‘I love you too’

After promptly diving down into the black hole of shame on Friday and then young parts suffering with all the attachment stuff and fear of being left over the weekend, I decided to send my blog post about expressing loving feelings and being the Queen of Avoidance to Anita shortly after I’d written it on Sunday.

I figured I had nothing to lose, really, because whilst parts of me were in a tail spin about being so vulnerable and worrying massively about being rejected for being ‘too much’, there were other parts who know that A and I can work through whatever I bring to her. Enough of me trusts her for me to be able to tell her I am struggling and knows that she won’t shame me for my feelings. And because it’s ok for me to communicate with her outside session, and she’s been happy read my blog posts when I have shared them with her in the past, it seemed silly to continue suffering when actually I could give her the heads up and then we would be on the same page for our session the next day.

I didn’t expect her to read it until Monday or reply but I felt much better for just getting it off my chest. When I am dysregulated, I find expressing how I feel in writing much easier than trying to explain it verbally and Anita really understands this. That’s not to say I don’t talk in the room (I really do!), or that the therapy is taking place outside the room and not in it because I write to her or blog.

A knows there are parts that will take time to trust, need to test her and the relationship (repeatedly) and by allowing me to check in outside those two contact hours a week, those tentative, vulnerable, scared, flighty parts of me are able to do what they need to do, express what they need to, and this has enabled them to make it into the space face to face more often.

I am certain that it is Anita’s flexibility and presence outside the room that has actually allowed me take more risks and do more work in the room. I haven’t developed some unhealthy addiction to her because I check in during the week and she hasn’t bred some terrible dependency because she acknowledges the child parts need something more (which is what Em was certain would happen).

A understands that the attachment happens regardless. If the feelings are there lying dormant then they’ll be ignited in the therapy, but how this is all handled definitely impacts on us as clients. We either feel seen and held or abandoned and rejected…and I know which one is accelerating my path to healing!

I mean it’s not rocket science, relational trauma needs healing in relationship.

I saw this on Carolyn Spring’s Twitter the other day which totally summed it up:

When we are in distress, whether as a baby or as an adult, we want a person, not a technique. Human beings don’t respond to techniques. We respond to feeling seen, and feeling heard. and feeling felt.

And this is where the problems were with Em, a clinical psychologist. She had so many techniques but refused time and again to let herself into the relationship. I’ve never experienced anyone more blank screen in my life. And for those of us with CPTSD that way of interacting is so traumatising. I mean honestly if I could imagine my way out of my trauma with visualisation then I’d have bloody done it!

Anyway…A is not Em. Thank god!

A is brilliant.

Have I said that before?

As I said, I wasn’t expecting a reply to my blog on Sunday and I didn’t feel stressed worrying about a reply/or not getting one because ultimately I knew A would understand, so I was just getting on with things when I got a message later that morning…like the best message. I have literally waited years to be told something like this:

O my goodness. I am not going anywhere. You really aren’t too much. I care about you sooo much and I love you too, in a caring loving way 💜🧡💛. I am aware Em saw the love in a romantic way. I don’t think she got how the love between client and therapist is so different but can definitely be there if the relationship is allowed to grow x

I couldn’t believe me eyes. All the parts inside, even the critic, just melted. I felt so reassured. So accepted. So understood. So cared for. So loved. And that outside communication that some therapists seem so scared of entering into, and A actually being real enough to express love in a clearly boundaried way, well I can tell you, that alone has done more good and been more healing than the entirety of my therapy with Em. My child parts took the risk, expressed vulnerable feelings, and have had them accepted and reciprocated…and that’s therapy gold. And I feel so much more able to bring the really hard stuff to her now, because I believe she’s in it for the long haul with me, and she genuinely cares.

Did I mention that I love my therapist?!

The Queen Of Avoidance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow – that’s a massive understatement!

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

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

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

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

Argh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because I do.

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

I feel sick inside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hate this!

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

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

Shiiiiittttt!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I get it. Anita is not Em.

Repeat: Anita is not Em…

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

I feel lost.

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

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

There’s this verse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I’m Still Here…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eye roll.

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

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

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

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

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

FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When will I learn?!

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

Ha…we know where this is going, right?

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

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

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

There is only ever one answer to this question!

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back In The Therapy Room…At Last!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here it is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, that happened.

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

FFS.

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

Ouch.

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

Errr…Yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Err. YESSSSS!

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

Yes, my friends, I actually said it!

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

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

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

Another Rupture…Over A Walk!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

Anita, replied:

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

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

I responded with:

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

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

It was all going so well!

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

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

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

Anita said:

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

BOOM.

Cue internal collapse.

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

Like really?

Honestly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like wtf?? 😭

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I miss you.

——

That’s the rant.

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

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

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

Damn.

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

I responded:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think I said?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FFS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming of ex-therapist … is a nightmare!

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

I can’t let it go.

I can’t let her go.

I miss her so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the email:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I feel betrayed but also completely worthless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

________

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

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

Anita quickly responded to my email in the afternoon:

RB,

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

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

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

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

I really hope this helps.

Thinking of you,

A

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

I have to laugh or I cry…!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cliff-hanger much?!

 

 

 

 

 

Reunited (at last!): Relief and Release

I am really aware that have been like a broken record for the last few months here, moaning on about how hard I have found lockdown without any face-to-face therapy and having to conduct my therapeutic relationships online. It’s sad really, that the difference between things in my life feeling manageable – or not – essentially boils down to having contact with a couple of therapists for a few hours each week in person. I guess though, that is the transformative power of therapy, it doesn’t take a lot of time, in the big scheme of things, to help to start shifting the balance in the right direction and helping the various traumatised parts feel a little more stable.

There’s really no good time for a global pandemic to hit (!) but I could cry about how poorly timed this one has been for me and my sense of emotional wellbeing. I mean, the hell that was December to February with Em was really something else, it floored my youngest parts. In fact, I still can’t really express how awful that ending with Em was and how massively impacted I have been by it. But at least I had both Anita and K in my corner helping to drag me through the worst of it. My sessions in February and March were absolute life savers, like strategically placed islands in the stream allowing me to catch my breath before being once more subject to the swirling currents of my feelings ‘outside the room’.

And then lockdown hit and all of a sudden everything stopped. Well, I mean face-to-face therapies. Anita and I started working online and K and I have been in pretty much daily contact throughout on WhatsApp…but it’s not the same [screech in whiny voice!]. At the beginning of lockdown, I could just about satisfy myself with the idea that some contact/therapy was better than none given the fact that it felt as if we were heading into the apocalypse. But, actually, as time has gone on, I’ve struggled more and more with feeling physically isolated, alone, and abandoned. Adult me gets that I have not been ‘left’ and am not ‘untouchable’…but the nature of lockdown has wreaked havoc with the young parts.

As I say, lockdown itself has been fine. I have largely enjoyed being at home, working from home, having a slightly slower pace of life, in a lot of ways not much changed but I have really missed going to see A and K. Especially K. I have really missed the holding that comes from doing the body work in craniosacral therapy. K seems to see me even when I am in hiding. Or maybe that should be ‘feel’ me? So, the longer lockdown has gone on the harder it has been for me to hold the really vulnerable, traumatised parts of myself because usually I get help with that.

Don’t get me wrong, I have given it a really good go (trying to self-care/meet the need of the young parts) but my god it’s been exhausting and pretty useless because when my adult self is AWOL and I am stuck in distressed ‘baby’ there’s nothing to be done. That baby has no idea how to soothe itself. All it knows is that everything is wrong and it is scary spiralling through the black abyss.

So, it’s felt like the level of need/distress has been steadily ramping up week on week until recently I felt as though those young parts were dying to be held. It felt like a whole-body ache…or as my friend described it the other day, like a ‘hunger. It sounds dramatic. I know it does. But she’s right, it’s like the biggest hunger or rather like being slowly starved to death.

Anyway, somehow or other I have got through it but I have felt increasingly like my rope is unravelling and I’m hanging on by the final frayed thread.

My nervous system has been in meltdown!

Honestly, I wish just for a day I could be without this stuff. To not carry this unbelievable weight would just be so freeing!

The last few weeks have felt especially tough. The screaming distress of the child parts has felt almost impossible to manage. Thinking about it, I am not surprised that it has been the last two weeks where the Inner Critic has moved in from the wings and got a bit more vocal. It’s a last resort. Someone needs to get things in order! Only, I am so aware now that following through on the demands of the Critic doesn’t do me any good in the long run. It thinks it’s protective – and sure it helps numb that young agony for a bit – but the thing I have learnt is that I can’t outrun it (that feeling that I am going to be annihilated if I feel and face pain of the youngest parts of me) forever, because when I inevitably crash and burn after a period of self-attack – it’s always there waiting, it never goes away. Ugh.

Sooooooooo you can imagine my absolute delight when a couple of weeks ago K said she was going to be slowly getting back to working face-to-face. Like I did a full on internal happy dance…until I realised that I have two children and a wife that works full time hours and it’s the summer holidays! In the usual run of things, term time, pre-Covid I’d see K on a Thursday at hers…but getting out anywhere alone in working hours is just not on the cards at the moment. Honestly, the realisation that I am not free until September was like a sucker punch. I could have cried.

I explained that I would absolutely love to see K but that I couldn’t because of the children. But you know. The story doesn’t end there. Because K is amazing – that’s no secret – she offered to come to mine to do a session. OMG! My kids have been really good at entertaining themselves when I have had my online tutoring sessions and therapy with so I knew they’d be ok gluing themselves to the TV for a little while.

Because we’ve kept in touch throughout lockdown K knew how it’s been for me, how big of a struggle it’s felt, and has been bombarded with various hug gifs and heart emojis over the last few months. Like it’s basically been four months of ‘I miss you’ and ‘I need a hug’. Bless her she really puts up with a lot from me! To know that I would see her soon, and get a proper hug, not a virtual one was amazing.

So finally, it got to Thursday and yay yay yay! I can’t even put into words how lovely it was to see K in person after so long…it’s only been four months but to the younger parts it’s felt like a lifetime! And to be able to have a hug the minute I saw her was just the best. I mean if there was a scale of hug 0-10 she gives 10s.

We sat outside on my deck, had a cup of tea and a chat and it was just so nice to feel normal-ish again and catch up a bit…and to be able to talk about the stuff that I can’t say to everyday people: like the struggle I’ve been having with online therapy, the disconnect, and other stuff that is sandwiched with shame.

To be back on the couch was brilliant. Almost immediately I could feel my system responding to K. I can’t really explain the sensation of craniosacral therapy on the body because lots of different things happen over the course of a session – but initially, to me, it felt like everything that had been blocked in my system started to flow again. When things start to feel more in tune it feels almost like a tide is running through my system – like a natural rhythm is restored. I know that sounds properly heebie-jeebie but it’s true!

Another thing that happens is a deep sense of coming back into the body, this often takes a good while to happen – especially if I have been hurtling around out in space. It feels a bit like being in an elevator and slowly coming down, down, down, until you land, grounded. I have been so ‘out of my body’ lately that to feel embodied again is amazing but also fucking heavy! Like oh my god I had no idea how exhausted I was! And the hangover from it on Friday was so big that I couldn’t really do anything!

And all that is amazing… but what I didn’t anticipate (you’d think I would know myself by now) was that parts of me were still defended and protected. There’s still this massive hangover from Em and all the stuff with my mum that prevents me from saying exactly what’s going on – but it’s not surprising when what comes up is so overwhelming and the need is so huge. Although, as I said, K seems to understand without me saying anything.

At the beginning on the session she had said that the session was for all the parts of me, however vulnerable, and especially the baby who had been essentially stuck in an incubator (which is a big trauma – 3 days in an incubator when I was born and no contact with my mum) for the last four months…so I guess she must have understood what was going on – to a degree.

Anyway, it was all going well, my body was doing its thing – coming back into itself- when K gently put her hand on my chest – and boom – fuck me it was like all the stuff I have been tightly holding onto for…well…a long time…not just lockdown came up and out. Jesus. There was no gentle tuning into it, or slow bubbling up – it was like a defibrillator shock into feelings that I generally can’t connect to, especially in the presence of someone else. Actually, the only person I get close to expressing these feelings with is K.

I don’t know how it happens, or why, or what gets unblocked but it’s sooooo powerful. All of a sudden though, I felt about two years old, vulnerable, exposed, and just wanted to roll onto my side and cuddle into K and be rocked. It was so young. Ugh. It’s fucking mortifying. Like seriously, the shame around this stuff is just too much to bear sometimes. It’s not lost on me that I am a 37-year-old woman with two children of my own … but sometimes I have a hard job remembering that when this stuff comes up because those young parts take over and it takes an almighty effort from the critic to override that stuff…which is where the shame and self-loathing come in!

Anyway, I have enough of a filter to not do that (thank god!) but it’s so hard then navigating these intense feelings. I’ve been in this place enough times with Em – feeling young and then being faced with the distance and being immersed in the shame and it being so overwhelming that I end up creeping off into dissociation. The positive with a body-based therapy is that there is at least some touch – some contact – and so whilst in the past I might be flooded with that overwhelming need to be held and Em would be half a world away in her chair at least K is actually right there, still.

The young parts settled a little bit as the session went on but, as K reached my head there was part of me that really just wanted to hold her hand. FFS! It feels really embarrassing. But I think it is a bit like what I was saying earlier – it feels like I have been starved of this for the longest time and now I realise just how bloody hungry I am. And you know that thing that happens in sessions when you are mentally aware of the time ticking away? Like sand slipping through your fingers? Well, I know that it’s really common for my younger parts to get panicked – like the anticipation of it all being over and being back on my own makes those parts want to cling on. It’s as though their life depends on it.

OH THE SHAME!!!

The session was so nice (aside from my inner gymnastics). I think the other thing I realised as time was ticking by is that I need to stop fighting whatever it is that’s going on inside because all the while I am trying to keep everyone in check I am missing out on the level of connection I actually need. The shame keeps me isolated. I am certain K could handle me saying, ‘I feel really young right now and I just want to hug you’ like it’s fine…isn’t it?…it’s just feelings. But ugh… I wish I wasn’t so terrified of being rejected or abandoned or left. I wish that what has happened with Em hadn’t have made me even more cautious and guarded. It feels like such an almighty ask of myself to risk those parts coming forward again. I literally cannot bear the same thing happening again and being hurt.

What I have to remember, though is that both K and A are NOT Em…they have the power to hurt me like she did but it doesn’t mean they will.

At the end I said goodbye to K we had another hug and I told her, ‘I’ve really missed you’…it’s so much easier to say that when you can’t be seen and are being held…although there was a part of me that didn’t want to let that out at all! To a ‘normal’ person that would be a pretty simple thing to say wouldn’t it? Like isn’t it normal to say things like, ‘I am so happy to see you’ or ‘I’ve missed you’ or ‘I love you’…but anything like that just feels like I’m some kind of creep. Like it would make the other person feel uncomfortable. That it’s too much. Expressing any kind of emotion – good or bad – is really hard for me and increasingly so since Em’s ‘tick’ comment. I never want to be thought of that way…although clearly, internally, it has stuck.

I need face-to-face therapy! …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I feel frustrated.

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

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

 

Navigating Our First Rupture…

I made it through last weekend a little haphazardly and as it got to Monday, and almost time for my session, I felt anxious. I had every intention of telling Anita that her not replying to some of my recent (vulnerable) texts had unsettled me in a big way. I mean surely the evidence was there that she is safe enough to express that with? She may not have replied to me but we had talked in sessions about what I had said, more or less, and when I had reached out in the middle of the week and asked for a check-in she’d accommodated that. If I don’t tell her what’s going on how is she meant to know…and how can we sort it out?

I took a deep breath and waited for Anita’s call to come in, 10:00…10:01…10:02…10:03… wtf? I started to feel pissed off, angry, forgotten about…abandoned…rejected…and then I closed down. I know this is not all about Anita, that everything she does is also filtered through the lens of how Em behaved, but I nose-dived really quickly, ‘She’s the same as Em. She doesn’t really care. You’re a fucking moron for hoping that this time things would be different because the problem is you…not them…’

So with the Critic ranting in my head and my body feeling I almost just left it, ‘Sod her. I don’t even care anyway…’

Only of course I do care.

Having stared at my home screen for the last four minutes I opened up my Whatsapp and saw that I had a missed called from A at 10:01. My phone hadn’t rung or notified me of the call.

Really?

For fuck’s sake! I returned the call and A picked up. I told her my phone had glitched and she said she was glad to see me and was worried something might have happened. You’d think that might have been enough for me to settle down, connect, and talk but of course it isn’t that easy. In the intervening four minutes between expecting the call and realising I had missed the call I had run the attachment gauntlet and my body was in flight mode.

I wish I had have been brave enough to say, ‘I thought you’d forgotten about me and I feel panicked’ but of course because I was hanging on to all the worry about the last two weeks and her not acknowledging those few texts it felt impossible. I was already armoured up and so I did the thing… I talked BUT NOT ABOUT WHAT WAS REALLY BOTHERING ME. I spoke about work, my daughter’s return to school, and you guessed it… COVID!

Give me fucking strength!!

I’m not saying that what I spoke about isn’t a concern or wasn’t helpful it’s just on my list of ‘what’s bothering me’ those things probably come about 15 places down. Like even if I couldn’t tell her about the fear surrounding being rejected or her seeming to have backed away, maybe I could have talked about the fact I was upset about the anniversary of my dad dying which was happening the next day having touched on it in our Friday session, or told her about the fact that I had looked at Em’s website over the weekend – you know how I like to self-harm – and had seen that she’s updated her page to specifically list the issues she deals with. There are tonnes but imagine my horror when she lists: attachment disorders, dissociation, eating disorders, and trauma…

I wanted to puke.

I knew the, ‘I have reached the limit of my competency’ and I do not have ‘the relevant skills or training’…was utter fucking bullshit when she said it. It’s like the therapist’s get out of jail free card. How can you argue with that? It’d be like a student asking me to teach them German – it just wouldn’t be possible. They’d have to seek support elsewhere. But to see that she is advertising her services in these areas tells me that she has learned absolutely nothing from what has happened between us. That she takes zero responsibility for her part in it.

To think that she genuinely thinks she has the skills to treat people with these issues is absolutely beyond words. I am upset. I am hurt. But I am absolutely terrified that she’ll do the same to someone else. Perhaps someone else who doesn’t have quite as much resilience as I have. And it might sound dramatic but it’s not beyond the range of possibility that someone might really hurt themselves facing the situation I did.

If it weren’t for my kids and the fact that I quickly found Anita just as things began to unravel (tick gate!) I think there would have been a strong possibility that I may have hurt myself…or worse. Because annihilating a person’s young parts when they have been exposed and vulnerable is just about the worst thing that can happen for people with attachment problems.

Everything went wrong when we were kids, we learnt to protect ourselves, often using maladaptive coping mechanisms that hurt us further, and in many cases the damage that was done to us as kids led to us developing problematic relational patterns…this all causes us problems in later life and that’s how we end up in therapy depressed, empty, anxious, hurting…

We are encouraged to try again at letting people in, trusting some with the most vulnerable parts of ourselves… and it took years for me to let Em see what I was struggling with, how badly hurt I was, and when she saw the full extent of the need and pain, she abandoned me…only this time it feels worse because unlike my mother, she’s also rejected my adult self, too, so I feel utterly heartbroken.

But no. I didn’t bring ANY OF THAT to the session…because people refusing to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces is clearly of greater concern for me! Jeez!

Anyway, the session ended it was fine, but not fine you know? I doubt Anita even knew I was keeping her at arm’s length. I felt so pissed off with myself afterwards, though. I convinced myself that she was fed up with me, disinterested in me, that I was wasting my time. And yet, there was still a part that wanted to connect.

On Tuesday I had a good day with work, back to face to face, but by the evening the grief around my dad loomed large. I had told Anita that I was really sad that this year I would not be able to go to the beach and ‘connect with my dad’ like I usually do, to mark the anniversary. I mean I know technically we are allowed to travel wherever we like but I don’t think that a trip out of county is essential right now.

On Tuesday evening I sent Anita some pictures I took from my trip last year with the caption ‘If Only…’

img_8103img_8079img_8101

And sure enough she did not reply.

And that is when my system went into full scale meltdown. Usually, before the message when I let her in, she would at least send an emoji and now nothing.

I had bad dreams all week. One where I was watching Anita with someone (aspects of me) at an outdoor café. As I watched I could tell that something wasn’t right. It looked fine on the surface but I just knew it wasn’t as it appeared. As she got up to leave, she handed me a rolled-up piece of paper that looked like a receipt and on it written in pencil were the words, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t work with you’.

Then I woke up on Thursday morning having had a dream about being on a paddle board with both my kids in a harbour (where I used to live). The paddle board had a puncture and was rapidly deflating. Neither of my kids (in the dream) were competent swimmers and I knew I couldn’t save both of them. I noticed Anita was on the harbour wall. I called for help and she turned and walked away.

I know they’re both dreams. Not reality. That these are my fears coming out. But it’s horrid because I ignored my dreams about Em and look what happened. What happens if my dreams are trying to tell me something again?

I felt so triggered and upset that I sent Anita a message to cancel the session on Friday. This is so unlike me. I never cancel sessions…ok so I cancelled that one with Em just before Christmas but never before! So I sent this:

Can we have a break tomorrow and talk on Monday instead? I feel really unsettled, disconnected, and that things aren’t ok/safe/something has changed between us. Bad dreams aren’t helping. Maybe it’ll feel less bad after the weekend. July is always hard.

I wasn’t sure what she would come back with but I wasn’t really expecting this:

Of course, that’s no problem.

I mean sure, I asked to not do the session but I explained why and for me to be saying I am feeling shit and unsafe in the relationship I basically did not need her to agree that it was fine to ignore that for another few days. The child parts felt so abandoned. I needed Anita to see past my defences and reach through to the little ones and she didn’t. I left it a few hours and felt really unseen and disappointed.

I am good at catastrophising and was really seriously thinking that this was it…it wasn’t going to work out – she just doesn’t get it. To be fair I also need make it clear that I was massively hormonal and I am never at my most rational when in the throes on PMS!

A few hours later I replied:

It doesn’t feel like no problem ☹

And then this came in:

No, I can hear that but not sure how to try and reassure you in a text. My guess is the closer we get the more your defences will try to sabotage the relationship to try and keep you safe. It’s a system that works as in it keeps you guarded but it also isolates you. I can hear July is a triggering month so maybe letting your defences step in for a few days is what you need and gives your defences the respect they deserve for trying to keep you safe. So try not to be too hard on yourself and try to give yourself the empathy you deserve.

Ugh. Yes. But. No.

Absolutely, the closer we get the more spooked parts will feel because the fear of loss and rejection becomes more acute but there’s more to it than that … and telling me not to be too hard on myself when I am depriving myself of connection feels like we’re letting the protector win when actually sometimes she needs to be shown that we’re ok and that it’s safe. But that message was enough for me to see that actually A is not trying to ignore me or disconnect…I don’t think… and so I asked if we could still have our session, feeling like a bloody dickhead!:

I hate feeling like this. And yes, you’re right. But I don’t want to feel triggered and then run scared from people because it is isolating. It’s that thing about leaving before I get left. I was hypervigilant before January but now it’s off the chart ☹ . I’m sorry. Is it too late to change my mind about tomorrow?

And of course, this is Anita we are talking about and she came back:

You really don’t need to say sorry and tomorrow at 10am is absolutely fine 😊

And so that was that. Fun times.

When it came to the session on Friday, I felt a bit nervous. I knew I had to tell her what was really going on if I was going to really sort it out. So we started and I said I was a bit embarrassed that I had made such a fuss and actually still ended up in the session…what a 24 hours! She was really warm and understanding. I asked her outright, ‘has something changed?’ and she was adamant from her side that no, nothing had changed, or yes, something had changed, but positively, she said she felt like we are getting closer.

I smiled.

Good. It’s not just me moving towards her then and her feeling repulsed and backing away.

She said that I had mentioned some bad dreams and asked me if I would tell her about them. So, I started with the one about the café and she said that sounded really hard and that she wanted to reassure me that she really has no intention of leaving and that I am not too much for her. She said she understood that might be hard to take on board, or believe, because Em will have said the same thing and then left (the warmth that she exuded as she said it is like nothing Em ever expressed in all the time I worked with her). It was easy to believe what she was saying because it felt real and genuine.

I told her about the second dream and she was really moved and replied that she could see how hard that was for me. Two dreams on the bounce where she’d abandoned me. She could understand my concern, what if I allowed myself to get into the water and it got emotionally overwhelming could I be sure that she wouldn’t let me drown, would she reach out and save me? And the answer to that was an emphatic ‘yes!’. We are in this together and she has absolutely no intention of letting me or my child parts drown.

I can’t tell you how much my body relaxed when she said that. I have never experienced any real reassurance in the relationship with Em. I’ve always been left second guessing, hoping for the best but fearing the worst…and then frequently hearing the worst. Anita isn’t like that. It’s so unbelievably refreshing. Healing.

She said that my protector is really strong and good at her job. I agreed but said, ‘the thing is Anita, I need you to be stronger than she is. I need to you to be able to meet her and diffuse her or at least side step her to get to the young ones because that will make her stand down.’ She repeated the idea she had said in the text about giving the protector space and respect. I said, ‘no’. ‘No?’ she wondered. ‘No. Because if we let her have free reign then the little ones lose out again, they remain isolated and unseen, and they’re the only reason she’s there in the first place’.

Anita asked me to explain further. I said, ‘my system works in a particular way. It’s always the same. If the young parts reach out and are vulnerable but aren’t met they are left in a whole world of pain, it’s awful. So in order for me to function, first the teen steps in with her bubbling rage which is externalised, and then if she can’t get a handle on it all,  the critic steps up and starts attacking me. The teen part is like a really angry big sister. When the young ones are abandoned, she loses her shit. There is absolutely nothing she won’t do to protect them from another unsafe adult hurting them. She’ll cut all ties before things get worse. She struggles to trust anyway but if the young ones are hurting it’s like all hell breaks loose.’

Anita really seemed to get it and said, ‘so what you need then, is for me to see the young parts and help them and the teen will step down a bit?’.

Bingo.

I think at this point she thought that the teen was having a meltdown because of the dreams. It felt like we were moving in the right direction but I still didn’t quite feel like I could tell her that I had been so upset about the texts. It felt stupid. Being face to face – or screen to screen – or whatever I could see that Anita was not trying to abandon me at all. I guess, though, there was a little bit of me that was thinking, ‘she only cares in the paid for time, outside that I don’t matter’… you know all the great stuff!

So instead I decided to tell her something else that I felt shame about but not quite as much shame as I did about overreacting to the texts… I decided to tell her that I had looked online at Em’s website earlier in the week. I waited for it…a raised eyebrow… look of disgust…an uncomfortable shuffle in her chair. Of course, none of those things happened. Just a look of care and understanding as though it were the most natural thing in the world that I’d be searching my ex-therapists website after terminating five months ago!

I expressed how upset I felt knowing that she had learnt nothing, took no responsibility, and basically that left me in no doubt that she absolutely thinks I was the problem. Anita empathised. I said I was angry. She asked me what I wanted to do with my anger and I said that I didn’t know right now, but that I was certain that I didn’t want to turn it in on myself…it’s not always possible but if I do that then she’s really won. Anita agreed and said she was glad that even though it was painful that I wasn’t abusing myself as well.

Anyway, we spoke about that and then I built up a bit more confidence…and asked again, ‘Are you absolutely sure that we are ok and that nothing has changed?’ She replied again ‘I’m sure’. I sat there quiet. ‘In the last few weeks you’ve taken steps closer to me’ she looked thoughtful for a second ‘and I really feel like we are getting closer… Do you think I have stepped back?’ I nodded. She told me that if I had felt that she is sorry but that absolutely had not been her intention. A little voice murmured, ‘but you’ve ignored me’. Anita looked shocked. ‘In session?’ she wondered. ‘No’ I whispered. I felt so small at that point and it was really clear to me that it was the young part that was talking to her. She was quiet for a moment. ‘Is this about texts?’ I nodded again. She thought for a few seconds and then started talking in a really open and vulnerable way,

‘I’m sorry if my text replies have felt not good enough or what you’ve needed. I think I told you before that I have really bad dyslexia. I almost couldn’t complete my training because of the written component of the course. I needed a lot of support from my supervisor and had to use voice technology to write my essays because I struggle so much with writing and typing. I could never offer email therapy for this reason. So, when I text I have to think really, really hard and the harder I try the less authentic it might feel because I lose myself in trying to get it right when I know I am likely to get it wrong. I’m sorry.’

Honestly, it was so heartfelt that I melted a bit inside. Like I really felt for her and was so pleased that she was able to be vulnerable with me. To have authentic communication modelled is really something. I hadn’t really thought about it from her side despite having been told in our first session together that she prefers to check in via calls rather than texts because she struggles with dyslexia and finds calls more connecting. I really heard it now, and realised that it probably feels especially pressured knowing I am an English teacher and will notice any errors in what she sends.

I suppose I tend to communicate in writing because it’s what I find easier but it’s also that I have not been allowed calls or any outside contact with Em and writing is all I had – even though I really shouldn’t text or email! In all the years we worked together we only had one phone check in…and it was a game changer for me…and yet the next time I walked into the room she raised the drawbridge and told me she’d stepped outside her role as a therapist by doing it. It was devastating.

I said to Anita that I really understood that, but actually I really didn’t have a problem with her texts, that her replies up until two weeks ago have been phenomenal, so holding, so attuned, and exactly what I had needed. I said that she had felt so connected, even when she might just reply with a smiley face emoji. I told her that two weeks ago, when I told her that my young parts missed her she stopped responding and since then every time I have reached out with something vulnerable she’s made no reply at all and it’s made me worry that something is wrong, that I am too much, and that she is backing away.

If I had said any of this to Em she would have thrown it back at me, telling me how I am just being sensitive and that the feelings are coming from the past and that it’s not how it is and that we need to keep communication inside the room and that this is her boundary. She could never step towards me in a rupture and instead left me hanging having to work through it on my own.

What did Anita do?

She leant in towards the camera and gently said, ‘I am so so sorry for letting your young parts down, I really didn’t mean to. I am so glad you’ve been able to tell me this because now I can make sure I don’t do it again. I have been really busy at home the last couple of weeks and I am sorry if it’s come across as me not caring. It’s not that, at all. I have been aware of how you’ve moved towards me and I didn’t want to get it wrong with you or give you an inadequate response’.

I explained that I really don’t need long or complicated responses to my texts and that I really understand the feelings around being exposed and not feeling good enough due to the dyslexia. I said I am not judging and that she’s always felt really authentic to me. My young parts just need to know that she’s still there when I reach out. I told her again about how I really struggle with object constancy and so that it really is the young parts seeking reassurance and an emoji can be enough…but getting no reply at all sends me into panic.

I told her that I genuinely thought she was trying to find a way to tell me she wasn’t able to work with me which is what’s been coming up in my dreams and why I had backed away on Thursday. She said she understood that there felt like there was safety in leaving before I got left. I said having just talked in the way we have it seems like a massive reaction to three texts being left hanging especially when in the same block of time I’d reached out and she had made time for a check in. I said it’s just really hard coming from a place where texts, emails, and calls hadn’t been allowed. I said how I had been ignored for years and years and it felt like a narrative repeating.

She reiterated that she is not Em but acknowledged how badly Em had hurt me in various ways and understands how sensitive this is. I said how I had worried that she’d been to supervision or peer support and she’d been told that she shouldn’t work with me in this way, and that if she took away the outside contact I’d really struggle because it’s been so important to me. I think she was genuinely surprised by my mental gymnastics and assured me that it was all ok and that she knows what I need now. She reiterated that the way we can keep moving forward together is by talking and communicating this stuff even when it’s tough.

I haven’t really done that exchange any justice at all but what I can say is that it is probably the single most healing moment I have experienced in talk therapy in all the years I’ve been doing it. Being listened to, seen, understood, and accepted (even if I was being dramatic and over the top)  is so healing. And it is such a contrast to being ignored, blamed, or shamed for how I feel. To effectively repair a rupture rather than be left holding the pain and upset is amazing. To know I can express how I feel and that be met well is so much healthier than feeling like there is no choice but to move through a rupture and let it go as it’s better than risking losing everything. I mean the last time I tried to sort a rupture I got terminated…but I couldn’t allow my therapist to think it was ok to call me a tick, could I?!

Anyway, after the session I sent A a short text thanking her for being real, and open, and hearing me. And she replied by thanking me for my honesty and signed off with a hug emoji.

And, that, my friends is how it is done! This tick is doing therapy! x