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.

‘Sibling’ Jealousy In The Therapy Room: Don’t Ask Questions You Don’t Really Want The Answers To.

So, following on from my last post here things got much worse and I found myself deep down the rabbit hole of doom! I felt so terrible by the time Sunday rolled around that I just didn’t know what to do with myself. Anita acknowledged my crying bear message in the afternoon on Sunday with what felt like a really formal ‘un-Anita-y’message. She asked if I was ok (uh no, not really) and then sent quite a long message that talked about discussing working out payment stuff and how she had meant to discuss it on Friday but how ‘obviously that didn’t happen’ (yeah, that’s because my session was cancelled…and I am still having a meltdown about it!).

The message landed badly. It felt really off because there I was feeling really upset and abandoned and disconnected and all the bad feelings over the session cancellation on Friday – wondering whether she had chosen to just cancel me rather than work online and here was a message about ‘boundaries’ and ‘therapy dynamics’ and admin, basically. Because I was so triggered already, the message felt cold and just really missed where I was at. I felt like I was invisible to her.

Even though boundaries are very important it can be such a triggering word to those of us with C-PTSD. I think it’s because so often when therapists start banging on about boundaries it can often seem to be something about distancing themselves from us. Like the boundary talk happens because we’re seen to be pushing boundaries, we’re trying to be too close. So, when there’s talk of boundaries from the therapist it often feels like barriers being put up etc…’here’s the boundary, don’t step over it’. Basically ‘back off’ – ‘I’m just your therapist’.

Looking back, I don’t think that’s what was intended and I really don’t ever feel like Anita is a ‘boundaries for boundaries’ sake’ therapist. I think A was just trying to put my mind at rest that we would find a way forward but phrases like ’I’m not going to just drop you’ still sent panic through my system especially as the messages over the weekend had so clearly missed what was going on after Friday and even the word ‘drop’ made me feel vulnerable because of course she could ‘drop’ me at any time.

I didn’t know what to do so I just sent Anita the link to the blog I’d just posted about all the shit that was swirling and asked her to read it. Thankfully, she read it and it clearly made sense to her because the response she sent afterward felt much more like the Anita I am used to. The problem was by the time she sent it, I was so tangled up in knots and had been putting all the jigsaw pieces from the last few days together and creating some kind of impressionist image – you know where the nose is where the ear should be and the mouth is up on the forehead. All the elements are there, just all in totally the wrong place.

My teen felt so wounded that I sent this:

and said ‘I think I need to stay away for a while’.

Anita was lovely and somehow coaxed me back out of that dark internal dungeon to a place where it felt possible to go to see her because I believed that she actually wanted to see me, too. Before that point I had convinced myself she was fed up and wanted away from me. I told her I needed a hug and she said she would give me one in person, I just had to come to my session. I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time the weekend was over. Man this is hard going!

When I arrived at Anita’s on Monday morning, I hugged her as soon as she opened the door. I felt shaky and sad but also relieved to be there. Anita acknowledged that it must have been hard for me to come to the session and I agreed. It was. There were so many different activated parts that it’s so hard to know what to do for the best sometimes. I guess just keep turning up and giving myself the opportunity to talk?

Anita told me that she had had no idea where I was with everything until she’d read my blog. And this is the problem. I can drift so far away so quickly because on the surface I seem fine when, really, I am not. Things blow up inside and a lot of the time it is masked by my False Adult who glosses over everything ‘Ok’ and smiles to cover what’s underneath. Of course, if I am not even in the room and something happens then it’s even less visible.

I’m my own worst enemy sometimes.

Then the truth came out about Friday.

Anita was honest but…ouch.

She told me that she hadn’t offered me an online session on Friday because she felt like I would find it insulting (given how hard they have been over lockdown) and how far they are from what I really need. She apologised and said that she’d got that wrong and was really sorry not to have given me the option. I felt really sad about it, I’d really missed her on Friday and had really needed some reassurance that things were ok with us because the cancellation had let all sorts rip through my system. I was glad she wasn’t trying to paste over it but it was still painful.

I think she probably now understands that whilst online isn’t ideal, in that situation some kind of contact is much better than a complete severing of contact and whilst I might respond with ‘OK’ when I resort to short replies and don’t reach out, I am anything but ‘Ok’. It’s like the shutters go down and I go into self-protection mode. It was so painful on Friday and I couldn’t stop myself from spiralling down.

She acknowledged that she had been in a bit of panic about her daughter which is what I suspected. It felt ok having this conversation – or rather her telling me her side of things. She’s human, after all and we don’t always get things right but it’s not because we are deliberately trying to hurt the other person. I asked her if I could have a hug and basically just started trembling and crying. The impact the weekend, or last couple of weeks had had on my system was really something else. This feeling of abandonment stuff is really tapping into the deep mother wound and it’s fucking exhausting navigating it.

Again, I don’t remember much of that session. When the young parts are so activated and I am teetering on the edge of dissociation my memory seems to just go blank. I remember Anita saying something about how sometimes separation is good because we can learn that separation doesn’t have to mean abandonment but that what had happened in the last two weeks was too much, too sudden, and like I had been thrown in the deep end. I mean the reality is her dog had to go to the vet and her daughter might have had COVID but everything that got wrapped around those two events was massive.  Anita said I had joined all the dots wrongly in my head (written in the blog) but that’s it’s not surprising because that’s what trauma does.

My system definitely started to settle and calm down throughout the session. I cried a lot and just snuggled into her. That’s really all the young parts need or are capable of when things have been so badly triggered. Calm care and reassurance are everything and settling my nervous system is essential before I can ‘think’ about what’s gone on. I saw something the other day from Margaret Atwood.

It’s true. And I think this is where talk therapy so often falls down. When we hit the deck and start sliding with the pre-verbal young stuff, words just don’t cut it and I am so grateful to Anita that she is ok with physical touch because it has definitely enabled the most wounded parts of me to feel safe to come out.

The time between sessions this week seemed to go by really slowly and whilst I felt like we’d repaired some of the hurt feelings and settled the young parts that had got so worked up over the weekend, in the Monday session, I’d still felt really vulnerable and exposed during the week and not very sure-footed. I went to see K for a cup of tea on Thursday and had broken down crying when speaking to her about what the last few weeks had been like and the stuff about the cancelled session on Friday with Anita. She saw immediately how impacted my inner child had been by the messages and cancellation, and was both validating and understanding and it took some of the shame and embarrassment out of my meltdown. By the time it got to Friday I was so ready to see Anita as things felt really wobbly.

My best friend had a horrific week this week as her work with her long-term therapist came to an abrupt end. I am absolutely devastated for her. It’s set some things jangling internally for me, too. Her therapist was so much like Anita in the early days of their work together -so attuned and holding – and over time things have just got more and more distanced, less and less caring, and I can’t help but panic. What happens if this happens with Anita? I’ve been terminated by Em for being a ‘tick’ (and I never showed her ANYTHING like as much as I do A) and now my friend has lost her therapist…it just seems like people like us end up hurt and abandoned time and again. It’s so painful…and terrifying to those parts that are so scared of being hurt.

What’s happened with my friend is absolutely not her fault, nor was what happened with Em mine, but it’s not the therapist that is left bereft and retraumatised when, yet again, the narrative of being too much and toxic gets replayed. They can just move onto the next poor, unsuspecting client, and here we are left trying to pick up the pieces again.

I spoke to Anita about that situation and said how frequently my friend had been misled and gaslit and how really you can’t bullshit clients like us, it’s better to be honest because we see through lies. Anita agreed. I could feel myself getting upset. I asked for a hug (check me out asking for what I need!). Things settled inside a bit and then Anita told me that she needed to tell me about the holiday she has coming up. Oh god. She said she was waiting for the right time to tell me but realised there’s no good time to let me know but wanted to give me plenty of notice. The reaction to the news wasn’t desperately bad inside but it wasn’t great either. Anita said we can text whilst she’s away and last year that was nice, and I didn’t drop dead during the break (much). I am thinking of asking her whether she’ll take the little blue elephant with her so he can see some of the places too.

Just as I’d got over my mini internal meltdown over the upcoming holiday I opened my eyes and looked up and wondered about a box on the shelf. It’s beautiful and ornate. For some reason I decided to ask what was inside the box – and this, my friends, is a lesson on not asking questions when you haven’t really considered what the answer may be! In the past I had asked about what was in another, bigger, carved, wooden box in the room. Anita had said there were colouring pens for when people do art or drawing/writing in their session. However, this box is high up, safely placed in the middle of the shelf and clearly would not be housing pens.

I don’t know why, but I was not ready for what was coming and yet clearly the answer was going to be something like this. Anita told me that one of her long-term clients (a trauma client like me) had given her the box for Christmas because it was important to her (the client), and inside it is a stone with the word ‘trust’ on it and I could have a look at it if I liked.

I’m guessing for most of you reading this that I needn’t say any more about how this felt.

I realise in this situation Anita really couldn’t win, earlier in the session we’d only just spoken about how you can’t bullshit clients like me/us because we see through it, but at the same time this revelation was just too much information and NO I did not want to look at the box.

I am so sensitive at the moment. After the session on Friday I text Anita and used the analogy that I feel like I am tiptoeing so carefully at the minute, trying to avoid danger, but no matter how I try almost every step I take I seem to set off a landmine beneath me…

…and this wasn’t just a landmine, this was a nuclear bomb going off inside.

Everything fell apart in that moment. I dissociated immediately. I was so far gone. It was awful. I felt like I was tumbling over and over through black space. It was dizzying and made me feel physically sick. The feelings of not being good enough, being insignificant, and unimportant flooded my system. It was the same stuff that was triggered the other week by Anita telling she was ‘mega busy’ when I suggested rescheduling because her dog was going to the vet, and also when my session got cancelled last Friday because her daughter might have had COVID.

The voice says that the relationship isn’t real – is meaningless – and I am deluded for thinking otherwise got really loud really quickly. And to be honest it has a point, because, when it comes down to it, I’m just one of many clients and not only that, I’m someone who can be left and let go because there are always going to be people who are more worthy and have more of a claim to Anita’s care and time than I do. Even when we think things are ‘safe enough’ it can turn sour in a matter of weeks and we’re let go, terminated, and left stranded. My experience with Em showed me that but also what’s happened to my friend this last week.

My body was frozen. I felt like I stopped breathing. I think it must’ve been a freeze response. I felt so sad and had no idea I was crying silent tears until I felt my hand was wet.

I think Anita felt the change in me. I was cuddled into her so she couldn’t see my face but I could hear her talking to me but I just didn’t have any words to respond to her and I think this is because what this episode triggered was down into that really young, preverbal stuff. She tried to check in with me about how I was feeling soon after she’d told me about the box but I couldn’t respond. She told me explicitly that just because she’s been seeing this other client a long time it didn’t make our relationship less than. She said something about her having a big heart. And I get it…or Adult Me does, sort of.

It’s like with my kids. When my son arrived, my daughter didn’t suddenly get half the love she had received before he was born because my finite supply of love now had to be split two ways. It doesn’t work that way. Our capacity to love is not finite at all. It’s something that keeps growing. I don’t love my son more than my daughter. I love them both ‘the same’ for who they are and because they are different. I don’t prefer one over the other or compare one to the other. And I guess this must kind of be how it is in therapy…maybe…but then I’m not her child I’m just a client and I come back to that horrible stuff about everyone else being better than me, less difficult, more lovable etc etc. I’m sure other clients have fewer tantrums, are less demanding, less needy…

A small voice said, ‘I want to go home’. It felt so broken at that point. It’s horrible how fragile everything feels. When it feels like that the only sensible option seems to be to run away and protect myself like I always have done before.

It would be so easy to say that this episode on Friday with the box is just a case of ‘jealousy’ and that client ‘sibling rivalry’ stuff that we feel sometimes – but when you dig beneath it it’s not as crazy as it all sounds… or at least I hope not! We all know we aren’t the only client a therapist sees and as much as we’d like to think we’re their favourite (thinking about LS here! 😉) it’s pretty unlikely. But it’s hard because our therapists are so important to us – I think it’s natural that we would want to feel important to them, too, especially when we have a lifetime of not mattering.

When I think about my own teaching work. I like all my students BUT there are some I look forward to working with more than others…and what if I’m one of those ‘less favoured and sometimes dreaded’ hours in Anita’s week? The thought of that really upsets me. And that’s why I am doomed because even Adult Me can’t convince all those hurting parts that everything is ok and that it’s not ‘pretend’ with Anita, because Adult Me has preferences about who I work with, too… and so I can’t help but feel like I am walking my way blindfolded into getting hurt again. Even if there is SO SO SO much evidence to the contrary (which there really is!).

To be honest, when I am like this, Anita must be banging her head up against a brick wall because she shows me ALL THE TIME in SO MANY WAYS that she cares and that I am important. She doesn’t just demonstrate it through her actions, she tells me she ‘loves me’ and ‘thinks the world of me’…so why can’t these scared young parts let that evidence override the doubting parts? Why do I have to let a fucking gift from another client derail my time with Anita?

Trauma.

Simple.

I think it’s just going to take time and patience on both our parts – I just hope she doesn’t get fed up with me first. This work is like recoiling a spring the other way. It’s a repetitive process and sometimes the spring just pings back to how it was before…and it’s not surprising really. I learnt pretty early on that I wasn’t central and my needs didn’t matter. It continued on and on being left at childminders and never feeling like I was wanted or important enough to be made a priority. I just had to fit in and get on with it. I was seen as easy-going child and no trouble – amenable – but that’s because I had to be. There’s no point in acting up when nothing will change.

And this is really the legacy I’ve been left with. In some ways being adaptable is good, but so often it means I put my own needs at the bottom of the pile and try and make things right for everyone else. When I get hurt, I take that pain inwards and spare the other person the hassle of dealing with me. The other day Anita said she thought there were a lot of tears bottled up inside. And she’s right -there’s a lifetime of them. I never cried as a child…because what was the point? There was never anyone there to wipe them away. I learnt not to express my feelings and that runs both ways. I struggle even to show or feel joy. I have the best poker face.

Ugh.

Anyway, I don’t remember much about that session because I was so far gone and so upset. I felt like I had drifted away. What I do know is that Anita was holding me more tightly than usual and whilst I felt a million miles away there was a part of me that could feel how hard she was trying to help bring me back to her. She didn’t let me go until I was more together and settled – she is amazing like that.

I feel like such a bloody idiot after all this but I am trying to show myself some compassion. It’s been a hard few weeks/months…and I guess what’s happening is the young stuff is far closer to the surface than it’s ever been before and so it gets triggered more easily. In some ways it’s mortifying but I guess in other ways it’s progress. Noone wants to be a mute sobbing wreck in therapy but this is clearly a big indicator that this attachment and relational stuff is where the work is (as if we didn’t already know!) and it’s far better that it comes up with Anita where it can be worked on then pretending it’s all ok when something hurts and then going home and going through all the feelings alone and catastrophising even more.

I’ll end there because this is already long.

God give us strength!

Finding My ‘NO’

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Well. it’s safe to say that I have totally overloaded myself again this academic year and have been, frankly, exhausted and drowning in shit I hate! I don’t think I actually hate my job (do I?!) I just think I have taken on a little bit more than I can chew and so am suffering with an uncomfortable reflux right now…although it’s not just work that’s the problem.

I am both physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to embody Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’. I may be a piscean but I’m so over being an upbeat (and rather confused) fish! My mantra has always been, ‘just keep swimming!’ but the reality is, right now, I just want to get out the water, dry off, and lie on a sun lounger for the next decade or so! (I get that that mightn’t work out so well for Dory!- but luckily I am a human and not a fish!)

It’s been so instilled in me from a young age that I should just keep going ‘no matter what’ that I have felt that the only viable option has been to keep swimming against the tide, at all costs, even if I am not getting anywhere, even if I am near to drowning (because I am overwhelmed and exhausted), even though I know, deep down, that it isn’t good for me and is completely at odds with what I really want and need…

AND, NOW, I AM DONE WITH THAT!

I CAN SEE HOW DANGEROUS AND DAMAGING THAT IS TO ME!

Hoo-bloody-ray!

Finally eh?!

I guess until now I have always worried what would happen if I don’t ‘do what I think I am supposed to?’ What happens if I ‘don’t follow the script?’ And I don’t have an answer for that BUT what I do know is that continuing as I am isn’t an option because whilst it’s ‘known’, my current modus operandi it isn’t working for me AT ALL.

And so a change is gonna come – and it’s coming now.

These last three weeks I have been AWOL here on the blog. I have wanted to write but I simply have not had a minute to do it. Actually, really, for the last six months or so I haven’t had much time to write or reflect here in the way I’d like and that’s sad for me because I do find writing really helpful. I enjoy it. The thing is, I don’t have a clone of myself and there are only so many hours in the day; blogging or anything that isn’t completely essential has been wiped from my weeks.

This neglecting of myself and not ‘finding time’ (because there is none!!) for ‘self care’, of course, has huge consequences in the end but this time the consequence is something entirely unexpected and new. Instead of the negative sinking further and further into a kind of acceptance that this is ‘just how my life is’ and feeling hopeless and helpless to do anything about it, I’ve found my ‘NO’. The ‘no’ is positive and this ‘NO’ is extremely LOUD!

I don’t know how, or why the time is now, but this is what’s happened:

Because I have been back in filo pastry mode (spread so thinly you can almost see through me!) I have edged closer and closer to burnout and that drop off where everything looks really horrible – like potentially having a breakdown terrible. Everything has felt overwhelming and too much. The attachment stuff with Em has been really activated and I have felt really precarious in myself.

I have kept going, because that’s what I do, but knowing that it couldn’t last forever. Something was going to give way, eventually. I was just kind of hoping I’d get to half-term and then be able to regroup again. I am always hanging on for the holidays and that’s really no way to live.

Lately, I have been waking up in the night feeling sick with anxiety – even before I have any conscious thoughts and not because of bad dreams just because my body has been overwrought and tense. I’ve felt as though I’ve had an electric current coursing through my veins all the time. I have been perpetually wound up and because of this I have felt so so tired. I’ve basically been mega stressed out…but sort of ignoring it…because it’s kind of just ‘the norm’, it’s ‘what it’s like at this time of year when work starts up again and the nights draw in’, and because, ‘I’ll get used to it in a few weeks’.

That’s pretty standard for me. I have gone through this in cycles for almost as long as I can remember so I don’t know what’s happened in the last couple of weeks, but basically the biproduct of me overdoing it, having no time for myself, and descending into a pit of misery is that somewhere deep inside the little voice that usually gets ignored, the one that is desperately pleading for things to be different, the one who is desperate for me to listen to her because whilst she is little and vulnerable and carries so much shame (that isn’t hers to carry by the way!) she is the one who knows exactly what I need… well, she has evolved her little voice into an almighty fierce roar that is so powerful that you can hear it miles off! I can’t ignore her anymore.

So what’s she saying now she’s truly found her voice? Well, she’s yelling, ‘FUCK THIS SHIT! I AM DONE!!! NO MORE!! I am not living like this anymore. I AM THIRTY SIX YEARS OLD – IT’S TIME TO LIVE AUTHENTICALLY! I need to be who I truly am, and if people don’t like it then they can fuck right off because I am tired, so fucking sick and tired of draining myself dry living in this cycle and feeling like I’m at odds with myself, hiding myself, making myself smaller than I am because I feel that how it should be. I am important and my needs matter too! I deserve to be loved. I am worthy of care. And I will not put myself at the bottom of the pile any more! I cannot and will not keep abandoning the youngest parts of myself because that’s what I have learnt to do. I believe in myself.’

And wow, there’s a lot of oomph in there!

I have known for a long while now that a lot of the work I need to do to move things on with therapy is body based. I have talked and talked and talked in my sessions and that has certainly helped me get to this place- especially as Em has really got me to notice my body, what’s going on with it, the changes that can happen in session – especially around the dissociation stuff.

I can track my body really well now. I know my patterns. I know what gets triggered emotionally and where it manifests in my body. I am not closed off from my feelings in the way that I used to be. But now I am more in touch with it all I have a problem. It’s that thing, you know once you see something horrendous you can’t unsee it? Well, that’s what it’s like inside. Now I see and feel all that’s ‘wrong’ in my body I can’t unfeel it.  I know my nervous system is wound up like a spring and yet I haven’t been able to discharge that energy.

No amount of visualisation or breathing or whatever has helped. No amount of thinking about the pain that the young parts of me carry, or knowing more about that feeling of abandonment and deep grief really helps. And it is so hard to trust Em when my body is screaming that she’s not safe, and doesn’t really care. Adult me knows she is safe and cares but underneath there is so much fear and they just can’t seem to reach a place of safety when those feelings get activated.

There is a part of me that knows that some of the healing that needs to take place requires physical touch and connection with another person because the ‘injury’ is so early. There are no words to help this. And because that can’t happen with Em, because that’s her boundary, it feels like it just perpetually retraumatises those young, vulnerable parts because they are essentially sitting six feet away from someone who chooses to keep their physical distance and they can’t understand why.

I haven’t, yet, worked out how to hold those parts myself and I often feel like a toddler screaming out for a cuddle and being met with intellectual speak. I know that’s partly my fault. I hide behind my intellect to save myself from being vulnerable or exposed and I really need to work on that but whilst my body keeps freaking out I don’t really feel like I can get the next level of work done.

So, anyway, to the point. The anxiety felt so fucking awful a few weeks ago and the attachment stuff had flared up so badly with Em’s second break of the summer that I got in contact with a craniosacral therapist that I had seen before I got pregnant with my daughter about nine years ago to organise a session. I mean, what was there to lose?

Every interaction I have ever had with this particular therapist has felt so full of warmth and care. She’s the sort of person that just exudes calm and care and love -a typical matriarch if you like. She always makes me feel like I matter and as though she genuinely cares about me and she gives amazing hugs. And I really need that right now. I also need a full body reset!

So, on Thursday I went for my session and I can’t even explain how amazing it was. Soooooo different to before. I definitely benefited from this kind of therapy in my twenties but this time around it was transformational in just one session. I think that, in part, has to be because of all the work I have done with Em.

Last time I saw K I inherently knew something was wrong, and I knew I was grieving the loss of my dad, but I had no real understanding of all the childhood stuff or the impact it had had on me. I don’t think I was ready to do the work I needed. I know that now. I feel all that pain and loss from the most vulnerable parts of me and I am more open to it. We all know I have my defences and who they are (!!) but I really want to work on helping get them lowered or feeling safe enough so I can once and for all truly help what’s underneath. That’s actually really terrifying and it means coming home to my body…but I know it’s possible and I believe that somewhere inside my body has the resources to hold all this for itself it just needs some help to learn how.

The session on Thursday was so good. I could feel myself coming back into my body almost immediately. At times it felt like being in an elevator and steadily descending down through the floors in stages, like waves of coming back into myself until I reached the bottom and grounded. At other times it felt as though there were concentric circles expanding and contracting in my head. It was almost like a pebble had been dropped in the water in my head and the ripples were moving outwards and then back inwards over and over again. I could really feel the baby part of me in that session too but she wasn’t screaming and uncontained – she was held. Once the session had finished I felt immediately calmer and more in my body and as though  I suddenly had a protective space/forcefield around me sort of like a bubble.

Usually, I am affected by every little stressful thing because I have no defence against it but with this protective field around me…well lots of the usual stuff can’t penetrate it. It’s like a huge weight has lifted! I simply don’t care about lots of the things that have always bothered me before. It’s almost like overnight I have found an important part of myself again and see my value (where work is concerned at least. There’s still a VERY VERY long way to go with the attachment stuff, the trauma stuff, and the mother wound!!). Still, at least with work I don’t feel the need to people please anymore. I have stopped saying ‘yes’ and I have already exercised my ‘no’.

It was kind of fortuitous timing today, really. Mentally I have been practising my ‘No’ (I know exactly how I want things to look in the new year with my job) but sometimes when I’m face-to-face and someone asks me to do something my ‘No’ becomes a ‘Yes’ and I can hear that little voice inside crying, ‘Why???’

Today has been a bit of trial, day one of a period from hell (I was certainly in my body!), my mood was not good, and I unexpectedly ran into the guy I do some tutoring for in the supermarket.

I couldn’t even muster my usual ‘upbeat’ smiley face or any deflective humour. He said I looked tired and then asked me how things were with one of the jobs I do for his company because apparently one of the challenging groups I teach had been particularly difficult for the Maths guy yesterday. I said that whilst it had been largely ok on Wednesday and the sessions so far, once my current students and commitment on that course finishes in November that I won’t be running my side of the course again and that he’d need to find someone else to do it.

He looked surprised and said, ‘I don’t think there would be anyone else who could do it’. At one time I might have felt an internal pressure to continue, go against my gut which says, ‘no more’ but instead I said, ‘I just can’t do it anymore. I am so over filling other people’s leaky buckets when they aren’t at least trying to stop the leak themselves. This kind of work takes a huge toll on me and I have more than enough work that I enjoy and that is rewarding, where I don’t have to absorb that level of shit. I’ve reached a point in my career where just because I can do something doesn’t mean I am going to. I am going to be far more selective about what I take on from now on’.

I could see the surprise on his face but he could see I wasn’t going to be moved and told me that he would pass the message on to the organisation that has been running the course and accepted that whilst he knows they intend to run another cohort straight after Christmas that they’ll need to do it without me and find another English teacher.

Do you know what? I thought I might feel a bit guilty or whatever – but I don’t at all. I feel relief. Because I have listened to my inner voice and heeded her calls. I have hated Wednesdays the last few weeks doing that particular session with that particular group. It’s only three hours long, and I already have my course plan because I delivered it earlier in the year to another group so it’s not exactly a huge challenge BUT my heart just hasn’t been in it. Emotionally ‘armouring up’ just to get through has been requiring more and more energy. All the young people (18-25 year olds) have a lot going on – mental health issues, care leavers, drugs etc – and I just can’t absorb them anymore.

I don’t know if it’s that I care too much about people but I am massively affected by their stories and I feel so drained after each session then of course there is always the challenging behaviour that can come from some of these people too. And I just can’t do it anymore. Part of me feels sad because so often these groups get overlooked and with the right support things can change but I can’t do it anymore because everything else in my life suffers when I keep putting work above everything else. I am not as good a parent as usual because I am so worn out. When I am worn out my mental health suffers…and we all know where that leads… wobbly child parts and attachment hell.

My therapy session with Em on Friday was mixed. The first part was fine as I recounted the positive impact I felt from having the craniosacral session, Em said it sounded brilliant and asked what I felt that was left for us in the room in therapy. Suddenly I got hit with a wave of full body sadness as the more vulnerable parts came to the front – something had shifted again and I just really struggled to talk because there is a part of me that doesn’t know what is left for my talk therapy.

I wanted to connect and yet that overwhelming fear of being rejected and abandoned was massive again and I just couldn’t go there. I managed, in the end, to say ‘you feel really far away’ but that was about it. Ugh!

I really want for the craniosacral therapy to sit alongside the talk therapy and want for it to be able to give me the grounding and containment that I need to do more of the work. I feel ready to go down into another deeper layer with my healing journey and that why things are going to change in other areas of my life. I need to make adequate space and time for myself so that I have some resource to actually go do what needs to be done!

I know it’s going to be a slow process but I’m in it for the long haul! I think this may be my life’s work!

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A Mixed (Mental!) Month

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I realised earlier today that it has been almost a month since my last post here where I wrote about the knackered house and renovation project metaphor for me in therapy… and I know that I also never followed up on what happened after I threw all my toys out the pram and terminated therapy via text only to send a desperate message back to Em less than an hour later to undo it!!

I don’t think I have ever gone more than 10 or 11 days without blogging but lately I haven’t had much time or much to say, or perhaps I have had too much to say and don’t know where to begin because I have had so little time? I dunno.

I guess if I am being completely honest, every time I have thought about writing here there is a part of me that has felt huge resistance to doing so. This is a weird feeling for me because usually I find it really cathartic letting stuff out on the page. I think there’s a bit of embarrassment or shame about the mess I have got myself in over the last month and I feel a bit of a moron and don’t want to publish what’s happening?

There’s a lot of internal conflict going on right now. The Inner Critic has been running free lately. It’s been agony. I guess part of my inability to write boils down to a concern that I simply can’t be doing with any additional external criticism at the moment in addition to the shit I am piling on myself – not that that is what happens here, most people are unbelievably supportive,  but I really don’t need to be told right now that perhaps my therapist isn’t right for me when there are enough of my own doubting parts shouting that! I don’t feel particularly resilient and so I think I’ve buried myself in a pit – it’s meant to be protective but actually is bloody miserable down here!

This blog has always been about me tracking/logging what’s going on in my therapy so that maybe one day I can (hopefully) look and go ‘wow look how far I’ve come!’ I don’t write here to entertain people. My hope is, perhaps, by writing about and sharing my experiences that it might help a few people who are feeling similar feelings to feel less alone but essentially this is my space to rant and moan, be bonkers and try and process the tangled mess that is my inner world… and so that’s what I am going to try and do…

So, rewind to the beginning of May and the meltdown. Yep. I went back to therapy. I mean of course I did. I felt embarrassed about my outburst but the world didn’t end. Em is still there (sitting in that chair that feels a million miles away), I am still in one piece (ok, maybe more of a mosaic of fragmented parts, but you know what I mean!) and the therapy is still ongoing…albeit limping along in a rather painful fashion.

I have been really struggling in my sessions lately. Everything has just felt so difficult.  Honestly – I could run a master class in dissociation! The sessions have been largely excruciating as I have been unable to let Em in and I have been feeling utterly distraught both inside and outside of the therapy room. I’ve been doing  a lot of writing and drawing in my therapy notebook. I have religiously been taking the book to the session and LEAVING IT IN MY BAG!!!

FFS!

It’s not even funny.

During the week, outside the sessions, and as I travel to session I am determined that I will mention that I want to share my writing with her and yet the moment I walk in the room something happens, a part steps up and says, ‘no fucking way!’ and instead I sit struggling to talk, feeling sick, and unable to connect with Em feeling the fifty minutes ebb away and feeling increasingly panicked that I am losing vital time.

I can barely look at her most of the time let alone make eye contact and it feels massively awkward and frustrating. I want to connect but am also terrified of letting her see me. It’s like one part of me is desperate to move forward and has a foot hard on the accelerator and another part has its foot to the floor on the brake. It’s not a pleasant sensation I can tell you … and I don’t think it can be doing the car much good either!

Still, because there are so many parts floating about right now it means I am experiencing a really mixed bag of feelings and I can feel like a hologram flitting sometimes. I know that this is the work and I need to ride it out but blooming heck, it’s not easy!

Despite barely looking at Em or talking to her, a few weeks ago I noticed that she wasn’t quite herself, she had a slight cough and looked really tired. She has never been ill/off sick in all the time I have been seeing her so I noticed even this subtle unwellness. I guess we have been programmed as kids to notice everything, subtle changes have, in the past, signalled danger I suppose.

As much as parts of me have been keeping her at arm’s length (giant monkey arms – that are really long) there are other parts that still want to be close and care deeply about this woman that has been sitting in that chair trying to help me get my shit together for the last few years. Ha.

I love her.

That’s no secret right?

So, one day after yet another painful session where I had failed to tell her that I was freaking out about being too much and worrying that I am ‘bombarding’ her I was in town after teaching my tutees and went into a crystal shop. I am a big fan of gem stones. I like the fact that they are beautiful in their own right but I also like that some people believe that certain gems perform particular roles or have certain healing properties. So far as I can work out it can’t do any harm to carry a few beautiful things around with you and perhaps them do a bit of good too even if it is all just in all in the mind? – lord knows I can do with some assistance with anxiety and communication!

I had gone to the shop with the idea of buying Em something. Gifts in therapy can be a complete minefield can’t they? Actually in all the years I have been seeing Em I have only given her one thing (aside from cards at Christmas and the therapy anniversary). Last year I gave her a small marble with a heart on which cost next to nothing. Similarly, the gem stones are not high value but rather meant to be symbolic, kind of, ‘I know it’s been complete dog shit lately but I care about you and hope these make you feel a bit better’.

Whenever I buy crystals for myself or for other people I choose them based on the colours I associate with them rather than reading all the information about what they are ‘meant to do’. Because Em lives by the sea and generally wears blues and pastel colours I tend to associate her with pale blues and turquoises. I saw these two stones, blue lace agate and amazonite and was instantly drawn to them:

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When I got home I looked up the meanings and they are meant to be helpful for communication (which has been a fucking great problem in our relationship lately!) and soothing physical ailments and emotional issues as well as stresses in the workplace.

Bingo!

So, the next session I went with them in my bag….where they stayed!

The session after that I wore dungarees and put them in the chest pocket…where they stayed! I did make a bit of a move towards giving her them, ‘can I give you something’ with ten minutes to go and then completely dissociated and sat in silence for ten minutes completely gone and didn’t hand them over. I got completely overcome with fear. I was terrified that giving her the stones would let her know that I care about her (which duh was the point, right?!)…which feels scary because it could end up in her rejecting me in some way and quite frankly everything has been so fragile I just couldn’t risk it…even though clearly part of me wanted to.

By the third session Em was completely better and in no need of the crystals at all- ha! I sat pondering what to do. She obviously knew I had wanted to give her something in the last session but didn’t push me to talk about it. This session hadn’t been a complete disaster and with about 5 minutes to go we seemed to finally connect. Man that’d been a long time coming! I felt brave enough to ask her if I could give her the gift with two minutes remaining. She asked me what it was. I was like, ‘I’m not going to tell you what it is before I give it to you, that’s not really how it works!’

She took the gift, unwrapped it, and said she liked them very much. I explained the meaning behind them and she seemed genuinely surprised that I had noticed that she hadn’t been well. Then she did the therapisty bit about saying she thought it would be useful it we could have a conversation about them next time because she thought it would be helpful. I agreed…but before I left she just had enough time to put her foot in it:

‘When people give me gifts it can be really useful to talk about the meaning behind them. Then when the therapy is finishing I get the gift out again (because I don’t throw things away) and we discuss it again. Then people might take it back away with them as a symbol of the work we have done.’

Now. Perhaps it’s me…BUT… this made me bristle hugely for lots of reasons. To start, we had just gone through a month of hell in the therapy and this was, in part, me trying to get reconnected and show that whilst I might be resistant and difficult at times she does really matter to me and that I care about her and think about her when I am not with her. To be reminded at this point of ‘other people who give her gifts’ felt shit.

I mean I know I am ‘one of many’ but at the moment I didn’t need to be reminded of the clinical nature of the relationship. I’m under no illusions that this is a therapeutic alliance but it is our relationship – I don’t particularly want to hear about what she does with other people!

Then for her to say she doesn’t throw things away…I mean it hadn’t occurred to me that something I might give her would end up in the bin and whilst she was saying she doesn’t do that it seemed an odd thing to say.

Then finally, and this is the big one…I cannot imagine when my therapy comes to an end Em getting the things I have given her out, talking them through again and then saying I can take them all away with me would feel therapeutic AT ALL. In fact, right now, I think it would send me back into therapy!!

The idea that the things I would give her that have meaning could be given back so easily feels really rejecting. I can’t really explain what I mean but it’s something about me wanting her to have something that symbolises our relationship when I am gone and it feels like what she is saying is at the end she can wipe the slate clean ready for the next person to take the Monday 10:30 slot and the Friday 9:30 slot. Maybe I am just being oversensitive but it felt crap.

I went home and wrote in my book how I was feeling about what she had said and my feelings about it…and the words are still sitting on the page and she hasn’t seen them! By the time it was the next session and she brought up the gift again I had shut down and didn’t want to talk about it at all. She said something about them being about care or something but I can’t even remember now. I just felt angry and hurt. I dunno, something I wanted to be connecting just felt totally crap.

(Remember, I did say it’s been a really bad time lately!)

Then there were a few more hard sessions and then I had a holiday! Hurrah.

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Tbh I was glad to get away. I really needed a break. It was glorious and I wish I was still there! I have been working really hard lately. Teaching loads of sessions (the joy of exam season and teaching both English Literature and English Language GCSE and A Level) which has meant six days a week and lots of late nights. No wonder I have been strung out and useless in therapy!

I have realised that therapy cannot be done effectively when running on empty. It just becomes an exercise in firefighting crisis feelings because my piddly letterbox of tolerance is wedged shut. I am sure that things have felt as bad as they have because my day-to-day life has left me exhausted and overwrought. I just haven’t had capacity to hold all my pieces together properly and so when I have got to my sessions the wheels have fallen off because it’s been the only safe place in the week for that to happen. Pushing Em away has felt like the only thing I can do because if I really say how things are I might actually completely disintegrate.

Anyway, a week in the sun was just what the doctor ordered….actually this is true. At my last cancer follow up it was discovered I am deficient in vitamin D so a bit of sun was perfect (alongside my supplements!).

But of course the holiday also meant THERAPY BREAK – boo hiss – and do you know what made it even worse? She was not on holiday at the same time this year. So parts of me felt really sad that I was missing out on my sessions.

Honestly, this attachment stuff is kicking me in the ass right now!

Whilst the holiday was absolutely fantastic the return to therapy didn’t go brilliantly. What a surprise. The first session back, as I have said a million times before, is rarely easy and this last week was no different. Knowing I had a lot to say but also knowing that I have sat on stuff for six weeks I made the fatal error of sending a text on Sunday night asking Em to go through my writing in the notebooks with me and explaining that she has suggested that maybe I need to take a leap of faith in therapy and that this felt really risky but I was willing to try. I was so desperate to move things forward.

When I arrived Em immediately said that she’d seen I had sent her a text but that she hadn’t read it. FFS. I hate this. Straight away it set the protector parts on guard and I felt instantly like she simply doesn’t give a fuck about me so why on earth would I make a leap towards her when she simply isn’t in the least bit interested in me? Em tried to help me back into the room but I was upset and shut down. I asked her to read the text. She acknowledged how breaks stir things up but that also things had been really hard even before the break blah blah blah.

Then, whoop whoop, another great moment.

A lecture about communications outside the room and how she doesn’t want me to text or email her but wants to get to understand what makes me want to communicate with her when she is not available to me because I can’t seem to let her in when she is there. She used a feeding analogy. She’s done this before. She likens me to a hungry baby that for whatever reason cannot feed when mother is there and available to me and yet when she’s gone I realise just how starving I am and start desperately trying to feed and get increasingly upset. I know why this happens but trying to explain this feels too hard when my adult is unavailable because when the youngest parts are active the words aren’t.

I had been sitting swimming in the room, struggling to stay present, unable to really talk…I could see Em was frustrated and I said, ‘I feel like you are really frustrated with me’. She owned her frustration and said that she’s aware that it’s been awful for me lately and that she wonders if I think what we are doing is ‘good enough’ for me and if ‘she can help me’.

FUCK.

We all know what I heard at that point: she’s given up; my silences and dissociation have finally pushed her away; she doesn’t want to work with me.

She said that she wasn’t saying that the work was over or that she didn’t want to work with me but that she sees how painful it’s been for me. Try telling my brain that! It can’t hear you!!

Ugh.

I did manage to talk a bit and let some stuff out at this point. I think it was a panicked response to feeling like I might get terminated if I didn’t get my start talking soon. I can’t remember what I said now, though! But whatever it was it was vulnerable and open enough that Em said something about how the frustration had gone and that we can work through this together. She said that she thinks we need to work very explicitly with the parts, especially the ones that are resistant and gagging all the others.

This is good.

I think this is what I think needs to happen too.

She suggested maybe when things feel really blocked in session that perhaps I could write or draw…I like this idea but often when I am in a really bad spot there simply aren’t any words or pictures I’m just in a black pit of hell. However, there are times when I am not away in dissociative hell but struggling to speak that I think it might work really well.

Despite all the positives once we connected, I left Monday’s session feeling rock bottom. Everything felt wrong inside. I know I have a tendency to latch onto the one ‘bad thing’ I hear and then fixate on it rather than notice all the evidence of what is good in a session. I felt so far away from Em that my default coping mechanisms kicked in this week…or rather the Inner Critic stepped up to try and get some kind of control over the shit that was consuming me. Step one – incessant self-attacking voice:

‘You’re fucking pathetic. Look at you. Even your therapist can’t fucking stand you. She’s been so patient but you’ve managed to wear her out too. I don’t know why you would think she cares about you – she doesn’t…you’re wasting your time.’

It never takes very long for that incessant nagging to turn its attention to my body and eating. This week saw a rapid descent into being super critical of my figure. I felt like wanted to cut fat off my body. I started restricting what I was eating and got my trainers out after a year and went on a six mile run and then started on the outdoor gym across the road three days on the bounce…and between Tuesday and Saturday lost 3lb.

It’s not brilliant.

I can feel how things have switched in my head.

I knew, on Friday, that I had to tell Em what’s happening.

This, in itself, is a sign of progress, I think. The thing with my eating disorder is that I have always kept it secret when it is active. I have never talked about it in therapy (and it’s been there for twenty years soooo!) until last year when things got really bad and I was barely functioning. It started off ok, talking, and then it turned into nightmare and resulted in Em giving me an ultimatum after a few sessions. One session I came in and she was stony faced and serious. She told me that she wanted me to see my GP or we’d have to work towards an ending. In fairness to her I can see she was acting out of care and worry about my physical health, I had lost heaps of weight really radpidly and it was having an impact on my ability to function but it felt like I had been run over by a bus hearing her tell me that we would be done if things continued as they are.

That session was painful and we did manage to have a really productive conversation in the end and things got much better with me and I got a handle on my ED….however, that threat of an ending has stayed with me and fills me with fear when I think about what might happen in the future if things get bad.

On Friday, therefore I took a bravery pill and towards the end of the session told her things were sliding and that as a result I was worried about ‘losing her’. She responded really well. There was no time left but we have put this discussion on the table for today and I hope that it’ll go ok. I hope she will see that I have brought it into the room (even though it feels dangerous to do so) because that’s what I promised last year. I said to her that if things started to slip I would let her know before it had chance to become a big problem.

I can’t say I am not nervous. I am. But actually, at this point, there is so much work that I have been avoiding since Easter that I just need to dive in and see what happens….like my out of control octopus in my notebook!

bb111138-b4c9-49ae-be62-b2ba317459a1Throughout all this, Em has tried to reach me. Parts of me can hear it….it’s just there’s a couple of really noisy parts that are screaming right now about not trusting her and undermining the therapy. Basically, the house renovation has encountered a few snags lately! But I’m in this for the long haul so I will get things sorted…eventually!

So…that’s about it…up to speed in a very very long post! There’s obviously been a lot more said than all of that but after nearly 4000 words I think I’ll stop.

 

 

 

Blogs Don’t Write Themselves!

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Oh the irony! I’ve just been sitting here for a couple of minutes, with an empty screen, not knowing what to write, with no title in mind, and then just near the publish button a red note flashed up ‘you haven’t written anything yet’…like seriously give me a bloody break already! I know this!! I’m here and trying – and even the platform is giving me hell for being wordless! haha.

Seriously, though, I am yet again very aware that time is motoring on and I have written nothing here again. There’s been a lot of really good (but hard) stuff going on in my therapy and yet I just haven’t made it here to log it/blog it. Look, I know the earth isn’t going to fall off its axis if this blog suddenly dies but as I frequently keep saying, I actually enjoying writing it and want to keep this going if I can.

Next week is actually the start of the school Easter break here in the UK so I think I might actually get some time to sit and drink coffee and type (kids permitting!)…and lord knows once Em goes on her holiday I’ll have plenty of content won’t I? #therapybreak #abandonment #arghhhh! So hopefully I can get myself back up to speed.

It’s not helped that this last week I have been struck down with a monster lurgy and have basically been surviving on a cocktail of painkillers and sleep (my teaching hasn’t been up to much!…present in body and that’s about it!). It’s not even funny. I honestly thought I had dodged the bullet this winter having avoided getting anything that involved snot and/or too much coughing but no – it all went to shit on Saturday night at rapid pace when I was out with a friend for a belated birthday celebration.

It’s typical. I NEVER go out in the evening for social things because 1) I am usually working or 2) I am too tired…but my friend and I booked ourselves a date two months in advance (as you have to when you have kids! – spontaneity died in 2012 with the birth of my first child!) and we had a lovely evening planned. The evening was still nice but I felt like I had a neck full of razor blades and so swallowing and talking was a bit of a challenge.

Sunday was Mother’s Day in the UK….and what did that entail? Family time? A nice meal out? Memory making? Ah nope. I basically stayed in bed all day sleeping and my wife kept bringing me hot drinks and pain relief at intervals. Fortunately, I had been out with my mum earlier in the week so hadn’t had to cancel any plans or go to something feeling rotten.

I felt quite a bit more human on Monday morning (compared with how it had been on Sunday – I felt more or less ok I just sounded funny) and went to my therapy session and then to work. However, I think in fairness, I should really have cancelled my day because by the time I got home from my kids’ swimming lessons in the evening I was dying – it all caught up with me and my symptoms had got worse – cough, sore throat, running nose, weepy eyes, burning ears…and now I am panicking that I might have passed it on to Em. I really hope I haven’t – I wasn’t coughing or sneezing or anything in session – I wouldn’t have gone if I was like that but …. argh. I hope she is ok.

Tbh she seems to be made of tough stuff. She has never cancelled a session because she’s been ill and there’s been maybe once or twice in the whole time I have worked with her that she’s looked a bit coldy but otherwise she seems hardy! haha. I guess maybe working with so many people all the time you get a super immune system. When I worked in schools I was wiped out in the first year but after that was like some kind of mutant super-hero so far as bugs were concerned.

Anyway, I am completely rabbiting on here. Note to self- no fucker cares about your physical ailments they want to know about your crazy! 😉

So, like I said, recently therapy has been really good but really hard. Some stuff I had not had in my conscious mind has reared it’s head over the last few weeks. I’ve been having some horrid flashbacks and memories and wondering, now that I have remembered (and in technicolour) how I could ever have had this stuff out of mind. Anyway, the focus has been largely the time between me being 6-11 years old with some toe dipping in the early anorexic years around 14-17…

Interestingly the stuff I have been talking about I’ve just been recounting as though they are normal day-to-day events no emotion behind it imagine ‘I went to the shop to buy a loaf of bread’ (matter of fact, unaffected) but replace with, ‘I remember being taken see my aunt in ITU when I was six after she’d been involved in a massive RTA that nearly killed her and seeing her in traction from her broken pelvis and all the wounds and scars from all the surgery she’d had to have and how swollen and bruised she was and having to sit quietly on a chair and wait for it to be over and being frightened to look at her and no one ever telling me what was going on or if she’d be ok….and now I have a hospital phobia which really isn’t helpful when I so regularly have to attend hospital for my cancer follow ups….’. Or ‘My mum got physically attacked by the next door neighbour when I was ten and there was so much blood pouring from her head that it drenched her top and was all over the floor and the police came…’ You know, just by the by!

It was only after my session last Friday that I realised it’s all completely insane and ABNORMAL….because this sort of thing was all so very ‘run of the mill’ to me at the time – going to hospital to stitch my dad’s face up because mum had thrown a coffee cup at his  head and it had smashed and cut him…doesn’t every one do that?! My aunt was regularly sectioned and did some pretty extreme stuff when she was unwell and had a lifetime of pain from the fallout of the car accident and so I spent a lot of time sitting in my gran’s car in the psychiatric hospital carpark during holidays. I would be sent to my grandparents as my parents worked and my grandma visited my aunt. So.… yeah…. I dunno gotta love sitting in a hot car with a dog for hours on end!

I’m only really now twigging that how my family has historically dealt with traumatic experiences isn’t normal or should I say ‘not dealt’ with them! (which is probably why my aunt was so unstable too- intergenerational trauma anyone!)….

I was talking about the incident with my mum’s assault by the neighbour on Monday and after I had talked about it about and how I had felt at the time Em asked me how my parents had responded to it, i.e what they’d said to me.

‘Was it ever talked about?’

‘Nope’

Her face looked genuinely shocked and her tone changed and she leaned forward in her chair, ‘What? Never ever?

‘Nope’

‘Honestly? They never made any comments about it?

‘No’

‘So that’s how it was. They didn’t acknowledge what had happened?’

‘No’

‘They didn’t say something like “That was really horrible and shouldn’t have happened and I feel really angry about it and how do you feel?”‘

‘Nope. Why are you so surprised by this? It follows the pattern. No one ever said anything when bad things happened’.

‘I don’t disbelieve you. I just… I don’t know how to put it…’

Basically we talked about the insanity of the situation and how scary it must have been for me at the time and more about it and how if it were me now with my children what I would have done differently and basically Em said, ‘it’s horrendous – what happened’.

That’s a really short hand snapshot of a conversation that took about 35 minutes. I can’t explain how it felt to have someone listen to stuff like that. Stuff that just ‘happened’ when I was a kid and was never mentioned again and to get a completely different response – in fact a response and acknowledgement of how horrible it must have been. Em is not big on letting me know explicitly what she’s feeling in the moment – she’s not blank screen but she’s very measured – usually. But this really got to her. I think I have said a lot these last couple of weeks that has given her another window into what was going on in another aspect of my childhood and it affected her.

It affected me too.

Unfortuantely, feeling connected to and being seen by Em does that bloody horrible thing where suddenly all the need rushes to the surface. In those moments I just want to tell her I love her and how much she means to me – I just want to be with her in the safety of that space. She makes those memories of being unsafe feel ok…and that is intoxicating to someone who has been starved of that kind of interaction and care. But of course hot on the heels of those warm connected feelings comes SHAME and I shut down. I can’t let her really know how much need there is so I go quiet.

Em, tried really hard to figure out what was happening for me and wondered whether her reaction to what I had said was overwhelming, or too much, or felt intrusive and maybe compared with what I have been used to historically (no reaction from caregivers) it might have felt overpowering. She said that what she was feeling was complete disbelief – not that I wasn’t telling the truth, but that a parent could not have their child in mind. She said she felt angry at my parents on my behalf.

This, for me felt so connecting. So validating. And yet she thinks she’s overstepped the mark. I couldn’t tell her that actually the reason I am shut down is because I want to feel this level of connection and more but am terrified of her rejecting me or seeing me as too needy and so am protecting her from me.

I did manage to tell her I felt really sad, though.

Then time was nearly up – isn’t it always just as you hit your stride?!

And with about sixty seconds to go she told me that she felt really sad for the little girl who had to witness such horrible things. She said I didn’t get anywhere near like enough physical holding when I was small. That she felt I needed to have been picked up and put on someone’s lap and cuddled and held, or to have an arm wrapped around me and been given the chance to talk.

Yep.

But ouch.

Because whilst that is most certainly the truth. When I am there in session like that, that little girl is sitting in the room too. She’s not back in 1993. I know what I didn’t have when I was a kid. I know that my therapist knows it too. But god – when she is less than two metres from me it feels impossibly painful to not be able to reach out to her in a physical way. The words help….but they don’t quite do it. And whilst they are meant to feel in some way holding (and they do a bit) – actually what often happens is that I feel like I am untouchable…TOXIC even because she won’t hug me.

I’ve drawn another (dreadful picture) that sort of describes the process….and I’ll leave that here until next time because I must sleep! x

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To Anyone That Is Struggling.

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It probably won’t come as a big surprise to anyone that my social media basically is one big Mental Health zone. My WordPress, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest follows are basically all related to mental health – and I post and save a lot on my Facebook (which is personal and not related to ‘Rubber Bands And Chewing Gum’ too. Because of this, I have a steady stream of Mental Health content: new research in the world of psychology; book recommendations; new blog posts; affirming messages/memes; invitations to do a bit better with my self care whether it be diet/exercise/meditation; organisations posting strategies to feel a little bit less alone in the world- and it’s great…most of the time…

Sometimes, though, the picture I have just posted will feel a bit, I dunno, saccharine?? Of course, those times tend to be the times when I am armoured up and impenetrable or when I am doing fine (Tbh there aren’t all that many times like that in the month!) or when the Inner Critic is in situ and making me feel unworthy of care. Most of the time, these kind of messages are EXACTLY what I need to be seeing when I am indulging in some screen time. They make me feel connected and less – – fucking useless and failing at life!

It’s so refreshing to have something uplifting, motivational or meaningful on my feeds when frankly, so much of my screen seems to be filled with either what a knobhead Trump is or what a complete balls-up Brexit is! Twitter is particularly bad for this right?! I mean you can’t ignore what a shambles everything is but when you spend as much time scrolling as I do (my phone told me I was down by 21% on my screen time last week…but still averaging 3h 19 mins a day!!!!!)  it’s hard not to become overwhelmed by the state of things.

Anyway, this last week or so I have massively needed these little ‘you’re not a completely useless sack of shite’ pick me ups. I am so glad that I have structured my social media in such a way that it is constantly giving me both helpful reminders that things are going to be ok and also, importantly, that I am not alone in feeling wobbly some (a lot) of the time.

I got sucked into the sink hole of attachment misery this last week. I’ve been ill but not so ill that I should’ve fallen so spectacularly headfirst into the ‘My Mummy Doesn’t Love Me AND I Want My Therapist (Who Also Doesn’t Love Me)’ pit. I mean, it was an epic week so far as my starting point and end point went: polar opposites.

As you may have noticed, I’ve had a pretty amazing month so far as being adult and coping and being fine goes. Christmas break was — nothing —- just completely ok – enjoyable even – last week things still felt manageable. The BANG, the hint of a sniffle and a temperature and off I went careering into the abyss. The ground opened up beneath me and I was nose deep in trauma and attachment shit. I had to close my mouth because the shit line was so high.

Nightmare.

I basically went from: my life is busy but I am coping and I feel safely attached and contained in therapy TO Waaaaahhhhh my life is falling apart! Em has left me! I hate myself! I can’t do this! I need to hide…. My session on Friday was hard work we faced down that motherwound again and crikey is bloody painful.

Once I was drowning in my own special pit of emotional shit I found that I was plagued with really vivid dreams…most of which involve Em (what a shocker!) Oh how I love a #therapydream! 

Unfortunately, by Sunday (yesterday), I felt so utterly depleted and exhausted that I didn’t even have the energy to write about how shit it was feeling and ended up re-blogging a post from 2017. That was crap! But what was also crap was rereading it and seeing that despite being aware that I am a useless, needy baby when I get ill, there doesn’t seem much I can do about it even 15 months down the line.

Ah well. I guess it’s lucky I haven’t been ill for a while. I spent most of Autumn/Winter 2017 sick and so, looking back it’s little wonder I was such a mess with the attachment stuff.

So where does that leave things now? Well, it’s Monday morning now. I still feel yucky and attachmenty and frankly piss poor but I have written down my horrible dreams and alongside them the feelings I felt when I woke up. I am taking that all in with me to session as well as my blanket and hopefully I can just be how it is, explain how badly the wheels have fallen off, and try and get myself back on track.

I have way too much on this week to be stuck in with the upset primary school inside….this is also very true because if things follow the usual trend then it’s not going to be long until the secondary school bunch drop in….and I don’t want their self-loathing and anger to take root.

So, to anyone that is struggling….just to say – you are not alone…AT ALL.

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And for anyone that wants a laugh, my best friend sent me this last time I was having a similar meltdown….which actually I find equally as uplifting as the motivational things on my social media. Humour and sarcasm are my favourites!! ha x

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New Year…Same Old Me

So, somehow, it’s 2019 and this year I will turn thirty six years old…thirty six years old???…that can never be right! I am actually fairly certain it is only 2004, I am twenty one, still at university, and someone has been fucking about with the time/space continuum for laughs. Perhaps I will wake up in a minute and discover I still have the bulk of my twenties ahead of me only this time will enjoy them and see how bloody amazing it is to be young and free rather than stressing out and never living in the moment! Ha. Hindsight is such a wonderful kick in the teeth!

I sometimes listen to the radio as I drive to therapy; there’s a morning slot on Heart Breakfast called the Time Tunnel where they play a bunch of songs from a particular year and then listeners are encouraged to text or tweet what they think the year is. Sometimes they go ‘old skool’ (basically late nineties stuff) and I am transported back to being a teen, can pinpoint the year immediately, and then can hardly believe twenty years, or more, has passed since I was singing along. Wtf?!

I’m a bit late to the ‘New Year’s Blog Post Party’ so given it’s already the 5th of January am not going to ramble on at length here about what I have learnt in the last year or summarise how things have been. I mean essentially 2018 was pretty good.  I’m still here – in remission from my cancer. I am able to work – too much probably. My kids are thriving. I am secure in my marriage. I have some amazing friends. I am reasonably content in my day-to-day life. I’m currently pretty stable (for me) in that I am neither self-harming nor stuck in an anorexic mindset. Therapy is… what it is!…but given I am not doing anything horrible to myself I think is an indicator that something is working! There’s a lot to be grateful for.

If there is a lesson that I will take forward and keep in mind as I navigate my way through this year it’s this:

Being an adult is really a very strange concept indeed. Somehow or other I find myself in an adult body going about an adult life and yet I am still waiting for the day where I feel like a proper grown up and feel as though I have everything together. I kind of thought that when I turned thirty and had left my twenties behind, I might feel like a genuine bona fide adult. I already owned a house, had a career, was married and had started a family but none of those things seemed to make me feel like I was anything but a kid, winging it, and essentially bullshitting my way through life. I don’t think that has anything much to do with the fragmented parts of myself/the structural dissociation, either.

Whenever I speak with my friends we are all pretty much in agreement (and we are fast approaching forty) that being a grown up is just a weird construct designed to make us behave in a certain way. No matter how much we age we are no closer to reaching that holy grail of what we imagined adulthood to be. So, my guess is- it’s a mirage. Everyone is pretending at being an adult! And if that is the case, that the majority of us are just trying our best then frankly that’s more than good enough. I’m going to try and stop feeling like a failure because I don’t have all my ducks lined up. To be honest I am pretty impressed that I have any ducks at all and so what if they are free-styling round the lake?! I’m sure that’s way more fun for them.

Ummm

Soooooo

I have no idea what I am trying to say here today so I apologise for jumping about and not settling on any particular topic. It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted. In that time I have had a wonderful, relaxing Christmas (please don’t hate me!) and have sailed through my therapy break.

I honestly don’t know what the fuck happened but somehow or other I got through it with little more than a fleeting thought of my therapist. There were a few bad dreams in the first couple of days but other than that I was miraculously able to hold my therapist in mind. I knew she was out there and that I was safe in the relationship and that we would be seeing each other on the 4th. This is really unheard of for me. As we all know, I am the client that freaks out between sessions and feels disconnected and abandoned all the time so your guess is as good as mine as to what shifted to allow me to not just ‘survive’ the break but actually ‘enjoy’ it.

Perhaps it’s something to do with being tired?

Em noticed a difference in me yesterday. Within five minutes she commented that she could tell I had had a break and didn’t seem exhausted or stressed out and she was right. I am neither exhausted or stressed out (although the idea of work starting on Monday again is beginning to make feel shitty).

The moment I finished work on Friday a couple of weeks ago I felt my whole system relax. The nervous energy and adrenaline went and instead was replaced with a sense of peace. I could finally relax after eight long weeks of rushing about and teaching. I needed it. As I replenished my reserves and slept, I felt much more solid in myself (and less like the out of control Octopus!). I was aware of the younger parts inside but they were all ok. I took my kids to the cinema on Christmas Eve and the various young parts of me really liked it. We played games on Christmas Day and again, the child parts of me loved falling on my arse after getting tangled in Twister.

Christmas was about attending to all the various parts of me and just basically allowing myself time to chill out. I did what I wanted to do. Saw who I wanted to see. It was so refreshing. By no means was everything perfect! My daughter was violently sick between Christmas and New Year which has resulted in a new bedroom carpet for her, my wife’s grandmother died, and there have been a few other things that have happened but on balance it’s been really fine because when my inner landscape is not suffering an earthquake I can generally handle what life throws at me.

Yesterday’s return to therapy was both welcome and not. I have been so ok that I was almost reluctant to go back. I don’t want to be a basketcase that melts down over my therapist refusing to send me a text message of three dots during the week. Going back yesterday I could hardly believe I had got so worked up over that. But I did. And this is why I think there is a link with me being tired and things seemingly falling apart and my sense of attachment to my therapist going awry at these times.

It’s almost like when I am exhausted my youngest parts are most activated. When I am tired, they and I get cranky. You can’t please them. They don’t really know what they want. Any attempt at settling them that isn’t part of their plan sends them into a tailspin. Em might suggest trying something but frankly if it isn’t a hug or agreeing to something else I want then she might as well be talking in a vacuum! I have some really very resistant parts you know!

I am trying to remember what it was like when my kids were toddlers and screaming at me for sweets when they actually needed to eat a proper meal. I think Em knows what she is doing….well adult me does! So whilst I might be tantruming over three dots I have to believe that her consistent and steady approach to my therapy is what is best for me. I trust her. I don’t believe she is trying to hurt me. I do think she is trying to help me heal. I know that when things have been really bad she has been there, consistently. She doesn’t mess me around. She doesn’t get angry with me. She listens. And she cares.

I am so grateful that in all the times I have felt lost in the dark that she has been there holding a candle for me offering to help light the way until I can rekindle my own flame. And I can tell you, that bloody inner-light has a nasty habit of going out so I am very glad I have her.

I am very aware that even though yesterday’s session was fine and we reconnected that by the end the familiar feelings came up in my body. I felt physical pain. It was that thing again where I was back in the room and suddenly all that young need came rushing forward and with it the shame of knowing those needs can’t be fully met. Ugh. The one thing I will say, though, is that I feel able to talk about it with her. I don’t feel like I need to go into hiding or shut down. So… I guess we’ll just see how this new year of therapy goes.

New Year…Same Old Me!

*I am so very sorry for that saccharine gush! I am just fully feeling the love right now!

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Impasse

I’m not sure starting a blog post with ‘FFS’ is necessarily appropriate, but it totally encapsulates where I am at right now with therapy, or rather the therapeutic relationship. I’m angry, frustrated, upset, exasperated, annoyed, sad, hurt, anxious, scared, lonely, not bothered (no fucks given), shutdown, agitated, full of love! I know that is a list of  complete contradictions but this is what is so difficult about fragmented parts – every part feels different things and reacts independently so in the end it just becomes an exhausting noisy mess inside.

Part of me is just doing a massive face palm and sighing a huge ‘for fuck’s sake!’ I haven’t had much free time to post anything here for a bit but actually this weekend when I have had time to think about what’s going on, or what I might post, I really haven’t got a clue what to say. I literally do not know what to write. I don’t know how to explain what is going on right now. There is a part of me, too, that feels like what’s happening in therapy right now is so huge that whilst I’m in the thick of it I can’t really write about it in any detail.

I am all over the shop: one minute I am absolutely raging and wanting to run away from the therapy and the next I want to roll up my sleeves, get my adult front and centre and do some serious advocating for myself and do the work. Em and I have hit a bit of an impasse. We’ve been stuck for a while now but this last couple of sessions has been incredibly hard. I can’t remember if I said this recently but I told her in session the other week that I felt like she didn’t care about me. It’s not just one part that is feeling like this, it’s several. I’ve been struggling to shake the feeling and so it’s been impossible connect. I can’t even look at her at the moment. The trust, that is so fragile anyway, has been steadily eroding since the half-term holiday in October and the empty chair text (which she never brought up).

I know I should bring this stuff up more but as I said recently, often I have ideas of what I want to say and then I get in the room and suddenly I am overcome by shame and switch into a part that is either really fucking annoying (the one who talks confidently about my here and now life so that the ‘real’ feelings don’t come out) or one of the parts that either has no words (v.young child part) or a withholding and silent part (angry teen). I mean it’s more complicated than that and I definitely shift about between different parts A LOT or feel like there are several competing for attention all at once but generally the part I need to go and talk isn’t bloody available. I don’t know where she’s fucked off to, but I suspect she’s sitting drinking a latte peacefully somewhere … but she certainly isn’t in the room! She’s a fucking moron though because it is her that is paying for this circus.

Knowing that this is what’s been happening I sent my last post to Em just before I left the house on Monday morning. I knew I would sit silently and not mention anything if I went to session without it. I’ve still got stuff I wrote weeks ago sitting in my bag and I just can’t get myself to bring it out. SO ANNOYING. I brought it up and asked her to read it. We had a conversation about my sending stuff to her when I know she won’t read it and all that. Ugh. I tried to explain that when I send something an hour before the session, despite writing it days before, it’s about making sure I can’t back out of talking about something that is important – which is what’s been happening a lot.

She read the post. I felt sick. I can’t really remember everything that we talked about in relation to it but she said something about how she had to admit that she had lost sight of the vulnerable young parts lately because what she sees as the ‘high functioning adult part’ (Little Miss ‘I’ve Got My Shit Together’) does such a fantastic job of distracting and hiding what’s really going on. That pissed me off. I know that’s what I do. What I have been doing. BUT I pay Em to see through this crap. I have told her enough what I do and why I do it. When I feel really vulnerable and unsettled I get out the smoke screen.  To hear her say she’d lost sight of those who need her most was really painful. Yet again, those parts are not being kept in mind…which is what they are terrified of and why they went into hiding when I was a kid.

I know I did try and talk about how futile it feels when I have things I would like to try and work on/ask for and yet ultimately I know that I can’t have what I want so it just feels really painful. She asked what I meant. I said how I read something recently by another therapist about coping with breaks and how they had mentioned a way to maintain connection that really resonated with me. The idea was for the client to send three dots in a text message and that at some point the therapist would respond in the same way. I liked this idea because there are no words to get hung up on, no chance of misinterpreting the tone, no getting into ‘doing therapy outside the room’… it’s simply a checking in process that says ‘I’m still here’. And for someone that genuinely panics that my therapist is dead on breaks it would be perfect.

I knew, though, that Em wouldn’t go for it and said as much to her but she asked me to explain it anyway. I did. And yep. It was a no. Or should I say another no in a long line of nos. She told me that she couldn’t commit to it or something and that she didn’t think it would be in my best interests and then I just shut down. Like what is the fucking point? I keep reading that relational trauma is healed in relationship and yet I am really really struggling to feel like there is a relationship. I know I should, by now, be able to see that she’s there for all my sessions and that she is consistent in how she operates… but there are parts that just can’t see that as enough. When they are breaking their hearts and panicking on breaks it’s no good saying ‘she’ll be back in x weeks’ the fear and anxiety is real in that moment; if I could rationalise it out there and then I would…but I can’t.

I think, too, that this particular ‘no’ stings so much because it is literally THREE DOTS. It doesn’t require much time. It doesn’t require really any thought at all. BUT it would make such a huge difference to me. What hurts the most is that she is unwilling to do this for me. It’s like I am asking for the smallest fucking concession and she won’t do it. And of course this feeds all that stuff about being unimportant, her not liking me, there being no genuine relationship. It’s horrendous. It’s making me so sad and angry recounting this right now.

Christmas break is approaching and I am absolutely terrified that it is going to be another car crash like last year. The feelings on breaks don’t change. Sometimes I reach out sometimes I don’t. This year I won’t no matter how bad things get, why would I? There’s no point. All that’ll do is fuel the part that is ready to walk away. I contacted another therapist this last week because things feel as though we are heading towards a drop off. I don’t know if we can work through this… I don’t know what to do.

I had to do a Skype session on Friday because I was working ten minutes after the session. So it was Skype in my car. Great. Not! Trying to connect through a tiny iPhone screen that would only show her in one third of my screen…it was like therapy on a postage stamp. Em felt really far away. And, I know I sound like a complete mental case but she just felt really therapisty. The session felt really formulaic. I could almost predict what she was going to ask me. Therapy questions 101. Painting by numbers. On more than one occasion I rolled my eyes when she said stuff and how I didn’t hang up on her I have no idea.

Look, I get it, I am upset and angry and feel like I am not necessarily seeing the wood for the trees which is why I will go to the session tomorrow. But I won’t lie. There is a huge part of me that doesn’t want to go. There’s a part of me that wants to cut and run before the Christmas break. I don’t want to be left with all these massive feelings over the holidays and keep looping back to ‘she doesn’t care’. I don’t want my Inner Critic to get a foothold in my mind and ruin the holidays.

I am really aware of this thing where, yet again, I have to sacrifice a need, ok albeit a childish need (my adult doesn’t need three dots – and is mortified that I need Em at all) in order to fit in with what the other person wants. I have done that my whole life and I don’t know how to get to a place where I can ‘accept’ this therapy boundary. I am not ok with the no touch thing but I can sort of accept it. I am not ok with her not responding to my texts but I can sort of accept it. BUT this … three dots… I don’t know if I can. It sounds ridiculous that something as insignificant as … could cause such a huge rupture…but that’s the problem, something so small is so massively significant.

I’m very aware that this is not one of my finer blogging moments and I probably sound like a petulant child who isn’t getting what she wants and is having a meltdown about it…but actually that’s exactly what this is. Adult Me can see this for what it is but the little ones feel utterly rejected.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I’m guessing some anger with a giant dollop of shame! Wish me luck. I really hope that I can break through the shame and the wall and get things moving again. I think the reason this is so hard is because it’s tapping into that core wound again. It’s like these three dots have functioned as a giant cattle prod right into the #motherwound and fuck me – it hurts.

* I had some comments that went to moderation recently (I have this as a setting new readers/comments) that were really nasty and I didn’t ok to go on the post. Please, if you haven’t got something constructive to say just don’t comment at all. These mental health blogs are written by real people who are going through real struggles. I do not need to be told that ‘I am in danger’ and am ‘obsessive’. This obviously isn’t aimed at the merry band of WP warriors who are always sensitive and empathic. x

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