Rage Cycles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s going on?

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

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

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

No change there, then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh.

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

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

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

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Empty

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So it looks like I have made it through the three session therapy break. I have been ‘just about’ holding it together with my trademark rubber bands and chewing gum but it’s all feeling a bit fragile today; it feels like the makeshift glue that holds the pieces together is liable to give way at any moment. It’s not great.

The last couple of weeks haven’t been a complete depressive washout by any means,  but it’s taken a ridiculous amount of energy to simply keep treading water in an uninviting, swirling, choppy, cold emotional sea and not drown. I’m tired and cold now. I am so over the break!

I’ve noticed that, often, the closer I get to the shore (i.e end of the therapy break) the harder those last few days in the water are: it’s as though, for some reason, the waves pick up and a strong rip current running along the water’s edge does everything in its power to stop me getting onto the safety of dry land. I don’t know if it’s something about the consistent and sustained effort that is required to hold it all together and keep swimming that finally takes its toll; the sheer exhaustion of it takes over when the end in sight?: maybe I don’t quite have the stamina to get through a break?; or perhaps it’s something to do with self-protection – I sort of bury my head in the sand (sorry for the mixed metaphors ) at the beginning of the break and then as I hit the marker of ‘last missed session’ (today/Friday) it all falls apart.

Like maybe the fatigue and fear really hit now, because I am almost there, back in the room. Perhaps it is only now that I can finally allow myself to really feel what I have been keeping inside for the entirety of the break. Although tbh it doesn’t feel like there is much ‘choice’ or ‘allowing’ in the matter.

I don’t know how to put it.

I am overwhelmed.

With just three more sleeps until Monday things are getting really really hard. Part of me needs to keep repeating Dory’s mantra ‘just keep swimming’ but other parts of me are just so physically and emotionally exhausted that it feels impossible to keep going. I feel almost paralysed by the emotions. I want to give up. I want to sink beneath the surface of the water and rest – even if that means drowning. I know it sounds really dramatic. I can’t really describe how utterly shit things feel right now. I feel overwhelmed and empty at the same time.

It’s weird.

I feel like that huge gaping hole inside, the mother wound, is sucking everything into it like some enormous black hole. That’s kind of what I mean by empty and overwhelmed…from the outside the hole seems empty, a pit of darkness, and yet I know that in the black pit of doom is so much pain, so much fear, so much need, and overwhelm. OMG just thinking about it all sends me into a panic.

Until today I think I have been doing pretty well. The attachment pain has been there consistently (it never really goes away) but most of the time it has felt manageable or I have found time to honour it so that it doesn’t ruin my day and I have been able to function well enough. It’s been half-term here this week and so having the kids off school has been a welcome break from the usual routine. No school runs or teaching has meant that things have been reasonably relaxed.

My wife and I took the children away for a couple of days to a theme park and stayed in a nice hotel overnight. It was a lovely break for us all but really tiring! Traipsing around the park, queuing, and riding rollercoasters is not exactly relaxing. And I have found that, actually, my days of enjoying adrenaline rides has long passed. I get an immediate headache the moment the adrenaline floods in and I am actually a bit of a chicken. I feel actual fear on the rides – like I am going to die! Where on earth did my fearless fourteen year old self go?! Oh, and, in addition to the physical discomfort of actually doing the rides I was really reminded that I don’t really like crowds (or people!)!!!

So, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I am tired now…but this empty feeling is more than just tiredness, you know? I think when I am tired I have fewer resources available to cope with all the ‘other stuff’ and so it sneaks up on me and takes root. The young parts are more vocal and the need feels huge. I know at times like this I should be going all out with the self-care but sometimes the slide into emotional overwhelm feels more like a switch suddenly being flicked than a gradual unravelling. One minute I am ok…and the next I am sooooo not ok. Once I am in ‘the not ok’ state it’s all a bit late for self-care (yeah yeah, ok baby steps and deep breaths and all that can be done at any time…) I feel incapacitated. I just can’t fucking do anything.

Today was a disaster. I did not get dressed. I willed myself to do some ironing but that was all I could manage. I spent most of the day beating myself up about not doing anything which in itself is hugely tiring and stressful. I wish I could just give myself permission to acknowledge I am having a bad day, to rest up, to give things space…but I don’t. I just sit/lie there thinking about all the things I should be doing but am failing to do. I brood on all the work I have to manage next week. I get angry with myself that I am not 1) resting and recharging properly when there is so much coming next week or 2) getting planning and prep done for the week ahead so that it doesn’t feel so massively hard next week.

Basically I spent the day feeling incredibly anxious and stressed about next week but not doing anything to make it better, or resting to give myself energy to do the things I need to when the teaching kicks back in. It’s so annoying but so familiar. It really does feel like a mental paralysis.

UGH!!!

The problem is, when I get this frozen thing it’s not really like I have an executive in charge who can direct everything or even the critic on hand to bully me into doing stuff. Fuck knows where she is! Instead I am left with all the various young parts freaking out and not knowing how to get help. It’s just ridiculous.

I need therapy!!!

There is so much I want to say to Em when I go back on Monday. I have been talking round the edges of a lot of really big feelings for a while now and I really think I need to push on through the shame and embarrassment and let some more of it out. I am, of course, terrified that what I have to say is ‘too much’. The thing is, even if it is ‘too much’ it is how I feel and it’s doing me no good at all hanging onto it.

I just don’t know if I am brave or strong enough to go through the inevitable grief that will come about as a result of really tackling the issues I have around the breaks (feelings of abandonment) and touch (or lack of it) in the therapeutic relationship. When I think about that need for closeness and containment it really aches. I know that the ache stems from years ago and the relationship I have with my mum. But as much as I know this is an old injury, the mother wound, I am not sure I am resilient enough to hear the ‘I am not your mother and this is a therapeutic relationship’ thing at the moment.

I know she’ll deliver it more kindly than that but this is essentially what we’re dealing with isn’t it? Facing that pain, that grief that feels totally annihilating – our mothers weren’t ‘good enough’ and the attachment figure in the here and now is unable to meet the need that got neglected in our childhoods. Intellectually I get it. Can handle it. I know I need to accept that Em is with me on the journey and is there to help me through the grief but that she cannot take it away or be a replacement mother. Adult Me gets it. Adult Me is ok with it – welcomes it even.

The relationship I have with Em is important to my Adult too. I like it when we get to talk together and it’s not emotionally fraught and I don’t dive down into dissociation to get away from the pain.

Emotionally…I don’t know if I am ready to face the truth. I am not sure whether I can kill off the hope of the young parts that so desperately want to be close to Em, for her to be there to make things better…but I guess I’m not doing myself any favours in prolonging the agony. It makes me feel ill and actually more than that, it makes me feel really alone…again…just like I was as a kid.

I don’t know. I guess maybe this week is not the best week go poking at the mother wound given Monday also coincides with the first anniversary of my very good friend/mother figure’s death but maybe because it is now because these feelings of grief and loss are so potent that I need to address them.

I don’t know.

I just want to hide under a blanket and have a story read to me. I don’t want to be Adult Me right now. It all feels too much.

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Grief (again): 10 Years On

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I’ve been wanting to something here all week but I haven’t felt able to. It’s not because I have been too busy to write (which is why I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to);  sure, I have been running about like a headless chicken, been ill, and been suffering the fall out of some tricky emotions stirred up in therapy last week, but really there’s nothing terribly new in any of that and I still usually find a way to put something on the page.

Arguably, this week, I have had a little more time on my hands than usual because I didn’t work yesterday (mind you I was very ill and even went completely blind for a few minutes so perhaps writing wasn’t really possible!) but still I haven’t been able to find words. I am floundering about now. I can feel it. The feelings are so there but the words just aren’t. It’s like being in therapy on a dissociated day- ffs!

I think it’s maybe the topic that’s the problem.

Grief.

This is not the first time I have written about grief. When my friend died after battling with myeloma last year I posted something, and when my dog died I even rattled a piece off. Both those times the grief was acute and immediate. The feelings were there, fresh, and I could tap into them, skim off the surface if you like. It’s different today.

I suppose, in reality, you could argue that most of my blog talks about grief in one way or another. Essentially, the majority of my work in therapy comes down to grieving losses: sometimes it’s the death of a loved one; sometimes it’s the loss of the image I had of who I might become before I got cancer; but mainly, week in week out, it’s steadily grieving the loss of a mother (my mother as well as the concept of the ideal mother) that I never had. The mother wound is going to take years to get over and heal. I know this.

But this post isn’t about grieving mother (although my next post most certainly will be after the internal shit storm that has blown up after my session this week!). No. Today this is all about the grief surrounding my biggest unexpected loss, my biggest tangible emotional trauma (in the eyes of a normal person – i.e an actual bereavement), the one that still gives me nightmares and accounts of some of the PTSD.

This is about the loss of my dad who throughout my life did his very best to be both mother and father to me. The one who tried to prevent the mother wound being too big, too gaping, too devastating. I suppose, given how bad things are it didn’t really work, but he gave it a damn good go!

I’ve been just about holding it together with my trusty rubber bands and chewing gum this week knowing that today was coming. It’s been a dire week in many ways. I’ve been ready to chuck in the therapy towel because I feel so stuck, so unseen, and so uncared for. I’ve been cycling through various emotions but mainly the two stand out ones are anger and devastation. But I suspect that this is in part because my feelings around my dad’s death were bubbling away underneath and manifesting in that way…I guess I’ll know more after Monday!

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So grief.

It’s really just another word we use for a response to trauma isn’t it?

And trauma is weird isn’t it? (‘weird’ – oh so bloody articulate!)

I know well enough that the trauma I am trying to process from my childhood has a kind of timeless quality. Or rather, my brain can’t readily distinguish between current trauma and past trauma. In therapy, I can be plunged headlong into the feelings I had as a young kid. I lose sense of my adult self and am right back in the moment – even if it was thirty plus years ago. My body remembers.

A similar thing has happened this week and today so far as where in time I feel. Part of me is certainly here in 2018 but part of me is stuck back in 2008 and of course others are further back in my childhood. The parts are all over the place!

Today marks ten years since I received the call that my dad had been found dead in his room by his friend whilst holidaying/teaching diving on a remote island abroad. He’d only been gone three days, literally just arrived there after two flights and a boat ride and had died in his sleep on the first night. He was 47 years old. Massive heart attack.

Even now, despite having had a decade to process this loss. I still can’t fully get my head round it.

Part of it is because I still can’t believe it. I think he’s still there having the time of his life doing what he loved. I know exactly where he was having been on holiday there myself twice with him.

I never saw his body. Not that I think I would have wanted to. He was cremated abroad not in the UK.

It’s complicated but essentially it all came down to the fact that had we have had his body flown back to the UK we would not have automatically got the body released for burial/cremation. A second post-mortem would have been needed and the pathologists over here said that given the body had been in 40 degree heat for over a week before it was moved to the mainland for a post mortem it would not be pleasant for us. We wouldn’t actually want to see the body. We were warned. It wouldn’t be him. Add to that a potential wait of six months for the body to be released to us there wasn’t really very much choice.

So, in the end, I only received a box of ashes and his dive gear a month after he died. The insurance company flew his stuff home to a local undertakers and the undertaker left the stuff out on his driveway for me to pick up as he had gone out. Imagine that. Your dad dies suddenly, you have no goodbye, and you receive a box of ashes and a bag of dive gear from a block paved driveway.

I still can’t even believe it.

How can that be? How can the person that was my rock and anchor be gone, and not only that, suddenly just become some ‘remains’ to be boxed and left outside? I can’t even … ugh.

I miss him.

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It’s weird too. Like, literally, just now I checked my emails on my phone and I have received an email from PADI about diving in Thailand. Like what are the odds? I maybe get a PADI email once a month, perhaps not even, and yet this morning I get one about diving in Thailand on the day my dad died about the place he was set to teach diving for a month. It’s weird how the universe communicates with us.

Actually I can’t talk any more about this today because this was only the beginning  of the trauma that kicked off with my family and led to an eight year estrangement and a complete mental breakdown. I thought writing might help but actually it’s just making it worse today. It’s too raw.

I know I am not especially coherent.

Today I need to take things slowly. I need to rest. I am very aware that I have one foot in the now but also one foot back in the past. I don’t want to be grumpy or short with my family and I’d like to find a way of celebrating his life rather than getting consumed by the horror and the grief of that time a decade ago.

There’s another problem with ‘old’ grief, too…people don’t really get it. They can’t understand why I could be as upset today as I was ten years ago when I found out the news. They can’t understand why I feel sick and need to cry and wail…

But that’s trauma isn’t it? It transcends time.

 

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