You’re Not My Mummy…But Parts Of Me Wish You Were.

This time last year I wrote a blog post titled ‘You’re Not My Mummy’ where I spoke about how the young parts of me hadn’t yet accepted Anita into the role of ‘replacement mum’ having only recently just terminated with my therapist, Em, after 8 years working together. I was still in a state of complete meltdown about the ending and the idea of having anything like the level of attachment to Anita that I had with Em seemed really unlikely. The attachment of those child parts is really fixed on one person at a time for me. It really is like an infant relating to its mother.

Look, before anyone starts rolling their eyes and tutting, I absolutely know our therapists are not our mothers! I understand transference. I read a lot! I don’t actually believe my therapist is my mum. I don’t want her to adopt me (much!). My adult doesn’t see Anita as a mum, at all, but there’s absolutely no point in denying that the little ones definitely do…now! (Oh the irony!)

For ease of expression and writing here, I think it’s fair to simplify things and say, that for me at least, a lot of the work I do to process my mother wound and childhood trauma is largely achieved by letting my young parts relate to my therapist as though she is like a mother to me. Of course, my adult is there in the room too (sometimes!). A and I unpick a lot of what goes on together from all angles and different parts’ experiences and it’s amazing how many parts can come floating in and out during a session. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the way I get to really process my childhood trauma is by having those child parts activated in the relationship with Anita.

When the feelings are live, they can get metabolised, understood, and healed in real time. I have spent years talking about my childhood and narrating it through my adult and there’s so much distance and disconnect there. It’s a filter that has served me well in life because I haven’t ever expressed feelings (that’s safer) but actually in the end, I almost couldn’t feel anything as stuff was so deeply internalised. Allowing EVERYTHING and EVERYONE to have their place in the room with Anita has been a gamechanger for me. I mean I really cannot believe how much I have been able to bring to her that has been locked away for a lifetime and shrouded in shame.

I remember saying, last year, how part of me hoped I would avoid getting stuck in the transference with Anita and maybe I’d be able to circumnavigate it altogether because it felt so nice not being caught up in all the negative attachment stuff that I had experienced with Em. It was such a relief to do therapy with someone that didn’t instantly trigger me and who felt safe and accepting. We were doing some great work and laying the foundations of what I thought could be a strong working alliance but part of me dreaded the possibility of finding myself back in the familiar territory of dissociation, disconnection, and high anxiety that was so big a part of therapy with Em.

Looking back now, I feel really sad that I thought that was what could be in store for me. Like if I attach to someone then, ultimately, it’s bound to be a shit show of pain and hurt no matter how much I want it to be healthy and healing because that’s my relational pattern. I am a tick, after all.

But that’s not how it is.

Attachment doesn’t have to be agonising ALL THE TIME!

It wasn’t until June when the young parts switched their allegiances and fell face first into the attachment zone with Anita. I remember I was ironing one afternoon and a little voice inside said, ‘I miss Anita’ –

‘Oh shit’, I thought, ‘here we go again’. The thing is, because Anita and I had been steadily building safety and trust in our relationship I was actually able to tell her how I felt. I didn’t get filled with shame or embarrassment for having the feelings (I mean to be fair she’d already seen a fair amount of the crazy in the aftermath of Em and I ending), they just were. And she was not in the least bit bothered and told me that she thought we were definitely getting closer and it was normal to feel this in an emotionally intimate relationship especially when young parts were involved. I love how she has always normalised my experiences rather than pathologising them – it’s so refreshing.

Anyone who’s followed me for a while will have seen how transformational this therapy has been for me in building me back up and helping me see that I am worthy and valuable and not some freak with too many complex issues who needs to be kept at arm’s length. I am astounded that I can safely feel ALL OF MY FEELINGS with Anita and she accepts ALL OF ME. It’s so strange to really experience ‘unconditional positive regard’ (or love as I prefer to call it!). I can’t believe I can cry…and not just cry…but sob my heart out with her having never shed a single tear with Em until the final session when it had all gone up in flames.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a long way to go, still! But therapy with A feels therapeutic not torturous. It’s not all sunshine and unicorns by any means. We have had ruptures but they get repaired so quickly and I can express how I feel when things A says or does upset me. She is never defensive or attacking and is open to hearing whatever it is I bring to her (especially when a teen part is having a meltdown). I do get that that is how it’s meant to be but it’s a change to what I have been used to.

I am deep in a pit of young attachment need right now after my life just collapsed and nothing feels safe in my adult world. Thankfully, it feels safe with A in the room and in that relationship especially for the young parts. I genuinely feel like Anita is holding the other end of the rope and is holding on. She said the other day that she is holding out her hand and will be there to stop me disappearing. I know therapists can’t rescue you, and I have to dig my way out my own hole but there is something really lovely hearing, ‘I can see how hard things are for you and I really wish I could take it all away for you. I know I can’t but I am right here with your for the whole of the journey and you can lean on me’. I honestly don’t know what I would do without her right now…and of course that ‘without her’ felt like it could be a very real possibility a few weeks back.

When my wife lost her job at the start of February, we were plunged instantly into financial insecurity and instability which has sent my system through a massive loop. I don’t do change very well and I certainly don’t like not feeling secure. The week following the job loss my wife also had to have an operation with a two-week recovery period and she is due another in a couple of weeks – all time she can’t work. I’d already spent weeks stressing myself out during isolation so really it’s been a hellish couple of months now.

In order to cover the immediate shortfall income, I have basically maxed out my credit cards but obviously that only delays the agony where debt is concerned…which again stresses me out. My wife will be able to work again soon but agency work is sporadic and far less well-paid than what she was doing previously. So even if things work out well with reasonably regular shifts we’ll still be about £800 a month down until something more suitable comes along. FFFFFUUUCCCCKKK.

In terms of stress, it’s been epic and I just haven’t coped. Last week was so bad I felt borderline suicidal which was really scary for me as it’s been a very long time since I have felt so awful – like when my dad died over a decade ago and I had a breakdown. I felt paralysed with fear and couldn’t see a way out of it so just spent hours feeling anxious and incapacitated. It was horrific. I even did the NHS anxiety and depression score thing (as if I needed confirmation of how shit is all was) and scored a fabulous 24/24 on the depression and 17/21 on the anxiety… I have always liked to do well on tests! Lol!

When my wife lost her job I text Anita and told her that we’d have to stop our sessions after the session we had booked in for the next day because we just can’t afford anything right now and then we’d pick up when things improved. It felt really awful and I was so so sad about it. Anita responded really warmly and told me we’d find a way forward together when we met in person and not to worry. She’s so different to Em, who, when we were in a similar situation a couple of years ago (honestly so much bad luck!) didn’t bat an eyelid when I was worrying about how we’d pay our bills and I was clearly really distressed. Therapy twice a week a £50 a session meant we accrued quite a lot of additional debt at that time and it was really hard feeling like I needed my sessions but also knowing I was putting us further into debt.

So, back to 2021, I arrived at my session that evening feeling crap but also really dissociated. I was so overwhelmed by all that had happened that I had to step away from it a bit and the only way I seem to know how to do that is to disappear. The weeks of stress and anxiety I had felt worrying about my wife when she had COVID and panicking that she’d lose her job had taken its toll and then to have my worries confirmed…well, it was too much and I was thoroughly exhausted.

I tried to be adult in that session but after a catch up on the latest elements of ‘new shit and stress’ I just couldn’t hold it and fell apart and into Anita’s arms where I trembled and sobbed and for ages and she held me until I settled listening to her steady heartbeat. She continued to hold me until it was time to leave. There have been so many sessions like that lately that I can’t really say what’s happened from session to session in any great detail but the level of holding and containment has been essential as I’ve let so many tears out even if the words have been relatively few.

In this session Anita said that she thought pausing our sessions was a bad idea and insisted that we could make it work. She said that pausing would be traumatising for my system when things are so bad already and I really need the therapy. She told me she could reduce her fee and I could pay when I could afford to, but that I needed to keep coming (if that’s what I wanted).

Honestly, the relief was massive. It felt like Anita really genuinely is invested in the work we are doing and that she really cares about me. I mean I knew this already; she demonstrates it week in week out in how she is with me. But I think dramatically reducing her fee so that I could keep coming really showed me that it’s not about the money to her. I felt so much shame about not being able to afford to pay her properly and yet it really wasn’t a dealbreaker for her. It’s taking some time to get my head round!  

We agreed a fee for the next two months rather than per session and to do 75 minutes face-to-face and reduce the Friday online session to a 15 minute check in – which was fine by me (at the time) as I don’t get a lot from the online but touching base is good. This is largely how it had been anyway, over lockdown, where I have only been going once a week in an evening to fit around home-schooling and childcare. It’s not been ideal this year but I have kind of accepted that something is better than nothing and there are so many people who aren’t able to see their therapists face-to-face that I know I have it really good.

I have missed the twice-a-week sessions in the room since Christmas, but to be honest I’ve just been grateful to see A at all, especially after the having to isolate for two weeks and then thinking would have to stop altogether it’s felt like winning the lottery having any time!

This last couple of weeks has felt hard as I started sliding on the black ice of depression and anxiety on speed. The time between sessions has felt looooong and my young parts have been really struggling with that. The object constancy stuff is a real problem for me and I just can’t seem to hang onto the sense of safety and her care and warmth for seven days. I feel like such an idiot saying that when there is clearly so much evidence to the contrary. I’m still wearing the groove in my brain, though and it’s like recoiling a spring but in the opposite way to how it’s been set. It’ll take time.

There was one session where I was so desperate to connect with Anita but I just couldn’t. My protectors were fronting and I could feel my little parts screaming inside. It was agony. I couldn’t look at her and was frozen. Anita was patient and kind and so reassuring letting me know she was there, that she was waiting for me to let her in, and that she wasn’t going anywhere. She was already sitting beside me, within touching distance, but I said it didn’t feel like she was there and she said, ‘I know, and I think it’s been hard only seeing each other once a week hasn’t it?’ Sometimes she just sees exactly what the problem is and it cuts through all my defences. I just crumbled on the sofa into a flood of tears and she pulled me into her and held me again as I cried and cried.

These sessions probably sound like nothing much is happening but actually SO MUCH healing has gone on in them. I’ve been at my lowest, stripped bare (not literally, obvs!), and allowed myself to be really seen and that is massive. To be responded to with care, compassion, and love has been so huge. Anita is so responsive to my need. Last week I text her on Thursday evening. ‘I miss you’. That was it. She replied shortly after with, ‘Would you like to come here tomorrow morning?’ When I picked up the message I was stunned. I asked if that would be ok, and she said of course and she’d look forward to seeing me in the morning.

With my wife being off it means I have childcare and so I think Anita realised that and knows how helpful the second session is to me… especially after my performance earlier in the week. And that second session did make a huge difference. I came away feeling so much more settled despite more tears and trembling. I’m seeing her twice again this week, and although my child parts have been feeling really needy and unsettled (because of life) knowing that I only need to hold it until Friday is massive and feels more possible.

Anyway, that’s a huge ramble without a lot of detail, I’m afraid. There’s more to say but this is long so I’ll get myself back in the zone for the next post!

Thank you, guys, for all the support you’ve sent my way in recent weeks (and months). It’s meant a lot to me xxx

Trust In Your Sixth Sense (Or Is It Just Hypervigilance?).

When I was seventeen, I went and saw a palmist in Bangkok and he did a detailed consultation for me. At the time I was sceptical – I certainly hadn’t got into my astrology and tarot at that point! My dad had been to see him years before, when he worked in Thailand (his Thai friends all swore by this guy), and his reading had been surprisingly accurate for the past as well as what had started to unfold in the intervening time since he’d come back to the UK.

I figured there was nothing to lose so went and sat in his consulting office, put my hands in some ink and transferred the image of my palms onto paper. With the print of my hands and my date of birth alone before him, he took compasses and all kinds of mathematical equipment and set to work. I sat and watched as he methodically worked his way through one hand at time. After about twenty minutes, finished, he looked up and spoke to me and told me what my palms said.

I remember feeling like there was a lot of accuracy in the reading at the time, but then at seventeen telling me I would be in an arts field and hate maths was really a 50/50 guess surely?! He said that I would have two children – which made me bristle and instantly made me think the guy was a crock of shit because at that point I knew I was gay (I wasn’t out yet) and couldn’t imagine how children would ever be part of my life (although I desperately wanted to be a mum). There were other things, too, but to be honest looking ahead twenty years when you’re that age seems like another lifetime…well, it is now I am here!

As I walked out the door, I remember him holding my hands in his and telling me that I have a very strong sixth sense and to trust in it. I thanked him for his time and put my inky print in my bag and went on to enjoy the rest of my holiday. When I got home I put the envelope containing the reading in a box with other souvenirs and photos and there it lay for the next few years as I went off to university, met my wife, travelled the world and grew up a bit.

When I was twenty-five I got the news that my dad had died suddenly of a heart attack in Thailand whilst on holiday. It was, without doubt, the worst, most distressing experience of my life. I’ve written about it before so won’t bother again now, but the trauma surrounding that event was the trigger that sent my life into freefall and opened Pandora’s Box spewing out a lifetime of trauma that I had dissociated away. This bereavement signalled the start of the massive mental breakdown I had.

Every single day I miss my dad and, at times, even now, twelve years later, the grief rises up in me and I howl with pain or wake up in floods of tears when he enters my dreams (which is a lot lately). My anchor is gone and I struggle to accept that. Especially when, right now, I REALLY need him. It sounds daft, being an adult myself, but when I feel like I do right now (like a child), I really could do with the steadying presence of my rock.

Anyway, after he died, I was going through his stuff, clearing his house, and found his palm reading from years before. I opened it up and glanced through it. It was so on the money that I could barely breathe. When I got home, I went into my loft, found the box that contained my reading and looked to see what it said, only now viewing it with more grown-up eyes and living further in the future. It was definitely interesting. There were some parts that I was hoping wouldn’t materialise not too far ahead but others that might be a possibility. I folded it up, put it away again and carried on with my life.

Time moved on. We moved house. The box in the loft moved into the next loft and the hand prints, souvenirs, and photos were safely stored there along, now, with my dad’s copy, his passport and letters he had written me over the years. My wife and I got married. We started a family (and yes, 2 children!). I got cancer. My wife lost her job. Things got bumpy. Things got better. Then bumpy again. And then really bumpy…which brings us to now.

If you look at the picture (above) you’ll see that it’s slap bang in the wobbly red ‘SHIIIIIIIITTTTT’ area between 37-38 years old where finances are fucked. I turn 38 in a few weeks and ugh…can’t we just fast-forward to 40 where I apparently get super successful and hit the peak of my life for the next 18 years?!

I’ve been AWOL here on the blog a bit this month. Since Christmas I have written, on and off, about how hard things have been feeling (really fucking hard). The Christmas therapy break felt tough this year, but then that wasn’t surprising as I headed into the anniversary of ‘tick gate’ and the end of my therapeutic relationship with Em. Then lockdown three thousand was announced, home-schooling started AGAIN, and I had to reduce face-to-face contact with Anita to once a week and no visits to K ☹. Then my wife got COVID and was isolated from us for weeks upstairs. Obviously, the kids and I were also stuck inside – so then no face-to-face at all with A…GROAN.

Incrementally, week on week, things were getting emotionally harder to cope with. I could feel myself sliding. I just felt so stretched and anxious, and on the edge, and yet the support I needed felt further and further away. Of course, Anita hadn’t gone anywhere but it didn’t feel that way when I had to revert to complete online therapy during isolation. There’s fuck all privacy here so online sessions are often interrupted by one of my kids who suddenly need me. I can never fully relax into a session, and the parts that need help rarely show up, or if they do, they get so upset that it actually feels worse.

I am really shit with online therapy (no shit!). But it felt especially hard this time because Anita was here, she hadn’t gone away, and she had been willing to see me face-to-face this lockdown after my complete lack of coping in the November/December lockdown! No need to write more on that!! You’ve all been along for the ride. So, it just felt so fucking unfair that I couldn’t see her and I couldn’t believe unlucky we’d been for my wife to get Covid.

Things started to escalate inside over the isolation period. I felt a sense of foreboding and panic rising up in my body. It’s a familiar feeling of dread that is so visceral it cannot be ignored. It wasn’t about being unable to get to see Anita or COVID (although those stresses and attachment stuff were definitely there too). Instead, I don’t know why, but I started to feel like my wife was going to lose her job. It was such a strong burning feeling in me that I really couldn’t ignore it. On paper there would be no reason this should happen. She’s very good at what she does and has transformed the place she has been working in with recognition from the inspectorate.

Perhaps I was just being silly. Maybe I just had too much alone time. Perhaps I was just being pessimistic and was crumbling under the stress and pressure of the last couple of months…but it didn’t feel that way. I couldn’t get away from the feeling and no amount of rationalising would make it go away.

I got out my deck of moon tarot cards (definitely got a lot more alternative since that day getting my palms read!). It’s freaky what happens with them. Frequently I’ll ask a question and get a card that resonates. Then I’ll ask the same question again…and get the same card. A few months ago, I pulled the same card six times in succession on the same afternoon! I close my eyes and spend ages shuffling them about – I have no reason to try and ‘cheat’ but it always makes me feel a bit ‘eek’ when the same card keeps coming. Anyway, I asked the question three times and got the same card. It felt confirming but also not what I wanted to hear.

Two days before my wife was due to go back to work, and we had all received negative Covid tests I decided to tell her what I was feeling. It was making me ill. The fear of losing everything (which is where my mind takes me when stability is questioned but that’s the trauma brain) was making it so that I couldn’t eat and the nightmares I was having every night were taking their toll.

Usually, my wife would tell me I was overreacting and to not run away with panic. But this time she didn’t. She looked at me seriously and said, ‘You know what RB? Your Spidey sense has never been wrong in all these years we’ve been together on anything. I hope you are wrong but if you’re right we’ll be ok, we’ll find a way through together’. That helped a lot. I mean I was still stressed out beyond words but at least she was accepting that my gut was screaming and that maybe it might have a point even if there was no tangible evidence yet.

Then it happened. As suspected. On the Monday she went to work for a morning meeting and was on her way home within half an hour. Absolute farce. I told her to record the meeting just in case even though there was no reason to suspect that anything was wrong. It’s a good job she did. Our friend is a HR manager for a big organisation and listened to the recording and was absolutely horrified by what took place. The laugh is, in the UK if you have less than a year with an organisation you can have your contract terminated for no reason at all so long as they pay you any holiday owing and stick to the terms of their contract – i.e a week’s notice.

I felt so sad but also so vindicated when my feeling was confirmed to be correct. But of course, here we are again. No job and huge stress with bills etc. I text Anita the day it happened to let her know. I had already spoken to her about my worries in the weeks before it happened (she probably thought I was losing my mind and overreacting!) and told her that I wanted to see her for our planned session the next evening but from that point on we’d have to put the therapy on hold as I didn’t know how we were going to cover bills let alone therapy. You can probably imagine what that felt like.

This last year, but certainly the last few months, has been an emotional rollercoaster and to lose the one thing/person that actually helps me function felt unbearable. I felt utterly beside myself. Anita as usual was, and has been, incredible throughout but this is long so I’ll write more on this later.

So what was the point in this post? Well, what I am learning, despite the shit storms is that I can and should trust my gut. The other day I was so shut down and was isolating myself from A. It was so painful. I wanted to be close but was terrified of being too much. The fear of abandonment stuff was massive and I think this especially the case right now with all the instability at home. Anita said she thinks I know deep down, and can feel, that she is safe, but sometimes the fear that I have about what’s happened in the past comes in and impacts how I can relate to her.

I always knew in my gut that Em was not safe. I tried to convince myself otherwise- that it was my hypervigilance gone mad and that there was something wrong with me. I so desperately wanted her to be safe that I repeatedly ignored what my body was telling me. Whereas, I have felt safe with Anita from day one. What comes in when I am silent and disconnected is not that I am unsafe with her, it’s the fear that I’ll lose her by being too much – especially now, when she’s seeing me for next to nothing.

It’s a completely different thing to how it was with Em because underneath that I DO KNOW that if I let Anita in, she is there ready. She is willing to connect. She isn’t scared of me. I know she loves me. I can feel it even without my sixth sense! Sometimes my brain just doesn’t get the memo in the moment that things have changed and it takes a while to unstick the brakes.  


Kind Regards (And F*ck You)

Dear Em.

It’s been a year since that last, awful termination session with you. The one where you sat, repeatedly glancing at the clock, willing the time on.  It was, without doubt one of the most cold and painful interactions that I have experienced in my life. Sitting across from you, knowing that you really couldn’t have cared less whether I was there or not, was complete agony. Even now, it physically hurts to think back to it – the somatic response to what’s happened is still huge. It’s a year on, and I am nowhere near close to processing or healing the damage done by bringing and showing my most vulnerable self to you and having the young parts rejected.

That final, horrible day you were completely unmoved as you watched me cry (for the first time) and told me with absolutely no feeling that we’d ‘reached a plateau’ and simply said, ‘it is what it is’ and that it must feel ‘rejecting’. It was rejecting. Any normal person in that situation would have said, ‘it must feel rejecting, but I am not deliberately rejecting you’. You gave me absolutely nothing to cling onto in that session, you just let me drown. You didn’t even say goodbye. All I was left with was confirmation that what we’d been doing for all these years meant nothing at all, and that I was completely deluded for thinking (hoping) that after years and years in the room together that the therapeutic relationship was more than a financial transaction to you.

Knowing that you were willing to end a long-term therapeutic relationship with a two-line email response and no onward referral really should have told me all I needed to know about the quality and strength of the relationship we had and the level of care you had for me. I should have let go at the point, and not tried to reach some kind of resolution. I thought I would be stupid to run away from you and not give myself the opportunity to have some kind of decent ending. But the ending was anything but decent.

I sometimes wonder why I put myself through that final session, especially when so many people that care about me, including my current therapist, advised me to stay away and protect myself from even more hurt because it was clear that nothing good would come of the meeting. It pains me to say that they were all right because I so badly wanted them, and my gut, to be wrong.

I guess that the parts of me that were so attached to you hoped that being face-to-face you’d see how painful it all was for me, how distressed I was by what had happened, and you’d want to help work through the trigger of you likening my young parts to ‘adhesive ticks’ (which is what made me retreat and react so strongly in the first place). I thought at the very least, given my history, you would take some care not to reinforce the beliefs that I already carry about myself before we parted ways.

In that session you said you didn’t mean to hurt me with the tick analogy- but it did hurt. When I told you this, I was made to feel like I was too ‘sensitive’ and ‘defensive’ – those are actually the words you used. When I have recounted this exchange to ‘normal non-mental’ people and other therapists they have been horrified by it. In the retelling I have kept it simple and unemotive, because part of me wanted to believe that it was all me, that there is something inherently wrong with me, and that you were right that I was just overreacting to a ‘metaphor’. But that has never happened – there’s not one person who has gently tried to tell me that what happened was me being a bit too sensitive.

In fact, over the last year of us working together, I was advised by two therapists (who went and discussed me with their own supervisors) that it would probably be in my best interests to leave and raise a complaint to your governing body because what was happening was abusive, retraumatising, and dangerous.

It’s strange because on the occasions I went outside of our therapy (to other therapists) when things felt awful, I was looking for someone to tell me that what was happening was the nature of therapy and that I was being too needy or resistant and that my high levels of dissociation were a product of doing trauma therapy and I should keep at it. I never wanted to hear that maybe my gut was right and that what was happening wasn’t ok. I so wanted someone to tell me that the emotional pain I was experiencing in the therapy was a product of my history and if I stuck with it, it would be the path to healing. That never happened, though.

Throughout the time we worked together I could never shift the sense that you didn’t like me much and didn’t really care. In so many ways being with you was like reliving the relationship with my mum! No wonder the maternal transference was so strong. It was so familiar feeling inadequate, unwanted, and unlovable. It was my norm to have a cold and unavailable caregiver and I guess there is comfort in the known.

The most you ever said to me when I was falling apart and needing some kind of reassurance was, ‘if I didn’t care about your well-being then I wouldn’t be working with you’. And I guess on paper that looks fine but it felt crap. You used to ask me what it would feel like to be cared for and I said ‘it wouldn’t feel like this’ [what it felt like in the room] and you’d tell me that if I haven’t experienced care how would I know what it’s like. I think you were trying to make me think I should accept that what was on offer was good enough. You’d tell me over and over that if I had a secure attachment, I wouldn’t experience you like I did. Again, I wanted to believe you but, in my heart, I knew that it wasn’t right. It never landed well.

I really wanted to believe that it was me and my issues making it feel so bad. Struggling to trust people and fear of abandonment are both huge for me, as you know – but I know now that it wasn’t all me because I don’t feel like this in the same way with my new therapist. The level of safety and connection I feel with her is so different, but it hasn’t come through her standing back and letting me suffer. Her presence and care is tangible. There’s no guesswork, or wishful thinking required. She is demonstrative and clear. It’s exactly what I needed.

As my young parts became attached and all the ‘stuff’ became live she’s been so accepting and welcoming. We’re in the trenches together. It feels collaborative. She actively works with the young parts of me, she doesn’t try and make out that she knows what I need more than I do. She learns from me and makes space for me to express whatever I feel and need – and magically, the attachment wound is starting to heal. There are ruptures (of course) and they get repaired really quickly, they don’t fester for months on end. My feelings are validated and understood. Therapy now feels like a safe house where I can explore my wounding rather than a place where the wound gets poked each week and then is left bleeding out between sessions.

All my wounded parts are learning what it is like to be in a relationship where I actually matter. I don’t feel like I am on a conveyor belt and thrown out the minute the clock chimes. I know time boundaries are important in therapy but if we ever accidentally step on a landmine close to the end, or something comes up and I am dissociated or distressed I don’t leave until it’s safe to do so – or I at least get asked ‘are you ok to leave?’. It’s insane that simple questions like that feel so alien to me. I used to leave your house dissociated more often than not and have even injured myself because of it!

The power feels more balanced now where I so often felt disempowered with, and by, you. I don’t think you meant for it to feel like that, but the way we worked didn’t empower me at all. Even when I did build up the courage to ask for things from you (and it took months and years) it was rarely met well. I felt like a child who was beholden to its parents’ wishes – and that was repeating a pattern. It took me years to feel anything at all, or to come in contact with my needs, and then I was faced with the painful reality that I was on my own and my needs were never going to be met or examined or explored compassionately.

All those months trying to get you to write me a note just to say you were ‘still there’ (because I had struggled so much with the summer break) became what is known as ‘pebble gate’ on my blog. Six long months of waiting and hoping that you’d do something to help me with object constancy was ridiculous – so much so that I ended up telling you what to write which completely missed the point. It was so disappointing and felt both rejecting and abandoning. And yet my new therapist has repeatedly asked me if I wanted to take a transitional object from the room without prompting.

She understands attachment and C-PTSD. She sent me away with her necklace over the last lockdown and when we returned to face-to-face had bought me one the same. I know this is unusual, but working on an individual basis, attuning to a client, and allowing yourself to be present in the relationship is so important. You and the relationship you create with the client is where the healing lies, it’s not in theories, or strategies and techniques. Relational trauma needs to heal in relationship. Love is essential and needs modelling to us. It’s so hard to love (and trust) when love has been your great disappointment.

Looking back now, I can’t believe how much I was prepared to shrink myself to try and fit with your vision of how my therapy should look. I mean honestly, the fact that I even suggested sending you three dots in the hope you’d reply in the same way, as a last-ditched attempt to maintain some kind of connection and ease the spiralling into the abyss that happened in the time between sessions, just tells me how fucking desperate it all was. Fuck. And the absolute excruciating pain that it was when you told me to tell you what I wanted and then to flatly refuse… god.

Refusing to even read or acknowledge my texts or emails was so hard . Often, it was the young parts that struggled to come to therapy that reached out in this way (and it was rare for me to do it because you were so disapproving!). I know you are busy. But honestly, you say you work with attachment disorders … I literally can’t see how you think that given how it’s been. Different parts communicate in different ways and, sure, it’d be ideal if they all turned up in the room, but sometimes they need to tentatively find a way in from the outside. They need an invitation…especially the teens! Why is it so hard to see that you are dealing with a mini-bus full of child parts when a client like me walks in? Sometimes you need to think outside the box.

In one of our final sessions I had given you a list of things that I thought would help make things better for those parts that were struggling with therapy: drawing together, playing games, transitional objects, sitting closer to me when I was distressed, sitting on the floor, letting the young parts text in the session when they couldn’t talk… and the list went on…and you said ‘I don’t work in that way’.

I felt so much shame around wanting to feel close to you. The attachment was so strong and yet all I did for the best part of four years was feel distressed because my object constancy was so bad and I couldn’t keep any felt sense of you between sessions. The boundary around outside contact fuelled this and I would become more and more upset. There was absolutely no flexibility in your approach and you so doggedly believed that you were right and that if you conceded on anything it ‘wouldn’t do me any good in the long run’.

I would be so hopeful that seeing you in person would ease that attachment anxiety but it rarely did. Occasionally, you’d tune into those young parts and use that calm, soothing tone and I could feel my nervous system settling but in the end that part of you disappeared and all I felt was your frustration and disgust at the youngest parts. The problem was, the further you retreated the more distressed the young parts became and the greater the dissociation in sessions was. The day I showed you the picture I had drawn of you being covered in barbed wire really ought to have been the start of a huge conversation – but what could you say? It was true.

I still don’t know what I did wrong or why you were so distant and detached. All I can ever come back to is that you thought there was some kind of sexual thing going on for me and you were repulsed by that. There really wasn’t anything on my side. I loved you but it was from that really young part that was so deprived of love and care. It was never sexual for me. And even if it had have been, that should be safe to bring to therapy.

Anyway, this just seems like a big string of listing what was wrong with the therapy and actually that’s not what I am here for. I am actually here to thank you for letting me go. It broke my heart. I mean it literally devastated me. But I am glad that it happened because if we’d have continued working together, I would be in such a bad place, still.

The last year with my new therapist has shown me that it’s ok to be me. I don’t need to hide. I am ok as I am and am valued for all of who I am. I am loved.

I see now that it’s not weird to want to feel secure in the therapeutic relationship and to feel like a therapist actually cares about your well-being. It’s not odd to want someone to come sit closer when you’re dissociated and stuck in a traumatic place. It’s not unhealthy to reach out for support when things are bad. It’s not strange, when healing relational trauma, to need a transitional object. It’s not bad or wrong to want a hug. It’s not unhealthy to love and be attached.

Emotional intimacy and physical touch don’t mean there is a blurring, or lack, of boundaries. It doesn’t mean that the child that missed out on so much years ago thinks it’s got a new mother and will stay stuck forever. Healing takes place together. It can’t be done alone. If it could I’d be fine by now! I know what’s wrong with me, I’ve read all the books, I have ‘insight’, but I needed an ‘other’ to help me heal the wound that was forged in a relationship by giving me a reparative experience in another relationship.

And the best of it? The thing you tried and tried to get me to do – mother my own young parts? It was utterly impossible, as though you were asking me to lay a golden egg. But guess what? Getting some of those fundamental basic needs met: being held, feeling it is to be safe to be vulnerable, experiencing what it is like for those young parts to be cared for rather than disgusted by means, that I can see now what I am meant to be doing. I have a template. I have a little nook inside myself where I can keep that love and I can start to tap into it. I’m a long way off the finish line but at least now I am in the race.

So…that’s it. You hurt me more than you can imagine but you did me a favour in the end because now I have what I need to heal. I sincerely hope that you have undergone some more training in working with complex trauma and attachment because it wouldn’t be fair for you to do what you did to me to another vulnerable client.

Kind regards (and fuck you).


(and yes, I am angry!)