“…..and hubby…. He’s, well……I don’t know.” I look down, averting my gaze from Bea’s face, and feeling floaty. It happens so quickly, that going away because I’m uncomfortable, I’m surprised. I’m in my usual place on Bea’s couch, with my knees pulled into my chest, and Hagrid is curled up next to me.
Bea just waits, giving me time and space to pull the words from my brain. Finally, I say, “He’s sort of….it’s like he’s afraid of me.” I’m feeling a lot of shame, over how I freaked out the other night, and now, hubby is being very distant towards me. It doesn’t feel like anger, though, it feels like fear.
“It had to be scary for him to have you get so upset. He may feel like he caused it, and not want to do anything else to hurt you. Have you talked about what happened?” Bea turns her chair slightly, to be able to face me a little bit better.
I shake my head. “No…I don’t know how to bring it up. I mean, I know, like you said in your email, what guy wouldn’t want to work on this? And I think he would. But then I’d have to explain it all to him. And I can’t…..I mean…..I don’t know.” After a pause, I tell her, “Well, I do know. I’m just embarrassed to say it.”
“I think it would be good if you could try to say it,” she says softly.
“I know. I know. I just….ugh. How do I ever explain..I mean…it’s like….ugh!”
Bea lets it go for the moment, and we talk about Hagrid and his goofy antics for a few minutes. “He’s just so cute,” she tells me. I agree.
I’m feeling calmer when I blast of bravery hits me. “I’m afraid to tell him….I mean….why it was okay….why I could…..with him….I mean……I’d have to explain that I wasn’t…..that I wasn’t here, before, when…..”
“You would have to explain to him that you weren’t really present when you were having sex before?” She is so good at figuring out my messy fill in the blank sentences.
I nod. “Yes. And I feel like that is really hurtful. Because what guy wants to hear that their wife was only able to…….because she was gone? I mean….ugh. And then to go on and explain that now I’m more present and it’s making me freak out? That just seems so hurtful.”
“Well, yes, it could be seen that way. It could be hurtful. But if it’s explained as this is so normal– because it is really normal given your history– and that you are just at a tricky in between place in your therapy, I think it could be understood as normal and okay and not hurtful.”
I shake my head. I’m feeling really annoyed with her. She’s not getting how hard the would be. “If you were me, and you had to tell your husband these things, how would you ever do it? Wouldn’t that be really hard?” I don’t need Bea to be therapist Bea, I need her to be fellow human Bea, and to really get this.
She doesn’t respond right away. At first I wonder if she is upset, if I had been snappier than I thought, but then I realize she is just thinking it over. Finally, she answers, and I can tell she has truly out herself in my position, and thought out how she would approach this with her husband.
“Thank you.” I whisper the words to her, grateful she took the time to really see, to understand as much as she can. “Also….I guess I feel like I don’t really trust him, in some ways. Because every time we have a good moment, he screws it up big time, and I let myself think things changed, but then…..”
“That change isn’t sustained, and it hurts.” She’s right. That’s exactly it. “I think if you can break this down, into small steps, and give him something concrete, he can do it. Guys like to fix things, and we’ve seen before how he is very good with concrete things. And I wonder if working on this with him, and experiencing him as safe, if that will help with trust.”
I’m set to argue with her, I want her to be wrong. Instead, I swallow my words, because I know she is possibly right, and tell her another concern I have. “I don’t know if he can handle this. I mean…I can’t do this on my own. I need him to help me with…..being present and the feelings….like….” I’m feeling really vulnerable, but I say it anyway, “like you….with this…..I couldn’t have worked on being present and feelings if you didn’t help.” I hide my face then. It’s sort of silly, because clearly, her job description is to help, but this is as close as I’ve ever come to admitting needing her without screaming that I don’t want to need her.
Thankfully, Bea doesn’t respond to the my needing her aspect of what I’ve said. She stays really neutral, actually. “I think he could do that. He’s shown that he can in other ways. My big thing is that I want to make sure he knows, that he understands you aren’t crazy. I think he needs a lot of psycho-education so he can understand how normal this is.”
“I know. He just won’t read any of the books I got him.”
“It would be helpful of you had a third party to explain it to him,” she says carefully.
“I know. I just…I can’t….it…” I feel bad, because I’m trying to tell her I don’t want him here, or them talking, even if I am here. In a way, it feels like if I allowed him into my therapy space, I’d be saying everything that happened was okay. And I can’t do that.
“It might not feel safe to bring him here after the emails. That would make sense. If that were the case, maybe you guys could see a different therapist together,” she tells me. I feel like her voice is carefully neutral, like she is not wanting to upset me.
“Then I’d have to tell someone else….trust them…..I can’t do that. It be so much easier to bring him here. I can’t do that, either.” I want to scream out of frustration. I really need it to be safe to bring him here, but it doesn’t. As I’m writing this now, I wonder if it has to do more with hubby than Bea. She and I worked though it, but hubby doesn’t even know I found and read the emails. We haven’t worked through it.
We run through different ways of talking to hubby. Bea suggests that keeping things very clinical, no feelings might feel safer to me, but she acknowledges that it would be really good if he could hear the feelings and the personal, to really understand how this is effecting me. I really feel like he needs to know the feelings. In the end, I decide that I’ll write a letter, and Bea can add in psycho-education where it is needed.
We move on to talk about other things. “Were you going to email me the list of words?” She asks.
“Well, I was….I couldn’t. It’s too embarrassing.”
“Words can be powerful triggers. And I’m not comfortable with all words, either. As you saw last week.” She laughs at herself, and I smile.
“I know, I just….it’s ugh! They are just words. They shouldn’t be this big a deal. I just…it’s crazy how much words can effect me…..” My face feels hot, and I suspect it is bright red.
“It’s really normal to have words be triggers. It’s okay. But I think we can work on it.”
“It’s not even those words though. I mean, like I had to ask you to use a different word on Thursday! I felt like such an idiot.”
“You mean pleasure?” She asks nonchalantly.
“Well, that should go on the list, too. Any word that is a trigger, should go on the list. We can work on it. Maybe you can get out the list, and we can each write out a copy to make a matching game. I really see this as being something that could be quite light hearted and comical. It will be okay.” She says.
“I just…..I know. It’s just really hard.”
“Maybe we start with just a few words, then. Or we use the least triggering. We will figure it out as we go.” I’m always amazed at her willingness to work with me and come up with ideas to help. Often, I too embarrassed or feel too silly to try them, but I’m getting better about it. The grown up part of me needs therapy, sure, but it’s really the little girl part that struggles with things the most. And often times, I feel like the ideas Bea has are for a child, which is maybe why they are idea that are able to feel okay to the little girl. I don’t know.
“Okay.” I shrug.
“Did you want to try doing the safe space exercise on Thursday? I kind of forgot we were going to try it today.” She swivels in her chair, and I can see her feet moving. She’s wearing striped socks today.
“Yeah, okay.” I’m hesitatent, but I do want to try it. I rack my brain for where my safe space could be. Where have I felt safe, and protected and truly okay? I feel a bit panicky, because I can’t think of anything. And then my room at my grandparents pops into my head, along with the woods and gardens and greenhouse surrounding their home. I feel better. I have a space besides a closet. I have a safe space to use.
“There’s other exercises we can do, too. One that I haven’t offered to you is the personal space exercise. But we could try that one day, if you felt like it.”
I look at Bea, curious about how the exercise works. “What is it?”
“Well, with kids, I’ve had them draw out their personal space with yarn, and I draw out mine. Then we practice going in and out of each other’s personal space. With adults, I usually have them define the space with their hands, and then we see what it feels like to have me step into the space, or what it is like to have me put a hand into the space. And then, we usually do something where I step into the space, and you psychically push me out of your space. That’s hard for a lot of people. To push me out.”
I’ve been feeling farther and farther away as she is talking, and anxiety is growing in my stomach. I can’t do this. I can not do that exercise. “I….I don’t…not now. I’m not saying never, but not now.”
“That feels like a lot, doesn’t it?” She asks me.
I nod my head. It really does. I know Bea is okay with people in her space, because I’ve seen my kid climb all over her. And we have even stood close enough to hold a whispered conversation about Kat. But I’m in a totally different mind set then. This feels like a lot.
“I’ve had people who don’t expect it to be triggering, and then it is. This exercise can be very triggering. With you, we could break it down into steps. Maybe we could start by even sitting on the floor, and using the blankets to define our personal space–you’d have a bigger boundary– and we could just talk about what it’s like to have that space defined. We wouldn’t have to do anything else.”
“Maybe….maybe…that sounds better. So maybe.” Writing this out now, I’m thinking maybe we can sit there and color while we talk.
I don’t remember how we wrapped things up, but when I left, I was okay. I went home and later that night I wrote a letter to hubby. I wrote everything I wish I could tell him, and maybe more. I’m a little afraid the letter is too much, and will overwhelm him and crush me if he can’t be what I need, after making myself so vulnerable. I’m half planning on giving it to him tomorrow night so that if it doesn’t go well, I’ll see Bea in the morning. I sent it to Bea to get her input. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m sure I will.