Tuesday evening marked the end of the 22 day therapy break – hooray! As first sessions after a lengthy disruption go, it wasn’t a complete disaster, but it wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, either. Damn it, there was no hot chocolate, nurturing hug, and a blanket to wrap around me! Seriously, though, I think it’s particularly difficult after a significant break to just launch back into the ‘deep’ stuff and pick up where we left off. I’m working on it, but I am just not there yet.
I wish I was one of those people that could just do life properly and not even need therapy, or at least be someone who can say ‘ah well, a three week break, it’s not a bother’ and not even notice the time passing. But I just can’t. Therapy is important to me. I’m now in that really crappy bit where I have finally allowed myself to attach and become dependent on my therapist and I have started to really unpick things, but it feels ridiculously scary and exposing.
I feel so vulnerable when I really open up and it feels as though it could all blow up in my face at any given moment. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I am told I am ‘too much’ and she terminates me. Despite caring deeply about my therapist and having an element of trust in her and the relationship, there are definitely parts of me that haven’t quite managed to latch on to a feeling of safety and don’t feel that there is the secure base that they need. It all feels so high risk for them. My adult knows she’s safe but my child parts are uncertain about it all. They love her but they are also fearful of her and the relationship. It feels like she has the power to totally annihilate them and, therefore, me. It’s hard.
Like an unsettled small child I’m really sensitive to any kind of change or disruption to my (therapy) routine. I think developmental trauma and cumulative traumatic events does this to people. I also recently found out that I fit comfortably on the spectrum for being a ‘highly sensitive person’ or HSP. (It’s not as bad as it sounds – Google it and do the online test.) I’ve become so hypervigilant, even more so since going through cancer treatment, that the smallest thing such as a time or day change can send me off balance.
Right now a three week long break is not just an unfortunately placed puddle that I need to skip over, the break feels more like a vast choppy ocean and I’ve got to swim to the other shore, fully clothed and wearing lead boots in order to reconnect with my therapist, and to an extent, myself. Terrible metaphor, I know!
I have really missed therapy. I have really missed my therapist. I have missed being able to dedicate a block of proper time to myself each week (albeit only 50 minutes!), time that focuses on me and my needs which outside the therapy session take a backseat – which I guess is part and parcel of having two small children. Without my sessions it’s felt like things have steadily been getting on top of me. I haven’t really been able to exercise any decent self-care strategies and what my therapist and I tried to put in place before the break (an internalising visualisation) just didn’t work at all. More on that another time once I’ve talked it through with her.
The longer the break went on the worse the feeling of being ‘spread too thin’ got, but then things in my day-to-day have become quite hectic over the summer holiday which probably hasn’t helped. It’s just unfortunate timing, really. It’s felt as though I am spinning too many plates and it’s only a matter time of until there’s a thunderous crash of crockery on the floor.
It’s really important, then, now that I am back in therapy that I find a way of quickly rebuilding the sense of trust in my therapist, find the connection, and also the confidence to address the things about the relationship that are really hurting me at the minute. She says we need to find a way of getting over my sense of shame and embarrassment around my feelings about her. It’s not easy, though!
Yes, of course I know all these painful feelings are being transferred into the here and now from past relationships, but my littlest parts aren’t able differentiate where the pain is coming from. They see her as the attachment figure now, and so her distance and lack of availability feels abandoning and rejecting somehow. It’s replaying how my mother was and that is just hideous. I can’t help but feel distressed and angry about the situation.
My adult knows she’s actually just being a therapist, a professional, and I need her to be those things BUT the little ones don’t want a professional, they need a mother! I haven’t yet worked out how to hold those parts for myself and be the adult, parent, nurturing figure that I needed back then and can’t give those parts the care I know they need now. There are so many overwhelmingly wounded young parts of me that just ache to be held and soothed by her- and she can’t hold me or make up for what I missed out on as a child. Ouch. That is so painful. No amount of rationalising the situation makes it any better. It just fucking hurts like hell.
So, as much as I wanted to be able to go into the session, sit down, and talk freely and openly, and continue to build on what we’d spoken about in the last session it wasn’t ever truly on the cards. I need to be realistic about these situations. I need to learn to take it as a win if I get to session and don’t completely shut down and hide from her. If I manage to at least talk about something that is useful it should be seen as a positive because in reality I know everything goes to utter shit in my head with regards to trust and connection in the therapeutic relationship when I’m on a therapy break.
I know it can take a while to feel secure in the room with her again. I just so deeply wish that just for once I could walk into the therapy room and immediately feel properly safe with her rather than being on edge and then having to spend time working out how things are ‘today’. I honestly think that something must have gone wrong between sessions and despite leaving most sessions feeling connected and heard I am sure that a shit storm is about to erupt each week when I arrive. Disorganised attachment really is the pits!
So on Tuesday I sat down and the first thing I said was, ‘I’m alright, I think, just about’. She picked up on the ‘just about’ inviting me to think about it, but it felt far too exposing to say how the break really was. I couldn’t tell her how much I struggled with missing her or how there had been times when all I felt capable of was hiding under the duvet and crying (but not being able to cry). I couldn’t explain how there had been times when I felt like the break would never end and I’d felt sick, anxious, lost and so so little that I literally felt my two year old self crying, wondering ‘where’s mummy? Why has she gone?’
I couldn’t find the words to tell her how the sessions leading into the break were difficult and had left me feeling precarious before the break had even begun. I couldn’t tell her that I couldn’t picture her in the internalising visualisation she’d sent me via text and that the message she’d sent left me feeling cold. It was too formal (BEST WISHES! -argh!) and made me feel like she didn’t really care. I couldn’t tell her anything like that and I certainly couldn’t get back to talking about the huge letter I had given her in our last session outlining all the problems I was having in the therapeutic relationship and why I had essentially shut down for the 6 weeks leading into the break.
We had spoken about the content a but there hadn’t been much time left once she’d actually read it and then the break began. It’s not ideal timing by any means dropping the honesty bomb right before the break, but I had to get it out my system and I guess on some level I knew doing it before a break would give me time to recover from it!
So despite managing to talk a great deal about my dad and the grief I was feeling and about that as well as some of the issues that had cropped up during the break in my everyday life, I didn’t talk about the stuff that’s been really bothering me and I guess that’s why I left feeling like things weren’t great. That’s what happens when you don’t say what’s really on your mind and talk about other (still) important things.
I know that in today’s session I need to try and tackle what the break felt like for me and how I was affected by it, but I know by now that it’s much easier said than done. I can have so much swirling in my head to say and yet, sometimes, I arrive and it just won’t come out. I so desperately want to talk but there’s that niggling doubt that holds me back, the voice inside my head that says ‘if you tell her really how you feel she’ll see what a needy loser you really are and then she’ll be gone’. She says that won’t happen, but how can I be sure?