Therapy Is Hard Work…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ennui

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

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

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

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

I wonder what this is about?

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

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

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

 

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Therapy Breaks…

How many times have I talked about therapy breaks on this blog?! Loads, right? But hey, here we go again! 😉

Last Monday I missed my therapy session because my therapist was away. It wasn’t brilliant but it was ok; I focused on self-care and wrote a blog post when I would usually have had my session and had a slow day before I had to go to work. It was fine. In fact, as I said at the time, not having to drive an hour either side of the session was quite a relief and freed up quite a bit of space for me to just potter and do not much (lie in bed with my cats and drink tea!).

So…that was ok wasn’t it?

I made it through the minor disruption, worked hard all week (sigh), and was more than ready for my session when it got to Thursday. Internally I was pretty much repeating ‘one more sleep to go’ to appease the younger parts.

Only guess what happened this week on Thursday evening?

SNOW.

LOTS OF SNOW.

LOTS OF SNOW THAT SETTLED.

LOTS OF SNOW THAT MADE IT UNSAFE TO VENTURE OUT ON THE ROADS.

FUUUUCCCCCKKKKK IT!!!

I live on the edge of a National Park, on high ground, in the S.W of the UK. Basically, despite only being a few miles from a city I live high enough up for snow (and even simply ice) to be problematic. We live in a small village and it doesn’t form part of the network of roads that get gritted so essentially if a couple of inches of snow settles no one is going anywhere until it’s melted.

On Thursday night I could already see that I would not be going to my therapy session as I had had to abandon a tutoring session in the city and cancel another in order to drive back home when my wife text to say if I didn’t leave to come home I may not actually get home because there was so much snow falling.

By the time I got home it looked like something out a Christmas movie; the school had already emailed to say it would be closed on Friday; and my kids were unbelievably excited to be having a snow day. There was an Amber weather warning for the whole country. We don’t get much snow in the S.W and aside from last year’s ‘Beast From The East’ the last time we got snow was on the day I moved into my house in 2010.

As much as I would have liked to have been able to feel pleased about the prospect of snowman building and sledging you can probably imagine what my reaction to knowing I would not be seeing my therapist in person yesterday was…

Child parts had a meltdown!

I felt instantly grumpy and so so sad. I wasn’t able to be pragmatic about it at all. I just felt bloody miserable and hard done by! I feel sorry for my wife and kids as I was such a misery guts.

I know that this reaction was partly due to the fact that I hadn’t had my session on Monday either….so by the time I next see Em it will have been 10 days since I have seen her. That feels like quite a long time especially when it’s been a while since I have really talked. I had a weird session the other week where I got choked by shame and embarrassment about a dream I’d had where she ignored me – I couldn’t connect (or even look at her) or tell her about it. Ugh. Then after that therapy bomb I had a couple of very adult sessions. So there’s stuff we need to come back to but I feel like it has to be in person not via a screen.

Yesterday, I text Em to tell her I was snowed in and asked to Skype. In theory, this shouldn’t have bugged me quite so much as it did- these Friday sessions started out as Skype calls because it’s a 9:30am session and unless my wife is available to take the kids to school I can’t do the school run and still make it to session on time. Lately, however, my wife has been off work and so I have been able to go to my sessions in person. I much prefer this. Skype is ok but it is a very different experience.

So, I dialled in yesterday and to be fair it was a really nice session. Really relaxed. We laughed and it felt easy. My cat kept getting in the camera and interrupting the therapy but it was nice to sit on my couch with a cup of tea and a fur baby and talk. It was nice to see Em too. I think I spend so much of my sessions not looking at her and instead scanning the bookshelves or looking at the door that I don’t really see her much… so in a weird way Skype is good because I can look as much as I like and I don’t feel like a weirdo.

(Oh man I have issues don’t I?!)

It’s a bit of a weird thing then: I prefer to be in the room with Em and yet I hate not being able to look at her without feeling awkward; yet I hate Skype despite the fact I can see her….I guess it’s because I am always locked firmly in my adult via Skype calls and the parts that want to reach out just can’t.

Anyway eventually the conversation came round to the missed session on Monday and how I felt about it.

Adult: ‘Fine’

[meanwhile child parts locked inside adult fortress are screaming ‘NOT FINE!!!’]

Deflecting the question again I said something about looking forward to half-term and a break from my teaching work. Em said that she wasn’t going to be away this half-term (praise be!) but that she would be off the week before Easter as well as Easter itself (groan) and would be taking a little longer in August than this last summer (which was shorter than the one before). Ugh.

Instantly my brain started whirring and thinking about the summer and the young parts definitely came to the surface.

There was a bit of silence.

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to dig into how hard breaks have felt. I didn’t want to acknowledge the attachment stuff.

So I glossed over it and started rambling on about something else. Good tactic!

There’s no reason that summer break shouldn’t be ok or even ‘as good as’ Christmas break.  The thing is, there are quite a few breaks coming up and lots of bank holidays which means no Monday sessions. Basically, there’s lots and lots of small disruptions and few lengthier ones. I am going away in May half-term for a holiday and so will miss two sessions. Weirdly it feels worse that I might be away and she could still be there working – opening my space up for someone else. It feels less bad if we are both away simultaneously, like last May she was on holiday but so was I….so it was ok. Ugh. At some point I will look at the calendar and see just how many sessions will be missed – I know the time between April and September always feels yuck, though.

Anyway, I now have six and a half months warning about the summer break and this actually makes me laugh a bit. Clearly, Em doesn’t think I’m going anywhere anytime soon….there’s still a lot of work to do and it’s unlikely to be completed by the summer or else why give me this forewarning?!

This got me to wondering just exactly when I will be done with therapy? I know I am making progress and little by little I am working through and processing years and years (a lifetime) of trauma… right now I can’t imagine a time where I wouldn’t be participating in some kind of therapy- that’s not because of the attachment stuff, but actually just because I can’t imagine how my life will ever feel ok enough to not need to touch base with a therapist on a monthly basis.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

In the meantime I guess I’ll just try and remain calm and not freak out about the summer therapy break! Only 197ish days to go!! x

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A morning of self-care (in lieu of therapy)

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I don’t have therapy today. Em is…. well… I don’t know, actually…she’s not in the therapy room so maybe it’s her birthday, or perhaps she’s on a course, or I dunno it doesn’t really matter does it?… wherever she is or whatever she’s up to there is no session by the sea for me today.

As most people who have followed this blog for a bit will know, I don’t do especially well with disruptions to my therapy routine. Missed sessions often (usually!) feel like abandonment and I can end up circling the pit of shame and hell that I associate with the mother wound for a while before spectacularly falling in.

Christmas break bucked the trend somewhat and, unbelievably, I didn’t end up taking a nose dive with my mental health. I have known about this ‘mini break’ (ha unfortuantely not Bridget Jones-esque at all!) since way before Christmas so I’ve been anticipating having a quiet morning off before I go to work in the afternoon for a long while but not knowing how it would feel when it came to it. When Christmas went without a hitch I rather naively thought that future disruptions would feel ok too and so have been kind of ready for today to be ok…

EXCEPT IT ISN’T!

To be fair, I haven’t been very well (physically) for a few weeks with a nasty virus that basically wipes all energy and makes your body feel like it’s encased in lead. As a result of being under the weather I have been getting really very tired doing my job and also basically just struggling to be a functioning, semi-competent human being…oh and a parent of two small people. I’m kind of on the flashing red light that says the power is about to die. I guess it’s unsurprising that I might not be quite as able to cope with my therapist being away when my ability to cope with daily life feels challenged.

This weekend I have been really aware that when I feel like this (tired, ill, stressed) I feel more reliant on my therapist and our therapy hours just to feel ok. Having sessions at the beginning and end of the week gives me something to aim towards in amongst the rush and chaos that is my life. On a Monday I feel like therapy sets me up for the week ahead and the Friday session sort of rounds off the week…it’s containing! lol!

I don’t spend all my sessions moaning about the here and now but it is really nice to have time scheduled in the week that is just for me and my well-being (although I do get how therapy isn’t exactly relaxing!). At the moment I have to be uber adult in my day-to-day life and I feel a bit like my more vulnerable self has been neglected – again, therapy gives a bit of time and space to acknowledge this part of me so I cope a bit better with the everyday existence.

So, today, no session but still work in a bit… I feel a mix of things. The young parts feel a bit confused, like, ‘Where is she? Why are we still at home? We want to see her!!’ The adult is relieved that I haven’t had to drive an hour to get to therapy and at 10:10 am back in bed with a cup of tea and the laptop having blitzed the house once the kids were on their way to school. I know that cleaning the house isn’t really what many would consider self-care but I don’t do very well with mess and feel much happier when the house is clean and tidy, so half an hour running about with the hoover and sorting the kitchen feels good to me.

Earlier in the week I had considered using this time to go and have a run, but being ill…it’s a noooooo! The idea of putting on sports gear and trainers right now makes me feel ugh. I’m definitely in a dressing gown and pjs place! And as well as this ‘no to exercise’ place I am definitely in a ‘no to people-ing’ place. I have my two cats on the bed with me and that’s basically put me in my happy place! I don’t have much else to say so I think, I am going to go nap….in the day time… before work.

How to self-care: BE MORE CAT! (no fucks given. so what if it’s your bed. sleep.)

Ooooh and I have a Spa day on Sunday with my wife!!

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New Year…Same Old Me

So, somehow, it’s 2019 and this year I will turn thirty six years old…thirty six years old???…that can never be right! I am actually fairly certain it is only 2004, I am twenty one, still at university, and someone has been fucking about with the time/space continuum for laughs. Perhaps I will wake up in a minute and discover I still have the bulk of my twenties ahead of me only this time will enjoy them and see how bloody amazing it is to be young and free rather than stressing out and never living in the moment! Ha. Hindsight is such a wonderful kick in the teeth!

I sometimes listen to the radio as I drive to therapy; there’s a morning slot on Heart Breakfast called the Time Tunnel where they play a bunch of songs from a particular year and then listeners are encouraged to text or tweet what they think the year is. Sometimes they go ‘old skool’ (basically late nineties stuff) and I am transported back to being a teen, can pinpoint the year immediately, and then can hardly believe twenty years, or more, has passed since I was singing along. Wtf?!

I’m a bit late to the ‘New Year’s Blog Post Party’ so given it’s already the 5th of January am not going to ramble on at length here about what I have learnt in the last year or summarise how things have been. I mean essentially 2018 was pretty good.  I’m still here – in remission from my cancer. I am able to work – too much probably. My kids are thriving. I am secure in my marriage. I have some amazing friends. I am reasonably content in my day-to-day life. I’m currently pretty stable (for me) in that I am neither self-harming nor stuck in an anorexic mindset. Therapy is… what it is!…but given I am not doing anything horrible to myself I think is an indicator that something is working! There’s a lot to be grateful for.

If there is a lesson that I will take forward and keep in mind as I navigate my way through this year it’s this:

Being an adult is really a very strange concept indeed. Somehow or other I find myself in an adult body going about an adult life and yet I am still waiting for the day where I feel like a proper grown up and feel as though I have everything together. I kind of thought that when I turned thirty and had left my twenties behind, I might feel like a genuine bona fide adult. I already owned a house, had a career, was married and had started a family but none of those things seemed to make me feel like I was anything but a kid, winging it, and essentially bullshitting my way through life. I don’t think that has anything much to do with the fragmented parts of myself/the structural dissociation, either.

Whenever I speak with my friends we are all pretty much in agreement (and we are fast approaching forty) that being a grown up is just a weird construct designed to make us behave in a certain way. No matter how much we age we are no closer to reaching that holy grail of what we imagined adulthood to be. So, my guess is- it’s a mirage. Everyone is pretending at being an adult! And if that is the case, that the majority of us are just trying our best then frankly that’s more than good enough. I’m going to try and stop feeling like a failure because I don’t have all my ducks lined up. To be honest I am pretty impressed that I have any ducks at all and so what if they are free-styling round the lake?! I’m sure that’s way more fun for them.

Ummm

Soooooo

I have no idea what I am trying to say here today so I apologise for jumping about and not settling on any particular topic. It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted. In that time I have had a wonderful, relaxing Christmas (please don’t hate me!) and have sailed through my therapy break.

I honestly don’t know what the fuck happened but somehow or other I got through it with little more than a fleeting thought of my therapist. There were a few bad dreams in the first couple of days but other than that I was miraculously able to hold my therapist in mind. I knew she was out there and that I was safe in the relationship and that we would be seeing each other on the 4th. This is really unheard of for me. As we all know, I am the client that freaks out between sessions and feels disconnected and abandoned all the time so your guess is as good as mine as to what shifted to allow me to not just ‘survive’ the break but actually ‘enjoy’ it.

Perhaps it’s something to do with being tired?

Em noticed a difference in me yesterday. Within five minutes she commented that she could tell I had had a break and didn’t seem exhausted or stressed out and she was right. I am neither exhausted or stressed out (although the idea of work starting on Monday again is beginning to make feel shitty).

The moment I finished work on Friday a couple of weeks ago I felt my whole system relax. The nervous energy and adrenaline went and instead was replaced with a sense of peace. I could finally relax after eight long weeks of rushing about and teaching. I needed it. As I replenished my reserves and slept, I felt much more solid in myself (and less like the out of control Octopus!). I was aware of the younger parts inside but they were all ok. I took my kids to the cinema on Christmas Eve and the various young parts of me really liked it. We played games on Christmas Day and again, the child parts of me loved falling on my arse after getting tangled in Twister.

Christmas was about attending to all the various parts of me and just basically allowing myself time to chill out. I did what I wanted to do. Saw who I wanted to see. It was so refreshing. By no means was everything perfect! My daughter was violently sick between Christmas and New Year which has resulted in a new bedroom carpet for her, my wife’s grandmother died, and there have been a few other things that have happened but on balance it’s been really fine because when my inner landscape is not suffering an earthquake I can generally handle what life throws at me.

Yesterday’s return to therapy was both welcome and not. I have been so ok that I was almost reluctant to go back. I don’t want to be a basketcase that melts down over my therapist refusing to send me a text message of three dots during the week. Going back yesterday I could hardly believe I had got so worked up over that. But I did. And this is why I think there is a link with me being tired and things seemingly falling apart and my sense of attachment to my therapist going awry at these times.

It’s almost like when I am exhausted my youngest parts are most activated. When I am tired, they and I get cranky. You can’t please them. They don’t really know what they want. Any attempt at settling them that isn’t part of their plan sends them into a tailspin. Em might suggest trying something but frankly if it isn’t a hug or agreeing to something else I want then she might as well be talking in a vacuum! I have some really very resistant parts you know!

I am trying to remember what it was like when my kids were toddlers and screaming at me for sweets when they actually needed to eat a proper meal. I think Em knows what she is doing….well adult me does! So whilst I might be tantruming over three dots I have to believe that her consistent and steady approach to my therapy is what is best for me. I trust her. I don’t believe she is trying to hurt me. I do think she is trying to help me heal. I know that when things have been really bad she has been there, consistently. She doesn’t mess me around. She doesn’t get angry with me. She listens. And she cares.

I am so grateful that in all the times I have felt lost in the dark that she has been there holding a candle for me offering to help light the way until I can rekindle my own flame. And I can tell you, that bloody inner-light has a nasty habit of going out so I am very glad I have her.

I am very aware that even though yesterday’s session was fine and we reconnected that by the end the familiar feelings came up in my body. I felt physical pain. It was that thing again where I was back in the room and suddenly all that young need came rushing forward and with it the shame of knowing those needs can’t be fully met. Ugh. The one thing I will say, though, is that I feel able to talk about it with her. I don’t feel like I need to go into hiding or shut down. So… I guess we’ll just see how this new year of therapy goes.

New Year…Same Old Me!

*I am so very sorry for that saccharine gush! I am just fully feeling the love right now!

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And So This Is Christmas (Therapy Break).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nightmare!

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUCH.

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

And there it was.

You’ve hurt me. Massively.

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

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

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

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

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

I left feeling sad and ok.

I immediately missed her.

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

I haven’t.

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

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

A sign?!!

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Octopus from a cracker last night!

 

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

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

xxx

 

Not A ‘People Person’

WARNING: Mini-rant ahead!

OMFG I am totally dying here. Dramatic. Yes! Certainly. But hell. Someone please rescue me before I saw my head off with a rusty bread knife. Ok, that’s a joke, and it’s not funny, but I am at my wits end (not suicidal btw). I’ve taken to my bed early this evening and am hiding out with the laptop in the dark because I literally cannot do people any more today. I am saturated. My ‘nice’ has vacated the building and all I am left with is a steaming pile of resentment and ‘pissed-off-ness’.

What on earth is going on?

Well. I’ll break it down simply: in-laws are visiting for five whole days and we are only three days in.

Look, I am not really a mega bitch or anything but I am an introvert and  I am just not equipped to cope with house invasions for more than a couple of days at time. I don’t dislike my in-laws, far from it, but having an extra two bodies to manage and accommodate for this length of time in my space is enough to send me round the bend – especially when at the moment my working life is so demanding and I am out of my safe space so much of the time.

When I come home I just need to be able to unwind and be me…I need to sit down and NOT HAVE TO MAKE CONVERSATION. I should be able to get up and go to the bathroom in the night naked and not have to fumble for a t-shirt just in case someone should walk down the hall at the same time. I shouldn’t have to be mindful of being a good host and offering to make endless cups of tea. I just want to be able to be a grumpy cow and mutter shit under my breath in the kitchen or feel sorry for myself as a child part comes to the front and feels sad about Em going away for two weeks. I want to not have to have my armour on, basically.

(Look – I said this was a rant! I am not proud of myself for being such miserable sod but I need to let this out because I am reaching the point where something is gonna blow and that’s not fair on anyone because no one has done anything wrong except for breathe!)

I have always needed my space. This is something my wife struggles to understand about me. She grew up in a large family in a small house, sharing a room with her sisters and is used to hustle and bustle and being on top of each other. I am an only child and spent A LOT of time alone. And whilst this ‘aloneness’ hasn’t exactly served me well (!!!!) it is what I am used to and, to an extent, need now.

I get overwhelmed/drained when there is too much going on. I don’t like being around big groups of people (ok so there are only six of us here at the moment but it feels like more!!). I much prefer spending time one on one with people. I can do the party thing. I can do the fake extroverted social thing. I have to put a persona on every day of the week when I am teaching. I inhabit that space well… It’s just fucking exhausting…and so when I am at home I just want to be me without the shine. It’s not to say that any of what I am on a day-to-day is ‘not me’, it’s just ‘not the me I really am at my core’. A lot of ‘who I am’ is constructed to serve a particular purpose. I know how crackers that sounds but I think we all do this to some extent. The world isn’t really set up for us to be vulnerable and needy is it?

I think this last few days has felt especially pressure cooker-esque because I am so exhausted by everything I am juggling in my work…and in therapy. Work is physically and emotionally draining and therapy is…is…it… well…it…I dunno…it is what it is!! But it’s not plain sailing for sure. I am overtired and grumpy and sad and ugh!!!

For the last six weeks, or so, I have been counting down the weeks to the Christmas holiday on two fronts: in one way it cannot come quickly enough; on the other I am dreading it. Adult Me needs two weeks off like the desert needs rain whereas the young parts are just starting to plunge head first into the annual Christmas freak out period.

It’s really like the worst bits of Christmas have come early this year. I know I sound like the Grinch and maybe I just need my heart to grow three sizes and I’ll be sorted but man… this is really hard going! It’s almost like the family visit has given me an early taster of all the things I struggle with in the festive season: seemingly having to be in a good mood because it is Christmas; being exposed to people for longer periods of time than I’d like; having to make concessions about how you want to spend time ‘for the family’ (I don’t mean my kids here- I mean the wider family)… basically it feels like this time of year is a big exercise in sacrificing one’s own needs.

AND…

When you throw therapy break into the mix with all the other stress it feels like an enormous pile of shit. There is an irony in the fact that just at the point life becomes a bit of a frigging stress (being thrown into emotionally triggering situations with family) therapists just off and leave us to enjoy time with their families (ok, they are human and probably have the same issues as the rest of us!) and ARE NOT AVAILABLE.

Ok, I know Em hasn’t gone yet. We have two sessions this week and then it’s the break but because things have been so tricky in therapy lately I am already quite unsettled and anxious about how this break is going to pan out. I am nervous that we will end up having some massive rupture and it’ll be a total train wreck again. I really don’t want that. I know I need to use this week to try and get some kind of solid footing in the therapeutic relationship but that’s often easier said than done when there are so many feelings flying around. I don’t really even know what to say to her that we haven’t said a million times before. Breaks are shit. Somehow I get through them. What else can we say?

I know, too, that if I am really honest about why this week with my in-laws has felt so hard is because the young parts are really close to the surface because of the break coming and so my filter is a bit weak. I feel upset and anxious and out of sorts. This week, I guess, is a kind of trial run of next week when it’ll be my mum here with her husband and I won’t be able to reach out to Em when I feel triggered and there won’t be sessions to punctuate the nightmare. Not only that, they are scared she is going to go and never come back. They are sure that she doesn’t really care about them (not helped by the dots thing)  and they are actually just fucking heartbroken by this. Trying to shove those feelings down when they are so real right now is utterly exhausting and so my ability to be anything other than how it is is really hard.

When I feel like this I don’t have the capacity to be much of anything to anyone else and I try so hard to hide how I am feeling that I push everyone away. It’s a nightmare!

I love Christmas! 😉

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On The Outside It’s Crazy… Inside It’s Comfortably Numb

Time is flying at the moment. Life is going by in a sort of out of control careering down an unmade mountain road kind of a way! Same old. Same old. Busy. Busy. Argh! I’m hanging on in there and by some miracle seem to be doing just about ok. I guess ‘just about’ isn’t exactly brilliant but I haven’t totally slipped up on my arse/hurtled off the edge yet (YET!).

I am somehow surviving each day and achieving the things that need to be done so far as work and family life go. I haven’t lost my shit…and feel strangely calm despite the chaos, so that’s a win. Slight  Very big problem is that I am still not quite finding time for the things I need for myself to be ok (and sane) in the longer term: regular exercise, the great outdoors, adequate sleep, relaxation, this blog…and bloody therapy!!!! To be honest I am being steamrollered by life in general…  I just haven’t become a complete pancake yet but it won’t be long!

You can probably tell from this that I am in a manic high, nervous energy type state; this is all well and good, for now, BUT it is only a matter of time until the burnout happens. It always does. I feel like I am yo-yoing a bit at the minute. My last blog post was very much struggle and doom and gloom and yet here I am today full of beans. Living as I am right now is not sustainable and once I get totally exhausted I know I will crash big time. I do need to try and find time in the day to totally unwind and relax but it’s not easy. I feel like I am on a treadmill that never slows down.

How many times have a talked about self-care? Talked about how important it is? So why is it always the first thing to go when it absolutely should be the thing that I hang on tightly to? Ugh! I guess self-neglect is hard-wired into me and it’s going to take a serious amount of effort to change the direction of the auto-pilot.

Doing self-care when things feel ok is pretty easy, I think; the real challenge comes when you are in the thick of struggle and mental hell. One thing I do know, and that my friends keep telling me is that I really have to make myself a priority in my own life. It’s my life so it’s perfectly acceptable for me to take up space in it. It just feels so bloody alien. Like I don’t see myself as important or my needs as being as valid as anyone else’s. I think when you have spent your formative years trying to not take up space or get in the way or even really be noticed it’s a switch that gets stuck permanently on. Still, self-care has to be top of 2019’s resolutions list. In fact really that’s it, the only thing -take more care of me.

Anyway, last post I was banging on about work and stress and people not taking my ‘no’ seriously and finding myself in situations I am not happy about. blah. Fortunately, teaching last week was really good with my new group. Don’t get me wrong, it was challenging but the time with the group of 13 was actually really restorative and positive for me. I know that sounds weird. But I went in and was just me, me on my teacher ‘A game’ but also me as a ‘human’.

I know these people have had tough lives and so started simply by talking to them, telling them that I was there to help, and hopefully we’d get to the end and succeed but all I was really asking for was their commitment to have a go. Teaching, like therapy, is all about forging positive relationships with the students, building trust and safety, creating an environment that feels inclusive, safe, and nurturing. This has always been a strength of mine (god that sounds so fucking egotistical) but I guess because I know how it feels to feel unsafe and not fit in or be accepted I am especially mindful of this in my classroom.

I asked each student to write something about themselves for me: their name, age, their interests, anything they think it might be useful for me to know about them, and then a strength and perceived weakness in English.  Immediately one guy said ‘what do you mean about useful things for you to know about me?’ and here’s where I brought a bit of myself to the room. It could’ve backfired. They could have seen it as a sign of weakness and capitalised on it, but they didn’t.  I said, ‘well, it could be anything, but for me, I’d probably say something like I struggle with anxiety and depression and sometimes it feels really hard’….and then they looked at me and put their heads down and wrote. Reponses included:

  • I get angry fast
  • I get low easily and struggle with depression
  • I have BPD and dyslexia
  • I have ADHD and get frustrated
  • I have health needs and need a full time carer
  • I am on parole
  • I struggle with drugs and alcohol
  • My mental health is bad

Just by opening up the space for them I could see that they felt like I was interested in them and listening but that I am just like them – human. I already knew some of the specific learning needs before I went in but to have them tell me themselves what their challenges are was really helpful.

Anyway, we had a good giggle, got some work done, and at the end one of the guys, 20 years old, 6ft 3 built like a tank said, ‘Thank you so much for today. The session went really quickly and I learnt loads. I thought Maths was my subject but after today I think I like English best’. Mic drop! I was so pleased and it made all the prep and effort feel worthwhile.

So, yeah, that was nice and a confidence boost. The rest of work is what it is. Challenging and lots of it but generally fine. And to be fair, not gonna lie, this week’s session with group was like herding snakes! I am exhausted from today with them!

AND THEN THERE’S THERAPY which, I guess, is why you lot are here.

I call it therapy, but maybe I should say, ‘the space I have been going to and moaning about my daily life but refusing to go to the difficult places despite knowing I need to’ …

That’s a bit long-winded though isn’t it?!!

So, therapy. It’s been disrupted these last couple of weeks. Em was away last Friday and I was working so there was no session which felt just about ok because neither of us were available and so I didn’t feel too much like I was missing out. I saw her on Monday in person. And then today (Friday) the was no session again because I was teaching…she was there though. And so this is not good! At all! As if we didn’t already know this, I am not good with disruptions and breaks in my therapy!! I am still very much in recovery from the break at half-term and with two successive weeks of the pattern being changed I had totally detached until today.

I know the numbing/avoidance of my feelings and the dissociation is how I cope and it gets me through but it’s not a fantastic strategy really. However, this morning was like an emotional car crash. The reality of two missed sessions and not being able to see her was agony. I woke up feeling anxious and desperately wanting to reach out to check she was still out there. My mind had gone to the place where she’s gone/dead… ugh. I didn’t text her to ask her to reassure me because I wasn’t sure that she would and that would have upset me even more and to be honest, the times she has text back have been hopeless too! So I have spent the day sitting on young feelings and trying to be a fully functioning adult. It’s not easy!

In and out of sessions for the last month or so, I have been cross with myself for going and ‘talking but not really’. Sure, I have had plenty to moan about but I don’t need to go to therapy and moan about work. I can speak to my wife and my friends about this stuff. I need to be in therapy and do the work on the relational trauma, the past, the stuff that keeps tripping me up and making me feel inadequate and full of shame. I need to connect with my therapist. I need to get in touch with the young parts and try and help heal them. So, knowing this, why the fuck have I been fucking about like I have?!?!! So frustrating and EXPENSIVE. Every time I don’t talk it’s a pair of new shoes I can’t have. AND I LOVE SHOES!

My session on Monday ran like so many recent others. I went in and I talked about stuff that was stressing me out in my adult life….you know, work and being busy. I failed to mention any of the other things that have been steadily getting me down. I didn’t mention the therapeutic relationship or how I have been struggling to connect on a deeper level or be vulnerable with Em. The difference this week, though, was that Em picked up on what’s been going on and asked me about it. She commented on how lately my life has been really hectic and I’ve come and just offloaded that stuff but that perhaps there have been things I have been avoiding talking about because I don’t have the reserves to go there. I nodded and then off I went, switch, adult was gone, I was numb and seeing stars and feeling little and desperate to connect…but SILENT.

Em talked to me, asked me what she could do when things get like this because we have been here so many times before. Of course, when I get into that state I have no words and as much as I would like to ask her to come and sit beside me or speak directly to the little parts and explain that they are safe and she is there I just sit frozen like some insufferable mute.

It’s agony.

Time seems to accelerate and then the session is almost up.

And then I have to leave…and lately it’s been for a whole 7 days…which feels like a very long time now that my internal clock is used to two sessions a week.

I was frustrated with myself because knowing I have been doing ‘capable adult’ lately I have been very aware of this avoidance of the big stuff. The attachment stuff. The relationship. The goddamn breaks in therapy. So on Sunday night I had quickly written out some stuff to take to the session to hand over and try and get the conversation moving in the right direction even if my adult was not on board. Thing is, adult is the one with the bag and the hands isn’t she?! So even though with fifteen minutes to go I knew I needed to get the writing out I remained frozen, paralysed, and internally distraught. FUCK. Adult wasn’t playing ball.

I managed to tell Em that she was right about everything that she’d been saying about me having things to talk about but feeling unable to. She said that it was understandable that when the pattern of therapy is so important to me…i.e regular and uninterrupted sessions –  that it might have been difficult to go there and open up these last few weeks but that as of Monday, when we are back to two sessions a week, that it might be helpful to really try and attend to these bits that have been neglected.

Yes. BUT eeek!! That is exactly what I needed to hear but in doing so it also woke up all the silent and resistant parts and everyone wanted to have a chat…but the session was over!!! You all know how that is! So, what did I do? You bet, I sent a screen shot of the letter I had written in a text with a short message saying I had chickened out of discussing it in session but that next week we needed to. Face palm!

Basically what I sent at 2pm was an incoherent 11:30pm mind dump from the previous evening – but hey it’s a way in…:

November – Therapy Stuff

  • I feel anxious…really anxious!
  • I don’t like feeling disconnected but that is how it is right now.
  • I don’t want to leave without addressing breaks: 1/2 term (sad face emoji), these two consecutive Fridays (sadder face emoji), and the upcoming Christmas holiday (crying emoji). I don’t know what the solution is but we need to work together to put things in place to try and avert a crisis like last year…which was hell.
  • I feel like a protector part has been doing therapy since 1/2 term break. There has been plenty of ‘daily life stress’ but I could easily have discussed this stuff with my friends. The young parts feel really sad and scared and several ‘older’ parts don’t want you anywhere near the ‘little ones’ after the phonecall we had. Even though we talked it through I still don’t feel ok. It doesn’t take a lot to hurt the most vulnerable parts but it takes ages to repair and regain trust
  • I have really missed seeing you but/and there are parts that have been unable to cope with feeling like you’re gone/dead. Initially it was really upsetting and now parts of me feels completely cut off … like I just don’t care. I hate how painful, physically painful, it feels when the needy parts feel abandoned but I also hate that when I have most needed to reach out I have built huge walls around me
  • I don’t think you realise any of this… but it is all mess of contradictions!
  • Adult me needs help getting the other parts safe enough to be in the room – and for that protector part to take a backseat for a while…but I am so wary of that because Christmas is coming up. The space that opens up is overwhelming and I can’t fix this alone. I feel like therapy is all about counting down from one break/disruption to the next. I never feel settled because you are always almost gone…

And so basically that’s where we are at right now! I feel like my blog is totally falling by the wayside but this is really a reflection of where my life is right now. I really hope that soon I can free up some time to write and wind down a bit.

I found this earlier…wondering if I should have it as the main ‘go to’ page on this…save everyone the bother of reading! haha! x

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The Empty Chair

Boooo! T’s gone again! It’s another therapy break! (Like really, how many holidays does one person need?!). It may technically only be a week this time, but the way things have fallen, this break means three missed sessions (two Fridays and a Monday)…and that is a lot of ‘missed’ contact time especially when things feel so precarious.

Still, it is what it is.

And what it is… is SHIT!

Ha!

I am very aware that therapy breaks are an inevitable part of therapy and it’s the breaks that have really highlighted one of the huge problems I experience in relationships that matter to me: fear of abandonment (and people dying!).

I don’t do especially well maintaining the sense of connection between sessions with Em; although it is a much better than it was since moving to two sessions a week. Two sessions a week doesn’t help with breaks, though. In fact it almost makes it worse because, as I said just now, time away now signals more ‘non contact time’ – a week used to mean one missed session and now it is two. Ugh!

I was hoping that, by now, I’d have found a strategy that would prevent a meltdown each time Em goes away. Over the years we’ve tried a few things: internalising visualisations (rubbish) and the pebble (OMG what a faff that was!) but nothing has really worked. I am determined to try the power stones thing I saw on Twitter a while back as the next attempt at a transitional object. The idea of it really appeals to the young parts and they are exactly the ones that freak out on breaks so it’s got to be worth a try. LOL…I am nothing if not persistent!

I never do especially well over the Christmas break (think last year’s huge rupture!) and so it is really important that once this current therapy break is over Em and I have some proper discussions around what happens during breaks, that we try and put some things in place to help, and that I leave for Christmas feeling safe in the relationship because when things feel dicey it makes time away even harder. Everyone inside panics.

I’m half-panicking now. The young parts aren’t having a very good time of it. There was nothing especially wrong with last Monday’s session, i.e Em didn’t say something to upset me! … but unfortunately some unexpected material was thrown into the melting pot and knocked me sideways…or actually, straight onto my arse! I really hate it when that happens.

Recently, I was looking online for book Christmas presents for my kids (my poor kids can’t escape books having an English teacher for a mum!). I bought a children’s book by Oliver Jeffers purely based on its title, ‘The Heart And The Bottle’ and the front cover. It was kind of for them, but also for me. I was intrigued and I do love kids’ stories.

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Basically, the plot of the story runs like this:

There is a little girl who was completely filled with the wonder of life. She was inquisitive and adventurous. Happy. Almost every page sees her experiencing her life with a male figure. He introduces her to various concepts, reading stories from a chair, looking up at the stars, but he is also on the side lines when she is off exploring – close but not in the way. It’s lovely. The girl is free to explore knowing her safe adult is there. Until one day, the chair the man sat in is empty. The implication is that this important male figure has died. As a result of this, the girl’s world instantly changes. She doesn’t know what to do with her feelings and so decides the best course of action is to put her heart safe in a bottle.

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The girl carries on with her life, grows up, but her life is devoid of happiness, nothing is the same. She goes through the motions but no longer sees the wonder in things. The heart in the bottle that she now hangs around her neck has become a huge burden…but ‘at least her heart was safe’ (I think we can all identify with this metaphor!).

One day the woman meets a little girl, who just like she was as a child, is full of wonder about the world. The problem is, the woman, without her heart, doesn’t know how to answer the little girl’s questions. It is then that the woman decides to get her heart out the bottle. Unfortunately, no matter what she does she can’t get it out. Luckily, the little girl has an idea and is able to release the woman’s heart. With her heart back where it should always have been she is open again to all the wonder and joy of the world. The end of the book sees her sitting in the, once empty, chair her imagination free, like her heart.

It really is a powerful book (and the illustrations are gorgeous) and when I read it, it instantly resonated with me. Losing my dad so suddenly when I was twenty five was utterly horrific. I lost the figure that taught me so much, that made me feel just about safe enough in the world. Like the girl in the story I shut my feelings off in order to be able to carry on with life. I functioned but didn’t live, not really. And then I had my daughter and something shifted in me.

I don’t want to make anyone puke and sound like the world’s worst cliché but the moment my daughter was born I experienced a surge of love that I had never felt before. Actually, even before that, the moment I discovered I was pregnant something massive changed in me. I knew in that moment that I would die for that child and no matter how bad things got I would endeavour to be there for her. I would push through any of the suicidal feelings in order that she would always have me as her anchor. I never wanted to leave my child or for her to have to experience the loss that I had…which I bloody ironic seeing as I then got cancer when she was three and my longer term future is more uncertain than I would have liked.

I know things are still not brilliant even now (mental health/emotions wise), and that’s not just because of my dad’s death, there’s still all the ‘other stuff’ and the huge mother wound to contend with, but certainly things are way better than they were. I now have two little people to live for and they bring me so much joy. Part of the reason I persist with my therapy is because I want to be the parent my children deserve.

Anyway, back to the book- knowing it was the last session before the break I decided to take the book in to show Em, let her read it and explain how it had touched me. I could stay in my adult but talk about the grief and emotional hangover of loss – not just of my dad but also of my friend who died at the end of October last year.

Em thought the book was wonderful too and we spent quite a lot of time talking about it – on the level that I have just mentioned. The thing is, something happened as she was reading it that I didn’t/couldn’t tell her about. When I had read the book initially I followed the character right through to adulthood and her epiphany at the end. On Monday, however, I got stuck in the child part of the book. The image of the empty chair stuck in my mind. The therapy break, to me, symbolises an empty chair.

The first time Em sent me a message to try and help through the break she sent this visualisation:

Imagine the consulting room, with our chairs and the pictures on the walls and books in the bookcases and to imagine us in our chairs. You can then talk to me about your concerns and needs and you can then imagine me responding in a grounding, understanding, reassuring, and caring way.’

The visualisation didn’t work. It was terrible, in fact. I was successful in picturing the room and the chairs. I could even put myself in the chair. But when it came to putting Em in hers… I just couldn’t. When I am not with her I can’t remember what she looks like. I can’t remember her voice. I can’t picture her at all. It’s hideous. When I needed to be able to feel like she was still out there all I could feel was the pain of her absence.

Not good.

At all.

So, Monday. My brain was suddenly in empty chair mode. I felt like that little girl staring at the empty chair (even though at that moment Em was sitting in it). The memory of that horrible summer therapy break set in and I was gone. I got very quiet. I felt very sad and little. I dissociated. Em tried to reach me but I couldn’t let her in. I couldn’t connect. I knew she was going, so what was the point? No matter what I would have said it wouldn’t have changed that she was disappearing and her chair would be empty and I’d be left grieving and desperately trying to shove my heart in a bottle to get through the break.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I do know I was dumb on Monday. I know that if I had have been able to express some of what was going on for me Em would have validated those young feelings and understood the fear and in doing so it may have taken the edge off and the emotions I am struggling with now might not have been so intense. The problem is, after all that’s gone on in the last month post marble and ‘I care about you’I have been reluctant to show that need and vulnerability. I still feel a bit wounded…even though things have been repaired somewhat.

Anyway, for whatever reason, I couldn’t talk about feeling abandoned and sad about the break on Monday. Driving to my tutoring it became clear to me what just had happened in session and you know how much I like to fire off a text post session that won’t get replied to!!! So I sent this (cringe!):

‘Before today’s session ‘The Heart And The Bottle’ resonated with me because of the loss of my dad, the grief, and the experiences I have with my kids now which is one of the reasons I wanted to share it with you. Today, with you, it took me somewhere else. As you were reading, the image of the empty chair came to mind and took me back to summer break 2017 when I asked you to send me a text to try and maintain the connection over the holidays. I told you when we got back that I when I tried your visualisation, about the room and imagining talking with you, I could picture the room but your chair was empty and that it felt really hard because when I needed to feel like you were still there, I couldn’t make it feel like you were at all. Knowing that there’s a break again now made those horrible feelings of helplessness and abandonment come up and I couldn’t talk about it.  So like the book suggests, when there are painful feelings I put my heart in a bottle in order to keep it safe but end up disconnecting from the world and myself. When I want to reconnect with you it can feel like no matter how hard I try and smash the bottle, I can’t. I know it’s only a week but the little parts don’t really understand time, all they know is the chair is empty 😦 and this time of year feels like there are lots of empty chairs where people don’t come back’.

Concise as ever!

Of course that has generated … absolutely nothing.

Radio silence…

Although, I do feel better for having got it out and I do think it should at least open up a conversation about the break when we get back rather than her asking how the break was and me either shrugging my shoulders/avoiding answering the question/saying ‘it was rubbish’!

So where does that leave things? Tomorrow is Monday. The chair will be empty. My heart is in its bottle. It’s kind of safe…for now! I have a week off work. I am trying to regroup and recharge a bit. I need to relax. I need not to wish the next week away. As much as I want to see Em, as much as I need therapy, I really don’t want to be plunged back into an 8 week half term of work  – I don’t have the energy for it.

So, yeah, that’s it! Rubber bands and chewing gum remain the primary adhesives for holding everything together! Fingers crossed everything holds!

xx

 

 

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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