lot of people, that is what they want to do in couples work. She might have thought she wanted to meet you and hubby, start with a blank slate and not have a relationship with your therapist. So the more I am thinking about this, the more I think this is a good opportunity for you to practice advocating for yourself. You can tell her everything I would have. You can write out what you might say and we can go,over together and I am more than happy to help you write it out, but this is good for you. I think this could really be an opportunity for you to learn a lot about yourself, and to show yourself that you are strong and can stand up for yourself.” 

“Im not good at that,” I mumble, picking at my fingers. 

“Now that sounds like the little girl. We know grown up Alice is very good at being an advocate for others. And for the little girl, I’m here to help. You aren’t alone in this and she isn’t being left to fend for herself.” 

I shrug. “Maybe I just won’t go at all. Maybe we don’t need therapy.” I mumble. 

“Think about it, okay? Don’t deprive yourself the chance to grow. I know you don’t like how this is playing out, but you want things worked out with hubby. Your marriage matters to you. So just take a breath, okay?” 

I shrug. “Maybe I’ll email you.” I mumble the words, feeling a little snarky.

“Okay. I’ll be here,” Bea reminds me, and I stand to leave. Things feel unfinished, but it doesn’t bother me, because I believe that Bea is here. 

Deeper down the rabbit hole part 4 (Monday morning breakfast)

Continued from part 3 of deeper down the rabbit hole……… 

Reagan is sitting in a booth waiting for me, eating pancakes and eggs, fruit and bacon. She’s drinking a mimosa. 

“So………?” She says as I sit down. She smiles at me and her smile is warm and welcoming. 

I sigh. I look down and shrug. “I’m here. I made it through the night.” I smile and my eyes water. 

“I’m glad. Have you talked to hubby at all?” Reagan asks me. 

“No…..not really. I just…..I can’t.” I feel broken. Really, really broken. 

A waitress walks over to our table, and and she smiles at us. “What can I get you?” 

I ask for coffee, amd order yogurt with a bowl of strawberries on the side. When she delivers my food, I focus on slicing my strawberries into my yogurt. 

“I know you don’t want to hear this. And I am always on your side. Always. But you need to talk to him. He needs to know how bad he makes you feel.” 

I shake my head at her. “I can’t. I’ve told him so many times, and he just keeps doing it. I can’t keep doing this. I feel like I’m constantly asking for him to see him, to pay attention to me, and then he goes and does it again. So I end up hurting and sad. I love me up feeling needy and bad and not okay for being so needy.” 

“I know. You aren’t needy. You aren’t.” Reagan says in a serious tone. 

“I hate relationship. I never wanted this. You know?” 

“I know. But Alice. That’s what life is a about. Relationships.” Reagan says some other stuff about how we need relationships to survive and such. 

I roll my eyes at her. “Bea ruined it. I didn’t expect anything from people in relationships. I didn’t want to be seen or heard, I just wanted to hide and blend in and maybe….I don’t know. But I didn’t want anything!” 

“I know. But you have grown a lot. It’s okay.” 

“I wished I had not. It’s screwing everything up. I didn’t want anything to do with relationships. Not really. But Bea made it…..I don’t know. She just kept pushing a little bit, after little bit, and I just, I don’t know. I finally decided it mattered. The I wasn’t…..I don’t know. So scared, because she made it safe. And then I wanted that realness, being just me, in my friendships. I tested the waters with you, with Kay. And that was okay. Until it wasn’t and Kay left me. And then I wanted more from hubby. Stupid. Stupid. He can’t. I never should have…..” I stop talking, shut down, not able to continue.

“Can I ask you,” Reagan begins, and I nod. “What is it about relationships? I mean, why does the idea of being seen and seeing knock,you off balance? Do you know?”

I think for a minute. I might be able to put some pieces together, make sense of it all, but do I know? I mean really know why? “I don’t know…I just do….I think I’ve always been that way.” I shrug, remembering how I would tell made up secrets to my friends in middle school and high school, during sleepovers, so I would fit in. They were never things that were lies, just things that didn’t actually matter if everyone knew or not. They weren’t real secrets. 

“So with Bea, what happens? What was that like at first?” She asks. 

“I don’t know. She pushed a little, continuing to remind me that the work of therapy wasn’t just my stuff, the stuff we talk about, but that it was about the relationship between her and I. And I just….I don’t know. Refused to believe that. But when she would say things, or more likely write things in email to me that were definitely about really seeing me. Like once, early on, I wrote in email to her, after I had answered honestly about my eating disorder stuff, I wrote that she should give me a good star or an A plus or something, for you know, talking about that stuff as much as I had and having been truthful about all my self harm stuff. And she wrote back that no, she would not give me a gold star, she wouldn’t perpetuate the child hood message that I had to be good or perfect to be wanted. Bea wrote something about accepting me just for me. It upset me and freaked me out. At first I was mad and hurt that she wouldn’t give me a gold star. Then I was freaking out, and upset over her saying me, just me, was good enough. I threw my phone, I was so upset.” I pour some more coffee, add cream. 

“You never liked not knowing what someone wanted from you. And she was basically telling you she didn’t want anything.” Reagan says. 

I nod. She’s right. We talk a little more, and mostly I realize that I have issues with relationships. Like, real issues. I’m not even sure what, exactly, my problem is. I’m can’t really put it into words or explain why. Maybe it’s something I’ll think about later, I’m too tired to think now. 

To be continued………..