So – it’s been a very BIG month, or so, with Anita and therapy. I mean, wow – talk about rupture! I will try telling you all about it as ‘calm me’ after you first see the ‘not calm me’ below, in a sec (which was written in the thick of it) but since ‘calm me’ is now back online all that transpired has all gone a bit hazy – or deliberately dissociated?! I feel like I might be a bit of an unreliable narrator now (no change there, then!). And since things are largely resolved and settled again it is hard dragging my mind back to the stress of the rupture and the detail of it.
I’m in that post-Christmas fog of procrastination and borderline depression, too, so I need to be careful not to pick at a scab (throwing myself back in to remembering details of the horror) when it’s still a long time until I actually get to see Anita again because man, I am really feeling the ache right now. I really miss Anita (no surprises there!) and am consciously trying to ensure I don’t fall down the hole of doom when there’s still 10 days until I see A again…10 DAYS. Argh!
Still, I thought I would write a post today (beware it is absolutely mammoth) to try and keep a log and update where I am at because it all moved so fast, is more-or-less resolved, and I realise that I won’t have logged this at all. Next week work will be back up and running and I’ll be busy, busy, busy again so it’s now or never. This blog was always intended to be an online therapy diary, but over the last year I have had less and less time to write and so I don’t really know what it is anymore…a webspace I pay for?! Lol! I have noticed that lots of people I follow are writing less regularly these days, but I am always glad to see their posts when they show up on my reader, so I hope that that is still the case with this blog.
Anyway, I have just got to the computer and seen that this is not the first time I have tried to start a post about the rupture. Ummm, that’s news to me! Shit… I know I was dissociated and it’s been a very bonkers time with two sick kids, a broken-down boiler, car packing up… [insert endless list of mishaps HERE]… as well as my therapy falling out its arse all before Christmas break, but really? What the actual fuck is/was going on in my poor little brain? Ah, yes, system meltdown. My absolute favourite.
This…this…’mess’..below…well I don’t even remember typing it! I can see how disjointed it is. How panicked it feels…and yet, as I said, I have no recollection whatsoever of writing it. So, here it is. It won’t make sense, it doesn’t even make sense to me! But I think it’s interesting to see just how bad it gets on an unfiltered level. So, bear with me – I’ll, (usual blogging RB) be back after this:
Honest to fucking god, I think I’ve done it this time. Just lock me up and throw away the fucking key where therapy is concerned because, frankly, I’m shit at it and shouldn’t be let loose on therapists… I feel sick. I’ve had the ‘therapy’ shits (ffs!). My heart is racing. Basically, my nervous system is in free fall and my body is freaking out.
So, here I am again. Facing down a massive rupture. But this one feels really scary…usually I meltdown and Anita is solid – but she’s wobbled this week. She doesn’t feel grounded. She is frustrated and that doesn’t feel safe AT ALL. The end of that session was – bizarre, to say the least. I can’t believe she just cut it dead like that. How did she think I would react? You can’t just randomly drop information like ‘I know I’m going to be getting married at some point and I don’t know what I’ll be doing’ in an argument, three minutes before the end of an already hideous session -and there not be some fall out.
I’ve listened to the session on my way home, and she says all the right things, but it just feels like empty words. Like it’s therapist 101 not the Anita I have a relationship with. To the outside world it probably feels and sounds fine…but it’s not…It feels like she’s distancing. And the end – well that was just a fucking disaster.
And that was where it ended….my typing in the moment freak out. But how did I get there?
I had been having a panic about something that had happened between a friend and her therapist– I was basically fearing that the same would happen to me and Anita and it had sent the child parts into a right state. I didn’t tell A about it in the week between sessions because I felt it could wait. But by Thursday evening I was really desperate to reconnect with Anita and see her in person to ‘confirm’ everything was still ok and to settle those panicking parts…and basically have a cuddle. The week had been hard – everything was tough, you know? Like every day was like trudging through treacle. I even managed to slam my finger in my car door! It was just one of those weeks.
Then, Anita cancelled our session Friday session last minute late Thursday night. I didn’t actually see the message until I woke up on Friday morning. I was gutted. And so I think that maybe acted as a catalyst for the acceleration into this rupture but it wasn’t the reason for it. I wasn’t angry that she was sick or anything, she can’t help that, and I really understood her need to cancel. In fact, that day I ended up taking a nap on the couch for two hours when I would have been driving to and from therapy, so it wasn’t like I sat crying about it. However, what the last-minute cancellation meant was that I had more time to work myself up about whether A and I were still solid because there was now going to be a longer gap between sessions.
The Monday session was a bit meh, it was hard to connect, and I left feeling disappointed because I think essentially ‘False Adult’ had taken over when I really really needed for A and I to be close. It was that annoying thing where the momentum of the therapy was interrupted and the need had ramped up, but alongside that so had the fear of being too much and so I failed to allow A in.
Things felt really crap and on Tuesday I sent Anita a message that on reflection didn’t make it massively explicit what was wrong as it was wedged between nothing stuff. Anita didn’t see it and didn’t reply. But from my side all I got was radio silence from her. No, “I hear you, I am here, let’s talk about this properly on Friday” or “We’re fine, I promise”. Just nothing. On Thursday night I was worked up and texted – “Are you ok?” No reply. Then in the morning a few minutes before our session, “Yes, just really busy”. Ffs we’ve been here before. Too ‘busy’ to pay attention, running about like a headless chicken, dropping balls…I sent a message, “I don’t want to come today”…and she obviously didn’t check her phone.
The message wasn’t an “I’m not coming” it was really a “I don’t want to come because I can’t face any more of the feeling of you letting me drift away and us not connecting”. I did go to session, though. I hoped that at least being in the room would enable us to talk things out. I arrived both angry (teen) and anxious (little ones). I sat down and just froze. Silent. Ugh. Not this again. I reached for Anita’s hand and started crying. Told her I felt like I was drowning, and she was just standing watching. I told her that it felt like everything was broken. “It doesn’t have to be broken” she soothed. But it just felt so fucking crap – I was too far gone.
In a barely audible whisper, I asked for a story and of course Anita got the pile of books from the table and asked me which one I wanted. I said I didn’t mind and she selected, ‘Dragon Loves Penguin’ which is a REALLY lovely book that we’ve had for a couple of months now. We’ve read it quite few times and the child parts ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. The story is really beautiful, and it’s been so connecting. BUT not this time.
Yep. My longstanding best-friend decided that today was the day to bulldoze the very thing that is so helpful in connecting young parts to Anita.
It all started to go wrong when Anita didn’t invite me in for a cuddle when she opened the book – or I didn’t shuffle in like I might usually…I was already in a state of freeze, though, and really needed her to reach out to me. As Anita began to read, I felt more and more distant from her and more and more distressed.
Why did I suddenly feel shame listening to a story with Anita after so many years of listening to stories snuggled in close to her? Even after listening to this very story several times in the last couple of months? Well, the previous week we’d been reading and cuddling and generally just talking and she’d said something about me having a massive inner child. It wasn’t meant unkindly, rather it was acknowledging the vulnerability of the young parts and the need. But you know how it is. There’s always that internal searchlight scanning for change in the relationship, change in Anita, change in how she feels towards me…and my system clocked ‘massive’ as a potential negative and obviously put it in the bank for later.
That later was this story time. I wish I had been able to tell Anita what was going on when she asked what was wrong/happening – but I was deep down in the shame zone, drowning in the dark by then. And so, it all started unravelling from there. RB was triggered and off we went down a road that really wasn’t a lot of fun. I felt upset that Anita didn’t seem to be ‘there’ (she was there) and trying to ‘connect’ (she was trying) but you know how it is when things feel really bad. It can feel like you’re on the other side of the world to the person sitting barely two feet from you and there seems no way to bridge the gap. This distance always makes me feel abandoned even when Anita isn’t abandoning me and so EVERYTHING she says gets filtered through a lens of mistrust and fear.
I’d been sitting there silent internally crying out for her but externally stonewalling her. At one point Anita asked me what I get from therapy – it was an open question but it felt accusatory. Like “Why are you even here?” A snarling, angry, (hurting) teen part replied, “Oh, I don’t know, nightmares, anxiety, and panic attacks!” Anita took that and seemed to run with it without realising it was coming from the hurt teen who felt unseen and abandoned and was lashing out.
Anita said it wasn’t ok, and if therapy is detrimental to me then we needed to look at that. Which is all perfectly reasonable but to the part that was freaking out it came over as if A was about to dump me/us. Anita later asked, “What keeps you in therapy?” – this kind of question made me wonder what the fuck is going on and who the hell is sitting in front of me. Like she surely knows, right? Surely, she must know after all these years WHY I am there. Because I love her, am attached to her, and want to heal my mother wound through our relationship. Because therapy is helping me work through this EXACT shit. That her steady, consistent support is allowing ALL of my parts to come to therapy and do the work (even if it is fucking cringey). But when she asked the question, I could say nothing. When the child parts are feeling like abandonment is imminent there is no chance of me saying that to her.
And then it went SOUTH in a big way. I said that I felt she’d changed (she has changed the boundaries this year and is less responsive than she used to be due to changes in her personal life) and she said she hadn’t changed, that she didn’t feel like she’d changed. Then said that perhaps there was a pattern developing because I had felt similar with Em. She said that I had been anxious and panicked whilst seeing Em and stayed. What Anita meant by that and how I received it were worlds apart. She was coming at it from a place of not wanting me to stay in something that was damaging for me (if that was what was going on) BUT how I heard it? Oh my fucking god!
I was absolutely raging. I felt so upset that she seemed to be suggesting that this was a ‘me problem’ and that the common denominator is me and therefore it must be me that’s causing these issues and ruptures. I was silent for a bit but also so fucking angry. I told Anita I felt insulted because the relationship I had with Em and the relationship she and I have built are poles apart. Yes, the same issues are coming up but fuckkk it is just not the same. Anyway, my angry teen part went to town. It escalated and after telling me she might not be around forever, and that she was going to get married soon (great time to throw that in the mix!), A shut down the session really abruptly at the end (SHE HAS NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE). I told her it was bullshit and left. She was clearly frustrated, and a bit rattled at the end – actually it turns out she was anxious.
Looking back now, actually I think what I can see coming from all this is two people converging on something that escalated and there was a lot of transference and countertransference. I don’t like ruptures AT ALL but having now worked our way through the bracken and weeds and back onto a clearer path I can see that really it comes from care: my not wanting to lose A, and A not wanting to hurt me. But being human can be incredibly messy at times and things got worse before they got better.
When I got home, I decided to make a voice note to send to Anita trying to outline what the fuck had just happened and why I was so upset. Despite it feeling really bad it wasn’t so bad that I thought we were done. I guess that’s the one thing I can always land on or take comfort in. No matter how bonkers I feel, or what I throw at Anita, I don’t think she’s ever going to do an Em on me. I feel safe enough to really ‘bring it’ to her and feel confident enough that we will come out the other side.
By the time I had done that and sent it I saw a message on my phone from Anita:
I feel really sad that we ran out of time this morning and wondered if you would like to speak on the phone later today or I have a free slot at midday tomorrow?
That went some way to alleviating the panic of needing to wait until Friday to begin to sort stuff out but also showed me that A recognised that how things had been in that session/how we had left it wasn’t great and that it wouldn’t be ideal leaving it for the rest of the week. This was also sent before I had sent her my voice message. Basically, it showed me that even when it is messy and difficult, she’s still there and still cares. I asked to see her in person on the Tuesday as it really felt like we needed to be f-2-f to work this stuff out and I didn’t think a phone call would cut it when a sense of physical connection is so important to be able to even talk.
The session on Tuesday began with a long cuddle the moment I arrived. I started crying and felt so sad but also really relieved to be there. Anita and I sat down on the sofa, she opened her arms up and welcomed me in for a cuddle. If only that had happened in the last session! We said nothing for ten minutes, I just listened to heartbeat and eventually our breathing was in time and it felt calmer. Then I said, “I don’t want to lose you.” She replied, “I know.” Which did absolutely nothing to allay my fears about things going down the shitter and her wanting to find a way to end. My heart started to race again, and I felt a sense of panic flood my system.
Everything was so easily triggered.
Anita said she was concerned and was worried that the therapy was becoming detrimental for me. She then said something about wondering about growth. This pissed me right off, but you’ll see why in the letter that I wrote later…because in my view there is a LOT of growth. She was trying to find words and basically said the absolute kicker – that lodged like a thorn in my brain for weeks. She said something about wondering if I had become “too dependent” and then corrected herself and said “no, that’s not the right words.” But this ‘thinking out loud’ at that particular time was not what I needed to hear. She told me a bit later that she had thought that this rupture had been caused wholly by her cancelling the session the other week and had run off down a path of thinking that I was stuck because I was freaking out over her having one day off sick and that her not being available had sent me into a massive spiral and it that she felt like it was going backwards. Of course that wasn’t the case at all!!
At this point I didn’t know where all this crap was coming from. All I had heard so far was “where’s the growth”, “I feel like we’re stuck” and “maybe it’s become too dependent.” I felt really hurt but also really confused because ostensibly my needs haven’t changed. It has been Anita that has changed, her life that’s become more demanding, her that has become more thinly stretched – and as a result it is my therapy that has suffered the consequences of that. We don’t do the longer sessions anymore (that were so containing and helpful) and we have way less between session contact than before (again removing a level of containment).
These changes haven’t happened because I no longer need longer sessions or contact. It hasn’t been something we’ve contracted for or mutually agreed. It’s been something that’s been done because Anita’s life and capacity changed so dramatically last year. I realise I still get a lot more than most people in my therapy and so I would never leave based on those changes, but it seemed really unfair to say I was (potentially) too dependent when actually she gives me less now and I have stop asking for what I used to have.
To be honest, when it was all coming out it felt ‘off’ but it still hurt because I couldn’t really work out where this was all coming from. What was going on really didn’t feel like it was about ‘us’ in lots of ways. On my side it was certainly a re-enactment of stuff around my mum. I was feeling unseen, unimportant, and just vulnerable as hell. It’s also a shit time of year because it’s around this time that the wheels started to massively fall off with Em. Naturally I am hypervigilant, but at this time of year I am poised for another ‘tick’ situation. And a ‘too dependent’ came pretty close, I can tell you!
And for Anita, the stuff she was saying (it turns out) wasn’t about me. Really it came back round to her family’s endless demands on her, and her feeling trapped by her mum’s level of need. It was countertransference 101. It’s easier to make a client who you see 2 hours a week and has a need the problem though, rather than fully acknowledge that the family member who has made your life unrecognisable from what it was a 18 months ago and now lives with you makes you feel trapped and stuck. It wasn’t me and Anita that were “stuck” and it wasn’t me that was making her feel “trapped.” Anita is usually so ‘together’ and ‘grounded’ but she wasn’t – but I can understand it. I guess my needing her or my feeling like she’s not there when she feels like she is giving me all that she can probably feels frustrating when she has such a lot going on.
Arguably, this shouldn’t have happened. But at the same time, it is a very real and human relationship, and it takes place in real time. As much as we’d like to think therapists have completely got their shit together and are totally ‘on it’ so far as knowing what’s going on with them, I do think we all have blind spots. Fortunately, like I say, there is a strong enough foundation to our relationship that we can weather the storms and talk things through and afterwards it feels like we’ve made another load of progress.
It’s not comfortable by any means but it is another lesson in ‘you can go through hard things, act up, act out, shout, and it doesn’t mean the relationship will end…and not everything that happens is always about you and not everything is your fault’. I would rather Anita be able to put her hands up and tell me what’s going on when we have these things happen (when she is aware of it!) than have a situation like with Em where stuff would happen and I’d be completely in the dark and left thinking everything was always my fault because she was such a blank screen – or the fact she’d blame me for everything!
Anyway, we limped along for a few sessions. I was so exhausted with work, end of term, life…that there was one session where I just turned up and said, “Can we just be together today. I am too exhausted for this, and it can wait.” And so we had a lovely hour of cuddles, gentle chat, and stories. I get how nuts that sounds. To be in the thick of a rupture and then go, “Ah fuck it, it’ll work out, we are ok really, let’s just catch our breath!” But that is the lovely thing about where Anita and I have got to. It is safe enough to do this. We can have a rupture. I know it’ll repair. On a core level no matter what’s being thrown up, and what chaos I am working out, underneath Anita is there, my rabbit that listens.
I do wonder if I sound completely unhinged. Like how can I hold so many seemingly opposing ideas at the same time?! Ruptures used to absolutely terrify me. My nervous system still gets thrown through a loop even now. It’s old programming. But there is a toe out of the water that knows there’s dry land and I am not going to be fully swept away by the storm. So, yes, parts of me freak out, have their reactions, go through the motions of it all…but there is another part that’s like, “RB you are ok. No matter what happens, you’ll be ok…because you have YOU now.”
Anyway, after a gentle couple of sessions I built myself up to tell Anita that she had hurt me with her comment about “too dependent”. It was about three minutes before the end of the session (nice one RB!) and I was snuggled into her chest when I said it. Anita went rigid and then swore blind she hadn’t used those words. But of course, she had…even if she’d corrected herself immediately and there was no intention of hurting me. The session ended and I went home and typed up a letter than I decided I would send as a voice note. It had been several weeks since everything had started and I felt like I wanted to get stuff of my chest.
It is not always easy to do that in session. Especially when young parts are so present. So, here’s what I wrote and sent to her:
What I’m left with-
Is it really only since you got sick you feel we’re ‘stuck’? Has it really just gone to shit in two weeks?
You said I was “too dependent” and although you backtracked and said “maybe that’s not the right words” that’s sent waves through my system because I don’t know how to fix that other than take myself away and I really don’t want to do that because that is the very last thing I need. I know you said it because you thought my meltdown or struggling to reconnect had come from you being poorly – it wasn’t – but even if it was that it feels like a really shaming thing to say. I do know that’s not how you would have intended it to come across but also using words like “unhealthy” as well just really hurt me. And adult me can sidestep it but the younger parts do feel hurt and so I need to tell you.
I can already feel the protectors stepping in to protect the vulnerable parts from being hurt more- I already feel a lot of shame about my “huge” inner child (again something I don’t think was meant to be shaming but it’s how I received it and that impacted how it felt reconnecting after you were sick) but I genuinely thought it was ok with you to work with this really vulnerable needy stuff.
I was struggling to feel like I was in the room with you the other Monday when it all blew up. I asked for a story because I felt like I was floating away, you started reading, and I could just feel myself face plant in shame and instead of feeling closer to you, I dissociated – because I felt too much, and that the inner child need was too “huge”, and it really went downhill thereafter. I really like listening to you read stories and so this felt absolutely hideous because it’s been something that’s really helped, does help, but in that moment it felt like I was pathetic and too needy.
I feel stupid. I’ve heard that “too dependent” (and you did say it) as young parts are not welcome, that I’m not ‘growing up’ quickly enough and obviously it’s all too much. I now really worry it’s going to be a problem this Christmas if I so much as struggle with the break (and of course I will struggle because duh – two weeks at this time of year always feels hard – it’s a time when I am acutely reminded of exactly what I don’t have). I’m worried that my missing you or having a reaction to you being gone now makes you feel ‘trapped’ and want to get away from me and so then that sets off a panic you’ll take the care away/step back even more.
This happened on Friday just gone – you told me about your Christmas break and I felt myself freeze – not because you are will be away but I was panicking that you will find me having any kind of reaction to it “too dependent” or “unhealthy” and that’s just fucking awful. I feel I have to hide what I am feeling so that I don’t get branded negatively and that sucks.
Even if I had have had a meltdown about the cancelled session the other week in the way you think I did (rather than panicking about what had happened to my friend maybe happening with you)- I think the issue is less about being too dependent but what or who is being triggered by you being gone suddenly. Why is that young part so affected and impacted by separation? Is it really being too dependent and therefore deficient – or does it make sense in the context of a caregiver being unexpectedly absent, unavailable, and un-contactable. We both know this comes back to my mum and my childhood – years of hanging on for Friday and feeling profoundly lost and lonely in the week…and then of course, my dad just dropping dead and never seeing him again three days into a separation doesn’t help.
I have spent a lifetime hanging on to see people I love and then being overlooked or forgotten about or worse, them never returning. It might not seem logical or proportionate of a response when I struggle with your absence but it is rooted in trauma and it feels really shaming to think there are things I might do that are seen as ‘too dependent’ and ‘unhealthy’ because I can’t help how I feel and I should be able to bring that to you if it was the case – it doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it. You can’t help getting sick, you are more than entitled to take time off, have holidays – be a human – but equally my reaction (if there was one) doesn’t make our relationship suddenly unhealthy, stuck, or problematic. And again – adult me can see how much of a reaction I am having to all this and that it’s all going to be ok…but the young parts are less certain.
And this is really evident – with this bit I wrote a couple of weeks ago because I know that you are still here- mostly, it’s felt fine the last couple of sessions, but it really didn’t the other week – and this is what I said:
I feel embarrassed and ashamed to have let you see that need for you when it’s now seemingly ‘too much’. I don’t know where you are. Where is the Anita that talked about going to the beach and having an ice cream so the little parts could just play and be kids for once, the one who said she wanted to tuck the young parts up in bed safe and take all the pain away, who said I didn’t need to stay out in the cold anymore, that her cupboards were full of chocolate, that said she understood trauma doesn’t always work on a timetable, that said I was easy to love and who kissed me on the head and held me close and said she didn’t want to let me go and could hold me forever, who noticed when I felt cold or shaky, the A who washes my elephant and bought me a beating heart necklace because you know separation is hard and hearing your heart beat makes me feel safe, and the squishmallow, the bunny that represented the rabbit that listened, a salt lamp to help me sleep… so many things… the A that reads stories- where did she go this week? Part of me feels like I’m insane and imagining a relationship that simply doesn’t exist. But those things have been said and happened – so what happened this week?
All that steady acceptance and reassurance and relationship building that you did, we’ve done, made it feel safe to bring the small parts to session so why am I now too dependent? Why is it now stuck? It’s years of relational trauma that needs working through in this therapy. I’m not getting a divorce! I’m not a bit stressed out at work. I’m not feeling a bit lacking in self-esteem. And there are loads of parts and therefore lots of perspectives, fears, and triggers. It will take time. There will be hard times it doesn’t mean it’s stuck or unhealthy.
Do you still love me… and the parts you worked so hard at connecting with? And if so, can you please explain that to them again and reassure them because right now they’ve got another mother figure who can’t tolerate their need and is leaving them alone and seemingly feels trapped. And I know you’re not my mum, you’re not my family, I wish you were. As I’ve said lots of times, you’ve given me a better experience of mothering than I ever had growing up which is why this all feels so confusing and painful now.
And yes, I get I need to parent these parts by myself but I am trying but I have needed it modelled to me. I’ve needed your care and compassion to begin to feel any compassion towards myself. But whether you like it or not- you are my attachment figure. And right now, I don’t want anyone else and I don’t think we’re done. And unfortunately for you, I do think you are the right person for me.
When you asked me what I get from this- I was upset and hurt and told you it was anxiety, panic, and nightmares. That’s definitely something that teen part experiences and has been really present at times lately. But there’s clearly more than that. If it was only that I wouldn’t have stayed. There is no way I would stay if I genuinely thought a pattern was repeating and it was heading the way things with Em went. But how things are with you and how they were with her couldn’t be more different. What do I get from this? I thought I was getting a relationship with you. I believed you loved me. I believed that you were safe to heal wound with, venture into that egg yolk with… and now I’m not sure if I’m even welcome and would you just let me go?
One day are you just going to tell me it’s over?…because I don’t get how we can have been through all this together and it just be in my head that this relationship means something – that this is just run of the mill therapy. I don’t believe it for one second. This therapy doesn’t look like anyone else’s I know. But then perhaps I am just delusional.
Also. Please know you are interacting with lots of parts right now. I can even feel the shifts as I’m writing this now. As I said, the teen has been about in a massive way that week and she is fucking angry but underneath she’s just really hurting and crying “please not again” and wants to connect. Yes- I have had nightmares and panic attacks and God knows what else but it doesn’t mean that’s all there is- but in that moment for that teen that’s how it felt. I need you to recognise that, and not panic that suddenly everything is detrimental for me and that this isn’t working. That teen needs to be heard but also, I need you to hold that in the wider frame of all of me. Sometimes I think it isn’t very clear who is in front of you but maybe ask. Because my quiet can be for lots of reasons…or for none at all! And whilst I can be really grumpy – there’s plenty of times when I tell you how much I value you, and love you, too because more than anything they are the dominant feelings.
And so, here’s some questions- Why does it make me too dependent to want you in my life? Why would I actually choose to have to not have you in my life when I have experienced so many losses already? It feels human to need to connect not wrong. I can’t help that you’re ‘just’ my therapist. I wish I could turn myself into a robot so not care about you or the relationship we’ve created and turn off my feelings when I’m not in the room …but I am not a robot, I’m a person and you’re a person too. I’m not wrong for how I feel and yet all of a sudden something that felt so good feels dangerous – and that’s how it spirals down. I don’t want to be too much. And I don’t want to feel like we’re broken. You usually sound so steady and certain when I am wobbling but you didn’t the other week.
And the thing about growth or lack of it- really feels quite shaming and insulting too. On Friday you said it was about ‘reviewing’ but when it was all going off it didn’t feel like a review, it felt like a threat or an ultimatum – your ‘concern’ came across in a way that made me feel like you didn’t see me or understand where things were. I shouldn’t need to justify why I am still in therapy or explain- and for you to insinuate or worry that there’s no growth because you thought I’d had a meltdown about our session being cancelled feels really shit. I shouldn’t feel like I am taking too long or not doing therapy right or not working hard enough – but that’s what that implies to me. Where is the growth? It’s fucking everywhere!
I’m sorry if my fear of abandonment flares up and my child parts still need stories and hugs. I’m sorry if I like being with you and feel like these hours each week help me actually just survive in the world. I’m sorry I’m not someone who rapidly transforms and fucks off into the sunset after six neat, easy sessions. I’m sorry that I need a deep and authentic connection. I’m sorry that my trying to repair a completely broken and fragmented structurally dissociated system has led to you feeling me too dependent and you now seem resentful of that.
Where’s the growth? I came to you with an eating disorder that had been rife for twenty years, where I had never once achieved a healthy BMI and been stuck in chronically underweight anorexic state. My body image was so screwed up. I had systematically starved myself for years, used exercise as a weapon and my inner critic was rampant. That voice has settled so much and I’m now in a healthy weight range. I eat what I want when I want and even though I’ve put on loads of weight I just bought bigger clothes – I didn’t try and go back. I accepted it. That’s huge on its own.
I haven’t self-harmed in years – even when the urge has been there, I’ve chosen a healthy option. I have reached out for help believing I was worthy of love and care rather than punishing myself.
I am able to work and manage my kids despite the stress of it all and always being up against it.
The constant fear of my cancer returning has eased a bit and I feel like I am more present in my life and can enjoy things where I never used to feel anything other than ‘I should enjoy this. I should feel something’.
I can actually tell you how I feel rather than keeping everything inside – you may think I don’t talk, or shut down and keep you out, but I have told you such a lot. I can be angry with you – I genuinely believed I wasn’t ever angry as it wasn’t an emotion I connected with but I do now. Not because you make me angry(!) but I feel safe to express anger with you. So that’s good- even if you don’t like me shouting at you and telling you everything is bullshit … that is massive progress and growth. I could never express that kind of thing as a kid. I’d have been flattened. But growth too is also telling you all the feelings – it takes a lot to tell someone you love them, especially when there’s a good chance they’ll reject you for it. I’m scared now that my telling you that ‘I love you’ is my being too dependent and that actually makes me want to cry.
I had started to believe what happened with Em was not my fault – that I’m not actually a tick because you loved me and therefore there must be good in me. Now I’m not sure- so perhaps that is a sliding back but it’s not surprising when it’s been like this this week.
So growth? My growth and healing isn’t necessarily obvious (although lots of people say they see a big change in me). It’s the deep deep wounding that’s repairing. I didn’t come to therapy with a surface wound. You can’t see a scab forming. But deep inside there’s so much change. It’s like a tree in winter. It looks fucked and dead above ground, but so many roots are stretching out beneath the earth ready to send nutrients up in spring to grow and create a canopy of leaves and fruit. It’s not spring yet but it’s not stuck or dead. I want to be an oak with huge, strong roots that can weather any storm rather than a tree with a shallow root system that will get battered by the slightest bit of wind…and that is what is happening…even if you can’t see it.
Sometimes stuff happens and it looks like I’m back to square one…but I’m not. I would hope you would know all this and I’m sad that my expressing upset and telling you how stuff has been has made you think it’s crap. I don’t know what to say but I need you to recognise my growth even because sometimes I can’t and be proud of that and celebrate that change with me. I don’t need you to shame me because there’s change and growth that hasn’t come yet. I’m a tortoise not a hare. And I know you aren’t shaming me, it’s my response…
You asked what keeps me in therapy? I do. You do. How I feel about you keeps me in therapy. My attachment to you keeps me in therapy. But not because I am stuck but because I feel like our relationship does me good. I love you. And the love has made huge shifts in me and how I perceive myself. And I’m sorry if that’s too much or makes you feel trapped or that I’m too dependent. I never wanted to make you feel like that.
You said once you were like a boomerang because no matter how much I push you away you’ll keep coming back. I am worried I have broken you in half and now you’re just a stick. I hope not.
So that was an outpouring from so many different parts – you can clearly see how fixated I got on some of the words Anita had said even though Adult me knew what she meant and her intention. The issue, though, is therapy isn’t just for my adult self…and that’s why it gets so messy.
Anita listened to the message. She really heard what I had to say. And we really processed what’s happened together. I mean talk about ‘the work’. Fortunately, we got the bulk of this out the way before Christmas and left feeling connected and safe. And to be honest, writing this out and reading it all…I think I just feel a bit like, ‘WTAF happened?!’…I think another thing I am going to have to really look at is my menstrual cycle…because guess when this all kicked off? Yeah – ‘then’.
I am not enjoying the Christmas break AT ALL. I have been struggling quite a lot but also really conscious of not reaching out to Anita unnecessarily (I will talk to her about this on the 9th). However, what was really lovely was that on Christmas day she reached out and sent me a message on WhatsApp first. It was a GIF saying Merry Christmas and a message sending ‘lots of love xx’ This in addition to the lovely Christmas gift she sent really helped settle the young parts that just miss her A LOT. Yesterday I sent her a message with a quote from a book that I gave her for Christmas called ‘The Journey’ by James Norbury, the second book in his series about the two friends Big Panda and Tiny Dragon (I highly recommend both):
and today she has sent me some photographs of a place she’s been. It feels good…although obviously I wish I could see her in person!
Anyway, this was a really long long post which really could be summarised by this:
RB wobbled in November/December. It should have been called ‘Rupture Season’ not ‘Christmas Season’ 2022. This year RB and Anita had a humdinger. But it’s all ok. They got through it. Oh, and C-PTSD is hardwork!
If you made it to the end of this – there really did ought to be a prize. Wishing you all a happy new year…let’s see what 2023 brings eh?!
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