A Letter To My Ex-therapist

* It’s been hellish this last week or so and seeing as I can’t reach out to Em anymore to talk about my feelings around the termination of the therapy I have decided to try and put some of it down in a letter (that I won’t send). I have so much to say here on the blog and yet I feel so utterly broken that I just can’t yet. So.… Em….I wish you could see this.

Dear Ex-therapist,

It’s been almost two weeks since I saw you for our termination session and since then, I seem to have been caught up in and emotional storm that I can’t find a way out of. I am so exhausted and disorientated by what’s happened between us that I do not seem to know which way is up and am clinging on for dear life.

I am absolutely devastated about how we have ended this therapy – our relationship. I can’t believe that when it came down to it the relationship we have built over all these years disintegrated in the course of a few weeks and now there is nothing left. I don’t even feel like we really said goodbye.

Things have been hard for a long time. I know that. I am not an easy client to work with, that’s no secret. I keep a lot of things close to my chest and often the moment we get close to the sore areas in session I dissociate which has made it difficult to get to the work- but we both know when I disappear it’s because more than anything, I live in fear of being abandoned and rejected by you and need to protect myself from getting hurt. That fear has always been behind the times when I have crossed your boundary of no outside session contact.

I have been so frightened of being wholly me with you and really showing you how damaged parts of me are because I didn’t want you to repeat the script and leave just like everyone else. I didn’t want to keep you out. I didn’t want us to be working in the dark. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I wanted to let you in and be close to you – more than anything I wanted that. And I have let you see a lot of me- you know me better than anyone and that has made me feel really vulnerable and so it’s been slow going in the therapy.

I haven’t been worried about the time because, like you said, this kind of work takes time and even though we’ve been working together a long while it’s not all that long in the big scheme of how much trauma there is. I believed that we were in this for the long haul. I knew that there would be times that would feel like we had reached the edges of what was possible but if we just dug in deep we’d come through and each time we did that a little bit more healing would take place. I thought that’s what therapy was all about.

I have so many feelings around what’s happened between us and losing you really feels like a bereavement. For the second time in my life I have lost the person that knew me better than anyone else and I can’t even begin to explain how crushing that feels. The difference is that you are still alive and you’ve left because I am too much and in some ways that makes this even harder to bear than an unexpected death. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to you yet.

This is absolute agony because the end of this therapy has confirmed my worst fears about myself and how I am perceived in relationships. Some of the things you have said recently have really hurt me and I am struggling to let that go. You say you weren’t trying to hurt me but the young parts who you see as ‘adhesive’ and ‘like a tick’ are broken . I was breaking my heart and you said, ‘it was a metaphor’ and that I am ‘sensitive and defensive’.

I so wanted to believe that whatever happened with the therapy we could get through it – I mean we’ve done enough rupture and repair over the time we’ve worked together – but somehow we got to here and there was no repair this time.

To tell you what I did in my notebooks over Christmas was massively risky but I figured it was crunch time. I was scared but at least some part of me also believed that whatever I might say now or whichever part was fronting you’d hold the space and try and encourage me to keep working through it even if I was threatening to throw in the towel because you know that me being vulnerable makes me want to run a mile.

You recently said that you thought the teen part was about as well as other young parts. They are always there but that’s been especially so since the lead into Christmas and it’s been those parts that were so affected by the break and you rejecting the gift I gave you, and then being ignored when I reached out. I can tolerate quite a lot but not all at once and not at this time of year.

You’ve said so many times how things escalate around breaks and how it seems to funnel all the fear about being left and forgotten about into something really difficult to manage for those parts. This happened in a spectacular way this year. I cancelled sessions, text you, sent you my notebooks, and disconnected the skype call… things felt really bad BUT at the same time part of me must have felt safe enough to do that, to act out because it is very rare.

You’ve told me it’s ok to express my feelings and that there wouldn’t be any repercussions for that, you have encouraged me to bring my anger to the room, you told me it would be ok …and when I finally did that look what happened. It’s all fallen apart. You felt you reached the limit of your competency to work with me. I can’t really believe it. Honestly? Out of all the complex clients you must see in a week, it’s me that’s pushed you to the limit?

The defences I have built over the years work really hard at trying to keep me safe and yet often you’ve said that perhaps they aren’t needed in the same way anymore and perhaps they could step aside – particularly the critical part. It feels like now they had good reason to be there…which again is so painful to acknowledge. I wanted to believe things could be different and now I feel like I am back to square one.

Our termination session was so hard for me. I have never really cried with you and even then I didn’t let you see just how bad it was. I have been in pieces since you said we had to stop the therapy. I have been a wreck, crying so so much. I dread going to sleep because in the dark of my bedroom it all catches up with me and I cry myself to sleep. I don’t think you have any idea how painful this is for me. My attachment wound is big and I feel like you’ve poked it with a stick.

There is so much I want to say to you. I needed more than one closing session…I needed more than six… I was not ready for this to be over but knowing that I had no choice in your decision what could I do? As you said, it would just ‘prolong the agony’.

Walking away I feel like I have been dropped from a great height and yet there is no safety net to catch me. We’ve gone from two sessions a week to none. What am I meant to do with all that’s been thrown up because right now I feel like I need therapy every single day to try and get through this. It’s triggered all the trauma feelings and my go to coping strategies are lying in wait. I don’t know how I have managed to hold myself together through this and not resort to self-harming behaviours. It’s a battle, that’s for sure.

The saddest thing about this is that I have started to really blame myself for what’s happened. Now, more than ever, the little girl inside me is certain that she is unlovable and that she is too much.

I am so sad and I miss you so much.

x

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Termination Of Long Term Therapy: ‘No More Tricks Up My Sleeve’

Well, what can I say? This last week, or so, since my last post has been an emotional marathon – and frankly, my current emotional fitness levels are really more geared towards a meandering, leisurely stroll interspersed with pitstops for cake than an endurance race in a freezing, barren wasteland with no clue when the finish line might be coming.

What is especially shit is just as I think I might be near the end of ‘the worst of it’ I turn a corner and the sign flashes up that there’s actually another 26 miles to go….I have to do another lap and it seems like it’s an unending fucking marathon…or recurring nightmare. FFS!

It’s really not good right now. I am desperate to crawl into a warm, safe space, and hibernate…shame that life in 2020 doesn’t really allow much of that!

I should probably have a sign that says, ‘approach with care’ or ‘beware- unstable ground’ or ‘caution – disaster zone’ tied around my neck because I am certainly not feeling myself right now. Or rather, the adult fronting self is having a very hard time keeping all the distraught child parts in check, and so my various selves are all simultaneously falling apart. I’m trying my best to hang it together with my trusty ‘rubber bands and chewinggum’ but it’s a gargantuan effort. I am exhausted by it.

When I am on my own it’s felt like the earth has fallen away beneath my feet. The tenuous safety I felt in the relationship with Em has been proven to be a complete sham and I am back to the reality (which I really don’t want to believe) – that nothing and no one is safe, and trusting people with your heart is really an idiotic thing to do. I am freefalling through the abyss. It’s so lonely. (Well that’s what several parts of me feel at the moment…although I know there is evidence to the contrary elsewhere in my life.)

I have cried so much (and we know I don’t do crying!). I’m not talking a few rogue tears escaping out the corners of my eyes, I’m talking about convulsive, gut wrenching, snotty, painful crying that comes like a howl from the heart and soul, soaks pillows through and doesn’t seem to stop without a massive conscious effort. There’s really no point in trying to stop it, though, because it keeps coming in waves….tsunami seems apt.

I am doing grief in a spectacular way. The pain is immense. I know this isn’t just about Em but also so many other losses and abandonments that I have experienced in my life. However, the sudden ending of the relationship with Em in such a cold way has acted as a massive catalyst for me to come face to face with the big wound and I realise, more than ever, that I am still on the bloody endless bear hunt and have absolutely no choice but to keep going, I ‘can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, got to go through it’.

It’s disappointing because I feel like all I have done in recent years is wade through ‘thick oozy mud’, stumble through ‘big dark forests’, battle through ‘swirling whirling snow storms’ and yet at least I had company back then whereas right now I feel a little bit like I am trying to do some kind of lone survival event and it’s not a ‘beautiful day’ and actually I am scared.

I’ve been terrified of the mother wound this whole therapy – panicking about being left, rejected or abandoned has felt pretty awful and all-consuming at times, especially between sessions and on breaks, even when I have had my therapist there more or less every week. So now, to be actually living the reality of that fear coming true – I have been rejected and abandoned – well it’s even worse than I imagined it would be. That pain in my solar plexus, the anxiety headache, and feeling like I don’t know what’s going on is awful. I know these are young feelings but man it’s not easy.

I want to just say, too, that whilst it does feel bloody horrendous and lonely and overwhelming a lot of the time, I am really very lucky to have some amazing supports in my life right now (this merry band of mother wounded souls included!) without whom I would be in a much worse place than I am. I have been on my arse and yet I am fortunate to have the support of a couple of close friends (who live fucking miles and miles away – grr!) that I can trust with these feelings and who are holding my hand through it, the start of a new therapeutic relationship with Anita, as well as an absolutely incredible craniosacral therapist who has basically scraped me off the floor and offered so much love and holding in the last couple of months that I can hardly believe it’s real.

I wrote a while back here about having just gone back to seeing my craniosacral therapist, K, after a long long break (years!) because I was feeling more and more like lots of the healing I have to do needs to be done with my body and through touch which wasn’t possible with Em (who wouldn’t even sit near to me!). And I can definitely say, that’s absolutely the case. I get soooooo much from my sessions with K on a body level. It feels amazing when everything starts flowing and I can feel the shift inside myself when I get a bit of internal space and holding. But what I have also realised is that what I have always been seeking is an authentic connection with another human being and through that, a path to healing – it’s not just about the body, it’s not just about words, it’s about two people being with one another and feeling something, cocreating a relationship that feels real.

K is not afraid to connect with me and she seems to feel what’s going on in my body even when I am not saying anything. She gets me and accepts me in whatever state I am in. I’ve always really liked her loved her and felt safe with her but maybe in my late twenties/early thirties wasn’t quite ready to do the work that I now feel is unavoidable and essential. I’ve done the intellectual work with Em but now I am ready for the soul stuff.

K is so present. So warm and accepting. She has steadily encouraged me to be more vulnerable to allow her in which clearly feels so risky after years of being pushed away.  I can actually make eye contact again now which is lovely. Seeing K again has made me feel like I am valued and loved – but not only that, she makes me feel like I am cared about all the more because of my flaws and vulnerabilities. I don’t need to hide with her. It’s scary but also exactly what I need especially given what’s just happened with Em. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I went back to her when I did.

It’s written EVERYWHERE that the healing of relational trauma takes place in relationship and I have needed this kind of deep, holding relationship for the longest time. I’ve known for a while that Em and I were not going to last (but obviously have clung on to the hope that if I just behaved long enough, didn’t reach out etc she might meet me where I needed her to). In fact having been to see K again for the first time and then gone to therapy and told Em about it, she said, ‘Where does that leave this therapy?’ and I remember replying, ‘I don’t know’. Being with K was such a sharp contrast to the experience I have been having with Em that it really highlighted to me just how badly my young parts were being neglected.

My child parts are so connected to Em and it’s killing me right now, but really it’s a trauma bond – we all know that. There has been no holding. I haven’t really felt her care. I have been ‘like a tick’ to her and it’s basically been a retraumatising experience being in that therapy. I have tried and tried to make what was on offer enough, but it just wasn’t. I probably sound like I am doing black and white thinking here ‘amazing K vs terrible Em’ but it’s not like that. Not everything in my therapy has been bad but it has been really bad for my young parts and this ending has done nothing to help. I mean it’s trauma 101 inside. The narrative I have been trying to escape for all these years that I am too much has been completely confirmed. It’s so painful.

So, anyway, gushing on some more about K. I’ve been talking to her a lot about my therapy since I have gone back – there’s been lots of confusion and frustration, K has patiently held that with me, not telling me what to do, but understanding just how excruciating it’s been to have been so vulnerable and get nothing back….In fact, god, I can even remember popping over to hers for a cup of tea a few years ago and moaning about Em then and she said to me, ‘What is your therapist doing to hold this?’… and even then I couldn’t come up with any answers.

I’ve spoken a lot about feeling like I need to leave but also feeling like it is impossible due to how attached I am. K has been nothing but understanding as I have swung from one state to the other and I am so grateful to have had that space to work through what I feel and also what I need. K has basically made me realise that it’s ok to have needs and ok to want to get some of them met. What a revelation!

As we all know, in the end things came to a head much more rapidly than I had anticipated with Em and suddenly termination was happening – and not in the way I had hoped. The day I got the two line email from Em wishing me well for the future (aka ‘bye then’) I fell apart. It was so painful. I was a mess, crying on the kitchen floor. I text K and told her what had happened and she was so sympathetic but more than that, she did something incredible that I am still blown away by. Sensing my distress and need she offered to move some clients around in order to make space for me to be able to see her the next day.

I can’t even explain what that gesture did for me. I was drowning in abandonment and rejection feeling like I wanted to self harm, and I guess parts of me actually felt like they wanted to die, and here she was making an island for me to come and rest for a bit.

Thinking about it makes me want to cry. She didn’t have to do that and yet she did. It allowed me to maybe believe that I wasn’t actually completely unlovable and forgettable maybe I do matter…

Anyway, since then she has been amazing in so many ways, so kind, supportive and holding, she has repeatedly built me up and tells me how much strength I have and in a way I believe it when she says it. But I don’t want to talk her or it too much here because I feel really protective of the relationship. I feel like I have something really precious but also fragile and so I want to keep it safe inside me a while.

So that’s nice isn’t it?! Yay.

Alongside this I have been seeing Anita – and that’s going well but I will post about that separately later on.

I guess, what most people are wondering is what ended up happening with Em in the end?

Crikey.

Well, I couldn’t make a decision about what to do for a few days. Part of me was so angry and upset that I couldn’t see how it would be possible to go back only to face more of the same. As my friend said, it would be like walking my young parts in to be slaughtered if I went. To a degree she was right. But at the same time I felt like I should try and get some kind of ending and closure because I have had so many endings where I haven’t had a choice in it. If I never went back to say goodbye I’d be essentially left with all these feelings and keep beating myself up about it… because that’s what I do. This is familiar ground to me!

I spoke at length with Anita about it the week before and in the end I decided that it would be best to go to one termination session, try and end well, but then immediately come for a session afterwards with her to try and process it. Basically, a session with Anita after would act like a safety net. Whatever the session with Em was like it was never going to be easy and the pain I have been experiencing has been like a bereavement so I knew I’d need support.

All last weekend I had nightmares and felt sick to my core knowing that I was going to Em to say goodbye. I knew in my gut that it was going to be sterile and flat…that’s partly why we are in this place. But still part of me hoped that it would somehow be connecting, a reflection on the work we’d done and the relationship we have had all these years.

I arrived, and straight away knew it was going to be agony. She didn’t smile. She didn’t even look at me. Just sat in the chair staring off into middle distance. Still face exercise. Fuck. Child parts were scared and devastated. This is not what I wanted at all.

I started with, ‘well this is shit’. I think it was probably a teen part coming out. I literally didn’t know what to say her.

I felt so distant from her.

It was painful.

She felt robotic, using stock phrases, ‘I see you are feeling strong emotions’ , ‘I understand you are disappointed’, ‘this must feel rejecting’…bleurgh. But it felt like a stranger talking to me….when she did talk which wasn’t often.

Early on I said that I couldn’t believe we were in this place but also that this is what I have feared all along that would happen and now it is real. I tried to tell her how much she’d hurt me in the last session by likening me to ‘a tick’. I had hoped she might have tried to repair that but she simply said, ‘it was a metaphor and I stick by what I said about those parts and the unconscious behaviour’. I wanted to leave then. Like wtaf? The last session and she says that? She takes zero responsibility for her part in this. There was a lot of silence from then on. I mean there was no repairing the relationship but man, this was bad.

She said that she was sad that things had got to this point and was disappointed too…but it felt like the kind of disappointment you might feel when it’s raining outside and you’d planned to go out for a walk – nothing more. It wasn’t heartfelt. It felt flat. She said she could see this was painful for me and I said that she had ‘no idea’…as in she had no idea just how terrible this felt for me but no space was opened up to discuss the feelings. She didn’t want to know.

‘I’ve reached the limit of my competency to help you. I have no more tricks up my sleeve’ – I suppose at least she was honest but it also felt crap. Like, to me so much of therapy hinges on the relationship not what’s ‘being done’ and yet it feels to me like she is very much about strategies, ‘try this visualisation’, ‘follow this dot with your eyes’… blah blah blah. And this is always what’s made me feel disconnected. The only strategy she was unwilling to try was putting herself into the relationship. It’s sad really, because I don’t doubt that her ‘tricks’ might have worked if we could have built a solid enough relationship to build from.

She said she was glad I had come to end in person…and it shows how much I have grown to be able to do that and face the feelings. But again, it just felt like she was going through the motions. I noticed her eyes repeatedly glancing at the clock. I guess she was wishing the time away because it wasn’t exactly easy in the room.

I started crying.

I wasn’t beside myself (externally) because even in that moment when my heart was absolutely being torn in two she just didn’t feel safe to let it all out with. Big, fat, silent tears rolled down my face and I felt like I was going to explode trying to hold back the flood and started shaking. She said nothing for ages and then said, ‘I can see how full of emotion you are about this’. Like no shit! This is huge to me –  I HAVE NEVER LET OUT MORE THAN A SINGLE TEAR IN THIS ROOM….but clearly all this was only big to me not her.

She didn’t look at me or make eye contact and I felt so alone in my pain as I cried and she just sat there. It felt so abandoning. She was not prepared to meet me in that moment at all. And I get it, maybe she can’t.  I guess this has been the problem all along. Maybe she was trying to hold the space and that’s the best she could do. But it felt awful. Like I wasn’t expecting warm hugs and smiles because that is not where we are at (nor have we ever been!) but it couldn’t have felt worse really.

The only good thing was that I managed not to dissociate – I could feel myself trying to disappear and kept bringing myself back. I wanted to be present and in the room with her for the last time even if it felt like she had left the relationship already.

The icing on the cake was at the very end. I was still silently crying and sniffing she said, ‘We have to stop. I wish I could have done better for you, but it is what it is, and I honestly hope for the best for you’.  Through my tears I managed to say, ‘thanks’ and I got up and that was it. There were no more words. No ‘take care’, no ‘goodbye’ just the shutting of the door behind me. And that’s when the dam finally gave way and I broke down…

…on my own again.