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 those parts 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 was never 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 every single night apart from the one night they went camping and even then I sent them away with a story to have with my wife! It’s nothing to do with childhood literacy levels for me, though. As an English teacher I see first-hand the difference between those kids that have been read to, and fostered a love of books, and those that haven’t and how it impacts their academic progress. But I don’t read to my kids for this reason; 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 most 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 as I said, 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 and a complete reading fiend, she still loves being read to. 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 if anything is 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 the 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 inner world.

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 that happened when 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’.

In addition to this, I had written a quote inside the card from Michael Rosen’s, ‘We’re Going On a Bear Hunt’ (Ha! See, another children’s story!) and had written about the bit where they’re trapped in a ‘swirling whirling snow storm’ but that they ‘can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no! We’ve got to go through it’ which is such a great metaphor for therapy and so this year the glass snowflake seemed especially apt – still going through it and it’s still important to me.

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. The mother 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. The shift in her perception of me feels stark: at one time she likened me to a baby that, for whatever reason, couldn’t feed (in sessions) and was then left feeling uncontained and hungry during the time between sessions and that felt really accurate and understanding and yet somehow by January that had shifted into her now seeing the young parts as parasitic, they were ‘adhesive’ and ‘tick like’. 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 if her feelings had changed so much.

I had dream I had a couple of years ago where we were in a really hot dark room just off a busy roundabout in the city where I live. It was the summer and yet Em was wearing a rain coat (that she’d had in the room in our previous therapy) and it was completely unsuited to the situation and I couldn’t work out why she was dressed that way. She left the session ten minutes early and gave me a note to read after I had let myself out. I had to go on a run but it was rubbish and gave up. When I sat down to read the note it simply said, ‘I can’t work with you anymore’. I was devastated. I can still remember how horrendous it felt. It felt really hard bringing that to dream to session. Any dreams I had with Em in were always about her pushing me away in some way and they really impacted me. I so badly wanted to trust that she wouldn’t hurt me but I could never escape my dreams telling me otherwise.

At the time we spoke about this dream a bit but not really about the bit in the room between us – it’s always been hard to talk about what’s happening between us! It was one of those big dreams and hard to pick out what was important – I was fixated on my having to leave my watch (but probably avoiding the beginning because it was so painful) – but now I wonder if my unconscious was concerned about her feeling the need to be protected from me. The coat would stop her getting wet when working through my emotional storm, she could remain largely untouched by me. And then maybe her leaving the session early was my worry that she’d go/terminate before the work was done? I was upset by the note, and when we spoke about it she said that it seemed like a cowardly way to end a therapy and that is not how we would end. Only that’s kind of what did happen:

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

I know there was more to it in the end but – it would have ended on this had I not had a complete meltdown.

Anyway, whatever was going on at the it feels crap. I don’t know if she did, but when things started to feel so negative she ought to have taken it to supervision and worked through it. Maybe she did. I still don’t believe that she doesn’t have the competence to work with someone like me, I think there was all sorts going on in the room that neither of us could face head on at that point but I really feel like it’s been left in a complete mess.

I can really understand the frustration and feeling like 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 and whatever you think you are providing they seem incapable of seeing it or taking it in. I know at times Em said she felt blindfolded and useless working with me. I never thought she was useless. I just wanted to feel like she was really there with me rather than behind a screen – which is how it felt sometimes.

It can’t be easy being a therapist and having people throw all their stuff at you, project onto you, and not really get seen for who you are because it’s all clouded by the transference. I mean I do get that that is kind of what therapy is about but it must be exhausting repeatedly being faced with, ‘I can’t trust you, you don’t care enough’. And who knows what might have been going on in her own life. She never told me anything about her and for all I know she could have been experiencing problems in her personal life or at work. If her resources felt depleted then having someone who has so much need would probably have felt too much. I don’t know.

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 (maybe not consciously), and basically rejected the gifts straight off 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’ – I guess it’s another example of  the ‘out of sight out of mind’ thing. Almost, ‘I have to keep you in mind when you’re paying me but once you’re going I’ll clear the decks’. Anyway, 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 and clearly it’s not all about Em, it’s about my mum too and other significant relationships.

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, because as Maya Angelou said, ‘there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you’. The person I want to hear it is gone but I need to get it out somehow even if there’s no one to process it with. 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 and 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 or push you away?

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 then 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 burned. The pain of rejection from this ending is massive to me.

In the book, the Rabbit is left outside and is not burned 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 absolutely 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 had once 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 (sometimes!) and that’s significant. 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, grows 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 become 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’.

I so wish that we could talk about this. Well, not only this, but it would be a great place to start. 

 

Times Like These

Well, here I am again! Check me out…what is that? Less than a week between posts?! Ha, it’s almost like the old days. To be honest, I’m really here for a bit of a random ramble and don’t know what’s coming. This last few days has seen my brain finally give up the ghost. My skull resembles a bowl holding some kind of undiscernible sloppy. shitty, emotional mush. Occasionally, the spoon drags out a lump of something more solid that looks promising, but on closer inspection turns out to be completely unpalatable and makes me gag…so let’s see where we end up. I’ll stir things around a bit and see what materialises.

Right. Come on. I’ll try and be serious because I can see that this is all deflection.

As I said in my last post, it’s not been an easy couple of months and I have struggled quite a lot on and off, yoyo-ing. It’s been up and down, or maybe not so much up and down as stable-ish to rolling off the edge and plummeting towards rock bottom. There have been no highs. Each day, I have to get my shit together to teach online and have been managing that pretty well, but it zaps my energy massively and now I feel like the lows that come when I am not ‘in role’ are more significant, more prolonged, and much harder to recover from.

Basically, I am wobbling frantically like some kind of ‘not quite set enough’ emotional jelly…is that, actually, gunge?…oh great I am a pile of emotional gunge!

I feel like my resilience levels are pretty shit and I feel like I am somehow not managing lockdown all that well compared with what I see around me… but then…trauma history, right…it doesn’t help us does it?!

At times like these it’s hard not to compare your quarantine experience with those of other people you know. I am hanging it together with rubber bands and chewing gum (!) whilst trying to juggle teaching online, home schooling my kids, and averting a mental breakdown. I’m doing the best I can. I actually don’t admire my friends who are posting online about ticking big projects off their lists now they are furloughed on full pay. I actually just find it irritating seeing comments like, ‘I’m totally loving lockdown because I am getting to do all the projects I have had planned for years!’ I know that says more about me than them but when you are far from floating your way through this, the level of carefree abandon jars me.

One friend has completely redesigned and landscaped their garden and revamped all their garden furniture with funky coloured paints; another has run a marathon during their exercise time; one has gutted a horse lorry and is fitting it out as a campervan; someone had a festival in their garden and got blind drunk; and loads of them are creating masterpieces in the kitchen… and here I am basically hanging on by the skin of my teeth wondering and worrying about how we are going to survive this crisis both financially and physically now my wife has been made redundant.

The reality is she will have to go work in the acute hospital setting soon unless another job comes up (and recruitment is basically dead in the water for ‘big’ well paid jobs at the moment). It’s scary enough her working out her notice period in the setting she is in but the idea of being frontline COVID with the PPE situation as it is is terrifying.

And so this is why I am not living my best life in lockdown!

I guess, it’s just the luck of the draw. For some people this is like a lovely sabbatical (although can you really not be impacted by the horror that is unfolding around the world?!) and for others it is taking everything we have just to keep going. I have managed to get some stuff done around work and kids. We have faffed about in the garden and got some vegetables growing, cleaned and oiled the decking, the house is clean but I CANNOT stress how hard it has been to find the motivation to do any of these things and simply keep on top of day-to-day chores. I spend a lot of time trying to psych myself up to move or get showered and the project list is not getting anything much ticked off it.

I guess maybe it’s something to do with spoons.

Some people start their day with like ten massive spoons and so it’s pretty hard to get depleted when your capacity and reserves are so abundant especially when what you do doesn’t really require much spoon use:

And then there’s people like us, we start the day with two small spoons and have to try our best to make them last. It’s little wonder that by 11am we have nothing left when we really need three spoons just to break even with the mental health stuff!

Still, I am doing the best I can with the spoons I have and will continue to do so…perhaps lockdown would be a great time to start trying to adapt forks into a spoon or start whittling spoons from a magic forest wood!

Help me!!

Anyway, I shan’t be beating myself up that my house isn’t a show home, or I haven’t mastered some new craft, or learnt Hebrew when we come out of lockdown. If we are all still in one piece and not completely deranged I will be taking it as a win!

Last post I was talking about how I was finding working on video call for therapy and how hard has felt. It’s been difficult to feel really connected through the tiny phone screen. There are lots of reasons for this. I mean physical proximity and eye contact are really important for me (even if eye contact can be excruciating at times!) and neither of those is really achievable being forty miles apart even if you do stare down the lens of the camera! But it’s not just that. There has felt like there’s been some internal resistance, or perhaps protection going on from my side in the sessions.

Then I read something by Lucy at http://www.findinglucyking.home.blog that she’d written for her therapist and it’s something that really hit home:

‘I’ve noticed I’ve been doing this thing where I talk and reflect and present my already well processed thoughts to you as if I’m just filming a video with little regard for you sitting there. It’s important that I engage with you today otherwise I’ll leave the session feeling like you were never even there.’

And just like that the light switched on properly rather than flickering on and off in the background. I have been doing exactly this in the online therapy with Anita – I used to do this with Em, too, in the early days. I have been talking but I have avoided some stuff, for sure. But, actually, whatever the conversation has been I haven’t really allowed Anita into it. I guess it’s partly because I haven’t wanted to really properly feel anything, let stuff out, and then feel like I wasn’t able to be properly supported with those feelings on screen. If I take complete control of the situation and have everything nearly packaged then it’s easier – less risky – that’s what I mean, it’s kind of protective.

Only like so many things that ‘feel’ protective (ED or self harm), it turns out they aren’t especially protective in 2020, in the here and now, because whilst I don’t give someone the chance to leave me unsupported through failing to respond well to what I say I actually end up with the same outcome by keeping someone out – only this time it’s me that’s not given them the chance to really connect. These strategies were all I had to serve me in the past and did a ‘good enough’ job of protecting but actually maybe there is a better way forward now. Hiding my feelings, or sanitising them, and controlling everything have been my ‘go to’ strategies but what I have always really needed is connection not disconnection.

Wanting connection and being vulnerable enough to put yourself out there is scary though, because what happens when the person you want to connect with can’t or won’t meet you where you are at? What happens if you let them see the most broken parts of you and they leave because that’s all ‘too much’? That feels utterly rejecting and abandoning and let’s face it, after the Em debacle it’s not surprising I am a little reluctant to let anyone see what’s really going on for me. I feel like I’ve got third degree burns all over my body and for some reason I am thinking it might be a good idea to walk towards another fire…that’s either very brave or completely insane!

Therapy has been hard because the thing that is upsetting me the most is the stuff with Em and having to talk that through with a new therapist feels risky because I don’t want to scare her to death and for her to think, ‘what on earth have I got myself into here?’ Actually, Anita has been amazing and so supportive about this stuff from the start but the Inner Critic is telling me to be careful and not let her see the full extent of the pain inside because it’s clearly me that is defective and not Em that has done anything wrong or handled things badly. There is definitely the narrative running in the background which is saying that ‘it’s all my fault’ that she left. Ugh.

It’s exhausting!

Still, armed with this knowledge I’ve been actively not trying to deliver everything pre-packaged. And the relationship where this has been most apparent is with K. I had a complete meltdown on Saturday after doing something ridiculously self-destructive.

I had been catching up on a month’s ironing and listening to playlists on iTunes and on came the new charity version of ‘Times Like These’. I was a massive fan of the Foo Fighters back in the day and when the track came on I stopped and listened and then searched it on YouTube so see who was singing. I watched the video and it made me cry:

I, I’m a one way motorway
I’m the one that drives away
Then follows you back home
I, I’m a street light shining
I’m a wild light blinding bright
Burning off alone

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

I, I’m a new day rising
I’m a brand new sky
To hang the stars upon tonight
I am a little divided
Do I stay or run away
And leave it all behind?

I think the lyrics have always been powerful and resonated with me, but maybe now resonate even more, not just because of the pandemic but actually because of the situation I find myself in after the therapeutic relationship breakdown with Em. It sums up how alone I feel and how difficult I am finding it to move on but also keys into that weird hope that lingers on for something better. Or maybe it’s all tied up together. Coronavirus has changed everything so much and I guess there’s a part of me that is like – can anything be salvaged, can we repair?

I know this is stupid.

Because let’s face it a pandemic doesn’t change how awful things got at the end. And it wasn’t me that walked away. I was left high and dry. But you know what it gets like… when the feelings start coming up, and the loss, and the regret and OMG… I fucking text her didn’t I?

I sent her the link to the song and this message:

Who could have predicted in December that this is where we’d be now? A global pandemic certainly shakes things up a bit. I heard this song just now and thought of you. I really hope that you are well and safe. I miss talking to you x

There was obviously much more I wanted to say but I think the song says it all.

Em has read receipts on her phone and I saw that she read the message two minutes after I sent it. And then nothing. I guess I knew she wouldn’t reply and I was stupid to send the message in the first place, but I really can’t believe that this is it for us, that I can’t work through what’s happened with her now there’s been a bit of distance. I don’t get to process what’s happened and make any kind of repair or at least find a resolution.

I’m just left with it.

And getting over something is much harder when you can’t work through it with the person that’s the problem. That’s why therapy for attachment stuff takes so long – we keep trying to make sense of stuff and come to terms with stuff that has taken place in a relationship and we rarely get to make any kind of repair because the damage that was done was done to a child and that child is gone… (well sort of! but parts may have other ideas!).

I get I have Anita and K but no matter what they say they can’t make it better or give me closure on this stuff with Em, all they can do is model a better way of relating and demonstrate care so that maybe I’ll start to believe that I am worthy of love and care and not be hung up on the person who has stomped on my vulnerable self.

I don’t want to go back into therapy with Em. It’s not good for me. BUT I do want a proper ending. I feel I deserve that, at least. I know she is not capable or willing to give that to me – she couldn’t even make eye contact in our final session!

Anyway, the afternoon wore on and the meltdown started to gather pace. All the abandonment and rejection feelings were really huge and the young parts were beside themselves and then came the voice that thought that self-harm might make things better. In the evening I reached out to K on WhatsApp, we usually check in most nights, and she was incredibly validating and kind. She seems to completely get this stuff and so I don’t feel like a complete freak when it’s happening. She tunes into the parts and it feels really holding.

I find it easier to say what’s going on in writing than I do verbally (ha – no shit!) so I guess it’s like practising what I want to say with her and Anita. I have spoken to K loads about this stuff face to face as it all started to go downhill with Em shortly after K and I started working together again. I’m not surprised – the contrast between the two of them is stark and it highlighted just how withholding Em is!

So, yeah, I am really incredibly lucky to have someone so attuned and caring in my corner and it makes me wonder why on earth I keep seeking out someone who literally dropped me like a hot potato – especially when there are people that give me their time and care freely. I guess it’s because there’s that strong attachment – even though it is clearly really negative – damaging even.

After K helped settle me down and glue my pieces back together (again) it made me think about how I really really want and need to let Em go and try and move forward because there are people in my here and now who are trying to support me and help me through this, and every time I do something like text Em (to be fair I haven’t contacted her since her email in February) I am undermining the process and any progress I am making because I am throwing myself back into that painful place where I feel rejected and abandoned but not only that, by hanging on to some hope that Em might have a personality transplant I am not allowing myself to fully enter into the relationships with K and A.

With this in mind, I leapt with both feet into my therapy session with Anita on Monday. I didn’t spout pre-formulated things at her and really tried to let her in. I spoke about all sorts. I was honest about the feelings I am having around self-harm and not wanting to eat.  I spoke about how much I was hurting about Em and what’s happened. I told her how different parts were experiencing things right now, and just tried to stay present in the moment. And do you know what? It made a difference. Allowing Anita the chance to really participate in the conversation meant it was more connecting. Well duh!

I was in the thick of talking about how sad I was feeling about not ever being able to get a decent resolution with Em when Anita realised the time. We’d gone a few minutes over. She said that it was time to finish and asked me if I was ok to end the call. Internally, I was like ‘Hold up? What? Why are you asking me that? It’s just time to go… I have to go. That’s how this works.’ I replied that I was fine and confirmed the time of our next session and thanked her.

Shortly afterwards Anita text me:

Sorry we had to end so abruptly. I hope you’re ok. You know where I am if you would like to contact me before Friday at 10:30am. With very best wishes, Anita.

I mean clearly I had been talking about some big stuff in detail, but to me that stuff is so common place that I don’t see it as ‘worrying’ or warranting any kind of care or concern – it certainly never elicited any from Em. I was sad in session but I was in my window of tolerance.

Because I am so used to leaving a session with Em massively dissociated, dizzy, and not at all grounded it really took me by surprise that what felt like a hard but fine session made Anita wonder if I was ok and offer support/contact during the week. It is lovely that she has done that because, actually, I have felt like gunge and I have reached out – and whilst there is a niggly bit of me that is wondering if it is really ok to do that, there’s another part that is so relieved not to be plunged into a pit of shame for having a need -which is what happened any time I tried to reach out to Em.

Later in the afternoon on Monday, to my surprise, I received a reply from Em. Only two days after she read mine! Clearly it takes two days to formulate a response or to work out whether even to respond to me! And, it was true to form, formal and a bit sterile but kind enough I suppose – but generic – could have been to anyone:

Dear RBCG,

Thank you for your concern. I hope that you and your family are keeping well in these difficult times.

Best Wishes,

Em.

img_0434

It stirred up a lot of feelings – again. I’m still not really sure what I feel about it I guess it’s just the coolness of it compared to the warmth I am beginning to get used to from A and K. I am in no rush to reply. What’s the point? But given I was expecting no response at all, it’s kind of sent me through a bit of loop!

Oh the drama!

Right, moving on…

I saw this lovely image yesterday online and sent it to most of my friends who understand get this stuff, partly for the words but also because of the image moon – I’ve got big into my moonology cards lately and love the messages that are coming through and frequently send pictures of the cards I have pulled out for my friends:

img_0425

I sent Anita and K it too.

A responded with, ‘so true’ and K a heart.

I replied, ‘I’m kind of sick of the lessons though 😦 ‘ thinking that would be it, and then A said this:

‘I know, and I’m really able and willing to go through them with you.’

And whilst it is short and to the point it is so much more connecting and warm than anything Em has ever managed in all the years we worked together. So, even though I am struggling my way through this week I do feel a bit more held in it thanks to A and K …and that’s come through letting people in! To be honest. I didn’t keep Em out she just wasn’t able to meet me.

Right, well, given I had nothing much to say I seem to have blasted the wordcount a bit – 3566 words… I am sooooo sorry!!!

Take care all and stay safe xx

 

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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99352bf5-ec23-4be4-baec-b5c4c8cd160a

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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The River

If ever there was a song to encapsulate my feelings about the therapy – as well as the end of it- with Em, then it has to be KT Tunstall’s, ‘The River’. I am a die hard KT Tunstall fan – the soundtrack to my life is basically ALL her stuff with a little bit of Sheryl Crow, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Alanis Morissette and Pink thrown in for good measure.

I’m struggling to write (or do anything much at all) at the moment. I feel completely paralysed and lethargic. I feel so empty. Lost. Depressed. Devastated. Heartbroken…by what’s happened…and yet there is still that little part of me that desperately hopes that this relationship isn’t really over, that somehow things will turn around, that I’ll wake up from this disaster zone and it’ll just be a mistake.

I am in denial.

Clearly!

It keeps me partially protected I suppose. The period of denial is running out though, because we are approaching the cut off point for the longest time Em and I have been on a break – after tomorrow I can no longer pretend to myself that we will see each other again, that it’s just been a terribly painful separation but that soon I can go back and sort stuff out. I feel like I am about to crash and burn in a spectacular way.

HEEEELLLLLPPPPPP!!!!

Anyway, I will try and collect my thoughts properly in a post tomorrow and bring everything up to speed as I’ll be sitting in the hospital most of the day waiting to find out if I am still in remission from my cancer and will have plenty of time to kill. I mean this is just exactly what I need to be doing right now feeling like this. I can’t even explain the anxiety levels that I am feeling right now. I feel like I am wedged in my seventeen year old self…it’s not ideal!

So, anyway here’s a gift of a beautiful song – lyrics below and link to YouTube beneath that and I will be back… x

The River:

I’m holding on
To something I don’t want
To hold on to
I’m reaching out
For something I can’t touch
Although I know I want to

Taking in the scenery
You’re the ghost in my machinery
When I was good as gold
I was good as gold
Closing off the avenues
To places that I never knew
And know I’ll never know
Now I’ll never go

I listen
And I hear you speak
Am I missing something?

I want to jump into the river
Feel it on my skin
But the river is rocks
And I’m already lost
And I know where I’ve been
Oh I know where I’ve been

I feel I’m caught
In a beautiful
Dream
And I’m cold
And my heart has told me
It’s a dark seam
Running through the middle of
A life that’s full of real love
And everything is mine
Everything is mine

I listen
And I hear you speak
Am I missing something?

I want to jump into the river
Feel it on my skin
But the river is rocks
And I’m already lost
And I know where I’ve been

Yes I know where I have been.

What’s Happening?

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What’s happening? Well, I suppose if I answer that completely honestly then the answer would be, ‘No effing idea – I’m just winging it, holding it together with rubber bands and chewing gum, and trying not to unravel before the holidays…and then, looking beyond next Friday evening (when holidays actually begin), I will be trying not to have a breakdown during the intervening period between then and January 3rd when my therapist is away/unavailable!’  Ha! Wish me luck!

I can’t believe that, yet again, another big chunk of time has elapsed and I have not managed to get anything posted here on the blog… no change there, then! 2019 really has basically been a complete whirlwind of a year (not in a good way) and I simply haven’t had anything like enough time to write. I’m not big on new year’s resolutions but I have put a few things in place that will mean next year there should be more windows of time for me, and in theory, time to write if I want to. Hoo-bloody-ray! It’s been a long time coming.

I’ve said before that this blog is really just a place for me to get stuff off my chest and document my healing journey…bit of a long bumpy ride so far isn’t it?! But I realise when there’s months between posts that I forget what’s happened and I’m not doing a very good job of logging what’s going on. The things that felt big one week (that I would previously have written about) vanish by the next and so it leaves gaps in the process.

I actually want to be able to be able to look back at this one day and see how far I have come – well, I mean I do that already, but I want to continue to be able to do this, rather than dipping into posts like these which basically moan about how fucking busy I am all the time!

It is useful to be able to notice patterns in what comes up in therapy now by being able to look back… recently I have noticed by looking at my writing, here and at other stuff I’ve written in my notebooks, that November can be the start of ‘The Winter Shit Show’… and this year is no different.

Brilliant. Don’t you just love this ‘most wonderful time of the year’?!

So what can I say? It’s feeling bad…and the irony is, that now I am actually here at the laptop, I can’t really remember anything of note to say, or if I am honest anything ‘not’ of note. It literally feels as though I am in some kind of vacuum of exhaustion and there’s just a gaping black hole where the events of the last month should be. Perhaps it’s a bit of dissociative amnesia…because that seems to be my ‘go to’ coping strategy!

Lately, when stuff has been live, I have really wished that I could find even half an hour just to write and process what has been going on – or not necessarily even process, maybe actually to just to get it out and free up a bit of space in my mind which is so rammed full! But when I say that I have been completely up against it lately I’m not exaggerating – it’s felt as though there’s barely been time to breathe let alone write!

My last post (which is a month ago!) was partly banging on about worrying about whether Em would have to cancel my Monday session because of possibly needing anaesthetic at an emergency dental appointment. Turns out she was completely fine to work… but guess what? The therapy sprites had other ideas about me getting to my session and when I went out to my car that Monday morning I found I had a puncture. Perfect. I mean, really fucking perfect. I was sooooo upset.

I had to do a Skype session instead. It’s been months and months since we’ve done one so it felt weird and not quite enough. It was a passable session, from what I remember, (which isn’t much!). I had got myself so unbelievably worked up over the weekend thinking I mightn’t see Em so to actually have that worry become a reality was really hard. For the young parts that were absolutely desperate to see her, it was a bit heart-breaking to be talking through a small iPhone screen.

I did manage to tell her some of it and then joked that at least my worry hadn’t been for nothing after all! It still surprises me just how bad things can feel around simple life things. Dentists happen, cars get punctures, but not being able to see Em can pull the rug right out from under my feet. You’d think by now I could hold her enough in mind to be able to cope with this sort of thing….but clearly not!

Em apologised for it having been so bad for me over the weekend – and said something about how she had debated about whether to tell me in my Friday session that she might not be there on Monday knowing how easily I am upset by disruption, or just see what happened on the day and cancel if it became necessary. I said that I was glad that she had told me and that it wasn’t her fault that I had reacted the way I had and that actually a last minute cancellation would definitely have felt worse for me. I said that it shows us where there is more work to be done in this area… no new news there!

Sigh.

There’s been stuff happening since then…adult life has been ridiculous (you can’t make it up) with some huge stresses and as a result most of my therapy has been firefighting the here and now rather than containing any of the other stuff. Basically, I could have done with a session every day of the week lately…or to have moved in with Em! Ha. Seriously, it’s been a complete nightmare.

In my session on Monday, I said to Em that right now I feel like I am swimming under the surface of a frozen lake. I keep coming up for air where there is a hole in the ice, but each time I do I can’t quite get enough of a breath before having to dive under again. Every time I am back beneath the ice I realise that I have to swim a greater distance than the last time to get a place to catch my breath, and it gets harder and harder to get to the next air hole. I’m very aware that I have an inadequate oxygen supply and am starting to feel more and more panicked and frightened as I go because I don’t know when this is going to end and I don’t know how much longer I can keep swimming. I feel like I am on the cusp of drowning.

Basically, then, it’s just been fucking awful and I am hanging on by the thinnest of margins on the inside whilst trying to give my best ‘performance’ to those on the side lines who seem to think I enjoy this extreme winter sporting activity. They have absolutely no idea that I am like the person in Stevie Smith’s fab poem and ‘Not Waving But Drowning’. Jeez.

To be fair, when I said about this underwater marathon to Em she said I couldn’t have put it any better and that she thought it perfectly encapsulated how hard and relentless it all is right now. It was nice for her to acknowledge just what a struggle I am going through and to make me feel like I am not mental or overreacting. Whilst I have rarely found space to let out the hardest stuff Em has been amazing at being attuned and sympathetic in my sessions.

Errr… so…

Going with another swimming analogy, a while back I drew a picture in my therapy notebook comparing myself to an out of control octopus (I don’t think I ever showed it to Em but think I posted it here!):

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On Thursday,  I was, again, reminded of this picture when my lovely, thoughtful best friend, sent me a gorgeous soft toy octopus through the post. It’s meant to be a Christmas gift but she let me open it early because she’s seen what a complete shit show it’s been lately and how I am doing my best in ‘octo mode’ but in reality there’s a lot of scared child parts who need a bit of a snuggly boost! And isn’t he lovely? I’ve decided to name him Ollie – because, you know, alliteration and all that…

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Ollie came to my session on Friday but I left him in my bag. I so desperately wanted to pull him out and be able to stroke the softness and ground a bit.  I am taking my toy octopus with me tomorrow and he is coming out of the bag. I don’t even care what Em thinks (well I do, but not enough to sit in agony for another session with screaming young parts who need something to soothe them). I hope he helps the child parts feel safe but also helps me find a way of telling Em just what’s going on inside. I mean you can’t really hide that fact that your inner children aren’t doing so well when you come in to session, as a 36 year old woman, holding a pale pink octopus plush toy can you?!!

I am so sick of those parts feeling like they need to be in hiding and so much of this year has felt like I have been peeking out from behind the sofa trying to see if I can trust her. I hate this process of feeling like things are good and then getting spooked and feeling like it’s back to square one. I know it isn’t. I know it’s just going round different parts of the spiral and seeing it from another angle but man…it’s tiring!

I know it sounds dramatic, but even doing my absolute best, with a task being done by every tentacle I feel like I have steadily been losing my grip on everything (emotionally) at the moment. Last Sunday I didn’t get to bed until nearly 2am as I was working on writing up assessments for an exam group. Utter fucking (unpaid) misery. The fallout from that was that I was so knackered when I got to therapy having had less 2.5 hours sleep (because you know what an overstimulated brain is like – WAKEY WAKEY NO SLEEPY!) that on Monday I told Em that I felt like everything was about to fall apart.

I can’t really explain any more than that other than the drowning under the ice thing I mentioned earlier. I feel like I am walking that line between trying to push on through and hoping to survive but also potentially knowing that pushing on through could end up with me having a complete breakdown. It feels precarious and I don’t feel especially grounded.

As I said a minute ago (or a few – this seems to be a long ramble), the really shite thing about being so unbelievably hectic with life and work over the last month is that life and work have dominated my sessions with Em. We’ve struggled to get to the ‘other stuff’ and by that, I mean ‘the work’ – aka all the attachment stuff. It’s creeping towards our last few sessions before the Christmas break and I can feel things escalating inside with the young parts.

A couple of weeks ago I had a weird, and unexpected slide into the ED behaviour again. Everything had been busy but I don’t remember any particular trigger other than perhaps Christmas therapy break creeping up. All I know is that one Tuesday I was eating lunch with one of my students at a nature reserve and then the next time I remembered to eat was Wednesday evening. I don’t know what happened in-between times. It just didn’t even occur to me that I hadn’t eaten. I didn’t feel hungry. I hadn’t been avoiding food. It literally hadn’t registered…and that is how disconnected I have felt from myself as I have been in survival mode just trying to get through the days.

The problem with my ED is that it’s old and crafty and just when I think I have it together it floors me. That Wednesday evening when the light went on about needing to eat something so did another voice. That fucking nasty, clever bastard, my Inner Critic. It was staggering how quickly it came online and how vicious it was from the off. I was quickly convinced that I shouldn’t bother eating anything, because I wasn’t hungry anyway, and that my body was in a fucking state and I would be going on holiday shortly and who wants to see that hot mess…. so I should do myself a favour and just go to bed and then get on the scales in the morning and see what state I was in.

UGHHHHHH!

I reached out to my best friend (poor woman, she gets it all) the moment I saw what was going on, and between us we made a plan to try and help me change course before things got desperate. We both put reminders in our phones and she’d text me and say, ‘have you eaten?’ and I’d reply ‘yes’. It feels ridiculous now to say this, but there were a few days where it was touch and go and I was just about managing to eat a meal each day. If it hadn’t been for digging my heels in and getting a nudge from my friend then it could have been really different. I can see how easily I could get trapped in this negative self-starving cycle again…but somehow or other I pulled myself back up over the edge before it got desperate and thankfully my head is screwed back on and I feel ok-ish again.

There would have been a time where an episode like that could have become a full blown ED disaster. Fortunately, I am getting much quicker at recognising what’s going on but I am also standing up to the critical part of me and trying to do what’s right for all of me. I understand why the Critic is there and what it’s trying to protect me from: the pain of being abandoned… aka the Christmas break. But the truth is, starving myself doesn’t make Em come back any quicker and doesn’t help me connect to her before she goes.

I had a really painful session with her when all this was going on. I desperately wanted to reach out to her and tell her the mess I had got myself into when I got to my session. I promised myself (and her) that when this stuff happens with eating that I would tell her so we could work together on it and stop it becoming a significant problem like it did in April 2018.

However, sometimes parts of me have other ideas about this! I can’t even begin to really explain the agony and internal conflict of that session. I felt gagged and bound and like I was fighting with myself to let Em in. The shame and embarrassment was huge and the voice that was telling me that I can’t trust her was raging. Meanwhile there were a whole bunch of younger parts crying, desperately wanting for Em to see them and help because the bully was so angry.

Give me fucking strength!

Given that I barely said anything at all that session I don’t know how Em worked out what was happening for me (not about the eating per se, but the amount of inner conflict and activated parts) – I guess we’ve been working together for so long now that she notices the things that others wouldn’t – my tone of voice, body language, lack of eye contact etc.

She started by explicitly talking to the whole system and then particularly the parts that felt threatened and like they would be got rid of and assured them that she wasn’t trying to get rid of any of my parts and that they were all part of me and all here for a reason. She asked the part that was stopping me from talking if it might just make some room for the others who might want to talk to her and that she knew it was doing its job really well but maybe it didn’t need to work so hard at protecting me with her. That’s a potted version of what she said but weirdly it really worked. I could feel the Critic take a bit of a backseat, and whilst there was no session time remaining by the time she’d got that part on side again I did feel better between sessions and didn’t continue to restrict what I was eating.

I actually feel connected to Em right now. I feel seen. She even said on Friday that she feels that I am allowing her to see more of me now…which I guess I am. I haven’t yet told her about what happened the other week with the eating but I plan to and that’s progress. The more I shine a light on the stuff that wants to lurk in the shadows wreaking havoc behind the scenes the less power it has.

Anyway, there’s other stuff about the other therapy (craniosacral) I have been doing but I’ll save that for another post….which actually might be a bit more interesting because frankly when I don’t have an proper therapy content my writing is just:

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‘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

Finding My ‘NO’

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

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

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

AND, NOW, I AM DONE WITH THAT!

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

Hoo-bloody-ray!

Finally eh?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Summer 2019 – Therapy Break #2

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Ok, so buckle up because here we go again! Yesterday signalled the start of therapy break number two of the summer. THERAPY BREAK TWO???!!! WHHHHYYYYY DOES MY THERAPIST NEED TWO TWO WEEK HOLIDAYS IN A SIX WEEK WINDOW????!!! (whispers: ‘because she’s more than earned it working with me!’) Let’s be completely clear here (in case you struggle to read between the lines) this break is ALREADY a total shit show and I am only 31 hours into it! The feelings and emotions I am experiencing now compared with what I was managing for most of the last break are as different as night and day (and not in a good way!).

FUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKK IT!!!!

And…. breathe…

..breathe some more…

…it’s not working!…

Seriously, though, as I said in my last post the last break was pretty good by all accounts. It didn’t feel like Groundhog Day from day one and I didn’t fall into the depths of attachment pain the moment I left Em’s house on the 19th July. For the most part I kind of just got on with things, actually had an ok time despite my day-to-day life stresses and it wasn’t until the second week when I started to get the wobbles a bit so far as missing Em went. Given how things have been in the past with breaks I take that as a significant win. Shame I can’t continue the trend now, though, eh?!

The first break of the summer wasn’t perfect by any means but for a two week disruption I was pleased with how I managed especially as therapy hasn’t been exactly easy for a while now. Basically, what I am saying is, compared to what’s already going down now I did a bloody amazing job! I guess getting wiped out with a week or less to go to the next session is more manageable, there is only one Monday or Tuesday or whatever left to get through and tick off whereas right now I think it’s three Fridays until I am back in the room and I am already on my arse…help me!

I was certainly looking forward to seeing Em again as the break came to a close but I wasn’t desperate to see her, it didn’t feel like life and death (which is how it feels now)- I had not been engulfed by the gnawing ache in my stomach for the entire 16 days she was gone. I missed her but it was ok. I wanted to reach out for her but I didn’t. I could hold stuff for myself and could wait til I saw her again in person on the 5th. I think it was all helped by the fact that I took a risk in my last session leading into the break and told her how I was struggling and not ok about the break which enabled us to do some work on it and settle some of the niggling doubts before I left. I was able to connect to her in that session and that carried me through for a good bit.

The return to therapy was great too. I have had four really really good sessions where I have done nothing but talk – no awkward silences, no dissociation, none of that horrid stuff that usually happens. I have had so much to say to her. BUT it’s been so much to say about what’s been going on in my current life which is to say stuff that affects me as an adult. There’s been some really nightmarish stuff happening the last couple of weeks here and I have even had to talk to the police about the harassment I’ve been experiencing and so there’s plenty of grist for the mill in session.

It’s been a relief to go in to my sessions and just talk and be able to make eye contact and to laugh and just be NORMAL. It’s been nice to see Em be angry on my behalf, to swear (she almost never does that) and to feel like she’s genuinely on my team and really cares that someone is trying to make my life difficult and is annoyed by it too. I guess, if I am honest, I like it that she seemed to be protective of me…it’s all felt connecting and positive. I have felt more able to cope with what’s been directed at me because I have been able to talk with her about it… and now she’s gone again and I feel like a wobbly jelly.

It was almost inevitable that everything would come to a crashing halt yesterday, then. Session five and the last one before the second break and boom – welcome back child parts! They’ve not been seen by Em for weeks and weeks…and they missed her on the last break … they have been dreading this second break too and it all just got too much. I knew it was getting a bit dicey inside and the system was getting agitated so I mentally planned out what I wanted to say in session. I was all prepared to go in and talk about how I was worried about the break – I had even drawn a picture and written some notes around it to start things off:

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But of course I never showed it to her because the moment I got in the room I completely dissociated. I’d felt it starting to happen as I was driving to session. We ended up having a painful session where I was almost completely silent throughout. Em tried really hard to help me talk but it was just too hard. I couldn’t do it. The feelings around being too much, too needy, and potentially bombarding her with my suffocating feelings felt horrendous. I desperately needed to connect and yet I found myself stuck behind a glass wall unable to reach out.

I needed to tell her that I was anxious about the second break because things were so unnerving with the harassment stuff and I feel like without her regular support I wouldn’t cope as well especially if I received any more communications from the person in question. I wanted her to know that I have my cancer follow up next week and I am scared about it. I wanted to tell her that the young parts were going to really miss her too and that whilst the work we have done in the last couple of weeks has been essential and helpful they felt like she’d forgotten about them and would therefore not have them in mind whilst she was away this time…and they are terrified of that.

Anyway, basically I needed some tangible words of reassurance about us and the relationship and I stopped myself asking for them/getting them because I AM A MORON/I WAS TOO SCARED OF BEING REJECTED. I am so frightened of Em rejecting me that I couldn’t even tell her what I needed. It’s so frustrating. I am so angry with myself because I have basically plunged myself down into the belly of attachment pain by failing to be brave and trust that Em won’t deliberately hurt me. How much evidence do I need from her that she is safe and is not going to shame me or abandon me??? Clearly a load more – ugh!! The problem isn’t as straight forward as choosing to talk or choosing to withhold. I don’t deliberately sit there thinking ‘ah ha, I’m not going to say stuff!’ actually when that very young part comes in she is just utterly frozen and terrified she can’t talk.

I left yesterday’s session feeling totally steam-rollered and it’s been agony ever since. So, needless to say, because I am in the grips of the fucking hideous pain where my chest aches and my stomach hurts and my whole body feels like it is crying out to be held, today has felt as though it would never end. I have achieved next to nothing and struggled to even get out of bed til after midday – which is not like me at all. I have felt so flat and ugh and depressed it’s been really horrible. I have thought about writing here but haven’t known what to say – I still don’t really but am just seeing what comes out – diarrhoea by the looks of it! I thought about doing something creative/arty but have just sat on my bed staring into the middle distance. It’s been shit, really.

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know that usually I am really busy, productive, whizzing about… but to be honest that has its own pitfalls and doesn’t always mean time goes quickly on breaks, it just means I get more burnt out when trying to navigate the fall out of the mother wound. Being still today and moping about has really shown me (again) how hard the feelings I have actually are because I feel as though I am drowning. I hate it. I want to run away. I don’t know how to make them stop. I don’t know how I am meant to help the young parts of me that feel like they are going to die because Em is gone. I know this isn’t about Em, or not wholly about her, but the little girl that was abandoned all those years ago is still hurting…what on earth do I do for her when it all seems to be happening again?? How do I self-soothe??

My best friend told me this week that she thought I was the most feeling avoidant person she knew…which is a great accolade 😉 but she’s totally right. I am so terrified of sitting with the overwhelming feelings that I literally do anything I can to not have to experience the full force of them. The other day I was experimenting with feeding my feelings (rather than starving them!) but that just made me feel like I was going to puke. I don’t think binging is my thing! It’s occurred to me today that perhaps I should get on the treadmill and focus on exercise…but I am so lethargic/down/sad that I can’t be bothered right now. The Critic isn’t here just yet but give it a few days, if things continue to feel this desperate then no doubt I’ll be lacing my trainers and putting myself through my paces.

(I know that none of that is self-soothing btw!)

I literally don’t know what else to say. It’s all just a great big pile of crap. On the plus side I haven’t sent any desperate texts to Em (yet) which felt like a very real possibility this morning!

17 days to go.

It can only get better right?

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