One Small Step At A Time

Time seems to be motoring on doesn’t it?…Thank god! I am so over Winter now. I can’t even explain how much happier I feel since the sun came out this week and we’ve had a few solid days of blue skies here in the UK (well, where I am at least). January felt unending but honestly I don’t even know where March has gone?…

Today I received a text from a friend whom I had met for a coffee last Wednesday saying how nice it had been to catch up and sorry it’d taken a week for her to acknowledge that. My response was, ‘A week? Already?! I’m such a headless chicken right now! So lovely to see you and thank you for the lovely treat. See you soon!’…S and I usually meet up for coffee every couple of months but when we were chatting realised it had been well before Christmas that we had last got together.

I am usually pretty good at sending people messages after I’ve seen them to say how much I enjoyed spending time with them and yet somehow I have barely blinked, a week has passed, and there I am belatedly thanking someone for taking me out for my birthday! It’s not like me at all.

My blog is completely falling by the wayside, too. I can’t believe there was ever a time when I had space in my week to write one or two posts here each week. Now I hurriedly type something in order that I don’t forget where I am at. This is meant to be my mental health/therapy journal of sorts – but lately I feel I am missing a good deal of ‘content’ because I haven’t time to get it down on the page…and then when I do get a minute I forget what’s happened or how I felt when reflecting back – how much of that is dissociation and how much of that is goldfish memory is anyone’s guess!

I miss having a couple of quiet hours in an afternoon to sit at my laptop and write, drink coffee, and splurge my emotional stuff – pain pain pain ugh! Having said that, the one thing that has come of being so busy all the time (other than being perpetually tired!) is that there is much less time to fester on the attachment stuff during in the daytime AND THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS. Lately, before I even know it, it’s either Monday or Friday and it’s time to see Em again and I can’t get fully engulfed in the attachment pain.

Don’t get me wrong – the attachment stuff is still there BIG TIME bubbling under the surface (Still a long way to go to earned secure attachment!), and sometimes it is bloody agonising/debilitating …but because I have so much to cram in I can’t get swallowed up by my feelings in the way that I have done in the past. I used to mope about hanging on between my sessions literally counting down the days (minutes!) to when I could see Em and felt as though I would die from the pain of being away from her (not joking) – now I have to get on with my ‘professional’ life and hold the young feelings as best I can. Sometimes I am successful at it – sometimes I fall flat on my face/arse/both.

To be honest, what seems to happen is the days are largely ok, I’m aware of the parts feeling sad and can give that some space but put it to one side… and then when I get tired and it’s close to bedtime the younger more needy feelings come up to the surface and I feel really quite sad. I miss Em. I suspect that is quite common.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about – love the fact that I am saying how I have no time to write and then essentially write bog all for loads of paragraphs!

Soooo…..where am I?

Right now I feel upbeat-ish which I appreciate is a bit of a (huge) sea change from all the stuff I was talking about in my recent post. That either makes me properly fucking bonkers or clearly demonstrates how quickly feelings can move in and out for me. The other week I felt stuck fast in the pit of attachment pain and now… well… I don’t – not really- or certainly not in the same way as I did…and why is this?

Guess?

Because of a twenty minute conversation with my therapist!

I wish I was able to remember that when things feel bad talking about them with Em usually helps! Like duh -that’s what’s meant to happen. Unfortuantely, I seem to be hard-wired to protect myself from her – well – protect myself from being hurt by her and so we do this little dance back and forth every few months….almost like clockwork. Or, more realistically AROUND THE BLOODY THERAPY BREAKS!

The few months from January to March were pretty hard so far as painful attachment feelings went. One shit dream where Em was misattuned and seemingly abandoning sent me deep into my real life tortoise shell in my sessions. I was stuck in that place where I doubted Em, struggled to trust her, and felt disconnected which meant that sessions were ‘fine’ on the surface for a while whilst competent adult showed up and sent smoke signals to hide what was going on underneath. But before long, as things spiralled downwards, full on dissociation took hold and therapy was really really tough. I wanted to connect (that’s all I ever want) but I couldn’t and I felt like Em wasn’t seeing me because I wasn’t allowing her in. Of course, when I am in hiding I also feel like she is keeping me at arm’s length and so it’s a negative spiral where I feel increasingly disconnected.

NOT GOOD.

Anyway. Em and I did quite a lot of talking around the issue for a few weeks, i.e acknowledging that there was difficult stuff that needed to be talked about. I think sometimes those laying the groundwork sessions can feel frustrating because like, really, why can’t I just spit it out already? Why do I need to keep doing flypasts to check it’s safe to land. However, that is how it is, and eventually, after checking everything was safe enough I finally asked if I could show Em my book…not all of it….just the last picture I had drawn:

And whilst handing that image over was a big deal in the moment, in the big scheme of things this is really nothing compared with some of what I have shared with her over the years.

The response?

Exactly what I needed to hear. Em used the voice (you know the one!) and really ‘talked’ to me. She acknowledged what I was saying in the picture and how it relates to what I have said many times before – and she really understood how I was struggling with what was going on in the room between us. That the relationship, for me, has been the hardest thing. She held up her hands and took some of the ‘responsibility’ (her word) for skirting round the issue sometimes. She told me that she realises that there have been times where she has said or done things that haven’t met me where I am at, have been misattuned, and that at times this has meant I have been left feeling really horrible at the end of the session and having to carry that on my own and of course that understandably makes it really hard to open up because the fear (that was already huge) has had some level of reinforcement before.

That’s the long and short of it.

Basically, it was one of those moments where you get real human connection, you realise you are both human and absolutely doing your best but sometimes it falls short…on both sides…and that has been enough to make me feel anchored in the relationship and like she really does care.

It seems nuts really that I have been in hiding for months and a simple twenty minute ‘proper’ vulnerable conversation sorted it out….FOR NOW…because we all know this stuff has a habit of coming back round again….like in a few weeks when it’s her Easter holiday.

HELP!

So, we ran out of time that session but agreed to try and keep the connection and communication going – even if it was hard. She asked me to try and tell her when I felt disconnected or that she was misattuned even though it is really hard to in the moment. I left feeling so much lighter.

Part of me wanted to jump into the next session and show her more of the book but actually, another part just wanted to talk without an agenda. And that is what has happened. The last two sessions have been really nice. On Friday I showed Em the YouTube video that I posted here with the failed divers. It was good to lighten the mood and laugh together – but also to try and explain why I made the analogy with my therapy.

I feel like I have an A for effort but an E for execution so far as therapy goes. I turn up every week. I want to do the work….but fuck… most of the time it’s not a smooth move! Em told me that it wasn’t a performance and that I could be just how it is. On some level I know that but that also requires a level of vulnerability that I just can’t achieve.

Sooooo…to Monday and an unexpectedly HUGE session. Again, I just sat down, no real agenda, and started blathering on about work and then suddenly a load of buried stuff came out about early in my career missing a student with anorexia and the guilt that I still feel for ‘failing her’. Anyway, that developed into a massive conversation about when and how my eating disorder started in my teens. My ED is something I struggle to get to in my therapy (especially after the nightmare that happened last year) but somehow I could talk about it this week and god, it’s been so long buried, it was good to give it some light and air.

Whilst Em and I didn’t talk about our relationship at all – which has been ‘the big thing’ bugging me lately, strangely it’s kind of not front and centre at the minute. Talking about this ‘old but huge thing’ was incredibly connecting. Sharing something so personal and guarded and having it responded to kindly and with empathy was soooooo connecting.

So yeah, it’s a weird one right now. There are all kinds of things going on and there are certainly some more big (scary!) conversations to be had but right now I am optimistic about it all.

But don’t let me fool you into thinking everything is rosy in the internal landscape of yours truly. Hell no! That’s not how it is. So, it was bad from January to March because I felt unseen and disconnected from Em – booooo hiss!! BUT NOW because I feel connected to Em I feel really needy and just have that ache to be close to her. Oh the joys of attachment eh?!

FFS! Gimme a break!!! Haha…just remember this:

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I’m Giving Up Dissociation For Lent!

‘I’m giving up dissociation for Lent!’ …Ah if only leaving my unconscious ‘go to’ coping strategy behind were as easy as giving up chocolate for the next forty days… actually, giving up chocolate would be a huge stretch, too, so I don’t know why I am even saying that!

I’m not religious (at all) and so the title of this post was sarcastic rather than a real thing – and please don’t be offended by the tone of the post if you are religious- it’s not meant as a dig I am just thinking out loud and scratching my head about where I am at right now.

I always kind of wonder about why other heathen non-believers like myself seem to jump on this particular time period and say they’re foregoing something until Easter. Like what’s so special about Lent? I wonder if the idea of withholding from ourselves is so engrained that we think, ‘ah, yes, I can punish myself for a protracted period of time’. Let’s face it, most of us don’t need an event in the Christian calendar to revel in self-denial and penance. We are perpetually listing our failings and, for the anorexic eating disordered among us, fasting is second nature.

Maybe Lent is too easy then?

Maybe it’s the convenient timing too?

These days we are so fixated on body image – I’m sure it’s about now that the glossy magazines start bleating on about how to achieve ‘the ultimate bikini body’ (FYI you basically have to put a bikini on your existing body but that’s not what they pedal is it?!) – that maybe we see Lent as a time to shed those winter pounds we gained. It’s become diet season so why not have a running jump at losing the muffin top? I dunno.

Look, I totally get that seeing the next six weeks as a sort of weightloss challenge is a bastardisation of the original purpose – but this is what I am wondering about – like why when you don’t do organised religion does Lent seem to be a ‘thing’? For those people that are religious I understand it – makes sense – and I’m betting most people of faith aren’t simply shunning bars of Galaxy until Easter.

Anyway, moving on…a bit…I have been thinking about self-care, strangely, in relation to Lent. I give self-care a wave every now and then but, frankly, am pretty poor at looking after myself. I seem to come somewhere right down the bottom of the pile for care: kids, wife, other people, my animals, the dying orange at the back of the fridge, and then somewhere a little further along the line is me.

It’s strange.

I get that self-care is a REALLY GOOD THING and NECESSARY if you don’t want to be a complete knackered wreck/basketcase and yet I really struggle to prioritise my needs and myself. There’s a part of me that sees looking after myself as selfish… rationally I know that is totally fucked up but it is how I feel.

There is certainly a part of me that thinks I don’t deserve to be happy, to be looked after, to rest, or be a normal weight….and we all know who that is: the Inner Critic. I know that part of me has been doing her best over the last 25+ years to protect me and keep me functioning but these days, her ideas of how to keep me safe and working don’t really work. Trying to be perfect, stretching myself beyond my limits, and starving myself don’t really lead to things being ok or safe. I know that.

I have been really aware of my body again these last couple of weeks. You know how it is, that niggling thing where you look in the mirror and notice all the flaws – that extra couple of pounds you put on over Christmas seems to have welded itself to your hips and won’t budge…(even though you’ve done nothing to help budge it other than will it away!). And I think this is why Lent is winding me up a bit as I see people choosing now to start dieting again because actually my brain is scheming and saying, ‘Go on, jump on board with it too, here’s your opportunity, you can legitimately hide behind Lent to cover your eating disorder for the next couple of months – give up sugar…or EVERYTHING and you can lose that weight that’s been driving you mad for the last three months’.

See, this is not good which is why I am just blathering on here. I am aware of how careful I need to be when my mind starts considering any kind of restriction because it never leads anywhere good. I know I need to have a conversation with my therapist about these feelings but I feel kind of moronic talking about not eating when I am actually eating and am as close to a normal BMI as I have ever been.

It’s sad that there’s some critical voice that is saying, ‘you can’t talk about not eating when you are this weight and eating food! Like seriously, look at you, you’re fat!’ Of course I do know that this is exactly the time I need to be mentioning these feelings in therapy – BEFORE things start to spiral downwards and the ED mindset kicks in and the secrecy and denial becomes the fronting part. I don’t want to end up in the place I ended up last year  and when Em issued an Ultimatum.

I also need to work out why I am feeling like I need to take control in this particular way again. It isn’t because of Lent! 😉 I know it has something to do with the level of dissociation I have been experiencing lately. I had a crazy bad dissociative session last Friday and I know it’s because I have been edging closer to the Mother Wound again. When the young parts are a bit more present or want to come to therapy it generally doesn’t go well – not because Em says or does anything wrong, but because other parts step up to protect me from being vulnerable (or stupid!). That huge need for connection and care so easily triggers feelings of shame as well as fear of being abandoned for being too much that it just sends me into orbit. I get sucked out the room. It’s horrid.

Fortunately, Em and I were able to do some good work on Monday where I was able to stay in the window of tolerance and start to unpick some of what has been going on. Em herself said something about the fact that there is a massive painful wound that sometimes gets exposed and is so incredibly raw that it is too much to bear so I cover it over with a plaster – only it doesn’t heal when it’s covered. So the deal is we are going to try and very very gently let a little bit of air get to the wound and let it start to heal in tiny increments…and try and understand the shame too. (This is not new news by the way, it’s just we are repeating it again!)

I don’t really know what I am trying to say with this post, but basically, I think if I am going to try and give up anything for Lent then it has to be being horrible to myself and defeating myself. Rather than giving up something I enjoy (although to be fair I think the Critic is a bit of a sadist and enjoys being mean!) I am going to try and use the next few months to be kinder to myself. I am going to try really hard to trust in my therapeutic relationship with Em and accept and believe that after seven years she is still there, steady, and constant and caring…I do not need to be frightened of her. She is safe.

What am I giving up for Lent? A lifetime of bad habits that hurt me. Perhaps some of you can do the same.

EEEK! I’m beginning to wish I’d stuck with chocolate! x

 

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Wobbly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh.

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

 

 

Not Alone

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Well, firstly, before I get down to the real business of this post I just want to ask this: how on earth is it only January 13th? Has someone been buggering about with the time/space continuum AGAIN?? Like, seriously, this the longest freaking month ever. I’ve only been back at work a week and already it feels like there should be a holiday on the horizon because I ache all over and feel utterly exhausted (unfortunately there are still five to go!); but then there’s that other important date that can’t come quickly enough too…payday!!!

Seriously, January is such a bloody depressing month – the twinkly lights and tinsel are both gone; it’s cold, wet, dark, and grey; and notably there’s no bloody money (to be fair there never is any money!)!! Actually, for once, this utter broke and probably eating beans on toast til the end of the month isn’t because I dipped into December’s pay for Christmas gifts (that didn’t happen this year) it’s because thus far January has chosen to shit on me so far as unexpected bills have gone: there’s flights for my wife to go to her grandmother’s funeral as well as an appropriate outfit to wear; a new bedroom carpet for my daughter after a vomit fest; and errrr some car repairs that uncovered more problems that weren’t worth fixing and so now….A NEW CAR! Not quite what I needed.

Anyway, I am sure no one is interested in my financial woes and January depression so I’ll get to it…

Not Alone.

I know that’s probably a bit of a random title but this week I can say that something else has started to shift a bit in me. As an introvert, to be fair, I like being alone. I don’t do well in crowds or at parties, I feel uptight and uncomfortable and like I would rather be at home in bed reading a book. At work I switch on the self that can do social and confident and capable but it does require effort. I’m not really talking about that ‘feeling alone in a group of people thing’, or being slightly distanced or whatever.

Bear with me, I am so tired I can’t really find words…

For the longest time I felt like I was alone with that gaping hole, #motherwound, sadness, misery, depression, eating disorder, self-harm, not feeling good enough… you know, all that lovely soul-destroying stuff… oh and of course, let’s not forget the crazy attachment issues with my therapist 😉 And I think starting up this blog started to change that a bit. I began writing and sharing the things that I have kept hidden and private, and soon discovered that actually I was far from alone with these feelings and that has been really transformational.

The interactions I have had on here (bar a couple of strange ones!) have been amazing. There is a real sense of community and holding and care from people that I have never met and that in itself has been a massive help on my journey towards healing. I have been lucky enough, too, to have stumbled across a few like-minded people that have become daily fixtures in my life – I think the word I am looking for is ‘friends’ – ha. And then (I’m sorry for this gush peeps) there’s a really significant person who I met here that I actually fondly now call my ‘Straight Wife’ but really I think ‘Soul Sister’ is where it’s at. Without her support over the last 15 months I know I wouldn’t be anywhere like as together as I am right now. It’s pretty unfortunate that we live about 500 miles apart but thank god for WhatApp calling eh?!

My point is, I do not feel alone anymore because I know that there are people who actually accept me as I am, not just a perfected version of me. To be able to be the genuine ‘warts and all’ version of myself, which at times means the needy, anxious, stuck one who can’t muster the energy to get dressed or eat is huge…and to be loved despite that is amazing.

I think my blog has been a bit of a training ground in seeing what happens when I am truly myself and allow the vulnerability out. It’s like another form of therapy. I guess it’s easier to write on a screen and have a bit of distance from it – that way whatever the response I am, in someway, protected. Practising the vulnerability on the phone with my friend has been another step. And then I guess this leads me to my therapy…

Therapy is slightly different. The problems I have around trust are huge and go way back. The maternal transference element and the disorganised attachment patterns I have haven’t made therapy easy (no shit!).

Therapy seems to be some complicated dance that I haven’t quite got the hang of (which after all these years is not really very funny!). It’s like I take one step forward and two steps back when I am meant to be waltzing around the room. I am not a natural dancer! Only what I seem to have worked out this last week or so, is that Em is not expecting me to waltz around the room. She’s perfectly ok with the one step forwards and two steps back. It’s me that has put the pressure on myself to be a certain way. Like honestly – big face-palm!

I have been so well defended lately that I have been unable to really connect with Em. I have felt like she hasn’t been trying hard enough, doesn’t care, is disinterested etc and yet when I listen back to my sessions this is anything but the case. Honestly, she really does try and get to me, and often succeeds by the end of the session. However, the feelings I feel when I am shut off or dissociated are horrible and I can’t see or feel her with me. I know the only way out is through but crikey it’s so hard doing something that basically stirs up a whole load of shit and then I am left with it ‘alone’.

Only, I am not alone am I? This week I have allowed myself to let the guard down a little, to look at Em (I haven’t been able to make eye contact for such a long time) and to just see what it feels like being with her. And do you know what? It’s nice. Rather than bracing myself for a feared attack (that will not actually come from my therapist – but hey I have my mum to thank for that) I have wondered what it would be like to lean into my therapist a bit. Rather than long for a specific type of care and then getting angry because what I am met with is not quite what I want (hugs!) I have just tried to be in the moment and feel what is actually there…and what is actually there is really good.

I feel like a right idiot writing this because nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. My therapist is the same but I am not. I know that is what it’s all about – me changing and growing – but it’s weird that it seems to have happened all of a sudden just like a switch has been flicked.

My last session on Friday was hard, we hit some really huge feelings- I accidentally triggered the motherwound landmine by not looking where I was going with fifteen minutes to go- but rather than run and dissociate from them I stayed with them, and in staying with those feelings guess what I noticed? Em was right there staying with them (and me) too.

When I disappear in session I take myself off into my ‘safe’ place (only it’s not safe, it’s isolating and horrid) I am completely alone and whilst I think it’s protecting me, it isn’t. Sure, it’s what I needed to do as a child when I really was alone and under attack but I am not under attack now. Even when those feelings of fear and being threatened trigger a trauma response in the here and now actually what I need now, and needed so badly back then as a kid, was to be connected safely to someone else. There was no safe person when I was growing up but there is one now and I get to see that person twice a week.

I feel like everyone will be doing the biggest eye roll and going ‘well, duh, that’s what therapy is…’ but it’s taken til now for me to actually feel that Em is safe, is there, is with me, wants to help me, and most importantly not only can I see that she cares, I can feel it.

I am not alone.

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New Year…Same Old Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ummm

Soooooo

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

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

Perhaps it’s something to do with being tired?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year…Same Old Me!

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

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Not A ‘People Person’

WARNING: Mini-rant ahead!

OMFG I am totally dying here. Dramatic. Yes! Certainly. But hell. Someone please rescue me before I saw my head off with a rusty bread knife. Ok, that’s a joke, and it’s not funny, but I am at my wits end (not suicidal btw). I’ve taken to my bed early this evening and am hiding out with the laptop in the dark because I literally cannot do people any more today. I am saturated. My ‘nice’ has vacated the building and all I am left with is a steaming pile of resentment and ‘pissed-off-ness’.

What on earth is going on?

Well. I’ll break it down simply: in-laws are visiting for five whole days and we are only three days in.

Look, I am not really a mega bitch or anything but I am an introvert and  I am just not equipped to cope with house invasions for more than a couple of days at time. I don’t dislike my in-laws, far from it, but having an extra two bodies to manage and accommodate for this length of time in my space is enough to send me round the bend – especially when at the moment my working life is so demanding and I am out of my safe space so much of the time.

When I come home I just need to be able to unwind and be me…I need to sit down and NOT HAVE TO MAKE CONVERSATION. I should be able to get up and go to the bathroom in the night naked and not have to fumble for a t-shirt just in case someone should walk down the hall at the same time. I shouldn’t have to be mindful of being a good host and offering to make endless cups of tea. I just want to be able to be a grumpy cow and mutter shit under my breath in the kitchen or feel sorry for myself as a child part comes to the front and feels sad about Em going away for two weeks. I want to not have to have my armour on, basically.

(Look – I said this was a rant! I am not proud of myself for being such miserable sod but I need to let this out because I am reaching the point where something is gonna blow and that’s not fair on anyone because no one has done anything wrong except for breathe!)

I have always needed my space. This is something my wife struggles to understand about me. She grew up in a large family in a small house, sharing a room with her sisters and is used to hustle and bustle and being on top of each other. I am an only child and spent A LOT of time alone. And whilst this ‘aloneness’ hasn’t exactly served me well (!!!!) it is what I am used to and, to an extent, need now.

I get overwhelmed/drained when there is too much going on. I don’t like being around big groups of people (ok so there are only six of us here at the moment but it feels like more!!). I much prefer spending time one on one with people. I can do the party thing. I can do the fake extroverted social thing. I have to put a persona on every day of the week when I am teaching. I inhabit that space well… It’s just fucking exhausting…and so when I am at home I just want to be me without the shine. It’s not to say that any of what I am on a day-to-day is ‘not me’, it’s just ‘not the me I really am at my core’. A lot of ‘who I am’ is constructed to serve a particular purpose. I know how crackers that sounds but I think we all do this to some extent. The world isn’t really set up for us to be vulnerable and needy is it?

I think this last few days has felt especially pressure cooker-esque because I am so exhausted by everything I am juggling in my work…and in therapy. Work is physically and emotionally draining and therapy is…is…it… well…it…I dunno…it is what it is!! But it’s not plain sailing for sure. I am overtired and grumpy and sad and ugh!!!

For the last six weeks, or so, I have been counting down the weeks to the Christmas holiday on two fronts: in one way it cannot come quickly enough; on the other I am dreading it. Adult Me needs two weeks off like the desert needs rain whereas the young parts are just starting to plunge head first into the annual Christmas freak out period.

It’s really like the worst bits of Christmas have come early this year. I know I sound like the Grinch and maybe I just need my heart to grow three sizes and I’ll be sorted but man… this is really hard going! It’s almost like the family visit has given me an early taster of all the things I struggle with in the festive season: seemingly having to be in a good mood because it is Christmas; being exposed to people for longer periods of time than I’d like; having to make concessions about how you want to spend time ‘for the family’ (I don’t mean my kids here- I mean the wider family)… basically it feels like this time of year is a big exercise in sacrificing one’s own needs.

AND…

When you throw therapy break into the mix with all the other stress it feels like an enormous pile of shit. There is an irony in the fact that just at the point life becomes a bit of a frigging stress (being thrown into emotionally triggering situations with family) therapists just off and leave us to enjoy time with their families (ok, they are human and probably have the same issues as the rest of us!) and ARE NOT AVAILABLE.

Ok, I know Em hasn’t gone yet. We have two sessions this week and then it’s the break but because things have been so tricky in therapy lately I am already quite unsettled and anxious about how this break is going to pan out. I am nervous that we will end up having some massive rupture and it’ll be a total train wreck again. I really don’t want that. I know I need to use this week to try and get some kind of solid footing in the therapeutic relationship but that’s often easier said than done when there are so many feelings flying around. I don’t really even know what to say to her that we haven’t said a million times before. Breaks are shit. Somehow I get through them. What else can we say?

I know, too, that if I am really honest about why this week with my in-laws has felt so hard is because the young parts are really close to the surface because of the break coming and so my filter is a bit weak. I feel upset and anxious and out of sorts. This week, I guess, is a kind of trial run of next week when it’ll be my mum here with her husband and I won’t be able to reach out to Em when I feel triggered and there won’t be sessions to punctuate the nightmare. Not only that, they are scared she is going to go and never come back. They are sure that she doesn’t really care about them (not helped by the dots thing)  and they are actually just fucking heartbroken by this. Trying to shove those feelings down when they are so real right now is utterly exhausting and so my ability to be anything other than how it is is really hard.

When I feel like this I don’t have the capacity to be much of anything to anyone else and I try so hard to hide how I am feeling that I push everyone away. It’s a nightmare!

I love Christmas! 😉

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Impasse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Love And Shame In Therapy

The subject of shame has long been a topic in my therapy. In fact I would go so far as to say that my therapist brings up the words ‘feelings of shame and embarrassment’ almost weekly. This isn’t the first time I have written about shame on this blog. Over the summer I came across a fantastic book by Patricia A. DeYoung on shame which saw me nodding my head in agreement as I read page after page and I ended up posting something then. I don’t really know what there is to add to the subject now, today, other than to say I seem to be in another of those deep pits of shame and I need to let it out before it eats me alive.

For me, one of the worst things about these horrid soul destroying feelings of shame (and shame is the absolute pits) is that they seem inextricably linked to feelings of love. How very inconvenient! It’s a total nightmare in fact. As Brene Brown suggests ‘shame is the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love’.

True. But. Ouch!

For as long as I can remember I have always felt ‘not quite good enough’ and by extension ‘unlovable’. I am a product of an upbringing that was pretty barren in terms of nurturing love from my mother: #motherwound. She was absent for a lot of the time (Sunday through to Friday when I was 5-11 years old) and then when she was around I felt like I was in the way, too much, a burden…it wasn’t ideal.

I loved my mum in the blind way that young children do. For the longest time I missed her, wanted to be close to her, wanted her to be there, to be kept safe by her, and was incredibly loyal to her. No matter how distant or absent or neglectful she was I kept coming back for more, desperately hoping that having been a good girl all week that she’d want to be with me, spend time with me, learn about me and who I was.

For years I was that well-behaved little girl, then older girl, then young woman. I was a model student,  no trouble at home, I never asked for anything and just got on with it. Whilst my friends were acting out and being normal teenagers I watched and wondered how their parents hadn’t killed them yet knowing that I barely had to look at my mum ‘in the wrong way’ and would get either verbal or physical abuse for it! …

And yet, despite all my ‘good girl’ behaviour, it never made an ounce of difference. I could not make me mum love me. I mean I know she does love me, in her own way, but there wasn’t the kind of demonstration of love and care that I needed as a kid, she still doesn’t touch me (at thirteen I reached out to hold her hand crossing the road and she said ‘don’t do that, people will think we’re lesbians’…and there we are…baby dyke was crushed and never reached for her again). After a while I stopped hoping for what I needed and learnt to be self-reliant.

My feelings of love got buried; I shut down. I learnt to not have needs – or at least not to show them. Need and love were bad and dangerous. They just led to heartache. It’s a bloody lonely existence not letting anyone in. It’s the ultimate defence though, if you keep people out they can’t hurt you can they? And my mum really hurt me.

On the outside no one would ever have known there was anything amiss. I have managed over the years to succeed at pretty much whatever I have put my mind to, I have this kind of dogged determination to succeed -but it has come at a cost. I wrote recently about how I now see how damaging the perfectionist streak I have is. It’s done untold damage to me over the years. The stress and the anxiety that surrounds the fear of failure is exhausting. The eating disorder that reared its head when I was sixteen is another product of all that too. Utter. Freaking. Nightmare.

But I’m not here to rehash the stuff from the past. I want to talk about the feelings of shame I am experiencing in the present – undoubtedly this shame is informed by past relationships but it is very real in the here and now.

We all know where this is going don’t we?

I am struggling with shame in my therapy. I’m struggling with love too. Or rather, because I feel love I feel shame.

Fuck.

For the longest time I refused to let myself be seen by my therapist. I used my intellect to deflect anything emotional… in fact I was so out of touch with my emotions it was scary. But, eventually the cracks in my armour appeared and feelings started to come up – attachment/love, call it what you will was suddenly there. And I felt it towards Em. This should have been positive. It should have felt good finally allowing myself to feel. But of course it didn’t work that way because hot on the heels of the loving feelings came the intense and crushing feelings of shame.

I should not have these feelings towards my therapist.

I am pathetic.

Blah blah blah.

And, because this is a therapeutic relationship and there are boundaries to the relationship, every time I smash into one, i.e the no touch boundary, or the no outside contact one, it provides a kind of evidence to that self-hating, critical part that feels that I am ultimately unlovable. That part is angry and sad. It thinks that if she cared about me she would hug me. If I mattered to her she would respond to my messages. If this was actually not just a 50 minute time slot to her then she’d work harder with me on how to make breaks feel better, might consider trying some middle ground like the dots text…or anything really!

The rational adult self can see that the therapeutic framework is what it is and why it is how it is (most of the time!) but that young part that has been so starved of love and care can only see rejection and that I must be too much. That part that is so vulnerable and feels so much love walks into therapy and immediately feels stupid, embarrassed, and ashamed.

I look forward to seeing Em all week and hope that being in the room will somehow make things better, that the part that needs attention and healing will be seen and helped and that the awful feelings that creep in during the week about being unlovable and unimportant will be confirmed to be unfounded. The moment I arrive, though, it hits me so hard that I can’t have any of what I want from her and the fact that I need my therapist in the way that I do fills me with shame and the shame makes it very hard to open up or connect. I want to, but somehow I get convinced that she doesn’t like me and that I am a burden…

Hmmm, familiar pattern??!!

I know she’s not my mum but the maternal transference is massive…and given what I have said about my mum it’s not easy. It feels repeatedly as though I am reexperiencing the feelings of absence, of disconnection, of lack of care… of basically just not really mattering… and it’s really horrible. I don’t really know how much longer I can do it to myself. I understand the need to grieve what I didn’t have as a child, but until I feel safer in therapy, more connected, contained.. I can’t see how I can go there. It doesn’t feel healing or reparative it just feels retraumatising.

I try to bring this stuff up but, oh my god, it’s so hard. Sometimes I make inroads and then something happens and I go into hiding. This last few weeks has been dire, really. I need right brain connection and yet I have been running from Em because part of me still doesn’t trust her. The shame has got so big that I can’t seem to let her in because I am so scared that she will, not shame me exactly (she doesn’t do that), but confirm why I feel ashamed. Like I will tell her how I feel and her response will somehow prove that she doesn’t care. And I can’t cope with that.

It’s really difficult.

I have been in therapy long enough now to know that the only way things get unstuck and shift is to be brave and leap into the hard stuff. But shame, oh god, it’s so suffocating. It’s so hard to find a way out of it. It is so hard to take chances and trust that someone you care for won’t hurt you and reject you because shame is such a horrendous feeling in the first place. To run the risk of more shame being lumped on, or, ultimately to have the feeling that you are unlovable verified by the person that you love…it feels unsurvivable.

The thing is, it is survivable isn’t it? It must be. Because we survived it as children. The mother wound has not killed us….so it seems unlikely that it could do so now. There’s no denying it is painful going through this because it is reliving the pain we experienced as kids again in the therapeutic relationship. The memories and the feelings that are in our bodies are as fresh now as they were then…or rather maybe they are being felt now for the first time because they were too much back then and had to be supressed in order to survive.

I am hopeful that the more I am able to verbalise these feelings of both love and shame something will eventually shift in me. I want my emotional self to catch up with my rational self and to, at a gut level, know that it is ok to feel how I feel and that these feelings won’t annihilate me….

It’s a damn slow process though isn’t it?!

 

 

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On The Outside It’s Crazy… Inside It’s Comfortably Numb

Time is flying at the moment. Life is going by in a sort of out of control careering down an unmade mountain road kind of a way! Same old. Same old. Busy. Busy. Argh! I’m hanging on in there and by some miracle seem to be doing just about ok. I guess ‘just about’ isn’t exactly brilliant but I haven’t totally slipped up on my arse/hurtled off the edge yet (YET!).

I am somehow surviving each day and achieving the things that need to be done so far as work and family life go. I haven’t lost my shit…and feel strangely calm despite the chaos, so that’s a win. Slight  Very big problem is that I am still not quite finding time for the things I need for myself to be ok (and sane) in the longer term: regular exercise, the great outdoors, adequate sleep, relaxation, this blog…and bloody therapy!!!! To be honest I am being steamrollered by life in general…  I just haven’t become a complete pancake yet but it won’t be long!

You can probably tell from this that I am in a manic high, nervous energy type state; this is all well and good, for now, BUT it is only a matter of time until the burnout happens. It always does. I feel like I am yo-yoing a bit at the minute. My last blog post was very much struggle and doom and gloom and yet here I am today full of beans. Living as I am right now is not sustainable and once I get totally exhausted I know I will crash big time. I do need to try and find time in the day to totally unwind and relax but it’s not easy. I feel like I am on a treadmill that never slows down.

How many times have a talked about self-care? Talked about how important it is? So why is it always the first thing to go when it absolutely should be the thing that I hang on tightly to? Ugh! I guess self-neglect is hard-wired into me and it’s going to take a serious amount of effort to change the direction of the auto-pilot.

Doing self-care when things feel ok is pretty easy, I think; the real challenge comes when you are in the thick of struggle and mental hell. One thing I do know, and that my friends keep telling me is that I really have to make myself a priority in my own life. It’s my life so it’s perfectly acceptable for me to take up space in it. It just feels so bloody alien. Like I don’t see myself as important or my needs as being as valid as anyone else’s. I think when you have spent your formative years trying to not take up space or get in the way or even really be noticed it’s a switch that gets stuck permanently on. Still, self-care has to be top of 2019’s resolutions list. In fact really that’s it, the only thing -take more care of me.

Anyway, last post I was banging on about work and stress and people not taking my ‘no’ seriously and finding myself in situations I am not happy about. blah. Fortunately, teaching last week was really good with my new group. Don’t get me wrong, it was challenging but the time with the group of 13 was actually really restorative and positive for me. I know that sounds weird. But I went in and was just me, me on my teacher ‘A game’ but also me as a ‘human’.

I know these people have had tough lives and so started simply by talking to them, telling them that I was there to help, and hopefully we’d get to the end and succeed but all I was really asking for was their commitment to have a go. Teaching, like therapy, is all about forging positive relationships with the students, building trust and safety, creating an environment that feels inclusive, safe, and nurturing. This has always been a strength of mine (god that sounds so fucking egotistical) but I guess because I know how it feels to feel unsafe and not fit in or be accepted I am especially mindful of this in my classroom.

I asked each student to write something about themselves for me: their name, age, their interests, anything they think it might be useful for me to know about them, and then a strength and perceived weakness in English.  Immediately one guy said ‘what do you mean about useful things for you to know about me?’ and here’s where I brought a bit of myself to the room. It could’ve backfired. They could have seen it as a sign of weakness and capitalised on it, but they didn’t.  I said, ‘well, it could be anything, but for me, I’d probably say something like I struggle with anxiety and depression and sometimes it feels really hard’….and then they looked at me and put their heads down and wrote. Reponses included:

  • I get angry fast
  • I get low easily and struggle with depression
  • I have BPD and dyslexia
  • I have ADHD and get frustrated
  • I have health needs and need a full time carer
  • I am on parole
  • I struggle with drugs and alcohol
  • My mental health is bad

Just by opening up the space for them I could see that they felt like I was interested in them and listening but that I am just like them – human. I already knew some of the specific learning needs before I went in but to have them tell me themselves what their challenges are was really helpful.

Anyway, we had a good giggle, got some work done, and at the end one of the guys, 20 years old, 6ft 3 built like a tank said, ‘Thank you so much for today. The session went really quickly and I learnt loads. I thought Maths was my subject but after today I think I like English best’. Mic drop! I was so pleased and it made all the prep and effort feel worthwhile.

So, yeah, that was nice and a confidence boost. The rest of work is what it is. Challenging and lots of it but generally fine. And to be fair, not gonna lie, this week’s session with group was like herding snakes! I am exhausted from today with them!

AND THEN THERE’S THERAPY which, I guess, is why you lot are here.

I call it therapy, but maybe I should say, ‘the space I have been going to and moaning about my daily life but refusing to go to the difficult places despite knowing I need to’ …

That’s a bit long-winded though isn’t it?!!

So, therapy. It’s been disrupted these last couple of weeks. Em was away last Friday and I was working so there was no session which felt just about ok because neither of us were available and so I didn’t feel too much like I was missing out. I saw her on Monday in person. And then today (Friday) the was no session again because I was teaching…she was there though. And so this is not good! At all! As if we didn’t already know this, I am not good with disruptions and breaks in my therapy!! I am still very much in recovery from the break at half-term and with two successive weeks of the pattern being changed I had totally detached until today.

I know the numbing/avoidance of my feelings and the dissociation is how I cope and it gets me through but it’s not a fantastic strategy really. However, this morning was like an emotional car crash. The reality of two missed sessions and not being able to see her was agony. I woke up feeling anxious and desperately wanting to reach out to check she was still out there. My mind had gone to the place where she’s gone/dead… ugh. I didn’t text her to ask her to reassure me because I wasn’t sure that she would and that would have upset me even more and to be honest, the times she has text back have been hopeless too! So I have spent the day sitting on young feelings and trying to be a fully functioning adult. It’s not easy!

In and out of sessions for the last month or so, I have been cross with myself for going and ‘talking but not really’. Sure, I have had plenty to moan about but I don’t need to go to therapy and moan about work. I can speak to my wife and my friends about this stuff. I need to be in therapy and do the work on the relational trauma, the past, the stuff that keeps tripping me up and making me feel inadequate and full of shame. I need to connect with my therapist. I need to get in touch with the young parts and try and help heal them. So, knowing this, why the fuck have I been fucking about like I have?!?!! So frustrating and EXPENSIVE. Every time I don’t talk it’s a pair of new shoes I can’t have. AND I LOVE SHOES!

My session on Monday ran like so many recent others. I went in and I talked about stuff that was stressing me out in my adult life….you know, work and being busy. I failed to mention any of the other things that have been steadily getting me down. I didn’t mention the therapeutic relationship or how I have been struggling to connect on a deeper level or be vulnerable with Em. The difference this week, though, was that Em picked up on what’s been going on and asked me about it. She commented on how lately my life has been really hectic and I’ve come and just offloaded that stuff but that perhaps there have been things I have been avoiding talking about because I don’t have the reserves to go there. I nodded and then off I went, switch, adult was gone, I was numb and seeing stars and feeling little and desperate to connect…but SILENT.

Em talked to me, asked me what she could do when things get like this because we have been here so many times before. Of course, when I get into that state I have no words and as much as I would like to ask her to come and sit beside me or speak directly to the little parts and explain that they are safe and she is there I just sit frozen like some insufferable mute.

It’s agony.

Time seems to accelerate and then the session is almost up.

And then I have to leave…and lately it’s been for a whole 7 days…which feels like a very long time now that my internal clock is used to two sessions a week.

I was frustrated with myself because knowing I have been doing ‘capable adult’ lately I have been very aware of this avoidance of the big stuff. The attachment stuff. The relationship. The goddamn breaks in therapy. So on Sunday night I had quickly written out some stuff to take to the session to hand over and try and get the conversation moving in the right direction even if my adult was not on board. Thing is, adult is the one with the bag and the hands isn’t she?! So even though with fifteen minutes to go I knew I needed to get the writing out I remained frozen, paralysed, and internally distraught. FUCK. Adult wasn’t playing ball.

I managed to tell Em that she was right about everything that she’d been saying about me having things to talk about but feeling unable to. She said that it was understandable that when the pattern of therapy is so important to me…i.e regular and uninterrupted sessions –  that it might have been difficult to go there and open up these last few weeks but that as of Monday, when we are back to two sessions a week, that it might be helpful to really try and attend to these bits that have been neglected.

Yes. BUT eeek!! That is exactly what I needed to hear but in doing so it also woke up all the silent and resistant parts and everyone wanted to have a chat…but the session was over!!! You all know how that is! So, what did I do? You bet, I sent a screen shot of the letter I had written in a text with a short message saying I had chickened out of discussing it in session but that next week we needed to. Face palm!

Basically what I sent at 2pm was an incoherent 11:30pm mind dump from the previous evening – but hey it’s a way in…:

November – Therapy Stuff

  • I feel anxious…really anxious!
  • I don’t like feeling disconnected but that is how it is right now.
  • I don’t want to leave without addressing breaks: 1/2 term (sad face emoji), these two consecutive Fridays (sadder face emoji), and the upcoming Christmas holiday (crying emoji). I don’t know what the solution is but we need to work together to put things in place to try and avert a crisis like last year…which was hell.
  • I feel like a protector part has been doing therapy since 1/2 term break. There has been plenty of ‘daily life stress’ but I could easily have discussed this stuff with my friends. The young parts feel really sad and scared and several ‘older’ parts don’t want you anywhere near the ‘little ones’ after the phonecall we had. Even though we talked it through I still don’t feel ok. It doesn’t take a lot to hurt the most vulnerable parts but it takes ages to repair and regain trust
  • I have really missed seeing you but/and there are parts that have been unable to cope with feeling like you’re gone/dead. Initially it was really upsetting and now parts of me feels completely cut off … like I just don’t care. I hate how painful, physically painful, it feels when the needy parts feel abandoned but I also hate that when I have most needed to reach out I have built huge walls around me
  • I don’t think you realise any of this… but it is all mess of contradictions!
  • Adult me needs help getting the other parts safe enough to be in the room – and for that protector part to take a backseat for a while…but I am so wary of that because Christmas is coming up. The space that opens up is overwhelming and I can’t fix this alone. I feel like therapy is all about counting down from one break/disruption to the next. I never feel settled because you are always almost gone…

And so basically that’s where we are at right now! I feel like my blog is totally falling by the wayside but this is really a reflection of where my life is right now. I really hope that soon I can free up some time to write and wind down a bit.

I found this earlier…wondering if I should have it as the main ‘go to’ page on this…save everyone the bother of reading! haha! x

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Transitional Objects (again), The Marble, And The Meltdown.

‘I don’t know what to say’ is a sentence I frequently utter in my therapy sessions and today it’s pretty much how I am feeling about trying to write this post. I have so much to say and yet have no idea where to begin with the mess that is inside my brain. Perhaps I’ll just hit it chronologically and go from there.

I said last post about things seeming to (finally) free up in therapy after a long stagnant period….well yes, but I think a better analogy would be that I have been sitting for a long while with the handbrake on and now, all of a sudden, the car is free-wheeling down a steep hill, the wheels are loose, and any minute now are going to come off and I think I might go hurtling over the edge of a cliff.

A little while back, when my therapist and I were discussing the possibility of moving to two sessions a week (because the wheels were falling off in a slightly different way …man I need to get this car looked at!) she said that two sessions offered the chance of greater containment but also more regression. At the time I internally did a big ‘GULP’ – whilst the feeling of more containment was exactly what I have needed the idea of regressing even more gave me the heebie-jeebies. I mean let’s face it, the young parts have been losing their mind big time already…could it get more intense?

Simple answer: YES.

Em knows what she’s talking about.

Damn!

Call me naïve but I didn’t think the shift into letting the vulnerable, young, stuff out would happen so quickly, especially after the (enormous) summer break. I mean, we’ve been back….errr… four weeks! But hey, I guess all these feelings have been there waiting for a safe enough time to come out. One session a week wasn’t allowing enough connection and containment and so it’s little wonder it was taking a gargantuan effort to reach the hard stuff in only fifty minutes a week.

I have certainly felt that knowing I’ll see Em on a Monday and talk to her via Skype on Friday has made things feel a bit easier. There seems to be a bit less internal pressure to ‘get it right’ in session and ‘get stuff out’ now. I used to only have 50 minutes to release the pressure that built up in a week. If I felt like I’d ‘wasted’ my time or ‘not connected’ I’d beat myself up and then suffer with what was left over and it would sit festering for another seven days. Now, if I don’t quite say what I wanted (like the other week where I spent the whole skype session talking about WORK- ffs…) I think ‘fuck, that was frustrating, but at least I’ll see her again in three/four days. I wonder why I did that?’

I can’t really remember anything at all about the Skype session on the 21st. I guess it was just work stuff and hasn’t stuck in my mind. The young parts were really upset afterwards, though. I can’t remember what they had wanted to say to her – I think it was something about the summer break and the fact that she’d just given me the next set of break dates. Anyway, they didn’t get a chance to talk, and even though I knew I would see Em in three days the weekend felt hideous. I was very, very agitated and unsettled.

I was trawling through Twitter on Sunday evening and saw a great tweet about power stones. Basically a therapist that works with kids had invited children to think about who their ‘safe adult’ was and to get them to make a finger print in some clay in order that when the children were away from their safe adult and needed reassurance they could take out their power stone from their pocket and be reminded of them.

You can probably see why I got really excited about this idea especially after the long-running saga with the pebbles last year! #transitionalobject! So I retweeted the post as I knew a few of my friends would love it too… and then….OMG….immediately sent Em the link to my tweet in an email asking: ‘Can we do something like this before the next break?’.

Sometimes I get that impulsive urge to reach out like that and then once I have I almost immediately freak out!

I got to session on Monday and felt so unbelievably exposed. That in addition to all the stuff I’d read on Saturday night didn’t help at all. I wanted hide, and said as much the moment Em brought up the email. I may have put that stuff out there but I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. We talked a great deal about feeling exposed and vulnerable on Monday and the little parts went away feeling really connected to Em but, as is often the case, when things feel really good they miss her even more.

It’s crap really – a no win situation!:

Disconnected = meltdown

Connected = meltdown

Anyway, I was back on the moors on Tuesday doing some geography with my home-schooled boy. On the way home there is a glass making factory that makes, amongst other things, beautiful marbles. As a kid I always loved it there and started collecting marbles from the age of eleven….I have loads…which is ironic really as I clearly am not in possession of my other marbles! So, I took a ten minute break and went into the place for a wander around and looked at the marbles.

Eleven came online. I could feel the shift in me. My adult/teacher was gone and Eleven was like a kid in a sweet shop. She picked out a couple that she liked…and then saw something. A gorgeous marble in the colours that Em always wears with hearts on it. I felt a wave of: ‘I love this. I love her. I think she’d like this. I want to buy it for her’ wash over me and so I bought the marble. That same impulse to send the tweet about power stones was there.

Anyway, the week dragged on. I asked my wife if there was any chance of her being able to do the school run so that I could get to session in person. Fortunately she could. The young parts were desperate to go to therapy but equally were worried that if I took the marble to Em and actually gave it to her she might push us away and reject us. Yeah, that old chestnut.

I got to therapy and eeeeeekkkkk… I was so nervous. I can’t, again, really remember what we spoke about (wtf is it with this therapy amnesia?) but it was really connecting and helpful and with five minutes to go I felt safe enough to try and explain the marble I had in my pocket.

I told Em about how when I was eleven I used to collect marbles and keep them in glass vases. I spent all my pocket money on them and had hundreds. They were beautiful but not something I played with – not toys. When I went away to university my mum met her now husband who had son. She went into my room, emptied out my vases and took the marbles outside to play. When I came home from uni my marbles were scuffed and smashed. I was gutted. I told her (Em), then, that I had been to the marble factory and had seen a marble I really liked and wanted to give her but that now I felt really embarrassed because it was a young part that had bought it for her.

She couldn’t have handled it any better (with three minutes to go!). She spoke about how big a deal this felt and how this was about wanting to express something to her but also that there was a huge fear about being rejected. She said that I didn’t want her to smash the marble and disregard it. Marbles are very beautiful but incredibly fragile and she wanted me to know that she had no intention of damaging it (if I chose to give it to her) or shaming me for wanting to give it to her.

Anyway, she talked quite a bit and it really felt like she got it…then the session was up. She said she thought it was really good that I had been able to bring this up and that we could talk about it more on Monday. I said, I just want to give it to you now and handed it over. She really liked it, said it was beautiful, and that I had noticed that she likes those colours. It felt nice….but also good that I could run away to my car without having to unpick the finer details of the hearts (the love!) etc that was attached to it.

So, yeah…good stuff. But having started down the path of ‘let it all out and be vulnerable’ and emailing earlier in the week it was as though my filter had gone. All the parts started activating. Everyone had something to say. Everyone wanted to be in the room with Em. Shit a brick!….

Then it happened.

The Inner Critic came online to shut everyone up. OMG it was horrendous. She was so unbelievably angry. How dare I have let myself talk to Em like this. Why on earth would I do that? It felt awful. That relentless, attacking, mean voice that makes me hate myself was really going for it. I had a huge urge to cut myself. I didn’t. I wanted to not eat. I didn’t. Instead I mentally logged what was going on and thought it was important to talk about it in session.

I know, by now, that it’s not always as easy as that because I never know which part will arrive in the room and front for me….I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be the critic (you can see where this is going!) and so pinged off a text on Monday morning to try and foreworn Em so that she might be able to help me talk if it all went to shit:

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Sooooooo…..I got myself to therapy somehow. It was all a bit of disaster. I stopped to grab a coffee and left it on the roof of the car resting against the roof rack. I drove a bit and then realised what I had done, retrieved the coffee and proceeded to pour it ALL OVER MYSELF. I arrived at the town where my therapist lives and sat on the sea wall. It was a stunning day. I did a bit of deep breathing and taking in the view…trying to compose myself. When it was time to leave. I jumped down and totally misjudged the height and hurt my ankle. It was that kind of day!!

I arrived at my T’s and FUUUUUCCCCCCCKKKKK it was so noisy in my head. All the parts were clamouring to be heard and seen. It was chaos. Usually I feel like there is maybe one or two parts active at a time but not this week. Good god! It was really hard to even hear what Em was saying. I told her that I felt like I couldn’t hear her. She asked if she was speaking too quietly and I tried to explain that it wasn’t about volume it was about not being able to tune in to what she was saying. I couldn’t connect…and then there she was – the Critic. 

She shut the show down.

She was not happy at all.

All I could hear, then, in my head was ‘DON’T YOU DARE TALK TO HER!’

Em tried really hard to connect with me. I’ve since listened back to the session and really she could not have done any more to try and reach me but the power of the Inner Critic is unbelievable and everything Em said pissed her off more and more – especially when she asked if maybe what was going on was related to the marble and taking a risk on Friday. I could feel myself bristle all over. Em persisted trying to tell the Critic that she had as much a right to be here as any of the others and that maybe she was worried that if the others talk then she will lose her power and be left. (Grrrr!)

At one point Em asked how I was feeling having been speaking directly to that  critical part for about twenty minutes and I told her I was angry. Em tried to unpick the anger but it just infuriated me further and so I said …..‘JUST FUCK OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE’ —– not one of my finest moments for sure.

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It was a really a tough session and I haven’t felt that level of anger and shutdown for a really long time, like probably this time last year. It was uncomfortable but necessary I think. I hate feeling like I am losing control over what is going on. I know the Critic is all about control…but she’s only meant to be rude to me and control me. She isn’t meant to face off my therapist!

I left therapy and listened back to my session in the car on the way to tutoring and all the young parts started crying inside. It was horrid. I couldn’t remember half of what I’d said and hearing it back I felt like I had ‘done a bad thing’. I didn’t want Em to be angry with me. Of course adult me understands that this is all part of therapy and that Em is probably pleased that I have finally been able to express some of the rage inside, but the little ones don’t understand at all. They are frightened of anger. They’ve seen way too much of it over the years. I pulled myself together to teach and then drafted (another) text … oh god!:

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And so this is where it’s been left. I am having a bit of and up and down week! I am trying to be kind to myself but it’s not easy. The Critic is going mad and trying every trick she knows to get me to leave therapy because I should be so ashamed of myself. But I am facing her off for now. I have my Skype session on Friday. I am nervous as hell about it but it is what it is. I guess, actually, I am not so much in a wobbly car careering down hill so much as I have got on a new and bigger rollercoaster and I am finding out where it is safe to put my hands up and enjoy the ride – it’s all a bit white-knuckle right now!