So here I am, for the first time, blogging from my iPhone (is this to be the longest text message ever?!), sandwiched between my two kids, on a plane heading out for some much needed winter sun in the Canaries. Doesn’t sound too bad really… and isn’t now that I’ve actually got in the air and am up over the clouds but the airport was a different ballgame and the week leading into actually heading out – well all I can say is eff me!!!
Still, I’m not here to whinge about 5am starts and hyperactive small people! But I am going to splurge about the worst lead into a therapy break I’ve experienced in all the years Em and I have been working together.
This is usually the time of year where I sit back and take some time to reflect on the year…and by all accounts 2019 has been a bit of a shit show outside the therapy room and now in it.
Therapy breaks this year have felt tricky (ha- so British!). I’ve been dreading the three week Christmas break pretty much all year since booking this holiday on Boxing Day. At the time I felt it was a bit ridiculous to not book a holiday just because it would add a week to the therapy break. I knew how hard I find winter and knew that sun would do me good. I also hoped that by now, almost another year into therapy I might not be a complete basket case around therapy breaks.
I’m nothing if not optimistic!
But I’m also clearly delusional… what was I thinking?!
I knew this break was likely to be a disaster when Em took most of the summer off. Break one wasn’t too bad but she was back for just a few sessions and then gone again for another two weeks. My system just doesn’t cope with too much disruption and I’ve struggled to settle back into therapy since the summer because the young parts of me are on high alert and have never really been given the chance to talk about how bad the break felt.
Sooooo… a few weeks ago I wrote in my therapy notebook that I was struggling and that I really wanted to work out how to let the young parts out and also to figure out some strategies to get through the break. Em agreed with me and it felt positive to have shared some of my concerns.
And then life got crazy and there were loads of stressful life things to get through and somehow the young parts got left behind and preparing for the break fell by the wayside. I knew that Friday needed to be a connecting and containing session and I wanted to be able to in and just be how it felt and share some of what I (young parts) have been worrying about with Em.
This year I’d bought Em a Christmas gift (first time in 8 years) and so I also wanted that to be a meaningful exchange. I’ve always bought really nice, thoughtful cards for her. A couple of years ago I gave her a 3D laser cut paper snowflake card and wrote something about how even though she sees lots of clients each week, that like snowflakes, each relationship is meaningful and different. I also referenced Michael Rosen’s, ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ and how sometimes therapy can feel like being stuck in a ‘swirling whirling snowstorm’ and yet ‘we can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, got to go through it’.
This year I bought her a handcrafted glass snowflake Christmas Tree decoration (trying to link back into the old metaphor). That was meant to be it but the last week I came across ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ and fell in love with it and it totally resonated with me as another metaphor for life in the therapeutic relationship. If you’re unfamiliar with the story I really recommend getting hold of a copy.
Neither of these gifts were of high value but were instead loaded with meaning and feeling. I hoped she’d appreciate them. My young parts were excited to give them to her and my adult was full of gratitude and wanted to express that before heading into the long break. Everything was written, wrapped, and ready to go on Friday
Then the general election happened.
And what in fuck’s name has the UK just done? I can’t even. I’m absolutely devastated that we’ve (well I haven’t!) voted in a party of liars, bigots, racists, homophobes, xenophobes, who plan to privatise all that we hold dear, can’t even be arsed to debate on climate change, who simply couldn’t care about the most vulnerable in society and, in fact, blames them for mismanaging their finances because they need foodbanks, suggested that those in the Grenfell fire lacked common sense for not evacuating when they’d been told to stay put, say that single mothers are bringing up ill-raised kids, and think that 3 million kids in poverty in the sixth richest nation on earth is acceptable.
I could go on and on. I know no party is perfect, far from it, but given the choice of ‘caring for all’ or ‘survival of the fittest’ I know I choose to have a social conscience everyday of the week. Having worked in schools for so long and my wife giving the last 30 years to the NHS it simply isn’t possible to vote Tory seeing the impact of the last 9 years.
I was in a state of disbelief on Friday morning. I knew Boris and his celebrity buffoon status was popular with some but a landslide victory for the conservative party… ugh. I’m proud of my city for remaining a red island in a sea of blue but I worry about what the next few years brings with Brexit etc. I mean we can’t go on for another 3 years as we are but I feel like people have voted purely on ‘get Brexit done’ and forgotten about everything and everyone else… or maybe they just don’t care! I know it’s not black and white… but I just don’t understand it.
Anyway, on Friday I arrived at therapy feeling anxious knowing this was the last face to face session this year. I sat down and said, ‘can we just leave the world outside today, I can’t believe it. I’m so depressed’. Em asked what was bothering me. I told her we’d just found out my wife’s nan had died in the night and that I was in a state of shock about the election result.
Now, Em is usually blanker than a blank slate – she never tells me anything about herself. I know she has a kid but not because she’s ever told me. I know she’s married (I’ve seen him awkwardly once). But I couldn’t tell what she’s into. So to suddenly get a 25 minute rant about politics and how Corbyn is an antisemitic communist blah blah blah and how the EU is run by France and Germany … well Jesus what a way to burst the bubble! It felt like I’d landed feet first on a front page Daily Mail story.
I’m all for people expressing differences of opinion but the way this came over wasn’t a debate it was a triggered letting it all out. I could feel myself shutting down, she wasn’t listening to what I was saying at all, and in the end I started to lean into what she was saying because it felt like we were poles apart and I didn’t want that. Or at least the little ones didn’t.
I said how I hate how divisive this whole thing has got and how we’ve all lost sight of what the country has needed focusing on Brexit. It was classic fawn and people pleasing- it felt like a conversation with my mum- it was interesting to see it playing out but also really shit timing.
I needed that session to be about consolidation and creating a sense of safety and instead my system was like, ‘who the fuck is this woman?’ I ended up trying to change the subject – she said something about how it had been interesting to have this kind of chat (so different from others) and that she never talks politics usually. (I might recommend she doesn’t again in future!)
She said we’ve been stuck and that maybe I could let stuff out like I had just then because if I don’t think the protector parts will step aside I’m perpetually stuck in painful feelings. Ha! After what’s just happened my protector parts were very glad they were there!! That conversation didn’t feel freeing or air clearing. It felt quite attacking, actually, as if I was some kind of idiot and naive for wishing for something better. And since when was socialism communism anyway??!!
I started talking about a dream I’d had the day before because I could feel myself dissociating and knew time was ticking away. I needed to find a way back to her.
It all felt really awkward and distant, though.
By the end I was so far gone that when Em said that the time was up and that we had a break coming up I felt desperately sad. Basically it was left that we will speak on Friday, if I can, otherwise I’ll see her on the 3rd. No space was left or made to discuss the break. Nothing has been put in place. I just get the feeling she’s glad to see the back of me.
Needless to say everything went to shit the moment I left.
And then I sent a long text which was a desperate attempt to seek connection even though actually underneath I felt raging.
Oh man it’s really long:
I don’t suppose it’ll come as any great surprise to you that the wheels have fallen off after today’s session. I feel completely all over the place. It’s not because of the political stuff at the beginning – it’s actually nice to see some of you in the room for a change.
I just really feel like we’ve missed each other again lately. I felt so dissociated by the end today that it was really hard leaving. All the young parts that really needed to know that you don’t actually hate me (because that’s what they feel especially when there’s a holiday) walked out in tears because the reassurance I need before breaks just didn’t happen and so I’m just left feeling really unsettled. I feel embarrassed that this keeps happening.
I get the feeling that you’re frustrated by how it’s been lately (always!) after your comment about us not getting anywhere if the protective parts won’t step aside. I know you’ve been trying hard for ages to get through to me – especially on Monday – and whilst there’s a load of pushback from the critical part and it must feel like running into a brick wall repeatedly I do appreciate it and I can see what you’re trying to do. Those parts are there for a reason, though, and whilst they clearly didn’t begin life in the room with you there’s definitely something stopping the wall coming down.
I’d like to think between us we could find a way of taking a sledgehammer to it but it just feels so impossibly hard right now.
After Monday’s tough session I just really wanted to feel like there was a secure foundation to our relationship today before disappearing off for three weeks – and yet I’ve come away feeling like things aren’t secure.
There is so much I’ve been sitting on this year – and I cannot believe that the next time I’ll see you is 2020 and even then I know it’s going to be difficult to trawl through all the stuff that’s been accumulating.
I feel really reluctant to Skype next week when I’m away because it rarely feels as connecting as I’d hope for and I’m worried it might actually make things worse.
I am resilient, I’m not deliberately wallowing in misery and attachment pain, but there are parts that just cannot hold all of this and it’s a nightmare.
I miss you and I also hate that I do – because right now I’m sure this just feels like I’m bombarding you and after what you said in April about that I hardly want to push you to a place where you end things.
It’s a mess.
She hasn’t replied and that’s just set the cat even more amongst the pigeons. So much so that I’ve cancelled my session on Friday. I couldn’t go on holiday with this stress hanging over my head all week. Perhaps it’s a mistake. Maybe it’s running away. But I just can’t have another session like Friday and Skype is rarely perfect.
Instead, I’ve mailed her my notebooks with a note asking her to use our session time to read what I’ve been sitting on the last 11 months – hoping to break the deadlock in a way. I don’t know if she will or not. All I know is I am not ok about this break. I don’t feel safe in the relationship and Em feels further away than ever.
Right, that’s the 4 hour flight done!