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: