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. 

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Aside

Choices and perspectives 

I wanted to thank all of you for your supportive words these last few days. I feel like so many of you have been very protective of me and my feelings and reactions to this situation. It is such a warm and fuzzy feeling. That being said, I didn’t realize there would be so many strong opinions and feelings over this. I appreciate everyone’s perspective, and– maybe for the first time in my life– have seen how it is okay for people to see things differently, and discuss it in a kind manner. I truly hope that when I have disagreed with anyone on this that I have done the same, and that everyone can continue to disagree in a respectful and kind way. 

I wanted to explain my perspective on things, where I stand as of now. I have been emailing with Bea this weekend, and it has helped a lot. I still feel very shaky where she is concerned, and hurt, betrayed, angry, sad. Even with all that, I do get the sense she is still here and not going anywhere. This sucks, and I wish it hadn’t happened, I wish I could erase it all. Or at least, erase knowing what happened. But I can’t do that, and either can Bea. 

The way I see it, I have four choices:

One–I can pretend everything is fine, and continue in therapy as if nothing happened. That is an old response; one I have used often, if I didn’t want to lose the person who hurt my feelings, and it is something I learned in childhood, but it is not healthy. 

Two— I can throw my hands up, run away and never look back. This, too, is an old response. I run from conflict, and I run from tough feelings in relationships. I don’t want to do this anymore. A while ago, I said I wanted to work on understanding relationships and not being so frightened of them. 

Three— I can talk to her, confront her, face it and then leave, having had some closure. This wouldn’t be an unhealthy choice, by any means. But it doesn’t feel right to me, at this moment. 

And finally, there is option number Four— I can confront her, talk it through and hope that things can be repaired. This is where I am at. It feels healthy to me, and as if there is a lot of potential for growth. I have never– honestly never– told someone they have hurt my feelings and then saw it through. Last year, in October, Bea hurt my feelings. I never directly told her, but she knew, by the things I said. She attempted to discuss it with me, and I refused. I completely shut her down. I pretended I wasn’t hurt, and that hurt was buried fairly easily. That is how I have always dealt with conflict and hurt feelings if I still wanted that person in my life. This, now, is an opportunity to do something different. It’s a chance to confront the hurt feelings, the person who hurt them, and allow that person to repair it. And, it’s a chance to do so with a safe person. Because even though I don’t feel like she is really safe right now, in this moment, a part of me recognizes that she hasn’t changed, and somewhere, deep down, I still believe she is safe. 

It’s extremely vulnerable making to do this, and so much harder than I ever would have thought. There are a lot of old feelings coming up, a lot of old fears. I grew up in a household where conflict was avoided at all costs, and if not avoided apologies were accepted no matter what your feelings really were, and the issue never brought up again. The idea that it is okay to bring this up again and again, week after week, in session or email or a phone call, is overwhelming to me. It feels like it can not be true. It’s not something I have experienced, and a big part of me wants to experience being able to talk about the same thing as many times as I need to.  

I know at some point, I am will need to talk about hubby’s words. Right now, I’m too shamed by them and hurt. I’m not sure what to believe about him anymore, and I feel very lost and out to sea without an anchor. I am confused and hurt. The things he wrote are so different from the things he says to me. I don’t know what is the real hubby anymore, or where my marriage really stands. There is obviously work to do there, in my own therapy to work through my feelings about this and maybe in therapy with him, at some point. I just don’t know right now. The only thing I can do right now, is to have perfect Alice run the ship when it comes to my marriage. There is a distance between us, and I’m not sure if it is me, or him, but it makes me very sad. 

I know many of my readers disagree with me, and see things from a different perspective. That is okay, and in my opinion it is a good thing. We need other’s perspectives. It’s part of what allows us to see all sides of an issue and make informed choices. I know many of you would make a different choice than I am, and that’s okay, too. I don’t think there is a right or wrong choice in this situation. 

Everything is broken 

I know I am so behind on replying to comments, and reading other’s posts. Things have been really hard the last few days. I want to tell all of you thank you for your kind comments, for validating my feelings, for all the support. I really feel like this is a special place, and we have this very special community where we support and understand each other. And I am so thankful that I found this community of people. Xoxo

I texted my best friend on Wednesday: “hubby and Bea have been emailing since February. Everything is so screwed up. I can’t breathe.” She called me, and we talked until I had to get Kay from school. She told me I needed to go to therapy on Thursday and tell Bea what I had found out. She said even if I wanted to quit, I still needed to go, and get closure. She also told me that she believed I should tell Bea and then work through it with her, that I was better than the girl who used to run away. I argued, but she won out. She told me she would be upset with me if I didn’t at least show up on Thursday and talk about it with Bea. 

So, off to therapy I went. It sucked. It was the hardest session I have ever had. Even all the memories, and some of the hard things Bea and I have dealt with, this was the hardest…………

Thursday morning. I’m driving to therapy, numb and sick to my stomach. I’m not really here, everything has that strange not real look about it. When I walk into her office, I try to smile, to act like everything is fine. I can’t face this right now. 

I sit down, and say hello. I can’t even look at her. It hurts. I can’t do this. 

Bea attempts to engage me in small talk. She asks about my hair, she talks about Hagrid. I can’t find it in me to truly respond, the one word answers I give sound hollow and far away. When she realizes this isn’t going to work, she says, “I was wondering if anything had come up after Monday’s session (which I never did post about). You seemed surprised that it wasn’t as scary to talk about the underwear memory this time around.” 

I shrug. Part of me wants to respond, wants to weep with pain about all the crap that came up in my head after that session. But I can’t. She doesn’t feel like Bea to me. She doesn’t even feel real. 

“Did you have a hard night last night?” She asks. 

I don’t say anything. Yes, I had a horrible night. I cried and cried and felt all alone and betrayed and hurt and flooded with memories and everything is a mess. I finally nod my head. 

“Im feeling really floaty right now. Is that you or me?” 

I’m so far away at this point, I think ‘me’ but can’t get the word out. 

“I know if I sit up and plant my feet, I’ll feel more grounded, but I’m so comfortable like this, I’m going to try to feel grounded without sitting up,” she tells me. 

I just stare at the floor, not really seeing anything at all. 

I’m not sure how much time passes, or if she talks about anything else, but eventually her voice breaks through to me. “Did something happen this week?” 

I nod my head. It feels like the most difficult thing to do, to make my head move. I want to pull my knees to my chest and hide my face, but I can not figure out how to move that much right now. 

She asks other questions, which I ignore, until she says, “Do you have anything written down?” 

I glance at my bag, where I do have a letter written to her. But then I shake my head. I’m not ready to do this, to face this, yet. I can’t. In the back of my mind, I’m feeling some satisfaction that she seems a little lost, and like she is grasping at straws. 

She asks me questions, and she talks. I really can’t hear a lot of what is being said. It’s just not getting through the fog. At some point, I whisper, “I can’t do this.” 

She waits to see if there is more, and then she asks, “Because talking about it will make it real?”

“And….reactions.” I struggle to force the words out. And then I do move, quickly pulling my legs up and hiding my face. I burst into tears. 

“This is really painful. There is so much hurt right now, it’s hard to even be present. It doesn’t feel safe to feel all this, does it? But you aren’t alone, I’m here, and you are safe.” She says softly. 

“I am all alone.” I sob the words out. I hate that she tells me she is here. She’s not here, not anymore. 

“That came out very clearly. And it feels scary, and painful.” 

I just cry and cry. I can’t speak. 

“Are there words right now? Or is this a place of no words?” She asks. 

“I have words.” 

“Can you say them?” She questions. 

I shake my head. 

“Because you are worried about my reaction?” She makes some sense of the little bit of conversation I’ve made. 

I nod my head. Yes. 

“Do you think you did something?” She asks gently, like she is speaking to a child afraid of being in trouble. 

“I….no. Yes…it’s complicated. I can’t….” I’m confused and overwhelmed and can’t find the words to speak. 

“If you can try to say the words, we can make sense of this together. You don’t have to be alone with this,” she tells me. 

Her words hurt. I cry harder. “It’s broken. I can’t….it’s just broken.” 

“Broken can be fixed.” Her voice is calm, and sure, and I know she means it. 

I shake my head. “How? How can this ever be fixed?” 

“Well, I don’t know, but I do believe broken can be fixed,” she says. “What’s broken?” 

“Everything. Everything is broken. It’s complicated.” 

“Okay. This is so very hard. Who broke it?” She’s trying so hard to help me, but I can’t really feel it. Her words seem like an echo, as if she isn’t really here with me.

I can’t answer. The answer is Bea. Bea broke it. But I can’t say that. I’m afraid of hurting her, upsetting her. 

“Okay…you didn’t say you broke it, so I don’t think you feel you did anything bad. Yet you are worried about my reaction. I’m really lost here. Is there anything else you can tell me?” She asks. 

I shake my head. “Even if I say it, what good will it do? How will it help to talk about it? It can’t be fixed. I just want it erased, gone. I wish I never found out!” 

She listens to my sobs, and says softly, “Anything causing you this much pain is worth talking about.” 

I shake my head, again. “Even if I do tell you, you’ll probably just think it doesn’t matter and I am being silly and stupid!” The words fly out of my mouth, so quickly I can’t stop them. 

“No, no. I would never think that. Anything causing this much hurt and distress is big. It’s very big and it matters.” She tells me. 

“I…hubby….I found an email…..” I can’t get out anymore than that before I start crying so hard I can’t breathe. 

“You found an email he wrote? And it was really upsetting?” She clarifies. 

I nod. Yes. 

She waits for more, but when I don’t say anything, she asks me if the email was recent. 

“February….” I mean to say more, to tell her since February but I can’t get the words out. 

She hesitatingly asks, “Did he cheat?” 

“No…I…it’s not…I mean…he didn’t really…I can’t..it’s complicated.” 

“I really hope I didn’t do anything to hurt you, to make you feel this badly, but if it’s not something hubby did, I feel like I have to ask if I’ve done anything?” She says the words slowly, like she is maybe thinking out loud. 

I freeze. I feel sick. I won’t lie to her, but I really, really don’t want to answer this question. Slowly, I nod my head yes. I feel devastated. I can’t even. It’s just too hard. I have no idea what she says next. I just curl into myself, and go far, far away. I eventually pull a notebook out of my bag, and hold it out to her. 

She reads it, and then she talks. I don’t remember all her words. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, that was never my intention. I can only imagine how bad this feels, how much pain it is. I know it has to feel really scary, and I’m sure when you found it yesterday you felt like we had been conspiring against you. I’m sure it feels like I can’t be trusted anymore. I’m so sorry. This….it’s not just a job to me, I give everything I can. I don’t take your feelings, your safety or your trust lightly. I do think this can be repaired, worked through. I believe that. We’ve worked too hard, and this is too important to not fight for our relationship.” 

I don’t say anything for quite a while. I’m drifting between really far away and a less far away. “You hold have told me. Why didn’t you tell me?”

She sounds so sad when she answers me. “I don’t have a perfect answer. He emailed during times when your stability was wavering, and I have just thought if I don’t respond, he will be questioning you, and that is not something you can handle right now, and if I can keep him calm, get him to wait, to be more supportive….I know even when you don’t want to talk to him that if things at home became unstable it might be really too much. I want to help build in support, and protection for you. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I’m not working with him, hubby and I aren’t in cahoots. I know how much your trust means, and it isn’t something I ever have or ever will take for granted.” 

I don’t respond, I’m hearing her, but all I can do is cry. This hurts. It hurts because I know she is hurt now, it hurts because I feel betrayed, it hurts because I feel alone, it hurts because my safe person isn’t safe right now.

“I can’t imagine how bad this hurts. I was wrong. I should have told you. I’m learning an important lesson right now. And if this ever comes up again, with anyone, I will tell the person next time.” 

“No more emailing with him. You don’t email him. Or talk to him. No more, ever.” I say the words, and I’m not loud, but the anger in my words is something anyone in the room would have felt. 

“No more emailing him. I understand. You are mad, that’s good. Get mad, be mad. You have every right to be mad. This feels like a huge betrayal.” She says calmly. I’m expecting her to get angry back, I have never spoken to Bea in anger before. I don’t know what to make of this. 

“You should have told me! I’m not even mad that you emailed him back. I’m mad that you didn’t tell me.” 

“I know. I know. This isn’t a small thing, it’s huge. I’ve been an important part of your life for a long time now. In some ways, I’ve been a big part, and in other ways, not. But this feels huge, and it is huge. It matters. Of course you are upset, and hurt. I understand why you are upset.” 

I sigh. I hate that she knows she is important. It feels like she shouldn’t be, like it is ridiculous that she is. “I don’t want it to matter.” I say, sadly. 

“I know. It hurts. If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t hurt. I think that we have done some really good work together. I’ve known you a long time now, and I think this relationship is too important to not fight for. This matters to me. And I really do believe we can talk it through and repair this. I want to do that with you. This relationship is worth that.” She tells me. 

“I can’t…I can’t,” I whimper. It feels good to hear her say it matters to her, to know she wants to fight for this relationship, that it is important to her. But this all feels so bad. And there is so much to contain, and I can’t go to her. I’m alone and flooded with memories and feelings and nothing feels okay. 

“I know it feels like that. I know it does. I think you can. You came here today,” she points out. 

“I didn’t…I didn’t want to. Kay made me. She told me…..she’d be mad if I didn’t. She said that I could face it…that I was better than the girl who runs away.” I whisper the words. 

“Thank you, Kay. And she is right. We can work through this. You can work through this.” 

I hear tears in her voice, and it pains me. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I tell her, frantically. 

“Don’t apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for. Why shouldn’t I feel some of this pain? It’s okay for me to cry, to feel this hurt, too.” She has said this before, that it is okay for her to cry and feel sad. 

I can’t stand being the source of people’s pain, unless I’m so angry I can’t feel their hurt. But now, I can feel it. And it sucks. “This sucks. I know…I know you didn’t do this on purpose. I’m just…I hate this.” 

I snap a few more times at her, in between crying and saying sorry. She handles my anger and crying, and tells me I have nothing to be sorry for, that she is the one who is sorry. 

“I hate this. I know why you wrote him back, I know why he wrote. This hurts. I can see your side, and get it, and it sucks.” I tell her. 

“It’s a gift to be able to see all sides. It is hard, but it is a good thing.” 

“It sucks. I can always see both sides. That’s why it’s so hard.” I say through my tears.

“I know, I know that makes it hard. I can see your side, why you feel so betrayed and hurt, and I can see me from that time period’s side. I can hold both those perspectives, and feel compassion for both,” she tells me. Maybe that is what I am missing; compassion for both. I feel more compassionate towards her side, hubby’s side. I know why I feel the way I do, but I am berating myself for it, and feeling stupid over it, and hating myself for being upset. 

“How is this ever going to be fixed? I can’t.” I wail.

“It feels huge, insurmountable right now. But we can work this through. We can talk about this as long as you need to. If we have to talk about it for 10 weeks, longer, we can.” 

I shake my head. I feel gone, or maybe it’s that I feel she is gone. I don’t know anymore. 

“Do you have the emails?” She asks. 

I nod. Sort of. I took pictures of them with my phone. I couldn’t just forward it to myself. I don’t want hubby to know what I found. So, I have them, sort of. 

“Why don’t you bring that on Monday, and we can go through it? I can tell you what I was thinking?” She suggests. 

I shake my head vehemently. “No. No. We are not doing that. You are not to read it. No.” If she doesn’t remember all the things he said, I don’t want it all coming back to her. He wrote awful things. Some may be true, but he said mean, mean things, and described me as this monster person. I’m ashamed over it, and hurt, and I don’t want to face that right now. 

“Okay. We don’t have to do that. That’s okay. We can go through my notes from that time, if you want.” She says. 

“You don’t look for those emails and you don’t read them either,” I tell her. I need her to do this, if I’m ever going to trust her again. I don’t comment on her notes, at all. I’m honestly afraid to know what she has written. I’m picturing awful things in her notes about me.

“Okay. I won’t read them. I won’t look for them, and I won’t read them,” she says seriously. 

“I hope not,” I lash out at her. I’m angry and hurt, and I can’t take much more. 

“I won’t. If I say I won’t, I really won’t.” She says softly. 

I stop and think for a minute. I know this is true, if I think about all our history. “Okay, okay. I know that,” I relent. 

I don’t remember how we ended things. I know she asked me if I was going to talk to Kay today, and she encouraged me to do so. “When your safe person is suddenly not safe, you need someone else to help you see objectively, to help you know the world is still safe.” 

I tell her I will call or text Kay today. I’m glad she knows that she doesn’t feel safe right now. I wish she did feel safe. I hate this. “I hate this so much. I hate all of it,” I tell her. “I can trust Kay. She would never talk to him without telling me.” 

“She’s much safer than I am right now. It’s okay to hate me right now. That’s okay.” She gives me permission to be mad.

I shake my head. “I don’t hate you. I hate things people do, I hate this, but I don’t hate you. I don’t hate people.” After thinking a minute, I add, “Well, maybe my mother in law. But that is a whole different thing.” My mother in law manipulates and hurts people on purpose, she doesn’t care who she hurts, or who is caught in her crossfire. She only cares about herself and getting what she wants. Bea is not like that all. 

“Maybe you are feeling a similarity between me and her? Like I manipulated things?” Bea asks. 

I shake my head. “I feel…..like you lied, like you knew what his feelings were, and have been disagreeing with me even though I am telling you exactly what he has said. But no. You aren’t like her. You didn’t…this wasn’t to hurt me, I know that.” I’m still crying and I feel like I must look a huge mess. 

“No, I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you. I honesty was doing what I believed was best at the time. In hindsight I could have done something differently, but I was truly doing what I believed was best for you. Your safety was my only concern. And things were very unstable, I wanted to do anything I could to keep things as stable as I could.” 

I nod my head and cry quietly. “I know. I know you, I know that.” 

She tells me that she is human, and flawed and she will make mistakes. She tells me she has work to do, too, because she is human. “When it feels like we are walking a tightrope, doing this very tricky balancing act, I have to do my best to keep things as stable as I can for you. It’s….things can be really unpredictable and for every Alice, there is a suicide attempt or a hospitalization. You did get through some really hard spots, but there can be so many what ifs, and I have to do what I can to help you build resources. I’d feel terrible, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I felt negligent, if I hadn’t done all I could for you.” 

I don’t respond, but her words do penetrate. I can feel that she does care, that she does want me safe and she is here. I only feel that for a minute, and then it’s gone, replaced with hurt over what I feel is lost. I dissolve into tears again. 

I don’t know how we end things. She tells me we can email, I can call or text, whatever I need. I remember it being hard to sit up, not wanting her to see me. I couldn’t look at her when I left, and I practically ran out the door. 

Turtles taking risks & repairing a rift

Tuesday night and Wednesday, I composed a letter to Bea in my notebook. I wrote about how I felt like she wasn’t getting it, that she wasn’t on my side. I told myself I was just going to hand her my notebook and if the letter went over well, I’d tell her to read the last few entires.

I didn’t end up giving her the notebook. Or the letter. I walk into her office, feeling oddly calm, disconnected from everyone and everything. We chat about the weather, and a little about Kat. The Kat talk easily could have overtaken my entire session; talking about Kat and the challenges we have is easy, and talking about my stuff is so not easy.

“Today’s the day Jamie comes, right?” Bea asks me.

I’m sitting on her sofa, curled up with my feet tucked under me, drinking a chai tea latte. I nod. “Yeah. But not today. We had him face time in earlier this week, and so have used most of our BCBA hours already for the week. We have an hour left; he’ll probably just use that hour to face time in today or another day.”

“Oh, I see.” Bea seems surprised by this. I’ll admit, I found the face timing in thing odd at first, but I’m so used to it now, it seems normal. We discuss the benefits of using FaceTime, and how that all works. “Kat hasn’t mentioned him to me since that day. How is that going?” She asks.

I shake my head, and set down my chai. “I hate it.”

We sit quiet for a moment, and then Bea replies. I don’t really hear her. I’m telling myself to give her my notebook, the letter, but I just can’t.

“I didn’t…..I mean….Monday was really scattered. I couldn’t get out of my head to talk,” I finally say. “I think I didn’t explain very well how bad I feel.”

“The last few weeks have been really tough. A lot has been thrown at you,” Bea says gently. I feel like she’s not really there, not getting it.

“No…since Thanksgiving, when my mom told me HE would be at the Christmas party, I’ve felt messy, falling….I don’t know.” I sigh. I’m not explaining this well at all. “It is like all this stuff keeps getting tossed at me, faster than I can process it or deal with it, and more crap is piled on top of that other crap, and I can’t fix any of it. And then I can’t get away, because there is crap in my head, too.”

Bea slowly nods her head. “Yes, you’re being bombarded with triggers and memories and present day problems. I think when you said you can’t fix it, that’s the key. Maybe it’s not for you to fix, to even be fixed. Maybe you just need to sit with it and process it.”

I shake my head, and hide my face. Why is it, every session, I hide my face? I used to feel ridiculous, but since Bea confessed to hiding when she was in therapy, I don’t feel as silly. And I’m thankful I have a therapist who will allow me to cover my face. “I can’t. It’s too much. I don’t even know….”

“I think this is one of those things that would be helpful to break into pieces. Let’s make a list of all the things that are overwhelming you.” Bea is not a list maker, not really. I’m the list maker, the one with OCD, that needs control and lists and organization.

I nod my head. I don’t feel like she’s here with me, but I will go through this session and keep trying.

“What’s first on the list?”

“Hubby. Our fight.” The tears come now.

“Have you talked?” Bea asks. Her voice is neutral, but I feel like a naughty child who didn’t do their homework. My stomach drops, and I can feel myself start to have trouble breathing.

I shake my head, crying harder. “No. My bag is still packed. We just…..I’m functioning. I’m acting it’s okay, being perfect again. He’s happy.”

“He doesn’t know there is anything wrong.”

I shrug. I don’t care. I don’t want him to know there is anything wrong.

“So, the weekend you pretended all was fine, and then the last few days, you guys never talked about your fight?” Bea asks again.

“No. It’s fine. He thinks it’s fine. We went out to dinner Tuesday night. He changed my dinner order, and it was gross. I had cosmos for dinner.” I’m snapping the words out, not mad at her, but annoyed. The whole things upsets me, annoys me.

“It’s this lack of control; I think that is what has made this fight feel so bad to you. You mentioned he took the car keys, and you couldn’t leave. And now you are giving up control, smothering your voice,” Bea says.

“No, it’s fine now. He took my keys and I was trapped there……” I cry for a bit, and then continue. “I don’t think you get how bad it was. How bad it all is.”

Bea doesn’t say anything right away. “It feels bad because it is bad. You’re just finding your voice and now you’re giving it up again. Hubby is your attachment figure, and a fight like this, it’s a big rift. It can be repaired though, if you talk to him.”

I shake my head. “No. No. No.”

“You could bring him back here-”

“No. I’m not talking to him.”

“You sound so much more certain of that than you did on Monday. What changed?” Bea asks.

“Nothing. I was certain on Monday. You weren’t getting it.”

I don’t know what she says in reply; I’m not really listening. I’m done with this conversation about Hubby. “Let’s finish the list,” I tell her.

“Okay,” she agrees, even though we had been in the middle of discussing Hubby. “What’s next?”

“Yelling.” I pick at my fingers. Even thinking about how I yelled, I feel anxious. Guilty. Bad. Wrong. “I yelled at the lifeguard.”

“You yelled at another lifeguard?” Bea asks. I think she sounds surprised.

“No. The one from Sunday.”

“Okay, yelling is on the list…..it’s natural that the anger you have builds up and then boils over. And usually, anger like that always comes out at the wrong time, in the wrong way. We need to help you find a way to use your anger constructively.”

I shift a little in my spot. I want to tell her that I either feel angry, or I’m so numb to it, it’s not there. “I just don’t want to be mad. I’m not a mad person.”

“Anger is hard for you. It’s okay to be angry. How can you not have anger at Kenny for what he took? Anger at your mom for not protecting you? Maybe anger at Kat for having a crush? That would all be normal,” Bea assures me.

I shake my head at her, and return to list making. We end up with nine items (and a few that are broken down into mini lists) on the list; it’s a big list for therapy. Once the list is done, I’m out of things to say, and Bea directs the conversation back to Kat, and her crush and all the triggers in my life right now. She’s pushing for me to talk to hubby, or to send him in to talk to her.

“No,” I say it again. I think I must sound like a two year old. I take a big breath and start to cry. I don’t want to be a brat, or make her mad at me. I’m trying so hard, but I just can’t do this. “I don’t trust him.”

“Yeah, I can see that. He said a lot of hurtful things that cut deep.” Bea says.

I cry silently. “He thinks I’m a terrible mother. That I’m selfish. And mean. I didn’t need a list of every thing wrong with me. I could give him pages and pages of lists…..”

“I know you could. I’m not sure he realized how deep those things would hit you. Comments like that, he can roll off his back, forget them. It might be hard for him to understand that you will accept them as the truth.”

I shake my head. “I can’t do this. Why did I think I could? It’s not okay, nothing is okay. Everything feels wrong.”

She talks about my worldview, and how, in her opinion, part of what therapy does it help us reframe our world view, and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves. But that takes time. She compared me to a turtle, because one of my favorite calming yoga poses is what my yoga teacher calls “turtle pose.” I basically sit in turtle pose in every T session– just didn’t know it was a yoga pose until recently. She says worldview is that it is safer to be alone, to let everyone think I’m okay and never really come out of my shell. It’s that having a crush is unsafe, and wrong and disgusting. It’s that anything sexual is bad. It’s that good girls don’t have a voice, they are quiet and demure, polite and they do what will make others happy. It’s that I have to do what I should do, regardless of what I want to do. She says that having a turtle shell to retreat into can be a useful thing, but now, the turtle needs to not feel alone, and the only way to do that is to risk feeling unsafe and to come out of the shell. She calls it a paradox; that to truly feel safe I need to not be alone, but I’m so retreated in my shell and I feel so unsafe, that the idea of coming out even a little bit to see that I’m not alone is too frightening, too exposing.

I take a deep breath, and take a risk of peeking out of my shell. “I really just need you to be on my side. I feel like no one is on my side, and I’m all alone, and I just need you to be on my side.” I’m crying louder, heading into full,on sobbing territory.

Bea responds quickly. “Thank you for telling me how you feel.” Then she pauses, maybe to think, I don’t know. “I am on your side, but it’s my job to make sure you know that. Thank you for reminding me of that.”

I cry silently, and risk looking up at her for a moment. She looks concerned. That’s all. Not angry, or like she’s going to yell or leave me. Just concerned. She talks a little more about being on my side, and I nod. I’m starting to feel less alone. The rift is beginning to be repaired, just like that.

“You keep pushing me to talk to him, and I don’t want to.” I say. This is a big deal for me, to speak up against what someone….well, someone I’m attached to, is saying and doing.

“Yes, I do. And you’re right. You have told me no, and I haven’t been listening to that very well. You aren’t ready to bring Hubby in. It’s a big deal. I get that.” She responds back to me like I just said something very normal and okay. There is no big blow up, and she doesn’t ignore me.

“I’m afraid. He won’t understand, I’ll push him away more because we talked. He’ll hate me…I don’t know. I can’t do it.” Talking about talking to hubby is back on the table, now that I don’t feel so alone.

“I think, when you are ready to even tell him some general information like how when a child reaches the age abuse started for her mother, it can be so triggering for mom. If he understood why you are pushing him away, and how much you are dealing with right now, I really believe he would be supportive.” Bea says softly. “You deserve a real relationship, a deeper relationship. This abuse took so much; you deserve a life, to not have it take this, too.”

I shake my head. “He can’t do it. He’s as screwed up as I am. He can’t do it.”

Bea is quiet when she asks, “Are you afraid that if you reach out for a deeper relationship, he won’t be able to be there and have that?”

Slowly, I nod my head. Hubby loves me, but he likes things to be simple and easy. He likes emotions of the surface, he doesn’t like rifts, and he buries his head in the sand a lot.

“That’s hard. His personality likes things to be simple, he doesn’t like conflict or difficult things. But some things are hard. And that’s okay.” Bea tells me.

“No. I’m not doing this. It’s too much.”

“Okay. When you’re ready, we’ll do it.”

I sigh. I’m not ready. I want to run away, disappear. I can’t do this all. It’s too much. I don’t say this to her, because I don’t want to have a conversation about what disappearing means.

“I feel like the little girl is crying out to not have her voice hidden again. Squashing it down is how the anger builds up and boils over,” Bea says.

“It’s fine. I just need to pretend, to go along with being perfect and okay and fine,” I try to explain. I know how much Bea hates that I push my feelings and thoughts aside to play the role of Miss Perfect. “It’s the only reason I’m functioning right now,” I finally say. Crap. I so didn’t want to admit that in therapy.

“Okay. If that’s what you need to function, to get through the weekend, okay for now. For a little while,” Bea reluctantly agrees, but I feel like she’s back; she’s seeing my side of this, and that I need my facade right now.

She talks about my worldview, and how, in her opinion, part of what therapy does it help us reframe our world view, and unhelpful beliefs about ourselves. But that takes time. She compared me to a turtle, because one of my favorite calming yoga poses is what my yoga teacher calls “turtle pose.” I basically sit in turtle pose in every T session– just didn’t know it was a yoga pose until recently. She says worldview is that it is safer to be alone, to let everyone think I’m okay and never really come out of my shell. It’s that having a crush is unsafe, and wrong and disgusting. It’s that anything sexual is bad. It’s that good girls don’t have a voice, they are quiet and demure, polite and they do what will make others happy. It’s that I have to do what I should do, regardless of what I want to do. She says that having a turtle shell to retreat into can be a useful thing, but now, the turtle needs to not feel alone, and the only way to do that is to risk feeling unsafe and to come out of the shell.

I leave therapy feeling like she is on my side. I’m still disconnected and just…off, needing to pretend to be Miss Perfect, but I’m not alone. Why is this such a difficult thing for me to hold onto; the fact that Bea is here, and I’m not alone? I head home, using my facade like a turtle shell, to hide from the world.