Transitional Objects (again), The Marble, And The Meltdown.

‘I don’t know what to say’ is a sentence I frequently utter in my therapy sessions and today it’s pretty much how I am feeling about trying to write this post. I have so much to say and yet have no idea where to begin with the mess that is inside my brain. Perhaps I’ll just hit it chronologically and go from there.

I said last post about things seeming to (finally) free up in therapy after a long stagnant period….well yes, but I think a better analogy would be that I have been sitting for a long while with the handbrake on and now, all of a sudden, the car is free-wheeling down a steep hill, the wheels are loose, and any minute now are going to come off and I think I might go hurtling over the edge of a cliff.

A little while back, when my therapist and I were discussing the possibility of moving to two sessions a week (because the wheels were falling off in a slightly different way …man I need to get this car looked at!) she said that two sessions offered the chance of greater containment but also more regression. At the time I internally did a big ‘GULP’ – whilst the feeling of more containment was exactly what I have needed the idea of regressing even more gave me the heebie-jeebies. I mean let’s face it, the young parts have been losing their mind big time already…could it get more intense?

Simple answer: YES.

Em knows what she’s talking about.

Damn!

Call me naïve but I didn’t think the shift into letting the vulnerable, young, stuff out would happen so quickly, especially after the (enormous) summer break. I mean, we’ve been back….errr… four weeks! But hey, I guess all these feelings have been there waiting for a safe enough time to come out. One session a week wasn’t allowing enough connection and containment and so it’s little wonder it was taking a gargantuan effort to reach the hard stuff in only fifty minutes a week.

I have certainly felt that knowing I’ll see Em on a Monday and talk to her via Skype on Friday has made things feel a bit easier. There seems to be a bit less internal pressure to ‘get it right’ in session and ‘get stuff out’ now. I used to only have 50 minutes to release the pressure that built up in a week. If I felt like I’d ‘wasted’ my time or ‘not connected’ I’d beat myself up and then suffer with what was left over and it would sit festering for another seven days. Now, if I don’t quite say what I wanted (like the other week where I spent the whole skype session talking about WORK- ffs…) I think ‘fuck, that was frustrating, but at least I’ll see her again in three/four days. I wonder why I did that?’

I can’t really remember anything at all about the Skype session on the 21st. I guess it was just work stuff and hasn’t stuck in my mind. The young parts were really upset afterwards, though. I can’t remember what they had wanted to say to her – I think it was something about the summer break and the fact that she’d just given me the next set of break dates. Anyway, they didn’t get a chance to talk, and even though I knew I would see Em in three days the weekend felt hideous. I was very, very agitated and unsettled.

I was trawling through Twitter on Sunday evening and saw a great tweet about power stones. Basically a therapist that works with kids had invited children to think about who their ‘safe adult’ was and to get them to make a finger print in some clay in order that when the children were away from their safe adult and needed reassurance they could take out their power stone from their pocket and be reminded of them.

You can probably see why I got really excited about this idea especially after the long-running saga with the pebbles last year! #transitionalobject! So I retweeted the post as I knew a few of my friends would love it too… and then….OMG….immediately sent Em the link to my tweet in an email asking: ‘Can we do something like this before the next break?’.

Sometimes I get that impulsive urge to reach out like that and then once I have I almost immediately freak out!

I got to session on Monday and felt so unbelievably exposed. That in addition to all the stuff I’d read on Saturday night didn’t help at all. I wanted hide, and said as much the moment Em brought up the email. I may have put that stuff out there but I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. We talked a great deal about feeling exposed and vulnerable on Monday and the little parts went away feeling really connected to Em but, as is often the case, when things feel really good they miss her even more.

It’s crap really – a no win situation!:

Disconnected = meltdown

Connected = meltdown

Anyway, I was back on the moors on Tuesday doing some geography with my home-schooled boy. On the way home there is a glass making factory that makes, amongst other things, beautiful marbles. As a kid I always loved it there and started collecting marbles from the age of eleven….I have loads…which is ironic really as I clearly am not in possession of my other marbles! So, I took a ten minute break and went into the place for a wander around and looked at the marbles.

Eleven came online. I could feel the shift in me. My adult/teacher was gone and Eleven was like a kid in a sweet shop. She picked out a couple that she liked…and then saw something. A gorgeous marble in the colours that Em always wears with hearts on it. I felt a wave of: ‘I love this. I love her. I think she’d like this. I want to buy it for her’ wash over me and so I bought the marble. That same impulse to send the tweet about power stones was there.

Anyway, the week dragged on. I asked my wife if there was any chance of her being able to do the school run so that I could get to session in person. Fortunately she could. The young parts were desperate to go to therapy but equally were worried that if I took the marble to Em and actually gave it to her she might push us away and reject us. Yeah, that old chestnut.

I got to therapy and eeeeeekkkkk… I was so nervous. I can’t, again, really remember what we spoke about (wtf is it with this therapy amnesia?) but it was really connecting and helpful and with five minutes to go I felt safe enough to try and explain the marble I had in my pocket.

I told Em about how when I was eleven I used to collect marbles and keep them in glass vases. I spent all my pocket money on them and had hundreds. They were beautiful but not something I played with – not toys. When I went away to university my mum met her now husband who had son. She went into my room, emptied out my vases and took the marbles outside to play. When I came home from uni my marbles were scuffed and smashed. I was gutted. I told her (Em), then, that I had been to the marble factory and had seen a marble I really liked and wanted to give her but that now I felt really embarrassed because it was a young part that had bought it for her.

She couldn’t have handled it any better (with three minutes to go!). She spoke about how big a deal this felt and how this was about wanting to express something to her but also that there was a huge fear about being rejected. She said that I didn’t want her to smash the marble and disregard it. Marbles are very beautiful but incredibly fragile and she wanted me to know that she had no intention of damaging it (if I chose to give it to her) or shaming me for wanting to give it to her.

Anyway, she talked quite a bit and it really felt like she got it…then the session was up. She said she thought it was really good that I had been able to bring this up and that we could talk about it more on Monday. I said, I just want to give it to you now and handed it over. She really liked it, said it was beautiful, and that I had noticed that she likes those colours. It felt nice….but also good that I could run away to my car without having to unpick the finer details of the hearts (the love!) etc that was attached to it.

So, yeah…good stuff. But having started down the path of ‘let it all out and be vulnerable’ and emailing earlier in the week it was as though my filter had gone. All the parts started activating. Everyone had something to say. Everyone wanted to be in the room with Em. Shit a brick!….

Then it happened.

The Inner Critic came online to shut everyone up. OMG it was horrendous. She was so unbelievably angry. How dare I have let myself talk to Em like this. Why on earth would I do that? It felt awful. That relentless, attacking, mean voice that makes me hate myself was really going for it. I had a huge urge to cut myself. I didn’t. I wanted to not eat. I didn’t. Instead I mentally logged what was going on and thought it was important to talk about it in session.

I know, by now, that it’s not always as easy as that because I never know which part will arrive in the room and front for me….I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be the critic (you can see where this is going!) and so pinged off a text on Monday morning to try and foreworn Em so that she might be able to help me talk if it all went to shit:

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Sooooooo…..I got myself to therapy somehow. It was all a bit of disaster. I stopped to grab a coffee and left it on the roof of the car resting against the roof rack. I drove a bit and then realised what I had done, retrieved the coffee and proceeded to pour it ALL OVER MYSELF. I arrived at the town where my therapist lives and sat on the sea wall. It was a stunning day. I did a bit of deep breathing and taking in the view…trying to compose myself. When it was time to leave. I jumped down and totally misjudged the height and hurt my ankle. It was that kind of day!!

I arrived at my T’s and FUUUUUCCCCCCCKKKKK it was so noisy in my head. All the parts were clamouring to be heard and seen. It was chaos. Usually I feel like there is maybe one or two parts active at a time but not this week. Good god! It was really hard to even hear what Em was saying. I told her that I felt like I couldn’t hear her. She asked if she was speaking too quietly and I tried to explain that it wasn’t about volume it was about not being able to tune in to what she was saying. I couldn’t connect…and then there she was – the Critic. 

She shut the show down.

She was not happy at all.

All I could hear, then, in my head was ‘DON’T YOU DARE TALK TO HER!’

Em tried really hard to connect with me. I’ve since listened back to the session and really she could not have done any more to try and reach me but the power of the Inner Critic is unbelievable and everything Em said pissed her off more and more – especially when she asked if maybe what was going on was related to the marble and taking a risk on Friday. I could feel myself bristle all over. Em persisted trying to tell the Critic that she had as much a right to be here as any of the others and that maybe she was worried that if the others talk then she will lose her power and be left. (Grrrr!)

At one point Em asked how I was feeling having been speaking directly to that  critical part for about twenty minutes and I told her I was angry. Em tried to unpick the anger but it just infuriated me further and so I said …..‘JUST FUCK OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE’ —– not one of my finest moments for sure.

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It was a really a tough session and I haven’t felt that level of anger and shutdown for a really long time, like probably this time last year. It was uncomfortable but necessary I think. I hate feeling like I am losing control over what is going on. I know the Critic is all about control…but she’s only meant to be rude to me and control me. She isn’t meant to face off my therapist!

I left therapy and listened back to my session in the car on the way to tutoring and all the young parts started crying inside. It was horrid. I couldn’t remember half of what I’d said and hearing it back I felt like I had ‘done a bad thing’. I didn’t want Em to be angry with me. Of course adult me understands that this is all part of therapy and that Em is probably pleased that I have finally been able to express some of the rage inside, but the little ones don’t understand at all. They are frightened of anger. They’ve seen way too much of it over the years. I pulled myself together to teach and then drafted (another) text … oh god!:

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And so this is where it’s been left. I am having a bit of and up and down week! I am trying to be kind to myself but it’s not easy. The Critic is going mad and trying every trick she knows to get me to leave therapy because I should be so ashamed of myself. But I am facing her off for now. I have my Skype session on Friday. I am nervous as hell about it but it is what it is. I guess, actually, I am not so much in a wobbly car careering down hill so much as I have got on a new and bigger rollercoaster and I am finding out where it is safe to put my hands up and enjoy the ride – it’s all a bit white-knuckle right now!

Bringing The Parts To Therapy…

The fact that I am fragmented and have parts is not new news to me or my therapist, or, I guess, anyone that reads this blog. I noticed/became aware of distinct parts of myself split into different ages in the Christmas therapy break of 2016. As we all know by now, I don’t do especially well with therapy breaks and basically the system came online for me then as the feelings of attachment were activated and simultaneously the ache of feeling abandoned and sort of rejected sent me over the edge. Fun times!

All the young parts suffered massive separation anxiety and had a huge meltdown that holiday because they couldn’t see my therapist (shudder, the shame!). My teen part really struggled and after a couple of weeks of little ones literally screaming in her ear (that’s what happens, I can hear the screaming of a small child inside) and at the same time the ageless dementing mother-fucker the Inner Critic systematically sucking anything good from her and replacing it with fear and feelings of inadequacy, she had asked for a double session with Em when the break ended.

We learnt, then, that Em doesn’t do double sessions and that was enough to tip my teen part over the edge. She has asked for help from professionals before and been sent away, her pain not taken seriously, and this ‘no’ from someone who she was just about feeling like she could trust was enough to send her into hiding and instead resort to her well-worn paths and coping strategies: cutting and burning herself and not eating.

It was a really difficult break for sure and confusing as hell for me. I felt fully bonkers. Like, really, WTAF is all this about?!

I returned from the break feeling shattered and scared. It took a few weeks to talk to my therapist about anything much and there was A LOT of silence before I could begin to trust her again and let her in. I realise now, but didn’t then, that it takes time for the various parts to feel safe enough to talk to her and sometimes if one is holding out, often the teen, who is under duress from the Inner Critic to ‘keep quiet you fucking loser, she doesn’t care and you’re embarrassing yourself’ or words to that effect it can shut the whole system down.

I have written quite bit over the last few months about how regularly I dissociate both in and out of my therapy sessions. It’s been a big, not problem exactly, but issue in the last year or so. I’ve felt frustrated and sad that my mind and body so readily do a runner from my feelings and my therapist when big emotions start coming up.

My friend and I joke about our letterbox sized ‘windows of tolerance’ in therapy. Sometimes I’m ok for a bit when my adult turns up and can talk, catch up on the day-to-day stuff and then once I settle down into the space and the young parts come to the front lately it has felt like a switch flicks inside and off I go, sucked into a vacuum, dark tunnel, huge grey space…the list goes on and on.

Anyway,  I think I have written about it a bit before but can’t remember, which is kind of ironic because this next bit is actually talking about memory – or rather amnesia. I have noticed that recently there are periods in my sessions where I cannot even remember what I have just said. I have to check in with my therapist and frequently say things like ‘did I just say that a minute ago?’ to which she responds no and has to give me a brief recap of where we have got to because I literally haven’t got a fucking clue about what’s been going on! It’s not great!

My therapist commented the other day about how it feels like we almost have to start afresh every session and build up trust and safety – it doesn’t seem to carry over from session to session. I’ve said this before, that sometimes it feels like I lose all the good stuff during the week and have to work out if she is safe over and over again. It’s not really surprising, there’s some massively hypervigilant parts inside and an epic gatekeeper that needing convincing that she’s safe, but it’s more than that, it’s almost like I can’t remember that she even knows me, that I have shared big stuff with her, that I have told her about the parts, that I have told her that I love her….you know all that embarrassing stuff. So every time a young part comes online there is a fear of being rejected….they don’t remember that she’s never yet shamed me and she knows who they are!

It’s bloody hard work, for us both. She earns her money, for sure!

So, anyway, it goes without saying that there has been a bit of a block for the last few months in sessions. I have been struggling. It’s been frustrating. I have even considered leaving therapy and starting again with a new therapist. I haven’t wanted to and I am glad I haven’t given up.  I am glad that I am a doggedly persistent person. I know that a lot of what has kept me going back to session week in week out to often only come away feeling like shit and then struggling all week is my very strong attachment to my therapist – the love basically. I am glad that there has been enough of a belief that things can and will improve and that whatever has been happening is  ‘part of the work’. I am pleased that I didn’t cut and run because things have massively freed up and the therapy feels energised if not a little fucking terrifying again. Basically the block and stagnation has finally shifted and we are back in the zone.

Vulnerability is on and eeek…

What has caused this shift? I don’t know. Things always shift in the end, I suppose given enough time. We’ve been working together for such a long time now that I have confidence that these things blow out in the end. There was something though, that made a difference the other day. I’ve mentioned that I haven’t had much time to blog lately. I am so busy all the time that I just don’t get time to write (hence this 6am writing now) but the other night I wanted to write and got out the laptop. I’ve been having problems with WordPress lately and so rather than typing into the page direct I decided I would type the post in my old Word document where I used to write a kind of journal after my therapy sessions and then copy and paste what I had written into here.

I was really tired and soon realised that I didn’t have the energy to write anything but something caught my eye on the page: 246 pages –  171804 words. …. fuck… my therapy journal was long. I decided to scroll back to the top and start reading. Oh my fucking god. CRINGE. It was basically an unfiltered version of this kind of stuff but written as though I was talking to my therapist. Oh god!

As I was reading I couldn’t actually believe what was there. So much stuff. SO MANY FEELINGS…and not only that SO MUCH STUFF THAT I HAVE TAKEN TO THERAPY AND READ OUT!!! I hadn’t forgotten….but I kind of had. Like, shit a brick, this woman knows all this about me. FUUCCCKKK. She’s been with me through all kinds of embarrassing stuff – why can’t I remember that???

It’s not like I haven’t been vulnerable, written stuff, shared it or whatever more recently – I’ve sent a fair few emails and pictures this year (!). But this old stuff was a bit different. It had a different quality to it.  I think part of it, the change from then to now was that I was feeling all these things and it was killing me outside session, and I was bringing it to session, but kind of going ‘look this is what’s happening for me’ from my adult state but not able to talk properly about it. I could tell her what was going on but I couldn’t allow myself to feel it in the room and unpick it. I guess it was a bit like giving a presentation but not then answering any questions from the floor afterwards.

What’s been happening more lately is I haven’t had the words, the sign posts, the content but I have been feeling everything in the room with her. I’ve let the emotion in. I have got in touch with my body: the shaking, the numbness, the dizziness, the buzzing, the fear, the ache, the nausea, the headaches…all of that stuff. I’ve let her see me without armour even if the words haven’t been there to help (or deflect). There, in a weird way, has been more trust and connection in allowing her to see me like that than by taking in 2000 words of pain on the page to simply show her.

Anyway, having read all this stuff last weekend, I went into session on Monday and felt incredibly exposed. It was as though the lights had gone on in the room and I felt naked. Obviously from her side, nothing at all had changed but for me, well, I wanted to hide. I eventually managed to tell Em how I felt and how utterly mortified I felt remembering that she knows as much as she does.

She was incredibly validating and caring. She spoke about the parts, to the parts, and how she sees things and how she feels like it’s probably time to work explicitly with the parts more again and keep them front of mind – that they all have a place in therapy. That she has felt the shift into something different too and that all this takes time. That when you have had trauma from day one it’s not surprising that it takes a long time to heal.

Yes.

Great.

I love her.

Ha.

Anyway, there is lots more to write about this week in therapy, but for now, I am going to attach below one part of what I read last weekend that sent me over the edge…a time I brought more explicitly the parts to therapy in a massive letter.

How on earth had I forgotten this??!! Hyperventilate:

I’ve been feeling really anxious these last few days. I’ve been struggling with sleep (although when I do manage to sleep I am having really vivid dreams). I can’t concentrate, I’m cold, and my body aches. I feel so sad, insecure and overwhelmed. This emotional and physical response following the session on Monday has really surprised me – I didn’t expect to feel this way at all.

Given how hard I struggle with therapy breaks (you do know about that right?!), I think it would be natural to assume that being told I didn’t have to manage another one right off the back of the break we’ve just had would be positive. Little Me was absolutely delighted to hear that we would get to see you again in a week rather than two and I think, in the moment, The Teen was probably happy too, although she would never let on if she was. So to feel so unsettled right now is confusing for me.

This coming bank holiday session was an unexpected gift and Adult Me naïvely assumed, therefore, that this week was going to be a breeze. I thought that the younger parts of myself that so often get disruptive between sessions and on breaks would feel secure enough to simply shut the fuck up and give me some peace for a bit because, frankly, I have enough on my mind without them acting out at the moment! I believed that things would be easier to manage and time would fly by in comparison to how the last month has been. How wrong I was! All of my preparations and coping strategies for the breaks over April and May haven’t held firm at all, they have completely disintegrated, even just a few days into this ‘normal’ week.

I don’t know exactly what’s happening right now. I’m still trying to get my head round it properly as I begin to come out of the fog of feeling like the only safe place to be is under the duvet. I suppose the one thing I have always been conscious of, and the thing that often gets in the way of the therapy, is feeling distanced and disconnected from you and me shutting down as a result. I have really wanted to change that but it’s meant a complete shift in my approach and attitude. It felt risky and was hugely anxiety-provoking to bring the card into session and start to talk about how I felt about the break and our relationship last week. It was a risk that paid off, though, because it turned out to be largely positive session and went a great deal better than I had imagined.

Being honest and vulnerable with you last Monday provided an opportunity for a far more connecting experience than I could have anticipated. This is good, a definite step in the right direction, but it’s also thrown in a curve ball. I guess because I feel more connected, what’s happened is that I miss you more- or rather Little Me. does. The Teen is sulking somewhere because she thinks it’s all too good to be true. Adult Me doesn’t really know how I feel yet.

Since the dream in February (which I still haven’t talked about but I suppose we ought to at some point) The Teen had steadily been unpicking threads from the rope that we’ve been making together in session. Whatever positive work we had done since that dream, and there was plenty, was not actually adding any additional strength to the rope because she had been dismantling it when we weren’t looking. Note to self: it’s a really really bad idea to sabotage your own rope when there is a good chance that you might be left hanging off a ledge and need it to hold you.

Before last week’s session I had been worried. I really thought that it would take weeks and weeks to repair the damage that I’d done to my sense of connection and trust in you in the weeks leading into, and during, the break. I wasn’t even really sure that I wanted to make repairs – there were certainly occasions over Easter where I was pretty convinced that I was done with therapy or, at least, The Teen was shouting loudly enough to have some impact.

The relief I felt seeing you on Monday and how good it felt to reconnect after the break has, unfortunately, triggered a massive sense of panic (rather than security) in those younger parts of me. Each one is reacting very differently to the situation and so there is a huge amount of inner conflict going on right now. Little Me is inconsolable and screaming: ‘Please please PLEASE come back – please don’t leave me again – where are you? I miss you. I love you. I am frightened’. Well, she would be saying that if she could actually speak, but she is so little that she doesn’t have the words yet. I know that is what she feels, though, and the anxiety about how she feels is locked in her body. She is terrified that you’ve gone for good this time and have left her because she was finally too much for you.

Adult Me keeps telling Little Me that it’s not long until Monday and that it’s going to be ok (although I know I am not convincing, or in any way reassuring, because I am not sure I really believe what I am saying). She is so sad. She won’t listen to me. She doesn’t believe that you are coming back or that you’d ever want to return now. Part of the problem is that she doesn’t understand time: one week might as well be a year as far as she is concerned. All she knows is you’re not here. If she can’t see you then you don’t exist other than to fuel her feelings of loss and abandonment. I don’t know how to prove you’re not gone when you aren’t around but I need to figure out something because it’s really hard navigating this.

Little Me absolutely wants to be close to you. She doesn’t understand why she can’t hug you or why you won’t hold her when she is in so much distress. I keep explaining that therapy doesn’t work like that and it doesn’t mean that you don’t care or recognise how hard things are for her. The thing is, she’s only little and all she sees is another mother who won’t touch her. She can’t work out what she keeps doing that makes people reject her. She thinks that the therapeutic relationship confirms that there is something wrong with her and that she is ultimately untouchable, unlovable, and forgettable. That hurts her- all of us – and is a theme that keeps coming into my dreams.

The Teen, on the other hand, is furious at what I did last week. I think she likes you, but is still really wary of you. She hates feeling things because her experience is that feelings lead to pain that she can’t cope with. She is absolutely raging that I have let my guard down with you because she thinks by opening up I am not protecting her anymore and have abandoned her.

Apparently, somewhere along the line, I promised her that I would never put her in a position where she could be hurt again. She is pissed off with me because I might have done something that will eventually devastate her. She is absolutely adamant that it’s all going to blow up in our face and so her contribution to this week is voicing an incredibly strong urge to self-harm. She really wants to punish me. Fortunately, for once, I recognise that this is not coming from Adult Me. I absolutely don’t want to injure myself and am currently just about holding onto the fact that I have a choice about whether or not I allow myself to be dictated to by The Teen.

Sometimes The Teen hates Little Me because she is so needy and vocal about how she feels and takes my attention a lot of the time. I think deep down she knows that it’s not really Little Me’s fault because she’s only very small. The Teenager despises Adult Me, though, because I can’t seem to soothe Little Me and The Teen remembers what it was like to be Little Me. before she learned to shut everything off. She knows exactly how lost and sad Little Me feels when she is crying out for someone to love her and there is no one there to hear her.

I am meant to be the adult now, the parent in all of this and make it better for both of them but I don’t seem to have a clue how to parent either one of them. The Teenager feels let down. She feels like I don’t look after her or try hard enough to understand her, and she thinks it’s only when I run out of energy and patience that she gets heard. What she doesn’t realise though, is that she is always present in me just in the way that Little Me. is. I do understand her but she is so damaging that sometimes I just don’t want to listen.

Adult Me is really tired, fed up, and overwhelmed right now. I just wish, for once, that things would be a bit easier and that I didn’t have to be so strong all the time – or at least ‘pretend’ that I am strong. I am beginning to feel a bit more compassionate towards Little Me and The Teenager – or maybe I realise they just aren’t going to go away unless I do something. So perhaps now is the time to let them out in therapy rather than disowning them both.

I think part of the reason the weeks are so tough between sessions is – because I am mental – because these parts of myself are frequently incensed because they know I have been silencing them and denying their existence when actually it is their ‘stuff’ that has caused most of the problems, their ‘stuff’ that needs to be heard and worked through. I’m not completely sure what all their ‘stuff’ is but I suppose I won’t really find out if I don’t ask them.

Please know that I feel a huge amount of anxiety as I consciously bring these other parts of me, that for so long I have gagged, into therapy now. I’m pretty sure that Little Me and The Teenager have been sitting on my shoulders in full view (at least from where you are sitting) for a long time, but I was convinced they were hidden away. Adult Me is making the choice to let you in now against the desperate pleas of The Teenager to reconsider, because I think it’s time to try something new.

So – that’s really how it feels at the moment and as embarrassing MORTIFYING as it is, I think it’s good to have properly connected with some of those feelings and where/who exactly they are coming from. I guess the challenge now is to feel the feelings when they come up rather than ignore or intellectualise them.

*Saturday morning.

I woke up today and realised that there was another part of me waiting for me to acknowledge her. It was Eleven. ‘Why have you forgotten to tell her about me?’ she asked quietly. I didn’t know what to say but I felt bad that I had neglected to mention her here. Eleven is easy to forget, though, I suppose because she is such a good girl and she doesn’t cause me any real trouble. I think she is essentially the foundation of my core operating system and so maybe it’s not so much that she is forgotten but that she is so big a part of me that I don’t even notice her anymore. Sometimes she feels completely invisible.

Eleven is exactly that, she is eleven years old and she has been through lots of changes. Eleven spent a long time silently watching events unfold, trying to not get in the way, not to cause any bother to anyone, to be helpful- all in the hope that if she was good and tried hard enough then maybe everything would be ok, things would settle down and the fighting would stop. She doesn’t understand that no matter how brilliantly she behaves, or how well she does at school, she can’t change what’s going on with her parents. She loves them, though, so she keeps trying to be the best she can be because maybe that’ll be enough to hold everyone together.

Eleven hates conflict. It scares her and so she avoids it at all costs. She spends a lot of time hiding under her bed in the dark being very quiet and hoping that the fighting will stop soon. Sometimes she finds she can’t avoid conflict and that she’s stuck right in the firing line. One day everything got too much for her. She couldn’t bear the screaming and the violence any longer. She was frightened, really terrified when mum starting physically attacking dad in the car while he was driving home from a day out. She’d been screaming at him for a good while first before she started hitting him. She broke his tooth that day. Had mum forgotten she was there too? Dad kept begging her to stop. Eleven felt trapped and powerless. The moment the car stopped she got out and she ran away as fast as she could. Dad tried to chase after her but she was quick and disappeared. That’s the day everything changed. Dad finally left mum. He wasn’t prepared to keep hurting Eleven or himself any longer.

Eleven moved lots that year: three houses with dad and two with mum. She was literally all over the place but kept going as if nothing significant had happened. Kids are resilient, or at least that’s what people say. I think they are wrong. I think they bury things until they have the tools to be able to cope – and maybe that day never comes. Eleven had to leave all her friends and moved school twice. No one knew how disrupted she was because she always manages so well. She never showed that she was sad about that fact that her family had fallen apart, and that everything was changing, partly because she didn’t really feel in touch with emotions anymore, which was fine by her. She hated feeling sick all the time but at least there was no more shouting, for a while, until it got re-directed at her later – but then I don’t suppose that was aimed at Eleven, that was where The Teenager came in.

Life for Eleven was just something that ‘happened to her’, she didn’t really have a choice in what happened or where she was from one day to the next and just accepted it. I think that’s where I finally lost sight of what my own needs were and lost touch with my emotions – of course this disconnect didn’t happen overnight, it had been steadily happening for years. It seemed that what was important to be able function effectively was to create as little resistance as possible. It was being a perfectionist and doing everything well whilst at the same time staying under the radar at home and trying to keep everyone else happy.

Fortunately,  bright and does really well in school without very much effort (she puts a lot of pressure on herself though and never feels good enough), she is athletic and is on every sports team, people seem to really like her and she is popular. There’s a problem, though, she’s beginning to feel like an outsider, and doesn’t know why. From other people’s perspective she is a confident little girl who is ‘so grown up for her age – like a little adult’. She is self-reliant, amenable, and really easy to be around.

I don’t know really how Eleven feels about you. I think she is probably less concerned about how she feels about you and more concerned about how you see her, that is if you even see her at all, because as I said, she feels invisible most of the time and has merged with Adult Me.

*Sunday morning dream. Feels relevant after what I wrote yesterday.

I (Adult Me) am in Eleven’s bedroom in [place], sitting on the floor in the dark, hiding under the bed in the space between the wall and the wardrobe (It is a cabin bed). I feel ill, my heart is pounding and my chest is fluttering. My body is shaking, I can’t breathe and I feel like I am going to pass out. It feels like I am dying but maybe it’s a panic attack. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I can’t move from where I am. I decide to call you on the phone. When you answer you sound different. Distant. Annoyed, maybe. You ask me if I am ok and I say, ‘no, not really’. You ask me what’s wrong and I can’t speak. There is a long, awkward silence. Then you start talking but I can’t follow anything that you are saying because I am so overwhelmed by what is going on with my body. I am crying but you don’t know that. I hear you say that you’ll see me on Monday. I start to talk to you. I can’t remember anything that I was saying – but it felt significant. I expect you to say something when I finish but there is silence. I realise that you have actually already put the phone down and haven’t heard anything I’ve said. I’m not sure what to do and so I just stay under the bed crying and shaking with my knees curled into my chest.

* So yeah! That happened last year after Easter break. Since then there’s been a bunch more little ones/parts come up but I am still staggered that this is ‘out there’ and I didn’t ‘know’ until last weekend.

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A Return To Therapy: A Tale Of Two Sessions

So, somehow or other I got through five weeks of no face-to-face therapy (man I still hate summer therapy break with a passion!) and last Monday saw the long-awaited return to the room and, more importantly, my therapist…not that I had missed her or anything!

As the day approached I started feeling conflicted about going to my session (no change there, then!) What is that about?- The absolutely overwhelming desire to see someone gets replaced with an ‘I don’t want to go’ a couple of days before and ramps up steadily until on the day, on my way to the session, I text my friend saying that I wanted to turn around and go home because I felt sick amongst other things.

I recognise, these days, that this resistance that happens when I’m within touching distance of my therapist is the time where some of the parts start speaking up. The young parts finally settle when therapy is in sight and that allows the teen part some additional space to express how she’s feeling. (She’s pissed off!) She can’t bear the thought of therapy being awful, feeling disconnected, and the young parts getting irate again when they’ve only just stopped screaming. The teen harbours a fair amount of anger about being left (rejected/abandoned) in the first place, and then to be ignored on top (texts) doesn’t make the reunion any easier.

Despite all the misgivings I have never yet not turned up to a session. Sometimes I feel like I am dragging myself there but the need of the youngest parts always gets me into the room … even if all I do is sit there and say nothing!

I felt nervous as I rang the doorbell to my therapist’s house but as she came to the door adult went online (thank god!) and walked in, sat down, and just started talking…about life stuff. The small talk was comfortable; catching up on day-to-day stuff that’s been going was fine. I don’t remember trying to gauge where my therapist was at or whether she was safe. I think I had maybe subconsciously decided to keep the session adult. I don’t know. I can’t remember now what we talked about but basically for twenty minutes it was absolutely ok and then bam – I was gone- instant dissociation the moment she asked if I wanted to talk about the picture I’d sent her via text during the break.

You’d think that opening up that discussion might’ve been a good thing (and ironically most of the time it would be – I want her to help open up difficult conversations) but on Monday, even after twenty settled minutes, it spooked me. ‘Agh I’m exposed. This is scary!’ and off I went deep into myself.

My therapist noticed that I was barely breathing and suggested that I was doing everything I could to hide. Yep! My body was killing me. My legs were heavy/achy. I was able to tell her how I felt in my body. And the moment I told her all that physical pain in my legs evaporated and I thought I was going to throw up. The nausea was incredible. I could hardly speak for fear of vomiting. It was horrendous.

She valiantly attempted to bring me back to her but all I could do was listen to what she was saying. I couldn’t even look at her, let alone make eye contact. Does that happen to anyone else? You want to connect but can’t- the fear is too great- and so instead just listen very very carefully to what they say trying to see if they ‘get it’ and whether or not you might be able to connect eventually?

This is a bit of a strange analogy but sometimes it feels to me when I dissociate badly that I have an internal power cut – mains power is lost. I lose my ability to be present. It’s far from ideal. My therapist has to scrabble around to try find an alternative power source. Most of the time she finds some rechargeable batteries but, unfortunately, they’re dead. She doesn’t give up though. She slowly starts charging the batteries up with her insights, validation, and care. If we are lucky she might do enough to give me enough power to work again before the end of the session. Sometimes the charge happens really quickly and other times it take nearly all session.

That’s what happened on Monday. She was really insightful and understanding and validating. She spoke about the really strong emotions that I was feeling: the anger that she felt in the text that I had sent her ‘file under unread’; the horrible feelings of rejection and abandonment I experience when she doesn’t reply to me; the belief that she doesn’t care about me. She talked to me about it all but I could only nod here and there. The batteries we soooooooooooo dead after the break that it took a long time to power them up.

With about five minutes to go I could feel myself starting to connect to her. The vulnerable parts wanted to talk to her and the teen had felt like she got it and cared. She asked me how I felt and I said ‘sad’. She asked if it was because we were coming to the end of the session and there were things I needed to say that I hadn’t been able to. I nodded. She told me we still had a bit of time left and maybe I could make a start now and we could pick it up on our first Friday session. So, once again I took a running jump and said perhaps the most expensive sentence I have said in a while:

‘I really missed you; five weeks is really a long time.’

It mightn’t seem like much but it really was after such a difficult session. Saying something that feels so exposing after a break feels really hard. I always struggle to tell my therapist how I feel about her. I feel like she’ll think I am weird. I don’t want to embarrass her. Of course, any time I let her know how I feel she is really kind and non-shaming. It’s just so hard to reverse the automatic pilot that tells me feelings are bad and dangerous, that showing someone that you care for them and need them will result in something negative.

I guess I just need to keep saying how I feel, keep getting met well, and maybe eventually I might feel differently.

Anyway, that was Monday! I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to anyone that I was left with an almighty therapy hangover! I’ve come to expect it now after a long break. I’m starting to recognise it as part of the process and just see it for what it is rather than feeling bad about how things are. I think all the stuff I had kept at bay over the break came flooding out and had me flailing about on my arse for most of the week. It was initially quite hard to work out whether I was heading into a depressive state or whether it was what was left from the break and the session. I tend to fear the worst when I am stuck on the couch for hours at a time unable to complete the tiniest of tasks.

I felt totally incapacitated. I felt ugh. I wanted Friday to get here so I could have another stab at connecting and feeling better. The great thing about this week was that I knew Friday (yay for two sessions a week) was coming and so even though the young parts were feeling separation anxiety and attachment pain it was nowhere near as bad as it has been previously. Wednesdays have been notoriously bad when I have had one session a week. I have felt stranded and uncontained. It’s been god awful! So, even though things were pretty bad they were WAY better than I am used to.

My Friday session isn’t a face-to-face session at the moment. The session time is too early for me to be able to make it in person and be able to get my kids to school and so we are Skyping. I’d had mixed feelings about this. The irony is not lost on me that only a few months ago I would have been ripping my therapist’s arm off for any extra contact – even a midweek text and now I am whinging about an extra session via Skype. *eye roll* I guess there’s just a part that wants to be with her in person. I’ve asked that when a later session becomes available that she lets me know so I can swap into it, but it’s likely to be several months.

When it came to it it was actually nice to do the session at home. I was snuggled up on my sofa with a coffee and it was nice and quiet. There’d been no rushing in the car to get to my session and I felt pretty relaxed. I think this feeling relaxed made a difference to how I was. Usually I only Skype when I can’t get to session because I have my kids at home (holidays or sick) and it certainly changes how I am. I am on ‘mum duty’ and don’t open up in the same way. Anyway, this session felt really nice. I remembered how much I like seeing my therapist’s face close up. Ha! And even better I DID NOT DISSOCIATE AT ALL!

Bonus!

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dive headlong into how the break felt or how difficult I have found being in therapy the last few months but we did lots of connecting work that I feel is paving the way for me to be able to have those conversations. I was able to tell my T how bad I had felt during the week and how just the day before I had burst into convulsive tears whilst running on my treadmill.

I don’t really ever cry and I certainly don’t cry in front of people. My therapist mentioned that I don’t cry when I am with her but that she feels I am fighting back tears sometimes and that occasionally a single tear will escape. She said that the idea of someone seeing me crying is hard for me. She talked about the huge expectations my parents placed on me to be a certain way as a child and that I had had to grow up too quickly and be what they wanted rather than who I am. It’s true. I never expressed how upset I was when my mum wasn’t there when I was a kid. It was just how it was and something I had to get used to.

I am realising now just how sad that little girl was to not have mum there from Sunday to Friday- from the age of 5 even if mum wasn’t perfect or especially nurturing. I look at my daughter who is now six and my son who is four and know how they hate it if I am not there for bedtime. I have to leave home at 6pm a couple of nights per week if I am going out to tutor and they moan (fair enough! I am glad they can!). I always give them a kiss and cuddle before I leave and come and kiss them goodnight (even if they are asleep) when I am back –they have never had to not have their mum/mums there for protracted periods. I am there for breakfast; I am there to take them to school and pick them up; I am there for dinner; I am there for parents’ evenings; I go to sports day; I drop everything when they are sick; I ask them how they are EVERYDAY. I hold them and tell them I love them EVERYDAY.

I had none of that.

I was a good girl who got on with it quietly. Accepted that I didn’t have a say in how things were.

That little girl doesn’t want to be quiet and accept it anymore.

She wants to cry about it.

And maybe she might start crying about it in therapy.

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File Under ‘Unread’

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So after two days of barely holding it together with rubber bands and chewing gum (I had no idea this blog name would end up being so apt!) today, at 11am, I found myself lying face down in my bed holding a pillow over my head convulsively crying about… yeah…you guessed it…feeling like my therapist doesn’t care about me after a pretty rubbish Skype session on Monday and a complete failure to acknowledge a message I have sent her since.

Believe me, there is a part of me that is seriously rolling my eyes and sighing in exasperation right now as if to say ‘for goodness sake, not this AGAIN’ as I type this.  Like really, this cannot be happening again can it? But it really is. And you’ve probably noticed by now – I tell it how it is…even if ‘how it is’ is fucking ridiculous and embarrassing. I tell it how it is in the here and now, as I experience it, even if in two weeks (or possibly even two days) I feel differently and can see things through an alternative, more rational lens.

I’m very aware that right now my left brain is offline and my right brain (where all the emotions are) is lit up like Piccadilly Circus. It’s probably not a great time to write a blog post but it’s either put it on the page here or start firing off upset/angry/needy messages to my therapist and that’s not a very good idea is it?

And so here I am again, trying to find a way through the difficult feelings in order that I don’t completely fall apart over the next two weeks. Does anyone have any glue to hold all my pieces together?… I am worried that the bands and gum aren’t up to the job this time around and am in danger of smashing into a million pieces.

I wrote recently about shame having just then started reading Patricia A. DeYoung’s book ‘Understanding And Treating Chronic Shame’. I’m no stranger to shame and having now read the whole thing, I have to say, the book is fantastic. I highly recommend it.  There’s heaps of really useful and interesting stuff in it and I plan to take it to my therapist and go ‘Here! Look at this. This is what’s happening!!’  (that is, of course, if one of the other parts doesn’t go to town with the text messages!)

Young suggests that shame is essentially caused by being ‘a self disintegrating in relation to a dysregulating other’. I mentioned in that post that I was concerned that I had somehow got caught up in a dynamic where my therapist was taking on the role of ‘dysregulating other’.

And. Yep. Skype session proved that point on Monday! More on that in a bit.

Basically, when a child is in distress it looks for connection and containment from the other to help regulate the distress. If all goes well the interaction soothes the child and the distress ebbs away. However, if the interaction between the child and other in some way misses the mark, is not attuned, a child is left feeling uncontained and out of control. It tries to place meaning on what is going on.  Basically, the child ends up blaming itself for the failure of the other to contain and connect.

It makes sense that when we need something really badly from an important person and they fail to meet that need often enough that we start to feel like there’s something wrong with us. Instead of blaming them we find fault in ourselves. It must be something we are doing wrong. Our need is too much. Feelings are bad. And so the shame cycle begins.  We see need as ‘bad’ and try and hide it.

So, we amble through life pretty successfully – well, you know, smoke and mirrors and all that! To most people I seem like a highly self-sufficient, high achiever, who ‘doesn’t need anyone or anything’  and if you’d asked me before therapy ‘I can do everything on my own and by myself. In fact other people are a pain and I prefer to be alone’. But now I see that actually I am not made of Teflon so far as emotions go and scarily: I have needs.

Who knew?!

Unfortunately, I seem hard-wired to feel bad about having feelings or needs and so in therapy it’s become a complete disaster zone because I have some very strong feelings towards my therapist and needs that I wish she could (although frustratingly know she can’t/won’t) meet.

I’ve noticed for a while now that I can go from ‘fairly normal’ to ‘away with the dissociative fairies’ in a matter of seconds in my therapy sessions. My therapist keeps asking for us to think about the process and notice what happens to make me dissociate and hide. For a long time I haven’t been really conscious of it, all I know is someone young comes online and then I am gone.

It’s like a switch gets flipped.

Because it’s been happening more and more lately I have been consciously trying to pay attention to the feelings that crop up and then what happens when I retreat inside myself. It probably won’t come as any surprise to you when I say it has its roots in shame. It happens so quickly and I am trying to work out how to stop it happening or how to get back from that dissociated, lonely space when it does.

Monday’s session was a complete shit pile but it kind of gave me some answers.

I am not stupid, I know that sessions after breaks are often hard. It takes time to reconnect (I’ve been here before. I know what I’m like!). We’d not seen each other for three weeks. It wasn’t face to face it was Skype. And following the virtual stepping stone in the river crossing (therapy break) there is now another two weeks until a face to face. It was always going to be a challenge to connect with my therapist. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to but I have so many defences… ugh.

I know that I was certainly trying to keep buoyant and surface level because I knew I would be on my own again for two more weeks the moment the call was over and I couldn’t face the possibility of falling headfirst in the pit of attachment pain for the next few weeks if I let her see the vulnerable stuff and it not go well. Ironically, yet again I failed to notice that if I don’t let her in I feel shit too!!!

Part of me didn’t want her to know how much I have missed her and wanted to shut her out a bit. But of course it didn’t last because as the session went on, surface level chatting, I could feel things stirring. I could feel that time was ticking away and I desperately wanted to connect, or at least part of me did.

I asked my therapist what the time was and it was 11am. I thought ‘oh that’s ok time to talk  and then the moment the thought went through my mind I realised I didn’t know how to get what I needed from her. It didn’t feel like she was receptive or attuned to me. I desperately wanted her to come closer to me, to hold my hand, hug me, and tell me that it’s all ok…but that will never happen.

The need feels huge.

The young parts screamed inside, burst into tears, realising that she was there but couldn’t see them and that we were going to be left until September…

…and then I was gone…

The shame of having those needy feelings and the pain that shame generates is utterly unbearable and that’s when I dissociate. I can’t cope with the overwhelming sense of longing and need for connection and feeling like I can’t get it, that I am not worthy of it, that she doesn’t want to connect. I feel like there is something wrong with me.

Like I say this whole process happens in a matter of seconds.

The rest of the session was hard. I think I just sat there making the odd ‘uh huh’ ‘yeah’ ‘no’ as she continued to talk to me about what I had initially started talking about (filler!). I felt like we were on completely different pages and was kind of glad when I hung up the call – not because I wanted to be in the throes of a further two week break- because it was so fucking excruciating feeling the minutes tick away and feeling like I didn’t know the person sitting opposite me. She probably felt the same way.

I felt awful the moment the screen went black and took myself straight into the kitchen to cut myself. That’s how bad it felt in that moment. Sheer desperation. I didn’t self-harm, though. I took a minute and thought about why I wanted to hurt myself. It was the need, the shame, the feeling unseen…and also very clearly having a sense of ‘what’s going on’ when it goes to shit in a session.

So instead of cutting I made this:

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and then sent it to my therapist as a text along with a note to ‘File under ‘unread’.  The teen part was feeling sarcastic. Like, ‘fuck it, I’m sending you stuff to try and help me and you won’t read it just like everything else, so shove it why don’t you?!’

Clearly, she hasn’t replied…and I feel rubbish about it. Not just because she hasn’t replied but because I feel so utterly overwhelmed by where I am in therapy and the therapeutic relationship and the break.

It just all feels kind of futile right now.

I don’t feel like I am moving forward. I just feel like I am stuck in trauma.

The teen parts are definitely wounded and feel like texting my therapist to tell her ‘we’re done, because what’s the fucking point in all this if almost every time we interact I am left feeling inadequate and like what I want/need from you is too much. I feel physically sick when I think about how much I care for you and contrast that with how easy it is for you to leave me/ignore me when I am struggling’.

[Ok. So that’s the work isn’t? it]

I have no idea how the next couple of weeks is going to go. I know I will cycle through heaps of emotional states. I expect I will go to my session on the 3rd because the young parts are so desperate and attached that they’d have me swim through shark-infested waters to see her. But, ugh, I don’t know. I don’t know how much longer I can keep putting myself through this.

x

Limbo

I’m feeling a bit bleurgh at the moment (a technical term I’ll have you know!). It’s not a full-on depressive episode yet (I don’t think) but it’s feeling like a huge struggle just to remain in a relative coping place…but then when is mental health ever a walk in the park, really? It pretty much always feels like I am struggling in one way or other.

For now, at least, I feel like I have done with sliding down the hill towards rock bottom, which was what happened at the start of the therapy break, and have finally got a fingertip hold on something semi-solid that has allowed me to stop and take stock. I daren’t move though, rock bottom is still a long way off, thank god, but I feel like adjusting my position may result in me losing my precarious grip and careering at speed downwards again. I can’t risk that so I am staying here stuck in a kind of uncomfortable limbo.

Put it this way, I am not where I would like to be at this point in the holidays!

I don’t feel especially solid.

I’m certainly not grounded.

I can feel anxiety creeping around the edges.

I’ve woken up feeling queasy for the last four days.

The attachment pain is really there just before bed and any time I let my mind drift towards therapy.

It’s all a bit shit really.

Moan. Moan. Moan!

I daren’t look too far ahead because 3rd September feels like a very long time in the future and it makes me even more aware that I’m not even half way through the break yet – it’s still three weeks until I see my therapist in person – nooooooooooo! Having said that, I am meant to have a Skype on the 20th so I shouldn’t complain. I am just massively aware that it could go belly up next week.

I am experiencing the usual conflicting feelings:

I love you/I hate you

Please come back/Fuck off I never want to see you again

and what I really don’t want to happen is to have a Skype session that semi opens up stuff, doesn’t really do the job, isn’t especially connecting, and then be left for a further two weeks for phase two of the therapy break.

I think I just about have a handle on things right now but I’m not stupid, I’ve been here enough times to know that there is a real possibility of me trying to sabotage my therapy before September is here. The teen part of me that wants to give up is never far from the surface and on breaks, especially long ones, she gets quite vocal. She’s still angry about the last session before the break. Seriously, ‘imagine something you like doing’….FFS!

Feeling stuck in this limbo state/place is pants. My last session seems a long time ago (eve though it was actually only two weeks ago) and all the good things I feel about my therapy/therapist seem to have evaporated now…. and yet the crap parts haven’t, they remain there! It’s not ideal. I’m beginning to put my therapist in the bracket of people that reject and abandon me rather than who do their best to help me. (I do know how crazy it is – but it is how it is!).

You can probably tell from this post that my mind is all over the shop. In addition to this, I seem to have no energy at all. My motivation has gone on holiday (along with my therapist – grr!), and all I really want to do is lie in bed and sleep for hours on end or, failing that, sprawl out on the sofa and eat biscuits and chocolate. Essentially once the kids get to bed at 6pm that is exactly what I have been doing- filling my face with sugary things in some mindless stupor state in front of the TV and then crawling into bed and sleeping for as long as I can reasonably get away with (which, to be fair, with two young kids never extends much beyond 6:45am).

Put it this way, I’m not scoring big on the mindfulness and self-care scales right now! Although I am not over-exercising or under-eating (clearly!) so I suppose generally vegetating and resting shouldn’t be seen as a criminal activity. The critical voice in my head is starting to give me a hard time, though:

Lazy.

Fat.

Sloth-like creature.

I am just not particularly good at stopping and doing nothing. I always feel like I ought to be doing something, keeping busy, achieving things. I’m not working again for a couple more weeks as it’s the school holidays. I need to keep reminding myself that it’s A HOLIDAY – not just other people’s (my T, the kids I teach, my own children) mine too and that means a break from the usual drudgery of school runs, work, having to be in a specific place at a particular time etc.

As much as I moan about it when I am in it, I think routine does me good to an extent. I’m not great at this long drawn out time off. I do wonder, though, how much of this is because in the back of my mind (ok quite close to the front!) is the fact that I am on a therapy break and frankly I am not someone who does especially well without regular therapy. Ha! I mean I am not exactly willing the clock forward to September to re-enter the world of ‘Please put your shoes on! I’ve asked you four times already. We are going to be late.’

Having said that, I think with young kids, time off is rarely ‘time off’. Since my son’s birthday last Monday we’ve been busyish: swimming lessons, cinema, ice cream parlour, farm park, a couple of playdates, baking, making pizzas from scratch, a visit to a soft play centre as well as a fair bit of playing in the garden, oh, and we/the dog delivered a litter of puppies yesterday. It’s not exactly been a dull existence!

I don’t know what’s wrong with me really. I just feel a bit stuck. Whilst, clearly, elements of my life are carrying on as normal and I would say I’m doing a good enough job at parenting at the minute- the kids are happy- underneath the exterior of ‘with it and together mum’ the other stuff is bubbling away. I guess that’s the problem. Usually I have somewhere to let ‘the other stuff’ out and right now I don’t. I’m very much aware of operating of multiple levels. I find it tiring at the best of times and perhaps without my release valve I’m finding it all a bit more exhausting?

Who knows?

Maybe I am just getting depressed. Or maybe I am about to get sick. Or perhaps it’s just that my period is on its way… whatever it is I want to feel a bit more energised and less like I am going through the motions. I want to feel present in my life rather than as though I am spectating from the sidelines. The only saving grace is that no one would know I feel this way. It is not evident that I am struggling. I would hate for my kids to feel like ‘mummy is checked out’….and I guess they don’t know because it’s only parts of me that are. I guess maybe it’s part of the beauty of being fragmented – the bits that can’t cope aren’t really seen and the ‘carrying on with everyday life self’ is a damn good autopilot.

Errr what else? I’m scraping the barrel a bit with this post – no therapy to talk about!! haha.

I’ve been without internet for the last few days due to a cock up with changing provider. Seamless transition it was not! And so the one positive was that I haven’t been in this ‘bleurgh’ state and additionally whiling away the hours mindlessly on my phone flicking between WhatsApp, Facebook, WordPress, Instagram. Even NetFlix hasn’t been a possibility!

A social media blackout is not necessarily a bad thing every now and again. I do it at Christmas and always feel quite good having gone screen-free for a bit. You might be thinking, why not use your phone for the internet…well, I live in a signal/data blackspot and so have to go in the garden and stand in a specific place to get anything at all and it’s so intermittent that it’s not even worth it. It’s so circa 1995!

Everything went live again yesterday evening and actually it felt like a bit of an attack to the system. I have been off radar with a few friends this last week due to feeling so crappy and so I’ve been trying to be a bit present again. I just find it really hard.

I really have nothing at all to say today!… but having already gone more than a week between posts I wanted to write something. This, post, shall hereby be filed under ‘bleurgh’ and sink to the depths of unread trash!

Actually. I posted this on my Twitter feed the other day…and it says it all x

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Shame

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So it’s the summer therapy break and today signals my first ‘missed’ session of the holiday (god help me I can’t do this!!!). I suppose it goes without saying that I am not finding things especially easy, but this is particularly the case after a session that pretty much tanked last Monday and left me doubting what on earth therapy was all about, and if my therapist has actually listened to anything I have been saying for the last three years.

Why does this kind of thing happen at the worst possible times? Like really, when I absolutely need a connecting, positive session why does it fall on its arse? I, of course, had my part in it. I had emailed my therapist the link to my Mother Wound post in April and we haven’t got round to talking about it yet, but the last session where I told my therapist ‘I don’t want you to go away’ she mentioned that we hadn’t discussed it and that maybe it’s time? (She hasn’t read it yet) And so last week I re-sent her the link and said that although the idea of talking through the content of it made me feel a bit sick I think it’d be a worthwhile use of time.

When I arrived last Monday things felt a bit awkward. The elephants were in the room  jostling for position and making it very difficult to see my therapist through the mass of heavy creatures. The giant elephant called ‘Break’ who suffers from separation anxiety and is fairly twitchy was pretty much sitting on me and crushing me on the sofa which wasn’t ideal.

Almost immediately as I sat down, my therapist drew attention to the email link I had sent her (I hate it when she does that without discussing anything else first because I feel like I’m going to get told off or something!) and said given that I had said in my message that her bringing up the blog post last week had made me feel sick, that perhaps today wasn’t the best time to dive into it given we only had the session and then the break and I would be left holding things for longer. She, also, then said that it might be that talking it through might free some space up and make things a bit better but that given I said I’d written it back in November and it was still relevant that it would probably wait a bit longer.

What I heard was ‘let’s not open up any big stuff’ and in that moment all the vulnerable parts that had wanted/needed to talk and connect went into hiding. Adult Me stepped up and I switched into that place that is incredibly annoying: the autopilot that talks freely about stuff that appears relevant but actually is just filler. I spoke about a row I had had with my wife the previous day. I rarely argue with my wife and hardly bring my current life/relationships into the therapy as actually my here and now is pretty ok so far as home goes.

Anyway, I rattled on and on about that and then with about fifteen minutes to go I dissociated. I felt like I had fallen down a rabbit hole. It was horrendous. I could feel the anxiety of knowing that time was running out again and that I was staring down a five week break with absolutely no chance of feeling connected or safe in the therapeutic relationship.

Seriously, my brain is utter crap isn’t it?!

My therapist noticed something had changed and tried to get to me to engage but it didn’t really work. I was already so far gone that I think anything short of coming and sitting beside me and giving me a hug (as if that’d ever happen! Sigh!) would have missed the mark.

With five minutes to go my therapist suddenly remembered what she’d said last week, only not quite…

Last week when I had told her that I didn’t want her to go away and we had discussed how the break was making me feel and my inability to hold her in mind when there was a holiday she suggested we could do something to try and enhance the positive feelings and connection between us and perhaps that might help with the break. I had felt pretty good during the week knowing that although the break was coming that maybe, just maybe, this time things might be a bit better if whatever she had planned worked out.

So when she said ‘last week I said something about enhancing positive feelings’ everyone’s ear pricked up. Yes it was the eleventh hour but maybe something could be salvaged from this shit show and at least she had remembered in the end…

Imagine my dismay, then, when she didn’t mention our relationship or anything to do with connecting with one another and instead suggested that I try and think of something that I like doing that makes me happy, like a sport, or watching a comedy show, or perhaps recalling the birth of one of my babies and then tapping my knees bilaterally – a kind of EMDR technique, I think.

She lost me right there.

That was me done.

‘Here we go again’, I thought.

The thing she really doesn’t seem to get is that on a break Adult Me is not just a bit depressed and in need of a pick me up; when things are bad I am not in adult at all. I am cycling through very very young parts and all of them are screaming in distress. The anxiety I feel is huge and my body is overcome by fear that she is gone and not coming back. If I were able to ‘imagine’ the birth of my child at that point maybe I’d be onto a winner but, frankly, those young parts have no idea that I am a parent or an adult at all! There’s a tiny baby and the others are two, four, eight, and eleven years old…even the teen parts haven’t got a clue about what lies ahead of their age. So asking me to imagine any of those things when I am in those young states is utterly ridiculous to me. Not just ridiculous but actually IMPOSSIBLE!

I wasn’t able to say any of that in the moment because we literally had no time to talk it through. She had clearly forgotten about what we’d said last week and had quickly tried to rescue the session but in doing so left me feeling unseen and as though we were on completely different pages. I wish she hadn’t bothered because what she said really unsettled me. I know that these sessions leading into breaks can be difficult but usually we actually manage to do some pretty good work right on the edge of a holiday. I don’t know what happened this time.

As a result I spent the early part of last week feeling very much at sea and cycling through various emotional states: huge anger, sadness, longing, neediness, apathy… it hasn’t been much fun tbh.

Right now I just feel lost… and ashamed.

I feel ashamed that my need is so big and seemingly too much to handle.

I feel ashamed for needing my therapist at all.

I feel ashamed that I can’t manage these feelings on my own.

I feel inadequate.

I hate myself.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

I feel sad.

It feels like even when I try and overcome or sidestep the shame and ask for what I need for whatever reason what I need isn’t possible to conjure up. I totally get I can’t have the physical holding I actually want (but then I haven’t talked about that), what I mean is this kind of thing, trying to explain how much breaks affect me and to ask for some kind of strategy to help and yet what she comes back with makes me feel stupid and pathetic.

Like does that imaging something good stuff work for everyone else? Does that sufficiently hold them in breaks? Am I just crap at therapy? Are my needs too much? Is all this attachment stuff just too complicated to work with? Is there something wrong with me? Do I expect too much?

What happened on Monday felt like it totally missed the mark. My therapist is really clear that my problems stem from ‘a very early injury’ and it’s all about relational trauma. From what I can gather, relational trauma needs to be healed in relationship, so how on earth does me imagining something that made me laugh on the TV ease that attachment pain when I am away from my attachment figure? Am I missing something? I don’t understand how when I missing a person/relationship how anything short of being able to internalise some felt sense of them would be helpful. Like isn’t that the point of transitional objects? To try and help maintain connection?

If she’d have said, ‘I want us to think together about a time when therapy has been positive and you’ve felt connected to me’ and then tried to really key into those feelings, I would have sort of got it. But wtf happened on Monday???

Ugh. FFS.

Anyway. I am on my own now until the 3rd September. And in order to pass the (very long) time I have now cracked open the first book on my summer reading list: ‘Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame: A Relational/Neurobioligcal Approach’ by Patricia A. DeYoung. I obviously went for it due to its catchy title and intriguing cover (actually the cover is pretty good) in hope of a great page turning storyline! 😉

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Seriously, though, I read a lot psychotherapy books outside of my therapy and find it helpful to understand things from a theoretical perspective (makes me feel less crazy: I am mental but it’s ok because so are other people and there are books about it!) and so this one really grabbed my attention. Who wants to read chick lit anyway? Certainly not me with my boring ass Masters in Victorian Literature…

My therapist and I have long been aware that shame (and embarrassment) form one massive great stumbling block in my therapy and so having a book that directly addresses the concept of shame and how to work with it seems like a worthwhile area to spend a couple of hours of my life. And it’s good stuff. Really good stuff.

DeYoung defines shame as a relational experience: ‘Shame is the experience of one’s felt sense of self disintegrating in relation to a dysregulating other’

Do you ever read stuff and shout ‘YES! That’s it!!’ or is it just me?

There’s a brilliant bit on page 21 that made me go ‘uh huh, yep, that’s right’:

‘In brief and speaking from the perspective of a child’s regulated self, a regulating other is a person on whom I rely to respond to my emotions in ways that help me not to be overwhelmed by them, but rather to contain, accept, and integrate them into an emotional “me” I can feel comfortable being. A dysregulating other is also a person I want to trust – and should be able to trust – to help me manage my affect or emotion. But this person’s response to me, or lack of response to me, does exactly the opposite: it does not help me contain, accept, or integrate.

Then I become a self disintegrating in relation to a dysregulating other. This is what happens: as an infant, when I am in an affective state of distress, or as a child, when I am feeling a rush of emotion, the other’s response fails to help me manage what I’m feeling. Instead of feeling connected, I feel out of control. Instead of feeling energetically focused, I feel overwhelmed. Instead of feeling that I’ll be ok, I feel like I am falling apart.

This kind of experience is the core experience of shame. All of it has something to do with needing something intensely from someone important, and something going wrong with the interaction between us. I feel, “I can’t make happen what I need from you”. If the sequence is repeated often enough in my development to become and expectable experience , I will have a core propensity to feel shame whenever I have strong feelings, need emotional connection,  or feel something is wrong in an interpersonal interaction. In all of those situations, I will be likely to conclude, consciously or unconsciously, “There is something wrong with what I need- with my needy self”.

I’ve only read the first 33 pages but I’m so glad I stumbled across this book. Slightly concerned that I have placed my therapist in the role of ‘dysregulating other’, though!

I’ll probably come back to this at some point and discuss further once I have finished the book – but today is my son’s birthday and so right now I need to shutdown the computer and launch myself into a functioning adult state and forget that it’s Monday and at 10:30 the room I want to be in is empty.

Deep breaths.

Maybe I just need to tap my knees and think about playing rounders?!

“I don’t want you to go away”

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With just ten minutes of Monday’s therapy session remaining I finally said it. In words. In the room. To her face. Not written down. Not kind of implied and hoping she might read my mind. I actually said the sentence that has been persistently in my head for the last month (well, it’s always there) aloud. It may not have been very loud, it may have come from a young part, but it was loud enough for her to hear:

‘I don’t want you to go away’. 

OMG what just happened?! Did I actually directly tell my therapist how I was feeling about the summer therapy break and show vulnerability and need even when several parts were screaming at me to keep my mouth shut? Looks like it, doesn’t it?

We all know by now that these feelings are always there in one way or another. Every time I have to leave my therapy I feel like my therapist is ‘gone’ and it’s a huge struggle for the youngest parts to just make it through the week…but therapy breaks, well, crikey, they are the absolute pits and no matter what I do, or how I try and prepare for them I always end up on my arse, in a heap, sooner or later.

Ok, so I did kind of have to throw myself over the metaphorical ledge to get the words out and take a forty minute running jump at it: sliding through dissociation, silence, and shaking just to reach the drop off, but I did it- and you know what? It was ok. She didn’t freak out (of course she didn’t) and it opened up a really useful conversation about breaks and the difficulties I have with maintaining connection with her.

It’s fair to say that therapy has been a bit weird lately. It’s my fault. I do want to kick myself sometimes. I’ve been struggling to really connect with my therapist/hiding from her for a variety of reasons. Some of it is definitely a hangover from last Easter break and how she reacted when I finally properly let her in and told her about the eating disorder stuff. I have struggled to trust her with the big things since then because I am worried that if I so much as allude to issues with my body or food she’s going to overreact and write to my GP or threaten to ‘work towards an ending’  again (shudder).

My rational adult knows that I can trust her and that we now have an agreement (that we worked out together) in place around what we do if I end up struggling with eating and she is concerned that things are bad but even so, the teen parts are still hurting after how things were handled and most of what I need to say to my therapist comes from these younger parts. As I have said many times my adult knows what she’s doing and has it together…it’s the others that let the side down! They’re the ones that need the therapy and if they don’t feel like they can trust Em then we’re all screwed.

In addition to stuff around the ED I have been struggling to reach out or let her in because I’ve felt pushed away – and that bombshell about needing ‘to work towards an ending’ if I didn’t go to my GP has just got stuck on loop. Fucking soundbite from hell. I feel wobbly at the best of times and parts of me are certain that she wants to get rid of me… Disorganised Attachment 101. I do know this is really very much about my skewed perception of things rather than it being the reality but I don’t require a lot of evidence of her supposed lack of care in order to shutdown and hide. It is a nightmare.

For example when I asked for a regular check in around the time when the ED was off the chart bad and she essentially said she had no time I couldn’t help but feel like the whole therapeutic relationship was just a huge pile of shite and that she did not care at all. It takes a lot for me to express any kind of need and so to do it and then get a no was just hideous. Add to that the hell that was the beginning of July (cancer follow up at the hospital neatly coinciding with the anniversary of my dad’s death) wanting to reach out to my therapist and knowing I couldn’t, or could but she wouldn’t reply sent me into a complicated rage and devastation cycle:

 Why the fuck do I bother? She clearly doesn’t give a shit about me.

I wish she was there and could give me some reassurance. I miss her.

I’m done with this. I hate her.

What is wrong with me? Why doesn’t she care?

I hate myself.

It’s so hard constantly trying to juggle and manage utterly conflicting but intense emotions. I get that this is where the work is. On a good day I can completely see how my therapist is just a therapist and is doing her best to help me but other days it is so much more complicated than that. It drives me insane.

When the five week summer break started flashing persistently on the radar it added in another level of internal struggle. I absolutely want and need to be able to connect with Em before the break but the moment any kind of vulnerability or need starts to creep in the room I have dissociated. I am gone and it takes ages to try and get back to her. It’s been horrendous feeling like she is behind glass and I’m stuck in a long dark tunnel. This week was even worse than usual. There wasn’t even the ten minutes of adult small talk at the beginning before a plunge into young parts’ chaos and dissociation. Nope. I sat down, looked at her, and went numb.

AAAAAHHHHH FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!

It’s so annoying. I spend all week wanting so badly to be in that room in order to try and work on this stuff and yet my mind plays tricks on me. I can’t even really remember what we talked about in the session, now. I know that she was trying really hard to draw me out and connect. I really wanted to talk and yet there was a part inside freaking out ‘if I tell you how I feel you’re going to leave’ which is hilarious, really, because of course there is a therapy break coming up next week anyway, and she is leaving, so what’s the difference? I guess a therapy break isn’t forever, though, and yet to some of the young parts there is a real and genuine fear that I will get terminated for being too needy if I tell her how I really feel.

It’s that old chestnut: I am too much.

No matter how many times she tells me I am not too much and that she wants to hear everything I am feeling I still can’t trust in it fully. I really want to, though. I am trying. And I do get there eventually.

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So often what happens is that as we creep towards the eleventh hour in therapy I am able to talk a bit. I guess I build up enough trust, or perhaps enough desperation to let some stuff out the bag. I sense the clock ticking down and I get a ‘now or never’ sort of motivation but also an ‘oh she is still a safe person’. This is a pattern I have noticed in my sessions – the last ten or fifteen minutes is where the work is really done. But this is also true as we head into a break. I conceal how I feel for at least a month leading into a holiday (‘what’s the point in telling her anything, it won’t change anything’) and then suddenly the break is almost here and I let it all out. I don’t know why exactly. Perhaps it’s about feeling like I can’t contain it on my own during a break, or maybe it’s about safety. If I let all the really vulnerable stuff out just as a break starts then I have time to recover from it, let the dust settle a bit, we can pretend like it never happened if it is totally mortifying… I dunno.

So anyway, when I said ‘I don’t want you to go away’ I felt like I’d had some kind of out of body experience. Who the fuck said that? It was a young part for sure but I have never allowed that stuff out in this way before. Sure some of you might be thinking, ‘seriously, you’re getting wound up about this??’ but it was huge. Em handled it really really well. She asked me what I was scared of and I said ‘that you won’t come back’ and we talked a lot about how massively traumatising this all felt especially in relation to my dad having gone away and died on holiday.

I always feel silly getting stressed about her going on her summer holiday. It certainly is the hardest therapy break in the year and not just because of its length. It just falls so soon after the annual sucker punch of my dad’s anniversary. I have experienced someone I love not coming back from a holiday, and I have had it front of mind for the whole of July, and then off she goes on holiday for a month in August. The timing sucks.

I wish I didn’t get so scared and anxious that she would respond negatively to something that is fairly normal and understandable. Like surely it would be more weird if I was completely unaffected by her going away for 5 weeks especially given the timing. But I do fear her rejecting me. It is a huge stumbling block for me. I wish that I could retain all these positive therapeutic experiences where she responds to me as I need her to. If I could hold onto her and her kindness and care I know it would enable to be more open and vulnerable but unfortunately I just cannot hang onto these connecting moments and file them away in my memory banks to give me some courage the next time I have stuff to let out (which is basically every session).

I know it’s a process…but god…it’s long isn’t it?!

Anyway, that’s kind of where I am at now. I have one more session on Monday and so that revelation in the last ten minutes of the session might have been the start of the emotional flood gates opening. I kind of hope so. I don’t really want to sit on all this attachment stuff over the holiday and feel alone, unseen, and unheard. I want to tell my therapist how it feels so that she can help me put things in place so that everything doesn’t disintegrate the moment I walk out the door.

She said we are going to work on building on the felt sense of connection between us in session next week…..god only knows what that’s going to entail but I’m telling you now if she gets me to imagine fucking angels or a sodding box to hold positive feelings in I will throw my pebble through her window!!

X

 

 

 

Summer Therapy Break Is Almost Here…

I should be delighted right now. School’s out for summer and that signals six weeks off from tutoring; no more trying to make packed lunches at 6am only to realise there is nothing to make a packed lunch with in the fridge; no more washing and ironing uniforms (THANK FUCK!); and better still, no more negotiating with pint sized terrorists every morning to ‘pleeaaasseeee darlings just put your shoes on’.  I will certainly not miss doing school runs or racing around to get to my teaching. I can, for the next few weeks, sit here at 9am in the comfort of my PJs (TMI?!) and blog if I want to.

It’s all good.

Ok, so anyone with kids knows that the shine of summer holidays wears off about a week (day) in, but right now I am trying to picture myself as calm, together mum who plans nice trips, meets for play dates, bakes, and creates a generally harmonious atmosphere. (Who am I kidding?!) The truth is, before long I will probably be threatening to get out the ‘bin bag’ and throw all the toys away if the floor isn’t cleared before bed time and will be pleading with them to ‘be nice to each other’ and ‘stop snatching’ and ‘can we agree on something you both want to watch on Netflix?’

So, yeah. In my head I am aiming for Mary Poppins but realistically, just gotta hope they are both alive in September (that is a joke by the way!). Using the therapy speak – I’m hoping I do a ‘good enough’ job over the summer with my kids.

Oh, but wait, if school is out for summer then that means therapy is almost done with and the long summer break is coming doesn’t it?…

I’m totally screwed.

Ok, so it’s not like this is new news. I’ve been mentally counting down to the summer therapy break since Easter (I’m fun like that!) and once I had confirmation of the break dates from my therapist could start properly obsessing about how bloody long she is going to be away. She always takes roughly the same holiday and, actually, in real terms it’s only two weeks away for her but because my session falls on a Monday things always feel longer because before she even starts her break on a Monday it’s been a week since I have seen her (I think therapists forget this sometimes). The summer break is particularly crap, too, because there is a bank holiday at the end of August in the UK so I lose another session.

So, basically my last session is on the 30th July and my next face to face is the 3rd September…err that’s 5 weeks… There is a session in the middle on the 20th but I can’t get to it because the kids are off. I could, maybe, Skype but it wouldn’t be all that easy with the monsters causing havoc. I am also a bit reluctant to Skype after essentially three weeks break because I know what I am like, and much as I would like to check in, there’s a real danger of me stonewalling her and us getting nowhere and then there being two more weeks until we can sort it out. I know that is a recipe for disaster. So right now I have to think about what is the lesser of two evils: a long five week break or three weeks and then two weeks break back to back.

I can’t see that either is going to be great. I think it’s going to be about survival (again). I hate that I am like this. I hate that the attachment stuff causes so many problems. I wish I could look at this break as a chance to regroup and enjoy some time with my family but it doesn’t feel like that. Instead it feels like my safety net is being whipped out from underneath me or my anchor has been severed and somehow I just need to hang on and make it to September without something tragic happening. I know, spare the drama right?!

I did think about asking my therapist to write me a note for the break but after all the hell with the pebbles I just don’t think I can face it. I don’t want to create a situation that destabilises me before I even get to the break. But five weeks is a long time isn’t it? Especially when you are unable to hold someone in mind…

I don’t really know what to do.

The weeks between sessions have been getting increasingly more difficult recently and I have been dissociating a lot in my sessions (as well as outside them). I know it’s panic about her going away at the end of the month. The anniversary of my dad dying falling in July doesn’t help matters, either. My mind automatically lurches from the fact that he was meant to be going away for a month on holiday and never came back to the possibility that she may do the same. I can’t deal with that. I know it’s not rational but it is what happens in my mind. I panic. It’s like the grief of the loss of my dad swirls with the idea of losing my therapist and a shit storm starts inside me.

There is some good news in amongst all this doom and gloom, however, that I guess I should share and that is that as of September I will be having two sessions a week. A session time has become available on a Friday and so we are going to trial 6 months of twice weekly sessions and see how it feels. Unfortunately, the time is too early for me to actually get to the session in person (9:30am) as my therapist lives 50 minutes from me and I don’t drop the kids to school until 9. However, it does mean I can come home and Skype. When a better time becomes available I’ll swap into that.

I already know this change in session frequency is going to make a significant difference to how I feel in the week because whenever my therapist has a cancellation and can offer me two sessions in a week things feel way more manageable. We did this a couple of weeks ago and I can’t tell you how much easier things felt having that weight of anxiety lifted from me because I knew I would see my T on Monday and Friday. I didn’t get any of that shitty horrid attachment pain and physical ache that usually wipes me out on a Wednesday. I didn’t feel like I needed to dig deep or hang on tight in order to get through the week.  I was able to keep sense of my therapist still being out there – which was refreshing! I knew the child parts were there but they weren’t completely beside themselves. It was so freeing.

This week has been total shit, though, back to one session a week and no in between contact. It’s hit me like a sucker punch – even though it is what is normal for me. Two sessions now remain until the break. My session on Monday this week was ‘meh’. Adult me went in and talked shit for half an hour about ‘non things’ and avoided going to the difficult stuff because I’m in self-preservation mode. But then something suddenly shifted. It was as though the little ones clocked that only twenty minutes remained and they freaked out. They wanted to connect with my therapist but then the shame and embarrassment flooded in and rather than reaching out I started retreating inside myself and started to shut down.

My therapist quickly noticed I was starting to dissociate and tried to hang on to me. I could feel myself slipping but she kept talking to me. She said she could tell something was starting to change because my body had changed and that she has noticed I close my eyes more when I am starting to dissociate. I didn’t know this!

I wasn’t able to tell her why I had started backing away but could tell her how it felt like she was behind glass and that I was alone at the end of a very long tunnel. She asked me what I might need in the tunnel? And I said I didn’t know. I was too lost by that point to express the need for someone to be there with me but she said that she imagined having someone alongside me that I adequately trusted might help. I nodded.

She asked me how old I felt and I quickly answered ‘eight’. She said that that was the age where I had already learnt to cope by myself and not rely on anyone. She was right. As usual. I really wanted to be able to reach out to her, to ask her to sit closer to me, to connect, but I just couldn’t. That glass wall is too thick and the tunnel is so dark and long.

Before long the session was over and it was time to leave again. My therapist has really been talking a lot about how difficult the ends of the sessions feel and is more aware now (I think) that they feel like an abandonment or rejection to me and I seem to hit a very young place at the end, like I look frightened or something. She commented that I seem to feel like because the session is over and I have to leave that it’s automatically ‘out of sight out of mind’ and yet that just isn’t the case. She’s right though. It is how it feels to me. I struggle really hard feeling like she doesn’t care unless I am in the room and that is limited to 50 minutes a week. Because I can’t hold her in mind I feel like it works both ways. I find it really helpful when my therapist says things like this because actually the young parts need reminding that she cares. It really helps.

Although, it clearly doesn’t help enough when a break is coming. I just need to do a massive face palm. I know things are dire when my dreams start getting really vivid and regular. I dream a lot anyway but this last couple of weeks has been horrendous. I’m back into therapy stress dreams 101. The ones where I am vulnerable with my therapist, express a need for her, try and get close to her and she physically pushes me away with force. I hate them and they are occurring so regularly (a couple of times each night) that it’s hard to remember that they are only dreams and not the reality.

There have been times when my therapy dreams affect me so badly that I can’t even talk to my therapist properly – for like a month! I get so shut down and scared that I can’t even tell her anything. I fear the dream will play out in real life. It is utterly horrendous. Of course when I do manage to bring the content to session it’s nothing like the dream but it’s so hard when my mind is telling me one thing over and over and yet I am meant to try and believe that the worst won’t happen and trust in someone I can’t hold in mind. It’s so hard.

I think I’m going to write some stuff down tomorrow or draw some flow charts and take them to session with me. I don’t mean to be deliberately avoidant in sessions. Sometimes I just can’t talk and sometimes I can’t even bloody remember what has been paining me outside the session. Man, that is so frustrating! It’s like some kind of amnesia! haha. Ok, so it’s just a product of dissociation and fragmented parts but either way I think I need to take a map with me on Monday so we don’t get lost.

I think that’s all for now. I don’t really know what to say. Bleurgh. Bloody therapy breaks! I guess it’s almost time to:

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Crash and Burn

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I guess it was kind of inevitable that a week like this would happen again sooner or later. It feels like I have been running along a cliff path fairly successfully for a while now. Sure, it’s been challenge, a test of endurance, I’ve turned my ankle over a few times but have generally been making progress in a forward direction with only occasional minor scratches from brambles that have overhung the path. I have felt my fitness level improving. It’s been ok.

Then it happened. Just as it always does. This week I’ve unexpectedly fallen down an exposed mineshaft that was overgrown with weeds and grasses. I wasn’t looking carefully enough at the ground as I was running along, probably  had my head up to take in the scenery. I guess I was slightly distracted/daydreaming, and I just didn’t see that there was no safe ground in front of me, and BAM! Here I am battered and bruised down in the dark cold hole. I’m not sure if anything is broken but I have a pretty sore head.

I’m not alone down here either. There’s a couple of distraught child parts and a fucking livid teen part too. I don’t know how long they’ve been here but they are cold and hungry – well the teen isn’t – she doesn’t eat. It’s cramped and uncomfortable and we need to get out.

Unfortunately there’s no phone signal down here and I can’t call anyone for help. If I shout no one will hear so there’s little point in wasting my energy. It’s not ideal for sure. I need to find a way of getting out of here on my own. I am a good climber. I’ve been in similar places before (I really do need to start looking where I am going don’t I?!… stop tumbling into these dark places and over ledges) but right now I am just too tired to start trying to find a route up and out of here because it’s not just me that has to get out; I have to find a way to help the young ones too. I simply don’t have the strength to carry them on my back right now.

I’ll try and avoid extended metaphor overload today but basically that paints the picture.

Things feel shit.

So, yeah, it’s been a tough, emotional week since my last post. Actually the weekend was fine – or at least I think it was. I don’t really remember! My memory sucks at the moment.

On paper my therapy session on Monday was fine too. I was firmly in my adult. I talked a lot. I didn’t dissociate. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t start shaking. I could ‘sort of’ look at my therapist. It was fine. I’m sure she was delighted to have the normal adult version of me sitting in front of her for a change. But it was just like having a chat for 50 minutes – or a bit of a moan – no real work was done.

I know that not every session has to be agonisingly hard work, attending to child parts, or dredging up past trauma. I know that the easy sessions have their place too, and to be honest, I really didn’t want to do any of that hard stuff on Monday because it was my wedding anniversary and that evening my wife and I were having a date night and I just couldn’t have a session that floored me.

I suppose, in part, Monday’s session was about protecting myself from getting stuck in the child parts’  pain and trauma. I wrote the other week that I have been struggling a lot with being dissociated outside of session and I didn’t want to be emotionally unavailable to my wife in the evening which so often happens on a therapy day. I usually have to go to bed early and sleep or just be on my own. So much gets activated in session that I feel like I am in survival for the early part of the week.

I know that I was avoiding stuff in session, though. I have been avoiding returning to the letter I gave her before Easter and going through it properly (ugh! Like what is the bloody point in writing this stuff and then not discussing it?!). And I also avoided giving my therapist a thank you card until I left the session.

This week marks two years in therapy with my therapist (this time around). Generally, if I have something to give my therapist (like a card at Christmas) I hand it over at the beginning of the session but for some reason I couldn’t give her this one. Why? I dunno. I guess it’s because whilst it said exactly what I wanted to say it just felt too exposing in the moment.

The front of the card said ‘I know you’re not a hugger but I am hugging you in my mind right now’ – see my problem?! HA. Like whilst it is the perfect card it is also just absolutely cringeworthy and horrendous because the touch issue is still so massive for me. It really is a biggest fat-assed elephant now. There is barely any space for any other of the others in the room now. How many elephants can you fit in a therapy room?!

I didn’t really even know what to write in the inside of the card. I think in the end I put something really boring like, ‘thank you for the last two years’ – which is not at all like me, but the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe I should’ve taken that as a signal to not give her the card at all. I dunno. But she is important to me and I do value her and the work we do together (or at least adult me does!) and I wanted to acknowledge that. So, yeah, I awkwardly handed her the card as I got up and left and walked back out into my real life – straight to tutor.

Monday evening was glorious. My wife and I had a great meal out in the centre of town and then walked the ten minutes down to the riverside (we are really lucky to live in a such a nice city) and had dessert and coffee in a bar with a terrace overlooking the water. It was 26 degrees. A perfect summer evening. AND childfree! Yay. So, I guess doing therapy like that on Monday at least afforded me some quality time with my wife.

Unfortunately, the rest of the week has sucked. I could feel the young parts stirring on Tuesday. They hate it when they don’t get to seen by therapist and then really struggle. I think they also feel exposed now because I gave her that card and what happens if she rejects them for it because it’s ‘too much’. I won’t lie. I am also sad that she hasn’t acknowledged it now she’s opened it. Not that she ever would. We don’t do the outside contact thing so it wasn’t ever on the cards – but still, there is a part of me that feels a bit hurt. It’s not rational but there we go. I know she’ll say something on Monday…but…ugh!!

Wednesday was my cancer follow up appointment at the hospital. It’s a day I always dread and requires a great deal of effort for me just to rally myself enough to go. I have to go, though. There is no choice. But it is not easy being repeatedly plunged back into the place where I had 12 rounds of chemo and memories of all the associated feelings (both physical and emotional). It triggers all sorts of stuff for me being there surrounded by people who are very ill and waiting to go have their treatment. I feel sick to my core.To make matters even worse my consultant was running two hours behind and so I ended up spending three hours in that place feeling anxious and triggered. Ugh.

Another thing that really doesn’t help matters when I feel so anxious and alone is that I know my therapist is literally only a three minute walk from me when I am at the hospital as the NHS psychotherapy building is just round the corner (she does three days a week there and is where I first met her).

Knowing she is almost within touching distance but that I can’t see her is completely hideous. I so want to be able to reach out and yet, obviously, I can’t. Ouch. I can’t even text her to check in on these really hard days. And they are hard. Sitting waiting to be told whether or not my cancer has come back is not an easy appointment to have to go to every couple of months. The build up to it is bad enough, but the day itself if awful. I feel so alone with it.

Most people don’t understand how truly terrifying it is to live in the shadow of cancer. They sympathise, of course. But they also think I should be delighted to have ‘beaten’ it. And I am. But it never truly goes away. The fear of it returning is always there. And it all becomes very real again as I sit in a packed waiting room full of other cancer patients.

Actually, the other day my therapist and I were talking about maybe doing some EMDR in relation to health trauma as a way in to maybe working with the attachment stuff in the future. She’s been suggesting EMDR on and off for about 16 months now! I am a bit reluctant/sceptical about EMDR because I get so dissociated and have so many parts and I know several are not on board with the idea and I think that could make the early trauma difficult to work with. She said that choosing something like the cancer/health stuff to work on might show me how things can work and might give me a little bit more confidence in the process. It’s worth considering because I find these hospital weeks completely agonising.

So EMDR could be a good shout for that. That is, of course, if I keep going to therapy!!… because on Wednesday I lost the fucking plot. Like spectacularly lost it.

Thankfully, this time I didn’t actually act out any of my thoughts/feelings like I might have done in the past but I am not sure if that’s because actually I can’t be bothered and have mentally shutdown/walked away or whether it’s because I have managed to self-regulate a bit. No, actually, it’s probably because my friend absorbed it all via WhatsApp as I fired off angry message after angry message to her instead. We do this sometimes! Just vent that stuff to each other rather than jamming our therapists’ phones. The outcome of all that is that I didn’t end up sending an ‘I’m done and won’t be coming back’ message to my T which is suppose is a good thing. Ha!

How did I find myself in a place where I was ready terminate with my therapist having only two days previously given her a thank you card? Well, no surprises, this all comes down to the fragmented parts and the different feelings they all have. It’s bloody exhausting, for sure!

Sitting in hospital, feeling scared, my mind automatically went towards my therapist- as it always does when I feel vulnerable. I wanted to be able to text her and tell her how things were. I wanted to be able to reach out to her and her respond in some kind of reassuring way. I needed some of that care that she shows me in session when I talk about how awful the hospital stuff makes me feel. But I couldn’t reach out. Or I could. But she wouldn’t respond. And that feels like a huge kick in the teeth…especially on a day like that….it’s bad enough on a normal shit day! So instead I had all these feelings and nowhere to put them. And then I started to get angry. Like properly got the rage. Hello teen part!

Episodes like this send me through a horrible cycle. The youngest most vulnerable parts are scared and need support, they need to reach out and get some kind of emotional holding. They can’t. It’s a boundary. Things feel really overwhelming. The need is huge. And yet there’s the stark reminder that the person I have come to rely on for emotional support is not really there. She is only there in the paid for time (actually the ‘paid’ time isn’t so much an issue, I want more contact time but she just doesn’t have it). And whilst adult me understands (sort of), the child parts don’t AT ALL. They can’t understand why the attachment figure is unavailable. They can’t understand why she can’t check in once during the week via text. They can’t understand why she doesn’t care that they are falling apart because they worry she is gone. They can’t understand why she is how she is in session but is not there at any other time. It feels really abandoning. It hits that deep core wound, the mother wound. Here I am again on my own, struggling, and no one is there who cares.

Fuck.

Then the fun really begins because before too long the teen part comes online. And OMFG she is boiling with rage (because she is so hurt). She’s got so much to say! She is ready to unload. She wants to scream at my therapist for being a ‘fucking liar’. She wants to tell her that ‘we don’t need you’ and ‘you are making things worse for us’. She is raging that the relationship is a ‘complete sham’ and that ‘whilst you (T) might think the little ones are stupid, that I can see exactly how this all fucking works, don’t pretend you care.’ Basically what it comes down to is that the teen part has been through this shit enough times now and will not be hurt any more. Therapy is an agonising and constant reminder that ‘I am not good enough, not important enough, and no one really cares’ and so ‘I’m fucking done with having it shoved in my face’.

Obviously, it’s completely horrendous when I am stuck in that place. Part of me so badly wants to let rip and let it all out. I want my therapist to know just how fucking awful this stuff makes me feel. She tells me that my anger is important and that I need to let it out… unfortunately I usually only really feel able to express it at moments like these. And it is not acceptable to let it out via text. I have done it once or twice before and then felt terrible afterwards – shame and embarrassment overload.

I have even ‘quit’ a few times and then the little parts freak out: ‘What have you done?’ So yeah, it’s a bit tricky to say the least because I have all these horrible feelings and yet she has no idea how consuming they really are. I don’t really know how to go in and tell her just how bloody awful it feels, how utterly crushing it is for the young parts to feel ‘left’ week in week out and then how angry it makes me that she is not there when things feel bad.  I hate feeling like she doesn’t care. Given how session was on Monday it’d feel like a completely different person turning up this coming week if I really said what was going on.

So anyway, I’ve spent the week since Wednesday alternating between rage and sadness and completely sunk in the depths of depression. Yesterday I stayed in bed all day between school runs. I just couldn’t do the day. There we things I was meant to do. We have guests arriving tomorrow and I really could’ve done with cleaning the house and getting on top of chores but I just couldn’t.

I had a long phone call with a friend which helped to make sense of things a bit so that was good but I still can’t quite get over the feeling that I’m at an impasse with my therapy. I feel more and more like the little two year old girl stuck in a huge grey space on her own clutching the ear of a soft toy bunny that so often comes into my mind. There is no adult to help her.

I mean, I guess, this week might also, in part, be me hitting self-destruct as we approach an enormous summer break and the anniversary of my dad’s death. I will see my therapist in person on the 30th July and then again on the 3rd September and whilst I should be able to do a Skype session somewhere in the middle of that. I. CAN’T. EVEN. GO. THERE. I can’t even explain how thoroughly overwhelming the idea of another long break is right now.

Maybe all this anger and wanting to quit is about me leaving her before she leaves me? I am shit on long therapy breaks.

Part of me is scared I’ll end up in another bloody horrendous anorexic mess like at Easter. I don’t want that. And even though I don’t want that I don’t even feel like it’s a conversation we can have now after all that happened recently around not eating.

Basically, I just don’t want to care anymore. I don’t want to feel like someone else has the power to impact me in this way – or rather their absence has the power to. I don’t want to feel abandoned or rejected anymore. I don’t want to feel so painfully alone and inadequate.

Man. I so bored of feeling shit about this.

I KNOW!

I know it’s the work.

But jeez. The work is hard isn’t it?!!

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Emotional Vampires

Isn’t it funny how a therapist can repeat the same thing over and over again over a period several months (or in my case years) and although you understand what they are saying, agree with it wholeheartedly, you don’t really do anything about it? It’s like you get what they are saying, on some level, but don’t then go on to apply it to your life because the way things are now is the way things have always been and you are used to it: ‘it’s not all that bad’.

And then, one day, after treading the same ground again in session, albeit perhaps talking (complaining) about another relationship or area of your life, and about how exhausted and drained you feel, you receive the same response you and actually ‘hear’ what the therapist is saying. You finally take it in, absorb it, and start considering how to make changes based on the information that you have always known deep inside but have been reluctant to do anything with for fear of, what – rejection, upsetting someone?

What on earth am I talking about? (Honestly, after that convoluted mess I’m not even sure now!!) Well, it’s about being mindful of ‘what goes out’ and ‘putting in boundaries to protect yourself’.

My therapist ALWAYS tells me that ‘too much goes out and not enough comes in’ so far as my life goes. I have lots of things plugged in that drain my energy and very little that recharges or replenishes the battery. She is right about that. And sure, on some level this is adult life isn’t it? You grow up, take on responsibilities: work, family life, and friendships all require energy. Sometimes these things seem to take a lot of what you have to offer and both your physical and emotional energy gets drained.

There are some things that you can’t do much about; the house is always going to need cleaning and clothes need washing etc. That’s a bore and unless there’s a magic fairy about to come into my life I have to accept that there are some chores that just have to get done and take a bit of energy. That’s fine.

I also know that often I don’t help myself and I frequently add more and more draining things into my life at the very time I need to be unplugging them. Like, let’s face it, Easter was a complete fucking mess wasn’t it? Not eating and heading down the path of full blown anorexia wasn’t exactly replenishing or rejuvenating. I can’t beat myself up about it. It was what I felt I had to do at the time and is a well-worn coping strategy. It’s not ideal but it’s ok right now. I have found some balance with food and exercise again. That’s not really what I am talking about, though. I absolutely do need to work on my negative coping strategies but there is another area of my life where I can unplug a lot of the ‘drain’.

There are things in life that are unavoidable that drain you but there are some things that ARE TOTALLY AVOIDABLE if you just put in some boundaries about what you are prepared to accept and tolerate… and we all know how big a fan I am of that word! (has my therapy actually worn a path in my brain where boundaries are seen as a good thing…actually yes!).

The idea is that on balance, work, family, and friendships actually give you something back too! No shit Sherlock! When you need someone they’ll be there for you in the way you have been there for them. Relationships are about reciprocity. It’s not fair to be the one that is always taking just as it is not fair to expect someone else to always be the one that gives.

I think this is an especially sore spot for many of us that over the years have sacrificed and hidden our own needs from our narcissistic mothers in order to survive our childhoods. We are so used to giving and listening, being amenable… and being ‘used’ that it can take quite some time to realise that this is not the blueprint for relationships. It doesn’t have to be like this. We should expect for our needs to be met in relationships too… not plain ignored!

Actually, I was whinging on about something at the end of Monday’s therapy session as a bit of an afterthought and suggested that a person in my life was an emotional vampire and I was beginning to really resent it. I don’t know where that came from but it was exactly what I was thinking! Then I said to my therapist ‘I don’t know how you do this job because it must be like being sucked dry all the time’.

But then I remembered some things that are sometimes really difficult for those of us that struggle with ‘the authenticity of the therapeutic relationship’ and they are 1) she is not my friend (I know that!) and 2) ‘SHE GETS PAID’ to do what she does. That is the fair exchange in the relationship. That’s where the balance is restored (to an extent) and how her need gets met.

It’s not always easy when those upset teen parts start chiming in about how ‘the relationship isn’t real because if we stop paying the relationship ends’ but actually that is completely how it should be, we pay our therapists to listen to us because it is not an equal relationship. They keep their needs out of the space so that we can get what we need. That doesn’t come for free. The care absolutely does come free. The relationship is real. It’s different in other relationships. The currency we exchange is our time and willingness to listen to the other. It is not a one way street.

It’s funny because since Monday, and finally hearing what my therapist has been saying for a long time about being allowed to put my needs first and not having to please others (especially those that give nothing back), I am feeling pretty pissed off! Like fully annoyed! Not with her, but with myself for allowing people to take the piss for such a long time. Like seriously, why have I been so willing to put the needs of others first often at the expense of my own emotional wellbeing?

This week was basically the straw that broke the camel’s back (or the event that made me draw a line in the sand!). Another person has started unreservedly dumping their shit on me, unfiltered, with no regard for what I am going through. It happens quite a lot! But this week something shifted and I was like, ‘be a bit sensitive; please don’t talk to me about X when you know that I am struggling with Y and at least acknowledge that you are writing to an actual person!!’

This is one of the dangers of Blogland, I think. Whilst, for the most part, us bloggers are really very supportive because we try and build up a sense of being there for one another via comments or whatever – sometimes people just come out of nowhere and flood your inbox don’t they? I know I am not alone in this.

I guess, maybe, it’s because we write so openly and so people feel like they know us and identify with us. I guess maybe there’s a part of them that unconsciously thinks that because they have read all about us and our woes that must open up a space for them to unload on us. I sort of get it. The thing is, people have a choice whether to click onto this page, to follow, and to read. No one is asking you to do that. When I open my emails I have no idea what’s going to be there.

The other important thing to note here is this: I am not a therapist and whilst I absolutely understand how agonising it can be in therapy I am not here just to absorb your emotional angst outside your sessions. I can’t do that. I have enough of my own!!! I absolutely can be here as a listening ear but if you want to engage with me then hey, remember I am not just your blank screen! My inbox is not your journal space. And the person that writes this blog has a shit tonne going on!!

I do want to make it clear that I have made some amazing friends via my blog that I speak with daily, and so this is by no means directed at everyone. It is possible to forge meaningful and reciprocal relationships here and I am open to that! BUT basically, the place I have arrived at this week is this (with the help of my T and those blogger friends):

I am not some receptacle for another person’s emotional shit. I need to protect myself from burn out.

Great Mantra right?!

I’m not suddenly going to become some unempathic, hard-hearted, arse hole – far from it! But what I am going to consciously start doing in my life is realising that I can make boundaries around what I am prepared to accept from others, look at what I’m giving out, and let some relationships go that aren’t giving me anything back. I need to look after myself so that I can continue to give to those that actually deserve my care. I want to spread myself more thickly on those I love! And actually, I want some energy left over to love myself….

LOVE MYSELF!!

Did I just say that?!! Eeek!

*Do you know what is really rubbish? Is that I have just written a post about maintaining my personal boundaries and emotionally protecting myself and there is a part of me that feels like there will be some backlash to the post. Like ‘Don’t write a blog if you don’t want people to contact you’…FFS!!!!

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