What’s happening? Well, I suppose if I answer that completely honestly then the answer would be, ‘No effing idea – I’m just winging it, holding it together with rubber bands and chewing gum, and trying not to unravel before the holidays…and then, looking beyond next Friday evening (when holidays actually begin), I will be trying not to have a breakdown during the intervening period between then and January 3rd when my therapist is away/unavailable!’ Ha! Wish me luck!
I can’t believe that, yet again, another big chunk of time has elapsed and I have not managed to get anything posted here on the blog… no change there, then! 2019 really has basically been a complete whirlwind of a year (not in a good way) and I simply haven’t had anything like enough time to write. I’m not big on new year’s resolutions but I have put a few things in place that will mean next year there should be more windows of time for me, and in theory, time to write if I want to. Hoo-bloody-ray! It’s been a long time coming.
I’ve said before that this blog is really just a place for me to get stuff off my chest and document my healing journey…bit of a long bumpy ride so far isn’t it?! But I realise when there’s months between posts that I forget what’s happened and I’m not doing a very good job of logging what’s going on. The things that felt big one week (that I would previously have written about) vanish by the next and so it leaves gaps in the process.
I actually want to be able to be able to look back at this one day and see how far I have come – well, I mean I do that already, but I want to continue to be able to do this, rather than dipping into posts like these which basically moan about how fucking busy I am all the time!
It is useful to be able to notice patterns in what comes up in therapy now by being able to look back… recently I have noticed by looking at my writing, here and at other stuff I’ve written in my notebooks, that November can be the start of ‘The Winter Shit Show’… and this year is no different.
Brilliant. Don’t you just love this ‘most wonderful time of the year’?!
So what can I say? It’s feeling bad…and the irony is, that now I am actually here at the laptop, I can’t really remember anything of note to say, or if I am honest anything ‘not’ of note. It literally feels as though I am in some kind of vacuum of exhaustion and there’s just a gaping black hole where the events of the last month should be. Perhaps it’s a bit of dissociative amnesia…because that seems to be my ‘go to’ coping strategy!
Lately, when stuff has been live, I have really wished that I could find even half an hour just to write and process what has been going on – or not necessarily even process, maybe actually to just to get it out and free up a bit of space in my mind which is so rammed full! But when I say that I have been completely up against it lately I’m not exaggerating – it’s felt as though there’s barely been time to breathe let alone write!
My last post (which is a month ago!) was partly banging on about worrying about whether Em would have to cancel my Monday session because of possibly needing anaesthetic at an emergency dental appointment. Turns out she was completely fine to work… but guess what? The therapy sprites had other ideas about me getting to my session and when I went out to my car that Monday morning I found I had a puncture. Perfect. I mean, really fucking perfect. I was sooooo upset.
I had to do a Skype session instead. It’s been months and months since we’ve done one so it felt weird and not quite enough. It was a passable session, from what I remember, (which isn’t much!). I had got myself so unbelievably worked up over the weekend thinking I mightn’t see Em so to actually have that worry become a reality was really hard. For the young parts that were absolutely desperate to see her, it was a bit heart-breaking to be talking through a small iPhone screen.
I did manage to tell her some of it and then joked that at least my worry hadn’t been for nothing after all! It still surprises me just how bad things can feel around simple life things. Dentists happen, cars get punctures, but not being able to see Em can pull the rug right out from under my feet. You’d think by now I could hold her enough in mind to be able to cope with this sort of thing….but clearly not!
Em apologised for it having been so bad for me over the weekend – and said something about how she had debated about whether to tell me in my Friday session that she might not be there on Monday knowing how easily I am upset by disruption, or just see what happened on the day and cancel if it became necessary. I said that I was glad that she had told me and that it wasn’t her fault that I had reacted the way I had and that actually a last minute cancellation would definitely have felt worse for me. I said that it shows us where there is more work to be done in this area… no new news there!
There’s been stuff happening since then…adult life has been ridiculous (you can’t make it up) with some huge stresses and as a result most of my therapy has been firefighting the here and now rather than containing any of the other stuff. Basically, I could have done with a session every day of the week lately…or to have moved in with Em! Ha. Seriously, it’s been a complete nightmare.
In my session on Monday, I said to Em that right now I feel like I am swimming under the surface of a frozen lake. I keep coming up for air where there is a hole in the ice, but each time I do I can’t quite get enough of a breath before having to dive under again. Every time I am back beneath the ice I realise that I have to swim a greater distance than the last time to get a place to catch my breath, and it gets harder and harder to get to the next air hole. I’m very aware that I have an inadequate oxygen supply and am starting to feel more and more panicked and frightened as I go because I don’t know when this is going to end and I don’t know how much longer I can keep swimming. I feel like I am on the cusp of drowning.
Basically, then, it’s just been fucking awful and I am hanging on by the thinnest of margins on the inside whilst trying to give my best ‘performance’ to those on the side lines who seem to think I enjoy this extreme winter sporting activity. They have absolutely no idea that I am like the person in Stevie Smith’s fab poem and ‘Not Waving But Drowning’. Jeez.
To be fair, when I said about this underwater marathon to Em she said I couldn’t have put it any better and that she thought it perfectly encapsulated how hard and relentless it all is right now. It was nice for her to acknowledge just what a struggle I am going through and to make me feel like I am not mental or overreacting. Whilst I have rarely found space to let out the hardest stuff Em has been amazing at being attuned and sympathetic in my sessions.
Going with another swimming analogy, a while back I drew a picture in my therapy notebook comparing myself to an out of control octopus (I don’t think I ever showed it to Em but think I posted it here!):
On Thursday, I was, again, reminded of this picture when my lovely, thoughtful best friend, sent me a gorgeous soft toy octopus through the post. It’s meant to be a Christmas gift but she let me open it early because she’s seen what a complete shit show it’s been lately and how I am doing my best in ‘octo mode’ but in reality there’s a lot of scared child parts who need a bit of a snuggly boost! And isn’t he lovely? I’ve decided to name him Ollie – because, you know, alliteration and all that…
Ollie came to my session on Friday but I left him in my bag. I so desperately wanted to pull him out and be able to stroke the softness and ground a bit. I am taking my toy octopus with me tomorrow and he is coming out of the bag. I don’t even care what Em thinks (well I do, but not enough to sit in agony for another session with screaming young parts who need something to soothe them). I hope he helps the child parts feel safe but also helps me find a way of telling Em just what’s going on inside. I mean you can’t really hide that fact that your inner children aren’t doing so well when you come in to session, as a 36 year old woman, holding a pale pink octopus plush toy can you?!!
I am so sick of those parts feeling like they need to be in hiding and so much of this year has felt like I have been peeking out from behind the sofa trying to see if I can trust her. I hate this process of feeling like things are good and then getting spooked and feeling like it’s back to square one. I know it isn’t. I know it’s just going round different parts of the spiral and seeing it from another angle but man…it’s tiring!
I know it sounds dramatic, but even doing my absolute best, with a task being done by every tentacle I feel like I have steadily been losing my grip on everything (emotionally) at the moment. Last Sunday I didn’t get to bed until nearly 2am as I was working on writing up assessments for an exam group. Utter fucking (unpaid) misery. The fallout from that was that I was so knackered when I got to therapy having had less 2.5 hours sleep (because you know what an overstimulated brain is like – WAKEY WAKEY NO SLEEPY!) that on Monday I told Em that I felt like everything was about to fall apart.
I can’t really explain any more than that other than the drowning under the ice thing I mentioned earlier. I feel like I am walking that line between trying to push on through and hoping to survive but also potentially knowing that pushing on through could end up with me having a complete breakdown. It feels precarious and I don’t feel especially grounded.
As I said a minute ago (or a few – this seems to be a long ramble), the really shite thing about being so unbelievably hectic with life and work over the last month is that life and work have dominated my sessions with Em. We’ve struggled to get to the ‘other stuff’ and by that, I mean ‘the work’ – aka all the attachment stuff. It’s creeping towards our last few sessions before the Christmas break and I can feel things escalating inside with the young parts.
A couple of weeks ago I had a weird, and unexpected slide into the ED behaviour again. Everything had been busy but I don’t remember any particular trigger other than perhaps Christmas therapy break creeping up. All I know is that one Tuesday I was eating lunch with one of my students at a nature reserve and then the next time I remembered to eat was Wednesday evening. I don’t know what happened in-between times. It just didn’t even occur to me that I hadn’t eaten. I didn’t feel hungry. I hadn’t been avoiding food. It literally hadn’t registered…and that is how disconnected I have felt from myself as I have been in survival mode just trying to get through the days.
The problem with my ED is that it’s old and crafty and just when I think I have it together it floors me. That Wednesday evening when the light went on about needing to eat something so did another voice. That fucking nasty, clever bastard, my Inner Critic. It was staggering how quickly it came online and how vicious it was from the off. I was quickly convinced that I shouldn’t bother eating anything, because I wasn’t hungry anyway, and that my body was in a fucking state and I would be going on holiday shortly and who wants to see that hot mess…. so I should do myself a favour and just go to bed and then get on the scales in the morning and see what state I was in.
I reached out to my best friend (poor woman, she gets it all) the moment I saw what was going on, and between us we made a plan to try and help me change course before things got desperate. We both put reminders in our phones and she’d text me and say, ‘have you eaten?’ and I’d reply ‘yes’. It feels ridiculous now to say this, but there were a few days where it was touch and go and I was just about managing to eat a meal each day. If it hadn’t been for digging my heels in and getting a nudge from my friend then it could have been really different. I can see how easily I could get trapped in this negative self-starving cycle again…but somehow or other I pulled myself back up over the edge before it got desperate and thankfully my head is screwed back on and I feel ok-ish again.
There would have been a time where an episode like that could have become a full blown ED disaster. Fortunately, I am getting much quicker at recognising what’s going on but I am also standing up to the critical part of me and trying to do what’s right for all of me. I understand why the Critic is there and what it’s trying to protect me from: the pain of being abandoned… aka the Christmas break. But the truth is, starving myself doesn’t make Em come back any quicker and doesn’t help me connect to her before she goes.
I had a really painful session with her when all this was going on. I desperately wanted to reach out to her and tell her the mess I had got myself into when I got to my session. I promised myself (and her) that when this stuff happens with eating that I would tell her so we could work together on it and stop it becoming a significant problem like it did in April 2018.
However, sometimes parts of me have other ideas about this! I can’t even begin to really explain the agony and internal conflict of that session. I felt gagged and bound and like I was fighting with myself to let Em in. The shame and embarrassment was huge and the voice that was telling me that I can’t trust her was raging. Meanwhile there were a whole bunch of younger parts crying, desperately wanting for Em to see them and help because the bully was so angry.
Give me fucking strength!
Given that I barely said anything at all that session I don’t know how Em worked out what was happening for me (not about the eating per se, but the amount of inner conflict and activated parts) – I guess we’ve been working together for so long now that she notices the things that others wouldn’t – my tone of voice, body language, lack of eye contact etc.
She started by explicitly talking to the whole system and then particularly the parts that felt threatened and like they would be got rid of and assured them that she wasn’t trying to get rid of any of my parts and that they were all part of me and all here for a reason. She asked the part that was stopping me from talking if it might just make some room for the others who might want to talk to her and that she knew it was doing its job really well but maybe it didn’t need to work so hard at protecting me with her. That’s a potted version of what she said but weirdly it really worked. I could feel the Critic take a bit of a backseat, and whilst there was no session time remaining by the time she’d got that part on side again I did feel better between sessions and didn’t continue to restrict what I was eating.
I actually feel connected to Em right now. I feel seen. She even said on Friday that she feels that I am allowing her to see more of me now…which I guess I am. I haven’t yet told her about what happened the other week with the eating but I plan to and that’s progress. The more I shine a light on the stuff that wants to lurk in the shadows wreaking havoc behind the scenes the less power it has.
Anyway, there’s other stuff about the other therapy (craniosacral) I have been doing but I’ll save that for another post….which actually might be a bit more interesting because frankly when I don’t have an proper therapy content my writing is just:
Iâm glad that your parts are starting to feel that they can trust M. Iâm glad you have her. Sorry you are struggling so much. I loved the analogy of the swimming in water under ice!! Brilliant.
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Ah thanks. I hate this time of year for disruption. I can almost feel the rupture brewing. Ffs. Must try and be open tomorrow so I don’t have a bag of shame to drag along with me the whole festive season resulting in some desperate connection seeking texts and no helpful reply 🙄! Fun times!
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Oh my life! This is far from bland. I read it through thinking: “I want to comment on that” and hoping I’d remember, only to then be distracted with the next point! It’s late and I’m tired so I might miss some bits but here goes…
First off, about the amnesia, I get that too. I come home from therapy and sit down with a drink and my laptop and I go blank. But I start writing, though not attempting to put it in any order, and as the day goes on I remember a bit more and update it on my phone. Gradually it all comes back to me somehow. It really worries me that all the years I’ve dissociated (and still do, though a bit less since therapy), has somehow taken its toll on my memory. So I get that part when you write about it, I really do. I also fully understand the need to get the information out of the brain to somehow create more storage space!
Like you, I hate this time of year. If I didn’t have other people to cater for this time of year I’d be such a misery guts! so commiserations with you there.
And I LOVE your octopus, my kids have the exact same one and when I snuggle into their bed and find my toes grabbing octopus it’s such a great sensation. definitely one of their best toys for me! The softness one side and the tentacles move and feel like a stress toy At the other end, really addictive to keep stroking!
I really understand the conflict you describe with disclosure to your therapist. On the one hand you long to be seen and accepted, but on the other hand the fear of rejection is too much. Being bound and gagged is exactly the right description. That’s just how it feels. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt so sure I was going to say what I needed to say and it just evaporates in the room. I am currently trying to think to as many cunning plots as I possibly can to trick myself into falling for my own traps. Sigh. Ain’t gonna work is it?! Maybe I just need to be more patient or something. Anyway, meanwhile, thanks for writing because at risk of sounding like a broken record, I find stuff like this so helpful to know I am not a peculiarity, but this does seem to be part and parcel of the therapeutic process and in just going through it like everyone else is.
I really hope you survive the upcoming break the best you ever have done.
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Ah thank you 😊. It’s certainly a challenge at this time of year so far as feeling and believing in the therapeutic relationship goes. I’ll be so happy if I manage to avoid desperate needy texts between Xmas and new year (and a rupture!)! 😆 I would like to think I have the tools to get through unscathed but I just don’t. One session to go now and the wheels started falling off in a big way in yesterday’s session. Hope you’re hanging in there ok. X
Thanks. I’m sitting here looking at what I’ve written out, trying to figure out whether I can read this all out to Guy tomorrow or not. I can’t believe I’ve ‘chosen’ to do this so close to the Christmas break. Talk about timing! It’s hard enough week to week but this is a 3 week break 🥴
Somehow we have to get through this, right?!
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I think this kind of thing often funnels towards the break- it’s almost like we have to get it out before we’re left for a period of time and have it inside even longer but equally dumping it before the break feels like a weird kind of safety- ie if it all goes to shit and we embarrass ourselves we’ve got time to hide. It’s a shit logic but I know I do it. Sometimes these ‘big’ last sessions are huge and move things on a lot, other times I’ve just left too much to do in too little time! Good luck. If you can’t read it to Guy hand it to him and get him to read it and talk it through as he goes x
Great idea! I might just do that if I have to.
Though if I do, I can imagine we would spend the whole session stuck on exploring the first point… 😝
Is it rude if I ask to read it without interruption and THEN discuss it? At least that way I know it’s out and can’t get swept under the carpet so easily (by either of us – or maybe more to the point by me, seeing as Guy is the professional here!)
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You can do whatever works best for you. I’ve done it both ways over the years. I think it’s harder for them to hold it all in mind when they get one long dump but it’s easier on us as we can just about get it out without dying if we go a running jump at it. If Em reads it and we tackle it as we go it feels much more connecting because it’s a conversation and I know what she’s responding to- sitting waiting for her to finish reading pages of my stuff can feel like years! Whatever you do I hope you get the healing conversation you need 💜
Thanks, and apologies as I see my o have made this about my session tomorrow, didn’t mean to. Really appreciate you writing all of this, as much as I wish you didn’t have to endure it, I’m glad I’m not the only one!
Yes I can see how dumping it feels weirdly safe in one way. What you say makes sense
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I know it sounds daft, but try not to overthink it! 🤣 sometimes I get myself so worked up it makes it even harder. Guy is on your side. He can handle whatever you bring to him. It’s all part of your process and you’ll be ok. Xx
‘Vacuum of exhaustion’ – I hear you! Thank you for sharing all of that, I want to reply to all of it but I can’t because I have to be an adult and go to work 😢 but I hear you and I know so much of what you’re experiencing. You’re not alone 💕
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Boo adulting sucks! Hang on in there. Not long til holidays now – just keep swimming. This time of year is total survival isn’t it (work wise)? I was teaching most of the day and then went off to my kids’ christingle service and I wanted to hug the teachers and ply them with wine – poor buggers were on their knees! It’s all feeling pretty desperate but it is what it is – as Em said yesterday ‘we’ve been here many times before’… fucccckkkk!!! 🤪
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Thank you, yes adulting sucks sometimes. Em is very wise though… been here many times before and survived it amazingly. Hope you have a good day 💛
I’m sorry that you’re still struggling. It does sound like you have made progress and it’s good that Em is trying to engage with the parts. The ED thing sounds like dissociation to me. I hope you were able to discuss it with Em, but I understand your hesitation given previous experience.
Ollie is lovely! I hope he came out of your bag. xx
The metaphor of having to swim beneath the ice is very powerful and quite frightening. I’m so sorry it feels like that to you. I can relate bc I feel I lived that way for years. I hope you can find a way to carve more holes in the ice…
I also related a lot to the story about Em asking your Inner Critic to step aside and allow other parts some space. This kind of IFS work is very effective for me. It’s almost magical, the way it allows me to address and show kindness to various parts. If your Inner Critic can respectfully grant some space to others, it really does support my therapist’s claim that “all parts actually want you to be whole and healthy.”
I hope you are able to find some pleasure in the holidays. The separation from Em will be challenging, but perhaps you can draw some comfort from re-reading the parts of this post that she she *really* sees you.
Wishing you all the best! xxoo
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The under ice swimming thing is crap isn’t it?! Exhausting and scary. The ice is kind of totally frozen over right now after week from hell with Em. I wrote about it last week but will blog part two on the plane ride home on Sunday! Take care and be gentle with all your parts Q!
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