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:
- This is the worst week in a long time
- Anxiety has ramped up since I text you this image (above)
- Shame has gone insane because the need is huge
- The attachment-related pain (stomach ache and tearfulness) are stuck on
- I feel emotionally vulnerable
- It’s as though the avoidance and coping strategies have gone offline and I’m left with that gaping wound
- I am both desperate to see you and terrified of seeing you
- I don’t want to dissociate on Friday but know it’s really likely because you will undoubtedly ask me about what prompted me to text you…and then the shame will flood in and I’ll be gone
- I can’t bear the boundary talk again
- When you try to normalise my feelings I feel even more pathetic. It’s as though you’ve seen this stuff a million times before and it’s almost scientific to you. This makes me feel really sad because it essentially confirms what the critical voice is always shouting: ‘the relationship isn’t real and there is no connection – it’s all just transference’ This makes me feel sad because you really matter to me and yet it’s stupid to feel anything at all when this is clearly just another example of the same process to you. I could be anyone.
- I desperately want to connect but what is there to connect to? -NOTHING. That makes me want to run away.
- Why do I keep doing this to myself?
- Why do I keep hoping that one day something is going to shift and change?
- It’s so unbelievably painful…this is why I don’t talk!!
- Talking about our relationship is really painful for me because I am so aware of the lack of relationship.
- I feel ashamed for needing you
- I feel embarrassed that I care so much about someone who is just doing their job
- Every time we talk about this I feel like I am being kicked in the stomach and being rejected – it really hurts
- I hate that you have all the power
- I hate that it makes no difference to you whether I see you or not
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 like how Em is willing to talk about the relationship with you; and her metaphor about staring at the sun is accurate. It’s a ridiculously difficult process, but you’ve been working so hard at it and I’m happy that you are recognizing your growth there. The battle of parts seems to be unending, and you’re trudging through it, resilient as always. You’re trying to hear each of them even though it stirs up these feelings. Such strength you’ve got. I hope some of this makes it into the room tomorrow, even if it’s just a little. Don’t forget your sunglasses x
PS. I am amazed she let the text go by without a boundary talk. Maybe she is growing too..?
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Ah thanks lovely ❤️… I feel so blessed to have you cheerleading for me. Today was both agonising and positive… finally got to my second picture with ten to go and an acknowledgment about misattunement and skirting round the edges at times! So- we’ve tabled more of the same conversation on Friday … back left my book with her so I don’t chicken out! 😬
Oh oh oh, I totally relate
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Yep- we aren’t alone here are we?!