Thursday, February 17, 2011

Safe place

My dog, Scout, at the beach
I sat in the corner chair of the waiting room clutching the small white box my tooth whitening system came in.  It’s not filled with toothpaste.  I nervously bounce one leg rapidly.  My gaze is directly downward.  I dare not look beyond anyone’s shoes.  What if those shoes belong to her? I pick at a piece of tape on the box as I wait for her to arrive.  I notice her stylish black boots out of the corner of my eye and my heart jumps and stops for a brief period.  I stared at the floor feeling a mixture of fear, shame, panic, and a bit happy to see her.   She sighs heavily as she stumbles searching for her keys in her purse.  What does that sigh mean?  Was she wishing I wouldn’t come back?  Relieved that I did?  Nervous about our session? 

Warning.  This entry is long.



A few moments later she opened the door and called me in.  I clutched the box tighter as I walked into her office and sat down on the leather sofa.  We sat in silence for a long time.  I wanted her to say something.  I was filled with panic.  What do I say after yesterday?  I was really mean to her yesterday when she held me captive until the police came to talk to me. 

Me:  “I don’t know what to say.”
Her:  “yeah?  I don’t either.”
Me:  "You can drop me as a client if you want to."
Her:  "Yeah?"

I panic.  I knew this day would come. 

Me:  “Are you going to drop me as a client?”
Her:  “I am wondering if I’m helping you.  I think we need to find something more intense for you.”

I am trapped.  I can’t say anything and I feel the warmth in my eyes.  I begin to cry.  I stare at a gray cord on the floor and let the tears fall onto my shirt. 

Her:  “I’m just saying that I think we need to look into other treatments for you.  I’m not dropping you.”
Me:  “Was it because I was mean yesterday?  I'm sorry.  I really am.”
Her:  “You were a little mean yesterday but that’s okay.  You’re allowed to be angry.”
Me:  “Yeah, but not mean.  I was really mean.”
Her:  "I’m okay.”

I continue to cry.

Her:  “I think you automatically think I am dropping you.  I’m saying we need to find more intensive treatment
           for you in addition to me.  Treatment that includes me.”
Me:  “It took me so long to talk to you.  I don’t want to see anyone else.”

I hand her the box.  I am not sure why I picked that exact moment. Maybe I was hoping it would make her want to keep me.  Or maybe I was hoping she’d kick me out and get rid of me.  I’m not sure which.  She takes the box from my hand.  She doesn’t ask what’s in it.  I wonder if she knows already.  She opens the box and her eyes begin to turn pink. 

Her:  “Thank you for giving these to me.  What is making you give them to me today?”
Me:  “Because I was so close to doing it.”
Her:  “Yesterday?”
Me:  “No, this morning.”
Her:  “What made you stop?”
Me:  “I don’t know.  I realized it was going to be a lot of shots.
Her:  "And you don't like shots?"
Me:  "No, it's not the shots.  I was just worried I would pass out before I got enough in.  I was about to do it
         and then my dog jumped on the bed." 

I begin to sob.  "I don’t always want to do it but sometimes everything is so unbearable that it feels like the only option.  It’s all I think about sometimes.”

Her:  “Do you think you need to be in a hospital?”
Me:  “I don’t know.  I don’t know what I need.  I’m scared of the hospital.”
Her:  “I know,” she says in an affectionate tone.  “I know you are.”
Me:  “I’m just so tired.”
Her:  “I know.

We sit in silence for a few moments before she says, “I wonder if there is a way we can make the hospital a little less scary.  She begins to brainstorm ideas on how to do that, some ideas are decent, most are not.  Then she asks, “What if I come visit you while you are there?”

Me:  “Can you do that?”
Her:  “I’m not sure.  I think so.”
Me:  “What if they keep me in there?  What if they don’t let me out for years?”
Her:  “I don’t think they can do that.  We just have to come up with a safety plan.  If you feel like 
          you’re going to hurt yourself will you please go to the hospital?”
Me:  “I’m scared of the hospital.  I’ve been there before.  I’m scared of what they will do to me.”
Her:  “Things will be different at this one.”
Me:  “I’ll be labeled for life.”
Her:  “I know you think that, but I don’t think that’s how it really works.  I don’t think anyone can see 
          your medical records.”
Me:  " When I was a kid they would push me against the wall and large men would tackle me and shove
          medication in my mouth if I refused to take it.  Sometimes they locked me in a room that
          was completely made out of tile and I only had two hospital gowns that I wore together so the 
           back wasn’t open.  They kept me in that room for days.”
Her:  “Those things are abusive and horrible.  They should have never happened.  I can’t imagin
           you’d be restrained unless you were trying to hurt someone.”
Me:  “How can they help me?  Can they make the thoughts stop?  Can they make the feelings go 
         away?”
Her:  “No, but they can keep you safe and you can have another doctor look at your medication.   
          You can get a second opinion.  They can also find you someone who specializes in your kinds
           of trauma.”

I stare at the floor for a while before I ask again, “Is it because I was mean to you?  I’m really sorry.”

Her:  “I’m not going to leave you.  I’m right here.  You were mean to me and I’m still here.”

My chest loosens a little and my heart beat slows.  I don’t know if she’s telling me the truth or if she’s just worried about what I will do when she does.  I’m lost in thought for a few moments before I ask,

Me:  “Would you really come visit me?”
Her:  “Yes, probably over the weekend if you went in.  You can call me too.”

I wanted to ask her if she would take me herself but I didn’t dare.  

Me:  “I don’t want to feel this way.  I don’t know how to fix it.  I don’t think anyone can fix it.”
Her:  “I know you feel that way.  I think this recent event set something off and now you are in so 
           much pain.  Right now we just have to get you to a place where it's manageable.”
Me:  “I just don’t know why it happened.  I mean I know why you say it happened, but I just don’t 
         understand.  I’m not a kid anymore.”
Her:  “Being a kid has nothing to do with it.  This really isn’t a one to one correlation, as you know    
         my analogies never are, but imagine you grew up with someone who always screamed at you. 
         Imagine you had a father that screamed at you all the time.  He screamed at you every time 
         you tried to get close to him, so now you are all grown up and have a really hard time attaching
         and being close with men.  Does that make sense?

Me:  “Yeah.  I guess so.”

Our eyes meet.  The way she tells the story makes me think she is sharing with me.  She is telling me that she grew up with an abusive father without actually telling me.  I feel close to her.  I feel safe.

Me:   “I just really hate that I can't remember it.  I'm really freaked out.”

She goes on to tell me how she understands and she’d feel really upset about it too. 

Me:  “I have these images playing in my head all the time.  I just want them to stop.  How do I make 
         them stop?
Her:  “What kinds of images.”
Me:  “Memories.” 
Her:  “Uh huh.”
Me:  “What if that means I’m schizophrenic?”
Her:  “It doesn’t sound like schizophrenia to me.  It sounds like someone who has PTSD to me.  I    
          know you think that’s for people who have been through war, but it’s not.  It happens to people
          who experience traumas like yours too. 
Me:  “Ever since it happened I can’t stop remembering and seeing him.”
Her:  “Your foster dad?”

I shake my head, yes.

Her:  “This event triggered something.”
Me:  “I’m just tired of thinking about it.  I don’t want to think about it anymore.  But I can be sitting  
         here and it flashes in my head and whenever people grab my face I freak out because he used 
         to grab my face.  Sometimes if someone has a particular tone in their voice or I see a house that looks
         like the one I lived in...    I don't want to see it anymore.  I don’t want to do this anymore!”
Her:  “I know you don’t, but right now we just have to keep you safe.  Let’s work on finding you 
          some more treatment, like groups.” 

I stare at her feet. “I don’t want to talk to strangers.” 

Her:  “I know you don’t want to go to a group, but maybe there are groups where you don’t have to  
          talk.  You can just listen.”

She looks at me for a moment.  I think she’s looking for me to agree but I don’t say anything. “We have to stop in a minute but can you please go to the hospital if you feel like hurting yourself?  See you tomorrow?”

“Ok.”