Termination Of Long Term Therapy: ‘No More Tricks Up My Sleeve’

Well, what can I say? This last week, or so, since my last post has been an emotional marathon – and frankly, my current emotional fitness levels are really more geared towards a meandering, leisurely stroll interspersed with pitstops for cake than an endurance race in a freezing, barren wasteland with no clue when the finish line might be coming.

What is especially shit is just as I think I might be near the end of ‘the worst of it’ I turn a corner and the sign flashes up that there’s actually another 26 miles to go….I have to do another lap and it seems like it’s an unending fucking marathon…or recurring nightmare. FFS!

It’s really not good right now. I am desperate to crawl into a warm, safe space, and hibernate…shame that life in 2020 doesn’t really allow much of that!

I should probably have a sign that says, ‘approach with care’ or ‘beware- unstable ground’ or ‘caution – disaster zone’ tied around my neck because I am certainly not feeling myself right now. Or rather, the adult fronting self is having a very hard time keeping all the distraught child parts in check, and so my various selves are all simultaneously falling apart. I’m trying my best to hang it together with my trusty ‘rubber bands and chewinggum’ but it’s a gargantuan effort. I am exhausted by it.

When I am on my own it’s felt like the earth has fallen away beneath my feet. The tenuous safety I felt in the relationship with Em has been proven to be a complete sham and I am back to the reality (which I really don’t want to believe) – that nothing and no one is safe, and trusting people with your heart is really an idiotic thing to do. I am freefalling through the abyss. It’s so lonely. (Well that’s what several parts of me feel at the moment…although I know there is evidence to the contrary elsewhere in my life.)

I have cried so much (and we know I don’t do crying!). I’m not talking a few rogue tears escaping out the corners of my eyes, I’m talking about convulsive, gut wrenching, snotty, painful crying that comes like a howl from the heart and soul, soaks pillows through and doesn’t seem to stop without a massive conscious effort. There’s really no point in trying to stop it, though, because it keeps coming in waves….tsunami seems apt.

I am doing grief in a spectacular way. The pain is immense. I know this isn’t just about Em but also so many other losses and abandonments that I have experienced in my life. However, the sudden ending of the relationship with Em in such a cold way has acted as a massive catalyst for me to come face to face with the big wound and I realise, more than ever, that I am still on the bloody endless bear hunt and have absolutely no choice but to keep going, I ‘can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, got to go through it’.

It’s disappointing because I feel like all I have done in recent years is wade through ‘thick oozy mud’, stumble through ‘big dark forests’, battle through ‘swirling whirling snow storms’ and yet at least I had company back then whereas right now I feel a little bit like I am trying to do some kind of lone survival event and it’s not a ‘beautiful day’ and actually I am scared.

I’ve been terrified of the mother wound this whole therapy – panicking about being left, rejected or abandoned has felt pretty awful and all-consuming at times, especially between sessions and on breaks, even when I have had my therapist there more or less every week. So now, to be actually living the reality of that fear coming true – I have been rejected and abandoned – well it’s even worse than I imagined it would be. That pain in my solar plexus, the anxiety headache, and feeling like I don’t know what’s going on is awful. I know these are young feelings but man it’s not easy.

I want to just say, too, that whilst it does feel bloody horrendous and lonely and overwhelming a lot of the time, I am really very lucky to have some amazing supports in my life right now (this merry band of mother wounded souls included!) without whom I would be in a much worse place than I am. I have been on my arse and yet I am fortunate to have the support of a couple of close friends (who live fucking miles and miles away – grr!) that I can trust with these feelings and who are holding my hand through it, the start of a new therapeutic relationship with Anita, as well as an absolutely incredible craniosacral therapist who has basically scraped me off the floor and offered so much love and holding in the last couple of months that I can hardly believe it’s real.

I wrote a while back here about having just gone back to seeing my craniosacral therapist, K, after a long long break (years!) because I was feeling more and more like lots of the healing I have to do needs to be done with my body and through touch which wasn’t possible with Em (who wouldn’t even sit near to me!). And I can definitely say, that’s absolutely the case. I get soooooo much from my sessions with K on a body level. It feels amazing when everything starts flowing and I can feel the shift inside myself when I get a bit of internal space and holding. But what I have also realised is that what I have always been seeking is an authentic connection with another human being and through that, a path to healing – it’s not just about the body, it’s not just about words, it’s about two people being with one another and feeling something, cocreating a relationship that feels real.

K is not afraid to connect with me and she seems to feel what’s going on in my body even when I am not saying anything. She gets me and accepts me in whatever state I am in. I’ve always really liked her loved her and felt safe with her but maybe in my late twenties/early thirties wasn’t quite ready to do the work that I now feel is unavoidable and essential. I’ve done the intellectual work with Em but now I am ready for the soul stuff.

K is so present. So warm and accepting. She has steadily encouraged me to be more vulnerable to allow her in which clearly feels so risky after years of being pushed away.  I can actually make eye contact again now which is lovely. Seeing K again has made me feel like I am valued and loved – but not only that, she makes me feel like I am cared about all the more because of my flaws and vulnerabilities. I don’t need to hide with her. It’s scary but also exactly what I need especially given what’s just happened with Em. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I went back to her when I did.

It’s written EVERYWHERE that the healing of relational trauma takes place in relationship and I have needed this kind of deep, holding relationship for the longest time. I’ve known for a while that Em and I were not going to last (but obviously have clung on to the hope that if I just behaved long enough, didn’t reach out etc she might meet me where I needed her to). In fact having been to see K again for the first time and then gone to therapy and told Em about it, she said, ‘Where does that leave this therapy?’ and I remember replying, ‘I don’t know’. Being with K was such a sharp contrast to the experience I have been having with Em that it really highlighted to me just how badly my young parts were being neglected.

My child parts are so connected to Em and it’s killing me right now, but really it’s a trauma bond – we all know that. There has been no holding. I haven’t really felt her care. I have been ‘like a tick’ to her and it’s basically been a retraumatising experience being in that therapy. I have tried and tried to make what was on offer enough, but it just wasn’t. I probably sound like I am doing black and white thinking here ‘amazing K vs terrible Em’ but it’s not like that. Not everything in my therapy has been bad but it has been really bad for my young parts and this ending has done nothing to help. I mean it’s trauma 101 inside. The narrative I have been trying to escape for all these years that I am too much has been completely confirmed. It’s so painful.

So, anyway, gushing on some more about K. I’ve been talking to her a lot about my therapy since I have gone back – there’s been lots of confusion and frustration, K has patiently held that with me, not telling me what to do, but understanding just how excruciating it’s been to have been so vulnerable and get nothing back….In fact, god, I can even remember popping over to hers for a cup of tea a few years ago and moaning about Em then and she said to me, ‘What is your therapist doing to hold this?’… and even then I couldn’t come up with any answers.

I’ve spoken a lot about feeling like I need to leave but also feeling like it is impossible due to how attached I am. K has been nothing but understanding as I have swung from one state to the other and I am so grateful to have had that space to work through what I feel and also what I need. K has basically made me realise that it’s ok to have needs and ok to want to get some of them met. What a revelation!

As we all know, in the end things came to a head much more rapidly than I had anticipated with Em and suddenly termination was happening – and not in the way I had hoped. The day I got the two line email from Em wishing me well for the future (aka ‘bye then’) I fell apart. It was so painful. I was a mess, crying on the kitchen floor. I text K and told her what had happened and she was so sympathetic but more than that, she did something incredible that I am still blown away by. Sensing my distress and need she offered to move some clients around in order to make space for me to be able to see her the next day.

I can’t even explain what that gesture did for me. I was drowning in abandonment and rejection feeling like I wanted to self harm, and I guess parts of me actually felt like they wanted to die, and here she was making an island for me to come and rest for a bit.

Thinking about it makes me want to cry. She didn’t have to do that and yet she did. It allowed me to maybe believe that I wasn’t actually completely unlovable and forgettable maybe I do matter…

Anyway, since then she has been amazing in so many ways, so kind, supportive and holding, she has repeatedly built me up and tells me how much strength I have and in a way I believe it when she says it. But I don’t want to talk her or it too much here because I feel really protective of the relationship. I feel like I have something really precious but also fragile and so I want to keep it safe inside me a while.

So that’s nice isn’t it?! Yay.

Alongside this I have been seeing Anita – and that’s going well but I will post about that separately later on.

I guess, what most people are wondering is what ended up happening with Em in the end?

Crikey.

Well, I couldn’t make a decision about what to do for a few days. Part of me was so angry and upset that I couldn’t see how it would be possible to go back only to face more of the same. As my friend said, it would be like walking my young parts in to be slaughtered if I went. To a degree she was right. But at the same time I felt like I should try and get some kind of ending and closure because I have had so many endings where I haven’t had a choice in it. If I never went back to say goodbye I’d be essentially left with all these feelings and keep beating myself up about it… because that’s what I do. This is familiar ground to me!

I spoke at length with Anita about it the week before and in the end I decided that it would be best to go to one termination session, try and end well, but then immediately come for a session afterwards with her to try and process it. Basically, a session with Anita after would act like a safety net. Whatever the session with Em was like it was never going to be easy and the pain I have been experiencing has been like a bereavement so I knew I’d need support.

All last weekend I had nightmares and felt sick to my core knowing that I was going to Em to say goodbye. I knew in my gut that it was going to be sterile and flat…that’s partly why we are in this place. But still part of me hoped that it would somehow be connecting, a reflection on the work we’d done and the relationship we have had all these years.

I arrived, and straight away knew it was going to be agony. She didn’t smile. She didn’t even look at me. Just sat in the chair staring off into middle distance. Still face exercise. Fuck. Child parts were scared and devastated. This is not what I wanted at all.

I started with, ‘well this is shit’. I think it was probably a teen part coming out. I literally didn’t know what to say her.

I felt so distant from her.

It was painful.

She felt robotic, using stock phrases, ‘I see you are feeling strong emotions’ , ‘I understand you are disappointed’, ‘this must feel rejecting’…bleurgh. But it felt like a stranger talking to me….when she did talk which wasn’t often.

Early on I said that I couldn’t believe we were in this place but also that this is what I have feared all along that would happen and now it is real. I tried to tell her how much she’d hurt me in the last session by likening me to ‘a tick’. I had hoped she might have tried to repair that but she simply said, ‘it was a metaphor and I stick by what I said about those parts and the unconscious behaviour’. I wanted to leave then. Like wtaf? The last session and she says that? She takes zero responsibility for her part in this. There was a lot of silence from then on. I mean there was no repairing the relationship but man, this was bad.

She said that she was sad that things had got to this point and was disappointed too…but it felt like the kind of disappointment you might feel when it’s raining outside and you’d planned to go out for a walk – nothing more. It wasn’t heartfelt. It felt flat. She said she could see this was painful for me and I said that she had ‘no idea’…as in she had no idea just how terrible this felt for me but no space was opened up to discuss the feelings. She didn’t want to know.

‘I’ve reached the limit of my competency to help you. I have no more tricks up my sleeve’ – I suppose at least she was honest but it also felt crap. Like, to me so much of therapy hinges on the relationship not what’s ‘being done’ and yet it feels to me like she is very much about strategies, ‘try this visualisation’, ‘follow this dot with your eyes’… blah blah blah. And this is always what’s made me feel disconnected. The only strategy she was unwilling to try was putting herself into the relationship. It’s sad really, because I don’t doubt that her ‘tricks’ might have worked if we could have built a solid enough relationship to build from.

She said she was glad I had come to end in person…and it shows how much I have grown to be able to do that and face the feelings. But again, it just felt like she was going through the motions. I noticed her eyes repeatedly glancing at the clock. I guess she was wishing the time away because it wasn’t exactly easy in the room.

I started crying.

I wasn’t beside myself (externally) because even in that moment when my heart was absolutely being torn in two she just didn’t feel safe to let it all out with. Big, fat, silent tears rolled down my face and I felt like I was going to explode trying to hold back the flood and started shaking. She said nothing for ages and then said, ‘I can see how full of emotion you are about this’. Like no shit! This is huge to me –  I HAVE NEVER LET OUT MORE THAN A SINGLE TEAR IN THIS ROOM….but clearly all this was only big to me not her.

She didn’t look at me or make eye contact and I felt so alone in my pain as I cried and she just sat there. It felt so abandoning. She was not prepared to meet me in that moment at all. And I get it, maybe she can’t.  I guess this has been the problem all along. Maybe she was trying to hold the space and that’s the best she could do. But it felt awful. Like I wasn’t expecting warm hugs and smiles because that is not where we are at (nor have we ever been!) but it couldn’t have felt worse really.

The only good thing was that I managed not to dissociate – I could feel myself trying to disappear and kept bringing myself back. I wanted to be present and in the room with her for the last time even if it felt like she had left the relationship already.

The icing on the cake was at the very end. I was still silently crying and sniffing she said, ‘We have to stop. I wish I could have done better for you, but it is what it is, and I honestly hope for the best for you’.  Through my tears I managed to say, ‘thanks’ and I got up and that was it. There were no more words. No ‘take care’, no ‘goodbye’ just the shutting of the door behind me. And that’s when the dam finally gave way and I broke down…

…on my own again.

 

Abandonment and Rejection: Part 2

Earlier in the week I had planned to transcribe Monday’s session with Em and put it in the blog but given how things are now, how the week has evolved, how my feelings have intensified, I can’t even bring myself to listen to the recording and be reminded of what’s happened. I can only summarise and paraphrase was said because I can’t even bear to hear her voice – it hurts too much.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter what was said now, because somehow or other it is now Sunday and we are no longer working together. I am beyond devastated. As the week has gone on I have gone through so many waves of this torturing grief interspersed with periods of denial and anger, and yet last night something shifted and the reality probably hit for the first time.

Suddenly, I feel like my whole life has been thrown into chaos. I feel like I am breaking in two. I am fearful of everything. Like I honestly feel like I can’t fucking cope with anything. I’m scared of what’s to come. I feel like I don’t want to be here anymore.
I know these must be the feelings of the young parts because I feel so powerless and small but my god it feels real and huge right now.

I am also feeling stupid and embarrassed and so much shame about how badly this ending has affected me. I am heartbroken and yet how am I meant to tell anyone about this because it’s clearly fucking mental to most people in the real world. She is/was just my therapist…but she was important to me. And as my therapist, if she is only someone to work out transference with, whoever she represents from my past – clearly my mother (#motherwound) – I am now feeling the full force of what it is to be rejected and abandoned by someone you love.

It’s no wonder I couldn’t withstand these feelings as a kid and dissociated them because feeling this, fully, in the here and now, is enough to make me want to die… this is annihilation.

I’m trying to keep one foot in adult but it’s hard. I need to process this. I need to write. But also, putting this down on the page must mean it’s real. I can’t try and pretend that it’s actually going to be ok, now. That it’s just a rupture and we’ll repair it and things will be better.

It’s over.

I guess, you’re all wondering what happened? Well, it’s been a cumulative process over months but it all sort of came to a head on Monday. Em had read the email where I had laid myself bare where I had explained how it feels to be ignored when I reach out, to have the Christmas gift rejected, and how hard it is to feel like there is a wall between us. The email ended by telling her:

It feels like we are on completely different pages right now. It feels like all the things I have worried about, about being too much is exactly right. It feels like you have taken a big step back from me when actually that’s opposite of what I needed. I can’t seem to fully explain what I mean but what seems really complex is actually really simple.

I need you to help me hold the feelings I have and normalise them and actually accept them. I need you to help me break through the shame I feel about needing connection to you and work with me to find workable solutions to the problems I have with outside contact when things get bad because it’s not going away. I need help to make breaks feel better. I need to feel like I am in a relationship with you and not in an observation tank. It just feels like we are perpetually re-enacting what happened when I was little. My mum and wider family were so emotionally and physically withholding that just being in the room with you feels traumatic because you feel so distant and even though you say that you aren’t, it’s still my experience.

I understand why you think that by trying to ‘think’ about where all this is coming from in the past might make it feel less horrendous with you in the present but so much of the time I am not able to access that ‘thinking’ brain and am caught up completely in my emotions. I can see where this stems from, I know why it gets triggered, but this doesn’t actually process the emotion in the moment. If it was about the logical, intellectual stuff I’d be fine…but it’s not.

I’ve read so much about this but it just isn’t moving because until I feel like the young parts are held safely and contained with you I think I’m going to be stuck in limbo.

I need you to know that despite how ‘much’ there is in those notebooks and here, and how intense my feelings seem I am not suddenly going to start texting you all the time, ringing you, turning up on your doorstep or whatever else it is that you think might happen because I would hope by now you would see that whilst there is a lot of trauma and the attachment stuff is massive, I’m not that crazy and I don’t want you to be anything but my therapist.

I have no idea what I am going to do on Monday and wonder if I am actually just beyond help…some reassurance would go a really long way right now because it’s a complete disaster inside.

Anyway, I walked in on Monday and I really hoped that things would be ok but I could tell that they weren’t, not really. Em had a huge clipboard and notes she had written with reference to the email. She asked me if there was anything I wanted to talk about or whether we should discuss the email. I agreed it made sense to talk about the email.

She started talking about it in a paragraph by paragraph way – well, picking out bits from the areas she thought were important. It was very factual and I felt really distant from her.

It wasn’t too bad until after about ten minutes she basically said that she feels like my young parts are ‘demanding’ and she feels like they are ‘adhesive’ (see adhesive attachment in psychoanalytical theory), that it feels like I ‘want to get inside her’, that I am ‘intruding’ when I contact her, ‘pushing the boundaries’, and that it feels like my need for her is ‘all the time’ … ‘like a tick needing a constant supply of whatever it wants’.

My brain got wedged on ‘like a tick’ but there was more, about if she were to give reassurance (which she ackowledged she doesn’t) it would be like ‘feeding an addiction’… ummm it just went on and on. She said the stuff about politics before Christmas (because I had written about it in the email) was actually her talking how the election was about democracy… I have the recording…that is not how it was. She made no mention of how I felt about the rejection of the gifts even though I’d written quite a bit about it, and flat out avoided talking about the bit I have added above about trying to find strategies that work for both of us to not keep getting in this mess.

I could barely talk once she’d compared my child parts to adhesive ticks – she said as much, ‘it feels like I have talked at you and you haven’t replied’…which is when with five minutes to go I managed to say, ‘how would you feel if someone you cared about likened you to a tick?’ She apologised, sort of, but said that I am very sensitive and get defensive, and it was just a metaphor. I said that it was a ‘shit metaphor’ and she apologised and said that perhaps she should have stuck with the word ‘adhesive’ as if that’s any fucking better!!

She said she was sorry if she had offended me and that she wasn’t talking about me as a person, or who I am but it’s how she sees the young parts… which is even fucking worse. The young parts that have been so terrified to trust, to open up, to let the feelings out – and when I finally do the kick back was spectacular.

She has retreated from me in the biggest way – I have felt it and yet she’s made out like it’s me and my attachment picking up stuff that’s not there…but it is!

She said that we can concertedly work with these parts but that it’s going to take hard work and maybe I just want to act out this stuff and not work out why this is happening. I felt devastated by what she was saying. Of course I want to work on myself…but I just don’t feel safe in the room. Surely there are ways of talking about this stuff without crushing someone’s sense of self.

I was clearly not in a great place when the session came to an end and to add insult to injury as I got up to leave she said, ‘that took me about an hour to read’. When I had sent the email I had said to let me know how long it took and to bill me for the time, but to be honest her telling me at that point wasn’t great timing. It just felt, yet again, that this is all about a transaction to her. I was breaking my heart and she was telling me I owe her and extra £60.

I left that last session in a complete mess. I burst into tears the moment I got in the car and cried all the way home. When I got near to home I pulled over into a layby on the single track lane and I spoke to my friend on the phone and cried at her, broken, desperate, and the child parts wailing. Then I sat and cried some more in the layby and waited for the tears to subside before driving home. My wife was working from home and the last thing I wanted was to have to explain why I was so late back and also why I had rivers of mascara running down my face.

Just to clarify – I am not a crier; I have found it impossible to let anything out in years… but the fucking dam is broken now and I have been bursting into tears IN FRONT OF PEOPLE! IN PUBLIC PLACES! WITH NO CONTROL! I am soooooooooo upset.

On the positive side of this, if there is one, is that this rupture/ending has tapped into my core wound in the biggest way and all the grief is flooding out now. I know this is not just about Em but right now it is and right now she is not helping me process any of my feelings or grief so if feels like this loss is just going to go on the pile of other rejections…which is not really what I had wanted from this therapy!

I had really struggled to stay present during the session because all I could hear in my head repeating over and over was, ‘she thinks you’re like a tick’. It was hideous. A tick? A fucking parasite? I mean why would you ever make that analogy about anyone, let alone someone you’ve known intimately for eight years in a therapeutic relationship? At a time when I really needed to be adult in the room and fight my corner I was gone and deep in the trauma and she just kept talking. It felt like every sentence confirmed that she has had enough of me and feels like I am too needy and demanding.

I felt like I wanted to die. The child parts were reexperiencing the feelings that are so familiar and were so devastated that it was Em that had made them feel this way. I was in a relationship with her to try and rewrite the narrative and yet somehow here I was being pushed away again for being too much. I felt unseen. Or maybe I was seen but now she’d seen me, as I am, with all my need, and was disgusted by me and wanted to get away from me. Maybe I have to accept that the person I think I am (trying to believe I’m not a needy freak) is actually not what everyone else sees and maybe they are correct after all.

I think maybe if I listened back to the session it mightn’t have been as bad as it felt in the moment, but the problem is, spouting theory at me is one thing (like perhaps it is adhesive attachment) but my feelings are still involved and how this is talked about is important. Somehow Em doesn’t frame things in way that doesn’t make me feel ashamed. I do understand that so much of what happens is down to my attachment problems and the parts but there surely are ways of saying things that don’t make the client feel worthless and crap. Like, surely she must’ve known I was struggling to be there and hear what she was saying?

I know at the end she tried to apologise but the thing is, the damage was already done. I was so far out of my window of tolerance that I couldn’t hear her…

Having spoken to my friend after the session and feeling so unbelievably hurt, I had resolved to take a break from therapy with Em for a while because it’s just getting worse and worse with every session. Something big is playing out and I don’t seem to have the capacity to side step it and look at it objectively when I am in the room with her. I basically walk in, look at her, and bam it’s trauma time.

As I pulled up on my drive I looked at my phone and an email from Anita had come in replying to the email I had sent her before the weekend:

Recap of my message:

Hi Anita,
Thanks for getting back to me and thinking about this. I suspected this is what your supervisor might say and do understand. It’s a complex dynamic.

I need time to think about what to do next. There are so many competing parts inside right now and it feels overwhelming. I really want to move forward and away from this horrible place of feeling rubbish all the time but the fear of the vulnerable parts losing Em is enormous – like annihilation and it’s not going to be a simple transition to another therapist after eight years with all that’s been triggered in the relationship.

The reality is that I don’t trust people easily and so it is a real barrier to leaving. I guess it’s something about better the devil you know and whilst I sense that you would be a good fit for me from what you have said there is definitely a voice that is saying, ‘what if she’s just the same and you get hurt again – at least Em knows you’.

I know, ultimately, it’s going to take a leap of faith now but any change is unsettling for me. I understand, too, that there’s a possibility that by the time I have managed to leave Em you mightn’t actually have availability or capacity to see me…which makes the whole process feel daunting. I guess I’ll just have to trust the universe on this one.

I don’t really know what else to say but I am grateful to you for trying to help find a way forward.

I’ll be in touch…soon… I hope.
RBCG

Anita said:

I really do understand RBCG and feel you need to look after the vulnerable parts of you.
My sense is you have done some really valuable & positive work with your current therapist and now ready for the next part of your journey and it’s hard to let go of one and to continue with someone else you don’t yet know.

I can also hear your concern regarding my availability which is also a valid concern but I will add Mondays & Fridays are usually my quietest days so I should be able to fit you in as and when you feel ready.

With very best wishes,
Anita

It felt a bit like the universe was aligning in that moment. On the Friday session with Em I had driven home and driven past Anita driving the other way. I would never usually notice oncoming vehicles or cars and yet I looked up and there she was and now, on Monday after the shit had hit the fan in came a message from her again. I jumped on the opportunity and emailed her immediately to see if I could arrange a second session:

Hi Anita,
Thanks for this. It couldn’t have been better timed, actually, as I have left therapy today in tears – the last two sessions have been hell (on top of the stuff that happened before) but even my really damaged, vulnerable parts that will tolerate almost anything can’t cope with my child parts being called ‘intrusive’, ‘adhesive’, and… ‘tick like’. Needless to say I feel like I want crawl into a hole and die right now but it’s given me the push I needed.
So, when can we arrange to meet?…and I honestly don’t think I am any of those things Em said.
RBCG

She responded and we scheduled an appointment for Friday.
I spent a lot of the day crying and speaking with my wife, which is unheard of, but I couldn’t hide how bad I was feeling. And even, she, as an unfeeling ‘man brain’ could see how the ‘tick’ reference would hurt.

Later that day (Monday) I drafted and email to Em, typing through my tears knowing that this was looking very much like the end of the road. I was in such a state.

Em,

I need a break from therapy with you for a while. Whilst I understand some of what you have been saying lately from an intellectual perspective – I get the theory – my feelings are still wrapped up in all this. I am not just some kind of case study to be analysed and hypothesised about. I can’t just absorb the stuff you’re saying and it not have an impact on me. To hear, today, that you feel that I am ‘intruding’, ‘demanding’, ‘trying to get inside you’, ‘pushing boundaries’ and that my wanting to be close to you or asking for occasional reassurance is me behaving like I have an unhealthy ‘addiction’ that shouldn’t be encouraged, and that I am ‘like a tick’ well, it really, really hurts.

I don’t ever really cry and yet today I spent an hour crying in a layby after the session because what you said hurt me so much. Saying that it’s not about me as a person but how you see the young parts doesn’t really make it feel any better because it’s the youngest most vulnerable parts that are tied up in this, it’s them that need to feel like they aren’t too much. I get how uncomfortable I have been making you feel and I am sorry that it’s feels so negative. Being thought of as adhesive is bad enough but parasitic is a whole other level of pain for me. I feel so stupid for letting you in and allowing myself to be vulnerable with you…to love you.

I know you can’t keep my session times free and until I can step outside my relationship with you and look at things without feeling anything there’s no point in doing this week in week out. So I guess we’ll just have to see what your schedule looks like in the future.

I am so sad that it’s got to this point.

Take care

On Tuesday evening at 7pm I received this reply:

Dear RBCG,

Thank you for letting me know about your decision and I am sorry that I was not able to help you. I wish you well for the future.

Em

And just like that my world fell apart. I had been crying on and off since the session but stupidly still held out some hope that she might read that email, see how hurt I was (even if she didn’t mean to hurt me) and meet me where I was at, in all the messy, confused, young, hurt feelings. But instead I got this. I’ve known this woman eight years and worked together with her for five of those…and this is how she ends it?? Two sentences? I was pretty much hysterical all night. Sobbing my heart out. I fell asleep crying and woke the next day with the sorest head. My body was killing me…and all I wanted to do was hurt myself.

Clearly, I was right. She really doesn’t care about me and there never was a relationship. I mean…wtaf? What should I be thinking here? That’s it? No termination sessions, no goodbye? She knows me. She knows how big a deal rejection and abandonment are and yet how could I possibly see that email as anything else but rejecting and abandoning?

I managed to formulate some thoughts in an email even though internally I was freaking out and again sat at my laptop crying my eyes out as I typed. I sent this on Wednesday evening:

Em,
I’m really confused and panicked by your email. Am I meant to read it as we’re actually done forever and not having a break/leaving door open so I can regroup and get myself together? And if this is the case (this is termination) that we are not going to have any time to create a reasonable ending to this therapy? I really wasn’t expecting to terminate via a two sentence email after all this time – it’s not what I want. I’m shit at endings anyway but this is not how I would choose to mark the ending of a significant relationship….which is what it is to me.

I know things are in a complete mess, hence wanting to take some breathing space but it seems like you’re finis hed. I know there’s a lot of negative countertransference here but I don’t think it’s ideal if this is how this ends.

Of course, only you can make a decision for you and if you’ve had enough you’ve had enough.

As for not being able to help me – that just isn’t the case at all. You’ve helped me with so much in the time that I’ve been seeing you. I am not the same person as I was when I saw you in the NHS or even a few years ago. I actually feel things now when I never could access my emotions at all before. I am actually making choices in my life that work for me rather running myself into the ground (ok this is new for 2020). I am still so grateful to you for being alongside me on my journey so far and whilst things are really hard right now I don’t think that the whole therapy has been useless or unhelpful.

Getting this email last night felt like I had suffered another bereavement – I can’t just have you gone with no chance to say goodbye.

x

By this point I wasn’t even sure if she would respond or not…I mean that last email felt pretty final.

But she did reply with this on Friday (talk about dragging this agony out all week!):

Dear RBCG,
Having thought a lot about the therapy with you, I have sadly come to the conclusion that we need to end the therapy, because, in my clinical view, I have come to the limit of my competence in my work with you. I would very much prefer to end in person and, would therefore suggest that we meet for between one and six weekly sessions at your old Monday time and starting at your earliest convenience. Please let me know whether you would like to have these sessions.
Em

More tears came. All I have fucking done this week is cried. And this just felt cold again…and perhaps like she was covering her back since it’s kind of protocol to offer termination sessions with clients to try and have a decent enough ending. Had I not emailed her querying what was going on, whether we had terminated, and if so what was happening, I think I would never have heard from her again. I had always hoped that my therapy would end positively and it would be a relationship that I would be able to return to periodically in the future.

I suspect I will always dip in and out of personal therapy throughout my life – almost like a car needs servicing. It might not be regular, and it might not be many sessions, but I had hoped that if any significant life events happened that caught me off guard or I had the occasional wobble in the future I would always have that door open to be able to return to Em. This is how I imagined I would get and exercise that earned secure attachment we are all seeking. The relationship can still exist years later even if we don’t see each other much at all.

But here I am staring down the barrel of another shut door.

I literally do not know what to do.

Should I go back and have a termination session or a few sessions? Or is it likely just to be more of the same?

Any ideas would be great because I have no fucking idea.

I don’t want to go in, cry like a baby and have her sit there and watch me in all my pain and go, broken again but equally if I don’t go and say goodbye will this just be another ending where I am left holding all the feelings and never getting any closure.

Thank you everyone for your support through this. It’s funny, I was reading my year ahead horoscope at the beginning of January and it said something about internet friends being massively important in the coming year… looks like that’s right! x

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Abandonment and Rejection: Part 1

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It’s clear to me, and I am sure to anyone who follows this blog, that probably two of the biggest fears I have in life are being abandoned and/or rejected. There have been so many times throughout my life where I have been abandoned (physically and emotionally). As an adolescent it hurt like hell to experience this rejection for simply being me (there was a lot of rejection when I came out when I was 17) and any rejections I have experienced as an adult hurt massively because it feels like my younger self is being wounded again and again. Ouch.

Having been in therapy for a gazillion years, I am obviously now much more aware of what happened to me as a younger child and it’s only now, as an adult, that I am feeling the full force of the pain of being left. As a kid I must have repressed those feelings or dissociated them because it was too much to cope with and I had to survive.

Clearly, the reason I struggle so much now with the feelings of inadequacy, being unlovable and forgettable stems from my ongoing childhood trauma. That’s what’s really done the big damage, or created a blueprint for how I imagine relationships will go in the here and now. The problem is, despite having many many, healthy, wholesome, caring, reciprocal relationships in 2020 I still have this niggling doubt underneath that say it’s all going to go to shit so maybe I should be cautious about really letting people in. Nowhere is this more apparent then in my therapeutic relationship with Em.

It’s been a nightmare lately. Unfortunately, events sometimes come together to create and almost perfect storm, setting me off balance and making me even more scared about being ‘too much’ and then I start panicking about left by the people I care about.

There’s no denying the recent time (since just before Christmas) in therapy has done nothing to settle my ‘freaking out child parts’ and there has also been a recent event in my family where people I had let back in (after cutting them off for spectacularly hurting me when my dad died) have actually rejected me again! All that old pain and sadness has come up and I feel both devastated and angry- devastated that I thought they might have changed, and angry that I let them in only to hurt me again. Will I never learn to trust my gut and see red flags?

Any reconfirmation of the narrative that people I love aren’t reliable and will actually disappear or threaten to leave (that I formed as a kid when my mum wasn’t around much) kind of intensifies the panic. It’s not surprising I had a breakdown when my dad died suddenly whilst abroad – it kind of lit the touch paper on all the stuff that had being weighing me down but I couldn’t see. I had just blanketed my problems under ‘depression’ rather than a fucking disaster of a childhood! I can see why the recent events with my grandparents (the latest rejection) have poured salt in the wound.

It really hasn’t helped that stuff with Em has felt so shaky, too. It’s felt so bloody hard inside myself lately. Adult me has carried on getting on with the job of life but deep inside the fear of the younger parts has been mounting on a daily basis and that clearly makes for all kind of crazy to seep out.

I have kept looking for reassurance from Em that the relationship is secure and when I find none, I become even more sensitive and scared than I was before. In fact, the last few weeks it’s been so bad in therapy that I have been convinced things are on a knife edge and I’ve been clinging on for dear life which actually only seems to make her back further away.

After the disaster Skype call first session back after Christmas I contacted another therapist to put out feelers about how it might work doing therapy with someone new. The idea of leaving Em was enough to send me over the edge and the young parts were terrified that this really could be the beginning of the end, but at the same time I was really aware that things are stuck and no matter how we try and work through it there’s some basic fundamentals that feel non-negotiable on both sides. Her boundaries are so rigid and my need for more containment and reassurance is getting worse rather than better because of the feeling that the door is closed on me. I feel more and more like I am not in a relationship with her and keep getting my feelings hurt- the recent gift rejection really hurt and her refusal to sit closer to me…well fuck…that’s a kicker.

So, I was reluctant to go and see this new therapist the other week but at the same time I needed to work out whether what I want in therapy is possible or whether my needs are just too much for any therapist and I should stop wishing for things that are unreasonable.

I mean to be fair, I read enough blogs to know that it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to get transitional objects, check ins, occasional hugs or hand holding, or at the very least to be sat next to when there is the need. However, I am very aware after my experience with Em that not all therapists do this stuff (she does none!) and some might do bits and bobs depending.

I guess I have a wish list and accept that probably not all elements might be met but what I am very clear that this time I need to know the lay of the land with any new therapist from the get go – what is and isn’t possible? I don’t want to stumble across boundaries somewhere down the line (like I have with Em) when my attachment stuff has already kicked in and then end up in the same position as now, wanting certain things and then finding out it’s a hard NO.

In my initial email to Anita I didn’t ask about that stuff but I explicitly asked about whether she has experience of working with C-PTSD and attachment and what kind of supervision she undertakes and how frequently. I even asked her if she considered that she had done enough of her own work. I mean, if I am gonna jump ship I need to know these things, right?

Her reply to my email was kind and warm and we arranged an initial appointment.
So much has happened since that session (I have a lot of blogging to do over the next couple of weeks!!!) that I can’t really remember much about it.

I felt a bit disloyal rocking up at Anita’s house having just come from a therapy session with Em but again my session with Em had been bleurgh – more talk of boundaries and the gift giving and I felt so far away from her.

First impressions of Anita when she opened the door were that she was warm and kind.
The therapy room is a good space. It’s comfortable, nicely decorated, and is the right size to feel close enough to the therapist. It’s not Em’s room, though, which is beautiful and really appeals to my aesthetic and academic sides with lovely natural wooden furniture and bookcases full of theory stuff. But I am not in therapy for the room, I am in it for the relationship with the person that sits in it! And let’s face it, if it was all about the room I would be fine!!

I know that I was distressed when I sat down, the weight of what has been going on hit and the reality that I was about to talk to a stranger and let them see the mess that I am in felt big. I figured that I have absolutely nothing to lose at this point so didn’t hold back and sort of unloaded all the stuff I’ve been struggling with in the therapeutic relationship with Em: how I feel like we’ve done all the intellectual work, I know what my issues are, but my feelings aren’t getting met, mirrored or held and so there’s a huge block and my child parts just feel perpetually retraumatised and abandoned every time they get close to the core wound.

I said how I feel shame every time I try and connect and get met with, ‘I’m just your therapist’ or ‘some therapists may do that but I don’t work this way’, and, ‘you know my boundaries and what I want’… you know the stuff, I write about her all the time, it’s not new news to you guys!

I spoke about my issues around breaks and disruptions and how bad it feels to be ignored when I very occasionally reach out. There was loads. And what was great was that because I wasn’t dissociative, or shut down, or being hypervigilant I actually made really good use of the time. I reckon I covered about five sessions worth of content in one!

I didn’t ask directly about any of the relationship stuff with Anita but from what I said about Em she kept stepping in and saying things like, ‘I understand how hard breaks can be for people with C-PTSD and so can I tell you how I work? I will write notes, do transitional objects, and I am available for calls and check ins if necessary on longer breaks because that’s how I think I need to work. Obviously not all clients need this but for those that do I offer that and always try and take a minute to make a call – my family know what I do for a job and so expect that’. She also told me that sometimes we really need someone to hold our hand in the pain (both literally and metaphorically) and that she sometimes feels like clients need hugs from her but of course will always ask first because some clients do not want that kind of contact.

Basically, she took all my cues and on every single sore point and came back with the response I was hoping for. She’s person centred, works with attachment, has experience of working with C-PTSD and dissociative disorders, she undertakes lots of CPD and brilliantly has been on Carolyn Spring’s trainings and has read her books (which are fab btw)…she’s basically got the package I am looking for. Only, she’s not Em…and Em knows me. I’d have to start all over again. Fuck me. I really don’t want to.

Anita said that it felt to her like Em had done some good work with me but now it seems I am in a place where I need to be really met and held in the work and my young parts need to feel loved and for whatever reason Em can’t/won’t do it.

She likened what we’ve done in therapy to being like an egg – we’ve gone through the hard shell, waded through the white, and now we’re at the most vulnerable part – the yolk, and she can’t do the work, or I can’t do it in the way that she works. And this is kind of how it feels…although for the longest time I have felt like it’s just me, my resistance, my defences that are the problem – because, of course, I will always turn it in and try and find where I am at fault for a situation, but actually I am coming to accept that what worked well for me before isn’t working for me now. It’s devastating, actually, but things can’t stay as they are.

The session with Anita felt really nice and I really got the sense that I could build something with this therapist…but it’d mean letting go of my attachment figure and that is fucking terrifying. I emailed her a day or so after the session to thank her for her time and to ask about how we might move forward. I was very aware that just cutting and running from Em would be almost impossible for the young parts and I wondered if we might do some kind of transition where I could build a relationship with her first before fully moving over – because what if it didn’t click and I was left dangling with no way back.

Anita responded and said she had an idea but she needed to run it by her supervisor first. Unfortunately, her idea was shot down by the supervisor – she had thought, given my trauma history and difficulty with attachment and trust that she might be able to function as a support whilst I left Em meanwhile building a relationship with me so that I didn’t have to abruptly leave Em knowing that would feel so hard to those attached young parts.

Her supervisor said it would possibly cause grey areas and so she couldn’t work with me until I was no longer working with Em. The email was really caring and understanding and whilst I felt gutted that her idea (which sounded so like what I needed) wasn’t possible it felt nice that she had at least tried to think of a solution and had cared enough to contact her supervisor. It shows she is keen to work ethically which is really important to me.

I responded to the email with this:

Hi Anita,

Thanks for getting back to me and thinking about this. I suspected this is what your supervisor might say and do understand. It’s a complex dynamic.

I need time to think about what to do next. There are so many competing parts inside right now and it feels overwhelming. I really want to move forward and away from this horrible place of feeling rubbish all the time but the fear of the vulnerable parts losing Em is enormous – like annihilation and it’s not going to be a simple transition to another therapist after eight years with all that’s been triggered in the relationship.

The reality is that I don’t trust people easily and so it is a real barrier to leaving. I guess it’s something about better the devil you know and whilst I sense that you would be a good fit for me from what you have said there is definitely a voice that is saying, ‘what if she’s just the same and you get hurt again – at least Em knows you’.

I know, ultimately, it’s going to take a leap of faith now but any change is unsettling for me. I understand, too, that there’s a possibility that by the time I have managed to leave M you mightn’t actually have availability or capacity to see me…which makes the whole process feel daunting. I guess I’ll just have to trust the universe on this one.

I don’t really know what else to say but I am grateful to you for trying to help find a way forward.

I’ll be in touch…soon… I hope.
RBCG

So I sent that and felt a bit sad. I felt like I had a choice to make. Leave Em and hope for the best with Anita or give it one last stab at throwing everything at Em and seeing what she came back with.

We had another really tough session on the Friday, I can’t remember why now (!!) but it was not easy. I guess my young parts were having a meltdown inside and so take pretty much everything as a rejection and a lack of Em wanting to connect to me.

Oh god.

It’s just come back.

I said that I was wondering whether we could recover from where we were at because it felt so bad. I said that I wasn’t sure that it was enough anymore and the therapy doesn’t feel holding enough. We sort of talked around what leaving might feel like and what parts might feel what but it didn’t feel good at all. She said that if I left she would feel ‘sad and disappointed’ that we hadn’t managed to get me into a better place and it wouldn’t be the ideal end, that’s when the teen piped up, ‘As if!’ and I rolled my eyes. Like, come on lady, you literally give no shits about me and don’t try and pretend after the recent shit show that you’d be sad to see the back of me.

I made some reference to her not caring and she did the usual, ‘If I didn’t care about you I wouldn’t be working with you, but I care about you as a therapist, and I get the sense that parts of you want a different kind of relationship’ then she started on about that think about me wanting her to be my partner or friend again and I was like ‘NO!’ and she then said that if it’s unconscious I wouldn’t know.

Ugh.

I get what she’s saying but honestly when she says the slightly caring stuff I just can’t feel it or take it in because it doesn’t seem very warm or genuine. It feels like I am perpetually asking her for reassurance and she gives the absolute bare minimum of herself. She keeps herself so far out of the room. I said, this, actually, ‘every time I try take a step towards you it feels like you back away’. She said that that’s because I haven’t had secure attachment and if I had I wouldn’t experience her that way. I said, ‘I know. But I DON’T HAVE SECURE ATTACHMENT AND IT IS HOW I EXPERIENCE YOU!’

I remember that she asked about the story I’d given her as a gift at Christmas and said that as an English teacher I must have lots to say about it. This pissed me off. Like why on earth would I want to share that deeply vulnerable stuff with her, and how and why the character’s journey to therapy when she’d basically rejected it the moment we got back from Christmas? I am so hurt by how she handled that that there was absolutely not a chance in hell that I could go to that vulnerable place…for what? To be knocked down or be told, ‘I am just your therapist’ again.

I left the session feeling unseen and desperate and she asked me to let me know if I make a decision about terminating but that she’d be there on Monday all the same. I didn’t know what to do. And started writing when I got home adding to the draft of stuff I had written about following the Skype session (in the last blog post) – it ended up being close to 4000 words! (see there are words inside I just can’t say them out loud!!). I emailed the letter to Em on Friday afternoon – knowing she wouldn’t reply but literally was so confused and unsettled that I didn’t know what else to do.

You know that perfect storm I was talking about at the start? Well it was picking up strength. So, imagine my surprise when Em responded that she would read my email before the session.

I felt nervous and a little more positive like maybe we could find a way through. I tried not to stress too much over the weekend and went into Monday feeling hopeful but also terrified. I know that all my attachment stuff is going berserk right now but it’s hard to explain why things feel so bad it’s a feeling perhaps more than what’s actually being said.

I’ll write what happened next bit in another post…

Shouldn’t Have Skyped…

I’m really aware that I have been AWOL here since before Christmas and have kind of left everything hanging for weeks on the ‘live rupture’ that started in the last session before the break. There are a few reasons for me not writing here, but the main one is I don’t even know where to begin. Things have been so bloody awful that I haven’t been able to formulate my thoughts or ideas about what’s happening.

I have been flipping massively between, ‘I have to leave therapy with M’ and ‘Maybe it’s just me and things can get better’… I guess deep down I have been hoping this stuckness we’ve been experiencing and the feeling of being on completely different pages might resolve and I could come back here and basically go, ‘Haha, look at me being an idiot, freaking out and creating another Christmas rupture… but it’s ok now.’ Only I can’t say that even a few weeks and sessions down the line and I am not sure that it’s all me. Lots has happened and it’ll have to go over a few posts which may take some time.

Also, I just want to quickly say a huge thank you to all the people who have been checking in with me on email. It means a lot that this community cares and we notice when people might not be ok. Also to my closer friends, thank you for putting up with me these last few weeks and not muting your WhatsApp but also being patient when I haven’t responded to you.

So here goes. I am the ‘ringmaster of the shit show’ right now. I saw a hoodie online the other day with that slogan and I am so tempted to buy it because that’s exactly how I feel.

Christmas break was a bit different this year. I wasn’t drowning in young parts’ attachment pain and managed to immerse myself in my family life (well until my wife had a meltdown and threatened to leave…the joys of menopause!). Actually,  I just had a huge resistance to even thinking about therapy on the break and had absolutely zero desire to go back to my sessions on the 3rd January.

Sometimes I can feel a bit distant and detached but as the sessions approach the needy parts come back online and I literally cannot wait to see my therapist. Not this time, though. I just felt so disconnected and disappointed by everything that had happened before Christmas that there was a part of me that just couldn’t face more of the same. There is only so much abandonment and rejection I can cope with. I am sure she wouldn’t see her behaviour as abandoning or rejecting but that’s how it felt to me.

As it turned out I couldn’t get to my session on the Friday because my wife was working and my kids hadn’t gone back to school yet. I spent a good while pondering  what I should do. Should I just cancel my session again like I did on holiday? Would it be better to wait til we were face to face to talk? But of course I am no so used to looking at things from a multitude of angles that I began to wonder whether I was just being avoidant and needed to push through and have the hard conversations.

On the morning of the session I text M and asked to Skype which she agreed to. I was not feeling all that great as I dialled in and the moment she popped up on screen I knew immediately that something was up. It was like the still face exercise – she didn’t smile and gave absolutely nothing away. Her voice was cold and it felt like she didn’t want to be on the line. I felt the same.

I didn’t know where to start the conversation so basically did a fill in about the stress that my wife having a meltdown on Boxing Day and how it had really unsettled the young parts who fear abandonment. She asked me how I felt about the Skype and I conceded that I wasn’t keen.

And then it began…

The boundary talk.

Again.

I could feel myself brace ready for what was coming next.

The usual stuff about keeping therapy in the room, how she doesn’t do outside contact and whilst other therapists may do all kinds of things (i.e when I text her cancelling the session from holiday I had said about other people getting check ins, transitional objects, notes, being encouraged to write, getting tangible reassurances, playing games, therapists sitting closer to clients etc etc) she doesn’t work like that, that I am self-sabotaging by reaching out and essentially I know her parameters. I felt like she had slammed a door in my face.

She made no reference to the difficult last session we’d had or the fact that I was clearly massively unsettled as the break began. It felt like it was all on me and nothing about what may have triggered me to reach out, cancel sessions etc… which is odd because I would have thought after nearly 5 years and never having cancelled on her that this might be something big on her radar.

She then decided to launch into some shit about me maybe wanting her to be my friend, or be partners, and that I might have erotic fantasies about her… honestly I nearly fell off the chair. Like WTAF?? And even if this were the case is this how to reconnect about a 3.5 week break that was in rupture? I felt like she was in total panic mode… ‘must reassert boundaries!’

She was so far off base. It felt like she’s read my notebooks, freaked out about the need of the young parts and suddenly thinks I want to move in with her and start fucking her. Talk about snowballing and overreacting.

And then it got worse.

The boundary talk became a gift talk…

I was already reeling from all that had just happened when she said: ‘I didn’t want to reject your gift when you gave it to me at the end of the last session but in future I think it’s best that you do not give me gifts. You pay me already and I am just your therapist. I am not rejecting you’.

Wow. Way to go M. Thanks. The young parts fell apart at that moment. It was like, what am I doing laying myself bare with this woman who clearly doesn’t give a shit. And honestly, not rejecting? How else would I see it after the last ten minutes of her talking at me?

She missed a massive opportunity to explore why I had decided to give her a present this year after all these years of working together and the meaning behind them. I gave her a copy of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ (which basically is a must read for anyone with attachment wounds and in therapy) and a glass snowflake Christmas tree decoration – because I have previously likened the therapeutic relationship to a snowflake: there are lots of snowflakes (clients) but each one is different and so each relationship is meaningful…

What could have been a connecting moment was just shat on.

I couldn’t cope.

And I couldn’t believe she was dropping this on me via Skype. Surely these kind of conversations need to happen in person.

Usually, I would dissociate at moments like this and internalise everything, feel bad, and just tolerate what was going on despite being massively hurt and angry. But I didn’t. I don’t know what came over me but I just felt so missed, so unseen, so badly judged that I said, ‘I don’t want to talk you to you’ and disconnected the Skype call at 10am with twenty minutes of the session left!

I sat staring a the screen for five minutes (felt like seconds- think I may have dissociated) hardly believing what I had just done and then I panicked.

Clearly she wasn’t going to dial back in but I could see she was still online.

So I typed into the message bar on the Skype:

Me (10:05am): I can’t do this over Skype. It’s too hard. You feel really far away.

M (10:06): Ok, I understand that it’s hard. See you on Monday.

[I couldn’t quite believe she was just going to leave it at that and panicked. I sat there for a minute and fell apart]

Me (10:08): I am sorry for hanging up on you. Everything feels wrong.

M (10:12): I think that the younger parts of you feel stirred up and ambivalent.

Me (10:16): Perhaps. Or maybe it’s just I feel completely at sea and like you actually don’t really care about any of it and it hurts. This is absolutely not how I wanted it to be after the break btw. I really missed you. It’s felt horrible. See you Monday.

M (10:20): Yes, I imagine that you didn’t want this and so it feels particularly hard, but I think it’s best to talk about it on Monday. See you then.

I felt sooooo upset after this. I haven’t gone into huge detail because I can’t actually face going back to the recording now to give a better account of it. All I can say is it felt shit and it was enough to make me make contact with another therapist and arrange an appointment.

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I wrote the email below after the Skype disaster – but I haven’t sent it or taken it in to session. I don’t see the point really. It’s long and would take a lot of time to go through when it can be boiled down to some simple things. Since I wrote this I have verbally brought some of what’s bothering me to session and had some helpful discussion but I will post about that in another post when I get chance. For now, I am just trying to keep swimming and keep adult me front and centre. It’s hard.

M,

I don’t even know where to begin… Seriously.

My brain can’t even process what’s going on. I keep trying to make sense of it all but I’m so confused, angry, and overwhelmed by where things have got to this last month that it just feels like a massive mess and part of me can’t even see the point in trying to fix this. My gut is telling me to call it a day and yet part of me is thinking I should give things a chance to work out…I don’t know what’s best or even if things can mend?

It feels like the need to run away is perhaps just a trauma response and maybe I need to stick with it and try and create a different narrative… but then maybe keeping battling on is actually just another example of a trauma response because I keep trying to adapt to fit in with someone else when it doesn’t work for me and I’ve done that my whole life.
I don’t know how you think the lead into the Christmas break was, but from my side it was a complete disaster.

I was so upset at the end of the last session that I ended up texting you. I never want to text you because it makes me feel completely rubbish and full of shame because time and again you ignore me. I suspect you’ll say, ‘this is the boundary, and if you choose to ignore it, you’re knowingly walking into that rejection’. It’s not as simple as that, though, because that scared, connection-seeking part is already so frightened that something is terribly wrong in that moment that it can’t really imagine it getting any worse. Of course, it usually does.

With the break looming and my holiday just about to begin I knew myself well enough to know how it gets if things are left to escalate. I was already really unsettled and I absolutely did not want a repeat of Christmas break two years ago. I hoped that you would reply to me, say something reassuring, but no. It felt utterly abandoning and rejecting…and I think I used the word ‘punishing’ in the letter I put in with the notebooks. That is how it feels even though you say that’s not what you’re doing.

Things felt so bad that over that weekend that I was certain that if I Skyped from holiday it would be a complete shit show and I didn’t want to be stressing about how bad things felt all week whilst I was away. If we can’t connect in person then how likely is it to happen over the phone? And that’s why I sent the books to you before I left. It’s not something I would generally do and I get that it was stepping completely outside the regular boundary. I just felt like things have been so stuck for so long that maybe if you could see what it’s been like in my head it might move things along a bit.

I thought that I might change my mind as the week wore on and want to talk to you by the Friday but I absolutely didn’t want to have any contact with you at all and so that’s why I text you asking you to read the books instead.

Of course, I was worried about your reaction to what I had written but at the same time another part of me just didn’t care anymore. What is there left to lose when everything already feels so bad? You always ask me what I imagine the worst thing is that can happen if I tell you whatever it is that I am struggling with– it’s this: that you will finally confirm what I have believed all along, that I am too much for you, that you don’t care, and finally something will happen that’ll push one or other of us to terminate the therapy.

I have felt ill when I have thought about you actually reading some of what’s in the books. The fact that it’s taken a year for me to let you see that stuff shows how difficult it is to let you in and how unsafe I have felt in the room. I started writing in the books last year because my hope was that somehow, it’d contain what was going on and help stick within the no outside contact boundary. If I could write down what had been triggered in the room it would be out, to a degree, and then we could work with it in the sessions. It seemed like a reasonable plan because so much hadn’t been making it into the room because I dissociate the moment I get close to that stuff.

Only it hasn’t worked, has it? It’s been so rare that I have felt able to let you see any of what I’ve been struggling with because the parts that are so terrified of being abandoned haven’t felt like it’s worth the risk opening up to you. You say you aren’t frustrated or annoyed with me, and maybe you haven’t been, but I also haven’t felt like you really want to connect to those vulnerable, young parts either. It so often feels like I’m being observed rather than met where I am at– like you can see things are wrong, tell me even, but there is this huge wall that stops any real connection. I feel totally stranded and exposed and want to disappear because you feel so far away.

I was dreading Friday’s session and almost cancelled again. I felt off. It felt like everything was wrong. I knew that Skype was risky and so there was a potential that things could get worse but at the same time I am trying to be less avoidant and what if not talking to you is just running away? Now, I wish I had trusted myself and not bothered because now we are here.

I am so sick of you returning to the boundaries of the therapy and outside contact with me after almost every break. I get it. It’s rigid not flexible. There is nothing I can do to change it. You didn’t even really make any sense on Friday when you were trying to tell me why you still think it’s the best thing…you changed the subject telling me you were glad I’d let you see the notebooks. The idea that it’s best to keep the therapy in the room makes total sense to me. I don’t disagree with you. I am REALLY trying…hence the books. HOWEVER, no matter how many times you state this stuff about texting and emails it doesn’t help the parts that are sometimes terrified that something is wrong or that you’re gone. The problem I have with object constancy is real. And the shame I feel around this is massive. And I have no idea what to do to help make this feel better.

It’s not the case that forcing me into the room by refusing to acknowledge me out of it will somehow suddenly make me more engaged and trusting in the room. If that was working, I don’t think we’d be where we are right now. All that seems to happen is I dissociate more and more because nothing feels secure. I am trying to bug you as little as possible but that in itself is making this feel worse because the parts that are absolutely certain you don’t like me keep getting the same message – she’s not safe and she doesn’t care. This is absolutely hellish for me. I literally want to crawl into a hole and die because it’s so painful and embarrassing.

I am trying to do what you want but at the same time what do I with the parts of me that are really struggling – what do I do to help myself when the abandonment and rejection stuff is so live because nothing works? When things feel pretty ok with the relationship, I have zero desire to contact you. I don’t need to. I am fine. But when things feel really unsteady it escalates so quickly and then it’s awful because the moment I reach out to you all hell breaks loose inside. There is so much shame and self-attacking that goes on, but also so much sadness from the young parts that keep getting the same message – ‘you’re unimportant and she doesn’t care’. The worst thing is that when it gets bad I seem to reach out more and more. It doesn’t work for either of us. It irritates you and it just reinforces the fact that there is nothing for me to connect to and so then when I see you I don’t trust you.

It’s way more complicated than this but essentially it all comes down to being too much and also being easily ignored or feeling unimportant. I don’t want to text you all the time. I don’t want to do the therapy outside the room. But I am struggling with how to make things feel safe enough with you. The sad thing is that actually there have been some times when you have responded to me when I’ve reached out and it’s made a huge difference. It’s like a switch gets flicked and absolutely everything settles immediately. I know that sounds insane. It feels like this is an ongoing problem and we haven’t come up with any strategies to make this better.

I wish you could understand how bad it feels when everything is falling to pieces for those young parts. I know you can’t fix what’s gone in the past and you can’t fill the hole that I feel inside. But we need to find a way of settling that part that gets triggered sometimes, that fears that you’re dead or in some way not safe anymore…because it’s so bad when it’s happening. I can’t regulate that part very well…at all…and when it’s terrible I need to feel like you are there…and I don’t.

And yes, I know you are just my therapist, I’m not stupid. Oh god, and that’s something else…

You’ve said it a maybe two or three times over the years and I have always noted it as feeling ‘off’ but never responded to it, but I am genuinely really confused that yet again you have brought up the idea that I might want you to be my partner and that I have sexual/erotic feelings towards you. I don’t know what I have ever said to give you that impression but it really isn’t how I see you at all. It actually makes me feel a bit weird even trying to put you into that place in my mind.

The mother transference stuff is absolutely accurate but even then I still do know you are my therapist and not my mother – and not my partner, my friend, or anything else…and I don’t want you to be any of those things because I have all of them in my life already. I need you to be my therapist. However, I don’t think therapist should feel like it’s a nothing relationship – you are important to me and every time you say ‘I am just your therapist’ it feels so clinical, sterile even and what does ‘just’ mean, anyway?

All I can think of to make you say this again now (thinking I think about you in a sexual way) is that it comes from the dream I wrote about in the notebooks [*I was showing M my rearranged wardrobes and she asked me about my sex toys that were in a drawer!…CRINGE!] – but that wasn’t a sexual dream at all – it was like asking me what my favourite colour or flavour ice cream was – really matter of fact and at a time when I was showing you a reorganised wardrobe. And I think this dream has way more to do with the fact that we have never discussed sex at all in all the time we’ve been working together rather than it being something about the dynamic between me and you or having those kinds of feelings for you.

I don’t know?

And then this has made me wonder if you seem to be keeping your distance because you think I want to be with you and are in some way finding it awkward with me because of that. I’m gay and you are a woman…but you’re not my type!

Anyway, that all felt off because I am really clear about who you are in my life and I am not interested in the least about our relationship existing in any other capacity. However, I do very much need you as my therapist and I want you to help me work through everything. I want to be able to talk to you but something is wrong and I can’t fix the attachment stuff on my own. You often say that we can’t repair what went wrong when I was little. I get that I can’t change what happened and you can’t be all that I needed then but actually I know that repair can be made in the relationship because sometimes I can feel it happening. Sometimes you feel really present and connected and caring and it really helps…and then other times you don’t at all. You’ll probably say this is me projecting.

It feels like giving you those notebooks has fucked everything up even worse than it was before. First sessions back are never easy but again this one felt really bad. The fact that I disconnected the Skype should tell you how terrible it felt. I’m sorry I did that but I couldn’t bear it. I can’t understand how you might think that saying what you did when we weren’t actually face to face would be in any way helpful after what’s happened lately. I get that you have stuff to say and maybe it felt really important to you to restate your boundaries in the first session back but it just felt like you have put your walls up in the biggest way and you felt so cold.

It would be hard to tell over Skype what was going on for me. You probably wouldn’t be aware that my heart was racing from the moment I saw you on the screen, that I felt sick and shaky, that I wanted to hide because you didn’t feel safe to me, that I was trying really hard not to slip into dissociation, that the young parts were absolutely terrified and were hoping that you’d say something that would be connecting and settle them after what has been a hellish month but it just kept getting worse and worse. It felt like you were a stranger…which I guess, in lots of ways, you are.

I was reeling from the stuff about the boundaries and the relationship and then you added in the bit about gifts. And that was me done. Saying ‘I am not rejecting you’ doesn’t make it feel any less rejecting. I’ve known you eight years now and whilst maybe that doesn’t make any difference to you it means something to me. Without doubt, gifts are a communication and have meaning and it is important to work out what they are but all you seemed to do on Friday was reinforce your fortress. It is so hard to get close to you.

I didn’t want to hurriedly throw the gifts at you as I was leaving in December but the last session did not go in the way that I had imagined. I had wanted to give you the gifts at the beginning and explain why I had given them to you and what they meant – because there is a lot behind them.

You have told nothing about yourself in all this time – I mean you really excel at blank screen/Teflon – and then on that day spent twenty minutes animatedly telling me how you think Corbyn is a communist and the labour party is antisemitic and why the EU parliament is flawed and how Scotland wouldn’t get accepted into the EU and taking the piss out of the Lib Dem leader and how loads of people lie about needing benefits… I mean I wasn’t really expecting that to happen especially as it was our last session. Next time if you get the urge to reveal stuff can you maybe tell me something about the music you like, books you’ve read, or places you’ve travelled to instead?!

So much of that session was taken up with that, that there was no opening to discuss Christmas or how I might be feeling about the break. I mean I guess we both know by now that it’s never easy for me so what’s the point in going on about it but actually it needs to be talked about over and over again …because when we don’t it makes me feel like my feelings aren’t really welcome and that I must be embarrassing you and it just makes the anxiety I feel a million times worse. So, it’s little wonder everything was rushed at the end. I wish I hadn’t bothered now.

I don’t understand why, on Friday, you didn’t have the conversation with me first about why I had given these things to you, unpicked it, done the work round it. Instead it was just another pushback. You say you don’t want to hurt me but I don’t see how you think how you handled this would do anything but hurt me. You didn’t check in with who was there on Friday and just leapt in with both feet- it was really hard. It would have been hard to hear, anyway, but when I had just told you that [wife] had threatened to leave on Boxing Day I would have thought it would be clear that my system would have been activated and feeling vulnerable and worrying about abandonment and rejection.

It feels like we are on completely different pages right now – I don’t mean about the politics; I don’t really care about that. I mean about the relationship. It feels like all the things I have worried about, about being too much is exactly right. It feels like you have taken a big step back from me when actually that’s opposite of what I needed. I can’t seem to fully explain what I mean but what seems really complex is actually really simple.

I need you to help me hold the feelings I have and normalise them and actually accept them. I need you to help me break through the shame I feel about needing connection to you and work with me to find workable solutions to the problems I have with outside contact when things get bad because it’s not going away. It just feels like we are perpetually re-enacting what happened when I was little. My mum and wider family were so emotionally and physically withholding that just being in the room with you feels traumatic because you are so distant.

I need you to know that despite how ‘much’ there is in those books and how intense my feelings seem I am not suddenly going to start texting you all the time, ringing you, turning up on your doorstep or whatever else it is that you think might happen – I’m not that crazy and I don’t want you to be anything but my therapist. And also, just because I’ve let you see that stuff doesn’t mean it all feels ok or that I can just start discussing it because it’s out. I still feel really shutdown and fearful about it.

There’s loads I could say but I’ll stop now – it all feels shit.

‘I’m Just Your Therapist’

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It’s been an ‘interesting’ few weeks in therapy for sure. In some ways I feel like I’ve made some good leaps forward and in other ways I feel as though I am right back at square one again. I suppose that’s kind of the nature of the beast, though, or at least that seems to be what happens with me!

Right now it feels as though I’m practising a new and funny little bit of therapy dance with Em, and if I am honest it’s not much fun because, as I said, just as I seem to make progress it all goes to shit: two steps forward, one step back -three steps forward, four steps back – random bit of twirling in a circle – therapist treads on my toes, it hurts, and I let her know rather than pretending like it hasn’t happened – a few more steps forward- I accidentally tread on therapist’s toes-  stumble backwards- trip over- fall on my arse and have to sit things out until next week when we’ll give it another go…hopefully having learnt from the mistakes and maybe we’ll do a better run through next time. It’s basically a terrible version of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ – like when the celebs that can’t dance have a go in week one and you just want to die for them and their lack of rhythm and technique!

Anyway, enough with the shit metaphors for the moment – let’s get to it!

It’s funny really because there’s quite a lot of ‘news’ but right now, as I sit here, my mind is completely focused on one thing and one thing only, ‘Will Em even be there tomorrow?’

This isn’t the usual lack of object constancy stuff where I can’t keep her in mind and imagine that she’s going to terminate me because she’s come to her senses and realises there’s no helping idiots like me (!) but it’s actually that, right now, I do not know if my session is going ahead tomorrow because she won’t be able to tell me until tomorrow morning. She’s got an emergency dental appointment first thing and doesn’t know whether she’ll be ok to work…

Adult Me understands this just fine – when your teeth go wrong you need to get looked at and, to be fair, having to sit with pain over the weekend can’t be any fun for Em…but the child parts…well let’s just be completely honest and say it’s gone completely to shit inside this weekend and I feel like the ground has fallen away beneath my feet. Not even joking. I’m useless with ‘known about’ breaks and so this ‘not quite sure if there’s a break’ is just total crap. It’s attachment pain 101.

Shoot me now!

On Friday we started talking explicitly from the beginning of the session  (no faffing about gently dipping a toe in to test the waters!) about all the big stuff that’s come up again recently. This is partly because at the start of the session I (finally) handed over my therapy notebooks that have been sitting next to me on the couch pretty much every week since the end of January (we have looked at them a few times but not for several months now)… and asked her to read what I had written on Tuesday – which is basically about falling face first into the vulnerable attachment stuff again and not feeling secure in the relationship, referring to some of what had happened on Monday, and then asking for strategies to help with various areas, like: breaks, getting stuck/frozen in session, and making the parts that are in hiding feel safe enough to come out- groan.

I’ve done myself proud (NOT!) these last few weeks and ended up texting my therapist a couple of times. We don’t need to talk about the shame that doing that stirs up – here – we all get it – but crikey it’s been cringeworthy going to sessions afterwards and waiting for ‘the chat’ about outside session contact. I’ve feel like a naughty child that’s somehow let mum down or pissed her off and is about to get another telling off.

I was really flooded with sadness last Friday (1st November) after my session. I don’t know why. But basically by mid-afternoon I was just drowning in that horrible place where I just miss Em so much that it physically hurts. Ok, I know this is coming from the past and not now but when these feelings rear their heads they feel so unbelievably potent and powerful. I know this is about all the grief and loss around what I didn’t have as a child with my mum but when this stuff hits, I don’t seem to have that awareness… the part that is active in that moment doesn’t want anyone but Em and it’s her that’s missed and Adult seems AWOL. It doesn’t feel like it’s 2019 at all it feels like I am somehow stuck back in 1986 with zero resources to cope.

So what did I do?

Oh yeah, you guessed it!

I sent a wanky meme:

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And then immediately panicked. I text my friend and she was like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and I told her how I felt and she said, ‘text that to her – that’s how you feel and what she needs to know.’

Only texting ‘that’ would be a great deal more exposing than the meme, wouldn’t it? I kept looking at my phone, knowing that I had just summed up exactly how I was feeling and also knowing that if I didn’t send it, those words would never make it into the room…far too embarrassing!

After falling some more into the pit of attachment hell something in me shifted a little and I thought, ‘fuck it, I’m going to send it, I am so over skirting round the edges…this is hurting me and I need to find a way of letting her know so we can work on it’…and so I sent this:

 

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I mean – wow – right. That’s a whole lot of need right there isn’t it? And I felt so much shame after I had sent the message but also a little bit of relief too. I know, for a fact, I am not the only one that experiences this stuff in therapy and whilst it’s bloody excruciating it’s got to be worked through or things will never get any better.

This is the trauma lingering on from childhood. This is CPTSD in action -and it’s just so bloody embarrassing to be an otherwise functioning member of society, a teacher no less, and to be dealing with this behind the scenes. It’s so completely exhausting and shame-inducing.

I mean, I suppose the only good thing is I didn’t send this one…! Ha!:

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Fortunately, Em didn’t say anything that felt rejecting the first session back when I sent the ‘I miss you’ texts. She just tried to open up the conversation with, ‘You text me a couple of times on Friday‘ and we talked about it a bit so that was a relief.

I hit that place bloody awful place again on Tuesday and was bothered by something I had said in session that I was worried might have been taken the wrong way and ended up sending another text on Tuesday (yes – I am a big moron – I completely accept this!) and yet she only alluded to it briefly in Friday’s when she came to the part where I had mentioned it in my notebook where I had said I was dreading the chat that I knew would be coming because I’ve reached out outside session again. All she said was, ‘You don’t like talking about not sending texts outside of sessions unless it’s for scheduling, do you?’ I shook my head and she left it at that for now, clearly sensing I did not want to talk again about why when things get bad I seek connection and how her ignoring me really hurts. It’s a conversation we have had a lot, will undoubtedly have again, but on Friday I just didn’t want to.

My friend and I were laughing about the fact that I haven’t shown Em my writing for months and months because it’s felt ‘too exposing’ and yet I was so desperate to avoid ‘the boundaries chat’ on Friday that I would sooner shove a full notebook of vulnerability and need in front of her than deal with those feelings of rejection that come about when we talk about texting and outside session contact. A great example of avoidance of one painful thing trumping the avoidance of another exposing thing! God help me! I am nothing if not avoidant! haha.

Anyway, the conversation we did end up having was hard, talking about the young parts’ needs for holding and containment. Em said how she can feel the need so much, for unconditional love and holding, and she can see how painful it is to not have those needs met, and understands how awful it is that we can’t make that repair in the here and now because she is ‘just my therapist’  …and something about how scary it must feel to feel in the dark when it’s like that and that it isn’t that she’s rejecting me at all…. blah blah blah…she said a lot of really understanding good stuff, but ugh, I dunno, it all just feels crap because my brain felt like she was putting a barrier between us with that one sentence: I’M JUST YOUR THERAPIST.

I understand that she can’t give me what I needed as a baby, as a toddler, as a four year old or at any point thereafter in my childhood when everything was a fucking disaster zone and I needed an adult to be there for me – but actually sometimes the words she chooses just bloody sting even though the intention behind them is good.

‘I’m just your therapist.’

I mean what does that even mean?

Because ‘just my therapist’ is actually quite (ok, massively) important to me from where I am sitting. She’s the person that knows me inside out. She’s the person who has touched on the most vulnerable and scared, needy parts of me and hasn’t abandoned me when she’s seen them. She’s the person that I try and trust with some of the darkest, most painful parts of my story. She’s someone whom I have tried to let in and build a relationship with on and off over the last eight years… and that relationship really matters to me. She’s not ‘just my therapist’ to me. She is Em (who ‘just’ happens to be my therapist!).

Of course, I’m not dumb, she is my therapist but that’s not just some fucking bland title, like my ‘dentist’ who I don’t care a bit about – like the fucking dentist she’s going to on Monday morning!- ‘Therapist’ is surely a bit different? – and if it’s not then I am labouring under some huge misapprehensions. Sure. It’s a professional relationship but there’s no ‘just’ in it. It’s not somehow ‘less than’. I get that she’s not my parent. She’s not my friend, either. It’s not easy to quantify what a therapeutic relationship is like to someone who hasn’t experienced one but it certainly isn’t ‘just’ anything – it’s still two human beings in a room trying to forge a way forward together in a real relationship. There is care, and hope, and dare I say it, love – at least from my end.

Ugh. Anyway, that’s clearly got under my skin. I mean basically Friday was a slightly kinder way of saying, ‘I’m not your mother’ and so it’s the sorest bit left hanging over from an otherwise really good session.

It seems that having the conversation (again) about how easily rejected the young parts of me feel and how easily they read her silences as annoyance or lack of care led Em to remember that she was going to the dentist on Monday and that whilst she thinks she should be ok to work she may have had an anaesthetic and so perhaps might not be quite as ‘with it’ as usual. She was basically warning my hypervigilant self that there’s not something wrong between us that I’ve caused if she seems a little off in session tomorrow but something down to her teeth…that is if she even makes it to the room tomorrow and tbh I can’t see it happening.

Sigh.

As I said at the start of this, I’ve felt my agitation building all weekend about the very real possibility that tomorrow’s session may not happen. I am angry with myself that something so run of the mill and understandable feels like such a big deal. I mean, even if tomorrow doesn’t happen I’ll see her on Friday and I’m still behaving like a big baby about it. Clearly the young traumatised parts don’t understand what’s going on and just feel like they’re stuck in the annihilation zone. Basically I’m plunging head first down into the black hole that is the mother wound again.

Fun times. Ugh.

I took myself off to bed earlier this afternoon in order to try and sleep it off. I couldn’t sleep, though, and just felt increasingly upset which is why I have come to write here to hopefully help get Adult back online and it seems to be working a bit but doesn’t stop the sick, shaky feeling inside.

There’s actually loads to say from the last few sessions but this is already long so I’ll save it for the next post and fill in the gaps then.

Right now I have to conjure up my teacher self and go out and tutor… easier said than done when you have a bunch of screaming, distraught young parts inside.

x

Easing Back Into Therapy…

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So, that’s the summer breaks done and dusted…thank goodness for that! To be fair, these recent breaks in therapy have been pretty good compared with some other times (but it’s all relative and by all accounts I am still pretty shit at breaks! – hence texting Em two days into the last break!).

I won’t lie, I am really relieved that it’ll be a while now before there is another holiday/break in therapy. I can’t even really think about Christmas just yet because I have managed to make the break MUCH longer than it would usually be. It’s going to be nearly four weeks long because I booked a holiday the week before the break would usually start. Eek!

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of some all-inclusive sunshine just before Christmas definitely appeals but…argh…I’ve had some humdingers of Christmas therapy breaks over the years. I really don’t want to end up spiralling into the depths of attachment doom again. Ending up in a big rupture is never fun and so I am really aware that a longer break might pose some issues. Having said that I am usually pretty good until New Year and then that’s when the shit hits the fan!

I guess the positive is that Em and I are aware of this fact, now,  and will ensure we spend some decent time putting things in place so that (hopefully) things don’t descend into emotional Armageddon. Well, that’s the plan, anyway 😉

Having just glanced back over what I have written I just wondered something. Does anyone else usually try and time their holidays to coincide with their therapist’s breaks in order that there is no so much disruption to their therapy? Until this year I have ALWAYS taken my holidays when I’ve known Em will be away because the idea of a therapy break being down to me and not her has been a hideous idea! I did find May half-term quite hard this year because USUALLY Em takes a break then and this year she didn’t… and I was away in Lanzarote. Two missed sessions all down to me. Groan!

Anyway, I’m sure it can’t just be me that does that…can it? Lol! Sometimes I wonder if therapists have any idea just what hideousness goes on behind the scenes with us. I mean take the ‘therapy toilet stops’ en route to session? I mean does anyone ever tell their therapist the effect that therapy nerves can have on their bowels pre-session??? I’m guessing not many of us would sit down and say, “Crikey, it’s been hideous today, I’ve had several bouts of diarrhoea on the way here and had to stop twice! Thank god for the Tesco round the corner!”

I’d hazard a guess to say that most of our therapists do spend quite a lot of time checking in with us about what’s going on in our bodies during a session. I for one have never answered, “I feel like I might shit myself!” when Em has asked me to check in with what’s happening on a physical level. Usually I complain about feeling sick. Having said that, interestingly, the dodgy tummy evaporates once I get to session and the nausea kicks in instead. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not EVERY SESSION  that I suffer with ‘therapy tummy’ but it’s certainly more often than not – especially when I have ‘big things’ to say.

Anyway, enough of the shits. Let’s get back to breaks (which are also shit!). I know it’s insane but I tend to find that once May half-term break has happened I almost retreat a bit from therapy. Of course I still turn up to my sessions (because duh! I can’t not go because I am sooooo attached) but the knowledge that the long summer break/s are imminent makes me go into a kind of self-protection zone. I rarely do deep work in the lead up to summer…unless it’s the final session before the break and then months of stuff comes flooding out in desperation.

The good news, I’ve been in therapy long enough to see patterns with how I seem to work and the good news is this next three months is September-Christmas is generally when I do the most work and things  generally move forward. Ironically, I have been back with Em for three sessions now and I’m pussy footing around and not really going to the hard places. Adult Me has been largely in the driving seat (apart from a few moments when the young parts moved in) but it’s been ok. Sometimes adult me has stuff going on that needs attention too and it’s a good way of easing back into the room. It takes the younger parts time to build trust again and believe that Em is safe and will stay (and isn’t disgusted by/or hates them).

I’m far less concerned by this slow dance that happens after breaks than I used to be. I used to be impatient to get on and do the work then moment my bum hit the sofa on session one. I was frustrated that I couldn’t just open up and go the vulnerable places after a break when I had clearly been ‘feeling all the feelings’ when I hadn’t been able to see Em. Now I understand that it’s all part of the process. My system takes time to adjust. It is what it is and I’ll get there eventually. I am not going to beat myself up about ‘all the things I haven’t said’ or worse feel like Em in some way hadn’t done enough to make it so that I could talk.

There was definitely a good period of time where I would feel disappointed by how a session had gone because it didn’t follow what I had wanted in my mind before I had arrived. I was annoyed when Em suggested that I was trying to script things a couple of years ago but I see what she was getting at now! So, when a session hadn’t gone to plan (from my pre-worked script!) I would feel almost let down by Em because somehow ‘she should have known what I needed and didn’t provide it’. I don’t get that now, really. I see just how bloody hard she works with me and know that whatever happens in the room is what needs to happen in that moment. You can’t force it.  That’s progress right?!

I am aware that whilst Adult Me might want this process to hurry the fuck along so I can do something else with £450 a month I have to accept that parts of me can’t do the work yet or need to do it ‘bit by bit’ as therapists so like to say! Working with so many parts is tricky. I can never know for sure which part of me is going to show up in session – sometimes it’s none, sometimes it’s loads and we just have to work with what comes up! … and let’s not forget there’s a good chance of dissociation at some point too. Joy!

Soooo, I don’t really have much to say. Whilst I have had three sessions there’s not a great deal to report because I’m in the thick of working through a few things so I’ll wait til it’s all resolved before I post anything as I haven’t really got any ‘lightbulb moments’ yet. It’s been so nice to be back in the room with Em. I know I don’t like breaks and they are tough but sometimes it’s actually being back in the room when I realise just how much I have really missed her – it’s like there’s an extra level of realisation – and that, of course, has set the cat amongst the pigeons!

The attachment stuff is swirling about again (despite being partly settled by her text reply to me on the break) and I wonder if this is because I can’t allow myself to fully feel just quite how awful it feels being away from her when she is gone and so it flares up once I can see her again. I suppose the positive is I have two sessions a week to see her and work more on this core issue: the mother wound and am not left hanging now. I do feel like I want to sit across from her and gush just how much I love her….but hey, this is me, and we all know I won’t say it out loud.

Right, that’s all for now. Take care all x

 

 

Old Patterns: Part 3

I wrote what follows back in early 2013. I’d recently stumbled over the writing I had done in 2009 Old Patterns: Part 1  and Old Patterns: Part 2 which recounted the time of the big breakdown and the scary interventions and decided to start writing again having not put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard in the whole intervening period. I was in therapy and beginning to feel ‘all the things’ with Em 😉  and so this leads up to June 2013 which saw the end of a 16 month period of psychotherapy on the NHS.

This is the last long blast from the past instalment on the blog. Loads has been going on in the here and now lately and I have just started the summer therapy break so I will get to catching up on 2019 soon!

Anyway, here goes!:

Nearly four years have gone by since I wrote here and rereading what I have written makes me so sad. Sad because right now, all this time down the road, I feel totally out of control again. It’s like I’m still circling the pit of doom. I know this isn’t completely true. I have not been stuck in a consistent state of depression since dad died- far from it – but I seem to find myself back down in the depths of despair wondering how, once again, I find myself in such a mess after so much time has elapsed?

How on earth can I be here again?

I have done the therapy – but it’s not enough, I know there is so much more left to process and I do not have enough time.

Still, let’s bring things up to speed before I get to what’s happening now.

After the seven month long nightmare with the breakdown Dr M wrote to get me put on a waiting list for psychotherapy in the NHS. I knew the wait would be a reasonably long time and so in the interim I had been recommended a private counselling service to try. I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a therapist I was just desperate to not feel so bad and went with the suggestion.

I went religiously to weekly sessions with my therapist N for two years but really made no progress on the big big things, not because I avoided talking about them (that’s progress right?!) but because I was told that my issues were too complex for her as she was just training. You would think I would have jumped ship then and found a more suitable match but after so long I didn’t feel able to kick my crutch out from under me. I liked her a lot and just being in the room each Monday night felt helpful. I think the ritual of going and talking for an hour was at times all that kept me going, even though I didn’t really gain anything other than stability. Not that I am underestimating the need for stability.

I terminated the therapy in the end. I was doing okish. Good enough. The eating disorder was quiet. The grief was still there but I had sort of learned to live with it. I was functioning! Life felt pretty good, really. I was back at work full time and enjoying it. I’d moved house. I’d travelled a lot. I’d got married. I was doing ok at adulting and still not yet 30. Win! I had kind of accepted that maybe the stuff I carry around in the shadows was always going to be there and I should just learn to live with it.

To be honest by the time the letter finally came through inviting me to attend 12 months of psychodynamic psychotherapy (30 months after the initial referral!) it came as a bit of a shock. I’d almost forgotten I was on a waiting list!

About six months after my GP had made the initial referral I had two appointments with a Clinical Psychologist in the Psychotherapy Department in the same scary building where I had seen the psychiatrist that wanted to put me on lithium. Same god awful waiting room. The bright yellow woodchipped walls still giving off a luminous glow of doom. Ugh!

When I went to these sessions I didn’t know they were only assessment interviews, no one had told me and it certainly wasn’t clear from the letter. I thought it was the therapy starting. I didn’t really like or warm to the therapist but given there’s not much choice in the NHS I thought I should seize my opportunity and start PROPERLY talking especially as N couldn’t help me with the ED. It would probably take a while to warm to this new therapist because she wasn’t N.

At the end of the second appointment the therapist told me that she definitely thought I needed psychotherapy and that I would now go on a waiting list for long-term therapy. I felt like I had been hit by a bus. What did she mean, go on another waiting list?? I had just spewed some serious bits of a lifetime of shit at this woman and now I was left hanging again. For fuck’s sake! Still, I’m good at shoving traumatic memories down into boxes and pretending they’re not there (you should see my loft!) and so that’s what I did. I went off and got on with my life – and I still had N even if she couldn’t help me with the anorexia.

So skip to January 2012 – As I said, A LOT had changed since my breakdown. For the first time ever I felt pretty grounded, happy, excited about the future. Now really wasn’t when I needed the therapy but I was wise enough to know that the issues that I’ve been struggling with since my teens hadn’t gone away, they were just dormant. And so I arrived at my first psychotherapy appointment 37 weeks pregnant and feeling quite on top of things.

It must have been a shock to Em my therapist.  I suppose reading my notes she might have reasonably been expecting an anorexic falling apart person to show up in the room and  instead she got a blossoming heavily pregnant woman…how did that happen?!

The moment I met Em I liked her. It was a completely different response to the therapist I had seen for the assessment. I felt comfortable with her from the first session. I don’t know what it was…I just really liked her. She had a nice face and smile, her body language was open. I dunno. I can’t explain. BUT it was good news all the same. I hadn’t really thought much around the logistics of therapy with a baby on the way but Em said that we could wait to start the sessions til after I had the baby and as soon as I felt able I could ring and let her know and start coming to see her.

She said that of course it was fine to bring the baby as she’d be little and need feeding etc. Basically she made the whole thing feel really easy – I didn’t lose my place on the list because I couldn’t start that week. So two weeks after my gorgeous little girl arrived I found myself in the room talking and breastfeeding. Turns out my baby needed feeding EVERY SESSION for the first four months.

So.… skip forward again.

I’ve been going to my sessions for a year now and I have made some good progress and uncovered some issues and set a few of  them at rest. But despite Em being really great there have still been things I have felt unable to address with her. Some of this is because I know my therapy must end soon and I feel like I have run out of time.

It’s taken me three months of mentally psyching myself up to tell her that I am really struggling with my ED again – it’s been especially bad since I have gone back to work after mat leave. I think I have passed the glow of having had a baby and now feel like the baby weight is just fat.

For months I have skirted round the edge of this issue, repeatedly being lost for words or filling my session time with insignificant garbage…. I am distracting myself from what is really important and something that is slowly taking over my life again.

Why?

Well, I guess it’s for many reasons. After giving it a lot of personal thought time- the time when the lights are out and the demons take root in my mind- I think I have reached the conclusion that I haven’t felt able to talk about my eating disorder because I am embarrassed and ashamed about it.

I am ashamed that for 15 years I have been secretly starving myself, on and off, when I can’t cope with my life. I am scared to admit that apart from my pregnancy, I have never achieved a healthy BMI and that I consider anything close to 18 fat whilst still knowing that it is at the bottom end of the healthy.

Part of it is that I don’t want Em to judge me.

I judge myself harshly enough already.

But today I realised with only a few sessions remaining I had to say something otherwise I will be 45 and still battling with these issues which doesn’t even bear thinking about, especially when my daughter will look to me as a role model.

I need to change.

I know it’s going to be really hard.

I know I cannot do this on my own.

Today, I sat down in the chair and soon realised that I couldn’t even speak. I felt myself getting angry with myself. How could I have mentally planned what I wanted to say, dreamt it every night for a week, and yet again find that I was mute? What was stopping me just telling my truth? Why is it so hard to open up and trust someone with this stuff?

I know she could see I was struggling again and, thankfully, I just sat there and she filled my silence and led me along. She told me that she felt like I was holding back and that the need to cry was really strong and that she could see that everything was too much.

She was right.

Somehow, I falteringly began to get my words out. I told her of how I hated myself and how I had become really self destructive and how I didn’t see the point of being here. She asked me if I felt suicidal. I said yes. She asked me if I had thought about ways of ending it. I said yes. She asked how. I told her: crashing my car, overdosing, cutting myself. She asked me if I had ever done any of those things before. I told her yes. She asked what stops me from acting on it, and I pointed to my baby girl. And from there the words kept coming, albeit messily and not always coherently.

I told her about how people have told me I look ill, that I am too skinny at work. I told her how I felt like I am losing it. I told her how I feel I am battling with myself all the time. I never know if I want the part that wants to be well to win or the critical self-attacking part to win. I told her that I struggled to talk because I have been in the situation before and been told I did not have an eating disorder after skilfully answering questions that meant the end score did not add up to ‘anorexia’.

She seemed to understand and acknowledged that I am skilled at letting people see what I want them to and understood hard it must be. I told her how I was sick of always falling into similar patterns, how every time things get overwhelming I start hurting myself rather than helping. She asked what I want to look like and I told her I didn’t know, only that I can never see how bad things are at the time and it’s only afterwards when I look at a picture that I can see how thin I am. I told her that the more weight I lose the less I see how thin I am and focus on the areas I perceive as fat and the number on the scale.

I was inarticulate and confused but I did it. I FINALLY told someone what I am carrying around and now the door is open to deal with it…. I feel nervous and exposed and know that next week I will have to keep myself in check and stop myself from playing what I have said down in a defence and actually let myself remain open. The embarrassment is ebbing away and I feel finally like I might get the help I need with this….I just hope I have enough time. That’s what really frightens me. For the first time I have opened up, but I think maybe I’ve left it too late.

I am scared of being left hanging in June, in crisis and having to leave the security of the room and the weekly safe space I have to unburden myself. I am worried I will not cope. Things are bad already without the only support I have being removed. Truthfully, I am terrified.

A week on, another session, and another mild failure in my ability to build on what I said the previous week. I am so painfully aware that in a few sessions my safety net is going to be completely removed that I think I’m probably withdrawing into myself a bit trying to protect myself from another loss. I have lots to say but don’t think there’s time now and as such I think I am wisest trying to put my armour back on and get ready for life ‘out there’ without my weekly check in.

Interestingly, today, Em commented on how I seemed different today than last week (where I was completely flustered and anxious but just about able to talk). I was behaving differently, but actually, in the last week, nothing much has changed for me. I am feeling anxiety about leaving my job, my brain is in a million places and actually what’s happened is that I have ejected my emotions out into space to allow me to function. I have been obsessing about my weight, I even found an app that allows me to track exactly what I am eating and how this will or will not impact my desired weightloss.

I now spend time inputting what I eat into the app and watching the calories go down….I’m aiming for 1000 a day at the minute which is manageable and won’t draw any attention. It also allows a steady weight loss. I am currently 7st 5 which gives me a BMI of 16. I am not happy with my body. I am not happy with myself. I never am. I guess next session I should address this deliberate food restriction. Oh but the shame. God.

I wondered today about something she said to me. She commented on how despite everything, I’d still been able to function and things hadn’t fallen apart and I should be proud of that. Why would I feel proud? I’ve succeeded in reigniting my fiery eating disorder, I’ve taken sick days when I’ve felt unable to cope, I’ve been struggling to sleep, on more than one occasion I’ve had suicidal thoughts, but I haven’t fallen apart. What does that even mean? I haven’t physically harmed?

In the build up to termination today she said that a year of therapy is not a long time and that there are organisations that I can use to find another therapist in the future if necessary. It felt like the rug was being pulled out from under my feet. Something inside felt really painful, like I had been kicked in my solar plexus and my chest went so tight. I felt sick. It felt like I was going to fall apart. I sat there still and tried not to look affected.

I really am going to lose her in a few weeks. I can’t even go there. The loss feels too huge. She is just my therapist but for some reason this ending feels immense- so much worse than ending with N. It was never my intention to let Em matter to me. I knew this was a relationship that had a time limit and yet here I am faced with the reality that somehow or other she does matter to me, I do need her, and oh the fucking irony I can’t stay.

After years of therapy at different intervals, I really can’t envisage starting over again with another therapist. Let’s face it, it takes me an eternity to truly open up and I don’t want to start the process with another person in the future. Maybe she isn’t allowed to promote her own private therapy practice (I looked online this week to see if she exists outside that dingy room!- and she does!) but I would really like to continue working with her if I could.

The PCT dictates that the maximum time available for therapy here is a year, and I have already had this extended by two months because things have got so shit lately, but I know that realistically, had I been in private therapy, we would not be terminating right now.

So school is finished. I cannot believe I have walked away from teaching but I know right now this is what I need. I need to regroup and rebuild. I want to spend time enjoying my baby and focusing on my family.

Today I had another therapy session. It always takes me by surprise on a therapy day how I wake up buzzing as though there is an electric current flowing through my body. It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s as though I am adrenaline filled and there is no outlet for it.

I noticed, as I sat in the waiting room that my hands were shaking. This was not due to low blood sugar, but rather, nerves. Was I nervous? I suppose so. I worry sometimes that she’ll think I am wasting her time. I always feel like I am waffling my way through and not saying what I should be.  I feel like I am boring.

We talked today about ending work (school not the therapy) and how I don’t ever feel calm. I mentioned how I so easily forget positives about myself and fill myself with doubt. I talked about the tutoring that I have been approached about and how I have felt unable to respond to the email despite knowing it will generate income. I know it is because it feels like work is still there and all the negative associations I have about being judged and failing despite never having performed badly in my work.

She broached the subject of food today. I didn’t build on that opportunity but did talk about obsessive behaviour patterns like running at 5am and how I have had to reign myself in, knowing that one run will become alternate days, then daily, then add in a bike ride etc. I suppose I could then have talked about the food and the app – another tool for me to berate myself with.

I have 4 sessions left now, one of which will be closing up and I have to address this fucking albatross ED. I know it’s tied to self-esteem, perfectionism, sexuality, lack of control….the list goes on….the thing is I need to unload it. Perhaps if I can let this secret out it will make it less of a monster and more of a mouse?

Something else that’s new: I feel more in my body lately. I feel more. I’m not stuck in my head or dissociating. That scares me a bit because what I feel in my body is horrid and overwhelming.

I talked today about remaining firm when people ask me what I am doing and telling them that I don’t know, and that it’s ok not to. She said this is known as ‘negative capability’ where a person can challenge the norm or go against convention and that it can be really healthy and shows that I can assert myself.

Oh man. I like her. I think maybe, if I am honest, I love her. She sees me as I am and doesn’t run away. To feel accepted as I am is novel and addictive. The more time goes on the more worried I feel about the termination of therapy. I really don’t want to be the tortured anorexic but I don’t feel able to be any other way at the moment. I don’t feel like I have the coping strategies to deal with what feels to me like another enormous loss and not eating is a way that I have always coped with emotional pain. I feel like I am losing H and Dad all over again and added to this, someone who has not flinched when I show them who I really am.

Walking into my session today I felt like I didn’t know what I would say or where it would go. I sat down and immediately felt the loss I am beginning to grieve before it has even happened. I could barely look at Em. I did, however, outline just how bad things feel right now. I told her how I take to my bed when little girl is asleep and lie under the duvet just to hide away from the world. She totally seemed to get the need to feel safe and she understood how I never feel soothed.

I explained that hiding in bed allowed me to be safe and not to harm myself. I told her about how I worry about hurting myself and I haven’t done that in years. She asked how and I told her about cutting and burning. These methods have been running through my head for a few weeks now. I have been looking of self harm websites. I guess that is a visual outlet rather than actually hurting myself.

Towards the end of the session more and more came out, as it always does and she picked up on that. I wish it didn’t take so long for me to get to what I need to say. We talked about the impact of ending and how I felt. She suggested that maybe I would feel angry or let down. I don’t feel either of those things, particularly. I just feel lost and sad that I don’t have more time to really unpick this….this self-destructive part that rears its head periodically. I didn’t say this.

I came home and tried to cut myself. The knife wasn’t sharp, though, so there are only superficial lines. No real damage done. I also heated a metal spoon and burned my skin. That really fucking hurt. Neither of these acts makes me feel like I have been able to find an outlet for how shitty I feel, though. I almost feel like I have failed and can’t even damage myself successfully. I feel pathetic.

I had no idea when I started this process that I had so many attachment issues. Em has suggested I have trouble with intimacy – well duh! I had no idea that so much was tied up in abandonment issues and dependency. I guess what has happened in the therapeutic relationship is that for a long time I have held back from allowing myself to get close to Em because I knew that the relationship would come to an end and I didn’t want to feel like I was alone and abandoned when the time finally came.

Fortunately or not, in December I guess I began to experience transference with her and then began to shut down a little for fear of frightening her and replaying issues. As it turns out this has happened anyway. It feels a lot like H, not being able to tell her about how I feel. I suppose what happened last week was the bit that I was terrified of, suddenly being so needy and dependent that I feel like I can’t function without that safety net. Argh. I know I have a lot to work through now about how this has all come about and why. We have a month break now and then it is the last session.

I decided to send Em an email to her private practice email asking if I could see her privately when we finish. She replied that she’d be happy to work with me but that she’d have to find out what the rules are and will let me know in our next session.

June 5th 2013

So today was the last session with Em. I went with a feeling of dread and nervousness after the email and also knowing it was the last session. I was worried that I had overstepped a boundary contacting her. She thanked me for my email and quickly told me that I could see her again but that it would have to be in 3 months or so in order for there to be ‘an ending’ with the NHS and fresh start with her privately. As much as I don’t want a gap, I do understand the theory behind it.

The session today was a bit bizarre as after a month away I felt like I couldn’t just open up and do it, particularly knowing it was the end and I would have to manage. I did talk through some superficial stuff and tried to remain upbeat and together – my outer world persona. I talked about how I have been trying hard to look after myself but that I don’t find it easy and it is easy to be critical. I know that that is the big thing I need to work through next time. I can’t avoid it anymore.

I have come away from today feeling numb – I know I am just shelving how I feel because I know I can’t deal with the idea of being alone with myself for a quarter of a year.

So – that was way back in 2013. I didn’t end up going back to Em until three years later (June 2016). When I finished the therapy I had six solid weeks of horrific nightmares and then one night I had dream where I was night swimming in a lake. I was feeling suicidal. I was cold and tired. I decided to drown myself. I calmly put my face down in the water and floated on my front. I waited. Just as things started to go black someone pulled me up and out of the water and into a boat. It was Em. She quickly wrapped a blanket around me. She said ‘you don’t have to do this to yourself anymore’ and held me close. And that’s when the nightmares finally stopped.

I picked myself up after that dream. I didn’t contact Em when the three months wait was up. Part of me wanted to but part of me was scared of ending up back in that dependent, unsettled place. I had another baby in 2014 and life actually was really very good until I got cancer in 2015 and then had to go through a year of treatment…cue a complete meltdown when that had all finished! The wheels really started falling off. All the old stuff started to become live again. So I approached Em and since then we have been working together solidly for the last three years working on so much shit. We’re still not done yet! But I am so glad I have her reliable, calm, non-judging presence in my life. And even though I am still trudging through trauma I can really see how far I have come.

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Unexpected And Unsettling Change

Honestly, sometimes I wonder if things are ever just going to settle down and get on an even keel here. I know life is never straightforward for anyone but I wish, even for just a couple of years, that it would just be stable and run of the mill for me. I don’t crave excitement. I don’t want anything grand. I simply want boring (but amazing) stability and safety.

My whole life seems to have been punctuated by bloody stresses and traumas and frankly I’m getting a bit fed up about it all as I find myself drowning in another unexpected sea of disaster and worry.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I am far from alone in life throwing shit at me but right now I am feeling a bit sorry for myself and sad and angry and … all sorts of feelings actually!

My therapist and I often joke (serious joke) about how hard I find change and uncertainty. Even this week, something as simple as her putting an I-pad on a tripod in the therapy room to do an EMDR type activity made waves inside me! The room was (slightly) different but we had discussed the change the session before and yet EEEK something was not the same – cue mild panic!…

I’m sure, based on this response you can imagine what happened the time she changed the client chair from an Ikea therapy chair to a pale blue sofa and put the sofa on the other side of the room from where I’d been used to sitting, as well as moving a bookcase, changing the curtains and the wall colour all in one week! The room looked so much better, but Gah! Change!! I need warning about these kind of things! haha.

I mean it’s funny tragic right?!

My childhood was a catalogue of uncertainty and instability and from the earliest times I lacked of a felt sense of safety and it’s carried on into my adult life, unfortunately. I really can’t remember a time when things felt ‘ok’ inside me or externally. I’ve always been on edge/high alert and there are so many factors involved in this.

I don’t suppose it helped that my mum had a terrible pregnancy and was hospitalised for the final two months because things were so crap for her with preeclampsia. I had to be induced in the end because I was in so much distress in the womb (!!) and after a two day labour where both mother and baby almost died I arrived 5 weeks ahead of schedule, tiny, and was put in an incubator for three days. My mum did not to recognise me as hers when they finally gave me to her.

Great start!

Things haven’t really ever improved from that point! I’m not really surprised given what she went through that my mum developed post-natal depression and struggled to be a mum to me. She’s always said she’s not maternal and has made a joke of it, but actually I think that’s a defence for knowing that things weren’t very good for either of us when I was small. It’s easier to joke than to acknowledge the varying degrees of failure that happened. I know what it’s like when your mental health is tanking and I know that looking after babies is no mean feat even when you’re on your A game and so I get that my early days weren’t exactly conducive to developing a sense of security. Bonding was never going to be straightforward.

Now I am on a roll with the moaning about instability I might as well let a bit more out and add that after the trauma of being born there multiple house moves growing up (16 ‘homes’ by the age of 16); several different schools; being ‘looked after’ by people that were not my parents (so many childminders!); being emotionally neglected and abused ‘I wish you’d never been born!’ by my mum when she was around but she wasn’t always around, in fact she was gone a lot!

From the age of four to eleven she was away five days/nights a week. I feel so sad for the little girl inside that just wanted to be loved, to be tucked up in bed at night and read a story by someone that loved her. The ache is huge. Every night when I put my children to bed and tell them stories, and remind them that I love them and tuck them in I feel that young part’s sadness and the little voice saying ‘why did no one love me enough to do this?’ 

I used to witness huge rows between my parents on the weekends when my mum was home before they finally separated when I was 11. You’d think things would have settled down somewhat after the separation but all that happened was an upscaling in the rage directed at me from my mum when there was no longer a husband to absorb it and that carried on til I left for university at 18. I’m not at all surprised that I turned all the hatred in on myself by self-harming, not eating, and generally neglecting and punishing myself.

If you are repeatedly undermined and attacked throughout your life by a caregiver it becomes your inner narrative. You are nothing. You don’t matter. It makes sense to deprive yourself because you are not worthy of anything good. I know my inner critical voice is modelled on my mother. I have left that childhood ‘home’ but that horrible, nasty, soul-destroying voice lives on in me. It’s painstaking work trying to free myself from it…or at least try and understand it better.

So basically because of this (and more…so much more!) I don’t feel safe in relationship but I also don’t feel safe in my wider environment.

I suspect the way I respond to change and upheaval isn’t exactly ‘normal’ (I mean come on, décor change in a therapy room freak out is not usual behaviour!!) because of my previous life experiences. It can feel like the end of the world when stressful stuff happens because I end up on my arse flailing about.

This feeling of doom and Armageddon gets worse with each new traumatic ‘event’. The sense that things are desperate and will never improve take root really quickly. It’s like the floor falls out from underneath me and I start plummeting into the abyss. To be fair to myself the more recent adult triggers haven’t been ‘light’. My dad dying abroad unexpectedly at 47 on a remote island wasn’t an easy thing to navigate even in a purely practical sense let alone emotionally and I am not surprised it still haunts me; getting a late stage cancer diagnosis six months after giving birth wasn’t ideal either and the treatment that followed was gruelling so my health anxieties are probably reasonable.

So, what’s the latest trigger for the zoom into doom? My wife lost her job out of nowhere two weeks ago. This has sent shock waves through my system. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not a death. It’s not cancer. It’s not childhood neglect and abuse. BUT it has sent me through a loop. I don’t like injustice. I feel angry when people treat others badly. I hate that people with power can abuse it. And whilst I (adult) know things will work out in the end I have felt awful and panicked. All the younger parts have been sent plummeting down into a deep deep hole. I have felt scared and paralysed.

Turns out that, as well as death and cancer, financial insecurity is something that terrifies me. I think we all like to think that money isn’t the be all and end all…but you know what? In the society that we live in it really is quite important. If you can’t pay your bills, well… what happens? You’re totally fucked.

As an adult I have tried really hard to create a stable environment for me and my family because I know how ‘unsafe’ I feel just being alive. There have been horrible things happen, losses that I still can’t get over, but until now I have at least felt like I have my home and so a degree of physical safety – somewhere I can escape to when the world feels all a bit too much. I know, that it won’t be long before my wife finds some kind of employment again but I also know that agency work will not pay anywhere like as well as what she has been doing in recent years…and so it’s going to be a struggle. Our life is going to have to change.

She’s already been off two weeks unpaid and that’s two weeks where the mortgage is still running, the bills keep coming in, the cars need fuel, the kids need stuff…….and then there’s that other big bill…therapy.

What do I do about that? I was convinced in week one that I would have to give up my sessions. I was ready to go in and have that conversation – and I cried about it the night before. I guess that’s one plus point…I located where the tears are kept! After all if you have no money coming in and kids to feed and a roof to keep over your head then how can you justify £450/month on therapy? It’s simply not viable.

I still don’t know what is going to happen with this but I have decided not to make any panic moves. I’ve told Em what has happened but I didn’t quit therapy there and then because we are just about ok for a month or two with bills.  If things haven’t resolved with my wife’s job by September then there will have to be some serious decisions to be made. The idea of not having therapy right now terrifies me but at the end of the day as much as we might like to pretend it’s a relationship that will be there no matter what… if you can’t pay for it you can’t have it. End of.

Ugh.

Em and I are approaching the summer therapy break. This year she’s taking two blocks of two weeks – one at the start of the school holidays and another at the end. I am dreading it. I am crap with therapy breaks and this summer is going to be the most disrupted time we’ve had in the last three years. I always struggle in the summer break. However, I am trying hard to hang onto a slight positive here. I am trying to see the summer break as a respite from having a therapy bill – there is no therapy but I have not quit therapy… and hopefully this time will allow me and my wife to settle on some kind of financial even keel.

So, yeah, that’s my life right now x

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Therapy Is Hard Work…

Therapy is hard work! But we knew that already, didn’t we?! It’s funny – not funny ‘haha’ more funny ‘strange’ to think a lot of  people still assume that therapy is just going and talking to someone who listens, says nice things, and makes you feel better each week – basically a ‘paid for’ friend. Ha! I wish it were as simple as that!

I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to explain to people whom I know that know I am ‘still in therapy’ (‘how much therapy does one person need?!’) that doing depth work isn’t about pasting over the cracks or simply patching the hole in the roof for a few months and then sending you off out in the big wide world again only now with a thin veneer of ‘coping’ laid on top of whatever the issue is. I’ve done this short-term work in the past (in my early twenties) and I can say it only took a few rainstorms for the problems to be exposed again.

I am sure, for some people, CBT and short-term work is totally fine. Maybe if you just have one small hole in the roof, or a bit of wallpaper that keeps flapping in the corner of the room (or you’re just a pro at doing therapy!), then working on some strategies to fix the leak/paste the paper back might be quick work and that’s therapy done. When I first entered the therapy room I hoped my problems were largely cosmetic. Unfortunately, this seems not to be the case. Having undergone a full survey it’s pretty apparent that the issues are structural and abundant.

I mean let’s be real here, despite first (misleading) appearances, when you get close, my building is bordering on derelict. There’s more holes in the roof than slates on it, everything has a distinctly precarious off-centre lean, there’s woodworm, rising damp, and all manner of missing bits and pieces: floorboards, doors, windows…! It’s not what you’d call ‘habitable’ right now but it’s all I have so I have to camp out whilst I do the work.

Therapy, for me, is a bit like undergoing a complete renovation. The therapy/my therapist is providing a scaffold to sure up the main frame of the building whilst I painstakingly, bit by bit, strip layer after layer back ready to rebuild from the ground up a solid, storm-proof me… it’s taking a while, longer than I had anticipated, and I’ve gone way over budget (!!! OMG I wince at the $£$£), because every now and again just as I start some delicate reconstruction work a bloody great tempest whips up and starts shaking everything with force and then more bits and pieces fly off and I realise I haven’t actually got back to the base on which it is safe to build. Ugh. Annoying!

Every floor of the building is pretty fucked – so much work to do!… and the central stair well is rickety as hell too. Every tread has an issue on it: C-PTSD, Anorexia, Anxiety, Stress, Depression, Fear, Doubt, Shame, Panic, Lethargy, Grief… I hate walking up and down these stairs but it is unavoidable if I am to sort the building out. I am trying to install a handrail at the minute and make sure there aren’t any sneaky holes on the stairs that I might get my foot wedged in. I’m aware that certain areas are more dicey than others: anorexia looks solid but it’s a bloody nightmare and I can find myself waist deep and dangling if I misjudge my step.

As my holiday approaches in two weeks time signalling a two session therapy break I can see that I need to be especially careful not to go arse over tit as I carry my suitcase out over the C-PTSD step…I want to enjoy my holiday. I want to leave this ramshackle project behind so I can have a rest, regroup, and start again on my return with renewed vigour and energy. I guess we’ll have to see what happens, though.

One thing I can be sure of: no one is going to burgle me whilst I’m gone!

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It’s Been A While…

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It’s been a while since I have had a full-on meltdown in therapy…but I fell off the wagon in rather spectacular fashion yesterday and completely lost my mind! Believe me, I totally see the irony in this, especially after how the last post I wrote was about being in an ok place and saying that I felt like I was ready to move forward with some of the stuff that has been bothering me since before the Easter therapy break. Alas, the good intentions were all there but actually doing what is necessary or saying what needs to be said when the entire system is in conflict and the teen parts and Inner Critic take control isn’t easy!

I had intended to go back to my sessions, show Em my picture/diagram about what had caused me to be so upset in the last session heading into the break (the mention of possible ‘bombardment’ in the future being a reason to end therapy and the Friday text being revoked)  and try and unpick what was really going on. Last week I was able to see that my reaction was big and not of the here and now. Something about the idea of one day being too much or overstepping a boundary tapped into something huge and really set the cat among the pigeons. Em was trying to tell me that actually things were ok in the therapy and we weren’t in a dicey place and yet her trying to reassure me just did not work at all…and then a two week break…well, we all know where that sends me!

So on Friday I went in and tried really hard to talk but just couldn’t. The first session back is always notoriously shit. I just can’t really connect and it all feels like a disaster zone. I can’t really remember all the details because I seem to be experiencing a bit of stress amnesia. I know the session was only a week ago but my brain is in panic mode and is muddled. What I do know is that my notebook sat in my bag burning a hole through the fabric asking to be acknowledged but I conveniently ignored it. Shame and embarrassment were bubbling away and the idea of sharing that really vulnerable hurt part of me felt impossible. I did manage to tell Em that I wasn’t ok and that something that had happened before the break had upset me a lot and that whilst I know it wasn’t deliberate I still was hurting about it and part of me hadn’t wanted to come to the session so I suppose that’s something at least!

I left the session a bit frustrated with myself but didn’t beat myself up too much about what had gone on (not gone on!!). I’m used to this funny little dance we do after breaks (more like a game of cat and mouse actually!) and decided that rather than criticise myself about my inability to jump right into the hard, vulnerable stuff I’d instead accept that parts of me just weren’t ready to go there yet and that the time would come and to trust in the process.

I do wonder, though,  why after all these years a couple of weeks break sees my lose all sense of connection and trust in this woman? It’s agony really. I mean I know why it happens but part of me is still like WHHYYYYYYY?!!!!

Still, the session was ok in that we did some ground work – a lot of checking in on my body, noticing all the changes I was experiencing and naming them etc and it felt connecting to talk around the issue even if I couldn’t say exactly what the problem was. I went away from the session and drew another picture in my notebook trying to explain the process that had happened inside when I had told her I hadn’t wanted to come to the session (well, part of me hadn’t wanted to!! Others were desperate to see her!):

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The weekend went by fairly quickly and when Monday arrived I felt nervous about the session. I knew that I just needed to get the bloody notebook out the goddamn bag and get the ball rolling (or open my bloody mouth!) …how hard could that be? – turns out, VERY HARD! By the time I arrived at session I felt so sick and it was hard to distinguish whether I was highly anxious or actually on the verge of sick bug….does anyone else get the complete body meltdown? It’s been a long while since I’ve actually thrown up before a session (it did used to happen a lot) but the unhelpful diarrhoea before a session is really an issue again right now. Clearly I’m really agitated! argh!

Anyway, as I walked up the driveway to Em’s house my body was screaming out that things weren’t safe. I had wound myself up into a tight little ball of stress by the time I walked into the room. During the session my stomach was so noisy that it was utterly embarrassing. It was so clearly audible for such a protracted period of time that it couldn’t be ignored. It became a bit of a joke in the end because I was largely mute and yet my gut was having a conversation! Em was saying how clearly parts of me want to speak and how the stomach/digestive system often expresses emotions — I agreed… tried to laugh it off and couldn’t help but think of the raving shits I have been experiencing lately… obv didn’t mention that, though! 😉

Again we talked about how I was feeling even if I couldn’t tell her exactly what the problem was. It was such a difficult session. I would get to a point where I would feel settled and grounded and ready to talk and then WHAM the moment I brought to mind the feelings about her leaving or being fed up with me or whatever my body would freak out and I’d dissociate. This happened over and over again.

Towards the end of the session I managed to tell Em that it felt like surfing on a stormy day. There are some days you head to the beach, especially in the winter, and look out at the sea and notice that the wave rate is rapid and that because the waves are big and the sea is stormy there is a lot of white water. This makes paddling out to the back really hard because there is so much power in the white water. No matter whether you try and paddle over the waves or dive under them you can you rarely make any forward momentum…it’s just perpetual paddling and pushbacks… and it is exhausting.

Em asked me what I do in that situation. I told her that I ‘get the f*ck out and go home’…which is true but I don’t think really the helpful answer so far as how we tackle the metaphorical surf problem in the therapy room. I basically need to get to beyond the waves that are battering me so I can talk…going home won’t fix it! She said she understood what I was saying and then gently told me that we weren’t in the sea, and I said that I knew that and that this is what was so frustrating for me. Part of me knows I am safe, that symbolically the sea is actually calm, that I am not going drown but my body just doesn’t and my body keeps overriding my attempts to speak.

It was total hell.

With five minutes to go, following that sea conversation we really connected….why? Because I allowed myself to make eye-contact and tune into what she was actually saying. I saw what was in front of me (a caring, warm, patient woman who is consistently there and safe) rather than dreading what I fear her to be (rejecting, abandoning, mocking). I wish I could just do this when I feel scared and disconnected – but as I have said before, eye-contact in therapy is really difficult for me. It feels so exposing… and yet … so necessary for me to feel connected. Every time I avoid looking at Em I starve myself of connection. I know this. I am an idiot, you don’t need to tell me!

I left the session feeling optimistic and seen. I felt like it was going to be ok on Friday despite the hell that it had been for 45 mins in that session. That final connecting conversation was so important. On Monday evening I decided to email Em my two drawings from the notebook with a simple message to ask her to kick me in session on Friday so I didn’t avoid talking again. That filled me with panic (I didn’t want to bombard her) but at the same time I knew that despite my best efforts I had just spent two fucking sessions not talking about what I need to talk about because I haven’t had the balls to get a bloody book out a sodding bag. Ugh.

The week took a nose dive. I couldn’t hang on to that sense lovely sense of connection as I moved through the week. It was like groundhog day with a spiralling sense of panic and disconnection. I honestly felt like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die on Wednesday because the attachment pain had got so bad. I had convinced myself (again) that Em wasn’t safe, that I couldn’t trust her, and that she doesn’t care. Fun times!

So, after what seemed like a million long drawn out minutes it was finally Friday. Whooop whoop/EEEEEEEeeeeKKKKK!!! I drove to my session and could feel the shame rising and my entire system was in panic. I arrived at Em’s and sat down. I couldn’t look at her. I joked that I was swimming in a pool of shame and then retreated deep into myself. I had hoped at things would be ok. That somehow I’d get out of my hole and connect and get over this stupid stuckness. Adult Me know that what’s going on has spiralled into something huge and actually Em doesn’t hate me….but try telling that to the teen parts that are so massively activated.

Usually when I send something via email to Em she doesn’t read it (which is a boundary I don’t like but can just about accept). We have agreed that I can send stuff but that we will talk about it in the room…and this is what I wanted to happen. The general run of things would go something like, ‘you sent me a message would you like to talk about it?’  (meanwhile getting her ipad ready). I usually say ‘no but yes’ and then we get to it…and it’s ok. Only this didn’t happen on Friday. Em said, ‘You emailed me, but I haven’t opened it, I just saw the title’… there was no invitation to discuss it and it felt like a huge rejection That was enough for me to go into hiding but oh my god the teens were absolutely raging.

From that point on I could not hear a thing Em was saying to me. I was furious and hurting. Why am I not important? Why doesn’t she care? She can see I am struggling and hurting but isn’t helping me talk…blah blah. It wasn’t long before The Inner Critic showed up and went to town on me. I was sitting on the sofa. Still. And yet inside I was thinking of all the horrible things I would do to myself when I got home. It was like mentally flicking a catalogue in self-harm. It was just hideous.

Anyway, I don’t actually remember much of the session – i.e what Em said because I was trapped in my own personal abandonment hell. I have since gone back over the session and it sounds so different to what I experienced. Em was trying really hard with me and yet at every turn I was shutting her out.

I could feel time drifting away and knew we were near the end of the session. I asked how much time was left and no surprises I’d sat brooding in near silence for the best part of forty minutes. We were into that special ten minute window where I panic and have to get stuff said for fear of being left with crap til the next session…really I only need ten minute sessions! haha. Em asked what I was thinking. I quietly said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. That was the teen who is just desperately sad, wants to be seen, to connect, but despite everything keeps pushing away and in doing so feels like Em is a million miles away.

You can probably guess what came next?!

Em replied, ‘you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to’… and there was the stinging rejection (to that part at least!). When it’s like that all I want is to be told that I am safe in the relationship and we can work through it. Being told I can leave whenever I want feels like she doesn’t care whether I stay or go. (I know this is NOT what she is saying, it’s just how it feels!) Em continued and said something about different parts feeling different things but that the part that hates therapy and struggles with opening up and being seen was really present. She was right, of course. She gently asked me what was making that part feel like she needed to leave.

I started saying something about how in the previous session Em had told me that I had an intense need for connection and how rubbish that felt because it made me feel like I am too much, too intense, too bad. Em immediately countered by saying that this is not what she had meant me to take from that at all. That connection is not a bad thing and we all have an intense need to connect…and that it is unsurprising I need the connection so badly because it was so lacking as I grew up. This bolstered me somewhat and I alluded to feeling like I didn’t know where the line/boundary is and that since she had said the word ‘bombardment’ (even though it wasn’t about something in the here and now and is about a hypothetical future) I have just gone into hiding because I am scared to talk and ‘bombard’ her and be too much and too intense and then she’ll end the therapy.

Look, I know this is bonkers but it is coming from a young and wounded place and that part of me has been abandoned and rejected and told I am too much in the past. This is just playing out again in the therapy now. Em was so nice and validating and warm and….I just didn’t hear her at all! I was so caught up in my shame and embarrassment and hurt that everything she said felt wrong (to the part that was fronting) and then the session was up and that pissed me off too. I was angry at myself and angry at Em for not helping me talk. Which is ironic because now I have heard it back that was all she was trying to do!! FFS!

Anyway, I left the session feeling totally distraught. I got in my car. Turned my stereo up loud and drove away boiling with rage and hurt. I had to go to work but I was so overcome that I pulled the car over after about five minutes and fired off a text.

FUCK.

I DON’T DO THAT!

After the shit show that was Christmas 2017 I am done with complicated angry texts! haaha. But I literally was so ‘done’ yesterday that there was no adult to talk me down. I didn’t need time to think about it I just went ahead and quit therapy.

Like really.

Then I drove the forty minutes into the city and on the journey adult came back online…OMFG WTAF have I done???????

I didn’t know what to do. What if Em just accepted my message and didn’t reply?

Oh god.

I’ve really done it now.

Panic.

What do I do?

So I sent a second message trying to explain I was having a complete meltdown and wanted to come back on Monday and hoped for the best.

I sent the message and stared at my phone. I could see she’d read the termination message and hadn’t replied…fuck…

But the minute I sent that second message I could see Em was replying (the joy of I-message …) and she responded with ‘Ok, see you on Monday’…which on any other day of the week would probably send me into a spiral but frankly I am taking it as a win because I haven’t just flushed my therapy down the toilet and can go do the talk of shame on Monday!

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This isn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last time that I throw my toys out the pram in therapy. I have been in this territory before … but the thing that has shocked me is that I really thought I was past having tantrums. Clearly not! ha.

So, yeah, there we are. I’m just laughing at myself really. And you know what’s even funnier? I have spent the last month getting fixated on a word and digging a deep trench and feeling like Em doesn’t care and building walls and pushing her away…and yet I know Monday will be fine because the relationship is solid, she cares about me is committed to helping me and can handle my meltdowns…

Still, that’s what teenagers do isn’t it? Push and see where the boundaries are?!!