Reaching Out

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The last time I posted here I was circling the pit of attachment pain hell and I won’t lie, it was complete agony. I know these feelings well, but they aren’t constant any more (thank god!), and the intensity of them is not full on all of the time and so it takes me by surprise just how debilitating it feels when they hit full force again after a period of being pretty ok.

I was both surprised and disappointed that I had started to struggle so hard the moment the therapy break kicked in. I mean I basically had my session – a hard one – and then boom straight into the bowels of hell! Nooo! I had done relatively well with the therapy break at the start of the summer and yet within two weeks of one ending I was already starting another and I think that’s probably got a lot to do with how bad things felt starting the second.

Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while will know that I don’t always handle disruption very well but to give myself credit, I do cope much better than I used to – or at least I had been! My benchmark for ‘break from hell’ came at Christmas 2017 when I basically lost my mind – I am so embarrassed about it now (especially as I rage/breakdown typed it all out on here and then made Em read it in our next session! Not surprising that after that she said she would be reluctant to read another of my posts because she didn’t need to be “that masochistic”- ouch) but it was all part of this messy process, I guess, and that’s why I don’t take it down/delete it. I do internally cringe a bit (a lot) when I think back over all the times I have ranted at Em for doing nothing wrong but feeling like EVERY WORD SHE SAYS IS WRONG and lashing out at her!

So, sure, I don’t really like disruption but I can largely cope with the breaks now without becoming some wobbly attachment jelly creature/raging text psycho but not this time it seems! So that leads me to wonder: how much disruption is too much disruption (for me)? And based on recent evidence it looks like two separate two week breaks in a six week period is the threshold! I said last time that Em more than earns her breaks and I understand that breaks are part of the fabric of therapy it’s just not easy explaining that to all the parts that get so affected by holidays. Like part of me wants to cheekily (but kind of seriously say), “take a holiday but just one per calendar month, please.” 😉

I have been wondering whether I would have handled a break of one solid month better than this? I doubt it! Or maybe if there had been a slightly longer intervening period between the breaks it may have been more manageable…I just don’t know. I suspect it’s not just about the number breaks it’s the fact that this second one came just at a time when my life has got a whole other level of stress come in from left field and so really it’s more about timing – which can’t be helped because life doesn’t work like that!

Thinking about how much this break has disrupted me has also made me really grateful that Em is not a sickly person – she seems to have the constitution of an ox and has only cancelled one session, at short notice, in the entire 4.5 years we have worked together. That happened in the very early days when I was seeing her in the NHS and I really wasn’t bothered back then because I hadn’t really allowed myself to feel anything towards her at that point, and was grateful that I didn’t have to get myself and my new baby out the house and into a 9:30am session! How things change eh?!

If she were to text me to cancel the day before or perhaps on the morning of a session, now, there are parts that would struggle not to feel abandoned, upset and (probably) a bit angry. I know this is because my need for her feels massive and a lot of the time those younger parts seem to exist on some kind of countdown until the next session. However, alongside this young needy part, there is another older, more nurturing part that would also really want to make sure she was ok and was being looked after if she was unwell and not care at all about not having my session.

Recently, when I could tell she wasn’t quite right (physically – lol!), I bought her the gem stones as a gesture to show her that I care. Therapy had been difficult for quite some time and I didn’t feel able to just ask her if she was actually ok despite knowing that she wasn’t. I was shutting her out because I was feeling shut out by her (not because of her being ill!) and it had become a vicious cycle.

Having worked together for so long I wonder, now, why I couldn’t just ask her at the time if she was ok even though it was a rough patch? I suspect part of it was something about not wanting to be intrusive and being fobbed off or ‘kept out’ whilst another part of it might have been about not wanting her to confirm that she wasn’t ok because so many parts of me need her to be ok. I want her to be human – but not so human that she gets poorly! Oh my god I’m such a walking contradiction! Lol!

The therapeutic relationship certainly is weird isn’t it? Our therapists poke at our core issues time and again (not always on purpose – we just sometimes don’t see the open trap door as we’re walking along and plunge into darkness) and yet also offer some of the most powerful healing we’ve experienced. It is a relationship it is set up to benefit us, not them….and that feels odd, particularly to those of us that have had a lifetime of trying to meet other people’s needs whilst sacrificing our own!

I hate that Em’s absence affects me but I also really struggle with the fact that she doesn’t need me in the least. She doesn’t miss me when she’s away – or certainly not in the way that I miss her (which is a very good thing because I don’t think she’d be the ideal therapist if she did)! When she is sick she has other people to care for her. If she is struggling in her life I would never know about it. I am not a friend or family member and so I am completely ignorant of what goes on for her outside that room – unless it impacts me in some way and then she lets me know what I need to know.

The whole thing is set up to help me and focuses on me…and that is actually alien in most of our relationships. It’s not a reciprocal arrangement and that’s why we have to pay for it. That’s how we meet their needs. I know for a lot of us paying to maintain one of our most intimate relationships feels weird but paying for it doesn’t make it any less of a relationship, it’s not fake (the teen part and inner critic are off somewhere else at the moment so can’t argue with that!).

I know that this is how it’s all meant to be but it is hard to find a place to put all that sometimes – other than ‘this is a therapeutic relationship and it’s different from other relationships we have’. Ironically when Em says that to me it makes me bristle, like I get a proper kick back, because I’ve always seen that comment through the lens of ‘limitations’ ie what the therapeutic relationship ‘isn’t’ or ‘can’t be’ for me. “This is a therapeutic relationship and so x, y, z and that might feel rejecting or like I don’t care…” In the past I have felt that this means the therapeutic relationship therefore ‘has less value’ than other relationships and it must be ‘meaningless’ because it doesn’t fit the mould of other ‘meaningful’ relationships. That deduction instantly fills me with shame, though, because this ‘nothing’ relationship is so hugely important to me. So on the one hand I am like ‘fuck it, it’s nothing’ and on the other hand I am like ‘oh my god this relationship is killing me because I need it, and HER, so much! It’s so important to me.’

Whenever Em has said something about our relationship being ‘therapeutic’ I’ve often heard that as her attempt to distance herself from me rather than her trying to show me that the boundaries that can feel so difficult sometimes are there to protect us both even when they feel rejecting. She can’t meet all my needs but she can meet some. She can’t be there all the time but when she is there she gives me her undivided attention. I’m beginning to see that I actually need and want the therapeutic relationship (even with its limitations) because what I am SLOWLY learning is that Em is committed to the work with me and I get the best version of her in the time I have. I suspect in real life she’s probably just a dick like the rest of us!

Anyway back to this therapy break. I joked at the end of my last post that I hadn’t text Em ‘yet’. And despite flailing about like a fish out of water I really had no intention of reaching out to her. I mean let’s face it, what’s the point? Pretty much every time I have sent a desperate connection seeking text and she has responded it’s all gone belly up anyway. Our hit rate of her replying to a text and me responding in a triggered state is about 90% Ugh. And let’s not even talk about the times I have text her and she hasn’t replied or acknowledged it at all. Ha. Let’s face it outside contact has been a minefield. I’ve wanted it and it’s pissed me off when I have got it and pissed me off when I haven’t!!

Em’s boundary on outside contact has always been that she would prefer it if I didn’t text or email unless it’s something to do with scheduling but that she does generally respond if she has a concern for safety. So in theory if I text her to tell her I am struggling and need an extra session she’ll respond but if I send her something but without an overt request then she’ll leave it til session– unless she thinks I’m properly not coping. To many parts of me this no outside contact rule has always felt incredibly rejecting but as time has gone on I (adult) can understand why she wants to keep communications in the room as she often say, “therapy happens here” and it’s “live” and “between us in the here and now”.

I am living proof of why outside contact can be such a minefield. I have got used to occasionally sending messages and not getting replies. It’s not great. It upsets me a bit but it doesn’t send me over the edge because most of the time whatever it is I have said can wait. It’s almost like when I am struggling I want her to have a heads up so that if things go silent in the session she has something to work with. Ie I’ll send a link to something and put ‘can we look at this in session on Monday’. I don’t require a reply in the moment I am basically just forwarding her the map.

I try really hard not to reach out at all because it fills me with shame when I do. Most of the time I don’t text or email Em. I don’t need to. I don’t actually want to either. Things are contained enough in the sessions and it’s fine…I mean it’s not fine, but I can hold things for myself until I am in the room. It’s only when the wheels are falling off inside the sessions and things are not contained enough that outside contact becomes a problem. If I can’t touch base and connect in sessions then part of me goes all out to try and connect outside them. It’s bloody embarrassing.

So, no prizes for what happened on the Wednesday following my Monday session – only two days into the break.

Yup.

I sent a text.

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IDIOT!!!

Why? Why? Why?

Do I never learn?

Clearly not.

I mean honestly. WTAF?

I hate that my feelings of abandonment and rejection (just because there is a break) make things feel so difficult. I hate that when I do cave in and contact her I feel as though I am breaking the rules and disappointing her but sometimes I just can’t not. I know how daft that sounds.

Why would I knowingly walk into a situation where I am going to be left feeling rejected and abandoned for more than two weeks? I guess, the answer to that question is that there is a desperate little part of me that hopes I won’t be, hopes I will get a response, hopes that something will come that is enough to be soothing and settle things down…

… And perhaps this, too, when I am drowning, and I mean DROWNING in attachment pain and feel like I can’t breathe or function perhaps hitting the big red button where I don’t get a reply from her and thus can prove she doesn’t give a shit about me actually shifts me into anger and rage and I can instead focus on how shit Em is, and how neglectful, and how I hate her and that is easier than sitting with the feelings of just really fucking missing her. Don’t they say that anger is just sad’s mask?

As I sat full of that deep deep aching empty pain on Wednesday morning it dawned on me that in the past I was so triggered by the pain I felt when Em was gone (yeah yeah, the mother wound it’s not all about her! I know!) that I was unable to see that when I had reached out to Em in a state she had generally responded to me outside session. She has, on multiple occasions tried to connect with me when I have asked for it. She had proved that she was still there. And yet on these occasions I was in such a triggered state and so programmed to feel rejection and abandonment that was all I could see in her messages. I had one narrative ‘she doesn’t care’ and part of me was looking for confirmation even though clearly another part was reaching out hoping for connection.

The messages she sent me were never ‘good enough’. They never said quite the right thing. They weren’t right for me. I guess at that those times I have such a clear idea of what I need that I don’t see that she can’t give me word for word what I want because she’s not a bloody mind reader – and in addition to that she is her own person in the relationship with me and she has to reply in a way that feels right to her. Oh, and let’s not forget that actually what each part needs can be wildly different too and so getting a bullseye is like walking round blindfolded and trying to pin a tail on a donkey!! OMG it’s a disaster!

She said, after the Christmas 2017 debacle that she had felt like I was trying to script her and that she did reply to me and that she did care but I just couldn’t take it in… and I understand that now, whereas at the time I thought I was showing her what I needed to feel better and felt so indignant about it all when I didn’t quite get it. You’ll laugh now, that I read those messages and they are ‘fine’!!!

On Wednesday, then, I sat on my bed and was fully pissed off with myself. Why? Well, because basically it seemed to me that Em stopped responding to me in April 2018 and perhaps it’s because I have always criticised what she’s done for me and our ‘crisis’ communications just weren’t working so she stopped them to stop more ruptures. I mean sure there are probably a whole plethora of other reasons for what’s happened and I guess I will try and have this conversation when we meet on the 6th September but on Wednesday that’s where I was at.

And so this is what I sent:

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I didn’t expect a response, although I did hope for one.

The day dragged on and on.

I kept checking my phone despite knowing that she was at work in the NHS and so wouldn’t reply to me during working hours (or at all).

I knew she had an hour’s drive home.

I know she has a child and would have things to do in the early evening…because that’s what my life is like too.

But at 8pm I had given up hope and had resigned myself to another break of feeling like she doesn’t care, that I don’t matter, and then cycling through all the associated feelings.

Fun times.

That evening I was talking to my wife about her new job and didn’t look at my phone until 9:34 when it lit up.

And low and behold there was a message from Em.

OMFG!

I didn’t read it straight away as I wanted a quiet space to take it all in. But actually, just seeing that she had responded felt amazing. Like properly amazing. I really didn’t care what was inside the text. As I said earlier, I’ve kind of gone past worrying about the specific words, and wanting to unpick every tiny bit of a text searching for what I need in the moment, and rather have decided that seeing the bigger picture is a better idea – ie she has text me out of hours and that must mean that she cares – and try and take that in and absorb it instead. And you know what it really worked.

I opened the message. It was fine. Really similar to the one I got my knickers in a knot about two summers ago. If anything it’s ‘less’ personal than that one. BUT the big difference is I can see that she’s trying to help me AND THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS PROGRESS!

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I felt my whole system calm right down after reading the message. I still miss Em. I really want it to be our next session because I feel like there is loads and loads to say and work through. I want to know what it was that made her reach out to me again in this way after so long. I want to tell her what a huge difference that message made. I want to express how being willing to stretch her boundaries a little bit has made me feel much safer and settled in the relationship again BUT importantly it HAS NOT made me want to keep contacting her or reaching for her. I need her to understand that I am not someone who ‘if she concedes and inch I’ll want to take a mile’ – far from it.

I’ve been really ill this last week with a viral throat infection and tonsillitis and despite feeling mega sorry for myself (and little) I have not wanted to text Em at all. I can handle those feelings of longing to be looked after for myself. I can adult my way through it until the 6th because I know she’s out there. Right now I am able to hold her in mind and I haven’t always been able to do that.

Anyway, it’s just over a week til we meet again and in the meantime I need to get my arse in gear and get school ready – both my kids and me! I’m sure the time will fly by… well, I hope so because I really want to go in and smile and say, “thank you!” And you know what? I think I am gonna survive this break!

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Summer 2019 – Therapy Break #2

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Ok, so buckle up because here we go again! Yesterday signalled the start of therapy break number two of the summer. THERAPY BREAK TWO???!!! WHHHHYYYYY DOES MY THERAPIST NEED TWO TWO WEEK HOLIDAYS IN A SIX WEEK WINDOW????!!! (whispers: ‘because she’s more than earned it working with me!’) Let’s be completely clear here (in case you struggle to read between the lines) this break is ALREADY a total shit show and I am only 31 hours into it! The feelings and emotions I am experiencing now compared with what I was managing for most of the last break are as different as night and day (and not in a good way!).

FUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKK IT!!!!

And…. breathe…

..breathe some more…

…it’s not working!…

Seriously, though, as I said in my last post the last break was pretty good by all accounts. It didn’t feel like Groundhog Day from day one and I didn’t fall into the depths of attachment pain the moment I left Em’s house on the 19th July. For the most part I kind of just got on with things, actually had an ok time despite my day-to-day life stresses and it wasn’t until the second week when I started to get the wobbles a bit so far as missing Em went. Given how things have been in the past with breaks I take that as a significant win. Shame I can’t continue the trend now, though, eh?!

The first break of the summer wasn’t perfect by any means but for a two week disruption I was pleased with how I managed especially as therapy hasn’t been exactly easy for a while now. Basically, what I am saying is, compared to what’s already going down now I did a bloody amazing job! I guess getting wiped out with a week or less to go to the next session is more manageable, there is only one Monday or Tuesday or whatever left to get through and tick off whereas right now I think it’s three Fridays until I am back in the room and I am already on my arse…help me!

I was certainly looking forward to seeing Em again as the break came to a close but I wasn’t desperate to see her, it didn’t feel like life and death (which is how it feels now)- I had not been engulfed by the gnawing ache in my stomach for the entire 16 days she was gone. I missed her but it was ok. I wanted to reach out for her but I didn’t. I could hold stuff for myself and could wait til I saw her again in person on the 5th. I think it was all helped by the fact that I took a risk in my last session leading into the break and told her how I was struggling and not ok about the break which enabled us to do some work on it and settle some of the niggling doubts before I left. I was able to connect to her in that session and that carried me through for a good bit.

The return to therapy was great too. I have had four really really good sessions where I have done nothing but talk – no awkward silences, no dissociation, none of that horrid stuff that usually happens. I have had so much to say to her. BUT it’s been so much to say about what’s been going on in my current life which is to say stuff that affects me as an adult. There’s been some really nightmarish stuff happening the last couple of weeks here and I have even had to talk to the police about the harassment I’ve been experiencing and so there’s plenty of grist for the mill in session.

It’s been a relief to go in to my sessions and just talk and be able to make eye contact and to laugh and just be NORMAL. It’s been nice to see Em be angry on my behalf, to swear (she almost never does that) and to feel like she’s genuinely on my team and really cares that someone is trying to make my life difficult and is annoyed by it too. I guess, if I am honest, I like it that she seemed to be protective of me…it’s all felt connecting and positive. I have felt more able to cope with what’s been directed at me because I have been able to talk with her about it… and now she’s gone again and I feel like a wobbly jelly.

It was almost inevitable that everything would come to a crashing halt yesterday, then. Session five and the last one before the second break and boom – welcome back child parts! They’ve not been seen by Em for weeks and weeks…and they missed her on the last break … they have been dreading this second break too and it all just got too much. I knew it was getting a bit dicey inside and the system was getting agitated so I mentally planned out what I wanted to say in session. I was all prepared to go in and talk about how I was worried about the break – I had even drawn a picture and written some notes around it to start things off:

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But of course I never showed it to her because the moment I got in the room I completely dissociated. I’d felt it starting to happen as I was driving to session. We ended up having a painful session where I was almost completely silent throughout. Em tried really hard to help me talk but it was just too hard. I couldn’t do it. The feelings around being too much, too needy, and potentially bombarding her with my suffocating feelings felt horrendous. I desperately needed to connect and yet I found myself stuck behind a glass wall unable to reach out.

I needed to tell her that I was anxious about the second break because things were so unnerving with the harassment stuff and I feel like without her regular support I wouldn’t cope as well especially if I received any more communications from the person in question. I wanted her to know that I have my cancer follow up next week and I am scared about it. I wanted to tell her that the young parts were going to really miss her too and that whilst the work we have done in the last couple of weeks has been essential and helpful they felt like she’d forgotten about them and would therefore not have them in mind whilst she was away this time…and they are terrified of that.

Anyway, basically I needed some tangible words of reassurance about us and the relationship and I stopped myself asking for them/getting them because I AM A MORON/I WAS TOO SCARED OF BEING REJECTED. I am so frightened of Em rejecting me that I couldn’t even tell her what I needed. It’s so frustrating. I am so angry with myself because I have basically plunged myself down into the belly of attachment pain by failing to be brave and trust that Em won’t deliberately hurt me. How much evidence do I need from her that she is safe and is not going to shame me or abandon me??? Clearly a load more – ugh!! The problem isn’t as straight forward as choosing to talk or choosing to withhold. I don’t deliberately sit there thinking ‘ah ha, I’m not going to say stuff!’ actually when that very young part comes in she is just utterly frozen and terrified she can’t talk.

I left yesterday’s session feeling totally steam-rollered and it’s been agony ever since. So, needless to say, because I am in the grips of the fucking hideous pain where my chest aches and my stomach hurts and my whole body feels like it is crying out to be held, today has felt as though it would never end. I have achieved next to nothing and struggled to even get out of bed til after midday – which is not like me at all. I have felt so flat and ugh and depressed it’s been really horrible. I have thought about writing here but haven’t known what to say – I still don’t really but am just seeing what comes out – diarrhoea by the looks of it! I thought about doing something creative/arty but have just sat on my bed staring into the middle distance. It’s been shit, really.

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know that usually I am really busy, productive, whizzing about… but to be honest that has its own pitfalls and doesn’t always mean time goes quickly on breaks, it just means I get more burnt out when trying to navigate the fall out of the mother wound. Being still today and moping about has really shown me (again) how hard the feelings I have actually are because I feel as though I am drowning. I hate it. I want to run away. I don’t know how to make them stop. I don’t know how I am meant to help the young parts of me that feel like they are going to die because Em is gone. I know this isn’t about Em, or not wholly about her, but the little girl that was abandoned all those years ago is still hurting…what on earth do I do for her when it all seems to be happening again?? How do I self-soothe??

My best friend told me this week that she thought I was the most feeling avoidant person she knew…which is a great accolade 😉 but she’s totally right. I am so terrified of sitting with the overwhelming feelings that I literally do anything I can to not have to experience the full force of them. The other day I was experimenting with feeding my feelings (rather than starving them!) but that just made me feel like I was going to puke. I don’t think binging is my thing! It’s occurred to me today that perhaps I should get on the treadmill and focus on exercise…but I am so lethargic/down/sad that I can’t be bothered right now. The Critic isn’t here just yet but give it a few days, if things continue to feel this desperate then no doubt I’ll be lacing my trainers and putting myself through my paces.

(I know that none of that is self-soothing btw!)

I literally don’t know what else to say. It’s all just a great big pile of crap. On the plus side I haven’t sent any desperate texts to Em (yet) which felt like a very real possibility this morning!

17 days to go.

It can only get better right?

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Summer 2019 – Therapy Break #1

 So, here I am, back in the here and now and writing about my (mental health) life in 2019! My last few blog posts have been blasts from the past (old diary entries) tracking the horrible crisis period that saw me finally start therapy with my therapist Em in 2012. I haven’t seen her consistently through that time – there was a three year break between 2013-16 where I was doing okish, had a baby, got myself together a bit… and then unfortunately got diagnosed with cancer and had to go through all the treatment for that which sent everything off kilter again.

Ironically, there’s not a lot to say right now about therapy because, yes, you guessed it, it’s the most dreaded time of the year: SUMMER THERAPY BREAK!

ARGH!

This year Em has raised the stakes for triggering my feelings of abandonment  (#sarcasm) and is taking not one but two breaks of a fortnight each over the summer. To be fair, I did get months and months of prior warning about this year’s holidays (in order to give me plenty of time to dread and brood about the inevitable separation! 😉 )  but no amount of mental preparation ever really helps me feel ready for the reality of being in therapy limbo in the summer.

I find longer breaks (anything more than a week) quite challenging at the best of times and so two separate two week breaks falling almost back to back at a time I historically find incredibly challenging due to my dad going away on his holiday and never coming back is really tough. Every summer I get a knot in my stomach in the lead up to the holiday. I panic that Em might just go away on holiday and die, too. I know the odds are very slim but PTSD brain doesn’t understand that does it? It’s happened once to someone I love so surely it can happen again.

These days, at least, I can talk about these anxieties in my therapy and Em is very aware of just how hard July and August are for me. In fact this year she has regularly brought up the topic of the break and we have spent time talking about how it feels especially in relation to everything that happened a decade ago with my dad. I think regular checking in has made it feel a bit better although I do still struggle to really say exactly how I feel about her holiday.

These days I feel like I should be ok about breaks because we’ve been working together for such a long time now and she always comes back. I should see that she does return… and yet I still can’t quite believe she will be there in the room after a holiday. That massive panic is never far beneath the surface. I can’t imagine how I would cope if one day I was told she was gone gone not just away. Eek.

There is still a very active part of me wants to beg her not to leave me, to promise that she will definitely come back, and to tell me that she isn’t going away because of something I have done to push her away. I want her to reassure me that she’s not going away because she’s had enough of me. I have said this stuff to her before on more than one occasion and she has reassured me many many times!!  I know how young these thoughts/feelings are and so that’s why I struggle to articulate them – it’s mortifying – but these feelings are completely understandable based on my history and Em has helped normalise them and washed a bit of the shame coating off them.

The last session before holiday (Friday 19th) she asked me again how I felt about the break. All week I had been stressing about the final session. Therapy (and life) has been hard lately. I have been talking about the very real stresses of the here and now in my sessions  – my wife’s job loss and the quickly diminishing savings can’t help but take centre stage.

I haven’t been avoiding the other big things I just have been more concerned about the possibility of having to move away and downsize than the attachment stuff. Actually, maybe that’s not quite right – I haven’t had the capacity to allow myself to feel and explore the attachment stuff and so have had to sideline it for a while. It’s still there, swirling about, but I can’t manage it all if it’s not active. I can’t invite in those difficult feelings because I don’t have enough reserves to safely contain them. I know they always catch up in the end, though!

I feel really sad that my therapy has gone off on an unexpected tangent even though the work we have done has been connecting and helpful. I feel sad because the two sessions before we got the shock of my wife’s job loss I had really started to open up to Em about the eating disorder and it felt like we had really started to tackle a very delicate area that I have avoided looking at head on for a long time. It was big work and scary but felt like it was going to be ok and helpful. It’s work that has been waiting to be done for twenty years. Still, there is time for it and it will happen eventually.

The last session before the break began with more of the adult talking about being an adult with adult concerns. It was ok. Useful even. BUT. Not for all of me!  When I arrived at the session I was already in self-protect/shutdown/adult mode and replied and so when Em asked me after half an hour about how I was feeling about the break, I replied, “It’s fine.”

(It’s not fine – NOT FINE AT ALL!)

It almost comes out on autopilot doesn’t it? ‘Fine’ Such a well-worn response. There have been many times I would say that and then quickly change the conversation because frankly I don’t want to admit to being a big wobbly pile of need when she’s leaving. She’s more than earned her break and surely I can just suck it up and let her go without disintegrating every time she does.

The shame and the embarrassment around acknowledging that her absence REALLY impacts me is just unbearable despite how often Em tells me there is no need for the shame. That’s why I think I had decided to try and keep things ‘light’. Last week as I heard the words come tumbling out of my mouth I could feel the betrayal of my young parts. I could feel that sadness as they realised they were going to have to suffer in silence again over the whole break. I felt the physical ache in my chest and stomach hit.

Surely, I wasn’t going to do this to them again?

Why is it so easy to starve myself of connection and an opportunity to maybe make things feel a bit better because part of me finds it easier to be aloof than vulnerable?

I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I wanted to continue with the ‘fine’ – but as I said in a previous post fine is really just code for ‘Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional’ anyway … so maybe I was fine after all!

I looked up and met Em’s gaze (man sometimes it feels like her eyes are burning holes into my soul). And tried again, “It’s fine, but for some parts it isn’t fine at all.” She was really gentle and kind and acknowledged that for the younger parts any separation is really hard. Basically she did the reassurance thing about how she fully intended to come back, and that everything is ok between us, then talked about my dad dying and what it was like being left when I was little by my mum – and it felt ok, good even despite the painful feelings that were swirling – so much loss.

Then I said, “I hate this” (meaning still feeling so affected by her going away even after so much time) and she said she understood how hard it was and asked what was the hardest part. “I shouldn’t feel like this” I moaned. “Why shouldn’t you?” she questioned. I sat there mentally listing all the reasons I mentioned above – basically that she always comes back and so I am wasting my energy feeling shit about her going away and that she is just a therapist so why do I even care?

I didn’t say any of it aloud and merely replied with “I don’t know” because there was another part that realised there really isn’t a ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ about the feelings I have – they just ‘are’. Why beat myself up about it? I miss her when she’s gone and that’s how it is.

We talked a bit about how it is ok to have needs and feel loss and miss people. She said that as I child I wasn’t kept in mind and had to hide or shelve my needs and so it’s no wonder this all feels crap because it feels like I’m being abandoned and neglected all over again even though that isn’t the case – and so expressing feelings of sadness about my needs not being met is something I am not used to doing.

Em is really good at making things feel a bit better. She doesn’t fix it. She can’t. She can’t stay. She can’t promise to come back because life might deal an unexpected blow but she always says that it is her intention to come back on whatever the date is – this time 5th August. She can’t fix what happened in the past but she can bear witness to my story.  She normalises my feelings (the ones that make me feel like I am crazy!) and in doing so she removes a bit of the shame that acts like toxic layer of fog around me.

Yeah, I’m gushing again! ha! I love my therapist 😉

The problem is, when I can’t see her, when we are on breaks, the shame that surrounds me gets thicker. It distorts my view again. I lose sight of myself and her. This makes the system inside panic. Young parts feel terrified. Everything feels scary and shit. ARGH attachment pain!! Then critic steps in and then I’m done for: I feel stupid, weird, abnormal.

A nightmare.

So, where am I at now? Well I’m halfway through the first break of the summer. One more week until I am back in the room. I feel like I have so much that I want to say. It’s not a long time to wait and yet it feels an age because in the last couple of days I somehow got unexpectedly steam-rollered by the attachment ache – a couple of ‘therapy dreams’ and the young stuff activating and boom it’s all a struggle again! I had been doing fine until then and yet now I am in that place where I am desperate to reach out in some way – frustrated that I can’t – and sad too. Bloody minefield isn’t it?!

I’ve been trying to do things to take my mind off the horrible empty feeling that sits in my chest. It’s glorious weather right now and I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful area so this morning I went off to the river and woods for an early morning walk and since then I’ve been relaxing in the garden watching the kids play and generally trying to enjoy the fact that I am not teaching until Thursday. I guess I am trying to do self-care even though it really doesn’t come naturally to me. I feel like I don’t deserve to be cared for and so looking after myself really seems an odd thing to do. I know it’s insane.

Anyway, I will get through the next week. I won’t lie, though… I am really looking forward to the 5th.

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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.

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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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