And So It Begins…Again!

I’ve been wondering when it would happen, when my attachment system would fire up and start doing ‘its thing’ in the relationship between Anita and I. I have had an easy run of it so far and it’s been such a welcome reprieve from the usual angst I’ve had in therapy. Sure, I’ve had to deal with the fall-out from what’s happened with Em but it’s been fine because my adult has attended the therapy sessions and has been able to get a lot of the work done with Anita.

So far I’ve shown her the map, explained the lay of the land, told her what it’s like for young parts and how what’s happened with Em has hurt them, outlined some of the past traumas, pointed out where the landmines are, but we actually haven’t properly set foot out on the landscape yet – we’ve just been warming up around basecamp.

So, I guess it was inevitable. The trek would have to begin properly sooner or later. I think we’ve adequately surveyed the course, we know (as much as we can) what’s out there, but we haven’t had to test yet whether, together, we are up to the challenge of navigating my system. I don’t know yet whether Anita has amount of stamina required to complete the hike. She says she’s up for it, seems to have the right footwear but … what if she can’t do it? What if I’m not able to because I still have blisters after my last hike?

Well, it’s too late now because the child parts have joined the therapy… the expedition has truly begun.

FUCCCKKKKK.

Here we go again…wish me luck.

I won’t outline again what’s happened here, I’ll just copy what I have sent Anita this morning as it says it all. God give me fucking strength…and her, too!

Hi Anita.

I’m feeling a bit anxious about our session tomorrow because something has changed quite significantly for me this weekend, and I think it’s important you know because I have a tendency to hide when I feel vulnerable in this way… but it won’t help if you are in the dark.

Until now, therapy with you has been easy – well not easy!! – but fine, because, largely, it’s my adult that’s turned up (I think!). So, talking about what’s been going on for me has been tough but also more possible because my adult has been able to express it and also, it’s been stuff from outside the room that I’ve been bringing to you.

As much as it’s painful and embarrassing to talk about what happened with Em, I haven’t felt triggered by you or really too concerned about your response because the relationship is new and if things had felt shit or you had responded badly, I would have just left. It’s not that I could have been in a therapy room with just anyone, because actually my system would have reacted negatively had I not felt like I could trust you or you’d felt dangerous to me, but I think that I’ve been so impacted by what has happened with Em and life in general, lately, that I just needed someone there to let off steam with – anyone- and in that respect I have sort of just talked at you, and kept you at arm’s length to a degree.

I don’t know. Part of it is that there’s so much backstory that it feels like there’s a lot to get through and I need to bring you up to speed, and so it sometimes it feels like I am unemotionally recounting and reeling off events just so you have some idea of what it’s been like for me. But I am also aware that I am really avoidant.

I find it really hard to get in touch with my emotions. It’s like I know bad stuff has happened and it has affected me but I can’t seem to access the emotion behind it when I talk about it with people. I am good at the rational, logical stuff – it’s a kind of protection. I feel safe being detached. Maybe it’s because I am not really seen, it’s almost someone else’s life…I don’t know.

I often begin our sessions by moaning about work, the virus, racism, the shit government and how disappointing I find society in general, because that allows me to stay in one piece when I know underneath there is a whole world of pain waiting to be uncovered. I suppose part of me wants you to see something other than the hopeless pit of need and chaos that is inside, because so often when I reach out to you from outside the session and ask you for something it’s from that other place – where I feel out of control, and small, and like I am disintegrating. And I am really aware that that part has been too much for Em. I guess somehow, I want to prove that I am not as worthless as she has made me feel and try and show enough of the unbroken parts so that you might actually want to stay.

I’ve really appreciated how you’ve responded to me in the time we’ve been working together. You’ve been so accommodating and understanding and somehow what you say seems to settle the parts that are struggling. And that’s great. BUT because you’ve been so kind and caring stuff has started to shift inside. I’ve had a couple of dreams this last week – and you’ve been in them…and so it begins!… They’ve been fine. You’ve been warm and present which directly contrasts against all the dreams I had with Em where she would physically, violently push me away anytime I tried to get close to her.

I’ve really been grateful to you for agreeing to work with me and helping me try and deal with the fallout of the therapy with Em ending. I have been conscious that I don’t want to mess things up and I want things to work. I do want to invest in the relationship but I don’t think I would have been devastated if you said it wasn’t working or you wanted to refer me on – until now.

Yesterday I was ironing and I felt a voice inside saying, ‘I miss Anita’…it was my seven-year-old self. So it’s no longer, ‘I need to talk’, it’s ‘I need to talk to you and I miss you’. And that has changed and unsettled everything because the child parts are really vulnerable to being hurt. So now I feel stressed because I didn’t expect this to happen, not yet, anyway, but it has. And I guess I need you to know about it because now that my attachment system has been activated in this relationship there are parts who are wanting to interact with you but who are terrified. It means that I am now going to be looking for rejection and abandonment, it means my defences will also be up trying to protect those parts that so desperately need to be seen from being seen, and it might mean that I end up dissociating a lot… even saying that fills me with shame…

I didn’t want this to happen, especially given that we are working remotely because I know that distance triggers feelings of being abandoned and being untouchable and I don’t want you think I am a basket case and dread working with me. Unfortunately, because of what’s happened with Em, I know that this next bit isn’t going to be an easy ride for us. I don’t want to make you feel like I am testing you all the time, but this is probably what it will feel like. As the various parts come out each of them will need to work out if you are safe…so it can feel repetitive. I get it’s all part of me but it’s like having an additional nine pairs of ears listening in on our conversations and what each of them hears and needs at any given time can be really different.
x

So, there we are. I’ve lit the blue touch paper and let’s see what happens. I feel nervous and anxious for having sent that. But I’m all in now, not running from this stuff, not that I did with Em either, but let’s see how it’s responded to tomorrow. I am braced and ready for rejection…!! Let’s hope she continues to be the Anita I think she is. I guess we shall see. Perhaps it’ll feel different to her now that the young parts are attaching to her. Maybe she’ll feel smothered and understand why Em likened my child self to a tick…

Best not go there, or I’ll wind myself up into a panic.

Deep breaths.

Night And Day

Oh man – I am so behind with this blog. It’s getting ridiculous now! A lot has happened these last few weeks so I think I’ll try and write a few short posts in quick succession to bring myself up to speed. Now that I don’t record my sessions I can’t even listen back and remind myself what’s been going on in any detail, but what I can say is that generally speaking, therapy has been moving in the right direction. I’ve had a few avoidant moments (well not avoidant exactly, but spending a whole session last Friday, talking about the global pandemic and systemic racism when I had been bleeding out about Em rejecting me all week, wasn’t probably what I needed to be talking about!) but on balance it’s felt good, really good, actually.

Well…good for online therapy…!

I honestly cannot wait to get back to face-to-face because I know it’s going to be so much better and also, I just want to give Anita a huge hug (or perhaps a tentative first one)! And knowing that it is fine to ask for that and that I won’t be rejected by her for wanting that has literally taken so much stress out of therapy. I mean wanting a hug from Em, not knowing what the boundary even was for two years led to so much stress and internal upset, especially for the young parts.

I mean, you guys have been here with me – I spent hours, days, weeks, months… years… wondering about whether I could have a hug and then when I discovered it was a ‘no’ but with no discussion other than ‘you know it’s a boundary I won’t cross’ left me wondering what’s wrong with me and why I am so untouchable, and why the boundary was what it was …and I never got to express my feelings about how rejected I felt because of it. It was only after Christmas this year that I mentioned that I would sometimes like her to sit next to me and she said she doesn’t do that either…again no discussion of how that might feel to me.

Arggghh!!!

So, anyway, the finer details of my sessions with Anita are a bit of a blur the last few weeks, but then my life in general has felt that way too. It’s felt like I have been on an emotional rollercoaster in my day-to-day world and yet I always seem to feel a bit shocked or bemused by the fact that I am struggling with stuff when I get to speak to Anita. I have had several huge emotional wobbles lately – or maybe just one protracted one since January with small areas of slightly less jiggling about. My mood has been pretty low but I have also felt really angry at times. I guess it’s just like everything is out of control and that there’s a kind of relentlessness to my life and it’s exhausting. Just as I thought I had put things in place to make things better Em and I terminated and then there was the pandemic!

Generally, when things have been emotionally shit and dark like this in the past, I have hidden in my shell until it’s felt safe enough to come out a bit. I have a tendency to go it alone when things feel this bad, shut people out, don’t communicate with friends, point in a forward direction, and just keep going the best I can often with a bit of self-harm or anorexia thrown into to help me on my way. Some people might call it avoidance but actually it is simply survival when it gets to this point.

I find it hard to trust people and unfortunately when I have needed people, in the past and more recently, they’ve not always been there – or actually disappeared – so I tend not to ask for help. I get it’s not easy loving someone when they are in a crisis or not being their best selves but unfortunately that is the problem with mental health issues. Sometimes, we can get so tied up in knots that we seem to get frustrated with essentially ‘nothing’ because the ‘big things’ feel unmanageable. We project onto others. We lash out. And then sometimes we run because it feels like it’s all caving in around our ears.

My protective shell has taken a complete battering over the last six months, losing Em, the coronavirus crisis, the panic around PPE and lack of accessibility to it whilst my wife was at work knowing I am in a clinically vulnerable group, then my wife losing her job and the financial shit storm that has come with that, losing a close friend… it just felt like I was being attacked on all sides and there have been times when I have totally fallen apart, sobbing uncontrollably on my bed and just wishing there was a way out of this. So when I am in session with Anita, I say things to her and then wonder out loud ‘what’s wrong with me? I don’t know why I am so affected by this…’

I can’t tell you how many times she has responded by telling me that it’s years and years of trauma, as well as current big stresses, and that I am in survival mode and therefore my flight response is engaged. To be honest it’s my default! It’s like my window of tolerance is so narrow – like a letterbox- that I miss landing in it a lot of the time and either veer off into a flight response or completely shut down and dissociate.

Fortunately, in my therapy sessions with Anita I am much more able to stay in the window of tolerance and maintain some kind of observer self than I was ever able to with Em. I am able to tell her what’s been happening for me (the unbearable feelings, the dissociation etc) without actually plummeting into the states I am discussing with her. Rather than therapy triggering all the mess it feels like an island in the stream where I get to rest and take stock of things a bit in relative safety. I guess this is, in part, because Anita doesn’t trigger my mother wound in any significant way (yet!) and so I can perhaps be more present with her.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel attached to A and I would hate to stop seeing her now, but seeing her doesn’t make me fall down into the emotional abyss. Our interactions don’t trigger me into feeling desperate or out of control or rejected or abandoned. If at any time I have got close to the edge when talking about Em she’s noticed me going and has held out a hand to stop me falling.

As you can see, it’s such a different experience doing therapy with A. I actually feel like she genuinely is interested in me and cares about me. I find it hard to understand why she is so kind and warm especially seeing as we’ve only been working together since mid-January. Part of me is like, ‘she’s just doing her job’ but then it was Em’s job, too, and she was never like this.

I have told Anita things that I have never shared with Em – big things that just lay lurking in the shadows for the last eight years of therapy – and a lifetime before that. I have opened myself up completely and have really talked about the feelings of loss around what’s happened with my therapy ending. I’ve spoken about all the ‘embarrassing’ feelings that there are. I have spoken about love. I have spoken about shame. I’ve spoken about my mum A LOT. I have just told it is – and how it is changes a lot depending on who is present. But I can even tell Anita who is there when I would stay silent with Em.

Don’t get me wrong, part of me has felt wary doing this, like what if I say this and show myself and I am too much for her? What if my neediness and reaction to what’s happened with Em makes her feel uncomfortable? What if she sees me as I am and she leaves just like Em did? But then part of me is like what have I got to lose now? I spent years filtering myself and ‘behaving’ and I still got dropped like a hot potato, had my heart broken, and my sense of self decimated by someone who I dared to trust with the most vulnerable parts of myself, so if that’s going to happen again let it happen sooner rather than later. I don’t want to find out years down the line that I’m too complex! Refer me on now because you already know what you’re dealing with!

But there’s not even the slightest hint that Anita feels overwhelmed by me. Far from it. She is so unbelievably validating and present. She makes no bones about the fact that what happened at the end with Em, in her view, was unethical and unprofessional and that I am therefore bound to be massively impacted by the way things ended – especially given my trauma history. She sees it as yet another occasion where I have been failed by someone who was meant to care and tells me that she doesn’t think I am too much and I don’t make her feel uncomfortable in the least.

The more I bring my feelings to her and she responds in a positive way the safer I feel with her and so, therefore, I am able then to bring more to her. It’s a positive spiral. Being met well makes such a significant difference to my system overall and I feel like we are getting work done but in a safe, contained way. I’m not stuck. I seem to talk about all kinds of things from my past, filling her in with the back story and then will launch stuff about what’s happened in therapy with Em. It always seems to come up in one way or another because in some ways I am retelling stories that have been told before and so I am noticing and comparing the different responses which are like night and day.

There is a lot of, ‘If I said this to Em she’d respond like this/not respond and then this would make me feel x, y, z or dissociate’.  I said the other day how nice it was to not feel stressed out in my sessions and how safe I feel with her. I was telling her about how I used to drive to my sessions with Em and feel sick to my core, or buzzing with nerves, often having to stop en route to use the toilets at Tesco (I didn’t say ‘therapy shits’ but the inference was there!). I told her that I would feel anxious and my heart would race when I would arrive at therapy.

I explained how it would take ages to settle because when Em would open the door she would never greet me or even smile when I arrived. She never said ‘hello’ or ‘come in’ and so I would awkwardly walk through the front door, down to the therapy room, sit down on the sofa, and wonder what was going to happen – young parts who missed her so much fearing the worst. Em never started a conversation and would wait for me to speak. And I know that this is common in some types of therapy, the therapist doesn’t want to lead the conversation and allows the client to begin how they want, but for me it was awful. What it usually meant is that I would launch into some detached day-to-day small talk about what had been going on in the week because there was no reconnecting and I didn’t feel safe enough or comfortable enough to let her know what was really bothering me. Although there was one session where we just sat in silence for twenty minutes! AGONY!

Her ‘still face’ immediately set my young parts jangling – and the feeling of abandonment to those parts felt huge. So, to not be invited to talk or given a way in felt really neglectful because a lot of the time it must have been really clear I was struggling. I wasn’t deliberately being difficult. I wasn’t locked in some kind of power struggle. I just needed help. I told her how I had seen the still face experiment and how it had resonated with me so much because it’s how I felt in the room with her and yet nothing changed. Ugh.

 Anyway, enough of that for now…because there’s a shit load more of that to come next post!

Calming The Hungry Baby

*I wrote this post earlier in the week when I was approaching that horrible territory where a massive meltdown/crisis was on the cards. I did end up in a really terrible place on Wednesday but I’ll talk about that in another post. I am, therefore, now aware how black and white the thinking seems here, but I’m not surprised given where I landed mid-week. I’ve felt very emotionally precarious for the last month or so. Fortunately, I have more than come out the other side of it now and feel largely fine…settled even…but it really gives an insight into how when I start to slide how rapidly and deeply I fall into feeling like everything is awful. I haven’t experienced such challenges with my mental well-being in a long, long time but I guess it’s not surprising given what’s going on in the world.
——
It feels like my internal world has descended into complete chaos and disarray this last week or so after finally writing the mammoth post on ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ that had been swirling in my head for a few months. The result of getting those feelings out on the page in some kind of coherent form, and really thinking about how I feel about losing Em and all that happened, has meant that I have, once again, ended up down an emotional rabbit hole.

It’s that all too familiar feeling of spiralling and falling down through the abyss, young parts screaming inside, and feeling like there’s only one person in the world that might be able to make it better…only they’re not available anymore. Basically, I’m in attachment pain hell in a way that I haven’t felt since Em and I terminated. The level of pains is unreal. I thought I was past this but clearly not.

I know it’s all part of the process and I need to go through it, it’s grief, but it’s absolute hell and being unable to see my current therapists in person has really set the cat amongst the pigeons. And, of course, the only person I really want to see and make amends with is Em. Trying to process all that’s happened with someone else just feels impossible. Despite being in mess at the moment with the young stuff I have quite a few new insights and it feels crap that I can’t take them to Em and discuss them.

And yet, clearly, in light of what’s going on globally, my problems, in the big scheme of things, really are insignificant. I feel a bit of a dick sitting here lamenting how shit it feels inside when actually I am safe, healthy, and protected by my white privilege. Really, what have I got to complain about when there is utter horror going on outside my contained little world? But if therapy has taught me anything, I also understand that what feels big to me is important (at least to me) and I’m not in a competition with the rest of the world to see who is experiencing the worst trauma. I can hold feelings that feel overwhelming in my own life and also know that what others are enduring right is a massive deal.

When I see what’s happening in the USA right now I am in shock – only sadly, I’m kind of not. My body feels shock, but my mind isn’t shocked at all – I’m just saddened that in this day and age that people are still having to fight for their rights to be treated fairly as human beings. I mean wtf is that about? I worry about my friends that are based in the states. I feel useless. My black friends in the UK are really struggling and short of being there for them I don’t know what to do. Read more. Learn more. Listen more. Be more active as an ally. I sincerely hope that things are finally going to change for the better.

Even though I am based in the UK, the moment Trump was elected I had a real sense of foreboding – not just for the USA but for the world. And with every passing year it’s got worse and worse. The stuff he’s got away with seems almost unbelievable for a world leader in charge of (what’s meant to be) a democracy. His broken moral compass and frankly horrendous behaviour seems to have legitimised the conduct of the far right and white supremacists because if the president can get away with inciting hatred and be above the law so can everyone else – in fact it seems like he encourages it.

I wish I was surprised by the images I am seeing on social media showing the unbelievable brutality and suffering at the hands of the police and national guard on unarmed citizens, but I am not. I want to look away, because it is traumatising, but I can’t because I need to see this no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

So, as I sit here about to launch into what really feels like another self-indulgent look at my inner struggle please know that I am aware of the bigger picture. I just need to write because I feel like I am on an emotional knife edge and I don’t feel like there are many ways to help myself right now, other than splurge and get it out.

It’s been a really very hard month, or so. I haven’t been blogging (or doing anything) much – literally that one post for the whole of May -because I’ve felt so utterly flat and shit but also not really known what to say. I feel like a broken record. Or like I’ve been stuck in some kind of awful Ground Hog Day.

The whole of the lockdown period has been tough on lots of levels and I know I am not the only one who has been struggling. Trying to juggle the demands of my work, teaching my own kids, and having the added pressure of financial instability because my wife was made redundant has been really hard going without the actually worry of what contracting Covid19 might actually mean. Sometimes it feels so hard to just keep going. Like just as I get my head above water something comes along and dunks me under again.

It doesn’t take a lot to knock me off balance at the best of times, and let’s be fair, I was wobbly as hell having just lost Em before coronavirus and the world crumbling before my eyes. I guess I was lucky to, at least, find Anita before everything went completely to shit but I’m finding online therapy a real challenge. We are still building our relationship steadily but it just feels so distant on screen a lot of the time. I can’t help but keep making comparisons of how sessions feel online with A and how they felt with Em (who really knew me) and I feel like every session comes up short but that’s not surprising really, just disappointing.

I haven’t seen K in person since March, either…so it’s not great. My usual support systems are really not the same, or even possible (hands on craniosacral) and so I feel like I’ve had my crutches taken away whilst still being in a cast for a broken leg. I’m lucky that I am in almost daily contact with K via text and she is utterly amazing, but I really want to see her face-to-face. Basically, I need a big dose of co-regulation to settle my nervous system down because it feels like it’s off its tits on something! I think I’ll arrange a walk with her sooner rather than later. She has suggested it, but it’s difficult when I am home with the kids all the time and trying to work, too.

I have always thought that therapy (of some description) would be a lifelong thing for me. It’s not about getting ‘better’ or ‘fixing’ me. I see it more as something that helps me keep functioning, a kind of maintenance, so that I can do my life – as well as something that gives me insight into myself and ways of managing better. I don’t necessarily think I’ll be in talk therapy until the day I die (but it’s ok if that is the case) but part of my self-care will undoubtedly include some kind of input from the outside – and that could be craniosacral therapy, talk therapy, massage, or whatever else I fancy trying, at varying intervals because it does me good.

Up until March I was having a lot of input, doing twice weekly face-to-face psychotherapy and a session of CS therapy…and now I’m managing one, sometimes two teletherapy sessions and it’s not the same. Maybe I am just picky but I don’t find it as holding or containing and whilst it’s better than no therapy at all I feel like I’m sliding. I really rely a lot of physical signals in the room to judge how safe I can feel – body language and eye contact are so important and through a screen that gets lost.

I was ok(ish) with the disruption for a while, but now I am feeling increasingly like I need to see Anita and K face-to-face because I’ve been spiralling down and am running out of ‘coping’. I’ve tied a knot in the end of the rope but my arms are getting tired from hanging on.

I am so sick of circling this same pit of doom. All I seem to do is cycle through being ok enough (and trying to avoid the abyss), being stuck falling through the abyss, or crawling up out of the abyss. It’s exhausting and demoralising. I know I need to work a lot more on the young parts’ trauma stuff because that’s where the sense of annihilation comes from but it’s not easy doing that work over a screen because it is so BIG and needs so much containment. When I feel like my adult is more available, I can handle this stuff but right now I feel like all the young parts are synchronising and about to unleash havoc.

Last week it was bank-holiday in the UK and Anita took her first day off in all the time that we’ve been working (January). I suspect, like many therapists, she’ll have some clients that won’t have migrated online and so will have a slightly freer schedule and so hasn’t taken breaks in the same way but still kind of needs the income – being a therapist is her only job. She was due to have some time off in March but given we were in lockdown she didn’t see much point and continued to work.

Still, on Monday she took the day and that was fine…only it kind of wasn’t! I was fine not to see her and instead of my session I wrote that blog which needed to come out… but then I proceeded to have a terrible day on Tuesday – I’m sure because I’d stirred myself up by writing all about my experience with Em. On Wednesday I woke up feeling sick to my core. It was that familiar anxiety and blind panic that gets experienced by the young parts. I desperately missed Em. But she’s not here now. Ouuuuccchh. And so I had a choice to make – suffer on until Friday or reach out to Anita and see if that might help.

From the off, Anita made it clear that she works VERY differently to Em. She has told me it’s fine to check in via text if I need to and that she will try and respond when she can although it may not be straight away. I rarely text her because I don’t need to. Just knowing that I can seems to create some kind of magic calm inside. So, I text her in the morning and told her that I was really struggling and feeling like I was face down in shame. She replied by offering a session – which I took and I felt the anxiety start to lift almost immediately.

By the time I got on screen – about an hour later – I was in a slightly more adult place so it felt kind of weird trying to explain that only an hour ago I wanted to crawl into a hole and die from the pain of it all. I thanked her for making time for me. She said that she could hear the need and had the time so it was more than fine.

I said it felt really different having reached out and got a response and have the need recognised and met when, with Em, if I reached out she’d ignore me, radio silence, and then give me a boundary talk the moment I sat down in session. I understand the idea about trying to keep the work in the room and the importance of the therapeutic frame but even Em acknowledged towards the end that it was retraumatising my young parts.

Anita said that it felt like Em was only willing to deal with my child parts when it suited her. I nodded. She said that sometimes there’s a need and if it can be met it’s helpful and healing to those of us with C-PTSD because we require a different level of care and absolute authenticity. We struggle so much with object constancy and trust that small gestures of care can really help cement the relationship and start to build the secure base. She said she is also aware of having to be the most authentic version of herself because people like us see through smoke and mirrors and then lose trust or fail to build it. Anita isn’t big on self-disclosure but I know enough about her to be able to trust her.

She went onto use an analogy that Em has used in the past. Em had once compared me to a hungry baby that, for whatever reason, wouldn’t feed in sessions and then was left uncontained and starving outside them. But we never worked out what to do with that, either to help soothe that young part outside sessions, or find a way of getting the nourishment in session.

It’s a shame. The problem was evident but the fix wasn’t. It was a complex situation and really it all came down to feeling uncontained and then feeling ashamed when I expressed a need because I was repeatedly told that I had to keep the work in the room. I really tried. But it just felt like in the week I was stranded on one river bank and Em was on the other. I needed some stepping stones, not even a bridge, but there were none and so I kept ending up drowning when I tried to reach the other side.

Anita said that a baby doesn’t scream and cry when it’s hungry in order to be difficult and annoy its mum. It does it because it has a real and genuine need. If a mum decides that she will only feed the baby when it suits her, perhaps with the idea of establishing some kind of routine, then actually what happens is that the baby is still hungry, it just learns that no one comes when it cries, no one feeds it, so in the end it learns to ignore its need. And she felt that’s what had happened in therapy with Em, it had kind of reinforced that sense of my need being seen but purposefully ignored because mum knows better. I had finally learnt to feel and be aware of my needs and once again the pattern was repeated. No one comes. No one cares.

Needless to say, I felt like Anita had seen right into my soul with that insight and completely got it. And we talked about how it’s not about being there 24/7 which is what Em seemed to panic about – because that’s not how it is. We aren’t in need of a permanent breast or being drip fed, but sometimes the need comes and it can be met and soothed really easily. If it’s left all hell can break loose. Over time, because we get our needs met (a check in, a text, three dots even) we learn that the mother/therapist is there and is willing to meet our need occasionally we actually end up being less hungry overall, and with time, grow up a bit, and wean – learning to feed ourselves but we reach a developmental stage where we can internalise the mother/therapist and object constancy becomes less of an issue. Unfortunately, Em seemed to think meeting that need would feed an addiction.

I feel like so much of my injury comes from such a young age -K says it started before I was even born, and that asking me to feed myself when I am in that baby state is just impossible. I haven’t hit that developmental stage yet. I will. But it’ll take time. And I totally get that it seems like absolute nonsense – I am after all a grown up with my own children…but my brain is really wily and has a spectacular knack of turning off my rational, thinking brain, and plummeting back in time to the place of being a terrified kid. I wish, sometimes, that our bodies could morph into the child state we are in, maybe that would make it easier for people to understand how fucking awful it is. You wouldn’t ignore a terrified, lost, crying toddler but because they’re locked inside an adult body we’re just seen as attention seeking nutters.

Anyway, on that positive note, I’ll leave it here for now because my body is having a meltdown and I think I might cry! The somatic response to emotional upset is insane, these days. To think I never used to feel anything, and now it’s like the switch gets rammed on high and the flood gates have opened. I can feel it all! Let’s hope one day I’ll learn to regulate…but right now it feels like my young parts are fighting over a metaphorical pacifier!

The Velveteen Rabbit (And How We Become Real)

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*Beware – this is a ridiculously long post. Grab a cuppa!

Last December I stumbled across the children’s book, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams. Initially, I was drawn to the beautiful illustrations – I’ve always felt an affinity towards rabbits: my favourite childhood toy was a white rabbit with turquoise dungarees, I’ve had several rabbits as pets, and I once had a really powerful therapy session that started with a discussion of rabbits but opened up so many things!

From the moment I started reading it, I was hooked in and invested in the Rabbit’s story. I’m not surprised that it’s so many people’s favourite childhood book and I couldn’t believe that I was only just now reading it at the ripe old age of 36. I mean, I’ve seen a few quotes from the story here and there that have really resonated but never really connected that they came from an actual book – duh!! No prizes for brains!

There’s something about children’s stories and how they are able to simply convey quite complex messages that I love. I guess they speak to the young parts of me and frame emotional experiences in a way that those parts are able understand. There was a real lack of storytelling as I was growing up. I did not get bedtime stories, really. There wasn’t that consistent time to snuggle into a parent and share an adventure in a book – but more than that, the was never the closeness and safe time to feel held, contained, attached at the end of a day. Mum was never there, though, and I don’t think it really crossed dad’s mind how important that time is…although I remember he once made up a story about a lost bunny…and thinking about it I could tell you it word for word.

I am a bit militant about bedtime stories with my own children. From being tiny I have read to them both every single night apart from the one night they went camping and even then I sent them away with a story to have with my wife! It’s nothing to do with childhood literacy levels for me, though. As an English teacher I see first-hand the difference between those kids that have been read to, and fostered a love of books, and those that haven’t and how it impacts their academic progress. But I don’t read to my kids for this reason; for me it’s all about connection.

We have so many books in our house. So many favourites. We can still all recite ‘The Gruffalo’ word for word without having to look at it even though it’s been a good while since we’ve read it! The kids know most of the books so well that if I try and skip a bit or paraphrase to get through it, they know! Ha!

My daughter is 8 years old now, and my son is 5 and as I said, there has not been a single night that they haven’t had a story…or two! And even though my daughter is getting bigger now and a complete reading fiend, she still loves being read to. We are reading ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ together at the moment and it’s great.

Bedtime is the time that I tend to find out what’s going on with my kids. When they roll in from school and I ask them how their day was I’m usually greeted with, ‘fine’ or ‘good’. It’s not until bedtime when they’ve had chance to unwind, feel settled, safe, and close to me that I might find out if there is anything going on for them or if anything is worrying them. Bedtime stories are about so much more than books.

It wasn’t until I could read for myself that books became a massive part of my life. As soon as I was able, I would read whenever there was a free moment. I was that kid you’d see wandering around the school between lessons with their head in a book. I guess from a young age I needed to lose myself, escape into another world, and books afforded me that.

I think what I love most about children’s fiction is how, because the stories are relatively ‘simple’, we can overlay our own feelings and experiences. The stories are not so detailed that you can’t put yourself into them. It’s really easy to use a children’s book as mirror for your own inner world.

Another kids’ book I absolutely adore is, ‘The Heart And The Bottle’ by Oliver Jeffers. Some of you might remember the drama around the empty chair image that happened when I took the book to therapy and shared it with Em a couple of years ago… and then quickly disappeared down an emotional black hole in the session and in the break that followed! Really, I ought to have taken that as a template. Do not share books in therapy!

Anyway, like character in Jeffers’ book who puts her heart away safely in a bottle – when she experiences a significant loss – in order to prevent her having her heart broken further, the plight of the Rabbit in ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ resonated with me in relation to what I was feeling and experiencing in therapy at the time – the love, the sense of loss, the hope, and the quest of finally feeling ‘real’ one day. When I finished reading it, I instantly wanted to share it with Em. To be fair, I wanted to share all my feelings with Em I just got swallowed up in shame every time I tried to get near them or her.

It was coming up to Christmas and I decided that this year, after nearly 8 years, I would give her a gift and knew I wanted to give her a copy of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ as well as a glass snowflake that I had already bought. The snowflake linked back to a reference I had made a couple of years ago when I gave her a pop-up snowflake card. It was the analogy that I’d like to think that each therapeutic relationship is like a snowflake, we as clients know that we are one of many for our therapists but hopefully there’s something unique and special about each relationship. I mean essentially it was a, ‘you’re really important to me and I’d like to think, and hope, that maybe this relationship means something to you too’.

In addition to this, I had written a quote inside the card from Michael Rosen’s, ‘We’re Going On a Bear Hunt’ (Ha! See, another children’s story!) and had written about the bit where they’re trapped in a ‘swirling whirling snow storm’ but that they ‘can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no! We’ve got to go through it’ which is such a great metaphor for therapy and so this year the glass snowflake seemed especially apt – still going through it and it’s still important to me.

It was a tough year inside the therapy room last year…and outside it too. My life seemed to throw up one bloody drama after another: my wife lost her job, we had issues with our donor, my grandparents disowned me for the second time, there was too much work and not enough time to ground myself and all this was going on alongside huge stuff being thrown up in the room. I felt so disconnected from Em. I was going round in ever tighter circles driving myself slowly insane. The attachment stuff was so alive and I was a dissociated mess a lot of the time. Being so close to someone you care about and yet feeling so distant and unimportant to them is unbelievably painful and being told, ‘I’m just your therapist’ doesn’t help. The mother wound has a lot to answer for!

I realised that part of me was running away from doing the work because I was always so busy. I couldn’t really let myself do what was needed in session because there was always a pressing need to be somewhere straight after, to put on a brave face and be ‘teacher’. I started trying to protect myself from the big feelings in the room so they wouldn’t spill out into my real life. Of course, that strategy did not work at all! I just dissociated because the feelings we absolutely there and then I was left with them between sessions, feeling shit. It was all a complete mess.

I knew I needed to make space to focus more on my therapy and so moved all my work out of Mondays and Fridays to enable me to really be in the moment…the irony is, I didn’t get to see if this would have made a difference because everything fell apart!

There was a significant amount of keeping Em out last year but, in my defence, that was largely because it felt like she didn’t really want to find a way in like she used to – and I guess given what she said to me towards the end of our time working together, what I thought I was picking up on was true. The shift in her perception of me feels stark: at one time she likened me to a baby that, for whatever reason, couldn’t feed (in sessions) and was then left feeling uncontained and hungry during the time between sessions and that felt really accurate and understanding and yet somehow by January that had shifted into her now seeing the young parts as parasitic, they were ‘adhesive’ and ‘tick like’. It’s not surprising that when I took a step towards her, showing her the level of need (huge), she recoiled and wanted to get away if her feelings had changed so much.

I had dream I had a couple of years ago where we were in a really hot dark room just off a busy roundabout in the city where I live. It was the summer and yet Em was wearing a rain coat (that she’d had in the room in our previous therapy) and it was completely unsuited to the situation and I couldn’t work out why she was dressed that way. She left the session ten minutes early and gave me a note to read after I had let myself out. I had to go on a run but it was rubbish and gave up. When I sat down to read the note it simply said, ‘I can’t work with you anymore’. I was devastated. I can still remember how horrendous it felt. It felt really hard bringing that to dream to session. Any dreams I had with Em in were always about her pushing me away in some way and they really impacted me. I so badly wanted to trust that she wouldn’t hurt me but I could never escape my dreams telling me otherwise.

At the time we spoke about this dream a bit but not really about the bit in the room between us – it’s always been hard to talk about what’s happening between us! It was one of those big dreams and hard to pick out what was important – I was fixated on my having to leave my watch (but probably avoiding the beginning because it was so painful) – but now I wonder if my unconscious was concerned about her feeling the need to be protected from me. The coat would stop her getting wet when working through my emotional storm, she could remain largely untouched by me. And then maybe her leaving the session early was my worry that she’d go/terminate before the work was done? I was upset by the note, and when we spoke about it she said that it seemed like a cowardly way to end a therapy and that is not how we would end. Only that’s kind of what did happen:

‘Thanks for letting me know your decision and I am sorry that I was not able to help you. I wish you well for the future’.

I know there was more to it in the end but – it would have ended on this had I not had a complete meltdown.

Anyway, whatever was going on at the it feels crap. I don’t know if she did, but when things started to feel so negative she ought to have taken it to supervision and worked through it. Maybe she did. I still don’t believe that she doesn’t have the competence to work with someone like me, I think there was all sorts going on in the room that neither of us could face head on at that point but I really feel like it’s been left in a complete mess.

I can really understand the frustration and feeling like whatever you do for someone it’s never enough, they keep wanting you to prove yourself over and over, so in the end you just give up trying because you never can be enough and whatever you think you are providing they seem incapable of seeing it or taking it in. I know at times Em said she felt blindfolded and useless working with me. I never thought she was useless. I just wanted to feel like she was really there with me rather than behind a screen – which is how it felt sometimes.

It can’t be easy being a therapist and having people throw all their stuff at you, project onto you, and not really get seen for who you are because it’s all clouded by the transference. I mean I do get that that is kind of what therapy is about but it must be exhausting repeatedly being faced with, ‘I can’t trust you, you don’t care enough’. And who knows what might have been going on in her own life. She never told me anything about her and for all I know she could have been experiencing problems in her personal life or at work. If her resources felt depleted then having someone who has so much need would probably have felt too much. I don’t know.

It was so hard at the end of last year. And yet, there was a part of me that believed we were in it for the long haul and whatever was going on in that weird melting pot that we call therapy we’d be ok. Despite how bad things felt and how messy it seemed to be getting – especially round Christmas- I must have felt there was something underneath that was solid enough to hold it, to contain my various feelings of disappointment, anger, and of course love…and shame… and that we would land back on more solid ground once whatever was playing out had run out of energy.

I guess it felt a bit like the storm I talked about in one of my first blogs, the tornado would eventually touch down and we’d look back at what had happened and take a few deep breaths, check our footing and try and make sense of it all – together.

As it turned out, giving Em the book and snowflake at Christmas fell on its arse. I mean it really was a spectacular wipe out. Both gifts were massively significant to me at that time. Because it had been such a gruelling year, I wanted to somehow show Em that whilst I might be making noises about it all feeling pointless, and shit, and wanting to leave, and repeatedly testing whether we she was safe, that actually there were so many parts that wanted to stay, to work through it, and to move forward – together.

I guess, now, looking back, you could say that the gifts came from my eleven-year-old self. She’s the one who often got overlooked in therapy. In fact, when I first mapped out my inner dynamics Em realised that she was very aware of the others (the youngest ones and the teens and the Critic) but had absolutely no idea about Eleven.

It’s always been that part that has given Em things (the marble and gem stones) and it is her, I think, that has most been hurt by the ending of the therapy. She is a good girl, she doesn’t ask for anything, and behaves – you wouldn’t know she’s there. She has experienced a lot of hurt though, and out of all the parts of me I’d argue she needs the most support because she’s wondering why nothing she does is ever good enough. It’s her that feels completely unlovable and rejected. She kept quiet most of the time but really wanted to believe that Em could help…eventually.

Gifts can reveal a lot in a therapeutic relationship, and had Em actually taken a moment to think about this with me and explore it I suspect these could have been the conversations that dragged us out the shit and back onto a slightly more solid path. However, it was clear from the first session back after Christmas, via Skype (where I ended the call twenty minutes early), that she wanted to push me away (maybe not consciously), and basically rejected the gifts straight off without wondering anything more about them. To her, at that time, me giving her anything was seen as an intrusion, pushing boundaries, and trying to get inside her. Even typing this now thinking about how rejecting it felt still makes my tummy hurt.

It felt especially rejecting when she said she was wrong to accept the gifts and in future she’d prefer it if I didn’t give her stuff. Earlier in the year I’d given her two gem stones, she had said that when people give her things she keeps them, and at the end of the therapy often clients take things back as a symbol of the work they’d done together. I didn’t like this. To me, the idea of having a gift returned feels really rejecting, kind of like ‘you’re gone now, take your stuff back with you – leave no trace’ – I guess it’s another example of  the ‘out of sight out of mind’ thing. Almost, ‘I have to keep you in mind when you’re paying me but once you’re going I’ll clear the decks’. Anyway, what happened in January now felt like, ‘I accept gifts I just don’t want to accept YOUR gifts’. Oh man. This hurts. So much.

A couple of sessions later, after reiterating at least once in each session that she ‘shouldn’t have accepted the gifts’ – every time it felt like she was kicking me in the stomach and pushing me away -she asked me what the significance of the book had been. I was so upset at that point that there was no way on earth I was going to vulnerable and tell her what it had meant to me. Maybe if I had been able to engage then things could have been different but I just wasn’t anywhere close to being in my window (letterbox!) of tolerance.

It’s funny, my feelings on the book have changed a bit as this has all unfolded with Em but this is why I wanted to bring ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ into my therapy in the first place- there are so many meanings and messages and it speaks to me and all the parts that have been hurt or are hurting and clearly it’s not all about Em, it’s about my mum too and other significant relationships.

All I can say is it feels like there was a massive opportunity missed but, now, almost six months down the line I feel like I want to try and explain, because as Maya Angelou said, ‘there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you’. The person I want to hear it is gone but I need to get it out somehow even if there’s no one to process it with. So, this is my take on it but I recommend the book to everyone because everyone will apply their own narrative to what’s there.

I have no idea how this might come out as I try and lace the story together with my therapy story! But here goes:

The book begins, ‘There was once a Velveteen Rabbit, and in the beginning, he was really splendid’ and I guess, for me, this is kind of how we all start off, when we are born. We are perfect. There is so much possibility and potential (under the right conditions). Maybe, if we are lucky, at the beginning, in our childhoods we might get something like enough love and care. It looks promising for the Rabbit, ‘for at least two hours the Boy loved him.’ And this love might give us enough of a sense of safety and security to function effectively. But then, unfortunately, for many of us, for whatever reason, things go wrong ‘the Velveteen Rabbit was forgotten’ and I think that’s what I felt, and experienced growing up -that feeling of being forgotten about, or at least not prioritised.

I mean, straight away, I identified with that poor bunny! Feeling unimportant and forgettable has come up in so many of my therapy sessions. My childhood for the most part felt pretty barren. I was shoved from one childminder to another, mum was rarely there. I was there but not really, ‘for a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him’. I learned to get on with it. Kids are amazing like that. When you aren’t contained and held safely you find a way to live, shelve your needs, and basically survive. How many of us can relate to that in our formative years?

I was a good girl, didn’t cause any trouble, and behaved. My heart aches for the Rabbit – but also for myself. To experience a moment of having been loved and then being swiftly forgotten is horrendous. When I look back, I can really find only one memory of being held by mum. I was really ill after a reaction to my pre-school vaccinations, my leg had swollen up, I had a huge temperature, and had puked everywhere. I remember sitting on the sofa and being cuddled. But only that once.

What I also remember, though, is the moment I left the surgery, walking home, complaining to my parents that my leg really hurt, that it was really itchy, that I felt ill and both of them telling me to ‘stop moaning and grow up, it’s only an injection – you didn’t make any fuss last time’. I didn’t say anything after that, and despite feeling rotten and poorly I stayed in my room. It wasn’t until I was sick everywhere that they looked at my leg and called the out of hours doctor. I must have been four years old. I wonder now if the cuddle was because the doctor was coming and because they felt guilty?

You learn really quickly to not express needs when they aren’t met and I guess this must have been about the same time that I burnt myself on the barbecue and told no one and still have a scar from it. What the point in reaching out when no one listens, or if you do say something they shame you or push you away?

The Rabbit was ‘naturally shy’ and ‘was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace’ among the other toys in the nursery who were flashy, had moving parts, and were not filled with ‘saw dust’. I relate to this feeling of not fitting in. I have always been good at making friends but there’s always been a part that has like I am on the outside looking in. Part of the crowd but slightly to one side. My favourite film as a child was ‘Santa Claus The Movie’ and I really related to the boy character who had no one and pressed his nose up against the cold window of a girl’s house on Christmas Eve– she seemed to have everything and he had nothing.

I remember going to friends’ houses when I was younger and noticing how ‘happy’ their families seemed, how at ease they were with one another, how attentive their parents were. I longed for that but my mum always seemed to think that ‘those’ people were ‘weird’ and ‘living in each other’s pockets’ and that it was bizarre that mums chose to be there at the school gates rather than pursue a career.

Fortunately, for the Rabbit there is another figure in the nursery, the Skin Horse who is wise and understands how things work, a kind of mentor who’s been there and done it all before! And when I read about it, part of me placed Em in this role but I guess over the years there’ve been a few teachers who have made me feel like perhaps I am not as shit as I feel, too.

‘The Skin Horse who had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by and by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.’

The Rabbit becomes preoccupied with the idea of being Real which I guess is what most of us are wondering about. How do we get to a place where the emptiness inside goes and we feel whole?

“What is Real?” asked the Rabbit […] “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick out handle?”

It’s the Skin Horse that gives the Rabbit hope. The Rabbit feels plain, and not good enough, and yet it becomes clear that those other toys in the nursery that seem to be all show, will never have a chance to become Real. I guess this is like life. Some people are quite happy in their bubble of denial and on the surface seem to be the complete package but there’s something a bit one dimensional to them. They never look inside themselves, nor would they ever think to, because everything seems so fine. But I’ve never been a ‘model of anything’, I’m not a mechanical toy. I’ve always been the Bunny!

How do we become our true selves and live authentically, then? Is it something we can do on our own? Does someone else make it happen? Or does the magic happen in relationship? I believe that becoming Real happens in relationship and it is this relationship then enables us to then be Real on our own. If we are lucky, this might happen within our own family units, at the optimum time when we are still children, but for lots of us this trying to become Real happens when we enter therapy and commit to making a change.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.”

I mean this surely won’t be lost on anyone that’s doing depth work and attachment therapy! The feeling of coming to life because you are seen and cared for is the thing that makes all the difference. Feeling like it’s ok to be exactly who you are and connect with all the parts that make you whole is huge

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

Not sure I agree with ‘not minding’ being hurt, but then I can see that becoming Real can be a painful process – it’s not all bad – and that lots of growth comes in therapy through rupture and repair…if there can be a repair!

The Rabbit goes on, “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” And I guess this is a bit like us, in therapy searching for the answers, hoping that it’ll be a quick fix and in no time, we’ll be wound up and Real, but the reality is that it’s a slow process. Or at least it has been where I’ve been concerned!

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

And this is the reality of long-term work isn’t it? It’s not easy. It takes time. And it requires a fair amount of resilience. It can feel a bit soul destroying when things feel stuck and you can almost see the end goal but just can’t seem to move any further towards it. It’s not easy when you feel like you’re falling apart rather than coming together.

‘The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him’
I guess once we commit to the process there’s no going back. You’ve got to be all in.

Anyway, the story continues and one day the Boy loses a toy that he usually takes to bed with him and Nana randomly picks up the Bunny and hands him to the Boy. That night and for many nights after the Rabbit slept in Boy’s bed and the Rabbit becomes his favourite toy. They have all kinds of play adventures together. The Rabbit is happy.

Then one day the Rabbit gets left outside because the Boy has to run in for his tea. He can’t sleep without his bunny and asks Nana to go fetch him from the garden. Nana laughs at him suggesting it’s a lot of fuss for a toy and the boy replies, “He isn’t a toy. He’s REAL!” At that moment the Rabbit is so filled with joy because he has finally been loved enough to be considered Real. He’s achieved what the Skin Horse said.

The thing is, it doesn’t last because life isn’t like that…especially if you have an Inner Critic ready to pounce on anything positive. It’s amazing how you can experience good, get a taste of what it might be like to feel Real, and then the sadistic bastard comes along and tries to undermine it. This happened so many times in my therapy. Whenever Em would say something positive or I’d feel really connected to her the Critic would come up behind me and start questioning the reality of what I felt, ‘She doesn’t really care, why would she?…you’re not good enough.’ And for some reason it’s easier to trust the Critic than the person in front of you that demonstrates care week in week out.

Rabbit encounters his own version of the Critic. He’s outside one day and he meets some real-life bunnies. They tease him – shame him- because he doesn’t have any hind legs and ‘doesn’t smell right’. The rabbit is upset by the live bunnies’ goading, “He isn’t a rabbit at all! He isn’t Real!” He replies, “I am Real! […] I am Real! The Boy said so!” And he nearly began to cry.

It’s so sad. Because this is what happens, you start to feel like you are changing that things are getting better, that maybe you aren’t worthless after all – and then you beat yourself up and sabotage the process to the point where you doubt the reality. Oh – it’s so thoroughly depressing! Fortunately, as times goes on the Critic seems to take more of a backseat, well sometimes. You realise it’s there for a reason, and that it’s trying to protect you. You can’t always get round it, but more and more frequently you can stand up to it and tell it to sit in the corner.

So. What next? The Boy falls ill with Scarlet Fever and throughout this time the Rabbit stays close to him willing for him to get well. They may be stuck in a pretty awful place (as can happen in therapy sometimes!) but they are stuck together and there is a belief that things will improve, eventually if you can bear to stick it out. The Rabbit loses his shape and gets further worn out but he is unconcerned about this because he knows that, ‘when you are Real, shabbiness doesn’t matter’ and he is Real when he is with the Boy and that’s all that matters.

And that’s kind of how it feels when people outside the therapy room suggest that maybe you’re not improving quickly enough and seem worse rather than better. To the outside world it might seem like you’re willingly exposing yourself to Scarlet Fever when actually all around the Scarlet Fever is a protective force field, an important relationship which actually sees you through dealing with the illness. We feel Real, maybe for the first time, with our therapists.

People criticising my progress, or lack of it, used to feel shaming in the early days, but with time I began to see that to make significant changes and to become Real not just ‘better’ you have to strip everything back, remove the layers of varnish and veneer and discover what’s really underneath – it’s not about painting another layer of varnish over to keep up appearances! Therapy is not a quick fix and becoming Real, as the Skin Horse says, ‘takes time’ – and as therapists all good therapist like to say happens, ‘bit by bit’!

It’s about discovering, finding out about, and learning to tolerate the parts of yourself that you aren’t so keen to show the outside world (and sometimes even yourself). There are lots of reasons why parts might be kept hidden. It may be because they’re not all that likeable (the shadow), or perhaps because they’ve been so injured in the past that it feels inconceivable that you’d ever expose them to the light of day again.

Becoming comfortable with all the parts, good or bad, raging or needy, working through feelings – the shame – the love- in the presence of an ‘other’ (who actually might prefer your authentic self) and realising that you’re not perfect but more than ‘good enough’ is all part of becoming Real. And when you start to feel Real you care less and less about what people outside think.

So, the Rabbit stays with the Boy through the illness because he feels a strong bond and connection to him and it is the relationship with the boy that has made him Real. It is only the Boy who truly sees him, knows him, and loves him in spite of how he now looks. Others have teased him, belittled him, and not valued him but it feels different with the Boy. He loves the Boy…so much.

And this is how it feels in therapy, when the attachment stuff kicks in. Being in that room changes you slowly, your mask is off, you gradually remove your armour, you take a bit of a battering, you certainly don’t look pristine anymore! You are completely exposed and vulnerable in that space but at the same time, you’re seen, maybe for the first time and that does make you feel Real. Of course it does. Like the Bunny, your fur is worn away but, in the end, you’re left with the core of who you are and if you’re lucky you might just start to have a bit of compassion towards that person and that’s where the magic happens. You learn to love yourself through being loved.

Sadly, for whatever reason, it doesn’t always work out in the nursery/therapy. Sometimes it can happen that you believe you are safe, loved despite your flaws, and that you are important to the Boy/therapist and then something unexpected knocks everything for six. In the Rabbit’s case, the Doctor visits the Boy and tells Nana that now he is recovered the nursery needs to be stripped bare of everything and disinfected. When Nana asks what should be done with the Rabbit, he replies, “That?” […] “Why, it’s a mass of scarlet fever germs! – Burn it at once.’ The Doctor doesn’t know the Rabbit is Real, it is only Real to the Boy and so he treats it at face value: a faded, worthless, potentially dangerous thing and dismisses it from the room.

And this is how it felt at the end of my therapy. I thought I was in a relationship with the Skin Horse, or The Boy but actually, it seems that at the end it was really the Doctor. When it came to it, I was easily discarded, abandoned, and rejected – not good enough to stay – symbolically, ‘put into a sack with the old pictures-books and a lot of rubbish and carried out to the end of the garden behind the fowl-house’ ready to be burned. The pain of rejection from this ending is massive to me.

In the book, the Rabbit is left outside and is not burned straight away because the gardener is busy doing something else. Instead, the Rabbit manages to find his way out of the rubbish sack and discovers that he is completely alone and abandoned. He is so sad. Conversely, ‘that night the boy slept in a different bedroom, and he had a new bunny, all white and plush with real glass eyes’. And it feels to me a bit like how the therapist has a shiny new client and is absolutely fine, recovered from the fever and is able to move on whilst I can only look on and wonder at what has befallen me.

The Boy is safe and happy. That’s not the case for the Velveteen Rabbit whose ‘coat had worn so thin and threadbare from hugging that it was no longer any protection to him’. He’s left out in the cold and without the very thing that had kept him warm – the Boy – but in addition to this, he’s no longer in possession of his own coat that had once protected him. And this is how it felt to me. I had just laid myself bare, I was stripped back, painfully exposed, defences down and rather than becoming Real it seems that, instead, I was deemed inadequate. Like the Bunny I was suddenly, and unexpectedly out in the cold.

The loss is so acute it’s hard to put in words, even now. And I have tried. I’m usually pretty good with words but it has proved hard to capture just how awful this feels. I still can’t believe that I can’t see her, that we won’t somehow work this out now the dust has settled and things aren’t so activated.

When the therapy with Em terminated I was left shocked and, like the Rabbit, I questioned everything, ‘what use was it to be loved and lose one’s beauty and become Real if it all ended like this?’ And I cried. So many tears. Tears where there have previously been none. The tears that have been stuck inside for years and years. The sadness was acute, for me and for the Rabbit.

Tears are significant, though. They are a release. And accessing this pain (not just from this event but from all the stored-up feelings surrounding loss and abandonment from the original wounding #motherwound) and allowing it to come out rather than bottling it up is important. My heart isn’t kept in a bottle now, but because it’s on my sleeve it’s now more prone to getting broken. When I get hurt I can cry (sometimes!) and that’s significant. In the story the Rabbit cries ‘a real tear’ and it falls down on to the ground. It’s real grief. Real loss. Real pain.

The Rabbit’s single tear feels absolutely tragic, as a reader we feel the devastation (or maybe that’s just me!). The pursuit of Realness in the relationship with the Boy seems, at this point, only to have caused the Rabbit pain and loneliness. He feels abandoned and rejected. Maybe he would have been better left in the cupboard and never experienced the relationship at all.

A moment later, out from where the Rabbit’s tear had landed, grows a ‘mysterious flower’. It’s unlike anything the Rabbit has seen before. I guess in a way, this tear, the Rabbit’s own particular version of grief, when it finally comes (and we know how hard it can be to access those feelings and let them come), in the end produces something unexpectedly transformational.

As the flower blooms, out pops the nursery magic Fairy. She explains that she looks after the toys when they are old and worn out and turns them into Real. The Rabbit is confused. He believes he is already Real. “You were Real to the Boy”, she explains “because he loved you. Now you shall be real to everyone”.

The Fairy, who seems to be a product of the Rabbit getting in touch with his feelings transforms him into Real. ‘Instead of dingy velveteen he had brown fur, soft and shiny, his ears twitched by themselves, and his whiskers were so long that they brushed the grass. He gave one leap and the joy of using those hind legs was so great that he went springing about the turf on them, jumping.’ And I guess this is the version of Real I am aiming for. Whether it’s possible or not remains a question but I do think that having to really get in touch with the pain I have been holding for a lifetime through the loss of Em might actually be the thing that helps me become Real. She helped me begin to feel Real, the Boy’s version, but it is up to me to get to the final real-life version of Real.

The story ends when, sometime later, the Boy comes across the Rabbit in the garden and feels he is familiar in some way. He recognises the markings are the same as his old Velveteen Rabbit, ‘but he never knew that it really was his own Bunny, come back to look at the child who had first helped him to become Real.’ In so many ways I feel like this now. There’s lots about me that is the same but there are things that have completely changed. I wonder, now, if Em would recognise me?

The great thing about therapy, and finding yourself is as the Skin Horse says at the beginning ‘Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again’.

I so wish that we could talk about this. Well, not only this, but it would be a great place to start. 

 

Times Like These

Well, here I am again! Check me out…what is that? Less than a week between posts?! Ha, it’s almost like the old days. To be honest, I’m really here for a bit of a random ramble and don’t know what’s coming. This last few days has seen my brain finally give up the ghost. My skull resembles a bowl holding some kind of undiscernible sloppy. shitty, emotional mush. Occasionally, the spoon drags out a lump of something more solid that looks promising, but on closer inspection turns out to be completely unpalatable and makes me gag…so let’s see where we end up. I’ll stir things around a bit and see what materialises.

Right. Come on. I’ll try and be serious because I can see that this is all deflection.

As I said in my last post, it’s not been an easy couple of months and I have struggled quite a lot on and off, yoyo-ing. It’s been up and down, or maybe not so much up and down as stable-ish to rolling off the edge and plummeting towards rock bottom. There have been no highs. Each day, I have to get my shit together to teach online and have been managing that pretty well, but it zaps my energy massively and now I feel like the lows that come when I am not ‘in role’ are more significant, more prolonged, and much harder to recover from.

Basically, I am wobbling frantically like some kind of ‘not quite set enough’ emotional jelly…is that, actually, gunge?…oh great I am a pile of emotional gunge!

I feel like my resilience levels are pretty shit and I feel like I am somehow not managing lockdown all that well compared with what I see around me… but then…trauma history, right…it doesn’t help us does it?!

At times like these it’s hard not to compare your quarantine experience with those of other people you know. I am hanging it together with rubber bands and chewing gum (!) whilst trying to juggle teaching online, home schooling my kids, and averting a mental breakdown. I’m doing the best I can. I actually don’t admire my friends who are posting online about ticking big projects off their lists now they are furloughed on full pay. I actually just find it irritating seeing comments like, ‘I’m totally loving lockdown because I am getting to do all the projects I have had planned for years!’ I know that says more about me than them but when you are far from floating your way through this, the level of carefree abandon jars me.

One friend has completely redesigned and landscaped their garden and revamped all their garden furniture with funky coloured paints; another has run a marathon during their exercise time; one has gutted a horse lorry and is fitting it out as a campervan; someone had a festival in their garden and got blind drunk; and loads of them are creating masterpieces in the kitchen… and here I am basically hanging on by the skin of my teeth wondering and worrying about how we are going to survive this crisis both financially and physically now my wife has been made redundant.

The reality is she will have to go work in the acute hospital setting soon unless another job comes up (and recruitment is basically dead in the water for ‘big’ well paid jobs at the moment). It’s scary enough her working out her notice period in the setting she is in but the idea of being frontline COVID with the PPE situation as it is is terrifying.

And so this is why I am not living my best life in lockdown!

I guess, it’s just the luck of the draw. For some people this is like a lovely sabbatical (although can you really not be impacted by the horror that is unfolding around the world?!) and for others it is taking everything we have just to keep going. I have managed to get some stuff done around work and kids. We have faffed about in the garden and got some vegetables growing, cleaned and oiled the decking, the house is clean but I CANNOT stress how hard it has been to find the motivation to do any of these things and simply keep on top of day-to-day chores. I spend a lot of time trying to psych myself up to move or get showered and the project list is not getting anything much ticked off it.

I guess maybe it’s something to do with spoons.

Some people start their day with like ten massive spoons and so it’s pretty hard to get depleted when your capacity and reserves are so abundant especially when what you do doesn’t really require much spoon use:

And then there’s people like us, we start the day with two small spoons and have to try our best to make them last. It’s little wonder that by 11am we have nothing left when we really need three spoons just to break even with the mental health stuff!

Still, I am doing the best I can with the spoons I have and will continue to do so…perhaps lockdown would be a great time to start trying to adapt forks into a spoon or start whittling spoons from a magic forest wood!

Help me!!

Anyway, I shan’t be beating myself up that my house isn’t a show home, or I haven’t mastered some new craft, or learnt Hebrew when we come out of lockdown. If we are all still in one piece and not completely deranged I will be taking it as a win!

Last post I was talking about how I was finding working on video call for therapy and how hard has felt. It’s been difficult to feel really connected through the tiny phone screen. There are lots of reasons for this. I mean physical proximity and eye contact are really important for me (even if eye contact can be excruciating at times!) and neither of those is really achievable being forty miles apart even if you do stare down the lens of the camera! But it’s not just that. There has felt like there’s been some internal resistance, or perhaps protection going on from my side in the sessions.

Then I read something by Lucy at http://www.findinglucyking.home.blog that she’d written for her therapist and it’s something that really hit home:

‘I’ve noticed I’ve been doing this thing where I talk and reflect and present my already well processed thoughts to you as if I’m just filming a video with little regard for you sitting there. It’s important that I engage with you today otherwise I’ll leave the session feeling like you were never even there.’

And just like that the light switched on properly rather than flickering on and off in the background. I have been doing exactly this in the online therapy with Anita – I used to do this with Em, too, in the early days. I have been talking but I have avoided some stuff, for sure. But, actually, whatever the conversation has been I haven’t really allowed Anita into it. I guess it’s partly because I haven’t wanted to really properly feel anything, let stuff out, and then feel like I wasn’t able to be properly supported with those feelings on screen. If I take complete control of the situation and have everything nearly packaged then it’s easier – less risky – that’s what I mean, it’s kind of protective.

Only like so many things that ‘feel’ protective (ED or self harm), it turns out they aren’t especially protective in 2020, in the here and now, because whilst I don’t give someone the chance to leave me unsupported through failing to respond well to what I say I actually end up with the same outcome by keeping someone out – only this time it’s me that’s not given them the chance to really connect. These strategies were all I had to serve me in the past and did a ‘good enough’ job of protecting but actually maybe there is a better way forward now. Hiding my feelings, or sanitising them, and controlling everything have been my ‘go to’ strategies but what I have always really needed is connection not disconnection.

Wanting connection and being vulnerable enough to put yourself out there is scary though, because what happens when the person you want to connect with can’t or won’t meet you where you are at? What happens if you let them see the most broken parts of you and they leave because that’s all ‘too much’? That feels utterly rejecting and abandoning and let’s face it, after the Em debacle it’s not surprising I am a little reluctant to let anyone see what’s really going on for me. I feel like I’ve got third degree burns all over my body and for some reason I am thinking it might be a good idea to walk towards another fire…that’s either very brave or completely insane!

Therapy has been hard because the thing that is upsetting me the most is the stuff with Em and having to talk that through with a new therapist feels risky because I don’t want to scare her to death and for her to think, ‘what on earth have I got myself into here?’ Actually, Anita has been amazing and so supportive about this stuff from the start but the Inner Critic is telling me to be careful and not let her see the full extent of the pain inside because it’s clearly me that is defective and not Em that has done anything wrong or handled things badly. There is definitely the narrative running in the background which is saying that ‘it’s all my fault’ that she left. Ugh.

It’s exhausting!

Still, armed with this knowledge I’ve been actively not trying to deliver everything pre-packaged. And the relationship where this has been most apparent is with K. I had a complete meltdown on Saturday after doing something ridiculously self-destructive.

I had been catching up on a month’s ironing and listening to playlists on iTunes and on came the new charity version of ‘Times Like These’. I was a massive fan of the Foo Fighters back in the day and when the track came on I stopped and listened and then searched it on YouTube so see who was singing. I watched the video and it made me cry:

I, I’m a one way motorway
I’m the one that drives away
Then follows you back home
I, I’m a street light shining
I’m a wild light blinding bright
Burning off alone

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

I, I’m a new day rising
I’m a brand new sky
To hang the stars upon tonight
I am a little divided
Do I stay or run away
And leave it all behind?

I think the lyrics have always been powerful and resonated with me, but maybe now resonate even more, not just because of the pandemic but actually because of the situation I find myself in after the therapeutic relationship breakdown with Em. It sums up how alone I feel and how difficult I am finding it to move on but also keys into that weird hope that lingers on for something better. Or maybe it’s all tied up together. Coronavirus has changed everything so much and I guess there’s a part of me that is like – can anything be salvaged, can we repair?

I know this is stupid.

Because let’s face it a pandemic doesn’t change how awful things got at the end. And it wasn’t me that walked away. I was left high and dry. But you know what it gets like… when the feelings start coming up, and the loss, and the regret and OMG… I fucking text her didn’t I?

I sent her the link to the song and this message:

Who could have predicted in December that this is where we’d be now? A global pandemic certainly shakes things up a bit. I heard this song just now and thought of you. I really hope that you are well and safe. I miss talking to you x

There was obviously much more I wanted to say but I think the song says it all.

Em has read receipts on her phone and I saw that she read the message two minutes after I sent it. And then nothing. I guess I knew she wouldn’t reply and I was stupid to send the message in the first place, but I really can’t believe that this is it for us, that I can’t work through what’s happened with her now there’s been a bit of distance. I don’t get to process what’s happened and make any kind of repair or at least find a resolution.

I’m just left with it.

And getting over something is much harder when you can’t work through it with the person that’s the problem. That’s why therapy for attachment stuff takes so long – we keep trying to make sense of stuff and come to terms with stuff that has taken place in a relationship and we rarely get to make any kind of repair because the damage that was done was done to a child and that child is gone… (well sort of! but parts may have other ideas!).

I get I have Anita and K but no matter what they say they can’t make it better or give me closure on this stuff with Em, all they can do is model a better way of relating and demonstrate care so that maybe I’ll start to believe that I am worthy of love and care and not be hung up on the person who has stomped on my vulnerable self.

I don’t want to go back into therapy with Em. It’s not good for me. BUT I do want a proper ending. I feel I deserve that, at least. I know she is not capable or willing to give that to me – she couldn’t even make eye contact in our final session!

Anyway, the afternoon wore on and the meltdown started to gather pace. All the abandonment and rejection feelings were really huge and the young parts were beside themselves and then came the voice that thought that self-harm might make things better. In the evening I reached out to K on WhatsApp, we usually check in most nights, and she was incredibly validating and kind. She seems to completely get this stuff and so I don’t feel like a complete freak when it’s happening. She tunes into the parts and it feels really holding.

I find it easier to say what’s going on in writing than I do verbally (ha – no shit!) so I guess it’s like practising what I want to say with her and Anita. I have spoken to K loads about this stuff face to face as it all started to go downhill with Em shortly after K and I started working together again. I’m not surprised – the contrast between the two of them is stark and it highlighted just how withholding Em is!

So, yeah, I am really incredibly lucky to have someone so attuned and caring in my corner and it makes me wonder why on earth I keep seeking out someone who literally dropped me like a hot potato – especially when there are people that give me their time and care freely. I guess it’s because there’s that strong attachment – even though it is clearly really negative – damaging even.

After K helped settle me down and glue my pieces back together (again) it made me think about how I really really want and need to let Em go and try and move forward because there are people in my here and now who are trying to support me and help me through this, and every time I do something like text Em (to be fair I haven’t contacted her since her email in February) I am undermining the process and any progress I am making because I am throwing myself back into that painful place where I feel rejected and abandoned but not only that, by hanging on to some hope that Em might have a personality transplant I am not allowing myself to fully enter into the relationships with K and A.

With this in mind, I leapt with both feet into my therapy session with Anita on Monday. I didn’t spout pre-formulated things at her and really tried to let her in. I spoke about all sorts. I was honest about the feelings I am having around self-harm and not wanting to eat.  I spoke about how much I was hurting about Em and what’s happened. I told her how different parts were experiencing things right now, and just tried to stay present in the moment. And do you know what? It made a difference. Allowing Anita the chance to really participate in the conversation meant it was more connecting. Well duh!

I was in the thick of talking about how sad I was feeling about not ever being able to get a decent resolution with Em when Anita realised the time. We’d gone a few minutes over. She said that it was time to finish and asked me if I was ok to end the call. Internally, I was like ‘Hold up? What? Why are you asking me that? It’s just time to go… I have to go. That’s how this works.’ I replied that I was fine and confirmed the time of our next session and thanked her.

Shortly afterwards Anita text me:

Sorry we had to end so abruptly. I hope you’re ok. You know where I am if you would like to contact me before Friday at 10:30am. With very best wishes, Anita.

I mean clearly I had been talking about some big stuff in detail, but to me that stuff is so common place that I don’t see it as ‘worrying’ or warranting any kind of care or concern – it certainly never elicited any from Em. I was sad in session but I was in my window of tolerance.

Because I am so used to leaving a session with Em massively dissociated, dizzy, and not at all grounded it really took me by surprise that what felt like a hard but fine session made Anita wonder if I was ok and offer support/contact during the week. It is lovely that she has done that because, actually, I have felt like gunge and I have reached out – and whilst there is a niggly bit of me that is wondering if it is really ok to do that, there’s another part that is so relieved not to be plunged into a pit of shame for having a need -which is what happened any time I tried to reach out to Em.

Later in the afternoon on Monday, to my surprise, I received a reply from Em. Only two days after she read mine! Clearly it takes two days to formulate a response or to work out whether even to respond to me! And, it was true to form, formal and a bit sterile but kind enough I suppose – but generic – could have been to anyone:

Dear RBCG,

Thank you for your concern. I hope that you and your family are keeping well in these difficult times.

Best Wishes,

Em.

img_0434

It stirred up a lot of feelings – again. I’m still not really sure what I feel about it I guess it’s just the coolness of it compared to the warmth I am beginning to get used to from A and K. I am in no rush to reply. What’s the point? But given I was expecting no response at all, it’s kind of sent me through a bit of loop!

Oh the drama!

Right, moving on…

I saw this lovely image yesterday online and sent it to most of my friends who understand get this stuff, partly for the words but also because of the image moon – I’ve got big into my moonology cards lately and love the messages that are coming through and frequently send pictures of the cards I have pulled out for my friends:

img_0425

I sent Anita and K it too.

A responded with, ‘so true’ and K a heart.

I replied, ‘I’m kind of sick of the lessons though 😦 ‘ thinking that would be it, and then A said this:

‘I know, and I’m really able and willing to go through them with you.’

And whilst it is short and to the point it is so much more connecting and warm than anything Em has ever managed in all the years we worked together. So, even though I am struggling my way through this week I do feel a bit more held in it thanks to A and K …and that’s come through letting people in! To be honest. I didn’t keep Em out she just wasn’t able to meet me.

Right, well, given I had nothing much to say I seem to have blasted the wordcount a bit – 3566 words… I am sooooo sorry!!!

Take care all and stay safe xx

 

Some Kind Of Love

So, things have changed a lot since I last posted at the beginning of March haven’t they?! Back then the response to Coronavirus in the UK was largely about washing our hands, panic buying bog roll, stockpiling pasta (that wasn’t me btw!) and wondering if and when the government might actually make a move to lockdown the country or maybe do some proper testing… There was still a semblance of some kind of normal: the kids were at school, therapy was taking place face-to-face, and you could still get a drive thru McDonalds should the desire take you (I’m not a fast food junkie by any means, but I could demolish a Big Mac meal right now!).

‘Normal’ all feels so long ago now. We’ve had to adjust to a new kind of normal. Some days I seem to succeed at this new way of living and some days it just feels impossibly hard. My mental health has been up and down like a yoyo and whilst I have had stuff to say, and lots and lots of feelings, I have lacked motivation to do any writing. When I do finally have a minute, the blog just keeps getting put the bottom of the pile because I don’t even know really what to say or sometimes literally cannot do anything but stare at my phone scrolling through Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or some other shit that does zero for my wellbeing. I feel like all I do is moan here and frankly, when people are dying in their thousands me droning on like a broken record about how sad I am about being dumped by my therapist feels… I dunno…a bit self-indulgent?

And even if it’s not self-indulgent, by the time it reaches the end of the day (on a day where I am not some kind of emotional jelly) I have just about had enough of staring at a laptop. I spend the majority of the day on it, either teaching for my job or home-schooling my two kids.

Fortunately, I have been able to take my tutoring work online and have been working via Skype and Zoom to do my sessions. I only work 12 hours a week at the moment as the GCSE work has fallen away now there aren’t any exams this year, but even that little bit of time is really exhausting when I then have to cram in my own children’s learning on top. I get to about 8pm and just go into a semi-comatose state!

Doing everything via a screens at the moment is emotionally and physically demanding in a way I that hadn’t anticipated. Maintaining a connection and keeping upbeat and interesting is much more of a challenge than when you’re face-to-face. We’re all getting used to it and the students have adjusted really well now, but I do feel like a performing monkey at the minute – or a circus clown trying to keep all the plates spinning! It’s a relief though, that as a self-employed person I have been able to keep working, especially as my wife got made redundant at the end of March – don’t ask… I can’t even…

But to therapy – as that’s why I am really here – or why you are here!

Ummmm…

I’m finding therapy a bit meh tbh- I think a lot of us are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to at least be able to see Anita online and not have to do without therapy altogether but it is not like being in the room and I find that it is much, much harder to feel any sense of connection especially through a tiny phone screen.

I’ve tried a few different ways of doing things to see if I can find something that works/feels helpful: two half hour sessions in a week acting more like check ins, one longer session a week, leaving a couple of weeks between sessions… nothing has felt great tbh because what my system really needs to settle, feel safe, and build trust is proximity. I need to physically see the micro communications of my therapist. I need to feel the energy in the room. I also need that co-regulation that seems to happen when you can see the other person breathing with you.

I also feel like I am missing being able to tune into ‘the voice’ when Anita is using it for effect – you know what I mean- that thing that you get together in the room but that fails to really translate on screen. When it’s through a video call on a phone you need to kind of keep a reasonable volume or it gets lost…in the room there is no external noise, no interference, no screen freeze, and even a tiny whisper can be heard or soothing ummm can be heard.

I have been trying to make the sessions feel as containing as possible by taking myself across the road to sit in a field in order to get a bit of peace and quiet and to ensure that I am not overheard by anyone in the house but I dunno, it just all feels a bit shit, really. I don’t like distance! And the fucking sheep really haven’t helped! Noisy things!

I dunno it’s hard to explain but whatever it is that I feel I need, I can’t get it on the internet no matter how hard either of us try. That’s not either of our faults. It just is what it is. And until face-to-face sessions can resume we’re just going to have to make the best of it. But who knows how long that will be. I feel frustrated because I HAVE SO MUCH WORK TO DO and yet I can’t really do it. ARRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

Not being able to see Anita in the room and having to stop craniosacral therapy with K until lockdown is lifted has really left my support system in tatters. I was ok for the first few weeks of lockdown but having not been more than 100 metres from my front door for the last 6 weeks is beginning to take its toll – I miss the therapeutic spaces and the therapists! I just hope this doesn’t go on for too much longer because I really am quickly descending into the hell pit when things start to unravel now. I haven’t felt this precarious for a really long time.

I have really noticed what a huge difference it is for me not doing the body work with K too. I think losing those sessions has been the hardest thing for me, because even though K and I are in almost daily contact (and that’s really nice and holding) it’s not the same as being on the couch having the magic done to my nervous system! And when my body is wound up tight like a spring everything feels that much harder on an emotional level.

I’ve been really struggling at intervals with the Em thing. I guess because my usual routine has been decimated everything feels all the more unsettled and I just really miss her. I miss doing therapy with someone that really knows me, all of me. I miss that security and familiarity. I’m still laying foundations with Anita and so working online feels that bit harder I think. If I had to Skype Em, I wouldn’t like it so much but we’ve worked like that on and off for years so it’s just easier and I just want to see her face. I know. I know. Get a grip!

It’s not all been desperate pining (but a lot of it has, I can’t lie).  The young parts have been falling apart on a pretty regular basis. They feel so let down, rejected, and abandoned by her (which is fair enough because that is what has happened!). I have spent a lot of time this week just sobbing my heart about the ending and the loss of the relationship. I’ve wanted to reach out to her to check in, to ask if we could maybe talk, but know there’s no point because a pandemic isn’t going to change anything is it? She simply doesn’t care…and that really hurts.

But of course there’s also the anger and disbelief that I even find myself in this situation. I am left dumbfounded by the way it ended: no safety plan, no onward referral, just a door slamming shut, ‘don’t contact me again’. I mean wtaf? It’s so painful. As I’ve said enough times already this has just stuck a dagger right into that already very sore wound and twisted it. No reparative experience here – just a traumatisation.

I need to bring this back to therapy tomorrow with Anita. I haven’t really gone anywhere near it since face-to-face stopped. It’s been around during the week (of course it has) but when it’s come to the session time I have somehow talked about other things. Part of it, I think, is like I said at the top, I feel a bit stupid this even being a ‘thing’ given what’s actually going on in the world right now. Part of me feels embarrassed that I can’t just get over it. Another part feels massively ashamed that I have been so emotionally attached to, and loved someone who, clearly, when it came to it had no feelings towards me at all. But it is a big deal to me and I think it will be for a very long time and so I need to bite the bullet and talk about it more.

I’ve been trying to find ways to not get bogged down in all the excruciatingly painful feelings during the week because it’s only me that suffers. I’ve been trying to find ways to think positively about the relationship, and Em in general, because there are good points and I have done a lot of work on myself in therapy with her. And even though it’s all spectacularly fallen apart I still really care about her. The love I feel hasn’t gone away and I want to be able to honour that. I also want to give myself some recognition. It was good, at least, that I tried to let someone in, that I allowed myself to feel things, that I was vulnerable. It’s just such a shame that the person I trusted with ‘me’ couldn’t/wouldn’t help me when I laid myself bare.

I’ve struggled to look back at the therapy recently because I keep getting soundbites and flashbacks of negative stuff that’s happened, ‘that part is adhesive like a tick’ (I feel that may never leave me),  the arctic cold last session, the throwing my gift back in my face at Christmas, ‘kind regards’….the list goes on and on…and what I have wanted is to find a warm, safe place that I can go back to in order to try and settle the parts that feel that the whole thing was sham and that I was a bloody idiot for the last eight years.

Anyway, one of the things Em tried with me a while ago was a kind of EMDR activity that was meant to settle whatever was going on inside and create a safe internal space. She asked me to choose a song I liked and to bring it to session and we would work with that alongside eye movements. I think, basically, together we were going to try and create a safe relaxed experience in the room and so when I listened to the music outside session it should function as some kind of regulating tool.

Dido had recently released an album and a song on it had really resonated with me. It’s called, ‘Some Kind Of Love’. I have always been music mad and I felt like this could be my song, my experience. It’s wistful, reflective, rhythmic and the lyrics really hit home for what I was feeling about my journey – that I have been through the wringer but there’s still hope and even when things get super shit there is always something left that is enough to keep going- there is some kind of love. That’s kind of what I was feeling about Em, therapy offered some kind of love – sure it’s not the big love that was lost in childhood, or that there never was enough of, but there was something… HOW FUCKING WRONG WAS I?!!

(lyrics and link to youtube video below – give it a listen!):

She found the records lying underneath the bed
All the songs she used to sing
All the songs she used to play
All those words, those melodies
And the promise of some kind of love
And the promise of some kind of love

When we lose what we love
Don’t think anything will ever taste the same
When we lose what we love
Don’t think anything will ever feel as good again
Now I know how much the anger
However much the pain
Destroy only enough that enough still remains of
Some kind of love, some kind of love
Some kind of love
Some kind of love, some kind of love
Some kind of love

The songs hadn’t changed, every note just the same
But when she played them once again
All those words, those melodies
Like better days past and gone, leaving her behind
With the promise of some kind of love
With the promise of some kind of love

When we lose what we love
Don’t think anything will ever taste the same
When we lose what we love
Don’t think anything will ever feel as good again
Now I know how much the anger
However much the pain
Destroy only enough that enough still remains of
Some kind of love, some kind of love
Some kind of love
Some kind of love, some kind of love
Some kind of love
Some kind of love

She put the records back in their place
And straightened her dress, and wiped her face
She closed and locked the door
And left them lying on the floor
And she sang
Mmmm, some kind of love
Some kind of love, mmmm
Mmmm, some kind of love
Some kind of love, mmmm
Mmmm, some kind of love
Some kind of love

 

Anyway, the song came on a playlist on my phone this week. Guess what doesn’t tap into a safe internal space? Guess what happened within a couple of bars of the song coming on? Yes. I fell completely to pieces and sobbed my heart out, remembering the room and feeling nothing but grief and loss that there is nothing left and perhaps there never was anything in the first place that was real.

I’ll try and blog a bit more soon – there is still so much to say…

Take care all, and thanks to those of you who have been checking in on me via email and wondering where I had disappeared off to. I’ve been hanging it together with rubber bands and chewing gum xx

There’s No Going Back

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So, if anyone out there wants to award me a prize for winning at ‘How Not To Do Therapy’ I’d gladly receive it. I mean, I need something to celebrate right now, and all I have done exceptionally this last couple of months is poorly navigate my way through a relational catastrophe and then end up doing huge belly flop into the abyss as my grand finale.

Honestly. It’s been total dog shit, lately.

Some of you guys will remember, a few weeks ago, I posted up a letter on here that I had written to Em, my ex-therapist, trying to purge some of what I had been left with after our rather sudden terminatio. I had resolved not to send it – because duh, I’d have to be an idiot to do that wouldn’t I?

I had so much to say to her because the ending seemed to happen so quickly and I was just left hanging, holding so many feelings about what had happened. It felt important to get it out rather than have it all swirling in my head.

I guess it’s not a surprise that I had a bloody awful week after I wrote that letter. The grief of the termination and losing someone who has been a massive part of my life really started to kick in. I felt really upset that the ending was really never a proper ending. It just wasn’t good enough for any of my parts. Essentially, she just cut me dead and the final session I think was really only offered because I had asked for it not because she wanted to do it. She had been happy to end it all with a two line email hadn’t she?

OMG it’s giving me the rage just thinking about it! But also the horrible ache in my core where all the attachment pain hangs out. It’s just hideous feeling all this…especially as I have fucking paid to end up feeling like this! It’s not like the ending of a relationship with a friend or partner, or some kind of trauma inflicted by a parent…I’ve come out of this therapeutic relationship retraumatised! You can’t even make it up!

One of my friends told me that she’d spoken to her therapist about this situation with Em and they’d said that usually for termination you’d aim for one session for every three months of work… and well, that’d mean twenty sessions for Em and I! – I can only imagine that if you throw in the fact that for the last 16 months we were also doing sessions twice a week that it’d probably seem unlikely that you could create a good enough ending in one fifty minute session. But you know, maybe I am being picky!

I mean, I understand that we weren’t ending under perfect circumstances but really, a single session to close down the work wasn’t really adequate – especially as I didn’t even want us to be ending at all. I honestly felt like we were having a rupture over Christmas and it’d work out. I am clearly a fucking moron! I guess the signs have been there for years, I just didn’t want to see them and instead turned everything in on myself…I’m good at doing that.

Anyway, what I should have done when I felt so desperate and sad and needy and bereft last weekend was to email Anita and reach out to her instead of contacting Em, like I did the week before and that Anita had said was fine to do, but you know what it’s like – sometimes you choose to walk into the lion’s den knowing you’re going to get mauled because part of you hopes that the lion might actually turn out to be a pussy cat.

Note to self: lions are always lions.

I sent the letter to Em on the afternoon of Friday 21st Feb. It’s slightly different than what was on the blog so I will post it below, but feel free to scroll past it as it’s not significantly different:

Dear Em,

It’s been almost three weeks since I saw you for our termination session and since then, I seem to have been caught up in an emotional storm that I can’t find a way out of. I am so exhausted and disorientated by what’s happened between us that I do not seem to know which way is up and am clinging on for dear life.

I am absolutely devastated about how we have ended this therapy – our relationship. I can’t believe that when it came down to it the relationship we have built over all these years disintegrated in the course of a few weeks and now there is nothing left. I don’t even feel like we properly said goodbye because I couldn’t bear to say it.

Things have been hard for a long time. I know that. I am not an easy client to work with, that’s no secret. I keep a lot of things close to my chest and often the moment we get close to the sore areas in session I dissociate which has made it difficult to get to the work- but we both know when I disappear it’s because more than anything, I live in fear of being abandoned and rejected by you and need to protect myself from getting hurt. That fear has always been behind the times when I have crossed your boundary of no outside session contact, some part of me believing that you are gone.

I have been so frightened of being wholly myself with you and really showing you how damaged parts of me are because I didn’t want you to repeat the script and leave just like everyone else. I didn’t want to keep you out. I didn’t want us to be working in the dark. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I wanted to let you in and be close to you – more than anything I wanted that. And I have let you see a lot of me- you know me better than anyone and that has made me feel really vulnerable and so it’s been slow going in the therapy.

I haven’t been worried about the time (even if everyone else has raised concerns) because, like you said, this kind of work takes time and even though we’ve been working together a long while it’s not all that long in the big scheme of how much trauma there is. I believed that we were in this for the long haul. I knew that there would be times that would feel like we had reached the edges of what was possible but if we just dug in deep we’d come through and each time we did that a little bit more healing would take place. I thought that’s what therapy was all about.

I have so many feelings around what’s happened between us and losing you really feels like a bereavement. For the second time in my life I have lost the person that knew me better than anyone else and I can’t even begin to explain how crushing that feels. The difference is that you are still alive and you’ve left because I am too much and in some ways that makes this even harder to bear than an unexpected death. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to you yet.

This is absolute agony because the end of this therapy has confirmed my worst fears about myself and how I am perceived in relationships. It’s almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy – I was so worried this would happen and I’ve somehow made it happen, although obviously not consciously. I read something about projective identification and I wondered if this is what’s happened.

Some of the things you have said recently have really hurt me and I am struggling to let that go. You say you weren’t trying to hurt me but the young parts who you see as ‘adhesive’ and ‘like a tick’ are broken. I was breaking my heart and you said, ‘it was a metaphor’ and that I am ‘sensitive and defensive’. I can’t seem to shake it off.

I so wanted to believe that whatever happened with the therapy we could get through it – I mean we’ve done enough rupture and repair over the time we’ve worked together – but somehow we got to here and there was no repair this time. I think I am still in denial about the whole thing because I can’t really believe we are here…or I am here. You can just move on with your conveyor belt of clients and I feel marooned.

To tell you what I did in my notebooks over Christmas was massively risky but I figured it was crunch time. I was scared but at least some part of me also believed that whatever I might say now or whichever part was fronting you’d hold the space and try and encourage me to keep working through it even if I was threatening to throw in the towel because you know that me being vulnerable makes me want to run a mile. Every part of me wanted to disappear and hide after that and I was super sensitised to everything you said.

You recently said that you thought the teen part was about as well as other young parts. They are always there but that’s been especially so since the lead into Christmas and it’s been those parts that were so affected by the break and you rejecting the gift I gave you, and then being ignored when I reached out to you. I can tolerate quite a lot but not all at once and not at this time of year.

You’ve said so many times how things escalate around breaks and how it seems to funnel all the fear about being left and forgotten about into something really difficult to manage for those parts. This happened in a spectacular way this year. I cancelled sessions, text you, sent you my notebooks, and disconnected the skype call… things felt really bad BUT at the same time part of me must have felt safe enough to do that, to act out because it is very rare.

You’ve told me it’s ok to express my feelings and that there wouldn’t be any repercussions for that, you have encouraged me to bring my anger to the room, you told me it would be ok …and when I finally did that look what happened. It’s all fallen apart. You felt you reached the limit of your competency to work with me. I can’t really believe it. Honestly? Out of all the complex clients you must see in a week, it’s me that’s pushed you to the limit?

The defences I have built over the years work really hard at trying to keep me safe and yet often you’ve said that perhaps they aren’t needed in the same way anymore and perhaps they could step aside – particularly the critical part. It feels like now they had good reason to be there…which again is so painful to acknowledge. I wanted to believe things could be different and now I feel like I am back to square one. It’s completely floored me,

Our termination session was so hard for me. I have never really cried with you and even then I didn’t let you see just how bad it was because there was nothing to be done. There was no way to mend the situation which is all I really wanted. I had been in pieces since you emailed and said we had to stop the therapy. I have been a wreck, crying so so much. I dread going to sleep because in the dark of my bedroom it all catches up with me and I cry myself to sleep. I know this, in part, is coming from the past and younger parts but it doesn’t make it feel any better in the here and now. I don’t think you have any idea how painful this is for me. My attachment wound is big and I feel like you’ve poked it with a stick and walked away.

There is so much I want to say to you still. I needed more than one closing session…I needed more than six… I was not ready for this to be over but knowing that I had no choice in your decision what could I do? As you said, it would just ‘prolong the agony’. It’s not like if I magically found all my words it’d change anything I couldn’t somehow turn back time and make it ok again. Perhaps when you asked me what I wanted to do and I said that I didn’t want to come back again you were just accepting what I was saying – but it was coming from the defensive part that was trying to protect me from unbearable feelings. I am not sure being left with the ‘agony’ unprocessed has been any better than sitting with you in agony.

Walking away it feels like I have been dropped from a great height and yet there is no safety net to catch me. We’ve gone from two sessions a week to none. What am I meant to do with all that’s been thrown up because right now I feel like I need therapy every single day to try and get through this because it is a massive deal to me, It’s triggered all the trauma feelings. I don’t know how I have managed to hold myself together through this and not resort to self-harming behaviours. It’s a battle, that’s for sure… but I suppose that shows some kind of progress. I can feel how the feelings are building again though, because I think part of me has been surviving this like a break – the longest we’ve had is three weeks and so once time goes past that then I guess reality will really hit.

The saddest thing about this is that I have started to really blame myself for what’s happened. Now, more than ever, the little girl inside me is certain that she is unlovable and that she is too much. I am so sad and I miss you so much.

I won’t contact you again because I know we are finished but I want you to know that I am grateful for all the time you put in to trying to help me, and the care you gave, even if I couldn’t always see it in the moment. x.

Ah it’s so bloody painful even reading that again.  I really didn’t expect her to respond but I felt that I at least needed her to know how this had affected me because that final session had been so awful. She must’ve felt it too. I hardly spoke and just cried through it. She couldn’t look at me and basically wished me well for the future! I guess really, this email was a goodbye letter…even though I didn’t want to say goodbye, not really.

And then on Saturday morning she replied to me. Wtf?:

Dear RBCG,

Thank you for email. I feel very sorry to hear how upset and distressed you have been feeling. I will reply more fully within the next two weeks, after I explore the situation further with my clinical supervisor.

Best wishes

Em.

I was hit with so many feelings receiving that email. I know it’s not exactly oozing warmth but it is about as warm as she’s ever been with me on email. I didn’t know what to make of it. Like, had she actually taken on board what I had said in my email, had some time to reflect and maybe was thinking there might be a way back from this? Or at least, maybe try for a better ending knowing what a disaster that sessions had been? I dunno. I felt kind of hopeful because if the door was completely closed surely she just wouldn’t have responded at all?

I didn’t reply to her email and I waited wondering what was to come all week and then late Friday afternoon (this weekend) this landed in my inbox – deep breaths people:

Dear RBCG,

Further to my email of 22 February, I would like to emphasize that I am very sorry to hear about your distress and difficulties.

However, I am afraid that I have gradually come to the conclusion that the difficulties you have are beyond the scope of my particular clinical expertise. Therefore, if you would like to do further work on your difficulties, I would suggest that you consider finding another therapist.

You said in your last email that you would not contact me again and I agree that it is best for you not to contact me.

I wish you well for the future.

Kind regards

Em.

And, there, my friends is how 8 years of a relationship end. Kind regards. Boom…don’t contact me again, I have washed my hands clean of this. So, there we are, all that I said in my letter are my ‘difficulties’ and I had best find a way of dealing with them.

Needless to say, I burst into tears the moment that email came through. Maybe it’s me, and maybe it’s not as cold as it feels, but I honestly am struggling to understand how this ending has been acceptable. I know I’m sensitive and the attachment stuff is big, but it just feels all the more cruel that this is how she’s ended it knowing me as she does. There has been no opportunity to discuss any of what I think or feel with her – she’s raised the drawbridge.

Ugh. I would be interested to hear your take on this.

Thank goodness I have Anita – but I am also feeling a bit sceptical about that and therapy in general if I am honest. I mean if someone with 25 years experience in counselling and 15 as a Principal Clinical Psychologist in the NHS feels I am beyond her capabilities how likely is it that Anita is going to be able to help me?

This isn’t the first time I have been told that my issues are too complex for a therapist… having said that that particular therapist was a fresh out the box trainee counsellor and at least noticed after two sessions that she wasn’t equipped to deal with the complex stuff around eating disorders and self harm that was really active at the time but she did help me with lots of other stuff. I wish Em had have been honest about her competency and capacity to work with me years ago because nothing has significantly changed between us – I brought these issues to therapy years ago. She advertises that she works with trauma, abuse, PTSD, anorexia, etc…

Maybe I should just give up? You know, accept that this is as good as it gets for me. I function. I am ok in my adult life. I have a great wife and two lovely kids. My health is good enough. Perhaps to think this perpetual ache inside would one day heal just isn’t possible for people like me? Maybe I am just too damaged. I dunno what I think, really.

I don’t mean to sound all depressive and morbid. It’s just hard to see that it can be better than this because right now it feels just about as bad as it gets. I am right in the thick of the worst of that abandonment and rejection pain. The wound is bleeding out all over the place and I can’t see how to make it better. Perhaps I can just box up all this pain and put it at the back of the closet and carry on with my life.

I can’t say I haven’t given myself a good stab at trying to heal this.

The laugh is, I had sort of convinced myself that I wasn’t actually completely fucking useless and beyond help. I had even started to believe that my issues are completely normal given the level of trauma I have experienced throughout my life. I had started to chip away at the shame that had set like concrete inside me. And now this, with Em, it’s uprooted all those tentative new healthy shoots that gave hope of something better and has repaved the landscape with the old narrative – more fucking concrete. It’s barren.

Anyway, because I am not going to throw in the towel just yet, I had better go and get my backside to my session with Anita. I really hope that we can have another go at making a different internal landscape – I want wildflower meadows and trees – not a carpark!

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Abandonment and Rejection: Part 2

Earlier in the week I had planned to transcribe Monday’s session with Em and put it in the blog but given how things are now, how the week has evolved, how my feelings have intensified, I can’t even bring myself to listen to the recording and be reminded of what’s happened. I can only summarise and paraphrase was said because I can’t even bear to hear her voice – it hurts too much.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter what was said now, because somehow or other it is now Sunday and we are no longer working together. I am beyond devastated. As the week has gone on I have gone through so many waves of this torturing grief interspersed with periods of denial and anger, and yet last night something shifted and the reality probably hit for the first time.

Suddenly, I feel like my whole life has been thrown into chaos. I feel like I am breaking in two. I am fearful of everything. Like I honestly feel like I can’t fucking cope with anything. I’m scared of what’s to come. I feel like I don’t want to be here anymore.
I know these must be the feelings of the young parts because I feel so powerless and small but my god it feels real and huge right now.

I am also feeling stupid and embarrassed and so much shame about how badly this ending has affected me. I am heartbroken and yet how am I meant to tell anyone about this because it’s clearly fucking mental to most people in the real world. She is/was just my therapist…but she was important to me. And as my therapist, if she is only someone to work out transference with, whoever she represents from my past – clearly my mother (#motherwound) – I am now feeling the full force of what it is to be rejected and abandoned by someone you love.

It’s no wonder I couldn’t withstand these feelings as a kid and dissociated them because feeling this, fully, in the here and now, is enough to make me want to die… this is annihilation.

I’m trying to keep one foot in adult but it’s hard. I need to process this. I need to write. But also, putting this down on the page must mean it’s real. I can’t try and pretend that it’s actually going to be ok, now. That it’s just a rupture and we’ll repair it and things will be better.

It’s over.

I guess, you’re all wondering what happened? Well, it’s been a cumulative process over months but it all sort of came to a head on Monday. Em had read the email where I had laid myself bare where I had explained how it feels to be ignored when I reach out, to have the Christmas gift rejected, and how hard it is to feel like there is a wall between us. The email ended by telling her:

It feels like we are on completely different pages right now. It feels like all the things I have worried about, about being too much is exactly right. It feels like you have taken a big step back from me when actually that’s opposite of what I needed. I can’t seem to fully explain what I mean but what seems really complex is actually really simple.

I need you to help me hold the feelings I have and normalise them and actually accept them. I need you to help me break through the shame I feel about needing connection to you and work with me to find workable solutions to the problems I have with outside contact when things get bad because it’s not going away. I need help to make breaks feel better. I need to feel like I am in a relationship with you and not in an observation tank. It just feels like we are perpetually re-enacting what happened when I was little. My mum and wider family were so emotionally and physically withholding that just being in the room with you feels traumatic because you feel so distant and even though you say that you aren’t, it’s still my experience.

I understand why you think that by trying to ‘think’ about where all this is coming from in the past might make it feel less horrendous with you in the present but so much of the time I am not able to access that ‘thinking’ brain and am caught up completely in my emotions. I can see where this stems from, I know why it gets triggered, but this doesn’t actually process the emotion in the moment. If it was about the logical, intellectual stuff I’d be fine…but it’s not.

I’ve read so much about this but it just isn’t moving because until I feel like the young parts are held safely and contained with you I think I’m going to be stuck in limbo.

I need you to know that despite how ‘much’ there is in those notebooks and here, and how intense my feelings seem I am not suddenly going to start texting you all the time, ringing you, turning up on your doorstep or whatever else it is that you think might happen because I would hope by now you would see that whilst there is a lot of trauma and the attachment stuff is massive, I’m not that crazy and I don’t want you to be anything but my therapist.

I have no idea what I am going to do on Monday and wonder if I am actually just beyond help…some reassurance would go a really long way right now because it’s a complete disaster inside.

Anyway, I walked in on Monday and I really hoped that things would be ok but I could tell that they weren’t, not really. Em had a huge clipboard and notes she had written with reference to the email. She asked me if there was anything I wanted to talk about or whether we should discuss the email. I agreed it made sense to talk about the email.

She started talking about it in a paragraph by paragraph way – well, picking out bits from the areas she thought were important. It was very factual and I felt really distant from her.

It wasn’t too bad until after about ten minutes she basically said that she feels like my young parts are ‘demanding’ and she feels like they are ‘adhesive’ (see adhesive attachment in psychoanalytical theory), that it feels like I ‘want to get inside her’, that I am ‘intruding’ when I contact her, ‘pushing the boundaries’, and that it feels like my need for her is ‘all the time’ … ‘like a tick needing a constant supply of whatever it wants’.

My brain got wedged on ‘like a tick’ but there was more, about if she were to give reassurance (which she ackowledged she doesn’t) it would be like ‘feeding an addiction’… ummm it just went on and on. She said the stuff about politics before Christmas (because I had written about it in the email) was actually her talking how the election was about democracy… I have the recording…that is not how it was. She made no mention of how I felt about the rejection of the gifts even though I’d written quite a bit about it, and flat out avoided talking about the bit I have added above about trying to find strategies that work for both of us to not keep getting in this mess.

I could barely talk once she’d compared my child parts to adhesive ticks – she said as much, ‘it feels like I have talked at you and you haven’t replied’…which is when with five minutes to go I managed to say, ‘how would you feel if someone you cared about likened you to a tick?’ She apologised, sort of, but said that I am very sensitive and get defensive, and it was just a metaphor. I said that it was a ‘shit metaphor’ and she apologised and said that perhaps she should have stuck with the word ‘adhesive’ as if that’s any fucking better!!

She said she was sorry if she had offended me and that she wasn’t talking about me as a person, or who I am but it’s how she sees the young parts… which is even fucking worse. The young parts that have been so terrified to trust, to open up, to let the feelings out – and when I finally do the kick back was spectacular.

She has retreated from me in the biggest way – I have felt it and yet she’s made out like it’s me and my attachment picking up stuff that’s not there…but it is!

She said that we can concertedly work with these parts but that it’s going to take hard work and maybe I just want to act out this stuff and not work out why this is happening. I felt devastated by what she was saying. Of course I want to work on myself…but I just don’t feel safe in the room. Surely there are ways of talking about this stuff without crushing someone’s sense of self.

I was clearly not in a great place when the session came to an end and to add insult to injury as I got up to leave she said, ‘that took me about an hour to read’. When I had sent the email I had said to let me know how long it took and to bill me for the time, but to be honest her telling me at that point wasn’t great timing. It just felt, yet again, that this is all about a transaction to her. I was breaking my heart and she was telling me I owe her and extra £60.

I left that last session in a complete mess. I burst into tears the moment I got in the car and cried all the way home. When I got near to home I pulled over into a layby on the single track lane and I spoke to my friend on the phone and cried at her, broken, desperate, and the child parts wailing. Then I sat and cried some more in the layby and waited for the tears to subside before driving home. My wife was working from home and the last thing I wanted was to have to explain why I was so late back and also why I had rivers of mascara running down my face.

Just to clarify – I am not a crier; I have found it impossible to let anything out in years… but the fucking dam is broken now and I have been bursting into tears IN FRONT OF PEOPLE! IN PUBLIC PLACES! WITH NO CONTROL! I am soooooooooo upset.

On the positive side of this, if there is one, is that this rupture/ending has tapped into my core wound in the biggest way and all the grief is flooding out now. I know this is not just about Em but right now it is and right now she is not helping me process any of my feelings or grief so if feels like this loss is just going to go on the pile of other rejections…which is not really what I had wanted from this therapy!

I had really struggled to stay present during the session because all I could hear in my head repeating over and over was, ‘she thinks you’re like a tick’. It was hideous. A tick? A fucking parasite? I mean why would you ever make that analogy about anyone, let alone someone you’ve known intimately for eight years in a therapeutic relationship? At a time when I really needed to be adult in the room and fight my corner I was gone and deep in the trauma and she just kept talking. It felt like every sentence confirmed that she has had enough of me and feels like I am too needy and demanding.

I felt like I wanted to die. The child parts were reexperiencing the feelings that are so familiar and were so devastated that it was Em that had made them feel this way. I was in a relationship with her to try and rewrite the narrative and yet somehow here I was being pushed away again for being too much. I felt unseen. Or maybe I was seen but now she’d seen me, as I am, with all my need, and was disgusted by me and wanted to get away from me. Maybe I have to accept that the person I think I am (trying to believe I’m not a needy freak) is actually not what everyone else sees and maybe they are correct after all.

I think maybe if I listened back to the session it mightn’t have been as bad as it felt in the moment, but the problem is, spouting theory at me is one thing (like perhaps it is adhesive attachment) but my feelings are still involved and how this is talked about is important. Somehow Em doesn’t frame things in way that doesn’t make me feel ashamed. I do understand that so much of what happens is down to my attachment problems and the parts but there surely are ways of saying things that don’t make the client feel worthless and crap. Like, surely she must’ve known I was struggling to be there and hear what she was saying?

I know at the end she tried to apologise but the thing is, the damage was already done. I was so far out of my window of tolerance that I couldn’t hear her…

Having spoken to my friend after the session and feeling so unbelievably hurt, I had resolved to take a break from therapy with Em for a while because it’s just getting worse and worse with every session. Something big is playing out and I don’t seem to have the capacity to side step it and look at it objectively when I am in the room with her. I basically walk in, look at her, and bam it’s trauma time.

As I pulled up on my drive I looked at my phone and an email from Anita had come in replying to the email I had sent her before the weekend:

Recap of my message:

Hi Anita,
Thanks for getting back to me and thinking about this. I suspected this is what your supervisor might say and do understand. It’s a complex dynamic.

I need time to think about what to do next. There are so many competing parts inside right now and it feels overwhelming. I really want to move forward and away from this horrible place of feeling rubbish all the time but the fear of the vulnerable parts losing Em is enormous – like annihilation and it’s not going to be a simple transition to another therapist after eight years with all that’s been triggered in the relationship.

The reality is that I don’t trust people easily and so it is a real barrier to leaving. I guess it’s something about better the devil you know and whilst I sense that you would be a good fit for me from what you have said there is definitely a voice that is saying, ‘what if she’s just the same and you get hurt again – at least Em knows you’.

I know, ultimately, it’s going to take a leap of faith now but any change is unsettling for me. I understand, too, that there’s a possibility that by the time I have managed to leave Em you mightn’t actually have availability or capacity to see me…which makes the whole process feel daunting. I guess I’ll just have to trust the universe on this one.

I don’t really know what else to say but I am grateful to you for trying to help find a way forward.

I’ll be in touch…soon… I hope.
RBCG

Anita said:

I really do understand RBCG and feel you need to look after the vulnerable parts of you.
My sense is you have done some really valuable & positive work with your current therapist and now ready for the next part of your journey and it’s hard to let go of one and to continue with someone else you don’t yet know.

I can also hear your concern regarding my availability which is also a valid concern but I will add Mondays & Fridays are usually my quietest days so I should be able to fit you in as and when you feel ready.

With very best wishes,
Anita

It felt a bit like the universe was aligning in that moment. On the Friday session with Em I had driven home and driven past Anita driving the other way. I would never usually notice oncoming vehicles or cars and yet I looked up and there she was and now, on Monday after the shit had hit the fan in came a message from her again. I jumped on the opportunity and emailed her immediately to see if I could arrange a second session:

Hi Anita,
Thanks for this. It couldn’t have been better timed, actually, as I have left therapy today in tears – the last two sessions have been hell (on top of the stuff that happened before) but even my really damaged, vulnerable parts that will tolerate almost anything can’t cope with my child parts being called ‘intrusive’, ‘adhesive’, and… ‘tick like’. Needless to say I feel like I want crawl into a hole and die right now but it’s given me the push I needed.
So, when can we arrange to meet?…and I honestly don’t think I am any of those things Em said.
RBCG

She responded and we scheduled an appointment for Friday.
I spent a lot of the day crying and speaking with my wife, which is unheard of, but I couldn’t hide how bad I was feeling. And even, she, as an unfeeling ‘man brain’ could see how the ‘tick’ reference would hurt.

Later that day (Monday) I drafted and email to Em, typing through my tears knowing that this was looking very much like the end of the road. I was in such a state.

Em,

I need a break from therapy with you for a while. Whilst I understand some of what you have been saying lately from an intellectual perspective – I get the theory – my feelings are still wrapped up in all this. I am not just some kind of case study to be analysed and hypothesised about. I can’t just absorb the stuff you’re saying and it not have an impact on me. To hear, today, that you feel that I am ‘intruding’, ‘demanding’, ‘trying to get inside you’, ‘pushing boundaries’ and that my wanting to be close to you or asking for occasional reassurance is me behaving like I have an unhealthy ‘addiction’ that shouldn’t be encouraged, and that I am ‘like a tick’ well, it really, really hurts.

I don’t ever really cry and yet today I spent an hour crying in a layby after the session because what you said hurt me so much. Saying that it’s not about me as a person but how you see the young parts doesn’t really make it feel any better because it’s the youngest most vulnerable parts that are tied up in this, it’s them that need to feel like they aren’t too much. I get how uncomfortable I have been making you feel and I am sorry that it’s feels so negative. Being thought of as adhesive is bad enough but parasitic is a whole other level of pain for me. I feel so stupid for letting you in and allowing myself to be vulnerable with you…to love you.

I know you can’t keep my session times free and until I can step outside my relationship with you and look at things without feeling anything there’s no point in doing this week in week out. So I guess we’ll just have to see what your schedule looks like in the future.

I am so sad that it’s got to this point.

Take care

On Tuesday evening at 7pm I received this reply:

Dear RBCG,

Thank you for letting me know about your decision and I am sorry that I was not able to help you. I wish you well for the future.

Em

And just like that my world fell apart. I had been crying on and off since the session but stupidly still held out some hope that she might read that email, see how hurt I was (even if she didn’t mean to hurt me) and meet me where I was at, in all the messy, confused, young, hurt feelings. But instead I got this. I’ve known this woman eight years and worked together with her for five of those…and this is how she ends it?? Two sentences? I was pretty much hysterical all night. Sobbing my heart out. I fell asleep crying and woke the next day with the sorest head. My body was killing me…and all I wanted to do was hurt myself.

Clearly, I was right. She really doesn’t care about me and there never was a relationship. I mean…wtaf? What should I be thinking here? That’s it? No termination sessions, no goodbye? She knows me. She knows how big a deal rejection and abandonment are and yet how could I possibly see that email as anything else but rejecting and abandoning?

I managed to formulate some thoughts in an email even though internally I was freaking out and again sat at my laptop crying my eyes out as I typed. I sent this on Wednesday evening:

Em,
I’m really confused and panicked by your email. Am I meant to read it as we’re actually done forever and not having a break/leaving door open so I can regroup and get myself together? And if this is the case (this is termination) that we are not going to have any time to create a reasonable ending to this therapy? I really wasn’t expecting to terminate via a two sentence email after all this time – it’s not what I want. I’m shit at endings anyway but this is not how I would choose to mark the ending of a significant relationship….which is what it is to me.

I know things are in a complete mess, hence wanting to take some breathing space but it seems like you’re finis hed. I know there’s a lot of negative countertransference here but I don’t think it’s ideal if this is how this ends.

Of course, only you can make a decision for you and if you’ve had enough you’ve had enough.

As for not being able to help me – that just isn’t the case at all. You’ve helped me with so much in the time that I’ve been seeing you. I am not the same person as I was when I saw you in the NHS or even a few years ago. I actually feel things now when I never could access my emotions at all before. I am actually making choices in my life that work for me rather running myself into the ground (ok this is new for 2020). I am still so grateful to you for being alongside me on my journey so far and whilst things are really hard right now I don’t think that the whole therapy has been useless or unhelpful.

Getting this email last night felt like I had suffered another bereavement – I can’t just have you gone with no chance to say goodbye.

x

By this point I wasn’t even sure if she would respond or not…I mean that last email felt pretty final.

But she did reply with this on Friday (talk about dragging this agony out all week!):

Dear RBCG,
Having thought a lot about the therapy with you, I have sadly come to the conclusion that we need to end the therapy, because, in my clinical view, I have come to the limit of my competence in my work with you. I would very much prefer to end in person and, would therefore suggest that we meet for between one and six weekly sessions at your old Monday time and starting at your earliest convenience. Please let me know whether you would like to have these sessions.
Em

More tears came. All I have fucking done this week is cried. And this just felt cold again…and perhaps like she was covering her back since it’s kind of protocol to offer termination sessions with clients to try and have a decent enough ending. Had I not emailed her querying what was going on, whether we had terminated, and if so what was happening, I think I would never have heard from her again. I had always hoped that my therapy would end positively and it would be a relationship that I would be able to return to periodically in the future.

I suspect I will always dip in and out of personal therapy throughout my life – almost like a car needs servicing. It might not be regular, and it might not be many sessions, but I had hoped that if any significant life events happened that caught me off guard or I had the occasional wobble in the future I would always have that door open to be able to return to Em. This is how I imagined I would get and exercise that earned secure attachment we are all seeking. The relationship can still exist years later even if we don’t see each other much at all.

But here I am staring down the barrel of another shut door.

I literally do not know what to do.

Should I go back and have a termination session or a few sessions? Or is it likely just to be more of the same?

Any ideas would be great because I have no fucking idea.

I don’t want to go in, cry like a baby and have her sit there and watch me in all my pain and go, broken again but equally if I don’t go and say goodbye will this just be another ending where I am left holding all the feelings and never getting any closure.

Thank you everyone for your support through this. It’s funny, I was reading my year ahead horoscope at the beginning of January and it said something about internet friends being massively important in the coming year… looks like that’s right! x

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Abandonment and Rejection: Part 1

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It’s clear to me, and I am sure to anyone who follows this blog, that probably two of the biggest fears I have in life are being abandoned and/or rejected. There have been so many times throughout my life where I have been abandoned (physically and emotionally). As an adolescent it hurt like hell to experience this rejection for simply being me (there was a lot of rejection when I came out when I was 17) and any rejections I have experienced as an adult hurt massively because it feels like my younger self is being wounded again and again. Ouch.

Having been in therapy for a gazillion years, I am obviously now much more aware of what happened to me as a younger child and it’s only now, as an adult, that I am feeling the full force of the pain of being left. As a kid I must have repressed those feelings or dissociated them because it was too much to cope with and I had to survive.

Clearly, the reason I struggle so much now with the feelings of inadequacy, being unlovable and forgettable stems from my ongoing childhood trauma. That’s what’s really done the big damage, or created a blueprint for how I imagine relationships will go in the here and now. The problem is, despite having many many, healthy, wholesome, caring, reciprocal relationships in 2020 I still have this niggling doubt underneath that say it’s all going to go to shit so maybe I should be cautious about really letting people in. Nowhere is this more apparent then in my therapeutic relationship with Em.

It’s been a nightmare lately. Unfortunately, events sometimes come together to create and almost perfect storm, setting me off balance and making me even more scared about being ‘too much’ and then I start panicking about left by the people I care about.

There’s no denying the recent time (since just before Christmas) in therapy has done nothing to settle my ‘freaking out child parts’ and there has also been a recent event in my family where people I had let back in (after cutting them off for spectacularly hurting me when my dad died) have actually rejected me again! All that old pain and sadness has come up and I feel both devastated and angry- devastated that I thought they might have changed, and angry that I let them in only to hurt me again. Will I never learn to trust my gut and see red flags?

Any reconfirmation of the narrative that people I love aren’t reliable and will actually disappear or threaten to leave (that I formed as a kid when my mum wasn’t around much) kind of intensifies the panic. It’s not surprising I had a breakdown when my dad died suddenly whilst abroad – it kind of lit the touch paper on all the stuff that had being weighing me down but I couldn’t see. I had just blanketed my problems under ‘depression’ rather than a fucking disaster of a childhood! I can see why the recent events with my grandparents (the latest rejection) have poured salt in the wound.

It really hasn’t helped that stuff with Em has felt so shaky, too. It’s felt so bloody hard inside myself lately. Adult me has carried on getting on with the job of life but deep inside the fear of the younger parts has been mounting on a daily basis and that clearly makes for all kind of crazy to seep out.

I have kept looking for reassurance from Em that the relationship is secure and when I find none, I become even more sensitive and scared than I was before. In fact, the last few weeks it’s been so bad in therapy that I have been convinced things are on a knife edge and I’ve been clinging on for dear life which actually only seems to make her back further away.

After the disaster Skype call first session back after Christmas I contacted another therapist to put out feelers about how it might work doing therapy with someone new. The idea of leaving Em was enough to send me over the edge and the young parts were terrified that this really could be the beginning of the end, but at the same time I was really aware that things are stuck and no matter how we try and work through it there’s some basic fundamentals that feel non-negotiable on both sides. Her boundaries are so rigid and my need for more containment and reassurance is getting worse rather than better because of the feeling that the door is closed on me. I feel more and more like I am not in a relationship with her and keep getting my feelings hurt- the recent gift rejection really hurt and her refusal to sit closer to me…well fuck…that’s a kicker.

So, I was reluctant to go and see this new therapist the other week but at the same time I needed to work out whether what I want in therapy is possible or whether my needs are just too much for any therapist and I should stop wishing for things that are unreasonable.

I mean to be fair, I read enough blogs to know that it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to get transitional objects, check ins, occasional hugs or hand holding, or at the very least to be sat next to when there is the need. However, I am very aware after my experience with Em that not all therapists do this stuff (she does none!) and some might do bits and bobs depending.

I guess I have a wish list and accept that probably not all elements might be met but what I am very clear that this time I need to know the lay of the land with any new therapist from the get go – what is and isn’t possible? I don’t want to stumble across boundaries somewhere down the line (like I have with Em) when my attachment stuff has already kicked in and then end up in the same position as now, wanting certain things and then finding out it’s a hard NO.

In my initial email to Anita I didn’t ask about that stuff but I explicitly asked about whether she has experience of working with C-PTSD and attachment and what kind of supervision she undertakes and how frequently. I even asked her if she considered that she had done enough of her own work. I mean, if I am gonna jump ship I need to know these things, right?

Her reply to my email was kind and warm and we arranged an initial appointment.
So much has happened since that session (I have a lot of blogging to do over the next couple of weeks!!!) that I can’t really remember much about it.

I felt a bit disloyal rocking up at Anita’s house having just come from a therapy session with Em but again my session with Em had been bleurgh – more talk of boundaries and the gift giving and I felt so far away from her.

First impressions of Anita when she opened the door were that she was warm and kind.
The therapy room is a good space. It’s comfortable, nicely decorated, and is the right size to feel close enough to the therapist. It’s not Em’s room, though, which is beautiful and really appeals to my aesthetic and academic sides with lovely natural wooden furniture and bookcases full of theory stuff. But I am not in therapy for the room, I am in it for the relationship with the person that sits in it! And let’s face it, if it was all about the room I would be fine!!

I know that I was distressed when I sat down, the weight of what has been going on hit and the reality that I was about to talk to a stranger and let them see the mess that I am in felt big. I figured that I have absolutely nothing to lose at this point so didn’t hold back and sort of unloaded all the stuff I’ve been struggling with in the therapeutic relationship with Em: how I feel like we’ve done all the intellectual work, I know what my issues are, but my feelings aren’t getting met, mirrored or held and so there’s a huge block and my child parts just feel perpetually retraumatised and abandoned every time they get close to the core wound.

I said how I feel shame every time I try and connect and get met with, ‘I’m just your therapist’ or ‘some therapists may do that but I don’t work this way’, and, ‘you know my boundaries and what I want’… you know the stuff, I write about her all the time, it’s not new news to you guys!

I spoke about my issues around breaks and disruptions and how bad it feels to be ignored when I very occasionally reach out. There was loads. And what was great was that because I wasn’t dissociative, or shut down, or being hypervigilant I actually made really good use of the time. I reckon I covered about five sessions worth of content in one!

I didn’t ask directly about any of the relationship stuff with Anita but from what I said about Em she kept stepping in and saying things like, ‘I understand how hard breaks can be for people with C-PTSD and so can I tell you how I work? I will write notes, do transitional objects, and I am available for calls and check ins if necessary on longer breaks because that’s how I think I need to work. Obviously not all clients need this but for those that do I offer that and always try and take a minute to make a call – my family know what I do for a job and so expect that’. She also told me that sometimes we really need someone to hold our hand in the pain (both literally and metaphorically) and that she sometimes feels like clients need hugs from her but of course will always ask first because some clients do not want that kind of contact.

Basically, she took all my cues and on every single sore point and came back with the response I was hoping for. She’s person centred, works with attachment, has experience of working with C-PTSD and dissociative disorders, she undertakes lots of CPD and brilliantly has been on Carolyn Spring’s trainings and has read her books (which are fab btw)…she’s basically got the package I am looking for. Only, she’s not Em…and Em knows me. I’d have to start all over again. Fuck me. I really don’t want to.

Anita said that it felt to her like Em had done some good work with me but now it seems I am in a place where I need to be really met and held in the work and my young parts need to feel loved and for whatever reason Em can’t/won’t do it.

She likened what we’ve done in therapy to being like an egg – we’ve gone through the hard shell, waded through the white, and now we’re at the most vulnerable part – the yolk, and she can’t do the work, or I can’t do it in the way that she works. And this is kind of how it feels…although for the longest time I have felt like it’s just me, my resistance, my defences that are the problem – because, of course, I will always turn it in and try and find where I am at fault for a situation, but actually I am coming to accept that what worked well for me before isn’t working for me now. It’s devastating, actually, but things can’t stay as they are.

The session with Anita felt really nice and I really got the sense that I could build something with this therapist…but it’d mean letting go of my attachment figure and that is fucking terrifying. I emailed her a day or so after the session to thank her for her time and to ask about how we might move forward. I was very aware that just cutting and running from Em would be almost impossible for the young parts and I wondered if we might do some kind of transition where I could build a relationship with her first before fully moving over – because what if it didn’t click and I was left dangling with no way back.

Anita responded and said she had an idea but she needed to run it by her supervisor first. Unfortunately, her idea was shot down by the supervisor – she had thought, given my trauma history and difficulty with attachment and trust that she might be able to function as a support whilst I left Em meanwhile building a relationship with me so that I didn’t have to abruptly leave Em knowing that would feel so hard to those attached young parts.

Her supervisor said it would possibly cause grey areas and so she couldn’t work with me until I was no longer working with Em. The email was really caring and understanding and whilst I felt gutted that her idea (which sounded so like what I needed) wasn’t possible it felt nice that she had at least tried to think of a solution and had cared enough to contact her supervisor. It shows she is keen to work ethically which is really important to me.

I responded to the email with this:

Hi Anita,

Thanks for getting back to me and thinking about this. I suspected this is what your supervisor might say and do understand. It’s a complex dynamic.

I need time to think about what to do next. There are so many competing parts inside right now and it feels overwhelming. I really want to move forward and away from this horrible place of feeling rubbish all the time but the fear of the vulnerable parts losing Em is enormous – like annihilation and it’s not going to be a simple transition to another therapist after eight years with all that’s been triggered in the relationship.

The reality is that I don’t trust people easily and so it is a real barrier to leaving. I guess it’s something about better the devil you know and whilst I sense that you would be a good fit for me from what you have said there is definitely a voice that is saying, ‘what if she’s just the same and you get hurt again – at least Em knows you’.

I know, ultimately, it’s going to take a leap of faith now but any change is unsettling for me. I understand, too, that there’s a possibility that by the time I have managed to leave M you mightn’t actually have availability or capacity to see me…which makes the whole process feel daunting. I guess I’ll just have to trust the universe on this one.

I don’t really know what else to say but I am grateful to you for trying to help find a way forward.

I’ll be in touch…soon… I hope.
RBCG

So I sent that and felt a bit sad. I felt like I had a choice to make. Leave Em and hope for the best with Anita or give it one last stab at throwing everything at Em and seeing what she came back with.

We had another really tough session on the Friday, I can’t remember why now (!!) but it was not easy. I guess my young parts were having a meltdown inside and so take pretty much everything as a rejection and a lack of Em wanting to connect to me.

Oh god.

It’s just come back.

I said that I was wondering whether we could recover from where we were at because it felt so bad. I said that I wasn’t sure that it was enough anymore and the therapy doesn’t feel holding enough. We sort of talked around what leaving might feel like and what parts might feel what but it didn’t feel good at all. She said that if I left she would feel ‘sad and disappointed’ that we hadn’t managed to get me into a better place and it wouldn’t be the ideal end, that’s when the teen piped up, ‘As if!’ and I rolled my eyes. Like, come on lady, you literally give no shits about me and don’t try and pretend after the recent shit show that you’d be sad to see the back of me.

I made some reference to her not caring and she did the usual, ‘If I didn’t care about you I wouldn’t be working with you, but I care about you as a therapist, and I get the sense that parts of you want a different kind of relationship’ then she started on about that think about me wanting her to be my partner or friend again and I was like ‘NO!’ and she then said that if it’s unconscious I wouldn’t know.

Ugh.

I get what she’s saying but honestly when she says the slightly caring stuff I just can’t feel it or take it in because it doesn’t seem very warm or genuine. It feels like I am perpetually asking her for reassurance and she gives the absolute bare minimum of herself. She keeps herself so far out of the room. I said, this, actually, ‘every time I try take a step towards you it feels like you back away’. She said that that’s because I haven’t had secure attachment and if I had I wouldn’t experience her that way. I said, ‘I know. But I DON’T HAVE SECURE ATTACHMENT AND IT IS HOW I EXPERIENCE YOU!’

I remember that she asked about the story I’d given her as a gift at Christmas and said that as an English teacher I must have lots to say about it. This pissed me off. Like why on earth would I want to share that deeply vulnerable stuff with her, and how and why the character’s journey to therapy when she’d basically rejected it the moment we got back from Christmas? I am so hurt by how she handled that that there was absolutely not a chance in hell that I could go to that vulnerable place…for what? To be knocked down or be told, ‘I am just your therapist’ again.

I left the session feeling unseen and desperate and she asked me to let me know if I make a decision about terminating but that she’d be there on Monday all the same. I didn’t know what to do. And started writing when I got home adding to the draft of stuff I had written about following the Skype session (in the last blog post) – it ended up being close to 4000 words! (see there are words inside I just can’t say them out loud!!). I emailed the letter to Em on Friday afternoon – knowing she wouldn’t reply but literally was so confused and unsettled that I didn’t know what else to do.

You know that perfect storm I was talking about at the start? Well it was picking up strength. So, imagine my surprise when Em responded that she would read my email before the session.

I felt nervous and a little more positive like maybe we could find a way through. I tried not to stress too much over the weekend and went into Monday feeling hopeful but also terrified. I know that all my attachment stuff is going berserk right now but it’s hard to explain why things feel so bad it’s a feeling perhaps more than what’s actually being said.

I’ll write what happened next bit in another post…

Some Things Never Change

So, that was a week!! To be fair, I’ve had an absolutely wonderful time away with my family. The weather could not have been better and after the last stressful six months it was exactly what we all needed. I’m not usually sad to leave a holiday – usually I’m ready to return home and look forward to time in my home and own bed but this time I literally did not want to leave the hotel. I could have cried leaving the spa this morning.

Even though it’s Christmas coming up and I have two more weeks off work, I could happily have had another week of spa and massages and someone feeding me and entertaining my kids!!! When I get home it’s a suitcase of washing, the Christmas house clean and food shop to look forward to… oh and the gloom and floods! It’s not just that though- I’m avoiding what inevitably is waiting at home back in the therapy room and just need more escapism!

I really really wish that I hadn’t have had the rupture, or whatever you’d call it, with Em in our last session. It’s been playing on my mind all week but luckily I have managed to shelve the worst of it, most of the time, and I think that’s largely because I had already decided to cancel Friday’s Skype session before I left.

There were a few times when I was sitting by the pool and my mind would wander. I’d go through various trains of thought. Often it was, ‘wtaf happened on Friday?’ which would leave me feeling a bit pissed off but also disengaged with therapy and feeling like I had no great desire to go back in January. That would actually make the break bearable so I’ve been trying to hang on to that where possible.

Sometimes, though, panic would sink in and the young parts would go into a mini meltdown but not long enough to cause any real problems. There was one night where I was really tired and felt desperate to snuggle with my soft toy dog. I rarely sleep with stuffed toys but that night I felt the need and of course there was nothing that could be done. Ugh.

On Thursday night I had a therapy dream and I woke up feeling stressed out, little, and sad. The dream itself wasn’t horrendous – far from it- but waking up from dream with Em where everything had been better than good – a big hug at the end of a connecting session- well to wake up in the reality of rupture land was ouch. I guess my brain was trying to serve me up a bit of soothing but it backfired because the distance between the dream and reality is massive.

I’ve been catching up on quite a few blogs this week and it’s clear as day that whatever is going on with me and Em it isn’t great- and whilst she’s not a particularly demonstrative person I feel like her inflexibility round some things is just making things worse.

The question I guess I have to ask myself is whether the things I feel like I’m missing out on are deal breakers or whether or not I think what is on offer with her is enough. What I do know is that I have given so much time and energy to this therapy and yet I feel like I’m stuck. I feel like I’m trying so hard but just keep running into walls which makes me reinforce my own walls.

It’s getting boring!

And depressing!

Anyway, unsurprisingly there was radio silence all of last week from Em. She didn’t respond to the text I’d sent after the session on Friday which felt kind of punishing, actually. I wasn’t sure whether she had received my notebooks in the mail because she hadn’t acknowledged them either.

So on Friday morning I was torn. Was I really going to pass up the last contact time with her this year? Parts of me longed to talk… but I’m not a moron and I knew that the likelihood of the session being anywhere close to what I needed was about as likely as me winning the lottery. In fact I’ve probably got more chance of winning the lottery and I don’t even buy a ticket!

So on Friday morning I sent this in a text:

I’ve been stressing all week about what to do about today. Internet signal is too patchy for Skype and whilst the phone is ok I honestly I don’t even know what to say to you if we did talk there’s so much swirling about inside. I don’t know if you’ll have received the notebooks in the post or not but if you have can you read those please. I suspect that you’ll say something about difficult feelings being stirred up and how you’re ‘just my therapist’. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong after nearly 8 years (on and off) because I feel further away from you than ever right now. It seems like at a time when lots of people like me struggle some therapists are bringing in transitional objects, writing notes, encouraging parts that struggle to communicate verbally to write, offering up text check ins, playing games, sitting next to clients and generally being reassuring etc and I get that’s not how you work but yet again we’ve landed upon a break and it’s, ‘if we don’t speak I think we’re back on the 3rd or 4th’ and it’s just a world away from what I needed. I hate that it feels like this and disruption is so hard.

Have a good Christmas

I didn’t want to sound blaming or petulant – I don’t know if I succeeded? I did, however, want her to see how far off things feel for me.

Fortunately, she did reply to the text:

Hi RBCG thank you for your notebooks and I’ll read them instead of Skyping or phoning today. I do understand that it’s been difficult and that you have complex feelings about the therapy and me and that breaks intensify the inner pain and battle within you. I hope that we can move forward in the new year. I wish you a pleasant Christmas and New year. See you on Friday 3rd January. Em

I’m guessing she’s relieved I didn’t want to talk. The message feels a bit lukewarm but I think we are in a lukewarm place… if not bordering on arctic! 😂

So, yeah, I dunno really what to think. Maybe a break is what I need. And if it continues like this I’ll cope just fine. I hope I have the resources not to fall into the pit of annihilation doom! I’m hoping that because I don’t have any immediate work pressures I can just allow myself to feel what I feel and honour those feelings and the various parts that are feeling them. I am resilient but it’s not always easy.

I get the sense that this coming year is going to be a lot about grieving and ‘letting go’ and metabolising a lot of pain.

I’m big into Frozen (1 and 2) again right now (the joy of having a daughter!!!) and Em and I have spoken on and off about why I like it and how I relate to Elsa in a big way – journey of self discovery and self acceptance is bound to resonate right?! So I’ll be channeling my inner Disney Princess this holiday, if I can!

So, yeah, that’s about it. It’s a bit Bleurgh but I’m not falling apart just yet…but then I’m usually fine until about the 28th! I just found out, too, that I can’t do my first session back on the 3rd as my wife is away and there’s no one to have the kids. Part of me doesn’t care and part of me thinks I’ll be ready to go talk by then.

Oooh and I really must find time to write about my craniosacral therapy experiences so far because they are, at least, uplifting and I don’t feel like a complete disaster in those sessions!

I won’t have time to blog before Christmas again now, so I wish all of you the best Christmas possible – I know for many many of us that this time of year can be really tough for so many reasons. Just know, whatever happens you’re doing the best you can and take space as and when possible!

And when all else fails channel a bit of angry teen part Elsa and ‘fuck it all!’

See you on the other side 😳😉