I said to my therapist on Monday that I felt like the house in The Wizard of Oz when the tornado hits. I feel so up in the air and out of control. It’s as though I am perpetually spiralling all over the place, being battered by high winds and debris… it’s not good and it feels dangerous. I know the house survives the journey to Oz but it’s a bit touch and go whilst it’s being whipped up in a whirlwind isn’t it?
She probably thought I was specifically referring to how I felt about my friend dying on Sunday but I wasn’t. Yes, of course, this recent bereavement has knocked me off my feet to an even greater extent than before but if you read this blog you’ll know that I have been stumbling, tripping and then sliding along on my arse for a good while now. In any case, the ‘being caught in a storm’ metaphor is not new.
Everything has been a mess for a really long time. And yet, I doubt up until the point when I made that analogy she’d have had any idea that that is how I have been feeling more recently.
Since Christmas I’d say that my therapy sessions usually follow one of a few patterns: I fluctuate between speaking round the edges and not hitting the main point, trying to clue her in but feeling too exposed and vulnerable to really spell out how I feel – my body language and facial expressions make it pretty clear that stuff is bothering me, though; sometimes I am so overwhelmed by my feelings that I become quiet and withholding and it’s like we’re swimming through treacle; sometimes I dump my writing on her (letter/blog post/poem) and then retreat into myself as I watch her read my thoughts and feelings and then we try and unpick it all; and sometimes I get so frustrated, raging and upset that my silence is less benign and I wonder what the hell I am doing in a room with someone who simply couldn’t care less about me.
My fear of rejection and/or abandonment makes therapy a really difficult place to be.
But none of that is how I have been presenting over the last few sessions we’ve had. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy any of those ways of being I’ve listed above, but I do feel like when I am in those states I am in the moment and connected with some difficult emotions even if I can’t necessarily articulate how I am feeling in words. I do get the sense that I am there with my therapist and we can hopefully peel back the layers to get to what’s underneath.
When I am like that I feel like I at least trust her enough to show her in a non-verbal way that things are hard. So I am a bit cross with myself at the moment because I feel like I’ve almost gone back in time to the very early days of therapy- you know, the bit where you meet them for the first time and then steadily try and suss them out over a few months, behave yourself, and don’t show them too much of the crazy!
She commented in session last week that I have been different in the two sessions we’d just had (Monday/Friday). That’s true. I hadn’t taken the vulnerable bits with me to talk because I couldn’t. I had retreated into myself and was trying to go it alone, to an extent. I’ve been sitting neatly in my adult, chatting away like you would to anyone. There haven’t been many long, awkward pauses or any really difficult emotions spilling out. In fact I’d go so far as to say there has been no emotion at all. It’s all been very matter of fact. I’ve been speaking from the rational side of my brain and have been totally disconnected from the emotional part. And yet when I am not in that room it feels like I am drowning inside…
Only the other day I was blogging about how big a deal it would be for me to potentially move away from my therapist and I wrote that highly emotive piece about how it was feeling for me. SHE HAS NO IDEA ABOUT THOSE FEELINGS because I haven’t told her about them! She has no reason to suspect that actually things are no different than they have been in the more gruelling sessions because I’m not showing her any of that. It must look as though the anxiety and depression have magically evaporated. They haven’t. It’s all still there. It hasn’t gone away. It’s just buried. I’ve put my mask back on. For some reason I am not comfortable showing her anything other than my game face at the moment – the one I wear in the outside world.
Despite having been a complete emotional wreck since Friday when I learned my friend was receiving end of life/palliative care and then completely crumbling when I received the news of Sunday that she had died, for some reason I couldn’t stay with those overwhelming feelings and bring that desperately sad and vulnerable part of me into session on Monday. The bit that is devastated and needs support and holding was left in the car. I had been crying the entire journey driving to therapy but my tears promptly dried up as I headed up the driveway to my session. Why is that? Why can’t I let her see that part of me?
The other week my therapist told me that she had an image of an iceberg with lots of bits broken off it come into her mind – that I’m really fragile and precarious. I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and wondering if that is how I am? Isolated, icy cold and unreachable? There’s an irony in this because whilst I don’t at all doubt that’s how I come across, at times, it is the complete opposite of what’s going on underneath ….or maybe it’s that thing, we can see what’s on the surface but about 90% of an iceberg is beneath the surface of the water. I guess we need a submersible or some extreme dive gear!
I also wonder if part of me has been shutting down/backing away from her in the last few weeks because I knew that someone I really love, who I was very emotionally close to, was dying in hospital. Maybe, in some way, I was trying to protect myself from loss. I’ve told her before how there has always been a huge part of me that panics and worries that she is going to disappear. Sometimes it’s a fear of her leaving/abandoning me because I am too much and sometimes I worry that she is actually going to die. It seems ridiculous doesn’t it? But it is how it feels.
The long summer break is always really bad for this as it mirrors what happened with my dad: he was on a month long summer holiday and never came back. It’s awful. I genuinely feel sick the entire summer. Part of it is about her and obviously part of it is about my dad. My therapist has repeatedly told me that she isn’t going to give up on me or leave and that only an event beyond her control would mean our therapy would end. The thing is, death is beyond her control isn’t it? My dad had no control over his death and neither did my friend…and that’s terrifying for me.
And this is why, in part, I have been wittering on about the need for a holding message or a transitional object for such a long time. I am not exaggerating when I say that I operate from a place of high-anxiety in the week wondering if something has changed in the therapeutic relationship or if something bad is about to happen. As far as my brain is concerned, if I haven’t been abandoned yet, then it is only a matter of time. It is thoroughly exhausting.
I guess I should have got my act together and done something with the pebbles I collected from the beach. It’s not as though they haven’t been sitting in the room waiting from week to week. The thing is, I kind of don’t want to do anything with them now. It’s not because I don’t need something to hold on to. I totally do. This week, in particular, has been really difficult and I am struggling to hard to hang on to any positive sense of the relationship right now.
So what’s the issue? Why not spend some time working on and writing on the stones? Well, I don’t want to because I don’t want to have to write them myself. My therapist keeps encouraging me to think about what I want her to write on them, and whilst I have an idea of the kind of thing I would like her to say, if I have to generate the content then it kind of negates the whole thing for me. It’s like buying and then dictating the message in your own birthday card – whilst the handwriting is someone else’s the feeling and the message is not theirs. They are not in it. What’s the point in that?
The whole idea was to try and create something that makes me feel as though there is something real and genuine between us, that therapy is not just some clinical exercise I put myself through each week, and that maybe she does care about me…because I really have no idea. So I just can’t be bothered with it right now. I feel terrible but this is not making it better, it’s actually highlighting the feelings I have about not being worthy of care and generally being unimportant. The idea of having a transitional object was to try and alleviate these feeling but even getting round to creating it has just reinforced them. I give up.
Maybe subconsciously I have also been withdrawing because I have realised just how caught up in needing my therapist I have become. I’ve said many times now that I feel like I need her just to survive at the moment and that the time between sessions feels like everything is falling apart. It’s not good. I don’t like feeling dependent on someone else because when I am it means that what they do, and how they are, impacts on me emotionally. If I need her then what happens when she isn’t there anymore?
Rather than allowing myself to get closer to her and seek comfort and support in her, perhaps I have been retreating because I can’t cope with the idea of her not being there anymore. And one day that is going to be the case isn’t it? The therapy bubble is going to burst somewhere down the road and I will be on my own again. A pebble isn’t going to change that! Isn’t it stupid, therefore, to get attached to someone that you can’t actually maintain a lifelong attachment to? Isn’t is just ultimately seeking out another heartbreak? Why am I doing that to myself? Why deliberately set myself up for an emotional loss?
I truly hope nothing happens to her and she lives a really full and long life but actually one day she will not be there for me any more just like my dad and my friend are no longer there for me. She may as well be dead when I walk out of therapy for the last time. I know technically I can always go back if necessary, but essentially the idea is that once it’s finished and terminated that is that. End of. Bye bye.
Right now I cannot imagine, or bear to think about, that day….because I am not ready and therapy has a long way to run yet….but it’s almost impossible for me to imagine a day where I will be ok with the idea of not seeing her, not being with her, having no contact.
It makes me feel ill.
It feels like the equivalent of a bereavement and that’s all too present in my mind at the moment. I am keenly aware of how it feels to lose someone. I am in complete denial that my friend is gone, that I have to attend her funeral next week, that I will never hug her or speak to her again. How will I never get a text message ping on my phone? How on earth can that be?
Of course I understand that by the time I get to the end of therapy I should feel differently and by the time we terminate I shouldn’t need my therapist or be impacted by her in the way that I am now. BUT right now I struggle to see how I will ever tolerate not having her in my life. I still can’t accept that my dad is gone. I still need him. It’s nine years down the line. I’m a ‘proper’ grown up with children of my own I shouldn’t ‘need’ my daddy… but I do. And now my friend is gone, and I have plenty of friends, but I need her. I want her.
So tell me please how I will be ok the day my therapist and I are no longer working together…
I think about this too and brought it up with A some time ago – and she said that when I leave and how I leave is up to me barring unforeseen events. It’s hard to dismiss those unforeseen events and not think about them, but that comment did make me feel like I had more control in our ending.
There was a few months where I needed her twice a week for an hour and a half, and now I see her every other week for that time. And it’s okay, and it was all my choice and sometimes I go back and forth.
I’m trying to say that when it happens it will be so gradual you won’t notice and likely all in your control in terms of pacing, etc.
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Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope this is how it is for me in the end too! I often change sessions to have more than one a week but I don’t feel in control of that. I always ask and then get hit by ‘oh god, now I look needy and what if she says no, it’ll feel rejecting!’ I am a mess really! Ha!
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I totally get that feeling – it was similar for me too. It’s not a mess – it’s growth, you’re growing in that therapy experience – it’s something new.
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