The phone call 

Alice, just an FYI, I’ve had a cancellation and am free until 3:00pm of you would like to talk by telephone. -Bea

I stare at the email, unsure if I really want to call. I’m hiding out in our guest room, because the fan is the perfect noise filter so I can feel like I’m not being overheard. I have my water, my blanket, and my phone. I should just call her. I want to. Every time I read the email sent before the one offering to a phone call, I start to cry. If I read the entire thread, I feel hopeless, unheard, unseen, and alone, and all I want to do is quit therapy, forget about Bea. 

Instead I pull up her phone number and hit the call button on the screen.

“Hello?” She answers the phone with just the slightest question at the end of the word. 

Moments before, I’d been struggling not to cry, but now, all I can say is, “Hi.” 

“Hi there,” she says quietly. 

I can’t find my words, I say nothing. 

“I wasn’t sure you would call.” 

“Because you didn’t really want me to?” I whisper. 

“No! No, not at all! I guess I thought you might feel awkward because I know you don’t like to call me.” 

I don’t understand why she is telling me this, but not much makes sense to me these days. “Oh,” is all I can manage to say. 

Bea starts talking again, but I don’t hear her because Kat interrupts my phone call. She wants me to know she is going downstairs to play with her dolls. “All right, that’s fine.” My words are short and clipped, I’m annoyed. 

Bea has stopped talking, but I have no idea what she said before. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you were saying,” I tell her.

“Oh, can you hear me now?” 

“No, no, I could hear you, it was just Kat, I couldn’t hear you over her.” This isn’t going well. We aren’t connecting, it’s not better to be talking to her, we are just missing each other somehow. Why did she tell me I could call? Why did I take her up on it? 

“I’m sorry that I missed the mark earlier, that you felt more alone after emailing with me than before, I feel bad that I made you feel bad,” she says. Her voice is authentic, I can head that she is sorry, that she wasn’t trying to make me feel worse. 

I start crying, “I can’t do anything right, right now. I just keep screwing up, over and over. And I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”

“No, I know you don’t want to make me feel bad. I’m glad you told me I was way off base.” 

 
“I’m just so sorry I’m making everything worse. I’m messing it all up.” I’m sobbing now. 

“Did you get my other email?” Her voice is soft, almost a whisper. 

“Yeah, I got it.” I don’t want to talk about it. 

“I was afraid that if I said something, you would feel like you were messing up by not meeting some expectation I have for you. I don’t have any expectations, I am not even sure what that feeling is about, but I felt I needed to think about it, to sit with it, to try to understand it. It’s not a bad thing, not at all. I just need to think about what this feeling is telling me, if maybe I do need to push you a little more in the coping arena. That’s all it is, is something to notice and think about, talk about it.” 

I want to die. I literally want to curl up and die. She just told me to email as much as I needed to, that I could call, that she is here, and now she is telling me that she is having this feeling of maybe needing to push me in the coping arena. I am hearing that as I should be coping with this on my own and not needing her like this. “Nothing feels right. Everything just…..it all feels not okay. I’m not okay, nothing was helping. I thought, if I emailed you then maybe I’d feel better because I’d be less alone. But then, it didn’t help.” I’m crying harder now. I burying my face in my pillow. 

“I’m hearing you, nothing feels safe, just everything feels wrong. I’m here and I’m listening. But I can’t help thinking that you have a few more days left, before you leave. I wish for you that you could enjoy them. Maybe do some yoga, get out and swim at your beach, take Kat for a bike ride.”

“No! I can’t.” I’m crying harder now.

“Even that doesn’t feel okay. I know that is easier said than done, that it’s not so easy to switch parts like that. They sort of show up when they want to and take control. I guess this is more about my desire to fix things for you.” She says. 

“I don’t want you to fix anything! I just want to not be alone. I don’t need you to fix it. I don’t expect people to fix my stuff for me!” 

“I know you don’t, I know that. It’s hard not to want to fix things for you. That not on you, it’s just me, being human. I do know that when I feel bad, I don’t want someone to fix it, I just want someone to sit with me. Sometimes you want to fix things for people, don’t you?” 

“Yes. I want to fix everything for everyone I care about.” It hits me as I’m saying it. She cares. She feels a desire to fix it because she cares.

I sigh. How can I make her understand? “It’s like if I had more time…..I just….there’s so much that came up and now I just can’t…….if I wasn’t going camping, I would be able to just put this stuff away, put it in my notebook, box it up, and be back to myself, because I would know you and I would deal with it and I’d be okay. But this? This is like I’m stuck here. I can’t open the box with all the crap oozing out of it, because I know I have to leave in a few days to go camping. I can’t box it up better than it is because it’s all triggered and messy and awful.” 

“You are stuck in the in between. You can’t dig into it because then you will be all the more triggered and raw, and you can’t set it aside because then you would be letting down any defenses.” The tone in her voice says she is getting it. 

“I can’t come back to myself. I’m stuck here. And I’m just…I just want this week to be over with.”

“Yeah, I get that. Are you frozen far away, or the other end of the spectrum right now?” 

I’m trying to think of how to answer that, when she adds, “Are you more anxious with nervous energy, waiting for the week to be over, or are you more far away and fuzzy?”  

“It’s….like I’m over caffeinated. And I didn’t even drink coffee today. Or yesterday. For a few days. Because I feel too hyper. I can’t calm down. I had tea, but not coffee. And it’s caffeine free. I can’t…I don’t know. It’s like I’m running on a treadmill, but no matter how fast I run, I can’t….” 

“Get anywhere?” She suggests when I stop talking.

“No…..I can’t get away.” 

The words feel heavy, and are punctuated by silence. I think we both can feel the weight of them. 

“It’s very telling, isn’t it? The language. You can’t get away.”

“No. I can’t get away,” I agree. 

“What can’t you get away from?” She asks. 

I pull my blanket over my head. It’s silly, because Bea can’t see me, but I’m suddenly feeling too exposed and vulnerable. “I’d like Kenny to get out of my head now.” I say the words softly. 

More silence, and then Bea asks, “What?” I’m unsure if she just didn’t hear me, or if she isn’t following my choppy hyper over caffeinated thinking. 

“I want Kenny to get out of my head.” I say the words again, stronger this time. 

“Oh, okay. I didn’t know that he was there in such a big way.”

“It’s just….he’s…it’s….I don’t even want to be in my body right now. It’s all….I just can’t.” My mind is jumping all over the place, and I can’t think very clearly. Why didn’t Bea know that Kenny was a problem right now? Did I not tell her?

“I’m so glad you are telling me this now, that Kenny stuff was really triggered too. I know the mom stuff is awful and painful and full of grief, but it makes sense now, why you are having such strong reactions, so many flashbacks and nightmares and jumping from frozen far away to hyper running in place. It’s making a lot more sense to me now.”

“Monday…..I wasn’t really there, was I?” 

“No, you were really far away on Monday, it was next to impossible to keep you in the room. Wednesday you were more present than Monday, but not much. You really weren’t able to sit with much or talk about very much. We talked about your mom some, and how she hurt you by not accepting you, but we didn’t go very deep.” 

“I don’t think I could…talk about this before now.” Doesn’t it just suck when stuff won’t come up on therapy days?

“No, you needed to do this in layers, I think. You needed to be more here than you were.”

“I……he’s just…..I sent you that picture?”

“Yes, you sent me that picture.” It was a picture looking out my childhood bedroom window– the window on the side of the house. The window directly across from mine was Jackie’s window. The window to the left of my window was Kenny’s window. 

“I think, I just wanted you to see.” I’d snapped the picture and sent it after all the Kenny stuff had been stirred up. I didn’t have words, I couldn’t find words to tell Bea exactly how not okay I was feeling, but I had this picture of just how close Kenny had been. 

“You didn’t leave the house that weekend, did you? Normally you do the winery visits and that puts you in a much more adult place to start the weekend off. This time, you were at the house.”

“Backyard party,” I say woodenly. “Just like…I know, I know it’s not even the same group of people, I know that I’m an adult, I know all that……but…….I mean, I could see us all, as kids, running around. Back and forth between the yards. My mom put out the same yard games as we used do play. And the grown ups always sat on the porch. And the fire pit for bonfire later. It was all the same. So much the same. And I couldn’t…..I just….there’s no getting away.”

“Yes you are a grown up and you know all those things, but parts of you aren’t grown up and they were really triggered, of course they were really triggered. I can see it as you are describing it. When you sent that picture. I had a visceral reaction to how close he was, all the time, of course you felt like you could tell no one, he was always right there! And now you are describing how much last weekend was like those childhood backyard parties, and I can see it and feel it. It makes everything more real, doesn’t it? How could it not send you right back there? Of course you are really struggling, it makes so much more sense now, why this is all so bad right now. I’m so glad you are able to share this with me now, I’m just sorry I didn’t get it sooner, that I didn’t realize what had happened.”

“I just, I couldn’t figure out…it was all so right there, but I couldn’t tell.” I’m crying again.

“It’s okay. You needed time. That’s all. And I was very focused on the mom triggers, I wasn’t seeing anything else.” 

“I should have used my words earlier, I guess.” We both laugh at that. 

“I’m sorry I got so upset with you,” I tell her. 

“I’m not! I’m glad you could tell me you were upset. You couldn’t tell your mom when you were growing up that you were upset or that your feelings were hurt, but you feel safe enough to to tell me, now. That’s a good thing.”

“It was still hard .” 

“It still feels scary, maybe a little bit dangerous, to tell me when you are mad?” 

“Yeah.” I agree. It feels scary. 

“I think of it as a positive that you can tell me, now, when you are upset with me. It’s okay to be upset with me. I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to miss things, I’m going to screw up some times. But if you can tell me when I’ve made you mad, or hurt your feelings, or aren’t giving you what it is you need from me; if you can tell me those things, that is a gift. It gives me a chance to correct it and keep the connection we have and keep helping you heal. If I don’t get a chance to correct it, we can lose that connection, and I can’t help you of you are hiding things because you are afraid of my reaction. I’m glad when you trust me enough to tell me you are mad at me. And just because you are mad at me, that doesn’t mean we are on opposition sides. You can be mad at me, and I can still be on your side.” 

“I know. It’s just hard to be mad at you. I don’t like feeling like we are on opposite sides.”

“I’m on your side. Sometimes, we try things and they don’t work, right? Sometimes we try something and it brings up some feelings. We have to talk about it, otherwise how can we know what else to try or not try? I’m on the side of helping you feel better. If I suggest something or do something that upsets you, it doesn’t mean I’m not still on your side. And if you tell me I messed up, I’m on your side then, too. It just means you and I have more information to work with. That’s all. Okay?”

“Okay.” I say.

“I need to get off the phone in a few minutes,” Bea says. 

I don’t want to hang up. “Okay.”

“I am very glad you called and told me more about what is going on,” she says. 

I want to ask her if she is going to get rid of me, if I’m messing everything up, if she is really on my side. Instead, I take a breath, remind myself of everything she just said and tell her, “I need to clean and organize some things and I have some baking to do. I’m okay. I have stuff to be busy, I’m up and doing things and functioning. I just….I’m okay.”

“Okay, but not really okay at all?” She asks. 

“Yeah. That.” 

“It’s okay to not be okay.” The reminder is nice. 

“Okay. I’ll let you go,” I tell her. 

“I’m swimming in the ocean with you, all right? You aren’t alone. And I’ll see you Monday, bright and early.” She says. 

“See you Monday.” I hang up the phone. I sit there for a few minutes, trying to digest the conversation. Bea had no idea that so much more had been triggered. I honestly thought I told her when we talked about the picture I sent her. I guess I never said any of that out loud. 

I worry that she is feeling an annoyance towards me for not being all better, that she is going to decide I don’t need the option to email or call, or she is going to cut my session time or she is going to take away a session. I don’t want any of those things to happen. And I honestly think I cope with things pretty good, much better than I used to. But when all the things get triggered and I’m heading to place filled with more triggers, I can’t do it on my own. And it is nerve wracking to know that all the things are triggered, I’m going into another triggering situation and Bea will be gone on vacation. It is scary to know I’ll be home from camping for a whole week before I get to see her, that she will be on vacation, and it just really makes me feel all alone. At least she knows now why everything is so bad. Maybe Monday’s session will be better now that she knows. Or maybe she will just take away everything and leave me all alone to cope.    

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Charts

It’s 7:40am, but I walk up the stairs to Bea’s office anyway. I have so much stuff that I need to talk about, I need to make Bea see, make her understand. My notebook is very, very full of all kinds of messy, overwhelmed feelings. 

I had emailed Bea on Thursday, and unsure and uneasy with her response, I finally emailed her back Saturday. I spent a lot of the week making charts, lists, graphs. I was trying to find a way to feel in control, I think. One thing Bea has been insisting we work on is my dissociation. She wants to find what triggers it; why we can be talking about baking and I will be fine, but the moment the subject turns to me and my stuff, I begin to go away. To Bea it seems very sudden, and I’m sure it is, but for me, I can feel that I am uncomfortable with the emotions bubbling up and I can sense, in my mimd, that I am going to feel very scared of this topic. It’s at that point, this split second moment, when time slows down for me, and things get a little bit fuzzy, like I’m looking though a telescope at the world around me; that’s the moment I can make a choice. I can choose to use those grounding skills Bea has so diligently taught me, or I can go far, far away from the bad scary stuff in the present. And please don’t tell me the present is safe, nothing bad is happening there. The feelings are there. The memories are there. It’s not safe there. Not in the very least. 

In my email I explained that Parts were split, and fighting over what was the best thing to do with these charts I had made. One chart in particular had everyone stirred up. I had created a chart showing what I am feeling on one side and what my reaction is on the other side. For example, the right side of the chart says,” feelings start to grow, and can be named and recognized.” The left side of the chart says,”Really uncomfortable. Danger! This is not safe to feel these things.” Grown up real me is excited about this chart, it makes sense, Bea will understand it, and I am excited to understand more about how my dissociation and my system works. The little girl is scared that if Bea knows how dissociation works, then Bea will take it away because Bea doesn’t want any of the parts to dissociate, Bea says we have to be more present to deal with the trauma. Every part is conflicted over this. So, I emailed. It was a bit messy, but I wanted to talk to Bea about this. The little girl was so upset over not being able to tell Bea something because she was afraid Bea would use it against me. I also wrote about how alone I felt, but I couldn’t say that I felt as if Bea was there but not HERE. I was too afraid that she would tell me it was my fault she was far away, that I was too draining, too difficult. So I simply described the far away and all alone feeling. 

Bea’s response was fine. There was nothing wrong with it. And maybe if I weren’t so hyper alert to any changes in her behavior towards me and therapy, then it wouldn’t have bothered me at all. She addressed the loneliness, saying, “the being so alone feeling sounds like a part that has no access to an attachment figure.” And then she went on to discuss the fear over letting her in on the secret of how my dissociation works, “The part that doesn’t want to tell sounds like a good protector part. I think the grown up should assure that part that you will only share with me as much as feels safe. I don’t need to know any secrets, unless you think it would help you. There is no reason to alarm parts of you that have organized this system of keeping you safe. We only want the grown up to be more in control of the system.” Even though her response was fine, it left me with a sense of not being seen, of being alone, as if I had dove down to the middle of the ocean and there was no one on the surface to pull me up. I felt left. It felt as if she didn’t care, she was just replying to get rid of me. Finally, I gathered up some courage, and emailed again. I told Bea the little girl really had been looking for reassurance that Bea was safe to share secrets with, that Bea wouldn’t use secrets against me to hurt me or to get what she wants. The little girl needed reassurance that Bea had no ulterior motives, no tricks. Bea responded, and it all felt off. She wrote, “My thought while reading the beginning of your email: *Well of course I’m not going to use that against you*. It seemed so obvious to me, but I understand you actually needed to hear it! Please be reassured that this is a collaborative effort, and I don’t have any ulterior motives.” Why does her email feel both causal and authentic, but then so formal and rigid? I don’t understand, and I don’t write back. 

So, at 7:40am, I walk into Bea’s office. I’m planning on sitting in the waiting room, because I know I am early, but Bea sends me in, even with my protests that I can wait. 

“Go on in, I’ll be right there. I’m just going to warm up this tea,” she says. 

“Okay,” I say back. 

By the time I’ve sat down and gotten cozy, Bea is in the office, too. She sits down, and I blurt out, “My mother in law is moving 5 minutes away and hubby isn’t really seeing the big deal of this and I just found out last night but I’m freaking out and I really don’t want to waste my session on her but I need to talk about this all a little bit but I have a whole notebook full of stuff that I really need to talk about.” 

“Whoa. That’s a lot! She’s moving 5 minutes away from you? I know that can’t be an easy thing to have found out.” Bea says, her face holding this look of shock and anger at the awfulness of this situation, at the audacity of hubby’s mother. 

(I don’t want to waste a lot of blog space on this woman, either, but for those of you newer to my blog, 2 summer ago, my mother in law (aka MIL) —- who never liked me and always caused problems between hubby and me—- flipped out on me in public, and then attempted to take us to court to take Kat away from us. I have nothing to do with my mother or father in law since then. Hubby still sees them. I didn’t allow him to take Kat over there for a long time, but for about a year, Kat has occasionally gone with hubby to visit for no more than an hour. Hubby’s sister doesn’t talk to MIL, and her daughter’s don’t see MIL either. MIL, we are all pretty sure, has narcissistic personality disorder. I’m sure she is moving closer to all of us to be difficult, to find a way to weasel her way back into our lives.)

I vent about MIL, and about hubby and the whole mess. Bea listens and understands. Eventually I stop venting and pull out my notebook. “I don’t want to waste all my time on her. I have so much in here.” 

“Okay.” She takes the notebook from me. “We can talk about whatever you want to or need to talk about. This isn’t wasting time.” 

I shrug. “I just….ugh. It’s like I don’t want her to take all MY time for dealing with my stuff. I don’t know. But I’m done talking about her for now.” I laugh, because I’m sure we will be talking about MIL again soon. 

Bea nods, and starts reading. “Ahhhhh. The little girl was really feeling worried about it not being safe to talk to me. I need to apologize for not realizing that was her fear, that she needed an emotional connection and reassurance from me that I wasn’t going to hurt her. I think my response was just an everyday life Bea response, sort of that first instinct, not so much from my wiser self. I don’t know if it’s summer, or what it is exactly, but I haven’t been able to be very deep lately. I’ve been much more on the surface, and not seeing the deeper stuff. I’m sorry because that isn’t helpful to you, and I know you are very sensitive to those shifts, and you can easily internalize that to be about you. This isn’t your stuff– it’s my stuff, and it’s something I’m working on.” 

If I were braver, I would say to Bea: *I’m glad you told me that. I have so much mom stuff popping up lately that I’m already feeling this loss of an attachment figure, or I am realizing that mom was never there for the real me anyway, or something, that this distance I have been feeling of you not being here, this feeling of being disconnected, it is 1000 times worse because it seems I am losing attachment figures all over the place, and I really am alone.* Instead, I simply nod. 

Bea continues reading, letting that drop for now. I think how in the past she would have actually reassured the little girl, she would have made sure that parts knew she was there, and wouldn’t hurt them. But this more surface Bea doesn’t do that. She stops reading and looks up. “I wondered what you and your brother had talked about.” I and told her via email that I had talked to my brother. “So you really remember and see the same things about your mom. This….the playing with Legos IF there was a full set with directions, that really speaks to her needing to hold everything very rigid, very controlled. She couldn’t allow free play, or messy play. That probably would be very scary for her. But that couldn’t have been easy on you. Reading this, there is so much pain there.” Her voice is sad for me, but I can’t let down my guard right now. 

Bea reads about my heartache over my mom not loving me, and she reads the pages and pages I wrote after nightmares, during flashbacks. Those pages are full of confusion, and anger and hurt. Some of them are written when overwhelmed and unable to control it. Some were written when I was trying to control everything, and you can see it in my handwriting; messy, large and loopy cursive versus teeny tiny perfectly formed print. She stops reading periodically to say something empathetic and kind, or to ask a question. 

Before she gets to the end, but as our session is close to over, she stops and says, “I hope the little girl, and all the parts, I hope you know, I would never hurt you. I won’t use anything you share with me against you.”

I shrug. “Maybe. But you can’t promise that. Maybe you really do want me to stop going away and….I don’t know.” 

She nods. “You’re right. I can’t know for sure. But if there was a part of me that you picked up on, a part that just wants to make it all better for you, make it easier for you, help you…..if there is a part like that, then because we’ve talked about it, and I’m aware to be paying attention for that within myself, I would be aware of an impulse to ‘fix’ you, and I would curb that impulse.” 

I’m not sure what to say. I value Bea’s honesty, it is one reason I trust her. But I sort of hate that what she is saying isn’t what I wanted to hear from her. It’s how I know her response is real, and it feels caring. She cares enough to be honest with me. I hand her 3 pieces of paper. One is a list of different far aways, another is a list of how to make things real, and the last (and only chart Bea hasn’t seen before) is about what triggers dissipating. 

“Ahhh. This is good. It’s really good, really helpful. You did some hard work with this.” 

“Thanks.” I whisper it.

“This makes so much sense. When you start to feel too many feelings, that triggers danger signals, and you go away. This makes total sense. This will be really helpful with our work. I think the thing is to stay between the pink and light green on the present side of the line. Because while even keel is nice, and that’s where we want to function in our day to day lives, we heal when we are on the edge our window, right?” Bea is excited, I can hear it in her voice.

“Yeah. I know. It’s just….well, I don’t know how to stay there.” 

“I know, it’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable. We can use the other side of your chart, somewhere in the pink and blue writing, that says it is being more logical and more in your head. We don’t want to go too far into the pink but that being in your head, being more logical can help you feel calmer and safer when you get overwhelmed. We can go between the two, staying on the edge of your window. This is great, because it shows us right where your window is and what triggers your need to dissociate, what signals you that it’s time to go away.”

Bea is talking more theory and logic right now, but I’m okay with it. She doesn’t feel quite so far away as she did earlier. I think it’s because I shared my chart with her. I had been a little proud of working on that, and I can feel Bea is proud of me, and excited to have this explanation. “Okay. We can try,” I tell her. Little Alice is still afraid that having Bea direct me to leave a memory and ground myself again, will feel like rejection, like she doesn’t really want to deal with the memory. 

Before I know it, Bea is telling me we have just a few minutes left. I’m not so far away now, so I nod, and easily pack up my bag when she hands me back my notebook. 

“I didn’t get a chance to finish all of it,” she says, “And I do want to read it all and talk through it. You have enough there to keep us busy for months!” Her voice is light, not worried in the least. 

“I’m sorry. I just….there was a lot in my head. I don’t know.” 

“No, you don’t need to be sorry. This is good. It gives us….or at least me, a general idea of what is going on, what is coming up. Okay?” She checks in with me.

“Yeah. Okay.” I say. 

We chase for a few more minutes and then we say goodbye and Bea smiles when she wishes me a good day. 

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.