The Mother Wound: Will It Ever STOP Hurting?

For once – brace yourselves for this- I’m going to write primarily about my mum and the mother wound, rather than wax lyrical about my therapist! Of course, the work I do in therapy relates so much to my relationship (or lack of one) with my mother, but usually I’m here talking about what’s been triggered when I see Anita and how that works out rather than stuff in the here and now with my mum.

However, my most recent rupture with Anita was so powerful and so painful and it coincided so neatly with something that happened with my mum that it was so obvious to see that what I was bringing into the room, to Anita, was decades old hurts from another relationship altogether. Afterall, my therapist not being able to offer slightly longer sessions really should not have triggered the colossal meltdown/s that it did. I mean it’s literally been a solid two months (and still going strong!) of internal chaos and anxiety and frankly, that’s disproportionate to what the trigger actually was.

When you dig beneath the surface, though, and get curious about what the feelings in mine and Anita’s rupture were about: feeling unimportant, easy to put down, and being unworthy of Anita’s time and care, it’s not hard to see why this triggered such a big meltdown. Those feelings are so huge and so raw and yet SOOOOOOOOOOO fucking longstanding and familiar. The sense of being unlovable and inadequate has covered me like a second skin. It’s like being doused in a thick tar of shame. It’s bloody awful.

The need to feel… loved… is (still) so massive. For years and years, I felt like there was something wrong with me for needing connection and that I must be fundamentally lacking in whatever it is that makes people want to be close. No. Not people. People do love and care about, and for, me – I have great friends and a wonderful partner… what I really mean is a mum. A mum that loves me. Is proud of me. Wants to spend time with me. Is interested in me as a person. Feels protective of me. Is there. Available. Attuned. Someone whom I can be myself around. Someone who can give physical affection. Someone who is safe.

That’s a big wish list isn’t it? Perhaps as an adult, yes, but as a child, they are the basic fundamentals, surely.

But then is it really too much to expect – no, not really. I am a mother and these things come naturally. Sure, my kids wind me up and drive me fucking mad – but they are also bloody amazing, and I love them more than anything. There is absolutely nothing I would not do to ensure their happiness and felt sense of safety and being loved. My kids roll their eyes when each day I say, “Guess What?” and then reply “We know Mummy, you love us!” But I love that. I love that there is no doubt in my kids’ minds that they are loved. I love that they come to me when they are hurt or scared or just plain bored. I love the fact that they witter on for hours about boring shit but know that I’ll listen and not just send them off so I can have some time to myself. I love that they know that I will be there every single day to pick them up from school, to read a story, to put them to bed…

They probably have no concept of what this time means because it forms part of the fabric of their existence, but having not had that growing up I can say it has left a massive hole. The sense of being ‘left’ as a child has been hard. I know and understand the reasons my mum went away and her achievements have been significant, but the impact it had on the little girl who was left behind was significant too. And that’s been a big part of my therapeutic work. The coping mechanisms I put in place over the years to deal with that gaping hole inside have been huge and massively detrimental to my health. As I wrote recently, I am through the eating disorder stuff now – but it has taken the best part of 25 years. 25 fucking years. I mean hell, wtf?

As I have said before, my relationship with my mum isn’t perfect but it has been something that evolved and has worked for us both over the last decade or so since having my children. We don’t see much of her, but it’s felt like there has been a reasonable level of contact. There’s not been any drama or fallings out since I announced my first pregnancy and I have come to accept that my mum will never be a hands-on grandparent like my friend’s have. She’s not someone who will take the kids for days out, or have them for holidays or whatever but it’s been ‘good enough’…well…no…it’s been what it is. I feel sad for my children, having had a set of grandparents who were so much fun and child-orientated myself, but I give them these experiences as their parent so it’s not desperate.

Only recently, I don’t know what has happened. It feels like something has shifted and changed and I have no idea why. Like I just can’t put my finger on it. Before Christmas I mentioned that my mum seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth – and at that time I started trying to figure out what was going on. Had I said or done something to account for the radio silence? I couldn’t put my finger on anything and started dredging up things like,  ‘could she somehow have found my blog and taken offence about what was in it?’ but then out of nowhere she rang me and it was as if nothing had happened. It was a total head fuck to be honest with you.

So, fast forward to now. And we’re in similar territory. I think I mentioned in one of my recent posts how she’d taken a few weeks to reply to a text but had prefaced her reply with the fact she’d had covid. I mean, she hadn’t had covid the entire time and let’s be honest, a quick message on WhatsApp doesn’t take a second but – whatever. And then it was my birthday and the thing about having not been able to get out to get a card- fine. Whatever. Whilst I was away on holiday in February, I had sent a message asking if she could have the kids for a day in July and she replied that she couldn’t as she might be doing something…nothing in the calendar yet, but you know, something might come up as a priority. This message coincided with all the stuff with Anita and the stopping longer sessions and it just really triggered the stuff about being completely unimportant and inadequate.

Anyway, I sent flowers and a card for Mother’s Day – and she sent me a message then….but that’s it since. I have sent several messages (5 if we’re keeping tabs) over the last month – and the ticks have gone blue but there’s been no response at all. It’s been the kids’ Easter holidays and in the past we’ve done Easter egg hunts in the garden and she’d bring them an egg. Not this year. No acknowledgment at all. And whilst I may or may not have done something to offend my mum (literally no clue – other than having this blog) I can’t understand why she would not want to make and effort or spend time with her grandchildren. They haven’t done anything wrong…but then neither have I.

I find myself tying myself in knots trying to second guess what’s going on. It feels so reminiscent of my teenage years, trying to make sense of a situation and work out my part in it. Like it makes no sense to stonewall someone unless they’ve done something wrong – so what is the thing I’ve done to deserve this?

Of course, there’s another part of me that feels like I need to stop trying so hard. If she doesn’t want a relationship with me or her grandchildren then that’s fine. Let her get on with it. I need to stop putting myself out there to be rejected or ignored. Every time I message her and there is no reply I am engaging in this weird dynamic. I keep knocking at a door that is locked and bolted. It’s like Em and the empty cupboard. Get the message RB – if she wanted to engage with you she would reply to you. So I need to stop, don’t I?

Some people have asked why I don’t just ring her up and call her out on this, but it doesn’t feel as easy as that. For someone who is usually really assertive and articulate, I just can’t do it when it comes to talking to my mum. I mean I’ll go head to head with her Tory Brexiteer bullshit but when it comes to, “Mum, I feel really sad that we don’t have a good relationship and I’ve really struggled over the years to understand what it is about me that makes you be so distant”… you know, why put yourself out there to be shot down in flames? Especially, if the narrative that still runs loud inside is, “You think you’re so perfect. Who do you think you are? I wish you’d never been born!”

I may not be great at ignoring the triggers or coping with the anxiety that some unreturned messages evoke but I sure as shit will not put myself out there to be hurt further. And I can see the whole thing being turned on its head, that I am somehow the aggressor, and she is the victim, “You have no idea how hard it was for me, what I sacrificed for you…” and it’ll become a character assassination. I am not here (on the blog), trying to blame her for anything – but how things were as a child has left an imprint on me (and that’s what I write about). It’s been really fucking hard, and the mother wound is painful. I’m nearly fucking forty and yet, here I am after more than a decade of therapy writing about how painful it is to be ignored by my mum, and by extension – my therapist (even though A doesn’t ignore me).

Perhaps I am deficient and too needy and am ‘mental’ and pathetic. Perhaps that’s what she sees?

But I’ve done enough work now to challenge that narrative. The Inner Critic that was forged from my mother’s voice can get back in the box. I don’t need it anymore. I have a level of self-compassion that can counteract it. I developed the critic to protect me. By being my own biggest critic and attacking myself meant that nothing anyone else could say or do to me could be worse. I had my own trump card. But now I have seen the role of the critic, and realised I don’t need it anymore. What I need to do is look at WHY it developed in the first place and look at what I was trying to get away from – the mother wound – of course.

So, what do I do now? I guess, I keep taking this stuff to therapy and working through in the safety of the room with Anita. And I stop putting myself out there with my mum. If she chooses to get in touch then great, but I am not going to keep flogging a dead horse – for want of a better expression. What would you do? It’s one of those situations where I wish I could just take the bull by the horns and ask what’s happened – because ultimately if there’s a bad reaction what am I actually losing? I can’t be any more anxious or confused than I am now. I guess, though, right now I can feel some sense of it not being ‘my fault’ and if I confront her the likelihood is the situation will be made ‘my fault’ and then I’ll start doubting myself… in some way, backing off and ‘letting it go’ is the best I can do right now.

Anyway, I’ll leave that here. I’m just off the back of a therapy break and so I’ve been grappling with that alongside this mum stuff. Unfortunately, there’s quite a few bank holidays coming up in the UK over the next few weeks and so there’s more disruption to the therapy but I’ll get through it. I always do.

Last night I was driving to therapy and Destiny’s Child’s ‘Survivor’ came on my random playlist. That album was the soundtrack to my second year of A Levels – and, man, did I turn up the volume last night and belt it out – I was 18 and it was 2001 again!…

Big hugs to all you survivors x

Life In Rupture Land And How Changing The Boundaries And Therapeutic Frame Without Consultation Can Really F*ck Things Up.

I mean, the title of this post says it all really? Pre-warning this post ends up nearly 7000 words so you might be just as well making your own inference from the title!

It’s been a long while since I have written anything about the day-to-day of my therapy and that’s partly because I’ve been so busy with just ‘getting through’ my days that I haven’t really had time to type, and also because Anita and I are navigating the rupture from hell and I wanted to be out the other side of it before I wrote anything. The thing is, it’s been almost six weeks now, and it’s still dire and so I think I need to put something down for my own sanity as much as anything as it’s all kind of blurring into one long disaster and the chronology is skewing in my head.

It feels like there’s just been an awful chain of cumulative events that have totally derailed the therapy and I am really all over the shop right now– I couldn’t even get out the car yesterday for half an hour to go to my session because I was frozen and kept dissociating…that’s how bad it’s felt. Part of me (thank goodness) feels like things will work out in the end because the feelings haven’t changed between Anita and I, but right now I’m having a hard time navigating everything that has happened and the changes in the way we do therapy because it’s sending shockwaves through my system and the child parts are terrified.

I guess I should go back where I left off when I was on holiday. My kids had COVID just before we went away which meant some online sessions which are always tough but I had managed a face to face before I flew off on my trip. My holiday was amazing, and much needed. Anita and I had a couple of exchanges – basically I sent her some photos of the sun – and everything was pretty ok until I got home to the UK on the Friday. That’s when the longing of the young parts kicked in full force. I was sooooo ready to see A after what had felt like weeks of not being able to get what I really needed and I really just wanted to go and reconnect and have a massive cuddle. It was going to be a lumpy period of time going forward, too, because I had just one session before Anita was due to be away for a week herself and so it felt really important to have that one session and to reconnect before yet another disconnection.

I sent Anita a message on the Sunday outlining where I was at. I had this sort of sick feeling as the day went on but hoped it was just anxiety and that everything would be ok when we got to see each other in person. Unfortunately, as the universe would have it, that session didn’t go ahead. Anita was away with her partner and got a flat tyre where he lives which meant she couldn’t come back home. It was going to be challenge enough sorting the tyre and still getting across country for the ferry. I was so disappointed when I received Anita’s message but could see how annoyed she was too, and it clearly wasn’t deliberate, just one of those things, but my goodness, the disappointment I felt was massive. It was clear, too, that she had literally been coming back for me that day when she could have stayed put so part of me felt heartened by the fact she did want to come, just couldn’t.

Anyway, no surprises that the online session was a car crash. I tried really hard to stay present and adult but it just fell to pieces. I was sad and disappointed. I had given her my elephant to wash when I went on holiday so it could be ready for when I saw her and before she went away. Obviously, that didn’t happen and so my go to transitional object was not where I needed it to be and that set the child parts off even more. After that session I text Anita to apologise for giving her a hard time and said I understood what had happened, but it was just difficult and that I missed her. I rounded off the message by asking for stories and cuddles when we got back.

The week whilst she was gone led to an escalation of panic inside. The child parts felt so untethered, ungrounded and try as I might to soothe them it just didn’t really work. I was due to see A on the Tuesday as wasn’t due back on the Monday until after our session. Of course, I was more than ready to see her. She’d text me to tell me that she was looking forward to seeing me and I felt huge relief about being able to go in and just unpack how hard the last month had been. Disruption is so hard for my young parts, separation is painful…

On the Monday evening I was really aware of how bloody sore that mother wound had got. It felt like I was bleeding out tbh. I text Anita and asked if over the next couple of weeks we could do some slightly longer sessions because things felt so wobbly and I needed space and time to settle and reconnect.

Probably once or twice a month Anita I have 75 minute sessions and I have written before about how helpful these can be, especially when stuff feels shaky as it gives time to settle into the space, ground, and then let stuff out and then give it time to be repacked safely.

Anita didn’t reply.

WARNING bells started ringing but I tried to put them to one side.

I was nervous as I walked up the driveway for the session but figured if I could just get in the room and the protectors would stay offline then the child parts could get what they so badly needed and things would start to recalibrate inside.

But no.

Fuck.

NOOOOOO.

I walked into the room and our story books and elephant were not in the room.

Instantly I froze and the protectors went live. I basically shut down. I couldn’t even look at Anita.

It felt like Anita hadn’t kept the child parts in mind and it triggered the fuck out of me. I mean it was REALLY BAD. Having had so much separation and disruption, already, it just seemed to confirm that fear that the young parts have of being forgotten about, or not kept in mind, or generally just not being very important.

The session was uncomfortable because I couldn’t really speak – I just felt so little and lost – and Anita seemed to be unable to join the dots. She reassured me that we were ok, and that nothing had changed but to be honest it felt like we were on different planets. It felt like she was phoning it in and not really ‘there’. Of course, it’s difficult to tell when I’m in that state because everything feels bad and listening back it was nowhere near a terrible as it felt. She asked me what I felt was different because from her side nothing was and that she still loves and cares about me – but when you feel little and abandoned it’s hard to say, “Where is elephant and why aren’t the books here and I missed you and I need a cuddle and and and…?” It’s so fucking cringe.

I know she offered me hugs early on, but I refused them. I so badly wanted to be able to bridge the gap, but the protectors just weren’t allowing it. About half-way through the miserable silence and Anita asked again what was up, I was able to reply, “It doesn’t feel safe.” And she asked, “What can I do to make it feel safer? What do you need?…I really am here for you no matter what…” but that was met with more silence. I just needed her to physically reach out to me which I know is impossible for her to do if I have told her I don’t want a hug. (I do want a hug!)

Later she wondered it I felt like maybe I thought she didn’t care, and asked me what gave me the impression that she didn’t care. I was so far gone and wedged into that dark pit of doom that I just couldn’t get out, I couldn’t tell her why I was so upset and the longer it went on the worse it got.

Anita said something about how she knows my system is programmed to think “it’s dangerous to have time and distance” because of what’s happened to me in the past, but that separation doesn’t have to me that everything has gone wrong. She told me, “I am here, and I really want to be closer but you’re not letting me.” After a little while a tiny voice whispered, “It feels like you’ve forgotten about me.” Anita emphatically told me she hadn’t but of course all I could see was the evidence – elephant wasn’t there, and neither were the books and so in the eyes of the child parts they were out of mind and that is AGONY.

I felt so overwhelmed that I got off the sofa and sat curled up in a ball on the floor. I couldn’t bear to be seen and just sat there trembling with my face on my knees. It was fucking awful. Anita shuffled herself across the sofa and put her hands on my back in a kind of hug and kept rubbing my back. Physical reconnection is so important after a big break to let the young parts know they are still welcome, and I really needed that touch. I just wish that we had hugged on the doorstep when I arrived because that would have gone some way to reminding the parts that she is still her and I am still me and so forgetting things doesn’t mean the love and care has gone…but then of course child parts don’t see grey. It’s black and white. And any hint of retreat on the part of the other signals imminent abandonment and rejection and so we are doomed!

I left the session feeling desperately sad and activated. In the past I would have written, got it down in words and filtered whatever was coming up through the adult but it felt really important to honour what was coming up for the young parts and so I did something different. I got out some crayons and let the young parts draw and express themselves. I used my non-dominant hand…which was weird, but actually really freeing. I am not good at art, anyway, so it really did look like a four-year-old had been let loose with the Crayola but that was the whole point, it wasn’t meant to be polished it was the actual feelings in the moment. And once I got going it all came.

I was in two minds what to do with them. Part of me wanted Anita to see them and part of me felt ashamed and embarrassed. However, I felt it was important that this ‘voice’ wasn’t hidden away because it was the true vulnerable stuff. So I sent them and WHOA NELLY the shit then hit the fucking fan – deep breaths for a RB meltdown!:

Crikey that felt so massive at the time. It felt like I triggered Anita into defensive parent, an almost “look what I do for you and it’s never enough” when actually I think what she was trying to do was reassure me and prove to me that she shows her commitment in so many ways. It was just terrible timing, though. I shared the most vulnerable stuff with her and suddenly money and time boundaries we coming into play. I felt like I had showed her how hurt I was and she was now taking stuff away. Jeez. It really set the cat amongst the pigeons.

After a lot of back-and-forth things settled but I felt like I’d been on the emotional waltzers – I bet you guys do too having seen it in all its glory!

Somehow, I regained my equilibrium after that (I have to say having K on my team has really helped buffer this stuff and give me space to process it a bit outside the immediate triggering situation) and the next session was largely adult – I talked about all sorts of things, I was settled enough, felt safe enough, and then with twenty minutes to go I leapt in and talked about what had happened that last session and how it had impacted me. Anita was really understanding and apologised for not having my stuff in the room and wanted me to know it’s not because she doesn’t care it’s just sometimes she forgets and it’s not intentional.

So what’s going on then? Why has everything just flipped on its axis? It turns out Anita is stretched to her limit and has basically had to rein everything in so that she doesn’t burn out.

Oh great. Here we go.

Timing is everything and coming off the back of a holiday and disruption the last thing I needed was a shift in the frame and boundaries.

Part of protecting herself from burnout is changing how she works…which is bad news for me. Adult me gets that people’s lives don’t stay the same and things change – I mean look at my life over the last two years – but it’s felt so fucking hard having my therapy impacted through no fault of my own. Stuff in Anita’s life has got harder and in order to manage that, it’s my therapy and time with her that suffers (well not just that, but you know what I mean). She’s told me that she’s tried really hard to not let what’s happening impact me and tried to keep things the same as I am so impacted by change but she has to make changes or she’ll be no good to anyone.

The child part keeps looping round to “What have I done wrong?” and has asked her several times because the extra time being taken off the table and the outside contact seemingly being reduced too…well it feels punishing. And no surprises it has a huge impact on how safe I feel in the relationship. Things have escalated into a total shitshow when they previously wouldn’t have because I have stopped reaching out for fear of being ‘too much’ or not getting a reply when I need it. It’s basically a recipe for disaster.

Case in point was recently I had a fucking awful dream about Anita- and usually I would have reached out at the time, and she would have responded with something caring or holding and it would have put it to rest until the next session when we could look at it together. This time, instead of letting her know about it, I held onto it, and it just festered and snowballed as the week went on. Then that same week Anita text me midweek to tell me she was having to cancel a session the following week but might be able to rearrange and would let me know the next day…but she didn’t let me know and so I felt panicked and stressed and forgotten about and abandoned….and that was another straw on the camel’s back…nearly at breaking point.

The dream was hideous, and it doesn’t take all that imagination to see what it was about:

I was due to go to my session and when I arrived Anita was already sitting in the room. She was sitting on the sofa, but it had been cut in half, and the part that I sit on had been removed from the room and instead replaced with a desk/workstation. I looked at Anita and her face had no expression (like still face experiment). It was like her body was there, but she was absent. I felt instantly sick. I said, “you’ve changed it” and she swore blind that she hadn’t and “nothing was different”. I pointed at the desk and said “you’ve made it so we can’t sit together, and I can’t be close to you anymore”. And she denied it again. I walked out crying knowing that I wouldn’t see her again.

I woke up trembling and shaking on the Monday morning and it niggled away at me for the rest of the week. By the time I arrived at the session I was done in. It never used to be like this and it’s really taking its toll.

And so we go on and on and on in this messy spiral.

I will get my head round it eventually but right now it’s like I have had the rug pulled from under my feet. I feel like I have been cast adrift. I feel like I am questioning the relationship because if I really ‘mattered’ she’d find the time for me, wouldn’t she? And then of course it all comes back round to the fact that I am work, a client, and she can switch off from me whenever she chooses, and I don’t have any power in the relationship other than to leave. It’s that kicker of a reality check that really gives the critic and protectors power. They will burn the house down.

Part of what’s really hard is that the changes in Anita and I work have not been discussed or mutually agreed, they’ve been imposed by her/done to me. And this triggers back into what it was like as a child. I either went along with what was happening or I lost out altogether. I feel desperately sad that the therapy that felt so containing and holding now feels threatening to my system. Suddenly I want more than Anita can give, but my needs haven’t changed, I am not asking for more – it’s her capacity that’s changed…and that’s really hard…I am trying to get adult on board but it’s tough when all the child parts have been triggered and trust feels wobbly.

And yet, deep down, I really do know Anita cares about me and loves me. None of what she has done is meant to hurt me. There isn’t anything fundamentally wrong between us. She isn’t pulling back because of me or because I am too much, but it’s so hard to accept that because that’s how I am experiencing it. It may not be me that’s causing her to retreat, but it is still a retreat, and I am still feeling the impact of it. And no amount of her explaining she has to rejig to be able to work safely is cutting it, because little me feels like mummy has decided that little girl is able to cope alone and that her needs don’t warrant attention anymore…ouch.

And basically, we’re right back in the thick of the mother wound where I had to be an adult too soon. And yes, I get I AM AN ADULT but this inner child work is such delicate work and I feel like it’s hit the skids in a big way. It’s no surprise that I am dreaming of careering down hills and my brakes not working. Argh.

Of course, I still have my two sessions a week. I can still text Anita and she does reply most of the time (just not in the way she used to). We still get to cuddle. She still reads stories. She is still Anita. In so many ways nothing has changed and yet internally EVERYTHING has been blown up. There feels like there is no space for me now. Like what if I need her, or an extra session? That’s not available and so that makes it feel unsafe and uncontained…even though I don’t need an extra session right now!

I am trying to tell myself and remind myself all the ways that things are still ok. How committed A is. BUT those teens and the inner critic can be so vocal can’t they? And it’s hard. Sometimes all I can do is take a step back and go…’but look how much you still get, look how much you NEVER got with Em, and do you really think there’s anyone who would go even halfway towards what Anita gives you?’ and when I do this I realise that actually I am so fucking lucky. I’m lucky that Anita is dug in deep too and can hear me losing my shit and accept it and apologise for her part in some things and keep showing up for me, like we are in the trenches but we’re not admitting defeat.

After the episode (meltdown) with the young parts’ drawings and elephant not being in the room Anita has had the books out in every session. She was so sorry that the little parts had felt disregarded and assured me that it was NEVER her intention and that there was no message or change to be read in her forgetting. So, I try and let that filter in. I do feel her authenticity and humanness – she is not perfect – and I guess this is another lesson to the littles that idealise her. Actually, she’s just like the rest of us – flawed – and she regularly says this herself. But she’s better than anything I have experienced previously, she is a better therapist than Em and she is more nurturing and available than my mum!

It was my birthday recently and she remembered, and not only remembered but bought me a present – a soft toy…a soft toy that I had sent her a picture of last year and said how much I wanted one because they are soooo soft and she wrote me a lovely card, too…unlike my mum who didn’t even send me a card.

Like this woman cares A LOT. She listens and she takes me, all of me, in. I feel it, I see it, and yet because the relationship is so deep and intimate now it touches on every sore bit I have when things shift and change. In fact, I text her after another disaster session yesterday and said, “I love you, but it would be so much easier if I didn’t.” I get that this is part of the work. It’s where I am at right now. We’re dealing with all the triggers and all the landmines, and I need to learn that change doesn’t signal disaster but my god it’s sending me through the crazy mill!

I absolutely love my squishmallow. I love Anita. And yet, hardly any time after my birthday just before Mother’s Day… I got up and walked out of a session … as you do. Talk about yo-yoing! It was another intolerable situation I found myself in. I had got myself worked up about that dream about the sofa, how I didn’t feel like Anita was ‘there for me’ anymore and then the thing about not letting me know if I could see her when she said she would had left me in a state because it felt like she just doesn’t get how impacted I am by disruption. It turned out she could reschedule but ahhhhhhh by the time I found that out it was too late – I was full blown shut down!…

AND YES I DO SEE HOW NIT-PICKY IT’S BECOME but this is what happens.

Trigger after trigger after trigger sees us going mental with the hypervigilance and every small thing becomes fucking massive. I know it, and yet, it’s so hard to step out of it when we’re so far out the window of tolerance – which in my case is painfully thin like a letterbox even at the best of times! I feel like I need some space to just settle and breathe and yet we keep hitting landmines. Yesterday Anita said, “it feels like one disaster after another with us at the moment, doesn’t it?” before enveloping me in a tight hug that was so very needed. The fact it had taken me half an hour to be able to get out the car because I felt so upset about a lack of acknowledgment about a card I had given her…well…fuckkkkkkkk.

Anyway, that ‘walk out’ session before Mother’s Day was another disaster. Another massive sense of disconnection. Another time when I couldn’t allow myself to let Anita close and in pushing her away fuelled the fire of feeling abandoned. She repeatedly asked me if I wanted a hug and I repeatedly said “NOOOOO”. I was keeping her at arm’s length, protecting myself but also, deliberately punishing her a bit, I think.

Parts of me are so hurt and so angry about what’s happened with the change to the therapy and my sense of her taking herself away, that I think there’s a bit of me that wants her to feel it and understand it. That’s new. Usually, my protective parts are all about keeping me safe and nothing about trying to have an impact on the other. But is it her, that I want to punish? No. Not really. It’s my mum. It’s my mum’s deficits and lack of care not Anita’s that are the problem. Anita isn’t my mum and yet she’s been more of a mum to me in the last two years than mine ever has been…and yet, my therapist, poor woman is bearing the brunt of someone else’s legacy. She didn’t create the injury but she’s feeling the full force of it.

In a recent session A told me that my silence and pushing her away can feel punishing sometimes and then she had started to cry. I was blown away. So often she’s said how she respects my protectors and the job they are trying to do so it was a revelation to hear that, actually, my self-protection can feel hard for her too, and that how I am impacts her. I mean I guess it must, but sometimes I think we forget our therapists are not robots (well, Em was!). I had said at the time my silence and shut down is self-protection not rejection, and she said that her having to look after herself was self-protection but I am experiencing it as rejection, too. Neither one of us is aiming to reject the other but that’s what it’s feeling like. FUCK!!! Being in relationship is hard isn’t it?!

Unfortunately, the day I walked out of session – or should I say what prompted me to do a runner was that my silence and difficulty saying whatever it was that I was feeling led the conversation round to the idea of control and Anita saying I have control and power in the relationship and that I can look after me. It felt like she was saying she was no longer prepared to look after me and set the fireworks off again. SHITTTTTT. Reader, that is not what she was saying at all, but it was enough for me to get up and leave. I couldn’t tolerate the pain of the disconnection anymore and ran out. FUCK. Man!!

I sat in my car crying for a bit and then text Anita and told her that I knew we were done and that I needed time to process it. I felt so desperate and lost and alone.

She replied an hour later with:

“If that’s your choice, I truly respect your decision. You need to do what feels best for you.”

Ouch. Ouch. OUCH!!!

That felt so much like the ending with Em. “Ok, thanks for letting me know.”

I knew Anita had a huge few days ahead, which is why we’d had to reschedule in the first place, and realised it was not the time to get into a huge back and forth. I might be triggered but I am not a complete asshole. I sensed she was not on her A game and whatever came next really could be make or break and it would be unfair to expect her to interact with me in the way I wanted when she had stuff on. I was triggered and she was elsewhere, so I decided to try and hold it for the weekend. That was not easy, I can tell you!

Weeks ago, my best friend had an idea that maybe I should catch myself in the moment when things are raw in voice notes rather than trying to write stuff down – partly because Anita is dyslexic and partly because I filter so much when I write (not here obvs!) and so a voice note means A can hear how I’m saying something and takes out that stuff where what’s written and what is seen don’t quite align. 

So, I recorded a message to Anita on the Friday and sent it to her on the Sunday. She messaged me on Sunday night when I was down at the seaside. I’d been away for the weekend and trying to ‘not get bogged down in panic’ but I knew from the message she sent and that she hadn’t yet had chance to listen to it but was trying to open the door for me to come back (although it also felt defensive to me), so the next morning, when I woke up, I text and asked her to listen to it when she could and then text me when she had done it and then I’d come in – so I expected her to text at 10:20 as the message was 19 mins long!

I knew it was going to be hard to get to the session because I was drowning in shame and anxiety about how things had gone on the Thursday and how things have been since coming back from holiday. The message she had sent on Thursday felt like she’d checked out (but understandably so given what she had coming up) and I was struggling with that but also trying to tune into the Anita I know. Around 8:30am I got a message from A saying she’d listened to the message, and she ‘really hoped to see me’ and it felt like she was back and warm and basically ok! Phew!

I found the voice note was a really good way of saying what I needed to say in the moment. I was able to really hook into the issue but also let my mind go where it needed. I was able to be honest about how much losing the extra time felt, how hard I find it to ask for things in the first place, all kinds of stuff really- and it clearly landed as I hoped with A.

That session was a tough one, but massively connected/connecting. We talked through so much. Particularly about what happens in those awful states of shut down and what I need in those moments (Not to be told I can leave and have a choice!) but also when I run out or back myself into a corner I need her to give me a way back in, i.e the message she sent but with a caveat at the end “I’ll be here on Monday, I still care, and we can work through this if you want to”. There’s so much processing going on right now! Anita reiterated her commitment to the work and heard what I had to say and it felt ok…so you’d think that’d be the end of it wouldn’t you?

Hell no! We’re on the fifth round of the rollercoaster ride and everyone is nauseous! I want to get off!

Part of me is just watching this like a slow-motion car crash. I feel dizzy from how much stuff is going off. It’s like someone kicked over the dominoes! Another part is laughing and rolling their eyes. Like, I suppose it’s good that I feel safe enough to kick off and get upset and show my dissatisfaction and stamp my feet with A, where previously I’d sit with Em and be a ‘good girl’ and just dissociate instead…. and so that’s progress…but then the level of tantrum and upset is catastrophic and feels like I have been catapulted back into being a kid or a teen when I just want to be ‘normal’.  

Jeez.

I’m trying hard not to judge myself too harshly or sink too deeply into the shame when it comes but it’s certainly not easy.

Right, so what else went wrong??!

Btw – sorry, this is so looooong –  I should probably have broken it into separate posts but I would forget to schedule them and know I won’t get chance to come back to this for a while so we may as well do big rupture blog and then breathe! Not that anyone will read this anyway – but I need a record of the chaos!

So, of course a lot of this was happening around Mother’s Day…not a triggering time at all is it?! Weeks ago, before my holiday (which feels like a lifetime ago now), I saw a card in the shops for and I really wanted to give it to Anita – this was obviously way before the recent crap that’s gone off. I gave her a card last year and it was received well and so I bought it for her – it was more from the young parts than the adult so when it came closer to the time, this year, I felt scared and worried, and like she may not receive it well. I’d literally just ran out the session the previous week so I didn’t really feel I could go in a give her a card when we had been teetering on the edge of me walking away!

But, after the (latest) repair session I felt more connected and safer to express what I wanted. So I wrote out this message later in the week and took it to session on Friday just gone:

I saw this card ages ago and wanted to give it to you – and then everything went to shit recently and I didn’t because I thought you might see it as another example of me wanting more from you than you can give or me overstepping a boundary. But it’s not that. Sure, I wish I had a mum more like you and I feel sad that I don’t, but like last year I wanted to acknowledge, again, how grateful I am to you for all that you do for me and to thank you for the love and care that you show me week in, week out, year in, year out – especially at the times when I am really not deserving of it and am pushing you away.

You said on Monday that you were like a wall, that you were solid and not going anywhere and despite recent walk outs and tantrums more and more parts of me are beginning to see this – I must trust that solidity or there is no way I would feel safe enough tell you how things feel, have so many meltdowns, and generally lose my mind on loop! Things do still feel unsteady and it’s going to take time to adjust because when I wobble it’s like a full-on earthquake inside – but when I stop and take a step back and breathe, what’s left is a really huge sense of love and gratitude.   I really just want to say thank you – for your patience, kindness, generosity, trying so hard to make me feel safe, all the cuddles, stories, presents, washing elephant…not giving up on me or shaming me…and giving me the best experience of mothering I have had. I love you x

And that felt really big- so vulnerable- after how it’s been the last few weeks. I gave it to Anita at the end of the session because it had taken that long to work through the catastrophe of the previous session, and she said she’d look at it over the weekend. Knowing how crap things have been lately I imagined she’d read that and go one of two ways: 1) everything is fine, she’d like the card and the sentiment or 2) it’d be too much, and she’d feel like she needs to pull away.

In the past when I have sent Anita things she would usually respond in some way whether it be a message, a gif, or sometimes a photograph of whatever it is I have given her.

Not this time.

It was radio silence all weekend. I knew she was going away because she’d told me and that had led to another complicating factor about something I had offered her that I don’t have time for now as we’re 6000 words in (SORRY!)! So because of this, I basically went into a massive panic over the weekend. Her silence seemingly confirming everything I was worrying about. Another retreat from me. I threw myself into housework and blitzed the place because I knew that if I stopped, I would fall apart. I’m absolutely knackered this week as a result but better than a complete emotional breakdown!

Because I had heard nothing from A, a big part of me was scared to go to the session on Monday. I felt like I was just going to be walking into the lion’s den of rejection. I felt so overwhelmed. I tried hard to talk myself down but my system was in bits. I could feel the internal tremor or my nervous system freaking out and it felt REALLY BAD. I arrived at Anita’s ten minutes before time and text her and told her I was struggling to get out the car.

This is the conversation that happened that day. I was so dissociated at points I don’t even know where the time went.

Not good:

After half an hour I managed to get myself in a state where I could get out the car and into the house. I more or less collapsed into Anita’s arms on the doorstep and we had a massive hug. When I got into the room Anita was so kind and said she understood how hard it had been to come today. I told her I felt ill, and she moved over to me and wrapped me in a cuddle. I cried and cried and trembled and ugh it was painful. Anita thought I was upset about the other thing that’s too long winded to go into – and I was – but actually it was really the card that was the kicker. It was not knowing what she thought or felt about it.

It turned out Anita had rushed out on Friday and left her phone at home for the weekend which is why she hadn’t replied to a message I had sent on Friday and she was so sorry about it. We only had half an hour because of my inability to get into the room and with about five minutes to go I told Anita that I wasn’t all that upset about the thing she thought I was upset about. She stopped, and wondered what I was upset about.

Silence.

A minute passed. And then I said, “did you read the card I gave you?” I felt Anita take in a deep breath and kind of freeze for a second. I knew instantly that it was a no. I felt such a rush of feelings: disappointment, sadness, shame. She told me she hadn’t. My system went off its tits again. I said, “Just put it in the bin, then”. Anita asked “Why?” and moodily I whispered, “Because it doesn’t matter”… when what I really felt and meant was “Because I don’t matter.” Right now everything feels like such a huge contrast to how it used to be and how it is now and I keep coming back round to the fact that I am no longer important enough to Anita to warrant her time.

I know that this isn’t the case…well part of me does…but there are so many parts struggling right now.

Anita then went onto tell me that she had opened the card and saw that there was a lot of writing in it and had put it away for later because she knew it would take her an hour to read it and make sense of it. That’s how dyslexic she is. I had no idea it was so bad. Hearing her be vulnerable and tell me how much she struggles and how much it takes out of her to write and read really hit home. If that card would be so big a challenge it made me realise how much time she must have spent trying to read stuff in the past for me. Instantly, I felt different. I then asked, “Was the voice note better?” and she said, “Yes, that was amazing because I could hear what you were saying and didn’t need to actually work out what the words are and what you mean.”

She went on to tell me that it wasn’t that she couldn’t be arsed to read my card it was because she physically hadn’t had the time over the weekend to give it the attention it needed. I felt a bit less disgruntled! She told me that none of this is about her not caring or not loving me or me having done anything wrong but that stuff in her life is making her have to really rejig and she knows people who have lost their marriages over the same thing.

Again, that isn’t easy to hear because I feel like I have lost so much lately. In therapy we can be selfish and ask for our needs to be met without considering the other too much – and yet here I am, and my therapist’s life is impacting my therapy – the boundaries have changed and the frame feels wobbly and my safe container feels like it can’t hold me how I need to be held. It’s tough, for sure.

I told Anita I could read her the card aloud if she liked, but we had run out of time by then. She told me she would find the time to read it before Friday but I am preparing myself to read it to her in the session because I know she is flat out. Before I got up to leave, I said, “It feels like you have taken yourself away from me.” Over recent weeks I have said this a lot and she’s kind of denied it or made out that nothing has changed, but finally she acknowledged it – but she reiterated that it wasn’t because of anything that I have done and her feelings haven’t changed.

So. There we are. That’s the last few weeks of chaos. And 7000 words. I think my undergraduate dissertation was only 8000! Lol.

I’ll get round to commenting on people’s blogs over the Easter break but right now I am drowning in work and this rupture! I am very aware that I haven’t actually done much thinking about this stuff here, and there’s a lot that can be said but mainly I think the thing I am trying to take away from this is that people change, lives change, but it doesn’t have to mean that everything is doomed even if it feels like it. At least, that’s what I am hoping. I think falling headlong into my trigger zone has been unfortunate, but it will and has opened up a lot of conversation about my early years and relationships with caregivers. If anything, this unfiltered shit show is giving Anita a deeper insight into the damage and hopefully we’ll find a way through.

Wish me luck x

The End Of An Eating Disorder.

TW: Eating disorders and self-harm.

So, it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW), apparently. I don’t mean to sound so blasé or critical, but I guess like many people who have suffered with an eating disorder and mental health issues I am left feeling a bit cold when ‘awareness’ is mentioned. I think there is a lot of awareness out there but what we really need is adequate funding and investment in training, in order that there is proper provision to support people who are suffering and struggling better (or at all!). We all know that it’s a postcode lottery with what treatment is available not to mention the waiting lists…oh and, of course, the ‘time-limited’ interventions. So, forgive me if I don’t feel all that enthusiastic about this week, or any of the others that come along raising ‘awareness’. I guess I’m just old and over it and would rather see some tangible action so that people like me get the help they need at the time they need it – and don’t spend a lifetime tangled up in pain.

I’ve been saying for a while that I would find some time write about the end of the long-standing ED and so this is my contribution to EDAW – but really, it’s for me, a written acknowledgment, to myself, to honour the journey I’ve been on. I don’t really know where to begin, if I’m honest, but this week seems an especially apt time to finally close the book of many many MANY chapters.

So, I guess I begin at the beginning?… all those years ago when the crafty bastard came along and took root? I suppose that’s as good a place to start as any…but inevitably this will take me back to the very beginning because everything that came before the active anorexia fed into the development of the ED (excuse the pun!).

This is probably going to be a pretty long piece – so perhaps go grab a cuppa. I suspect it will be a bit ‘bitty’ and disjointed here and there, too, as there’s lots to say. It has been such a fragmented experience that I can’t see how it will ‘flow’ but I guess if I keep some kind of loose chronology we’ll get to the end and into March 2022 where I am now sitting with a big bar of chocolate and cup of hot milk as I type – and enjoying both with no hint of “I shouldn’t” or “I’ll have to pay for this in exercise later” or hating myself for not having the willpower to resist these treats. I never for one minute believed this would be possible – but here I am…and contemplating a cheese toastie in a bit!

So, deep breaths, ready for vulnerability download:

I have been battling with anorexia since I was 15 which, sadly, is almost 25 years of my life. My goodness, that’s depressing when it’s right there in black and white. 25 years wasted….

Looking back now I feel so much sadness and compassion for that poor young woman (that was me) who found herself deeply distressed, struggling so badly with soooo many different issues, who took to starving herself in order to cope, and was barely holding it together with rubber bands and chewing gum. I feel so upset that no one paid attention or saw beneath my coping exterior. I was like a swan to everyone around me, gliding along on the surface whilst desperately kicking legs beneath it in order not to grind to a halt or fall apart. It was exhausting trying to appear ‘fine’ when I was anything but. Parts of me longed for someone to ‘see’ me but my protectors were so strong that no one was ever able to penetrate my defences. No one tried but then I wonder if I’d have trusted them even if they had?

I wish I knew then what I know now about myself, and about the destructive nature of eating disorders. But then I was a kid in the late nineties – information wasn’t readily available, the internet and social media weren’t ‘things’ back then (sending a simple text message took ages repeatedly pressing number buttons to get to each letter) and so much was ‘taboo’  – having said that, I don’t think the internet or social media was what I needed, or more ‘awareness’, as I say, I wish back then there had have been someone, anyone, who would have noticed and helped me through what I was experiencing, someone who could have helped release the strangling grip of the eating disorder and allowed me space to breathe and recover and learn how to be me and to accept myself.

Basically, I wish I’d have had a K or an Anita when I was 15 because there’s so much evidence to suggest that eating disorders that are addressed early have the best success rates for people getting through them and moving on. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those people who got support at the right time, but I feel so blessed that I have support now and I definitely think that my relationships with A and K have done wonders for me, helping me grow stronger. It’s through having their love and care modelled to me that I have learned to love myself and see my own worth. And this is the thing, for me, my eating disorder, when you boil it down, was actually not a great deal to do with food or body image. It focused on those things, but they weren’t the primary drivers.

There are loads and loads of reasons why people fall into eating disordered behaviours, but I can only speak from a personal perspective here, and say how it was for me. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know by know that my growing up experience wasn’t exactly what you’d call ‘optimum’. From the very beginning it wasn’t brilliant. I was an accidental pregnancy, a pregnancy that turned out to be fraught with problems, a pregnancy where my mum spent the final three months of her pregnancy in hospital with pre-eclampsia. Poor little me was stuck in a toxic womb environment and then had to be induced 6 weeks early because I ‘was in distress’ and so I wasn’t exactly onto a winner…and have been distressed ever since. Lol.

After a long and difficult labour, I was born, and reportedly didn’t make a sound. They’d pumped my mum so full of drugs that they weren’t sure I was alive or if I would survive. There’s no doubt, now, that I ought to have been delivered by c-section, but this was the early 80’s, on a Sunday, in a hospital that is renowned for its poor practice over the years. Apparently, the doctor on-call was on the golf course and insisted on finishing his game before coming in to assist with the delivery…as you do.

Tiny baby me was whisked off to an incubator which is where I spent the first three days of my life. I’ve written about this before, here, but every time I think about it, no matter how much therapy I have, it still stings. My mum’s ‘go to’ birth story as I was growing up was, “I thought the baby in the incubator next to you was mine, I didn’t even recognise you.” Undoubtedly, my mum was traumatised by both her pregnancy and her labour, and I am not surprised she went on to develop post-natal depression…but what has any of this got to do with my eating disorder you might ask?

Those early hours and days after the birth of a baby are so important for bonding and attachment. The moment my children were born they were put on my chest, and we had skin-to-skin contact. In fact, the moment my son was born he was skin-to-skin and began to breastfeed immediately. Both my babies were elective c-sections so their births were as straightforward as they could be: my daughter was breach presentation, and my son was enormous so I’m glad I was given the option both times to choose what I wanted. I am certain that a calm birth experience meant that I was very able to respond to my babies and bond quickly. I wasn’t in pain or distress, and neither were they.

I know how important it was for me as a new mum to be close to my babies and to bond – I didn’t put either of mine down except for nappy changing in the first twenty-four hours and they slept on me skin-to-skin – not even in a baby grow. My mum was barely in her twenties when she had me, and didn’t have any of that, or any decent antenatal support prior to birth. I can’t imagine how upsetting it must be to not see your baby because it’s been whisked away, not know if its ok, and then not to know which baby is yours when you finally are allowed to see it. My mum used to retell the story like it was funny, but I think, now it must’ve been her way of coping with something awful.

Anyway, the post-natal depression undoubtedly didn’t help with the bonding process. My dad used to come home from work to me and by all accounts I don’t think I was massively well-attended to during the day. I understand it, but it’s still hard to know that as a small child I was not getting what I needed. I don’t blame my mum PND – it is what it is, and there was next to no understanding of it or support for it really then. But if I was left in dirty nappies then I think we can probably infer that there wasn’t a great deal of feeding going on either.

When I was 9 months old my mum left the country with me. Her relationship with my dad had completely broken down and she basically ran away from an intolerable situation with him and my wider family. Again, to be taken from everything I knew at that time must’ve been disruptive for little me. I don’t know much about the three years abroad but I know we moved back to the UK when I was nearly four. I have only a handful of memories before I was seven: one is being sick after my preschool vaccinations, and the other burning myself on a barbecue but being too scared to tell anyone about it when I was just four. I have no recollection of my first day at school — or anything.

My memories only really kick in when I moved house I and started a new school midway though year 2 and the week of my seventh birthday. Before I started therapy, I thought this was normal. I thought most people had no idea about their lives before that age. Apparently not. Sometimes I wonder about what might have happened or what it was like, but I know what it was like from when the memories actually begin, and I can’t see it being very much different. I imagine that my clever young brain wiped out a lot of what was there to make it survivable.

When I was working with Em, I remember a session where I told her about the burn on the barbecue (I still have the scar now). I’d said how I had been told to stay away from the barbecue because it was hot. My dad had put the tongs on the grill to disinfect them in the flames and then taken them off and hung them on the side of the frame. I was alone in the garden and was inquisitive, like children are. I can remember it clear as day…the searing pain when the boiling metal hit my skin and then peeling the tongs off my leg, taking the skin with them, leaving a long burn on my inner thigh.

Em wondered aloud what might have led little me to be in a position where I was too scared to tell an adult that I was severely hurt in that situation. My daughter was about the same age I had been at the time when I was recounting the story, and Em asked me what my daughter would do: run to me crying and seek assistance. There was no doubt in my mind that that is exactly what she’d do. That’s the natural reaction, right?

So, what stopped me as a little girl? Why was I already so terrified of the consequences of being told off for doing something I had been told not to do, doing something ‘wrong’? It didn’t take much to join the dots, but I can infer that I must’ve at least once before got into trouble for something and the reaction been bad enough for me to go into hiding rather than risk a similar response from my mum.

My children do stuff I tell them not to ALL THE TIME but they ALWAYS come and seek help and support if they hurt themselves, even if they’ve hurt themselves after I’ve warned them not to do something. How does all this stuff link into the ED you might be wondering? Like come on RBCG get to the point! Well, I think from the very beginning my needs have not been met, both emotionally and physically, and I think early on I detached from my needs.

As I child I remember being hungry a lot of the time. I was the kid that never had a snack at breaktime at school. It wasn’t that there wasn’t money for it, there just was never anything in the house to take and I genuinely don’t think it occurred to my parents that breaktime was a time when kids had something to eat. Or maybe they were just consumed in their own busy lives and didn’t keep me, or my need in mind…(sigh)… And so, I used to watch while other children tucked into bags of crisps and chocolate biscuits. Again, I never went home and asked for these things to be bought. I didn’t feel like I was worthy of it, I guess.

I used to go to childminders before and after school at when I was at primary school and the childminder used to feed both her children a snack after school but would never offer me anything. My dad didn’t collect me until almost seven most nights so most days I would have just my school dinner which given how crap things are now for kids in the UK with 1/3 in poverty I feel stupid for moaning because I was at least fed and when I got home, too. But what I am trying to say is that for years I was hungry, my stomach would physically hurt, and yet there was no way of getting rid of that feeling and it was horrid.

I guess I got used to it in the end and something switched off, I no longer ‘felt’ hungry although I guess I must have been. I didn’t feel much of anything at all, actually. And it was the same with the emotional stuff. When my mum would come home at the weekends it was horrible most of the time. She’d argue with my dad, sometimes be violent, and generally make me feel like I was in the way and an inconvenience. For years the shouting and the violence scared me and then I learnt to feel nothing.

Everything was numb.

And so fast forward through to my teenage years, my parents had separated again so at least the yelling had stopped. I lived with my mum during the week, and she was stressed and unavailable or vile. By now I had become so self-reliant that I don’t think you’d know I existed in the house. I washed my own clothes, made my own lunches, cleaned the house, and stayed in my room doing my schoolwork. I was no trouble at all. My reports were outstanding. My grades were top. There was nothing you could moan at me about.

Only she did.

Over and over.

Eroding my self-esteem bit by bit over and over for years and years, “I wish you’d never been born”, “You think you’re so perfect”, “You’re so boring”, “You’re just like your dad”, “Who the hell do you think you are?”…on and on and on…

And then when I was about fourteen, I started to realise I was gay and this neatly coincided with the “Don’t hold my hand, people will think we’re lesbians” from my mum one day when we were out and crossing the road. I have no idea why I reached for her hand that day. I guess maybe it was an unconscious throwback to a time where she would keep me safe as a child. I don’t know. But her reaction was nuts. The laugh is we never really touched anyway, there were no hugs, no kisses, no physical signs of affection and certainly no verbal expressions of love or care…so this was the final nail in that coffin for our relationship in lots of ways. It sits in the same pain zone as Em’s ‘tick’ analogy, another complete and utter rejection of me and my ‘self’.

As I’ve said, my mum was rejecting so much of the time, and I’d felt physically abandoned when she was away through primary school, but that sound bite also felt so loaded for future ‘gay’ me. Being gay clearly was ‘bad’, and now something to be hidden, and so I did… but that was yet another burden, another secret, another thing to feel ashamed about.

I fell head over feet in love with an older woman when I was 15 too (big eye roll now I know all about my attachment stuff and mummy issues!) but that felt awful, too. I wasn’t out the closet, she wasn’t gay, and I couldn’t tell her how I felt for fear of being rejected. As I’ve already said, it was the late nineties and things weren’t as they are now (that’s not to say LGBTQ+ kids have it easy, now – they don’t) but there was no space for kids like me particularly in the part of the country I was growing up in. There were no role models. There wasn’t even mention of same sex relationships in Sex Ed for goodness sake … I felt thoroughly alone…weird…an outlier. It was hard. And then the GCSE years really got going and as a perfectionist who was expected to get straight A’s I crumbled under the weight of it all.

The first time I didn’t eat was a day during a school holiday. There was ‘gifted and talented’ evening trip to the Opera that had been arranged by the Head of English and me and a couple of friends had been chosen to go. I don’t know why I didn’t eat that day, but I didn’t (probably no food in the house). I can clearly remember after the interval feeling, sitting in the dark, waiting for the singers to take the stage, and feeling lightheaded and stars going round in my vision. I felt kind of out of myself too (dissociated) and, honestly, it felt such a welcome relief from the usual agony in my solar plexus and feeling on the verge of a breakdown and suffering with that horrible sense of ‘unrequited love’ (ahhh which is not dissimilar to the mother wound) and being thoroughly miserable at home.

I’d never been someone who had eaten breakfast or snacked (that bedded in young!) but I was definitely a solid ‘pasty, chips, and beans with a can of apple Tango for lunch at high school’ kind of a girl. But then I stopped that in year 11. I would maybe have something small or skip lunch altogether by going and working in the school library ‘revising’ (sitting alone with my head in a book trying to not fall apart). It was about this time that I’d started self-harming too. It was getting bad. And yet what could I do? I couldn’t speak to my parents. There was no school counsellor. There wasn’t anyone. And of course I was an ‘outstanding’ student so teachers had worry about me.

Things got worse and worse and one day I made myself a GP appointment in the middle of my GCSE exams and went to see the doctor because surely this would be someone to help. I felt so nervous going into the consulting room. I’d never been to the GP without a parent, and I was about to tell a complete stranger about my secret destructive behaviours. I thought I was going to be sick, but I knew I couldn’t carry on as things were. I was miserable and destroying myself. I trusted that a ‘professional’ would offer me the support I so badly required. So, I told the doctor how I was feeling and what I was doing to myself…and…he dismissed my issues saying, “It’s a phase” and that “everyone gets stressed round exams” and that my self-harm scars were “superficial” and he sent me on my way.

Wow.

Again, I look back at that memory and I have so much sadness and compassion for that brave sixteen-year-old girl who was going through so much and was left unsupported, not ill enough to warrant support and instead left feeling like a time waster and a hypochondriac. I kept quiet after that, but things got worse and worse.

By the time I started A Levels things had really escalated. My mum had taken to being absolutely vile all the time. I was a substitute emotional punching bag now that my dad wasn’t there. And how did I cope? Well, I didn’t eat breakfast or lunch and would purge after all my evening meal which was in the region of 500 calories. I exercised ALL the time, weighed myself daily, and self-harmed at least twice a week. The cuts weren’t superficial anymore and my weight had plummeted. It was absolutely awful. It was completely exhausting, I was completely exhausted and the ED felt like a full time job occupying so much of my headspace…but thankfully it pushed the other horrible stuff – feeling unlovable, untouchable, and not good enough to one side – albeit temporarily.

One day I went to visit ‘the older woman’ who now lived a couple of hundred miles away from me. She took one look at me and cornered me about my eating disorder when we were sitting watching a movie. The dramatic change in my appearance in the 18 months since I’d seen her was unmissable. I was honest about what was going on (for the first time). She asked why I had never told her when I spoke to her on the phone (twice a week). What could I say? It’s not easy to tell someone that you’re not eating, puking every time you eat…and the reason for it… you hate yourself and have unmanageable feelings for the person you’re speaking to!

I felt like I had taken a big step towards H that weekend and then when I got home, and we next spoke on the phone it was like the tide had turned. (The irony is not lost on me with how much this reflects what happened with Em all those years later when I finally told her how bad things were). H delivered me an ultimatum: tell your parents or I will. I begged her to give me time and she agreed. But when she pressed me the next week and I told her I couldn’t she cut me off, told me that she was wrong to get involved, and I could call her in three months but she needed space…

Ouch.

I came out the next day and was in bits and things continued to get worse.

My mental health got so bad that I stopped attending college regularly in the second year of A levels (after a patchy first year) and think clocked up an impressive 30% attendance overall. I was told I shouldn’t sit my A levels as there’s no way I could pass them and to come back and redo the final year. The idea of this felt unbearable – another year at home and no escape to university? I begged my tutor to allow me to at least try the exams and they conceded. Fortunately, I came out with AAAB and it meant I had the grades to move forward.

Essentially, though I spent the years between 16-18 feeling thoroughly depressed and hopeless. How I passed those A Levels I’ll never know, but I am just lucky I guess, to have been academic enough to not need to go to lessons or try too hard. I know that sounds big headed – it’s not meant to be-  I am just so aware that had I have flunked my A Levels rather than getting a string of A’s and B’s life would have been considerably more difficult for me because it was getting away to university that allowed me to escape the worst of what I was going through.

My eating disorder was a crutch, a coping mechanism. Anorexia was something I was good at, too. It took the focus off all the shit I couldn’t deal with – didn’t know how to deal with. I could escape from my mother, from my sexuality, from exam pressure and watch the scale go down and down. As, I said, I learnt not to feel hungry and enjoyed the feeling of being almost delirious. I likened the heightened anorexic state as like being up a mountain above the clouds, one day. to Em. Like it can be swirling shitstorm down below and somehow not eating enough for long enough takes you up to where the air is clear, and the sun is shining. Or at least that’s what my calorie deprived brain believed. Coming out the other side I can see how fucked up that is, but anorexia really messes with your body and brain chemistry.

I think my eating disorder went some way to shutting down the Inner Critic, or appeasing it a bit…only you can never really please that sadistic fucker and so really it was just a vicious cycle. I’d go through phases of my life where the ED would be in the background, subdued – usually when things were going well, I was ‘happy’ with friends or in a relationship and life wasn’t too trying but then there were other times where it would rise up and take over. The irony is, what I needed when things felt overwhelming was care and support and what I delivered to myself was abuse. The world outside felt threatening and too much and I had no sense that what I should be doing was ‘self-caring’ and not ‘self-harming’. I sort of thought that’s how it would always be. I never felt like I deserved love or care from anyone, and certainly not from myself. I literally had no idea how to care for me.

(I am so glad this has shifted!)

I’ve always been body conscious; I could never look in the mirror and be ‘ok’ with what I saw but there were stretches of time when I wasn’t actively restricting or purging which felt like a kind of progress. I just ate once day….which I guess is still restricting because there’s no way on earth I could not eat until the evening now. I get to about 10am and breakfast has to happen…I can tune into my body and respond to it, but it’s taken a lifetime to get here after years of dissociation.

Ugh.

It’s weird, I look back now at photos and can really ‘see’ that I wasn’t well but at the time would have sworn blind there was nothing wrong. In fact, the ED mindset can be so dismissive, defensive, and angry that it makes you almost delusional. The number of arguments I have had with my wife over the years when she’s expressed legitimate concerns to me is staggering. The denial that I built around myself and the eating disorder was insane but after so many years it was like I was brainwashed, or brain-damaged. I genuinely couldn’t see the issue anymore and other people’s concern was an intrusion. How dare they suggest anything was wrong? But also, why would I admit it when doing so might mean I get rejected again?

Again, I just feel so sad that I have spent more than half a lifetime attacking myself – and why? …because the self-image I’d had placed on and in me was so wrong in the first place. I find it so depressing that I bought into the idea of being unworthy of love and care and the only way of coping with it was to make myself smaller, to disappear, to dissociate my needs away. But those needs were still there, lying dormant because look where I am now in my therapy: #1 Neediest Client In The World!

God.

I read somewhere once that ‘we are only as needy as our unmet needs’ and basically this rings so true…does anyone else relate?! Unfortunately for me, A, and K there are quite a number of unmet needs!

Anyway, back to the story and the early naughties: I’d got through my degree, my MA and my PGCE just about in one piece (I do wonder how!). I started teaching and I’d get through the day on a can of coke and then go home and eat a meal. Again, I can see this isn’t ‘normal’ but it was the most normal I had even been in my life to date. I was painfully thin, but I wasn’t deep in the throes of the eating disorder either. I guess what I would say is that my eating disorder would go through phases- never fully gone, but not always massively active either. At this point I could eat and not gag when I put my toothbrush in my mouth so that’s a win.

Then of course, my dad died suddenly and there it was again, my trusty friend ready to help me. My coping mechanism was back front and centre. I got very ill when that happened. My BMI was 14 and I was like a walking skeleton. Only I couldn’t see it. And yet again, despite having medical input for my mental health and weekly weigh ins with the GP I was able to deflect and distract from it. Having been told at 16 that there was nothing wrong with me I had basically learnt that health professionals don’t believe me and that I am not worthy of care and so never told them how bad things were. What was the point? I ran rings around anyone that tried to come near.

I clearly remember one day my GP telling me that “Happy people don’t have eating disorders” and “was there anything I wanted to tell her?” I wished so badly in that moment to be able to share even a tenth of what I was carrying but what can you do in a ten-minute appointment? And how do you hold your hands up as a 26-year-old professional person that you are still stuck in your ‘teenage coping strategies’? Eating disorders are so often framed as a ‘young person’s issue’ because that’s when they often begin, but there are thousands and thousands of people who have continued to struggle well into their adulthood… and so, I said nothing. I was ashamed and embarrassed.

And on and on it went for another few months until she referred me into eating disorder services. The initial appointment with the assessor was a farce. She asked me a series of questions about my eating habits and body image and the part that was fronting that day answered in way that meant I wouldn’t get help, “Do you think you are fat?” – “No” etc. The part that so badly needed help was gagged and bound. I was so deeply in the denial zone at that point that really the person just needed to use her eyes to see that I was FAR from ok but of course she didn’t. It was another example of my being intelligent and articulate enough to be escape the system. I don’t know why I was so terrified of ‘getting help’ but the idea of being made to eat and go to day patient just felt like a huge no. I didn’t want to be scrutinised. I didn’t want to lose control. I didn’t know any other way of coping with what I was feeling and having my ED taken away…well, I needed it to survive.

Still, none of that ever happened because I never got specific ED help but I was put on the waiting list for psychotherapy after writing a letter to my GP and her calling me in to say she thought I was suffering with PTSD! Three years later and I finally got to the top of the waiting list and was working with Em… and the ED kicked in AGAIN about three months away from when we were meant to end, just as the realisation that I would have to stop seeing her became really real and the attachment stuff had become massive. I had genuinely thought I was over my ED by this point, I’d had a baby and things were going well in my ‘adult’ life. So, what the hell was going on? Ahhh the young parts were activating but I had no idea about any of it at this point, I just felt like I was losing my mind.

So, there I was again, sitting with a BMI of 16.5 and not eating ‘normally’ but also ‘normally enough’ to not draw any attention. I was exercising away my ‘baby weight’ (overdoing it to attack myself and escape the emotional pain). I couldn’t tell Em then what was going on. I was too ashamed and embarrassed that the thing that had triggered me trying to ‘cope’ was approaching the end of our time limited therapy on the NHS and the reality of losing her – and besides, there was no time left. It was all the stuff about being alone, left, abandoned, rejected, not being worthy of love or care…it was the mother wound. It totally fucked me up for a long time and I was so distressed for months after that ending but didn’t really understand why.

Yet again, it was a relational ‘injury’ triggering the eating disorder. Yet again it was feeling emotionally out of control and not good enough that sent me into the pattern of trying to gain control – of what I put into my body and what I did to my body, and over my emotions. The older I got the easier it was to spin my anorexia as a ‘health kick’. I’d buy new trainers and sports kit and RUN AND RUN AND RUN away from all that was upsetting me and eat salads and drink smoothies when, really, I wanted cake and chocolate and roast dinner.

I simply wasn’t able to sit with my feelings of pain and loss and all that’s associated with the mother wound because, as I said, I didn’t fully understand it. I just knew that the thought of losing Em felt unsurvivable because of course that is what it felt like to the young parts who were being triggered. It felt like annihilation. Ugh. And how do you tell anyone about this? It’s embarrassing and loaded with feelings of shame. You’re meant to get ‘better’ after sixteen months of therapy not worse…and yet here I was feeling desperate and heartbroken…

HELP!!!

And so that therapy ended, and I bumbled along for six months feeling untethered, having nightmares, and not eating and trying to shift my focus away from the pain I felt inside. Time ticked on, then I got pregnant again and sorted myself out, put on a stone, had my son…it was all settled and going well…and then I got diagnosed with cancer…and had a year of treatment. Steroids saw me balloon, but I didn’t care at that point. I was fighting for my life not my size six and the steroid weight soon fell off when I had finished treatment.

The wheels came off after I finished the chemotherapy and radiotherapy– the PTSD response to the cancer treatment being lumped onto so many other previous traumas meant that I knew I needed to seek support – and I made it back to Em privately…and OMG…as you all know…the mother wound got triggered in the most massive way AGAIN. I thought going back to her would ease some of that ache that I’d felt in the three years since I had seen her, but it didn’t. It ignited again in a flash. Seeing her, as I have said so many times, was perpetually like being a kid stood peering through the window of a sweetshop- I could see what I wanted, smell it, almost taste it – but I couldn’t have it. It was so painful.

Working with Em meant that I became fully aware of my inner dynamics, my attachment style, the dissociation ALL OF IT. And whilst this information was really useful in helping me understand myself better, it didn’t help with the endless triggering of my little selves in the relationship with Em. Her being so emotionally and physically withholding just exacerbated the situation. And then there were the breaks that triggered the abandonment stuff- and my go to coping strategies- when I needed some kind of relational holding with her and it wasn’t forthcoming – think Pebblegate! Oh man!!!!!!

Some of you that have been here for the long haul will recall the Easter break where the shit hit the fan a few years back and I just didn’t cope AT ALL and fell into a really severe period of not eating and over-exercising. I took a leap of faith and told Em what was going on when we got back from the break – all of it, from the beginning, like the stuff in this post and I genuinely felt like I had taken a huge leap forward in being honest and maybe, finally, would be able to get support with this ED that had been plaguing me for years. Only those of you who have read for a while might also remember that it was straight after this that Em delivered me an ultimatum “Go to your GP or we’ll have to work towards an ending.”

I still feel physically sick when I think back to how that was handled. It had taken such a lot of bravery and a leap of faith to trust Em with this vulnerable and sensitive secret and everything I had worried about – being rejected or abandoned because of it- was panning out. It really was a replay of the GP at 16, and H at 17, but in a different way. I never really spoke to Em about my ED again and I genuinely feel like a massive opportunity was missed there.

Flash forward again…the ending with Em two years ago. Another relational injury and back to my trusty friend the ED. The Inner Critic loves the ED, it makes it feel strong, and powerful, and in control, and it likes to punish all the parts of me that suffer. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone when it all went wrong with Em. K was incredible at this time, so holding and caring, and UNDERSTANDING which zapped some of the shame away from the situation. I also met Anita just before it all went catastrophically wrong with Em, and from the get-go I was able to tell her all of the ‘stuff’.

The great thing about starting with a new therapist is you have a window of time before any of the attachment shit really kicks in in the relationship with them, and you can map out all the issues without the fear of judgement or lots of parts being involved. I started working with Anita in January 2020 and it wasn’t until June/July time that my littles switched allegiances to Anita and the attachment stuff felt really live with her. You’d have thought that the need for A becoming live would also trigger the ED, because the fear of rejection and abandonment would come alive and so I’d have gone into hiding and repeated the pattern…

However, the big change this time was that I was able to tell Anita how I felt outright, rather than skirt round the edges and be living in a vat of shame like with Em. Anita has always handled my feelings with such care and sensitivity that I’ve been able to tolerate feelings that I have never been able to before. It’s always felt like Anita is holding my hand – both literally and metaphorically and so I have felt much safer in the relationship even when big things crop up or a rupture happens. I have enough faith, trust, and confidence in what we have built together that I can experience difficult feelings without the need to go and attack myself.

As you guys know. This therapy hasn’t been plain sailing and ‘nicey nicey’-  my god – Anita and I hit rupture territory regularly enough! But what is sooooo different is the speed at which we repair the ruptures. I don’t sit for weeks and months on end ‘building up’ to telling her I’m hurt, wondering whether she’ll flat out reject me, or terminate me, for feeling upset or dissatisfied…for wanting to be close. Of course, my fears of rejection and abandonment get triggered a lot but how Anita handles this is transformational and I do think this relational healing has gone a long way towards me moving away from the ED.

The level of love and care that I feel with both Anita and K is massive and it’s building an inner resource that is supportive. I realise now that I do have needs, that my needs are valid, that there is nothing wrong with me having feelings and that I do not need to punish myself for experiencing BIG emotions or having relational needs. I do want to be loved and cared for – and that’s normal. And it’s normal to hurt when that hasn’t adequately happened growing up.

I don’t need to feel shame or embarrassment for having young parts that need Anita (of course I still do, a lot!) and I know that Anita has invested a lot of time and energy in building a strong therapeutic relationship with me, as has K. More and more I can internalise their love and care which means I am more and more able to tolerate my difficult feelings as I have these steady, consistent compassionate voices telling me I am loved and good enough both in real life and in my head. Those voice counteract the Inner Critic somewhat. I know why the Inner Critic and other protectors have been so vocal – they do not want me to get hurt. But I also understand that their way of ‘protecting’ me has hurt and isolated me at times.

Basically, these last couple of years working with Anita and K have changed my life. Because I now feel compassion for myself and all my parts because I have had it modelled to me by them I want to nurture myself now rather than punish myself. For the longest time I have looked for a home in other people and now, through being loved and cared for I am starting to find a home in myself. I know there’s still a load of work to do, the young parts still need what they need from Anita, but I do feel optimistic that I am a lot closer to a healthy state than I have ever been before. More and more frequently I can find the resources within myself to start to soothe the young parts that are so upset and lost.

The end of the ED (if there is ever a truly an end) has been a steady, slow, barely perceptible bit by bit change in me and how I think about myself. The body work with K has made me so conscious of my body’s reactions and nervous system that I simply can’t not eat at least three meals a day. I register my hunger and I feed myself where before I didn’t ‘feel’ hungry and then if I did feel it, I’d resist it. Over time I have learnt to tune into my body, and I give it what it wants- sometimes that’s a load of fruit and other times it lots of cake…I just intuitively eat what I fancy when I fancy it. I also realise that I am nurturing my adult body, but in taking care of the basic needs to eat I am nourishing that hungry baby and the other small children inside, too.

And this doesn’t just extend to food. I am now, more than ever in tune with what I need emotionally, and I do what I can to meet those needs. I wrote recently about taking a day off to try and regroup, sometimes I don’t try and force ‘adult me’ into carrying on, and if there’s time, I might grab a teddy and watch a kids’ movie when the young parts are massively activated…there’s all kinds of things I do. What I guess I am trying to say is that I don’t run from myself anymore, I try and look at what’s going on and figure out what the need behind it is and if possible, do something to meet it.

But back to the eating disorder stuff – or the food and body bit. Of course, stopping unhealthy eating habits – or lack of eating habits, has resulted in a significant weight gain. I no longer fit into the clothes I’ve had since I was eighteen, and I am not a size six or eight anymore but then I am nearly 40 and have had two kids so that’s perfectly reasonable! Perhaps the hardest thing about moving on from the ED was ‘growing out’ of clothes. I can’t wedge my arse into my wardrobe anymore and that was a bit triggering but it wasn’t enough for me to want to ‘do’ anything about it. Instead of slimming down, I bought some size ten clothes instead and they fit comfortably. Eating what I want when I want has led to my body sitting at a solid 54kg for months – which for my height 5ft 7 is perfect for me. I never thought this could happen. I used to live in fear of 48kg and now…here I am.

Omg this is massive. If you’ve made it to the end with me – kudos to you. As I said at the beginning this was more of me needing to close the book than write a new chapter…and I think I have done that. It’s taken a long time, it’s been a massive struggle, but I am so fucking proud of myself to be where I am today. And I hope, if anyone reading this is experiencing a similar struggle that they can see that it doesn’t have to remain the same and things can change.

x

Flat-lining and a day of ‘self-care’

This week has totally kicked me in the tits…is that even a phrase?! I mean, wow. What can I say? I feel so utterly knackered and overwhelmed at the minute that I could cry. Actually, I have cried, which is really unlike me.

The alarm went off this morning. I ignored it. It went off again. I ignored it again. I left it until the last possible moment and then dragged my arse out of bed and tried to get the kids up and out the house without too much fuss. I was on autopilot going through the motions of the morning, all the while I felt like that attachment wound, the dark pit of doom and need, was wide open and sucking my life force down into it. I’d been dreaming about Em (this two year anniversary of termination is whooping my ass) and felt devastated. I wanted Anita but it’s only midweek so I felt in the limbo zone so far as emotional support goes: the time between sessions seems to stretch out endlessly at the minute.

Having dropped my kids to school I should have got set for work, but I just had nothing. The young parts were so activated that I didn’t know what to do with myself. Most of the time I can muster some kind of ‘get up and go’ and reach down into my bag of masks and fix the teacher one on with rubber bands and chewing gum –  but today it just didn’t feel possible. Woeful Wednesday is a heavy day, anyway, with 6 hours of 1:1 lessons and I knew that I wouldn’t get through to 8:30pm in one piece.

Sadly, here I was again, staring at that all too familiar emotional landscape: the deep ache of emptiness and loneliness, coupled with a deeply uncomfortable sick feeling – like a heavy dread. It was so somatic that I genuinely wasn’t sure if I was going to sick. I felt young and lost and actually I think, quite dissociated.

What could I do?

Self-care is something I have been notoriously bad at. I think I have always been a people pleaser and so my needs have often been shelved in favour of looking after the needs of others. To be honest, for a long time I didn’t even know what my needs were and didn’t know what I was doing, running on empty, was burning me out.

Over the years I have pushed myself so hard, taken on more than I can handle, and given every last ounce of myself to do a good job. I have never let people down even if it’s come at a heavy price to me. Humans aren’t machines, though, and I have found that people extend the same kindness to me when I can’t do something as I do to them when they are ill so really it’s been me pushing myself too hard, not actually the expectations of others keeping me at the grindstone. I know this patterning comes from a fear of being deemed ‘inadequate’ and ‘not good enough’ but that’s not the reality now. I am really good at what I do and so that narrative is outdated and needs reviewing…when I get a minute!

When you look online you could be forgiven for thinking that self-care is all about bubble baths, and reading good books in bed, journaling, and going out walking in nature, decluttering your space, or drinking two litres of water a day, cooking healthy meals, and treating your body as a temple. And yes, it can be that stuff, without doubt – and so much more. But sometimes self-care is as simple as just saying “No” and doing nothing (which actually can be quite hard for me).

Listening to your inner wisdom and honouring what’s being said inside is self-care. And today, that voice told me, “I just can’t.” In the past I would have made myself power on through, but it would have come at a cost. I’m so low on spoons at the start of the day right now, that I would have been without cutlery for the school run, dinner, and bedtime – and this is not fair on myself or my children. They get a grumpy mum and then I feel guilty afterwards for not being what they need. I also suffer because it takes a vast amount of energy just to hold myself together on a daily basis and if I am left with just my hands – it’s no good. I need those spoons!

So, knowing where I was at, today, I gave myself permission to opt out and cancelled my first teaching session of the day which meant I now had until 1pm to rest and regroup. I took a shower and got back into bed and called my best friend. We chatted, caught up, and she gave me a much-needed pep talk (I’ve been getting my head in a mess about therapy and tying myself in ever tighter knots) and it was such a good thing to have done.

I limped through my double lesson at 1pm and realised that I was not going to make it through the afternoon lessons as things stood. When I got off my Zoom call at 3pm, I looked at my phone to see that my 4:30 was cancelling as they had tested positive for COVID. That gave me a bit of breathing space. I went on the school run and felt utterly exhausted. The child parts we really vocal and desperate for Friday to come and to be in the safety of the therapy room with Anita and I burst into tears in the car as I was driving to my kids’ school for pick up.

Adult me was trying to calm those poor distressed parts but it was like the old days where those young parts had no concept of Adult Me at all, and so there was no way of communicating, or soothing. I think this is a product of me (Adult) being so tired and thinly spread that my capacity to contain my various parts isn’t going quite a well as usual… and this has spilled into therapy, too.

I’ve felt disconnected from Anita lately and like things are spiralling (for the parts). At least Adult Me has a reasonably good handle on the fact that Anita and I are solid and fortunately Anita noticed what was going on on Monday, when I was in False Adult, and wrapped me in a cuddle after about ten minutes. That’s how it stayed for the remainder of the session. I talked about no end of shite but to be physically close felt so much more stabilising and containing than those sessions recently where I’ve been on my own private island of misery.

I collected the kids and felt done in. Driving home I decided that I was going to cancel the remaining sessions of the day and give myself the night off from being teacher. My wife is away for work this week, so it’s just been me doing everything and I needed a break. Financially it’s not great to have done this – being self-employed there’s no sick pay and so mental health self-care days cost me. But I figure the cost of not listening to myself today would have been far greater in the long run. I don’t like feeling strung out and anxious which is what happens when I go too hard.

To be honest, I still feel like I am on my edge and the next couple of days will be a real struggle, but at least I have done what I can to try and get to the weekend in one piece.

So, that’s my act of self-care. I’m financially worse off. There was no bubble bath involved. My house is still a mess. I’ve eaten complete shit all day and not drunk enough water. I have done no exercise. My body is certainly not a temple – or if it is- it’s one of those ancient ones that needs propping up with scaffold and a $10million renovation fund! But I looked after me today in the only way I could and that was to take some time out and give myself space to be how it is without expectation. In the ideal world I guess I’d have done that and done all these nurturing things above and be absolutely glowing now. But today, going back to bed and talking with a friend beat sitting with cucumber on my eyes shaving my legs (and it always will!).

What’s your self-care looking like right now?

Two Years Since ‘Tick Gate’ And The Body Remembers…

Happy New Year 2022 everyone…it’s been a little (looong) while since I’ve made it here to post but it’s ok, I am not dead, just hanging on by a thread. The fact I’ve not blogged since Christmas is really a reflection on just how fucking busy my life has become not about my interest in my blog or writing. I really miss this space.

I seem to be running on treadmill that’s about two (hundred) speeds too fast for me, and there just aren’t any adequate windows of time in the week to sit down and reflect in my writing (or get any other pressing things done!)…hence the fact, today, I’m sitting here at 7am on a Saturday in my dressing gown carving out some time.

There’s a bloody cruel irony here, though. Every weekday I have to be up at 6am to stand any chance of getting us all out the house and honestly, I feel like I am scraping my half dead body out of bed when the alarm goes off, yet on the weekends when I can sleep in if I want, I wake up automatically at 6:20am and my brain and body goes, “We’re good, LET’S GO!!” If I tried to go back to sleep now I couldn’t, despite the fact I have yawned four massive yawns since starting this and really need to catch up on about a decade’s worth of sleep deficit.

Might try for an afternoon nap a little bit later!

As you can see, nothing has changed with my waffling and rambling ability…get to the point RB!

It’s been an ‘interesting’ month in therapy since coming back from Christmas holiday. The lead into the holidays was a bit tumultuous after Anita had a break at the beginning of December as well as Christmas and it took a good while for me to properly find my feet…well, actually, I am not sure I fully did, I just wasn’t completely on my arse. I said at the time that there were a few sessions where I struggled to connect with her and in one didn’t hug her until I left which really felt bad for the young parts. It’s been more of the same in January. Ugh.

I haven’t been able to put my finger on what has been wrong – only that something feels off. My body is tense, I am getting pins and needles in my hands and feet during the sessions, and I feel like I am drifting away from A…or like she is far far away. Part of me knows that this isn’t the case, she’s right there, she’s present and trying, she says the right things but they seem to bounce off me, I can’t take them in a lot of the time and so it ‘feels’ like there something wrong. My brain can’t find words but my body is in panic.

It’s the child parts that are struggling. Adult, or sometime False Adult, has been showing up quite a lot to cover this up – and for two successive sessions there was no touch in my sessions until walking out the room at the end which was fucking disastrous for the time between the sessions – and I think has led to this spiral of doubt and fear about the relationship.

I know that not being physically close for a couple of sessions doesn’t sound like all that big of a deal. I mean we’re on the same sofa, it’s not like she’s on Mars! In fact, there will be people who will be reading this who desperately want to hug their therapists and that not be an option to them (you know I’ve been there for 8 years with Em and I understand how painful that is), or people who only ever get a quick hug at the end of their sessions who wish they could have more will probably think I’m just moaning and not seeing how lucky I actually am to have Anita and her open season where touch is concerned. I do get it. And I also get that what’s happened in these sessions has been my doing not Anita’s. It’s not like she’s suddenly become withholding or changed the boundary on touch.

There have been sessions where I have done nothing but talk, or as Anita said the other day, “download” in the session… which is partly because my life is so fucking hectic and sooooo much is going on and I haven’t left space for the littles. I pay for it in a big way afterwards and really we need to make time for those young parts in each session, even if it’s only to acknowledge they’re there, in hiding.

The main problem that has arisen is that because there were two successive sessions of the child parts not getting seen they feel like Anita has forgotten about them. Outside the sessions it’s felt like the interactions Anita and I have had have been a bit, I dunno, just not like they used to be?! Again, this is me just being sensitive. When the child parts are really struggling, they need more and yet Anita would have no clue the child parts were there from the types of messages I’ve sent. Unless I am explicit, her responses are never going to meet the need of those little parts that feel scared and forgotten about because they don’t seem to be there communicating.

When I do send a clear message she responds as I need. I think maybe I need to tell A that even if there’s a really adult seeming message, or something very random (something about passports this week), could she please include the young ones in a reply because there’s a lot of shame around how much reassurance the young ones need at the moment. Or maybe I should just warn her that right now there’s a lot that the little ones want to say and to brace for it! I know she’s busy, though, and I don’t want to overwhelm her with, ‘I miss you, I feel like you’re far away, I want a cuddle’ every day! Sometimes, I think a quick five minute check in on the phone during the week would help as it would be a proper connection point…

Anyway, the last few of sessions have been a bit challenging. The child parts just haven’t been let out, whether that’s through endless moaning and chatter (that seems ok on the surface) or through a full on shut down where I feel like I am stuck in jail. Yesterday was a shut down. It was soooo bad. I’d felt really disconnected from Anita during the week, which is hilarious looking back as we have been in touch a lot…but as I said…it hasn’t been for the little ones, or not enough for them, and because there hasn’t been physical reassurance in the sessions (my own fucking fault!) it has led this shitstorm.

You’d think I’d bloody learn by now, wouldn’t you?

By Thursday there was a part of me that really didn’t want to go to therapy on Friday. It felt like Anita was a million miles away (even though she assures me that she is not and has repeatedly tried to reach through my walls over recent weeks). Instead of allowing myself to fester in that, I looked inside and wondered about what was happening, and actually it really boiled down to feeling like I haven’t seen Anita enough. I know that’s nuts, because of course I have seen her. But there has been a lot of disruption for the little parts that really struggle with separation on breaks.

As I said, it takes a while to bounce back from a break and December had two of them. It really destabilises the young ones. I am getting better with breaks (without doubt) but they do still have an impact. It’s so important after a break to work at the reconnection over the next few weeks and for some reason something has just not felt right since January. Often before and after breaks we have done 75-minute sessions which seem to buffer the separation a bit as it gives plenty of time to attend to the child parts who might struggle to come out knowing there’s a break and they have to go away, or after a break when they don’t know if things are still safe.

There’s something about that length of session that really works. I think for people with C-PTSD it takes us a good while to settle/ground into the space as there is so much mental checking that goes on before we ‘relax’. I’ve said lots of times about how I notice insane details, like a light switch, or a different set of fairy lights outside, or what lights are on in the room, or the other tiny things that normal people just wouldn’t see, notice, or care about.

It takes time to orientate to the room and alongside that, orientate to the therapist: is she tired? Is she in a good mood? What is she wearing? Is she sitting further away than last week? Is she listening? Am I safe here? And on and on and on… I linked a great post about this from my friend over at Girl In Therapy and I’ll put it here again because it really does highlight the journey we go on EVERY SINGLE TIME WE ENTER THE ROOM.

So, 75 minutes really takes the stress out of feeling like there ‘isn’t enough time’. In the normal run of things, sometimes half a session can disappear before I feel like I am ready to be how I need to be. And sometimes it’s longer than that. There is nothing worse than glancing at the clock and realising there is only 15 minutes left of a session but knowing now that there isn’t enough time to get what you need. That’s kind of what’s happening at the minute. I honestly don’t know how I managed 50-minute sessions. Well, I didn’t, did I?!

Sometimes, by the time the young parts feel safe enough to move towards Anita there just isn’t time. Like Monday, for example, another day where we hadn’t touched (ARGH!), she asked if I wanted a hug but also said we were nearly at time to finish. I declined because it would actually have been more painful to cuddle for a minute or two and then have to leave when I wasn’t ready to let go. It would actually be more dysregulating. I mean, I am rarely ready to let go, but it would have really hurt those little parts to feel pushed out before they were ready. And yet had that been a longer session, that time to connect would have been there and we could have had that 15 minutes of safety and holding before I left. Instead, I left feeling sad and abandoned – even though that’s not what was going on.

So, rather than run for the hills yesterday (which was what part of me was wanting to do) I decided to instead ask Anita if we could maybe do a longer session on Friday, for the reasons I have just listed. I text her on Thursday and she didn’t respond. Ugh. And, so, of course this fed back into all the stuff about her ‘being too busy’ for me now, and the young parts feeling abandoned and forgotten about and unimportant. Joy. It’s just a perfect storm situation.

I didn’t sleep well on Thursday night and woke up really upset at 4am and couldn’t drift back off. I went through the motions of getting the kids to school and then left for my session. Because Anita hadn’t responded to my message the protectors had come in…you know, the mature one first (the teen 😉) and basically all the way there was going, “Why the fuck are we going? Just turn round and go back to bed! She doesn’t care and is happy to ignore you. You’re such a fucking loser.” Adult me was trying to tell her to “Calm the fuck down” and explain that it’s not the end of the world. But y’all know how this shit plays out inside, right? In the end the teen sat with her arms folded, brooding, staring out the window, and giving me the silent treatment.

I knew this didn’t bode well for my session. When I arrived in Anita’s town, I decided to go and get a drink. (And thinking about this, now,  it’s only just clicked how MUCH my teen was present yesterday!) I had time as there was no traffic on the roads and I’d got the kids to school in good time and not had to dash home to pick up stuff, or go have a shower! When I stopped the car I noticed that Anita had sent me a message:

I’m so sorry. I’ve only just seen this message ☹

Part of me completely understood and the teen just rolled her eyes.

So, the place I went to get my drink is a small chain in the area where I live. I could have gone to Costa or somewhere else closer to Anita’s but I knew there was this particular place where A lives as well as in the city where I live. I basically spent most of my A Levels in there revising or chatting with friends. These days (I mean since I’ve been at Uni which is twenty years ago!) I drink decaf skinny lattes – no sugar…. But yesterday I ordered a steamer with a hazelnut shot as if on autopilot – this is basically steamed milk with a very sweet shot of syrup. And it was autopilot…. for my seventeen-year-old self… man!! Sitting in the café I felt that familiar sense of not being good enough that pervaded that period of my life and honestly, I didn’t feel like a 38-year-old with kids!

By the time I got to Anita’s I didn’t think I felt anything much about it at all. I thought I was fine. To Adult, it is what it is. Sometimes it works out when you ask last minute for things and sometimes it doesn’t. No big deal. Only inside those young parts were scared – as they have been for a while now. Jesus.

Anyway, yesterday I got in the room, and I froze. I couldn’t take Anita is AT ALL for AGES. I know she was trying really hard to get to me. She moved closer to me on the sofa, but I must have been giving ‘fuck off’ vibes and it seemed like I wouldn’t let her close. Of course, the young parts were absolutely beside themselves inside, but I was so trapped and couldn’t reach out or let her in. I really wanted Anita to cuddle me and make things feel better – and bridge that gap that seems to be getting bigger and bigger week on week – but another part was convinced that she wanted to stay away and so I couldn’t accept her care. In these situations, it’s never that I don’t want a cuddle it’s more I feel unworthy of the care, or ashamed that I need Anita so much, and so say no.

I think maybe when this happens, we need to think of a way around it. Like, Anita might say, “Can I give you a hug? I’d like to give you a hug” and that sad, lonely, not good enough part shakes her head and pushes A away, and so Anita respects that- but it isn’t what I need in that moment. If I start crying or trembling, then Anita always shuffles over to me and wraps me in a cuddle, but it’d be better if it didn’t escalate to the point where I am so distressed that my body is having a meltdown before she realises it’s safe to come closer and is actually what I need -as it’s so hard to come back from.

I think if she said, in follow up to her question about a hug, “is there a part of you that feels like you don’t deserve to be cuddled, or that I don’t want to give you a cuddle, really?…and are the little ones inside ok? Do they need a cuddle? – because it feels like they are hidden away but we both know they are there watching.” it would go a long way to circumvent the part that is terrified of being too much, and then being abandoned and rejected.

Anyway, I could feel myself drifting away yesterday. It felt like I was in the sea and the current was pulling me further and further away from A. Somehow, I asked if we could read a story – thank god, as this is what I have needed for weeks. Anita got up and went to get the books and said she also had ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ if I wanted to read that. I instantly bristled inside and felt sick. I said I hated ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ and Anita asked me why. I didn’t have the words in the moment for all that the book now signifies. When we hadn’t connected all session and I’d been silent how could I jump into all the stuff about Em and how awful it had been when I gave her the book for Christmas?

Anita didn’t push it and asked me what I’d like to hear. “I don’t care” I replied. Honestly, I was like a brick wall, but the unexpected mention of T.V.R had rattled me. Anita read , ‘Barbara Throws A Wobbler’ and I could feel the little parts inside start to settle. I wanted to move across the sofa and snuggle into A but I couldn’t move. There was another part keeping me frozen and thinking about the stuff with Em.

When the story was finished, I asked Anita if I could read her something. I don’t know what possessed me, but I think it was starting to click that it wasn’t Anita that was the issue and it was the stuff around the anniversary of Em and I terminating. I got out my phone and found the blog post I had written on ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ and scrolled down to the part where I started talking about the book and what it felt like for me in the wake of the therapeutic relationship with Em ending.

I cuddled into Anita and read the post. I could feel myself shaking. At times I had to stop reading because I felt so upset but I persisted, all the while Anita held me tightly into her body. We didn’t have time to discuss the , but I don’t think we really need to. Just having her hear it was huge. I felt incredibly vulnerable sharing that with Anita but also it felt good to have her know about this stuff.

After the session my brain started whirring and overthinking shit – like it always does. I wish it would just rest in the moment and be content with how things are, realise that mine and A’s relationship is solid, and it doesn’t matter what she does or is like with other clients because when I am with her it’s only me and her in the room. Only it doesn’t work like that does it? There’s always that client sibling rivalry whether we like to admit it or not.

So, my mind got to wondering where ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ had come from. Had another client brought it with them to therapy? And if so, does Anita read ‘our’ story books to other clients? And, of course, that felt horrible because the young parts hate sharing Anita, as it is, without thinking that ‘our’ stories are not just special to us. And so many people have emailed me since I wrote that blog post on ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ saying how they’d bought it and taken it into their therapy that I thought it seemed fairly likely that this is why Anita has the book – it is therapy gold, after all…and whilst part of me knows this, part of me doesn’t want it confirmed because the idea that Anita is just going through the motions with me and that she has a conveyor belt of books and cuddles………..

For Fuck’s Sake RB when will you just chill out????

Anyway, I sent a message to Anita after session explaining a bit about why ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ was a trigger and she sent a lovely message back and things felt ok.

Last night I took myself up to bed and then it hit. Floods of tears out of nowhere. I was sobbing for ages. What was happening? Then the penny fully dropped about why things have been so difficult this week. The body remembers even if the brain doesn’t. I went back over my emails with Em and saw that the date for ‘tick gate’ was two years on Thursday and “Sorry I couldn’t help you, I wish you well for the future” was yesterday. I’ve been aware that this time of year, round Christmas is hard because it was when everything started to blow up with Em but the sucker punch of ‘adhesive’ and ‘like a tick’ and then being dropped like a hot potato is still so painful.

On a positive, it’s two years since I met Anita…and we got on this crazy ride. I don’t think either one of is especially fond of rollercoasters, but we haven’t got off yet!

I’ll leave this here for now. Sorry for the novel xx

Another Therapy Break and “A Little Friend”

So here we are then, half-way through my least favourite thing – another therapy break – and ugh, I just feel utterly bleurgh. It’s not been helped by getting my period yesterday, either. TMI?! I always feel drained, and tired, and in need of care at this time of the month anyway, so having Anita away, too, has felt especially shit this last couple of days. Thank goodness for endless cups of tea, cake, soft toys and my weighted blanket…it’s just a shame I can’t hibernate, really.

Things are still as relentless as ever with work and life, and it’s still another week until half term break from work so I feel as if I am running on fumes right now. It’s that juddering, lurching motion before I completely conk out. Eek. I’m really just hoping that I can free-wheel my way into next Friday. I desperately need some time off and some serious sleep. I think the first few days of the holiday are going to be spent in pjs watching movies with the kids and recharging our batteries.

So, I guess I should backtrack a bit and fill in to how I got to this midway point of the therapy break.

Actually, the lead into this therapy break wasn’t too bad. Well, I mean, I had the usual internal panic about it (but of course!) and felt a bit sad about it (no surprises there), but Anita and I were able to talk about it several times before it actually happened which makes such a difference.

Break anxiety is not the elephant in the room (I don’t think there are any elephants in our therapy room, actually!) like it was with Em. I don’t have to feel shame or embarrassment about the feelings that come up around disruptions to my therapy. I don’t have to pretend that I am not impacted by breaks and separation from Anita. AND perhaps most importantly, I am not made to feel like there is something wrong with me for experiencing feelings of abandonment and rejection (even if adult me knows that’s not what’s happening) when Anita goes away – and it is such a relief.

I definitely think that being ‘left’ with my painful feelings around breaks exacerbated the actual time of the breaks I had with Em. But then I felt so alone with my feelings, before, during, and after breaks so, maybe it’s just that the whole thing was a disaster! Ugh. Never mind!

So, anyway, a couple of sessions before the break Anita directed our attention towards the upcoming separation. I had obviously, already, had my big meltdown last month when she told me about the breaks she had planned – or rather the meltdown about the way the information was delivered with the formal seeming note -and so we had discussed how hard breaks felt for me then, during that big rupture repair session, too.

On our last Monday session before the holiday, I was cuddled into Anita – I can’t remember what we’d been talking about during the session – all sorts of random shit about the trip I’d just taken (we’d missed previous Friday’s session), I think, but there was a period where it went quiet, and I felt so relaxed and safe. After a little while, I asked what she Anita was thinking.

She replied, “I am thinking about the gaps that we are having… how we haven’t had any gaps recently, really, and now there seem to be quite a lot in one go – with you going away last week and then me going away next week… and I’m wondering how you are with that, really, as I’m guessing you’re not very good with that?”

She held me closer to her and I started to cry. I really wasn’t expecting my reaction having been so settled a minute before. I guess I was in no way armoured up in that moment and so the genuine reaction just came. It felt really freeing that Anita had brought the subject up and given the little parts (and all the others) space to feel whatever was there in that moment – especially in the safety of being physically cuddled.

I have been so used to pretending I am ok about breaks (with Em) and masking what I really felt, or at least downplaying it if it did come out, that having the reality of how I actually might feel acknowledged by Anita let me be exactly how it was in the moment. It’s ok to feel sad and to cry about this stuff because it feels huge to parts of me.

I had felt moments of really deep sadness and longing when I was away on the previous Friday (missing my session), not enough to not enjoy myself, but when I was sitting down alone waiting for my wife and kids I felt a real ache in my chest that I wasn’t able to be in the room that morning. I text Anita a GIF to say I missed her, and amazingly we both sent each other a message at the same time.

It felt really lovely, to see that she was thinking of me and reaching out, not just responding to a message I’d sent. It felt connecting. I think so often we worry that being out of sight means being out of mind, but here, again, was Anita demonstrating not only that she does exist outside the room but that I am thought about occasionally, too. Those moments go such a long way in showing my system how things can be in a relationship. How I am not a burden, or unwanted, or too much etc.

So that Monday was our first session back…but there were only two sessions between the breaks and it felt really crappy. Anita went on, “I just want to reassure you that it will be ok. I know that’s not always easy to believe.”

I sniffed and my tears kept coming. Anita gently rubbed my back and held me close to her. I felt so sad. Like in that moment, all the feelings of how it was when I was small and my mum going away time and again just came flooding up and out. Part of me wanted to tell her I didn’t want her to leave me, but I guess those are really the words I swallowed so many times over the years as a kid that I needed my mum to hear. Watching her disappear on a train week in week out for years really has taken its toll on me and here it was playing out again.

Anita reassured me, “It will be ok. I promise. It will.”

I so badly wanted to believe her and clung on tightly to her. There would have been a time where an angry teen part would have shouted something internally, like “Fuck off! What do you know? You fuckers always leave. You don’t care! And I’m left here trying to hold it together through the shit storm.” But the teen was silent – or rather, she wasn’t even there. Instead, I just allowed myself to sink into the immediate moment of safety, connection, and reassurance rather than fight against it.

I guess, when it’s like that I am trying to absorb as much ‘the good stuff’ as I can so that this week, when things start to wobble, I can remember how it feels to be connected and held. And it is working. When I feel distressed or upset, I can now call to mind all the times that I have been safe and held by Anita. I don’t have to try and imagine what it might be like to get what I need because I know it, now. I have experienced it.

I used to find it so difficult when Em would say things like, “that young part of you wants to be held. Can you imagine what it would be like for that part to get what it needs?” It always felt so rejecting when she was sitting right there and yet a million miles away. I’ve said before that it felt like having my nose pressed up against the window of a sweet shop and the owner saying, “you can’t have any of what’s in here, but try and imagine what it would be like to taste this stuff.” It felt so rejecting and cruel.

I knew what I needed, she knew what I needed, but I couldn’t get it. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be held and the longing for it felt so fucking painful.  Em wanted me to take my young parts and hold them but I didn’t know how to do that for myself because I had never experienced being held. She used to say things like, “you do it for your kids so you can do it for yourself” again it felt so alienating and so distancing. Fuck.

Thankfully, now, I have experienced enough actual holding with Anita that when it feels bad, I can take myself to a place where I can go some way towards soothing that little part that needs cuddling. However, my visualisation doesn’t involve adult me holding that young part, it’s remembering how it ACTUALLY feels to be held by Anita. That’s what helps me. It is self-soothing, but I can only do it because I have a built-in reference point now. I can tap into that place and part that knows what it feels like to feel safe, and cared for, and held.

Asking someone to imagine being held when they have never ever had that is like trying to get someone to bring the smell of the sea to mind when they’ve never been there and only ever experienced the city. It’s impossible. It’s frustrating. And it makes you feel like you’re stupid for not being able to do something really simple… but it’s not simple when you haven’t got a basis to work on.

So, there I was in the moment with A, absorbing all the love and care I could. I’d stopped crying and was feeling settled and calm. I glanced up at the clock and noticed it was coming to the end of the session. Adult me had spoken a lot about my trip away but it wasn’t until the end that the important stuff (for the young parts) came. A little part of me whispered, “I missed you when I was away.”

With so much warmth in her voice, Anita replied, “I know. I missed you too. It felt very strange on Friday not seeing you. I’ll see you this Friday, though.” And then that was the end of the session, she gave me a big squeeze and kissed me on the head and I got up, put my shoes on, asked her if she would wash my elephant for me, (“of course”) and then we chatted about something random and adult.

We hugged again, at the door, as I left and I walked out feeling pretty good, but also knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy that week as there was only one session remaining before the break and that anticipation of A being away was sure to hit the various parts of me as the week progressed. I felt a bit clingy and A and I exchanged a few pictures, GIFs, and texts over the course of the week.

Thursday night was terrible, though. I was really looking forward to seeing Anita and felt quite ok in my mind, but my body had a completely different narrative going on. At about 8 o clock I’d just settled down from finishing work when I got the sensation of trembling throughout my body. I didn’t seem to be outwardly shaking but internally I was juddering. Sometimes I physically shake, and it looks like I am shivering, but it wasn’t like this that evening it was more subtle. I couldn’t seem to settle myself and eventually fell asleep but feeling really unsettled and not ok.

To add insult to injury my unconscious fired out a spectacular nightmare that culminated in me being attacked and then strangled by a family member (just wonderful!) and the last thing I remember was me trying to scream “help me!” over and over again but no sounds coming out until I woke up crying and shaking. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and the feeling of pressure in my neck was intense.

I text Anita that morning to give her the heads up about how bad things felt. And she replied with a lovely warm, holding message telling me that she was really looking forward to seeing me and sending hugs and love – but part of me was disappointed that we frequently do 75 minute sessions when we’ve had breaks or breaks are coming  (we’d done that on the Monday) but that day we weren’t when I really felt like I needed it and so whilst the message was really perfect at least part of me felt like she didn’t see how much I was struggling.

I arrived at my session at 10am, our storybooks were on the side next to my elephant and something else that I couldn’t quite see. I sat down. Anita said, “I thought we were starting at 9:45 today and doing longer?” I cannot explain how gutted I was when she said that. She had thought we were starting early which is obviously why she hadn’t asked if I wanted to start earlier in her text that morning. Ugh. Fuck. So, I said that I didn’t think we had agreed that – but had for Monday and never mind, but the little parts were wailing that they could have had another 15 minutes that day and hadn’t.

Anita could see immediately that I was really not ok. I knew I felt off after the nightmare but thought I was just about hanging it together with my rubber bands and chewing gum. Anita asked me straight away if I wanted a hug. I nodded and sort of collapsed into her arms. “I can feel you’re shaking” she said. I hadn’t been aware of that, or at least it felt similar to how it had been during the night, I didn’t realise it could actually be felt by someone else.

As I lay still, I became really aware of how badly I was trembling. It must’ve taken a good thirty minutes for my body to stop shaking and for everything to regulate. Anita and I didn’t really talk much until I got my system and breathing settled. Once things levelled out and I felt normal again we chatted about all kinds of stuff, but I wasn’t able to before then. I wasn’t in my window of tolerance.

I am so grateful to have a therapist like Anita. So much of my wounding is early, preverbal, trauma and so the touch and the holding does such a lot to soothe and calm that terrified, traumatised part of me. Once I am in my window of tolerance, I am good to go but it can take a while to get there and I really need that connection with Anita, the coregulation to get me to a place to do the work.

I spent the entire session cuddled into A. She asked me if I wanted a story about fifteen minutes from the end but I said no, I didn’t want to have to move from where I was in order to have a story. Anita then said to me that she’d got me “a little friend” to go with my elephant and that she’d washed it alongside him, so it smelled the same.

Did I ever mention that I absolutely love this woman?

Again, it’s these sort of things that really do so much for my young parts. She’s not in the least bit weirded out that I ask her to wash a soft toy for me before breaks so that it smells like her, and I can have that whilst she’s gone. At the end of the session, she gave me a bag and inside it was a little soft toy rabbit. “I saw this and thought of you”, she said. I wanted to cry because it was so thoughtful and relevant to our relationship.

Anita and I have this thing where I call her my rabbit. I gave her the storybook, ‘The Rabbit Listened’ for our first therapy-anniversary last January because I really related to the fact that through everything this rabbit stayed alongside the boy and never went away and heard and helped him through all his emotions. She reads this book to me a lot when we have stories.

Anita sometimes refers to herself as the rabbit so the fact that she’d bought me a soft toy rabbit as a transitional object for the young parts felt really lovely. Really, really, lovely actually.

I felt sad leaving the session knowing it would be a while until I saw A again, but at least I was as well-equipped as I could possibly be going into it. I decided I wouldn’t text her over the break, or at least try not to.

So, on Sunday evening I was so delighted when I got message from A with three pictures of the landscape of where she was that day – and again, I thought how really lucky I am to have a therapist who really gets how attachment wounding can play out and what is needed to try and repair that for the young parts. I sent her some pictures back of where I’d been that day and felt good for having checked in.

I miss A, a lot, but I feel safe in the knowledge that she is out there, that she cares, and that she will be back on Monday evening. She’ll not be back in time for our Monday morning session so she scheduled me in a late appointment so I don’t have to wait even longer to see her. I know I say it all the time, but what a massive contrast to what I used to get with Em.

More Rupture Repair And Thoughts On Past Therapy.

Hi all!

It’s been a while since I last posted (again!). Don’t worry, everything is completely fine, it’s just that every time I sit at this laptop I just can’t find the words I want, or even really channel my thoughts in a logical direction. I am so busy with work and juggling my day-to-day life at the minute (lots of spinning plates and a few smashed bits of crockery to boot) that I simply don’t have stretches of time to sit and write and so instead I just go and crack on with something I can do in twenty minutes because I seem to have an endless list of chores and jobs and emails and bleurgh to suffocate under!

Anyway, I am here now and hopefully over the next few days might be able to cobble something together before Anita goes off on her holiday on Monday. Boooo! It’s probably best I get up to speed before that inevitable shitshow commences and I go mental (again)! Obviously, that’s not my plan, but there’s a good chance that when I am THIS tired and creeping towards being THAT hormonal that things mightn’t be smooth sailing…and I hate boats anyway, always get sea sick…so….

Right, let’s do this!

Anita was so attuned and responsive to me in the days between our ‘shit hit the fan’ day/session on the Monday and our next face to face session on the Friday. She clearly had heard and taken on board everything I had said to her in that intense heart-to-heart session and despite my having left that session feeling ok, seen, heard, held, safe…I did check in with her quite a bit over the course of that week via text – nothing major but just the usual pre-meltdown/withdrawal kind of levels. I guess the part of me that was wondering if she was really stable and safe needed to keep testing that – but also that young part that so fears abandonment was checking ‘Are you still there?’

I was so looking forward to seeing Anita on Friday. Monday had been such a balls-up with time because I had had my big tantrum and stayed at home when I should have gone to session, and then I went when I realised I was burning the house down round the relationship – which meant we only had like 35 minutes together instead of the hour. Usually, if something feels off or has gone wrong I might ask for a slightly longer session, I find 75 minute sessions the best length – it’s enough time to land, do the work, and pick up again at the end. But I didn’t ask for this on that Friday because I was so aware of how stressed Anita had been on Monday. She had told me explicitly that I didn’t need to take care of her and yet here I was, not asking for what I needed to try and not add to her burden. Ugh. FFS RBCG!

Looking back now, I think, perhaps, I was unconsciously trying to stay away from anything that might be ‘too much’ for Anita in that Friday session too, as I spent the first forty minutes talking about stuff outside the room. But actually, at the same time I had stuff that I needed to talk about that wasn’t about ‘us’ or what had happened on Monday. It had been my childhood bestfriend’s funeral the day before the session, and it had kicked up some more gripes about my relationship with my mother (ugh the woman is just fucking useless). I needed to get it off my chest and also feel into the grief – so maybe I wasn’t being totally avoidant, but just prioritising what felt front and centre in that moment when I arrived.

As I said in my last post, even though what happened with Anita on the Monday felt like a catastrophe at the time, in reality the rupture was repaired, or was a good way towards being repaired, all in the space of that same Monday morning. I had been given space for my wounded and angry outburst and discovered what the reality of the situation was with Anita…and it wasn’t about me and her, although obviously it had crept into the work like smoke under a door.

So, on Friday I wasn’t wracked with anxiety and dread about whether Anita and I were solid enough to withstand what had happened. I knew we were. The worst of the anxiety was done and over with and I felt pretty ok, like I say, I genuinely feel like the foundation that Anita and I have built our therapeutic alliance on is like a really solid granite bedrock – not some shifting sand. Even when things get unsettled, which is bound to happen on and off given the nature of the issues I struggle with, things resettle sooooooo quickly.

I can’t really explain how much of a contrast this is to how things were with Em. I mean, those of you who have followed this blog for a while will surely see it. The days, weeks, months…years…that things would fester with Em was ridiculous. I would sit on my anxiety and stress about what things felt like between us for AGES, waiting for the ‘right time’ to bring it up. But there never being a ‘right time’ everything always felt so precarious and I felt like if I made the wrong move she’d terminate me…(oh the irony!…how right I was!)

Instead, I would suffer that agony of broken attachment and lack of connection that becomes so horrifically somatised for people with complex trauma on my own. It was safer to manage that than risk rejection from Em which felt like it would be unsurvivable to the young parts. It felt almost like a life-or-death situation at times – the body was endlessly in survival mode. That constant feeling of anxiety, the nausea, pain in the solar plexus, an empty black hole of ache in the chest, tension headache, tight jaw, poor sleep, or nightmares when I did sleep, the racing heart, the jumpiness, oh, and the physical shaking… I mean my poor fucking nervous system was in tatters.

I would suffer so much during the time between sessions and ‘hang on’ for the Monday and Friday session times, hoping so badly that the person sitting opposite me would for once show me some warmth and create an environment where it felt safe to express how I was feeling in the relationship with her. But more often than not, when it was apparent that that long hoped for relational experience was not going to materialise, I’d end up feeling even worse than I had outside the room, to the point where I would dissociate to escape how painful it all was.

In all honesty, it was pure torture.

In addition to this, the ruptures we had weren’t even really repaired – it was more that I had to let things go, paste over the cracks, because I was so scared of losing her. Em was never willing to apologise and instead rigidly stuck to her position making me feel like I was deficient and defective which confirmed the narrative I already had playing inside me. Of course, none of this did me any good at all!

It’s hard.

I knew really a few months into the therapy resuming, with Em, that it wasn’t right for me. The level of distress I felt in relation to her was unbelievable when I think about it now. The problem with this deep knowing (that things weren’t right) is that it’s not what so many parts of me wanted to hear. You’ve got to remember, too, that when you’ve grown up being gaslighted and emotionally abused by a parent it’s hard to trust your gut because you’re so often told you are wrong or that something is wrong with you.

It’s not surprising that I felt attached to Em – in so many ways my relationship with her replicated the experience I had growing up as a child with my mum. She was another emotionally unavailable woman who disappeared in the week and then put me down, eroded my sense of self, and told me I was wrong when I (occasionally) expressed dissatisfaction or had a need.

I mean it was maternal transference 101 – only in the very worst way.

I sometimes wonder why things had to get SO bad before we terminated and why I didn’t quit sooner rather than have it all get so horrifically traumatic, but it’s so hard to leave someone you’re so deeply attached to when part of you in still hanging onto that tiny glimmer of hope, that maybe, just maybe this time if you behave in the right way, this new ‘mother’ will accept you and not abandon you.

I mean we, as humans, are hardwired for connection and more than anything I just wanted to be accepted by this person that I cared so much about even if I was pushing my way through a jungle of red flags week in week out – but I’ve been brought up in that jungle and have never seen anything but red so I stuck with what felt familiar even if it was painful. It really wasn’t until I returned to K and regular craniosacral sessions that I realised that the alternative version of connection that I had in my mind was possible and not some unachievable fantasy – like Em had led me to believe.

I used to wonder why people in abusive relationships didn’t just up and leave and now I know. I know I wasn’t married to Em (!), but I think similar things are in play with domestic abuse victims. It’s so complex and taps into so much wounding from so long ago. I should have left so many times, but I always went back, gave it another go, tried to bend myself into the mould that she wanted. It didn’t work though, did it? What she wanted me to be was at complete odd with and who I am and what my needs were.

I’m so sad now to look back and see how much emotional pain I put myself through. I really feel like a faithful dog that just kept going back to get kicked over and over and over again. And it wasn’t until she delivered the killer blow that I got free of it all.

Ugh.

Anyway -that’s not how it is with Anita, thank goodness! Writing that, I can see there is still so much work to do on that stuff with Em. Bloody therapy to recover from therapy…isn’t that just the gift that keeps on giving?! I think I could have gone on an around the world trip with the money I’ve put into therapy over the years!

So…back that Friday session. After I had spoken about the immediate stresses and upsets of my daily life there was a natural pause in the conversation. I guess that’s when I really landed in the room properly. I was quiet for a minute and felt the young parts move to the front. I could feel that worry about being too much – that’s always there-  and, despite, wanting a hug I didn’t ask for one. Adult me knew everything was ok but those more vulnerable parts didn’t.

Anita gently broached the subject of Monday gently, “How are you feeling about us now?”

I whispered a barely perceptible, “Don’t know.”

“Don’t know?” Anita mirrored. “That’s what I wondered.”

There was another silence and the room felt really still.

“What do you need? What can I do?” Anita asked.

Again I replied with, “I don’t know.”

In that moment I don’t think I was being avoidant or obstructive or not asking for what I needed. Sometimes when things feel overwhelming I literally don’t have a clue what I need. I mean looking at this now, clearly I needed to feel connected to Anita but when I’m stuck behind my glass wall, I don’t remember that it doesn’t need to be there.

I let out a long sigh and felt like I wanted to curl up in a ball.

“It’s hard isn’t it?” said Anita with so much warmth and care in her voice.

More silence, from me.

“Because I am thinking about what a difficult situation it all is. I think that it’s going to happen where I am not in an ok space and it’s going to feed back because you are so sensitive to change because you’ve always had to be, you notice things in me that I might not… and it’s like I was saying to my supervisor and was saying to you on Monday, that I am not taking on any new clients because I don’t feel I can take on any more than I have at the moment – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect clients that I have now… and our relationship… and my relationship with my family, even. It affects everybody around me but it’s really hard for me to know what to do with that. Does any of this makes sense?” She sounded so apologetic but also just really real.

I let out a small, “Yeah” but I couldn’t work out where the conversation was going and sighed deeply and felt myself starting to drift. The bit about not knowing what to do with that set of a panic inside, was she about to tell me she was going to stop working for a bit? I had no idea.

“What do you want to happen?” I asked.

Anita paused, took a deep breath, and said, “I feel like I have broken your trust. And I know it’s going to take time to regain that again. And I wish I had a magic wand to make that happen, but I don’t. Because part of me, no, no I know, I don’t know why I brought that up, cos I know that it’s natural for you to think that it’s you and not me – and actually it is me and not you. You haven’t done anything wrong or different. It’s me. But like I said on Monday when you [Anita] get down, I don’t think you always realise how much it’s affecting you until… you don’t function properly…but I don’t want to lose the relationship, I really don’t. I am hoping we can learn from this, both of us. Because I think if we lose it [deep sigh] what would be the point? That’s not what I want, but obviously for  a relationship to work be both need to want the same.”

I honestly couldn’t believe that she might be thinking that I didn’t want to work with her anymore over what had happened. As I said, it felt huge in the moment but in the big scheme of things it wasn’t a deal breaker because we’d done so much repair on the Monday. If anything it brought us closer together.

“I just don’t want to be too much for you” I replied.

“You’re not too much for me! You’re not too much for me! It’s not you that’s too much for me. And you’re really not! It’s other areas of my life that’s too much and I am trying to sort that out. But you are not too much for me… I know it’s hard to believe that isn’t it?”

I nodded.

“And I guess that’s what I’m thinking. That’s the learning. That whoever you work with – if it’s not me – if you choose not be with me – and I want to work with you – don’t take that the wrong way and think I don’t want to work with you because I do – I don’t want to lose this relationship. But I think the learning is that you will go into relationships and things will happen to the other person but that doesn’t meant they want the relationship with you to end. I don’t. you’re not too much for me – others areas of my life are, but you’re not, you’re not part of that. Can you hear that?”

I didn’t know what to say, the mention of not working together (even though that’s not what she was saying set parts of me off running away).

After a little while Anita asked, “What are you hearing?”

And I whispered, “I feel like I’m not here.”

“Uh hmm, like you’ve detached a little bit?”

I nodded.

Anita asked if she could give me a hug, and again I nodded and then shuffled across the sofa and  snuggled in for a cuddle. I listened to Anita’s steady heartbeat and eventually I started to breathe more regularly, in time with Anita. When I get stressed I seem to hold my breath without even realising I am doing it. It’s nice when A and I hug because eventually my system settles and I feel my body relax bit by bit. I can go from a state of panic, heart racing, etc to a point where I almost fall asleep.

We didn’t really say anything in the remaining ten minutes of the session but that hug felt so healing and holding and by the time it was time to leave I felt so much better.

On the drive home I was thinking about what Anita had said to me, the bit about her breaking my trust really sat uncomfortably with me because that’s not how I had experienced the last week. When I got home I wrote out a massive long message – I think pretty much all my worries came out – and I sent it to Anita:

Things I need you to know. I trust you and I love you…too much probably…and that makes me really vulnerable in this relationship. When I get triggered badly, like on Monday morning, I will look to run away and push you away and act as though I could easily just end things – even though it’s the very last thing I want to do – but I do it because I’d sooner be the one to pull the plug on us than you do it and have to deal with that pain because honestly I can’t even let myself imagine how crushing that would be. It’s bad enough when you are away for a little while, but actually gone… I just can’t…

You say that what’s happened is not because of me and that I am not too much for you, and I really do hear that. I actually really understand that what has happened isn’t actually anything to do with ‘me and you’ and that’s really positive. The flip side of that, though, is that when things are wrong with us, we can do something about it together, or I can do something about how I am, and that will probably help move things forward. In this situation I have absolutely no way of knowing what will happen and I can’t affect any change or take steps to make sure things go ok for you, and by extension – us. But it doesn’t stop my brain trying to think a way round it, “maybe if I don’t text her this…” or “keep the young, needy parts hidden for a while”… you know how my brain works!

I genuinely don’t feel like things are badly broken. I just don’t know how I need to be to give you the space you need to get yourself into a better place. I absolutely don’t want to work with anyone else ever. I think you know that – at least I hope you do. I don’t feel like you have broken my trust. I am actually really glad that you could tell me how things were for you and be authentic and real with me. I actually feel like that was a big moment for us. Not a bad one. I just wonder whether you regret letting me see that, and then I wonder if you’ll take a step back from me again to regroup.

What’s panicking me is that ultimately, no matter how much I’d like to pretend otherwise, when it comes down to it, I am just your work. And we both know that when the shit hits the fan in our personal lives often the only area we can make changes to relieve pressure is in our work lives. I know that ‘currently’ I am not too much for you but what if that changes?

I am so sensitive to how you are, and I feel when you are withdrawing…and that’s difficult for me even if I now know why that happened recently. But what happens if one day I have a meltdown, or am just too clingy and you think, “fuck it, I just don’t have the energy for this anymore?”…you can just walk away. And I’ve been there before….and it was bad. But if you were to go, I honestly don’t know how I would cope. It makes me cry even thinking about it.

I feel like I am in this impossible bind – not because of what’s happened this week – but with therapy in general. Like I feel like there’s a real closeness between us and the relationship matters to both of us, and yet look how readily I lose my shit (the note with the break dates on) when I get faced with the reality that I am just another of your clients. It’s just a bloody nightmare.

I don’t know what I am trying to say, really, other than I am not going anywhere unless you push me away and that you mean a lot to me. Big hugs x

And she replied with:

Thank you for sharing. I don’t regret opening up to you- I feel honesty is really important between us. I just didn’t realise how badly I was failing at holding it all together after years of growing my self-awareness – I’m not sure I’ll ever fully get there! You are right. When things aren’t good we often need to change our work balance. So, I’m not taking on new clients and looking to see what I can let slide – but honestly, you aren’t even on my list of things to change. Yes, reading on Monday sounds good. Sending you lots of love and care xx. [and a load of hearts]

Crikey, this is really long so I’ll leave it there for now. But, good news is everything is good, settled, back to normal with Anita…well, that is, of course, until the weekend comes and she disappears for a week! More on that next time! x

Fine But Not Fine…

Well, it’s been a while since I have blogged – in fact, it’s probably the longest I have ever gone without writing in any shape or form whatsoever. There’s no real excuse for it, I have had the time (it’s just been the school summer holidays here in the UK), but I just haven’t had the inclination to write. Almost every time I have thought about sitting down at the laptop, I have had a massive internal block, like something or someone inside puts up a massive barrier and so I haven’t bothered pushing it.

Instead of writing, I have sat in the garden, taken the kids to the park, met up with friends, gone for ice cream or to the beach or the woods, or done a million other things. I’ve even sat outside in the middle of the night under a blanket watching shooting stars!…or… I’ve simply done nothing at all…and it’s been great!

There’ve been days, like today, where I have thought I would actually like to write, where I have had stuff to say, and then I’ve procrastinated with the laptop turned on beside me and found other things to do like scroll through Insta, Twitter, Facebook etc on loop (!). I just haven’t managed to get my fingers typing. I guess, it’s probably something about how writing usually just flows for me and if I’m not in that space I find it quite arduous. I spend so much of my time teaching people how to write that I don’t want to have to think about the process when I am actually writing…or trying to find something to say.

The other thing I have noticed is that I have really struggled to read other people’s blogs. It’s not because I am not interested or don’t care – I am and I do…I just couldn’t. So I apologise if I haven’t commented on posts and have been AWOL.

I’m not entirely sure what is going on with me, to be honest. When I sit and try and look inside myself it’s like a vacuum – space – it’s just quiet – still – dare I say it, peaceful…… well, no…that’s not entirely correct…there is some noise from some of the parts…but I have largely been able to switch away from it (and them) and have been able to focus on other things not getting dragged into that mess… which is actually so refreshing.

I honestly don’t know if this is progress, or just another type of dissociation. I hate that I second guess myself like this. It’s like I don’t want to say all this positive stuff and it end up being too good to be true and then end up spectacularly ending up flat on my face in a few weeks (hours) and everyone rolling their eyes – like “uh huh, there she is, the nutter is back!” I suppose it doesn’t really matter what it is right now, because however I have achieved it, I finally have some clear space around and inside of me. Rather than feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders and feeling like I am being crushed in a vice, I feel like I have a little bubble of space around me that is preserving my energy but allowing me a bit of freedom to stretch out and unfurl, too.  

This newfound space has been especially apparent this week as I have gone back to work. Although I am tired (OMG I am soooo tired!) and have had some students really trying to push my buttons, I don’t feel like I am having my life force drained from me. I guess, what I am clumsily trying to articulate is like I feel like I might have got myself some kind of energetic boundary installed (finally!). I am not taking on other people’s stuff in the way I have previously and also not letting them take from me. I don’t mean that I am not caring or totally detached, more that I have plugged my leaky bucket and am retaining some of the energy that I need to function for myself which actually means I function better for others, too.

Basically, I am ok enough, and although things are happening (which I’ll get to in a minute) I feel like I have one foot in the process and another on the outside which is allowing me to get on and do things rather than be completely derailed – which is absolutely what would have happened in the past with any hint of stress in the therapeutic relationship… y’all know why I am here blogging today, right?! Don’t worry, the drama is coming soon!

The end of the summer holiday was really really good. I did some brilliant fun things with my wife and kids and made some awesome memories. The last Friday of the holidays we went to totally fabulous place with an inflatable assault course on water and had a blast. It’s the sort of place where you just let go and immerse yourself in the madness. I honestly haven’t had that much fun since I travelled the world in 2005. I felt so free, so full of life….and joy.

Joy??? What is joy?!!

My best friend from university came to stay on Saturday and we spent a fab 24 hours putting the world to rights, sitting in the sun on bean bags, incense burning, eating and drinking, and then retreating into the hot tub to star gaze in the evening. Again, it was another great day and really highlighted how lucky I am to have sound people in my life with whom I can be completely myself and relax with.

Then, last Monday, we took a trip to Harry Potter Studios and had such a magical time. I kept welling up, I was so bloody happy – like my entire system was utterly in its element – I was in my element. I kept stopping and thinking how great everything was. I guess, for the first time – maybe ever – I was able to be completely in the moment and not feel like I was on the outside looking in, or worse, not even there. My mind wasn’t wandering or fixating on stuff. I just enjoyed being present, experiencing life, having fun…

Part of me is so pleased to report this – I’m 38 FFS and maybe, finally, getting a bit more settled…I just wish I could have been like this years ago when I was doing so much amazing stuff and couldn’t really take it in. Oh well, small steps.

What was really a huge milestone, too, was choosing to do this stuff at a time when I would usually have had therapy with Anita. In the past, I would have really not wanted to book anything that would mean missing a therapy session. The insecure attachment I have/had just wouldn’t allow it. It’s bad enough when my therapist/s go away (more on this later, too) but I certainly wouldn’t have wilfully taken myself away from a session because the fallout from that would be too huge and destabilising.

But I did, this time.

Because…well…

I guess I know Anita is there. I know that if I go away or she goes away that she’s there to come back to – that the relationship will survive disruption. I mean there’s been a lot of disruption in the last 20 months. The world won’t collapse if I miss a session or two (Ha…you should hear what the little ones are saying to that!! “Who are you trying to kid, we’re in meltdown here, you gloating cow head and we don’t want Anita to go on her breaks in October and December and we’re not Ok!”).

I suppose what I have just started to take steps into, albeit tentatively, is going out and living my life instead of living from one therapy session to the next. I absolutely need my therapy. I really do benefit from my routine. Twice a week sessions is the sweet spot. And I do not like disruption – I wrote about how unsettling it was recently when A had to cancel a session due to sickness so I am not a bloody pro by any stretch of the imagination, I can’t just take it or leave it all the time. BUT…I can survive a bit of change and disruption…especially if I am doing something fun. And that is massive. Really massive. When I was doing all the things last week I occasionally thought of Anita and how I was looking forward to telling her about what I had done but there wasn’t any desperate missing her…in those moments. There wasn’t the big gaping sore hole #motherwound in my solar plexus screaming out in pain. There were a few bits of that this week as life returned to normal, though so I’m definitely not out the woods where that is concerned.

Yeah, you just read ALL of the above right. Don’t worry. It’s not some imposter having gained access to this blog – it’s still me – just maybe the budding version of a new me. I bloody hope so – anyway. What’s brought about this change, I wonder? I have to say that I think a good part of this more solid footing is down to the work I have been doing with Anita and K over the last couple of years. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a colossal mess (highlighted after Friday’s session), but I am not quite a big a mess as I was when Em terminated me in February 2020.

I really feel like the attachment work I have been doing is paying off. I can, a lot of the time, bring Anita to mind when I am not with her. Even the distressed child parts are getting a little more secure…which is amazing. As I say, sometimes it’s a complete shit show but there are glimmers of improvement. Even when I am doubting everything and feeling like things aren’t safe and a sham I can look back at the evidence to the contrary and generally talk myself around quite quickly. I can talk to those parts who are so upset and angry now, and tell them that it’s ok and explain why it’s ok.

I am very very aware that this is slow process and can be like a dance of two steps forward one step back. But I do think it’s important to celebrate small wins.

Another thing that’s jolted me into another space is that my childhood best friend passed away a couple of weeks ago – and suddenly life feels really fragile again. Not in an “OMG everything is dangerous” kind of a way, but in an “I’m only here once so let’s fucking do this!!” So that’s what I am attempting to do.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not going to be plain sailing, I’m not dim, and this was highlighted on Friday when Anita told me she had some breaks lined up.

For Fuck’s Sake…

I’ve just said how well I’ve coped with MY being away. It is an entirely different proposition when SHE is away and I am still here…and I want to be with her!

See, here I am, the RBCG you all know and love! Lol!

Over the last few weeks there’ve been some small rumblings inside from the young parts about the therapy. It’s hard to put my finger exactly on what’s been wrong other than a feeling in my gut that Anita is slightly backing away, maybe. There is no evidence of this whatsoever in the sessions – they are as holding and containing as ever – but outside them it’s felt like she’s taken a step back. But then this might be because she was sick and a few other disruptive things have happened.

We had that difficult conversation about outside contact a while back where she explained that writing was hard and that she hadn’t been responding because it was challenging. We agreed at that point that sending a GIF or an emoji would be fine because it’s really about settling the young parts anyway. And largely she has done that…but also at times she hasn’t. And that’s where it gets difficult for my system.

Consistency is so important for me and so any hint of change or reduction in contact can feel abandoning or rejecting and so set things into a panic internally. I have been sitting with this for a while and not said anything because when I think about it, it’s probably nothing. Most people would probably scan through my WhatsApp messages and see no difference at all. It is that subtle a change, but I feel it. And also people’s lives ebb and flow and their availability changes…I get it…just some parts don’t. And they’re the ones that need the therapy most!

I guess I will need to talk about it tomorrow, now, though, because Friday’s session has set off a landmine which might not have felt so massive if I wasn’t already brooding about the perceived change in our communications.

So, I was really looking forward to seeing Anita on Friday having not had my session on Monday. I had really missed her in the later part of the week and felt like she wasn’t there…ugh…and I felt a bit anxious going to the session. I really just wanted to go in and give her a hug on the doorstep, reconnect, and maybe read some stories on Friday. But I hadn’t even been in there thirty seconds, I’d barely sat down, when she told me she was taking some time off and handed me a piece of paper with the dates on.

Ugh.

I didn’t even look at the note and placed it face down beside my phone.

The armour that goes on when there has been a break, that I so desperately wanted to take off, stayed on, and I stayed in False Adult for nearly an hour. It was painful. Anita did acknowledge that she never knows when to tell me about her breaks but I was already so into ‘pretend that it’s ok’ that the conversation that I really needed to have, that the young parts needed couldn’t be had.

What I needed when I arrived was to land in the room. To reconnect. But instead it felt like the welcoming space was about to be taken away again so what was the point in getting comfortable? I felt a million miles away from Anita. She was sitting on the same sofa as me but she may as well have been on the moon.

It’s hard to really put into words how this stuff feels and those of you with complex trauma won’t need me to explain. Sometimes that need to be close is so overwhelming that my system shuts down, I am quiet, and it’s clear as day that something is wrong, and often Anita will ask me if I want a hug. However, when False Adult is running the show, chatting away, the young parts are so hidden that it really would take a genius to see that it’s all a front.

With about 15 minutes to go I ran out of steam. I was so frustrated with myself for not getting what I actually needed but I felt unseen too, and I think the Teen felt angry, actually. I might have been in hiding but I guess, I had hoped, by now, Anita would know that there’s more underneath. Sometimes I wish she would say something like,

“You seem really chatty today, and it’s interesting to hear about your work etc, but I am also aware that there are young parts inside that might need some attention after missing a session and also me telling you I’m having some time off. Can I just check in with how they are, too? Do they need space today, or are they ok for us to carry on as we are?”  

I can’t remember the last time I spent an hour sitting ‘far away’ from Anita. It just doesn’t happen. So often that space between us gets closed down and it settles things. I felt like I was on an island on my own on Friday. And that’s not Anita’s fault. She was there…but she wasn’t there for the parts that really need her.

In the end I gave up the pretence of being ok and asked for a hug. I spent the last fifteen minutes in silence, crying cuddled into her chest. With a few minutes to go, a little part asked, “Is something wrong?” – it was all the worry about the feeling like she has been trying to get away from me, the missed session, and the upcoming breaks panic.

Anita assured me that nothing was wrong and said that she wondered if this was because of the reasons I’ve just listed above – well the missed session and break. She doesn’t know about the messages.

We didn’t have time to talk about it because it was time to go. I left feeling flat and deflated and disconnected and generally a bit meh.

When I got to my car I took out the piece of paper Anita had given me with the dates of her breaks on…ugh…no…not good. I mentally calculated how many sessions I’d miss and realised that in December the way it might work is that I could potentially not see her for an entire month because of how her break and then the school Christmas break lands…and then of course there is Christmas itself which will be another break.

Deep breaths.

But the thing that really got me as I started to spiral into doom zone was the wording of the note. It’s typed and generic and what she will have printed out to give to all her clients:

Just a quick note to let you know I will be away from

 x date -x date

and

x date to x date.

I do apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

With warm regards, Anita

And you know what. Adult me is completely fine with this note. It tells me what I need to know. It’s fine…it’s just…ugh…it’s really, really not fine for my young parts who haven’t been told what’s going on, haven’t had it broken down for them and explained that it’s not her leaving them or abandoning them and they haven’t done anything wrong and that it’s just a letter she sends out for information.

What’s sad is it’s that fucking reminder that whatever I think or hope the relationship is, when it comes down to it, I am a client and she can hand over a formal note and disappear. The young parts have seen the note and have no clue who the person is that wrote it. Is it Anita? She never speaks like that to them. And then of course it brings the protective parts rushing in. The Teen is doing her best to soothe the little ones but again is absolutely blind with rage at me for letting myself think there is anything special about the relationship.

Is this note from the same woman that holds me in session, or reads stories, or buys me presents, or tells me that she loves me? It certainly doesn’t feel like it. And I know it isn’t a case of it being one or the other, it’s not black and white, and for fuck’s sake it’s just a note about a fucking set of break dates….but it’s so much more than that. It feels distancing and disconnecting. Breaks do this anyway so the delivery of information about breaks is so important.

I really don’t want to sound like a nit-picking pain in the arse here, I don’t want to be hard work for Anita. But I do want to write about my response to something as innocuous as a note with holiday dates because I think it really demonstrates how complex trauma can come out. I don’t imagine that Anita would have it on her radar that I could have spiralled like this. But even a sign off can be really triggering. Warm regards…lukewarm regards.

And I am fine. Like I am getting on with my life. As I said from the top, I am in so much of a better place than I have ever been before, but these things still sting.

I text Anita on Friday because I knew this was going to fester:

Only having a little (large) meltdown about breaks…next time can you tell me about it first and give me paper/dates later. I’ll explain on Monday but the formal tone of the note just really jarred something internally – and whilst adult me is totally fine, the little parts aren’t at all. X

And there’s been radio silence to that.

Shit.

Arrrghhhh… this is not what I needed!

Like I get I’ve said we’ll talk about it on Monday, but I am surprised given the fact that I have said that the little parts are not ok that she hasn’t sent me a GIF with a hug or something for those child parts. It’s what we agreed before…so what’s going on?

And so of course, this has made me wonder if the niggling doubts I have felt for the last couple of months are actually something rather than nothing. I am hoping that it’s just me, it’s just life, that I haven’t done something wrong. It could be too that Anita thinks that things are ok, but maybe unconsciously they’re not.

Anyway, that’s that. Part of me doesn’t even want to go to session tomorrow now. It’s just so exhausting being like this isn’t it?!

X

ps. I do see how much of a contradiction this post seems to be! I’m fine/Ahhhh it’s all bad! But I guess what I am saying is although my young parts are reacting/reactive currently I am not overwhelmed or totally consumed by the stuff that is triggered. I see this as information about my internal world to be worked through, rather than a total catastrophe. Having said this it really all does depend on how it goes tomorrow talking about it!

* only if the person you’re working with is safe and trustworthy!

Disruptions Are Unsettling.

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted. Life has been just as hectic as ever this end. It’s all been pretty same same…where same same is high anxiety, stress, and general survival – holding it together with rubber bands and chewing gum!

Therapy over this time has been fine, there’s nothing really ‘big’ or ‘blogworthy’ I can think of to talk about hence the fact that I haven’t posted in a while…and add to the fact it’s the school holidays and we’ve had family visiting, there hasn’t been much available free time to sit and type.

Anita and I have been getting down to work and it’s been good. It’s felt really comfortable in so much as no matter what comes up, we can get through it and process together. I’ve had lots of really strong somatic responses to the stuff we’ve been talking about – I am so over pins and needles in my feet and cramp in my legs! When I am with Anita, I feel confident that she cares and that I am safe with her and that’s a big part of the work – it feels safe to feel the feelings with her.

I wish I still kept notes from my sessions because I literally have no idea what’s gone on in the last few weeks – the specifics escape me almost immediately after a session unless there’s something very important or memorable happened. Instead, what I tend to be left with is a feeling of how things are/have been…and that feeling is that it’s ‘fine’ or ‘good’ even if the content has been ‘hard’ or ‘upsetting’.

I think I had hit a bit of a complacent patch “Ha! I’ve mastered this therapy business.” Because the time between sessions has been ok (even if life is really tough) and it’s felt like two sessions a week has been just the right amount of holding and containment to cope with what the world throws at me…which btw seems to be giant dollops of horse shit a lot of the time!

So…good…it’s been manageable…

It’s not so good, then, when that routine gets thrown out the window at short notice.

Oh no!

It’s a fucking great disaster when that happens! That’s when I realise that things are hanging by a thread and not quite as good as I think…or…I guess a different way of looking at it, is that that my maintenance plan works but is very necessary to keep things going.

Anita and I have had some largely ‘adult’ sessions recently, where I have talked about some really big things that required a lot of trust to bring to the room – one of these sessions was last Thursday. Yeah, Thursday, not Friday. Anita had to reschedule my Friday session last week which was ok (only a little internal wobble!) but I was conscious that it felt longer until Monday. I knew I would cope but would be ready for the Monday session when it arrived.

Over the weekend the young parts started to move in after the string sessions with them being largely absent. I could really feel that little part missing A and wanting to be close to her. Rather than ignore that little voice inside, on Sunday evening I text Anita and asked if we could read stories in our Monday session. I felt really small that evening and like I could just use a session where we would connect and cuddle and hear some of the little one’s concerns. I needed a bit of a break from the hard work I had been doing in previous sessions and to give those child parts space so that they didn’t creep out into the week between sessions and hijack me when the attachment stuff got really activated.

I went to bed early on Sunday night, I felt really tired and a bit hormonal and figured the sooner I went to bed the sooner I’d get to therapy and put some of the things that were bothering me down for a while.

I woke up at 10:20pm and glanced at my phone. There was a message from A. I assumed it would be a message to say that we could read stories and she’d see me in the morning.

It wasn’t.

It took a few seconds to process what was there before my heart sank and that internal wailing from the youngest parts kicked in.

I responded to her message about cancelling the session and then turned over in bed and cried… a lot. Of course, Anita can’t help getting sick. It’s just one of those things that happen. It just felt really bad timing. Adult me gets it – those young parts who were so ready for a story did not.

I hardly slept on Sunday night, my anxiety sky-rocketed and every small sound in the house set my system jangling. On Monday morning I asked my wife if she might be around on Wednesday morning so I could get to session, but she is in meetings and has some big work stuff on this week that was already causing her/us stress and so she wouldn’t be available.

I’ve mentioned before that it’s been a real nightmare these last few months with my wife’s job, anyway, and it’s all coming to a head at the moment so I really, really needed to retreat into that calm space with A this week as I am freaking out inside. Sometimes it just feels like the universe conspires against me!

I’m still not sure if I can get to Friday’s session this week, and next week looks impossible, too. It’s a nightmare trying to rope in favours for childcare over the summer holidays in order to get to sessions, and whilst I’ve done reasonably well over this break it’s just looking really unlikely that I’ll get to see Anita face to face between now and school returning.

I can, of course, do online sessions which are better than nothing, but are far from ideal especially when my body is off its tits and just won’t calm down and the young parts are really activated.

I feel physically sick from the anxiety I am feeling this week. It’s so annoying because I had been doing well, even though things felt scary and difficult…but now, well, jeez it’s hideous. I think some of it is tied to my cycle too – I feel paranoid about bad things happening when I have PMS and this is really heightened this month…although I think I have mentally adopted the brace position until I know the lay of the land with my wife’s job.

I don’t really have anything much more to say – I guess I just needed to let off steam about this somewhere where people will understand how big a deal not getting to therapy and last minute disruptions are.

Hope you are all holding up ok. x

Chosen Family: A Friend For Over Thirty Years

I can count on my fingers the people that I hold close and have let into my heart. I’ve never been big on acquaintances – I’d sooner be alone with my thoughts in nature than stuck in a room of fake smiles and raucous artificial laughter. I don’t do surface level friendships or communications; I don’t see the point in it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a chameleon (trauma does that to you!) and can float round a large gathering appearing comfortable, being funny, showing interest, bringing people together – but as an introvert, that kind of situation wipes me out for days afterwards and it takes time to regroup. I would rather spend time with one or two close friends in a space that allows quiet for chat than out shouting over music any day of the week.

I am finding more and more that I avoid situations where I get out way less than I put in. I’ve always been a people pleaser, a giver, but I’m nearly forty now and I know that I am finally done wasting energy putting myself in situations that don’t feel good on an energetic level- whether that be with my family or in social situations. I only have so many spoons and these days I am seeing that I am actually worthy of using these spoons to support myself! Who knew?!

I want genuine, authentic, ‘warts and all’ relationships with like-minded souls. I seek people who are able to be vulnerable and show their wounds as well as their triumphs. I want deep conversations and comfortable silences not performance. Life is too short for show. Let’s get down to meeting one another on a soul level and supporting one another in our vulnerable authenticity rather than hiding from one another and putting on a brave face.

Over the course of my life, I have met some truly wonderful people who I cherish – friends that feel like family. And my goodness, I have needed a chosen family with the blood relatives I got dealt! Once that bond is made, once I let you into my circle, there’s no getting out… but then those people who are in that space don’t want out (at least they don’t seem to!).

There is nothing better than connecting with people who know you and see you for who you are, who love you in spite of your flaws and because of your sensitivity, people who celebrate your successes and commiserate with you when you fail, people who just want the best for you…and for all that to be reciprocated, for the love and care to run both ways. I want to know and be known by my chosen family.

Today I want to write about one particular member of this small group of special people that I hold dear in my heart. I don’t know if she’ll get to read this because currently, she’s very ill in a hospice suffering after a long battle with cancer… and also it means sharing the blog which is a vulnerable act in itself – not that she’d share it with anyone, but our mums are friends and I have always been a bit reluctant in case my mum got wind of what I was writing! (Can you even imagine?!)

This is not the first time I have written about the cancer thief on this blog – my darling friend and second ‘mother’ died a couple of years ago from myeloma and it knocked me for six but there was perhaps a bit more acceptance on my part then despite the devastation because she was almost sixty, this time I feel at a complete loss because there is no fucking way that my friend should be in this situation at 38 or having been battling since she was 30. It’s just brutal.

When you keep your world small and your loved ones in single digits I think you feel the loss of these significant people all the more acutely and I want my beautiful friend to know just how very much I love her. I know she knows anyway, but I just want to say it again publicly.

This amazing, strong, selfless, inspiration of woman is my longest standing friend. We met at primary school when we were six and I’d just moved into the area. We struck up an instant friendship. Back then we were all about roller-skating, gymnastics and playing with our dolls ‘Anna’ and ‘Amy’ (seriously, we had the same shivering baby dolls!). We spent hours playing and chatting and just being little girls together. The first time I went to her house to play I stepped in a bowl of custard, and I’ve never been able to live it down! But I love those memories.

It’s funny, really, because I moved away from the area when I was eleven and yet despite years of not really seeing much of each other there has always been this unbreakable bond between us. Whenever we have got together it’s like no time has passed and it hasn’t mattered that we haven’t actively been in one another’s lives. We pick up like there’s been no separation and I guess that is the hallmark of a strong relationship.

In some ways this is odd, isn’t? A friendship forged over just five years in childhood is not like my university friendships formed as a young adult and where you might think there would be a greater degree of like-mindedness and yet it is every bit as strong, every bit as valuable. As small girls we weren’t talking about the tremendous hurts our families caused us, our struggles with our bodies, sexuality, self-harm, health concerns, because that stuff wasn’t there then – back then we were just two little girls who got on well but somehow that deep knowing of those little girls has kept going all these years.

We are now two women, mothers ourselves, who still have each other’s backs and have come through so much – I’d smash anyone who wanted to hurt her in the face with my rollerblades- just you see! When I got diagnosed with Hodgkin’s it was incredible to have a friend who really ‘got it’. She understood the fear, and the bloody awful side effects of the chemo and radiotherapy. I never had to pretend I was ok about my cancer with her. We spend so much time protecting others when we get sick and trying to be ‘ok’ but to have someone who really knew what it was to feel chemically sick, to lose her hair, and all the other shit that comes with it was so valuable to me. I hope that she feels that there never needs to be an act for me even at the end now.

I’m not doing a great job with this today; I keep getting massive waves of grief and overwhelm to think that we are where we are. I so badly want to be able to put into words how very proud and honoured I am to call this special lady my friend. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you what an amazing person she is. The love that she and her family is held in is immense and it’s not surprising because she’s fucking incredible. She set up a charity to support people with cancer whilst battling with her own and has created a legacy that will live on long after she’s gone. I just wish she was going to be here to see it.

There is so so much I could say here about all her achievements but fundamentally I am just so proud to call her my friend and so thankful that she even wanted to be my friend. She has no idea how her friendship when we were kids helped me get through some really tough times. The safety and stability our friendship offered meant I didn’t feel alone when everything was terrible at home. I could at least escape into love and care at school.

Sometimes I think that life just seems to be a series of losses and heartbreaks, and wonder why we do it to ourselves? If essentially all relationships are set to end why bother? Why walk into something that will end causing us pain? But then of course, relationships are what makes life worth living. It’s our interactions with one another, the love we feel for one another that truly makes a life. And whilst I am beyond sad that I am watching, helplessly, as my darling friend faces this horrible time I am so very grateful to have been with her on this journey that we call life.

It’s not what we do in life that matters. It’s how we make others feel. And a lifetime of friendship, care, and love is the greatest gift she has given me. I will be lost without her.

I love you L.