Summer Therapy Break Is Almost Here…

I should be delighted right now. School’s out for summer and that signals six weeks off from tutoring; no more trying to make packed lunches at 6am only to realise there is nothing to make a packed lunch with in the fridge; no more washing and ironing uniforms (THANK FUCK!); and better still, no more negotiating with pint sized terrorists every morning to ‘pleeaaasseeee darlings just put your shoes on’.  I will certainly not miss doing school runs or racing around to get to my teaching. I can, for the next few weeks, sit here at 9am in the comfort of my PJs (TMI?!) and blog if I want to.

It’s all good.

Ok, so anyone with kids knows that the shine of summer holidays wears off about a week (day) in, but right now I am trying to picture myself as calm, together mum who plans nice trips, meets for play dates, bakes, and creates a generally harmonious atmosphere. (Who am I kidding?!) The truth is, before long I will probably be threatening to get out the ‘bin bag’ and throw all the toys away if the floor isn’t cleared before bed time and will be pleading with them to ‘be nice to each other’ and ‘stop snatching’ and ‘can we agree on something you both want to watch on Netflix?’

So, yeah. In my head I am aiming for Mary Poppins but realistically, just gotta hope they are both alive in September (that is a joke by the way!). Using the therapy speak – I’m hoping I do a ‘good enough’ job over the summer with my kids.

Oh, but wait, if school is out for summer then that means therapy is almost done with and the long summer break is coming doesn’t it?…

I’m totally screwed.

Ok, so it’s not like this is new news. I’ve been mentally counting down to the summer therapy break since Easter (I’m fun like that!) and once I had confirmation of the break dates from my therapist could start properly obsessing about how bloody long she is going to be away. She always takes roughly the same holiday and, actually, in real terms it’s only two weeks away for her but because my session falls on a Monday things always feel longer because before she even starts her break on a Monday it’s been a week since I have seen her (I think therapists forget this sometimes). The summer break is particularly crap, too, because there is a bank holiday at the end of August in the UK so I lose another session.

So, basically my last session is on the 30th July and my next face to face is the 3rd September…err that’s 5 weeks… There is a session in the middle on the 20th but I can’t get to it because the kids are off. I could, maybe, Skype but it wouldn’t be all that easy with the monsters causing havoc. I am also a bit reluctant to Skype after essentially three weeks break because I know what I am like, and much as I would like to check in, there’s a real danger of me stonewalling her and us getting nowhere and then there being two more weeks until we can sort it out. I know that is a recipe for disaster. So right now I have to think about what is the lesser of two evils: a long five week break or three weeks and then two weeks break back to back.

I can’t see that either is going to be great. I think it’s going to be about survival (again). I hate that I am like this. I hate that the attachment stuff causes so many problems. I wish I could look at this break as a chance to regroup and enjoy some time with my family but it doesn’t feel like that. Instead it feels like my safety net is being whipped out from underneath me or my anchor has been severed and somehow I just need to hang on and make it to September without something tragic happening. I know, spare the drama right?!

I did think about asking my therapist to write me a note for the break but after all the hell with the pebbles I just don’t think I can face it. I don’t want to create a situation that destabilises me before I even get to the break. But five weeks is a long time isn’t it? Especially when you are unable to hold someone in mind…

I don’t really know what to do.

The weeks between sessions have been getting increasingly more difficult recently and I have been dissociating a lot in my sessions (as well as outside them). I know it’s panic about her going away at the end of the month. The anniversary of my dad dying falling in July doesn’t help matters, either. My mind automatically lurches from the fact that he was meant to be going away for a month on holiday and never came back to the possibility that she may do the same. I can’t deal with that. I know it’s not rational but it is what happens in my mind. I panic. It’s like the grief of the loss of my dad swirls with the idea of losing my therapist and a shit storm starts inside me.

There is some good news in amongst all this doom and gloom, however, that I guess I should share and that is that as of September I will be having two sessions a week. A session time has become available on a Friday and so we are going to trial 6 months of twice weekly sessions and see how it feels. Unfortunately, the time is too early for me to actually get to the session in person (9:30am) as my therapist lives 50 minutes from me and I don’t drop the kids to school until 9. However, it does mean I can come home and Skype. When a better time becomes available I’ll swap into that.

I already know this change in session frequency is going to make a significant difference to how I feel in the week because whenever my therapist has a cancellation and can offer me two sessions in a week things feel way more manageable. We did this a couple of weeks ago and I can’t tell you how much easier things felt having that weight of anxiety lifted from me because I knew I would see my T on Monday and Friday. I didn’t get any of that shitty horrid attachment pain and physical ache that usually wipes me out on a Wednesday. I didn’t feel like I needed to dig deep or hang on tight in order to get through the week.  I was able to keep sense of my therapist still being out there – which was refreshing! I knew the child parts were there but they weren’t completely beside themselves. It was so freeing.

This week has been total shit, though, back to one session a week and no in between contact. It’s hit me like a sucker punch – even though it is what is normal for me. Two sessions now remain until the break. My session on Monday this week was ‘meh’. Adult me went in and talked shit for half an hour about ‘non things’ and avoided going to the difficult stuff because I’m in self-preservation mode. But then something suddenly shifted. It was as though the little ones clocked that only twenty minutes remained and they freaked out. They wanted to connect with my therapist but then the shame and embarrassment flooded in and rather than reaching out I started retreating inside myself and started to shut down.

My therapist quickly noticed I was starting to dissociate and tried to hang on to me. I could feel myself slipping but she kept talking to me. She said she could tell something was starting to change because my body had changed and that she has noticed I close my eyes more when I am starting to dissociate. I didn’t know this!

I wasn’t able to tell her why I had started backing away but could tell her how it felt like she was behind glass and that I was alone at the end of a very long tunnel. She asked me what I might need in the tunnel? And I said I didn’t know. I was too lost by that point to express the need for someone to be there with me but she said that she imagined having someone alongside me that I adequately trusted might help. I nodded.

She asked me how old I felt and I quickly answered ‘eight’. She said that that was the age where I had already learnt to cope by myself and not rely on anyone. She was right. As usual. I really wanted to be able to reach out to her, to ask her to sit closer to me, to connect, but I just couldn’t. That glass wall is too thick and the tunnel is so dark and long.

Before long the session was over and it was time to leave again. My therapist has really been talking a lot about how difficult the ends of the sessions feel and is more aware now (I think) that they feel like an abandonment or rejection to me and I seem to hit a very young place at the end, like I look frightened or something. She commented that I seem to feel like because the session is over and I have to leave that it’s automatically ‘out of sight out of mind’ and yet that just isn’t the case. She’s right though. It is how it feels to me. I struggle really hard feeling like she doesn’t care unless I am in the room and that is limited to 50 minutes a week. Because I can’t hold her in mind I feel like it works both ways. I find it really helpful when my therapist says things like this because actually the young parts need reminding that she cares. It really helps.

Although, it clearly doesn’t help enough when a break is coming. I just need to do a massive face palm. I know things are dire when my dreams start getting really vivid and regular. I dream a lot anyway but this last couple of weeks has been horrendous. I’m back into therapy stress dreams 101. The ones where I am vulnerable with my therapist, express a need for her, try and get close to her and she physically pushes me away with force. I hate them and they are occurring so regularly (a couple of times each night) that it’s hard to remember that they are only dreams and not the reality.

There have been times when my therapy dreams affect me so badly that I can’t even talk to my therapist properly – for like a month! I get so shut down and scared that I can’t even tell her anything. I fear the dream will play out in real life. It is utterly horrendous. Of course when I do manage to bring the content to session it’s nothing like the dream but it’s so hard when my mind is telling me one thing over and over and yet I am meant to try and believe that the worst won’t happen and trust in someone I can’t hold in mind. It’s so hard.

I think I’m going to write some stuff down tomorrow or draw some flow charts and take them to session with me. I don’t mean to be deliberately avoidant in sessions. Sometimes I just can’t talk and sometimes I can’t even bloody remember what has been paining me outside the session. Man, that is so frustrating! It’s like some kind of amnesia! haha. Ok, so it’s just a product of dissociation and fragmented parts but either way I think I need to take a map with me on Monday so we don’t get lost.

I think that’s all for now. I don’t really know what to say. Bleurgh. Bloody therapy breaks! I guess it’s almost time to:

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Rupture. The cold, hard truth: my therapist doesn’t care.

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I really didn’t expect to be blogging about a rupture in therapy here today. I thought I’d be saying something about almost surviving the therapy break and being nervous about my session on Monday, but also being amazingly glad I’d be seeing my therapist in person soon. That was the plan, anyway. But that isn’t going to happen because, as things stand right now, I will not be going to therapy on Monday, or possibly to my current therapist ever again.

I know. Spare the drama, right? I’m sure some people read that and think ‘put your toys back in the pram and get over it’ but I also know that there a few of you, especially those that have issues with attachment and feelings about abandonment and rejection, who will read this post and wince.

This isn’t going to be a neat, well-constructed post because right now my brain is scrambled and the various younger parts of me are in meltdown…actually, the adult part is devastated too.  I literally feel like I have been annihilated and that’s not an exaggeration. God I wish it was!

In fairness now is probably not a good time to write, I haven’t had chance to process what’s happened yet, I feel raw and activated, but actually right now my options are: sit here and type or do something horrible to myself – and so this surely has to be the better option.

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My last post talked a lot about how I had been feeling depressed and generally not quite right. I have been struggling really hard this week to keep my head above water. I’ve been plagued by therapy dreams where my therapist has rejected me in one way or another, or simply not cared about me and I have woken up feeling heartbroken.

Yes, I know. They are dreams not reality, but the dreams I’m having tap into the insecurities I feel in the therapeutic relationship and end up intensifying the worry and anxiety I feel when I am awake.

I can’t count how many times I have said this now, but I really struggle when I am away from my therapist. No matter how I try I can’t maintain a sense of connection with her when I can’t see her it seems almost impossible. It is bad managing from week to week but it is always really very challenging during breaks.

All the fears I have about being left or abandoned come up, but equally there is a real anxiety that something bad has happened to her. I can’t seem to get my head to a place that can accept that she is out there, safe, and that the connection is still there. It is weird because this isn’t a problem that I experience in other relationships.

I don’t freak out if I don’t see or hear from my friends for months at a time…but then I guess this might be because I don’t have this kind of complicated attachment to other people in my life and therefore the triggers that I have from being a child don’t play out anywhere else because the child parts of me aren’t active with friends. I don’t know.

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Those of you that follow this blog will know that we’ve talked about trying to create some kind of transitional object (pebbles/note) but not got anywhere with it…and now I understand why. I know, too, that I ought to trust my intuition. I see now that my reluctance to engage getting a message written on the pebbles because I was scared that she actually wouldn’t be willing to write anything that would soothe me is right. She isn’t willing to say anything to confirm that there is a connection in the relationship or that it is any way important.

These last few days my anxiety about the therapeutic relationship reached a whole new level of hell. I felt so ill that I couldn’t function. When I say it took me three hours to load and reload the dishwasher and that I didn’t shower or get dressed until two in the afternoon on Tuesday (and that was only because I had to run an errand) because I just couldn’t face doing anything it might give an impression of just how debilitated I felt. I felt utterly crippled with anxiety.

I felt sick to my core, at times was physically shaking, and felt like a little boat of a very choppy sea. No matter what I did to try and ground myself or channel myself into a place where things felt better I just couldn’t succeed. I knew on Tuesday when I was standing in the kitchen with a massive knife against my wrist that something had to give. I knew that not eating wasn’t doing me any good and that I needed to get out of this headspace. I needed to try and get the adult back online, settle the child parts, and power down the critic.

So after three days of debating with myself what I should do: reach out to my therapist or continue down the path of self-destruction, I thought the most sensible option was to simply tell her how it was, ask for reassurance and then hopefully just settle this sick feeling down and then go discuss it all on Monday and try and work out why it has felt so terrible this break.

I know that we don’t text or email generally unless there is something about scheduling. Most of the time that feels ok-ish but sometimes it feels really persecutory. When I feel like I have reached crisis point (which actually isn’t very often) the no between session contact thing is really difficult for me. Because there is this boundary in place, it means that I can’t just reach out when I need to and ask to get a need met, instead I spend a great deal of time beating myself up for having the need for reassurance which makes it all much worse. I’ve always struggled to ask for help when I need it and so this feels impossible.

I beat myself up for breaking her rules. I beat myself up for not being able to manage on my own. I beat myself up because I know that it’s annoying her. I basically drive myself mad and all the while the anxieties I have about making contact exacerbate the concerns and worries I already have: i.e she really doesn’t care or want to know when things are bad and that I am an inconvenience, and whist she can’t openly say it that frankly she wishes I would just go away.

So, if I do pluck up the courage to reach out I end up feeling sick and guilty that I have done it. It feels utterly impossible no matter what I do. I don’t know why it should feel so bad to express a need for someone but it does.

When I was writing my text yesterday, I had debated sending the link to my post Why do I always dream about my therapist when we are on a therapy break? in my message as this is where the spiralling into anxiety began, but in the end I decided against that in favour of taking it in and talking about it on Monday. I didn’t want to do a big mind dump on her, I simply wanted to check in and re-establish the sense of connection in order to settle myself down until Monday’s session.

Simple.

Or at least I thought it would be.

Only things don’t seem to work like that.

In the past if have reached out I haven’t always been clear about what my need is and so when she doesn’t respond part of me feels upset but part of me thinks that maybe I am expecting too much of her to read between the lines of something fairly innocuous. So I endeavoured to be straightforward this time. Tell it like it is but don’t drone on!

I didn’t want to go on about the self-harm, or the slip into anorexia, how much I missed her, or how very bad it has felt recently because I didn’t want to make the text about trying to do the therapy outside the room. I get why it’s important to do the work in the room. I just wanted a sticking plaster in order that the wound didn’t get any deeper or infected before our face-to-face session next week.

So at 11am I sent this:

‘I started having vivid dreams about therapy on Boxing Day. I wrote about it when it started happening because I thought it would help, but the dreams are happening every time I sleep and I just feel completely overwhelmed now. No amount of deep breathing, visualisation, distraction, or sitting with it is helping. It’s escalated to a crippling level of anxiety now and it’s making me not even want to come back on Monday. The critical part of me is delighting in how bad it feels. It’s taken three days of battling with myself to send this:

Please can you tell me that things are still ok.’

*

I forwarded the message to a friend,  because having sent the text I immediately felt sick and started shaking. I was worrying about whether it was too much and too needy, and she assured me that it was fine and that she’d sent similar messages in the past to her therapist and all that would probably happen would be that she’d reply to say, ‘she’s there and you’re both ok and it will feel better’, which is exactly what I had hoped for.

So after anxiously checking my phone for an hour I left it upstairs and went and tried to get on with the things I needed to do. In that time I was thinking about what it might feel like if she didn’t reply to me, which is what I expected, and how that feeling of rejection would probably make me rage. I went upstairs at 2pm and there was a message from my therapist:

‘From my understanding of what you are saying, I think that it is very common for people to have dreams about therapy and for people to have strong feelings about such dreams and I hope that you will be able to continue with the therapy and come to your session on Monday.’

*

I won’t lie. I was a bit taken aback by the message. Perhaps it’s just me but it felt so distant and cold. I sat with it for an hour because I thought maybe on rereading it later my feelings would change I’d be able to find some kind of sense of connection in there and sense that she actually cared…

I didn’t.

I messaged my friend this because I was still trying to look on the bright side:

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I wondered then whether what I had sent was too much about the dreams and not enough about stating that I needed a sense of her being there and things being ok. Perhaps it’d got lost in text? So after some thought I sent this at 3:15pm:

Yeah. I get therapy dreams are normal and can evoke strong feelings. What I’m trying to say is I feel like you are gone and that there is no connection, and now this is being reinforced every time I sleep which is just horrendous. What I wanted was for you to tell me that it is just anxiety, not based in reality, and that actually things are ok still and that you’re still there.

*

I felt a bit eeeeeeek sending it but thought, if  I don’t clearly communicate my needs then there’s no chance of getting them met. I thought she probably wouldn’t reply to the text but a message did come in:

Thanks for clarifying. See you on Monday.’

*

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And that’s where I felt like I had been annihilated. Even just typing that I feel a kind of shock in my body and utter confusion in my brain.

I mean what the hell am I meant to feel about that response?

Well. First was utter devastation and then that was quickly followed by:

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My gut reaction was to fire off something like ‘Seriously? Fuck it. I’m done’ but  I didn’t. Again I waited for a while to see if my initial feelings would settle down or whether I’d go back to the message and read it differently.

Nope.

At 5:15pm I sent this:

Honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry about that message. I’ll let you know about Monday but right now it just isn’t going to happen. I know you need 48 hours so I’ll let you know by Friday.’

*

And that’s where it’s been left.

I don’t even really know what to say to her now. I mean where do I go from here? I want to feel like I am overreacting or something because that in some way makes those messages seem less, err, what? Abandoning? I dunno. But I am not entirely sure that I can convince myself that I am making more of it than there is.

It’s not like my therapist isn’t acutely aware of my issues with disorganised attachment, being unable to maintain a sense connection, and the problems that therapy breaks cause especially for the most vulnerable child parts of me- and to not be willing to offer up the most basic amount of reassurance when I reach out feels pretty cruel actually.

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I don’t know if I can come back from this.

I’ve spoken to a couple of friends about what’s happened, both are staggered by the exchange, and one suggested that maybe now is the time to find another therapist because repeatedly not getting my needs met or even validated is hurting me A LOT.

The rigid nature of the therapeutic frame doesn’t seem to be helping and there appears to be no flexibility in it. I had just about come to terms with the fact that touch was out of bounds but actually not even getting the most basic level of reassurance when things are about as bad as they get…well, what do I do with that?

I don’t know.

I feel like I was trying to find a better way of coping with difficult feelings. I was trying to get help. It backfired and now I am back to square one. Maybe there’s a reason that blades and starving myself have been so long part of my existence. Maybe deep down what I have always felt to be true is true: I am not worthy of care and I do not matter. On the plus side, I don’t have to worry about the Christmas weight gain now. Stress of the last two days and 2kg has just dropped away. I shouldn’t be pleased about it, but fuck it. I am done.

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Why do I always dream about my therapist when we are on a therapy break?

Just like clockwork, three days into the Christmas therapy break, my therapy/therapist dreams kicked in.  I wrote at length a while ago about dreams and how much dreams of my therapist can knock me for six.

I feel compelled to write on this topic again now because my sleep is filled with her again… I need to get this stuff out my system because it is still another 12 days until my next therapy session and part of me needs to process/let out what’s going on before I amass a catalogue of dreams and end up sitting down first session back and saying….‘So, err, I dreamt about you every night for two weeks…’ 

I wonder, is that more or less weird than sitting down after last year’s three week Christmas break and the first words out my mouth being, ‘Do you think I have BPD?’ I’m sure she’d sit there completely un-phased if I went in and told her she was repeatedly in my dreams during the break but there is a bit of me that always feels like it’s a bit creepy telling my therapist I have dreamt about her … and it’s even more cringeworthy if it’s happening night after night.

So often what comes up in dreams about my therapist are the anxieties I am feeling in the therapeutic relationship and so it is unsurprising that these dreams tend to increase in frequency during breaks when I can’t see her, or at times when I feel unsettled in the relationship, or there has been some kind of rupture.

These recent dreams seem, again, to be tapping into the underlying (ok surface level!) worries I am feeling about being on Christmas break and issues in the therapeutic relationship, mainly: feeling like I am unimportant to her and that the connection is broken; feeling angry about her not caring about me and that she’s abandoned/rejected me; and despite all this, still desperately craving closeness and proximity to her, wanting to repair the damage.

It’s all about conflicting feelings and emotions. What a surprise!

For the past three nights I have had incredibly detailed dreams about, and involving, my therapist.  There is a little part of me that is glad to ‘see her’ in my dreams because I find it so hard to hang onto any sense of her actually being out there in the real world during a break. I so easily lose my sense of her being safe and ‘there’ because on breaks she is not there. It’s long been one of my frustrations, being unable to reach out to her between sessions and check-in and try and maintain the sense of the relationship being sound.

Unfortunately, I start to emotionally wobble quite soon into any kind of disruption in therapy, and the dreams I have about my therapist aren’t usually massively warm and fuzzy. They don’t really involve lots of nurturing, love, and holding (which is what I would love my mind to serve me up in my sleep). It’s usually feelings of abandonment, rejection, and loss that come to the fore and leave me with a killer dream hangover for days (and sometimes weeks) afterwards. Sigh!

Mind you, having said all that, perhaps I should mention that I did have my first erotic dream about my therapist a couple of weeks ago (which after six years I think has been some time coming!) and that sent me through a completely different set of emotions – obviously. I won’t lie, it was a great/positive sexual experience (it wasn’t scary or threatening or pressured) but the moment I woke up I was flooded with shame and embarrassment, as well as confusion about it.

Although I am gay, and my therapist is a woman, I have never really thought of her ‘in that way’! She is attractive, definitely, and I have always had a thing for older women (oh but of course!), but for me, there’s been a shit tonne of maternal transference and so I have never consciously/unconsciously thought of her in a sexual way….until the other week!

My fantasies involving my therapist have always revolved strongly around being held/cuddled by her and her behaving in a very mothering way towards me. Basically I have wanted her to treat me in the way a mother would (should) treat a young child. (Isn’t it odd that I should feel less embarrassed writing that than saying I had a dream where I slept with her! ha!)

Thinking about it now, I realise the sex dream was really again about trying to get close to her (as so often happens in my dreams), only in a different way. The sexual element, I think, was about a part of me (maybe the adult) finally trusting her, being vulnerable, and allowing her to see part of me that I keep hidden which is kind of what’s been going on in therapy…I mean opening up to her and being vulnerable- not having sex! So although it was a bit ‘argh!’ at the time, in many ways I guess I should see that dream as a positive. I haven’t managed to tell her about that yet, and to be honest I am not sure that I ever will.

Still, back to the current batch of dreams… I know it’s not just me that is currently negotiating the therapy/therapist dreamscape during the Christmas break. Sleeptime for many a therapy client is firing out all kinds of anxiety-ridden dreams. Oh the joy and wonder of breaks eh? I’d be really interested to know just how many people are having therapy dreams right now and how many of those are positive, how many feel full of anxiety and if/how this reflects where people are at in their therapeutic journey.

Anyway, yesterday night’s dream stayed with me all day. I was a fucking pain in the arse all day as a result. Even this morning, I know that I am like a bear with a sore head. I have already been snappy and short. I can’t help it and I can’t blame it on being tired. I just feel so frustrated and sad and all kinds of emotions. The attachment pain stuff has kicked in massively and I feel really awful. It’s ridiculous, really. I should be enjoying the holidays but it is just so difficult when there are various parts of myself missing my therapist and feeling unanchored.

I know some of what I am feeling will be the Christmas hangover coming out. Christmas day was ‘fine’ on the surface, as I knew it would be, but inside I felt a little bit like I was dying. The little ones are always poised and waiting to see if Mummy will see them or acknowledge them. She never does. She never did. If she couldn’t do it when I was in my child’s body then I guess I am expecting too much for her to see beyond the body of a 34 year old woman.

The day wiped me out and I slept until 10:30 yesterday (which is unheard of – but then my wife got up with the kids and I think given the chance I could easily sleep like that everyday!). Christmas when it was just me, my wife, and my kids was lovely but when my mum arrived I could feel something shift inside me. It’s a subtle shift but I am very aware of it now. I become ever so slightly anxious and ever so slightly hopeful….which I know is what happens when I sit down in therapy. I hope that my therapist will ‘see me’ but also anxious that she won’t.

It was civil enough with mum but just not ‘warm’. We chatted for a long while, but not about anything in particular – other people mainly. It was small talk. The ‘real’ things seem to be off limits. Since she said ,‘therapy was for losers’ a couple of months ago (despite knowing I am in therapy and have been on an off for the last decade), I am not really feeling like my mental health is a topic to broach anyway! I mean I guess it’s not a Christmas day topic (why?!) but I don’t know when the, ‘Mum I am really struggling to cope with what it was like when I was younger and it’s really impacting on me even now’ will ever come up.

Anyway, as so often happens all my sadness and feelings of loss and abandonment which clearly originate in my childhood have been fully transferred onto my therapist and our relationship in 2017. I am not grieving my mother’s lack of connection and relationship with me. I don’t want her now. Of course I don’t. I want the person who has given me the closest thing to unconditional love that I have experienced. It is intoxicating to all the younger parts of me and the adult too….but of course that is just a fantasy that needs to be crushed and grieved for too….eventually. Not now, though! Give me time!

This dream is a long one, so feel free to skip:

I was walking alone along the coast path not far from my therapist’s house. A little further along the bay I could see the snowflake card that I had given for Christmas resting on a wall/gatepost. It was as though it had been displayed as an ornament but it was now falling apart and broken in places. It had been left outside, and because it had been raining it had started to disintegrate. Perhaps she hadn’t realised that the card was only made of paper and therefore fragile….or perhaps she didn’t care?

As I walked further up the path I became increasingly angry. I felt sad and disappointed that something I had put thought and effort into, and had bought to symbolise our relationship seemingly meant nothing to her. It was fine to leave it out in the rain.

When I reached where the card was it turned out to be the entrance to a pub but it was also where she lived (?). Part of me wanted to walk on by and ignore her but another part was drawn to see if I could find her. To get to her place I had to walk through the bar which was incredibly busy because it was Boxing Day and up some narrow steps to the door. The door wasn’t locked so I let myself in – there was no one there.

I wandered around the house knowing that I shouldn’t be there but at the same time desperately craving any kind of connection with my therapist in order to try and prove to myself that she did care, didn’t mean to hurt me, and wouldn’t deliberately disregard something that I had given her that demonstrated the feelings I have for her.

The house was really tidy and one of the windows had a window seat and lovely view out over the sea. It wasn’t raining at that point but I could see the snowflake card looking really sorry for itself on the wall below. I decided to lay down and wrapped myself in a blanket that was on the seat and try and take in the space, and by extension, my therapist, but I must’ve fallen asleep.

I woke up to find my therapist kneeling down beside me and gently saying my name. I woke up with a start. I was mortified! She didn’t seem angry that I was there, but feeling exposed  and off guard I immediately launched into an attack on her. I pretty much screamed at her that ‘she didn’t care about me’, that ‘I couldn’t believe that she would so easily disregard something I had given her, something that had taken me time and thought, but moreover something that really showed my feelings toward her’. I said ‘you told me that this card was about love. You know it is. Why would you treat my love like it doesn’t matter?’ I started crying.

She said, she was sorry and that she had put the card outside because it was beautiful so others could see it at Christmas but it had started raining when she was away. She was sorry that it had been damaged and was disappointed too. I petulantly (teen part) said ‘it didn’t matter’. I told her ‘I would never have left it outside’ and it just shows how I much I would value something from her if I had something and proves the lack of balance in the relationship.

I told her I still have every scrap of paper that’s she’s written holiday dates on for me. I said, ‘see how pathetic it is? – how pathetic I am? I hang onto the tiniest part of what you give me to try and sustain the connection. I have to try and make that enough and yet you couldn’t care less about things that clearly mean something, that are given with love’.

She said she understood how I was upset and wondered if there was anything we could do to fix the snowflake. I said ‘look at it, it’s falling apart, I don’t think it could be repaired and even if we could it’s not the fact the snowflake is broken that’s really the issue, it’s that you left it out in the first place, it doesn’t mean anything to you and it is not important to you’.

She told me that it was important to her and that’s why she had put it on display. She said she could see I was upset and asked what could make it better. I wanted to ask for hug. I so badly wanted to feel close to her. I knew that even though that was exactly what I needed I couldn’t ask for it because it was one of her ‘boundaries’. 

Having this thought come into my mind made everything feel even more awful because I felt abandoned and rejected and now couldn’t ask for connection because it was one of her ‘distancing rules’ (boundaries) that I have no say in and it made the anger rise up in me again.

I said ‘I don’t know why I am even here. I just keep hurting myself in one way or another with you. I love you so so much but to you I am completely insignificant. All that happens when I am with you is that I get reminded how unimportant I am to you, and that really hurts. I can’t keep putting myself through this. It physically hurts that you won’t let me close to you and I just can’t bear it anymore.’

Then she said perhaps we could take the card to a dry cleaners and see if it could be mended. I said that was a ridiculous idea, it wasn’t clothing and it couldn’t be mended. I said to stop going on about the card – that she was missing the point. I went outside and brought it in off the wall and put in on her table. All the words I had written had blurred into a watercolour of ink.

I said I needed to go. I didn’t want to go, though. I felt really hurt but I didn’t want to leave because I knew there was a long time until I would see her again and in that time I knew my upset and anger would increase and I may never return to therapy.

She suggested that we could go for a walk along by the sea together and talk things through. I said that I would love that (caving in)  and so we made our way downstairs through the pub which was now empty, and out for a walk.

We walked for a while but I said nothing. I didn’t know what to say. I still felt angry and upset and I was also aware that I was shutting down because I knew that I would have to leave her again soon. She looked at me and said ‘this has really upset you hasn’t it? You think I don’t care about you and that you don’t matter?’ I couldn’t look at her but nodded. She took hold of my hand and said ‘I am sorry. I really think there’s a lot to work through in this area’.

Then I woke up.

So yeah. Ugh! There we are another detailed version of the same old things. Whilst I know it is just a dream it taps so heavily into all the areas that bother me in the relationship. I have to remind myself when it feels this bad that what’s going on for me is not my therapist’s fault. The dream isn’t real. The issues are real but they aren’t of her making. I have deep-rooted attachment trauma and it’s playing out in this relationship now.

My adult knows (kind of!) that my therapist hasn’t just left me and stopped caring… but there are other parts who are not convinced that this hasn’t happened because this is their experience of what caregivers are like: they leave and they don’t care about me or my needs. I am not on the radar. I am not ‘kept in mind’.

I know my therapist is just a therapist (argh!) but there are parts of me that refuse to see her as anything other than the desperately longed for mother figure they need/ed. I know that the time for those young needs to be met has passed but the youngest parts of me don’t understand this at all because they are frozen back in time where it was possible. They are active in 2017 but they live back in the 80’s and early 90’s and to them there is still hope of things being ok, hope that whacking great mother wound can be filled with ‘her’ love.

Just writing this makes my stomach ache. It’s awful really. I have said this stuff so many times now. And, yet, whilst rationally I TOTALLY get it, I just cannot get accept it emotionally yet. I know that I shouldn’t ‘hope’ for the impossible but I would be lying if I said I didn’t.

I know this is why I am in therapy and why there is still a long way to run with my therapy…but right now, on Christmas break oh my god, it’s so hard! There was a period of time where I didn’t dream at all between 2013-16 (break in therapy) and I could go to bed to get away from things. Now I go to bed in the hope of escaping the emotional torment I feel and it chases me into my dreamworld and plays out there.

As I said a couple of months ago: ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’…but please, God, not about my therapist!

Sleep tight, everyone!

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Grief.

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I woke up in the early hours of this morning sobbing violently, again. A dream. It wasn’t a bad one but it deeply touched on that vulnerable place that I have been desperately trying to guard, the place where feelings of loss and abandonment reside. I awoke to find myself physically shaking. I was stone cold. Tears flowed endlessly down onto my pillow in the pitch black. It was not gentle crying, it was full-body, snot-ridden, ugly crying. The physical embodiment of my grief is not in the least bit pretty, it is warts and all, let it all hang out, pain.

Since my friend died last month after battling Myeloma for two years, I have felt unbelievably sad, lost, and empty but have continued to function in my day-to-day. Externally it has been pretty much business as usual. This is partly because I’ve had to carry on, partly because I am in denial about it,  and partly because I know that’s what she’d have wanted me to do. She would have told me to hold my babies tightly, to find joy in the small things, and buy myself flowers (now that she can’t bring me home grown roses from her garden)….and that’s exactly what I have done or, at least, what I have tried to do.

From the mundane to the extraordinary and everything in between I’ve tried to be present and engaged in life because my friend can’t be in hers. She’s gone. Now, more than ever, I feel the pressure of needing to ‘live’ and not just live but live authentically and fully.  I won’t lie, though, truly there are days where even existing has been difficult. I know I put too much pressure on myself. I should give myself a break. I am grieving for goodness sake! And grief is not neat. There’s meant to be five stages I think, but in my experience is looks more like this:

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There is a part of me that longs to have what feels like the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders just for a minute or two. I know. I know. Get over myself. It could be so much worse…I do know that. It’s just for me, right now, it is bad. I am so tired of battling in one way or another – whether it be against myself or with my health. It’s just exhausting. I never ever seem to reach a point where I feel safe and balanced. If my head feels ok (ha, when was that again?) then invariably my body gives up on me. I’m still coughing and spluttering and heading towards the dread of the three monthly cancer check up.

There’s no wonder I am not full of joy or exuding Christmas spirit. How can I be when my friend isn’t here this year? How can I feel jolly when in a week’s time we would have been celebrating her sixtieth birthday over our annual Christmas crafting day (faffing about making pompoms, or jabbing stuff in oasis, or buggering about with PVA glue and tissue paper). It was always the perfect excuse to get together with my collection of older women/surrogate mothers and consume too much cake, too much chocolate, too much mulled wine. A day with giggles on tap.

I could really use a day like that right now. We had planned to do it this year anyway to celebrate our lovely friend but as it’s worked out no one is around because life is like that – people have children and grandchildren to look after etc. Life moves on and commitments come up. I’ve got so much on this next couple of weeks that even I am probably going to have to cancel the coffee and cake in town we had planned in for Wednesday instead of a full craft day. I have to be on an interview panel for preschool.

There’s a part of me that wishes the world would just stop turning for a little while. I want to pause and take time to reflect on what has happened to my friend, and to me. I want to mourn for what I have lost. And yet, somehow in my waking hours there just is no time to. Not only that, I am fearful of letting it out because I know the flow of pain and loss and grief can’t just be stemmed when the clock demands. And there is so much unprocessed grief – my dad’s death still haunts me.

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So because I don’t face it in the daylight, my grief seems to come out in my dreams and then the floods of tears wake me and they just will not stop.

Last night’s dream:

I called in to see my friend’s husband to deliver a Christmas card and see how he was holding up. I found him sitting in the living room, dishevelled and unwashed. He was a broken man. My heart ached for him.

It felt strange being in the house, as though my friend could walk in at any point, her things still dotted around the room, her presence still felt. We talked a little while  and I told him how much she had loved him and how that if there was such a thing as soul mates then they certainly were the closest example of it I have ever witnessed. He cried and left the room.

I sat in the chair that I have always sat in and closed me eyes. My friend’s voice came into my head, ‘darling girl, look after (husband) for me. It’s terrible for him and he’s so blinded by grief that he can’t feel me. I know you miss me but you know I am here. I am always with you’.

So again, it wasn’t a terrible dream. It just hurts. My soul aches. I know that sounds dramatic but that’s how it feels.

I can’t tell you how many times things have happened where I have thought, ‘I must text (friend) to tell her…’ and then it hits me that she’s not here. I can’t tell her that my daughter has lost her first tooth, or that my son did a good job as a king in his nativity, or simply that I feel a bit sad right now and would love to pop round for a cuppa.

The grief of no longer being able to share the everyday is hard to manage.

I know that this loss is also really hard right now because I am just about to start my Christmas therapy break. And so all my feelings about my friend dying are getting muddled up with my therapist disappearing for nearly a month.

I struggle enough feeling like my therapist is really gone (dead) on breaks or in between sessions and I know this comes from various events that have happened in my life: my mum consistently being away during the week when I was little, and then more recently my dad dying three days into his month long holiday in Thailand. So throw in this massive recent bereavement and it just feels incredibly difficult.

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Basically, it seems to work that if people are out of sight for me then I am shitting my pants. It is massively anxiety provoking being away from my therapist for any amount of time because I rely on her so heavily. The idea of her being actually gone (dead) is terrifying for me and that is exactly how it feels when I can’t see her. There’s none of this ‘holding in mind’ stuff, and being able to feel secure in the knowledge that she will be there at a fixed time on a fixed day. It really is just horrendous. I’ve tried to explain it to her but I not convinced she really understands.

This year is even worse than usual because obviously one of my mother figures has actually just died. The one other person (aside from my therapist) who I felt totally got me and accepted me just the way I am is not here anymore. It is devastating.

Tomorrow I am meant to go to my last therapy session of 2017 and somehow get something written on my pebbles to take away with me over the break. I know that in theory they should function as a transitional object and should be better than nothing. Having a tangible, physical reminder of my therapist on something concrete did ought soothe me when it feels bad. The thing is, I am so worried about her not writing something that is adequately holding or containing that I’ll just end up feeling rejected and abandoned by her at a time when I least need to feel that the connection is tenuous.

It’s really hard knowing how to handle it if she starts trying to bring in the adult in the message. Last week she acknowledged that my adult doesn’t need the pebbles and it’s the young ones that need something but I know that it doesn’t always follow that a message to the little ones materialises. In the summer we had a similar conversation before she wrote and sent me a holding text message. It fell so flat because it was worded so formally and didn’t talk to the parts that need her most.

I guess I’ll have to see how it goes. Part of me already feels like I am shutting down in preparation for the break. Part of me dreads going to session tomorrow because it signals the start of a period of time that I know is going to be challenging. There is  also another part of me that desperately needs to go and try and connect tomorrow -to try and charge up that felt sense of connection and holding.

I just wish I knew which part of me was going to show up and sit on the couch tomorrow. If it’s the silent and withholding one then I am screwed…thing is, if it’s the open and vulnerable one I fear that she is also screwed.

Either way, by midday tomorrow I can say that the grief I feel is going to be massive. I hate therapy breaks.

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Ouch.

Cancer: the thief

*Trigger warning: cancer, cancer treatment, and death spoken about in no uncertain terms.

One of my closest friends is, as I type this, dying in hospital and it’s only a matter of time until the phone call comes to tell me that she is gone has died today.

When I started thinking about, and writing, this post this morning it was from the position of knowing that my dear friend was receiving end of life care in hospital and I wanted to express how sad, angry, and frustrated I feel about what has happened to her, and how unfair life seems sometimes.

It seems like an odd thing to be doing, carrying on with this piece of writing now, but I need to process this loss and writing is all I can manage right now. Every time I talk I burst into tears. I’ve cried and cried all day and now the tears have temporarily abated there’s a huge part of me that is grieving but another part that wants to tell everyone about this wonderful lady whilst I shake my fist and rage at cancer.

*

I feel like I am perpetually being robbed by this fucking hideous, persistent, crafty, bastard thief we know as cancer. I live in fear of it every day of my life, like so many of us. We (my family and friends) try to pretend like it doesn’t exist and that I am/we are unlikely to be burgled again, but I know the truth: it is only a matter of time before someone I love is taken from me or that I will be taken from my loved ones because cancer just won’t leave us alone. It can’t. It’s so deeply woven into the fabric of our existence these days. With 1 in 2 of us now being subject to some form of cancer diagnosis in our lifetime, there is a sad inevitability about it: you will be robbed blind, it just remains to be seen in which way, will it be your life or the life of someone you care about that is targeted…or both?

The fact remains, if you’ve been burgled once you’re likely to be the victim again. Just like my beautiful, darling friend. She had breast cancer fifteen years ago and then got diagnosed with Myeloma (bone marrow cancer) in 2015… and now she is dying. I guess some people might say that she was lucky to survive the breast cancer and get more precious years with her family and friends but it’s hard to see it that way right now when for the last two years I’ve watched the bravest woman I know try every line of treatment available only to watch it fail. We all hoped desperately for success and yet one by one saw each treatment was unsuccessful – now there is nothing left to be done, in her own words to a mutual friend, ‘we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel now’.

I have known this woman for a decade now and feel utterly blessed to have had her in my life. She was an English teacher, like me, and when I took up my first teaching job she promptly took me under her wing and supported me in any way she could. At the end of the first year of teaching my dad died suddenly and she was the one who delivered flowers to my doorstep and planned my cover lessons. She was there for me all through my subsequent mental breakdown. She has always been there. She has two children around my age and she became a great friend but also a mother figure. She never dodged the difficult questions with me. She noticed when I was sinking into anorexia or depression and would always say something caring but not intrusive. She always made me feel normal and cared for and SAFE. Later she supported me in my return to work and then through my pregnancy when I was teaching. Since then she’s been there through it all with me, another baby, my own cancer diagnosis and treatment, and now, sadly, I have also seen her through hers.

I have watched a beautiful, loving, kind, and vibrant soul have her life stolen from her bit by bit by the cancer thief. I was devastated to find out she had been diagnosed with Myeloma just around the time I was confirmed in remission with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I had more chemo and radiation to go but I knew that my treatment was effective and it spurred me on. The relief I felt to have been successful in my own cancer battle was short-lived because I knew now what lay ahead for my friend. I couldn’t take it away for her and I knew that her odds and stats were not in her favour. My cancer was curable, hers only treatable.

So whilst at the beginning we thought she might get 5 years or more with her and were ready to cheerlead her through her treatment, we are now less than two years in and she is at the end of her life, there are possibly days left but more likely hours remaining. There have been no good spells for her because she has not responded successfully to any of her treatment. She has been fighting a losing battle but hell has she put up a huge fight.

This warrior woman is a rock and an example to us all on how to live life and how to cope when facing death. Now barely sixty years old she has faced her diagnosis with a grit and determination that I know I would have struggled to muster. I know, in all likelihood, somewhere along the line I will either relapse in my Hodgkin’s or get another cancer diagnosis as a side-effect of the ‘kill or cure’ treatment I’ve already had. I am terrified of that happening but my lovely friend has shown me it is possible to smile and live through hell. I just don’t want to. I am scared.

I’m not going to dress this up and if it’s too much for you then stop reading. Cancer treatment for Myeloma is hideous. The treatment regime has been gruelling. I have felt so powerless as I have witnessed her go through bone marrow biopsies (this is the worst pain I have ever experienced) chemo after horrid failed chemo, blood transfusions, infusions, injections, poison after poison in pill after pill, and none of it has been effective. She’s suffered hair loss/thinning (the least of her worries), severe jaundice, crippling exhaustion, desperate anaemia, neutropenia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, aching, balance issues, weight loss, bloating, insomnia, physical weakness and pain….and so much more. To watch someone keep going in the face of total agony is harrowing. She has always put a brave face on and yet I’ve known how hard it’s been. There’s a look in her eye: fear, I think, that she doesn’t show to many people but because I have been through cancer treatment she knows I get it, she doesn’t need to hide from me.

Less than a month ago I sent her a message to see how she was as she’d just started on another (last chance) line of treatment and got this in reply:

‘You know the score more than anyone: bad taste in mouth, tired as hell, and a belly like a poisoned pup. Lots of fluid retention with this one so looking pregnant! Hey ho, what a week! At least I got through the five days of treatment. Three weeks to recover now’

Despite the horror of it, and believe me this treatment is horrific she was still chirpy. I have messaged several times over the last few weeks and then two weeks ago my friends and I got a blanket text:

‘Unfortunately I’m in hospital. I’ve been here since Friday and I’m not sure when I’m going home. You know how I feel about that! Hope all well with you x’

I was in hospital on Wednesday 18th in the haematology centre having my regular consultant follow up. Fortunately I am still in remission (phew). I knew my friend was on the ward literally through the door, but that she was too ill for visitors. Since then I have been texting and getting no replies, like everyone else.

On Thursday when I was house hunting in Cornwall I received a call from my friend’s husband saying that she was now too ill even to reply to messages and that he would keep us informed. In my head I couldn’t process what he was saying at all. I couldn’t read between the lines. Maybe I didn’t want to.

I spent some of my therapy session talking about my friend and how I felt about what was happening. I said how I am not ready to lose her yet and that I always thought having time to say goodbye to someone would make it in some way easier when the time finally came. I can tell you now – it doesn’t. I can safely say that watching a person suffer and deteriorate before your eyes is no easier than losing someone unexpectedly. Unfortunately, I now have experience of both types of loss. What I do know is that losing someone you deeply love generates a pain and grief that is inconceivable until it happens.

After my session on Friday I went to Tesco. I was ambling round the shop in a post-therapy daze when another ex work friend/mum replacement (I try and collect these mothering older women!) text me to say that our friend had further deteriorated and is now on end of life/palliative care. As I read the message I felt my world start to crumble. Things suddenly became real in a way that they hadn’t until now. I left my trolley and walked out the store and sat in my car crying. Despite knowing that treatment isn’t going well and that she is desperately ill in hospital, I am not ready to say goodbye to a woman who has seen me through the best and worst times in my life. I can’t lose another person whom I love.

In the early hours of this morning I had a dream about my friend. I was visiting her in the hospital and she was unresponsive in her bed, as she is now. I sat there holding her hand when another version of my friend walked in the door and sat with me. She was as I have known her before her illness, full of life, vibrant, exuding warmth and love. She came in and sat beside me and said:

‘This body in the bed isn’t me, darling. It’s just my shell. It’s what’s left of my earthly body. I am here with you now in the way I always have been. I’ve had a good life. I’ve been so happy. I want you to tell people about me. I was a good teacher, wasn’t I? We had a laugh didn’t we?’

and I replied:

‘We absolutely did! You were the best teacher but you are so much more than that. You are an unbelievable wife and mother. I am proud and blessed to call you my friend. You are without doubt the kindest soul I have ever met and my life is all the richer for having had you in it. I love you so much.’

she replied:

‘I love you too. I’ve got to go now but I’ll see you soon’.

I woke up sobbing my heart out and couldn’t stop crying for a couple of hours.

*

I found out that my friend died early this morning.

So today is a bad day. It’s right up there among the very worst days of my life. I am beyond devastated and I miss my friend so very much. I will always miss her but I will always carry her in my heart.

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‘Breathe Me’…when things fall apart.

*I wrote the bulk of this post over the course of the day yesterday. I can totally see how the tone/mood of this post fluctuates as I go through it which highlights to me just how up and down my emotions are at the moment. Ugh. I’m so bored of feeling like I am on an emotional rollercoaster.

*

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Help, I have done it again
I have been here many times before
Hurt myself again today
And the worst part is there’s no one else to blame

Be my friend, hold me
Wrap me up, unfold me
I am small, I’m needy
Warm me up and breathe me

Ouch, I have lost myself again
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found
Yeah, I think that I might break
Lost myself again and I feel unsafe

(Sia -Breathe Me)

*

It’s one of ‘those’ days again (although I fear this may not just be a 24 hour thing). You know how it is-  you wake up physically exhausted and emotionally…fucked.

Today I feel everything and nothing all at once. Somewhere inside I am overwhelmed and terrified but externally I am NUMB. I am here but I am not here at the same time. I’m both in my body and not in it. Part of me is a spectator and part of me is long gone.

Actually, it reminds me of some of the lines in Romeo’s oxymoronic speech, where he’s out of sorts and lovesick at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet:

O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!

Opposing forces are violently clashing together creating one very uncomfortable conflicted state. I don’t really need to resort to Shakespeare to know that basically I feel like total shit today!

I’ve known it was coming, this… what is it? Depression? Probably. This feeling, place, space, whatever you want to call it, has been lingering just on the edge of my peripheral vision for a few months now, quietly stalking me. I’ve felt its presence but I have been coping, or surviving, or somehow evading it – to an extent. Something like that. I don’t know, really. My brain is so fuzzy….. and yet, oddly, strangely clear. I’m a complete contradiction today which probably won’t make for an easy read. Sorry!

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Maybe today’s feeling is simply depression BUT I feel pretty low most of the time and I think ‘depressed’ is essentially my normal. It’s hard to say what this is. This ‘something’ is more, it’s deeper, more saturating somehow … it’s like I’ve been running and running and running for such a long time and today through sheer fatigue and exhaustion I’ve finally tripped and fallen. FLAT. ON. MY. FACE.

I feel like I’m face down in the mud, a thick fog has moved in along with the darkness and I am stone cold and shivering. I am so desperately lost. There’s a part of me wants to be found, picked up and held (probably the child) and a part of me just wants to lie here and give into it – stop fighting against ‘it’ and myself (the exhausted adult). I’m done.

Today it feels like I’ve finally given up hoping that there is someone to rescue me from myself…because there isn’t. There never has been. I’ve got to do it for myself and the little ones inside, but I just haven’t got the first idea how to achieve ‘recovery’ right now. Nothing I do works. I always just teeter along the edge- surviving, desperately clinging on. Part of me is losing hope. Has lost it, maybe. I just cannot do it.

Is this just capital letters DEPRESSION rather than lowercase depression? Is what I am feeling just the bigger, badder version of what I’m used to living with day to day? Is this the one that signals a proper breakdown- again? The entity I am always terrified of meeting after the last collision that sent everything so far off track I never thought I’d find the path back to the road again?  I just don’t know. I literally can’t make sense of it right now. All I know is I just feel it and it is horrid. I am scared.

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What am I meant to do when it’s like this? Dig even deeper? Keep going? Hang on tight? Hide? Stop? Ask for help?- who from? Who can understand this or help fix it? Who wouldn’t run in the opposite direction if they saw the reality of what I am carrying inside myself?

I know from experience that letting people see even a hint of this stuff doesn’t work out well. It doesn’t suit other people’s agendas. I am not meant to be like this. This is not who I am (apparently). I am the one with the plan. The glue that holds the pieces together. I am reliable. I am solid. I am a safe pair of hands. NOT TODAY I’M NOT.

It is inconvenient when I act like a ‘victim’ and ‘broken‘. Let’s face it, I’ve already put everyone through enough with the cancer diagnosis and treatment….we don’t need another breakdown on top that.

Surely I should be jumping up and down for joy having survived something that could very easily have killed me? Yes, of course I am. But I am so tired now. I have had enough of battling. I am strong but, fuck, I am so exhausted. I have nothing left.

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Part of me just wants to reach for a razor blade and cut – to stop feeling and to feel. I will try not to act on that thought. I made a promise to myself in April but right now I ‘have lost myself again and I’m unsafe’. It’s easy to keep promises when things are ok, it’s much harder to keep them when things feel like they are falling apart.

*

I’ve talked about my internal soundtrack thing a few times in various posts, and about how important music is to me. Well Sia’s Breathe Me (YouTube link at the bottom of this post) is what’s inside today on loop. Strangely, I hadn’t heard it before until yesterday night – I know, I’m very late to the party on this one I think! Sometimes I hear a song and I know it’s one that’s going to stay with me for a long time, not just some passing thing on the radio.

Something about this song, the music and the lyrics, as well as her voice just really resonates with me right now. It basically is how I feel… which is both comforting and terrifying. It’s offering me a sort of outlet and yet, perhaps this is the last thing I should be repeating internally or listening to (although that’s not really how it works, there’s no choice, it just plays in my head regardless). Perhaps I need to try and find something uplifting rather than something that accurately conveys how I feel in this moment?

How the hell did I end up here again?

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I had my therapy session yesterday and today is Tuesday which is usually when the therapy hangover starts or, perhaps, the therapy/therapist withdrawal symptoms begin. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by how I feel right now given how things have been lately post-therapy session….i.e dreadful.

So, to yesterday’s session then! Because I still sound like someone with a serious smoking habit, when I sat down I spoke about how bad I have felt physically in the last week and how ‘tired’ I have been. I spoke about how last Tuesday my lungs had decided to give up and I spent the week wiped out.

My therapist asked how it’d been emotionally, ‘rubbish’ I said. She said it sounded like there’d been a ‘double-whammy’ of difficulty and acknowledged how Tuesdays can be emotionally hard for me anyway… let’s not forget to mention Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday though eh?!

I suppose in all of this dark pit of despair/nothingness/ugh/yuck I need to remember that I have been really unwell for a couple of weeks now and it’s really taken it out of me. Perhaps this emotional flat-lining is feeling so much worse because my physical stores are so depleted. I know I talked in my last post Why does physical illness always go hand in hand with a mental health crash? about how aware I was of my little ones feeling activated, distressed, terrified, emotionally unanchored and totally overcome by it all.

Maybe how I feel now is just an extension of all that that was going on last week? I don’t know. I really struggled to talk about how things had been emotionally last week, in session, yesterday. I could say how physically ill I had been but not how bad things had been in my head. I couldn’t say exactly what the problem was.

I’m guessing my therapist can probably work out that my silences or avoiding her questions have something to do with the vulnerable child parts and the feelings that come up in relation to her, and my adult feeling really exposed, ashamed, and embarrassed about the whole thing. But who knows?

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I felt strangely calm in the room yesterday (even though there was a new sofa and a view change). Usually, I am agitated or anxious or some other uncomfortable mixture of feelings and we’ve spent ages trying to work out how to make me feel safe in the room in order for me to be able to talk rather than freeze -hence the visualisation stuff. Ugh.

I think part of the reason I felt more settled yesterday was because I had been down to the beach before the session and picked out some pebbles to write the ‘holding message’ we’re going to work on on. The sea was calm and still and the beach was empty. I would have liked to have stayed longer, actually.

Once I’d decided on the actual ‘therapy pebbles’, I spent some time writing some of my feelings and things I struggle to say in therapy on some other pebbles and then threw them into the sea which was quite cathartic.  I’m just hoping they don’t wash back up with the tide! ha!

I guess my beach visit was, in some way, me being proactive about trying to fix the situation that I’d, yet again, found myself in during the week. I can’t go on repeatedly feeling so disconnected and rotten in the week because I can’t hold onto the sense of my therapist being there. I can’t keep hitting that place where I doubt the relationship and then steadily dismantle any sense of security and trust in her because I think she’s gone or that she is going to hurt me. Something has to change before I go completely mad and the little ones destroy me. It sounds dramatic but that is how it feels.

Because I felt ok in the moment, in session, I found it hard to connect with how bad I had felt during the week when I was actually with her in person. I was almost too removed from all that horrible, painful, aching attachment stuff to be able to talk about it…or at least that’s what I thought at the time.

It’s hard to talk about how much you miss someone when they are sitting in the same room with you because you don’t miss them then, do you? It’s also hard to talk about the child’s emotions when you are sitting in adult. I mean, really, I still cringe even writing this. Why does she matter to me so much? How can a relationship that takes up 50 minutes of my week have such a massive impact outside that time?

I feel like such an idiot for getting attached to someone who really couldn’t care less about me. It’s ironic that I have spent my whole life being on guard in order to avoid getting hurt and pouring salt in already gaping wounds, and yet somehow find myself in a situation that mirrors the relationship I have with my mum. The therapeutic relationship stirs up all that pain and anxiety all over again. I know it’s transference. Great. But what do I do with that? The feelings are real and the pain is palpable.

I hate the distance between us because I read it as lack of care, and actually worse, that there is something fundamentally wrong with me that makes my therapist keep her distance. I hate never knowing where I am. I hate feeling insecure. I hate feeling like I am not good enough and that I have no power in the relationship.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter if I fall apart in the week because outside of that 50 minutes she doesn’t want to know, and that’s fine because she is just my therapist. I know that! But in so many ways what is happening feels so damaging, so re-traumatising. I don’t feel like I am repairing I just feel like I am reliving, or re-enacting the pain of the past in the here and now. I’m stuck in it and it’s awful.

Really all I want is to feel safe and secure in the relationship between sessions and have some sense that I am not too much, but that’s not how I feel. When it’s all going off in my head I can’t find a way out of it and it just spirals into something utterly horrendous. All the fear of abandonment stuff and attachment stuff has so much power once it’s in full flow. Sometimes I can feel myself starting to wobble and all I want to do is check in, ‘are we still ok?’ or ‘I feel like you’ve gone, are you still there?’ , get some reassurance before it all gets too bad, and yet I can’t do it. Well, I could but there’s no point because she won’t reply.

I hate being this vulnerable and having that need for reassurance leaves me hating myself and feeling stupid. It’s bad enough to have that need in the first place but not having it acknowledged makes it ten times worse because it tells me that, as I have always suspected, I am too much. It feels so rejecting.

So, perhaps the real issue about not being able to talk about this is not so much about feeling safe or not, or agitated or not, perhaps I just can’t talk discuss these feelings because it’s just too excruciating. I can write about them, hint at them, but I can’t engage in a proper conversation about them because I feel so exposed. I mean it really isn’t easy to lay this stuff out and trust that the other person isn’t going to run away. It feels too much. It’s too intense.

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I get that therapists are faced with this kind of thing all the time. You only have to look at the blogging community to see how widespread these issues are! Knowing this doesn’t make my therapy any easier, though! I know I have to find a way of getting this stuff out properly because maybe then it will have less power. Maybe I will feel less pathetic. Maybe things will improve.

I so desperately want to find a way of feeling secure in the therapeutic relationship because I think if I did then maybe the time between sessions wouldn’t be so emotionally fraught. The problem is that I don’t seem to have the password to access ‘secure attachment and emotional intimacy’. I don’t know who has it or how to get hold of it. It’s so frustrating. I don’t know how to make this feel better.

I understand why I feel like I do. I totally get it. I get that developmental trauma and attachment issues often come out like this in therapy. Knowing why I feel like this doesn’t ease the anxiety and hurt I feel, though.

I try so hard to cling onto that bit of me that isn’t a complete emotional wreck, who isn’t caught up in a whirlwind of emotions about someone who, in reality, I know absolutely nothing about, but it’s not always possible because that part is rarely dominant at the moment.

I know I need to help the ones that are in a blind panic and I can’t keep running away for forever but sometimes I just want to be halfway normal in session,  just to prove that I am not a complete fucking loser who can’t converse. I don’t want to be needy ALL THE TIME…it’s so grating.

*

The child parts were absent for most of the session – probably hanging out wherever they had been in the previous week or having a nap. I seriously need to give them a memo about where they need to be on a Monday morning, though. I need to find a way to get those vulnerable parts of me to attend therapy, because essentially they’re who I am there for. I also need to have a word with the censoring Gatekeeper part and tell them to allow the little ones chance to speak when they do actually turn up rather than shutting them down and banishing them to the corner. It’s all so difficult. It all sounds so mental.

My therapist asked who was there in session yesterday. I couldn’t identify it. I still don’t know. All I know is that I was finding it really hard to connect with any of those hard feelings and was really frustrated by it. Who is that?

The child parts eventually made an appearance about 10 minutes from the end of the session (usual pattern- sigh). It was like I had been hit by a truck which is something we had been talking about in the session. I’d said how all of a sudden those overwhelming feelings come crashing in and knock me over. There is no steady slip into overwhelm – it’s WHAM, and then I am overcome and pretty much unable to speak. I get so caught up in the feelings and the images that present themselves to me that I lose sense of time and how long I have been silent for.

My therapist had asked me a question about whether I recognised when this ‘hit by a truck feeling’ happens, i.e is there a common thread that activates the emotion….all of a sudden I felt myself go. I felt completely exposed and little and as though the ground had opened up beneath me and I was in freefall. I sat there in silence…same old same old. I knew I didn’t have time to explain what had just happened.

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I eventually returned to myself. I asked what the time was and if I could play a song that we’d spoken about in the previous session before I left.

Listening to the song really helped settle me and calm me down. At the end my therapist asked me what the impact of the song had had on me, i.e was it soothing? I couldn’t really articulate it at the time, but I realise now that sitting with music made me feel like me- whole in some weird way.

It was as though in that moment all the parts of myself came together and were able to  just sit in the moment and that was fine. I guess I felt present. There was no need to be anything other than myself, how it was, no front – just me. That’s what music does for me, I think.

*

So that was yesterday. I took myself off to bed last night and couldn’t sleep. I ended up on the sofa at 1am and lay awake until 4:30am.  I could feel that the little ones had moved in fully again and actually they just wanted a cuddle. Then I had this dream:

I arrived at therapy (i.e this coming Monday’s session). I sat down on the sofa and sighed a long, deep sigh and wrapped my arms tightly around myself. ‘Are you ok?’ I looked up briefly to meet my therapist’s gaze and said, ‘No, not really’ I was silent for a while and then asked,  ‘Can you sit with me today?’ and then averted my eyes as a wave of nausea and embarrassment flooded my system.

To my surprise she got up out of her chair and came and sat beside me and took my hand. ‘This is really hard for you, isn’t it?’ she said. I nodded and just started sobbing. I told her about how awful the week had been and how close I had come to self-harming. She rolled up my sleeves and traced the lines of my tattoos with her finger. ‘Your protectors have worked, though’ and smiled.

I asked if I could hug her and she agreed. I held on tight and didn’t want to let go. I was still crying but I felt calmer and more contained. I sat talking about what had happened during the week and how I felt. There was a feeling of connection and safety with her and I felt my system settle down. I felt like I was going to drift off to sleep. I was so relaxed.

Suddenly, there was a commotion in the hallway and then it moved outside the house. I got up and turned around to look out the window to see what was going on. There was a private ambulance, it was black, backed onto the driveway and its doors were open.

A paramedic (dressed all in black and wearing a balaclava) was carrying a screaming child out of the house using a fireman’s lift. The child was struggling and fighting against it. The paramedic violently threw the child into the back of the ambulance and went to the front cab leaving the back doors open.

The child was all alone in the dark (it was early evening) , it was terrified and crying. I couldn’t work out what was going on and stood frozen trying to make sense of it. I didn’t know what to do.

As I looked closely at the tiny figure I realised that this child was my three year old son. That’s when I lost it! I was totally filled with rage. At that moment, the ambulance started moving away and my son fell out of the back smashing his tiny body on the metal steps of the ambulance on the way down, and then cracked his head on the drive. Everything was in slow motion.

I ran out the house as quickly as I could to get to my son. I scooped him up in my arms. His head was bleeding and he was unconscious. My therapist and her husband were standing at the front door and stared at me but said nothing. ‘What have you done to him?’ I screamed. ‘Why is he even here with you?’

I felt so betrayed.

*

So yeah, that’s great.  Something else to think about! And we know how I am with ‘therapy dreams’ from this post: ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’…but please, God, not about my therapist! 

My child parts are really active and feel scared and lost. Part of me desperately wants to reach out to my therapist and check in but part of me feels like I can’t trust her after that dream. It’s the usual emotional push/pull. Hmmm disorganised attachment you say?!

Is it really as simple as that? Is this really where all this deep-rooted depression stems from- just a basic lack of containment and holding throughout my life? Can it be that not having a reliable caregiver has left me unable to trust in relationships or behave in a normal way? It seems so small and insignificant when written in words but it is massive, isn’t it?

I’m not sure if any of that makes any sense at all.

 

Learning to fly

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This morning I have woken up to the sad news that Tom Petty, music legend, has died. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a tremendous amount of crap going on in the world right now, and on balance a rock star dying is not the end of the world, but it’s what his death has stirred up for me that is important rather than the death itself, if that makes sense, and that’s what I want to write about.

I had planned to write about yesterday’s therapy session today which, to be fair, wasn’t all that great. It has left me feeling pretty uncontained and wondering whether my therapist and I are on the same page. I’m not sure we were even looking at the same book, yesterday, actually. But instead I think I want to talk about the significance of music, its therapeutic strength, and how I want/need to incorporate it more in my own healing, although no doubt I will find my way back to what happened in the session at some point!

I have always LOVED music. I guess this is largely thanks to my dad who always had something playing in the car: Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, R.E.M, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, U2, Counting Crows to name but a few. Needless to say, the soundtrack to my childhood was epic! I was spoiled with fantastic music and lyrics from a young age. When I look back over my life there is definitely a soundtrack to accompany it. I have some brilliant clear memories of time spent with my dad and also songs that go with it.

Music is amazing. It functions in so many different ways on so many levels: it can offer escape, or an outlet, or a mirror for all kinds of feelings and emotions.  It is magical.

 

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I have always been drawn to great poetry, and lyrics definitely form a huge part this. I’m so music mad that I used to do a whole module on ‘lyrics as poetry’ in school! The kids loved it as much as I did.

When my dad died, the music abruptly stopped. It became too painful to listen to anything we’d shared because just simply hearing a few lines or bars would transport me to a place of absolute grief and loss. The memories of times together would be instantly evoked and then immediately came the crashing realisation that he had gone. It would floor me. With hindsight, it might’ve been a good idea to immerse myself in that a bit more rather than running from the feelings, but in order to function I just couldn’t. I’m not great at expressing emotion!

It’s literally only been in the last year or so, since resuming therapy, that I have really got back into music and have actually also been able to listen to everything I associate with my dad. I think maybe it’s because I am slowly getting in touch with my feelings again. I often cry when I hear a track but there is also now a lovely sense of connection. I guess, it’s a bit like how the smell of his aftershave brings him clearly into my mind. The music makes it feel like we are together somehow, even if it is in the memories of the past.

Music doesn’t just help me connect with my dad. It’s always been something to help me connect with myself. Recently, I have found that songs from long ago pop into my head or even into my dreams. They can tell me a great deal about myself and how I am really feeling, which is partly why I want to try and incorporate this into my therapy if possible.

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I’ve said before how hard I find it to settle in sessions or feel grounded and I definitely think that occasionally bringing a track, i.e what is currently invading my head, into session would be a great way of a) relaxing into the space at the beginning and b) potentially opening up a dialogue if I freeze or go blank. It has to be better than battling with visualisations that JUST DO NOT WORK. FFS!

So I guess that, kind of, leads me to yesterday’s session. For some reason that is completely outside my realm of understanding, my therapist started talking about working on a visualisation to try and create some emotional containment.  She did ask me how I felt about her suggesting it and if I felt like she was pushing something on me.  In the moment I didn’t feel as though I had a strong feeling about working on it because my mind was sort of blank. I don’t know if I just shut down really quickly and didn’t even notice or what. I was very much in my adult yesterday and being ill I just kind of went with the flow.

I ended up creating this space that was very relaxed and serene, only I was looking down on myself in the space. I wasn’t truly part of it. Basically the usual dissociated scenario for me, seeing myself from outside myself. By the end my therapist realised it hadn’t worked. I’m not sure why she thought it would given how clearly I spelled out my inability to do the last one and how terrible I had felt over the summer as a result of not being able to visualise a space with her in it. She had said that that visualisation hadn’t worked because the young ones hadn’t understood it and that it hadn’t reached me where I needed it. Which is why I am staggered that she suggested this again yesterday.

We were a couple of minutes from the end of the session and all of a sudden it hit me. My ‘calm but empty’ feeling was gone. All of a sudden my little ones woke up and were totally distraught. It’s like they’d realised that they’d missed the session, that they weren’t going to be seen or acknowledged by Em, and that they now had to manage a week without her. I felt a wave of nausea and, I guess, grief fill my body. It was too late to say anything about it, but that’s what I’ve been left with. It’s rubbish.

I find it really strange. We had two really revealing sessions prior to last week’s Skype session (i.e I showed her two of my blog posts and talked about them) and it’s almost as though the content has been lost somehow. All the work about knowing we need to encourage the little ones into session, to make them feel safe with her, and to put things in place to help them stay connected in the week between has just disappeared. I feel really confused about it and how we got to where we did yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am there in that room and should have the strength to stop her in her tracks and redirect a conversation but somehow, sometimes, I just don’t know how to bring it back around to the child parts and their needs when she seems so focused on the adult.

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So yeah, I’m feeling quite frustrated today. I don’t even really know what to do with myself. In the big scheme of things, yesterday’s session wasn’t a complete disaster because we both now know for sure that visualisations don’t really work for me. However, as my little ones become more and more active in my system it’s going to be increasingly difficult to convince them that she hasn’t abandoned them and that she does care about and want to see them too. Ugh.

I feel so mental sometimes. My adult part is like ‘seriously, it’s not a big deal, it’s just one of those sessions where it doesn’t work out’ but the little ones just feel completely left, alone, disregarded, uncontained…..you know all that stuff right?!! haha.

So anyway, back to Tom Petty. Learning to Fly is one of the first songs I really remember hearing with my dad. We used to go surfing when I was little and we’d get out the sea, get dry, grab some fish and chips, sit in the car with the doors open overlooking the sea and put on the cassette tape:

Learning To Fly
Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still

[Chorus:]
I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol’ days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
[Chorus]
Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there

I’m learning to fly, around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

[Chorus]

I have always loved the song, but today I think I can read it as a metaphor for my therapy journey, not just life!:learning to fly and nowhere near my final destination yet!

The great thing about music – it never dies. Thank you Tom Petty for nailing it over and over again!

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