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…

giphy-10

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?!!

Time To Move On…

Oh crikey! It’s a little bit (a lot) messy in my brain right now! It’s not a complete disaster/shit show…it’s just… I dunno…I can’t quite put my finger on what’s going on inside. I don’t feel anything major – I am not down, or manic, or anything really – I just am.  I wrote a while back (sometime last year!) about being in a good place and I guess that’s sort of where I am again now – or perhaps I should say, like the therapists do a ‘good enough’ place. lol!

Thankfully, I got over my stuckness/ennui that I was suffering when I wrote my last blog post and have had a thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing end to my Easter holiday. I am still in denial about having to return to work… even though I went back yesterday! Ha. I swear that Tuesday was the most Monday I have ever experienced! The next few days are enormous so far as workload goes – the only saving grace is that it’s payday next week and so at least I get to see some reward for all the hard work….although once all the bills go out – pah – there’s not much left! Ah well, I am not going lament the lack of cash because I know that I am very lucky in the grand scheme of things and whilst I might like more treats (shoes!) I am able to feed us all and keep a roof over our heads – and that, in today’s world is no mean feat.

So, back to whatever this is…

In the last week of the school holiday we were blessed her in the UK with totally gorgeous weather – it was 23-25 degrees and sunny most days where I live (that’s Summer done now, then!) and we found ourselves relaxing into living outdoors: barbecues, bike rides, reading books under the cherry tree, going for ice-cream etc. The whole pace of life slowed down and the days seemed to last forever – you know like when you were a kid? It was great AND very very necessary. I posted a few things about living my best life on other social media platforms and that’s really how it felt. To be able to breathe deeply and slow down for a bit was so restorative.

Despite being active with the kids this last week (lie ins are a thing of the past!) I feel well-rested and that is very good news given the half-term of work that lies ahead (buries head in sand! ‘lala lala I can’t hear you!’). I think that says a lot about just how tiring day-to-day life can be having to hold so much in mind and be in so many places… breaks are necessary! (just not for therapists 😉 !! haha) On the plus side it has also started raining here today which means that I don’t feel rubbish about having to do work now when I would much rather be relaxing in my garden under this beauty!

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Interestingly, as the working week started up again yesterday, and real life/work life got moving all kinds of anxieties about therapy came flooding back in that have been largely silent this last week. BUMMER! I have started having a belting number of therapy dreams too!! Ha – that old chestnut!

I have written a few posts about therapy dreams over the last couple of years and how they seem to happen when I am on a therapy break so I am hardly surprised that just as sessions are about to resume on Friday that all the stuff about being abandoned and rejected and uncared for and bleurgh! puke! ugh! starts marinating in my unconscious. Joy! It’s almost like my mind is getting ready for what lies ahead by shovelling heaps of turd on my head before I go to session. Like, perhaps if my mind repeatedly makes me live out ‘worst case scenario’ in my dreams then it likely to not be as bad in real life….you know, fear the worst and hope for the best sort of thing?!

Anyway, all I can say is that thank god I am a little better at not acting on the feelings or paying too much heed to what I am left with after these kind of horrible dreams. There have been times when I have gone through the whole gamut of emotions and all the parts would have had some kind of meltdown revolving around: sadness, rage, no fucks given….and would seriously have considered terminating therapy because I was emotionally overwrought and triggered! A bad dream could completely derail me and leave me not properly talking to my therapist for a month (really – that did happen!) but now I can see that the messages that are coming up for me are important but are not real life and actually probably aren’t really rooted in the here and now….like I have anxieties about the therapeutic relationship (no shit!) but my therapist has not ever actually physically pushed me away or mocked me or told me I am overreacting – this is old stuff replaying in this relationship….I still go through the emotional cycle of sadness/rage/no fucks given but actually I am aware of the cycle now and can notice it and wonder about it rather than being completely swamped by it for days and weeks on end. Phew!

So, yeah, there’s lots to be bringing to session on Friday! My notebook is full of dreams and bits and bobs… Although I doubt my dream world will get a look in this week because I have other stuff to attend to too….like the last session before the break (eek!) and the fact that last week I seriously, and calmly, considered whether I need to do therapy any more – whether I really need two sessions a week – whether it was time to move on from therapy? When I ask myself this question, usually I get a resounding ‘Nooooooooo!!!’ from the little parts who balk at the very thought of leaving Em, but last week there was no internal noise at all.

I suspect this is, in part, because I have those parts on lockdown. After the disaster in attachment hell that happened last Easter and a rapid descent into an anorexic nightmare I have been super mindful of not giving those parts and those painful feelings too much space. I don’t want rerun of all that agony again…

Still, it is interesting for me to think about where I am at with therapy and my ‘healing journey’. I think it’s important to reflect on where I am at and notice what feelings come up when I consider the end of therapy as they can change so rapidly. Deep down I know I have a shit tonne more work to do with Em but I also need to give myself credit that there is progress being made and that I am actually even able to consider the end of therapy when the time is right.

I think it’s natural, too, to question why you would put yourself through a significant period of therapy. Because it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted! This isn’t surface level stuff. It’s deep-diving. It’s not easy. It requires a lot of commitment and, dare I say it, bravery. Sometimes it feels like an exercise in masochism (!) and I wonder, when, like on this holiday, I get over the initial hell that is the start of a therapy break and settle into just living my life (where I am actually fine) if therapy is actually doing me any good. My adult life is pretty good. I am quite adept at adulting, actually….so then I wonder what drives me to keep repeatedly picking at the scab of the past. Why don’t I just put everything behind me, live in the now, and stop dredging, and poking, and prodding the Mother Wound week in week out year after year??? That’s a question!!

I absolutely have made progress with my therapy. I am still bothered by LOTS of stuff but I am a little more accepting of myself now and have a greater ability to step back and let things settle rather so that’s all good. I do wonder a little bit, though, if sometimes the ‘I’m gonna go it alone’ thought comes, in part, because when my therapist is not here I have to do it for myself. Maybe not going back is like an, ‘I don’t need you’ ?  I don’t know! I’d like to think the thoughts I have been having this week have been coming from an adult place, but who bloody knows?! haha.

Anyway, whilst my adult has been in the driving seat this last week or so, I can’t say that was the case in my last session before the break. Cringe! Em and I discussed at length how I was feeling about the break. I managed to say quite a bit and not get too dissociated but … ugh… I hate these conversations. I hate when we skirt around the edges but I also hate being under the full beam of the spotlight. Telling Em I hate breaks and that I feel unstable and worried and all that jazz is just horrid. It was a good conversation, to be fair, and did make me feel safe enough to get Em to have another look at the picture in my book I had drawn where I had drawn her tangled in barbed wire on her chair and me – labelled ‘toxic’- sitting on the sofa.

Em, bless her, was really ‘puzzled’ as to why I would think that she would see me as a toxic person, because she said this is ‘absolutely not the case’. Then she tried, I think, to try and make me see that things are ok and that therapy, as it is, is fine and secure….only it didn’t quite come off!

This part of the session went like this:

“The time I would stop seeing you would either be when I am ill, or on breaks…but breaks is not stopping seeing you. We’d have to end if you started being physically violent towards me – but I personally don’t see that in you…or if it was very very difficult to… if you bombarded me with stuff and we couldn’t move on that then that would be difficult. I’ve said to you many times that it’s preferable if you bring things here and we can talk about things here because this is where it happens other than that I…’

Then she elaborated on how she sees me as a person who has had to go through some really difficult stuff and have developed some coping mechanisms that aren’t easy – and that I need to control stuff and cover stuff and that there are some extremely disturbed parts inside. She said she is not blind to the impact of prolonged self-harm but that she does in no way see me as toxic and she wonders what it is that I could say to her that makes me think that she will end the therapy. I didn’t really hear this part at the time because I was in full-blown panic about the idea of ‘bombardment’.

The session was finished and right at the end she told me that I need not text her on Friday mornings to tell her I was going to be there in person because lately I have been able to get there and not Skype and so now just to text her if I can’t get there and need to Skype. That’s simple enough right? Sure. BUT not when my brain is having a complete meltdown about worrying that my therapist feels bombarded by outside contact (not that there is much at all)…

Anyway it was enough to send me into a steep nosedive as I drove home. I ended up writing this out in my notebook to try and explain what was going on for me during that part of the session – I don’t know if it is very readable on screen:

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So yeah, there’s plenty to talk about on Friday! Aaargghh! I guess there’s a bit of irony in the fact that I have been considering whether I need to be in therapy when this is the sort of stuff a five minute conversation can generate! The positive is that, now I can actually take this stuff to session and talk it through – I can do the work…whereas before I would have sat brooding on it and attacking myself for how I feel. That’s good right?!

I won’t lie. I am shitting it a bit about Friday. I don’t ever really like the first session back after a break. I behave strangely…like testing the waters…is she still safe??? etc. So, it’ll be a miracle really if I do tackle this stuff head on…might wait til Monday!! HA!

 

Count Down To Feelings Splurge

So, here I am again …mild panic….deep breathing… on the verge of another big splurge of attachment pain in therapy tomorrow. Oh the shame! What I am feeling right now, and is just about to blow open again, has been building steadily since I had a horrible dream in January where my therapist basically flat out ignored me causing a huge rupture (in the dream!). The details aren’t really important but since that dream that niggly doubting part that struggles to trust Em and feels like she doesn’t really care has been grumbling away in the background.

Of course this mistrusting, angsty part is not the only part that gets activated when the negative attachment stuff (fears of being abandoned and rejected) starts swirling closer to the surface; the younger, clingy, needy parts that just desperately want to be loved are really going for it inside too. It’s such a battleground…and oh my god it’s exhausting.

It’s funny really. I can go months without dreaming about Em at all and then when the attachment button gets wedged on she is on my waking and sleeping mind pretty much all the time. It’s embarrassing and just plain ugh. I have my adult life to be getting on with, which is hectic and consuming enough without little ones inside feeling like they need to be within 3ft of my therapist at all times …and even then that’s not really close enough – I wish I could say that there wasn’t a part that wants to crawl into her lap and go to sleep! Then there’s the teen parts saying it’s time to cut and run because it’s all a crock of shit and Em is just someone we pay to listen to us and there IS NO RELATIONSHIP. I mean for fuck’s sake…this stuff is getting so old now!

The only thing that is better now is that I can see it for what is it now. I recognise the process and every time I come at this stuff it’s from a slightly different angle. Adult me diligently attends my sessions and we go through the process over and over and over until one day maybe something will be healed. And healing has been happening – in small increments. Each time we have the difficult but healing conversations a different part hears what’s being said and little by little I start to internalise a felt sense of being safe in the therapeutic relationship. Strangely though, this sense of things being ok ebbs over time depending on what’s going on with different parts. Adult me knows everything is ok but the younger parts repeatedly hit black ice and start sliding.

Em and I have been edging towards another of those ‘big’ conversations for a while now – laying the foundations for the work: alluding to big wounds and shame and embarrassment and all that jazz. There’s been a lot of dissociation but also a lot of explaining my process when I find my way back into my window (letter box!) of tolerance…and this is huge progress. I don’t just sit there in silence and in agony now…. I can, to some extent, explain the agony even if I can’t say why I am in agony! We can track the body reactions and the feelings….even if I can’t just say ‘this all comes from me wanting to be close to you’.

The other week Em asked me how I felt about things now we have been having two sessions a week fpr the last six months, and oh my god – it was horrendous. The body reaction was huge. I felt like I was going to vomit and then after a few minutes went completely numb and into my safe space. So much for giving up dissociation for Lent! We talked at length about what was going on and how every time we get close to talking about our relationship it stirs up a huge feelings. I can talk about really difficult things from my past and be fine but the moment we edge closer to what’s going on with us in the relationship- I’m gone!

We both know there is work to be done there but it’s a case of how we do it. Em made reference to staring at the sun the other day and how we can’t do it for too long because it’s too painful and maybe we can do it slowly. She also said something about letting the big  (mother)wound breathe little by little so it can heal rather than keep ripping the plaster, exposing it thoroughly so that any contact with anything feels like salt being poured in the wound and it being excruciating. I totally see what she is saying. It makes sense….

I’m definitely more of an ‘avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid….big running bomb and huge splash into the attachment wound let it all out in one go’ type therapy client. Ha. And that’s where I am now. I told Em on Friday that I have been avoiding talking to her about ‘stuff’ (code for the attachment feelings) because it’s so unbelievably painful. So we both know where we are heading. We’ve been here enough times before and yet every time I feel like I have a big thing to get off my chest it’s as though I am saying it for the first time.

To be clear here – basically the THING that chokes me for weeks or even months at a time is the loving feelings I have towards Em. Sometimes I sit in session and I just want to tell her I love her, I am grateful to her, and that I appreciate her. That shouldn’t be so fucking hard should it?- after all these years – but it really is. Because there are other (younger) parts that love her in a completely different way…that all-consuming way a child loves its mother and that’s where the shame comes in. All of it makes me feel sick. There is so much I want to say but it get sooooooo complicated.

I reach a point though, where I can’t avoid the work and even though it is fucking hellish being told, in the kindest way possible, that this is a therapeutic relationship and there are needs that can’t be met now but we can process the loss and pain together….PUKE! – it has to be done.

I bought a notebook after my (horrid) dream in January and I started writing down dreams and odd bits and bobs. The idea was I would take it to therapy and unpick it bit by bit rather than ending up texting stuff. I haven’t text Em in a long time but when the attachment/love stuff gets active that need to connect outside the session gets stronger. I thought the book would be a good tool. It has been coming in my bag to therapy but hasn’t made it out yet!

(You can’t make this shit up!)

In the last week I’ve written loads. It’s gone mad inside and I have been writing and doodling stuff – because it’s all starting to make its way to the surface…and then I ended up texting Em the picture below… So, tomorrow the plan is to try and make a start on this stuff properly….

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After I text the picture I ended up writing round this drawing I literally let it all out:

  • This is the worst week in a long time
  • Anxiety has ramped up since I text you this image (above)
  • Shame has gone insane because the need is huge
  • The attachment-related pain (stomach ache and tearfulness) are stuck on
  • I feel emotionally vulnerable
  • It’s as though the avoidance and coping strategies have gone offline and I’m left with that gaping wound
  • I am both desperate to see you and terrified of seeing you
  • I don’t want to dissociate on Friday but know it’s really likely because you will undoubtedly ask me about what prompted me to text you…and then the shame will flood in and I’ll be gone
  • I can’t bear the boundary talk again
  • When you try to normalise my feelings I feel even more pathetic. It’s as though you’ve seen this stuff a million times before and it’s almost scientific to you. This makes me feel really sad because it essentially confirms what the critical voice is always shouting: ‘the relationship isn’t real and there is no connection – it’s all just transference’ This makes me feel sad because you really matter to me and yet it’s stupid to feel anything at all when this is clearly just another example of the same process to you. I could be anyone.
  • I desperately want to connect but what is there to connect to? -NOTHING. That makes me want to run away.
  • Why do I keep doing this to myself?
  • Why do I keep hoping that one day something is going to shift and change?
  • It’s so unbelievably painful…this is why I don’t talk!!
  • Talking about our relationship is really painful for me because I am so aware of the lack of relationship.
  • I feel ashamed for needing you
  • I feel embarrassed that I care so much about someone who is just doing their job
  • Every time we talk about this  I feel like I am being kicked in the stomach and being rejected – it really hurts
  • I hate that you have all the power
  • I hate that it makes no difference to you whether I see you or not

WOWZERS …. there it all is! Yikes….

And then we had Friday’s session and it was ok and she didn’t give me the boundary talk and instead said something about us both knowing there were things on the periphery that need talking about that don’t make it fully into the room but that she gets the sense they are not on the periphery when I am out of the room….

uh huh

yep

and that spawned this when I got home:

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And that, my friends, is where I am at right now. Crazy is notched up to a solid 9 on the scale after several months of being a 4!

I guess we’ll just see how it all goes … it’s all part of the process. Man I love therapy 😉

Wobbly

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Wobbly. That’s how I feel right now. After a period of relative stability and calm things seem to have shifted into that uncomfortable space where everything feels ‘not quite right’ again and I am in danger of completely losing my balance. It’s not desperately bad (yet!)…it’s just ‘not ok’…you know? I don’t really know what’s happened; all I know is that I was fine and now I am not! Ha. Great!

Life is just my usual kind of busy: nothing is really any different to normal. There’s lots of work (more teaching taken on last week but nothing I can’t manage), running kids about, therapy, general life stuff- and yet for some reason I have gone from coping, no, better than that – living – to not really coping very well at all. I feel almost paralysed by whatever is going on inside me.

I desperately want to crawl into my bed and sleep and just hide from the world for a bit. I have very little motivation to do anything. I actually feel tearful at the thought of having to go to work later this evening. It feels like putting on the ‘professional me’ will be too much…and yet, of course, I will go and do my sessions tonight, it will be fine (as it always is), I might even enjoy it whilst I’m doing it…just part of me isn’t convinced.

In addition to this, I’ve noticed that I have shut my social circle down to essentially one poor bugger who gets it warts and all. Other than this interaction I am struggling to engage in social contact. I have a bunch of emails and messages I want/need to respond to but I simply don’t have the energy to think about appropriate messages that don’t basically end up with me looking like a self-absorbed twat.

I need to spend some time really unpicking what’s happened for me to end up here again because right now I don’t have a very clear picture. This, in part is down to the fact that I have been dissociating a lot lately (WHY?) and having periods of amnesia when I bring emotional stuff to mind. It’s like trying to catch something on the breeze,  I can see it and then it’s completely gone. I feel as though I have just been thrown out a vehicle in the middle of nowhere and have absolutely no idea how I got here, or indeed, where I am now. It’s a bit disconcerting (terrifying!).

Therapy on Monday was complete agony. I don’t know what happened. I just didn’t feel right on the way there and the moment I sat down my body started freaking out – I guess I felt fear/panic initially and then I was frozen, my vision blurred and then there were stars, and I felt as though I was being sucked out the room. I tried to hang on in there and not succumb to being pulled into the vacuum but it was so so hard.

Staying with my body when it is oscillating between pain and numbness and tingling etc is hard going. Sometimes the feeling of letting go and escaping the bodily sensations is really quite appealing (I used to do this a lot in therapy)…however ‘leaving the room’ comes with its own problems and I really do want/need to stay present with Em if I am able to, otherwise there is no hope of connection which is really what I need when things get like this.

The thing is, whatever has been triggered in me also triggers all my defences and so no matter how I want/need to connect, I just can’t – parts of me won’t allow it. I’m not stupid, I know that the core problem lies somewhere in the feelings around being needy and vulnerable and wanting intimacy but it all feeling too dangerous to be open…that old chestnut again!

The problem with the kind of sessions I had on Monday is there’s a lot of discomfort and silence and me saying, ‘I don’t know’ when she asks me questions because my brain is empty – like a void- all the stuff I want to say before I get there just vanishes. It’s not that I am being deliberately avoidant or withholding, it’s actually that everything is gone and I am just left with the body sensations. Nightmare.

Em is always really good when this happens and tries to help me ground and reassures me that things are ok, that it’s been like this before, and that we will work through it. The problem is, when it gets like it did on Monday, the shame floods in. It is so embarrassing be such a mess in the presence of someone else. My adult self is pretty high-functioning and a bit of (a lot of) a control freak, so to find myself mute and struggling is really hard for me. For my adult to have been overridden by whatever this stuff is (attachment stuff!) is really hard especially after several weeks of my adult doing therapy and getting a lot from it.

I hate that my brain makes it so that I can’t talk. I hate that when I get close to that core wound (#motherwound) that my mind does everything in its power to run away and shutdown. I hate that whilst parts of me trust Em implicitly that there are other parts that don’t/can’t and so I end up in this horrendous place over and over again. I know, because this is happening again, that I am steadily creeping towards talking about the big stuff (again). I know this pattern – I take my adult to therapy and do some useful work and the young parts get left at home. That’s fine for a while and the suddenly something happens and it’s as though the whole system activates and EVERYONE HAS STUFF TO SAY!

The problem is, I/they don’t know how to say it and are scared stiff….so generally I write something, email it, or take it to session and a discussion starts. Every time I fear the worst (abandonment, being told I am too much etc) and every time that doesn’t happen and yet for some reason I am hardwired to be fearful of being open about my feelings. Every time I let stuff out that is raw and vulnerable it feels like I am doing it for the first time. I can’t seem to bring to mind that I have said, on multiple occasions, that I sometimes struggle between sessions, that I miss Em when she’s not around, that I love her AS WELL AS the other stuff like when things are bad my Inner Critic is vile and I sometimes resort to negative coping strategies such as not eating or self-harming…

I need to bring that stuff up in session tomorrow because things felt so utterly awful after Monday that for the first time in two years I did self-harm….it wasn’t really anything, I don’t keep sharp stuff in the house these days, but the fact that I was using scissors on my skin… well, that isn’t good is it? I feel ashamed about it. I feel embarrassed about it.

Ugh.

Anyway, I really really hope that tomorrow turns out ok and I can get myself up and out of this pit of meh! There’s more to say but I have to go to work… oh adult responsibilities!