……..continued from “the bubble popper, part 2”
Today’s session was a mess. Everything is a mess. I almost didn’t go. I was afraid. Bea acted normal, like herself. I felt freaked out inside, but tried to smile and be okay. I wasn’t doing a very good job. She told me she was going to be quiet and see what came up for me. I couldn’t meet her eyes, or find my words. I’d sat in the car, trying not to cry, before coming in. I thought I had gathered myself together, but now I was back in the same place. Finally Bea suggested that a lot of new ideas and things were coming up for me this week. I don’t think I answered, but I thought that I don’t like new ideas, and I don’t want to feel like this.
Bea says something about in intense therapy like this, we all bring reactions and learned behaviors with us– my expecting her to be upset with me for being mad at her would be one of those learned reactions. My assuming I can’t need her and be mad at her is another one of those learned reactions that isn’t true in this relationship. She says something about therapy and learning to be dependent on someone before learning to be independent. That being vulnerable and needing her and having a positive experience could be used as a springboard, a secure base, to be open and vulnerable in my other relationships. She tells me that admitting to being needy was a big step for me, and she knows it probably doesn’t feel very safe. She tells me somethings that are personal to her, but her explanation kind of clears up why her last emails seemed so not like her, so much more distant and cold. It wasn’t all in my head, as I had thought. There’s a sense of relief at that, and I’m thankful she is honest with me, and super transparent.
I’m crying and covering my face, and I feel like a mess. “I don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to…..” I stop myself from speaking. I’d been about to say I don’t want to need anyone, but Bea and I both know that by anyone I mean her, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Instead I sigh. “I’m not mad anymore.” It feels important that she know that.
“Okay,” Bea says, “but it would be okay if you were.”
I shake my head at her. It’s not okay.
“It’s okay if you are mad at me, because I know some of that mad is about the past. I’m not afraid of big feelings, and I’m not going anywhere, no matter what you feel.”
I hear what she says, but it’s not really penetrating.
“You can be in this vulnerable state right now. It’s safe, you aren’t alone. You can let out all the feelings, and I can hold them. You’re safe, and I’m here.” Bea says. She maybe says more, but I don’t know what.
I shake my head. “No, it’s not okay! I can’t feel like this. I don’t want to!” I feel like I am shouting the words out at her. I want her to make it stop, to fix this. I don’t want to keep feeling broken and out of control and helpless.
“I know it feels really hard. This state, this vulnerable, helpless feeling, that is how the little girl felt. This is how you felt when you were a child. You didn’t have any control then, you weren’t to blame, you were vulnerable.” I don’t know what else Bea says. I want to make her stop talking.
“You’re wrong. Stop.”
“It’s hard and scary to feel like this. This is what we have been struggling with. This is what all your defenses are against, right? To not feel vulnerable and out of control. It wasn’t safe to feel like this then, but it is safe now. You were alone then, but you aren’t alone now. It’s okay to feel like this. I’m not going to let you stay in this state, or leave like this. But for right now, it’s okay to be vulnerable and needy.”
“I’ve been feeling like this for weeks.” I sob out the words. I’m surprised I have admitted to this.
“I know. And it’s okay to let it all out now,” Bea says soothingly.
I can’t though. I’m still trying to hold it all inside. I don’t know what’s wrong with me that I can’t trust her enough to let it out. “I thought you were mad at me for not talking to hubby again.” I finally cry.
“No, not mad. I’m not mad.”
“Frustrated? Annoyed? You want me to talk to him, and keep trying, and I’m not doing what you think I should do.” I sniffle. This was hard, it feels like confrontation, it’s scary and too much, but I feel too broken and hurt to do anything else.
“No. There’s no should. This isn’t about what I think, and I am not angry with you for not talking to him. I do feel like hubby is at the center of this, and if you could have him for support, as a resource, then some of this wouldn’t feel so bad. And of course, seeing you hurting like this makes me want to say, ‘Send him in here to me.’ But I can’t help fix this for you in that way, unless it’s what you want,” She says gently.
“I tried, and I tried. And he just….I don’t know the word. But anything I tell him…he hurts me with it…”
“Ammunition?” Bea suggests.
“Yes. Yeah, that’s a good word. It’s all ammunition. And I can’t fix him. I’m tired of trying and trying and forcing him to be something he can not be, and I’m tired of being hurt. I just can’t do it. Everything feels so bad, and I just broken, and I can’t keep getting hurt like that when I feel like this.”
“Okay. That’s okay. We can see. It’s not your job to fix him. But whatever his reactions, or his need for perfection, or anything else, it’s about him, not you.” She says.
I had gotten my tears partly under control, and now I cry some more again. I just feel relieved that she is not mad. I keep waiting for something bad to happen, but it hasn’t yet.
“The bubble popping…I think, it feels like to me, that this is a chance for you to grow, like you could really grow from allowing yourself to feel these feelings. I know the walls have come down before, but this time it feels different to me.” Bea says. I think I may have missed the beginning of what she was saying, but I’m not sure.
“Because it’s really popped. In a bigger way.” I’m speaking so softly, I’m not sure she will hear me. I don’t have any great words or ways to explain what I’m trying to say, and so it comes out sounding like I’m a child. But it seems okay, because I am feeling very child like right now.
“Yeah. I wondered about that. Do you think that the bubble came back this time in response to letting me see what you think of as the baddness in you? After you let me read the thing, it seemed the bubble came back.”
I cringe, and then I nod. Yeah.
I don’t know where the conversation goes next. I’m kinda half here, half gone. I end up crying and sobbing to Bea that I don’t want to need anyone.
“It feels bad to need someone. It’s okay to need people. That’s the nature of being human, we all need someone.”
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“You don’t have anything to apologize for,” Bea tells me. It seems we’ve been here before during this session. There is quiet acceptance in her voice, that I’m going to keep apologizing.
“But I feel so bad,” I try to explain. I don’t know exactly what I’m apologizing for, but I feel bad, like I’ve done something wrong or….I don’t know.
“Do you think it would hurt my feelings if you said you didn’t want to need me?” Bea asks. I feel my face flush, and I ignore her question. Yes, I thought that. But I don’t answer. Answering seems like we will be going into shrinky territory, and I can not do that.
I still feel small and vulnerable and scared and alone. And I can’t stop crying. Bea tells me it’s okay, that I am allowed to feel this way. She says something about me being right where I’m supposed to be, and being perfect just as I am. I manage to sob out that I’m not perfect, I’m a mess, I’m failing at everything. She tells me that I’m perfect in my mess, and that I can’t fail at this. I don’t know all that she says, but it’s nice, and kind and somewhere along the way, I hear tears in her voice.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry I made you sad, I’m sorry.” I’m off, apologizing as quick as I can. Writing this now, I can see it as a learned behavior– don’t upset mom, don’t make her worried or stressed or anything else, just be good.
“Don’t apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for. There’s nothing wrong with my tears. It’s okay. Do you think you don’t deserve tears? That you don’t matter? Because you do matter. I can see, and I wish you could see, all the beauty and kindness and wonderful things about you. The way you are with Kat, how you fight for her, the way you push through all these hard things, your creativity, and how much you care for others…..” Bea’s voice is strong, even with tears in it. She means every word she is saying, and I can’t handle it.
I float away. It’s too much, too scary. I can’t handle the idea of needing someone, letting them see all the ugly pieces of myself that I’ve kept hidden for so long, and then that person still caring about me, after really seeing me. So I go fuzzy, retreat in the room in my head. Finally, I say, “Stop.” And Bea listens. It’s quiet in the office for a few moments.
I don’t know where we go from here, but we talk about alone, and keeping defenses up. I talk about how I used to tell “fake” secrets. Bea is intrigued by this, and she wants to know what they were. I shake my head. “Stupid little things. Like, the real reason my brother got expelled, or what really happened when my cousin crashed her car. Stuff like that.”
“And was the secret the truth of what happened, or something made up?” Bea asks, and she sounds normal; I’m thinking it must be strange, to have a patient who went so far as to have fake secrets in order to appear just like everyone else, but she is handling this rather well, like its something she is told everyday.
“Oh, no, it was always the truth. It’s just it was stuff that didn’t really matter.”
“To anyone else, for most people, those would have been real secrets, big secrets.” She points out.
I nod. “That was the idea. Stupid and insane, isn’t it?”
“No, not at all. I think it speaks to just how deep the real secrets were buried, how much you had dissociated them away.” Bea says.
We talk about trust, but I struggle a lot, and dissociate away for most of it. I admit to trusting people on the surface, and to trusting people, or at least acting like I trust people, in the way they expect to be trusted, but really, inside, it’s not okay to trust anyone, it’s not safe. Bea seems to understand, and she talks about trust for a few minutes.
We return to the subject of anger, and Bea tells me once again that finding my anger and holding on to it is not a bad thing, that anger can be energizing.
“You think anger is a good thing. I think anger is…. Anger is scary and mean.” I tell her.
Bea has a way of explaining things simply, in a way that the child part of me can understand, without making me feel like an idiot, or like she is treating me like a child. “Well, anger is the feeling, right? But mean is what we do with our anger. It’s a reaction, and we choose our reactions. It’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to be mean. They are two different things.”
“It still feels scary and mean.” I say.
“I know we’ve talked about this before, and I know you didn’t have any memories of this then, but are there any memories, or feelings that kenny was angry, and that he was scary and mean?” Bea asks softly. “Something from your past…that put angry with scary and mean…if he threatened you, or seemed really angry and that was scary?”
I sit for a long time. What first comes to mind is college boyfriend; he would get mad, and that anger made him mean which was terrifying. Next is a feeling…..a younger feeling, and one I don’t want to do to. And the only thought running through my head is don’t tell, don’t ever tell, he’ll know, don’t tell. “I can’t.” I cry, feeling helpless and scared and alone.
“Can’t what?” Bea waits for me to elaborate, but when I don’t, she repeats my words to me.
I don’t respond, it’s safer not to answer that question.
“I know he ruined your story with your barbies, and that was mean. But it wasn’t angry, not really. There might not be memories of him being angry and mean. That’s okay. It was just a question, something to help explain this fear of anger, and the feeling that anger is mean and scary.” Bea explains.
“I can’t.” I want so badly to talk, but I just can’t. I’m going further away, and heading into scary places, but I can’t stop it.
Bea seems to be thinking. “Okay, I don’t want to send you into scary places today, or go digging for memories. In fact, I want to spend a lot of time getting you back to the present, and grounded as you can be. Okay?”
I nod my head as hard as I can.
“Okay. Before we start grounding, was there anything you wanted to talk about? Any memories that you wanted to bring up? If there is, that’s okay. We can talk about anything that feels like it needs to be talked about. If you wanted to talk about whatever just came up, we can.” Bea reassures me. She’s always tried to let me be as much in control as she could, as I would be.
“I don’t know.”
“Does it feel right to you to start coming back, or do you feel like there is more to talk about?” Bea asks me gently.
It’s too much, I can not make any decisions right now. I fear any choice I make will be a and one. “You decide. Please.” I tell her.
“Well…I would table it for today, because I won’t be here next week, so it doesn’t feel good to me to have you going into scary places. I know you can’t control it, and things come up even if they aren’t being talked about, but talking stirs it up more.” She finally answers me, after a long pause.
“Okay,” I tell her.
She suggests some ideas to help me come back, be more grounded. We decide to listen to a new mindfulness CD she got for kids, but that isn’t as kid friendly as she thought. It’s more like simplified mindfulness for adults who have that little girl part that is stuck in the past and never grew up. Bea reads off a list of the choices, so that I can choose.
“Not the breathing one.” I say. I still can’t focus on just my breath without feeling triggered.
“Okay. How about the feelings emergency kit?” Bea asks me, and I nod.
I listen, and it’s easy to understand and follow along, and the woman reading the script gives lots of reassurance that feelings don’t last forever and that they can’t hurt you. For someone like me, this is a very good explanation, and exercises on sitting with your feelings. The problem is that mindfulness activities cause this weird anxiety in me. I feel numb and dizzy, like I’m spinning inward, into myself.
Bes turns off the CD player. “Did that make you go farther away?” I can hear her returning to her chair.
I don’t answer right away. I don’t know if I want to admit to being gone. “Maybe.” I finally say, and my voice is hollow.
“I thought it might have. That’s okay. Now we know that mindfulness is not a resource for you.” Bea says.
“How can we get you to come back, now, though? Do you want some theraputty, or maybe a coloring book?” Bea suggests. Part of me jumps at the idea of a coloring book, like yes, okay, that wold help, but I can’t bring myself to say so.
“Gone is okay. I’m not in a scary place.”
“Gone is okay, sometimes, yes. You seem really far, and that’s not functional.” Bea says in a practical manner.
We end up talking, and Bea gets out a new lotion she just got, and eventually I peek my head up. We talk about Kat, and I somehow admit that I am afraid to let her go too far from me. By the end, she says a few truths have emerged: I didn’t want to need anybody, I didn’t want to have to fix hubby, I didn’t want to be open with Hubby because I didn’t want to give him more ammunition to use against me, I might be the one not ready to separate from Kat, and I’m tired of feeling like this and don’t want to feel out of control anymore.
I don’t want to leave. I want to stay here, where although I am afraid and unsure, I feel safer and seen and not alone than I have in a long time– maybe, most likely, my whole life. I eventually force myself to behave like an adult, and say goodbye. I’ll see her in a week. It’s the normal amount of time between appointments for a lot of people. It will be fine. I’m afraid. And she’s leaving.
“I’ll have my phone, text, and email. I know you won’t, but if you do call, or text or email, it’s okay. I’m still here, I’ll be available.” Bea reminds me as I walk out the door.
I ignore it, and wish her a good day. I leave feeling needy and messy and hurting. I don’t like this, not one bit.