I Spoke Too Soon: Pre AND Post Therapy Break Rupture/s.

Hi All.

I’m still here – just very very busy but also plagued with procrastination where my writing is concerned. I started this post AGES ago and yet here we are in October…two months between posts, whoops!…

Anyway – here goes:

Oh, the fucking irony! I’ve got to laugh, really. Last time I was here rabbiting on, I said that I thought I’d finally got through/over the ongoing feeling of disconnect that had been caused by the rupture that was triggered in February when Anita took a step back and stopped our longer sessions.

Ha.

Boy, was I wrong!

Oh, well, I guess that day-and-a-half of relative calm was nice while it lasted! Lol.

As you can see from the title of this post, things hit the skids in a big way just as the break was about to begin. Ugh. Are you guys getting as bored of this pattern as I am?

It feels a long while since this all happened so it’s not especially fresh in my memory but from what I can remember it was, once again, sweltering for my Monday session and so, yet again, there weren’t hugs (even though I had promised myself I would ask for one…) That’d been the norm for a lot of the summer, but after the session the young parts were massively triggered, especially as Anita’s looooooonnnnngggg break was creeping ever nearer. It was that panic, “We only have one more session and then there will be no cuddles with Anita for AGES.”

Adult me knew the lack of hugs wasn’t a rejection, had I have asked, Anita would certainly have given me a hug, but honestly the heat – it was like being in hell at 30 degrees and so adult just chatted away and the session felt light and fine… but of course you don’t have to dig too deep beneath the surface to see the shit starting to hurtle towards the full speed fan when there’s a break looming and the inner creche isn’t attended to! [We’re on a break again now so I really am going to have to pull my finger out and get caught up!]

Whilst the evening sessions have been a lifeline this summer, when I have ‘lived the day’ somehow, I find it hard to peel back the many layers that shroud my vulnerable parts. I really wanted this summer to be a time to ‘do the work’. When I am not at work myself and manically trying to squeeze every last drop of productivity out the day whilst juggling the kids, it frees up headspace and time to really focus on the therapy…or it would, if I could only have got there on the schedule I am used to.

As I said in my last post, I was fortunate to be able to see Anita but it wasn’t in the usual routine, and so the ‘frame’ felt wobbly. I didn’t know most weeks whether I would see her once or twice in person and the times I could see her twice meant the spacing was off…and I’ve come to realise over the years just how important that structure is. 10am Monday and Friday…that’s MY time! (more on this in a minute!)

So, lack of touch was a trigger but then so was lack of talk about the actual break. I can’t remember what we spoke about that final Monday, just ‘stuff’ – you know ‘filler’ when really what I needed was a way in to talking about the underlying panic about being left, how we would manage the break, you know a bit of housekeeping before three LONG weeks apart. Anyway, it didn’t happen and I left feeling a bit annoyed with myself.

Thankfully, Anita had washed elephant for me, which was a massive bonus so at least that was one thing that was settling for the upcoming break but that’s about all.

Unsurprisingly, the wheels started to fall off a bit on the Tuesday as my final session approached on the Wednesday. It felt like there was going to be an impossibly long separation of 3 ½ weeks (how many times have I said this is a long break here????!!!) and the anxiety began to creep in like the tendrils of Dementors. I badly WANTED to see Anita on the Wednesday because I felt like I was unravelling inside but I was also very conscious of the length of the break.

My plans for the week had changed as my wife was now going to be at home rather than working on the Friday and so she was available and could look after the kids. I asked if I could see Anita on Friday instead of the scheduled Wednesday because I thought it would be better to cut the break down. To be honest I really wanted to see her both days…or to do a longer session, but I didn’t ask because I don’t want any more ‘Nos’ and it would have made the unsettled feeling even worse. However, that is what I needed and when things settle a bit again I am going to have to really talk this through with Anita so that this doesn’t happen again.

Still, as it turned out, no matter how I tried to avoid triggers I somehow managed to seek them out like dog shit in long grass. And so, it began…

Anita replied to my message that she could see me on Friday but that “Unfortunately, I have booked someone in at 9:30” so could I do 10:45 instead?

Reader… it was like a bomb went off inside me. Scrap the dog shit analogy, I’d walked over a fucking great landmine…or setting off something nuclear inside. (I am nothing if not dramatic!)

Of course, it was possible that Anita would have filled ‘my’ time but 9:30??? She’d told me in February that our early starts had had to stop because they put too much pressure on. And yet, here she was booking someone in half an hour before my usual start time. And I get it, before her break she was probably trying to squeeze people in here and there, but it triggered the shit out of me. And then hot on the heels of that message came:

Also noticed the Monday after my break is a BH so wondered if you could make 12 noon or 8pm on Tuesday 30th?

This was a like pouring petrol on an already blazing fire. Internally, I was really upset. Had she only just realised that HER break carried into a BH? Like honestly? I had clocked it when she told me the dates, ages ago. Knowing that I was facing a massive break I had decided to go away until the Thursday and be back in time for my Friday session and now here, at the eleventh hour she’s offering me a session.

I tried to play it cool:

Yeah that’s fine. I’m not here until the Thursday after your break so it’ll be a while until I can see you.

She replied:

Oh, Ok, I didn’t realise that (with a heart).

And this is when it started to boil over inside. No, Anita, you didn’t realise it because we’ve done absolutely nothing around this break…and so things then erupted:

It was then that I realised just how much I had been holding in and holding back from the parts that feel so hurt and abandoned. As I have said lots of times Adult me gets what’s happened and why. I really do understand capacity changes, life events, and all the rest of it because I have had lots shift in my world lately, BUT the thing to remember her is that I am largely in therapy to address and heal the young parts, the past trauma, the stuff about feeling unimportant, forgettable, unlovable and all the rest of it that stems from childhood. Anita is not responsible for that wounding, but our relationship triggers it A LOT and we need to actively work with what comes up when it does… and we do…but fuck me it’s hard work and agony when it’s all live.

The message exchange went on a while, and I was throwing every single toy I had out the pram. Anita kept steady but it felt like she wasn’t there and to the parts in panic it felt like things were desperately bad. My Adult had was offline and I was operating from inner child chaos. I told her I was ‘done’ and it was fucking painful but when I say ‘done’ I mean I can’t tolerate how bad it feels. Anyway, long story short is I had my tantrum, asked her if she still loved me even if I was losing my shit and she came back with, Of Course. And that was enough. Simply that. She had not gone. She still cares.

So, of course (!) I went to the session on Friday, and it was hotter than hell again. Anita told me she was so glad I had come and that she knew it took guts to come when I felt like this. My heart was racing, and I felt shaky, it was almost like a panic attack (I’m getting this a lot at the moment). Anita ‘seemed’ to be Anita, the one I love, the one with the voice, the one who gets it. (I know she exists all the time but sometimes parts of me don’t feel her or can’t allow myself to access her because I am scared).

Anita asked if I would like a story (yes please!) and I chose ‘The Wobbler’ which seemed apt given what had happened that week. I really was channelling my inner Barbara!

And so, I ended up snuggled into A for a rather warm hug for the story and remained like that for the rest of the session. We settled the young parts and then just talked – although I can’t remember really what about…

It was one of those sessions where once we had ‘reconnected’ and dealt with the blow up that had happened it just felt really easy and safe and just what my nervous system required. I would, of course, like to not have to keep experiencing this horrible feeling of disconnect and intense feeling of abandonment but I realise this is my work and sadly I am going to get triggered. We just need to keep meeting it and working with it when it happens.

I decided to take Anita up on the offer of the Tuesday evening session at the end of the break and adjust my holiday, so I was back in the area to see her. It seemed like a good idea, and I started the break feeling pretty good all things considered.

The break itself was pretty fine, too.

What?

Really?

Yes, really!

It was actually really fine.

I wasn’t saturated by thoughts of Anita, of missing her, or of that deep ache and longing that can happen with separation where the young parts are screaming inside and need to be picked up and held – and that was a huge relief. I thought of her, of course. She is a big part of my emotional world. But I wasn’t wracked with that desperate need to be with her, to be physically held safely by her, or repeatedly needing to reach out and find some sort of connection. We exchanged a couple of messages here and there through the holiday (I’d just got a new kitten and wanted to show her) and she initiated a few ‘I’m still here and thinking of you, sending a big hug’ type messages but otherwise I got on with my summer holiday and enjoyed myself.

I think being away in a place I love also really grounded me. Being able to be where my fondest memories of my dad and share in that with my kids did something to me inside. Em used to always want me to create visualisations to help ground me and I never could. But recently, I have found that when I feel anxious and stressed, I can close my eyes and transport myself to that special place, I can feel myself on my favourite beach with my bare feet sinking into the wet sand and water lapping my ankles. I can feel the hot sun on my back, and I feel like I am ‘held’ in nature and return to my ‘happy place’.

And that’s great.

Alongside that I am also now more able to feel Anita when I am away from her. I mean if things are really fucking triggered there’s no chance (like in that rupture where it went tits up in seconds!) but if I can catch myself when the young parts are just feeling a ‘bit’ needy in the general run of things, I can soothe myself by imagining being close to her, hearing her heartbeat, and feeling safe with her.

I can ONLY do this, of course, because I have a template for it. I KNOW how it feels for her to hold me and to be able to hear her heartbeat, for her to tell me she loves me, and to be able relax into feeling ‘safe’ – it’s in my memory not just my imagination. It’s not always easy to hook back into that when I can’t see her, but I do, at least, have a reference point now, and this is especially helped by my soft elephant that Anita washes for me at intervals.

My elephant smells like her and so when I am feeling ‘off’ I can grab it and breathe in the smell to help ground myself. It’s not just the smell of the elephant (Anita) that helps but it’s the fact that I have a therapist that will do this for me. Anita has never batted an eyelid when I asked her to wash elephant. She’s never shamed me for wanting or needing this level of connection to her and that is something I can hold in my mind when things feel bad, “Look RB you are holding a soft toy that your therapist has washed for you because she cares about you enough to want to make your separations as easy as possible”. Actions speak louder than words sometimes – and I have actions and words.

I know some people will raise eyebrows at this, but I don’t care because I know a lot of you ‘get it’ and if I am a needy weirdo then so be it, because I am certainly not alone in this. When you think about this need through the lens of child development (and of course this is something A and I do for my child parts) then it makes sense. Babies have a really powerful sense of smell. They can ‘smell’ their mothers before they can even focus in on them with sight. It’s a biological imperative. When I got sick and had to stop breastfeeding overnight to begin chemo I couldn’t be in the same room as my baby when he was due a feed because he would arch his body over to me (and the smell of breastmilk) rather than take a bottle of formula from my wife. It was awful and heart-breaking…but that’s a whole other story.

The importance of smell and how it intertwines with safety is seen as children get bigger, too. My kids both have snuggly items they sleep with. I am not ‘allowed’ to wash them because they don’t smell ‘right’ if I do. There’s something about cuddling up at bedtime with an item that is both soft and smells familiar. So, this is why elephant works for me, it’s a throwback to that young child stuff. Anita feels safe and I associate her smell with safety and elephant smells like her.

Frequently, therapists want us to conjure images of safety up out of nowhere to help us ground but when you don’t have them to draw on in the first place it is upsetting and frustrating. Em never really understood this, and insisted over and over that I must be able to think of a time I felt really safe… what she didn’t get was that at that time I didn’t need to be imagining a time I watched a comedy and felt good (do you guys remember that? GROAN!) but actually I needed to feel her, as my attachment figure, I needed to be able to connect to that/her when we were apart.

Of course, she didn’t want me to be reliant on her for any sense of emotional safety or foster ‘dependency’ and was intent on her blank slate approach and placed a cavernous distance (both physical and emotional) between us. The most she gave me was a visualisation to imagine us sitting in ‘the consulting room’ together which obviously missed the mark for the upset young parts who couldn’t understand the language of the message. Anyway, lots has changed since then – thank goodness for Anita!

So, because I can now bring to mind and almost ‘feel’ Anita I can use that when I most need it. It’s often when I am really tired at bedtime where this makes the biggest difference – again just like kids needing their comforter. I used to really struggle with that felt sense of being completely alone and abandoned at bedtime and fall into that black hole of attachment pain and doom. The physical searing sense of ulceration in my chest that and deep sick feeling in my stomach was agony. I would get more and more distressed as time went on and then fall asleep to nightmares.

I guess things being most difficult at night is because when I am tired my adult is least available but also, bedtime as a child was a time when my mum wasn’t there…for 6 years. I would put myself to bed, read my own stories, and feel chronically alone. The young parts that needed my mum and maternal nurturing had to make do with a short phone call on a Wednesday. It simply wasn’t enough.

Anyway, this is not new news.

Sooooo…the break came to an end and whilst I was looking forward to seeing Anita. I wasn’t desperate, though. In fact, I was almost late getting there. The weather had been amazing at the beach and part of me wished I hadn’t decided to come back two days early and had have stayed surfing instead.

The thing is, I never know how things will be. Breaks usually are a real trial and the idea of three weeks gap was just too much at the start of it. But by the end, well, I could easily have stayed away a bit longer. Which is why what came next is so bloody infuriating!!!

That first session back was adult, as they usually are. I brought Anita up to speed with what had been going on for the last few weeks and it was completely fine. The hour sped by and when I got up to leave, I gave her a kind of lack lustre half hug at the door. The session was, ummm, I don’t know how to put it really – it was ok – one of those ones where it wasn’t especially connecting because it wasn’t about ‘us’, it lacked any real emotional intensity or intimacy, but then at the same time it was comfortable and ok, you know? I guess the child parts weren’t ‘there’ and so it had a different quality to it.

I wish I was better at coming back from breaks and being vulnerable and could let the most vulnerable parts out, but it takes time, and unless Anita is massively attuned and guides the conversation to say something like, “It was a long break, how was it for the young parts, and how does it feel for them coming back today?” I will stay in hiding. It takes a while for my system to judge if things are still the same and if everything is ok for all the parts to come out.

When we were talking Anita asked me if I was back now and around on Friday. I sort of semi-clocked it but just shrugged it off and said “Yes” and carried on with whatever I was talking about. When I was about halfway home my phone rang, I saw it was Anita but couldn’t pick up immediately because I was driving and I don’t like driving and talking using the car phone setting as the quality is pretty shit. I pulled over and called Anita back confused. “Hi, did you mean to call me?” It was 9:30 at night so I thought maybe she’d misdialled.

No. It was deliberate.

When I had had my meltdown before the break and ‘cancelled’ everything until the 5th September she hadn’t clocked that we had clearly sorted out the rupture and I had come to my session on the Friday and booked in to see her on that Tuesday. It was a diary malfunction but OMG it set off another landmine. I didn’t say anything at the time. Anita apologised and asked if I could make a 6pm session instead. I said I could and put the phone down abruptly.

Suddenly ALL THE FEELINGS came up and my calm ‘break’ mentality was gone. Instead, I was furious and upset. Yet again, she’d booked someone in ‘my session’ time. It was a cock up and not deliberate but to the young parts and protectors it sent the message that she doesn’t keep me in mind and doesn’t have her eye on the ball.

Anita text me to apologise and thanked me for moving my session. I didn’t reply. Then the next day to make matters even worse she texted me again to ask me to move the following week’s Friday session because she’d just found out she had a funeral to attend. Part of me wanted to rage but another part of me could really see that this was just a lot of bad timing. So, I told her I could move the session and agreed a time.

By the time it reached Friday everything was a mess inside. I felt really unsettled and generally like everything was going to shit. I sent Anita a picture message about needing to talk and she replied by saying she understood but that the relationship needed to feel safe first. She’d clearly picked up on things not quite being back to how they normally are and so I asked, “How does that happen when everything feels chronically unsafe?” She sent me a hug gif and said, “Let’s talk about this this evening”.

When I arrived I was not in a great headspace. I was overtired, overwrought, and the young parts were desperate to connect but I felt like Anita wasn’t there. I felt abandoned by her (AAAARRRRGHHHH please just give me a break, already). I felt panicked and shaky and like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t look at Anita and I couldn’t let her close. I could feel everything unravelling at pace and slid off the sofa and sat on the floor with my knees up and my head in buried into the and covered my head with my arms. I was dissociative as fuck.

The only reason I know what happened in the session is because I have a recording of it. In the moment I was in complete agony. My body was trembling. I felt sick. My heart was racing. I felt like I was totally alone.

Anita and I couldn’t find each other at all. It was bloody awful. The time disappeared and it was time to go. A asked me what I was thinking and I said I felt like I wouldn’t come back. It felt that bad. Anita said she’s be sad and disappointed if I left but it just felt empty. I left feeling awful and like a baby whose mother was mis-attuned and had left the baby screaming.

It was far from ideal.

I cried all the way home from the session. I think in reality it was a culmination of the whole summer. Feeling like we hadn’t really connected properly throughout. The lack of touch. The break… I was just feeling vulnerable and needy and it’s taken a lot of time to recalibrate into the relationship…there’s more (yes MORE!) However, I’ll leave that here for now as it’s another epic post with not much to it.

I will get my shit together eventually… in all areas…but probably AFTER this current break. Two weeks… based on the above, I wonder how I’ll get on. Place your bets!

19 thoughts on “I Spoke Too Soon: Pre AND Post Therapy Break Rupture/s.

  1. SunsetCherryBlossom October 4, 2022 / 1:44 pm

    Hey RB, I was thinking it’s been a while since you posted. *Waves from the Ben and Jerry’s* . But I think the summer fading into Autumn just does that, one minute it’s buckets and spades then suddenly you’re decking the balls with boughs of holly (fa la la la la!) and you’ve no idea where the time went.
    Still so envious you have elephant and that he’s washed for you. That is lovely. And honestly, you got this, you know that. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum October 4, 2022 / 2:00 pm

      Thanks lovely. Yes. It all feels ages ago now. The post has been lingering in my laptop for months so I just gave up and posted. So much more stuff has happened and I’m losing track. Think this poor blog is like the Magic Faraway Tree when the roots get attacked by trolls. It’s slowly dying. I need to find time (!) to write ✍️ but you know what it’s like… endlessly hectic. Hugs x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. SH October 5, 2022 / 4:10 am

    Sending love! We’re on a therapy break. Clara’s and your posts have helped me see that me and my system need (I wanted to not type “need”) more attachment stuff before a therapy break, and maybe a therapy contract. 3 weeks (out of 4 weeks) left to go…

    Liked by 1 person

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum October 5, 2022 / 11:07 am

      Gosh that is a very long break. Thinking of you all. And yes contracting for what happens in and around breaks might be a really good idea. Take good care xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Clara October 5, 2022 / 1:42 pm

    Breaks are really flipping poo! It sounds like outside the breaks have been rubbish too. I’m sorry things feel so unsettled. I can empathise with the feelings around the slot being your slot. Ella made a comment recently about my break and could I let her knew a few days in advance if I did decide to go as she had a client who she could fit into my place and I was so upset. Sending big hugs 💜

    Liked by 2 people

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum October 5, 2022 / 2:22 pm

      Oh love. It’s hard isn’t it? Adult gets it but the child that feels so easily forgettable and replaceable struggles. I haven’t told A about that yet. She’s not back for a few weeks but text me today to check in so feel ok – other than being off work with a sick bug now. Honestly, been sick in one way or other for three weeks now. Thinking of you x

      Liked by 2 people

      • SH October 6, 2022 / 2:05 pm

        Hugs, definitely relatable! After this therapy break, my first session back will be on the same day but an hour earlier “because someone else needs that” and I’m bothered by that. Can’t remember if its just 1 time or a permanent new timing.

        An evergreen blog post I return to over and over on this “therapy sibling rivalry” issue: https://boundaryninjatales.com/2013/01/18/sorting-the-past/

        Liked by 1 person

      • SH October 6, 2022 / 2:07 pm

        Oh shoot, I think my other comment went to spam. It has a link to a really great blog post on this subject of “therapy-sibling rivalry”.

        Liked by 1 person

    • SH October 6, 2022 / 2:06 pm

      Sending big hugs to you Clara!

      Like

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum October 6, 2022 / 7:04 am

      It’s hard isn’t it? Knowing your patterns but still getting completely side swiped. It’s great when you can catch yourself before it gets bad but so often for me something triggers and I’m instantly gone there’s no one foot in adult! X

      Liked by 1 person

  4. behindapaintedsmile30 October 8, 2022 / 4:34 pm

    Yes breaks are shit. I try to see them as a necessary evil, but they are still agonising.
    I think it would be beneficial to commit to putting a plan for breaks before the next one. Maybe brainstorm some things before A comes back. Needing her to ask about the young parts in that first session is so important and not something that A will know unless you ask for it. Assuming that A keeps notes, she needs to know about what you need before you have to resort to messaging her about it where I think it gets lost in the arguing. I do believe that that ruptures play a part in therapy, but I wonder how healing they are when they take place outside of the therapy room when you can’t see or hear A. I’m glad to see that A remains steady in those situations, but it’s awful to know how much distress you are in.
    I understand how angry you are about the 9.30 thing and it’s definitely something that you discuss with A. She shouldn’t have let that slip over a message. I do wonder whether that particular client has moved their sessions over the summer to enable A to move your sessions. Maybe that client couldn’t do 10am because of their own circumstances so A agreed to 9.30am knowing that it was temporary. I have no idea how A’s practice works, but it’s possible.
    Sending hugs and a quick end to the break 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum October 10, 2022 / 8:12 pm

      When the wheels fall off they seem to fall off all four at once, these days, rather than a single puncture or blow out… but equally rather than limping on painfully for miles and miles things turn around really quickly and I am back on the road motoring along. There is a level of freedom in knowing I can lose my shit and let the feelings be as they are with A and we’ll figure them out and get through it. I have spent so many years worrying about my feelings or whether they’d be too much (with Em) that even though the ruptures feel big with A in the moment they aren’t all that bad really. In lots of ways it’s cathartic letting the parts all have their voice and be how it is in the moment. I know A and I are solid and so that means that I can bring the mess and the chaos. The 9:30 thing upset me because of the fact we don’t do longer sessions know why she will have done it – adult does. In the big scheme of things none of these things are massive problems…but it is important that the young parts can bring it to her….WHEN SHE FINALLY GETS BACK FROM HER BREAK!!!

      Like

      • behindapaintedsmile30 October 15, 2022 / 3:05 pm

        I know, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have it out with A! It’s all part of it and so important to be open.
        It’s more sometimes about the adult part of you reassuring the younger parts about the things that you do know for certain just as a bit of relief, especially during a break. Of course with it all being backed up by A as confirmation for those younger parts. Eventually we want to be able to trust that adult voice. I certainly do anyway!
        I know that sometimes there seems to have to be a few things that have piled up before the younger parts feel able to say ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘you have hurt me’. And yes, A definitely needs to explain the 9.30 thing and for the younger parts to be able to grieve the loss of the longer sessions. I hope that you’re now at the end of the evil break! x

        Like

  5. Q October 12, 2022 / 10:03 pm

    Ugh, therapy breaks!! There are just no adequate words.

    You did amazingly well over the break, and I hope you can still see that as immense progress, despite the turmoil after she came back. I absolutely get how much it can throw you off to have the time of your session changed. I felt that way about my sessions with E as well. In fact, when I read about your experiences, you make them so vivid that I can feel all the emotions, except I connect them to my relationship with E. You are lucky though that you have Anita, who gets it, rather than E, who didn’t/couldn’t. Or Em, ugh, who punished you for having the very normal emotional reactions of a traumatized person.

    I’m sending hugs. And remember that I am always cheering for you and forever telling you, “You are not needy! Your emotions are valid!” xxoo

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