Rupture Repaired…Sort Of!

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Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin with talking about this… mess…

Like really, it’s Wednesday, now, and I am looking back over the last week, or so, and shaking my head in disbelief.

Wtaf is going on? (*let’s be upfront and clear, there’s going to be some swearing in this post!)

What on earth is happening with me and my therapy?

It’s a freaking catastrophe! (Again!)

When we started to discuss the possibility of moving from one session a week to two, my therapist, Em, said that two sessions a week could lead to a greater sense of containment (win!); she also mentioned that there was also possibility of more regression (eek!); BUT. BUT. BUT. She never fucking mentioned that the whole process could go to shit in the blink of an eye and all sense of safety, trust, and containment could evaporate in one fifty minute phonecall. I know that I seem to forget a lot at the moment but I’d have remembered that!

So, brief recap, last Monday’s session (1st Oct) saw the Inner Critic stepping up and shutting things down again. It was awkward, no -more than that- it was massively uncomfortable and really hard. I felt really unsettled after having been so open and vulnerable in the previous few sessions and looking back, I am not surprised that the angry protective part waded in and tried to take over control. She’s not a big fan of the young parts saying how they feel to Em and frankly she was stressing out after the marble thing.

Anyway, after a lot of internal raging basically screaming ‘shut up’ she managed to tell Em ‘To fuck off and leave me alone’ and basically shutdown the session. Wow! Nice one! Thanks so much for that lovely one. Jeez. Apparently I’m meant to befriend this part and find out what’s pissing her off so much but frankly when she behaves like this I want to disown her even more! ha.

The time between Monday’s session and Friday was yuck. I am still super busy in my everyday life and I am finding that I am feeling increasingly exhausted just trying to squeeze everything in that I am meant to in the week. A lot of the time I feel like I am on a mission, spinning plates, trying to be everywhere I am meant to at the right time…it just about hangs together if things are feeling ok in therapy, i.e if the bulk of the stuff that I carry around feels largely contained then I can function pretty well in my day-to-day life. If therapy feels ‘iffy’ and the attachment stuff is massively activated I am fucking useless, though. It’s the difference between a high-functioning adult fronting the majority of the day or letting the distressed kids behind the wheel (they don’t know how to drive btw!).

By Thursday night I was shitting myself. I both desperately wanted to talk with Em and to try and explain why things had been so shit for me on Monday. I wanted to try and allow the little ones a chance to connect but at the same time, there was a part of me that just didn’t want to talk at all. I sensed that Skype would be a disaster and as it turned out I wasn’t able to Skype anyway. I wasn’t at home and where I was had a patchy 3G signal – not adequate for a decent call. To be honest, I really didn’t want to be seen either so I text to ask if we could do the session on the phone and then dialled in at 9:30am.

I suspect it was me wearing my ‘worst case scenario’ hat, but the moment the call connected I felt like something wasn’t right. Immediately, Em asked me if I wanted to talk about the text message I had sent her after the last session:

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Errr.

Let me think….

hmmm….

Nope!

I said as much, but also said I guess we needed to.

Deep breaths!

Unbelievably, Em was adamant that I hadn’t told her to go ‘do one’ in the session, and that how she’d understood it was ‘fuck off and leave me alone’ is what I (adult) was wanting to say to the Inner Critic when she piped up and took over.  I know I should have put her right on that, but frankly the way things felt I didn’t feel able to say, ‘errr no, you were really pushing me and it was getting on my nerves and the Critic was telling you to back off’.

Anyway, somehow or other it got onto feelings of care and expressions of love. Gulp. It felt difficult but I needed to tell her how difficult it was for me to be vulnerable with her and let her know how I feel about her and explain why the previous session had seen me put the barriers up. I rarely verbally tell Em how I feel about her. I have written plenty (!!) down and made her read it over the years but I have never said ‘I care about you’ or ‘I love you’ in person. After giving her the marble the other week and Eleven briefly coming to the front I really felt like it was important to bit the bullet and tell her how I feel face-to-face.

So I did.

‘I really care about you’.

Cue internal meltdown, nausea, breaking out into a sweat.

(THANK GOD I WAS ON THE PHONE!)

It was a big moment. It was another step towards her after the huge leap backwards in the previous session lumped with a huge dollop of vulnerability on top.

How did she respond?

I can’t remember it verbatim but something along the lines of:

You may want me to say something similar back to you but this is a different kind of relationship….blah…blah….therapeutic relationship… blah blah boundaries’

OH MY FUCKING GOD.

YOU CANNOT BE FUCKING SERIOUS.

The first time I express my feelings out loud and this? I am not suggesting for one minute that I was expecting her to come back gushing (she’s not that kind of therapist) but she has, on many occasions told me that she cares about me and wants to work with me etc. Why, on Friday, couldn’t she have rattled that shit back at me? Why couldn’t there have been a moment of connection and mutual expression of care and that, even though it is a therapeutic relationship it is still a genuine relationship? Why when, after all these years I have sat mute and reserved couldn’t she have realised what a big healing opportunity it potentially was. After years of hiding my feelings and feeling shame about my feelings this could have been massive…but it wasn’t. It was horrendous.

I have no idea what happened. BUT guess who did have ideas? Yes, of course, The Critic:

‘How many times do we need to go through this? She does not care about you. You are her job – nothing more. It’s utterly pathetic…and now look what you’ve done!…every single one of those young parts is screaming in pain. Why on earth would you do that to them? It was never going to be any different. This is what therapists do: they draw you in; try and get you to trust them; encourage you to be open and vulnerable; and the moment you do it, the reminder – it’s all just paid for time with a professional in a room. I feel sorry for you. Please, now, will you listen to me? I have never done you harm. I am merely here to protect you from people like her…and yourself!’

So, I really can’t remember very much of the session after that. I felt so unsettled. I kept hearing snippets of what Em was saying – something about ‘intense emotions’ which I heard as ‘too much’, ‘bad’, ‘misplaced’ emotions… something about it feeling ‘similar to April when we spoke about the eating disorder’ (my brain took me straight to ‘we’ll have to work towards and ending if you don’t contact your GP’)…and then right at the end another kicker, ‘I really feel like you need holding and cuddling and picking up BUT we don’t do that here, it’s not that kind of relationship…’ and then I was lost again.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. It’s not new news to me – the touch boundary thing- but basically from the moment Em responded in the way she did when I told her that I cared about her it was all downhill and so everything from that point saw me looking for evidence of her lack of care, rejection, there being something wrong with me. It’s all I could hear…even if that was not at all what was meant. It was the young parts following a script. They know how it goes. It’s horrible.

I couldn’t get off the phone quick enough at the end of the session and then sat in my car, stunned for about five minutes before picking myself up and having to get on with the day. It was an enormous struggle to do anything. My wife kept giving me concerned looks, asking me if I was ok, and then eventually after hours of me sighing and moping about got frustrated and said I had been moody and snappy pretty much all day and she didn’t know why? And if therapy did this to me then why was I bothering?

Good question.

I was so upset by the phonecall that I wasn’t sure I would go back to Em again. I seriously considered sending a message to tell her that I just couldn’t do this to myself any more because the impact is so severe when things feel bad. However, I have learnt a few things about texting when things feel really bad…and that is I rarely get the response I am looking for. I wasn’t sure she’d even respond if I terminated by text and that would have riled me even more.

Of course, I didn’t want the therapy to end…but I didn’t ever want it to be like it felt again. And maybe walking away would be less painful in the long run. If I had text her I know, in my heart, I would’ve been hoping that she would reply in some way that would make me feel like she cared, and would be prepared to fight for me, asking me to come back and talk it through. Essentially I would have been testing her and I am not sure what would have happened. She may have let me go and that would have crushed me.

So, I decided that the best course of action was to go to session on Monday and try and explain what was going on on my side and then, if no progress was made, leave.

OMG. Driving to therapy was horrendous. I was so scared. I was sad. I was angry, too. It was a right tumultuous mess inside.

I arrived at session. Em was as she always is. We started the session. She had absolutely no idea that there was anything wrong at all. She started to tune in to where I was at and asked me how I had felt after Friday?

‘Horrid’.

She asked me to elaborate.

Silence.

She talked a bit trying to draw me out.

More silence.

Painful silence…and The Critic going mental inside, ‘see she doesn’t get it at all. Why are you here wasting your time and money?’

I felt after a while that maybe Em was angry or frustrated with me. So I asked her if that was the case. Shock! ‘No! Why would I be angry with you? I feel like you are maybe angry or frustrated with me? And I guess, if anything, I am feeling frustrated with myself for not making it feel safe enough for you to talk to me when clearly there is something very difficult going on for you today. I guess, I am feeling a bit useless. But no. I am not angry or frustrated with you’.

Phew.

I told her that I wasn’t angry or frustrated with her. She asked what I was feeling. I told her I was sad.

She asked me some questions about how I was feeling and about when the sadness had started. I told her ‘it was when I was speaking to you’. She seemed concerned and asked when? I said ‘You really upset me on Friday’. She seemed genuinely surprised and immediately apologised saying that she was sorry if she had said something that was insensitive and had upset me but could I tell her more because she had no idea what it might be.

I was cringing inside. Part of me wanted to keep her at arms length and part of me wanted to see what would happen if I told her what the matter was.

I sat in silence a little longer mulling over what to say. Where on earth should I begin?:

Do you even care about me at all?’

More genuine surprise on Em’s part and an immediate launch into the how she cares and is interested in me and wants to help all the parts of me and blah blah… basically it was about a minute of her saying all the things she’s said before but that I really needed to hear and she finished up with ‘I’m sorry that I have said something that has made you feel like I don’t care. I’m guessing you feel more than just sad. I’d imagine you might feel really hurt and maybe a bit angry?’

I said I felt crushed.

She said she had genuinely no idea what she might have said that was so blunt as to make me feel this way and could I maybe tell her, although she understood that I mightn’t want to for fear of feeling worse than I already did. I nodded.

More silence.

She asked what the fear of telling her was. Was it that I was worried she’d get angry or defensive? I said it wasn’t that. She asked what it was. I said I was worried it’d be the same. To which she responded, ‘the same? What? Careless?’  I nodded again.

Em again told me how she cares and how she wouldn’t have offered me two sessions a week if she didn’t and reiterated her commitment to all the parts of me. She said that she understood how the therapeutic relationship can feel not enough and maybe that was making me feel bad and sad.

I said it wasn’t that, but why couldn’t she have said this stuff on Friday?

More blank looks, she said she knows we talked a lot about expression of love and care but couldn’t think what she could have said to hurt me and asked me to elaborate.

I explained that I just ‘didn’t get it. You know how I find it really hard to talk to you, to express anything vulnerable, and lately I have been trying to do that more. On Friday I told you that I cared about you and rather than meet it with something like you’ve just said, that you’ve said lots of times before, it felt like you met me with a ‘fuck you’ forcefield. You basically seemed to shut the door on me and instead told me that you wouldn’t say anything back because ‘this is a different kind of relationship’. It felt to the young parts who had trusted you that they’d said too much, got the wrong end of the stick, and now you were restating the boundaries. It really really hurt. It made me wonder what the hell I’m doing here, trying to work on expressing feelings that are hard for me and then I get met with that…I just don’t understand.’

Em got it immediately and apologised again. She said she was sorry and could understand how what she’d said could feel abrupt and uncaring and that there were a lot of better ways that she could have responded.

This gave me a bit of courage to say more:

I just can’t understand how you thought that response would be helpful to me’

She agreed that it wasn’t.

I went on:

‘So you can imagine, then, how after you saying that and me feeling like you don’t like me all session, at the end of the session to be told that you won’t touch me felt like you really were just going all out to remind me of exactly what the relationship isn’t. I know you didn’t mean it like that but that’s how it felt.’

We talked a little bit about that but, as usual, the session was up. Em thanked me for being brave enough to let her know what had upset me so much and that she appreciated how difficult it was to bring this to session when it was so painful, especially for the young parts. We agreed to talk more on Friday and she apologised again for making me feel like this.

I felt awkward. There is still a lot more to say but at least that sick feeling has gone now. Fortunately I can go to session on Friday in person and hopefully we can talk more about what’s been triggered in me. I know this all harps back to what’s happened in relationships in the past and if I can work through these ruptures or my feeling like there is an empathic failure with Em then that’s a huge part of the work. It’s hideous going through it but the repair is where the healing comes, I think.

I am dreading Friday in some ways. I have two more sessions until a three session break. It doesn’t feel like very much time to talk through what I need to. I also really wanted to be able to talk about doing the power stones as a transitional object before the break but I am not sure, even though things have been repaired somewhat, whether the young parts will feel brave enough to come forward and ask for what they need now. They are still reeling from Friday.

I get it was a simple miscommunication but this is what can happen when all the parts are active and listening in. As I have said heaps of times before, the adult part of me gets it….it’s all the others than need work!

x

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

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

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

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

Simple answer: YES.

Em knows what she’s talking about.

Damn!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disconnected = meltdown

Connected = meltdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then it happened.

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

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

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

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

She shut the show down.

She was not happy at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bringing The Parts To Therapy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vulnerability is on and eeek…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

Great.

I love her.

Ha.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Saturday morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just Say ‘No’…

I feel like I am drowning in my life right now. I am actually fine-ish so as mental health goes…well, I’m probably in a slightly manic phase but actually it’s because my life is absolutely manic right now. I don’t stop in the week…I mean, I literally do not stop from the moment I wake up at 5:30am until I go to bed at 10:30pm (used to be 9pm but I currently have so much to do I can’t even manage my regular bedtime) unless I am in therapy and that’s not exactly ‘relaxing’ is it?

If I am lucky I sometimes grab ten minutes here and there, generally to check in with friends on WhatsApp: ‘Hi! Really busy. Hope you are ok? Will check in later xxx’ and sometimes make a cup of tea that then gets left to go cold on the side (!) but even that is a push.

It’s been relentless this last week and I realise I need to try and make some changes before I hit burnout. It’s time to have another go at implementing those self-care strategies methinks. I am so rubbish at self-care. The moment things get hectic it’s the first thing that falls away when really it’s the thing I should cling to like a life-raft in a choppy sea. I don’t know how to become more mindful about this. Maybe I need to set a reminder on my phone: ‘5 minutes deep breathing’ or something.

I dunno.

Something has to give because a couple of days towards the end of this week it got to five o’ clock and I couldn’t work out why I was 1) Exhausted, 2) Grumpy, 3) Starving hungry… and then of course I realised I had not paused all day. I had been running about like a headless chicken trying to complete a list of tasks that never ever gets any smaller and realised that I hadn’t sat down all day: I hadn’t eaten or even had anything to drink (not intentionally – just no time!). I was completely and utterly shattered by Thursday and kept saying things like ‘Why isn’t it Friday yet? How can there be another day to get through? I can’t see how I am going to manage to teach tomorrow.’ 

The young parts were starting to come online in a big way on Thursday – they were upset (I’d been neglecting them) and I could feel them heading towards complete meltdown (tantrum!). Does that happen to any of you when you’re tired? It feels like when I get very very tired I feel like a toddler or 4 year old who needs to be cuddled, tucked up in bed, and have a story read to me. Sometimes I can do this for myself but at 5pm it’s not even a remote possibility: I have (actual) children to feed, bath, and get to bed, and then the moment that is completed at 6pm I head out the door to go and tutor on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. So not only do I need to keep my adult online for the day but just as things start to feel really precarious internally I have to summon up the teacher until 8pm. I manage it. Of course I do. But it is really draining.

I’m not surprised that I had a proper meltdown on Friday night. The attachment stuff that I feel about my therapist had been there all week (it’s always there!) but that ache and need escalated into something else that night…those young feelings generated full-scale flashbacks of my childhood and being five years old and being left by my mum. It was fucking agony. I reached total overwhelm. My body was in pain and I felt crushed. Oh man. It wasn’t good. I think being so completely exhausted meant that my filter/protective armour was completely gone and all the memories of being little and alone (but needing someone) came flooding in. I know this is where we have been heading in my therapy but made it felt like I had been wiped out.

Monday’s session was actually really good, I think (I can’t really remember – feels ages ago now!). I did something that I have been wanting to do for a long time, but you know me, everything is slow paced with doing new things in my sessions! I took a fleecy blanket with me and wrapped myself up in it. No big deal right? Exactly…but it felt like it was!

I think that the fact that I took a blanket to my session in itself indicates how precarious things have been feeling. I just thought ‘I’m gonna fall apart if I don’t feel soothed – I have to take the blanket’ and so packed it in my bag! I have never taken anything into a session other than pages and pages of writing. I really wanted to take a teddy (that’s how unsettled the young parts are right now) but I wasn’t feeling that brave.  I have to say it made a huge difference to how safe and contained I felt and so I will be making that a regular thing from now on….who knows might even build up to taking the bear in as well….in another 6 years?! haha.

Anyway, it was a good session in person and then I had the week of being uber adult and so when it came to my Skype session on Friday I got locked into that. I couldn’t come out of the coping, busy, ‘stressed but just about hanging it together with rubber bands and chewing gum’ adult. The Skype didn’t work properly either -FFS- and so I couldn’t see my T on the screen. I don’t think that helped me connect. Bloody technology! Grrr!

I spent the entire session talking about work. To be fair work is a challenge. One of the kids I see for home-schooling is a nightmare. I don’t say that lightly. Over the years I have taught some really challenging children but this one takes the cake. All the other children I see in the week I go and just teach and leave it behind when I go home, but this particular child is really difficult with severe emotional and behavioural issues- I don’t seem to teach him- I feel like a parent, counsellor, disciplinarian, coach…but not really a teacher and it’s really really draining. Six hours a week 1:1 with this kind of student is hard work.

I really want to help him but I am fast realising that even with all my years of experience I can’t be what he needs. I have my own children to take care or and my own mental health, too, for that matter and I simply cannot invest any more energy in it or absorb what is being thrown at me (and literally sometimes that is actually having things thrown at me!). I find it hard to switch off from it…and so spent the session talking about that. Which is fine but I could, (and did!), sound off about it to a friend about it. In talking only about the work stuff I neglected the struggling young parts again and so it’s little wonder that Friday night was sooooooo awful.

So what am I going to do/change?

I think one of the key things I need to get better at is saying ‘NO’. Ok, perhaps not shouting it! But just being realistic about what I can and can’t do. I’m generally someone who says ‘yes’ to things even when my head is screaming ‘no’. It’s a hard worn pathway in my brain to try and do meet other people’s needs, often at the expense of taking care of my own. I wonder where that’s come from?! ha!

There are somethings that I absolutely cannot change: my kids are an absolute priority;  work is necessary (to pay for all the therapy I need – lol!) but even that needs some firmer boundaries putting in place around it; the house, of course needs to be kept on top of and we need to eat but there are some things in my life that are a serious drain on my resources (time/energy) that I derive no pleasure from and leave me, if anything, feeling largely pissed off.

For example, last week I lost three hours of my week to doing observations in a pre-school that my children used to attend and a further hour in a meeting with the link school’s headteacher about the next academic year. I am on the committee for that and as a teacher take work closely with the staff and school. I can do it. But. It is unpaid and sometimes I simply don’t have the energy to give anything more of myself. I have another observation booked in next week and then will be interviewing for a staff member in the next couple of weeks. When I wasn’t working it was doable…but fitting it in around my now, too busy life, is too much. After this immediate stuff I will ensure I do less and plan to leave that post in September.

I know this is starting to sound like an enormous moan – that’s how it’s felt this week ‘woe is me’. I know I need to find a way of making some changes because if I don’t remove some of the pressures that are on me it won’t be long before the mental health button triggers and I end up being unable to do anything…and that can’t happen.

I cannot afford to end up in a place where my external world is so chaotic and busy that I start trying to cling onto any sense of control I can muster…which generally means not eating. I can’t go there. I don’t want to go there…but I can hear that voice of the inner critic starting to get louder and so somehow I need to combat that with some serious self-compassion and nurturing – I just need to find some time!

And so on that note I will get off here and go and make a coffee. I like blogging though, and am frustrated that I can’t even find adequate time to write and even more importantly read and keep up to date with everyone else’s posts.

This is my mantra for the week ahead!!

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Dreaming About Therapy (again).

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This is certainly not the first (and no doubt won’t be the last) time I have written/will write about dreaming about my therapist/therapy on this blog (see here and here for other posts).

My brain is funny (not haha more… strange) where dreams are concerned; sometimes I go long spells without dreaming at all: well, I know we actually all dream most of the time, what I mean is that there are extended periods of time when I don’t remember my dreams when I wake up. This directly contrasts with the other times when it’s like being in the most vivid drama/horror night after night and it feels like every minute I am asleep I am caught up in heavy duty emotional stuff that I cannot forget when I wake no matter how I try. It all seems so real that I wake up and am not always sure for a minute or two if what’s happened was real or not.

I guess sometimes my brain is more open to processing stuff than others? Or maybe sometimes I’m just so distressed my brain goes on the rampage. I dunno.

When I completed the first 16 months of therapy with my T back in 2013 I had terrible nightmares every single night for six weeks afterwards- and not just one or two, but multiple nightmares every night. They were worse, even, than when my dad died (and they were frigging horrific: dead bodies hanging off light fittings and bodies in bin bags). Why am I not surprised? – losing her felt like a bereavement.

I wasn’t ready for the therapy to end but there was no choice. I was in a bad place and even though my T had managed to get a four month extension to the therapy (was meant to be 12 months time-limited therapy on the NHS) it still wasn’t enough…hence the fact we are now another separate 27 months down the line totalling 43 months of therapy so far! It’s hardly surprising, back then, that without my therapist my brain went into some kind of meltdown throwing up horrors night after night.

Then one night, after all those weeks of stressful sleep and trying to manage the horrible ache of attachment pain (although I didn’t really know what it was at the time) during the days, I dreamt I was swimming, in the dark, in a freezing cold reservoir near where I live. I’d had enough. I was tired. I felt defeated. I decided to put my face down in the water, stop swimming, and drown myself. I couldn’t go on any longer. I wasn’t upset. I just didn’t have any energy to keep swimming or fighting. I felt calm/numb as I stopped swimming and waited to drown (It’s a bit like how I feel when I have self harmed: numb and resigned to the situation rather than bubbling with emotion and angst). Just as I felt myself losing consciousness I was grabbed by someone and pulled up and out of the water and into a boat. The person wrapped a heavy blanket around me and held me close to them, rocking me gently, as I shivered. The person kissed the top of my head and gently said, ‘you don’t need to do this to yourself anymore, you are safe now’, that person was my therapist.

What a dream to end the nightmares!

I didn’t have a single memorable dream for the next three years after that one. I literally went from dream overload to total night time blackout…until I started therapy with her privately in 2016! I still missed my therapist terribly in the intervening period between finishing sessions in 2013 and going back to her in 2016 but at least the nightmares/dreams were gone and that made things a bit more bearable…you know, in amongst having a baby and getting diagnosed with cancer when he was 7 months old! The nightmares had stopped but life became a bit of a frigging nightmare.

When things feel bad, that dream from 2013 sometimes comes to mind (like today!) and I find it really comforting. Yeah, sure, it’s not exactly a ‘having a hot chocolate on the sofa and getting a cuddle’ type dream (like my brain would ever serve me up something like that anyway!!) but I can really physically feel that care and safety when I imagine that scene in the boat – even though it was only a dream and I was basically trying to kill myself beforehand. I think when she asks me to try and imagine a felt sense of safety, in sessions, I perhaps should try and hook into this because I feel so very safe when she is holding me in that part of the dream.

It sounds dumb but this dream has only just come back into my mind and it has never occurred to me to use this as a stimulus before. Ha. Hurrah for blogging and dredging shit up out the recesses of my mind.

Anyway. Dreams! It’s been a while since I have been ‘plagued’ by them and that really is the correct word for it right now. I have one or two memorable dreams about my T every couple of weeks but the dreams that were so rampant and regular last Christmas break have largely settled down.

Sadly, the dreams I have that involve my T, these days, are usually about her rejecting me or physically pushing me away when I try and get close to her which I find really upsetting. I could certainly use another being pulled out the water and held tightly moment!

Since moving from one therapy session per week to two a couple of weeks ago I guess it was to be expected that my brain would fire up again and try and process stuff that’s been activated in the sessions in my sleep.

To be honest I can’t remember a lot of the detail about the sessions this week. Monday was ok-ish, I think, with a big fat bit of dissociation thrown in when she let me about the next set of therapy breaks!!!!!! (We haven’t even talked about – recovered from-  the summer break yet FFS!). After really struggling to talk after the ‘here’s my breaks’ and her handing over of the yellow post-it note (honestly hate fucking yellow post-its now!) with about ten minutes to go I got a really strong memory that I have of being about five years old. It was like I stuck in that moment. I was there. I didn’t speak for quite some time although I know my T was trying to talk to me.

I eventually told her ‘I feel like I am stuck in a field’ and went on to describe a memory of having been sledging with my dad and my mum standing and watching us before having to take my mum to the train so she could go to university for the week. My dad had said we could go back to do more sledging once we’d dropped my mum off as we were having a great time but we couldn’t miss the train. The place we had been sledging was in a valley and in the valley the train tracks ran about two hundred metres away.

I, clear as day, remember standing in the snow with my dad and seeing the train disappear up the track. My mum was on the train. I didn’t cry. I didn’t do anything. I carried on sledging knowing she was now gone for the next five nights. I think most of the goodbyes/being left resulted in me feeling a kind of numbness…but now, as these memories creep back into my consciousness I feel absolutely distraught but also agonisingly empty. Why did she always go? How could she leave every week for six years? Why would you do that?

That young part was having a meltdown about always being left and told T that ‘it’s just too much’ at the end of Monday’s session. She was really kind and validating and said it must have been unbearable being so young and repeatedly being left and that she understood how hard any separation is and even endings (of sessions) can be impossibly difficult. I nodded. The session was up…as it always is just at the time stuff comes up! I didn’t make the link at the time – I was too caught up in the feelings – but on reflection this whole thing/memory was triggered by being told about the next therapy breaks.

Have I mentioned I am not a fan of therapy breaks?!

The week between sessions (thank god it’s only 4 days now) was pretty ropey in that I was feeling both really angry at everyone (grrrr!) but also really emotionally vulnerable and needy. The attachment pain was stuck firmly in my stomach and I felt like I wanted to reach out to my therapist (of course!). I didn’t. And, actually, I’ll say this about the two sessions a week – I feel way more able to hold onto things in the time between sessions than when I had to go a whole week. Don’t get me wrong, Wednesdays are still really really tough (my friend calls them ‘woeful Wednesdays’!) and I have to be really firm with myself in order not to send my T a message.

This week all I wanted to do was text her ‘I love you’. That has been the overriding feeling I have had this week. That young five year old part that came out in session on Monday really just wants her mummy.

Even if mummy doesn’t exist…

Anyway, I had heaps and heaps of dreams during this last week in which I did, in fact, tell my T that I love her only to be met each time with her disgust and rejection. It’s god awful dreaming this stuff because it feels so real. It’s these kinds of dreams that make it feel near impossible to tell my therapist what I am feeling when powerful loving feelings come up. The idea of her being repulsed by my feelings towards her and shaming me, and then rejecting me makes me want to cry.

I literally cannot bear the idea of that becoming a reality and so can never tell her face-to-face exactly what I am burning to say. It was hard enough telling her “I don’t want you to go away”   or ‘I really missed you; five weeks is a really long time’ in session so to say out loud ‘I really care about you and you are important to me – I love you’ feels almost impossible.  I’d like to think I would get there one day – and of course she’s read it in words enough times – but verbally expressing it? …after Friday’s Skype session I do wonder if I’ll ever be able to say it!

I had decided that given how upsetting the dreams had been since Monday I would use the Skype call on Friday to address some of what I was feeling and maybe also talk about how the summer break had been as well as the impact of her telling me the next break dates last session. I dragged my duvet downstairs (I was both freezing cold and in need of some sense of feeling held) and dialled in. I don’t know who the fuck was on the call but it wasn’t me – or at least it was, but the not the one that needs therapy.

It was ridiculous. I just moaned about nothing stuff in my day-to-day life. I could’ve rung a friend to have this conversation. It’s so frustrating when this happens. I don’t know if after the young part being so present on Monday that a kind of protector part stepped up on Friday to stop the vulnerability…whatever the case, I am getting sick of this happening. I don’t want to waste my time with my T and that’s exactly what it is when I do this. I can’t even stop myself from doing it – I just get off the call or finish the session and think ‘What the actual fuck happened there?’

I think the worst thing about these kinds of sessions is how everything starts swirling about afterwards. The young parts feel desperate and then the dreams ramp up another notch. I’ve had some crackers this weekend: sinking boats, forced surgeries in order to see my therapist, physical abuse, but the best of last night was coming face to face with a sodding great orange cobra in the therapy room and not being able to move. Joy! Mind you give me a cobra and shitting my pants over being told to go away and that I’m an embarrassment any day!

I am hoping for a peaceful night tonight – but hey, who knows! As I have said before:

‘To sleep, perchance to dream’…but please, God, not about my therapist!

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A Return To Therapy: A Tale Of Two Sessions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus!

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

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

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

I had none of that.

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

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

She wants to cry about it.

And maybe she might start crying about it in therapy.

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File Under ‘Unread’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knew?!

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

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

It’s like a switch gets flipped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The need feels huge.

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

…and then I was gone…

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

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

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

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

So instead of cutting I made this:

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

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

It just all feels kind of futile right now.

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

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

[Ok. So that’s the work isn’t? it]

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

x