So it’s that time of year again. August. The long therapy break. The emotional marathon. The endurance test. Almost a month away from therapy and my therapist. Right now I feel like I am hanging off a ledge and holding on by my fingertips. It’s all about survival!
For many therapy clients, particularly the long-termers and those with attachment trauma I know this is a difficult time. I’ve only got 5 days left until my next session and despite having made it through a good portion of the 22 day break, time still stretches out for what seems like forever. I feel lost and unsettled.
Back in the days before I had children, when I was a teacher, I literally couldn’t wait for my summer break. In those days, the 6 weeks off symbolised a much-needed rest, relaxation, and a nice holiday. It was a shining beacon that got me through the dark winter months. I guess this is, maybe, how my therapist feels.
I used to spend the summer term counting down, and with each week ticked off I could feel the stress ebbing away. At the end of July I could take off my professional hat and be ‘myself’ (whoever that is!) for a bit and then return to school in September full of enthusiasm and energy.
These days I spend the time from April counting the sessions down, one by one, week by week, and dreading the approaching month of August. By mid-July I feel myself emotionally shutting down and protecting myself ready for the therapy break. I guess that it’s all part of the process and often some really good work comes off the back of a therapy break, but I won’t lie, I really REALLY hate breaks.
I don’t begrudge my therapist her holiday (or maybe I do bit!). She more than earns a good solid bit of time off to recharge her batteries. The thing is as much as my adult can see that she is entitled to her holidays and actually wants her to practise good self-care so that she is able to be a good therapist to me and her other clients, there are lots of parts of me that don’t feel quite so understanding and pragmatic about it. There are parts of me that feel like I have been abandoned and that generates a whole heap of difficult feelings.
The little parts of me feel absolutely distraught that she has gone and left me on my own. They quickly lose their sense of trust in the relationship and doubt the connection. They don’t understand that she’s away but will be coming back. To them she’s disappeared off the face of the earth and isn’t returning and it’s probably because of me, something that I’ve done wrong, or that is wrong with me: I am annoying, irritating, and too much for her. It’s not a nice place to inhabit. It’s exhausting feeling like a tiny child who is screaming for her (therapy) mother to return and then at times being further harassed by my Critic who makes me feel unworthy and undeserving of her help and care and that I am pathetic for feeling anything about her.
I appreciate how bonkers that sounds to the majority of the population but I also know that there are plenty of people who suffer this separation anxiety, people who suffer with object constancy, people who rely heavily on their relationship with their therapist and just don’t cope very well with disruptions and ruptures. I am one of those people.
I’m trying to put in place strategies for coping with the breaks but at the moment it is hit and miss whether they are successful. I guess this is part of the problem with disorganised attachment and trauma. It really depends which part of me is most active at the time as to whether my self-care strategies work.
The next part of this post can be found here: Why I hate therapy breaks: part 2