Crash and Burn

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I guess it was kind of inevitable that a week like this would happen again sooner or later. It feels like I have been running along a cliff path fairly successfully for a while now. Sure, it’s been challenge, a test of endurance, I’ve turned my ankle over a few times but have generally been making progress in a forward direction with only occasional minor scratches from brambles that have overhung the path. I have felt my fitness level improving. It’s been ok.

Then it happened. Just as it always does. This week I’ve unexpectedly fallen down an exposed mineshaft that was overgrown with weeds and grasses. I wasn’t looking carefully enough at the ground as I was running along, probably  had my head up to take in the scenery. I guess I was slightly distracted/daydreaming, and I just didn’t see that there was no safe ground in front of me, and BAM! Here I am battered and bruised down in the dark cold hole. I’m not sure if anything is broken but I have a pretty sore head.

I’m not alone down here either. There’s a couple of distraught child parts and a fucking livid teen part too. I don’t know how long they’ve been here but they are cold and hungry – well the teen isn’t – she doesn’t eat. It’s cramped and uncomfortable and we need to get out.

Unfortunately there’s no phone signal down here and I can’t call anyone for help. If I shout no one will hear so there’s little point in wasting my energy. It’s not ideal for sure. I need to find a way of getting out of here on my own. I am a good climber. I’ve been in similar places before (I really do need to start looking where I am going don’t I?!… stop tumbling into these dark places and over ledges) but right now I am just too tired to start trying to find a route up and out of here because it’s not just me that has to get out; I have to find a way to help the young ones too. I simply don’t have the strength to carry them on my back right now.

I’ll try and avoid extended metaphor overload today but basically that paints the picture.

Things feel shit.

So, yeah, it’s been a tough, emotional week since my last post. Actually the weekend was fine – or at least I think it was. I don’t really remember! My memory sucks at the moment.

On paper my therapy session on Monday was fine too. I was firmly in my adult. I talked a lot. I didn’t dissociate. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t start shaking. I could ‘sort of’ look at my therapist. It was fine. I’m sure she was delighted to have the normal adult version of me sitting in front of her for a change. But it was just like having a chat for 50 minutes – or a bit of a moan – no real work was done.

I know that not every session has to be agonisingly hard work, attending to child parts, or dredging up past trauma. I know that the easy sessions have their place too, and to be honest, I really didn’t want to do any of that hard stuff on Monday because it was my wedding anniversary and that evening my wife and I were having a date night and I just couldn’t have a session that floored me.

I suppose, in part, Monday’s session was about protecting myself from getting stuck in the child parts’  pain and trauma. I wrote the other week that I have been struggling a lot with being dissociated outside of session and I didn’t want to be emotionally unavailable to my wife in the evening which so often happens on a therapy day. I usually have to go to bed early and sleep or just be on my own. So much gets activated in session that I feel like I am in survival for the early part of the week.

I know that I was avoiding stuff in session, though. I have been avoiding returning to the letter I gave her before Easter and going through it properly (ugh! Like what is the bloody point in writing this stuff and then not discussing it?!). And I also avoided giving my therapist a thank you card until I left the session.

This week marks two years in therapy with my therapist (this time around). Generally, if I have something to give my therapist (like a card at Christmas) I hand it over at the beginning of the session but for some reason I couldn’t give her this one. Why? I dunno. I guess it’s because whilst it said exactly what I wanted to say it just felt too exposing in the moment.

The front of the card said ‘I know you’re not a hugger but I am hugging you in my mind right now’ – see my problem?! HA. Like whilst it is the perfect card it is also just absolutely cringeworthy and horrendous because the touch issue is still so massive for me. It really is a biggest fat-assed elephant now. There is barely any space for any other of the others in the room now. How many elephants can you fit in a therapy room?!

I didn’t really even know what to write in the inside of the card. I think in the end I put something really boring like, ‘thank you for the last two years’ – which is not at all like me, but the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe I should’ve taken that as a signal to not give her the card at all. I dunno. But she is important to me and I do value her and the work we do together (or at least adult me does!) and I wanted to acknowledge that. So, yeah, I awkwardly handed her the card as I got up and left and walked back out into my real life – straight to tutor.

Monday evening was glorious. My wife and I had a great meal out in the centre of town and then walked the ten minutes down to the riverside (we are really lucky to live in a such a nice city) and had dessert and coffee in a bar with a terrace overlooking the water. It was 26 degrees. A perfect summer evening. AND childfree! Yay. So, I guess doing therapy like that on Monday at least afforded me some quality time with my wife.

Unfortunately, the rest of the week has sucked. I could feel the young parts stirring on Tuesday. They hate it when they don’t get to seen by therapist and then really struggle. I think they also feel exposed now because I gave her that card and what happens if she rejects them for it because it’s ‘too much’. I won’t lie. I am also sad that she hasn’t acknowledged it now she’s opened it. Not that she ever would. We don’t do the outside contact thing so it wasn’t ever on the cards – but still, there is a part of me that feels a bit hurt. It’s not rational but there we go. I know she’ll say something on Monday…but…ugh!!

Wednesday was my cancer follow up appointment at the hospital. It’s a day I always dread and requires a great deal of effort for me just to rally myself enough to go. I have to go, though. There is no choice. But it is not easy being repeatedly plunged back into the place where I had 12 rounds of chemo and memories of all the associated feelings (both physical and emotional). It triggers all sorts of stuff for me being there surrounded by people who are very ill and waiting to go have their treatment. I feel sick to my core.To make matters even worse my consultant was running two hours behind and so I ended up spending three hours in that place feeling anxious and triggered. Ugh.

Another thing that really doesn’t help matters when I feel so anxious and alone is that I know my therapist is literally only a three minute walk from me when I am at the hospital as the NHS psychotherapy building is just round the corner (she does three days a week there and is where I first met her).

Knowing she is almost within touching distance but that I can’t see her is completely hideous. I so want to be able to reach out and yet, obviously, I can’t. Ouch. I can’t even text her to check in on these really hard days. And they are hard. Sitting waiting to be told whether or not my cancer has come back is not an easy appointment to have to go to every couple of months. The build up to it is bad enough, but the day itself if awful. I feel so alone with it.

Most people don’t understand how truly terrifying it is to live in the shadow of cancer. They sympathise, of course. But they also think I should be delighted to have ‘beaten’ it. And I am. But it never truly goes away. The fear of it returning is always there. And it all becomes very real again as I sit in a packed waiting room full of other cancer patients.

Actually, the other day my therapist and I were talking about maybe doing some EMDR in relation to health trauma as a way in to maybe working with the attachment stuff in the future. She’s been suggesting EMDR on and off for about 16 months now! I am a bit reluctant/sceptical about EMDR because I get so dissociated and have so many parts and I know several are not on board with the idea and I think that could make the early trauma difficult to work with. She said that choosing something like the cancer/health stuff to work on might show me how things can work and might give me a little bit more confidence in the process. It’s worth considering because I find these hospital weeks completely agonising.

So EMDR could be a good shout for that. That is, of course, if I keep going to therapy!!… because on Wednesday I lost the fucking plot. Like spectacularly lost it.

Thankfully, this time I didn’t actually act out any of my thoughts/feelings like I might have done in the past but I am not sure if that’s because actually I can’t be bothered and have mentally shutdown/walked away or whether it’s because I have managed to self-regulate a bit. No, actually, it’s probably because my friend absorbed it all via WhatsApp as I fired off angry message after angry message to her instead. We do this sometimes! Just vent that stuff to each other rather than jamming our therapists’ phones. The outcome of all that is that I didn’t end up sending an ‘I’m done and won’t be coming back’ message to my T which is suppose is a good thing. Ha!

How did I find myself in a place where I was ready terminate with my therapist having only two days previously given her a thank you card? Well, no surprises, this all comes down to the fragmented parts and the different feelings they all have. It’s bloody exhausting, for sure!

Sitting in hospital, feeling scared, my mind automatically went towards my therapist- as it always does when I feel vulnerable. I wanted to be able to text her and tell her how things were. I wanted to be able to reach out to her and her respond in some kind of reassuring way. I needed some of that care that she shows me in session when I talk about how awful the hospital stuff makes me feel. But I couldn’t reach out. Or I could. But she wouldn’t respond. And that feels like a huge kick in the teeth…especially on a day like that….it’s bad enough on a normal shit day! So instead I had all these feelings and nowhere to put them. And then I started to get angry. Like properly got the rage. Hello teen part!

Episodes like this send me through a horrible cycle. The youngest most vulnerable parts are scared and need support, they need to reach out and get some kind of emotional holding. They can’t. It’s a boundary. Things feel really overwhelming. The need is huge. And yet there’s the stark reminder that the person I have come to rely on for emotional support is not really there. She is only there in the paid for time (actually the ‘paid’ time isn’t so much an issue, I want more contact time but she just doesn’t have it). And whilst adult me understands (sort of), the child parts don’t AT ALL. They can’t understand why the attachment figure is unavailable. They can’t understand why she can’t check in once during the week via text. They can’t understand why she doesn’t care that they are falling apart because they worry she is gone. They can’t understand why she is how she is in session but is not there at any other time. It feels really abandoning. It hits that deep core wound, the mother wound. Here I am again on my own, struggling, and no one is there who cares.

Fuck.

Then the fun really begins because before too long the teen part comes online. And OMFG she is boiling with rage (because she is so hurt). She’s got so much to say! She is ready to unload. She wants to scream at my therapist for being a ‘fucking liar’. She wants to tell her that ‘we don’t need you’ and ‘you are making things worse for us’. She is raging that the relationship is a ‘complete sham’ and that ‘whilst you (T) might think the little ones are stupid, that I can see exactly how this all fucking works, don’t pretend you care.’ Basically what it comes down to is that the teen part has been through this shit enough times now and will not be hurt any more. Therapy is an agonising and constant reminder that ‘I am not good enough, not important enough, and no one really cares’ and so ‘I’m fucking done with having it shoved in my face’.

Obviously, it’s completely horrendous when I am stuck in that place. Part of me so badly wants to let rip and let it all out. I want my therapist to know just how fucking awful this stuff makes me feel. She tells me that my anger is important and that I need to let it out… unfortunately I usually only really feel able to express it at moments like these. And it is not acceptable to let it out via text. I have done it once or twice before and then felt terrible afterwards – shame and embarrassment overload.

I have even ‘quit’ a few times and then the little parts freak out: ‘What have you done?’ So yeah, it’s a bit tricky to say the least because I have all these horrible feelings and yet she has no idea how consuming they really are. I don’t really know how to go in and tell her just how bloody awful it feels, how utterly crushing it is for the young parts to feel ‘left’ week in week out and then how angry it makes me that she is not there when things feel bad.  I hate feeling like she doesn’t care. Given how session was on Monday it’d feel like a completely different person turning up this coming week if I really said what was going on.

So anyway, I’ve spent the week since Wednesday alternating between rage and sadness and completely sunk in the depths of depression. Yesterday I stayed in bed all day between school runs. I just couldn’t do the day. There we things I was meant to do. We have guests arriving tomorrow and I really could’ve done with cleaning the house and getting on top of chores but I just couldn’t.

I had a long phone call with a friend which helped to make sense of things a bit so that was good but I still can’t quite get over the feeling that I’m at an impasse with my therapy. I feel more and more like the little two year old girl stuck in a huge grey space on her own clutching the ear of a soft toy bunny that so often comes into my mind. There is no adult to help her.

I mean, I guess, this week might also, in part, be me hitting self-destruct as we approach an enormous summer break and the anniversary of my dad’s death. I will see my therapist in person on the 30th July and then again on the 3rd September and whilst I should be able to do a Skype session somewhere in the middle of that. I. CAN’T. EVEN. GO. THERE. I can’t even explain how thoroughly overwhelming the idea of another long break is right now.

Maybe all this anger and wanting to quit is about me leaving her before she leaves me? I am shit on long therapy breaks.

Part of me is scared I’ll end up in another bloody horrendous anorexic mess like at Easter. I don’t want that. And even though I don’t want that I don’t even feel like it’s a conversation we can have now after all that happened recently around not eating.

Basically, I just don’t want to care anymore. I don’t want to feel like someone else has the power to impact me in this way – or rather their absence has the power to. I don’t want to feel abandoned or rejected anymore. I don’t want to feel so painfully alone and inadequate.

Man. I so bored of feeling shit about this.

I KNOW!

I know it’s the work.

But jeez. The work is hard isn’t it?!!

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Love Ballad To Your Therapist

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I’ve had a bit of a sense of humour failure of late. I mean I can poke fun at myself no bother at all (although I do wonder a bit if that is really just walking a fine line between being self-deprecating and self-loathing?) but I’ve been really struggling to see the funny side of things out in the wider world. I think it’s mainly stress and anxiety that have knocked my capacity to laugh; I’ve just felt so down in the dumps that I haven’t felt there’s been much to smile about.

In fairness, though, it has been a never ending fucking winter of discontent and I am just not a winter person at all. I hate being cold… and my god it’s been sooooooooo cold lately. I hate not getting out to exercise. I hate feeling GREY! (although I do own a lot of grey clothes…) I just want the sun to come out and to be able to lie on the grass, stare up at the sky and watch the airplanes make criss-cross patterns. Or better yet, just fall asleep in the garden in the fresh air. I love that!

I’ve noted that I’ve become more and more sarcastic lately. Don’t get me wrong, my sense of humour has a huge contingent part of sarcasm and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing- but I feel a little like I’ve become the eye roller ‘oh please, that’s just not even funny’ – and I don’t want to be like that. I do want to just have a good belly laugh and be silly. I want the fun to come back…only I am not sure I know when I actually lost it. I have always been a serious person so actually being silly feels quite alien to me.

So I really have to thank Life In A Bind for retweeting the funniest thing/video I’ve seen in ages last week. I don’t spend much time on Twitter but occasionally an absolute gem turns up on my feed and this is soooooooooo it. So thank you for making me smile LIAB! I’ve shared it with several of my friends who are or have been in therapy and we are in agreement that it’s just utter genius. I really wanted to share it with you guys because I think lots of us who are in long-term therapy or have attachment issues can really relate to this but see the funny side. And man we could use a giggle right?!

I mean of course I don’t really relate to it at all*: I have never freaked out about an upcoming therapy break (ahem – might’ve happened yesterday at the mention of Easter!); pretended that it is not a paid for relationship; googled my therapist; considered how much of a reflection of her the boring grey Skoda parked on the driveway is; wondered what her star sign/favourite colour/phobia is; thought that she is ‘objectively’ attractive!…. I mean that’s just not how I am at all!

*LIE (this is totally me!!)

Anyway, enjoy folks.

 

 

Anxiety and the wrong shoes

img_2559I am fluctuating wildly in my moods and behaviours at the minute. One minute I feel borderline suicidal and the next full of fight and motivation. I’d like to blame it on being hormonal – but I know it’s not just that. Sigh!

Last week I briefly spoke about how I had manically cleaned my house within an inch of its life in preparation for a therapy session via Skype (it doesn’t sound any less mental a week on does it?!) and how perhaps I was in avoidance mode; cleaning the house meant I didn’t have to focus on the ‘real issue’ at hand which was the rupture that my therapist and I had over Christmas and that we are (still) steadily trying to repair bit by bit.

I recognise that some of my behaviour recently has been a bit ‘on the edge of normal’ (whatever that is) and on reflection I realise that I have been operating from a point of high anxiety and it’s been subtly seeping into my day-to-day.

To be honest I am always slightly (a lot) anxious and/or depressed (what fun!) and am acutely sensitive to seemingly small things: changes in routine (especially my therapy) knock me for six and send me spiralling.

Apparently, I am a highly sensitive person (HSP); whilst this trait certainly has some benefits (being intuitive, empathic, feeling, with a complex inner life!) some aspects of it can be debilitating (social anxiety, noise intolerance, being overstimulated/terrified by violent movies, needing to retreat from the world when it feels overwhelming).

My anxiety escalated to an unmanageable level over the Christmas therapy break (anyone notice?) and although things are a little better now, particularly now that my therapy has resumed, I feel that the residual levels of stress and anxiety I am carrying are higher than normal and are massively impacting on my life.

Why am I anxious right now?

How long have you got?!

Clearly the usual things that bother me are still there:

  • My physical health (or lack of it) concerns me. I have been ill pretty much consistently since September and have so little energy that I have stopped exercising altogether (good for my weight but not a lot else) and am barely making it through the day even when trying to conserve my energy. My bloods suggest that I am still in remission from my Hodgkins but living on an 8 week turn around for check-ups is anxiety-inducing in itself. I live in a state of constant worry about if and when I’ll get ill again.
  • My fragile mental health – ugh! Therapy is causing me anxiety because although things are slowly getting better, my therapist and I still have a great deal of talking to do about the rupture that happened at Christmas. Whilst things feel so tentative my internal child parts are even less settled and contained than usual and so it is really hard to manage. This week all I have wanted to do is reach out to my therapist and seek some kind of reassurance. Don’t worry! I’m not stupid. I am not going to go down that route again. One rupture and sense overwhelming sense of rejection is enough to be dealing with; I don’t need to add any fuel to the fire. But it does nothing to alleviate my anxiety about feeling abandoned or rejected when I can’t reach out or even the thought of doing so reminds me of all that has recently happened.

 

Then there’s the extra shit – icing on the cake if you will:

  • My wife’s skin cancer is stressing me out. We are waiting on the results of her biopsies to know where to go from here-  but right now it’s a crazy limbo type space trying not to overthink things but underneath it gnaws away at me. I don’t have a brain that just shuts off, unfortunately. Oh my goodness I would love an ‘off’ button.
  • My best friend from primary school has been hit by the big C again and I am utterly devastated. As if it wasn’t bad enough getting diagnosed with breast cancer the day before your thirtieth birthday, going through chemo and having a mastectomy, she then relapsed eighteen months later – the breast cancer had metastasised and was now in her lymph nodes under her arm. More treatment. And now last week they’ve found it in her bones. I mean seriously. Wtf? I am so sad for her and her family. To face fighting cancer three times in less than five years with a young family is just hideous. I can’t help but become even more anxious about my own future, too.

 

Then there’s the minging glace cherry on top of the cake:

  • My neighbours. Ugh. It’s too long and dull a story to recount here but suffice to say I am not a crier (I struggle to hit those buried emotions) and yet found myself in tears on Friday due to an incident that happened. The ‘thing’ itself is not a big deal and yet because I am so on a knife edge with my ‘everyday life’ what happened last week sent me over the edge. My brain has run wild and my anxiety has spiked horrendously. When you don’t feel secure or safe in your home it’s horrid. I really struggle with conflict and even when I know I have done nothing wrong I struggle to not find fault or blame myself. I need to get better at managing stress!

Anyway. It’s been a bit tentative this week for sure. One minute I am desperately sad and frightened hiding in my bed, the next I am driving my car with the stereo on full blast belting out something from Pink’s new album (I think my teen part is quite lively at the moment – perhaps after the letter I wrote to her).

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Today Pink’s ‘Secrets’ was on loop in my car… the lyrics really resonate with me/the teen right now – it’s kind of how I feel about therapy like there’s a few things I need to let out the bag. It’s a right belter of a track too:

Secrets

What do we conceal? What do we reveal?
Make that decision every day
What is wrong with me, it’s what’s wrong with you
There’s just so much I wanna say

I like to make-believe with you
Da, da, da, da, do, do, do
That we always speak the truth…ish
I like how we pretend the same
Da, da, da, da, do, do, do
Play this silly little game, hey!

I’ve got some things to say
‘Cause there’s a lot that you don’t know
It’s written on my face, it’s gonna be hard to swallow
(Everybody’s got a secret)
I got some things to say
(Everybody’s got a secret)
‘Cause there’s a lot that you don’t know
(Everybody’s got a secret)
It’s written on my face
(Everybody’s got a secret)

I let the walls come down
I let the monster out, and it’s coming after me
Do you feel exposed where it hurts the most?
Can you wear it on your sleeve

Put it in the closet, lock the doors
Wondering which one is worse
Is it mine or is it yours
Put it in the closet, lock the doors
Wondering which one is worse
I’ll show mine if you show yours
I’ll show mine if you show yours, hey, hey, hey!

*

So, yeah, it’s been very up and down emotionally for me lately…To Monday morning, though. Get to the point eh?!

Usually I am pretty particular about what I wear to therapy. I try and dress well – not smart or anything like that, I just want to feel good in what I am wearing. I’m generally in some kind of jeans or dungarees (don’t judge me! I am a lesbian after all!) but I am fairly well put together – everything is clean and I make an effort with my appearance. Legs are shaved, eye brows are shaped, socks and pants are good! (like it even fucking matters! ha!)

I don’t usually wear makeup day-to-day but I generally slap on some foundation to cover the greyness and a bit of mascara to make my eyes look less tired on a Monday. I don’t think it achieves much but it is the mask I put on to go pour my heart out.

I’d describe how I dress for therapy as one of those casual no one would know you’ve made any effort looks – surf style. However, if I don’t blow dry and straighten my hair there’s an issue! I look like my granddad with his crazy bouffant hairdo. Oh man I miss my long hair that I could just whack in a tucked under pony tail. Damn you fucking cancer!

Sometimes I really cover up – even in the summer I can sit in a jumper with my arms concealed not wanting to draw attention to my scars or bony/skinny body. Other times I might choose to be more revealing – it’s a weird one. Sometimes I want to hide everything from my therapist and other times I want her to see me – I want her to know how things are. I’ve read a few posts about what people wear to therapy and I think it does tell you a lot about what might be going on both consciously and unconsciously.

Anyway. I felt pretty vulnerable on Monday (what with the rupture and having had the Skype session rather than a face-to-face) and wanted to snuggle up into something cosy and comfy (a onesie would’ve totally been perfect – but not ever going to happen!) and so I ended up in a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in a year or two (I have 25+ pairs – a bonus of having had the same frame since 17 years old) and a jumper I found when I cleared the loft out the other weekend… that come to think of it I had when I was in college too (hmmm maybe the teen part is more present than I thought!).

I was happy enough with the outfit but as it came time to leave home I had a problem. Shoes. Shoes? Yes. Shoes. I couldn’t find a pair that went with the outfit. Granted jeans and a jumper is pretty much all I wear and so really ALL my shoes go with this. But not on Monday. I couldn’t find a pair that felt ‘right’. I have 8 different pairs of Rocket Dog sneakers in various colours, trainers galore, and loads of other shoes…and yet for some reason nothing I put on my feet felt ok with what I was wearing. I don’t know what was wrong but I felt self-conscious about my feet…

The outcome? I changed my entire outfit to accommodate the shoes. I opted for my current favourite pair of shoes and dressed around them. I know. I think, maybe I need A LOT MORE help.

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All of the recent crazy has alerted me to the fact that I need to be very gentle with myself for the next few weeks – when possible. I know I am walking a fine line here and I absolutely cannot afford to crash and burn like I did at Christmas.

Positively, the session, once I arrived went well. My therapist and I really talked and I once I had got through moaning on about my current life annoyances/worries the conversation changed tack and went to a place that I am usually wary of going to for fear of judgement and feeling ashamed.

My therapist asked me outright about my eating disorder and self-harm. Yikes! Usually I recoil a bit from that kind of thing but I tried to stay present and open with her. Little by little we got onto talking about the therapy and our relationship. I told her how I have been feeling when I dissociate and how we need to find a way of working more effectively with the traumatised attach parts.

I managed, somehow, to stay in my adult but was able to be open and vulnerable with her for the remainder of the session and it paid off. I might be imagining it but things felt different. The session had a different quality to it and my therapist who almost NEVER self-discloses shared something with me and that made me feel much closer to her.

Anyway, the real challenge now is to keep on this path. I need to try and keep letting her know how things are and work through everything that has come up as a result of Christmas and before. I know she doesn’t deliberately do things to hurt me but because I am so frigging sensitive even the hint of a wrong word or tone can send me out into orbit. It’s really tricky.

My young ones are beginning to really struggle and it seems a very long time until Monday. I hate that it makes no difference to those vulnerable parts of me whether I have a good therapy session or a not so good one. I can leave the room feeling connected and cared for and yet I can’t hold onto any of it and still find myself feeling desperately alone and lost and abandoned by Wednesday. It’s devastating really. My stomach actually aches knowing that it is still four more sleeps until Monday. Adult me needs to try and soothe the upset little ones but unfortunately it is much easier said than done.

I don’t have a lot else to say really, so I’ll leave it there for now.

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A Long December…

‘A long December and there’s reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last’ …these lyrics still resonate as strongly now with me as they did twenty years ago. At first glance these words seem reasonably uplifting and a positive projection for the year ahead, but if you’re looking for a dose of optimism as you head into 2018 this is probably not the post for you!

The fact that later in the song these words are chased by the ‘the smell of hospitals in winter and the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters and no pearls’ might give those unfamiliar with the song more of a flavour of what’s to come…

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It’s no surprise to me that right now a big chunk of my internal soundtrack (and what I downloaded to my phone yesterday) is essentially the same as that of my mid teens: Counting Crows’ albums, ‘Recovering The Satellites’  and  ‘August and Everything After’ (it’s no accident how I titled my archive list); R.E.M’s ‘Automatic For The People’; Coldplay’s, ‘Parachutes’; and Dido’s, ‘No Angel’.

The emotions I am experiencing at the moment first became known to me back in the late nineties. As an adolescent the feeling/s hit in an overwhelming and hugely destructive way. In the last day or so I think I’ve fallen into operating from the Teen state so far as my emotions go and so that’s why my headphones are locked in my ears today as my wife has taken the kids out to give me some space and a bit of a break.

What’s up with me?

I am feeling depressed.

It’s not good.

It’s really not good.

I hate it (but then who enjoys feeling shit?).

Oh. And. I am feeling angry (which is new to me, or at least being in touch with my anger is!)

It’s funny, really, because the words ‘depression’ and ‘anger’ seem to have become so innocuous. We throw them around so freely in society that I sometimes feel like they have lost their meaning:

‘What’s wrong with x – I haven’t heard from her for a while?’

‘She’s depressed’

Oh, right, she gets like that sometimes doesn’t she? I’m sure she’ll be ok.’

And that’s kind of how it feels (to me at least). There are so many campaigns out there about mental health awareness but when it comes down to it, lots of people don’t really get what it feels like to be depressed, or anxious, or suicidal, or struggling and so it gets brushed under the carpet like it’s no big deal…when actually when you’re caught up in it it is huge. It is a BIG BIG deal.

We’re sort of programmed to know how to deal with physical illness:

‘Oh I feel rubbish, I’ve got a stinking cold and a fever and can’t get out of bed’

Oh that sounds rotten, I’ll stay away, then! Feel better soon!’ 

And somehow, it seems like we respond to people in the same way when they express feeling mentally unwell like if you come close by you’ll catch it:

Oh I feel rubbish, I feel so sad and lost and I can’t get out of bed’

Oh that sounds, rotten, I’ll stay away, then. Feel better soon!’

A lot of people don’t know what to do or say when you mention that things are a bit (a lot) shit, and so often just back away, and give you space until you are ready to venture back out into the world in the form that they recognise and can relate to.

Sometimes this is fine and sometimes you need someone to come and sit with you when you are in your PJs wanting to slice your arms open to just talk. I have found this has become even more of an issue when I express any negative feelings about having had cancer and all the treatment a couple of years ago. It’s like it’s a completely out of bounds topic. No one knows what to say.

I have noticed that when I feel depressed I don’t talk, though. I don’t reach out. I don’t share. I shut down. I become secretive and closed off and live in my own self-destructive world. I think part of it is about not wanting to burden people with my difficult feelings and thoughts, and part of it is that I just can’t communicate something that feels utterly overwhelming.

Once I hit a place where I am not eating or self-harming in order to cope with my feelings then the window where I might want/be able to talk has passed. I have disappeared…not that anyone would notice. I am very good at hiding what’s going on inside.

I struggle even to tell my therapist when I am battling with my eating disorder or self-harm. I remember clearly the first session back after Christmas last year sitting almost mute desperately trying to find the words to tell her that I had been self-harming…and it took about 45 minutes to get there…which is not ideal in a 50 minute session! So if I can’t tell someone I trust implicitly and who doesn’t judge me then I have no hope with people in my day-to-day life.

If I do try and change my behaviour, and manage to share even a hint of how I am feeling before I have moved into the realms of self-destruction I often find that people don’t always know what to say anyway, ignore it, or say the wrong things:

You were ok yesterday!’ – (I might have appeared that way, but that was because my filter was intact and I could hide what was inside. Today I have no energy to put on the front)

What’ve you got to be depressed about?’  –(You have no idea, do you?)

‘Try and think positive thoughts’  – (Fuck off! Do you really think I am deliberately feeling this way and a bit of positive thinking will shut this off?)

Your treatment was a success. You should be happy.’ (thank god I don’t have a knife to hand).

And it basically doesn’t help at all and so I end up taking it out on myself which actually just makes it worse. Far better to suffer alone then reach out and be shamed for it.

I saw this on Pinterest a while back and thought it was great:

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Anyway, I don’t need to explain depression here do I?!

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about doing things to try and help myself (#selfcare) but sometimes when things feel really bad like they did when I woke up this morning it takes a herculean amount of effort to even get my teeth brushed, let alone feed myself, take a shower, or practise a bit of mindfulness.

I’m not kidding when I say that it has taken me five hours just to get to this point writing this post. I keep wandering off in my head and sleeping.

About an hour ago I kicked myself up the arse and went and made a coffee, ate a croissant, and had a shower….but that’s where the momentum ground to a halt. It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I am now back under the duvet with curtains (still) drawn and the lights out. I just can’t do it today. I feel so tired and ugh that I just don’t want to be awake.

I keep lamenting the fact that I have a horrible headache… but have not managed to go and get any painkillers, and since I forgot to get any when I was actually downstairs, I’ll probably just lie here groaning to myself for the rest of the afternoon now. I need to go to the loo but I can’t face getting out of the warmth of the bed.

Honestly it is just piss poor here today!

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There are loads of things I need to do but I feel incapable of doing any of it. I am trying not to beat myself up for being unproductive but of course when I feel crap, I attack myself about it.

I know that my mood today is not helped by the fact that I am still really ill with a virus that seems to keep mutating and hitting me over and over and over again. I have been ill since the beginning of September and it is really getting me down now. I wrote a while back about how illness always goes hand in hand with a mental health crash and I think this is especially relevant right now.

I just want to feel physically well and it isn’t happening. I know this is as a result of the fact that my blood levels haven’t recovered since having chemo and so I am more susceptible to picking up bugs and that in itself makes me feel rubbish. I feel like I am emotionally and physically running on empty.

I am usually a busy person. I keep myself busy because, I guess, in part, I am always on the run from these feelings. I totally understand that I probably end up here, face down in the mud, barely functioning, because I overdo it, don’t take time out for myself, don’t attend to my needs, yadda yadda and so end up burning out every now and then. I get it. I don’t need it explaining to me…but what’s the alternative? Sit with these difficult feelings and let them wash over me? I keep trying that in various ways but eventually the feeling of overwhelm overwhelms me!

Music has always functioned as an escape for me and that’s where I am seeking solace right now. I spent a huge chunk of my late teens driving around in my car, listening to my stereo, and trying to escape from whatever was going on at home and simultaneously trying to run away from what was going on in my head/heart. It was all a massive nightmare really: perpetually feeling unloved and like I wasn’t good enough.

And here I am, again, running away from those feelings and retreating into my inner world and music.

There is a part of me that feels that it is absolutely tragic that I am heading towards 35 years old and yet I still struggle massively with feeling unloved and like I am not good enough – ugh! It seems almost nonsensical that these feelings are still able to floor me after all these years.

I have been with my wife for twelve years and have two lovely kids and yet, even despite knowing that they love me and cherish me, something deep in my core can’t really absorb it. The bucket I try and store love in has a great big hole in the bottom and until I fix it the good stuff will keep spilling out and onto the floor.

I wonder what has happened to make all this flare up so significantly again?

Any guesses?

The therapy break you say? Ah, maybe you could be right! It’s getting a bit boring my going on about therapy breaks and my inability to cope with them isn’t it?!

Where am I at with it all? 9 days down, 9 to go…I think. Halfway point. (How how how can I only be halfway through?!)

I spent the first bit of the therapy break alternating between my adult and child states. I had Christmas to contend with which meant the adult needed to be online a lot of the time but I was also really aware of the little ones really missing my therapist when it got to the evening and I had bit of quiet reflective time.

I have spent several hours each night lying in bed not crying but really wanting to. I don’t know how I would explain it to my wife, though, and so I just lie there in the dark feeling like an abandoned child until I fall asleep and dream about her and all the anxieties I am feeling about the therapeutic relationship.

Those little parts of me were fully awakened after having such a connecting last session heading into the break last week. This connected feeling should be a good thing, after all, it’s what I seek every therapy session isn’t it? And yes, that feeling is amazing but it is also incredibly addictive. Initially I felt soothed, held and contained by what had happened in therapy but as is all too often the case, the positive feelings didn’t last and the sense of being on my own, abandoned, and like my therapist had disappeared off the face of the earth took root.

I know that these feelings mirror what happened with my mum when I was small (only without the positive connecting part!) and so it just feels like I am replaying that pain of abandonment over and over again every time I am away from the new attachment figure (therapist).

The knowledge about where these feelings come from doesn’t make them any less painful or any less real in the here and now. It’s agonising. I so desperately wanted to reach out to my therapist and somehow try and get the horrible sense of feeling unworthy and being unlovable to go away.

I stayed with those feelings for a while, you know, the feeling like you’ve been kicked in the gut and are simultaneously feeling scared of everything… but I know from experience that I can’t stay with this pain indefinitely – it hurts too much. And I can’t reach out for my therapist either -she deserves a break and won’t reply to me even if I do contact her which only fuels the awful sense of being left. So at the moment the way I cope with it, I’ve noticed, is by going through this emotional cycle:

The therapy break starts and within a day or two the young child parts come online and sit alongside the adult; three days into the break the child parts are inconsolable and screaming in attachment pain hell. The adult tries to listen and honour these feelings for what they are but there is no soothing to be done, the child parts don’t want me, and the noise inside escalates.

Before long the feelings of loss and abandonment become so overwhelming that the Teen part steps up to try protect the little ones seeing as no one else seems capable of it and shut it all down for them. She is angry and hurt and despondent. She really doesn’t want to go to therapy again, ‘fuck this shit – I don’t care anymore’. She doesn’t see the point in it (although part of her secretly really likes therapist). All it does is hurt all the most vulnerable parts and she can’t understand why I (adult) would spend time and money doing something which feels a lot like self-harm (and she is very good at self-harm).

I can go round in this loop for a few days: adult, child part, teen and then before long the big bastard comes online. I can see it now and it is set to smother me. It is the Inner Critic. That voice is not embodied in a traditional sense. I have mentioned before that it feels a lot like one of the Dementors in ‘Harry Potter’ and I guess this is, in part, the depressive state as well as all the internalised anger that I have repressed over the years. It is the embodiment of all the rage that I had no way of expressing at the time and instead learned to turn in on myself. It is ENORMOUS.

Right now it is leaning in and telling me that my therapist doesn’t care just like my mother didn’t, that I am worthless and unlovable, and a complete loser for having the feelings I do about someone who can never reciprocate them. It tells me that cutting myself, or burning myself will make the feelings go. It tells me that my body is disgusting and that I should stop eating.

Part of me is terrified and feels like the only option is to give in to that voice and there’s another part of me that is hanging on for dear life and shaking a great big stick at it and telling it to leave me alone. I don’t know how resilient that part of me is but I am digging in deep today.

I know that I need to find a way to make that Dementor shape shift. I need to find a way of making friends with it and acknowledging it as a part of myself. I know that it has served as a protector of sorts (even if it is hard to see that anorexia and self-harm have been survival /protective mechanisms) and therefore in some ways I should be grateful that it got me through some emotionally horrendous periods.

I have been thinking today. What I am going to do is try and re-imagine this entity as an angry black dog that has been mistreated and caged for a really long time. I know that the black dog is a well-used metaphor for depression but in my actual real life I have four lovely black dogs whom I love, they are super bonkers beasties. What I hope is that over time and with a bit of training I might get the critic under control just like my delinquent hounds.

I am hoping that if I can change the image in my head from all-encompassing terror-inducer to an angry dog that needs taking for a walk sometimes, then perhaps that’ll settle it down a bit and I will be less frightened by it.

Maybe I need to work out what the needs of the Inner Critic are rather than being so terrified of it that all I do is run from it.

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Anyway, that’s where I am today, there’s more I could say but I know I am making no sense so instead, here is the song that sums up how it feels! I’ll be glad to see the back of this year for sure!

 

‘Breathe Me’…when things fall apart.

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

*

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

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

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

(Sia -Breathe Me)

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

How the hell did I end up here again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt so betrayed.

*

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

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

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

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

 

Learning to fly

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Chorus]

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

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

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‘True Colors’

I have to say it, being a Brit, it really pains me to type ‘colors’ like that, but never mind! All will become clear later!

Lately, I’ve felt pretty low, well severely down in the dumps, actually! My posts have reflected this, I think. It’s all been quite doom and gloom – but I’m not going to apologise because everything  I have posted has been an honest reflection of how things have felt. The purpose of this blog was for me to have a space to let some stuff out without having to dress it up or play it down. It is what it is. I just wish things were better.

I’ve been struggling with being in therapy, the therapeutic relationship, and particularly therapy breaks – basically it’s all been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and I don’t like rollercoasters now that I am in my thirties – they make me sick and my brain feels like it’s rattling in my head! A lot of the time I have felt overwhelmed and hopeless and I feel like I am existing, or even just simply surviving between sessions rather than living. It’s rubbish.

I have been increasingly frustrated by my inability to talk in my sessions or tell my therapist how it is. It seems that any time I do manage to pluck up the courage to tell my therapist how I feel about her and the relationship that I pay a ridiculously heavy price after the event. I struggle enormously in the week between sessions and desperately feel the need for reassurance and connection with her. It’s almost as though when I expose myself and am vulnerable a part of me moves in that essentially tells me I’ve made a mistake, that I will have frightened her off, and that she will terminate me for being too much. It’s a nightmare.

There are certainly days when I just can’t see the wood for the trees, so to speak. I can’t see what I do have that is positive as am overcome with feelings about what I don’t, or rather, if we are thinking about it properly, what I didn’t have as a child. I find Wednesdays and Thursdays pretty dire. I feel lost, alone, and so small that it’s just too much for me and I shut down. I know that I’m right in the thick of dealing with attachment trauma and all the associated feelings that go with it but even though I know what’s going on and why it’s happening, it’s not easy.

I am really not sure unless you’ve experienced this kind of thing if you can have any idea just how scary and hellish it feels to be caught up in it. It’s like being a tiny child again and reliving all the emotions of fear and anxiety that were repressed at the time. You may be in an adult body, but believe me the terror is that of a child. It really can feel like it’s a life and death situation being caught up in the abandonment stuff. You know you need rescuing, and essentially the only person to do it is going to be your adult self, but they don’t have the strength to do it yet.

I sometimes sit and wonder why has this happened to me? What did I do wrong to end up in this mess? Maybe if I had just been a better kid my mum have loved me more? Could I have done something to make me more lovable, more worthy of her care, affection, and attention? If I had have been better would she have stayed when I was small rather than going away Sunday to Friday to study at Uni?

I wonder what would it have been like to not be perpetually at child-minders or later letting myself in with a key? What would it have been like to not always be missing an absent mother? What would a bedtime story snuggled into my mum have been like? How would it have felt to have someone drop me at school, make me a packed lunch,  and iron my uniform?

What would it have been like to have my mum look after me when I was sick rather than being packed off to school or to a relative? What would it have felt like to be held and told I was loved? How different would I be if I hadn’t have felt like I was in the way, that my interests were boring and childish? How would it have been to be accepted for who I was not always trying to be someone I wasn’t? How might it have been to not be yelled at for existing? What is it like to not be scared of a parent? What would it feel like to be securely attached?

I don’t know.

But the truth of it is, I was a really good kid, I was abnormally well-behaved and helpful and quiet. I was friendly and popular and hardworking. I was not trouble at all. I tried to be as little of an inconvenience as possible and yet being a self-sufficient little adult was not enough. I just wasn’t really wanted. I know I was an ‘accident’ which I don’t think helped.

The thing is, despite all the pain and hurt I know my mum did the best she could, it just wasn’t good enough. I know she has her own issues with her parents. I know that she struggles with feeling inadequate. She is not a monster. We just, for whatever reason, can’t connect to one another. She doesn’t get me and I will never allow her in to my inner world now after all the hurt and damage that was caused growing up.

Looking back I find it so sad to see that I longed for someone to make it all better. I idolised my teachers and longed for a Mary Poppins figure to swoop in and make it all better, bridge a gap until my mum got it together and realised she had a daughter that needed her and loved her more than anything. The tragic thing is, that despite all this hurt and pain I still adore my mum. I just want to matter to her. I want to be good enough.

I’ve found that my issues with childhood attachment trauma – or maybe we’ll just simply call it a shit load of emotional neglect and abuse from a young mother who didn’t know what the hell she was doing- have become more evident to me since having my own children.

Being gay I never imagined I would have babies. I always wanted to be a mum, though. I always wanted to have a pregnancy. In my mid-twenties I resigned myself to the idea that it just wasn’t going to happen and instead got several fur babies! There was always a big gaping hole in me. It’s hard to explain but I think it’s a similar feeling to that hole you feel from attachment trauma. There’s a gaping hole that you can’t fill…only in this case you can, and in comes in the form of a small person.

As more and more of my friends started families I grew steadily more depressed. In 2011 a friend from work had a baby. I went to visit her and came home in tears. That’s when my wife and I began seriously investigating sperm donors. The law around same sex marriage had recently changed and we had got married in 2010.  Having our relationship recognised in law made things much simpler with regard to children as my wife automatically would be listed on any resulting child’s birth certificate. There was no need for her to adopt our babies and importantly any sperm donor would have no legal comeback as he would not be recognised as a parent.

We found our donor, who is just the best, such a fabulous guy, and amazingly got pregnant on our first attempt. Our daughter arrived in 2012 and our son in 2014. These children are the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me. Here’s where I start gushing!! I would die for those kids and love them more than anything. The love I have for my kids surpasses anything I thought possible. I am so happy to have them. The thing is, and of course there is always something, being so totally in love with my babies has made me even more aware of what I missed out on as a child. I cannot understand how it is possible to emotionally and physically abandon your kids. It is just beyond my comprehension.

I shower my kids in kisses and cuddles. I make a point of telling them everyday just how much I love them. I am here for them when they are sick. I am here for them when they are well. I do the school run. I go to parent/teacher meeting. I engage in activities that they enjoy. I try and make them feel safe and secure.

Ok, I serve up beige food more than I should and I certainly have my moments where I could do things better. We all fuck it up sometimes. But on balance I think I am a ‘good enough’ parent. I am not perfect. No one is. But I have a good go at trying to meet their needs and accept them in all their states. I’m certainly not a fan of tantrums and back chatting but part of me is delighted that they do it because I wouldn’t have dared. I am so happy that they feel secure enough to have a meltdown!

Importantly, when I get it wrong, I talk to them about it. I can admit my faults and I apologise. I don’t have a mummy meltdown and then just leave them thinking everything is their fault. I never had that and so now always doubt my experience and role in how things were.

Anyway, to the title ‘True Colors’. My daughter was off sick from school yesterday and so we spent the day snuggled in our pjs watching movies. She loves Trolls. I do too. It’s so uplifting and colourful. I can’t help but smile when I watch it. The little girl in me likes it just as much as my five year old daughter. I think what I need to do more and more is include my little girl part in the activities I do with my kids. She enjoys trips to the ice-cream parlour, play-doh, and picnics on the carpet as much as the kids do. Whilst I am parenting my babies maybe I need to parent Little Me, Four, Seven, Eleven … I am not sure the Teenager would be up for it, but perhaps I’ll ask!

I feel so much of the time like Branch, the troll who has experienced a terrible loss and feels guilt ridden about how it happened. He has lost his colour. He isolates himself from the rest of the trolls. he is miserable and lonely but pretends that he doesn’t need anyone. As the story goes on the other, still colourful, trolls are captured and face death, they all lose their colour like Branch. But in this moment of joint misery and fear, Branch starts singing, something he has refused to do since his grandmother died. Steadily, despite the situation they are in and how scared they are, their colour and happiness comes back.

Somedays I am black and colourless like Branch and occasionally I can forget myself a bit, let go, and appreciate what I do have and the colour starts to seep in, the thing is, it doesn’t last.  It’s learning how to hang onto it that is the task. When Branch starts the song everyone is dark, they are sad, they are scared. But his empathy for the situation and sitting with everyone slowly brings back everyone’s colour and happiness. I hope this is what therapy will gradually do for me.

Lyrically, this song is genius, and yes, I know it’s originally by Cyndi Lauper!!

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged, oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
The darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy
Can’t remember when
I last saw you laughing
This world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
Just, call me up
‘Cause I will always be there

And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you

So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
I see your true colors
Shining through (true colors)
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Ooh ooh ooh like a rainbow

Ooh

Ooh can’t remember when
I last saw you laughing
Ooh oh oh
This world makes you crazy
Taking all you can bear
Just, call me up
‘Cause I’ll be always be there

And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid (don’t be afraid)
To let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Ooh ooh oh like a rainbow

Watch this clip and get a little bit of rainbow in your day. It’s such a feel good song, and let’s face it on a gloomy day we could all use a bit of child’s animation with a serious message. And to be honest, the trolls have it completely right. They set time aside every hour or so for ‘hug time’. We could learn a lot! 🙂

Honestly, believe it, your true colours are beautiful like a rainbow. x