A change would do you good…or would it?

I am conflicted again. Ha! What’s new?! What is it this time I hear you ask? Well, it’s about change. I have some serious grown up decisions to make in the next couple of weeks about potentially moving away and having a complete change of scene. Right now I am swinging wildly between ‘yes let’s do this’ and ‘fuck no, let’s stay here forever and ever!’ I am totally unable to work out what to do for the best despite devoting the entirety of Monday’s therapy session to the dilemma.

It’s good to have plenty of choices and options but right now I feel like I have a steady head of steam escaping out my ears. The cogs in my brain are whirring and generating a plethora or possibilities. I seem not to be answering any of my questions, only generating more and more ‘what ifs?’ For once I am not ‘overthinking’ things…in fact my usually annoying trait is actually very proving useful now that I am on the verge of making a life-changing decision for me and my family.

Honestly, even though I am thirty four years old I still feel like a pretend adult and just wing it most of the time. I can’t believe that I am responsible for so much when I feel so haphazard and disorganised! At some point I feel like the bank is going to turn around and say, ‘sorry we made a mistake, you are not a grown up and as such we should not have given you a mortgage’; or social services will rock up and say, ‘you cannot be responsible for two minors, you are still one yourself’; or the police will stop me and say, ‘young lady, get out from behind the wheel of the car, joy-riding is illegal, what is your parents’ phone number?’ I can hardly believe I was let loose in a classroom and taught secondary school kids for years. Surely not!

See, that’s the thing, I do a bloody good show at ‘adult’ to the rest of the world, but really I do feel like I make it up as I go along. I guess it’s something to do with the idea you have as a child that when you are a grown up you will have your shit together…..and I so clearly don’t have my shit together at all and by definition I therefore cannot be a real adult! It doesn’t help that I have some really active little ones running around my head either! A lot of the time lately I have felt like a child running around in a grown up’s body.

So, change…let’s be absolutely clear here, change is not something I am keen on these days. I used to be far more impulsive and adventurous than I am now and would seek out adventures and variety, but since my dad died unexpectedly, having my kids, and getting cancer I find that I am far less inclined to want to change things in my life than I used to be.

I think part of it is that I feel so unsettled in my mind so much of the time that I try and control external factors and keep everything on an even keel where I can. I’ve had so much thrown at me in the last decade that I have been unable to control, or anticipate, that I am now quite rigid in how I approach my existence. I basically have become quite boring.

I used to think I wanted to be really successful and wealthy and yadda, yadda, yawn… But now, all I really want is a quiet life and to be happy…oh and healthy (if possible, but I know that’s not a given these days). I like routine. Do I? Actually I’m not sure about that statement….all I know is that when my routine is disrupted (thinking about therapy sessions here) I get totally thrown off balance.

I guess I just like to know where I am, and how things stand, and so any kind of instability or change can negatively affect me. I like a plan. I want to have all bases covered. I’m sure that some of this aversion to change also stems from needing/wanting to feel safe and secure because as I child I never felt those things. I was always moving around, I had lived in fourteen different houses by the time I left for university and so never felt settled either physically in my environment or emotionally in my relationships.

From what I have just said it seems stupid to even be considering changing things. But then sometimes an opportunity comes along and you have face your fears and wonder if change could be a good thing in the long run.

To cut a long story short my wife came home on Thursday and told me that a job that we ignored, that she didn’t apply for, has been readvertised. It’s quite a specialist role and it is exactly what my wife does now so she’d be a shoe in if she wanted it. It’s not the job that is appealing. It’s the area where the job is based. My dad used to live there and I have spent many many happy weekends as a child escaping the hell that was Monday to Friday with my mum and so feel so at home there.

Whenever we go to visit or go on holiday my wife tells me that I seem so carefree and alive. I feel relaxed – and that is not a feeling I am all that familiar with. I feel like my heart is home when I am there.

So this time around I said, ‘why not let’s have a think about this. I’ll have a look online and see what properties are like in our budget. If we like any we could go down and view some with the kids as it’s half-term week’. So that’s what I did. I stuck in a search on a property website with a ten mile radius of where the job is. First house that came up? My dad’s old house! The place I LOVED when my parents broke up. Is that fate? I know it is ridiculous coincidence.

There are good houses on the market well within our budget. What’s stopping me then? Surely it should be all systems go. Sell up and get moving quick! Well yes. Who wouldn’t want to live beside the sea, be able to walk out their front door and surf every day? The thing I hate most about where I live right now is that despite having loads of great scenery and coastline, it’s a good hour to a surfing beach and so I rarely go surfing these days – it’s such an ordeal packing up the kids and heading to the beach for a wave. This move could change all that. Being by the sea makes me feel calm and grounded. Must be the pisces in me!

Part of me was excited by the news on Thursday, and part of me felt instantly sick. I think you know where this is going! Whilst a huge part of me relishes the idea of ‘going home’ there are several young ones who are absolutely terrified, ‘Plleeeaasseee don’t move us away from Em. We need her’. And there is the big gut-wrenching problem. Moving away would mean I couldn’t see my therapist anymore. Just typing that makes me want to both puke and cry.

On Monday I had meant to go in a talk about trying to feel more connected in session. Em had got the pebbles out ready when I walked in the room but instead I started up about the move and what I was thinking about it all. We spoke a lot about the options and pros and cons of making the move. I turned up on Monday and inhabited my real world persona: together, confident, articulate, rational, sensible and distant/emotionally removed. It must’ve been a relief for her after what’s been going on since the summer break. She commented on how different I was.

Em eventually asked me if I had had any thoughts about the therapy if I moved inviting me to talk about my feelings around what it might mean. This is what I should’ve said:

I am really anxious about moving away because whilst I (adult) know there are loads of positives to this move, there are parts of me (little ones) that cannot see how they could possibly survive without you. I struggle enough getting through the week without having contact with you but at least I get to see you each week in person. Even if the sessions are hard I still get to be in your presence and that in itself is soothing to me. The idea of not seeing you anymore fills me with dread. It feels enormous. I feel it could kill the little ones. I really don’t think I could cope.

Even though it would be me leaving you when I think about it, it somehow feel like an abandonment. Maybe it’s me abandoning myself? But I guess it highlights the reality of the therapeutic relationship to me and that is really painful. To you, I am your client nothing more, nothing less, and as such it makes no odds to you whether I leave or not. You can easily let me go. You’ve done it before. You are not attached to me. BUT to me, you are everything. I can’t just walk away and not look back. I know this because you were on my mind throughout the three year break we had. I always wanted to find a way back to you. I still needed you then and I need you even more now.

I literally feel ill at the thought of not sitting here with you from week to week. I know I am not ready to leave therapy, or you yet, and so whilst the move might be right, the timing just isn’t. I still feel like we have so much to work through together. I feel like we are only just touching the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know what to do. Can I let this opportunity for me and my family go because my childhood trauma and attachment issues are so here in the moment in the therapeutic relationship? By extension can I let what my mum did to me as a kid and the effects of that ruin my happiness now?

There’s definitely a part of me thinks I should go, move away, because being realistic I know that my needs are never going to be met by you. You cannot fill that hole that was forged years ago. I could be throwing money at therapy for the next five years and there is no guarantee that I will be better then. I really hope to be over the attachment stuff and feel more whole but part of me feels like I am chasing rainbows with you right now. I want so much more from you than you will ever be prepared to give me. Maybe I should just walk away now and focus more on my life and less on therapy. Perhaps I can just shut all these feelings down and carry on like I did before.

The truth is what I feel right now is grief. It’s the pain of not having the mother I needed. You won’t tell me you care about me or that you would be affected by me leaving. You will remain distant and detached and let me find my own way which is what you are supposed to do, but part of me needs to hear that the almost 6 years we’ve known each other has meant something to you too.

Thinking of you being gone, well it also reminds me of the loss I felt when my dad died. That huge gaping hole that opened up inside me is right here again. It is scary. I miss you so much now and so how can I possibly survive without you? Right now my little ones want to crawl onto your lap and cuddle in close to you. They need to be held. I need to be held. I don’t know what to do. I love you.

I know. I know. It’s saccharine isn’t it? Feel free to roll your eyes or play your mini violins. I know it’s dramatic… but it is how it feels and that is why I am having so much of an issue trying to work out what the hell to do. Of course, I have been highly aware of those feelings since Thursday night when my stomach fell into my feet, and yet when Em asked about if I had had thoughts about therapy I said, and wait for it:

‘Yeah. It wouldn’t be ideal moving, but…[sigh]… I dunno’

Yep. That was what I said.

FOR FUCK’S SAKE.

Shoot me now!

What the fuck is wrong with me?! I so clearly know what I want/need to say but it’s just too mortifying to even consider saying that aloud in person.

Shame and embarrassment win again, it seems. I really suck at therapy!

Despite my complete inability to engage with the question or show any level of vulnerability Em at least talked to me about what could happen if I move away. She works by Skype so I wouldn’t have to stop therapy, it’d just change. After the session we did by Skype recently it’s not something I would relish doing. I much prefer the face to face experience, but I guess some contact is better than nothing, and hey, if I was 120 miles away from her then I wouldn’t be perpetually feeling hurt about not getting a hug as it wouldn’t be physically possible for that to happen…silver linings!

I really don’t know what to do. It seems so ridiculous that my therapy is the biggest thing standing in my way of moving. Yes, of course there are plenty of other considerations in the mix: leaving my friends, moving the kids’ schools, finding a place to live that feels as much like home as my current house…but the biggest one, if I am being really honest, which I am here, is doubting whether or not I can cope with losing my therapist.

Fortunately, I have an extra session booked in for this Friday. I text her last Friday morning asking if she could see me as I had something big to discuss that was not childhood trauma related but that I didn’t want to lose momentum on that stuff. She got back to me a few hours later, although I wish she’d turn the ‘read’ receipts off as I know she saw the message within minutes of my sending it! I know it may well have been that she wouldn’t have known if she had space available this Friday until she’d seen her clients that day – i.e some may be taking time off due to it being half term…but you know what it’s like, ‘she’s ignoring me. She doesn’t care…fuck her!’

Anyway she eventually text me with a time and asked me to confirm if I wanted it. I did . ‘Yes please. See you on Monday’ (I have to work really hard at business-like text messages in this situation as all I really want to do is splurge heartfelt gush at her!) She responded ‘ok’… which sent me through a loop. ‘Ok’? Is that all? Argh! Would it have killed her to end with ‘Ok. See you next week. Have a good weekend’ or something like it? See this is the bonkers thing: I get wound up over the tiny details of a cold feeling text reply and yet would potentially pass up the chance to walk out my door onto this beach every day (I have a small property here already – my dad left it to me) until we found something more suitable.

What to do?

If anyone has anything to say about this I’d be glad to hear your opinions in the comments.

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When therapy hurts: part 2

So, since my last post When therapy hurts: part 1 my week has been a bit up and down but I’m in a significantly better place than I was on Monday evening, thank god! I think I might rename myself ‘Flux’! Perhaps it could be my online name. It’s got a good ring to it, don’t you think? -and slightly less of a mouthful than rubberbandsandchewinggum!

I’ve been meaning to get on and write this post all week but just haven’t been able to for some reason. I’ve not been very busy, I just can’t really think of anything to say. I’m not very motivated to write. I can’t really be bothered with it. I know there’s no one forcing me to do it. There’s no pressure. It’s daft really. I am procrastinating. It almost feels like this is a piece of ‘homework’ I have to do but am resisting doing it. I think there’s a lesson for me there, don’t put ‘parts’ to posts. Last time I did it I had exactly the same predicament and got blocked.

I think maybe there’s another element in play too: ‘What’s the point in writing about it? Saying how bad I feel about things in the therapeutic relationship isn’t going to change anything, so fuck it all’. This attitude and reluctance to write makes a lot of sense to me, now, because I have finally identified the part that has been so dominant lately both in sessions and out of them. It’s an older teen part. She’s broken and pissed off.

I guess I feel about 17 years old which was a really tricky (also read ‘fucking horrendous’) time in my life: home was hideous, my mum was incredibly abusive ALL THE TIME, my anorexia was in full swing, self-harm was the norm, and I was in so much emotional pain that I could barely function.

I know it’s a huge cliché, but I had fallen in love with an older woman (a student teacher in my school -oh but of course I had!- huge huge eye roll!) and couldn’t tell her, or anyone for that matter, about how I felt. She’d moved away when I was 15 but we were very very close for a couple of years, speaking every night on the phone but as ‘friends’. I’d visited her a few times up country, being very intimate but not in a sexual way, and then the shit hit the fan when I became so ‘intense’ and needy that she basically cut off all contact with me.

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At the time it was meant to be a ‘three month break’ from contact but it devastated me like a breakup and once I’d been hurt I couldn’t go back to that relationship in the same way. I came out the day after the ‘let’s have a break from each other’ phonecall because I literally couldn’t stop crying and was beside myself. It didn’t get much better when I did come out, though, as a large chunk of my social group stopped talking to me and silence used to fall whenever I walked into a room…. So yeah, all in all it was a fairly traumatic time in 2000!

So when I am in that teen state I trust no one and shut down but am also hugely on guard, devastated, hurt and angry inside. I won’t let anyone in because I will not be hurt again like I was back then. I won’t express my feelings, in fact I’ll try not to feel anything at all, because I don’t want to be abandoned and rejected again by someone I love.

My therapist doesn’t stand a chance when I am in this state because the parallels of the relationship I had back then and have now with her are all too clear to me. She’s another woman, ten or so years older than me, who I talk to a lot but don’t get to see in person outside of the focused time,  someone whom I am very attached to but the power in the relationship is unbalanced. I don’t want to ever feel like I did at 17 again and so I won’t make the mistake of telling my Em how I feel her when I feel like this.

Fortunately, I am not physically attracted to my therapist, I absolutely see her as a mother figure (which isn’t easy either is it?!), but it’s also more than that. It’s quite hard to define exactly what she is to me. Of course, she’s my therapist, but I’m sure you know what I mean, it’s kind of the mother/big sister/best friend/fairy godmother idealised sort of thing and sometimes it’s none of those things. It’s a strange relationship, for sure!

I always really worry that my therapist will read my feelings and behaviour from the perspective of me having erotic transference because I am gay. She may not, I don’t know. I guess it is a sensitive issue for me. I have been rejected on the basis of my sexuality so many times. I worry that she only tolerates me because she has to. Unconditional positive regard is a cornerstone of therapy and yet part of me wonders if she is repulsed by me and just can’t show it?

It’s horrible to always be doubting the quality and authenticity of the therapeutic relationship. I know it shouldn’t matter even if I did feel attracted to her and that it would form part of the work but I just feel so fragile about this, even having come out 17 years ago, I still feel really vulnerable talking about my sexuality with her and I have only once brought up that massive heartbreak I had in my teens in all the time we’ve been working together.

I appreciate that I am rambling here and not really saying anything about ‘when therapy hurts’. I think this is what happens when I am fairly buoyant or in denial or both. I’m not really sure how I feel today – disconnected from myself is probably a good way of describing it. I know all those horrible feelings are inside and that the little ones are struggling but somehow they feel completely detached from where I am right now, they’re not front and centre.

It’s not a bad thing. I am functioning and frankly there have been too many days lately where I have struggled to. The teen part doesn’t need to be on guard and ready to fight because she doesn’t need to protect the little ones quite so much.

Since Monday I’ve been yo-yoing which totally follows my usual pattern of emotion after a session. I am always distressed, doubting, and devastated the day after the session. I feel abandoned, rejected, and hopeless. Ugh. It’s crap. I feel generally pretty rubbish until Thursday. By Friday daytime I feel as though I have survived the bulk of the week and can count down to the session on Monday. Friday evenings can be tricky, though, and so can Sundays. It’s almost like hope in the relationship and its potential is rekindled towards the end of the week, but then because I feel open and hopeful doubt can creep in again because she could hurt me.

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Another blogger, who I’d like to think I can call my friend now (you know who you are), has been really helpful in giving me another perspective on things and challenging how I have perceived what’s happening in my therapy this week. She’s annoyingly perceptive and her input has certainly helped me get my head together a bit.

I complained to her on Monday about how I’d felt my session had gone. I’d basically not been able to talk for the first 15 minutes and then handed over my laptop and asked my therapist to read the blog post I’d written. I sat there crying behind my hands as she read it and yet when she’d finished we didn’t really talk about any of it. I felt frustrated that I had shared all that content and yet we weren’t talking. Or that’s how it felt at the time.

However, on reflection it is clear that I was dissociated. My therapist asked again which part had come to session. And she very gently talked with me. She commented on lots of areas but it was me that couldn’t/wouldn’t engage and she didn’t push me. We just sat with how things were. She actually did a good job. I just couldn’t see it at the time because I wanted more. When I feel like that and am pushing her away it’s almost as though I am testing her to see if she’ll stay with me.

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She can’t win, though. She cannot communicate effectively with all my parts in a session because they all need such different things and approaches. What is right for one is completely wrong for another. It’s a minefield. The little ones need holding and soothing with that soft, warm voice that feels like a virtual cuddle; the teen needs reassurance and care and to be listened to and for her feelings to be validated; the adult needs to be told everything is ok and that there’s no need to be embarrassed or ashamed about the feelings that are coming up; the critic needs to be heard and wondered at. It’s not easy for her and I know she is doing her best although sometimes doesn’t get it quite right…

Shortly after she’d read my blog post she brought up something about payment – it was crap timing but I suppose there’s never a good or easy time to talk about money in therapy. I’ve been really poorly for a few weeks and on one of the session days I had done a Skype session because my son was ill, I ended up getting sick that day too.

I have basically been floating around on autopilot with no voice and propped up on pain killers and antibiotics for the best part of three weeks. Anyway, apparently for that Skype session and the one following it ,she hadn’t received my payments and yet last week did (but for just one session not the three I’d had) so she brought it up. I had been sitting in silence,not really, and I think the conversation was meant to engage my adult but also open up a conversation about resistance in the therapy.

The thing is, I hadn’t not paid her to send her a message. Hand on heart it was just a complete accident. I know what had happened because I’ve done it before making online transfers. I hadn’t confirmed the final page of the online transaction. I always go online shortly after the session and pay but obviously on these two occasions my brain was not fully in the game. I’d gone through the process, got all the details up on screen and just not scrolled down to confirm.

My therapist commented that I always pay promptly and suggested that maybe it was some unconscious communication about not really wanting to be there with her or something. I’ve said it enough lately that I haven’t wanted to be there (teen part can be quite dismissive of her) but that wasn’t what had happened in this instance. It was just a cock up and my autopilot had malfunctioned. It kind of threw me off balance a bit.

It made me think about a recent post by Life In A Bind – BPD And Me:  How do you pay your therapist? The answer could be part of your therapeutic work.  about payments and what they can reveal about the therapeutic relationship. I honestly don’t think I was unconsciously trying to send her a message by messing up the payments. I think, no , I know I was ill and just not functioning very well. In fact I am usually so quick in making payment to her when I get home or sometimes even before a session, despite the fact that she says she is happy to bill me monthly, because I value her so much. So meh, it was a bit of a weird conversation to have in the middle of the session.

What else has happened this week? Well another ‘interesting’ thing I’ve done is started looking around and researching other therapists. Uh huh. Yes. I know!

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Of course it’s all a reaction to feeling so completely lost in the relationship and like things are disintegrating between us. Googling therapists came from a place of sheer desperation. That was Wednesday. After a bit of research and contacting a therapist I realised that I really don’t want to work with anyone else. I don’t want to chuck three years of therapy away. I just want to get things sorted in the relationship I have….if I can. I just don’t know if it’s possible.

I certainly know what it is that I need to feel more secure between sessions and in the relationship more generally. Essentially, I need to ask for some boundaried contact outside the sessions, whether it be a midweek text just to ‘check in’, or a quick phonecall later in the week just to maintain the connection. Basically I need some form of confirmation that we are still connected in the relationship so that the sessions don’t bomb on a Monday because I have lost all sense of her in the week and don’t trust her to be there and not abandon me.

Monday is going to be hard because I am completely rubbish at expressing my needs. I don’t like feeling so dependent and needy. But mostly I am massively fearful of her refusing to do either of those things when it will take a serious amount courage to ask in the first place. I asked for a double session just after Christmas and she said no and I basically ended up self-harming because I feel so stupid for expressing a need and not getting it met. I know that I will feel so rejected and uncared for again even if there is a good reason for not engaging in either of those activities, from her perspective.

I guess looking for another therapist was about rejecting my therapist before she has chance to reject me. This therapy business really isn’t easy is it?…particularly when your attachment style is disorganised and your cumulative life experiences/relationships have only heightened your fear of abandonment and rejection. Looking back over some of my close relationships, it’s almost as though my attachment style acts as a map to create these issues time and again. I either push people away, shutting them out so they end up leaving or I cling on so tightly that they feel smothered, or yo-yo back and forth between the two. I hope my therapist can handle my volatility. I think she can.

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So back to the title, which I really haven’t stuck to at all – therapy hurts sometimes, a lot of the time actually, and sometimes it doesn’t. Right now I feel ok about how things are, like I might have turned a bit of a corner as I head into the weekend. I really hope that I am able to go to session and talk it out with her on Monday. The problem is, I have no idea who will arrive in session, how long they’ll stay for, or who else may show up along the way.

I guess we’ll wait and see!

 

 

When therapy hurts: part 1

Warning: this post is big on self-pity

Honestly, I think I am ready to chuck in the therapy towel right about now and that’s not something I thought I would ever say. I’m so deeply attached to my therapist that I didn’t think there was any level of emotional hell that I wouldn’t endure to at least sit in the room with her once a week.

I thought I’d always want to go to session, in fact there have been times when I have really panicked at the idea of therapy ending (how on earth can I live without her?!). The weeks between sessions are always tough but I somehow felt that if I could just go to session, be there with her, and try and charge myself up with her warmth and care, take enough of her in to sustain me through the week, then I could cope. Hopefully over time things would get better – they surely have to improve.

I’ve said before that I need that weekly interaction, or simply need her, like I need air to breathe. It’s always been intense but now I am recognising that it’s increasingly damaging to me. I am not managing my feelings at all well and it’s causing me a great deal of pain. My adult has gone AWOL. Emotionally I am a complete mess and it’s the therapy that is fuelling it. I know I have issues – lots of them – but I think I would rather a life of denial right now than be staring down the barrel of this attachment pain that’s being aired in the melting pot of the therapeutic relationship.

Things are bad because I can’t cope with my little ones. I don’t know how to make things better for them. They love Em so very much and they are distraught when she is gone. I can’t soothe those parts of me in the week. They just absolutely need to see her in person, they can’t handle the idea of her not being there, and I think that’s partly why I keep dragging myself to therapy each week even though I know it’s hurting me a lot of the time. I just hope that somehow those fifty minutes will be enough to get us all through.

In the past, no matter how bad things might have felt in session, I have always clung onto the sense that how things are in the moment is only temporary and have held out hope that if I just stick at it things will get better, that somehow the relationship will develop into something that is sustaining and nurturing rather than painful and triggering.

I want to believe that therapy will be helpful in the end and that once the foundations are laid we will be able to work through my attachment issues and developmental trauma. It’s not working like that, though. It’s not that straightforward. The relationship didn’t get soundly constructed with the therapy work following on neatly behind. It’s all thrown in the mix and we’ve got half-built structures and some really flimsy materials.

All my issues coming to the fore right now before I have got the safe base sorted and so I’m completely at sea. The push/pull of my feelings towards my therapist leave me exhausted. I have reached saturation point with how much emotional pain I can endure right now. I am stuck right in the thick of attachment pain, trust issues, and trauma. I can’t seem to get round it. I feel like it’s literally driving me mad.

I know that if I could just learn to trust in the relationship and my therapist, if I could just start to feel secure and safely held then some good work could be done between us because there have been times when I have felt safe with her, where I have been able to trust her, and have felt that we are connected….but it doesn’t last. It never stays. The negative feelings, the doubts that invariably flood in after a session decimate any positives. I feel like I am constantly having to build the relationship from scratch as it is repeatedly destroyed by my emotional storms.

I want to believe that this is just a ‘blip’ and that things will feel better again before too long. That one day soon I will walk in the room and she’ll smile at me and something in me will see that I am safe and I don’t need to fear her.  At the minute, though, I seem to be drifting further away from her and the security I long for. It’s terrifying. I feel like I am losing her just when I have shown my most vulnerable elements. I am pushing her away because I feel like she is already gone. Maybe that’s just in my head. Maybe she is the same as she’s always been. It’s just me.

Whatever the reason, all I know is that the hopefulness I had has disappeared. Why? Well, probably because I am fucking mental and emotionally volatile and generally unhinged- but right now it feels to me that my sessions really aren’t going very well at all. In fact it’s all a bit of a disaster zone in my therapy and it’s getting worse.

It’s always been a bit of a problem on and off but now, when I get in the room, I seem to instantly shut down and freeze. I long to connect with my therapist but can’t. I feel too exposed and vulnerable to talk about what’s on my mind and so spend most of the time feeling shit and am painfully aware of the clock ticking down. Today I couldn’t even look at her. It was torturous.

Sometimes I manage to talk as we approach the end of session but today, well, I just bombed and now I feel utterly distraught. Every one of my parts is hurting….so so much. I feel like I have been repeatedly punched in the stomach and attacked with some kind of weapon. My body aches and my head feels like it might explode. I am scared to go to sleep today because I think once the lights are out I might start crying and just not stop.

When the time with my therapist ‘in the room’ doesn’t help make things feel any better or more manageable then the time ‘not in the room’ feels even more catastrophic. Since coming back off the summer break I can see how I’ve slipped further and further into this depressed, self- and therapy-doubting state. I feel like I am hanging on by my finger tips and not even really living right now. I’m caught between wanting to run far away and clinging on tightly to her.

The thoughts about self-harm and not eating are very present and I am desperately batting them away. I don’t want to be in this place anymore. I don’t want to feel so sad, and uncontained that it seems like a good idea to hurt myself.  My Inner Critic is ready and waiting to launch into a full blown attack. It’s not good at all.

I really feel like am existing in some kind of negative bubble. Even my autopilot is faulty- more on that later in the next part of the post I think.

Thinking about it, it’s almost as though I desperately hung on over the therapy break, I endured how painful it was not seeing my therapist because I knew sessions would resume and felt that the connection could be restored….only it hasn’t really happened. I don’t feel connected at all. I feel so very disconnected that it’s like I am floating around in some kind of space-like vacuum.

Every now and then I send off a distress signal (i.e take a blog post into session) to try and communicate through the silence and yet I generally feel totally alone. I am sharing so much of myself and yet it feels like it’s not being heard and I think that’s why I find myself here. I have tipped my bucket of broken pieces out onto the floor and we are staring at the ceiling pretending like it’s not there.

It’s seems to be a bit of a negative downward spiral: sessions are hard, don’t give me what I need, leave me feeling lost and uncontained, as a result I feel more disconnected from my therapist during the week, because I feel more disconnected in the week I am then more shut down in session, I don’t talk, don’t get what I need, leave feeling rubbish and so it repeats on and on.

I am sure I will feel differently tomorrow and be able to see the bigger picture but right now I am totally wallowing in ‘woe is me’. There’s a part of me that is totally saying ‘get a fucking grip woman, seriously this is beyond ridiculous’ but it can go do one right now. Today I just wanted to be close to Em and because I couldn’t be I want to run away.

 

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‘True Colors’

I have to say it, being a Brit, it really pains me to type ‘colors’ like that, but never mind! All will become clear later!

Lately, I’ve felt pretty low, well severely down in the dumps, actually! My posts have reflected this, I think. It’s all been quite doom and gloom – but I’m not going to apologise because everything  I have posted has been an honest reflection of how things have felt. The purpose of this blog was for me to have a space to let some stuff out without having to dress it up or play it down. It is what it is. I just wish things were better.

I’ve been struggling with being in therapy, the therapeutic relationship, and particularly therapy breaks – basically it’s all been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and I don’t like rollercoasters now that I am in my thirties – they make me sick and my brain feels like it’s rattling in my head! A lot of the time I have felt overwhelmed and hopeless and I feel like I am existing, or even just simply surviving between sessions rather than living. It’s rubbish.

I have been increasingly frustrated by my inability to talk in my sessions or tell my therapist how it is. It seems that any time I do manage to pluck up the courage to tell my therapist how I feel about her and the relationship that I pay a ridiculously heavy price after the event. I struggle enormously in the week between sessions and desperately feel the need for reassurance and connection with her. It’s almost as though when I expose myself and am vulnerable a part of me moves in that essentially tells me I’ve made a mistake, that I will have frightened her off, and that she will terminate me for being too much. It’s a nightmare.

There are certainly days when I just can’t see the wood for the trees, so to speak. I can’t see what I do have that is positive as am overcome with feelings about what I don’t, or rather, if we are thinking about it properly, what I didn’t have as a child. I find Wednesdays and Thursdays pretty dire. I feel lost, alone, and so small that it’s just too much for me and I shut down. I know that I’m right in the thick of dealing with attachment trauma and all the associated feelings that go with it but even though I know what’s going on and why it’s happening, it’s not easy.

I am really not sure unless you’ve experienced this kind of thing if you can have any idea just how scary and hellish it feels to be caught up in it. It’s like being a tiny child again and reliving all the emotions of fear and anxiety that were repressed at the time. You may be in an adult body, but believe me the terror is that of a child. It really can feel like it’s a life and death situation being caught up in the abandonment stuff. You know you need rescuing, and essentially the only person to do it is going to be your adult self, but they don’t have the strength to do it yet.

I sometimes sit and wonder why has this happened to me? What did I do wrong to end up in this mess? Maybe if I had just been a better kid my mum have loved me more? Could I have done something to make me more lovable, more worthy of her care, affection, and attention? If I had have been better would she have stayed when I was small rather than going away Sunday to Friday to study at Uni?

I wonder what would it have been like to not be perpetually at child-minders or later letting myself in with a key? What would it have been like to not always be missing an absent mother? What would a bedtime story snuggled into my mum have been like? How would it have felt to have someone drop me at school, make me a packed lunch,  and iron my uniform?

What would it have been like to have my mum look after me when I was sick rather than being packed off to school or to a relative? What would it have felt like to be held and told I was loved? How different would I be if I hadn’t have felt like I was in the way, that my interests were boring and childish? How would it have been to be accepted for who I was not always trying to be someone I wasn’t? How might it have been to not be yelled at for existing? What is it like to not be scared of a parent? What would it feel like to be securely attached?

I don’t know.

But the truth of it is, I was a really good kid, I was abnormally well-behaved and helpful and quiet. I was friendly and popular and hardworking. I was not trouble at all. I tried to be as little of an inconvenience as possible and yet being a self-sufficient little adult was not enough. I just wasn’t really wanted. I know I was an ‘accident’ which I don’t think helped.

The thing is, despite all the pain and hurt I know my mum did the best she could, it just wasn’t good enough. I know she has her own issues with her parents. I know that she struggles with feeling inadequate. She is not a monster. We just, for whatever reason, can’t connect to one another. She doesn’t get me and I will never allow her in to my inner world now after all the hurt and damage that was caused growing up.

Looking back I find it so sad to see that I longed for someone to make it all better. I idolised my teachers and longed for a Mary Poppins figure to swoop in and make it all better, bridge a gap until my mum got it together and realised she had a daughter that needed her and loved her more than anything. The tragic thing is, that despite all this hurt and pain I still adore my mum. I just want to matter to her. I want to be good enough.

I’ve found that my issues with childhood attachment trauma – or maybe we’ll just simply call it a shit load of emotional neglect and abuse from a young mother who didn’t know what the hell she was doing- have become more evident to me since having my own children.

Being gay I never imagined I would have babies. I always wanted to be a mum, though. I always wanted to have a pregnancy. In my mid-twenties I resigned myself to the idea that it just wasn’t going to happen and instead got several fur babies! There was always a big gaping hole in me. It’s hard to explain but I think it’s a similar feeling to that hole you feel from attachment trauma. There’s a gaping hole that you can’t fill…only in this case you can, and in comes in the form of a small person.

As more and more of my friends started families I grew steadily more depressed. In 2011 a friend from work had a baby. I went to visit her and came home in tears. That’s when my wife and I began seriously investigating sperm donors. The law around same sex marriage had recently changed and we had got married in 2010.  Having our relationship recognised in law made things much simpler with regard to children as my wife automatically would be listed on any resulting child’s birth certificate. There was no need for her to adopt our babies and importantly any sperm donor would have no legal comeback as he would not be recognised as a parent.

We found our donor, who is just the best, such a fabulous guy, and amazingly got pregnant on our first attempt. Our daughter arrived in 2012 and our son in 2014. These children are the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me. Here’s where I start gushing!! I would die for those kids and love them more than anything. The love I have for my kids surpasses anything I thought possible. I am so happy to have them. The thing is, and of course there is always something, being so totally in love with my babies has made me even more aware of what I missed out on as a child. I cannot understand how it is possible to emotionally and physically abandon your kids. It is just beyond my comprehension.

I shower my kids in kisses and cuddles. I make a point of telling them everyday just how much I love them. I am here for them when they are sick. I am here for them when they are well. I do the school run. I go to parent/teacher meeting. I engage in activities that they enjoy. I try and make them feel safe and secure.

Ok, I serve up beige food more than I should and I certainly have my moments where I could do things better. We all fuck it up sometimes. But on balance I think I am a ‘good enough’ parent. I am not perfect. No one is. But I have a good go at trying to meet their needs and accept them in all their states. I’m certainly not a fan of tantrums and back chatting but part of me is delighted that they do it because I wouldn’t have dared. I am so happy that they feel secure enough to have a meltdown!

Importantly, when I get it wrong, I talk to them about it. I can admit my faults and I apologise. I don’t have a mummy meltdown and then just leave them thinking everything is their fault. I never had that and so now always doubt my experience and role in how things were.

Anyway, to the title ‘True Colors’. My daughter was off sick from school yesterday and so we spent the day snuggled in our pjs watching movies. She loves Trolls. I do too. It’s so uplifting and colourful. I can’t help but smile when I watch it. The little girl in me likes it just as much as my five year old daughter. I think what I need to do more and more is include my little girl part in the activities I do with my kids. She enjoys trips to the ice-cream parlour, play-doh, and picnics on the carpet as much as the kids do. Whilst I am parenting my babies maybe I need to parent Little Me, Four, Seven, Eleven … I am not sure the Teenager would be up for it, but perhaps I’ll ask!

I feel so much of the time like Branch, the troll who has experienced a terrible loss and feels guilt ridden about how it happened. He has lost his colour. He isolates himself from the rest of the trolls. he is miserable and lonely but pretends that he doesn’t need anyone. As the story goes on the other, still colourful, trolls are captured and face death, they all lose their colour like Branch. But in this moment of joint misery and fear, Branch starts singing, something he has refused to do since his grandmother died. Steadily, despite the situation they are in and how scared they are, their colour and happiness comes back.

Somedays I am black and colourless like Branch and occasionally I can forget myself a bit, let go, and appreciate what I do have and the colour starts to seep in, the thing is, it doesn’t last.  It’s learning how to hang onto it that is the task. When Branch starts the song everyone is dark, they are sad, they are scared. But his empathy for the situation and sitting with everyone slowly brings back everyone’s colour and happiness. I hope this is what therapy will gradually do for me.

Lyrically, this song is genius, and yes, I know it’s originally by Cyndi Lauper!!

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged, oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
The darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy
Can’t remember when
I last saw you laughing
This world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
Just, call me up
‘Cause I will always be there

And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you

So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
I see your true colors
Shining through (true colors)
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Ooh ooh ooh like a rainbow

Ooh

Ooh can’t remember when
I last saw you laughing
Ooh oh oh
This world makes you crazy
Taking all you can bear
Just, call me up
‘Cause I’ll be always be there

And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid (don’t be afraid)
To let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Ooh ooh oh like a rainbow

Watch this clip and get a little bit of rainbow in your day. It’s such a feel good song, and let’s face it on a gloomy day we could all use a bit of child’s animation with a serious message. And to be honest, the trolls have it completely right. They set time aside every hour or so for ‘hug time’. We could learn a lot! 🙂

Honestly, believe it, your true colours are beautiful like a rainbow. x

‘To sleep, perchance to dream’…but please, God, not about my therapist!

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I don’t know about you, but I bloody hate it when I have therapy dreams. This is because the dreams that feature my therapist are rarely positive for me and almost always leave me reeling and doubting the therapeutic relationship.

More often than not these dreams are incredibly detailed, emotionally intense, and feel real – so much so that I struggle to snap out of them and move back into reality when I wake up. There have been times when I have woken up from one of these dreams and have literally sobbed into my pillow because the pain of my therapist rejecting me (in the dream) has been so overwhelming.

It gets worse, though! Sometimes I am so affected by a dream that I then go and sabotage my ‘real life’ therapy sessions. If, in my dream, I’ve been really badly hurt by my therapist, it can feel as though all my trust in her and the relationship has eroded and needs building from scratch. I struggle to maintain connection with her from week to week anyway, but a bad dream can totally derail our sessions. Despite the fact that nothing has happened in reality, when I see her in person the hangover from the dream just kills me and I retreat into myself.

I wish I was joking, but sometimes I will have a great session, will talk and process loads, and leave on a real positive; then I’ll have a dream; the next week I go in and literally shut down on her for weeks on end because of something she hasn’t even done!

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Recently, I didn’t talk to her properly for a month because of a dream where she basically annihilated me emotionally. It was total agony in the dream and then excruciating being with her in session feeling on guard and alert to any potential replay of that situation. Part of me knew that none of it had happened but the residual feelings that were left over were just horrific. Once I finally settled down and built up trust in her again, I could tell her about the content of my dream but until that happened she got stonewalled.

(Just to be clear. If you haven’t worked it out by now, I really am just a catastrophic mental mess!… which is why I am in therapy 😉 )

I dream a lot and take a lot of dream content into my sessions but I really struggle with talking about therapy dreams. I feel reluctant to tell her how much she features in my waking thoughts and my dreams. I know that dreams are all about processing both conscious and unconscious material but I can’t help but feel like it’s a bit creepy. I mean it must just seem like I am obsessed with her.

I am so aware of not wanting to come over as ridiculously needy but it seems to me that this is what attachment trauma does to you when you finally find a new attachment figure. All the repressed feelings and needs come flooding out and it’s all-consuming.

Generally my therapy dreams mirror how a session would usually go. However in these dreams my defences are down, I am always really vulnerable with her, pour my heart out, get really upset, cry, and let everything out that I usually hold in in my actual sessions. In these dreams she is always kind, caring, understanding, and empathic – she is everything I would want her to be in real life- and because of this I take a risk and decide to reach out to her for a hug or some kind of physical holding and containment.

That’s where it all goes to shit. Apart from once (and that was literally the happiest dream I have ever had) she always violently physically pushes me away or jumps back from me. She suddenly goes cold, formal and stiff and tells me to leave, that she can’t see me anymore and literally turns her back on me. It is totally devastating.

The fact that I absolutely, more than anything else, want to be able to hug my therapist when things feel awful (which is clearly why it features in my dreams so regularly) makes these dreams incredibly painful. It also makes me absolutely sure that ‘the hug’ conversation will never happen in real life. The feeling of intense hurt from being rejected for asking for this in a dream shows me just how much I can’t cope with a real life refusal.

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I suspect some of you are thinking, ‘how do you know you’ll be refused, if you don’t ask?’ Let’s be clear here, after 31 months in therapy with her I know the score. There have been enough times where a hug would have been appropriate but it’s never happened. All the hoping and wishing in the world is not going to make touch happen in my therapeutic relationship. I’ll win the lottery before I even get a gentle pat on the shoulder as I leave after a hard session. And so what’s the point in even bringing it up? I don’t need to hear ‘it’s not you, it’s just one of my boundaries’ – I can’t even bear the thought of that conversation.

I applaud and admire those of you that have had the courage to ask for physical holding and then have somehow managed to cope with how it’s felt to get a ‘no’ and work through it in your sessions. I can’t even begin to imagine how I would cope with that. It’s hard enough knowing it’s not going to happen when I want and need it so badly but to ask and then be told ‘no’. OUCH! I’m brave but not that brave.

I guess right now I am so caught up in the feelings of abandonment and attachment trauma that I can’t ever envisage not being in this painful place. Maybe one day things will change and I’ll be strong enough to have that conversation and process the feelings. I understand that at some point this stuff actually needs to come out and be dealt with….just not yet! I’m still so caught up in the feelings of shame and embarrassment about wanting this from her that I can’t rationally talk about it.

So yeah, ummm this is meant to be about dreams but we’ve moved into ‘my therapist doesn’t hug me and I feel rubbish about it’. Sorry! I guess it’s just on my mind a lot at the moment. My little ones are so active at the minute and they are fixated on this issue. They can’t work out what is wrong with them to make them so unlovable, so untouchable, so forgettable? It makes me want to cry.

Having said all that, I think I am slowly getting flickers of how it could be in my head in the future. Yesterday another blogger commented on one of my posts and said something about listening to the critical voice and working out and asking it why it is so present rather than running from it and trying to shut it out. It made me realise that I need to be kinder to myself and accept that although my needs for physical contact with my therapist and her boundaries don’t align that doesn’t automatically mean that I am somehow wrong or disgusting or pathetic for having those needs or wanting that kind of comfort. That’s a huge leap forward in thinking for me.

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So much of this anxiety stems from the fact that my real-life mum has never hugged me or shown any sort of physical (or verbal for that matter) affection and it sucks for it to feel like this is repeating in this therapeutic relationship. I get that my therapist is not my mother but the transferred feelings make it feel like that’s how I am relating to her. She is the idealised replacement, and yet this mother is also withholding.

I suppose I’m meant to mourn for the biological mother I have that doesn’t hold me but sheesh, sometimes I just want a bit of nurturing in amongst all the pain that therapy is uncovering from the stand in mother.

Anyway, those ‘not getting a hug’ dreams are bad but lately I’ve had a couple of nasties which, in some ways, are worse. There’s a lot coming out about fear of the mental health system and being too much as well as abandonment. I woke up in the early hours from a dream that has shaken me. I had it last week too. Yuck.

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DREAM:

I was standing at the door of my old therapist N’s building but was there to see my current therapist Em (let’s call her that for now). I rang the doorbell and she opened the door. She was with someone else, a colleague, and seemed surprised to see me. I was a bit early and she was obviously leaving the building. At the time it didn’t seem strange that she should be leaving when I had a session imminently. The exchange we had was a bit awkward in the way that seeing someone slightly out of context can be – i.e she wasn’t inside the building in the therapy room. Em didn’t make eye contact but told me to go and wait in the therapy room and left with the other person.

I went in and the room was set up with a large conference style table and chairs round the edge. I sat down in front of the window. I couldn’t understand why the room was different. It felt a bit like an interview room for a teaching job I had years ago. I wasn’t especially bothered by the room being different because all that was important, that day, was actually being with and talking to Em. It felt like I had lots I wanted to say. I felt vulnerable but like I could talk and was ready to get deep into the therapy.

Suddenly three people came in holding clipboards and introduced themselves. I asked where Em was. No one wouldn’t look at me but one of them said she might come back in later, although not at all convincingly. They said that they wanted to ask me some questions. I got really agitated and felt myself shut down. I said I didn’t want to talk to them, that I needed to talk to Em. They said they needed to do some assessments.

I could feel my child parts getting really scared. I just wanted Em. ‘Where is she? I need her. Please tell her to come now. What’s going on? Why isn’t she here? Who are you? Please get Em.’ They ignored me and kept pushing with questions: ‘So, what would you describe as the main issues that affect your mental health day to day?’ I felt myself switch into my Teen state. 

I felt incredibly protective of the little ones that were so terrified, and just rattled off a sarcastic list: ‘Oh you know: depression, anxiety, eating disorder, self-harm, feeling like I don’t fit in, a dysfunctional relationship with my mother, childhood trauma, cancer, bereavement and complicated unprocessed grief, not feeling like I am worthy of being cared for, oh, and I guess the bit where I keep dissociating and switching into parts of different ages, you know? That kind of thing … can I leave now? Where is Em? This is a fucking joke. I need to get out of here.

They said I couldn’t see her, that she was busy now, and that based on what I had just said it would be unlikely that I’d be seeing her again. I got up to leave the room, but they said I couldn’t go yet and they had to do some more tests. I begged for them to let me see Em. They said she didn’t want to see me anymore. I started crying and jumped up and over the table and ran out the room before they could stop me. I had to see her.

There was another room on the other side of the hallway with a window in the door, like a classroom and I could see Em in there teaching a group of people or maybe doing a group therapy session. She looked at me through the window and she mouthed, ‘I’m sorry’ at me. I stood staring at her, not quite believing what was happening. She’s always said she wouldn’t leave unless something happened that was completely outside of her control and here she was terminating me without even giving me a reason.

The people from the room caught up with me, restrained me and took me to hospital where they did all kind of tests, shining lights in my eyes, and some kind of CT type scan. Then I woke up.

AAAAARRrrghhhhh. So twice in a week. That’s a bit of a head fuck.

Guess how I feel today?

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Today is only Wednesday and so there’s another five days until I can (perhaps) bring myself to talk this through in therapy along with another horrid dream where I was very little, maybe eleven years old lost in the countryside, screaming, trying to find her in the dark. I kept meeting other younger children (different parts of myself) and all of them were searching for her and desperately frightened.

Whilst I know these are only a dreams I’m left that horrible feeling in my gut. What if she is going to leave me? I feel terrified by that thought. My adult is trying hard to shake the feeling off and remember that this is just my insecurities about the relationship coming out in the dream. I have been worrying lately about whether she can handle everything I am throwing at her. I guess I am subconsciously wondering whether she’ll be like my last therapist N who told me that my issues and needs were too complex for her and that she didn’t have the skills to help me.

It’s times like these when a transitional object would really help. I need a physical reminder that things haven’t suddenly gone to shit and that I am safe in the therapeutic relationship. We need to get down to writing that card together that she was on about a couple of weeks ago with a helpful holding message! Although I can’t see the little ones holding it close like a teddy (honestly I will let it go at some point!).  I can feel that my little ones are absolutely terrified that she is gone, that she has left us. That we are finally too much for her.

The Teenager is a little less rattled by the dream but that’s because she’s riding on her usual ‘fuck her and fuck this’ attitude. For her it’s a case of, ‘She hasn’t left us. It was just a dream, but she will leave us one day. It’s only a matter of time before she destroys us. By staying in therapy you are going to let her hurt us. What are you doing? We’ve been through enough already. When it all blows up, which it will, I am blaming you. You are crap at looking after us. I hate you.’ So she’s a delight to have wandering in my head but I sincerely hope that the Critic doesn’t start up as I can’t cope with that right now.

Anyway, I have sort of run out of steam with this now. I’m so tired and I can’t tell you how much I just want to go to sleep and dream of nothing at all!

I HATE THERAPY DREAMS AND I HATE ATTACHMENT TRAUMA!

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‘It took me so long to get here, but here I am’ – on sharing my blog with my therapist.

 

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Last week was pretty terrible for me by all accounts. I felt like I was on a slippery slope and heading towards a really bad place mentally. I was completely caught up in my internal hurricane and devastated by the damage it was doing to me, but by the time I had finished writing the last post ‘I’m watching the weather channel and waiting for the storm’ I think I had gone some way towards processing what is/has been going on for me and felt a little better about it all.

Sometimes just having a bit of clarity on the situation eases the pressure even though nothing is actually resolved. I know I am not out of the storm yet. I have been batting away some pretty negative and persuasive thoughts about my body and am trying not to slip into not eating or self-harming.

Despite this, it does feel like the storm is losing its power: it has been downgraded from a category 5 to a 3, or something like that. The anxiety that was completely overwhelming me has ebbed and now I just feel a bit flat – less anxious more depressed- I suppose. I don’t feel sick and my headache has gone. It’s not great, by any means, but it is certainly a good deal better than it was.

I mentioned at the end of the last post that:

‘ I feel that overwhelming need to contact my therapist and tell her how bad things feel but know there’s no point because she won’t respond to my messages and has told me to write it all down or draw it and bring it to session to talk about. I just don’t really know what to write or draw. I have so much to say but also don’t know how to say it.’

I don’t know what possessed me to do it, maybe I temporarily took leave of my senses (very likely!) or perhaps, finally, after a total 31 months of therapy something in me feels that now is the time to be a bit braver and stop hiding the really awkward and difficult stuff from my therapist. Like I said, I don’t know what happened, but a few hours after publishing the post online I was thinking about what I should write to take in to therapy but I kept drawing a blank. I didn’t feel like drawing anything. There isn’t enough black and grey paint to express how stormy and shit things felt!

I knew that that the post I had just written basically told it like it was, there was no concealing anything. I wasn’t avoiding the bits that are hard to say in it because, although there ‘is’ an audience for what I write here, the blog is also just a space for my thoughts. I don’t really have to face any judgment for what I say, think, or feel. Or so far, at least, the feedback has been positive, kind, and understanding.

What I wrote in the post was brutally honest – the truth. It was exactly what has needed to be said in therapy and what I have been steadily trying to articulate over the last few months but struggling to. I feel like I get so far but somehow the overall picture gets lost. I don’t know why that happens. I think there are just so many parts of me competing for attention and space to talk that sometimes nothing gets said.

I’ve been aware that a blog is a great space for letting stuff out and that’s why I finally got myself together during the break to start writing –I definitely needed an outlet when my therapist was away. (I guess it was one positive to come out of the break!) I am mindful, though, that some of what I write is really what I should be discussing in session, in person, with my therapist. Some of this is the stuff I might be running from saying in session because it is too hard, too painful, too exposing. I know I need to be careful not to splurge everything here and then not talk to her. So, what did I do? I sent her a text with a link to my blog and said that I’d bring my laptop in to go through it together in session.

The moment I sent the message I was like, ‘Oh fuck! What the fuck have I just done? She’s going to really think I’m really mental now. Oh god. What a fucking idiot. Shit! Fuck! Shit!’ But at the same time there was a sense of relief having put it out there. There was a part of me that felt a bit more pragmatic about it and was almost kind to myself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? If I’m going to work with her long-term she needs to know about this stuff or I’m just wasting my time. This is how it is. This is how I feel. I can’t hold this for myself and I need help with the little ones. It’s time to tell her, really tell her how it is.’

There is one positive (ha, I can’t believe I’ve just written that!) about the agreement that we have about outside of session contact, which is that if I text her she might scan read it but won’t take in the detail or read fully, and she won’t reply unless it’s something about timings or session changes – admin basically.

This boundary was necessarily reinforced after a big rupture via text that happened a few months back leading into a break. We’d had a really good therapy session but I guess it had subconsciously stirred up a lot of stuff. The next day, on the surface, I was feeling positive and buoyant and so I sent her this picture text:

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What happened next was deadly. She responded to it but I thought, from what she said, that she was talking to someone else and had somehow messaged me by mistake. I got totally pissed off because SHE NEVER RESPONDS TO ME when I message her (only this time she had!) and so suddenly I felt like I didn’t matter and that she didn’t care about me as much as some other client. The Green Eyed Monster came out in full force. It wasn’t good.

She thought the picture was like an epitaph or something and was concerned enough about my safety based on what I’d said in session and from the message to check in with me. Whereas I saw the image and words as a positive, a sort of ‘I may be going through hell but I am in control, fuck you Inner Critic’, and therefore I assumed her message was a miscommunication.

I ‘calmly’ replied to tell her that I thought she’d sent me a message intended for someone else but then heard nothing back from her to confirm either way. Basically after a couple of hours all the stuff about being abandoned, not worthy of her care, being unimportant, and that it’s a fake relationship just reached boiling point. I ended up firing off a massive rant, I threw all my toys out the pram and said I was terminating therapy! I was so hurt and sad. Obviously that exchange just tapped into a really deep wound that I hadn’t been fully aware of until then.

Fortunately, she handled it really well, apologised for the misunderstanding and didn’t acknowledge the ‘I’m done’ bit and offered me another couple of sessions to work things through. I still cringe when I think about it all. It was embarrassing but it totally highlighted how sensitive I am to change and breaks. It also showed me how important face-to-face communication is and how easily even well-intended messages can cause upset. Written communications, particularly texts, lack depth and all the subtle nuances of face-to-face communication.

Part of the reason my therapist says it’s best to keep things in session is that she can pick up on the feelings and vibe in person even if I’m not saying anything. She can check her understanding and clarify with me. She says that there is always a danger in written communication in her honing in on the wrong thing or missing the point entirely which can make me feel like she isn’t attuned and that I am not being heard and that is best avoided. As an English post-grad and English teacher I can’t really argue with that.

Don’t get me wrong. I do completely get it and the adult part of me is in total agreement with what she is saying BUT I’m not going to lie, I don’t find this outside contact boundary easy at all. In fact, I’d got so far as to say I HATE IT. I find it incredibly painful most of the time. This is because the bit of me that needs her, wants her between sessions isn’t my adult, it’s the young child parts and to them it feels like she just doesn’t care about them at all and is perfectly happy to leave them in emotional limbo between sessions drowning in attachment trauma and feeling totally terrified and abandoned. It feels cruel.

I wish there was the occasional ‘we’re still ok, and I am still here’ message midweek. Maybe I’ll get round to asking for that again. That’s all I really want. I don’t want to enter into a huge dialogue outside session. I don’t need check in calls. I just want a simple reassurance that nothing bad has happened and that she hasn’t disappeared. My object constancy is crap and so I genuinely feel like she is gone and has left me during the week and even after all this time I am never really sure that she’ll be there on a Monday.

So, anyway, that’s a bit of a detour! Back to Friday, based on the outside session communication rule/boundary, I knew that she’d see the text but wouldn’t have read anything in the blog or even followed the link – she’d just be aware of something coming on Monday. Because of this ‘not reading stuff outside of session’ thing, I also know that I can still write freely here because she won’t read this blog unless I am there with her and want to share a specific post in session.

I’m not sure how I feel about that, actually. I guess it’s good because there are certainly things I’ll probably want to share on here that I don’t necessarily want her to see yet… but at the same time I guess the very fact that I have now given her the link to the blog, and the content of it is purely about the therapy, indicates that at least some part of me wants her to really know what’s going on. It’s complicated! I know if it was me and I discovered that someone was writing about me and my relationship with them I would just have to know what they were saying. My therapist just isn’t that interested, I don’t think.

So, finally, to Monday…

My adult (she’s quite good at this kind of thing) went to session with the laptop and handed it over for my therapist to read the post. I had thought I would be nervous or anxious when it came down to it, as previously when I’ve taken things in that I have written I have felt a bit sick or worried, sitting wondering how what I have said will be received. When you are in the room there is nowhere to hide except in silence.

I know that the fear that I might be rejected or abandoned by my therapist for expressing my feelings stems from when I was small. It’s a kind of negative maternal transference, but it absolutely doesn’t make it any easier knowing this. All the rationalising in the world about why I feel this way doesn’t change the fact that I am attached to her in the here and now, and all the fear about potential abandonment I feel is real in the here and now. The worst of it is that those feelings that have been dredged up from the past still carry the intensity of my inner child’s feelings that were hurt so badly when I was little. The adult can’t get round it.

I’m not sure why Monday felt less intense and less stressful, then. Perhaps I’ve done it enough times now and have always been met with a positive response that it feels a little bit less scary showing her my thoughts in writing. Perhaps it’s because in my head I’ve reached a point now where I know that I have to push things forward because I just cannot keep getting caught up in emotional hell over and over due to how I feel about her and the therapeutic relationship. I’ve got to stop expecting her to be psychic and know what’s bothering me.

I think a lot of the time I feel like my therapist should know what’s going on with me because so many of my internal thoughts are taken up with thinking about therapy and about what I want to say to her. I have to remember that she is not in my head and so unless I explicitly say what’s going on for me she won’t have the full picture. She is very intuitive and gets it right a lot of the time without me having to say anything but the finer detail needs spelling out. I am glad I did it.

So, bit by bit we worked through what I’d written. She asked how I felt about letting her see my writing and how it was different from speaking to her. I said that I have so much going on in my head that the detail often gets lost and my head turns to mush when I try and speak, whereas with writing I can process what I need to say beforehand and then build on it in session.

I often get blocked in session, especially after a break and so we agreed that maybe writing is a good way to get round this before the connection is fully restored and that I should/can bring things in to work through.

We talked through possible ways of trying to make things better, especially when there is a disruption, i.e trying a different strategy with a handwritten message on a card maybe and work on the content together in sessions so it works for me. You know I still want a teddy, though, right?! Lol.

She seemed to understand how and why the visualisation had missed the mark and how it hadn’t helped the little ones feel safe at all;  the language wasn’t right and that a visualisation was just too much at the moment. She said it is complex because she also needs to talk to the adult (that’s what she was trying to do in the visualisation) to try and integrate all the parts but by the end of the session acknowledged that it is really difficult because there are so many parts in play and they are all hearing and taking different things from what she says. She said that she knows she needs to talk to the little ones.

One of the best bits of the session, for me, was at the very end listening to the song that I had attached to the post. I love music and I often find that I get a song as an internal soundtrack that reflects where I am emotionally; it was Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide the other week, Sheryl Crow’s Weather Channel last week and this week there are a couple of Counting Crows songs doing the rounds…read into that what you will! So listening to the song and the lyrics together gave the session another dimension for me. Not only did I get to share a song that carries a lot of meaning for me and essentially summarised the feelings in the blog post, but it was a bit of quiet reflective time too after what really was quite a lot of processing and discussion.

I’ve been really struggling to settle down in sessions lately and we’ve talked about trying to find some strategies for calming me down and making me feel safe in the session at the beginning to enable me to talk. Based on how I felt on Monday, I think that maybe listening to a track together at the start of our sessions each week would be a really good starter – partly because it allows a few minutes to settle but also functions as a talking point. Usually the song of the moment has some kind of relevant emotional meaning. So, I think I might suggest this on Monday and see what she says.

God, this is long again and I haven’t written that out very well. To be honest, the session all feels a bit of a blur now. I guess what I can say is that we talked through loads and it was positive. I didn’t feel awkward or too embarrassed. She made me feel safe and as though all my feelings have a place in the therapy and that she isn’t going to reject me because of them. I know there is still a long way to go but as a result of sharing that blog post I now know that we are on the same page. Or at least, she knows what’s in my book

In the words of KT Tunstall, ‘It took me so long to get here, but here I am!’

 

Why I hate therapy breaks: part 2

When I started the last post Why I hate therapy breaks: part 1 I knew that I had plenty to say about breaks from therapy and how hard they are to navigate, particularly when you aren’t one of those blessed souls that is ‘securely attached’. But getting down to writing this second part has been proving really hard. It’s like I’m having some kind of mental block on it.

I think I kind of know what’s happened. It’s what always happens at some point in a therapy break – the littlest parts of me have become fully activated, are overwhelmed and terrified, they are screaming and I can no longer pretend that they’re not there because the noise they are generating inside can’t be drowned out. They are sure that she (therapist) is gone and isn’t coming back, and are basically having a full on meltdown about it.

The rational adult part of me that was holding the fort, just about hanging it together, and doing my best to soothe those parts is struggling to contain all the fear and anxiety that’s bubbling inside. It just feels too much. The break feels too long. I hate it.

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This is how it feels today.

 

It’s really difficult carrying on with the normal day-to-day of being a wife and mother with adult responsibilities when there is a significant part of me that feels like a distraught baby crying out for an absent mother who isn’t ever going to come. It’s really quite strange carrying that and still going about the daily routine and all that entails.

Yesterday saw an early morning shoe fitting for both my kids in order to be ready for the return to school and preschool next week; sorting out paperwork; going to the bank; a quick run round the supermarket; getting sports kit washed and ironed ready for classes this morning; a playdate; mowing the lawn and walking the dogs– all totally mundane tasks and not stressful in the least, but they are definitely ‘adult’ tasks. The day’s chores felt more demanding than they really were because not only do I have my real small children to manage, I also have a fair few internal ones playing up!

When I woke up yesterday morning all I really felt capable of was hiding under the duvet with a teddy and having a good cry about how much I miss my therapist. It couldn’t happen, 1) because the kids couldn’t get their shoes by themselves and 2) I don’t cry….but that’s another post altogether!

This level of inner conflict, turmoil, distress, call it what you will is hard to manage. I think perhaps the reason it gets worse towards the end of break (as ridiculous as that sounds) is because it takes a massive amount of energy (both emotional and physical) to contain the feelings that rise up during a break. It’s almost as though when the finish line is in sight I start to stumble because I am utterly fatigued from trying to keep going for so long. I don’t know if that makes sense? I feel a bit mentally cloudy today.

In the early days of therapy I used to feel a bit ‘out of sorts’ and miss my therapist when we were on a break, but recently I became aware of the different parts of myself: Little Me, Four, Seven, Eleven, The Teenager, and The Critic.  And since then breaks have become a whole new level of hell and torment. I’ve noticed that my mind shifts through cycles of different emotions and I have come to associate these varying emotions with the different parts of myself. I’ve noticed that there’s a negative pattern that takes place and when I go back to therapy I really need to make it a priority task to try and work out why it happens and how to avoid it/manage it.

I tend to start a break in my Adult: ‘It’ll be fine. Sure I’ll miss her, but it’s ok, she’ll be back in x amount of time and in the meantime I’ll be kind to myself’. I wish I could sustain that but before very long the little ones start to get noisy. Little Me doesn’t really have words yet but I can clearly see her in my mind’s eye standing in a vast empty space with tears streaming down her face, screaming ‘Mummy, come back’. That’s hard. It comes from a place of real loss and abandonment in my childhood where from the age of four til eleven my mum would be away from Sunday afternoon to Friday evening.

Once you throw in Four and Seven into the mix it starts to get really upsetting. Eleven stands silently on the side lines. She’s been here before. She knows the score. She’s learnt that crying doesn’t get her anywhere so she just doesn’t express any emotion anymore. No one is coming for her. No one knows how much she is hurting. She needs to take care of herself. So she’s quite a little grown up. It’s sad, really.

There’s only so long this level of pain can continue before The Teenager rocks up. Fuck. She is so angry! She’s angry at everyone. She hates the world. She hates that my therapist has done this to the little ones again. How dare she leave them and her to cope alone? She hates that she has to babysit but she always steps in to protect the child parts as though her life depends on it. She shuts everything down. She’s great at the silent treatment and she has cost me quite a lot of money in silent, angry therapy sessions! She is deeply hurt too but she copes by not eating, or self-harming, or listening to music.

The Teenager secretly likes my therapist but she is so frustrated by her feelings about her and also the lack of availability of my therapist between sessions that often her anger and frustration makes her think that the whole therapy thing is ‘just a pile of shit’. She essentially reaches the place where she says ‘I am done with it. Therapy makes me feel rubbish. I like her but it’s not a real relationship. She doesn’t really care about me’ and so on.

It really is crap being in my head sometimes! It’s a disaster zone when these feelings are kicking about in my mind and it’s a break. This sort of emotional spiral happens from week to week in the normal run of things but generally I can repair once I am back in session. There’s just about enough consistency and contact to manage it. What am I meant to do when on a break, though?!

There’ve been so many occasions lately where I have wanted to reach for my phone and fire off some raging text message and terminate therapy. I did send a completely outrageous message a few months back which in itself should be a blog post, but generally I don’t message her because I can’t be doing with ‘the boundaries’ talk when I go back in to session. I also can’t bear the thought that I would tell her that I am terminating and she would just accept it. You all know I don’t really want to terminate, I need therapy (clearly!), but sometimes it’s just so painful being in the therapeutic relationship.

So, The Teenager is a protector of sorts, but the thing is, there’s a force that is stronger than her and that’s The Critic. The Critic isn’t embodied in the normal sense or gendered. It’s huge. It’s loud. It’s persuasive. It’s soul destroying. All I can liken it to is the Dementors in Harry Potter. The Critic is a force so strong and powerful that it can suck everything good out of me. It batters my self-esteem. It feels like an almighty boiling, sinister voice in my head. A standard line of attack runs something like this:

‘You know you want to hurt yourself. Just do it. You will feel so much better. Just cut yourself. Don’t tell her (therapist) anything. She won’t understand. I promise you’ll feel better if you run further/more often/without eating. Why are you eating that? Seriously, can’t you see what you look like? There’s no point in telling her about me. I’m stronger than she is. I’ll make sure she disappears. Or you will by being such a needy loser. She can’t help you. She doesn’t care, anyway. She doesn’t want to know about those damaged children. Don’t ignore me! You are an embarrassment. You’re pathetic. You are so weak. What makes you think she’s different, anyway? You must be a complete idiot. She will hurt you in the end and then you’ll be back. Haven’t I always looked after you? You need me. Trust me.’

It’s not pleasant for sure! But I have told my therapist about it and she says it needs a lot of attention just like the little ones. We need to work out what has made it so mean. I know it’s basically a shit load of internalised anger that I’ve never expressed and instead turned in on myself….but even so, it’s not easy when it’s going for it.

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So, it’s really only three days until I return to therapy and yet it sometimes feels like time is going backwards rather than forwards. I’m not angry right now. I’m still very much stuck with the little ones, I know it’ll change, it always does, but rather them then that mean bastard above!