Actual footage of me leaping into talking about the therapeutic relationship and attachment!
Actual footage of me leaping into talking about the therapeutic relationship and attachment!
So, here I am again …mild panic….deep breathing… on the verge of another big splurge of attachment pain in therapy tomorrow. Oh the shame! What I am feeling right now, and is just about to blow open again, has been building steadily since I had a horrible dream in January where my therapist basically flat out ignored me causing a huge rupture (in the dream!). The details aren’t really important but since that dream that niggly doubting part that struggles to trust Em and feels like she doesn’t really care has been grumbling away in the background.
Of course this mistrusting, angsty part is not the only part that gets activated when the negative attachment stuff (fears of being abandoned and rejected) starts swirling closer to the surface; the younger, clingy, needy parts that just desperately want to be loved are really going for it inside too. It’s such a battleground…and oh my god it’s exhausting.
It’s funny really. I can go months without dreaming about Em at all and then when the attachment button gets wedged on she is on my waking and sleeping mind pretty much all the time. It’s embarrassing and just plain ugh. I have my adult life to be getting on with, which is hectic and consuming enough without little ones inside feeling like they need to be within 3ft of my therapist at all times …and even then that’s not really close enough – I wish I could say that there wasn’t a part that wants to crawl into her lap and go to sleep! Then there’s the teen parts saying it’s time to cut and run because it’s all a crock of shit and Em is just someone we pay to listen to us and there IS NO RELATIONSHIP. I mean for fuck’s sake…this stuff is getting so old now!
The only thing that is better now is that I can see it for what is it now. I recognise the process and every time I come at this stuff it’s from a slightly different angle. Adult me diligently attends my sessions and we go through the process over and over and over until one day maybe something will be healed. And healing has been happening – in small increments. Each time we have the difficult but healing conversations a different part hears what’s being said and little by little I start to internalise a felt sense of being safe in the therapeutic relationship. Strangely though, this sense of things being ok ebbs over time depending on what’s going on with different parts. Adult me knows everything is ok but the younger parts repeatedly hit black ice and start sliding.
Em and I have been edging towards another of those ‘big’ conversations for a while now – laying the foundations for the work: alluding to big wounds and shame and embarrassment and all that jazz. There’s been a lot of dissociation but also a lot of explaining my process when I find my way back into my window (letter box!) of tolerance…and this is huge progress. I don’t just sit there in silence and in agony now…. I can, to some extent, explain the agony even if I can’t say why I am in agony! We can track the body reactions and the feelings….even if I can’t just say ‘this all comes from me wanting to be close to you’.
The other week Em asked me how I felt about things now we have been having two sessions a week fpr the last six months, and oh my god – it was horrendous. The body reaction was huge. I felt like I was going to vomit and then after a few minutes went completely numb and into my safe space. So much for giving up dissociation for Lent! We talked at length about what was going on and how every time we get close to talking about our relationship it stirs up a huge feelings. I can talk about really difficult things from my past and be fine but the moment we edge closer to what’s going on with us in the relationship- I’m gone!
We both know there is work to be done there but it’s a case of how we do it. Em made reference to staring at the sun the other day and how we can’t do it for too long because it’s too painful and maybe we can do it slowly. She also said something about letting the big (mother)wound breathe little by little so it can heal rather than keep ripping the plaster, exposing it thoroughly so that any contact with anything feels like salt being poured in the wound and it being excruciating. I totally see what she is saying. It makes sense….
I’m definitely more of an ‘avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid….big running bomb and huge splash into the attachment wound let it all out in one go’ type therapy client. Ha. And that’s where I am now. I told Em on Friday that I have been avoiding talking to her about ‘stuff’ (code for the attachment feelings) because it’s so unbelievably painful. So we both know where we are heading. We’ve been here enough times before and yet every time I feel like I have a big thing to get off my chest it’s as though I am saying it for the first time.
To be clear here – basically the THING that chokes me for weeks or even months at a time is the loving feelings I have towards Em. Sometimes I sit in session and I just want to tell her I love her, I am grateful to her, and that I appreciate her. That shouldn’t be so fucking hard should it?- after all these years – but it really is. Because there are other (younger) parts that love her in a completely different way…that all-consuming way a child loves its mother and that’s where the shame comes in. All of it makes me feel sick. There is so much I want to say but it get sooooooo complicated.
I reach a point though, where I can’t avoid the work and even though it is fucking hellish being told, in the kindest way possible, that this is a therapeutic relationship and there are needs that can’t be met now but we can process the loss and pain together….PUKE! – it has to be done.
I bought a notebook after my (horrid) dream in January and I started writing down dreams and odd bits and bobs. The idea was I would take it to therapy and unpick it bit by bit rather than ending up texting stuff. I haven’t text Em in a long time but when the attachment/love stuff gets active that need to connect outside the session gets stronger. I thought the book would be a good tool. It has been coming in my bag to therapy but hasn’t made it out yet!
(You can’t make this shit up!)
In the last week I’ve written loads. It’s gone mad inside and I have been writing and doodling stuff – because it’s all starting to make its way to the surface…and then I ended up texting Em the picture below… So, tomorrow the plan is to try and make a start on this stuff properly….
After I text the picture I ended up writing round this drawing I literally let it all out:
WOWZERS …. there it all is! Yikes….
And then we had Friday’s session and it was ok and she didn’t give me the boundary talk and instead said something about us both knowing there were things on the periphery that need talking about that don’t make it fully into the room but that she gets the sense they are not on the periphery when I am out of the room….
and that spawned this when I got home:
And that, my friends, is where I am at right now. Crazy is notched up to a solid 9 on the scale after several months of being a 4!
I guess we’ll just see how it all goes … it’s all part of the process. Man I love therapy 😉
‘I’m giving up dissociation for Lent!’ …Ah if only leaving my unconscious ‘go to’ coping strategy behind were as easy as giving up chocolate for the next forty days… actually, giving up chocolate would be a huge stretch, too, so I don’t know why I am even saying that!
I’m not religious (at all) and so the title of this post was sarcastic rather than a real thing – and please don’t be offended by the tone of the post if you are religious- it’s not meant as a dig I am just thinking out loud and scratching my head about where I am at right now.
I always kind of wonder about why other heathen non-believers like myself seem to jump on this particular time period and say they’re foregoing something until Easter. Like what’s so special about Lent? I wonder if the idea of withholding from ourselves is so engrained that we think, ‘ah, yes, I can punish myself for a protracted period of time’. Let’s face it, most of us don’t need an event in the Christian calendar to revel in self-denial and penance. We are perpetually listing our failings and, for the anorexic eating disordered among us, fasting is second nature.
Maybe Lent is too easy then?
Maybe it’s the convenient timing too?
These days we are so fixated on body image – I’m sure it’s about now that the glossy magazines start bleating on about how to achieve ‘the ultimate bikini body’ (FYI you basically have to put a bikini on your existing body but that’s not what they pedal is it?!) – that maybe we see Lent as a time to shed those winter pounds we gained. It’s become diet season so why not have a running jump at losing the muffin top? I dunno.
Look, I totally get that seeing the next six weeks as a sort of weightloss challenge is a bastardisation of the original purpose – but this is what I am wondering about – like why when you don’t do organised religion does Lent seem to be a ‘thing’? For those people that are religious I understand it – makes sense – and I’m betting most people of faith aren’t simply shunning bars of Galaxy until Easter.
Anyway, moving on…a bit…I have been thinking about self-care, strangely, in relation to Lent. I give self-care a wave every now and then but, frankly, am pretty poor at looking after myself. I seem to come somewhere right down the bottom of the pile for care: kids, wife, other people, my animals, the dying orange at the back of the fridge, and then somewhere a little further along the line is me.
I get that self-care is a REALLY GOOD THING and NECESSARY if you don’t want to be a complete knackered wreck/basketcase and yet I really struggle to prioritise my needs and myself. There’s a part of me that sees looking after myself as selfish… rationally I know that is totally fucked up but it is how I feel.
There is certainly a part of me that thinks I don’t deserve to be happy, to be looked after, to rest, or be a normal weight….and we all know who that is: the Inner Critic. I know that part of me has been doing her best over the last 25+ years to protect me and keep me functioning but these days, her ideas of how to keep me safe and working don’t really work. Trying to be perfect, stretching myself beyond my limits, and starving myself don’t really lead to things being ok or safe. I know that.
I have been really aware of my body again these last couple of weeks. You know how it is, that niggling thing where you look in the mirror and notice all the flaws – that extra couple of pounds you put on over Christmas seems to have welded itself to your hips and won’t budge…(even though you’ve done nothing to help budge it other than will it away!). And I think this is why Lent is winding me up a bit as I see people choosing now to start dieting again because actually my brain is scheming and saying, ‘Go on, jump on board with it too, here’s your opportunity, you can legitimately hide behind Lent to cover your eating disorder for the next couple of months – give up sugar…or EVERYTHING and you can lose that weight that’s been driving you mad for the last three months’.
See, this is not good which is why I am just blathering on here. I am aware of how careful I need to be when my mind starts considering any kind of restriction because it never leads anywhere good. I know I need to have a conversation with my therapist about these feelings but I feel kind of moronic talking about not eating when I am actually eating and am as close to a normal BMI as I have ever been.
It’s sad that there’s some critical voice that is saying, ‘you can’t talk about not eating when you are this weight and eating food! Like seriously, look at you, you’re fat!’ Of course I do know that this is exactly the time I need to be mentioning these feelings in therapy – BEFORE things start to spiral downwards and the ED mindset kicks in and the secrecy and denial becomes the fronting part. I don’t want to end up in the place I ended up last year and when Em issued an Ultimatum.
I also need to work out why I am feeling like I need to take control in this particular way again. It isn’t because of Lent! 😉 I know it has something to do with the level of dissociation I have been experiencing lately. I had a crazy bad dissociative session last Friday and I know it’s because I have been edging closer to the Mother Wound again. When the young parts are a bit more present or want to come to therapy it generally doesn’t go well – not because Em says or does anything wrong, but because other parts step up to protect me from being vulnerable (or stupid!). That huge need for connection and care so easily triggers feelings of shame as well as fear of being abandoned for being too much that it just sends me into orbit. I get sucked out the room. It’s horrid.
Fortunately, Em and I were able to do some good work on Monday where I was able to stay in the window of tolerance and start to unpick some of what has been going on. Em herself said something about the fact that there is a massive painful wound that sometimes gets exposed and is so incredibly raw that it is too much to bear so I cover it over with a plaster – only it doesn’t heal when it’s covered. So the deal is we are going to try and very very gently let a little bit of air get to the wound and let it start to heal in tiny increments…and try and understand the shame too. (This is not new news by the way, it’s just we are repeating it again!)
I don’t really know what I am trying to say with this post, but basically, I think if I am going to try and give up anything for Lent then it has to be being horrible to myself and defeating myself. Rather than giving up something I enjoy (although to be fair I think the Critic is a bit of a sadist and enjoys being mean!) I am going to try and use the next few months to be kinder to myself. I am going to try really hard to trust in my therapeutic relationship with Em and accept and believe that after seven years she is still there, steady, and constant and caring…I do not need to be frightened of her. She is safe.
What am I giving up for Lent? A lifetime of bad habits that hurt me. Perhaps some of you can do the same.
EEEK! I’m beginning to wish I’d stuck with chocolate! x
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