The final face-to-face session before lockdown…

The last session before the separation for lockdown was not quite as I expected it would be – well not to begin with anyway! Fortunately, Anita and I had, again, booked in a longer session (75 mins) so that hopefully things could end feeling as held and contained as possible. I’m so glad we had arranged this because the weekend leading into the Monday session threw up some real-life adulting shit that was massively unsettling and destabilising for me. I can’t really say what it is about in much detail because it’s so specific it would be highly identifying. Needless to say, though, I am so over significant health stresses that can have an impact on our financial security and stability. Ugh.

I had text Anita on the Saturday when I found out the situation with my wife so she knew what was coming on Monday and we spent the first ten minutes talking about this unexpected crisis. Adult, or False Adult, was there joking her way through it all – upbeat. I tend to do this when something very scary is happening in my here and now. I do that buzzy ‘it’ll be fine’ stuff when actually inside I am crumbling and terrified. FFS!

And then it just stopped. Silence. I’ve noticed I do this a lot. I just run out of performance and realise that I don’t need to do this with A. Sure, it was important to me to talk about what had happened but actually I didn’t need to do it in the ‘make light of it’ way because there is no bright side to this situation. It’s utterly crap.

After a minute of saying nothing and feeling the energy drain out my body, I just whispered, ‘I don’t really know what to say…’ all the animation had gone from my voice. It was just flat – which was exactly how I was feeling. The reality of having to navigate the next few months with a significant stress hanging over our heads coinciding with Anita going away just felt unbearable. The child parts were frightened. Adult me was frightened too. How on earth was I going to function with all the day-to-day crap that I struggle with at the best of times with this additional worry and A gone too? It’s just not fucking fair how life seems to keep knocking me down.

Anita felt a long way away in her chair. I hate how just a couple of metres can feel like such a huge distance – especially to the youngest parts who just need her to be right there beside me. Even now, I don’t think I could ask her to come and sit next to me from the beginning of a session.  I appreciate this is bonkers given how close we have become, but I think this has more to do with my worry at the start of a session that maybe something will have changed. Perhaps she won’t like me anymore. Perhaps she’ll want to stay away. And I hate to keep coming back to it (it’s boring for us all – I know), but I am so scared of being perceived as a parasite – a tick- that I won’t ask for her to come and will wait for the offer of proximity because I couldn’t actually bear her to say no or to think I am too needy.

When will that bloody conversation and that fucking word leave my psyche?

Never, probably.

So, I sat there, the deep pain of feeling disconnected and alone rising up and the child parts getting increasingly distressed inside.

Anita’s voice was soft and warm as she asked, ‘Are the younger parts starting to come through, or are they there? Because for me, when you arrive, I never know whether to sit here or to sit there. And it’s almost like the adult part is ok for me to be over here but I think when the younger parts come up I need to be closer to you – is that how it feels? Am I right with that?’

THANK GOD FOR THIS THERAPIST!!

A barely audible, ‘yeah’ came out. I looked up and met Anita’s gaze. The child parts had landed with a thud and the need felt massive. How many of you get that feeling where you just wish you could crawl into your therapist’s lap when the child parts come up? I mean it wouldn’t be ideal, a great big adult body squashing them, but that need when it gets like that is so young isn’t it?

Anita continued on, ‘I think that’s why I start here [in her chair], because when you first come in you’re in adult and it feels like I am ok to be here, not always though, and I want to check out if I am reading this correctly… or would it be better if I always started over there?’ [on the sofa with me]

I nodded. I felt so much relief that she really gets it…and not only gets it but is able to have these open conversations with me. She takes the shame right out of the situation…and that’s massive.

I really hate it when we get in the room and she sits in her chair. I know she always comes to me when I need her but starting the sessions so far apart straight away makes the young parts go into panic. What if she doesn’t come this time? What if she abandons them? I know how nuts that sounds – we are, after all, in the same room together, but this is the legacy of years of work with Em, that two metres could have been the Grand Canyon and so any distance feels kind of rejecting.

I really love how Anita responds to me, sees me, and is so attuned to what I need. She got up from her chair and said, ‘In that case I’m going to come over there now because I never know where to start. And sometimes I can feel the younger vulnerable parts. I guess they’re always there just below the surface – it’s that swan isn’t it?’ [we’ve talked about how on the surface I look like I have it together but underneath it’s a shit show of panic for the littles]

She sat down beside me and I sighed. Silence. More silence. I couldn’t look at her because the need was just so fucking huge and overwhelming. I was so pleased she was closer …but it was just not close enough.

‘How are you feeling? What’s happening for you?’ wondered A.

‘I’m shaking.’ I replied.

With no pause or hesitation, Anita opened her arms to me and gently invited me to, ‘Come here.’

And just like in the preceding sessions, that green light was all I needed, I shuffled over to her and cuddled in close to her body.

Then there was quiet but stillness too. The panic and shaking subsided really quickly as I tuned into her heartbeat and her slow, steady breathing. It’s that coregulation stuff. Magic.

There was nothing much going round in my mind, nothing conscious that I wanted to say, I just needed to be with her in the moment. After ten minutes, or so, I asked Anita what she was thinking. She said something about how we would both come through the other side of this [lockdown/separation] and that it will be ok. And how she wished she could be in two places at once, and how hard it must be for me.

Man! I wished that, too.

Anita then asked me what I was thinking. I didn’t answer straight away but then simply said, ‘I’m going to miss you’ – because that’s all there was in my head, all that had been in my body, just the huge sense that I was going to miss this amazing woman when she wasn’t here and that it was going to be really hard.

A hugged me tighter, ‘I know, and I will miss you too. I really will.’ She paused for a minute and then said, ‘it really has been a shit year hasn’t it?’ I laughed and agreed.

There was a long pause – maybe two or three minutes – and then I said ‘It hasn’t been all shit…’

Anita instantly understood what I meant, ‘I guess we met this year didn’t we?’

And do you know what? It has been a really fucking hard year but I wouldn’t change it if it meant that I didn’t have Anita. Looking back to this time last year, where the wheels started to get dangerously loose with Em it felt like things would never get better. The pain of our termination in February took me into a place of such deep grief and pain that I can barely look at it even know– it still hurts so much. The rejection. The abandonment. The lack of basic care.

Covid and lockdown and fucking everything has been so hard but I feel so blessed because I have built a relationship with someone who I genuinely think I can do the work with, who understands me, and is committed to me. The world has felt like it’s been falling down around my ears at times, my wife losing her job at the start of the first lockdown, the latest health problems, but I feel like I have Anita on my team and that is huge.

Listening back to this last face-to-face session, there’s a lot of silence but it’s not awkward or uncomfortable which can sometimes happen when you’re sitting across from someone. When we’re just cuddling there isn’t always a need to talk. The words come sometimes and the parts talk, and sometimes there are no words but the holding is still so healing.

After another while I murmured, ‘I love you’ into her chest.

Anita immediately responded with, ‘I love you too… is it hard to believe it?’

I thought about it for a second. I scanned my brain and my body and there was no doubt in my mind, no voice inside my head doubting her feelings for me. I know she loves me. I feel it deeply.

‘No’ I replied.

‘Good!’

A kissed the top of my head. I love it when she does this. It was quiet again. Anita checked in with me and asked if I was wanting to say something but struggling to find the words to say it. I shook my head. I was just content to be with her. A said, ‘sometimes I don’t always think we need words, sometimes I just think we need to show, and to do, and to feel.’

I told her I felt really shaky all week and it had been hard. Anita asked if there was anything she could do to help. This is where I should have said, ‘please can you give me something like a scarf or a jumper that you wear that smells like you’… and I am pretty sure she would have said yes…but there’s this part of me that still worries and cringes – like what if I say that and she is freaked out and disgusted by me? What happens if I lose it all? I know this is pretty unlikely given how I have spent the last month like a baby monkey clinging on to her, but still… I just don’t want to be so weird that she backs away.

I started to cry. Anita rubbed my back gently and held me close to her. I was aware that time was ticking away and the grief of her going away was really coming up now. We had about thirty minutes left of the session and as wonderful as it had been just to go in and spend the time connecting and being held, there was also a real sense of that in a few minutes it was all going to be ripped away and it was overwhelming for the young parts.

A small voice said, ‘I just feel really sad’.

‘I know… and it is sad’ soothed Anita. She gently stroked my back as I cried. To have someone hold me in my pain and grief was so incredible – but so alien too. I feel a bit embarrassed now, thinking back to this, sitting there and crying about my therapist going away for three weeks like it was the end of the world…but that is how it felt, and has felt to the young parts. I anticipated the struggle that this separation would be. I know attachment pain well. And I was right. To be honest, if I had known just how fucking hard it was going to be, I would have been wailing and convulsing in her arms rather than shedding slow, steady tears!

‘Why are you so kind to me?’ I wondered aloud. After so many years with Em who would never give me the slightest thing to grab onto to ground myself in the safety of the relationship, Anita just exudes care and kindness. It doesn’t feel forced or fake – it’s lovely – but my head sometimes has a hard time understanding how the two relationships are so different because I am the same. My needs are the same. In fact, if anything I am more demanding, more needy, more of a pain in the arse than I ever was with Em and yet Anita is steadily there, consistent, calm, warm, and loving.

I know therapy is not all about reassurance and making you feel good. It’s not always plain sailing with Anita, but what the relationship is built on feels so much more solid and so I feel like we weather our little (and sometimes bigger) storms more easily or, at least, more safely. I was clinging onto a bloody piece of driftwood being battered by the storms with Em watching from a ship and yet with Anita I feel like we are together in a lifeboat. It still feels a bit scary, I don’t like storms or boats, but at least I feel confident that we are in the best suited boat to the situation.

Anita replied with, ‘You’re beautiful in so many ways, inside outside, you really are that’s why I am so nice to you. There’s nothing wrong with you. And I know that may be really hard to hear and believe but there isn’t it. And I know I sound like a broken record, but you’ve been let down in so many ways and the way you respond is a normal response to what’s happened to you. And you’re ok, you really are. I don’t suppose there’s many people who don’t like you.’

Unfortunately, it hit a raw nerve. ‘There’s one or two’ I moaned. And then the grief of Em just flooded in like a tsunami. The reality is, yes, I do have some great people in my life and I am well loved by my friends BUT there’s that wound, the mother wound, and what Em did last year has thrown a bomb into it. The feeling of being unlovable and unlikeable and not good enough has been brought into sharp focus and I am trying to pick the shrapnel out of myself – thank god I have Anita with me helping.

I cried and cried. I don’t think A had any idea what was going on in my head. It didn’t matter, though. I didn’t have the energy to start harping on about how hurt I am about Em just before the break – no point in raking all that up further with only ten minutes to go. It was enough to cry and be held. And I will talk about this when we get back in the room later this week. So much stuff has been stirred up this last month relating to being left and abandoned and Em that it’s unavoidable…but certainly best done face-to-face.

I continued to cry cuddled in to A. ‘I feel like I could hold you all day’ she said. ‘I don’t want to let go… You really are very special you know, and I think a lot of people would agree with me.’

I really love this woman. (Is it obvious?)

It’s strange. Even when she says these affirming, validating things there’s sometimes another part that comes up and needs to check it’s real.

‘Do you think I’m weird?’

I’m not sure which part that asked that, or feels so weird, is but I suspect it’s the younger teen, maybe 14.

Again, Anita responded in the perfect way. ‘I don’t think you are weird, far from it… or hard work…before you think that one too! I don’t think you are hard work either. It’s when we’re hurt that we become more vulnerable and want that reassurance which makes perfect sense, and also wary, again, it makes perfectly good sense- doesn’t it?’

This sad, young, teen part said, ‘I don’t want you to turn on me.’ That part is so used to people not being quite who they say they are or changing, and it’s not surprising after what happened with Em that she’s wary. Everything disintegrated in less than a month last year with Em. We went from ‘we need to focus carefully on the parts’ to ‘I’ve reached the limit of my competency and your child parts are like a tick’.

Anita reassured me, ‘I’m not going to turn on you or hurt you. I’m not going to hurt you – not purposefully. I might [hurt you] but it would never be on purpose. I might make mistakes again. Like I say, I am only human. But I would never purposefully reject you, and if I do make mistakes, I hope that you can be honest – as you have been- so we can work through that. It’s important that we own mistakes and to apologise when we make them. I can’t say I won’t make mistakes and won’t hurt you, but it will never ever be because I don’t like you or because I have done it on purpose or I want to attack. I promise you that. I just hope we can be honest with each other and it will help us to get through that…which we have done.’

I let out a long sigh of relief and jokingly said, ‘It’s not short-term work is it?!’ and A completely agreed with me. We would be in it for the long haul and there is no rush, it’ll take as long as it’ll take and she finished up with, ‘I do love you. I really do.’

Then the time was up. Ugh. I hate that. Time to wipe my tears, set my coping face, and go off and manage for the next god knows how many weeks. I squeezed Anita tightly and thanked her. I felt so much better than I had the same time last week on learning she was going away. It wasn’t going to be easy but at least we weren’t parting on a rupture. She replied with, ‘Thank you. It takes a lot of guts to be like this with a therapist, so thank you.’ I smiled inside.

In amongst the shame and embarrassment that’s been there for so long, there’s a little nook inside me where I am starting to house the feeling of being a tiny bit proud of myself. This therapy business isn’t easy and for someone who has been so guarded for so long I am astounded that I am turning up and being authentically me… I mean I have Anita to thank, I know that, it is her that has made it feel safe enough for me to bring it all…and I am so grateful to her.

I moved and got up and my back had seized up! Fucking great. That’s what an hour-long cuddle does! It was funny and lightened the mood a bit. We joked about how our bodies don’t match the age in our heads. I genuinely expect to have the flexibility and stamina and youthful looks of a twenty-year-old and am always shocked to learn I am heading towards forty, have the body of a woman who has birthed two babies and done twelve rounds of chemo. The mirror doesn’t lie, though…nor do the aches and pains!

I left the session feeling…ok. Happy sad. Happy that we are so connected but sad that I was going to have to cope without all that amazing stuff until she came home…whenever that might be.

Later that afternoon I sent a text to A:

Thank you for meeting me exactly where I am at and for ‘seeing’ me – or is it ‘feeling’? I dunno. Both I guess. 2020 has been a complete shit show but I got to find you in it and so feel sooooo lucky because you make me feel safe. These next few weeks are going to be really tough and I’m going to try really hard to not have another meltdown, but I apologise in advance for myself, now, just in case! Please take elephant with you and don’t forget about me xx

Oh, if only you knew the painful irony in that message after what came next!!…meltdown should have been meltdowns…let’s go for the plural. Groan!

This is basically what I have been like for the last three weeks!

Repairing The Rupture With A Beating Heart

My last two posts here have scooted back in time to October (and completely messed with the chronology of the blog!)  to the time when my therapy with Anita took a huge leap into the unknown – proper extended physical holding in sessions and the child parts really coming up and talking to A. Having those parts speak and express their worries and fears, and then have them validated and responded to with care by A has been massive and so healing.

Until recently, I might have been able to say what those younger parts feel through my adult. She tends to filter and take out some of the cringey bits in order to avert some of the shame! The thing is, as much as adult thinks she’s saving me a whole world of pain, shame, and embarrassment what she actually does is distance me from my feelings. I end up talking like it is someone else’s experience, and so it rarely feels like those needy parts get properly seen or held in their distress.

When I do this, emotionless recounting, I don’t/can’t cry. I can’t get in touch with my feelings on a felt level at all. I am just numb to it because that’s the only way (until now) that I have been able to tell my story – from a distance- because I know what getting to close to it means, and when there is no one there who is safe to hold that then it’s a dangerous proposition opening it up. I have survived doing things this way in life and in therapy for a long time, but the pain doesn’t get processed, the grief isn’t metabolised, and I feel like a spectator….well I did…but I don’t now…not now RB has levelled up in the therapy room!

It is incredible really, what having Anita in closer proximity to me and the safe physical touch has done. I have to say therapy (before this latest lockdown and return to online sessions – groan) exceeded my expectations of what was possible for holding and healing the most wounded parts of myself. My defences came down and the vulnerability levels were off the chart, but each session just seemed to build on the last and it really felt like I was on a fast-track of healing. Mind you, it’s been like snail pace for the previous eight years, so maybe it’s just normal speed – almost a year into therapy with a competent and compassionate therapist?!

I have talked about stuff that I have never spoken about in therapy, some of the most painful wounded parts of myself have talked to Anita and it’s been great. What hasn’t been great, though, was opening all that stuff up only to have the face-to-face therapy put on hold. It has been a massive problem to my system. It’s kind of like being in theatre for surgery, we’ve just made some big incisions and are in a critical part of the procedure and now the surgeon has been called away…mid operation. Not ideal! Ugh!

I’ve been reflecting a lot this last couple of weeks, and even though online has been tough, I haven’t completely lost sight of the good stuff. I can really see how the steady, consistent work Anita has been doing with me since January is paying off. We’ve laid the foundations and I feel like they are solid. I have been having epic meltdowns online (more on those soon!) but it shows me that all my parts feel like she is safe enough to act out to really bring what’s there. I was so scared of being abandoned by Em that I never told her how angry or hurt I was – and I was clearly right not to given that when I did, I got terminated!

It’s so different with A. She’s explicitly told me that she loves all the parts of me, especially the ones who want to ‘kick off and stamp their feet’ which has meant that those parts have been able to express some of their anger about the move to working online. When I rage, I often freak out afterwards, ‘what if I am too much?’, ‘what if I push her away and she leaves?’ but she offers enough reassurance that I know that I am still safe to bring what is there – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Last week I was desperately pushing Anita away online, it was defensive, and she said, ‘You can push me away as much as you need to, but I am like a boomerang, I’ll keep coming back until you genuinely don’t want or need me anymore. But I know right now you’re hurting and this is a defence. I’m still here. I still care and love you and we’ll be ok’.

I genuinely can’t believe it. Like, what? I can express dissatisfaction and the tables aren’t suddenly turned on me? I’m not going to be told I am deficient in some way, or ungrateful, or too much? Honestly, it’s a revelation…I can express MY FEELINGS AND ALL MY FEELINGS ARE VALID AND WELCOME.

Mind blowing!

Anyway, what I am saying in a roundabout way is that I don’t think Anita’s going anywhere (well, I mean apart from fucking off up the road for lockdown and leaving me!) and this means I can feel safe enough to do the work now.  

She’s always said that it’ll take time to build trust in the relationship and to believe in and feel her care. She’s acknowledged that it can’t be rushed. I am like a rescue dog that has been abused repeatedly but am finally, finally, maybe, in a foster home with an owner that doesn’t mind my jumpiness and wariness and occasional biting, and has been patient enough to wait for me to be ready to come towards her. Part of me is staggered that I have been able to let A in after all that’s happened – in my life, and more recently with Em – but I do trust her. I genuinely feel her love for me but how can I not when she so readily tells me how she feels. I was cuddled into her the other week, doing more of the deep stuff, and she said to one of the little parts ‘you’ve had a too many pears, they’ve done you no good…I have a huge cupboard full of chocolate here.’ She’d read my blog post and was demonstrating, again, using my words, my analogies, that she gets it and understands and is HERE.

And because I genuinely believe that she cares, is invested in the relationship, and is committed to our work together, the ruptures we have get repaired so quickly that they don’t really get to wreak any significant damage – in fact the repairs that happen are so timely, genuine, and connecting that I get the benefits of ‘rupture and repair’. In the end the process is healing…which is a world away from therapy with Em which retraumatised me and I would have to hold on in emotional and physical agony between sessions. Anita is human, she makes mistakes, sometimes what she does hurts me (it’s not intentional), but once I am able to tell her she tries very hard to understand and make things better. I can’t ask for more than that.

Anyway, I’m here to talk about the rupture repair that happened after I learned that Anita was going to go away to bubble with her partner and wasn’t actually going to see me face-to-face as she had promised a few weeks previously (you can read about the news and the meltdown here!).

Sorry about the massive preamble! I probably should have made this two posts. Maybe go get a cup of tea now…!

————-

During the string of messages – aka ‘mega meltdown’- following the revelation in our Monday session that face-to-face therapy was over for now, Anita said that she wasn’t going to be leaving straight away and that if I wanted, I could see her in person to try and work things out before she left. Of course, I (well a part of me) jumped at the chance, there is no way I wanted to face the next four weeks online with this horrible feeling hanging over me.

I text A and asked if we could start slightly earlier to make the session a bit longer so we had chance to repair. I panicked on the Wednesday (woeful Wednesdays!) fearing I was going to get a text from A to tell me that she’d changed her mind and already left. I told her this in another text and she responded by telling me she was going to be there and that she was really looking forward to seeing me and understood how wobbly I was feeling.

I arrived at Anita’s doorstep at 9:45am. As she opened the door my heart was beating fast and I felt like I was going to dissociate. Usually, I’ll walk to the therapy room straight away, but that day I put my bag down and reached out to hug her. As I hung on tightly to her I said, ‘I don’t feel ok’ and she said, ‘I know. I can feel you shaking’. I was trembling. It was as though all the stress and anxiety that I had been holding onto since the Monday session was coming out in a somatic response.

I let go after about thirty seconds, just about enough time to stop shaking, and made my way to the room and sat down on the sofa. It was good to have had some physical connection before we got started with the session but as I sat down, I felt the protective parts of me rising up again. I couldn’t look at A. I was both ashamed and embarrassed by my strong reaction earlier in the week but I was also reeling, and braced for (what feels like) rejection and so the angry teen part wasn’t far away. When it’s like that it is like being trapped inside a glass box. I can see out but I just can’t connect at all.

Anita immediately came and sat beside me on the sofa rather than sitting in her chair. I couldn’t speak. I just sat there panicky, my breathing was really rapid and shallow and I just felt the force of what her leaving meant. We sat together saying nothing. After a minute she gently asked me what I was thinking and a small voice said, ‘I don’t know what’s real anymore.’ It felt like my heart was breaking. The little part that so trusted Anita just had no idea if it was all just rubbish now. Broken promises are hard for the youngest parts of me and now they were left wondering if anything was real. Did she really care about me? Love me? Or was it just part of the therapy game?

Anita replied, ‘I guess that’s because what I have said and then gone back on it, it’s hard to know…is any of this real?…It is real… I haven’t purposefully done this to hurt you. I really haven’t. I shouldn’t have made that promise to you without knowing 100% that that was how things were going to go’. She sounded so apologetic, so genuine. I really felt it but I also just felt so unbelievably sad. The apology doesn’t change the fact that I won’t see her for almost a month. It doesn’t change the fact I have to do therapy in a way that really triggers my young parts. It’s doesn’t change the fact that the very thing I need, physical holding, can’t happen.

She told me that she had thought that she would be bubbling with her mother, like last time, or her daughter who’s just moved back into the area, but it turned out that wasn’t going to be the case. She had never expected to be on her own during lockdown. Adult me understands – of course I do but this explanation didn’t do much to help the little ones who just felt like mum was going to disappear again.

‘I’m so sorry I let you down’ she said gently. ‘What can I do?’

I looked at her for the first time and said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know’ because actually what could she do?

I sat there, motionless.

‘Are you scared to let me in, to get attached because you’ll have to detach again?’

I nodded

‘Yeah…I get that’ she reassured, and rubbed my arm gently.

That small gesture of touch felt so nice and I realised I was sitting there depriving myself of what I needed most. I had a choice. I could sit there ‘protecting myself’ and then walk away at the end of the session feeling shit or I could be vulnerable and let A help me and get what I need, so I moved closer to her, she opened her arms, and hugged me.

My breathing was rapid again, which is unusual because lots of the time when I am out my window of tolerance, I am frozen. I barely breathe at all. But this was a bit different. I couldn’t hide the panic in my body. I was shaking. I felt so sad. I wasn’t angry or anything, in that moment, the self-righteous teen that had been holding the fort all week had gone on a break. All that were left we the little parts who just didn’t want her to go away.

‘This feels realty bad’ I murmured.

‘I know. I know. I can feel it’ she soothed ‘Is your fear that it won’t come back to this again? [this level of intimacy and closeness] because it will. I know it’s probably hard to believe anything I say at the moment but I genuinely don’t think lockdown will last forever’. She held me close and I cried.

Eventually, my breathing began to slow as I listened to her steady heartbeat. A little voice said, ‘I’m sorry.’

Anita responded emphatically, ‘Don’t be sorry you’ve got nothing to be sorry for! You really, really haven’t. As I have said before you’re not too needy. If you hadn’t have been let down you wouldn’t be where you are. It’s not your fault. You’ve got nothing to be sorry for. You don’t want to feel like this. I know you don’t.’

‘I feel stupid’ I moaned.

‘You’re not stupid!’

I groaned, ‘I feel embarrassed’ and buried into her further. It’s excruciating being so bloody vulnerable and knowing that I’m behaving like a kid who has no ability to reason things out.

Anita doesn’t seem in the least bit phased by it or working directly with these parts. She wondered, ‘I think this is all the different parts sometimes going in conflict. The young parts needing it, adult parts saying “this is ridiculous” but we know the young ones are crying out for it. And it’s ok. It really is ok.’ She paused a moment and then said with so much feeling and sadness in her voice, ‘I’m so sorry that I have let them down’ and held me tighter to her.

‘Is this real?’ I asked. The concern that’d been there all week coming up again, needing reassurance. If Em and I had even managed to do this level of work I imagine she’d have said ‘what do you mean by real?’ or ‘what is real to you?’ and those conversations are fine when you are in your adult and in the window of tolerance, but when you’re dealing with a four year old part that’s scared, sometimes what we need is,

‘This is real.’

I was so happy to hear that and replied with, ‘I love you’.

I wasn’t expecting a response but Anita really knows me, really understands how much reassurance parts of me need and said, ‘I love you too. I really do. If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t care and I truly do care. I make mistakes. I said to you at the beginning I would make mistakes… everyone makes mistakes in relationships but it’s how you work with those mistakes that’s important. It doesn’t mean the love isn’t there when you make a mistake. I have made a mistake but it doesn’t mean I don’t care and it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It just means I’m not perfect. I did it wrong and for that I am truly sorry. I love you.’

I can’t explain what that kind of heartfelt, honest apology and love bombing did to my system. It’s not enough to say that I could feel my system settling down or that I felt safe and held because it is so much more than that, but I am guessing if you feel these wounds then I don’t really need to elaborate on how that felt.

I then told her how it’d been a horrible week and again Anita was so warm and lovely, ‘I am so so sorry. If I could take that pain away I would’. I wasn’t fishing for apologies I was just telling her how it was, but she really understood, she felt what it had been like.

I then told her about a dream I had in the week about being in a plane and spiralling out of the sky and how it had really impacted me. Anita’s take on it, ‘All that you believe in came crashing down… I didn’t mean to cause you that harm. I shouldn’t have promised something I wasn’t 100% sure I could deliver. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cause you all this pain.’

‘Will you take elephant with you?’ I asked.

Don’t you just love how conversations with the child parts run?? It’s like, Ok, things are fine now, so my brain has jumped onto something else. Obviously, a few weeks before I had asked her to look after my little elephant at her house so we weren’t forgotten and at that moment the child parts were clearly joining dots in their own way, ‘if she leaves elephant here she’ll forget about us’.

As usual, A didn’t bat an eyelid at yet another unusual request, ‘I will. I will’ she repeated.

‘I’m sorry I’m hard work’ I wailed.

Again, A replied emphatically, ‘You’re not hard work…well no more hard work than anyone else! I can be hard work too, just ask my partner! In real in-depth relationships it’s so easy to hurt the other person without meaning to – without wanting to. In meaningful relationships, there’s feelings and emotions involved and we’re very open and very raw and sometimes that comes out in particular ways but that doesn’t mean we are hard work’.

I didn’t want Anita to think that my performance this week had come from being deliberately difficult or nasty and said, ‘I don’t want to be horrid. Or critical. That’s not how it is. I do get it [why she’s going away and why she can’t see me] It’s just hooked right into a really sore wounded bit and it makes my system shut down.’

Does it feel a bit like, ‘Here we go again?’

I nodded and told her how I realise how black and white the thinking is but that it’s because it’s not coming from an adult place. The reaction to her breaking her promise is not from my 37 year old adult self who knows what life is like and how sometimes our well-intentioned promises don’t come off. I mean I have let a lot of people down in my time too but to the child parts it’s huge. We spoke about the window of tolerance for a minute and then Anita asked if there was anything she could do to reassure the young parts.

And this is what came out…CHILD PARTS MAN!!

‘Can we go to Madame Tussaud’s and get a wax work made of you? Or build a bear and put your heart beat in it….or a clone you?’

We laughed quite a lot at that and then Anita said, ‘that would be really cool wouldn’t it?’ There’s no shaming from her. She literally responds to me like I have said the most normal thing in the world when clearly, I am off my frigging rocker! But because she is so at ease with me, she puts me at ease too. I then told her, ‘This [her going away] is so hard because it’s not just what you say that makes a difference to me. It’s not what settles my system…’ And Anita finished my sentence, ‘It’s this. (hugs) It’s this which was missing for years isn’t it?’

This led to a conversation about how when I was little (5-11 years old) my mum was gone Sunday to Friday and how I’d speak to her on the phone on a Wednesday (makes sense why I hate Wednesdays now!). This was in the late 80’s -early 90’s pre mobile phones. The thing that we don’t have to worry about when speaking to people on the phone today is conversations being rushed or cut short because the money runs out. As a child my enduring memory of calls with my mum was the beeps giving warning that we’d be cut off and the feeling of disconnection and never having enough time to tell her what I wanted. I wasn’t seen or heard.

Anita kissed the top of my head and said, ‘I’m so sorry that… that’s how it feels when we do online and we aren’t connected…it hooks right back into that, doesn’t it?’

Yep.

Anita commented that for a child of that age that kind of prolonged separation feels like an eternity and we spoke more about my mum’s volatility when she was home, and the fighting, and how I never knew what to expect or what was coming and how when I see Anita it’s like starting from scratch, checking she’s safe. There was a lot of good work done and A really got it.

I asked Anita if I could have something of hers before she went away and she said she had been wondering if I would like to look after the necklace she was wearing. It’s called ‘beating heart’ and the stone inside moves like a beating heart. It couldn’t have been more perfect really after the conversation we had just had.

Anita then asked if there was anything I had in mind, ‘was there anything you wanted to take, differently, is there anything else you’d like? You’re ok to ask you know.’

And my god, I cannot believe these words actually left me lips but I said, ‘Can I have something that smells like you?’

‘What can smell like me?’ A wondered.

I lay snuggled into her chest. How was I meant to say, ‘errr something you wear that smells like your washing powder’?  Anita smells really fresh and clean but it’s not a perfume smell but it is really soothing. One day I came home from a session and my top actually smelled like her and it was so soothing to those young parts.

Honestly cannot believe I am writing this here. Part of my is cringing so badly.  

Again, A was not in the least bit weirded out by my request which is so funny given how I couldn’t even get Em to write a message on a fucking pebble for well over six months!

‘I can’t think of anything that might smell like me except for me, and it’s funny isn’t it, how you can’t smell your own smell. Was there anything in particular that you wanted?’

Time was coming to a close and A said that she’d still be here on the Monday if I wanted to come and we could talk more then. It felt so good to have been seen, heard, and met exactly where I was at. I have always known that Anita would never deliberately do anything to hurt me, just sometimes things happen that hurt don’t they?

As I left, I gave her a hug at the door and said, ‘I really love you’ and Anita replied, ‘I love you too. I really do, and I don’t want you to feel like a plane crash. I am hoping I can rescue out of the plane crash a bit before I go away’.

This is bloody 4000 words long! How did that happen? So sorry!

More Holding

After the previous incredibly holding, intense, vulnerable, and intimate session I felt a bit weird going to the see Anita on the Monday. Part (ALL) of me hoped that everything was going to be ok still, but parts of me wondered whether A might have regretted holding me and saying what she did. Maybe on reflection she’d find me too clingy, too needy, and want to take a step back from me. I was braced for rejection despite the fact that Anita had sent me a picture on Saturday morning of my baby elephant sitting with some monkeys to keep him company in her home.

The fact that she did this totally delighted the young parts. It feels like she really gets what those parts need to feel connected and accepted. It is such a stark contrast to the way Em worked that part of me feels like I have to pinch myself – is this even real? And whilst parts of me are trusting that the relationship with Anita is safe and genuine I still felt a bit nervous going back to the room because the idea of having that closeness taken away (for whatever reason) is just traumatising (which is why the online therapy is tanking so badly – I feel abandoned and rejected and whilst adult me understands, the young parts feel like they have done something wrong and that’s why she’s gone).

If I’m ever in doubt with how to start a session I can say that a well-used plan for me is start with small talk (ugh TIME WASTING! – so frustrating). It seems very adult but what I am coming to see is that its’ actually a ‘false’ adult who is trying to ‘appear’ normal and is actually a bit avoidant, maybe a protector of sorts, but definitely not proper adult self. This part turns up and fronts because it takes a while, sometimes, to land in the room and settle.

Whilst I was jabbering about the weekend, beneath the surface, the child parts were tentatively peeking out trying to work out how things stood: was last session a mistake? Does she regret coming close to me? Will that amazing sense of connection and holding be a one off?

The thing that is a nightmare about ‘false adult’ is that she can witter on for ages and not notice the time is going. She’s doing her job, keeping vulnerability at bay. Then I glanced at the clock and realised that we were already twenty-five minutes into the session. What??? The child parts freaked out. ‘Don’t let the session disappear – please don’t hide us again – we need her to see us and hold us’ – and I think in that moment I just stopped talking altogether. It’s hard to know because time is weird in therapy especially when you’re dissociated but I reckon I must’ve been silent for a minute.

Anita continued to talk to me – or the adult – and mentioned that I hadn’t had a holiday, I think linking into something about how I had said I was exhausted and burnt out. But by the time she said this adult was gone and I had no idea what she was talking about. I was just mentally crying about how far away she seemed.

The child parts were there frozen. I don’t think I was really breathing. I think it was in part caused by panic. Panic that maybe she was going to stay away, over the other side of the room in her chair, and all the shame around needing her to come close was running wild in my head. All the horrible stuff about being too needy and disgusting was starting to get louder and I felt desperately alone.

Anita noticed the shift in me, her tone changed, and she gently asked, ‘What are you thinking? What’s going on for you?… Is it too hard to say?’

I couldn’t speak. I just sat there silent. Frozen. Anita wondered aloud, ‘Does it feel distant between us at the moment again? Do you want me to come sit over there? I am quite happy to.’

I nodded. There was so much relief flooding in but the shame was crippling. Anita got up and came and sat beside me on the sofa but I couldn’t look at her. It’s such a horrible feeling wanting to be close to someone but not knowing if it’s ok. I mean, clearly, reading between the lines it is ok but parts of me are so expecting rejection that they literally need to be given a huge flashing green light.

‘I guess it feels hard to come to where we are, after last Friday?’

‘Thank god’, I thought, ‘she gets it’. Our relationship changed so much, so quickly in the last session that it was almost dizzying. I sat there silent and unmoving. A then told me she was feeling a bit coldy and I replied that I didn’t care. I probably sounded like a complete dickhead. I corrected myself, ‘I do care, but I don’t care about the cold’ A understood what I meant and offered me a hug. I didn’t need her to stay away because of a cold.

Like a heat-seeking missile I snuggled in tight to her again. In that moment I literally didn’t want to be anywhere else. Neither of us said anything for a few minutes and I just waited for my breathing to settle, listened to her heart beating, and let the child parts get what they needed. This holding feels so healing and containing, I can’t really even describe it. But there’s also a grief that comes up alongside it is really hard and it comes in waves. Like I have needed this for my entire life and yet it’s not until now that I am receiving it.

Suddenly my breathing felt erratic and I felt panic. The shame that is so present was just kicking my arse. I can’t help but think of Em when the lovely stuff is happening and just feel so sad that she just did not care for me at all. The contrast between A and Em is so vast it’s insane.

A gently spoke into the top of my hair/head, ‘I know’ she soothed. The part of me that was struggling replied, ‘You don’t know’ and to be honest I don’t think I even really knew what I was feeling but if I didn’t know then how could she? ‘Can you tell me?…Does it feel horrible being this vulnerable?’ A softly asked. ‘Are you feeling very small?’

The child part whispered, ‘I didn’t think you’d still like me’. Anita’s body shifted slightly and she took in a shocked breath and held me tighter to her body, ‘Oh my goodness. I don’t just like you, I really love you. There’s nothing about you not to like. Not that I have seen. I know sometimes it can be hard to believe that – there’s lots of parts of you that are scared and feel unlovable but that’s because they haven’t been loved by the right people. I love them. All of them. Even the ones that want to kick off and stamp.’

Miserably, I replied ‘That’s not what my head says’ and A tried to reassure me, ‘I know. I know. And I don’t know how to make those parts believe me but I think it’s probably just got to be time and me showing you that it’s ok. Is there anything I can do to help build that trust?’

I shook my head. A said that it’s just going to take time and that’s ok with her, she’s not going anywhere.

A young part told her that ‘it’s silly’ (needing this). Anita replied, ‘It’s not silly. I guess it’s the different parts of you isn’t it? The child parts might really enjoy it but the adult part is like ‘why do I feel like this?’ but it’s the young parts that really need it – they were so neglected of it and that’s why it’s not silly. And it might feel alien but nice at the same time. Does that make sense? There’s so many different types of love aren’t there? And nurturing love – we all need it.’

A held me close and rubbed my back, I held her hand with one hand and hugged her with my other hand, there’s something really young, like a baby or toddler, when it’s like this. It reminds me of when my kids were little and they just want every inch of themselves to be touching. God it’s cringey isn’t it?! We didn’t say anything for a minute or two but it was starting to get louder in my head.

Then I said, ‘I wish my brain would shut up’. I was really battling with the inner critic who was trying to pull the entire thing apart, ‘A is a liar. She’s doesn’t care. She’ll see me in the same way Em did. I am too much’ etc etc etc. It was pure agony.

‘What’s it saying?’ questioned A gently, ‘My guess is that “this isn’t ok”. But it is.’

And then the saddest, little voice said, ‘I don’t want you to think I’m like a tick.’

And there it was. Right there. The damage. The pain. The excruciating feelings of rejection and abandonment. It was so raw. I just wanted to die coming in touch with those feelings so acutely. I buried my face deeper into A’s chest and held on tight.

Again A’s shifted, almost jolted, shocked, I could feel the response in her body and hear the sadness in her voice as she emphatically tried to reassure me, ‘Oh my god I don’t! Far from it!’ She let out a big exhale and then said, ‘I choose to give to you. That’s my choice. You don’t take from me. I give. A tick takes. You don’t! You didn’t ask me to come over here. I could still be sat in that chair over there. I want to give. Because you are worth it. Because I love you. It’s completely different to a tick.’

To have her so clearly refute what I was saying/worrying about and tell me how she felt was exactly what I needed. I can think of times when I might have said something to Em that felt painful, like the time I was struggling with wondering how she felt about me and it took me weeks to say, ‘I don’t even know if you like me’ and she stayed silent – or other times when I’d express something similar and she’d reply with something like, ‘what makes you think that?’ or some other thing that is designed to make you squirm in your own agony. And sometimes that’s fine but sometimes you just need to be love bombed…that’s where the healing is….well, for me at least!

I continued on, ‘It’s such a horrible thing to say.’ (Em calling me a tick)

Anita agreed, ‘Yeah. I can’t believe she said that to you. And the thing is, it shouts doesn’t it? It’s not you can forget about it. It really stuck. It’s a horrible, horrible thing to say. And so abusive. And you’re not like a tick. You’re really not. My guess is she’s so closed she doesn’t know how to give.’

I started to cry, ‘she never let me anywhere near her – which is why it seems such a really unfair thing to say’. I felt so sad. The grief was huge but I felt safe with A expressing it. She was holding me close and it allowed me to really feel the pain in a way that I haven’t really been able to before now, in the room. When I’ve been sitting across from Anita and talking about Em I have still held myself together and so haven’t really been able to get deep down to the deep pain that I feel about what happened.

A told me that she thinks that it’s strange that Em is in the profession she’s in given how little she gives of herself and that what she did was horrible. And what happened is not because there’s something wrong with me but instead that she let me down. It was not my fault.

Anita has an amazing way of speaking to the little parts and I felt so understood that I started sobbing, ‘I just don’t get it. I would get it if you said it to me’ (because I have so much access to her and check in with her most days via text and could understand if she felt bombarded or like I just never let go like a parasite)

A replied, ‘I’m not going to say it!’

We argued back and forth a bit:

RB: But it would make sense!

A: No it wouldn’t!

RB: Yes it would!

A: No it wouldn’t!

RB: It would!!

Anita changed tack then and said, ‘I think this is the hardest thing. It’s the child parts in you. Children think it’s all about them because that’s how children think. But it’s not about you. It’s her. And I know that’s really hard to believe. I would never say that. I’m not perfect. I have different flaws to her. She just doesn’t know how to give it.’

I told her that it wasn’t just that, but that I worry that it’s in some way wrong (this level of holding). I think because touch in therapy has been such a sore area for me with Em and she basically wasn’t even open to discussing it, I now feel like I am in some way wrong for wanting it or needing it. It’s also such a contentious area with therapists too – I mean how many of you have googled ‘touch in therapy’ or ‘will my therapist hug me?’ when this attachment stuff starts kicking off. The internet tends not to come up in favour of ‘touch’ which is weird really given how much we are now learning about somatic responses and child development.

Some sites/therapists are totally anti touch and say it’s dangerous and god knows what else, others are somewhere in the middle and will maybe give the occasional hug at the end, and then there’s the rare few that aren’t scared by it and see how beneficial it can be for particular clients. In our first session we discussed touch and she was clear then that it’s always guided by the client and their need but that for some people it makes a huge difference. She assured me that it’s not wrong to want this touch and that it’s completely fine to ask for hugs. Honestly it’s like a lottery win!

That seemed to settle the young parts who then went off on a tangent, you know how kids do, ‘oh my knee isn’t bleeding anymore… can we get doughnuts?’ and decided to ask A what her flaws were, which she told me, and then I asked her star sign (which I had already guessed) and we had a chat about our signs and how they match our personalities. It felt really nice and a departure from the emotional marathon that had just gone before.

I’ve said a few times, now, about how the young parts are more able to communicate with A when we are physically close to her. I think part of it is that I feel physically safe and contained. Another part of it is that when I am snuggled into her, I can’t see her face and she can’t see mine, and so it kind of offers more of an opportunity to say things that feel embarrassing. Anita can feel me but she can’t see me and this gives those parts that fear being seen and judged negatively chance to talk. Like in our rupture repair sessions (that I haven’t written about yet) I was able to tell her I’d like something as a transitional object that smells like her!! (CAN YOU IMAGINE ME SAYING THAT FACE TO FACE?!?!?)

Anyway, it was coming to the end of the session and Anita asked me how I was feeling. Just like in the last session she told me that she feels like she could hold me all day and felt like I need a lot of holding. I replied, ‘I feel safe with you. I can’t just come here for cuddles though’. Inside my child parts were screaming ‘why did you just say that???! We’ve just started to get what we need and your saying you don’t need it!’

Thankfully, A can see through my shit now and came back with, ‘But I believe that you have to do what feels right. It feels like at the moment we’re just reassuring and being safe which is what needs to be there for the rest of the stuff to come out. It doesn’t feel like we’re not doing anything in the cuddling. Does that make sense? It’s important for you to feel this safety and to feel that I can hold you and that’s what I am doing. And it’s what you need. You didn’t have enough of this ever’ then I felt something on the top of my head. ‘Did you just kiss my head?’ I wondered out loud as I turned to look at her. ‘I did’ she smiled.

It felt so great. So, so great. I got up and told her that I didn’t want to leave, she hugged me again and said ‘I know. And remember, I wanted to give it to you. You didn’t take. There’s a huge difference.’

And I left that session feeling amazing. Emotionally wiped out but also like some really healing work had been done. I am not a tick…but my friend has jokingly called me a baby monkey after these sessions!

I know I am like a broken record here but when work like that happens with the youngest most hurt parts it’s no wonder that online now feels so hideous. Try as we might those parts just can’t get what we need on a screen.

Humph!

Rewind: Fantasy Becomes A Reality

Ah man! Things are a freaking mess! Anita and have been back to online therapy for the last two sessions and all I can say is that it is going even worse than I imagined it would – the fact we also had a 40 minute check in midweek (woeful Wednesday) before we’d even gone online should tell you how it’s been. Help!

The youngest parts of me feel like they are spiralling through the abyss. I can’t seem to ground or find safety and staring at my computer screen trying to connect to A is just horrendous. The child parts feel unseen, invisible, trapped (even though A is trying to reach them and reassure them) and then they feel more and more disconnected, more and more desperate, and then just really sad because the moment the call ends that’s it – I am left dealing with the fallout of that painful disconnect in the time between sessions. Again, I am not actually alone because A has been there, really been there, but to those parts anything short of physical proximity just doesn’t cut it.

It’s so noisy inside: my system is having an epic meltdown. It’s so frustrating. I feel so sad inside. So alone. But also these last few days I’ve felt grumpy and angry (raging) and generally just out of sorts. I am snapping at everyone. I can’t seem to keep my cool. I can’t tell you how many times I have muttered the words, ‘Please just shut the fuck up!’ under my breath.

I don’t want to be like this. I don’t like this version of myself but I know it is a product of being stretched and stressed beyond my limits and so am trying to exercise a bit of compassion towards myself…which is easier said than done.

Really, my rage is just a mask. Actually, I just want to run away and hide so that I don’t have to interact with anyone and can avoid an argument but can also just howl into the void and loneliness. Or, truthfully, I just want to be in Anita’s therapy room, with her, trying to get me back into some kind of window of tolerance…but that can’t happen so for now I swing between rage and avoidance.

It’s thoroughly exhausting being like this. I hate that I am so easily destabilised. I cannot believe that I have gone from feeling so safe, so held, so contained, to completely abandoned and unsafe in the course of a couple of weeks. I should be more equipped to deal with these feelings because this was what it was like for most of the therapy with Em.

The thing is, my system was just beginning to settle, beginning to be a little less on ‘high alert’, it was starting to trust and relax into the relationship with A….and now it’s fucked again! I mean, it’s not totally wrecked, I do trust her, I do believe she’ll come back. I do believe she really cares about me – loves me…but right now there’s parts that are so shook up that it’s hard to hang onto that.

I am so far behind with my posts now that I don’t know what to do, where to start, or even what to say. I’ve been sitting on the floor by my fire all day, paralysed. My laptop has been on the sofa and I just haven’t even known where to begin with it all. I could talk about the two positive ‘repair’ sessions before A went away last week, but as good as they were/felt I realise that now she’s gone we essentially stuck a band aid on a wound that needs stitches and heavy duty dressings. I could talk about the return to online therapy but ugh… it’ll just upset me more. So…what I think I am going to do it post about the stuff that I had the wobbles over.

Loads of you have asked for the password for this stuff and I really thank you for reaching out, sharing your stories with me, and letting me know that you’ve found my blog helpful in some way. Sometimes when I am sitting here in the depths of hell watching words appear on my laptop I wonder if anyone reads it. There’s a few of us die hard bloggers that have been here for ages and actively comment but other than that the only evidence we have are the blog stats- it never makes much sense that there might be seven or eight comments on a post but 150 views each day for the first few days when I post?

Anyway, this hasn’t got a password but I may retrospectively add one depending on how things feel. I am hoping that seeing as I am now drowning in attachment pain like everyone else doing online therapy they won’t begrudge what have felt like some really magical, transformational, ‘waited all my life for this’ sessions.

PLEASE DON’T BE LIKE THIS!

It all started with a horrible dream involving Em…bloody therapy dreams eh?!! I felt so awful that I just couldn’t calibrate. I felt like I was going to fall apart. It made sense to give Anita the heads up in advance so that I didn’t go in and sit there in false adult passing the time when really it was falling apart inside. So I sent this:

Hi A.

I’m all over the shop – and it’s been topped with a really painful dream that’s left me reeling:

At Em’s. It was really calm. I was talking to her about how much she’d hurt me. It was clearly my four year old part speaking and it was like Em could finally see what she was dealing with – a very hurt child, and she changed her tone completely. She let the little girl hold her hand whilst she talked which made it easier to say what she needed. Then Em took the soft pink rabbit that I was holding was me and held it to her. She talked about it, asked its name, and said how lovely it was. Then she hugged it to her, kissed it gently, stroked its ears then handed it back to me. I told her I still loved her (the little girl part). And she held me. I cried. She told me she still kept me in her mind and hadn’t let me go. I asked her about the marble that 11 year old part had given her. She said she still had it. This brought that part out and she asked ‘Why did you reject me?- abandon all of us?’ Em said she didn’t know.

I haven’t dreamt about Em since the dream where I went in disguise to see her and she got angry. I’ve woken up feeling really sad and young again. It’s so painful that I feel like I’m dissociating. Yesterday in my craniosacral session that young four year old child part landed in my body with a thud, K noticed and said that the pain she can feel that part is holding is immense – so much so that I don’t even breathe properly as though that little girl is too scared to take up any room, be noticed etc – it’s hiding in a flight mode terrified.

We need to work with her. I need you to be close today as otherwise I’ll retreat because I feel so vulnerable and sad but am also reeling from the dream and the feelings of rejection abandonment is so live. I feel like I need to cry but I don’t know how to access the tears.

I feel like I’ll try and hide because this stuff is so wounded that I avoid it but it seems like I don’t have a choice but to tentatively look at it now. However the shame that floods in around all this makes it really difficult as it’s like a gag.

X

By the time I arrived at Anita’s there was a text in my phone:

I understand and will really try to be what you need x

I felt hopeful but also massively exposed and nervous as I knocked at the door. I walked in, sat down, and could feel myself disappearing, I was shaking and told her I felt like my entire system was juddering and I felt wobbly. Anita replied, ‘these dreams really impact you don’t they?’ and I nodded. Then she said, ‘It feels like we’re a long way apart, that there’s a lot of distance, and that’s not what you need. Usually we hug at the end of the session but I’m wondering if you’d like one now? And maybe I can sit next to you on the sofa?’ I nodded. She really understood what was happening and I was so relieved that she was so attuned to me.

Anita came and sat beside me on the couch. I have needed this for so many years. I have needed the therapist to take a step towards me when I am disappearing and when I feel unlovable and untouchable – I have needed the presence of the other to help pull me back. I could barely believe that it was as simple as someone coming from their chair to mine. All those years of longing for Em to cross that couple of metres that felt like miles and there was A calm and present beside me. I struggled to make eye contact. I felt so embarrassed by my message before session and despite having A right there, clearly receptive, exactly where I wanted her to be, close to me… I felt like I was drifting away.

Anita asked me, then, what that little four year old part needed? Could she say? I shook my head. There were no words just a cavern of need inside me. I’ve felt like this so many times and had Em just stare at me from across the other side of the room.

And then Anita said she felt like she just wants to hold that part and make her feel safe. She said it felt like there is so much grief to process. I nodded and said, ‘Can I have a cuddle?’ It was definitely the young part who would never use the word ‘hug’. A smiled warmly, opened her arms to me and I snuggled in close with my head on her chest. I could hear her heart beating slow and steady and I kind of had hand my hand resting on her chest – like a baby. None of it was conscious – I was so little in that moment.

It was so different from the goodbye hugs which have been great but also kind of sad because they signal the end of the session and being back out in the world- it’s not really the child parts getting hugs at the end. I lay there barely able to breathe – she gently told me it was ok and I was safe with her and that it’s ok to breathe. I could feel my system really struggling. She said, ‘She really hurt you didn’t she?’ (Em) And I held on tighter, I felt the grief rising and wanted to let her in but was also fighting it.

She kept saying really reassuring things but mainly just held me. Eventually after 5-6 minutes (but felt much longer) I relaxed, I could feel my defences letting go and my body was less rigid, and my breathing matched Anita’s – coregulation in action. I felt like I might fall asleep. It was so calming. I cannot think of a time in my life where I have felt so safe and contained…which is utterly tragic.

Then eventually I pulled away. I told her I felt embarrassed that I need that so much. ‘There’s no need to be embarrassed. We all need hugs. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like cuddles… especially young parts. It helps them to feel safe. I think you needed a lot more than you got.’

I reached out and I held her hand for the next twenty minutes on the couch. It’s hard to describe the level of emotional intimacy that was happening or the vulnerability but it felt so safe that I just said exactly what I was feeling …which is huge! The anxiety and stress and shame of being judged that was so present in the room with Em just isn’t there with A.

I said, ‘I really like you’ and then corrected myself, ‘No. I love you.’ And she replied, ‘I really love you too’ as if it was the most natural thing in the world to say. She told me she wasn’t going anywhere and couldn’t imagine leaving me ever and that even when she’s old she’s going to have a practice because it isn’t about money to her.

Again A was just full of reassurance and care and more stuff about how hard it is to have an adult life when the child is so present and so in need. Whilst cuddled into her I asked her if she thought I was weird. It’s amazing how the young parts can talk when being held in a way that has never been possible before. She said ‘not at all’ and said she thought I was unbelievably brave and courageous and have been so badly let down by so  many people that it’s not surprising I am how I am -so scared of being hurt-but that it’s never been me or my fault. And again that she loves me.

I said ‘you don’t know me. I spend so much time hiding’ and she replied ‘I love who I see. Do you think if I see more of you I won’t like you any more?’ I nodded into her chest. She said ‘I can guarantee that won’t be the case and I think I know you better than you think’. I didn’t realise it but I was crying – little silent tears.

I whispered, ‘Why are you so nice to me?’ and A replied, ‘because you’re lovely. You’re wounded. You’re hurt but that doesn’t make you horrible. People have let you down, you haven’t let them down. That’s the difference. It feels like that to you but it doesn’t to me. It’s not your fault. People have let you down badly.’ She said that she wished she could hold me forever – as long as I needed. And then said she wanted to tuck that little girl into bed, make her feel safe, and take her to the beach and get her an ice cream and just play- be free to be a child.

‘Wouldn’t it be lovely to be a child?’ questioned A. ‘It wasn’t safe being a child’ I murmured in reply. A agreed, and said that she meant that she would like to give those parts the space to feel relaxed and safe now and maybe we can go out one day and spend some time playing at the beach. She rubbed my back gently and I breathed her in. I let out a big lumpy exhale. ‘You need more of this (cuddles) don’t you? Calmness. Feeling safe. Or as safe as you can?’ A soothed.

A tiny voice said, ‘I love you’ again and A said ‘I really love you too’.

Honestly, this woman. Thank fucking god for her!

Then a tiny voice said ‘will you look after my elephant?’ And without any hesitation she said ‘yes’… despite having no idea what I was talking about! I had brought two toy elephants with me – mum and baby – and basically the young part wanted her to keep hold of the baby so she doesn’t forget us. It’s another reverse transitional object.

Anita took the little elephant and held it to her, ‘and you keep looking after the big one’ (clear metaphor there eh?!). I said, ‘you can put him in a drawer – he won’t know’ and she replied, I feel like I want to give him a cuddle and tuck him into bed.’

I didn’t realise I was crying at this point but then I felt the tears run over my lip and gave a big snotty sniff! It was such an emotional release. To be really seen, really held, to be safe.

It was the end of the session. I got up. I smiled. And then asked for yet another hug. I said, ‘Noone has ever cuddled me like you have cuddled me today’ – my god it was vulnerability overload. ‘And that’s what you’ve missed out on isn’t it?’ said A, as she squeezed me tightly.

It felt so healing. I mean if I could have written up a fantasy therapy session this basically would have been it.

And the next session was great too!!

This is why I am trying to hang on tight to these memories as I fail to connect online. But it’s hardly surprising is it? The young parts have become used to this level of attunement, holding and safety and then suddenly have a 2D image on screen and it sucks. There is no heartbeat, there is no touch, there is none of the sensory stuff – like smell that help ground the young parts. It’s so hard!…so hard in fact that I disconnected our first online session after 5 minutes! Tantrum!

Anyway, I will get up to speed over time with this. Man I need to be back in the room!

Post-session Meltdown!

So, last Monday’s session (where I found out that Anita was actually not now going to be here during lockdown so we can’t have our sessions face-to-face like she’d promised) triggered an EPIC meltdown on my part. I mean it was really something else!

I know how attached I have become to A but I really wasn’t expecting this from my system – or at least I thought I might be able to hide my response a bit if it did happen! – errr that’d be a no then!

I know it’s dramatic, but it felt as though I’d been betrayed on Monday. The rug had been pulled out from beneath my feet and I was left reeling, wondering what on earth had just happened and if what I feel to be true about mine and Anita’s relationship (that it’s real and solid and meaningful) was just lies and wishful thinking. If she could do a U-turn on something like this then what else wasn’t safe?

Needless to say, this week has been an emotional marathon (and I am really more of a 5km girl!!)

I left the session completely bereft. Crying in the car I just did not know what to do with myself. I couldn’t help but catastrophise. After everything that happened with Em it’s so easy to go into panic, fear the worst, lose trust, and this triggers complete survival mode and shut down from my system. The pain in this area – my attachment wound- is so sore that it can feel safer to run away then turn around and face it because what’s the point in trying? I have no control over the other person, I can’t change them or affect their response but I have control of whether I allow them close enough to hurt me, right?

And it’s not like track record for ruptures has been great (Ok actually, Anita has always been brilliant but…that’s not where my brain was at!!). If I try and tell someone how they’ve hurt me or let me down it doesn’t always end in a repair. I mean when Em likened my child parts to a tick, I tried so hard to tell her what was going on with me, in the hope that we could work through it, but instead it just got thrown back in my face and I got terminated. I was the problem. I was too sensitive. Too defensive. Ugh. I know that Anita is nothing like Em but there is a part of me that just doesn’t want to be open to being hurt anymore.

I drove home struggling with some many competing voices in my head and the somatic response was just agony – shaking, nausea, racing heartbeat. I called my friend and thankfully she was on hand to pick me up off the floor and try and help me get some perspective: yes this hurts but Anita is safe.

I was cycling through those really unbearable young feelings at mach speed. The angry mistrusting teen who just wanted to cut and run and the little one who just needs to be held close and told things are ok were so loud. It was like being pulled in two opposing directions. Adult me was nowhere to be seen. My system had gone into flight mode after the freeze response in session and it felt like the end of the world.

I simply cannot do this again. I cannot withstand losing my attachment figure…and whilst that sounds dramatic that is exactly how it felt.

After some discussion with my friend I decided that there was no way I could sit with this until Friday and try and work it through in an online session. I needed to let A know what was going on, I needed her to know the impact that our session had just had on me and to try and help me settle down. I mean I was cuddled into her crying for the last fifteen minutes of the session but I don’t know if she knew it was because I felt so hurt and let down by the news that she was going away for lockdown after promising she’d see me should we get locked down, or whether she thought it was just separation anxiety and I was going to miss her.

One of the many, many positives about my relationship with Anita is that she allows me to contact her between sessions so at least the panic and shame about reaching out isn’t there like it was with Em. I don’t have to jump a bunch of internal hurdles about whether I should contact her and that is such a huge relief.

By the time I was thinking about constructing a message to Anita, there was a message on my phone from her. It was lovely, but I think it shows that she had no idea that I was circling rupture zone:

I spent some time typing out a message on my phone and pressed send:

I know it’s unlikely at this short notice but do you have any free slots on Wednesday? I’m feeling really panicked but also really like I just want to run away and never see you again. The teen part that really believes that this is not real is having a field day – ‘I told you so. It’s all lies’. The other week when I was upset and feeling like things weren’t safe because I sensed a lockdown was inevitable you told me we’d be ok and that you’d still see me because it’s what I need. I wasn’t expecting today to find out that this wasn’t the case now. I understand why you are going away. It makes sense to my adult. But the youngest most vulnerable parts don’t understand at all. It just feels abandoning. It feels like it’s hard to trust what is real and what’s just empty words now. I hate that I am like this. I hate being so affected by things that normal people just don’t even notice. I feel embarrassed that I am so upset. I get that it isn’t easy for anyone and I absolutely don’t want to push you away but equally there’s a really strong pull for me to just cut and run. There’s also another part that feels terribly alone in the snow and the teen part will happily let her freeze x

She responded by offering me a time that I couldn’t make (ARRRGGGHHHH!!!), which obviously isn’t her fault, but it just sent me into a big huff. I was going to be sitting with this for a fucking eternity and there was no possibility of seeing her. I so desperately wanted to see her but I couldn’t possibly let her know! Jeez.

What comes next is the wheels falling off:

Oh sweet mother of God…help me! Or at least stop my hands! – text bomb:

Oh man. Reading it back now I am in proper ‘crawl into a hole and die’ mode. But as you can see I was proper activated. I continued on with my texts…ping ping ping… poor Anita!:

I just feel like nothing is real and it’s terrifying. I just really need a big hug and to make a plan on how to get through this next month…or longer. It’s worse than a break. And whilst I have sensed it coming it’s just too sudden for my system. And I feel like you’re gone. But also like I don’t know who you are ☹

She responded by telling me that she would love to give me a hug and that she was sorry and had herself had a wobble because she didn’t see it coming or that the plans would change, to let’s meet up on Friday and find a way forward followed by a hug GIF for the child parts.

Which helped no end! I could feel myself starting to settle a bit. The panic was subsiding. Things would be ok. She wasn’t abandoning me. I would be able to see her on Friday before she leaves and a face-to-face repair felt possible. Her willingness to engage with me, to try to make things better showed that she is the Anita I think she is. She is not Em. I was still massively hurting but could see now that whatever has happened hasn’t been deliberate.

But still the texts continued. FUCK ME…the shame…:

I know it’s really really hard for everyone – all of us – and I’m not trying to be a difficult pain in the arse psycho because I get that you are human too and it’s been an impossible fucking year – and we’re not unhinged (well I am!) is anyone’s guess. I did see it coming. I’ve just been surprised it’s taken so long. I’m always frightened of change because I don’t cope very well with it which is why everything is so controlled in my life and I need tonnes of notice and preparation to get my youngest parts safe before things happen. Adult me can, and will, power through this because that’s what I have trained into myself: keep going no matter what…. It’s just underneath it’s a fucking shambles. And there is so much stuff trying to work its way out at the moment internally that I feel like I have third degree burns all over my body – this last 48 hours (since lockdown announced) feels like I have been thrown into a vat of vinegar. I literally don’t know what to do because it’s so painful. I don’t want to feel like I can’t trust you – but that’s how sensitive my system is. Flight mode is pretty much default. I love you x

Anita replied with another kind message apologising and acknowledging that she had let me down, saying she really knows that she needs to be grounded and solid for me and that she hadn’t been in that session because of her own panic around the lockdown. It really helped to see her human side. I told her that I actually needed authenticity and the truth above anything else. I would rather her be her than attempt being solid when she isn’t feeling it. If she had told me she wasn’t feeling brilliant herself in the session it would have made sense – the mutual disconnect and the fact that she wasn’t really on the ball with letting me know what was going on or making any kind of plan.

I then told her that my meltdown simply stemmed from my being scared of distance, ‘I don’t like feeling far away from you and the littlest parts don’t feel safe unless I can hear your heart beating…which is just fucking cringey’. And that’s the reality, those youngest parts only seem to regulate when they are being held and I can actually hear her steady heartbeat. My breathing slows down, the tension in my system slowly ebbs away, and eventually my breathing matches hers – long and slow rather than rapid and shallow. It’s at this point that the young parts can really come out and tell her what’s going on for them.

The little four-year-old self can’t speak unless she feels contained and right now the only way that she feels safe is being physically close. This is why therapy with Em was so traumatic. The young part would be there, terrified, dysregulated, alone, and Em would just leave her…not just physically, but emotionally too. Being stranded in that pain is hideous. Anita recognises that and responds to it and it is so healing.

Anyway, there was more back and forth – honestly the poor woman got totally spammed on Monday! She reiterated that she really does care and loves me and that she would never purposefully hurt me and we continued working things through and we sort it all out on Friday.

I still felt out of sorts through the week but it would come in waves. Adult me was more available at times, but at other times I’d descend into panic again.

I had a really horrible dream- an old favourite- on Tuesday night where I was in a plane feeling scared, holding onto the seat and repeating ‘I am safe…I am safe…I am safe’ only everyone else was up in the aisles screaming at each other. I went and sought refuge in the toilet for some peace. It was different to a normal plane. There was window. As I looked out, I realised we were too low, skirting alongside some snowy mountains. Suddenly the plane nose dived and started corkscrewing down. I smashed my head on the ceiling and was terrified. The falling seemed to last forever and then suddenly the plane righted itself. Only, now there was another problem, the mountain range surrounded the plane on three sides. We were set to crash into the face of the mountain. The pilot pulled the plane up into an almost vertical ascent….and then I woke up!

FUCKING STRESS!!

Somehow, I made it through the week. I changed my craniosacral session to Wednesday from Thursday as it wasn’t completely clear whether K will be able to work. I needed to get some kind of nervous system regulation and talk about what had happened with A. K was incredible and if I get chance, I will write about these sessions with her soon because they too are soooooo helpful and holding in a different way. Body work has been such a brilliant addition to my talk therapy.

However, despite the lovely session with K, I didn’t sleep properly Wednesday night. The panic about Anita was ramping up. I genuinely felt like I was going to get a text to tell me she wasn’t going to be there on Friday. That she’d left on Wednesday night and we’d have to work online. I could feel the disappointment and rage flooding in. So, I text her and told her. She quickly put my mind at ease and told me she was looking forward to seeing me. Thank god.

And that is the frigging stress of the week before the repair session!! I’ll write another post about that as it’s loooooonng!!

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I appreciate that there’s a window of a couple of HUGE weeks missing in this blog and reading between the lines here you’ll have probably worked out that the stuff that’s really changed has been about expressing love and the level physical holding in the relationship with A. It’s been transformational for me which is also why I have reacted so terribly to needing to return to online. The thought of losing all this is just totally overwhelming.

I have been reluctant to talk about it publicly due to the fact that so many people are struggling with remote therapy and having all kinds of new boundaries in place in the therapy room, losing hugs and touch, and I feel like it could be triggering for some and I really don’t want to make things worse for any of us in a pretty fucking unbearable situation.

I know, in the past this sort of thing (reading about the holding and expressions of love on blogs) has triggered me because I have so badly wanted this from Em and never got anywhere close. I am delighted for the people that receive it but I have felt literal pain in my stomach when I realise how strong the need has been in me and how painful it has been not to receive it. Throw in the pandemic and I don’t want to be seen as insensitive to other people. So, I will get to it, but as I said, it’ll probably be passworded.

There’s also a fear on my part. I just don’t want any backlash for what is happening in my therapy because frankly I have had years and years of shit, traumatising experiences in the room, and want to be able to celebrate what’s going on with you and feel good about it. And I know the vast majority of you will be cheering for me, but I also know that when we are struggling ourselves it’s hard not to project our own feelings of anger and dissatisfaction onto others – ‘this is wrong, she shouldn’t do that, social distancing…’ blah blah blah.

So, thanks for being patient but also sorry for the break in chronology and weird cryptic stuff! I just don’t know what to do for the best.

Enjoy your Sundays x x

Broken Promises

A couple of weeks ago I was in a therapy session with Anita – it was the third of three incredibly connecting sessions where the littlest most scared parts of me felt safe enough to come out and talk. We are getting right down into the toxic shame and the cringey stuff but also starting to heal it which is so great.

The trust has built so much and the level of intimacy has sky-rocketed in the last month. A has been so holding and containing – so attuned – which has meant that the little parts feel safe telling her what they need and can express pretty much anything – it’s like my adult filter has gone! Her responses are always so good that I take more risks in saying what’s happening for me. If I feel shame she quickly removes it and I’m learning to trust that it’s actually ok to be me with her.  

It’s weird to think how different it feels in the room now compared to all the years with Em having the feelings but being too scared to really express them.   

It’s no secret that I have massive attachment issues is it?!- and a big part of that hell zone is that I am terrified of being left and abandoned. Anyone that’s read this blog for a while will know how hard disruptions to my therapy feel – I mean I absolutely loathe therapy breaks! The recent-ish termination of my long-term therapy with Em left my youngest parts reeling, too. I have never felt so rejected and abandoned in my life. And so even when I feel relative safety with Anita there’s still the parts of me worrying about ‘when’ not ‘if’ things will go wrong. I think that dream I had last week is evidence of that deep-rooted fear. I am so conditioned to believe that I will end up being too much that it’s hard to imagine that what Anita says about not going anywhere could be true.

I’ve been feeling a bit low-grade panicked because now that Anita and I seem to be really ‘doing the work’ in our sessions I have been worrying what would happen if we had another lockdown and had to return to online therapy – which I really, really struggled with last time. It’s a concern that’s been grumbling away in the background for a while, in fact since we returned to face-to-face in September, but in recent weeks has got louder because I felt it was inevitable that we would be forced into another lockdown sooner rather than later and I know that the child parts that have finally made it into the room just will not cope with a lack of physical proximity.

I can’t remember what we had been talking about in the lead up to saying this in session, but the four-year-old part was there and about twenty minutes from the end of the I whispered, ‘I am worried’. Anita gently asked me what I was worrying about and I said, ‘you going away’ (losing the intimacy, holding, and containment). Anita immediately said that I was never going to lose her and that she had no intention of going anywhere. I barely let out any sound as I murmured, ‘you might die’ into her jumper. It was coming up to the anniversary of my good friend/mother figure dying and the young parts had been preoccupied with the loss. A again assured me that she was staying with me and then I said in a really little voice, ‘but we might get locked down again’ and she agreed, ‘we might’.

Anita was quiet for a few seconds and then said, ‘that is a possibility. To be honest I think if we did get locked down again, I know you’d look after you and I’d look after me. I wouldn’t offer this to anyone else because I know the rest of my clients would be ok online, but I’d still be willing to see you because I think you need it. I don’t work with two people in the same way. I do what feels right, for me and for them. So, we might get locked down but I am offering that to you. I wouldn’t see anyone else here I’d just see you so it would feel safer. Does that make sense?’

I honestly couldn’t believe my ears. To have that recognition that online therapy really doesn’t work for me and that actually she understands how traumatising it is for the young parts (especially now she’s really met them) was incredible. To know that she recognises my trauma and is prepared to find a way to not add to that was like the biggest balm for my soul and really made the young parts calm down inside.

The last few weeks I have been anticipating lockdown being announced. I knew it would mean some disruption to my work life and I’d likely lose K and my craniosacral sessions but otherwise things would remain largely the same. It would be hard not having my body therapy because my nervous system is a nightmare, but at least I would still have Anita twice a week and that would make all the other challenges just about bearable. I’m a real homebody and am quite risk averse and so actually haven’t been anywhere public like restaurants, cinemas, gyms, shopping or whatever since the last lockdown was lifted and so I wouldn’t miss that – or seeing people!

Anyway, fast forward to Monday. Lockdown had been announced on Saturday by BoJo. I had already moved my extra-curricular tuition online (as per guidance) but have kept my home-schooling work face-to-face (again there’s very clear wording on that). There seems to be a lot more flexibility around what can and can’t happen this time around in all areas. Last time we were all locked down weren’t we – DO NOT GO OUT! To be honest this time it just seems like hospitality, entertainment, and some shops are shutting – oh and you can’t go get a haircut or a tattoo! The government is encouraging us to keep medical appointments, we can even go to support groups of up to fifteen people etc. As I say, in many ways because schools are open my life doesn’t look any different.

I was jabbering away in session on Monday. Just filler. There wasn’t much deep stuff going on because I guess the part of me that had been in a panic about being ‘left’ was feeling safe. Ok work is now going be a Zoom doom pain in the arse but at least my Monday and Friday sessions are there. I will survive.

Or at least that’s what I thought.

About half an hour into the session I looked at A and she said, ‘you seem quite distant today’ and I think she meant, I wasn’t being emotionally vulnerable and my adult was very there and she finished the sentence, ‘maybe it’s in anticipation of the separation?’

What?

What?!

What separation?

What the actual fuck???!!!

My system shut down instantly and I could feel the tendrils of panic creeping through my system. I didn’t say anything. My facial expression didn’t change. But I was frozen. I literally couldn’t compute what she had just said to me. I was stunned. Two weeks ago she had assured me that she would be there if we were locked down because I ‘need’ it and now we have half an hour left of a session before a four week separation and this is the first I know about it! You have to be kidding me?

I can’t tell you how many voices were running wild in my head but there was a loud teen screaming ‘I knew it! She’s a fucking liar!’ and then there was the little four-year-old crying, ‘you told me you wouldn’t leave me’. It was absolutely horrific.

I couldn’t speak. I felt trembly. I wanted to run away but I couldn’t move. So, off I went. Dissociated.

Anita moved and sat closer to me but I couldn’t look at her. I don’t think she realised fully what was going on in my head. She didn’t join the dots from the conversation we’d had the other week to my disappointment now. And I couldn’t tell her. I felt ashamed. I felt so stupid. Why did I allow myself to believe what she had said? And if she had lied about that, what else was a lie? The ‘I love yous’?

All these weeks of steady encouragement to ‘come in out of the cold’ and then this. This is exactly why we stay distant. If you don’t people in they can’t hurt you can they?

I felt like the little parts of me were disintegrating. Just like the teen had said in my dream the week before, ‘it’s just a game, that’s her job, it’s not real – none of it is real’.  I was really distressed and dissociated.

A asked me if I wanted a hug. I didn’t respond. I could hear what she was saying but I just couldn’t speak or move. She asked again and I barely nodded. Child parts though, they outstrip the angry teen! She put her hand on my hand and pulled me in close for a cuddle. I didn’t speak. I think it was a kind of shock. I seem to have mastered dissociative crying where I don’t even know it’s happening until I feel the tears roll down over my lip, though.

She told me that she hadn’t decided what she was going to be doing yet but was probably going up to stay with her partner. I just held on tight and kept silently crying. I literally couldn’t believe she was going to leave me when she had so clearly promised not to. Adult me understands but adult me wasn’t there then.

Then the session was over and I realised that not only was I going to be working online for a month, but that we had no plan in place on how to help manage a month of hideous shit online. I was firmly in rupture zone (not that she knew that then). A said we can continue to text and have contact…but that is not enough. Not now. Not after the way we have been working for the last month. The young parts that are so exposed need some tangible reminder that she actually exists because when I am distressed the object constancy stuff is awful. All I can picture is a black void of where she should be -it’s right back into preverbal trauma.

I struggled to get up and leave. I said goodbye but I couldn’t meet her gaze. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I walked to my car, got inside, shut the door and let out a gut-wrenching howl. I sounded like a wounded animal. And then I sobbed. Convulsive crying. Just absolutely hideous levels of pain. It was a pain about being left, by her, by Em, by my mum all coming together at once. All those excruciating feelings about being unlovable, unimportant and forgettable came flooding in.

It’s fair to say it’s been a pretty shit week! I’m completely exhausted by this but also just completely embarrassed and ashamed to feel this. I did let A know what’s gone on but…ugh god… I just want to crawl into a hole and die. Talk about losing my grip!

* Just to say, thank you to everyone who has emailed me asking for the password for upcoming posts. I haven’t replied to anyone yet because I don’t have a password yet and I haven’t written any posts! Also, I genuinely thought about eight people were going to message me and it’s been loads of you. I will get back to you guys soon xx

Dreaming Of My Therapist… Again

The last few weeks in therapy have been absolutely incredible/transformational (sorry if I sound like a broken record here!) and I absolutely plan to write about what’s going on in a few password protected posts soon – but before that happens I need some time to really process it all properly with A.

This, as you’ll see, is not a protected post. I’ve just woken up from the most winding, random, emotionally-charged therapy dream and whilst it’s fresh I think I’ll write about it here before I forget it – although I don’t think I’ll forget that all too familiar feeling of sadness and shame it’s left me with. I definitely need to take it to session tomorrow because I am still jangling inside even though I know it’s just my brain having a good sort out!

I seem to have a thing about dreaming about my therapist/s don’t I? I think over the years I have written about handful of them here. In fact, I am struggling to think of a title that isn’t the same as all the others! Why am I writing about dreams again? Well, I’ve noticed that the blog posts that seem to get the most traction here are the ones about ‘dreaming of my therapist’, ‘touch in therapy’ , ‘eye contact’ and ‘ruptures’ which just goes to show that these things concern a lot of us in therapy. It’s not really surprising that we process relational stuff in our dreams and that this crops up in the form of our therapists with whom we are processing our attachment issues.

I used to feel huge amounts of shame when I’d have these BIG dreams and keep quiet about them for weeks and months on end letting the feelings steadily eat away at me – but this was because Em never really knew how to handle what I was saying. I remember the time I finally told her that I dreamt she’d violently thrown my three-year-old son out the back of an ambulance that was parked on her drive so that he injured himself as he landed on the concrete. She’d stepped over him and gone back into her house and shut the door on us both. I was left holding him unconscious in my arms …fuck me why did I not listen to what my mind was trying to show me then – talk about a clear message about my inner child!!

She was so distant, so unmoved, so analytical ‘what does this episode remind you of?’ Being curious about dream content is fine and useful, but sometimes when my mind is serving me up trauma 101 I just really need to hear, ‘that sounds really upsetting and I am sorry that I hurt you in the dream.  Can we look at the feelings that have come up for you around this? I wonder what your dream is trying to tell us?’

It’s really not easy unpicking upsetting dreams ABOUT your therapist WITH your therapist – especially when you’re still reeling from feeling rejected or abandoned and so it’s really important that a sense of safety is established first. Anita is really good at this – thank god. But it’s so alien after years of feeling so much shame if Em even made it into a dream and often not saying anything because it would just pour salt in the wound.

It’s been a little while since Anita has made it into my dreams – in fact I think it’s got to be back in June or something, when we were in the thick of lockdown and online therapy sessions. I was feeling unsettled and was caught up in a panic, worrying about the various ways that she would abandon me and tell me she couldn’t work with me anymore. God the abandonment narrative never gets old does it?!

I’ve found that taking these hard dreams to A has been really helpful. We work through them and the underlying fear (being left/abandoned or being too much) and it really seems to help solidify the relationship and help build trust, because of course my brain is replaying long-standing fears and imagining the worst that could happen in the relationship in these dreams. Anita doesn’t have a problem with giving reassurance (remember how Em wouldn’t AT ALL?) and even though it takes a lot (A LOT!) of repetition what she is saying IS starting to go in a little bit. At least part of me is starting to believe that she’s not planning on running off into the sunset screaming ‘fucking leave me alone you freak!’.

They say that it takes the brain thousands of repetitions of an action in order to make a new neural pathway so it’s going to take a lot of ‘I care about you, I am not going anywhere, and I love you’ for it to really stick and start create its own track in my brain. Oh help!… imagine that also needing to happen for all the different parts of me – because it’s not always the same part present that hears the affirmations!

ARRRGHHHH!

For the longest time it has felt like I get told these lovely things and they almost bounce off me, or slip through my fingers and are suddenly gone. K said to me the other day that there’s a part that really struggles to take in love and care, like that part literally has no idea what to do with it, and she’s so right. I so desperately want to find a place inside myself to put this care and love because now that I am finally experiencing what has been lacking my whole frigging life I don’t want it to disappear. And yet I have nowhere to store it…which is hilarious because there feels like an endless black hole in my heart area that needs filling! Ugh.   

Anyway, back to dreams – recently, I had a dream about Em (yeah, that relationship and its ending is still giving me the occasional nightmare even 9 months down the line) that affected me so badly that I really couldn’t hold myself together at all. I forewarned A in a text before my session about what had happened and what I needed in the session from her – basically to stay close to me so I didn’t dissociate.  

No surprises that A was phenomenal that day – just completely saw what I needed – and that’s where the passworded posts will begin. To have that horrible sense of feeling rejected and abandoned when it’s completely live and unfiltered, witnessed by A felt hard, but allowing that pain and young stuff, to be truly seen by A was what triggered to move into this new therapeutic space we are now in. The level of emotional intimacy has ramped up and the most vulnerable parts are finally getting seen, held, and contained which is both great and fucking terrifying.

After several really wonderful holding sessions this month where the young parts have been seen and worked with, the untrusting, angry, self-loathing critical part who is pickled in shame turned up to therapy on Monday and it was utterly horrendous. I completely shut down. My body language was so closed, knees pulled up into my body, head down, completely rigid. I couldn’t look at A at all. The longer I was in the room the harder it got. A was so kind, consistent, and present and it just made things worse (for a bit!).

Every time she asked a question or said something kind, I wanted to scream at her to leave me alone. I did tell her to ‘shut up’ at one point! Eek. I couldn’t bear to be seen and if I could have curled up in a ball and hidden from her view I would have. Anita believes in letting the protective defensive parts have their say, and to be in the space, but also talks to them and understands the situation enough that she is able to disarm them a bit. In the end my defences shattered and that protector backed down and the vulnerable that feels so much shame came out but again was met with exactly what it needs.

Anyway, all that’s for the other posts but I’m not surprised that I had the dream I had this morning having had the voice that says, ‘You’re too needy. This isn’t real. This isn’t safe. She’ll realise she’s made a mistake and leave soon’ being so present on Monday.

The dream:

I was due to see Anita for a therapy session at the end of the day. She lived at the top of a very long, steep hill, and for some reason I had parked at the bottom of the hill. I walked up the tree lined street. It was heading towards sunset and the view back down the road was lovely. I thought I was going to be late and so started running up the remainder of the hill – I was exhausted by the time I reached the house!

The house was built into a hill (I used to live somewhere like this when I was a teen) – it was an upside-down house with the living room and kitchen upstairs and there were steps spiralling round the outside of the property to get to the front door at the top. There was a large veranda off the back and when I arrived there was a village gathering going on – like a ‘bring and share’ sort of thing with heaps of people milling around chatting. There was a long table laid out and I was invited to sit down but A wasn’t there. I was totally confused. I didn’t feel like I should be there but people insisted that I stay and it was fine that A had said I would be there. I felt awkward and embarrassed.

People kept talking to me and I got on fine, cue my chameleon skills, but inside I was wondering what the fuck was going on. I looked around and noticed that Anita was sitting at the far end of the table on the corner about two seats down from me. When I saw her, I got the absolute jealous rage! There was a friend of mine (not someone I actually know in real life) who was about 17 sitting perched on her lap and laughing her head off. She seemed really confident and happy and just one of those people that seem to have it all. A and this girl clearly had a deep relationship and I felt so unbelievably angry.

I had no idea that they knew each other and was furious that this person, my friend, seemed to be so connected to A, that it was so easy for them both to laugh and joke and be close. I got up quietly from the table, glanced again at A – we made eye contact and I could feel the tears coming. I quickly left the house and ran off down the hill. I felt so sad but also massively abandoned, too. I didn’t want to have some crap second rate pretend relationship with Anita when clearly my friend didn’t.

There was no reason I should know about my friend knowing A but I didn’t feel like I could trust Anita anymore because she’d let me walk into that situation. Surely, she must know that would hurt me. I ran out of energy and the rage dissipated. I sat down on someone’s front lawn at the bottom of the hill under a tree and just sobbed like my heart was breaking. I felt so sad that yet again things were going to shit with someone I care about – someone I love -there was no way I could continue to see A if this other girl was involved.

Anita came walking down the road and sat down beside me. She tried to comfort me but I just couldn’t hear what she was saying. I couldn’t feel it. I was so shutdown. I needed to protect myself from more hurt. She handed me some old pieces of paper and pictures and explained to me that she was still with me and that nothing had changed and to read these things she’d given me and I’d see that our relationship was important to her, that the relationship she had with the girl was different but not more important. I felt slightly better but I still hurt. I knew it wasn’t rational but I felt like I had lost everything.

A neighbour called to Anita from across the street and she went to over to see them. The 17-year-old friend came towards me and sat down. I said, ‘I didn’t know you knew Anita?’ and the girl told me she’d know A for years and that they were really close. She said that A was good at making clients feel special but it’s just a game, that’s her job, it’s not real, none of it is real. She pointed at the pieces of paper that A had given me and said ‘Oh yeah, I’ve seen all those before’. I couldn’t contain my sadness and got up, leaving the papers behind me and ran off again. I had to get away.

Anita saw me go and shouted after me, but I didn’t look back and just kept running. I ended up in a school, in a changing room cubicle and sat with my feet up on the bench so that I couldn’t be seen by anyone walking by outside. I opened my eyes and there was a little girl in there with me, maybe four years old, in a grey pinafore dress. She was clearly lost and looked really sad. I asked her name and she couldn’t speak. I asked her if she was lost and she nodded. I sat her next to me and told her that it would be ok although I didn’t really believe it either for her or me.

At that moment I heard Anita and the 17-year-old enter the changing room. I put my finger to my lips and gestured for the little girl to be quiet. I could hear Anita talking about me, ‘She’s intelligent but she’s an emotional wreck and really so needy, I’ve never come across anyone like her. How do you know her and why on earth would you spend time with her?’ And the girl said that we went to college together and agreed that I was a bit strange but nice enough.

I felt really betrayed hearing Anita talking about me to this other person in this way and just sat there stunned. The little girl’s shoe poked out from under the door and Anita and the 17-year-old knocked and I had to open it. I looked up at Anita and burst into tears and the little girl ran into the arms of the 17-year-old – they were sisters.

I don’t remember how it ended but man…. I have woken up really exhausted. I feel like I have done an emotional workout before the day has even begun and whilst adult me knows that none of it is real there’s that horrible hangover that just niggles in the background ‘what if?’.

So, there we are. Hopefully I won’t go into shutdown tomorrow and can actually just see that this is ‘the fear’ doing its thing.

Honestly, my poor little brain needs a rest! Remind me why I do this to myself!! x

Some Password Protected Posts Coming…

I’ve been trying to work out how I can navigate blogging about my therapy and still be able to keep some things fairly private, too. As I said in my last post, things have shifted in quite a big way lately but it also feels really vulnerable, so the best thing I can come up with for now is to write stuff but occasionally password protect some of my posts so that I don’t get months behind myself here – as primarily this is my therapy journal. At some point in the future I’ll probably remove the passwords, but for now, I think this is my best plan.

I know there are a solid few of us that regularly read and comment on each other’s posts and so if you want the password for any upcoming protected posts then just ping me a message over at:

rubberbandsandchewinggum@gmail.com

and I’ll send it…when I finally get round to writing something!! Basically, if we have interacted then I’ll give you the password – if not – some of this stuff will be closed for now but there will be other posts too.

Also, I’ve noticed in the past when other people have done this that the WordPress Reader doesn’t show that there are password protected posts when they are written – which is a pain – so what I’ll have to do is write a ‘Hi I’ve posted something over on the website’ to direct those that are interested to it. I realise that by doing this I could alienate some of my followers but at the same time there is just some stuff that I am not quite ready to have out in the world for complete strangers to read.

Hope this makes sense….and if anyone has any better ideas on how to do this I am all ears as literally got no idea what I am doing having been warts and all for all to see for such a long time!

This Is What Healing Looks Like To Me or ‘Why I need Chocolate NOT Pears (Or Ice Cubes!)’

For those of you have followed this blog over the last few years you’ll know that I have poured blood, sweat, tears, and thousands and thousands of pounds into my healing journey. The ironic thing is, it is only in the last year, since I went back to my craniosacral therapist K, and then found Anita in January, (just as my relationship with Em started to properly disintegrate) that there has been any sense of healing – like a proper felt sense that things can and are getting better on that deeper level.

I have done years of ‘therapy’, religiously going to see Em week in week out, two sessions a week and repeatedly being triggered into a place of huge pain and dissociation. It has been so hard to endure. Part of me wonders why I stayed for so long when everything felt so off. My attachment to Em was so strong, though. My child parts were completely invested in the relationship (or wanting to feel like there was a ‘relationship’) that I put myself through emotional hell – a familiar hell – of feeling so deficient, unlovable, and untouchable.

This experience of therapy with Em just poured salt in an already gaping mother wound. It was trauma bonding 101. A complete re-enactment of my childhood and a re-experiencing of the cold, distant, but shaming relationship I had with my mum. Deep down part of me knew that, but I couldn’t leave, it was familiar territory and what I had grown to expect…but just like with my mum, I really really hoped that one day things would turn around and I’d get what I needed.

I wanted to believe there was something better for me and maybe it would materialise if I just tried harder, didn’t ask for too much, and was patient. But this didn’t happen. I was shown time and again that my needs weren’t important – or even acknowledged as being valid- and that I had to take what was offered…which was very little.

It wasn’t until Em likened my young parts to a tick and had verbally rejected the gift (or said that she didn’t want to accept gifts in future and shouldn’t have taken the one at Christmas) that I knew I couldn’t go on any more. Em had hurt me and my child parts so badly that even though I loved her (and still do) I physically couldn’t put myself through it any more. As it was all coming to a head from my side it was clear that she was more than done too – as I had suspected – and she made no attempt to try and work through it with me, willing to let me go on a perfunctory two line email…after 8 years!

Looking back, I just wish I had made a clean break the day I went to see Anita to test the waters about a different therapy/therapist. I knew instantly that A was a good fit and that I wanted to work with her but I also wanted to try for a ‘decent ending’ with Em– that illusive thing! I wish I had have taken more heed of the concerns A raised about Em’s conduct and just cut my losses before things had chance to get any worse.

If only I had just walked away then rather than waiting to see what might happen, giving it one last go at trying to work it through, and STUPIDLY handing her the power back, then the biggest injury would have been avoided. I would have felt rejected and abandoned whatever happened but I wouldn’t be stuck with this sick feeling of people I care about seeing me as a parasite.

Ouch.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? I guess I hoped that she would reflect on what I told her about how hurt I was about the session leading into Christmas, the break, and the first session back, accept her part in things, acknowledge my feelings, and find a way to move forward – rupture and repair in action. But no. What happened was horrific, her response telling her how hurt I felt was, ‘your young parts are like a tick’ and before I knew it everything was unravelling at speed.

Clearly, I am still not over what happened in this therapy and every time I get close to Anita there’s a voice in my head that says, ‘This is dangerous, don’t let her too close, don’t let her see the need because you’ll frighten her away – she’ll think you’re a tick, too’. And I hate that. I hate that what Em said still hurts like hell all these months on, but I also hate that it impacts how I relate to Anita.

I cannot really explain how different it feels being with Anita. She makes me feel safe and cared for and yet even when there is real closeness between us we’re lumbered with the legacy that Em has left. I know it is going to take a lot of therapy and care to repair the damage done because Em has basically shattered all the young parts of me that were trying to trust and heal, but not only that, she’s also taken a huge swipe at my adult self. I am so grateful that A is on my side though, and willing to do the work with me….as slow and painstaking as it is.

I guess in some way I am grateful to Em (am I?!). I learnt a lot about myself in the therapy with her. Parts of myself I didn’t even know existed made themselves known to me through being in ‘relationship’ with her. Unfortunately, these vulnerable young child parts were abandoned in that room. She frequently told me I was abandoning my young parts but if that was true, then so was she. I have so often felt like I am on the verge of drowning just trying to keep us all afloat and taking myself to therapy was not an act of abandonment on my part. It’s hard living an adult life without having to carry the terror and pain of a minibus full of activated child parts too – therapy was meant to help with that (and it does now- phew!).

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time researching and finding out more about my ‘stuff’. I guess I used that well-worn strategy ‘intellectualising’ to try and make sense of the situation! I have read so many books on attachment, trauma, shame, dissociation, and the therapeutic relationship – and, of course, blogs – looking for the answers, learning how to move forward and heal, and whilst that didn’t happen with Em, I feel like I at least know myself now and confident that I am not the only person on earth struggling with this stuff. I know what’s wrong. I understand what the injury is. AND I know what I need to heal it. I’ve always known – I just haven’t been able to get what I needed until now.

After years of being told what I need by Em, like she was some magic oracle that knew what ‘people like me’ need to heal I can categorically say what I need is not what was on offer with her! Maybe her strategies work with some clients, but I struggle to see how anyone with Complex Trauma would have responded well to her ‘techniques’. As I mentioned recently in another post, I saw something by Carolyn Spring that says that when we are in distress, we don’t need strategies or techniques, we need a person. And it’s that simple. It’s not rocket science, it it? Relational trauma needs healing in relationship. Em didn’t really do relationship. She watched me as I struggled and suffered – like some kind of poor rodent in a science experiment.

I have talked and talked and got nowhere and over time replaced talking with more and more dissociation. Simply being in the same room with Em triggered me. I’d feel dysregulated before I even arrived at the session but I was always so hopeful that maybe this time I’d get what I needed having hung on desperately through the week in attachment hell waiting to see her.

I don’t think people that haven’t got this kind of trauma/injury have even the slightest idea of how bloody harrowing it is being stuck in the attachment hell zone – feeling like the world is literally falling apart, like you can’t breathe for the pain of it, and being completely terrified. When it gets bad like that I know, for me, it’s largely pre-verbal and it is so scary feeling completely abandoned, uncontained, and as though you are falling through some kind of internal black abyss. That’s crappy, but then there’s all the other feelings that can come in from other parts- the apathy, the rage, the self-loathing, the wanting to cut and run…it’s just awful.

My window of tolerance became so small in the end that I felt unsafe being with Em. I was always braced for more rejection, more shaming, more disconnection. My body was always so tense – so much so that it would hurt. More than anything I wanted to feel safe with her and that’s why I kept going – the child parts hoped that one day she’d help them and so they hid behind the sofa, peeking out, waiting and waiting to be seen and cared for. Only when she did get glimpses of who was there she freaked out, put walls up, and distanced herself even further. It was though I would sometimes be brave enough to take one step forward and she’d immediately take two (twenty!) steps back.

I don’t know what it is about that young parts that triggered her so badly but I do wonder if there is unresolved childhood trauma for her that my stuff tapped into and she just couldn’t bear to be near it. Or maybe she just didn’t like me and was content to keep taking the money. Long-term clients with attachment disorders coming twice a week are certainly a reliable source of income. We don’t ever not turn up! lol.

There is so sadness about this. At times it got so bad that I came close to destroying myself. My go to coping strategies were so active – some of the worst periods of anorexic behaviour and self-harm happened whilst in the therapy with Em because I couldn’t cope with the pain of the attachment and how alone I felt. I feel so upset about it all because it could have been so different. Handled well, it could have been so healing.

I tried really hard to do what Em said. I wanted to believe that what she suggested could work for me. I don’t want to feel this way forever – that’s why I am in therapy in the first place! I tried to engage with whatever she asked: the visualisations- ‘just imagine holding your distressed child parts’ – but it wasn’t me the child parts wanted or needed at that point– and she knew that and shamed me for it.

When it was really bad and I was heavily dissociated somewhere out in the cold alone, embodying that exiled child part, there was no adult self to help me and Em just left me stranded – sometimes for the entire session. I don’t doubt that someday soon I will be able to hold and contain these young parts for myself but back then there was no chance. I didn’t know how.

When you are terrified and in a child state you can’t just pick yourself up and make it better for yourself – especially if there’s no template to work from. How can you imagine being held and feeling safe if you’ve never experienced being held or feeling safe? It’s not just visualisations, though. I’ve done all sorts; I made my eyes follow blue dots on an I-pad over and over (yet another tool to avoid talking about what was going on between us in the room). I have tried everything Em threw at me and yet none of it worked.

I have tried to believe that being ignored during the week between sessions was for the best, that somehow my massively distressed young parts who feared that she was never coming back (like all those years where my mum was gone in the week when I was little) or perhaps dead (like my dad) would learn that she was there in session. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need a transitional object, check ins…the list goes on and on …because she was unwilling to concede an inch so maybe I must stupid for thinking these things might help and how dare I ask for anything more than the bare minimum – clearly, she knew best – deprivation and isolation was best?! But I did need more and now that I am getting those things, it really really makes a massive difference.

I have never been able to feel safe in therapy because what I needed more than anything was a person. I needed a relationship in which to begin to build trust and someone to feel safe with. I needed someone who realised and accepted that there were lots of parts of me (some really badly hurt) and they each need something different and communicate in different ways. My child parts were reluctant to come to session with Anita- and who can blame them after what happened in January- but I’ve found they are pretty good at communicating with Gifs and emojis! I have sent more texts in the last week to A than I did in the entire time I worked with Em – eek!

Anita’s willingness to allow those young parts to tentatively take steps towards her from outside the room and for her to have responded in a way that they understand, has meant that now, they have felt safe enough to come to therapy and are well and truly in the room…I could not have done that if we hadn’t spent the last 9 months laying the foundations via text. Em was blank screen. Teflon. She wanted no contact. Anita is present, real, and connected. She actually seems to like me…better than like me (yay!)…which is nice but it means that what and who needs to be work with can safely turn up.

I wish I had been able to advocate better for myself with Em. Deep down we all know what we need to heal. Sometimes that doesn’t align with what the other person can do, it doesn’t fit their training or system of working, their personality – and that is fine – we can’t force a therapist to be someone they’re not (even if they seem to want to force a square peg through a round hole where we are concerned!). I just wish they’d say something early on like, ‘What you need and want is completely valid and understandable as you’ve had so much wounding but I can’t offer that’ and refer us out rather than saying things like, ‘The time for getting what you need has passed and you need to learn to hold this for yourself. I won’t collude with those young parts. If I did what you wanted it wouldn’t help you in the long run.’

Whilst I understand I can’t get a new childhood or a new mum, I can have a relationship with my therapist that is safe, caring, and loving in order that the wounding from my childhood can be gently healed. I can have someone who is on my side ready to hold my hand and support me when I go to the really dark places. It is ok to expect to be in a relationship with someone who you share the most vulnerable and wounded parts of yourself. I can’t express it strongly enough – it is the relationship that heals not the theory.

And so what happened with Em? I stayed, sort of believing her narrative that I was not trying hard enough to heal (even though I work so fucking hard both inside and outside of sessions)– that I was in some way treatment resistant so just need to try harder, let her in more, stop dissociating. And then when I did that, when I gave her my notebooks, her reaction was so bad that it ended.

Here’s a crap analogy for what my therapy has been like…buckle up we’re on course for one of my extended rambling metaphors!:

I think it’s a bit like when you’re a kid and you feel sad and want a treat. You may really want a bar of chocolate – know that a bar of chocolate is what would make you feel better- and yet the parent keeps offering you a pear because ‘they know what’s best for you’. You chew on the pear but really, deep down you wanted chocolate. I mean, of course, there are some similarities between a pear and a chocolate bar- both are sweet- but we all know a pear is not a reasonable substitution for a chocolate bar no matter what they say about the health benefits!

Imagine being a child, and every week asking for chocolate and every week being told ‘No – you can only have pear! You may think you need a chocolate bar, but you’re wrong. Pear is what you need. Pear is all that’s on offer. You’ll soon learn that pears are the best thing for you.’ And that’s hard to take on board because it feels impossible that that can be true…

But it gets worse, alongside this, whilst you’ve got acid indigestion from so much fucking pear, the parent repeatedly tells you how much chocolate you’ve missed out on in your life so far. Then saying that despite having some chocolate right there with them, that they won’t give any to you ever, and maybe you could find some way to imagine what it would be like to taste chocolate whilst you’re struggling to stomach the pear.

The pear is definitely not what you want but you are naturally compliant and so take it and wonder why you aren’t good enough to be given the chocolate. Week after week you’re handed pear but you’re quickly sick of it, the taste, the texture, how it makes you feel sick inside- everything about pear feels wrong. It’s not chocolate. At this point you’d even settle for a cocoa dusted slice of pear…but no…you’ve got pear and pear only.

Eventually, it reaches a point where you just cannot put another piece of pear in your mouth. And the parent keeps on, ‘How about we try this shaped pear today? Or perhaps we could juice it?’ as though it would be any different from all the other slabs and slices and cups you’ve forced down your neck over the months and years. You internally groan. You’re not stupid though, you stopped asking for the chocolate a long time ago because it just got painful being refused it over and over again.

You clearly don’t deserve chocolate and so now you’ve tried to convince yourself that chocolate is bad and dangerous because that’s what parent has said… but it’s never really worked because your soul knows what you need. And part of you hoped that if you kept up with the pear long enough, maybe one day you’d be rewarded with just a tiny square of chocolate. The parent thinks they’ve won the battle because you don’t ever talk of chocolate now, but inside you’re really sad – why is a bit of chocolate so forbidden? How can something that tastes so good be wrong?  

Time goes on and by now you’re so sick of pear, that it’s reached the point where it’s making you sick and you have nightmares about being handed pear. Just the thought of it makes you want to gag and you cry. Until one day you crack. You can’t do it any more, the revulsion to the pear is so severe that you vomit it back up all over the floor, and it’s not just pear, it’s years of emotional pain spewing out, and you scream ‘I DON’T LIKE PEAR! I hate pear. I have tried it. I really have. But it’s not helping me. It actually makes me feel ill. I really just need some chocolate!!’ and the parent looks at you with disgust and coldly says. ‘I don’t do chocolate and if you won’t eat pear then you’ll have to go’. It’s as simple as that.

So, you go somewhere else, a foster home, crying, sad, not really knowing what you need anymore, what you are entitled to ask for. You don’t even really care about chocolate now, you just know you can’t stomach another pear and you pray that this new home doesn’t force feed them to you too.

You walk in the door and the new parent talks to you kindly, it’s bizarre, so alien!… and immediately says that chocolate is completely ok in this house like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Indeed, they offer you a chocolate bar. You don’t even have to ask for it! Apparently a plentiful supply of chocolate bars are what is needed when a child like you has been deprived chocolate all its life. And it’s ok to want that and ask for that. And, furthermore, if you don’t like pear then you never have to eat it again. When you leave the house and look in your bag you see that the new parent has even slid a chocolate bar in your lunch bag. You cannot believe your luck.

And this is what it’s been like seeing Em and A. I mean that’s a bit of an ‘out there’ analogy. My friend actually said I ought to have used ice cubes for Em rather than pears… as she was stone cold and there was no nutritional value to the therapy!! haha. The moment I met A, she was on my page – ‘you know what you need, you’re inside you, and who am I to tell you what you need? I might not be able to give you everything you need but those needs are valid and ok’… turns out she also has a stack of ‘chocolate’ and it’s really good chocolate so my inner child is delighted! Lol.

Anyway, that’s all for now…this is unexpectedly long. I’m trying to work out what to do with writing this blog at the minute. Therapy has gone to a whole new level for me these last couple of weeks -it’s incredible but also massively vulnerable work – and so I feel like right now, I don’t want to detail what’s going on because actually I feel really protective of it. I feel like I need to talk to A about it too. I get it’s my therapy, that the blog is anonymous, etc but I might have to take a bit of time before I publish anything. That’s not an intentional cliff-hanger, it’s just I feel like I need to keep everything safely contained in the room for a bit. x

System Crash: Defences Breached

Well, blimey, it’s been hard this week. I knew things were approaching the ‘danger zone’ but I genuinely didn’t think the wheels were going to fall off in such a spectacular way mid-week! It felt like I hit a patch of black ice on Tuesday and then started desperately careering around the road on Wednesday only to crash out on Thursday.

I managed to get through all my teaching commitments this week but I could feel how thinly stretched I was. Half term cannot come quickly enough. The child parts inside were all activated and I just wanted to cry most of the week. It felt desperate. Everything felt too much. Never have I relied more heavily on my rubber bands and chewing gum to hold it together!

By the time it got to my craniosacral session with K on Thursday morning I was hanging on by a thread. It was so good to see her, to be safe in the space with her for that window of time, and to get some much needed care and attention for my nervous system…and myself! She sees right through me – which is both terrifying and a huge relief. It means that there is no point in acting like things are ok or pretending that I am hanging it together because she feels what’s going on in my body whatever I say!

I’ve noticed the harder I am struggling to juggle things, the more I put on a coping front with people. I paste on the smile and say ‘it’s fine’ when actually everything is falling apart inside. The performance aspect of myself, the part that allows to me to teach and exist in the outside world gets jammed on and I feel almost like I am in some kind of out of body experience. I guess it’s a form of dissociation. And it works…to an extent.

However, whilst this ‘coping, high functioning self’ ensures I can function out in the world, it comes at an enormous physical and emotional cost to the rest of me, or should I just say ‘me’? That seemingly extroverted, happy, self that takes care of everyone else’s needs runs on overdrive, draining every last drop of energy, leaving absolutely nothing in reserve for everyone else inside and then, inevitably, the shit hits the fan!

When I am on the edge, running on adrenaline, ‘in role’ I actually do some of my best work. I know my lessons are really good. But it’s insane. When I need to dial it down to my conserve energy I ramp up. Panic. Panic. PANIC! I can’t let anyone see how desperate things are, so here, have the all singing all dancing version of me. I’m fine…it’s fine…fine…FINE!!! (It’s not fine…not fine at all)

ARGH!!

And so when that manic, crazed, state is on and I find it quite hard to land back in myself because the distance between appearance and the reality is immense. When I stop and really stare into the truth of the situation I know I am on empty. Burnt out. And the young ones are beside themselves. And it’s too scary to go there…because if I stop, and acknowledge the reality, the vulnerability, the fact that I need someone to help me and I am left open and exposed…what happens if I can’t get what I need? What happens if I can’t pick myself back up and get going again? I’ll have a proper breakdown… and I CANNOT GO TO THAT PLACE AGAIN.

I told K how crazy it’s all been and she invited me to take time to land and then asked what was going on inside/underneath. I felt so exposed. But also so pleased to be able to remove the mask for a bit. I told her that my four year old self was terrified and I feel like I am falling apart. There’s been a lot of adult life stress going on recently with my family that taps back into old wounds and triggers the child parts so it’s been feeling tough. Adult me can just about cope but the child parts are not doing so well.

I have this image that frequently comes up when Four is around. She’s standing in the middle of a country lane in just her nightie. It’s grey, wet, dark, and cold. She has no idea where she is. She is totally lost. She’s scared. She’s hungry. And yet she doesn’t make a sound. There is no point in screaming for help because she’s learnt that no one ever comes. Was there ever more fitting an image of an exiled part than her?

It’s really painful when this little one gets live and it’s no wonder that I spend so much of my time trying to outrun this stuff. I mean, all these little parts are always there in varying states of distress and need, but most of the time I can hold it together enough to not be floored by them. I can function alongside the internal hell. But not this week.

I don’t know what happened or why, but I felt really held by K in the session. I mean physically. And yet there was absolutely nothing different to any other session. It’s a body-based therapy and so I am physically held every week. But for some reason it felt different on Thursday. All I can think is that my usual defences just weren’t there in the same way? I had nothing to armour myself with and so just felt it all. I couldn’t quite hold myself and so sunk into being held. I don’t know.

I know it sounds bonkers that even with one of my safest, most trusted people my system still has a degree of armouring. I guess it’s all about survival and protection. No matter how badly I want to trust that things are properly safe, my system just can’t fully let go. I’m so terrified of being rejected or abandoned that the closer I get to someone the scarier it feels – well, at least to some of the parts. I guess there’s so much more to lose when you really care about someone and need them. I know K isn’t going anywhere. I am safe with her. But this stuff is unconscious…it’s the internal autopilot doing its thing and it’s going to take a while to reprogramme.

Still, it felt like my system was more ‘trusting’ than it has been in a while or just so tired that it couldn’t function which meant that the young stuff was right on the surface! I had been complaining about a pain in my hand and wrist and K asked if she could hold my hand. I said yes. It was bizarre. When she took my hand it was like little Four landed with a thud inside me. I was no longer watching her from a distance, that poor tiny child, isolated, bare foot on a lane. Instead she was in me… and oh my fucking god it was so painful. I just wanted to burst into tears, get up off the couch, and cuddle into K.

K noticed that I was barely breathing and asked about the little girl. Did she feel like it was dangerous to take up space? Was it safer to her to not be seen and stay out of the way? Yep. K asked if I could try and take a few deep breaths. I couldn’t and just shook my head. She asked if I could allow myself to feel this stuff in the moment, allow Four to be there just for a minute…and I froze. It was so overwhelming. Being so consciously aware of the pain that is there, that I have been holding for so long is just so hard….even in the presence of a trusted other.

At the end I sat up on the couch, drew my knees up into my chest, buried my face in the blanket and hid behind my knees. I just didn’t have it in me to be ‘fine’ because I was not fine. That little part was right there. K came over and hugged me and rubbed my back until I managed to get to get enough adult back online.

K said I had gone really deep in the session. Of course, she was right. As I left she asked if she could hold me, and we hugged. It’s so hard leaving though…because it’s in those moments where my system starts to relax but then the reality hits… it’s time to go….back out there…and somehow I need to put the mask on when I really don’t want to.

It’s really a double-edged sword. Because this is the work that absolutely needs to be done (exposing and working with the young parts)…and yet I can only access this stuff, be open and vulnerable when I am on empty, when my defences and protectors can’t function enough to hide everyone. So it’s a pain. I can’t function as I am long-term but equally I need to be able to access the parts to be able to heal and move forward.

I spend so many hours in therapy hiding/protecting these parts and feel frustrated with myself because I know what I need. I know what needs to be done. BUT the reality of being so vulnerable, so exposed, is hard. It feels dangerous. It’s no wonder my system has built up such strong defences! It fears total annihilation of the self.

Only what I think I am learning, slowly, is that some people can be trusted with my most vulnerable self. And whilst I have been hurt…a lot…and recently too (with Em) I can be how it is and that be ok. Some people don’t need my performance and love me just the way I am. It’s going to take a while to get my head around that. But I think what happened with K on Thursday enabled me to take a massive risk with Anita yesterday…so that’s good right?! – spoiler alert…it was sooooooo good 🙂