Where I’m at, or something like that……..

I saw Bea today. We didn’t talk about anything, really, I just cried and cried. But I came home, found my words and wrote this to Bea. It’s long, there should be a trigger warning, and probably really convoluted. But it’s the most words I’ve had for what feels like a long time. 

Hi Bea, 

I do not know where to start. I haven’t really stopped to think, to feel, for weeks now. I don’t want to stop and feel or think, because there is an overwhelming amount of messy yucky confusing painful sad mad mixed up feelings and memories and irrational thoughts and just crap whirling around in my head. It was in a box, much like the box I always used to store all the crap in, the one that is so deep and wide, with really thick sides and a giant lock on the top and nothing can get out of it— and staying so busy and worrying/ only focusing on other ppl (Kat), using maybe not so awesome coping skills, staying numb and gone and any down time turns into time to read, or watch a movie, or find a project so I don’t have to think or feel or deal with anything at all, and everything is shoved back into the box. And so you see me not using the perfect facade or not being in the bubble, so you see it as healthy, using distraction and being able to ignore things because in the last year and a half it has been really hard to ignore things. But that’s not right. Or not exactly right. But of course I couldn’t just say that today, oh no not me, because why would I act like an adult and talk to you? Instead i just went farther into the headspace of “no one gets it.” I think it’s sort of like this:

✳️Childhood, teen years, college, twenties—- I had the box with the lock on top and kept everything shoved down. Yes, I needed to cut and starve and binge and throw up to keep things locked up and I was dissociated and not present in my life at all. It wasn’t healthy. I don’t really want to go back there, except for when everything feels really out of control because that time feels like this space where I didn’t have to live this reality of Kenny and my mom knowing and the boyfriend and the abortion and not telling and not knowing what to do and just feeling like little girl lost. And that is hard stuff. It’s hard to accept that is all real. So this place of being perfect and in the bubble, and not feeling at all, it sounds nice sometimes, like a break, like I could maybe breathe again. But then if I try to go back to that, now, it doesn’t feel good. It feels just as bad as having the mess out and running my life, just Ina a different way. 

✳️The last two or three years, then things have been leaking out, and I was emotionally a giant mess and that was before therapy and maybe the beginning of therapy, and I was soooo reactive and up and down and living with nightmares and flashbacks and really struggling to shove it all back in but I couldn’t contain it all any longer for some reason (even though I held it together for years and years and years before that) and so I needed help. And then the box broke when I named the things that were leaking out and there was no ignoring anything, just dissociation and cutting and eating disorders and hiding in my closet. (Which is what I think you were thinking about this morning?) 

✳️Now, it’s like a mixture of the two, me trying desperately to go back to the place where I could ignore everything and be just fine, but it’s not working, I’m failing at that, and maybe ultimately that is a good thing but right now it really hurts and it does not feel good at all. So,I am left with this messed up broken container and crap whirling around my head, and it’s like I’m existing in parallel worlds. The world where I focus on Kat and don’t allow myself to think or feel, and this world where everything hurts and I’m literally being suffocated by memories and feelings. Except that I have been so closed down since the wedding that I can’t figure out how to really access the feelings to actually feel them or make sense of them, it’s just this undertow of yucky feelings that are trying to drown me and I can’t put words to any of it, and I try to write and journal and make sense of things and write the feelings and the memories but MY WORDS ARE GONE. And that makes me feel sort of hopeless. MY WORDS ARE GONE, I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER ANYTHING AT ALL, DON’T TELL ANYONE, NO ONE UNDERSTANDS, I AM ALL ALONE, I ALWAYS SCREW UP, AND I CAN NOT FACE ANY OF THIS. That is what is going around and around in my head. There are so many different things going on in my head, so many different parts, but that is the overall theme. 
Then there’s the mad voice. She’s is just livid over having no control. She’s mad at mom for just leaving her with Kenny and for not seeing or knowing or caring or whatever the heck it was, and she is so angry at Ryan for saying yes to Kenny even though he didn’t know what or who he was saying yes to. She’s mad that I never said no, not once did I say no. Not to Kenny, not to the boyfriend, not even to my husband. I don’t say no, and she is full of anger that I DID NOT SAY NO. She is mad that I was either perfect or horrid, and just….UGH! She is mad that I missed him, and that I was the inappropriate one, she is mad about the underwear incident and mad that mom wasn’t there, and mad that no one got it, that no one ever gets it, mad that grandpa is dead. Mad about everything, mad at the world. I don’t need to type it all here, you already read it in my journal, two weeks ago maybe. But under all that red hot mad is the little girl. So mad is better because then there are no overwhelming sad painful grief scared hurt feelings. 

There’s the detached voice. She just doesn’t care, just wants to float through life, fuzzy and half gone, so there doesn’t have to be all these big big feelings.  

There is the shame filled part, shame over Kenny, over the boyfriend, over the abortion, over not being perfect, over being nothing but a disappointment. Over big things and small things. It’s over how I am as a mother. It’s over all the screw ups I just keep making. Shame that sometimes I have no idea what to do. That I’m the one always asking for connection and needing something, and then the one who is always pulling away and being too scared to follow through. Shame for being too much. 

There’s the part that feels very not seen and not heard and that part gets mad every time anyone in present day life doesn’t see or hear me, and the reaction is huge and out of proportion. She never used to get mad like that, it was more of a sad, defeated, not good enough to be heard or seen feeling. Now that she feels some of that, but also she feels so angry; this giant huge mad, that is sort of separate and sort of part of the mad voice.  

And this scared, sad, feeling alone, afraid to talk little girl is there too. She is so afraid of losing everything, and afraid to be vulnerable and get hurt, and she feels like everyone keeps leaving, and she is struggling to feel connection with anyone because…..I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s October. Maybe because all the being closed down, and not really talking and connecting in therapy and she feels like you are different somehow, like everything just keeps changing and she doesn’t like it, and not connecting with Ryan and being too afraid to even try, and Kristin not really being a part of my life, and missing her but realizing things will never be the same again, and that is really painful and hurts. And she is really afraid you are angry or not happy with her, or that you are sick of her and her nonsense and maybe you don’t care anymore about her or maybe you don’t care as much as you did, and that you just want her to go away because she is a pain in the butt and is wasting your time by not talking for so much of the summer and the fall. She feels like you are just gone, and I don’t know why, and it’s probably really me being and feeling so closed off and not really anything to do with you at all but it makes the little girl feel really sad and alone and unsure. And of course lots of parts of me do not like that you became this important, and I don’t really understand why that bothers me so much, why that feels so dangerous and not okay, and like something to NEVER EVER talk about. 

And right now, I’m sad because I miss my grandpa, and I don’t want to go to my parents to celebrate, and I don’t have a choice. I haven’t gone to celebrate there since the last birthday with my grandpa. It’s been 3 years. Why does it still feel like it happened yesterday? I miss him so much. I don’t want to go celebrate like we used to. It hurts too much. My mom is so excited I am coming “home” for my birthday. I just feel so sad. I’m going to ruin everything, because I can’t force myself to be happy, and I have too much whirling around in my head, a whole box of trauma and hurts and pain and anger swirling around in there, and as much as I want to find that perfect happy facade, I’m struggling to do so. I can’t maintain it for long at all. So we both know I’m going to ruin the weekend, or end up just not there at all, really far away and this weekend will end up for fuzzy and foggy and not feeling real at all like so much of my life. 

Lately, I often want to just disappear from my life. I’m stuck in that mindset of all good or all bad– black or white, no grey space. Just one or the other. And I somehow always come up in the all bad, never good enough, all I do is hurt everyone and ruin everything and I’m no good at all space. Part of me realizes this is just a state, maybe even old feelings coming up because it’s fall, because it’s October, but that doesn’t make me feel like less of a failure, like less of a screw up. I don’t know. I don’t know how to fix this, or how to change things or what to do. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I want to just hide away under my blanket in the closet and be left alone forever. And at the same time, I want someone to get it and to know how much everything hurts and how confused I am right now and what a mess it all feels, and how even saying that makes me feel like a giant drama queen who should just shut up and stop wasting your time because nothing is really so bad, none of this is a big deal, I seriously need to stop whining; I have this really good life— I have like, most everything I could really want, I should be happy and peaceful and like, normal and functioning and fine. But no. I can’t do that. I have to make big deals out of things that aren’t a big deal at all. I don’t know. 

So, okay then. There is where I’m at. I’m sorry I’ve not been able to say where I am and made things feel really….idk…like we need a plan. 

~Alice 

Advertisements

You read and maybe I will color 

I’m not sure I want to be here, but I didn’t want to cancel, either. So, I sit, curled up on the sofa, Hagrid in my lap, unsure of what I’m doing. I’ve lost track of the conversation. Bea has been forced to lead the conversation, to try to pick apart what I might need to talk about, because I’ve shared very little. 

“Do you know what you will be doing for Easter? Are you going to your mom’s?” 

I nod. “Yeah….I think….I don’t know. I just want to go for the day, really, but it will hurt her feelings, I don’t know. So I can’t decide if we are just going Saturday, or staying through Sunday.” 

“I haven’t heard you worry about your moms feelings recently,” Bea states.

 
She’s right. I haven’t. I want to say this whole mess with Kay, and with her, means I am treading very carefully with my other relationships. I don’t want to hurt anyone else, have anyone else become angry with me and leave. “No, I haven’t. I’ve been more…I don’t know……making my choices based on what Kat or I need. But I just…I don’t know.” I shrug. I’ve spent most of re session staring at the floor. 

“It doesn’t seem as if it’s been as triggering, or as hard to go back to your parents home. Is it easier, now?” 

I nod, slowly, because I’m thinking. But she’s right, it has been less triggering lately. 

“Why do you think that is?” She asks.

“I don’t know. I just….it just is, I guess. I don’t know why.” And in that moment, I really don’t. But now, as I’m writing, I suspect it is a combination of better coping skills, of the grown up part of me being stronger, of my parents being more real. 

“Maybe it’s because you are able to be more in the present, now? The past doesn’t overtake you so easily, and you can stay in the present and see that that was then and this is now.” Bea suggests. 

“Yeah…..” I really do agree. It makes sense. 

“Are you worried about seeing him again?” 

I shake my head. “No. That was a freak thing. If we went to church, maybe…but we don’t go. My parents do, but we never have gone since Kat was born. But she did do Christmas service, so maybe they will expect…..I don’t know. But no. That was a freak thing, a fluke.” 

I see Bea nodding out of the corner of my eye. “What happened with your brother’s wedding? Is that…..?” 

“September. It’s this September.” 

“Are you worried about seeing Kenny there?” She asks. 

I pet Hagrid, unsure how to answer. “No…yes….I just try not to think about it.” 

I think there is some more conversation around this, but then she asks, “I’m sure this won’t ever happen, but hypothetically……..What if he wrote you a letter, taking all the blame, saying he was sorry and he did a bad thing to you and it was all his fault? How would that feel?” 

I stare at the floor, at the couch, at Hagrid. “I…..I’m not sure it would really matter. I mean….I don’t know if it’s really about him….I don’t know…..” I answer honestly, even though a part of me doesn’t want to say anything at all. 

“I know it’s hard to take in and hear me saying it wasn’t your fault, I just wondered how it would feel or change things if he said it, too.” She explains. 

“I don’t know that it would.” I whisper. 
She asks more questions, all around Kenny, and seeing him, and him being to blame for it all. I’m not sure what they all were, but eventually I get tired of them, and I look at her and say, “Why?” I’m not upset, exactly, more curious as to where all these questions are coming from. 

Bea pauses, thinking it through, sorting her thoughts out. “Well, I suppose I was wondering if it would feel different to see him since you have accessed some of that anger towards him. If you would feel stronger, or like you wanted to yell at him, or if you were worried about how you would react.” She takes a breath, giving me time to respond, but when I don’t, she continues. She talks about how when others she has worked with feel some anger towards their abuser, seeing that person can be very different from seeing them when that anger was split off. 

She also tells me— but I’m not sure when during the session that we talk about this— about a young girl she is working with who was sexually assaulted by a man at the park, and how that girl has talked about messy things, not liking messy things, and how when they were going to court, the little girl wanted to write a letter using her messiest handwriting, and using marker to make it messier. The mom asked Bea about this, and Bea told her it wasn’t surprising because almost everyone she has ever worked with who was sexually abused has hated messy, and used the word messy as an almost metaphor for out of control–exactly what things were during the trauma. (And the girl is doing really well now, and is okay with messy.) I don’t know why but I found this very validating, that so many people, including a little girl, would use the word messy in the same way. It’s always validating to know other adult people feel the way I do, but there is something about hearing that kids, do, too. It’s like it makes it okay for the little girl me to feel the way she does. But anyway……

“I guess that knowing you had some anger towards him, that you have been able to express it a bit, made me curious about how you were feeling now.”

“I’m not angry today,” I say softly. 

“No, I can see that you aren’t.” Her voice is just as soft. “You feel sad to me.”

I cover my face with my hands, and say to her, “This week was a really bad week.” My voice breaks, and tears fall for a moment before I push them back down. 

“I don’t know what happened, but I can hear that it was a hard week.” When I don’t say anything, she goes on to talk about how she had been sort of poking around, trying to see what I might need to talk about. I don’t remember how she said it, but she mentioned that when she doesn’t get emails from me, she feels a little lost because she has no idea what is going on in my life between sessions.

“I did write…not a lot but I did….but I was……I guess I was worried…if you aren’t really back and I sent it….that….” My voice trails off, as I’m not even sure how to finish that sentence. 

“That would have hurt worse, almost have been unbearable?” 

“Yes…..it wold have been too vulnerable making.” 

“Well, I really am back. And nothing you say is going to send me away, nothing you said or did was the cause of me going away before. I like getting your emails, knowing what is going on for you. I need to be better about explaining why, at times, I may not be able to write a long reply, or may not be as emotionally available as you are used to. But I always read them, and am glad to get them, and always hold whatever is going on.” I don’t remember everything she said, but it was all really healing and validating to hear. I came away believing she really is okay with my emails, and really does like the continuity it gives between sessions. 

“Did you want to talk about the bad week, or have me read what you wrote?” She asks. 

It takes a while, but I finally pull out my iPad, and read over what I had written. “I was writing about church….you’d asked things Monday, and I was thinking about church, so I was writing about it. But then Tuesday….I wrote a little more. It’s all jumbled together though, so I don’t know.” 

“That’s okay.” And then, she adds, “Do you maybe want to color and talk? Would that be helpful?” 

I stare at my pink Easter egg colored toe nail polish for what feels like 100 minutes. “I…..maybe you can read, and I will color.” 

Bea gets up, and starts putting the stuff out. Once she is sitting back down, I hand her my iPad and she starts to read. I pick up my picture, and some colored pencils, and start coloring. 

That doesn’t last long, however. As soon as she begins to speak, I cover my face and hide. I don’t remember what she said now about church stuff, but that wasn’t the important part of the session anyway. 

“Which Doctor were you seeing?” She asks me. 

“Dr. S. My general Doctor.”

“Was this like a check up, or was something going on?” 

“Just a check up….she makes me see her twice a year for check ups because my periods…I guess not having them regular makes it a higher risk for cancers…I don’t know.” I don’t have regular periods, and I never have. The so-called monthly friend shows up once or twice a year. Which concerns my doctor a lot, and she has wanted me to use birth control to fix that for sometime now, but I won’t. So the compromise is that I see her twice a year. I hate those kind of exams, but my doctor is really amazing. She doesn’t know my history, but she has always made an effort to make me comfortable. 

“Ahhhh. So you didn’t know she had a student with her until the appointment had started?” 

“No…they ask at the desk, when I checked in. But they didn’t say it was a male student. Just a student. So…I said it was fine. I wouldn’t have….but I didn’t know.” 

“It sounds like this was really retraumatizing,” Bea says softly. “I’m sorry you were so alone with it.” 

“I couldn’t…I couldn’t email you. And I just…I couldn’t say no. She asked. If he could….do whatever….and I just couldn’t…I couldn’t say no, I said okay….” I’m starting to cry now, and it’s like being back at the doctor’s office all over again. 

“Well, ‘no’ isn’t something you are used to saying. ‘No’ wasn’t allowed in your world for so long.” Bea’s voice is reassuring, and kind. 

I’m unsure if I want to talk to her or not, because the teen and little girl parts aren’t sure they trust her anymore, and miss perfect doesn’t want to admit to any weakness. I try to let the grown up part be in charge right now, at least enough so that I can tell Bea what happened. Because the grown up me does trust her, and knows that talking to her will help. The grown up doesn’t manage to keep running things right now, but she at least gets the story out, even through the little girl’s tears. 

“Were you getting a Pap smear? Like that kind of thing?” She asks. 

I nod. “Yeah.” 

“I want to know what freaking out looks like,” she tells me. She simply sounds curious, like this is a normal conversation and I have information she is interested in. I’d written that I had freaked out at the doctor and can never go back. 

I shrug, “I don’t know. Just…..freaked out…you know.” 

“Did you punch him?” She asks, being over the top to help me feel better about whatever I did. 

I shake my head. No. 

“Kick him?” She asks. 

“No.” 

“Swear at him, curse him, and shove him to the floor?” She asks me. 

I crack a tiny smile. “No.” 

We sit quiet for a moment, and Bea finishes reading. “I’m reading now about why you didn’t want to talk to me. I’m sorry. I absolutely in no way think you hold any of the fault, and I can’t see myself ever being tired of holding that position and telling you how I see things,” she says. 

“I know, I know you didn’t say any of those things. I know. But the little girl….the teen….they……I’m not sure, I don’t know why I heard that and not what you were saying.” I jump in, talking fast. I need her to know how grown up me feels. 

“Its okay. Sometimes it’s hard for the little girl part and the teen not to look for rejection, and to hear it even if it’s not there. I think hearing the words, the idea of someone, anyone, telling you they agreed with you, that it was your fault, can feel really scary. I do think you have a part that knows what he did to you was wrong, and not your fault. She might be very buried, very cut off from your awareness, but I do believe she exists. And I don’t think it was your fault at all. Not in any way, in any circumstance or planet could it be your fault. I’m sorry you were all alone with this, and then the doctor….that had to feel really bad.” 

I nod my head and sniffle. “It was a really bad week.”

“Do you want to tell me what happened, why you think you can’t go back?” She asks gently. 

“I couldn’t say no. I…she asked, but he was right there and I didn’t want to make him feel sad. I couldn’t say no.” 

“Of course not. Of course you didn’t want to make someone feel bad.” Bea interjects, and it feels so good to know she gets it. 

“And then…he was….and I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t breathe.” 

“Uh-huh….this was really retraumatizing.” 

“And I just….he….I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t say no, I was so scared and it didn’t feel okay, I wasn’t safe and bad things were happening and I was crying and I couldn’t move.” I’m talking fast, words jumbled together, hyperaroused and not here all at the same time. 

“It was really scary. And it really didn’t feel safe,” she says softly. “Did your doctor ask him to stop?” 

I nod. “She had him leave the room.”

“So she protected you. Did she finish the exam?” 

“No….I…she just draped one of those paper blankets over me, and sat with me for a few minutes.” 

“So you have to go back to finish the exam?” Bea asks. 

I nod. “I can’t….I can’t…I just…I can’t.” 

“I know. We don’t have to worry about that right now, okay?” 

“Okay,” I say tearfully. 

“So she sat with you for a few minutes and then let you leave? Or did she have you stay for a bit?” Bea asks, casually.

“Well…..I don’t know. She sat with me and then let me leave. But it could have been longer. So….well, I don’t know. You know, I do my everything is okay routine, and I just wanted to go home. So I went to that functioning but not here place.” I tell her. Bea has seen— and been fooled by—- the functioning everything is okay act, so she is well aware of what it is. 

“Ahhh, yes. And you really wanted to go where it was safe.”

I nod.”yeah.” 

“Were you able to feel better once home, safer?” 

“No…..I….I wanted my closet. But hubby was home, so I kept the functioning act going.”

“That had to be hard.” I’m actually listening, and her voice sounds sad, compassionate.

“And now…I’m so embarrassed.” 

“You have nothing to be embarrassed for. Women’s doctors are really sensitive to how vulnerable a position you are in during those exams.” Bea tells me. 

“I acted like a little girl. I behaved like a child…I couldn’t answer her questions. I just cried. I don’t know. I acted like a child.” I say sadly. 

“You were really triggered. And I’m sure you aren’t the first one to have a bad reaction. She’s probably experienced this before.” Bea reassures me. “Does she know your history?” 

I shake my head. No way. 

“She never asked?” Bea says. She sounds protective, like she is not happy the doctor never asked about my history. 

“Well, it’s just forms. I filled them out a long time ago. Before Kat. And now I just have to check my address, insurance, phone number. And the forms have the question, but I always marked no. I probably wouldn’t even mark yes now, if I were to redo the sheets.” 

“It doesn’t feel safe for her to know?” Bea asks. I’m sure she has to be thinking that it’s too late, the doctor has to know something now. 

“Well, I don’t want it in my file. Because then everyone knows, anyone who gets my chart knows.” My worst nightmare is having strangers know. 

“Okay, that makes sense.” Bea says. 
We talk a little more about the feelings and what happened. And then we start to talk about how I’m going to go back there. 

“I can’t go back.” I’m so embarrassed, so afraid of any judgments made. 

“Well, you could see a different doctor.” Bea’s tone is very neutral as she says this.

“No. I don’t want to do that.” 

“Okay. So, then we come up with a plan. Did the office follow up with you? Did she check on you after?” Bea asks.

“She called that night. I didn’t answer. And I deleted the message. And again called on Wednesday, but no message.” I tell her. 

“You weren’t ready to talk to her. That’s okay. But I am glad she called. I don’t like that she let you leave like that. So soon after.” 

“I was pretending to be okay. I’m really good at that. I’m great at being okay. So….you know.” I say. 

“I know, ” Bea says, “So, how are we going to get you back to the doctor?” 

“I don’t know what will make it better. I’m scared and embarrassed.” It’s not just embarrassment making me afraid to go back; I’m terrified of feeling frozen again.

 “We could write a letter, and I could help you do that.” Bea suggests. 

“Maybe. I don’t know. I wouldn’t know what to say.” I tell her.

“Maybe hubby could go with you?” Her voice is a little tentative. “He’s been a help with the dentist.” 

I shake my head. “No. He can’t go. It’s just…no.” I don’t know why I don’t want him there. it seems too vulnerable, too difficult to bring a guy to an exam of my private area. Ugh.

“I could go with you,” Bea offers. 

I don’t respond. But I can’t believe she would offer this. I feel really supported and cared for. Like she wants to help keep me safe, like she really does care. I can’t respond to her offer, I can’t express my feelings of thankfulness for her; I can’t tell someone about my postoperative feelings for them without feeling shame. What the heck is up with that? “If we wrote a letter, we wouldn’t have to give it to her. Just write it to get my thoughts in order and then figure it out?”

“Nope, we wouldn’t have to send it,” she agrees. 

We wrap up a bit later, and I leave feeling okay. Well, not okay, but like I have Bea back. She’s not gone. She likes getting my emails, she likes hearing what the teen has to say, she wants me to feel safe, and she offered to go with me to the doctor. She does care. 

The wall between us

trigger warning. I had a major flashback in therapy today. Trigger warning for sexual abuse descriptions. Please be careful when reading. I want everyone to be as safe as possible.

I slept fitfully last night, and wake up still tired. A screw up with my doctor’s office and the pharmacy has left me without my fibro medication for almost three days. My body hurts, everywhere. Thanks to yoga, thanks to being more present, I’m more aware of just how much pain I am in. It’s not a good start to the day. I have no choice but to take my pain medication, which doesn’t always help, and some alieve on top of that.

Things seem circular to me today in therapy, and I’m not sure which questions or answers cams first. It ended up being a rough session.

I leave my shoes outside Bea’s door, because it has snowed, and walk into her office.

“Hi, Good morning.” She smiles at me.

“Hi.” I smile back. I feel guilty, I hadn’t written out my nightmare, I couldn’t do it. It was too much, too hard. I don’t really want to face it.

We talk about nothing, the weather, snow boots, my refusal to wear “real” shoes. Currently I’m wearing a pair of Toms– they are wool, and fleece lined, and don’t require socks. They are the closet thing to ballet flats I can possibly wear in this weather.

Eventually Bea asks about Thanksgiving plans. I tell her I’m not sure yet. “Thanksgiving is next week, Alice.”

I look down. “I don’t want to think about it. I’m avoiding it.”

“What do you usually do?” She crosses her legs, looks at me.

I sigh. “I go to my parents, and we go to my mom’s family. Kat goes with me. Hubby goes to his family. We always split up for Thanksgiving.”

“When is the last time you were at your parents?” She sounds concerned. When I look up at her, she looks concerned, too.

“The wine tour.” I all but whisper it. That weekend. The weekend of the horrid flashbacks. I was stuck in my old bedroom, not very long after disclosing what had happened for the first time to Bea, and then I had gone back home. It was like I was 5 years old again, 7 years old again, 10 years old again. Alone, confused, unsure, hurting, scared. It was horrific. I spent the weekend faking a migraine, hiding in my room, buried under the covers. All I wanted to do was hide in my closet, hide away where no one would ever find me.
“I thought so. I think that having a plan, a list of coping skills in place is going to be a good idea. I want you to be prepared. Especially if Hubby isn’t going with you.”

“It will be fine.” I shrug, brush off her concern. It has to be fine. There isn’t a choice in the matter.

“What makes you think that? Is it the busyness? Or the traveling? Or the fun? Will you be able to focus on Kat, on self care techniques and enjoy the holiday?” She lists off questions, but they all stream together, into one question. She seems to be asking if I really believe that it will be okay.

“I just….it has to be. I need it to be okay because I need it to be okay. Because I have to go there for thanksgiving, and I have to be okay.” I look down, again, I am quiet in admitting my wanting to fake it.

“What about you? What do you want to do? There isn’t a right or wrong thing to do. It’s just deciding what’s right for you now.”

“I don’t know. My mom needs me to go.” I tell Bea.

“Sometimes, we make a choice for other people, we do things for them. For our mom, our kids, our husbands. Right now, though, you are just finding your voice. I really want you to listen to it.”

I shake my head. I don’t know. I don’t want to go. I want to stay here, with Hubby and Kat and have a nice peaceful day. I want to be cocooned in the safety and love of my little family. I want to stay here, where I can be just me, and nothing more, where me is enough. “I want to be here. It’s easy here.” I sigh, and put my head down on my knees.

“You’re real here. Now you know about being fake, and it probably is really hard, and feels very fake to you.” Bea gets it, the difficulty in dealing with my family. “It might not be so hard this time though, as last time, because last time you were dealing with the abuse and your anger at your mom. We haven’t been really focused on anger at your mom, lately.”

Everything is overwhelming. I don’t want to think about Thanksgiving. I hate Thanksgiving. A holiday that revolves around food, eating, essentially condoning binging. It sucks. Don’t eat, or try to limit what you eat and everyone stares at you. If I eat what everyone else it, I’ll have to vomit. I don’t explain that though. I don’t want to talk about food, about eating.

Bea looks at me. “Do you usually like going?”

I don’t know, I’m unsure, yes, no, maybe.

“Holidays can be really hard, can’t they? There is so much anticipation, and work and expectations put on one day.” Bea voices part of the reason I don’t always love holidays. It’s tiring, trying to make everyone happy, see everyone, do everything in a day. But I also used to love the busyness of the holidays. Now I find it overwhelming.

“I’m just…really confused.” I blink back tears. I don’t want to be this upset.

“It is confusing. And overwhelming. This year, things are different for you. It’s the first time that you can really see how much you had to hide, even from yourself.” Bea drinks her tea, gives me a look that can only be described as full of compassion.
“Everything is real now,” I say.

“Yes, and you are real, too. You are finding out who you are. In a lot of ways, all the work you have done the past few months, you have been rewriting the story, to tell the truth about what happened when you were a kid, and that makes it easier to be real, but it also makes it harder to fit into our families’ roles for us sometimes.”

I shake my head. “They were part of my family. His family was part of my family.” I’m sad. I don’t know how to understand this, make sense of this.

“Do your parents still see them? His parents?”

“They’re best friends, of course. Once, twice a week. I don’t know. They go out. Have lunch.” I sigh. I wish they would go away, not be so close.

Bea pauses for a minute, weighing what she is about to say. She speaks carefully. “It’s almost like it would be easier if this were a great uncle who were dead and gone, not a family who is still very much a part of your family’s lives. Stills friends. Still around. Now you can really see how confusing it all was….and..how twisted together your lives are. He was at your wedding. And you survived that. But do you see why that little girl had to hold everything inside? How deep she buried everything? How else could she have gone on, day to day life? Why it’s so hard for her to talk now? She has a voice now, even if it’s hard to speak.”

“Yeah.” I bury my face in my knees, “I just want everything to stop.”

Bea sighs, blows her breath out like she is breathing to stay calm. “I just had this flash of fantasy, of calling up your mom and telling her you aren’t going back to that house, telling her what he did to you, how he hurt you, telling her that it’s not your problem to deal with, and they all need to work it out and get emotionally healthy, and then they can have you back. And that he won’t ever be allowed near you again.” She sounds stubborn and serious, like she really could be my lion at the gate.

I freeze. I don’t know if anyone has actually ever voiced protective feelings over me like that, wanting to just make my family fix themselves, and no more Him in my life. Because my face is still hidden, I feel safe enough to smile a little. It’s nice to feel protected for a minute. I don’t realize it then, but it’s in that moment, the wall I had built between us, the line that I had drawn in the sand, disapears.

“Of course, it’s a fantasy, real life is far more complicated, and I would never betray your confidences,” Bea reassures me after a minute, seeming to know that I need to hear she isn’t going to call my mom.

“What would you do if you saw them?” Bea asks.

I pause. I have no idea. I’ve seen them, of course, multiple times over the years. Heck, I’ve taken Kat to swim in their pool. I haven’t seen them since I’ve told. But what else would I do? Smile. Say hi. I don’t know.

“They don’t live next door anymore, do they? They moved, right?” She asks me.

I nod my head. They moved. But they lived next door, my whole life, growing up. They lived right next door.

Then, I’m gone. It’s summer, I’m next door, swimming. These are the worst memories. The ones that have happiness around them, cheerful laughs, safety at the edges. But he still manages to corner me in the back bathroom, and I say nothing, do nothing. Why? Why didn’t I call out? Why didn’t I scream? I was scared. Scared of being caught, in trouble, found out for being naughty, bad. I was scared he would hurt me, I didn’t know what it was called then, a name for it then. I knew it hurt, hurt inside. I cried. The kind of tears that leak out of your eyes when you rip off a band aid, because it hurts. I think he might have liked my tears. I’m wearing my pink and white checkered one piece. With the ruffle. I tried to say I didn’t feel good and wanted to go home. Later I did go home, saying I was sick. I told my mom I was sick. She thought I had a fight with Jackie, she didn’t believe I was sick. I didn’t want to play with Jackie that summer. But my mom and her mom were best friends. There were family trips. BBQ’s. Fireworks. All the summer activities had to happen. Like usual. Like always.

Bea knows there are no words here, not really. And words I do have, I’m afraid to use. It’s only fear here, really. She doesn’t realize at first that I’m gone, that her question has sent me away. But when she asks about Hubby, I nod, but she’s far away, and Hubby seems really far, a dream. I think my nod clues her in, but I’m not sure why. Maybe something else does it. I think I am acting “normal” on the outside, but I don’t know what I look like from the outside, I only know that inside, things are very busy in my head, there is a lot going on, and that is where my attention is. Bea asks another question, something about Hubby, I think. I don’t know. I think I nod at her, I’m not really paying attention to her, I’m too afraid of the events in my head right now. This time Bea is more intrusive, louder, and she asks me if I’ve just gone away or if I’m somewhere scary. Trying to reply to her is hard. In my head, where I am, I’m frozen, I cant speak. But, it’s really 2014, and I’m in Bea’s office and I can speak. So, answering her is hard work. It’s like working through being frozen, forcing my vocal chords to work, my tongue and lips and teeth to move and form sounds that make up words. “Not a good place.” I get the words out, not a sentence, but words.

“A very scary place, that’s what it looks like. This is a good time to work on having the dual awareness. To stay more aware of the present. Then it doesn’t have to be quite so scary where you are. Can you hear the clock ticking?” I nod. I can hear Bea’s clock ticking. It’s by my head. “The traffic just outside? The cars driving by?” I nod again. “Okay. Good.” She keeps her voice low and soft, soothing. “One foot here, and one foot there. This is safer to work with the memory.”

I listen to the clock and to Bea with one ear, but the rest of me is back in 1993. I’m afraid. I don’t understand. Confusion and fear are overwhelming. I curl into myself, hug my knees tighter, chew on the ends of my hair. I don’t even realize I’m doing it, until much later.

“I know there aren’t always words in that place to describe what you are feeling, what’s happening. Can you tell me anything?”

I shake my head. Tears fall down my cheeks. “Scared. I….I…alone, no one can help me…..I..feel sick.” I’m shaking, just scared, so scared. “No words.” I shake my head.

“A scary place, with no words to explain it. That can make the scary place lonelier, and scarier sometimes. Are you at your house?” Bea is calm, and she speaks in a way that makes me wonder if she does understand what it’s like to not have words to put to this experience as it’s happening.

“Next door.” It’s a whisper. The words are hard to get out, a secret broken. Something happened next door. At his house. He hurt me there, too. With people around. In the sunlight. Monsters don’t just creep in the shadows, and hide in the dark. Saying these words, even a whisper, it’s real now. It’s scary.

“Next door. At his house. That’s a scary place. Do you remember going home?” Bea sounds like she is talking to a little child. Maybe she is, in a way.

I think for a minute. I told Jackie’s Mom I was sick, and she had Kenny walk me next door. My mom didn’t believe I was sick; she thought Jackie and I had a fight. But I did go home. My body relaxes a little bit, I feel that happen. Maybe it’s the yoga, but I’m having an easier time recognizing things happening in the present. I nod to Bea, yes, I remember going home.

“You went home. You survived, you went home.”

I sit, Bea sits with me. I’m not alone. Maybe this is what people refer to as holding, or containment in therapy. I don’t know. I just know I sit with the memory, and it’s scary, and awful, and I have no words, but I’m not alone, and Bea continues to let me know she is there and that she sees how terrible it is to sit with.

Eventually, the memory hits a dark spot, and I panic. I can’t breathe, I want to move far away but I can’t, I can’t move. I’m frozen by fear, and I’m pinned in place by his weight. I gasp for air, and alternately sob.

Bea talk softly, reassures me that I’m safe, that I’m okay. She tells me the clock is still ticking in the present. I nod, but I’m still terrified. My stomach is twisted in knots. I’m hot, clammy. She tells me she knows I am in a scary place.

I scrunch further into myself, and cry. Not loud sobs, but quiet tears. Tears that I blink away ans fight, but I can’t move to brush them off my face. I end up burying my face in my scarf, wanting to cover my head, and hide. I don’t know understand. He’s supposed to be my friend! What did I do? I think I might have asked that out loud, but I’m not sure.

Bea sounds sad, now when she speaks, calm and okay, but sad. She tells me I am safe, that I haven’t done anything wrong, that he did something awful, but it was him and not me. I don’t know everything she says, it’s the kind of stuff you would maybe say to an abused child, not to a 31 year old woman. I half listen, and half believe what she is saying; well, I believe that Bea believes it. Soothed by her voice, I start to calm down. I’m amazed that I am calming down, even stuck and terrified. But I’m calmer.

“How old are you?”

Ten. I’m ten. I can’t say the words. I shake my head. I want to tell her. I just can’t get the words out.

“Is this a memory where you are older or younger?” Bea tries asking another way. I still can’t answer. I’m frozen, terrified, stuck.

“I’m going to guess older,” she says gently.

I nod. Vaguely, I wonder what clued her in, how she knew, when I haven’t really said anything about what is happening in my head. How she knows.

In my mind, I’m stuck in the darkest part of the memory, the worst part, the most confusing part. How could he go from being someone I knew, trusted, to a person who is hurting me? I don’t understand. He was my best friend’s big brother. He was my friend. He was my babysitter; my parents trusted him. He was supposed to take care of me, watch out for me. He was supposed to be like a big brother me.

“Alice? I think it’s time to come back now, okay? I don’t think it’s good to stay in this memory much longer, not right now. Can you hear the clock? Do you hear the traffic? What about the sunlight? Can you see the sunlight streaming in the window?” Bea speaks slowly, not rushing, gently, and I because I had managed to maintain more awareness of the present, I’m able to come back fully to the here and now. “I think you were able to go back there because you are ready to deal with some of those a memories, even if it’s by emailing them and not talking about them in session. But this way, you weren’t alone when you were back there, and now the little girl is ready to have her voice. If that’s by emailing, we can email. Okay?”

I nod. I don’t want to think about that right now. I want to shut away all the memories, lock them back up. Get rid of them. They’re too awful.

“Hubby comes home tonight, right?” Bea asks.

I nod, again. There is a lot of nodding going on today. I have my knees curled to my chest, and my head is resting on them, but I’m not hiding my face. My eyes are open, and I’m watching the sunlight move across the wood floor.

“Did he get a deer?”

“No, no deer.”

“Does he eat the deer?” She asks.

I wrinkle my nose. “Yeah. He eats it. Ugh. He has to cook it outside. Or in the garage. Not in my kitchen.”

Bea laughs. “It does seem gross, doesn’t it? Venison is supposed to be really healthy, though. I guess if this was two hundred years ago, we would get over it and eat deer.”

It’s my turn to laugh. “Nah, we would just plant beans and sweet potatoes.”

“Okay, now I’m hungry for lunch!”

Laughing, we say goodbye, and see you tomorrow (for Kat’s session). Bea tells me to email her if I want, to drive safe, to have a good time at yoga. I think she is worried. I must not be hiding my hurting, physically or emotionally, as well as I thought.

I climb in my car, and realize something. The wall, the line, the “something weird” between Bea and I is gone. I’m okay. Well, not okay, but okay. She’s here, she’s not leaving. have a safe person to call on. I’m not alone anymore.

Are you still here?

When Bea asked me “Are you still here?” during that first therapy session, I thought she was nuts. Then, she began to talk to me, little by little about dissociation. What is dissociation? The dictionary defines it as the disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected, and separation of normally related mental processes, resulting in one group functioning independently from the rest, leading in extreme cases to disorders such as multiple personality. Everyone dissociates. If you have ever driven home after a long day at work and not remembered the drive home, that is dissociation. That is the “normal” end of dissociation.

When people experience trauma, one reaction they can have is to dissociate. It is a defense mechanism. For me, dissociation feels like I “live” in my head, and am disconnected from my body. It’s as if there is a room in my head, with glass doors so that I can see and be aware of what is going on around me and function very well– but everything is a bit dulled down. I am almost always a bit dissociated, and this is my normal level of dissociation. There are sheer curtains, and heavy curtains on my glass doors, and a closet in the room in my head. I can close either set of curtains or go hide in that closet. Of course this was all mostly unconscious for most of my life, and it took me a while to accept that I dissociate. Once I accepted it, I was able to describe to myself and Bea how my system worked.

I first was willing to accept dissociation, when I told Bea the ending of my abusive relationship. I’m going to share the same details I shared with her, I will place anything that may be triggering to other survivors is italics.

I was in the shower. I was hiding from him, I thought I had locked the door. I don’t remember why I was hiding. He came in the bathroom, and he was mad. He was scary, he had that look on his face. I was frozen. He shoved me threw the shower door. My apartment at the time had a glass shower door, and when he shoved me into it, I went right through. Glass shattered everywhere, and I landed on my face. Bea asked me at this point if he was yelling, but I didn’t remember if he was yelling, in fact my memory is silent. The next thing I remember is being dragged into the hallway, and then my memory is blank until I am in my bed. I have some specific memories of being in my bed with him, but I’m not at a point where I can talk about, write about, or even really “look” at those memories. I do remember that there was blood on my brand new pink sheets and I was really ticked off about that. I told Bea that, and I said, “Isn’t that strange? I remember that stupid detail, but not the big stuff?” She told me that was normal. He eventually became bored with me, like he always did, and left. I laid in bed for a while, just frozen. Then I called a friend, and I left. I never went back.

It was with that memory that Bea was able to to explain dissociation to me. She was able to normalize the memory gaps and the small insignificant details I remembered. She explained it as a defense, as what happened was so traumatic my mind split the memory to make it “safer”. This is why I have no sound in this memory, this is why there are missing parts, this is why there are insignificant things I remember. It is a normal reaction to abnormal events.

It still took me a while to even begin to connect the dissociation with that particular memory to my everyday life. When I did, I was scared, worried, embarrassed, I wondered if I was going crazy. I also doubted that a person could dissociate that way. After all, wasn’t dissociation being completely not here, not functioning? I emailed Bea, asking if a person could be dissociated from their body all the time and still be functioning. She told me that yes, it was completely possible for a person to dissociate in the way I was describing. And that was when I began to admit to myself that I dissociate. Now, I have a way to describe it, and I’m not so embarrassed. I will easily tell Bea when I’m “not here” or when our last session is hazy because I was not really present. I’m also learning grounding techniques. That’s just a fancy way of saying things you can do to help you stay in the present. But that is a whole different blog post.