Day 14 of Believing the Girl – Triggered

Evening session with E. The realer it gets, the closer I get to the floor. Today I didn’t even try to sit in the chair. I started out cross-legged on the floor, leaning against the cushioned chair, E. across from me in her therapy chair.

“I had such a plan for this session,” I tell her. “I printed out copies of a couple of my blog posts and of pictures from the girl. Especially one picture, a painting she made that she then wrote on.” “But I had errands to run earlier. One of them took longer than I thought, so I didn’t have the time swing back home to get my journal and papers. I’m so aggravated!”

“I like it when you bring you show-and-tell,” she smiles.

“Yeah, well it makes it a bit easier talk to you using the pictures. I wanted to share them,” I know I’m fussing pointlessly. “But ok, I’ll just have to tell you about them instead.”

First I tell her about the map of the pit. This is something I made a few weeks ago when we both realized that I wasn’t communicating to her how bad my depression was this spring. Now I have a pictorial guide to my own personal pit, and I can mark on the map what symptoms I have been having. I am pleased that my symptoms are generally less frequent and less severe than a few months ago. You can see it on this map (with my name whited out).

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Since she has seen the map before, she knows what I am talking about and recognizes that I’m doing better.

Next we talk a little about my son with developmental disabilities, a vast and complicated topic I have not really discussed yet on this blog. Someday, perhaps.

Then we get to the core of today’s topic, my wounded little girl’s experiments with art. “I used the touch painting technique you told me about. I painted in reds and oranges and blacks. Then I wrote with my non-dominant hand. You were right; it was a good way to access a different, less rational and linear way of thinking,” I tell her.

I am surprised to discover that I’m struggling to find words to tell E. what the girl wrote. “She wrote that… um… she was… she has very conflicted feelings about…” and then I freeze. I just can’t get any more words out. I draw my knees to my chest and clutch a cushion tightly.

E. waits. She is patient. Neither of us is accustomed to long silences in our sessions; but she can wait when she senses it’s important.

After a long time, I say, “I don’t know how to talk about it.”

“How about if you tell me what happened just now? You said, ‘she has conflicted feelings’ and then you stopped. Was it because you didn’t know what the feelings were? Or because it was hard to talk about them?”

“Hard to talk about them,” I say, in a low voice.

“Ok,” she nods and waits some more.

Why can’t I tell her? I feel paralyzed. I feel sick. This is crazy. I’ve known E. for years. Talk, I tell myself. After a while, I say, “I am going to sit over here and not look at you.”

I move myself over to the far side of the cushy chair and look at the wall instead of at her.

“Do you know what an implicit memory is?” she asks me.

I shake my head.

“You can read about it later, but it’s different that an explicit memory; it’s held in your body. I think that’s what you are experiencing now,” she tells me. “Generally implicit memories don’t go away, but they can become easier to deal with.”

I nod. After a few moments, I can talk again, but slowly. “My dad’s father, my grandfather, I always felt a little worried about him. I felt like I should protect him. My grandmother said mean things to him, and I felt sorry.”

Pause, pause, pause. I hold the cushion tighter and slouch down toward the floor. “I used to hold his hand; I was his little girl.”

Then I’m floating. I can’t talk for a very long time. “I don’t know what to say,” I finally tell her.

“Can I ask you questions?” she wants to know.

“Yes.”

“Can you tell me about what you are feeling in your body?”

I hesitate. “A knot in my stomach, and like I can’t get a deep breath.” She is writing this down. Be honest with her, I tell myself. “My skin is tingling. And I feel… it’s like… a pressure in my vagina.”

She asks about my grandparents. Somehow, with her questions, I start to talk more. Now I am lying on the floor, telling her about this side of the family. “I don’t know what all lies behind it. My father is an alcoholic and has been my whole life. One of his brothers drinks too much as well. Another one used to be drug addicted, though he’s clean now. Carl, the younger one, I remember being at a dinner party with him once. His wife said something about how much Carl was like his father, and he lost it. He was screaming profanities, completely out of control. In the end, they left the dinner. I don’t know what was behind that, but they are all messed up.”

“Do you think your father knew about what your grandfather did to you?”

“No,” I reply, feeling quite sure about this. “One of the first adjectives I would choose to describe my father is oblivious. I don’t think he’s ever known anything about the emotional state of any of his children.”

We talk more, about being at the shop my grandfather had. Now I am curled in a fetal position on the floor.I tell her I have a strong urge to burn my tongue, even though I know it would hurt a lot.

“Why is that, do you think?”

“As a punishment. Punishment for talking about it,” I tell her. “But I won’t do it. It’s okay if she talks.”

We end the session with E. telling me she’s glad the little girl can communicate, glad I believe her. She appreciates that I feel so comfortable in her office that I can move myself around the space in the ways I need to. She recognizes the deep work I am doing. Her calm voice helps to me pull myself together. I say goodbye and head home.

13 thoughts on “Day 14 of Believing the Girl – Triggered

  1. I love that you can sit on the floor and lie on the floor as you feel like doing it. I often have an urge to sit on the floor, but I don’t because I have really bad knees and I may never get up again. I’m glad you were able to be so open with your therapist because I know that is really hard. I hope you reme.ber the pictures the next time, but I’m almost glad you didn’t. My therapist I think let’s me get away with a lot, because I’ll write or draw things and hand them to her to read and look at. I think I get stuff moving much better when I actually say the words. I’m really proud of you!

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    • I love the floor. It feels more personal and less clinical. A couple of times she has sat on the floor with me, though not yesterday. Yesterday she was definitely giving me space to deal with my emotions as I needed to. I appreciate that she doesn’t do all the emotional management for me.

      The writings and pictures are important parts of me getting to the point where I can talk about something. Maybe your therapist could ask you to talk a little about what you bring to show her?

      Anyway, thank you so much for your encouraging comments, and for all the good work you share on your blog. — Q.

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  2. That feeling, that pressure…I get that and oh gosh you are far braver than me and I can not say that out loud. And the way you describe this session is so how I get in therapy. Except I have this urge to hide, I want to hide underneath her desk on the opposite side of the room. Instead I curl up frozen on the couch. One time we both wound up on the floor but I don’t remember how but she had me pushing my feet against hers and I only half remember anything anymore.
    And triggered, yes it stinks. Just the reference to the anchor began to trigger me. I searched for pictures of that darned anchor and not a picture shows it. As if I need proof or to see it again. I don’t know. But I’ve been “floating” all day and I go I. And out of okayness. I have yoga in less than an hour and I want to stay home. I can’t be floaty and in yoga.
    And I am so believing your girl. I’m so stinking proud of her today. She can speak and she is safe. She is safe now and loved and she has a friend…me!!!!

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    • That is the first time I ever said that aloud. To my surprise, I feel better for having told her, lighter a little. My little girl feels so much better, surrounded by belief and support. I don’t feel ashamed of my feelings. I know you can give yourself this gift as well! I will cheer you on every difficult step of the way.

      Thank you, thank you for your friendship!

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    • I know how much it helps me to read other people’s experiences. It has absolutely made me feel less crazy and be less judgmental of myself, which in turn has opened doors for me in therapy. I hope you get this benefit as well.

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  3. I can’t believe how amazing your session was! I’ve never experienced anything like that – only talking. I am soooo impressed! Huge, huge progress. Also, I always called them “body memories”, not knowing that they were called “implicit memories”. Little girl is doing so well! Please give her a hug for me 🙂

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  4. Gracias, querida. It was an amazing session, intense and scary in the moment but liberating. It felt real. I am so grateful that E. doesn’t turn away from the messy stuff, but can just be calmly with me as I crawl around on her floor.

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  5. I often want to curl up on the floor when I’m with my therapist and I never do because I’m too worried about what she might think. I admire your bravery so much. Keep fighting for yourself and the little girl. X

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