This Is What Healing Looks Like To Me or ‘Why I need Chocolate NOT Pears (Or Ice Cubes!)’

For those of you have followed this blog over the last few years you’ll know that I have poured blood, sweat, tears, and thousands and thousands of pounds into my healing journey. The ironic thing is, it is only in the last year, since I went back to my craniosacral therapist K, and then found Anita in January, (just as my relationship with Em started to properly disintegrate) that there has been any sense of healing – like a proper felt sense that things can and are getting better on that deeper level.

I have done years of ‘therapy’, religiously going to see Em week in week out, two sessions a week and repeatedly being triggered into a place of huge pain and dissociation. It has been so hard to endure. Part of me wonders why I stayed for so long when everything felt so off. My attachment to Em was so strong, though. My child parts were completely invested in the relationship (or wanting to feel like there was a ‘relationship’) that I put myself through emotional hell – a familiar hell – of feeling so deficient, unlovable, and untouchable.

This experience of therapy with Em just poured salt in an already gaping mother wound. It was trauma bonding 101. A complete re-enactment of my childhood and a re-experiencing of the cold, distant, but shaming relationship I had with my mum. Deep down part of me knew that, but I couldn’t leave, it was familiar territory and what I had grown to expect…but just like with my mum, I really really hoped that one day things would turn around and I’d get what I needed.

I wanted to believe there was something better for me and maybe it would materialise if I just tried harder, didn’t ask for too much, and was patient. But this didn’t happen. I was shown time and again that my needs weren’t important – or even acknowledged as being valid- and that I had to take what was offered…which was very little.

It wasn’t until Em likened my young parts to a tick and had verbally rejected the gift (or said that she didn’t want to accept gifts in future and shouldn’t have taken the one at Christmas) that I knew I couldn’t go on any more. Em had hurt me and my child parts so badly that even though I loved her (and still do) I physically couldn’t put myself through it any more. As it was all coming to a head from my side it was clear that she was more than done too – as I had suspected – and she made no attempt to try and work through it with me, willing to let me go on a perfunctory two line email…after 8 years!

Looking back, I just wish I had made a clean break the day I went to see Anita to test the waters about a different therapy/therapist. I knew instantly that A was a good fit and that I wanted to work with her but I also wanted to try for a ‘decent ending’ with Em– that illusive thing! I wish I had have taken more heed of the concerns A raised about Em’s conduct and just cut my losses before things had chance to get any worse.

If only I had just walked away then rather than waiting to see what might happen, giving it one last go at trying to work it through, and STUPIDLY handing her the power back, then the biggest injury would have been avoided. I would have felt rejected and abandoned whatever happened but I wouldn’t be stuck with this sick feeling of people I care about seeing me as a parasite.

Ouch.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? I guess I hoped that she would reflect on what I told her about how hurt I was about the session leading into Christmas, the break, and the first session back, accept her part in things, acknowledge my feelings, and find a way to move forward – rupture and repair in action. But no. What happened was horrific, her response telling her how hurt I felt was, ‘your young parts are like a tick’ and before I knew it everything was unravelling at speed.

Clearly, I am still not over what happened in this therapy and every time I get close to Anita there’s a voice in my head that says, ‘This is dangerous, don’t let her too close, don’t let her see the need because you’ll frighten her away – she’ll think you’re a tick, too’. And I hate that. I hate that what Em said still hurts like hell all these months on, but I also hate that it impacts how I relate to Anita.

I cannot really explain how different it feels being with Anita. She makes me feel safe and cared for and yet even when there is real closeness between us we’re lumbered with the legacy that Em has left. I know it is going to take a lot of therapy and care to repair the damage done because Em has basically shattered all the young parts of me that were trying to trust and heal, but not only that, she’s also taken a huge swipe at my adult self. I am so grateful that A is on my side though, and willing to do the work with me….as slow and painstaking as it is.

I guess in some way I am grateful to Em (am I?!). I learnt a lot about myself in the therapy with her. Parts of myself I didn’t even know existed made themselves known to me through being in ‘relationship’ with her. Unfortunately, these vulnerable young child parts were abandoned in that room. She frequently told me I was abandoning my young parts but if that was true, then so was she. I have so often felt like I am on the verge of drowning just trying to keep us all afloat and taking myself to therapy was not an act of abandonment on my part. It’s hard living an adult life without having to carry the terror and pain of a minibus full of activated child parts too – therapy was meant to help with that (and it does now- phew!).

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time researching and finding out more about my ‘stuff’. I guess I used that well-worn strategy ‘intellectualising’ to try and make sense of the situation! I have read so many books on attachment, trauma, shame, dissociation, and the therapeutic relationship – and, of course, blogs – looking for the answers, learning how to move forward and heal, and whilst that didn’t happen with Em, I feel like I at least know myself now and confident that I am not the only person on earth struggling with this stuff. I know what’s wrong. I understand what the injury is. AND I know what I need to heal it. I’ve always known – I just haven’t been able to get what I needed until now.

After years of being told what I need by Em, like she was some magic oracle that knew what ‘people like me’ need to heal I can categorically say what I need is not what was on offer with her! Maybe her strategies work with some clients, but I struggle to see how anyone with Complex Trauma would have responded well to her ‘techniques’. As I mentioned recently in another post, I saw something by Carolyn Spring that says that when we are in distress, we don’t need strategies or techniques, we need a person. And it’s that simple. It’s not rocket science, it it? Relational trauma needs healing in relationship. Em didn’t really do relationship. She watched me as I struggled and suffered – like some kind of poor rodent in a science experiment.

I have talked and talked and got nowhere and over time replaced talking with more and more dissociation. Simply being in the same room with Em triggered me. I’d feel dysregulated before I even arrived at the session but I was always so hopeful that maybe this time I’d get what I needed having hung on desperately through the week in attachment hell waiting to see her.

I don’t think people that haven’t got this kind of trauma/injury have even the slightest idea of how bloody harrowing it is being stuck in the attachment hell zone – feeling like the world is literally falling apart, like you can’t breathe for the pain of it, and being completely terrified. When it gets bad like that I know, for me, it’s largely pre-verbal and it is so scary feeling completely abandoned, uncontained, and as though you are falling through some kind of internal black abyss. That’s crappy, but then there’s all the other feelings that can come in from other parts- the apathy, the rage, the self-loathing, the wanting to cut and run…it’s just awful.

My window of tolerance became so small in the end that I felt unsafe being with Em. I was always braced for more rejection, more shaming, more disconnection. My body was always so tense – so much so that it would hurt. More than anything I wanted to feel safe with her and that’s why I kept going – the child parts hoped that one day she’d help them and so they hid behind the sofa, peeking out, waiting and waiting to be seen and cared for. Only when she did get glimpses of who was there she freaked out, put walls up, and distanced herself even further. It was though I would sometimes be brave enough to take one step forward and she’d immediately take two (twenty!) steps back.

I don’t know what it is about that young parts that triggered her so badly but I do wonder if there is unresolved childhood trauma for her that my stuff tapped into and she just couldn’t bear to be near it. Or maybe she just didn’t like me and was content to keep taking the money. Long-term clients with attachment disorders coming twice a week are certainly a reliable source of income. We don’t ever not turn up! lol.

There is so sadness about this. At times it got so bad that I came close to destroying myself. My go to coping strategies were so active – some of the worst periods of anorexic behaviour and self-harm happened whilst in the therapy with Em because I couldn’t cope with the pain of the attachment and how alone I felt. I feel so upset about it all because it could have been so different. Handled well, it could have been so healing.

I tried really hard to do what Em said. I wanted to believe that what she suggested could work for me. I don’t want to feel this way forever – that’s why I am in therapy in the first place! I tried to engage with whatever she asked: the visualisations- ‘just imagine holding your distressed child parts’ – but it wasn’t me the child parts wanted or needed at that point– and she knew that and shamed me for it.

When it was really bad and I was heavily dissociated somewhere out in the cold alone, embodying that exiled child part, there was no adult self to help me and Em just left me stranded – sometimes for the entire session. I don’t doubt that someday soon I will be able to hold and contain these young parts for myself but back then there was no chance. I didn’t know how.

When you are terrified and in a child state you can’t just pick yourself up and make it better for yourself – especially if there’s no template to work from. How can you imagine being held and feeling safe if you’ve never experienced being held or feeling safe? It’s not just visualisations, though. I’ve done all sorts; I made my eyes follow blue dots on an I-pad over and over (yet another tool to avoid talking about what was going on between us in the room). I have tried everything Em threw at me and yet none of it worked.

I have tried to believe that being ignored during the week between sessions was for the best, that somehow my massively distressed young parts who feared that she was never coming back (like all those years where my mum was gone in the week when I was little) or perhaps dead (like my dad) would learn that she was there in session. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need a transitional object, check ins…the list goes on and on …because she was unwilling to concede an inch so maybe I must stupid for thinking these things might help and how dare I ask for anything more than the bare minimum – clearly, she knew best – deprivation and isolation was best?! But I did need more and now that I am getting those things, it really really makes a massive difference.

I have never been able to feel safe in therapy because what I needed more than anything was a person. I needed a relationship in which to begin to build trust and someone to feel safe with. I needed someone who realised and accepted that there were lots of parts of me (some really badly hurt) and they each need something different and communicate in different ways. My child parts were reluctant to come to session with Anita- and who can blame them after what happened in January- but I’ve found they are pretty good at communicating with Gifs and emojis! I have sent more texts in the last week to A than I did in the entire time I worked with Em – eek!

Anita’s willingness to allow those young parts to tentatively take steps towards her from outside the room and for her to have responded in a way that they understand, has meant that now, they have felt safe enough to come to therapy and are well and truly in the room…I could not have done that if we hadn’t spent the last 9 months laying the foundations via text. Em was blank screen. Teflon. She wanted no contact. Anita is present, real, and connected. She actually seems to like me…better than like me (yay!)…which is nice but it means that what and who needs to be work with can safely turn up.

I wish I had been able to advocate better for myself with Em. Deep down we all know what we need to heal. Sometimes that doesn’t align with what the other person can do, it doesn’t fit their training or system of working, their personality – and that is fine – we can’t force a therapist to be someone they’re not (even if they seem to want to force a square peg through a round hole where we are concerned!). I just wish they’d say something early on like, ‘What you need and want is completely valid and understandable as you’ve had so much wounding but I can’t offer that’ and refer us out rather than saying things like, ‘The time for getting what you need has passed and you need to learn to hold this for yourself. I won’t collude with those young parts. If I did what you wanted it wouldn’t help you in the long run.’

Whilst I understand I can’t get a new childhood or a new mum, I can have a relationship with my therapist that is safe, caring, and loving in order that the wounding from my childhood can be gently healed. I can have someone who is on my side ready to hold my hand and support me when I go to the really dark places. It is ok to expect to be in a relationship with someone who you share the most vulnerable and wounded parts of yourself. I can’t express it strongly enough – it is the relationship that heals not the theory.

And so what happened with Em? I stayed, sort of believing her narrative that I was not trying hard enough to heal (even though I work so fucking hard both inside and outside of sessions)– that I was in some way treatment resistant so just need to try harder, let her in more, stop dissociating. And then when I did that, when I gave her my notebooks, her reaction was so bad that it ended.

Here’s a crap analogy for what my therapy has been like…buckle up we’re on course for one of my extended rambling metaphors!:

I think it’s a bit like when you’re a kid and you feel sad and want a treat. You may really want a bar of chocolate – know that a bar of chocolate is what would make you feel better- and yet the parent keeps offering you a pear because ‘they know what’s best for you’. You chew on the pear but really, deep down you wanted chocolate. I mean, of course, there are some similarities between a pear and a chocolate bar- both are sweet- but we all know a pear is not a reasonable substitution for a chocolate bar no matter what they say about the health benefits!

Imagine being a child, and every week asking for chocolate and every week being told ‘No – you can only have pear! You may think you need a chocolate bar, but you’re wrong. Pear is what you need. Pear is all that’s on offer. You’ll soon learn that pears are the best thing for you.’ And that’s hard to take on board because it feels impossible that that can be true…

But it gets worse, alongside this, whilst you’ve got acid indigestion from so much fucking pear, the parent repeatedly tells you how much chocolate you’ve missed out on in your life so far. Then saying that despite having some chocolate right there with them, that they won’t give any to you ever, and maybe you could find some way to imagine what it would be like to taste chocolate whilst you’re struggling to stomach the pear.

The pear is definitely not what you want but you are naturally compliant and so take it and wonder why you aren’t good enough to be given the chocolate. Week after week you’re handed pear but you’re quickly sick of it, the taste, the texture, how it makes you feel sick inside- everything about pear feels wrong. It’s not chocolate. At this point you’d even settle for a cocoa dusted slice of pear…but no…you’ve got pear and pear only.

Eventually, it reaches a point where you just cannot put another piece of pear in your mouth. And the parent keeps on, ‘How about we try this shaped pear today? Or perhaps we could juice it?’ as though it would be any different from all the other slabs and slices and cups you’ve forced down your neck over the months and years. You internally groan. You’re not stupid though, you stopped asking for the chocolate a long time ago because it just got painful being refused it over and over again.

You clearly don’t deserve chocolate and so now you’ve tried to convince yourself that chocolate is bad and dangerous because that’s what parent has said… but it’s never really worked because your soul knows what you need. And part of you hoped that if you kept up with the pear long enough, maybe one day you’d be rewarded with just a tiny square of chocolate. The parent thinks they’ve won the battle because you don’t ever talk of chocolate now, but inside you’re really sad – why is a bit of chocolate so forbidden? How can something that tastes so good be wrong?  

Time goes on and by now you’re so sick of pear, that it’s reached the point where it’s making you sick and you have nightmares about being handed pear. Just the thought of it makes you want to gag and you cry. Until one day you crack. You can’t do it any more, the revulsion to the pear is so severe that you vomit it back up all over the floor, and it’s not just pear, it’s years of emotional pain spewing out, and you scream ‘I DON’T LIKE PEAR! I hate pear. I have tried it. I really have. But it’s not helping me. It actually makes me feel ill. I really just need some chocolate!!’ and the parent looks at you with disgust and coldly says. ‘I don’t do chocolate and if you won’t eat pear then you’ll have to go’. It’s as simple as that.

So, you go somewhere else, a foster home, crying, sad, not really knowing what you need anymore, what you are entitled to ask for. You don’t even really care about chocolate now, you just know you can’t stomach another pear and you pray that this new home doesn’t force feed them to you too.

You walk in the door and the new parent talks to you kindly, it’s bizarre, so alien!… and immediately says that chocolate is completely ok in this house like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Indeed, they offer you a chocolate bar. You don’t even have to ask for it! Apparently a plentiful supply of chocolate bars are what is needed when a child like you has been deprived chocolate all its life. And it’s ok to want that and ask for that. And, furthermore, if you don’t like pear then you never have to eat it again. When you leave the house and look in your bag you see that the new parent has even slid a chocolate bar in your lunch bag. You cannot believe your luck.

And this is what it’s been like seeing Em and A. I mean that’s a bit of an ‘out there’ analogy. My friend actually said I ought to have used ice cubes for Em rather than pears… as she was stone cold and there was no nutritional value to the therapy!! haha. The moment I met A, she was on my page – ‘you know what you need, you’re inside you, and who am I to tell you what you need? I might not be able to give you everything you need but those needs are valid and ok’… turns out she also has a stack of ‘chocolate’ and it’s really good chocolate so my inner child is delighted! Lol.

Anyway, that’s all for now…this is unexpectedly long. I’m trying to work out what to do with writing this blog at the minute. Therapy has gone to a whole new level for me these last couple of weeks -it’s incredible but also massively vulnerable work – and so I feel like right now, I don’t want to detail what’s going on because actually I feel really protective of it. I feel like I need to talk to A about it too. I get it’s my therapy, that the blog is anonymous, etc but I might have to take a bit of time before I publish anything. That’s not an intentional cliff-hanger, it’s just I feel like I need to keep everything safely contained in the room for a bit. x

System Crash: Defences Breached

Well, blimey, it’s been hard this week. I knew things were approaching the ‘danger zone’ but I genuinely didn’t think the wheels were going to fall off in such a spectacular way mid-week! It felt like I hit a patch of black ice on Tuesday and then started desperately careering around the road on Wednesday only to crash out on Thursday.

I managed to get through all my teaching commitments this week but I could feel how thinly stretched I was. Half term cannot come quickly enough. The child parts inside were all activated and I just wanted to cry most of the week. It felt desperate. Everything felt too much. Never have I relied more heavily on my rubber bands and chewing gum to hold it together!

By the time it got to my craniosacral session with K on Thursday morning I was hanging on by a thread. It was so good to see her, to be safe in the space with her for that window of time, and to get some much needed care and attention for my nervous system…and myself! She sees right through me – which is both terrifying and a huge relief. It means that there is no point in acting like things are ok or pretending that I am hanging it together because she feels what’s going on in my body whatever I say!

I’ve noticed the harder I am struggling to juggle things, the more I put on a coping front with people. I paste on the smile and say ‘it’s fine’ when actually everything is falling apart inside. The performance aspect of myself, the part that allows to me to teach and exist in the outside world gets jammed on and I feel almost like I am in some kind of out of body experience. I guess it’s a form of dissociation. And it works…to an extent.

However, whilst this ‘coping, high functioning self’ ensures I can function out in the world, it comes at an enormous physical and emotional cost to the rest of me, or should I just say ‘me’? That seemingly extroverted, happy, self that takes care of everyone else’s needs runs on overdrive, draining every last drop of energy, leaving absolutely nothing in reserve for everyone else inside and then, inevitably, the shit hits the fan!

When I am on the edge, running on adrenaline, ‘in role’ I actually do some of my best work. I know my lessons are really good. But it’s insane. When I need to dial it down to my conserve energy I ramp up. Panic. Panic. PANIC! I can’t let anyone see how desperate things are, so here, have the all singing all dancing version of me. I’m fine…it’s fine…fine…FINE!!! (It’s not fine…not fine at all)

ARGH!!

And so when that manic, crazed, state is on and I find it quite hard to land back in myself because the distance between appearance and the reality is immense. When I stop and really stare into the truth of the situation I know I am on empty. Burnt out. And the young ones are beside themselves. And it’s too scary to go there…because if I stop, and acknowledge the reality, the vulnerability, the fact that I need someone to help me and I am left open and exposed…what happens if I can’t get what I need? What happens if I can’t pick myself back up and get going again? I’ll have a proper breakdown… and I CANNOT GO TO THAT PLACE AGAIN.

I told K how crazy it’s all been and she invited me to take time to land and then asked what was going on inside/underneath. I felt so exposed. But also so pleased to be able to remove the mask for a bit. I told her that my four year old self was terrified and I feel like I am falling apart. There’s been a lot of adult life stress going on recently with my family that taps back into old wounds and triggers the child parts so it’s been feeling tough. Adult me can just about cope but the child parts are not doing so well.

I have this image that frequently comes up when Four is around. She’s standing in the middle of a country lane in just her nightie. It’s grey, wet, dark, and cold. She has no idea where she is. She is totally lost. She’s scared. She’s hungry. And yet she doesn’t make a sound. There is no point in screaming for help because she’s learnt that no one ever comes. Was there ever more fitting an image of an exiled part than her?

It’s really painful when this little one gets live and it’s no wonder that I spend so much of my time trying to outrun this stuff. I mean, all these little parts are always there in varying states of distress and need, but most of the time I can hold it together enough to not be floored by them. I can function alongside the internal hell. But not this week.

I don’t know what happened or why, but I felt really held by K in the session. I mean physically. And yet there was absolutely nothing different to any other session. It’s a body-based therapy and so I am physically held every week. But for some reason it felt different on Thursday. All I can think is that my usual defences just weren’t there in the same way? I had nothing to armour myself with and so just felt it all. I couldn’t quite hold myself and so sunk into being held. I don’t know.

I know it sounds bonkers that even with one of my safest, most trusted people my system still has a degree of armouring. I guess it’s all about survival and protection. No matter how badly I want to trust that things are properly safe, my system just can’t fully let go. I’m so terrified of being rejected or abandoned that the closer I get to someone the scarier it feels – well, at least to some of the parts. I guess there’s so much more to lose when you really care about someone and need them. I know K isn’t going anywhere. I am safe with her. But this stuff is unconscious…it’s the internal autopilot doing its thing and it’s going to take a while to reprogramme.

Still, it felt like my system was more ‘trusting’ than it has been in a while or just so tired that it couldn’t function which meant that the young stuff was right on the surface! I had been complaining about a pain in my hand and wrist and K asked if she could hold my hand. I said yes. It was bizarre. When she took my hand it was like little Four landed with a thud inside me. I was no longer watching her from a distance, that poor tiny child, isolated, bare foot on a lane. Instead she was in me… and oh my fucking god it was so painful. I just wanted to burst into tears, get up off the couch, and cuddle into K.

K noticed that I was barely breathing and asked about the little girl. Did she feel like it was dangerous to take up space? Was it safer to her to not be seen and stay out of the way? Yep. K asked if I could try and take a few deep breaths. I couldn’t and just shook my head. She asked if I could allow myself to feel this stuff in the moment, allow Four to be there just for a minute…and I froze. It was so overwhelming. Being so consciously aware of the pain that is there, that I have been holding for so long is just so hard….even in the presence of a trusted other.

At the end I sat up on the couch, drew my knees up into my chest, buried my face in the blanket and hid behind my knees. I just didn’t have it in me to be ‘fine’ because I was not fine. That little part was right there. K came over and hugged me and rubbed my back until I managed to get to get enough adult back online.

K said I had gone really deep in the session. Of course, she was right. As I left she asked if she could hold me, and we hugged. It’s so hard leaving though…because it’s in those moments where my system starts to relax but then the reality hits… it’s time to go….back out there…and somehow I need to put the mask on when I really don’t want to.

It’s really a double-edged sword. Because this is the work that absolutely needs to be done (exposing and working with the young parts)…and yet I can only access this stuff, be open and vulnerable when I am on empty, when my defences and protectors can’t function enough to hide everyone. So it’s a pain. I can’t function as I am long-term but equally I need to be able to access the parts to be able to heal and move forward.

I spend so many hours in therapy hiding/protecting these parts and feel frustrated with myself because I know what I need. I know what needs to be done. BUT the reality of being so vulnerable, so exposed, is hard. It feels dangerous. It’s no wonder my system has built up such strong defences! It fears total annihilation of the self.

Only what I think I am learning, slowly, is that some people can be trusted with my most vulnerable self. And whilst I have been hurt…a lot…and recently too (with Em) I can be how it is and that be ok. Some people don’t need my performance and love me just the way I am. It’s going to take a while to get my head around that. But I think what happened with K on Thursday enabled me to take a massive risk with Anita yesterday…so that’s good right?! – spoiler alert…it was sooooooo good 🙂

I’ve been here before but this time I have the A (and K) Team on my side!

My battery warning light is flashing red now. Power saving mode has been engaged for months but despite this, I’m still reaching that near dangerous level of energy depletion. The weekend is almost gone (noooooo!) and it has felt like the hours have rapidly slipped through my fingers. Like trying to cup water in my hands, each minute has just trickled away and now tomorrow everything starts up again and I simply haven’t had enough time to relax and recharge. I feel like I could cry as I stare down the tunnel into what I have to get through in the coming week.

For the first time in a very long time, I have taken some proper time out this weekend – literally spent the entire time in pyjamas sitting by the fire (apart from a rainy tip run this morning!) but it’s not enough. I still need more time to recover…not just from the last couple of weeks, but from 2020 as a whole (and there’s still 3 months to go!! FFS!). Actually, I feel like my body is crying out for me to hibernate until April – and honestly if I didn’t have a mortgage and bills to pay then that’s exactly what I would do! Imagine having six months off but still being paid. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like.

My friends who have been furloughed since March and who don’t have kids are bursting with life despite the pandemic. They have been living in a protected bubble and are ‘so chilled’ and ‘fit’ and ‘happy’ having finally had time to meditate, do the couch to 5k, read endlessly, cook, and basically practise self-care on an epic level…and yet I feel like I have been slogging away since lockdown began (and even before that – with the therapy termination with Em) trying to juggle my regular life of work, transitioning to online teaching (and therapy), my wife being made redundant and the stress that entailed, all alongside home-schooling my kids. And whilst the children are thankfully back in school and my wife is back in work there has been no break, no holiday, and I we/have simply run out of steam now.

I so need a spa day!

I get being furloughed won’t have been stress-free for everyone, far from it, and the above statement about some of my friends (and my flippant spa day comment) probably highlights how privileged, middle-class, secure, and sane they are/I am, so I apologise if that felt blinkered. I understand that as furlough ends it’s going to be hard for a lot of people. I guess, really what I am trying to say is that sometimes it’s hard not to compare oneself to others and wish for a moment that you had what they had.

I suppose, really, I am jealous. Jealous of the carefree photos, the texts about ‘relaxing coffee’ and screen shots of the latest book. Jealous of the holidays. Jealous of the fact that it is only now that work is coming back onto their radar. My jealousy is really a symptom of the burnout I feel – both physical and emotional. I don’t begrudge my friends these things – far from it. I just wish sometimes my life felt a little easier.

I need some time off without the worry of what happens if I don’t work. I was really sick a couple of weeks ago. So dizzy that I couldn’t even stand up without falling over, and repeatedly vomited from the motion sickness associated with the dizziness. I had to cancel all my students that day – 5 hour’s worth of work. It’s one of my biggest working days. Being self-employed that’s money that is gone for good – can’t claw it back. I don’t get sick pay. Simply taking one day off work massively impacts the finances for the month and it’s so stressful.

Time has literally flown this weekend which feels so bloody unfair, too. When I am in the middle of the week (woeful Wednesday) it feels as though time is almost standing still, like I am suspended in some kind of awful, endless nightmare. I have to coach myself through the day, work on an hour by hour basis so that I don’t hit complete overwhelm.

It doesn’t help that the young parts of me are always massively activated in the middle of the week – it feels such a long way from the safety of the therapy room and adult me just hasn’t got capacity to look after those small ones when it’s taking every ounce of strength to survive my adult life! I feel so blessed to have both Anita and K on my team now, though.

In the past when I have felt in this kind of area (stress, anxiety, and overwhelm) I have also had to navigate the added stress of having a therapist who was unresponsive, unavailable, and if we are honest about it, totally uncaring. I felt perpetually triggered and dysregulated both in and outside of the sessions. It was agony. Torture, actually. And I don’t have that now.

What I have now is so much better. Therapists who see me and all my various parts. Care about me. Support me. And love me. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. The other week at the end of an amazing craniosacral session with K she quickly scribbled some notes about some pain in my shoulder she pulled out a card from her folder and said, ‘You gave me this in 2010, do you remember?’ – I couldn’t believe she’d kept it.

I was a bit embarrassed knowing that I was so defended back then, but I’m guessing I must have said something unfiltered (as is usually the way when I write!) and actually back then she was one of the few people I let in and allowed to see the pain. To be honest she can feel it anyway so there’s no point in hiding! I think I said something about being intense even back then, and she laughed and said she is honoured to work with me and thinks I am courageous. As I walked off down the street she shouted, ‘I love you RB!’ from her front door. I turned around and smiled, feeling so warm inside and said, ‘I love you, too, K’. It was so easy. So natural.

And to think I got myself in knots for so long with Em, never once being able to tell her how I felt. I suppose maybe it’s easier to express feelings when they are in some way reciprocated. It feels much more dangerous and exposing having feelings for someone who is clearly struggling to tolerate you and sees you as a parasite. Ugh. Never mind. That was simply the most spectacular re-enactment wasn’t it?!

Anyway, what I think I am trying to get to in a round about way is that I feel so supported having K and A in my life. When things feel tough, or activated, or just plain bloody attachmenty, I know it’s not a big deal to either of them if I reach out and text them something and that they want to help me. More often than not it’s some kind of GIF. My best friend teases me about this. ‘RB is feeling something: send the therapist a GIF!’ And it’s so true. But these communications are mostly coming from the young parts and it’s their way of checking in – ‘Are you still there?’ So when they reply with a GIF back it really settles those parts. They both seem to understand that they’re dealing with my most vulnerable, needy parts and aren’t disgusted or put off them. In fact they both understand what I need and it’s really helped build the trust and safety.

What I’m trying to say is that despite feeling completely knackered I don’t feel like I am on the verge of a breakdown when I know in the past I would have been teetering on the edge because the parts are more held. I am more held! Therapy now feels therapeutic, helpful, and holding which in turn is modelling how to hold myself.

In fact, the other day my wife even asked me if I was even going to therapy anymore. I asked what she meant. She explained that I have been so much more settled in myself, and even though I am clearly under a lot of stress and pressure I haven’t fallen apart or been hard to live with. She said that it used to be really difficult when I was seeing Em because for the two days leading into therapy I would be so wound up and snappy that it was like treading on eggshells with me. And I saw Em twice a week!

That wasn’t easy to hear but I know she was right. I thought I was doing a better job of hiding it than I was, but clearly that level of intense pain and dysregulation was just too much to contain and still function. It was exhausting – for all of us. Anytime my wife questioned whether therapy was actually helping me I’d get defensive and shut her out. I didn’t want to believe that Em and I weren’t making progress. I didn’t want to acknowledge that the level pain I was in about the relationship was unusual in therapy. I thought it was just the nature of the transference.

I would say that ‘things have to get worst before they get better’ not knowing that actually it’s supposed to feel safe with the therapist. I know that sounds dim. But what I mean is I have a huge mother wound so I kind of thought it all feeling so painful with Em was the work…and it was…but you can heal the mother wound in another way. Withholding isn’t healing. Shaming isn’t healing. Pathologising isn’t healing. Empathy and care is healing. Acceptance is healing. Love is healing.

Anyway, I had to concede that my wife was right. What Em and I were doing wasn’t helping me. In fact it had really hurt me. And I told her that, yes, I was still in therapy and that my new therapist is great and I feel much more contained. She said it really shows and is so happy that I am finally getting what I need because she sees how hard I am trying to heal. My wife was the one who encouraged me to go back to K last year. And it was K who gave me the strength to question what was happening with Em. The contrast between seeing them in a week was so stark. Without K I would never have considered seeking out Anita.

Earlier this week I sent both K and A a variation of this message after making some tough choices about my estranged family with their support:

I hope you know that you’ve been instrumental in helping me move into this, still wobbly, but much more solid place in the last year. I know for certain had I not been seeing you I’d still be stuck with Em and letting people be horrid and believing that’s all I was entitled to. Thank you for showing me that I deserve better and have value because it’s helping me make better choices for myself. x

They both replied with hug GIFs!

I literally don’t know how got through to Friday but I was so relieved to see A. It was a crappy day. Stormy, cold, wet and the drive had been horrid. I arrived at therapy, promptly took my blanket out my bag, wrapped myself up in it and told Anita that I can’t do ‘it’ any more I really feel like there needs to be eight days in the week. ‘In order that you can actually get a day off?’ she questioned. I nodded.

I think I start nearly all therapy sessions with, ‘I’m exhausted’…and it’s true. Only I am really really exhausted now. Hence taking a fleece blanket to my session and basically curling up on the sofa for an hour. It was an ok session. Very adult. And in the past, with Em, I would have felt like that was somehow ‘crap’ because my child parts were always hiding behind the sofa on alert waiting like heat seeking missiles desperately trying to lock onto some semblance of warmth and care. I would always leave feeling disappointed when there was none and believed that because I had kept my child parts hidden that the session had fallen short because Em didn’t get to see them. I mean let’s be fair if they did creep out I would dissociate instantly and then things were bloody horrific.

Anyway, what I have realised with A is that it doesn’t matter who is there, who fronts, because actually I feel safely held and contained both inside and outside of the sessions with her. So even if the child parts don’t make an appearance it doesn’t matter because they feel safely held in mind by her. I’m not explaining this very well. I guess it’s something like therapy doesn’t feel so ‘high stakes’ anymore. It just is. I don’t get the therapy shits any more. I don’t feel like I am going to gag brushing my teeth the morning of a session. I don’t feel my heart racing as I walk up to A’s front door. I just feel content and happy that I am going to be in a room with a safe person who can handle whatever I tell her.

I feel like my blog has reached a level of beige these days – but oh my god I am so glad to not have the drama. Don’t get me wrong. My child parts are totally in the mix, there have been (and undoubtedly will be more) ruptures but now I have the confidence that my therapist/s can handle me, are invested, and because of that my youngest parts don’t feel ashamed for existing now.

Thank god!

The Queen Of Avoidance

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It’s no secret that when it comes to expressing difficult feelings – or even positive ones like the ‘L’ word – in therapy I can sit on my throne, The Queen of Avoidance, for weeks or even months (years!!!) on end not really saying what’s going on for me! I think I frequently come over as aloof, stand-offish or perhaps even cold and unfeeling – because whilst I can be ‘feeling all the feelings’ inside, I’d sooner sit in stony-faced silence than admit that I like you, care about you, or say that you are important to me. Considering how much I hate the still face experiment it’s kind of funny that I sit with my poker face glued on so much of the time in therapy.

I’ve spoken at length with my friend (who kindly drew the illustration above) about this, she’s one of the few people I have truly let into my inner world, and have lamented how sad it is that to me it feels more dangerous to express love than it does to express anger or rage in therapy. Revealing and communicating loving feelings feels so risky. I guess because when we do that, the armour is off and the protectors are standing down. When we express love we are wide open and vulnerable to being hurt and this is even more the case if the feelings being articulated are coming from a young part.

Whilst it’s what I crave, it’s also not surprising that I avoid this kind of emotional intimacy. We all want to be loved, need to be loved, but there have been a couple of significant times in my life where I have finally built up the courage to tell someone how I feel and it’s gone badly. I am programmed expect the worst, ‘you’re too much’ or to get no response at all – especially after growing up with a mother who does not show any warmth whatsoever. And so any time I enter the arena of feeling the BIG feelings and wanting to express them, it triggers those really painful feelings of rejection and abandonment and so I’d sooner say nothing at all and sit in my own discomfort rather than be negatively judged or rejected by the other.

It’s funny, I saw a tweet months ago that I sent to Anita at the time which said:

All I ask is for you to get to know me on a deep, intimate level while I resist and obstruct your every attempt to do so.

And this absolutely nails it. Queen Of Avoidance! I tried so hard to break this pattern with Em but actually working with her cemented my fears and doubts about being unlovable, increased my levels of dissociation, and crushed the youngest parts of me… which is unfortunate to say the least.

Wow – that’s a massive understatement!

I’ve been working with Anita for 8 months now. I see her twice a week so I guess we must have had about 60 sessions over this time. I noticed towards the end of June a shift in how I felt with A. I guess it was around then that the child parts who had been so much in hiding after being so badly hurt by Em attached to her. And of course this signalled the start of ‘react like a baby to the slightest thing’ time. It was like having a scab torn off and the open mother wound exposed again.

Once the young parts (including the teens) activate in therapy it’s a whole other world of fun isn’t it? And when I say ‘fun’ I really mean ‘shame’!

A has been nothing short of amazing with me in the time we have been working together. I know I am not an easy client to work with (another massive understatement!) but she’s been so calm, consistent, and validating of my feelings that it’s hardly surprising that since returning to face to face sessions it feels more intense. After months working online, and having had the break, being back in the room feels so nice. I feel more seen and more connected which in turn settles my system down.

Only it also does that other thing…SHAKES IT UP!!

Argh!

Because A makes me feel safe when I am with her it activates all the attachment stuff and young need. Like I feel so grateful to her for what she does for me but now it feels like all the little ones are wanting to rush forward and hug her especially after the break – stampede style!

The children inside have all been left unattended for so long that it’s a shit show. In January the little ones were abandoned, screaming, and the teen part was left babysitting. She had no idea what she was doing and basically spent the food money on litres of coke and sweets to bribe the little ones to shut up- and now the littlest ones are hyper but also overtired and need a story and to be put to bed!

This last couple of weeks has been really hard going. I have barely hung it together in my adult life and it’s massively impacted my internal system. Everything feels overwrought and I feel like I am spread way too thin. My resources are massively depleted. My nervous system has been off the chart…and generally it’s felt really awful. Like I have wanted to cry but haven’t been able to let the tears come – although crying is not something I find very easy. Apparently the average woman cries 3.5 times a month…I barely manage that in a year even when I have been terminated my by attachment figure! I have felt like I have wanted to self-harm but haven’t…but because I haven’t gone to my ‘go to’ coping strategies there has also not been any release.

I think I have come over as a complete basket case in my sessions. Manic and repetitive. I’ve done nothing but moan. And then underneath the immediate everyday life stuff there’s been this swirling terror that I don’t talk about, can’t talk about, because I just can’t hold that too and keep going with the day to day.

I feel a huge panic in my system that any minute A is going to go. Part of it is I think COVID dread. I am really worried about us ending up in lockdown again and not being able to see her… but this then spirals down into the feeling of her being ‘gone’ like properly gone. And I guess this is something to do with what it is like working online for the young parts. I think the preverbal stuff is really difficult to work with online and so because that littlest self can’t really get what it needs on screen it feels like its been abandoned… I dunno I need to think more on that.

Despite everything feeling massively precarious – being in the room with A has been the glue that has held my pieces together lately… or, maybe the scaffolding around my renovation project. And getting a hug at the end feels like the parts of me that are crumbling are momentarily held in place before I go back out into the world and try not to disintegrate.

I outdid myself this week after my session. I felt so seen and held that I sent A a message afterwards – basically saying just that…but then ugh…I rounded it off with a GIF that said ‘p.s I love you’.

Because I do.

So what am I left with after sending that? Well, I feel embarrassed, ashamed, and like I want to run away. My protector parts are ready, my armour is on, and my avoidant self is back online. Like what was I actually thinking? Why on earth did I bloody open myself up to being hurt amd rejected again?

I feel sick inside.

And this is what’s really depressing. Surely it should feel ok to tell someone that they are important to you and love should not feel bad. But this is where my wounding is and I feel like I’ve just run back into a burning building and it’s hurting like hell…which is kind of ironic given how burning myself was a go to method of self harm!

Therapy Break #1: You’re The Other Side Of The World To Me.

Ugh, noooooooooooooooooooo!!!! Here we go again. Somewhat predictably, as I find myself nearing the end of a therapy break, having almost survived it, the feeling of panic has taken root in the young parts of my system and the last couple of days I have found that I am perpetually on the verge of tears and feel completely overwhelmed but also totally incapacitated. It’s bloody awful but not unfamiliar.

The result of this shifting gears down into inner chaos is that I literally cannot cope with the smallest thing. When I say ‘smallest thing’, I really mean it. My system is so sensitised that the slightest noise from anyone else in the house is making me feel a combination of irritation, agitation, and anxiety. Even the noise of my kids eating some raw carrots with their dinner downstairs earlier, when I was upstairs in my bedroom, made my nerves jangle and I wanted to scream, or walk out the door, or rage for them to ‘shut the fuck up!’ I didn’t, which is obviously really good news, I just stayed upstairs willing it to be bedtime. But this really demonstrated to me how my resources are so lacking and I feel like I have no skin – no resilience.

I understand that the rage and frustration is just a defence against what’s really happening. Underneath all the desire to take flight is the need to feel connected, contained, and secure and I don’t feel any of those things right now which is why I feel like everything is too much.

Another example of this being too wound up has just this second happened…My wife has been out all day and I knew she was on her way home because she called to say she was leaving, and yet the noise of her quietly walking through the front door saw me jump out my skin: my legs actually left the couch, I jolted upright as though an electric current had been passed through my body, and now my hands and feet are fizzing. It’s fucking horrendous and I just don’t know how to help myself. Even craniosacral with K didn’t seem to touch it. Everything feels wrong.

Part of me desperately wants to be alone but actually, I also want peace and to escape from all the noise inside. I have listened to what all parts are saying but there’s no way of soothing them. I have no choice but to accept what I am feeling but it is so hard to live with when you have the responsibilities of an adult, of a parent.

I really need a reset right now. I need a hug and to be reassured that things are ok – but I can’t get that and they’re not – and I can’t see things getting any better for a couple of weeks. I have too much swirling in my brain, too much to do, too much stress and anxiety (not just mine) to absorb and the panic is getting worse rather than better.

I hate this!

I realise how bonkers this sounds, but I genuinely feel like the big red button has been pressed and the alarm is sounding. EVACUATE! EVACUATE!

I feel as though I am hurtling through black space, internally. It’s terrifying. It’s like all the parts of me have decided to form a skydiving team and have, yet again, completely overestimated their ability to dive safely, in formation. At this stage they should really only be attempting tandem dives with a trained professional and yet I think because they’ve done so many dives (breaks) they kind of thought they’d be ok this time. But it turns out that things are even more precarious than usual and, if I am honest, I am not sure my lot have even remembered to pack a parachute! Or maybe they have one, but there’s one parachute between…err…thirteen parts!

Shiiiiittttt!!!!

And where the hell has my adult gone? – she’s not plummeting with the rest of them… but then I wonder if she already hit rock bottom? – she’s burnt out – already crashed and burned? I mean I literally could not get out of bed until 2pm today (I mean I got up to feed the kids and checked on them, but kept finding my way back into bed because I just couldn’t face doing anything) and have just felt completely suffocated in the thick fog of depression for days. And that’s why I am left with this chaos, because there’s no glue to hold all the pieces together – I don’t even seem to be in possession of my rubber bands or chewing gum!

It’s felt almost inevitable that I would crash out at some point. To be honest, I don’t think this is about just this two week therapy break, I think this is the culmination of the last nine months (or really, eighteen months) of emotional stress and anxiety that I have been trying to carry and survive without falling apart. It had to catch up with me eventually, and so I suppose it’s not really surprising that the moment I am left to my own devices and have time to stop and reflect a bit, but have also just started down the track of new stresses (back to work and back to school), that something would give.

How it feels now is just like that hideous dream I had the other week, spiralling downwards from space towards the earth, completely out of control. I guess the only saving grace this time is that I won’t crash land on Em’s driveway and then have her slam the door in my face….because I have already been there and done that in February – and am still nursing my injuries. Part of me can’t actually get my head round what happened. I cannot believe that I will never get to work this out with her. I cannot believe she cut me dead.

Honestly, I feel so bloody bruised from that experience. It’s almost like the shock of the initial injury has worn off now and I am just left with that deep gnawing ache of bones that haven’t set quite right. Occasionally, I move in a way that I shouldn’t and white hot pain courses through my system (and that’s what’s happening now) but largely I just feel battered. Wounded.

I said, in my last post, this break has a different quality to it, partly because it is the first one Anita and I have had, but also because it has fed directly into everything that happened at Christmas with Em – the last therapy break I had signalled the unravelling of an 8 year therapeutic relationship and I can’t help but feel worried that it might happen again.

Breaks before now, with Em, have felt bad because I’ve been panicking about the ‘what if’ situations and fearing abandonment which really had no basis in the reality of the relationship with Em… [ha you should hear what a part just screamed as I typed that! – they certainly have other views!: ‘She perpetually abandoned us week in week out for years – and we were right to fear she would leave because she was never really there in the first place!’] whereas now I feel like my fears have actually got some validity because they became a reality because of what happened earlier in the year.

I guess with Em I was viewing the relationship through an historical lens with a child’s eyes and fearing something repeating that had happened a long time ago – whereas now I have all that fear and anxiety from the past, but also a real adult experience of having been dumped. And so it’s like every single part of me has been rejected…even the bits that I thought were likeable enough and that’s really hard to come to terms with.

Yeah, I get it. Anita is not Em.

Repeat: Anita is not Em…

But we’re not dealing with the rational side of me right now. This stuff is so young and so hard to settle. No matter what I do – and I have an extensive self-care list- I can’t ease this horrible gut level sense that something is very very wrong and I am not safe. All of a sudden I have a bunch of inconsolable child parts losing their shit.

I feel lost.

I want to see Anita but also I am worried that something has changed. I should be able to keep in mind that I had similar anxieties about whether it would be ok returning to face to face, and it was all fine – better than fine. But I guess I am worried that because we’ve had contact through the break she’ll be feeling like she’s had enough…‘Give me a fucking break already! Leave me alone!’

There’s definitely something big going on with the object constancy stuff too. Some of the lyrics KT Tunstall’s ‘Other Side Of The World’ keep coming into my head. The song is about long distance relationships but actually feels quite apt for breaks, too. I know A isn’t on the other side of the world, she told me where she is, which has helped those young parts a bit because that must mean she’s not actually disappeared and still exists!

There’s this verse:

Can you help me? /Can you let me go?/ And can you still love me when you can’t see me anymore?

And I think this really captures that feeling of panic that young parts have of separation. I don’t for one minute think that A loves me but the feeling of potentially being forgotten about or not being kept in mind is the worry that the youngest parts have – and this is because they too lose connection on breaks. It’s so shit. Anyway, here’s a link to the song – the whole thing is great! x

I’m frustrated with myself too because I literally feel as though I have sleep-walked my way over the edge this time – like it’s happened in slow motion or something. I knew from the beginning that this couple of weeks were going to be ‘interesting’ and yet I really couldn’t face what was coming up for me again. The grief around the loss of Em, of being rejected and abandoned is just too painful. So I tried to power through, kept going, pretended that everything was fine but that has been achieved by a shit tonne of avoidance and keeping too busy! And that is a recipe for disaster because I can’t outrun this forever and it always catches up eventually.

I literally finished painting my house on Monday and then was back into work on Tuesday all day. There has been no down time but then I knew that if I stopped this was all here waiting for me. In some ways it’s not surprising that I would try and avoid feeling this way – it’s thoroughly unpleasant and exhausting.

To be fair, teaching was fine that day but then in the afternoon I was stationary in a line of traffic, leaving a car park and a car ran in the back of me. There wasn’t any damage done but again my system went into meltdown – the bang was so loud! -my hands and feet were buzzing for hours afterwards and my heart was racing.

Then straight, after this, I was driving to the national park with my kids and the dual carriageway I was on had a huge accident on the other side which meant the road was closed. I drove past the scene, and instantly knew something very bad had happened from the amount of emergency vehicles and the fact that traffic was being turned around and sent back up the carriageway. I later discovered that a man had been killed walking his dog when a tyre had come off a moving vehicle at speed and hit him.

I think that Tuesday was the start of things starting to not feel ok inside. And by ‘not ok’, I mean bad. I wanted to talk to A about it all. I felt so shaken up. But really what is there to say? These things happen all the time (I mean the car accident in the car park, not the freak accident on the road.) and I need to not be so sensitive.

So, this week it’s as though I have been on some kind of conveyor belt that’s headed towards the drop off and into the horrible place where everything feels terrible and scary and yet I’ve not been able to get off. I really didn’t want to do a sky dive right now. I just wanted to chill out in a hammock somewhere and be brought snacks and have someone wrap me in a blanket and read me stories!! But my life seems to have other ideas…

I wish I felt more equipped to cope with what’s going on/coming than I do. I guess it’s just going to have to be a case of taking one day at time and celebrating small wins…and hopefully I’ll feel more settled and in a routine soon.

I feel more like a damaged rescue dog than ever! I saw this the other day and it made me laugh – so apt! haha…sigh!

‘I’m Still Here…’

I woke up this morning feeling sick to my core, again. This has happened quite a lot lately. I become aware of it in my sleep, when I am dreaming (usually about something painful), and then when I wake up, I feel ill. It’s hard to explain because it’s not the sort of feeling I would usually associate with being anxious/stressed/dissociated/the attachment stuff – you know that familiar deep, tight ache in your solar plexus and a heaviness in your chest? It’s really different to that. It’s like the whole of my torso feels ‘sick’, like a whole-body nausea rather than specific patches of ‘ache’.

I’m not ill (I don’t think…although it would be funny if I am making all this fuss and it turns out I have a bug?!), and yet, there’s nothing major going on in my mind today – at least not consciously… having said that, the last few days have been rammed with worry and stress – I’d literally forgotten that I just went for my lovely cancer follow up at the hospital which was fine but is always so draining! – so perhaps it’s just a late move by my system to somatise it all and give my head a break? Who knows?! Either way it dragged me out of bed at 6am on a Sunday morning because lying down made it worse.

Rather than wallow in self-pity and achieve nothing, I dragged my family out for an early morning walk by the river. It was really beautiful today. Autumn seems to properly have arrived now. I love the season but hate what it represents – a long slog of teaching until Christmas, dark evenings, and a big dose of SAD! But I still have a day of holiday left before I have to put on my teacher hat and so this morning, I tried to shove the anxiety to the back of my mind and take in- and enjoy- my surroundings. The air was crisp and the sky was that perfect blue that comes at this time of year. It was great to get out and get some fresh air and it distracted a bit from the nausea…until the ride home with the wet dog stinking in the back! Ha.

I’ve been meaning to write all week but every time I think about sitting down at the laptop, I get a mental block. I have stuff to say but at the same time I haven’t had the energy to go there and look at what’s happening. It’s the worst kind of procrastination/avoidance. Instead of sitting with myself and my feelings I have gone all out with avoidance …so much so, that in two days I have completely decorated a big chunk of my house and had a mad one sorting out the garden.

I like to be productive, and the house has been a job I have been putting off for a couple of years, so spending hours mindlessly painting whilst listening to playlists on iTunes meant I didn’t have to be with ‘myself’ too much and that’s what I needed.

So, what’s been going on? What’s prompted this mad phase of action? Well, part of it is trying to avoid back to work dread (and there is a shit load of it – I genuinely feel like crying) but also, I’m half way through a two-week therapy break – the first one I have had with Anita.

Eye roll.

You all saw that one coming, didn’t you?

A hasn’t had a break since I started working with her in January so she certainly deserves some time out but it’s stirred up some unexpected stuff and that’s not easy. The good news is that wheels haven’t completely fallen off just yet! It remains to be seen if I crash and burn as the week progresses and work picks up, though. The heightened anxiety paired with tiredness (oh and PMS week) is sure to throw a few spanners in the works- I already feel a bit wobbly.

There have already been a couple of flat days, but I don’t think that’s purely down to the break, I think it’s my life in general catching up with me and my feeling overwhelmed by it…oh and the hormones of course. They don’t help! I’m beginning to realise that I can’t underestimate the power of the veil that shrouds my rational self when PMS hormone hell is ravaging. I suppose at least I am aware that it’s week where I seem able to blow stuff up in my head to apocalyptic levels of doom: two months ago it was freaking out about feeling like A was ignoring my texts (she wasn’t!), and then last month it was the jealous hell about the walk with the other client…pray for me that I keep my shit together this week as I am really done with overreacting and having the emotional resilience of a fractious three year old!

I didn’t really help myself leading into this break, either. I got to see Anita in person again for our Friday session. Yay, right? Err…yes and no. I didn’t even realise what was happening until about ten minutes from the end when it became blindingly obvious that I had spent the whole session hiding. It was that horrible thing where more than anything I want to connect but there’s that part of me that packs up early and gags all the parts that need to be seen before a holiday. So the needy young parts that are terrified that something bad is going to happen during the break and need reassurance get left high and dry. Then I feel like there is no connection – even though it’s me that has run away from connecting! FFS.

Anita was sitting right opposite me – and we all know how big a deal not being able to be with her in the room has felt during lockdown – but she might as well have been on the moon. I could barely look at her and whilst I was talking, it wasn’t really talking…………….. well it was, but I’m so well practised at filling space with what seems like important stuff, I have such a good disguise, that it’d be impossible for her to know that this ‘stuff’ isn’t the ‘priority stuff’ because there’s just too much fucking stuff! I manage to seem like I am letting her in when actually I am holding her at arm’s length….

FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!

I talked a lot about how bad it’s been feeling in my body; about a horrible dream I had where I was falling towards the earth from space without a parachute, having to fashion something makeshift so I didn’t die, and then landing with a thud on Em’s driveway. She opened her door, looked at me, and then slammed it shut (ouch); feeling like having insight into why I am the way I am is worse than being ignorant of it because I realise there is soooooooooooooooo much wrong and sooooooooooooo much to heal and it feels overwhelming; how internally it’s like a school corridor on change over between lessons – it’s complete carnage…

See, it looks like the important ‘stuff’ doesn’t it?!

And we talked a lot about all these things and A was really lovely but sometimes even her tentatively asking me a question to see what is possible is enough to send my system into lockdown. She asked me if maybe we could ask the parts in the corridor to get in a line because when they’re all stuck together it’s really hard to see who is there and who needs help – especially as there are so many little ones in there alongside the rowdy teens. And whilst that makes loads of sense and is what I need – we need to work with a part or two at a time – it put the protectors on full alert. No way are they going to let that happen ……………..AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!

I so wish that I could take a step forward when I am invited to. I wish I was able to really look at what’s going on but those gatekeepers are so bloody fast and strong. I wish I had been able to talk because there’s the story that doesn’t get told because it just feels excruciating to feel so vulnerable and needy. I wish I could say:

‘I’m anxious about the break because the last therapy break I had was a disaster and ended with Em and I terminating. Our relationship completely disintegrated over two weeks. Part of me is frightened that you might go away and something will happen whilst you’re gone. I’m worried that the narrative will change from ‘I am happy to work on this with you and the therapy will only end when you want it to, or if there are unforeseen circumstances in my life’ (just like she said) and you’ll go away, realise I am too much to cope with, be reminded of how nice it is to not have to see me, and you’ll come back and end it saying something about how you’ve reached the limit of your competency (like she did).

I know it’s mental, but the youngest parts of me are terrified and recent history has really made this feel scarier than it might otherwise have felt. I am not very good with breaks anyway – fear of abandonment was massive before this year but now it’s…huge. Part of me wants desperately to cling on to you but another part doesn’t want to freak you out with the need and then push you to the point where you terminate. I know this is really messy and comes from a really young place – it’s so embarrassing and totally overwhelming’  

So, I guess that’s what I would have said if the words had have been available to me, or if the protector part of me hadn’t have shut things down so that the young parts were locked away.

However, it wasn’t a complete disaster because the light flicked on near to the end and I became aware of what was happening with my inner dynamics, like I came out of autopilot and was in control of the plane again. And there was the realisation: ‘Ooooh fuck, it’s this bloody shit pattern again’. I told A that I felt like I wasn’t there and felt disconnected. She asked if part of me felt threatened and so had taken myself away (when she’d suggested making the parts line up). Yes. Always yes. But not only then…

I managed to tell A that I had disconnected early, because even though she was sitting opposite me, she would be going away. A was really understanding and said how it made sense that part was getting ready because it feels like it’s protecting me. I said I understood this but that it isn’t helpful. I didn’t say it, but I do this so often. I go into shutdown early, batten down the hatches readying myself for the storm, but in doing so I deprive the youngest parts of myself the connection they need and so that actually makes any separation much harder.

When will I learn?!

It was time to finish and A said I could write to her if it would and asked me if there was anything she could give me do for me before I went…

Ha…we know where this is going, right?

The ‘I don’t give a fuck about anything, teen part’ stepped up and was so dismissive (she’s only trying to protect the littlest ones). I don’t think I could have been any more combative in the, ‘like what?!’ answer I gave. Oh god I just want to die of shame thinking about it! But I have to love Anita, she didn’t seem put off and asked if I maybe wanted to take something from the room like a stone or a shell…but after the hell six months with the pebble with Em the idea of a hard transitional object like this just feels awful. It’s too much of a reminder of what happened before. And when the youngest parts are falling apart they just want to curl up in a blanket or cuddle a soft toy that has some kind of link to A– but voicing that just feels cringey.

Anyway, I declined the transitional object because I am a grump, but also because I don’t think it would really have helped the parts that struggle with breaks… I dunno.

Whilst all this was going on there was a total meltdown happening inside with the little parts, ‘What if she doesn’t come back? What if she forgets us?’ Etc. I think A must’ve noticed because as I got up to leave, she asked me if I wanted a hug.

There is only ever one answer to this question!

Yes.

And fortunately, the dismissive, connection severing part of me sat back down and folded her arms and waited for the other parts to get what they needed. As we were hugging, A said, ‘I’m still here’ – and that was so soothing and reassuring.

I don’t think I can really put into words what getting a hug with A is like – because whilst it is just a hug, it feels like so much more than that. It feels like it repairs a little bit of the feeling of being untouchable and unlovable that has been so present in my relationship with my mum (who has only hugged me once in the last 23 years… and that was the day my dad died). It also makes me feel like the feeling of being physically and emotionally abandoned time and again over the last 8 years with Em when I have been distressed and dissociated might have been more about her rather than there being something inherently wrong with me… anyway, it’s a big HUGE area…and there’s a lot of work to be done round it in the therapy – oh god…I can’t wait for that! LOL.

I walked away from the session feeling a bit frustrated with myself but also so much more connected than I had earlier in the session. It really is amazing how something as simple as leaving on a hug can do enough to settle the young parts who worry so much about whether the relationship is real but also who are freaking out about a separation. Anita actually asking me if I wanted a hug makes those parts that feel untouchable think that perhaps she is safe, and perhaps she isn’t disgusted by them… it feels nice.

Physical touch really does help when stuff feels off and I think this is because when young child is terrified and having a tantrum you don’t try and have a big dialogue right in that moment. First, you pick it up, hold it, help it regulate, and then when it’s settled you try and talk things though and make sense of it all. And I think this is where I have got so lost for so long in therapy.

My system is so fragmented and there have been so many times where the attachment stuff has been activated in a session and then I’ve been stranded in a very young, often pre-verbal dissociated state and have been expected to find my way out of that by myself. It’s impossible. It’s abandoning and traumatising being in that state and having a therapist do the still face on you, or tell you that you need to hold that part for yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting for one minute that I see myself as some kind of ‘adult baby’ …it’s fucking mortifying enough experiencing the range of feelings so intensely and having to talk about it – BUT – there are definitely times when words are simply not enough and being physically held really helps regulate the system and bring the adult coping parts back online so that maybe we can work out what’s going on. The work can’t be done when you’re not in your window of tolerance – and as I have said before, my window is more like a letterbox!!

Anyway, that was our last session. I’ve checked in a few times with A via text since then…and that is another thing that has made this break more bearable. For the parts that genuinely can’t hold her in mind she almost ceases to exist and so these little reminders, that ‘she’s still here’ really help.

I feel like A understands how this stuff works, like she speaks my language…and that really is amazing.

Back In The Therapy Room…At Last!

Wow….so apparently today marks the third birthday of Rubber bands and Chewing Gum! I have a three year old toddler blog! -how on earth did that happen? Honestly, I can’t believe it. When I first started blogging I really had no idea how it would turn out, what I would say, or if anyone would even bother to read it – I certainly never thought hundreds of people would follow me or be interested in what I had to say! Back then, all I knew was that I need to find somewhere to put all the chaos that was swirling in my head and so this space became my online therapy journal…it was safe because it was stored ‘out there’ rather than as some random file for someone to come across on my laptop one day – EEK!

I have always liked to write- needed to write- in fact it’s pretty much the only way I have ever processed my stuff. I guess when you grow up and there’s no-one to listen then it makes sense to purge it on the page before it eats you alive. It’s sad really. I find it so easy to get my feelings down in words here, but expressing them aloud can be almost impossible sometimes. Shame and embarrassment have been my constant companions throughout my life and stop me saying what’s really going on…oh and let’s not forget the system inside that’s comprised of a mini-bus full of traumatised parts!

This blog has really been a ‘warts and all’ account of my therapeutic journey. Often people email me and say how much they have related to what I say here and thank me for making them feel less alone in their own experience. I am really glad that this is the case, if seeing what I am going through helps even one person feel less alone with what are really excruciating feelings then I’m happy.

I frequently get told how brave I am to tell it as it is. I don’t know if it’s brave, really, it’s just honest. If I was brave I wouldn’t publish this under a pseudonym because I wouldn’t be terrified of any one in my ‘real life’ stumbling across it and seeing what a mess I really am and judging me for it.

Because whilst on one level, I am completely sure that these are just human feelings and understandable reactions to lots of trauma (and there should be no shame in that) I also know that most people are not in touch with their emotional selves, society is not ready to open its eyes and see how many people are carrying the weight of several ACES on their shoulders – (I’ve got 7/10!) and would sooner judge people that do feel it all and struggle, than try and understand or have to acknowledge the level of damage there is and and the care that people require to heal.

And it’s not just ‘out there’ that is the problem. Part of the reason I started blogging was because I knew I felt ‘too much’ and was ‘too much’ and couldn’t bring my feelings to my therapist. In my gut I knew she couldn’t handle me. And when I did (finally) show her really how I felt, there was the very real experience of being rejected and abandoned for getting close to the core wound – with a therapist – someone who is meant to understand!! No wonder so many of us are in hiding!

However, I know for a fact that I am not the only one to experience the things I do in therapy…there’s certainly a merry bunch of mother wounded souls lurking here on WordPress and I feel so blessed to have landed here when I did and made the connections I have. Honestly, when it all went to shit with Em in January it was this space and you guys that helped me get through. So thank you everyone x

I could rabbit on and on, gushing, but I know actually all anyone wants to hear about was what happened when I finally got to see Anita in person on Tuesday. It feels nice to be able to write something positive here after so much of my journey being a complete shit show.

So here it is:

I left my last post on a bit of a cliff-hanger (sorry!)…partly because the post was already pretty lengthy and also because I didn’t have any time to write more then. I thought I’d get back here sooner than this, but the last few days have been rammed full with stuff that has left me feeling pretty drained.

I’ve seen a couple of friends (socially distanced) and, honestly, after an hour I felt like I had nothing left to give them. It sounds awful but I have literally been wishing they’d go home! This is so unlike me and really demonstrates how lacking in resources I am right now. I usually have so much capacity to listen and absorb other people’s stuff but yesterday my friend, whom I haven’t seen in 5 months, talked at me for a solid 90 minutes before coming up for air and asking what’s been going on my end. I said I was ‘fine’ – I just couldn’t be arsed to talk and was on empty, and so then she went on another deep dive….4.5 hours in total. Sweet mother of god! I honestly do not know how therapists do it and maybe that’s why there’s a therapy hour!! I suppose at least they get paid! haha.

So now it’s Friday, and I’ve seen Anita again today…but that’ll have to come in a later post. The problem is, today’s session (therapy break dread and young parts in hiding) has kind of erased my memory of Tuesday. I hate how that happens. How is it that the panicked parts that fear being abandoned can literally take the good memories underground with them when they go into meltdown?

Anyway, Tuesday, and the walk Anita and I had arranged didn’t happen. Instead I found myself outside her house at 1pm for a session IN THE THERAPY ROOM! I mean I have been banging on about wanting to be back in the room enough over the last few months but now, completely unexpectedly it was about to happen. And I soooooo needed it.

Fortunately, I wrote some lots of notes (5 A4 pages and I can’t read my writing!!) on Tuesday so I am going to try and piece it all back together which might actually help me regulate myself as I have fallen down a (massive) hole this afternoon. I joked in session on Monday that I am a bit like a double-sided puzzle (which apparently do actually exist – WHY?!) – the level of fragmentation isn’t even funny. I don’t know who holds all the memories of Tuesday but it isn’t whoever is here right now!…but I’d like that part back as she is pretty settled and my system right now is freaking out!

I cannot even begin to explain the feeling of being back in the room with A. I mean, I’ll try, but it’s going to be hard as SO MUCH was going on inside. But hey, lets lead in with a super-boosted dose of hypervigilance in action.

It’s funny. You know when you are aware of EVERYTHING in room, like you can go to a restaurant and clock everything that is going on with other tables, suss out the dynamic and relationship between those other customers, know where at least two exits are, and have a map of the floor before you’ve even sat down?? Well, I must’ve come across as a complete lunatic with A on Tuesday. It took a while to settle because I had to reorientate myself to the room. I noticed all the tiny changes. It’s been 5 bloody months since I was last there and yet it was like playing spot the difference… ‘has that cupboard door been painted?’…FFS!

I guess it makes sense to have this skill because at some point I’d have to have been able to do this (ok maybe not in a restaurant, but at home with caregivers) just to stay safe. But it always amazes me when this stuff happens and I am actually conscious of it. It feels a bit embarrassing because I am sure it isn’t normal to comment on a light switch…my poor brain is perpetually working so hard to try and see if there’s risk.

Anyway, after the ‘what’s changed in the room’ exercise I think I spent a few minutes basically like a broken record repeating how happy I was to see Anita and how great it was to be back in the room (not playing it cool at all!)…all the while other parts of me trying to work out if A was still the same, that things were ok, if it was safe…

Last week, before we had arranged the walk and then ended up face to face, I had asked A if I could send her something in the post before she went on her break. She said it was fine but actually, as it turned out, I got to give her what I wanted in person.

I realise that part of me must be fucking insane to contemplate giving a therapist a gift after what happened with Em at Christmas, but there we are…these parts seem to keep bouncing back and hoping for a different outcome! I can’t work out if they are resilient or nuts!

The first time I met Anita, I was moaning about how bad things were with Em, how she just seemed so cold and distant and almost deliberately trying to hurt me (especially off the back of the skype call after Christmas) . A said to me that she felt like my therapy journey was a bit like an egg – I’d got through the hard shell, and Em and I had been working in the white (for a very long time!), but now I needed to do the deep work, where the feelings are, and that work required love, and perhaps Em just couldn’t do that work with me… it really resonated but stung. I knew she was right but also knew that meant that meant the end of things with Em.

After the session, I was in town and I went into my favourite crystal shop and there on the shelf was an egg, made of blue lace agate. The gem stone relates to communication and specifically the throat chakra as well as tying into pisces (my star sign). It felt perfect. I knew even after that first session with A that I wanted to work with her but also knew that it wasn’t going to be a straightforward jumping ship with Em (mind you I never imagined in a million years it would end the way it did!).

I decided to buy the egg, knowing that one day, when the time felt right, I would give it to Anita as a symbol of the work we were doing…as we moved into the yolk and those deeper, painful feelings that as she said, ‘need a different kind of healing’.

Anyway, 5 months of online therapy has been a challenge but also our relationship has grown and I felt like before she went on holiday I wanted to give her the egg. The youngest parts of me fear being forgotten about and if there is such a thing, I think this egg serves as a reverse transitional object…instead of me taking something from the therapy room, part of me is left with A. I guess she can hold me in mind, but because my child parts just can’t hold people in mind at all, they disappear, it makes sense that they think that everyone needs something tangible so that they don’t disappear from memory.

I was a bit nervous giving A the egg but she already knew I was going to give her something and had said it was ok…so…I did. And she seemed to like it and reacted positively which was lovely. She said she wanted to give me a hug and then opened her arms and said ‘a socially distanced hug’. It was a nice gesture but also it activated the young part that actually so desperately wants an actual hug. It’s kind of like when you walk past a sweet shop as a kid. You can see, smell, and almost taste what’s inside but you don’t have any money and so can’t get what you want. Ugh.

The parts of me that have struggled to reach A during lockdown felt so relieved to see her sitting across from me in the flesh. It was so good to see her…but then…oh god…that meant she could also see me! And whilst parts of me really wanted to connect (like honestly how I didn’t cling onto her like a limpet when I walked in I have no idea!) there are other parts who are absolutely terrified of being seen, exposed, because to them it feels almost inevitable that when she sees the level of need, and how much connection those parts of me actually require, she’ll do a runner…like Em.

I managed to tell A that I had been worried that coming back to the room because I feared she might not like me anymore, now that she’s seen more of me, but she assured me that we have got closer since we were last together not further apart. This went a long way to settle some of the panicking parts.

We talked quite a bit about how much I fear rejection and abandonment (ha- no shit) – but that it’s not surprising given what’s happened with the therapy with Em. I said I feel like I always waiting for something bad to happen…like I can’t fully absorb A’s kindness and care because I feel like it can’t possibly last. I guess this is also the legacy of my childhood. Nothing ever stayed ‘nice’ for very long as my mum’s mood changed like the wind and so I was always on guard waiting, but also trying to behave in a way that might prevent her from losing the plot.

I told her Anita that I was still mortified about the reaction I had to finding out she’d been on a walk with another client and I couldn’t believe I’d behaved as I had. Anita said she could completely understand why I had felt the way I did and said how it tied into all the stuff about me feeling inadequate and feeling like for some reason I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be offered that by her. She was so right. The whole thing had felt like a confirmation of how people have to tolerate me but don’t want to spend any more time with me than they have to. I know that’s a very young part’s response but it was massive in the moment.

I talked about the kickback I have experienced over my reaction to it….which has been enormous. The Critic has had a complete field day. I told A that it makes sense, though, because if I am awful to myself then nothing she can possibly say or do to me can be worse…and so in a fucked up kind of a way it’s protective. But man…I wish the Critic would dial it down a few notches!

And then, that awful thing happened. You know, the thing where you are seen and understood and connected and it feels so good and then all of a sudden that young part of you that has been peeking out from behind the sofa, the one who has its face pressed up against the glass window of the sweet shop, who is so love and touch starved and just desperately wants to be closer lands with a thud in the room and everyone else in the system disappears for a minute?

Yeah, that happened.

Then the shame flooded in. And then I dissociated because that level of need feels chronically dangerous and so the walls had to come up. And yet again, I’d protected myself, but actually I’d also totally abandoned the young parts and stopped them getting any of the connection they need because I was so convinced I’d be rejected…even though that’s a clear re-enactment and A has done nothing at all to suggest she would push me away.

FFS.

It was obvious that something had shifted and Anita asked me what the parts of me that are struggling needed in that moment. Ugh. Fuck. Like how on earth do say it? Never in 8 years could I tell Em I wanted a hug especially after the session a few years ago when I was stuck in my two year old self and she said, ‘your young parts might feel like they need to be held but that won’t happen here, it’s my boundary and I won’t cross it. I won’t collude with that young part and you need to hold it for yourself.’ (Oh god … that was rough!) That day I was falling through the abyss and that’s what she chose to say …it wasn’t until January that I even said that I would like her to come closer when I was dissociating…which got a firm ‘NO’ too!

Ouch.

So whilst I knew exactly what I needed in that moment, and for the last gazillion years, the idea of saying it only to replay the old narrative (not because I am untouchable but because of COVID) just felt ugh. Anita asked me if it was too hard to say.

Errr…Yes!

I was beating myself up inside as well as having the young parts having a significant meltdown. It’s agony when this happens.

I managed to say something like, ‘I’ve been here before’…and man, how many times over the years have I been in that god awful lonely space, regressed into a very young child part, desperate to be seen and held, but being trapped because Em would never come anywhere near me? A said, ‘And I’m guessing it wasn’t ok last time?’…

At that moment, remembering all those excruciating times sitting with Em, I massively dissociated, not just a bit. I could feel myself go. I felt like I was being pulled out the room backwards by my hair. It was hideous. I managed to tell A what was going on for me and somehow she brought me back. I don’t know how she does it but having lost hours of my life in the dissociative fog in the therapy room with Em it amazes me how (relatively) quickly I can get back to A. Maybe it’s because there’s lots of parts who believe she is safe and not deliberately out to hurt me.

I was able to tell A what was going on inside. How part of me was raging at myself for being so silly. Like I was in the therapy room, with A, after all these months which is what I had wanted for the longest time, and it felt soooo good, and now that I was there I was getting hung up on something I can’t have. I said, “It’s not like I can’t have a hug because you’re deliberately withholding, it’s because of the situation, but my child parts don’t understand this at all. To them it just feels like more of the same, ‘I don’t work that way’, ‘you might want that but I’m just your therapist‘… Adult me understands what’s happening but the youngest parts just don’t and it really hurts. But then there’s the other part who believes I don’t deserve you to be nice to me and every time I take a step forward I get yanked back into line and it’s disconnecting and painful and it makes relationships really difficult.’

Now for anyone that has been following this blog a while you’ll see how massive that last paragraph is. To actually verbalise the need to be held after what’s happened in recent years is huge. Like massive.

Anita then spoke to me about how she works with physical touch again and how if it feels right she offers hugs and how nurturing they can be. And I know this. I get it. But ugh…when? And again my brain switched into the that space where it tries to make sense of a situation but fails to – like I can get a hair cut and have my hairdresser right by me for 90 minutes, do an hour of body work that involves physical touch throughout, and yet it seems that touch seems so out of bounds in the therapy room where we are actually at our most vulnerable and most regressed states and need it.

My brain was hearing was saying as, ‘we can hug one day’ and that was at least a bit containing. And then she said that she knew how I have been keeping myself safe (I mean how many times have I ranted over the last few months about safety and how I don’t go out except literally to get my hair done?!) and she said she, too, has been very careful and that she wouldn’t offer a hug to everyone and she wanted me to hear that but that she was fine with hugs if I wanted that now.

Anyway, we talked A LOT about all kinds of things, trauma, neglect, still-face experiment…you name it we covered it all! And then it was time to go. We’d run over – A commented how quickly the time had gone. And it really had flown by. I said how great it had been to see A…because it really had. We’d done a lot of work but it felt fab. Anita said that it’d been really nice to see me too and asked if I wanted to resume face to face when she’s back from holiday in September.

Err. YESSSSS!

And as I got up to leave I asked for a hug.

Yes, my friends, I actually said it!

And A’s response? ‘You are most welcome to a hug’.

And then it happened. And honestly I could have cried…it was so nice. I know I hung on for ages and somehow when I let go I found myself holding her hand…I felt a bit dizzy and spacey afterwards. It was as though the impact of being held, properly like that after years and years of needing it but instead being left, refused it, and it compounding the feeling of being unlovable and untouchable released a huge amount of trauma in my system.

Just thinking about it makes me cry. And I feel so grateful to have found A who seems to be willing to work with me in the way I need. Thank god.

Another Rupture…Over A Walk!

It’s certainly been an interesting couple of weeks in my head. And when I say ‘interesting’, I really mean a complete emotional shit show at times! It’s safe to say that all the attachment stuff has gone fully live in the therapeutic relationship with Anita and all the parts are starting to jiggle about for attention!…and (over)reacting left, right, and centre to the smallest of things. Eek!

Give me strength! … and moreover give my poor therapist strength as she’s certainly earning her money at the moment!

Anita has been so great, I mean really, she is just bloody amazing and is doing such great work trying to help me repair the damage done by Em…but she accidentally dropped the ball on Monday and it sent me into freefall for a bit. But I’ll come to that drama in a minute! 

I don’t think it’s any secret that the last few months have been a challenge so far as life and therapy goes. Everything with Em completely destabilised me and then just as I was settling into work with Anita, the pandemic hit. It’s hard to believe that the last session I had face to face with A was the 16th March although in all honesty I feel like I have been aware of every slow second of those five l-o-n-g months!

Despite working online, I have felt a bit like I’ve been in hovering in ‘break territory’ (and we all know how well I do with therapy breaks!) – in so far as I have been holding a lot of stuff that I simply can’t process properly if we are not together in the room. The main issue has been about not getting the regulation and connection for the young parts that happens face to face – the non-verbal stuff that you get from being with another person, absorbing their calm energy, making eye contact, seeing them breathe etc…all the cues that the youngest parts tune into in order to feel safe. And because I haven’t been able to access this stuff my system has just got more and more wound up as time has gone on.

I understand that COVID has been a nightmare for everyone. I mean honestly, whoever imagined that we’d be living through a fucking pandemic in our lifetime?! For those of us in therapy trying to work through complex trauma and histories of childhood neglect and abandonment it’s been huge, I mean super huge having our routine disrupted. Suddenly going from face to face therapy to working online away from our attachment figure has been such a shock to the system and it’s sent my system into a tailspin (and to be fair it was already in freefall after what happened with Em!)

I think because I have been in survival for so long now, my nervous system is just totally on edge but also kind of stuck in flight mode. My body is so overwhelmed from having to ‘hold on’ that when K came for the first time, a few weeks ago, to have a craniosacral session she walked in my gate, saw me, was standing about 5 metres away and the first words out her mouth were, “I can feel your nervous system from here!”.

Months of holding myself tightly in order that I didn’t completely fall apart has left me in a right state. I am so sensitised to the slightest thing now, my hypervigilance is off the chart and I am expecting something bad to happen. So of course when something in the field of rejection comes up I am on it in a flash.

Sigh.

Anita and I have been steadily building up trust in the relationship. I have been sharing quite a bit with her in my sessions but also reaching out outside them with various things and she’s been faultless with her responding – i.e an emoji or a quick reply. It honestly, has helped so much, especially as we’ve been working remotely.

I sent her a link to an article I had read online on the 5th that a friend had posted up and it really resonated so much that I wanted A to see it along with the caption:

Uggggh this resonated so much 😞 I can’t believe how much grief there is – my whole body is hurting x

For those that are interested, here’s the link to the article:

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2020/08/dear-therapists-stop-with-the-testimonial-injustice/

Anita, replied:

Wow, it’s as it you had written it. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I know it’s hard to trust again and I will always try to be there but like everyone I don’t know what life holds in the future, but even if my house falls down we can always work online. I also know you have heard all this before and it’s daring to take the risk again.

I mean, she really is great, right? Like just nails it. And this is why I struggle looking back at what happened with Em. It doesn’t take ‘War and Peace’ to settle the anxious young parts – it’s not hours of time to formulate something holding…and yet she just couldn’t/wouldn’t do it.

I responded with:

Thank you. I just need a hug. I feel like I am going to cry but it doesn’t come. It’s like there’s a tsunami on the way. So exhausted. And I really hope your house doesn’t fall down  😬 x

And then she sent this and oh my god, the little parts inside melted:

It was all going so well!

Then it was Monday morning and I was scrolling through Twitter and saw a couple of brilliant things from Beacon House that I forwarded to her – one was a graphic with a swan that said, ‘Inside even the most composed and competent adult is a little child who is still learning to trust, love, and be loved.’ Like really, that’s totally me…

Anyway, the session was largely fine. I actually can’t remember any of it apart from the last ten minutes! But I know it was ok…

We got talking about work and how I feel like I might have overextended myself in September. She asked me how I was thinking about managing face to face sessions (tutoring) and I explained my plans. All very adult. All very competent. I said how not all students will return straight away as some are happy working online but that some of my students absolutely need face to face. I mentioned again one particular student with whom I resumed my sessions just before the summer holidays and how beneficial it had been to him….and then this is where the shit hit the fan with a minute to go…

Anita said:

I have a couple of clients who have really struggled and so I have done walk and talk therapy.

BOOM.

Cue internal collapse.

I hid how I felt – mask on – and fortunately that was the end of the session but SHITTTTTT everything went up in smoke. I was totally distraught.

Like really?

Honestly?

How could she not see that I have been hanging on by a thread? It’s always the same shit.

I text my friend about it. She talked me down a bit but was able to understand why this news was such a shock to the young parts. She asked me if I felt able to let Anita know what had happened when she said that? Whether I trusted her enough to tell her how upset I was rather than spiral out of control.

It was hard to see a way through the painful feelings of feeling unseen, rejected, abandoned it just felt like ‘here’s another therapist that just doesn’t care and doesn’t get me’ but I also realised that I was responding from a really hurt place that Anita isn’t even responsible for. She’s just tapped into the mother wound and the hurt around what’s happened with Em.

I didn’t feel able to construct a new text to A. I was overwhelmed, sad, and tired. So I just copy and pasted my text to my friend and sent it to A. I was hurting but when I thought about it there was part of me that believed she would respond kindly and not just ignore me in the way Em would have:

I’m trying to side step an internal meltdown before it plunges into total collapse. So I’m sending you this … which is what I sent my friend when we got off the call. I’m drowning in the shame and embarrassment but actually if you don’t know then it doesn’t help:

Argh. Bloody therapy has just triggered a landmine 😩. I was talking about how I was planning to manage face to face working in September in my office and said that some students will likely stay online through choice but there are a few that absolutely need face to face work, and how transformational it was going back to face to face with boy. This was end of session and with a minute to go Anita tells me ‘yes, I agree, some of my clients need face to face work and there are a couple who have really struggled so I’ve done walk and talk therapy’

Like wtf?? 😭

How is it that I come across as a person that doesn’t need face to face even when I’ve said as much as I can about how much I’m struggling? Why, because I’m articulate and controlled and ‘together’ enough do people not hear my words when I say it’s felt bad and like I’m hanging by a thread? I’m never going to scream or meltdown or cry
or beg because that’s not how I am- especially after what happened with Em I’m
terrified of being seen as too demanding or needy.

I’m so upset that she didn’t even have me on the radar as ‘having that need’. I know you understand the stuff I wrote in my blog the other week about how hard it is for someone with disorganised attachment, childhood trauma and neglect, dissociation, parts that struggle with feelings abandonment and rejection to work online because all the usual cues are missing and the coregulation just doesn’t happen – I’ve said it enough times… I know I’m like a broken record.

You can guess exactly how that information feels to young parts- confirmation of the narrative ‘she hates me, she doesn’t care, she doesn’t really see me’ and all I want to do is run away now because I’m so over trying to teach people about me and my needs. I can’t be any more explicit than I am.

And yes I am hormonal 😳. But I just want to cry. It’s the same stuff playing out time and again – ‘she’s a good girl, seems fine’ and people never noticing that the walls are crumbling because the mask is glued to my face.

I just feel like a bomb has been dropped internally on the youngest most vulnerable parts… I get it’s an overreaction but it’s tapped right into that thing about not being seen, not mattering and being left to cope. And I totally get that there’s tonnes of evidence to the contrary but these little ones don’t understand – it’s been like an ongoing re-enactment of how it was when my mum was away … just hanging on til she came back. Only I don’t know when Anita will be back 😕

I wish I was a rager who could express what I am feeling rather than a quiet person that takes everything underground and inside. 😞 Maybe I should just give up. I’m clearly fucking rubbish at therapy.

I don’t have the resources or energy to deal with this right now.

I miss you.

——

That’s the rant.

And within half an hour there was a reply. Not a three day radio silence…or a complete lack of acknowledgement which is what I have come to expect from a therapist:

Thank you for your honesty. I am so so sorry for my complete blunder. I honestly have only done one walk and talk just once with a client that won’t work remotely at all not even over the phone. I have been working with them for years. This is no excuse and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about offering that to you. I think because we have been connecting on line. But I am more then happy to arrange one. I can not apologise enough. With regret, Anita

Then I saw I also had a missed call from her.

Damn.

By the time all this came through on my phone my period had arrived (!!!!) and I felt slightly less insane. I was still hurting a lot but I had got a little bit of my adult online and could see that whilst it feels enormous to the young parts who are so badly hurt it’s not really the end of the world. It just feels impossible when it’s like this. It’s evidence of my system at work – this is the work I need to do with A.

I responded:

It’s fine. I understand. I’m just tired and overwrought. It’s like an overflowing bath and I can’t work out how to turn taps off.

I thought that would be it. We’d talk later in the week and sort it out. I felt much better just that she had acknowledged that I was hurting and didn’t try and blame it on me or tell me I was overreacting, or that she’s just my therapist or any of that other gaslighting shit that used to happen with Em:

It’s not fine and what I have said is the truth but don’t know how to say it without it sounding like a lame excuse. Let’s sort out a time for a walk and talk. 💜

I sent her three GIFs that basically summarised my internal response from different parts and she replied:

Yes I understand all of those reactions and wish I had done things differently. Like in all relationships ours will have bumps because humans don’t always get it right. I believe it’s how we grow and own our mistakes that really count. Where trees fall foxgloves grow.

We’ve messaged back and forth quite a bit this week. Just short check ins, emojis, GIFs etc but it felt really connected and helpful – holding. Later in the week I sent her a link to one of my old blog posts about therapy being a bit like and emotional rollercoaster and she told me that when she read it she just wanted to give me a hug… which again made me feel like she really is there, gets it, and is committed to helping.

So you would think my session yesterday would have been a breeze after all the mini bits of repair and settling since Monday wouldn’t you? Well, sure. that’d make sense. Only no. That’s just not how I work! haha.

By Thursday night I had started to feel really ashamed and embarrassed at my reaction to finding out she’d seen another client face to face. Like proper internal cringeing. I started to panic that Anita would think I was too much like hard work, too needy, too mental…and would just think, ‘fuck this, it’s too much effort’ just like Em.

I really struggled to answer to video call yesterday. It must have rung for nearly a minute. And when I did pick up I felt myself freeze. Child parts were there and my words just weren’t. I told her I felt embarrassed. Anita quickly realised what was going on and worked really hard at trying to reassure me that my reaction made so much sense and that she was so sorry for hurting those vulnerable parts and how scary it is to them because they are trying to trust and then they get let down by her. 

A few weeks ago I drew an analogy between me and her dog, who is a rescue, and it seems to have really resonated with her. She said that she can really see how traumatised I am and how like the dog I am and how much care I need because of what I have experienced at the hands of others. I’ve explained that terribly!! haha.

Anita genuinely really cares. I know she does. I can feel it. She understands how painful this kind of thing is (with the walk) and did everything she could to make amends. I could feel myself slipping further into the young parts, the toddler part and even the baby. She talked to them a lot and I could feel them crying inside. I just really wanted a hug. I could feel tears pricking in my eyes but I shut them down…another part moved in, an older part. She noticed the change.

I was able to tell her that I felt like I was trying to protect myself – like a tortoise in its shell. I said that this kind of protection is also really disconnecting and not what I need and when it happens in the room that distancing feels shit, but actually online it’s really shit because not only am I locked away inside myself, she is also locked away in my phone and it’s so hard to connect and it feels horrid. I don’t think I’ve been as explicit as this before. i.e I have told her I am struggling but not actually how hard I am struggling with the constraints of online therapy. We have talked about how different it is and how hard it is not to have eye contact but I haven’t expressly said “I can’t reach you”.

I think it was a bit of a lightbulb moment for her alongside the events of the weeks and she asked me if I wanted to book in a walk.

What do you think I said?

Go on…I’ll give you a prize for the right answer!

Well, of course, that’s the moment when the petulant, angry teen came up and just said, “No”.

Like WTAF?! I make all that fucking fuss about her having a walk with a client who hasn’t had any therapy at all in 5 months and then I get what I want and I refuse it. You literally cannot make this shit up!

Anita didn’t push it. I think she could tell there was a lot of internal conflict going on. So she told me then that she is actively working with the guy that owns the therapy room that she works out of on Wednesdays in my city to see about how viable it is to go back to face to face work when she gets back from her holiday on the 7th September.

I usually see her at her home but I can understand why she might want to extend her working in the rented room for now. Tbh it’s a ten minute drive to that venue rather than the forty to her home. I am just not massively keen on the idea of a new place, it won’t feel so ‘homely’ (I’ve seen the pictures) or have her stuff in it but to be honest I need to not let those picky parts start splitting hairs. Being able to meet A in person in a room, after what will then be six months, is really what I need to focus on.

She says she won’t know what the plan is for a bit as it depends on lots of things like insurance etc and she also said that she doesn’t think that working in masks or visors is really appropriate to the kind of work we do because facial expressions are so important and particularly for clients with childhood trauma because it’s just like the still face experiment.

I am glad she is aware of this and is thinking carefully about things. I am not going to get my hopes up too much as there are so many factors that need working through, but for her to tell me that she is trying to get back to face to face was helpful and for her to ask me if I would want to come back…well internally I was doing a happy dance but externally I gave absolutely nothing away….

FFS!

The session was coming to the end and she asked me again to think about the walk before she goes on holiday at the end of next week and coming back to the room and let her know what I think.

After the session, I was scrolling on Facebook and a video came up of a challenge where you go and sit with your toddler whilst they’re watching their favourite show and film their reaction. They were lovely. All the kids stop what they are doing and kiss or cuddle their parent – and connect. It made me cry…because I know this was never my reality.

Anyway, I decided I wanted to see A for a walk, but equally was terrified that because I want it but there is only a week until she goes on holiday there would be a strong chance we wouldn’t be able to find a time. I sent this:

Thank you for being there and trying to be reassuring today. It’s so hard. I just saw this video https://www.facebook.com/199098633470668/posts/7821700421210413/?vh=e&d=w and it properly broke my heart because this is what it feels like inside – and even younger still – and yet there never was anyone there. There was never this kind of experience – no ‘I love you’ no holding, no attunement. I look at the connection and love in this video and there’s nowhere in my internal experience to hang it on and I just feel immense loss. Like I know that child is there inside, wanting to love and to be loved and instead is spiralling out of control in the dark, alone. The grief feels completely overwhelming.

I am beyond terrified of being rejected and abandoned for being too much, too needy, annoying. And It’s really huge because it’s happened recently (with Em) not just in my past. I really really do want to see you in person – for a walk, back in the room, whatever … but there’s also a part of me that doesn’t want to need or want that, or for you to know how hard it is. Also, I was wondering, can I send you something in the post before you go on holiday? 

She messaged me back and said that she knows that lots of therapists would say no to me sending something but to her that feels rejecting so I could send her something if I wanted so long as it wasn’t a bag of 💩😂!

I laughed and said that it definitely wasn’t a bag of 💩 and then told her I missed her. She sent me a hug and then asked me if I was able to get childcare anytime this week to have a walk. Anyway after a bit of back and forth we are booked in for a walk on Tuesday afternoon… I’ll let you know how we get on! The good news is that at least a part of me is excited!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming of ex-therapist … is a nightmare!

I can’t bear the fact that even now, six months after Em terminated my therapy, I am so massively impacted by our ending. I mean, I am not surprised, what happened is a huge deal…but I am just so sick and tired of the pain and grief of it. I tie myself in knots trying to make sense of what’s happened and yet I can’t seem to.

I can’t let it go.

I can’t let her go.

I miss her so much.

I am angry, too. Angry that she did what she did. But not angry enough that if she gave me the chance to see her for a session that I would turn it down. My young parts are so attached, still, that I would walk through a fiery hell to see her. I feel depressed and embarrassed writing that. Like surely I have more self-respect than that? Surely I would tell her to go fuck herself… but I know I wouldn’t. The child parts of me who are in so much pain would do almost anything to see her…even though it would undoubtedly be horrific.

I suppose the good news is that I will never be afforded the opportunity to talk the ending through, to put it to rest, get any kind of reasonable closure because she’s slammed the door shut on me.

In her mind I no longer exist. I have been erased. But she is branded in mine.

And so, because I have no chance to repair this, or at least better understand it, I am left with it swirling in my head. Sometimes I can talk about it with Anita. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I feel so ashamed by how I feel that I avoid talking about it. And recently, when I had a really triggering dream the night before my session involving Em, I got online and despite wanting to talk to Anita about it I dissociated almost instantly because the pain is so massive. K says she can feel a lot of grief in my body.

It’s at times like these where online therapy really falls flat on its face. In the room I would have been able to tune into A, her breathing, make eye contact, and in the usual run of things (pre-COVID) have her sit close to me to help me come back into my window of tolerance and regulate. But no matter how hard I try, I find it impossible to feel safely held when I am in one room and she is in another 35 miles away. And it’s not her fault. It’s not mine, either. It’s just the nature of the beast. There are some parts of me and some wounds that really need contact…real contact.

Anyway, I was quiet, subdued, anxious when I got on the call with A but aside from telling her I felt like I was drowning in shame, there wasn’t much I could do. I couldn’t go there. Anita was good, she told me that she wished she could take my hand and pull me out of the shame and tried hard to make me feel safe but in my head I just had the dream on loop and I just couldn’t do it. I talked about stuff about my mum and delved into the mother wound stuff (which is the work), she was kind and reassuring and repeatedly told me that I had been let down by my caregivers and none of what has happened is my fault but, still, I couldn’t get close to the dream.

At the end of the session it was clear that I was not in a brilliant place, despite having pulled myself back from the brink, and A said that she wished she could stay with me longer. I wished that too. Ugh for the therapy hour!

The one huge bonus about therapy with A compared to Em (and to be fair there are many!) is the fact that I am allowed to contact her between sessions. She understands my need for connection and how I build trust and so I always feel safe knowing she’s there and I can reach out without repercussions or a telling off and a dreaded ‘boundary talk’. With Em it just felt like a perpetual rejection, ‘Don’t contact me. If you do I won’t read what you send…’ Thankfully it’s not like that with A.

After the session I decided to send Anita my dream in an email so she could at least see why I was so bothered and having difficulty and then maybe we could talk in our session on Wednesday. We had scheduled in mid-week sessions to see if that helps with ‘woeful Wednesday’ so it wasn’t all that long to wait.

This is the email:

Drowning In The Pit Of Shame – The Dream That’s Sent Things Into Freefall

It was snowing, dark, and I was driving in the car with my childhood best friend. She needed to get to her parents’ home for Christmas and I was getting a lift with her back to the same place but it was pointless really because I had nowhere to go but I would sooner have spent time with her on the journey than be outside in the snow alone.

Every time we tried to leave the city we hit with massive snowdrifts, feet deep blocking the road, and there was no way out. I could see that if we could just get about five metres of snow cleared we could get onto the A road out the city and would be on the road that was gritted…but we couldn’t. It was too deep.

We ended up turning back and painstakingingly following another treacherous, windy, back road – a single track lane – and the car was sliding all over the road. My friend is not a very competent driver and I spent a lot of the time coaching her through how to drive in snow conditions. In the end I took over and drove the car because she was so stressed and didn’t know where she was going.

It was pitch black and no one was around. We talked a lot about the shit show we experienced as teenagers and the horrors we were subjected to by our mums. It was cathartic but also tragic. It was hard to tell in the dream whether I was an adult or 17…

We finally reached the village that we needed to be in and when we got there, there was a power cut. Just fabulous! Everything was cold and dark. It felt like the place was deserted.

Then suddenly my friend was gone and I was alone. The snow was falling heavily and I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the conditions.

There was nowhere for me to go so I started walking aimlessly.

I found a caravan in a field, broke into it, tried to get warm but couldn’t. It was freezing, cold and damp. I was hungry but there was nothing to eat. I was tired but I couldn’t sleep. I was alone with my thoughts and as usual they strayed back to what has happened between Em and I. The loss. The devastation. The abandonment and rejection. The young parts of me were beside themselves with grief. The same questions on loop: ‘What is so wrong with me that made her cut me dead like that? I was so hidden and yet still that was too much. Why do I still care about this so much? Why am I so affected by it? Why can’t I let it go? Why didn’t she care?’

I have been so upset by the fact that she has specifically advertised herself as working with ‘attachment disorders’, ‘trauma’, ‘dissociation’ ‘eating disorders’, ‘self-harm’ ‘PTSD, ‘abuse’ etc etc etc but rather than feeling angry about it, it’s led me to think that the problem must lie with me. There’s something fundamentally wrong with me. Something unlikeable. Something disgusting. Something that makes me untouchable. Because if it’s not me then how can she say she can competently work with these issues – the issues that I have? She told me she wasn’t competent enough and didn’t have the training to deal with me and yet here she is suggesting the complete opposite on her page.

I feel betrayed but also completely worthless.

In the cold of the caravan I decided to set up a fake email account pretending to be a potential client and contact Em basically outlining all the issues I have, asking questions about her how she practises and seeing what she would come back with as potential therapist. In theory the response should have been ‘I am sorry, but I don’t have the competency to work with this level of complex trauma’ but of course, this is not what happened in the dream (and no doubt it wouldn’t happen in real life either). Instead she suggested an initial face to face meeting the next day.

I was nervous going to the appointment but the young parts of me were so happy to get to see her. The room was in a new building back in the city and I arrived wearing a disguise. She was friendly enough but detached – she had started peddling the Cambridge Weight Plan and I mentioned that it felt a bit off having weight loss merchandise in a room where you would be talking to people with eating disorders. She brushed the concern aside and said that lots of people need help losing weight and she clearly wouldn’t be pushing it on anorexic clients.

Then I asked her questions about how she sees the therapeutic relationship. How she works with trauma. What she does with between session contact. EVERY ANSWER was the complete opposite of my experience of her. At that point I removed my disguise and burst into convulsive tears. ‘Why couldn’t you do that for me?’ When she saw it was me, she was furious, telling me that she had made it clear she never wanted to see me again and how dare I trick her into seeing me?

I was beside myself sobbing on the floor. Rather than be angry and self-righteous about the situation I just fell further into despair. ‘I knew it was me. I knew you couldn’t stand me. And still I miss you. I really love you.’ It was painful.

She ignored me for several minutes and I pleaded with her to talk with me and try and understand what’s happened and where it’s all gone wrong. Eventually she invited me to sit on the sofa with her and I lay down on the sofa with my head on her lap and she held my hand. I cried and cried – it was absolute agony– it was like being two years old. Not an adult at all.

I basically begged her to see me again and she begrudgingly agreed – ‘I can see you sometimes on these days but only for this long etc…oh and my fee has trebled…take it or leave it’. It was horrific.

It was clear as day that absolutely nothing had changed, but the young parts who need so much holding were willing to accept anything just to be with her.

________

So that’s what has sent me over the edge… it’s grief but also so much shame. I feel embarrassed even thinking about talking to you about how I feel. It makes me feel sick. I don’t want you to think I am some kind of obsessive freak who can’t accept that a therapeutic relationship has ended. I don’t think you understand how big a deal this is, though…because most of us don’t really say how big our feelings are and how attached we get… because it’s horrendous to experience. It has absolutely rammed a poker into the mother wound and it feels unsurvivable. I don’t want to scare you away either – because I know it’s intense. I would be running for the hills.

Anyway, I understand the different layers in the dream and I am not at all surprised that my brain served up this big shit pile to me in my sleep! But ugh.

Anita quickly responded to my email in the afternoon:

RB,

I hope you believe me when I say I’m not going to run to the hills and I do get it.

I know it’s going to be difficult for your vulnerable parts to trust and understandably so, as I said you have been so badly let down.

I was only talking in peer supervision to a colleague today about the deep attachment that happens in therapy and how powerful it can be to meet in that psychological depth of trauma but also how dangerous it can be if not handled with the love and care individuals deserve. 

That’s why I believe therapist like Em are so so dangerous. 

I really hope this helps.

Thinking of you,

A

Yes! It helped – a lot. Like honestly, it always staggers me how nice and warm her emails are after the crap that Em sent!…Kind Regards…code for ‘FUCK YOU AND FUCK OFF’.

I have to laugh or I cry…!

On the Wednesday session we talked a lot about it, not just the dream, but all the feelings I have around Em. There was one point close to the beginning where A asked me what it is about Em that makes it feel so hard to let go when she’s clearly treated me so appallingly. I felt a lump in my throat and my solar plexus go tight. Part of me wanted to run away, dissociate.

I never once in eight years managed to tell Em this in words, aloud in our sessions…I looked down into the camera and simply said, ‘I love her’.

‘You love her’, A reflected back. And I simply nodded. Yes…that’s how it is. Simple, really. I love her.

To acknowledge that properly was really freeing. I know I say it here a lot and to my close friends…but telling A felt important. I looked to see if there was any shock or disgust or anything negative, but of course there wasn’t. I was just met with an enormous amount of care and compassion as we talked about the young parts and how desperately sad it feels for them. Anita reiterated how normal it is to have these feelings in therapy. How the relationship is real and that it’s natural for love to develop in such a close and intimate relationship – on both sides.

I admitted that I wonder if I am just so love-starved that I will attach to anyone and inflate the situation in my head. The thing is, I knew that Em never really cared about me. She did her job, just about, but even at the end she couldn’t manage to exercise even professional care by ensuring a referral on and a safe handover to another professional. She left me high and dry. I so badly wanted for her to be warmer. I sat all those years ‘behaving myself’- hardly asking for anything, hoping that eventually I’d earn the care and love I so badly need. Only that’s a re-enactment of my childhood. It didn’t work with my mum who was biologically mine, so why on earth would I think it would work with Em?

This session was a few weeks ago so I don’t remember lots of the detail now, but I do remember the feelings. To be seen and accepted when I express these deeply painful- but also what so often feel like shameful- feelings was amazing…and connecting.

It is such a pity that expressing love in the therapeutic relationship has been such a taboo. Like we are somehow broken, or weird, or pathetic for having loving feelings. Every time Em said, ‘I’m just your therapist’ when I told her how I felt really missed the point. Clients are not stupid. We know the limitations of the relationship. I, for one, never wanted Em to be my friend or my mother, I just wanted a close, genuine relationship with her as my therapist, as someone who could help me with my mother wound. I’m not deluded. She was my therapist –  I was never going to turn up on her doorstep outside session or be anything other than her client. But clearly I scared the life out of her.

What I have learnt in the last six months with Anita is that I can bring all of myself – all my parts to therapy. I can lose my shit, overreact, be needy and she is steady and there. Always. It’s bizarre. I’m not used to it. I don’t feel like I need to earn her care…she just cares. I really feel it….when I am not losing my shit over finding out that she’s seen another client for a walk!! But I’ll come to that next post!

Cliff-hanger much?!

 

 

 

 

 

I need face-to-face therapy! …

“It’s like you’ve spent your whole life being told and believing that something is orange and here I am trying to convince you that it’s actually purple…what happened to you was not your fault RB. You were failed time and again by your caregivers. I know after what’s happened with Em that it’s going to even harder for you to trust me when I say this but your young parts have done absolutely nothing wrong. You are not too much. I am not going anywhere.”

That was the end of one of my sessions with A this last week…of which there were three! Eek.

I have lost track a bit of what’s happened since my last post, my chronology is out but that’s what lockdown has done to me – it’s just days and days and days and more endless days of the same stuff punctuated by staring at my therapist via a screen and wishing we were in person in the room!

To be fair, it’s not that bad. My day-to-day adult life is ticking along just fine. I have finished the bulk of my teaching for the summer (just going to do two sessions a week on a Monday) and we’ve had a pretty good few weeks in the nice weather as a family just chilling in the garden.

As usual, though, it’s not the ‘here and now’ that’s the problem and often what happens when my life slows down a bit is that it creates space for the old stuff, the trauma, to take centre stage. I think part of the reason stuff is coming up it is that I feel a lot closer to Anita since the session where we spoke about how massively impacted I had been by her not acknowledging some of my messages. Since then she has replied to everything I have sent – emojis are great for my young parts and a simple ‘lovely 😊’ is really enough to start to trust in the connection which has meant I have been braver in coming forward about some of the bigger things because I feel like she is there and safe.

I am so glad at A was able to listen to what I was feeling in that session, could take it all on board, and has committed to helping me in a way that works. It was so easy in the end. It’s such a contrast to how things were with Em. I feel so sad when I think about how there was never any collaboration or trying meet each other half way on things in that therapy. Everything I asked for was met with a ‘no’. And when I look back, I should have given up when even three dots midweek in a text was too much for her.

Anyway, back to me and A. I have had lots of dreams about her lately, pushing me away in various ways and have really struggled with sleep. The other day I was dithering at the beginning of the session, because you know, a bad dream makes it all feel unsafe!! A asked me how I had been sleeping. I told her ‘really badly’. And she asked me if I’d had any more dreams. It reminded me that last time I spoke about her rejecting me in a dream she had made it clear that in real life there is no way she’d respond to me or abandon me in the way she did in the dream and it was enough for me to tell her about the next one…and again she could quickly put my mind at rest which allowed us to dig into what was coming up for me in my dreams. Usual stuff…all traceable back to the motherwound!

The sessions have been good – so far as Skype goes (which is not the same as face-to-face). The only problem, of course, is that when you are nose deep ferreting through the shit together in session, it can feel like you are drowning when you are back out on your own!…hence the midweek 30 minute check in sessions over the last couple of weeks.

I woke up feeling particularly rubbish a couple of weeks ago on Wednesday – ‘Woeful Wednesday’. Bad dreams. Feeling very unsettled the moment I woke up. Trapped in that young place where there are no words and you need holding and containment but there is none. I outdid myself and sent a super cringey message with a gif:

Woeful Wednesday again. I just wish I knew why it is such a consistently terrible day x

She responded really warmly and asked me if I wanted a half hour session later that day. I absolutely did and it made a huge difference to the parts that were wobbling. Anita suggested that whilst we aren’t working face-to-face (how much longer?????)  that we could experiment with having a half hour session on a Wednesday and see how that helps. It makes sense so I agreed and that’s what we’ve been doing.

I resent the fact, though, that a lot of why I feel so destabilised is lack of face-to-face contact and so I am paying a fortune every week to try and maintain some sense of connection and that I just don’t need that when there’s face-to-face. It feels like I am haemorrhaging cash to get a 5/10 connection.

I am really grateful that she is trying to accommodate me and ease things as much as possible. The session itself on Wednesday might not allow for a lot of work to get done but it seems to make the Friday session quicker to drop into and it lets the young parts see that she is still there. The object constancy stuff is being worked on by doing this – and given the struggles I am having about feeling abandoned and rejected due to the limitations of Skype, more consistent contact has been good. It’s still not as good as face-to-face though.

I’ve felt increasingly like I am reaching the end of my rope so far as online therapy goes. I mean we have been doing some good work. Or, at least, she is really getting to see the map now.

I’ve told her a lot of stuff, the trust has really built and on Monday this week I dived into the really concealed stuff around my eating disorder and how difficult exercise can be because of the tendency to use it as a method of self-harm. I’ve been really open about how hurt I feel by not being ‘loved enough’ – it stung a lot when she referred to me having ‘an empty love bucket’! and we have explored a lot of early stuff…but I just know I need to be face-to-face. I can’t really connect with the feelings because I don’t feel safe to do it when I am on my own…through a screen.

Anita said this too, she is really clear that what’s happening for me is coming from a pre-verbal place and that the feelings that are needing to be felt and processed need to be held and expressed in safety so they can’t come out like this because my protective parts don’t want to be left – they need proximity and to coregulate with a safe person. She sees it. She hears me when I say how disconnected I feel. How I miss eye contact and just ‘feeling’ the energy in the room and yet still we have not had a conversation about when we might be able to resume working together in person.

I looked at the COVID stats online yesterday for the South West – and there have been no deaths recorded in nearly 4 weeks here. There have been 32 new cases for the whole of Devon and Cornwall over the last seven days. The population of this area is roughly 1.7 million people. To me 32:1,700000 or 1:53,125 doesn’t seem like the biggest terror factor. I get that there is a risk. I get why we need to wear masks in shops etc. I have no desire to go to the high street or the local Wetherspoons…but what I don’t understand is how it is ‘safe’ enough to go to places with huge groups of strangers mixing together under the influence of alcohol and yet I can’t go sit in a therapy room 1:1 with my therapist, with the window open, and sitting 2 metres apart – (guidance is 1m+).

I wish that people understood that for some of us with these particular injuries – CPTSD – that a protracted period of feeling isolated and distanced from our ‘attachment figure’ is really fucking hard and detrimental to our metal and physical wellbeing. Like the first month of it was ugh but some therapy was better than nothing…and yet as time has gone on, it’s got harder and harder to hold what’s inside. It’s exhausting trying to keep it all together and to be honest my rubber bands and chewing gum are feeling the strain.

I think, too, as society has opened up it’s got more difficult for my young parts to understand why I still can’t see Anita. Like why can I go and get my hair cut which requires close physical proximity…or like I say, how can I go rub shoulders with strangers in a bar (if I wanted to) and yet not get support with my mental health for trauma? Like my roots can wait but my child parts that are falling apart and need contact…they really can’t hang on indefinitely.

I feel frustrated.

Like why she hasn’t even mentioned what her plans for the future might be?….like are we talking the Autumn, Winter, 2021?? The unknown is really hard. And whilst the idea of months and months more of this feels impossible I would sooner know what I am actually dealing with.

Anyway… that’s that! I didn’t expect to descend into this rant!! Whoops! Maybe I could get myself a HAZMAT suit?