Some things I can’t talk about……..

Trigger warning for talk about sex….

Sex is such a confusing thing to me. And shameful. So very shameful. Logically, I know it’s just a biological drive, nothing shameful there. But emotionally? That’s a different story. I don’t understand why I seek out this thing that terrifies me, disgusts me and hurts me. I don’t understand how I can want to be touched like that. I hate that I feel like half a wife because I don’t typically have sex with my husband. I hate that I am sickened and confused and embarrassed. 

The day we get back from camping passes by in blur. I know I felt bad, overwhelmed. That night, I crawled into bed and snuggled up to hubby. There wasn’t a grown up on board at that moment. Maybe the little girl, maybe a teen part, was running the show. It’s like I could see it happening, but not stop it. At first it was just cuddling, and nuzzling, but then she sat up, and straddled her legs on either side of hubby. She started it. I started it. Kissing, and touching, and she was fine with all of it, until hubby turned his focus more on her, and touching between her legs. One moment, he was hubby and things felt good and she wanted it, and this next moment, it wasn’t hubby anymore, and something bad was going to happen, and I couldn’t handle it. The touching felt nice but like it was too much, too intense and I wanted to squirm my body away, but I couldn’t. And I knew, I just knew, he was going to hurt me after this, because it would be his turn to feel good, and it was going to make me hurt. I started to cry, and scream at him to please don’t hurt me. After that, I don’t know. Hubby stopped, right away, and I hid under my blanky, crying all night. He sat up with me, but I couldn’t talk.  

And now, hubby hasn’t touched me, even to hug me, or hold my hand, or kiss me good morning. I say I hate being touched, but now I feel like he saw exactly how disgusting I am, and he can’t even stand to hug me. I don’t want to be his broken, sick wife. 

I feel like there is more I should say about this. But every time I catch some of the words I want to use, others escape. 

(Also, I’m way super embarrassed about this post, but I honestly can not sit alone with this stuff anymore right now. I feel like I’m losing my mind, and I hate this aspect of myself. Does anyone understand? Am I the only one? How do I cope with this? I’m so lost.)

Alone then, but not now

It’s Monday, and we leave for camping tomorrow. I’m in this dissociated hyper aroused state. I had emailed Bea over the weekend, even after our phone call on Friday because all those tiny worries began to grow bigger and bigger, and I just couldn’t hold onto them for even a few days. (I’ll post the emails in a separate post, so I don’t make this post into a novel!) Emailing helped, and walking into Bea’s office on Monday feels safe and not stressful. 

I curl up on the couch as soon as I walk in, and Bea smiles. “Good morning,” she says. 

“Hi,” I say back. 

We talk about the weather and the weekend and how Kat learned to ride her bike all by herself and how we went on a 5 mile bike ride together. We chat easily, and a part of me is there, having a conversation with Bea. I’m jumpy, though, and talking faster than is normal for me, and I keep looking over towards the door. Bea always makes sure the path to the door is clear, that I sit between her and the door, so no one and nothing is blocking my ability to exit the room if I need to. I never have, but it’s nice that she does this. 

Even though Bea is chatting casually, she notices my constant scanning of the room, and how I jump at every noise. “Are you still feeling on the other end of the spectrum, very hyper aroused?”

I nod. I can’t calm myself down. 

“It makes sense. Everything is so activated for you right now.” 

I nod again. 

“Can we talk about this weekend, for a minute?” She asks. 

I feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach and my eyes dart quickly to her face. “How come? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—” my words are coming out so fast they are blurring together. 

She cuts me off, “You don’t need to be sorry. You didn’t do anything to be sorry about. I wanted to talk about exactly what and why I had been thinking of asking you to try some CBT to help get yourself to shore.”

“Okay.” I shift in my seat, uncomfortable. I hated feeling like I disappointed her. 

“I was thinking that CBT could be useful in the negative thought loop of there not being enough time to be okay before having to leave to camp. I truly didn’t realize that all your resources were depleted from dealing with having all the things triggered. Once I got that, then, no CBT doesn’t seem so helpful. It’s hard to use this logical reframing when parts other than the grown up are running the show. I get that. And I’m sorry I didn’t realize that all of that had been activated.”

I shake my head. “It’s okay. I didn’t tell you, I just kept dropping….hints. I went back through emails and journal entries. And all I did was give you the window picture and tell you that I’d had nightmares. That’s it. I didn’t tell you about all the Kenny stuff and the mom stuff and the mixed up mom and Kenny stuff. How could you have known?” 

“Well, I wish I had realized. I feel as if I should have put the clues together, and I didn’t. But I am glad that even though I didn’t catch the hints, you were brave enough to still tell me.”

I think about this. I dropped hints to my mom, which she ignored and I never did tell her what the hints were trying to make her see. I dropped hints to Bea, which I felt she was ignoring but I still felt safe enough to tell her what the hints were about, and she reacted in the best way. Maybe it’s not a terrible thing that Bea missed the hints. “You fixed it when you knew. It’s okay.” 

“It is okay,” she agrees. 

We sit for a moment, after agreeing that even though I can see why CBT can be useful, that it’s not going to be so helpful right now. 

“If this isn’t what you want to talk about, please correct me, okay? Did you want to talk about the Kenny stuff that was triggered? I know it’s maybe not ideal, but if it’s already there, maybe it would help to share it and not be alone with it as you leave for vacation.” 

“Yeah….I think….yeah.” 

“Okay.” When I don’t say anything, she asks a few questions to help get me talking. “Is it Nightmares, or memories? Maybe more feelings or thoughts?”

“No….it’s….well dreams. But before that. It’s like when we were at the reunion, and everything was the same, I could see us— I mean, Kenny, me, my brother, Jackie, as kids, running around, and hear our parents calling after us, and it didn’t even matter that other people were there, that it was different people, that I’m a grown up now, it was just all right there. So real.” I shudder, thinking about it.

“Yeah, a very intense flashback.”

“But it was good stuff, nothing bad!” I argue. I feel crazy. Who has flashbacks of positive memories?

“Yes, maybe it was good stuff, on the surface. But it was Kenny, and no adults were really present protecting you, and it was good stuff that led to trauma. So it makes sense.”

“Everything was just so real. I’m in my bedroom, and it’s the same house, the same windows, and I’m just brushing my hair or whatever, and it all just hits me. I hate it. I hate it.” My voice gets higher and I’m all kinds of upset. “And then nightmares, camping and I’m at my house and then I’m little and at my parents and things are weird, it is a weird dream but then I end up camping and he’s there and it’s the Ferris Wheel and I can’t, it’s just, ugh!” 

“The Ferris Wheel, this memory, it comes up a lot. It’s a deep one. I wonder why.” She’s musing out loud, just being curious.

“Because it’s not bad enough to be upsetting?” My voice is tiny now, and the grown up me isn’t really here anymore. 

“No! It’s a bad memory. It’s a very legitimate trauma memory. I was just being curious about why this memory is so clear, why it is one of the memories that has lots of senses involved, what made it have such sticking power?”

“Did we talk about it before?” I ask her. I honestly don’t know.

“We talked about the amusement park, and we have emailed about the Ferris Wheel quite in depth. We haven’t talked about it. Last time we emailed and I brought it up, you went too far away to talk to me.” 

“Oh.” I sort of knew I had to of told her, but i still get a little jolt of shock that I don’t remember these emails. “My favorite ride was the Ferris Wheel, you know.”

“Yes, I did know. Was it a very big Ferris Wheel?” 

“Maybe. I don’t think it was really, but it seemed giant to me.” I shrug. It’s hard to judge now big things are when you are seeing them the way you saw them as a child.

“Did it have the bench seats that two people sit on?” She asks me.

I shake my head, thinking. I can just picture, feel, see, sense, Kenny and I on the Ferris Wheel. I can’t actually picture the seats. “Nooooo…..there’s more room,” I say slowly. I know that’s right, but I’m not sure how I know it.

“What did you like about the Ferris Wheel?” She’s curious. 

“I loved it. I loved being so high up and seeing everything, and I loved the drop.” 

“The drop once you go around after being at the top? That was my favorite part too! My mom didn’t do Ferris Wheels, so I always rode with my Dad,” Bea tells me. (These are the sorts of things I know some therapists won’t share, but this is what makes me feel safe with her, it’s a normal conversation and she feels human and real to me, a whole person. I know it’s not right for everyone, but for me, it is)

“I rode with my dad, with other kids, with whoever. I would go again and again, over and over.”

She laughs at this. It’s a delighted laugh, one that says she is picturing child Alice, getting in line over and over. “I imagine you like Kat, just so excited and asking to do the same ride over and over.” 

I nod, and smile. “That’s it exactly.” And then I become more serious. “That was the problem. Again, and again and again. But eventually everyone got tired of again and again. But I asked for one more time, and eventually Kenny said he would take me. And then….I don’t know. That’s my nightmare. He’s sitting with me on the Ferris Wheel, and I’m…..his hand is between my legs and he is touching me and I can’t do anything, not a thing, I’m just stuck there and he can do anything and I can’t….” The words spill out, like dominoes falling over. 

“Did you want to do something?” Bea’s voice sounds caring and gentle, but maybe a little hopeful, too.

“No!” I shout the word at her and grab a fluffy pillow off her couch, hiding my face. Once I’m hiding, I try to breathe. “Maybe. Yes. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

“Okay. That’s okay not to know.” I hear her stand up. “I’m going to go get the blanket, all right?” 

Part of me– likely the grown up– wants to say that no, I don’t need if, but I do need it, and so I nod my head. She brings the blanket over to me, and gently lets it cover me. 

“Did you feel worried when he said he would take you on the ride?” There’s no judgement in her voice, it’s just a question. 

“No.” I hug the pillow to me.

“So you were just focused on going back on your favorite ride and you were happy and excited to get on the Ferris Wheel. So you were very much in the present moment. Maybe that is part of the reason it has such sticking power. You were more present than in other times, and it was a happy place to be, the contrast was startling for you. You weren’t able to be so far away. And your parents were right near, and didn’t rescue you. Yes. That is a lot, no wonder this memory is so powerful.” She makes a sad noise as she finishes talking. It says she is sad for the little girl I uses to be. 

“No, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t call out or make him stop. I was just stuck and it was so awful and I was so afraid. I was scared we would get caught. I don’t —I didn’t want to be in trouble.” I’m talking much too fast again, but I can’t slow down. 

“You were really scared about getting in trouble. You put all the blame on yourself. But it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I was so scared.” 

“I know. You were really scared.”

“I didn’t want to get caught.” I tell her.

“No, you didn’t want to get caught. You were scared. But you did nothing wrong,” she reminds me. “Was there something you wanted to do?” 

“I didn’t want to get caught, I didn’t want to be in trouble. But his hand, his hand, it’s ….”

When my voice trails off, Bea pushes a bit. “What about his hand?”

“I want to push it away!” The words pour out of me, hot and intense, anger and panic boil under the surface.   

“Ahhh, yes! You wanted to push his hand away! He shouldn’t be touching you there! You were just a little girl, on her favorites ride. That wasn’t okay, he wasn’t okay.” She gets it. Her voice tells me she gets how desperately I wanted to make it stop. 

“I wanted him to stop. Just stop.” I feel as if I am shrieking the words out.

“Can him go back to wanting to push his hand away? Can you focus on that feeling for a little while?” 

I try. But then, suddenly, all these feelings– physical and emotional– hit me like a knockout punch in a fight without a boxing ring. “No– no, no, no. I can’t. I can’t. There’s…I can feel….” And I cut myself off, not wanting to tell her what I am feeling because I’m disgusting. The physical feelings are the worst. I am gross. “I…..if I think about pushing his hand away, all I can so is think about where is hand is at.” 

“Okay. Okay.” She is breathing slowly, the way I’m supposed to breathe to calm down. “Let’s just focus on you, and only on your hand. Which hand is wanting to push? What does it feel like? Is it tense? Is it warm? How does the hand want to push?”

I listen to her voice, and that helps me focus just on my hand. Slowly I lift up my right hand.

“Your right hand. That’s great. That is really great noticing. Just focus on that hand.”

Bea stops talking then, and without her voice, I’m back to where his hand is, and what his hand is doing. “I need you to talk.” 

“Alice, we can stop focusing on your hand. You did a lot, it is okay. We can stop this whenever you want to.” 

I shake my head, and then realize she can’t see me. “No, no. I….if you just talk about focusing on my hand it helps me not go to thinking about where his hand…..”

“Where his hand is?” She asks. 

“Yeah.” I’m embarrassed now. 

She runs through so many different ways my hand could feel. I can’t believe that there are this many words to describe physical feelings. 

“It’s tensed!” I say, excited that I can recognize a feeling.

“Tensed up, getting ready to move. That’s good. Is it just the hand, or the arm, too?” 

“I don’t know. Arm, maybe? I don’t know.” 

“Okay, that’s good. Just let yourself stay with that feeling.” She’s so calm.

We talk about wanting to push his hand away, and about what I notice in my hand and arm, and then Bea talks about how I am okay and how I can push his hand away now. “It’s a funny thing, but your brain doesn’t know the difference. You can push now, if you want. You can just push your hand out, or I can get a pillow you can push against if resistance sounds like what you might want.” She’s not pushing this on me, it’s just conversational, and so I’m okay.

“I don’t know, I don’t know. How am I supposed to know?” I’m suddenly panicked that I don’t know. 

“You just feel it. You can trust your body and your sense of what you need.” Again, she is the calm in the storm raging all around and inside me. 

“What if I sense wrong???!?!?”

“Then it’s okay. We have more information then. We try something else.”

“I can’t.” I whisper. 

“Can the grown up help the little girl move her right hand? Could the grown up use her left to help the little girl move the right?” When I don’t respond, she says, “Maybe there isn’t enough of the grown up here to help. And that’s okay. I’m here, and I’ll help however I can.”

“You can’t really help like that.” I whisper. 

“No, not like that. But I am here.” 

I realize that I have been holding my right hand down with my left, and gripping the pillow really tight. I let go with my left, and straighten the fingers on my right hand. Then, feeling so scared, I slowly move my right hand. I don’t push, or even move it in the direction to push. I simply set it down by my right side. 

“Ahhhh. The Little Girl, she is brave. You are so brave. You moved that hand! How did that feel?”

I stretch my fingers out, my palm flat on the couch. As I do that, I feel exactly what I want to do. “I want to scoot away from him. I can’t. I’m stuck, I can’t move. I can’t scoot away.” 

“Ahhhh, so you are noticing you want to scoot away. Do you want to push, then scoot?”

“No……. It’s weird….I know…I want to scoot then push.” It’s almost more of a scoot and push, one right after the other, almost at the same time. 

“That’s not weird, not at all. Do you want to scoot now?”

“I can’t, I can’t get away, I can’t move, he won’t like it, he won’t be happy, I’m stuck here, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” I freak out a little, but Bea holds it all and I’m okay.

“You couldn’t move then. You were frozen– super aware, on alert, frozen– but you aren’t frozen now. Your fingers wiggled. You are safe now. You couldn’t scoot away then, but you can now. You were all alone then, but you aren’t now. I’m here now, and I can promise you that you can scoot away now, and nothing bad will happen.” 

“You’re here?”

“I am right here.” Her voice is strong.

“You won’t go?” I’m a terrified child, panicked that the only safe person on my world is going to leave me.

“I won’t go.” 

I sit there, wanting to scoot, thinking how simple it should be to scoot away, but I can’t do it. I can’t move. 

“You are safe now. Nothing bad is going to happen. I’m here, you’re here, and you are safe. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. It’s your choice. You get a choice now.” Her voice is soft, reassuring. 

“I….I want to move. I just can’t. I can’t do it.” I sound sad. I really do want to move. It’s the strangest thing, I’m mostly back there, sitting in that Ferris Wheel with Kenny, and I’m frozen and can’t do anything about it. But I’ve managed to keep just enough of the grown up me on board to put Bea in the Ferris Wheel, too, maybe in the car across from me, or maybe a car above me. She’s there, though, and she won’t let me be hurt anymore. She will stay right there until I can scoot away from him, push his hand away. She will help keep me safe. The grown up me might not be strong enough yet to help Little Alice, but the grown up is strong enough to help imagine Bea into the memory, the grown up is strong enough to stay present with this so I can feel Bea here with me. I’m not alone in this. It’s taking the grown up me and Bea to help Little Alice stay with the feeling of wanting to move. 

“It’s okay. This was a lot. It was really good work, to stay with it all as long as you have. You did good. We don’t have to do anything more today. We can just sit with the feeling of wanting to move, and of not being alone.” There’s something in her voice, I’m not sure I recognize what it is. Maybe it’s just Bea, being at ease and in the moment with me. Maybe there is some pride in there, and some calm. Maybe I’ve just not been present enough to hear this in her voice. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I like it. It feels like she is happy with me, and that feels nice. 

“I……..I really do want to scoot. I just…I’m scared.” I whisper.

“Could you reach your hand out from under the blanket? Just a little bit, to reach your bag? It’s not very far. Maybe if you knew how far you had to go, that would help.”

I want to try, and so I nod my head. I suddenly want to ask her to hold my other hand, but I won’t. It is a good idea, to have something to reach to, and I very slowly move my hand out from under the blanket. I have to focus on that desire to move, and not think about anything else, but I do it. 

“That was great!” I can head excitement in Bea’s voice. It mirrors my own excitement that I did it. I feel like a child who has accomplished a new and difficult task for the very first time. When I don’t move or speak, Bea says, “Just focus on the feeling of wanting to scoot away. Remember you are safe now.” 

I just can’t make myself move. The little girl is running the show right now, and she is too scared. 

“Is it more of a lean, or a pick up and scoot away?” Bea asks. I think she is thinking leaning would be less movement, and therefore maybe easier. 

I shake my head and burying my face in the pillow I’m still holding. “I…..leaning won’t…I mean, because….” I’m embarrassed, I can’t explain it to her, can’t form the words. 

“Ohhhh, leaning wouldn’t move the part of your body he is touching away from him.” Something clicks for her, and Bea fills in the words for me. 

“Yeah,” I say. And then I’m thinking about where his hand is at, and the physical sensations of being touched are back. (As a side note, please tell me I’m not the only one who experiences this? I hate, hate, hate feeling the feeling of being touched. I’m embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted and I am afraid of the words I would need to use to fully explain it. 😔)

“It’s okay. That’s okay. Let’s try not to go back to what he is doing. Let’s stay with the feeling of wanting to move away, of wanting to push his hand away, of not being alone now, of being safe now. We can work more on this later. It’s okay.” Her voice and her words are like a salve to wounds I didn’t even know I had. 

We start working to bring me fully back to here and now, and I pull the blanket off my head, holding it in front of my face. I peak out from the blanket, meeting Bea’s eyes and then quickly covering my face again. She’s quicker than I am though, and before I hide behind the blanky again, she says, “Yup, I’m still here.” Her eyes are kind, I see, or maybe I jut sense this feeling of acceptance and caring in them. 

I peak put again, and look at her. She is patiently there, just sitting with me. I breathe for minute, come back to myself enough to set my feet on the floor and fold up the blanket. Saying goodbye is hard today. It will be over a week before I see her. She reminds me I can I email or call, and tells me she should have cell service during her whole vacation. 

“When do you leave?” I ask her. It shouldn’t really matter, but I want to know where she is in the world. 

“Friday Morning, so I will be in the car all day on Friday. And then for the weekend, hopefully I will be at the beach for a while, and maybe go for a hike, too. Tuesday I’ll be in the car for most of the day again.” I breathe a little easier. I like knowing where she will be. It’s easier to feel like she hasn’t just left if I can place her in the world. 

Now I can say goodbye. We wish each other a good trip, and then I almost run out of her office and down the stairs. I get to my car and realize something: I am okay. 

Weekend Flashback 

Family Reunion weekend. I should have a lot to say, there should be too many words showing up on this page. Instead, I can’t figure out how to explain the triggered dissociated mess I became. Teen Alice was completely running the show by the end of the weekend. 

I typically enjoy the weekend. In the past, we have hired sitters for the kids, rented a limo and visited multiple wineries on day one. Day two is typically a beach/movie/kid friendly activity day. This side of the family really is a blast. I enjoy them all and look forward to seeing them. 

This year though? We didn’t do the traditional touring of several wineries. Festivities took place at my parents’ house. Everyone brought wine to taste (which was actually pretty cool, we got to try wines from all over the country), activities were set up for the kids, as well as yard games and a photo booth for adults and kids alike. 

It was too much like the parties thrown in my childhood. Being at the house all weekend was just on much for me. The first day was okay. I felt really distanced from everyone, just extremely disconnected from the world, and from myself. 

The second day, my mother and I got into it, and that sent me into a giant tailspin. At first I was so angry with her that all I wanted to do was rage at her. I attempted to vent to hubby, but he just kept saying, “okay” as if I were lecturing him. I desperately needed some feedback, understanding, validation, so I emailed Bea. 

Bea,

I want to throw something. Or cry. Or scream. Or hide in the closet. Or drop a giant bomb and ruin everyone’s lives. Or just run away back to my home and forget about my mother and my childhood home and all that goes with that. 
I’m so angry, Bea. I’m never good enough. That’s the truth. It’s not me being dramatic, or something. It’s just a fact. I’m never good enough for my mother. Oh, when she is talking about me and my life and Kat and hubby, everything is said a if I am still Ms. Perfect. 
But to my face? I’m a giant fucking disappointment and I can’t manage to do anything right. Ugh! Why do I let her get to me like this? And the teen part, omg, she is so strong right now, everything is being colored by her, I know that but it doesn’t stop the feelings. 

My mother is mad because I can’t manage to follow her schedule. I’m sorry! I have an autistic child who is sensitive to crowds and changes in schedules and traveling and sleeping in places that aren’t her own home and I need to do whatever will help my child deal with traveling and transitions and changes. It’s not my job to take care of my mother, I’m not her mom! It’s my job to take care of my child. Grrrrrr. Ugh. My mother got all upset with me because we weren’t doing what she was doing with all the kids downtown/at the beach. Well, Kat had 3 meltdowns and I was dealing with that, so it might it just a little difficult to be right where my mother wanted is to be at that particular moment. But you know, she hasn’t gotten to see Kat at all this weekend, and somehow that is all my fault. But she made her choices to follow what the other kids wanted to do. She could have told them that they were gonna do x,y,z for a while, but she didn’t. She chose to spend her time talking and hanging with the grownups yesterday. 
I’m just so sick of never being good enough. Even Ms. Perfect isn’t perfect enough. 
I’m just so angry right now. What the hell does she want from me? Why isn’t it a good thing that I am respecting my daughters needs and helping her learn to cope with stressful situations and regulate her emotions? Oh right, it’s not okay because that all takes time and being present and dealing with emotions and admitting to not being perfect and it might possibly ruin your perfectly laid out schedule. Argh. 

Oh, and another thing?!?! She’s all upset we haven’t didn’t anytime together this weekend, but every time Kat or I have tried telling her something or asking her to do something with us she gets distracted by other family members, and they get precedence. So how is this my fault? I don’t understand. But somehow it is and I can’t fix it and I can’t be what she needs and I’m so tired, I barely slept last night and I know that’s not helping but ugh. 

You always want to know where’s the anger? Well, here is it. I hate her Bea. I just want to scream at her and throw everything in her face and then go home. Just be done with it all. 

I won’t, you know. I’ll lock it all down and smile and nod and apologize and be appropriate and whatever. But right now, everything in me hates that. I don’t want to be here not here. I don’t want to be far away. But, I also don’t want to be here at all.

Alice 

(Bea’s emailed words are in bold) Sounds frustrating and triggering for sure. As you say, you can’t meet her needs and Kat’s needs both, and your kid has to come first.

Thank you for saying this. I really just needed to feel like someone was on my side. I spent my whole life in that house feeling alone and not good enough and broken. I don’t often feel that way in my real life anymore. But this week….ugh. All those feelings are back in full force. 

 I hope the anger can dissipate enough for you to enjoy the rest of the weekend.
I don’t know what happened. Anger didn’t really dissipate….it just sort of got shoved down. I don’t know. I ended up far away and spacey and trying so so hard to be perfect and do whatever I thought my mom wanted me to be doing. Which basically meant trying to be perfect all the while feeling like a failure in everything. Eventually I just went so far away that being sociable and talkative was too difficult. It was the far away can’t easily orientate to what is happening in the present and can’t get words out. That doesn’t happen often in public—- it’s definitely a teenage Alice thing I think. Of course, that only added to my mother’s annoyance because she felt I was sulking and being unsocial and rude. So….yeah. 

Honestly, I think I was struggling too because we were at the house the whole time, not out at wineries. Being in the house and having a big party in the backyard……well, I lived that as a child. Lots of parties in the yard as I was growing up.

I don’t know. I wavered between angry with my mother and numb and frozen triggered and feeling exactly like teen me trying to be perfect and failing miserably —and honestly, bouncing between all 3 of those feelings, I could feel exactly why I overdosed or cut my wrists. I couldn’t keep going on feeling like that. I couldn’t understand why I felt like that, I felt like I was crazy. I had parents and a therapist who thought I was broken; something was innately wrong with my personality, with who I was. I just wanted everything to stop. I didn’t even care if that meant someone helping me or actually dying. I just needed things to not be like they were. I feel like that’s when I got really good at pretending. I don’t know. It feels like maybe before that time period I did still have a part of the real me, I still had this tiny piece of me that knew who I really was. But that had to go away. I buried that last bit of the real me and learned to pretend and be perfect. Do you know I can be having a panic attack, literally feeling like my heart might explode and I can’t breathe, and I can smile and continue talking like I have not a care in the world? Well, maybe I can’t anymore. I don’t know. But I could at one time. That’s how disconnected I became. Anyway. I think I got off point. 

I guess we are still dealing with teen stuff. Yeah, some of it is present day stuff but mostly it’s teen stuff getting mixed up in present day stuff. And you know what I keep thinking? That was 20 years ago! The Kenny stuff started almost 30 years ago (28 years ago, to be exact). And (at times) it all feels like it happened yesterday, or this morning, or 10 minutes ago. It all feels very right now, it feels present day. Does that make me crazy? 

And…..there was purging and cutting. 😞🙈 I failed there too. I just couldn’t cope. Ugh. It was all just too much.

Alice, 

Ugh! I hope by now you are already heading home. It was just too much, as you say. Do something fun that you like here, in your grown up life now–go for a swim in the lake, or something else grounding and not related to your life at home. Once your now life fully sinks in I think you’ll feel a sense of relief. If not, it’s okay to just be wherever you are right now:)

I’ll see you tomorrow,

Bea

I’m back home, and yet I still don’t feel grounded or safe or really okay at all. I’m still far away, afraid to be more present. Everything is triggering right now. I’m hoping that seeing Bea will help. There’s just too many feelings and memories and mess for me to contain by myself. Even with Bea’s emails, I feel as if I am floating in the middle of the ocean, with no way to get to shore. It’s as if I keep looking and looking for someone to come, but no one does. I’m treading water furiously, but no one is showing up to help me make a raft or swim to shore or call the coast guard to rescue us. When my mother shows up, she wants me to help her stay afloat, she needs my help. When Bea shows up, she is showing up just to be there with me, so I’m not treading water alone. She says we can figure out together how to make a raft, swim to shore or call the coastguard. I hope that seeing Bea will help settle all the parts because I really need that right now. 

You aren’t broken and you don’t have to hide anymore part 2

Trigger warning!! This is the second half of this post. In it, Bea and I talk– fairly in depth– about a teenage suicide attempt. Please read with caution. 

“The suicide attempt,” she says slowly, “Was that it, or did you try again later? Because I would imagine with no one was addressing the pain, with no one trying to understanding why, all those overwhelming bad feelings wouldn’t just disappear. I think that with trauma and these awful feelings, it is normal to think about dying. I know we haven’t talked about it, but you have written before about not wanting to be here anymore, and we have emailed about why you wouldn’t follow through on any plans, and what to do if you felt like you might. But I’m not sure I’ve stressed the fact that I believe when we experience such extreme traumas that our minds find ways to survive, and sometimes that includes the idea that if things get too bad, we can end it. It’s an escape, right? You aren’t crazy for having these feelings. And that why I would imagine that as a teen, those awful feelings didn’t go away, and maybe you tried to escape them again.” 

It is hard to talk, I feel as if I am encased in a thick layer of quilting batting. “I….” I start and stop like that several times. I want my blanket, but I can’t ask. The words won’t come. 

“Do you want your blanket?” Sometimes, it is as if Bea is a mind reader. I nod my head. She gets the blanket, unfolds it and holds it up on front of, letting it drop gently to cover me. I feel cared for when she does this, like she wants me to feel safe, like it matters to her. 

“Okay. See if you can feel this boundary, that you are safe. See if having that solid boundary, feeling the blanket there, see if that will allow you to be more here.” Bea’s voice is soothing and soft. 

I hold up 4 fingers under the blanket. Of coarse Bea can’t see that. “Four……four times.” I whisper. It’s six or seven if you count college after the boyfriend, but I don’t want to go there.

“Four times? You really were just begging for help, for someone to see you and no one did. I just want to tell that teen girl she is seen now, she’s not alone now.” Bea’s voice is kind, but there’s an edge to it, a tone that says she is so angry with the adults in teen Alice’s life. “Did you have to go to the hospital?” 

“No.” I say, finding it funny. My parents couldn’t have me in a hospital. It would ruin that perfect image of our family. Then I think about it, and say, “Well yes, I guess. I mean, sort of. The ER. Not the hospital. I…”

“Did you cut yourself everytime? Or were there other things?” Geesh. Bea isn’t shying away from this. She’s of afraid to talk about it. It feels invasive, in a way, as if she is trying to unlock a box full of my secrets, but on the other hand I am glad that she isn’t shying away from this topic. I’ve never been allowed to talk about it.

I shake my head. “Other things. You know the first time…..before I cut my wrists.” 

“Can you remind me? I’m sorry, I think I need a memory jog.” Ordinarily I would be hurt that Bea forgot something about my story, but since this was a story told only very quickly as to how I lost my therapist Cathy, I’m not surprised that Bea can’t really remember. 

“This is hard to talk about.” I mumble the words. 

“I know. It’s not normal conversation. But it is okay.” 

“It’s….I mean….always it was just ignored. I mean, like, I knew that I was to pretend nothing ever happened. The Kenny stuff…..it might have been known, it might have been ignored, but it was me pretending it away, it was me splitting parts away and not even knowing what happened…..but this….it was just the rules. Don’t talk about it. Pretend it never happened. It’s different.” I try my best to explain, but I’m not sure I’ve made sense.

Even though I can’t see her, I picture Bea nodding. Her voice has that *light bulb* moment quality to it. Something just clicked for her. “I can see that. It’s something that was definitely known to your parents and a deliberate choice was made to cover it up and hide it.” 

“Yes!” She gets it. “So it’s….hard to talk about. I’m breaking the rules again.”

“It’s okay. We can take our time. When you are ready.”

“No….I want to….I think…..it’s just…..hard. And I wanted to say why it is hard.”

“Okay.”

After another long pause, I speak. “I……… overdosed.”

“The first time?”

“Yes.”

“What did you take?”

“Tylenol. Just Tylenol.”

“What happened? Did you tell your parents?”

“I….I’m not sure. It’s fuzzy. I was throwing up. I think they found me. Or caught me? I don’t know.”

“But you ended up at the hospital?”

“At the ER.”

“How did they treat you there? Were they kind?”

“I….I’m not sure…..I don’t remember getting there. I just….I remember when I woke up.”

“What happened when you woke up?”

“I….I was….I mean, it was, my mom was checking me out. To go home. I was. The nurse….”

And then it’s silence because I can’t get the words out. Bea waits, and then she reassures. But mostly there is a lot of silence. Finally, words begin to find their way our of my head and into the room. “It…..I feel like I’m making this a big deal when it’s not. It’s silly.”

“You think it’s silly?”

“Well, it’s just, it’s not even a thing. But I’m having a hard time talking and so it seems a big deal but then when I say it, it will be like, well that’s silly.”

“I don’t think it’s silly. I think it has some significance if it’s a struggle to talk about. Clearly this impacted you in some way.”

“It…..I was……the nurse. He was telling me……I might throw up more and if it was black not to panic it was okay.”

“Because of the charcoal?” Her voice is matter of fact. 

“Yeah. Because they pumped my stomach. And then….I had clothes there to put on. To go home. So he was to help me get up to get dressed.”

I pause again. I can’t tell this story. It’s not even a big deal. It’s not a trauma memory, it’s nothing, and Bea is going to think I’m an idiot. Yet, I can feel the panic in my belly and my chest, I can feel myself wanting to run, to hide, to disappear. 

I know we have to be running out of time and I don’t want to hold this until next time and I don’t want to write it in an email. The words come out in a rush. “There was a catheter and he reached under the blanket….under my gown to remove it. I….I freaked out….” Oh my God, the shame of this behavior is going to kill me. I’m going to die, right here, on Bea’s sofa, of shame. 

“Of course, of course you did. It was a trigger, a trauma reaction. It is a big deal. It was a big trigger. Did anyone realize? How did they react?”

“They……it’s fuzzy….they held me……a shot…..” My words are quiet and I’m pretty far away. 

“They gave you something to calm you down?” She asks, sounding like she can’t believe I was treated that way. 

“A shot. And then he finished removing the catheter and helped to get me dressed.” I can feel the sharp prick in my right arm, the fear inside me of having my arms held down, and then I can feel the fear and anxiety being covered up, blocked somehow, and everything is numb and fuzzy again. 

“Ugh! I’m sorry! You didn’t deserve that! You didn’t need that. You needed someone to see this trauma reaction and help you.” 

“I was just crazy. The crazy borderline girl. It didn’t matter.”

“It does matter. You weren’t crazy. This is revictimization. It’s doctors and other helping professionals not seeing trauma signs and not helping, just treating you like a label, like you were something needing to be fixed. You weren’t then, and aren’t now. You aren’t broken. You aren’t crazy.” 

 
“I just…..I thought something was wrong with me. Just me….being crazy. Acting out. Being broken.”

“Ahhh….the parts didn’t know about each other then. The teen didn’t know all the trauma and how she could be triggered. She had no idea. You had no idea back then why you behaved in that way. It’s not like now, where the grown up you knows about the other parts and has an awareness.”

 
I nod. “Yeah.” 

Bea is not happy that no one saw I had a trauma reaction. She is angry for me that no one realized what was going on, and no one helped me. I don’t know why I do it, but I stick up for all the people who didn’t see, and didn’t help. “It was almost 20 years ago. I don’t think anyone knew about stuff like this then. No one talked about it.” 

“That true, it’s been more in the last ten years that trauma and trauma responses, PTSD and dissociation have been talked about in the therapies world and the medical community. But I still can’t believe– I believe you– but I can’t fathom that not one nurse or doctor there thought to ask you what happened, why you got upset, how you were doing. I know that 20 years ago it was everything was more of a medical model. But it makes me angry for you! You deserved better! You’ve had so much trauma. Adding more from helping professionals, it’s just unfortunate.”

We sit in silence for a few minutes. I slowly pull the blanket off my head, holding it over my face and peeking out over the edge of it like a little kid. I’m still afraid to look at her. I’m terrified of seeing disgust, or disinterest, or something bad. I don’t know. 

Before I leave, Bea looks at me, making eye contact. “We can’t go back and change things now, as much as I wish we could. But what we can do is listen to the teen, and validate her pain and help her see that there is nothing wrong with her, that she is not crazy or broken. We can help her to feel heard and cared for. I hope that she’s listening to this now. Can I tell her something? I hope you know you aren’t alone now. You don’t have to hide any of this anymore. You don’t have to be perfect. I won’t leave, you can’t make me leave, even if you aren’t perfect. I’m here, and I see you.” 

When I finally leave Bea’s office, I feel as if I have been wrapped in a warm hug. I’m exhausted, and sad for what the teen needed but didn’t get, but I’m secure in the knowledge that Bea is here.

Deeper down the rabbit hole part 3 (fighting with hubby)

Continued from part 2…..and I still am going with that trigger warning, mostly for suicidal ideation. Im posting this because I am okay now. Most of these feelings have passed, now, and Bea is aware of how I was feeling. 

Sunday, hubby and I fought some more, and things were worse feeling. I needed to get away, and so I left under the guise of going grocery shopping. I ended up sitting in the grocery parking lot for the better part of two hours. I realized I wanted to talk to Bea. I wanted to call Kay, who had dealt with my bad feelings like this before. But Kay is more of an acquaintance now, a person who really doesn’t even want to think about me, let alone talk to me. I thought about calling Reagan, but didn’t want to bother her, when she had just dealt with my nonsense the night before. It sucked, because I realized how alone I really am. Yes, I’m married, but I have isolated myself, and cut myself off from so many relationships in my life, including one with my husband, that I was just really alone right then. The person I should have been able to turn to, my hubby, was the source of my pain, and was not someone I was about to turn to. All I could do is write a letter to him in my journal; a letter that won’t get sent.

*************************************************************************************************************

Dear hubby, 

I need you to go to therapy. I get that you are stressed out and that grumpy days happen, but I can’t keep doing this. I love you and I want us to really be together, to have the kimd of relationship where we ca talk about feelings and be open and vulnerable because it feels safe to do so, and right now, for me at least, it doesn’t feel safe to have any feeling except “happy”, “joy”, “love”, “calm”, “peace”. But that’s not life. And it really is not life as a type A, anxious person with PTSD who doesn’t feel very safe being attached to others or being in the present, or feeling emotions or somatic reactions. There’s a whole wide range of emotions and anytime I seem to display one of those emotions, you shut down, you emotionally abandon me. It’s just a repeat of my childhood and that emotional abandonment is sure to trigger all kinds of bratty destructive behaviors. I react badly because I’m hurt and scared and don’t trust that it is safe to talk about my real feelings. 

I think you need to work on communicating. You are so shut down and closed off from even your own feelings you don’t know when you are mad or grimly. But with tensions just coming off you and me asking you several times today if you you were okay or mad or whatever, I think at one point I even used the word grumpy, and you assured me “no, everything is fine.” And then later, really communication is needed because if you can not even state to me you want us all to go out to dinner as a family, well, that is a problem. I am not a mind reader, and “do you want White Castle?” does not mean go out to dinner as a family to me. I don’t even eat White Castle! I should not be expected to know what you meant, to translate your words, and I should not be punished for not reading your mind. 

The thing of it is, you want pre-therapy Alice back. You want miss perfect, in her bubble, with no feelings, who was just numb and zoned out. But she’s not coming back. Messy Alice is what you get. Messy and real. Life is messy. Add trauma to that and then a kid and it’s very, very messy. And that is not going to change. You need to find a way to accept the messy, to make your peace with it and love the messy me. Because waiting for Bea to “fix” me? Well, I’m more “fixed” than I’ve ever been. It just so happens that you don’t like this girl, this messy me. Maybe you can learn to. I don’t know. If you can’t, I guess we need to figure some things out. Because I’m so done with this. Every single time you abandon me emotionally, you set off these massive series of triggers because you are literally re-enacting how my parents chose to to react to me. It’s worse this time, because I’m already triggered from some crap Bea dredged up, and Bea is gone and the one time she was on vacation is was not good, so I feel pretty left by her, and now you, too. So I’m feeling really bad and scared and not okay, but the response I have is to act like a brat, be mean and loud and push harder because I felt you leave, and then I feel guilty and like a terrible person, when you become angry with me. And when you won’t talk to me about it or you split your attention to your phone when I’m talking as though what I’m saying is unimportant, I only spiral down more. “I’m awful, I’m terrible, I screw everything up, I’m the worst, I’m ruining everything.” And then I just want to go away, and disappear forever. I end up crying and hiding and hurt and fighting myself because parts of me feel so low they see no point in being here, and their solution is to swallow pills, cut my wrists, hurt myself badly enough that I disappear. It’s not easy. It’s a serious fight to not do those things. Kat is my motivation to not do those things, and so when you say how I’m screwing up as a mom, too, how I am as bad as my parents or worse, well, you take away the last bit of motivation to live. So good job, hubby. You didn’t want me around anymore, you wanted to leave. Well, you found the recipe. One of these times it might just work, and you won’t have to leave me, because I’ll be gone. Because I have no one. 

~Alice 
************************************************************************************************************

I ended up calling Reagan on my way home from the store. Some of those suicidal thoughts were really strong, and, as I said in part one, there is a part of me that is determined to survive. We talked off and on the rest of the day and into the evening. When I exploded at Kat, yelling and having a meltdown, I called Reagan, and cried to her about it, and then told her I could not think clearly enough to figure out how to repair the fight with Kat. She gave me the words to use, told me I was okay, a good mom, and made plans to meet me in the morning for breakfast. 

To be continued………

Uncomfortable 

Things have been spacey and off all weekend. On Thursday, a close friend of mine comes over, but it feels more like a dream than something that is actually taking place. I feel like I’m separated from the world, as if I’m stuck behind a thick sliding glass door, so all my interactions are muted. Friday, I lose time and don’t have much of a memory as to what I actually did on Friday. Saturday was a “block party” for the neighborhood, which I attended, but I felt as though my behavior was off. Maybe I was too chatty, or not helpful enough, or did not mingle as much as I should have or maybe I wasn’t enough of something or I was too much of something. 
Sunday, I was a complete mess. I lost a few hours in the morning, at least in part because of flashbacks. I yelled at hubby; he was helping me to cut up veggies, and what I saw how he was cutting them, I snapped. I yelled that he was doing it wrong and I would just do it myself and that I did not need him. He was leaving to go fishing later that day, and anytime I am even a little triggered, and hubby is leaving, I yell at him and push him away first. Unfortunately, while I recognize this pattern, he does not see it at all. 
I was on edge all day Sunday, zoned out but uncomfortable, hyper aware, jumpy. I snapped at Kat, and struggled to convince even just some adult part of me that Kat is not the little girl we hate and find disgusting. I ended up texting our old Nanny, and she came and watched Kat for a few hours. That helped. I just could not be mom that day.  
I emailed Bea. And she responded fairly quickly, so we sent a few messages back my forth. But it was a struggle to hold on to the fact that she cares, that she wasn’t blowing me off, that when she writes things like “I am sorry you are having such a hard day”, she means that, and just that, there isn’t a judgement anywhere. She suggests we might try some sensorimotor therapy to build some resources or to sequence what my body has been feeling, depending on what I feel like.
Monday morning, I don’t know what I want to do. I’ve been up since 2:30am. I woke from a nightmare, and the lost a few hours, so by the time I gain control of myself, it’s 7:15 and I am rushing out the door to make it to therapy on time. Driving to therapy, parking, walking into Bea’s building, I feel off, wrong. Part of me wants to run upstairs and hide in her office and feel her presence, but another part of me is fighting this every step of the way. 
I obviously walk in, say hello, sit down in my normal spot on the couch, but I don’t really remember doing so. It’s just blank space. I don’t remember sliding my shoes off my feet, or. pulling my knees to my chest. 
I’m not sure, but I imagine we chatted about normal things for a few minutes. And then Bea asked me a question, something about how I was feeling. It’s where my memory becomes more clear. I shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know.” 
Maybe she knows I wasn’t very there, or maybe she realizes something changed, but she maybe reframes her question, or maybe she starts the conversation over, with brand new questions. I’m not entirely sure. “Let’s start by having you take an internal temperature. Can you do that? Check in, see how things feel? That will help us know what direction to take. If you are so far away that you don’t know what you are feeling, we need to do some grounding before we can do anything else. If you are present enough to know what you are feeling, we can do some somatic resourcing, like we did before.” 
I don’t say anything. A part of me is so angry with Bea, I want to scream at her to shut up. I can feel her waiting for a response, and I finally manage to eek out one word, “Uncomfortable.” 
“Okay, good. So you’re feeling uncomfortable. Can you say more about that?” 
I open my mouth to speak, and then I shake my head. No. I can’t explain. 
Bea is thoughtful. “Is it uncomfortable like tension in your body, or uncomfortable like an emotion?” 
In my head, it’s both. It’s uncomfortable because the focus is on me, and what I’m feeling in my body. I’m uncomfortable because I feel put on the spot. 
“Hmmmm. If it’s hard to decipher what you are feeling, maybe doing some grounding work to bring you back into the room would be a good place to start.” She suggests, lightly.
“Okay.” I say the words, as I’m shaking my head no (I don’t notice this until Bea points it out to me later). 
Bea talks about being here, and now, and how it’s safe in the present, in her office, with her, and me, and how I’m grown up, and far away from bad things that happened, and she points out noises we are hearing, like birds singing and cars driving by. When it’s obvious to us both that I’m a bit more present, she asks me if I want to do some resourcing. “Do you remember last time you felt very out of control, and the body stuff was really front and center for you? We used a somatic resource, pushing away with your hands, and squeeze your legs together, telling yourself how strong your legs are and that no one can move them. That seemed to help give you some control back. I really do want to help you have some control, or at least be working towards a sense of being more in control and safe. What do you think?” 
“I’m scared.” I whisper to her. It’s why I don’t want to do this. Or at least, it’s partly why. 
“We don’t have to work with the scary memories or thoughts or emotions. We are just dealing with what the body feels. This is much less scary and activating if we separate out what we feel in our body, and just be curious about it. Just pay attention to it, see what is happening.” Bea says. 
Ugh. I’m so mad at her in that moment, I want to stand up and walk out. Instead I yell at her. “I can’t separate it out. We did not separate it out before because I can’t. I don’t know how to. It’s too hard.” Except, the yelling doesn’t come out as yelling, because I’m mostly frozen and wanting to hide right now. It’s more of an angry whisper. The little girl is running things, and she is very afraid of this anger. 
“That’s right, we didn’t separate it out before. You’re absolutely right. We worked with the whole memory,” Bea realizes her mistake, and agrees with me. 
“I can’t separate it.” I tell her, emphasizing the word can’t. 
“I can help you with that. We can work on that together. We can practice. It’s okay, it’s a skill like any other.” She is reassuring, and calm, and so certain that this is no big deal.
“Okay.” I shrug. 
“Can we go back to the uncomfortable feeling?” 
I shrug, then nod my head.
“What kind of uncomfortable feeling is it?” 
“Scared. I’m scared.” I tell her
“How do you know you’re scared?”
“I don’t know.” I shake my head. 
“What are you noticing in your body right now, that is telling your head that you are scared?” She pushes.
I shake my head. “Nothing. I just know in my head.” 
Bea gives me a moment, and when I don’t say anything more, she talks. “Sometimes, when I’m hungry, it seems like I just know I’m hungry, but really, all these little things going on in my body tell me that I’m hungry. Like my stomach might growl, and I might feel light headed. Maybe I feel a little bit slow cognitively. Maybe my mouth waters when I think of food. All those things let my mind know I’m hungry.” 
I stop and think about this for a minute. My first thought is that I didn’t think so many things went into knowing you were hungry. I never actually feel hungry. I go off a clock as to know when to eat. I’ve screwed up my body so badly. My second thought is to tell myself to focus on what my body feels. “My heart is beating really fast,” I tell her. 
“Okay, good. So that is one way we know we are scared.” 
Things get fuzzy then, and I can’t stay with it. My heart is beating too fast, and I can’t breathe and I’m scared and uncomfortable and we are talking about my body and it is not safe. It is not safe to feel this, and it is not safe to talk about my body out loud and it is really not safe to bring another’s attention to it. My attention to what is happening in Bea’s office fades in and out. 
She notices my fingers moving, and the very fact that she has called attention to them makes me freeze, go completely still. “It looks like you have gone very still now,” Bea says. 
I start to say something, then shake my head. 
“Who is shaking their head? I’m curious who that is?” Bea says gently. “I’ve noticed today, a part shaking their head no, saying no, even when you are saying yes today. It seems a part of you really wants to connect and a talk and be present, be here, and this other part of you is rejecting all of that. Maybe that part is scared?” 
“I don’t know who. I don’t know!” I tell her.
“That’s okay. We don’t have to know right now. We just stay curious about it. That’s all.” Bea’s voice is soothing and calm. 
I go floaty far away again, and Bea asks me if I can try taking some deep breaths. I try but can’t seem to do much more than barely avoid hyper ventilating. 
“You’re body just doesn’t trust that it’s safe right now. I can see that it’s really hard for you to even take deep breaths right now,” Bea says. “Just keep breathing. Nice slow, deep breaths.” 

Eventually I get my breath back, and then, I start to cry. I’m not even sure why, or what is going on with me, but I can’t stop the tears. 
“There is a lot of emotion coming up right now,” Bea observes. “What’s happening for you?” 
I shake my head again, and this time, I notice it, too. “I just….I don’t know. I feel like I’m messing everything up. Not good enough, or something. Like I did something bad, something wrong. Just I don’t know. I’m sorry.” 
“You don’t need to be sorry. You have nothing to be sorry for. What I’m asking you to do is incredibly difficult. And you aren’t messing up, not at all! It takes a long time, to be able to stay with the feelings and follow them. It goes against everything you have spent your whole life practicing. You learned a long time ago that it was safer to be far away from your body and not aware of what was going on in it. It’s pretty amazing that you have been able to feel the things you have, like your heartbeat. And the you were able to come back to your heartbeat. That’s amazing, it’s not messing up at all.” Bea says softly. 
“I wanted to talk about something. The little girl wants to talk about something.” I tell her, shyly. I’m afraid she is going to tell me no, or that she is going to tell me she isn’t interested or something. I don’t know. 
“She can always talk. Let’s use the rest of our time for her. What does she want to talk about?” Bea is very casual about it, very calm and quiet, so as not to spook the little girl. 
I very quietly get my journal out of my bag and hand it to her. This journal has a ribbon that marks the page, so Bea can easily open the page to what I want her to read. 
I curl up into myself, hiding my face again, and Bea opens the journal.
<><><><><><><>< I’m lost. Everything is triggering me. I’m drowning in triggers. Even yoga is triggering me right now. What am I supposed to do when the things I use for grounding are triggers now? [i wrote about something I’m not ready to share publicly yet] It’s my fault. I never told. Bea, I never said a word. Not that anyone would believe me. But I never told. You know, you have to know, where I’m going with this. I can’t fully think this, it hurts too much. But it’s my fault. Bad. Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad selfish needy self centered needy bad toxic. 
Sometimes I wanted to tell. I wanted it all to end, to be over. 
But then I don’t want it (yes, I wrote it in my journal as of it was currently happening. My mind gets confused sometimes, and I will write as if things are happening in the present) to stop at all because I am special to him, I matter, he cares about me. He loves me. Even my mom only loves me for who I can be and what I can do. 
And I like the touchy feel stuff. Sometimes. But my family is not huggy. My mom is not touchy feely, only hugs for good-byes and good nights. He is touchy feely, and huggy and cuddles me. It just always turns into more. It just turns into our special game. Always a part of our game. But I love him. I’d probably do anything for him. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><

“Mmhmmmm……..oh, I see…..uh-huh….yeah……” Bea is saying as she reads what I have written, and her voice sounds sad. 
“What?” I ask, worried. I’m afraid of what she is thinking. Is she going to kick me out? Is she firing me? Does she think I’m terrible?
“Most children never tell, at least not while they are a child. It would be…..a child’s defense is to freeze, to separate out the reality they can’t face from the reality they can, and so the idea of telling something that is unknowable to the child….you are asking yourself to be super human. No one can expect that. You aren’t bad. You didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing is the child’s fault, ever, just because they didn’t tell.” Bea says. She wants to read me something, so she pulls out one of her sensorimotor therapy books, and some of what she reads to me is helpful in the moment, but I’m pretty spaced out again. 
Bea asks me to breathe, too try to sit up, to listen to what I hear, to look around the room, even if I can’t life my head she knows I can look at the floor. I try, but it’s hard. Bea reminds me that I need to get back to an adult place, that the adult me needs to leave. Somehow I manage to get back to a semi adult place, a semi grounded place.
“My mom wants me to come visit this weekend….she’s been asking and asking….and then she says that if I don’t come this weekend, then she will come to me. So, I guess I’m not getting a choice. I don’t get a choice.” I tell Bea. I’m half pouting, a little angry. “It’s even harder, right now because of all this stuff, and I’m not ready to go to my mom’s right now. It’s too much. So I just…..I don’t know.” 
“I’m sure with these painful memories, it’s brought up old feelings of anger with her for not protecting you. How could it not?” Bea says. She is on my side, on the little girl’s side, and on the teen’s side. 
“I’m not mad……not right now. I’m just….hurt. Hurt. Confused. I made her so mad.” I’m not really hear again. 
“You made her mad? When? In the past?” Bea asks. She is trying to follow the conversation, and she does such a great job at following my crazy leaps and dissociated head, but even she gets lost sometimes. 
I nod. “Yeah. Yeah. I always mess everything up. I did something bad, something wrong, and made her so mad.” I start to cry. 
“Alice, do you realize, this is the same thing you said earlier, that you felt like you did something wrong, something bad? You weren’t sure where that feeling and emotion were coming from. I’m curious if the feelings were old feelings related to your mom. What do you think you did that was bad?” 
“You know,” I say to Bea, stressing the words. 
“The underwear incident?” She asks. 
I nod. “Yes.” 
“You weren’t bad.” She says evenly, firmly. 
“I did a bad thing and she left. She was so mad and she just left.” I whisper, crying. 
“She left. Yeah. That was so painful. You didn’t do anything bad, but it really felt like it. And now, right now, in 2016, you haven’t some anything bad or wrong, no one is mad, and no one is leaving.” Bea reassures me. 
I cry a little more, and we slowly start to chat about nothingness, everyday chit chat, the kind of conversation that calms me down. By the time I say goodbye, I’m mostly calm again. I feel a little shaky, but not horribly so. 

Annoyed 

“And you? I’m curious how you are feeling now, if you still are feeling sad? It sounds like it was a really tough week.” Bea turns to me, changes the conversation from Kat and the school meeting and everyday things to me and how I am feeling and the email I had sent. 

I go from engaged and mostly present– or at least the normal, okay, functioning part of me was present– to feeling small and silly and ashamed. I can literally feel hot pin pricks of shame or embarrassment or something burn through my chest, my neck, my face, as Bea turns her focus on me. I shut down, looking down at the floor, wanting to hide. “I don’t know,” I mumble. 

“Is the sadness…do you know what it’s from?” She asks softly. 

I shake my head, mumble a response. 

“There are lots of reasons to feel sad. Kay, your mom, the situation with the doctor and facing your identity as a survivor. Lots of reasons. It makes sense to me that you would feel sad.” 

I sit, curled up and floaty, my hands over my face, not wanting to have this conversation. “I feel like everyone has left, or is leaving or will leave.” It’s a whisper, quiet and barely there. 

My words don’t manage to cross the space between us, and Bea says, “What was that?” 

I’m annoyed. I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to have to repeat myself, but I do. 

Bea doesn’t respond right away. When she does, she is honest in her response. “My first instinct is to say I’m not leaving. To reassure you that I’m not going anywhere. But of course I can’t guarantee that. I don’t know the future. I can promise you that I have no plans to go anywhere. Kay did leave, and that is really sad. She’s not giving you space to have your feelings, she shut you out. And that hurts. Your mom, not being able to be there emotionally, that feels like she’s left you again, but I really do believe this is part of her process, her journey. That she will be back. You know as well as anyone that healing isn’t a straight path. I don’t see hubby or Rory leaving, they are here. Not everyone is leaving.” 

“I know. I know that healing isn’t a straight path.” The words sound like snapping in my head, angry and annoyed. They come out mumbled and quiet. 

“We talk about patterns of emotion, getting sort of stuck in feeling, and those aren’t helpful feelings. They aren’t authentic, healing expressions of emotion. Does this feel like sadness….like when you cry and it hurts but then you also feel lighter, and better in a way? Or does it feel like a pattern?” 

I don’t know what she is talking about, but it feels like she is saying I don’t really feel sad, or upset, or something, like she thinks it is a habit, like I just need to choose to be okay. I don’t know. I feel myself shutting down, closing her out, feeling upset and hurt. “I don’t know.” I whisper the words, because it seems there is an expectation that I respond, and I’m nothing if a not a good girl who does what is expected. And then I add, “You forget the last part. Everyone will leave.” 

She says something about everyone realizing at some point that they are alone, that it’s like this existential crisis or something. I don’t know. She talks, and I don’t listen. 

Finally, I say, “Let’s just talk about the doctor letter.” 

Bea laughs softly. “Nothing like contemplating why we are here, feeling all alone, talking about existential crisis to make the doctor letter feel like a good topic.” 

I shrug. I don’t have a response. Nothing feels like a good topic. I’m ready to go. I don’t want to be here. 

“I think we should be more grounded before we talk about this,” she says. When I don’t respond, she offers up suggestions for being more present. “Do you want to color while we talk? Do you want to look around the room and name colors you see?” 

I don’t want to do anything. I want to leave. “I’m okay. I’m fine,” I tell her. 

She doesn’t say anything right away. Then she says, “Okay.” But it doesn’t sound like she believes it. It sounds more like she has chosen to pick her battles, and she is isn’t going to push this right now. 

“Both letters are good,” Bea starts off the conversation. “You know your doctor and you know how she will respond to each.” 

“She isn’t…I don’t know. She’s just real. Like you are real, Kay…Kay was real.” 

“And you said she runs late a lot, right? Because she takes the time people need?” 

I nod. It’s true. I chose this doctor a long time ago because she’s real, she’s very caring and real. She’s also really smart, but not in a way that she talks down to people. She has always behaved like we are equals, until I behaved like a child. Ugh. 

“My doctor, I would be very boundaried and clinical with her. She’s not warm and fuzzy, she’s a ‘just the facts’ kind of person. But, my old doctor, I would have told her more, she was warm and it would have felt safe to give her more information.” 

“I don’t want to tell anyone anything!” The words slip out. 

“I know. I know. The choice is to find a new doctor, or tell this doctor something.” Bea says matter of factly.

We circle around, and around. I feel myself getting angrier and angrier. I’m mad at Bea. I want her to shut up, to stop talking to just leave it alone. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I tell her. I mean that I don’t know why I am reacting this way, why I am feeling so mad at her when all I want is to feel close to her, to feel not alone. 

“What do you mean?” She asks me. 

“Nothing. I don’t know.”

At one point she tells me I can tell my doctor what I need. I mumble that what I need is for this to not be real, for no one to make me talk to anyone, for this to not have happened. She doesn’t hear me, and so she asks me what I said. 

“It doesn’t matter,” I say. 

“I think it does matter.” 

I shake my head. “It’s not important, never mind.” 

“I think it is important,” Bea argues. 

I don’t say anything and she lets it go. I don’t know if I wanted her to push and fight with me that it is important, or if I wanted her to let it go. I have a thought running through my head, and it takes everything in me to say it out loud. I’m not sure I want to say it; the grown up part of me doesn’t want to say it, but the teen is fighting to get her words out. The teen ends up winning. “If I say I’ll send the email, can we just be done with this?” 

Bea busts up laughing, but it’s kind laughter. “That is such a teenager response,” she tells me, still chuckling. She is enjoying my snarkiness. She is not angry or defensive over it, and she’s not telling me I can’t behave like that. It’s not a response I’m used to. “We can be done talking about this,” she says, a smile in her voice. 

I don’t remember how we ended things. I do remember going home, and in a fit of anger, sending an email to my doctor. It was a very teenage feeling, a “I’ll show you, I’ll make you leave me alone” feeling. So, I send the email. Pressing the send button is like sticking a pin in a ballon– the big angry feeling deflates immediately, and I once again feel scared and alone.