A Mixed (Mental!) Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FFS!

It’s not even funny.

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

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

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

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

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

I love her.

That’s no secret right?

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

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

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

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

Bingo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, whoop whoop, another great moment.

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

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

FUCK.

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

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

Ugh.

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

This is good.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not brilliant.

I can feel how things have switched in my head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

It’s Been A While…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was total hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can probably guess what came next?!

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

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

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

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

FUCK.

I DON’T DO THAT!

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

Like really.

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

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

Oh god.

I’ve really done it now.

Panic.

What do I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time To Move On…

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

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

So, back to whatever this is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This part of the session went like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blogs Don’t Write Themselves!

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Oh the irony! I’ve just been sitting here for a couple of minutes, with an empty screen, not knowing what to write, with no title in mind, and then just near the publish button a red note flashed up ‘you haven’t written anything yet’…like seriously give me a bloody break already! I know this!! I’m here and trying – and even the platform is giving me hell for being wordless! haha.

Seriously, though, I am yet again very aware that time is motoring on and I have written nothing here again. There’s been a lot of really good (but hard) stuff going on in my therapy and yet I just haven’t made it here to log it/blog it. Look, I know the earth isn’t going to fall off its axis if this blog suddenly dies but as I frequently keep saying, I actually enjoying writing it and want to keep this going if I can.

Next week is actually the start of the school Easter break here in the UK so I think I might actually get some time to sit and drink coffee and type (kids permitting!)…and lord knows once Em goes on her holiday I’ll have plenty of content won’t I? #therapybreak #abandonment #arghhhh! So hopefully I can get myself back up to speed.

It’s not helped that this last week I have been struck down with a monster lurgy and have basically been surviving on a cocktail of painkillers and sleep (my teaching hasn’t been up to much!…present in body and that’s about it!). It’s not even funny. I honestly thought I had dodged the bullet this winter having avoided getting anything that involved snot and/or too much coughing but no – it all went to shit on Saturday night at rapid pace when I was out with a friend for a belated birthday celebration.

It’s typical. I NEVER go out in the evening for social things because 1) I am usually working or 2) I am too tired…but my friend and I booked ourselves a date two months in advance (as you have to when you have kids! – spontaneity died in 2012 with the birth of my first child!) and we had a lovely evening planned. The evening was still nice but I felt like I had a neck full of razor blades and so swallowing and talking was a bit of a challenge.

Sunday was Mother’s Day in the UK….and what did that entail? Family time? A nice meal out? Memory making? Ah nope. I basically stayed in bed all day sleeping and my wife kept bringing me hot drinks and pain relief at intervals. Fortunately, I had been out with my mum earlier in the week so hadn’t had to cancel any plans or go to something feeling rotten.

I felt quite a bit more human on Monday morning (compared with how it had been on Sunday – I felt more or less ok I just sounded funny) and went to my therapy session and then to work. However, I think in fairness, I should really have cancelled my day because by the time I got home from my kids’ swimming lessons in the evening I was dying – it all caught up with me and my symptoms had got worse – cough, sore throat, running nose, weepy eyes, burning ears…and now I am panicking that I might have passed it on to Em. I really hope I haven’t – I wasn’t coughing or sneezing or anything in session – I wouldn’t have gone if I was like that but …. argh. I hope she is ok.

Tbh she seems to be made of tough stuff. She has never cancelled a session because she’s been ill and there’s been maybe once or twice in the whole time I have worked with her that she’s looked a bit coldy but otherwise she seems hardy! haha. I guess maybe working with so many people all the time you get a super immune system. When I worked in schools I was wiped out in the first year but after that was like some kind of mutant super-hero so far as bugs were concerned.

Anyway, I am completely rabbiting on here. Note to self- no fucker cares about your physical ailments they want to know about your crazy! 😉

So, like I said, recently therapy has been really good but really hard. Some stuff I had not had in my conscious mind has reared it’s head over the last few weeks. I’ve been having some horrid flashbacks and memories and wondering, now that I have remembered (and in technicolour) how I could ever have had this stuff out of mind. Anyway, the focus has been largely the time between me being 6-11 years old with some toe dipping in the early anorexic years around 14-17…

Interestingly the stuff I have been talking about I’ve just been recounting as though they are normal day-to-day events no emotion behind it imagine ‘I went to the shop to buy a loaf of bread’ (matter of fact, unaffected) but replace with, ‘I remember being taken see my aunt in ITU when I was six after she’d been involved in a massive RTA that nearly killed her and seeing her in traction from her broken pelvis and all the wounds and scars from all the surgery she’d had to have and how swollen and bruised she was and having to sit quietly on a chair and wait for it to be over and being frightened to look at her and no one ever telling me what was going on or if she’d be ok….and now I have a hospital phobia which really isn’t helpful when I so regularly have to attend hospital for my cancer follow ups….’. Or ‘My mum got physically attacked by the next door neighbour when I was ten and there was so much blood pouring from her head that it drenched her top and was all over the floor and the police came…’ You know, just by the by!

It was only after my session last Friday that I realised it’s all completely insane and ABNORMAL….because this sort of thing was all so very ‘run of the mill’ to me at the time – going to hospital to stitch my dad’s face up because mum had thrown a coffee cup at his  head and it had smashed and cut him…doesn’t every one do that?! My aunt was regularly sectioned and did some pretty extreme stuff when she was unwell and had a lifetime of pain from the fallout of the car accident and so I spent a lot of time sitting in my gran’s car in the psychiatric hospital carpark during holidays. I would be sent to my grandparents as my parents worked and my grandma visited my aunt. So.… yeah…. I dunno gotta love sitting in a hot car with a dog for hours on end!

I’m only really now twigging that how my family has historically dealt with traumatic experiences isn’t normal or should I say ‘not dealt’ with them! (which is probably why my aunt was so unstable too- intergenerational trauma anyone!)….

I was talking about the incident with my mum’s assault by the neighbour on Monday and after I had talked about it about and how I had felt at the time Em asked me how my parents had responded to it, i.e what they’d said to me.

‘Was it ever talked about?’

‘Nope’

Her face looked genuinely shocked and her tone changed and she leaned forward in her chair, ‘What? Never ever?

‘Nope’

‘Honestly? They never made any comments about it?

‘No’

‘So that’s how it was. They didn’t acknowledge what had happened?’

‘No’

‘They didn’t say something like “That was really horrible and shouldn’t have happened and I feel really angry about it and how do you feel?”‘

‘Nope. Why are you so surprised by this? It follows the pattern. No one ever said anything when bad things happened’.

‘I don’t disbelieve you. I just… I don’t know how to put it…’

Basically we talked about the insanity of the situation and how scary it must have been for me at the time and more about it and how if it were me now with my children what I would have done differently and basically Em said, ‘it’s horrendous – what happened’.

That’s a really short hand snapshot of a conversation that took about 35 minutes. I can’t explain how it felt to have someone listen to stuff like that. Stuff that just ‘happened’ when I was a kid and was never mentioned again and to get a completely different response – in fact a response and acknowledgement of how horrible it must have been. Em is not big on letting me know explicitly what she’s feeling in the moment – she’s not blank screen but she’s very measured – usually. But this really got to her. I think I have said a lot these last couple of weeks that has given her another window into what was going on in another aspect of my childhood and it affected her.

It affected me too.

Unfortuantely, feeling connected to and being seen by Em does that bloody horrible thing where suddenly all the need rushes to the surface. In those moments I just want to tell her I love her and how much she means to me – I just want to be with her in the safety of that space. She makes those memories of being unsafe feel ok…and that is intoxicating to someone who has been starved of that kind of interaction and care. But of course hot on the heels of those warm connected feelings comes SHAME and I shut down. I can’t let her really know how much need there is so I go quiet.

Em, tried really hard to figure out what was happening for me and wondered whether her reaction to what I had said was overwhelming, or too much, or felt intrusive and maybe compared with what I have been used to historically (no reaction from caregivers) it might have felt overpowering. She said that what she was feeling was complete disbelief – not that I wasn’t telling the truth, but that a parent could not have their child in mind. She said she felt angry at my parents on my behalf.

This, for me felt so connecting. So validating. And yet she thinks she’s overstepped the mark. I couldn’t tell her that actually the reason I am shut down is because I want to feel this level of connection and more but am terrified of her rejecting me or seeing me as too needy and so am protecting her from me.

I did manage to tell her I felt really sad, though.

Then time was nearly up – isn’t it always just as you hit your stride?!

And with about sixty seconds to go she told me that she felt really sad for the little girl who had to witness such horrible things. She said I didn’t get anywhere near like enough physical holding when I was small. That she felt I needed to have been picked up and put on someone’s lap and cuddled and held, or to have an arm wrapped around me and been given the chance to talk.

Yep.

But ouch.

Because whilst that is most certainly the truth. When I am there in session like that, that little girl is sitting in the room too. She’s not back in 1993. I know what I didn’t have when I was a kid. I know that my therapist knows it too. But god – when she is less than two metres from me it feels impossibly painful to not be able to reach out to her in a physical way. The words help….but they don’t quite do it. And whilst they are meant to feel in some way holding (and they do a bit) – actually what often happens is that I feel like I am untouchable…TOXIC even because she won’t hug me.

I’ve drawn another (dreadful picture) that sort of describes the process….and I’ll leave that here until next time because I must sleep! x

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One Small Step At A Time

Time seems to be motoring on doesn’t it?…Thank god! I am so over Winter now. I can’t even explain how much happier I feel since the sun came out this week and we’ve had a few solid days of blue skies here in the UK (well, where I am at least). January felt unending but honestly I don’t even know where March has gone?…

Today I received a text from a friend whom I had met for a coffee last Wednesday saying how nice it had been to catch up and sorry it’d taken a week for her to acknowledge that. My response was, ‘A week? Already?! I’m such a headless chicken right now! So lovely to see you and thank you for the lovely treat. See you soon!’…S and I usually meet up for coffee every couple of months but when we were chatting realised it had been well before Christmas that we had last got together.

I am usually pretty good at sending people messages after I’ve seen them to say how much I enjoyed spending time with them and yet somehow I have barely blinked, a week has passed, and there I am belatedly thanking someone for taking me out for my birthday! It’s not like me at all.

My blog is completely falling by the wayside, too. I can’t believe there was ever a time when I had space in my week to write one or two posts here each week. Now I hurriedly type something in order that I don’t forget where I am at. This is meant to be my mental health/therapy journal of sorts – but lately I feel I am missing a good deal of ‘content’ because I haven’t time to get it down on the page…and then when I do get a minute I forget what’s happened or how I felt when reflecting back – how much of that is dissociation and how much of that is goldfish memory is anyone’s guess!

I miss having a couple of quiet hours in an afternoon to sit at my laptop and write, drink coffee, and splurge my emotional stuff – pain pain pain ugh! Having said that, the one thing that has come of being so busy all the time (other than being perpetually tired!) is that there is much less time to fester on the attachment stuff during in the daytime AND THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS. Lately, before I even know it, it’s either Monday or Friday and it’s time to see Em again and I can’t get fully engulfed in the attachment pain.

Don’t get me wrong – the attachment stuff is still there BIG TIME bubbling under the surface (Still a long way to go to earned secure attachment!), and sometimes it is bloody agonising/debilitating …but because I have so much to cram in I can’t get swallowed up by my feelings in the way that I have done in the past. I used to mope about hanging on between my sessions literally counting down the days (minutes!) to when I could see Em and felt as though I would die from the pain of being away from her (not joking) – now I have to get on with my ‘professional’ life and hold the young feelings as best I can. Sometimes I am successful at it – sometimes I fall flat on my face/arse/both.

To be honest, what seems to happen is the days are largely ok, I’m aware of the parts feeling sad and can give that some space but put it to one side… and then when I get tired and it’s close to bedtime the younger more needy feelings come up to the surface and I feel really quite sad. I miss Em. I suspect that is quite common.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about – love the fact that I am saying how I have no time to write and then essentially write bog all for loads of paragraphs!

Soooo…..where am I?

Right now I feel upbeat-ish which I appreciate is a bit of a (huge) sea change from all the stuff I was talking about in my recent post. That either makes me properly fucking bonkers or clearly demonstrates how quickly feelings can move in and out for me. The other week I felt stuck fast in the pit of attachment pain and now… well… I don’t – not really- or certainly not in the same way as I did…and why is this?

Guess?

Because of a twenty minute conversation with my therapist!

I wish I was able to remember that when things feel bad talking about them with Em usually helps! Like duh -that’s what’s meant to happen. Unfortuantely, I seem to be hard-wired to protect myself from her – well – protect myself from being hurt by her and so we do this little dance back and forth every few months….almost like clockwork. Or, more realistically AROUND THE BLOODY THERAPY BREAKS!

The few months from January to March were pretty hard so far as painful attachment feelings went. One shit dream where Em was misattuned and seemingly abandoning sent me deep into my real life tortoise shell in my sessions. I was stuck in that place where I doubted Em, struggled to trust her, and felt disconnected which meant that sessions were ‘fine’ on the surface for a while whilst competent adult showed up and sent smoke signals to hide what was going on underneath. But before long, as things spiralled downwards, full on dissociation took hold and therapy was really really tough. I wanted to connect (that’s all I ever want) but I couldn’t and I felt like Em wasn’t seeing me because I wasn’t allowing her in. Of course, when I am in hiding I also feel like she is keeping me at arm’s length and so it’s a negative spiral where I feel increasingly disconnected.

NOT GOOD.

Anyway. Em and I did quite a lot of talking around the issue for a few weeks, i.e acknowledging that there was difficult stuff that needed to be talked about. I think sometimes those laying the groundwork sessions can feel frustrating because like, really, why can’t I just spit it out already? Why do I need to keep doing flypasts to check it’s safe to land. However, that is how it is, and eventually, after checking everything was safe enough I finally asked if I could show Em my book…not all of it….just the last picture I had drawn:

And whilst handing that image over was a big deal in the moment, in the big scheme of things this is really nothing compared with some of what I have shared with her over the years.

The response?

Exactly what I needed to hear. Em used the voice (you know the one!) and really ‘talked’ to me. She acknowledged what I was saying in the picture and how it relates to what I have said many times before – and she really understood how I was struggling with what was going on in the room between us. That the relationship, for me, has been the hardest thing. She held up her hands and took some of the ‘responsibility’ (her word) for skirting round the issue sometimes. She told me that she realises that there have been times where she has said or done things that haven’t met me where I am at, have been misattuned, and that at times this has meant I have been left feeling really horrible at the end of the session and having to carry that on my own and of course that understandably makes it really hard to open up because the fear (that was already huge) has had some level of reinforcement before.

That’s the long and short of it.

Basically, it was one of those moments where you get real human connection, you realise you are both human and absolutely doing your best but sometimes it falls short…on both sides…and that has been enough to make me feel anchored in the relationship and like she really does care.

It seems nuts really that I have been in hiding for months and a simple twenty minute ‘proper’ vulnerable conversation sorted it out….FOR NOW…because we all know this stuff has a habit of coming back round again….like in a few weeks when it’s her Easter holiday.

HELP!

So, we ran out of time that session but agreed to try and keep the connection and communication going – even if it was hard. She asked me to try and tell her when I felt disconnected or that she was misattuned even though it is really hard to in the moment. I left feeling so much lighter.

Part of me wanted to jump into the next session and show her more of the book but actually, another part just wanted to talk without an agenda. And that is what has happened. The last two sessions have been really nice. On Friday I showed Em the YouTube video that I posted here with the failed divers. It was good to lighten the mood and laugh together – but also to try and explain why I made the analogy with my therapy.

I feel like I have an A for effort but an E for execution so far as therapy goes. I turn up every week. I want to do the work….but fuck… most of the time it’s not a smooth move! Em told me that it wasn’t a performance and that I could be just how it is. On some level I know that but that also requires a level of vulnerability that I just can’t achieve.

Sooooo…to Monday and an unexpectedly HUGE session. Again, I just sat down, no real agenda, and started blathering on about work and then suddenly a load of buried stuff came out about early in my career missing a student with anorexia and the guilt that I still feel for ‘failing her’. Anyway, that developed into a massive conversation about when and how my eating disorder started in my teens. My ED is something I struggle to get to in my therapy (especially after the nightmare that happened last year) but somehow I could talk about it this week and god, it’s been so long buried, it was good to give it some light and air.

Whilst Em and I didn’t talk about our relationship at all – which has been ‘the big thing’ bugging me lately, strangely it’s kind of not front and centre at the minute. Talking about this ‘old but huge thing’ was incredibly connecting. Sharing something so personal and guarded and having it responded to kindly and with empathy was soooooo connecting.

So yeah, it’s a weird one right now. There are all kinds of things going on and there are certainly some more big (scary!) conversations to be had but right now I am optimistic about it all.

But don’t let me fool you into thinking everything is rosy in the internal landscape of yours truly. Hell no! That’s not how it is. So, it was bad from January to March because I felt unseen and disconnected from Em – booooo hiss!! BUT NOW because I feel connected to Em I feel really needy and just have that ache to be close to her. Oh the joys of attachment eh?!

FFS! Gimme a break!!! Haha…just remember this:

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Count Down To Feelings Splurge

So, here I am again …mild panic….deep breathing… on the verge of another big splurge of attachment pain in therapy tomorrow. Oh the shame! What I am feeling right now, and is just about to blow open again, has been building steadily since I had a horrible dream in January where my therapist basically flat out ignored me causing a huge rupture (in the dream!). The details aren’t really important but since that dream that niggly doubting part that struggles to trust Em and feels like she doesn’t really care has been grumbling away in the background.

Of course this mistrusting, angsty part is not the only part that gets activated when the negative attachment stuff (fears of being abandoned and rejected) starts swirling closer to the surface; the younger, clingy, needy parts that just desperately want to be loved are really going for it inside too. It’s such a battleground…and oh my god it’s exhausting.

It’s funny really. I can go months without dreaming about Em at all and then when the attachment button gets wedged on she is on my waking and sleeping mind pretty much all the time. It’s embarrassing and just plain ugh. I have my adult life to be getting on with, which is hectic and consuming enough without little ones inside feeling like they need to be within 3ft of my therapist at all times …and even then that’s not really close enough – I wish I could say that there wasn’t a part that wants to crawl into her lap and go to sleep! Then there’s the teen parts saying it’s time to cut and run because it’s all a crock of shit and Em is just someone we pay to listen to us and there IS NO RELATIONSHIP. I mean for fuck’s sake…this stuff is getting so old now!

The only thing that is better now is that I can see it for what is it now. I recognise the process and every time I come at this stuff it’s from a slightly different angle. Adult me diligently attends my sessions and we go through the process over and over and over until one day maybe something will be healed. And healing has been happening – in small increments. Each time we have the difficult but healing conversations a different part hears what’s being said and little by little I start to internalise a felt sense of being safe in the therapeutic relationship. Strangely though, this sense of things being ok ebbs over time depending on what’s going on with different parts. Adult me knows everything is ok but the younger parts repeatedly hit black ice and start sliding.

Em and I have been edging towards another of those ‘big’ conversations for a while now – laying the foundations for the work: alluding to big wounds and shame and embarrassment and all that jazz. There’s been a lot of dissociation but also a lot of explaining my process when I find my way back into my window (letter box!) of tolerance…and this is huge progress. I don’t just sit there in silence and in agony now…. I can, to some extent, explain the agony even if I can’t say why I am in agony! We can track the body reactions and the feelings….even if I can’t just say ‘this all comes from me wanting to be close to you’.

The other week Em asked me how I felt about things now we have been having two sessions a week fpr the last six months, and oh my god – it was horrendous. The body reaction was huge. I felt like I was going to vomit and then after a few minutes went completely numb and into my safe space. So much for giving up dissociation for Lent! We talked at length about what was going on and how every time we get close to talking about our relationship it stirs up a huge feelings. I can talk about really difficult things from my past and be fine but the moment we edge closer to what’s going on with us in the relationship- I’m gone!

We both know there is work to be done there but it’s a case of how we do it. Em made reference to staring at the sun the other day and how we can’t do it for too long because it’s too painful and maybe we can do it slowly. She also said something about letting the big  (mother)wound breathe little by little so it can heal rather than keep ripping the plaster, exposing it thoroughly so that any contact with anything feels like salt being poured in the wound and it being excruciating. I totally see what she is saying. It makes sense….

I’m definitely more of an ‘avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid- avoid….big running bomb and huge splash into the attachment wound let it all out in one go’ type therapy client. Ha. And that’s where I am now. I told Em on Friday that I have been avoiding talking to her about ‘stuff’ (code for the attachment feelings) because it’s so unbelievably painful. So we both know where we are heading. We’ve been here enough times before and yet every time I feel like I have a big thing to get off my chest it’s as though I am saying it for the first time.

To be clear here – basically the THING that chokes me for weeks or even months at a time is the loving feelings I have towards Em. Sometimes I sit in session and I just want to tell her I love her, I am grateful to her, and that I appreciate her. That shouldn’t be so fucking hard should it?- after all these years – but it really is. Because there are other (younger) parts that love her in a completely different way…that all-consuming way a child loves its mother and that’s where the shame comes in. All of it makes me feel sick. There is so much I want to say but it get sooooooo complicated.

I reach a point though, where I can’t avoid the work and even though it is fucking hellish being told, in the kindest way possible, that this is a therapeutic relationship and there are needs that can’t be met now but we can process the loss and pain together….PUKE! – it has to be done.

I bought a notebook after my (horrid) dream in January and I started writing down dreams and odd bits and bobs. The idea was I would take it to therapy and unpick it bit by bit rather than ending up texting stuff. I haven’t text Em in a long time but when the attachment/love stuff gets active that need to connect outside the session gets stronger. I thought the book would be a good tool. It has been coming in my bag to therapy but hasn’t made it out yet!

(You can’t make this shit up!)

In the last week I’ve written loads. It’s gone mad inside and I have been writing and doodling stuff – because it’s all starting to make its way to the surface…and then I ended up texting Em the picture below… So, tomorrow the plan is to try and make a start on this stuff properly….

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After I text the picture I ended up writing round this drawing I literally let it all out:

  • This is the worst week in a long time
  • Anxiety has ramped up since I text you this image (above)
  • Shame has gone insane because the need is huge
  • The attachment-related pain (stomach ache and tearfulness) are stuck on
  • I feel emotionally vulnerable
  • It’s as though the avoidance and coping strategies have gone offline and I’m left with that gaping wound
  • I am both desperate to see you and terrified of seeing you
  • I don’t want to dissociate on Friday but know it’s really likely because you will undoubtedly ask me about what prompted me to text you…and then the shame will flood in and I’ll be gone
  • I can’t bear the boundary talk again
  • When you try to normalise my feelings I feel even more pathetic. It’s as though you’ve seen this stuff a million times before and it’s almost scientific to you. This makes me feel really sad because it essentially confirms what the critical voice is always shouting: ‘the relationship isn’t real and there is no connection – it’s all just transference’ This makes me feel sad because you really matter to me and yet it’s stupid to feel anything at all when this is clearly just another example of the same process to you. I could be anyone.
  • I desperately want to connect but what is there to connect to? -NOTHING. That makes me want to run away.
  • Why do I keep doing this to myself?
  • Why do I keep hoping that one day something is going to shift and change?
  • It’s so unbelievably painful…this is why I don’t talk!!
  • Talking about our relationship is really painful for me because I am so aware of the lack of relationship.
  • I feel ashamed for needing you
  • I feel embarrassed that I care so much about someone who is just doing their job
  • Every time we talk about this  I feel like I am being kicked in the stomach and being rejected – it really hurts
  • I hate that you have all the power
  • I hate that it makes no difference to you whether I see you or not

WOWZERS …. there it all is! Yikes….

And then we had Friday’s session and it was ok and she didn’t give me the boundary talk and instead said something about us both knowing there were things on the periphery that need talking about that don’t make it fully into the room but that she gets the sense they are not on the periphery when I am out of the room….

uh huh

yep

and that spawned this when I got home:

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And that, my friends, is where I am at right now. Crazy is notched up to a solid 9 on the scale after several months of being a 4!

I guess we’ll just see how it all goes … it’s all part of the process. Man I love therapy 😉

Why does physical illness always go hand in hand with a mental health crash?

I wrote this in 2017 – scarily it’s pretty much how I feel now.  Physical illness REALLY impacts my mental health. I’m an attachment pained mess again…and after all the progress of the last month I feel so disappointed with myself. I have been a snotty, moaning wreck these last few days and now am back in the horrible dreamscape area. Ugh. Therapy dreams are the worst! As a result of all this inner turmoil I’ve basically turned into a depressed mess and feel like I want to self-harm (haven’t self-harmed since January last year btw!) It’s just not even funny that I find myself here. I am too tired to write so am re-blogging this as it’s actually pretty much where I am at!!

Sigh!

Rubber Bands and Chewing Gum

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Look, I apologise in advance for this. It’s basically an, ‘I’m really poorly, am feeling sorry for myself, and I really miss my therapist’ ramble written from under the duvet, on a Friday night, whilst my wife is out at a gig that I am too ill to go to.

My immune system is beyond crap. My blood levels have never fully recovered despite it being nearly two years since I completed my last round of chemo. As a result of depleted lymphocytes, my infection fighting capacity is pretty non-existent. The doctors had hoped that things would’ve improved by now, but unfortunately my body is stubborn and has decided it would rather pick up and fight every bug that is going! I’ve been ill for almost two weeks now with the exhausting cold, cough, chest infection, no voice thing that’s doing the rounds. I’m so so bored of it. I just…

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And So This Is Christmas (Therapy Break).

Right then, folk, looks like it’s time to buckle up and hold on tight for the next few weeks because it’s that time of year again… oh yes, it’s the time we’ve all been excitedly anticipating – Christmas therapy break!

Oh how I love Christmas: the twinkly lights, the presents, the excitement, the movies… the enforced extended time with family, the building stress levels,  the missed therapy sessions, the activation of the attachment pain, the bedding in of the belief that ‘my therapist doesn’t care about me’, the mounting anxiety, the feelings of abandonment and rejection, the wading in of the Inner Critic to come add some festive self-hatred into the mix, and the steady descent into breakdown. If things follow this usual pattern then there’ll be a desperate reaching out to therapist which will result in either a) a reply that doesn’t meet the need or b) no reply at all…and voila RUPTURE!!!

Oh it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Look, I have to make light of this right now (#sarcasm and #humour shield) because I am in that terrified denial/manic stage. Basically I am like Denver the dog – forced smile hoping that if I say, ‘I am ok’ enough then I might start to believe it and might just fool those around me and might even avoid a disaster like last year!

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Yesterday was the last session of the year. Without doubt, this has been a really hard year so far as therapy goes. It’s been about staring down the #Motherwound and, in doing so, working through a lot of pain that gets activated in the therapeutic relationship because of this. It’s basically maternal transference 101 in my sessions. It’s so hard.

Those of you that have been following this blog for a while will know that I keep rapidly swinging between two extremes: knowing that Em is there, as my therapist, every single week to try and help me process years of trauma and neglect, that she is safe and trustworthy and that I love and respect her; and then there’s the other side that I’ve been inhabiting lately- the horrible place where I feel she doesn’t care enough, is withholding, is deliberately making me suffer, and is basically retraumatising me. UGH!!!

These feelings are really hard to manage (the doubting the relationship ones). Part of the problem with therapy (but also why I need to be in therapy) lies in the fact that I have so many different parts and they feel and need so many different things – often all at the same time.

I’m more-or-less ok when my Adult Self is online alongside the young parts and I can see what’s going on. I can accept that the feelings I am experiencing come from a young place and are being replayed in the here and now. It’s not comfortable but I’m able to tolerate it. I can feel care and even love towards those younger parts and do try and soothe myself. The real problems happen when my Adult fucks off somewhere and leaves the child parts to run the show. We’ve all seen ‘Home Alone’ right?!

Ages ago I wrote something about structural dissociation and fragmented parts after having read an amazing book by Janina Fisher called, ‘Healing The Fragmented Selves Of Trauma Survivors’. Reading that book was really helpful and gave me a much better insight into what was going on for me. It was a kind of lightbulb moment. Later I read Patricia A. DeYoung’s ‘Understanding Chronic And Treating Chronic Shame: A Relational/Neurobiological Approach’ and that really helped move things on for me too.

Of course, my rational intellectual brain can see all of this therapy break hell for what it is. There’s no problem with being able to see where my issues come from on an intellectual level. It’s the emotional brain that is having such a hard time. It literally has no freaking clue what’s going on and reacts to everything like a child would – and the children vary in age.

Nightmare!

I am aware of a very young baby part, a two year old, a four year old, a seven year old, an eleven year old, a young teen, and an older teen part and so sometimes it gets very noisy inside my head in therapy. I switch about and it is really disconcerting: one minute I can be raging and the next I want to crawl into Em’s lap and fall asleep. Ugh.

I don’t know how Em keeps up with me, to be honest, but she’s really quick to spot when things change in me now, sometimes even before I’ve noticed. I know weird things happen in my body (numbness/heaviness/pain/pins and needles…) and I think I blink a lot/don’t blink at all/close my eyes when things are shifting. I know my breathing goes very shallow and I know that if I am talking my voice goes much quieter. Sometimes I lose time – not for very long – but Em will ask me something and I will have absolutely no idea what she’s just said. I take my hat off to her for seeing what’s going on, working with it and trying to talk to the various parts and bring me back to her.

(Can you see I am trying to hang onto the gratitude and sense of there being consistent ‘good enough’ care today?! – Don’t worry, I’m sure next week it’ll be back to ‘it’s all shit’. LOL)

Anyway, I’m going to try and bring things up to speed quickly before I sign off for the next few days.

It’s been a really hard time these last couple of weeks after the dots thing. 

OMG such painful, excruciating conversations about how that all felt punctuated with spells of dissociation.

OUCH.

Everyone turned up on Monday! The Teens were so resistant to talking about the feelings when Em brought the conversation round to what it had been like since she said she couldn’t/wouldn’t do the dots texts. Picture huffy teen, arms folded, snapping ‘what’s the point in talking about this, it won’t change anything?!’ Em stuck with it acknowledging how I might be angry and hurt and did that therapist thing, ‘here we are, in this space to talk about the feelings, give them space, and to let’s try and work out what they mean and where they come from’. There was an actual eye roll on my part and a fuck off big sigh… Em kept pressing gently and then I snapped at her, ‘Why do you keep poking a massive stick in a really sore hole, now?

And there it was.

You’ve hurt me. Massively.

And that opened up a helpful conversation about feeling abandoned and uncared for and about the (god damn) break for and wondering what feeling cared for might feel like. She used the voice…you know the one, the soothing one that makes you feel held and seen and like you aren’t going to die of emotional pain. Sure, I didn’t get what I wanted (texts), but in her not giving me what I wanted we had a healing conversation and I guess that is the work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not happy about it. I still feel anxious that when the shit hits the fan she isn’t going to be there for me…but actually being able to tell her how sad and hurt I felt and for her to hear it, not react negatively or shame me for it was really helpful and I think this also helped open another door for yesterday’s session.

It was a bit of a car crash at the beginning – it was never going to be easy. I’ve been in therapy long enough now to know that sessions are tricky leading into breaks. There were a lot of feelings flying around and as a result a great deal of pained silence. Em kept with me, kept trying to open up conversations and address the break. Part of me was just trying to hold myself together and not disintegrate. I had an image come to me the night before therapy and it hit me again when she asked me how I was feeling.

I know how strange it sounds but I’ll say anyway. I got an image of myself as an octopus in a really rough sea. The octopus was struggling, being battered by the waves. In a calm sea it usually has a reasonable grip on the parts it is trying to hold onto – each part is reasonably well wrapped in a tentacle, still away from the body, but just about held together and safe enough. When the sea is as rough as it is now the grip loosens and all the parts are barely hanging on to the tip of each tentacle. I am scared I can’t hold onto them and they’re going to get washed away and drown. I know it’s weird. But essentially when there’s a storm (the break) adult me feels like I can’t contain all my vulnerable parts….

And so I told Em this. Sure I think this weird stuff all the time, I blog about it, but I don’t always share this kind of thing with her. She thinks that what’s going on right now is another step in the right direction so that’s something. She was able to acknowledge the fear and the panic and tell me that it’s ok.  Then the session was up. Oh god. She said some lovely things about the Christmas card I had given her and said that she knows how hard it’s been recently but that we are getting through.

I left feeling sad and ok.

I immediately missed her.

I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to reach out to her already.

I haven’t.

I can’t guarantee I won’t message her but my aim right now is to write in a book every time I want to contact her and write it down with a time and a date and what’s actually been going on in my day. I know it’s going to be fully cringe but I hope that I will be able to take it all into therapy on the fourth and hand it over and we can start to unpick the feelings and the triggers. I think it might be interesting to see what two weeks of need and fear looks like…….. eeek!!

Oh, and when I decided to try and hold myself a bit closer and breathe through the storm, look what came in my cracker last night….

A sign?!!

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Octopus from a cracker last night!

 

I won’t get chance to post again before Christmas now so I just want to wish everyone a lovely Christmas, to thank you for following me on my journey, and to say to the cheerleading squad (you know who you are) – your support has been amazing this year. I really hope that between us we can find a way of hanging it together with rubberbands and chewing gum and survive the holidays but I know that the reality might more readily be this:

‘Tis the season to be jolly for a rupture fa la la la la la la la la!

xxx

 

Impasse

I’m not sure starting a blog post with ‘FFS’ is necessarily appropriate, but it totally encapsulates where I am at right now with therapy, or rather the therapeutic relationship. I’m angry, frustrated, upset, exasperated, annoyed, sad, hurt, anxious, scared, lonely, not bothered (no fucks given), shutdown, agitated, full of love! I know that is a list of  complete contradictions but this is what is so difficult about fragmented parts – every part feels different things and reacts independently so in the end it just becomes an exhausting noisy mess inside.

Part of me is just doing a massive face palm and sighing a huge ‘for fuck’s sake!’ I haven’t had much free time to post anything here for a bit but actually this weekend when I have had time to think about what’s going on, or what I might post, I really haven’t got a clue what to say. I literally do not know what to write. I don’t know how to explain what is going on right now. There is a part of me, too, that feels like what’s happening in therapy right now is so huge that whilst I’m in the thick of it I can’t really write about it in any detail.

I am all over the shop: one minute I am absolutely raging and wanting to run away from the therapy and the next I want to roll up my sleeves, get my adult front and centre and do some serious advocating for myself and do the work. Em and I have hit a bit of an impasse. We’ve been stuck for a while now but this last couple of sessions has been incredibly hard. I can’t remember if I said this recently but I told her in session the other week that I felt like she didn’t care about me. It’s not just one part that is feeling like this, it’s several. I’ve been struggling to shake the feeling and so it’s been impossible connect. I can’t even look at her at the moment. The trust, that is so fragile anyway, has been steadily eroding since the half-term holiday in October and the empty chair text (which she never brought up).

I know I should bring this stuff up more but as I said recently, often I have ideas of what I want to say and then I get in the room and suddenly I am overcome by shame and switch into a part that is either really fucking annoying (the one who talks confidently about my here and now life so that the ‘real’ feelings don’t come out) or one of the parts that either has no words (v.young child part) or a withholding and silent part (angry teen). I mean it’s more complicated than that and I definitely shift about between different parts A LOT or feel like there are several competing for attention all at once but generally the part I need to go and talk isn’t bloody available. I don’t know where she’s fucked off to, but I suspect she’s sitting drinking a latte peacefully somewhere … but she certainly isn’t in the room! She’s a fucking moron though because it is her that is paying for this circus.

Knowing that this is what’s been happening I sent my last post to Em just before I left the house on Monday morning. I knew I would sit silently and not mention anything if I went to session without it. I’ve still got stuff I wrote weeks ago sitting in my bag and I just can’t get myself to bring it out. SO ANNOYING. I brought it up and asked her to read it. We had a conversation about my sending stuff to her when I know she won’t read it and all that. Ugh. I tried to explain that when I send something an hour before the session, despite writing it days before, it’s about making sure I can’t back out of talking about something that is important – which is what’s been happening a lot.

She read the post. I felt sick. I can’t really remember everything that we talked about in relation to it but she said something about how she had to admit that she had lost sight of the vulnerable young parts lately because what she sees as the ‘high functioning adult part’ (Little Miss ‘I’ve Got My Shit Together’) does such a fantastic job of distracting and hiding what’s really going on. That pissed me off. I know that’s what I do. What I have been doing. BUT I pay Em to see through this crap. I have told her enough what I do and why I do it. When I feel really vulnerable and unsettled I get out the smoke screen.  To hear her say she’d lost sight of those who need her most was really painful. Yet again, those parts are not being kept in mind…which is what they are terrified of and why they went into hiding when I was a kid.

I know I did try and talk about how futile it feels when I have things I would like to try and work on/ask for and yet ultimately I know that I can’t have what I want so it just feels really painful. She asked what I meant. I said how I read something recently by another therapist about coping with breaks and how they had mentioned a way to maintain connection that really resonated with me. The idea was for the client to send three dots in a text message and that at some point the therapist would respond in the same way. I liked this idea because there are no words to get hung up on, no chance of misinterpreting the tone, no getting into ‘doing therapy outside the room’… it’s simply a checking in process that says ‘I’m still here’. And for someone that genuinely panics that my therapist is dead on breaks it would be perfect.

I knew, though, that Em wouldn’t go for it and said as much to her but she asked me to explain it anyway. I did. And yep. It was a no. Or should I say another no in a long line of nos. She told me that she couldn’t commit to it or something and that she didn’t think it would be in my best interests and then I just shut down. Like what is the fucking point? I keep reading that relational trauma is healed in relationship and yet I am really really struggling to feel like there is a relationship. I know I should, by now, be able to see that she’s there for all my sessions and that she is consistent in how she operates… but there are parts that just can’t see that as enough. When they are breaking their hearts and panicking on breaks it’s no good saying ‘she’ll be back in x weeks’ the fear and anxiety is real in that moment; if I could rationalise it out there and then I would…but I can’t.

I think, too, that this particular ‘no’ stings so much because it is literally THREE DOTS. It doesn’t require much time. It doesn’t require really any thought at all. BUT it would make such a huge difference to me. What hurts the most is that she is unwilling to do this for me. It’s like I am asking for the smallest fucking concession and she won’t do it. And of course this feeds all that stuff about being unimportant, her not liking me, there being no genuine relationship. It’s horrendous. It’s making me so sad and angry recounting this right now.

Christmas break is approaching and I am absolutely terrified that it is going to be another car crash like last year. The feelings on breaks don’t change. Sometimes I reach out sometimes I don’t. This year I won’t no matter how bad things get, why would I? There’s no point. All that’ll do is fuel the part that is ready to walk away. I contacted another therapist this last week because things feel as though we are heading towards a drop off. I don’t know if we can work through this… I don’t know what to do.

I had to do a Skype session on Friday because I was working ten minutes after the session. So it was Skype in my car. Great. Not! Trying to connect through a tiny iPhone screen that would only show her in one third of my screen…it was like therapy on a postage stamp. Em felt really far away. And, I know I sound like a complete mental case but she just felt really therapisty. The session felt really formulaic. I could almost predict what she was going to ask me. Therapy questions 101. Painting by numbers. On more than one occasion I rolled my eyes when she said stuff and how I didn’t hang up on her I have no idea.

Look, I get it, I am upset and angry and feel like I am not necessarily seeing the wood for the trees which is why I will go to the session tomorrow. But I won’t lie. There is a huge part of me that doesn’t want to go. There’s a part of me that wants to cut and run before the Christmas break. I don’t want to be left with all these massive feelings over the holidays and keep looping back to ‘she doesn’t care’. I don’t want my Inner Critic to get a foothold in my mind and ruin the holidays.

I am really aware of this thing where, yet again, I have to sacrifice a need, ok albeit a childish need (my adult doesn’t need three dots – and is mortified that I need Em at all) in order to fit in with what the other person wants. I have done that my whole life and I don’t know how to get to a place where I can ‘accept’ this therapy boundary. I am not ok with the no touch thing but I can sort of accept it. I am not ok with her not responding to my texts but I can sort of accept it. BUT this … three dots… I don’t know if I can. It sounds ridiculous that something as insignificant as … could cause such a huge rupture…but that’s the problem, something so small is so massively significant.

I’m very aware that this is not one of my finer blogging moments and I probably sound like a petulant child who isn’t getting what she wants and is having a meltdown about it…but actually that’s exactly what this is. Adult Me can see this for what it is but the little ones feel utterly rejected.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I’m guessing some anger with a giant dollop of shame! Wish me luck. I really hope that I can break through the shame and the wall and get things moving again. I think the reason this is so hard is because it’s tapping into that core wound again. It’s like these three dots have functioned as a giant cattle prod right into the #motherwound and fuck me – it hurts.

* I had some comments that went to moderation recently (I have this as a setting new readers/comments) that were really nasty and I didn’t ok to go on the post. Please, if you haven’t got something constructive to say just don’t comment at all. These mental health blogs are written by real people who are going through real struggles. I do not need to be told that ‘I am in danger’ and am ‘obsessive’. This obviously isn’t aimed at the merry band of WP warriors who are always sensitive and empathic. x

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Love And Shame In Therapy

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

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

True. But. Ouch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuck.

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

I should not have these feelings towards my therapist.

I am pathetic.

Blah blah blah.

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

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

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

Hmmm, familiar pattern??!!

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

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

It’s really difficult.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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