It’s pouring rain out this morning, so I leave Hagrid at home. When I arrive at Bea’s, the rain is literally coming down in sheets. Even my umbrella that is the size of a small car doesn’t keep all the rain off me. I walk into Bea’s office, brushing drops of water off my face, legs and arms.
“This rain is crazy!” Bea smiles as she says this.
“It really is. I had to leave poor Hagrid at home. He’d be a soaking wet dog if he was out in this!” I take my seat, and smile back.
“I guess when you are barely off the ground even a little puddle can pose a problem,” Bea says. I laugh, and nod my head in agreement. It’s so true.
Bea doesn’t give me much of a chance for chat type talk today. Just when I’m about to tell her about Kat’s Easter dress, and our plans for the goodbye party for her favorite ABA girl (which really was a great themed party I managed to put together last minute) she gets a semi-serious look on her face, and says, “I really thought you were off to a great start with your letter.”
“I feel like this is silly to be spending so much therapy time on.”
“I don’t think so. It is a big deal. This is how your trauma effects your life in a very real way. And aside from the therapeutic value of acknowledging what happened with your doctor, it’s also a practical life thing. You need to be able to go to the doctor, right?” Bea tells me.
“Or…I could just pretend it never happened……and then I could just not go for like a year or two so she will forget,” I say hopefully.
“She’s not going to forget. I’m sorry to tell you, but she’s not. And what if you get sick? You need to be able to go to the doctor.”
I give Bea a look. I’m annoyed, because I know she is right.
“I’m the last person to talk about not going to the doctor. I’m not good about going. I don’t think I’ve gone for like 4 years. But that’s not good. It’s hard to get into my doctor, but I could go if really wanted to. I have irrational fears about going. I think, if I don’t go, then they can’t tell me I’m dying of every kind of cancer there is.” She laughs at herself, and shrugs her shoulders. “It’s not the same, but I really do know it can be scary to go to the doctor. And I’d like you to be better than I am about going!” She laughs again. And I feel a little better, and less silly for needing to take so many sessions to talk about this. (This is the kind of disclosure that some people might find to be too much info, but for me, it helped me feel less silly and less like I was wasting Bea’s time. It made it okay to need to keep talking about the doctor in way that her just saying it was okay wouldn’t have. And even though her fear is surrounding cancer, it wouldn’t stop me from talking about my grandpa’s cancer, or any other instance of cancer…not because I don’t care about her fears, but I guess partly because she laughed at herself, told me it was irrational, and because I do trust her to take care of herself.)
I pull my knees to my chest, wrap my arms around them. I shake my head. “I can’t…just that first paragraph the rest…I just can’t…”
“What is it that feels like you can’t send it? What part of the letter feels like it’s not okay?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know. It’s just too much. I just….its just too much.”
“Let me pull it up, okay?” She asks me.
“Yeah….I can pull it up, too,” I say. I find the copy of the letter on my iPad and stare at it. It feels like the words ‘I was sexually abused for a good portion of my childhood by a family friend’ are written in bold, bright red, a scarlet letter on my forehead for all to see. I can NOT do this.
“I think what you wrote and explained is great. I think you just need to finish it by saying something about needing some time before you come in again because you are feeling apprehensive about coming back to finish the exam.” Bea tells me, after reading through it again.
“I….no….its just too much.”
“Well, you could always go the other route of simply saying you have a trauma history, and a diagnosis of PTSD and you were triggered. You really are in control of how much you disclose.” She reminds me.
“That’s….its…that’s just the problem. I can’t…I’m just…ugh!” I get frustrated, trying to get words out that feel insignificant and silly, and hard to sort out with all the mixed up crap in my brain. I take a breath, start again. “I’m a person who needs explanations. I’d rather have an explanation and the truth than some lie to hide things. I just…I need to truly explain things, even everyday stuff. It’s why hubby gets so mad at me for talking so much, or speaking a block of text at him or whatever it was–” here, we both laugh a little, because it’s just such a ridiculous statement– “so it feels wrong to send the generic letter. But the other one is too much.”
Bea doesn’t answer right away. “I think this is about breaking the secret. It’s been something we have struggled with since the beginning. You had to keep this secret quiet for so long. And that was so hard to do. You still don’t feel like you are allowed to tell this secret. Maybe you just need more time before you can do anything with it. And that’s okay.”
I’m quiet, withdrawing into my head. At some point, I bury my face because I know I’m going to cry, and I don’t want her to see me cry. I spent the rest of the session like this, hiding my face, crying and being very, very far away. I was farther away than I have been in a long time, to the point that everything I remember is choppy, and maybe even out of order.
At some point, I tell her, “I just want everything to stop. I just want it all to stop. To hit pause and just….stop.”
She tells me about how one summer, she and her sister drove by an Amish community and how she had this thought that it would be really wonderful to stop her life and go spend time there, being someone else. I smile, and tell her it’s funny, because I had just finished a book where the main character was Amish, and I had the same thought. That it would be so great to just go live someone else’s life for a while.
But that’s not what I mean by wanting everything to stop, exactly. I meant I want to stop thinking and feeling and dealing with stuff and just…everything. I don’t want to talk, or be spoken to, i don’t want to cook dinner, or do laundry or play with my kid, or have nightmares or have to be functionable. I don’t want to do anything. I want it all to just stop for a while.
Later, I say, “I don’t want it to be real.”
“I know,” Bea says, “Who would? It’s heartbreaking to realize that the little girl you were was hurt in such a horrible, violating way. It’s painful. But it is real.”
“I don’t want it to be!” My voice is firmer this time. And then the tears come.
“I know. I know. And that’s where this telling the secret stuff is so hard. Because it makes it feel more real. But it’s real either way.”
I cried a lot. I remember Bea telling me she wasn’t sure if this was a time when I needed to sit with the feelings or work on grounding, on orientating, on being outside of myself.
“I don’t know. I really don’t. I don’t want to be present, I just don’t. But I don’t want to be locked in my head, either.” I’m honest today. I don’t have the capacity to edit, or to try to appear perfect. I’m too tired.
“Maybe I will get the coloring stuff out, so you can use it if you want to,” she suggests.
“No.” It’s one word, but it’s all I can get out. I don’t want to color, I don’t want to be in the here and now. It’s dangerous.
“Just being able to say that is powerful. That one word is so powerful,” she tells me.
“It’s not. Its….not okay.” More tears fall.
Bea sits with me, gives me space to cry. I’ve been holding onto these tears for a long time. They need to come out.
“I just want everything to go away.”
“What would that look like? Would something replace the everything?” Bea asks.
I feel like she is toeing the line of shrinky, but it’s a good question, so I let it go. “I don’t know. I just…I want it to go away, to stop. I’m failing at life. I can’t do this anymore.” I didn’t have an answer then, but now I see nothing, just nothing around me, nothing in me, just a clean bright white place, with nothing. Maybe that is what lies at the heart of my anorexic behaviors. Who knows.
“Life is so varied, and huge, I don’t think you can fail at it,” She says.
I’m staring at the chip in my candy pink toe nail polish. I need to fix that. “Well, it’s how I feel. If I could erase it, make it not true, I would.” I’m back to talking about the abuse.
“Yes, I think most people would feel the same. But is there a part– even a teeny tiny part–that would worry you wouldn’t be the same compassionate, kind, patient person you are?”
“No. If it…..no. I’d be…..” I can’t say it out loud. It hurts too much. I was going to say, ‘I’d be good.’
“You would be what?” She asks.
“I wouldn’t be bad.” I finally say.
“You aren’t bad. Not because you were triggered, not in how you reacted. You didn’t hurt anyone. You aren’t bad. And I hope, I really want you to know that you weren’t bad then, either. You didn’t do anything for this to happen, and you aren’t bad.” Her words are soft, and gentle.
I shake my head. “But I am….its funny…not funny haha, but funny…that you think I am those things…”
“Because you don’t think you are?”
I can’t speak, I’m too ashamed to admit that no, I don’t think I’m those things, so I shake my head.
“You are really feeling bad about yourself and having some harsh judgments today.”
Somehow, this led to me saying that all this isn’t just about a doctor appointment, or needing to write a letter.
Bea agreed. “No, it’s about much more. That’s just…the trigger this time. I think it’s about your identity, about who you are.”
“I don’t know who I am,” I whisper.
“This is the time to explore that. Developmentally that’s what your early 30s are for, it’s where you are supposed to be. It can be painful, but there is a fun side, too. Do I like to work with my hands, be in nature, enjoy physical activity?”
“I don’t know and I don’t want to know. I’m NOT doing this,” I say. It’s not loud, but it’s said louder than I have been speaking, so the noise feels almost as if I have yelled. I instantly feel bad, which starts another round of tears.
“I’m feeling some anger there, maybe some defiance– I’m not doing this and no one is going to make me,” Bea says.
After some time, while I am still crying, I shake my head. “No…well, yes. But no. I’m afraid. I’m afraid, and so I am angry because it is easier. And I’m angry that I’m afraid.”
“Yes, that makes sense. It’s okay. Defiance is okay. Angry is okay. It’s okay.” She reassures me.
There was more around this, I’m sure, but I have no clue what it was.
I pull my knees closer, curl into a smaller ball. I feel like a little kid, who is alone and lost and maybe made a big mistake and who just wants their mommy to come give them a hug and make it better.
“I have this sense of you really feeling like the little girl right now, very alone and scared and vulnerable,” Bea says softly.
As hurt as I am, I smile a little bit, because she does get me. “I was thinking, feeling the same way,” I whisper.
Bea “mmmhmms,” encouragingly. It’s what I’ve come to think of as her verbal nods– because I hide my face, I would never know if she were actually nodding or not.
I continue, “And I really just want my mommy. I want her to fix it.” I burst into tears then.
“I know. This is really hard, and painful.” She says. And then, after a minute or so, “What if your therapist wrote a letter to your doctor for you to send?” She says it with so much compassion and care, I don’t know, I could really feel her wanting to help if she could.
“I….I can’t. I wish…but it’s…no. It’s too much like being a child. Like I’m not acting like an adult if I have you or anyone else fix even that part of it.”
“I can see that. But it is okay if you decide you want a letter. That is okay.” She reminds me.
“I just really want it to stop, I don’t want to feel like this. It’s too much, overwhelm and sad and scared, can’t breathe can’t think, need it to all stop right now hurting feeling. And even if I cried to my mom, she wouldn’t fix it. It would just be more secrets and lies to hide it all away.”
“Maybe. It really feels that way. This is really, really hard work. It is. And you are doing it.”
“I’m…. Secrets and lies and pretending nothing bad happens. That’s half my life. More than. Im so tired of secrets and lies and hiding things. But…it’s easy. It’s the easy out.”
“It’s exhausting to hold the secrets and keep the lies going. But it does feel like it’s easier at times, until it isn’t.” She gets it. She validates exactly what I needed her to.
“Sometimes, it feels safer,” I tell her.
“Yes, it does. Of course it does. When that was the norm, of course it feels safer. But it’s only safer until it isn’t. You can’t hold all the secrets, and you shouldn’t have to.”
I don’t know where things went from there, or where this happened, but at one point, I said something– I don’t know what, and it was just this really connected feeling moment, where I could feel that she does care about me, and I needed that.
I say something, and am sobbing through my words, maybe about hurting or wanting someone to fix this, or wanting it all to just end, stop, go away, disappear.
And Bea tells me, “That you are hurting so much just triggers the mom part of me. I wish I could make it better, make the hurt stop for you. If I had a magic wand, and could just wave it and make this all go away for you, I would.”
I just felt really so cared for, and actually believed, for a moment, that she cares and wants to help just because of me, that I am enough for her to care about. I sniffled, and got my sobbing slightly under control, and smiled sadly, even though she couldn’t see me. “But you can’t. No one can.” I wanted to add thank you, and that it meant a lot to have her want to, and that it was okay that she couldn’t because I really don’t expect anyone to be able to fix it, but I don’t do very well sitting with others having positive feelings for me, and I couldn’t say more.
Towards the end of session, Bea got out the coloring stuff, and she pulled out a picture one of her teens had drawn. I was still hiding my face, but she told me that they had been discussing suicidal thoughts and feelings, and Bea suggested she draw them. “It’s sort of dark and morbid, but her drawing turned out so beautiful. She’s really talented.”
I think Bea knew that behind the wanting everything to stop, to go away, to disappear is this desire to not exist anymore. It’s not exactly suicidal ideation, but sort of. And it’s the sort of scary thing I can barely allow myself to think. So instead, I want it all to stop. But Bea isn’t stupid, and I think she wanted me to know it was okay to bring it up. That things that were not allowed to be discussed, verbalized, or even thought of, when I was a teen are allowed with her. That it is okay to talk. It seems she often tells me little stories about teens she has worked with, or is working with, that match up really perfectly with my teen self, only Bea allows their thoughts, feelings and questions, and when I was a teen nothing less than perfect was allowed. It’s another healing thing, just to know that those things are allowed now.
And when I left, I had pulled myself together, and said goodbye with a smile. But by the time I walked to my car, and paid for parking, the shell had cracked. I held the tears back until Jewel’s ‘you were meant for me’ came on, and then I lost it. While I’m not missing the love of my life, the way she is in the song, there is something about what she is describing that just feels the way my restless, can’t settle, nothing is really right, but trying so hard feelings feel. I don’t know. The last stanza always gets me. “Put on my pj’s and hop into bed…I’m half alive but I feel mostly dead…keep tryin’ to tell myself it’ll be all right, I just shouldn’t think anymore tonight…. Cause dreams last for so long, even after you’re gone…..”
That pretty much is exactly how I feel. I’ve put on my pj’s, and crawled into bed. I have my teddy bear and blanky snuggled with me. I feel emotionally drained, and heartbroken. I am half alive, but mostly dead, and it will be all right as long as I don’t think anymore tonight.