When I started the last post Why I hate therapy breaks: part 1 I knew that I had plenty to say about breaks from therapy and how hard they are to navigate, particularly when you aren’t one of those blessed souls that is ‘securely attached’. But getting down to writing this second part has been proving really hard. It’s like I’m having some kind of mental block on it.
I think I kind of know what’s happened. It’s what always happens at some point in a therapy break – the littlest parts of me have become fully activated, are overwhelmed and terrified, they are screaming and I can no longer pretend that they’re not there because the noise they are generating inside can’t be drowned out. They are sure that she (therapist) is gone and isn’t coming back, and are basically having a full on meltdown about it.
The rational adult part of me that was holding the fort, just about hanging it together, and doing my best to soothe those parts is struggling to contain all the fear and anxiety that’s bubbling inside. It just feels too much. The break feels too long. I hate it.
It’s really difficult carrying on with the normal day-to-day of being a wife and mother with adult responsibilities when there is a significant part of me that feels like a distraught baby crying out for an absent mother who isn’t ever going to come. It’s really quite strange carrying that and still going about the daily routine and all that entails.
Yesterday saw an early morning shoe fitting for both my kids in order to be ready for the return to school and preschool next week; sorting out paperwork; going to the bank; a quick run round the supermarket; getting sports kit washed and ironed ready for classes this morning; a playdate; mowing the lawn and walking the dogs– all totally mundane tasks and not stressful in the least, but they are definitely ‘adult’ tasks. The day’s chores felt more demanding than they really were because not only do I have my real small children to manage, I also have a fair few internal ones playing up!
When I woke up yesterday morning all I really felt capable of was hiding under the duvet with a teddy and having a good cry about how much I miss my therapist. It couldn’t happen, 1) because the kids couldn’t get their shoes by themselves and 2) I don’t cry….but that’s another post altogether!
This level of inner conflict, turmoil, distress, call it what you will is hard to manage. I think perhaps the reason it gets worse towards the end of break (as ridiculous as that sounds) is because it takes a massive amount of energy (both emotional and physical) to contain the feelings that rise up during a break. It’s almost as though when the finish line is in sight I start to stumble because I am utterly fatigued from trying to keep going for so long. I don’t know if that makes sense? I feel a bit mentally cloudy today.
In the early days of therapy I used to feel a bit ‘out of sorts’ and miss my therapist when we were on a break, but recently I became aware of the different parts of myself: Little Me, Four, Seven, Eleven, The Teenager, and The Critic. And since then breaks have become a whole new level of hell and torment. I’ve noticed that my mind shifts through cycles of different emotions and I have come to associate these varying emotions with the different parts of myself. I’ve noticed that there’s a negative pattern that takes place and when I go back to therapy I really need to make it a priority task to try and work out why it happens and how to avoid it/manage it.
I tend to start a break in my Adult: ‘It’ll be fine. Sure I’ll miss her, but it’s ok, she’ll be back in x amount of time and in the meantime I’ll be kind to myself’. I wish I could sustain that but before very long the little ones start to get noisy. Little Me doesn’t really have words yet but I can clearly see her in my mind’s eye standing in a vast empty space with tears streaming down her face, screaming ‘Mummy, come back’. That’s hard. It comes from a place of real loss and abandonment in my childhood where from the age of four til eleven my mum would be away from Sunday afternoon to Friday evening.
Once you throw in Four and Seven into the mix it starts to get really upsetting. Eleven stands silently on the side lines. She’s been here before. She knows the score. She’s learnt that crying doesn’t get her anywhere so she just doesn’t express any emotion anymore. No one is coming for her. No one knows how much she is hurting. She needs to take care of herself. So she’s quite a little grown up. It’s sad, really.
There’s only so long this level of pain can continue before The Teenager rocks up. Fuck. She is so angry! She’s angry at everyone. She hates the world. She hates that my therapist has done this to the little ones again. How dare she leave them and her to cope alone? She hates that she has to babysit but she always steps in to protect the child parts as though her life depends on it. She shuts everything down. She’s great at the silent treatment and she has cost me quite a lot of money in silent, angry therapy sessions! She is deeply hurt too but she copes by not eating, or self-harming, or listening to music.
The Teenager secretly likes my therapist but she is so frustrated by her feelings about her and also the lack of availability of my therapist between sessions that often her anger and frustration makes her think that the whole therapy thing is ‘just a pile of shit’. She essentially reaches the place where she says ‘I am done with it. Therapy makes me feel rubbish. I like her but it’s not a real relationship. She doesn’t really care about me’ and so on.
It really is crap being in my head sometimes! It’s a disaster zone when these feelings are kicking about in my mind and it’s a break. This sort of emotional spiral happens from week to week in the normal run of things but generally I can repair once I am back in session. There’s just about enough consistency and contact to manage it. What am I meant to do when on a break, though?!
There’ve been so many occasions lately where I have wanted to reach for my phone and fire off some raging text message and terminate therapy. I did send a completely outrageous message a few months back which in itself should be a blog post, but generally I don’t message her because I can’t be doing with ‘the boundaries’ talk when I go back in to session. I also can’t bear the thought that I would tell her that I am terminating and she would just accept it. You all know I don’t really want to terminate, I need therapy (clearly!), but sometimes it’s just so painful being in the therapeutic relationship.
So, The Teenager is a protector of sorts, but the thing is, there’s a force that is stronger than her and that’s The Critic. The Critic isn’t embodied in the normal sense or gendered. It’s huge. It’s loud. It’s persuasive. It’s soul destroying. All I can liken it to is the Dementors in Harry Potter. The Critic is a force so strong and powerful that it can suck everything good out of me. It batters my self-esteem. It feels like an almighty boiling, sinister voice in my head. A standard line of attack runs something like this:
‘You know you want to hurt yourself. Just do it. You will feel so much better. Just cut yourself. Don’t tell her (therapist) anything. She won’t understand. I promise you’ll feel better if you run further/more often/without eating. Why are you eating that? Seriously, can’t you see what you look like? There’s no point in telling her about me. I’m stronger than she is. I’ll make sure she disappears. Or you will by being such a needy loser. She can’t help you. She doesn’t care, anyway. She doesn’t want to know about those damaged children. Don’t ignore me! You are an embarrassment. You’re pathetic. You are so weak. What makes you think she’s different, anyway? You must be a complete idiot. She will hurt you in the end and then you’ll be back. Haven’t I always looked after you? You need me. Trust me.’
It’s not pleasant for sure! But I have told my therapist about it and she says it needs a lot of attention just like the little ones. We need to work out what has made it so mean. I know it’s basically a shit load of internalised anger that I’ve never expressed and instead turned in on myself….but even so, it’s not easy when it’s going for it.
So, it’s really only three days until I return to therapy and yet it sometimes feels like time is going backwards rather than forwards. I’m not angry right now. I’m still very much stuck with the little ones, I know it’ll change, it always does, but rather them then that mean bastard above!