File Under ‘Unread’

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So after two days of barely holding it together with rubber bands and chewing gum (I had no idea this blog name would end up being so apt!) today, at 11am, I found myself lying face down in my bed holding a pillow over my head convulsively crying about… yeah…you guessed it…feeling like my therapist doesn’t care about me after a pretty rubbish Skype session on Monday and a complete failure to acknowledge a message I have sent her since.

Believe me, there is a part of me that is seriously rolling my eyes and sighing in exasperation right now as if to say ‘for goodness sake, not this AGAIN’ as I type this.  Like really, this cannot be happening again can it? But it really is. And you’ve probably noticed by now – I tell it how it is…even if ‘how it is’ is fucking ridiculous and embarrassing. I tell it how it is in the here and now, as I experience it, even if in two weeks (or possibly even two days) I feel differently and can see things through an alternative, more rational lens.

I’m very aware that right now my left brain is offline and my right brain (where all the emotions are) is lit up like Piccadilly Circus. It’s probably not a great time to write a blog post but it’s either put it on the page here or start firing off upset/angry/needy messages to my therapist and that’s not a very good idea is it?

And so here I am again, trying to find a way through the difficult feelings in order that I don’t completely fall apart over the next two weeks. Does anyone have any glue to hold all my pieces together?… I am worried that the bands and gum aren’t up to the job this time around and am in danger of smashing into a million pieces.

I wrote recently about shame having just then started reading Patricia A. DeYoung’s book ‘Understanding And Treating Chronic Shame’. I’m no stranger to shame and having now read the whole thing, I have to say, the book is fantastic. I highly recommend it.  There’s heaps of really useful and interesting stuff in it and I plan to take it to my therapist and go ‘Here! Look at this. This is what’s happening!!’  (that is, of course, if one of the other parts doesn’t go to town with the text messages!)

Young suggests that shame is essentially caused by being ‘a self disintegrating in relation to a dysregulating other’. I mentioned in that post that I was concerned that I had somehow got caught up in a dynamic where my therapist was taking on the role of ‘dysregulating other’.

And. Yep. Skype session proved that point on Monday! More on that in a bit.

Basically, when a child is in distress it looks for connection and containment from the other to help regulate the distress. If all goes well the interaction soothes the child and the distress ebbs away. However, if the interaction between the child and other in some way misses the mark, is not attuned, a child is left feeling uncontained and out of control. It tries to place meaning on what is going on.  Basically, the child ends up blaming itself for the failure of the other to contain and connect.

It makes sense that when we need something really badly from an important person and they fail to meet that need often enough that we start to feel like there’s something wrong with us. Instead of blaming them we find fault in ourselves. It must be something we are doing wrong. Our need is too much. Feelings are bad. And so the shame cycle begins.  We see need as ‘bad’ and try and hide it.

So, we amble through life pretty successfully – well, you know, smoke and mirrors and all that! To most people I seem like a highly self-sufficient, high achiever, who ‘doesn’t need anyone or anything’  and if you’d asked me before therapy ‘I can do everything on my own and by myself. In fact other people are a pain and I prefer to be alone’. But now I see that actually I am not made of Teflon so far as emotions go and scarily: I have needs.

Who knew?!

Unfortunately, I seem hard-wired to feel bad about having feelings or needs and so in therapy it’s become a complete disaster zone because I have some very strong feelings towards my therapist and needs that I wish she could (although frustratingly know she can’t/won’t) meet.

I’ve noticed for a while now that I can go from ‘fairly normal’ to ‘away with the dissociative fairies’ in a matter of seconds in my therapy sessions. My therapist keeps asking for us to think about the process and notice what happens to make me dissociate and hide. For a long time I haven’t been really conscious of it, all I know is someone young comes online and then I am gone.

It’s like a switch gets flipped.

Because it’s been happening more and more lately I have been consciously trying to pay attention to the feelings that crop up and then what happens when I retreat inside myself. It probably won’t come as any surprise to you when I say it has its roots in shame. It happens so quickly and I am trying to work out how to stop it happening or how to get back from that dissociated, lonely space when it does.

Monday’s session was a complete shit pile but it kind of gave me some answers.

I am not stupid, I know that sessions after breaks are often hard. It takes time to reconnect (I’ve been here before. I know what I’m like!). We’d not seen each other for three weeks. It wasn’t face to face it was Skype. And following the virtual stepping stone in the river crossing (therapy break) there is now another two weeks until a face to face. It was always going to be a challenge to connect with my therapist. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to but I have so many defences… ugh.

I know that I was certainly trying to keep buoyant and surface level because I knew I would be on my own again for two more weeks the moment the call was over and I couldn’t face the possibility of falling headfirst in the pit of attachment pain for the next few weeks if I let her see the vulnerable stuff and it not go well. Ironically, yet again I failed to notice that if I don’t let her in I feel shit too!!!

Part of me didn’t want her to know how much I have missed her and wanted to shut her out a bit. But of course it didn’t last because as the session went on, surface level chatting, I could feel things stirring. I could feel that time was ticking away and I desperately wanted to connect, or at least part of me did.

I asked my therapist what the time was and it was 11am. I thought ‘oh that’s ok time to talk  and then the moment the thought went through my mind I realised I didn’t know how to get what I needed from her. It didn’t feel like she was receptive or attuned to me. I desperately wanted her to come closer to me, to hold my hand, hug me, and tell me that it’s all ok…but that will never happen.

The need feels huge.

The young parts screamed inside, burst into tears, realising that she was there but couldn’t see them and that we were going to be left until September…

…and then I was gone…

The shame of having those needy feelings and the pain that shame generates is utterly unbearable and that’s when I dissociate. I can’t cope with the overwhelming sense of longing and need for connection and feeling like I can’t get it, that I am not worthy of it, that she doesn’t want to connect. I feel like there is something wrong with me.

Like I say this whole process happens in a matter of seconds.

The rest of the session was hard. I think I just sat there making the odd ‘uh huh’ ‘yeah’ ‘no’ as she continued to talk to me about what I had initially started talking about (filler!). I felt like we were on completely different pages and was kind of glad when I hung up the call – not because I wanted to be in the throes of a further two week break- because it was so fucking excruciating feeling the minutes tick away and feeling like I didn’t know the person sitting opposite me. She probably felt the same way.

I felt awful the moment the screen went black and took myself straight into the kitchen to cut myself. That’s how bad it felt in that moment. Sheer desperation. I didn’t self-harm, though. I took a minute and thought about why I wanted to hurt myself. It was the need, the shame, the feeling unseen…and also very clearly having a sense of ‘what’s going on’ when it goes to shit in a session.

So instead of cutting I made this:

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and then sent it to my therapist as a text along with a note to ‘File under ‘unread’.  The teen part was feeling sarcastic. Like, ‘fuck it, I’m sending you stuff to try and help me and you won’t read it just like everything else, so shove it why don’t you?!’

Clearly, she hasn’t replied…and I feel rubbish about it. Not just because she hasn’t replied but because I feel so utterly overwhelmed by where I am in therapy and the therapeutic relationship and the break.

It just all feels kind of futile right now.

I don’t feel like I am moving forward. I just feel like I am stuck in trauma.

The teen parts are definitely wounded and feel like texting my therapist to tell her ‘we’re done, because what’s the fucking point in all this if almost every time we interact I am left feeling inadequate and like what I want/need from you is too much. I feel physically sick when I think about how much I care for you and contrast that with how easy it is for you to leave me/ignore me when I am struggling’.

[Ok. So that’s the work isn’t? it]

I have no idea how the next couple of weeks is going to go. I know I will cycle through heaps of emotional states. I expect I will go to my session on the 3rd because the young parts are so desperate and attached that they’d have me swim through shark-infested waters to see her. But, ugh, I don’t know. I don’t know how much longer I can keep putting myself through this.

x

Author: rubberbandsandchewinggum

Mid-thirties. Mum of two. Procrastinator. Therapy and mental health blogger.

28 thoughts on “File Under ‘Unread’”

  1. i think the diagram you made her is amazing! really clear and concise, very explanatory. she probably just needs more time to get back to you, or maybe she is invoking a boundary around her vacation and she’ll discuss it with you the next time you see her. i was in the same situation — a possible session in a sea of break — and opted not to go because i didn’t want to open up all of that emotion just to pack it back up for a few more weeks. i think it’s great that you chose to talk to her, if only because the pain of it has brought some real clarity that is easily communicable about the situation you’re in emotionally vis therapy. i definitely relate to how confusing and overwhelming and painful it all feels!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah thanks. She won’t get back to me. She won’t even have read it. She’ll bring it up when I see her. We have to do therapy in the room 😂. Part of me wishes I haven hadn’t done Monday but I know that had I passed up the chance to talk I’d still be in a shit space. It was a no win really… other than my clarity about the situation that happens. Small win! Hope you’re hanging on in there ok x

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sending bear hugs your way.
    I wish I had something constructive to say…
    I can relate to a lot of what you said. It’s a lot of why I messed up therapy with my (ex) therapist. Unintentionally.
    I hope there’s a way you can figure it out….. You are worth it…
    Just hugs, and more hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Eliza. Bear hugs very much appreciated. I’m giving myself til October half term on the new two sessions a week (from Sept) and see if anything shifts. If not I’m going to have to really think about what I want to do. I know therapy isn’t easy but man, it’s so so hard right now! Hugs back x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s 6 weeks – 12 sessions?
        It should be long enough to see what is.
        Although I’m learning that a lot of expectations I have are my issue. I hope you can bring it all up with her and get some real clarity
        ((((((hugs))))))

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I hated breaks. I used to wreck the sessions after breaks, because the fact that we didn’t speak meant he didn’t care (even if it was me who was away and couldn’t speak).

        I really hope it works out well and that you get clarity…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry that it didn’t go well, but I’m really proud of you for doing something proactive instead of self harming. That’s huge really.
    It’s not that you’re failing to let T in, you’re doing the best that you can where you are. You seem more aware that she can’t connect or comfort you, but I don’t get the impression that she ever tries to push you a little. She has to be careful, but you need some encouragement and to be shown that it’s safe. It is a two way street, but I think that the therapist needs to do some groundwork first. It’s not a failing on either part. You are stuck but T could definitely do more to unstick you!
    Anyway, I’m all out of glue I’m afraid. 😩 It sucks that she hasn’t acknowledged your message. An acknowledgment doesn’t have to mean a back and forth conversation. I hope that she is just taking time to process what you have sent her. It should be very useful to her and it saves you having to say it out loud. I would have no idea how to negotiate a session like that because it’s a no win situation as you have said. It has been a long break and you have done well to get through it. I totally get why the facade is slipping.
    Sending love and hugs 🤗 x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for this. 💜 Yeah, it’s definitely requiring a bit of WD40 in the therapeutic relationship right now. I’m anxious for the 3rd but also just want it to hurry up and get here. I’m done with beating round the bush. It’s crunch time. I’m scared crunch time will result in me leaving therapy but maybe that’s what’s got to happen to move forward. Obviously I hope the stagnant period will end, we’ll find our way back to each other, and some good work will happen between now and Christmas. Who knows?! I hate that she doesn’t acknowledge my messages in any way – it’s totally screws with my head. I know the boundary but it just feels so rejecting. Anyway, I’m rambling on. How are you doing? I’m trying to catch up on wp having been in a mh fig for the last few days x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Being done with beating around the bush is good! I also don’t think that you would have done that drawing a year ago. To me it shows a shift even though the young parts are struggling to ask for what they need. I struggle to work your T out from your posts. Is she an attachment therapist? Hopefully having two sessions a week will make it easier. A lot of it is about time unfortunately, it has been for me anyway. I doubt that she is ignoring you, but ‘thanks for this. We will discuss it in the next session’ would suffice.
        I’m hanging by a thread! The last session has triggered a lot of grief and sadness which at times is overwhelming. I am fighting the need to email T because I don’t want to read her reply as therapisty and have to rationalise it. I don’t have the energy for that! I just need to know that she’s there. Limping through to 3rd together you and I! 💜

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  4. So glad I read this because I just came out to my shed (safe place) feeling a crisis coming on and it was because I miss my therapist and want to talk to her but can’t till the 6th. Then I read this I think thank FUCK I’m not crazy. What you wrote is brilliant! Your therapist will LOVE it! She won’t reply because that’s her boundary but you are like a therapist dream! Breaking up all the thoughts and emotions like that. It’s genius!! I hate it when my therapist is distant and shit with me, but to be fair to her, I am distant and shit with her sometimes myself. I know the NEED and the CRAVING for containment and care and attunement and it hurts like hell. I am at the stage of telling her I want a new therapist because It it just too fucking unbearably painful to work with her, so believe me, you are NOT alone. Thank you so much for reminding me tonight that I’m not alone. I needed that badly. I cannot meet the needs you have with your therapist, but know that I am suffering the same shit as you. I can tell you not to be ashamed, but five mins ago I was crying with my own shame! So I’d be a hypocrite if I told you to just relax. It’s just not that easy is it! These defences are deep rooted and based on the grim reality of our childhoods and crap parenting. The other day I said to the CPN on duty that I thought everyone at the cmht hated me and she said “bollocks to that” 😊 She said I had to trust her and believe her that I have no reason to be ashamed for hurting, and even if that hurting causes me to sometimes act like a dick, they know it’s always incidental and understandable in terms of my past trauma. I think your fab and I also think your therapist will be so grateful for your diagram and you will have a bloody ace talk about it on the 3rd 🤗🤗🤗

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Love that you have an escape shed! Ummm maybe you are a little bit crazy? But all the best people are. Lol! I’m so mixed up right now that I feel like I’m on a spin cycle in the washing machine. It’s crap! People keep telling me I am giving my therapist ‘therapy gold’ but she doesn’t seem to latch onto it. I think she’s more a contactless card person and I’m more about treasure in a chest. You absolutely are not alone in any of this. I’ll hold your hand until the 6th. It’s going to be ok x

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am totes crazy but not for someone who has complex trauma 😉 I just watched an amazing video which you have to watch! It’s by a clinical psychologist in America who talks about complex trauma and explains it all. I feel so validated and reassured that I’m not crazy after watching this. I’m going to post it on my blog. Do you think she is the right therapist? Or is she too withholding? It’s bloody hard isn’t it 🙈 Holding your hand my lovely xxx

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I’ll give it a watch- thanks for the heads up x I don’t know what to think right now – it does feel withholding but the reason it affects me so badly is cos this distant, ignoring treatment is so close to home. It triggers so much in me. I don’t know if that’s a good thing because I can process it or whether it’s just plain retraumatising. Depends what frame of mind I’m in to what the answer is 😩🤦‍♀️

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Yes it isn’t correcting the trauma. It’s almost replicating it. If you watch the video I think it will help you ascertain whether the trauma dynamic is actually being reversed or replicated in the therapy relationship. It really helped me feel less bonkers. The psychologist has done lots of videos. She is Christian but I ignore the odd religious part in what she says.🙊 Therapy is bloody hard. I know that much! Xx

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I do the same exact thing. Shut down, 32 year old me goes into the background and little me shows us- and cowers. Needing. Wanting. Hurting. She always asks, how old do you feel right now? I DONT KNOW! I want to scream. Just hold me. I want to say.  This work is shit! It’s fucking hard. And sometimes it feels like im going nowhere, because most of what I focus on is my need for my therapist; to see me, hear me, care, hold me. It has to get better though. Right? 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hope things are going as well as can be expected. Take good care of yourself these next few days. If I’m not mistaken, you’re almost there?? I totally hate every minute of it. xx

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