The Velveteen Rabbit (And How We Become Real)

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*Beware – this is a ridiculously long post. Grab a cuppa!

Last December I stumbled across the children’s book, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams. Initially I was drawn to the beautiful illustrations – I’ve always felt an affinity towards rabbits: my favourite childhood toy was a white rabbit with turquoise dungarees, I’ve had several rabbits as pets, and I once had a really powerful therapy session that started with a discussion of rabbits but opened up so many things!

From the moment I started reading it, I was hooked in and invested in the Rabbit’s story. I’m not surprised that it’s so many people’s favourite childhood book and I couldn’t believe that I was only just now reading it at the ripe old age of 36. I mean, I’ve seen a few quotes from the story here and there that have really resonated but never really connected that they came from an actual book – duh!! No prizes for brains!

There’s something about children’s stories and how they are able to simply convey quite complex messages that I love. I guess they speak to the young parts of me and frame emotional experiences in a way that they are able understand. There was a real lack of storytelling as I was growing up. I did not get bedtime stories, really. There wasn’t that consistent time to snuggle into a parent and share an adventure in a book – but more than that, the closeness and safe time to feel held, contained, attached at the end of a day. Mum was never there, though, and I don’t think it really crossed dad’s mind how important that time is…although I remember he once made up a story about a lost bunny…and thinking about it I could tell you it word for word.

I am a bit militant about bedtime stories with my own children, from being tiny I have read to them both. It’s nothing to do with childhood literacy levels for me, even though I am an English teacher and see first-hand the difference between those kids that have been read to, and fostered a love of books, and those that haven’t. For me it’s all about connection. We have so many books in our house. So many favourites. We can still all recite ‘The Gruffalo’ word for word without having to look at it even though it’s been a good while since we’ve read it! The kids know some of the books so well that if I try and skip a bit or paraphrase to get through it, they know! Ha!

My daughter is 8 years old now, and my son is 5 and there has not been a single night that they haven’t had a story…or two! And even though my daughter is getting bigger now, she still loves it, we are reading ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ together at the moment and it’s great. Bedtime is the time that I tend to find out what’s going on with my kids. When they roll in from school and I ask them how their day was I’m usually greeted with, ‘fine’ or ‘good’. It’s not until bedtime when they’ve had chance to unwind, feel settled, safe, and close to me that I might find out if there is anything going on for them or worrying them. Bedtime stories are about so much more than books.

It wasn’t until I could read for myself that books became a massive part of my life. As soon as I was able, I would read whenever there was a free moment. I was that kid you’d see wandering around school between lessons with their head in a book. I guess from a young age I needed to lose myself, escape into another world, and books afforded me that.

I think what I love most about children’s fiction is how, because the stories are relatively ‘simple’, we can overlay our own feelings and experiences. The stories are not so detailed that you can’t put yourself into them. It’s really easy to use a children’s book as mirror for your own experience.

Another kids’ book I absolutely adore is, ‘The Heart And The Bottle’ by Oliver Jeffers. Some of you might remember the drama around the empty chair image after I took the book to therapy and shared it with Em a couple of years ago and then quickly disappeared down an emotional black hole in the session and in the break that followed! Really, I ought to have taken that as a template. Do not share books in therapy!

Anyway, like character in Jeffers’ book who puts her heart away safely in a bottle when she experiences a significant loss in order to prevent her having her heart broken further, the plight of the Rabbit in ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ resonated with me in relation to what I was feeling and experiencing in therapy at the time – the love, the sense of loss, the hope, and the quest of finally feeling ‘real’ one day. When I finished reading it, I instantly wanted to share it with Em. To be fair, I wanted to share all my feelings with Em I just got swallowed up in shame every time I tried to get near them or her.

It was coming up to Christmas and I decided that this year, after nearly 8 years, I would give her a gift and knew I wanted to give her a copy of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ as well as a glass snowflake that I had already bought. The snowflake linked back to a reference I had made a couple of years ago when I gave her a pop-up snowflake card. It was the analogy, that I’d like to think that each therapeutic relationship is like a snowflake; we as clients know that we are one of many for our therapists but hopefully there’s something unique and special about each relationship. I mean essentially it was a, ‘you’re really important to me and I’d like to think, and hope, that maybe this relationship means something to you too’.

It was a tough year inside the therapy room last year…and outside it too. My life seemed to throw up one bloody drama after another: my wife lost her job, we had issues with our donor, my grandparents disowned me for the second time, there was too much work and not enough time to ground myself and all this was going on alongside huge stuff being thrown up in the room. I felt so disconnected from Em. I was going round in ever tighter circles driving myself slowly insane. The attachment stuff was so alive and I was a dissociated mess a lot of the time. Being so close to someone you care about and yet feeling so distant and unimportant to them is unbelievably painful and being told, ‘I’m just your therapist’ doesn’t help. Themother wound has a lot to answer for!

I realised that part of me was running away from doing the work because I was always so busy. I couldn’t really let myself do what was needed in session because there was always a pressing need to be somewhere straight after, to put on a brave face and be ‘teacher’. I started trying to protect myself from the big feelings in the room so they wouldn’t spill out into my real life. Of course, that strategy did not work at all! I just dissociated because the feelings we absolutely there and then I was left with them between sessions, feeling shit. It was all a complete mess.

I knew I needed to make space to focus more on my therapy and so moved all my work out of Mondays and Fridays to enable me to really be in the moment…the irony is, I didn’t get to see if this would have made a difference because everything fell apart!

There was a significant amount of keeping Em out last year but, in my defence, that was largely because it felt like she didn’t really want to find a way in like she used to – and I guess given what she said to me towards the end of our time working together, what I thought I was picking up on was true. If she felt that my young parts were ‘adhesive’ and ‘tick like’ then it’s not surprising that when I took a step towards her, showing her the level of need (huge), she recoiled and wanted to get away.

I’m not saying that was right to do that. She ought to have taken her stuff to supervision and worked through it, not let it escalate but I do understand what it feels like when whatever you do for someone it’s never enough, they keep wanting you to prove yourself over and over, so in the end you just give up trying because you never can be enough. It can’t be easy being a therapist and having people throw all their stuff at you, project onto you, and maybe not get seen for you. I mean I do get that that is kind of what therapy is about – the transference. But it must be exhausting repeatedly being faced with, ‘I can’t trust you, you don’t care enough’.

It was so hard at the end of last year. And yet, there was a part of me that believed we were in it for the long haul and whatever was going on in that weird melting pot that we call therapy we’d be ok. Despite how bad things felt and how messy it seemed to be getting – especially round Christmas- I must have felt there was something underneath that was solid enough to hold it, to contain my various feelings of disappointment, anger, and of course love…and shame… and that we would land back on more solid ground once whatever was playing out had run out of energy.

I guess it felt a bit like the storm I talked about in one of my first blogs, the tornado would eventually touch down and we’d look back at what had happened and take a few deep breaths, check our footing and try and make sense of it all – together.

As it turned out, giving Em the book and snowflake at Christmas fell on its arse. I mean it really was a spectacular wipe out. Both gifts were massively significant to me at that time. Because it had been such a gruelling year, I wanted to somehow show Em that whilst I might be making noises about it all feeling pointless, and shit, and wanting to leave, and repeatedly testing whether we she was safe, that actually there were so many parts that wanted to stay, to work through it, and to move forward – together.

I guess, now, looking back, you could say that the gifts came from my eleven-year-old self. She’s the one who often got overlooked in therapy. In fact, when I first mapped out my inner dynamics Em realised that she was very aware of the others (the youngest ones and the teens and the Critic) but had absolutely no idea about Eleven.

It’s always been that part that has given Em things (the marble and gem stones) and it is her, I think, that has most been hurt by the ending of the therapy. She is a good girl, she doesn’t ask for anything, and behaves – you wouldn’t know she’s there. She has experienced a lot of hurt though, and out of all the parts of me I’d argue she needs the most support because she’s wondering why nothing she does is ever good enough. It’s her that feels completely unlovable and rejected. She kept quiet most of the time but really wanted to believe that Em could help…eventually.

Gifts can reveal a lot in a therapeutic relationship, and had Em actually taken a moment to think about this with me and explore it I suspect these could have been the conversations that dragged us out the shit and back onto a slightly more solid path. However, it was clear from the first session back after Christmas, via Skype (where I ended the call twenty minutes early), that she wanted to push me away, and basically rejected the gifts without wondering anything more about them. To her, at that time, me giving her anything was seen as an intrusion, pushing boundaries, and trying to get inside her. Even typing this now thinking about how rejecting it felt still makes my tummy hurt.

It felt especially rejecting when she said she was wrong to accept the gifts and in future she’d prefer it if I didn’t give her stuff. Earlier in the year I’d given her two gem stones, she had said that when people give her things she keeps them, and at the end of the therapy often clients take things back as a symbol of the work they’d done together. I didn’t like this, to me the idea of having a gift returned feels really rejecting, kind of like ‘you’re gone now, take your stuff back with you – leave no trace’ but what happened in January now felt like, ‘I accept gifts I just don’t want to accept YOUR gifts’. Oh man. This hurts. So much.

A couple of sessions later, after reiterating at least once in each session that she ‘shouldn’t have accepted the gifts’ – every time it felt like she was kicking me in the stomach and pushing me away -she asked me what the significance of the book had been. I was so upset at that point that there was no way on earth I was going to vulnerable and tell her what it had meant to me. Maybe if I had been able to engage then things could have been different but I just wasn’t anywhere close to being in my window (letterbox!) of tolerance.

It’s funny, my feelings on the book have changed a bit as this has all unfolded with Em but this is why I wanted to bring ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ into my therapy in the first place- there are so many meanings and messages and it speaks to me and all the parts that have been hurt or are hurting.

All I can say is it feels like there was a massive opportunity missed but, now, almost six months down the line I feel like I want to try and explain. So, this is my take on it but I recommend the book to everyone because everyone will apply their own narrative to what’s there.

I have no idea how this might come out as I try and lace the story together with my therapy story! But here goes:

The book begins, ‘There was once a Velveteen Rabbit, and in the beginning, he was really splendid’ and I guess, for me, this is kind of how we all start off, when we are born. We are perfect. There is so much possibility and potential (under the right conditions). Maybe, if we are lucky, at the beginning, in our childhoods we might get something like enough love and care. It looks promising for the Rabbit, ‘for at least two hours the Boy loved him.’ And this love might give us enough of a sense of safety and security to function effectively. But then, unfortunately, for many of us, for whatever reason, things go wrong ‘the Velveteen Rabbit was forgotten’ and I think that’s what I felt, and experienced growing up -that feeling of being forgotten about, or at least not prioritised.

I mean, straight away, I identified with that poor bunny! Feeling unimportant and forgettable has come up in so many of my therapy sessions. My childhood for the most part felt pretty barren. I was shoved from one childminder to another, mum was rarely there. I was there but not really, ‘for a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him’. I learned to get on with it. Kids are amazing like that. When you aren’t contained and held safely you find a way to live, shelve your needs, and basically survive. How many of us can relate to that in our formative years?

I was a good girl, didn’t cause any trouble, and behaved. My heart aches for the Rabbit – but also for myself. To experience a moment of having been loved and then being swiftly forgotten is horrendous. When I look back, I can really find only one memory of being held by mum. I was really ill after a reaction to my pre-school vaccinations, my leg had swollen up, I had a huge temperature, and had puked everywhere. I remember sitting on the sofa and being cuddled. But only that once.

What I also remember, though, is the moment I left the surgery, walking home, complaining to my parents that my leg really hurt, that it was really itchy, that I felt ill was both of them telling me to ‘stop moaning and grow up, it’s only an injection – you didn’t make any fuss last time’. I didn’t say anything after that, and despite feeling rotten and poorly I stayed in my room. It wasn’t until I was sick everywhere that they looked at my leg and called the out of hours doctor. I must have been four years old. I wonder now if the cuddle was because the doctor was coming and because they felt guilty?

You learn really quickly to not express needs when they aren’t met and I guess this must have been about the same time that I burnt myself on the barbecue and told no one and still have a scar from it. What the point in reaching out when no one listens, or if you do say something they shame you?

The Rabbit was ‘naturally shy’ and ‘was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace’ among the other toys in the nursery who were flashy, had moving parts, and were not filled with ‘saw dust’. I relate to this feeling of not fitting in. I have always been good at making friends but there’s always been a part that has like I am on the outside looking in. Part of the crowd but slightly to one side. My favourite film as a child was ‘Santa Claus The Movie’ and I really related to the boy character who had no one and pressed his nose up against the cold window of a girl’s house on Christmas Eve– she seemed to have everything and he had nothing.

I remember going to friends’ houses when I was younger and noticing how ‘happy’ their families seemed, how at ease they were with one another, how attentive their parents were. I longed for that but my mum always seemed to think that ‘those’ people were ‘weird’ and ‘living in each other’s pockets’ and that it was bizarre that mums chose to be there at the school gates rather than pursue a career.

Fortunately, for the Rabbit there is another figure in the nursery, the Skin Horse who is wise and understands how things work, a kind of mentor who’s been there and done it all before! And when I read about it, part of me placed Em in this role but I guess over the years there’ve been a few teachers who have made me feel like perhaps I am not as shit as I feel too.

‘The skin horse who had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by and by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.’

The Rabbit becomes preoccupied with the idea of being Real which I guess is what most of us are wondering about. How do we get to a place where the emptiness inside goes and we feel whole?

“What is Real?” asked the Rabbit […] “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick out handle?”

It’s the Skin Horse that gives the Rabbit hope. The Rabbit feels plain, and not good enough, and yet it becomes clear that those other toys in the nursery that seem to be all show, will never have a chance to become Real. I guess this is like life. Some people are quite happy in their bubble of denial and on the surface seem to be the complete package but there’s something a bit one dimensional to them. They never look inside themselves, nor would they ever think to, because everything seems so fine. But I’ve never been a ‘model of anything’, I’m not a mechanical toy. I’ve always been the Bunny!

How do we become our true selves and live authentically, then? Is it something we can do on our own? Does someone else make it happen? Or does the magic happen in relationship? I believe that becoming Real happens in relationship and it is this relationship then enables us to be Real on our own. If we are lucky this might happen within our own family units, at the optimum time when we are still children, but for lots of us this trying to become Real happens when we enter therapy and commit to making a change.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.”

[I mean this surely won’t be lost on anyone that’s doing depth work and attachment therapy! The feeling of coming to life because you are seen and cared for is the thing that makes all the difference. Feeling like it’s ok to be exactly who you are and connect with all the parts that make you whole is huge]

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

[not sure I agree with ‘not minding’ being hurt, but then I can see that becoming Real can be a painful process – it’s not all bad – and that lots of growth comes in therapy through rupture and repair…if there can be a repair!]

The Rabbit goes on, “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” And I guess this is a bit like us, in therapy searching for the answers, hoping that it’ll be a quick fix and in no time, we’ll be wound up and Real, but the reality is that it’s a slow process. Or at least it has been where I’ve been concerned!

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

And this is the reality of long-term work isn’t it? It’s not easy. It takes time. And it requires a fair amount of resilience. It can feel a bit soul destroying when things feel stuck and you can almost see the end goal but just can’t seem to move any further towards it. It’s not easy when you feel like you’re falling apart rather than coming together.

‘The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him’
I guess once we commit to the process there’s no going back. You’ve got to be all in.

Anyway, the story continues and one day the Boy loses a toy that he usually takes to bed with him and Nana randomly picks up the Bunny and hands him to the Boy. That night and for many nights after the Rabbit slept in Boy’s bed and the Rabbit becomes his favourite toy. They have all kinds of play adventures together. The Rabbit is happy.

Then one day the Rabbit gets left outside because the Boy has to run in for his tea. He can’t sleep without his bunny and asks Nana to go fetch him from the garden. Nana laughs at him suggesting it’s a lot of fuss for a toy and the boy replies, “He isn’t a toy. He’s REAL!” At that moment the Rabbit is so filled with joy because he has finally been loved enough to be considered Real. He’s achieved what the Skin Horse said.

The thing is, it doesn’t last because life isn’t like that…especially if you have an Inner Critic ready to pounce on anything positive. It’s amazing how you can experience good, get a taste of what it might be like to feel Real, and then the sadistic bastard comes along and tries to undermine it. This happened so many times in my therapy. Whenever Em would say something positive or I’d feel really connected to her the Critic would come up behind me and start questioning the reality of what I felt, ‘she doesn’t really care, why would she?…you’re not good enough.’ And for some reason it’s easier to trust the Critic than the person in front of you that demonstrates care week in week out.

Rabbit encounters his own version of the Critic. He’s outside one day and he meets some real-life bunnies. They tease him – shame him- because he doesn’t have any hind legs and ‘doesn’t smell right’. The rabbit is upset by the live bunnies’ goading, “He isn’t a rabbit at all! He isn’t Real!” He replies, “I am Real! […] I am Real! The Boy said so!” And he nearly began to cry.

It’s so sad. Because this is what happens, you start to feel like you are changing that things are getting better, that maybe you aren’t worthless after all – and then you beat yourself up and sabotage the process to the point where you doubt the reality. Oh – it’s so thoroughly depressing! Fortunately, as times goes on the Critic seems to take more of a backseat, well sometimes. You realise it’s there for a reason, and that it’s trying to protect you. You can’t always get round it, but more and more frequently you can stand up to it and tell it to sit in the corner.

So. What next? The Boy falls ill with Scarlet Fever and throughout this time the Rabbit stays close to him willing for him to get well. They may be stuck in a pretty awful place (as can happen in therapy sometimes!) but they are stuck together and there is a belief that things will improve, eventually if you can bear to stick it out. The Rabbit loses his shape and gets further worn out but he is unconcerned about this because he knows that, ‘when you are Real, shabbiness doesn’t matter’ and he is Real when he is with the Boy and that’s all that matters.

And that’s kind of how it feels when people outside the therapy room suggest that maybe you’re not improving quickly enough and seem worse rather than better. To the outside world it might seem like you’re willingly exposing yourself to Scarlet Fever when actually all around the Scarlet Fever is a protective force field, an important relationship which actually sees you through dealing with the illness. We feel Real, maybe for the first time, with our therapists.

People criticising my progress, or lack of it, used to feel shaming in the early days, but with time I began to see that to make significant changes and to become Real not just ‘better’ you have to strip everything back, remove the layers of varnish and veneer and discover what’s really underneath – it’s not about painting another layer of varnish over to keep up appearances! Therapy is not a quick fix and becoming Real, as the Skin Horse says, ‘takes time’ – and as therapists all good therapist like to say happens, ‘bit by bit’!

It’s about discovering, finding out about, and learning to tolerate the parts of yourself that you aren’t so keen to show the outside world (and sometimes even yourself). There are lots of reasons why parts might be kept hidden. It may be because they’re not all that likeable (the shadow), or perhaps because they’ve been so injured in the past that it feels inconceivable that you’d ever expose them to the light of day again.

Becoming comfortable with all the parts, good or bad, raging or needy, working through feelings – the shame – the love- in the presence of an ‘other’ (who actually might prefer your authentic self) and realising that you’re not perfect but more than ‘good enough’ is all part of becoming Real. And when you start to feel Real you care less and less about what people outside think.

So, the Rabbit stays with the Boy through the illness because he feels a strong bond and connection to him and it is the relationship with the boy that has made him Real. It is only the Boy who truly sees him, knows him, and loves him in spite of how he now looks. Others have teased him, belittled him, and not valued him but it feels different with the Boy. He loves the Boy…so much.

And this is how it feels in therapy, when the attachment stuff kicks in. Being in that room changes you slowly, your mask is off, you gradually remove your armour, you take a bit of a battering, you certainly don’t look pristine anymore! You are completely exposed and vulnerable in that space but at the same time, you’re seen, maybe for the first time and that does make you feel Real. Of course it does. Like the Bunny, your fur is worn away but, in the end, you’re left with the core of who you are and if you’re lucky you might just start to have a bit of compassion towards that person and that’s where the magic happens. You learn to love yourself through being loved.

Sadly, for whatever reason, it doesn’t always work out in the nursery/therapy. Sometimes it can happen that you believe you are safe, loved despite your flaws, and that you are important to the Boy/therapist and then something unexpected knocks everything for six. In the Rabbit’s case, the Doctor visits the Boy and tells Nana that now he is recovered the nursery needs to be stripped bare of everything and disinfected. When Nana asks what should be done with the Rabbit, he replies, “That?” […] “Why, it’s a mass of scarlet fever germs! – Burn it at once.’ The Doctor doesn’t know the Rabbit is Real, it is only Real to the Boy and so he treats it at face value: a faded, worthless, potentially dangerous thing and dismisses it from the room.

And this is how it felt at the end of my therapy. I thought I was in a relationship with the Skin Horse, or The Boy but actually, it seems that at the end it was really the Doctor. When it came to it, I was easily discarded, abandoned, and rejected – not good enough to stay – symbolically, ‘put into a sack with the old pictures-books and a lot of rubbish and carried out to the end of the garden behind the fowl-house’ ready to be burnt. The pain of rejection from this ending is massive to me.

In the book, the Rabbit is left outside and is not burnt straight away because the gardener is busy doing something else. Instead, the Rabbit manages to find his way out of the rubbish sack and discovers that he is completely alone and abandoned. He is so sad. Conversely, ‘that night the boy slept in a different bedroom, and he had a new bunny, all white and plush with real glass eyes’. And it feels to me a bit like how the therapist has a shiny new client and is fine, recovered from the fever and is able to move on whilst I can only look on and wonder at what has befallen me.

The Boy is safe and happy. That’s not the case for the Velveteen Rabbit whose ‘coat had worn so thin and threadbare from hugging that it was no longer any protection to him’. He’s left out in the cold and without the very thing that had kept him warm – the Boy – but in addition to this, he’s no longer in possession of his own coat that protected him. And this is how it felt to me. I had just laid myself bare, I was stripped back, painfully exposed, defences down and rather than becoming Real it seems that, instead, I was deemed inadequate. Like the Bunny I was suddenly, and unexpectedly out in the cold.

The loss is so acute it’s hard to put in words, even now. And I have tried. I’m usually pretty good with words but it has proved hard to capture just how awful this feels. I still can’t believe that I can’t see her, that we won’t somehow work this out now the dust has settled and things aren’t so activated.

When the therapy with Em terminated I was left shocked and, like the Rabbit, I questioned everything, ‘what use was it to be loved and lose one’s beauty and become Real if it all ended like this?’ And I cried. So many tears. Tears where there have previously been none. The tears that have been stuck inside for years and years. The sadness was acute, for me and for the Rabbit.

Tears are significant, though. They are a release. And accessing this pain (not just from this event but from all the stored-up feelings surrounding loss and abandonment from the original wounding #motherwound) and allowing it to come out rather than bottling it up is important. My heart isn’t kept in a bottle now, but because it’s on my sleeve it’s now more prone to getting broken. When I get hurt I can cry now and that’s when something significant happens. In the story the Rabbit cries ‘a real tear’ and it falls down on to the ground. It’s real grief. Real loss. Real pain.

The Rabbit’s single tear feels absolutely tragic, as a reader we feel the devastation (or maybe that’s just me!). The pursuit of Realness in the relationship with the Boy seems, at this point, only to have caused the Rabbit pain and loneliness. He feels abandoned and rejected. Maybe he would have been better left in the cupboard and never experienced the relationship at all.

A moment later, out from where the Rabbit’s tear had landed, grew a ‘mysterious flower’. It’s unlike anything the Rabbit has seen before. I guess in a way, this tear, the Rabbit’s own particular version of grief, when it finally comes (and we know how hard it can be to access those feelings and let them come), in the end produces something unexpectedly transformational.

As the flower blooms, out pops the nursery magic Fairy. She explains that she looks after the toys when they are old and worn out and turns them into Real. The Rabbit is confused. He believes he is already Real. “You were Real to the Boy”, she explains “because he loved you. Now you shall be real to everyone”.

The Fairy, who seems to be a product of the Rabbit getting in touch with his feelings transforms him into Real. ‘Instead of dingy velveteen he had brown fur, soft and shiny, his ears twitched by themselves, and his whiskers were so long that they brushed the grass. He gave one leap and the joy of using those hind legs was so great that he went springing about the turf on them, jumping.’ And I guess this is the version of Real I am aiming for. Whether it’s possible or not remains a question but I do think that having to really get in touch with the pain I have been holding for a lifetime through the loss of Em might actually be the thing that helps me become Real. She helped me begin to feel Real, the Boy’s version, but it is up to me to get to the final real-life version of Real.

The story ends when, sometime later, the Boy comes across the Rabbit in the garden and feels he is familiar in some way. He recognises the markings are the same as his old Velveteen Rabbit, ‘but he never knew that it really was his own Bunny, come back to look at the child who had first helped him to Real.’ In so many ways I feel like this now. There’s lots about me that is the same but there are things that have completely changed. I wonder, now, if Em would recognise me.

The great thing about therapy, and finding yourself is as the Skin Horse says at the beginning ‘Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again’.

Some Kind Of Love

So, things have changed a lot since I last posted at the beginning of March haven’t they?! Back then the response to Coronavirus in the UK was largely about washing our hands, panic buying bog roll, stockpiling pasta (that wasn’t me btw!) and wondering if and when the government might actually make a move to lockdown the country or maybe do some proper testing… There was still a semblance of some kind of normal: the kids were at school, therapy was taking place face-to-face, and you could still get a drive thru McDonalds should the desire take you (I’m not a fast food junkie by any means, but I could demolish a Big Mac meal right now!).

‘Normal’ all feels so long ago now. We’ve had to adjust to a new kind of normal. Some days I seem to succeed at this new way of living and some days it just feels impossibly hard. My mental health has been up and down like a yoyo and whilst I have had stuff to say, and lots and lots of feelings, I have lacked motivation to do any writing. When I do finally have a minute, the blog just keeps getting put the bottom of the pile because I don’t even know really what to say or sometimes literally cannot do anything but stare at my phone scrolling through Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or some other shit that does zero for my wellbeing. I feel like all I do is moan here and frankly, when people are dying in their thousands me droning on like a broken record about how sad I am about being dumped by my therapist feels… I dunno…a bit self-indulgent?

And even if it’s not self-indulgent, by the time it reaches the end of the day (on a day where I am not some kind of emotional jelly) I have just about had enough of staring at a laptop. I spend the majority of the day on it, either teaching for my job or home-schooling my two kids.

Fortunately, I have been able to take my tutoring work online and have been working via Skype and Zoom to do my sessions. I only work 12 hours a week at the moment as the GCSE work has fallen away now there aren’t any exams this year, but even that little bit of time is really exhausting when I then have to cram in my own children’s learning on top. I get to about 8pm and just go into a semi-comatose state!

Doing everything via a screens at the moment is emotionally and physically demanding in a way I that hadn’t anticipated. Maintaining a connection and keeping upbeat and interesting is much more of a challenge than when you’re face-to-face. We’re all getting used to it and the students have adjusted really well now, but I do feel like a performing monkey at the minute – or a circus clown trying to keep all the plates spinning! It’s a relief though, that as a self-employed person I have been able to keep working, especially as my wife got made redundant at the end of March – don’t ask… I can’t even…

But to therapy – as that’s why I am really here – or why you are here!

Ummmm…

I’m finding therapy a bit meh tbh- I think a lot of us are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to at least be able to see Anita online and not have to do without therapy altogether but it is not like being in the room and I find that it is much, much harder to feel any sense of connection especially through a tiny phone screen.

I’ve tried a few different ways of doing things to see if I can find something that works/feels helpful: two half hour sessions in a week acting more like check ins, one longer session a week, leaving a couple of weeks between sessions… nothing has felt great tbh because what my system really needs to settle, feel safe, and build trust is proximity. I need to physically see the micro communications of my therapist. I need to feel the energy in the room. I also need that co-regulation that seems to happen when you can see the other person breathing with you.

I also feel like I am missing being able to tune into ‘the voice’ when Anita is using it for effect – you know what I mean- that thing that you get together in the room but that fails to really translate on screen. When it’s through a video call on a phone you need to kind of keep a reasonable volume or it gets lost…in the room there is no external noise, no interference, no screen freeze, and even a tiny whisper can be heard or soothing ummm can be heard.

I have been trying to make the sessions feel as containing as possible by taking myself across the road to sit in a field in order to get a bit of peace and quiet and to ensure that I am not overheard by anyone in the house but I dunno, it just all feels a bit shit, really. I don’t like distance! And the fucking sheep really haven’t helped! Noisy things!

I dunno it’s hard to explain but whatever it is that I feel I need, I can’t get it on the internet no matter how hard either of us try. That’s not either of our faults. It just is what it is. And until face-to-face sessions can resume we’re just going to have to make the best of it. But who knows how long that will be. I feel frustrated because I HAVE SO MUCH WORK TO DO and yet I can’t really do it. ARRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

Not being able to see Anita in the room and having to stop craniosacral therapy with K until lockdown is lifted has really left my support system in tatters. I was ok for the first few weeks of lockdown but having not been more than 100 metres from my front door for the last 6 weeks is beginning to take its toll – I miss the therapeutic spaces and the therapists! I just hope this doesn’t go on for too much longer because I really am quickly descending into the hell pit when things start to unravel now. I haven’t felt this precarious for a really long time.

I have really noticed what a huge difference it is for me not doing the body work with K too. I think losing those sessions has been the hardest thing for me, because even though K and I are in almost daily contact (and that’s really nice and holding) it’s not the same as being on the couch having the magic done to my nervous system! And when my body is wound up tight like a spring everything feels that much harder on an emotional level.

I’ve been really struggling at intervals with the Em thing. I guess because my usual routine has been decimated everything feels all the more unsettled and I just really miss her. I miss doing therapy with someone that really knows me, all of me. I miss that security and familiarity. I’m still laying foundations with Anita and so working online feels that bit harder I think. If I had to Skype Em, I wouldn’t like it so much but we’ve worked like that on and off for years so it’s just easier and I just want to see her face. I know. I know. Get a grip!

It’s not all been desperate pining (but a lot of it has, I can’t lie).  The young parts have been falling apart on a pretty regular basis. They feel so let down, rejected, and abandoned by her (which is fair enough because that is what has happened!). I have spent a lot of time this week just sobbing my heart about the ending and the loss of the relationship. I’ve wanted to reach out to her to check in, to ask if we could maybe talk, but know there’s no point because a pandemic isn’t going to change anything is it? She simply doesn’t care…and that really hurts.

But of course there’s also the anger and disbelief that I even find myself in this situation. I am left dumbfounded by the way it ended: no safety plan, no onward referral, just a door slamming shut, ‘don’t contact me again’. I mean wtaf? It’s so painful. As I’ve said enough times already this has just stuck a dagger right into that already very sore wound and twisted it. No reparative experience here – just a traumatisation.

I need to bring this back to therapy tomorrow with Anita. I haven’t really gone anywhere near it since face-to-face stopped. It’s been around during the week (of course it has) but when it’s come to the session time I have somehow talked about other things. Part of it, I think, is like I said at the top, I feel a bit stupid this even being a ‘thing’ given what’s actually going on in the world right now. Part of me feels embarrassed that I can’t just get over it. Another part feels massively ashamed that I have been so emotionally attached to, and loved someone who, clearly, when it came to it had no feelings towards me at all. But it is a big deal to me and I think it will be for a very long time and so I need to bite the bullet and talk about it more.

I’ve been trying to find ways to not get bogged down in all the excruciatingly painful feelings during the week because it’s only me that suffers. I’ve been trying to find ways to think positively about the relationship, and Em in general, because there are good points and I have done a lot of work on myself in therapy with her. And even though it’s all spectacularly fallen apart I still really care about her. The love I feel hasn’t gone away and I want to be able to honour that. I also want to give myself some recognition. It was good, at least, that I tried to let someone in, that I allowed myself to feel things, that I was vulnerable. It’s just such a shame that the person I trusted with ‘me’ couldn’t/wouldn’t help me when I laid myself bare.

I’ve struggled to look back at the therapy recently because I keep getting soundbites and flashbacks of negative stuff that’s happened, ‘that part is adhesive like a tick’ (I feel that may never leave me),  the arctic cold last session, the throwing my gift back in my face at Christmas, ‘kind regards’….the list goes on and on…and what I have wanted is to find a warm, safe place that I can go back to in order to try and settle the parts that feel that the whole thing was sham and that I was a bloody idiot for the last eight years.

Anyway, one of the things Em tried with me a while ago was a kind of EMDR activity that was meant to settle whatever was going on inside and create a safe internal space. She asked me to choose a song I liked and to bring it to session and we would work with that alongside eye movements. I think, basically, together we were going to try and create a safe relaxed experience in the room and so when I listened to the music outside session it should function as some kind of regulating tool.

Dido had recently released an album and a song on it had really resonated with me. It’s called, ‘Some Kind Of Love’. I have always been music mad and I felt like this could be my song, my experience. It’s wistful, reflective, rhythmic and the lyrics really hit home for what I was feeling about my journey – that I have been through the wringer but there’s still hope and even when things get super shit there is always something left that is enough to keep going- there is some kind of love. That’s kind of what I was feeling about Em, therapy offered some kind of love – sure it’s not the big love that was lost in childhood, or that there never was enough of, but there was something… HOW FUCKING WRONG WAS I?!!

(lyrics and link to youtube video below – give it a listen!):

She found the records lying underneath the bed
All the songs she used to sing
All the songs she used to play
All those words, those melodies
And the promise of some kind of love
And the promise of some kind of love

When we lose what we love
Don’t think anything will ever taste the same
When we lose what we love
Don’t think anything will ever feel as good again
Now I know how much the anger
However much the pain
Destroy only enough that enough still remains of
Some kind of love, some kind of love
Some kind of love
Some kind of love, some kind of love
Some kind of love

The songs hadn’t changed, every note just the same
But when she played them once again
All those words, those melodies
Like better days past and gone, leaving her behind
With the promise of some kind of love
With the promise of some kind of love

When we lose what we love
Don’t think anything will ever taste the same
When we lose what we love
Don’t think anything will ever feel as good again
Now I know how much the anger
However much the pain
Destroy only enough that enough still remains of
Some kind of love, some kind of love
Some kind of love
Some kind of love, some kind of love
Some kind of love
Some kind of love

She put the records back in their place
And straightened her dress, and wiped her face
She closed and locked the door
And left them lying on the floor
And she sang
Mmmm, some kind of love
Some kind of love, mmmm
Mmmm, some kind of love
Some kind of love, mmmm
Mmmm, some kind of love
Some kind of love

 

Anyway, the song came on a playlist on my phone this week. Guess what doesn’t tap into a safe internal space? Guess what happened within a couple of bars of the song coming on? Yes. I fell completely to pieces and sobbed my heart out, remembering the room and feeling nothing but grief and loss that there is nothing left and perhaps there never was anything in the first place that was real.

I’ll try and blog a bit more soon – there is still so much to say…

Take care all, and thanks to those of you who have been checking in on me via email and wondering where I had disappeared off to. I’ve been hanging it together with rubber bands and chewing gum xx

‘And You’ve Washed Your Hands Clean Of This’

 

No. I’m not referencing the Coronavirus with the title of this post, it’s actually a lyric from Alanis Morissette (who I’m going to see in concert in September – yay for my sixteen year old self!) but, either way, I guess handwashing is relevant right now and maybe a some bad humour is needed seeing as the world has gone absolutely fucking mad, stockpiling… bog roll! I mean wtf? It’s not Norovirus! We’re not all going to get struck down with the shits if we contract Coronavirus (as far as I am aware) and when I cough, I don’t tend to soil myself at the same time!

I just don’t get it. Like, seriously, what is wrong with people? People have even been stealing hand-sanitiser from hospital wards – you have to be fucking mental to do that… and you know, on a scale, I would say after the last month or two I am quite high up on ‘crazy’…but I am not about to go raid a hospital so I can sanitise my hands when soap and water is completely adequate and there is a pressing need to hygiene around sick people on ward. Fucking morons.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this but, frankly, I find it so depressing to see how quickly the self-serving ableist bullshit has prevailed, ‘don’t worry, it’s only the elderly or those with compromised immune systems that’ll die’…ah good to know, thanks for that – like we don’t matter or something. Like why do people even voice that? Ugh. Man. Makes me sick but tbh I am not surprised after Brexit and voting in Boris it’s just more of the same isn’t it?

And breathe…let’s bring this back to therapy before I have some kind of global pandemic fuelled panic attack!

Em’s hand hygiene routine seems to have been wholly successful so far as aiding her in moving on. She has washed her hands clean of the shit show that was our therapeutic relationship – but then she never really got her hands dirty to begin with so perhaps it was easier for her. I, on the other hand, am faring less well. I am basically channelling my inner Lady Macbeth here, shouting, ‘Out, damn’d spot!’ as I furiously try and cleanse myself of this horror, but it’s just not working. It’s all in my mind and no matter how much I wash there’s still the stain of what’s happened tormenting me even if it appears that I am free of the problem.

I suppose it’s also helped that Em’s capacity to self-isolate and quarantine herself for the bulk of our relationship has meant she’s largely avoided coming into any significant (emotional) contact with the virus whereas I have laid myself bare and been completely unprotected from harm. I am, after all, one of those poor people with a knackered immune system who is most at risk of complications. I think that’s probably where this analogy should stop! Because I fear I am actually beginning to sound like a traumatised Shakespearean character.

I know it’s really quite early days and it’s going to take a while to move on and recover from what’s happened in my therapy with Em but, honestly, I feel like the trauma has left a stain on more than just my hands. I feel odd even calling it ‘therapy’ now because it’s been far from therapeutic. The more I unpick what’s happened with Anita, the more I am realising just how bad things were. I think I had so badly wanted to believe that Em could help me and cared that I glossed over the evidence to the contrary and believed her narrative that it was me that was the problem and I should just work harder and accept how things were. If she didn’t work in the way I wanted then that was my problem and I had to suck it up.

I’m not really sure what I want to say here – I mean really what more is there to say? I don’t want to be ‘that client’ who demonstrates just how crazy they are by what they write after termination and has everyone giving each other knowing looks and mouthing ‘she’s bonkers, it’s no wonder her therapist couldn’t handle her’. But there is so much whirling in my head and this is one of the places I can think about it out loud. My therapy sessions with Anita are really helpful but I am literally like a broken record- repeating the same stuff over and over.

I am so confused and disorientated by what’s happened with Em. I find myself wondering how on earth it all just disintegrated in no time at all. I feel like I am left her scratching my head and wondering if I really was just a massive handful and couldn’t see it. But genuinely, I don’t think I was. I am honest in what I write here but crikey not much of it made it into the room, a lot of the time, because the shame and embarrassment was so strong and the rejection always felt so huge. But, then, Anita said this is what happens in abusive relationships – the abuser moves on and the victim is left shell-shocked trying to process what happened.

It feels a bit OTT putting it like that, but that run in from Christmas break was pretty horrific and I can’t dress it up, really.

I wish I was able to be pragmatic about this, accept what’s happened and just move on – be less Lady Macbeth and more Elsa – and just ‘let it go’😉.

And I suppose if it was just my adult self that had been in the relationship and affected by the end it then I probably would be able to, but we all know that this ending has body-slammed all the parts of me. I’ve tried to shelter and protect the child parts from the worst of it but when you’ve been living in an emotional shanty town and a category 5 hurricane passes through it’s inevitable that some serious damage is going to take place.

I know my last post here was pretty doom and gloom. That final email from Em really, really hurt me….I mean the time since mid-December has really, really hurt me but I guess that email was the final nail in the coffin. I feel like I have been left for dead. It’s like I’ve been in a hit and run and she’s driven off without even so much as a casual glance in the rear-view mirror. For all she knows I could be in a right mess, injured or dead – and yet she couldn’t care less. It reminds me, a bit, of a fab poem by Simon Armitage called ‘Hitcher’ that I used to teach on the old GCSE syllabus before English got massacred by the Tories and made the kids need to have almost photographic memories rather than insight… God, I’m in a good mood! Apologies!

I am blown away that throughout this ending Em has not once asked me about what plans I might put in place to keep myself safe, offered a referral on, or put any kind of support in place knowing we’ve gone from two sessions a week to none in the way that we have. This wasn’t a well-planned termination of long-term work. There was no gradual winding down or celebration of the work done. It was abrupt and unwanted. So, the lack of safeguarding feels neglectful. There is just a complete lack of professional care. I’m beyond wanting her to have warm fuzzy feelings about me, but surely she has a basic duty of care to safeguard her clients just like I have as a teacher with my students? I mean if nothing else, shouldn’t she have covered her own arse here?!

I guess I am angry because there would have been a time where going this would have ended up in a right fucking mess: self harm, active anorexia, hard to ignore suicidal thoughts…and she knows this. In fact, this week has been really awful because everything really just caught up with me. I was having my craniosacral session with K on Thursday and I felt suddenly like I was plummeting through the darkness, it was a younger part, and in that moment all I wanted to do was take a blade to my arm and cut from wrist to elbow. Fortunately, I was in a safe place, with a safe therapist, and I could move away from it because amazingly, she felt it instantly in my body and asked me about the part that wants to give up and not be here anymore and we processed it. BUT this stuff is right here, just under the surface.

It’s going to take a while to recover from this because this abandonment taps into a lifetime of other abandonments and losses…so thank god I have both K and Anita to help me.

I had really good sessions with both of them this week and whilst I was really in the mire so far as the hard stuff coming up went, I was so supported in the work. K and I ended up having a ninety minute session and she’s told me to check in over the weekend…which I have done. It’s a different kind of therapeutic relationship than regular talk therapy, although we do talk a lot (she is a trained counsellor too) she just works as a craniosacral therapist these days.

The work is really holding and containing and K is awesome at coregulation which is so needed for my system that is so frequently set into flight mode. She sees all the parts and contains them all. She accepts all of me. It’s absolutely mind-blowing having this kind of trusting, warm, caring relationship after so long out in the cold with Em.

Em said I was scared of intimacy – and yet that is not the case at all. If there is trust I can do it. My system just knew something was wrong with Em even though my young parts were so desperately attached – traumatically bonded- to her. K thanks me for trusting her and letting her in. She appreciates what big deal that is for someone that has been so hurt, not just now, but throughout my life to be vulnerable. Being seen is scary but being accepted despite this, is something new and healing. The way she talks reminds of the book by Charlie Mackesy, ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ – if you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s a wonderful book of stunning illustrations with really uplifting messages on each page:

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Just to clarify, I haven’t just fallen head over heels in love with K after a couple a few months of work together. Although I guess it must sound that way! It’s not like that at all. We did two years of weekly work in the years before I gave birth to my daughter – when I had my breakdown following my dad’s death. We have remained in loose contact via email and text ever since and caught up every now and then but now we’re back in the thick of it and it’s really nice to be back.

I was able to securely attach to her back then and so picking up the work again now with the new insights I have about myself has been great. She meets me where I am at and is so encouraging. She believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself. I feel like I have an ally and despite knowing I can’t be fixed by someone else I have a solid support to help me on my way. We laugh, too, which is great! I think our inner teens could be quite good friends, actually – or a bad influence on each other! I trust that she knows herself well enough, and has done enough of her own work to be able to handle me.

To be honest, given the choice now of Em or K – I’d choose K hands down…because I feel how good she is for me and how much of a healing presence she is. I miss Em – but I don’t miss all the real time anxiety, the between session depression, feeling shit in the room as well as out of it, feeling inadequate, too much, and like I wasn’t doing therapy right. And I certainly don’t miss the high levels of dissociation twice a week!
Crikey – that sounds really bad doesn’t it?!

And then there’s Anita. It’s like the difference between night and day seeing her and Em. I get that we are still early days and I haven’t really attached to her or had any of those transference feelings towards her yet which will likely shake things up a bit when they happen but I do really like her. I have been able to really explore what’s going on for me. She isn’t frightened by my feelings, my distress, or how I have reacted to losing Em. I have been able to cry with her. She has normalised my feelings. She understands. And best of all – she keeps reassuring me that I am not too much for her. A little reassurance goes a long way doesn’t it?!

Because she is so present with me in the room (no still face exercise here), tells me her experience in the room with me (so I don’t have to guess something negative), and keeps checking in with me, it feels really connecting and safe which means I am able to be much more open than I have been in the past with Em. I can tell her about the feelings about self-harm, not wanting to eat, feeling utterly devastated about Em and I don’t feel any shame bubbling up inside me, wanting to gag me. It feels really freeing.

I have been sitting on these feelings for so long with Em and yet rarely finding a way to tell her – hence the notebooks, and occasional (unread) emails, or things I had written and printed out to talk about in session. I always felt so nervous and scared of the reaction – because I so often felt like I was being pathologized for being how I was.

I told her, this week, about the image I have of the pair of us working together in the mud on a building site, laying the foundations so we can build a solid new structure together and compared that to how Em has always been more of a site foreman telling me to work harder at building while she stands in the door of the site office drinking tea. Anita smiled at this and agreed we were in this together. I do think we might be able to forge a good enough relationship with time.

Anyway, this is long and I need to go to the tip! It’s been a busy weekend of trying to clear the garden in preparation for spring (which I am sure wants to come!) so there’s a trailer of stuff to go to the recycling centre…and then I need to write a letter to my estranged grandmother who has written to tell me my grandad died a few days ago…but that’s a story for another time!

Enjoy your Sundays everyone…and please, please, don’t go panic buy toilet roll, it won’t help you!

And remember…

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‘You’re Not My Mummy’

So, I have a couple of hours to kill here in the haematology/oncology shared waiting room at the hospital waiting to find out if my body is still behaving as it ought to and hasn’t decided to malfunction again. I can think of places I’d rather be right now. I hate it here so much. I am an emotional mess anyway (no shit!) but to add to the fun of it all I also have PTSD surrounding the cancer treatment as well as being hospital phobic (that was caused by something else!) so being thrown back into the very place where all the trauma took place is hideous. It’s a shame there isn’t a separate outpatients clinic as I am sure this must affect loads of people.

Being in this waiting room makes me feel physically sick – not just nauseous and a bit iffy, it’s the chemical sick feeling that you get from chemotherapy…it’s horrid. I know it’s all psychosomatic but it doesn’t change how bad it feels. I’ve waited here so many times for chemotherapies and bone marrow biopsies and of course all the follow ups since finishing treatment that I think my body just remembers it all and replays it like it’s happening in the here and now.

It’s harrowing being back here – not exaggerating. I try not to look around too much as there are so many worried faces, frail bodies, bald heads with no eyebrows or eyelashes and it takes me right back to when it was me looking deathly. These poor poor people are all going through this physical and emotional hell and nothing anyone can say or do can make it any better for them.

Part of me tries to hold onto the fact that I am largely well. Sure, I pick up everything that’s doing the rounds but I am not critically ill anymore…but until I get confirmation from the doctors there is always a bit of niggling doubt. Actually, it’s fear. I worry that my night sweats mean the cancer has come back when actually it’s most likely linked to my period. I worry that the enlarged lymph nodes in my neck mean something’s wrong rather than an indicator that I am under the weather. I sound like a hypochondriac!

I’m sitting here physically shaking. I am trying to do grounding techniques. I have my feet firmly rooted to the floor. I am trying to breathe deeply. Although I am actively avoiding the senses….I don’t want to be aware of what it’s like in here! I’m trying to visualise a safe space…and do you know where my mind keeps taking me? Oh but of course, Em’s therapy room. FFS. Why is it now that I’m not seeing her that she feels like safety and when I was seeing her my body and mind were largely out of the window of tolerance?!!!! The irony is not lost on me.

So, yeah, that’s the medical trauma. Hopefully I’ll be seen soon and get out of here.
Still, I don’t think many people follow this blog to hear about my medical woes and I’m guessing most of you are wondering what’s been going on since the termination with Em – mainly with the new therapist Anita- so I’ll try and make a start at catching everything up.

As I keep saying, where I am right now is an emotionally fucking awful place to be. I am absolutely devastated about what has happened and I can’t really get my head round it. I’m surprised there isn’t a meme of my face with a ‘WTf??!!’ caption on it because that’s basically my set expression – well, that and a crumpled face streaming with tears.

Part of me thinks I should be able to move on now, I mean I have a lovely new therapist Anita now and wonderful K my craniosacral therapist so why not let it go? Why am I still longing for a repair with Em? Why do I feel so utterly crushed by the loss of this relationship (well – I know the answer to that #childhoodtrauma!). I guess I honestly never thought that me having a meltdown about what she said to me would lead to this. Not really. As I said in my letter part of me must have believed it was safe to act out because otherwise there’s no way I would have done it.

Having said that there has always been the part that has known this might happen, I once played Em a KT Tunstall song in session (ha – obsessed much?) because I said I was terrified of pushing her too much. The song is called Ashes and it has this line in it,
‘I have pushed you, way too far, and you say, “fuck you little princess who the hell do you think you are?”’

And whilst she hasn’t exactly done that, she did liken me to a tick and terminate didn’t she? …so yeah, there we are!

To be fair to Em, I have been listening back to the sessions we had after Christmas and with a bit of distance and being in a more reflective and adult state I can hear what some of what she was trying to say. She wasn’t deliberately trying to hurt me or reject me. How she delivered what she was saying was far from ideal (!!) and she completely missed the mark so far as jumping into big stuff with both feet when so much had been triggered over the break but I don’t think she was trying to hurt me.

In the end it just seemed to go down like a chain of dominoes – I feel like we both kind of watched it happen and yet couldn’t do anything to stop it. I’m not blaming myself here or defending her – because we weren’t just working with my together adult in session, in fact I was largely absent for December and January, we were working with some traumatised parts and they just did not get anything like the care and compassion that was required and it sent me over the edge – too much all at once to cope with and then boom! Termination.

It’s so hard because my adult really likes working with Em. She is intelligent and insightful. The problem is, she is too academic, too clinical, too rigid and whilst part of me likes that because parts of me are interested in this academic stuff too and I am avoidant as hell so it’s like looking in a mirror, there are now so many parts of me that need more than that now, they need to feel really cared for and accepted and not a burden or ‘adhesive’ or ‘like a tick’, they need connection and for that not to be seen as something to be pathologized.

I know it wasn’t Em’s intention to make me feel the way I do. Her boundaries are her boundaries and are not all that unusual for lots of therapists – the problem is that they are just so rigid that they feel rejecting to the young parts that need to trust she is safe. I really don’t think in therapy that one size fits all and so you surely have to work with what’s in front of you. I still can’t believe that for someone with the core wounds that I have and the lack of object constancy that even a three dot text check in occasionally was beyond the realms of possibility.

It’s Catch 22. If I could stay adult in my sessions we’d be a dream team – problem is, I can’t! I’m not in therapy for my adult!

There’s been a lot go wrong (no shit!) and we ended up in this perfect storm that when it blew out everything was destroyed. One of my very first blog posts was about feeling like I was caught in a storm after a therapy break – I shared it with Em and it gave her a real insight into what goes on for me- I’ve just dipped into it now I can’t believe that this was 2017 and the feelings around breaks are still the same:

When there is a lengthy break my child parts definitely don’t get a chance to be seen or heard by anyone but me and therefore their emotional distress escalates. The metaphorical rain cloud that hovers over my head most of the time between sessions becomes a full-on internal shit storm – sorry- hurricane! It’s just awful and really hard to contain. You’d think, then, that returning to therapy would be the perfect opportunity to start to settle some of the turbulence and anxiety but no…

One of the biggest problems after any significant disruption is that I am never sure when I enter the room whether I am going to be on my own facing the potential destruction that my internal storm will cause when it touches down (and that is terrifying – I don’t have the skills to weather this on my own yet), or whether, actually, she (my therapist) will be there, a professional storm-chaser, ready and waiting to witness it all with me and guide me through it. I’m always hoping she’ll be there, fully prepared – someone who sees beauty in chaos and who will be able to reframe the potential destruction of the storm as something positive:

‘Yes, the hurricane will wreak havoc, but don’t worry! I am experienced at navigating storms – it’s what I do. I know how to keep us both safe. I’m not frightened by these tempests, and I will show you how to remain secure and grounded when everything starts swirling and flying about. It will feel scary and some things will undoubtedly get destroyed. The storm will sweep away the derelict and dangerous structures that currently exist, those that aren’t really fit for purpose anymore, and in their place there is the potential for us to build something so strong that it will be able to survive any future storms.’
(Or that’s the kind of thing I’d like to imagine her saying, anyway!)

The thing is, it’s just not that easy to simply pick up where I left off after a disruption because no matter how secure I might feel when I leave a session, or how welcome the little ones might have been made to feel in the room and in the relationship with her previously, when I return to the therapy room I am not sure if I am still safe with my therapist or if something has changed. I am not sure whether I can still trust her with the child parts who are absolutely desperate to reconnect but are also incredibly fearful of being hurt, rejected, and abandoned. Ugh!

Oh god. I just can’t believe that we’ve got so lost along the way. I feel sad because I wish my adult could have turned up and advocated more for myself and the young parts. I wish we could have worked it through and on both sides been honest about what was going on. I wish Em would own some of her countertransference and see that she hasn’t been behaving in the way that she used to. I get people change but this was different. I feel like she was burnt out and I have since discovered something that would definitely give reason for her to not be firing on all cylinders.

Still, there’s nothing I can do right now except keep reaching out to the supports I have and doing the best I can to look after myself.

So, what can I say about the new therapy/therapist? Anita is warm and caring and is prepared to offer me all the things that Em wouldn’t. I mean I had my wish list this time around: text and phone check ins, being sat next to, hugs, transitional objects, a more relational style, someone who isn’t frightened by the idea of love in therapy… and she’s fine with it all, in fact it was her that told me that touch was ok and that she doesn’t see how therapy even is possible if you don’t love the client, and yet despite getting what I want (I mean I haven’t exercised the list yet – but I know I can in the future if I need any of it) there’s a part inside screaming, ‘You’re not my mummy!’

And there it is. For the little one/s their attachment figure is Em and so putting any substitute in her place, no matter how lovely they are, simply isn’t going to cut it – not yet, anyway.

If I were shopping for a therapist, which I guess I was (!), Anita is just about the whole package. She is very present, calm, grounded and I feel like she is genuinely invested in wanting to help me and willing to build a relationship with me. She knows that might mean getting her hands dirty and that it’s not going to be straightforward especially after what’s just happened. As she said, my antenna is on alert for being hurt and rejected even more than it was before what’s happened with Em and so trust is going to take time to build. I’m glad she understands.

The other thing that has been really nice is that Anita is not at all freaked out by how badly this ending with Em has affected me. She gets it. She has normalised it. She hasn’t made me feel like a weirdo for loving my therapist and having all this childhood attachment stuff and feeling bereaved at this loss. I have done nothing but sit, talk, and sob in these sessions all about my therapeutic relationship with Em. I have let it all out… not a sanitised version of it (I haven’t had the capacity to hide just how upset I am about it or how much Em mattered to me).

Anita has reassured me, validated my experience, and acknowledged that losing someone whom you have been brave enough to show your whole self to, your most vulnerable parts to, and then to be cut dead is a massive rejection and abandonment and it will take a long time to process and recover from it.

A couple of weeks ago I sent Anita a brief email telling her that I was feeling really bad and struggling with wanting to send Em an email but instead of doing that was reaching out to her to avoid walking into more pain. She replied quickly and kindly:

Hi RBCG,

Endings are hard and you’re more than welcome to contact me rather than face more hurt and rejection from Em.

Looking forward to seeing you on Friday and don’t forget to try and do something nice for you to try and ease the hurt and pain.

With very best wishes,
Anita.

I mean she couldn’t respond any better…but I still want Em…even if Em isn’t right for me anymore.

(Just so you know, I really want to slap myself and say, ‘Get a grip!!’)

The nice thing about that email was that the next session Anita checked in with me about how I was feeling having sent the message because I’d talked about how awful the contact with Em had been because it was basically forbidden and so every time I reached out I was filled with shame. I told A that I had been freaking out, and that even though she CLEARLY wrote in that email that it was fine for me to reach out AND had told me in the session we had on boundaries (did I talk about that yet?? I asked for session to talk explicitly about what the rules were so I didn’t end up tripping over them) that it was ok for me to reach out and check in that part of me was still worried I was going to get told off (nice legacy from my last therapy!). She put my mind at ease and it was fine – it’s not a big deal to her and she understands why occasional contact is necessary and how it can help build trust in the relationship.

Phew.

Ummm, so it’s been going well. I can’t believe how much I have talked. Having a sixty minute session is also huge. It really makes the session feel solid and contained…like there’s enough time settle in, unpack, and then put everything away. Fifty minutes goes so quickly and when you’re dealing with the complex trauma tangled mess it really isn’t long. I really would have liked one double session with Em rather than two fifty minute sessions…although I wonder whether that would really have made a difference?

I was in a right state on Monday (24th) in my session with A – the Em stuff had reached a new level of ouch. I have been free falling deeper into that black hole the longer time has gone on- and she was so caring and attuned over and over again. One of the things that has stuck with me is when she said, ‘I wish I could take some of this pain away from you. I know I can’t. But I can be with you and I can see it’. Honestly, I almost fell off my chair. It doesn’t sound like much but to have that acknowledgment of how terrible it was feeling and her expressing that she wants to help me feel better felt really lovely and connecting.

It’s such a stark contrast from being dissociated and stuck in a young part feeling alone and upset and being told by Em that could see that the young part needs a cuddle and maybe I could imagine that for myself… that always felt so abandoning and distancing. I know it was meant kindly but when you’re stuck in that god-awful barren space feeling like a three year old it’s just hideous being asked to hold that when the adult in you isn’t even there to do it. It literally keeps you stuck in that traumatised space. It’s when it feels really isolated and scary that you most need that relational healing and holding experience.

This is one of the things I really like about Anita, how she keeps bringing me back to her and the room asking ‘what we can do together’ to help me – again it’s just words but there is a sense that this is a collaboration and that she is right there with me. She also asks me things like ‘what do you need from me right now?’…and internally I’m like, ‘What do you mean? I am allowed to ask for things from you and you might actually meet the need?’ Honestly, it’s like being on an alien planet in that room at times!
I was feeling pretty dissociated on Monday towards the end of the session because I had fallen into a big load of feelings about being rejected by Em, and so we did some grounding exercises ‘together’ (!) and when we’d done that and the session was up she asked me if I was ok to leave.

I’ve been so dissociated and dizzy leaving Em sometimes and she’s never once asked if I am ok to leave or drive. I would never stay, I know it’s time to leave, but to be asked if I am ok again feels like she actually cares about my well being and that in itself helped to bring me back to a more settled state. Winner!

As I said though, right now my young parts are not interested in Anita, really. Their attachment is firmly with Em. I mean to be fair, it’s not surprising. Anita and I have had like nine sessions (wow already?!!) and Em and I have known each other eight years. I know some of it is that the various little mes inside aren’t ready to let Em go yet but I suppose over time they will. However, the work Anita and I are doing is laying the foundations of the relationship and she is helping me dig and build rather than being a site foreman telling me to do the work by myself which is sometimes how it’s felt with Em.

I don’t actually want Anita to be yet another replacement ‘mummy’. I’m hoping, somehow, I can avoid doing mummy issues in this way again…because, let’s be fair…IT’S HELLISH!

Btw, I am very aware that I am very triggered by what’s happened with the breakdown of my therapy with Em and I suspect I am fluctuating a lot in what I say here – I guess it’s just the nature of the beast. There are so many parts feeling so many different things that it’s hard to communicate it clearly. I suspect I will look back in a few months and cringe at all this but it is how it is in the moment and I have always tried to be authentic here. It is hideous feel like this. It’s embarrassing too. But I also know from the comments and emails I receive that this helps some of you feel less crackers when I tell it how it is for me. These feelings do happen in therapy. It’s normal(ish!).

There are sooooo many of us navigating this stuff and yet it can feel so lonely when you have nothing to peg your experience on. I just want to say thank you too, because whilst I write this stuff and send it out into the wild of the internet it is the interactions with you guys that also helps me feel less alone with my feelings.

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Abandonment and Rejection: Part 2

Earlier in the week I had planned to transcribe Monday’s session with Em and put it in the blog but given how things are now, how the week has evolved, how my feelings have intensified, I can’t even bring myself to listen to the recording and be reminded of what’s happened. I can only summarise and paraphrase was said because I can’t even bear to hear her voice – it hurts too much.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter what was said now, because somehow or other it is now Sunday and we are no longer working together. I am beyond devastated. As the week has gone on I have gone through so many waves of this torturing grief interspersed with periods of denial and anger, and yet last night something shifted and the reality probably hit for the first time.

Suddenly, I feel like my whole life has been thrown into chaos. I feel like I am breaking in two. I am fearful of everything. Like I honestly feel like I can’t fucking cope with anything. I’m scared of what’s to come. I feel like I don’t want to be here anymore.
I know these must be the feelings of the young parts because I feel so powerless and small but my god it feels real and huge right now.

I am also feeling stupid and embarrassed and so much shame about how badly this ending has affected me. I am heartbroken and yet how am I meant to tell anyone about this because it’s clearly fucking mental to most people in the real world. She is/was just my therapist…but she was important to me. And as my therapist, if she is only someone to work out transference with, whoever she represents from my past – clearly my mother (#motherwound) – I am now feeling the full force of what it is to be rejected and abandoned by someone you love.

It’s no wonder I couldn’t withstand these feelings as a kid and dissociated them because feeling this, fully, in the here and now, is enough to make me want to die… this is annihilation.

I’m trying to keep one foot in adult but it’s hard. I need to process this. I need to write. But also, putting this down on the page must mean it’s real. I can’t try and pretend that it’s actually going to be ok, now. That it’s just a rupture and we’ll repair it and things will be better.

It’s over.

I guess, you’re all wondering what happened? Well, it’s been a cumulative process over months but it all sort of came to a head on Monday. Em had read the email where I had laid myself bare where I had explained how it feels to be ignored when I reach out, to have the Christmas gift rejected, and how hard it is to feel like there is a wall between us. The email ended by telling her:

It feels like we are on completely different pages right now. It feels like all the things I have worried about, about being too much is exactly right. It feels like you have taken a big step back from me when actually that’s opposite of what I needed. I can’t seem to fully explain what I mean but what seems really complex is actually really simple.

I need you to help me hold the feelings I have and normalise them and actually accept them. I need you to help me break through the shame I feel about needing connection to you and work with me to find workable solutions to the problems I have with outside contact when things get bad because it’s not going away. I need help to make breaks feel better. I need to feel like I am in a relationship with you and not in an observation tank. It just feels like we are perpetually re-enacting what happened when I was little. My mum and wider family were so emotionally and physically withholding that just being in the room with you feels traumatic because you feel so distant and even though you say that you aren’t, it’s still my experience.

I understand why you think that by trying to ‘think’ about where all this is coming from in the past might make it feel less horrendous with you in the present but so much of the time I am not able to access that ‘thinking’ brain and am caught up completely in my emotions. I can see where this stems from, I know why it gets triggered, but this doesn’t actually process the emotion in the moment. If it was about the logical, intellectual stuff I’d be fine…but it’s not.

I’ve read so much about this but it just isn’t moving because until I feel like the young parts are held safely and contained with you I think I’m going to be stuck in limbo.

I need you to know that despite how ‘much’ there is in those notebooks and here, and how intense my feelings seem I am not suddenly going to start texting you all the time, ringing you, turning up on your doorstep or whatever else it is that you think might happen because I would hope by now you would see that whilst there is a lot of trauma and the attachment stuff is massive, I’m not that crazy and I don’t want you to be anything but my therapist.

I have no idea what I am going to do on Monday and wonder if I am actually just beyond help…some reassurance would go a really long way right now because it’s a complete disaster inside.

Anyway, I walked in on Monday and I really hoped that things would be ok but I could tell that they weren’t, not really. Em had a huge clipboard and notes she had written with reference to the email. She asked me if there was anything I wanted to talk about or whether we should discuss the email. I agreed it made sense to talk about the email.

She started talking about it in a paragraph by paragraph way – well, picking out bits from the areas she thought were important. It was very factual and I felt really distant from her.

It wasn’t too bad until after about ten minutes she basically said that she feels like my young parts are ‘demanding’ and she feels like they are ‘adhesive’ (see adhesive attachment in psychoanalytical theory), that it feels like I ‘want to get inside her’, that I am ‘intruding’ when I contact her, ‘pushing the boundaries’, and that it feels like my need for her is ‘all the time’ … ‘like a tick needing a constant supply of whatever it wants’.

My brain got wedged on ‘like a tick’ but there was more, about if she were to give reassurance (which she ackowledged she doesn’t) it would be like ‘feeding an addiction’… ummm it just went on and on. She said the stuff about politics before Christmas (because I had written about it in the email) was actually her talking how the election was about democracy… I have the recording…that is not how it was. She made no mention of how I felt about the rejection of the gifts even though I’d written quite a bit about it, and flat out avoided talking about the bit I have added above about trying to find strategies that work for both of us to not keep getting in this mess.

I could barely talk once she’d compared my child parts to adhesive ticks – she said as much, ‘it feels like I have talked at you and you haven’t replied’…which is when with five minutes to go I managed to say, ‘how would you feel if someone you cared about likened you to a tick?’ She apologised, sort of, but said that I am very sensitive and get defensive, and it was just a metaphor. I said that it was a ‘shit metaphor’ and she apologised and said that perhaps she should have stuck with the word ‘adhesive’ as if that’s any fucking better!!

She said she was sorry if she had offended me and that she wasn’t talking about me as a person, or who I am but it’s how she sees the young parts… which is even fucking worse. The young parts that have been so terrified to trust, to open up, to let the feelings out – and when I finally do the kick back was spectacular.

She has retreated from me in the biggest way – I have felt it and yet she’s made out like it’s me and my attachment picking up stuff that’s not there…but it is!

She said that we can concertedly work with these parts but that it’s going to take hard work and maybe I just want to act out this stuff and not work out why this is happening. I felt devastated by what she was saying. Of course I want to work on myself…but I just don’t feel safe in the room. Surely there are ways of talking about this stuff without crushing someone’s sense of self.

I was clearly not in a great place when the session came to an end and to add insult to injury as I got up to leave she said, ‘that took me about an hour to read’. When I had sent the email I had said to let me know how long it took and to bill me for the time, but to be honest her telling me at that point wasn’t great timing. It just felt, yet again, that this is all about a transaction to her. I was breaking my heart and she was telling me I owe her and extra £60.

I left that last session in a complete mess. I burst into tears the moment I got in the car and cried all the way home. When I got near to home I pulled over into a layby on the single track lane and I spoke to my friend on the phone and cried at her, broken, desperate, and the child parts wailing. Then I sat and cried some more in the layby and waited for the tears to subside before driving home. My wife was working from home and the last thing I wanted was to have to explain why I was so late back and also why I had rivers of mascara running down my face.

Just to clarify – I am not a crier; I have found it impossible to let anything out in years… but the fucking dam is broken now and I have been bursting into tears IN FRONT OF PEOPLE! IN PUBLIC PLACES! WITH NO CONTROL! I am soooooooooo upset.

On the positive side of this, if there is one, is that this rupture/ending has tapped into my core wound in the biggest way and all the grief is flooding out now. I know this is not just about Em but right now it is and right now she is not helping me process any of my feelings or grief so if feels like this loss is just going to go on the pile of other rejections…which is not really what I had wanted from this therapy!

I had really struggled to stay present during the session because all I could hear in my head repeating over and over was, ‘she thinks you’re like a tick’. It was hideous. A tick? A fucking parasite? I mean why would you ever make that analogy about anyone, let alone someone you’ve known intimately for eight years in a therapeutic relationship? At a time when I really needed to be adult in the room and fight my corner I was gone and deep in the trauma and she just kept talking. It felt like every sentence confirmed that she has had enough of me and feels like I am too needy and demanding.

I felt like I wanted to die. The child parts were reexperiencing the feelings that are so familiar and were so devastated that it was Em that had made them feel this way. I was in a relationship with her to try and rewrite the narrative and yet somehow here I was being pushed away again for being too much. I felt unseen. Or maybe I was seen but now she’d seen me, as I am, with all my need, and was disgusted by me and wanted to get away from me. Maybe I have to accept that the person I think I am (trying to believe I’m not a needy freak) is actually not what everyone else sees and maybe they are correct after all.

I think maybe if I listened back to the session it mightn’t have been as bad as it felt in the moment, but the problem is, spouting theory at me is one thing (like perhaps it is adhesive attachment) but my feelings are still involved and how this is talked about is important. Somehow Em doesn’t frame things in way that doesn’t make me feel ashamed. I do understand that so much of what happens is down to my attachment problems and the parts but there surely are ways of saying things that don’t make the client feel worthless and crap. Like, surely she must’ve known I was struggling to be there and hear what she was saying?

I know at the end she tried to apologise but the thing is, the damage was already done. I was so far out of my window of tolerance that I couldn’t hear her…

Having spoken to my friend after the session and feeling so unbelievably hurt, I had resolved to take a break from therapy with Em for a while because it’s just getting worse and worse with every session. Something big is playing out and I don’t seem to have the capacity to side step it and look at it objectively when I am in the room with her. I basically walk in, look at her, and bam it’s trauma time.

As I pulled up on my drive I looked at my phone and an email from Anita had come in replying to the email I had sent her before the weekend:

Recap of my message:

Hi Anita,
Thanks for getting back to me and thinking about this. I suspected this is what your supervisor might say and do understand. It’s a complex dynamic.

I need time to think about what to do next. There are so many competing parts inside right now and it feels overwhelming. I really want to move forward and away from this horrible place of feeling rubbish all the time but the fear of the vulnerable parts losing Em is enormous – like annihilation and it’s not going to be a simple transition to another therapist after eight years with all that’s been triggered in the relationship.

The reality is that I don’t trust people easily and so it is a real barrier to leaving. I guess it’s something about better the devil you know and whilst I sense that you would be a good fit for me from what you have said there is definitely a voice that is saying, ‘what if she’s just the same and you get hurt again – at least Em knows you’.

I know, ultimately, it’s going to take a leap of faith now but any change is unsettling for me. I understand, too, that there’s a possibility that by the time I have managed to leave Em you mightn’t actually have availability or capacity to see me…which makes the whole process feel daunting. I guess I’ll just have to trust the universe on this one.

I don’t really know what else to say but I am grateful to you for trying to help find a way forward.

I’ll be in touch…soon… I hope.
RBCG

Anita said:

I really do understand RBCG and feel you need to look after the vulnerable parts of you.
My sense is you have done some really valuable & positive work with your current therapist and now ready for the next part of your journey and it’s hard to let go of one and to continue with someone else you don’t yet know.

I can also hear your concern regarding my availability which is also a valid concern but I will add Mondays & Fridays are usually my quietest days so I should be able to fit you in as and when you feel ready.

With very best wishes,
Anita

It felt a bit like the universe was aligning in that moment. On the Friday session with Em I had driven home and driven past Anita driving the other way. I would never usually notice oncoming vehicles or cars and yet I looked up and there she was and now, on Monday after the shit had hit the fan in came a message from her again. I jumped on the opportunity and emailed her immediately to see if I could arrange a second session:

Hi Anita,
Thanks for this. It couldn’t have been better timed, actually, as I have left therapy today in tears – the last two sessions have been hell (on top of the stuff that happened before) but even my really damaged, vulnerable parts that will tolerate almost anything can’t cope with my child parts being called ‘intrusive’, ‘adhesive’, and… ‘tick like’. Needless to say I feel like I want crawl into a hole and die right now but it’s given me the push I needed.
So, when can we arrange to meet?…and I honestly don’t think I am any of those things Em said.
RBCG

She responded and we scheduled an appointment for Friday.
I spent a lot of the day crying and speaking with my wife, which is unheard of, but I couldn’t hide how bad I was feeling. And even, she, as an unfeeling ‘man brain’ could see how the ‘tick’ reference would hurt.

Later that day (Monday) I drafted and email to Em, typing through my tears knowing that this was looking very much like the end of the road. I was in such a state.

Em,

I need a break from therapy with you for a while. Whilst I understand some of what you have been saying lately from an intellectual perspective – I get the theory – my feelings are still wrapped up in all this. I am not just some kind of case study to be analysed and hypothesised about. I can’t just absorb the stuff you’re saying and it not have an impact on me. To hear, today, that you feel that I am ‘intruding’, ‘demanding’, ‘trying to get inside you’, ‘pushing boundaries’ and that my wanting to be close to you or asking for occasional reassurance is me behaving like I have an unhealthy ‘addiction’ that shouldn’t be encouraged, and that I am ‘like a tick’ well, it really, really hurts.

I don’t ever really cry and yet today I spent an hour crying in a layby after the session because what you said hurt me so much. Saying that it’s not about me as a person but how you see the young parts doesn’t really make it feel any better because it’s the youngest most vulnerable parts that are tied up in this, it’s them that need to feel like they aren’t too much. I get how uncomfortable I have been making you feel and I am sorry that it’s feels so negative. Being thought of as adhesive is bad enough but parasitic is a whole other level of pain for me. I feel so stupid for letting you in and allowing myself to be vulnerable with you…to love you.

I know you can’t keep my session times free and until I can step outside my relationship with you and look at things without feeling anything there’s no point in doing this week in week out. So I guess we’ll just have to see what your schedule looks like in the future.

I am so sad that it’s got to this point.

Take care

On Tuesday evening at 7pm I received this reply:

Dear RBCG,

Thank you for letting me know about your decision and I am sorry that I was not able to help you. I wish you well for the future.

Em

And just like that my world fell apart. I had been crying on and off since the session but stupidly still held out some hope that she might read that email, see how hurt I was (even if she didn’t mean to hurt me) and meet me where I was at, in all the messy, confused, young, hurt feelings. But instead I got this. I’ve known this woman eight years and worked together with her for five of those…and this is how she ends it?? Two sentences? I was pretty much hysterical all night. Sobbing my heart out. I fell asleep crying and woke the next day with the sorest head. My body was killing me…and all I wanted to do was hurt myself.

Clearly, I was right. She really doesn’t care about me and there never was a relationship. I mean…wtaf? What should I be thinking here? That’s it? No termination sessions, no goodbye? She knows me. She knows how big a deal rejection and abandonment are and yet how could I possibly see that email as anything else but rejecting and abandoning?

I managed to formulate some thoughts in an email even though internally I was freaking out and again sat at my laptop crying my eyes out as I typed. I sent this on Wednesday evening:

Em,
I’m really confused and panicked by your email. Am I meant to read it as we’re actually done forever and not having a break/leaving door open so I can regroup and get myself together? And if this is the case (this is termination) that we are not going to have any time to create a reasonable ending to this therapy? I really wasn’t expecting to terminate via a two sentence email after all this time – it’s not what I want. I’m shit at endings anyway but this is not how I would choose to mark the ending of a significant relationship….which is what it is to me.

I know things are in a complete mess, hence wanting to take some breathing space but it seems like you’re finis hed. I know there’s a lot of negative countertransference here but I don’t think it’s ideal if this is how this ends.

Of course, only you can make a decision for you and if you’ve had enough you’ve had enough.

As for not being able to help me – that just isn’t the case at all. You’ve helped me with so much in the time that I’ve been seeing you. I am not the same person as I was when I saw you in the NHS or even a few years ago. I actually feel things now when I never could access my emotions at all before. I am actually making choices in my life that work for me rather running myself into the ground (ok this is new for 2020). I am still so grateful to you for being alongside me on my journey so far and whilst things are really hard right now I don’t think that the whole therapy has been useless or unhelpful.

Getting this email last night felt like I had suffered another bereavement – I can’t just have you gone with no chance to say goodbye.

x

By this point I wasn’t even sure if she would respond or not…I mean that last email felt pretty final.

But she did reply with this on Friday (talk about dragging this agony out all week!):

Dear RBCG,
Having thought a lot about the therapy with you, I have sadly come to the conclusion that we need to end the therapy, because, in my clinical view, I have come to the limit of my competence in my work with you. I would very much prefer to end in person and, would therefore suggest that we meet for between one and six weekly sessions at your old Monday time and starting at your earliest convenience. Please let me know whether you would like to have these sessions.
Em

More tears came. All I have fucking done this week is cried. And this just felt cold again…and perhaps like she was covering her back since it’s kind of protocol to offer termination sessions with clients to try and have a decent enough ending. Had I not emailed her querying what was going on, whether we had terminated, and if so what was happening, I think I would never have heard from her again. I had always hoped that my therapy would end positively and it would be a relationship that I would be able to return to periodically in the future.

I suspect I will always dip in and out of personal therapy throughout my life – almost like a car needs servicing. It might not be regular, and it might not be many sessions, but I had hoped that if any significant life events happened that caught me off guard or I had the occasional wobble in the future I would always have that door open to be able to return to Em. This is how I imagined I would get and exercise that earned secure attachment we are all seeking. The relationship can still exist years later even if we don’t see each other much at all.

But here I am staring down the barrel of another shut door.

I literally do not know what to do.

Should I go back and have a termination session or a few sessions? Or is it likely just to be more of the same?

Any ideas would be great because I have no fucking idea.

I don’t want to go in, cry like a baby and have her sit there and watch me in all my pain and go, broken again but equally if I don’t go and say goodbye will this just be another ending where I am left holding all the feelings and never getting any closure.

Thank you everyone for your support through this. It’s funny, I was reading my year ahead horoscope at the beginning of January and it said something about internet friends being massively important in the coming year… looks like that’s right! x

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Abandonment and Rejection: Part 1

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It’s clear to me, and I am sure to anyone who follows this blog, that probably two of the biggest fears I have in life are being abandoned and/or rejected. There have been so many times throughout my life where I have been abandoned (physically and emotionally). As an adolescent it hurt like hell to experience this rejection for simply being me (there was a lot of rejection when I came out when I was 17) and any rejections I have experienced as an adult hurt massively because it feels like my younger self is being wounded again and again. Ouch.

Having been in therapy for a gazillion years, I am obviously now much more aware of what happened to me as a younger child and it’s only now, as an adult, that I am feeling the full force of the pain of being left. As a kid I must have repressed those feelings or dissociated them because it was too much to cope with and I had to survive.

Clearly, the reason I struggle so much now with the feelings of inadequacy, being unlovable and forgettable stems from my ongoing childhood trauma. That’s what’s really done the big damage, or created a blueprint for how I imagine relationships will go in the here and now. The problem is, despite having many many, healthy, wholesome, caring, reciprocal relationships in 2020 I still have this niggling doubt underneath that say it’s all going to go to shit so maybe I should be cautious about really letting people in. Nowhere is this more apparent then in my therapeutic relationship with Em.

It’s been a nightmare lately. Unfortunately, events sometimes come together to create and almost perfect storm, setting me off balance and making me even more scared about being ‘too much’ and then I start panicking about left by the people I care about.

There’s no denying the recent time (since just before Christmas) in therapy has done nothing to settle my ‘freaking out child parts’ and there has also been a recent event in my family where people I had let back in (after cutting them off for spectacularly hurting me when my dad died) have actually rejected me again! All that old pain and sadness has come up and I feel both devastated and angry- devastated that I thought they might have changed, and angry that I let them in only to hurt me again. Will I never learn to trust my gut and see red flags?

Any reconfirmation of the narrative that people I love aren’t reliable and will actually disappear or threaten to leave (that I formed as a kid when my mum wasn’t around much) kind of intensifies the panic. It’s not surprising I had a breakdown when my dad died suddenly whilst abroad – it kind of lit the touch paper on all the stuff that had being weighing me down but I couldn’t see. I had just blanketed my problems under ‘depression’ rather than a fucking disaster of a childhood! I can see why the recent events with my grandparents (the latest rejection) have poured salt in the wound.

It really hasn’t helped that stuff with Em has felt so shaky, too. It’s felt so bloody hard inside myself lately. Adult me has carried on getting on with the job of life but deep inside the fear of the younger parts has been mounting on a daily basis and that clearly makes for all kind of crazy to seep out.

I have kept looking for reassurance from Em that the relationship is secure and when I find none, I become even more sensitive and scared than I was before. In fact, the last few weeks it’s been so bad in therapy that I have been convinced things are on a knife edge and I’ve been clinging on for dear life which actually only seems to make her back further away.

After the disaster Skype call first session back after Christmas I contacted another therapist to put out feelers about how it might work doing therapy with someone new. The idea of leaving Em was enough to send me over the edge and the young parts were terrified that this really could be the beginning of the end, but at the same time I was really aware that things are stuck and no matter how we try and work through it there’s some basic fundamentals that feel non-negotiable on both sides. Her boundaries are so rigid and my need for more containment and reassurance is getting worse rather than better because of the feeling that the door is closed on me. I feel more and more like I am not in a relationship with her and keep getting my feelings hurt- the recent gift rejection really hurt and her refusal to sit closer to me…well fuck…that’s a kicker.

So, I was reluctant to go and see this new therapist the other week but at the same time I needed to work out whether what I want in therapy is possible or whether my needs are just too much for any therapist and I should stop wishing for things that are unreasonable.

I mean to be fair, I read enough blogs to know that it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to get transitional objects, check ins, occasional hugs or hand holding, or at the very least to be sat next to when there is the need. However, I am very aware after my experience with Em that not all therapists do this stuff (she does none!) and some might do bits and bobs depending.

I guess I have a wish list and accept that probably not all elements might be met but what I am very clear that this time I need to know the lay of the land with any new therapist from the get go – what is and isn’t possible? I don’t want to stumble across boundaries somewhere down the line (like I have with Em) when my attachment stuff has already kicked in and then end up in the same position as now, wanting certain things and then finding out it’s a hard NO.

In my initial email to Anita I didn’t ask about that stuff but I explicitly asked about whether she has experience of working with C-PTSD and attachment and what kind of supervision she undertakes and how frequently. I even asked her if she considered that she had done enough of her own work. I mean, if I am gonna jump ship I need to know these things, right?

Her reply to my email was kind and warm and we arranged an initial appointment.
So much has happened since that session (I have a lot of blogging to do over the next couple of weeks!!!) that I can’t really remember much about it.

I felt a bit disloyal rocking up at Anita’s house having just come from a therapy session with Em but again my session with Em had been bleurgh – more talk of boundaries and the gift giving and I felt so far away from her.

First impressions of Anita when she opened the door were that she was warm and kind.
The therapy room is a good space. It’s comfortable, nicely decorated, and is the right size to feel close enough to the therapist. It’s not Em’s room, though, which is beautiful and really appeals to my aesthetic and academic sides with lovely natural wooden furniture and bookcases full of theory stuff. But I am not in therapy for the room, I am in it for the relationship with the person that sits in it! And let’s face it, if it was all about the room I would be fine!!

I know that I was distressed when I sat down, the weight of what has been going on hit and the reality that I was about to talk to a stranger and let them see the mess that I am in felt big. I figured that I have absolutely nothing to lose at this point so didn’t hold back and sort of unloaded all the stuff I’ve been struggling with in the therapeutic relationship with Em: how I feel like we’ve done all the intellectual work, I know what my issues are, but my feelings aren’t getting met, mirrored or held and so there’s a huge block and my child parts just feel perpetually retraumatised and abandoned every time they get close to the core wound.

I said how I feel shame every time I try and connect and get met with, ‘I’m just your therapist’ or ‘some therapists may do that but I don’t work this way’, and, ‘you know my boundaries and what I want’… you know the stuff, I write about her all the time, it’s not new news to you guys!

I spoke about my issues around breaks and disruptions and how bad it feels to be ignored when I very occasionally reach out. There was loads. And what was great was that because I wasn’t dissociative, or shut down, or being hypervigilant I actually made really good use of the time. I reckon I covered about five sessions worth of content in one!

I didn’t ask directly about any of the relationship stuff with Anita but from what I said about Em she kept stepping in and saying things like, ‘I understand how hard breaks can be for people with C-PTSD and so can I tell you how I work? I will write notes, do transitional objects, and I am available for calls and check ins if necessary on longer breaks because that’s how I think I need to work. Obviously not all clients need this but for those that do I offer that and always try and take a minute to make a call – my family know what I do for a job and so expect that’. She also told me that sometimes we really need someone to hold our hand in the pain (both literally and metaphorically) and that she sometimes feels like clients need hugs from her but of course will always ask first because some clients do not want that kind of contact.

Basically, she took all my cues and on every single sore point and came back with the response I was hoping for. She’s person centred, works with attachment, has experience of working with C-PTSD and dissociative disorders, she undertakes lots of CPD and brilliantly has been on Carolyn Spring’s trainings and has read her books (which are fab btw)…she’s basically got the package I am looking for. Only, she’s not Em…and Em knows me. I’d have to start all over again. Fuck me. I really don’t want to.

Anita said that it felt to her like Em had done some good work with me but now it seems I am in a place where I need to be really met and held in the work and my young parts need to feel loved and for whatever reason Em can’t/won’t do it.

She likened what we’ve done in therapy to being like an egg – we’ve gone through the hard shell, waded through the white, and now we’re at the most vulnerable part – the yolk, and she can’t do the work, or I can’t do it in the way that she works. And this is kind of how it feels…although for the longest time I have felt like it’s just me, my resistance, my defences that are the problem – because, of course, I will always turn it in and try and find where I am at fault for a situation, but actually I am coming to accept that what worked well for me before isn’t working for me now. It’s devastating, actually, but things can’t stay as they are.

The session with Anita felt really nice and I really got the sense that I could build something with this therapist…but it’d mean letting go of my attachment figure and that is fucking terrifying. I emailed her a day or so after the session to thank her for her time and to ask about how we might move forward. I was very aware that just cutting and running from Em would be almost impossible for the young parts and I wondered if we might do some kind of transition where I could build a relationship with her first before fully moving over – because what if it didn’t click and I was left dangling with no way back.

Anita responded and said she had an idea but she needed to run it by her supervisor first. Unfortunately, her idea was shot down by the supervisor – she had thought, given my trauma history and difficulty with attachment and trust that she might be able to function as a support whilst I left Em meanwhile building a relationship with me so that I didn’t have to abruptly leave Em knowing that would feel so hard to those attached young parts.

Her supervisor said it would possibly cause grey areas and so she couldn’t work with me until I was no longer working with Em. The email was really caring and understanding and whilst I felt gutted that her idea (which sounded so like what I needed) wasn’t possible it felt nice that she had at least tried to think of a solution and had cared enough to contact her supervisor. It shows she is keen to work ethically which is really important to me.

I responded to the email with this:

Hi Anita,

Thanks for getting back to me and thinking about this. I suspected this is what your supervisor might say and do understand. It’s a complex dynamic.

I need time to think about what to do next. There are so many competing parts inside right now and it feels overwhelming. I really want to move forward and away from this horrible place of feeling rubbish all the time but the fear of the vulnerable parts losing Em is enormous – like annihilation and it’s not going to be a simple transition to another therapist after eight years with all that’s been triggered in the relationship.

The reality is that I don’t trust people easily and so it is a real barrier to leaving. I guess it’s something about better the devil you know and whilst I sense that you would be a good fit for me from what you have said there is definitely a voice that is saying, ‘what if she’s just the same and you get hurt again – at least Em knows you’.

I know, ultimately, it’s going to take a leap of faith now but any change is unsettling for me. I understand, too, that there’s a possibility that by the time I have managed to leave M you mightn’t actually have availability or capacity to see me…which makes the whole process feel daunting. I guess I’ll just have to trust the universe on this one.

I don’t really know what else to say but I am grateful to you for trying to help find a way forward.

I’ll be in touch…soon… I hope.
RBCG

So I sent that and felt a bit sad. I felt like I had a choice to make. Leave Em and hope for the best with Anita or give it one last stab at throwing everything at Em and seeing what she came back with.

We had another really tough session on the Friday, I can’t remember why now (!!) but it was not easy. I guess my young parts were having a meltdown inside and so take pretty much everything as a rejection and a lack of Em wanting to connect to me.

Oh god.

It’s just come back.

I said that I was wondering whether we could recover from where we were at because it felt so bad. I said that I wasn’t sure that it was enough anymore and the therapy doesn’t feel holding enough. We sort of talked around what leaving might feel like and what parts might feel what but it didn’t feel good at all. She said that if I left she would feel ‘sad and disappointed’ that we hadn’t managed to get me into a better place and it wouldn’t be the ideal end, that’s when the teen piped up, ‘As if!’ and I rolled my eyes. Like, come on lady, you literally give no shits about me and don’t try and pretend after the recent shit show that you’d be sad to see the back of me.

I made some reference to her not caring and she did the usual, ‘If I didn’t care about you I wouldn’t be working with you, but I care about you as a therapist, and I get the sense that parts of you want a different kind of relationship’ then she started on about that think about me wanting her to be my partner or friend again and I was like ‘NO!’ and she then said that if it’s unconscious I wouldn’t know.

Ugh.

I get what she’s saying but honestly when she says the slightly caring stuff I just can’t feel it or take it in because it doesn’t seem very warm or genuine. It feels like I am perpetually asking her for reassurance and she gives the absolute bare minimum of herself. She keeps herself so far out of the room. I said, this, actually, ‘every time I try take a step towards you it feels like you back away’. She said that that’s because I haven’t had secure attachment and if I had I wouldn’t experience her that way. I said, ‘I know. But I DON’T HAVE SECURE ATTACHMENT AND IT IS HOW I EXPERIENCE YOU!’

I remember that she asked about the story I’d given her as a gift at Christmas and said that as an English teacher I must have lots to say about it. This pissed me off. Like why on earth would I want to share that deeply vulnerable stuff with her, and how and why the character’s journey to therapy when she’d basically rejected it the moment we got back from Christmas? I am so hurt by how she handled that that there was absolutely not a chance in hell that I could go to that vulnerable place…for what? To be knocked down or be told, ‘I am just your therapist’ again.

I left the session feeling unseen and desperate and she asked me to let me know if I make a decision about terminating but that she’d be there on Monday all the same. I didn’t know what to do. And started writing when I got home adding to the draft of stuff I had written about following the Skype session (in the last blog post) – it ended up being close to 4000 words! (see there are words inside I just can’t say them out loud!!). I emailed the letter to Em on Friday afternoon – knowing she wouldn’t reply but literally was so confused and unsettled that I didn’t know what else to do.

You know that perfect storm I was talking about at the start? Well it was picking up strength. So, imagine my surprise when Em responded that she would read my email before the session.

I felt nervous and a little more positive like maybe we could find a way through. I tried not to stress too much over the weekend and went into Monday feeling hopeful but also terrified. I know that all my attachment stuff is going berserk right now but it’s hard to explain why things feel so bad it’s a feeling perhaps more than what’s actually being said.

I’ll write what happened next bit in another post…

Shouldn’t Have Skyped…

I’m really aware that I have been AWOL here since before Christmas and have kind of left everything hanging for weeks on the ‘live rupture’ that started in the last session before the break. There are a few reasons for me not writing here, but the main one is I don’t even know where to begin. Things have been so bloody awful that I haven’t been able to formulate my thoughts or ideas about what’s happening.

I have been flipping massively between, ‘I have to leave therapy with M’ and ‘Maybe it’s just me and things can get better’… I guess deep down I have been hoping this stuckness we’ve been experiencing and the feeling of being on completely different pages might resolve and I could come back here and basically go, ‘Haha, look at me being an idiot, freaking out and creating another Christmas rupture… but it’s ok now.’ Only I can’t say that even a few weeks and sessions down the line and I am not sure that it’s all me. Lots has happened and it’ll have to go over a few posts which may take some time.

Also, I just want to quickly say a huge thank you to all the people who have been checking in with me on email. It means a lot that this community cares and we notice when people might not be ok. Also to my closer friends, thank you for putting up with me these last few weeks and not muting your WhatsApp but also being patient when I haven’t responded to you.

So here goes. I am the ‘ringmaster of the shit show’ right now. I saw a hoodie online the other day with that slogan and I am so tempted to buy it because that’s exactly how I feel.

Christmas break was a bit different this year. I wasn’t drowning in young parts’ attachment pain and managed to immerse myself in my family life (well until my wife had a meltdown and threatened to leave…the joys of menopause!). Actually,  I just had a huge resistance to even thinking about therapy on the break and had absolutely zero desire to go back to my sessions on the 3rd January.

Sometimes I can feel a bit distant and detached but as the sessions approach the needy parts come back online and I literally cannot wait to see my therapist. Not this time, though. I just felt so disconnected and disappointed by everything that had happened before Christmas that there was a part of me that just couldn’t face more of the same. There is only so much abandonment and rejection I can cope with. I am sure she wouldn’t see her behaviour as abandoning or rejecting but that’s how it felt to me.

As it turned out I couldn’t get to my session on the Friday because my wife was working and my kids hadn’t gone back to school yet. I spent a good while pondering  what I should do. Should I just cancel my session again like I did on holiday? Would it be better to wait til we were face to face to talk? But of course I am no so used to looking at things from a multitude of angles that I began to wonder whether I was just being avoidant and needed to push through and have the hard conversations.

On the morning of the session I text M and asked to Skype which she agreed to. I was not feeling all that great as I dialled in and the moment she popped up on screen I knew immediately that something was up. It was like the still face exercise – she didn’t smile and gave absolutely nothing away. Her voice was cold and it felt like she didn’t want to be on the line. I felt the same.

I didn’t know where to start the conversation so basically did a fill in about the stress that my wife having a meltdown on Boxing Day and how it had really unsettled the young parts who fear abandonment. She asked me how I felt about the Skype and I conceded that I wasn’t keen.

And then it began…

The boundary talk.

Again.

I could feel myself brace ready for what was coming next.

The usual stuff about keeping therapy in the room, how she doesn’t do outside contact and whilst other therapists may do all kinds of things (i.e when I text her cancelling the session from holiday I had said about other people getting check ins, transitional objects, notes, being encouraged to write, getting tangible reassurances, playing games, therapists sitting closer to clients etc etc) she doesn’t work like that, that I am self-sabotaging by reaching out and essentially I know her parameters. I felt like she had slammed a door in my face.

She made no reference to the difficult last session we’d had or the fact that I was clearly massively unsettled as the break began. It felt like it was all on me and nothing about what may have triggered me to reach out, cancel sessions etc… which is odd because I would have thought after nearly 5 years and never having cancelled on her that this might be something big on her radar.

She then decided to launch into some shit about me maybe wanting her to be my friend, or be partners, and that I might have erotic fantasies about her… honestly I nearly fell off the chair. Like WTAF?? And even if this were the case is this how to reconnect about a 3.5 week break that was in rupture? I felt like she was in total panic mode… ‘must reassert boundaries!’

She was so far off base. It felt like she’s read my notebooks, freaked out about the need of the young parts and suddenly thinks I want to move in with her and start fucking her. Talk about snowballing and overreacting.

And then it got worse.

The boundary talk became a gift talk…

I was already reeling from all that had just happened when she said: ‘I didn’t want to reject your gift when you gave it to me at the end of the last session but in future I think it’s best that you do not give me gifts. You pay me already and I am just your therapist. I am not rejecting you’.

Wow. Way to go M. Thanks. The young parts fell apart at that moment. It was like, what am I doing laying myself bare with this woman who clearly doesn’t give a shit. And honestly, not rejecting? How else would I see it after the last ten minutes of her talking at me?

She missed a massive opportunity to explore why I had decided to give her a present this year after all these years of working together and the meaning behind them. I gave her a copy of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ (which basically is a must read for anyone with attachment wounds and in therapy) and a glass snowflake Christmas tree decoration – because I have previously likened the therapeutic relationship to a snowflake: there are lots of snowflakes (clients) but each one is different and so each relationship is meaningful…

What could have been a connecting moment was just shat on.

I couldn’t cope.

And I couldn’t believe she was dropping this on me via Skype. Surely these kind of conversations need to happen in person.

Usually, I would dissociate at moments like this and internalise everything, feel bad, and just tolerate what was going on despite being massively hurt and angry. But I didn’t. I don’t know what came over me but I just felt so missed, so unseen, so badly judged that I said, ‘I don’t want to talk you to you’ and disconnected the Skype call at 10am with twenty minutes of the session left!

I sat staring a the screen for five minutes (felt like seconds- think I may have dissociated) hardly believing what I had just done and then I panicked.

Clearly she wasn’t going to dial back in but I could see she was still online.

So I typed into the message bar on the Skype:

Me (10:05am): I can’t do this over Skype. It’s too hard. You feel really far away.

M (10:06): Ok, I understand that it’s hard. See you on Monday.

[I couldn’t quite believe she was just going to leave it at that and panicked. I sat there for a minute and fell apart]

Me (10:08): I am sorry for hanging up on you. Everything feels wrong.

M (10:12): I think that the younger parts of you feel stirred up and ambivalent.

Me (10:16): Perhaps. Or maybe it’s just I feel completely at sea and like you actually don’t really care about any of it and it hurts. This is absolutely not how I wanted it to be after the break btw. I really missed you. It’s felt horrible. See you Monday.

M (10:20): Yes, I imagine that you didn’t want this and so it feels particularly hard, but I think it’s best to talk about it on Monday. See you then.

I felt sooooo upset after this. I haven’t gone into huge detail because I can’t actually face going back to the recording now to give a better account of it. All I can say is it felt shit and it was enough to make me make contact with another therapist and arrange an appointment.

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I wrote the email below after the Skype disaster – but I haven’t sent it or taken it in to session. I don’t see the point really. It’s long and would take a lot of time to go through when it can be boiled down to some simple things. Since I wrote this I have verbally brought some of what’s bothering me to session and had some helpful discussion but I will post about that in another post when I get chance. For now, I am just trying to keep swimming and keep adult me front and centre. It’s hard.

M,

I don’t even know where to begin… Seriously.

My brain can’t even process what’s going on. I keep trying to make sense of it all but I’m so confused, angry, and overwhelmed by where things have got to this last month that it just feels like a massive mess and part of me can’t even see the point in trying to fix this. My gut is telling me to call it a day and yet part of me is thinking I should give things a chance to work out…I don’t know what’s best or even if things can mend?

It feels like the need to run away is perhaps just a trauma response and maybe I need to stick with it and try and create a different narrative… but then maybe keeping battling on is actually just another example of a trauma response because I keep trying to adapt to fit in with someone else when it doesn’t work for me and I’ve done that my whole life.
I don’t know how you think the lead into the Christmas break was, but from my side it was a complete disaster.

I was so upset at the end of the last session that I ended up texting you. I never want to text you because it makes me feel completely rubbish and full of shame because time and again you ignore me. I suspect you’ll say, ‘this is the boundary, and if you choose to ignore it, you’re knowingly walking into that rejection’. It’s not as simple as that, though, because that scared, connection-seeking part is already so frightened that something is terribly wrong in that moment that it can’t really imagine it getting any worse. Of course, it usually does.

With the break looming and my holiday just about to begin I knew myself well enough to know how it gets if things are left to escalate. I was already really unsettled and I absolutely did not want a repeat of Christmas break two years ago. I hoped that you would reply to me, say something reassuring, but no. It felt utterly abandoning and rejecting…and I think I used the word ‘punishing’ in the letter I put in with the notebooks. That is how it feels even though you say that’s not what you’re doing.

Things felt so bad that over that weekend that I was certain that if I Skyped from holiday it would be a complete shit show and I didn’t want to be stressing about how bad things felt all week whilst I was away. If we can’t connect in person then how likely is it to happen over the phone? And that’s why I sent the books to you before I left. It’s not something I would generally do and I get that it was stepping completely outside the regular boundary. I just felt like things have been so stuck for so long that maybe if you could see what it’s been like in my head it might move things along a bit.

I thought that I might change my mind as the week wore on and want to talk to you by the Friday but I absolutely didn’t want to have any contact with you at all and so that’s why I text you asking you to read the books instead.

Of course, I was worried about your reaction to what I had written but at the same time another part of me just didn’t care anymore. What is there left to lose when everything already feels so bad? You always ask me what I imagine the worst thing is that can happen if I tell you whatever it is that I am struggling with– it’s this: that you will finally confirm what I have believed all along, that I am too much for you, that you don’t care, and finally something will happen that’ll push one or other of us to terminate the therapy.

I have felt ill when I have thought about you actually reading some of what’s in the books. The fact that it’s taken a year for me to let you see that stuff shows how difficult it is to let you in and how unsafe I have felt in the room. I started writing in the books last year because my hope was that somehow, it’d contain what was going on and help stick within the no outside contact boundary. If I could write down what had been triggered in the room it would be out, to a degree, and then we could work with it in the sessions. It seemed like a reasonable plan because so much hadn’t been making it into the room because I dissociate the moment I get close to that stuff.

Only it hasn’t worked, has it? It’s been so rare that I have felt able to let you see any of what I’ve been struggling with because the parts that are so terrified of being abandoned haven’t felt like it’s worth the risk opening up to you. You say you aren’t frustrated or annoyed with me, and maybe you haven’t been, but I also haven’t felt like you really want to connect to those vulnerable, young parts either. It so often feels like I’m being observed rather than met where I am at– like you can see things are wrong, tell me even, but there is this huge wall that stops any real connection. I feel totally stranded and exposed and want to disappear because you feel so far away.

I was dreading Friday’s session and almost cancelled again. I felt off. It felt like everything was wrong. I knew that Skype was risky and so there was a potential that things could get worse but at the same time I am trying to be less avoidant and what if not talking to you is just running away? Now, I wish I had trusted myself and not bothered because now we are here.

I am so sick of you returning to the boundaries of the therapy and outside contact with me after almost every break. I get it. It’s rigid not flexible. There is nothing I can do to change it. You didn’t even really make any sense on Friday when you were trying to tell me why you still think it’s the best thing…you changed the subject telling me you were glad I’d let you see the notebooks. The idea that it’s best to keep the therapy in the room makes total sense to me. I don’t disagree with you. I am REALLY trying…hence the books. HOWEVER, no matter how many times you state this stuff about texting and emails it doesn’t help the parts that are sometimes terrified that something is wrong or that you’re gone. The problem I have with object constancy is real. And the shame I feel around this is massive. And I have no idea what to do to help make this feel better.

It’s not the case that forcing me into the room by refusing to acknowledge me out of it will somehow suddenly make me more engaged and trusting in the room. If that was working, I don’t think we’d be where we are right now. All that seems to happen is I dissociate more and more because nothing feels secure. I am trying to bug you as little as possible but that in itself is making this feel worse because the parts that are absolutely certain you don’t like me keep getting the same message – she’s not safe and she doesn’t care. This is absolutely hellish for me. I literally want to crawl into a hole and die because it’s so painful and embarrassing.

I am trying to do what you want but at the same time what do I with the parts of me that are really struggling – what do I do to help myself when the abandonment and rejection stuff is so live because nothing works? When things feel pretty ok with the relationship, I have zero desire to contact you. I don’t need to. I am fine. But when things feel really unsteady it escalates so quickly and then it’s awful because the moment I reach out to you all hell breaks loose inside. There is so much shame and self-attacking that goes on, but also so much sadness from the young parts that keep getting the same message – ‘you’re unimportant and she doesn’t care’. The worst thing is that when it gets bad I seem to reach out more and more. It doesn’t work for either of us. It irritates you and it just reinforces the fact that there is nothing for me to connect to and so then when I see you I don’t trust you.

It’s way more complicated than this but essentially it all comes down to being too much and also being easily ignored or feeling unimportant. I don’t want to text you all the time. I don’t want to do the therapy outside the room. But I am struggling with how to make things feel safe enough with you. The sad thing is that actually there have been some times when you have responded to me when I’ve reached out and it’s made a huge difference. It’s like a switch gets flicked and absolutely everything settles immediately. I know that sounds insane. It feels like this is an ongoing problem and we haven’t come up with any strategies to make this better.

I wish you could understand how bad it feels when everything is falling to pieces for those young parts. I know you can’t fix what’s gone in the past and you can’t fill the hole that I feel inside. But we need to find a way of settling that part that gets triggered sometimes, that fears that you’re dead or in some way not safe anymore…because it’s so bad when it’s happening. I can’t regulate that part very well…at all…and when it’s terrible I need to feel like you are there…and I don’t.

And yes, I know you are just my therapist, I’m not stupid. Oh god, and that’s something else…

You’ve said it a maybe two or three times over the years and I have always noted it as feeling ‘off’ but never responded to it, but I am genuinely really confused that yet again you have brought up the idea that I might want you to be my partner and that I have sexual/erotic feelings towards you. I don’t know what I have ever said to give you that impression but it really isn’t how I see you at all. It actually makes me feel a bit weird even trying to put you into that place in my mind.

The mother transference stuff is absolutely accurate but even then I still do know you are my therapist and not my mother – and not my partner, my friend, or anything else…and I don’t want you to be any of those things because I have all of them in my life already. I need you to be my therapist. However, I don’t think therapist should feel like it’s a nothing relationship – you are important to me and every time you say ‘I am just your therapist’ it feels so clinical, sterile even and what does ‘just’ mean, anyway?

All I can think of to make you say this again now (thinking I think about you in a sexual way) is that it comes from the dream I wrote about in the notebooks [*I was showing M my rearranged wardrobes and she asked me about my sex toys that were in a drawer!…CRINGE!] – but that wasn’t a sexual dream at all – it was like asking me what my favourite colour or flavour ice cream was – really matter of fact and at a time when I was showing you a reorganised wardrobe. And I think this dream has way more to do with the fact that we have never discussed sex at all in all the time we’ve been working together rather than it being something about the dynamic between me and you or having those kinds of feelings for you.

I don’t know?

And then this has made me wonder if you seem to be keeping your distance because you think I want to be with you and are in some way finding it awkward with me because of that. I’m gay and you are a woman…but you’re not my type!

Anyway, that all felt off because I am really clear about who you are in my life and I am not interested in the least about our relationship existing in any other capacity. However, I do very much need you as my therapist and I want you to help me work through everything. I want to be able to talk to you but something is wrong and I can’t fix the attachment stuff on my own. You often say that we can’t repair what went wrong when I was little. I get that I can’t change what happened and you can’t be all that I needed then but actually I know that repair can be made in the relationship because sometimes I can feel it happening. Sometimes you feel really present and connected and caring and it really helps…and then other times you don’t at all. You’ll probably say this is me projecting.

It feels like giving you those notebooks has fucked everything up even worse than it was before. First sessions back are never easy but again this one felt really bad. The fact that I disconnected the Skype should tell you how terrible it felt. I’m sorry I did that but I couldn’t bear it. I can’t understand how you might think that saying what you did when we weren’t actually face to face would be in any way helpful after what’s happened lately. I get that you have stuff to say and maybe it felt really important to you to restate your boundaries in the first session back but it just felt like you have put your walls up in the biggest way and you felt so cold.

It would be hard to tell over Skype what was going on for me. You probably wouldn’t be aware that my heart was racing from the moment I saw you on the screen, that I felt sick and shaky, that I wanted to hide because you didn’t feel safe to me, that I was trying really hard not to slip into dissociation, that the young parts were absolutely terrified and were hoping that you’d say something that would be connecting and settle them after what has been a hellish month but it just kept getting worse and worse. It felt like you were a stranger…which I guess, in lots of ways, you are.

I was reeling from the stuff about the boundaries and the relationship and then you added in the bit about gifts. And that was me done. Saying ‘I am not rejecting you’ doesn’t make it feel any less rejecting. I’ve known you eight years now and whilst maybe that doesn’t make any difference to you it means something to me. Without doubt, gifts are a communication and have meaning and it is important to work out what they are but all you seemed to do on Friday was reinforce your fortress. It is so hard to get close to you.

I didn’t want to hurriedly throw the gifts at you as I was leaving in December but the last session did not go in the way that I had imagined. I had wanted to give you the gifts at the beginning and explain why I had given them to you and what they meant – because there is a lot behind them.

You have told nothing about yourself in all this time – I mean you really excel at blank screen/Teflon – and then on that day spent twenty minutes animatedly telling me how you think Corbyn is a communist and the labour party is antisemitic and why the EU parliament is flawed and how Scotland wouldn’t get accepted into the EU and taking the piss out of the Lib Dem leader and how loads of people lie about needing benefits… I mean I wasn’t really expecting that to happen especially as it was our last session. Next time if you get the urge to reveal stuff can you maybe tell me something about the music you like, books you’ve read, or places you’ve travelled to instead?!

So much of that session was taken up with that, that there was no opening to discuss Christmas or how I might be feeling about the break. I mean I guess we both know by now that it’s never easy for me so what’s the point in going on about it but actually it needs to be talked about over and over again …because when we don’t it makes me feel like my feelings aren’t really welcome and that I must be embarrassing you and it just makes the anxiety I feel a million times worse. So, it’s little wonder everything was rushed at the end. I wish I hadn’t bothered now.

I don’t understand why, on Friday, you didn’t have the conversation with me first about why I had given these things to you, unpicked it, done the work round it. Instead it was just another pushback. You say you don’t want to hurt me but I don’t see how you think how you handled this would do anything but hurt me. You didn’t check in with who was there on Friday and just leapt in with both feet- it was really hard. It would have been hard to hear, anyway, but when I had just told you that [wife] had threatened to leave on Boxing Day I would have thought it would be clear that my system would have been activated and feeling vulnerable and worrying about abandonment and rejection.

It feels like we are on completely different pages right now – I don’t mean about the politics; I don’t really care about that. I mean about the relationship. It feels like all the things I have worried about, about being too much is exactly right. It feels like you have taken a big step back from me when actually that’s opposite of what I needed. I can’t seem to fully explain what I mean but what seems really complex is actually really simple.

I need you to help me hold the feelings I have and normalise them and actually accept them. I need you to help me break through the shame I feel about needing connection to you and work with me to find workable solutions to the problems I have with outside contact when things get bad because it’s not going away. It just feels like we are perpetually re-enacting what happened when I was little. My mum and wider family were so emotionally and physically withholding that just being in the room with you feels traumatic because you are so distant.

I need you to know that despite how ‘much’ there is in those books and how intense my feelings seem I am not suddenly going to start texting you all the time, ringing you, turning up on your doorstep or whatever else it is that you think might happen – I’m not that crazy and I don’t want you to be anything but my therapist. And also, just because I’ve let you see that stuff doesn’t mean it all feels ok or that I can just start discussing it because it’s out. I still feel really shutdown and fearful about it.

There’s loads I could say but I’ll stop now – it all feels shit.

The Bubble Has Finally Burst

So here I am, for the first time, blogging from my iPhone (is this to be the longest text message ever?!), sandwiched between my two kids, on a plane heading out for some much needed winter sun in the Canaries. Doesn’t sound too bad really… and isn’t now that I’ve actually got in the air and am up over the clouds but the airport was a different ballgame and the week leading into actually heading out – well all I can say is eff me!!!

Still, I’m not here to whinge about 5am starts and hyperactive small people! But I am going to splurge about the worst lead into a therapy break I’ve experienced in all the years Em and I have been working together.

This is usually the time of year where I sit back and take some time to reflect on the year…and by all accounts 2019 has been a bit of a shit show outside the therapy room and now in it.

Therapy breaks this year have felt tricky (ha- so British!). I’ve been dreading the three week Christmas break pretty much all year since booking this holiday on Boxing Day. At the time I felt it was a bit ridiculous to not book a holiday just because it would add a week to the therapy break. I knew how hard I find winter and knew that sun would do me good. I also hoped that by now, almost another year into therapy I might not be a complete basket case around therapy breaks.

I’m nothing if not optimistic!

But I’m also clearly delusional… what was I thinking?!

I knew this break was likely to be a disaster when Em took most of the summer off. Break one wasn’t too bad but she was back for just a few sessions and then gone again for another two weeks. My system just doesn’t cope with too much disruption and I’ve struggled to settle back into therapy since the summer because the young parts of me are on high alert and have never really been given the chance to talk about how bad the break felt.

Sooooo… a few weeks ago I wrote in my therapy notebook that I was struggling and that I really wanted to work out how to let the young parts out and also to figure out some strategies to get through the break. Em agreed with me and it felt positive to have shared some of my concerns.

And then life got crazy and there were loads of stressful life things to get through and somehow the young parts got left behind and preparing for the break fell by the wayside. I knew that Friday needed to be a connecting and containing session and I wanted to be able to in and just be how it felt and share some of what I (young parts) have been worrying about with Em.

This year I’d bought Em a Christmas gift (first time in 8 years) and so I also wanted that to be a meaningful exchange. I’ve always bought really nice, thoughtful cards for her. A couple of years ago I gave her a 3D laser cut paper snowflake card and wrote something about how even though she sees lots of clients each week, that like snowflakes, each relationship is meaningful and different. I also referenced Michael Rosen’s, ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ and how sometimes therapy can feel like being stuck in a ‘swirling whirling snowstorm’ and yet ‘we can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, got to go through it’.

This year I bought her a handcrafted glass snowflake Christmas Tree decoration (trying to link back into the old metaphor). That was meant to be it but the last week I came across ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ and fell in love with it and it totally resonated with me as another metaphor for life in the therapeutic relationship. If you’re unfamiliar with the story I really recommend getting hold of a copy.

Neither of these gifts were of high value but were instead loaded with meaning and feeling. I hoped she’d appreciate them. My young parts were excited to give them to her and my adult was full of gratitude and wanted to express that before heading into the long break. Everything was written, wrapped, and ready to go on Friday

Then the general election happened.

And what in fuck’s name has the UK just done? I can’t even. I’m absolutely devastated that we’ve (well I haven’t!) voted in a party of liars, bigots, racists, homophobes, xenophobes, who plan to privatise all that we hold dear, can’t even be arsed to debate on climate change, who simply couldn’t care about the most vulnerable in society and, in fact, blames them for mismanaging their finances because they need foodbanks, suggested that those in the Grenfell fire lacked common sense for not evacuating when they’d been told to stay put, say that single mothers are bringing up ill-raised kids, and think that 3 million kids in poverty in the sixth richest nation on earth is acceptable.

I could go on and on. I know no party is perfect, far from it, but given the choice of ‘caring for all’ or ‘survival of the fittest’ I know I choose to have a social conscience everyday of the week. Having worked in schools for so long and my wife giving the last 30 years to the NHS it simply isn’t possible to vote Tory seeing the impact of the last 9 years.

I was in a state of disbelief on Friday morning. I knew Boris and his celebrity buffoon status was popular with some but a landslide victory for the conservative party… ugh. I’m proud of my city for remaining a red island in a sea of blue but I worry about what the next few years brings with Brexit etc. I mean we can’t go on for another 3 years as we are but I feel like people have voted purely on ‘get Brexit done’ and forgotten about everything and everyone else… or maybe they just don’t care! I know it’s not black and white… but I just don’t understand it.

Anyway, on Friday I arrived at therapy feeling anxious knowing this was the last face to face session this year. I sat down and said, ‘can we just leave the world outside today, I can’t believe it. I’m so depressed’. Em asked what was bothering me. I told her we’d just found out my wife’s nan had died in the night and that I was in a state of shock about the election result.

Now, Em is usually blanker than a blank slate – she never tells me anything about herself. I know she has a kid but not because she’s ever told me. I know she’s married (I’ve seen him awkwardly once). But I couldn’t tell what she’s into. So to suddenly get a 25 minute rant about politics and how Corbyn is an antisemitic communist blah blah blah and how the EU is run by France and Germany … well Jesus what a way to burst the bubble! It felt like I’d landed feet first on a front page Daily Mail story.

I’m all for people expressing differences of opinion but the way this came over wasn’t a debate it was a triggered letting it all out. I could feel myself shutting down, she wasn’t listening to what I was saying at all, and in the end I started to lean into what she was saying because it felt like we were poles apart and I didn’t want that. Or at least the little ones didn’t.

I said how I hate how divisive this whole thing has got and how we’ve all lost sight of what the country has needed focusing on Brexit. It was classic fawn and people pleasing- it felt like a conversation with my mum- it was interesting to see it playing out but also really shit timing.

I needed that session to be about consolidation and creating a sense of safety and instead my system was like, ‘who the fuck is this woman?’ I ended up trying to change the subject – she said something about how it had been interesting to have this kind of chat (so different from others) and that she never talks politics usually. (I might recommend she doesn’t again in future!)

She said we’ve been stuck and that maybe I could let stuff out like I had just then because if I don’t think the protector parts will step aside I’m perpetually stuck in painful feelings. Ha! After what’s just happened my protector parts were very glad they were there!! That conversation didn’t feel freeing or air clearing. It felt quite attacking, actually, as if I was some kind of idiot and naive for wishing for something better. And since when was socialism communism anyway??!!

I started talking about a dream I’d had the day before because I could feel myself dissociating and knew time was ticking away. I needed to find a way back to her.

It all felt really awkward and distant, though.

By the end I was so far gone that when Em said that the time was up and that we had a break coming up I felt desperately sad. Basically it was left that we will speak on Friday, if I can, otherwise I’ll see her on the 3rd. No space was left or made to discuss the break. Nothing has been put in place. I just get the feeling she’s glad to see the back of me.

Needless to say everything went to shit the moment I left.

And then I sent a long text which was a desperate attempt to seek connection even though actually underneath I felt raging.

Oh man it’s really long:

I don’t suppose it’ll come as any great surprise to you that the wheels have fallen off after today’s session. I feel completely all over the place. It’s not because of the political stuff at the beginning – it’s actually nice to see some of you in the room for a change.

I just really feel like we’ve missed each other again lately. I felt so dissociated by the end today that it was really hard leaving. All the young parts that really needed to know that you don’t actually hate me (because that’s what they feel especially when there’s a holiday) walked out in tears because the reassurance I need before breaks just didn’t happen and so I’m just left feeling really unsettled. I feel embarrassed that this keeps happening.

I get the feeling that you’re frustrated by how it’s been lately (always!) after your comment about us not getting anywhere if the protective parts won’t step aside. I know you’ve been trying hard for ages to get through to me – especially on Monday – and whilst there’s a load of pushback from the critical part and it must feel like running into a brick wall repeatedly I do appreciate it and I can see what you’re trying to do. Those parts are there for a reason, though, and whilst they clearly didn’t begin life in the room with you there’s definitely something stopping the wall coming down.

I’d like to think between us we could find a way of taking a sledgehammer to it but it just feels so impossibly hard right now.

After Monday’s tough session I just really wanted to feel like there was a secure foundation to our relationship today before disappearing off for three weeks – and yet I’ve come away feeling like things aren’t secure.

There is so much I’ve been sitting on this year – and I cannot believe that the next time I’ll see you is 2020 and even then I know it’s going to be difficult to trawl through all the stuff that’s been accumulating.

I feel really reluctant to Skype next week when I’m away because it rarely feels as connecting as I’d hope for and I’m worried it might actually make things worse.

I am resilient, I’m not deliberately wallowing in misery and attachment pain, but there are parts that just cannot hold all of this and it’s a nightmare.

I miss you and I also hate that I do – because right now I’m sure this just feels like I’m bombarding you and after what you said in April about that I hardly want to push you to a place where you end things.

It’s a mess.

She hasn’t replied and that’s just set the cat even more amongst the pigeons. So much so that I’ve cancelled my session on Friday. I couldn’t go on holiday with this stress hanging over my head all week. Perhaps it’s a mistake. Maybe it’s running away. But I just can’t have another session like Friday and Skype is rarely perfect.

Instead, I’ve mailed her my notebooks with a note asking her to use our session time to read what I’ve been sitting on the last 11 months – hoping to break the deadlock in a way. I don’t know if she will or not. All I know is I am not ok about this break. I don’t feel safe in the relationship and Em feels further away than ever.

Christmas rupture?!

Ha!

Right, that’s the 4 hour flight done!

‘I’m Just Your Therapist’

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It’s been an ‘interesting’ few weeks in therapy for sure. In some ways I feel like I’ve made some good leaps forward and in other ways I feel as though I am right back at square one again. I suppose that’s kind of the nature of the beast, though, or at least that seems to be what happens with me!

Right now it feels as though I’m practising a new and funny little bit of therapy dance with Em, and if I am honest it’s not much fun because, as I said, just as I seem to make progress it all goes to shit: two steps forward, one step back -three steps forward, four steps back – random bit of twirling in a circle – therapist treads on my toes, it hurts, and I let her know rather than pretending like it hasn’t happened – a few more steps forward- I accidentally tread on therapist’s toes-  stumble backwards- trip over- fall on my arse and have to sit things out until next week when we’ll give it another go…hopefully having learnt from the mistakes and maybe we’ll do a better run through next time. It’s basically a terrible version of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ – like when the celebs that can’t dance have a go in week one and you just want to die for them and their lack of rhythm and technique!

Anyway, enough with the shit metaphors for the moment – let’s get to it!

It’s funny really because there’s quite a lot of ‘news’ but right now, as I sit here, my mind is completely focused on one thing and one thing only, ‘Will Em even be there tomorrow?’

This isn’t the usual lack of object constancy stuff where I can’t keep her in mind and imagine that she’s going to terminate me because she’s come to her senses and realises there’s no helping idiots like me (!) but it’s actually that, right now, I do not know if my session is going ahead tomorrow because she won’t be able to tell me until tomorrow morning. She’s got an emergency dental appointment first thing and doesn’t know whether she’ll be ok to work…

Adult Me understands this just fine – when your teeth go wrong you need to get looked at and, to be fair, having to sit with pain over the weekend can’t be any fun for Em…but the child parts…well let’s just be completely honest and say it’s gone completely to shit inside this weekend and I feel like the ground has fallen away beneath my feet. Not even joking. I’m useless with ‘known about’ breaks and so this ‘not quite sure if there’s a break’ is just total crap. It’s attachment pain 101.

Shoot me now!

On Friday we started talking explicitly from the beginning of the session  (no faffing about gently dipping a toe in to test the waters!) about all the big stuff that’s come up again recently. This is partly because at the start of the session I (finally) handed over my therapy notebooks that have been sitting next to me on the couch pretty much every week since the end of January (we have looked at them a few times but not for several months now)… and asked her to read what I had written on Tuesday – which is basically about falling face first into the vulnerable attachment stuff again and not feeling secure in the relationship, referring to some of what had happened on Monday, and then asking for strategies to help with various areas, like: breaks, getting stuck/frozen in session, and making the parts that are in hiding feel safe enough to come out- groan.

I’ve done myself proud (NOT!) these last few weeks and ended up texting my therapist a couple of times. We don’t need to talk about the shame that doing that stirs up – here – we all get it – but crikey it’s been cringeworthy going to sessions afterwards and waiting for ‘the chat’ about outside session contact. I’ve feel like a naughty child that’s somehow let mum down or pissed her off and is about to get another telling off.

I was really flooded with sadness last Friday (1st November) after my session. I don’t know why. But basically by mid-afternoon I was just drowning in that horrible place where I just miss Em so much that it physically hurts. Ok, I know this is coming from the past and not now but when these feelings rear their heads they feel so unbelievably potent and powerful. I know this is about all the grief and loss around what I didn’t have as a child with my mum but when this stuff hits, I don’t seem to have that awareness… the part that is active in that moment doesn’t want anyone but Em and it’s her that’s missed and Adult seems AWOL. It doesn’t feel like it’s 2019 at all it feels like I am somehow stuck back in 1986 with zero resources to cope.

So what did I do?

Oh yeah, you guessed it!

I sent a wanky meme:

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And then immediately panicked. I text my friend and she was like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and I told her how I felt and she said, ‘text that to her – that’s how you feel and what she needs to know.’

Only texting ‘that’ would be a great deal more exposing than the meme, wouldn’t it? I kept looking at my phone, knowing that I had just summed up exactly how I was feeling and also knowing that if I didn’t send it, those words would never make it into the room…far too embarrassing!

After falling some more into the pit of attachment hell something in me shifted a little and I thought, ‘fuck it, I’m going to send it, I am so over skirting round the edges…this is hurting me and I need to find a way of letting her know so we can work on it’…and so I sent this:

 

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I mean – wow – right. That’s a whole lot of need right there isn’t it? And I felt so much shame after I had sent the message but also a little bit of relief too. I know, for a fact, I am not the only one that experiences this stuff in therapy and whilst it’s bloody excruciating it’s got to be worked through or things will never get any better.

This is the trauma lingering on from childhood. This is CPTSD in action -and it’s just so bloody embarrassing to be an otherwise functioning member of society, a teacher no less, and to be dealing with this behind the scenes. It’s so completely exhausting and shame-inducing.

I mean, I suppose the only good thing is I didn’t send this one…! Ha!:

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Fortunately, Em didn’t say anything that felt rejecting the first session back when I sent the ‘I miss you’ texts. She just tried to open up the conversation with, ‘You text me a couple of times on Friday‘ and we talked about it a bit so that was a relief.

I hit that place bloody awful place again on Tuesday and was bothered by something I had said in session that I was worried might have been taken the wrong way and ended up sending another text on Tuesday (yes – I am a big moron – I completely accept this!) and yet she only alluded to it briefly in Friday’s when she came to the part where I had mentioned it in my notebook where I had said I was dreading the chat that I knew would be coming because I’ve reached out outside session again. All she said was, ‘You don’t like talking about not sending texts outside of sessions unless it’s for scheduling, do you?’ I shook my head and she left it at that for now, clearly sensing I did not want to talk again about why when things get bad I seek connection and how her ignoring me really hurts. It’s a conversation we have had a lot, will undoubtedly have again, but on Friday I just didn’t want to.

My friend and I were laughing about the fact that I haven’t shown Em my writing for months and months because it’s felt ‘too exposing’ and yet I was so desperate to avoid ‘the boundaries chat’ on Friday that I would sooner shove a full notebook of vulnerability and need in front of her than deal with those feelings of rejection that come about when we talk about texting and outside session contact. A great example of avoidance of one painful thing trumping the avoidance of another exposing thing! God help me! I am nothing if not avoidant! haha.

Anyway, the conversation we did end up having was hard, talking about the young parts’ needs for holding and containment. Em said how she can feel the need so much, for unconditional love and holding, and she can see how painful it is to not have those needs met, and understands how awful it is that we can’t make that repair in the here and now because she is ‘just my therapist’  …and something about how scary it must feel to feel in the dark when it’s like that and that it isn’t that she’s rejecting me at all…. blah blah blah…she said a lot of really understanding good stuff, but ugh, I dunno, it all just feels crap because my brain felt like she was putting a barrier between us with that one sentence: I’M JUST YOUR THERAPIST.

I understand that she can’t give me what I needed as a baby, as a toddler, as a four year old or at any point thereafter in my childhood when everything was a fucking disaster zone and I needed an adult to be there for me – but actually sometimes the words she chooses just bloody sting even though the intention behind them is good.

‘I’m just your therapist.’

I mean what does that even mean?

Because ‘just my therapist’ is actually quite (ok, massively) important to me from where I am sitting. She’s the person that knows me inside out. She’s the person who has touched on the most vulnerable and scared, needy parts of me and hasn’t abandoned me when she’s seen them. She’s the person that I try and trust with some of the darkest, most painful parts of my story. She’s someone whom I have tried to let in and build a relationship with on and off over the last eight years… and that relationship really matters to me. She’s not ‘just my therapist’ to me. She is Em (who ‘just’ happens to be my therapist!).

Of course, I’m not dumb, she is my therapist but that’s not just some fucking bland title, like my ‘dentist’ who I don’t care a bit about – like the fucking dentist she’s going to on Monday morning!- ‘Therapist’ is surely a bit different? – and if it’s not then I am labouring under some huge misapprehensions. Sure. It’s a professional relationship but there’s no ‘just’ in it. It’s not somehow ‘less than’. I get that she’s not my parent. She’s not my friend, either. It’s not easy to quantify what a therapeutic relationship is like to someone who hasn’t experienced one but it certainly isn’t ‘just’ anything – it’s still two human beings in a room trying to forge a way forward together in a real relationship. There is care, and hope, and dare I say it, love – at least from my end.

Ugh. Anyway, that’s clearly got under my skin. I mean basically Friday was a slightly kinder way of saying, ‘I’m not your mother’ and so it’s the sorest bit left hanging over from an otherwise really good session.

It seems that having the conversation (again) about how easily rejected the young parts of me feel and how easily they read her silences as annoyance or lack of care led Em to remember that she was going to the dentist on Monday and that whilst she thinks she should be ok to work she may have had an anaesthetic and so perhaps might not be quite as ‘with it’ as usual. She was basically warning my hypervigilant self that there’s not something wrong between us that I’ve caused if she seems a little off in session tomorrow but something down to her teeth…that is if she even makes it to the room tomorrow and tbh I can’t see it happening.

Sigh.

As I said at the start of this, I’ve felt my agitation building all weekend about the very real possibility that tomorrow’s session may not happen. I am angry with myself that something so run of the mill and understandable feels like such a big deal. I mean, even if tomorrow doesn’t happen I’ll see her on Friday and I’m still behaving like a big baby about it. Clearly the young traumatised parts don’t understand what’s going on and just feel like they’re stuck in the annihilation zone. Basically I’m plunging head first down into the black hole that is the mother wound again.

Fun times. Ugh.

I took myself off to bed earlier this afternoon in order to try and sleep it off. I couldn’t sleep, though, and just felt increasingly upset which is why I have come to write here to hopefully help get Adult back online and it seems to be working a bit but doesn’t stop the sick, shaky feeling inside.

There’s actually loads to say from the last few sessions but this is already long so I’ll save it for the next post and fill in the gaps then.

Right now I have to conjure up my teacher self and go out and tutor… easier said than done when you have a bunch of screaming, distraught young parts inside.

x

On The Verge…

On the verge… ha… Yep!  I guess that’s exactly how it feels right now. If I were a car I’d be slowing down, barely crawling, actually more like lurching along, trying to find a safe place to pull in and call The RAC out. I don’t think I’ll make it to a layby further down the road because there’s something seriously wrong with my engine and I know it’s about to conk out. To be honest, I might just as well pull onto the verge over here and wait for rescue.

The unfortunate thing about this (crap) analogy firstly, is that clearly I AM NOT A CAR that can easily be made roadworthy by replacing a few broken parts and secondly, apparently on this ‘journey’ it is me that also has to be my mechanic. I can’t call someone to come and fix me. FFS. Still, let’s be fair, I’ll probably be ok as I have enough parts in the shadows that in all likelihood there may be a mechanic I’ve not yet come across!

It’s been a while, again, since I have posted anything here and actually this is largely because I don’t know what to say (see above paragraph as evidence!) rather than lacking time (which is usually the issue). There’s an awful lot going on in the mess that is my internal world, but I am so sick of myself at the moment that I can’t seem to find the will to put anything here on the blog. I feel like all I do is moan and frankly it’s doing my head in…! I just can’t seem to stop!!

I’m almost embarrassed for myself. I am so bored of feeling like I am stuck on this perpetual treadmill, running through emotional shit that never stops coming. Just when I seem to get one area of my life in order some other bit of crap gets thrown in my path. I’m just so exhausted by it all.

As if to add insult to injury, my sleep has been hideous again these last few weeks, too. The incredibly vivid, bad dreams are happening almost every night now, and I am so frustrated that these dreams that involve Em lead me to lose faith in the therapeutic relationship even when she’s done absolutely nothing wrong (in real life) to warrant me keeping her at arm’s length.

I am irritated that my adult self totally understands she is not trying to hurt me but my body says something else when I see her and this ultimately gags the parts that really need to talk in my sessions because ‘what if she responds to me like she did in the dream?’. Sometimes I get round it but it’s all such a massive effort! I wish that I could just go in and say exactly what’s on my mind.

There’s another problem, though, and that is my mind does stupid things in session and frequently when Em asks what I felt or what was left for me after the previous session (I alluded to there often being some kind of fallout when I leave) I literally have no recollection of the session or how I felt afterwards in that moment. It’s bizarre. Then, all of a sudden, it’s like a switch gets flicked and it all comes flooding in along with the shame and embarrassment.

So yeah, it’s just feeling so utterly boring, terribly repetitive, unbelievably draining and if I feel this way then I am certain that anyone that reads this must be feeling similarly. I’m not looking for the sympathy vote this is merely a long drawn out exhale on my part.

I don’t feel depressed.

I am just fed up.

Fed up of everything…

but also a bit hormonal!

oh…and tired…

actually, maybe I just need a nap!

Since I last posted, it’s been a tough few weeks in my personal life which has knocked me for six a bit. My wife and I seem to have come through the worst of it but there’s some serious work needing to be done in our relationship. It’ll probably come as no surprise that ‘intimacy’ is an issue I have in ALL my relationships – even my marriage. Actually it’s one of the first things I remember Em saying to me all those years ago, ‘intimacy and letting people in seems difficult for you’. And she was right. Still is.

I keep myself so protected that I know it can feel like I am shutting others out. It’s not meant to come over that way but I know it does. The thing I fear the most (being rejected) is actually how I make my wife feel some of the time – only she gets the added bonus of coming up against all my body image issues and therefore the struggle to be physically intimate as well as emotionally intimate. Lucky her!

Realistically, I know all relationships go through ups and downs but the other week was a sudden careering downhill episode that I wasn’t expecting and I need to focus some serious energy in working on intimacy – only I’m not sure how to undo all the negative self talk and believe that it’s ok to let my wife in on every level. It’s not always been like this, but there are a few events including the cancer stuff that have certainly contributed to it.

I have become so used to being a particular version of myself – competent, unflappable, got my shit together woman/wife/mother that I rarely let on that I’m a complete fruitcake underneath (tend to save this for my best friend and my therapist!). Some of this is down to the conversations my wife and I have had in the past, ‘how much therapy does one person need?’ and so it’s little wonder I am increasingly unlikely to open up about the stuff that I am struggling with. It’s not always bad but my trauma brain tends to latch onto those soundbites and the Inner Critic (who is really only trying to protect me) makes sure I shut up.

Anyway, let’s face it, it’s not new news to me that letting people in and allowing myself to be close to people is an issue. You only have to look at what’s been going on in therapy to see what I’m like. Still, knowing it’s an issue that’s beginning to cause friction at home I have been starting to talk more openly to my wife about EVERYTHING (well some of the stuff) that’s going on for me. I’ve been trying to let her see more of me. It’s been going ok so far.

In addition to this, I’ve also been trying hard in therapy to be more vulnerable and keep talking even when parts of me are trying hard to silence me. It’s been going reasonably well, and Em commented last session how she’s noticed that I have been more open recently.

We had a good session the other day and talked about A LOT of the stuff I tend to avoid (body image/eating stuff) but all through the session I had been struggling with something else. When I arrived Em got out her diary and asked me about my holiday at Christmas because I told her in January that I had booked a holiday on Boxing Day because I couldn’t bear the crap UK weather again this year.

I am going away in December the week before the usual Christmas break. Basically, idiot me booked a holiday that makes Christmas therapy break three weeks long instead of two…and let’s be real here, I don’t always do very well on this particular holiday!! #rupture! It’s been on my mind but I haven’t thought yet to have conversation about the break because – ugh – it’s just painful.

Anyway, the conversation lasted all of thirty seconds as I confirmed the dates I would be away. Em put them in her diary and clearly assumed that because I will be abroad (like in May) that I won’t be doing sessions and we moved on…to big stuff…only my brain was still churning away about the holiday as I talked about my eating disorder, cancer etc etc.

With about 8 minutes to go Em asked me what might be left over from the session because she was aware that we’d talked a lot about difficult areas that are often avoided or left alone. She asked me what the sorest part of the session was for me so we could maybe talk some more before I had to leave.

I think it came as a bit of a shock to her when I replied, ‘Christmas Break’…that tiny non conversation we had at the start of the session. ‘Christmas break?’ she mirrored. I nodded and tried to look at her. ‘Breaks are incredibly difficult still, aren’t they? Is it something particular about Christmas holidays?’ I shook my head. ‘No’ I whispered, ‘All breaks are hard’. And there was the vulnerable part talking to her.

She was really understanding and tried to help me see that it was normal and ok. She asked me how it felt inside and I felt so sad in my core. It was a sadness that was locked in my body. It felt so heavy. Em said something about how breaks don’t seem to get any easier. The really broken, sad, young part of me, looked up and said, ‘I really miss you when I don’t see you’ and then went on to explain how ‘I spend all my time worrying about the next break and this horrible feeling never really goes away’. I think this was quite a revelation to her. I think she knew breaks are shit but I don’t think she knew how large they loom for me even when they are months away.

Anyway, it was a good end to the session but as I drove home I started to panic. What if she fills those sessions right now and I still want them – or at least one of them?? So, I got home and thought about what it is that I really want and need. I might want to keep both those sessions in December but I don’t need them. I don’t want my holiday to be taken up with therapy, actually. I managed in May just fine without my sessions but that was only for a week…

So, after some consideration I decided to text Em and asked her if we could talk about keeping the Friday session that week I am away and doing it by phone or skype. I also said that, ‘Everything feels too hard with three weeks break and I don’t want to end up in a mess. I feel so embarrassed but we need to work out a plan for breaks’.

She responded with an ‘ok’ and that sent me through a loop. I just feel like, ‘really – that’s it???’ But on Monday she immediately explained what her ok meant and it felt fine.

Soooooooo the long and short of it is yes, I am on the verge….but maybe in another way than at the beginning of this post. I definitely feel like I am on the verge of taking some big leaps forward in my therapy…so Em better be ready because the deluge is coming. Having said this, I think she’d be more inclined to put on her wellies and coat and dance alongside me than shield herself with an umbrella. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

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