It whispers, you’re hurting, as pain radiates from my scalp to my shoulder blades, down my back to my hips, down the side of my thighs, landing at my knees.

You’re hurting, and it’s unbearable.

The whispers seep into every crevice of my brain until it’s all I can think about. Grounding techniques are for the birds, I think, as I attempt some and they just as soon fail.

There are bins in front of me, sometimes I count them but never finish counting before I begin to wonder what the contents on the inside look like. What they feel like. What it would be like to hold the items contained inside that haven’t seen daylight in years, according to my therapist. My eyes move to the left, to the clock she’s cleverly placed so we can see it from our position on the floor. Sometimes, I take in the time. Sometimes I can’t take in any information and it’s just a familiar object my eyes scan across. Then, my eyes land on the computer, her desk, the brown couch, the carpet. I come back to my more immediate surroundings; the softness and pressure of my twenty-pound weighted blanket hugging my legs. I pull it closer so it’s protection spreads across most of my body, leaving only my head.

It’s hard to turn right, where my therapist is sitting, inches away from me. But I try, and stop at the decorative string lights I recently added to our space. Sometimes I make eye contact. Sometimes I don’t. Today, she is facing me, eyes on the door, protecting me. It’s not her usual position. Earlier, I’d had a meltdown over lunch that looked to me to be similar to that of a toddler. She gently disagreed, validating all my feelings over the event.

Breathe, everyone says. Breathe deeply, breathe from your belly. Belly, I hate that word. It sounds like lard, to me–something I don’t want associated with my body and especially my mid-section. I try to breathe deeply anyway. It sort of happens. And then a flood of tears mixed with panic come. I am immediately 11, 12, 13 years old. My therapist has pulled me in already. I don’t recall thinking about it, it is automatic for both of us, now. Any distress on my part will land me as close to her as possible. Now, I can ground. Now, I can let things go, or travel through me, or fly away from me.

I am firmly planted in her grip, and I am grounded in two places–presently in the closet of my therapists office, and as a child. My brain screams, “mom, please” something I don’t say out loud, and more tears come. She’s got me, she is there, it’s ok. Today feels different than other days. I feel like I am protected in my memories, too. Not just presently in the closet. I am in two places at once and it feels uncertain.

Can I stay here? Will she keep protecting these memories? Can we walk around here? Can she hold my hand in both places, can she hug both parts, all parts, all at once? Can all of it and all of us exist all at once with no repercussions?

Safety and love. Safety first, love second. But both have to exist. They do.

Eleven- , Twelve-, and thirteen-year-old me are the most terrified parts of me. They are the most afraid of my dad. They are the most connection-deficit and emotionally neglected. And they knew the neglect was happening while it was happening. They are so smart.

I wrap both my arms around my therapist, like I wished I could have done as a child with my mother, and feel so connected that it alarmed me. I wanted her to come with me, to be in my mind with me, to help pre-teen me feel a little less shattered. I wanted her to take my hand and lead the way and find all the hiding spots, and bring out all the hard things without me having to say any of it out loud.

And then, shame fell over my body. I’m lost in here, I don’t know how I got here, I don’t want to be here, get out now. Suddenly, I am inside a hug that I feel I don’t deserve. Suddenly my body is tightening up, a reaction I cannot control, and the walls come up. It’s time to go anyway. But as I drove home I felt shame sink deeper.

You are not allowed in this space. Leave, and do not come back.

My body hurts all over again.

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