Transitional Objects (again), The Marble, And The Meltdown.

‘I don’t know what to say’ is a sentence I frequently utter in my therapy sessions and today it’s pretty much how I am feeling about trying to write this post. I have so much to say and yet have no idea where to begin with the mess that is inside my brain. Perhaps I’ll just hit it chronologically and go from there.

I said last post about things seeming to (finally) free up in therapy after a long stagnant period….well yes, but I think a better analogy would be that I have been sitting for a long while with the handbrake on and now, all of a sudden, the car is free-wheeling down a steep hill, the wheels are loose, and any minute now are going to come off and I think I might go hurtling over the edge of a cliff.

A little while back, when my therapist and I were discussing the possibility of moving to two sessions a week (because the wheels were falling off in a slightly different way …man I need to get this car looked at!) she said that two sessions offered the chance of greater containment but also more regression. At the time I internally did a big ‘GULP’ – whilst the feeling of more containment was exactly what I have needed the idea of regressing even more gave me the heebie-jeebies. I mean let’s face it, the young parts have been losing their mind big time already…could it get more intense?

Simple answer: YES.

Em knows what she’s talking about.

Damn!

Call me naïve but I didn’t think the shift into letting the vulnerable, young, stuff out would happen so quickly, especially after the (enormous) summer break. I mean, we’ve been back….errr… four weeks! But hey, I guess all these feelings have been there waiting for a safe enough time to come out. One session a week wasn’t allowing enough connection and containment and so it’s little wonder it was taking a gargantuan effort to reach the hard stuff in only fifty minutes a week.

I have certainly felt that knowing I’ll see Em on a Monday and talk to her via Skype on Friday has made things feel a bit easier. There seems to be a bit less internal pressure to ‘get it right’ in session and ‘get stuff out’ now. I used to only have 50 minutes to release the pressure that built up in a week. If I felt like I’d ‘wasted’ my time or ‘not connected’ I’d beat myself up and then suffer with what was left over and it would sit festering for another seven days. Now, if I don’t quite say what I wanted (like the other week where I spent the whole skype session talking about WORK- ffs…) I think ‘fuck, that was frustrating, but at least I’ll see her again in three/four days. I wonder why I did that?’

I can’t really remember anything at all about the Skype session on the 21st. I guess it was just work stuff and hasn’t stuck in my mind. The young parts were really upset afterwards, though. I can’t remember what they had wanted to say to her – I think it was something about the summer break and the fact that she’d just given me the next set of break dates. Anyway, they didn’t get a chance to talk, and even though I knew I would see Em in three days the weekend felt hideous. I was very, very agitated and unsettled.

I was trawling through Twitter on Sunday evening and saw a great tweet about power stones. Basically a therapist that works with kids had invited children to think about who their ‘safe adult’ was and to get them to make a finger print in some clay in order that when the children were away from their safe adult and needed reassurance they could take out their power stone from their pocket and be reminded of them.

You can probably see why I got really excited about this idea especially after the long-running saga with the pebbles last year! #transitionalobject! So I retweeted the post as I knew a few of my friends would love it too… and then….OMG….immediately sent Em the link to my tweet in an email asking: ‘Can we do something like this before the next break?’.

Sometimes I get that impulsive urge to reach out like that and then once I have I almost immediately freak out!

I got to session on Monday and felt so unbelievably exposed. That in addition to all the stuff I’d read on Saturday night didn’t help at all. I wanted hide, and said as much the moment Em brought up the email. I may have put that stuff out there but I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. We talked a great deal about feeling exposed and vulnerable on Monday and the little parts went away feeling really connected to Em but, as is often the case, when things feel really good they miss her even more.

It’s crap really – a no win situation!:

Disconnected = meltdown

Connected = meltdown

Anyway, I was back on the moors on Tuesday doing some geography with my home-schooled boy. On the way home there is a glass making factory that makes, amongst other things, beautiful marbles. As a kid I always loved it there and started collecting marbles from the age of eleven….I have loads…which is ironic really as I clearly am not in possession of my other marbles! So, I took a ten minute break and went into the place for a wander around and looked at the marbles.

Eleven came online. I could feel the shift in me. My adult/teacher was gone and Eleven was like a kid in a sweet shop. She picked out a couple that she liked…and then saw something. A gorgeous marble in the colours that Em always wears with hearts on it. I felt a wave of: ‘I love this. I love her. I think she’d like this. I want to buy it for her’ wash over me and so I bought the marble. That same impulse to send the tweet about power stones was there.

Anyway, the week dragged on. I asked my wife if there was any chance of her being able to do the school run so that I could get to session in person. Fortunately she could. The young parts were desperate to go to therapy but equally were worried that if I took the marble to Em and actually gave it to her she might push us away and reject us. Yeah, that old chestnut.

I got to therapy and eeeeeekkkkk… I was so nervous. I can’t, again, really remember what we spoke about (wtf is it with this therapy amnesia?) but it was really connecting and helpful and with five minutes to go I felt safe enough to try and explain the marble I had in my pocket.

I told Em about how when I was eleven I used to collect marbles and keep them in glass vases. I spent all my pocket money on them and had hundreds. They were beautiful but not something I played with – not toys. When I went away to university my mum met her now husband who had son. She went into my room, emptied out my vases and took the marbles outside to play. When I came home from uni my marbles were scuffed and smashed. I was gutted. I told her (Em), then, that I had been to the marble factory and had seen a marble I really liked and wanted to give her but that now I felt really embarrassed because it was a young part that had bought it for her.

She couldn’t have handled it any better (with three minutes to go!). She spoke about how big a deal this felt and how this was about wanting to express something to her but also that there was a huge fear about being rejected. She said that I didn’t want her to smash the marble and disregard it. Marbles are very beautiful but incredibly fragile and she wanted me to know that she had no intention of damaging it (if I chose to give it to her) or shaming me for wanting to give it to her.

Anyway, she talked quite a bit and it really felt like she got it…then the session was up. She said she thought it was really good that I had been able to bring this up and that we could talk about it more on Monday. I said, I just want to give it to you now and handed it over. She really liked it, said it was beautiful, and that I had noticed that she likes those colours. It felt nice….but also good that I could run away to my car without having to unpick the finer details of the hearts (the love!) etc that was attached to it.

So, yeah…good stuff. But having started down the path of ‘let it all out and be vulnerable’ and emailing earlier in the week it was as though my filter had gone. All the parts started activating. Everyone had something to say. Everyone wanted to be in the room with Em. Shit a brick!….

Then it happened.

The Inner Critic came online to shut everyone up. OMG it was horrendous. She was so unbelievably angry. How dare I have let myself talk to Em like this. Why on earth would I do that? It felt awful. That relentless, attacking, mean voice that makes me hate myself was really going for it. I had a huge urge to cut myself. I didn’t. I wanted to not eat. I didn’t. Instead I mentally logged what was going on and thought it was important to talk about it in session.

I know, by now, that it’s not always as easy as that because I never know which part will arrive in the room and front for me….I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be the critic (you can see where this is going!) and so pinged off a text on Monday morning to try and foreworn Em so that she might be able to help me talk if it all went to shit:

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Sooooooo…..I got myself to therapy somehow. It was all a bit of disaster. I stopped to grab a coffee and left it on the roof of the car resting against the roof rack. I drove a bit and then realised what I had done, retrieved the coffee and proceeded to pour it ALL OVER MYSELF. I arrived at the town where my therapist lives and sat on the sea wall. It was a stunning day. I did a bit of deep breathing and taking in the view…trying to compose myself. When it was time to leave. I jumped down and totally misjudged the height and hurt my ankle. It was that kind of day!!

I arrived at my T’s and FUUUUUCCCCCCCKKKKK it was so noisy in my head. All the parts were clamouring to be heard and seen. It was chaos. Usually I feel like there is maybe one or two parts active at a time but not this week. Good god! It was really hard to even hear what Em was saying. I told her that I felt like I couldn’t hear her. She asked if she was speaking too quietly and I tried to explain that it wasn’t about volume it was about not being able to tune in to what she was saying. I couldn’t connect…and then there she was – the Critic. 

She shut the show down.

She was not happy at all.

All I could hear, then, in my head was ‘DON’T YOU DARE TALK TO HER!’

Em tried really hard to connect with me. I’ve since listened back to the session and really she could not have done any more to try and reach me but the power of the Inner Critic is unbelievable and everything Em said pissed her off more and more – especially when she asked if maybe what was going on was related to the marble and taking a risk on Friday. I could feel myself bristle all over. Em persisted trying to tell the Critic that she had as much a right to be here as any of the others and that maybe she was worried that if the others talk then she will lose her power and be left. (Grrrr!)

At one point Em asked how I was feeling having been speaking directly to that  critical part for about twenty minutes and I told her I was angry. Em tried to unpick the anger but it just infuriated me further and so I said …..‘JUST FUCK OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE’ —– not one of my finest moments for sure.

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It was a really a tough session and I haven’t felt that level of anger and shutdown for a really long time, like probably this time last year. It was uncomfortable but necessary I think. I hate feeling like I am losing control over what is going on. I know the Critic is all about control…but she’s only meant to be rude to me and control me. She isn’t meant to face off my therapist!

I left therapy and listened back to my session in the car on the way to tutoring and all the young parts started crying inside. It was horrid. I couldn’t remember half of what I’d said and hearing it back I felt like I had ‘done a bad thing’. I didn’t want Em to be angry with me. Of course adult me understands that this is all part of therapy and that Em is probably pleased that I have finally been able to express some of the rage inside, but the little ones don’t understand at all. They are frightened of anger. They’ve seen way too much of it over the years. I pulled myself together to teach and then drafted (another) text … oh god!:

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And so this is where it’s been left. I am having a bit of and up and down week! I am trying to be kind to myself but it’s not easy. The Critic is going mad and trying every trick she knows to get me to leave therapy because I should be so ashamed of myself. But I am facing her off for now. I have my Skype session on Friday. I am nervous as hell about it but it is what it is. I guess, actually, I am not so much in a wobbly car careering down hill so much as I have got on a new and bigger rollercoaster and I am finding out where it is safe to put my hands up and enjoy the ride – it’s all a bit white-knuckle right now!

Therapy Break Is Over!

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

Thank god that’s over!

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

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

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

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

So I text this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was going on?

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

I hated her.

I loved her too.

And I hate really that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No.

Nooo way!

Disaster.

Get on the scales.

Confirmation of disaster.

I had gained 2.5kg.

I had completely let myself go.

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturation Point

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I’m really struggling today. I’ve been sitting staring at this empty screen for almost an hour now and not been able to translate what is going on in my head onto the page. I basically need a page of grey with text that says, ‘I need an adult’ on it and that would probably suffice for this blog today!

I’m not really surprised things feel impossible to write down, I have loads I need to do today and yet have felt unable to do any of it. It’s no wonder the words aren’t coming when I can’t even complete basic day-to-day chores: the kitchen is a mess, the beds aren’t made, and the washing I put on this morning is still sitting in the machine waiting to be hung out. But as is so often the case when I have one of ‘these’ days, I feel totally incapable of doing anything. I hate feeling like this but I just have to sit it out and wait for it to pass.

I have no idea how I am going to snap out of this state and be ready to go and tutor this evening. It feels like a tall order. I know I will manage. I always do. But it’s going to require a huge amount of effort to put the ‘teacher’ hat on tonight (I have no idea how I am going to teach writing skills and selective use of language for effect when all I feel capable of is colouring in!) I am struggling enough with being ‘mum’ today let alone being a professional.

In fairness, probably a large part of this flat lining/depressed/knackered feeling is coming from the fact that I am ill and tired. My wife and son have been poorly for a week and it was only a matter of time until I started sneezing and streaming with a cold. I haven’t been sleeping very well this week as my son has been waking in the night coughing and needing me….11x on Sunday night! OMG!

So, if you like, it could be said that I am suffering from a bit of ‘man flu’. Everything feels worse than it actually is and I am just feeling really sorry for myself. Right now all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep it all off – the physical and emotional stuff needs rest. I need to recharge. There is, of course, another part to it…yes I’m not well, and yes I am tired, but actually I am also feeling really really sad.

I feel totally unanchored this week and I could really use a bit of nurturing and care. And whilst I ought to be able to go, ‘righteo, then, let’s implement self-care strategies 101 today’ I simply don’t have it in me. My adult has reached saturation point this week through trying to meet other people’s needs whilst simultaneously sacrificing my own and I just haven’t got the energy to ‘do good’ for me. I just can’t muster anything up to help. In fact it’s a big enough battle to not do myself harm.

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I don’t really know how to explain it, but when I feel like this (utter shit mixed with a horrid dose of attachment pain) no amount of jollying myself along, making nice drinks and food, hot baths, reading, listening to music, meditating, visualisation or whatever really helps because (yes, here we go again…) the part that is feeling needy and sad and lost and abandoned couldn’t give a fuck about what I (adult) have to offer it.

My inner child doesn’t want me right now… we all know who she wants don’t we? (ARGH, this is getting so boring!) And there’s a problem because that person, my therapist, isn’t around. Cue screaming of a very young part and that horrendous physical sensation of having been kicked in the stomach alongside the critical voice telling me I am a ‘fucking loser’ and need to lose weight and get a hold of myself.

Last week when I posted, I was absolutely certain that Monday’s session signalled the start of the Easter therapy break. As a result of this I spent a good part of last week feeling miserable and sad about the fact that I had only had one session to patch myself together and try and get enough connection and sense of care to carry me through the hell that is a therapy break. So imagine my delight when I looked at the calendar on Friday morning and realised that I was totally out by a week and that I actually had two therapy sessions before the break. I did a little happy dance!

Don’t get me wrong. I was still very much in the stage of ‘shiiiiiittttt I am hopeless at breaks. Why does she have to go away?!! I can feel the wheels getting loose’ but knowing there were two sessions rather than one felt like a bit of a reprieve. Sadly, I am learning that life seems like throwing big fat spanners in the works where my mental health is concerned…or should I say, the UK weather has been so fucking erratic lately that it seemed perfectly reasonable to dump several feet of snow again over the weekend making it impossible for me to leave my village on Monday. Noooo! The bloody ‘Beast From The East’ reared its head again and blocked the roads.

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I spent the whole weekend being a miserable cow. I just couldn’t help it. There was some severe tantruming going on inside! I was so disgruntled that I wouldn’t be able to make it to my session. The child parts needed to be in that room and get some reassurance that things are going to be ok and that the relationship is safe and solid. I was really hoping that some miracle would happen and some tropical weather would come and melt everything – but no….it’s snowy even now.

The other hard thing about knowing I wouldn’t get to see my therapist was that I couldn’t really let on how devastating it actually felt to my wife. She just doesn’t get it at all and so we never talk about my therapy other than occasionally when she likes to say it doesn’t seem to be making me ‘better’. It’s not easy for her to understand that how I feel towards my therapist is not in any way sexual or even really coming from an adult place.

She doesn’t get what it is to struggle with all this attachment stuff because she is securely attached – lucky her! She can only quantify my feelings within her field of experience and, therefore, this deep love and need I feel for my therapist (not that she knows the extent of it!) must mean I want to have an affair and am being unfaithful. Groan. Totally unhelpful!

The ‘it’s not normal how much you need your therapy and how you feel about your therapist’ stuff has been the source of a few arguments over the years and now we just don’t discuss my therapy at all. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to discuss the finer details of my sessions with my wife (hell no!) but when I feel upset and unsettled because I can’t get to therapy I would like to be able to say what’s wrong and not just have to stuff my feelings down and pretend like I’m delighted that there’s another snow day and it’s all going to be great fun. I’d like to think she might understand that I am doing some deep work with my therapist and trying to repair a lifetime of trauma and that maybe a bit of compassion and care needs extending to me.

It’s not convenient if I am not functioning in ‘mum’ and ‘wife’ and so the sadness of the ‘child’ was heavy inside and made things feel really hard over the weekend. I text my therapist to tell her what was going on (i.e the snow, not the total meltdown I was having – even though I really wanted to tell her about that too! I hate the ‘formal’ texting when actually any time I reach out I want to tell her I miss her and can’t). She responded and suggested trying to Skype and just see how it goes. That sounds fine doesn’t it? We’ve skyped before here and there and it’s been fine. The thing is, I’ve never Skyped when the whole family has been here or when my wife is at the bottom of the stairs making conference calls and working from home.

How on earth could I talk about everything I needed to when there was a strong chance I’d be overheard? It’s hard enough to speak about those needy feelings in therapy or to discuss the issues I have around eating or self-harming or any of the rest of stuff in Pandora’s box as it is, but there was no way on earth I could do it on Monday feeling as though there was an audience.

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The session itself was ok but it was one of those ones that you talk plenty but not about anything particularly important – if my wife was listening in it would’ve been ok. I spoke about my cancer follow up appointment, tutoring, and anxiety about flying (we’ve just booked a much needed holiday) but not the real stuff; not the anxiety dreams I have been having nearly every night about needing my therapist and holding onto her like a tiny kid….I mean I am not sure I would tell her in session because it feels exposing, but there would’ve been a chance had I been there in person; the way therapy has been going lately, and my finding it more possible to show her my vulnerable side, I might have brought it up.

My therapist was really aware how hard I was finding it and did an excellent job of making lots of eye contact (even if I had my face covered and could barely look into the camera) and saying really reassuring things to me, including the fact that she cares about me. Since sending her that letter the other week she keeps reiterating it every session. I am wondering if she really just had no idea how much I have struggled to feel a sense of her care until then? Like it should just be a given? Whatever has changed I am pleased because it is making a difference to how I feel. Although I wouldn’t say I feel secure, I am building evidence to prove that she cares about me…. Uh huh, yes, mental, I know!

We spoke a bit about the break but I didn’t really tell her anything much about how I was feeling because that would’ve meant saying how utterly distraught I feel about ‘being left’ and again with the possibility of being overheard it just couldn’t happen. It was lovely to ‘see’ her and I’d always rather Skype than have no contact, but she said how unfortunate the timing was for this to have happened and how much disruption there’d been lately which wasn’t ideal with the break coming up. I am glad she acknowledged it as being an issue.

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The moment I disconnected the Skype call I felt sick. It was a combination of ‘only one more session’ dread and the young parts not getting enough of what they so badly needed this week- they needed to be seen and heard. I am struggling horribly with my feelings this week. I cannot believe it is only Wednesday. It’s like time is standing still. And whilst part of me wants Monday to get here quickly, there is another part that is anxious that we have one session and then almost a month long break. It feels like such a long time. And whilst I know I will get through it, and am pleased that she is taking a good long block of time to recharge and look after herself, not all of me feels optimistic or glad about it!

Fortunately my therapist is really good at trying cut the breaks down for me as she knows they are an issue. She always offers me an alternative time if she can. She has offered me a session on Thursday 19th April which takes a few days off the length of the break; unfortunately there’s no way I can get there in person because I have to do the school run and can’t get from her place to school in the time I have. Basically, I will take the session, but it’s going to have to be another Skype session. I am not sure how I feel about that.

I know I have a tendency to shut down and push her away after a break. The trust and connection I feel erodes over a break and I often sit there silent for a few sessions whilst the repair work is done. The gatekeepers take a while to let the defences down and so I am not sure how this will work over Skype. I guess we’ll have to see.

Anyway, this is really just a nothing post. There are things I want to say but I will wait until I feel better and more able to formulate my thoughts to write them.

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Connecting In Therapy

So, therapy was frigging excellent on Monday. Yeah. I know, right?! Wtf happened?

Those of you who follow this blog regularly will know that it’s been a really very hard slog for me in my sessions (and life in general) over the last few months. After the rupture (wheels falling off in a big way) at Christmas, being in therapy with my therapist has felt incredibly difficult. In January it felt like things had reached the point of no return and I was contemplating terminating…I even went to see another therapist to get some additional help and perspective!

Anyway, I clearly didn’t cut and run in the new year and I am so glad I didn’t. Despite all the hard feelings and anxiety and various parts of me freaking out in different ways, I have stuck it out with my therapist. I’ve turned up every week hoping that something will shift in me and things will start to feel better. Sometimes all you can do is turn up and keep turning up and steadily, bit by bit, things change.

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It’s funny (not haha), because there’s been a really desperate part of me that has been so wounded by the rupture that it’s felt like it’s needed to run away from the relationship and go hide in a corner; but at the same time there is also a part that deep down knows that my therapist and I are going to be ok, that we can work our way through this block, break down my barriers, and do some good work. It’s almost like despite one (or more) part/s thinking it’s all doomed there is at least one part of me that knows that she is safe.

I know that we have a strong enough relationship now that I can have my meltdowns, act out, shut her out, and threaten to leave but at the end of it, when the storm has blown out, she’ll still be there ready and waiting to work through it with me. I am not used to that. As a child I was never been able to express my anger or rage without huge consequences and so ended up being a compliant little girl who turned all her anger inwards. It is no surprise to me that my inner critic is so powerful and that I have so much capacity to harm myself whether it be through not eating or self-harming. There’s a lot of anger that I’ve internalised over the years!

*(Can I just say that the last paragraph is how things feel right now. I can’t say I always feel sure of the therapeutic relationship. Indeed it is a regular struggle of mine that I feel if I say how I feel I will be told I am too much and get terminated!)

Anyway, I know that it’s recommended, if at all possible, to work through the tough stuff in the therapeutic relationship rather than cut and run because the likelihood is that whatever is causing a bother in the relationship with the current therapist will only repeat in a future therapeutic relationships. Essentially, most of what triggers me in the relationship taps back into some festering wound from my childhood. That’s why it feels so massive and life and death.

So, what am I going on about here? I’m in long and winding ramble mode today!

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It’s no secret that I’ve desperately wanted to reconnect with my therapist since what happened over Christmas but there’s been a lot of resistance on my part (or should I say some of my ‘parts’). When I actually get to session I’ve either felt isolated and alone or sometimes just not really bothered about anything. It’s like all the drama and ache and angst that kills me in the week evaporates when I get in the room. I think some of it is that some parts of me are so very glad to be with her that they almost forget the horror that happens outside the room; but I also think there is a part that just can’t be vulnerable and risk feeling more rejection.

It’s ironic really, I spend the whole week wanting to see her and yet, when I have arrived, I just haven’t been able open up. I can’t trust her, or at least ‘part’ of me can’t, and that part is dominant for the first 40 minutes of the 50 minute session. I can feel unsafe when I see her in person and as though she isn’t there with me, that she doesn’t care, and that I am an annoyance to her – or that’s what critical voice tells me over and over again until I am sat there shut down and frozen. The child parts have no reason to disbelieve the critic; it’s very convincing and does a good job of making the child believe she’s not safe. It’s an exhausting internal battle!

I am fully aware that this is my crazy brain not helping matters; my adult knows that this is all an overreaction and that it’s just one of my parts feeling unsettled. Unfortunately it’s not easy to override those feelings, because even though my head knows what’s going on by my body suggests something completely different. It’s hard to ignore the panic in your gut and rationalise it away. The body is exhibiting a trauma response and it trumps my head.

I’ve known my therapist for six years and worked with her for three of those; she is consistent and she is safe. She does care. She’s told me enough times that she wants to work with me and that she wouldn’t have agreed to see me again if she didn’t like me…but for some reason I can’t hang onto that. The positive affirming message/s she gives me in session slip through my fingers like grains of sand and by the middle of the week I am left standing empty handed. The needy child is distraught and by midweek the critic steps in and steadily erodes all trust in my therapist.

Yeah. It’s a really shitty cycle and one that I am trying hard to overcome. Like everything, though, I am realising it takes a lot of time and a lot of treading the same ground over and over again to find a better path. It’s like I am needing to forge a new pathway in my brain; I am steadily beating my way through thick overgrowth to a place that leads to the ‘she cares’ destination and trying to let the well-worn, easy path that forks off to ‘she couldn’t care less’ to grow over. Sometimes it’s just easier to walk the old path but I know if things are to improve long-term I need to get my walking gear on and start hacking my way through the bracken. The more I clear that difficult path and walk over it, the sooner it will become the easy path.

It’s partly why I am so hell bent on getting some kind of transitional object sorted. I really feel like if I had a tangible reminder that my therapist was out there, that she does care, and that all is not lost, then when the shit starts to hit the fan and I start to lose my way on the new path but still very rugged path and start veering back to the smooth one when the critic starts up I could go, ‘fuck you, you fucking bastard! I know what you’re doing here. I won’t believe your lies because here’s [waves transitional object – functioning as machete to hack back roots] proof! No, I won’t hurt myself. You are wrong and you don’t have the power anymore. Have some of that you sadistic fucker. I’m going this way!’ (apologies for the expletives!)

Look, I do know I am meant to be like ‘hey you, critic, what’s the deal here? Why are you so angry? Why can’t you trust anyone? Why do you think pushing everyone away is a good idea? What do you need to feel safer and to stop attacking? You’re hurting me and I want to understand why. Looks I’m making a new path that will suit us all better in the long run’; but sometimes I also get angry with myself about how long this voice has been controlling me. I know. I know. It’s me. I get it. But jeez it’s bloody exhausting… and relentless… and hellish. I’ll be 35 next week and this has been going on for almost twenty years now. Things need to change!

Anyway, as a result what happened at Christmas I haven’t been sharing the really vulnerable side of me lately. I’ve felt (my projection) as though my therapist doesn’t want to acknowledge or encourage the young parts in session and has wanted me to hold everything myself. As a result of this, I have stopped showing her the needy bits and, because I have done that, I have felt unseen and uncared for. She hasn’t reassured me because I haven’t given her any indication that I need reassurance. I have for all intents and purposes participated in the therapy. I haven’t been silent or stonewalled her. I just have come to therapy and talked about stuff that isn’t the stuff…you know?

The critic has been running the show and silencing all the vulnerable and needy parts that want to reach out and want to connect. A small mercy is that generally we do enough path beating in the session that I feel able to open up and really start tell her what I am feeling in the last ten minutes. The thing is this comes with its own problems because I don’t have the time to explore the issue and then leave feeling frustrated and uncontained. It’s not ideal.

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So, the session before the one on last Monday was tough stuff. I had written my therapist a letter the previous week following the session we’d had (so 2.5 weeks ago now) with a view to reading it to her or handing it over during the next session. Often it’s in the early part of the week where the big stuff comes up for me, but by the time the week rolls around and I get back to therapy the intensity of the feelings has settled down or sometimes I just plain don’t feel them when in the room. Frustrating doesn’t cover it!

I write a lot in this blog and process quite a bit, but obviously unless I take a post with me to session my therapist has no idea what I am grappling with – she doesn’t read this. Anyway, it’s been a long time since I have written to her rather than just show her one of these posts and so I got to writing. It ALL came out. Loads and LOADS. I had subheadings titled: Christmas Break, Child Parts, The Relationship, Texts, and LOVE… So yeah I’m sure you can work out from those that it was quite exposing. I let all the vulnerability out. EEEEEEEKKKKKKK!!

Of course, there’s always something that gets in the way. I took the letter to session and I just couldn’t give it to her. We talked a great deal about the barriers I seem to be putting up, and how she feels blindfolded sometimes. She made an analogy about me being like a baby that doesn’t want to/can’t feed for some reason. That she’s trying to give me something but for whatever reason I won’t accept it. The problem that happens then is that I leave the session hungry and then feel increasingly upset and uncontained as a result. That made loads of sense to me. It also made me realise that whilst I frequently think that she is withholding actually there’s a big part of me that won’t accept what she is trying to provide. I get so caught up in what the relationship isn’t that I sometimes can’t see what it is.

I didn’t give her the letter but I was able to tell her that I have been struggling with eye contact and talking. She did her best to reassure me and told me that she understood how hard it is to look at her when everything feels so tentative and vulnerable. I told her that I had written her a letter but even the thought of what was in it made me want to puke. The anxiety was huge. We talked a lot about how maybe I am being too hard on myself and perhaps the content is not as ‘bad’ as I believe it to be. She asked me how I would feel and respond if a friend of mine who I care about, respect and value had written that letter to me. Simple. I would say that it was ok and not to be embarrassed – so why can’t I do that for myself?

She spoke about the power of the critic and how we need to listen to it and work with it. She also said that sometimes it’s about readiness, i.e I hadn’t given her the letter that session but we had done a lot of talking around it and working out why it felt so hard to share it and perhaps next week things would be different.

I left the session feeling a bit annoyed with myself but also knew that I had done the best I could under the circumstances. I felt way more connected to my therapist, too. I know that the sense of connection always feels better when I am able to show her what’s bothering me and can be vulnerable. She always tries to meet me when I open up (why can’t I remember this?!). I felt like, maybe, I would be able to talk about the stuff, the ‘real stuff’ contained in the letter in the next session.

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And then ‘The Beast From The East’ hit with ‘Storm Emma’. We had a Red Alert weather warning from the Met Office which has never happened in my patch of the South West. Two feet of snow fell in twelve hours. Basically we were snowed in – 2ft of snow. I live out of the city on high ground and it feels really rural on the edge of the moors. We don’t get gritted on the roads and are left until snow melts. It sounds romantic but it’s really not! The last time something like this happened was in 2010 and we were stuck for a week.

I was so annoyed that I had built up a head of steam in therapy and was finally ready to share the stuff I have been hanging onto for sooooooooooo long and now it looked like I wouldn’t even be able to go to my session. Ugh. FFS!!! I text my therapist on Thursday evening to tell her I was stranded and it was probable that we would have to do our session via Skype on Monday unless something miraculous happened. I asked if she would read an email if I sent her one in order that we could talk about it – i.e the letter I had failed to give her last week. She agreed. I sent it on Friday morning and then felt ill!

I knew my therapist wouldn’t respond to the email and that we would address it in the session. The time between sending the email and the session dragged: my boiler broke down for two days; we had a power cut; and then mains water disappeared for 36 hours. I was not happy! BUT despite the utilities going wrong there was one good thing happened; the sun came out and the temperature went up to 8 degrees. The snow melted enough to get out the village on Monday!! … and I could go to session. Whoop!

Of course by the time I actually arrived at her house I was shitting my pants! I was going to see her face-to-face and she had already seen my letter! Eek. No backing out now.

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I sat down and I rambled on about the bad luck that had befallen me over the weekend with the utilities; but I knew that couldn’t last forever and actually I didn’t want to run from the issues I have been struggling with. I reached that quiet place where the outside world was left behind and my inner world was exposed and ready to be discussed. Silence. Eye contact gone.

My therapist asked me if I wanted to talk about the letter and was I ok to given that I’d had such a tiring weekend. I said yes but I didn’t know where to begin. Fortunately my therapist had written a load of notes when she had read the email and said maybe we could go through what she’d come up with to get us started. She said there was a lot of big things and it was important to take time to give everything space; and that it must’ve taken a lot of thought and effort to get it all written so coherently.

Anyway the long and short of it is that we talked about sooooooooooooo much stuff that has been eating away at me. We talked about the suicidal thoughts I had had after the rupture, the eating disorder and self-harm and what triggers it. Usually I run away from those topics. I always feel too embarrassed to let her know I am hurting myself or not eating – particularly because it’s the attachment to her that triggers the feelings of inadequacy, abandonment, and rejection that start me on the spiral of punishing myself in one way or another.

She addressed all the parts of me and every part felt seen and understood. She was so attuned. And that felt really great even though the conversation was really tough and incredibly exposing. She spent a lot of time telling me that she cares about me and my well-being and I actually heard it. I believed it. There wasn’t any part of me that wanting chip in ‘yeah, whatever lady, it’s all lies’ which is what often happens. The child parts want to absorb her care but there’s generally the teen and the critic ready to rubbish what she says and that didn’t happen this time.

Better yet, is that this week has been fine. Good even. Of course I miss my therapist but I don’t feel like my world is falling apart because I can’t see her. I don’t feel like she is gone/dead. I don’t feel like some desperate, pathetic loser who has latched on to some poor unsuspecting therapist. I don’t feel ridiculous. The little parts feel contained and settled because they know she cares. I feel like she is in the relationship too. I (adult) know she cares about me. And that is huge. Until now I haven’t really felt it – or maybe like the baby that’s hungry but refuses to feed, haven’t allowed myself to feel it.

I am looking forward to seeing her on Monday. And, amazingly, I am ready to talk more about the very hardest things.

I know. What on earth has happened here?!

So, what’ve I learned from all this?

I’ve learnt that allowing yourself to be vulnerable in therapy is important. It’s fucking scary, I won’t lie! Telling someone how you feel is terrifying when you can’t be sure of their response especially when it relates to core attachment wounds. It’s not just the adult involved; there’s a bunch of traumatised kids too. I know I can trust my therapist. I know she wants to help me. She can handle all the parts that show up and she does want to know about all of them. I know I’ve got to dare to take risks even when there is a strong critic trying to shut me down.

 

 

Don’t get me wrong- I know that the feelings I am writing about here won’t last forever. I’m not naïve enough to think I’ve turned the corner with this stuff and I’ll never doubt the relationship or have an enormous rupture. I’ve had lots of great connecting sessions over the years but somehow always find my way back to that well-worn, dangerous path. But what I am saying is this: even when you feel like you are swimming against the tide and barely holding on in therapy, things do eventually shift and change. There are moments of connection and care and love and they are worth every second of the struggle that goes before. You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth; it’s all part of the work.

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Eye Contact In Therapy

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Making and then maintaining eye contact with my therapist is something I find really difficult. In some sessions eye contact feels more possible than in others; usually when the session is light and I am rooted firmly in my adult. These are the days where I can look at her for a few seconds before looking away and our interactions feel more ‘normal’ – i.e real life, outside world, not massively emotionally charged. But of course there are those ‘other’ days, those painful sessions, where I will avoid eye contact for the whole 50 minutes, scanning the book shelves for the millionth time, or staring at the corner of the room. Should our eyes meet I look away almost as though I have been burnt. The meeting of our gaze can feel so exposing.

I’ve mentioned this kind of thing in passing a few times in this blog. It’s an issue that has been on my mind a lot lately and then this morning I got an email from a friend, who is also in therapy, asking me about my experiences with eye contact because it’s an issue she’s struggling with; and so I thought it might make for a good blog post – it can’t just be the two of us that have this problem!…in fact I know it isn’t!

I feel a bit woolly headed at the moment and I have noticed that my ability to formulate my thoughts in writing (and verbally, actually) is really proving tricky so bear with me here. I don’t know why, but I feel like I keep having to preface my posts with an apology at the moment. I can’t seem to get my mind clear enough to express things in the way I would like but I still feel like I need to write. I’ve been having a bit of a crisis of confidence and that was initially the topic I planned to blog about today but this is more interesting.

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So, yeah, eye contact.

Bearing in mind I have known my therapist for six years and been working with her for three of those years you’d think, by now, eye contact wouldn’t be an issue for me. Wrong! It’s funny (not funny haha more funny ironic), I’ve found the longer we’ve worked together and the more I’ve let her see of ‘me’ (whoever the fuck that is), the harder eye contact has become. It might seem counterintuitive that the closer you get to someone the harder it gets to look at them but it is how it has been for me and I think I am beginning to really understand why.

If you met me in person for the first time you’d be faced with a friendly, confident, articulate, caring person (that feels a bit ‘big headed’!) who does their best to make you feel comfortable in our interaction. I am a good listener, ask thoughtful questions, I make all the right noises and maintain just the right amount of eye contact. I am not nervous in new social situations (well, not outwardly, you’d never know what’s going on inside – quaking child ‘please don’t hate me’) and people say I am easy to talk to. But see that stuff doesn’t work in therapy does it? Because it’s not about looking after the other person (therapist) and so I can’t employ my listening skills in that way. I can’t deflect the attention away from myself.

Having said that eye contact shouldn’t be a bother, should it? …. and it wasn’t in the very beginning…

When I first met my therapist, I was far more able to look at her (I noticed this was the case when I went to see the other therapist in January following the rupture too). What’s the deal with that? Well in the beginning of the relationship I was operating from the adult persona and I wasn’t attached to her. I attended therapy as the person I have just described above. Sure, there was a reason I was coming to therapy but for all intents and purposes I was functioning and coping and together (on the surface at least!).

It took me about 9 months to properly settle into therapy with my therapist; part of that was because I knew it was a time-limited activity on the NHS (12 months) and I didn’t want to be left hanging at the end of it all if I did open up. I knew some of what was lurking in the depths and part of me knew that 12 months of therapy wasn’t going to be adequate. So for those first few months I talked and talked and talked and looked and looked and looked but I did not connect with what I was saying. It was almost as though I was recounting someone else’s story. It was easy to look at her because I wasn’t feeling anything about my story.

There’s been a lot of trauma in my past and yet for the longest time it has felt like it belongs to someone else. I would recount very matter-of-factly what had gone on but I felt like there was a concrete block between my head and my heart – a huge wall between my left and right brain. I still struggle with this. The level of disconnection from myself is massive.

Then it happened, the attachment stuff awakened in a HUGE way and I was done for. I would go to session and sit there, unable to look at my therapist knowing that soon I would lose her and I just couldn’t cope. I know she noticed the change in me because the therapy also changed. There was a different level of connection. I didn’t know how to handle my feelings and resorted to the usual well-used coping strategies. I started to lose weight and self-harm again, desperately trying to cope/run away from the impending sense of loss and abandonment.

I couldn’t name the different parts of myself at that point, that only really started to make sense to me about a year ago. Back then all I knew was that I was sinking. I desperately wanted to connect with my therapist but I was frightened to. I didn’t know that the fear was the fear of my child part. I didn’t understand that part of the reason I couldn’t talk was that she doesn’t have much vocabulary because she is so little. I didn’t know I was dissociating. I wish I knew then what I know now!

Even though my therapist succeeded in getting my therapy extended by an additional four months (because things had got so bad) I still couldn’t open up fully and eye contact was almost impossible by that point. It was tricky, I felt like I had secrets I wasn’t telling her (the anorexia/self-harm) and so couldn’t look at her. At the same time I wanted to be known by her, I wanted to share the burden of what I was carrying, but felt there wasn’t time so couldn’t look at her!

Fast forward to now and the issue hasn’t changed much…or rather it has but the eye contact is still a bit of a problem.

The issue with eye contact (in the therapeutic relationship) is that it’s all about being seen. Eye contact means vulnerability, honesty, intimacy and that generates …fear. There’s lots of other things but I think they’re the main elements for me. It’s a double edged sword. I long for that level of intimacy and connection with my therapist that making eye contact affords; I often find the times when I can look at her for more than a split second that I feel much better, more grounded, and less alone.

It seems like a simple solution really – look at her and feel closer to her, right?! Win. Unfortunately, it’s not just a case of looking at her and feeling better…my goodness I wish it was as easy as that!

As I said, if I am surface level talking I make a reasonable level of eye contact in session. If I feel secure in myself and with her, I am can make some eye contact. If, however, I feel unsettled, dissociated, activated, in a child state, teen state, or the critic is present it becomes really very difficult for me. I look at her, meet her gaze, and retreat immediately. It’s too overwhelming. It’s frightening. It’s too much.

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Sometimes I really don’t want to be seen, either. I feel shy. I feel ashamed. I feel embarrassed. Usually this is comes up when I am experiencing strong loving feelings towards my therapist or have really missed her during the week. I feel like if I look at her she’ll see right down into my soul. She’ll see the longing of the child that desperately wants to be held. She’ll see the intensity of the feelings I have….and then if she sees that, then she’ll run away. She’ll terminate. That’s the fear.

The adult part of me knows that she can totally handle all my feelings. Hell, we both know these parts exist and we know what their issues are. We’ve talked about it all enough! I know she can cope with my love as well as my rage…but in the moment when I am struggling to look at her, that rational part is just not online. The trauma parts are live and active and all they can see is that if I let her see how I feel, if I let her see the real me in that moment, I will lose her. It’s not great. It’s not rational. It does, however come from somewhere.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint where it originates from; I know some (ok a lot) of it is from being little but I also think perhaps it’s a huge throwback to what happened when I came out. It’s almost like because I am letting my therapist see more of me in session and am being more vulnerable the fear of rejection and something bad happening escalates. I have experienced what it is like to have my world fall apart when I have been honest about myself and my feelings and because I really care about what she thinks, the idea of her telling me I am too much feels utterly devastating.

I am really aware that eye contact is something I really need to work on in my sessions. It’s just daunting. The part that keeps running away from being seen is so scared of rejection and abandonment but at the same time I know deep down that part absolutely longs to be seen and known by my therapist too. It’s so hard to navigate this but I guess it’s something to work on ‘bit by bit’ as they so like to say! I have a lot I want to talk about in session on Monday but I think tabling some time for eye contact would be worthwhile.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

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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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Letter to my seventeen year old self.

Dear Seventeen,

I’ve just read your diary. Please don’t be mad. Wait and hear me out a minute. I know how angry you were when you woke up to find dad reading your diary on holiday in Mexico and how violated you felt back then; but please know that I am not deliberately prying into your private life or being nosy. I’m just trying to understand you better. And honestly, I am good at keeping secrets, in fact I’ve been holding onto yours for the last seventeen years of my life. I’m not here to judge you and I promise that you can trust me.

We haven’t met before. Well, I know all about you (more than you realise) but I don’t think you are aware that I even exist. I’ve been watching you stuck in your own private hell for a long, long time now. It’s like Groundhog Day for you in the year 2000 isn’t it?

Too often I have turned away from you when I should have reached out to you. I have ignored your pain and your suffering because I haven’t known how to help you. Sometimes I have wondered if you even want to be helped.

I don’t know if you know it, but sometimes you take over my body in the present (which, by the way, is 2018 and means you’re often roaming around a stretch-marked 34 year old bod’ – yeah I know, it’s not great – and to think you hate your body now is incredible!) and react to my current day issues as though you are being hurt again in the way that Mum and H hurt you. It’s like my life triggers flashbacks from your life and you (and I) are reliving the pain over and over again.

I can feel your anxiety and fear coursing through my veins. I can’t speak and I go numb. I shake. I feel your frustration. I haven’t know what to do and neither have you. I’ll admit that I have felt overwhelmed by your feelings. I know you have things to say but I also know that you are very very frightened. I understand how desperately alone you feel. It broke my heart reading your account of the pain you feel inside. I know how hard it is. I remember it well.

You feel like you have no one to listen to you and that no one cares. It feels so difficult to trust anyone. You fear getting close to people and letting them in because you think you’re going to be rejected or abandoned or ridiculed – and you don’t think you can survive it again. This year has been the hardest one yet, for you, and I am not at all surprised that you just want to run away from everything and anyone that might hurt you.

So you isolate yourself in order to avoid being hurt but you can’t be alone forever. In your heart, deep in your soul you know you need love and connection. We all do. I know it feels risky seeking that out. I know you fear annihilation. I get how scary it feels to consider opening up again after what’s happened. You are still heartbroken but the only way your heart is going to mend is through letting someone heal it with you; currently you have a handful of shattered pieces and no glue.

There is no shame in wanting to be loved. You needn’t be embarrassed for feeling love either.

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You probably won’t believe me (who can blame you after all you’ve been through); but if you can find a way to trust me, I think that I am the person that you have been waiting for. I can help you, listen to you, and love you…if you’ll let me. I really want to make things better for you – for both of us- because right now your pain is my pain and it’s crippling the pair of us.

I’m so sorry, so very sorry that circumstances have made you feel like you are not worthy of love and care. How things have been with mum are not a reflection on you. None of how she has been with you is your fault. You are not unlovable or untouchable even if that’s how you’ve been made to feel over the years.

How things have been for you growing up isn’t normal. I think you know that but really acknowledging that is devastating. You have suffered emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of the person that should have loved you and protected you the most. I assure you that there is absolutely nothing you could have done that would have changed how things have been for you.

I know that’s hard to hear, but I think you need to hear it and try and take this in. You carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You feel responsible for everything. And darling, some things are simply beyond your control. No matter how good you are or how much you achieve, there are some things you cannot change or control. You can only be responsible for you and not for the actions of anyone else.

What I will say, though, is this: it won’t be long until you are able to start getting away from some of the horrid stuff. Next year you will leave home and go to university, you’ll fall in love (really!), and things will start to get better. I promise you it won’t always feel this bleak. Until then, though, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to hold on tight and keep putting one foot in front of the other like you always have. I know it feels impossible sometimes.

Despite everything that has happened you are still here. You are a fighter. I know there have times when you have been very close to the edge. I know there are days you have thought about driving your car into a wall or overdosing or paddling your surfboard out to sea and never coming back. I felt the pain of each cut you made, and every burn on your skin. I know how you starve yourself. I see how regularly you purge everything from your system. You are punishing yourself over and over again for something that is simply not your fault. I don’t hate you. Why do you hate yourself?

You’ve lost sense of your value – or maybe, more accurately, you have never felt valued or loved. You feel worthless. Don’t get me wrong, I know why you feel this way. Steady and systematic emotional abuse does this to people. Now you feel like you are acting your way through life. You have little idea of who you are because you’ve spent so long trying to be what everyone else wants you to be that you really don’t know how to be yourself. You’ve struggled so hard against yourself for the last couple of years not wanting to disappoint anyone but inside you were dying.

I am so unbelievably proud of you. Coming out was massive. I know right now it feels like the worst thing you’ve ever done and you feel more lonely than ever; but those people that walked away from you, called you names, and bullied you were not your friends. I am telling you that even though it was scary and is still having a huge impact on your day-to-day you have made a huge leap forward into living authentically as who you really are. I know it takes a huge amount of courage to stand up and speak your truth but six months from now, you’ll be surrounded by people who love and accept you for exactly who you are and those people will become lifelong friends – chosen family.

I also want to say thank you. What for? For looking after the little ones. You are a force to be reckoned with, for sure! They are very lucky to have you as a protector. I know it’s difficult living your life when you continually have distraught children demanding your attention. It is not your job to hold them. It was never your job to look after them, but in the absence of an adult to care for them, you’ve done a brilliant job.

I have children (a boy and a girl). I see a lot of you in them because I remember you as a child, too. You were innocent and vibrant and full of life. You had so much love to give and then something happened and you started holding everything inside and that light you exuded steadily faded until it is now barely a flickering flame inside you. I know right now you feel bereft because, to you, coming out equates to you never having children and you so desperately want to be a mum. I’m not a time traveller but I am telling you this – children are going to be part of your future and that flame will burn brightly again in the love you have for your babies.

You are incredibly strong and I recognise just how much effort you put in to surviving. Sometimes the best you can hope for is just to keep on keeping on. You’ve done amazingly. Don’t roll your eyes! I mean it. The fact that in the face of so much pain you have still somehow held it together, passed your exams, can drive, and are alive is testament to your spirit. You are so driven and this is a good thing. It’ll take you a long way in life. But do you know what? You need to learn to relax too.

You need to let your hair down every now and again and have fun. You are so serious – so grown up- because you’ve had to be. As I said earlier, I am here now, for you and for the little ones – if you want me to be. So I am giving you permission – please relax and start to heal. The adult you all need/ed is here now. I’m not super woman but I promise you that if I can be there for you when it starts to feel scary then I am going to be there – and I am not going anywhere.

Things aren’t going to feel better overnight, I think we both know that. If things are to improve then we are going to need to work together on this. And so there’s something I need to ask you to do for me. I know you know about the therapist that I see each week because sometimes you hijack my session and stamp your feet a bit; or sometimes sit there silently raging and planning how you’re going to hurt yourself when you get the chance. Between you and the little ones there’s not a great deal of space for me in the sessions. I am, in no way, complaining about this, but I was wondering something.

I know you really like therapist but it feels risky to have feelings for her. You are attached to her just like the young ones are, ok perhaps in a slightly different way, but you do love her. And that’s ok. You want to be known by her. The idea of her really seeing you is both appealing and terrifying. Sometimes you let her see you, the real you, and other times you shut her out. When you feel close to her the alarm bells ring and you instantly back away.

Look, I’ve known this woman for six years now and I’ve been in therapy with her for three. I trust her but it’s not me that needs to talk. I’m ok. Do you think that maybe you might tell her how things are for you? Or if you can’t, do you think maybe I could tell her for you?

You’ve been holding onto this pain for such a long time, and I have been sitting on your secrets for as long as you’ve been alive and I think it’s time for us to move on.

What do you think?

Sending you so much love,

X

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