Count Down To Feelings Splurge

So, here I am again …mild panic….deep breathing… on the verge of another big splurge of attachment pain in therapy tomorrow. Oh the shame! What I am feeling right now, and is just about to blow open again, has been building steadily since I had a horrible dream in January where my therapist basically flat out ignored me causing a huge rupture (in the dream!). The details aren’t really important but since that dream that niggly doubting part that struggles to trust Em and feels like she doesn’t really care has been grumbling away in the background.

Of course this mistrusting, angsty part is not the only part that gets activated when the negative attachment stuff (fears of being abandoned and rejected) starts swirling closer to the surface; the younger, clingy, needy parts that just desperately want to be loved are really going for it inside too. It’s such a battleground…and oh my god it’s exhausting.

It’s funny really. I can go months without dreaming about Em at all and then when the attachment button gets wedged on she is on my waking and sleeping mind pretty much all the time. It’s embarrassing and just plain ugh. I have my adult life to be getting on with, which is hectic and consuming enough without little ones inside feeling like they need to be within 3ft of my therapist at all times …and even then that’s not really close enough – I wish I could say that there wasn’t a part that wants to crawl into her lap and go to sleep! Then there’s the teen parts saying it’s time to cut and run because it’s all a crock of shit and Em is just someone we pay to listen to us and there IS NO RELATIONSHIP. I mean for fuck’s sake…this stuff is getting so old now!

The only thing that is better now is that I can see it for what is it now. I recognise the process and every time I come at this stuff it’s from a slightly different angle. Adult me diligently attends my sessions and we go through the process over and over and over until one day maybe something will be healed. And healing has been happening – in small increments. Each time we have the difficult but healing conversations a different part hears what’s being said and little by little I start to internalise a felt sense of being safe in the therapeutic relationship. Strangely though, this sense of things being ok ebbs over time depending on what’s going on with different parts. Adult me knows everything is ok but the younger parts repeatedly hit black ice and start sliding.

Em and I have been edging towards another of those ‘big’ conversations for a while now – laying the foundations for the work: alluding to big wounds and shame and embarrassment and all that jazz. There’s been a lot of dissociation but also a lot of explaining my process when I find my way back into my window (letter box!) of tolerance…and this is huge progress. I don’t just sit there in silence and in agony now…. I can, to some extent, explain the agony even if I can’t say why I am in agony! We can track the body reactions and the feelings….even if I can’t just say ‘this all comes from me wanting to be close to you’.

The other week Em asked me how I felt about things now we have been having two sessions a week fpr the last six months, and oh my god – it was horrendous. The body reaction was huge. I felt like I was going to vomit and then after a few minutes went completely numb and into my safe space. So much for giving up dissociation for Lent! We talked at length about what was going on and how every time we get close to talking about our relationship it stirs up a huge feelings. I can talk about really difficult things from my past and be fine but the moment we edge closer to what’s going on with us in the relationship- I’m gone!

We both know there is work to be done there but it’s a case of how we do it. Em made reference to staring at the sun the other day and how we can’t do it for too long because it’s too painful and maybe we can do it slowly. She also said something about letting the big  (mother)wound breathe little by little so it can heal rather than keep ripping the plaster, exposing it thoroughly so that any contact with anything feels like salt being poured in the wound and it being excruciating. I totally see what she is saying. It makes sense….

I’m definitely more of an ‘avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid….big running bomb and huge splash into the attachment wound let it all out in one go’ type therapy client. Ha. And that’s where I am now. I told Em on Friday that I have been avoiding talking to her about ‘stuff’ (code for the attachment feelings) because it’s so unbelievably painful. So we both know where we are heading. We’ve been here enough times before and yet every time I feel like I have a big thing to get off my chest it’s as though I am saying it for the first time.

To be clear here – basically the THING that chokes me for weeks or even months at a time is the loving feelings I have towards Em. Sometimes I sit in session and I just want to tell her I love her, I am grateful to her, and that I appreciate her. That shouldn’t be so fucking hard should it?- after all these years – but it really is. Because there are other (younger) parts that love her in a completely different way…that all-consuming way a child loves its mother and that’s where the shame comes in. All of it makes me feel sick. There is so much I want to say but it get sooooooo complicated.

I reach a point though, where I can’t avoid the work and even though it is fucking hellish being told, in the kindest way possible, that this is a therapeutic relationship and there are needs that can’t be met now but we can process the loss and pain together….PUKE! – it has to be done.

I bought a notebook after my (horrid) dream in January and I started writing down dreams and odd bits and bobs. The idea was I would take it to therapy and unpick it bit by bit rather than ending up texting stuff. I haven’t text Em in a long time but when the attachment/love stuff gets active that need to connect outside the session gets stronger. I thought the book would be a good tool. It has been coming in my bag to therapy but hasn’t made it out yet!

(You can’t make this shit up!)

In the last week I’ve written loads. It’s gone mad inside and I have been writing and doodling stuff – because it’s all starting to make its way to the surface…and then I ended up texting Em the picture below… So, tomorrow the plan is to try and make a start on this stuff properly….

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After I text the picture I ended up writing round this drawing I literally let it all out:

  • This is the worst week in a long time
  • Anxiety has ramped up since I text you this image (above)
  • Shame has gone insane because the need is huge
  • The attachment-related pain (stomach ache and tearfulness) are stuck on
  • I feel emotionally vulnerable
  • It’s as though the avoidance and coping strategies have gone offline and I’m left with that gaping wound
  • I am both desperate to see you and terrified of seeing you
  • I don’t want to dissociate on Friday but know it’s really likely because you will undoubtedly ask me about what prompted me to text you…and then the shame will flood in and I’ll be gone
  • I can’t bear the boundary talk again
  • When you try to normalise my feelings I feel even more pathetic. It’s as though you’ve seen this stuff a million times before and it’s almost scientific to you. This makes me feel really sad because it essentially confirms what the critical voice is always shouting: ‘the relationship isn’t real and there is no connection – it’s all just transference’ This makes me feel sad because you really matter to me and yet it’s stupid to feel anything at all when this is clearly just another example of the same process to you. I could be anyone.
  • I desperately want to connect but what is there to connect to? -NOTHING. That makes me want to run away.
  • Why do I keep doing this to myself?
  • Why do I keep hoping that one day something is going to shift and change?
  • It’s so unbelievably painful…this is why I don’t talk!!
  • Talking about our relationship is really painful for me because I am so aware of the lack of relationship.
  • I feel ashamed for needing you
  • I feel embarrassed that I care so much about someone who is just doing their job
  • Every time we talk about this  I feel like I am being kicked in the stomach and being rejected – it really hurts
  • I hate that you have all the power
  • I hate that it makes no difference to you whether I see you or not

WOWZERS …. there it all is! Yikes….

And then we had Friday’s session and it was ok and she didn’t give me the boundary talk and instead said something about us both knowing there were things on the periphery that need talking about that don’t make it fully into the room but that she gets the sense they are not on the periphery when I am out of the room….

uh huh

yep

and that spawned this when I got home:

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And that, my friends, is where I am at right now. Crazy is notched up to a solid 9 on the scale after several months of being a 4!

I guess we’ll just see how it all goes … it’s all part of the process. Man I love therapy 😉

I’m Giving Up Dissociation For Lent!

‘I’m giving up dissociation for Lent!’ …Ah if only leaving my unconscious ‘go to’ coping strategy behind were as easy as giving up chocolate for the next forty days… actually, giving up chocolate would be a huge stretch, too, so I don’t know why I am even saying that!

I’m not religious (at all) and so the title of this post was sarcastic rather than a real thing – and please don’t be offended by the tone of the post if you are religious- it’s not meant as a dig I am just thinking out loud and scratching my head about where I am at right now.

I always kind of wonder about why other heathen non-believers like myself seem to jump on this particular time period and say they’re foregoing something until Easter. Like what’s so special about Lent? I wonder if the idea of withholding from ourselves is so engrained that we think, ‘ah, yes, I can punish myself for a protracted period of time’. Let’s face it, most of us don’t need an event in the Christian calendar to revel in self-denial and penance. We are perpetually listing our failings and, for the anorexic eating disordered among us, fasting is second nature.

Maybe Lent is too easy then?

Maybe it’s the convenient timing too?

These days we are so fixated on body image – I’m sure it’s about now that the glossy magazines start bleating on about how to achieve ‘the ultimate bikini body’ (FYI you basically have to put a bikini on your existing body but that’s not what they pedal is it?!) – that maybe we see Lent as a time to shed those winter pounds we gained. It’s become diet season so why not have a running jump at losing the muffin top? I dunno.

Look, I totally get that seeing the next six weeks as a sort of weightloss challenge is a bastardisation of the original purpose – but this is what I am wondering about – like why when you don’t do organised religion does Lent seem to be a ‘thing’? For those people that are religious I understand it – makes sense – and I’m betting most people of faith aren’t simply shunning bars of Galaxy until Easter.

Anyway, moving on…a bit…I have been thinking about self-care, strangely, in relation to Lent. I give self-care a wave every now and then but, frankly, am pretty poor at looking after myself. I seem to come somewhere right down the bottom of the pile for care: kids, wife, other people, my animals, the dying orange at the back of the fridge, and then somewhere a little further along the line is me.

It’s strange.

I get that self-care is a REALLY GOOD THING and NECESSARY if you don’t want to be a complete knackered wreck/basketcase and yet I really struggle to prioritise my needs and myself. There’s a part of me that sees looking after myself as selfish… rationally I know that is totally fucked up but it is how I feel.

There is certainly a part of me that thinks I don’t deserve to be happy, to be looked after, to rest, or be a normal weight….and we all know who that is: the Inner Critic. I know that part of me has been doing her best over the last 25+ years to protect me and keep me functioning but these days, her ideas of how to keep me safe and working don’t really work. Trying to be perfect, stretching myself beyond my limits, and starving myself don’t really lead to things being ok or safe. I know that.

I have been really aware of my body again these last couple of weeks. You know how it is, that niggling thing where you look in the mirror and notice all the flaws – that extra couple of pounds you put on over Christmas seems to have welded itself to your hips and won’t budge…(even though you’ve done nothing to help budge it other than will it away!). And I think this is why Lent is winding me up a bit as I see people choosing now to start dieting again because actually my brain is scheming and saying, ‘Go on, jump on board with it too, here’s your opportunity, you can legitimately hide behind Lent to cover your eating disorder for the next couple of months – give up sugar…or EVERYTHING and you can lose that weight that’s been driving you mad for the last three months’.

See, this is not good which is why I am just blathering on here. I am aware of how careful I need to be when my mind starts considering any kind of restriction because it never leads anywhere good. I know I need to have a conversation with my therapist about these feelings but I feel kind of moronic talking about not eating when I am actually eating and am as close to a normal BMI as I have ever been.

It’s sad that there’s some critical voice that is saying, ‘you can’t talk about not eating when you are this weight and eating food! Like seriously, look at you, you’re fat!’ Of course I do know that this is exactly the time I need to be mentioning these feelings in therapy – BEFORE things start to spiral downwards and the ED mindset kicks in and the secrecy and denial becomes the fronting part. I don’t want to end up in the place I ended up last year  and when Em issued an Ultimatum.

I also need to work out why I am feeling like I need to take control in this particular way again. It isn’t because of Lent! 😉 I know it has something to do with the level of dissociation I have been experiencing lately. I had a crazy bad dissociative session last Friday and I know it’s because I have been edging closer to the Mother Wound again. When the young parts are a bit more present or want to come to therapy it generally doesn’t go well – not because Em says or does anything wrong, but because other parts step up to protect me from being vulnerable (or stupid!). That huge need for connection and care so easily triggers feelings of shame as well as fear of being abandoned for being too much that it just sends me into orbit. I get sucked out the room. It’s horrid.

Fortunately, Em and I were able to do some good work on Monday where I was able to stay in the window of tolerance and start to unpick some of what has been going on. Em herself said something about the fact that there is a massive painful wound that sometimes gets exposed and is so incredibly raw that it is too much to bear so I cover it over with a plaster – only it doesn’t heal when it’s covered. So the deal is we are going to try and very very gently let a little bit of air get to the wound and let it start to heal in tiny increments…and try and understand the shame too. (This is not new news by the way, it’s just we are repeating it again!)

I don’t really know what I am trying to say with this post, but basically, I think if I am going to try and give up anything for Lent then it has to be being horrible to myself and defeating myself. Rather than giving up something I enjoy (although to be fair I think the Critic is a bit of a sadist and enjoys being mean!) I am going to try and use the next few months to be kinder to myself. I am going to try really hard to trust in my therapeutic relationship with Em and accept and believe that after seven years she is still there, steady, and constant and caring…I do not need to be frightened of her. She is safe.

What am I giving up for Lent? A lifetime of bad habits that hurt me. Perhaps some of you can do the same.

EEEK! I’m beginning to wish I’d stuck with chocolate! x

 

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‘You Look Tired’

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I was hanging on by a frayed thread by the time it reached last Friday. I was both emotionally and physically exhausted. I literally felt as though I was running on empty and really struggled to motivate myself to get through the last few teaching sessions of the week.

It’s weird, knowing the half-term was imminent didn’t make things feel easier. It wasn’t, ‘I only have x sessions left and I can do this’ instead it felt like I was wading through treacle, ‘Please god when will this stop? I can’t do this’. To be fair to myself it has been a manic busy couple of months again workwise so I’m not really surprised I was crawling towards the finish line last week. When physical tiredness is combined with a big mental health wobble it’s never great! (When will I ever learn?!)

It felt like such a struggle by the time the holiday was actually within touching distance but it doesn’t make it feel any better knowing that how my life is structured basically saps me of everything I have and I am essentially walking wounded at the end of each term. It’s not sustainable and I really need to look at self-care again.

Fortunately, the inner emotional storm that touched down in my Monday therapy session had eased off a bit and was now more like an unfortunate patch of drizzle by the time I got to Friday’s session. I was still without an umbrella but didn’t feel as though I might be swept up and away to Oz now.

Phew!

Em and I probably had one of the best sessions we’ve had in a long while. I was able to keep a foot in the present whilst being very much aware of what had gone on earlier in the week where I had been caught up in trauma time, dissociated, and ended up self-harming. It feels really good when I am able to open up, be vulnerable, and actually take in my therapist rather than being stuck in that awful space where I feel like looking at her could burn me and am perpetually worried that she is going to leave.

I can’t really remember much about what we talked about but I know I spoke a lot and let her know some stuff about my process and it felt really connecting. I had really hoped to build on that session this week but you know what it’s like – one step forward and two steps back! I don’t know what happened – you’d think without work in the mix I would have been able to relax into my sessions and really unpick stuff – but no! Typical.

A friend of mine suggested that maybe I have slightly gone into self-protection mode as I have my cancer follow up appointment this week and so am armouring up ready for that. I suspect she might be right. I am dreading Wednesday because when I feel as tired as I do at the moment I can’t help but compare it with how I felt before I got diagnosed. I would say I feel as exhausted now as I did in the months leading up to the horror that was being told I had Hodgkin’s and frankly, that is fucking terrifying.

I hope I just feel knackered because I have a busy life but there is always a niggling doubt that it could be that I have relapsed.

Wow, that was super cheery wasn’t it?!

Back to therapy!!

To be honest, therapy was a bit of a waste of time this week. I mean I wasted it. I was conscious of the fact that I was sitting talking about shit that really didn’t matter at all. I was just letting off steam about annoyances – like about someone who came to stay who was fully ill with a chest infection and hacking cough. Sure, it pissed me off, but really? Why waste my Monday session on that stuff????

I had friends visiting all week and so I was busy with them – the first visitors drained me because I get really anxious when people are ill around me – low lymphocytes mean I get ill easily and it can take quite some time to recover but the second group of visitors was really restorative. I love spending time with this particular woman and her kids. We’ve known each other twenty years and have one of those easy relationships where months can go by without contact and then when we get together it’s like no time has passed.

Part of me didn’t really want to go to my session on Friday because my lovely friend was leaving that day (she’d arrived Weds evening) and my taking three hours out to drive to session seemed to be eating into precious time with a real person whom I have a reciprocal relationship with and haven’t seen in 18 months! Sure, I could have Skyped but I am not a huge fan of that and with both my kids and hers running around it wouldn’t have been easy to find a quiet spot. I also kind of knew that if I had cancelled the session at least a couple of parts would have had some kind of meltdown about it. They are already freaking out about my holiday in May when EM IS NOT ON HOLIDAY AND WILL BE IN THE ROOM!!!

Anyway, get to the point….

I actually don’t think there is one! ha. Oh, tiredness?

Yesterday I got it into my head that I wanted to go to the beach where I grew up – it’s about 75 mins drive and I love it there. We had a lovely time – eating fish and chips, getting an ice cream and running around on the beach…well my wife and kids ran about and I took pictures because I WAS TIRED!

It was lovely to get away from home for a bit and relax a bit. Even though my childhood was a complete shit show at times I still love that area. I feel most at home there. As we were leaving the beach I text my best friend from primary school (who is living through the hell that is metastatic breast cancer and has found its way into her bones) to see if she wanted to have a very quick hello. As it turned out she was at a local shopping mall with her mum and we met up for a quick hug. As you do! 😉

I haven’t seen my friend’s mum since I finished chemo around three years ago when I was on holiday in the area and we had all got together (my mum too). The first thing she said to me was, ‘Gosh x you look really tired’. This woman has known me since I was six years old and putting my foot in a bowl of custard the first time I went for tea after school – as a child she was like another mother to me. Again, it made me worry a bit that I look so noticeably tired that it is the first thing someone would say to me – especially as the last time she saw me I was bald and had just come off the back of twelve chemotherapies and fifteen radiotherapies…. I mean… I think I should be positively glowing in comparison!

The thing is, I know I am not.

I do look tired. Really tired. And no matter how much sleep I get I still wake up feeling devoid of energy. I haven’t exercised in a really long time now because I simply do not have it in me  and that is not like me at all. I really hope that as the days get longer and the sun appears more I find myself with a new lease of life because, frankly, this right now is shit!! I hope that some good news on Wednesday will also lift some of the tension I feel.

Anyway, on that note I need to go to bed as I am soooo tired and emotional (because I am tired!) that I currently have no clue how I will make it through the week! – apologies that this blog has hit a new low so far as being boring goes. I have lots to say, I just don’t have energy or time to get it down properly at the moment.

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Wobbly

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Wobbly. That’s how I feel right now. After a period of relative stability and calm things seem to have shifted into that uncomfortable space where everything feels ‘not quite right’ again and I am in danger of completely losing my balance. It’s not desperately bad (yet!)…it’s just ‘not ok’…you know? I don’t really know what’s happened; all I know is that I was fine and now I am not! Ha. Great!

Life is just my usual kind of busy: nothing is really any different to normal. There’s lots of work (more teaching taken on last week but nothing I can’t manage), running kids about, therapy, general life stuff- and yet for some reason I have gone from coping, no, better than that – living – to not really coping very well at all. I feel almost paralysed by whatever is going on inside me.

I desperately want to crawl into my bed and sleep and just hide from the world for a bit. I have very little motivation to do anything. I actually feel tearful at the thought of having to go to work later this evening. It feels like putting on the ‘professional me’ will be too much…and yet, of course, I will go and do my sessions tonight, it will be fine (as it always is), I might even enjoy it whilst I’m doing it…just part of me isn’t convinced.

In addition to this, I’ve noticed that I have shut my social circle down to essentially one poor bugger who gets it warts and all. Other than this interaction I am struggling to engage in social contact. I have a bunch of emails and messages I want/need to respond to but I simply don’t have the energy to think about appropriate messages that don’t basically end up with me looking like a self-absorbed twat.

I need to spend some time really unpicking what’s happened for me to end up here again because right now I don’t have a very clear picture. This, in part is down to the fact that I have been dissociating a lot lately (WHY?) and having periods of amnesia when I bring emotional stuff to mind. It’s like trying to catch something on the breeze,  I can see it and then it’s completely gone. I feel as though I have just been thrown out a vehicle in the middle of nowhere and have absolutely no idea how I got here, or indeed, where I am now. It’s a bit disconcerting (terrifying!).

Therapy on Monday was complete agony. I don’t know what happened. I just didn’t feel right on the way there and the moment I sat down my body started freaking out – I guess I felt fear/panic initially and then I was frozen, my vision blurred and then there were stars, and I felt as though I was being sucked out the room. I tried to hang on in there and not succumb to being pulled into the vacuum but it was so so hard.

Staying with my body when it is oscillating between pain and numbness and tingling etc is hard going. Sometimes the feeling of letting go and escaping the bodily sensations is really quite appealing (I used to do this a lot in therapy)…however ‘leaving the room’ comes with its own problems and I really do want/need to stay present with Em if I am able to, otherwise there is no hope of connection which is really what I need when things get like this.

The thing is, whatever has been triggered in me also triggers all my defences and so no matter how I want/need to connect, I just can’t – parts of me won’t allow it. I’m not stupid, I know that the core problem lies somewhere in the feelings around being needy and vulnerable and wanting intimacy but it all feeling too dangerous to be open…that old chestnut again!

The problem with the kind of sessions I had on Monday is there’s a lot of discomfort and silence and me saying, ‘I don’t know’ when she asks me questions because my brain is empty – like a void- all the stuff I want to say before I get there just vanishes. It’s not that I am being deliberately avoidant or withholding, it’s actually that everything is gone and I am just left with the body sensations. Nightmare.

Em is always really good when this happens and tries to help me ground and reassures me that things are ok, that it’s been like this before, and that we will work through it. The problem is, when it gets like it did on Monday, the shame floods in. It is so embarrassing be such a mess in the presence of someone else. My adult self is pretty high-functioning and a bit of (a lot of) a control freak, so to find myself mute and struggling is really hard for me. For my adult to have been overridden by whatever this stuff is (attachment stuff!) is really hard especially after several weeks of my adult doing therapy and getting a lot from it.

I hate that my brain makes it so that I can’t talk. I hate that when I get close to that core wound (#motherwound) that my mind does everything in its power to run away and shutdown. I hate that whilst parts of me trust Em implicitly that there are other parts that don’t/can’t and so I end up in this horrendous place over and over again. I know, because this is happening again, that I am steadily creeping towards talking about the big stuff (again). I know this pattern – I take my adult to therapy and do some useful work and the young parts get left at home. That’s fine for a while and the suddenly something happens and it’s as though the whole system activates and EVERYONE HAS STUFF TO SAY!

The problem is, I/they don’t know how to say it and are scared stiff….so generally I write something, email it, or take it to session and a discussion starts. Every time I fear the worst (abandonment, being told I am too much etc) and every time that doesn’t happen and yet for some reason I am hardwired to be fearful of being open about my feelings. Every time I let stuff out that is raw and vulnerable it feels like I am doing it for the first time. I can’t seem to bring to mind that I have said, on multiple occasions, that I sometimes struggle between sessions, that I miss Em when she’s not around, that I love her AS WELL AS the other stuff like when things are bad my Inner Critic is vile and I sometimes resort to negative coping strategies such as not eating or self-harming…

I need to bring that stuff up in session tomorrow because things felt so utterly awful after Monday that for the first time in two years I did self-harm….it wasn’t really anything, I don’t keep sharp stuff in the house these days, but the fact that I was using scissors on my skin… well, that isn’t good is it? I feel ashamed about it. I feel embarrassed about it.

Ugh.

Anyway, I really really hope that tomorrow turns out ok and I can get myself up and out of this pit of meh! There’s more to say but I have to go to work… oh adult responsibilities!

 

 

Therapy Breaks…

How many times have I talked about therapy breaks on this blog?! Loads, right? But hey, here we go again! 😉

Last Monday I missed my therapy session because my therapist was away. It wasn’t brilliant but it was ok; I focused on self-care and wrote a blog post when I would usually have had my session and had a slow day before I had to go to work. It was fine. In fact, as I said at the time, not having to drive an hour either side of the session was quite a relief and freed up quite a bit of space for me to just potter and do not much (lie in bed with my cats and drink tea!).

So…that was ok wasn’t it?

I made it through the minor disruption, worked hard all week (sigh), and was more than ready for my session when it got to Thursday. Internally I was pretty much repeating ‘one more sleep to go’ to appease the younger parts.

Only guess what happened this week on Thursday evening?

SNOW.

LOTS OF SNOW.

LOTS OF SNOW THAT SETTLED.

LOTS OF SNOW THAT MADE IT UNSAFE TO VENTURE OUT ON THE ROADS.

FUUUUCCCCCKKKKK IT!!!

I live on the edge of a National Park, on high ground, in the S.W of the UK. Basically, despite only being a few miles from a city I live high enough up for snow (and even simply ice) to be problematic. We live in a small village and it doesn’t form part of the network of roads that get gritted so essentially if a couple of inches of snow settles no one is going anywhere until it’s melted.

On Thursday night I could already see that I would not be going to my therapy session as I had had to abandon a tutoring session in the city and cancel another in order to drive back home when my wife text to say if I didn’t leave to come home I may not actually get home because there was so much snow falling.

By the time I got home it looked like something out a Christmas movie; the school had already emailed to say it would be closed on Friday; and my kids were unbelievably excited to be having a snow day. There was an Amber weather warning for the whole country. We don’t get much snow in the S.W and aside from last year’s ‘Beast From The East’ the last time we got snow was on the day I moved into my house in 2010.

As much as I would have liked to have been able to feel pleased about the prospect of snowman building and sledging you can probably imagine what my reaction to knowing I would not be seeing my therapist in person yesterday was…

Child parts had a meltdown!

I felt instantly grumpy and so so sad. I wasn’t able to be pragmatic about it at all. I just felt bloody miserable and hard done by! I feel sorry for my wife and kids as I was such a misery guts.

I know that this reaction was partly due to the fact that I hadn’t had my session on Monday either….so by the time I next see Em it will have been 10 days since I have seen her. That feels like quite a long time especially when it’s been a while since I have really talked. I had a weird session the other week where I got choked by shame and embarrassment about a dream I’d had where she ignored me – I couldn’t connect (or even look at her) or tell her about it. Ugh. Then after that therapy bomb I had a couple of very adult sessions. So there’s stuff we need to come back to but I feel like it has to be in person not via a screen.

Yesterday, I text Em to tell her I was snowed in and asked to Skype. In theory, this shouldn’t have bugged me quite so much as it did- these Friday sessions started out as Skype calls because it’s a 9:30am session and unless my wife is available to take the kids to school I can’t do the school run and still make it to session on time. Lately, however, my wife has been off work and so I have been able to go to my sessions in person. I much prefer this. Skype is ok but it is a very different experience.

So, I dialled in yesterday and to be fair it was a really nice session. Really relaxed. We laughed and it felt easy. My cat kept getting in the camera and interrupting the therapy but it was nice to sit on my couch with a cup of tea and a fur baby and talk. It was nice to see Em too. I think I spend so much of my sessions not looking at her and instead scanning the bookshelves or looking at the door that I don’t really see her much… so in a weird way Skype is good because I can look as much as I like and I don’t feel like a weirdo.

(Oh man I have issues don’t I?!)

It’s a bit of a weird thing then: I prefer to be in the room with Em and yet I hate not being able to look at her without feeling awkward; yet I hate Skype despite the fact I can see her….I guess it’s because I am always locked firmly in my adult via Skype calls and the parts that want to reach out just can’t.

Anyway eventually the conversation came round to the missed session on Monday and how I felt about it.

Adult: ‘Fine’

[meanwhile child parts locked inside adult fortress are screaming ‘NOT FINE!!!’]

Deflecting the question again I said something about looking forward to half-term and a break from my teaching work. Em said that she wasn’t going to be away this half-term (praise be!) but that she would be off the week before Easter as well as Easter itself (groan) and would be taking a little longer in August than this last summer (which was shorter than the one before). Ugh.

Instantly my brain started whirring and thinking about the summer and the young parts definitely came to the surface.

There was a bit of silence.

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to dig into how hard breaks have felt. I didn’t want to acknowledge the attachment stuff.

So I glossed over it and started rambling on about something else. Good tactic!

There’s no reason that summer break shouldn’t be ok or even ‘as good as’ Christmas break.  The thing is, there are quite a few breaks coming up and lots of bank holidays which means no Monday sessions. Basically, there’s lots and lots of small disruptions and few lengthier ones. I am going away in May half-term for a holiday and so will miss two sessions. Weirdly it feels worse that I might be away and she could still be there working – opening my space up for someone else. It feels less bad if we are both away simultaneously, like last May she was on holiday but so was I….so it was ok. Ugh. At some point I will look at the calendar and see just how many sessions will be missed – I know the time between April and September always feels yuck, though.

Anyway, I now have six and a half months warning about the summer break and this actually makes me laugh a bit. Clearly, Em doesn’t think I’m going anywhere anytime soon….there’s still a lot of work to do and it’s unlikely to be completed by the summer or else why give me this forewarning?!

This got me to wondering just exactly when I will be done with therapy? I know I am making progress and little by little I am working through and processing years and years (a lifetime) of trauma… right now I can’t imagine a time where I wouldn’t be participating in some kind of therapy- that’s not because of the attachment stuff, but actually just because I can’t imagine how my life will ever feel ok enough to not need to touch base with a therapist on a monthly basis.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

In the meantime I guess I’ll just try and remain calm and not freak out about the summer therapy break! Only 197ish days to go!! x

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A morning of self-care (in lieu of therapy)

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I don’t have therapy today. Em is…. well… I don’t know, actually…she’s not in the therapy room so maybe it’s her birthday, or perhaps she’s on a course, or I dunno it doesn’t really matter does it?… wherever she is or whatever she’s up to there is no session by the sea for me today.

As most people who have followed this blog for a bit will know, I don’t do especially well with disruptions to my therapy routine. Missed sessions often (usually!) feel like abandonment and I can end up circling the pit of shame and hell that I associate with the mother wound for a while before spectacularly falling in.

Christmas break bucked the trend somewhat and, unbelievably, I didn’t end up taking a nose dive with my mental health. I have known about this ‘mini break’ (ha unfortuantely not Bridget Jones-esque at all!) since way before Christmas so I’ve been anticipating having a quiet morning off before I go to work in the afternoon for a long while but not knowing how it would feel when it came to it. When Christmas went without a hitch I rather naively thought that future disruptions would feel ok too and so have been kind of ready for today to be ok…

EXCEPT IT ISN’T!

To be fair, I haven’t been very well (physically) for a few weeks with a nasty virus that basically wipes all energy and makes your body feel like it’s encased in lead. As a result of being under the weather I have been getting really very tired doing my job and also basically just struggling to be a functioning, semi-competent human being…oh and a parent of two small people. I’m kind of on the flashing red light that says the power is about to die. I guess it’s unsurprising that I might not be quite as able to cope with my therapist being away when my ability to cope with daily life feels challenged.

This weekend I have been really aware that when I feel like this (tired, ill, stressed) I feel more reliant on my therapist and our therapy hours just to feel ok. Having sessions at the beginning and end of the week gives me something to aim towards in amongst the rush and chaos that is my life. On a Monday I feel like therapy sets me up for the week ahead and the Friday session sort of rounds off the week…it’s containing! lol!

I don’t spend all my sessions moaning about the here and now but it is really nice to have time scheduled in the week that is just for me and my well-being (although I do get how therapy isn’t exactly relaxing!). At the moment I have to be uber adult in my day-to-day life and I feel a bit like my more vulnerable self has been neglected – again, therapy gives a bit of time and space to acknowledge this part of me so I cope a bit better with the everyday existence.

So, today, no session but still work in a bit… I feel a mix of things. The young parts feel a bit confused, like, ‘Where is she? Why are we still at home? We want to see her!!’ The adult is relieved that I haven’t had to drive an hour to get to therapy and at 10:10 am back in bed with a cup of tea and the laptop having blitzed the house once the kids were on their way to school. I know that cleaning the house isn’t really what many would consider self-care but I don’t do very well with mess and feel much happier when the house is clean and tidy, so half an hour running about with the hoover and sorting the kitchen feels good to me.

Earlier in the week I had considered using this time to go and have a run, but being ill…it’s a noooooo! The idea of putting on sports gear and trainers right now makes me feel ugh. I’m definitely in a dressing gown and pjs place! And as well as this ‘no to exercise’ place I am definitely in a ‘no to people-ing’ place. I have my two cats on the bed with me and that’s basically put me in my happy place! I don’t have much else to say so I think, I am going to go nap….in the day time… before work.

How to self-care: BE MORE CAT! (no fucks given. so what if it’s your bed. sleep.)

Ooooh and I have a Spa day on Sunday with my wife!!

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To Anyone That Is Struggling.

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It probably won’t come as a big surprise to anyone that my social media basically is one big Mental Health zone. My WordPress, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest follows are basically all related to mental health – and I post and save a lot on my Facebook (which is personal and not related to ‘Rubber Bands And Chewing Gum’ too. Because of this, I have a steady stream of Mental Health content: new research in the world of psychology; book recommendations; new blog posts; affirming messages/memes; invitations to do a bit better with my self care whether it be diet/exercise/meditation; organisations posting strategies to feel a little bit less alone in the world- and it’s great…most of the time…

Sometimes, though, the picture I have just posted will feel a bit, I dunno, saccharine?? Of course, those times tend to be the times when I am armoured up and impenetrable or when I am doing fine (Tbh there aren’t all that many times like that in the month!) or when the Inner Critic is in situ and making me feel unworthy of care. Most of the time, these kind of messages are EXACTLY what I need to be seeing when I am indulging in some screen time. They make me feel connected and less – – fucking useless and failing at life!

It’s so refreshing to have something uplifting, motivational or meaningful on my feeds when frankly, so much of my screen seems to be filled with either what a knobhead Trump is or what a complete balls-up Brexit is! Twitter is particularly bad for this right?! I mean you can’t ignore what a shambles everything is but when you spend as much time scrolling as I do (my phone told me I was down by 21% on my screen time last week…but still averaging 3h 19 mins a day!!!!!)  it’s hard not to become overwhelmed by the state of things.

Anyway, this last week or so I have massively needed these little ‘you’re not a completely useless sack of shite’ pick me ups. I am so glad that I have structured my social media in such a way that it is constantly giving me both helpful reminders that things are going to be ok and also, importantly, that I am not alone in feeling wobbly some (a lot) of the time.

I got sucked into the sink hole of attachment misery this last week. I’ve been ill but not so ill that I should’ve fallen so spectacularly headfirst into the ‘My Mummy Doesn’t Love Me AND I Want My Therapist (Who Also Doesn’t Love Me)’ pit. I mean, it was an epic week so far as my starting point and end point went: polar opposites.

As you may have noticed, I’ve had a pretty amazing month so far as being adult and coping and being fine goes. Christmas break was — nothing —- just completely ok – enjoyable even – last week things still felt manageable. The BANG, the hint of a sniffle and a temperature and off I went careering into the abyss. The ground opened up beneath me and I was nose deep in trauma and attachment shit. I had to close my mouth because the shit line was so high.

Nightmare.

I basically went from: my life is busy but I am coping and I feel safely attached and contained in therapy TO Waaaaahhhhh my life is falling apart! Em has left me! I hate myself! I can’t do this! I need to hide…. My session on Friday was hard work we faced down that motherwound again and crikey is bloody painful.

Once I was drowning in my own special pit of emotional shit I found that I was plagued with really vivid dreams…most of which involve Em (what a shocker!) Oh how I love a #therapydream! 

Unfortunately, by Sunday (yesterday), I felt so utterly depleted and exhausted that I didn’t even have the energy to write about how shit it was feeling and ended up re-blogging a post from 2017. That was crap! But what was also crap was rereading it and seeing that despite being aware that I am a useless, needy baby when I get ill, there doesn’t seem much I can do about it even 15 months down the line.

Ah well. I guess it’s lucky I haven’t been ill for a while. I spent most of Autumn/Winter 2017 sick and so, looking back it’s little wonder I was such a mess with the attachment stuff.

So where does that leave things now? Well, it’s Monday morning now. I still feel yucky and attachmenty and frankly piss poor but I have written down my horrible dreams and alongside them the feelings I felt when I woke up. I am taking that all in with me to session as well as my blanket and hopefully I can just be how it is, explain how badly the wheels have fallen off, and try and get myself back on track.

I have way too much on this week to be stuck in with the upset primary school inside….this is also very true because if things follow the usual trend then it’s not going to be long until the secondary school bunch drop in….and I don’t want their self-loathing and anger to take root.

So, to anyone that is struggling….just to say – you are not alone…AT ALL.

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And for anyone that wants a laugh, my best friend sent me this last time I was having a similar meltdown….which actually I find equally as uplifting as the motivational things on my social media. Humour and sarcasm are my favourites!! ha x

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Why does physical illness always go hand in hand with a mental health crash?

I wrote this in 2017 – scarily it’s pretty much how I feel now.  Physical illness REALLY impacts my mental health. I’m an attachment pained mess again…and after all the progress of the last month I feel so disappointed with myself. I have been a snotty, moaning wreck these last few days and now am back in the horrible dreamscape area. Ugh. Therapy dreams are the worst! As a result of all this inner turmoil I’ve basically turned into a depressed mess and feel like I want to self-harm (haven’t self-harmed since January last year btw!) It’s just not even funny that I find myself here. I am too tired to write so am re-blogging this as it’s actually pretty much where I am at!!

Sigh!

Rubber Bands and Chewing Gum

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Look, I apologise in advance for this. It’s basically an, ‘I’m really poorly, am feeling sorry for myself, and I really miss my therapist’ ramble written from under the duvet, on a Friday night, whilst my wife is out at a gig that I am too ill to go to.

My immune system is beyond crap. My blood levels have never fully recovered despite it being nearly two years since I completed my last round of chemo. As a result of depleted lymphocytes, my infection fighting capacity is pretty non-existent. The doctors had hoped that things would’ve improved by now, but unfortunately my body is stubborn and has decided it would rather pick up and fight every bug that is going! I’ve been ill for almost two weeks now with the exhausting cold, cough, chest infection, no voice thing that’s doing the rounds. I’m so so bored of it. I just…

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Not Alone

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Well, firstly, before I get down to the real business of this post I just want to ask this: how on earth is it only January 13th? Has someone been buggering about with the time/space continuum AGAIN?? Like, seriously, this the longest freaking month ever. I’ve only been back at work a week and already it feels like there should be a holiday on the horizon because I ache all over and feel utterly exhausted (unfortunately there are still five to go!); but then there’s that other important date that can’t come quickly enough too…payday!!!

Seriously, January is such a bloody depressing month – the twinkly lights and tinsel are both gone; it’s cold, wet, dark, and grey; and notably there’s no bloody money (to be fair there never is any money!)!! Actually, for once, this utter broke and probably eating beans on toast til the end of the month isn’t because I dipped into December’s pay for Christmas gifts (that didn’t happen this year) it’s because thus far January has chosen to shit on me so far as unexpected bills have gone: there’s flights for my wife to go to her grandmother’s funeral as well as an appropriate outfit to wear; a new bedroom carpet for my daughter after a vomit fest; and errrr some car repairs that uncovered more problems that weren’t worth fixing and so now….A NEW CAR! Not quite what I needed.

Anyway, I am sure no one is interested in my financial woes and January depression so I’ll get to it…

Not Alone.

I know that’s probably a bit of a random title but this week I can say that something else has started to shift a bit in me. As an introvert, to be fair, I like being alone. I don’t do well in crowds or at parties, I feel uptight and uncomfortable and like I would rather be at home in bed reading a book. At work I switch on the self that can do social and confident and capable but it does require effort. I’m not really talking about that ‘feeling alone in a group of people thing’, or being slightly distanced or whatever.

Bear with me, I am so tired I can’t really find words…

For the longest time I felt like I was alone with that gaping hole, #motherwound, sadness, misery, depression, eating disorder, self-harm, not feeling good enough… you know, all that lovely soul-destroying stuff… oh and of course, let’s not forget the crazy attachment issues with my therapist 😉 And I think starting up this blog started to change that a bit. I began writing and sharing the things that I have kept hidden and private, and soon discovered that actually I was far from alone with these feelings and that has been really transformational.

The interactions I have had on here (bar a couple of strange ones!) have been amazing. There is a real sense of community and holding and care from people that I have never met and that in itself has been a massive help on my journey towards healing. I have been lucky enough, too, to have stumbled across a few like-minded people that have become daily fixtures in my life – I think the word I am looking for is ‘friends’ – ha. And then (I’m sorry for this gush peeps) there’s a really significant person who I met here that I actually fondly now call my ‘Straight Wife’ but really I think ‘Soul Sister’ is where it’s at. Without her support over the last 15 months I know I wouldn’t be anywhere like as together as I am right now. It’s pretty unfortunate that we live about 500 miles apart but thank god for WhatApp calling eh?!

My point is, I do not feel alone anymore because I know that there are people who actually accept me as I am, not just a perfected version of me. To be able to be the genuine ‘warts and all’ version of myself, which at times means the needy, anxious, stuck one who can’t muster the energy to get dressed or eat is huge…and to be loved despite that is amazing.

I think my blog has been a bit of a training ground in seeing what happens when I am truly myself and allow the vulnerability out. It’s like another form of therapy. I guess it’s easier to write on a screen and have a bit of distance from it – that way whatever the response I am, in someway, protected. Practising the vulnerability on the phone with my friend has been another step. And then I guess this leads me to my therapy…

Therapy is slightly different. The problems I have around trust are huge and go way back. The maternal transference element and the disorganised attachment patterns I have haven’t made therapy easy (no shit!).

Therapy seems to be some complicated dance that I haven’t quite got the hang of (which after all these years is not really very funny!). It’s like I take one step forward and two steps back when I am meant to be waltzing around the room. I am not a natural dancer! Only what I seem to have worked out this last week or so, is that Em is not expecting me to waltz around the room. She’s perfectly ok with the one step forwards and two steps back. It’s me that has put the pressure on myself to be a certain way. Like honestly – big face-palm!

I have been so well defended lately that I have been unable to really connect with Em. I have felt like she hasn’t been trying hard enough, doesn’t care, is disinterested etc and yet when I listen back to my sessions this is anything but the case. Honestly, she really does try and get to me, and often succeeds by the end of the session. However, the feelings I feel when I am shut off or dissociated are horrible and I can’t see or feel her with me. I know the only way out is through but crikey it’s so hard doing something that basically stirs up a whole load of shit and then I am left with it ‘alone’.

Only, I am not alone am I? This week I have allowed myself to let the guard down a little, to look at Em (I haven’t been able to make eye contact for such a long time) and to just see what it feels like being with her. And do you know what? It’s nice. Rather than bracing myself for a feared attack (that will not actually come from my therapist – but hey I have my mum to thank for that) I have wondered what it would be like to lean into my therapist a bit. Rather than long for a specific type of care and then getting angry because what I am met with is not quite what I want (hugs!) I have just tried to be in the moment and feel what is actually there…and what is actually there is really good.

I feel like a right idiot writing this because nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. My therapist is the same but I am not. I know that is what it’s all about – me changing and growing – but it’s weird that it seems to have happened all of a sudden just like a switch has been flicked.

My last session on Friday was hard, we hit some really huge feelings- I accidentally triggered the motherwound landmine by not looking where I was going with fifteen minutes to go- but rather than run and dissociate from them I stayed with them, and in staying with those feelings guess what I noticed? Em was right there staying with them (and me) too.

When I disappear in session I take myself off into my ‘safe’ place (only it’s not safe, it’s isolating and horrid) I am completely alone and whilst I think it’s protecting me, it isn’t. Sure, it’s what I needed to do as a child when I really was alone and under attack but I am not under attack now. Even when those feelings of fear and being threatened trigger a trauma response in the here and now actually what I need now, and needed so badly back then as a kid, was to be connected safely to someone else. There was no safe person when I was growing up but there is one now and I get to see that person twice a week.

I feel like everyone will be doing the biggest eye roll and going ‘well, duh, that’s what therapy is…’ but it’s taken til now for me to actually feel that Em is safe, is there, is with me, wants to help me, and most importantly not only can I see that she cares, I can feel it.

I am not alone.

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