I tried to write a letter……..

On Monday, Bea and I talked more about the awful appointment with my doctor. I don’t really remember the conversation, but it was about writing a letter to my doctor so I would still be able to go there, and about accepting that I am a survivor of sexual abuse, that telling my doctor about this is breaking the secret. She told me she doesn’t really take a pushy stance with me (which is funny, because at times, in a triggered state, I have thought of her as pushy— but she really truly isn’t), but that she did feel writing a letter, acknowledging what happened with my doctor is important. So, I tried. I tried, and I tried. But it’s just impossible. If I write the truth, it feels like I’m telling her too much. If I write some generic “I was triggered due to past trauma and am now embarrassed by how I reacted and am finding it difficult to make an appointment to come back”, I feel like I’m not really explaining and that it’s this kind of cop-out explanation. I don’t know. 

When I finally sat down to write whatever came out, and tell her the whole truth, I got 3 paragraphs in before I became triggered and started writing to Bea. This is the letter I have for my doctor, so far. I don’t think I can send it, it’s too much information. But what came out after these paragraphs was a lot of shame, and wanting it to not be true, and being afraid of telling the secret. Ugh. 

Dear Doctor S, 

Thank you for calling to check on me. I’m sorry I didn’t pick up the phone, or return your calls, I just wasn’t ready to talk about what happened last week. I’m really embarrassed over my reaction and behavior during the exam. I’d like to explain what happened and why I reacted in the way I did. I would prefer if we can keep this between us; this isn’t information I want in my medical history. 

I was sexually abused by a family friend for a good portion of my childhood. Pelvic exams are always hard for me, but I’ve always been quite good at holding things together, at sort of dissociating away my uncomfortable feelings, and not letting anyone know I’m less than okay. Last week, however, was different. I wasn’t aware that the student you had with you was male, until the two of you walked into the exam room. By then, it felt like it was too late to say anything, and I really thought I could just get through it, like I always do. When you asked if he could perform part of the exam— and it is good that you asked– I couldn’t say no, because I was afraid of making him feel bad, or appearing to be mean. I was already triggered, at that point, but I still really thought I could hold it together. 

When he touched me, that just sent me back to that very scary trauma place. It was too big of a trigger for me to dissociate away, and I fell apart. I’m glad you asked him to leave, and I’m glad you covered me up. I feel so embarrassed for how I reacted. I hate that all I could do was cry, and feel frozen. I know you were trying to talk to me, ask me questions and I hate that I couldn’t answer them. I wasn’t really in the present then, I was back in a place and time where I wasn’t safe, and bad things happened.

The sex talk

Continued from “hope for a real life”. This part of my therapy session got much more serious, and we do talk about sex, and my feelings surrounding it. Please be careful reading, as I’m sure it could be fairly triggering. 💜
“So, we don’t have to talk about the sex stuff, but I do want to just say that sex is complicated. It’s complicated for everyone, and even more so when abuse is in the mix. I don’t know one person who was sexually abused that doesn’t have some part that just wishes sex didn’t exist.” Bea’s tone is careful, she knows this is not a safe topic for me. 

“It’s okay.” I realize I want to hear what she has to say, and I’m having one of those rare days where I want to talk, and nothing is upsetting me or triggering me as much as it normally does. “It’s okay. You can talk about it. We can talk.” 

“Are you sure?” She asks me. “You seem a little far away all of a sudden.” 

Hmmmm. Maybe that is why I am feeling okay with the idea of talking, “it’s the ‘old normal’ far away,” I tell her. This means that I might be far away, but it’s the far away I lived my life in for as far back as I can remember. I can function fine in this state. 

“Allright,” Bea says. “I can imagine how getting married, hearing people discuss your wedding night was very triggering for you.”

“It was really….yuck. Just not good. I don’t know.” My face reddens at the memory. 

“So this bit about not being able to physically say no? You aren’t weird. This is so common, it’s normal. This is why college campuses are changing ‘no means no’ to ‘yes means yes’. Have we talked about that? I think I told you about the ‘yes means yes’ campaign.” 

I shake my head. “Maybe. I don’t remember.”

“That’s okay. What’s been found is that many women can’t say no when they really do want to. So, a lack of saying ‘no’ does not mean consent. That’s why this campaign is saying girls should be asked if they want to engage in sexual activity and only yes means yes.” She explains. 
I find myself nodding my head, liking the idea of ‘yes means yes’. 

“It would be good if you could bring hubby into this. If you could express a need for touch, but not sexual touch, and to not have things turn into sex.” 

“No….I can’t. Can’t we just work on this with me first, and bring him in later, when I can handle it?” I ask. The idea of hubby and Bea together is still frightening to me. I’m also afraid to tell him how I feel, what has been happening, all of that. I’m afraid of to hurt him. 

“Yes. If that is what feels okay to you right now, we can start there.” She really sounds supportive, and it feels like she is here. “Maybe now would be a good time to talk about the words. I do think that, as you say, you’ll need to be able to use the words in order to tell your story. I think if we can work to make them not have the impact they have right now, that should be our goal. Maybe we can do something very silly, like make a matching game. To help lessen the impact, and the matching game can help make it less serious.” 

Inside, I groan. “I….I don’t know. I mean I….well…” I’m stumbling over my words, and struggling to say what I want to say, but Bea gives me space to talk. “I like…….I like that you are….willing to do….um….to be creative in ways to help me. But I feel……like…well…..ridiculous.” 

“Are you feeling like a matching game is over the top?” She asks and I nod. “It’s not. These words really effect you. They are a strong trigger. We need to work on desensitizing you to them. This is okay. It’s not too much.” She tells me firmly. 

“I feel stupid. They are just words. I should be okay. But I’m not.” I’m a little whiny right now, but I decide it’s okay. 
“Well, everyone has words that feel bad, that they react to strongly and negatively.” 

“Everyone?” I ask, disbelieving.

“Well, I imagine so. I have words that make me sick.”  

“You do?” 

“Yes, I do. So I understand how hard it is to need to use words that really trigger you, and can imagine that it is horrifying to need those words to tell what happened.” She’s speaking softly, but matte of factly. 

“Will you tell me your words?” I ask. The question slips out of my mouth before I can sensor myself, or question if it’s okay to be asking. Bea is a very open person, and she does tell me about herself. Usually it’s something relevant to what I’m working through, or it is a talk about normal day to day activities to help ground me. I’ve asked her to talk, to tell me a story before, but I’ve never asked her an outright question like this before. But the little girl needs to know, and so does the teen. The little girl wants to know so that she feels less alone. The teen wants to know because she doesn’t believe Bea has words that make her uncomfortable; she is worried that Bea is just saying that so she feels better. 

“I….well…..I don’t know. I’m not sure I can say it.” She sounds uncomfortable, and as of she is truly feeling the way I feel about my yucky words. 

“Can you write it?” The teen isn’t willing to give up so easily, or to let Bea off the hook. 

“Maybe. I think I can. Yes, I can write it.” She grabs her whiteboard, and a marker. I hear her writing. “I’m feeling sick to my stomach, and thinking how disgusting this word is. I’m feeling guilty for even writing it, and feeling bad for showing it to you.” I appreciate so much that she is describing her experience to me. A lot of what she is saying is how I feel about my words. 

“Well, I asked. You shouldn’t feel bad,” I tell her. “And you don’t have to show me. It’s okay.” The teen believes there is a word. The little girl feels less alone. I’m good. 

“Well, I will flip the board around, and you can choose if you want to look or not.” She sounds quiet, and uncomfortable. 

I lift my head, and glance at it. “Ugh. That is a awful word,” I agree. Bea erases it, and puts the white board back. “I think your word is probably upsetting and sickening for most people, though. My words….they are just…regular, I guess.” 

“And your reaction is very normal. It’s okay. These words are very triggering for you, and with good reason!” Bea is quite adamant about this. 

We talk a little more about words, and then she asks if I want to talk about the bad night. We don’t have a lot of time left, and so I’m on the fence about it. “This is one of those times where you have to ask yourself what you need? Are you going to feel alone and upset if we don’t talk about it? Or is this a time where talking about it just before leaving is going to feel really triggering and hard? Focus on the inside, and see what you need today.” 

“I just want you to read something,” I say. She hands me back my iPad and I find what I want her to read. I had not planned on doing this, but it feels okay to do so. I’d written out what happened Tuesday night, with a lot of detail (minus the words).

Bea reads through it. “This sounds really hard, and really scary.” 

I nod my head. I’m slipping back to the far away that is safe, farther away than I was before. I’m suddenly scared that Bea is going to reject me after reading about the bad night, and so I need to distance myself more. 

“Are you too far away right now?” 

“No. I’m okay, I can function like this. It’s okay.” I tell her, and it’s true. 

“Okay….” She is uncertain, but then she continues on. “How do you feel about just cuddling? If you didn’t have to worry about more, would cuddling be okay?” 

I think about it. I’m not sure. I can’t really separate the two. “I don’t know. It’s….I really don’t know.” 

“Okay, that’s okay. You know, hubby probably was very scared and he probably wanted to fix whatever happened. I think, when you are ready, he would be open to working with you on this. And he is so gentle, he is a good guy to do this with. When he was here, when you sent him in after we told him about the abuse, I remember him saying that he believed any kind of sex was off the table, and he was okay with that. He is clumsy at times, but he really cares about you being okay.” 

“Not now….I can’t…just not right now.” I tell her. 

“I know. And that’s okay.” Bea’s feet move back and forth as she swivels in her chair. “I’m wondering if….well, if this is not just about sex, but about anything that gives you pleasure. Like eating. Do you ever just eat a cookie for pleasure, and enjoy the whole thing and not feel guilty?” 

Her question is so foreign to me that I’m suddenly feeling more present, just from the shock of it. “I….well…..” I think about it. If I’m restricting, I wouldn’t eat a cookie. And if for some reason I did, I would have a running commentary in my head about how awful I am. If I were to binge on cookies, I wouldn’t really taste them. I might notice if they are sweet or chocolatey, but I wouldn’t taste them. And when I stopped binging, I would be suddenly more aware of what I’d just done, and I would feel horribly guilty and have to fix it by throwing up. If I were to eat a cookie with Kat, because I do that sometimes, to model good habits, I would be telling myself I was doing this for Kat, and I wouldn’t be very present at all. And I’d hate myself for eating that cookie. “No. No I always feel bad.” 

“I think this is maybe about pleasure, and being able to feel pleasure from things. Do you ever just feel pleasure from a hug?” She asks. 

“Well……no. I’m too worried about more.” 

“Is there anything you do that you just feel pleasure from?” She’s really pushing me today on this. I wonder if she is right. 

“I…I don’t know. But I need…I mean…..ugh…can we……um…..I need you to use a different word!” I mumble and struggle to say the words. Once they are out, I feel like a big giant idiot. I’m such a drama queen. “I’m sorry, I’m stupid.” 

“Yes, we can use a different word. I went with that word because I was hoping it would be less triggery than other words……do you have a word in mind?” She is okay, not upset or sounding like I’m crazy, or too much. 

“I don’t know. I just….I can’t…I need a different word. It makes me feel yuck.” I cringe, and my stomach feels upset, and I’m uncomfortable in my own skin. 

“It’s okay. This isn’t silly. It’s okay. What if we said enjoy?” 

“Okay. That’s better.” I breathe a sigh of relief, still feeling like a child who is a needy drama queen. 

“Do you get enjoyment from a hot bath? Like, just getting into the water, it feels really nice and warm, and you are just enjoying it, that moment and how it feels to you?”

“Yes. That’s a good one,” I tell her. 
I don’t remember where the talk went from there, only that it continued with the same subject matter. Then Bea said something about a part of me wanting a normal sex life. 

Oh my God, I wanted to throw up. “No….I don’t…I just…no.” I couldn’t even form complete thoughts. “It’s not…I don’t want…I want to make it go away. It’s gross.”

Again, I think parts of this conversation are missing. And then Bea asked me if I felt like I did not deserve to feel enjoyment? 

“No…it’s not that. It’s just…..it’s gross, wrong, ew, yuck, bad, disgusting, no. Ugh.” The words spilled out of my mouth at an incredible speed, and I shook my hands, holding them away from my body, in the way you do when you touch something revolting. 

I don’t remember Bea’s response. We wrapped things up pretty quick after that, Bea switching the conversation to normal things, and trying to help me be a bit more grounded. We talked about the fact I discussed and allowed so much to be said, both of us a bit surprised by it.
Before I left, Bea asked me to come up with a list of words that trigger me, and to try to think of things I get enjoyment from. 

Monday: part six, she wants to hear what I have to say 

Here we are! Part 6; the very last post about this session. Gah. If you read all of these, you should get a cookie. I can’t send you home made cookies or cupcakes over the Internet, so go buy some, or something, okay? 

Bea goes back to reading, and I hug Hagrid close to me, grateful to have him and the comfort he offers. What did I ever do without him? 

And on Thursday (or maybe it was Monday?) you asked me to remind you of the October stuff. I really couldn’t, just couldn’t say all of it for whatever reason. Even thought I know you know, even though I’ve written and even maybe talked about some of it before, I just couldn’t. So here’s the list.  

I overdosed in October when I was 14

I left Brian in October and then I found out I was pregnant in October. I had an abortion in November right around thanksgiving. The time is blurry. I know it’s crazy sounding. I just know it was like right before break. I don’t know. 


my grandpa died two years ago, November. Also before thanksgiving. I don’t remember the exact day. I feel like I should. I remember what I was doing when my mom called. I remember that night. It’s like watching a movie of myself. Not real. But I remember the events, just not the day or the date. 

grandpas birthday is October 23, and mine is the 24th. The last time I saw him was our birthday party, two years ago. It’s stupid but I feel like seeing grandma…..when she hasn’t planned to be here….seeing her in the fall, it’s so much like the last time with grandpa. I have this irrational fear I’m never going to see her again.

“I knew there was a lot in October. This is a lot,” she says, pausing from her reading.  

I want to talk about Brian. The boyfriend. I’m having nightmares about him again. It’s sort of that time of year, I guess. We met in early fall. And I left in the late fall. So. I don’t know. Maybe that’s all it is. But a part of me really just wants to tell you my nightmares — memories, really–about him. But they are awful and disgusting and it’s……I don’t know. They are scary, but scary in this very grown up something very bad and disturbing is happening way. It’s different than Kenny memories. But just like with Kenny, I was usually agreeing to do whatever it was Brian wanted me to do. It was easier that way. But now, it seems more shameful. So I’m…maybe embarrassed?…….afraid of your reaction and what you will think?….I don’t know. Something. I just……I want to talk but I am afraid. And I’m sure you are probably sick of this. I know I’m always afraid but when I decided I want to talk, I do end up talking after going through all this talking of being afraid. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I can’t just talk.

“I am not sick of you in anyway. I’m not mad or frustrated. If you want to talk about talking, about being afraid, about being unsure, I want to hear it. I’m not sick of that at all. This is hard stuff. It’s tough to believe it’s safe to tell, to talk about. If you want to talk about it, I want to hear you talk about it. I want to hear your stories, what you have to say, your feelings. I’m not upset at all. I enjoy working with you, and I am not going anywhere. I am not leaving.” Bea speaks so adamantly, so seriously, every word has weight and meaning, I believe her. In that moment, I believe her. And I feel so safe. 

“Do you want to talk about the boyfriend?” She asks me after a moment,,

I nod, slowly. “I’m afraid. But I think….maybe. I just….you don’t know. I…the things….I did…I just….” I can’t explain, but a part of me wants to. The things I agreed to do, the things he forced, they play in a loop in my mind lately, awake or asleep. It’s sick. 

“I’m not going to judge you. I haven’t yet, and I won’t now. I can promise you that. This wasn’t your fault.” 

I shake my head. “It’s not so simple.”

“It never is as simple as black and white. But I’m not leaving you, or judging you.” Bea says, 

I nod, “okay.” 

“We need to wrap up in a minute, I want you to have some time to get grounded,” Bea says gently. “We can talk about the boyfriend on Thursday if you want, that will give you some time to think about it more.” 

“Okay, Thursday. Maybe. Or we talk about talking?” I ask, afraid of beinf reprimanded. 

“Sure. We can so that, too.” Bea agrees easily, and I remember her earlier words. 

I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear your stories. I’m not leaving. I’m not mad. I’m not judging you. 

I’m not sure anyone has ever said words like that to me– ‘I want to hear what you have to say’– and I feel deeply cared for and valued right now. I spend the rest of my session working on picking my head up, looking at Bea, moving my body; coming back to the present. The whole time this is going on, a part of me is simply basking in the warm sunshine of Bea’s words. They feel like a fantasy, pixie dust sparkling in the air, nothing more than an illusion. But they are real words, and there is real true meaning behind them. And so I sit and soak up the warmth provided by her words. 

“She wants to hear what I have to say.”  

Brass keys and finding me

Last week, Thursday’s session. It was one of those sessions that I barely remember, but feels like a turning point. We talked about a lot of things, maybe the most important the idea of telling hubby more about my past. I’ve refused to discuss it with Bea lately. She has been pushing me to talk to hubby, and I finally told her I needed her to stop, to be firmly on my side and it felt like she was against me when she pushed for me to talk to him. She agreed to follow the road I was on, even though she was afraid I was heading towards self destruction.

It started out talking about Easter, and seeing kenny. It still feels slightly surreal, like it didn’t happen, couldn’t have happened.

“He was talking to him. They talked.” I’m still in shock over this. They have talked before, of course. But it feels different now that I’m not hiding my past from myself. It feels wrong, to have my husband talking to the guy who hurt me.

“What if hubby had been aware, and could have been supporting you? You wouldn’t have had to be alone in the kitchen, thinking about cutting,” Bea says. Her eyes are kind, and she isn’t pushing me to talk to hubby, it’s a question, but not pushy, just calm. She has a way of making this conversation feel like normal talk between two people, and not like we are discussing a scary moment, one of my nightmares come to life.

I shake my head. I’m curled up on the couch, and Bea is across from me in her chair. She’s looking at me intently, but patiently. I cover my face with my hand, and then set it down. Looking back at Bea, I shake my head again. “He can’t know. He wouldn’t be able to act normal.”

She nods. “There would have to be an understanding that he could not say anything to anyone, that it’s your choice to tell. He’d have to know ahead of time that he would need to be able to act like things were no different than before he knew.”

“He can’t do it. He’d be too angry to sit and have a conversation and pretend things are normal and okay.”

“Would that feel good to have him angry? Like a protector?” Bea asks.

All I can think is of the damage his anger could do. “No. It would ruin everything.”

“Ahhh. You would have to be really reassured he could hold it in,” she says, understanding on her face.

“I think….I mean….most people….” I stop, frustrated with myself. I don’t know how to express this, or explain it without sounding like I think I’m special. “I don’t think I’m special, and I think this is going to sound like I think I’m so great…..but most normal…” I stop and look at Bea. She doesn’t like the word normal, she challenges me on what normal is constantly. “Average. Regular people can’t do what I do. They can’t pretend as well as I can. I’ve spent my whole life pretending, it’s easy for me. Most people…I don’t think they can do that.” I look down, embarrassed. I feel like I’m placing myself above other people, and I don’t want to do that. But I also know my ability to pretend things away and act ‘normal’ is not something everyone can do.

Bea waits a moment before answering. “No. Not everyone can do that like you do. Most people can’t to the level that you can. But hubby had to be able to hide somewhat, with his mother. He developed a way to hide and pretend her actions away.”

I shake my head. “That’s different. It’s not the same as me. It’s pretending she isn’t crazy, that she is a normal mom. But it’s not the same as me.”

I’m surprised when Bea nods. “It’s not the same. You really developed what therapists would call a false self. You had lots of reasons to do this, and you did it very well.”

We have never talked about my ability to pretend like this. I’ve told her how good I pretend, I’ve thought she didn’t believe me, I have thought she was buying the miss perfect facade, and she’s popped the bubble of perfection. But we have never talked about it like this. I feel slightly validated to hear Bea admit I can do this very well. I secretly like that she sees through the facade, but I am glad she realizes how good of a facade it is.

“It’s harder…I can’t pretend like I used to.” I look down. I hate this, I miss my ability to pretend. Ever since Bea popped the bubble, I’ve struggled to put the facade back in place. But it’s not the same. It’s not as good as it used to be, and it feels wrong, somehow. I don’t want to hide and pretend anymore.

“That’s a good thing!” Bea smiles at me.

“In your world, it is. In mine……it’s hard.”

“What would it be like to be honest with hubby? To stop hiding in your life, in your family? Well, your family here, not your extended family.” Bea asks.

I shake my head at her. It’s not happening. But the idea of it is like a cool breeze, it’s like a swim in the ocean, it’s like sitting on a beach with a fruity drink in my hand. It’s refreshing and freeing. But it can’t be. “I just can’t do it.”

“This is progress…you aren’t shutting the conversation down. Before, you have refused to think about it. It was too much to even consider. Now, we are talking about it a little. Whatever happens, it’s going to take time, and lots of conversations before you really make a choice.”

I shrug. Maybe. I hate that she is so confident we are heading down a road to talk to hubby. Even if she is right, even if I can see that might be where this road ends. I’m not ready to admit it.

“I imagine there were a lot of feelings that came up, seeing him again. Do you know what you were feeling when he walked in the door?” Bea asks.

There is too much to categorize, to explain. It’s a tidal wave of feelings, an undertow threatening to drown me. “I don’t know. I just….he was there, and I said hi. I went in the kitchen. I couldn’t think. I don’t know.” It’s all a blur.

“Was he there a long time?”

“No…maybe 10….15 minutes. Not long.” I breathe deep, trying to calm down. Those few minutes were a lifetime. Time slowed down, I swear. I stared at the knife block in my parent’s kitchen, sitting on the counter by the stainless steel stove. I pictured picking one up, cutting my wrists. The thought was so similar to my actions when I was 15. It’s confusing. Time mixes up, and I’m lost. I can hear hubby and him talking, and hubby has the tone in his voice that is relaxed. He likes the guy. Crap. This is not okay. My mom is gushing thank you for bringing the cake over. I don’t know. It’s all a mess. The knives are right there. This crazy can stop running through my head, and I can be back in control. I don’t grab one of the knives. I clench my fists, and let my nails dig into my palms. That’s what I focus on. Time is never ending.

“That had to feel like the longest 15 minutes of your life, like it was never going to be over.” Bea is sympathetic, but the look she gives me isn’t full of pity, it’s understanding. She gets it, she can imagine it, feel it.

She asks me if there were good feelings of seeing him. I barely register her question, I don’t even know the words she used, but it penetrates the fog I’m in, and I know what she is asking. I cover my face, and then bury my head. “I don’t know, I just….it was…I don’t know.” My face is hot, flaming with shame.

“They are just feelings. They don’t mean anything. Letting them out is better than keeping them trapped,” Bea says softly, soothingly.

I shake my head. My face is still hidden. “I shouldn’t…I can’t.”

“That’s judgement. Stop judging yourself for feelings. They are just feelings, acknowledge them, accept them. They don’t mean anything.” She says.

I sigh. “When I was 12…..”

“Did you remember more?” She prompts me softly to keep speaking.

“No. But the feelings….it’s the same.” I shake my head. It’s all mashed together in my mind, a confusing tangle. “He pushed me away. He pushed me away from him.” My voice cracks now, and tears threaten to fall. “I know, rationally, I know why he pushed me away, and was disgusted. But it hurts. And I don’t understand why it hurts now.” The words come out in a rush. I’m afraid if I don’t say them quickly, I won’t say them at all.

“And why did he push you away?” Bea asks. She knows the answer, and the way she asks I can tell she wants me to say it; that she is hoping my saying it and talking it out will help the mess in my head.

“Because someone was there.” I can’t say more, I can’t explain it better,

“Who?” The question is gentle, but firm.

“My mom.” I breathe out the air I’d been holding, and the tears come now.

Bea talks about how hard that had to be, confusing, difficult. That maybe I had kissed him in front of my mom because I was testing if the game was really okay and normal. She says how terrible it had to feel to be the one who was in trouble, when kenny had been raping me all those years.

“I don’t know if I got in trouble. I don’t remember. It just feels like I was talked to. But I don’t know.” I’m frustrated with myself for not knowing more.

“When I read what you wrote, it sounded like a 12 year old speaking to me. And the ‘talked to about appropriate behavior for a crush’ sounds like adult words. I believe you were talked to. And it’s no wonder you blocked this all out. It’s painful.” Bea tells me.

I breathe a sigh of relief. She believes me. Even if I don’t believe myself, Bea believes me. “It hurt. My feelings were hurt. And that’s how I felt on Saturday. Just the same…all the same feelings.” It’s the best I can do to explain.

Bea gets it. There is understanding in her voice when she speaks. “Of course. Your mom let him in the house, talked to him, was happy to see him. And your feelings and needs were ignored. It felt like rejection all over again. And he was right there, acting like everything was fine, like he had done nothing wrong, and you were forced to go along with that act. Of course the feelings were the same.”

It’s enough that I look up at her, wipe my eyes. “I really don’t want to cry today,” I tell her, as fresh tears stream down my face.

“Let’s stop here then, take some time to just get grounded and come back,” she tells me. The look on her face is understanding, sympathy…it’s kind, but no pity. She’s not looking at me like I’m less than because of all this. I wonder how that is possible.

We talk about me, about this therapy journey and how far I’ve come. I’m hazy and emotionally wiped out, so the actual words don’t stick with me. The feeling does, though. It’s like a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Comforting. Bea believes me, even when I doubt myself. Bea sees that I’ve changed, that I’m more ‘me.’ We talk about hiding, and how I can’t do it so much anymore. She says it’s okay, although I wonder. I feel raw, exposed, naked, a good portion of the time. It makes me defensive and hypervigilant when I feel like I have to hide and can’t quite get the facade in place. I don’t know.

Things feel different inside me. I don’t know exactly what it is. It’s not numb, but a strange calm. It’s not bad, simply different, new. It feels like the fact I can’t hide as easily is peaceful in a way. I feel like something is changing. Like something is on the horizon, just out of reach, and if I work hard enough, stretch enough, I will be able to grab it. I don’t know what ‘it’ is. It’s like an elusive brass key, one that will open a door to finding me. Maybe, this is all a journey to finding myself, and maybe, just maybe, I’m finding me piece by piece.

Are you okay?

Trigger warning for talk about sex, touching and mention of childhood sexual abuse. Please be careful, and take care of yourself.

I’m curled on my side, facing away from hubby. I’m trying to hold back the tears and the panic. He lays down, and curls himself around me.

“I love you,” he says. His voice sounds far away.

“I love you, too.” I whisper it, for if I speak out loud, I know my voice will crack and I will cry.

A half hour ago, I was sleeping with my husband. I think I instigated things again, but I’m not 100% sure about that. I remember snuggling up to him, and then the next thing I know, we are having sex. Well, not sex exactly, he was touching me, and my body was feeling good, and my mind was panicking.

He seemed intent on touching me until….well, you know. And I can fake it. But he was doing something that was overwhelming, and I felt out of control, and it was all too much for me to handle. I felt held down, I felt scared and alone, helpless, like I couldn’t stop it and I wanted the too good, too much feeling to stop. I felt like I was 5, maybe 6– a child.

Some part of me remembered I am a grown up, and that this is 2015. “Stop, stop!” I yelled, begged, pleaded. It took a moment, but he stopped touching me. He didn’t get it, though, didn’t realize I was stuck in the past, having a flashback, and he bent over me to kiss me, hands on my shoulders. I screamed again, “Stop, stop.” And rolled on my side, curled in the fetal position.

That’s when he realized it wasn’t okay. “Hon? Are you okay?” He asked.

I panicked. Old habits kicked in. I rolled over, smiled, “I’m good, come over here. I’m sorry. I’m okay.” I was dissociated and numb, but I made out with Hubby until he was convinced I was fine. And we had sex. I said sorry a few more times. Old lessons from the boyfriend told me it wasn’t safe to say stop, to ruin the mood. I wasn’t there, not really. I couldn’t feel or think. I was frozen. When it was over, and he went to the bathroom, I rolled over, facing away from him.

“Are you okay?” He asks.

I nod my head. I don’t think I can talk. The tears really want to fall.

“Are you sure?” He asks again.

I nod. “Yeah.” It’s another whisper. He holds me, and I let him. Even though he’s right there, I feel so far away from him.

I wonder what he would do if I had said I wasn’t okay? I think this over. Maybe this is the time to be honest and authentic, to be real. Maybe it’s time to start. “Hubby?” I whisper, in case he is asleep.

“Yeah?” He asks.

“Nothing. Just checking if you were awake,” I say stupidly. I’d wanted to ask him what if I said I wasn’t okay? What if I said I was feeling flashbacky and like I might cry? But at the last minute, I chicken out. I can’t be sure he will go along with the hypothetical, and let me pretend it’s really a what if in order to feel safer. I’m not sure he won’t be hurt by this. So I say nothing.

“Are you sure?” He asks.

I pause. He’s double checking, something I have wanted him to do. But now, it feels like he is distant, not really there or caring. “Yeah.”

“It doesn’t sound like you are okay.” He sounds serious. “You can talk to me,” he says.

I’m not so sure I can. I want to tell him I don’t know if I can talk to him, if I can trust him with some of my pain, and if he can hold that pain, not try to fix it, be okay with the broken parts of me. I want to tell him I’m afraid his reaction will be wrong, and I’ll only be more hurt. I want to tell him that I want so badly to talk to him, because I feel so disconnected from him, and that hurts. I want to say that I feel like crying, and I don’t know exactly why. That it was too much, and I felt out of control just like I did when I was a child, and that I’m really quite dissociated and feeling much more like a child than an adult right now. I want to tell him I’m afraid if I start talking, I won’t stop, and he will leave because it will be too much, because I am too needy.

Instead, I say, “I know.”

When he asks a third time if I’m okay, it’s because I jump when the dog gets up and loudly stomps to the kitchen for a drink. “I don’t know,” I say in response.

“What don’t you know?” He asks.

I’m quite for what feels forever, hubby even repeats his question. “If I’m okay or not. I don’t know.” I finally tell him.

“Why don’t you know? What is it that’s bothering you?” He asks. I’m sure it’s not, but his voice sounds very business like and annoyed.

“I don’t know, babe. Go to sleep, I’m okay,” I say, reverting to the familiar. He argues about it for a moment, but he finally rolls over and shifts around until he is comfortable.

I grab my iPad. “I’m going to read or write for a little while. Sleep good.”

“I love you. Sleep good, honey,” he says. He sounds content now. Things are back to normal. I’ve told him I am okay, and he can stop worrying. His life is back on track–smooth sailing, easy and calm.

How am I ever going to talk to hubby? I love him so much, I want to protect him, and allow him the calm, easy life he wants and needs. But….I love him so much, it’s lonely feeling disconnected from him, and it hurts. What’s a girl to do?

When I flipped the switch

This post contains memories of sexual abuse. It’s not extremely detailed, as my memory is not all there, and I have a hard time with most of the actual words, but it does tell the story of what happened when I flipped the switch in the boyfriend. It could be triggering, so please be careful and take care of yourself when reading.

Traffic is terrible today, and of course I’m running late. I’m running late because I overslept. I never oversleep. But today I overslept. Which means I fell asleep at 4:30am and didn’t wake up until 7:40– twenty minutes before my appointment with Bea. Luckily when I sent a frantic text message, she was still able to see me.

It’s 8:40 when I finally arrive, ten minutes after I had said I would be there. I rush up the stairs, and find Bea sitting calmly, not stressed or upset in the least.

Taking my boots off outside her office, I say, “I am so, so sorry. Traffic was terrible, I can’t believe I overslept.” I’m still shaking my head as I walk into the office and set my things down on the couch next to me.

“It’s okay. I’m just happy you overslept. Because that means you were sleeping.” Bea smiles at me. She means this. I think she might be going insane. Maybe my craziness is rubbing off on her.

“No. No it’s not okay. I don’t oversleep. I never oversleep. I don’t even need to set an alarm. I should have set an alarm. I’m really, really sorry.”

“It’s really okay. It worked out. I was still able to see you, and you slept.”

“I know, but I should have been on time. You shouldn’t have to change your schedule because of me. I had to text Kris and see if we could move yoga back, too. This is just so not okay,” I tell her. I’m curled up on the couch, trying to relax, to calm down, but I can’t. I’m tense because I’ve screwed up. I’ve broken several cardinal rules of mine– don’t be late, don’t make others have to accommodate me, and never, ever oversleep.

“There’s that ‘should’ again. Was Kris able to be flexible?” Bea asks. She’s still smiling.

“Yeah, she said it’s fine, and she’ll see me at 11:00am. But people shouldn’t have to be flexible for me.” I sigh. I’m so angry with myself.

“Why not? If she and I can be flexible with the time, and everything worked out, and no one is upset or hurt by this, why isn’t it okay?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. It just isn’t.”

“Can you see that I’m not upset? That I’m happy you slept?” Bea takes a drink of her tea, and looks at me.

I nod. I can tell she is not upset, and I believe she is happy I slept. Not thinking about it, I reach up to adjust my ponytail that I’d hastily thrown my hair into, and laugh. “Well, here’s my hair. Not straightened, or blown dry, or even having the curls fixed. Just my mess of hair.” My hair is crazy. It’s a spiral curl mess of a lions mane, huge and untamable. I didn’t have time this morning to fix the curls or tame it, so it’s thrown in a side pony, that just touches my shoulders. When it’s straightened, my hair reaches the middle of my back.

Bea laughs with me. “It’s pretty. My daughter’s hair curled like that when she was younger, but the older she gets the less curl she has.”

I shake my head. “It drives me crazy. But I guess the worst thing that happened today is I had to leave my hair like this.”

Bea nods at me. “It’s not so bad, then?”

I grudgingly agree. “It’s not so bad. Everything managed to work out.”

“And I’m still just so glad you were sleeping.”

I sigh. “So, I know I’m not supposed to talk about Kat anymore, but she burned her hand on the fireplace. She might bring it up tomorrow, I don’t know. But it was pretty bad.”

“We can talk about Kat; and I would find it curious if you hadn’t brought this up,” Bea tells me, and then she asks what happened.

I tell her how Kat had touched the wood burning stove, which was really strange because she has always been so careful about hot things and followed the no touching rule. I tell her how I was so proud that Kat used other coping skills outside of her pacifier– which we are working on not using during the day– and how she asked for things she needed. I explain how awful I felt, and how we cuddled and how I gave her the new board games I had ordered for ABA early, and the special teddy bear tea party we had, and how brave Kat had been.

“You handled that all so well,” Bea says, after hearing the whole story.

“Thanks.” I take a drink of my chai tea (no milk, just tea) and smile. “It was rough. But she seemed okay by bedtime.”

We pause for a minute, drinking tea and I think about what we said we would talk about this time around.

“So….last time we had said we would continue with the story of the boyfriend. We kind of left off on the cusp of things turning bad. Have you thought about the idea that you didn’t flip this switch?” Bea finally breaks the silence, and I immediately curl my knees tighter to my chest and set my tea down.

“No…I did write out the rest of it, though. In case I can’t tell it.” I shrug. This is hard.

“Even though this is hard, I get the sense it’s easier to talk about than Kenny, and it’s easier to find words and put words to what happened,” Bea says softly.

I nod at her. “Yeah. I think so.”

She waits, which is a little unusual for our sessions, but I don’t feel panicked at the silence. Eventually, I start talking. “I slept with him. That was what started it, I think. You know this, already, though.”

“Yes, but I don’t have the story. How it happened, what happened. And, like I said before, we are at a different point now.” We’ve talked about how therapy is not a straight line, that it’s like an onion, peeling back layers and revisiting things happens often.

“We’d gone out, our 3 month anniversary. And we went back to his place, but his roommates had the living room taken over, so we went to his room to watch a movie. Which wasn’t unusual, it wasn’t strange. And, I don’t know……….I don’t know what happened.”

“Was it like things had been progressing and went farther than you intended this time? Maybe going a little farther every time?” Bea prompts me, but she seems a little far away. I’m partly back there, remembering.

I shake my head, bury my face in my knees. “No……” I know what I want to say, but getting the words out is embarrassing and difficult. “I wasn’t one of those girls who did everything but….you know….just so they can claim to technically still be a virgin. I was really waiting. Kissing. That’s it, that’s all I ever did.” I can feel how red my face is, and I’m so thankful I can hide my face. There is no way I could actually look at Bea right now.

“Mmm-hmmm,” Bea says, letting me know she is still listening. “So you were truly waiting.”

“I just….I don’t know. Things went really fast, and too far…I couldn’t stop it, or say no. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened.” My voice is quite, and I can feel the way I felt so stuck and unable to do anything but go along with him. “It was like I was just stuck, I don’t know.”

“Frozen. Was it like being frozen?” Bea asks.

I nod. “A little.”

“I’m not surprised, with your history. Whether you were thinking about it, acknowledging it, or not, that had to be a big trigger for you, it had to be really hard.” Bea’s voice is gentle and understanding.

“I don’t know…..I don’t even remember actually….I mean, it’s just kind of gone. I know what happened…but I don’t really remember it.”

“You probably dissociated. It makes sense, with a trigger like that, how you would dissociate and not really remember what happened.”

“After…I was so upset. So mad at myself, guilty, horrified. It was awful. And he was….happy. Like it was this big deal, such a good thing.” I shake my head, and blink back some tears.

“Did you tell him then, how you felt?” Bea asks.

“No…no. I couldn’t. He was so happy. I couldn’t say anything. It was later, when he came over a few days later, I think. That’s when….that’s when I told him. But you know this story, too.”

“That’s okay. There’s always new things we learn when we tell a memory again. And we are talking about something different, and at a different point now.” Bea sounds so calm, so sure of the fact it’s okay for me to tell the story again.

“It was a Thursday. He came over, we were going out. And we were on the couch, kissing.” I can feel myself shaking, now, because this is getting to the ugly part of the story. “I knew I had to tell him. I should have told him right away. But….I don’t know. I didn’t. We were kissing, it was okay, but then he moved his hands from my hair…..down….I pulled away, started talking. I didn’t think. I said never again, it was a mistake, that it should never have happened. I didn’t think. I was so selfish. I didn’t realize it would hurt his feelings. He argued with me. That he would marry me one day, so it was okay. I said it wasn’t the same as being married, I was waiting. He said a person can’t just take that back. I said I was forgiven, and waiting for marriage now. He said that no good Christian boy would ever want me now, I was tainted, ruined………” I stop talking, try to catch my breath, stop the tears that are falling.

“That really hit you where it hurts. He knew just what to say to hurt you,” Bea says, sympathetically. “I wonder what happened in his life that made him so hurt by what he considered rejection. You found a spot where he was vulnerable, and it likely had nothing to do with you, but with him and his feelings….feeling vulnerable, not being able to handle rejection. It’s my guess that you would have hit this vulnerable spot in him no matter what, at some point. It wasn’t anything you did.”

This is a foreign idea, that it wasn’t me, it was something in him that was unable to handle anything he felt as rejection, and I immediately reject it. “I don’t know. We argued. I was mean, he tried to convince me it was okay to have sex again. He said I had liked it. And I said….” I pause here, upset, shaky. This is where things get fuzzy and hard to talk about. Ugly. Taking a deep breath, I finish my sentence. “I said I didn’t. I didn’t like it. And he slapped me.” Just the words shock me into silence.

“Were you stunned?” Bea asks, and her voice is soft and even.

“I couldn’t believe it. It seemed fake. I don’t know. Just…not my life.” I feel like I’m in a daze. Stunned is a good word, I still feel stunned that he hit me. “He pushed me…..I fell and hit my head on the table…I don’t know….”

“Where were you? Standing?”

“No…no, I was still sitting on the couch. I never moved. I just stayed right there.”

“Okay. A what was next?” Bea asks.

“I….I…there’s a blank space, I don’t know what happened then. I just…it’s not there.”

“Is there anything after that? Something more you remember?” Bea’s voice is quite, kind, calm. She’s okay, which somehow means I can be okay to keep talking.

“I remember being on the other side of the coffee table….near the fireplace. And I…well, I just um…my clothes……” I’m struggling now. I don’t know if I can get through this. The words are hard.

“Were your clothes ripped?”

“No…not on. Not folded. I was so upset they weren’t folded.” I’m sick to my stomach. I don’t know what I’m doing.

“Where was he at?” Bea prompts me.

“I…right there. Touching me…he was going to prove I liked it.” Tears are falling now, and I feel frozen there, and scared.

I think Bea says something to me, maybe asks a question, or says something about his inability to accept rejection. I’m not sure. Maybe she says how scary that had to feel. I’m a little bit not here, lost in my past.

“He…he made a list then. This is when he made a list….” I have to stop talking for a minute, but that’s okay. Bea knows about his list, we’d talked about this before. His list…where he listed out, telling me everything my body was doing, how I was responding to his touch. I cringe. I’m sick to my stomach, and feel like I might throw up. “He said….he said that no…..” I can’t get the words out. I’m incrediably ashamed. And knowing what I know now about my childhood….it’s worse.

“What did he say?” Bea questions, sounding full of compassion.

I shake my head, and we sit in silence for a moment. “He said no virgin acted like I had in bed…that I was a slut…” I break into bigger sobs, now. I’m still so hurt by this, and now knowing I hadn’t been a virgin….well, that adds a whole new layer of hurt.

“I wonder how he even knew that. I feel like he was saying what he knew would hurt you…” I can hear Bea talking, pointing things out to me, putting my memories in a new light. I can’t listen or pay attention though. She doesn’t get it, I did this.

“After….I threw up. And he was nice again…I showered, he got me soup.” The words sound wooden to me. I don’t elaborate, because Bea and I have talked over this part quite bit.

“He normalized it, and made everything more confusing for you.”

“Do you see? Do you get now how I flipped the switch?” I ask her. I feel timid and afraid. I want Bea to understand, but I don’t want her to hate me or think I’m this disgusting slut.

“No matter what you said, or how you guys argued, or what vulnerable spot you poked without meaning to, he didn’t have a right to hurt you like that, he didn’t have the right to rape you.”

I shake my head at her, forcefully. “I never even said no.”
“You said no, very clearly. When you told him it had been a mistake and never could happen again, that was saying no.” Bea insists.

I don’t remember much of the session after that, although I’m sure I argued with her, or possibly shut down. We talk about saying no, his vulnerable spots, how it’s confusing and strange the things you remember and forget. I wonder, and Bea wonders what happened with my clothes; how they were removed, and what happened surrounding that. I say again that I don’t remember, and that I wish I knew.

We end the session with Bea reiterating that he would have flipped eventually, that maybe his sense of rejection made it happen sooner, but that it wasn’t my fault. She talks about how giving up the idea of fault means I have to give up the illusion of having control over this. And she says that on Monday she would like to hear about the next time the switch flipped in him.

“Okay. On Monday,” I agree.

I’m sure we spend a few minutes talking about normal things, light conversation, but I can’t remember what. By the time I call goodbye as I walk downstairs, I feel steady and okay– or at least as okay as I feel these days.

Driving to yoga, Bea’s message about control, and blame and the boyfriend reacting badly to something from his last that made rejection intolerable to him plays in my head, and I turn it over and over.

Messy email conversation

These emails may be triggering, so please read with caution.

After therapy on Monday, I am unsettled. I go through my routine, trying to get some cleaning done, spend time with Kat and of course, write. My head is messier than it has been in a long, long, time. I end up emailing Bea, because of all the things that were unsaid in therapy, and because of all the new thoughts swirling through my brain. She wrote back, and we ended up in an email conversation over the next two days.

You asked me last week, I think, if I could talk about the feelings about myself and this memory. How I felt about me. I really didn’t want to do that. I’ve made such a point to make sure I have this….I don’t know, facade of a person who is a grown up and who is smart and likes herself and is confident and believes in what she says and does. It’s very much at odds with how I really feel. But I can’t go there. Not really. I don’t want to think about it. I said I was mad at myself. That’s not exactly true. It just seemed the easiest, the safest thing to say. Because as much as I dislike mad, it’s somehow okay and acceptable to be mad at myself. The reality is I hate what I did, I’m disgusted with myself. Sometimes I think maybe I was just born defective, bad, wrong. And I’ve just managed to hide it somehow, fool everyone. I’m guilty and ashamed, and I’m sure that if people knew, really knew, they would hate me, not even want to be anywhere near me. I don’t want to think about it. I want that part of me to disappear. It’s like I can just trace from when I was a child all the way to when I flunked out of college and got pregnant and had an abortion…I hate it all. It’s all just one screw up after another, me, never doing anything right, unable to be good. Because I’m twisted and defective. But we grow up, right? So I pushed that all away, and ignored it. You can’t walk around letting people know you hate yourself and are ashamed of who you are. That’s how you get hurt. So I built this fake me, this pretend me. I’m very good at pretending. And met hubby. He was safe. I think I loved him because he was safe. So I married him. I built this whole life on lies. Lies that I’m normal, and good. That I had a charmed childhood, that I was bright, graduated early, chose to do hair because I was too creative to be stuck in a school…that I like me, am proud of who I am, love life, love everything…lies. Just lies. And he believed me. And now I have this beautiful life, with this wonderful husband, and this perfect child who teaches me things everyday and loves so much and is so smart and amazing and frustrating at times, and it’s all because I lied. I don’t actually belong here, or deserve any of it. And no matter what I do, I’ll never be good enough. I keep trying and trying. But it doesn’t work. Because it’s all a lie. Half my life is based on a lie. And the other half, before hubby, is spotty and blurry, and full of random memories. And everything I ever told him was the story my parents created, the good story, the story that makes me a good girl. Which just isn’t true. So. That’s the how I really feel about me. And even that doesn’t really explain it but it’s the best I can do. I just don’t have the words, or something. But I don’t want to feel like this. I’m so tired of feeling like this.

I kissed him. I climbed in his lap and I kissed him. And he moved my hand, so I could feel what I had done. I asked his mom if I could go home to change, but I had to know that she wouldn’t let me go by myself. She told Kenny to take me. I went anyway. I knew what would happen then. I had to have known. But I went anyway. I think I wanted him to touch me. That’s not abuse. That’s a very disturbed and naughty child. It’s wrong and twisted. I don’t know. I feel sick. I don’t know how to explain what is in my head. I don’t know how to put it into words. Which is horrible, because words are my thing, I am good at words. How can I even call anything, any of it trauma, and say it hurt me, when I very clearly was a willing participant? It negates everything. I feel like I’m wrong to even be needing to talk about it, like I’m making a deal over nothing, being a drama queen, making problems where there are none. It was a game, I had fun, it wasn’t scary, it didn’t feel bad. That’s the story, that’s what I always said, and push everything else– scary feelings, confusion,– away. Maybe everything else is just to make my guilt over being a bad person go away. I don’t know what’s true anymore. Nothing makes sense. Ugh. I don’t know. Are you following this at all?

I’m so confused. I want things to make sense, to be neat and tidy. I tried making a timeline. I tried making notecards. Nothing makes things make sense. It’s not fair.

And now, do I send this or not? Obviously, this is unfiltered. And messy, and unedited. 😕 ugh. And probably reads like a crazy mess of thoughts. And I am sorry this is so long. I am okay, really, truly. My head might be a little messy, but I’m okay. (And I would still tell you if I wasn’t okay. Really.) There really doesn’t seem to be a good way to end this email. It’s too messy and all over the place.

Every person I’ve ever worked with who has been sexually abused fears messes and messiness. It’s a metaphor for things being out of control. It’s also literally about things being out of control. But messiness is also freeing–playing with thoughts and viewpoints and what ifs and whys is creative and gets us out of the stuck rigidity of trauma. Messiness is scary, but healing. It allows us to walk around the trauma and look at it from all sides.

I’m not sure I’ll ever just sit and talk unfiltered, but I’m trying harder to write more unedited. So this is messy again. But maybe that’s okay? Messy seems to be okay with you, even if it’s not okay with me.

Yes, messy is okay with me

I had sex with my husband. Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday– Christmas Eve–morning. I instigated it. Me. Not hubby. I started it. And then once I had, I wished I hadn’t started anything and I wanted to stop, but it was too late. You can’t start something like that and then just stop. I went away. It was fine. And I just continued to repeat this. What is wrong with me? It’s like I can’t stop myself. I feel like I am losing my mind. And I don’t know why I am so upset by this. Or if I can even actually email this to you. And if I do email it, this is not something I can talk about. Write about, email about, maybe. Talk about..no.

I don’t know. The whole thing. It was just messy. And am I even allowed to be triggered and upset about things that I did, that I caused? Ugh. This is so confusing.

People who have been traumatized are compelled to reenact their trauma sometimes. It’s sort of a “this time I’ll control it” sort of thing. ” this time I’ll initiate sex and then I will not be the victim.” There is tremendous power in seduction–many women have told me this, even some who have prostituted. Except the feeling of power doesn’t last, and the cycle repeats itself. I’m sure it’s also very exciting, and “naughty.” I’ve no doubt that all of the initiating with hubby came about because of this memory you’re working on. Sexual stuff is complicated. How could it not be when it emerged as it did for you?

I don’t know. I only know I don’t want it to be complicated. Well. I mostly want it to just not exist at all, but if that’s not an option I don’t want it to be complicated. How is it ever going to be okay? Is it ever okay?

It’s not okay right now. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t want to be reenacting anything. And how twisted is that? I’m initiating something with my husband because of what happened…Ugh. I can’t even hardly write about this. I’m so disgusted with myself. I don’t know what I’m doing. Why am I starting something I don’t like, don’t want to have happen? It’s fine, well, not fine, but fine, until it’s obvious he is going to go along with it. Then it’s not, and I want it all to stop, right now. But I would never ever say that. So I disappear in my head until it’s over. And poor hubby. I’m being horrible to him. He must think things are good between us, that I’m better. And in reality, all I want is for him to be different, to say no to me, to not want that from me, even if I try to initiate it. Oh. I didn’t know that was it until I wrote it. Crap. I don’t know what I am supposed to do with this. Every time he doesn’t stop, it’s like….I don’t know. Something I can’t quite put into words. Ugh.

So you figured out something important–that your wish is for hubby to say “no.” That this is the reason for doing it again and again–finally someone will react in the way Kenny should have. It would be so nice if you could just explain it all to hubby and tell him to play his part correctly! But…. that gets complicated too because that bumps up against the part of him that wants you to desire him in that way. It probably does feel great to him that you are into him, and you’re right, he probably thinks it’s a good thing. So if you were going to talk about this with him you’d have to find a way to stroke his ego while at the same time telling him you’re struggling with something from the past. That would take a lot of thinking about, and I doubt you want to go there. Hubby is clueless about the needs of the child who needs him to play a role and say no–maybe your recognition of that will be enough to help it resolve itself. There can’t really be a “do over” in real life, but in your imagination there can be.

I can’t explain it to hubby. Not any of it. He can never know what I did. He would hate me. Maybe it might be at a point where I should maybe try to tell him something more, so he understands why I get so upset about all this. I don’t know. I’m afraid for him to know more. And I don’t even know what more would be. But it seems like “my babysitter abused me” isn’t enough anymore. I don’t know. But then how can I tell him anything when it might be all my fault? I had a nightmare last night, and woke up at 1:30. I’ve been up since then. I did let hubby know that I couldn’t sleep, that it was a bad night. So that’s something. But I can’t explain it to him. I can’t tell him.

I don’t think it’s necessary to tell him. You may decide there are some things you want him to know, but it’s okay if there are things that aren’t shared.

I’m afraid that you will get tired of hearing this and listening to my nonsense, my drama. I’m afraid if I take too long to figure it out, you will fire me. I’m afraid to even say that because you might agree, and say yes, if you are taking too long to get your head straight and I will fire you. Or if I tell some of the memories, or feelings or thoughts, you will not be able to stand me, and you’ll fire me. You want me to turn off my filter, but turning it off means more vulnerability which means more fear that you can hurt me in someway (like firing me from therapy). The more of the ugly stuff I talk about and share, the more afraid I get that something bad is going to happen. And I don’t like this at all. And i don’t really want to talk about this. Because i am scared.

I would never “fire” you as a client! You are doing excellent work in therapy,and I find you extremely inspirational. I see nothing inherently flawed about you. Everyone has their dark side and their struggles. That’s the nature of being human. I see no disturbed or naughty child in you–just a child responding to her circumstances. As for this “streak” of badness running through your life–the good and bad, perfect and imperfect are all a part of us. We have to accept it all as part of what makes us who we are. The shades of gray.

I don’t why this is so hard for me. It’s always black or white– especially when it’s about me, or something I have done. It’s like I’m either good or bad, not both, only one or the other. Right now, I feel like the “good” is the pretend me, the fake me…the “bad” is the real me. I don’t know how to see it as grey. I just ignore it, and try not to think about it.

We need to keep working on the black and white issue–that is definitely something we can make progress with–we will morph you into one gray person!

I’ve been thinking all night, and today. I’m sorry I keep making you repeat yourself, but I need to know– you really believe that I had no control over the situation when I was a child? I don’t like that…I don’t know. If I wasn’t in control of any of it..Then it was on purpose….he hurt me on purpose? And it wasn’t me? But then it was an act…being nice, being my friend, caring? It was all fake? To make me do something– what he wanted? He didn’t really care? That shouldn’t matter, shouldn’t bother me, but it does. The idea…I want to scream no at someone, that it’s wrong and not true. But somewhere in my head, i am wondering. Maybe I just over tired, and that’s why I’m thinking about this. Part of me is frozen in scared with the idea that I wasn’t in control of anything. That’s not okay. Part of me is frozen in disgust with myself over what I did, and I feel like I am making a big deal out of nothing, out of things I did, and I have no right to be upset and hurting. I feel like everything is mixed up in my head. What is right? Why can’t I make sense of this? What did I do wrong? I can’t change how I feel. I feel wrong. I’m sorry because I just keep going around and around the same thing. Ugh. I trusted him. I trusted him, my parents trusted him. I kept trusting him. Even after. What’s wrong with me? Who keeps trusting someone…I don’t know. I’m trying to make hubby react in the way Kenny should have. That’s what you wrote…summarized what I said. Ugh, That’s why I keep repeating this over and over. Hubby can never know. But then…Kenny should have said no. No matter what I did. Then no scary memory with tights. But it doesn’t change what I did do. I think you have talked about why I might have…I forgot what you said. I don’t know what I was thinking. I certainly wouldn’t have kissed anyone else. So it was him. Ugh. I don’t remember 9– Not how 9 year olds think and act. My niece–Megan –is 9. She’s smart. Extremely smart. I’m trying to picture her in that situation. She wouldn’t. That’s the thing, she wouldn’t be. My brother would never allow it. They don’t have babysitters. Ever. I never thought about it until now. Why? Why doesn’t my brother trust babysitters? The only way Megan would kiss someone so much older than her is if she was taught and told it was ok. But I’m not sure I could just be taught something like that…wouldn’t my parents have untaught it? Ugh. But then I think, kids don’t know..Kat didn’t even have words to say what happened, not really, and I use proper words with her. Kat wouldn’t know anything about some– almost all– of the ugly things in my head from when I was younger, littler. So why did I know? What was wrong with me that I knew these things? You say you don’t see a naughty or disturbed child in me. Then where in the world did this stuff come from? No where good. It is not fair that the more I try to figure this out and make sense the more lost I get. This is all messy again….I should probably edit it, I’m sorry, but I’m too tired to do that right now. I hope you could follow this.

I realized that this would be a better conversation than email–we’ll discuss it in the morning! See you then,

I was dreading going to therapy on Wednesday morning, and at the same time, knew how badly I needed to go. I had so much swirling inside me, messing my head up, that I needed to get out and try to talk about. The emails were just the tip of the iceberg

To be continued……

But…if only I could tell Mom

I’m anxiety filled and sad. I don’t want to lie to my mom. I want to tell her the truth, the whole truth. In all honestly, my nightmares, panic attacks, flashbacks, emotional outbursts— in other words, my PTSD symptoms– were causing me problems from the time things started to calm down with my daughter, so around spring 2013. It was a whole year and a few months before I started therapy. Looking back now, I wonder if the symptoms began to leak because I was exhausted from caring for an undiagnosed autistic, colic like child who never slept, if it was because things were finally appearing as through we were getting some answers and help with Kat, or of it was because my mother had gotten a new puppy the previous fall.

What does that have to do with anything? My mom getting a dog? Well, when she got her puppy, she started having less time. The dog became her main focus in her life, she poured all of her energy into taking care of the dog as if it were a new baby. She effectively distanced herself from me, because she has less time to spend on the phone, less time for visiting; her time was now given to the new puppy. When she created even that small bit of distance, it gave me a safety, a space to allow me to have the memories and to separate from her.

In the spring of 2014, Kat started play therapy with Bea. It wasn’t much later, early summer 2014, when I began seeing Bea for my own “stuff.” The distance I had from my mom by that point, between her dog and Kat’s schedule, made it safe to talk, to tell my truth, for the first time in my life. At 30 years old, I was finally on the path to healing, with a therapist who could actually help me.

But. And there’s the catch. Such a small word. But. It holds such power at times, though. But.

But, I miss my mom. I miss feeling that she is my best friend. I miss calling her and gossiping, talking for hours. I miss feeling like we could tell each other anything. I know that feeling wasn’t real, wasn’t authentic. But I miss it. And more than anything, I wish it was real.

I’m sad. I don’t want to be even more distanced from my mom. It’s what I feel myself doing, though. I have to pull away, separate myself from her experience, so that I can set boundaries and take care of me. It’s not fair. I want her to be the mom I thought she was, the mom we have spent years pretending she is, the mom that she has written herself as in the family story. In my head, this is what I want to happen, this is what I wish, and dream, and hope for.

I call my mom, I’m scared and nervous, but I need to do it. “Mom? I have something I would really like to talk to you and Dad about. I have been seeing Kat’s therapist, Bea. I would really like it if you guys would come to a session with me.”

“Of course we will. Give me the day and time and we will be there. Is everything okay? We love you and want you to be okay.” She would just support me, be willing to go, and she wouldn’t push for details or need me to comfort her because I’m in therapy. It wouldn’t turn into how she has failed as a mom, that her oldest child needs to be seeing a shrink.

The day of the appointment, my parents would meet me there. I would have a session before they arrive, to be able to get my panic out, or whatever else.

My mom would look apprehensive, worried, but she would hug me, say hello, act normal, like everything is fine and this is a social gathering. My Dad would be withdrawn, shut down, not talking. He would say hello. Bea would be calm and kind, saying hello, telling them to have a seat.

I’m not sure where I would sit, but maybe the floor, by Bea’s chair. Not the couch, because my parents would sit on the couch. Either way, I know I could be closer to Bea than to them. Maybe she has a chair she would move into her office.

I would be nervous. I’m not sure I would be able to talk. I hope I would, but it would probably end up a repeat of when I had Hubby come in with me. So Bea would have to start things off.

“Alice asked you here because she has some hard things she wanted to share with you. She’s very scared to tell you, afraid of your reaction towards her, and afraid you will be hurt and upset.” Bea can be so calm and kind, I imagine she would reassure them and try to put my parents at ease. Maybe she would talk about childhood. “There’s things from childhood that Alice needs to talk to you both about. They are things that will be hard for her to tell you, and things that will be hard for you to hear, but once they are out and in the open, you can all begin to heal together.”

My mom will look nervous, afraid she is going to be attacked as a bad mother. My dad will be stoic, nothing penetrates his hard exterior.

I’ll be shaking, not looking at them. Tiny voice. I will be really afraid. “Kenny started to sexually abuse me when I was 5.” If I get that much out, it would be amazing. I’d probably shut down then, dissociated, head down, gone, too afraid to see my parents’ reactions.

Maybe they show disbelief, shock. Maybe my mom cries, maybe my dad reaches to hug me, and Bea stops him. She has to take over talking. She has to tell them how long it went on, how he raped me, how I was afraid and confused, and alone. Maybe she reminds them my story I played with my barbies, and they remember that. Maybe she explains how that is trauma play.

Maybe mom breaks down, crying, blaming herself for not seeing. Bea would know what to do. Maybe my dad puts his arm around her.

In the end, they would tell me they love me. They would cut ties with the smith family. They would never expect me to see Kenny again. They would protect me now. My mom would understand why coming back to my hometown is hard and triggering and scary right now. She would rearrange things so she visited me more, and wouldn’t expect me to come visit right now. She would learn about childhood trauma, and PTSD. She would schedule a few more appointment with Bea to learn more about how she can help, and about sexual abuse and after effects. She would believe me. It would be okay.

That’s my dream, my wish.


There’s that little, powerful word again.

But. It will never ever happen.

I’ll call my mom on Friday, I’ll tell her I am sick. I’ll withdraw from her more, as she withdraws from me. I’ve lost the idea, the pretend perfect mom I had, the perfect mother-daughter relationship I have faked my way through for the last 8 years. It hurts, because now I know how fake it really was, and I want the real thing. Today, I’m so full of grief for what I never had, and what will never be, I’m not sure I can hold it. It threatens to overwhelm me. It hurts.

The walls I built around my anger……..

Trigger warning for just about everything, I think. Sexual abuse, eating disorder, cutting, swearing,– lots of swearing– I don’t know what else. Please just read with caution. I’m not normally an angry person, but I’m feeling quite mad today

The walls I built around my anger are unable to contain all the mad I am feeling at the moment…………..

Anger scares me. I push it down, don’t acknowledge it. Sometimes it sneaks past, and I snap or yell, explode without meaning to. Mostly though, anger is buried deep down. It’s walled off. Long ago, I built walls around my anger and any anger I feel, I shove down to be contained by those walls.

I want to cry. I want to yell at someone. Probably Hubby, as he is safe to yell at. Well, he was safe. I’m not sure he is safe to yell at anymore. Bea has described him as my attachment figure; if he is my attachment figure, then I should be able to yell at him and know that he will still love me and so it will be safe to let all this mad out at him, much the way Kat lets all her mad out at me. But I don’t think it’s safe to let my mad out at Hubby any longer. Which only makes me more mad.

Ever since I’ve had the realization, a few weeks ago now, that HE (childhood abuser) had sex with me, I have wanted to scream it at Hubby. In our normal, everyday married life moments, I have had this urge to look at him and scream, to yell,” HE had sex with me. “. I want the contrast of the moments, I want to shock him, make him realize the difference of my lives, the normal vs the abuse, I want him to see. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I am so damn angry with Hubby.

Things have been rocky with Hubby, with our marriage for a while. It’s mostly my fault. Because I am the way I am, messy, emotional, push then pull, not perfect, I don’t know. I yell at the drop of a hat. Not on purpose. I know this, though. I also know that this summer, after things with Kat’s autism settled down, and life was fairly smooth and I had nothing to focus on, my anger started to leak out more. I yelled at Hubby a lot. I even yelled at Kat. (I still yell sometimes, I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth, and maybe the the truth will help someone else.)

I thought things would be better after I told Hubby the truth. I thought I would be able to continue telling him more of my truth, my past and my present struggles, and together we would get to know me. And don’t get me wrong, he has been supportive, he is a good husband, and he does love me, love our little family. Of that I have no doubt. He is also so good at saying the right thing, and making great gestures; loving me for being Alice, creating a hiding place for me so I don’t have to hide in the closet like a scared 5 year old anymore, finding an Alice down the rabbit hole necklace to help me remember to stay out of the rabbit holes.

But, he likes his world to be pretty. He likes his world to be easy, nice, relaxing, unruffled. And that’s the problem. I am none of those things right now. I am ruffled, and stormy and messy. I am loud. I am going to interrupt the relaxing times, and makes things hard. Last week, we had a fight, which ended with me feeling like I was back in the family I grew up in, after I attempted to talk it out with him several times.

I’ve done an experiment this weekend, starting on Thursday. I have been the perfect wife again, the girl he met. I have been unruffled and uncomplicated. I have made dinners he likes, cleaned things up everyday (I’m working my way through the house), offered to do things he likes, made no complaints, only spoken of surface things, asked questions about things like his video game (and watched him play), I’ve made things nice and pretty for him.

Last night he said to me, “I’m glad that you are feeling better. Therapy combined with yoga must be really helping. And Dr. B. must be helping the fibro and migraine pain. I feel like we are a team again. I’m glad we’ve been talking so much lately, it’s made such a difference.”

Talking?!?!? We haven’t been talking. I’ve been fucking trying. He’s been shutting it down. Ugh!

I want to yell at Bea, tell her that I NEVER should have listened to her. That she screwed up everything. That thanks to her, I believed that I could tell Hubby everything and things would be different. But they aren’t. Because he does not fucking care! He wants his perfect fucking world. That’s it. My experiment proves that, she can’t argue with it. The shitty thing is, she’ll try. I know she will. She will get all damn shrinky on me and try. Why the hell did I listen to her?!?! Stupid. Stupid. I trusted her. Why the fuck did I?

I’m so mad at myself. I’m so mad at Hubby, at Bea. I believed them. The walls I built, the ways I related to everyone for years to stay safe, I changed those ways; I tried a new way with Bea and Hubby, I lowered the walls. I’d always kept people at a distance, even those closest to me– even my husband!— had no idea of my feelings, my inner thoughts, my past, my childhood memories, who I really was. Not to mention my traumas. But all that started to changed this past summer. Now, six months later, I’m regretting that choice. This is exactly why I never lowered my walls before.

I have therapy tomorrow, and I don’t even see the point. I’ll go, I’ll sit there and pretend to be fine, to talk. I don’t know. It will be a repeat of Thursday, only harder because I’m fully aware of the fact that I’m detached, mad, and not wanting to have a connection with Bea, or trust her anymore. I won’t tell her, I won’t talk about the relationship, not face to face, not like that. So I’ll waste another session. When what I would really like to do is yell at her for convincing me trusting Hubby was ever a good idea. I should have left things as they were. I want to scream in the therapy room the words, “HE fucking had sex with me and I did NOT want to.” I want to talk about that with someone, because I am so confused, I don’t understand. My head says one thing, my memory, my inner child says another thing. It’s the little girl in me that has more weight when it comes to sexual abuse memories, she holds the memories and the emotions. She wins, right now, And damn it, I should be able to talk to Bea, except I am so angry with her, I can’t imagine trusting her right now.

All this mad is leaking out, and I have no where to put it. I have only myself to take it out on. Cutting. I’ve already cut this weekend. I’ll end up cutting again. This is what happens. I trust people and they hurt me, and I hurt myself. It is not fucking worth it.And Bea, who put me in charge of monitoring my “okayness” and telling her, who assured me that now she understands what “I’m not okay” means, will most certainly never be told that I have been cutting again. Fuck that. I’m done reporting to her.


Is this really me?

I have spent the morning going through childhood pictures my Mom brought yesterday. I can’t get over the difference in the looks on my face. Am I seeing something that is not there? Did I go from looking like a happy child to looking like a nervous, blank, hollow child? I’m thinking of bringing these to therapy tomorrow. But I’m not sure. And why is it  that I can’t seem to connect any of these pictures of this child with me?

I was happy, smiling girl before HE entered my life

I was a happy, smiling girl before HE entered my life. This is me, age 3. 

I had confidence in myself.

I had confidence in myself.

I think the abuse began at age 5. This is me, age 5. I feel like I have smile, I biting my lip. Pictures after this have the same expression.

I think the abuse began at age 5. This is me, age 5. I feel like I have no smile, I’m biting my lip. Pictures after this have the same expression.

The year the HE took the abuse to the next level. This is Christmas Day. I think I look blank, hollow. Dead. Shouldn't I be smiling, happy? It's Christmas. I don't know.

The year the HE took the abuse to the next level. This is Christmas Day. I think I look blank, hollow. Dead. Shouldn’t I be smiling, happy? It’s Christmas. I don’t know.