Is it just me, or do you find that the moment you suggest that things might be going well and feel better for you, that the universe has a funny way of kicking you back down to earth and reality, wiping that smug look off your face?
It’s not really that bad – not at all- I’m being dramatic, but there is a bit of an irony in what’s happened since I last posted here about being ‘fine but not fine’. I was saying something about how happy and ‘present in the moment’ I had been, and how I now feel like I have now got some kind of energetic boundary around me that has meant I haven’t been drained dry and have a bit of internal space.
That’s still the case – big win.
As well as that, I was saying how despite getting a bit of a sense that things with Anita aren’t quite right (like she’s maybe backing away a bit) ultimately, I feel ok because I know that the foundation our relationship is built on is sound enough to get through whatever might be at hand or in play. This, again, felt like massive progress. I guess, really, what I was trying to say is I feel a bit more resilient and secure…even if there’s rumblings of something not quite right.
And that’s still the case too…but was put to the test in a big way recently. I’ve been waiting to write because I wanted there to be some clear distance on it all and for things not to be ‘live’ in the moment so that’s why I’ve been AWOL again.
Last time I was here, I mentioned that I had text Anita on the Friday after our session indicating that the young parts were really struggling with how she’d delivered news about her upcoming breaks (groan) and that because there’d been radio silence some of the parts inside were really starting to kick off…
Here’s what came next:
I should probably preface this by saying I was massively premenstrual when this all happened. 😉
By the time Sunday bedtime rolled around I was properly unsettled about what was going on/not going on with Anita. I’d heard absolutely nothing from her all weekend and had had plenty of time to brood on the situation – as well as get tangled up about the breaks that were coming. Even though the session on Friday had been ‘technically fine’, my gut just sensed something was amiss.
Usually, when we’ve had no contact for a while, A will send me a text the night before our session to say she’s looking forward to seeing me.
That didn’t happen.
My brain started spiralling into worst case scenarios…’I’m too much’, ‘she’s bored of me now’, ‘she wants to get away from me.’…
I slept terribly on Sunday evening and just felt utterly shite when I woke up on the Monday morning. The parts of me that fear abandonment and rejection were really activated, and the angry protective parts were also pumped and ready for conflict. Whilst the young parts of me desperately wanted to see Anita, there were enough parts that didn’t want to be anywhere near her if she was so able to leave them in distress.
(Remember I said I was hormonal?!)
All I wanted to do was crawl under my duvet and lie in the dark because of course, I was starting to get the tell tale cramps that indicate my period is about to start.
(It was a really top day!)
Obviously, being a mum of two primary school aged kids, this couldn’t happen. I had the school run to do…but after that I thought I’d just come home and be a teenager as well as mope about with tummy ache. Why bother driving to see someone who doesn’t care if young parts are falling apart and doesn’t keep to the contract on this type of contact, anyway?
I text Anita first thing in the morning when I woke up, did the school run, and then picked up her message when I got home and was sat on my driveway.
Here is the string of messages and unfolding disaster #rupture that happened all from the comfort of my driver’s seat (I literally couldn’t leave my car I was so upset and angry!):
As you can see the shit hit the fan in a spectacular way. I fully lost my mind in the space of a few minutes, didn’t I?!
Part of me had hoped, no, expected that Anita would respond to my first message with a bit more curiosity – as she has done in the past if I’ve expressed a reluctance to come to session. I never cancel sessions at the last minute or don’t turn up. I am the person who hates breaks and disruption, remember? So, any mention of not attending when it’s not because of sickness or something is a huge message from me.
The angry teen who believes people are shit and inconsistent and neglectful and all the negative things took Anita’s response, ‘Of course that’s no problem. Hope you’re OK xx’ as evidence that she really just didn’t care whether I was coming or not, and was happy to be away from me, further confirming the sense of distance and withdrawal I had been feeling recently. I get that it’s friendly, kind even…but I just couldn’t get my head round the fact that she just didn’t even wonder what was going on especially given I’d sent the message on Friday about not being ok. It’s like she just was completely misattuned.
I couldn’t work out what had happened or why, but this just wasn’t the Anita I know and love – and it scared me, so I got a pre-emptive jab in first. I fired off the next bit ‘No I’m not ok but that tells me everything I need to know’ (so mature RB – first class!)…and look how quickly things went south.
Anita’s message about being ‘confused’ set light to my petrol drenched rage and that was it. Off I went into my doom spiral. Was she really that fucking stupid?! Could she not scroll back to the message I had sent her on Friday and join some dots about why I might be staying away?
‘Only having a little (large) meltdown about breaks… next time can you tell me about it first and give me paper/dates later. I’ll explain on Monday, but the formal tone of the note just really jarred something internally – and whilst adult me is totally fine, the little parts just aren’t at all.’
Could she not see that zero acknowledgment of the young parts’ distress is basically like a red rag to a bull where my protectors are concerned? I do completely get that I said I would explain on Monday but actually we’ve agreed how we communicate in this situation and radio silence is not part of that. If I’ve been vulnerable enough to say I am struggling, it’s hideous to be left with that. And sure, I get it, outside contact is a minefield, and a lot of therapists don’t do it, but Anita and I have contracted for outside communication. We have agreed how to respond to messages from young parts – and that can be simply an emoji or a GIF – it doesn’t have to be a huge dialogue.
But that didn’t happen.
Anyway, Anita’s messages about being human and taking time off stung. It felt like a pushback. It felt like she was saying she needed time off from me (because I was so triggered by this point). And then the stuff about not knowing what to disclose just felt crap because we spoke at the beginning of this therapy about my antenna and how I know when things are off because I have had to be alert my whole life, so that it’s best to keep me in the loop – not specifics but just if there’s something up then let me know so I don’t automatically think there’s something wrong with me, or between me and her causing the sense of disconnection.
I was properly raging as the messages came in and terrified too.
And so what did I do?…I burnt the fucking house down…
I could see myself typing the messages and thinking ‘Fuck…you’re going down a path, here, RB’ but I just couldn’t stop myself.
Everything Anita responded with pissed me off further.
Something switched inside, and I had this epiphany where I realised that I didn’t have to let things go the way they seemed to be going. I didn’t need to react like this (from a position of hurt and fear). I remembered that Anita wasn’t Em. And I realised that whatever was happening wasn’t coming from Anita on her top form. I needed all the parts to calm down a bit!
Anita really struggles with writing because of her dyslexia so this interaction was her under pressure trying to get it right, but getting it wrong. She wasn’t trying to hurt me, and deep down beneath my hormonal rage and my young parts’ distress, I knew that. I’d been sensing something wasn’t quite right for weeks and here was confirmation…I just really hoped that the something not quite right didn’t involve me…although it clearly has crept into my therapy now and needed to be dealt with.
So, whoever had the moment of clarity stopped that unravelling via text, told the young parts to put their seatbelts on, and sent the message that I wasn’t doing this all by text. I started the car and arrived at Anita’s at 10:35am.
As I drove over to Anita’s I had some time to really think and calm myself down. I was angry and upset about what had happened, but actually it wasn’t a huge, big ‘end the therapy’ deal. It was just the cumulative effect of small episodes of feeling left or rejected playing out and my young parts reacting to that (my work!!).
Somewhere deep down I knew that Anita does not ever deliberately reject me and generally makes a huge effort to help me feel safe in our relationship. So, when I arrived on her doorstep the young parts were back in their box (to an extent) and my ‘let’s look at what’s going on’ head was firmly screwed on. I basically knew that things would be ok…because this is Anita and me, after all, and we are solid enough… just wobbling in that moment!
Anita opened the door, I looked at her, could see she was absolutely done in but could see immediately that there was absolutely nothing wrong with us – she was still A – and we hugged for what felt like a long while before we went into the therapy room.
What came next was really deeply powerful, healing, intimate work.
Anita sat down on the sofa and I sat down beside her. I reached out and held her hand. She looked at me and I met her gaze, (how I managed to do this entire session with total eye contact – I’ll never know, but it was so connecting!). Her voice wavered as she started to speak, “I’m not ok – I didn’t know – I’m sorry – I didn’t know how overwhelmed I was until I had a meltdown on Friday, turned my phone off and ran away for the weekend” and she began to cry.
She then went on to tell me that the dynamic between us mustn’t change, that she knows I am a giver but I cannot look after her because it won’t be healing for me but that she thinks we need to talk about what’s going on because she’s hurt me and she didn’t even realise how badly until that morning.
She told me that she realised I picked up that something was wrong with her long before she did – because I pick up on everything – and she can’t believe after so many years in this line of work, and in supervision, and personal therapy that she’d been blindsided and her self-awareness had tanked around what has happened for her. We laughed a bit about this through her tears.
She noticed her tissues were missing, which I teased her about, smiling, saying she’s really crap at her job today (!). I said how sometimes our brains don’t let us see what’s wrong when we are stuck in a situation that we can’t get out of. Awareness is great but it’s not so great when you know what’s up but are powerless to change it – which is kind of what’s going on with Anita. Basically, ignorance is bliss sometimes…well, until you have a meltdown, and everything comes rushing to the surface and fucks everything up!
Anita thanked me for coming and apologised for hurting me. She said she hadn’t even realised she was withdrawing but sees know that she must have been. Over the course of the session, she must have apologised ten times and reiterated over and over that it wasn’t anything to do with me and that we were fine but that she was so sorry for hurting me and that she hasn’t been functioning as well as she hoped and thought she was.
At one point she said, “I wouldn’t hurt you for the world – I’d never do this on purpose.” The quality of our interaction was soooo, I don’t know how to put it….raw and open? Stripped back and honest. Basically there was no bullshit – just two people in a room trying to work out what was going on and how to make it better.
We spoke at length about the chain of events that had led to me having my big meltdown that morning and she listened carefully and understood where I was coming from and really took on board what I was saying. What felt so brilliant, without writing out our conversation verbatim, was how able I was to express my feelings even in the face of hers. I didn’t feel like I needed to protect her from me and my feelings – because she’d told me that I didn’t need to look after her.
When she asked me how I was feeling after hearing what she had to tell me, I sat there, looked her straight in the eye and said, “I’m not happy, but I do get it…” and explained why I was so hurt and upset about the last 72 hours or so. That would never ever have happened with Em. Not only would she not ask me about this stuff – ruptures were left festering – but the times when I did try and explain my feelings, she’d shut me down and respond from a defensive position which just silenced me and sent me off into dissociation. Basically, whatever came up between us was my fault, my reactions were disproportionate, and she would die on the hill that she was right – the all-knowing therapist.
I mean the rupture around the ‘like a tick’ comment when referring to my young parts should never have ended in a termination – certainly not one that she initiated -but her unwillingness to see how much she’d hurt me and to talk it through without shaming me and hearing how I experienced it really demonstrated how incapable Em was of dealing with ruptures (or being a therapist, actually!). I mean she actually said, “I stand by that comment” in our final session…WTAF?! …but I am not here to talk about that! (again!)
Anita, by contrast, is so good at listening, and taking responsibility for her part in things. After we’d talked A LOT and cleared so much up I said, “I’m sorry I lost my mind today” and she responded by taking her hand out of mine and holding her arms open and pulling me into a tight hug and saying, “I am so sorry that I let you down. I can see now how I could have done things differently and how it would have only been a small change but would have made a huge difference to how it felt for you. I am sorry. Ruptures can be healing, though, it’s a different way of learning. If the grounding is right healing can happen when things go wrong but if it’s not right, then it can’t. What’s happened today can feel healing in itself, although it’s come about in a horrible way, and it doesn’t probably feel like it right now. But it’s showing your little ones that ruptures don’t have to be the end of the world, and that you can actually get closer to someone through a rupture by repairing it.”
And that is how it felt. The time we had spent in that session really being open, vulnerable, and honest was so connecting and healing. I can’t explain it really without giving lots of the detail away, but the details don’t really matter because it’s how it felt not just what was said. It felt like Anita and I have met each other on another level again and it’s strengthened our bond rather than weakened it.
I murmured “I love you” into her chest and she echoed the words back to me and thanked me for coming in person even when I had wanted to run away.
I laughed, “That’s progress right?!”
“Absolutely” she giggled.
I told her about the Elmo in the fire GIF and how that’s what happens when my parts get triggered … then it was time to go. We got through a lot in 35 minutes!
Since then, we’ve done a lot of work both in and out of the room. There has been plenty to process around what happened that day but we’re doing it, steadily. Anita has been very present and responsive and things are starting to feel more settled again…but there’s loads to write about in the next post because when these things happen it filters down through so many parts of ourselves and there are lots of reactions. The good news is, adult me has it under control and the bulk of the rupture is repaired.