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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And remember…

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There’s No Going Back

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So, if anyone out there wants to award me a prize for winning at ‘How Not To Do Therapy’ I’d gladly receive it. I mean, I need something to celebrate right now, and all I have done exceptionally this last couple of months is poorly navigate my way through a relational catastrophe and then end up doing huge belly flop into the abyss as my grand finale.

Honestly. It’s been total dog shit, lately.

Some of you guys will remember, a few weeks ago, I posted up a letter on here that I had written to Em, my ex-therapist, trying to purge some of what I had been left with after our rather sudden terminatio. I had resolved not to send it – because duh, I’d have to be an idiot to do that wouldn’t I?

I had so much to say to her because the ending seemed to happen so quickly and I was just left hanging, holding so many feelings about what had happened. It felt important to get it out rather than have it all swirling in my head.

I guess it’s not a surprise that I had a bloody awful week after I wrote that letter. The grief of the termination and losing someone who has been a massive part of my life really started to kick in. I felt really upset that the ending was really never a proper ending. It just wasn’t good enough for any of my parts. Essentially, she just cut me dead and the final session I think was really only offered because I had asked for it not because she wanted to do it. She had been happy to end it all with a two line email hadn’t she?

OMG it’s giving me the rage just thinking about it! But also the horrible ache in my core where all the attachment pain hangs out. It’s just hideous feeling all this…especially as I have fucking paid to end up feeling like this! It’s not like the ending of a relationship with a friend or partner, or some kind of trauma inflicted by a parent…I’ve come out of this therapeutic relationship retraumatised! You can’t even make it up!

One of my friends told me that she’d spoken to her therapist about this situation with Em and they’d said that usually for termination you’d aim for one session for every three months of work… and well, that’d mean twenty sessions for Em and I! – I can only imagine that if you throw in the fact that for the last 16 months we were also doing sessions twice a week that it’d probably seem unlikely that you could create a good enough ending in one fifty minute session. But you know, maybe I am being picky!

I mean, I understand that we weren’t ending under perfect circumstances but really, a single session to close down the work wasn’t really adequate – especially as I didn’t even want us to be ending at all. I honestly felt like we were having a rupture over Christmas and it’d work out. I am clearly a fucking moron! I guess the signs have been there for years, I just didn’t want to see them and instead turned everything in on myself…I’m good at doing that.

Anyway, what I should have done when I felt so desperate and sad and needy and bereft last weekend was to email Anita and reach out to her instead of contacting Em, like I did the week before and that Anita had said was fine to do, but you know what it’s like – sometimes you choose to walk into the lion’s den knowing you’re going to get mauled because part of you hopes that the lion might actually turn out to be a pussy cat.

Note to self: lions are always lions.

I sent the letter to Em on the afternoon of Friday 21st Feb. It’s slightly different than what was on the blog so I will post it below, but feel free to scroll past it as it’s not significantly different:

Dear Em,

It’s been almost three weeks since I saw you for our termination session and since then, I seem to have been caught up in an emotional storm that I can’t find a way out of. I am so exhausted and disorientated by what’s happened between us that I do not seem to know which way is up and am clinging on for dear life.

I am absolutely devastated about how we have ended this therapy – our relationship. I can’t believe that when it came down to it the relationship we have built over all these years disintegrated in the course of a few weeks and now there is nothing left. I don’t even feel like we properly said goodbye because I couldn’t bear to say it.

Things have been hard for a long time. I know that. I am not an easy client to work with, that’s no secret. I keep a lot of things close to my chest and often the moment we get close to the sore areas in session I dissociate which has made it difficult to get to the work- but we both know when I disappear it’s because more than anything, I live in fear of being abandoned and rejected by you and need to protect myself from getting hurt. That fear has always been behind the times when I have crossed your boundary of no outside session contact, some part of me believing that you are gone.

I have been so frightened of being wholly myself with you and really showing you how damaged parts of me are because I didn’t want you to repeat the script and leave just like everyone else. I didn’t want to keep you out. I didn’t want us to be working in the dark. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I wanted to let you in and be close to you – more than anything I wanted that. And I have let you see a lot of me- you know me better than anyone and that has made me feel really vulnerable and so it’s been slow going in the therapy.

I haven’t been worried about the time (even if everyone else has raised concerns) because, like you said, this kind of work takes time and even though we’ve been working together a long while it’s not all that long in the big scheme of how much trauma there is. I believed that we were in this for the long haul. I knew that there would be times that would feel like we had reached the edges of what was possible but if we just dug in deep we’d come through and each time we did that a little bit more healing would take place. I thought that’s what therapy was all about.

I have so many feelings around what’s happened between us and losing you really feels like a bereavement. For the second time in my life I have lost the person that knew me better than anyone else and I can’t even begin to explain how crushing that feels. The difference is that you are still alive and you’ve left because I am too much and in some ways that makes this even harder to bear than an unexpected death. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to you yet.

This is absolute agony because the end of this therapy has confirmed my worst fears about myself and how I am perceived in relationships. It’s almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy – I was so worried this would happen and I’ve somehow made it happen, although obviously not consciously. I read something about projective identification and I wondered if this is what’s happened.

Some of the things you have said recently have really hurt me and I am struggling to let that go. You say you weren’t trying to hurt me but the young parts who you see as ‘adhesive’ and ‘like a tick’ are broken. I was breaking my heart and you said, ‘it was a metaphor’ and that I am ‘sensitive and defensive’. I can’t seem to shake it off.

I so wanted to believe that whatever happened with the therapy we could get through it – I mean we’ve done enough rupture and repair over the time we’ve worked together – but somehow we got to here and there was no repair this time. I think I am still in denial about the whole thing because I can’t really believe we are here…or I am here. You can just move on with your conveyor belt of clients and I feel marooned.

To tell you what I did in my notebooks over Christmas was massively risky but I figured it was crunch time. I was scared but at least some part of me also believed that whatever I might say now or whichever part was fronting you’d hold the space and try and encourage me to keep working through it even if I was threatening to throw in the towel because you know that me being vulnerable makes me want to run a mile. Every part of me wanted to disappear and hide after that and I was super sensitised to everything you said.

You recently said that you thought the teen part was about as well as other young parts. They are always there but that’s been especially so since the lead into Christmas and it’s been those parts that were so affected by the break and you rejecting the gift I gave you, and then being ignored when I reached out to you. I can tolerate quite a lot but not all at once and not at this time of year.

You’ve said so many times how things escalate around breaks and how it seems to funnel all the fear about being left and forgotten about into something really difficult to manage for those parts. This happened in a spectacular way this year. I cancelled sessions, text you, sent you my notebooks, and disconnected the skype call… things felt really bad BUT at the same time part of me must have felt safe enough to do that, to act out because it is very rare.

You’ve told me it’s ok to express my feelings and that there wouldn’t be any repercussions for that, you have encouraged me to bring my anger to the room, you told me it would be ok …and when I finally did that look what happened. It’s all fallen apart. You felt you reached the limit of your competency to work with me. I can’t really believe it. Honestly? Out of all the complex clients you must see in a week, it’s me that’s pushed you to the limit?

The defences I have built over the years work really hard at trying to keep me safe and yet often you’ve said that perhaps they aren’t needed in the same way anymore and perhaps they could step aside – particularly the critical part. It feels like now they had good reason to be there…which again is so painful to acknowledge. I wanted to believe things could be different and now I feel like I am back to square one. It’s completely floored me,

Our termination session was so hard for me. I have never really cried with you and even then I didn’t let you see just how bad it was because there was nothing to be done. There was no way to mend the situation which is all I really wanted. I had been in pieces since you emailed and said we had to stop the therapy. I have been a wreck, crying so so much. I dread going to sleep because in the dark of my bedroom it all catches up with me and I cry myself to sleep. I know this, in part, is coming from the past and younger parts but it doesn’t make it feel any better in the here and now. I don’t think you have any idea how painful this is for me. My attachment wound is big and I feel like you’ve poked it with a stick and walked away.

There is so much I want to say to you still. I needed more than one closing session…I needed more than six… I was not ready for this to be over but knowing that I had no choice in your decision what could I do? As you said, it would just ‘prolong the agony’. It’s not like if I magically found all my words it’d change anything I couldn’t somehow turn back time and make it ok again. Perhaps when you asked me what I wanted to do and I said that I didn’t want to come back again you were just accepting what I was saying – but it was coming from the defensive part that was trying to protect me from unbearable feelings. I am not sure being left with the ‘agony’ unprocessed has been any better than sitting with you in agony.

Walking away it feels like I have been dropped from a great height and yet there is no safety net to catch me. We’ve gone from two sessions a week to none. What am I meant to do with all that’s been thrown up because right now I feel like I need therapy every single day to try and get through this because it is a massive deal to me, It’s triggered all the trauma feelings. I don’t know how I have managed to hold myself together through this and not resort to self-harming behaviours. It’s a battle, that’s for sure… but I suppose that shows some kind of progress. I can feel how the feelings are building again though, because I think part of me has been surviving this like a break – the longest we’ve had is three weeks and so once time goes past that then I guess reality will really hit.

The saddest thing about this is that I have started to really blame myself for what’s happened. Now, more than ever, the little girl inside me is certain that she is unlovable and that she is too much. I am so sad and I miss you so much.

I won’t contact you again because I know we are finished but I want you to know that I am grateful for all the time you put in to trying to help me, and the care you gave, even if I couldn’t always see it in the moment. x.

Ah it’s so bloody painful even reading that again.  I really didn’t expect her to respond but I felt that I at least needed her to know how this had affected me because that final session had been so awful. She must’ve felt it too. I hardly spoke and just cried through it. She couldn’t look at me and basically wished me well for the future! I guess really, this email was a goodbye letter…even though I didn’t want to say goodbye, not really.

And then on Saturday morning she replied to me. Wtf?:

Dear RBCG,

Thank you for email. I feel very sorry to hear how upset and distressed you have been feeling. I will reply more fully within the next two weeks, after I explore the situation further with my clinical supervisor.

Best wishes

Em.

I was hit with so many feelings receiving that email. I know it’s not exactly oozing warmth but it is about as warm as she’s ever been with me on email. I didn’t know what to make of it. Like, had she actually taken on board what I had said in my email, had some time to reflect and maybe was thinking there might be a way back from this? Or at least, maybe try for a better ending knowing what a disaster that sessions had been? I dunno. I felt kind of hopeful because if the door was completely closed surely she just wouldn’t have responded at all?

I didn’t reply to her email and I waited wondering what was to come all week and then late Friday afternoon (this weekend) this landed in my inbox – deep breaths people:

Dear RBCG,

Further to my email of 22 February, I would like to emphasize that I am very sorry to hear about your distress and difficulties.

However, I am afraid that I have gradually come to the conclusion that the difficulties you have are beyond the scope of my particular clinical expertise. Therefore, if you would like to do further work on your difficulties, I would suggest that you consider finding another therapist.

You said in your last email that you would not contact me again and I agree that it is best for you not to contact me.

I wish you well for the future.

Kind regards

Em.

And, there, my friends is how 8 years of a relationship end. Kind regards. Boom…don’t contact me again, I have washed my hands clean of this. So, there we are, all that I said in my letter are my ‘difficulties’ and I had best find a way of dealing with them.

Needless to say, I burst into tears the moment that email came through. Maybe it’s me, and maybe it’s not as cold as it feels, but I honestly am struggling to understand how this ending has been acceptable. I know I’m sensitive and the attachment stuff is big, but it just feels all the more cruel that this is how she’s ended it knowing me as she does. There has been no opportunity to discuss any of what I think or feel with her – she’s raised the drawbridge.

Ugh. I would be interested to hear your take on this.

Thank goodness I have Anita – but I am also feeling a bit sceptical about that and therapy in general if I am honest. I mean if someone with 25 years experience in counselling and 15 as a Principal Clinical Psychologist in the NHS feels I am beyond her capabilities how likely is it that Anita is going to be able to help me?

This isn’t the first time I have been told that my issues are too complex for a therapist… having said that that particular therapist was a fresh out the box trainee counsellor and at least noticed after two sessions that she wasn’t equipped to deal with the complex stuff around eating disorders and self harm that was really active at the time but she did help me with lots of other stuff. I wish Em had have been honest about her competency and capacity to work with me years ago because nothing has significantly changed between us – I brought these issues to therapy years ago. She advertises that she works with trauma, abuse, PTSD, anorexia, etc…

Maybe I should just give up? You know, accept that this is as good as it gets for me. I function. I am ok in my adult life. I have a great wife and two lovely kids. My health is good enough. Perhaps to think this perpetual ache inside would one day heal just isn’t possible for people like me? Maybe I am just too damaged. I dunno what I think, really.

I don’t mean to sound all depressive and morbid. It’s just hard to see that it can be better than this because right now it feels just about as bad as it gets. I am right in the thick of the worst of that abandonment and rejection pain. The wound is bleeding out all over the place and I can’t see how to make it better. Perhaps I can just box up all this pain and put it at the back of the closet and carry on with my life.

I can’t say I haven’t given myself a good stab at trying to heal this.

The laugh is, I had sort of convinced myself that I wasn’t actually completely fucking useless and beyond help. I had even started to believe that my issues are completely normal given the level of trauma I have experienced throughout my life. I had started to chip away at the shame that had set like concrete inside me. And now this, with Em, it’s uprooted all those tentative new healthy shoots that gave hope of something better and has repaved the landscape with the old narrative – more fucking concrete. It’s barren.

Anyway, because I am not going to throw in the towel just yet, I had better go and get my backside to my session with Anita. I really hope that we can have another go at making a different internal landscape – I want wildflower meadows and trees – not a carpark!

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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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A Letter To My Ex-therapist

* It’s been hellish this last week or so and seeing as I can’t reach out to Em anymore to talk about my feelings around the termination of the therapy I have decided to try and put some of it down in a letter (that I won’t send). I have so much to say here on the blog and yet I feel so utterly broken that I just can’t yet. So.… Em….I wish you could see this.

Dear Ex-therapist,

It’s been almost two weeks since I saw you for our termination session and since then, I seem to have been caught up in and emotional storm that I can’t find a way out of. I am so exhausted and disorientated by what’s happened between us that I do not seem to know which way is up and am clinging on for dear life.

I am absolutely devastated about how we have ended this therapy – our relationship. I can’t believe that when it came down to it the relationship we have built over all these years disintegrated in the course of a few weeks and now there is nothing left. I don’t even feel like we really said goodbye.

Things have been hard for a long time. I know that. I am not an easy client to work with, that’s no secret. I keep a lot of things close to my chest and often the moment we get close to the sore areas in session I dissociate which has made it difficult to get to the work- but we both know when I disappear it’s because more than anything, I live in fear of being abandoned and rejected by you and need to protect myself from getting hurt. That fear has always been behind the times when I have crossed your boundary of no outside session contact.

I have been so frightened of being wholly me with you and really showing you how damaged parts of me are because I didn’t want you to repeat the script and leave just like everyone else. I didn’t want to keep you out. I didn’t want us to be working in the dark. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I wanted to let you in and be close to you – more than anything I wanted that. And I have let you see a lot of me- you know me better than anyone and that has made me feel really vulnerable and so it’s been slow going in the therapy.

I haven’t been worried about the time because, like you said, this kind of work takes time and even though we’ve been working together a long while it’s not all that long in the big scheme of how much trauma there is. I believed that we were in this for the long haul. I knew that there would be times that would feel like we had reached the edges of what was possible but if we just dug in deep we’d come through and each time we did that a little bit more healing would take place. I thought that’s what therapy was all about.

I have so many feelings around what’s happened between us and losing you really feels like a bereavement. For the second time in my life I have lost the person that knew me better than anyone else and I can’t even begin to explain how crushing that feels. The difference is that you are still alive and you’ve left because I am too much and in some ways that makes this even harder to bear than an unexpected death. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to you yet.

This is absolute agony because the end of this therapy has confirmed my worst fears about myself and how I am perceived in relationships. Some of the things you have said recently have really hurt me and I am struggling to let that go. You say you weren’t trying to hurt me but the young parts who you see as ‘adhesive’ and ‘like a tick’ are broken . I was breaking my heart and you said, ‘it was a metaphor’ and that I am ‘sensitive and defensive’.

I so wanted to believe that whatever happened with the therapy we could get through it – I mean we’ve done enough rupture and repair over the time we’ve worked together – but somehow we got to here and there was no repair this time.

To tell you what I did in my notebooks over Christmas was massively risky but I figured it was crunch time. I was scared but at least some part of me also believed that whatever I might say now or whichever part was fronting you’d hold the space and try and encourage me to keep working through it even if I was threatening to throw in the towel because you know that me being vulnerable makes me want to run a mile.

You recently said that you thought the teen part was about as well as other young parts. They are always there but that’s been especially so since the lead into Christmas and it’s been those parts that were so affected by the break and you rejecting the gift I gave you, and then being ignored when I reached out. I can tolerate quite a lot but not all at once and not at this time of year.

You’ve said so many times how things escalate around breaks and how it seems to funnel all the fear about being left and forgotten about into something really difficult to manage for those parts. This happened in a spectacular way this year. I cancelled sessions, text you, sent you my notebooks, and disconnected the skype call… things felt really bad BUT at the same time part of me must have felt safe enough to do that, to act out because it is very rare.

You’ve told me it’s ok to express my feelings and that there wouldn’t be any repercussions for that, you have encouraged me to bring my anger to the room, you told me it would be ok …and when I finally did that look what happened. It’s all fallen apart. You felt you reached the limit of your competency to work with me. I can’t really believe it. Honestly? Out of all the complex clients you must see in a week, it’s me that’s pushed you to the limit?

The defences I have built over the years work really hard at trying to keep me safe and yet often you’ve said that perhaps they aren’t needed in the same way anymore and perhaps they could step aside – particularly the critical part. It feels like now they had good reason to be there…which again is so painful to acknowledge. I wanted to believe things could be different and now I feel like I am back to square one.

Our termination session was so hard for me. I have never really cried with you and even then I didn’t let you see just how bad it was. I have been in pieces since you said we had to stop the therapy. I have been a wreck, crying so so much. I dread going to sleep because in the dark of my bedroom it all catches up with me and I cry myself to sleep. I don’t think you have any idea how painful this is for me. My attachment wound is big and I feel like you’ve poked it with a stick.

There is so much I want to say to you. I needed more than one closing session…I needed more than six… I was not ready for this to be over but knowing that I had no choice in your decision what could I do? As you said, it would just ‘prolong the agony’.

Walking away I feel like I have been dropped from a great height and yet there is no safety net to catch me. We’ve gone from two sessions a week to none. What am I meant to do with all that’s been thrown up because right now I feel like I need therapy every single day to try and get through this. It’s triggered all the trauma feelings and my go to coping strategies are lying in wait. I don’t know how I have managed to hold myself together through this and not resort to self-harming behaviours. It’s a battle, that’s for sure.

The saddest thing about this is that I have started to really blame myself for what’s happened. Now, more than ever, the little girl inside me is certain that she is unlovable and that she is too much.

I am so sad and I miss you so much.

x

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Termination Of Long Term Therapy: ‘No More Tricks Up My Sleeve’

Well, what can I say? This last week, or so, since my last post has been an emotional marathon – and frankly, my current emotional fitness levels are really more geared towards a meandering, leisurely stroll interspersed with pitstops for cake than an endurance race in a freezing, barren wasteland with no clue when the finish line might be coming.

What is especially shit is just as I think I might be near the end of ‘the worst of it’ I turn a corner and the sign flashes up that there’s actually another 26 miles to go….I have to do another lap and it seems like it’s an unending fucking marathon…or recurring nightmare. FFS!

It’s really not good right now. I am desperate to crawl into a warm, safe space, and hibernate…shame that life in 2020 doesn’t really allow much of that!

I should probably have a sign that says, ‘approach with care’ or ‘beware- unstable ground’ or ‘caution – disaster zone’ tied around my neck because I am certainly not feeling myself right now. Or rather, the adult fronting self is having a very hard time keeping all the distraught child parts in check, and so my various selves are all simultaneously falling apart. I’m trying my best to hang it together with my trusty ‘rubber bands and chewinggum’ but it’s a gargantuan effort. I am exhausted by it.

When I am on my own it’s felt like the earth has fallen away beneath my feet. The tenuous safety I felt in the relationship with Em has been proven to be a complete sham and I am back to the reality (which I really don’t want to believe) – that nothing and no one is safe, and trusting people with your heart is really an idiotic thing to do. I am freefalling through the abyss. It’s so lonely. (Well that’s what several parts of me feel at the moment…although I know there is evidence to the contrary elsewhere in my life.)

I have cried so much (and we know I don’t do crying!). I’m not talking a few rogue tears escaping out the corners of my eyes, I’m talking about convulsive, gut wrenching, snotty, painful crying that comes like a howl from the heart and soul, soaks pillows through and doesn’t seem to stop without a massive conscious effort. There’s really no point in trying to stop it, though, because it keeps coming in waves….tsunami seems apt.

I am doing grief in a spectacular way. The pain is immense. I know this isn’t just about Em but also so many other losses and abandonments that I have experienced in my life. However, the sudden ending of the relationship with Em in such a cold way has acted as a massive catalyst for me to come face to face with the big wound and I realise, more than ever, that I am still on the bloody endless bear hunt and have absolutely no choice but to keep going, I ‘can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, got to go through it’.

It’s disappointing because I feel like all I have done in recent years is wade through ‘thick oozy mud’, stumble through ‘big dark forests’, battle through ‘swirling whirling snow storms’ and yet at least I had company back then whereas right now I feel a little bit like I am trying to do some kind of lone survival event and it’s not a ‘beautiful day’ and actually I am scared.

I’ve been terrified of the mother wound this whole therapy – panicking about being left, rejected or abandoned has felt pretty awful and all-consuming at times, especially between sessions and on breaks, even when I have had my therapist there more or less every week. So now, to be actually living the reality of that fear coming true – I have been rejected and abandoned – well it’s even worse than I imagined it would be. That pain in my solar plexus, the anxiety headache, and feeling like I don’t know what’s going on is awful. I know these are young feelings but man it’s not easy.

I want to just say, too, that whilst it does feel bloody horrendous and lonely and overwhelming a lot of the time, I am really very lucky to have some amazing supports in my life right now (this merry band of mother wounded souls included!) without whom I would be in a much worse place than I am. I have been on my arse and yet I am fortunate to have the support of a couple of close friends (who live fucking miles and miles away – grr!) that I can trust with these feelings and who are holding my hand through it, the start of a new therapeutic relationship with Anita, as well as an absolutely incredible craniosacral therapist who has basically scraped me off the floor and offered so much love and holding in the last couple of months that I can hardly believe it’s real.

I wrote a while back here about having just gone back to seeing my craniosacral therapist, K, after a long long break (years!) because I was feeling more and more like lots of the healing I have to do needs to be done with my body and through touch which wasn’t possible with Em (who wouldn’t even sit near to me!). And I can definitely say, that’s absolutely the case. I get soooooo much from my sessions with K on a body level. It feels amazing when everything starts flowing and I can feel the shift inside myself when I get a bit of internal space and holding. But what I have also realised is that what I have always been seeking is an authentic connection with another human being and through that, a path to healing – it’s not just about the body, it’s not just about words, it’s about two people being with one another and feeling something, cocreating a relationship that feels real.

K is not afraid to connect with me and she seems to feel what’s going on in my body even when I am not saying anything. She gets me and accepts me in whatever state I am in. I’ve always really liked her loved her and felt safe with her but maybe in my late twenties/early thirties wasn’t quite ready to do the work that I now feel is unavoidable and essential. I’ve done the intellectual work with Em but now I am ready for the soul stuff.

K is so present. So warm and accepting. She has steadily encouraged me to be more vulnerable to allow her in which clearly feels so risky after years of being pushed away.  I can actually make eye contact again now which is lovely. Seeing K again has made me feel like I am valued and loved – but not only that, she makes me feel like I am cared about all the more because of my flaws and vulnerabilities. I don’t need to hide with her. It’s scary but also exactly what I need especially given what’s just happened with Em. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I went back to her when I did.

It’s written EVERYWHERE that the healing of relational trauma takes place in relationship and I have needed this kind of deep, holding relationship for the longest time. I’ve known for a while that Em and I were not going to last (but obviously have clung on to the hope that if I just behaved long enough, didn’t reach out etc she might meet me where I needed her to). In fact having been to see K again for the first time and then gone to therapy and told Em about it, she said, ‘Where does that leave this therapy?’ and I remember replying, ‘I don’t know’. Being with K was such a sharp contrast to the experience I have been having with Em that it really highlighted to me just how badly my young parts were being neglected.

My child parts are so connected to Em and it’s killing me right now, but really it’s a trauma bond – we all know that. There has been no holding. I haven’t really felt her care. I have been ‘like a tick’ to her and it’s basically been a retraumatising experience being in that therapy. I have tried and tried to make what was on offer enough, but it just wasn’t. I probably sound like I am doing black and white thinking here ‘amazing K vs terrible Em’ but it’s not like that. Not everything in my therapy has been bad but it has been really bad for my young parts and this ending has done nothing to help. I mean it’s trauma 101 inside. The narrative I have been trying to escape for all these years that I am too much has been completely confirmed. It’s so painful.

So, anyway, gushing on some more about K. I’ve been talking to her a lot about my therapy since I have gone back – there’s been lots of confusion and frustration, K has patiently held that with me, not telling me what to do, but understanding just how excruciating it’s been to have been so vulnerable and get nothing back….In fact, god, I can even remember popping over to hers for a cup of tea a few years ago and moaning about Em then and she said to me, ‘What is your therapist doing to hold this?’… and even then I couldn’t come up with any answers.

I’ve spoken a lot about feeling like I need to leave but also feeling like it is impossible due to how attached I am. K has been nothing but understanding as I have swung from one state to the other and I am so grateful to have had that space to work through what I feel and also what I need. K has basically made me realise that it’s ok to have needs and ok to want to get some of them met. What a revelation!

As we all know, in the end things came to a head much more rapidly than I had anticipated with Em and suddenly termination was happening – and not in the way I had hoped. The day I got the two line email from Em wishing me well for the future (aka ‘bye then’) I fell apart. It was so painful. I was a mess, crying on the kitchen floor. I text K and told her what had happened and she was so sympathetic but more than that, she did something incredible that I am still blown away by. Sensing my distress and need she offered to move some clients around in order to make space for me to be able to see her the next day.

I can’t even explain what that gesture did for me. I was drowning in abandonment and rejection feeling like I wanted to self harm, and I guess parts of me actually felt like they wanted to die, and here she was making an island for me to come and rest for a bit.

Thinking about it makes me want to cry. She didn’t have to do that and yet she did. It allowed me to maybe believe that I wasn’t actually completely unlovable and forgettable maybe I do matter…

Anyway, since then she has been amazing in so many ways, so kind, supportive and holding, she has repeatedly built me up and tells me how much strength I have and in a way I believe it when she says it. But I don’t want to talk her or it too much here because I feel really protective of the relationship. I feel like I have something really precious but also fragile and so I want to keep it safe inside me a while.

So that’s nice isn’t it?! Yay.

Alongside this I have been seeing Anita – and that’s going well but I will post about that separately later on.

I guess, what most people are wondering is what ended up happening with Em in the end?

Crikey.

Well, I couldn’t make a decision about what to do for a few days. Part of me was so angry and upset that I couldn’t see how it would be possible to go back only to face more of the same. As my friend said, it would be like walking my young parts in to be slaughtered if I went. To a degree she was right. But at the same time I felt like I should try and get some kind of ending and closure because I have had so many endings where I haven’t had a choice in it. If I never went back to say goodbye I’d be essentially left with all these feelings and keep beating myself up about it… because that’s what I do. This is familiar ground to me!

I spoke at length with Anita about it the week before and in the end I decided that it would be best to go to one termination session, try and end well, but then immediately come for a session afterwards with her to try and process it. Basically, a session with Anita after would act like a safety net. Whatever the session with Em was like it was never going to be easy and the pain I have been experiencing has been like a bereavement so I knew I’d need support.

All last weekend I had nightmares and felt sick to my core knowing that I was going to Em to say goodbye. I knew in my gut that it was going to be sterile and flat…that’s partly why we are in this place. But still part of me hoped that it would somehow be connecting, a reflection on the work we’d done and the relationship we have had all these years.

I arrived, and straight away knew it was going to be agony. She didn’t smile. She didn’t even look at me. Just sat in the chair staring off into middle distance. Still face exercise. Fuck. Child parts were scared and devastated. This is not what I wanted at all.

I started with, ‘well this is shit’. I think it was probably a teen part coming out. I literally didn’t know what to say her.

I felt so distant from her.

It was painful.

She felt robotic, using stock phrases, ‘I see you are feeling strong emotions’ , ‘I understand you are disappointed’, ‘this must feel rejecting’…bleurgh. But it felt like a stranger talking to me….when she did talk which wasn’t often.

Early on I said that I couldn’t believe we were in this place but also that this is what I have feared all along that would happen and now it is real. I tried to tell her how much she’d hurt me in the last session by likening me to ‘a tick’. I had hoped she might have tried to repair that but she simply said, ‘it was a metaphor and I stick by what I said about those parts and the unconscious behaviour’. I wanted to leave then. Like wtaf? The last session and she says that? She takes zero responsibility for her part in this. There was a lot of silence from then on. I mean there was no repairing the relationship but man, this was bad.

She said that she was sad that things had got to this point and was disappointed too…but it felt like the kind of disappointment you might feel when it’s raining outside and you’d planned to go out for a walk – nothing more. It wasn’t heartfelt. It felt flat. She said she could see this was painful for me and I said that she had ‘no idea’…as in she had no idea just how terrible this felt for me but no space was opened up to discuss the feelings. She didn’t want to know.

‘I’ve reached the limit of my competency to help you. I have no more tricks up my sleeve’ – I suppose at least she was honest but it also felt crap. Like, to me so much of therapy hinges on the relationship not what’s ‘being done’ and yet it feels to me like she is very much about strategies, ‘try this visualisation’, ‘follow this dot with your eyes’… blah blah blah. And this is always what’s made me feel disconnected. The only strategy she was unwilling to try was putting herself into the relationship. It’s sad really, because I don’t doubt that her ‘tricks’ might have worked if we could have built a solid enough relationship to build from.

She said she was glad I had come to end in person…and it shows how much I have grown to be able to do that and face the feelings. But again, it just felt like she was going through the motions. I noticed her eyes repeatedly glancing at the clock. I guess she was wishing the time away because it wasn’t exactly easy in the room.

I started crying.

I wasn’t beside myself (externally) because even in that moment when my heart was absolutely being torn in two she just didn’t feel safe to let it all out with. Big, fat, silent tears rolled down my face and I felt like I was going to explode trying to hold back the flood and started shaking. She said nothing for ages and then said, ‘I can see how full of emotion you are about this’. Like no shit! This is huge to me –  I HAVE NEVER LET OUT MORE THAN A SINGLE TEAR IN THIS ROOM….but clearly all this was only big to me not her.

She didn’t look at me or make eye contact and I felt so alone in my pain as I cried and she just sat there. It felt so abandoning. She was not prepared to meet me in that moment at all. And I get it, maybe she can’t.  I guess this has been the problem all along. Maybe she was trying to hold the space and that’s the best she could do. But it felt awful. Like I wasn’t expecting warm hugs and smiles because that is not where we are at (nor have we ever been!) but it couldn’t have felt worse really.

The only good thing was that I managed not to dissociate – I could feel myself trying to disappear and kept bringing myself back. I wanted to be present and in the room with her for the last time even if it felt like she had left the relationship already.

The icing on the cake was at the very end. I was still silently crying and sniffing she said, ‘We have to stop. I wish I could have done better for you, but it is what it is, and I honestly hope for the best for you’.  Through my tears I managed to say, ‘thanks’ and I got up and that was it. There were no more words. No ‘take care’, no ‘goodbye’ just the shutting of the door behind me. And that’s when the dam finally gave way and I broke down…

…on my own again.

 

Abandonment and Rejection: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recap of my message:

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll be in touch…soon… I hope.
RBCG

Anita said:

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

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

With very best wishes,
Anita

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

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

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

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

Em,

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

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

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

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

Take care

On Tuesday evening at 7pm I received this reply:

Dear RBCG,

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

Em

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

x

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

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

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

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

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

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

I literally do not know what to do.

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

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

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

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

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Abandonment and Rejection: Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I responded to the email with this:

Hi Anita,

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll be in touch…soon… I hope.
RBCG

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

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

Oh god.

It’s just come back.

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

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

Ugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Things Never Change

So, that was a week!! To be fair, I’ve had an absolutely wonderful time away with my family. The weather could not have been better and after the last stressful six months it was exactly what we all needed. I’m not usually sad to leave a holiday – usually I’m ready to return home and look forward to time in my home and own bed but this time I literally did not want to leave the hotel. I could have cried leaving the spa this morning.

Even though it’s Christmas coming up and I have two more weeks off work, I could happily have had another week of spa and massages and someone feeding me and entertaining my kids!!! When I get home it’s a suitcase of washing, the Christmas house clean and food shop to look forward to… oh and the gloom and floods! It’s not just that though- I’m avoiding what inevitably is waiting at home back in the therapy room and just need more escapism!

I really really wish that I hadn’t have had the rupture, or whatever you’d call it, with Em in our last session. It’s been playing on my mind all week but luckily I have managed to shelve the worst of it, most of the time, and I think that’s largely because I had already decided to cancel Friday’s Skype session before I left.

There were a few times when I was sitting by the pool and my mind would wander. I’d go through various trains of thought. Often it was, ‘wtaf happened on Friday?’ which would leave me feeling a bit pissed off but also disengaged with therapy and feeling like I had no great desire to go back in January. That would actually make the break bearable so I’ve been trying to hang on to that where possible.

Sometimes, though, panic would sink in and the young parts would go into a mini meltdown but not long enough to cause any real problems. There was one night where I was really tired and felt desperate to snuggle with my soft toy dog. I rarely sleep with stuffed toys but that night I felt the need and of course there was nothing that could be done. Ugh.

On Thursday night I had a therapy dream and I woke up feeling stressed out, little, and sad. The dream itself wasn’t horrendous – far from it- but waking up from dream with Em where everything had been better than good – a big hug at the end of a connecting session- well to wake up in the reality of rupture land was ouch. I guess my brain was trying to serve me up a bit of soothing but it backfired because the distance between the dream and reality is massive.

I’ve been catching up on quite a few blogs this week and it’s clear as day that whatever is going on with me and Em it isn’t great- and whilst she’s not a particularly demonstrative person I feel like her inflexibility round some things is just making things worse.

The question I guess I have to ask myself is whether the things I feel like I’m missing out on are deal breakers or whether or not I think what is on offer with her is enough. What I do know is that I have given so much time and energy to this therapy and yet I feel like I’m stuck. I feel like I’m trying so hard but just keep running into walls which makes me reinforce my own walls.

It’s getting boring!

And depressing!

Anyway, unsurprisingly there was radio silence all of last week from Em. She didn’t respond to the text I’d sent after the session on Friday which felt kind of punishing, actually. I wasn’t sure whether she had received my notebooks in the mail because she hadn’t acknowledged them either.

So on Friday morning I was torn. Was I really going to pass up the last contact time with her this year? Parts of me longed to talk… but I’m not a moron and I knew that the likelihood of the session being anywhere close to what I needed was about as likely as me winning the lottery. In fact I’ve probably got more chance of winning the lottery and I don’t even buy a ticket!

So on Friday morning I sent this in a text:

I’ve been stressing all week about what to do about today. Internet signal is too patchy for Skype and whilst the phone is ok I honestly I don’t even know what to say to you if we did talk there’s so much swirling about inside. I don’t know if you’ll have received the notebooks in the post or not but if you have can you read those please. I suspect that you’ll say something about difficult feelings being stirred up and how you’re ‘just my therapist’. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong after nearly 8 years (on and off) because I feel further away from you than ever right now. It seems like at a time when lots of people like me struggle some therapists are bringing in transitional objects, writing notes, encouraging parts that struggle to communicate verbally to write, offering up text check ins, playing games, sitting next to clients and generally being reassuring etc and I get that’s not how you work but yet again we’ve landed upon a break and it’s, ‘if we don’t speak I think we’re back on the 3rd or 4th’ and it’s just a world away from what I needed. I hate that it feels like this and disruption is so hard.

Have a good Christmas

I didn’t want to sound blaming or petulant – I don’t know if I succeeded? I did, however, want her to see how far off things feel for me.

Fortunately, she did reply to the text:

Hi RBCG thank you for your notebooks and I’ll read them instead of Skyping or phoning today. I do understand that it’s been difficult and that you have complex feelings about the therapy and me and that breaks intensify the inner pain and battle within you. I hope that we can move forward in the new year. I wish you a pleasant Christmas and New year. See you on Friday 3rd January. Em

I’m guessing she’s relieved I didn’t want to talk. The message feels a bit lukewarm but I think we are in a lukewarm place… if not bordering on arctic! 😂

So, yeah, I dunno really what to think. Maybe a break is what I need. And if it continues like this I’ll cope just fine. I hope I have the resources not to fall into the pit of annihilation doom! I’m hoping that because I don’t have any immediate work pressures I can just allow myself to feel what I feel and honour those feelings and the various parts that are feeling them. I am resilient but it’s not always easy.

I get the sense that this coming year is going to be a lot about grieving and ‘letting go’ and metabolising a lot of pain.

I’m big into Frozen (1 and 2) again right now (the joy of having a daughter!!!) and Em and I have spoken on and off about why I like it and how I relate to Elsa in a big way – journey of self discovery and self acceptance is bound to resonate right?! So I’ll be channeling my inner Disney Princess this holiday, if I can!

So, yeah, that’s about it. It’s a bit Bleurgh but I’m not falling apart just yet…but then I’m usually fine until about the 28th! I just found out, too, that I can’t do my first session back on the 3rd as my wife is away and there’s no one to have the kids. Part of me doesn’t care and part of me thinks I’ll be ready to go talk by then.

Oooh and I really must find time to write about my craniosacral therapy experiences so far because they are, at least, uplifting and I don’t feel like a complete disaster in those sessions!

I won’t have time to blog before Christmas again now, so I wish all of you the best Christmas possible – I know for many many of us that this time of year can be really tough for so many reasons. Just know, whatever happens you’re doing the best you can and take space as and when possible!

And when all else fails channel a bit of angry teen part Elsa and ‘fuck it all!’

See you on the other side 😳😉

The Bubble Has Finally Burst

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

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

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

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

I’m nothing if not optimistic!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the general election happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It all felt really awkward and distant, though.

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

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

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

Oh man it’s really long:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a mess.

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

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

Christmas rupture?!

Ha!

Right, that’s the 4 hour flight done!

‘I’m Just Your Therapist’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shoot me now!

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

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

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

So what did I do?

Oh yeah, you guessed it!

I sent a wanky meme:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I’m just your therapist.’

I mean what does that even mean?

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

Fun times. Ugh.

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

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

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

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