I can’t do that (when the filter left and so did you) again

It’s Monday morning, and I’m walking into Bea’s office as usual.

“Hey,” She says, smiling when I walk in.

“Hi,” I say softly as I sit down.

“Before we get started with anything, I wanted to make sure you were feeling okay after my second email.” Her tone is gentle, and she sounds like she really wants to make sure.

I look down at the floor. “Yeah, I was okay. I mean, it’s not like it doesn’t hurt to hear you can’t offer more right then, especially if I was needing more, but really, it’s like….if you don’t acknowledge that and try to respond, I always know something is….off….”

“You do always know, sometimes even before I can recognize it for myself!” She interjects.

“The thing is….if I feel something off, I assume it’s me, or I said something wrong, or did something, or needed too much, or am being a drama queen, or that I broke you and…..that’s worse. It’s so much worse. I’m trying to just be better about asking if I did something, but it’s easy for me to just get….I guess to spiral into this black hole of those *I broke her and she’s leaving* feelings. It’s so much better if you just tell me. And even if parts of me don’t really get it, the grown up does, the mom in me gets it. Because there are times where I just can’t keep talking to Kat, or playing toys, or whatever it is, and I tell her that we are going to have some quiet time. Sometimes I need 15 minutes, sometimes an hour. But it’s never, never about Kat being too much, or needing or wanting something that isn’t okay. I’m just tired, my brain needs a break. So that is something I understand.”

“You do get that, don’t you?!” She sounds a little surprised.

“I really do.”

“I wanted you to know that after you emailed again, with what you had been needing, and asking if you had done something, I went back and read your email and my response, and I felt a little sick. I completely ignored all the pain and hurt you were feeling. I was like, my gosh, I didn’t even acknowledge this stuff, or let her know I’m still here and that it’s okay to feel how she feels! I’m so sorry I did that. I did read all of your email the first time, while I was eating breakfast. I think I was just feeling like I couldn’t fix this for you in the 15 minutes I had to respond, and like there was nothing I could say to make it better or to help, and anything I did say was going to feel upsetting. So it just sort of got left. And I’m sorry for that. I am glad, though, that you did write back to me, and ask what was going on, and let me know you needed something more. That was so good. I know that wasn’t easy, but I was really glad you did, and that we didn’t end up back in one of our patterns of you feeling hurt and abandoned and me feeling helpless.” Bea looks at me as she is saying this, and her face says she was sorry she didn’t respond better that first time, and that she really does care.

I look away, because feeling like she cares is sometimes too much. “I really don’t expect you to fix anything. I don’t think…..” I pause, searching and thinking, making sure my next words are true. “I don’t think any of the parts expect or want you to fix things. Even the little girl.”

“Then your little girl part is way ahead of most people’s small parts.” Bea smiles at me.

I shake my head. “No….it’s more like……my mom always needed to fix me…..or ignore the problem. But….no, it’s more like fix to me– to all of me– means that someone is going to want me to bend to their expectations, or something. Even the little girl, she doesn’t want someone to fix things for her, or to fix her. She just doesn’t want to be alone. She wants to be heard. Because no one ever did that for her.”

“Ahhhh, yes. You’ve had people who fixed things for you, or who tried to fix you. Fixing was really about what they needed or wanted, and you were expected to conform. That was how things were fixed— by adults making you conform to their wishes. But no one really listened to you, or saw you, did they? You were completely alone with your feelings, with the Kenny stuff, with the mom stuff, with just normal kid stuff. It makes sense, why it is so important to you now to just not be alone. To be heard and seen.”

I nod my head. “That’s all I need. Really.”

“I would do good to remember that, wouldn’t I?” She asks. I don’t answer, because it’s partly rhetorical, and partly an apology for not remembering this before.

“I did write about this, some. If you want to read my book.” I’m quiet as I say this, and maybe a little unsure if I want her to read what I have written.

“Of course, yes!” She says. “Let’s look at your writing.”

“Can I have my blanket?” I hand her my book as I ask, but I won’t look at her now.

“Sure.” She takes my book, and setting it on her chair, she gets up and grabs my fuzzy blanket.

Once I’m hiding under the blanket, she starts to read.

The question you asked, about the memory in my pink polka dot book, the one I had you keep. You know the memory. We were working with it in the fall. I can’t even write out the memory in a coherent narrative because it’s still too painful and triggering and awful.

Knees on my arms.

Something in my mouth.

I can’t move.

I had a bruise on my arm.

I said it was from gymnastics.

That’s all. I can’t say more. But we were working with that in the fall, and we were using SP stuff and it was hard and painful and scary but also mostly okay. Until it wasn’t. And that memory was the big thing that pulled off the filter. Because I asked you if it was just a silly game then why was I so scared? And if I wanted to do this, then why was he making it so I could not move?

And more and more came up later in the day, and the next day and then the filter was gone, and so were you. There wasn’t enough of you to go around and I was just all alone. I was just left going through torture all alone. And I can’t do this again. I just can’t. I can’t do this, dig into stuff with SP, or any method really, if [well, I don’t even know how to fill this sentence in]. Maybe just that I can’t do this and be left alone again. I just can’t. It’s a scary thought that this could happen again. I don’t want it to happen again.

I don’t want you to fix me, but I can’t say things won’t come up outside of your office. If we start digging around, stuff is liable to come up. I can’t stop that, and either can you. It just happens. But how do we do this? Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold the *big overwhelming painful I need someone to hear me and see me and sit with me and not be alone* stuff.

“So first of all, I don’t want what happened in the fall to happen again, either. I won’t promise it will never happen again, but I certainly don’t want to put you through so much pain again. So, with that in mind, I would ask that you text me if you are feeling that big awful feeling, and we set up a time to have you come in or for a phone call. If we know at the end of a session that a lot is coming up, we can try to schedule another appointment before you leave— or I can at least let you know some times I have open. Because I agree, Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold something all on your own.”

“You do?” It’s my turn to be surprised. I was sure she would feel like it’s really only four days in between, and not that long at all.

“Yes, I do. That’s almost 5 full days. That is a long time to feel alone.”

“I don’t….it’s hard to…I mean, phone calls, or whatever, it just feels like asking a lot.” I whisper.

“It really isn’t. This is about what works for you. I have one person who just sends emails, and doesn’t want a response. I have someone else who texts me after every session to ask for a phone call because stuff comes up for them right after leaving. I have someone else like you who emails and needs a response. And all of those things are okay. The thing about email, though, is if there is that big awful overwhelmed feeling, sometimes what you are needing is hard to address in an email. It’s easier to address face to face or over the phone. Those times, I would feel better going that route, espessially to make sure that the fall doesn’t happen again.” She’s just sort of matter of fact and calm about this, like none of it is a big deal to her. I still don’t like it though. The thing with email is that I can explain things or say things that I might not be able to say aloud. It’s the same with writing things down in my book. There are so many things I’m afraid to say. For the moment though, I’m okay with how we are leaving things. We have a plan for how to deal with situations where I need more of an attuned response than can sometimes happen over email.

“I do remember the memory. I remember it was a particularly awful feeling one for you, and there was a lot of body stuff coming up with it. And that was also hard for you to cope with. A bit like the nightmares coming up now.” Her voice is soft, and careful. She doesn’t want to send me back to that awful place, but she wants to acknowledge it. It’s such a fine line our therapists walk at times, isn’t it?

“Yeah. Just like that. And….it was….I mean….it clashes so much with the story I tell myself. Told myself. It didn’t match, and that was hard.”

“That was hard. It was really difficult to wrap your head around it, wasn’t it?” She says.

“Yeah.” I whisper. I’m starting to feel just the slightest bit fuzzy, and I really don’t want to go back to that place.

“Now that we have talked about this a little, I can see how this can add another layer to the fears surrounding SP. Of course it would be scary for you no matter what, but this adds the layer of we were using some SP and working with body feelings and that opened up this black hole, that I just left you alone with. That just makes this much scarier, and harder to trust it will be okay, doesn’t it?” She’s so reasonable. How did I ever get this lucky, to find a therapist who just gets it?

“Yes. It makes it really hard.” My head feels sort of floaty as I answer her.

“I think anything we do with SP would be just about body feelings and nothing else. We would keep memories out of it. And if a memory did come up, and parts wanted to talk about that, we could. We would just leave the SP stuff out of it. And, if parts just have stuff they need to talk about, we can do that, too, just leaving SP stuff out of it. We are going to do this very, very slowly. Okay?”

“Okay.” I’m still not sure that all of this can be separated, but I agree with what she is saying for now. It’s a good plan, and we have a plan in place to deal with any fallout. So I’m okay. Bea is okay. We are okay.

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It’s not the end

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay,” she says. And then she waits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you want me to start reading here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nod. “Yeah.”

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

“Okay.” I whisper the word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I did. I’m sorry, but I did.” I cry.

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

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

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

I sniffle, nod. “Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nod. “Alright.”

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

“No, to hubby’s sister.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay.” I whisper.

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

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

“Can you come at 8?” She asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s still here and it’s okay to need her (11/14/16)

We talked about Kat, and about the election today. I will maybe write about that in another post, but it’s just too much to write, right now. The very significant part of my session was what followed the talk of the election, and feeling overwhelmed and like everything is too much. 
   ************************************************************************************************

“You can always email me or call me.” Bea is trying to reassure me that I’m. It alone this week, with hubby leaving today to go hunting. 

As she says this, I cover my face and hide. I don’t know why, exactly, but Bea telling me I can email or call her makes me feel sad, or maybe hurt. I shake my head and cry a little. I try to say but I can’t, and the words won’t come out. 

Bea talks about how with hubby being gone for so many days, she can see how that would feel alone. She asks me if I have plans for the days he is gone and I shake my head. Cheerfully, she says, “This is your thing, this is what you are good at! Scheduling yourself!” 

I shake my head, and moan, “But that’s what feels so out of control. I can’t even make a schedule right now, and I always have had that to fall back on. Everything is a mess.” 

“Okay. If it is too hard to schedule things like you usually do, let’s just plan your evening how I do it. Tell yourself, maybe I will go to the pool today. Or, maybe we will watch a movie tonight. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. It’s just a plan, so,you can feel safer, so the day has some element of choice or control to it. It’s okay to not have a fully scheduled, down to the minute, plan.” 

“Maybe,” I say. 

“I’m finding myself wanting to rescue you, to keep this week from feeling out of control, to take away all the bad feelings, to protect you from feeling this. But that’s not helpful to you in the long run. I can’t rescue you from these feelings. If I could go back and rescue the little girl, I would.” 

“You can’t rescue me……and you don’t need to. But maybe….it’s nice to hear you want to. Like feeling taken care of or feeling safe or not alone?” I’m not sure how to explain it to her. I just know that hearing she wants to rescue me feels real to me, and it feels like she really cares. 

“You aren’t alone. I’m right here, and this week I am just an email or phone call away.” She is trying to reassure me, and instead her statement has me bursting into tears. “Something touched a nerve. What happened?” She asks gently.

I have my face buried in my hands and my blanket scarf, but I’m still trying to stay more upright so I can be a *good* client. (It’s crazy, I know, but I’m overly paranoid about anything that might turn Bea shrinky again.) I shake my head and cry. “I…..I….” The trouble is, I don’t know why this is upsetting me so much, “I….you said I can email or call…….” I know that is what upset me, but I don’t know why. 

“Yes, yes I said you can email me or call me this week– any week. It just seemed a reminder that it is okay might be a good thing.” 

“It doesn’t FEEL okay. I can’t…I just can’t. I…..I know what you said, but I can’t email or call. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I shouldn’t be upset about this.” I’m crying so hard it’s sort of amazing Bea can understand what I’m saying. 

“Do you want to come in? You can come in then, if email or phone doesn’t feel okay. All you have to do is ask,” she says lightly. 

“I can’t. I can’t ask for what I need!” 

Bea waits a moment, and when all I do is sob, she says, “This is okay, it is okay to email or call or come in. I’m thinking you are feeling the vulnerability in reaching out. Is that maybe right?” 

I slowly nod. “If I email….or call…..or ask to come in…………and you…….I………if you aren’t……” 

“If I’m not there, it’s worse than if you never reached out at all?” 

“Yes…..it’s so much worse. And I can’t do it. I can’t handle that.” I tell her. 

“I am okay, and I am here. This is just a normal week, so while some nights I might work late, I’m here and I will respond.” Bea tells me. 

“I shouldn’t…..I shouldn’t need…….I mean, I should know you are there.” I say it in a tone that clearly says I am disgusted or annoyed with myself. 

“There’s no shoulds. I think it makes sense, that you would worry about me being there if you reach out. That time I wasn’t there, that was traumatizing. It hurt, a lot. I didn’t know, I should have realized, where you were in terms of attachment and how hard relationships feel to you and how scary it is for you to really trust another person to be there and care. My responding when I wasn’t really present or grounded, that was really scary and hurtful. It made it feel risky everytime you reach out to me now. I know that. I’ve been very aware of that since that time. I’m sorry I wasn’t aware of it before, I should have realized, and I am sorry that it hurt you.” She says all this in a caring, but matter of fact voice. She isn’t upset that I’m still struggling from that rupture. And she has noticed how hard it has made it for me to reach out. I often go between appointments with no outside contact because I’m unsure and unwilling to take that risk, and she has seen that, but she also wants me to know she is aware and being very careful to be fully there. And it’s true, but every email, and the few phone calls/text messages, she has responded to me from a *I am here and I am me* place. Usually, these kinds of conversations feel unbearable to me, but I feel oddly okay with this one. It is actually helpful because then I know that she has noticed and that she is wanting to reassure me that she is there. 

“I think I shouldn’t need this. I shouldn’t be this needy. I……I’m sorry…….I don’t know what is wrong with me.” 

“You are dealing with a lot. We’ve been working on this, all this trauma stuff for a while now, and Wednesday was the first time I’ve heard you say ‘he hurt me and I had no control’ and have that be a statement you were saying and not a question you were asking me. This is a big deal. It is a lot. It is very overwhelming and hard to face. Facing a little at a time, just like you have been trying to do is how this works. It will take some time. You shouldn’t have to do this alone. Part of my responsibility to you, part of that unspoken contract I have to you, is that I will support you. To me supporting you doesn’t mean just in session. Sure, for some people it might, but not for this deep kind of trauma work that is sending you back to scary places and feelings. It’s okay to need support.” 

“Maybe,” I whisper, tears still falling, but not as hard as they had been. 

“That’s good. A maybe is better than a no,” Bea tells me. 

We sit in silence for a few minutes, me working on stopping my tears and Bea just sitting with me. As I’m lifting my head out of my hands, and wiping my face, Bea nod her head towards my bag, asking, “Is that an Alice in Wonderland coloring book?” 

I nod. “Yeah. Kat and I have been coloring it in the mornings.” 

“Did you color the cover?” 

Pulling the book out of my bag, I say, “Yeah.” I hand it her, and motioning at the cover, “This is what I did this week.” 

“It’s beautiful.” She flips through the pages, I haven’t colored yet. “These pictures are beautiful. Where did you find this?” 

“Target or Meijers, I can’t remember now. I can bring it on Wednesday and we can color it,” I offer, shyly. 

“I don’t want to ruin your book,” Bea says. 

“It’s okay. Kat colors on it. I’m working on that perfectionistic stuff.” I shrug. Yes, it drives me nuts to have Kat color everything crazy colors, and not in the lines, and not how I see it in my head. But she loves coloring in Mommy’s special coloring book, and it’s not a big deal. It’s not like I’m framing these, and I can always buy another. 

“Should we make a coloring date, then?” Bea asks. 

I nod, slowly.  

“Okay, then. But I won’t color if you aren’t coloring,” she warns.

“Okay. I’ll color,” I say softly. 

By this time, I have sat up, scooted to the edge of the couch, and slipped my shoes back on. I stand up and say bye. I feel a little sad and overwhelmed, but also like it will be okay because Bea isn’t going anywhere.

“Bye…..I’ll see you Wednesday, but I’m here before then,” she reminds one last time. 

I nod, and head downstairs. There are still tears behind my eyes although I’m not really sure why. Once I’m on the road, heading home, I let those tears fall, too. There is a lot of grief inside me right now. 
 

Rupture and repair (11/2/16)

I walk into therapy, anxious and uncertain. 

After writing on my blog about the SP stuff and feeling like Bea was being shrinky, I realized that I needed to tell her how I was feeling, or things would just get worse. So I emailed her. I sent one email, telling her how afraid I was to email or talk to her about Monday, but that I felt like I needed to because Monday felt bad to me. I said that I was having really strong negative feelings about SP and I was afraid to talk to her. She replied back that it was okay, that I didn’t need to be worried about hating SP or about liking things she liked. She said she thought I should send the other email so that she would know what was going on before we met the next day. So, I sent it. Bea replied and everything she said was understanding and caring. She explained somethings, telling me what she had been thinking, what her experience of things on Monday was. I wrote a response I didn’t intend to send, but when I got up at 4 am for the day, I decided to send it. 

So, there were a lot of nervous, worried and scared feelings as I walked into her office. Bea is sitting in her chair, on the blue rug, just like always. She’s looking at two decks of cards, but when I walk in the doorway, she looks up at me and smiles. 
“Hi,” she says softly, as I walk in and sit in my spot on the couch. “I was just looking at these meditation cards I just got. I got them for kids but I think they could be helpful for adults, too. But I was looking at them, and thinking about how I have been using them this last week. I’ve only pulled them out if they make sense for what the kid I’m with is playing out, or working through. I wouldn’t just stop a child in the middle of their play to do one a random mediation activity.” 

I nod. I’m a little afraid she’s going to suggest we do one of the cards, but she doesn’t. 

“I guess I was thinking about this today, and I’m talking about it now, because it is like the SP stuff. I shouldn’t be bringing it up or adding it in when it doesn’t make sense for what you are talking about or working through.” 

“Okay…..” I whisper slowly. 

After a pause, Bea gets up, put the cards away, and then sits back down. “We can start wherever you want to start today,” she tells me. 

When I don’t say anything, she sits forward in her chair and looks at me. My gaze has been more towards the floor than anything since I got here, but I know she is looking at me because I can feel it. 
“I wanted to give you a chance to start with whatever you need to talk about. I’m thinking we should talk about the relationship, about me feeling shrinky and distant last week.” 

I feel tears start to form, and so I go even farther away than I was upon walking into the office. I want to leave. Maybe I should leave. I can not talk about this because I’m terrified she is going to get shrinky. I cover my face with my hands, and think that she is probably shrinking that movement right now. I just can’t handle this. I curl up, bury my face, and wrap my arms around legs, using my hands to cover my head.

“It’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling,” Bea reminds me. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m not going to turn into an SP therapist. I know it has to feel scary to be here today and to talk to me when things felt so off on Monday, when you really experienced me as gone. I know it’s going to be really hard to trust that I’m here today, and that’s okay. I’m not worried, because I know we can work through this together.” 

I don’t say anything. Her words barely penetrate through the fog around me. I don’t believe her that she’s here, although her words tell me she is understanding exactly where I’m at right now. All I can think is that at least she knows she ruined everything. 

“I’m glad you were able to email me. Should I get your emails or can we try to just talk now?” 

I shrug. I don’t care. Just do whatever you want, I think. 

“Why don’t we try to talk?” When I don’t respond, she continues, “I was wondering how things were feeling after we emailed, if you had anything more you wanted to say?” 

I don’t say anything at all. I don’t know what else to say. She got shrinky, and I was afraid to tell her in the moment so I just shut down because nothing felt safe, and then later when I could think about it more, I realized how unsafe it all felt and how distant Bea seemed even after the fact and now scared I was she was going to be shrinky or that she didn’t really care and that this was all a clinical job to her and she was just really good at pretending to care and be there and that everything with her was all fake anyway, and I didn’t feel like I could dive into trauma stuff with her as things stood, and I couldn’t really go pretend things were fine, and everything was royally screwed up. But I didn’t need to say any of that, because it was all in my very long emails. So I just stayed silent. 

“Do you know what you are feeling right now?” She asks gently. 

It takes everything I have in me to come back a little bit from the far away, and to breathe and try to feel what I’m feeling. “Uncomfortable.” 

“Uncomfortable. Yeah, I can see that this is feeling really uncomfortable to you. Do you know what part of this is the most uncomfortable?” 

I’m silent, and so is Bea. I get the feeling she is going to wait me out this time. I sigh. I try to figure out what I am feeling. “It’s…relationships. Feelings. Attachment. Being alone. Trust. And SP and shrinky stuff. All rolled into one big ball. A big ball of yuck…..of uncomfortable that is smushing me.” 

“That does sound uncomfortable. It’s all the things that are really hard for you to talk about.” 

“I………..I think it’s not SP that I hate. Not really. It could be anything……..it’s change and you turning shrinky.” 

“Ah-ha!” She says softly. “That makes a lot of sense. Change is very scary, and change that makes me feel far away and not there is really, really scary.” 

“Shrinky,” I say. I am not going to let her make it sound less awful. Shrinky is the very worst thing a therapist can be. I want her to call it what it is. 

“Shrinky,” she agrees. “Having me feel shrinky is really scary.” 

I shrug. I can’t even admit to that, it’s too risky. 

“I was thinking about this, and I think, usually, I am using the feeling part of my brain in therapy. The SP stuff, especially because it is new and I am still learning it, puts me very solidly in the thinking part of my brain. And it is really hard to connect with another person when you are only in the thinking part of your brain. I think that is where the misattunement with SP happens.” 

That’s why there is such a noticeable difference when she is talking about SP, I think. It is also why she was the first therapist I felt like I could trust and really talk to; it’s because she is usually so focused on feeling with me, and being with me, and that is a right brain to right brain connection, and that wasn’t something I had felt before in my life, I didn’t get that type of attunement growing up. It’s why I felt such a difference when I told Bea my secrets. I can’t deal with this, though, the attachment talk, and attunement and care, I can’t do it. 

I end up panicking, and wanting to run away. It’s too much. “I feel like I should just quit. That’s all I was thinking on Monday and it’s all I’m thinking now. I should just quit. You are going to turn into a shrinky SP therapist and I should just quit. I can’t dot it, I can’t. And you are going to be doing SP and I will get fired because I can’t do it. I should quit. I should just leave.” 

“I’m not going to turn into an SP therapist. I know the body stuff is scary, I know having me feel shrinky is scary, I know this is hard. But I am not changing into an SP therapist. Just like you said, certain parts of the theory of SP don’t work for me. The idea that a transformation must happen every session, that doesn’t sit with me. That’s asking a lot of someone with a lot of trauma, with a lot to work through. Just like we talked about in email, all therapies have structure, and I like to take what works, leave what doesn’t and mush it all into one big Bea-style of therapy. And that means I do therapy different with each person.” 

“I don’t like all the rules and expectations of SP! That makes it shrinky! I hate it, I just hate it!” I blurt out. 

“The structure and theory feel shrinky and scary. All therapy has theories behind it. What we were doing before, that had theory behind it too. We just never talked about it.” 

“I know, I know. I don’t want to talk about it!” It’s too painful. Talking theory turns people shrinky, and while I am okay with that in my friendships, and on my blog, I can not handle it from Bea.

“Okay. We don’t have to talk about it,” she says softly. 

“Before worked.” I feel stubborn and hurt and sad. “It’s like you are saying everything before SP was bad. But before worked. And you keep saying you like SP because it is so non-pathlogizing, and then I wonder what that means for me. Because I NEVER experienced you as pathologizing before. So was it just pretend? Did you really think I was bad and crazy and every thing I was terrified of when I told you my secrets? And you were surprised when I said that before. So is it because you really thought I was crazy and you didn’t care and you were just pretending?” I’m crying, and it’s not pretty crying. It’s snotty, red faced sobs. I’m blurting everything out because I’m half gone, so far away it is like I am watching this session from behind myself. And it doesn’t matter, because the part of me that is numb and gone, she doesn’t care anymore and she is sure I am quitting, that this is it, that I’m never coming back. And so I need to know. I need to know if she ever even cared at all. 

“Gosh no, I never pathologized you. I was surprised, I guess, because it’s hard for me to see myself objectively, and I guess I wasn’t sure if you were able to feel that from me. But no, I never pathologized you, Alice. Alice, I cared. I cared then, and I care now. I’m always doing what I do because I care. Yes, I have a responsibility to you because I am your therapist but I take that responsibility very seriously because I care. You are feeling This misattunement when I am talking about SP, and that is scary, but it is my job to fix that. And I believe it can be fixed.” Bea speaks slowly and carefully, and her voice is full of emotion. What, I’m not sure. I’m too far away to be able to figure it out. 

“I don’t want therapy to be this system of rules and steps that you as my therapist have to follow!! I don’t like that. It’s clinical and fake and I can’t. I just can’t. I liked you as a therapist because you were real. It always felt like you were following what, I don’t know, what your heart said I needed, not what a theory of therapy said you should do. I can’t do this if you are just following rules. I can’t.” 

“I get what you are saying, I hear you. And you are right. I’ve always been more intuitive as a therapist, not following a set system, even thought I do have a lot of different theories of therapy to draw from. The SP talk really derailed that. I’m not intuitive with the SP stuff yet. Its too new, and I have to think about it to know what to do. What’s missing with SP right now is attunement, is me being emotionally present. That is what you need from me, that is the most important thing. Being tunes into you is what is most important,” Bea says. 

“Maybe. Maybe it can be okay,” I say softly. I’m calmer, because she heard me, but I’m still wary. Maybe I won’t quit right now. Maybe I’ll wait and see. 

“It feels scary to trust me now, after feeling me turn shrinky the last time we met. That’s okay. I’m here, and I’m not leaving.” She sounds firm when she tells me this, and I feel a little bit safer, hearing that she is getting it. 

I leave feeling sad and unsure, but better than I felt walking into her office. I’m not quitting today. Bea is maybe not going to turn shrinky. It might be okay.