Bringing The Parts To Therapy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vulnerability is on and eeek…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

Great.

I love her.

Ha.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Saturday morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just Say ‘No’…

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

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

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

I dunno.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what am I going to do/change?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my mantra for the week ahead!!

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Dreaming About Therapy (again).

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a dream to end the nightmares!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even if mummy doesn’t exist…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Return To Therapy: A Tale Of Two Sessions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus!

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

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

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

I had none of that.

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

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

She wants to cry about it.

And maybe she might start crying about it in therapy.

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One Year In Blogland.

I’m a bit behind time with this post because, actually, the one year blogiversary or whatever you might call it was 21st August and ummm I think it might, actually, be September tomorrow. Ha! Thank goodness I am a little better at acknowledging real life anniversaries and birthdays.

So, Rubber Bands and Chewing Gum just turned one. She’s growing up. Sort of. But she’s still very obviously in the diaper wearing, food flinging, and tantrum throwing stage of development. There’s still lots of emotional turbulence to chronicle.

When I started writing, this time last year, I wanted an outlet to process (dump!) some of the therapy stuff that was coming up for me that I didn’t feel able to talk about with people in my day-to-day life. I also wanted to keep a record of where I was at, a kind of ‘therapy’ journal I suppose. And I wanted, hopefully, to create a space that people could come to read an experience of what is can sometimes be like in therapy and perhaps make people feel a little less alone in some what they might be experiencing in their own therapeutic relationships.

I’d recently stumbled across a blog that had pretty much changed my life. You know what it’s like, summer therapy break is in full swing, the wheels are falling off, you turn to Google to search ‘I miss my therapist’ or ‘I love my therapist’ or ‘I keep dreaming of my therapist’ or ‘my therapist doesn’t care about me’ and a string of mental health forum threads come up as well as a series of blog suggestions. You click into a blog, start reading, and there you are immersed in someone else’s experience that resonates with your own. You suddenly feel like maybe there are other people just like you out there, struggling with similar issues. For me, that was a massive leap forward.

Before long I found this, what is it?- merry (ha!) band of mental health bloggers and started to follow some people and saw that, indeed, there’s a whole load of us working through very similar issues #motherwound…of course everyone is different but when you boil it down there’s a group of people that really ‘get it’, they know what it’s like to sometimes feel worthless and unlovable. They know what it is to feel up and down and slightly ‘mental’ (!).  They know shame. They battle valiantly with the inner critic, with self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and eating disorders – but they also have good days, good therapy sessions, experience balance and importantly they GROW – and that is so valuable to see.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that after about a month of reading and commenting on other people’s posts I finally got my head round WordPress templates and had a go at writing myself and this is what materialised – 74 posts! When I started I had no idea I’d be sitting here now with so many people choosing to read what I churn out!

I don’t want to be all gushing and OTT here but so much good has come from this blog.

There are times (pretty much all the time!!) when I have been in a pit of attachment pain hell, depression, or caught up in the throes of the eating disorder and I can’t tell you how much a validating and understanding comment can make a difference. So thank you for those.

I didn’t expect this to happen but I have made some wonderful friends here and some that have translated beyond blogland and into Brexit Britain! Ugh!

What else?

Well, I love it when people reach out and get in touch to tell me that what I have written has made them feel less alone. I’m not convinced that this place/experience (get ready for a mixed metaphor) is a boat anyone wants to be in, but if we are in it together then maybe we’ll steer our way to shore eventually bailing the water out with our hands and that has to be better than feeling like a solo sailor on a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean.

Ok, that was way worse on the screen than in my head!

The last few months has seen me having to adjust my expectations for this blog again and again. When I first started writing I had a lot more time on my hands than I do now. At times I was posting three times a week, then it dropped to twice a week, and more recently I’ve just about been getting a post written once a week….but not this last week, it’s gone a bit over. I think once the kids are back to school I’ll be able to find more time to write. I hope so, because I still really enjoy writing.

Next week sees a significant change in my therapy: (like there’s actually going to be some bloody therapy after 5 weeks!) I am going from one session a week to two. I am cautiously optimistic for what that will mean going forward. Clearly my bank balance is going to suffer but I really hope that some more concrete sense of containment starts to bed in and I can get past this horrible feeling of being abandoned the moment I leave my therapist.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I know there’s still a lot of therapy to be done so here’s to another year in blogland too!

Thanks for coming along for the ride….and don’t worry normal service will resume next post!

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File Under ‘Unread’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knew?!

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

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

It’s like a switch gets flipped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The need feels huge.

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

…and then I was gone…

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

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

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

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

So instead of cutting I made this:

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

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

It just all feels kind of futile right now.

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

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

[Ok. So that’s the work isn’t? it]

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

x

Limbo

I’m feeling a bit bleurgh at the moment (a technical term I’ll have you know!). It’s not a full-on depressive episode yet (I don’t think) but it’s feeling like a huge struggle just to remain in a relative coping place…but then when is mental health ever a walk in the park, really? It pretty much always feels like I am struggling in one way or other.

For now, at least, I feel like I have done with sliding down the hill towards rock bottom, which was what happened at the start of the therapy break, and have finally got a fingertip hold on something semi-solid that has allowed me to stop and take stock. I daren’t move though, rock bottom is still a long way off, thank god, but I feel like adjusting my position may result in me losing my precarious grip and careering at speed downwards again. I can’t risk that so I am staying here stuck in a kind of uncomfortable limbo.

Put it this way, I am not where I would like to be at this point in the holidays!

I don’t feel especially solid.

I’m certainly not grounded.

I can feel anxiety creeping around the edges.

I’ve woken up feeling queasy for the last four days.

The attachment pain is really there just before bed and any time I let my mind drift towards therapy.

It’s all a bit shit really.

Moan. Moan. Moan!

I daren’t look too far ahead because 3rd September feels like a very long time in the future and it makes me even more aware that I’m not even half way through the break yet – it’s still three weeks until I see my therapist in person – nooooooooooo! Having said that, I am meant to have a Skype on the 20th so I shouldn’t complain. I am just massively aware that it could go belly up next week.

I am experiencing the usual conflicting feelings:

I love you/I hate you

Please come back/Fuck off I never want to see you again

and what I really don’t want to happen is to have a Skype session that semi opens up stuff, doesn’t really do the job, isn’t especially connecting, and then be left for a further two weeks for phase two of the therapy break.

I think I just about have a handle on things right now but I’m not stupid, I’ve been here enough times to know that there is a real possibility of me trying to sabotage my therapy before September is here. The teen part of me that wants to give up is never far from the surface and on breaks, especially long ones, she gets quite vocal. She’s still angry about the last session before the break. Seriously, ‘imagine something you like doing’….FFS!

Feeling stuck in this limbo state/place is pants. My last session seems a long time ago (eve though it was actually only two weeks ago) and all the good things I feel about my therapy/therapist seem to have evaporated now…. and yet the crap parts haven’t, they remain there! It’s not ideal. I’m beginning to put my therapist in the bracket of people that reject and abandon me rather than who do their best to help me. (I do know how crazy it is – but it is how it is!).

You can probably tell from this post that my mind is all over the shop. In addition to this, I seem to have no energy at all. My motivation has gone on holiday (along with my therapist – grr!), and all I really want to do is lie in bed and sleep for hours on end or, failing that, sprawl out on the sofa and eat biscuits and chocolate. Essentially once the kids get to bed at 6pm that is exactly what I have been doing- filling my face with sugary things in some mindless stupor state in front of the TV and then crawling into bed and sleeping for as long as I can reasonably get away with (which, to be fair, with two young kids never extends much beyond 6:45am).

Put it this way, I’m not scoring big on the mindfulness and self-care scales right now! Although I am not over-exercising or under-eating (clearly!) so I suppose generally vegetating and resting shouldn’t be seen as a criminal activity. The critical voice in my head is starting to give me a hard time, though:

Lazy.

Fat.

Sloth-like creature.

I am just not particularly good at stopping and doing nothing. I always feel like I ought to be doing something, keeping busy, achieving things. I’m not working again for a couple more weeks as it’s the school holidays. I need to keep reminding myself that it’s A HOLIDAY – not just other people’s (my T, the kids I teach, my own children) mine too and that means a break from the usual drudgery of school runs, work, having to be in a specific place at a particular time etc.

As much as I moan about it when I am in it, I think routine does me good to an extent. I’m not great at this long drawn out time off. I do wonder, though, how much of this is because in the back of my mind (ok quite close to the front!) is the fact that I am on a therapy break and frankly I am not someone who does especially well without regular therapy. Ha! I mean I am not exactly willing the clock forward to September to re-enter the world of ‘Please put your shoes on! I’ve asked you four times already. We are going to be late.’

Having said that, I think with young kids, time off is rarely ‘time off’. Since my son’s birthday last Monday we’ve been busyish: swimming lessons, cinema, ice cream parlour, farm park, a couple of playdates, baking, making pizzas from scratch, a visit to a soft play centre as well as a fair bit of playing in the garden, oh, and we/the dog delivered a litter of puppies yesterday. It’s not exactly been a dull existence!

I don’t know what’s wrong with me really. I just feel a bit stuck. Whilst, clearly, elements of my life are carrying on as normal and I would say I’m doing a good enough job at parenting at the minute- the kids are happy- underneath the exterior of ‘with it and together mum’ the other stuff is bubbling away. I guess that’s the problem. Usually I have somewhere to let ‘the other stuff’ out and right now I don’t. I’m very much aware of operating of multiple levels. I find it tiring at the best of times and perhaps without my release valve I’m finding it all a bit more exhausting?

Who knows?

Maybe I am just getting depressed. Or maybe I am about to get sick. Or perhaps it’s just that my period is on its way… whatever it is I want to feel a bit more energised and less like I am going through the motions. I want to feel present in my life rather than as though I am spectating from the sidelines. The only saving grace is that no one would know I feel this way. It is not evident that I am struggling. I would hate for my kids to feel like ‘mummy is checked out’….and I guess they don’t know because it’s only parts of me that are. I guess maybe it’s part of the beauty of being fragmented – the bits that can’t cope aren’t really seen and the ‘carrying on with everyday life self’ is a damn good autopilot.

Errr what else? I’m scraping the barrel a bit with this post – no therapy to talk about!! haha.

I’ve been without internet for the last few days due to a cock up with changing provider. Seamless transition it was not! And so the one positive was that I haven’t been in this ‘bleurgh’ state and additionally whiling away the hours mindlessly on my phone flicking between WhatsApp, Facebook, WordPress, Instagram. Even NetFlix hasn’t been a possibility!

A social media blackout is not necessarily a bad thing every now and again. I do it at Christmas and always feel quite good having gone screen-free for a bit. You might be thinking, why not use your phone for the internet…well, I live in a signal/data blackspot and so have to go in the garden and stand in a specific place to get anything at all and it’s so intermittent that it’s not even worth it. It’s so circa 1995!

Everything went live again yesterday evening and actually it felt like a bit of an attack to the system. I have been off radar with a few friends this last week due to feeling so crappy and so I’ve been trying to be a bit present again. I just find it really hard.

I really have nothing at all to say today!… but having already gone more than a week between posts I wanted to write something. This, post, shall hereby be filed under ‘bleurgh’ and sink to the depths of unread trash!

Actually. I posted this on my Twitter feed the other day…and it says it all x

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