Easing Back Into Therapy…

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So, that’s the summer breaks done and dusted…thank goodness for that! To be fair, these recent breaks in therapy have been pretty good compared with some other times (but it’s all relative and by all accounts I am still pretty shit at breaks! – hence texting Em two days into the last break!).

I won’t lie, I am really relieved that it’ll be a while now before there is another holiday/break in therapy. I can’t even really think about Christmas just yet because I have managed to make the break MUCH longer than it would usually be. It’s going to be nearly four weeks long because I booked a holiday the week before the break would usually start. Eek!

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of some all-inclusive sunshine just before Christmas definitely appeals but…argh…I’ve had some humdingers of Christmas therapy breaks over the years. I really don’t want to end up spiralling into the depths of attachment doom again. Ending up in a big rupture is never fun and so I am really aware that a longer break might pose some issues. Having said that I am usually pretty good until New Year and then that’s when the shit hits the fan!

I guess the positive is that Em and I are aware of this fact, now,  and will ensure we spend some decent time putting things in place so that (hopefully) things don’t descend into emotional Armageddon. Well, that’s the plan, anyway 😉

Having just glanced back over what I have written I just wondered something. Does anyone else usually try and time their holidays to coincide with their therapist’s breaks in order that there is no so much disruption to their therapy? Until this year I have ALWAYS taken my holidays when I’ve known Em will be away because the idea of a therapy break being down to me and not her has been a hideous idea! I did find May half-term quite hard this year because USUALLY Em takes a break then and this year she didn’t… and I was away in Lanzarote. Two missed sessions all down to me. Groan!

Anyway, I’m sure it can’t just be me that does that…can it? Lol! Sometimes I wonder if therapists have any idea just what hideousness goes on behind the scenes with us. I mean take the ‘therapy toilet stops’ en route to session? I mean does anyone ever tell their therapist the effect that therapy nerves can have on their bowels pre-session??? I’m guessing not many of us would sit down and say, “Crikey, it’s been hideous today, I’ve had several bouts of diarrhoea on the way here and had to stop twice! Thank god for the Tesco round the corner!”

I’d hazard a guess to say that most of our therapists do spend quite a lot of time checking in with us about what’s going on in our bodies during a session. I for one have never answered, “I feel like I might shit myself!” when Em has asked me to check in with what’s happening on a physical level. Usually I complain about feeling sick. Having said that, interestingly, the dodgy tummy evaporates once I get to session and the nausea kicks in instead. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not EVERY SESSION  that I suffer with ‘therapy tummy’ but it’s certainly more often than not – especially when I have ‘big things’ to say.

Anyway, enough of the shits. Let’s get back to breaks (which are also shit!). I know it’s insane but I tend to find that once May half-term break has happened I almost retreat a bit from therapy. Of course I still turn up to my sessions (because duh! I can’t not go because I am sooooo attached) but the knowledge that the long summer break/s are imminent makes me go into a kind of self-protection zone. I rarely do deep work in the lead up to summer…unless it’s the final session before the break and then months of stuff comes flooding out in desperation.

The good news, I’ve been in therapy long enough to see patterns with how I seem to work and the good news is this next three months is September-Christmas is generally when I do the most work and things  generally move forward. Ironically, I have been back with Em for three sessions now and I’m pussy footing around and not really going to the hard places. Adult Me has been largely in the driving seat (apart from a few moments when the young parts moved in) but it’s been ok. Sometimes adult me has stuff going on that needs attention too and it’s a good way of easing back into the room. It takes the younger parts time to build trust again and believe that Em is safe and will stay (and isn’t disgusted by/or hates them).

I’m far less concerned by this slow dance that happens after breaks than I used to be. I used to be impatient to get on and do the work then moment my bum hit the sofa on session one. I was frustrated that I couldn’t just open up and go the vulnerable places after a break when I had clearly been ‘feeling all the feelings’ when I hadn’t been able to see Em. Now I understand that it’s all part of the process. My system takes time to adjust. It is what it is and I’ll get there eventually. I am not going to beat myself up about ‘all the things I haven’t said’ or worse feel like Em in some way hadn’t done enough to make it so that I could talk.

There was definitely a good period of time where I would feel disappointed by how a session had gone because it didn’t follow what I had wanted in my mind before I had arrived. I was annoyed when Em suggested that I was trying to script things a couple of years ago but I see what she was getting at now! So, when a session hadn’t gone to plan (from my pre-worked script!) I would feel almost let down by Em because somehow ‘she should have known what I needed and didn’t provide it’. I don’t get that now, really. I see just how bloody hard she works with me and know that whatever happens in the room is what needs to happen in that moment. You can’t force it.  That’s progress right?!

I am aware that whilst Adult Me might want this process to hurry the fuck along so I can do something else with £450 a month I have to accept that parts of me can’t do the work yet or need to do it ‘bit by bit’ as therapists so like to say! Working with so many parts is tricky. I can never know for sure which part of me is going to show up in session – sometimes it’s none, sometimes it’s loads and we just have to work with what comes up! … and let’s not forget there’s a good chance of dissociation at some point too. Joy!

Soooo, I don’t really have much to say. Whilst I have had three sessions there’s not a great deal to report because I’m in the thick of working through a few things so I’ll wait til it’s all resolved before I post anything as I haven’t really got any ‘lightbulb moments’ yet. It’s been so nice to be back in the room with Em. I know I don’t like breaks and they are tough but sometimes it’s actually being back in the room when I realise just how much I have really missed her – it’s like there’s an extra level of realisation – and that, of course, has set the cat amongst the pigeons!

The attachment stuff is swirling about again (despite being partly settled by her text reply to me on the break) and I wonder if this is because I can’t allow myself to fully feel just quite how awful it feels being away from her when she is gone and so it flares up once I can see her again. I suppose the positive is I have two sessions a week to see her and work more on this core issue: the mother wound and am not left hanging now. I do feel like I want to sit across from her and gush just how much I love her….but hey, this is me, and we all know I won’t say it out loud.

Right, that’s all for now. Take care all x

 

 

Reaching Out

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The last time I posted here I was circling the pit of attachment pain hell and I won’t lie, it was complete agony. I know these feelings well, but they aren’t constant any more (thank god!), and the intensity of them is not full on all of the time and so it takes me by surprise just how debilitating it feels when they hit full force again after a period of being pretty ok.

I was both surprised and disappointed that I had started to struggle so hard the moment the therapy break kicked in. I mean I basically had my session – a hard one – and then boom straight into the bowels of hell! Nooo! I had done relatively well with the therapy break at the start of the summer and yet within two weeks of one ending I was already starting another and I think that’s probably got a lot to do with how bad things felt starting the second.

Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while will know that I don’t always handle disruption very well but to give myself credit, I do cope much better than I used to – or at least I had been! My benchmark for ‘break from hell’ came at Christmas 2017 when I basically lost my mind – I am so embarrassed about it now (especially as I rage/breakdown typed it all out on here and then made Em read it in our next session! Not surprising that after that she said she would be reluctant to read another of my posts because she didn’t need to be “that masochistic”- ouch) but it was all part of this messy process, I guess, and that’s why I don’t take it down/delete it. I do internally cringe a bit (a lot) when I think back over all the times I have ranted at Em for doing nothing wrong but feeling like EVERY WORD SHE SAYS IS WRONG and lashing out at her!

So, sure, I don’t really like disruption but I can largely cope with the breaks now without becoming some wobbly attachment jelly creature/raging text psycho but not this time it seems! So that leads me to wonder: how much disruption is too much disruption (for me)? And based on recent evidence it looks like two separate two week breaks in a six week period is the threshold! I said last time that Em more than earns her breaks and I understand that breaks are part of the fabric of therapy it’s just not easy explaining that to all the parts that get so affected by holidays. Like part of me wants to cheekily (but kind of seriously say), “take a holiday but just one per calendar month, please.” 😉

I have been wondering whether I would have handled a break of one solid month better than this? I doubt it! Or maybe if there had been a slightly longer intervening period between the breaks it may have been more manageable…I just don’t know. I suspect it’s not just about the number breaks it’s the fact that this second one came just at a time when my life has got a whole other level of stress come in from left field and so really it’s more about timing – which can’t be helped because life doesn’t work like that!

Thinking about how much this break has disrupted me has also made me really grateful that Em is not a sickly person – she seems to have the constitution of an ox and has only cancelled one session, at short notice, in the entire 4.5 years we have worked together. That happened in the very early days when I was seeing her in the NHS and I really wasn’t bothered back then because I hadn’t really allowed myself to feel anything towards her at that point, and was grateful that I didn’t have to get myself and my new baby out the house and into a 9:30am session! How things change eh?!

If she were to text me to cancel the day before or perhaps on the morning of a session, now, there are parts that would struggle not to feel abandoned, upset and (probably) a bit angry. I know this is because my need for her feels massive and a lot of the time those younger parts seem to exist on some kind of countdown until the next session. However, alongside this young needy part, there is another older, more nurturing part that would also really want to make sure she was ok and was being looked after if she was unwell and not care at all about not having my session.

Recently, when I could tell she wasn’t quite right (physically – lol!), I bought her the gem stones as a gesture to show her that I care. Therapy had been difficult for quite some time and I didn’t feel able to just ask her if she was actually ok despite knowing that she wasn’t. I was shutting her out because I was feeling shut out by her (not because of her being ill!) and it had become a vicious cycle.

Having worked together for so long I wonder, now, why I couldn’t just ask her at the time if she was ok even though it was a rough patch? I suspect part of it was something about not wanting to be intrusive and being fobbed off or ‘kept out’ whilst another part of it might have been about not wanting her to confirm that she wasn’t ok because so many parts of me need her to be ok. I want her to be human – but not so human that she gets poorly! Oh my god I’m such a walking contradiction! Lol!

The therapeutic relationship certainly is weird isn’t it? Our therapists poke at our core issues time and again (not always on purpose – we just sometimes don’t see the open trap door as we’re walking along and plunge into darkness) and yet also offer some of the most powerful healing we’ve experienced. It is a relationship it is set up to benefit us, not them….and that feels odd, particularly to those of us that have had a lifetime of trying to meet other people’s needs whilst sacrificing our own!

I hate that Em’s absence affects me but I also really struggle with the fact that she doesn’t need me in the least. She doesn’t miss me when she’s away – or certainly not in the way that I miss her (which is a very good thing because I don’t think she’d be the ideal therapist if she did)! When she is sick she has other people to care for her. If she is struggling in her life I would never know about it. I am not a friend or family member and so I am completely ignorant of what goes on for her outside that room – unless it impacts me in some way and then she lets me know what I need to know.

The whole thing is set up to help me and focuses on me…and that is actually alien in most of our relationships. It’s not a reciprocal arrangement and that’s why we have to pay for it. That’s how we meet their needs. I know for a lot of us paying to maintain one of our most intimate relationships feels weird but paying for it doesn’t make it any less of a relationship, it’s not fake (the teen part and inner critic are off somewhere else at the moment so can’t argue with that!).

I know that this is how it’s all meant to be but it is hard to find a place to put all that sometimes – other than ‘this is a therapeutic relationship and it’s different from other relationships we have’. Ironically when Em says that to me it makes me bristle, like I get a proper kick back, because I’ve always seen that comment through the lens of ‘limitations’ ie what the therapeutic relationship ‘isn’t’ or ‘can’t be’ for me. “This is a therapeutic relationship and so x, y, z and that might feel rejecting or like I don’t care…” In the past I have felt that this means the therapeutic relationship therefore ‘has less value’ than other relationships and it must be ‘meaningless’ because it doesn’t fit the mould of other ‘meaningful’ relationships. That deduction instantly fills me with shame, though, because this ‘nothing’ relationship is so hugely important to me. So on the one hand I am like ‘fuck it, it’s nothing’ and on the other hand I am like ‘oh my god this relationship is killing me because I need it, and HER, so much! It’s so important to me.’

Whenever Em has said something about our relationship being ‘therapeutic’ I’ve often heard that as her attempt to distance herself from me rather than her trying to show me that the boundaries that can feel so difficult sometimes are there to protect us both even when they feel rejecting. She can’t meet all my needs but she can meet some. She can’t be there all the time but when she is there she gives me her undivided attention. I’m beginning to see that I actually need and want the therapeutic relationship (even with its limitations) because what I am SLOWLY learning is that Em is committed to the work with me and I get the best version of her in the time I have. I suspect in real life she’s probably just a dick like the rest of us!

Anyway back to this therapy break. I joked at the end of my last post that I hadn’t text Em ‘yet’. And despite flailing about like a fish out of water I really had no intention of reaching out to her. I mean let’s face it, what’s the point? Pretty much every time I have sent a desperate connection seeking text and she has responded it’s all gone belly up anyway. Our hit rate of her replying to a text and me responding in a triggered state is about 90% Ugh. And let’s not even talk about the times I have text her and she hasn’t replied or acknowledged it at all. Ha. Let’s face it outside contact has been a minefield. I’ve wanted it and it’s pissed me off when I have got it and pissed me off when I haven’t!!

Em’s boundary on outside contact has always been that she would prefer it if I didn’t text or email unless it’s something to do with scheduling but that she does generally respond if she has a concern for safety. So in theory if I text her to tell her I am struggling and need an extra session she’ll respond but if I send her something but without an overt request then she’ll leave it til session– unless she thinks I’m properly not coping. To many parts of me this no outside contact rule has always felt incredibly rejecting but as time has gone on I (adult) can understand why she wants to keep communications in the room as she often say, “therapy happens here” and it’s “live” and “between us in the here and now”.

I am living proof of why outside contact can be such a minefield. I have got used to occasionally sending messages and not getting replies. It’s not great. It upsets me a bit but it doesn’t send me over the edge because most of the time whatever it is I have said can wait. It’s almost like when I am struggling I want her to have a heads up so that if things go silent in the session she has something to work with. Ie I’ll send a link to something and put ‘can we look at this in session on Monday’. I don’t require a reply in the moment I am basically just forwarding her the map.

I try really hard not to reach out at all because it fills me with shame when I do. Most of the time I don’t text or email Em. I don’t need to. I don’t actually want to either. Things are contained enough in the sessions and it’s fine…I mean it’s not fine, but I can hold things for myself until I am in the room. It’s only when the wheels are falling off inside the sessions and things are not contained enough that outside contact becomes a problem. If I can’t touch base and connect in sessions then part of me goes all out to try and connect outside them. It’s bloody embarrassing.

So, no prizes for what happened on the Wednesday following my Monday session – only two days into the break.

Yup.

I sent a text.

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IDIOT!!!

Why? Why? Why?

Do I never learn?

Clearly not.

I mean honestly. WTAF?

I hate that my feelings of abandonment and rejection (just because there is a break) make things feel so difficult. I hate that when I do cave in and contact her I feel as though I am breaking the rules and disappointing her but sometimes I just can’t not. I know how daft that sounds.

Why would I knowingly walk into a situation where I am going to be left feeling rejected and abandoned for more than two weeks? I guess, the answer to that question is that there is a desperate little part of me that hopes I won’t be, hopes I will get a response, hopes that something will come that is enough to be soothing and settle things down…

… And perhaps this, too, when I am drowning, and I mean DROWNING in attachment pain and feel like I can’t breathe or function perhaps hitting the big red button where I don’t get a reply from her and thus can prove she doesn’t give a shit about me actually shifts me into anger and rage and I can instead focus on how shit Em is, and how neglectful, and how I hate her and that is easier than sitting with the feelings of just really fucking missing her. Don’t they say that anger is just sad’s mask?

As I sat full of that deep deep aching empty pain on Wednesday morning it dawned on me that in the past I was so triggered by the pain I felt when Em was gone (yeah yeah, the mother wound it’s not all about her! I know!) that I was unable to see that when I had reached out to Em in a state she had generally responded to me outside session. She has, on multiple occasions tried to connect with me when I have asked for it. She had proved that she was still there. And yet on these occasions I was in such a triggered state and so programmed to feel rejection and abandonment that was all I could see in her messages. I had one narrative ‘she doesn’t care’ and part of me was looking for confirmation even though clearly another part was reaching out hoping for connection.

The messages she sent me were never ‘good enough’. They never said quite the right thing. They weren’t right for me. I guess at that those times I have such a clear idea of what I need that I don’t see that she can’t give me word for word what I want because she’s not a bloody mind reader – and in addition to that she is her own person in the relationship with me and she has to reply in a way that feels right to her. Oh, and let’s not forget that actually what each part needs can be wildly different too and so getting a bullseye is like walking round blindfolded and trying to pin a tail on a donkey!! OMG it’s a disaster!

She said, after the Christmas 2017 debacle that she had felt like I was trying to script her and that she did reply to me and that she did care but I just couldn’t take it in… and I understand that now, whereas at the time I thought I was showing her what I needed to feel better and felt so indignant about it all when I didn’t quite get it. You’ll laugh now, that I read those messages and they are ‘fine’!!!

On Wednesday, then, I sat on my bed and was fully pissed off with myself. Why? Well, because basically it seemed to me that Em stopped responding to me in April 2018 and perhaps it’s because I have always criticised what she’s done for me and our ‘crisis’ communications just weren’t working so she stopped them to stop more ruptures. I mean sure there are probably a whole plethora of other reasons for what’s happened and I guess I will try and have this conversation when we meet on the 6th September but on Wednesday that’s where I was at.

And so this is what I sent:

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I didn’t expect a response, although I did hope for one.

The day dragged on and on.

I kept checking my phone despite knowing that she was at work in the NHS and so wouldn’t reply to me during working hours (or at all).

I knew she had an hour’s drive home.

I know she has a child and would have things to do in the early evening…because that’s what my life is like too.

But at 8pm I had given up hope and had resigned myself to another break of feeling like she doesn’t care, that I don’t matter, and then cycling through all the associated feelings.

Fun times.

That evening I was talking to my wife about her new job and didn’t look at my phone until 9:34 when it lit up.

And low and behold there was a message from Em.

OMFG!

I didn’t read it straight away as I wanted a quiet space to take it all in. But actually, just seeing that she had responded felt amazing. Like properly amazing. I really didn’t care what was inside the text. As I said earlier, I’ve kind of gone past worrying about the specific words, and wanting to unpick every tiny bit of a text searching for what I need in the moment, and rather have decided that seeing the bigger picture is a better idea – ie she has text me out of hours and that must mean that she cares – and try and take that in and absorb it instead. And you know what it really worked.

I opened the message. It was fine. Really similar to the one I got my knickers in a knot about two summers ago. If anything it’s ‘less’ personal than that one. BUT the big difference is I can see that she’s trying to help me AND THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS PROGRESS!

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I felt my whole system calm right down after reading the message. I still miss Em. I really want it to be our next session because I feel like there is loads and loads to say and work through. I want to know what it was that made her reach out to me again in this way after so long. I want to tell her what a huge difference that message made. I want to express how being willing to stretch her boundaries a little bit has made me feel much safer and settled in the relationship again BUT importantly it HAS NOT made me want to keep contacting her or reaching for her. I need her to understand that I am not someone who ‘if she concedes and inch I’ll want to take a mile’ – far from it.

I’ve been really ill this last week with a viral throat infection and tonsillitis and despite feeling mega sorry for myself (and little) I have not wanted to text Em at all. I can handle those feelings of longing to be looked after for myself. I can adult my way through it until the 6th because I know she’s out there. Right now I am able to hold her in mind and I haven’t always been able to do that.

Anyway, it’s just over a week til we meet again and in the meantime I need to get my arse in gear and get school ready – both my kids and me! I’m sure the time will fly by… well, I hope so because I really want to go in and smile and say, “thank you!” And you know what? I think I am gonna survive this break!

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Summer 2019 – Therapy Break #1

 So, here I am, back in the here and now and writing about my (mental health) life in 2019! My last few blog posts have been blasts from the past (old diary entries) tracking the horrible crisis period that saw me finally start therapy with my therapist Em in 2012. I haven’t seen her consistently through that time – there was a three year break between 2013-16 where I was doing okish, had a baby, got myself together a bit… and then unfortunately got diagnosed with cancer and had to go through all the treatment for that which sent everything off kilter again.

Ironically, there’s not a lot to say right now about therapy because, yes, you guessed it, it’s the most dreaded time of the year: SUMMER THERAPY BREAK!

ARGH!

This year Em has raised the stakes for triggering my feelings of abandonment  (#sarcasm) and is taking not one but two breaks of a fortnight each over the summer. To be fair, I did get months and months of prior warning about this year’s holidays (in order to give me plenty of time to dread and brood about the inevitable separation! 😉 )  but no amount of mental preparation ever really helps me feel ready for the reality of being in therapy limbo in the summer.

I find longer breaks (anything more than a week) quite challenging at the best of times and so two separate two week breaks falling almost back to back at a time I historically find incredibly challenging due to my dad going away on his holiday and never coming back is really tough. Every summer I get a knot in my stomach in the lead up to the holiday. I panic that Em might just go away on holiday and die, too. I know the odds are very slim but PTSD brain doesn’t understand that does it? It’s happened once to someone I love so surely it can happen again.

These days, at least, I can talk about these anxieties in my therapy and Em is very aware of just how hard July and August are for me. In fact this year she has regularly brought up the topic of the break and we have spent time talking about how it feels especially in relation to everything that happened a decade ago with my dad. I think regular checking in has made it feel a bit better although I do still struggle to really say exactly how I feel about her holiday.

These days I feel like I should be ok about breaks because we’ve been working together for such a long time now and she always comes back. I should see that she does return… and yet I still can’t quite believe she will be there in the room after a holiday. That massive panic is never far beneath the surface. I can’t imagine how I would cope if one day I was told she was gone gone not just away. Eek.

There is still a very active part of me wants to beg her not to leave me, to promise that she will definitely come back, and to tell me that she isn’t going away because of something I have done to push her away. I want her to reassure me that she’s not going away because she’s had enough of me. I have said this stuff to her before on more than one occasion and she has reassured me many many times!!  I know how young these thoughts/feelings are and so that’s why I struggle to articulate them – it’s mortifying – but these feelings are completely understandable based on my history and Em has helped normalise them and washed a bit of the shame coating off them.

The last session before holiday (Friday 19th) she asked me again how I felt about the break. All week I had been stressing about the final session. Therapy (and life) has been hard lately. I have been talking about the very real stresses of the here and now in my sessions  – my wife’s job loss and the quickly diminishing savings can’t help but take centre stage.

I haven’t been avoiding the other big things I just have been more concerned about the possibility of having to move away and downsize than the attachment stuff. Actually, maybe that’s not quite right – I haven’t had the capacity to allow myself to feel and explore the attachment stuff and so have had to sideline it for a while. It’s still there, swirling about, but I can’t manage it all if it’s not active. I can’t invite in those difficult feelings because I don’t have enough reserves to safely contain them. I know they always catch up in the end, though!

I feel really sad that my therapy has gone off on an unexpected tangent even though the work we have done has been connecting and helpful. I feel sad because the two sessions before we got the shock of my wife’s job loss I had really started to open up to Em about the eating disorder and it felt like we had really started to tackle a very delicate area that I have avoided looking at head on for a long time. It was big work and scary but felt like it was going to be ok and helpful. It’s work that has been waiting to be done for twenty years. Still, there is time for it and it will happen eventually.

The last session before the break began with more of the adult talking about being an adult with adult concerns. It was ok. Useful even. BUT. Not for all of me!  When I arrived at the session I was already in self-protect/shutdown/adult mode and replied and so when Em asked me after half an hour about how I was feeling about the break, I replied, “It’s fine.”

(It’s not fine – NOT FINE AT ALL!)

It almost comes out on autopilot doesn’t it? ‘Fine’ Such a well-worn response. There have been many times I would say that and then quickly change the conversation because frankly I don’t want to admit to being a big wobbly pile of need when she’s leaving. She’s more than earned her break and surely I can just suck it up and let her go without disintegrating every time she does.

The shame and the embarrassment around acknowledging that her absence REALLY impacts me is just unbearable despite how often Em tells me there is no need for the shame. That’s why I think I had decided to try and keep things ‘light’. Last week as I heard the words come tumbling out of my mouth I could feel the betrayal of my young parts. I could feel that sadness as they realised they were going to have to suffer in silence again over the whole break. I felt the physical ache in my chest and stomach hit.

Surely, I wasn’t going to do this to them again?

Why is it so easy to starve myself of connection and an opportunity to maybe make things feel a bit better because part of me finds it easier to be aloof than vulnerable?

I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I wanted to continue with the ‘fine’ – but as I said in a previous post fine is really just code for ‘Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional’ anyway … so maybe I was fine after all!

I looked up and met Em’s gaze (man sometimes it feels like her eyes are burning holes into my soul). And tried again, “It’s fine, but for some parts it isn’t fine at all.” She was really gentle and kind and acknowledged that for the younger parts any separation is really hard. Basically she did the reassurance thing about how she fully intended to come back, and that everything is ok between us, then talked about my dad dying and what it was like being left when I was little by my mum – and it felt ok, good even despite the painful feelings that were swirling – so much loss.

Then I said, “I hate this” (meaning still feeling so affected by her going away even after so much time) and she said she understood how hard it was and asked what was the hardest part. “I shouldn’t feel like this” I moaned. “Why shouldn’t you?” she questioned. I sat there mentally listing all the reasons I mentioned above – basically that she always comes back and so I am wasting my energy feeling shit about her going away and that she is just a therapist so why do I even care?

I didn’t say any of it aloud and merely replied with “I don’t know” because there was another part that realised there really isn’t a ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ about the feelings I have – they just ‘are’. Why beat myself up about it? I miss her when she’s gone and that’s how it is.

We talked a bit about how it is ok to have needs and feel loss and miss people. She said that as I child I wasn’t kept in mind and had to hide or shelve my needs and so it’s no wonder this all feels crap because it feels like I’m being abandoned and neglected all over again even though that isn’t the case – and so expressing feelings of sadness about my needs not being met is something I am not used to doing.

Em is really good at making things feel a bit better. She doesn’t fix it. She can’t. She can’t stay. She can’t promise to come back because life might deal an unexpected blow but she always says that it is her intention to come back on whatever the date is – this time 5th August. She can’t fix what happened in the past but she can bear witness to my story.  She normalises my feelings (the ones that make me feel like I am crazy!) and in doing so she removes a bit of the shame that acts like toxic layer of fog around me.

Yeah, I’m gushing again! ha! I love my therapist 😉

The problem is, when I can’t see her, when we are on breaks, the shame that surrounds me gets thicker. It distorts my view again. I lose sight of myself and her. This makes the system inside panic. Young parts feel terrified. Everything feels scary and shit. ARGH attachment pain!! Then critic steps in and then I’m done for: I feel stupid, weird, abnormal.

A nightmare.

So, where am I at now? Well I’m halfway through the first break of the summer. One more week until I am back in the room. I feel like I have so much that I want to say. It’s not a long time to wait and yet it feels an age because in the last couple of days I somehow got unexpectedly steam-rollered by the attachment ache – a couple of ‘therapy dreams’ and the young stuff activating and boom it’s all a struggle again! I had been doing fine until then and yet now I am in that place where I am desperate to reach out in some way – frustrated that I can’t – and sad too. Bloody minefield isn’t it?!

I’ve been trying to do things to take my mind off the horrible empty feeling that sits in my chest. It’s glorious weather right now and I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful area so this morning I went off to the river and woods for an early morning walk and since then I’ve been relaxing in the garden watching the kids play and generally trying to enjoy the fact that I am not teaching until Thursday. I guess I am trying to do self-care even though it really doesn’t come naturally to me. I feel like I don’t deserve to be cared for and so looking after myself really seems an odd thing to do. I know it’s insane.

Anyway, I will get through the next week. I won’t lie, though… I am really looking forward to the 5th.

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Old Patterns: Part 3

I wrote what follows back in early 2013. I’d recently stumbled over the writing I had done in 2009 Old Patterns: Part 1  and Old Patterns: Part 2 which recounted the time of the big breakdown and the scary interventions and decided to start writing again having not put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard in the whole intervening period. I was in therapy and beginning to feel ‘all the things’ with Em 😉  and so this leads up to June 2013 which saw the end of a 16 month period of psychotherapy on the NHS.

This is the last long blast from the past instalment on the blog. Loads has been going on in the here and now lately and I have just started the summer therapy break so I will get to catching up on 2019 soon!

Anyway, here goes!:

Nearly four years have gone by since I wrote here and rereading what I have written makes me so sad. Sad because right now, all this time down the road, I feel totally out of control again. It’s like I’m still circling the pit of doom. I know this isn’t completely true. I have not been stuck in a consistent state of depression since dad died- far from it – but I seem to find myself back down in the depths of despair wondering how, once again, I find myself in such a mess after so much time has elapsed?

How on earth can I be here again?

I have done the therapy – but it’s not enough, I know there is so much more left to process and I do not have enough time.

Still, let’s bring things up to speed before I get to what’s happening now.

After the seven month long nightmare with the breakdown Dr M wrote to get me put on a waiting list for psychotherapy in the NHS. I knew the wait would be a reasonably long time and so in the interim I had been recommended a private counselling service to try. I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a therapist I was just desperate to not feel so bad and went with the suggestion.

I went religiously to weekly sessions with my therapist N for two years but really made no progress on the big big things, not because I avoided talking about them (that’s progress right?!) but because I was told that my issues were too complex for her as she was just training. You would think I would have jumped ship then and found a more suitable match but after so long I didn’t feel able to kick my crutch out from under me. I liked her a lot and just being in the room each Monday night felt helpful. I think the ritual of going and talking for an hour was at times all that kept me going, even though I didn’t really gain anything other than stability. Not that I am underestimating the need for stability.

I terminated the therapy in the end. I was doing okish. Good enough. The eating disorder was quiet. The grief was still there but I had sort of learned to live with it. I was functioning! Life felt pretty good, really. I was back at work full time and enjoying it. I’d moved house. I’d travelled a lot. I’d got married. I was doing ok at adulting and still not yet 30. Win! I had kind of accepted that maybe the stuff I carry around in the shadows was always going to be there and I should just learn to live with it.

To be honest by the time the letter finally came through inviting me to attend 12 months of psychodynamic psychotherapy (30 months after the initial referral!) it came as a bit of a shock. I’d almost forgotten I was on a waiting list!

About six months after my GP had made the initial referral I had two appointments with a Clinical Psychologist in the Psychotherapy Department in the same scary building where I had seen the psychiatrist that wanted to put me on lithium. Same god awful waiting room. The bright yellow woodchipped walls still giving off a luminous glow of doom. Ugh!

When I went to these sessions I didn’t know they were only assessment interviews, no one had told me and it certainly wasn’t clear from the letter. I thought it was the therapy starting. I didn’t really like or warm to the therapist but given there’s not much choice in the NHS I thought I should seize my opportunity and start PROPERLY talking especially as N couldn’t help me with the ED. It would probably take a while to warm to this new therapist because she wasn’t N.

At the end of the second appointment the therapist told me that she definitely thought I needed psychotherapy and that I would now go on a waiting list for long-term therapy. I felt like I had been hit by a bus. What did she mean, go on another waiting list?? I had just spewed some serious bits of a lifetime of shit at this woman and now I was left hanging again. For fuck’s sake! Still, I’m good at shoving traumatic memories down into boxes and pretending they’re not there (you should see my loft!) and so that’s what I did. I went off and got on with my life – and I still had N even if she couldn’t help me with the anorexia.

So skip to January 2012 – As I said, A LOT had changed since my breakdown. For the first time ever I felt pretty grounded, happy, excited about the future. Now really wasn’t when I needed the therapy but I was wise enough to know that the issues that I’ve been struggling with since my teens hadn’t gone away, they were just dormant. And so I arrived at my first psychotherapy appointment 37 weeks pregnant and feeling quite on top of things.

It must have been a shock to Em my therapist.  I suppose reading my notes she might have reasonably been expecting an anorexic falling apart person to show up in the room and  instead she got a blossoming heavily pregnant woman…how did that happen?!

The moment I met Em I liked her. It was a completely different response to the therapist I had seen for the assessment. I felt comfortable with her from the first session. I don’t know what it was…I just really liked her. She had a nice face and smile, her body language was open. I dunno. I can’t explain. BUT it was good news all the same. I hadn’t really thought much around the logistics of therapy with a baby on the way but Em said that we could wait to start the sessions til after I had the baby and as soon as I felt able I could ring and let her know and start coming to see her.

She said that of course it was fine to bring the baby as she’d be little and need feeding etc. Basically she made the whole thing feel really easy – I didn’t lose my place on the list because I couldn’t start that week. So two weeks after my gorgeous little girl arrived I found myself in the room talking and breastfeeding. Turns out my baby needed feeding EVERY SESSION for the first four months.

So.… skip forward again.

I’ve been going to my sessions for a year now and I have made some good progress and uncovered some issues and set a few of  them at rest. But despite Em being really great there have still been things I have felt unable to address with her. Some of this is because I know my therapy must end soon and I feel like I have run out of time.

It’s taken me three months of mentally psyching myself up to tell her that I am really struggling with my ED again – it’s been especially bad since I have gone back to work after mat leave. I think I have passed the glow of having had a baby and now feel like the baby weight is just fat.

For months I have skirted round the edge of this issue, repeatedly being lost for words or filling my session time with insignificant garbage…. I am distracting myself from what is really important and something that is slowly taking over my life again.

Why?

Well, I guess it’s for many reasons. After giving it a lot of personal thought time- the time when the lights are out and the demons take root in my mind- I think I have reached the conclusion that I haven’t felt able to talk about my eating disorder because I am embarrassed and ashamed about it.

I am ashamed that for 15 years I have been secretly starving myself, on and off, when I can’t cope with my life. I am scared to admit that apart from my pregnancy, I have never achieved a healthy BMI and that I consider anything close to 18 fat whilst still knowing that it is at the bottom end of the healthy.

Part of it is that I don’t want Em to judge me.

I judge myself harshly enough already.

But today I realised with only a few sessions remaining I had to say something otherwise I will be 45 and still battling with these issues which doesn’t even bear thinking about, especially when my daughter will look to me as a role model.

I need to change.

I know it’s going to be really hard.

I know I cannot do this on my own.

Today, I sat down in the chair and soon realised that I couldn’t even speak. I felt myself getting angry with myself. How could I have mentally planned what I wanted to say, dreamt it every night for a week, and yet again find that I was mute? What was stopping me just telling my truth? Why is it so hard to open up and trust someone with this stuff?

I know she could see I was struggling again and, thankfully, I just sat there and she filled my silence and led me along. She told me that she felt like I was holding back and that the need to cry was really strong and that she could see that everything was too much.

She was right.

Somehow, I falteringly began to get my words out. I told her of how I hated myself and how I had become really self destructive and how I didn’t see the point of being here. She asked me if I felt suicidal. I said yes. She asked me if I had thought about ways of ending it. I said yes. She asked how. I told her: crashing my car, overdosing, cutting myself. She asked me if I had ever done any of those things before. I told her yes. She asked what stops me from acting on it, and I pointed to my baby girl. And from there the words kept coming, albeit messily and not always coherently.

I told her about how people have told me I look ill, that I am too skinny at work. I told her how I felt like I am losing it. I told her how I feel I am battling with myself all the time. I never know if I want the part that wants to be well to win or the critical self-attacking part to win. I told her that I struggled to talk because I have been in the situation before and been told I did not have an eating disorder after skilfully answering questions that meant the end score did not add up to ‘anorexia’.

She seemed to understand and acknowledged that I am skilled at letting people see what I want them to and understood hard it must be. I told her how I was sick of always falling into similar patterns, how every time things get overwhelming I start hurting myself rather than helping. She asked what I want to look like and I told her I didn’t know, only that I can never see how bad things are at the time and it’s only afterwards when I look at a picture that I can see how thin I am. I told her that the more weight I lose the less I see how thin I am and focus on the areas I perceive as fat and the number on the scale.

I was inarticulate and confused but I did it. I FINALLY told someone what I am carrying around and now the door is open to deal with it…. I feel nervous and exposed and know that next week I will have to keep myself in check and stop myself from playing what I have said down in a defence and actually let myself remain open. The embarrassment is ebbing away and I feel finally like I might get the help I need with this….I just hope I have enough time. That’s what really frightens me. For the first time I have opened up, but I think maybe I’ve left it too late.

I am scared of being left hanging in June, in crisis and having to leave the security of the room and the weekly safe space I have to unburden myself. I am worried I will not cope. Things are bad already without the only support I have being removed. Truthfully, I am terrified.

A week on, another session, and another mild failure in my ability to build on what I said the previous week. I am so painfully aware that in a few sessions my safety net is going to be completely removed that I think I’m probably withdrawing into myself a bit trying to protect myself from another loss. I have lots to say but don’t think there’s time now and as such I think I am wisest trying to put my armour back on and get ready for life ‘out there’ without my weekly check in.

Interestingly, today, Em commented on how I seemed different today than last week (where I was completely flustered and anxious but just about able to talk). I was behaving differently, but actually, in the last week, nothing much has changed for me. I am feeling anxiety about leaving my job, my brain is in a million places and actually what’s happened is that I have ejected my emotions out into space to allow me to function. I have been obsessing about my weight, I even found an app that allows me to track exactly what I am eating and how this will or will not impact my desired weightloss.

I now spend time inputting what I eat into the app and watching the calories go down….I’m aiming for 1000 a day at the minute which is manageable and won’t draw any attention. It also allows a steady weight loss. I am currently 7st 5 which gives me a BMI of 16. I am not happy with my body. I am not happy with myself. I never am. I guess next session I should address this deliberate food restriction. Oh but the shame. God.

I wondered today about something she said to me. She commented on how despite everything, I’d still been able to function and things hadn’t fallen apart and I should be proud of that. Why would I feel proud? I’ve succeeded in reigniting my fiery eating disorder, I’ve taken sick days when I’ve felt unable to cope, I’ve been struggling to sleep, on more than one occasion I’ve had suicidal thoughts, but I haven’t fallen apart. What does that even mean? I haven’t physically harmed?

In the build up to termination today she said that a year of therapy is not a long time and that there are organisations that I can use to find another therapist in the future if necessary. It felt like the rug was being pulled out from under my feet. Something inside felt really painful, like I had been kicked in my solar plexus and my chest went so tight. I felt sick. It felt like I was going to fall apart. I sat there still and tried not to look affected.

I really am going to lose her in a few weeks. I can’t even go there. The loss feels too huge. She is just my therapist but for some reason this ending feels immense- so much worse than ending with N. It was never my intention to let Em matter to me. I knew this was a relationship that had a time limit and yet here I am faced with the reality that somehow or other she does matter to me, I do need her, and oh the fucking irony I can’t stay.

After years of therapy at different intervals, I really can’t envisage starting over again with another therapist. Let’s face it, it takes me an eternity to truly open up and I don’t want to start the process with another person in the future. Maybe she isn’t allowed to promote her own private therapy practice (I looked online this week to see if she exists outside that dingy room!- and she does!) but I would really like to continue working with her if I could.

The PCT dictates that the maximum time available for therapy here is a year, and I have already had this extended by two months because things have got so shit lately, but I know that realistically, had I been in private therapy, we would not be terminating right now.

So school is finished. I cannot believe I have walked away from teaching but I know right now this is what I need. I need to regroup and rebuild. I want to spend time enjoying my baby and focusing on my family.

Today I had another therapy session. It always takes me by surprise on a therapy day how I wake up buzzing as though there is an electric current flowing through my body. It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s as though I am adrenaline filled and there is no outlet for it.

I noticed, as I sat in the waiting room that my hands were shaking. This was not due to low blood sugar, but rather, nerves. Was I nervous? I suppose so. I worry sometimes that she’ll think I am wasting her time. I always feel like I am waffling my way through and not saying what I should be.  I feel like I am boring.

We talked today about ending work (school not the therapy) and how I don’t ever feel calm. I mentioned how I so easily forget positives about myself and fill myself with doubt. I talked about the tutoring that I have been approached about and how I have felt unable to respond to the email despite knowing it will generate income. I know it is because it feels like work is still there and all the negative associations I have about being judged and failing despite never having performed badly in my work.

She broached the subject of food today. I didn’t build on that opportunity but did talk about obsessive behaviour patterns like running at 5am and how I have had to reign myself in, knowing that one run will become alternate days, then daily, then add in a bike ride etc. I suppose I could then have talked about the food and the app – another tool for me to berate myself with.

I have 4 sessions left now, one of which will be closing up and I have to address this fucking albatross ED. I know it’s tied to self-esteem, perfectionism, sexuality, lack of control….the list goes on….the thing is I need to unload it. Perhaps if I can let this secret out it will make it less of a monster and more of a mouse?

Something else that’s new: I feel more in my body lately. I feel more. I’m not stuck in my head or dissociating. That scares me a bit because what I feel in my body is horrid and overwhelming.

I talked today about remaining firm when people ask me what I am doing and telling them that I don’t know, and that it’s ok not to. She said this is known as ‘negative capability’ where a person can challenge the norm or go against convention and that it can be really healthy and shows that I can assert myself.

Oh man. I like her. I think maybe, if I am honest, I love her. She sees me as I am and doesn’t run away. To feel accepted as I am is novel and addictive. The more time goes on the more worried I feel about the termination of therapy. I really don’t want to be the tortured anorexic but I don’t feel able to be any other way at the moment. I don’t feel like I have the coping strategies to deal with what feels to me like another enormous loss and not eating is a way that I have always coped with emotional pain. I feel like I am losing H and Dad all over again and added to this, someone who has not flinched when I show them who I really am.

Walking into my session today I felt like I didn’t know what I would say or where it would go. I sat down and immediately felt the loss I am beginning to grieve before it has even happened. I could barely look at Em. I did, however, outline just how bad things feel right now. I told her how I take to my bed when little girl is asleep and lie under the duvet just to hide away from the world. She totally seemed to get the need to feel safe and she understood how I never feel soothed.

I explained that hiding in bed allowed me to be safe and not to harm myself. I told her about how I worry about hurting myself and I haven’t done that in years. She asked how and I told her about cutting and burning. These methods have been running through my head for a few weeks now. I have been looking of self harm websites. I guess that is a visual outlet rather than actually hurting myself.

Towards the end of the session more and more came out, as it always does and she picked up on that. I wish it didn’t take so long for me to get to what I need to say. We talked about the impact of ending and how I felt. She suggested that maybe I would feel angry or let down. I don’t feel either of those things, particularly. I just feel lost and sad that I don’t have more time to really unpick this….this self-destructive part that rears its head periodically. I didn’t say this.

I came home and tried to cut myself. The knife wasn’t sharp, though, so there are only superficial lines. No real damage done. I also heated a metal spoon and burned my skin. That really fucking hurt. Neither of these acts makes me feel like I have been able to find an outlet for how shitty I feel, though. I almost feel like I have failed and can’t even damage myself successfully. I feel pathetic.

I had no idea when I started this process that I had so many attachment issues. Em has suggested I have trouble with intimacy – well duh! I had no idea that so much was tied up in abandonment issues and dependency. I guess what has happened in the therapeutic relationship is that for a long time I have held back from allowing myself to get close to Em because I knew that the relationship would come to an end and I didn’t want to feel like I was alone and abandoned when the time finally came.

Fortunately or not, in December I guess I began to experience transference with her and then began to shut down a little for fear of frightening her and replaying issues. As it turns out this has happened anyway. It feels a lot like H, not being able to tell her about how I feel. I suppose what happened last week was the bit that I was terrified of, suddenly being so needy and dependent that I feel like I can’t function without that safety net. Argh. I know I have a lot to work through now about how this has all come about and why. We have a month break now and then it is the last session.

I decided to send Em an email to her private practice email asking if I could see her privately when we finish. She replied that she’d be happy to work with me but that she’d have to find out what the rules are and will let me know in our next session.

June 5th 2013

So today was the last session with Em. I went with a feeling of dread and nervousness after the email and also knowing it was the last session. I was worried that I had overstepped a boundary contacting her. She thanked me for my email and quickly told me that I could see her again but that it would have to be in 3 months or so in order for there to be ‘an ending’ with the NHS and fresh start with her privately. As much as I don’t want a gap, I do understand the theory behind it.

The session today was a bit bizarre as after a month away I felt like I couldn’t just open up and do it, particularly knowing it was the end and I would have to manage. I did talk through some superficial stuff and tried to remain upbeat and together – my outer world persona. I talked about how I have been trying hard to look after myself but that I don’t find it easy and it is easy to be critical. I know that that is the big thing I need to work through next time. I can’t avoid it anymore.

I have come away from today feeling numb – I know I am just shelving how I feel because I know I can’t deal with the idea of being alone with myself for a quarter of a year.

So – that was way back in 2013. I didn’t end up going back to Em until three years later (June 2016). When I finished the therapy I had six solid weeks of horrific nightmares and then one night I had dream where I was night swimming in a lake. I was feeling suicidal. I was cold and tired. I decided to drown myself. I calmly put my face down in the water and floated on my front. I waited. Just as things started to go black someone pulled me up and out of the water and into a boat. It was Em. She quickly wrapped a blanket around me. She said ‘you don’t have to do this to yourself anymore’ and held me close. And that’s when the nightmares finally stopped.

I picked myself up after that dream. I didn’t contact Em when the three months wait was up. Part of me wanted to but part of me was scared of ending up back in that dependent, unsettled place. I had another baby in 2014 and life actually was really very good until I got cancer in 2015 and then had to go through a year of treatment…cue a complete meltdown when that had all finished! The wheels really started falling off. All the old stuff started to become live again. So I approached Em and since then we have been working together solidly for the last three years working on so much shit. We’re still not done yet! But I am so glad I have her reliable, calm, non-judging presence in my life. And even though I am still trudging through trauma I can really see how far I have come.

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Unexpected And Unsettling Change

Honestly, sometimes I wonder if things are ever just going to settle down and get on an even keel here. I know life is never straightforward for anyone but I wish, even for just a couple of years, that it would just be stable and run of the mill for me. I don’t crave excitement. I don’t want anything grand. I simply want boring (but amazing) stability and safety.

My whole life seems to have been punctuated by bloody stresses and traumas and frankly I’m getting a bit fed up about it all as I find myself drowning in another unexpected sea of disaster and worry.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I am far from alone in life throwing shit at me but right now I am feeling a bit sorry for myself and sad and angry and … all sorts of feelings actually!

My therapist and I often joke (serious joke) about how hard I find change and uncertainty. Even this week, something as simple as her putting an I-pad on a tripod in the therapy room to do an EMDR type activity made waves inside me! The room was (slightly) different but we had discussed the change the session before and yet EEEK something was not the same – cue mild panic!…

I’m sure, based on this response you can imagine what happened the time she changed the client chair from an Ikea therapy chair to a pale blue sofa and put the sofa on the other side of the room from where I’d been used to sitting, as well as moving a bookcase, changing the curtains and the wall colour all in one week! The room looked so much better, but Gah! Change!! I need warning about these kind of things! haha.

I mean it’s funny tragic right?!

My childhood was a catalogue of uncertainty and instability and from the earliest times I lacked of a felt sense of safety and it’s carried on into my adult life, unfortunately. I really can’t remember a time when things felt ‘ok’ inside me or externally. I’ve always been on edge/high alert and there are so many factors involved in this.

I don’t suppose it helped that my mum had a terrible pregnancy and was hospitalised for the final two months because things were so crap for her with preeclampsia. I had to be induced in the end because I was in so much distress in the womb (!!) and after a two day labour where both mother and baby almost died I arrived 5 weeks ahead of schedule, tiny, and was put in an incubator for three days. My mum did not to recognise me as hers when they finally gave me to her.

Great start!

Things haven’t really ever improved from that point! I’m not really surprised given what she went through that my mum developed post-natal depression and struggled to be a mum to me. She’s always said she’s not maternal and has made a joke of it, but actually I think that’s a defence for knowing that things weren’t very good for either of us when I was small. It’s easier to joke than to acknowledge the varying degrees of failure that happened. I know what it’s like when your mental health is tanking and I know that looking after babies is no mean feat even when you’re on your A game and so I get that my early days weren’t exactly conducive to developing a sense of security. Bonding was never going to be straightforward.

Now I am on a roll with the moaning about instability I might as well let a bit more out and add that after the trauma of being born there multiple house moves growing up (16 ‘homes’ by the age of 16); several different schools; being ‘looked after’ by people that were not my parents (so many childminders!); being emotionally neglected and abused ‘I wish you’d never been born!’ by my mum when she was around but she wasn’t always around, in fact she was gone a lot!

From the age of four to eleven she was away five days/nights a week. I feel so sad for the little girl inside that just wanted to be loved, to be tucked up in bed at night and read a story by someone that loved her. The ache is huge. Every night when I put my children to bed and tell them stories, and remind them that I love them and tuck them in I feel that young part’s sadness and the little voice saying ‘why did no one love me enough to do this?’ 

I used to witness huge rows between my parents on the weekends when my mum was home before they finally separated when I was 11. You’d think things would have settled down somewhat after the separation but all that happened was an upscaling in the rage directed at me from my mum when there was no longer a husband to absorb it and that carried on til I left for university at 18. I’m not at all surprised that I turned all the hatred in on myself by self-harming, not eating, and generally neglecting and punishing myself.

If you are repeatedly undermined and attacked throughout your life by a caregiver it becomes your inner narrative. You are nothing. You don’t matter. It makes sense to deprive yourself because you are not worthy of anything good. I know my inner critical voice is modelled on my mother. I have left that childhood ‘home’ but that horrible, nasty, soul-destroying voice lives on in me. It’s painstaking work trying to free myself from it…or at least try and understand it better.

So basically because of this (and more…so much more!) I don’t feel safe in relationship but I also don’t feel safe in my wider environment.

I suspect the way I respond to change and upheaval isn’t exactly ‘normal’ (I mean come on, décor change in a therapy room freak out is not usual behaviour!!) because of my previous life experiences. It can feel like the end of the world when stressful stuff happens because I end up on my arse flailing about.

This feeling of doom and Armageddon gets worse with each new traumatic ‘event’. The sense that things are desperate and will never improve take root really quickly. It’s like the floor falls out from underneath me and I start plummeting into the abyss. To be fair to myself the more recent adult triggers haven’t been ‘light’. My dad dying abroad unexpectedly at 47 on a remote island wasn’t an easy thing to navigate even in a purely practical sense let alone emotionally and I am not surprised it still haunts me; getting a late stage cancer diagnosis six months after giving birth wasn’t ideal either and the treatment that followed was gruelling so my health anxieties are probably reasonable.

So, what’s the latest trigger for the zoom into doom? My wife lost her job out of nowhere two weeks ago. This has sent shock waves through my system. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not a death. It’s not cancer. It’s not childhood neglect and abuse. BUT it has sent me through a loop. I don’t like injustice. I feel angry when people treat others badly. I hate that people with power can abuse it. And whilst I (adult) know things will work out in the end I have felt awful and panicked. All the younger parts have been sent plummeting down into a deep deep hole. I have felt scared and paralysed.

Turns out that, as well as death and cancer, financial insecurity is something that terrifies me. I think we all like to think that money isn’t the be all and end all…but you know what? In the society that we live in it really is quite important. If you can’t pay your bills, well… what happens? You’re totally fucked.

As an adult I have tried really hard to create a stable environment for me and my family because I know how ‘unsafe’ I feel just being alive. There have been horrible things happen, losses that I still can’t get over, but until now I have at least felt like I have my home and so a degree of physical safety – somewhere I can escape to when the world feels all a bit too much. I know, that it won’t be long before my wife finds some kind of employment again but I also know that agency work will not pay anywhere like as well as what she has been doing in recent years…and so it’s going to be a struggle. Our life is going to have to change.

She’s already been off two weeks unpaid and that’s two weeks where the mortgage is still running, the bills keep coming in, the cars need fuel, the kids need stuff…….and then there’s that other big bill…therapy.

What do I do about that? I was convinced in week one that I would have to give up my sessions. I was ready to go in and have that conversation – and I cried about it the night before. I guess that’s one plus point…I located where the tears are kept! After all if you have no money coming in and kids to feed and a roof to keep over your head then how can you justify £450/month on therapy? It’s simply not viable.

I still don’t know what is going to happen with this but I have decided not to make any panic moves. I’ve told Em what has happened but I didn’t quit therapy there and then because we are just about ok for a month or two with bills.  If things haven’t resolved with my wife’s job by September then there will have to be some serious decisions to be made. The idea of not having therapy right now terrifies me but at the end of the day as much as we might like to pretend it’s a relationship that will be there no matter what… if you can’t pay for it you can’t have it. End of.

Ugh.

Em and I are approaching the summer therapy break. This year she’s taking two blocks of two weeks – one at the start of the school holidays and another at the end. I am dreading it. I am crap with therapy breaks and this summer is going to be the most disrupted time we’ve had in the last three years. I always struggle in the summer break. However, I am trying hard to hang onto a slight positive here. I am trying to see the summer break as a respite from having a therapy bill – there is no therapy but I have not quit therapy… and hopefully this time will allow me and my wife to settle on some kind of financial even keel.

So, yeah, that’s my life right now x

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A Mixed (Mental!) Month

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I realised earlier today that it has been almost a month since my last post here where I wrote about the knackered house and renovation project metaphor for me in therapy… and I know that I also never followed up on what happened after I threw all my toys out the pram and terminated therapy via text only to send a desperate message back to Em less than an hour later to undo it!!

I don’t think I have ever gone more than 10 or 11 days without blogging but lately I haven’t had much time or much to say, or perhaps I have had too much to say and don’t know where to begin because I have had so little time? I dunno.

I guess if I am being completely honest, every time I have thought about writing here there is a part of me that has felt huge resistance to doing so. This is a weird feeling for me because usually I find it really cathartic letting stuff out on the page. I think there’s a bit of embarrassment or shame about the mess I have got myself in over the last month and I feel a bit of a moron and don’t want to publish what’s happening?

There’s a lot of internal conflict going on right now. The Inner Critic has been running free lately. It’s been agony. I guess part of my inability to write boils down to a concern that I simply can’t be doing with any additional external criticism at the moment in addition to the shit I am piling on myself – not that that is what happens here, most people are unbelievably supportive,  but I really don’t need to be told right now that perhaps my therapist isn’t right for me when there are enough of my own doubting parts shouting that! I don’t feel particularly resilient and so I think I’ve buried myself in a pit – it’s meant to be protective but actually is bloody miserable down here!

This blog has always been about me tracking/logging what’s going on in my therapy so that maybe one day I can (hopefully) look and go ‘wow look how far I’ve come!’ I don’t write here to entertain people. My hope is, perhaps, by writing about and sharing my experiences that it might help a few people who are feeling similar feelings to feel less alone but essentially this is my space to rant and moan, be bonkers and try and process the tangled mess that is my inner world… and so that’s what I am going to try and do…

So, rewind to the beginning of May and the meltdown. Yep. I went back to therapy. I mean of course I did. I felt embarrassed about my outburst but the world didn’t end. Em is still there (sitting in that chair that feels a million miles away), I am still in one piece (ok, maybe more of a mosaic of fragmented parts, but you know what I mean!) and the therapy is still ongoing…albeit limping along in a rather painful fashion.

I have been really struggling in my sessions lately. Everything has just felt so difficult.  Honestly – I could run a master class in dissociation! The sessions have been largely excruciating as I have been unable to let Em in and I have been feeling utterly distraught both inside and outside of the therapy room. I’ve been doing  a lot of writing and drawing in my therapy notebook. I have religiously been taking the book to the session and LEAVING IT IN MY BAG!!!

FFS!

It’s not even funny.

During the week, outside the sessions, and as I travel to session I am determined that I will mention that I want to share my writing with her and yet the moment I walk in the room something happens, a part steps up and says, ‘no fucking way!’ and instead I sit struggling to talk, feeling sick, and unable to connect with Em feeling the fifty minutes ebb away and feeling increasingly panicked that I am losing vital time.

I can barely look at her most of the time let alone make eye contact and it feels massively awkward and frustrating. I want to connect but am also terrified of letting her see me. It’s like one part of me is desperate to move forward and has a foot hard on the accelerator and another part has its foot to the floor on the brake. It’s not a pleasant sensation I can tell you … and I don’t think it can be doing the car much good either!

Still, because there are so many parts floating about right now it means I am experiencing a really mixed bag of feelings and I can feel like a hologram flitting sometimes. I know that this is the work and I need to ride it out but blooming heck, it’s not easy!

Despite barely looking at Em or talking to her, a few weeks ago I noticed that she wasn’t quite herself, she had a slight cough and looked really tired. She has never been ill/off sick in all the time I have been seeing her so I noticed even this subtle unwellness. I guess we have been programmed as kids to notice everything, subtle changes have, in the past, signalled danger I suppose.

As much as parts of me have been keeping her at arm’s length (giant monkey arms – that are really long) there are other parts that still want to be close and care deeply about this woman that has been sitting in that chair trying to help me get my shit together for the last few years. Ha.

I love her.

That’s no secret right?

So, one day after yet another painful session where I had failed to tell her that I was freaking out about being too much and worrying that I am ‘bombarding’ her I was in town after teaching my tutees and went into a crystal shop. I am a big fan of gem stones. I like the fact that they are beautiful in their own right but I also like that some people believe that certain gems perform particular roles or have certain healing properties. So far as I can work out it can’t do any harm to carry a few beautiful things around with you and perhaps them do a bit of good too even if it is all just in all in the mind? – lord knows I can do with some assistance with anxiety and communication!

I had gone to the shop with the idea of buying Em something. Gifts in therapy can be a complete minefield can’t they? Actually in all the years I have been seeing Em I have only given her one thing (aside from cards at Christmas and the therapy anniversary). Last year I gave her a small marble with a heart on which cost next to nothing. Similarly, the gem stones are not high value but rather meant to be symbolic, kind of, ‘I know it’s been complete dog shit lately but I care about you and hope these make you feel a bit better’.

Whenever I buy crystals for myself or for other people I choose them based on the colours I associate with them rather than reading all the information about what they are ‘meant to do’. Because Em lives by the sea and generally wears blues and pastel colours I tend to associate her with pale blues and turquoises. I saw these two stones, blue lace agate and amazonite and was instantly drawn to them:

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When I got home I looked up the meanings and they are meant to be helpful for communication (which has been a fucking great problem in our relationship lately!) and soothing physical ailments and emotional issues as well as stresses in the workplace.

Bingo!

So, the next session I went with them in my bag….where they stayed!

The session after that I wore dungarees and put them in the chest pocket…where they stayed! I did make a bit of a move towards giving her them, ‘can I give you something’ with ten minutes to go and then completely dissociated and sat in silence for ten minutes completely gone and didn’t hand them over. I got completely overcome with fear. I was terrified that giving her the stones would let her know that I care about her (which duh was the point, right?!)…which feels scary because it could end up in her rejecting me in some way and quite frankly everything has been so fragile I just couldn’t risk it…even though clearly part of me wanted to.

By the third session Em was completely better and in no need of the crystals at all- ha! I sat pondering what to do. She obviously knew I had wanted to give her something in the last session but didn’t push me to talk about it. This session hadn’t been a complete disaster and with about 5 minutes to go we seemed to finally connect. Man that’d been a long time coming! I felt brave enough to ask her if I could give her the gift with two minutes remaining. She asked me what it was. I was like, ‘I’m not going to tell you what it is before I give it to you, that’s not really how it works!’

She took the gift, unwrapped it, and said she liked them very much. I explained the meaning behind them and she seemed genuinely surprised that I had noticed that she hadn’t been well. Then she did the therapisty bit about saying she thought it would be useful it we could have a conversation about them next time because she thought it would be helpful. I agreed…but before I left she just had enough time to put her foot in it:

‘When people give me gifts it can be really useful to talk about the meaning behind them. Then when the therapy is finishing I get the gift out again (because I don’t throw things away) and we discuss it again. Then people might take it back away with them as a symbol of the work we have done.’

Now. Perhaps it’s me…BUT… this made me bristle hugely for lots of reasons. To start, we had just gone through a month of hell in the therapy and this was, in part, me trying to get reconnected and show that whilst I might be resistant and difficult at times she does really matter to me and that I care about her and think about her when I am not with her. To be reminded at this point of ‘other people who give her gifts’ felt shit.

I mean I know I am ‘one of many’ but at the moment I didn’t need to be reminded of the clinical nature of the relationship. I’m under no illusions that this is a therapeutic alliance but it is our relationship – I don’t particularly want to hear about what she does with other people!

Then for her to say she doesn’t throw things away…I mean it hadn’t occurred to me that something I might give her would end up in the bin and whilst she was saying she doesn’t do that it seemed an odd thing to say.

Then finally, and this is the big one…I cannot imagine when my therapy comes to an end Em getting the things I have given her out, talking them through again and then saying I can take them all away with me would feel therapeutic AT ALL. In fact, right now, I think it would send me back into therapy!!

The idea that the things I would give her that have meaning could be given back so easily feels really rejecting. I can’t really explain what I mean but it’s something about me wanting her to have something that symbolises our relationship when I am gone and it feels like what she is saying is at the end she can wipe the slate clean ready for the next person to take the Monday 10:30 slot and the Friday 9:30 slot. Maybe I am just being oversensitive but it felt crap.

I went home and wrote in my book how I was feeling about what she had said and my feelings about it…and the words are still sitting on the page and she hasn’t seen them! By the time it was the next session and she brought up the gift again I had shut down and didn’t want to talk about it at all. She said something about them being about care or something but I can’t even remember now. I just felt angry and hurt. I dunno, something I wanted to be connecting just felt totally crap.

(Remember, I did say it’s been a really bad time lately!)

Then there were a few more hard sessions and then I had a holiday! Hurrah.

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Tbh I was glad to get away. I really needed a break. It was glorious and I wish I was still there! I have been working really hard lately. Teaching loads of sessions (the joy of exam season and teaching both English Literature and English Language GCSE and A Level) which has meant six days a week and lots of late nights. No wonder I have been strung out and useless in therapy!

I have realised that therapy cannot be done effectively when running on empty. It just becomes an exercise in firefighting crisis feelings because my piddly letterbox of tolerance is wedged shut. I am sure that things have felt as bad as they have because my day-to-day life has left me exhausted and overwrought. I just haven’t had capacity to hold all my pieces together properly and so when I have got to my sessions the wheels have fallen off because it’s been the only safe place in the week for that to happen. Pushing Em away has felt like the only thing I can do because if I really say how things are I might actually completely disintegrate.

Anyway, a week in the sun was just what the doctor ordered….actually this is true. At my last cancer follow up it was discovered I am deficient in vitamin D so a bit of sun was perfect (alongside my supplements!).

But of course the holiday also meant THERAPY BREAK – boo hiss – and do you know what made it even worse? She was not on holiday at the same time this year. So parts of me felt really sad that I was missing out on my sessions.

Honestly, this attachment stuff is kicking me in the ass right now!

Whilst the holiday was absolutely fantastic the return to therapy didn’t go brilliantly. What a surprise. The first session back, as I have said a million times before, is rarely easy and this last week was no different. Knowing I had a lot to say but also knowing that I have sat on stuff for six weeks I made the fatal error of sending a text on Sunday night asking Em to go through my writing in the notebooks with me and explaining that she has suggested that maybe I need to take a leap of faith in therapy and that this felt really risky but I was willing to try. I was so desperate to move things forward.

When I arrived Em immediately said that she’d seen I had sent her a text but that she hadn’t read it. FFS. I hate this. Straight away it set the protector parts on guard and I felt instantly like she simply doesn’t give a fuck about me so why on earth would I make a leap towards her when she simply isn’t in the least bit interested in me? Em tried to help me back into the room but I was upset and shut down. I asked her to read the text. She acknowledged how breaks stir things up but that also things had been really hard even before the break blah blah blah.

Then, whoop whoop, another great moment.

A lecture about communications outside the room and how she doesn’t want me to text or email her but wants to get to understand what makes me want to communicate with her when she is not available to me because I can’t seem to let her in when she is there. She used a feeding analogy. She’s done this before. She likens me to a hungry baby that for whatever reason cannot feed when mother is there and available to me and yet when she’s gone I realise just how starving I am and start desperately trying to feed and get increasingly upset. I know why this happens but trying to explain this feels too hard when my adult is unavailable because when the youngest parts are active the words aren’t.

I had been sitting swimming in the room, struggling to stay present, unable to really talk…I could see Em was frustrated and I said, ‘I feel like you are really frustrated with me’. She owned her frustration and said that she’s aware that it’s been awful for me lately and that she wonders if I think what we are doing is ‘good enough’ for me and if ‘she can help me’.

FUCK.

We all know what I heard at that point: she’s given up; my silences and dissociation have finally pushed her away; she doesn’t want to work with me.

She said that she wasn’t saying that the work was over or that she didn’t want to work with me but that she sees how painful it’s been for me. Try telling my brain that! It can’t hear you!!

Ugh.

I did manage to talk a bit and let some stuff out at this point. I think it was a panicked response to feeling like I might get terminated if I didn’t get my start talking soon. I can’t remember what I said now, though! But whatever it was it was vulnerable and open enough that Em said something about how the frustration had gone and that we can work through this together. She said that she thinks we need to work very explicitly with the parts, especially the ones that are resistant and gagging all the others.

This is good.

I think this is what I think needs to happen too.

She suggested maybe when things feel really blocked in session that perhaps I could write or draw…I like this idea but often when I am in a really bad spot there simply aren’t any words or pictures I’m just in a black pit of hell. However, there are times when I am not away in dissociative hell but struggling to speak that I think it might work really well.

Despite all the positives once we connected, I left Monday’s session feeling rock bottom. Everything felt wrong inside. I know I have a tendency to latch onto the one ‘bad thing’ I hear and then fixate on it rather than notice all the evidence of what is good in a session. I felt so far away from Em that my default coping mechanisms kicked in this week…or rather the Inner Critic stepped up to try and get some kind of control over the shit that was consuming me. Step one – incessant self-attacking voice:

‘You’re fucking pathetic. Look at you. Even your therapist can’t fucking stand you. She’s been so patient but you’ve managed to wear her out too. I don’t know why you would think she cares about you – she doesn’t…you’re wasting your time.’

It never takes very long for that incessant nagging to turn its attention to my body and eating. This week saw a rapid descent into being super critical of my figure. I felt like wanted to cut fat off my body. I started restricting what I was eating and got my trainers out after a year and went on a six mile run and then started on the outdoor gym across the road three days on the bounce…and between Tuesday and Saturday lost 3lb.

It’s not brilliant.

I can feel how things have switched in my head.

I knew, on Friday, that I had to tell Em what’s happening.

This, in itself, is a sign of progress, I think. The thing with my eating disorder is that I have always kept it secret when it is active. I have never talked about it in therapy (and it’s been there for twenty years soooo!) until last year when things got really bad and I was barely functioning. It started off ok, talking, and then it turned into nightmare and resulted in Em giving me an ultimatum after a few sessions. One session I came in and she was stony faced and serious. She told me that she wanted me to see my GP or we’d have to work towards an ending. In fairness to her I can see she was acting out of care and worry about my physical health, I had lost heaps of weight really radpidly and it was having an impact on my ability to function but it felt like I had been run over by a bus hearing her tell me that we would be done if things continued as they are.

That session was painful and we did manage to have a really productive conversation in the end and things got much better with me and I got a handle on my ED….however, that threat of an ending has stayed with me and fills me with fear when I think about what might happen in the future if things get bad.

On Friday, therefore I took a bravery pill and towards the end of the session told her things were sliding and that as a result I was worried about ‘losing her’. She responded really well. There was no time left but we have put this discussion on the table for today and I hope that it’ll go ok. I hope she will see that I have brought it into the room (even though it feels dangerous to do so) because that’s what I promised last year. I said to her that if things started to slip I would let her know before it had chance to become a big problem.

I can’t say I am not nervous. I am. But actually, at this point, there is so much work that I have been avoiding since Easter that I just need to dive in and see what happens….like my out of control octopus in my notebook!

bb111138-b4c9-49ae-be62-b2ba317459a1Throughout all this, Em has tried to reach me. Parts of me can hear it….it’s just there’s a couple of really noisy parts that are screaming right now about not trusting her and undermining the therapy. Basically, the house renovation has encountered a few snags lately! But I’m in this for the long haul so I will get things sorted…eventually!

So…that’s about it…up to speed in a very very long post! There’s obviously been a lot more said than all of that but after nearly 4000 words I think I’ll stop.

 

 

 

Therapy Is Hard Work…

Therapy is hard work! But we knew that already, didn’t we?! It’s funny – not funny ‘haha’ more funny ‘strange’ to think a lot of  people still assume that therapy is just going and talking to someone who listens, says nice things, and makes you feel better each week – basically a ‘paid for’ friend. Ha! I wish it were as simple as that!

I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to explain to people whom I know that know I am ‘still in therapy’ (‘how much therapy does one person need?!’) that doing depth work isn’t about pasting over the cracks or simply patching the hole in the roof for a few months and then sending you off out in the big wide world again only now with a thin veneer of ‘coping’ laid on top of whatever the issue is. I’ve done this short-term work in the past (in my early twenties) and I can say it only took a few rainstorms for the problems to be exposed again.

I am sure, for some people, CBT and short-term work is totally fine. Maybe if you just have one small hole in the roof, or a bit of wallpaper that keeps flapping in the corner of the room (or you’re just a pro at doing therapy!), then working on some strategies to fix the leak/paste the paper back might be quick work and that’s therapy done. When I first entered the therapy room I hoped my problems were largely cosmetic. Unfortunately, this seems not to be the case. Having undergone a full survey it’s pretty apparent that the issues are structural and abundant.

I mean let’s be real here, despite first (misleading) appearances, when you get close, my building is bordering on derelict. There’s more holes in the roof than slates on it, everything has a distinctly precarious off-centre lean, there’s woodworm, rising damp, and all manner of missing bits and pieces: floorboards, doors, windows…! It’s not what you’d call ‘habitable’ right now but it’s all I have so I have to camp out whilst I do the work.

Therapy, for me, is a bit like undergoing a complete renovation. The therapy/my therapist is providing a scaffold to sure up the main frame of the building whilst I painstakingly, bit by bit, strip layer after layer back ready to rebuild from the ground up a solid, storm-proof me… it’s taking a while, longer than I had anticipated, and I’ve gone way over budget (!!! OMG I wince at the $£$£), because every now and again just as I start some delicate reconstruction work a bloody great tempest whips up and starts shaking everything with force and then more bits and pieces fly off and I realise I haven’t actually got back to the base on which it is safe to build. Ugh. Annoying!

Every floor of the building is pretty fucked – so much work to do!… and the central stair well is rickety as hell too. Every tread has an issue on it: C-PTSD, Anorexia, Anxiety, Stress, Depression, Fear, Doubt, Shame, Panic, Lethargy, Grief… I hate walking up and down these stairs but it is unavoidable if I am to sort the building out. I am trying to install a handrail at the minute and make sure there aren’t any sneaky holes on the stairs that I might get my foot wedged in. I’m aware that certain areas are more dicey than others: anorexia looks solid but it’s a bloody nightmare and I can find myself waist deep and dangling if I misjudge my step.

As my holiday approaches in two weeks time signalling a two session therapy break I can see that I need to be especially careful not to go arse over tit as I carry my suitcase out over the C-PTSD step…I want to enjoy my holiday. I want to leave this ramshackle project behind so I can have a rest, regroup, and start again on my return with renewed vigour and energy. I guess we’ll have to see what happens, though.

One thing I can be sure of: no one is going to burgle me whilst I’m gone!

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It’s Been A While…

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It’s been a while since I have had a full-on meltdown in therapy…but I fell off the wagon in rather spectacular fashion yesterday and completely lost my mind! Believe me, I totally see the irony in this, especially after how the last post I wrote was about being in an ok place and saying that I felt like I was ready to move forward with some of the stuff that has been bothering me since before the Easter therapy break. Alas, the good intentions were all there but actually doing what is necessary or saying what needs to be said when the entire system is in conflict and the teen parts and Inner Critic take control isn’t easy!

I had intended to go back to my sessions, show Em my picture/diagram about what had caused me to be so upset in the last session heading into the break (the mention of possible ‘bombardment’ in the future being a reason to end therapy and the Friday text being revoked)  and try and unpick what was really going on. Last week I was able to see that my reaction was big and not of the here and now. Something about the idea of one day being too much or overstepping a boundary tapped into something huge and really set the cat among the pigeons. Em was trying to tell me that actually things were ok in the therapy and we weren’t in a dicey place and yet her trying to reassure me just did not work at all…and then a two week break…well, we all know where that sends me!

So on Friday I went in and tried really hard to talk but just couldn’t. The first session back is always notoriously shit. I just can’t really connect and it all feels like a disaster zone. I can’t really remember all the details because I seem to be experiencing a bit of stress amnesia. I know the session was only a week ago but my brain is in panic mode and is muddled. What I do know is that my notebook sat in my bag burning a hole through the fabric asking to be acknowledged but I conveniently ignored it. Shame and embarrassment were bubbling away and the idea of sharing that really vulnerable hurt part of me felt impossible. I did manage to tell Em that I wasn’t ok and that something that had happened before the break had upset me a lot and that whilst I know it wasn’t deliberate I still was hurting about it and part of me hadn’t wanted to come to the session so I suppose that’s something at least!

I left the session a bit frustrated with myself but didn’t beat myself up too much about what had gone on (not gone on!!). I’m used to this funny little dance we do after breaks (more like a game of cat and mouse actually!) and decided that rather than criticise myself about my inability to jump right into the hard, vulnerable stuff I’d instead accept that parts of me just weren’t ready to go there yet and that the time would come and to trust in the process.

I do wonder, though,  why after all these years a couple of weeks break sees my lose all sense of connection and trust in this woman? It’s agony really. I mean I know why it happens but part of me is still like WHHYYYYYYY?!!!!

Still, the session was ok in that we did some ground work – a lot of checking in on my body, noticing all the changes I was experiencing and naming them etc and it felt connecting to talk around the issue even if I couldn’t say exactly what the problem was. I went away from the session and drew another picture in my notebook trying to explain the process that had happened inside when I had told her I hadn’t wanted to come to the session (well, part of me hadn’t wanted to!! Others were desperate to see her!):

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The weekend went by fairly quickly and when Monday arrived I felt nervous about the session. I knew that I just needed to get the bloody notebook out the goddamn bag and get the ball rolling (or open my bloody mouth!) …how hard could that be? – turns out, VERY HARD! By the time I arrived at session I felt so sick and it was hard to distinguish whether I was highly anxious or actually on the verge of sick bug….does anyone else get the complete body meltdown? It’s been a long while since I’ve actually thrown up before a session (it did used to happen a lot) but the unhelpful diarrhoea before a session is really an issue again right now. Clearly I’m really agitated! argh!

Anyway, as I walked up the driveway to Em’s house my body was screaming out that things weren’t safe. I had wound myself up into a tight little ball of stress by the time I walked into the room. During the session my stomach was so noisy that it was utterly embarrassing. It was so clearly audible for such a protracted period of time that it couldn’t be ignored. It became a bit of a joke in the end because I was largely mute and yet my gut was having a conversation! Em was saying how clearly parts of me want to speak and how the stomach/digestive system often expresses emotions — I agreed… tried to laugh it off and couldn’t help but think of the raving shits I have been experiencing lately… obv didn’t mention that, though! 😉

Again we talked about how I was feeling even if I couldn’t tell her exactly what the problem was. It was such a difficult session. I would get to a point where I would feel settled and grounded and ready to talk and then WHAM the moment I brought to mind the feelings about her leaving or being fed up with me or whatever my body would freak out and I’d dissociate. This happened over and over again.

Towards the end of the session I managed to tell Em that it felt like surfing on a stormy day. There are some days you head to the beach, especially in the winter, and look out at the sea and notice that the wave rate is rapid and that because the waves are big and the sea is stormy there is a lot of white water. This makes paddling out to the back really hard because there is so much power in the white water. No matter whether you try and paddle over the waves or dive under them you can you rarely make any forward momentum…it’s just perpetual paddling and pushbacks… and it is exhausting.

Em asked me what I do in that situation. I told her that I ‘get the f*ck out and go home’…which is true but I don’t think really the helpful answer so far as how we tackle the metaphorical surf problem in the therapy room. I basically need to get to beyond the waves that are battering me so I can talk…going home won’t fix it! She said she understood what I was saying and then gently told me that we weren’t in the sea, and I said that I knew that and that this is what was so frustrating for me. Part of me knows I am safe, that symbolically the sea is actually calm, that I am not going drown but my body just doesn’t and my body keeps overriding my attempts to speak.

It was total hell.

With five minutes to go, following that sea conversation we really connected….why? Because I allowed myself to make eye-contact and tune into what she was actually saying. I saw what was in front of me (a caring, warm, patient woman who is consistently there and safe) rather than dreading what I fear her to be (rejecting, abandoning, mocking). I wish I could just do this when I feel scared and disconnected – but as I have said before, eye-contact in therapy is really difficult for me. It feels so exposing… and yet … so necessary for me to feel connected. Every time I avoid looking at Em I starve myself of connection. I know this. I am an idiot, you don’t need to tell me!

I left the session feeling optimistic and seen. I felt like it was going to be ok on Friday despite the hell that it had been for 45 mins in that session. That final connecting conversation was so important. On Monday evening I decided to email Em my two drawings from the notebook with a simple message to ask her to kick me in session on Friday so I didn’t avoid talking again. That filled me with panic (I didn’t want to bombard her) but at the same time I knew that despite my best efforts I had just spent two fucking sessions not talking about what I need to talk about because I haven’t had the balls to get a bloody book out a sodding bag. Ugh.

The week took a nose dive. I couldn’t hang on to that sense lovely sense of connection as I moved through the week. It was like groundhog day with a spiralling sense of panic and disconnection. I honestly felt like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die on Wednesday because the attachment pain had got so bad. I had convinced myself (again) that Em wasn’t safe, that I couldn’t trust her, and that she doesn’t care. Fun times!

So, after what seemed like a million long drawn out minutes it was finally Friday. Whooop whoop/EEEEEEEeeeeKKKKK!!! I drove to my session and could feel the shame rising and my entire system was in panic. I arrived at Em’s and sat down. I couldn’t look at her. I joked that I was swimming in a pool of shame and then retreated deep into myself. I had hoped at things would be ok. That somehow I’d get out of my hole and connect and get over this stupid stuckness. Adult Me know that what’s going on has spiralled into something huge and actually Em doesn’t hate me….but try telling that to the teen parts that are so massively activated.

Usually when I send something via email to Em she doesn’t read it (which is a boundary I don’t like but can just about accept). We have agreed that I can send stuff but that we will talk about it in the room…and this is what I wanted to happen. The general run of things would go something like, ‘you sent me a message would you like to talk about it?’  (meanwhile getting her ipad ready). I usually say ‘no but yes’ and then we get to it…and it’s ok. Only this didn’t happen on Friday. Em said, ‘You emailed me, but I haven’t opened it, I just saw the title’… there was no invitation to discuss it and it felt like a huge rejection That was enough for me to go into hiding but oh my god the teens were absolutely raging.

From that point on I could not hear a thing Em was saying to me. I was furious and hurting. Why am I not important? Why doesn’t she care? She can see I am struggling and hurting but isn’t helping me talk…blah blah. It wasn’t long before The Inner Critic showed up and went to town on me. I was sitting on the sofa. Still. And yet inside I was thinking of all the horrible things I would do to myself when I got home. It was like mentally flicking a catalogue in self-harm. It was just hideous.

Anyway, I don’t actually remember much of the session – i.e what Em said because I was trapped in my own personal abandonment hell. I have since gone back over the session and it sounds so different to what I experienced. Em was trying really hard with me and yet at every turn I was shutting her out.

I could feel time drifting away and knew we were near the end of the session. I asked how much time was left and no surprises I’d sat brooding in near silence for the best part of forty minutes. We were into that special ten minute window where I panic and have to get stuff said for fear of being left with crap til the next session…really I only need ten minute sessions! haha. Em asked what I was thinking. I quietly said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. That was the teen who is just desperately sad, wants to be seen, to connect, but despite everything keeps pushing away and in doing so feels like Em is a million miles away.

You can probably guess what came next?!

Em replied, ‘you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to’… and there was the stinging rejection (to that part at least!). When it’s like that all I want is to be told that I am safe in the relationship and we can work through it. Being told I can leave whenever I want feels like she doesn’t care whether I stay or go. (I know this is NOT what she is saying, it’s just how it feels!) Em continued and said something about different parts feeling different things but that the part that hates therapy and struggles with opening up and being seen was really present. She was right, of course. She gently asked me what was making that part feel like she needed to leave.

I started saying something about how in the previous session Em had told me that I had an intense need for connection and how rubbish that felt because it made me feel like I am too much, too intense, too bad. Em immediately countered by saying that this is not what she had meant me to take from that at all. That connection is not a bad thing and we all have an intense need to connect…and that it is unsurprising I need the connection so badly because it was so lacking as I grew up. This bolstered me somewhat and I alluded to feeling like I didn’t know where the line/boundary is and that since she had said the word ‘bombardment’ (even though it wasn’t about something in the here and now and is about a hypothetical future) I have just gone into hiding because I am scared to talk and ‘bombard’ her and be too much and too intense and then she’ll end the therapy.

Look, I know this is bonkers but it is coming from a young and wounded place and that part of me has been abandoned and rejected and told I am too much in the past. This is just playing out again in the therapy now. Em was so nice and validating and warm and….I just didn’t hear her at all! I was so caught up in my shame and embarrassment and hurt that everything she said felt wrong (to the part that was fronting) and then the session was up and that pissed me off too. I was angry at myself and angry at Em for not helping me talk. Which is ironic because now I have heard it back that was all she was trying to do!! FFS!

Anyway, I left the session feeling totally distraught. I got in my car. Turned my stereo up loud and drove away boiling with rage and hurt. I had to go to work but I was so overcome that I pulled the car over after about five minutes and fired off a text.

FUCK.

I DON’T DO THAT!

After the shit show that was Christmas 2017 I am done with complicated angry texts! haaha. But I literally was so ‘done’ yesterday that there was no adult to talk me down. I didn’t need time to think about it I just went ahead and quit therapy.

Like really.

Then I drove the forty minutes into the city and on the journey adult came back online…OMFG WTAF have I done???????

I didn’t know what to do. What if Em just accepted my message and didn’t reply?

Oh god.

I’ve really done it now.

Panic.

What do I do?

So I sent a second message trying to explain I was having a complete meltdown and wanted to come back on Monday and hoped for the best.

I sent the message and stared at my phone. I could see she’d read the termination message and hadn’t replied…fuck…

But the minute I sent that second message I could see Em was replying (the joy of I-message …) and she responded with ‘Ok, see you on Monday’…which on any other day of the week would probably send me into a spiral but frankly I am taking it as a win because I haven’t just flushed my therapy down the toilet and can go do the talk of shame on Monday!

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This isn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last time that I throw my toys out the pram in therapy. I have been in this territory before … but the thing that has shocked me is that I really thought I was past having tantrums. Clearly not! ha.

So, yeah, there we are. I’m just laughing at myself really. And you know what’s even funnier? I have spent the last month getting fixated on a word and digging a deep trench and feeling like Em doesn’t care and building walls and pushing her away…and yet I know Monday will be fine because the relationship is solid, she cares about me is committed to helping me and can handle my meltdowns…

Still, that’s what teenagers do isn’t it? Push and see where the boundaries are?!!

Time To Move On…

Oh crikey! It’s a little bit (a lot) messy in my brain right now! It’s not a complete disaster/shit show…it’s just… I dunno…I can’t quite put my finger on what’s going on inside. I don’t feel anything major – I am not down, or manic, or anything really – I just am.  I wrote a while back (sometime last year!) about being in a good place and I guess that’s sort of where I am again now – or perhaps I should say, like the therapists do a ‘good enough’ place. lol!

Thankfully, I got over my stuckness/ennui that I was suffering when I wrote my last blog post and have had a thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing end to my Easter holiday. I am still in denial about having to return to work… even though I went back yesterday! Ha. I swear that Tuesday was the most Monday I have ever experienced! The next few days are enormous so far as workload goes – the only saving grace is that it’s payday next week and so at least I get to see some reward for all the hard work….although once all the bills go out – pah – there’s not much left! Ah well, I am not going lament the lack of cash because I know that I am very lucky in the grand scheme of things and whilst I might like more treats (shoes!) I am able to feed us all and keep a roof over our heads – and that, in today’s world is no mean feat.

So, back to whatever this is…

In the last week of the school holiday we were blessed her in the UK with totally gorgeous weather – it was 23-25 degrees and sunny most days where I live (that’s Summer done now, then!) and we found ourselves relaxing into living outdoors: barbecues, bike rides, reading books under the cherry tree, going for ice-cream etc. The whole pace of life slowed down and the days seemed to last forever – you know like when you were a kid? It was great AND very very necessary. I posted a few things about living my best life on other social media platforms and that’s really how it felt. To be able to breathe deeply and slow down for a bit was so restorative.

Despite being active with the kids this last week (lie ins are a thing of the past!) I feel well-rested and that is very good news given the half-term of work that lies ahead (buries head in sand! ‘lala lala I can’t hear you!’). I think that says a lot about just how tiring day-to-day life can be having to hold so much in mind and be in so many places… breaks are necessary! (just not for therapists 😉 !! haha) On the plus side it has also started raining here today which means that I don’t feel rubbish about having to do work now when I would much rather be relaxing in my garden under this beauty!

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Interestingly, as the working week started up again yesterday, and real life/work life got moving all kinds of anxieties about therapy came flooding back in that have been largely silent this last week. BUMMER! I have started having a belting number of therapy dreams too!! Ha – that old chestnut!

I have written a few posts about therapy dreams over the last couple of years and how they seem to happen when I am on a therapy break so I am hardly surprised that just as sessions are about to resume on Friday that all the stuff about being abandoned and rejected and uncared for and bleurgh! puke! ugh! starts marinating in my unconscious. Joy! It’s almost like my mind is getting ready for what lies ahead by shovelling heaps of turd on my head before I go to session. Like, perhaps if my mind repeatedly makes me live out ‘worst case scenario’ in my dreams then it likely to not be as bad in real life….you know, fear the worst and hope for the best sort of thing?!

Anyway, all I can say is that thank god I am a little better at not acting on the feelings or paying too much heed to what I am left with after these kind of horrible dreams. There have been times when I have gone through the whole gamut of emotions and all the parts would have had some kind of meltdown revolving around: sadness, rage, no fucks given….and would seriously have considered terminating therapy because I was emotionally overwrought and triggered! A bad dream could completely derail me and leave me not properly talking to my therapist for a month (really – that did happen!) but now I can see that the messages that are coming up for me are important but are not real life and actually probably aren’t really rooted in the here and now….like I have anxieties about the therapeutic relationship (no shit!) but my therapist has not ever actually physically pushed me away or mocked me or told me I am overreacting – this is old stuff replaying in this relationship….I still go through the emotional cycle of sadness/rage/no fucks given but actually I am aware of the cycle now and can notice it and wonder about it rather than being completely swamped by it for days and weeks on end. Phew!

So, yeah, there’s lots to be bringing to session on Friday! My notebook is full of dreams and bits and bobs… Although I doubt my dream world will get a look in this week because I have other stuff to attend to too….like the last session before the break (eek!) and the fact that last week I seriously, and calmly, considered whether I need to do therapy any more – whether I really need two sessions a week – whether it was time to move on from therapy? When I ask myself this question, usually I get a resounding ‘Nooooooooo!!!’ from the little parts who balk at the very thought of leaving Em, but last week there was no internal noise at all.

I suspect this is, in part, because I have those parts on lockdown. After the disaster in attachment hell that happened last Easter and a rapid descent into an anorexic nightmare I have been super mindful of not giving those parts and those painful feelings too much space. I don’t want rerun of all that agony again…

Still, it is interesting for me to think about where I am at with therapy and my ‘healing journey’. I think it’s important to reflect on where I am at and notice what feelings come up when I consider the end of therapy as they can change so rapidly. Deep down I know I have a shit tonne more work to do with Em but I also need to give myself credit that there is progress being made and that I am actually even able to consider the end of therapy when the time is right.

I think it’s natural, too, to question why you would put yourself through a significant period of therapy. Because it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted! This isn’t surface level stuff. It’s deep-diving. It’s not easy. It requires a lot of commitment and, dare I say it, bravery. Sometimes it feels like an exercise in masochism (!) and I wonder, when, like on this holiday, I get over the initial hell that is the start of a therapy break and settle into just living my life (where I am actually fine) if therapy is actually doing me any good. My adult life is pretty good. I am quite adept at adulting, actually….so then I wonder what drives me to keep repeatedly picking at the scab of the past. Why don’t I just put everything behind me, live in the now, and stop dredging, and poking, and prodding the Mother Wound week in week out year after year??? That’s a question!!

I absolutely have made progress with my therapy. I am still bothered by LOTS of stuff but I am a little more accepting of myself now and have a greater ability to step back and let things settle rather so that’s all good. I do wonder a little bit, though, if sometimes the ‘I’m gonna go it alone’ thought comes, in part, because when my therapist is not here I have to do it for myself. Maybe not going back is like an, ‘I don’t need you’ ?  I don’t know! I’d like to think the thoughts I have been having this week have been coming from an adult place, but who bloody knows?! haha.

Anyway, whilst my adult has been in the driving seat this last week or so, I can’t say that was the case in my last session before the break. Cringe! Em and I discussed at length how I was feeling about the break. I managed to say quite a bit and not get too dissociated but … ugh… I hate these conversations. I hate when we skirt around the edges but I also hate being under the full beam of the spotlight. Telling Em I hate breaks and that I feel unstable and worried and all that jazz is just horrid. It was a good conversation, to be fair, and did make me feel safe enough to get Em to have another look at the picture in my book I had drawn where I had drawn her tangled in barbed wire on her chair and me – labelled ‘toxic’- sitting on the sofa.

Em, bless her, was really ‘puzzled’ as to why I would think that she would see me as a toxic person, because she said this is ‘absolutely not the case’. Then she tried, I think, to try and make me see that things are ok and that therapy, as it is, is fine and secure….only it didn’t quite come off!

This part of the session went like this:

“The time I would stop seeing you would either be when I am ill, or on breaks…but breaks is not stopping seeing you. We’d have to end if you started being physically violent towards me – but I personally don’t see that in you…or if it was very very difficult to… if you bombarded me with stuff and we couldn’t move on that then that would be difficult. I’ve said to you many times that it’s preferable if you bring things here and we can talk about things here because this is where it happens other than that I…’

Then she elaborated on how she sees me as a person who has had to go through some really difficult stuff and have developed some coping mechanisms that aren’t easy – and that I need to control stuff and cover stuff and that there are some extremely disturbed parts inside. She said she is not blind to the impact of prolonged self-harm but that she does in no way see me as toxic and she wonders what it is that I could say to her that makes me think that she will end the therapy. I didn’t really hear this part at the time because I was in full-blown panic about the idea of ‘bombardment’.

The session was finished and right at the end she told me that I need not text her on Friday mornings to tell her I was going to be there in person because lately I have been able to get there and not Skype and so now just to text her if I can’t get there and need to Skype. That’s simple enough right? Sure. BUT not when my brain is having a complete meltdown about worrying that my therapist feels bombarded by outside contact (not that there is much at all)…

Anyway it was enough to send me into a steep nosedive as I drove home. I ended up writing this out in my notebook to try and explain what was going on for me during that part of the session – I don’t know if it is very readable on screen:

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So yeah, there’s plenty to talk about on Friday! Aaargghh! I guess there’s a bit of irony in the fact that I have been considering whether I need to be in therapy when this is the sort of stuff a five minute conversation can generate! The positive is that, now I can actually take this stuff to session and talk it through – I can do the work…whereas before I would have sat brooding on it and attacking myself for how I feel. That’s good right?!

I won’t lie. I am shitting it a bit about Friday. I don’t ever really like the first session back after a break. I behave strangely…like testing the waters…is she still safe??? etc. So, it’ll be a miracle really if I do tackle this stuff head on…might wait til Monday!! HA!

 

Ennui

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I remember coming across the word ‘ennui’ years (and years!) ago when I was studying for my A Level in English Literature. I liked the word (I was one of those weird kids that used to like reading the thesaurus and trying to expand my vocabulary! #geek) and related to it instantly (as well as the character who was stuck in this lethargic state in the novel we were studying).

Almost twenty years down the line I can safely say that ennui has been a state I have visited regularly enough…. for me it’s on the road to depression but not fully there, kind of like a half-way point. It’s irritating beyond words because it feels like a paralysis in a similar way to how a full-blown depressive episode is only I don’t feel desperately sad or hopeless…I just have no energy to do anything. I am bored and unoccupied. I should motivate myself to do something but feel devoid of ‘get up and go’ so have just moped about doing nothing, and in doing nothing I am getting increasingly frustrated. It is bonkers!

I have done absolutely nothing with my day today. I have literally been sitting on the couch sighing long deep sighs. My wife suggested I go out for a few hours on my own: I couldn’t be arsed. She encouraged me to go read a book: ‘I have nothing to read’ (despite the huge pile of books beside my bed!). I have had all day to maybe sit here and write this blog: I couldn’t even be bothered to go get the laptop. It’s like that. I am not depressed (I don’t think) I am just tired and I have nothing to do (despite there being loads I could be doing!)…I feel like a fractious toddler who is overtired and no matter what you try and do for it you can’t please it.

I know usually I am moaning on about being ‘too busy’ or being ‘spread a bit thin’, or feeling ‘overwrought’… for a long time I have not had time or space to plunge into a state of ennui. BUT my god am I stuck in a stupor now!! Jeez. It’s madness. I have been hanging on by the skin of my teeth to get to this Easter holiday. I have absolutely needed a break from work and the pressure of being in so many places all the time…and yet, now I have the luxury of staying in bed a little longer in the morning or sitting on the sofa and doing nothing, I feel stir crazy…but also can’t be bothered to do anything about it.

I wonder what this is about?

Maybe I just don’t know how to relax? My life is generally on fast forward and so anything other than 100mph feels alien. I dunno.  I am now on a therapy break and that stirred up all kind of feelings … until today where I simply can’t be arsed to care (dissociation maybe!). Perhaps this feeling is something to do with all that? Like there’s some part of me that is a saboteur? Maybe I can’t actually just sit back, relax, and enjoy my time off because it’s a therapy break. I don’t think it’s so cut and dried as that….but I suspect (know) that not being back in session until the 26th has something to do with it.

I actually don’t have very much more to say on the matter right now –  I can’t even think about it properly – I’m just a big blob of ‘meh’. So, I am just going to go lie down and sigh a bit more like Duck! ha!

*I give full permission for people to give me giant kicks up the backside next week when I am back at work and moaning about being stressed and over-stretched for not fully appreciating time off. I will get my shit together and write a proper post before I go back to work too.

 

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