I need him to be wrong 

I had a bit of a breakdown. Not in the traditional sense, but in the way I do breakdowns and falling apart. It started when Bea asked a simple question, way back in November. Things had been messy and up and down for a while, really since my brother’s wedding, and as we talked about the mess, I curled up and hid, in that way I do. I began to tell Bea that I couldn’t do this, couldn’t do any of it, and that it didn’t matter anyway. 

When she asked me what “it” was, I had no answer, and told her again, “it doesn’t matter.” Then she asked why. And my world crashed in upon itself. Frustrated, terrified, full of panic, I shouted at Bea, “why? Why? Because he can do whatever he wants. He can do whatever he wants, and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop him. It doesn’t matter what I do. I can’t keep the scary out, he can do whatever he wants and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop it.” 

That is where is started. 7 weeks later, there has been a lot of up and down. There was a lot of miscommunication, and hurt feelings and being stuck. January 2, I was ready to quit, to walk away and be done. Instead, I went against my instincts and emailed Bea. That started a line of communication, it gave Bea a way in, past the hardened crust of perfection, and it gave me a way out from behind the facade. It was hard. So hard. It was terrible, and excruciatingly vulnerable feeling, and so much shame wrapped up with all of it. But we talked it through, in several sessions, and email. And that brings us to today. 

I obviously haven’t been doing great, I’m struggling a lot to be present and not overwhelmed, and these days it feels as if triggers are everywhere. No where really feels safe. At my session on Monday, we talked more about what had occurred over the month of December, my feeling that Bea had left me, that she just didn’t want to deal with me— which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I sent an email later to touch base, because we had discussed so much and it felt as if so much has happened, I really needed to know that we were on the same page. She confirmed that yes, that covered everything, and we were on the same page.

It’s Wednesday morning, so I drop Kat off at school, and head to Bea’s office. I didn’t sleep much again last night, and I am so, so tired. I am in a hurry to get to her office, to see her. I’ve felt so alone and in so much turmoil the last 7 weeks, it is a relief to feel that she is a safe person again. I’ve been on the edge of tears since around 5:00am this morning. As I’m driving, Bea sends a text, warning me the stairs are slippery, she wants me to be careful. I text back a smiley face, feeling warm and cared for (although I probably wouldn’t admit that to Bea).

When I get to her office, I hurry up the stairs and pause outside the door to remove my boots. It snowed earlier this week, and yesterday the weather warmed up and the snow melted away, turning everything a wet muddy mess. 

“Hey, come on in.” Bea stands up, and opens the door all the way. “I’m just going to go warm my tea while you get seated.” 

I can hear her in the other room, putting her tea in the microwave and turning it on. Her office is warm, and safe. It feels sort of homey and cozy to have her in the next room, warming up tea and chatting with me. 

“The porch isn’t slippery anymore just really wet,” I call to her. 

“Oh good, I’m glad,” she calls back, and we chat easily until she is back in the office, and sits in her chair. 

“Okay,” I say as I’m pulling out my phone, “I don’t want to spend the whole session talking about Kat, I’m not avoiding things or doing that distract you with Kat talk, we just need to talk about her for a minute. We are ending ABA this month, the last day is going to be January 31. She wants to be with her peers, at school. It was her choice to end things even sooner than planned.” 

Bea is excited for Kat, for her progress, for me. I’m happy about this change. I honestly never thought Kat would choose to be with her peers. It’s amazing. I’m thankful Bea isn’t trying to make this a thing about transitions, about things changing, about losing support. It’s a good thing in my world and I’m glad she is able to recognize that. 

Once that is out of the way, she asks me where I want to start. I shrug. Even if I have things on my mind or writing to share, it’s hard for me to figure out how to answer that; it’s almost like it’s too open ended of a question. 

“Well, In your email, the thing that stuck out the most to me was the last paragraph. But I want to make sure there isn’t something else that needs to be addressed from your email, or otherwise. That’s all, that’s why I am asking.” 

“Oh. No….we can start with the email, that’s good.” I’m sitting up, one leg tucked under me right now. I’m comfortable, I’m glad that Bea feels safe again. 

“I wanted to make sure you knew that there wasn’t anything bad about anything you said. I wrote that I wanted to talk about this paragraph so you would know I wasn’t discounting it, that I did want to talk about it all, it was just too much to type. Because it’s important. What you said here, I think about it, and I want to die (and no, I am not going to do anything, everything I said before in regards to safety is still very much a factor). I think that is just how huge those feelings are, or maybe they are feelings from the little girl, maybe these out of control feelings made her feel like she would die back then and so I hid the truth from myself so I could grow up. And now, all these feelings are mixed up, me, teen, little girl feelings of horror at the truth. I feel like I’m going to be talking about this for a long time. This is it, exactly it. You are very right about all this. That’s what trauma is. That little girl couldn’t face the feelings of being out of control, they really did make her feel like she was going to die. So she tucked those feelings away. She was really smart, and so brave, because she knew she had to tuck all those feelings away so that she could grow up, and function. And she did grow up. That’s the healthy adult part of you, right? But there are those other parts, and the little girl, who held onto that truth all those years. She held it for a long time, but she doesn’t have to hold it anymore. It really was that awful back then, but it’s not like that now. She’s not alone now, and she has power now.” 

“It’s still so horrible,” I whisper.

“Yes, it still feels horrible. And it is mixed up and confusing because all those parts of you are working to understand this.” 

I’m more curled up now, but I’ve managed to stay sitting up. I keep covering my face with my hands, moving them away, covering it again. I move my hands halfway down, so I’m peeking out over the top of them, “This is so hard.” 

“It is hard. It’s very all encompassing right now, I know. And, you are right that we will be talking about this for a long time, because this– the realization, working to make sense out of it, to be able to function with that knowledge– this is the work.” 

I’m sort of going between not here and here. It’s a lot of work to not just go all the way away. It’s what I want to do. 

“Can I say something that is a little bit thinky?” Bea asks. “You can say no, that’s okay.” 

I’m grateful for the reminder that it is okay to say no, but I tell her, “I think so. I think that is okay.” 

“In SP, we talk about separating out the core definers. So, right, in this, it’s everything, right? It’s thoughts and emotions and physical feelings?”

I nod. I’m listening, and I’m not feeling a sense of Bea leaving. This feels more like she is working with me to find a way to unravel this a bit, to find a starting place. 

“So, maybe we start with the thoughts that come up, or the feelings, the emotions. We could also start with the body feelings, but that can feel triggering for you, so it may work better to start with thoughts or emotions.” She explains. And she sounds like Bea, like regular, with me in this Bea. 

I don’t say anything right away. I just sit and go a little farther away that I had been. It’s really hard to separate things out, and finding words to describe the feelings is really hard, too. “Maybe…..thoughts?”

“Sure, yeah, that’s a great place to start. We can also just be here, together, sitting with all of this. We don’t have to start anywhere or do anything.” Her voice is gentle, and she sounds so okay with whatever I choose. 

I sit there, quietly for a while, fighting back the tears I’ve been fighting since early this morning. “I think…I think everything….there’s so many……it’s a lot more……I think everything is a trigger. I can’t sleep. I can’t lay down in my own bed.”

“Mmmhhhmm,” Bea does her verbal nod thing, because I have rested my head on a pillow sitting on the arm rest of the sofa, and I’ve wrapped my arms around my head, effectively hiding. “You don’t feel safe in your bed right now.”

“No…I don’t.” My voice is soft as I agree with her. 

“Is it falling asleep, staying asleep? What happens?” 

“I….I..I just can’t relax. I can’t relax to fall asleep. I can’t lay down, that’s a flashback right then. I just stay up until I literally can’t keep my eyes open any more, and then I just fall asleep. Two hours, three hours later it’s a nightmare.” 

“Do you try sleeping sitting up? What about hubby? Is he in bed, too? Does that help you feel safer?”

Without thinking, I blurt out, “No, I don’t (and then I caught myself, thought about editing what I was saying but chose to finish my words the way they had started, because I’m trying this new thing of being more honest with Bea and not hiding who I am or what I think or feel) want him there!” 

“Ahhhhh. So having him there isn’t creating that sense of safety.” 

“No. Nothing’s safe.” Now I’m crying, and I’m annoyed with myself for crying. “Everything is changed. It changes everything. I can’t….he didn’t…” I shake my head. 

“This is a big deal, and it changes a lot of everything. I was thinking though, likely there was a side of Kenny— if you think of internal family systems, so parts, not exactly like your parts, not as separate as your parts, but just the parts that we all have– that did care about you, or didn’t want to hurt you.” Her voice is quiet and soothing. She’s remembering how I was so upset by the idea he didn’t care at all that he hurt me. 

“I….I need him….to be…..” I start and stop a few times, tripping over the strangeness of the words. “I need him to be wrong.” 

“Oh, he was wrong! He was very wrong. He was old enough to know right from wrong and what he did to the little girl was very, very wrong!” Bea is very adamant sounding, and there is a bit of….I’m not sure, it’s not happiness, exactly, but more like she is glad that I am saying these words. 

“I….it needs to be…..I need it to be cut and dried. I….I need him to be…..it just needs to be simple!” I’m falling over these thoughts, and getting twisted up, and the words are alien and frightening to say aloud. 

“It is. It is simple. I’m hearing that this is really important, for it to be cut and dried. Can I hear more about that? What do you need him to be?” 

I try to tell her, and the words freeze in the back of my throat. Clearing it, I find new words. “Why is it what I can feel as if I’m screaming in my head, and yet I can’t say a single word?” 

“I’m not sure. I wonder that, too. I’ve always though it has to do with not having a voice for so very, very long. Is the screaming angry? Or more like wanting to be heard?”

“It’s not angry.” I tell her. 

“So wanting to be heard? If I think of screaming to be heard, it feels like desperation to me.” 

I nod. Yes. Yes. That is is. I feel desperate to be heard, because this…..it needs out. 

“Okay. Then we wait. I’m right here, and I’m ready to listen whenever you are able to speak. You will be heard, okay?” Somehow, she knows exactly what I need to hear. 

Tears come again, and this time they are frustration and fear and relief that Bea is here, all rolled into one. 

“We can sit with the feelings, and just be here, okay?” She asks me. 

I nod. Okay. 

“While we are sitting, can we see what we can do to help you feel safer? I think creating a sense of safety, finding that again, is going to be really important right now.”  

“I can try.” My voice is tiny. 

“I’ve noticed that as we have been talking, you are really curling into yourself. You are really needing to feel safe right now. You know what you need, your body knows it needs safety. So I’m thinking how can we help add more safety in? I could turn around, not be looking at you. Or maybe you would like a blanket, that can feel very safe.” She is speaking with that slow, quiet voice that I sometimes think of as the ‘don’t spook the crazy girl’ voice, except when she sounds like this it is soothing, and comforting and feels very genuine.  

I want to say a blanket, but I feel stupid, so I say nothing.

“A blanket, that weight, having a boundary that can be seen and felt can feel very safe. For a long time, I kept a blanket at my therapist’s office. I used to hide under it all the time. And, we don’t have to do anything. Just sitting here, knowing you aren’t alone, that can feel safe, too.” 

Because she told me she has hidden under a blanket in her own therapy, I feel less silly, less crazy, wanting a blanket to hide under. “Maybe…..maybe try a blanket.” 

“Okay. I’m going to get up to get a blanket, okay?” Because my head is down, she warns me that she is going to be moving around her office. 

When Bea steps near me, she simply holds the blanket up, the way you might hold a sheet up for a person to change behind. I can easily sit up to grab the blanket from her and remain hidden. I pull the blanet over my head, and curl back up. “Thank you,” I whisper. 

“You’re welcome. Anytime you want a blanket, that is what they are there for. Did you want me to turn around?”

“No….no, because it…even though I won’t see you….it….just no.” 

“Because it would feel like I left?” She puts the pieces together easily. 

“Yes.” I admit it, because I’m trying that whole ‘be honest and stop editing’ thing with Bea. 

“Okay. That’s that attachment piece, it is important, and you do need it. I’m just sitting down and I’m facing you,” she says. “Let’s see if we can establish some safety. Maybe you can feel that is is warm under the blanket? And no one can see you, and I’m right here, making sure that no one can get past that blanket. You are safe now. Can you feel that having a blanket makes a boundary?” 

We sit together with that for a few moments. I feel hidden and safer than I have felt in months. I’d really like to stay right here, in Bea’s office, with her keeping watch, me hidden in a blanket, and sleep for a few hours. These are exactly the thoughts I work so hard to never allow to surface or take form– even just in my own head. “I need things to be cut and dried,” I say, “Because……because well…..I need him to be…….” I’m stuck again, unable to let the words out. 

“Well, we know you need him to be wrong, and he was so, so wrong. What else does he need to be?” 

“I……I need him to be wrong, and I need him to be…….” Instead of words, sobs erupt from deep inside. 
“I know it is so important to you to get the words out. It’s okay to let the feelings out, too.” 

It’s a back and forth struggle now, stopping the tears, trying to get the words out, and crying again when the words don’t come. Through it all, Bea is there. There is this sense from her that she is in no rush, that she isn’t trying to get us anywhere, that we can stay right here until I can get it out. That feels safe, too. And so finally, the words come, all in one big rush. “I need him to be wrong. I need him to be bad. I need it to be his fault, all his fault right now because if…if I have to feel this out of control and be my fault, I can’t do it, it’s too much, it’s all too much, I can’t do if, and it needs to be his fault. He needs to be bad.” Then I burst into tears. 

“Oh! Oh! That is too much, way too much. This is not your fault. It is all his fault. He was wrong. He is the one who is bad. Not you, never you. He did bad things, and he was wrong. It’s not your fault at all. Oh, that would be so much, just too much. You can’t be at fault for your own trauma.” Bea is full of compassion and empathy, but also sounds just horrified at the thought I was feeling so out of control and to blame. 

I’m not 100% sure it’s as simple as I am making it out to be, I’m still pretty sure I hold some responsibility, but right now, I need it to be simple. I need it to be all his fault, his wrong, because he is all bad. 

“He hurt me. He was wrong and he hurt me,” I feel whiny, and sad and a little bit mad. 

“He did hurt you. He hurt you and he was very, very wrong. It was his fault. All the blame is on him.” She tells me. 

“But nobody came. He was hurting me, and nobody came to stop it. And he hurt me and I couldn’t stop it, I couldn’t do anything, not anything at all.” I’m crying, and farther away than I’ve been all session. In my head, I keep hearing the r word, but I can’t say it. 

“No, you couldn’t stop it. But you know what? That little girl, she was so smart, and so brave, she knew she could go far, far away in her head and feel safe. So that’s just what she did. And the little girl grew up, and when she felt safe enough, she was able to tell her most awful secrets, because she survived. That little girl is safe now. It’s okay to let it out. No one can ever hurt her again. She’s safe now.” Bea tells the story— a very short version, obviously– with me being smart and brave. That’s crazy to me. I can’t wrap my head around it. 

We sit, and talk, not surface stuff, but not as deep as what we had been working with. We somehow get on the topic of the last month. I think I said I wished I had just told her what was wrong, how bad I felt. But we ended up discussing the stuck and trapped feeling again. 

I’m not sure who started the conversation, but when Bea says something about feeling helpless, during that time, I’m struck by how bad I feel about that. I’m not sorry for how how things happened, I’d do them differently, if I had a do-over, but I can’t change it and the last month brought me here, to this more open and honest place. “I didn’t mean to make you feel helpless,” I say softly. 

“I know.” 

“I would never mean to make another person feel like that.” I can’t let it go. 

“I know you wouldn’t. You aren’t a person who wants to strike out at others when you feel bad. You turn all of the upset on yourself. But feeling that helpless feeling, feeling like I was stuck and couldn’t do anything to get past that wall of okayness you had built, that needed to happen. Because when I took a step back, and went to the thinky place, I could see that these helpless, stuck, trapped feelings, they weren’t about me. They were about you. They were your feelings. When I can step back like that and see that you were sharing your feelings with me in the only way you could at that moment, then I picture myself as a big Bea container, holding all of those feelings so you aren’t alone with them.” 

“Okay.” I smile a little bit. I think that sounds sort of nice. A big Bea container holding all the yucky scary stuff with me. At first I felt like she was placing a barrier between her and I– as in, this is my job, to hold this stuff for you, I am the shrink and you are the patient– but then I realized that Bea has never behaved or spoken like that, and I was being silly. And then I thought of how I sit with Kat in her feelings, and how I do my very best to contain her huge feelings when she is having a melt down, and really, the only reason I can do that is because Bea modeled it for me, and because I care about Kat. So I conclude that she cares, because you can’t fake your way through this. 

We talk about sleep and nightmares. Bea says she knows I know this, but she wants to just remind me of the grounding techniques that help, like naming 5 things I can see, and looking in the mirror to remind myself that I’m grown, or using scents to help ground. 

“I still have vanilla on my nightstand. I never stopped those tricks….I just….” I shrug. 

“What about turning on a light?” 

I feel my face redden. “I’ve been sleeping with the lights on. I don’t want to be in the dark.”

“Understandable. You need to do whatever helps you feel safe. What about Hagrid? Is he still sleeping in your bed?” 

“Yeah. He helps. But it’s like I can’t even…..I’m trapped. I wake up, still in the nightmare and I can’t think enough to even do anything to ground to get out of it.” 

“That sounds really scary, to wake up like that. Do you know how you get out of it? Because you do get out of it. You aren’t trapped forever.” Her voice is curious and gentle, a soft reminder that I’m not still in my nightmare. 

“Maybe it ends? I don’t know. I just….it stops enough that I’m not so trapped. But,…”

“But what?” 

“Then I end up doing things I’m not supposed to do.” I whisper the words, afraid I’m disappointing her, afraid she will be angry. 

“Well, my first thought was to say, ‘Alice use your CARES worksheet.’ But then, I think that’s not what you need right now. You are using the tools you developed to feel safe. That’s what this is about; feeling safe. And so you are doing what you need to do right now. I think that is okay, because this is so big, it is such a shift you are working towards, it’s going to be very unsettling and as long as you are safe– and you know where my concerns lie– then this is okay right now. We can work on this, it is okay. And I accept this part of you, too. This part of you is very smart, and creative, to have found tools that work to make her feels safe. Sometimes using those tools meant she could go to school and learn, or it meant she could attend a social function and not be full of fear. Those things were important. This part of you worked hard at making sure you felt as safe as she could make you. That is important work. And now, we can work to create safety and build some new skills, and that part, she can still use her creativity to help find new ways to cope. It is okay, where you are at just now is okay.” 

“Okay,” I whisper. I believe her. I’m relieved, she’s not disappointed in me. 

We sit together, and it’s quiet but Bea is there, and I’m there– hiding under my blanket– and I’m calming down a little more. Every once in a while, she murmurs some reassurance, that she is there and I am safe, and it is okay to be where I am and feel what I feel and that we have all the time we need to work through this. 

“Those little micromovements, the shaking in your legs, try to let those happen, if you can. Can you feel them? That they are releasing some stress and tension?”

I hadn’t noticed until she pointed it out. I’m still so disconnected from my body, it’s as if things are back to how they used to be, ever since I danced with him at my brother’s wedding. “No….I can’t. I can’t do this. I just can’t. Stop. Stop it. I need this to stop.” I start to cry.

“Okay. Okay. We don’t have to notice anything. Let’s go back to that calm space, where we are okay. We can just sit, and feel safe under the blanket, and no one can get through that blanket. It’s a strong boundary, you are safe, and I’m out here, right here, making sure you are safe.” 

I keep crying. 

“We have almost 20 minutes to just be in the space, to feel that sense of safety.” Bea says softly. 

“Okay. Okay,” I sniffle. 

“And we can let those feelings out, too. That’s okay to do, too.” Her voice feels safe, and I can feel myself starting to relax a little bit. I don’t feel so on edge, it’s not like I need to be on guard. Bea can keep watch for a little bit. I’m safe right now, with her there. 

When there’s maybe 5 minutes left, Bea says, “I’m going to go make another cup of tea, and use the restroom, so you can have some time. Is that okay?” 

“It’s okay,” I confirm. It’s easier to sit up and come out from under the blanket when I don’t feel as if Bea is watching me. By the time she comes back, I’ve folded the blanket and righted the sofa pillows. 

“I’ll see you later today, with Kat, right?” Bea asks. 

I hand her the blanket. “Yes. We’ll be back at 2:30.” I can’t look at her, and she is being very gentle with me, and understanding of that.

She reminds me she is here and that I am safe, and I risk a glance at her. She’s fhe same Bea, looking at me the way she always looks at me; there is no disgust or annoyance or anything negative in her gaze. I look away quickly, and mumble goodbye.

Things aren’t better, exactly, but they aren’t worse, either. And I don’t feel so alone now. Maybe this truly is a time where the only way out is through. 

 

I couldn’t stop it (11/30/16)

I walk into therapy, and right away, as I’m getting settled, I talk about Kat and school and our first Girl Scout meeting. I’m desperately trying to pretend away this sense of dread, and feeling of panic I have. I tell Bea how amazing Kat is doing, and great is was to see her interacting socially with girls she had never met before. I tell her how it was, being the troop leader. I’ve never done anything like that before, but I had a blast. 
Thankfully, I have a co-leader, who seems very comfortable when it comes to dealing with the parents. That was the one thing I was unsure about— I don’t ever feel comfortable taking a position of authority or being the “expert” over my peers. Mostly because I often feel like a 5 year or a teen, I don’t feel as if my peers are really my peers. I’m much more comfortable with kids; the little girl part of me connects with them really well. 

Today Bea won’t let me spend the entire session talking about surface stuff. I’d sent a series of emails Monday and Tuesday, and had spent the last 36 hours in a hypervigilant, panicky feeling state. 

“Okay, I’m going to find your email and just read through it really quick to get back in that headspace.” Bea transitions us to talking through the email I had sent the day before.

“Sorry….I’m sorry.” I mumble, covering my face with my hands. 

“Why sorry? Nothing to be sorry about. Needing that transition time, that’s why we have 90 minute sessions. We have time built in.” It’s no big deal, she’s saying. 

“Because I won’t stop talking.” I bury my face, mortified.

“No that’s not it at all! We have the time because that time is important for building safety, for helping you feel safe enough to drop some of those defenses you need to get through your day to day life.” She corrects me and sounds firm, as if she wants to make sure I don’t start thinking badly of myself for needing that extra time. 
Bea begins to go through my email, reading it to herself, and responding as she reads. 

“I wondered– as I was saying that about the feeling impatient, annoyed— in the back of my mind, I wondered how that was sounding to you. I wasn’t talking about you, I have never felt that towards you. I do check in with myself, see how I am feeling, but it never has come up with you. Even at times when you are stuck, or avoiding things, it’s so obvious to me why you would be stuck or why your defenses would be needed at those times. You work hard in therapy and this is hard stuff. You can’t stay raw and open all the time. It would be way too much. I was talking more about people….it’s maybe people who……. they are in therapy because they know something is wrong, but maybe aren’t even sure what, and they are so defended, there is no getting through the walls they have built up, when I check in with myself and notice I am feeling impatient or annoyed with that person, then I know that maybe it is time to push against some of those walls, to challenge some of those defenses.”

“Okay.” 

“This is interesting. You say you didn’t notice anything, that there is nothing to notice, but then you noticed a whole bunch!” 

I think, maybe it’s that I have this idea that anything I’m noticing isn’t ‘right’ it isn’t what you are supposed to notice and get out of this exercise. 

“Even right away, when you are saying how you just kept thinking that it’s no big deal……..just a phone or a coffee cup you are thinking about picking up, those are your defenses, the it’s no big deal, this is silly. That is you using your mind to distract yourself.”

We talk about how reaching out is very, very hard for me. 

“And here you are looking at this reaching and touching from hubby’s point of view. When he grabs your hand, or puts an arm around you, how triggering is that? Is it triggering like distract yourself, or triggering like heart pounding, or triggering like go away?”

“I don’t know.” It comes out automatically. 

“I’m just wondering because knowing how triggering it is will help us to know where we might want to start with this, or what things we might want to try.” 

I sigh. “It’s……maybe it depends.” 

We sit in silence for a bit, and Bea finally asks if I can say more about that. She wonders what is it like when hubby holds my hand at the doctors office. “Maybe that isn’t so scary. You’ve had good touches in your life, too, so maybe that is a time when you remember your mom or dad holding your hand and comforting you at the doctors office. Do you have other times you can remember good touch, like cuddling with your mom?”

“No…..my parents aren’t touchy feely. My mom thinks it’s weird that I would snuggle up with Kat to watch movies or let her sleep in my bed. She’s good with babies, really little kids, being cuddly, but not so much with anything else.” 

“So maybe there isn’t a lot of memory there. What happens when hubby holds your hand? What is going on then?”

“It….if we are like, out walking and he grabs my hand, it’s just….I just distract myself. It’s not a big deal. But if like….I’m at the counter cooking and he comes up and hugs me or thinks he will run my shoulders it’s like……triggered in my head. Heart racing….like want to run away…..but of course I can’t do that. So I go away instead.” 

“So maybe when you are out for a walk, and hubby holds your hand you can notice how you are safe. And other times you could use the four steps to freedom— reminding yourself you are safe, that this is a reaction from a long time ago, that you are having a flashback, that sort of thing? Or maybe it’s too triggering to even do that. It’s just some things to play around with. To see what you notice, what helps or doesn’t help.” 

We talk about couples therapy and how that could have been helpful, and how hubby just hasn’t bothered to call and schedule and how I had asked twice so I’m done begging him to do things to help our marriage be better. 

“Okay, here you are talking about sending the email to me. You noticed you physically pulled back from the iPad and it was making you have that anxious sick feeling and that you had to go away to press send. You really feel very vulnerable reaching out. It’s hard for you to reach out.”

I nod. 

“But then you did reach out. You were able to send me the email.” She says.

“Yes. I just….have to pretend it doesn’t matter to me.” The interesting thing is, I have a great imagination, and can pretend away a lot of stuff. 

“I’m glad you sent it. I know it’s hard to reach out. Interesting that words are needed to feel not alone, that having no words means alone, when for so long you kept this secret and had no words. It’s a little confusing to me. I wonder if it means that in the last few years you have learned that using words and telling your story means someone can hear and understand? That it means someone can be there for you and that you have learned telling your story and being heard feels less alone to you?” Bea asks.  

“No……it’s like……words for anything. It’s like I need words to connect at all…..like hubby would be happy and feel connected if we were sitting next to each other watching a movie or each doing our own thing, but next to each other and that is like…..nothing to me. I need to talk.” I try to explain, but I’m not sure I’m doing a good enough job of making sense. 

“Ohhhhh….okay. I hear that from a lot of women. I think that is pretty normal.”

“Well…..it’s like a simple example I could think of. Like even when I was a kid, I needed to talk, I needed to talk and be heard. I would talk about anything and get in trouble for talking too much.” I say, trying to clarify it more. 

“Yes, okay, so talking was how you connected. It’s not trauma relayed, it’s attachment based, it’s how you feel secure in the world, by being heard.”

I nod. 

“So, I’m thinking attachment, and what are other ways we can communicate and connect? What are ways I see kids connect? Touch is one of the more obvious ones, I guess. But then I also see kids, they look up to see if their attachment person is paying attention. Some kids will act out, to get seen.” 

“That was never me,” I say. 

“No, I wouldn’t think so. Some kids go the other way, and might be very clever or very well behaved, to get noticed that way.” 

I nod. Maybe me. That’s more me than anything else. 

“All of the ways we use to get our attachment needs met as kids, well, I’d imagine they would be similar when we are adults. So, when you are needing words, maybe we can try other ways to connect, you can ask yourself how else you can get your needs met, or what it is you are needing that you aren’t getting because you have no words.” 

My first thought is that there is nothing if I don’t have words. Even though Bea has literally just listed out several other ways, that belief is so automatic I have to remind myself that she has listed out other ways. 

“The more I think about just how vital words can be, how they really can keep an anxious kid feeling connected, how much having words is an inherent part of who you are, the idea that you held that secret for so long is even more horrible. It’s no wonder everything bombarded you when you broke that silence.” 

I don’t say anything, but I think that maybe she does get it, my need for words. I’ve been upset and feeling overwhelmed for weeks, but it’s all come to a point where I can barely handle it. These last two weeks I’ve just wanted Bea to fix it. The little girl has been very much in control, and she has been wanting a grown up to make it better, to make all the hurt stop, to just fix it. I know, rationally, that Bea can’t just fix it, but that doesn’t stop me from being frustrated with myself for having no words, and with Bea for not being able to make it all better. I have this urge to just scream at her *Just help me. Help me.*

“Am I right that there is a lot going on internally, so much so that it is very overwhelming feeling, and it’s more than usually is going on, that there just aren’t words to go with what is happening?” She asks. 

I nod my head, just a little. 

“Okay. Can we try to define what type of things are going on internally? Feelings? Images? Emotions? Thoughts?” 
As Bea speaks, I let go of the breath I had been holding. She is trying to help me. She’s not abandoning me, leaving me alone in this. It’s not Bea on the outside, waiting for me to have words and connect with her, she is right here with me, trying to help me find the words I so desperately need.  “I don’t know.” 

“No words can be communication, too. If I was having lot of stuff going on internally but had no words, to me that would mean the things happening were too horrible, too scary, maybe too overwhelming, too sad, to put into words. Could having no words mean something for you?” 

I shrug. Maybe. I don’t know. 

“Try to focus on those feelings, if you can. See if anything comes up, if we can categorize these things,” Bea encourages. 

As we have been talking– or rather as Bea has been reading my words and talking– all the internal chaos has been stirred up, and I’ve gone from sitting upright, to curled up, knees bent princess style, my head down, resting on my arms. I try to sit with all the feelings, and I try to check in, to see if I can’t categorize this mess. 

After a while, I think, ‘it’s all of it.’ It’s emotions so strong I can’t sit with them, and so it’s hard to name them. It’s pictures, and thoughts, and I can hear his voice. I can feel things in my body. I want to tell Bea, to say that it’s all of it all rolled up together in a big giant bowling ball that is going to knock me down. I’m not sure if I manage to tell her anything at all. I’m really far away, so far away that I don’t even realize how far I’ve gone until much, much later. 

I’m crying and shaking my head, and it’s hard to breathe. 

“You’re really closed off. You really need to feel safe and protected right now.” Bea comments. “I wonder….when kids build walls, they build them for different reasons. Sometimes to keep something scary out, and sometimes to keep things in. I wonder which one your wall is for?”

I could build the tallest, biggest wall, and it still wouldn’t keep him out. I try and try, but nothing stops him. “It doesn’t matter,” I say. The words are disjointed, out of context, although they make sense in a way. 

“What doesn’t matter?” Bea asks softly.

Maybe I’m trying to keep the horror in my head inside. Maybe my walls are for keeping this awful stuff inside. Nobody needs to hear these things, or know them. Maybe my walls are to keep everyone out. People can’t hurt you if they can’t get inside the wall. Maybe my wall is to keep the little girl as safe as she can be. Maybe there is no such thing as safe. Maybe there never was. Maybe none of it matters. He can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and there is nothing I can do to stop it or change it. 

“What is ‘It’?” Bea questions gently. I’d forgotten she was there, and her voice makes me jump.

“Nothing. Nothing. There is nothing I can do. I’m doing everything wrong and it doesn’t matter.” I blurt the thoughts out before I can stop myself. 

Bea might be talking, I’m not sure. She might be asking me what it is that I can do nothing about, or she might be reassuring me I’m not doing anything wrong; she might be telling me that it is an old belief. 

Her voice breaks through the fog in my head eventually. “You are really needing to feel safe and protected, to be far away. Are you far away in a safe space? I can see how tight you are holding onto everything, to keep yourself safe.” 

“No! It’s not a nice place. It’s not a nice place at all,” and I begin to cry. 

“It’s not a nice place. It doesn’t feel good to be where you are,” she echoes. “Can you focus on your hands, on the fists they have made? They are holding on really, really tight.” 

I don’t say anything, but I’m listening. It doesn’t truly matter what Bea is saying, her voice equals safety to me, and it’s like having a rope to grasp onto. 

“Can relax some of the tension in your arms and shoulders? You are holding on so tight. I wonder what would happen if you just let go a little bit?” 

I shake my head. “Can’t.” 

“Because your frozen or because it doesn’t feel safe?” 

I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m really frozen in the way I usually am, but everything in me is screaming that I can’t let go, I can’t move, it’s not okay. Finally I whisper, “It’s not okay.”

“What about making things even tighter? Sometimes that can be a way to get some movement back, too. To go with what is already happening.” 

“No,” I say, and I sound like a stubborn toddler.

“Okay. That’s okay,” she is speaking in that soothing voice, the one I use with Kat when she is really hurt and upset. “Can you stay with the feeling in your shoulders? See if anything comes up or if your arms or hands want to do anything? Maybe an image or a thought will come up.” 

If I weren’t so far away, I’d probably be annoyed that Bea was bring SP into this, but as it stands, I’m not upset with her at all. (And a day later, I’m still okay with it. Having no words and being so far away, SP was maybe the only tool that was going to be of any use. And Bea felt like Bea, not like a shrink, which made all the difference.) So, I tried to pay attention to how my shoulders, arms and hands felt. I was surprised to feel my hands in fits, and how tensed up and locked my shoulders and arms were. I hadn’t noticed. 

“I can’t do this, I can not do this. I can’t do anything. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.” I’m whispering, talking fast, my voice blurred by tears and punctuated by gasps. 

“That begs the question, why?” 

“Why?” I’m incredulous. Shouldn’t she know? Isn’t it obvious? “Why doesn’t it matter?”

“Yes,” she responds simply. Or maybe she says more, and the words don’t register because I’m lost in this maze in my head and I can’t find my way out and he is going to come and there is nothing I am do, it doesn’t matter.

“Because! Because I can’t do anything to change it or stop it! I can’t stop it!” Oh my God, I can’t breathe, nothing is okay, there is no such thing as safe, why isn’t my mom here, I wish my mom would come save me, no one cares, I’m all alone, he is going to hurt me, oh my God, please just make it all stop. 

“You can’t stop it,” she says carefully, and then adds firmly, “You couldn’t stop it THEN. This is now. You are safe now. You survived and you are safe.” 

“No! Stop it! I’m not safe. I’m not okay. He’s just going to do whatever he wants. He can do whatever he wants and it doesn’t matter what I do, there is no such thing as keeping the scary out, he can do whatever he wants! I can’t do anything. It doesn’t matter. He is going to do whatever he wants and I can’t stop it!” I practically scream the words at Bea. Why isn’t she getting this? Why doesn’t she see? I’m terrified and he’s going to hurt me and she is not getting it and I’m so mad at her right now, if she would just get it, she could fix it, she could stop it. Why isn’t she getting it? Why won’t she stop it? 

“Yes! Yes! You found words!” Bea shouts back, but her voice is…..well, happy isn’t the right word, exactly…..maybe excited or proud? “You are safe and you have a voice! And you aren’t alone. You did it! You did it and you are safe. You’re safe now. It was awful, and scary and nothing you should have had to live through, but you did live through it, you survived and you are okay. You are here, in my office, with me, and you aren’t alone.” 

Bea’s voice somehow registers enough that I know it’s okay to let go and melt down, and so I do. I curl into the smallest ball I can manage, and sob. I’m shaking and crying, and I feel wildly out of control, and very, very young and very, very afraid. “He does what he wants and he’s hurting me and it doesn’t matter I can’t hide and I can’t stop him and I can’t do anything at all.” 

“It’s over now. You are safe. You’re safe now. You aren’t alone, and you have words, and I am here. You are safe now. It’s all over. It’s not happening now, no matter how much it feels like it is.” Her voice is a quiet comfort, soft and gentle. “Can I move my chair closer to you?” 

“Why? Why?” I feel as though I almost shriek the words. I’m freaked out. Why does she want to be near me? What does she want? 

“So you aren’t alone, so that I’m not so far away. It’s totally your choice. I just want you to know I am here.” She’s matter-of-fact about it, and I believe her that she just wanted to make sure I don’t feel alone. 

“O-okay,” I say, and my voice is shaky. I’m still crying, and hyperventilating off and on, trying to catch my breath.

Bea moves her chair next to me, and the moment I feel her nearer, I have this urge to sort of shout, ‘don’t touch me!’ My filter is still enough in place that I check myself, and hold the words in. A moment after the urge passes, I realize it’s silly. Bea has never just touched me, or sat nearer to me, without asking. Even at times when she has maybe thought holding my hand would help me feel less alone, she has only offered, and let me know that if I ever ask her to do so, she will hold my hand. 
I start to feel as though I’ve let go of a horrible, awful secret, like my biggest fear has been revealed, and the world didn’t end. My tears slow, and I manage to catch my breath. Bea talks softly, about nothing, just soothing words, letting me know I’m not alone, giving me that verbal connection I need in order to feel safe in the world. 

“I’m scared,” I whisper. 

“I know,” she says. “That was very scary to let go of.”

“I’m so, so scared.” 

“I know. It’s a really scary thing, to feel how little control you had. It’s very, very scary.” 

“I didn’t want it to be true,” I confide. 

“You really didn’t want it to be true. It was really important to you that it wasn’t true, it was so hard, and so scary to let go of the idea that it was just a fun game. I know how badly you didn’t want it to be true. I wish for you it wasn’t true.” Her voice sounds sad, I hear tears in it. Her tears somehow make mine more acceptable; it’s okay to be full grief over this, it’s emotional and it’s a lot. 

Eventually she gently tells me I need to come back to the room, that I’ve gone really deep into things, and it’s time to come back. She reminds me of my busy day, and talks about what she sees in the room. When she has the sense I’m back here, or at least in that here but not here place, where I can function, she says, “I’m going to move my chair back, so I’m not in your face when you sit up.” 

When I do sit up, I can’t look at her, and I wonder about what she had said earlier, how looking a child will look at their parents to see if they are looking at the child, to get attachment needs met. I wonder then, why looking at Bea and having her look back at me feels like being ripped open, like everything in me is being spread out for her to see. I stare at the floor, slipping on my shoes and grabbing my bag. I heard the downstairs door a few minutes ago, which means Bea’s next appointment is here. 

“This was a lot. I want to make sure you feel safe, that you know you are safe and not alone.” Bea says. 

I nod. “I’m fine,” I say. I’m always fine. 

“I wish we had a little more time; my ten o’clock is here,” she confirms what I had already been thinking. She doesn’t want me to leave here and not be safe, but she doesn’t sound scared or panicked, just caring. “If you need to talk more, you can email or call. Okay?” 

I nod. Fine, okay. I’m fine. 

“This is a day for self care. Be gentle with yourself today, okay? Go get a coffee, relax. If you want you can sit out in the other room, as long as you need, okay?” 

“Okay. I’m okay.” 

“I’ll see you later today, okay? With Kat,” she reminds me. 

“I’ll see you later,” I echo, as I walk out the door. I’ve managed not to look at her at all, and in a fog, I walk to my car. 
Wednesdays are busy. It’s not a bad day to have tough things come out in therapy, because after i leave Bea’s, I have non-stop distractions until I bring Kat back for therapy. Then I can hide in Bea’s waiting room, back in h safe space, knowing she is right there, and begin to sort through the crap that came out during my morning session. 

She’s still here and it’s okay to need her (11/14/16)

We talked about Kat, and about the election today. I will maybe write about that in another post, but it’s just too much to write, right now. The very significant part of my session was what followed the talk of the election, and feeling overwhelmed and like everything is too much. 
   ************************************************************************************************

“You can always email me or call me.” Bea is trying to reassure me that I’m. It alone this week, with hubby leaving today to go hunting. 

As she says this, I cover my face and hide. I don’t know why, exactly, but Bea telling me I can email or call her makes me feel sad, or maybe hurt. I shake my head and cry a little. I try to say but I can’t, and the words won’t come out. 

Bea talks about how with hubby being gone for so many days, she can see how that would feel alone. She asks me if I have plans for the days he is gone and I shake my head. Cheerfully, she says, “This is your thing, this is what you are good at! Scheduling yourself!” 

I shake my head, and moan, “But that’s what feels so out of control. I can’t even make a schedule right now, and I always have had that to fall back on. Everything is a mess.” 

“Okay. If it is too hard to schedule things like you usually do, let’s just plan your evening how I do it. Tell yourself, maybe I will go to the pool today. Or, maybe we will watch a movie tonight. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. It’s just a plan, so,you can feel safer, so the day has some element of choice or control to it. It’s okay to not have a fully scheduled, down to the minute, plan.” 

“Maybe,” I say. 

“I’m finding myself wanting to rescue you, to keep this week from feeling out of control, to take away all the bad feelings, to protect you from feeling this. But that’s not helpful to you in the long run. I can’t rescue you from these feelings. If I could go back and rescue the little girl, I would.” 

“You can’t rescue me……and you don’t need to. But maybe….it’s nice to hear you want to. Like feeling taken care of or feeling safe or not alone?” I’m not sure how to explain it to her. I just know that hearing she wants to rescue me feels real to me, and it feels like she really cares. 

“You aren’t alone. I’m right here, and this week I am just an email or phone call away.” She is trying to reassure me, and instead her statement has me bursting into tears. “Something touched a nerve. What happened?” She asks gently.

I have my face buried in my hands and my blanket scarf, but I’m still trying to stay more upright so I can be a *good* client. (It’s crazy, I know, but I’m overly paranoid about anything that might turn Bea shrinky again.) I shake my head and cry. “I…..I….” The trouble is, I don’t know why this is upsetting me so much, “I….you said I can email or call…….” I know that is what upset me, but I don’t know why. 

“Yes, yes I said you can email me or call me this week– any week. It just seemed a reminder that it is okay might be a good thing.” 

“It doesn’t FEEL okay. I can’t…I just can’t. I…..I know what you said, but I can’t email or call. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I shouldn’t be upset about this.” I’m crying so hard it’s sort of amazing Bea can understand what I’m saying. 

“Do you want to come in? You can come in then, if email or phone doesn’t feel okay. All you have to do is ask,” she says lightly. 

“I can’t. I can’t ask for what I need!” 

Bea waits a moment, and when all I do is sob, she says, “This is okay, it is okay to email or call or come in. I’m thinking you are feeling the vulnerability in reaching out. Is that maybe right?” 

I slowly nod. “If I email….or call…..or ask to come in…………and you…….I………if you aren’t……” 

“If I’m not there, it’s worse than if you never reached out at all?” 

“Yes…..it’s so much worse. And I can’t do it. I can’t handle that.” I tell her. 

“I am okay, and I am here. This is just a normal week, so while some nights I might work late, I’m here and I will respond.” Bea tells me. 

“I shouldn’t…..I shouldn’t need…….I mean, I should know you are there.” I say it in a tone that clearly says I am disgusted or annoyed with myself. 

“There’s no shoulds. I think it makes sense, that you would worry about me being there if you reach out. That time I wasn’t there, that was traumatizing. It hurt, a lot. I didn’t know, I should have realized, where you were in terms of attachment and how hard relationships feel to you and how scary it is for you to really trust another person to be there and care. My responding when I wasn’t really present or grounded, that was really scary and hurtful. It made it feel risky everytime you reach out to me now. I know that. I’ve been very aware of that since that time. I’m sorry I wasn’t aware of it before, I should have realized, and I am sorry that it hurt you.” She says all this in a caring, but matter of fact voice. She isn’t upset that I’m still struggling from that rupture. And she has noticed how hard it has made it for me to reach out. I often go between appointments with no outside contact because I’m unsure and unwilling to take that risk, and she has seen that, but she also wants me to know she is aware and being very careful to be fully there. And it’s true, but every email, and the few phone calls/text messages, she has responded to me from a *I am here and I am me* place. Usually, these kinds of conversations feel unbearable to me, but I feel oddly okay with this one. It is actually helpful because then I know that she has noticed and that she is wanting to reassure me that she is there. 

“I think I shouldn’t need this. I shouldn’t be this needy. I……I’m sorry…….I don’t know what is wrong with me.” 

“You are dealing with a lot. We’ve been working on this, all this trauma stuff for a while now, and Wednesday was the first time I’ve heard you say ‘he hurt me and I had no control’ and have that be a statement you were saying and not a question you were asking me. This is a big deal. It is a lot. It is very overwhelming and hard to face. Facing a little at a time, just like you have been trying to do is how this works. It will take some time. You shouldn’t have to do this alone. Part of my responsibility to you, part of that unspoken contract I have to you, is that I will support you. To me supporting you doesn’t mean just in session. Sure, for some people it might, but not for this deep kind of trauma work that is sending you back to scary places and feelings. It’s okay to need support.” 

“Maybe,” I whisper, tears still falling, but not as hard as they had been. 

“That’s good. A maybe is better than a no,” Bea tells me. 

We sit in silence for a few minutes, me working on stopping my tears and Bea just sitting with me. As I’m lifting my head out of my hands, and wiping my face, Bea nod her head towards my bag, asking, “Is that an Alice in Wonderland coloring book?” 

I nod. “Yeah. Kat and I have been coloring it in the mornings.” 

“Did you color the cover?” 

Pulling the book out of my bag, I say, “Yeah.” I hand it her, and motioning at the cover, “This is what I did this week.” 

“It’s beautiful.” She flips through the pages, I haven’t colored yet. “These pictures are beautiful. Where did you find this?” 

“Target or Meijers, I can’t remember now. I can bring it on Wednesday and we can color it,” I offer, shyly. 

“I don’t want to ruin your book,” Bea says. 

“It’s okay. Kat colors on it. I’m working on that perfectionistic stuff.” I shrug. Yes, it drives me nuts to have Kat color everything crazy colors, and not in the lines, and not how I see it in my head. But she loves coloring in Mommy’s special coloring book, and it’s not a big deal. It’s not like I’m framing these, and I can always buy another. 

“Should we make a coloring date, then?” Bea asks. 

I nod, slowly.  

“Okay, then. But I won’t color if you aren’t coloring,” she warns.

“Okay. I’ll color,” I say softly. 

By this time, I have sat up, scooted to the edge of the couch, and slipped my shoes back on. I stand up and say bye. I feel a little sad and overwhelmed, but also like it will be okay because Bea isn’t going anywhere.

“Bye…..I’ll see you Wednesday, but I’m here before then,” she reminds one last time. 

I nod, and head downstairs. There are still tears behind my eyes although I’m not really sure why. Once I’m on the road, heading home, I let those tears fall, too. There is a lot of grief inside me right now. 
 

Falling deeper down the rabbit hole……..

I’m so deep in this hole, I’m having trouble seeing how I will get out. Thankfully, because of my trauma, my mind created fragments, or parts. The human body is designed to adapt, to survive. Even our minds are made to adapt and survive. I’m not sure if I should be in awe of that or horrified. Maybe both. But my mind was determined to adapt and survive, and in my family growing up, I had to be able to function, to be be perfect and more than normal— I needed to be the all american, perfect, involved, popular, beautiful, smart, little girl, teenager, college student. So Bea has this theory that my mind split into extra parts; it created these “going on with normal life parts” to deal with things. It’s why I am so very, very good at switching from a complete mess to a smiling hostess, asking after a guest, in thirty seconds flat. It’s why I can shut off my emotions, get control of myself, and walk out of Bea’s office after an intense session, as if we just had tea and cookies. So, despite being so far down this hole, I can’t even see a light at the end of the tunnel, there is a part of me that is determined to survive. 

Now, I feel like I better put some trigger warnings in here, but for what exactly I’m not sure. I just know it has been a really terrible week and a half. I’ve used some not so awesome coping skills. I’ve had some not so good thoughts about how to make it all go away. I’ve had a lot of nightmares and confusion over the abuse and what really happened and what it all meant, and as shamed as I am over it all, I’m so tired of being afraid and alone with it all. So, I’m going to write and write and write, and I’m not going to edit myself. I’m going to let it be raw and authentic and me. Because that was why I started this blog, to have a place to be truly, authentically me. I’ve been blessed to have found a community of bloggers who accept me. I don’t have to hide anymore (at least here, in bloggy land). So, trigger warning and all that jazz, okay? 

Wednesday, a week ago, before Bea left for her trip

I’m in Bea’s office, and I’m trying not to cry. We’d been looking at some charts that draw out trauma, and its effects, and I wasn’t having it. 

I’d redraw my own version, which had my “noticing brain” bypassing my amygdala and going straight to the reptilian brain, with the explanation that I was broken. “All that happens when I use my noticing brain to pay attention to sensations, or even emotions, is that somatic scared stuff increases, safety is not restored, and the body is not calmed. Everything is more activated! The alarm is not turned off and the reptilian brain does not calm down.” I had written that if Bea notices my fingers moving and comments on it, I will work very hard to focus on my fingers and stop moving them, I will focus on being very, very still, so that there is nothing for her to notice, nothing for her to draw my attention to because it is not safe. 
Bea nods, it makes sense to her. I’m agitated. In my head, I’m sarcastic, and I’m thinking, “of course it makes sense to her. Everything freaking makes sense to her.”  
“It’s where the disorganized attachment comes on,” She begins. My stomach flips, and I feel cold but hot at the same time. She’s bringing up attachment, she’s talking about me and how I relate in relationships. I spaced out for most of what she was saying, but I think it was basically something like this, explaining how disorganized attachment or relationships that maybe weren’t always safe feeling could lead to the issue of noticing things making me more agitated, not calmer. Bea’s explanation was probably much more conversational and normalizing, but this was what I could find in my search online. If anyone has anything to add, please do! 
“When we feel safe in relationship, we stay within our window of tolerance and our cortex stays functional. When we perceive threat or danger, the SNS arouses the amygdala to prepare for fight or flight. We can experience this as an emotional hijacking; our rational self temporarily nowhere to be found. When we perceive a life threat, the PNS calms down everything, down to the point of shut down. We go numb and freeze. The most well-known structure of the limbic system is the amygdala, almond shaped structures of perception-appraisal-response. Our 24/7 alarm center, constantly scanning the environment for threat or danger, even in our sleep. The amygdala generates the fight – flight response, very important to attachment.
The amygdala is also the core of our interactive social processing and the center of our emotional learning. The amygdala assesses every experience, including relational experience, for safety or danger, for pleasure or pain, and pairs each experience with an emotional valence, an emotional charge, positive or negative, that makes us approach or avoid similar experiences in the future. The more intense the emotional charge, the more neurons will fire in our brain and the more likely we will register the experience in implicit memory. The amygdala operates below the radar of conscious awareness, and it stores all of its responses to experience in implicit memory, outside of awareness.
The amygdala operates much faster than the more complex cortex – 200 milliseconds to trigger fight or flight rather than the 3-5 seconds of the cortex that notices we just got in somebody’s face or bolted out of the room just precious seconds before. So the processing of the amygdala does not have to come to our awareness for an experience to register and be stored in our implicit memory. 80% of the time it doesn’t.
Here’s where that disorganized attachment challenge comes in………. Any emotional-relational-social experiences that are processed before the brain structures that can process experience consciously are fully mature, those experiences are stored only in implicit memory, only outside of awareness. This includes ALL early patterns of attachment. Attachment patterns are stable and unconscious before we have any conscious choice in the matter and unless new experiences change them, will remain stable “rules” of relating well into adulthood.
Unfortunately, for purposes of attachment, because the amygdala is the structure of both our social emotional processing and is our fear center, the negotiation of relationships and the modulation of fear so overlap, our earliest relating, our earliest implicit experience of self can have a bias toward the negative.
If the parenting style of the parent is Pre-occupied: inconsistent, unpredictable, sometimes attentive and loving, sometimes harsh or punitive, sometimes over-involved, sometimes off in their own world –
Then the attachment style that develops in the child is likely to be Insecure-Anxious: the child is insecure about the reliability of the parent for safety-protection; they are not easily soothed; ambivalence: they are sometimes clingy and possessive, sometimes angry-defiant. There is an internalization of anxious mom. There is a focus on others, not on self.
Insecurely-anxious children are likely to become Insecure-Anxious adults: they are subject to abandonment fears; there is chronic vigilance about attachment-separation, there is emotional dysregulation and anxiety, passivity and lack of coping; there can be a victim stance.
In insecure-anxious attachment, the sympathetic nervous system is over-stimulated and under-regulated. The personal can feel flooded with stress, fear of abandonment, panic and not be able to self regulate enough, not enough calming of the parasympathetic nervous system. There is energy for fight; people engage through anger aggression.
If the parenting style of the parent becomes Disorganized: if the parent, even temporarily, is fragmented, disorganized, dissociated; or is frightening, bizarre, abusive, traumatizing to the child –
Then the attachment style of the child can become Disorganized: the child can become, even temporarily, helpless, paralyzed, fragmented, chaotic dissociated; they cannot focus; they cannot soothe.
Experiences of disorganized attachment can lead to an Unresolved/Disorganized adult: there are difficulties functioning; they are unable to regulate emotions; there are dissociative defenses.
In disorganized attachment, “fright without solution,” there can be such a sense of danger or life threat, even the momentum of the amygdala, the flight-fight response, collapses. Only the brainstem is operating. The parasympathetic nervous system over-regulates bodily energy to the point of paralysis and helplessness.”
When she finishes explaining, in that moment, part of me believes her and feels better, because at least there is a reason, a logical explanation that this noticing/mindfulness/being present, makes me feel more anxious and freaked out. At least I’m not crazy and broken. But the rest of me feels off, like she’s just spouting shrink talk at me to make me feel better, but it doesn’t solve anything, and I’m not really understanding it, but I can’t even get to a place where I can ask her about it because I don’t want to discuss relationships.
 I hand her a notebook, a new one, because even when notebooks aren’t finished, sometimes I just really need to change them, get away from what was written in one, I don’t know. So, I hand her a new notebook, it’s slim, and had a pink and turquoise paisley pattern on it. 
I’d written about having awful dreams, and the bad things in my head, and how if Bea could see inside my head, she would know how bad I was, how disgusting and bad, and awful I really truly was, she would despise me, blame me, and she would leave. I’d written about blank spaces in my memory, and having to fill in gaps. I’d written that the words I do have are fuzzy and difficult and that it’s all too awful because everytime I go to find the words in my head, I just panic and can’t think. 
Bea reads. “Mmmhmmm, you are really scared. I’m not going anywhere. Even if I could be inside your head, I wouldn’t think you bad, or blame that little girl. I’m not leaving. Whatever that little girl went through, whatever she thinks she did, she did to survive, and I’m not leaving her. Okay?” 
I’m crying now. I don’t know why, exactly. Bea’s words make me sad. I’m thinking they should make me happy, she is saying she won’t leave, but I’m sad, and scared and crying instead. 
“What’s coming up for you? What’s happening right now?” She asks. 
“I….you don’t know. You don’t know. You only have……those sentences, and I just…it’s not….” I’m continually stopping, shaking my heading and then starting again. 
“Who is shaking their head?” She asks me. When I can only shake my head in response and shrug my shoulders, she says, “Maybe a protector part? Is the the part with that amazing filter? An editing part, maybe?” 
I shrug, and nod. It makes sense. The part with the filter. 
“Can you ask her to step back for a little bit? We can let her know she does such a great job filtering things out and keeping your secrets, keeping you safe, but it’s okay to take a little rest right now. I can take care of the little girl right now. She needs a chance to speak, too. I’ll make sure she is safe.” Bea is speaking in this low, soft tone, this careful conversational tone. She is really here, that much I can tell, shes here and she’s in this with me, and maybe, just maybe, she really means it when she says she is not leaving. 
For a minute, the little girl feels connected to Bea, she feels safe. I even lift my head from where it had been buried in my knees, hiding, and meet Bea’s gaze. All I see is acceptance. All the little girl feels from Bea right then is acceptance, and safety, and understanding. Before I can stop myself, I blurt out, “Everything in my whole life is flipped now. Everything is flipped and I don’t want it to be true, but it is, and I’m not okay, it’s not okay, nothing it okay and I don’t have any words and Its too hard.” And then a massive amount of tears burst free, and I’m doing that ugly crying thing. 
On Monday, the little girl has written something for Bea to read. I referenced it in my blog post, but did not share what it was. *****I’m going to say trigger warning, just in case, because this is a memory about the abuse that is deeply disturbing ******* I had written about how, I have this memory, of bits and pieces, blended up and thrown back at me, of being at the summer cabin. I’m maybe 7, or 8. It’s night, or at least it is dark and it feels like night time. I’m in the hallway, and there is this feeling of I am not supposed to be up and out of bed, but I’m standing outside a room, and Kenny is in the room, with his little sister, my then-best friend. 
There’s more to that memory, bits and peices, mixed up and confusing, frightening, but that was all the little girl had written to Bea about it, and that was enough. 
“What do you mean, everything is flipped?” She questions. She is curious, and open, and even though I’m sort of far away, I can feel that. 
I shake my head. I can’t explain it. I want to, I do, but right now it’s more of a feeling, it’s not something I can logic out and pit words to. And I’m afraid if I try, I might have that breakdown. 
“Sometimes, a person might feel as though they took on the role of the abuser, if they participated in certain situations,” Bea says carefully. “A child wouldn’t be to blame, I would never think a little girl was bad if this was the case. Is that what you mean by everything being flipped?” 
I freeze. I can’t move. She knows. She knows and it is not okay and everything is falling apart. I don’t know how long I am frozen there for. Maybe a second, maybe a minute, maybe an hour. Time has no meaning when you are that frozen. When I move, it’s to sit up and grab my bag. 
Bea is saying something, trying to tell me she doesn’t think I am bad or that the little girl is bad, that she does not blame me, that none of this is my fault. She’s speaking soothing words to the little girl. I can’t really hear her, though. None of it matters. She knows this horrible awful thing. Maybe the worst thing, and it’s too much. I can’t handle it. 
“Stop it. Just stop it!” I shout at her. “Shut up! Shut up, shut up! I’m not doing this. I won’t do this.” And I walk out. 
To be continued in part two………….

The one who disappears everything 

Thursday…….I was tired driving to Bea’s, and still feeling that strange indifference. I was numb, and my feelings were definitely shoved way down deep. I felt fairly indifferent to everything, as if I didn’t really care anymore. 

She greeted like normal when I arrived, and I said a happy hello. I settled myself and Hagrid in our normal place on the sofa, and looked at her. I don’t remember now what we started with, but the conversation quickly flowed into one about hubby and couples therapy. 

“I’m not against couples therapy, I think it can really help. But you are my client, and so I am feeling a little protective over the parts of you that may not be ready for couples therapy. It would be much more ideal to have hubby start in therapy to work through some of his stuff, and have each of you working towards seeing a third therapist together.” She explained to me where the hesitation I had been sensing was coming from. 

I nodded, seeing her point, but argued, “It feels like I can give him an ultimatum about couples therapy, not so much about going to his own therapy. And it seems as if he would be more likely to agree to something we were going to together than on his own.” 

“I can understand that,” she said slowly, “I think the only way we will know is to ask him. I know it doesn’t feel safe to bring him here, and I get that. This is your safe space. But maybe we need to bring him in for one session, to talk about how to proceed with this stuff.” 

As she spoke, suggesting bringing hubby here and telling him how I have been feeling in our marriage, I lifted my hands to my face and hid. 

“Yeah….” Bea said softly. “There’s those feelings returning again.” 

I sat there, my face buried in my hands, unable to look up at her. The idea of bringing him here and telling him all of this felt devastating to me. “I can’t…I mean…..it doesn’t feel…..okay.” 

“It’s a little bit of a reality check, isn’t it? If you could maintain that indifferent feeling, then it would be okay. You could protect yourself in couples therapy. But not all the parts of you are so indifferent. The little girl is scared, this feels too vulnerable. Other parts of you don’t feel safe with this idea, either. I think that is why this is such a hard choice to make.” 

“But it’s not, not really. I need to stop whining over it.” I said, feeling angry with myself for being afraid to bring my husband to therapy. 

“I don’t see it as whining, I don’t think you are whining at all. But a part of you clearly does.” 

I shook my head. “It’s whining because there is a clear solution to the problem, but instead of acting, I just keep talking about it over and over.” I sighed, and explained how growing up, and even now in my marriage, once something has been discussed, it is over and done with, and if I bring it up again, it is being a drama queen, whining, nagging, talking something to death. It’s not okay. I explained that this is why I always ask permission to bring something up again and again. I have this fear that eventually she will think I am whining or being a drama queen, too. 

“And I just expect that things will come up again and again. And when all the parts of you have different ideas on things, well, that makes it hard to figure out a plan. Talking something through, more than once, is well, I just see it as part of your process.” She said gently. 

I looked at the clock, something I rarely do, and saw that there was still over a half hour left. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I whispered. 

“Okay,” Bea said simply. She always just accepts my desire to stop discussions when I get too uncomfortable.  

We sat quietly for a few moments. I pulled out my iPad, opened the writing I had done much earlier that morning, and handed it to her. “I wrote this….I don’t know. I was going to email it but it got really long. So….I just…well, here….” 

“I was writing before thanksgiving, and then didn’t write again until this morning. But I combined them. Because…..I had wanted to give you the stuff from last week,” I explained as Bea took the iPad from me and started reading. 

11/24/15

I’ve been thinking about two things. Well, I’ve been thinking about a million more than that, really, because my mind never shuts off, but just two– or three or four at the most– things I wanted to write about: imposter syndrome and where this belief or message about my parenting abilities came from. 



First, I’m not sure that this feeling of being a bad mom, or of having everyone fooled into thinking I am a good mom came from anywhere specific. I can not think of a belief or message, besides the things I tell myself, that match it. I think it’s bigger, or deeper, or more than that. 



I think it’s not even imposter syndrome, not exactly. Because it’s….sort of this all encompassing thing. And it’s hard to even think about, or pick apart, because….well, I don’t know why, it just is. Maybe it’s sort of this childhood message of having to be perfect to be good enough, but never feeling like I was actually perfect and instead was just playing this part of this perfect girl who my parents loved but if they knew the truth they would hate me forever. I don’t know. I think that’s the beginning, maybe? 



But it’s more than that. (These are all general you’s or someone’s). If someone says I’m a good mom, either I have fooled them, or they don’t really mean it and are just being nice. If I act like I am okay and in control of my life, I’m a liar because I feel so far out of control that what people see is an illusion. If I tell you I’m not okay and falling apart, I’m a liar and a drama queen and I need to shut up right now. If I say I am a good cook, then I am bragging and making things up, because all I do is follow or tweak a recipe and it’s not a hard thing. If I am told I am good at something, then people just don’t know me, or they are being nice. If I make a mistake and am upset, I’m stupid and over reacting and ruining everything. If you tell me I am resourceful and have good ideas, then you are being nice because you can not believe how dumb I am, or I somehow got lucky with the idea I had. It doesn’t matter which direction a situation goes in, I can find a way to make it about being not good enough, fooling people, being dramatic, being lucky, I don’t know. It’s not even like I try to think like this. I just do. It just happens, instantly, quickly. You say good job, and I instantly think of everything I did wrong, all the should haves, and how I could have done better, and, at the same time, think that you are just being nice. 

“These are some really strong negative messages you’ve given yourself,” Bea commented. I think she said more, but unfortunately I don’t remember now. I think she said something about how a part of me needs to see another part of me as “bad.” I don’t know.

It’s like walking on eggshells everyday, certain I will be found out. I don’t know. Maybe it comes from being that perfect part of me for so long, because she never felt real, more flat and not really there. But that is who most of the world saw, even though I knew she wasn’t really me. 

“This walking on eggshells feeling….it has to be from childhood. Because you had such a big secret, so no matter what people thought or said or saw, there was always this secret, this hidden thing that you felt so bad about. It’s very much a split identity. The good you and the bad you with all the secrets. So, yeah, this feeling is so ingrained, it’s still present.” 

“But….even if I didn’t realize it? I mean…it would have been a subconscious thing, maybe?” I asked. Because I don’t remember feeling split or thinking about hiding this big secret. It was, unbelievably, mostly hidden from me.

“Yes, it would have been a subconscious thing. You wouldn’t have been aware of it. But being split like that, I imagine it would has felt like walking on eggshells.” She said softly, going back to reading.

I don’t know. I was also thinking that I should have just given you my notebook today. But it wasn’t pretty. I don’t usually, okay, I don’t ever write all of that stuff out, and never to share. But I did write it. And it was pretty choppy and sort of bouncing between the little girl’s voice and mine, and there was way more detail about a Kenny thing but also a present day life thing that caused the flashbacks and I just couldn’t have anyone know all of that. 

I sort of think this weekend is something to keep talking about. But maybe not. Maybe it’s over and done and I over reacted and it’s all nothing at all. I don’t know. But I don’t want to keep being “hijacked” and feeling like a crazy person. 



And I can’t leave hubby, move out. It’s crossed my mind. But I think it’s more of a running away idea, not having to deal with any of the mess or feel hurt or vulnerable or be open and honest and deal with what happens when I do that. That’s what I do, you know. I run away. But I don’t want to do that anymore. At the same time, I can not keep going through this being hurt by hubby because I keep trying and he doesn’t get it. So I need to just be in a little bit of a bubble when it comes to my marriage, and pretend it’s okay. But I want to be able to cry and be upset and sad or angry or whatever in therapy without the worry that you are wanting me to talk to him. We both know that might be the best thing to do, but I can’t do it. Not anymore, not right now. I just need a break from that.     

 “I don’t see you as a person who runs away. I’m not sure…well, I think you are a person who faces things. Look at all you have stayed and faced here, this year.” Bea said. And she is right, I have been facing things rather than running, but that is new for me. There have been numerous times I thought about running away from Bea, and therapy, but instead I stayed and worked through it. I’m learning to work through things. 

I shook my head and let out an exasperated sigh. I did not want to explain this. “I do….I um…well…..when things are hard…it’s why….I lose friends…..only Kay has stayed and that’s because she just…..think of all the times I leave her….and she….I don’t know. She just….and I run. I don’t know.” I shrug. “I could give examples, explain, but….I don’t…I don’t want to share them….ugh.” I stumbled over my words, wanting her to understand but not wanting to explain. 

“Kay knows it’s not about her. That’s why she stays,” Bea commented before going back to reading. I breathed a sigh of relief that she wasn’t going to ask me to explain more. 

12/1/15

Bad dreams tonight. I don’t want to remember them. I woke up confused and afraid, I felt like a little kid for a few minutes. I do hate that feeling. I barely remember the dream. Pieces, choppy like my memories. Ugh. I feel sad again, like I did at my parents. 



It’s like I felt safe and calm, peaceful and real while I was there. Even when I was upset, that was okay. I felt like they wanted me; just me. I didn’t have to do or be anything to be wanted, to feel loved. I don’t think I really ever felt like that with them before. And I should have, as a child, as a teen. I should have. I think, when I would go to bed while I was there, it was like I lost that feeling, and felt like I usually do there. I could remember feeling like that with my Grandpa, and Grandma and then when I would get home, it would be gone. Lost. Disappeared. Like I couldn’t hold onto it, remember it, if they weren’t right there. And so I was sad, it was like I missed something or someone, because I couldn’t hold onto that feeling, or trust that it would be there the next day. I don’t know. And I was sad that I never felt like that before with my parents, in my own home. Because I should have. And I wondered why now, why not then? What did I do wrong to not have this, then? And I worried; do I make Kat feel safe like that, or am I just like my parents when I was growing up? 



And then I would try to sleep and toss and turn. Maybe in that hyper aware state, where every noise had me jumping. But I’d fall asleep eventually, and then have this bad dream, the one that woke me tonight. On Friday night, when I woke up from a bad dream, I got up for some water, and my dad was up. He asked if I was okay, did I need anything? I shook my head, went back to bed. I remember sometimes, laying in my bed, too scared to get up, to even call for anyone, but just wishing so hard that someone would come and ask if I was okay, if I needed anything. But no one ever did. Sad. It made me sad. If only. But I don’t want to live in the “if only.” Ugh. So, sad. I felt sad. And then I would feel empty, hollow. With that falling down an elevator, empty feeling in my stomach. And I’d feel too anxious about the sad, and would put it all away. 

“This is what we were talking about, what we were saying about getting old needs met at your parents. And having those needs met, feeling like that, it raised your expectations for your own home. That’s a good thing.” Bea said.

I nodded my head, knowing where she was at in what I had written, but not having any words to say anything. 

You said you were trying to figure out which part of me was at therapy today. I don’t know. Not really. You were right, i don’t think it was the real me. It’s almost like the perfect me, but not. It’s a part who disappears everything. All the yucky feelings, memories, thoughts. This me is like very surface, functioning me. It’s indifferent and numb. This part just sort of exists. Underneath is some worry about the feelings and parts escaping. This part really just exists, and doesn’t care much. The part that was running the ship today is the part that keeps everything very boxed up. I think this part and the perfect one ran the ship a lot in the past. The problem is, this part maybe isn’t as strong as she once was, and I know all the yuck is still there. Even today, in therapy, I kept feeling like there was so much I wanted to say and talk about, but it’s all hidden and I can’t find it. So, I didn’t say anything, really. It’s like having a thought or feeling just at the edge of awareness. It’s that feeling when a word is on the tip of your tongue, but you keep searching for it. I don’t know. 

“Yes….I didn’t feel like it was the real you, either,” she agreed. 

Why is it always all or nothing with me? I hate that. It’s extremely frustrating. I know you think being able to put stuff away in a box is a skill, but it’s not. This is me. It’s just what I have always done. The thing is, I think you picture a box, like a Christmas package. There are sides and a bottom. The box in my head….if you open it, there is no bottom. It’s like a black hole, never ending. It goes on and on and on. And once stuff gets dumped down there, it is hard to find and get back. I don’t know how to open the box. I can barely find it. I don’t know how to let out anything, a little at a time. When I eventually have a breakdown then some of it will come up and out. I don’t know. I have no control over it. Maybe, maybe…….that is something, a reason to learn to control things. 

“This box…you can’t control it. It’s not….it’s another part. It’s not the same as the container I am talking about. This…it’s a different state of you,” she said. I think there was more, but she got that how I feel and put things away is different than her container. I had never thought of this as a part, once she said it, it made sense.

I nodded, thankful she got it. “I just….it’s not a good box. I don’t know. But yeah, it’s a part. It’s like the part that makes it all go away. So….I guess….it’s the one that disappears everything. But not….I don’t know. There aren’t feelings.” 

I peeked up and looked at her, and saw her nodding her head. “Yes. It’s a part that can put everything away and let you function. It’s a survival skill.” She went back to reading, not long after that, commenting that I had written a lot of good stuff.

I want to not care about the stuff with hubby. Well, I mostly don’t, right now. I feel very resigned to the fact that he is not going to change and that if I want support, I need to look elsewhere. I don’t know. He still sees everything as my problem, that I’m the one who needs to be fixed. And I used to agree; everything was my fault. Deep down, I felt like that, like I was the broken one and if I could fix myself then everything would be okay. Except, I am not going to go through therapy and end up being the perfect me that hubby met and married. That was not real. And I don’t believe I am the only one who is broken in this marriage. And I don’t even really want to be the perfect girl anymore. That’s not…..being fixed. That’s pretend. I want to be the me that says how I feel, and stands up for things I find important. The me that doesn’t yell, but speaks calmly, even if the words or the message is not kind. I don’t think hubby wants this wife. He wants the one who keeps trying to make things work with his mom. The one who blames herself, for not being good enough, kind enough, understanding enough, compassionate enough, forgiving enough. But I’m not that person anymore. 



And maybe I did get some of what I needed a long time ago from my parents this weekend. How did you put it? Old needs met? I don’t remember now. Did you mean the needs of feeling safe and accepted and wanted just as I am? I didn’t feel judged one time by them this weekend. It’s a strange feeling. And I find it hard to trust it, and it’s sort of very vulnerable making. I’m not sure why. But if I think too much about it, then I get very scared. My parents changing things still means flipping my world upside down. It still means my safety net is gone. And it means seeing everything I missed out on, then, as a child. I don’t know. 

I want to feel like that with my husband. I want to feel calm and real and like whatever I am is okay and wanted with him, in my own home. 

“You’re saying that here, that you want to feel like you did at you parents with him. Those needs being met did change expectations, and you are recognizing that.” Bea told me. And she was right.

It’s awful, but we are in a place right now where I feel much more here and like me when he is gone and it is just me and Kat. He was at work all day today, and Kat and I had such a nice day. We went to the store after I picked her up, and then we went to the vet and brought them cookies. Our vet is downtown, so we walked to the park with Hagrid, and we played there. I forgot about disappearing my feelings, about being anxious and worried. I just was there, playing with my daughter and running around, Hagrid following on his leash. And we came home, and played Legos and uno, and then had dinner and she watched a show while I read my book and we snuggled until bedtime. She fell asleep in my bed, and I felt so….right…like everything was okay and right, and I fell asleep not long after her. It wasn’t perfect. I got….I don’t know the word, I had to tell her she had to calm down at quiet time, that mommy needed quiet now. Like, all the talking and being present was a lot for me, and I needed to have some quiet and not talk, not be engaged with anyone. And I had to correct her at the store, because she was cutting in front of me and the cart, zig zagging around and I almost ran into her. But, it all felt like maybe normal stuff. No blowups or yelling at her like I am another 5 year old in the middle of a raging temper tantrum. Because that is what I feel like, when I do lose it and get mad. 

“I’m glad you were able to be present with Kat. That’s good. Really good for you.” Bea told me, her voice happy. 

I didn’t talk, but I nodded my head, remembering how good Monday with Kat had been. I had felt close to my daughter, and real for those few hours. 

My mom and I talked about that this weekend. It was strange to talk about that with her. But it helped me realize that I really do feel like a child throwing a raging tantrum when I get mad like that. It’s a different mad, it’s not the grown up mad I feel at hubby or his mother, or the mad I feel when a stranger makes a comment to Kat about her pacifier or about not smiling, or whatever. That is….maybe normal mad. I think it is the mad you talk about, that serves a purpose and makes people DO something. I didn’t understand that, before. But I think I am starting to. That I can be the “grown up” mad, and it can help me act, but I can speak calm and not yell. But the other mad, that is not….rational, or controlled. It is this angry little girl, screaming and yelling and out of control. Mom said that she didn’t get triggered or react to me when I was little, like I do with Kat, but that she did find herself feeling and behaving like a teenager with me when I was a teen. She said it was like two teen girls fighting and snipping at each other, and my Dad would intervene to stop us both. It’s funny, because I do not remember that. But I believe her, that we fought like that. I just don’t remember. 

“I want to hear more about this angry little girl part,” Bea said. She said it gently, without judgement in her voice.

I hid my face again, unable to talk, to say anything to her. After a few minutes of silence, I finally spoke. “I want….it’s not like…….it is like I’m a child. Just mad, not controlled. I don’t know. Just mad, crazy mad……..and then, later……I don’t even feel it…..I don’t know. It just…..I….it’s mad. Scary mad.” I tried my best to explain it, that crazy mad I feel, the feeling that I can’t access unless I am in that raging temper tantrum moment, but it’s hard to explain anything when you can’t feel it or really remember it. 

“It is mad,” Bea agreed, empathetically. “It does sound like a little girl. One who has a lot of anger, and I bet she has a lot of reason to be mad.”

I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say. 

It got quiet in the therapy room again, Bea maybe thinking and me feeling pretty exposed and vulnerable, but still pretty numbed. 

“I’m wondering about the part that disappears everything.” She finally said. 

I shrugged. “It just….I don’t know.” 

“This might seem a strange question,” she said slowly, “Does this part have an age?” 

I sat for what seemed a long time. I knew the answer right away, but felt silly saying it out loud. Being so unfiltered, and letting Bea more into my head felt, and still feels, very exposing. And Bea talking about parts and split identities still feels very frightening and like I am not on solid ground. Finally, I said very quietly, “16…..17. Something like that.” I felt so embarrassed, although exactly why, I didn’t know. 

“Mm….mhmm. Is that an age where maybe you needed to not feel so much?” Bea asked me. She sounded like this was a perfectly normal conversation. 

“I….I needed to be okay. To be better……I had to get better……so I…..well,” I stumbled over all my words, unsure how to say what needed to be said. I felt so guilty, “I wanted…..I…..wanted to…..get away from……all of them.” The last part of my statement was mumbled and quiet, but Bea heard it anyway. 

“Yeah….you felt that if you got away, then everything would be okay.” 

“Well, I….I thought….I mean, I had to be okay. Put everything away. I couldn’t worry, or care. And I thought then, if I left, everything would be okay. But……then……” The entire time we had been talking, I had been fighting tears. The feelings were definitely back, and it was at that point that I couldn’t hold them back any longer and began to sob. 

“Lots of painful feelings. This was a really sad and hard time.” When Bea spoke, I felt like she was far away, not understanding, not really feeling all the hurt and pain that was falling out of the crazy box in my head. I felt like her statement was generic or something. Maybe it was because I felt like the part holding all the pain was as present as the very indifferent numb part. I don’t know. 

I didn’t respond, and just kept crying. Bea said something else– what exactly, I can’t remember, but it helped, and I continued what I had been saying before the tears interrupted. “I thought if I left, everything would be okay…..I would be okay. But then….it wasn’t okay at all. Nothing was okay.” 

“Ahhhh. Yes. You met the boyfriend, and nothing really felt okay.” Bea said. 

I nodded, and told her, “I just….everything was bad again. I….he….I don’t know.” 

“That was a really painful time. No wonder you needed a part that could turn everything off, disappear everything.” Bea said to me. She normalized it, helped make sense of everything. 

“I….it’s…I made a choice,” I finally said. 

Bea was quiet for a moment, and when I peeked up at her, I saw her shaking her head, a look on her face that just looked so open and caring and accepting. It made my insides hurt, and I didn’t understand why. “Well, I could argue that you didn’t get a real choice but you feel like you made a choice, and I want to make sure there is room for you to have your feelings.”

I was aware that I had heard her reasons before, but they never seem to stick in my head. So, I asked her, “What were……what would you say? I mean why you think it wasn’t a choice.” 

“I’d say….well, with all the sexual abuse memories, even unconscious, you were looking for a way to be the one in control this time. Repetition compulsion is so strong. It’s not a conscious choice.” Bea said a lot, and when she was talking, explaining her beliefs, I was feeling and understanding what she was saying. In that moment, I almost believed what she was saying. 

I cried a little more, and I think we might have talked a little more about feeling like things are my fault, and the need to put everything away and not feel at all. I’m not really sure, to be honest. I do remember eventually saying to her, “Can we stop talking about this?” And she said yes, that it was time to start wrapping up and grounding now, anyways. 

I don’t remember what we talked about after that, but I know I left feeling a little bit sad, a little bit numb, and a little bit lonely. I didn’t want to leave her office, where I felt supported and not all alone. But we said goodbye, and I headed out into the real world. 

Aside

Unfiltered Parts of me

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday: part three, Marriage and Relationships

And I think Kay comes up as the deepest relationship because she is always there. But her friendship came later, I was already moved out and in college when we got close, and I can’t say that I felt a connection at first. Not exactly. But it wasn’t that glass wall feeling either. More like she had cracked the glass, maybe. It was more on her end, Kristin doesn’t have surface friendships. Seriously. She won’t waste her time. I don’t know. And she really proved to me, no matter what I do, if I’m mean, or ignore her or scream at her to go away, no matter how awful my behavior has been over the years– and she dealt with a lot from me after the boyfriend– she is just always there, and still loves me, still cares about me, still thinks I am worth that. I don’t know. I really don’t know. She’s safe.

Bea has been reading, and giving me feedback as she reads. “This is what you need. To feel safe, to have safe people in your life and to be able to believe they are safe. You and Kay went through a lot together. She proved, over and over that she is safe.” 

Bea has taken everything I have written so calmly, like it’s all normal and fine. I feel sort of dumb now for not just emailing this to her earlier, but it is a lot, and I am still afraid and anxious about everything that I have written. It’s just….so much of what I wrote is really….ME, my feelings, those deep inner feelings in that core part of me. So it’s scary, to have her reading this. 

 I trust her to just be there. Honestly, I don’t think it is realistic to think that you can have every friendship or relationship be like that. I’m not sure that most people even get one relationship like that. 

“I think you’re right, not every relationship, not even every friendship can be that deep. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile friendship or that it’s not important. But not every relationship, even ones where you allow a connection will be like the one you have with Kay.” 

I do wish I could have some of that with hubby. But..I don’t know. 

“I think that the relationship we have with our spouse is very different than other relationships, so it’s very hard to compare it to those. No matter how close a friendship is, the relationship with our spouse is the closest attachment relationship we have as adults. This is the relationship that is going to bring up old fears. Trigger old hurts. It’s why, when hubby doesn’t see you, it really hurts, because it brings up every time you felt unseen and unheard by your mom. And for you, some of those times you were asking to be protected, and she didn’t see or hear you, so when hubby doesn’t see you or hear you, or really triggers a lot of old hurts.” Bea says. 

“He’s just….gone. I don’t know.” I sigh. I’m so tired. “I’m just so done. I can’t…I just can’t keep trying.”

Bea asks me if it would be fair to agree that a part of me is feeling something, versus all of me. Maybe it’s that a part of me is done, or a part of me feels distant and gone from him, too separated to fix anything, I’m sort of floaty and not all there, and feeling sort of defensive, so I’m not sure what she asks. 

“No.” I say the word. It sounds like a pouty two year old. I can’t help but laugh at myself. “I can see your point,” I relent, “but I just want to be stubborn right now. So, no.”

I can hear a smile in Bea’s voice when she says, “Okay. You can be stubborn.” We both know I’m fairly self aware, although the things I’ve managed to hide from myself still scare me. 

I can look back now and see that maybe, I “tested” Kay in a lot of ways before I decided I could really depend and trust her to care about me and be there no matter what I did. And hubby..I think I’ve thrown several tests his way from the beginning of our relationship. He passed enough of them that I felt safe with him, that I knew as long as things stayed on the surface they would be fine. 

“I think we all do this, to a point– test the people we are in relationships with. You might test a bit more, or be more on the lookout for signs of failure, or passing because you really need to know it’s safe, but everyone tests in some way or or another.” Bea tells me. She makes it okay, and not crazy behavior. 

But now? The last year, year and a half, I think I’ve given him tests and he fails them left and right. He fails them miserably. I mean, so much of this wasn’t really conscious, it wasn’t anything I was thinking about it. But therapy made me think about it, and I can see where I have “tested” hubby. The thing is, though, knowing now that I do this, I have tried to explain to him, give him warning, help him. Because I want him to pass. But he doesn’t listen. And he fails. Ugh. I don’t know. I hate that it’s like this with him. But I really can’t keep trying, either. I want something more, but it’s so painful, I don’t even have words, to keep reaching out and not being heard or seen. I can’t keep doing it. And it makes me regret telling him anything more than the surface stuff. I hate that he knows about Kenny, about the boyfriend– even if it’s not details, even if it’s not much that he knows– I hate that he knows any of it. It’s like having a stranger know my secrets. I don’t know. It sucks. I don’t like it, I hate that I told him and I wish I could take it back. 

“I can see how bad this would feel, to have him know these things and feel so far away. Of course you wish you hadn’t told him. But that wouldn’t really make things better, either.”

“Yes, it would. I was stupid to think it could be more. To talk. It would have been better to not have ever said a thing!” I snap at her. I’m so angry. I hate that I told him. I really am regretting it right now, and I can think of several other times I have regretted it. 

“It doesn’t feel good, to have someone so distant know these really personal things. It doesn’t feel good to have them know these things and act as though they don’t know it…….” Bea is still talking, validating my feelings, maybe explaining why it is good he knows. I don’t know. I’m hiding in the room in my head, curtains pulled, doors shut. I’m gone, only vaguely aware of anything. 

I go back and forth between wanting to fix things, to somehow find enough courage to be vulnerable enough to tell him how absolutely alone and ignored I feel, and how angry that makes me, and how hurtful that is to just wanting to live on the surface and be the most perfect happy wife and not upset his inner peace and just be…whatever. Numb to it all. Gone but here. Because that part of me is just so done. Angry and tired. I don’t know. It’s my own fault, in so many ways. Hubby was safe. I loved him because he was safe. He didn’t dig for more than the surface, and I like that. He was safe, and I had fun with him, and we could talk for hours and laugh and I don’t know. It was just enough connection to love him. But not so much it felt unsafe and scary. So I married him. I don’t think I was aware of all that then. I can see it now, so clearly. And now I am asking for more. What right do I have to do that? I thought he wanted more, I thought that was the whole thing with him ready to leave last year and then I told him the ugly secret, and I thought we were going to do better than hide things and pretend. But it’s all he wants to do– pretend everything is perfect. Ugh. I don’t know. I’m so angry with him. I feel like I spend half our time together sort of baiting him, trying to get a reaction, any reaction. I just want to have some sort of reaction from him, see that he is paying attention, that he cares enough to respond, even if it is to yell or get mad back. But he doesn’t. He mostly ignores me or talks to me in that monotone “you are crazy” voice and tells me to “knock it off”. So what’s the point? Nothing I do matters anyway

“Ahhh. He’s really in hot water lately, isn’t he? This is hard. I do think you have the right to ask for more. I can see, of course, this isn’t what he expected, what he– or you!– planned when you married, but marriage is about being there for your partner. If you can support your partner, can’t be there for them, care for them, the what is the point? You are growing, have been doing a lot of growing this whole past year. He needs to grow, too, so your marriage can grow.” 

“He can’t grow. He can’t do it. He won’t!” I snap at her. 

“Ahhh. But, look how hard you’ve worked to grow. It hasn’t been easy, has it?” Bea asks. 

“No. So why do it? What’s the point?” I mumble. I sort of mean it. I started therapy because I wanted to be normal. I wanted to not have the freak outs I had, the meltdowns and crying jags, the anxiety attacks and the flashbacks (it was the boyfriend stuff I brought to therapy first). So, now….I don’t know. I feel lost. 

“I believe we are always working towards health. That we are always working towards being better versions of ourselves. Why does a plant keep growing? You’re like a flower, just bursting out from underground in the dark soil towards the sunlight so you can blossom. That’s why. Because it’s in our nature, it’s our drive to keep growing and being better versions of is.” She answers. She means every word, and while the words could sound cheesy or fake, coming from Bea and laced with authenticity, they are real. “But hubby has to want that for himself. You can’t force it.”

“I know. I really thought….when he asked…the shrinks…I made that list…but he never…and I stopped asking him about it.” I realize I am speaking in really chopped up not even sentences, but it’s all I can get out. I’ve been hunched over pillow Bea has against the arm rest of the couch, face buried, sitting princess style, Hagrid in my lap, sobbing off and on. It’s too much. My marriage feels like it is falling apart.  

“I know it feels like you are far apart now, but you guys always seem like you are together when it counts. I know he isn’t, hasn’t been, there and present for you, but he is capable of it. We’ve seen him do that here, more than once. But I don’t think either of you coils tolerate that deeper connection on a daily basis at this point in your lives. I think it would be nice if he could tell you instead of using his defense– to say, ‘I’m not really in a place where I can connect and talk right now. Can we do this tomorrow?’ Would that be better?” Bea is thinking out loud, putting her ideas and thoughts, feelings into the space between us. I like that she does this; it feels safe to me, transparent on some level, to hear what she is thinking. 

“No…I mean. We are together because we both can act the part, the image…I don’t know.” I shrug. I don’t know how to say what I’m trying to say. 

“Even from the first time I met you, you guys really has this sense of ‘we’ did this, and ‘we’ are in this together.” 

“Well yeah…but no…I mean…that first day? I yelled at him half of the way here, then sat and had this super hidden, invisible silent anxiety attack. He thought I was getting a migraine. I was mad out because I hadn’t had time to change into my ‘grown up’ clothes and it was his fault.” I laugh, a little. 

Bea laughs, too. “And now you know me and realize I don’t care about clothes.” She laughs more. She says she is fashion hopeless. I actually think she dresses cute, and comfy and she looks like Bea– which is safe to me, and it’s…I don’t know. She dresses real. Its not like my mom who dresses for what others think. 

“I was freaking out, having anxiety…because we were meeting a shrink. I was sure you would realize I was crazy, that I should be seeing a shrink myself. I was really freaked because I didn’t have a long sleeve shirt on, and I was so sure you would notice the scars on my wrists. Or picking my fingers.” My face is hot with shame. Even though Bea knows the where and why of the scars, it’s still shameful and hard to bring up.

“I’ve never noticed them. I definitely didn’t that day. Some shrink I am, huh?” She laughs at herself; she isn’t technically a shrink, she is a social worker, a therapist. 

I laugh, too, then turn serious. “We just can be a team in public. I don’t know.” (It’s only now, writing this, that I realize we are a team, and I usually have a sense of ‘we’ when it comes to parenting things. It’s the other stuff– marriage, us, just being friends, that I don’t feel anything but a glass wall.)

Bea asks of I can try to remember that sense of connection, of we. She asks if I can maybe try talking to hubby, telling him how alone and just left I am feeling. 

“No. No. Don’t you get it?” I want to shout at her. “I can’t. I keep trying, I can’t anymore. At this point, he is going to have to reach out to me and just really prove he wants to connect.”

Bea is silent for a minute. “I can understand that. You’ve been trying and trying. It’s a lot. I do think that if you are needing him to reach out, if you are putting this in his corner, it’s only fair to tell him.”

“No. I can’t.” 

“Alice. You articulate yourself very well. Write it if you don’t want to say it.” Bea pushes me a little bit. Why is she always pushing me I’m things with hubby? 

“No. I’m not explaining myself well.” I pause, and Bea waits giving me space to find words. “This is so hard. So damn hard to say….” 

“It’s okay. I’m not going to judge you. I’ve never judged you or thought anything bad about you.” Bea offers some reassurance, almost like she is reading my mind. 

“Ugh…I just…you really might this time. It’s so…you might.” 

She doesn’t say anything, and I find that more comforting than if she has insisted she wouldn’t. Because she ‘might’. She ‘could’. She is only human. So…the silence, for once, feels safer than words. 

“I just…if I tell him, then he will say something just to fix the problem. Which means nothing, except he is doing something because I told him to. Not because he cares or wanted to. Or he will shut me down really quick. Either way, I get hurt. And I can’t. So, he loses. There is no winning in this if you are my husband. That’s how terrible I am. That’s the kind of person I am.” I say the words, and my voice is harsh and cold. I’m angry. With hubby, with myself. Maybe with Bea. I don’t know. 

“Ahhh. That makes sense. It all makes sense. You aren’t terrible. You are hurt. You were hurt. You are struggling with trust and connection, and you are seeking it even though it scares you. That’s what this is. It’s okay. This is okay. If you can, tell hubby all of that, right down to not being able to win. You aren’t bad. You’re hurt.” Bea says softly. She speaks slow, and quiet. I listen and her words sink in, a little. Maybe. Maybe I am hurt. But if all this is from trauma and hurt, how the hell do I undo it? It’s not fair. 

This whole relationship stuff is hard. I barely understand if. I feel like a little kid playing in a grown up world. Where almost everyone else knows the rules and how it works and I’m lost, just pretending I know what I’m doing but terrified. I don’t know. I remember, maybe last year, you said in an email that this relationship between you and I was important, and I said it wasn’t. You said something about the fact that you wouldn’t lie to me and say it wasn’t because it was, but that you understood it was uncomfortable. It’s a little funny to me, now, how adamant I was that it wasn’t important, when clearly, it was. But, even then, I would have said what mattered was that I got along with you, that you were nice, that you didn’t make me sit in silence freaking out, that you didn’t act all shrinky; I knew to a point it mattered, but it was more surface. I didn’t feel like Ryan– that all I needed to know was you were bound by laws and ethics to keep my secrets and do your job, but I really was so sure relationships were not as important as you were making them out to be. I can admit I was wrong about that. Clearly, the relationship matters an awful lot to me. It’s why I was so afraid when I was mad at you for popping the bubble. It’s why I’m always afraid that the next thing I share is going to be the thing that is too much and makes you leave. (Side note, maybe that is part of why talking about the eating stuff is scary. I’m afraid all of that plus my trauma mess will be too much and you will give up on me, or be mad or be annoyed or something and leave). I just don’t want it to matter. I don’t want it to be important. I don’t like feeling so afraid all because of another person. I don’t like it at all. I can’t explain it, exactly, but it is terrifying and everything in me really just freezes at the idea of willingly putting myself in the position to be so afraid all because of another person.

Bea, thankfully, is attuned enough to me to be aware that she can’t bring up anything I’ve written here, and so she doesn’t. The only thing she says is something about how it is very hard, very vulnerable making to allow another person that kind of power over you. I realize I never thought about it like that. It is control, power over emotions that needing someone else gives that person over you. I wonder if this is why I struggle so much with letting my husband in. I’ve already been in two ‘relationships’ where a boy or man had the power physically and emotionally. Now I’m terrified to do anything at all to let go of what control I have. I don’t know. To be continued………(because yes, there is more!!)