Fine But Not Fine…

Well, it’s been a while since I have blogged – in fact, it’s probably the longest I have ever gone without writing in any shape or form whatsoever. There’s no real excuse for it, I have had the time (it’s just been the school summer holidays here in the UK), but I just haven’t had the inclination to write. Almost every time I have thought about sitting down at the laptop, I have had a massive internal block, like something or someone inside puts up a massive barrier and so I haven’t bothered pushing it.

Instead of writing, I have sat in the garden, taken the kids to the park, met up with friends, gone for ice cream or to the beach or the woods, or done a million other things. I’ve even sat outside in the middle of the night under a blanket watching shooting stars!…or… I’ve simply done nothing at all…and it’s been great!

There’ve been days, like today, where I have thought I would actually like to write, where I have had stuff to say, and then I’ve procrastinated with the laptop turned on beside me and found other things to do like scroll through Insta, Twitter, Facebook etc on loop (!). I just haven’t managed to get my fingers typing. I guess, it’s probably something about how writing usually just flows for me and if I’m not in that space I find it quite arduous. I spend so much of my time teaching people how to write that I don’t want to have to think about the process when I am actually writing…or trying to find something to say.

The other thing I have noticed is that I have really struggled to read other people’s blogs. It’s not because I am not interested or don’t care – I am and I do…I just couldn’t. So I apologise if I haven’t commented on posts and have been AWOL.

I’m not entirely sure what is going on with me, to be honest. When I sit and try and look inside myself it’s like a vacuum – space – it’s just quiet – still – dare I say it, peaceful…… well, no…that’s not entirely correct…there is some noise from some of the parts…but I have largely been able to switch away from it (and them) and have been able to focus on other things not getting dragged into that mess… which is actually so refreshing.

I honestly don’t know if this is progress, or just another type of dissociation. I hate that I second guess myself like this. It’s like I don’t want to say all this positive stuff and it end up being too good to be true and then end up spectacularly ending up flat on my face in a few weeks (hours) and everyone rolling their eyes – like “uh huh, there she is, the nutter is back!” I suppose it doesn’t really matter what it is right now, because however I have achieved it, I finally have some clear space around and inside of me. Rather than feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders and feeling like I am being crushed in a vice, I feel like I have a little bubble of space around me that is preserving my energy but allowing me a bit of freedom to stretch out and unfurl, too.  

This newfound space has been especially apparent this week as I have gone back to work. Although I am tired (OMG I am soooo tired!) and have had some students really trying to push my buttons, I don’t feel like I am having my life force drained from me. I guess, what I am clumsily trying to articulate is like I feel like I might have got myself some kind of energetic boundary installed (finally!). I am not taking on other people’s stuff in the way I have previously and also not letting them take from me. I don’t mean that I am not caring or totally detached, more that I have plugged my leaky bucket and am retaining some of the energy that I need to function for myself which actually means I function better for others, too.

Basically, I am ok enough, and although things are happening (which I’ll get to in a minute) I feel like I have one foot in the process and another on the outside which is allowing me to get on and do things rather than be completely derailed – which is absolutely what would have happened in the past with any hint of stress in the therapeutic relationship… y’all know why I am here blogging today, right?! Don’t worry, the drama is coming soon!

The end of the summer holiday was really really good. I did some brilliant fun things with my wife and kids and made some awesome memories. The last Friday of the holidays we went to totally fabulous place with an inflatable assault course on water and had a blast. It’s the sort of place where you just let go and immerse yourself in the madness. I honestly haven’t had that much fun since I travelled the world in 2005. I felt so free, so full of life….and joy.

Joy??? What is joy?!!

My best friend from university came to stay on Saturday and we spent a fab 24 hours putting the world to rights, sitting in the sun on bean bags, incense burning, eating and drinking, and then retreating into the hot tub to star gaze in the evening. Again, it was another great day and really highlighted how lucky I am to have sound people in my life with whom I can be completely myself and relax with.

Then, last Monday, we took a trip to Harry Potter Studios and had such a magical time. I kept welling up, I was so bloody happy – like my entire system was utterly in its element – I was in my element. I kept stopping and thinking how great everything was. I guess, for the first time – maybe ever – I was able to be completely in the moment and not feel like I was on the outside looking in, or worse, not even there. My mind wasn’t wandering or fixating on stuff. I just enjoyed being present, experiencing life, having fun…

Part of me is so pleased to report this – I’m 38 FFS and maybe, finally, getting a bit more settled…I just wish I could have been like this years ago when I was doing so much amazing stuff and couldn’t really take it in. Oh well, small steps.

What was really a huge milestone, too, was choosing to do this stuff at a time when I would usually have had therapy with Anita. In the past, I would have really not wanted to book anything that would mean missing a therapy session. The insecure attachment I have/had just wouldn’t allow it. It’s bad enough when my therapist/s go away (more on this later, too) but I certainly wouldn’t have wilfully taken myself away from a session because the fallout from that would be too huge and destabilising.

But I did, this time.

Because…well…

I guess I know Anita is there. I know that if I go away or she goes away that she’s there to come back to – that the relationship will survive disruption. I mean there’s been a lot of disruption in the last 20 months. The world won’t collapse if I miss a session or two (Ha…you should hear what the little ones are saying to that!! “Who are you trying to kid, we’re in meltdown here, you gloating cow head and we don’t want Anita to go on her breaks in October and December and we’re not Ok!”).

I suppose what I have just started to take steps into, albeit tentatively, is going out and living my life instead of living from one therapy session to the next. I absolutely need my therapy. I really do benefit from my routine. Twice a week sessions is the sweet spot. And I do not like disruption – I wrote about how unsettling it was recently when A had to cancel a session due to sickness so I am not a bloody pro by any stretch of the imagination, I can’t just take it or leave it all the time. BUT…I can survive a bit of change and disruption…especially if I am doing something fun. And that is massive. Really massive. When I was doing all the things last week I occasionally thought of Anita and how I was looking forward to telling her about what I had done but there wasn’t any desperate missing her…in those moments. There wasn’t the big gaping sore hole #motherwound in my solar plexus screaming out in pain. There were a few bits of that this week as life returned to normal, though so I’m definitely not out the woods where that is concerned.

Yeah, you just read ALL of the above right. Don’t worry. It’s not some imposter having gained access to this blog – it’s still me – just maybe the budding version of a new me. I bloody hope so – anyway. What’s brought about this change, I wonder? I have to say that I think a good part of this more solid footing is down to the work I have been doing with Anita and K over the last couple of years. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a colossal mess (highlighted after Friday’s session), but I am not quite a big a mess as I was when Em terminated me in February 2020.

I really feel like the attachment work I have been doing is paying off. I can, a lot of the time, bring Anita to mind when I am not with her. Even the distressed child parts are getting a little more secure…which is amazing. As I say, sometimes it’s a complete shit show but there are glimmers of improvement. Even when I am doubting everything and feeling like things aren’t safe and a sham I can look back at the evidence to the contrary and generally talk myself around quite quickly. I can talk to those parts who are so upset and angry now, and tell them that it’s ok and explain why it’s ok.

I am very very aware that this is slow process and can be like a dance of two steps forward one step back. But I do think it’s important to celebrate small wins.

Another thing that’s jolted me into another space is that my childhood best friend passed away a couple of weeks ago – and suddenly life feels really fragile again. Not in an “OMG everything is dangerous” kind of a way, but in an “I’m only here once so let’s fucking do this!!” So that’s what I am attempting to do.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not going to be plain sailing, I’m not dim, and this was highlighted on Friday when Anita told me she had some breaks lined up.

For Fuck’s Sake…

I’ve just said how well I’ve coped with MY being away. It is an entirely different proposition when SHE is away and I am still here…and I want to be with her!

See, here I am, the RBCG you all know and love! Lol!

Over the last few weeks there’ve been some small rumblings inside from the young parts about the therapy. It’s hard to put my finger exactly on what’s been wrong other than a feeling in my gut that Anita is slightly backing away, maybe. There is no evidence of this whatsoever in the sessions – they are as holding and containing as ever – but outside them it’s felt like she’s taken a step back. But then this might be because she was sick and a few other disruptive things have happened.

We had that difficult conversation about outside contact a while back where she explained that writing was hard and that she hadn’t been responding because it was challenging. We agreed at that point that sending a GIF or an emoji would be fine because it’s really about settling the young parts anyway. And largely she has done that…but also at times she hasn’t. And that’s where it gets difficult for my system.

Consistency is so important for me and so any hint of change or reduction in contact can feel abandoning or rejecting and so set things into a panic internally. I have been sitting with this for a while and not said anything because when I think about it, it’s probably nothing. Most people would probably scan through my WhatsApp messages and see no difference at all. It is that subtle a change, but I feel it. And also people’s lives ebb and flow and their availability changes…I get it…just some parts don’t. And they’re the ones that need the therapy most!

I guess I will need to talk about it tomorrow, now, though, because Friday’s session has set off a landmine which might not have felt so massive if I wasn’t already brooding about the perceived change in our communications.

So, I was really looking forward to seeing Anita on Friday having not had my session on Monday. I had really missed her in the later part of the week and felt like she wasn’t there…ugh…and I felt a bit anxious going to the session. I really just wanted to go in and give her a hug on the doorstep, reconnect, and maybe read some stories on Friday. But I hadn’t even been in there thirty seconds, I’d barely sat down, when she told me she was taking some time off and handed me a piece of paper with the dates on.

Ugh.

I didn’t even look at the note and placed it face down beside my phone.

The armour that goes on when there has been a break, that I so desperately wanted to take off, stayed on, and I stayed in False Adult for nearly an hour. It was painful. Anita did acknowledge that she never knows when to tell me about her breaks but I was already so into ‘pretend that it’s ok’ that the conversation that I really needed to have, that the young parts needed couldn’t be had.

What I needed when I arrived was to land in the room. To reconnect. But instead it felt like the welcoming space was about to be taken away again so what was the point in getting comfortable? I felt a million miles away from Anita. She was sitting on the same sofa as me but she may as well have been on the moon.

It’s hard to really put into words how this stuff feels and those of you with complex trauma won’t need me to explain. Sometimes that need to be close is so overwhelming that my system shuts down, I am quiet, and it’s clear as day that something is wrong, and often Anita will ask me if I want a hug. However, when False Adult is running the show, chatting away, the young parts are so hidden that it really would take a genius to see that it’s all a front.

With about 15 minutes to go I ran out of steam. I was so frustrated with myself for not getting what I actually needed but I felt unseen too, and I think the Teen felt angry, actually. I might have been in hiding but I guess, I had hoped, by now, Anita would know that there’s more underneath. Sometimes I wish she would say something like,

“You seem really chatty today, and it’s interesting to hear about your work etc, but I am also aware that there are young parts inside that might need some attention after missing a session and also me telling you I’m having some time off. Can I just check in with how they are, too? Do they need space today, or are they ok for us to carry on as we are?”  

I can’t remember the last time I spent an hour sitting ‘far away’ from Anita. It just doesn’t happen. So often that space between us gets closed down and it settles things. I felt like I was on an island on my own on Friday. And that’s not Anita’s fault. She was there…but she wasn’t there for the parts that really need her.

In the end I gave up the pretence of being ok and asked for a hug. I spent the last fifteen minutes in silence, crying cuddled into her chest. With a few minutes to go, a little part asked, “Is something wrong?” – it was all the worry about the feeling like she has been trying to get away from me, the missed session, and the upcoming breaks panic.

Anita assured me that nothing was wrong and said that she wondered if this was because of the reasons I’ve just listed above – well the missed session and break. She doesn’t know about the messages.

We didn’t have time to talk about it because it was time to go. I left feeling flat and deflated and disconnected and generally a bit meh.

When I got to my car I took out the piece of paper Anita had given me with the dates of her breaks on…ugh…no…not good. I mentally calculated how many sessions I’d miss and realised that in December the way it might work is that I could potentially not see her for an entire month because of how her break and then the school Christmas break lands…and then of course there is Christmas itself which will be another break.

Deep breaths.

But the thing that really got me as I started to spiral into doom zone was the wording of the note. It’s typed and generic and what she will have printed out to give to all her clients:

Just a quick note to let you know I will be away from

 x date -x date

and

x date to x date.

I do apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

With warm regards, Anita

And you know what. Adult me is completely fine with this note. It tells me what I need to know. It’s fine…it’s just…ugh…it’s really, really not fine for my young parts who haven’t been told what’s going on, haven’t had it broken down for them and explained that it’s not her leaving them or abandoning them and they haven’t done anything wrong and that it’s just a letter she sends out for information.

What’s sad is it’s that fucking reminder that whatever I think or hope the relationship is, when it comes down to it, I am a client and she can hand over a formal note and disappear. The young parts have seen the note and have no clue who the person is that wrote it. Is it Anita? She never speaks like that to them. And then of course it brings the protective parts rushing in. The Teen is doing her best to soothe the little ones but again is absolutely blind with rage at me for letting myself think there is anything special about the relationship.

Is this note from the same woman that holds me in session, or reads stories, or buys me presents, or tells me that she loves me? It certainly doesn’t feel like it. And I know it isn’t a case of it being one or the other, it’s not black and white, and for fuck’s sake it’s just a note about a fucking set of break dates….but it’s so much more than that. It feels distancing and disconnecting. Breaks do this anyway so the delivery of information about breaks is so important.

I really don’t want to sound like a nit-picking pain in the arse here, I don’t want to be hard work for Anita. But I do want to write about my response to something as innocuous as a note with holiday dates because I think it really demonstrates how complex trauma can come out. I don’t imagine that Anita would have it on her radar that I could have spiralled like this. But even a sign off can be really triggering. Warm regards…lukewarm regards.

And I am fine. Like I am getting on with my life. As I said from the top, I am in so much of a better place than I have ever been before, but these things still sting.

I text Anita on Friday because I knew this was going to fester:

Only having a little (large) meltdown about breaks…next time can you tell me about it first and give me paper/dates later. I’ll explain on Monday but the formal tone of the note just really jarred something internally – and whilst adult me is totally fine, the little parts aren’t at all. X

And there’s been radio silence to that.

Shit.

Arrrghhhh… this is not what I needed!

Like I get I’ve said we’ll talk about it on Monday, but I am surprised given the fact that I have said that the little parts are not ok that she hasn’t sent me a GIF with a hug or something for those child parts. It’s what we agreed before…so what’s going on?

And so of course, this has made me wonder if the niggling doubts I have felt for the last couple of months are actually something rather than nothing. I am hoping that it’s just me, it’s just life, that I haven’t done something wrong. It could be too that Anita thinks that things are ok, but maybe unconsciously they’re not.

Anyway, that’s that. Part of me doesn’t even want to go to session tomorrow now. It’s just so exhausting being like this isn’t it?!

X

ps. I do see how much of a contradiction this post seems to be! I’m fine/Ahhhh it’s all bad! But I guess what I am saying is although my young parts are reacting/reactive currently I am not overwhelmed or totally consumed by the stuff that is triggered. I see this as information about my internal world to be worked through, rather than a total catastrophe. Having said this it really all does depend on how it goes tomorrow talking about it!

* only if the person you’re working with is safe and trustworthy!

Disruptions Are Unsettling.

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted. Life has been just as hectic as ever this end. It’s all been pretty same same…where same same is high anxiety, stress, and general survival – holding it together with rubber bands and chewing gum!

Therapy over this time has been fine, there’s nothing really ‘big’ or ‘blogworthy’ I can think of to talk about hence the fact that I haven’t posted in a while…and add to the fact it’s the school holidays and we’ve had family visiting, there hasn’t been much available free time to sit and type.

Anita and I have been getting down to work and it’s been good. It’s felt really comfortable in so much as no matter what comes up, we can get through it and process together. I’ve had lots of really strong somatic responses to the stuff we’ve been talking about – I am so over pins and needles in my feet and cramp in my legs! When I am with Anita, I feel confident that she cares and that I am safe with her and that’s a big part of the work – it feels safe to feel the feelings with her.

I wish I still kept notes from my sessions because I literally have no idea what’s gone on in the last few weeks – the specifics escape me almost immediately after a session unless there’s something very important or memorable happened. Instead, what I tend to be left with is a feeling of how things are/have been…and that feeling is that it’s ‘fine’ or ‘good’ even if the content has been ‘hard’ or ‘upsetting’.

I think I had hit a bit of a complacent patch “Ha! I’ve mastered this therapy business.” Because the time between sessions has been ok (even if life is really tough) and it’s felt like two sessions a week has been just the right amount of holding and containment to cope with what the world throws at me…which btw seems to be giant dollops of horse shit a lot of the time!

So…good…it’s been manageable…

It’s not so good, then, when that routine gets thrown out the window at short notice.

Oh no!

It’s a fucking great disaster when that happens! That’s when I realise that things are hanging by a thread and not quite as good as I think…or…I guess a different way of looking at it, is that that my maintenance plan works but is very necessary to keep things going.

Anita and I have had some largely ‘adult’ sessions recently, where I have talked about some really big things that required a lot of trust to bring to the room – one of these sessions was last Thursday. Yeah, Thursday, not Friday. Anita had to reschedule my Friday session last week which was ok (only a little internal wobble!) but I was conscious that it felt longer until Monday. I knew I would cope but would be ready for the Monday session when it arrived.

Over the weekend the young parts started to move in after the string sessions with them being largely absent. I could really feel that little part missing A and wanting to be close to her. Rather than ignore that little voice inside, on Sunday evening I text Anita and asked if we could read stories in our Monday session. I felt really small that evening and like I could just use a session where we would connect and cuddle and hear some of the little one’s concerns. I needed a bit of a break from the hard work I had been doing in previous sessions and to give those child parts space so that they didn’t creep out into the week between sessions and hijack me when the attachment stuff got really activated.

I went to bed early on Sunday night, I felt really tired and a bit hormonal and figured the sooner I went to bed the sooner I’d get to therapy and put some of the things that were bothering me down for a while.

I woke up at 10:20pm and glanced at my phone. There was a message from A. I assumed it would be a message to say that we could read stories and she’d see me in the morning.

It wasn’t.

It took a few seconds to process what was there before my heart sank and that internal wailing from the youngest parts kicked in.

I responded to her message about cancelling the session and then turned over in bed and cried… a lot. Of course, Anita can’t help getting sick. It’s just one of those things that happen. It just felt really bad timing. Adult me gets it – those young parts who were so ready for a story did not.

I hardly slept on Sunday night, my anxiety sky-rocketed and every small sound in the house set my system jangling. On Monday morning I asked my wife if she might be around on Wednesday morning so I could get to session, but she is in meetings and has some big work stuff on this week that was already causing her/us stress and so she wouldn’t be available.

I’ve mentioned before that it’s been a real nightmare these last few months with my wife’s job, anyway, and it’s all coming to a head at the moment so I really, really needed to retreat into that calm space with A this week as I am freaking out inside. Sometimes it just feels like the universe conspires against me!

I’m still not sure if I can get to Friday’s session this week, and next week looks impossible, too. It’s a nightmare trying to rope in favours for childcare over the summer holidays in order to get to sessions, and whilst I’ve done reasonably well over this break it’s just looking really unlikely that I’ll get to see Anita face to face between now and school returning.

I can, of course, do online sessions which are better than nothing, but are far from ideal especially when my body is off its tits and just won’t calm down and the young parts are really activated.

I feel physically sick from the anxiety I am feeling this week. It’s so annoying because I had been doing well, even though things felt scary and difficult…but now, well, jeez it’s hideous. I think some of it is tied to my cycle too – I feel paranoid about bad things happening when I have PMS and this is really heightened this month…although I think I have mentally adopted the brace position until I know the lay of the land with my wife’s job.

I don’t really have anything much more to say – I guess I just needed to let off steam about this somewhere where people will understand how big a deal not getting to therapy and last minute disruptions are.

Hope you are all holding up ok. x

The Power Of Two Way Communication: Authenticity, Honesty, And Vulnerability In Therapy

A few weeks ago, I was really struggling with the sense of Anita being out there somewhere, still. It seems to come in waves. The protectors had been doing their thing and then the really vulnerable stuff from the young parts had been really activated and I just felt really at sea outside the sessions because so much was going on inside them!

I bang on so much here about the sense of object constancy (or lack of it!) and I was right in the thick of that horrible stuff again – panicking that something had gone wrong, or something had changed between Anita and I, that she was fed up or backing away…all that wonderfully destabilising shite! Although there was absolutely no evidence of this in the sessions AT ALL, because I was so sensitive and hypervigilant, I was looking for evidence of things going wrong. This was especially apparent and troubling me over the weekends which is always just the very best time for having a worry overload about therapy… you know, when the therapist ISN’T THERE!

Anita and I have a really great therapeutic relationship and I feel so blessed to have found her. It’s been incredible to have this amazing connection and to experience so much healing with my therapist – especially after what happened with Em. As I’ve said a lot, my relationship with A is not straightforward or plain sailing. It is not ‘easy’ being in the therapy. I don’t go in and relax and chat – we do A LOT of work both in the room and out of it and A LOT of my stuff gets triggered in the relationship with Anita. It’s certainly not pretty, but it is authentic and stripped back and it is really working with the wounding in a meaningful and productive way.

Anyway, you know what it’s like when you are stressed out and panicking about things going wrong in therapy. I trust Anita implicitly, but there are certainly parts that are poised looking for signs of abandonment and rejection. I figure this time I’ll get out first before being pushed away and having my vulnerable parts annihilated like what happened with Em. I said at the very beginning when I met Anita that she’d have her work cut out for her because she’d be tested so much more because of the breakdown of the therapy with Em. She didn’t seem in the least bit fazed and understood that my ‘antenna’ (her word) would be very active.

I posted a picture on one of my recent posts about runners

…and after what happened with Em my runners are race fit, wearing spikes, and waiting for the starting gun. Honestly, they’re set for a world record run if they need to go! How funny would it be to line up all our runners together in a mini ‘Therapy Goers Olympics’…It’d be the saddest competition ever but my goodness can you imagine the races?!

*I’m really sorry…this post, and my brain, is all over the shop.

I think the feeling of being distant from A outside the sessions was what was triggering the protectors in sessions at that time. It’s really hard to explain what exactly it was that was wrong. If you were to look through my message exchanges between A and I most people wouldn’t see anything amiss. I just felt like something was wrong. A is usually so responsive and yet she seemed to have backed away somehow. She felt distant and I didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t say anything when I first felt it because I know that I am so fucking sensitive to small changes and I also realise that A has her life and does her very best where I am concerned. I know she’s not big on using her phone and so if she doesn’t respond to me then it’s not her ignoring me, she is probably just outside with her phone away from her. So… I just sat with it, trying to remember all the evidence that things are actually fine with us. And I (adult) know they are fine… but it’s not the adult that sees and feels these minute differences in communication and when things start to get stirred up my body goes into a state of high alert and panic.

On her break in June (ugh) I felt really disconnected and was upset that in the first week she had seemed AWOL and I worried that something was up. But then she sent me a bunch of lovely photographs halfway through the holiday and was much more ‘there’ in the second week so it sort of settled stuff down. When she came back, she told me that her phone had run out of charge in the first week and as she’d been wild camping there was no power – so I do get it…well adult me does!

So, the other week I wanted to get a handle on myself rather than spiralling off thinking that something bad was afoot. But then a couple of weekends felt ‘off’ and my spidey senses were so alerted that I just couldn’t get over myself. I’d had a terrible week anyway, things have been really bad for my wife with work and she’d been away working most of the week. It was the same week where I had had the extra session (that I only just recently logged in my brain – what a fucking fool I am!) and coincided with the anniversary of my dad’s death.

Basically, I was a complete emotional mess, and my system was melting down (not that dissimilar to how things are now, actually!). The week was topped off with a really crap interaction with my mum that had exacerbated my stress and just left me feeling overwhelmed, unseen, and unsupported. I had sent Anita a text on the Friday afternoon where I said something about hoping she was still holding onto the invisible string…and she didn’t respond. On Sunday I sent her an ‘I miss you’ gif and still no response.

“OH GOD. WHAT HAS HAPPENED? WHAT HAVE I DONE WRONG????”

Anita is usually so good at replying to that kind of message but there was radio silence.

Don’t panic.

Don’t panic!

DON’T PANIC!!!!

In the normal run of things, I probably would have been ok with no response. As I said a minute ago, I get she has a life, and isn’t always by her phone – but it just felt really off. You know when your gut just ‘knows’ things aren’t quite right but you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is? Well, it was that. I just felt something was off.

Usually, if we’ve not had much/any contact between sessions then A will send me a message the night before saying something like, “looking forward to seeing you tomorrow” but again there was nothing on this particular weekend and because there was so much already not right in my day-to-day life my brain started to freak out and everything started to spiral. I felt sick to my core… “here we go again” I thought and braced for inevitable rejection.

By Monday morning I was terrified that I was going to walk into something terrible and convinced myself that it was better to stay away then go in and be rejected in some way. My runners were warmed up and ready to race…away.

I sent a stressed-out message first thing:

A, I feel really anxious and like something is very wrong – or that I have done something wrong. I couldn’t get to sleep for ages last night and when I did there were nightmares again. I’m scared I am not going to be able to connect because the protectors are so out, and I can’t bear the thought of it feeling worse than it already does. I’m wondering whether I should just stay home and give us both a break today – which is probably just running away but it all feels too much, and I don’t know how to make it better.

Anita responded warmly and said that from her side nothing was wrong, that she’d had a busy weekend, and that she thought that if I didn’t come that it might actually feed the protectors and that she was really like to see me.

I could see her point, but I also had that enormous feeling of dread in my stomach and didn’t want to go and it be awful. Anita’s message was clear – things were ok with her…but I was not Ok. My need for connection felt enormous and overwhelming and I feared that if the protectors kept me ‘safely’ disconnected from A it would lead to some really bad dissociation. But I decided I needed to go. I didn’t want this feeling of rupture to increase. I feared being abandoned and yet if I didn’t go I would be stopping myself from having any chance of getting what I needed.

Anita is so familiar with my inner battle and comments on it frequently…neither one of us is new to this push and pull dance that goes on for me. So I got in the car and drove to session. The closer I got the more anxious I felt.

I arrived at the session feeling sick, like I would actually puke, and so nervous I was actually trembling. Anita opened the door, sometimes I just walk in and barely look at her, but that morning I, somehow, managed to make fleeting eye contact.

She was not scary.

She was Anita.

Nothing had changed.

I moved towards her, she opened her arms and we hugged on the doorstep. I find that when I do that, it often helps to keep the protectors at bay. I needed to connect straight off. I didn’t want to hide from A, I wanted to be able to get to the bottom of things and make it feel better. I wanted to let her in not run away.

In a really soft, gentle voice, Anita said “I can feel you’re really struggling” as she held me to her. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. We hugged for a few seconds and then I pulled away and went to the therapy room. As I sat down and felt completely overwhelmed despite the hug literally twenty seconds previously. Anita gently said, “I am here. I know it doesn’t feel like it sometimes but I am.”  She was sitting beside me, but I couldn’t look at her. I felt so vulnerable and overwhelmed.

I immediately asked for another hug as I knew I was going to disappear and that there was a very small window before it could all go to shit. I’m familiar enough with myself now to know that there’s not much time to circumnavigate the protectors coming online and I really didn’t want to be imprisoned by them and unable to get to A that day.

(Yes, I am totally aware of how much UNNECESSARY drama there is! – chill your tits RB!!)

Anita opened her arms and told me to “come here” she said. I shuffled across the sofa and snuggled in close to her I could barely breathe. I felt like I was hyperventilating and struggled to catch my breath – I felt so panicked. It’s almost like being that close to her, being held safely by her, allows all the stuff I have been holding to finally come out and the strength of the overwhelm is right there in those moments. It’s like a dam bursting, but kind of in a good way. It’s a relief to let it out even if it is hugely draining.  

“I can feel you’re really shaky,” Anita soothed and held me tighter to her. I just lay there in her arms trying to ground and regroup and focus in on her steady breathing and slow, regular heartbeat. I can never get over how big a physical response to emotional upset I experience now. All those years of being numb or dissociated and now it’s like everything goes wild – I feel ALL THE FEELINGS with Anita. I am still not great letting it all out by myself: I get the panic and the anxiety and the tension and shaking at home, but the tears only come when I am safe with A and it is the tears that really need to come.

It can take quite a long time before I am able to actually talk when this sort of thing happens because my system takes a while to settle and regulate. I really, really need that co-regulation and proximity to Anita. She is so patient and just allows whatever is there to come. I was crying and hanging onto her like my life depended on it when she softly said, “I so wish I could take all this away from you…It absolutely cripples you doesn’t it?”

“I don’t feel very good.” I murmured.

“What can I do to help?” Anita wondered.

What more could she do in that moment? Not a lot. She was already holding me, trying to get me to a place where I felt safe and Ok…my struggle wasn’t about what was happening in the room. It was about my perception of what was/wasn’t happening anymore out of it. Somehow, I was going to have to tell her that I had got the sense that something was wrong because our interactions outside the room seemed to have changed and I needed to know if I had done something wrong and basically if I was about to get some kind of boundary talk.

Anita started talking. And to my complete surprise, she knew immediately that the state I was in was about was about the messages – or lack of them. I hadn’t said a word. And that’s why I love her. She’s so intuitive and attuned. Em would never have joined the dots on this, and if I had explained she would have shamed me and put me in my place…closed ranks, reasserted the boundaries, told me that it was my own fault, and I would have felt even worse than I already did.

Fortunately, Anita is not Em. She began by telling me that because of her dyslexia it takes her quite a while to formulate messages in text and that it’s worse at weekends because she has less time and needs to be on her own to think about what she needs to say. She said that when she doesn’t reply to me it’s not that she can’t be bothered, in fact, she said, “It’s the exact opposite. I don’t want to get it wrong. I don’t want to send the wrong emoji or message and it look like I don’t care. If anything, it’s that I care too much and I don’t want to hurt you by getting it wrong. My little ones get so overwhelmed that sometimes they run away.”

She explained that she’s so aware of how hurt I have been by other people that it’s the last thing she wants to do. She said that sometimes parts of her get triggered around writing, not necessarily to me, but admin stuff that might need doing and then they need, “Escape time”.

It was all going so well, up to that point. I could understand what she was saying. Her honesty about what happens, and her process was valuable. But the word “escape” sent fear through my system. Does she need to escape from me? Am I too much for her?

I had been quietly cuddling into A but I think I must have started to shake again, “What are you thinking” Anita asked. I took a deep breath and whispered, “I don’t want you to feel like you need to escape from me”.

Anita didn’t miss a beat and emphatically replied, “I don’t want to escape from you! It’s an escape from the parts of me that really struggle…escaping from needing to get it right…escaping from me! It’s me… it’s not you. It’s not your fault. You’re not too demanding. You don’t ask too much of me…I hope this makes sense…”

At this point I was sobbing fat tears into her chest. I so needed to hear that. There would have been a time where I would have just sat with that word, ‘escape’ tumbling round in my brain, doing so much damage, because I would have feared bringing it up only to have my thinking confirmed: I am too much and she wants to get away form me. With Anita, I still get triggered (!!!) – like I said earlier – but somehow, I feel like I can tell her what’s up. I’m confident enough in us, her, the relationship to be able to tell when things feel bad, and she so quickly puts things right.

“I hope you’re hearing what I am trying to say.” She soothed. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you as much as I’d like to have been there for you this weekend. And it’s not because you are too demanding because you’re really not…” and she went on to tell me some things about her weekend and just how hectic it had all been and how she’d been overthinking a reply and a GIF to send me but couldn’t find exactly the right one and then how her phone had actually died again.

She reiterated how she really didn’t want to hurt me by not responding well enough. “I care too much for it not to feel like I really care. I want to show you that I really care. I don’t want to get it wrong. Then I don’t do anything…which is worse. Then I think I’ll do it later when I have the time…and…but it’s not that you’re too much.” The authenticity in her voice was so moving. It was so connecting and so healing and such a contrast of what I have been used to. “I really, really do care” Anita went on, “And maybe I should just put that?… I’m sorry.”

My young parts were really able hear what she was saying it was enough to settle them and my adult came back online (finally!). I didn’t say anything and continued to listen as she spoke about her struggle with writing being one of her flaws and a fault – we’ve spoken about it before a bit, and how this internalised pressure really had come out for her recently – not because of me. I realised just how much of a challenge it feels to her and I realised that it can’t be easy especially as I am an English teacher.

It was at that point I decided to tell her that my English teacher is not in a relationship with her and that I wanted her to know I don’t judge her messages in that way. I also explained that I felt really sad that she felt like she was inadequate or flawed because she absolutely isn’t. I do think this a is a legacy of the education system for dyslexic people – if not now, certainly in the past where there was very little understanding or support for dyslexic people.

More heartfelt words came from Anita. The poor woman was completely covered in my tears by then! “I’m scared of hurting you if I get the words wrong. I don’t want you to hear negative. And with trauma that’s what can happen. I am scared that I could hurt you and it’s the last thing I would want to do. When we are here in the room – like just now – you heard the word ‘escape’ and what you heard wasn’t what I had meant- but when we are together, we can talk it through…I really do care about you. I really, really do. You mean so much to me. And the last thing I’d want to do is hurt you. And I hear what you are saying, it doesn’t matter what I send, just send something.”

Anita said that she knew in the past I had told her that an emoji would be enough just to maintain the connection but somehow, she hadn’t let it sink in because she feels that sometimes it isn’t enough.

“It’s like you are dead.” I groaned. “Even a picture of the dog helps when it’s like that.”

Anita took it all on board and we agreed what we would do going forward.

It was a massive session – really huge. The entirety of that session happened in a cuddle and that feels really important, too. Feeling physically safe and held really helps me say what I need. I was so dysregulated to begin with but over time that closeness and proximity helps me get back into my window of tolerance.

I felt like I had run a marathon in that hour, but it was so helpful. The honestly and vulnerability on both sides was so connecting. The level of emotional intimacy we have now absolutely stuns me sometimes, but it’s really teaching me so much. It’s ok to be vulnerable, and wounded, and all the things that seemed so dangerous and shameful in the past. The fact that Anita models this behaviour is so massive for me. It’s such a contrast from the blank screen of Em – I mean it their approaches really are like chalk and cheese – but I find having someone tell me what’s going on for them, explaining their feelings, rather than leaving me doing guess work so helpful. I feel like Anita and I genuinely have something really special.

Since then, things have been great so far as our communications outside sessions has gone. We don’t have big, long wordy, messages – we never have (except when there’s been a big rupture). Mostly it’s photos of nature or GIFs that we send but it’s really helpful to me. A couple of weeks ago, though, things took a desperate nosedive. Lots has been going on here and I have been right up to my limit with coping. Anita and I hadn’t had contact since the Monday session where we’d read a new story book and we’d had a joke about it. When Anita sent me a message on the Thursday evening telling me she was looking forward to seeing me the next day I just crumbled. I was so ready to see her the next day.

Here is the thread of messages. It was bad but Anita in her magic really settled things.

Can you see why I love her?

This last weekend she reached out knowing I was going to the hospice to visit my friend to tell me she was thinking of me. I text her when I got out saying it had been really hard and she told me she to drive home safe, that she was thinking of me and sending love. The care she exhibits means such a lot. I have loads to write about but…crikey…this is epically long! Sorry! I’ll come back in another post.

I guess what all this post demonstrates is how important finding a good fit in therapy is. Finding the right therapist for you is essential. Everyone is different and needs different things. Some people would hate to work the way Anita and I do, and would prefer the detached, cooler approach of Em. But that didn’t work for me. I’ve seen a lot of therapists in my time, and I can hand on heart say, I wish I had met Anita years ago…and never crossed paths with Em! Because for me, it’s all about the relationship…and this relationship is so healing for me.

I saw this – and really it says it all. I don’t feel alone anymore, and my child parts don’t either.

Chosen Family: A Friend For Over Thirty Years

I can count on my fingers the people that I hold close and have let into my heart. I’ve never been big on acquaintances – I’d sooner be alone with my thoughts in nature than stuck in a room of fake smiles and raucous artificial laughter. I don’t do surface level friendships or communications; I don’t see the point in it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a chameleon (trauma does that to you!) and can float round a large gathering appearing comfortable, being funny, showing interest, bringing people together – but as an introvert, that kind of situation wipes me out for days afterwards and it takes time to regroup. I would rather spend time with one or two close friends in a space that allows quiet for chat than out shouting over music any day of the week.

I am finding more and more that I avoid situations where I get out way less than I put in. I’ve always been a people pleaser, a giver, but I’m nearly forty now and I know that I am finally done wasting energy putting myself in situations that don’t feel good on an energetic level- whether that be with my family or in social situations. I only have so many spoons and these days I am seeing that I am actually worthy of using these spoons to support myself! Who knew?!

I want genuine, authentic, ‘warts and all’ relationships with like-minded souls. I seek people who are able to be vulnerable and show their wounds as well as their triumphs. I want deep conversations and comfortable silences not performance. Life is too short for show. Let’s get down to meeting one another on a soul level and supporting one another in our vulnerable authenticity rather than hiding from one another and putting on a brave face.

Over the course of my life, I have met some truly wonderful people who I cherish – friends that feel like family. And my goodness, I have needed a chosen family with the blood relatives I got dealt! Once that bond is made, once I let you into my circle, there’s no getting out… but then those people who are in that space don’t want out (at least they don’t seem to!).

There is nothing better than connecting with people who know you and see you for who you are, who love you in spite of your flaws and because of your sensitivity, people who celebrate your successes and commiserate with you when you fail, people who just want the best for you…and for all that to be reciprocated, for the love and care to run both ways. I want to know and be known by my chosen family.

Today I want to write about one particular member of this small group of special people that I hold dear in my heart. I don’t know if she’ll get to read this because currently, she’s very ill in a hospice suffering after a long battle with cancer… and also it means sharing the blog which is a vulnerable act in itself – not that she’d share it with anyone, but our mums are friends and I have always been a bit reluctant in case my mum got wind of what I was writing! (Can you even imagine?!)

This is not the first time I have written about the cancer thief on this blog – my darling friend and second ‘mother’ died a couple of years ago from myeloma and it knocked me for six but there was perhaps a bit more acceptance on my part then despite the devastation because she was almost sixty, this time I feel at a complete loss because there is no fucking way that my friend should be in this situation at 38 or having been battling since she was 30. It’s just brutal.

When you keep your world small and your loved ones in single digits I think you feel the loss of these significant people all the more acutely and I want my beautiful friend to know just how very much I love her. I know she knows anyway, but I just want to say it again publicly.

This amazing, strong, selfless, inspiration of woman is my longest standing friend. We met at primary school when we were six and I’d just moved into the area. We struck up an instant friendship. Back then we were all about roller-skating, gymnastics and playing with our dolls ‘Anna’ and ‘Amy’ (seriously, we had the same shivering baby dolls!). We spent hours playing and chatting and just being little girls together. The first time I went to her house to play I stepped in a bowl of custard, and I’ve never been able to live it down! But I love those memories.

It’s funny, really, because I moved away from the area when I was eleven and yet despite years of not really seeing much of each other there has always been this unbreakable bond between us. Whenever we have got together it’s like no time has passed and it hasn’t mattered that we haven’t actively been in one another’s lives. We pick up like there’s been no separation and I guess that is the hallmark of a strong relationship.

In some ways this is odd, isn’t? A friendship forged over just five years in childhood is not like my university friendships formed as a young adult and where you might think there would be a greater degree of like-mindedness and yet it is every bit as strong, every bit as valuable. As small girls we weren’t talking about the tremendous hurts our families caused us, our struggles with our bodies, sexuality, self-harm, health concerns, because that stuff wasn’t there then – back then we were just two little girls who got on well but somehow that deep knowing of those little girls has kept going all these years.

We are now two women, mothers ourselves, who still have each other’s backs and have come through so much – I’d smash anyone who wanted to hurt her in the face with my rollerblades- just you see! When I got diagnosed with Hodgkin’s it was incredible to have a friend who really ‘got it’. She understood the fear, and the bloody awful side effects of the chemo and radiotherapy. I never had to pretend I was ok about my cancer with her. We spend so much time protecting others when we get sick and trying to be ‘ok’ but to have someone who really knew what it was to feel chemically sick, to lose her hair, and all the other shit that comes with it was so valuable to me. I hope that she feels that there never needs to be an act for me even at the end now.

I’m not doing a great job with this today; I keep getting massive waves of grief and overwhelm to think that we are where we are. I so badly want to be able to put into words how very proud and honoured I am to call this special lady my friend. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you what an amazing person she is. The love that she and her family is held in is immense and it’s not surprising because she’s fucking incredible. She set up a charity to support people with cancer whilst battling with her own and has created a legacy that will live on long after she’s gone. I just wish she was going to be here to see it.

There is so so much I could say here about all her achievements but fundamentally I am just so proud to call her my friend and so thankful that she even wanted to be my friend. She has no idea how her friendship when we were kids helped me get through some really tough times. The safety and stability our friendship offered meant I didn’t feel alone when everything was terrible at home. I could at least escape into love and care at school.

Sometimes I think that life just seems to be a series of losses and heartbreaks, and wonder why we do it to ourselves? If essentially all relationships are set to end why bother? Why walk into something that will end causing us pain? But then of course, relationships are what makes life worth living. It’s our interactions with one another, the love we feel for one another that truly makes a life. And whilst I am beyond sad that I am watching, helplessly, as my darling friend faces this horrible time I am so very grateful to have been with her on this journey that we call life.

It’s not what we do in life that matters. It’s how we make others feel. And a lifetime of friendship, care, and love is the greatest gift she has given me. I will be lost without her.

I love you L.

Amnesia, Spinning Plates…And LOTS Of Broken Crockery

My life is so hectic and busy … stressful… right now that I seem to be hurtling through the weeks and stuff only catches up with me/lands way after the event. Like, in the moment, I know whether something feels good or bad (in therapy) but it doesn’t seem to stick and make a solid memory right there and then. It’s almost as though I have the pictures in my mind but no time to glue them into the scrap book and so instead they fall out and float away when I am whizzing along. It feels like my short-term memory is completely fucked. I’m so forgetful!… I suppose I should be grateful that things catch up eventually.

Time is going so fast that I am struggling to do the basics: my house is a mess, I’m not keeping in touch with my friends, and last week was so dire that I even forgot to send Zoom links for my lessons until they were just about to commence – really professional eh?! I don’t know where my mind is but it’s not here. I think maybe there’s just so much firefighting going on that I can’t keep all my plates spinning. Yeah, that’s it, because as I start to slow a little now the holidays have started I notice there is a lot of broken crockery on the floor.

Ugh.

Last night I took myself off to bed early because I was just totally physically and emotionally done in. Things are really hard again at the moment in my adult life and it’s sent my all of my system into a complete meltdown which is hard going.

Deep breaths.

The therapy session I had on Friday was fronted by the protectors AGAIN and it was agonising for about forty minutes until Anita and I managed to connect and the young parts had a cuddle and sobbed for the remaining part of the session which helped a bit but there just wasn’t enough time and I came away feeling sad and annoyed that yet again the protective parts had ambushed me.

I don’t like it much at the moment. The physical stress my body is under when I am like that is awful. The pain is unreal and the pins and needles and goodness knows what else is just too much. I am constantly fighting dissociation. Inside there’s a part that desperately wants to run away and not be seen. The internal battle is immense…and I just don’t have to energy to be at war right now…and certainly not with myself. Fortunately, Anita is patient and present but those parts are really trying to give her a run for her money. It’s exhausting.

Honestly, these protectors are ridiculous!

What’s causing all this? Well, the ‘need’ for Anita feels so massive right now. And because things feel so bad, part of me is absolutely terrified of being too much for her and then being left. Anita assures me that she is not going anywhere and that all she wants to do is be there and make it better for me, but it’s hard to let that filter down after what happened with Em. When I’ve been dropped like a hot potato when I was at my most vulnerable and struggling it’s no wonder the system is doing all it can to prevent that from happening again. I feel like my brain and body have got stuck in flight mode.

Anyway, last night I sent Anita a GIF to say goodnight and few minutes later she’d sent me something lovely back. As I lay there about to go to sleep, in the orange light of my salt lamp, I recalled what I am about to write about now having had it completely skip my memory this last few weeks.

I’ve been so caught up in survival and protection mode in all areas of my life, not just therapy, that remembering this day/session cut through the protective crap I’ve encased myself in and made me realise I bloody don’t have to go to therapy wearing armour and keeping my distance from A! And it’s really settled me down. I felt really unsettled and disconnected yesterday and now I feel like it’s ok. It’s crackers really because there are so many times when Anita has been great, and present, and accommodating but this recent memory recall seems to have settled stuff more.

A few weeks ago, when it was heading towards the anniversary of my dad dying I had a really bad spell of feeling utterly panicked and unsettled. It’s not unusual for this to happen at this time of year – so many memories of that awful time come up and the reality that, now, my dad has been gone longer than half the time he was with me and that hits hard. He’s missed out on a lot…I’ve missed out on so much, too. And thirteen years down the line I feel like I am forgetting things about him and it’s painful. There’s still so much left unprocessed and unhealed – especially where my family is concerned but I realise now, that I will never get the closure I want, and I think I won’t feel like it’s over until my grandmother actually dies. It sounds harsh but I have done all I can and so until she’s gone I can’t fully close the door on it. Anyway, that’s another story…

On this particular week, my wife was away for work too. It’s never brilliant when she’s gone – I never sleep all that well and I generally feel less safe. Even though, rationally, I know nothing bad is going to happen, my body doesn’t get the memo. I’d been to therapy on the Monday and my protectors had been really on guard but fortunately Anita had been her incredible, attuned self and had helped me connect in the end. Phew.

I woke up on the Tuesday and felt absolutely terrible. Everything felt wrong. I knew my wife was going to be away and I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through the day, let alone through the week to Friday. Part of me wanted to prove to myself that I can power through like I have always done but another part just wanted to reach out for support and not always have to struggle so hard.

With Em I could never ask for more contact. She didn’t do check ins. She wouldn’t even read my texts (and they were rarely sent). There was no sense of there being a support in her…even in the sessions it felt like I was being watched in my pain rather than being supported in it. So sometimes my brain doesn’t catch on that things are different now and I can ask for what I need with Anita and if she can she will try and help and be there for me.

Tuesday is my biggest teaching day:  9:15-4, 4:30-5:30, and 6:30-7:30 and it’s all one-to-one with high need students. I enjoy what I do, but it takes its toll, especially when I am trying to keep my littles safe inside and function. So, I decided that I would text Anita and asked if we might be able to have a check in sometime during the week just to hold things until Friday. She responded that she could do that evening about 8pm if I wanted. That was a perfect time and I snapped it up and thanked her. She then asked me if I wanted to do WhatsApp or face to face. Of course, as I was alone with my kids that evening it had to be WhatsApp.

As much as I hate online therapy, in this sort of situation any contact is better than no contact and to be honest I only expected to chat for ten or fifteen minutes. It seemed odd therefore, that A had offered face to face as an option seeing as it’s a 40 minute drive to hers but it didn’t matter as I couldn’t see her anyway but it was nice that the offer was there.

Later that afternoon I got a call from my wife to say she would be coming home as there was COVID in the place she was meant to be working the next day and so there was no point in staying over at the hotel as she would work closer to home the next day. My brain took about half a second to realise that perhaps I would now be able to see Anita face to face after all, as my wife would be back on time to be with the kids. IT felt like a massive win.

I text Anita and asked her if I could come and see her in person. The parts that were so upset and struggling would benefit so much from that contact – especially after all the shenanigans that the protectors have been putting me through. That day all I wanted was to go in and have a cuddle and settle those little parts who were struggling so hard. Anita said that she’d look forward to seeing me when I could get there.

So I arrived at 8:10pm and we had a really lovely session. There was a lot of talk and processing of stuff but from the get go it was close and connected. It was an hour session (which I hadn’t expected) and the entire time I was cuddled into A. It felt so safe and holding.

I won’t go into detail because it’s not really relevant now. But what is relevant it that I had ‘forgotten’ about this session until last night. I have been putting myself through the emotional wringer for weeks worrying about whether Anita cares, or wants me near her, or if I am too much for her … when clearly that’s not the case at all. There is no way she’d do the things she does for me if that was how she felt.

So, the upshot is, remembering that extra unscheduled session from a few weeks ago where Anita was so holding and caring and present and attuned and and and… has done a lot to settle the parts that have been freaking out. I’m hoping, therefore, tomorrow that I can just go in and be how it is, not be armoured up and pushing A away. There’s no need to put in a pre-emptive strike…because there isn’t an attack coming …well, not from her at least.

I am so far behind with the blog so hopefully over the next week or so I’ll be able to get up to speed as there’s been some amazing healing work done in between me being shut down and wearing a giant ‘keep out’ sign.

from risingwoman on Instagram.

The Protectors Dominate Therapy.

Therapy this last week or so has been a complete emotional rollercoaster. (How many times have I said this lately?!) Honestly, I can hardly keep up with myself! One minute, things are fine, the next it’s utterly desperate. The various parts of me are in and out on rapid rotation and I don’t know which way is up. It really would be really unnerving if I didn’t already have a reasonably good understanding of my system. Mind you, my teen trying to sabotage the shit out therapy is never a great deal of fun, even if I can see it and make sense of it after the event!

The last two Mondays have been quite similar…oh goody (*not ‘good’ at all) a pattern is emerging! I seem start off with a couple of minutes small talk – everything ‘seems’ fine (False Adult strikes again!) and then the clouds quickly roll in from the horizon and I am totally done for. The feeling of disconnection I feel is massive and rather than reach out for Anita, I freeze and get swept up in my internal storm which rumbles on and on about Anita wanting to get away from me and my not being able to trust her.

HELP ME PLEASE!

Last week (28th June) I walked in, sat down, and told Anita that I didn’t feel very good – I had terrible period pain and felt really drained and vulnerable and like my womb was trying to escape from my body. It was shit. I really just wanted a cuddle and to reconnect and feel safe with A – to rest in her presence – but instead of this, my teen went into complete shutdown and “fuck it all!” The young parts desperately wanted to be close, but the teen had gone into protect mode which resulted in a complete stand-off with Anita. It was agony. We’ve all been there haven’t we?!

When it gets like that, it feels like Anita is a million miles away even though it’s really me holding her at arm’s length and avoiding her. I think those young, vulnerable parts need such clear and demonstrative expressions of care and closeness when I feel off from the very outset of the session that a run of the mill, sitting next to me and tentatively asking questions just feels really … crap. Those little ones basically need Anita to be a mind-reader, and that’s never going to happen. Anita is amazingly perceptive, but she won’t know the second I walk in that I am crying out for a cuddle unless I actually tell her.

Anyway, the feeling of both physical and emotional distance between myself and Anita that I felt – or put between us-  was absolute hell for the youngest parts and fuelled the anger in the teen. The longer this ‘stand off’ went on the worse it felt inside and the further I retreated. It’s totally infuriating that when the need is massive I retreat…but then of course this response is rooted in not wanting to be ‘too much’ or get ‘rejected’ by the other and so it makes sense.

I sat there rooted to the spot, staring at the door, not looking at Anita. A kept gently asking what was going on with me… but I totally stonewalled her. I’ve listened back to the session and OMG it’s just so fucking painful. When I am in that place, I feel so isolated, so cut off, and nothing Anita says or does feels right or enough, other than her explicitly telling me we are ok, that she cares, and realistically I need her to be physically touching me, either by holding my hand or giving me a hug. When it feels bad, I can’t hear her gentle, calm invitation to join her, to let her know what’s going on, to reconnect. I just feel fucked off and angry! And because I am angry, I push her further and further away.

That day, I think the need for connection was so strong when I arrived at session because I had felt ignored and rejected over the weekend (don’t ask…it was just mega PMS and the wonderful fucked up lens that that brings with it!).

And because I felt abandoned it necessarily brought the protectors online almost instantly when we met. There was a narrative of, “Don’t get too close, she’ll push you away – and she wasn’t interested in you over the weekend” sort of internal dialogue. I always feel like this after a weekend, more than I do on a Friday session – which is nuts because I’m sure if I checked my messages there wasn’t radio silence over the weekend – it just sometimes feels that way.

Anita persisted, “What are you thinking?”

Silence.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

More silence.

Anita persisted, “You feel very distant today…has something happened?” There was so much care in and warmth in her voice that it felt like Anita was begining to get under the surface of my armour.

The teen grunted, “What do you mean?”

Anita was not put off and replied that she wasn’t sure but felt like there was a big distance between us. She asked me whether she had upset me and I replied, “It’s fine.”

Reader. It was not fine!

I’m sure loads of you are familiar with this sort of situation and how agonising it is to be trapped inside yourself screaming to get out but being completely mute so far as being able to say what is going on goes. You’re stuck in your internal prison.

“Can you share with me what you are thinking?” Anita probed.

And out came a really angry, venomous, “I’m not thinking anything!”

Grrrr. Rarrr. My god, the wobbler was coming! Lol.

Anita backed off and tried to soothe me a bit, “Okay… it’s okay”. I could feel myself getting more and more tense and upset as time elapsed. I just wanted to be close to her, but the teen was doing everything in her power to make Anita disappear.

I sat there, frozen, and then I started physically trembling and hid my face in my hands. I did not want to be seen in this state. I was full of anger and shame and embarrassment, and ALL THE FEELINGS and the little parts were beside themselves too.

Anita, as usual managed to cut through and wondered aloud about what could be going on. She said it felt uncomfortable to her, but she didn’t know what had triggered it or what it was about. She expressed that she didn’t know if what she was feeling was hers, mine, or whether it was even real. She said she wanted to give me a hug but wasn’t sure whether that was for her or for me. To hear her think aloud about it and talk about her process in real time helped me a lot because it showed me that she was engaged and thoughtful and trying to find a way through for us both and it made me see that my behaviour was also having an impact on her not just me.

Even though I was giving off the biggest “Fuck off” vibes, Anita asked me if I would like a hug. I’ve told her a lot recently that when this part is about, I need her to do this because it’s what I want but so often that protective rage won’t let me anywhere near her and vice versa.

A miserable and quiet, “I don’t know” left my lips.

Arghhh. Yes of course I wanted a hug – but I was too ashamed to tell her after the performance I’d just given.

Anita gently asked, “Can you feel this as well, or is it just me?”

I nodded and stared down at the carpet in corner of the room. The atmosphere and disconnect was hard and I didn’t know how to step away from it.

“Yeah. It’s not nice” soothed Anita. That simple acknowledgment that what was going on wasn’t easy for her either, somehow felt connecting. So often Em would leave me struggling in my own misery and just observe me, untouched and unmoved by my pain or whatever it was these protectors were trying to express. Even on our last session when we terminated she watched me cry and said, “It seems you are experiencing a lot of emotion”… FUCK ME! It felt so isolating and like I was completely alone in that room. Well, I was…so…

Anyway, I looked over to Anita and quietly asked, “What’s wrong?” I didn’t mean “What’s wrong with you”, but “What’s wrong here? What’s going on with us?” – I couldn’t work it out. I was just confused and lost.

Anita used her really warm, soothing voice and gently replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know what started it, or where it came from. I’d like to know, but I’m not sure how we find out. I think I might have felt like I’d let you down somehow…”

“About what?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I haven’t had chance to read the blog you sent me…”

I had sent Anita a blog post the night before the session and I guess there’s a part of me that hoped she’d have read it and perhaps I was a bit angry about it knowing she hadn’t. Although up until that point I didn’t actually know she hadn’t sooooo??? I dunno.

It was the post about the False Adult and it’s interesting to me to track back and see that I had a session where the False Adult stole the show and the next session the teen was going berserk. It’s like the protectors are all out and doing their thing right now and I guess we need to try and understand why.

Anyway, what she said resonated and the teen part felt seen and heard which allowed that part to power down.

A little voice whimpered, “You feel really far away.”

And that’s when Anita really took the cue and joined the dots, “Yeah, I know. That’s what I’m feeling too, and I don’t like it…Have I felt far away over the weekend?”

The little one nodded.

Anita said something about never knowing how much of her stuff to share with me and what is useful and what’s not. She told me that it had been a busy weekend and that she had hardly been near her phone and by the time she saw my message about the blog it was so late, and she needed to go to bed because she was really tired.

She didn’t need to justify herself, or explain, but it did really help that part who felt like she had been ignored and side-lined over the weekend. I sat quietly taking it all in and felt myself thawing a bit.

Anita continued on, “It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you. Distance doesn’t mean not caring. It really doesn’t… does that make sense?”

I shook my head.

That young part was still so upset and now the teen had backed off I was left with that really vulnerable little one that just can’t understand where Anita has gone when I am not with her.

Anita went on to say that, “sometimes people get distracted by things in their lives, but it doesn’t mean that the love isn’t there. It doesn’t mean it’s gone. It doesn’t change. Not if it’s real. It doesn’t change. And it is real.”

This attempt to reassure and reconnect went such a long way. The confirmation that the love isn’t gone was all I needed to hear.

“Why are you so far away?” I whispered.

“Can I come closer?… Do want a hug?…this feels horrible to me too…”

I shuffled over to Anita and snuggled into her and silently cried into her chest. There was so much grief coming up and out. The pain of disconnection is so powerful and it’s really something watching it play out in the therapeutic relationship.

Fortunately, Anita is really patient and really understands what it’s like for the parts. She is so accepting of the angry teen and really wants to give her space to be in the room. She told me that she loves that part just as much as all the others and can really see how traumatised she is and how much care she needs. It’s a new thing for me to hear that the part that is so dismissive and stand-offish has her place and is welcome in the room with Anita. Em ran scared from her when she finally came forward, but Anita wants her to know she’s safe to be out and say what she needs to say.

As I was cuddled into Anita she said, “I think you are so vulnerable to rejection that you see my being distracted as a rejection. And that is the last thing I ever want to do [reject me]. Maybe I am scared of doing that, too, because I know how vulnerable you are to it. The last thing I want to do is hurt you.”

Anita held me closer into her and gently rubbed my back as I sobbed. Part of me felt so foolish for all the drama I’d created in the session because it’s so fucking obvious that Anita is not setting out to hurt me, or ignore me, or abandon me. How much more evidence do the protective parts require?? It’s so frustrating that sometimes I just cannot see her care or feel it or hold onto it when she’s not there.

I keep banging on about object constancy, here on the blog, but this really is it. That’s the problem. The parts get so spooked and are so poised for rejection that they haven’t yet got the memo that Anita really cares. I know she does. She doesn’t just care – she loves me. I feel it… just not all the time. And that’s the kicker.

Sometimes I sit in my room and look at my lamp, or my necklace, or breathe in the smell of my elephant and I can keep a sense of Anita, I can see all that she does for me. I can feel her love and care…and other times it’s just gone. I just get sucked deep into the black hole of the mother wound and it’s total doom.

“I’m scared” whispered the little one. I think it was the seven-year-old part.

Anita mirrored, “you’re scared?…what are you scared of?”

A barely audible response came out, “Something bad happening.”

Anita questioned, “In what way?… Bad between us?… Scared that the relationship might end?”

There was a barely perceptible nod into Anita’s chest.

“Yeah” she considered, and then so carefully and warmly said, “And I guess, inevitably, relationships do end at some point.” I could feel fear rising in my body fearing what she was going to say next, and I held on more tightly to her. Was she about to tell me we’d have to end one day soon? Panic coarsed through my veins. She continued on, “It could be through death… and it’s always sad when relationships do end… but I have no intentions of not seeing you. I really don’t! I guess none of us really know what life is going to throw at us…does this make sense?…but I have no intentions of going anywhere.”

By this point I was properly sobbing and moaned “It’s just really bad timing”. And it is. It was coming up to the anniversary of my dad dying, and then of course, my family disowning me as a result of what happened, and then my best friend from primary school is terminally ill and has very little time left, and one of my wife’s colleagues had just died of COVID over that preceding weekend despite being young and double vaccinated…and it just felt like everything was funnelling into a horribly scary place and the terror of losing A was huge.

Anita acknowledged that there’s a lot of loss around for me at the moment and at this time of year and reiterated that she wasn’t going anywhere and she said she understands my fear. She then told me I’m the only client she sees without a screen and that she does everything she can to keep herself safe (this in relation to the fear about COVID). I am amazed that she does this for me, then. I am astounded, really, that she is so able to see my need and knows just how triggering distance is for me and so has decided to work with me how I need and keep touch and close physical proximity as part of our work. I am so grateful to her for this.

“I’m sorry” I groaned.

I felt so stupid for how I had behaved. Everyday Anita shows me just how committed to our work she is and yet so often I get triggered and freak out. I guess it is part of the process and it’s really good that these parts are now able to express themselves freely and get the attention and care they need.

Anita responded with, “You don’t have to be sorry. I think it’s important it happens here. Because everything that happens with us is, all the time, helping you to see that it is ok. That’s what we’re doing. It’s like you said the other day, it’s like trying to reconfigure the computer. So, it really is ok. It’s just the protector going by what it’s learnt. It might not feel ok for you, but it really is for me. How I feel about you is not going to change.”

I cuddled further into Anita, content now that everything was ok. My body relaxed and I closed my eyes and focused in on the steady beat of her heart.

“I love you” I murmured.

“I love you too, I really do.” She replied.

The remaining time of the session was just holding and calming and soothing and then it was time to go. I felt utterly knackered once I got home! The emotional marathons are hard work and take their toll and so I climbed into bed for an hour when I made it home.

The next session (Friday) was different again and needs its own post for different reasons – there was no teen or protectors there – so I’ll leapfrog it and go to last Monday which was basically a re-run of the session I’ve just written here! FFS! WTF is happening?!!

Again, I found myself at a complete stand off with Anita. Just before the session I had messaged my best-friend and told her not to let me head into rupture zone this coming week. I could almost feel it bubbling under and was terrified that I would go into session and create a rupture that didn’t need to happen.

Poor Anita!

I sat down and everything felt really wrong. Something had happened that morning that had triggered me around my dad’s anniversary, and I just felt really shaky. Anita listened carefully but I just couldn’t really convey what I was feeling. It was all really messy. I started to disappear inside myself and once again became frozen staring into the corner of the room.

Within a minute Anita asked me if I wanted her to come closer, but already the protectors were up and alert and said, “No.” I knew from there on out I was in for a rough ride because that part was up and proving that she didn’t need anyone.

When Anita asked me what I was thinking, I told her I wanted to go home. Anita replied that I could go home because I am free to do what I want with her, but that she didn’t want me to go home. I could feel myself drifting further and further away. Everything felt so bad inside.

Anita kept gently trying to find her way in, she asked me if I’d like to read a story – I just shook my head. The little ones would have loved to have read stories together but the protector was having none of it. At one point Anita asked what I needed from her and I snapped at her that I just wanted her to, “Leave me alone.” I don’t know why I was so dismissive or rude – it’s really really not like me but like I say it just didn’t feel ok.

I sat pickled in shame and frozen in that disconnected agony again. After a little while Anita said something that completely cut through to my core and disarmed the protector in one sentence, “It’s hard for a rabbit to sit here and watch while you’re in so much pain – when all I want to do is take it away” she said, referencing the book that I gave her for our one-year therapy anniversary, ‘The Rabbit Listened’. When things feel bad, she sometimes sends me emojis or pictures of rabbits – because in the story it is the rabbit that sits patiently with the character as he cycles through all the negative emotions and waits with him and never leaves him. Anita has always been my rabbit from the beginning.

Note to self: Anita is the good guy in this!

I smiled inside and reached out to hold her hand, and then moved in for a cuddle and started to cry and Anita just held me to her and let me cry it out. Has anyone noticed how much I seem to cry these days?!

Over the rest of the session, we spoke a lot about the protectors and their role. At one point I asked Anita if that part of me, that is so horrible and pushes her away makes her want to go away. She emphatically replied that this was not the case at all and said that we all have these parts. She knows what it’s like to feel trapped and angry and threatened and attacked and have parts that try and sabotage relationships. She says it comes from trauma and the more trauma we have the louder those protectors can be. It’s needed to be like that to survive.

Then she went on to say, “Even though it’s really hard for them to engage with me, I have an awful lot of empathy for them. They’re so troubled and I get it. It doesn’t mean I can’t love them as much as I do the rest of you.” She explained that she knows that they come up because they are scared: scared of being too much, scared of being abandoned and rejected, scared of everything going wrong between us, scared of being hurt – and hopefully one day they’ll learn that she’s staying.

We had such a productive conversation in the end and the cuddles were very needed. I do feel like I am putting myself through the emotional wringer at the moment. Therapy is seriously hard work isn’t it?! Despite all this, I really feel like we are doing important work and bit by bit this repetitive, painstaking work with the various parts is somehow rewriting the narrative I had forged early on in life and reconfirmed in the therapy with Em.

I really feel like I landed on my feet finding Anita. I know this kind of therapy isn’t for everyone and is probably quite a departure from what a lot of therapists do, but it’s what I need and what works for me. And after years of being left out in the emotional wasteland with Em it feels so good to be brought in out the cold and be cared for by Anita. Her demonstrating that I am lovable is starting to make me believe it and I am far more compassionate towards myself as a result which has to be good thing.

One More Sleep: Therapy Break Is Over

Sooooo I have made it – just about – through the therapy break and bloody hell…what a ride it’s been! This last week has been a real emotional rollercoaster.

Adult Me has been completely fine.

I’ve got on with work, been reasonably productive and ok…but the parts inside… CRIKEY! Talk about internal push and pull. One minute the protectors are certain that we need a break from therapy because this attachment work stuff is just too painful and exhausting,

the next the young parts are counting down the sleeps until Monday when they can see Anita.

I get that that was GIF overload but it kind of demonstrates how much varying stuff is going on – it’s not consistent at all!!

Last week when I wrote here, I was saying how disconnected I felt from Anita – and how the level of interaction we’d had (minimal) had felt really upsetting for the young parts who struggle so much with object constancy… and fearing she’s died. It had totally set the Teen off! Whilst it wasn’t ‘zero contact’ the GIF Anita has sent the day after I messaged her felt really empty – and impersonal (it wasn’t!).

I guess it’s because I am used to ‘more’ and usually if she sends a GIF there’s some kind of personal message written around it. I think, too, it felt a bit jarring because last year A was more communicative on her holiday. Anyway, it just felt bleurgh and by the time it got to writing last week I just felt off.

I just want to say before anyone starts getting their knickers in knots – that I do get that Anita needs her breaks and doesn’t need to contact me at all when she’s on holiday. If she does contact me there’s no ‘rules’ to how many or few messages she sends. Adult Me is absolutely fine with this and am just grateful that she even considers taking time to contact me at all and allows me to contact her if I want. BUT this blog isn’t just about Adult Me. Adult Me is capable and copes…this is about all of my parts and how they/I experience this stuff.

Of course, I’m not going to go in tomorrow and moan that she ‘didn’t message me enough’ or anything like that. I’ll certainly tell her I missed her (a lot) and that the first week felt unbearable, but it won’t be a ‘grrr you didn’t do this…’. It’s not going to be a rupture…

And this is partly because after I posted up the last blog, I got a massive, long string of photos that Anita had taken of where she was, telling me where she’d been and saying she was looking forward to seeing me when she got back. Then this last week she’s sent me a couple of GIFS, a few more pictures and last night some video clips. And it’s felt really nice – although some parts have had a trouble ‘trusting it’ because they’re wondering what happened in week one…?

Nothing. There was nothing wrong… but I felt like there was.

I just need to chill the fuck out, don’t I?!

This is my stuff to work through, though. It’s my process and it is how it is right now. Anita and I will work through it bit by bit. This embarrassing stuff is the experience. And sure, I could keep quiet about it here, or maybe I could drown in shame about being so needy and pathetic – but I’m not going to because I know that it’s not just me that feels like this. The one thing I have learnt through writing this blog over the years and the emails I get from readers, is there’s more people in therapy experiencing this kind of toe-curlingly mortifying stuff but not finding the words for it than you’d imagine.

So…I’ll keep telling it like it is…warts and all.

The photos definitely helped some parts this week, but I think, generally, the first part of breaks is the hardest anyway, as the time seems to stretch out endlessly ahead of us. Once I reach the half-way point of the holiday it becomes slightly more bearable (pictures or not). I think this is for a few reasons. First, the beginning part of the break feels like a huge shock to the system and the youngest parts really suffer and are really activated, “Where did A go?”

After about a week, the pain and distress experienced by the small ones eventually triggers the teen and other protectors come online and their protective anger (RAGE!) at the little ones being left kind of gets me through. “Fuck it! Fuck her! Fuck it all! I’m done” sort of thing. And so, the second half of break is always a bit easier because I am more disconnected.

Well, kind of.

Like I say though, it’s like a bloody rollercoaster. It’s up and down and round and round…and push and pull… and I can cycle through so many feelings in next to no time. It’s often not just one part feeling something at one time – it’s like layers – all the parts are there feeling and saying conflicting things. It’s a nightmare!

Last night I felt really sorry for myself, though. Anger was gone and vulnerable sadness washed over me in waves. The young parts got so activated and I had a little cry in bed. Every night before sleep I either do a guided meditation or listen to a story on the Insight Timer. Last night my wife suggested we find a new story. I scrolled down and picked a long one as we were fairly early to bed.

Only what I picked turned out to be a paraphrased rework of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’. The characters were given names and it was modernised but lot of it was exactly the same and ugh…all the stuff with Em came flooding back. I wrote that blog post last year about how I had given her the book for Christmas and then how she’d rejected it and how I felt like it was a good analogy for therapy. And ugh…wonderful timing RB! Just what you need to be reminded of when you are on a therapy break and feel disconnected from A and anxious about going back to the room.

I finally fell asleep and went on to have graphic nightmares: one with a teenage girl drowning and I couldn’t save her, and then another one in the early hours of the morning where I (seven year old part) was looking for Anita, “I can’t find her anywhere”, I said. And someone told me she had gone away for good and I needed to go away.

Arse.

So yeah. It’s felt a bit shite really.

This morning I woke up and was really battling with myself. Part of me wanted to just text Anita and tell her I didn’t want to go tomorrow. But then of course lots of parts do want to be there. The overriding fear I have about tomorrow is not that things will have changed but rather I will go and not connect because I am in self-protect mode. I also know that after breaks I can go in and do the False Adult thing where I will talk and talk about stuff that appears like priority stress: finding out my friend has weeks, maybe months to live; having to contact my oncologist because things don’t feel quite right in my throat; shit with my wife’s ongoing health that’s really not good; work stuff…there’s enough to be going on with.

And yet, while of course ALL THOSE THINGS ARE BAD AND STRESSFUL AND NEED TALKING ABOUT Adult Me can handle it for now. What Adult Me can’t handle is the fucking mess that’s happened internally because my attachment figure went away on a holiday.

I really need to go in tomorrow and reconnect. I need to be close to A. I need hugs and reassurance. But there’s a very real possibility that I might go in and glide through the session and then land with a thud about ten minutes from the end, dissociate and then leave feeling even more disconnected.

FUCK.

PLEASE DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN!

I decided to text Anita this evening to tell her that I feel unsettled, that things felt off and my system was in meltdown. I told her that parts of me really want to see her but the protectors think it’s stupid. I said that I have been having nightmares all break where she’s either left or died. I finished up with, “It’s too hard. I missed you.”

Anita responded with a really warm message, saying she understood, telling me she was very much alive, home safe and sorting out washing in the rain. She asked me if I wanted to start 15 minutes sooner in the morning so we could have a longer session. She told me everything will be ok and that she promised nothing has changed and then signed off with a heart and some kisses.

Thank god.

That message has done a lot to settle the parts that were freaking out. I feel like she’s home. I feel like tomorrow it’ll be ok. I know, too, that there is enough time to land in the room after the break and reconnect.

Wish me luck and I promise I’ll come up with some sane posts again soon!

Therapy Break Is Imminent & Storytime For The Young Parts

It’s been an ‘interesting’ couple of weeks in therapy, but I can’t tell you much about any of it because there are huge voids where the memories should be, still. I don’t know what’s going on, really. Everything is just a bit of a blur and whilst I am aware that I have had quite difficult emotional periods over the last week I am not entirely sure what’s triggering it – other than the upcoming break.

I suppose it’s not just ‘other than the upcoming break’ because the reality is that breaks are a BIG DEAL to the young parts, especially as those little ones haven’t experienced a two-week therapy break since last summer. At that point they weren’t as ‘in the relationship’ with A as they are now because the therapy was still quite new. I wasn’t so attached back then, and we were working online in that first (endless) lockdown, so the absence wasn’t quite as striking as it is when there is a disruption to my face-to-face therapy now.

We all know that I’ve been crap and grumpy when Anita and I have had to revert back to online therapy for some bits of the more recent lockdowns. I can’t help it, I miss the physical contact and the energy in the room…I miss Anita…and the cuddles! The lockdowns weren’t great (understatement) but I didn’t even cope especially well recently even with that one missed/cancelled session when A’s daughter might have had covid…so imagine how it’s going to be with four missed sessions!

Although, to be fair, if you dig beneath all these disruptions to my therapy and the resulting meltdowns there’s more to them than meets the eye. It’s not just because I can’t see A. I freaked out in lockdown two because Anita had promised she’d see me and then ended up going away to bubble with her partner – it felt like she’d lied to me and it felt so abandoning. The mess up with the recent covid cancellation hurt because Anita was actually still working but just didn’t think I’d want to work online…and that stung because it felt like she didn’t see my need.

Shoot me now!

Anyway, it’s bank-holiday this weekend and even though Anita and I have scheduled a session for Tuesday that wasn’t without its stresses/miscommunication either.

FUCK!

Weeks ago, A and I arranged via a text that we would do 10am on Tuesday instead of our regular Monday time. That felt fine…until Friday, last week, when Anita text me after our session and said, ‘I hope your day is improving. I have just realised we haven’t talked about another day for BH Monday. Can you do Tuesday 1st at 11:15?’

This text immediately set the cat amongst the pigeons internally. She’d obviously forgotten we’d made the plan and whilst the 11:15 was no big deal – the time was fine – to parts inside it felt massive. She’d obviously now booked the 10 o clock session with someone else…and that felt…like… I had been replaced I guess….but also forgotten about and not kept in mind. I dunno. I know it’s not actually a big deal really and so I replied and said that yes, that was fine and that we had had the conversation but 11:15 was fine too. Anita apologised and that was that.

She has no idea how much this tiny thing actually affected or how much it’s been niggling away at me since but really, I can’t even be bothered to go into it with her. She’s so great so much of the time that surely, I can cope with the physical reminder that there are (of course) other people that Anita sees. LOL.

I can’t lie, though. I was disappointed. I guess it’s because I already worry about being forgotten about anyway, and this message seems to confirm that Anita had forgotten me (or at least believed she had).

Also, I quite like the fact that I am the first client of the day. I guess I feel like Anita is fresh/ready for the day ahead and not already on the treadmill of work counting down the hours/clients (not that she probably does this anyway, but…). I also don’t get any sense of anyone else having been there in the room – no perfume, warm chairs or anything like that (which would send me off my rocker – remember the box the other week?!). I guess, also, if I am honest, I know that she hasn’t touched or cuddled anyone else yet that day. The idea of cuddling into her after someone else might have been crying on her just feels…ugh…I dunno…

I am basically just a spoilt brat with massive sibling jealousy. Can you tell I am an only child?! Lol.

Ha!

So, anyway, because of this timetabling mix up I have been pretty discombobulated this week.  On Monday I think (having had a conversation about it on Friday with Anita because I couldn’t remember anything that happened – it was just a black hole) it was False Adult that was fronting for a long time in my session, and it wasn’t until about fifteen minutes before the end that I felt like I connected to A and let my vulnerable self come out. I obviously didn’t tell her about the upset about the session for Tuesday … and now I wonder if that’s what was stopping me connecting. Probably. Ugh, maybe I should bring it up…but…oh the SHAME!!!

The way the session went left me feeling quite out of sorts for the whole of Monday. I am so conscious of the fact that everything is getting unsettled, and the break is coming and I really want to feel safe and connected before Anita goes away and not disconnected and far away.

For most of Monday after the session I could feel that angry part who wants to cut and run fronting. Maybe it was the teen? Even though the young parts were in meltdown this protective part was determined not to reach out to Anita or give her any indication that things felt off between us…or at least with me. ‘What’s the point? She’s leaving soon, right?’ –  

Ugh. That voice!

FFS.

When will she give up?!

Anyway, by about 9 o clock I was in bed. I was so so tired. I had my salt lamp on (birthday present from A) and I was cuddling into my big dog. The critic and teen or whoever it was had powered down and all I was left with were those little ones who felt desperately sad that they had not been able to get enough of what they needed in the session that morning. Without even thinking I text Anita. I didn’t expect her to respond but I felt better for having let those young parts let something out.

This is the exchange:

It felt so settling and I went to sleep with no bother at all… and no bad dreams for the first time in ages! Win! I know that this is a million miles away from most therapies. I mean I did years with Em stone cold in that room with no contact outside contact at all and I can imagine that this probably feels to some people like there are no boundaries in this relationship. But there are and I am really clear on what they are. Boundaries don’t have to be barriers and the key thing for me doing this work is authenticity. For those of us with complex trauma I think it’s really helpful when we get to see a bit of a real person with feelings and emotions.

You’d think that exchange would have been enough for the week to run smoothly.

Nope.

Because we are right in the thick of my wounding now and the messy attachment stuff. It’s basically developmental trauma #101!!

As the week went on, I felt increasingly disconnected from Anita again. The woeful Wednesday separation anxiety kicked my arse and the young parts were freaking out. Honestly, the anxiety about this summer break is so bad for them but I am not surprised as we have been looking a lot at my early years and how it was with my mum lately so that stuff feels really live. On Thursday night I actually felt like cancelling my Friday session. Things felt that bad.

I text Anita a GIF of a character having a meltdown with their face under a pillow…basically me. And a photo of something I had just let the young parts express:

I had tuned into what was going on and wrote it out. I can’t believe I sent it but hey, there we are – these things happen now and it’s ok. There’s no boundary talk, instead there’s engagement about what it is I am trying to say.

Anita saw the message and told me she was sending me a ‘big hug filled with love’ and a really reassuring message that said we could start earlier on Friday if I wanted as she thought it would be a good idea. There was still so much conflict going on inside that I didn’t actually respond to the message until Friday morning but when I woke up, I was feeling so much better and so relieved that A had suggested we could do a longer session.

Anita says it’s important that we pay attention to all the parts of me and listen to what they are trying to say. She’s sure that at the moment my protectors are doing their best to sabotage the relationship because they think it’s better to leave than get left…and that’s really how it is…EVEN THOUGH IT’S JUST A HOLIDAY AND NOT A FUCKING ENDING!

Sometimes I feel like my protective parts are just arseholes but, I do know they are trying to do their job. It’s just a bit mortifying when this stuff is playing out in your late thirties and not your mid-teens. Although those parts don’t know I am here and are locked back in 1998!

Anyway, I am meandering slowly toward the point here… there’ve been a couple of sessions lately where I have been really unsettled and no matter what we do I just feel like I am cycling through heaps of uncomfortable states. It’s like I’m trying to land myself in my ‘letterbox’ of tolerance but it’s windy and stormy and so the plane keeps missing the spot and instead lands in hypo or hyper arousal. I feel like I am not in the room. Like Anita is not there. My body hurts. I feel sick. I feel dizzy. I go numb. It’s dark. I feel shaky. The parts inside are screaming. You name it and I’ve probably been there in those sessions.

So. Friday was ugh. Not because Anita was distant, or I was a million miles from her – that wasn’t how it was. I hugged her the moment she opened the front door and snuggled into her within a minute of getting in the room. There was nothing at all wrong in that regard and yet still I couldn’t properly settle. We spoke about it. Tried to pinpoint what was going on. Dipped in and out of a lot of different conversations. We laughed. I cried. But despite all this I felt really really agitated and disconnected – or at least a key part did. It was as if I couldn’t relax into this calm, nurturing space properly……………… WHY?? ….. well, probably because that calm nurturing space isn’t there on Monday and then won’t be there for two weeks soon.

Groan.

Anita wondered if I felt frustrated that I couldn’t connect in the way I wanted and I said that was the case. She asked me if I wanted to do some drawing because we had spoken about how maybe doing something creative might help when it feels like this. I said I didn’t want to. Basically the idea of being even slightly separated from her in the room felt awful…again right now it’s the really young stuff being triggered.

A couple of weeks ago when I was in a similar state Anita read me a story I had brought in called, ‘Barbara Throws A Wobbler’ by Nadia Shireen and it really settled those child parts.

Listening to a story read by A, written in language that was accessible to them and with pictures to look at grounded those parts and I felt way more connected and present in the room.

I sometimes feel like my young parts are just outside the door or are suspended just out of reach looking in and it’s horrible until they can get inside and close to A.

I had seen the book not long after having a massive wobbler in a session earlier that week and it really captures just how awful it feels when that angry tantruming part takes over and freaks out over really small things. In the end, the main character realises that this big scary Wobbler is actually a part of her, and she has the power to shrink it rather than be taken over by it. She knows it will come back but she isn’t frightened of it anymore.

At the end of the book there are pictures of a bunch of other characters (that don’t have their own story) and I asked if maybe we could draw our own versions of these character soon. I had said my Wobbler wasn’t a red angry jelly and was more like a black smoky Dementor out of Harry Potter but I thought there was probably some good work to be done here.

So, on Friday when I was struggling to connect despite the closeness A wondered if maybe it’d help if she read me another story rather than drawing? I bought her ‘The Rabbit Listened’ on the first therapy anniversary and we haven’t looked at it together yet, and at Christmas I gave her ‘The Hug’. I joked that one day I would stop giving her kids’ books. Although probably not just yet!  

Whilst I really did want a story the idea of Anita getting up and moving even to the other side of the room felt unbearable. I said to A, “I don’t want to let go.” A wondered whether I thought that if I let go I might disappear and I nodded into her chest and murmured – “or you might.” A held me close for a while and I settle more and eventually I said that I would like a story. She asked which I’d prefer. The Hug was already in the room on the shelf and the other books were in another room. I opted for The Hug – less far to go.

Anita sat back down on the sofa and I cuddled back into her and she read the story to me. Her voice was so soothing, and she did the voices of the characters and everything. No joke, all that agitated shit I’d been battling just disappeared and I landed in the room and into the moment with a gentle thud. It was so nice to feel the tension leave my body and feel fully present (all the parts).

Up until that point I felt like even though I had been cuddling A, listening to her heartbeat, talking, laughing etc there had been a part of me holding myself so tightly inside. It’s almost like being in a full body shackle – it protects that most vulnerable bit of me but it’s hideous. But the story did something and all that just fell away. I really enjoyed looking at the pictures and felt so held and contained.

I haven’t read the story before but have seen snippets of it online and knew enough about it to want to send it to Anita at Christmas. It’s really lovely and simple. It’s about a hedgehog and a tortoise who are both desperate for a hug but all the animals they meet won’t give them one. They’re too busy for a hug, but also, as it turns out people are put off by the hedgehog’s spikes and the tortoise’s hard shell. The book runs half-way on the hedgehog’s story then you flip it over and read the tortoise’s story from the back to the middle. In the centre pages of the book the two characters meet and get to hug each other because they are perfect for each other. The book says ‘there is someone for everyone’.

Anita finished the book and said, “hugs are really really important, aren’t they?” I didn’t say anything but seeing as I was cuddled into her body and had been for the entire session I wasn’t about to disagree!

After the story the young parts told Anita about my tortoise that I had been looking after for someone, but they have given him to me. It was small talk, but it felt really connecting. I guess because I felt so much more present and connected.

I left feeling so much better than I had done when I arrived and throughout the week. I feel settled even though it’s a BH weekend. I’ve been productive in my garden – turning the meadow back into a lawn! Can I get a shout out for the sunshine? After a month of solid rain and cloud here I hardly know myself now there is blue sky and wall to wall sunshine.

I hope you guys are all making the most of it too (UK readers obvs as no idea what it’s like elsewhere on the planet!)x

Dreaming About My Therapist #457 (Brain PLEASE Give Me A Break!)

This last couple of weeks I have had a really bad run of TERRIBLE ‘therapy dreams’. I bloody hate it when this happens. I have nightmares most nights but lately Anita has been making her way into them more and more. I find this particularly stressful. My therapy dreams are rarely warm and fuzzy (unlike my actual therapy sessions!) and instead throw up situations where I am left emotionally and physically abandoned or rejected by my therapist, Anita (or in the past, Em). There’s no denying it, these night time events are complete head fucks.

Over the years I have written a few blogs where I have talked about dreaming about my therapist/s. I think they’re Here and Here and Here and Here and Here (there are probably more!) These dreams are not ‘quick’ dreams. They’re usually really detailed and feel like I have done a full-on workout when I wake from them. Even now, dreams from years ago are still so vivid and etched into my memory as if they had really taken place in real life.

It’s not just the memory of these dreams that lingers for ages, the physical impact is utter shit too. I frequently wake up shaking and feel ‘off’ for such a long time afterwards. No matter how I ‘know’ these dreams aren’t real, and are just my fears playing out, my body – my nervous system- just doesn’t get the memo. I can really struggle for hours and sometimes days with the fall out of bad dreams and just as I think I have got myself together it’ll be a real-life therapy session and it’s like I am thrown back into it the moment I walk in the room.

The bonus of working with Anita over Em (and there are many!) is that at least when I have these scary, unsettling dreams I can usually tell Anita (or at least say I have had a nightmare with her in even if I can’t say what’s happened) and we can work it through and take steps to try and settle my system and get grounded together.

With Em I was always so worried about her thinking I was weird for even dreaming about her that I would just sit with these horrible feelings stirred up by a dream and then let them eat away at me. Week on week, I would arrive in the therapy room and seemingly get confirmation from her cool and distant behaviour to support the events in the dreams as being possible in real life and so I really struggled to let her know what was upsetting me for fear of something similar happening in reality…and let’s face it, the way the end of that therapy went was total nightmare material!

Yuck.

Anita soothes away my fears (even if they aren’t founded in reality!) and is patient with me when I am in a total mess. Thank god. I can feel so much shame and embarrassment about how badly I get affected by these dreams but at the same time, they are clearly messengers from my inner world. Lately, the dreams have all had a similar vibe, there’s often water (which I think is meant to symbolise emotion?!). I keep having the same one that takes place round the edge of a swimming pool where Anita will turn her back on me or completely ignore me. But then there’s also dreams in the room where A simply doesn’t ‘see’ me or ‘forgets’ about me – i.e mistakes me with someone else’s story or doesn’t remember my narrative.

The dreams that take place out in the wider world are crappy, but I especially hate the ones that happen in the room. One of my recent dreams was so upsetting that I really struggled to be in the room for my next ‘actual’ session. When I arrived, I found even walking to the door made me feel sick. Throughout that session I kept closing my eyes and opening them checking that everything was ok. OMG I sound insane! Even though Anita was brilliant there was this ongoing gnawing ache inside as the memory of the dream replayed over and over. Would I end up sat crying on her door step having run out the room?!

On Friday (just gone) I arrived at my session in a complete state after another horrible dream the night before where Anita had made me jump/pushed me off a high wall on a disused/derelict dockside (loads of rusting metal on the water’s edge) and into a murky pool of sea water that was churning about. She said she wouldn’t see me anymore if I didn’t push myself and be brave and said I needed to swim over to the other side of the river, and she’d meet me there. I really didn’t want to go in the water. It was already a cold, wet, grey day, and I knew it wasn’t safe to be venturing into this particular stretch of water.

Even though in real life I am a very strong swimmer, in this situation I was really struggling, and my head kept going beneath the surface. My mouth kept filling with this disgusting, toxic water, and I was pretty much drowning. Somehow, I managed to swim to the edge, where Anita was, and as I reached the muddy bank, exhausted, I asked for her help to get out the water having complied with what she’d asked of me. Instead of helping me, she looked at me with absolute disgust and contempt, took a step towards me and then pushed me down and held my head under the water to the point where I thought I was going to die. I managed to struggle free and as I got my head above water, she turned her back to me, and walked away.

Ugh.

Fuck.

It was so bad.

I woke up shaking and crying and it took a while to ground myself in my room.

So, when I arrived on Friday I wasn’t in an especially great place but figured it’d be ok – because as I have said a million times before Anita is not the person that turns up in my dreams. She couldn’t be more different! My nervous system doesn’t update quick enough, though. I sat down and told Anita that I didn’t feel great. I could feel myself shaking and felt like my nervous system was having a total meltdown. I felt sick and didn’t feel at all grounded and really just wanted to run away. I couldn’t even look at Anita.

Anita asked me if she could give me a cuddle, and even though that was exactly what I needed in that situation, because my system was almost in a flashback to the horrible dream, Anita just didn’t feel safe to quite a few parts of me and so I refused it. It was like each of my recent dreams was playing in my head and I felt really unsafe. But having refused the cuddle I also set off an additional shitstorm inside with the youngest parts who really really needed that holding.

Shit.

Don’t you just hate it when you can’t win for your system?

There were so many competing voices/feelings in that moment and when I’m distressed it’s so hard to navigate my way through it because my Adult isn’t really there.

Of course, Anita was her usual calm, understanding, soothing self and told me that she thought maybe a lot of this is coming up because we are approaching a break and that it really “wobbles” me.

Uh huh… of course a lot of this is tied to the upcoming break but man…what do I do about it?!!

I sat there and I felt like I was going to explode – but with tears not rage…and yet I really didn’t want to cry. I was so overwhelmed.

Anita asked gently, “Can you tell me what happened in the dream?”

All I could respond with was, “I don’t feel very good.”

“No, I can see that” replied Anita.

My heart was racing and my mouth was dry. I was in a complete panic. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I didn’t want to be seen – part of me wanted to curl up in a ball on the floor. It was utterly horrendous.

Tentatively, Anita said, “Nothing has changed. In reality, nothing has changed. This room is the same, [dog] still barks!…”

I could feel myself smile a bit inside because yes, dog is the same! And that seemed to shift something just a little bit inside me. I guess it reorientated me to the space and the here and now rather than the hell of my dream.

“I just feel really shaky.” I whispered.

“Dreams can feel so real, as well, can’t they?” soothed Anita.

Like I said, Anita’s endless patience and understanding is so helpful to me. If I were in her situation, I’m sure I’d be thinking ‘for fuck’s sake, get over it…!’ But she isn’t like that at all. She never pushes me to a place that I can’t go. I don’t know how to explain it but often Em would leap in with both feet asking questions and often it would just overwhelm my system even more because I wasn’t ready to go there. I wasn’t grounded or safe, or…connected…and so would then hot foot it into dissociation.

“Can I have a hug, actually?” I asked. And the laugh is, this must in reality have been maybe two minutes since Anita offered me the hug I declined!

As usual Anita replied, “Of course, come here.” And as I cuddled into her, she said, “I am still the same. I haven’t changed.”

I tried to tune into her heartbeat and her steady breathing. I felt like I was holding myself tightly inside and even though I was cuddled into her it felt like I wasn’t connected, and this is absolutely terrifying for the child parts. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to start to settle and by the end of a session I feel much better.

You’d think after all the good work we do together I wouldn’t get railroaded by my system now, but I actually think that because I feel safe with Anita my system just doesn’t know what the fuck to do with that. There’s also that part that is absolutely terrified of losing it/her now. I think, unfortunately, this stuff will happen over and over again until my system learns to relax and feel safe in this ‘new’ way of being and relating. It’s not comfortable but it is the work.

The other day I can’t even remember what was going on, but I remember asking Anita what she was thinking. I was so relaxed and settled (I had almost fallen asleep on her) and we had barely spoken – but it’s not awkward silence at all.  Sometimes it really takes a good twenty minutes for me to settle enough to get in touch with my words and I have learnt that it’s really important for me to feel safe and grounded before I attempt to talk about anything distressing, otherwise I’ll be out my window of tolerance in a flash (that’s if I was even in it to begin with!).

I had been so agitated and worked up in the days before seeing her (and had so many nightmares) that when I finally came out of that flight mode and grounded, I realised just how utterly bone tired I was.  Anyway, after getting me in the room safe I asked A what she was thinking, and she said that she had been thinking how really the only communication that my young parts understand is cuddles. She said it’s like babies, they really just need a few simple things: holding, feeding, smiles and cooing- but really it’s all in the holding and the co-regulation and that’s how she feels it is with me. Words don’t cut it/aren’t enough. But then of course so much of this stuff is so very young – it’s preverbal. It’s funny really, though, isn’t it? Because this is talk therapy and yet so much of the work we are doing right now is with the parts for whom there are no words.

My words come when those young parts are attended to and are soothed and settled. I can almost feel that tiny new-born baby that’s still inside me somewhere – who was left in the incubator for three days, having nearly died being born, left with no nurturing touch or breast feeding in those first 72 hours – now bundled up in a tiny ball asleep on Anita’s chest. Rather than being in a state of absolute terror she’s safe and then the words and narrative of experience and feelings come.

I could only find a GIF with a baby monkey…but hey, it works! 😉

Friday turned out to be quite a big session in the end. I didn’t end up talking about the dream where Anita drowned me because there’s been a lot coming up from my childhood this week with lots of violent and traumatic experiences leaping into the front of my mind.

I said how everything just feels so heavy at the moment. I am coming face to face with so much trauma that I have dissociated away in order to survive. I said that I feel a bit like one of those crazy dudes who goes on ‘World’s Strongest Man’ and tries to pull a truck behind them…only I have the truck hidden under Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak and so no one has any idea of what I am dragging along behind me.

We spoke a lot about different times and events where I have been really scared as a child, and how having my own kids is really shining a light on the difference between my experiences and theirs. Sometimes I feel so sad for all the ‘little mes’ seeing first-hand exactly what I didn’t have growing up. Anita often tells me how well I am doing (parenting) and how different an experience I am offering my children. I am still convinced that I am going to fuck my kids up, but I am trying so hard to give them a better emotional and physical experience than I had.

Tears kept coming on and off throughout the session. I feel like there is a damn about to burst before long but I guess I’ll face that when it happens.

Anita makes me feel like I am not a weirdo for being upset by things that have happened. In fact, she really makes me see and understand that what has happened wasn’t ok. It might have felt ‘normal’ but it’s not normal.

When she is so full of empathy and care for me, I can’t help but struggle inside. There’s always a part of me that wonders why Em, who knew sooooo much about me, could do what she did. It feels so cruel. And then of course my brain starts to panic. Surely, soon, I will end up reaching the point where I am too much for Anita, too.

It was getting near the end of the session and a little voice said, “Are you fed up with me?”

With so much feeling Anita replied, “My goodness no! That’s not going to happen, that’s really not going to happen. I’m not going to leave you. I’m really not. You’re not too much. I’m not fed up.” And she held me closer into her as I cried.

“I love you.” I murmured into her chest.

“I love you too. And I am not just saying that. I am not going to abandon you. I have no plans to. Nobody can be sure what the future holds but I have no intentions of it.”

And then it was time to go. I felt like I had run a marathon but in a good way. It’s hard facing the mother wound in all its goriness and delving into the trauma – not just working with the transference in the room.

I’d hoped that after that I’d have settled a bit inside but I think even though I left the session feeling calm and contained there’s just so much swirling about right now that it’s not surprising it’s all leaching into my dream world.

Last night, I had ANOTHER therapy dream. Again, we were having a session but this time high up in the roof of an old four-story building. It was like an attic space that had been renovated to create a huge open plan living room. The session was ok, easy enough, but also nothing came to mind to talk about so it was just chat, really. Then about ten minutes before the end Anita’s daughter walked in covered in paint and started discussing something about connecting a TV and laptop in the room. It was really random, but also super uncomfortable. Anita got up and moved away from me and became very engaged in the conversation with her daughter and so I got up to leave and then walked out.

As I reached the door Anita said, “Oh are, you going? Well, you seem ok, anyway, so I’ll see you next week.”

At that point, with my hand on the door the fog/dissociation that had been on me all session lifted and I remembered what had happened before I arrived. I replied, “Actually, I’m not ok my mum has just xyz [trauma stuff]”. A didn’t respond and continued talking with her daughter.

The memory that had just come to mind really upset me and leaving A like that felt awful, too. I ran down the stairs and noticed that on the middle landing the wall had been just painted with a first layer of paint covering a load of writing that I had done (on the walls!). There were loads of separate messages that Anita and I had never looked at and now wouldn’t be able to because you could hardly make them out.

I was really upset. For some reason I was soaked to the skin now (despite still being indoors) and needed to change but knew I had to leave. And so, I ran out the door, slamming it behind me and ran as fast as I could away. When I reached my car, it was my first car that I got when passing my test and when I looked down, I realised that I was my 17-year-old self. In the safety of my car I burst into tears.

I saw Anita leaving the building in a set of waterproofs. She saw me and gestured for me to stay where I was and that she was coming. I felt so deflated that I just broke down further.

And then I woke up.

And that’s the kind of fun times I am having right now even despite really connected sessions where I am held, or we read stories (which I will keep for a separate post as this is so long again). I mean it’s not rocket science to unpick what these dreams relate to, but I could just really do without my brain serving me up piles and piles of this emotionally draining, unsettling crap right now.

There’s a bank-holiday coming up next week and so a bit of a disruption to sessions and then Anita is off on a two-week break. She has more than earned a proper spell of time off. She hardly ever takes weeks off… like it’s May and she hasn’t had a break since that small bit over Easter and then, before that, Christmas. My adult can cope with all this, but I know the young parts are going into a panic about it!

I don’t really know what to say or do about it because really nothing is going to make it much better. I am just going to have to tough it out, I think. Maybe we’ll be able to do a slightly longer session before the break as I find those 75/90 minute sessions so much more containing. Ugh, I dunno.

I just hope I don’t get sucked into the doom zone tomorrow following this latest dream. It’s just too many one after the other right now. I wish my head would give me a break! I’m so so tired tonight that I just want to dissolve into nothingness…what do you reckon the chances of that are?!

Why I Love My Therapist! (And Other Ramblings)

This post should really be called ‘I don’t know if…’ because everything is in flux and I seem to have no concrete understanding of what’s going on with me. I couldn’t even think of a title for this post – it’s like my brain has turned into gloopy porridge.

My memory is really, really bad at the moment, too. I don’t know why it’s happening, but it’s making everything quite challenging. Imagine teaching and not being able to bring technical language or specific details in texts to mind (in exam season!). I have been coming back to this blog on and off all week (don’t seem to have the attention span to sit down and bang a post out) and I have to keep rereading it each time I sit down at the laptop because I have no clue what I have already written!

I was laughing (crazed, nervous laugh) about this stuff with K last week. When she asked how I was doing, I said that I felt like was having a relatively calm time, internally. I said I felt pretty chilled, but didn’t know whether I was genuinely ok or just dissociating a lot of the time (especially as I can’t remember anything!). Sometimes it’s hard to know. Trauma really is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it?! In the moment I thought I was calm, felt quite still and grounded, but then about half an hour later I burst into tears and was physically shaking (it felt like it came out of left field – there was no obvious trigger) and K ended up holding me until it passed.

This episode made me realise that there’s still a lot buried under the surface that is needing to come up and out. The little girl/s inside are still very distressed and the pain hasn’t really gone away. Those child parts can still arrive out of nowhere and hijack my adult…which is a bit scary!…but then I suppose it’s not necessarily hijacking if it happens in a therapeutic space???

Like I say, I don’t know if I am just massively dissociated or whether my feelings are just more fluid than they used to be and so I experience periods of genuine calm and being more embodied but then the internal tide can change and the other painful stuff comes up and I’m back in the danger zone and stuck in survival mode. I definitely don’t feel locked in a perpetual state of distress and panic and abandonment where my stomach and solar plexus ache ALL THE TIME now. Yay! There’s definite movement in and out of that horrible place. I think, too, that my system is learning that there are safe people to experience these difficult feelings with. So when I feel contained and cared for and supported with, and by, those safe people, I can get in touch with the feelings more fully and have them witnessed and attended to.

I have no idea, really! I am just making this shit up as I go along! Lol!

Don’t get me wrong, the distressed child parts still make enough appearances when there’s no one around to soothe them. Sadly, I’m still frequently left feeling small and lost and on my own in the week between sessions. Wednesdays are still fucking hideous and I don’t know what to do about that…

So things aren’t perfect but they are much much better than they were a couple of years ago.

Anyway, as I said a minute ago, whole chunks of time are just gone from my mind at the moment. I don’t know whether it’s because after months and months of intense stress that my life now appears to be settling down (please let that be the case!) and so because it’s ‘quieter’ I feel like I’m missing stuff. But perhaps, I am not forgetting stuff because maybe there’s just fuck-all going on! Or nothing that is going to threaten my actual existence, anyway…

I have no idea…

Anita asked me on Monday about my weekend and it took quite a long time to dredge up the memory of the preceding 72 hours. In the initial moment there was just a void where memory should be and this is also how it feels when I try and bring the last few therapy sessions to mind, too. Again, I don’t know whether it’s because things are actually really ‘ok’ and therefore not memorable or whether it’s just gone into the black zone.

I’ve always been someone who has an almost photographic memory for situations and conversations – who knows when you might need a soundbite to back up an argument?! – but lately this is happening less and less…it’s a bit unnerving to be honest.

I guess I’ve either got early onset Alzheimer’s, a bad bout of dissociation, or maybe, just maybe, my system is beginning to settle down here and there when I am with Anita (or K) and so feels safe enough not to be on mega alert ALL THE TIME and therefore doesn’t have to remember everything that happens between us in finite detail. I am leaning towards the last one because when I think about it and do a body scan at the same time, there is nothing freaking out inside (well not today anyway!).

Phew!

Right now, (I think) I feel settled inside…but hey, it could be dissociation, couldn’t it?! I think the parts are quite calm today (Monday) because I have just had a really grounding connected time with Anita and so it’s as close as it gets to feeling safe inside as it can. It doesn’t last all that long (yet) because invariably those little parts start missing her and begin to panic when they can’t see her and then freak out believing that they’ve been abandoned or that she’s dead – but for now, today – it feels nice. So, I’m trying to make the most of it.

I know I was really unsettled last weekend when I blogged here. Partly because of the episode with the ‘box’ the week before and all the cumulative shit that had gone on since Easter break, the ‘vet’ thing, the ‘being busy’ thing, the ‘COVID daughter’ thing, the ‘session cancellation’ thing the ‘break in June’ thing…bleurgh…

In and of themselves these are all small things but as I text Anita on Friday it’s what it all taps into that makes all this stuff feel enormous and scary:

And that kind of sums it up. I know why this stuff triggers me but it really doesn’t make it any easier when it’s happening. I’ve felt like a rag doll in a washing machine for a lot of the last month but thankfully I seem to be more or less over it! The majority of the ‘small’ stuff that was bothering me had sorted out by the end of the week which left the main ‘big’ thing that was upsetting and unsettling me ready to be looked at on Friday.

What’s the big thing?

Well, it’s my friend terminating with her therapist of many years under horrible circumstances. I’m sure she’ll write about it soon, here, so I won’t go into details because it’s not my story to tell – but I feel so sad for her as none of what’s happened is her fault. What’s happened to her has brought all the stuff with Em back to the surface again and then, of course, has led me to feel really scared about the relationship with Anita because my friend’s therapist used to be so much like Anita.

In fact, it was my friend’s relationship with her therapist that made me realise that I could expect more from therapy and saw that it is possible to bring all the parts to therapy and have some of your needs met by someone else. You don’t have to be left squirming and alone in the room and can be in a caring relationship. So, of course, now that it’s all blown up parts of me are terrified that if I really and truly let my guard down, fully show all of myself and the extent of the wounding, then it’s inevitable that Anita will get overwhelmed and disappear, too…because even the good therapists can’t go the distance.

It’s so hard to feel safe when it feels like everywhere you look there’s some poor client being harmed in therapy and it’s all just too close to home right now. The Em stuff is still so recent and unprocessed for lots of my younger parts that what’s happened has lit the touch paper on my fear and sent everyone inside into meltdown.

When I went to see Anita on Friday, I felt like everything was wrong inside. It feels like everything is being shaken up and it makes me feel sick. Adult me knows she’s safe and trustworthy and the youngest parts feel like she is, too, but the teens and other protectors inside were freaking out,

“We cannot withstand another rejection or abandonment like what happened Em…or H…it’s not safe…we’re still not over what happened last year…please be careful with us all.”

And then young parts started wailing,

“Don’t keep us locked away in the dark. We don’t like being alone. It’s scary. Anita feels safe and when she can’t see us it feels horrible…and she’s going away soon and then we will really be alone.”

I am so aware that when I go into a panic about being rejected or abandoned it can really go one of…errr… three ways. First is, I disappear altogether into the black abyss frozen and silent; second is the False Adult takes charge and does some kind of smoke and mirrors exercise to keep Anita off the scent; and third – if the wind is blowing in the right direction- I can tell her what’s going on, or what the parts are trying to do and thinking.

On Friday, I let her know what was happening and how bad it felt and we talked it through. And as usual she was so calm and understanding and REASSURING that it allowed those really shaky, scared parts to calm down and regulate. Where I would have felt massive amounts of shame and embarrassment with Em (because she was so uncomfortable discussing our relationship) and so I’d keep this stuff to myself, I can feel it with Anita and let it out in the room with her. She gets it and helps process it.

I don’t feel like a massive weirdo telling her that the breakdown of a therapeutic relationship is painful and talking with her takes the edge off the panic. She’s been so understanding about what happened with Em and again just really tuned into why what’s happened to my friend has sent things into freefall.

As the session was ending and I said,

“It’s going to get easier, isn’t it?”

We had already discussed how for the young parts it feels really scary when the same stuff seems to happen over and over as if it’s evidence that it will happen again to me. Anita couldn’t have been more emphatic or straightforward in her reassurance. She held me closer to her and replied, “Yeah. I’m a great believer in that. I’m not going to go anywhere. You’re not too hard work. And I have no intentions of ending.”

She went on, “That’s what I mean [referring to what had happened with my friend]. It fucks it up for everybody. Excuse my language! But it really does. It takes all that trust from everybody. That’s what makes me so angry [harmful experiences with therapists]. It’s so fragile. It takes a long time to build trust…”

This last week Anita told me that we are on this journey together and she’s signed up for the whole ride not just the easy bits. I joked/groaned that she thought she was getting the bus to the beach and instead we’ve ended up in a swamp with a flat tyre. Anita said that she knew from my very first e-mail that the journey wasn’t going to be straightforward, that there was a lot of trauma, and that sometimes the best memories come from hard journeys that don’t go exactly as you’d planned.

She said in real life she likes walking off the beaten track and through brambles because you often find surprising things and beautiful things and it’s the same with the therapy. She said she gets a lot from the journey, too, it’s not just me that is changed by the relationship and that we are learning together. She said that she won’t always get it right but that she will always be alongside me. And I really believe her when she says it. It’s not meaningless platitudes and empty reassurances. I genuinely feel like she means what she says. Anita feels really authentic and human and that’s great after so long working in a vacuum with a blank screen. And sure, sometimes she gets it wrong BUT she always does her best to put it right when she does and her apologies feel genuine.

I haven’t described any of that very well but basically recently Anita’s been on a loop of ‘don’t panic, you’re not too much, and I’m with you for whatever comes our way’ lately. Personally, I’d quite like to go to the beach but am resigned, now, to the fact that sometimes we go off-roading through the shit and are slowly making it through the swamp! – can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, we’ve got to go through it!

I know I say it a lot, but the reason so much of this work can be done is because Anita lets me so close to her. The fact that I go in and she sits beside me rather than on the other side of the room in her chair goes such a long way to settling and regulating my system. Those parts that have felt so alone and abandoned and full of shame, see that this person is not put off by them and is happy to come close despite the narrative that has been playing for a lifetime about being too much, and unlovable, and untouchable… and more recently ‘adhesive’ and ‘like a tick’.

We sometimes laugh together about me being like a rescue dog but it’s true – although I think I bark a little less than her actual rescue dog! Anita keeps holding out her hand to me and using the soothing voice and little by little the scared parts are moving towards her. She said in our very first session that she knew it would take time for me to trust being in therapy (and with her) after what happened with Em.  She said I was brave for even trying therapy again.

She said she would wait for me to feel ready to come to her because if she forced it, it would be like her telling me to put my hand back in a fire having just sustained third degree burns. I’d have to be mad to do it! And so, she waited and honestly, I cannot believe how things are with her now. She’s not a fire though, she’s a fire blanket – the complete antithesis to Em. She puts out the fire and makes it safe to be there with her. There is nothing at all threatening about Anita. Pretty much everything I get panicked about is served up by my own trauma brain running to worst case scenario, not actually any genuine vibe that Anita has given off.

These last few weeks, I have been stressed about her getting fed up with me and wanting to get rid of me – especially because finances have been a real problem.  Despite working things out with that, and her promising she’s here for the long haul, I feel even less worthy of her care. Like, surely, if someone who is less complex (and that’s basically any other person who wants counselling!) and demanding comes along and can pay her full fee then she’d be stupid not to take the money and ditch the stress, wouldn’t she?

It’s shit feeling this way.

Anita assures me that I am worthy of her time and care, that I am lovable and all the nice things but ugh…it’s tough, because there are so many parts in play, and there are so many that already have such a low opinion of themselves that it’s going to take a lot of repetition for it to wear a deep groove inside.

Having this conversation, the other day, Anita turned things round and said, “You might get fed up with me.” I felt every part of my system shake their heads. Like, “Not gonna happen, lady!” Anita said that perhaps sometimes when I text her and she doesn’t always reply I might feel fed up. She said that she does try to reply because she’s aware of how unsettled I get with this kind of thing but also acknowledged that sometimes she’ll see a message and be in the middle of something and mentally register to reply when she’s free and then will forget.

She said that she has a terrible memory (looks like that’s both of us then!) and that if she doesn’t reply to a message, it’s not because she doesn’t want to, or doesn’t care, but sometimes she just forgets. It was a really human interaction and it went a really long way down into those parts who so often feel like maybe something has changed or gone wrong if there is no reply when actually it’s just life. We all do it.

I don’t tend to text long deep stuff very often, it’s more about checking in (‘are you still there?’), I am the queen of GIFS (have you noticed?) and so largely communicate through pictures – but to hear that Anita isn’t staying away or being distant because I’m too much or ‘bombarding’ her is huge.

These conversations would have felt (were!) impossible with Em and yet they just happen with A. She really thinks about how this stuff and what she says and does (or doesn’t do) impacts me. It’s not about how my texts are a hassle to her or are a boundary crossed. Being able to call that conversation to mind these last few days (we’re at Thursday now!) has been really helpful as the really painful feelings of being lost, alone, and abandoned landed with a thud yesterday morning and were chased up by a horrible dream about Anita so I’ve felt really vulnerable and needy.

Nearly all the time now, (unless something really is really triggered) I can ask Anita for a cuddle and she never says no or pushes me away. If I am triggered, shut down, or far away she always finds a way to get to me. So, whatever happens the young parts get what they need. Anita holds me for as long as I need and even comments on how much I need the holding which makes me feel less like a tick clinging on than I might otherwise have felt. She says how she can feel the change in my body/system as the session goes on and how grounding it is for me to have that closeness and proximity.

It takes quite a long time to ‘land’ in the room and I think this the case for quite a few of us with C-PTSD. It’s often not until the 45-50 minute mark that my system settles fully.

This is why 50 minute sessions just didn’t work for me (alongside having had a therapist that didn’t care!). Even an hour feels a bit too short and I seem to finally arrive and then suddenly it’s the end. I find when we do 1hr 15 minute sessions I feel way more settled and grounded because it really gives those young parts time to rest and feel safe in that holding before having to go back out into the outside world and go it alone.

When everything feels like it’s swirling about inside being physically close really helps bring things back to a manageable level. The young parts, especially the ones that have no words, get such a lot from the cuddles. I’ve said before how listening to Anita’s steady heartbeat feels really settling. I have noticed, too, how often, when I am upset, I barely breathe and yet over time mine and Anita’s breathing becomes synchronised – I mean I start to breathe, not that she holds hers! It’s coregulation in action.

The other thing that brings my system into the window of tolerance aside from the touch is smell. Oh god this is cringey, but it’s true.

Anita smells really nice. It’s the smell of fresh washing and I associate it now with feeling safe and connected. I was thinking about this the other day – and whilst it might sound really weird going on about how she smells (!) and why I like it, I think on a biological level there’s something in this.

When babies are born, they can’t really see very well, but they know who mum is, they know her smell and they’re like little breast/milk seeking missiles. I know when I had to give up breastfeeding (so I could start chemo) I couldn’t be anywhere near my son whilst my wife was transitioning him onto a bottle and formula. She’d be feeding him, he’d be snuggled into her, but even if I quietly entered the room he’d rear up and try and move towards me and get unsettled because he wanted me (or at least to be breastfed not bottlefed) – I’m guessing we must give off some kind of mummy milk smell that trumps the bottle.

Anyway, I think in some kind of way this is what happens with smell now. I associate Anita’s smell with feeling safe and secure. Obviously, it’s not the same as a baby seeking a breast but I think on a biological and unconscious level there are at least some similarities. I think this is why so many people find either spraying something with their therapist’s perfume or taking a scarf/item of clothing or some other item that smells like their therapist helpful on breaks. One of my friend’s therapist gives her a blanket that she washes specially just before a break and it really helps her. When the young parts are wobbling and dysregulated closing your eyes and being able to breathe in that smell that is associated with feeling safe and held must go a long way.

I’ll just leave that there as feel like I have probably descended into the ‘eyebrow raising’ area for some readers! – although I know that many others will be nodding in agreement and completely get it and so this is for you guys!

What else??

Ummm. Even though I am on my arse today and struggling with the separation and young parts are not having a good time at all, it’s not because I think Anita has changed or is about to abandon me (which is what used to happen). Now it’s more about missing her and just wanting to be contained in that safe bubble.

I think for the longest time I have carried everything on my own. It’s been hard and uncomfortable but it’s known. Now, I am starting to trust someone else and let them hold some of the pain with me and it feels really good when I am safe and secure in the room but it’s just really hard being outside that space. Rather than being stuck in perpetual pain and powering through, it’s like swinging on a pendulum. So now when the hard stuff rears up and I am on my own, it feels even more difficult because I know now what it is to feel safe with someone but I can’t access that when I need it.

I know this is all part of the process right now, and it’s just the stage I am at but ugh… help!!

When things feel hard it’s not surprising that I want to retreat into the sanctuary of the therapy room and be with Anita because she feels safe on so many levels. We talk about all kinds of shit. Like, literally, we can swing between serious trauma stuff, to dogs rolling in diarrhoea in the blink of an eye. I love how it feels so easy and connected. I like how we laugh together (or perhaps she’s just laughing at me!) and the serious stuff sits alongside the lighter stuff. It always felt so painful with Em. So sterile and formal. So isolated. With Anita I feel like the experience of just being together in the room is so much of the work regardless of what we’re talking about. All the time I am with her my system is learning what it is to be with someone safe -someone who accepts me in whatever state I am in.

Healing takes place in relationship and Anita is giving me one amazing relational experience.