Dear Bea (an email I’ll never actually send)

Dear Bea,

I feel like I’m doing that thing where I make myself crazy. I’m part scared and anxious, part angry and part just done; I give up.

I feel like I’ve spent this whole year trusting you in fits and starts, small steps and big steps. I’ve been as honest as I could allow myself to be, but of course there were always things I held back, too afraid to say. But now it feels like we reached a point in our relationship where I’m not afraid to say things to you, and I don’t have as much fear that your reaction will be to hate me, be angry with me, leave me.

We’ve spent the year working towards me losing the facade, working towards me being more open and honest with hubby. And I finally got there; I talked to him about things I never dreamed I would have been able to when we were first married. I’ve never felt safer and more trusting of him.

Only now….it seems that the extra trust I gave, being authentic and real with you and hubby has backfired. You left. I emailed you 3 days ago. And you never responded, not even to acknowledge you got it but wanted to talk about it in person. Hubby is so uncomfortable with things being not perfect that he has detached from the situation and I can feel that disconnect he has created. I opened myself up, and I’m alone. He left, you left.

I feel small and frightened and alone. I’m not strong enough to do this on my own. I don’t know what to do now. The teenager is yelling at me; “I told you so, you are so dumb, what were you thinking?! All people ever do is hurt you, disappoint you. You need too much. You want too much from them. No one is ever going to care enough to be what you need. You don’t matter. And you didn’t listen, and now everything is a mess. It’s out of control, everything is ruined. You’re all alone. You can’t do anything right. Let me fix this.” And fixing it means finding the bubble, fighting to be perfect and not paying attention to anything but cleaning, organizing, planning, eating– not eating– whatever I can use to distract, to be perfect. I feel so helpless and lost and all alone, I’m ready to do what the teenager says, whatever it takes to make this feeling go away.

I know you have other clients, and a life. I know things happen. Rationally, logically, I know that you not answering an email doesn’t mean anything. But in my head is a drama of you being angry over something i wrote, you trying to figure out how to send me to another shrink because you are so fed up, you being just done with me and leaving because I’m just too needy and whiny and I don’t work hard enough to get over things and I’m just a drama queen and cry baby. I know those are all feelings, and feelings aren’t fact. But I can’t stop myself from freaking out. And I can’t help feeling a little angry, too. You know, you have to know, how fragile my trust is. You have to know that stepping out of my comfort zone to trust more only makes it more fragile. And you didn’t even bother responding. Even a simple, “I got you email, and want to respond but don’t have time right now. I’ll try to get to it this weekend, or we can talk on Tuesday.”

I know hubby cares, I know if I brought up anything I wanted to talk about he would talk to me. I know if I woke him up when I had a nightmare he would comfort me. But in my head, I feel like he is disgusted with me. Like he doesn’t want me anymore, like I’m damaged and tainted and he can’t stand the sight of me. I feel like he would leave if he could, but he’s too good a person to leave his broken wife.

This is what I get for reaching out and trusting more. It’s the backlash of it all, me freaking out and reading between the lines and finding things that aren’t really there at all. I don’t know. It’s crazy making. So…that’s where I am. In a place where I only want to hide because I can’t deal with these feelings of everyone I trusted hating me. In a place where I’m having flashbacks and nightmares and obsessing over “not my choice”. In a place that doesn’t feel rooted in the present, or very safe. In a place that is on the edge of where the bubble begins, and so ready to jump right back into that bubble of okayness, because I don’t know what else to do.

I have no idea what I’m going to do. If I’m going to email you again, and tell you some of this. If I should just wait and show up on Tuesday. If I should just fall into the bubble of okayness; prove I don’t need anyone, that I can be just fine without trusting you or hubby. If I should not show up at all; that would send a clear message that I’m hurt and mad and don’t need you. I don’t know. I’m lost. The little girl, the teenager and the grown up all want to go different ways. There’s too much in my head, I can’t sort anything out.

~Alice

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It’s okay to feel small

Monday’s therapy session was messy. I don’t remember a lot of it. I’m having a hard time feeling grounded. Being floaty and far away, living in my head doesn’t feel safe like it used to. I can’t believe I spent most of my life feeling like that, and feeling like it was safer to be fuzzy and not clear. I want to feel anchored in the present, but being in my body doesn’t feel safe right now, either. Which end up with me doing this weird back and forth thing with being far away and present. I can’t seem to remember how I kept one part of me grounded and here, no matter what. I’m losing myself.

I tell Bea about the weekend, which included a wedding we went to. I tell her how I tried to talk to hubby but he wasn’t getting my signals. I don’t know I’m confused. Maybe I just am a horrible communicator.

“I just keep trying and trying, but it’s not working, he doesn’t get it. He left me,” I tell her. I had asked hubby, in several ways, to stay with me– to not go to work, to not leave me alone at the wedding, to stay awake with me at night. The only way I didn’t ask him was by being direct, because if I directly asked for what I needed and he rejected me, I don’t know how I would be okay.

“This is great. You are doing great, you are communicating wonderfully. I think hubby is having trouble reading your cues. Just like we talk about with attachment theory and children needing their cues to be read and attuned to, you need hubby to do the same,” Bea says. I breathe a sigh of relief, because she said I did good, I’m okay.

We talk around hubby for a while, although to be honest a good portion of that conversation is missing. However, Tuesday night (hubby’s midnight wake up post) I woke him up and talked to him, so something made its way through my thick skull and into my brain.

At one point, I started to cry. “I’m sorry, I just still feel like I did on Thursday. I don’t feel big. I’m sorry, I know I should..” A lot of tears fell. I was really afraid Bea was going to be annoyed with me for not being over it, yet.

“It’s okay to feel small. This is big deal stuff you are working on. You can have all your feelings. You’re here and you’re safe.” Bea isn’t upset. She doesn’t even sound surprised, she sounds understanding.

I don’t remember where the conversation went from there. I know we talked about the grown up parts and the little girl parts some more. I’m pretty sure I told her how tiring it was to pretend to be okay and perfect at the wedding; how I never realized how much energy that actually takes. I leave out how much more anxiety I had and how much more awkward I felt, making social small talk. It was a good session, though. One of those where I felt very honest and talked a lot– for me. I’m really starting to feel like I’m “me” when I’m in Bea’s office, like I’m safe and don’t need to fake anything or cover up how I really feel or what I think.

These are the words I leave Monday’s session with; it’s okay to feel small, I am here and I am safe.

Small (with hubby & part four)

This is part 4 of a 4 part post series, “small.” Thursday was a messy, vulnerable session, and day for me. I left off in part 3 leaving therapy. I don’t believe this post is as full of triggering material as the other 3, but it still could be triggering, so please read carefully and take care of yourself. Xx

I really don’t want to be alone today. Bea has, of course, made sure I’m okay to leave therapy and take myself home, but I’m still feeling very tiny and alone and scared. I pay to get out of the parking lot, and as I head towards home I have this sense of dread. I’m so afraid I’m going to be yelled at by hubby. And I don’t want to go home and be alone. I’d rather be alone in the car. For a brief moment, I contemplate driving back to Bea’s office and begging her to sit with me for more time. Instead, I take a different risk, one that will actually be helpful in my life. I know if I really need Bea, I can email her, or even text or call her later. I call hubby.

“Hello.” He always answers the phone as a statement, like he is so in charge and confident. I answer with a question, unsure and awkward.

“Hi babe,” I say. My voice breaks, just a little, and I bite down on my lip to control it.

“Is everything okay?” He asks.

“Yeah, I’m just leaving therapy, I’m on my way home, and I wondered what you were up to.” I turn off the main road and onto one of the back roads I can use to get home. I don’t need to be driving in traffic in the state I’m in; overtired, and partly dissocisted, and feeling more little girl than grown up.

“It’s after 10,” hubby says. My session started at 8. He has to know its never good for a session to go over 2 hours.

“Yeah,” I say, and then I take a chance. “I had a rough night last night. I didn’t sleep.”

He’s silent for a minute. I imagine he is surprised by my admitting this, and isn’t sure how to respond. Finally, he says, “Yeah, I know you didn’t sleep and then got up really early. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. When do you have to go to work?”

“I have to be in at 3. I’ll leave about 2 or so. I was gonna tarp the boat because it’s supposed to rain, then watch some tv or something.”

“Will you..I mean, do you think….would you sit with me so I can lay down and try to nap before the ABA nanny leaves?” I stutter and stumble over my words, I’m so unused to asking my husband for things that I don’t know the answer to. I’m so anxiety ridden about his answer that I almost run a red light. He could say no. He could still yell at me for not sleeping last night.

“I’ll lay with you. Can I watch American Sniper while you rest?” He asks.

I breathe out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. “Sure, yeah.”

“All right, I’m going to go tarp the boat then, and I’ll see you at home?”

“Yeah, okay,” I say, but again, my voice breaks and I have to fight with myself to realize that him getting off the phone is not him leaving me. My God, I never knew I had this much issue with rejection and abandonment and trust.

“Is everything okay?” He asks again. Maybe I didn’t hide my hurt as well as I thought.

“Yeah. Yeah. I’m just tired,” I say. I’m not ready to go there, not right now.

“All right. Love you.”

“I love you, too,” I say.

We hang up, and I drive home. When I get home, Kat runs out of the playroom, and shows me something, and then I change into my pajama leggings and a peach colored sweatshirt that I love.

Hubby grins at me. “You waste no time getting back into pajamas!”

“I wanted my cozies.”

I lay down with my heated blanket, teddy bear and a piece of my baby blanket from childhood. Hubby sits next to me, and I end up curled onto his chest in a ball, gripping my teddy bear and blanky in one hand, his shirt in another.

“Hey…..you really okay?” He says, and it’s gentle and soft, and I almost want to say no, no I’m so not okay. I feel young and scared because I’ve been having flashbacks for days and I’m not sleeping, and I just don’t want to be alone, and please don’t hate me and please don’t go to work today, don’t leave me.

Instead I say, “I’m okay. Mostly, I’m okay.” And I close my eyes, and rest in the safety of my husband. Because no matter how afraid I am he will leave me, hate me, be disgusted by me, be appalled and shocked by me, I never doubt that he will keep me safe. It was something I knew about him almost from the moment I met him; he is a man who is safe, and who will do whatever it takes to keep me safe.

I fall asleep for a little bit, and wake up to hubby shaking me. “You’re having a bad dream. Honey, it’s not real. Wake up. It’s okay, it’s not real.” I wake up slowly, and it takes a few minutes for me to stop jumping at noises and feeling really out of it. Hubby is right, I’m okay, and it was a bad dream. I want so badly to correct him though, it is real, it did happen, it’s just not real anymore.

I stay curled into him, and he has his arms around me. He doesn’t move a hand towards anything more than being there, being a safe spot for me. I think, on some level, he knows I’m not fully me right now, and that I’m vulnerable. I think this safety, this being held tight and not alone and feeling like someone will protect you is what Bea is always talking about, what she thinks I miss out on when I won’t wake hubby or share with him. And feeling this, maybe she’s right. But it’s scary too. I don’t trust this, not right now, not yet. Perhaps it’s like when I first started seeing Bea, and she had to prove herself to me over and over, for every memory, every feeling, every thought I shared. Now, I don’t need her to do that as much. I believe and trust that she is there. Maybe, if I keep reaching out to hubby like this, one day I will be able to believe and trust that he can accept, see, love and take care of the vulnerable parts of me? I don’t know.

“I really wish you didn’t have to go to work today, and you could stay home with me,” I say. It kind of slips out, unfiltered. That’s the problem with being more little girl than grown up– I have less of a filter.

“Awww, me too, baby, me too.” Hubby brushes my hair off my forehead, and runs his hands through my hair, combing it.

I close my eyes and rest some more. My feelings are hurt, but not as badly as if I had outright asked him to stay home and he’d said no.

When 2:15 rolls around, hubby starts to get up. I clutch him tighter, I don’t want him to leave me alone. Alone is scary.

“Honey, I have to go to work. I’ll be home early if I can, okay?” He says, and tries again to remove himself from my grasp. I’m reminded of a toddler clutching a parent’s leg, not wanting to be separated.

I shake my head. “Okay,” I say, and then I start to cry. And that is when all hell breaks loose, and I beg him to stay home.

“Babe….honey.” My poor husband looks lost. He has no reference point for what to do with me. I don’t act like this. “I’m sorry. If I had known you needed me to stay home with you, that you felt this bad, I would have called, gotten someone to cover, been on call…..I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I’ll get home as soon as I can, and you can call me anytime if you want or need to talk.”

He means well. But I won’t talk to him then, like that. If he could stay with me, I might try to explain. I already know, though, by the time he gets home, it will be too late. I’m already shutting down, pulling away, trying to close off whatever feelings I can. “It’s okay. I love you. Have a good day,” I tell him. I work really hard to smile.

He sits down next to me. “Honey, if I had known you needed me, I would have worked it out. You come first, you just have to ask.”

I nod. “Okay.”

The conundrum is of course that in order to have him stay with me, I have to risk being vulnerable and admit what I need. That in order to begin to see that it’s safe to be vulnerable and ask him for what I need, I have to do the scary thing, and ask for what I need. It’s almost like a catch-22. And while he says the right thing, and it sounds perfect and reassuring and lovely, I’ve been burned before by believing him. He makes promises like this he can’t always keep, and then I’m crushed when I risk it all and he can’t keep them. I suppose the place to start is by attempting to teach hubby how vulnerable I can actually be. To try to explain to him, and help him understand that I’m so little girl like in a lot of moments, that the little girl part runs the show sometimes, and my trust is easily broken when she is in charge, my feelings crushed, and that things most adults wouldn’t bat an eye lash over can feel like rejection or abandonment when the little girl is running the show.

Every relationship started somewhere right? And in a way, hubby and the other parts of me, the parts that aren’t miss perfect have to start communicating and forming a relationship.

Small (part three)

This is part 3 of this post. We left off in part 2 talking about him, and some of the ways he behaved, especially in traumatic memories. There could potentially be triggering stuff in this post, so please take care when reading. Xx

“I didn’t matter,” I tell her. I’m thinking how he didn’t care I was hurt, how all the adults were there, out back at the pool and no one knew, or even suspected. I’m thinking how I didn’t matter enough for my mom to stay home. I didn’t matter.

“You do matter, you did matter.” Bea’s voice is strong, sure. She is serious, and she believes this.

“No. To him. I didn’t matter. I was supposed to matter. I thought I mattered.” I’m shaking and crying, again, as I have been off and on all session. There is a sense that it’s okay to be crying, now. Before, even a few months ago, I’d be upset by the fact I was crying. Now I just cry, and don’t worry about. I know it’s okay with Bea, she can handle the tears, even huge sobbing fits, and so it is safe to cry.

“He might have had different parts, too. We don’t know. You could have mattered to one of those parts. But you do matter now, and you mattered then.” Bea says.

“I didn’t matter,” I say, sadly.

“It sure felt like you didn’t matter.” My head is down, I’m hiding, but I can picture Bea, sitting in her chair, maybe leaning slightly forward, nothing but understand and compassion, kindness in her face. I can picture this because I have been looking at her more often during sessions.

“Why do people say it’s not about…you know?” I ask suddenly. It’s an abrupt change of topic, but something I have wondered about before. Because to me it’s all about…you know.

“What?” Bea asks, switching tracks fairly easily.

“You know.” I emphasize the words, after struggling to try to say the actual word.

“Sex?” Bea asks, saying it for me.

“Yes.” I say.

“Well. Sexual abuse is about power, controlling someone else. Maybe too about the sexual aspect, but it’s about that control through sex.” She maybe still talks but I’m gone, gone, gone.

I’m off in my head, stuck in a kind of bad place. Where I don’t have choices, and I’m too small to do anything.

“It seems he liked you, or little girls because he could be control. He should have been dating girls his own age.” Bea’s voice breaks through to me, and I come back to the present a little.

“He did. He took a girl to prom. I sound sour, pissy, much like Kat when she doesn’t get her way.” I tell her.

“How old were you?”

“Second grade? Seven?” I guess.

“Were there feelings about this?” She asks. I shrink away. I’m ashamed over it. “Jealousy maybe?”

I nod. Yeah. “Very. My parents asked him to stop by, they wanted to see him dressed up. Maybe it was third grade. I don’t know. It’s all messed together, blurry.”

“No wonder. How could it not be? You were working very hard to just grow up. And you did it. Some very healthy parts of you developed, and grew and thrived.” She understands, she gets it.

“Then why do I feel so broken?” I ask her.

“Well, because these stuck parts are coming out now, and you are dealing with the trauma instead of pretending it away, and for the first time a lot of your defenses are down. So that is going to feel pretty bad. But I think broken is an okay way to put it. You aren’t damaged, or bad, or any of those other things, but these stuck in the trauma parts of you need to be allowed to,have a voice and heal so that they can be integrated into the grownup part of you. The good thing is there is a healthy adult that runs the ship, and she can helps these parts heal now. It was too much then, but now there is a grown up, and that grown up has support.”

I love that Bea answers my question, and talks about how I feel, instead of giving the standard ‘you aren’t broken’ answer. “Okay. That makes sense, kinda,” I say.

We sit, quiet for a minute. I’m still half in the past, half in the present. Everything hurts. I hate this. I hated the blank spaces in my memory, I hated not knowing, but this feels so bad, I don’t even have the words to describe it. “I said I wanted to know, but I was wrong. I don’t. I don’t want to know. This hurts too much.”

“I know. It’s really, really hard.” Bea really gets it. I can feel her there, right here with me. She’s in this with me, not just sitting on the sidelines observing.

“I don’t want to feel like this.” I say. Part of what I want to say is that I never asked for this, for any of this. But I’m not sure if did or didn’t.

“I know.”

“If I can’t even handle this now, how am I supposed to have handled it then?” I ask her, almost desperately.

“Exactly. That’s it exactly. You couldn’t have. And you aren’t alone now.” Bea says. She sounds almost pleased that I am grasping the concept of how bad it really was.

“I really didn’t want to be alone today. I couldn’t go to sleep last night.” It’s so hard to admit this. I wonder what I would have done if I didn’t have therapy today. Would I have texted and asked for a session? Hurt myself? I don’t know.

“I know. That’s why I think having hubby’s support would be so beneficial. So you wouldn’t have to be alone.” It always comes back to this with Bea; she doesn’t want me to be alone anymore.

“But I talk here. That’s something. That should count.” I say, feeling a little argumentative.

“It is something, it counts for a lot,” she says, emphasizing her words. She does believe it counts. “But we need to build your support network, too.

I list off all the people who could be part of that network, if I allowed it, if I would trust them.

Bea says I can bring Kay to therapy if I ever want, and I laugh and laugh. Partly because I don’t need Bea to talk to Kay, I’m not afraid of her leaving, and partly because it was Kay who threatened to drag me back to Bea of I quit.

After a moment, Bea says, “You can’t put hubby in the role that Kenny or college boyfriend was in. I hear you doing it…and we need to find your voice. He doesn’t get to yell at you or criticize you for not sleeping. ‘I was having a rough night.’ Is all you should have to say. You don’t owe him information.”

I’m still thinking about my list of people who could support me, if I would be honest with them, and if I would talk to them. Which I am afraid to do. “I guess I have a serious problem with trust. Before this I would have said I trusted everyone. I was really fooling myself.”

“Yes. But in one sense, your worldview was that it was a game, it was nothing, and so you probably did trust everyone.” Bea reframes it, and it makes sense this way.

“If I was fooling myself that good then, what am I fooling myself about now?” I ask. It’s frightening to think how good I fooled myself. While I was playing at perfect and fooling everyone around me, I was lying to myself, too.

“Nothing, from where I sit. And I would tell you,” Bea assures me.

“You promise?” I ask shakily. I feel bad for needing extra reassurance, but I have to ask.

“Yes, I promise. The only thing I see that doesn’t match reality is your fear of hubby leaving if he knew the truth, your fears of physical punishment if you told your parents. But I also know those are big things. Big choices, and they would have big impact, but I don’t think your belief that hubby would leave aligns with reality.”

“I’m afraid,” I admit. The words are more real than in the past, they are the vulnerable part of me talking.

“I know,” Bea says.

“I’m so afraid he will leave, just not care, hate me.”

“You are still seeing this from a place of self blame, shame, disgust. I’m on the outside, and I can promise you, no one in their right mind would ever find fault with you.”

“I don’t know. So, what am I supposed to tell him?” I ask her. I’m lost. I can’t tell him who, Bea and I agree he doesn’t need to know my memories, the exactness of what happened. So what do I tell him?

“Maybe start with being able to tell him when you are having flashbacks, feeling vulnerable.” Bea suggests.

“No. No, no, no. He could leave.” I’m panicking at that thought of it all.

“Sometimes, the only way to bring out his vulnerable and nurturing side is to show him your vulnerable parts.”

I shake my head. “I’m scared.”

“I know. But the fact that you are feeling so vulnerable right now and can still talk about this, think about it is huge.” Bea tells me. She has something in her voice….happy? Proud? Pleased? Amazed? I don’t know what it is, but it’s good, and I bask in the sound of her voice.

“I’m afraid here sometimes still. Not like before, but still….I get scared.” I tell her, whispering.

“I know. It’s scary to be this vulnerable. And it took a long time to be able to.”

I nod. “Today, if he would stay home, I might talk to him. I don’t want to be alone.” It’s true, too. I’d talk today if he would stay home and not leave me.

“Can you ask him?” It’s the obvious thing to do, and Bea suggests it in a very neutral voice.

“No. He might say no. And then he would leave. He would just leave me.” My voice breaks as I talk about hubby leaving, and I burst into tears.

“And that would feel bad. Like being abandoned all over again.” Bea gets it.

I nod, then shake my head. “It’s really stupid. It’s not like my parents ever actually left me. They went out. They didn’t actually leave. I wasn’t abandoned. But I’m so afraid.”

“Well….I think being left, combined with the trauma of not being protected because they left made it worse. I think you had good attachment as a baby, but this being left and not protected and the trauma, that can mess things up. And, it’s something all kids deal with to some extent.”

“So all kids who get left with a sitter feel abandoned?” I ask. In my head I sound like I’m challenging her, being snotty. But I do really want to know.

“Well, in a sense, yes. I remember my parents would go out on Saturdays, and my older brothers and sisters would watch me. And that was always fine, and fun. But when it was bedtime, they would put me to bed, on the other side of the house, and I’d be all alone while they all got to stay up. I felt so alone, so left. So, yes, in a sense, it is something normal.” Bea shares. I love when she shares stories about herself that relate to me. Usually they underscore what should have happened, or how part of what I feel is normal for any kid. I feel less alone when she talks.

“It would have felt better if someone else had to go to bed, then, too. Then you wouldn’t have been alone.” I say.

“Yes. And if I had had kenny coming in my room and touching me, it would have made the alone and left feeling all the worse. Way worse.”

I want to say thank you to her, for telling me…for making not feel like such a freak. But I don’t. I’m not sure why I can’t tell her thank you. Maybe it would be too much like admitting attachment, or needing her in my mind. I’m not sure.

“So I’m not a complete freak?” I ask, tearfully.

“Not at all. I’d say completely normal under the circumstances,” Bea says kindly.

We talk off and on after that, and I cry, too. Mostly, I’m just there, with Bea, not alone, feeling like the little girl, vulnerable and needy and broken. And it’s mostly okay, because I know Bea is safe, and she understands, as much as anyone can, and she isn’t going to let these feelings swallow me whole. So I manage to relax, and allow myself to sit with the feeling, and to allow Bea to sit with me.

Small (part two)

This is part two of this post. Part one left off with me talking about how he could be fun, and Bea saying that wasn’t surprising. There could potentially be triggering stuff in this post, so please take care when reading. Xx. .

“Did they leave you with him a lot?”

I nod. “Friday’s. Friday nights were date night.”

“Was Jackie at your house?”

I nod again.

“Where did she sleep, and did she stay over?”

“Her parents move her when they get back. She sleeps in my parents bed usually. My brother had bunk beds. Sometimes she would sleep in there. She was kinda a tomboy. They got along better most…usually, better than she and I did,” I explain.

“Did your parents leave dinner for you?”

“Pizza.” I gag slightly. “I don’t eat pizza anymore.” Well, that’s not fully true. I eat it if I’m planning on purging. But that’s it. It’s a food that has to be thrown up. But I don’t say that, because it seems like it’s too much to explain on top of everything else.

“I don’t blame you. But pizza is pretty great. You might have to give pizza another chance,” Bea tells me.

“Do you know what time bedtime was and what time your parents got home?” She asks me.

I shake my head. “Late…after TGIF. It was dark when they’d get home.” I think, when I was older, maybe 7 or 8, it was maybe 10 chapters of a Nancy Drew or Babysitters Club book. But when I was this young? I don’t know. Late. “For all I know, it could have been 10:00pm, that would have been late to me.”

Bea and I both kinda chuckle over this a little. “Yeah, anything could be late when you are that age,” she agrees.

“But it was just normal. He’s tuck us in. Rub my back, sing to me. I don’t know….” I have to stop talking. Bea says something, but I’m not really hearing her. I interrupt her, saying, “He didn’t leave.”

She’s quiet for a moment, and in retrospect, I think how confusing it has to be to try to piece together someone else’s memories, with the stress of knowing that because that person is talking it’s a big deal, and saying the wrong thing could shut them up. “What?” She finally asks me, needing more clarification.

“He stayed. He sang, he should have said good night and left!”

“Yes, he should have.”

“But he didn’t. He untucked the covers. I didn’t understand, why tuck me in, just to untuck them? It didn’t make sense.” I shake my head. So much of this is all confusing. I’m not sure I’ll ever make any serious sense of it.

“Almost like he had to be the good boy before he could violate you.”

“But it was so normal before. I don’t know.” I sound a little whiny, insistent, I’m not sure what it is I want, maybe a reason why things flipped like that.

“It was normal mixed with scary, unspeakable things. Like a horror film, everything is ordinary and then a monster jumps out,” Bea says. She’s right. It’s like the scene with group of kids in a horror film, calm, peaceful, everyone happy and then something awful and scary happens. I don’t know.

“I don’t watch scary movies. I never can…I just replay the scary parts. Expecting to see the actual bad guy, ghost, whatever…I don’t know. I get too scared,” I tell her. I’ve never watched scary movies. I’m afraid of the dark, afraid of so many things, I never needed scary movies to add to it.

“I’m not surprised. You already lived through a scary movie, but Kenny was the monster.” She doesn’t sound the least bit judgmental or surprised. Most people think I’m childish for my extreme fear of horror films.

“Or maybe I’m just being stupid, and silly. Hating a song, not eating pizza. That stuff. I don’t know. Over sensitive.” The words sound cruel, my tone of voice is as mean as I can be. I’m angry with myself for feeling like this.

“Oh no. I don’t think so. I think it very normal under the circumstances. It twisted things together, contaminated normal stuff for you. Did kenny ever seem different to you?”

“Well….I don’t know. I told you about that summer. The pool?” I pick at my fingers, bury my face as much as I can.

“Yes, I believe so. People were there, right?” Bea asks softly.

I nod. “Outside. In the back. We were on the porch. Really a sunroom. But…he wasn’t. He wasn’t my friend then.”

“Was he scary? Mean? Threatening?”

I shake my head, I don’t know. “He hurt me.”

“Yeah. He hurt you.” She sounds sad as she repeats my words back to me.

It’s quiet, and I sit crying. I hate this.

“Did you say anything, tell him he was hurting you or were you so far gone you had no voice?” I love that she accepts that I could be so gone I couldn’t talk or do anything, that there isn’t any blame. I feel safe knowing she doesn’t blame me for anything no matter how much I try to convince her otherwise.

“No…I couldn’t..I cried….like rip off a band aid tears. Quiet.”

“Those tears from that stinging pain, you mean?” She gets it, almost right away. I don’t know how she does that.

“Yeah. That.”

“Did he notice?”

I nod.

“Did he say anything?”

I nod again. “He said. He said.”

“What did he say?” She asks gently, prompting me.

“He said….. I can’t repeat it.” It’s too awful, the words sound dirty in my brain, I can’t say them out loud.

I hand her the iPad back, because it is one of things going through my head this morning and yesterday, and it’s written in my crazy journal of thoughts.

She reads it. I’m imagining all sorts of things, bad things she is thinking about me, because of what he said. “He said it mean, not nice. He wasn’t my friend. He hurt me. He knew he hurt me, he didn’t care.”

“This is something you might say to a young child…” Bea is thinking out loud, but she doesn’t sound appalled by me, she’s not disgusted with me. “You were older…it’s almost like he sensed or knew some part of you was still stuck in the young child part. It’s about power, talking to you like you are a little child. This is how you would speak to a little girl.”

Something in me feels ripped open, too raw. “No. No, no. I wasn’t little. Not when. No I was big, my memories of you know…I’m big.”

“Of what?” She asks gently.

“That word!” I practically scream it at her, shove the words in her direction. She has to know what word I’m referring to, I can’t say it, can’t name it. It’s too bad, too big, too scary.

“Oh, yes. I know what word, okay.” She knows what I’m talking about. Thank God.

“They are older. I wasn’t little. I was big. In the memories. They are older. I was not little,” I repeat myself, going around in circles, panicking.

“Well, you were little,” Bea tells me. Her voice is quiet, and neutral.

“No, not little like little little. Like almost a baby little. I was older. I am 9 at the youngest memory I have. Not little.”

“No, it was all when you were older, too old to be talking to you like that, but you were still little. Nine is still little. You were just a little girl. But…..It’s almost like he knew….that this part of you that got struck in the trauma when it started, like he saw that part even when you were 9, 10. It’s like this was about power and control. Anger, he is raging at someone. Not you. But who, we won’t ever really know.”

I think it’s like a mystery to Bea, one she wants to organize and understand as much as I do. And maybe she is a frustrated with the pieces I’m missing as I am sometimes. It’s comforting to me, to think that she is curious about the missing pieces like me, but she isn’t judgmental about it like I am. But it’s nice to know she wants to understand and make sense of it….and I’m reminded of one of the first things she told me: our job is to understand and make sense of your story together.

Small (part one)

This post may go around in circles. I have a feeling my session went around in circles, at least a little bit. I haven’t been very present, or very much in my grown up mind since yesterday, so it was harder to keep track of everything that was said and the order in which it was said.

I’m splitting this session into several smaller posts. It ended up being a very long session, and a lot came out. I want to get it all down, but I don’t want to write a post that takes an hour to read! As always, please read with caution. I do talk about sexual abuse, ask Bea some kinda tough questions– the whys– and generally am in that headspace of feeling very small.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bea knows, the moment I walk in the door that I’m in a vulnerable headspace, that I’m feeling small. Neither of us say anything, though. I sit across from her, flicking my eyes from her face to the floor, playing with the bow on my ballet flat. I think she’s waiting for me to say something, but all I’ve been able to get out is, “Hi.”

Finally, Bea takes a drink of tea and says, “So…..how was this week?”

I shake my head, fiddle with the ties on my shoe, look at the floor. “Not so good.” I barely raise my voice above a whisper and it breaks.

She waits for me to fill in more, but when I don’t, she prompts me, “Is it Hubby stuff?”

I shake my head. “I didn’t sleep last night.”

She immediately gives me a look that says she gets it, and that she is sorry I didn’t sleep. “Is it something specific, concrete, or just stuff bubbling up?” She asks.

I can’t answer. It feels like too much to say, too much to explain. I don’t have the words. I don’t know.

She looks at me. “I feel like the little girl is here today.”

I nod. I’ve managed not to hide my face, and I’ve been bouncing my gaze from Bea’s face to the floor, to the toys and the table in the corner, blinking back tears and sniffling.

“Is it memories or feelings?” Bea looks at me kindly.

“Both.” I look away as I say it.

“I was wondering, because we’ve really been dealing with more abstract feelings, like anger, and not being in control and this feels different to me,” Bea explains.

I nod my head at her. I’m shaky and in that hypervigilant state, the one that anyone with PTSD is probably familiar with.

“How old are you right now? In this memory?” Bea asks quietly.

I shake my head. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Little. I’m gripping my knees to my chest as tight as I can, and picking at my fingers. “I don’t know.”

“You feel really little to me. In a really young and vulnerable state.” When I don’t say anything more, Bea continues, “Do you know what the feelings are?”

“I just know it’s not okay.” The words are almost below a whisper, too quiet.

“This could be too young a place to have words for these things, you could be too far away to name them. You feel far away right now. Maybe the point is to be here, with these feelings, where it’s safe and they can be contained,” Bea says. I wonder how she manages talk to the young part of me, but still speak to me like I’m an adult and not treat me like a child who can’t do anything for themselves. It has to be a hard thing to figure out how to do.

“I don’t want to feel like this.”

“I know. It’s been a while since you’ve felt like this. The little girl has something to say today, and she has a voice now,” Bea tells me.

I nod. I can’t get words out. I look up at Bea, and away quickly. She doesn’t look scary or like she is getting ready to jump ship.

“Did you write any of this down?”

I nod. Yes.

“Maybe we could start with that? It seems like you are having a really hard time with words right now,” she suggests.

“Okay,” I whisper. But then I realize I’ll have to move to get my iPad journal out. So I sit, frozen where I am.

After a minute, I start talking about hubby getting upset because I wasn’t sleeping. “I don’t want to go home after therapy because hubby is going to yell at me for not sleeping and I don’t wanna get yelled at.” I’m crying now, and it’s the panic and tears of little child who is afraid to be yelled at.

“Of course you don’t want to be yelled at. No one wants to be yelled at.” I think she asks if he was up, and I explain he wakes up like for a minute and sees that I’m up and then criticizes me for it later. We talk about it, but I’m more worried about being yelled at and in trouble than anything else.

I shift and pull my iPad. I hold onto it for a minute. “I wrote this more for me. It’s not…it’s just messy. I didn’t…it’s just…”

Bea smiles at me. “It’s a little like being caught in your bathrobe and hair curlers, isn’t it? It’s okay.”

I give a small smile back and hand it over to her. As soon as it’s handed over, I bury my face. I can only take so much, and this….well this is too much exposing to not hide.

“It’s nothing new. It’s not even a big deal, I don’t know why it feels so bad,” I tell her.

“Well, it feels bad because you were triggered. If it’s come up again, it needs to be worked through again.” She sounds so sure of this, and almost matter of fact about it, calm.

Bea reads, saying “mmmhmms, and uh-huhs” to herself as she reads.

“This is again about being left. Looking out the window and wishing your parents would come home and rescue you, but knowing it was too late.” Bea’s voice is soft.

It takes me a while, and it actually physically hurts, but I manage to say, “I hated them for not coming home.”

“Of course. Of course you did. It was just another way you were left.”

“She just left. So many times…I asked, sitting in the bathroom….her not to go…to take me…but she just left. And I was fine then. When he came, it was fine and I had fun. It’s so twisted.”

“I think it has to do with magical thinking in some ways. You were a child. Of course you didn’t want her to go, but once he got there, it was fun, right? The bad stuff didn’t happen right away, did it?” Bea asks.

“No…later…but I knew..I had to know. It’s why I wanted her to stay.”

“Yes, but children don’t have a sense of time like grown ups. And with magical thinking, you could have thought it wasn’t going to happen. So it was easy to have fun and be okay.”

I sit with that idea, thinking. It’s different than my previous thoughts. An idea that has been in and out of my mind…this idea that I had no choice, drifts back into my head. In this more little girl state, I have no filter, and so I blurt out, “I didn’t get a choice.” And the words hurt to say, and I’m crying, and I hate this, all of it, all this pain.

“No, you didn’t get a choice. You didn’t get a choice at all,” Bea repeats back to me, validating, but also something else in her voice…pride…happiness that I’m seeing this differently? Something. She sounds pleased; not pleased over my lack of choice, but pleased over my realizing it.

“It could be so normal. I don’t know. Just so regular. How is that even possible? It’s confusing. He was fun, you know. He played.” I want so desperately for her to understand, to see. I need her to get it, to really know how different my two realities were.

“Of course he was fun, I’m sure he was. It’s part of the…grooming process, part of winning a child’s trust. It’s part of what abusers do. And he wasn’t always hurting you, or touching you, and he had to be fun, to get you to like him. That’s not anything you did wrong. Kids have a right to want attention, to have someone play with them. All kids want to be paid attention to.” Bea sounds so sure, so positive about this, and not surprised by what I’ve just admitted. I’m relieved. She gets it. I had no idea how wonderful it feels to be understood, to not feel alone with all the secrets upon secrets I held in for so long. I didn’t know that being so vulnerable and honest with someone who could be trusted would make me feel safer….it seems like it should be the opposite, but it doesn’t work like that.