I’ve done five l-o-n-g months of remote therapy now – that’s 22 weeks (not that I’m counting) or 154 days (I soooo am counting!) or what feels like 84 years of staring into a tiny screen trying to connect with my therapist, Anita, online. And man, I have felt it! And I think you guys have too as you’ve been alongside for the ride…and experiencing the same in your own therapies.
I mean, to be fair, it is a long time to not be able to physically connect with someone…and it’s an especially big chunk of time, an eternity, for the child parts, who experience time as being almost endless/timeless and so I do feel some compassion towards myself for struggling so much with the disruption (sometimes – sometimes I my critical part unleashes it’s fury on me!). But compassion for myself hasn’t made this time any easier to bear and I have been teetering on the edge for quite a bit of the lockdown.
I think it’s actually got harder as certain parts of society have opened. I’ve struggled to understand how I can get my (getting greyer by the minute) roots attended to, go to a pub (should I wish to – I don’t!), or even go ten pin bowling but not meet my therapist in person when my mental health in the abyss. It makes absolutely no sense.
I wish I was one of those clients who has actually ‘enjoyed’ or ‘preferred’ working remotely (apparently, they exist – see Twitter!), but for me, and for many of us here it’s exactly that – ‘remote’ and has felt quite isolating. And that’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the nature of the beast.
When so much of communication is non-verbal, it’s hardly surprising when you lose the bulk of body language and ‘the energy’ in the room that it’s tougher to connect on screen. Add to that the times when your system takes you back to a pre-verbal state and there just aren’t any words, well then it makes working online really very tricky! In the room those are the times where eye contact, movement, breathing together, or a hug – coregulation – can make things feel better.
And whilst I really really love getting texts like these:
…it’s not the same as the real thing!
I said the other day that I feel like I have been on my ‘therapy break setting’ being away from Anita and the room (and we know how I am with therapy breaks!)– or as K says to me every time we have craniosacral therapy, ‘your body has been in survival this whole time’.
That’s not to say A and I haven’t done good work or we’ve been wholly disconnected throughout this period- that’s not the case at all. Our relationship has definitely deepened over lockdown and the fact that I have said some of what I have said shows how much I am starting to trust her. I haven’t been ‘left’ or ‘abandoned’ by her– far from it. Anita has been pretty incredible, so responsive to my needs, and I am so fucking grateful that she’s my therapist now, and not Em!
A friend of mine was trying to make me feel a bit better the other day when I had the meltdown over the walk. I felt ashamed and embarrassed by my response but also just so sad that I am so sensitised now after being on my own for such long while that it really doesn’t take much before I am throwing my toys out the pram. I am so dysregulated so much of the time.
Anyway, I was really struggling knowing that the reaction came not so much from being jealous of ‘the other client’ but actually from again coming crashing face first into the reality of how hard it has been holding on, waiting, wondering if and when I might actually get to see A again when so many parts have been hanging by a thread.
I was complaining about missing A but also saying how online doesn’t feel ‘enough’, and they said, ‘but Christ, can you even imagine what it would have been like trying to navigate lockdown with Em online…it would have been fucking horrific.’ And it really would. I mean can you even begin to imagine?! I can feel myself internally shuddering just thinking about how it might have been – no willingness to adapt to the situation, firmer than ever boundaries around ‘no outside contact’, and she would have watched me disintegrate… because that’s what she did. Always.
My friend got me to notice how quickly A was able to repair the rupture and make me feel like I was not overreacting or in some way deficient for being upset and, if anything, I’d come out the other side feeling much more seen, held, and connected – rupture and repair in action. And that’s really positive. Yay.
Anyway, yesterday was meant to mark the day Anita and I finally met up and got to spend some time together in ‘real life’ not through the screen and I couldn’t wait. Honestly, it felt like Christmas had come early (not even joking)! Sure, I felt a little bit apprehensive: would she still be the same after all this time? Would she like me now she’s seen more of the real me (the one that’s all needy and reacts by losing its mind over her smallest mis-step)? Would she be disgusted when she saw me in person having gained 5lb over lockdown and laugh at me for having spoken about having an eating disorder and then gaining weight? Would she be poised waiting to give me the ‘boundary talk’? Was she going to reject me?
Man it’s tough being in my head.
I mean even just thinking about how hard it was to arrange the walk… There was the meltdown, then all the bloody push/pull shit:
A: Shall we arrange a walk?
And then me actually reaching out and saying how I missed her and again A inviting me to come meet her. It’s fucking cringeworthy. I am really am the bloody rescue dog needed to be coaxed out with sausages and a soft voice…although maybe it’s more like this?!
Still, despite all this, when I got off the video call on Monday I was really looking forward to meeting up the next day…
In true classic me style I spent a lot of time on Monday banging on about people not being sensible in public spaces – I’d been into town and was shocked by how no one seems to social distance and are hanging about in big groups. I think over recent months I must have come across as having a really militant stance on ‘the rules’. It led A to say that having thought about one walk, another might be better because the paths are wider and on the first one she had suggested there were parts that were single track and did I want her to wear a mask?
It didn’t really sink in as she said it, I find that online – that stuff doesn’t seem to land in quite the same way and it’s not until afterwards that the dots start to join up – but I wondered whether she had suggested going to the other venue, further away, because of my perceived level of caution and my not wanting to be close to her.
Ughhh….no!!! Cos that’s not it at alllllllllll.
So I sent this message:
Whilst it’s in my brain… I’m really not at all bothered about us walking down single track paths or any of that, or feeling like I want to wear a mask with you. I’m cautious out in public places because it makes sense to be because I don’t know the people but I am not completely OCD with people I know. I mean technically we could go ten pin bowling or for a coffee or lunch or to the cinema tomorrow so I am really not stressed about a walk. I’m not even especially bothered by the walk and would be fine sitting in a car part on my camping chair or under a tree! I just want to see you.
Not too clingy/needy right??
The irony is not at all lost on me, that here in the UK we have been experiencing a massive heatwave for the last few weeks – wall to wall sunshine – indeed on Thursday it hit a sweltering 36 degrees here and I was melting! So, imagine my dismay on Monday afternoon when we got hit with what can only be described as monsoon rains. I mean it was properly pissing it down, flooding down the street, out over the gutters…it was proper, big, fat, torrential rain.
I mean come on? Really? You have to be fucking kidding me.
I looked at the weather forecast for the next day and – deep joy- over the period from midday to 3pm there was a 76% chance of rain and thunder.
You cannot make this shit up.
I could feel the young parts start to shut down, anticipating the cancellation. I mean the odd shower is one thing but the rain we’ve had has been biblical…like start building the ark and call me Noah! Not being able to see A was never going to be easy to absorb, especially as she is on holiday for the next two weeks…first break since I’ve worked with her…and ugh…you can just see where this was heading in my brain!
Lots of rain.
Then it started to clear a bit.
And then more rain.
And then a text…From Anita:
I have been thinking. I’m happy to use my counselling room this afternoon if you are?
OMG. Honestly, you can’t even imagine what happened inside… but you know… play it cool RB, play it cool…:
Sounds fine to me. See you at 1 x
But really it was more like this:
So…we didn’t go for a walk…instead I think I had the best therapy session I’ve ever had… and I have had a lot of therapy over the years!
And given this is already 1600 words I’ll leave it on another cliff hanger!! Haha! Sorry! x