Playing Hooky


bella_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Playing Hooky
Synopsis A day off from work to spend in the shrink's office.
Date Sep 28, 2009

Bella's Office

The call went out as soon as Elisabeth stepped out of her apartment. First to work to take the entire day off instead of just a half day — she's worked enough overtime to allow for it. And then the second call to Bella's office. And the request for an immediate appointment. She's in trouble and she can tell. When she arrives, she's dressed for work. Khaki pants, a red blouse. No weapon today, though — Elisabeth didn't trust herself enough to wear it. She looks pale when she steps in, exhaustion barely hidden behind the subtle makeup, but her shadoed eyes give it away. "I'm sorry for the short notice," she tells the good doctor as she steps into the office and closes the door.

Bella rises to her feet and goes to offer Elisabeth a quick handshake. "Don't worry about it," she says, brows furrowed just a little, her sympathy and concern entirely contained within professional limits, "I'm just glad I wasn't sleeping off a hangover or something," this is a joke, and her small smile afterward indicates it as such, however funny it may or may not be. She motions to the couch, "Please, take a seat. Let's waste no time."

There's still a subtle tremor to Elisabeth's frame when she takes the other woman's hand. "I, uhm…. " Shit… she doesn't know how to do this. "Someone was able to get me… a picture. Of one of the men." Her words are stilted, and it seems to be taking a lot of control for her to say them steadily. She can't sit… instead she walks to the window again.

Bella remains standing, resting one hand on the back of the chez lounge as she keeps some level of non-smothering proximity to Elisabeth. "One of the men who hurt you?" /Killed/, actually, but Bella's trying to be delicate. As delicate as one can be when discussing rounds to the cranium. "Go on."

"I thought I'd been doing… pretty okay. Haven't been taking too many of the pills. Maybe one a day, most days." Elisabeth bites her lip. "Took two in the space of an hour with this one. I keep…. flashing. Pictures. Smells." She shudders. "I had… a raging p-p-pan… DAMMIT… panic attack," she sucks in a breath and lets it out slowly. "In front of my lover." And she hates it. That he sees how bad off she still is.

Bella considers Elisabeth's words carefully. She steps just a bit closer, voice low, "Was it because of your job? Was that why you ended up seeing this picture?"

"No," Elisabeth says quietly. "I have street contacts who're good with computers. They got hold of military IDs," she says. She will never give Minea to this woman. She's uncertain whether she'll mention that friends of hers have this bastard in custody. She does ask softly, "Does it make me a bad person to … fantasize about … hurting him as much as he hurt me. Or .. just killing him because I want him out of my misery?"

"I'm not here to judge morality," Bella says, "But I can tell you it is far from abnormal for someone suffering what you've suffered to fantasize revenge. But that doesn't work you towards closure," she purses her lips, "Elisabeth, I'd like to suggest, if you feel ready, that we start a course of exposure therapy. The picture you encountered, it could actually hold the key to your recovery.

She looks toward the therapist. "And that's going to help me? Forcing me into a panic attack?" Elisabeth shakes her head slightly, but she pulls her phone out. It has a picture of a (sleeping) Doug. She shows it to the therapist without looking.

Bella examines the picture, teaching out to take the phone from Elisabeth's hands if she should be willing to let it go. She looks up the cop, shaking her head. "No, it's not like that. It's a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It will help you overcome your aversion. The success rate is remarkably high. In a case such as yours, it is often cleared up in as few as three sessions."

Elisabeth studies the woman with her arms crossed. "All right," she says finally. "I can't run around puking and having panic attacks when I see this man's face. What … do we do?" Just the thought of this, though, clearly has her tension levels ratcheting into the stratosphere already, though.

"Well, we've been through the first step, in part," Bella says, closing the phone and handing it back to Elisabeth, "We've located the memory in question, the traumatic experience. But we'll need to locate, too, what beliefs have sprung up around this memory. Our work is to confront the memory and its associated beliefs, and then snip off those beliefs and replace them with more positive ones."

Now the therapist is getting the Look. "There is nothing p-p-p-positive about being told someone's going to c-c-c…. " She struggles with it, furious that this ancient affliction is suddenly plaguing her. "Cut. Off. Your. Foot," she forces out.

Bella tilts her head, her hair forming an angle with the axis of her face. "Look down," she says, "At the tips of your shoes."

Elisabeth does as instructed. It's an easy order to follow.

"How many feet are down there?" Bella says, giving an easy question to match.

"Two," is Elisabeth's immediate response. She's not sure how this is helpful at all.

"There is, I'll grant you, nothing positive about being told that happy number is going to be halved," Bella says, matter-of-factly, "But there they both are. And here you are. The only, and you must keep this in mind, the /only/ thing that haunts you is your memory, projecting itself into your present and your visions of the future. Flashbacks are that memory trying to pull you back to something that is /over/. Yours is a story of survival, of endurance, one that will end with recovery and success if you let it. You have two feet, Elisabeth. Believe that. It's a beautiful truth."

Elisabeth looks up at the woman, and she's silent for a long time. "All right," she says softly. "So… what do we do?" She won't back down from trying to make her reactions better. She can't afford to.

Bella smiles, "First thing we have to do is, and I'm almost embarrassed to say it, find 'safe place' for you, mentally. A memory, image, idea that makes you feel safe, good about yourself. I realize it sounds like the worst sort of therapeutic cliche, but it's important. You need a safe harbor in the storm we're going to set off into."

Elisabeth laughs softly, actually amused. "I've already got that part, I guess. A mentalist helped out with the nightmares, remember?" She just didn't really realize that it could be used the same way consciously as sub.

"Good," Bella says, "Could you tell me what it is, or is that something you're not comfortable sharing?"

She's not comfortable sharing some parts of that memory…. considering it doesn't go quite the way it did originally anymore. "It's … one of the last memories I have before the gap. One of the last memories I have of living at home with my parents. I was…. probably about sixteen. My mother… was cooking breakfast downstairs, and I can hear her laughing at something. Probably my father." She shrugs a little. "It's a simple memory, but it's where I go in my dreams too."

"That's perfect," Bella says, "We'll be using that thought should our sessions get hairy. If you feel a panic attack coming on, you should focus on that memory and only on that memory. The therapy requires we use a snapshot, like the one you have on your phone, that represents the traumatic memory. We need to get you accustomed to confronting it and, just as importantly, we both need to find what maladapative beliefs are connected to the trauma."

Her brow raises at the 'maladaptive beliefs' comment. But Elisabeth is willing to listen. "Okay," she offers, moving to sit slowly. "How?"

"It's fairly simple," Bella says, taking her own seat now that Elisabeth is settling down as well, "You look at the snapshot and focus, not on the memory itself, but on how it makes you feel, how it forms an opinion of yourself and the actual physical sensations it elicits. We keep this up until you gain understanding and distance, a perspective on the event and how it makes you feel and, most importantly, how these two things are /different/."

Elisabeth isn't quite certain she understands. "So I'm looking for…. the guilt. The … helplessness. The fear?" She's clarifying, because she already knows what triggers the panic, and those three are the main ones.

"And," Bella adds, "What beliefs cause those feelings. Once we isolate them, we should be able to distance you from them, and from the event. We want to render the memory harmless."

Elisabeth nods slightly. Her memories of the days there are … patchwork. At best. Some especially vivid, but most just… not quite there. Or hazy. "Okay." She's reluctant, her blue eyes on her phone that the good doctor still holds.

Bella flips open the phone once more, calling up the picture of the sleeping man. She looks up at Elisabeth. "Think about your feelings. Don't feel them so much as understand them. And /talk/. Tell me about them. Ready?"

And once she is, the phone is lifted. The therapy is simple enough, though grim work, forcing Elisabeth to describe precisely the feelings of horror and helplessness that she came here to get /rid/ of, experiencing them in hopes of purging them. Great attention is paid to the beliefs, the opinions of self, that support the feelings of guilt and helplessness, those malevolent internal logics that chew away at Elisabeth's happiness from within. Today is about understanding the enemy. Fighting it will come soon.

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