Old Patterns: Part 3

I wrote what follows back in early 2013. I’d recently stumbled over the writing I had done in 2009 Old Patterns: Part 1  and Old Patterns: Part 2 which recounted the time of the big breakdown and the scary interventions and decided to start writing again having not put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard in the whole intervening period. I was in therapy and beginning to feel ‘all the things’ with Em 😉  and so this leads up to June 2013 which saw the end of a 16 month period of psychotherapy on the NHS.

This is the last long blast from the past instalment on the blog. Loads has been going on in the here and now lately and I have just started the summer therapy break so I will get to catching up on 2019 soon!

Anyway, here goes!:

Nearly four years have gone by since I wrote here and rereading what I have written makes me so sad. Sad because right now, all this time down the road, I feel totally out of control again. It’s like I’m still circling the pit of doom. I know this isn’t completely true. I have not been stuck in a consistent state of depression since dad died- far from it – but I seem to find myself back down in the depths of despair wondering how, once again, I find myself in such a mess after so much time has elapsed?

How on earth can I be here again?

I have done the therapy – but it’s not enough, I know there is so much more left to process and I do not have enough time.

Still, let’s bring things up to speed before I get to what’s happening now.

After the seven month long nightmare with the breakdown Dr M wrote to get me put on a waiting list for psychotherapy in the NHS. I knew the wait would be a reasonably long time and so in the interim I had been recommended a private counselling service to try. I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a therapist I was just desperate to not feel so bad and went with the suggestion.

I went religiously to weekly sessions with my therapist N for two years but really made no progress on the big big things, not because I avoided talking about them (that’s progress right?!) but because I was told that my issues were too complex for her as she was just training. You would think I would have jumped ship then and found a more suitable match but after so long I didn’t feel able to kick my crutch out from under me. I liked her a lot and just being in the room each Monday night felt helpful. I think the ritual of going and talking for an hour was at times all that kept me going, even though I didn’t really gain anything other than stability. Not that I am underestimating the need for stability.

I terminated the therapy in the end. I was doing okish. Good enough. The eating disorder was quiet. The grief was still there but I had sort of learned to live with it. I was functioning! Life felt pretty good, really. I was back at work full time and enjoying it. I’d moved house. I’d travelled a lot. I’d got married. I was doing ok at adulting and still not yet 30. Win! I had kind of accepted that maybe the stuff I carry around in the shadows was always going to be there and I should just learn to live with it.

To be honest by the time the letter finally came through inviting me to attend 12 months of psychodynamic psychotherapy (30 months after the initial referral!) it came as a bit of a shock. I’d almost forgotten I was on a waiting list!

About six months after my GP had made the initial referral I had two appointments with a Clinical Psychologist in the Psychotherapy Department in the same scary building where I had seen the psychiatrist that wanted to put me on lithium. Same god awful waiting room. The bright yellow woodchipped walls still giving off a luminous glow of doom. Ugh!

When I went to these sessions I didn’t know they were only assessment interviews, no one had told me and it certainly wasn’t clear from the letter. I thought it was the therapy starting. I didn’t really like or warm to the therapist but given there’s not much choice in the NHS I thought I should seize my opportunity and start PROPERLY talking especially as N couldn’t help me with the ED. It would probably take a while to warm to this new therapist because she wasn’t N.

At the end of the second appointment the therapist told me that she definitely thought I needed psychotherapy and that I would now go on a waiting list for long-term therapy. I felt like I had been hit by a bus. What did she mean, go on another waiting list?? I had just spewed some serious bits of a lifetime of shit at this woman and now I was left hanging again. For fuck’s sake! Still, I’m good at shoving traumatic memories down into boxes and pretending they’re not there (you should see my loft!) and so that’s what I did. I went off and got on with my life – and I still had N even if she couldn’t help me with the anorexia.

So skip to January 2012 – As I said, A LOT had changed since my breakdown. For the first time ever I felt pretty grounded, happy, excited about the future. Now really wasn’t when I needed the therapy but I was wise enough to know that the issues that I’ve been struggling with since my teens hadn’t gone away, they were just dormant. And so I arrived at my first psychotherapy appointment 37 weeks pregnant and feeling quite on top of things.

It must have been a shock to Em my therapist.  I suppose reading my notes she might have reasonably been expecting an anorexic falling apart person to show up in the room and  instead she got a blossoming heavily pregnant woman…how did that happen?!

The moment I met Em I liked her. It was a completely different response to the therapist I had seen for the assessment. I felt comfortable with her from the first session. I don’t know what it was…I just really liked her. She had a nice face and smile, her body language was open. I dunno. I can’t explain. BUT it was good news all the same. I hadn’t really thought much around the logistics of therapy with a baby on the way but Em said that we could wait to start the sessions til after I had the baby and as soon as I felt able I could ring and let her know and start coming to see her.

She said that of course it was fine to bring the baby as she’d be little and need feeding etc. Basically she made the whole thing feel really easy – I didn’t lose my place on the list because I couldn’t start that week. So two weeks after my gorgeous little girl arrived I found myself in the room talking and breastfeeding. Turns out my baby needed feeding EVERY SESSION for the first four months.

So.… skip forward again.

I’ve been going to my sessions for a year now and I have made some good progress and uncovered some issues and set a few of  them at rest. But despite Em being really great there have still been things I have felt unable to address with her. Some of this is because I know my therapy must end soon and I feel like I have run out of time.

It’s taken me three months of mentally psyching myself up to tell her that I am really struggling with my ED again – it’s been especially bad since I have gone back to work after mat leave. I think I have passed the glow of having had a baby and now feel like the baby weight is just fat.

For months I have skirted round the edge of this issue, repeatedly being lost for words or filling my session time with insignificant garbage…. I am distracting myself from what is really important and something that is slowly taking over my life again.

Why?

Well, I guess it’s for many reasons. After giving it a lot of personal thought time- the time when the lights are out and the demons take root in my mind- I think I have reached the conclusion that I haven’t felt able to talk about my eating disorder because I am embarrassed and ashamed about it.

I am ashamed that for 15 years I have been secretly starving myself, on and off, when I can’t cope with my life. I am scared to admit that apart from my pregnancy, I have never achieved a healthy BMI and that I consider anything close to 18 fat whilst still knowing that it is at the bottom end of the healthy.

Part of it is that I don’t want Em to judge me.

I judge myself harshly enough already.

But today I realised with only a few sessions remaining I had to say something otherwise I will be 45 and still battling with these issues which doesn’t even bear thinking about, especially when my daughter will look to me as a role model.

I need to change.

I know it’s going to be really hard.

I know I cannot do this on my own.

Today, I sat down in the chair and soon realised that I couldn’t even speak. I felt myself getting angry with myself. How could I have mentally planned what I wanted to say, dreamt it every night for a week, and yet again find that I was mute? What was stopping me just telling my truth? Why is it so hard to open up and trust someone with this stuff?

I know she could see I was struggling again and, thankfully, I just sat there and she filled my silence and led me along. She told me that she felt like I was holding back and that the need to cry was really strong and that she could see that everything was too much.

She was right.

Somehow, I falteringly began to get my words out. I told her of how I hated myself and how I had become really self destructive and how I didn’t see the point of being here. She asked me if I felt suicidal. I said yes. She asked me if I had thought about ways of ending it. I said yes. She asked how. I told her: crashing my car, overdosing, cutting myself. She asked me if I had ever done any of those things before. I told her yes. She asked what stops me from acting on it, and I pointed to my baby girl. And from there the words kept coming, albeit messily and not always coherently.

I told her about how people have told me I look ill, that I am too skinny at work. I told her how I felt like I am losing it. I told her how I feel I am battling with myself all the time. I never know if I want the part that wants to be well to win or the critical self-attacking part to win. I told her that I struggled to talk because I have been in the situation before and been told I did not have an eating disorder after skilfully answering questions that meant the end score did not add up to ‘anorexia’.

She seemed to understand and acknowledged that I am skilled at letting people see what I want them to and understood hard it must be. I told her how I was sick of always falling into similar patterns, how every time things get overwhelming I start hurting myself rather than helping. She asked what I want to look like and I told her I didn’t know, only that I can never see how bad things are at the time and it’s only afterwards when I look at a picture that I can see how thin I am. I told her that the more weight I lose the less I see how thin I am and focus on the areas I perceive as fat and the number on the scale.

I was inarticulate and confused but I did it. I FINALLY told someone what I am carrying around and now the door is open to deal with it…. I feel nervous and exposed and know that next week I will have to keep myself in check and stop myself from playing what I have said down in a defence and actually let myself remain open. The embarrassment is ebbing away and I feel finally like I might get the help I need with this….I just hope I have enough time. That’s what really frightens me. For the first time I have opened up, but I think maybe I’ve left it too late.

I am scared of being left hanging in June, in crisis and having to leave the security of the room and the weekly safe space I have to unburden myself. I am worried I will not cope. Things are bad already without the only support I have being removed. Truthfully, I am terrified.

A week on, another session, and another mild failure in my ability to build on what I said the previous week. I am so painfully aware that in a few sessions my safety net is going to be completely removed that I think I’m probably withdrawing into myself a bit trying to protect myself from another loss. I have lots to say but don’t think there’s time now and as such I think I am wisest trying to put my armour back on and get ready for life ‘out there’ without my weekly check in.

Interestingly, today, Em commented on how I seemed different today than last week (where I was completely flustered and anxious but just about able to talk). I was behaving differently, but actually, in the last week, nothing much has changed for me. I am feeling anxiety about leaving my job, my brain is in a million places and actually what’s happened is that I have ejected my emotions out into space to allow me to function. I have been obsessing about my weight, I even found an app that allows me to track exactly what I am eating and how this will or will not impact my desired weightloss.

I now spend time inputting what I eat into the app and watching the calories go down….I’m aiming for 1000 a day at the minute which is manageable and won’t draw any attention. It also allows a steady weight loss. I am currently 7st 5 which gives me a BMI of 16. I am not happy with my body. I am not happy with myself. I never am. I guess next session I should address this deliberate food restriction. Oh but the shame. God.

I wondered today about something she said to me. She commented on how despite everything, I’d still been able to function and things hadn’t fallen apart and I should be proud of that. Why would I feel proud? I’ve succeeded in reigniting my fiery eating disorder, I’ve taken sick days when I’ve felt unable to cope, I’ve been struggling to sleep, on more than one occasion I’ve had suicidal thoughts, but I haven’t fallen apart. What does that even mean? I haven’t physically harmed?

In the build up to termination today she said that a year of therapy is not a long time and that there are organisations that I can use to find another therapist in the future if necessary. It felt like the rug was being pulled out from under my feet. Something inside felt really painful, like I had been kicked in my solar plexus and my chest went so tight. I felt sick. It felt like I was going to fall apart. I sat there still and tried not to look affected.

I really am going to lose her in a few weeks. I can’t even go there. The loss feels too huge. She is just my therapist but for some reason this ending feels immense- so much worse than ending with N. It was never my intention to let Em matter to me. I knew this was a relationship that had a time limit and yet here I am faced with the reality that somehow or other she does matter to me, I do need her, and oh the fucking irony I can’t stay.

After years of therapy at different intervals, I really can’t envisage starting over again with another therapist. Let’s face it, it takes me an eternity to truly open up and I don’t want to start the process with another person in the future. Maybe she isn’t allowed to promote her own private therapy practice (I looked online this week to see if she exists outside that dingy room!- and she does!) but I would really like to continue working with her if I could.

The PCT dictates that the maximum time available for therapy here is a year, and I have already had this extended by two months because things have got so shit lately, but I know that realistically, had I been in private therapy, we would not be terminating right now.

So school is finished. I cannot believe I have walked away from teaching but I know right now this is what I need. I need to regroup and rebuild. I want to spend time enjoying my baby and focusing on my family.

Today I had another therapy session. It always takes me by surprise on a therapy day how I wake up buzzing as though there is an electric current flowing through my body. It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s as though I am adrenaline filled and there is no outlet for it.

I noticed, as I sat in the waiting room that my hands were shaking. This was not due to low blood sugar, but rather, nerves. Was I nervous? I suppose so. I worry sometimes that she’ll think I am wasting her time. I always feel like I am waffling my way through and not saying what I should be.  I feel like I am boring.

We talked today about ending work (school not the therapy) and how I don’t ever feel calm. I mentioned how I so easily forget positives about myself and fill myself with doubt. I talked about the tutoring that I have been approached about and how I have felt unable to respond to the email despite knowing it will generate income. I know it is because it feels like work is still there and all the negative associations I have about being judged and failing despite never having performed badly in my work.

She broached the subject of food today. I didn’t build on that opportunity but did talk about obsessive behaviour patterns like running at 5am and how I have had to reign myself in, knowing that one run will become alternate days, then daily, then add in a bike ride etc. I suppose I could then have talked about the food and the app – another tool for me to berate myself with.

I have 4 sessions left now, one of which will be closing up and I have to address this fucking albatross ED. I know it’s tied to self-esteem, perfectionism, sexuality, lack of control….the list goes on….the thing is I need to unload it. Perhaps if I can let this secret out it will make it less of a monster and more of a mouse?

Something else that’s new: I feel more in my body lately. I feel more. I’m not stuck in my head or dissociating. That scares me a bit because what I feel in my body is horrid and overwhelming.

I talked today about remaining firm when people ask me what I am doing and telling them that I don’t know, and that it’s ok not to. She said this is known as ‘negative capability’ where a person can challenge the norm or go against convention and that it can be really healthy and shows that I can assert myself.

Oh man. I like her. I think maybe, if I am honest, I love her. She sees me as I am and doesn’t run away. To feel accepted as I am is novel and addictive. The more time goes on the more worried I feel about the termination of therapy. I really don’t want to be the tortured anorexic but I don’t feel able to be any other way at the moment. I don’t feel like I have the coping strategies to deal with what feels to me like another enormous loss and not eating is a way that I have always coped with emotional pain. I feel like I am losing H and Dad all over again and added to this, someone who has not flinched when I show them who I really am.

Walking into my session today I felt like I didn’t know what I would say or where it would go. I sat down and immediately felt the loss I am beginning to grieve before it has even happened. I could barely look at Em. I did, however, outline just how bad things feel right now. I told her how I take to my bed when little girl is asleep and lie under the duvet just to hide away from the world. She totally seemed to get the need to feel safe and she understood how I never feel soothed.

I explained that hiding in bed allowed me to be safe and not to harm myself. I told her about how I worry about hurting myself and I haven’t done that in years. She asked how and I told her about cutting and burning. These methods have been running through my head for a few weeks now. I have been looking of self harm websites. I guess that is a visual outlet rather than actually hurting myself.

Towards the end of the session more and more came out, as it always does and she picked up on that. I wish it didn’t take so long for me to get to what I need to say. We talked about the impact of ending and how I felt. She suggested that maybe I would feel angry or let down. I don’t feel either of those things, particularly. I just feel lost and sad that I don’t have more time to really unpick this….this self-destructive part that rears its head periodically. I didn’t say this.

I came home and tried to cut myself. The knife wasn’t sharp, though, so there are only superficial lines. No real damage done. I also heated a metal spoon and burned my skin. That really fucking hurt. Neither of these acts makes me feel like I have been able to find an outlet for how shitty I feel, though. I almost feel like I have failed and can’t even damage myself successfully. I feel pathetic.

I had no idea when I started this process that I had so many attachment issues. Em has suggested I have trouble with intimacy – well duh! I had no idea that so much was tied up in abandonment issues and dependency. I guess what has happened in the therapeutic relationship is that for a long time I have held back from allowing myself to get close to Em because I knew that the relationship would come to an end and I didn’t want to feel like I was alone and abandoned when the time finally came.

Fortunately or not, in December I guess I began to experience transference with her and then began to shut down a little for fear of frightening her and replaying issues. As it turns out this has happened anyway. It feels a lot like H, not being able to tell her about how I feel. I suppose what happened last week was the bit that I was terrified of, suddenly being so needy and dependent that I feel like I can’t function without that safety net. Argh. I know I have a lot to work through now about how this has all come about and why. We have a month break now and then it is the last session.

I decided to send Em an email to her private practice email asking if I could see her privately when we finish. She replied that she’d be happy to work with me but that she’d have to find out what the rules are and will let me know in our next session.

June 5th 2013

So today was the last session with Em. I went with a feeling of dread and nervousness after the email and also knowing it was the last session. I was worried that I had overstepped a boundary contacting her. She thanked me for my email and quickly told me that I could see her again but that it would have to be in 3 months or so in order for there to be ‘an ending’ with the NHS and fresh start with her privately. As much as I don’t want a gap, I do understand the theory behind it.

The session today was a bit bizarre as after a month away I felt like I couldn’t just open up and do it, particularly knowing it was the end and I would have to manage. I did talk through some superficial stuff and tried to remain upbeat and together – my outer world persona. I talked about how I have been trying hard to look after myself but that I don’t find it easy and it is easy to be critical. I know that that is the big thing I need to work through next time. I can’t avoid it anymore.

I have come away from today feeling numb – I know I am just shelving how I feel because I know I can’t deal with the idea of being alone with myself for a quarter of a year.

So – that was way back in 2013. I didn’t end up going back to Em until three years later (June 2016). When I finished the therapy I had six solid weeks of horrific nightmares and then one night I had dream where I was night swimming in a lake. I was feeling suicidal. I was cold and tired. I decided to drown myself. I calmly put my face down in the water and floated on my front. I waited. Just as things started to go black someone pulled me up and out of the water and into a boat. It was Em. She quickly wrapped a blanket around me. She said ‘you don’t have to do this to yourself anymore’ and held me close. And that’s when the nightmares finally stopped.

I picked myself up after that dream. I didn’t contact Em when the three months wait was up. Part of me wanted to but part of me was scared of ending up back in that dependent, unsettled place. I had another baby in 2014 and life actually was really very good until I got cancer in 2015 and then had to go through a year of treatment…cue a complete meltdown when that had all finished! The wheels really started falling off. All the old stuff started to become live again. So I approached Em and since then we have been working together solidly for the last three years working on so much shit. We’re still not done yet! But I am so glad I have her reliable, calm, non-judging presence in my life. And even though I am still trudging through trauma I can really see how far I have come.

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I’m Giving Up Dissociation For Lent!

‘I’m giving up dissociation for Lent!’ …Ah if only leaving my unconscious ‘go to’ coping strategy behind were as easy as giving up chocolate for the next forty days… actually, giving up chocolate would be a huge stretch, too, so I don’t know why I am even saying that!

I’m not religious (at all) and so the title of this post was sarcastic rather than a real thing – and please don’t be offended by the tone of the post if you are religious- it’s not meant as a dig I am just thinking out loud and scratching my head about where I am at right now.

I always kind of wonder about why other heathen non-believers like myself seem to jump on this particular time period and say they’re foregoing something until Easter. Like what’s so special about Lent? I wonder if the idea of withholding from ourselves is so engrained that we think, ‘ah, yes, I can punish myself for a protracted period of time’. Let’s face it, most of us don’t need an event in the Christian calendar to revel in self-denial and penance. We are perpetually listing our failings and, for the anorexic eating disordered among us, fasting is second nature.

Maybe Lent is too easy then?

Maybe it’s the convenient timing too?

These days we are so fixated on body image – I’m sure it’s about now that the glossy magazines start bleating on about how to achieve ‘the ultimate bikini body’ (FYI you basically have to put a bikini on your existing body but that’s not what they pedal is it?!) – that maybe we see Lent as a time to shed those winter pounds we gained. It’s become diet season so why not have a running jump at losing the muffin top? I dunno.

Look, I totally get that seeing the next six weeks as a sort of weightloss challenge is a bastardisation of the original purpose – but this is what I am wondering about – like why when you don’t do organised religion does Lent seem to be a ‘thing’? For those people that are religious I understand it – makes sense – and I’m betting most people of faith aren’t simply shunning bars of Galaxy until Easter.

Anyway, moving on…a bit…I have been thinking about self-care, strangely, in relation to Lent. I give self-care a wave every now and then but, frankly, am pretty poor at looking after myself. I seem to come somewhere right down the bottom of the pile for care: kids, wife, other people, my animals, the dying orange at the back of the fridge, and then somewhere a little further along the line is me.

It’s strange.

I get that self-care is a REALLY GOOD THING and NECESSARY if you don’t want to be a complete knackered wreck/basketcase and yet I really struggle to prioritise my needs and myself. There’s a part of me that sees looking after myself as selfish… rationally I know that is totally fucked up but it is how I feel.

There is certainly a part of me that thinks I don’t deserve to be happy, to be looked after, to rest, or be a normal weight….and we all know who that is: the Inner Critic. I know that part of me has been doing her best over the last 25+ years to protect me and keep me functioning but these days, her ideas of how to keep me safe and working don’t really work. Trying to be perfect, stretching myself beyond my limits, and starving myself don’t really lead to things being ok or safe. I know that.

I have been really aware of my body again these last couple of weeks. You know how it is, that niggling thing where you look in the mirror and notice all the flaws – that extra couple of pounds you put on over Christmas seems to have welded itself to your hips and won’t budge…(even though you’ve done nothing to help budge it other than will it away!). And I think this is why Lent is winding me up a bit as I see people choosing now to start dieting again because actually my brain is scheming and saying, ‘Go on, jump on board with it too, here’s your opportunity, you can legitimately hide behind Lent to cover your eating disorder for the next couple of months – give up sugar…or EVERYTHING and you can lose that weight that’s been driving you mad for the last three months’.

See, this is not good which is why I am just blathering on here. I am aware of how careful I need to be when my mind starts considering any kind of restriction because it never leads anywhere good. I know I need to have a conversation with my therapist about these feelings but I feel kind of moronic talking about not eating when I am actually eating and am as close to a normal BMI as I have ever been.

It’s sad that there’s some critical voice that is saying, ‘you can’t talk about not eating when you are this weight and eating food! Like seriously, look at you, you’re fat!’ Of course I do know that this is exactly the time I need to be mentioning these feelings in therapy – BEFORE things start to spiral downwards and the ED mindset kicks in and the secrecy and denial becomes the fronting part. I don’t want to end up in the place I ended up last year  and when Em issued an Ultimatum.

I also need to work out why I am feeling like I need to take control in this particular way again. It isn’t because of Lent! 😉 I know it has something to do with the level of dissociation I have been experiencing lately. I had a crazy bad dissociative session last Friday and I know it’s because I have been edging closer to the Mother Wound again. When the young parts are a bit more present or want to come to therapy it generally doesn’t go well – not because Em says or does anything wrong, but because other parts step up to protect me from being vulnerable (or stupid!). That huge need for connection and care so easily triggers feelings of shame as well as fear of being abandoned for being too much that it just sends me into orbit. I get sucked out the room. It’s horrid.

Fortunately, Em and I were able to do some good work on Monday where I was able to stay in the window of tolerance and start to unpick some of what has been going on. Em herself said something about the fact that there is a massive painful wound that sometimes gets exposed and is so incredibly raw that it is too much to bear so I cover it over with a plaster – only it doesn’t heal when it’s covered. So the deal is we are going to try and very very gently let a little bit of air get to the wound and let it start to heal in tiny increments…and try and understand the shame too. (This is not new news by the way, it’s just we are repeating it again!)

I don’t really know what I am trying to say with this post, but basically, I think if I am going to try and give up anything for Lent then it has to be being horrible to myself and defeating myself. Rather than giving up something I enjoy (although to be fair I think the Critic is a bit of a sadist and enjoys being mean!) I am going to try and use the next few months to be kinder to myself. I am going to try really hard to trust in my therapeutic relationship with Em and accept and believe that after seven years she is still there, steady, and constant and caring…I do not need to be frightened of her. She is safe.

What am I giving up for Lent? A lifetime of bad habits that hurt me. Perhaps some of you can do the same.

EEEK! I’m beginning to wish I’d stuck with chocolate! x

 

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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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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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“I don’t want you to go away”

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With just ten minutes of Monday’s therapy session remaining I finally said it. In words. In the room. To her face. Not written down. Not kind of implied and hoping she might read my mind. I actually said the sentence that has been persistently in my head for the last month (well, it’s always there) aloud. It may not have been very loud, it may have come from a young part, but it was loud enough for her to hear:

‘I don’t want you to go away’. 

OMG what just happened?! Did I actually directly tell my therapist how I was feeling about the summer therapy break and show vulnerability and need even when several parts were screaming at me to keep my mouth shut? Looks like it, doesn’t it?

We all know by now that these feelings are always there in one way or another. Every time I have to leave my therapy I feel like my therapist is ‘gone’ and it’s a huge struggle for the youngest parts to just make it through the week…but therapy breaks, well, crikey, they are the absolute pits and no matter what I do, or how I try and prepare for them I always end up on my arse, in a heap, sooner or later.

Ok, so I did kind of have to throw myself over the metaphorical ledge to get the words out and take a forty minute running jump at it: sliding through dissociation, silence, and shaking just to reach the drop off, but I did it- and you know what? It was ok. She didn’t freak out (of course she didn’t) and it opened up a really useful conversation about breaks and the difficulties I have with maintaining connection with her.

It’s fair to say that therapy has been a bit weird lately. It’s my fault. I do want to kick myself sometimes. I’ve been struggling to really connect with my therapist/hiding from her for a variety of reasons. Some of it is definitely a hangover from last Easter break and how she reacted when I finally properly let her in and told her about the eating disorder stuff. I have struggled to trust her with the big things since then because I am worried that if I so much as allude to issues with my body or food she’s going to overreact and write to my GP or threaten to ‘work towards an ending’  again (shudder).

My rational adult knows that I can trust her and that we now have an agreement (that we worked out together) in place around what we do if I end up struggling with eating and she is concerned that things are bad but even so, the teen parts are still hurting after how things were handled and most of what I need to say to my therapist comes from these younger parts. As I have said many times my adult knows what she’s doing and has it together…it’s the others that let the side down! They’re the ones that need the therapy and if they don’t feel like they can trust Em then we’re all screwed.

In addition to stuff around the ED I have been struggling to reach out or let her in because I’ve felt pushed away – and that bombshell about needing ‘to work towards an ending’ if I didn’t go to my GP has just got stuck on loop. Fucking soundbite from hell. I feel wobbly at the best of times and parts of me are certain that she wants to get rid of me… Disorganised Attachment 101. I do know this is really very much about my skewed perception of things rather than it being the reality but I don’t require a lot of evidence of her supposed lack of care in order to shutdown and hide. It is a nightmare.

For example when I asked for a regular check in around the time when the ED was off the chart bad and she essentially said she had no time I couldn’t help but feel like the whole therapeutic relationship was just a huge pile of shite and that she did not care at all. It takes a lot for me to express any kind of need and so to do it and then get a no was just hideous. Add to that the hell that was the beginning of July (cancer follow up at the hospital neatly coinciding with the anniversary of my dad’s death) wanting to reach out to my therapist and knowing I couldn’t, or could but she wouldn’t reply sent me into a complicated rage and devastation cycle:

 Why the fuck do I bother? She clearly doesn’t give a shit about me.

I wish she was there and could give me some reassurance. I miss her.

I’m done with this. I hate her.

What is wrong with me? Why doesn’t she care?

I hate myself.

It’s so hard constantly trying to juggle and manage utterly conflicting but intense emotions. I get that this is where the work is. On a good day I can completely see how my therapist is just a therapist and is doing her best to help me but other days it is so much more complicated than that. It drives me insane.

When the five week summer break started flashing persistently on the radar it added in another level of internal struggle. I absolutely want and need to be able to connect with Em before the break but the moment any kind of vulnerability or need starts to creep in the room I have dissociated. I am gone and it takes ages to try and get back to her. It’s been horrendous feeling like she is behind glass and I’m stuck in a long dark tunnel. This week was even worse than usual. There wasn’t even the ten minutes of adult small talk at the beginning before a plunge into young parts’ chaos and dissociation. Nope. I sat down, looked at her, and went numb.

AAAAAHHHHH FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!

It’s so annoying. I spend all week wanting so badly to be in that room in order to try and work on this stuff and yet my mind plays tricks on me. I can’t even really remember what we talked about in the session, now. I know that she was trying really hard to draw me out and connect. I really wanted to talk and yet there was a part inside freaking out ‘if I tell you how I feel you’re going to leave’ which is hilarious, really, because of course there is a therapy break coming up next week anyway, and she is leaving, so what’s the difference? I guess a therapy break isn’t forever, though, and yet to some of the young parts there is a real and genuine fear that I will get terminated for being too needy if I tell her how I really feel.

It’s that old chestnut: I am too much.

No matter how many times she tells me I am not too much and that she wants to hear everything I am feeling I still can’t trust in it fully. I really want to, though. I am trying. And I do get there eventually.

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So often what happens is that as we creep towards the eleventh hour in therapy I am able to talk a bit. I guess I build up enough trust, or perhaps enough desperation to let some stuff out the bag. I sense the clock ticking down and I get a ‘now or never’ sort of motivation but also an ‘oh she is still a safe person’. This is a pattern I have noticed in my sessions – the last ten or fifteen minutes is where the work is really done. But this is also true as we head into a break. I conceal how I feel for at least a month leading into a holiday (‘what’s the point in telling her anything, it won’t change anything’) and then suddenly the break is almost here and I let it all out. I don’t know why exactly. Perhaps it’s about feeling like I can’t contain it on my own during a break, or maybe it’s about safety. If I let all the really vulnerable stuff out just as a break starts then I have time to recover from it, let the dust settle a bit, we can pretend like it never happened if it is totally mortifying… I dunno.

So anyway, when I said ‘I don’t want you to go away’ I felt like I’d had some kind of out of body experience. Who the fuck said that? It was a young part for sure but I have never allowed that stuff out in this way before. Sure some of you might be thinking, ‘seriously, you’re getting wound up about this??’ but it was huge. Em handled it really really well. She asked me what I was scared of and I said ‘that you won’t come back’ and we talked a lot about how massively traumatising this all felt especially in relation to my dad having gone away and died on holiday.

I always feel silly getting stressed about her going on her summer holiday. It certainly is the hardest therapy break in the year and not just because of its length. It just falls so soon after the annual sucker punch of my dad’s anniversary. I have experienced someone I love not coming back from a holiday, and I have had it front of mind for the whole of July, and then off she goes on holiday for a month in August. The timing sucks.

I wish I didn’t get so scared and anxious that she would respond negatively to something that is fairly normal and understandable. Like surely it would be more weird if I was completely unaffected by her going away for 5 weeks especially given the timing. But I do fear her rejecting me. It is a huge stumbling block for me. I wish that I could retain all these positive therapeutic experiences where she responds to me as I need her to. If I could hold onto her and her kindness and care I know it would enable to be more open and vulnerable but unfortunately I just cannot hang onto these connecting moments and file them away in my memory banks to give me some courage the next time I have stuff to let out (which is basically every session).

I know it’s a process…but god…it’s long isn’t it?!

Anyway, that’s kind of where I am at now. I have one more session on Monday and so that revelation in the last ten minutes of the session might have been the start of the emotional flood gates opening. I kind of hope so. I don’t really want to sit on all this attachment stuff over the holiday and feel alone, unseen, and unheard. I want to tell my therapist how it feels so that she can help me put things in place so that everything doesn’t disintegrate the moment I walk out the door.

She said we are going to work on building on the felt sense of connection between us in session next week…..god only knows what that’s going to entail but I’m telling you now if she gets me to imagine fucking angels or a sodding box to hold positive feelings in I will throw my pebble through her window!!

X

 

 

 

A Much Needed Week Away

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So, this is the post I had planned to write before the Instagram episode on Thursday night where my anonymity in Blogland and Social Media World was compromised. God that sounds like some kind of MI5/Secret Service statement doesn’t it?! For now, I am ok with my decision to keep this blog public but I guess we’ll just have to see how things pan out in the coming weeks. The worst that’ll happen is I’ll password posts or something.

Part of me is too tired to even care about it. As things stand right now I have bigger concerns. It’s all about doing a reality check sometimes isn’t it?

Currently, my best friend from primary school is in agony with metastatic breast cancer that has now found its way to her sternum. She is battling hard, third diagnosis in five years, but we know that this is going to kill her. I am devastated – in fact I ended up bursting into tears on the bus from the resort to the airport on Thursday just thinking about it (and I don’t cry!).

Her struggle is so hard to watch and a potent reminder that my very good friend died of Myeloma just before Christmas less than two years from being diagnosed. I still haven’t processed the loss and keep imagining I will see her again. My brain is really not very good at dealing with death.

In addition to this, I actually have my own follow up at the hospital this coming week to check (and hopefully confirm) I am still in remission. So in reality, who cares if someone I know might find out a little more about my mental health? It’s not going to kill me. It’s not cancer. It’s only the truth.

Anyway, my holiday. I’m not sure anyone wants to really read about this but I think it’s important for some balance to show that not every aspect and minute of my life is a complete shit show! Ha! Having said that, since I got home I have slumped and the attachment feelings/pain have ramped up enormously. I guess I can’t really escape that.

The last time I had a proper holiday abroad was I was eighteen weeks pregnant with my son. He is now almost four years old so it’s been a while. I have always loved travelling and have been fortunate enough to visit lots of the countries on my bucket list, but since getting diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in early 2015 travelling abroad has been off the cards.

Until recently I have been pretty much uninsurable. Despite being in remission, I am now classed as having a pre-existing condition and so the cost of travel insurance has been insane. For example, when I finished my course of chemo and radiotherapy in January 2016 we thought it might be nice to get away in the May once my hair had grown a bit and I was a bit less fatigued. We needed a holiday. We found one. We almost booked it. And then I got an insurance quote for that week in Greece: £1000! It was more than my ticket!! So, needless to say we didn’t end up going.

I have intermittently generated insurance quotes for trips and until recently they’d still be in the several hundreds of pounds and made things unaffordable. It seems mad that I have no active disease and am fitter than almost anyone else I know: running, cycling, swimming etc, and yet have to pay such an enormous premium. I would understand if there was active disease or I was compromised as a result of having had cancer but I’m not, not really.

I get tired, of course I do, but then I pack a lot into my weeks and have two young kids. That’s being a mum not necessarily a cancer hangover. Or maybe I should say, the cancer hangover is not so physically debilitating as to stop me from going to an all-inclusive resort in the sun, sitting my arse on a sun lounger, reading books, and eating plenty… in fact that’s surely exactly what I need! Low risk and relaxation. I need stress reduction – because these days the biggest problem with having had cancer is the continual stress and anxiety about it coming back.

It was my 35th (wtf how did that happen?!) birthday in March and my wife and I were bickering with one another about absolutely nothing at all. We’d just reached that point where we needed a break, a proper break, not another midweek ‘break’, self-catering in a static caravan in Devon which is not really relaxing at all or long enough to unwind. We needed to get away properly. So before I even entertained searching for a holiday I generated an insurance quote….and low and behold it was £42. Win! Having said that my wife and two kids all got insured for less than £10 with a high level of cover so go figure…

I quickly found a holiday and booked for us to go away for half term week. The joys of internet travel agencies and credit cards eh?! It’s amazing what you can do in five minutes online…and how much you can spend!

The kids were super excited to be having a holiday when so many of their friends regularly go away. My son was in his element on the plane, ‘mummy, are we really in the sky?’ and my daughter was good as gold.

We arrived at the resort and I could feel myself relax instantly despite having left home the best part of 15 hours ago. It’s a feeling that I haven’t truly felt in a very very long time. I know that chilling out has always been a problem for me. My brain is always buzzing even when I feel low, but I hadn’t truly realised the levels of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, nervous energy that was the cocktail fuelling my system. I guess it’s not a surprise to anyone that reads this blog!! Haha.

It was so nice to be away from the responsibilities and routines of home. My dogs were in kennels for the week. My neighbour was feeding the cats and fish. I didn’t have to cook or clean. No school runs. No teaching. Just sunshine, swimming pools, and the spa. Whoop.

It was amazing.

The most surprising thing for me was that for almost the whole week I didn’t experience any of that horrible gnawing ache in my tummy. The absence of attachment pain feelings was a massive relief. I didn’t feel agitated and lost. I didn’t feel young. I didn’t feel angry. I didn’t want to harm myself. I didn’t desperately long to be with my therapist. Sure, I thought about her, but I wasn’t consumed by that need to be in contact. Seriously, having that weight off was incredible.

Sadly, it didn’t last!

I think it was Wednesday (bloody Wednesdays will be the end of me, I swear!) when those feelings started to creep back in. The young parts started making themselves known again. I could feel that shift in myself from predominantly adult to all the others. I started to feel snappy and short tempered and my wife and I ended up having an argument. It was nothing big. I was just being unreasonable and angry. I know it’s because of those attachment feelings coming up (might’ve been a bit premenstrual too!). Suddenly I felt suffocated being around people. I wanted to be alone…or with my therapist. Argh. What a shitter.

Fortunately, I got over myself, or rather, I returned to default – i.e having those feelings and masking them from everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, I was still able to enjoy the last two days of my holiday but I was very much aware of carrying that additional emotional baggage inside me again.

What also didn’t help matters in the least was the set of scales in the hotel room bathroom. I clocked them the moment I walked in. I ignored them for almost the whole week, determined to leave the ED back in the UK, but then once those attachment feelings, doubts, and anxiety crept in so did the body stuff. No real surprises there.

I knew it was a bad idea to stand on the scales. You can’t go to an all-inclusive resort and eat pretty much consistently for a week really packing it in: full English breakfast, smoothie, and pastries at breakfast (breakfast is a meal I never bother with!); a plate of hot food, a salad bar, bread, and a plate of desserts (yes, three or four different sweet items) for lunch; ice cream, drinks, and snacks beside the pool; repeat lunch at dinner time…. and then not gain weight. So yeah. Of course I put on weight. Still not enough to take my BMI into the healthy range but not a million miles off it either.

I saw this:

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I wish it were true!

For some reason I can’t cope with the idea of having a healthy BMI. It’s madness. I do get that. The idea of the calculator ever saying ‘18’ makes me feel strange. Usually my BMI is mid-16 and now it’s mid-17…and that’s fine isn’t it? Only it doesn’t feel fine. I feel stodgy and fat. I am due my period and so some of this will be hormonal stuff and water retention but my head is conflicted. I am trying really hard not to resort to my unhealthy coping strategies. I don’t like being caught up in active anorexic behaviour. It makes me miserable. I don’t function well. So it’s going to be a challenge. One of many!

Since getting home the attachment pain has ramped up even more. The little ones two and four are very active. I was delighted to crawl into bed in the early hours of Friday morning when I got home and snuggle with my teddy bear but I could feel that ache of not being read a story, held, or tucked in by ‘mummy’. Don’t judge me!

I have felt really flat and lacking in energy these last couple of days. Everything feels like it’s a struggle. I have got things done – all the holiday laundry is completed, I have mowed the lawn, and taken the kids out on their bikes but it has taken a ridiculous amount of coaxing myself through.

This morning I still feel flat but am going to try and take it a moment at a time. I have jobs to do today: painting fences and exterior walls and this will allow me to feel like I have accomplished something by the end of the day whilst appearing ‘present’ when everyone else is in the garden doing their own thing.

I also got my bike serviced whilst I was away on holiday and so I might go out on it tonight once the kids are in bed. I know once I am out I will enjoy it but I am not sure right now if I will end up in bed and sleeping instead. I guess we’ll see.

Tomorrow is my therapy session. It’s only been two weeks since the last session but it feels like a very long time ago. I am both desperate to see my therapist and dreading seeing her too. I want to have a good, reconnecting session. I need that with the week I have ahead of me. I have so much to do. But I am frightened that the session will fall short. So often a return to therapy after a disruption is not quite what I need. I can’t settle. It takes a while to rebuild trust. I’m hoping that it won’t be like that though. I need my therapist to see me even if I am hiding.

During the last session I had, I handed over my letter with about twenty minutes to go and we started to work through it. My therapist was amazing and said all the right things but obviously we didn’t have time to cover everything – in fact I think we only got through the first couple of pages in a light touch way and she quickly scan read to the end before I left.

She said that she thought there was a huge amount in it and that we should definitely come back to it when I returned from holiday and so we agreed that we’d continue to talk about it next session. So that’s what I am walking into tomorrow. The stuff about connection, touch, boundaries, transitional objects, outside contact….it’s all waiting for me.

Fuuuuccckkkk!!!

I won’t lie. I am nervous (shitting myself) about it. I know that my therapist always handles things well when I spell it out this clearly to her and we generally have really connecting sessions. I should feel encouraged by her response to what we talked about at the beginning of the letter but I feel anxious. This is big stuff for me. I know it needs airing. I’m just not sure that I am ready to hear the reasons why I can’t get what I want from her – no matter how kindly it is delivered. And I know that’s what’s going to happen.

I know tomorrow I must go and start to grieve another loss or, should I say, several losses. But I guess this is what therapy is about. It’s not always getting what you want. In fact many of the needs could only have truly been met in my infancy. It’s now about trying to work through it with someone who cares and has empathy for the situation. Adult Me understands all of this. Truly. But the little ones can’t accept or understand why they can’t get a hug or reach out when they feel sad and alone.

And that’s the conflict.

If we were working with Adult Me all the time I’d be fine…but as we well know, the work needs to be done with the little ones and therein lies the problem. I have a two year old screaming to be held, a four year old silently crying in a corner, a seven year old that wants to run away, an eleven year old that feels like she’s dying….and the list goes on….so many parts suffering in one way or another. And because I am dealing with child parts I keep hitting the same boundaries over and over again, circling the same issues time and time again. This is the work but man it’s tough going!

So, yeah, I went on holiday. It was great to escape, relax, and recharge a bit but now it’s time to roll my sleeves up and get stuck into therapy again. Really get stuck in.

Wish me luck!

x

P.S The reason I haven’t really gone into any detail about my last session with the letter is because I think I’ll write once I have been to therapy tomorrow and addressed the thing as a whole.

 

 

The Elephant In The Room

There are times when I feel like there’s not just ‘an’ elephant in the room in my therapy sessions but rather ‘a herd’ of elephants in the room with me. Some days there are so many jostling for position and distracting me that it can make it very difficult to do any work. I can’t even see or hear my therapist over and around the huge mass and racket that a number of metaphorical pachyderms generate in my mind.

I’ve been aware, for a long time, that there are some elephants that could do with moving on to make space for me and my therapist to work together. They’re quite stubborn, big buggers, though, and they don’t want to move!  It doesn’t help, either, that The Critic is doing everything possible to keep the elephants there…and we all know how powerful she is.

I know I can’t push the elephants out the door on my own, or persuade them to move on. I need my therapist’s help with this task. She knows there are elephants too. She mentions them a fair bit, but I don’t think she has always got an idea of which elephant is sitting between us on any given day; she just senses a presence. She tries to invite the elephant out of the shadows  –  she can’t miss my silence, she knows it’s there, but when I have an elephant’s trunk wrapped around my face acting as a gag I can’t say anything.

I’ve learnt over time that it’s not just as simple as my asking the elephants to ‘please go back to where you came from (so I can just talk about something else that is easy)’ in order for them to leave. I have to tell my therapist that they’re there, who they are, and together we have to coax the elephant into not feeling like it belongs in hiding anymore. We have to make friends with it, give it some attention, and then it gladly moves out for a bit, or sometimes even permanently (if we do a good enough job).

Whilst I want to set these massive beasts free because they don’t look at all comfortable in the small room, and I am certainly uncomfortable when they are there, it is not as easy as it might seem. See, the thing is, these elephants often feel threatening to me. Whilst The Critic is a fabulous ring master in this circus that is my therapy and can tell the elephants exactly what to do, I am less confident with them. I’m more of a cat person, really!

Part of the problem is that I worry about how my therapist will respond to the elephants when she meets them properly. I wonder (panic about) whether she will be able to help me with them or whether she’ll send me packing along with them when she finally sees just how destructive they could be. Some of the elephants are very young, vulnerable, and needy and just want to sit with her but know they can’t; others are absolutely raging and want to destroy the place.  It’s complex. Any one of them handled in the wrong way could result in a stampede.

Recently, after the Easter break, I was feeling brave/desperate/squashed and so I finally pointed out one of the long-standing, elderly elephants to my therapist. I felt a bit like David Attenborough as I described this twenty year old. Her name is Edey, or ED. Edey has been a near constant companion to me since my teens. She’s a skinny elephant and looks like she’s had a tough time over the years. My therapist knows of her but has never really come face-to-face with her before.

Edey is a shy elephant and frightens easily. So when she first met my therapist properly she was quite tentative and didn’t want to be fully seen. Little by little over the last couple of months she let herself be seen more by my therapist and I was able to talk about the problems Edey has. It was going so well. I felt like my therapist and I were, for the first time, really getting to grips with this massive elephant together. It felt like we were co-creating a plan for her. She was calming down, trusted my therapist, and was thinking about going outside.

And then something unexpected happened. My therapist took her by surprise and spooked her in a session and since then Edey has gone back to being one of the elephants in the room. My therapist and I both know she’s there, but for now I don’t feel like I can mention her because this sad, little elephant could be the one that gets me terminated from my therapy, or at least having to ‘work towards an ending’. And frankly there are other little elephants in the room who can’t bear the thought of that. Edey really couldn’t care less now. She wants to smash everything up and get all the others to join her and then march out the door.

I was worried about talking about Edey, in six years she’s rarely come up, despite having always been there with me, but after what’s happened (and yes, I know my therapist was just doing her job and has acted in my best interests etc- it’s not what has been done that’s the problem, it’s how it was done)  I am even more terrified about talking about some of the others. Edey is a tough old beast but some of the little ones are already so wounded that I am not sure they could handle my therapist treating them in anything but a gentle way.

Anyway, winding metaphors aside, I wrote my therapist a letter this week. I’ll type it up and post it on here, later. I am still unsure if I will hand it over on Monday.  This is a nothing post but I just had to write this because I saw this image on Facebook earlier and thought it was utter genius!

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Ultimatum

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So I realise that my blog has fallen by the wayside a bit these last few weeks (but I’m back now with a humdinger of a post!). I usually try and write something here at least once a week in order for me to keep some kind of regular record of what’s going on for me. I used to write a journal on my computer following each therapy session I had; the blog became a bit of a replacement for that – a sort of diary that the public can read (although I have been having some thoughts about that, lately, too – weird paranoia maybe? Or just a need to draw close and be private…I don’t know).

I’ve been so busy running around like a headless chicken or maybe, more accurately, with my head wedged up my vaguely anorexic arse, sorting my kids out, and tutoring most days that now there is very little time to actually sit down and reflect on what is going on in my internal world on the page (currently writing this from the edge of a swimming pool while my daughter has her lesson!). I haven’t not been writing because I’m short of things to say- far from it- my mind is all over the place and overflowing with the usual angsty crap: attachment pain, therapy worries, bad dreams, health, the eating (or not) stuff… and now, in addition to all that, I’m in a spin over my therapist’s ‘ultimatum’…

I have really missed my writing time. I so need it! Hence stealing time where I can now before I explode! A couple of hours each week to ponder and process, I am discovering, is more important to me/necessary than I thought. I need to try and find time for this but like so many of ‘my’ things, it doesn’t take precedence when there are so many other pressing things that actually have to be fit into the day. I do need to prioritise time for me, not just for writing, before I sink even further into quicksand I seem to find myself in.

Even if I write reams (maybe piles!) of emotional diarrhoea here (and having just proof-read this it does turn into a big splurge- sorry) and it makes no sense to anyone but me, I find the writing process really cathartic. It helps me get my head above water/out the sand a bit. It’s a good way of letting stuff out when all too often I feel overwhelmed or full of emotion.

I think some of why I find it so helpful might be that I actually sit down in one place for a block of time and have a hot (rather than luke warm/forgotten about) cup of coffee – it certainly can’t hurt! I was speaking to a friend the other day and I likened myself to a bee stuck in a jar. I am always buzzing around like a crazy thing. I don’t really stop.

Of course, I also have my therapy session on a Monday which is where I should get stuff off my chest, slow down, decompress, but more often than not the session stirs up more than it lays to rest and then I am left trying to make sense of it all on my own during the week. I find the first couple of days post-session extremely hard going and it’s no secret that I feel emotionally at sea and struggle for a good part of the time between my therapy sessions. I really haven’t got to grips with that emotional containment thing yet.

Actually, I’m having a hideously rough time this week and it’s crap right now, so I am looking forward to Friday and feeling like I am over the worst of the week. Having said that, usually I am pleased to get to Friday because it means it’s actually almost Monday…but this week I am not sure how I feel about my session on Monday. I am not sure if I am going to go yet. I don’t know if I can face it. Of course the little parts want to go and have some chance of reconnecting with my therapist but right now my teen part is off the chart raging, angry and let down. Underneath that, there’s also a real fear that I have broken my therapist and it’s all going to be downhill from here.

I’ll get to the point shall I?

Last week’s session (1st May) feels a really long time ago now. I can’t really remember what happened. I sometimes get this weird amnesia following a therapy session. Does anyone else? Like I have a vague idea of what happened or sense the general feeling of the session but it’s not clear exactly what happened. I usually have a very good memory for detail in my life and remember all sorts of useless information so I wonder if I am so frequently dissociated in session that I lose what’s gone on?

I do know that we talked about the eating disorder stuff – again. My therapist asked me how things were going and said that although I may not like her bringing the subject up, that it was too important for her to just let go – indeed she couldn’t/wouldn’t let it go. The session was fine. I told her how things were and filled her in on what was going on now (level of exercise, what I am eating, how I feel about my body, and the physical symptoms I was experiencing) and what it’s been like in the past. It was ‘the no-filtered version’ of life with an eating disorder.

I think she finally has an accurate picture of what it’s like  for me and she seemed to get it. I guess part of me was quite relieved for her to show she cared and build on the phone check in we had had on the Thursday night. I felt exposed but also like I wasn’t completely alone with this burden anymore. Yet again, I failed to bring up any of the issues about the attachment and the feeling disconnected from her but on the whole it was ok.

The week was a bit wobbly between that session and the one I just had on Monday (8th) – but when is it ever not wobbly?! I can’t suddenly let the cat out the bag about the anorexia and not be impacted by it can I? So, yeah, it was very bad in the early part of the week again. My tolerance levels were shot, my temper was short, and I was beating myself up in a big way. It wasn’t good. Some of it was undoubtedly hormonal but I know a larger part came not having really eaten properly in weeks: my blood sugar was low, fatigue was massive, and all the stuff that I just about have a handle on from week to week was suffocating me.

On Wednesday evening things felt so utterly overwhelming that I almost just got in my car and drove away….you know, just wanted to leave everything? I was done. It wasn’t good. I’d been having dreams about all the stuff surrounding my dad, friend, dog, all dying – upsetting as hell. I had also dreamt that my therapist had left me – nooooo. Oh and then I had a dream about my very good childhood best-friend, the one with metastatic breast cancer, and planning her funeral with her. It was a week where my sleep was filled with death and loss. The feelings crept into my waking life and I felt on the verge of tears every time I woke up, and every time I felt a bit tired.

Thank god for good friends with an ability to talk me down is all I can say. A twenty minute phone call was the difference between me falling off the edge altogether and regrouping and having another stab at moving forward. Things are on a knife edge.

By the end of the weekend I had reached a place where I wanted to really talk about ‘big stuff’ with my therapist and had steadily been eating a bit more each day which undoubtedly helped with my mood. Don’t get me wrong, there was still the voice telling me I was fat, and lazy, and can’t even succeed at an eating disorder… yeah, really!…and that is not easy to have doing the rounds in my head. But there was a part of me that was trying hard to hang on and not sink down into the place where I would, before long, have been passing out. Dizzy spells, cold hands and feet are enough. I was pushing myself too far. I know that how things have been since Easter is not sustainable. I was losing the battle with the eating and it wasn’t good. I wanted to unpick this properly.

I needed to explain why the attachment stuff feeds this kind of damaging behaviour and relationship with food and how things need to change – although I have no idea how to get round this myself but if my therapist at least has an accurate picture of just how bad it can feel we might be able to put a plan in place. The eating disordered behaviour simply masks other issues. Sure there is a large dose of body image stuff thrown in the mix but primarily not eating allows me to focus on something other than feeling the pain of neglect and abandonment. It temporarily shifts focus away from the Mother Wound.

Despite feeling embarrassed – mortified, even- that my young parts are so traumatised and get triggered every time I see my therapist, I think it’s time she heard the truth about how affected I am when I can’t see her…the real truth, not just the watered down insinuated version of things. I wanted to explain how I long to connect with her but part of me feels distant and like I can’t trust her. I want her to know that when I am not with her in session the young parts cannot cope at all and it is utterly overwhelming. I need her to know that breaks aren’t just ‘a bit difficult’ they are ‘a fucking disaster zone’. I wanted her to know that touch, or lack of it, has become such a huge issue for me that it’s massively impacting my ability to function in the relationship and is attacking my self-esteem.

I sit in session every week feeling like there is something wrong with me because we are so physically distant. I need more proximity if I can’t have touch because my mind tells me that my therapist doesn’t want to hug me because there is something disgusting and repulsive about me and she is only tolerating me because she has to. It must be the idea of touching me, even holding my hand, that is nauseating to her. It’s not the first time this physical rejection has happened to me and it’s hardly surprising it’s coming out in the therapeutic relationship now when so much of the work is about my mother. Yay for huge whacks of maternal transference with my therapist! Ugh!

For me, the ‘no touch’ boundary feels just the same as my mum refusing to touch me at fourteen saying ‘don’t hold my hand. People might think we are lesbians’. We’re twenty one years down the line and since then I’ve never had any holding from my mum (I mean there wasn’t much before that point either!) and the sense that ultimately ‘being a lesbian’ is a bad thing has stuck. Little did my mum know when she said her casually homophobic remark that I would turn out to be gay and those words branded into my brain.

I know it’s not my therapist’s job to physically hold me but I am not sure she realises how traumatising not being touched at all is for me. Every session with her reminds me that I am not worthy of her physical care – and might it be because I am gay? Is that the problem? I know it’s not rational. Adult knows this. But there are plenty of others inside that feel it to be absolutely true. The young parts of me want to be physically close to her and not being able to be feels utterly rejecting. How can a young three year old part make any sense of why an attachment figure won’t come close?

To my therapist, no physical contact is just a therapy boundary but to me it confirms everything I believe about myself as being unlovable, untouchable, and repellent to be true. That’s how it is. It’s hurting me. It properly makes my stomach ache and my chest feel tight and I want to cry when I think about it. It’s a big wound.

So yeah, with all that ready to air it was going to be a big session! I had reached that ‘now or never’ place. I was feeling brave. Go me!

So, I walked in, sat down, made some passing comment about the lovely weather and how I wanted to go to the beach – I’d actually been considering asking if maybe one day we could have our session on the beach seeing as it’s only about a five minute walk away. I looked at my therapist and immediately sensed something was up.

Fuck.

What was wrong?

My internal system went on high alert. My poker face went on. I steadied myself. I waited.

And then out it came…

We needed to talk about the eating disorder stuff and she said it couldn’t wait until the last few minutes of the session. She’d been thinking a lot since the last session about what I’ve told her since coming back from Easter break. She said that she was very very concerned about my well-being. She was worried about my low BMI. She was worried about the fact that my body is clearly struggling and shutting down. She was aware that the dynamic between us had shifted and that she’d fallen into being more like my mother and almost policing me by talking about what exactly I’m eating and suggesting strategies to eat more [sounds fair enough]

But then came…

She was not prepared to hold this level of risk and be so worried about my physical safety. It was not her job. She wanted me to go to the doctor, get bloods taken, have an ECG, and get weighed. She wanted the doctor to confirm I’d been seen and communicate with her. Or if I wouldn’t go of my own volition she wanted to write to my GP and ask for these things to be done. She wanted someone else to be responsible for my physical well-being. She needed a safety net.

She said I was either agree to all that or we’d have to work towards an ending.

After the words ‘work towards an ending’ I didn’t hear a great deal more. I shut down. Properly shut down. I was a mess inside, though. Like utter full-on flat-out panic. The young ones wanted to burst into tears right there and then. It felt like a hole had opened up beneath me and I was falling. Not seeing my therapist anymore would be akin to a bereavement. This. Cannot. Be. Happening.

The Teen part stepped up, though and waded in. Her thoughts?:

There we are then. Confirmation that when I let stuff out and trust someone with my shameful secret it backfires. I am too much for my therapist. I am too much for everyone. She isn’t prepared to work with me alone. She said she would be here for as long as I needed and now there are conditions attached. Why did I trust her with this? I’m an idiot. I fucking hate her.

Look. I (adult) absolutely get that what was said, and what came afterwards in the rest of the session, was coming from a place of care and it wasn’t only about my therapist covering her back. It is completely reasonable that she would need a safety net for if things get bad so she has somewhere to touch base and get me help if I needed it. It’s no different from when I saw her in the NHS and she had my details on record. But that wasn’t how it came across at the beginning of the session. To be given an ultimatum within three minutes of sitting down where the choice was ‘go on record about your eating disorder and enter into the NHS circus again or we’re done’ didn’t feel like much of a choice if I am honest.

I’m glad that she didn’t leave this stuff until the end of the session because we needed an entire session of talking about this stuff back and forth – as painful as it was. The moment she mentioned the possibility of ending I felt so sad and scared.

We like to convince ourselves that our therapists will be there no matter what. Well actually, I struggle to believe that is the case and am always feeling as though shit is going to blow up at any given moment so I best be vigilant. For me it’s been about trying to believe she is as good as her word. That she is reliable. That she won’t abandon me when the big stuff comes out. I was starting to believe that maybe she won’t leave and that as long as I need her she won’t let me go – hence finally telling her fully about the eating. It’s not true though. When it comes down to it, she can and will sever the tie. It is just a job to her. Sure she cares but she has to work within a framework and that means being hard line sometimes.

I get that she wasn’t actually saying ‘you’ve said x and now I am terminating you’ far from it, she said it isn’t her job to be neglectful and I’ve had too much of that from others in the past. She isn’t trying to let me down, in fact it is the very opposite… but the very mention of the ending sent me into orbit. I know it was probably a bit of tough love and she was maybe riding on the fact that my attachment to her is strong that I would help myself rather than lose her. I dunno.

Even though we’ve left things on ok terms I still feel massively unsettled now. I mean things were already a bit all over the place and now it’s like I am on very shaky ground. Unsurprisingly the eating is feeling really hard again now…because I feel out of control and like I am going to maybe lose the person that I need to help me.

The initial request/insistence that I must go and get checked out or work to ending has changed a bit/been negotiated over the course of the session we had. Somehow in amongst the teen shut down there were periods were I strongly advocated for myself. I have now given her my GP details and agreed that she can contact my GP if we discuss it beforehand. I’ve said that if she thinks things are bad she can act but I have to know about it first; I don’t want to suddenly get a call from my GP asking me to come in because my therapist has contacted them and me not be aware it was happening.

The reasons we got to this point are that I had been eating and had been looking after myself a little better this week. I was honest with her and said that things haven’t gone away but that I am not in immediate danger right now. I probably was the week before and so her reaction was entirely reasonable. She had cause to be genuinely worried about me last week. I was genuinely worried about me too. I told her I would tell her if I was slipping. I know that this is going to be a challenge because part of me is worried about ever bringing up this topic again.

I also reminded her that as part of my cancer follow up care I get full bloods taken every eight weeks and I get weighed (which I hate but I can’t really argue with). They monitor me very closely and so I said that if they are not overly concerned about my BMI (it has been mentioned but nothing done) or my blood chemistry then I think that’s good enough. She wasn’t aware I had such a thorough work up at the hospital so this went some way to settling her concerns.

I said that my eating disorder is definitely an issue, has been massively active, and it is absolutely something I need to work on but the idea of going back to weekly weigh-ins and GP appointments would actually make things worse for me. I don’t want to run away from this stuff anymore (hence letting her know about it) but equally I know what hasn’t worked for me in the past. If I get weighed all I want to do is chase the scales downwards – not maintain.

There were times in the session where I was really reactive and grumpy and shut down and dismissive and ‘I don’t care’ and ‘what’s the point?’ but she could see it was all a reaction to what she’d said. I’d sent her my post about the Mother Wound and asked her to read it because, actually, I know that this is where so many of my issues stem from. She didn’t have time to read it before the session and so I felt a bit irritated about that. Remember I was in pissed off Teen 😉 and when she offered to read it in the session I just couldn’t bear the idea of her sitting there reading the vulnerable stuff and then having no time left to discuss it.

I left the session. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to settle things properly and leave feeling better. Doesn’t work like that though does it?! Time’s up. We over ran by five minutes but I knew I had to leave. I drove home and had a good think about what had happened and then sent this text to her about one o’ clock:

Today felt really hard for me. Having had some time to reflect and untangle – actually the request for my GP details really is a non-issue and had you just asked for them and explained that it was because you feel like it’s important to have back up, I would’ve given them to you. I completely understand why it’s a good idea that you have them and it’s fine if we agree communication beforehand if it becomes necessary. The thing that shut me down/activated stuff was how what you said was delivered. It felt like you were giving me an ultimatum along the lines of – ‘see your doctor or we’ll have to work towards and ending’. All I heard was ‘we’ll have to work towards an ending’ and so every vulnerable part felt the rug come out from underneath me. This is the sort of thing I dread happening but am always sort of expecting, and why I am always reluctant to let stuff out. When it feels like things are so tenuous my instinct is to leave before I get left- hence how I was today. It’s been really hard opening up about all this stuff especially just after the Easter break when I feel like trust is an issue and still feel disconnected (I really missed you) – and to feel like that was essentially being me with ‘it’s too much’ (even if that’s not what was intended) is not easy. Unfortunately, there is a part that struggles to believe that this isn’t actually just about getting rid of me and there are other parts that feel completely bereft. Trying to be rational but it’s not always my strong suit. Anyway, that’s about it I think.

Of course there was no reply to that. And then I started second guessing myself. Texts haven’t gone well for us and after what happened at Christmas where she thought I was criticising her and nothing was good enough I wondered if what I had text might be read as another criticism of her rather than just saying how it felt for me. So at six pm I sent this (groan….when will I learn to just shut the fuck up and manage for myself?!):

And none of what I said in that message is meant as a criticism – in case it comes over that way –it’s definitely not my intention. It’s just what happened in my head when you said what you did. What I hear and what is meant can be quite a distance apart…which highlights to me just what a mess my head is. I wish this young attachment stuff would just go away but it gets triggered so easily. That part is always there listening, and then it doesn’t settle down and becomes another jumble of mess to manage. On the plus side, I’m delighted that you don’t feel I’m psychotic.

(We’d had a bit of a joke at the end and that was what the end bit of the text was about.)

Obviously, it’s been complete radio silence since those messages on Monday – which sucks. But it’s the boundary…another that I seem to have no say in. Ugh. It’s felt pretty rotten at times over the last few days and yet now I feel I can’t reach out to my therapist for help or support. I can’t text and ask for a check in or an additional session like I did a couple of weeks ago because I feel like I am already too much for her. It’s horrible. I need to work this stuff out with her more thoroughly and yet it feels impossible and so I am sitting on it all, brooding, and cycling through the whole range of emotions. I don’t like rollercoasters but I seem to stuck riding one right now.

This morning I woke up at 5am feeling sick after having another dream about my therapist leaving. I’m just about hanging together with rubber bands and chewing gum but it feels like I have done it now- I have broken the therapeutic relationship. I am frightened that I will go back in on Monday and she’ll terminate me. She’ll have had some more time to think and that’ll be that. It’s a complete head fuck. I’m trying not to get worked up about something that is unlikely to happen but unfortunately some of the parts have different ideas!

So that’s that. Nothing earth shattering or insightful – just how it is in the therapy and life of yours truly!

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Eating Disorder Relapse.

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I knew this was coming. As the Easter therapy break approached I could feel some of the feelings that I associate with my eating disorder when it’s active stirring again. What I mean by that is I sensed the beginnings of a shift from having the voice that tells me not to eat in check moving towards only being able to hear that convincing critical voice. I don’t really know if that makes sense. I’m a mess right now and I can’t think amazingly coherently so writing is certainly going to be a challenge.

I’ve been battling with my body in one way or another since I was 15. I have had years and years of not eating properly, exercising too much, hating myself for eating…

It’s exhausting.

It’s boring.

I thought I was over it… clearly not.

Sometimes I am ‘almost ok’, as in I am not actively trying to lose weight or be super mindful of everything that I put in my mouth; but even when I take my eye off the ball I have never yet achieved a healthy BMI other than when I was pregnant with my babies. My BMI has always sat somewhere between 16-17 even when things are ‘good’, times when people would have no idea there is an underlying issue.

I’ve been in therapy with my therapist for three years in total- 16 months the first time round on the NHS and almost 2 years this time privately, and in that time I have only ever alluded to ‘not eating or doing whatever’ (basically anorexia and self-harm. I’m so eloquent!). I’ve never been able to blow the lid off the case that contains this massive secret with her.

We both know my eating is/has been an issue, but I have felt so ashamed about what I do to myself that I have rarely been able to bring it into the room. Occasionally I might mention how bad things were when I was in my teens from a detached adult place and only at times when I am not actually actively struggling with my eating. When I have had spells of over-exercising or starving myself during the course of my therapy I haven’t been able to tell her. Part of me knows she wouldn’t judge me but part of me is so embarrassed by my behaviour that I just can’t let her in.

I think it’s really common for people to shut down and become secretive when they are in the throes of an eating disorder. I keep quiet because I am ashamed but also I don’t want anyone to try and talk me out of what I am doing to myself. When I am in ‘the zone’, I might be destroying my physical self but I am slightly more removed from my emotional self…and we all know that’s where the problems lie. Not eating and over-exercising provides a kind of relief from my emotional pain – albeit temporary.

It’s not rocket science to see what happened over Easter and how I have ended up here with my body now. I wish I was in the dark about the reason I have started systematically destroying myself but I’m not. I am massively embarrassed about the reasons for how I find myself in this mess. I feel like I am some kind of attention-seeking loser who needs to grow up…

The critical voice is loud right now.

I was absolutely dreading the protracted time away from my therapist at Easter. I really need regular contact and the security that our sessions give me just to function. I wish that wasn’t the case but it is how it is. I knew that being on my own for almost a month was a recipe for disaster. All therapy breaks pose a challenge (I struggle just getting through the normal week between sessions!) but the Christmas break was something else this year and I knew that there was very real possibility of repeating the pattern over this break.

Over Christmas I got so worked up and anxious as the break went on that I became really self-destructive. I couldn’t eat (not through deliberate food restriction but through high anxiety). I seriously considered self-harming. And by the end, after the rupture caused by reaching out to my therapist and it going badly, felt suicidal. I really wish that that sounded less dramatic. Part of me is completely mortified that I am like this at 35 years old.

Shoot me now!

I really really didn’t want a repeat of the last break this time round. I knew the feelings about abandonment and rejection would loom large – they never go away. I knew that a month-long holiday would bring up all the worry I have about my therapist going away and dying on me, just like my dad did on his month-long holiday. I knew that the child parts would freak out and at some point I’d feel the need to reach out to my therapist to seek confirmation that she was still there…which would cause all the usual frigging problems about crap responses or no reply at all. I couldn’t go there. Not this time.

I told my therapist about my sense that the eating disorder stuff was coming online again a couple of sessions before the break and we talked a bit about it. I didn’t tell her that it was all linked to fears I had about my ability to survive the break and her going away. It was, however, the first time I had really brought the eating stuff into the room properly. I felt exposed and that was excruciating but I knew that it needed to happen.

I think I said in my last post that I tried to stop the anorexic behaviour from taking hold by deliberately eating and being nice to myself every time I felt like restricting food or attacking myself. Basically, I ate a lot of chocolate eggs, ice-cream, and biscuits for the first part of the break! That strategy worked to a point….until I put on my jeans and they felt a bit tighter than usual. Then it all came crashing down.

A 2kg weight gain was enough to send me over the edge and allow that critical voice to take hold. I’d done my best to keep it at bay but now it was fully empowered. I gave in. It’s hard to explain to people that eating well, or relatively normally, is a daily battle and that not eating has become my default setting over the years. It is less effort to me not to eat than it is to eat. Anorexia, for me, isn’t like a diet where I feel like I am perpetually punishing myself and wanting to eat. I couldn’t care less about putting food in my body. I want to not have to eat all. It makes me feel ill.

I lost 2kg in a week through running every day on the treadmill and eating less but it wasn’t desperately bad at that point because I had gained the weight over Easter. I was just back to baseline. I returned to therapy and told my therapist all about what was going on.

We had the Skype session last Thursday and our face-to-face on Monday and I swear to god I have no idea what has happened to me but I have just talked and talked and talked about what this fucking bastard eating disorder is like. When she’s asked me questions I have answered them rather than evading them. I have told her I want to physically cut bits of my body off. I have told her exactly what I am doing to myself. It’s like some kind of out of body experience. Who is this person? Where is the secretive, shut down, person that denies there is a problem and plays down the reality?

Well she’s still there to a point. Each time my therapist has asked me if some of what I am feeling might be down to the break we’ve just had (in addition to other things) I say nothing. I can’t tell her… yet. I will tell her though. I think. And soon!

Monday’s session was ok in that I spoke at length about the anorexia. It was connecting in a way…but the session also fell short because those little parts that had longed to see my therapist, that had been hanging on through the therapy break and counting down the days to see her in person, didn’t get any of what they needed. They were stuck inside me watching the session play out. My therapist was a million miles away on her chair and they were locked inside unable to reach for her. Why it is so hard to simply say ‘I really missed you and the break was hard’?  I have no idea.

I felt so sad when I left the session. In some ways it was a huge relief to have talked about the eating disorder, but as always when you have lots of parts with lots of needs kicking around inside, more often than not someone doesn’t get a look in or their needs met. It’s tricky and it can feel really destabilising.

This week has been a fucking disaster as a result. I have opened up the can of worms that is my empty stomach leaving me feeling all kinds of conflicting emotions: the critic is raging that I have told my therapist the secret, and the little ones have felt devastated that they have waited so long to see my therapist and yet still they haven’t been seen by her. Ugh. I feel uncontained and all over the shop meanwhile feeling less and less able to put up any kind of fight against the critic.

I’ve also been busy this week, too. I have taken on more tutoring work – some home schooling 1:1 three days a week (soon to be four) – which is great but means I am basically running around like a headless chicken from Monday morning until 7:45pm on a Thursday evening now. On Monday I had therapy and then had to rush to my teaching session, teach, and then pick up the kids, rush to martial arts lessons, and be mum again. Tuesday I dropped the kids at school and preschool, went to teach, picked up my son, did a staff appraisal for a member of staff at the preschool, went home, and then an hour later had to pick up my daughter, fed the kids, then went off to swim lessons…… blah blah. Same deal on Wednesday only also squeezed in a run on the treadmill and swapped swimming lessons for tutoring a GCSE student on the other side of the city in the evening.

By Wednesday evening I was exhausted and overwrought. Adult me has done really well and I am proud of everything I have achieved this week- especially as I have done it on essentially 400 calories a day. Needless to say, though, it’s all taken its toll. Physically: I have a headache, I feel weak, and I’m tired. My body weight is decreasing. I have lost a further 2kg since last Thursday so now 4kg in two weeks. I can feel my body starting to shut down. I have stars in my peripheral vision, and if I stand up too quickly everything goes black. I get dizzy. I am a mess. Emotionally: I feel very small and scared and uncontained. I feel bullied. I feel both in control and completely out of control. It’s pretty horrible, actually.

I decided to text my therapist on Wednesday evening before I went to tutor (sharp intake of breath!) to ask if she could see me on Friday or, if not, if there was any chance we could have a quick check in over the phone. We’ve never had a phone check in before, I’ve always had extra sessions if there has been a need, but I was feeling like the wheels were falling off in a big way and I needed to talk.

Actually, what I really needed to was to accelerate reconnecting with my therapist and to alleviate the mid-week sense that she doesn’t care and I am a nuisance. Of course these doubting feelings feel all the more potent right now because the critic is running the majority of the show. I needed urgently to feel better about the relationship in order to try and ground myself a bit.

My therapist responded and said that she wasn’t able to offer me a session on Friday. Ugh. As I read the first line of the text I could feel myself shut down. I had already berated myself for being too needy and for reaching out. I had been worried that she may respond with something like ‘I don’t do check ins and I’ll see you on Monday’ which would have sent me over the edge. There was more to the text, however, thank god! – my therapist offered me two possible times to talk to her on the phone or by Skype outside of her usual working hours. I would have settled for a five minute check in on the phone to touch base and settle down the child parts but there she was offering me a full half an hour to talk.

It might seem like a ‘nothing thing’ but actually it felt huge that she was willing to try and meet my need despite her having no time in her working day and actually having to find time in her own time. Not sure if that makes sense. To me it felt like she cared enough about me to try and help me. I guess I should know this would be the case after seeing her on and off over the last six years but clearly her care hasn’t fully worn a pathway in my brain. Part of me still feels like she tolerates me because she has to not because she actually likes me or has any caring feelings towards me- or that she cares in the session but not outside it. She has told me in words enough times that she cares but when I can’t see her that positive sense of her being there erodes.

Yesterday evening I was tutoring til 7:45pm and I had arranged to call my therapist at 8pm to check in. Rather than call from the house, where I feared I may be overheard and therefore feel less able to speak freely, I went out in my car and drove to a layby not far my house that has wonderful views over rolling hills. I parked up, turned the engine off, and wrapped myself up in a fleece blanket that I had taken with me. I dialled in, and we talked.

I can’t tell you how soothing it was to speak to my therapist and hear her voice after the week I’d had. We really talked and I really opened up about the struggles I am having. She was so warm and caring and she used ‘the voice’. You know the one- the one that makes you feel like you are being held tightly. I got off the phone feeling really contained and less alone.

It feels a long way off until Monday but the phone session has certainly helped settle some stuff down. The eating disordered behaviour is still here. I haven’t eaten yet today and won’t until dinner time. I know I will be battling with myself not to throw up after I have eaten.

Things are bad.

They’ve been bad before.

I will come out the other side of this…at some point. Only this time I am not on my own with it. I have someone else on the journey with me and I really hope that even though I have fallen into this space, in part, as a result of feeling abandoned by my therapist, that maybe this time it will be the therapeutic relationship that helps me get over this, and not just for now, in this crisis, but maybe we will be able to do some solid work that might mean recovery is lasting rather than temporary.

Here’s to that!

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Therapy Break Is Over!

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It’s hardly a secret that I find therapy breaks a bit of a (huge) challenge. In fact I think my blog ‘Rubber Bands And Chewing Gum’ should be probably subtitled ‘She Who Falls Apart On Therapy Breaks’! This year’s Easter break has been mammoth by my standards … sooooooo freaking loooooong. I mean seriously it’s not even funny!! I’ve been through the whole range of emotions over the last three and a half weeks. At times I have felt desperately sad and alone; I’ve felt needy and clingy; I’ve been angry and raging; there’s been a touch of not giving a shit ‘meh’; there’s been the odd bit of calm; some days of feeling sick and anxious; nights of feeling tired, small and abandoned… and frankly it’s been completely exhausting/ draining.

Thank god that’s over!

So, last Thursday was a bit of a weird one. I was due to end my therapy break (whoop, right?) by having a Skype call with my therapist. Thursday is not my usual therapy day, that’s a Monday, but given that my therapist was leaving me, ok having a well-earned break, for essentially four weeks – FOUR WEEKS!! – she offered me a session when she got back from her break to cut the length of the break down a bit. Three and a half weeks is so much less than four isn’t it? Grrrr …Ok, yeah, it really is when dealing with attachment pain!

Unfortunately the time my therapist had available meant that I couldn’t actually go and see her in person as she lives 45 minutes from me and I wouldn’t have been able to get back from the session in order to collect my children from school which is twenty minutes in the opposite direction. I took the session she offered anyway (of course) and knew that we’d have to Skype if my wife couldn’t take the afternoon off work to pick up the kids.

I’ve had quite a few Skype sessions now. I don’t mind them when I’m in the normal flow of therapy. It’s better to talk to my therapist than miss a session and it maintains a sense of continuity but by the end of the break I felt so disconnected from my therapist that I had gone beyond the ‘meh’, I’d cycled through anxiety and worry on Wednesday night and was in full on rage and angst mode by Thursday morning that Skype wasn’t exactly my number one choice. I was hoping I’d wake up on Thursday feeling happy to be able to speak with my therapist but actually I didn’t want to talk to her AT ALL. Or at least part of me didn’t.

My therapist had asked me at our last session before the break to text her on Thursday morning to let her know whether I would be seeing her in person or whether we’d Skype. I didn’t even want to text her! I was sooooo resistant to making contact and basically wanted to scream at her to just ‘fuck off’ (anyone got any guesses which part that might be?!). Yeah, so the teen was pissed right off but I could feel something else too and it was powerful. I felt a kind of nervousness and fear about going to therapy. I felt sick in my stomach. I was worried that it would be different now, or that she’d somehow have forgotten me (hello little ones) and was scared that she wouldn’t be ‘the same’.

So I text this:

Can we Skype today? I feel like I have snakes in my stomach and like I am going to be sick. It’s not good. Part of me just doesn’t want to talk to you at all but I’m trying to combat that because there are other bits that do.

It was the best I could manage but I suppose at least it gave her the heads up that things weren’t necessarily going to be straightforward… but when are they ever after a therapy break? It’s a bit of a pattern that therapy breaks disrupt everything and we are lucky if there’s not some kind of rupture that takes a month (or more) to repair!

So, given how fraught re-entry into therapy is after being in orbit for a good while, I wasn’t exactly delighted to be doing my first session back by Skype. I didn’t want to have to try and connect through a screen. I wanted to be there in person and because I couldn’t be I got even more cross and frustrated.

The session wasn’t until 1:45pm and, for once, I had the morning to myself. It was a beautiful day, properly gorgeous, the sky was perfect blue and, finally, that yellow orb in the sky made a decent appearance. I was able to wear shorts and a t-shirt to go walk the dogs. It hardly seems right that it was 23 degrees when only last month we had two feet of snow and a burst water main due to the weather conditions.

Anyway, where I walk the dogs is gorgeous. It’s very peaceful and I rarely see anyone else when I am there. It’s one of my ‘calm’ places. Only on Thursday it was not calm at all. The more I walked in nature the more pissed off I became. I mean not just a bit ugh but fully fucking raging. By the time I was half way on the walk I was all set to text my therapist and not only tell her I wouldn’t be Skyping with her but actually I would not be coming back to therapy. Grrrrrr.

I mean, yeah, there it is again – teen angst!

Fortunately, there is no mobile signal where I walk because it’s in a steep river valley. So I couldn’t text. By the time I got home something had shifted. I still didn’t really want to talk but I was a bit more curious about what was going on with me rather than being engulfed by the feelings.

What was going on?

I was angry about resuming therapy. I was angry that my therapist can just go away and leave me for almost a month and I just have to suck it up and get through it. I was angry that I get so overwhelmed on breaks and need her. I was angry that she’d be the same as ever and unaffected by the break (it’s her ‘holiday’ after all). I was angry that I can’t just leave and ‘show her’ what it’s like to have someone fuck off (not like she’d care anyway). I was angry that every time we have a break it’s so hard to reconnect. I was angry that I cannot hug her or touch her. I was angry that I’d been starving myself and over-exercising in order to cope with the crashing in of difficult and varied emotions that all the parts had been feeling.

I hated her.

I loved her too.

And I hate really that!

To add insult to injury, about twenty minutes before my session the window cleaner turned up… I was annoyed at that too! I had all the windows and doors open and was set to do my session on the IKEA therapy chair (you know the one!) with the patio doors open and then there was Mr Chatterbox with his bucket and ladders. I was polite (because I always am) but told him I couldn’t talk and that I had an important call to make and asked him if he could do the front of the house first.

He finished literally two minutes before my session and I was a bit flustered. I had panicked about being overheard. It was a relief he’d gone but then the computer was a nightmare. I never use Skype unless it’s for therapy and I couldn’t work out how to get the camera on. Yeah. I am a technical whizz you know! So the first couple of minutes of my session were basically me faffing about pressing buttons and wondering why I had a completely black screen. Not good. I disconnected and dialled in again. It was fine that time – phew… but I wasn’t fine.

It was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good to see my therapist’s face but sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo bad that it was in my screen and not ‘for real’. I struggled to talk. My therapist was lovely, because she is lovely, and she tried really hard to reach out to me. She acknowledged how troublesome breaks can be and said ‘two and a half weeks is a long time’ and asked me what the different parts were feeling. That would’ve been fine, maybe next session, but on Thursday part of me bristled at the question like, ‘hang on a minute lady, don’t you dare think you can just ask me to open up to you and trust you when you left the vulnerable parts for so long. I’m not going to let you in just like that! And it was three and a half weeks for me…I started the break a week before you went away…grrrr’ and so I said nothing and ignored the question for a bit and then said ‘I don’t know’.

I could feel the little ones crying inside wanting reach out and tell her that they had missed her so much that it hurt and that they had been very very scared that she wasn’t coming back. The thing is, I would struggle to say something like that even if therapy was in full swing and going well – the was no chance on Thursday when I was so defended by various protector parts.

We got about halfway through the session and my dog started acting like it was going to puke…which was on my mind to look out for given that she’d emptied the bathroom bin of tampons the day before. It is way more revolting than you can imagine. Disgusting animal. Anyway, she started behaving like a cat about to bring up a fur ball and I quickly let her out. I couldn’t be dealing with ‘that’ on my carpet. So I got up quick, left the Skype running, and took the dog out where she promptly stopped acting like she was going to chunder and started running around the garden and found her tennis ball! (side note – the dog has cleared the tampons in the early hours of this morning! – uuuugghhhh!)

I went back inside and resumed my session. Something had shifted. My therapist asked me if there was anything that had come to mind that I might want to talk about having previously told her that my mind was completely blank and my body was numb. Dissociated fun times! There was plenty that came to mind: the hell that the break has been; how terrible the attachment stuff has felt; how sad I have felt and how incredibly lonely it’s been at times. But no! The one ‘good thing’ about having ‘so many issues’ is that you can pick and choose something that isn’t the ‘main problem’ and yet it still seems like a ‘main problem’!

I decided to tell her about the issues I have been having around eating and my body over Easter. This is a step in the right direction – kind of. There was a time where there was no way I would have talked about this ‘secret’ but I am steadily getting there ‘bit by bit’ with the topic and so I must be making some progress and I must trust my therapist a bit – right? I trust her with anorexia and self-harm I just struggle to really let her see the young needs and pain around how much I miss her between sessions.

So, yeah, Easter has been weird… I knew early on that my go to coping strategies would be catastrophic with nearly a month to survive without any therapy. I’d felt my mind switch into the place that thinks it’s a good idea to run every day and not eat enough or cut or burn myself. So, knowing this I made a conscious choice – albeit a bit bloody bonkers – that every time I felt like not eating or self-harming, I’d eat Easter eggs and do something nice for myself. Basically I spent two weeks eating and eating and eating and watching TV in the evenings. My wife thought it was great to see me (usually I read in the evenings).

It was all going ok until one day I wanted to put on a pair of jeans that I like…and they were a bit tighter than usual.

No.

Nooo way!

Disaster.

Get on the scales.

Confirmation of disaster.

I had gained 2.5kg.

I had completely let myself go.

And in an instant the critic was back online. I didn’t write about this last blog post because I was so caught up in it that I was in a weird kind of denial about it – that happens. I think having talked about it with my therapist on Thursday I have slightly come out the other side – in that I have eaten a few proper meals and I haven’t run on my treadmill today. But leading into Thursday I had spent 7 consecutive days running on the treadmill and severely restricting my food intake to maybe 500 calories a day (less than I was burning running).

By my session on Thursday that 2.5kg was gone and I felt a little better about myself but I ached, I was exhausted, and by the time I came to open up about this, emotionally spent. I know I am not out of the woods with this stuff. I feel the strong desire/need to keep chasing the numbers downwards on the scales. I want to run. I feel like I need to. There is a lot going on in my day-to-day life right now and I feel a bit stretched. I need to strike a safe balance with the body stuff as I know how dangerous it can be when I get so fixated on my body. I am good at being an anorexic…which is a tragic.

So, tomorrow is my first face-to-face session with my therapist. Part of me can’t wait to see her but part of me is wary. I feel really exposed now – I told her as much at the end of the Skype session. She was incredibly understanding and validating about what I had told her. It felt like we really connected which is amazing after one session and it being via Skype. I am hopeful that tomorrow will build on what was started last week but I am also conscious of the fact that lots of parts are saying and feeling lots of different things so who knows what’ll happen.

I am aware that the break has highlighted to me again some of the basic fundamentals that I struggle with. I really need to discuss her writing me a note for breaks (but after the pebbles….!); I need to ask about some kind of check in in the week; and I need ask about her sitting closer to me sometimes. I can’t even go to the hug stuff again but, hey, baby steps right?!

Anyway, that’s about all for now. I have to sleep! It’s going to be a mammoth week this week and I am already dreaming of Friday and a rest.

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