So, somehow or other I got through five weeks of no face-to-face therapy (man I still hate summer therapy break with a passion!) and last Monday saw the long-awaited return to the room and, more importantly, my therapist…not that I had missed her or anything!
As the day approached I started feeling conflicted about going to my session (no change there, then!) What is that about?- The absolutely overwhelming desire to see someone gets replaced with an ‘I don’t want to go’ a couple of days before and ramps up steadily until on the day, on my way to the session, I text my friend saying that I wanted to turn around and go home because I felt sick amongst other things.
I recognise, these days, that this resistance that happens when I’m within touching distance of my therapist is the time where some of the parts start speaking up. The young parts finally settle when therapy is in sight and that allows the teen part some additional space to express how she’s feeling. (She’s pissed off!) She can’t bear the thought of therapy being awful, feeling disconnected, and the young parts getting irate again when they’ve only just stopped screaming. The teen harbours a fair amount of anger about being left (rejected/abandoned) in the first place, and then to be ignored on top (texts) doesn’t make the reunion any easier.
Despite all the misgivings I have never yet not turned up to a session. Sometimes I feel like I am dragging myself there but the need of the youngest parts always gets me into the room … even if all I do is sit there and say nothing!
I felt nervous as I rang the doorbell to my therapist’s house but as she came to the door adult went online (thank god!) and walked in, sat down, and just started talking…about life stuff. The small talk was comfortable; catching up on day-to-day stuff that’s been going was fine. I don’t remember trying to gauge where my therapist was at or whether she was safe. I think I had maybe subconsciously decided to keep the session adult. I don’t know. I can’t remember now what we talked about but basically for twenty minutes it was absolutely ok and then bam – I was gone- instant dissociation the moment she asked if I wanted to talk about the picture I’d sent her via text during the break.
You’d think that opening up that discussion might’ve been a good thing (and ironically most of the time it would be – I want her to help open up difficult conversations) but on Monday, even after twenty settled minutes, it spooked me. ‘Agh I’m exposed. This is scary!’ and off I went deep into myself.
My therapist noticed that I was barely breathing and suggested that I was doing everything I could to hide. Yep! My body was killing me. My legs were heavy/achy. I was able to tell her how I felt in my body. And the moment I told her all that physical pain in my legs evaporated and I thought I was going to throw up. The nausea was incredible. I could hardly speak for fear of vomiting. It was horrendous.
She valiantly attempted to bring me back to her but all I could do was listen to what she was saying. I couldn’t even look at her, let alone make eye contact. Does that happen to anyone else? You want to connect but can’t- the fear is too great- and so instead just listen very very carefully to what they say trying to see if they ‘get it’ and whether or not you might be able to connect eventually?
This is a bit of a strange analogy but sometimes it feels to me when I dissociate badly that I have an internal power cut – mains power is lost. I lose my ability to be present. It’s far from ideal. My therapist has to scrabble around to try find an alternative power source. Most of the time she finds some rechargeable batteries but, unfortunately, they’re dead. She doesn’t give up though. She slowly starts charging the batteries up with her insights, validation, and care. If we are lucky she might do enough to give me enough power to work again before the end of the session. Sometimes the charge happens really quickly and other times it take nearly all session.
That’s what happened on Monday. She was really insightful and understanding and validating. She spoke about the really strong emotions that I was feeling: the anger that she felt in the text that I had sent her ‘file under unread’; the horrible feelings of rejection and abandonment I experience when she doesn’t reply to me; the belief that she doesn’t care about me. She talked to me about it all but I could only nod here and there. The batteries we soooooooooooo dead after the break that it took a long time to power them up.
With about five minutes to go I could feel myself starting to connect to her. The vulnerable parts wanted to talk to her and the teen had felt like she got it and cared. She asked me how I felt and I said ‘sad’. She asked if it was because we were coming to the end of the session and there were things I needed to say that I hadn’t been able to. I nodded. She told me we still had a bit of time left and maybe I could make a start now and we could pick it up on our first Friday session. So, once again I took a running jump and said perhaps the most expensive sentence I have said in a while:
‘I really missed you; five weeks is really a long time.’
It mightn’t seem like much but it really was after such a difficult session. Saying something that feels so exposing after a break feels really hard. I always struggle to tell my therapist how I feel about her. I feel like she’ll think I am weird. I don’t want to embarrass her. Of course, any time I let her know how I feel she is really kind and non-shaming. It’s just so hard to reverse the automatic pilot that tells me feelings are bad and dangerous, that showing someone that you care for them and need them will result in something negative.
I guess I just need to keep saying how I feel, keep getting met well, and maybe eventually I might feel differently.
Anyway, that was Monday! I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to anyone that I was left with an almighty therapy hangover! I’ve come to expect it now after a long break. I’m starting to recognise it as part of the process and just see it for what it is rather than feeling bad about how things are. I think all the stuff I had kept at bay over the break came flooding out and had me flailing about on my arse for most of the week. It was initially quite hard to work out whether I was heading into a depressive state or whether it was what was left from the break and the session. I tend to fear the worst when I am stuck on the couch for hours at a time unable to complete the tiniest of tasks.
I felt totally incapacitated. I felt ugh. I wanted Friday to get here so I could have another stab at connecting and feeling better. The great thing about this week was that I knew Friday (yay for two sessions a week) was coming and so even though the young parts were feeling separation anxiety and attachment pain it was nowhere near as bad as it has been previously. Wednesdays have been notoriously bad when I have had one session a week. I have felt stranded and uncontained. It’s been god awful! So, even though things were pretty bad they were WAY better than I am used to.
My Friday session isn’t a face-to-face session at the moment. The session time is too early for me to be able to make it in person and be able to get my kids to school and so we are Skyping. I’d had mixed feelings about this. The irony is not lost on me that only a few months ago I would have been ripping my therapist’s arm off for any extra contact – even a midweek text and now I am whinging about an extra session via Skype. *eye roll* I guess there’s just a part that wants to be with her in person. I’ve asked that when a later session becomes available that she lets me know so I can swap into it, but it’s likely to be several months.
When it came to it it was actually nice to do the session at home. I was snuggled up on my sofa with a coffee and it was nice and quiet. There’d been no rushing in the car to get to my session and I felt pretty relaxed. I think this feeling relaxed made a difference to how I was. Usually I only Skype when I can’t get to session because I have my kids at home (holidays or sick) and it certainly changes how I am. I am on ‘mum duty’ and don’t open up in the same way. Anyway, this session felt really nice. I remembered how much I like seeing my therapist’s face close up. Ha! And even better I DID NOT DISSOCIATE AT ALL!
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dive headlong into how the break felt or how difficult I have found being in therapy the last few months but we did lots of connecting work that I feel is paving the way for me to be able to have those conversations. I was able to tell my T how bad I had felt during the week and how just the day before I had burst into convulsive tears whilst running on my treadmill.
I don’t really ever cry and I certainly don’t cry in front of people. My therapist mentioned that I don’t cry when I am with her but that she feels I am fighting back tears sometimes and that occasionally a single tear will escape. She said that the idea of someone seeing me crying is hard for me. She talked about the huge expectations my parents placed on me to be a certain way as a child and that I had had to grow up too quickly and be what they wanted rather than who I am. It’s true. I never expressed how upset I was when my mum wasn’t there when I was a kid. It was just how it was and something I had to get used to.
I am realising now just how sad that little girl was to not have mum there from Sunday to Friday- from the age of 5 even if mum wasn’t perfect or especially nurturing. I look at my daughter who is now six and my son who is four and know how they hate it if I am not there for bedtime. I have to leave home at 6pm a couple of nights per week if I am going out to tutor and they moan (fair enough! I am glad they can!). I always give them a kiss and cuddle before I leave and come and kiss them goodnight (even if they are asleep) when I am back –they have never had to not have their mum/mums there for protracted periods. I am there for breakfast; I am there to take them to school and pick them up; I am there for dinner; I am there for parents’ evenings; I go to sports day; I drop everything when they are sick; I ask them how they are EVERYDAY. I hold them and tell them I love them EVERYDAY.
I had none of that.
I was a good girl who got on with it quietly. Accepted that I didn’t have a say in how things were.
That little girl doesn’t want to be quiet and accept it anymore.
She wants to cry about it.
And maybe she might start crying about it in therapy.
This is positive. The dissociation sucks, but it’s progress for you to feel connected. I’m pleased for you x
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Thanks Hun. Yeah. I feel positive despite how awful it felt on Monday… and most of the week! It’s been good all weekend so that’s brill. And I’m looking forward to tomorrow 😊
That all sounded really positive. Painful but positive. I’m so glad your little parts get you to her room even when the teen parts are going apeshit! I’m the same. I also think that as mums who had less than good enough parenting, we are sometimes better parents for it and your kids will not be harmed by not having you at bedtime every so often. I can’t think of any child who has both parents around for bed times all the time. Can you just clarify… what do you mean by a therapy hangover? Pretty sure I know what you mean, just don’t want to assume.
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Therapy hangover, for me, is all the feelings that get stirred up in therapy and then hit hard a day or two after the session. Usually it’s really agonising and painful! X
Ahh yes, I thought that’s what you meant. I had that this week. The deeper the work the harder they are and the more likely they are to happen. That’s what my T said ‘after what you disclosed on Tuesday I’m not surprised you have been wobbly and suffering… be gentle with yourself’ I felt significantly better after our chat on Fri though, did you feel better after your Skype session or were you feeling better before?
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I felt nervous on Friday but have felt really good and optimistic since the Skype even though I know it wasn’t a huge session by any means. I’ve belt felt way more contained.
I’m not surprised, either, that you had a wobbly week. It’s huge what you’ve finally allowed yourself to speak about. I’m sending you heaps and heaps of love. You’ve been through such a lot x
Thank you hunny. I’m so pleased you’re getting your needs met now. When my T and I first introduced 30min phone calls on a Fri I felt soooo much better remarkably quickly. It felt containing, like I could just about cope with the 2/3 days between sessions. I’ve been bad lately, she noted on Fri that I’ve needed pretty much daily contact for the last few months but she says that’s completely fine, it’s expected. She doesn’t reply everyday and has become more boundaried about not replying on weekends (she’s pregnant so needs to be extra hot on self-care) but allows me that sense of contact. I reckon you’ll start being able to hold your relationship better with her between sessions from now on, I know I did. The best bit is even if she can’t do a Monday, you won’t miss out entirely on seeing her that week. That’s what I’ve valued. If she can’t do a Tuesday, at least she can do a Friday. It helps xx
I related to so much of this…
I’m so glad it was okay in the end!! Hope it continues looking up and that you can get to where you want to.
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Thanks. I’m hopeful things can move forward but then who knows? It doesn’t take much to throw me off balance. I really want tomorrow to be good but it may be that face to face sends me into a dissociative state. I really hope not, though. Hope you’re ok x
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I feel for you that it can be so hard to be honest and vulnerable when you’re sitting in front of your therapist. That connection takes so much and there’s just not enough time each week to let all the parts feel secure and safe, which just sucks. The introduction of Friday’s session seems like it’s going to be positive overall, and keep you closer to connected. I don’t know how the setup of your room is, but is it possible you two could find a way to work so that you are not necessarily “face to face” when you’re in the same room? Like facing away from each other or giving you something to occupy yourself (I play with fidgets sometimes). This way you’re not so stuck on her staring you down that you dissociate?
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Thanks Hun. I thought I’d replied to this. So frigging busy I’m losing myself. I find whenever she’s moved away or turned away to trial if that’ll make me feel less exposed I just feel left. The young parts freak out. Even though it’s excruciating being face to face generally it’s excruciating because I want her to be closer!! Ugh! I like the idea of something to fidget with. Often I twist my rings on my fingers x
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It’s great to hear how you got on…I was wondering how you’d be. It sounds like It was a good first session back. I had my first sesh back and it just whetted my appetite for greater connection later this week when I see her for sesh 2. The distance you sometimes feel from your therapist is exactly what I feel…also the puzzling ambivalence. I created a Wii me for her this week haha! So she’s at home with me 😳 #stalker. Love reading your posts. Well done. Keep on keeping on xxx 🤗💗
It sounds very positive! I hate therapy hang overs though…ug they are the worst! I love when I have a good connection with my therapist though makes everything so worth it!
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