Another Rupture…Over A Walk!

It’s certainly been an interesting couple of weeks in my head. And when I say ‘interesting’, I really mean a complete emotional shit show at times! It’s safe to say that all the attachment stuff has gone fully live in the therapeutic relationship with Anita and all the parts are starting to jiggle about for attention!…and (over)reacting left, right, and centre to the smallest of things. Eek!

Give me strength! … and moreover give my poor therapist strength as she’s certainly earning her money at the moment!

Anita has been so great, I mean really, she is just bloody amazing and is doing such great work trying to help me repair the damage done by Em…but she accidentally dropped the ball on Monday and it sent me into freefall for a bit. But I’ll come to that drama in a minute! 

I don’t think it’s any secret that the last few months have been a challenge so far as life and therapy goes. Everything with Em completely destabilised me and then just as I was settling into work with Anita, the pandemic hit. It’s hard to believe that the last session I had face to face with A was the 16th March although in all honesty I feel like I have been aware of every slow second of those five l-o-n-g months!

Despite working online, I have felt a bit like I’ve been in hovering in ‘break territory’ (and we all know how well I do with therapy breaks!) – in so far as I have been holding a lot of stuff that I simply can’t process properly if we are not together in the room. The main issue has been about not getting the regulation and connection for the young parts that happens face to face – the non-verbal stuff that you get from being with another person, absorbing their calm energy, making eye contact, seeing them breathe etc…all the cues that the youngest parts tune into in order to feel safe. And because I haven’t been able to access this stuff my system has just got more and more wound up as time has gone on.

I understand that COVID has been a nightmare for everyone. I mean honestly, whoever imagined that we’d be living through a fucking pandemic in our lifetime?! For those of us in therapy trying to work through complex trauma and histories of childhood neglect and abandonment it’s been huge, I mean super huge having our routine disrupted. Suddenly going from face to face therapy to working online away from our attachment figure has been such a shock to the system and it’s sent my system into a tailspin (and to be fair it was already in freefall after what happened with Em!)

I think because I have been in survival for so long now, my nervous system is just totally on edge but also kind of stuck in flight mode. My body is so overwhelmed from having to ‘hold on’ that when K came for the first time, a few weeks ago, to have a craniosacral session she walked in my gate, saw me, was standing about 5 metres away and the first words out her mouth were, “I can feel your nervous system from here!”.

Months of holding myself tightly in order that I didn’t completely fall apart has left me in a right state. I am so sensitised to the slightest thing now, my hypervigilance is off the chart and I am expecting something bad to happen. So of course when something in the field of rejection comes up I am on it in a flash.

Sigh.

Anita and I have been steadily building up trust in the relationship. I have been sharing quite a bit with her in my sessions but also reaching out outside them with various things and she’s been faultless with her responding – i.e an emoji or a quick reply. It honestly, has helped so much, especially as we’ve been working remotely.

I sent her a link to an article I had read online on the 5th that a friend had posted up and it really resonated so much that I wanted A to see it along with the caption:

Uggggh this resonated so much 😞 I can’t believe how much grief there is – my whole body is hurting x

For those that are interested, here’s the link to the article:

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2020/08/dear-therapists-stop-with-the-testimonial-injustice/

Anita, replied:

Wow, it’s as it you had written it. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I know it’s hard to trust again and I will always try to be there but like everyone I don’t know what life holds in the future, but even if my house falls down we can always work online. I also know you have heard all this before and it’s daring to take the risk again.

I mean, she really is great, right? Like just nails it. And this is why I struggle looking back at what happened with Em. It doesn’t take ‘War and Peace’ to settle the anxious young parts – it’s not hours of time to formulate something holding…and yet she just couldn’t/wouldn’t do it.

I responded with:

Thank you. I just need a hug. I feel like I am going to cry but it doesn’t come. It’s like there’s a tsunami on the way. So exhausted. And I really hope your house doesn’t fall down  😬 x

And then she sent this and oh my god, the little parts inside melted:

It was all going so well!

Then it was Monday morning and I was scrolling through Twitter and saw a couple of brilliant things from Beacon House that I forwarded to her – one was a graphic with a swan that said, ‘Inside even the most composed and competent adult is a little child who is still learning to trust, love, and be loved.’ Like really, that’s totally me…

Anyway, the session was largely fine. I actually can’t remember any of it apart from the last ten minutes! But I know it was ok…

We got talking about work and how I feel like I might have overextended myself in September. She asked me how I was thinking about managing face to face sessions (tutoring) and I explained my plans. All very adult. All very competent. I said how not all students will return straight away as some are happy working online but that some of my students absolutely need face to face. I mentioned again one particular student with whom I resumed my sessions just before the summer holidays and how beneficial it had been to him….and then this is where the shit hit the fan with a minute to go…

Anita said:

I have a couple of clients who have really struggled and so I have done walk and talk therapy.

BOOM.

Cue internal collapse.

I hid how I felt – mask on – and fortunately that was the end of the session but SHITTTTTT everything went up in smoke. I was totally distraught.

Like really?

Honestly?

How could she not see that I have been hanging on by a thread? It’s always the same shit.

I text my friend about it. She talked me down a bit but was able to understand why this news was such a shock to the young parts. She asked me if I felt able to let Anita know what had happened when she said that? Whether I trusted her enough to tell her how upset I was rather than spiral out of control.

It was hard to see a way through the painful feelings of feeling unseen, rejected, abandoned it just felt like ‘here’s another therapist that just doesn’t care and doesn’t get me’ but I also realised that I was responding from a really hurt place that Anita isn’t even responsible for. She’s just tapped into the mother wound and the hurt around what’s happened with Em.

I didn’t feel able to construct a new text to A. I was overwhelmed, sad, and tired. So I just copy and pasted my text to my friend and sent it to A. I was hurting but when I thought about it there was part of me that believed she would respond kindly and not just ignore me in the way Em would have:

I’m trying to side step an internal meltdown before it plunges into total collapse. So I’m sending you this … which is what I sent my friend when we got off the call. I’m drowning in the shame and embarrassment but actually if you don’t know then it doesn’t help:

Argh. Bloody therapy has just triggered a landmine 😩. I was talking about how I was planning to manage face to face working in September in my office and said that some students will likely stay online through choice but there are a few that absolutely need face to face work, and how transformational it was going back to face to face with boy. This was end of session and with a minute to go Anita tells me ‘yes, I agree, some of my clients need face to face work and there are a couple who have really struggled so I’ve done walk and talk therapy’

Like wtf?? 😭

How is it that I come across as a person that doesn’t need face to face even when I’ve said as much as I can about how much I’m struggling? Why, because I’m articulate and controlled and ‘together’ enough do people not hear my words when I say it’s felt bad and like I’m hanging by a thread? I’m never going to scream or meltdown or cry
or beg because that’s not how I am- especially after what happened with Em I’m
terrified of being seen as too demanding or needy.

I’m so upset that she didn’t even have me on the radar as ‘having that need’. I know you understand the stuff I wrote in my blog the other week about how hard it is for someone with disorganised attachment, childhood trauma and neglect, dissociation, parts that struggle with feelings abandonment and rejection to work online because all the usual cues are missing and the coregulation just doesn’t happen – I’ve said it enough times… I know I’m like a broken record.

You can guess exactly how that information feels to young parts- confirmation of the narrative ‘she hates me, she doesn’t care, she doesn’t really see me’ and all I want to do is run away now because I’m so over trying to teach people about me and my needs. I can’t be any more explicit than I am.

And yes I am hormonal 😳. But I just want to cry. It’s the same stuff playing out time and again – ‘she’s a good girl, seems fine’ and people never noticing that the walls are crumbling because the mask is glued to my face.

I just feel like a bomb has been dropped internally on the youngest most vulnerable parts… I get it’s an overreaction but it’s tapped right into that thing about not being seen, not mattering and being left to cope. And I totally get that there’s tonnes of evidence to the contrary but these little ones don’t understand – it’s been like an ongoing re-enactment of how it was when my mum was away … just hanging on til she came back. Only I don’t know when Anita will be back 😕

I wish I was a rager who could express what I am feeling rather than a quiet person that takes everything underground and inside. 😞 Maybe I should just give up. I’m clearly fucking rubbish at therapy.

I don’t have the resources or energy to deal with this right now.

I miss you.

——

That’s the rant.

And within half an hour there was a reply. Not a three day radio silence…or a complete lack of acknowledgement which is what I have come to expect from a therapist:

Thank you for your honesty. I am so so sorry for my complete blunder. I honestly have only done one walk and talk just once with a client that won’t work remotely at all not even over the phone. I have been working with them for years. This is no excuse and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about offering that to you. I think because we have been connecting on line. But I am more then happy to arrange one. I can not apologise enough. With regret, Anita

Then I saw I also had a missed call from her.

Damn.

By the time all this came through on my phone my period had arrived (!!!!) and I felt slightly less insane. I was still hurting a lot but I had got a little bit of my adult online and could see that whilst it feels enormous to the young parts who are so badly hurt it’s not really the end of the world. It just feels impossible when it’s like this. It’s evidence of my system at work – this is the work I need to do with A.

I responded:

It’s fine. I understand. I’m just tired and overwrought. It’s like an overflowing bath and I can’t work out how to turn taps off.

I thought that would be it. We’d talk later in the week and sort it out. I felt much better just that she had acknowledged that I was hurting and didn’t try and blame it on me or tell me I was overreacting, or that she’s just my therapist or any of that other gaslighting shit that used to happen with Em:

It’s not fine and what I have said is the truth but don’t know how to say it without it sounding like a lame excuse. Let’s sort out a time for a walk and talk. 💜

I sent her three GIFs that basically summarised my internal response from different parts and she replied:

Yes I understand all of those reactions and wish I had done things differently. Like in all relationships ours will have bumps because humans don’t always get it right. I believe it’s how we grow and own our mistakes that really count. Where trees fall foxgloves grow.

We’ve messaged back and forth quite a bit this week. Just short check ins, emojis, GIFs etc but it felt really connected and helpful – holding. Later in the week I sent her a link to one of my old blog posts about therapy being a bit like and emotional rollercoaster and she told me that when she read it she just wanted to give me a hug… which again made me feel like she really is there, gets it, and is committed to helping.

So you would think my session yesterday would have been a breeze after all the mini bits of repair and settling since Monday wouldn’t you? Well, sure. that’d make sense. Only no. That’s just not how I work! haha.

By Thursday night I had started to feel really ashamed and embarrassed at my reaction to finding out she’d seen another client face to face. Like proper internal cringeing. I started to panic that Anita would think I was too much like hard work, too needy, too mental…and would just think, ‘fuck this, it’s too much effort’ just like Em.

I really struggled to answer to video call yesterday. It must have rung for nearly a minute. And when I did pick up I felt myself freeze. Child parts were there and my words just weren’t. I told her I felt embarrassed. Anita quickly realised what was going on and worked really hard at trying to reassure me that my reaction made so much sense and that she was so sorry for hurting those vulnerable parts and how scary it is to them because they are trying to trust and then they get let down by her. 

A few weeks ago I drew an analogy between me and her dog, who is a rescue, and it seems to have really resonated with her. She said that she can really see how traumatised I am and how like the dog I am and how much care I need because of what I have experienced at the hands of others. I’ve explained that terribly!! haha.

Anita genuinely really cares. I know she does. I can feel it. She understands how painful this kind of thing is (with the walk) and did everything she could to make amends. I could feel myself slipping further into the young parts, the toddler part and even the baby. She talked to them a lot and I could feel them crying inside. I just really wanted a hug. I could feel tears pricking in my eyes but I shut them down…another part moved in, an older part. She noticed the change.

I was able to tell her that I felt like I was trying to protect myself – like a tortoise in its shell. I said that this kind of protection is also really disconnecting and not what I need and when it happens in the room that distancing feels shit, but actually online it’s really shit because not only am I locked away inside myself, she is also locked away in my phone and it’s so hard to connect and it feels horrid. I don’t think I’ve been as explicit as this before. i.e I have told her I am struggling but not actually how hard I am struggling with the constraints of online therapy. We have talked about how different it is and how hard it is not to have eye contact but I haven’t expressly said “I can’t reach you”.

I think it was a bit of a lightbulb moment for her alongside the events of the weeks and she asked me if I wanted to book in a walk.

What do you think I said?

Go on…I’ll give you a prize for the right answer!

Well, of course, that’s the moment when the petulant, angry teen came up and just said, “No”.

Like WTAF?! I make all that fucking fuss about her having a walk with a client who hasn’t had any therapy at all in 5 months and then I get what I want and I refuse it. You literally cannot make this shit up!

Anita didn’t push it. I think she could tell there was a lot of internal conflict going on. So she told me then that she is actively working with the guy that owns the therapy room that she works out of on Wednesdays in my city to see about how viable it is to go back to face to face work when she gets back from her holiday on the 7th September.

I usually see her at her home but I can understand why she might want to extend her working in the rented room for now. Tbh it’s a ten minute drive to that venue rather than the forty to her home. I am just not massively keen on the idea of a new place, it won’t feel so ‘homely’ (I’ve seen the pictures) or have her stuff in it but to be honest I need to not let those picky parts start splitting hairs. Being able to meet A in person in a room, after what will then be six months, is really what I need to focus on.

She says she won’t know what the plan is for a bit as it depends on lots of things like insurance etc and she also said that she doesn’t think that working in masks or visors is really appropriate to the kind of work we do because facial expressions are so important and particularly for clients with childhood trauma because it’s just like the still face experiment.

I am glad she is aware of this and is thinking carefully about things. I am not going to get my hopes up too much as there are so many factors that need working through, but for her to tell me that she is trying to get back to face to face was helpful and for her to ask me if I would want to come back…well internally I was doing a happy dance but externally I gave absolutely nothing away….

FFS!

The session was coming to the end and she asked me again to think about the walk before she goes on holiday at the end of next week and coming back to the room and let her know what I think.

After the session, I was scrolling on Facebook and a video came up of a challenge where you go and sit with your toddler whilst they’re watching their favourite show and film their reaction. They were lovely. All the kids stop what they are doing and kiss or cuddle their parent – and connect. It made me cry…because I know this was never my reality.

Anyway, I decided I wanted to see A for a walk, but equally was terrified that because I want it but there is only a week until she goes on holiday there would be a strong chance we wouldn’t be able to find a time. I sent this:

Thank you for being there and trying to be reassuring today. It’s so hard. I just saw this video https://www.facebook.com/199098633470668/posts/7821700421210413/?vh=e&d=w and it properly broke my heart because this is what it feels like inside – and even younger still – and yet there never was anyone there. There was never this kind of experience – no ‘I love you’ no holding, no attunement. I look at the connection and love in this video and there’s nowhere in my internal experience to hang it on and I just feel immense loss. Like I know that child is there inside, wanting to love and to be loved and instead is spiralling out of control in the dark, alone. The grief feels completely overwhelming.

I am beyond terrified of being rejected and abandoned for being too much, too needy, annoying. And It’s really huge because it’s happened recently (with Em) not just in my past. I really really do want to see you in person – for a walk, back in the room, whatever … but there’s also a part of me that doesn’t want to need or want that, or for you to know how hard it is. Also, I was wondering, can I send you something in the post before you go on holiday? 

She messaged me back and said that she knows that lots of therapists would say no to me sending something but to her that feels rejecting so I could send her something if I wanted so long as it wasn’t a bag of 💩😂!

I laughed and said that it definitely wasn’t a bag of 💩 and then told her I missed her. She sent me a hug and then asked me if I was able to get childcare anytime this week to have a walk. Anyway after a bit of back and forth we are booked in for a walk on Tuesday afternoon… I’ll let you know how we get on! The good news is that at least a part of me is excited!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Navigating Our First Rupture…

I made it through last weekend a little haphazardly and as it got to Monday, and almost time for my session, I felt anxious. I had every intention of telling Anita that her not replying to some of my recent (vulnerable) texts had unsettled me in a big way. I mean surely the evidence was there that she is safe enough to express that with? She may not have replied to me but we had talked in sessions about what I had said, more or less, and when I had reached out in the middle of the week and asked for a check-in she’d accommodated that. If I don’t tell her what’s going on how is she meant to know…and how can we sort it out?

I took a deep breath and waited for Anita’s call to come in, 10:00…10:01…10:02…10:03… wtf? I started to feel pissed off, angry, forgotten about…abandoned…rejected…and then I closed down. I know this is not all about Anita, that everything she does is also filtered through the lens of how Em behaved, but I nose-dived really quickly, ‘She’s the same as Em. She doesn’t really care. You’re a fucking moron for hoping that this time things would be different because the problem is you…not them…’

So with the Critic ranting in my head and my body feeling I almost just left it, ‘Sod her. I don’t even care anyway…’

Only of course I do care.

Having stared at my home screen for the last four minutes I opened up my Whatsapp and saw that I had a missed called from A at 10:01. My phone hadn’t rung or notified me of the call.

Really?

For fuck’s sake! I returned the call and A picked up. I told her my phone had glitched and she said she was glad to see me and was worried something might have happened. You’d think that might have been enough for me to settle down, connect, and talk but of course it isn’t that easy. In the intervening four minutes between expecting the call and realising I had missed the call I had run the attachment gauntlet and my body was in flight mode.

I wish I had have been brave enough to say, ‘I thought you’d forgotten about me and I feel panicked’ but of course because I was hanging on to all the worry about the last two weeks and her not acknowledging those few texts it felt impossible. I was already armoured up and so I did the thing… I talked BUT NOT ABOUT WHAT WAS REALLY BOTHERING ME. I spoke about work, my daughter’s return to school, and you guessed it… COVID!

Give me fucking strength!!

I’m not saying that what I spoke about isn’t a concern or wasn’t helpful it’s just on my list of ‘what’s bothering me’ those things probably come about 15 places down. Like even if I couldn’t tell her about the fear surrounding being rejected or her seeming to have backed away, maybe I could have talked about the fact I was upset about the anniversary of my dad dying which was happening the next day having touched on it in our Friday session, or told her about the fact that I had looked at Em’s website over the weekend – you know how I like to self-harm – and had seen that she’s updated her page to specifically list the issues she deals with. There are tonnes but imagine my horror when she lists: attachment disorders, dissociation, eating disorders, and trauma…

I wanted to puke.

I knew the, ‘I have reached the limit of my competency’ and I do not have ‘the relevant skills or training’…was utter fucking bullshit when she said it. It’s like the therapist’s get out of jail free card. How can you argue with that? It’d be like a student asking me to teach them German – it just wouldn’t be possible. They’d have to seek support elsewhere. But to see that she is advertising her services in these areas tells me that she has learned absolutely nothing from what has happened between us. That she takes zero responsibility for her part in it.

To think that she genuinely thinks she has the skills to treat people with these issues is absolutely beyond words. I am upset. I am hurt. But I am absolutely terrified that she’ll do the same to someone else. Perhaps someone else who doesn’t have quite as much resilience as I have. And it might sound dramatic but it’s not beyond the range of possibility that someone might really hurt themselves facing the situation I did.

If it weren’t for my kids and the fact that I quickly found Anita just as things began to unravel (tick gate!) I think there would have been a strong possibility that I may have hurt myself…or worse. Because annihilating a person’s young parts when they have been exposed and vulnerable is just about the worst thing that can happen for people with attachment problems.

Everything went wrong when we were kids, we learnt to protect ourselves, often using maladaptive coping mechanisms that hurt us further, and in many cases the damage that was done to us as kids led to us developing problematic relational patterns…this all causes us problems in later life and that’s how we end up in therapy depressed, empty, anxious, hurting…

We are encouraged to try again at letting people in, trusting some with the most vulnerable parts of ourselves… and it took years for me to let Em see what I was struggling with, how badly hurt I was, and when she saw the full extent of the need and pain, she abandoned me…only this time it feels worse because unlike my mother, she’s also rejected my adult self, too, so I feel utterly heartbroken.

But no. I didn’t bring ANY OF THAT to the session…because people refusing to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces is clearly of greater concern for me! Jeez!

Anyway, the session ended it was fine, but not fine you know? I doubt Anita even knew I was keeping her at arm’s length. I felt so pissed off with myself afterwards, though. I convinced myself that she was fed up with me, disinterested in me, that I was wasting my time. And yet, there was still a part that wanted to connect.

On Tuesday I had a good day with work, back to face to face, but by the evening the grief around my dad loomed large. I had told Anita that I was really sad that this year I would not be able to go to the beach and ‘connect with my dad’ like I usually do, to mark the anniversary. I mean I know technically we are allowed to travel wherever we like but I don’t think that a trip out of county is essential right now.

On Tuesday evening I sent Anita some pictures I took from my trip last year with the caption ‘If Only…’

img_8103img_8079img_8101

And sure enough she did not reply.

And that is when my system went into full scale meltdown. Usually, before the message when I let her in, she would at least send an emoji and now nothing.

I had bad dreams all week. One where I was watching Anita with someone (aspects of me) at an outdoor café. As I watched I could tell that something wasn’t right. It looked fine on the surface but I just knew it wasn’t as it appeared. As she got up to leave, she handed me a rolled-up piece of paper that looked like a receipt and on it written in pencil were the words, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t work with you’.

Then I woke up on Thursday morning having had a dream about being on a paddle board with both my kids in a harbour (where I used to live). The paddle board had a puncture and was rapidly deflating. Neither of my kids (in the dream) were competent swimmers and I knew I couldn’t save both of them. I noticed Anita was on the harbour wall. I called for help and she turned and walked away.

I know they’re both dreams. Not reality. That these are my fears coming out. But it’s horrid because I ignored my dreams about Em and look what happened. What happens if my dreams are trying to tell me something again?

I felt so triggered and upset that I sent Anita a message to cancel the session on Friday. This is so unlike me. I never cancel sessions…ok so I cancelled that one with Em just before Christmas but never before! So I sent this:

Can we have a break tomorrow and talk on Monday instead? I feel really unsettled, disconnected, and that things aren’t ok/safe/something has changed between us. Bad dreams aren’t helping. Maybe it’ll feel less bad after the weekend. July is always hard.

I wasn’t sure what she would come back with but I wasn’t really expecting this:

Of course, that’s no problem.

I mean sure, I asked to not do the session but I explained why and for me to be saying I am feeling shit and unsafe in the relationship I basically did not need her to agree that it was fine to ignore that for another few days. The child parts felt so abandoned. I needed Anita to see past my defences and reach through to the little ones and she didn’t. I left it a few hours and felt really unseen and disappointed.

I am good at catastrophising and was really seriously thinking that this was it…it wasn’t going to work out – she just doesn’t get it. To be fair I also need make it clear that I was massively hormonal and I am never at my most rational when in the throes on PMS!

A few hours later I replied:

It doesn’t feel like no problem ☹

And then this came in:

No, I can hear that but not sure how to try and reassure you in a text. My guess is the closer we get the more your defences will try to sabotage the relationship to try and keep you safe. It’s a system that works as in it keeps you guarded but it also isolates you. I can hear July is a triggering month so maybe letting your defences step in for a few days is what you need and gives your defences the respect they deserve for trying to keep you safe. So try not to be too hard on yourself and try to give yourself the empathy you deserve.

Ugh. Yes. But. No.

Absolutely, the closer we get the more spooked parts will feel because the fear of loss and rejection becomes more acute but there’s more to it than that … and telling me not to be too hard on myself when I am depriving myself of connection feels like we’re letting the protector win when actually sometimes she needs to be shown that we’re ok and that it’s safe. But that message was enough for me to see that actually A is not trying to ignore me or disconnect…I don’t think… and so I asked if we could still have our session, feeling like a bloody dickhead!:

I hate feeling like this. And yes, you’re right. But I don’t want to feel triggered and then run scared from people because it is isolating. It’s that thing about leaving before I get left. I was hypervigilant before January but now it’s off the chart ☹ . I’m sorry. Is it too late to change my mind about tomorrow?

And of course, this is Anita we are talking about and she came back:

You really don’t need to say sorry and tomorrow at 10am is absolutely fine 😊

And so that was that. Fun times.

When it came to the session on Friday, I felt a bit nervous. I knew I had to tell her what was really going on if I was going to really sort it out. So we started and I said I was a bit embarrassed that I had made such a fuss and actually still ended up in the session…what a 24 hours! She was really warm and understanding. I asked her outright, ‘has something changed?’ and she was adamant from her side that no, nothing had changed, or yes, something had changed, but positively, she said she felt like we are getting closer.

I smiled.

Good. It’s not just me moving towards her then and her feeling repulsed and backing away.

She said that I had mentioned some bad dreams and asked me if I would tell her about them. So, I started with the one about the café and she said that sounded really hard and that she wanted to reassure me that she really has no intention of leaving and that I am not too much for her. She said she understood that might be hard to take on board, or believe, because Em will have said the same thing and then left (the warmth that she exuded as she said it is like nothing Em ever expressed in all the time I worked with her). It was easy to believe what she was saying because it felt real and genuine.

I told her about the second dream and she was really moved and replied that she could see how hard that was for me. Two dreams on the bounce where she’d abandoned me. She could understand my concern, what if I allowed myself to get into the water and it got emotionally overwhelming could I be sure that she wouldn’t let me drown, would she reach out and save me? And the answer to that was an emphatic ‘yes!’. We are in this together and she has absolutely no intention of letting me or my child parts drown.

I can’t tell you how much my body relaxed when she said that. I have never experienced any real reassurance in the relationship with Em. I’ve always been left second guessing, hoping for the best but fearing the worst…and then frequently hearing the worst. Anita isn’t like that. It’s so unbelievably refreshing. Healing.

She said that my protector is really strong and good at her job. I agreed but said, ‘the thing is Anita, I need you to be stronger than she is. I need to you to be able to meet her and diffuse her or at least side step her to get to the young ones because that will make her stand down.’ She repeated the idea she had said in the text about giving the protector space and respect. I said, ‘no’. ‘No?’ she wondered. ‘No. Because if we let her have free reign then the little ones lose out again, they remain isolated and unseen, and they’re the only reason she’s there in the first place’.

Anita asked me to explain further. I said, ‘my system works in a particular way. It’s always the same. If the young parts reach out and are vulnerable but aren’t met they are left in a whole world of pain, it’s awful. So in order for me to function, first the teen steps in with her bubbling rage which is externalised, and then if she can’t get a handle on it all,  the critic steps up and starts attacking me. The teen part is like a really angry big sister. When the young ones are abandoned, she loses her shit. There is absolutely nothing she won’t do to protect them from another unsafe adult hurting them. She’ll cut all ties before things get worse. She struggles to trust anyway but if the young ones are hurting it’s like all hell breaks loose.’

Anita really seemed to get it and said, ‘so what you need then, is for me to see the young parts and help them and the teen will step down a bit?’.

Bingo.

I think at this point she thought that the teen was having a meltdown because of the dreams. It felt like we were moving in the right direction but I still didn’t quite feel like I could tell her that I had been so upset about the texts. It felt stupid. Being face to face – or screen to screen – or whatever I could see that Anita was not trying to abandon me at all. I guess, though, there was a little bit of me that was thinking, ‘she only cares in the paid for time, outside that I don’t matter’… you know all the great stuff!

So instead I decided to tell her something else that I felt shame about but not quite as much shame as I did about overreacting to the texts… I decided to tell her that I had looked online at Em’s website earlier in the week. I waited for it…a raised eyebrow… look of disgust…an uncomfortable shuffle in her chair. Of course, none of those things happened. Just a look of care and understanding as though it were the most natural thing in the world that I’d be searching my ex-therapists website after terminating five months ago!

I expressed how upset I felt knowing that she had learnt nothing, took no responsibility, and basically that left me in no doubt that she absolutely thinks I was the problem. Anita empathised. I said I was angry. She asked me what I wanted to do with my anger and I said that I didn’t know right now, but that I was certain that I didn’t want to turn it in on myself…it’s not always possible but if I do that then she’s really won. Anita agreed and said she was glad that even though it was painful that I wasn’t abusing myself as well.

Anyway, we spoke about that and then I built up a bit more confidence…and asked again, ‘Are you absolutely sure that we are ok and that nothing has changed?’ She replied again ‘I’m sure’. I sat there quiet. ‘In the last few weeks you’ve taken steps closer to me’ she looked thoughtful for a second ‘and I really feel like we are getting closer… Do you think I have stepped back?’ I nodded. She told me that if I had felt that she is sorry but that absolutely had not been her intention. A little voice murmured, ‘but you’ve ignored me’. Anita looked shocked. ‘In session?’ she wondered. ‘No’ I whispered. I felt so small at that point and it was really clear to me that it was the young part that was talking to her. She was quiet for a moment. ‘Is this about texts?’ I nodded again. She thought for a few seconds and then started talking in a really open and vulnerable way,

‘I’m sorry if my text replies have felt not good enough or what you’ve needed. I think I told you before that I have really bad dyslexia. I almost couldn’t complete my training because of the written component of the course. I needed a lot of support from my supervisor and had to use voice technology to write my essays because I struggle so much with writing and typing. I could never offer email therapy for this reason. So, when I text I have to think really, really hard and the harder I try the less authentic it might feel because I lose myself in trying to get it right when I know I am likely to get it wrong. I’m sorry.’

Honestly, it was so heartfelt that I melted a bit inside. Like I really felt for her and was so pleased that she was able to be vulnerable with me. To have authentic communication modelled is really something. I hadn’t really thought about it from her side despite having been told in our first session together that she prefers to check in via calls rather than texts because she struggles with dyslexia and finds calls more connecting. I really heard it now, and realised that it probably feels especially pressured knowing I am an English teacher and will notice any errors in what she sends.

I suppose I tend to communicate in writing because it’s what I find easier but it’s also that I have not been allowed calls or any outside contact with Em and writing is all I had – even though I really shouldn’t text or email! In all the years we worked together we only had one phone check in…and it was a game changer for me…and yet the next time I walked into the room she raised the drawbridge and told me she’d stepped outside her role as a therapist by doing it. It was devastating.

I said to Anita that I really understood that, but actually I really didn’t have a problem with her texts, that her replies up until two weeks ago have been phenomenal, so holding, so attuned, and exactly what I had needed. I said that she had felt so connected, even when she might just reply with a smiley face emoji. I told her that two weeks ago, when I told her that my young parts missed her she stopped responding and since then every time I have reached out with something vulnerable she’s made no reply at all and it’s made me worry that something is wrong, that I am too much, and that she is backing away.

If I had said any of this to Em she would have thrown it back at me, telling me how I am just being sensitive and that the feelings are coming from the past and that it’s not how it is and that we need to keep communication inside the room and that this is her boundary. She could never step towards me in a rupture and instead left me hanging having to work through it on my own.

What did Anita do?

She leant in towards the camera and gently said, ‘I am so so sorry for letting your young parts down, I really didn’t mean to. I am so glad you’ve been able to tell me this because now I can make sure I don’t do it again. I have been really busy at home the last couple of weeks and I am sorry if it’s come across as me not caring. It’s not that, at all. I have been aware of how you’ve moved towards me and I didn’t want to get it wrong with you or give you an inadequate response’.

I explained that I really don’t need long or complicated responses to my texts and that I really understand the feelings around being exposed and not feeling good enough due to the dyslexia. I said I am not judging and that she’s always felt really authentic to me. My young parts just need to know that she’s still there when I reach out. I told her again about how I really struggle with object constancy and so that it really is the young parts seeking reassurance and an emoji can be enough…but getting no reply at all sends me into panic.

I told her that I genuinely thought she was trying to find a way to tell me she wasn’t able to work with me which is what’s been coming up in my dreams and why I had backed away on Thursday. She said she understood that there felt like there was safety in leaving before I got left. I said having just talked in the way we have it seems like a massive reaction to three texts being left hanging especially when in the same block of time I’d reached out and she had made time for a check in. I said it’s just really hard coming from a place where texts, emails, and calls hadn’t been allowed. I said how I had been ignored for years and years and it felt like a narrative repeating.

She reiterated that she is not Em but acknowledged how badly Em had hurt me in various ways and understands how sensitive this is. I said how I had worried that she’d been to supervision or peer support and she’d been told that she shouldn’t work with me in this way, and that if she took away the outside contact I’d really struggle because it’s been so important to me. I think she was genuinely surprised by my mental gymnastics and assured me that it was all ok and that she knows what I need now. She reiterated that the way we can keep moving forward together is by talking and communicating this stuff even when it’s tough.

I haven’t really done that exchange any justice at all but what I can say is that it is probably the single most healing moment I have experienced in talk therapy in all the years I’ve been doing it. Being listened to, seen, understood, and accepted (even if I was being dramatic and over the top)  is so healing. And it is such a contrast to being ignored, blamed, or shamed for how I feel. To effectively repair a rupture rather than be left holding the pain and upset is amazing. To know I can express how I feel and that be met well is so much healthier than feeling like there is no choice but to move through a rupture and let it go as it’s better than risking losing everything. I mean the last time I tried to sort a rupture I got terminated…but I couldn’t allow my therapist to think it was ok to call me a tick, could I?!

Anyway, after the session I sent A a short text thanking her for being real, and open, and hearing me. And she replied by thanking me for my honesty and signed off with a hug emoji.

And, that, my friends is how it is done! This tick is doing therapy! x

Shouldn’t Have Skyped…

I’m really aware that I have been AWOL here since before Christmas and have kind of left everything hanging for weeks on the ‘live rupture’ that started in the last session before the break. There are a few reasons for me not writing here, but the main one is I don’t even know where to begin. Things have been so bloody awful that I haven’t been able to formulate my thoughts or ideas about what’s happening.

I have been flipping massively between, ‘I have to leave therapy with M’ and ‘Maybe it’s just me and things can get better’… I guess deep down I have been hoping this stuckness we’ve been experiencing and the feeling of being on completely different pages might resolve and I could come back here and basically go, ‘Haha, look at me being an idiot, freaking out and creating another Christmas rupture… but it’s ok now.’ Only I can’t say that even a few weeks and sessions down the line and I am not sure that it’s all me. Lots has happened and it’ll have to go over a few posts which may take some time.

Also, I just want to quickly say a huge thank you to all the people who have been checking in with me on email. It means a lot that this community cares and we notice when people might not be ok. Also to my closer friends, thank you for putting up with me these last few weeks and not muting your WhatsApp but also being patient when I haven’t responded to you.

So here goes. I am the ‘ringmaster of the shit show’ right now. I saw a hoodie online the other day with that slogan and I am so tempted to buy it because that’s exactly how I feel.

Christmas break was a bit different this year. I wasn’t drowning in young parts’ attachment pain and managed to immerse myself in my family life (well until my wife had a meltdown and threatened to leave…the joys of menopause!). Actually,  I just had a huge resistance to even thinking about therapy on the break and had absolutely zero desire to go back to my sessions on the 3rd January.

Sometimes I can feel a bit distant and detached but as the sessions approach the needy parts come back online and I literally cannot wait to see my therapist. Not this time, though. I just felt so disconnected and disappointed by everything that had happened before Christmas that there was a part of me that just couldn’t face more of the same. There is only so much abandonment and rejection I can cope with. I am sure she wouldn’t see her behaviour as abandoning or rejecting but that’s how it felt to me.

As it turned out I couldn’t get to my session on the Friday because my wife was working and my kids hadn’t gone back to school yet. I spent a good while pondering  what I should do. Should I just cancel my session again like I did on holiday? Would it be better to wait til we were face to face to talk? But of course I am no so used to looking at things from a multitude of angles that I began to wonder whether I was just being avoidant and needed to push through and have the hard conversations.

On the morning of the session I text M and asked to Skype which she agreed to. I was not feeling all that great as I dialled in and the moment she popped up on screen I knew immediately that something was up. It was like the still face exercise – she didn’t smile and gave absolutely nothing away. Her voice was cold and it felt like she didn’t want to be on the line. I felt the same.

I didn’t know where to start the conversation so basically did a fill in about the stress that my wife having a meltdown on Boxing Day and how it had really unsettled the young parts who fear abandonment. She asked me how I felt about the Skype and I conceded that I wasn’t keen.

And then it began…

The boundary talk.

Again.

I could feel myself brace ready for what was coming next.

The usual stuff about keeping therapy in the room, how she doesn’t do outside contact and whilst other therapists may do all kinds of things (i.e when I text her cancelling the session from holiday I had said about other people getting check ins, transitional objects, notes, being encouraged to write, getting tangible reassurances, playing games, therapists sitting closer to clients etc etc) she doesn’t work like that, that I am self-sabotaging by reaching out and essentially I know her parameters. I felt like she had slammed a door in my face.

She made no reference to the difficult last session we’d had or the fact that I was clearly massively unsettled as the break began. It felt like it was all on me and nothing about what may have triggered me to reach out, cancel sessions etc… which is odd because I would have thought after nearly 5 years and never having cancelled on her that this might be something big on her radar.

She then decided to launch into some shit about me maybe wanting her to be my friend, or be partners, and that I might have erotic fantasies about her… honestly I nearly fell off the chair. Like WTAF?? And even if this were the case is this how to reconnect about a 3.5 week break that was in rupture? I felt like she was in total panic mode… ‘must reassert boundaries!’

She was so far off base. It felt like she’s read my notebooks, freaked out about the need of the young parts and suddenly thinks I want to move in with her and start fucking her. Talk about snowballing and overreacting.

And then it got worse.

The boundary talk became a gift talk…

I was already reeling from all that had just happened when she said: ‘I didn’t want to reject your gift when you gave it to me at the end of the last session but in future I think it’s best that you do not give me gifts. You pay me already and I am just your therapist. I am not rejecting you’.

Wow. Way to go M. Thanks. The young parts fell apart at that moment. It was like, what am I doing laying myself bare with this woman who clearly doesn’t give a shit. And honestly, not rejecting? How else would I see it after the last ten minutes of her talking at me?

She missed a massive opportunity to explore why I had decided to give her a present this year after all these years of working together and the meaning behind them. I gave her a copy of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ (which basically is a must read for anyone with attachment wounds and in therapy) and a glass snowflake Christmas tree decoration – because I have previously likened the therapeutic relationship to a snowflake: there are lots of snowflakes (clients) but each one is different and so each relationship is meaningful…

What could have been a connecting moment was just shat on.

I couldn’t cope.

And I couldn’t believe she was dropping this on me via Skype. Surely these kind of conversations need to happen in person.

Usually, I would dissociate at moments like this and internalise everything, feel bad, and just tolerate what was going on despite being massively hurt and angry. But I didn’t. I don’t know what came over me but I just felt so missed, so unseen, so badly judged that I said, ‘I don’t want to talk you to you’ and disconnected the Skype call at 10am with twenty minutes of the session left!

I sat staring a the screen for five minutes (felt like seconds- think I may have dissociated) hardly believing what I had just done and then I panicked.

Clearly she wasn’t going to dial back in but I could see she was still online.

So I typed into the message bar on the Skype:

Me (10:05am): I can’t do this over Skype. It’s too hard. You feel really far away.

M (10:06): Ok, I understand that it’s hard. See you on Monday.

[I couldn’t quite believe she was just going to leave it at that and panicked. I sat there for a minute and fell apart]

Me (10:08): I am sorry for hanging up on you. Everything feels wrong.

M (10:12): I think that the younger parts of you feel stirred up and ambivalent.

Me (10:16): Perhaps. Or maybe it’s just I feel completely at sea and like you actually don’t really care about any of it and it hurts. This is absolutely not how I wanted it to be after the break btw. I really missed you. It’s felt horrible. See you Monday.

M (10:20): Yes, I imagine that you didn’t want this and so it feels particularly hard, but I think it’s best to talk about it on Monday. See you then.

I felt sooooo upset after this. I haven’t gone into huge detail because I can’t actually face going back to the recording now to give a better account of it. All I can say is it felt shit and it was enough to make me make contact with another therapist and arrange an appointment.

giphy-4

I wrote the email below after the Skype disaster – but I haven’t sent it or taken it in to session. I don’t see the point really. It’s long and would take a lot of time to go through when it can be boiled down to some simple things. Since I wrote this I have verbally brought some of what’s bothering me to session and had some helpful discussion but I will post about that in another post when I get chance. For now, I am just trying to keep swimming and keep adult me front and centre. It’s hard.

M,

I don’t even know where to begin… Seriously.

My brain can’t even process what’s going on. I keep trying to make sense of it all but I’m so confused, angry, and overwhelmed by where things have got to this last month that it just feels like a massive mess and part of me can’t even see the point in trying to fix this. My gut is telling me to call it a day and yet part of me is thinking I should give things a chance to work out…I don’t know what’s best or even if things can mend?

It feels like the need to run away is perhaps just a trauma response and maybe I need to stick with it and try and create a different narrative… but then maybe keeping battling on is actually just another example of a trauma response because I keep trying to adapt to fit in with someone else when it doesn’t work for me and I’ve done that my whole life.
I don’t know how you think the lead into the Christmas break was, but from my side it was a complete disaster.

I was so upset at the end of the last session that I ended up texting you. I never want to text you because it makes me feel completely rubbish and full of shame because time and again you ignore me. I suspect you’ll say, ‘this is the boundary, and if you choose to ignore it, you’re knowingly walking into that rejection’. It’s not as simple as that, though, because that scared, connection-seeking part is already so frightened that something is terribly wrong in that moment that it can’t really imagine it getting any worse. Of course, it usually does.

With the break looming and my holiday just about to begin I knew myself well enough to know how it gets if things are left to escalate. I was already really unsettled and I absolutely did not want a repeat of Christmas break two years ago. I hoped that you would reply to me, say something reassuring, but no. It felt utterly abandoning and rejecting…and I think I used the word ‘punishing’ in the letter I put in with the notebooks. That is how it feels even though you say that’s not what you’re doing.

Things felt so bad that over that weekend that I was certain that if I Skyped from holiday it would be a complete shit show and I didn’t want to be stressing about how bad things felt all week whilst I was away. If we can’t connect in person then how likely is it to happen over the phone? And that’s why I sent the books to you before I left. It’s not something I would generally do and I get that it was stepping completely outside the regular boundary. I just felt like things have been so stuck for so long that maybe if you could see what it’s been like in my head it might move things along a bit.

I thought that I might change my mind as the week wore on and want to talk to you by the Friday but I absolutely didn’t want to have any contact with you at all and so that’s why I text you asking you to read the books instead.

Of course, I was worried about your reaction to what I had written but at the same time another part of me just didn’t care anymore. What is there left to lose when everything already feels so bad? You always ask me what I imagine the worst thing is that can happen if I tell you whatever it is that I am struggling with– it’s this: that you will finally confirm what I have believed all along, that I am too much for you, that you don’t care, and finally something will happen that’ll push one or other of us to terminate the therapy.

I have felt ill when I have thought about you actually reading some of what’s in the books. The fact that it’s taken a year for me to let you see that stuff shows how difficult it is to let you in and how unsafe I have felt in the room. I started writing in the books last year because my hope was that somehow, it’d contain what was going on and help stick within the no outside contact boundary. If I could write down what had been triggered in the room it would be out, to a degree, and then we could work with it in the sessions. It seemed like a reasonable plan because so much hadn’t been making it into the room because I dissociate the moment I get close to that stuff.

Only it hasn’t worked, has it? It’s been so rare that I have felt able to let you see any of what I’ve been struggling with because the parts that are so terrified of being abandoned haven’t felt like it’s worth the risk opening up to you. You say you aren’t frustrated or annoyed with me, and maybe you haven’t been, but I also haven’t felt like you really want to connect to those vulnerable, young parts either. It so often feels like I’m being observed rather than met where I am at– like you can see things are wrong, tell me even, but there is this huge wall that stops any real connection. I feel totally stranded and exposed and want to disappear because you feel so far away.

I was dreading Friday’s session and almost cancelled again. I felt off. It felt like everything was wrong. I knew that Skype was risky and so there was a potential that things could get worse but at the same time I am trying to be less avoidant and what if not talking to you is just running away? Now, I wish I had trusted myself and not bothered because now we are here.

I am so sick of you returning to the boundaries of the therapy and outside contact with me after almost every break. I get it. It’s rigid not flexible. There is nothing I can do to change it. You didn’t even really make any sense on Friday when you were trying to tell me why you still think it’s the best thing…you changed the subject telling me you were glad I’d let you see the notebooks. The idea that it’s best to keep the therapy in the room makes total sense to me. I don’t disagree with you. I am REALLY trying…hence the books. HOWEVER, no matter how many times you state this stuff about texting and emails it doesn’t help the parts that are sometimes terrified that something is wrong or that you’re gone. The problem I have with object constancy is real. And the shame I feel around this is massive. And I have no idea what to do to help make this feel better.

It’s not the case that forcing me into the room by refusing to acknowledge me out of it will somehow suddenly make me more engaged and trusting in the room. If that was working, I don’t think we’d be where we are right now. All that seems to happen is I dissociate more and more because nothing feels secure. I am trying to bug you as little as possible but that in itself is making this feel worse because the parts that are absolutely certain you don’t like me keep getting the same message – she’s not safe and she doesn’t care. This is absolutely hellish for me. I literally want to crawl into a hole and die because it’s so painful and embarrassing.

I am trying to do what you want but at the same time what do I with the parts of me that are really struggling – what do I do to help myself when the abandonment and rejection stuff is so live because nothing works? When things feel pretty ok with the relationship, I have zero desire to contact you. I don’t need to. I am fine. But when things feel really unsteady it escalates so quickly and then it’s awful because the moment I reach out to you all hell breaks loose inside. There is so much shame and self-attacking that goes on, but also so much sadness from the young parts that keep getting the same message – ‘you’re unimportant and she doesn’t care’. The worst thing is that when it gets bad I seem to reach out more and more. It doesn’t work for either of us. It irritates you and it just reinforces the fact that there is nothing for me to connect to and so then when I see you I don’t trust you.

It’s way more complicated than this but essentially it all comes down to being too much and also being easily ignored or feeling unimportant. I don’t want to text you all the time. I don’t want to do the therapy outside the room. But I am struggling with how to make things feel safe enough with you. The sad thing is that actually there have been some times when you have responded to me when I’ve reached out and it’s made a huge difference. It’s like a switch gets flicked and absolutely everything settles immediately. I know that sounds insane. It feels like this is an ongoing problem and we haven’t come up with any strategies to make this better.

I wish you could understand how bad it feels when everything is falling to pieces for those young parts. I know you can’t fix what’s gone in the past and you can’t fill the hole that I feel inside. But we need to find a way of settling that part that gets triggered sometimes, that fears that you’re dead or in some way not safe anymore…because it’s so bad when it’s happening. I can’t regulate that part very well…at all…and when it’s terrible I need to feel like you are there…and I don’t.

And yes, I know you are just my therapist, I’m not stupid. Oh god, and that’s something else…

You’ve said it a maybe two or three times over the years and I have always noted it as feeling ‘off’ but never responded to it, but I am genuinely really confused that yet again you have brought up the idea that I might want you to be my partner and that I have sexual/erotic feelings towards you. I don’t know what I have ever said to give you that impression but it really isn’t how I see you at all. It actually makes me feel a bit weird even trying to put you into that place in my mind.

The mother transference stuff is absolutely accurate but even then I still do know you are my therapist and not my mother – and not my partner, my friend, or anything else…and I don’t want you to be any of those things because I have all of them in my life already. I need you to be my therapist. However, I don’t think therapist should feel like it’s a nothing relationship – you are important to me and every time you say ‘I am just your therapist’ it feels so clinical, sterile even and what does ‘just’ mean, anyway?

All I can think of to make you say this again now (thinking I think about you in a sexual way) is that it comes from the dream I wrote about in the notebooks [*I was showing M my rearranged wardrobes and she asked me about my sex toys that were in a drawer!…CRINGE!] – but that wasn’t a sexual dream at all – it was like asking me what my favourite colour or flavour ice cream was – really matter of fact and at a time when I was showing you a reorganised wardrobe. And I think this dream has way more to do with the fact that we have never discussed sex at all in all the time we’ve been working together rather than it being something about the dynamic between me and you or having those kinds of feelings for you.

I don’t know?

And then this has made me wonder if you seem to be keeping your distance because you think I want to be with you and are in some way finding it awkward with me because of that. I’m gay and you are a woman…but you’re not my type!

Anyway, that all felt off because I am really clear about who you are in my life and I am not interested in the least about our relationship existing in any other capacity. However, I do very much need you as my therapist and I want you to help me work through everything. I want to be able to talk to you but something is wrong and I can’t fix the attachment stuff on my own. You often say that we can’t repair what went wrong when I was little. I get that I can’t change what happened and you can’t be all that I needed then but actually I know that repair can be made in the relationship because sometimes I can feel it happening. Sometimes you feel really present and connected and caring and it really helps…and then other times you don’t at all. You’ll probably say this is me projecting.

It feels like giving you those notebooks has fucked everything up even worse than it was before. First sessions back are never easy but again this one felt really bad. The fact that I disconnected the Skype should tell you how terrible it felt. I’m sorry I did that but I couldn’t bear it. I can’t understand how you might think that saying what you did when we weren’t actually face to face would be in any way helpful after what’s happened lately. I get that you have stuff to say and maybe it felt really important to you to restate your boundaries in the first session back but it just felt like you have put your walls up in the biggest way and you felt so cold.

It would be hard to tell over Skype what was going on for me. You probably wouldn’t be aware that my heart was racing from the moment I saw you on the screen, that I felt sick and shaky, that I wanted to hide because you didn’t feel safe to me, that I was trying really hard not to slip into dissociation, that the young parts were absolutely terrified and were hoping that you’d say something that would be connecting and settle them after what has been a hellish month but it just kept getting worse and worse. It felt like you were a stranger…which I guess, in lots of ways, you are.

I was reeling from the stuff about the boundaries and the relationship and then you added in the bit about gifts. And that was me done. Saying ‘I am not rejecting you’ doesn’t make it feel any less rejecting. I’ve known you eight years now and whilst maybe that doesn’t make any difference to you it means something to me. Without doubt, gifts are a communication and have meaning and it is important to work out what they are but all you seemed to do on Friday was reinforce your fortress. It is so hard to get close to you.

I didn’t want to hurriedly throw the gifts at you as I was leaving in December but the last session did not go in the way that I had imagined. I had wanted to give you the gifts at the beginning and explain why I had given them to you and what they meant – because there is a lot behind them.

You have told nothing about yourself in all this time – I mean you really excel at blank screen/Teflon – and then on that day spent twenty minutes animatedly telling me how you think Corbyn is a communist and the labour party is antisemitic and why the EU parliament is flawed and how Scotland wouldn’t get accepted into the EU and taking the piss out of the Lib Dem leader and how loads of people lie about needing benefits… I mean I wasn’t really expecting that to happen especially as it was our last session. Next time if you get the urge to reveal stuff can you maybe tell me something about the music you like, books you’ve read, or places you’ve travelled to instead?!

So much of that session was taken up with that, that there was no opening to discuss Christmas or how I might be feeling about the break. I mean I guess we both know by now that it’s never easy for me so what’s the point in going on about it but actually it needs to be talked about over and over again …because when we don’t it makes me feel like my feelings aren’t really welcome and that I must be embarrassing you and it just makes the anxiety I feel a million times worse. So, it’s little wonder everything was rushed at the end. I wish I hadn’t bothered now.

I don’t understand why, on Friday, you didn’t have the conversation with me first about why I had given these things to you, unpicked it, done the work round it. Instead it was just another pushback. You say you don’t want to hurt me but I don’t see how you think how you handled this would do anything but hurt me. You didn’t check in with who was there on Friday and just leapt in with both feet- it was really hard. It would have been hard to hear, anyway, but when I had just told you that [wife] had threatened to leave on Boxing Day I would have thought it would be clear that my system would have been activated and feeling vulnerable and worrying about abandonment and rejection.

It feels like we are on completely different pages right now – I don’t mean about the politics; I don’t really care about that. I mean about the relationship. It feels like all the things I have worried about, about being too much is exactly right. It feels like you have taken a big step back from me when actually that’s opposite of what I needed. I can’t seem to fully explain what I mean but what seems really complex is actually really simple.

I need you to help me hold the feelings I have and normalise them and actually accept them. I need you to help me break through the shame I feel about needing connection to you and work with me to find workable solutions to the problems I have with outside contact when things get bad because it’s not going away. It just feels like we are perpetually re-enacting what happened when I was little. My mum and wider family were so emotionally and physically withholding that just being in the room with you feels traumatic because you are so distant.

I need you to know that despite how ‘much’ there is in those books and how intense my feelings seem I am not suddenly going to start texting you all the time, ringing you, turning up on your doorstep or whatever else it is that you think might happen – I’m not that crazy and I don’t want you to be anything but my therapist. And also, just because I’ve let you see that stuff doesn’t mean it all feels ok or that I can just start discussing it because it’s out. I still feel really shutdown and fearful about it.

There’s loads I could say but I’ll stop now – it all feels shit.

And So This Is Christmas (Therapy Break).

Right then, folk, looks like it’s time to buckle up and hold on tight for the next few weeks because it’s that time of year again… oh yes, it’s the time we’ve all been excitedly anticipating – Christmas therapy break!

Oh how I love Christmas: the twinkly lights, the presents, the excitement, the movies… the enforced extended time with family, the building stress levels,  the missed therapy sessions, the activation of the attachment pain, the bedding in of the belief that ‘my therapist doesn’t care about me’, the mounting anxiety, the feelings of abandonment and rejection, the wading in of the Inner Critic to come add some festive self-hatred into the mix, and the steady descent into breakdown. If things follow this usual pattern then there’ll be a desperate reaching out to therapist which will result in either a) a reply that doesn’t meet the need or b) no reply at all…and voila RUPTURE!!!

Oh it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Look, I have to make light of this right now (#sarcasm and #humour shield) because I am in that terrified denial/manic stage. Basically I am like Denver the dog – forced smile hoping that if I say, ‘I am ok’ enough then I might start to believe it and might just fool those around me and might even avoid a disaster like last year!

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Yesterday was the last session of the year. Without doubt, this has been a really hard year so far as therapy goes. It’s been about staring down the #Motherwound and, in doing so, working through a lot of pain that gets activated in the therapeutic relationship because of this. It’s basically maternal transference 101 in my sessions. It’s so hard.

Those of you that have been following this blog for a while will know that I keep rapidly swinging between two extremes: knowing that Em is there, as my therapist, every single week to try and help me process years of trauma and neglect, that she is safe and trustworthy and that I love and respect her; and then there’s the other side that I’ve been inhabiting lately- the horrible place where I feel she doesn’t care enough, is withholding, is deliberately making me suffer, and is basically retraumatising me. UGH!!!

These feelings are really hard to manage (the doubting the relationship ones). Part of the problem with therapy (but also why I need to be in therapy) lies in the fact that I have so many different parts and they feel and need so many different things – often all at the same time.

I’m more-or-less ok when my Adult Self is online alongside the young parts and I can see what’s going on. I can accept that the feelings I am experiencing come from a young place and are being replayed in the here and now. It’s not comfortable but I’m able to tolerate it. I can feel care and even love towards those younger parts and do try and soothe myself. The real problems happen when my Adult fucks off somewhere and leaves the child parts to run the show. We’ve all seen ‘Home Alone’ right?!

Ages ago I wrote something about structural dissociation and fragmented parts after having read an amazing book by Janina Fisher called, ‘Healing The Fragmented Selves Of Trauma Survivors’. Reading that book was really helpful and gave me a much better insight into what was going on for me. It was a kind of lightbulb moment. Later I read Patricia A. DeYoung’s ‘Understanding Chronic And Treating Chronic Shame: A Relational/Neurobiological Approach’ and that really helped move things on for me too.

Of course, my rational intellectual brain can see all of this therapy break hell for what it is. There’s no problem with being able to see where my issues come from on an intellectual level. It’s the emotional brain that is having such a hard time. It literally has no freaking clue what’s going on and reacts to everything like a child would – and the children vary in age.

Nightmare!

I am aware of a very young baby part, a two year old, a four year old, a seven year old, an eleven year old, a young teen, and an older teen part and so sometimes it gets very noisy inside my head in therapy. I switch about and it is really disconcerting: one minute I can be raging and the next I want to crawl into Em’s lap and fall asleep. Ugh.

I don’t know how Em keeps up with me, to be honest, but she’s really quick to spot when things change in me now, sometimes even before I’ve noticed. I know weird things happen in my body (numbness/heaviness/pain/pins and needles…) and I think I blink a lot/don’t blink at all/close my eyes when things are shifting. I know my breathing goes very shallow and I know that if I am talking my voice goes much quieter. Sometimes I lose time – not for very long – but Em will ask me something and I will have absolutely no idea what she’s just said. I take my hat off to her for seeing what’s going on, working with it and trying to talk to the various parts and bring me back to her.

(Can you see I am trying to hang onto the gratitude and sense of there being consistent ‘good enough’ care today?! – Don’t worry, I’m sure next week it’ll be back to ‘it’s all shit’. LOL)

Anyway, I’m going to try and bring things up to speed quickly before I sign off for the next few days.

It’s been a really hard time these last couple of weeks after the dots thing. 

OMG such painful, excruciating conversations about how that all felt punctuated with spells of dissociation.

OUCH.

Everyone turned up on Monday! The Teens were so resistant to talking about the feelings when Em brought the conversation round to what it had been like since she said she couldn’t/wouldn’t do the dots texts. Picture huffy teen, arms folded, snapping ‘what’s the point in talking about this, it won’t change anything?!’ Em stuck with it acknowledging how I might be angry and hurt and did that therapist thing, ‘here we are, in this space to talk about the feelings, give them space, and to let’s try and work out what they mean and where they come from’. There was an actual eye roll on my part and a fuck off big sigh… Em kept pressing gently and then I snapped at her, ‘Why do you keep poking a massive stick in a really sore hole, now?

And there it was.

You’ve hurt me. Massively.

And that opened up a helpful conversation about feeling abandoned and uncared for and about the (god damn) break for and wondering what feeling cared for might feel like. She used the voice…you know the one, the soothing one that makes you feel held and seen and like you aren’t going to die of emotional pain. Sure, I didn’t get what I wanted (texts), but in her not giving me what I wanted we had a healing conversation and I guess that is the work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not happy about it. I still feel anxious that when the shit hits the fan she isn’t going to be there for me…but actually being able to tell her how sad and hurt I felt and for her to hear it, not react negatively or shame me for it was really helpful and I think this also helped open another door for yesterday’s session.

It was a bit of a car crash at the beginning – it was never going to be easy. I’ve been in therapy long enough now to know that sessions are tricky leading into breaks. There were a lot of feelings flying around and as a result a great deal of pained silence. Em kept with me, kept trying to open up conversations and address the break. Part of me was just trying to hold myself together and not disintegrate. I had an image come to me the night before therapy and it hit me again when she asked me how I was feeling.

I know how strange it sounds but I’ll say anyway. I got an image of myself as an octopus in a really rough sea. The octopus was struggling, being battered by the waves. In a calm sea it usually has a reasonable grip on the parts it is trying to hold onto – each part is reasonably well wrapped in a tentacle, still away from the body, but just about held together and safe enough. When the sea is as rough as it is now the grip loosens and all the parts are barely hanging on to the tip of each tentacle. I am scared I can’t hold onto them and they’re going to get washed away and drown. I know it’s weird. But essentially when there’s a storm (the break) adult me feels like I can’t contain all my vulnerable parts….

And so I told Em this. Sure I think this weird stuff all the time, I blog about it, but I don’t always share this kind of thing with her. She thinks that what’s going on right now is another step in the right direction so that’s something. She was able to acknowledge the fear and the panic and tell me that it’s ok.  Then the session was up. Oh god. She said some lovely things about the Christmas card I had given her and said that she knows how hard it’s been recently but that we are getting through.

I left feeling sad and ok.

I immediately missed her.

I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to reach out to her already.

I haven’t.

I can’t guarantee I won’t message her but my aim right now is to write in a book every time I want to contact her and write it down with a time and a date and what’s actually been going on in my day. I know it’s going to be fully cringe but I hope that I will be able to take it all into therapy on the fourth and hand it over and we can start to unpick the feelings and the triggers. I think it might be interesting to see what two weeks of need and fear looks like…….. eeek!!

Oh, and when I decided to try and hold myself a bit closer and breathe through the storm, look what came in my cracker last night….

A sign?!!

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Octopus from a cracker last night!

 

I won’t get chance to post again before Christmas now so I just want to wish everyone a lovely Christmas, to thank you for following me on my journey, and to say to the cheerleading squad (you know who you are) – your support has been amazing this year. I really hope that between us we can find a way of hanging it together with rubberbands and chewing gum and survive the holidays but I know that the reality might more readily be this:

‘Tis the season to be jolly for a rupture fa la la la la la la la la!

xxx

 

Rupture Repaired…Sort Of!

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Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin with talking about this… mess…

Like really, it’s Wednesday, now, and I am looking back over the last week, or so, and shaking my head in disbelief.

Wtaf is going on? (*let’s be upfront and clear, there’s going to be some swearing in this post!)

What on earth is happening with me and my therapy?

It’s a freaking catastrophe! (Again!)

When we started to discuss the possibility of moving from one session a week to two, my therapist, Em, said that two sessions a week could lead to a greater sense of containment (win!); she also mentioned that there was also possibility of more regression (eek!); BUT. BUT. BUT. She never fucking mentioned that the whole process could go to shit in the blink of an eye and all sense of safety, trust, and containment could evaporate in one fifty minute phonecall. I know that I seem to forget a lot at the moment but I’d have remembered that!

So, brief recap, last Monday’s session (1st Oct) saw the Inner Critic stepping up and shutting things down again. It was awkward, no -more than that- it was massively uncomfortable and really hard. I felt really unsettled after having been so open and vulnerable in the previous few sessions and looking back, I am not surprised that the angry protective part waded in and tried to take over control. She’s not a big fan of the young parts saying how they feel to Em and frankly she was stressing out after the marble thing.

Anyway, after a lot of internal raging basically screaming ‘shut up’ she managed to tell Em ‘To fuck off and leave me alone’ and basically shutdown the session. Wow! Nice one! Thanks so much for that lovely one. Jeez. Apparently I’m meant to befriend this part and find out what’s pissing her off so much but frankly when she behaves like this I want to disown her even more! ha.

The time between Monday’s session and Friday was yuck. I am still super busy in my everyday life and I am finding that I am feeling increasingly exhausted just trying to squeeze everything in that I am meant to in the week. A lot of the time I feel like I am on a mission, spinning plates, trying to be everywhere I am meant to at the right time…it just about hangs together if things are feeling ok in therapy, i.e if the bulk of the stuff that I carry around feels largely contained then I can function pretty well in my day-to-day life. If therapy feels ‘iffy’ and the attachment stuff is massively activated I am fucking useless, though. It’s the difference between a high-functioning adult fronting the majority of the day or letting the distressed kids behind the wheel (they don’t know how to drive btw!).

By Thursday night I was shitting myself. I both desperately wanted to talk with Em and to try and explain why things had been so shit for me on Monday. I wanted to try and allow the little ones a chance to connect but at the same time, there was a part of me that just didn’t want to talk at all. I sensed that Skype would be a disaster and as it turned out I wasn’t able to Skype anyway. I wasn’t at home and where I was had a patchy 3G signal – not adequate for a decent call. To be honest, I really didn’t want to be seen either so I text to ask if we could do the session on the phone and then dialled in at 9:30am.

I suspect it was me wearing my ‘worst case scenario’ hat, but the moment the call connected I felt like something wasn’t right. Immediately, Em asked me if I wanted to talk about the text message I had sent her after the last session:

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Errr.

Let me think….

hmmm….

Nope!

I said as much, but also said I guess we needed to.

Deep breaths!

Unbelievably, Em was adamant that I hadn’t told her to go ‘do one’ in the session, and that how she’d understood it was ‘fuck off and leave me alone’ is what I (adult) was wanting to say to the Inner Critic when she piped up and took over.  I know I should have put her right on that, but frankly the way things felt I didn’t feel able to say, ‘errr no, you were really pushing me and it was getting on my nerves and the Critic was telling you to back off’.

Anyway, somehow or other it got onto feelings of care and expressions of love. Gulp. It felt difficult but I needed to tell her how difficult it was for me to be vulnerable with her and let her know how I feel about her and explain why the previous session had seen me put the barriers up. I rarely verbally tell Em how I feel about her. I have written plenty (!!) down and made her read it over the years but I have never said ‘I care about you’ or ‘I love you’ in person. After giving her the marble the other week and Eleven briefly coming to the front I really felt like it was important to bit the bullet and tell her how I feel face-to-face.

So I did.

‘I really care about you’.

Cue internal meltdown, nausea, breaking out into a sweat.

(THANK GOD I WAS ON THE PHONE!)

It was a big moment. It was another step towards her after the huge leap backwards in the previous session lumped with a huge dollop of vulnerability on top.

How did she respond?

I can’t remember it verbatim but something along the lines of:

You may want me to say something similar back to you but this is a different kind of relationship….blah…blah….therapeutic relationship… blah blah boundaries’

OH MY FUCKING GOD.

YOU CANNOT BE FUCKING SERIOUS.

The first time I express my feelings out loud and this? I am not suggesting for one minute that I was expecting her to come back gushing (she’s not that kind of therapist) but she has, on many occasions told me that she cares about me and wants to work with me etc. Why, on Friday, couldn’t she have rattled that shit back at me? Why couldn’t there have been a moment of connection and mutual expression of care and that, even though it is a therapeutic relationship it is still a genuine relationship? Why when, after all these years I have sat mute and reserved couldn’t she have realised what a big healing opportunity it potentially was. After years of hiding my feelings and feeling shame about my feelings this could have been massive…but it wasn’t. It was horrendous.

I have no idea what happened. BUT guess who did have ideas? Yes, of course, The Critic:

‘How many times do we need to go through this? She does not care about you. You are her job – nothing more. It’s utterly pathetic…and now look what you’ve done!…every single one of those young parts is screaming in pain. Why on earth would you do that to them? It was never going to be any different. This is what therapists do: they draw you in; try and get you to trust them; encourage you to be open and vulnerable; and the moment you do it, the reminder – it’s all just paid for time with a professional in a room. I feel sorry for you. Please, now, will you listen to me? I have never done you harm. I am merely here to protect you from people like her…and yourself!’

So, I really can’t remember very much of the session after that. I felt so unsettled. I kept hearing snippets of what Em was saying – something about ‘intense emotions’ which I heard as ‘too much’, ‘bad’, ‘misplaced’ emotions… something about it feeling ‘similar to April when we spoke about the eating disorder’ (my brain took me straight to ‘we’ll have to work towards and ending if you don’t contact your GP’)…and then right at the end another kicker, ‘I really feel like you need holding and cuddling and picking up BUT we don’t do that here, it’s not that kind of relationship…’ and then I was lost again.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. It’s not new news to me – the touch boundary thing- but basically from the moment Em responded in the way she did when I told her that I cared about her it was all downhill and so everything from that point saw me looking for evidence of her lack of care, rejection, there being something wrong with me. It’s all I could hear…even if that was not at all what was meant. It was the young parts following a script. They know how it goes. It’s horrible.

I couldn’t get off the phone quick enough at the end of the session and then sat in my car, stunned for about five minutes before picking myself up and having to get on with the day. It was an enormous struggle to do anything. My wife kept giving me concerned looks, asking me if I was ok, and then eventually after hours of me sighing and moping about got frustrated and said I had been moody and snappy pretty much all day and she didn’t know why? And if therapy did this to me then why was I bothering?

Good question.

I was so upset by the phonecall that I wasn’t sure I would go back to Em again. I seriously considered sending a message to tell her that I just couldn’t do this to myself any more because the impact is so severe when things feel bad. However, I have learnt a few things about texting when things feel really bad…and that is I rarely get the response I am looking for. I wasn’t sure she’d even respond if I terminated by text and that would have riled me even more.

Of course, I didn’t want the therapy to end…but I didn’t ever want it to be like it felt again. And maybe walking away would be less painful in the long run. If I had text her I know, in my heart, I would’ve been hoping that she would reply in some way that would make me feel like she cared, and would be prepared to fight for me, asking me to come back and talk it through. Essentially I would have been testing her and I am not sure what would have happened. She may have let me go and that would have crushed me.

So, I decided that the best course of action was to go to session on Monday and try and explain what was going on on my side and then, if no progress was made, leave.

OMG. Driving to therapy was horrendous. I was so scared. I was sad. I was angry, too. It was a right tumultuous mess inside.

I arrived at session. Em was as she always is. We started the session. She had absolutely no idea that there was anything wrong at all. She started to tune in to where I was at and asked me how I had felt after Friday?

‘Horrid’.

She asked me to elaborate.

Silence.

She talked a bit trying to draw me out.

More silence.

Painful silence…and The Critic going mental inside, ‘see she doesn’t get it at all. Why are you here wasting your time and money?’

I felt after a while that maybe Em was angry or frustrated with me. So I asked her if that was the case. Shock! ‘No! Why would I be angry with you? I feel like you are maybe angry or frustrated with me? And I guess, if anything, I am feeling frustrated with myself for not making it feel safe enough for you to talk to me when clearly there is something very difficult going on for you today. I guess, I am feeling a bit useless. But no. I am not angry or frustrated with you’.

Phew.

I told her that I wasn’t angry or frustrated with her. She asked what I was feeling. I told her I was sad.

She asked me some questions about how I was feeling and about when the sadness had started. I told her ‘it was when I was speaking to you’. She seemed concerned and asked when? I said ‘You really upset me on Friday’. She seemed genuinely surprised and immediately apologised saying that she was sorry if she had said something that was insensitive and had upset me but could I tell her more because she had no idea what it might be.

I was cringing inside. Part of me wanted to keep her at arms length and part of me wanted to see what would happen if I told her what the matter was.

I sat in silence a little longer mulling over what to say. Where on earth should I begin?:

Do you even care about me at all?’

More genuine surprise on Em’s part and an immediate launch into the how she cares and is interested in me and wants to help all the parts of me and blah blah… basically it was about a minute of her saying all the things she’s said before but that I really needed to hear and she finished up with ‘I’m sorry that I have said something that has made you feel like I don’t care. I’m guessing you feel more than just sad. I’d imagine you might feel really hurt and maybe a bit angry?’

I said I felt crushed.

She said she had genuinely no idea what she might have said that was so blunt as to make me feel this way and could I maybe tell her, although she understood that I mightn’t want to for fear of feeling worse than I already did. I nodded.

More silence.

She asked what the fear of telling her was. Was it that I was worried she’d get angry or defensive? I said it wasn’t that. She asked what it was. I said I was worried it’d be the same. To which she responded, ‘the same? What? Careless?’  I nodded again.

Em again told me how she cares and how she wouldn’t have offered me two sessions a week if she didn’t and reiterated her commitment to all the parts of me. She said that she understood how the therapeutic relationship can feel not enough and maybe that was making me feel bad and sad.

I said it wasn’t that, but why couldn’t she have said this stuff on Friday?

More blank looks, she said she knows we talked a lot about expression of love and care but couldn’t think what she could have said to hurt me and asked me to elaborate.

I explained that I just ‘didn’t get it. You know how I find it really hard to talk to you, to express anything vulnerable, and lately I have been trying to do that more. On Friday I told you that I cared about you and rather than meet it with something like you’ve just said, that you’ve said lots of times before, it felt like you met me with a ‘fuck you’ forcefield. You basically seemed to shut the door on me and instead told me that you wouldn’t say anything back because ‘this is a different kind of relationship’. It felt to the young parts who had trusted you that they’d said too much, got the wrong end of the stick, and now you were restating the boundaries. It really really hurt. It made me wonder what the hell I’m doing here, trying to work on expressing feelings that are hard for me and then I get met with that…I just don’t understand.’

Em got it immediately and apologised again. She said she was sorry and could understand how what she’d said could feel abrupt and uncaring and that there were a lot of better ways that she could have responded.

This gave me a bit of courage to say more:

I just can’t understand how you thought that response would be helpful to me’

She agreed that it wasn’t.

I went on:

‘So you can imagine, then, how after you saying that and me feeling like you don’t like me all session, at the end of the session to be told that you won’t touch me felt like you really were just going all out to remind me of exactly what the relationship isn’t. I know you didn’t mean it like that but that’s how it felt.’

We talked a little bit about that but, as usual, the session was up. Em thanked me for being brave enough to let her know what had upset me so much and that she appreciated how difficult it was to bring this to session when it was so painful, especially for the young parts. We agreed to talk more on Friday and she apologised again for making me feel like this.

I felt awkward. There is still a lot more to say but at least that sick feeling has gone now. Fortunately I can go to session on Friday in person and hopefully we can talk more about what’s been triggered in me. I know this all harps back to what’s happened in relationships in the past and if I can work through these ruptures or my feeling like there is an empathic failure with Em then that’s a huge part of the work. It’s hideous going through it but the repair is where the healing comes, I think.

I am dreading Friday in some ways. I have two more sessions until a three session break. It doesn’t feel like very much time to talk through what I need to. I also really wanted to be able to talk about doing the power stones as a transitional object before the break but I am not sure, even though things have been repaired somewhat, whether the young parts will feel brave enough to come forward and ask for what they need now. They are still reeling from Friday.

I get it was a simple miscommunication but this is what can happen when all the parts are active and listening in. As I have said heaps of times before, the adult part of me gets it….it’s all the others than need work!

x

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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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Skype Session #2

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I wonder if I am just really rubbish at managing my time or if life is just taking the piss out of me right now? Finding time in my week to write is proving really difficult and so I’m not doing very well with keeping up to date with my blog at the moment. I know it’s not exactly a priority task, it can wait (of course it can), but actually this page has proven a very useful outlet and so I resent not being able to write. I have loads I want to say – but who knows when I will actually get round to writing it all down?

More often than not, I don’t even get to the ‘sitting down to write’ stage. This week has just been unrelenting. The level of stress and anxiety I have been under has been hideous and whilst I have longed for an hour to myself to be able to sit, splurge, and get it all out (the therapy stuff), the opportunity hasn’t presented itself until now.  Having said that, I am glad that I spent a bit of time writing to my teen midweek as things were/are pretty dire inside.

Frankly, it’ll be some kind of miracle if this post gets finished before I leave for my session tomorrow. I am so tired and overwrought that my brain just won’t work quite as it usually does.

Tomorrow is Monday and whilst I don’t necessarily want to write a blog post about every session I have – frankly that’d be dull as shit most of the time:

It started off fine; something happened and I got upset; my body reacted –numb/shaking; I dissociated; I couldn’t talk; child/teen felt distressed, critic dropped by; managed to talk a bit in last ten minutes; did/did not feel connected at end of session! Went home and brooded all week…attachment pain hell.

(Honestly, I really don’t need to any write new posts after that, do I? I can just keep posting that paragraph over and over! Time problems and blog writing issue solved – yay!)

Seriously though, I do want to keep myself in some kind of sensible chronology with these posts. i.e if there’s a session I want to talk about then I did ought to try and write about it before the next session comes along and shunts it into the half-remembered place in my brain where everything gets even more scrambled.

Right so, onwards to the ‘post’ – 400 words in and I’ve not said a thing yet. Is this procrastination or just an over-tired semi-manic state? Both probably.

This time last week I was stuck here writing about what to do about my session, knowing I couldn’t make it in person because my kids had been sick. In fact I was still stuck at 8:30am on Monday morning – the last moment I had to cancel or ask for a Skype session. The internal conflict was still going strong but in the end I did ask to do a session by Skype because I felt that I’d probably have a meltdown midweek if I passed up the opportunity to talk….turns out I had a spectacular meltdown even with the session, though. Ugh!

Once I decided that Skype was what I wanted to do I ….prepared for my session by thinking about what I wanted to say cleaned the house! (I’m not sure strike through always shows up on the WordPress reader so for those of you who are on it I DID NOT SPEND TIME thinking about my session until two minutes before I dialled in but blitzed my house instead!)

So yeah, by 10:28am the house was lovely and tidy: I’d hoovered, steam mopped the floors, cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms, dusted, cleaned mirrors, watered the plants, etc. I know. That’s fucking mental isn’t it?! Like seriously, the camera on the laptop probably gives a square metre of visibility and the place that I sat on the sofa in my dining room had received no special attention at all- but for some reason it seemed completely sensible to run round the house like a headless chicken/possessed domestic goddess/Cinderella creature and clean, clean, clean!

I don’t know if it was avoidance or what. I left myself just enough time to get showered and dressed before plonking myself on the couch and scribbling some very last minute prompts on some post it notes…something I had been meaning to all week (the notes, not the shower!)

Things have been a bit (a lot) difficult since coming back after the Christmas therapy break. The rupture that happened over the exchange of a couple of texts which led to me feel even more abandoned and rejected than usual hasn’t been repaired yet. We’ve made inroads into discussing what happened and, had I have had a face-to-face session last Monday, I knew there were things I absolutely needed to bring up and work though – even though it would be excruciating.

Sitting staring at the screen I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to bring those things up via Skype. Part of me thought that knowing that I tend to remain in a more adult headspace via Skype might allow me to speak more freely and tackle the difficult stuff because it would be unlikely that I’d switch into a young trauma part. On the other hand, not being in the room with my therapist might make it feel even more difficult to bring up some of the stuff that was hurting me still because the sense of connection would feel more stretched.

With a couple of minutes remaining before the session I wrote some questions/prompts (I’ve since tidied them up as the initial ones were barely legible and non-sensical) and stuck them round the edge of my laptop screen:

  • Last week I started crying when you moved and sat closer to me to do the migraine exercise. Can we talk about what happened and think about our proximity to one another?
  • You said in the first session back that you felt that my texts at Christmas were me trying to script you to say something, and that you wouldn’t do that because it wouldn’t have helped if you’d have said exactly what I’d have wanted – why then have you asked me so many times about what I might want you to write on the pebbles?
  • In September it was you that suggested writing me a note for on breaks. It/the pebbles haven’t happened and the break was dire. Can we work on this please?
  • You said something about not colluding with the child part that wants to be held because we can’t recreate what that part needs and the time has passed for that. I understand that but it felt like you were saying that working with the child parts explicitly is a no go – is this what you were saying?
  • When I dissociate I often end up stuck in a very young child part and it is really traumatised. When you sit and wait for me to say something I can’t, the adult part is offline, but your stillness makes it feel like the still face exercise* and it is agony. How can we work round this?

Anyway, I was all prepped and ready to go… and those post-it notes did not get a look in! Sigh! It’s almost comical isn’t it?!

Actually, the session was good despite my not bring up ANY of that stuff. To be honest just talking about how ill my kids and I had been; how exhausted and drained I have felt; how worried I am about my wife’s skin cancer; and a bunch of other things about my mum was what I needed. I just needed someone to listen to me about my life in the here and now – the hard stuff that is going on for me the adult and how some of it is triggering stuff for the young parts.

My therapist asked how I felt about Skype. I said that it felt different and like the session was really bad timing given where we were at right now, and that I felt like all the stuff that was bothering me was on hold. She acknowledged that it felt different, that there had been a lot that had come up recently in the therapy, how difficult breaks are, and that she hoped we could come back to that material and work through it together when I am ready.

So yeah, it wasn’t like we completely ignored the ‘therapeutic relationship’ stuff. We just didn’t dive right in. My therapist said she thought that given everything that was going on in my life right now it might be a good thing to have the lighter sort of session. I agree.

I spoke a lot about my mum – which actually doesn’t happen all that often. She’d gone off on holiday and hadn’t told me when she was going or where she was going. This is unusual. I usually get some kind of text as they are in the airport departure lounge and so it stuck me a couple of weeks ago that perhaps she was gone but hadn’t contacted me to let me know. This triggered all sorts of panic in me. No joke.

Firstly, I like to know when she is gone/due back and a brief itinerary of her whereabouts, travel insurance details because my dad died abroad whilst on holiday and it fell to me to liaise with the travel insurance company to get his body moved from a remote Thai island to Bangkok, to arrange his cremation, and then for his ashes and belongings to be flown home to the UK. I literally have panic attacks thinking about that month in 2008 and whilst I doubt very much my mum is going to die abroad, I’d at least like to know where she was if that did happen.

Anyway, then I started to get into an anxious spiral. Why did she leave without telling me? Had something happened and she’s in a mood with me? Cue all the young parts in terror. ‘What could I have done to annoy her? Why is she mad? Why is she withholding? What if she’s stumbled across this blog?’ And other totally irrational thoughts. The parallels between this and how things have been in therapy with my therapist are not lost on me!

I sent a couple of emails to my mum but knew she wouldn’t have her phone set up where she was going. Eventually on Wednesday she text me and then we spoke on the phone. NOTHING WRONG AT ALL. She’d had a great holiday and had been back a few days…

Panic over.

The thing is, she has no idea that a change in the pattern of our communications basically sent me over the edge into full blown anxiety. Whilst I clearly am not massively close to my mum our relationship has come on a very long way since my teens. I am processing a lot in therapy. I am both angry and disappointed that what I had growing up was lacking and has, in part, caused me such relational difficulties.

I wish I felt loved by mum, or the little girl part longs for that still – hence the mess in therapy with my therapist. That part so desperately wants to feel loved and is attached to my therapist now. My adult understands that my mum did her best, it just wasn’t quite enough. I understand that how she demonstrates care and love is not through the more regular channels of affirmations and holding.

The thought of what we have built up now being eroded because of her finding this blog was horrendous. I don’t want to hurt her. It’s not like anything I write isn’t true. It’s just that the adult part of me is learning to settle for what I do have now, and I appreciate the relationship that I have with her as her adult child. This blog, and my therapy, are about processing the pain of my childhood. So it’s tricky. I couldn’t bear to lose what I have now even though it is not quite enough for the young parts.

Anyway, I’ve gone off on tangent there. What a surprise! Ha.

So, yeah, the therapy session via Skype was good. It felt connecting. I think, in part, this is also down to the sense of proximity. That might sounds bonkers given that we were clearly 30 miles apart and communicating through a screen. But what is different in Skype is how much closer to me my therapist feels – i.e her face is closer to the screen and so she appears closer to me than when she is in her chair.

This is what I had sort of discovered with her moving closer to me in the previous session and why I really want to work on getting the chairs right now. It seems like such a small thing, but I think it could make a huge difference. I just need to pluck up the courage to talk about it ‘please sit closer to me!’ Knowing me I’ll just hand over the post-its and go from there! Lol.

Just before the end of the session I took my laptop into my living room and showed my therapist my, now, nearly six year old daughter and they had a little chat together. It was lovely. The last time my therapist saw my daughter she was 15 months old. She used to come to my therapy sessions as I started psychotherapy on the NHS when she was a month old and I was breastfeeding and didn’t have childcare.

My therapist said some lovely things about my daughter and how I was doing a really good job with her (of course I rebuffed that with a sarcastic comment – but I did feel happy inside!) then it was time to go.

It was a good session.

Sadly the rest of the week since then has been complete shit. I won’t go into it now…it’s a whole other post….when I get round to it! Just suffice to say, I thought I was at bottom a couple of weeks ago. Turns out there was a trap door. Ffs.

Anyway, that’s that. Wish me luck tomorrow!

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I don’t know what to do.

Indecision is not something that I tend to struggle with, except for in one aspect of my life: therapy. You all saw that coming, right? The therapeutic relationship and therapy is something I second guess myself about ALL THE TIME! I have a running internal monologue when I think (obsess) about therapy: Should I say this? What would happen if I do that? What will she think if I…? If I ask her for ‘x’ will she ‘y’? Do I need a new therapist? How can I get past this? Why is this so difficult? Does she care? Blah blah blah.

After a week where I have done a great deal of mental to-ing and fro-ing about what I was going to speak about in tomorrow’s session and struggling to get down to writing some prompts to help me talk about what I need to (we’re still not anywhere close to over the rupture from a few weeks ago) it turns out that most of the angst and ache has been completely unnecessary because I can’t now go to session tomorrow.

My house has been like some kind of vomit factory this weekend #thejoyofkids and I’ve spent a significant amount of time clearing up sick off the bathroom floor and disinfecting everything x100. Fortunately I’ve only been sick a couple of times but am now very reluctant to put anything in my mouth for fear of throwing it back up again.

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There’s a bit of an irony there, because at the end of my last post I was wittering on about what my next session might be like. There was the teen acting up wanting to cancel through sheer frustration but also the acknowledgement that the young attach parts needed to go:

It’s unlikely to be anything near to what I need (holding, proximity, emotional attunement and containment) because I won’t tell my therapist what I need because my inner child is so scared right now since the rupture that it’s gone into hiding and I have quickly entered a dissociated state once I’m there… and so there’s a part of me that feels like cancelling….but another part that won’t because there’s that tiny flicker of hope that that 50 minute session will help turn off some of the plugs just for moment and help me recharge my batteries.

As much as I have been anxious about what tomorrow’s session might be like there was also a part of me that desperately wanted to go. The last session we had was difficult (again) I had started with migraine symptoms midway through (having had one earlier in the week). My therapist had asked me if I would like her to try something with her moving her fingers slowly up and down – apparently vertical eye movements can help alleviate symptoms (who knew?!).

She moved from her chair onto a stool which was about half the usual distance from where she usually is. I always feel like she is a million miles away, even though it’s probably less than two metres between our chairs and so her moving closer to me felt massive and my body had a huge response to it.

Part of me loved having her within touching distance and part of me knew that whilst she might be ‘within touching distance’ I still couldn’t touch her. The child parts basically fell apart inside. The desire for physical proximity and holding was so strong that I started crying. I felt so sad. When she’d finished doing the eye thing she moved back to her regular chair and then I went completely numb. I felt like I had been abandoned.

Who would’ve imagined that something as small as moving a metre in the room could have such a profound effect?

I really struggled to pull myself out of my protected silent space. Part of me wanted to ask her to sit back on the other chair and part of me just wanted to die of shame and embarrassment for needing that. I couldn’t tell her what had just happened. I didn’t want to be so exposed and vulnerable because I was still on edge about the previous session…and the therapy break.

I found some kind of inner strength towards the end of the session and asked her if she had been cross with me in that session. I’d been sitting on that question all session! I know, it’s not exactly enormous is it? But I am often frightened of asking questions because I am not sure I really want the answer and in this case it was the little ones who were asking.

I’d felt that the last session had been off. I think it was always going to be tricky coming back after the therapy break and the text debacle/nightmare but it had felt particularly distant and all I could think of was that she was cross with me/the little ones for reaching out to her and expressing so much need.

My therapist’s initial reaction was ‘cross with you? No? Why? When did you feel like that?’ I explained that I had felt there was something off for the whole session. Then she said she wasn’t angry or cross but that she hadn’t liked reading the blog post that she’d read before I had arrived. I said ‘I didn’t think you would’ and we laughed. She explained what she had found difficult in the post and basically said that she didn’t want to read any more posts because she doesn’t need to be ‘masochistic’. So, perhaps that post hit a nerve?!

I asked her why she hadn’t felt able to tell me any of this last week, and she said maybe she’d ‘chickened out’. Which actually made me smile inside. She is human after all! haha. Although that’s just a snippet of the conversation what I will say is that the nature of the conversation felt different to what we’ve had before. I felt like she was really talking to me as ‘her’ not hiding behind the therapist persona.

I came away feeling more optimistic than I have in a while. Like there was something to build on….i.e I needed/wanted to tell her about the issue with proximity and the seating, and the feelings that get evoked about ‘no touch’, the need to work more relationally and directly with the young parts, how disappointed I’ve felt about not getting anywhere with the pebbles/transitional object, and tell her that I’d been to see another therapist to try and help me work out what I needed in therapy and how to get through the rupture. Eeek.

So there we are – some big stuff…and then my children conspired against me and had a sick fest. Whilst they are fine now they won’t be able to go to school until Tuesday – 48 hours clear and all that and so I can’t go to therapy tomorrow even if I wanted to.

So that leaves me with today’s quandary: should I ask for a Skype session tomorrow?

I already text my therapist yesterday morning to tell her I may not be able to make it as that’s her cancellation policy. I literally do not have a clue what to do for the best. We’ve done a Skype session  before and whilst it wasn’t my preferred method of conducting therapy, it wasn’t totally dire either.

I’m torn. I know I was fixed in my adult and didn’t dissociate in the Skype session. And maybe that’s what I need, an untriggered adult conversation about moving forward together. Maybe if we are not in the same space I’ll feel more able to express the concerns I have and the things that have been bothering me?

I’d like to think that’s how it would be, but I am aware that I might just small talk my way through the 50 minutes. Not connect. Feel cut off and distant. And then feel bereft all week and as though the whole thing is a waste of time.

I can’t afford to find myself in that activated/distressed place where the attachment pain is rife and I’m left with it until the next session. I’m not sure how to avoid that eventuality: Skype or cancel the session until next week?

I don’t know what to do for the best. Which part do I listen to? The one that would walk over hot coals to have contact with my therapist, or the one that fears that a Skype session might send everything spiralling?

I hate indecision!

 

 

Rupture in the therapeutic relationship: where do I go from here?

It’s been a week since my last post where I talked (cried, moaned, wailed!) about the rupture between myself and my therapist that came about after the exchange of a couple of text messages last Wednesday (I do see how very dramatic that seems!).

For those of you not familiar with the context, I had been really struggling with the therapy break (that old chestnut) and had worked myself up to a point of high anxiety where I was barely able to function….that is how it was and so I won’t downplay it. After three days of intense emotional struggle, not eating, and almost self harming, I decided to reach out to my therapist to ask her reassure me that she was still there and that the relationship was still ‘ok’ via text message…

And then it all went to shit! Like huge amounts of gushing diarrhoea shit! Ugh! I still can’t believe that I didn’t see it coming.

I know that it sounds bonkers that a 34 year old woman can’t maintain a sense of connection to a therapist that she’s seen for three years, but then I struggle with object constancy and it’s all part and parcel of disorganised attachment. The feeling of anxiety and all-consuming panic that floods my system, and worrying that I have been left is enormous. It’s excruciating, actually.

These feelings don’t come from nowhere. They feel enormous now but they were also enormous when I was 10 months old and my mum left my dad (and the country) without telling him or anyone else (you know, as you do!). I have a very clear image of myself at two years old standing on the back porch, looking at the snow, wearing a red snowsuit saying ‘where’s my daddy?’ – I don’t know if it’s a genuine memory but it came to me in therapy one session when I had been particularly dissociated.

So where was daddy? Not there then, and certainly not here now. He left me unexpectedly when abroad on holiday. He didn’t mean to. He had a sudden heart attack three days into a diving holiday. So daddy is gone gone. Little girl doesn’t understand and adult me never saw a body or had a funeral so can’t really understand that daddy is dead now. Part of me thinks he’s still on holiday.

We returned home to the UK when I was 3.5 years old. My mum got back together with my dad. Happy times right? No. Next thing to happen was for my mum to disappear on me 5 days a week from the age of four to go away to study. That makes sense to my adult but the little girl part of me still feels that intense confusion and fear that mummy has gone. I was always left wondering when she might return because one day, two days, three or even four doesn’t mean anything to kids – their concept of time isn’t like ours. Mum wasn’t there so maybe she was never coming back.

What I am clumsily trying to say is that the anxiety I feel on therapy breaks or in between therapy sessions does not belong to my adult. Sure the grown up part of me would like to see more of my therapist, but the dread and fear I feel it is that of a little girl that has had no emotional stability or consistently safe caregiver for her whole life. It makes sense to my adult that being away from the new attachment figure would stir up all kinds of chaos for the young ones.

Anyway, back to the text debacle. In fairness to my therapist, she did respond to me, she didn’t leave me hanging- unfortunately, though, the messages she sent did little to reassure the little girl who was absolutely beside herself and the messages felt cold and misattuned to those needs. Little girl had a meltdown!

Lots of readers commented on the post and could see why I would feel devastated by the perceived tone of the messages I received. It felt comforting, on Thursday, that at least some people could see how upset I might feel and that I wasn’t completely unjustified in feeling utterly bereft.

By Thursday evening I felt quite overwhelmed by the comments on my post because they seemed to be confirming what I was feeling was understandable and justified. I didn’t want to be right, though. Because if my feeling were justifiable….then that meant my therapist had cocked up and missed the point…and I didn’t want that to be the case. It’s much easier to take things on myself than see fault in others. I can change me but I can’t change somebody else. I didn’t want for it to be the case that maybe she didn’t care. That felt too devastating.

I’d felt completely abandoned and rejected by my therapist on Wednesday and I can see now that a lot of my reaction to her messages was about my coming from a very triggered place. Perhaps my reading of her words was not quite as they were meant – she said as much on Monday. Unfortunately, though, my therapist’s messages felt rejecting regardless of her intention and that is what I need to work through.

I had shared what had happened with a friend on Wednesday. I was utterly distraught. She could see how I felt and also felt that the messages felt cold. She recommended a therapist in my area and suggested that perhaps it might be good to get another perspective on things. I agreed this would be a good idea, not just because of this rupture but for some of the other things that have been niggling away at me in the therapeutic relationship.

I emailed the therapist to see if she could offer me any sessions to help me work through the rupture with my therapist. Essentially, I wanted her to help me see if I could find a way of working through the issues I have in my current therapy or whether it might be time to look for a new kind of therapy.

The therapist responded quickly and the reply I got was really warm and empathic even though all I had said was that I had had a rupture with my therapist – I hadn’t given any detail. It was a world away from anything my therapist has ever sent which was both refreshing and painful. How can someone who doesn’t even know me be so open and warm and yet someone who knows me intimately be so business-like? I know. I know. Two different people with two differing approaches…but ouch.

The therapist had spoken with her supervisor following my email and agreed that we could do up to four sessions to work on this stuff and that she had some availability for the next two Tuesdays. I jumped at the chance to get additional input and support because the situation felt/feels utterly horrendous.

Part of seeking out additional therapeutic support was that I wanted to know if my responses to some of the things that have happened are over the top or actually justified (I know she wouldn’t use those words, and actually my feelings are my feelings – rational or not they are real to me), and also to better understand things from a therapist’s perspective.

I know the new therapist is not ‘my therapist’ but she would objectively be able to look at the situation and maybe signpost things for me on how to get through this or at least help me clarify what it is that I need to say to move forward. So that was positive. I felt too, that having this space on Tuesday would mean I would have a sounding board for whatever happened on Monday…and that in itself allowed me to consider going in to face things.

By Friday morning I had begun to settle down a bit, or detach, or perhaps I was a bit desperate… I am not sure what was going on, really. It’s weird. Different parts were doing and feeling different things. Looking back I can see that even though there was a huge part of me that was hurting and angry there was another part that couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing my therapist. The attached child part longed to see my therapist and to try and make the situation feel better and wanted to believe that she cared.

The last message I had sent to my therapist on Wednesday was that it was unlikely I’d be coming to session but that I’d let her know on Friday because she needs 48 hours notice of cancellation. On Friday morning I text her asking her to read the blog post I had written because I needed her to understand how I felt in the moment, even if it was reactive, and even though I might feel a bit less wounded now:

‘I’m still at a loss about Wednesday but I think where I have got to is that you don’t ever deliberately do things to hurt me and I have to trust that you know what you are doing – and so I guess we need to talk on Monday even though part of me just can’t face it. I’d really appreciate it if you can find time to read the linked post before session because I really think you need to know this stuff but equally we’ll need all the session to talk. If you let me know on Monday how long it took to read then I’ll just add the extra to the payment. Have a good weekend.’

 She replied almost immediately:

Ok, I’ll read it. See you on Monday’.

This message was short and to the point but it didn’t feel rejecting…which made me wonder a bit about how I reacted to the first message on Wednesday which was clearly longer and addressed more of the content of my request. Why was my reaction so different then?

I guess what I would say is that the point at which I was reaching out for reassurance my adult was not online AT ALL. I was fully caught up in a trauma response to feeling abandoned in the break and so the part that needed reassurance needed a very simple, caring message. I needed the kind of thing that you might say to a very distressed child: ‘it’s ok, I am here, I know you feel scared, but I will be there on Monday and we can talk about this’…or something along those lines. 

I think this is one of the pitfalls of working with clients who have fragmented parts. It’s not always easy for the therapist to see which part is communicating a need (especially through a text or email) and so it’s hard to know what to say or how to adequately respond- which is why my therapist will not usually reply to texts. She says that when she can’t see me she can’t get a true sense of what I am feeling and she may hone in on completely the wrong thing and leave me feeling unseen and unheard because she misses something that is massive to me….doesn’t stop me wanting to reach out though!

Having said all that, on the occasions where my therapist has responded to me or sent a prearranged message at a particular time she seems hell bent on keeping the adult front and centre in her communications. So often it feels like our exchanges seem to miss the mark because she only talks to the adult part. She doesn’t acknowledge the child parts outside session. It’s different in session, thank god.

Through her messages I think she wants to bring the adult part back online (and that makes sense) but actually all that happens is that my young child parts feel rejected, unseen, and abandoned, when she sends messages aimed at the adult. It takes a lot for me to show any level of vulnerability and need and so to have it almost ignored feels absolutely crushing to the little parts. And that’s exactly how it felt last week. I felt like I had been annihilated and struggled to get my adult self back online.

I don’t know what the right thing to do in this situation is. I know that how what she does makes me feel awful but perhaps there is some kind of therapeutic rationale behind the way she communicates that I just don’t understand. For me, I feel that if she at least acknowledged the child parts, then it’d settle them a bit and allow adult to come back online. Ignoring the young ones just agitates them even more. The attach parts are set to scream until they get a response from the attachment figure, after all so ignoring them doesn’t shut them up.

Anyway, Friday went by steadily. The feelings of pain, rejection, and abandonment from Wednesday were still swirling around and distressing the child parts; the inner critic was doing a smashing job of attacking my body – I only ate twice between Tuesday and Friday. The teen part was feeling very much ‘fuck her and fuck this’. I could feel an additional cloud move in as Friday progressed. I sunk into a really very bad place. I’m not just talking depressed and lethargic. I was bordering on suicidal and I don’t mean that in a flippant way. I literally wanted to die. I haven’t felt like that since my breakdown in 2009. I really felt desperately unwell in my mind.

I text a friend and tried to dig my way out of my hole before having early night. I had bad dreams about therapy and then woke up feeling anxious but not like I wanted to die. Thank goodness. It was crap still, but not end of the world crap. When it gets bad I have to try and remind myself how quickly these feelings can move in and out.

I think what I am beginning to understand now, is that perhaps I am not a massively changeable, volatile, and, unstable person, but actually instead there are many parts of me and they have lots of different feelings. I need to become more aware of who’s running the show at any given moment.

Who is the ‘holding it together’ one and who is it that wants to die? Who wants to attach and who feels left and wants to run away? And so on. Because whilst I know they are all part of me, they are exactly that, fragmented parts. That’s why it is so unnerving to feel so conflicted so much of the time, there are so many voices from so many different times competing for attention. Sometimes some are silent and sometimes they are screaming. It really just depends on the moment and what triggers there are.

For example, this week I have really been aware of Eleven (my eleven year old self) being close to the surface. I don’t see a lot of her but this week I have felt her pain and that pain runs deep. I feel how sad she is about having tried to tell an adult how bad things have felt for her and what it is like to be shutdown for it and to not have her feelings acknowledged. She longs for someone to listen to how scary things are for her and validate those feelings but no one ever does. And because she copes so well (on the surface at least) no one ever looks beyond what they see.

By the time it got to Monday I was in a really bad way physically. I think not eating properly (bearing in mind I am always teetering on the edge of normal eating anyway) had really started to mess with my body. I mean you just can’t live on 400 calories a day when you already have a BMI of 16. There are no reserves to draw on. I was shaky and lightheaded but that numb feeling gave at least some part of me a relief.

I didn’t think it was all that noticeable to anyone else but I have just been to get blood taken for next week’s haematology/cancer follow up and the lovely nurse took one look at me and said, ‘you’re looking really pale, are you ok?’ and then as I got up to leave, ‘you’re looking very slim, are you eating ok?’ I said I was fine and that I’ve just been fighting a virus which meant I’d lost some weight…we get good at making eye contact and lying like it’s the truth don’t we?

So to Monday…As I drove to my session I was physically shaking- from nerves more than low blood sugar I think. My mind had shut off, I felt numb, but my body was clearly sending up distress signals.

The first thing I said when I sat down on the couch was ‘I’ve been shaking in the car’. I had no idea how the session was going to go but I didn’t feel especially hopeful. Something felt off. My therapist’s tone and body language felt all wrong. I know I am sensitive to these things because I have always had to be. I’ve always been in a necessary state of hypervigilance because I never knew when the next attack was coming. I needed to be alert to the warning signs.

I might have been projecting negative feelings onto my therapist and maybe she didn’t feel cross or annoyed with me, but something was telling me that things weren’t ok.

The session was stilted and difficult. I found it really hard to talk and I felt like my therapist didn’t really try and draw me out. Sometimes I listen back to sessions and I can hear how hard she is working with me, trying hard to connect with me, trying to make me feel safe. There was none of that on Monday. There was no warm voice or understanding non-verbal gestures. It felt like she didn’t want to be there. It felt like she thought I was criticising her.

I felt as though she didn’t really understand that although I now saw that the response to her messages was quite extreme, that the feelings of abandonment we real to me in the moment. She didn’t acknowledge how feeling ignored and uncared for felt. She said that she had responded to me and that that showed that she was there. I get what she was saying but it felt like we were at crossed-purposes. She wanted me to see that because she had text me that she had proven she was there; and I wanted her to see that she felt impersonal and distant.

On paper there was nothing wrong with what was said in session. Technically everything was correct in terms of theory….but that’s the problem. There’s more going on here than applying theory to a struggling human being. Knowing your stuff can still lead to empathic failure.

Being told that the time for my ‘young infantile needs to be met has passed’ is all well and good (hell don’t I know this, I’ve written about it enough!) but I needed some empathy too. i.e ‘you know the time for your young needs for holding to be met has passed. I know the little girl part of you wants me to hold her and make her feel safe, and I understand how painful it must be for me not to do that for her. I know that she feels rejected, but I am not rejecting her.’ – you know? Something that expresses the theory but also shows how it feels to me with her in our relationship despite the theory. She did acknowledge it was painful – I guess I’m splitting hairs.

I left the session feeling a bit hopeless. I had hoped to go in and repair the rupture and to find some common ground and reconnect but instead I left feeling like I was alone with all these feelings. I mean, the huge issue has long been feeling disconnected between sessions and then struggling, yet this time I felt disconnected in session…and so it’s not great now. Usually my leaky bucket takes a couple of days to dispense with the warm connected feelings. This time I left session with an empty bucket.

Fortunately the session I had with the other therapist on Tuesday was positive. It was a completely different experience to what I am used to and quickly allowed me to tap into emotions. I was staggered that I felt the urge to cry – usually those feelings are on lock down. I felt heard and understood. Bonus!

I have come away feeling positive about moving forward either with my therapist or, if not, someone else. My feelings were validated and I feel as though there are potentially other ways of working that may help me better if I can’t resolve things with my therapist or find a way to meet in the middle. Ultimately my goal is to try and sort things out with my therapist. I love her and really value her. I just need to find a way of expressing my needs and hopefully getting a few more of them met so that I don’t repeatedly find myself drowning in disaster therapy breaks.

Right, this is enormous and so I am going to go…don’t really feel like I have said much!

p.s Thanks to everyone that commented last week and supported me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple.

Or at least I thought it would be.

Only things don’t seem to work like that.

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

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

So at 11am I sent this:

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

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

I didn’t.

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

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

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

*

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

Thanks for clarifying. See you on Monday.’

*

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

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

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

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

Nope.

At 5:15pm I sent this:

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

*

And that’s where it’s been left.

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know.

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

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