Rage Cycles

So, here I am again sitting in the hospital waiting room waiting to find out if all is still well in my body. I’m always nervous as I wait. I suppose it’s not surprising, really. I have no reason to believe I am not still in remission but then I never imagined I’d have had an enormous tumour growing in my chest at the point I got diagnosed so I’ve learnt to not take anything for granted so far as health goes. You never know what they’ll say.

The stress of these appointments never lessens. As I sit here, in the same waiting area for patients undergoing treatment, I cannot help but be plunged back three years and remember how terrible it was undergoing my own gruelling treatment. Twelve chemotherapies spaced two weeks apart – horrendous…and then the radiotherapy to round things off.

I feel sick, it’s totally psychosomatic of course. It’s not just nerves, it’s that chemo poisoned sick feeling – a nausea that is hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it. I am sure there is an element of PTSD in all this. Health trauma to add onto the various other traumas… ha. You couldn’t make it up.

The longer I sit here (the service is overstretched so there is always a couple of hours delay being seen) the worse the anxiety gets. I get a full body fear and my brain starts on some impressive mental flashbacks. I loop round different points in my treatment having sat in this place waiting for so many things: the shock of initial diagnosis, CT guided biopsy through my rib cage, bone marrow biopsy (oooooouuuuuuucccccchhhhhhh!!!), the first chemo, the middle chemos, the feeling like I was dying, the final chemo… the hair loss, the loss of myself… it’s really horrible.

The staff are lovely but I hate it here. They remember me. Ask about my kids by their names. Ask after my wife. It’s nice to have people that seem to care but actually, I wish I didn’t have to come here at all. I wish that there was no prior relationship with these doctors and nurses. I don’t like being reminded of how bad things were and how precarious things still are. I’m always watching and waiting. Never being sure that things are ok. It can all change so quickly, can’t it? One bad cell mutation and bam off we go again.

It’s especially hard being here today. This time last year my very lovely friend and mother figure died in here, literally thirty metres from where I sit. It’s so upsetting. I cannot believe she’s not here anymore. I feel devastated. Losing her reminds me that nothing is safe. There are treatments but they do not always work. People we love die. The idea that we fight cancer is rubbish. We don’t fight it. Our cells do what they do. The treatment may or may not work. Some of us are lucky. Some of us aren’t.

So not only is today tricky because my darling friend is front of mind and the grief comes in waves; in addition to this my oldest friend has had confirmation that her metastasised breast cancer is spreading further in her bones – it’s not looking at all good – there is no cure for her; they’re just trying to buy time. Another friend is having her third chemo treatment today for breast cancer and will have a mastectomy once the chemo finishes- her waiting area is across the hall and I expect her to walk in soon. I don’t especially want to see another familiar face in here. I wish neither of us needed to be here.

I cannot get away from the disease and know that it is doing its best to take away people I love. I feel guilty for being the one that has survived. It is what it is. I am glad I am alive, of course I am, but I am sad. Deep in my core I feel so much sadness about who and what has been taken from me. I am angry too. Raging in fact. But the rage is getting caught up in feelings of abandonment and rejection and all that shitting shitty shitastic attachment stuff.

What’s going on?

Well, grrrr, I’m fucking furious with my therapist. The session before her break I told her it was coming up to the third anniversary of my chemo finishing and the first anniversary of the death of my friend, and that both these things coincided with my follow up appointment at the hospital in the same ward she died on. It was a triple whammy of grief, anxiety, and fear. We’ve spoked at length over the years about all these things. She acknowledged that there was going to be a lot to contend with and then went on her break…another fucking therapy break. Jeez!

The week rolled by and then it was Monday again and the end of the three session break. I looked at my calendar on my phone and discovered that she’s away again on the 16th. I had no idea. I hadn’t registered it at all. I seem to be on breaks more than in therapy at the minute. This sudden realisation that Em would be gone again really unsettled me. I can’t seem to find my feet at all because she is always gone…or that’s how it feels.

Monday’s session was fine-ish. I couldn’t look at her, though. Every time I glanced her way I looked at her and felt like I had been burned. I’ve written about eye contact in therapy before and how it is for me. I’m not surprised I was finding hard to connect. Things haven’t exactly been smooth sailing in therapy lately. And then I had sent that text after the last session about the heart in the bottle…which she completely ignored.

No change there, then.

I am almost beyond the point of caring about her lack of acknowledgment of anything I send her in email or text. She literally responds with a text ‘ok’ even if it’s about scheduling, there’s no ‘see you then’ or anything borderline warm -it’s one word! She couldn’t be any more ‘bare minimum’ if she tried. I’d love to know how she thinks this kind of communication is helpful to me. How does this help someone with deep attachment wounds forged in childhood? She seems to want to work with the parts and yet she seems to forget that every interaction we have is being felt by many many different parts. Adult Me understands she doesn’t do outside communication…sort of… but the little ones cannot understand it at all.

Anyway, I’m used to that now. BUT. And here’s the big BUT. There are occasions where her lack of engagement with me feels really painful and uncaring. It’s fine (sort of) to not respond to texts and pick it up in a session (most of the time). I get therapy needs to take place in the room. BUT…there’s other times when I actually need tangible, real time, here and now, support. I need her to be there for bigger things. And this week is a big thing. The cancer stuff and the anniversary of my friend dying is a big thing.

I told her I was stressed out on Monday about today’s appointment for the reasons I’ve just mentioned. Usually I would leave a session before a hospital follow up and she’d say ‘I hope Wednesday goes well’ which is, at least, something. She didn’t do that this week, though. I don’t know why. I don’t know whether she just doesn’t hold that stuff in mind or she just couldn’t care less.

The session was really uncomfortable at times. I spoke a lot about work and being overstretched. As I did so, I could feel the young parts getting overwhelmed. It was that whole needing to connect but being unable to. My heart was in the bottle but I couldn’t get it out. She made no reference to that text I’d sent and so the conversation didn’t open up. With about twenty minutes to go I told her about two dreams I’d had that night. I needed her to at least see how much I was struggling even if I couldn’t really connect on the level that I wanted to.

  1. I was heavily pregnant and the waters breaking but nothing happening. I knew there was something wrong and rang the hospital. They said they were busy and disregarded my concerns, telling me to come in when there were regular contractions. I said there were no contractions and that the baby wasn’t moving. They weren’t interested in the slightest. I got increasingly frightened and after three days rang again saying nothing was happening, the baby wasn’t moving, and that I needed to be seen. They reluctantly agreed for me to come in and when I did it was confirmed the baby was dead inside me.
  2. I’d dropped my kids at school, returned home to find the door of my house wide open. As I walked I realised I’d been burgled. Every single room was ransacked. Stuff was all over the floor, broken, but nothing seemed to be missing. I walked from room to room feeling devastated and confused. Why would someone do this to me? What were they looking for? I went into my room, equally as wrecked, and sat trying to think what had been taken but couldn’t discover anything. It was as though someone had just decided to destroy everything but for no reason.

We talked a bit about them. She said that she thinks they’re transformational, that now it’s time to grieve the big losses which is kind of what I was saying in my last blog post. I think, though, that there’s a lot to be said about people not caring enough, not finding time for me, and losing my baby as a result. That literal inner child is dying right now. It’s crap.

Anyway, that’s not why I am sad. I mean it is sad! I get there is mourning to be done. There is a load of grief to wade through. I need to face the mother wound. This is not new news. What is making me feel really sad is that I feel like I am completely on my own, not just with that past stuff but with the big life things in the here and now. I get how I view things today is informed by the lens from the past, so probably feels way worse than it actually is; but I am struggling to understand how, after six years my therapist was unable to wish me well for this week’s appointment. Like is that so very hard?

I also feel sad that she is unable to be human enough to step outside her rigid position and say, ‘look I know this week is incredibly hard for you and I see how much you are struggling. If you would find it helpful you could text me on Wednesday to check in. I hope that it all goes well’. Like is that asking too much? I’m not asking for mummy cuddles here. I’m not about wanting to know she is still out there somewhere. It’s not that attachment stuff in the usual sense. Today I am an adult facing huge stress and could do with a bit of support from someone who is supposed to get it and care about me.

Perhaps I am completely missing the point. I don’t know. It’s at times like these that I doubt myself. Is my anger and upset justified? Perhaps the level of anger is intensified because of my past, or being disregarded by others, but the feelings are still real. I am upset that outside of those 50 minute slots I actually don’t matter to her.

Ugh.

I don’t know if I have explained that very well…but in reality, it doesn’t matter does it? She’s not there for me. I can’t reach out. There is no support and whatever happens today she is not interested.

I want to run away from her. Cut ties. Ditch therapy. I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I know she’s not my mum, but I did hope that she was someone who might care a little bit.

I know I was exactly the same last time I was here. I hit the rage. It cycles. It lessened in the end. But man, I cannot keep doing this to myself.

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I Thought I Was Coping…

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Most of the time I think I manage ‘life’ pretty well; I somehow function in the outside world and do a reasonably good job at appearing like a competent parent and professional adult (although I get a big whack of that imposter syndrome in doing so – surely someone will notice that I am winging it soon and everything will come crashing down!).

Anyone who reads this blog will know that things aren’t perfect…not by a long shot…but generally the issues that I face (thinking about both physical and mental health here – i.e HEALTH) don’t completely incapacitate me on a day-to-day basis…they just tie both my legs together and blindfold me 😉

I have to pinch myself when I remember that I have come out the other side of a gruelling cancer treatment more-or-less in one piece. The heavy emotional weight I seem to carry or, as my therapist put it on Monday, am ‘tortured by’ (jeezzz tell it like it is why don’t you?!) is managed just about well enough these days, in a large part thanks to the therapy.

I know it doesn’t always look like it but know that I would be way worse of a mess if it weren’t for the therapy. I don’t really talk here about the massive mental breakdown I had in 2009 which saw me in a right state, off work for 17 months and dangerously underweight, but I know having been to in that place where things can spiral down if left unchecked. If I take my eye off the ball for too long so far as self-care goes things start to slip really quickly (and I am utterly shite at self-care!)

I’d like to say that I am past that really harrowing knock-out stuff, that I’ve moved beyond it, that I have learnt enough strategies to live well, and that the breakdown was just an unfortunate incident triggered by a terrible bereavement; but the reality is actually doing life (living) thoroughly exhausts me. It always has. I do my best but sometimes I just can’t manage as well as I might like.

For as long as I can remember I have felt like it takes a lot of effort to maintain the persona of whoever it is I am meant to be – who I am…who am I?! To a greater or lesser extent I struggle with these things:

  • I feel on guard all the time;
  • I feel like things are going to go wrong at any minute;
  • I spend time overthinking/brooding on things;
  • I worry that I am going to fall apart;
  • I find it hard to let stuff go;
  • I worry about people’s perceptions of me;
  • I have unrealistic expectations of myself;
  • I don’t like to let people down and so often take on more than I can manage. (I wouldn’t say I am especially a ‘people pleaser’ but I certainly am not very good at putting my needs before anyone else’s – or even alongside them for that matter.)
  • List goes on and on…

Annoyingly, when I am stuck in mental/emotional hell I still don’t really talk about it despite all the therapy. I think this is quite common for those of us who have had difficult childhoods, actually; we’ve learnt that our needs invariably don’t get me and so we almost learn not to have them or talk about them.

Of course, I am getting better at talking and opening up (to some people) but it’s incredibly hard to build trust and so those ‘lucky’ (ha!) few that get to see my struggles and vulnerable side can be counted one hand. My wife said last night that she feels like I keep the vulnerable parts secret and she feels pushed away. I told her I was only trying to protect her from me and that the reality of what goes on in my head is not something anyone else would want a part of.

She said all the right things but I still feel like if I really and truly showed just how broken I am she would head for the hills. After 13 years together I should know that she stays….but it’s going to take some time to be brave. When she asks how my day has been how do I reply ‘it was fine, uneventful, but part of me is struggling really hard and wants to cut myself’? I mean who needs to walk into that?

It’s just like how it is in therapy. What happens if I truly let it all out, become so vulnerable and open, and then it goes wrong? The fear of rejection and abandonment is horrendous – I think it’d annihilate me.

As a result of all this perpetual ‘keeping up appearances’ and ‘biting off more than I can chew’ (ha, that’s so funny given my anorexic history!), I quite literally feel tired all the time (physically and emotionally)… but, as I say, this is not a new thing. I wake up tired; stumble through the day (well that’s how it feels but no one would know); burn the candle at both ends but never benefit from the light – just burnout; then crash into a pit of exhaustion at night.

Every now and then, when things feel bad (like they do today), I sit and wonder if what I am experiencing at the moment is just a bout of depression that’s crept up on me and taken root without me noticing. It is Autumn after all. Maybe I am pushing myself too hard. I don’t always find it easy to say no or put my needs first. No matter what I do there never seems to be quite enough hours in the day to get done what needs to be done and still leave time for whatever it is that I need and naturally this is going to take its toll isn’t it?

Today I have a list longer than both my arms put together of things that I need to achieve. I have completed some tasks, been reasonably productive in fact, but am nowhere near where I need to be and time is ticking away. I just looked at the clock and realised I have less than an hour before I need to collect the children from school and then it’s all go until 8pm when I get home from tutoring.

What have I done for myself today?

Nothing.

Not even had breakfast, lunch, a drink….and that’s not me bigging myself up on some eating disordered headspace thing. Really don’t need to be heading into that area again.

I just haven’t stopped again.

Time goes so quickly.

You might be wondering, then, what on earth I am doing here?! Well, knowing there is absolutely no chance of finishing what I need to do I have stopped and downed tools, briefly. I’ve made a coffee and wanted to write something. I keep telling myself I need to make time for this. Writing has always proved a really useful outlet and so writing here, as I have said before, is a bit of a lifeline at times. Putting the scary stuff out into the world knowing that there are merry bunch of mental health bloggers out there cheerleading me on is really really helpful to me…. ESPECIALLY when I am on a therapy break!

Ugh!

Yes…that horror has begun now! How long til 29thOctober????????????????????????????

There is so much bubbling inside that I want to say, that I need to process, that I want to document and if I don’t make time for it and let it out then it’ll just keep causing me trouble. I have run out of time for today and have not mentioned anything about what has actually been going on either inside or outside therapy! Awesome post!

I just needed to get it out there:

I am stuggling… and the coping is not going especially well.

It’s taking a great deal of effort to hold all my pieces together right now so any contributions of rubber bands and chewing gum will be gladly received!

Crash and Burn

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I guess it was kind of inevitable that a week like this would happen again sooner or later. It feels like I have been running along a cliff path fairly successfully for a while now. Sure, it’s been challenge, a test of endurance, I’ve turned my ankle over a few times but have generally been making progress in a forward direction with only occasional minor scratches from brambles that have overhung the path. I have felt my fitness level improving. It’s been ok.

Then it happened. Just as it always does. This week I’ve unexpectedly fallen down an exposed mineshaft that was overgrown with weeds and grasses. I wasn’t looking carefully enough at the ground as I was running along, probably  had my head up to take in the scenery. I guess I was slightly distracted/daydreaming, and I just didn’t see that there was no safe ground in front of me, and BAM! Here I am battered and bruised down in the dark cold hole. I’m not sure if anything is broken but I have a pretty sore head.

I’m not alone down here either. There’s a couple of distraught child parts and a fucking livid teen part too. I don’t know how long they’ve been here but they are cold and hungry – well the teen isn’t – she doesn’t eat. It’s cramped and uncomfortable and we need to get out.

Unfortunately there’s no phone signal down here and I can’t call anyone for help. If I shout no one will hear so there’s little point in wasting my energy. It’s not ideal for sure. I need to find a way of getting out of here on my own. I am a good climber. I’ve been in similar places before (I really do need to start looking where I am going don’t I?!… stop tumbling into these dark places and over ledges) but right now I am just too tired to start trying to find a route up and out of here because it’s not just me that has to get out; I have to find a way to help the young ones too. I simply don’t have the strength to carry them on my back right now.

I’ll try and avoid extended metaphor overload today but basically that paints the picture.

Things feel shit.

So, yeah, it’s been a tough, emotional week since my last post. Actually the weekend was fine – or at least I think it was. I don’t really remember! My memory sucks at the moment.

On paper my therapy session on Monday was fine too. I was firmly in my adult. I talked a lot. I didn’t dissociate. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t start shaking. I could ‘sort of’ look at my therapist. It was fine. I’m sure she was delighted to have the normal adult version of me sitting in front of her for a change. But it was just like having a chat for 50 minutes – or a bit of a moan – no real work was done.

I know that not every session has to be agonisingly hard work, attending to child parts, or dredging up past trauma. I know that the easy sessions have their place too, and to be honest, I really didn’t want to do any of that hard stuff on Monday because it was my wedding anniversary and that evening my wife and I were having a date night and I just couldn’t have a session that floored me.

I suppose, in part, Monday’s session was about protecting myself from getting stuck in the child parts’  pain and trauma. I wrote the other week that I have been struggling a lot with being dissociated outside of session and I didn’t want to be emotionally unavailable to my wife in the evening which so often happens on a therapy day. I usually have to go to bed early and sleep or just be on my own. So much gets activated in session that I feel like I am in survival for the early part of the week.

I know that I was avoiding stuff in session, though. I have been avoiding returning to the letter I gave her before Easter and going through it properly (ugh! Like what is the bloody point in writing this stuff and then not discussing it?!). And I also avoided giving my therapist a thank you card until I left the session.

This week marks two years in therapy with my therapist (this time around). Generally, if I have something to give my therapist (like a card at Christmas) I hand it over at the beginning of the session but for some reason I couldn’t give her this one. Why? I dunno. I guess it’s because whilst it said exactly what I wanted to say it just felt too exposing in the moment.

The front of the card said ‘I know you’re not a hugger but I am hugging you in my mind right now’ – see my problem?! HA. Like whilst it is the perfect card it is also just absolutely cringeworthy and horrendous because the touch issue is still so massive for me. It really is a biggest fat-assed elephant now. There is barely any space for any other of the others in the room now. How many elephants can you fit in a therapy room?!

I didn’t really even know what to write in the inside of the card. I think in the end I put something really boring like, ‘thank you for the last two years’ – which is not at all like me, but the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe I should’ve taken that as a signal to not give her the card at all. I dunno. But she is important to me and I do value her and the work we do together (or at least adult me does!) and I wanted to acknowledge that. So, yeah, I awkwardly handed her the card as I got up and left and walked back out into my real life – straight to tutor.

Monday evening was glorious. My wife and I had a great meal out in the centre of town and then walked the ten minutes down to the riverside (we are really lucky to live in a such a nice city) and had dessert and coffee in a bar with a terrace overlooking the water. It was 26 degrees. A perfect summer evening. AND childfree! Yay. So, I guess doing therapy like that on Monday at least afforded me some quality time with my wife.

Unfortunately, the rest of the week has sucked. I could feel the young parts stirring on Tuesday. They hate it when they don’t get to seen by therapist and then really struggle. I think they also feel exposed now because I gave her that card and what happens if she rejects them for it because it’s ‘too much’. I won’t lie. I am also sad that she hasn’t acknowledged it now she’s opened it. Not that she ever would. We don’t do the outside contact thing so it wasn’t ever on the cards – but still, there is a part of me that feels a bit hurt. It’s not rational but there we go. I know she’ll say something on Monday…but…ugh!!

Wednesday was my cancer follow up appointment at the hospital. It’s a day I always dread and requires a great deal of effort for me just to rally myself enough to go. I have to go, though. There is no choice. But it is not easy being repeatedly plunged back into the place where I had 12 rounds of chemo and memories of all the associated feelings (both physical and emotional). It triggers all sorts of stuff for me being there surrounded by people who are very ill and waiting to go have their treatment. I feel sick to my core.To make matters even worse my consultant was running two hours behind and so I ended up spending three hours in that place feeling anxious and triggered. Ugh.

Another thing that really doesn’t help matters when I feel so anxious and alone is that I know my therapist is literally only a three minute walk from me when I am at the hospital as the NHS psychotherapy building is just round the corner (she does three days a week there and is where I first met her).

Knowing she is almost within touching distance but that I can’t see her is completely hideous. I so want to be able to reach out and yet, obviously, I can’t. Ouch. I can’t even text her to check in on these really hard days. And they are hard. Sitting waiting to be told whether or not my cancer has come back is not an easy appointment to have to go to every couple of months. The build up to it is bad enough, but the day itself if awful. I feel so alone with it.

Most people don’t understand how truly terrifying it is to live in the shadow of cancer. They sympathise, of course. But they also think I should be delighted to have ‘beaten’ it. And I am. But it never truly goes away. The fear of it returning is always there. And it all becomes very real again as I sit in a packed waiting room full of other cancer patients.

Actually, the other day my therapist and I were talking about maybe doing some EMDR in relation to health trauma as a way in to maybe working with the attachment stuff in the future. She’s been suggesting EMDR on and off for about 16 months now! I am a bit reluctant/sceptical about EMDR because I get so dissociated and have so many parts and I know several are not on board with the idea and I think that could make the early trauma difficult to work with. She said that choosing something like the cancer/health stuff to work on might show me how things can work and might give me a little bit more confidence in the process. It’s worth considering because I find these hospital weeks completely agonising.

So EMDR could be a good shout for that. That is, of course, if I keep going to therapy!!… because on Wednesday I lost the fucking plot. Like spectacularly lost it.

Thankfully, this time I didn’t actually act out any of my thoughts/feelings like I might have done in the past but I am not sure if that’s because actually I can’t be bothered and have mentally shutdown/walked away or whether it’s because I have managed to self-regulate a bit. No, actually, it’s probably because my friend absorbed it all via WhatsApp as I fired off angry message after angry message to her instead. We do this sometimes! Just vent that stuff to each other rather than jamming our therapists’ phones. The outcome of all that is that I didn’t end up sending an ‘I’m done and won’t be coming back’ message to my T which is suppose is a good thing. Ha!

How did I find myself in a place where I was ready terminate with my therapist having only two days previously given her a thank you card? Well, no surprises, this all comes down to the fragmented parts and the different feelings they all have. It’s bloody exhausting, for sure!

Sitting in hospital, feeling scared, my mind automatically went towards my therapist- as it always does when I feel vulnerable. I wanted to be able to text her and tell her how things were. I wanted to be able to reach out to her and her respond in some kind of reassuring way. I needed some of that care that she shows me in session when I talk about how awful the hospital stuff makes me feel. But I couldn’t reach out. Or I could. But she wouldn’t respond. And that feels like a huge kick in the teeth…especially on a day like that….it’s bad enough on a normal shit day! So instead I had all these feelings and nowhere to put them. And then I started to get angry. Like properly got the rage. Hello teen part!

Episodes like this send me through a horrible cycle. The youngest most vulnerable parts are scared and need support, they need to reach out and get some kind of emotional holding. They can’t. It’s a boundary. Things feel really overwhelming. The need is huge. And yet there’s the stark reminder that the person I have come to rely on for emotional support is not really there. She is only there in the paid for time (actually the ‘paid’ time isn’t so much an issue, I want more contact time but she just doesn’t have it). And whilst adult me understands (sort of), the child parts don’t AT ALL. They can’t understand why the attachment figure is unavailable. They can’t understand why she can’t check in once during the week via text. They can’t understand why she doesn’t care that they are falling apart because they worry she is gone. They can’t understand why she is how she is in session but is not there at any other time. It feels really abandoning. It hits that deep core wound, the mother wound. Here I am again on my own, struggling, and no one is there who cares.

Fuck.

Then the fun really begins because before too long the teen part comes online. And OMFG she is boiling with rage (because she is so hurt). She’s got so much to say! She is ready to unload. She wants to scream at my therapist for being a ‘fucking liar’. She wants to tell her that ‘we don’t need you’ and ‘you are making things worse for us’. She is raging that the relationship is a ‘complete sham’ and that ‘whilst you (T) might think the little ones are stupid, that I can see exactly how this all fucking works, don’t pretend you care.’ Basically what it comes down to is that the teen part has been through this shit enough times now and will not be hurt any more. Therapy is an agonising and constant reminder that ‘I am not good enough, not important enough, and no one really cares’ and so ‘I’m fucking done with having it shoved in my face’.

Obviously, it’s completely horrendous when I am stuck in that place. Part of me so badly wants to let rip and let it all out. I want my therapist to know just how fucking awful this stuff makes me feel. She tells me that my anger is important and that I need to let it out… unfortunately I usually only really feel able to express it at moments like these. And it is not acceptable to let it out via text. I have done it once or twice before and then felt terrible afterwards – shame and embarrassment overload.

I have even ‘quit’ a few times and then the little parts freak out: ‘What have you done?’ So yeah, it’s a bit tricky to say the least because I have all these horrible feelings and yet she has no idea how consuming they really are. I don’t really know how to go in and tell her just how bloody awful it feels, how utterly crushing it is for the young parts to feel ‘left’ week in week out and then how angry it makes me that she is not there when things feel bad.  I hate feeling like she doesn’t care. Given how session was on Monday it’d feel like a completely different person turning up this coming week if I really said what was going on.

So anyway, I’ve spent the week since Wednesday alternating between rage and sadness and completely sunk in the depths of depression. Yesterday I stayed in bed all day between school runs. I just couldn’t do the day. There we things I was meant to do. We have guests arriving tomorrow and I really could’ve done with cleaning the house and getting on top of chores but I just couldn’t.

I had a long phone call with a friend which helped to make sense of things a bit so that was good but I still can’t quite get over the feeling that I’m at an impasse with my therapy. I feel more and more like the little two year old girl stuck in a huge grey space on her own clutching the ear of a soft toy bunny that so often comes into my mind. There is no adult to help her.

I mean, I guess, this week might also, in part, be me hitting self-destruct as we approach an enormous summer break and the anniversary of my dad’s death. I will see my therapist in person on the 30th July and then again on the 3rd September and whilst I should be able to do a Skype session somewhere in the middle of that. I. CAN’T. EVEN. GO. THERE. I can’t even explain how thoroughly overwhelming the idea of another long break is right now.

Maybe all this anger and wanting to quit is about me leaving her before she leaves me? I am shit on long therapy breaks.

Part of me is scared I’ll end up in another bloody horrendous anorexic mess like at Easter. I don’t want that. And even though I don’t want that I don’t even feel like it’s a conversation we can have now after all that happened recently around not eating.

Basically, I just don’t want to care anymore. I don’t want to feel like someone else has the power to impact me in this way – or rather their absence has the power to. I don’t want to feel abandoned or rejected anymore. I don’t want to feel so painfully alone and inadequate.

Man. I so bored of feeling shit about this.

I KNOW!

I know it’s the work.

But jeez. The work is hard isn’t it?!!

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The Good Place

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I am in a good place at the moment (internally/emotionally not literally). I know, right? What on earth is going on here? Who’s writing this and where did Rubberbandsandchewinggum go? As I type this I am sitting in a soft play centre (so clearly not a literal ‘good place’ unless you are five years old) with Dolly Parton’s ‘Islands In The Stream’ in my headphones…

After that last sentence, part of me wonders if I am on the verge of a breakdown and just haven’t twigged and am about to have something big fly out of left field that’ll knock me out; but the thing is, I actually don’t think this is a ‘manic’ good place which is what so often happens after a low/depressive/ED episode. I am not brilliantly full of energy, buzzing, or even very motivated –far from it! In fact I am tired and a bit stressed out from a busy week of (crappy) work and dealing with stuff I shouldn’t have to, but it’s nothing overwhelming or anything I can’t cope with.

So right now I am ok. I am here. In a good place. I am reluctant to use the word ‘normal’ as it’s so loaded but that’s kind of what it is. I am present and things are good enough.

Often I struggle to try and articulate to my therapist how much I struggle to be present in the moment. I am shit at just ‘sitting with it all’. I usually run from myself in the present,  ruminate on the past, and project about the future. I find it difficult to just be in the moment…mind you it is little wonder when being a parent on Saturday morning today involves this! FFS:

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But I have noticed since my holiday I am here. In the moment. And granted in the current moment is a little bit surreal but I’m fine with that. And I do at least have a coffee and some time to write!

I haven’t suddenly had some kind of epiphany. I am not suddenly better. I am not suddenly without trauma to heal or devoid of attachment pain. I have not had some fantastic therapy session that has made me feel held and contained and left me able to be more present (although it wasn’t bad on Monday!). Nope. Nothing like that. But there has been a definite shift in me this week. I doubt it will last (I am a realist after all) but I want to document it here because I know that when the wheels fall off (which they undoubtedly will again) and I end up careering into that dark zone I can easily forget that it can be like this. This feeling might be fleeting but I want to pay attention to it when it does happen.

How can I describe what’s going on with me?

It’s not about being content, as such. As I said, the demons haven’t gone away. But there’s a sense that I am fine not being fine. I am able to be bit more accepting of myself. Yeah, that’s what it is. It’s the feeling that I am ok as I am. In whatever state I am in. It’s ok to be me. My feelings are ok. I don’t need to hide. I am human. I guess that’s what my post when I got back from holiday was leaning towards when I thought my anonymity had been blown.

I am who I am.

I am working on myself.

I am not a finished product.

I will never be a finished product because we are always changing and evolving (even when we feel stuck!) but you know what, I’m not some chronically flawed asshole that doesn’t deserve to be happy either. I shouldn’t feel like I am in hiding all the time. I shouldn’t be perpetually feeling like I have some kind of deficit that means I shouldn’t live.

And that’s really how it gets at times. I feel so often like I am hanging on by a thread. It’s about survival rather than actively living. And that is a crock of shit when the odds are that my life is going to be cut short due to either a relapse in my cancer or a nasty side effect of the chemo and radiotherapy that saved my life three years ago.

You can’t expect to have your chest heavily radiated and your body chemically poisoned and get away with it for the next fifty years. There is a strong chance that if my Hodgkins doesn’t come back I could now develop problems with my heart or get lung, thyroid, or breast cancer due to the radiation as well as any other number of nasties from the chemo. Great. It was a risk I was made aware of when I underwent treatment but there was no other choice. The Hodgkins would have killed me.

So really, I ought to be living now didn’t I? Lots of cancer survivors I’ve seen go crazy manic once they ‘beat cancer’. There’s a lot of bucket list ticking off: sky dives, obstacle course runs, sponsored this that and the other. And that’s great. I guess it’s a celebration of sorts. But that’s never been where I’ve been at. I have just wanted to get back to my life and carry on being boring and like everyone else – only with the shadow of cancer alongside me.

I want to just be ok living in the moment. I think this has long been my goal even before the diagnosis. All I really want to is to be comfortable in my own skin.

Today, I feel a bit like that. I am here doing not much but I am in the moment. I’m not perfectly fine. Far from it. I am more than ready to see my therapist on Monday. I need that space. I need to let some stuff out. I want to see her and connect. I have missed her. At times this week it has been agony for the young parts. But importantly I accept that this is where I am at. I am trying really hard to now make a conscious effort to accept myself in whatever form I happen to be in.

Self-acceptance…eek. Am I edging towards that place?!

I put weight on on holiday. So what? I can’t be bothered to even engage with that. It’s my body, it’s still (too) slim, I don’t need to starve myself to drop a couple of pounds to please to unpleasable eating disordered part. I won’t be any more happy thinner – in fact I know I won’t be. Anorexia messes me up big time. I hated myself at Easter.

The attachment stuff is big right now. It’s been so active in the early part of the week. The ache was there almost from the moment I walked out of therapy on Monday. But this week I haven’t run from it. I have acknowledged it. I have accepted it. And it’s been a little bit more manageable. Strangely, in accepting it, rather than feeling ashamed about it I have felt more connected to my therapist. She always tells me that I have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about so far as these feelings go. I struggle with that. But she’s right. And in accepting myself a tiny bit more I feel a tiny bit better.

So this is how it is right now. I’m doing as well as I can and that’s good enough.

I think this is all about baby steps.

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A Much Needed Week Away

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So, this is the post I had planned to write before the Instagram episode on Thursday night where my anonymity in Blogland and Social Media World was compromised. God that sounds like some kind of MI5/Secret Service statement doesn’t it?! For now, I am ok with my decision to keep this blog public but I guess we’ll just have to see how things pan out in the coming weeks. The worst that’ll happen is I’ll password posts or something.

Part of me is too tired to even care about it. As things stand right now I have bigger concerns. It’s all about doing a reality check sometimes isn’t it?

Currently, my best friend from primary school is in agony with metastatic breast cancer that has now found its way to her sternum. She is battling hard, third diagnosis in five years, but we know that this is going to kill her. I am devastated – in fact I ended up bursting into tears on the bus from the resort to the airport on Thursday just thinking about it (and I don’t cry!).

Her struggle is so hard to watch and a potent reminder that my very good friend died of Myeloma just before Christmas less than two years from being diagnosed. I still haven’t processed the loss and keep imagining I will see her again. My brain is really not very good at dealing with death.

In addition to this, I actually have my own follow up at the hospital this coming week to check (and hopefully confirm) I am still in remission. So in reality, who cares if someone I know might find out a little more about my mental health? It’s not going to kill me. It’s not cancer. It’s only the truth.

Anyway, my holiday. I’m not sure anyone wants to really read about this but I think it’s important for some balance to show that not every aspect and minute of my life is a complete shit show! Ha! Having said that, since I got home I have slumped and the attachment feelings/pain have ramped up enormously. I guess I can’t really escape that.

The last time I had a proper holiday abroad was I was eighteen weeks pregnant with my son. He is now almost four years old so it’s been a while. I have always loved travelling and have been fortunate enough to visit lots of the countries on my bucket list, but since getting diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in early 2015 travelling abroad has been off the cards.

Until recently I have been pretty much uninsurable. Despite being in remission, I am now classed as having a pre-existing condition and so the cost of travel insurance has been insane. For example, when I finished my course of chemo and radiotherapy in January 2016 we thought it might be nice to get away in the May once my hair had grown a bit and I was a bit less fatigued. We needed a holiday. We found one. We almost booked it. And then I got an insurance quote for that week in Greece: £1000! It was more than my ticket!! So, needless to say we didn’t end up going.

I have intermittently generated insurance quotes for trips and until recently they’d still be in the several hundreds of pounds and made things unaffordable. It seems mad that I have no active disease and am fitter than almost anyone else I know: running, cycling, swimming etc, and yet have to pay such an enormous premium. I would understand if there was active disease or I was compromised as a result of having had cancer but I’m not, not really.

I get tired, of course I do, but then I pack a lot into my weeks and have two young kids. That’s being a mum not necessarily a cancer hangover. Or maybe I should say, the cancer hangover is not so physically debilitating as to stop me from going to an all-inclusive resort in the sun, sitting my arse on a sun lounger, reading books, and eating plenty… in fact that’s surely exactly what I need! Low risk and relaxation. I need stress reduction – because these days the biggest problem with having had cancer is the continual stress and anxiety about it coming back.

It was my 35th (wtf how did that happen?!) birthday in March and my wife and I were bickering with one another about absolutely nothing at all. We’d just reached that point where we needed a break, a proper break, not another midweek ‘break’, self-catering in a static caravan in Devon which is not really relaxing at all or long enough to unwind. We needed to get away properly. So before I even entertained searching for a holiday I generated an insurance quote….and low and behold it was £42. Win! Having said that my wife and two kids all got insured for less than £10 with a high level of cover so go figure…

I quickly found a holiday and booked for us to go away for half term week. The joys of internet travel agencies and credit cards eh?! It’s amazing what you can do in five minutes online…and how much you can spend!

The kids were super excited to be having a holiday when so many of their friends regularly go away. My son was in his element on the plane, ‘mummy, are we really in the sky?’ and my daughter was good as gold.

We arrived at the resort and I could feel myself relax instantly despite having left home the best part of 15 hours ago. It’s a feeling that I haven’t truly felt in a very very long time. I know that chilling out has always been a problem for me. My brain is always buzzing even when I feel low, but I hadn’t truly realised the levels of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, nervous energy that was the cocktail fuelling my system. I guess it’s not a surprise to anyone that reads this blog!! Haha.

It was so nice to be away from the responsibilities and routines of home. My dogs were in kennels for the week. My neighbour was feeding the cats and fish. I didn’t have to cook or clean. No school runs. No teaching. Just sunshine, swimming pools, and the spa. Whoop.

It was amazing.

The most surprising thing for me was that for almost the whole week I didn’t experience any of that horrible gnawing ache in my tummy. The absence of attachment pain feelings was a massive relief. I didn’t feel agitated and lost. I didn’t feel young. I didn’t feel angry. I didn’t want to harm myself. I didn’t desperately long to be with my therapist. Sure, I thought about her, but I wasn’t consumed by that need to be in contact. Seriously, having that weight off was incredible.

Sadly, it didn’t last!

I think it was Wednesday (bloody Wednesdays will be the end of me, I swear!) when those feelings started to creep back in. The young parts started making themselves known again. I could feel that shift in myself from predominantly adult to all the others. I started to feel snappy and short tempered and my wife and I ended up having an argument. It was nothing big. I was just being unreasonable and angry. I know it’s because of those attachment feelings coming up (might’ve been a bit premenstrual too!). Suddenly I felt suffocated being around people. I wanted to be alone…or with my therapist. Argh. What a shitter.

Fortunately, I got over myself, or rather, I returned to default – i.e having those feelings and masking them from everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, I was still able to enjoy the last two days of my holiday but I was very much aware of carrying that additional emotional baggage inside me again.

What also didn’t help matters in the least was the set of scales in the hotel room bathroom. I clocked them the moment I walked in. I ignored them for almost the whole week, determined to leave the ED back in the UK, but then once those attachment feelings, doubts, and anxiety crept in so did the body stuff. No real surprises there.

I knew it was a bad idea to stand on the scales. You can’t go to an all-inclusive resort and eat pretty much consistently for a week really packing it in: full English breakfast, smoothie, and pastries at breakfast (breakfast is a meal I never bother with!); a plate of hot food, a salad bar, bread, and a plate of desserts (yes, three or four different sweet items) for lunch; ice cream, drinks, and snacks beside the pool; repeat lunch at dinner time…. and then not gain weight. So yeah. Of course I put on weight. Still not enough to take my BMI into the healthy range but not a million miles off it either.

I saw this:

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I wish it were true!

For some reason I can’t cope with the idea of having a healthy BMI. It’s madness. I do get that. The idea of the calculator ever saying ‘18’ makes me feel strange. Usually my BMI is mid-16 and now it’s mid-17…and that’s fine isn’t it? Only it doesn’t feel fine. I feel stodgy and fat. I am due my period and so some of this will be hormonal stuff and water retention but my head is conflicted. I am trying really hard not to resort to my unhealthy coping strategies. I don’t like being caught up in active anorexic behaviour. It makes me miserable. I don’t function well. So it’s going to be a challenge. One of many!

Since getting home the attachment pain has ramped up even more. The little ones two and four are very active. I was delighted to crawl into bed in the early hours of Friday morning when I got home and snuggle with my teddy bear but I could feel that ache of not being read a story, held, or tucked in by ‘mummy’. Don’t judge me!

I have felt really flat and lacking in energy these last couple of days. Everything feels like it’s a struggle. I have got things done – all the holiday laundry is completed, I have mowed the lawn, and taken the kids out on their bikes but it has taken a ridiculous amount of coaxing myself through.

This morning I still feel flat but am going to try and take it a moment at a time. I have jobs to do today: painting fences and exterior walls and this will allow me to feel like I have accomplished something by the end of the day whilst appearing ‘present’ when everyone else is in the garden doing their own thing.

I also got my bike serviced whilst I was away on holiday and so I might go out on it tonight once the kids are in bed. I know once I am out I will enjoy it but I am not sure right now if I will end up in bed and sleeping instead. I guess we’ll see.

Tomorrow is my therapy session. It’s only been two weeks since the last session but it feels like a very long time ago. I am both desperate to see my therapist and dreading seeing her too. I want to have a good, reconnecting session. I need that with the week I have ahead of me. I have so much to do. But I am frightened that the session will fall short. So often a return to therapy after a disruption is not quite what I need. I can’t settle. It takes a while to rebuild trust. I’m hoping that it won’t be like that though. I need my therapist to see me even if I am hiding.

During the last session I had, I handed over my letter with about twenty minutes to go and we started to work through it. My therapist was amazing and said all the right things but obviously we didn’t have time to cover everything – in fact I think we only got through the first couple of pages in a light touch way and she quickly scan read to the end before I left.

She said that she thought there was a huge amount in it and that we should definitely come back to it when I returned from holiday and so we agreed that we’d continue to talk about it next session. So that’s what I am walking into tomorrow. The stuff about connection, touch, boundaries, transitional objects, outside contact….it’s all waiting for me.

Fuuuuccckkkk!!!

I won’t lie. I am nervous (shitting myself) about it. I know that my therapist always handles things well when I spell it out this clearly to her and we generally have really connecting sessions. I should feel encouraged by her response to what we talked about at the beginning of the letter but I feel anxious. This is big stuff for me. I know it needs airing. I’m just not sure that I am ready to hear the reasons why I can’t get what I want from her – no matter how kindly it is delivered. And I know that’s what’s going to happen.

I know tomorrow I must go and start to grieve another loss or, should I say, several losses. But I guess this is what therapy is about. It’s not always getting what you want. In fact many of the needs could only have truly been met in my infancy. It’s now about trying to work through it with someone who cares and has empathy for the situation. Adult Me understands all of this. Truly. But the little ones can’t accept or understand why they can’t get a hug or reach out when they feel sad and alone.

And that’s the conflict.

If we were working with Adult Me all the time I’d be fine…but as we well know, the work needs to be done with the little ones and therein lies the problem. I have a two year old screaming to be held, a four year old silently crying in a corner, a seven year old that wants to run away, an eleven year old that feels like she’s dying….and the list goes on….so many parts suffering in one way or another. And because I am dealing with child parts I keep hitting the same boundaries over and over again, circling the same issues time and time again. This is the work but man it’s tough going!

So, yeah, I went on holiday. It was great to escape, relax, and recharge a bit but now it’s time to roll my sleeves up and get stuck into therapy again. Really get stuck in.

Wish me luck!

x

P.S The reason I haven’t really gone into any detail about my last session with the letter is because I think I’ll write once I have been to therapy tomorrow and addressed the thing as a whole.

 

 

Mother’s Day Followed By A Hint Of Therapy Break Dread…

Denial is good right?!

I’ve been putting off writing on the blog this week… which is strange because there’s been plenty of ‘crazy-making’ topics to talk about! I think it’s almost as though there is so much ‘ugh’ stuff running round my brain that I’ve just buried my head in the sand and tried to power through, pretending it was just a normal week rather than a recipe of emotionally triggering events set to send me over the edge! I guess it’s a survival tactic – head down and run!

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day in the UK. It’s the annual, in your face, reminder that my mothering wasn’t great (read: totally lacking, emotionally neglectful, and trauma inducing!) whilst great swathes of society celebrate their wonderful mother/daughter relationships. The shops are fit to burst with ‘Thank You To My Lovely Mum On Mother’s Day’ cards and gifts as soon as Valentines Day is over and it makes me avoid the shops for the month.

It’s not altogether different to how I feel around Father’s Day – everyone is celebrating a relationship when I am grieving a loss: my dad is dead. My mum might be alive but I’m in the process of grieving a loss; grieving the mother I never had but so desperately wanted and needed. Both days ‘parent’s days’ are tough in different ways.

I had to avoid most of social media over the weekend because I wanted to puke at the photos of mums and daughters together posting ‘she’s my best friend’ stuff or ‘thanks for all you do for me’. I totally get that it might sound like I am bitter or begrudging of people who have those ‘magical’ relationships with their mums and are, most importantly, securely attached… but it’s really not that at all. Honestly it’s not! It’s clear that a healthy, safe, nurturing mothering relationship is what I am longing for. I guess I am jealous.

I had to unplug over Mother’s Day because it’s just so hard having everyone else’s love and connection thrust upon me when I’m so very aware of the deficit in my own relationship with my mother. I feel like a broken record banging on about the mother wound but it’s huge isn’t it? I find that it’s hard enough navigating the week to week fall out of developmental trauma and struggling with maternal transference in the therapeutic relationship without this stuff being everywhere you go!

I find it sadly ironic that I was actually born on Mother’s Day and have had this almost farcical relationship with my mum. Mother’s Day is a day of celebration and yet it feels almost like a sick joke that I actually turned up on Mother’s Day and yet have always felt almost motherless.

The relationship was doomed from the beginning and as much as I resent what’s happened over the years, I can also see that my mum and I were subject to a bunch of shit circumstances that made our bonding experience very difficult, bordering on impossible. It doesn’t excuse everything that’s gone on but I can understand a bit why things are how they are… did I just make a concession?!

My birth was complicated (we both nearly died) and as a result my mum didn’t get to see me for the first twenty four hours of my life because she was so poorly and so was I. I spent three days in an incubator on a neonatal unit. When my mum finally got to meet me she didn’t recognise me as being hers she thought another baby was hers (this is a story she tells like it’s a joke, but working in therapy I realise how fucking tragic that actually is) and so that critical window of bonding was missed. We never had that lovely time of skin to skin contact that I had with my babies immediately following their births. There was none of that essential oxytocin released between us. We never got to know each other at the primal level.

I was not held or touched for three days apart from nappy changes and care from midwives. I was stuck in a fish tank – alone. I understand why. I was tiny and fragile. That’s what happened back in the early 80’s. These days they know so much more about the importance of those early hours and days with mothers and babies; they put little squares of fabric in with the mother and baby and keep swapping them over in order that the baby can identify the mother’s scent when they finally can come out of the incubator. It makes complete sense; build the connection and the relationship.

It’s hardly surprising that a young mum who had a difficult pregnancy, a highly traumatic birth, and who received next to no support would develop postnatal depression – again something that was nowhere near as understood as it is now. It’s like a hideous catalogue of errors that has led to a fractured maternal relationship. I really feel that if things had have been done a little differently I may not be struggling in quite the way I am today. I mean I get there was plenty of shit that went on as I grew up but I do get the sense that the seeds were planted very early on, before I was even born.

I feel so sorry for my mum, at 22, going through what she did. My adult self wants to befriend her 22 year old self and give her some support, some guidance, and tell her that it’s going to be ok. She is good enough, even if the world (family) is telling her otherwise. She needed a good friend, and a good therapist back then – in fact I suspect she could use those now. I am lucky to have both of these things today.

I feel so fortunate, I had really positive birth experiences with both my babies (planned c-section), bonded with them, they both fed easily, my wife was supportive, and the transition into motherhood as easy as it could possibly have been and yet there were certainly days where I was so exhausted from night feeds that I wondered what the hell I was doing. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for my mum. She was just a baby when she had me and even as a proper grown up at 29 when I had my first child I still found some days a trial.

Anyway, I saw my mum on Sunday and it was nice. We did a kind of joint Mother’s Day/birthday celebration with a cake. As I have said before I don’t really have a problem with the relationship my mum and I have now. Sure, we don’t touch and we don’t have a great deal of contact, but when we see one another it’s ok; it’s good enough. She’s kind. She doesn’t judge me. She’s great with my kids and that goes some small way towards repairing the damage…well my adult sees it that way…don’t dig too deep or ask to many questions to the others!

I’ve learned to accept what the relationship is in the here and now. Our adults get on fine. The problem I have is trying to come to terms with what the relationship wasn’t when I was small. I am trying to come to terms with the lack of nurturing and holding I received as a kid. That’s where the work is. That’s what’s so hard in the therapy. Some weeks I find it easier than others.

This week I am not finding it all easy. What’s up? If Mother’s Day was fine then what’s the problem? Well, this is week is hard because I’m now heading into my last session before I have a month long therapy break. I can feel all the younger parts groaning in unison. My dreams are filled with my therapist and I’ve felt steadily more unsettled as the week has progressed. Basically, because the therapy mother is about to disappear all the trauma and pain of the mother wound is right back on the surface…and that sucks!

I am both desperate for my session on Monday and dreading it. I so want to see my therapist but I also don’t want to see her because once the time is up, that’s it….I’m on my own… we all know how that worked out at Christmas and that was only 2.5 weeks. Eeek. Whilst I know she’ll be back (eventually) there are parts that feel abandoned and scared, and others that feel plain angry that she’s going away. Argh!

This Monday’s session was totally fine. We talked a lot about the stress I am feeling around my cancer follow ups and blood tests. It was front of mind because I had to go and get blood taken that afternoon ready for my consultant appointment on Wednesday. It’s a horrid time leading into hospital appointments because I never really know what news I am going to get. I never in a million years imagined I would be diagnosed with cancer 6 months after giving birth to my son so I never take for granted that these appointments will be fine. You just never know and that is really anxiety provoking.

We have started edging around the subject of my eating disorder in the last few weeks, too. And whilst part of me is cringing and wanting to run away there is another part that is relieved to tell her how things are, how they have been, and let go of some of the burden. I struggle not to judge myself as I tell her the details of what’s happened over the years and how much I battle still – but she doesn’t judge me and so I am learning to be a little more compassionate with myself.

I know it won’t last, though. I can’t sustain that without regular reassurance. I know that as soon as Monday’s session is done I am going to have a real problem on my hands. I don’t want to fall into unhelpful coping strategies but I also can feel it coming. It’s like a storm rolling in on the horizon. I already feel body conscious because I’ve been eating well for the last few weeks and that in itself makes my brain panic. I don’t want to feel abandoned and rejected and alone but I know that even if I manage the first week of the break, at some point the wheels will fall off. I’m not being fatalistic, I just know the pattern…

So, that’s kind of where it’s at right now. I guess we’ll just have to see how Monday goes. I hope I can go in and be open. I am worried that I will shutdown and shut her out as so often is the case as we head into a break. I don’t need that, though! I will endeavour to connect with her.

Wish me luck! I know that so many of us edge towards Easter therapy break now and so I’m sending you all holding and containing thoughts/wishes: you’ve got this.

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Anxiety and the wrong shoes

img_2559I am fluctuating wildly in my moods and behaviours at the minute. One minute I feel borderline suicidal and the next full of fight and motivation. I’d like to blame it on being hormonal – but I know it’s not just that. Sigh!

Last week I briefly spoke about how I had manically cleaned my house within an inch of its life in preparation for a therapy session via Skype (it doesn’t sound any less mental a week on does it?!) and how perhaps I was in avoidance mode; cleaning the house meant I didn’t have to focus on the ‘real issue’ at hand which was the rupture that my therapist and I had over Christmas and that we are (still) steadily trying to repair bit by bit.

I recognise that some of my behaviour recently has been a bit ‘on the edge of normal’ (whatever that is) and on reflection I realise that I have been operating from a point of high anxiety and it’s been subtly seeping into my day-to-day.

To be honest I am always slightly (a lot) anxious and/or depressed (what fun!) and am acutely sensitive to seemingly small things: changes in routine (especially my therapy) knock me for six and send me spiralling.

Apparently, I am a highly sensitive person (HSP); whilst this trait certainly has some benefits (being intuitive, empathic, feeling, with a complex inner life!) some aspects of it can be debilitating (social anxiety, noise intolerance, being overstimulated/terrified by violent movies, needing to retreat from the world when it feels overwhelming).

My anxiety escalated to an unmanageable level over the Christmas therapy break (anyone notice?) and although things are a little better now, particularly now that my therapy has resumed, I feel that the residual levels of stress and anxiety I am carrying are higher than normal and are massively impacting on my life.

Why am I anxious right now?

How long have you got?!

Clearly the usual things that bother me are still there:

  • My physical health (or lack of it) concerns me. I have been ill pretty much consistently since September and have so little energy that I have stopped exercising altogether (good for my weight but not a lot else) and am barely making it through the day even when trying to conserve my energy. My bloods suggest that I am still in remission from my Hodgkins but living on an 8 week turn around for check-ups is anxiety-inducing in itself. I live in a state of constant worry about if and when I’ll get ill again.
  • My fragile mental health – ugh! Therapy is causing me anxiety because although things are slowly getting better, my therapist and I still have a great deal of talking to do about the rupture that happened at Christmas. Whilst things feel so tentative my internal child parts are even less settled and contained than usual and so it is really hard to manage. This week all I have wanted to do is reach out to my therapist and seek some kind of reassurance. Don’t worry! I’m not stupid. I am not going to go down that route again. One rupture and sense overwhelming sense of rejection is enough to be dealing with; I don’t need to add any fuel to the fire. But it does nothing to alleviate my anxiety about feeling abandoned or rejected when I can’t reach out or even the thought of doing so reminds me of all that has recently happened.

 

Then there’s the extra shit – icing on the cake if you will:

  • My wife’s skin cancer is stressing me out. We are waiting on the results of her biopsies to know where to go from here-  but right now it’s a crazy limbo type space trying not to overthink things but underneath it gnaws away at me. I don’t have a brain that just shuts off, unfortunately. Oh my goodness I would love an ‘off’ button.
  • My best friend from primary school has been hit by the big C again and I am utterly devastated. As if it wasn’t bad enough getting diagnosed with breast cancer the day before your thirtieth birthday, going through chemo and having a mastectomy, she then relapsed eighteen months later – the breast cancer had metastasised and was now in her lymph nodes under her arm. More treatment. And now last week they’ve found it in her bones. I mean seriously. Wtf? I am so sad for her and her family. To face fighting cancer three times in less than five years with a young family is just hideous. I can’t help but become even more anxious about my own future, too.

 

Then there’s the minging glace cherry on top of the cake:

  • My neighbours. Ugh. It’s too long and dull a story to recount here but suffice to say I am not a crier (I struggle to hit those buried emotions) and yet found myself in tears on Friday due to an incident that happened. The ‘thing’ itself is not a big deal and yet because I am so on a knife edge with my ‘everyday life’ what happened last week sent me over the edge. My brain has run wild and my anxiety has spiked horrendously. When you don’t feel secure or safe in your home it’s horrid. I really struggle with conflict and even when I know I have done nothing wrong I struggle to not find fault or blame myself. I need to get better at managing stress!

Anyway. It’s been a bit tentative this week for sure. One minute I am desperately sad and frightened hiding in my bed, the next I am driving my car with the stereo on full blast belting out something from Pink’s new album (I think my teen part is quite lively at the moment – perhaps after the letter I wrote to her).

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Today Pink’s ‘Secrets’ was on loop in my car… the lyrics really resonate with me/the teen right now – it’s kind of how I feel about therapy like there’s a few things I need to let out the bag. It’s a right belter of a track too:

Secrets

What do we conceal? What do we reveal?
Make that decision every day
What is wrong with me, it’s what’s wrong with you
There’s just so much I wanna say

I like to make-believe with you
Da, da, da, da, do, do, do
That we always speak the truth…ish
I like how we pretend the same
Da, da, da, da, do, do, do
Play this silly little game, hey!

I’ve got some things to say
‘Cause there’s a lot that you don’t know
It’s written on my face, it’s gonna be hard to swallow
(Everybody’s got a secret)
I got some things to say
(Everybody’s got a secret)
‘Cause there’s a lot that you don’t know
(Everybody’s got a secret)
It’s written on my face
(Everybody’s got a secret)

I let the walls come down
I let the monster out, and it’s coming after me
Do you feel exposed where it hurts the most?
Can you wear it on your sleeve

Put it in the closet, lock the doors
Wondering which one is worse
Is it mine or is it yours
Put it in the closet, lock the doors
Wondering which one is worse
I’ll show mine if you show yours
I’ll show mine if you show yours, hey, hey, hey!

*

So, yeah, it’s been very up and down emotionally for me lately…To Monday morning, though. Get to the point eh?!

Usually I am pretty particular about what I wear to therapy. I try and dress well – not smart or anything like that, I just want to feel good in what I am wearing. I’m generally in some kind of jeans or dungarees (don’t judge me! I am a lesbian after all!) but I am fairly well put together – everything is clean and I make an effort with my appearance. Legs are shaved, eye brows are shaped, socks and pants are good! (like it even fucking matters! ha!)

I don’t usually wear makeup day-to-day but I generally slap on some foundation to cover the greyness and a bit of mascara to make my eyes look less tired on a Monday. I don’t think it achieves much but it is the mask I put on to go pour my heart out.

I’d describe how I dress for therapy as one of those casual no one would know you’ve made any effort looks – surf style. However, if I don’t blow dry and straighten my hair there’s an issue! I look like my granddad with his crazy bouffant hairdo. Oh man I miss my long hair that I could just whack in a tucked under pony tail. Damn you fucking cancer!

Sometimes I really cover up – even in the summer I can sit in a jumper with my arms concealed not wanting to draw attention to my scars or bony/skinny body. Other times I might choose to be more revealing – it’s a weird one. Sometimes I want to hide everything from my therapist and other times I want her to see me – I want her to know how things are. I’ve read a few posts about what people wear to therapy and I think it does tell you a lot about what might be going on both consciously and unconsciously.

Anyway. I felt pretty vulnerable on Monday (what with the rupture and having had the Skype session rather than a face-to-face) and wanted to snuggle up into something cosy and comfy (a onesie would’ve totally been perfect – but not ever going to happen!) and so I ended up in a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in a year or two (I have 25+ pairs – a bonus of having had the same frame since 17 years old) and a jumper I found when I cleared the loft out the other weekend… that come to think of it I had when I was in college too (hmmm maybe the teen part is more present than I thought!).

I was happy enough with the outfit but as it came time to leave home I had a problem. Shoes. Shoes? Yes. Shoes. I couldn’t find a pair that went with the outfit. Granted jeans and a jumper is pretty much all I wear and so really ALL my shoes go with this. But not on Monday. I couldn’t find a pair that felt ‘right’. I have 8 different pairs of Rocket Dog sneakers in various colours, trainers galore, and loads of other shoes…and yet for some reason nothing I put on my feet felt ok with what I was wearing. I don’t know what was wrong but I felt self-conscious about my feet…

The outcome? I changed my entire outfit to accommodate the shoes. I opted for my current favourite pair of shoes and dressed around them. I know. I think, maybe I need A LOT MORE help.

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All of the recent crazy has alerted me to the fact that I need to be very gentle with myself for the next few weeks – when possible. I know I am walking a fine line here and I absolutely cannot afford to crash and burn like I did at Christmas.

Positively, the session, once I arrived went well. My therapist and I really talked and I once I had got through moaning on about my current life annoyances/worries the conversation changed tack and went to a place that I am usually wary of going to for fear of judgement and feeling ashamed.

My therapist asked me outright about my eating disorder and self-harm. Yikes! Usually I recoil a bit from that kind of thing but I tried to stay present and open with her. Little by little we got onto talking about the therapy and our relationship. I told her how I have been feeling when I dissociate and how we need to find a way of working more effectively with the traumatised attach parts.

I managed, somehow, to stay in my adult but was able to be open and vulnerable with her for the remainder of the session and it paid off. I might be imagining it but things felt different. The session had a different quality to it and my therapist who almost NEVER self-discloses shared something with me and that made me feel much closer to her.

Anyway, the real challenge now is to keep on this path. I need to try and keep letting her know how things are and work through everything that has come up as a result of Christmas and before. I know she doesn’t deliberately do things to hurt me but because I am so frigging sensitive even the hint of a wrong word or tone can send me out into orbit. It’s really tricky.

My young ones are beginning to really struggle and it seems a very long time until Monday. I hate that it makes no difference to those vulnerable parts of me whether I have a good therapy session or a not so good one. I can leave the room feeling connected and cared for and yet I can’t hold onto any of it and still find myself feeling desperately alone and lost and abandoned by Wednesday. It’s devastating really. My stomach actually aches knowing that it is still four more sleeps until Monday. Adult me needs to try and soothe the upset little ones but unfortunately it is much easier said than done.

I don’t have a lot else to say really, so I’ll leave it there for now.

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Don’t worry about it until it happens…

Don’t worry about it until it happens.

I am frequently on the receiving end of this nugget of advice. Clearly it’s well-intended and generally comes from an oracle who is extremely blessed not to struggle with anxiety or, indeed, any form of mental health difficulty (my wife)! Maybe she’s right. There is little point in getting wound up about things that are completely beyond my control and worrying about an eventuality that may actually may never happen- but just going on my experience, quite a lot of what I worry about seems to end up happening somewhere down the line!

I saw this on Pinterest earlier:

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And whilst I completely get the sentiment, my reaction to it was, ‘well it always rains sooner or later so surely that’s just being prepared!’

I can’t tell you how much I’d love to be able to live in the moment and not have every one of my internal cogs working double time, under huge strain, formulating ‘what ifs’ but that’s just not how I am built. I stress about the past. I stress about the here and now. I stress (a lot) about the future.

Anxiety is exhausting.

I fret a lot. I know that I think about things too much. My sprouting grey hairs are telling me that if I needed evidence! I sometimes wonder if the saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ is really true. I never really switch off and find it almost impossible to relax… it’s hard work being me. That’s not a cry for sympathy, it’s just an acknowledgement that running on turbo charge takes its toll after a while. It’s not sustainable.

I keep myself very busy (avoidance tactics) and then periodically end up burning out and drowning in whatever it is I am running from. The problem with the ‘busy’ tactic is that the stuff that I am avoiding is still draining energy somewhere in the background. If I were a smart meter there’d be a level of energy drain that is persistent and continual. It’d be a really good idea to unplug those energy guzzling elements but I have no idea what is plugged in or where in the house those items are located (that’s what therapy is about). So instead of conserving energy, knowing that there is this continual drain, in my frustration I just overload the system and plug in some bigger items so that the underlying stuff is just a buzz in the background.

I’m not sure about that analogy. It made sense to me when I thought of it!

Over the years I have tried all sorts to switch off, calm down, relax…and not much has been effective. I can be in a really tranquil spot alone and still my brain whirrs. I have repeatedly tried guided meditations and my brain fights against it and starts compiling shopping lists or suchlike midway through. I’ve tried visualisations in therapy and whilst my brain can take me to snow capped mountains or gorgeous beaches my body has other ideas. It’s always on edge. I’ve tried body based therapies such as craniosacral therapy (love this but more the therapist than the process!) and reflexology. I’ve been for massages. Done deep breathing. I’ve exercised. You name it, over the years I have tried all sorts.

The hypervigilant, anxious, part of me so far has proven stronger than whatever I have thrown at it…. and I am beginning to wonder if it’s because somewhere deep down I know that those bits are still needed as somewhat unlikely protectors. If I dare to relax too much then when something bad happens I won’t cope because I won’t be ready for it.

Since my dad died I have been especially on guard and that was heightened even more after my cancer diagnosis. I’ve been stressing out for the last month (have you noticed?!) and whilst a lot of it is clearly based in the attachment stuff that gets thrown into sharper focus on therapy breaks (and subsequent ruptures with my therapist – sigh), none of this has been helped by the continual worry about hospital check ups and never being able to rest easy with my health.

I see my consultant every three months for a follow up to check I’m still in remission. For about half of that three months I feel passable, i.e I just about hang tight to the knowledge that my body is on my side at the moment – but as the appointment draws nearer the sense of panic sets in, sleep deteriorates, and I am cranky as hell. What if I’m not ok? What if my bloods show something? What the hell would I do if I get bad news? What about the kids?

It all starts to swirl in my head. The memories of undergoing treatment edge towards the front of my mind and I get increasingly worked up. Again, logically there’s no point in worrying about something that might not happen…but then at the same time I know there is a fairly strong possibility of things going wrong within the next few years for me. It’s just how it is. My original treatment was ‘kill or cure’ and because I know that, I am almost unbearable to live with the week leading into my appointment.

It’s been especially bad this time round because I have been ill with a cough/cold/flu thing on and off since September and I just can’t shift it. I have no energy at all. I wiped the kitchen surfaces down today and it totally wiped me out. I wish that was a joke. It makes me nervous because I was heavily radiated to my chest following chemo and I know that a potential problem in the future is lung damage and possible cancer. Great.

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Anyway, I went to hospital with my game face on and the appointment was ok. I got a really good prod and poke and there’s no need to worry right now. The doctor was satisfied with me…apart from my weight…but that’s nothing to do with cancer is it?

My wife was right (on this occasion). My bloods are as they were – no change. They’re still not perfect, i.e infection fighting capacity is rubbish, but there were no markers for cancer. Good. I went and had a chest x-ray done to check there’s nothing untoward going on in my chest and I’ll hear back about that next week.

So that’s all good. Last night I slept a little easier.

Perhaps that should be a lesson in not worrying. But I do worry. Because as I said, there usually is something lying in wait round the corner ready to shit on you. My friend getting myeloma and dying when her treatment failed was heart breaking. How is that even real???? And today, my wife has been fast-track referred on the two week cancer pathway to dermatology as she has several confirmed skin cancer lesions by the GP. So, there we go.

I was right to ‘worry’ about the ‘dry skin’ patches and nag and nag for her to go to the doctor after months of her saying it was fine. Fucking healthcare professionals are the absolute worst at looking after themselves.

She’ll be ok. She is brave. She might have to have her face dug out and/or radiated but she’ll be ok….won’t she? She has to be.

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So yeah, that’s some what’s going on here.

I’ve also got a therapy post to write at some point having seen both my therapist and the other one again last week – but right now I feel a bit overwhelmed and can’t even deal with thinking about what last week’s sessions were like or, indeed, what therapy will be like this coming Monday.

It’s unlikely to be anything near to what I need (holding, proximity, emotional attunement and containment) because I won’t tell my therapist what I need because my inner child is so scared right now since the rupture that it’s gone into hiding and I have quickly entered a dissociated state once I’m there… and so there’s a part of me that feels like cancelling….but another part that won’t because there’s that tiny flicker of hope that that 50 minute session will help turn off some of the plugs just for moment and help me recharge my batteries.

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I haven’t listened to Travis since I was about 17…and yet today this song came into my head. Says it all!

 

 

 

Fight. Flight. Freeze. Or all of the above?!

So, Monday’s therapy session was supposed the hail the start of the Christmas therapy break. No prizes for guessing how it went. Ugh! Same old pattern: I started off quite chirpy and present and then somehow when my therapist suggested that perhaps the dream I was talking about might actually be about how I felt a sense of loss around the break and how I was worried about things falling apart…. well, it took me by surprise and I felt a massive shift in myself.

I thought the dream was about grieving the loss of my friend…which it also probably was. Damn why are dreams so multi-layered?!

Up until that point I had been sailing through the session firmly locked in my adult. I’ve notice that I try and do this as I head into a therapy break. I think it’s something about wanting to try and ground myself firmly in a coping place before I am ‘left’ (or abandoned!). I don’t want to dredge up hard feelings, awaken the child parts, or really even let my therapist in when I know I am going to be left without contact for a period of time.

Sometimes this strategy works just fine and sometimes it really doesn’t at all! If I don’t have complete control over the conversation, then my therapist can say things that trigger a response in me and override the adult’s ability to keep things surface level. That’s exactly what happened when she brought up how I might be feeling about the break.

It’s not as though I didn’t know we would be addressing the time away from therapy in some capacity. I mean Monday was going to be the day to do the pebbles, to create a holding message for the therapy break. But before we even got to talking about them I had shut down.

As soon as she mentioned the break there was a part of me was really raging and angry. I think my therapist even commented that I might be angry about the coming disruption. I hate it when she says ‘maybe you are angry’ because it’s one emotion that I am not very good at expressing and it’s only recently that I have noticed what the feeling is. My way of feeling and expressing anger up until very recently has been against myself: self harm and anorexia are the products of internalised anger!

Usually I say, ‘I’m not angry’  but when I think about it, yep, there is always a part of me that is and of course she is right. I think in part it’s the frustrated teen part who knows that it’s going to be her job to run the show and protect the little ones but there is a far darker more pervasive part, too, that steps up and that’s the inner critic. That voice is terrifying and scary but it has also acted as a protector (of sorts) over the years.

The problem with the sessions before breaks is that if I can’t hang on to adult then team ‘Fuck You’ turn up. They simultaneously want to fight and run. I know I sat for a very long time in silence in the session desperately hoping that my therapist would reach out to me. I know she tried repeatedly to find a way to connect with me but when I am like that she has no chance because the critic has me on lock down. The parts of me that crave closeness (mainly little ones) are imprisoned by the hard one.

At one point I could hear its voice saying, ‘Just leave. She doesn’t care about you. Fuck this. You don’t need her’. My therapist asked what was happening in my head and I finally said that a voice was telling me to leave. She asked why hadn’t left and I replied, ‘because that voice has even more power over me when I am not here’. And that is frightening for me. I told her that I knew that the moment I left the room it was going to be very difficult. She said ‘because there are things that need to be said?’ and I nodded.

To be clear, I have never attempted suicide and yet recently there have been several occasions where I have mentally planned out how many pills I would need to take to put an end to feeling this way. I don’t think I would ever act on the plan. Although I am writing this from a place of feeling ‘okish’ and I don’t think suicide attempts usually come from this place.

Ultimately, there are several reasons why I can’t see myself taking an overdose. First and foremost: I just will not do that to my kids. I know what it is like to lose a parent and I will never willingly put my children through that, or put them through a failed suicide attempt. Even when I looked, and often felt, like I was dying when I was going through chemo I drew on every last ounce of strength to keep it together and present an ‘I’m ok’ front for my kids.

My daughter still worries every time I have to go to the doctors, even if it is totally unrelated to the treatment. That’s a hell of a burden for a five year old to carry and I am not going to deliberately add to that. With my history of cancer and the heavy duty treatment regime I underwent it is not beyond the realms of possibility that I will get ill again, either through relapse or as a side effect of the treatment. One day I may not be here for them anyway so I will not take myself away from them through my own volition.

This time two years ago I was being radiated to my chest every day for three weeks. I had a two day break from radiotherapy over Christmas but by which time I couldn’t swallow anything that was in any way crunchy because my oesophagus was essentially microwaved and red raw. Christmas dinner was a disappointment!

As much as I don’t like to look back at what I went through then because I just find it totally overwhelming, I do have to remember that when I got diagnosed there was a part of me that was terrified and part of me that dug deep, really deep, and that’s what I have to do now.

I made it through, bone marrow biopsies, CT guided biopsies through my chest wall to reach the tumour, multiple PET and CT scans, several lung function tests, heart echo tests, oh, and don’t forget twelve chemotherapies and radiation!

The treatment stripped me back and my immune system is still knackered. Which is why I am almost always ill now. I lost all my hair. I knew I would lose the hair on my head but nothing quite prepares you for it coming out in your hand in huge clumps and blocking the plug hole as you shower.

Even when I made the choice to shave my head there was something about sitting in the salon watching my lovely long hair fall to the floor that was awful. I wasn’t prepared to lose my eye brows, my eye lashes, and ALL MY BODY HAIR. I am sure there are some women who would like to look like a nine year old downstairs – indeed I know many pay for the privilege, but I hated the whole thing.

So, what am I saying?

If I made it through all that and survived then I must survive what I am going through right now. I have to believe that things will get better. Experience tells me that it will be the case. Each time that I hit the deck emotionally and/or physically, there is something that picks me up or I, at least, navigate my way to a more secure space to catch my breath a bit.

Ok, I’m not soaring through the clouds by any means today, but the sense of feeling like I want to die isn’t there. It doesn’t ever last. It’s just an extreme response to some really difficult feelings. It’s almost as though I feel like I cannot hold the emotion and so the only way is out. But it’s not. The only way is to go through it and wait to come out the other side because it happens eventually.

I’ve said a few times when I have commented on other people’s blogs that I liken therapy and life to the story of Michael Rosen’s, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. It’s a great young children’s book. A group of children set off on an adventure to find a bear and on the way they encounter several obstacles:

‘We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day! We’re not scared.

Uh-Uh! A snowstorm! A swirling whirling snow storm. We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it! Oh no! We’ve got to go through it.’

And that’s how I see it. I journey through life on my ‘bear hunt’ and a lot of the time it is a ‘beautiful day’ and when things are good I don’t feel ‘scared’ at all. But then sometimes I am faced with obstacles, sometimes it’s ‘thick oozy mud’ and other times I am caught up in the ‘swirling whirling snowstorm’.

What I do know for sure is that the obstacles are all part of the journey and I can, and will, overcome each and every one that is thrown at me….ok, a cancer relapse may be a bit out of my control, but barring that I will keep going forward because there is always the chance of the beautiful day in between the challenges.

It’s all about trying to hang onto that knowledge when it feels bleak. It’s not at all easy because when things feel bad I suffer from optimism amnesia. Last Monday, in session, I was caught up in an emotional storm and part of me felt frozen. Actually, I did. I was physically stone cold. But what I mean is, the fear, or shame, or whatever it was made me freeze. In the moment I couldn’t find a way out of how bad it felt. It was impossible to imagine that things could ever feel better when I was locked in that headspace and I just couldn’t talk. So rather than run from it, I just sat with it.

I used to get really annoyed with myself when I would shutdown and freeze in session but my therapist is great (gush, I love her!) and is really working with me to notice when this happens and how it feels when I leave the window of tolerance…or as a friend and I joke ‘letterbox of tolerance’ (because that space is so narrow).

I used to feel like these responses: fight, flight, freeze were a barrier to the therapy but now I see that it is all part of it. Processing how it feels when I get to that place, not necessarily in the moment because it is not always possible, is important and bit by bit we are doing that.

We didn’t do the pebbles. We touched on them briefly and I said that I was feeling anxious and stressed about them. I can’t really remember what we said, actually. I know I said something about how it was difficult for me to express the need for them (or the message) and part of me was really attacking that part of me for being needy. I think my therapist asked me if I had any ideas what to put on them and said she’d had some ideas but didn’t elaborate on what they were. I think I just went so deep into my shell that we didn’t get anywhere with it.

On reflection I know what it is that has been bothering me about the pebbles. It’s fear. I am scared that she isn’t going to say what I feel I need her to. Above all, I want a message that comes from her, not one that I have crafted with her. I don’t want to help script the words. Essentially the message I am asking for/need is a demonstration of care on her part. I am asking her to prove that there is a connection in our relationship.

Sounds ok? Well, it did ought to be after all these years but there is a big part of me that is terrified that what she will write will prove something entirely different to me – a lack of care and connection. Part of me can’t bring myself to go through that. Part of me would sooner live in the hope that just maybe she cares rather than have my heart broken by her showing me in black and white that I don’t actually matter at all to her.

I totally get how dramatic that seems.

I felt a bit frustrated at the end of the session because the critic/(asshole protector) part had taken so much of the session and had side lined the little ones that needed holding and containment in preparation for the break. But my therapist told me that the part that had shown up in session was as valid as all the others, and had a place there. She acknowledged that it often shows up around breaks and disruptions and that she has a far clearer picture of it now….which I guess is a good thing.

Leaving the session felt pretty awful but actually this week hasn’t been too bad at all. I have been really really busy and really really ill. I haven’t had capacity to look inwards or think too much. I can feel there are some little ones feeling a bit upset and in need of a cuddle but generally they are coping ok.

At the beginning of this I said ‘Monday’s therapy session was supposed to hail the start of the therapy break’ and perhaps that’s why I am not in full blown meltdown about last session.

A few weeks ago my therapist offered me a session on Thursday 21st to see her (because she couldn’t do our regular Monday slot on the 18th). Usually she works in the NHS in the middle of the week but must have started her Christmas leave by then and so had a session slot available if I wanted it.

Of course I wanted it!…but I knew the moment she said it that it was going to be pretty much impossible. I went home to check but I knew my wife is in meetings that morning and wouldn’t be able to work from home. Both my kids are off school as of Wednesday and so as much as I would like to have cut the break down a bit by having that session it wasn’t going to happen. I considered Skype but to be honest it would have been a nightmare with a 3 year old and 5 year old tearing around.

Then I had an idea.

Is it wrong that I invited someone to come and stay for three days under the guise of a ‘Christmas get together/catch up’ because I knew they would be here to look after my kids on Thursday morning so I could go to therapy??!

I know.

This is not one of my proudest moments.

It’s also a time where I really hope that my therapist doesn’t read this blog! Because that’s a whole other level of crazy right?!

Don’t get me wrong I am very much looking forward to seeing my friend and spending some quality time with her and her son (my kids’ half brother) in the lead up to Christmas. I am excited about taking the kids out to do fun things together. I am looking forward to chatting and watching Christmas movies. But I won’t lie. I am fucking delighted that I can go to therapy on Thursday and have another stab at a decent, connecting session to get through the remainder of the break!

Right, I’m going to go hang my head in shame now before I go and see Father Christmas!

I am shining my weird light brightly today so the rest of you know where to find me! 😉

 

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Grief.

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I woke up in the early hours of this morning sobbing violently, again. A dream. It wasn’t a bad one but it deeply touched on that vulnerable place that I have been desperately trying to guard, the place where feelings of loss and abandonment reside. I awoke to find myself physically shaking. I was stone cold. Tears flowed endlessly down onto my pillow in the pitch black. It was not gentle crying, it was full-body, snot-ridden, ugly crying. The physical embodiment of my grief is not in the least bit pretty, it is warts and all, let it all hang out, pain.

Since my friend died last month after battling Myeloma for two years, I have felt unbelievably sad, lost, and empty but have continued to function in my day-to-day. Externally it has been pretty much business as usual. This is partly because I’ve had to carry on, partly because I am in denial about it,  and partly because I know that’s what she’d have wanted me to do. She would have told me to hold my babies tightly, to find joy in the small things, and buy myself flowers (now that she can’t bring me home grown roses from her garden)….and that’s exactly what I have done or, at least, what I have tried to do.

From the mundane to the extraordinary and everything in between I’ve tried to be present and engaged in life because my friend can’t be in hers. She’s gone. Now, more than ever, I feel the pressure of needing to ‘live’ and not just live but live authentically and fully.  I won’t lie, though, truly there are days where even existing has been difficult. I know I put too much pressure on myself. I should give myself a break. I am grieving for goodness sake! And grief is not neat. There’s meant to be five stages I think, but in my experience is looks more like this:

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There is a part of me that longs to have what feels like the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders just for a minute or two. I know. I know. Get over myself. It could be so much worse…I do know that. It’s just for me, right now, it is bad. I am so tired of battling in one way or another – whether it be against myself or with my health. It’s just exhausting. I never ever seem to reach a point where I feel safe and balanced. If my head feels ok (ha, when was that again?) then invariably my body gives up on me. I’m still coughing and spluttering and heading towards the dread of the three monthly cancer check up.

There’s no wonder I am not full of joy or exuding Christmas spirit. How can I be when my friend isn’t here this year? How can I feel jolly when in a week’s time we would have been celebrating her sixtieth birthday over our annual Christmas crafting day (faffing about making pompoms, or jabbing stuff in oasis, or buggering about with PVA glue and tissue paper). It was always the perfect excuse to get together with my collection of older women/surrogate mothers and consume too much cake, too much chocolate, too much mulled wine. A day with giggles on tap.

I could really use a day like that right now. We had planned to do it this year anyway to celebrate our lovely friend but as it’s worked out no one is around because life is like that – people have children and grandchildren to look after etc. Life moves on and commitments come up. I’ve got so much on this next couple of weeks that even I am probably going to have to cancel the coffee and cake in town we had planned in for Wednesday instead of a full craft day. I have to be on an interview panel for preschool.

There’s a part of me that wishes the world would just stop turning for a little while. I want to pause and take time to reflect on what has happened to my friend, and to me. I want to mourn for what I have lost. And yet, somehow in my waking hours there just is no time to. Not only that, I am fearful of letting it out because I know the flow of pain and loss and grief can’t just be stemmed when the clock demands. And there is so much unprocessed grief – my dad’s death still haunts me.

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So because I don’t face it in the daylight, my grief seems to come out in my dreams and then the floods of tears wake me and they just will not stop.

Last night’s dream:

I called in to see my friend’s husband to deliver a Christmas card and see how he was holding up. I found him sitting in the living room, dishevelled and unwashed. He was a broken man. My heart ached for him.

It felt strange being in the house, as though my friend could walk in at any point, her things still dotted around the room, her presence still felt. We talked a little while  and I told him how much she had loved him and how that if there was such a thing as soul mates then they certainly were the closest example of it I have ever witnessed. He cried and left the room.

I sat in the chair that I have always sat in and closed me eyes. My friend’s voice came into my head, ‘darling girl, look after (husband) for me. It’s terrible for him and he’s so blinded by grief that he can’t feel me. I know you miss me but you know I am here. I am always with you’.

So again, it wasn’t a terrible dream. It just hurts. My soul aches. I know that sounds dramatic but that’s how it feels.

I can’t tell you how many times things have happened where I have thought, ‘I must text (friend) to tell her…’ and then it hits me that she’s not here. I can’t tell her that my daughter has lost her first tooth, or that my son did a good job as a king in his nativity, or simply that I feel a bit sad right now and would love to pop round for a cuppa.

The grief of no longer being able to share the everyday is hard to manage.

I know that this loss is also really hard right now because I am just about to start my Christmas therapy break. And so all my feelings about my friend dying are getting muddled up with my therapist disappearing for nearly a month.

I struggle enough feeling like my therapist is really gone (dead) on breaks or in between sessions and I know this comes from various events that have happened in my life: my mum consistently being away during the week when I was little, and then more recently my dad dying three days into his month long holiday in Thailand. So throw in this massive recent bereavement and it just feels incredibly difficult.

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Basically, it seems to work that if people are out of sight for me then I am shitting my pants. It is massively anxiety provoking being away from my therapist for any amount of time because I rely on her so heavily. The idea of her being actually gone (dead) is terrifying for me and that is exactly how it feels when I can’t see her. There’s none of this ‘holding in mind’ stuff, and being able to feel secure in the knowledge that she will be there at a fixed time on a fixed day. It really is just horrendous. I’ve tried to explain it to her but I not convinced she really understands.

This year is even worse than usual because obviously one of my mother figures has actually just died. The one other person (aside from my therapist) who I felt totally got me and accepted me just the way I am is not here anymore. It is devastating.

Tomorrow I am meant to go to my last therapy session of 2017 and somehow get something written on my pebbles to take away with me over the break. I know that in theory they should function as a transitional object and should be better than nothing. Having a tangible, physical reminder of my therapist on something concrete did ought soothe me when it feels bad. The thing is, I am so worried about her not writing something that is adequately holding or containing that I’ll just end up feeling rejected and abandoned by her at a time when I least need to feel that the connection is tenuous.

It’s really hard knowing how to handle it if she starts trying to bring in the adult in the message. Last week she acknowledged that my adult doesn’t need the pebbles and it’s the young ones that need something but I know that it doesn’t always follow that a message to the little ones materialises. In the summer we had a similar conversation before she wrote and sent me a holding text message. It fell so flat because it was worded so formally and didn’t talk to the parts that need her most.

I guess I’ll have to see how it goes. Part of me already feels like I am shutting down in preparation for the break. Part of me dreads going to session tomorrow because it signals the start of a period of time that I know is going to be challenging. There is  also another part of me that desperately needs to go and try and connect tomorrow -to try and charge up that felt sense of connection and holding.

I just wish I knew which part of me was going to show up and sit on the couch tomorrow. If it’s the silent and withholding one then I am screwed…thing is, if it’s the open and vulnerable one I fear that she is also screwed.

Either way, by midday tomorrow I can say that the grief I feel is going to be massive. I hate therapy breaks.

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Ouch.