Oh the irony! I’ve just been sitting here for a couple of minutes, with an empty screen, not knowing what to write, with no title in mind, and then just near the publish button a red note flashed up ‘you haven’t written anything yet’…like seriously give me a bloody break already! I know this!! I’m here and trying – and even the platform is giving me hell for being wordless! haha.
Seriously, though, I am yet again very aware that time is motoring on and I have written nothing here again. There’s been a lot of really good (but hard) stuff going on in my therapy and yet I just haven’t made it here to log it/blog it. Look, I know the earth isn’t going to fall off its axis if this blog suddenly dies but as I frequently keep saying, I actually enjoying writing it and want to keep this going if I can.
Next week is actually the start of the school Easter break here in the UK so I think I might actually get some time to sit and drink coffee and type (kids permitting!)…and lord knows once Em goes on her holiday I’ll have plenty of content won’t I? #therapybreak #abandonment #arghhhh! So hopefully I can get myself back up to speed.
It’s not helped that this last week I have been struck down with a monster lurgy and have basically been surviving on a cocktail of painkillers and sleep (my teaching hasn’t been up to much!…present in body and that’s about it!). It’s not even funny. I honestly thought I had dodged the bullet this winter having avoided getting anything that involved snot and/or too much coughing but no – it all went to shit on Saturday night at rapid pace when I was out with a friend for a belated birthday celebration.
It’s typical. I NEVER go out in the evening for social things because 1) I am usually working or 2) I am too tired…but my friend and I booked ourselves a date two months in advance (as you have to when you have kids! – spontaneity died in 2012 with the birth of my first child!) and we had a lovely evening planned. The evening was still nice but I felt like I had a neck full of razor blades and so swallowing and talking was a bit of a challenge.
Sunday was Mother’s Day in the UK….and what did that entail? Family time? A nice meal out? Memory making? Ah nope. I basically stayed in bed all day sleeping and my wife kept bringing me hot drinks and pain relief at intervals. Fortunately, I had been out with my mum earlier in the week so hadn’t had to cancel any plans or go to something feeling rotten.
I felt quite a bit more human on Monday morning (compared with how it had been on Sunday – I felt more or less ok I just sounded funny) and went to my therapy session and then to work. However, I think in fairness, I should really have cancelled my day because by the time I got home from my kids’ swimming lessons in the evening I was dying – it all caught up with me and my symptoms had got worse – cough, sore throat, running nose, weepy eyes, burning ears…and now I am panicking that I might have passed it on to Em. I really hope I haven’t – I wasn’t coughing or sneezing or anything in session – I wouldn’t have gone if I was like that but …. argh. I hope she is ok.
Tbh she seems to be made of tough stuff. She has never cancelled a session because she’s been ill and there’s been maybe once or twice in the whole time I have worked with her that she’s looked a bit coldy but otherwise she seems hardy! haha. I guess maybe working with so many people all the time you get a super immune system. When I worked in schools I was wiped out in the first year but after that was like some kind of mutant super-hero so far as bugs were concerned.
Anyway, I am completely rabbiting on here. Note to self- no fucker cares about your physical ailments they want to know about your crazy! 😉
So, like I said, recently therapy has been really good but really hard. Some stuff I had not had in my conscious mind has reared it’s head over the last few weeks. I’ve been having some horrid flashbacks and memories and wondering, now that I have remembered (and in technicolour) how I could ever have had this stuff out of mind. Anyway, the focus has been largely the time between me being 6-11 years old with some toe dipping in the early anorexic years around 14-17…
Interestingly the stuff I have been talking about I’ve just been recounting as though they are normal day-to-day events no emotion behind it imagine ‘I went to the shop to buy a loaf of bread’ (matter of fact, unaffected) but replace with, ‘I remember being taken see my aunt in ITU when I was six after she’d been involved in a massive RTA that nearly killed her and seeing her in traction from her broken pelvis and all the wounds and scars from all the surgery she’d had to have and how swollen and bruised she was and having to sit quietly on a chair and wait for it to be over and being frightened to look at her and no one ever telling me what was going on or if she’d be ok….and now I have a hospital phobia which really isn’t helpful when I so regularly have to attend hospital for my cancer follow ups….’. Or ‘My mum got physically attacked by the next door neighbour when I was ten and there was so much blood pouring from her head that it drenched her top and was all over the floor and the police came…’ You know, just by the by!
It was only after my session last Friday that I realised it’s all completely insane and ABNORMAL….because this sort of thing was all so very ‘run of the mill’ to me at the time – going to hospital to stitch my dad’s face up because mum had thrown a coffee cup at his head and it had smashed and cut him…doesn’t every one do that?! My aunt was regularly sectioned and did some pretty extreme stuff when she was unwell and had a lifetime of pain from the fallout of the car accident and so I spent a lot of time sitting in my gran’s car in the psychiatric hospital carpark during holidays. I would be sent to my grandparents as my parents worked and my grandma visited my aunt. So.… yeah…. I dunno gotta love sitting in a hot car with a dog for hours on end!
I’m only really now twigging that how my family has historically dealt with traumatic experiences isn’t normal or should I say ‘not dealt’ with them! (which is probably why my aunt was so unstable too- intergenerational trauma anyone!)….
I was talking about the incident with my mum’s assault by the neighbour on Monday and after I had talked about it about and how I had felt at the time Em asked me how my parents had responded to it, i.e what they’d said to me.
‘Was it ever talked about?’
Her face looked genuinely shocked and her tone changed and she leaned forward in her chair, ‘What? Never ever?
‘Honestly? They never made any comments about it?
‘So that’s how it was. They didn’t acknowledge what had happened?’
‘They didn’t say something like “That was really horrible and shouldn’t have happened and I feel really angry about it and how do you feel?”‘
‘Nope. Why are you so surprised by this? It follows the pattern. No one ever said anything when bad things happened’.
‘I don’t disbelieve you. I just… I don’t know how to put it…’
Basically we talked about the insanity of the situation and how scary it must have been for me at the time and more about it and how if it were me now with my children what I would have done differently and basically Em said, ‘it’s horrendous – what happened’.
That’s a really short hand snapshot of a conversation that took about 35 minutes. I can’t explain how it felt to have someone listen to stuff like that. Stuff that just ‘happened’ when I was a kid and was never mentioned again and to get a completely different response – in fact a response and acknowledgement of how horrible it must have been. Em is not big on letting me know explicitly what she’s feeling in the moment – she’s not blank screen but she’s very measured – usually. But this really got to her. I think I have said a lot these last couple of weeks that has given her another window into what was going on in another aspect of my childhood and it affected her.
It affected me too.
Unfortuantely, feeling connected to and being seen by Em does that bloody horrible thing where suddenly all the need rushes to the surface. In those moments I just want to tell her I love her and how much she means to me – I just want to be with her in the safety of that space. She makes those memories of being unsafe feel ok…and that is intoxicating to someone who has been starved of that kind of interaction and care. But of course hot on the heels of those warm connected feelings comes SHAME and I shut down. I can’t let her really know how much need there is so I go quiet.
Em, tried really hard to figure out what was happening for me and wondered whether her reaction to what I had said was overwhelming, or too much, or felt intrusive and maybe compared with what I have been used to historically (no reaction from caregivers) it might have felt overpowering. She said that what she was feeling was complete disbelief – not that I wasn’t telling the truth, but that a parent could not have their child in mind. She said she felt angry at my parents on my behalf.
This, for me felt so connecting. So validating. And yet she thinks she’s overstepped the mark. I couldn’t tell her that actually the reason I am shut down is because I want to feel this level of connection and more but am terrified of her rejecting me or seeing me as too needy and so am protecting her from me.
I did manage to tell her I felt really sad, though.
Then time was nearly up – isn’t it always just as you hit your stride?!
And with about sixty seconds to go she told me that she felt really sad for the little girl who had to witness such horrible things. She said I didn’t get anywhere near like enough physical holding when I was small. That she felt I needed to have been picked up and put on someone’s lap and cuddled and held, or to have an arm wrapped around me and been given the chance to talk.
Because whilst that is most certainly the truth. When I am there in session like that, that little girl is sitting in the room too. She’s not back in 1993. I know what I didn’t have when I was a kid. I know that my therapist knows it too. But god – when she is less than two metres from me it feels impossibly painful to not be able to reach out to her in a physical way. The words help….but they don’t quite do it. And whilst they are meant to feel in some way holding (and they do a bit) – actually what often happens is that I feel like I am untouchable…TOXIC even because she won’t hug me.
I’ve drawn another (dreadful picture) that sort of describes the process….and I’ll leave that here until next time because I must sleep! x
Just want to say, I love your visual journalling. ❤
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Thanks DV – I seem to have lost a couple of weeks and I meant to email when you closed your blog down but got caught in spin cycle and now don’t have the link I don’t think 🤦♀️
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I’ve sent you a message via your site’s contact form with my email 🙂
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Huge hug! I am so sorry for what you went through! Its just so awful! I’m glad M validated your experiences! I’m sorry she doesnt hug you though! Wish she would! 🙂
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Thank you 😊 – I wish she’d hug me too 😂
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that sounds so terrifying :((( I am so sorry you had to go through that…wow. Just so you know this is really traumatic. I was really feeling for you reading this. Sending you virtual hugs. ❤ I am glad that you are opening up about all this in therapy.
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Ha, this is just run of the mill stuff in my mind… so much of it … which is why Em’s reaction was so strange initially. She was so incredulous and then I realised that it was a normal reaction to this kind of thing. Ha. Who knew?! Thanks for the hugs xx
Ah, RB (what should I call you for short?), this feels so familiar. I mean, not the coffee cup from my mom’s hand to my dad’s head. She probably wanted to do that when he was having his affairs, but my mom has a lot of restraint, so she just bottled herself up nice and tight. She’s still that way, decades later.
But what I recognize is the sweetness of your therapist seeing and validating your suffering. Telling you it was wrong and that you deserved a lot of love and care and chance to process as a kid. Telling you that you needed to be held and comforted. That feels good–and yet it feels horrible, because you want her to do that now and she won’t.
I still hate E’s “no touching” rule. Why can’t I lean up against her and have her stroke my hair? What harm would that do?!? And why can’t Em do that for you?!?
(pause to scream with frustration into pillow so neighbors won’t hear)
One thing I do want to challenge about your lovely post that didn’t write itself:
Your drawing is such a great depiction of the fears we have about articulating our complicated and conflicting emotions to our therapists. But I don’t agree that she would actually have thoughts like those. I think you could actually say something to her like, “It’s very validating to me when you say that my little girl self should have been scooped up and loved and comforted, that she needed and deserved that. At the same time, I feel sad, because honestly, I still want that. I sit here across from you and still wish for that (and feel embarrassed to say it). And knowing you won’t provide it makes me feel so lonely and sad.” Maybe you can’t say it now, but I think you could, and Em wouldn’t run away screaming. She’d be gentle and kind about it. She’d think it was natural you should feel like that. She’s the first safe person who has seen your pain and made space for it. Why wouldn’t you want her to play the role of the missing adult from 1993? It is not defective or weird or toxic to want that.
I don’t mean you need to go say this to her, not if you aren’t ready. I guess I mean that you could the poor dear one on the “toxic” chair that everything she wants is legitimate and deeply human. It is beautiful and healthy, in fact, that after all the pain and fear, she still wants love and connection.
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Ah thank you so much for this thoughtful comment. I’m just on dinner duty with my kids so can’t reply much but just wanted to say thank you and yes, I agree with what you’re saying, and know that ultimately Em will reply as you suggest as that’s how she is but my fears say otherwise. We have tomorrow set aside to talk about the picture which I dumped with a couple of minutes left of the session on Friday. She was really kind about it even in the very brief time we had left. Xxx oh and call me whatever you like! RB works 😊
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I told you I planned to catch up on your posts, so here I am! Apologies for the delay.
I’m laughing to myself at your quote of the earth not falling off the axis if the blog suddenly dies. I know this feeling of being torn between wanting to write and just not being able to put words together into sentences the way you might like.
So sorry you were so sick during this time. I am in and out of illness lately too and it’s hell. Stress just does wonders for your body.
I hurt for you reading about these experiences as a child and I sense so much strength in the fact that you can communicate it to another person, despite that the message you received as a child was that talking about it isn’t safe. It relieves me greatly to know that Em held it and honored what you said in a very connecting, supportive way.
Yet I feel the pain of it not being enough. That huge wound again that needs a physical type of support you can’t get from Em, and is so painful. I wish there was a way for her to do more than just help you cope with the grief of what you didn’t get. I wish she could help you absorb it, make it disappear. Did you share this picture with her?
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