Love And Shame In Therapy

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

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

True. But. Ouch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuck.

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

I should not have these feelings towards my therapist.

I am pathetic.

Blah blah blah.

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

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

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

Hmmm, familiar pattern??!!

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

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

It’s really difficult.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s agony.

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

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

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

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

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

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

November – Therapy Stuff

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

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

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

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Absent

I don’t think I’ve ever gone longer than a week without posting something here but I’ve been AWOL so far as my blog goes for the last couple of weeks now. I’ve decided to just start typing letters on the keyboard and am hoping something will turn up on the page! I don’t think I have much to say… or perhaps I have too much to say? I’m not sure. Whatever it is I feel stuck and lost for words at the moment.

I feel like I need to document what’s going on for me (that’s what the blog was meant to be all about after all) but there’s a part that just can’t be bothered. It all feels like too much effort. I just can’t focus or find motivation. I don’t have any energy. I feel frustrated on many levels. Nothing I say is going to change what I am going through so what’s the point in bothering?

I feel like I need to kick myself up the backside and cheer up…but I can’t. I am fed up. I am fed up of moaning. You know? Like I am properly sick of myself. I am not happy. AT ALL. Depressed? Yeah. Perhaps. There’s definitely some overtiredness feeding my negative feelings and I was lucky enough to get a horrid gastric bug last week so that hasn’t helped the jolly, energised feelings – although it has gone some way to helping me fit back into my favourite jeans. Silver linings and all that!

I am also a bit angry with myself for once again falling into a situation where my inability to say no (or say it loudly enough to be taken seriously) has landed me with a shit load of stress and anxiety. More on that later.

I feel kind of blank and numb but equally know that underneath that top layer of bleurgh and relative calm there’s a big wedge of overwhelm and panic. (That’s the kind of sentence that makes me wonder if I am actually losing my mind!) Well, really what it is is dissociating from the hell that is my adult life. I am trying not to have a breakdown because I simply cannot afford to crash right now.

I’m getting sick of saying how busy and stressed I am. But yes. That’s is how it is. Still. Crazy busy. No time. Where has the week gone again? etc etc. I keep sort of checking in with myself, trying to ground myself, to listen to what’s going on inside, but it’s hard to hear anything much at all over the noise of current life. I know there are some young parts starting towards a serious meltdown but I simply cannot face having to acknowledge that right now. I have too much to do. I can’t cope with upset children on top. I can’t cope with my adult self either…. man!!!!

It all sounds a bit dramatic and not very specific and that’s kind of how it is in my mind. Stuff is going on but I can’t fully zone in on it because I am scared that if I do I will run screaming in the other direction. This is true of the mental health stuff but also the work stuff.

I’ve been steadily getting more and more worked up over the last few weeks as a big work thing approaches. A while back my friend who owns the tutoring company asked me if I would like to deliver a specific course to a small group of 18-24 year olds at a local venue. The information I was given at the time made it sound good and it fitted well with my current timetable. Great.

Steadily, though, more and more details came out the woodwork and the job sounded less and less appealing. Suddenly the 18-24 year olds became 16-24 year olds studying two different courses at five different sublevels (all at the same time in the same room). Ok. I can do that… maybe. Who doesn’t love a bit of differentiation?! Then the next big hit- the 13 young people have lots of problems and additional needs. Half of them live in a supported unit. Ok, I can do special needs, but even I am worried about this in one room with no additional support: ADHD x 2. PTSD. Aspergers. 2x people thrown out of educational setting for fighting. 2 x Drug and Alcohol dependency. Depression. One on parole.

12 males and 1 female.

And me.

So yeah… it’s not exactly a walk in the park. In any other setting there would certainly be some support staff. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t written anyone off. I am sure I will build good relationships with the students and we’ll get to the end of the course together. All I am saying is, this is not a job I would have taken on had I have known the full details from the start. I already teach a very challenging child 1:1 for 7 hours a week and it nearly kills me. I do not need to be taking on any more very hard work. I simply do not have the emotional or physical resources to put on the level of performance required to do this. I will have to find something from somewhere…I always do…but at what cost?

And that’s the issue.

The cost is too great. I pay too heavy a price again.

All my life I have bled myself dry. Given more of myself that I should have. Hit burnout….and for what?

Does anyone really care that I push myself so hard to deliver the almost impossible? Does anyone know that I drive myself mad with worry and anxiety about not being ‘good enough’. I don’t think so. I seem to be the only one who sees the potential pitfalls of this situation. I’m meant to be on board with ‘it’ll be fine’ but I can’t see it. I want it to work but I feel like I am going to fall flat on my face with this and that’s hard.

My expectations of myself are high. Too high. I have always been a perfectionist. BUT perfectionism is bad. Perfectionism is damaging. Perfectionism is misery. Perfectionism is ridiculous pressure and the realm of the Inner Critic.

AND I AM DONE WITH THAT SHIT.

Or, at least I thought I was! A part of me is but not a big enough part.

And that’s why I am so annoyed. I have got swept up into a situation of feeling powerless, not being listened to, and now having to perform a fucking miracle ….and I thought that wasn’t going to be me anymore. I thought I was stronger than this. I thought I was able to stand up for myself better than this. I thought, as an adult, my needs were a bit more fucking pressing. I thought after cancer I was a bit more fucking important in my own life. I thought I could be more assertive when it came down to it….but it turns out I am still frightened of upsetting people or disappointing people and so will sacrifice my wellbeing in order to avoid conflict or seemingly letting them down.

The whole thing has been stressing me out. HUGELY. I have spent far too many of my recent therapy sessions discussing the situation and that’s annoyed me, too. Of course I am worried and anxious and it’s tapping every one of my ‘I’m not good enough’ buttons and so it makes sense that I would be bringing it into my therapy, but it pisses me off that I am spending money talking it through with Em. I don’t want to do the job and now I am using what I earn from it to process it in my therapy! NO!!!! That’s never right!!

What’s more is that having been in ‘freaked out teacher’ mode (a technical term) I’ve totally neglected all my other parts and all the other needs that are IMPORTANT to me both in and out of therapy. I’ve been like a bear with a sore head. It’s a fucking great mess and it’s all about to bite me on the arse because now my sessions are also disrupted.

I am furious because I have had to cancel two of my Friday therapy sessions due to last minute timetabling issues. My availability = Wednesday….and so…they have timetabled me for three Fridays in addition to the usual weekly Wednesday session (why????? my availability is WEDNESDAY). This week is not so bad as Em is away anyway so I don’t feel like I am missing out. It was a ‘break’ (fucking breaks!) I knew about but then to discover I have to cancel the 23rd/7th because of this job I am really, really sad…and unsettled.

Now, more than ever I feel like I need the consistent, regular therapy space that I have twice a week and to have to disrupt that because my boundaries have not been respected… well… fuck. And then it’s going to be Christmas break….and ugh I can’t even cope.

I don’t really know what else to say. All I have done is rant like a crazy person – which is hilarious given I had nothing much to say!

I have so much to do tomorrow in order to stand any chance of surviving Friday but having worked most of the day I just have to go to bed and sleep. I have nothing left….

I want my therapist.

I feel so overwhelmed that I just want to curl up on her couch under my blanket and cry. And… I can’t even so much as get close to doing that until Monday….

HEEEEELLLLPPPPPP MEEEEEE!!!

Therapy blog will resume next post 😉

 

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Rage Cycles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s going on?

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

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

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

No change there, then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh.

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

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

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

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Empty

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

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

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

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

I don’t know how to put it.

I am overwhelmed.

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

It’s weird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

UGH!!!

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

I need therapy!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know.

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

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The Empty Chair

Boooo! T’s gone again! It’s another therapy break! (Like really, how many holidays does one person need?!). It may technically only be a week this time, but the way things have fallen, this break means three missed sessions (two Fridays and a Monday)…and that is a lot of ‘missed’ contact time especially when things feel so precarious.

Still, it is what it is.

And what it is… is SHIT!

Ha!

I am very aware that therapy breaks are an inevitable part of therapy and it’s the breaks that have really highlighted one of the huge problems I experience in relationships that matter to me: fear of abandonment (and people dying!).

I don’t do especially well maintaining the sense of connection between sessions with Em; although it is a much better than it was since moving to two sessions a week. Two sessions a week doesn’t help with breaks, though. In fact it almost makes it worse because, as I said just now, time away now signals more ‘non contact time’ – a week used to mean one missed session and now it is two. Ugh!

I was hoping that, by now, I’d have found a strategy that would prevent a meltdown each time Em goes away. Over the years we’ve tried a few things: internalising visualisations (rubbish) and the pebble (OMG what a faff that was!) but nothing has really worked. I am determined to try the power stones thing I saw on Twitter a while back as the next attempt at a transitional object. The idea of it really appeals to the young parts and they are exactly the ones that freak out on breaks so it’s got to be worth a try. LOL…I am nothing if not persistent!

I never do especially well over the Christmas break (think last year’s huge rupture!) and so it is really important that once this current therapy break is over Em and I have some proper discussions around what happens during breaks, that we try and put some things in place to help, and that I leave for Christmas feeling safe in the relationship because when things feel dicey it makes time away even harder. Everyone inside panics.

I’m half-panicking now. The young parts aren’t having a very good time of it. There was nothing especially wrong with last Monday’s session, i.e Em didn’t say something to upset me! … but unfortunately some unexpected material was thrown into the melting pot and knocked me sideways…or actually, straight onto my arse! I really hate it when that happens.

Recently, I was looking online for book Christmas presents for my kids (my poor kids can’t escape books having an English teacher for a mum!). I bought a children’s book by Oliver Jeffers purely based on its title, ‘The Heart And The Bottle’ and the front cover. It was kind of for them, but also for me. I was intrigued and I do love kids’ stories.

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Basically, the plot of the story runs like this:

There is a little girl who was completely filled with the wonder of life. She was inquisitive and adventurous. Happy. Almost every page sees her experiencing her life with a male figure. He introduces her to various concepts, reading stories from a chair, looking up at the stars, but he is also on the side lines when she is off exploring – close but not in the way. It’s lovely. The girl is free to explore knowing her safe adult is there. Until one day, the chair the man sat in is empty. The implication is that this important male figure has died. As a result of this, the girl’s world instantly changes. She doesn’t know what to do with her feelings and so decides the best course of action is to put her heart safe in a bottle.

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The girl carries on with her life, grows up, but her life is devoid of happiness, nothing is the same. She goes through the motions but no longer sees the wonder in things. The heart in the bottle that she now hangs around her neck has become a huge burden…but ‘at least her heart was safe’ (I think we can all identify with this metaphor!).

One day the woman meets a little girl, who just like she was as a child, is full of wonder about the world. The problem is, the woman, without her heart, doesn’t know how to answer the little girl’s questions. It is then that the woman decides to get her heart out the bottle. Unfortunately, no matter what she does she can’t get it out. Luckily, the little girl has an idea and is able to release the woman’s heart. With her heart back where it should always have been she is open again to all the wonder and joy of the world. The end of the book sees her sitting in the, once empty, chair her imagination free, like her heart.

It really is a powerful book (and the illustrations are gorgeous) and when I read it, it instantly resonated with me. Losing my dad so suddenly when I was twenty five was utterly horrific. I lost the figure that taught me so much, that made me feel just about safe enough in the world. Like the girl in the story I shut my feelings off in order to be able to carry on with life. I functioned but didn’t live, not really. And then I had my daughter and something shifted in me.

I don’t want to make anyone puke and sound like the world’s worst cliché but the moment my daughter was born I experienced a surge of love that I had never felt before. Actually, even before that, the moment I discovered I was pregnant something massive changed in me. I knew in that moment that I would die for that child and no matter how bad things got I would endeavour to be there for her. I would push through any of the suicidal feelings in order that she would always have me as her anchor. I never wanted to leave my child or for her to have to experience the loss that I had…which I bloody ironic seeing as I then got cancer when she was three and my longer term future is more uncertain than I would have liked.

I know things are still not brilliant even now (mental health/emotions wise), and that’s not just because of my dad’s death, there’s still all the ‘other stuff’ and the huge mother wound to contend with, but certainly things are way better than they were. I now have two little people to live for and they bring me so much joy. Part of the reason I persist with my therapy is because I want to be the parent my children deserve.

Anyway, back to the book- knowing it was the last session before the break I decided to take the book in to show Em, let her read it and explain how it had touched me. I could stay in my adult but talk about the grief and emotional hangover of loss – not just of my dad but also of my friend who died at the end of October last year.

Em thought the book was wonderful too and we spent quite a lot of time talking about it – on the level that I have just mentioned. The thing is, something happened as she was reading it that I didn’t/couldn’t tell her about. When I had read the book initially I followed the character right through to adulthood and her epiphany at the end. On Monday, however, I got stuck in the child part of the book. The image of the empty chair stuck in my mind. The therapy break, to me, symbolises an empty chair.

The first time Em sent me a message to try and help through the break she sent this visualisation:

Imagine the consulting room, with our chairs and the pictures on the walls and books in the bookcases and to imagine us in our chairs. You can then talk to me about your concerns and needs and you can then imagine me responding in a grounding, understanding, reassuring, and caring way.’

The visualisation didn’t work. It was terrible, in fact. I was successful in picturing the room and the chairs. I could even put myself in the chair. But when it came to putting Em in hers… I just couldn’t. When I am not with her I can’t remember what she looks like. I can’t remember her voice. I can’t picture her at all. It’s hideous. When I needed to be able to feel like she was still out there all I could feel was the pain of her absence.

Not good.

At all.

So, Monday. My brain was suddenly in empty chair mode. I felt like that little girl staring at the empty chair (even though at that moment Em was sitting in it). The memory of that horrible summer therapy break set in and I was gone. I got very quiet. I felt very sad and little. I dissociated. Em tried to reach me but I couldn’t let her in. I couldn’t connect. I knew she was going, so what was the point? No matter what I would have said it wouldn’t have changed that she was disappearing and her chair would be empty and I’d be left grieving and desperately trying to shove my heart in a bottle to get through the break.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I do know I was dumb on Monday. I know that if I had have been able to express some of what was going on for me Em would have validated those young feelings and understood the fear and in doing so it may have taken the edge off and the emotions I am struggling with now might not have been so intense. The problem is, after all that’s gone on in the last month post marble and ‘I care about you’I have been reluctant to show that need and vulnerability. I still feel a bit wounded…even though things have been repaired somewhat.

Anyway, for whatever reason, I couldn’t talk about feeling abandoned and sad about the break on Monday. Driving to my tutoring it became clear to me what just had happened in session and you know how much I like to fire off a text post session that won’t get replied to!!! So I sent this (cringe!):

‘Before today’s session ‘The Heart And The Bottle’ resonated with me because of the loss of my dad, the grief, and the experiences I have with my kids now which is one of the reasons I wanted to share it with you. Today, with you, it took me somewhere else. As you were reading, the image of the empty chair came to mind and took me back to summer break 2017 when I asked you to send me a text to try and maintain the connection over the holidays. I told you when we got back that I when I tried your visualisation, about the room and imagining talking with you, I could picture the room but your chair was empty and that it felt really hard because when I needed to feel like you were still there, I couldn’t make it feel like you were at all. Knowing that there’s a break again now made those horrible feelings of helplessness and abandonment come up and I couldn’t talk about it.  So like the book suggests, when there are painful feelings I put my heart in a bottle in order to keep it safe but end up disconnecting from the world and myself. When I want to reconnect with you it can feel like no matter how hard I try and smash the bottle, I can’t. I know it’s only a week but the little parts don’t really understand time, all they know is the chair is empty 😦 and this time of year feels like there are lots of empty chairs where people don’t come back’.

Concise as ever!

Of course that has generated … absolutely nothing.

Radio silence…

Although, I do feel better for having got it out and I do think it should at least open up a conversation about the break when we get back rather than her asking how the break was and me either shrugging my shoulders/avoiding answering the question/saying ‘it was rubbish’!

So where does that leave things? Tomorrow is Monday. The chair will be empty. My heart is in its bottle. It’s kind of safe…for now! I have a week off work. I am trying to regroup and recharge a bit. I need to relax. I need not to wish the next week away. As much as I want to see Em, as much as I need therapy, I really don’t want to be plunged back into an 8 week half term of work  – I don’t have the energy for it.

So, yeah, that’s it! Rubber bands and chewing gum remain the primary adhesives for holding everything together! Fingers crossed everything holds!

xx

 

 

I Thought I Was Coping…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have I done for myself today?

Nothing.

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

I just haven’t stopped again.

Time goes so quickly.

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

Ugh!

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

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

I just needed to get it out there:

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

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