πŸ‘±πŸΌβ€β™€οΈπŸ’ŽπŸ’…πŸ»πŸ‘ πŸ‘›πŸ€Έβ€β™€οΈπŸ““β˜ŽοΈ (aka the teen)

The teen showed up a few weeks ago and hasn’t left yet. I don’t think she is going anywhere, this time. Typically, the teen shows up when she feels threatened, or believes something is going to hurt another part. All the work Bea and I were doing around SP (mostly trying to expand my vocabulary to label sensation. It’s actually the same approach we used with emotions. We talked about talking about emotions, and what words might be used to label them) definitely triggered the teen, but I beleive the teen showed up because of the recurring nightmare I’ve been having for over a month now.

Typically, the teen shows up, gets mad, causes a rupture and then the little girl freaks out, the stuff that triggered the teen is put away so that repairing the rupture and helping the little girl can be focused on. It’s actually a very smart, and very effective system. However, I don’t want to continue repeating that cycle everytime something gets too close to all the teen’s pain. The teen stuff must be worked with, worked through. Most often, the ruptures the teen causes are focused on something Bea said or did, or didn’t say or do. The teen is very, very good at twisting words and actions and making even innocent ones seem malignant. She’s always done this– in actions or words of others she finds hatrd, disgust, apathy. She finds warning signs that someone is leaving, she finds clues that inform her trusted people hate her and want to get rid of her, and she hears in the others words a message of “I dont care about you, you are an unwelcome obligation.”

In order to avoid this twisting of words, I asked Bea to please not respond to email with words, but to use emoji imstead. It felt so silly, asking that, but it has helped. I’m having a hard time right now, with all the intense feelings and all this pain that has been triggered. I often feel like I am breaking, shattering, into a million pieces from the pain of it all. I knew with the teen triggered and present all my feelings would be even more intense and I would need Bea outside of sessions. I also knew I might survive another rupture where it feels like she left. So, emoji. The teen can’t twist pictures so easily. Partly because she can assign her own meaning to them, but also because when Bea sends emojis in response it is usually something like this: πŸ‘‚πŸ‘πŸ€πŸΆπŸ‘ŸπŸ‘£πŸŒ±πŸŒ·β›…οΈπŸ₯—πŸ«πŸΊ. Which the teen interperts as: I hear and see you, and I am here. I took the dog for a walk and saw some flowers, it was partly sunny out. I had salad for dinner and chocolate and beer later. Now, that could be wrong, but based on what I know about Bea, and on the simplicity of communicating with pictures, it seems likely I’m right. The thing is, the πŸ‘‚πŸ‘πŸ€ really is reassuring that she is here, and the rest of her message (whatever it is) always just feels like she is still Bea.

Where all this will lead, I don’t know. The teen is just as vulnerable as the little girl. In fact, there really is no surface place to go with the teen. Anywhere you try and stand, you will fall through– right into the mud. I’m not sure what that means in terms of working through this pain. I know most of the little girl hurts still exist within the teen; they are simply amplified by the teen’s intensity. I’m scared. I feel like this is something I have to face if I am ever going to live a full life, if I am ever going to be able to have real deep relationships (with someone other than my therapist), if I am ever going to be able to get rid of some of the very worst of my triggers and responses to those triggers.

I feel like I’m heading into a great abyss, with no map to help show me the way.

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Feeling AgainΒ 

Therapy has been weird. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s been weird. I think it’s because I’ve been working really hard to stay in this surfacey safe place where no real feelings or even thoughts can get in. It’s not that I haven’t had things to bring to therapy, and when I actually sit down and write, a lot comes out. Unfortunately, while there must be some parts of me that want to talk and share all this with Bea, there is a stronger part that doesn’t want to talk about anything deep. The stronger part– Ms. Perfect, I call her– works so very hard to keep things on the surface, and she is good at her job. She laughs and smiles, and is chatty and engaging. She is great at finding the perfect *sort of deep, sort of important* thing to bring up when it seems that Bea might be trying to get below the surface. Ms. Perfect knows the topics that distract Bea and she is so sneaky in the way she brings them up. 

That other part, though? The one who wants to talk? She’s desperate to talk, to not be alone, and that gives her strength, too. She spends the majority of my sessions trying to get past Ms. Perfect so she can share. Then, she spends a lot of time hemming and hawing because she is scared. It’s been about the last fifteen, maybe twenty minutes of my sessions when I finally hand over my notebook and give Bea something real. That’s hard because I’m constantly feeling like I’m wasting time and like there is a lot I want to talk about. 

Monday was different. October 23. The day before my birthday. During the previous session, on Wednesday, I had managed to give Bea my notebook earlier in the session. Ms. Perfect wanted to run things and the idea of letting go of her tenuous grasp on control of everything below the surface was really scary, but someone the part that needed to share managed to make that happen. I’d written about how so much that I am feeling right now is so reminiscent of my childhood. I’m floating on the surface because feeling anything else is too frightening and confusing. Ms. Perfect is running things again, and so I am functioning quite well. That, too, is childhood like, this need to be perfect and hide all the other stuff. I’ve been having nightmares, and flashbacks but they are weird. They seem much more intense and real, there is much more feeling and emotion involved in them, and they are tiny intense pieces of whole memories. Anyway, I have been feeling very split lately, and I don’t like it. It’s too much like being a little girl again, and that in and of itself is a trigger. In that particular segment of writing, I had written something about how my flashbacks and dreams leave me with a little girl feeling from long ago; it’s the same feeling I would get after he was done playing with me. There wasn’t a lot of time left in session, and I wasn’t at all present because just having her read my words felt too exposing. She suggested that we could talk more about these “after” feelings, and when I shook my head, she said maybe I would write about them in my notebook. I honestly don’t remember how we left things, but I did write about the after. It took a lot for me to do it, and it was painful and confusing, and it felt like an actual fight to stay present enough to write, but I did it. 

So, Monday the 23 was different. Ms. Perfect was no where to be found. I was chatty, but it didn’t feel like a desperate attempt to block Bea out or keep my feelings buried. It just felt like things I wanted to share with her, things I wanted to talk about. I’d been back to my parents on Saturday to celebrate my birthdays and that quickly became the topic of discussion. 

“This was the first time you had been back to your parents’ house since your Grandma’s funeral and the month of triggers?” Bea is sitting across from me in her chair, looking relaxed and grounded and open. She was here with me, and somehow I was able to let that in a little bit. 

I nodded. “Yeah.” 

“How was that?” 

I shrugged. I really didn’t want to think about it. With Ms. Perfect apparently off on holiday, I stumble in my attempt to gloss over things and make it out to be no big deal. “It was fine. I mean, it was, well, it was just, like I focused more on the Halloween activities we had going on and then we were busy, well actually not really busy but there was stuff we did and it was easy being with my parents this time around and it was just really not a thing, I mean I was sad a little but it was, well, it was okay and my brother and the kids came over for dinner and a bonfire and it was good. And I’m planning to do something fun tomorrow, Kat is staying home from school and we are going to the zoo if it doesn’t rain. So I’m okay, I’m fine.” 

Bea smiles at me, as if she can tell that I’m just being me, there is no facade anymore. “So, you let things be low key then. It seems like that was the right choice for yourself. Yes, there is sadness and bittersweet feelings but you feel grounded and here today. You felt more present last time, too. I think that means you are doing the right things for yourself because Ms. Perfect felt it was safe enough to let you run the ship again.” 

“Okay,” I say awkwardly. Bea’s right in what she is saying, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to respond. I wonder if I should agree with her, or talk about being more here, or something. Her assessment of me almost feels like praise, or at least as if she is saying something positive about me, and I don’t know what to do with that. I never know what to do with that. 

“Did you do birthday presents this year?” She asks and I nod my head. “What did your mom get you? I remember the year she got you that sweater and all the grief that caused.” 

I’m surprised that Bea remembers that, that must have been the first October we were working together, before we knew that lots of teen feelings came up every year at this time, and that sweater sent me right over the edge. I wasn’t an easy person to deal with during that time, I’m sure. 

“She got me some new notebooks, and some sharpies.” I love notebooks, planners, and calendars. I am addicted to sharpie markers and fancy pens. 

Bea says something about my mom getting me a gift that says maybe she does see me. I shake my head. “She asked hubby what to get me.” 

“How does that feel?” She is being serious and wants the question answered but she rolls her eyes because she knows that I’m going to be annoyed at the typical shrink question. 

“It’s fine, I hadn’t even thought about it. I don’t want to talk about this,” I tell her. 

“Well, this is therapy, and so I have to ask. Can you just take a minute and let that sink in? Your mom asked your husband what to get you for your birthday. What does that feel like? It’s bound to bring up something.” Her voice is quiet, and she is so calm. I watch as she takes a deep breath in and let’s it out. It is as if she is silently encouraging me to let my feelings come up. 

I sigh. I don’t want to talk about my mom because I really just want to give her what I’d written in my notebook. I worked so hard to write about the after, it had taken me days to write very little. I can’t just tell Bea that I have this other thing I want to talk about, because she hasn’t asked if I have writing and maybe she forgot that she asked me to write about the after and so bringing it up myself would make me too vulnerable. I decided to take things a different route, one that might be quicker than if I talk about my mom. Also, taking things in this direction will allow me to take things back to the surface if need be. 

“Well,” I say, “I guess it feels like my husband really does know me.” 

If Bea is surprised that this is the path I’m leading us down, she doesn’t show it. “I think he really does know you. He loves you, and he gets you.” 

“Ummm, you know, I think he gets part of me. He gets the…..it’s not the surface parts, the facade anymore, but it’s….I don’t know what part it is. It’s just not the big feelings or whatever. He does not get that part of me.” 

“No, he doesn’t get that part of you,” Bea agrees. “But it is like he is making space for it. He doesn’t get it, and he doesn’t know it, but he does see that it is a part of you and that notebooks and pens go along with the that. So he is making space for it and trying to get your mom to make space for that part, too.” 

I feel something, an anxiousness maybe, about this idea of hubby making space for these dark and twisty parts of me. This should be making me happy, I should feel good about this. Instead I am uncomfortable to the point of wanting to go far away. I dome know why I feel like this and I don’t want to examine it, so I simply nod my head. 

Things get fuzzy there for a bit, so I don’t know how, but the conversation changes direction when Bea asks if I have any writing. 

This is what I had wanted to begin with, to give her my notebook and maybe talk about these complicated, confusing feelings. I pull the small book out of my bag and then I turn shy all of a sudden. I can’t look at Bea, and I can’t hand her my notebook. I flip through the pages, and fidget with the corners of the notebook. I’d written Bea a letter and used it as a sort of bookmarks to mark the new segment of writing. 

“This is really hard.” Her voice is warm and understanding. She gets it. 

“Yeah. I…it’s just…it’s hard.” I’m mumbling my words because I’m pretty dissociated at the moment. 

“Was it hard to write?”

“Mmmhmm. Yea. I….it was hard to be present.” I say sadly. 

We sit like that for what feels like a very long time, me holding my notebook, curled up on the couch, flipping absent mindlessly through the notebook. Bea was probably talking to me that whole time, but her voice didn’t penetrate the fog surrounding me until she said, “You don’t have to share it with me. Or you could choose one part to share. It’s a choice, it’s your choice. I wonder if you can let yourself feel what it would feel like to tell me you aren’t going to share your writing today and put your notebook away.” 

I shake my head. IfI don’t share what I wrote then I am going to feel very lost and alone when I leave here. I’ll be sad, and maybe overwhelmed. I don’t want to do this by myself anymore. “No, I want to share it. I just…well I’m not sure. It’s hard.” 

“You know, writing, this is how you communicate, how you share your story with me. It’s what gives us an opening so we can talk about what is going on below the surface. Because there always a deeper layer for you that is hard to start a conversation about. This system, it’s worked so well for us that we really haven’t ever stopped to think about it, have we?” 

Is she trying to say she wants to take away writing? “I know. I know it’s not talking. But it is the only way….I mean, there’s so much and I can’t say the words or bring it up or explain out loud, because it is just really hard. There’s so much I wouldn’t have ever talked about if I wasn’t writing.” 

Bea pauses for a long moment, and when she speaks it is with a reassuring tone. It’s the voice adults use to reassure children they are safe and all is right in their world. “Alice. I’m not saying anything is wrong with writing, or with using it in therapy. It works for you. Using your writing has allowed is to do some amazing work. I’m just curious about the notebook and feelings we have about it, how we react. I guess I’m thinking more sensorimotor therapy stuff.”  

Inwardly, I groan. I should have know this was some sensorimotor stuff. “Okay…..” I say slowly, drawing out the word. 

“For instance, what does it feel like to be holding your notebook right now? What if you put it on the floor between us?” She asks. 

I shrug. I don’t know what I feel. Worried, maybe. Anxious that Bea will read my words and think I’m being dramatic. Or she will read my words and not get it, and that will be the worst thing ever. 

“Maybe does it feel like you have the control right now, holding onto the notebook?” 

I shake my head. “No. It’s not…no.” 

“If I focus on how I’m feeling, what comes up for me, there is a little nervousness in my belly because I can feel that you have some anxiety and so a part of me sort of becomes nervous with you. And then there is a part of me that wants to help you, to make this all better and easy for you because I don’t want you to feel more anxiety. That part of me just feels likes you have been through so much, and I want to make this as easy as I can on you. There’s also a part of me that wants to grab the notebook from you and read it all because that part can’t stand not knowing. There’s a part of me that is curious about what you have written, but this part of me wants you to take your time and feel safe enough to let me have the notebook. This part wants to do what I can to help you feel safe.” 

I think I should be upset that a part of Bea wants to read my words without my permission, but oddly I’m not upset. The fact that there is this part of her feels a little bit like my words do matter to her. Actually, everything she has said feels like I matter to her, like maybe she does care. I believe that Bea is just being Bea, and without meaning to she has said the exact right thing to help me. “It’s not really about the notebook. It’s about the words inside. It would be fine to hand you the notebook.” 

“That makes sense,” she says. 

I hand her my notebook, and she doesn’t open it. Instead, she holds it carefully on her lap so that it stays closed. 

Eventually I nod my head. “You can read it. It’s okay.” 

Bea opens it to the page that is bookmarked with the letter I’d written to her. “Should I read this first?”

“Yea,” I say so softly I don’t think anyone hears me. I’m suddenly embarrassed that I wrote a letter detailing how difficult this all has been, it’s as if I wasn’t sure she would get it just from reading my words. 

Bea starts to read, and pulling my knees into my chest, I hide my face and go far away again. 

Bea,

This has been so hard to write. So, so hard. It took me days, and it was a lot of work to stay present enough that I could write it all down. It wasn’t easy. All these feelings are big and confusing. Sad, mad, happy, worried, frustrated. These are feelings I can do. I recognize them when I feel them, and I can label them. But this stuff? It’s complex. I don’t know. This is like a giant mixture, some vague not okay, anxious, sick, empty, confused feeling that is physically present but is an emotion and I can’t name it or really describe it. I don’t have the words. It’s like I need to learn another new language to even be able to talk about anything. I’m having such a hard time with this. I feel very present with theses feelings, almost like I can’t go away to avoid them, and that’s hard, too. It’s all scary to me. This is just as scary as learning to feel and identity emotions like sad, glad, mad. Maybe more scary. 

“Do you know how big this is? That you can even feel these big mixed up complex feelings? I know they are scary, that feeling them and staying present and talking about them is scary. But do you see how far you have come? Even last year, you weren’t able to feel like this, to even recognize a vague feeling that you can’t name. This is huge.”

I can’t respond. First, I’m embarrassed that she is making this out to be this huge thing I am now able to do (even if it is a big deal, and even if part of me is basking in this attention, I’m embarrassed). Something about positive recognition or praise embarrasses me. I think it’s because I feel I don’t deserve it. I never know what to say, and all these complicated feelings come up. Secondly, all this praise over being able to do something that I couldn’t do a year ago makes me worried. It worries me because  Bea could decide I’m all better, and make me leave.

“I know, I’m making a big deal out of this. It just is a big deal in a lot of ways. Things are becoming more integrated. It’s because of all your hard work,” Bea says, still loud and excited. Then, softly she adds, “In case you had the thought, I’m going to share with you that a part of me had the thought *what if she decides she is all better now?* That part was worried and sad. But I reminded myself that there is still lots of work we can do, there is still things to process and feelings to work with and other stuff that still needs to integrate more.” 

I breathe for a moment. She still believes there is work we can do, she doesn’t think I’m all better enough to kick me out of therapy. Later, I think about her words and wonder, would she miss me if I left? I’m surprised. I’ve never thought that I would matter enough that she might miss me. I always see termination as Bea getting rid of me, as being relieved she doesn’t have to deal with me anymore. 

There’s always something more going on under the surface. That’s true. But on Wednesday in therapy, I wasn’t being pretend or prefect, I was just being me. I don’t feel fake every time I’m having more surface-type talk, I think it’s partly how I feel when I’m talking. If I’m disconnected, and talking to simply avoid going below the surface, if I’m working hard to appear to be together and on top of things, to give the appearance of being absolutely okay, then it’s the facade, the pretend me. But just talking and staying closer to the surface…..that’s not the same thing. Maybe it was acknowledging that if we went below the surface, there is a lot of feelings there. Maybe it was that I felt like it would be okay if we did end up below the surface and some of those not so perfect feelings came out. Maybe it’s the fact that I was working really hard to stay present. I don’t know. But there is a difference. 

“There’s a difference,” she agrees with me. 

“Yeah,” I say. “I didn’t know, before that there was a difference. Or maybe there wasn’t a difference before.”

“It could be a little bit of both. It’s interesting you are thinking about this, and able to tell a difference. This is great to be able to recognize the differences between them. I think it’s important, too, that we know that staying on the surface doesn’t have to mean you aren’t being authentic or that you aren’t here.” Bea tells me. 

I nod my head at her words as she returns to reading. 

So, this is supposed to be about the “after” with Kenny, and all the different layers there are to that. I have had lots of things I could say about it, lots of things that popped into my head this week. So I could write it here, or say it on Monday. But it feels so dramatic, the words that have popped into my head to describe the after. It’s embarrassing to have such dramatic words and descriptions. It’s just, I don’t know. It feels wrong. 

“A lot of judgement about how you feel or the words you want to use for describe the feelings. This was hard to get past, but you did it.” It took me a whole day to go back to writing about the after. I was (and I am) judging myself harshly. 

After. After he leaves my room. I want to get out of bed but I can’t. I don’t know why, I just can’t. It’s as if getting out of bed will break the spell I cast, this magic spell that put me far away where nothing happened and if I move the spell will break and it will all be real. When I do move, I want to keep moving, I want to run and run and run for miles and miles and never stop. Like maybe I can run away from all this or maybe it’s because I can sense that as long as I keep busy, keep going and don’t stop, don’t pause to think, then I won’t have to feel the yuck. There’s no running, no place to go, but I can hide in my secret space (closet). 

After. I feel, I don’t know, it’s something I definitely didn’t know then, and it’s hard to describe even now. It’s sad, but more than that. There’s something, it’s like there is something I wanted but didn’t get and now I feel left. I feel like I’m the doll in the bin of barbies that had her hair chopped off, or was drawn on with marker. You know, the doll no one wants to choose, the one that is the last resort when all the other dolls are already take. Maybe the word is “left” or lonely. But it’s not really one of those things. Or it’s not just one feeling, it’s also this feeling of wanting or needing something but not getting it. It’s sort of, isolating. It’s soul crushing. Maybe I feel used. Or not as loved as I thought I would feel. I don’t know. 

 After. There’s more layers for this. Sensorimotor. I feel empty. Like someone scraped out my insides. I feel like my body isn’t mine. I feel hollow. My head feels like static. No, my life feels like static, like when you turn on the tv, and you can hear and see the show, but it’s filled with static and the picture is jumping around. That’s it. I feel like static. My body isn’t mine. My head is light, maybe it will just float away like a balloon. My heart feels, not my heart, but around my heart feels like a block of ice. It’s just so frozen, which makes no sense because I feel hot, like I could have a strange kind of fever. Maybe I’m sick. My stomach….it’s like the feeling you get on a roller coaster and you go fast down a big hill. 

“Lots of dissociative feelings here. And so many confusing feelings. I wonder if it’s that these feelings were too much to have back then. You couldn’t feel them back then and you didn’t have help with your feelings so you do the only thing you child do– ignored them. Now they are popping back up because the part hat held them feels safe enough to let them out. As painful as it is, I think if we are careful to work with small pieces of these old feelings, this will all start to feel better.”

I want to talk, to say something but I’m so far away I can’t get words to form. I manage to bring myself back to the the present. Finally I whisper, “Can I have a blanket?” 

Bea gets up. “Of course,” she says. She gets a blanket and drapes it over me. “We only have a few more minutes, so just try to feel that you are safe, and work on coming back a little bit more. Try to feel that boundary the blanket sets for you.” 

“Okay.” I whisper the word. 

“If you want, we can talk about the after on Wednesday, okay? Of any other time. When you are ready to talk about if and work with it, there is a lot we can do.”

“I won’t. I mean, we won’t talk about it. I can’t because, well, I don’t know.its because it would be breaking my rules. You know. I’ll feel like I won’t be able to bring it up a second time.”

“Okay. How about this? I’ll ask you on Wednesday of you would like to talk about and work with this after stuff?” Bea suggests. 

I nod. “Do you….? Will you hold onto my notebook?”

“Sure, I can do that.” Bea tells me.  

I know time is up, and before she can gently tell me, I pull the blanket out from under my head, and fold it up. I still can’t look at her. 
“Alice,” Bea says seriously. “I read it, and nothing bad happened. I read it and you are okay. I read it and my opinion of you has not changed. I read it and nothing bad happened.”

“Okay.” I finally look up and she’s still just Bea. I stand up then, and we say our good byes. Bea wishes me a Happy Birthday as I walk out door. 

You read and maybe I will colorΒ 

I’m not sure I want to be here, but I didn’t want to cancel, either. So, I sit, curled up on the sofa, Hagrid in my lap, unsure of what I’m doing. I’ve lost track of the conversation. Bea has been forced to lead the conversation, to try to pick apart what I might need to talk about, because I’ve shared very little. 

“Do you know what you will be doing for Easter? Are you going to your mom’s?” 

I nod. “Yeah….I think….I don’t know. I just want to go for the day, really, but it will hurt her feelings, I don’t know. So I can’t decide if we are just going Saturday, or staying through Sunday.” 

“I haven’t heard you worry about your moms feelings recently,” Bea states.

 
She’s right. I haven’t. I want to say this whole mess with Kay, and with her, means I am treading very carefully with my other relationships. I don’t want to hurt anyone else, have anyone else become angry with me and leave. “No, I haven’t. I’ve been more…I don’t know……making my choices based on what Kat or I need. But I just…I don’t know.” I shrug. I’ve spent most of re session staring at the floor. 

“It doesn’t seem as if it’s been as triggering, or as hard to go back to your parents home. Is it easier, now?” 

I nod, slowly, because I’m thinking. But she’s right, it has been less triggering lately. 

“Why do you think that is?” She asks.

“I don’t know. I just….it just is, I guess. I don’t know why.” And in that moment, I really don’t. But now, as I’m writing, I suspect it is a combination of better coping skills, of the grown up part of me being stronger, of my parents being more real. 

“Maybe it’s because you are able to be more in the present, now? The past doesn’t overtake you so easily, and you can stay in the present and see that that was then and this is now.” Bea suggests. 

“Yeah…..” I really do agree. It makes sense. 

“Are you worried about seeing him again?” 

I shake my head. “No. That was a freak thing. If we went to church, maybe…but we don’t go. My parents do, but we never have gone since Kat was born. But she did do Christmas service, so maybe they will expect…..I don’t know. But no. That was a freak thing, a fluke.” 

I see Bea nodding out of the corner of my eye. “What happened with your brother’s wedding? Is that…..?” 

“September. It’s this September.” 

“Are you worried about seeing Kenny there?” She asks. 

I pet Hagrid, unsure how to answer. “No…yes….I just try not to think about it.” 

I think there is some more conversation around this, but then she asks, “I’m sure this won’t ever happen, but hypothetically……..What if he wrote you a letter, taking all the blame, saying he was sorry and he did a bad thing to you and it was all his fault? How would that feel?” 

I stare at the floor, at the couch, at Hagrid. “I…..I’m not sure it would really matter. I mean….I don’t know if it’s really about him….I don’t know…..” I answer honestly, even though a part of me doesn’t want to say anything at all. 

“I know it’s hard to take in and hear me saying it wasn’t your fault, I just wondered how it would feel or change things if he said it, too.” She explains. 

“I don’t know that it would.” I whisper. 
She asks more questions, all around Kenny, and seeing him, and him being to blame for it all. I’m not sure what they all were, but eventually I get tired of them, and I look at her and say, “Why?” I’m not upset, exactly, more curious as to where all these questions are coming from. 

Bea pauses, thinking it through, sorting her thoughts out. “Well, I suppose I was wondering if it would feel different to see him since you have accessed some of that anger towards him. If you would feel stronger, or like you wanted to yell at him, or if you were worried about how you would react.” She takes a breath, giving me time to respond, but when I don’t, she continues. She talks about how when others she has worked with feel some anger towards their abuser, seeing that person can be very different from seeing them when that anger was split off. 

She also tells me— but I’m not sure when during the session that we talk about this— about a young girl she is working with who was sexually assaulted by a man at the park, and how that girl has talked about messy things, not liking messy things, and how when they were going to court, the little girl wanted to write a letter using her messiest handwriting, and using marker to make it messier. The mom asked Bea about this, and Bea told her it wasn’t surprising because almost everyone she has ever worked with who was sexually abused has hated messy, and used the word messy as an almost metaphor for out of control–exactly what things were during the trauma. (And the girl is doing really well now, and is okay with messy.) I don’t know why but I found this very validating, that so many people, including a little girl, would use the word messy in the same way. It’s always validating to know other adult people feel the way I do, but there is something about hearing that kids, do, too. It’s like it makes it okay for the little girl me to feel the way she does. But anyway……

“I guess that knowing you had some anger towards him, that you have been able to express it a bit, made me curious about how you were feeling now.”

“I’m not angry today,” I say softly. 

“No, I can see that you aren’t.” Her voice is just as soft. “You feel sad to me.”

I cover my face with my hands, and say to her, “This week was a really bad week.” My voice breaks, and tears fall for a moment before I push them back down. 

“I don’t know what happened, but I can hear that it was a hard week.” When I don’t say anything, she goes on to talk about how she had been sort of poking around, trying to see what I might need to talk about. I don’t remember how she said it, but she mentioned that when she doesn’t get emails from me, she feels a little lost because she has no idea what is going on in my life between sessions.

“I did write…not a lot but I did….but I was……I guess I was worried…if you aren’t really back and I sent it….that….” My voice trails off, as I’m not even sure how to finish that sentence. 

“That would have hurt worse, almost have been unbearable?” 

“Yes…..it wold have been too vulnerable making.” 

“Well, I really am back. And nothing you say is going to send me away, nothing you said or did was the cause of me going away before. I like getting your emails, knowing what is going on for you. I need to be better about explaining why, at times, I may not be able to write a long reply, or may not be as emotionally available as you are used to. But I always read them, and am glad to get them, and always hold whatever is going on.” I don’t remember everything she said, but it was all really healing and validating to hear. I came away believing she really is okay with my emails, and really does like the continuity it gives between sessions. 

“Did you want to talk about the bad week, or have me read what you wrote?” She asks. 

It takes a while, but I finally pull out my iPad, and read over what I had written. “I was writing about church….you’d asked things Monday, and I was thinking about church, so I was writing about it. But then Tuesday….I wrote a little more. It’s all jumbled together though, so I don’t know.” 

“That’s okay.” And then, she adds, “Do you maybe want to color and talk? Would that be helpful?” 

I stare at my pink Easter egg colored toe nail polish for what feels like 100 minutes. “I…..maybe you can read, and I will color.” 

Bea gets up, and starts putting the stuff out. Once she is sitting back down, I hand her my iPad and she starts to read. I pick up my picture, and some colored pencils, and start coloring. 

That doesn’t last long, however. As soon as she begins to speak, I cover my face and hide. I don’t remember what she said now about church stuff, but that wasn’t the important part of the session anyway. 

“Which Doctor were you seeing?” She asks me. 

“Dr. S. My general Doctor.”

“Was this like a check up, or was something going on?” 

“Just a check up….she makes me see her twice a year for check ups because my periods…I guess not having them regular makes it a higher risk for cancers…I don’t know.” I don’t have regular periods, and I never have. The so-called monthly friend shows up once or twice a year. Which concerns my doctor a lot, and she has wanted me to use birth control to fix that for sometime now, but I won’t. So the compromise is that I see her twice a year. I hate those kind of exams, but my doctor is really amazing. She doesn’t know my history, but she has always made an effort to make me comfortable. 

“Ahhhh. So you didn’t know she had a student with her until the appointment had started?” 

“No…they ask at the desk, when I checked in. But they didn’t say it was a male student. Just a student. So…I said it was fine. I wouldn’t have….but I didn’t know.” 

“It sounds like this was really retraumatizing,” Bea says softly. “I’m sorry you were so alone with it.” 

“I couldn’t…I couldn’t email you. And I just…I couldn’t say no. She asked. If he could….do whatever….and I just couldn’t…I couldn’t say no, I said okay….” I’m starting to cry now, and it’s like being back at the doctor’s office all over again. 

“Well, ‘no’ isn’t something you are used to saying. ‘No’ wasn’t allowed in your world for so long.” Bea’s voice is reassuring, and kind. 

I’m unsure if I want to talk to her or not, because the teen and little girl parts aren’t sure they trust her anymore, and miss perfect doesn’t want to admit to any weakness. I try to let the grown up part be in charge right now, at least enough so that I can tell Bea what happened. Because the grown up me does trust her, and knows that talking to her will help. The grown up doesn’t manage to keep running things right now, but she at least gets the story out, even through the little girl’s tears. 

“Were you getting a Pap smear? Like that kind of thing?” She asks. 

I nod. “Yeah.” 

“I want to know what freaking out looks like,” she tells me. She simply sounds curious, like this is a normal conversation and I have information she is interested in. I’d written that I had freaked out at the doctor and can never go back. 

I shrug, “I don’t know. Just…..freaked out…you know.” 

“Did you punch him?” She asks, being over the top to help me feel better about whatever I did. 

I shake my head. No. 

“Kick him?” She asks. 

“No.” 

“Swear at him, curse him, and shove him to the floor?” She asks me. 

I crack a tiny smile. “No.” 

We sit quiet for a moment, and Bea finishes reading. “I’m reading now about why you didn’t want to talk to me. I’m sorry. I absolutely in no way think you hold any of the fault, and I can’t see myself ever being tired of holding that position and telling you how I see things,” she says. 

“I know, I know you didn’t say any of those things. I know. But the little girl….the teen….they……I’m not sure, I don’t know why I heard that and not what you were saying.” I jump in, talking fast. I need her to know how grown up me feels. 

“Its okay. Sometimes it’s hard for the little girl part and the teen not to look for rejection, and to hear it even if it’s not there. I think hearing the words, the idea of someone, anyone, telling you they agreed with you, that it was your fault, can feel really scary. I do think you have a part that knows what he did to you was wrong, and not your fault. She might be very buried, very cut off from your awareness, but I do believe she exists. And I don’t think it was your fault at all. Not in any way, in any circumstance or planet could it be your fault. I’m sorry you were all alone with this, and then the doctor….that had to feel really bad.” 

I nod my head and sniffle. “It was a really bad week.”

“Do you want to tell me what happened, why you think you can’t go back?” She asks gently. 

“I couldn’t say no. I…she asked, but he was right there and I didn’t want to make him feel sad. I couldn’t say no.” 

“Of course not. Of course you didn’t want to make someone feel bad.” Bea interjects, and it feels so good to know she gets it. 

“And then…he was….and I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t breathe.” 

“Uh-huh….this was really retraumatizing.” 

“And I just….he….I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t say no, I was so scared and it didn’t feel okay, I wasn’t safe and bad things were happening and I was crying and I couldn’t move.” I’m talking fast, words jumbled together, hyperaroused and not here all at the same time. 

“It was really scary. And it really didn’t feel safe,” she says softly. “Did your doctor ask him to stop?” 

I nod. “She had him leave the room.”

“So she protected you. Did she finish the exam?” 

“No….I…she just draped one of those paper blankets over me, and sat with me for a few minutes.” 

“So you have to go back to finish the exam?” Bea asks. 

I nod. “I can’t….I can’t…I just…I can’t.” 

“I know. We don’t have to worry about that right now, okay?” 

“Okay,” I say tearfully. 

“So she sat with you for a few minutes and then let you leave? Or did she have you stay for a bit?” Bea asks, casually.

“Well…..I don’t know. She sat with me and then let me leave. But it could have been longer. So….well, I don’t know. You know, I do my everything is okay routine, and I just wanted to go home. So I went to that functioning but not here place.” I tell her. Bea has seen— and been fooled by—- the functioning everything is okay act, so she is well aware of what it is. 

“Ahhh, yes. And you really wanted to go where it was safe.”

I nod.”yeah.” 

“Were you able to feel better once home, safer?” 

“No…..I….I wanted my closet. But hubby was home, so I kept the functioning act going.”

“That had to be hard.” I’m actually listening, and her voice sounds sad, compassionate.

“And now…I’m so embarrassed.” 

“You have nothing to be embarrassed for. Women’s doctors are really sensitive to how vulnerable a position you are in during those exams.” Bea tells me. 

“I acted like a little girl. I behaved like a child…I couldn’t answer her questions. I just cried. I don’t know. I acted like a child.” I say sadly. 

“You were really triggered. And I’m sure you aren’t the first one to have a bad reaction. She’s probably experienced this before.” Bea reassures me. “Does she know your history?” 

I shake my head. No way. 

“She never asked?” Bea says. She sounds protective, like she is not happy the doctor never asked about my history. 

“Well, it’s just forms. I filled them out a long time ago. Before Kat. And now I just have to check my address, insurance, phone number. And the forms have the question, but I always marked no. I probably wouldn’t even mark yes now, if I were to redo the sheets.” 

“It doesn’t feel safe for her to know?” Bea asks. I’m sure she has to be thinking that it’s too late, the doctor has to know something now. 

“Well, I don’t want it in my file. Because then everyone knows, anyone who gets my chart knows.” My worst nightmare is having strangers know. 

“Okay, that makes sense.” Bea says. 
We talk a little more about the feelings and what happened. And then we start to talk about how I’m going to go back there. 

“I can’t go back.” I’m so embarrassed, so afraid of any judgments made. 

“Well, you could see a different doctor.” Bea’s tone is very neutral as she says this.

“No. I don’t want to do that.” 

“Okay. So, then we come up with a plan. Did the office follow up with you? Did she check on you after?” Bea asks.

“She called that night. I didn’t answer. And I deleted the message. And again called on Wednesday, but no message.” I tell her. 

“You weren’t ready to talk to her. That’s okay. But I am glad she called. I don’t like that she let you leave like that. So soon after.” 

“I was pretending to be okay. I’m really good at that. I’m great at being okay. So….you know.” I say. 

“I know, ” Bea says, “So, how are we going to get you back to the doctor?” 

“I don’t know what will make it better. I’m scared and embarrassed.” It’s not just embarrassment making me afraid to go back; I’m terrified of feeling frozen again.

 “We could write a letter, and I could help you do that.” Bea suggests. 

“Maybe. I don’t know. I wouldn’t know what to say.” I tell her.

“Maybe hubby could go with you?” Her voice is a little tentative. “He’s been a help with the dentist.” 

I shake my head. “No. He can’t go. It’s just…no.” I don’t know why I don’t want him there. it seems too vulnerable, too difficult to bring a guy to an exam of my private area. Ugh.

“I could go with you,” Bea offers. 

I don’t respond. But I can’t believe she would offer this. I feel really supported and cared for. Like she wants to help keep me safe, like she really does care. I can’t respond to her offer, I can’t express my feelings of thankfulness for her; I can’t tell someone about my postoperative feelings for them without feeling shame. What the heck is up with that? “If we wrote a letter, we wouldn’t have to give it to her. Just write it to get my thoughts in order and then figure it out?”

“Nope, we wouldn’t have to send it,” she agrees. 

We wrap up a bit later, and I leave feeling okay. Well, not okay, but like I have Bea back. She’s not gone. She likes getting my emails, she likes hearing what the teen has to say, she wants me to feel safe, and she offered to go with me to the doctor. She does care. 

Aside

Unfiltered Parts of me

I have a post about Monday and Thursday’s sessions all ready. I’m just afraid to post it. I feel like something has shifted in my attempt to be unfiltered with Bea, hubby, and Kay. In being way more unfiltered with Bea, it seems she is understanding how my mind works even better than she has before. But that is so very vulnerable making and scary. 

We’ve talked about “parts” before; the little girl, the teenager, the perfect one. And those parts are very apparent to me. The summer before I started seeing Bea, things got very messy. My nightmares and “scary daydreams”, the “picture snaps” (what Bea has now taught me are flashbacks) came back. My moods were all over the place. I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t always like how I was acting, or understand my reactions, but I couldn’t control it, either. Now, looking back, I can see that the teenager and the little girl were running the show a lot of the time. 

Bea introduced the idea of parts very carefully. I don’t remember when she brought up the idea, but it was in an email. I’d written that I felt like a scared child pretending to be a grownup. She wrote back that when people experience trauma, there can be parts stuck in the past. She suggested that there was a part of me who felt like a little girl, but there was a grown up part, too, who ran the ship. The idea of parts made me feel crazy, but the more Bea talked about it, the more she pointed out that she was sensing the little girl, the more I accepted this idea and began to clearly see when I was sounding, feeling, or behaving like the little girl. The teenager showed up, too, although I spent more time trying to shut her down and send her away than acknowledging her presence. 

And, I read your blogs, and saw that a lot of you identified parts of yourselves as a little girl. Some of you had parts that were more separated, more defined, but you all had parts. Suddenly, I wasn’t so crazy. This idea of parts became much more normalized. It was okay. 

Until Thursday. I have spent the last two weeks being unfiltered with Bea. I think it really started when she went on vacation, and spent her vacation emailing with me, and accepting the fact that her learning something new felt like she was changing everything. It started when she admitted that I was right about some things, even though she had previously said otherwise (just not in so many words). It started when I started having breakdowns in therapy about her changing everything and not being safe anymore. It started when the teenager wrote a snarky email, and I allowed it to be sent. It started because Bea responded to the email, and wasn’t upset. She responded to the teenager, but it was more than that. Her email read like she liked and respected the teenager. So, living a life unfiltered started there. But then, maybe because I was explaining much more openly what my experience was growing up, what it was like in my head, how separate things were, how I hid things from myself, she said something. She said, “a separate personality you created in order to function. To survive.” 

What does that mean? I’m freaking out over here. A separate personality I created to function, to survive. Is this why I don’t remember large parts of my life? Why there are parts of my life that feel like a movie I watched, or a book I read? Why sometimes I “know” something I previously didn’t know, why I remember things I forgot that I forgot? Is this why some things that are in the past feel as if they are happening right now, in my present? Why things can feel so confusing, messy, and chaotic? I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what she meant. I won’t ask her, because I am too afraid right now. I don’t want to know her answer. But I need to talk this out with someone, with people who understand. That’s you, my bloggy friends. So, as scared as I am to post this, I’m going to. Because everytime I have ever posted anything scary, or needed support, you have all been there, and normalized it all. I trust you guys. Even if you aren’t “real life” friends, you are very real friends. 

Now what?

Monday, after that intense yet so detached and dissociated session, I went for a long walk. I thought and I sorted through some of what we talked about. And then I sent Bea an email. (She did eventually respond, acknowledging that she had not gotten to it, and promising she would later in the day. Her responses are in italics and quotes.)

Hi Bea,
You asked me about sleep and eating. Sleep, we covered. Really, I think in some ways I sleep worse when I’m not dealing with feelings and stuff, I’m more restless in sleep, more anxious. I have more nightmares sometimes, when I don’t talk about things– like camping and Ferris wheels and all that ugly stuff. But really, the main thing is I don’t sleep and I do it to myself because I fight sleep. I can take a Benadryl and be almost knocked out from it and still fight falling asleep. So, it’s my own doing. Eating…..I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it. I feel like maybe at some point we have to, and for some reason that scares me as much as talking about the trauma stuff scares me. It’s almost like that is where I have safety and control and I am not giving that up completely, or even risking the idea of giving it up, or even going to make myself vulnerable enough to really talk about eating stuff. 
I think you have to separate talking about it from feeling that anything has to change. First we have to make it real–right now I feel like it dwells in this shadowy land where you–and I–can pretend it doesn’t exist. But it does! It’s very real, and while it’s giving you a sense of control, from the outside it appears more that it’s controlling you. We need to do some work with it as it is now, not as we’d like it to be. That’s not real either! What is it right now? It’s meaning, it’s shape, it’s color. What are it’s attributes? We need to make it real, to put it on your circle as part of who Alice is. No judgement, just what it is.


We should continue talking about–and trying things–with sleep too.”
And you asked about being present or dissociated. I said I didn’t know, and then I said it was sort of both. But then Hagrid and I went for a nice long walk, and I really thought about it. And I have a messy, confusing answer. 
I am present but not. It’s strange, and I’m not even sure I have the language to describe it, to explain it. It’s like I’m split, somehow. Part of me is away and not here and everything in my life that is going on has a very unreal quality to it. And part of me is present, at least on the surface, and able to function and be “normal” and here, even if there isn’t much feeling or emotion attached to what is going on. It’s like I’ve found a box to bury, or store, all those feelings and emotions in. And I guess depending which part I’m more aware of at any given time kind of influences my answer to the “internal weather report” question. But if I really were to take a step back, it would be more that I’ve split things; the me who is not here and none of this feels real, and the me who is present and has to function on the surface and all the feelings are buried and boxed up. I had to think about this, because answering that it felt like both, or that I didn’t know, wasn’t exactly right. I just wasn’t sure how to explain. And now I think I figured out how to explain it, and I feel crazy. I feel like this sounds crazy. 
“I think being split is a very accurate description in many ways. It’s very helpful when you have the ability to put things in a container–this is a good skill, not crazy!”
You didn’t see me being far away this summer, and really, you wouldn’t have. I wasn’t, and I was. It was just far enough away to function. But…there is that feeling of, I KNOW we went camping, I KNOW I rode on the Ferris wheel, I KNOW that there were a lot of changes this summer. I KNOW that Kat and I swam a lot and she swims like a fish now, and I KNOW I took Kat to school on her first day and left her her even though she was upset. But it might as well be someone else’s life I’m talking about, it doesn’t feel quite real, it’s not….I don’t know. I mean, I have it all organized and in control and people are impressed by how on top of things I am,but I might as well be talking about someone else’s life I organized. But oh my word is that a crazy, scary thing to really put into words and then write down on paper. And then to share….ugh. I don’t know. It just sounds crazy making.  
It has worked when you needed it to. That’s what I was referring to in terms of feeling more confident when things start spinning out of control–you have a coping state that you can get back to.”
Mostly, especially the last two weeks, I’ve felt like I’m balancing on a high wire without a net, very precariously and that I have to be very careful to keep this balance and not fall over either direction. I suppose that might be leading to more anxiety, or panic, or something. I don’t know. But I think if that box of feelings gets open, I will fall off the wire. And that’s not even thinking about all the mess that fall brings with it. Or the fact that I can’t add my Grandpa’s death to my map, or my own personal stuff to the map. It’s almost like starting over, in some ways; I’ve spent the whole summer fairly locked down, detached from myself in some ways and my feelings and emotions and even, in some ways, I guess, my life, and now all of that is past, and therapy can resume, but it’s like I forgot how to find where I buried my feelings, where I buried the past– be it the recent past or the distant past. It’s like the break was needed so that I could get Kat through the transitions, but now I’m not sure how to do this anymore. And I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’ll end up overwhelmed. I’m afraid I will fall apart. I’m afraid that because I was “fine” and “okay” and made it through this summer with no issue, no breakdowns or falling apart, that’s expected now. Now I HAVE to be be okay, no matter what. Because now you really know I can be okay. And that’s probably not what you meant, about the summer showing us things about therapy, but now….it seems like that is what you meant, or something like it. Like your expectations have changed, or you see that I can really be okay, no matter what is going on. Ugh. So I can’t even try to find that box, or talk bad dreams, or talk eating or anything because I might fall apart. And then what? It’s not okay. I guess the cost of always being okay is that I can’t deal with feelings and emotions and anything else. I can only deal with concrete, day to day, functional daily living things. Nothing deeper. Because then I will be break into pieces, and I might not function as well, or something. This is so frustrating. Like I’m caught between worlds; now I’m aware of some of these things, but I’m too afraid to change it or do something different, where before I wasn’t aware of it at all. I don’t know. And I guess the cost of being okay is nightmares, and not sleeping or sleeping restless, and having moments of panic during the day where I can’t breathe and the eating stuff and whatever else. But maybe that’s not so bad. 
“Well, now we can really start to open up the container slowly and continue working on all this–but trying to preserve your functioning as much as we can while still moving on with this. I could feel the stress of the last two weeks. It was real, legitimate stress!!! Anybody would have been precariously balanced!”
Is any of this making any sense whatsoever? I feel like I just keep trying and trying to explain how I feel, and I’m not sure it makes sense, that it even can make sense to someone else. Or maybe I’m afraid it just sounds crazy. Maybe both. And maybe, this is just life, and I’m being a drama queen. Plenty of parents sending their kids to school had changes and transitions this summer and whatever, and aren’t all kinds of crazy like I am. Which is hard for me. Because I feel like I should logically be able to deal with this stuff and not be split, or dissociated, or detached, or whatever else. Faking normal wasn’t working, I couldn’t hide everything from myself or anyone else anymore. So I came to therapy. And now I can see things I didn’t before, and I can feel my feelings and name them, and I’m more aware than I used to be. But I’m still not “normal.” Or maybe I’m just….I don’t know. Making a big deal out of things. Ugh.
It all makes a whole lot of sense! I’m going to send this now as I’m out of time to write.”
~Alice 

And then she didn’t respond. I was anxious and vulnerable and feeling left. I don’t know, exactly. But I couldn’t reach out to her. Maybe I needed to see if she would respond on her own; a kind of test. One she sort of, eventually passed. Because she did respond. But it was so much later than usual, and the first thing I put out there, that I opened up about, she didn’t seem as attuned as she once was. I don’t know. Maybe I am really losing it, or looking for reasons to avoid opening up again. But I feel….hurt. Like she left me, or like I’m lower on her list of priorities now that she knows I can be okay, no matter what. I don’t know. I have therapy in the morning, and I feel rather like a sulky teenager, angry that I “have” to go. I don’t like this feeling, this fear, any of this. I wanted her to pass this test….this stupid test that I didn’t even see as a test until now. But I wanted her to pass it, so I would know for sure it’s okay, and safe to talk. But she didn’t exactly pass. Now what?